This is a slim volume that opens with a rather decent review of Marxian theory and leads into a small collection of speeches and essays addressing steThis is a slim volume that opens with a rather decent review of Marxian theory and leads into a small collection of speeches and essays addressing steps toward moving beyond capitalism. Events in Venezuela have marched beyond the assessments here, but there is a useful overview of the project there, and consideration of efforts at worker governance in Tito's Yugoslavia. A little dated (and some find it overly praiseful of Hugo Chavez although that was not my impression) but with some worthwhile selections....more
One of my teachers, in secondary school I think, assigned this as reading but I can't remember who the teacher was. Re-reading it in 2015, while waitiOne of my teachers, in secondary school I think, assigned this as reading but I can't remember who the teacher was. Re-reading it in 2015, while waiting for my copy of Between the World and Me to arrive, I was struck not only by the honest critique of race, civil rights as a concept in a nation that values equality but not in practice, and the movement around Elijah Muhammad at the time of the essay's writing, but also the unshakable commitment to human dignity and love as a way to address the world, the clear understanding that answering oppression reclaims the humanity of the oppressed and also that of the oppressor. ...more
This is a brief introduction and overview of the Revolutionary Assembly of Artists of Oaxaca (ASARO), a political and educational art collective thatThis is a brief introduction and overview of the Revolutionary Assembly of Artists of Oaxaca (ASARO), a political and educational art collective that emerged from the 2006 turmoil in Oaxaca, including the takeover of Oaxaca City by the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) and a brutal federal crackdown. It documents the use of art in public spaces, recurring images (e.g. the face of Zapata, Guadalupe, masked figures, and skeletons), the "re-mixing" of iconic images and themes, and something of the democratic processes and uses of art as part of revolutionary practice. The book generously features annotated images of wheat pastes, block prints, stencils, murals and sidewalk art. Tantalizing but the subject is deserving of a more comprehensive and larger volume. In particular, the entirety of the ASARO manifesto (often referenced) would be a welcome addition. ...more
This is an impressively comprehensive analysis, rich in current data, about structural violence and the interaction of various systems: networks of poThis is an impressively comprehensive analysis, rich in current data, about structural violence and the interaction of various systems: networks of power in government and the dominance of capital, media networks, cultural beliefs and political ideologies, economic influences on behavior and power, some urgent warnings for the first world (particularly the United States as a dominant power) and finally some signs of hope and potential for reform. Not an easy read - a frank book on a disheartening and a sprawling intellectual topic - but highly worthwhile and useful to us. ...more
Every page of this book, consisting of two long and intimately connected memoirs, is like a clap of righteous thunder. It is an extended elegy for AmeEvery page of this book, consisting of two long and intimately connected memoirs, is like a clap of righteous thunder. It is an extended elegy for America and Africa and is achingly relevant in 2015....more
This Bush-era evaluation of the political influence and aims of the right-wing dominionist Christian movement is darkly amusing at times, as author HeThis Bush-era evaluation of the political influence and aims of the right-wing dominionist Christian movement is darkly amusing at times, as author Hedges visits training seminars for evangelical Christian leaders, chats with televangelists at high-profile conventions, and analyzes the anti-democratic impulses and lust for money or power, as they manifested in the first decade of the 21st century when the "Left Behind" novels were best-selling literature and a prominent general fighting our wars in the middle east told of facing a muslim enemy and saying, "My God is bigger than his god."
The book finds its most stirring voice in the final pages, perhaps roused by the memories of Dr. James Luther Adams, who was Hedges's ethics professor at Harvard Divinity - Adams had been in Germany and studied first-hand the Nazi takeover of the church in its quest for totalitarian power and purgation of those who had the wrong kind of blood in their veins. Hedges defines the dominionist Christian groups and their quest to redefine science, rewrite history, and undermine faith in democratic practices and institutions as a movement that cannot be reasoned with and must simply be resisted with a broad-based unity affirming pluralism, rational discourse, and the values of an open society.
The book might have been strengthened by some cross-references to the short essay by Umberto Eco that prefaces Hedges's book, an essay describing "ur-fascism" or "eternal fascism." If Eco provides a lens through which to analyze the book's subject, it would unify the book and support its thesis.
