We seemed to watch a lot of “Draw My Life” videos this past year, so we felt it was appropriate to recap our 2014 with a white board and some dry erase markers. In under 3 minutes, we quickly doodle this year’s top movies, tv shows, books & comics. We also draw our favorite Con experiences, the pop culture headlines that stuck with us, and the best hair of the year (belonging to Blythe from IDW’s Littlest Pet Shop Comics)! Lots of wishes for a fabulous 2015, everyone!
Glee has always been somewhat infuriating in its realistic portrayal of teenage travails (doing it better than most other prime time series) but setting it in such an unrealistic setting since no high school runs the way McKinley does in fictional Lima, Ohio. These kids never have homework or need to balance their studies with extracurricular activities, especially those in time intensive groups such as the Cheerios or the sports teams.
Still Ryan Murphy’s band of misfits remains entertaining and a winning mix. The fourth season, out now on Home Video from 20th Century Home Entertainment, finally addressed the aging cast, sending most away to college. Notably, Rachel (Lea Michele) was attending NYADA the performing arts college, while struggling to maintain her long distance relationship with Finn (Cory Monteith), who had surprisingly enlisted at the end of the previous season. Following her to the Big Apple was Kurt (Chris Colfer), who didn’t get into the school but was determined to make it somehow.
Back at school, new members were recruited and here were some true gems, starting with Melissa Benoist as Marley Rose, a true talent and cute as a button. Less interesting was the introduction of Puck’s half-brother Jake (Jacob Artist) who started off a bad boy but had his edge quickly shorn away. In fact, all the characters that arrived with nasty angles to their personalities got worn down into saccharine sweetness with Becca Tobin’s Kitty the last holdout.
The show short-changed everyone by glossing over their characters in favor of splitting the focus between NYC and Lima. The proposed spinoff for the graduates was never picked up so the emphasis needed to change, which is a shame since the issues both crews face are vastly different ones and the frequent trips home once more beggared the imagination.
The season differed from the first three in that it did not cover a complete school year, instead ending late in the school year but before the all-important national competition. Along the way, we watched Finn become a lost soul, leaving the service and filling in for Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison), who was off at a conference. The character’s search for a direction at the same time the actor was struggling with his personal addictions lends revisiting this arc a poignant feel. His late addition to the DVD cover art was a nice touch.
The major themes of the year including the struggles of growing up, bulimia/anorexia, cancer, marriage, fidelity, and similar trials. Each week they sang and danced their way through the issues, often in catchy ways that belied the seriousness of the issues. In many cases, trouble never met with consequences such as Kitty’s trying to convince Marley she was gaining weight or When Wade “catfished” Ryder.
As the season wound down, the absurdity got worse climaxing with Brittany’s suddenly discovered savant genius with math and being whisked off “now” to MIT. Other characters seemed to have nothing to do, with Jane Lynch’s Sue Sylvester emasculated and left to be supportive. The season wound down as they readied for Nationals and the impending graduation of other members of the glee club.
The film to high definition transfer is well done, as is expected from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. And for a series dependent on music, the audio is more than up to the task making rewatching moments work well.
Each of the four discs in the Blu-ray set contains a mix of features such as the Glee Music Jukebox (1:03:28); Movin’ On Up: Glee in NYC (10:02), talking about the location shooting; Building New York (6:29); Jarley (8:53), a look at the new members Jake and Marley; and Deleted Scenes (15:24). Disc two has another look at those musical sequences in Glee Music Jukebox (1:01:48) offers a tour through the musical sequences of each episode on the disc, and Deleted Scenes (5:04). Disc three offers Glee Music Jukebox (1:29:35), Glee On Film (11:56) looks at the cinema-centric episode; and, The Road to 500 (3:54), which is the number of musical sequences. The final disc gives us Glee Music Jukebox (1:15:52); Blaine’s Time Capsule (8:12), a cheesy message for his adult self; and Glee Premiere Party! (3:41).
