Category Archives: reviews

Behind The Funhouse Mirror: The Racialicious Review of Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure Tv

By Arturo R. García

In a way, author and journalist Jennifer L. Pozner’s latest work was endorsed by The Learning Channel, without her even having to appear:

We have made it known from the start that Sarah Palin’s Alaska is not a political show.   Sure, there has been plenty of conversation of Sarah Palin’s Alaska through a political lens — some of it on our blogs — but when the focus turns political the conversation goes off track.  And for that reason we try to avoid conversations that are seen as being political wherever possible.

- Brian Reich, host, Sarah Palin’s Alaska podcast

Over the weekend, Pozner, founder and executive director of Women in Media & News, and more recently the author of Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV, was invited, then un-invited from appearing on the channel’s Alaska podcast after Pozner called the series a “series-long unpaid political advertisement.” Her post and subsequent live-tweeting of an episode, Reich went on to say, “created an untenable environment tonight that wouldn’t allow for us to focus on the topic we both want to discuss.”

Translation: the call-in portion of the show would veer into flame-war territory, because Pozner’s analysis would have revealed some truths TLC and Palin’s fanbase weren’t comfortable confronting.

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Heroes Without A Cause: A Look At Misfits

By Arturo R. García

Over the weekend a reader asked us to take a look at Misfits – kind of surprising, since it doesn’t get the attention lavished upon other British shows. But, it’s been fun to list the show as one of my secret pleasures since it debuted last year.

I say “secret” and not “guilty,” because it’s been the kind of under-the-radar show that I hope remains out of the grubby reach of American media outlets. (By the way, if you’re a fan of Skins, my condolences to you in advance. But I digress.) Slight spoilers under the cut.

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Eddie Huang, Owner of Xiao Ye, Causes a Stir on Cooking and Asian American Identity

By Guest Contributor Jenn, cross-posted from Reappropriate

Caught this over at CNN’s Eatocracy today.

Eddie Huang is the owner of a Lower East Side Chinese/Taiwanese restaurant in Manhattan called Xiao Ye, which (if I think I understand my Taiwanese) means “midnight snack”, although Eddie suggests in the video above that it means “delicious”. By glancing at the restaurant’s menu, and by gleaning bits from descriptiong of the restaurant’s atmosphere, Xiao Ye apparently caters to the young (Asian American) club-going set, who’re looking for some good, home-cooked comfort food at 4 a.m. in the morning, after a night on the town.

And frankly, as someone who resigns herself to late-night IHOP (because nothing else is freakin’ open!) whenever she goes clubbing, the business plan is motherfuckin’ brilliant. I cannot tell you how badly I crave some pork potstickers, or some rice noodles with scaldingly delicious and hearty beef broth, after a night on the dancefloor and a few too many shots, all served in a place where the music just don’t stop.

Dear Eddie, if you are reading this, please open a branch in Tucson. Seriously.

Xiao Ye has only been open for a few months when, last month, Sam Sifton of the New York Times stopped in for a review. Although the review praised some of Huang’s food, the reviewer was critical of Sifton’s seemingly frenetic menu and hit-or-miss approach. He seemed particularly galled by the fact that Huang was — shockingly — eating food at his restaurant rather than cooking it. Since I’m used to Chinese restaurants where the waiters, kitchen staff, and owners regularly scarf down a meal at the restaurant, I’m not sure I get the issue. Yet, Sifton rated Xiao Ye a “fair”, which is the textbook definition of “damning with faint praise”.

This prompted Eddie to post about the review on his blog, Fresh Off the Boat. Specifically, he posted a most fobilicious email from his mother about the whole incident.

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Culturelicious: How do you feel about Hamas?

By Fatemeh Fakhraie, cross-posted from her blog

Last Sunday, I went to a local production of Jennifer Jajeh’s solo show “I Heart Hamas.” The show’s site gives a pretty good synopsis:

With the current ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, the threat of global terrorism, and the never-ending negotiations and hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by all of the bad international news. That’s exactly how Jennifer Jajeh feels. And to make matters worse, Jennifer is Palestinian. Well, Palestinian American. Or more precisely: a single, Christian, first generation, Palestinian American woman who chooses to return to her parents’ hometown of Ramallah at the start of the Second Intifada.

Join her on American and Palestinian soil on auditions, bad dates, and across military checkpoints as she navigates the thorny terrain around Palestinian identity. Weaving together humor, slides, pop culture references and live theatre, Jajeh explores how she becomes Palestinian-ized, then politicized and eventually radicalized in a fresh, often funny, searingly honest way.

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Review: Richard Van Camp’s The Moon Of Letting Go

By Guest Contributor Jorge Antonio Vallejos, cross-posted from Rabble.ca

A drug dealer with a conscience, straight boys who jog naked at night in a group, and a hit-man who finds himself in a life changing ceremony; yes, there’s everything under the sun (and moon) in Richard Van Camp’s new collection of short fiction The Moon of Letting Go.

A member of the Dogrib Nation of North West Territories, Van Camp is one of Turtle Island’s (Canada’s) premier writers. Published in The Walrus, Descant and Up Here Magazine, Van Camp brings stories from the North to the rest of Turtle Island.

