As you contemplate your transition into the real world (tomorrow morning at 10:30 a.m. in Millenium Park, graduates) you may find yourself looking for something to listen to other than “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Pomp and Circumstance.” Here are some solid alternative options:
Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One
1. “This Time Tomorrow” — The Kinks
“This Time Tomorrow” from the 1970 Kinks album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround Part One is a melancholy and introspective song unlike Lola Versus Powerman’s better known singalongs, “Lola” (“…tastes just like cherry cola, l-o-l-a, lola”) and “Apeman” (“I’m an apeman, I’m an ape-ape man, oh I’m an apeman”). “This Time Tomorrow” captures the shifting anxiety and optimism of sudden change. The song opens side two of the record with the sampled sound of an airplane taking off and goes on to detail the ambivalent feelings of freedom and emptiness that come with travel:
I’m in perpetual motion and the world below doesn’t matter much to me.
This time tomorrow where will we be?
On a space ship somewhere sailing across an empty sea.
Jonny Greenwood is th
2. “Let Me Down Easy” — Derrick Harriot
Not that you should take your graduation passively, but let’s start with posi vibes. Do you think this guy would be freaking out right now? Doubt it. Chill. In fact, depending on your level of panic, self-medicate with the rest of Jonny Greenwood’s 2007 reggae and dub compilation, Jonny Greenwood is the Controller, as necessary.
3. “In Real Life” — Molly Nilsson
Molly Nilsson sounds a bit too elegant to be considered goth…but one can deduce that the Stockholm-based singer had a Robert Smith poster in her bedroom at one point. “In Real Life” from her 2011 album History, is a stunning and stark pop tune that may or may not sample the sound of Skype opening. The lyrics are dark and touch on such subjects as striking out into the real world (I), the emotional vacancy of social media (II) and generational gaps (III):
I knocked on every door until they knocked them down.
Standing there outside, there was nothing there behind.
I opened every drawer, but someone had before,
only leaving me a note saying ‘now the world is yours.’
Online, I never feel alone. I never feel alive.
I never feel alone, I never feel alive.
What you gonna tell your children?
What did you learn today?
What you gonna tell your parents
when you know that they will say
‘everything was so different. I remember back in the day
we were looking for life in outer space?’
Ice Cream Spiritual
4. “Late For School” — Ponytail
Save this one for fall when “back to school season” no longer applies to you and the paradigm shift officially sets in. “Late For School” is the sound of your brain adjusting to the fact that summer is over but school’s out forever. This math-rock, non-lingual shouting match/freak out from the disbanded Baltimore art-rock band Ponytail exemplifies what they do best: sounding like Hella and the Shaggs had a feral child possessed by tripping demons.
Be True to Your School
5. “Be True to Your School” — The Beach Boys
Before Brian Wilson became the acid-casualty/studio album visionary that he was during the writing and recording of Pet Sounds (1966) and the notoriously difficult Smile (1966-67) sessions, the Beach Boys sang innocuous songs about cars and surfing. “Be True to Your School” (1963) is an unremembered relic of this era that I’d like to dig up as the new alumni anthem of 2013. The opening lyrics are below, but for the full effect you have to listen to the way the singer enunciates “buddy” and “bragger.” The rest of the song features Shangri-Las-esque cheerleading and an exhaustive litany of high school imagery. The chorus: “ Be true to your school just like you would to your girl or guy.” That’s devotion.
When some loud bragger tries to put me down and say his school is great
I tell him right away ‘now what’s-a matter buddy ain’t you heard of my school?
It’s number one in the state.’
Graduation (Friends Forever)
∞. “Graduation (Friends Forever)” — Vitamin C
C2E2, Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, happened again this past weekend. I’ve attended each C2E2 since its first year in 2009, but this year marked my first cosplay! I dressed as the teenaged bandit/thief/mostly-hero Bandette, a character by Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin. My outfit was nice and practical, though the mask was a little tight. Apparently not many people have read “Bandette,” since everyone thought I was Hit Girl from “Kick-Ass” (she’s not even the same colors!!). But four people correctly identified me, and our mutual excitement each time made my efforts totally worth it. I even ended up on the Comixology blog.
