Saturday, October 23, 2021

Book Reviews: The Hungry Earth

The Hungry Earth
by Nicholas Kaufmann
The Hungry Earth
is a new thriller/body horror novel written by Nicholas Kaufmann whose work was previously reviewed here and here. As I get older I wonder if some of the fascination I or other readers feel with body horror novels isn't at least in some part driven by fear of aging and the inevitable body changes that occur. 
The driving force in most body horror stories is that the human has been infected by or taken over by something that sees humans as merely a vessel for propagation.  
And there's not a damn thing the human can do about it. Humans have a number of other living creatures in us or on us using us for food or to obtain food. Some of these parasites are beneficial to us. These include our mitochondria. Others are neutral like the mites that live in our pores, eat our dead skin and oil secretions, and have massive orgies on our faces while we sleep. 
Other organisms are negative or downright malignant, like tapeworms, roundworms, candidiasis, guinea worms, bedbugs, plasmodium, and several other entities. 
What is scary about these creatures is that they seek to rewire and rework our bodies for their benefit, not ours. They can also substitute their desire and "intellect" for our own. This last is most often seen in species besides humans but there's no real reason a human couldn't react just like an infected mouse or ant and seek to spread the parasitical infection at the cost of his own wellbeing or life.

Movie Reviews: From Beyond

From Beyond
directed by Stuart Gordon 
This 80s low budget horror film was done by the same director who did Re-Animator and stars two of the same actors from that film, Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs. Although it's not as darkly comic it still has much of the same feel as Re-Animator
From Beyond, like Re-Animator, is based on a H.P. Lovecraft story of the same title. And like the film version of Re-Animator it increases the role of the female characters and greatly ups the sex appeal. This wasn't hard to do at all as IIRC H.P. Lovecraft didn't include any female characters in either of those stories; he almost never wrote female characters. Given that Lovecraft claimed indifference to sex perhaps that's not too surprising. 
Lovecraft was also at best indifferent to anything and anyone that wasn't him so it would have been a stretch beyond his capacities to write from another's pov. Like Hitchcock's Psycho, From Beyond definitely makes you think you saw more than you did. 
Unlike that movie though it is occasionally pretty explicit. So YMMV on that. Similar to Clive Barker's Hellraiser films there's a hint of kink that suffuses this entire movie. Another theme that Lovecraft liked to play with was that what we saw as magic was often in fact advanced science or technology that we lacked the ability to use or comprehend. This is not as offbase as you might think. 

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Music Reviews: Tarheel Slim -"I've Got You Covered/Wildcat Tamer"

Since the pandemic begun I've been listening to more old school original rock-n-roll, primarily though not exclusively created by Black people. There are many different iterations of this music. 
As mentioned before on this blog during the time much of this music was created and performed, the music definitions of today had not been created. 
A person might record a slow blues for one market, an uptempo rocker for a different market, a lugubrious plodding gospel tune for the church crowd, a jazzy piece showing off to fellow musicians, or a horn heavy churner for people who just wanted to dance.
So you can call this music rock-n-roll, jump blues, rockabilly, whatever. I just like it. I like to think myself well versed in this stuff but I have been surprised and humbled and even a little angered to discover just how much of this music I hadn't heard before.
One musician I discovered was Tarheel Slim, or as his birth certificate read, Allen Bunn. As his nickname indicates, Bunn hailed from the great state of North Carolina. 
Born in 1932 the baritone singer and guitarist had hits in various genres, including gospel, pop, doo-wop, blues, rock-n-roll, jump blues, rockabilly, and soul. There are two songs of his which stood out to me on the collections I purchased.

Michigan Deer Attack

If you happen to be in Northern Michigan minding your own business keep a watch out for an aggressive deer which apparently doesn't like humans and has no problem demonstrating its disdain.
ARENAC COUNTY, MI — Showing no fear of humans and with a distinctive item around its neck, an antlered deer attacked a woman on her Arenac County property. 
While the woman survived the bizarre attack despite numerous puncture wounds, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is reminding residents that wildlife should indeed stay wild. 
On Sept. 26, DNR officers responded to a residence in the Au Gres area for a report of an antlered white-tailed deer having attacked a woman, according to Lt. Brandon Kieft, DNR district law supervisor.
The woman in question, 64-year-old Patty Jean Willis, had been getting ready for church when she let her dogs outside and heard them making a ruckus, she said. Looking into her backyard, she saw a deer standing there. Adding to the oddity was that the deer wore an orange collar around its neck. Willis’ son and husband went outside and the deer wandered off, she said. About 10 to 15 minutes later, she went outside to tend to her chicken coop before heading to church.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Movie Reviews: The Woman On The Beach

The Woman On The Beach
directed by Jean Renoir
This is a relatively short film noir although it feels a little longer than its seventy odd minutes. It lacks most of the violence associated with the genre. 
It's a quiet film that is nevertheless unsettling and occasionally even weird. I suppose you could say that most of the missing physical violence is replaced by emotional pain. The story is just as foggy as the cinematography. This movie is all about mood. 
I didn't think there was quite enough action to move the story forward. But on the other hand The Woman On The Beach is a decent look at how people's internal struggles, desires, and goals play out in their relationships and their larger lives.
Scott (Robert Ryan) is a taciturn war veteran and current Coast Guard officer. Although people didn't use the exact term at the time that this film was made, Scott suffers from PTSD. During the war a ship that Scott was on was torpedoed and sunk. Scott nearly drowned. He now has recurring nightmares and even waking dreams about drowning and being pulled down to the bottom of the ocean. 
There's always a strange blonde woman in these dreams but Scott can't tell if she's luring him into danger or trying to save him. Perhaps not so coincidentally Scott's girlfriend and supposed fiancee Eve (Nan Leslie) is blonde and looks like the woman in his dreams. Usually that would be a good thing, right. 