The show may have lost some of its cache as a trendsetter and star maker but it remains an entertaining diversion. Personally, the Mike O’Malley scenes as Kurt’s father Burt dealing with his son remain the best material year after year but then again, I’m a father and not a star-struck teen. No doubt, most everyone will find something to identify with or sing-along to.
While I was out of the country, there was apparently a media kerfuffle about the introduction of a transgender character in the pages of Gail Simone’s Batgirl. There were stories in the LGBT press, in USA Today, and on comics sites (here) (and here too).
A lot of these stories said that this was the first transgender character to appear in a mainstream comic, and I don’t think that’s true. There was a transgendered character in Mike Barr and Brian Bolland’s Camelot 3000, published by DC. The lead in Milestone’s Deathwish from the 1990s was transgendered, and that book was distributed by DC, which to my mind makes it mainstream. It was also quite a beautiful mini-series, and I really can’t recommend it highly enough. There were also several transgender characters in various Vertigo series.
However, I’ll accept that these were seen by fewer people than a Batbook.
The reaction by the audience for these books has, for the most part, been better than I predicted. Relatively few people are calling it a “publicity stunt,” and those who do seem to not understand what a publicity stunt actually is. For example, I seriously doubt that DC’s publicist went to Gail Simone and asked her to introduce a transgendered character.
When I was DC’s publicist, I would have been fired for trying to influence a storyline. The closest I came was suggesting to Neil Gaiman that he might enjoy the chance to do a public service comic about HIV. And even then, there were lots and lots of corporate hoops through which I had to jump, not because of any political controversy but because of a corporate culture that respected the separation of editorial and marketing.
And then there are the people who get defensive. For example, in the second article to which I linked above, there is this in the comments thread:
• I think all DC characters should become lesbians,gay and transgendered.
• Because the majority of DC’s audience is.
• Mainstream America stopped reading DC comic books a long time ago. Respectfully, “The Amazing Stam,” Make Mine Marvel!
There are so many things wrong with this. For one thing, I don’t think Marvel’s audience is significantly larger than DC’s, and, in fact, I suspect there is a tremendous amount of overlap. For another, there are transgender characters on television shows like Glee, which have a larger audience than DC and Marvel combined. And, finally, it is disturbing that in 2013, this moron still thinks it is an insult to suggest that DC’s audience is queer.
Whenever a character is introduced who is not a straight, white Christian male, there is inevitably someone who complains that this is done because the creative team is being “PC.” It is impossible for these critics to imagine that creators could find diversity interesting in and of itself, or want to reflect the world in which they live. Perhaps the creators want to challenge themselves to imagine different ways of being human. I never hear anyone complain that someone who writes stories about straight, white Christian people is pushing a political agenda.
Because I’m still jet-lagged, I haven’t read Batgirl #19 yet, as I write this. I plan to get it this week, when I go to Forbidden Planet for my regular fix.
I hope it’s not sold out.
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman
SUNDAY: John Ostrander
In the bleak midwinter (or whatever you call this part of January; there’s snow on the ground and it’s super-cold here and the heat’s not working, is all I know) we could all use a little cheering up, and a reminder that there’s more to the world than ice and the howling wind.
In fact, there are people! Friendly, cheerful, sociable (and warm!) people, just waiting to be our friends or date us or possibly some combination of the two. But it can be easy to forget there are other people out there when it’s so cold all you want to do is stay inside huddled under a fleece blanket and a barskin cloak (what? That’s just me? Oh.). And when you do eventually venture out from under your space heater that you’ve hung directly above your bed (to accompany the ones on either side of it, of course), you may have forgotten a step or two in the dance of social niceties, which requires practice to maintain. That’s why I invited everyone’s favorite sunshine-y relationship advisor to stop by and do a guest appearance on my column!