As packaged, the book looks like it promises an indictment of the Christian right on theological principles, but as Hedges demonstrates this is not actually about the substance of a religion, but the application of religious identity in pursuit of a fascistic goal that threatens the fabric of a quasi-democratic society, a society that values democracy in the abstract more than in practice (and frequently confuses it with free-market economics, for whom the Christianist political right is an ally). Indeed, it threatens to redefine Christianity, a subject on which Hedges, as a seminary graduate himself, speaks with authority.
Paulo Freire's theories on pedagogy, knowledge, and social revolution are beautiful and exciting, but I was hungry for a book detailing how educatorsPaulo Freire's theories on pedagogy, knowledge, and social revolution are beautiful and exciting, but I was hungry for a book detailing how educators had put these methods into practice in American schoolrooms. This volume delivers that in abundance, in a series of essays written by educators describing their methods, reviewing the elements of Freire's writing they were putting into practice, documenting the responses from students (in college and secondary school) and lessons the educators learned. This in particular is the volume teachers should visit when they are feeling burned out or frustrated....more
A book consisting of dialogues between educators Paulo Freire and Ira Shor, sharing personal experiences and theories about dialogic methods and critiA book consisting of dialogues between educators Paulo Freire and Ira Shor, sharing personal experiences and theories about dialogic methods and critical pedagogy versus authoritarian "banking" models and transfer teaching. Much inspiring material here but it lives in a theoretical place and I was left hungry for supplemental material demonstrating their practice, since ultimately the approach they are describing is a transformative practice (praxis being, as Freire understands it, a unity of understanding and action). ...more
"Our job is to understand the present and put it in historical perspective. It is to grasp the dynamics, the tensions, and the contradictions. It is t"Our job is to understand the present and put it in historical perspective. It is to grasp the dynamics, the tensions, and the contradictions. It is to be prepared so that as crisis points emerge or explode onto the scene, as they inevitably do, people will be in a position to generate humane and sustainable solutions. We know the roof is going to get blown off the status quo. What we don't know is if it will be change for the better or not. That will depend upon what we do now and in the coming years."
So begins a cheerful book about a very bleak landscape. The theory that capitalism and democracy are inherently contradictory has antecedents as far back as Aristotle, and the book explores those contradictions in the United States at present day (2015). Some of these essays, including very good ones on the topic of the American penal state, prospective media reform (and his own time hosting a public radio program), and a useful and accessible exploration of monopoly-capital cultural theory by Baran and Sweezy, have appeared previously in the journal Monthly Review....more
Something this book does very well for the general reader is to convey a graphic sense of the structure of current labor relations, and how technologySomething this book does very well for the general reader is to convey a graphic sense of the structure of current labor relations, and how technology has transformed the field of play between labor and capital. This fills an important gap. ...more
A call to increased civic participation, from community organizations to social movements, against the phenomenon Derber defines as "wilding" - a moraA call to increased civic participation, from community organizations to social movements, against the phenomenon Derber defines as "wilding" - a morally uninhibited pursuit of selfish desire (such as money and power), an excess of individualism. He explores the topic in various areas of American life including economics, politics, religion, and popular culture. He also correctly distinguishes alienation, rather than apathy, as a cause for low participation in elections or societal institutions, resulting in diminished democracy as these fields of social activity are abandoned....more
At one point, author Thomas Parrish's persnickety friend, the grammar hawk referred to in the title, likens a well-constructed sentence to an automobiAt one point, author Thomas Parrish's persnickety friend, the grammar hawk referred to in the title, likens a well-constructed sentence to an automobile engine. Others may prefer Parrish's own analogy of a well-furnished room. Automobile engines suggest a highly specialized knowledge, something intimidating for those without vocational training. Pretty much anybody can set up a room that looks nice, however, and enjoy the results. A well-furnished room is a room that has everything one might need while seeming empty and spacious. Likewise, good prose has the feel not of something dense or impenetrable, but of something easy to apprehend quickly and digest. Parrish assumes the persona of a reasonable go-between, someone moving easily between the grammatically-challenged and the scowling figure - imagined yet feared - of the lexical inquisitor. The book is entertaining and reduces a lot of the mystery of grammatical usage....more
Yoshi Oida has contributed two of my favorite books about the craft of acting, The Invisible Actor and An Actor's Tricks, so I had been looking forwarYoshi Oida has contributed two of my favorite books about the craft of acting, The Invisible Actor and An Actor's Tricks, so I had been looking forward to reading this for a long time, knowing it was more of a personal memoir of his years working with Peter Brook and since.
