Books of January

I was never one for New Year’s Resolutions, mostly because I know full well that I won’t keep them. But this year, I decided to do one I thought I could keep. See, when I was a kid, I used to read all the time. Around six or seven years old, I was reading thick epic stories like Mossflower which were well over four-hundred pages. Considering it’s been thirty years since I’ve last read it, perhaps I should read it again. I still have my book from nineteen-eighty-whenever. Anyhow, somewhere along the line, I stopped reading so much; I think it must have been somewhere in high school. With the exception of a story here or there, I almost never read anything.

So the resolution that I made was to read one book a month for the year of 2019. This resolution was actually inspired by a PewDiePie video. I don’t even watch his videos, but for some reason, that was one caught my eye. After watching, I was inspired to get back into my own reading ways and with the month of January now over, I can say I have completed four books.

Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota by Chuck Klosterman

A friend from church gave me a copy of this book. Having read it himself and know that I love ’80s metal, gave me a copy. The book was hilarious, insightful, and constantly entertaining.

Naked by David Sedaris

This hilarious memoir from David Sedaris is laid out like a collection of essays, each detailing what I can only describe as a messed up chapter of his life. I’m not saying he’s messed up, just that messed up stuff seems to happen to him. He covers strange topics such as that time he was hiding in his parents closet and watching his mom come in, put on a wig, and go to sleep. Or the time he lived in a nudist camp. Or his misadventures in hitchhiking.

In Broad Daylight by Henry N. MacLean

So, this one I listened to the audiobook instead of reading the actual book, but it’s still a book nonetheless. In Broad Daylight tells the true story of Ken McElroy, the town bully of Skidmore, Missouri and his murder right in the middle of the day with nearly fifty witnesses. And none was prosecuted. To this day, the case remains unsolved. The narrator did a fantastic job and I would listen to this book on my way to and from work, many times not wanting to exit my car upon arrival so I could hear what happened next. Not a wasted word anywhere, this book was fantastic front to back.

Apparent Danger: The Pastor of America’s First Megachurch and the Texas Murder Trial of the Decade in the 1920s by David Stokes

Goodness, I haven’t seen a title that was such a mouthful since The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. That said, this was quite a fascinating book. I could give you run down, but the title really says it all. Literally. One of the incredible things about this book is that all the dialogue was taken from actual court transcripts, newspapers, magazines, etc., so you know everything that was said in this book was actually said. I read the Kindle version which doesn’t appear to be available anymore, so it appears you may be stuck with hardcover. That said, it’s definitely a great read and a very interesting piece of Church/Court history.

That’s all I have for January, but I’ve already started another audiobook and plan to start reading another tonight or tomorrow. I’ve left links to the four books I read this month in my brief descriptions of them if you are interested in any of them.

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Blair Witch

I have a certain love for bad movies. I don’t know if started with watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 late night way back in the day, but there is a certain joy that comes from watching a bad movie. But every once in a while, I come across a movie so bad, I have to question its reason for existing. For a long time, the worst movie I had ever seen was called Time Chasers, a movie from 1994 that looks like it could’ve been made in 1979. Astonishingly terrible. However, some years down the road, that throne was vacated to make way for a horrible little film called Ultraviolet starring Mila Jovovich. Now, I know a lot of people seem to love that movie, but to this day, it’s still the worst movie I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen Manos: The Hands of Fate. If you’ve never heard of Manos: The Hands of Fate, the fact that manos is Spanish for hands should tell you everything you need to know about the movie. I still remember the night I saw Ultraviolet. When it was done, my friend said he was going to chuck that DVD out his Jeep window on his way home. I quickly replied, “Don’t do that. Some little kid might find it.” I just couldn’t bear the thought of some poor kid sitting through that movie. My friend made sure to destroy that disc.

Now, it being October, I love to sit down and watch horror movies. Earlier this month, I sat down and watched both Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky much to my delight. Let me just say that if you want to watch a good horror flick this year, might I recommend Curse of Chucky. They took a step back from the comedy of the previous two and made a great horror movie with a legitimately creepy Chucky. Anyhow, back on topic. Last year, a new Blair Witch movie came out and judging from the trailers, it was going to be good. I saw the original The Blair Witch Project in theaters back when it first came out and found it to be a great movie. I know some people didn’t like it, but considering that it was in a way the first of its kind, I delighted in every bit of it. This movie was made extra creepy by the fact that me and my best friend watched on a dark and stormy night. My friend’s dad taking us back home took a wrong turn and accidentally drove us through a cemetery and into the woods where we were eventually stopped by a road closed barricade. Though we had our suspicions, his dad swears he wasn’t messing with us and he just turned too early because of the fog.

A few years later, Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows came out staring Jeffrey Donovan who would later go on to star in Burn Notice; a show so much better than this movie that you honestly for get he starred in it. While people generally seemed to dislike Blair Witch 2, I rather enjoyed it despite the acting. It had a great premise in which it basically pretended the first film didn’t happen. Yes, that’s right. Instead, the first movie was a movie and the plot of this movie is there are a group of people who are studying the mythology of the movie. Crazy stuff happens and it turns out that the Blair Witch is real. I understand the criticisms of this movie, but I appreciate the path that they took for the sequel. I’m glad they decided to go the traditional horror movie route instead of another found footage movie because how much belief would you be able to suspend with a second found footage movie about the same thing. Yes it was cheesy. Yes the acting was bad. But at least it understood what it was trying to be, which is much more than I can say for the third one.

