Archive for the ‘TBoH recommends’ Category

We ♥ Carleen Brice

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Carleen Brice is a 21st century Georgia Douglas Johnson. And I’m delighted to help support her efforts to promote black authors.

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TBoH Recommends: SuperNews!

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It’s your favorite YouTube viral video meets The Daily Show, or perhaps a South Park version of The Office. SuperNews is a new half-hour animated sketch show on Current TV that features hilarious political, entertainment, and technology satire. It also has one of the best vocal impressions of Barack Obama that I have heard to date (although it’s hard to compete with Iman Crosson). President Obama is notoriously difficult to parody, but the show finds creative ways to poke fun at the White House and our contentious political climate, as in the sketch “Obama Hits the AIG Spot”:

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Bookmark This: The Obama Blogosphere

Given how successful Barack Obama’s presidential campaign was in conveying his message through the web, it comes as no surprise that a number of Obama-themed blogs continue to flourish during his first year in office. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Literary Obama: Think Obama meets The New York Times Book Review; this site chronicles creative works about the President and his family. Check out this latest post reviewing an excellent poem about the First Lady, “A Poem for Michelle Obama.”
Art by Patrice Chambrier

Art by Patrice Chambrier

  • The Art of Obama: I’m amazed at all the brilliant and inspiring artwork that this blog has found (including the image above). Shepard Fairey was only the beginning! Check out this poster from a beach in West Africa, “Obama Beach in Benin.

I’m also a regular reader of Michelle Obama Watch, This Week With Barack Obama, Obama Art Report, and I’ve even discovered a blog for the Obama Dog! Let me know if you come across any other sites in the Obama Blogosphere – or is that Oblogosphere? – that deserve our attention.

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Bookmark This: Color Online

whisper-shoutThe blog, Color Online, earned a special place in my heart when I discovered, posted in the sidebar, the words of black poet Gwendolyn Brooks from her 1967 work, “The Chicago Picasso”:

Art hurts. Art urges voyages –
and it is easier to stay at home.

The mission of Color Online is “the promotion, empowerment, and political awakening of young women” primarily through literature and creative writing, as well as other educational programs, cultural events, and community service in the Detriot area. The online community posts author biographies and reviews for new juvenile and young adults books alongside literary classics such as Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. There are also regular contests for free books and forums to encourage discussion.

I can’t help but wonder how my life would have been different if I had discovered Color Online as a youth. I used to be bitter about the fact that I wasn’t introduced to writers like Hurston until I reached college. All those years wasted! But now, I’m just grateful that someone has found inventive new ways to do what my high school teachers did not.

So, with Gwendolyn Brooks’ words in mind, here’s my plea for you to take a moment to browse Color Online and, if you are able, contribute to their library for young readers by donating a book from their Powell’s Books Wish List.

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Frodo, Prejudism, and “Flight of the Conchords”

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The second season of “Flight of the Conchords” premieres on HBO this Sunday, January 18 at 10 pm! Woohoo!

My DV-R will be working overtime to catch new episodes of “24” and “Lost,” but I’m most excited about the deadpan hilarity of New Zealand’s “fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo” as they try to make it big in New York City.

Not familiar with the show? Bret McKenzie (pictured, left) is the thoughtful one, easy-going but prone to angry dancing. Jemaine Clement is more sociable, self-centered, and cynical with a deep Barry White singing voice. The duo’s appeal comes through the kind of observational humor and absurdity that makes mockumentaries like “This is Spinal Tap” endlessly enjoyable.

The comedy is built, of course, around the band’s Grammy Award-winning music. I can’t get enough of the uncomfortably honest love songs (“Business Time“), the music video geek-nip (“Robots” and “Frodo, Don’t Wear the Ring“) and anything by their rap alter-egos, “Hip-hopopotamus” and “Rhymenocerus.” (HBO’s “Lip Dub Fansterpiece” even invites fans to submit their own version of the band’s rap parody.)

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“You Know I Don’t Mean You”

smurf018This week I spent some quality time with Dear Darkness: Poems by the incredible poet, Kevin Young. He draws on his Louisiana roots in this new collection, mourning the loss of family and faith with the characteristic voice of a bluesman. Poems such as “Another Autumn Elegy” are particularly moving, while other verses use images of food in funny and surprisingly reflective ways. Take the “Prayer for Black-Eyes Peas”: “harbor me & I pledge each / inch of my waist not to waste / you, to clean my plate / each January & like you / not look back.”

But I was especially excited to discover that Dear Darkness reprints what is, without a doubt, one of my favorite poems about the adolescent negotiations of race:

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Why Postmodern Blackness?

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As the subtitle of our blog indicates, we are fascinated with the workings of “postmodern blackness” here in the Bottom. But what does this phrase mean? And how does it shape the way Frieda and I approach the content on our site?

Postmodernism is not easily explained, particularly given the fact that its definition is relative to Modernism, and it varies in art, architecture, literature, philosophy, and theology. (Even the Wikipedia entry is fairly convoluted.) Still, our understanding of this shape-shifting concept, as it relates to African-American culture, is influenced by scholars like bell hooks, writers like Colson Whitehead, entertainers like Dave Chapelle, artist like Kara Walker, and the vibrant new media of the blogosphere, including Jack & Jill Politics (see sidebar for other links we like). These sources provide a dynamic context for a few observations:

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TBoH Recommends: A Mercy

The Bottom Line:
In A Mercy, Toni Morrison takes a fresh look at familiar themes:
mothers and daughters, self-destructive desire, and as always, the burdens of freedom.

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I was surprised by how often, during my reading of Toni Morrison’s A Mercy,my thoughts turned to another novel – The Known World,(2004) by Edward P. Jones.

Both stories offer perspectives on American slavery that depart from the sprawling plantations, cotton fields, and slave cabins of the antebellum era. Jones troubles our assumptions about history and community by depicting the lives of blacks who owned slaves. Now in A Mercy, Morrison further disassembles familiar narratives of racial slavery through the wilderness wanderings of the late-17th century, where white indentured servants work alongside blacks, slave and free.

I only mention Jones here because I am not used to comparing Morrison to other writers in this manner; hers is a pioneering voice. When Beloved appeared in 1987, its moral ambiguity and achingly beautiful prose set her apart from her peers. But in 2008, A Mercy arrives in an environment that is increasingly populated with Morrison’s own literary offspring – Jones, Colson Whitehead,Randall Kenan,Edwidge Danticat, and Percival Everettamong others – who have followed in her footsteps by publishing engaging, complex fiction about race and identity.

Nevertheless, Morrison’s latest contribution remains fresh and inventive. Her work still shines. In A Mercy, Morrison takes a new look at familiar themes: mothers and daughters, self-destructive desire, and as always, the burdens of freedom.

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TBoH Recommends: “Bayou”

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I can’t say enough good things about the award-winning webcomic, Bayou, by Jeremy Love (writer) and Patrick Morgan (artist).

Bayou was one of the first serial stories to debut on Zuda Comics, the webcomics initiative by DC Comics. For anyone who still believes that comics are all capes and tights, these pages will introduce you to the breathtaking possibilities of visual storytelling. Love and Morgan draw on a wealth of black folk cultural material in their historical representation of racism and poverty in the South.

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