Saturday, April 25, 2015
Scott D. Parker
There's a moment in the musical "1776" a little over halfway through the film where the delegates are debating the wording of the Declaration of Independence. The issue is over the inclusion of slavery in the document. The Southern delegates want it out of the final draft, the Northern delegates want it in, and Thomas Jefferson, the author and a slave-owning Virginian, is caught in the middle. They are at an impasse, neither side willing to budge, and the South threatens to walk out of the convention. John Adams and the North calls their bluff and the Southerners walk.
Holy cow, I thought for the briefest of instances back when I first watched the film, I wonder if they'll come back and resolve their differences? But then the obvious fact entered my mind the next instant later: Dude, you're living in the United States of America in then-1995. Of course they figure it out.
But for a moment, the movie had me.
Yesterday, I watched the new movie WOMAN IN GOLD and had a similar experience. The movie tells the story of Maria Altmann, an Austrian Jew, and her crusade to win back a painting stolen from her family by the Nazis. Helen Mirren plays the elder Maria circa 1998 and we get some of her story in flashbacks to 1938. At one point, she and her husband are escaping Europe and there was that moment when my palms started to sweat, my heart beat faster, and the “Will she get out?” question popped into my head. Dude: you’ve already seen her as an old woman in America circa 1998. Of course she gets out.
But for a moment, the movie had me.
It’s a pretty powerful film that can make you forget the real history and get caught up in the sweep of the story. The movie, WOMAN IN GOLD, is, by the way, quite well done. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried, and at a very specific moment. Yeah, yeah, I know: You’re asking “Scott, what film didn’t make you cry?” Quiet. I wear my heart on my sleeve when I give myself over to a story. And this story ensnared my heart and took my away.
What is it that makes you forget history and get wrapped up in the story? Is it the characters or is it the craft of the storytelling process?
What films/books made you forget the real history while you were watching/reading them?
Friday, April 24, 2015
What percentage of work that a magazine publishes is written by men? What percentage by women? How many books reviewed are written by men? How many by women?VIDA asks these important questions. What we wanted to know: what happens when we ask similar questions about magazine editors who decide what to publish and who to review? So we we started counting editors >>>
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Have any of you been watching The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore? The topic hasn't really come up in my FB or Twitter feeds and I'm curious whether the show is making any sort of impact.
To be certain, Larry Wilmore, the former Senior Black Correspondent on The Daily Show, had big shoes to fill when he took over Stephen Colbert's time slot on Comedy Central. And admittedly, the show isn't as good as the Colbert Report, but that doesn't mean it doesn't deserve a place at the table. It's a different show with different goals. The question is whether it's achieving them.
First, it's a comedy show and yes, it's funny. I'm genuinely entertained by Wilmore and I like hearing what he has to say. Not everything he does hits the mark, but then that's the case with most comedy, I'd say. So goal accomplished.
What about its wider aims?
People like to say we need to have a "conversation" about race in this country. I think that's true, but nobody seems to know where to start. Personally, I think a good place to begin the dialogue is for white people to quit having knee jerk reactions to the subject of racism. Take a step back and really listen without being defensive. I assure you, black people know that not all white people are racist. You don't have to keep saying it. Just please listen to what people who've experienced racism first hand have to say and try to take it in.
Wait, how did this post become about me and my own views about race? That's not what I meant to talk about.
What I like about The Nightly Show is that Larry Wilmore is actually trying to have a conversation about race. The show isn't only about race, but the subject comes up rather frequently. It's focus is the news of the day with an emphasis on social justice and politics. There's no denying that the tone of the show is "liberal," but it's less divisive than say, Real Time With Bill Maher. It will no doubt offend a few of the more conservative among us, but there's no pleasing everybody, is there?
Is that even possible in a show that is, at it's heart, a comedy? Its predecessors managed to achieve it to a large extent, even if The Daily Show has been written off as being for college students and stoners. Regardless, I'd like to see Larry Wilmore and The Nightly Show succeed.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
So, I saw this headline over the weekend:
FBI admits it fudged forensic hair matches in nearly all criminal trials for decades
Seems like a pretty big deal. What’s more shocking – or not surprising at all – was this part:
“Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favoured prosecutors in more than 95 per cent of the 268 trials reviewed so far..”