When I saw the trailers for a new Blair Witch movie last year that got back to the basics, it looked promising. The brother of one of the people from the original film now 24 years old looking for his sister was a very cool hook and a reasonable way to try to pull the found footage thing again. This movie also pretends like the second movie didn’t happen (or at least it doesn’t address it). Very early on in the movie, it seemed so promising. It wastes no time in showing you all the cool modern high-tech gadgetry it would be employing to capture the footage from camera headsets, to drones, to GPS tracking. There was so much potential in this movie and the people making it had no idea what to do with it. Unfortunately, all the cool tech that should’ve made the movie better, made the movie worse. In what should’ve re-enforced the horror, the gadgets only made it difficult to suspend disbelief.

I’m going to get this out of the way right now. The movie automatically assumes everyone watching it doesn’t understand technology. The movie came out in 2016, but claims to take place 20 years after the original, so that would but this setting in 2014. MicroSD cards would’ve commonly been at about 128GB max (there may have been some 256GB out there, but I shudder to think of how expensive they would’ve been), yet everything is clearly in high-definition. They must’ve been changing out memory cards constantly, to say nothing of charging those video headsets.

And then you’ve got the extra camera functions such as the deer cams, the drones, the headset cameras that capture everything. One of the great things about The Blair Witch Project is you never saw anything. You’re left to your own devices to imagine what’s going on. Not so much with this one. You see it all and it’s all bad. Gash on the foot? Gash spasms cartoonishly. Stick figures connected to people some way. Break stick and kill person on camera cartoonishly. Movie about a Blair Witch? Show the cartoonishly large Blair Witch. In fact, just about every single thing that was creepy in the original was cartoonish in this one. It shows too much and it shows it badly.

One of the things that made the original movie so great was the acting, or lack thereof. Much of the movie was ad-libbed, so things didn’t feel rehearsed. Also, the crew in the original movie legitimately harassed the people in the movie in ways to make them terrified, so the fear you’re seeing in that movie is real. Yet in this new one, you can feel the acting. Everything thing feels so rehearsed that it’s painful. Nothing feel genuine. Now, you can talk all you want about the bad acting in Blair Witch 2, but here’s the thing, it wasn’t a found footage film. Acting in a found footage films should never ever feel like acting. Ever. Bad acting can get a pass in a standard movie, but not in a film in which the entire premise is to purport to be real, stated or not.

When you pull everything together, it’s like it was trying to be a big budget Hollywood blockbuster with an identity crisis, as though it was under the impression it was a found footage film. Now, I realize movies like Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, and The Blair Witch Project are all huge Hollywood successes using the found footage premise, but my problem with Blair Witch is that it feels like it was actually filmed like a Hollywood blockbuster. Most of it doesn’t feel remotely like found footage at all. Because of this, it rips you out of any immersion that was potentially there. Watching Blair Witch, I was bored the entire way through. While I wouldn’t call this the worst movie I’ve ever seen (no one can dethrone you, Ultraviolet), it is one of the stupidest. After this was over, I watched a sixteen minute foreign film called Banana Motherfucker about demon possessed bananas impaling people and honestly, it was a much better movie.

If Blair Witch 4 happens, I think it best that it make like the previous two sequels and pretend the most recent one didn’t happen.

Tender Wings of Desire

Every once in a while, a book so magical comes out that it seems to defy it’s very own existence. Enter Tender Wings of Desire. Written by “Colonel Sanders” and copy written by YUM! Brands (yes, the company that owns KFC), Tender Wings of Desire tells the story of a high class young woman Madeline Parker who is to be wed to Duke Reginald, a man with whom she has no romantic interest. On the night before she is to be married, she flees her home on horseback and ends up in an English fishing town working as a barmaid.

She soon falls in love with a young sailor named Harland who can only be described as Sexy Colonel Sanders. This is a fun little romance novel that actually contains no smut, but leaves you completely amused at the entire concept. For the most part, the story plays it straight, but with gems like “I think it’s time for you to put aside your childish sailing and come back to take up the mantle of Colonel Sanders” and “The hills of Kentucky miss you, as do all of us” written into the story, it’s one not to be missed.

Sadly, it probably will be missed as the book was only available for a few days around Mother’s Day. It was free, however, and if you can find yourself a copy, I surely recommend reading it. It’s quite short (roughly a hundred pages or so) and something to behold. If I had one complaint on the story it would be this; it did not end with everyone eating a bucket of fried chicken. In fact, there was no fried chicken to be found anywhere in story. The only fried chicken to be found is on the cover of this amazing book. A book you need to read.

tenderwingsofdesire

This cover tells you everything you need to know about the story and what you need to know are the words written inside of it.

