Ta-Nehisi Coates has something to say

And we should read and listen.

I’ve been trying to write something on the books I’ve read by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I couldn’t find the right words. Still can’t.

It’s been a month now and in the meantime I also read a 2014 cover story written by Ta-Nehisi for The Atlantic: “The Case for Reparations.” As well as The Moynihan Report. And more recently “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration.”

Completely unrelated, I also read Felicia Day’s book “You’re Never Weird on the Internet.” All I’m saying, some time and reading has gone by. And I still haven’t fully processed all the stories and all the information.

I read “The Beautiful Struggle” (memoir) and “Between the World and Me” (a letter to his son) back to back. Both books are required reading if you want to get to know the writer and get a good picture of what has happened and is still going on in “Black America.” I consider “The Case for Reparations” also as required reading. It shows perfectly that racism didn’t end with the Emancipation Proclamation Act (in case anyone was still wondering), and how the systems that were in place made sure that a group of people would not become part of the broader society.

It’s stunning and incomprehensible when I read about these people’s lives. These lives, these stories didn’t happen ages ago. They are recent history and a lot of it still happens today.

A lot of the things Ta-Nehisi writes about is not part of the curriculum at schools here in Belgium. We basically get told that America came to be, slavery happened and that’s roughly it. Although that might have changed in the past 14 years. I don’t know. I doubt it. A half a year back I read the graphic novels “March” by representative and civil rights activist John Lewis. They never taught me about “Freedom Riders” in school.

Ta-Nehisi’s first book “The Beautiful Struggle” is a memoir and “Between the World and Me” was written as a “letter” to his son, and both contain stories that need to be told. It gives you a first person view into the difficult life of a person in an environment that many of us cannot imagine living in, and many unfortunately have to. It’s stories of pain and hope. Of love and hate. Of incomprehension and acknowledgement.

I’d love to read more by Ta-Nehisi. He has a wonderful way of writing tough to process topics. It helps a lot in learning more about this part of history, and understanding today’s society. And I deeply recommend you read his books.

Plata o Plomo?

Narcos. You might have heard about Netflix’s latest.

Despite the lack of any wow effect, it’s an intriguing story based on the life of Pablo Escobar and the narcs that are trying to capture him and his following.

Nobody stole Tony Montana’s accent. Columbians speak Spanish. Americans speak English. As it should be. Though that was actually the only issue I had with the show, that I had to read subtitles. I don’t like’m. And yes, I really should learn how to speak Spanish. Such a fun language.

The man playing the role of Pablo Escobar does look a tiny bit like Vincent Chase, but his portrayal of the character, luckily, is nothing like that of Vince. Although he doesn’t come across as the evil bastard Escobar really was. Sure he does some pure evil shit, but the real Escobar was far far … fár worse.

Although it’s based on true stories, well, as true as these can be, they added some fiction to create more drama. You’d think the life of Pablo Escobar would have enough drama… And they left a shitload of horrible stuff out to make the main character more appealing. You’re not screaming at your screen “Kill that motherfucker!!!”, but you’re not a fan of his either.

The story isn’t weak, but it could be a lot tougher. I’m hoping season 2 will be much more raw and evil. Less bitching about not being allowed into the political circle-jerk.

I do recommend you watch this Netflix show. You’ll be plenty entertained. I mean, Luis Guzmán is in it. Can’t go wrong with that.

P.S.: [Game of Thrones Spoiler Alert] Yes, the dude in the picture is the guy who got his skull crushed. Don’t worry, there’s also pretty ladies with sexy accents for my lesbian readers. For example, Stephanie Sigman.

Nick Offerman’s Audacity of Hope

Nick Offerman, a man, an artist, whom I mostly know as the butch, giddy, bacon-crazy, eggs fanatic, sweet and mannered Ron Swanson. But the man is a writer, a comedian, an actor, a woodworker, etc., and husband to Megan Mullally (Yes, that drunk excuse for a secretary in Will & Grace).

I haven’t read Nick’s first book “Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living.” I did see his stand-up show “American Ham” which I sincerely recommend.

I read Gumption, his latest literary endeavour, and I liked it. I liked it plenty. This book has Nick’s vibe, and it’s filled with interesting facts and characters. His funny jabs make it all the more pleasant to read.