…Okay, that’s not exactly what happened. Maybe I had to go out of town this past weekend, and I didn’t have a ton of time just lying around in which to share my usual deep insights into the human and geek psyche with you, and maybe Rorschach just happened to stop by right after receiving some letters from honest citizens in desperate need of some social advice, and maybe he had nothing better to do, all his cans of beans and sugar cubes being neatly stacked already and the weather keeping most people from committing any obvious crimes on the streets…and so maybe I suggested he take over my column this week for my own selfish reasons, e.g. so I could pack for my trip.
And maybe this is all actually my friend Viv’s fault, because she is the one who originally suggested the previous advice column which first brought us the never-ending gift of Rorschach sharing his valuable social insights.
Regardless! Here he is, ready to share his wisdom with the masses! Lucky masses.
Rorschach’s Advice Column: January 29, 2013
Arrived in Washington, D.C. for meeting of dedicated crime fighters, to find “dedicated” crime fighters cowering and shivering behind closed doors. Pathetic scum, lacking moral conviction to protect city in face of wind and moderate-to-light snowfall. Reduced to helpless, shut-in imbeciles by thin layer of white on roadways. This city would weep for its weak protectors, but knows they also whimper at sight of icy rain.
Only reason crime not rampant in streets tonight is that people of this city are weaker than mewling “crime fighters,” who patrol alleyways only on warmer days. Crime fighters afraid to fight crime with runny noses. Can’t brave slight discomfort for greater justice. Can’t see that all that is needed to defeat crime and cold is trench coat, scarf, fedora, and fists. All I had as I walked streets tonight.
Tonight, a man dated in D.C. Then wrote letter asking my advice. Have tried to stop misguided weak-willed inhabitants of city from sending letters begging my perspective on their lives as they wallow in frozen slurry of self-loathing and despair. Can’t. Not even by breaking thumbs. Tried this last week. Man with broken thumbs cried. Then asked if he should send flowers to angry girlfriend. Left in disgust.
A man dated tonight, and nobody cares. Not even me. Will answer letters anyway, though, as answering letters passes time until miscreant am lying in wait for leaves bar.
How do I know if this woman I’ve met is The Right One?
Will answer question but then you must answer mine: were parents hippies? Who names child Vitt? Is that even name? Why does it contain numbers and symbols? Suspect an alias. Perhaps spy?
So. You went out. Probably to seedy bar. Bought drink. Talked to woman. Suddenly you discover Ms. Right. Convenient.
But she is not Ms. Right. Here is how I know: there is no Ms. Right. Relationships are farce. Also unimportant. All that matters is justice. And beans.
P.S. Do not try to trace this response, spy; you will fail.
P.P.S. Do not turn around. I am standing behind you but do not wish you to see me yet. Not until I am ready.
How does a hamster find Mr./Ms. Right?
Fish on Bicycle:
Are you also spy? Do you know @Vitt311? Your name also gibberish and symbols. Possibly occult. Clearly is conspiracy. Will need to get to bottom of this. Hrm.
As for question: Rodents do not discriminate with mates. Can’t be discussing rodents. Must be code. Are “Hamsters” new street gang? Why have I not heard of them? Must investigate.
Well. If you are spy or miscreant gang member, there will never be a Mr./Ms. Right for you. You will always be alone. And probably in jail.
P.S. If you are not miscreant (unlikely) see previous question for answer.
P.P.S. Also send me full name, and address of your dwelling, as all you have given in letter is gibberish name and P.O. Box. This is not sufficient. Will need to question you further about these “Hamsters.”
Dear Mr. Rorschach;
If you are a spy, is it okay to date another spy at a rival agency, under the assumption that hilarity will ensue? Same question, but for Glee coaches.
You claim to be a spy, yet use real name. Must be trap. Hrm.
Spies are not hilarious. Do not joke about spies. Or spy conspiracy. Which you are clearly part of.
Beginning to suspect advice column being used as spy trap to lure me in and pick off another costumed hero. Is obvious now, really. And Dreiberg called me paranoid.
Am done answering letters until have uncovered whole of spy ring out to get me. Will hunt you down, all of you, and exact justice for this persecution. Don’t bother to beg for mercy. There will be no compromise.
P.S. If did use real name, you are very bad spy.
