TV Review: WELCOME TO SWEDEN

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Editor’s Note: Vote for me on the Laugh Your Way to Sweden contest! I’m at the bottom row wearing a striped shirt. My skit is called, “People Don’t Stop Anymore.” Just go here.

Welcome to Sweden,” NBC’s comedy about a NYC accountant who falls in love with a Swedish tourist (Sundays 8/7c) has a very funny challenge. Sweden is not known for being funny. Now, England, there’s a funny country. But Sweden, not so much. It’s this dichotomy of unfunny versus funny that makes this comedy so appealing.

There’s a great mix of deadpan and absurd humor to be found here. And you’d expect that from Amy Poehler. And now we come to also appreciate the comedic talents of her brother, Greg Poehler. After 12 years as a lawyer, in 2012, Greg Poehler started doing stand-up comedy in Sweden. At the same time, he began writing the script for what became his first TV series, Welcome to Sweden, in which he plays the lead part, in addition to his roles as head writer and producer. His sister, Amy Poehler, decided to produce the show after proofreading the script.

The first episode sets the tone for this quirky romantic comedy. While most of the characters choose to hide behind a Scandinavian reserve, they are also quite crafty and/or blunt when pushed. We begin with what should be a mild, if not pleasant, exchange between a young man asking for the blessing from the father of the woman he loves. Bruce Evans (played by Greg Poehler) starts out hoping for some goodwill from Birger Wiik (played by Claes Månsson). Instead, he gets a tidal wave of passive-aggressive shyness and resistance. And it turns out that Bruce did want more than just a handshake or a pat on the back. If it were left up to him, he would have gotten full-on validation and the longest and warmest of hugs. No such luck with Papa Wiik. Then, to really floor him, Bruce gets an unequivocal answer. Viveka Börjesson (played by Lena Olin), the woman that Bruce thinks he wants as his mother-in-law, simply says no.

NBC-Welcome-to-Sweden

The premise of the show is that one person in this equation is clearly a fish out of water. Bruce has uprooted himself to Sweden to be with the woman he loves. However, the woman he loves, Emma Wiik (played by Josephine Bornebusch) is not totally in her own element even though she has home court advantage. Emma is a bank executive. She’s the boss. People call her the “chairman of the board.” But Emma has met her match when a marketing expert seems to take over operations as she devises how to best give the bank a much needed image makeover. Diane (played by Neve Campbell) is a social media genius. Emma doesn’t even know what a meme is. Each time Diane attempts to take a flattering photo of Emma, it’s the same pained expression over and over. Diane, in frustration, tells Emma it should be impossible to maintain that same expression. This problem, like a meme, takes on a life of its own with very funny results.

I’m so glad this show popped up on my radar. It’s definitely something different. With an appealing self-deprecating charm, Greg Poehler makes a great fish out of water. It will be fun to see him at least try to overcome his situation.

To check out the show and watch free episodes, got to NBC right here.

And there’s a contest underway, that’s in its final days, where you can vote on your favorite fan tributes to the show. I couldn’t help entering. I feel that I tapped into some of that quirk factor working so well on the show. Whoever wins the most votes gets to go see the show on location in Sweden. Show your support and vote for my entry, People Don’t Stop Anymore, on the contest page right here.

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Filed under Amy Poehler, Comedy, Greg Poehler, Humor, NBC, NBC Universal, Sweden, Television

Seattle Focus: Review of DAY JOB at Ballard Underground, 7/18/2015

From clockwise: Caitie Auld, Kara O'Connor, Molly Tellers, & Nicole Santora

From clockwise: Caitie Auld, Kara O’Connor, Molly Tellers, & Nicole Santora

The sketch comedy troupe Day Job presented two shows at the Ballard Underground this last Friday and Saturday. Day Job is made up of what could very well be the only all-female sketch comedy group in Seattle. The members are Caitie Auld, Kara O’Connor, Molly Tellers, and Nicole Santora. The foursome is currently a threesome as Nicole is out on maternity leave. I caught the Saturday show which featured the comedic talents of Clara Lewis, Casey Middaugh, and Brittany Tipton.

