Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Joy of Unexpected Discovery


Scott D. Parker

Y’all are going to laugh at the irony of this post.

How often do you discover something (or experience something) completely on your own?

It’s happened to my three times in the past week or so. The first was the latest book in my science fiction book club. It’s called Space Team (my review). I make it a personal policy for books my club members select that, if I don’t know the book or author, I read no reviews. I just read/listen to the book and let the story wash over me how the author wrote it. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. Other times, like with Space Team, it is fantastic.

And it all came without any preconceived notion.

The next two are music related. Like I wrote last week, I’m reading Never a Dull Moment: 1971 The Year Rock Exploded. I’m onto the February 1971 chapter and the first third of it was about Carole King’s Tapestry album. Carole King, I thought. I think I know who that is. The one King song on the author David Hepworth’s February 1971 playlist was “It’s Too Late.” I listened and instantly recognized the tune. Curious, I went out to YouTube, located King’s official site, and queued up Tapestry.

Holy. Cow. That was a remarkable album. Even though it was a fifty-year-old piece of music, it was brand new to me. Before listening, I didn’t go to or any other site. I just pushed play. I listened to it twice on Monday and every day since. I’m going to have to buy a copy now, maybe even on vinyl. 

The last was just yesterday. The new Foo Fighters album, Medicine at Midnight, was released. I’m a casual Foo fan, a greatest hits guy who owns none of the albums (although my wife does so, I guess, I actually do own some). The lead single, “Shame Shame” was good, but, for whatever reason, it didn’t click.

Until yesterday. 

I queued it up on YouTube and listened to the album. Three times. Having read no reviews, I didn’t know what to expect other than the style of music featured on all the other Foo songs. Boy was I surprised. Happily surprised, mind you. These songs are great and a nice departure from many of the traits associated with the Foo.

What am I getting at? How often do you open a book, push play on a record, or attend a play or movie knowing next to nothing about it? That is, how often do you experience a thing without a review ahead of time?

Look, I know what you’re thinking. Scott, you review stuff all the time. Yes, I do, and I thoroughly enjoy sharing the fun stuff I’ve discovered. It’s my hope that a few words from me might introduce to other this cool thing. And I do read reviews. But, and this is a new thing for me, if I can help it, I don’t read reviews ahead of time. I let a book cover sell me, a movie trailer convince me the film deserves my time, or that there’s a new album by a veteran act that might be the benchmark for album of 2021.

I’ll never stop reviewing things nor will I stop reading reviews (or watching Beau's). I’ve discovered plenty of awesome books, music, and movies from recommendations and reviews. It was a review, after all, that introduced me to my favorite new band, The Struts. 

But those moments when you hear or read or watch something without any preconceived ideas and the thing wows you? Those are priceless moments. 

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Beau, Charlie, Rose, and Jo

This week, Beau takes a look at DEAD IS BETTER, a Charlie and Rose story, from Jo Perry.


Charles Stone is pretty sure he's dead. He has bullet holes in his chest, and there's a ghostly dog that seems to be his new companion. Unable to interact with the world of the living other than watching and listening, he and the dog-whom he names Rose-have nothing to do and all the time in the world to do it. When Charles and Rose try to unravel the circumstances of Charles's death, they uncover a criminal who is raking in millions of dollars by cruelly exploiting, and sometimes killing, his victims. But what difference can a ghost make? And what does the dog have to do with all of this?


NOT Not Beau's Book Nook

 As you know, Beau Johnson is an talented author, award-winning dancer, and tireless book reviewer.  

Whether online or in person, Beau has been promoting authors pretty much every stinking day for a long while. Today, the internet shows its appreciation. This is a developing story. You're more than welcome to join in.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Cops, Whistlers, Betrayals, Money

A while back, I posted here about the Romanian film Police, Adjective, a cop story that climaxed not with a shoot out or any other action scene, but with three cops in an office debating the meaning of words in a dictionary.  This excellent film came out in 2009, and since then, the director, Corneliu Porumboiu, has made a number of films, including his most recent, from 2019, a sort of follow-up to Police, Adjective, called The Whistlers.

To the strains of Iggy Pop's "The Passenger", a police officer arrives on Gomera, one of the Spanish-run Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and he quickly makes contact with an attractive woman named Gilda, who tells him that what she did the last time they met, in Bucharest, she did for the benefit of the surveillance cameras.  It doesn't take us long to get a flashback to this last encounter, when, in the cop's apartment, he and Gilda had sex together.  But it's clear that what she has told the cop, Cristi, on Gomera, is true: the activity in Bucharest was a result of something they are both involved in and their knowing that the police, the same force Cristi belongs to, are watching them.    

