Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
February 27, 2018
You shall look fairer…
Category: Miscellany

So I was at a bar the other night, and I considered sending a relatively attractive woman across the room a drink and/or risking what little social self-confidence I possess by approaching her and saying hello. But then I looked at her again and thought, "You shall look fairer ere I give or hazard." And I smiled smugly to myself and kept sipping my 50-cent beer.

(The significance of the quote? It's spoken by the Prince of Arragon in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice... and I'll be playing that haughty prince in an upcoming production of the play. More on that another time!)

-posted by Wes | 4:15 pm | Comments (0)
February 26, 2018
William Sleator and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad character
Category: Books

So in the last two weeks I've read three books by William Sleator: The Beasties (1997), The Boxes (1998), and Marco's Millions (2001). (That I read three books in that time isn't impressive -- Sleator wrote young adult science fiction, so the books go by fairly quickly.) I bought The Boxes and Marco's Millions years ago when I worked at a book store; Sleator's books had neat cover art (The Boxes features an alien crab thing on its cover; I'm a sucker for alien crab things) and, as frequent residents of our clearance shelves, the titles were cheap to boot. Apparently I was more interested in the covers and the price, since I'm just now getting around to reading the books themselves.

Of those three books, I imagine The Beasties will prove to be the most memorable to me -- I'm sure I'll write more about it some other time, and I'm sure I'll puzzle over the events of the climax for years to come. For this entry, however, I'm going to talk about two-book series that comprises The Boxes and Marco's Millions. Specifically, while there are a lot of neat things worth discussing in the books (frex, Marco's Millions features a naked singularity, which affects gravity and the passage of time for characters as they approach it), I'm going to talk about one particular character. The character isn't fascinating in the least, but I did find it fascinating how inexplicably unsympathetically this character is portrayed. Spoilers follow. (more...)

-posted by Wes | 4:22 pm | Comments (0)
February 23, 2018
NYT: Frederick Douglass vs Scientific Racism

This opinion piece in the New York Times -- "Frederick Douglass's Fight Against Scientific Racism" -- is decidedly worth reading.

Of course, "scientific" racism persists in 2018, as one repeatedly learns after delving into the comments of any of the laudatory articles Trump links on his Twitter feed. The final paragraph, which quotes from one of Douglass's final speeches, also rings true today: on more than one occasion I've heard (well-meaning, I hope/assume) white people of my acquaintance who, in noting the depressed state of many minority communities, have wondered why "they" continue to struggle and asked what should be done about "them."

And for readers who haven't seen the movie yet (note that I'm not attempting to shame you for not having seen it yet; apparently that's a thing happening elsewhere on the interwebs), forgive me for the spoiler -- but Black Panther concludes with an especially relevant quote on that point. In a speech to the United Nations, the titular character remarks, "More connects us than separates us -- but in times of crisis, the wise build bridges while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one tribe."

It's a sentiment that runs counter to much of our current political discourse, what with "BUILD. THE. WALL!" serving as a rallying cry for our current commander in chief, but it is a sentiment that we would all do well to adopt.

-posted by Wes | 12:44 am | Comments (0)
February 2, 2018
Preliminary thoughts re: Ramsey Campbell’s The Kind Folk
Category: Books

Are any of you familiar with Ramsey Campbell? Apparently he "is perhaps the world's most-honored author of horror fiction" and "has won more awards than any other living author of horror or dark fantasy." (The Wikipedia article features even higher praise; in speaking of him, author S. T. Joshi apparently wrote, "future generations will regard him as the leading horror writer of our generation, every bit the equal of Lovecraft or Blackwood." Wow.) I'm reading his 2012 novel The Kind Folk for a horror book club I joined late last year.

It's... bad. Like, really bad. The writing isn't just amateurish or unpolished; it's not even simplistic in the way many children's books are written -- it's more like the writing a child (say, a fifth grader) would produce after a couple of revisions. So far (and admittedly I'm only four chapters in) the story is incredibly weak, too. Campbell is in the habit of writing very short chapters (generally 3-5 pages), which I assume is intended to keep the reader engaged -- it's easy to keep saying, "Oh, I'll just read the next chapter," when the chapters are so brief -- but each chapter could literally be summarized in a single sentence without losing anything essential or valuable because the writing is wholly lacking in sophistication and depth. It's so empty that I can barely focus on it; somewhere in the middle of the second page I had to flip to various other parts of the book to see if the writing ever improves. It doesn't. (more...)

-posted by Wes | 10:54 am | Comments (0)
January 31, 2018
Brief Review: The Disaster Artist

So I saw The Disaster Artist. Not a bad little film -- but if you haven't seen The Room (the movie whose making TDA depicts) yet and plan to watch both movies, I'd recommend starting with TDA. Basically, TDA can't answer its most intriguing questions, so what you're left with is the reveal that these guys made a terrible, terrible movie -- and one who's already seen The Room knows that all too well. Viewed in the reverse order, however, I imagine TDA could heighten one's anticipation of Tommy Wiseau's cinematic abomination.

If you've already seen The Room -- and you were so fascinated that you need to know just how it came into being, including the origin of certain character behaviors and the context for certain takes -- TDA will totally be your jam. For me, it ended up feeling kinda superfluous: like the Star Wars prequels, albeit more competently executed.

Bonus for fans of Nathan For You: Nathan Fielder has a small part in it.

-posted by Wes | 6:08 pm | Comments (0)
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