Just as raw, funny and intelligent as the characters in his other works, Angel Wing Splash Pattern and The Lesser Blessed, it’s hard to put down The Moon of Letting Go. Twelve stories in all, some connected via characters, places and events, readers feel like they are hearing town gossip straight from Van Camp’s mouth and want to get involved. At times, I wanted to kill the father who molested his daughter; attend the hockey games the town looks forward to; be one half of the couple who has great makeup sex; and meet the mysterious medicine man who has a town in constant fear.

Throughout the collection Van Camp tackles tough issues including the differences between Aboriginal peoples, dealing with mixed-nation relationships and the pressure to have children. Van Camp shows readers how complex humans are, that there is no black and white, that we can walk the good road while practicing the opposite and vice versa. At times the issues Van Camp addresses seem autobiographical: “I’m quite fair and often invisible to other Indians when I’m out of NWT,” says the narrator in “I Count Myself Among Them.” Van Camp, fair skinned himself, shows how not all Aboriginal people look the same.

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REVIEW: Tamar-Kali — “Black Bottom”

By Guest Contributor Rob Fields, cross-posted from Bold As Love

Like Tina Turner, you get the feeling from listening to Tamar-kali’s debut album Black Bottom that she never did anything nice and easy. But it’s that struggle she articulates to come into her own that has helped Tamar-kali create Black Bottom, and the result is an exhilarating, cathartic rock n roll tour de force.

In many ways, this album flows like a coming-of-age story. Not so much of a young girl growing into a woman, but rather the transformation of a young woman who’s unsure of her own power into the warrior goddess who’s fierce with the light of her own clarity.

The album’s opener “Pearl” sets the tone for the rest of the album: focused, powerful, grinding guitar lines, sharp, crashing drums and a distinctive, reverberating low end. She sings:

her oyster walls this big city
she is the pearl roughly confined
and to you alls still a mystery
filled with doubt though she is ripe
so she moves anxious but steadily
fading now into the night

And it only gets better from there.

It would be a selling her short to talk about Tamar-kali as just a powerful voice and well-written songs. And it’s true: She can shift her voice at will, one moment a caress, the next piercing or pummeling. No, what’s also striking about Black Bottom is the feeling you get of catharsis. Not a word I use too often when talking about music, largely because I don’t have that experience often. And I credit this to her ability to as a composer, not just as a lyricist. There goes that clarity thing again, in that I feel like there was a very strong vision on her part. Not only did she know what she wanted sonically, but she was able to get that out of her band. That’s no small thing.

You want specifics? I can’t listen to “Caught” or especially “Warrior Bones” without wanting a cigarette afterwards. And I don’t smoke.

Yeah, “Warrior Bones.” If you chart this person’s development through all the songs—‘cause not all the songs are necessarily about her–this song is like that moment in The Matrix, where Morpheus says, “He is finally beginning to believe.” Or when the warrior, rejuvenated, comes down from the temple ready to face her opponents. But, even though she’s ready for battle, not everyone else is:

These warrior bones ache for revolution
But the people ain’t ready
These pathetic souls yearn for revelation
But there’s no message, just silence.

After one listen, I dare you try to walk down the street without that stuck in your head.

Even when you think you’re catching a break from the fury and wrath—check out the melodious first half of “Maimed” with its shuffling beat riding just under her honeyed delivery—ferocity is never far away.

And I gotta give it up to the band–Jerome Jordan on rhythm guitar; Jeremiah Hosea on bass; Mark Robohm on drums, and Thom Loubet on rhythm/lead guitar—these guys are tight and they can stop on a dime. And Tamar has said as much that these guys are an equally important part of this story.

Yes, this album is soulful. But make no mistake: This is a rock album through and through. And it’s also easily made the list Boldaslove.us’ Best of for 2010.

Wanna check it out?  Ready to buy?  You can do all of that here.

Review: This is an Honour Song – 20 Years After Oka

By Guest Contributor Jorge Antonio Vallejos, originally published at Rabble

I remember being 14 years old and watching the media circus labeled “The Oka Crisis.” A fistfight in the bush between a brown man and a white man surrounded by white soldiers was played over and over for days on several different news stations. I identified with the brown guy and wanted him to win the fight.

It was primal instinct then to root for the person of colour who looked like me. As an adult who knows much more about the colonial history and practices of the stolen land called Canada that I live on, I now root for the Mohawk peoples as an informed ally.

July 11, 2010 marks the 20th anniversary of what is now known as “Oka.” Leanne Simpson and Kiera Ladner, have compiled a timely and important anthology called This is an Honour Song: Twenty Years Since The Blockades.

Filled with soul grabbing poetry, academic and personal essays, beautiful artwork, a short story and a play, Simpson, Ladner, and their 33 co-writers — including well-known contributors such as Ellen Gabriel (who stood in the front lines at Oka), and respected writer and professor Patricia Montour — provide educational pieces about the events of the standoff. They also take a stance on paper by sharing new issues that have come since Oka, and how it influenced a new generation of activists who seek justice in similar battles in their own territories.

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