The show kicked off with a long music intro as Clara Lewis took the stage. She wasn’t expecting so much music but gladly shimmied around. Then she launched into a most inspired set on millennial woes. There was also perfect use of fart jokes. In my view, a strategically placed fart joke will carry you through thick and thin. Placement one: Clara clued us in on how she craves letting her guard down and be able to fart if she chooses. Okay, something the audience can instantly relate to. Placement two: Clara distinguishes between letting a fart fend off a bad date before it happens and avoiding a fart end a good date before it happens. All very funny stuff. Clara provided a very quirky and charming set.

Music was everything for Casey Middaugh as her set was a mix of spoken word accompanied by a ukulele. Casey has a winning smile and easily won over the audience with her whimsical sense of humor. It seemed to come from a sweet, and lovingly loopy, place with a touch of Andy Kaufman and Lily Tomlin. Casey gracefully gave us a short tour of her childhood via anecdotes and even a song she wrote when she was six years old. It’s quite an awesome song involving teenagers, Hawaii, and Hula hoops.

Millennial woes from a different vantage point made up Brittany Tipton‘s set. Brittany was very generous in opening up to the audience. From where she sits, low expectations are nothing to sneeze at. But, if you want to hear a more ambitious attitude, then Brittany was game. She invited the audience to take part in a quick and free therapy session before she became a professional and would have to charge an arm and a leg. One brave soul came forward and claimed he was having misgivings about his career choice. Brittany, with a wink and a ton of irony, did the best to reassure him.

And then it was on to a variety of freewheeling and fast-paced sets by the Day Job comedy group. Let me say here that I was very impressed with everything I saw. When you think about it, on any given night, a comedy club is likely to have an all-male show. Of course, we have great female comics and we need to see more of them. Saturday’s show was an excellent example. Is the female sense of humor any different from the male view? Equal, at least. Maybe even better. It seems that certain details in character studies might be handled with more care from a feminine perspective. Sometimes males need to tap into their feminine side. That said, the Day Job crew were on their A game.

One of the most inventive and fully realized scenes from the Day Job set was Molly Tellers as a father clumsily trying to help his teen daughter, played by Caitie Auld, match up with the coolest boy in her high school, played by Kara O’Connor. I’ll break this one down as best I can. Molly has a gift for taking on her characters with a fun and physical gusto. Much of it depended upon just the right goofy voice along with spot on body language. It’s an immersive quality she achieves as she channels her version of a Homer Simpson-like dad. Caitie, as the teen daughter, is a whirlwind of emotional despair. She nails her teen character with determined grace. I think Caitie is a wonderful talent with a delightful presence. Kara, as the most eligible bachelor, is hilarious. With effortless ease, she taps into all the bravado and posturing of a hot teenage boy.

Be sure to catch DAY JOB (Caitie Auld, Kara O’Connor, and Molly Tellers) at Seattle SketchFest where they will be on September 26th at 7pm at The Annex Theatre.

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Filed under Comedians, Comedy, Seattle

Seattle Focus: DAY JOB Presents: ‘That Time of the Month’

Day-Job-Ballard-Underground-Seattle

Here at Comics Grinder we love our funny stuff. If you’re in Seattle, specifically if you’re wandering around Ballard wondering what’s up, make your way to the Ballard Underground this weekend. Starting up at 8:30pm, you can catch some of Seattle’s hottest talent as they focus on some serious women’s issues like, uh, “that time of the month.” I will provide y’all with a recap to Saturday’s show as that’s the one I’ll be able to make it out to. But, if you can, do see both!

Details follow:

July 17 – July 18
Jul 17 at 8:30pm to Jul 18 at 8:30pm

The Ballard Underground
2220 NW Market St Lowr LEVEL, Seattle, Washington 98107

Remember when we said we had no more live shows scheduled for the summer?! WE LIED. Day Job is taking a break from filming sketches to bring you two hilarious nights of comedy. We have the honor of featuring some of our favorite female comedians in the area and we cannot wait to debut this show! Everybody will be talking about their periods, moon cycles, and their favorite Cathy Comic…JK they’re gonna talk about whatever the fuck they want because they can!!!

