Categories
Book Reviews

Black Klansman – Memoir by Ron Stallworth

I’ve seen the movie at the cinema at the start of last year and I was absolutely enthralled with the concept. A black man joining one of the most bigoted and uncultured and ignorant cult there is? The KKK? That must be a good read!

I was thoroughly disappointed in the book! Read in a dull voice with dry facts and “I did this and I did that” type of sentences, I was soon looking to get some dialogue, a bit of action, something! Anything!

The Story

The story is pretty much the same as the movie:

black-klansman-2As the department’s first black detective, Ron Stallworth thought it might be interesting to see what would come from answering that ad. Figuring on a few pamphlets, maybe a brochure or leaflet, he wrote a note to the P.O. Box, using his real name and asking for promised information. To this day, he’s still not sure why he used his name, and not one of his undercover aliases.

On November 1, 1978, he received a call on the department’s undercover line.

The caller identified himself as a “local organizer” of the Ku Klux Klan who was trying to raise membership there in Colorado Springs. He asked Stallworth several questions, then invited him to meet in person; they agreed upon a time and, once they hung up, Stallworth swung into action.

BlacKkKlansman-trailer-700x300.jpgHe asked for permission to proceed and for a colleague’s help, but was denied; sure that this could be a major matter, he went to higher authorities. He already had in mind a sharp colleague who was white and could “be” Stallworth when Stallworth needed to attend Klan events… because the real Ron Stallworth, remember, is a black man.

For the next ten weeks or so, Stallworth and his co-detective, Chuck, worked their way into and through the Klan. They attended rallies and meetings, thwarted cross-burnings, and Stallworth spoke many times with Grand Wizard David Duke. There was certainly danger in what he’d done but mostly, because of the amateurishness of the organization he’d infiltrated and the mistaken tenants its leaders held, it was a lesson in absurdity.

“It was,” says Stallworth, “as if Dennis the Menace were running a hate group.”

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The Good Bits:

The story was good and the description of how he was initially treated by his policemen peers was pretty accurate for the time period and was pretty funny at points. The idiocy of the KKK members was pretty funny too. Where this book excels is in exposing what a hack many of these hate groups are/were in the 1970s. Advertising their meetings in the newspaper? David Duke answering the national headquarters phone line?

Instead of painting the KKK as pure evil, Stallworth looks at the complexity of the group and what drives its members towards heinous acts and an irrational aversion to non-whites and multiculturalism. As he gets closer to Grand Wizard David Duke, his position becomes even more endangered of being discovered.

The Bad Bits:

There were so many abbreviated groups that after a while I stopped caring which group was on what side. I also hated how every so often the author had to remind the reader how he was the one in charge of the investigation by parenthesizing that he was the one the KKK members were talking to, even when some of the conversations were with his partner playing him undercover. He didn’t need to keep reminding me that it was him running the show.

Stallworth’s lengthy charade amounted amounted to little more than a funny story and speculation regarding crimes that may have been prevented. He himself admits that the tangible effects of this operation were tenuous at best.

It’s a dry read and I found myself meandering over course of the book. The whole book comprised of the Colorado chapter and he didn’t give the insight of the KKK

2/5

Categories
Poetry

Antonia Pozzi – Sublime voice of the twentieth century – Restless soul, vibrant with poetry

Who’ll sell me a flower today?
I have so many in my heart:
but all clasped
in heavy bunches –
trampled –
done in.

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Categories
Book Reviews

Pinball, 1973 – Haruki Murakami

What the hell did I read? This is one of those books that you stop at page 10, read the back of the book again, look at the author and resume reading in hopes something will make sense eventually. Written as a collection of short stories or memories, the Author describes his young life (1967-1973) and the Japanese student movement and pinball. Loads of pinball.

This is a novel about pinball. (p19)

Categories
Book Reviews

The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee – Sarah Silverman

I knew this book would probably end up grossing me out but it was written by a comedian, so I hoped it would be funny in the process. From page1, the assault on my senses begins with great prose:

“My Life Started by Exploding Out of My Father’s Balls, and You Wonder Why I Work Blue”

Yep, that’s totally quotable.

