Read, Watch, Listen
April & JB
On my Race blog, I monthly chronicled whatever literary adventures I happened upon in my travels, and really enjoyed the routine of sharing books I liked or thought noteworthy. Since we are both big consumers of media in all forms, we thought that sharing what we read, watched, and listened to every month would be a fun way to let you know what we’re learning or enjoying.
My Dog Skip – (JB) Since Willie Morris is a native Mississippi writer, I love everything I’ve read of his. Rickiea was assigned this book for summer reading (alson included as the summer book for the city’s Tupelo Reads program), so I bought one copy for me and one for Rickiea so we could read it together. It’s about the best tale of boyhood and the bond between man and dog ever told. It’s also all of 100 pages. Go read it.
Catch 22 – (JB) This is a book I’ve always felt I had to read because it’s a classic. It’s so funny and the premise for one of the more commonly used American colloquialisms but it was so difficult to get through.
The premise is that any fighter pilot who continues to fly bombing missions can ask to be discharged for being mentally unstable because no sane man would continue to fly bombing missions. The catch (catch number 22 to be exact) is that as soon as a pilot asks to be discharged he has proven his sanity and must continue to fly indefinitely.
It’s one of those books that takes place during a war without any actual action so the pages are difficult to turn. The comedy helps advance the plot but it’s not a laugh-a-page kind of book.
Star Wars (The new Brian Wood comic) – (JB) Brian Wood is writing a new monthly Star Wars comic titles Star Wars for Dark Horse. I fell in love with his comic writing in a series called DMZ about a journalist trapped behind enemy lines during a second American civil war. He was tabbed to write the first Star Wars story line since Disney bought the franchise and it’s great.
The book stars Luke and Leia searching for a new Rebel base (between the stories of A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back) while simultaneously trying to ferret out an imperial spy. It’s an easy 22 page per month read that you can get at your local comic shop or Comixology.
“Call the Midwife”– (April) A nice Downton Abbey-esque PBS series on young midwives serving East London in the 1950s – especially interesting since I’m a doula. This show follows 4 lovable and quirky girls serving women alongside the nuns of Nonnatus House. I finished watching season two and highly recommend it.
“Family Tree” – Christopher Guest, the genius behind the heavy metal mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, began a 30-minute dark comedy for HBO this year and it is so delightful and funny. It is uncomfortable, which is to be expected of short comedies these days and often overdone, but not unbearably. The discomfort is more realistic. The shows main character is played by the always funny Chris O’Dowd and recently unemployed. He is tracing his family tree and his search brings him from the UK to America. Definitely check it out. My favorite character is O’Dowd’s sister who was taught to use a monkey puppet to deal with her problems as a child and has continued to do so into her adult life.
“Vice” – Y’all. This is journalism on steroids and I am in love with it beyond measure. The guys at Vice magazine have started making mini-documentaries about issues they want to know more about around the globe. They get down in the nitty gritty of things and aren’t afraid of a little danger or discomfort. I would just leave it at that, but I’ll tell you a little about the episodes so far:
The thing I love about this show, as a journalist, is that it’s a new generation of journalists – hipster Brooklyn journalists at that – traveling the world and shedding light on issues. Most “news” and “journalism” outlets on TV these days have talking heads sharing opinions back and forth, and even worse speculating, without any meat, fact or truth. These guys really explore issues and it fills me with hope.
Episode 4- “Love & Rockets”: First act about parents trying to marry off their daughters, in the crisis of an over abundant male population in China. A very interesting view on the combination of the one-child policy + male preference, how there is one female for every three males. Due to a poor social security system, parents are very concerned with picking a strong spouse to help in their old age.
Second act about the economic crisis in Europe, particularly in Spain and Greece. I have listened to a few podcasts on this matter, but it was eye-opening to see how the crisis is affecting young people. Sure, we have all felt it over here, especially recent college grads being un- or underemployed, but these young people are passionate and driven to forge a revolution. (We watched this episode right before bedtime and April kept me up, peppering me with “what ifs” and “what would we do’s” about how this would affect us. I then enacted the “no-vice-immediately-before-sleeping” rule)
Episode 5- “Winners and Losers”: First act about the FLDS community run by Warren Jeffs, its corruption and habit of kicking out teenage boys into a world they know nothing about. I have always been fascinated with cults and cult leaders, and was soaking up every moment of this episode. Warren Jeffs is a man that these people treat as a direct connection to God, and he is obviously a flawed and pride-filled human being like the rest of us. A very sad look into the FLDS underground community. Second act about the fat farms of Mauritania– men prefer thick women, but in a desert country where you can burn calories just by walking outside, the women must “gavage” and force-feed themselves to make them desirable (akin to the process used on geese to make foie gras). The journalist that covered this cultural phenomenon actually went to a “gavage camp” and tried to fill himself with oils, camel’s milk, and millet only to spend the majority of the time throwing up and feeling sick. A strange look into the little pockets of culture that I had no idea existed, and a paradoxical problem in a country that is also experiencing extreme poverty. Third act is about the dichotomy between the excess wealth versus extreme poverty in Mumbai and other parts of the world. A fascinating and saddening expose on the slums in Mumbai (where they basically live off of and survive on other people’s trash) and the sickeningly rich (a ridiculously lavish 37 story home to a man that has his skin lightened and legitimately believes he deserves more than the people his skyscraper looks down on).