Each night will feature a different line-up of pee-your-pants comedians followed by a 25 minute set by yours truly! Come join us for what we truly believe will be a show to remember! I mean come on, women?! Comedy?! Talk about a good joke!

Friday July 17th and Saturday July 18th at 8:30pm at The Ballard Underground. Pay-What-You-Can and come laugh your bandana off.

Friday July 17th:
Val Nigro
Seattle Sketch Group: SUPER FAMOUS featuring Lindsey Leonard & Randy Wood
Natalie Holt
Day Job

Saturday July 18th:
Brittany Tipton
Clara Lewis
Casey Middaugh
Day Job

For some more info, go here and here.

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Filed under Ballard, Ballard Underground, Comedy, Seattle

Review: ISLAND #1, published by Image Comics

Island-Brandon-Graham-Image-Comics

ISLAND is a whipsmart comics anthology brought to you by Image Comics. In the first issue, Brandon Graham provides a brief intro and we’re off and running. Work here is intro art by Marian Churchland, ongoing comic by Emma Rios, story by Kelly Sue DeConnick, ongoing comic by Brandon Graham, and ongoing comic by Ludroe.

Emma Rios presents a sci-fi thriller entitled, “I.D.” I love the clean linear quality to her artwork. Everyone looks hungry and jumpy. And that’s understandable considering a terrorist attack has just occurred in outer space. We open with a scene in a coffee shop. Just as you would expect, once a crisis has been declared by the media, hot-blooded youth feel compelled to do something. One outraged young man declares, “The streets should be burning these days!” To this remark, a woman gives him the most vicious of eye rolls. Anyway, that crisis is in the background. The focus is on the characters and some of them are desperate to change their bodies. Nice opener.

Kelly Sue DeConnick’s “Railbirds” is a poignant memoir that pays tribute to her friend, the poet, Maggie Estep. It is prose with illustrations by Emma Rios. We follow Kelly on a road to recovery from addiction and growing as a writer. You learn all about the “railbirds,” those overeager participants at the race track, in this moving story.

Brandon Graham’s “Ghost Town” is a tour de force adventure with his favorite couple, Nikoli and Sexica. This this chapter, the two try to enjoy brunch at a café that specializes in whale. A few other oddball things happen. No one gets blown up. Always excellent work.

And finally, there is Ludroe and his ongoing piece, “Dagger Proof Mummy,” which proves to be quite a revelation. I see a few touches of Graham’s influence in what is a very refreshing skater fantasy tale. Reno smokes a little too much weed. Dirk is a superstar skater. Will they ever be a cool couple like Nikoli and Sexica? Maybe not. Whatever the case, Dirk appears to have supernatural powers and presently he has made himself completely vanish during a mid-air daredevil jump.

ISLAND is published by Image Comics, priced at $7.99. It is brought to you by Pretty Deadly artist Emma Rios and King City writer/artist Brandon Graham. Each ongoing issue of this comics magazine runs 20 to 30 pages, ad free, with issue length chapters of new work from around the globe. The first issue is available as of June 15.

For more details, visit our friends at Image Comics right here.

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Filed under Anthologies, Brandon Graham, Comics, Comics Reviews, Image Comics

Review: Discovery Channel’s TREASURE QUEST: SNAKE ISLAND

Treasure-Quest-Snake-Island

There’s a disturbing scene in the new treasure hunt series from Discovery Channel. And it’s not about a shark attack or a snake attack. It’s during a meeting with the crew and the expedition leader, Cork Graham, is making a case for going to Snake Island to find a buried treasure of Incan gold. The island is crazy dangerous for many reasons. As final proof that they’re on the right track, Graham takes an overlay from a legendary map said to hold the treasure and places it directly over a map of modern day Snake Island, off the south eastern coast of Brazil. He keeps it there for all to see. But it’s not a match. It’s sort of a match. But not quite. And that symbolizes the leap of faith everyone is taking.