Cristi has been sent to Gomera by the cops to infiltrate a gang behind a robbery in Bucharest.  However, the gang believes he is on their side, and doublecrossing the cops, and they teach him to learn the language of El Silbo, a language of literal whistles that sound like bird calls.  A whistled language?  Yes, and it's real.  If you go to Wikipedia and look up Silbo Gomero, also known as El Silbo, you find this: "a whistled register of Spanish used by inhabitants of La Gomera in the Canary Islands to communicate across the deep ravines and narrow valleys that radiate through the island. It enables messages to be exchanged over a distance of up to 5 kilometre."

As in Police, Adjective, though in a lighter vein, Corneliu Porumboiu puts the use of language at the core of his crime plot, and we learn, among other things, that one can whistle in different languages.  The group of thieves is made up of both Romanians and Spaniards, and there is a key part, quite amusing, where Cristi whistles to someone in Romanian who passes on the message to someone else in whistled Spanish.  All this during a busy sunlit day in Bucharest.

Vlad Ivanov, who played the cop talking grammar in Police, Adjective, is the lead cop here, and he seems to make a reference to the drug case from the earlier movie.  Still, The Whistlers has a more tongue in cheek tone than Police, Adjecive; that was a procedural and The Whistlers is a noirish caper film.  Nearly every character in it is duplicitous in some way, and there is corruption and negotiation at every turn.  The film unfolds in non-chronological fragments, forcing you to try piecing the puzzle together, and there is just enough meta-movie awareness -- references to Gilda as well as Psycho and The Searchers, among other movies -- without that awareness becoming annoying.

For droll, crime film escapism that has familiar notes but is not cookie-cutter, you can do a lot worse than The Whistlers.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Truth and Lies

“While I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities, and to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not, simply because they've never seen it before." 

– Vice President Kamala Harris 

On January 20th, while my mother and I watched through bittersweet tears, President Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. It was not a perfect moment. How could we shed joyful when so many people were dying? While we celebrated people were crying, desperate and missing their loved ones. While others were conniving and thieving. Destroying. Lying.

Still, Kamala Harris now stands beside the president as the first woman, Black American and South Asian American to serve as Vice President. For the first time in history, we have a female leader in the second highest position in the country. There is much to celebrate.

The inauguration of Vice President Harris is a significant step along a new and vital path. I believe, if we continue to place women in positions of leadership, all people will begin to recognize it as a normal and natural deed. Day in, day out; witnessing women in positions of governance will, over time, support the true view that women are equals. Women are capable. Women are deserving.

This new era sits in great juxtaposition to various times in our past, both recent and longstanding. Disheartening examples of casual sexism could be found in the highest office of our country. It was displayed and unchecked during the 2016 election. 

“Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” Former President Trump said of GOP presidential hopeful and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Carly Fiorina in 2016. 

Yet, he was given the office. Even while sitting at the head of our country, he continued to mock issues women brought to his attention and he answered claims of his own sexual misconduct by insulting and bullying the women. A bad example, now out of time.

I believe, if we follow this new path, we will, albeit slowly, move away from the years of sexism and subjugation women have endured at home and in the workplace. If we keep this up, women will be considered for the jobs they want and the jobs they are qualified for. A woman might even bring home the same amount in her paycheck as a man. She’ll be able to take care of her own house and her own people. Without a second or third job. Women will work and live free from harassment and discrimination. Women will be equal partners in this nation.

With each new generation women will earn offices of power and with each new generation it will become more accepted for a man to look to a woman as a peer. This collective mental adjustment will not only serve women it will save them, if only in part. Challenge and change the view of women as lesser to men and you interrupt a small segment in the cycle of domestic abuse. Women are worth more.

Even now, in this historical moment, it is hard to forget and ignore the ugly voices; jawing on the television, repeating in movies, and at times, in our own heads. Women can’t do this. Women can’t do that. Women aren’t strong enough. Smart enough. Pretty enough. We’re never enough. And this election taught us, at the very least, one disturbing fact; if you repeat a lie enough times, to some it becomes truth. The idea that a woman isn’t capable or deserving of holding power is a lie we’ve lived with for far too long.