P.P.S. What is Glee coach? Is this spy code? Sounds leftist.
• • • • •
Hey guys, it’s Emily! So…I just got back and Mike showed me the results of my latest experiment with guest writers. Uh…yeah, maybe inviting Rorschach over to play wasn’t such a good idea. But I don’t have time to write something new at this late date, so…sorry? And he didn’t really mean it, about the spy thing. And hunting people down. Not really. I don’t think. Um.
…Until next time, Servo Lectio?
P.S. I really am sorry.
P.P.S. I hope he’s not standing behind anyone right now.
WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold And Alfred Pennyworth’s Guns
Washington, DC and Los Angeles, CA (August 22, 2012) – Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the State Attorneys General and Consumer Protection Agencies and the Ad Counciljoined with Twentieth Century Fox Television and Twentieth Century Fox HomeEntertainment to unveil new public service advertisements (PSAs) featuring scenes from season three of Fox’s award-winning television series “Glee” to educate young adult drivers (16-24) of the dangers of texting while driving.
Earlier this year, the Golden Globe winning series made headlines when a pivotal cliffhanger episode ended with a shocking and catastrophic crash due to texting and driving. Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron) was driving to her friends’ (Rachel and Finn, played by Lea Michele and Cory Monteith) wedding when a she received a text. She took her eyes off the road to read it and to type the words “On My Way” for a matter of seconds, but in her distraction she swerved out of her lane and was hit in a tragic accident by an oncoming vehicle. It was months before the audience and “Glee’s” millions of young adult viewers would know the fate of her character, but the message was clear: texting and driving can have horrific consequences.
The new television and digital PSAs employ this powerful scene to emphasize that five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting and driving – when driving at 55 miles per hour, that is enough time to cover the length of a football field. The PSAs direct young adult drivers to the Texting and Driving Prevention campaign web site, StopTextsStopWrecks.org, where teens and young adults can find facts about the impact of texting while driving and tips for how to curb the behavior.
NHTSA reports that in 2010, more than 3,000 people were killed and an additional 416,000 were injured due to distracted driving, which includes texting while driving. The “Glee” PSAs are part of NHSTA, the State Attorneys Generaland Consumer Protection Agencies and the Ad Council’s national Texting and Driving Prevention PSA campaign. Launched in October 2011, this campaign is designed to curb the behavior of young adults who text while driving, address the compulsion of this behavior and demonstrate to overconfident young adult drivers that it is not safe to text while driving.
“Texting and driving is an epidemic on America’s roadways, but these crashes are preventable. Distracted driving does not just happen, it’s a choice,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “The first line of defense must be personal responsibility by all drivers to put theirwireless devices away and keep their focus on the road, which is why we are working closely with our partners to build public awareness around this important safety issue.”
“This was a story we wanted to tell because we know the influence our show can have in starting conversations and raising awareness,” commented “Glee” executive producer and co-creator Ryan Murphy. “We were inspired by Oprah Winfrey’s campaign encouraging everyone to sign a pledge not to text and drive, which we all signed when we did her show a few yearsago, and we had been looking for an opportunity to tell the story of how a few seconds of carelessness could have a devastating impact on people’s lives. We’ve already heard from thousands of our fans how this story touched them, and we loved the idea of a PSA campaign to keep this important issue front and center.”
“’Glee’ has always told stories that speak to young people in an incredibly entertaining way, provoking conversation and raising awareness in the process,” said Dana Walden and Gary Newman, Chairmen of Twentieth Century Fox Television. “When Ryan and the producers told us they were going to tackle this issue, we knew that beyond telling agreat, dramatic story about our characters, it could have very real impact on the lives of our viewers. We couldn’t be more proud of the work they and the cast have done on this incredible series.”
According to a new, national survey conducted by the Ad Council, there has been progress with the attitudes and behaviors among young adult drivers regarding texting while driving. Fifty-one percent of young adult drivers report that they are “extremely concerned” about their peers texting while driving, which represents an increase of seven percent since September 2011. Most notably, in regards to their current behavior, thirty-four percent of respondents said that they never text while driving, a significant increase from twenty-eight percent in 2011.