Categories
Book Reviews

On the Move: A Life – Oliver Sacks Book Review

Oliver Wolf Sacks,  (9 July 1933 – 30 August 2015) was a British neurologist, naturalist, historian of science, and author. Born in Britain, and mostly educated there, he spent his career in the United States. He believed that the brain is the “most incredible thing in the universe.” He became widely known for writing best-selling case histories about both his patients’ and his own disorders and unusual experiences, with some of his books adapted for plays by major playwrights, feature films, animated short films, opera, dance, fine art, and musical works in the classical genre

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Oliver Sacks packed a lot of life into his 82 years (he died in August). And this incredible volume, the second part of his memoirs (the first is 2001’s Uncle Tungsten), chronicles his busy, fascinating adult life.

My mother, a surgeon and anatomist, while accepting that I was too clumsy to follow in her footsteps as a surgeon, expected me at least to excel in anatomy at Oxford.

Sacks went to Oxford, navigated his way through research and clinical studies (a trip to an Israeli kibbutz helped him focus on his career), moved to the U.S.,  documented his travels (“On The Move” indeed), and discovered his passion for writing.

Categories
Book Reviews

When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man – Jerry Weintraub

“What you have been given is yours to understand, but the rest belongs to me.”

Here is the story of Jerry Weintraub: the self-made, Brooklyn-born, Bronx-raised impresario, Hollywood producer, legendary deal maker, and friend of politicians and stars. No matter where nature has placed him–the club rooms of Brooklyn, the Mafia dives of New York’s Lower East Side, the wilds of Alaska, or the hills of Hollywood–he has found a way to put on a show and sell tickets at the door. “All life was a theater and I wanted to put it up on a stage,” he writes. “I wanted to set the world under a marquee that read: ‘Jerry Weintraub Presents.'”

Categories
Book Reviews

Hughes’ I Wonder As I Wander: Reveries of an Itinerant Poet

Langston Hughes’ autobiography from the years 1931 through New Year’s Day 1938 covers his early years as a professional writer during the Great Depression, in which he travels extensively and observes practices and politics as well as the status of black people throughout the world.

“Most of my life from childhood on has been spent moving, traveling, changing places, knowing people in one school, in one town or in one group, or on one ship a little while, but soon never seeing most of them again,” Langston Hughes writes in I Wonder as I Wander.

“When I was twenty-seven,” he begins, “the stock-market crash came. When I was twenty-eight my personal crash came. Then I guess I woke up. So, when I was almost thirty, I began to make my living from writing.” Hughes had been a long time getting through college. He graduated in 1929, and had worked in a hat store, on a truck farm, in a flower shop, and as a doorman, second cook, waiter, beach-comber, bum, and seaman, on the way. In that time he was writing poems too, and a novel, Not Without Laughter, which earned him a $400 award, which was what he had in 1929 when he lost his patron and decided to go to Haiti for a while.

Categories
Book Reviews

Mama Cass Biography Book * Dream a little dream of me

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Mama Cass – she would have made a great friend if she were still alive.
35_myths_legends_mama_cass.jpgA proud and large woman with a wonderful voice to rival Whitney and Amy Winehouse. And brought down by the same monster that haunted the other two women: drugs and booze and an unhealthy lifestyle. So when I put my hands on this piece of non-fiction, I decided to give it a read. I mean, I liked Amy Poehler’s biography,
this should be more fun!
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Boy was I wrong. This book depressed me. I knew she struggled with weight but I had no idea she put on weight to stand out, to be a woman that people talked about, to be the last one to be picked at the gym, to use it as a shield. Like “yes, I’m fat, whatcha gonna do!”
Eating disorder aside, she struggled with depression which ran in her family from both her mom and her dad’s side. She would get the highs that come from the diet pills and the drugs and afterwards she would slump down in the dark places where the demons whispered. A human balloon, she swelled to as much as 294 pounds before pursuing crash diets. In a single weekend of diuretic treatment at L.A.’s Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, she could shed 20 pounds.
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She was pretty, she had talent and she threw kick ass parties. She knew how to make an entrance – she would wait until the party was in full swing and then she would enter and people always knew when she came in. The life of the party.

