Natives: Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire (Akala)

Okay, a confession: I thought about dropping the book, a couple of times. It’s not that it’s not well-written, because it is (one of the best I’ve read actually). It’s not because it isn’t relevant; it’s been relevant for the past three hundred years. No, the problem is that I’ve been reading a lot (and I do mean A LOT) about race over the past year, so when I started Akala’s book, I think I started with a few preconcieved notions about what I was getting into, and for the most part I wasn’t surprised: it’s a brilliantly-researched, honest, opinionated, and occasionally bitter read from someone who’s elevated himself out of a place where white privileged society told him he belonged. I think the problem was that I was expecting the kind of jaw-dropping revelations that Isabel Wilkerson came up with in Caste, and I’m sure that there would’ve been a few, if I’d read this one first.

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Bruce Springsteen: Letter to You

Wow.

I mean it.

Wow.

Now that it can’t get out on tour, the Springsteen industry has turned to film to get the word out. It’s the same sort of idea they had with the excellent Western Stars, but this, amazingly enough, is even better.

Music is a serious business . . .

Shot entirely in black and white and on location in a New Jersey studio, Letters To You packs ninety minutes with new songs, and others that while still being new, hark back to Springsteen’s early songwriting days. Weaved throughout the film, Springsteen’s poetic monologues reflect on his early career, his deep relationship with his band, and his sadness for the friends he’s lost along the way.

Yes, they’re looking old, but the enthusiasm, love of the art and their commitment to perfection still shines through – and I say this as someone who’s not really a fan.

If you are a fan though, you don’t need me to tell you to see it any you can (at the moment, I think it’s only showing on Apple TV).

If you’re not a fan, you should see it anyway, just to experience the words and music of someone who’s dedicated their entire life to the pursuit of one single goal – even if he’s still not sure what that goal is.

Western Stars: a film by Bruce Springsteen

Okay, full disclosure: I’m not really a Bruuuuuce fan. Yes, like every other Springsteen not-actually-a-fan fan, I have a handful of tracks that I trot out every year or so when I’m taking a long drive, working through daddy issues, or collapsing under the strain of bein’ a hard workin’ man.

Springsteen’s nineteenth studio album is called Western Stars, and instead of touring it, he’s decided to make a concert reel to promote it. It was showing at our local multiplex, so my smarter half (a Bruce fan from years back) dragged me along to see the great man perform the album live, in his shed. Well, I say ‘shed’, but it’s actually a barn, and when I say ‘barn’ it’s actually big enough to hold a band, an orchestra, a bar, all his mates, and a film crew … Anyway, the seats in our local picture house recline, so at the very least I was expecting a decent nap. I was also expecting about ninety minutes of self-indulgent rambling interspersed with a few songs about travelling long and dusty roads.

Well, I was wrong …

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