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Athens, Ohio, United States
"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Violent Love and the Greatest Comic Book That Never Was

I remember sitting in Court Street Diner about two or three weeks into my Freshman year (being a Freshman, this was before I realized it was cooler to go to Union Street Diner) and eavesdropping on two Sophomore girls in the booth across from me.

In-between the menial bullshit that Sophomore college girls tend to talk about (trust me: I basically am one) a little kernel of knowledge slipped through to my eavesdropping ear.

"Sophomore year in Scripps is absolutely brutal!" Girl A said.
"Jeez...that's why I am in " Girl B responded.

While sipping my absolutely delightful potato and cheese soup, I made a mental note not to ever forget that fact when my Sophomore year in Scripps rolled around.

Now as I sit here in my Film 201 class, sensations of that delightful soup long passed, I realized that I indeed forgot that fact.

Sophomore year is rather brutal.

News Writing is simple enough...until I actually have to do work. Film is fun...until I feel the uncontrollable urge to nap once the lights dim for a screening. Introduction to Creative Non-Fiction is right up my alley...until I get B's on all my papers. And Islam....well Islam just straight-up sucks all around.

This has not been the easiest quarter for me and as punishment for my boredom, Internet, you are now subject to more of my pop culture-related ramblings while I neglect Citizen Kane (too much culture, not enough pop for me)

- I thought I was done prattling on about AFI's new album, Crash Love, I really did. But something occurred to me as I was listening to its lyrics on my way to class today. Crash Love combines two concepts that go so well together they should be more synonymous with unity than PB&J: violence and infatuation. The word's Crash and Love suggest two seemingly conflicting ideas that are brought together through the magic of....ART!

Just listen to some of the violence and car-crash imagery on the record:
"If we run this light, take a little life, no one will care at all."
"With the light out and the night inside, the broken radio was playing suicide."
"Bleeding from pure love."

It's now come to my attention that I am in love with the dual concepts of love and violence as they pertain to one another. Just take a gander at the cover of one of my favorite albums of all time:

That is the cover of Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge by My Chemical Romance. The painting is called "Demolition Lovers" and was created by singer Gerard Way. "Demolition Lovers", eh? Sounds like it conforms to my fun little notion of violence and love intersecting. The blood on the two lovers faces seem splattered in the blood from their impact.

But you don't have to stick to the emo and hardcore arenas...

"And baby when it's love if it's not rough, it isn't fun." - Lady Gaga, bitches.

- I feel like I've fought destiny for a long time.

Destiny clearly wanted me to be a comic book nerd. And truthfully, I was an everything-else-nerd. Pokemon? Check. Star Wars? Check. Harry Potter? Check. Lord of the Rings? Check. Magic Cards? Check. Online RPGs? Check. Tabletop wargames? Check. But for some reason comics just felt like too big a leap for me, like heroin to a cocaine user.

But two summers ago I took that leap and read Watchmen. I loved it (doesn't everyone?). Then I tackled some Batman series. Then I read The Umbrella Academy. And now I'm on the prowl for more.

When I read these series, however, I detected that I had experienced it all before? Why is that?

Of course, comic book DNA is spread across all areas of pop culture (hehehe ew.), but it went even deeper than that. I've read these types of stories before.

Remember Animorphs? And don't lie, I KNOW you do. Everybody read Animorphs. Well K.A Applegate also wrote one of my favorite series of books ever after Animorphs called "Remnants."

Remnants was a 14-book series about a group of survivors' trials and tribulations in space in a post-Earth existence. It sounds cheesy and bad because it was cheesy and bad. But it only didn't work dramatically or commercially because it was written in the wrong medium. Remnants was a comic book series in the form of a novel. Remnants was graphic, pulpy, fast-moving, unrealistic, fun, all with a dash of deeper meaning - everything that a good comic book should be.

So your homework today, Internet, is to research Remnants (or read the whole series, which is available upon request to yours truly), contact K.A Applegate or Scholastic for the rights and then create the single greatest comic book series the world has ever seen.

Please do this...for me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"The Lucy Westenra Search Party" Would Be an Awesome Band Name

So why the fuck do we amass and consume endless amounts of television, film, literature, theater and other visual media?

I know it seems like there should be a sentence before that but there isn't. I don't want to bury the lead on this one. I was walking through West Green on my way to News Writing and the thought popped into my head. Actually, that wasn't my thought at all. But I backtracked my initial thought (to be revealed shortly) to the essential question of what I was thinking. So really that opening sentence could have been a lot more jarring...

Why do I spend my days wondering if Lost will reveal the meaning of life? Why do you read The Little Prince for the eighth time? Why do we watch The Bear Jew turn Hitler's brains into pudding? (I swear my Inglourious Basterds/Pulp Fiction is coming one day)

Well there are plenty of reasons we plug into our visual culture or, say it with me: the collective unconscious. But I thought of one reason today why I (and by "I", I am just vainly assuming "we") consume culture like Mike & Ikes.

We consume culture because we want to be in culture. I have a family, I have friends, I have peers. I have co-workers. It is a very real existence that I live with very real people. But in each and every case I always try to compare these in-groups to in-groups that I have seen in the media. And in almost every case, they don't compare favorably.