“Driving is one of the most dangerous activities for young adults. Texting while driving is a distraction that young drivers can live without,” said Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, the father of two teenage boys. “Drivers of any age should be aware that texting while driving may not only jeopardize the safety of themselves and others, but it can violate state motor vehicle laws against distracted driving and result in hefty fines or loss of driving privileges.”
“We are thrilled to join Twentieth Century Fox Television, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and ‘Glee’ to unveil a new series of public service ads to further extend our texting while driving prevention messages to their vast audience of young adult drivers,” said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “Our latest research shows a nation that is now on the right track in improving the safety of our roads, but there is still more work to be done. We will continue to broaden our campaign messages to help reduce driver distraction, prevent injuries, and ultimately save lives.”
Since 2006, the Ad Council has partnered with the State Attorneys General to address reckless driving among teens. The “Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks.” campaign effort has received more than $20 million in donated media support to date. For more than twenty-five years, the Ad Council and NHTSA have worked together on consumer safety PSA campaigns. Per the Ad Council’s model, all of the new PSAs will run and air in advertising time and space that is donated by the media.
The greatest pitfall television series featuring high school cast members has is that the cast is already older when the series begins and they age out rapidly. Smallville stopped setting stories in the high school because the cast looked ridiculous on the sets. Confronting the inevitable graduation challenges the producers to find tortured ways to keep the cast intact after the caps and gowns are put away. Even Buffy the Vampire Slayer suffered from this challenge so it is refreshing to see Glee take graduation head on in the third season of the Fox series.
Glee the Complete Third Season came out on DVD last week and seeing it without the weeks-long breaks between cycles, allows you to see how they handled the coming graduation and choices the teens are being asked to make. While the series has never really focused on the kids’ academics, there was almost zero interest in ACTs or college visits, so it was always in the ether but never the focal point of the stories. Instead, it was all about getting to Nationals in New York and succeeding. The season opened with the need for fresh members thanks to a rival Glee Club set up by Shelby Corcoran (Idina Menzel) while Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) ran for Congress on an anti-arts platform.
Clearly, the producers had no real idea of where to take the characters as motivations and the status quo changed, twisting them beyond recognizabilty. The most ill-served may have been Quinn (Dianna Agron) who started off trying to steal back her baby, given to Shelby for adoption, then embracing the final year of high school until her driving accident (don’t text and drive) and recovery. Somewhere along the line, this sympathetic character, who in season two recognized she was a small town girl stuck in Ohio, gained 50 IQ points and got into Yale and was Ivy League bound. Huh? The best teen villain has become a hero. All the edges to characters are gone, from Puck (Mark Salling) to the divas Mercedes (Amber Riley), robbing the students of interesting character variety. Santana (Naya Rivera) was also softened although her coming out as a lesbian and rising as a performer were among the season’s highlights.
Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) and Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), the romantic couple at the center of the storm, decided to get married and their arc dealt with that reality and the choices each need make for themselves and each other. This rang far more true than the disastrous marriage between Coach Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones) and Cooter Menkins (Eric Bruskotter), which formed a mini-arc in the final third of the season.
While each of the 22 episodes is entertaining and often heartfelt, as a season-long arc for the faculty and students it’s a mess and by now Ryan Murphy should have a very clear idea of who they are and where these characters are going. Instead, he seems to have lost any sense of edge in Sylvester, giving her instead a rival in Roz Washington (NeNe Leakes). Even the show’s most intriguing character, Burt Hummel (Mike O’Malley), somehow found himself running for Congress and winning, stealing him from Kurt (Chris Colfer), just as his son’s dreams of going to NYADA are crushed.