Herpetologist Bryan Fry and the Golden Lancehead pit viper.

Herpetologist Bryan Fry and the Golden Lancehead pit viper.

But it was never just about the gold, was it? No, it was never that simple. Look, we can go down the line. Take Graham, he’s as much in it to prove a youthful hunch from years ago. Then there’s ole Cappy, the boat captain. He’s in it for the glory. Mehgan, the expedition dive master, seems most interested with the historical significance of what they may find. Jeremy, the ship’s mechanic, seems most into the adventure and then with the possible big payday. And Bryan, the ship’s herpetologist, or snake expert, is in it for the snakes! Yeah, he is most eager to match wits with the legendary and dangerous golden lancehead pit viper. Sounds like a crew out of the pages of “Moby Dick” or “Jaws.” Surely, this is a cut above your typical reality TV show.

Treasure-Quest-2015

The more details you get about this expedition, the more of a mystery it becomes. So, yeah, maybe there is hidden Incan gold somewhere on Snake Island. Maybe all the theories add up. But, even if they did, how will this modern day crew do better than other missions going back hundreds of years? To add to the challenge, as the show makes clear, our crew may be made up of seasoned professionals but they’re also pretty much fish out of water. And, to their dismay and possible horror, they weren’t counting on modern day pirates. They thought about them in theory. But no so much in reality. And they’re very real. All in all, this is a story that should keep you hooked to the very end.

The six part series premieres on Friday, July 17 at 10 PM ET/PT on the Discovery Channel. For more details, visit our friends at Discovery right here.

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Filed under Discovery Channel, Reality TV, Television

Review: ‘Marilyn: The Story of a Woman’ by Kathryn Hyatt

Marilyn-Monroe-The-Story-of-a-Woman

“Marilyn: The Story of a Woman” is a graphic novel originally published in 1996 by Seven Stories Press. It caught my eye on my last visit on the last day of business at Seattle’s Cinema Books. Funny how we find our comics sometimes. A perfectly compelling work was just sitting on a shelf waiting for me to finally take notice. Kathryn Hyatt proves to be a devoted and thoughtful fan of all things to do with Marilyn Monroe, one of the most celebrated and misunderstood of Hollywood stars.

Stars burn bright and then they burn out. While this holds true for the career of Marilyn Monroe, that is only the briefest of descriptions. What Hyatt does is pay tribute to the human being and the artist. A mountain of books have been written about Marilyn Monroe but her unique life and work forever fascinate generating more and more stories. Hyatt carves out a path in search of some clarity.

Marilyn-Monroe-nude

Marilyn Monroe was the committed innocent artist. She was innocent in the sense that she was uncompromising in her pursuit of purity of purpose as she saw it. She had to overcome many obstacles none the least of which were her own feelings of low self-esteem. Even when she seemed to have a control over her own sexuality and image, she was still haunted by misgivings. Hyatt lovingly brings us into that world. For instance, the photo shoot that would lead to the iconic centerfold in Playboy was bittersweet. Hyatt evokes the scene with great empathy. Monroe may be thrilled by the attention upon her beautiful body but, at the same time, she only agrees to pose in order to get her car back from being repossessed. And she continues to replay harsh criticism from earlier years that she is “unphotogenic.”

Hyatt has a nice feel for capturing the mannerisms and movement of Monroe. It’s a mixture of a crunchy underground vibe and a more smooth and polished approach. The zest for pursuing her narrative is clearly there. What I’ve come to find in comics biographies is that the cartoonist’s depiction of the subject is akin to an actor’s portrayal. The best versions aren’t direct impersonations but are the creator’s unique interpretation. Hyatt mapped out in her mind the quintessential Monroe and everything that came before and after. She also had to map out what to focus on in the larger-than-life world of Monroe. And that process is akin to a novelist’s work. The overall result is quite stunning.