I recently posted a picture on Facebook of The Umbrella Academy (a comic book superhero team) with me and all my friends tagged as our corresponding characters. It was fun to concur that Alex was definitely The Seance and Dan was definitely The Kraken...but why did they have to be? Why can't Alex just be Alex and Dan just be Dan (this is that original thought that I had, by the way)?

Culture exists, in part, so that we can imagine ourselves in it.

This is an intriguing notion for a multitude of reasons. But I am too lazy to write about them and I have a Film Midterm breathing down my neck. Instead I'll leave you with a list of the fake-groups I would most like to be a part of. And mind you, these are groups that I have seen and enjoyed. I have not seen much of old-timey entertainment such as Cheers so don't expect me to want to hang at the bar where everyone knows your name.

- The Bluth Family (Arrested Development)
- Sacred Heart Hospital (Scrubs)
- Gryffindor, Class of '98 (Harry Potter)
- Serenity crew-mate (Firefly)
- The Basterds (Inglourious Basterds)
- The Barksdale Family/Baltimore Police Department (The Wire)
- The Gang (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia)
- Bon Temps Citizen (True Blood)
- The Lucy Westenra Search Party (Dracula)

If I could drop everything in my entire life, including even possibly my identity, and join into another reality with a different friend-base, those are a select few I would choose.

You, Internet?

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Put the Top Down, Use Your Knees to Drive"

Hello again there, Internets!

It's been a while since my last post. I apologize for the delay. I've been working on my Backdrop story for this Fall's Issue for the past two weeks. Thanks to my dear old friend procrastination, I had to churn out interviews, research, transcribing and three drafts in a miniscule timeframe. This of course meant many all-nighters, coffee, tears, more coffee, and neglect of my recently reanimated blog. But my story is finally complete and I think it compares more than favorably to my last two efforts. This one gets a little deeper, goes a little darker and hopefully is a little better. Pick yourself up a copy October 22!

Enough of me being a company man though, let me walk you through some of the collective(ly) unconscious I have been enjoying since my last post.

- I've been wanting to write about the show Glee since it premiered. Of course I wouldn't really know what to say about it other than "I like it and it makes me smile." Sometimes it is nice just to be brought into the welcoming embrace of a big, loud and clever network show and forget any issues you may be having (encroaching deadlines, perhaps?) for an hour once a week. Thankfully, my friend and colleague Adam Wagner is more eloquent on the subject of Glee anyway so I concede the floor to him.

- While writing draft after draft of my Fall story until 5 in the morning (this seems to be a recurring theme), I happened across AFI's Myspace where they were streaming their full new album "Crash Love." I have an interesting relationship with AFI. Here is my opinion of all their albums:

1. Answer that and Stay Fashionable - Dogshit
2. Very Proud of Ya - Dogshit
3. Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes - Dogshit
4. Black Sails in the Sunset - Dogshit (minus "God Called in Sick Today" which is absolutely beautiful)
5. The Art of Drowning - Mostly dogshit with some signs of life
6. Sing the Sorrow - The pinnacle of hardcore music and perhaps the greatest thing to happen to the Gothic subculture since Bram Stoker wrote Dracula. One of my favorite albums ever released.
7. Decemberunderground - Dogshit

So is Crash Love dogshit or the pinnacle of Western Civilization?Well the album itself skews far closer to pinnacle of Western Civilization than a pile of dogshit. And this song right here might be the best thing to carress my eardrums in a long time.

- Last night I got reacquainted with my dear old friend Charlie Kaufman. Who is Charlie Kaufman you ask? Charlie Kaufman is the man who completely redefined the role of a screenwriter in the film industry and is probably the most talented and influential writer in the most popular commercial medium in the world. And you've probably never heard of him. He's the dude responsible for movies such as Being John Malkovich (awesome movie), Adaptation (one of my faves), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (one of my faves) and Synecdoche, New York (I still don't know what to make of this one). He also wrote Human Nature and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind but I've never seen Human Nature and he disowned Confessions because he was unhappy with the direction George Clooney took it in.

Anyway, I watched Eternal Sunshine for the first time in a long time and it hit me harder than I can ever remember a Kaufman movie hitting me on any of my many viewings. So I am giving you fair warning that I may be rambling about him a lot more as I re-watch his other flicks. For now I thought I would just bring up an interesting fact about his writings. Each Kaufman movie seems to be, at its core, a distillation of two veeeery deep, veeeeery abstract and often veeeeery contradictory ideas.

Being John Malkovich = Existence + Celebrity
Adaptation = Writing + Passion
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind = Love + Memory
Synecdoche, New York = Art + Reality

Is Charlie Kaufman the only one whose art can be analyzed as such? If not, give me more fun examples in the comments section.

Well that's all I have for now. I've been meaning to write a massive essay comparing Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds and how they are not only two of the better films of my lifetime but reflect the pop cultural landscape of our era better than anything else ever made buuuuuuuuuuut...I've just been to busy to tackle it.

Here's hoping that I can get that done some time this week!