Musically, the show remains strong, aided by the welcome addition of Darren Criss’ Blaine to the New Directions. Sam Evans (Chord Overstreet) is also back after a brief contract issue. Some of the winners of the reality series, The Glee Project, wind up added to the cast but are little more than hangers-on with little learned about them and rarely given a showcase. The quest for a championship takes a backseat to the fall musical, West Side Story, which featured some terrific reimaginings of the classic numbers.
In the finale, eight of the cast graduate and turnover in the New Directions will fuel the fourth season as it begins in a few weeks. Most of the graduates will continue to appear so the ensemble swells which is not always a good idea.
The four disc set looks amazing and of course sounds terrific but we’ve come to expect that from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. A neat feature to the set is that the menus will help you keep track as you work your way through the season, remembering where you are.
As usual, the extras are heavy on the music, the show’s hallmark. We get more from the Glee Music Jukebox, although you get clips and not the full songs that were edited to air. Some of the non-musical bits include “Glee Under the Stars” (7:45), a kickoff event at Santa Monica High School. “Glee Give a Note” (7:46) shows stars Jayma Mays and Jones present Culver City Middle School a check for $10,000 for arts education.
You can enjoy some extended and deleted scenes throughout the discs. The highlight here is a Sue Sylvester flashback that should have found its way on air. “Glee Swap: Behind the Scenes of ‘Props'” (5:41) is a nice look at the fun body-swapping episode. “Meet the Newbies” (13:20) spends more time with the new cast members than the series seemed to. “Saying Goodbye” (15:19) is a good look at the emotional toll the finale took on one and all. Lynch’s acerbic Sylvester is found on “Ask Sue: World Domination Blog” (6:07) and “Return of Sue’s Quips” (2:58).
One can hope that the freshened cast will ignite some greater dramatic consistency to match its musical excellence. For now, we have this set which is maddeningly enjoyable while being frustratingly inconsistent.
We’ve all had a chance to recover and step back a bit, and we can now look at what are the most important pure-comics stories out of San Diego Comic-Con. (No, not movies, or movies based on comics, or video games based on comics, those are all for other posts.) So what are the ComicMix Six Comic Stories from Comic-Con International?
1. Neil Gaiman returns to write “Before Sandman”.
Neil Gaiman is returning to his most famous comics creation, The Sandman, one more time, for a prequel miniseries to be released next year to be drawn by J.H. Williams (Promethea, Batwoman). “When I finished writing THE SANDMAN, there was one tale still untold. The story of what had happened to Morpheus to allow him to be so easily captured in THE SANDMAN #1, and why he was returned from far away, exhausted beyond imagining, and dressed for war. It was a story that we discussed telling for SANDMAN’s 20th anniversary… but the time got away from us. And now, with SANDMAN’s 25th anniversary year coming up, I’m delighted, and nervous, that that story is finally going to be told,” said Gaiman.
Get More: MTV Shows
BURBANK, Calif. (June 11, 2012) – Walt Disney Animation Studios presents an epic tale of adventure and comedy in “Frozen,” a computer-animated feature film slated for the big screen in November 2013. Directed by Chris Buck (Tarzan, Surf’s Up) and produced by Peter Del Vecho (Winnie the Pooh, The Princess and the Frog), Frozen features the vocal talents of film/TV/stage star Kristen Bell as Anna, a young dreamer about to take the adventure of a lifetime, and Tony Award ®-winning actress Idina Menzel as Elsa the Snow Queen. The movie will feature original songs by Broadway greats Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.
In Frozen, a prophecy traps a kingdom in eternal winter, so Anna (voice of Bell) must team up with Kristoff, a daring mountain man, on the grandest of journeys to find the Snow Queen (voice of Menzel) and put an end to the icy spell. Encountering Everest-like extremes, mystical creatures and magic at every turn, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom from destruction.
Bell has starred in a variety of films, including the comedies Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Couples Retreat, and the upcoming films Hit & Run, Some Girls and the Farrelly Brothers’ Movie 43. On the small screen, Bell is currently starring in the Showtime series House of Lies alongside Don Cheadle; she has also starred in Heroes and Veronica Mars. Broadway credits include The Crucible and Tom Sawyer.