 

 

Sex, Guns, & Bathrooms

I’ll admit, I’ve always been a staunchly opposed to men entering the women’s restroom and vice versa. To some extent, it was because of weirdos and perverts (though not entirely). I’ve always been very against people having sex changes and to a point, I still am. However, there comes a point where we must face the realities of the situations and accept them no matter how unpleasant they may be. I’ve always said that one does not have the right to not have their feelings/sensibilities hurt and this applies to everyone, including myself. I now agree that transgender people should be allowed to use the restroom of their choice. Please note, I do not feel that the law should require that they be allowed to use what restroom they associate with, that should be left up to the establishment they are visiting. My feelings on government interfering with businesses is a blog for another time, however.

A friend of mine who is transgender has opened my eyes to this issue, though perhaps not in the way that he expected. The problem with our current treatment of the transgender crowd is also the problem with how we treat two other groups of people; namely gun owners and sex offenders. Woah, did I just compare transgender people to gun owners and sex offenders? No, go back and read what I said if you think I did. I compared our treatment of transgender folk with how we treat gun owners and sex offenders.

It seems to me the big hub-bub about transgender people using the bathroom is fear of perverts and confusing the children. Now, if this were a locker room, I’d say you’ve got a pretty reasonable argument. Locker rooms happen to have a habit of being full of naked people. Sorry, transfolk, but if you still got your junk as you were born with, you need to be in the appropriate locker room. You may not be a pervert, but society just isn’t ready for parents to be answering questions like, “Why does that lady have a penis?” Children ask awkward enough questions without having to go into complicated subject material such as this. Plus, think of the inevitable cat calls.

ladygodiva

“I’ll give you a penis.”

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress LC-DIG-pga-00084

But the focus hasn’t been on locker rooms, has it? No, it’s been on public restrooms. Now, I haven’t visited every toilet in America, but it’s of my general experience in men’s restrooms that penises aren’t just swinging to and fro all willy-nilly like. In fact, there’s an unspoken and agreed upon etiquette that is to be strictly obeyed if there is no divider between the toilets. I have been to communal urinal troths where ten penises are out, all side by side, mere inches from each other and I can guarantee you not one dick was seen.

notevendetroit

Not even in Detroit, and most of them didn’t even use their hands.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress LC-USW3- 008704-C

So what does this have to do with how we treat gun owners and sex offenders?

People today seem all up in arms about people with guns, and yes, violent horrible crimes happen with guns. They also happen with knives, gasoline, hands, and a myriad of other instruments. The fact of the matter is, if someone wants to kill a bunch of people, you telling them that they can’t have a gun isn’t going to stop them. They will either find a way to get a gun illegally or they will find some other way to achieve their goal. I personally have never once been afraid of someone with a gun. I have been approached and/or been around many people in my life that have had some sort of firearm on them. Often times I didn’t even know the person. Why should I fear someone with a gun? Unless they take it out and point it at me, it’s generally safe to assume that they are a good law abiding citizen. And yet somehow there are people who feel we need to ban guns under the false assumption that it will stop a few assholes from being assholes. It might slow them down a little, but do you really think anyone who really wants to kill someone is worried about whether or not guns are legal?

What about sex offenders? Well, first of all, we have a sex offender registry that is a complete joke. It’s a device that stops almost zero crime and ruins the lives of people who made stupid mistakes. You want proof that it doesn’t stop any crime? I’m going to let cracked.com explain the problem.

So you take a guy who’s committed a crime. Now you put him on a registry that may keep him from getting a job, or making friends, generally just totally isolating him for the rest of his life and giving him lots of free time. Do you think that makes him less likely to commit another crime?

And how does knowing there’s a sex offender in your neighborhood help? Unless he’s wearing some kind of clanging Sex Offender bell around his neck to let you and your child know he’s approaching, it doesn’t protect you from a guy looking to do it again. And then you’ve got the fact that 95 percent of sexual assault victims are victimized by somebody they already know anyway.

So what’s the point? Deterrence? As it turns out, someone who is willing to abduct, rape and murder a child often isn’t stopped by the fact that he’ll get put on a “registry” if he’s caught.

Well, I guess there’s that. Then there are places that have laws that say a sex offender can’t live near a school. That sounds good on paper until you realize that the law actually makes the situation worse.

The law that suddenly forced sex offenders to move out of their homes if they lived within 1,000 feet of a school. While maybe that SOUNDED protective,  the evidence shows residency restrictions have no effect — zero! none! — on child safety. In fact, they can actually backfire: Guys who’d been living peacefully in the same place for years are suddenly uprooted. Inevitably, some become homeless, destabilizing the people who need stability most.

And here we have a small group of people who just want to take a piss. Comfortably. In private. As a society, we’re treating them like some sort of violent criminal or vicious pervert. And yet when we look at the laws restricting gun use and the laws on sex offenders, we often find that they do little to no good. In fact, they sometimes make the problem worse. Allow me to put this simply: You can’t stop crazy. A killer is going to kill, regardless of what laws you pass. A pervert is going to be a pervert regardless of what laws you pass. And the dude who feels comfortable as a woman just wants to take a shit without an awkward conversation.