Unfortunately I am sometimes bad at stating what I read, but one thing that got stuck was the fact that Benjamin Franklin (Yes, that one) wrote an essay “Fart Proudly“, suggesting that research and practical reasoning be undertaken into methods of improving the odor of human flatulence.

The chapter on Frederick Douglass also struck a chord. Not because he looks like he could be Laurence Fishburne’s great-grandfather, but because of something he said in 1852(!):

The marriage institution cannot exist among slaves, and one-sixth of the population of democratic America is denied its privileges by the law of the land. What is to be thought of a nation boasting of its liberty, boasting of its humanity, boasting of its Christianity, boasting of its love of justice and purity, and yet having within its own borders three millions of persons denied by law the right of marriage?

Eloquent fellow, ain’t he?

As interesting as it is to read about founding fathers (of the U.S. in case you were wondering), and Teddy Roosevelt, Yoko Ono, Wendell Berry, Conan O’Brien, to name a few, it’s very enjoyable to sense Nick’s enthusiasm throughout the entire book. Not to mention how interesting he himself is. He is a man of many traits and passion. (He’s got his own woodshop where he builds boats and stuff.)

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn a little about American history, but mostly about people who have inspired Nick and many others to do something that made (sometimes still makes) a difference in many people’s lives.

This world can not have enough gumption. We all need to focus more on the positive and what we can do to enrich our own life, and that of others through sheer guts and love for what we do.

A quote from the book I wish to leave you with, coming from Wendell Berry:

“I want to deal with people who are at work because they see the real reasons to be at work. That’s what I call hope, if they can keep going.”

Dear Jon

Hey Jon

I just watched your final show. And when I say “your” I actually mean “our.” You’ve been there for and with us all these years.

I started watching the Daily Show in 2000, when Bush, the “decider“, had taken office. I had to download it via torrents back then. Now I can watch it on the Comedy Central website with the same commercials month after month. Because I had to download it, I only watched episodes with guests I knew. Since the show became freely available on CC.com I’ve seen almost every single episode. (I sometimes have stuff to do.)

I adore what you have made of the show, and the energy you and your staff brought to the screen every single night. The Daily Show became my most prominent source of news. I’ve always been amazed at how much (and what I) ended up knowing about the U.S. (and the rest of the globe).

The Daily Show was the perfect mixture of comedy and facts, brought by a guy who knew how to deliver. (Trevor’s got his work cut out for him.)

I have gotten to know a lot of things, and a lot of interesting people and characters.

Thank you Jon, for your service. And don’t be a stranger. Let’s have pizza sometime. (New York style of course.)

Jon Stewart - I'm totally fangirling!

Sincerely yours


P.S.: You made a difference.

P.P.S.: When is Rosewater 2 coming out?

Comedy round-up

Here are some of the specials I watched this year that I think you might like as well.

Neal Brennan‘s special “Women and Black Dudes“. It’s Neal Brennan, what other title would it be… I also recommend you listen to The Champs podcast, hosted by Brennan and fellow comedian Moshe Kasher, who coincidentally also has a special. His live show takes a weird twist. One word: mime.

My weakness is strong” by Patton Oswalt. I remember laughing a lot. I don’t remember any jokes though… But it’s Patton Oswalt. He does not disappoint.

Mike Birbiglia is not your typical comedian. He takes you on a trip. He tells a story, not jokes, and is amazingly funny and charming. I strongly recommend watching “What I should have said was nothing” and the Netflix special “My girlfriend’s boyfriend“. Mike also has a movie you should check out: “Sleepwalk with me”.

Jim Jefferies has a special on Netflix called “Bare“. His previous special “Fully Functional” is also on the streaming service. Jefferies’ now cancelled FX show “Legit” (available on Netflix) mostly contains material from that special. An Aussie in America, what could go wrong…

Have you heard of a lady called Chelsea Handler? No? Sad. She’s funny and really funny. Her Netflix special “Uganda be kidding me” will make you laugh and wish sometimes you were blind. Watch it!

I know Nick Offerman from “Parks and Recreation“, but recently spotted him on “The West Wing”. I just started watching that show… Mr. Offerman released a special on Netflix called “American Ham” this december. It all him and it’s all good.


Most shows are available on Netflix. So get cracking!