Superdawg and me
Panel: Tattoo Panel
My husband John and I needed to kill some time before the cosplay after-party at Reggie’s, so we decided to check out this panel. It was composed of contestants from a tattooing competition reality show that I’d never heard of, Ink Master on Spike TV. The panelists didn’t cover many nitty gritty details about tattooing, but they provided some fun facts about their time on reality tv and trends in tattooing. Clint Cummings said producers would tell the contestants to look down during parts of filming, and then edit it to look like sad head-hanging after judges’ critiques. Panelist Sarah Miller’s most in-demand tattoo right now is inexplicably the Celtic Cross.
Cosplay Chicago Presents: Skeletor’s Evil Plan- A C2E2 After Hours Event at Reggie’s
I wanted another excuse to wear my costume, so we went to this after hours event at Reggie’s. Former Gorilla Tango Burlesquer Hazel Hellbender put on a pretty great Carmen Sandiego performance, and there was a spectacular, super-smooth “boy-lesque” number by Bazuka Joe of the three-man troupe the Stagedoor Johnnies. He was Lion-O from ThunderCats. There was a dick-pasty involved. And butts.
The rest of the party was meh. There was a nerdcore rapper and some rather confusing and uncomfortable Skeletor & She-ra cosplay/bondage performances — I … I don’t want to talk about it.
Panel: CBLDF Presents A History of Censorship in Comics
Alex Cox, Deputy Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) gave a fascinating presentation on the history of censorship in comics. He led the audience through misguided social advocate Fred Wertham’s book “Seduction of the Innocent,” which used psuedo-science and faulty research to damn comics as a leading cause of social delinquency. Wertham’s findings “caused a shitstorm,” Cox said, leading to the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency hearings in 1954 and the introduction of the strict Comics Code Authority regulations that stunted the industry and kept adult-friendly comics away for decades. Similar moral panic in the 1980s led to the formation of CBLDF, which raises funds to protect comics artists, readers and vendors. I was shocked by how busy the CBLDF still is today– just in 2010, an innocent manga book with chibi imagery got 27-year-old Ryan Matheson wrongfully arrested for possession of child pornography and severely mistreated by Canadian authorities (with the assistance of the CBLDF, Matheson won his case).
Panel: Comics and Pop Music
I was tired and admittedly zoned in and out of this panel a bit. The panelists (Charles Soule, Dirk Wood, Kieron Gillen, Matt Pizzolo, Patrick A. Reed, Renee Witterstaetter, S. Steven Struble and Vivek Tiwary) discussed graphic storytelling’s connection to music and various albums they associate with comics. The highlight was when Tiwary revealed pages from “The Fifth Beatle,” the new graphic novel he authored about the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein, whose tragic death at age 32 shook the band beyond repair.
Panel: Chicago Comics from the Chicago Scene
Local artists Tim Seeley, Mike Norton, Jeffery Brown and Paul Hornschemeier discussed why Chicago is a great comics city, the separate yet linked mainstream and indie comics scenes and how the groups support each other. Jeffrey Brown shared that his favorite Chicago pizza is the pie his wife makes from scratch. It was heartwarming.
Comedy Mutant with Brian Posehn, Myq Kaplan and Mike Drucker
Brian Posehn headlined. He talked about farting a lot. It was hilarious.
Posing with Cheetara (my friend Lindsay) at the Chicago Costume booth
Panel: Derf Backderf on My Friend Dahmer
In the 1970s, John “Derf” Backderf made an eccentric high school friend. He had a “blank mask of a face” and liked to twitch and bleat like a sheep to disturb the school faculty. His name was Jeffrey Dahmer. Backderf, now a journalist and cartoonist, spent over 20 years after Dahmer’s death planning and compiling information from personal interviews, official public memories and his own memories to create “My Friend Dahmer,” a graphic novel documenting his time with a troubled young man slowly overtaken by alcoholism and his brutal, burgeoning desires.
