Non-Blog | Channing Whitaker

What I've Been Reading, Watching, and Listening to: Dec. 2018

Reading:

Two works to mention this month. First I took on Joe Lansdale's short work The Night They Missed the Horror Show. Back in May, I met Mr. Lansdale at a convention and actually sat on two panels with him. Before that, I was only familiar with Bubba Ho Tep. I found Joe to be a fun guy to chat with and was interested in looking at some of his other work. I hadn't gotten to it yet, until recently when I saw folks on a horror facebook group talking about this one, so I had to go for it. Full disclosure, I actually listened to this one on audible, and it was read by the author, so that was pretty cool.

As for the story, I found it compelling. It had a clear theme regarding racism. I didn't get too engrossed with any characters, but that didn't pose a problem for the short. It was graffic. Probably more so than I gravitate toward, but I can forgive gore with purpose, which this story had. What I found most interesting was the dichotomy the story gives which highlights the illogical mentality of racism. The primary characters don't want to see a movie with an African-American actor but are ok with an African-American teammate on their football team because he is a good quarterback. Other characters are so racist and morally corrupt, they treat an African-American as less than human, disposable even, and with extreme violence. Meanwhile, they see the perceived mistreatment of a dog as reprehensible, so they're not without moral. The take was interesting and sadly quite apt for a great many people, though perhaps to an extreme. 

The other aspect worth mentioning for this book is the setting. I've never lived in rural Texas, and I'm a was likely born twenty or thirty years after the point in time depicted, but Lansdale quickly places readers in a vivid setting that was rich and captivating. I felt like I was there, or that I'd been there. It was impressive to do so with relatively short space in which to work.

The other book I wanted to mention is  Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. I've been making a point to find pick up some classic sci-fi titles. As a kid of the 80's my sci-fi roots are in Star Trek the Next Generation, Star Wars, and Back to the Future, but I've wanted to explore the genre's foundation. Earlier this year I read Asimov's Foundation (aptly named). So far, I'm a little over halfway through the book so this discussion is more of a teaser for a review to come, but already I'm seeing two things which remind me of other sci-fi of the same era. One, an unnervingly modern parallel to politics and superstition trampling science and reason, almost to the point that one feels the author had a window to the future. Two, such a clear adherence to gender norms of the 50s and 60s that such windows to the future most have been limited to man's locker rooms. Still, I'm enjoying the book so look for more on it in January's run down.


Watching:

Since I don't want to over-analyze the array of Hallmark Christmas movies I've taken in with my family through December, I'm going to have to reflect on the movie I watch on the airplane while traveling for the holidays, which was Pacific Rim: Uprising. Now, I thought the first Pacific Rim was worth the watch, and I was interested in seeing the second, but I heard so many poor reviews at the time of its release I was detered from hitting the theater.  Now that I saw it, I don't think the reports were necessarily apt. Was it an action movie with little to challenge viewers' emotions or intellect? Yes, but so was the first. Did it have shallow characters that were barely enough for viewers to side with them? Yes but so did the first. But did it have kick-ass, giant robot fighting-suites? Heck yeah. It also had Charlie Day which is basically a given delight for me. This movie wasn't high cinema, but it delivered what I was expecting, the only fault I have with it, which I would also say is true of the first Pacific Rim, is that it wasn't Robot Jox (1989).

P.S. If Hollywood insists on cranking out sequels and remakes by the scores, please, please, please, can we have another Robot Jox?



Listening to:

I don't know how I came across the Minnesota based rapper, Prof in the recent weeks and I'm not even sure I'm glad I did, but I am a bit captivated. His voice doesn't seem to match his body. His shirts don't seem to match his pants, and his style and boisterous personality from one song don't even seem to match his persona in the next song, but all of it is eye and ear-catching. It seems clear that Prof is a character more than a straight-up artist, and a fluid one at that, but he touches on some compelling thoughts. 

One song called Motel bares a theme of not mixing up the need for deep emotional connection with the need for physical gratification (motel sex). Crass as that sounds, the song is gritty but also realistic regarding human emotion and behavior. But don't let that lull you into thinking Prof isn't a madman, because other songs are simply absurd. I'll also note, though it would be more of a "watching" thing, many of Prof's videos are equally compelling to watch as to listen to.
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