“You gotta make your own kind of music,
sing your own special song,
make your own kind of music,
even if nobody else sings along.”

Cass Elliot was born Ellen Naomi Cohen on September 19, 1941, in Baltimore, Maryland. She grew up in the Washington D.C. environs and in her senior year of high school, performed in a summer stock production of “The Boyfriend” at the Owings Mills Playhouse, where she played the French nurse who sings “It’s Nicer, Much Nicer in Nice.” After this experience, even though her family anticipated her seeking a college education in pursuit of a career, Cass forged ahead in the performing arts. She made a splash in New York and began an acting career, competing with Barbra Streisand for the Miss Marmelstein part in “I Can Get It for You Wholesale” in 1962.

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I would say the world’s in terrible shape, but I’m afraid the world would say, ‘Look who’s talking!’

mama_papas2.jpgElliot had two prime-time television specials of her own in 1969 and 1973, but most people remember her scores of television appearances throughout the early 1970s with Mike Douglas, Julie Andrews, Andy Williams, Johnny Cash, Red Skelton, Ed Sullivan, Tom Jones, Carol Burnett and others. She guest-hosted “The Tonight Show”, had successful stints in Las Vegas and continued to record for RCA during these years, too. Cass had one daughter, Owen Vanessa, in April 1967 and she was married twice, first (1963-68) to fellow Big Three and Mugwumps member Jim Hendricks and second to Baron Donald von Wiedenman (1971). In 1974, she traveled to London where she had a two-week engagement at the London Palladium. After performing to sellout crowds and basking in repeated ovations, Cass tragically succumbed to a heart attack on July 29, 1974 in London, following this successful concert tour (and NOT, as is commonly believed, from choking on a sandwich).

In 1998, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Cass Elliot and her fellow band-mates from The Mamas and The Papas into that institution. Her daughter Owen represented her mother and accepted her award.
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My advice is precisely the advice my mother gave me. If you believe you have talent, the next thing you must have is determination. If you keep working, keep striving, and try always to move forward a little bit with every job you do, you’ll eventually make it. And I believe that!ef5f2464a9d8765538b167f1fe4caad1--casino-night-cass-elliot.jpg

 

I say, Look, I’m here now. There must be a reason I’m here. If that’s fatalistic, be that as it may. Where my work is, is where my life is, and if we’re falling in the ocean, we’re falling into the ocean.77d868f5f3fb7a8d5a9c51653b707a06--language-of-flowers-flower-children.jpg

If you truly dig what you are doing, if you lay it out that way, nobody can not respond. That’s what rock and roll is; it’s relentless.

Categories
Book Reviews

Amy Poehler * Yes Please book review

If you have seen the new movie called “The House” or watched SNL for a long time, you would probably be familiar with this face:
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Or maybe this one:
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She’s a looker!
I got curious and as things go, I found the book called “Yes, Please” written as an autobiographical piece of non-fiction by the SNL host and comedian Amy Poehler.
She’s funny, self-deprecating, full of advice for others – bits of wisdom from the family and friends and hilarious stories (and some not so much like the one when she got her hair pulled and got locked in a school locker for being too “stuck-up”).

 

 

Categories
Book Reviews

Who was Ayn Rand?

Ayn Rand was born 2 February 1905 in St. Petersburg [Leningrad], Russia, nee Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum. She came to America in 1926, lived for a while with relatives in Chicago, then moved to Hollywood, where she worked for Cecil B. DeMille and others. She met and married Frank O’Connor on 15 April 1929, and she became a U.S. citizen in 1931.

Ayn Rand was one of the most important philosophers of the XXth Century.

popupShe and Frank moved to New York City, after which her first major work, the play now known as “The Night of January 16th”, was produced in Los Angeles & on Broadway (1934-35); her first published novel was “We The Living” in 1936. The novel “Anthem” was published in 1938; her stage play “The Unconquered” had a short Broadway run in 1940; and her novel “The Fountainhead” was published in 1943. She and Frank then returned to California, partly due to her involvement in the filming of “The Fountainhead”, which was released by Warner Bros. in 1949.