Menzel, who won a Tony Award® as Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Elphaba in Broadway’s Wicked (2004), landed her first role on Broadway in 1995 in the Tony Award-winning musical Rent. Film credits include Enchanted and the feature film Rent. She has appeared in a recurring role on TV’s Glee and recently released Idina Menzel Live: Barefoot at the Symphony, a live concert with an orchestra led by composer/conductor Marvin Hamlisch. Menzel is currently on a North American concert tour.
Robert Lopez is a three-time Tony Award®-winning writer of the Tony and Grammy® Award-winning musical The Book of Mormon, which was co-written with Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park), and the musical Avenue Q, which ran for six years on Broadway and four years in London’s West End. Lopez teamed with wife Anderson-Lopez, whose Drama Desk-winning show In Transit is Broadway-bound, to write original songs for 2011’s Winnie the Pooh, a stage version of Finding Nemo and a new musical called Up Here.
Because I no longer profess to have original thoughts, I’ve taken a liking to riffing off a topic suggested by other ComicMix columnists. This week, the lucky Ms. Mindy Newell inspired my topic du jour. As I discussed last week, I’ve been a serious artist since high school. When I was faced with two years worth of assignments in a single school year, I was chained to the art table basically every night. My art-desk was just a dining room table, so for me the creative process started more with a mindset than a setting. An artist’s area is a second home, a place where creativity blooms and technical proficiency is honed with each successive piece. Nothing gets me into this place quicker than music.
I can point to the soundtrack of my high school days and how it lead me to the canvas… or Bristol board, or god knows what else I was drawing on. Discs in heavy rotation? Tonic’s self-titled debut was a biggie. Reel Big Fish’s Why Do They Rock So Hard was always a quick pick-me-up. Guster’s Lost and Gone Forever carried enough personal anthems that I ended up making a piece of art about it. And of course, my long-standing stalwarts – Barenaked Ladies and They Might Be Giants – were never far behind a studio session. When Matt started dating girls, leaving me wondering what the hell was wrong with me (Answer? No Beard.), I found solace in Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar and a 10-minute stint as a psuedo-goth. Oddly enough, being sad and angry all the time never worked out for the natural comedian in me. Thank Gordon for Barenaked Ladies.
During this time too, Matt and I (when he wasn’t kanoodling with the ladies) would have an occasional studio night. Generally his house. He’d bring down the boom box, plug it in, and we’d toss in some long running discs, and recreate the atmosphere cultivated in the art room at school. Dave Mathews and Tim Reynold’s Live at Luther College, Rage Against the Machine, a little Guster, and maybe Sting’s Mercury Falling… and the paint, pencils, and bonding of brothers began.
My taste in music was (and still is) pretty kooky to say the least. While I’m by no means a staunch follower of rap, metal, grunge, bluegrass, or soul music… I do have a handful of artists in all those genres that I follow methodically. Trust me, a view of my guilty pleasures list on Spotify is truly vomit-inducing to most. Unlike many of the fine folks writing here… I was right on the cusp of the shuffle generation. And while the first 18 years of my music-loving was dependent on the ‘Album,’ by college, I was picking and choosing tracks to enjoy (unless it was from a band I’d already found a love for). But I digress… This column is supposed to be about the correlation between my music and my art.
In college, I found the first medium to really speak to me – woodcut. A combination of graphic layout and meticulous process led me to an epiphany of sorts. At a piece of plywood, I found a zen-like state where I could just put my hands to a task, let music pour into my ears, and when the haze lifted, art was made. During this time, my CD player had long been ditched for a first generation iPod. All 4 GB were crammed to the brim with tracks gleaned from my own collection, and some acquired from the file-sharing sites that were all-too-popular at the time. My personal policy was to only appropriate music from artists I’d already owned something from… or tracks I liked enough to listen to repeatedly, but not support the band financially. Sorry, Dakota Moon… you’re not worth my buck.
