Say You Want a Revolution

BookTalk 4.1 – Say You Want a Revolution

Invisible Man – Prologue and Chapter 1
The Invisibles – Issues #1-8

Music can connect, engage, and enrich. A fuller picture is painted. Tapping into an untold story, revealing a long forgotten history. Music can be transformative. A record when records don’t exist, for the story has been told via word of mouth and forgotten between the ears.

“…I might as well take part in the battle royal to be fought by some of my schoolmates as part of the entertainment. The battle royal came first.” Nature exudes a brutal violence that people choose to indulge, falling victim to an intoxicating illness. Rage can be transformative. Graphic violence can spread like a viral emotion, whether cathartic or oppressive.

In the beginning of The Invisibles, the first story is titled “Dead Beatle$” and the mixed media allusions pour out from the start. Grant Morrison captures the angst of youthful rebellion and dials in on counterculture, narrowing in on John Lennon and the power of psychedelic time travel.

Scan_dead beatle2.jpeg

“Down and Out” (in Heaven and Hell) happens to be the title for the subsequent three episodes in The Invisibles, and it also refers to George Orwell’s social experiment of living in poverty. The homeless and the utterly destitute to the hoboes and drifters choosing to live like modern nomadic transients, take the narrative focus and frame the streets with compassion and awe.

Who is invisible? Through the first 8 issues of The Invisibles a collection of characters grow an answer list: the Invisibles as young adulthood; ghosts; covert spies and secret agents; conspirators; the poor; rats and pigeons; the elderly and ill; transgender; the criminal; storytellers, artists, and mass media; wards of the insane asylum; heroes and legends; African Americans; free thinkers.


The narrator concludes that “Even an invisible man has a socially responsible role to play.” This is an important tenet of Ellison’s philosophy, for he believed that art should serve democracy. In what way is Invisible Man a novel that deals specifically with the problems and challenges of democracy?

Black Power Mixtape (Summer 2017)

The fourth and final BookTalk is for mature audiences.  BookTalk 1 focused on criticism of technology.  BookTalk 2 explored the artistic legacy of Orwell’s novel 1984BookTalk 3 grappled with the sprawling and surreal world of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666BookTalk 4 attempts to understand Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man; and, analyze it in conjunction with Grant Morrison’s comic series The Invisibles.

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (deutscher Trailer)

To understand American History or American Literature, any analysis failing to address racism would be incomplete.  Furthermore, BookTalk 4 does not aim to “check a box” or celebrate some twisted form of cultural appropriation.  A reader would comprehend modern Anglo American culture from a study of 1984, as much as one would comprehend African American culture from reading Invisible Man; however, both of these powerful novels help us perceive the universal plight of the forgotten “thinking” man.

To identify as color blind and avoid discussion of racism is disingenuous.  The post-racism era remains as an elusive utopian concept.  President Obama has not ushered in this new era, though he has established a major milestone in history.  The end of his term in office and the new administration’s rise to power — including its emphatic goal to undo the Obama legacy — serve as a critical setting for this final BookTalk.

Trump claims a lot of things.  During the 2016 Election a media blip surfaced the assertion that Trump could have won against Obama – if Obama could have run again.  To this, most audiences would say “Get Out” and it was perfect timing for Jordan Peele’s social thriller of the same name.  The philosophy of Get Out covers many topics related to an initial understanding of Invisible Man.


Writing this in central Florida — the supposed birthplace of the Black Lives Matter movement that emerged in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin circa the 2012 Election — I am well aware of how difficult it can be to discuss racism.  During Obama’s first term in office, I had the opportunity to participate in a book study on Gary Corsair’s “The Groveland Four: The Sad Saga of a Legal Lynching.”

The Groveland Four story is not typically taught in public schools, especially in Florida.  And a group of Social Studies teachers in Marion County worked directly with the author of this latest investigative piece to see how this could be taught.  The experience was even more enlightening afterwards, knowing the history and driving through the same settings years later – not to mention interacting with the surviving relatives of those involved.  History never felt so raw.

Aside from the textbook offerings of Martin Luther King Jr. speeches and letters, the autobiography of Frederick Douglass, and bloated presentations on the Harlem Renaissance (usually a few Langston Hughes poems), many public schools offer little African American studies.  Alex Haley’s “Roots” series of the late 1970s became a clear reference point and a useful teaching tool for a generation of TV teachers.  Educators are ill-equipped, overwhelmed, or fearful of stoking community backlash when addressing race issues outside of Black History Month.

All of this brings us back to the present.  Recently, the film Birth of a Nation has attracted attention in the form of a slave rebellion story as well as a documentary entitled Birth of a Movement.  William Monroe Trotter enters the scene as another ignored historical figure.  Ta-Nehisi Coates, the celebrated journalist and author charged with rebooting the Black Panther comic series, did an amazing job of capturing the Obama era as it happened – and continues to happen.  Whereas U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos attended a commencement event at Bethune-Cookman University and was booed off the stage.


Find a new tweet each day in the month of April @BeardofSteel on Twitter.  30 quotes from the first chapter of 1984 rationed for victory and assembled by the hashtag 301984.  30 years after 1984, in the year 2014, I also pieced together a literary analysis of 1Q84, V for Vendetta and 1984, that explores their lasting appeal.  #301984 attempts to clarify all of the sudden resurgence in popularity of a novel published 70 years ago.  Enjoy!

JumpRoACH versus VelociRoACH

In the quest for the most capable robotic bug (which is a quest that many roboticists seem to be on, because robotic bugs are nifty), some of the most exciting designs are inspired by the dynamic, multi-modal ways in which insects are conquering the world. Combining skills like running with skills like jumping can make little robots much more efficient movers, allowing them to go farther on a charge as well as helping them surmount obstacles and rough terrain.

We’ve written before about the advantages of multi-modal robots: by combining two different forms of locomotion in one platform, you can take advantage of (say) the efficiency and endurance of a ground robot with the range and versatility of a flying robot. However, designing one robot that can walk and fly tends to be both complicated and inefficient, which is why hetergeneous robot teams are often more appealing. Instead of trying to cram every capability into one robot, you just use several different robots with different specializations and find some way of getting them to work together. Like this robotic cockroach that can serve as an aircraft carrier for a robotic bird.