The book is at its strongest recounting Oida's initial contact with Peter Brook, and his departure from Japan to work with Brook's international company in Paris just as the 1968 uprising was taking place. From the beginning, Oida-san recounts his struggle to figure out his contribution, as a Japanese actor who began working in western-style acting before investigating traditional Japanese performance. These chapters include his travels with Brook to pre-revolutionary Iran, across Africa, and to New York. In telling his story, he recounts working practically with the theories Brook developed in The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate. These chapters are excellent, consistently linking Oida's personal struggles with his artistic work.
The book begins to lose steam in chapter seven, when Oida enters a period of clerical training in Shingon Buddhism, where he seems impressed by pseudo-science such as photographs of people's energy leaving their fingers, and where the connection between his spiritual investigations and creativity gets noisier. The final chapters rapidly summarize events and, while explaining his ambivalence about acting and directing, never explains how he began teaching his well-known theatre workshops. ...more
Vilson rose to prominence as a blogger writing about education as a middle school teacher in the New York system, and for a poem he wrote and performeVilson rose to prominence as a blogger writing about education as a middle school teacher in the New York system, and for a poem he wrote and performed at a "Save Our Schools" rally in Washington, DC, from which the title is derived.
The book stands on its own as a series of interconnected personal essays, beginning with Vilson's experiences as a student and as an educator in training, and then as an activist educator. It is a heartfelt and passionate defense of teaching as a profession and makes the case for teachers finding their voice as educators in a process of reform that devalues them. ...more
This is a collection of essays and opinion columns encompassing Salman Rushdie's arrival in New York and his continuing work as a novelist and critic.This is a collection of essays and opinion columns encompassing Salman Rushdie's arrival in New York and his continuing work as a novelist and critic.
His essay on The Wizard of Oz is a beautiful piece, written as a migrant and a father, in which he explores "one final, unexpected rite of passage," when we must inevitably disappoint the expectations of our child and be exposed - like the wizard as portrayed by Frank Morgan - as humbugs.
At times, Rushdie's thought seems constrained by double standards. Although the long section relating the story of the campaign to defend him from Ayatollah Khomeini's death sentence is valuable, I was disappointed it did not include his own infamous public embrace and then disavowal of Islam. Perhaps it is a moment he would rather forget at the time, even though he could submit this as evidence of the fact that scripts were continually being forced upon him by various parties during his years in hiding. There is even a darkly amusing echo here of Muhammad's disavowal of the so-called "Satanic" verses mentioned in a certain famous novel. It is, however, an event that belongs in the record. A decade later, he deals with this issue a bit more directly in his memoir, Joseph Anton: A Memoir, but even there and certainly here, the humbug is still hidden from view.
Rushdie's views on the September 11 attacks and the war on terrorism (which is to some extent a war on violence wrought in the name of Islam) is surely of interest given his personal experience as a victim of ongoing terroristic threats. Yet a contradiction in his moral reason appears over the course of his writing. He upholds, as a basic principle of morality, the view that an individual is responsible for his murders no matter what his rationale is. Hence, it is unacceptable to excuse terrorism on the basis of anti-Americanism. On the other hand, Rushdie is willing to relieve individuals of personal blame in order to blame religion itself for murder. He writes, "...religion is the poison in the blood... What happened in India, happened in God's name. The problem's name is God."
