Sunday, August 28, 2016
Today is the late great Jack Kirby's birthday. I didn't get his artwork as a kid; it was too old school, I thought. Then I grew up and gained some perspective: it's some of the most dynamic, propulsive art I've ever encountered. There was modern art before Kirby and then after Kirby, with his influence felt everywhere. He was Pop Art before the movement had a name. Our modern pop culture is built on a foundation he laid with Stan Lee: the characters and worlds on display at your local theater in recent years originated with his pencil. Star Wars features a plot that's curiously reminiscent of Kirby's magnum opus, the Fourth World saga. His unused concept art for an aborted sci-fi film was used in Operation Argo, the CIA rescue mission to save American hostages in Iran. He brought the fight for commercial artists' rights to the forefront.
I jokingly refer to my nuclear family as the Fantastic Four. I couldn't do that without Jack Kirby and our popular culture landscape would look entirely different had he not forever altered its scope and trajectory. He helped artists everywhere realize the limitless possibilities of putting pen to paper. Also, he looked and seemed a bit like my dad--hard working, honest, with a strong sense of fairness--which was always a nice added bonus for me.
Happy birthday to the King.
Friday, August 26, 2016
I've written about that summer, which was in many ways the last time that I was mostly free of responsibility—I had two years of college left so the urgency was still barely visible off in the distance. By the summer of 1996 though, that urgency was approaching like a speeding bullet. I was jobless and bummed out about it, plus I lived long distance from the girl I'd been dating since spring semester—the same girl, incidentally, who became the woman I've built a life with that includes two amazing children. So I was madly in love that summer, in a way I'd never been before, but also increasingly nervous about what lay ahead after senior year. It was at this point in late August that No Code dropped, and to say I'd been eagerly anticipating it would be an understatement. In the envelope, tucked inside one of the many letters we sent each other that summer, my future wife included an article about No Code. Is it any wonder I married this woman? A few days later the album released and I bought it as soon as the record store opened. I played it endlessly for days, weeks, and months even, completely addicted to its offbeat musical charms and deeply personal words. In a series of introspective songs, some slow and contemplative and others loud and fast, Vedder and the band provided a blueprint for how to proceed. Things wouldn't be easy, they might even get more difficult (they did), but if I remained true to myself and let the surrounding bullshit recede a bit, then I could get through anything. I've returned to that notion repeatedly in my life, especially when facing what feel like impossible obstacles. Having even a partial sense of who I am helps get me through it all.
It's also important, even necessary, to remember who we were. We grow and change, but we try to retain the parts of ourselves that represent the best of what we can be. It's a constant struggle, one that Pearl Jam was working out over a series of albums. That's why their music affected so many of us, and why it still endures today. In No Code's "In My Tree," Vedder revisits themes similar to those found in "Not For You," including how we need to retain a sense of youthful innocence in order to hold on to who we really are.
had my eyes peeled both wide open, and I got a glimpseYet another example of Pearl Jam's lasting impact. Twenty years after No Code, the album's themes remain relevant to anyone trying to better understand who they are and how they fit into this world.
of my innocence... got back my inner sense...
baby got it, still got it
Monday, August 22, 2016
|Go read my reviews, or I'm sending the Squad after you.|
Another post collecting links to stuff I've written elsewhere? Yep, afraid so.
I've started reviewing cult classic movies over at The After Movie Diner, which has been a blast. So far they've shared two of them—The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and Howling II. If you read this blog you know they both originated here. After my review of Class of 1984 goes live at the Diner, the rest of my reviews will likely debut there. I love cult classics, genre films, b movies, and the stuff polite society turns their noses up at. I work in scholarly publishing and overall most of the people in my life are scarily intelligent and learned, but let's be real: sometimes smarties miss the joke. I've been guilty of it myself once or twice. But enjoying movies that are so bad they're good (or in some cases just legitimately good and no one seems to notice), helps keep us all humble, I think. I have a mental list of films I want to cover for the Diner, including two from underground legend Abel Ferrera, Ms. 45 and King of New York. I'm also considering watching and reviewing the sci-fi space vampire turkey Lifeforce, god help me. Stay tuned.
Did you see Suicide Squad? What did you think? I was pleasantly surprised and actually really enjoyed it. I reviewed that one for the Diner as well and you can check it out here. To me, it was gloriously over the top and didn't take itself too seriously—just like a lot of cult movies, incidentally.
One last note: I interviewed Bob Proehl about his new novel, A Hundred Thousand Worlds. I reviewed it for Sequart recently, then had the pleasure of talking to Bob about it. That was a lot of fun and I appreciated him humoring me with some pretty spectacularly thoughtful answers to my questions.
As a famous man has been known to say: Excelsior!
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
|Awww, the cuddliest bunch of punks you ever did see.|
|Sporting the punk rock style!|
|Terry's having a very bad day. A Michael Douglas in Falling Down kind of bad day.|
|"You will learn to read sheet music in my class!"|
|Graffiti fu: some very uninspired wall scrawlings in this movie.|
"And some certain significance lurks in all things, else all things are little worth, and the round world itself but an empty cipher, except to sell by the cartload, as they do hills about Boston, to fill up some morass in the Milky Way."Yes, I just quoted Melville while discussing a movie where someone actually asks, "What's the matter with you? What's the matter with me? What's the matter with matter?" I can't make this stuff up, kids. I'm also unclear if its intentionally or unintentionally funny? If that piqued your curiosity (and really, why wouldn't it?), give Class of 1984 a shot—just don't expect a lot and you probably won't be disappointed. You may even be entertained, like I was. At the very least you can marvel at a baby-faced Michael J. Fox as nice kid Arthur, who's habitually tormented by Stegman and his sadistic pals. In the same year this movie was released, Fox began working on a new sitcom, Family Ties, which would help launch him into superstardom. Class of 1984 was his swan song in b movies. He got out, which is more than can be said for poor Terry in this movie.
|So long suckers, Alex P. Keaton is outta here.|
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Over the last month or so I reviewed a couple of books and also wrote an article about growing up a Cloak and Dagger fan—something that might not resonate with many but likely will with at least a few Gen Xers of a certain age. These pieces are all available to read on Sequart.
Last Night, A Superhero Saved My Life was a phenomenal essay collection that shines a light on how some of us will always keep certain fictional characters close to our hearts because they offer us hope in difficult times and also bring joy to our lives. I can't recommend this one enough. It's heartfelt and moving throughout and was a real pleasure to read and review.
Bob Proehl's debut novel A Hundred Thousand Worlds is set in the world(s) of comic cons, following a cast of lovable loser creative types as they travel cross-country, finding love and hope along the way. So basically right in my wheelhouse. It's as if he wrote this one for me. It's also heartfelt and moving—are you sensing a theme?—and highly recommended. I was completely swept up in the book's easy charms and wonderfully sensitive exploration of creators, fans, friends, and family. One of the leads is modeled after Gail Simone, or at least her public persona, and she's a great, richly developed character that I'd follow into other books. Maybe Proehl will bring her back in the future. Keep an eye on Proehl, this is a fantastic debut.
Finally, I looked at how a strange pair of antiheroes from Marvel Comics, who debuted at just the right time for me and many others (the early 1980s, when we were just kids), helped a shy and sometimes awkward kid navigate the world just a tiny bit better. There's a little bit of analysis about what made (and still makes) Cloak and Dagger interesting and vital, too.
So, if you're into geek culture, then stop listening to the Nerdist podcast for just a few minutes and give these a read.