Monday, October 4, 2021

Harassing Senator Sinema in the Bathroom

With many people today it seems that the point is less to convince political opponents of the rightness of your beliefs than to bully them into being quiet about their opposition or failing that, to humiliate them and make them pay a personal cost for daring to oppose you. 
Because Arizona Democratic Senator Krysten Sinema has so far refused to support a proposed $3.5 trillion bill that would greatly increase the social safety net and possibly provide citizenship to illegal immigrants, many Democrats in and out of the media have called her all sorts of nasty names. 
That's all par for the course. Politics is not a place for shrinking violets. 
What's not normal is the idea, too often accepted by many people at various points along the political spectrum, is that their opponents are not only mistaken but bad corrupt people who don't deserve to be heard, don't deserve to be engaged with, and certainly don't deserve anything so basic as to be able to use the restroom with some form of privacy. 

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Movie Reviews: Bodyguard (1948)

directed by Richard Fleischer
This 1948 film was helmed by Richard Fleischer who also directed the somewhat lighter in tone The Clay Pigeon. Bodyguard is not the darkest noir either though it occasionally flirts with some heavier takes in terms of story and theme.
It might be of some interest to younger viewers because it stars famed Hollywood knucklehead Lawrence Tierney in the lead role. Tierney was never a superstar but made his name playing many tough mean guys, regardless of which side of the law his character could be found. 
This was a bit of art imitating life as the hulking alcoholic Tierney had numerous brushes with the law and violence, some minor, others less so.
His record included everything from assault on police officers, to drunken bar brawls with stabbings, fights with fellow actors, numerous stints in jail, and suspicious timing when a woman he was visiting supposedly jumped out of her apartment building to her death. 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Book Reviews: Ride or Die

Ride or Die
by James Newman
Do you remember where you were, what you were doing, or your age when you first realized that your parents weren't perfect? Perhaps one day you discovered that your parents' marriage wasn't everything you thought that it was. 
Maybe you saw or heard one or both of your parents do or say something that was just as wrong as two left shoes. Well by the time you're an adult these sorts of revelations are probably old news. 
Once you've been spinning around the planet for more than a few decades you have probably accepted, ruefully or otherwise, that most humans are mixtures of good and evil, and generally somewhere between saints and sinners. After all as an experienced adult you've likely made your own share of mistakes or morally dubious decisions. 
And if you're a Christian are you not commanded to judge not lest you be judged and to worry first about the beam in your own eye before criticizing the speck of dust in someone else's? Indeed so.
But children don't have the years of experience or wider perspective needed to be sanguine about the moral failings of others, especially not those of their parents. Children tend not to do nuance all that well. Amelia Fletcher is a high school sophomore. Amelia's father is an insurance executive; her mother is a nurse.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

California Recall: It Must Be The Fault of Black Men

As you may have heard the petition to recall Democratic California governor Gavin Newsom and replace him with noted nutjob Republican Larry Elder failed spectacularly. 
About 64% of the electorate voted "no" on the recall. 36% voted "yes". 
As California is a heavily Democratic state while Elder is an odious person, even for a Black Republican, the results aren't that surprising. 
What is also unsurprising is that the New York Times found a way to take shots at Black men voters. You see, per CNN exit polls, 89% of Black women voters voted "no" on the recall. 
This was the group with the highest "no" voting proportion. But according to NYT columnist Charles Blow, there is something wrong with Black men because:
But there is a worrisome detail in the data, one that keeps showing up, one that Democrats would do well to deal with: Black and Latino men are not hewing as close to the party line as Black and Latina women.
In CNN’s exit poll, nearly half of the Hispanic men surveyed and nearly a quarter of the Black men voted to support the recall. The largest difference between men and women of any racial group was between Black men and Black women.

Movie Reviews: The Clay Pigeon

The Clay Pigeon
directed by Richard Fleischer
This is a film noir but very much at the lighter end of that cinematic spectrum. 
With a running time of just over an hour it's really very short and doesn't spend much time on character development or in invoking any sense of dread, existential or otherwise. 
There's actually a fair bit of comedy, some of it unintentional. The film actually tries to make us believe that a Japanese World War Two war criminal would attempt to hide out in a Chinese American residential area and NOT be detected by any of the people living therein. 
This makes about as much sense as thinking that a German Nazi war criminal would CHOOSE to live in a Russian-Jewish American neighborhood and move around with no problems. 
Perhaps to clueless outsiders every East Asian looks the same or every European looks the same but people within those groups and the hundreds of smaller groups that comprise them have no problems distinguishing among each other. They've been doing just that for hundreds or even thousands of years!