If an individual kills for the sake of a totem, why is that God's fault rather than the individual's? Why is it okay to blame a person's religion, but not their politics? Over the ensuing decade, this fixation on religion - not just Islam, but religion generally - became increasingly strident in Rushdie and his friends Christopher Hitchens and other "New Atheist" figures like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Bill Maher. At their worst, this consuming hatred provides aid and comfort to imperialism and the idea that certain parts of the world need to be "civilized" by certain others....more
Bodhidharma's "Outline of Practice" outlines the dharma as this Brahman-born monk taught it in China after being sent there by his teacher, Prajnatara. A confusing distinction made in these talks, especially the "Outline," has to do with what Bodhidharma calls "reason" (again, in this translation) and meditation practice. They are presented as two avenues to "zen," but the definitions make it hard to distinguish them. Throughout, there is an inside/outside (or mind/body) kind of thinking which may be expedient thinking for the sake of his students, or his own enduring mind-habit.
Otherwise, his teaching is very clear: attain your true self, attain what the Heart Sutra is talking about; and at that point, what is there to do? Realizing the paramitas without a trace of actor or action, the student can use form with a clear mind and help others. In the "Bloodstream Sermon," there are questions and answers, as Bodhidharma teaches and occasionally spars with monks in China (at a time when Buddhism in China was heavily philosophical). Bodhidharma is able to turn cognitive understanding on its ear and make it point these sleepy students to "just doing it." If you do not find your true self, he says, all invocations, offerings and precepts are useless. "The thousands of sutras and shastras only amount to a clear mind."
With the "Breakthrough Sermon," the conceptualizing gets pretty convoluted. Dharma speeches are like acupuncture needles, and what may have pointed directly 1,500 years ago sounds mysterious. This talk refers to the Nirvana Sutra and the Sutra of the Ten Stages, which were revolutionizing Buddhism in China.
It is interesting to watch how Bodhidharma intercepts questions which are often reverently Buddhist and spin them around to the three poisons (anger, greed, delusion) and our need to practice just now. And yet one might wonder that even as he criticizes external devotions, he seems to be making something special about "inner" work and enlightenment. Is there such thing as practice without inside and outside?...more
This is not as well known as some other books about acting, and yet it is one of the best. Lewis, of course, is the actor turned director and teacherThis is not as well known as some other books about acting, and yet it is one of the best. Lewis, of course, is the actor turned director and teacher who began at the Civic Repertory Theatre, was part of the Group Theatre and the Actors Studio, and headed the acting program at Yale for a while. He also delivered the famous series of lectures on acting, "the method" (Stanislavski vs. Strasberg), and American theatre collected in the book Method or Madness?.
His book is practical, including descriptions of useful exercises (complete with amusing stick figures to illustrate physical positions, not that they are really necessary), suggestions for organizing a playscript and useful notes, and further on some pointed essays on preparing a role and acting as a practice. Many of the anecdotes here are recycled in Lewis's memoir, Slings and Arrows: Theater in My Life, but here are useful for illustrating problems and solutions. ...more
This is the rating of the book alone, as a book: not the author or her worth as a teacher. Uta Hagen was a celebrated actor and a beloved teacher baseThis is the rating of the book alone, as a book: not the author or her worth as a teacher. Uta Hagen was a celebrated actor and a beloved teacher based at the HB Studio in New York for a long time. This is the first of her two books, and ironically her best known although two decades after writing this one she wrote a second book, A Challenge For The Actor, with more emphasis on action as the expression of the character. For its time (early 1970s) the book is a bold statement about the artistry of acting, and most helpful (perhaps still) in an era when many acting teachers were delving into psychological realms with a misguided overemphasis on emotional crisis as the basis for creative work: "I am frankly fearful of those who profess to teach acting while plunging into areas of actors' lives that do not belong on a stage or in a classroom." On its own, the book offers good inspirational material on the proper ethics and attitude of an actor towards the craft, with some practical guidance on certain skills relevant to preparing a role. Considering the doldrums American acting is in, and the dire position of American theatre in the early 21st century, we might need some beloved actors to write us new statements asserting the worth and describing the discipline necessary for what we do, as well as why it is worth doing. But that is a topic of its own.
