This Thing Called Race: Adichie’s “Americanah”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah is a long and winding love story, unavoidably about race:

“I mean ‘nigger is a word that exists. People use it. It is part of America. It has caused a lot of pain to people and I think it is insulting to bleep it out. (168) Ifemelu wanted, suddenly and desperately, to be from the country of people who gave and not those who received, to be one of those who had and could therefore bask in the grace of having given, to be among those who could afford copious pity and empathy. (209)

One of Adichie’s devices, which works to varying effect, is the citation of Ifemelu’s blog: Dear Non-American Black, when you make the choice to come to America, you become black. Stop arguing. Stop saying I’m Jamaican or I’m Ghanian. America doesn’t care. (273) Later, on the train to Essex, he noticed that all the people around him were Nigerians, loud conversations in Yoruba and Pidgin filled the carriage, and for a moment he saw the unfettered non-white foreignness of this scene through the suspicious eye of the white women on the tube. (320)

Ice Friday: Oscar Wilde’s “Dorian Gray”

I never approve or disapprove of anything now. It is an absurd attitude to take toward life. We are not sent into the world to air our moral prejudices. The reason we all like to think so well of others is that we are all afraid of ourselves. The basis for optimism is sheer terror. We think that we are generous because we credit our neighbor with the possession of those virtues we are likely to be of benefit to us. As for a spoiled life, no life is spoiled but one whose growth is arrested.

Alien Covenant: Blandly Gratuitous

I have a weakness for Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise, partially due to its ominous vision, but mostly because the original was so well made, everything from characters and plot to music and foley. The franchise has struggled with the basics ever since, but none as tremendously as Alien Covenant. If there was one good thing to say, it would be the revelation that the alien is, indirectly, our own creation. However even this is tainted, as the cyborg responsible only did it as revenge for having been forced to serve tea to his creator.The film is a gratuitous, gruesome mess. Lowlights abound – a floating head, aliens bursting from mouths and spines, alien eggs kept in the basement – but most depressing of all is the self-plagiarism from Ridley Scott’s other franchise, Blade Runner, stealing Roy Batty’s line, “That’s the spirit!” in the midst of yet another bland and deadly tussle. Sadly, there is no spirit here, just horror cliches and a cgi crew big enough to colonize another planet. Which they should not do.

The Pornographic Collection of Pompeii

Part of the discovery made at Pompeii, the city entombed by ash in 79 AD, a collection of over a hundred objects was found. Many causing offense to common morality of the time, the Cabinet of Lewd Objects – then called more gracefully Cabinet of Reserved Objects – was walled in 1852 so that its memory would be dissipated. In 1860, Giuseppe Garibaldi proclaimed himself Dictator and re-opened the collection for cataloging. In 1931, during the triumph of fascism, the Ministry ordered again its closing, after which, in 1972 it was opened for visitors. The collection is composed of vases, frescoes and mosaics with erotic scenes, little ithyphallic (figures with erections) statues with fauns, midgets, grotesque caricatures, tintinnabula which are wind chimes that have penises with magic powers against misfortune and evil eye. (English translation of Eros in Pompeii: The Town of Venus)

Ice Friday: Aesop’s “The Fox and the Lion”

A fox who had never seen a lion one day met one and was so terrified at the sight of him that he was ready to die of fear. After a time, he met him again and was still so frightened but not nearly so much as he had been when he met him first. But when he saw him for a third time, he was so far from being afraid that he went up to him and began to talk to him as if he had known him all his life.

Grateful Dead Film: “Long Strange Trip” Indeed

Amir Bar-Lev’s 4-hour documentary on The Grateful Dead has its moments: Al Franken explaining the subtleties of Althea, Robert Hunter stating that his lyrics “are clear”, as well as archival footage of an army platoon on LSD. And of course there is the music – Uncle John’s Band, Sugar Magnolia, Dark Star and Playin’ in the Band and on – along with reams of concert footage. However, as melancholically sweet as these moments might be, the narrative is skewed, emphasizing the mania and addiction, a tough go for anyone not a Deadhead. The story of Jerry Garcia as the unwilling guru/god throughout his life is ironically reinforced throughout the film, focusing almost exclusively on his reclusive genius while tip-toeing around the personal wreckage an addict leaves behind, which leaves the viewer wondering how the others might have coped the past 22 years since his death.Which is the biggest gap of all in the film, ignoring the fact that Phil Lesh, Bob Weir and Mickey Hart have all been consistently touring, chasing a sound as rapturous as ever.