95 percent of the “overstated forensic matches… favoured prosecutors.”
It seems like such old news now, the authorities breaking the rules, cheating, lying to get a conviction. The science being manipulated – for one side, in 95% of the cases.
And yet, in popular crime fiction science has become the star. Years ago someone said, “I’m not really into forensics, so I don’t watch much TV.” For a while there it seemed like every other show had people in white lab coats solving crimes. Pretty much always honestly, always above reproach. It was science and science doesn’t lie.
Did crime fiction show too much faith in accepting science? Or in underestimating the lengths people will go to get what they want? (This is a pet peeve of mine, how a lot of crime fiction actually sees the world as completely honest – except for the fact that everyone in a small town could be a calculating, cold-blooded murderer, capable of not only committing the most serious crimes but also of going about their lives as if nothing has happened.)
Another article I saw this week was from Cracked.com about why The X-Files won’t work today. Reason #4 was, “The attitudes towards the military are from a different era,” and pointed out that, “Americans now trust the military more than they do religious leaders, doctors, or teachers. Whether you think that's fair or a result of media brainwashing, the fact remains that repeatedly involving the military in a dark television conspiracy today would be about as popular with audiences as aliens disguised as and played by cute kittens that needed to be slaughtered at the end of every episode.”
Reason #2 was that “The conspiracies are all real now,” and said, “while there has never been a time when the U.S. government's actions were 100 percent peachy, the '90s was definitely a low point for shady government activity. Now, compare this to today. In the last 10 years, we've learned that the government has gone to war for no particular reason, tortured innocent people in secret prisons, and repeatedly executed American citizens without trial. In theory, this should give the new X-Files some great plot fuel, maybe even enough fuel to melt steel, I don't know, the truth is still out there about that. In reality, though, I think it works the opposite way. After the last 10 years or so, the mind-blowing conspiracy theories we saw revealed on the X-Files seem kind of ... quaint, like a kid finding out for the first time why their parents share a bed.”
There’s a joke in Canada that we’re always on the brink of, “Coming of age,” and we never really do (one of our prime ministers once said, “The 20th century belongs to Canada,” and we’ve now revised it to, “The 21st century,” and I expect we’ll keep revising that forever) and that Americans lose their innocence every thirty years.
So now, according to Cracked.com, the 1990’s were a low point for shady government activity. I think maybe a new X-Files will work really well as it seems we’re almost due for another loss of innocence.
Monday, April 20, 2015
"What it was that aroused him, Joe Edison didn't know, but he suddenly was wide awake and after a tense moment he sat up. The night was bright with stars and half a moon. He could see the homesteader's wagon quite clearly, and near it the blanket wrapped figures of the homesteader and his young wife. Not far beyond the wagon, three horses were staked out, his horse and the team that pulled the wagon. Nothing else caught his attention, but in what he had seen, something was wrong. The three horses were pulling back, straining at the stakes that held them.
Joe Edison's holster gun was under the blanket which had served as his pillow. He found it, tucked it in the waistband of his trousers, then pulled on his boots and stood up." -- Gun Code by Philip Ketchum
"Choc was having a quiet digestion dream of coffee and eggs when things started happening that brought the nightmarish Tulsa siege into his sleep. He woke with a frightened "Yeah!' and gripped the automatic that his Indian Pearl shoved into his hand." -- Pretty Boy by William Cunningham
"When the woman screamed, Parker awoke and rolled off the bed. He heard the plop of a silence behind him as he rolled, and the bullet punched the pillow where his head had been.
He landed face down on the floor. His stubby, pregnant .32 was clipped to the springs under the bed like a huge black fly standing upside down, and Parker's hand was reaching out for it before he hit the floor." -- The Outfit by Richard Stark
Sunday, April 19, 2015
I'm stealing this from ... myself. I did this interview with one of my all-time favorite authors, Lisa Unger, about three years ago. Lisa's latest book, CRAZY LOVE YOU, came out in February.