Fascinated by their oddball classmate, a teen-aged Backderf and his friends formed the “Dahmer Fan Club”– their prankster antics included adopting Dahmer’s silly mannerisms (they called them “Dahmerisms”), and sneaking Dahmer into all of the student organization yearbook photos. Backderf shared cartoons of Dahmer from his high school sketchbook and photographs of a young Dahmer-about-town. The eeriest of all was the smiling graduate in his cap and gown, taken just two weeks before he would kill his first victim.
Later my husband John bought a copy of “My Friend Dahmer,” and Backderf drew this creepy Dahmer in it!
Panel: Exorcising the Spectre of the Fake Geek Girl: Discussing Geek Culture, Gate-Keeping, and Sexism
This all-female panel panel (Carlye Frank , Dawn Xiana Moon, Erin Tipton, Karlyn Meyer, Laura Koroski and Michi Trota– all self-proclaimed geeks), discussed why the myth of the “fake geek girl” is false, and how no one should be alienated from the comics and gaming community for looking a certain way or having the incorrect genitalia. Both men and women participate in geek culture gatekeeping, but women are nearly always the ones labeled disingenuous. A few panelists attributed the phenomenon to geeks’ pent-up memories of pain and alienation over their offbeat interests— and a feeling that others should earn their stripes.
There have been plenty of yucky articles trying to pinpoint the “right” way for women to engage in these activities and conventions. The sexist undertones of the mainstream comics and the gaming industries don’t help– in fact, we recently published an F article on sexism in game development by Ian Ostrowski.
Panel: Meet R.L. Stine, Who Has Been Giving Us Goosebumps for 20 Years!
After being turned away for Saturday’s Patton Oswalt Q&A, which was filled beyond capacity in the largest panel room, I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to get into this R.L. Stine panel, what with Goosebumps being the bestselling series of all time and all. But I got there 20 minutes early and got a seat!
At his panel, R.L. Stine exhibited a refreshing balance of love of his work, pride, and joking self-deprecation. He’s a really funny guy– he intended on writing adult humor books before falling fatefully into youth horror. At the peak of his Goosebumps and Fear Street series, he was writing a book every two weeks. Stine discussed his meticulous planning processes and said that he doesn’t “have time for writer’s block,” He earnestly shared how he’d wept upon being praised by his own literary hero Ray Bradbury. He kidded about stealing from Stephen King, and that despite Goosebumps being in its 21st year, “there are only six plots.” Nothing really scares Stine anymore– “Horror always makes me laugh,” he said.
For the audience Q & A portion, one teary fan read a letter aloud that she had written to Stine at 15. Another audience member mentioned tagging Stine in a tweet and asked if he’d follow her back. He smiled and said simply, “No.” The audience laughed and cheered.
Dalek ‘n’ me on the show floor. <3
My new friend Kyle and his wife Natanya released this book about Dwarves last year, funded by a successful Kickstarter project. I’ve been meaning to pick it up, so I finally did!
So that’s that. Can’t wait for next year!
“Goats (2012, dir. Christopher Neil)”
It is almost always a sure thing that in teen dramas, the main character is a misunderstood, understated, quiet and consistently tortured soul with insensitive parents and a quirky (often obese) nerdy best friend. The message, no matter the particulars, is almost always about finding confidence, getting the girl, defeating the bully, yada yada yada. In “Goats,”(2012), directed by Christopher Neil, the main characters are exactly that — misunderstood and sensitive souls who are tortured and in a perpetual state of agony (sarcasm) until they acquire their dream girl/victory/resolution in general.
What annoys me is when the audience is forced to take pity on the protagonist because the idiot won’t grow a pair (of testicles or ovaries) and do something productive for once, rather than scowl and pout in the back seat of the tastefully idiosyncratic vehicle.
And that’s my problem with Ellis (Graham Phillips), the protagonist in “Goats.” I swear, the kid sulked more than he spoke. I’m genuinely surprised that I watched the whole thing, as it felt like more of a tutorial on how to be frustrated for ninety-four minutes than a movie about overcoming various struggles. Whenever Ellis’s (psychotic) mother did something stupid or insensitive, like when she scolded her son for messing up her good vibes immediately after he returned from being lost in the Arizona desert, he would just stand there scowling. Yeah kid, that’ll definitely do something. Just clench your jaw and your mother will understand you. Maybe if we all clench our jaws, then we’ll finally get somewhere on this world peace thing..