Episode 6-”Corruption”: First act about the ghost towns in China, made to increase their overall GDP by having a million construction projects. They predict that all these people will live there in the future, but for now no one lives there and the farmers who were living there are now displaced. A creepy tour of ridiculously large “cities” that have one or two people living in 900-room apartment buildings. Second act about the state of Egypt since Arab Spring and the lack of revolution with their new leader. I was glad to have watched this before they overthrew him last week, because it helped me better understand the way they were being treated and how they desperately needed to overthrow the Muslim Brotherhood.
Episode 7- “Addiction”: The first act about the prevalence of smoking in Indonesia- 2/3 of all men, including children. Smoking is cheaper there, and has even gained reputation for a cure to cancer. Very weird to see 6 year olds going for smoke breaks after school, and for tobacco to be such a hot commodity across the world. Second act about ebingo, which seems to be the only way to kick a bad heroin addiction. Not that I have ever entertained the idea, but I will never be trying heroin after watching this episode. Apparently most ways to “cure” heroin addiction never work, except for this hallucinogen found in Latin America and Africa. The episode follows a young man in Brooklyn who seeks help from a guru of sorts so that he may live a normal life.
Episode 8- “Fighting Chances”– In the first act Vice goes to Senegal to uncover the fanaticism of Laamb wrestling (don’t worry, there is also a Senegalese Mike Tyson), and competes in a match himself. The second act is a discussion on the reality of climate change and the importance of America’s acknowledgment of this issue, as we are the world’s biggest energy users. Includes a trip to the Maldives and Venice, who are both experiencing rising waters. An interesting viewpoint on an issue we just cant ignore anymore.
Episode 9- “Guns & Oil”: the First act is devoted to the gang crisis in Chicago, personally nicknamed “Chi-raq” by the gangs prevalent there. A look into the gang culture, how it’s almost impossible to not be a part of, and how it can be fixed in probable ways. Second act about the oil corporations exploiting the land in Nigeria for their gain, without giving back to the Niger economy. The local people then steal the crude oil and refine it themselves using rudimentary machinery to make a living for themselves. The Nigerians know that in America, if they find oil on land that you own, you are compensated handsomely. They are fighting for a way to be treated the same.
“Butter”- (April) A satirical comedy starring Jennifer Garner about an overly competitive woman who’s heart and drive are as cold as the butter she carves for the famous Midwest butter competitions. After he husband decides to retire from her carving days, she feels that she must do whatever it takes to win the crown for their family. A hilarious peek into exaggerated Midwestern life, with a fun little story intertwined about a fostering and adoption (one of my passions). Definitely R rated though 🙂
“Hit & Run”– Dax Shepard, honestly one of my favorite personalities in Hollywood, made his directorial debut with this awesome car chase movie. It stars him and his fiancee Kristen Bell, Tom Arnold and a very un-Bradley Cooper Bradley Cooper. I went into the movie knowing nothing about it and loved it that way. Just know there are some really fun car chase sequences and the plot works enough to fill the gaps.
“West Wing”- JB has a love for all things Aaron Sorkin, so we are going through some of this brilliant series on Netflix. So far only a fourth of the way through season one, but I am in love with President Bartlett and wish to be half as cool as CJ one day.
The National|Trouble Will Find Me – (JB) April doesn’t love this guys voice but I can’t stop listening. It was my first foray into The National. I felt obligated since they produced the last Local Natives record and because I’m a middle class white man.
Bethel|Without Words – Bethel remixed all of their songs and did them instrumental without any words. It’s amazing.
This American Life:
Episode 498- “The One Thing You’re Not Supposed to Do”– My favorite episode of this month, the prologue and act one were focused on an immigrant right’s group and the measures they are taking to enact change. The National Immigrant Youth Alliance devised a plan to get themselves arrested and admitted to the Broward Transitional Center, in an effort to help those inside make progress with their citizenship. No matter where you stand on this issue, it’s a very frustrating look at how some successful, tax-paying people cannot make any progress in becoming Americans. The Second Act was about a woman named Christine who grew up in Texas in a house where guns were revered and respected, but also celebrated. Now an adult, her family had a discussion about the Newtown shootings during the Christmas holidays. Her father and brother blamed the family the shooter grew up in, that his mother should have educated him about guns in the same way they did. Christine then confessed that the family’s one rule (you can use guns, but only when the father was there) was broken once when she was a teenager. A heartwrenching story that shows that no matter how good of a parent you are, your children will make their own decisions.
“A Short History of Everything” – Jenny Hollowell reads this five page short story she wrote that starts at the beginning of time and ends with a very relatable human that could be you or me. It’s called A history of everything including you. I can’t do it justice so just go to iTunes and download the RadioLab episode (and all the others if you haven’t heard them already).
What kinds of things have you read, watched, or listened to this month?