Tunes of the time ranged from Eminem’s B-Sides, BNL’s Maroon, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication and Red Hot Minute… to wuss rock from John Mayer and Ben Folds. All of them piped to my fingers, amidst a mountain of wood shavings. The art attached to this piece shows off the culmination of that work. 16 panels, 10 feet tall, 18 months worth of hard work, completed through 4,000 songs on continuous play.
Nowadays, I jump between online services that pump tunes to me on the cheap (at the trade-off of intermittent commercials), or a shuffling of my iTunes. Occasionally I’ll feel a twinge of nostalgia, and I’ll toss on Sting’s Ten Summoners Tales, and just go to town. Sadly, I’ve not done a woodcut since college… but have found a true love and calling in both graphic design, and comic book making. And nowadays when I’m not buried with freelance work, day job work, or baby and wife tending… I toss on some noise canceling headphones, crank up the shuffle, and start drawing my nights away.
And yeah, Mindy… Sometimes I listen to Glee, too.
SUNDAY: John Ostrander Always Has Paris
Every writer has his or her way of settling down to write. Mine is to bring a Diet Pepsi and a pack of Salem cigarettes – yeah, yeah, I know… my bad – to my computer desk. Oh, yeah, and slipping in a CD.
Here’s the dope.
I’m pretty much out of the loop when it comes to music.
On the radio I listen to our local NPR (I love everything about that station); the local CBS sports station (especially during the football season – and during the past two or three weeks, the Peyton Manning-Tim Tebow-Mark Sanchez drama here in New York City has mesmerized me); WRL-1600 AM (the progressive station that took over for Air America here); occasionally WWOR-710 AM (though the station has moved too far to the right for my tastes – at least they got rid of Lou Dobbs!); and CBS’s “oldies” station when I’m commuting. I also play my CD’s, which are eclectic to say the least – the soundtrack to Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s musical episode, Once More With Feeling; a lot of Sinatra; the soundtracks to Yentl and South Pacific; a lot of Beatles; Michael Jackson’s Thriller; The Greatest Hits Of Diana Ross and The Supremes; and a great mix of punk, alternative rock, jazz, and Ethan Hawke singing Your Song from Moulin Rouge (which is amazing) that my daughter made me that she called Rod Stewart Sucks,because she knows I like him. Here’s the problem – I groove to all the songs on that CD, but except for the aforementioned Your Song by Hawke, and Midnight Train To Georgia, I’m hard pressed to tell you the names of the songs and the groups who perform them. I’m not even sure of the name of the song that Etta James performs on the CD – I think it’s I’d Rather Be Lonely (Than Be With Somebody Else), but I’m not sure – and it’s one of my favorites.
My musical tastes when writing are equally weird. I listen to soundtracks.
Right now I have the soundtrack to Ben-Hur playing at full volume. (It was composed by Miklos Rozsa, whom I had to look up on Google to discover that he won three Academy Awards – for Double Indemity, Spellbound, and Ben-Hur – and also composed the music for The Lost Weekend, The Jungle Book, The Thief Of Baghdad, Ivanhoe and Lust For Life, to name just a few others.) I find the music of Ben-Hur inspiring, poignant, thrilling/ It’s romantic in its classical sense, meaning that the pieces are passionate and expressive.
Other orchestral soundtracks that inspire me, take me into the heart of my characters or my theme – and this isn’t the complete list – are:
- The Last Of The Mohicans – which, by the way, was also a favorite of “My Friend Kim”
- Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back
- ET The Extraterrestrial
- The Godfather (I and II)
- The Winds Of War and War And Remembrance
- Angel (the television series).
I also listen to musical soundtracks. I love that the songs are expressions of emotions and perplexities, which is why I write. I especially love Rodgers and Hammerstein. Lerner and Lowe ain’t bad either. And then there’s Sondheim. Some examples:
- South Pacific
- The King and I
- West Side Story
- Moulin Rouge
- Funny Girl
- Glee (every season)
Just put on the second CD to Ben-Hur. I gotta write a paper for school.
TUESDAY: Michael Davis