This is still very much worth reading, perhaps while training in a face-to-face acting class, and certainly in comparison to Hagen's later book....more
There is little after the first chapter of Bobby Lewis's personal life - not a word about personal relationships, political views, fears, and few regrThere is little after the first chapter of Bobby Lewis's personal life - not a word about personal relationships, political views, fears, and few regrets - but this theatre-memoir is a vivid expression of a person's artistic identity. Lewis literally snuck into his early work in theatre, became a member of the landmark Group Theatre through the 1930s, but parted with Strasberg in terms of the actor's methodology and eventually, through his famous "Method or Madness" lectures, articulated a more holistic and versatile artistic approach. Covering most of the twentieth century, the book is a gripping tour through modern American theatre history through the eyes of a most influential director and teacher. ...more
As I write this comment, here in New Mexico there are students and parents taking to the streets to protest PARCC testing. One father of my acquaintanAs I write this comment, here in New Mexico there are students and parents taking to the streets to protest PARCC testing. One father of my acquaintance has even discovered that the letters in that acronym can be rearranged into a noun that bluntly represents what he thinks of the intrusive regime of frequent, high-stakes testing that disrupts and distorts public education and asserts the values of corporate profit and management style in an inappropriate sphere.
This book gathers interviews and written testimony by teachers, students, and parents who pioneered such resistance; it steers the reader to resources and community. Most importantly, it testifies to the resisters of the neoliberal assault on education that they are not alone....more
Five stars purportedly means "amazing." This isn't an "amazing" book but for anyone interested in this subject, or even for some readers familiar withFive stars purportedly means "amazing." This isn't an "amazing" book but for anyone interested in this subject, or even for some readers familiar with the topic, it makes a remarkably good presentation.
Karl Marx is a very interesting figure in that he has got to be one of the most influential figures of the twentieth century (despite dying in 1883) and also one of the most misunderstood. His most useful contributions are the least understood. He is one of the most frequently cited thinkers and yet one of the least read. One can complete the most rigorous academic training in economics that the U.S. has to offer, and never once be required to examine the most compelling critique (or any critique at all) of capitalism, via Marx. Revolutions claiming inspiration by Marx have ruled in ways that are anathema to Marx himself. As a result, "Marxism" is a common part of political vocabulary in 2015 and yet the word can be used to describe almost anything. What "Marxism" might actually be is as mysterious and fluid as the nature of Marx's dialectical method itself.
In light of all that, this book (with a recent new edition incorporating recent historical developments) is an excellent introduction and orientation to Marx's analysis, methodology, and relevance to current events. It also includes an excellent, differentiated list of recommended further reading. ...more
A lovely and particularly theatrical play that opened in Pittsburgh (the city where the play is set) in 2013. It opens with disparate threads: a motheA lovely and particularly theatrical play that opened in Pittsburgh (the city where the play is set) in 2013. It opens with disparate threads: a mother chats with the audience (sharing folk remedies) sitting by a bassinet with a baby who glows "like the moon." A couple of rowdy friends plops into a taxi cab with an annoyed driver. A married couple squabbles on a sidewalk until the woman storms off in a fury - right into traffic. The threads come together on a very simple set, in a play driven by the simplest and oldest theatrical technology of all: telling stories, weaving sad events into legend and folklore, and arriving at something like hope. ...more
The 2012 second edition updates some of the data from the first edition and extends the book's analysis into the first administration of President BarThe 2012 second edition updates some of the data from the first edition and extends the book's analysis into the first administration of President Barack Obama and the great financial crisis in the United States that began in 2007.
An excellent and oft-cited work about class analysis as a way to clarify power relations in American capitalism. ...more
A wonderful and truly theatrical drama incorporating dance and fantasy into a story about young women who room together at a Catholic reformatory in 1A wonderful and truly theatrical drama incorporating dance and fantasy into a story about young women who room together at a Catholic reformatory in 1914. A newcomer brings in forbidden family-planning material and material about Margaret Sanger, who would later found Planned Parenthood, and the girls playfully create a secret ritual around this mandala through which their trauma is expressed. It's good political theatre, addressing patriarchal violence in the U.S., and despite its historical setting it speaks very pertinently to the state of women in society today....more
Thoroughly enjoyed this exploration of the relationship between art and political activism, which in this analysis is fraught with contradiction becauThoroughly enjoyed this exploration of the relationship between art and political activism, which in this analysis is fraught with contradiction because of the class position of art and those who produce it. Ben Davis is an art critic and an activist, approaching this critique of art, art markets, art criticism, and their relationship to the present historical stage of capitalism, from an unabashedly Marxist framework. The book takes its title from a pamphlet he appended to the door of an art gallery, and includes several other essays on a range of related topics....more
This is a sweet little play with moments of lyrical beauty, written for a simple set and an ensemble of four, including two intriguing roles for an elThis is a sweet little play with moments of lyrical beauty, written for a simple set and an ensemble of four, including two intriguing roles for an elder male and female. It premiered at New York's Roundabout Theatre in 2013. It explores grief and detachment very softly, without a single explosive event, in 22 short scenes that are mainly duets. It might easily be performed without an intermission and run less than 90 minutes. This is a play that sings softly and briefly.
