Perspective

“The Pale Blue Dot.” A few words by known astrophysicist (among other titles) Carl Sagan.

Voyager 1 had completed its primary mission and was leaving the Solar System. Carl Sagan asked NASA to turn its camera back to Earth all the way back from Saturn for one last photograph of Earth. (Source: WikiPedia and Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey).

Below is the video from Cosmos with Carl Sagan’s voice.

Read the speech on the The Planetary Society‘s website.

P.S.: Cosmos (presented by Neil deGrasse Tyson) is available on Netflix!

Full Frontal

I am a huge Jon Stewart fan. Like many, I was sad to see him leave The Daily Show, especially with the material that was to come. So you can imagine how excited I was when he came back for a comedy bit on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. I ate it up. I really mis that dude. Then they did a segment like the good ol’days. Double the excitement!

Many are writing that he’s retired. But he’s not. He’s a producer on the Late Show, and he’s working on another show. And he’s probably working on a lot of other stuff, not just animals.

Still, until the return of our fake news messiah, many of us were left with a void. Stephen is doing a great job on The Late Show. Trevor is doing very well taking over from Jon, but it’s not the same. It’s lacking a certain je-ne-sais-quoi (It’s lacking Jon Stewart…). I know this is unfair. I love Trevor Noah. He’s a great comic.

But. However. That void, for me, has been filled, at least once a week, by Samantha Bee and her show Full Frontal. I’ve been in love with her ever since I first saw her on The Daily Show as a correspondent where she killed every single time. And now she’s killing with her own show.

It’s only one night a week, unfortunately, and most of it is freely available on her website and Youtube channel. Check it out for yourselves and share your thoughts!

“But what about John Oliver, Chris?” – Yes, John Oliver and his team are doing an incredible job. Those in-depth pieces are masterful.

I just want to say: Thank you Samantha Bee for being a bawse!

My First Comics

I’ve been enjoying reading more and more of late. I recently finished the books “A Song of Ice and Fire” and loved it. I hadn’t read such fiction in a very long time. It must have been since high school. This weekend, I bought my first comics.

A photo posted by Christophe Gassesmet (@gammet) on

I got the first two (of an 11-issue series) Black Panther comics. Why Black Panther? Ta-Nehisi Coates is writing this series. I enjoy his words and sentences and such.

Ta-Nehisi has two books out, which I’ve read and highly recommend: “The Beautiful Struggle” and “Between the World and Me.” The former being a memoir (with a focus on his father), the latter is a letter to his son.

I am rather ignorant about comics. I was surprised how cheap they were. Each comic is very short. Very, very, very short. However, these first two Black Panthers left me wanting more. Can’t wait for next month!

I bought the comics at World’s End Comics in Ghent. A cool store in a rather large basement with a big collection of comics and games. There’s even a bar.

Comedians talking comedy

Last night I stumbled upon The Green Room with Paul Provenza. I watched one clip (see below) from an episode, and before I realised it, I saw nearly all episodes.

Comedians talking about comedy. I love it!

Check’m out for yourselves on Youtube.

This show reminded me of HBO’s Talking Funny. (Pssst, also available on Youtube…)

Horace and Pete

Horace and Pete is a new show by Louis C.K.

I love his stand-up. I’m a fan of “Louie.” And then he made “Horace and Pete.” It’s (almost) nothing like I’ve seen before. There’s no audience, and no laugh track. It’s pure in image and in sound. The cast is incredible.

Louis C.K. (as Horace) and Steve Buscemi (as Pete) in the lead. Alan Alda as uncle Pete is crazy good. Edie Falco as Horace’s sister gives that Sopranos performance. Laurie Metcalf (yes, Sheldon’s mom) has one 30 minute scene and it’s fucking amazing.

It’s a lot like Louie. A lot more serious though. There’s comedy in it, but at times it’s gut wrenchingly good.

I full-heartedly recommend it. Get it at louisck.net for only $ 31.00.

If you need convincing, or want more info before you binge, listen to Louis’ interview with Marc Maron.

The Boy

Eleven in the morning is a rather unusual hour for going to the movies, especially a thriller. But Cinéma Aventure is a nice little complex in the middle of Brussels. A nice little discovery.

I was invited by the lovely people of Walkie Talkie for a pre-release viewing of “The Boy.” A movie about an American woman, Greta, who comes to the British country to be a nanny to a boy. The boy turns out to be a porcelain doll, and she has to follow a list of rules. She has to follow them by the letter. Not doing so would displease the boy.

As expected, Greta’s first thoughts were “Where the hell did I come to? And what the freakish hell is this?” Wouldn’t you think the same? Greta’s response turned into “Oh well” and she starts out ignoring the rules, but she learns quickly that her scepticism displeases the boy.

That’s when the movie could’ve turned into a good psychological thriller. The struggle between what is real and what is not. Is what my eyes are telling me true, or am I ready for the white cloth and the padded cell?

The movie has a lot of potential in it. The makers of “The Boy” portrayed it in the right way, as far as I know and can expect. Unfortunately the writers chose to take the Hollywood route. They couldn’t stay away from the (unnecessary) love story and the “Alright, let’s wrap this up.”-method. Greta’s backstory could’ve been better too. Not that it wasn’t an “Oh shit” story…

The story of the movie moves along well all the way through. But it leaves you with an appetite. Although that might have been because it was lunchtime…

IMDB gives it a 6.9. Rotten Tomatoes a 4.1 (Audience 6.8). I give it a “watch it at home on a Friday evening, curtains closed and lights out, and you’ll enjoy it.”

Also, the Jim Norton who plays the father of the boy, is not thé Jim Norton. :-/

Melbourne Love Affair

I went back to Melbourne. Yes. Back. Two years ago, I went there with a friend and loved it. Last November I needed to get away, and chose Melbourne as my destination. I wanted to rediscover the city and get to know parts I didn’t go to last time.

I went. All by myself. Had a great time. Nice people. Wonderful food. Good weather. Seen a lot. Walked a shit load. (Peaked at 40.000+ steps on a motherfucking Monday.)

I took pictures with my iPhone. You’ll notice that I’m not a photographer. I just discovered some blurry pictures as I was trying to organise them a bit. Good job, Chris!

Here are all the pictures I took. I organised some of them, so for your pleasure:

Go there. Don’t bitch about the distance. Just go.

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.”