And I’m not entirely sure why the movie is called what it is. My guess would be that the only sort of realistic character is called “Goat Man” (David Duchovny). He’s a drug mule, a pothead and a self-proclaimed Mexican, which indicates that Goat Man has actual issues that he eventually addresses. He struggled to raise Ellis after his real father left, was then obligated to care for Ellis’s nutcase mother, and was reduced to drug trafficking across the Mexico-Arizona border via goats that repeatedly eat his bags of weed. But, despite all the potential character-building, Goat Man is also unable to get off his ass and make a change in his unofficial son’s life… so he’s not much better than Ellis in the end… so the movie, rather than being named after weed-eating goats, should maybe be called People Who Don’t Have Enough Moxy to do a Single Damn Thing Ever.
If a character wants change, then he or she should go out of his or her way to make change (and no, pouting and scowling doesn’t count as being proactive). It frustrates me to no end that movies like this, rather than attempting to influence the youth of the world to take charge of their own lives, influence kids to sit back and hope that their pretty faces will make a difference if they cry enough. I’m calling goatshit on that one.
If you really want to watch a teenage drama, go browse your mid-teen relative’s Facebook profile instead, because chances are that you’ll find a more fulfilling story there than you would in Goats.
There are, on occasion, films that are so achingly sad that they sit on your heart and pull out this silky depression that both inspires and subdues. These films are rare because they manage to balance the grim reality of the subject matter with a tastefully effective artistry, and require little to no blood and guts violence. But, rather than acting as moments meant to suck you into a pit of despair, they act as conductors for the electricity of life. They are so gloomy that they are using reverse-psychology to inspire the viewers to reconsider their approach to life.
For example, “Detachment” (2011) has the potential to make nihilism sound optimistic. Director Tony Kaye and lead actor Adrien Brody build on the harsh truths of public education through the eyes of the underpaid, underappreciated substitute teacher. Henry Barthes (Brody), the substitute teacher for an abandoned English class, slowly reveals his unspoken torments through quiet and poetic narration, resilient compassion, and a profound passivity. Barthes finds a young prostitute, Erica (Sami Gayle), and expresses this compassion by giving her a safe place to stay, food to eat, and medical attention. In the mean time, combative students, a looming loneliness, and the unsavory memories of his now-senile grandfather bully Barthes into a quiet submission, yet he is unwilling to give up and in to the depression that he undoubtedly feels. With a resolute intolerance for violence, Barthes attempts to teach his students to think independently and to survive the brutality of a reality forced upon them.
Beware, there is a significant (read: overwhelming) amount of pessimism in “Detachment,” so if the darker side of the emotional spectrum easily sways you, this film might not be for you. Kaye does not hold back on the heartache; there is a never-ending supply of struggle, be it through difficult and disinterested students, crude and brutish teachers, stifling isolation, traumatic flashbacks, neglect, suicide, rape, hunger, dirtiness… But let me be clear — Kaye is not simply spouting off “oh woe is I! Take pity and always feel this pain!”
I say this for two reasons. First of all, Kaye asserts that despite the awful shit in life, there is still a tendency in human nature for us to help each other in any way possible. Barthes does this by fostering a prostitute; the teachers of the high school do this by the very act of teaching and putting up with the abuse from students and their parents. There is profound nobility in that tendency, no matter how much of the ugly junk covers it up. Second of all, the unwillingness to bend in the face of death, abuse and hatred far outshines the decay and destruction of life (e.g. Barthes, the grandson of an abusive man and the son of an abused mother, continued to visit his grandfather, care for a prostitute, and educate a bunch of bored teens). While this seems like a stretch, it’s important to remember that when everything in life points to the negative, Life is probably trying to suggest the opposite by embedding in our spirits a resilient desire to endure.
So, regardless of the darkness, “Detachment” is a poignantly inspirational film when viewed through the right lens, without the cheesy and off-putting one-liner quotes.