There are minor plot details that bother me, such as the premise that an elderly woman could live for six months locked in a bathroom without opening the door. We might assume there is a sufficient gap under the door to slip food to her, but would they not have had a handyman come in and take the door off the hinges by now?
Additionally, I balk at bit at Pastor Hidge's secret, which I will not spoil here. Although it has poetic beauty, as story it is perhaps a bit far-fetched. ...more
With the details of a memoir and a travel book, this combines journalistic detail and context about Afghanistan following the overthrow of the TalibanWith the details of a memoir and a travel book, this combines journalistic detail and context about Afghanistan following the overthrow of the Taliban, with a fiery polemic against American policy in Afghanistan and the middle-east, and a wider critique of American imperialism itself. ...more
A political economy of public education in the age of No Child Left Behind could be deeply discouraging, but this volume does not just deliver the badA political economy of public education in the age of No Child Left Behind could be deeply discouraging, but this volume does not just deliver the bad news, it also offers inspiring and creative possibilities that educators and parents can struggle for together, as well as descriptions of precedents such as the 'Freedom Schools' in the United States and the amazing literacy campaign in Cuba following the revolution. The chapter on Paolo Freire is excellent in itself. ...more
There used to be this oft-cited statistic that 10% of all the novels sold in England are fantasy, and 10% of them are written by Terry Pratchett, thusThere used to be this oft-cited statistic that 10% of all the novels sold in England are fantasy, and 10% of them are written by Terry Pratchett, thus making Pratchett the author of 1% of all the novels sold in Britain. Whether this was ever accurate, what is true is that Terry Pratchett and his DiscWorld novels are a major phenomenon in the UK and they are popular among American readers as well for their satirical wit, amusing reversals of old clichés, and hilarious characters.
He has continued to write since disclosing his diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease at the end of 2007.
As the first in a long series, COLOR OF MAGIC pales next to some of the other novels (especially MORT) because the story devotes itself to exposition of the fabulous world in which these stories take place; the plotline wanders so as to take us to as many different parts of the world as possible. We also make our first acquaintance with characters such as Rincewind, a second-rate wizard, an underachiever some of us might identify with more than a whiz-kid like Harry Potter. The most unforgettable character here, no doubt, is the suitcase that walks around on its own legs - watch out, it bites, too.
The DiscWorld's laws and geography are not consistent, since as Pratchett says, one cannot really map a sense of humor. (That hasn't stopped someone from publishing a concurrence, but I'm sure it's all in fun.) This is a wildly imaginative, intelligent, and hilarious introduction to a long, wonderful series of stories; the kind of reading that is great fun for adults and bright younger readers alike....more
What to make of the dada movement, a dream hatched in an exuberant and anarchic spirit of fun and outrage in Zurich and slowly, strangely became a litWhat to make of the dada movement, a dream hatched in an exuberant and anarchic spirit of fun and outrage in Zurich and slowly, strangely became a literary and aesthetic movement that took itself very seriously indeed.
This collection, an early publication by PAJ (Performing Arts Journal) Books, is a suitable introduction to dadaism although in the years since its publication, fuller histories and more comprehensive collections of texts have become available.
One difference is this edition's emphasis on theatre, including the spirit of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, with Hugo Ball's performances and the exuberant, anarchic, and often surprising poetry. There are several complete translations of several plays by Vitrac, Tzara, Breton, and others. There are also photographs and posters throughout.
This is a good find used if you are looking for a light introduction and some representative plays and poetry. For more intermediate study, you can stretch your dollars further....more