Marilyn-Monroe-Kathryn-Hyatt

Monroe’s sexuality was, and remains for us in her work, the undeniable focal point. There are a number of well-chosen scenes where Hyatt addresses this key issue. There are a certain number of depictions of Monroe nude which Hyatt handles with grace. Those depictions wouldn’t work if they were simply meant to titillate. If Hyatt had felt a need to really get provocative, she could have taken a lewd turn but, instead, she is interested in humanizing. In that regard, Hyatt includes a scene of Norma Jeane as a little girl appearing naked before her family. It’s an interesting harbinger. We come to see that Marilyn doesn’t have a problem with her own skin but that will not prove to be as simple out in the world.

Much in the same way that the Kennedy dynasty will forever fascinate, the life of Marilyn Monroe will always have something to say on a personal and a universal level. The theme of Hyatt’s book is a close look at a particular woman who managed, by sheer determination, to place herself in the forefront of public discourse. We see Norma Jeane’s struggle to become Marilyn Monroe. It happens gradually, by fits and starts, as she navigates casting couches and fickle to malicious critics. Through the process, she fully appreciated the status she achieved and gave back as much as she could. However, the misgivings would never go away. She was an innocent artist and that is the deeper layer that sustains her legacy.

“Marilyn: The Story of a Woman” can be found at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Biography, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, History, Hollywood, Kathryn Hyatt, Marilyn Monroe, Sex, Sexual Politics, Sexuality

It Happened in Seattle

Photo by Julia E. Light

Photo by Julia E. Light

Editor’s Note: Above photo is by Julia E. Light. Find her work here.

I moved to Seattle many years ago and, while I still like to travel, I find it to make a good home base. It used to be thought that Seattle was, despite the media scrutiny, the best kept secret. I moved in 1993. Grunge was in full tilt, Microsoft was on the rise, and Starbucks and Amazon were well on their way. The gray skies were oddly reassuring. The mellow weather was a welcome relief from the humid burden of Houston. And, just like Elvis, I swaggered my way onto the scene. I painted. I drew. I photographed. I wrote. Little by little, it happened in Seattle.

Today, I continue to paint, draw, photograph, and write. And I blog.

Many years ago, I set out to create meaningful work. In the end, I wanted things to add up to something that could be called art. I never stopped believing. And I never will.

Over time, I developed a specific working method. I write in notebooks that eventually make their way onto a laptop and so on. I sketch in a sketchbook. I draw and photograph something every day. Over the years, along with prose and drawings, I have created a number of comics. One of my earliest creations was a full length comic book entitled, MAN (sic). The title alone cracked me up but the content wasn’t particularly humorous. It was a collection of stories, some based on dreams and some just poetic observations. I believe that was around 1996. It was fun and underground. It came and went.

Today, I have much to be grateful for and look forward to. I have created more than enough work in comics to easily fill more than one collection. For now, I have the book of collected work, A Night at the Sorrento and Other Stories. At some point, it’s important to gather up one’s work, organize it, scrutinize it, and get it published one way or another. Only then, can you feel like you can move on to something else. And I am definitely working on that.

In the future, I want to show my art more, get more work published, and keep on writing. I consider posting to this blog a very important part of my writing. Some posts are only meant to be lighthearted and others run deeper. The activity of blogging is useful in so many ways. It’s one of those habits that I’m more than happy to continue to indulge indefinitely in one way or another.

Times will continue to change. Lives will continue to change. You do well to hold on to as much consistency as possible. Whether as a state of mind, or as an everyday ritual, it has happened, continues to happen, for me in Seattle.

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Filed under Art, Comics, Creativity, Essays, Julia E. Light, Photography, Seattle, writers, writing

Denny’s Brings You The SLAMTASTIC 4 Menu: Superhero Grub!

Denny's Slamtastic menu: Human Torch Skillet, Fantastic Four-Cheese Omelette, Invisible Woman Slam, and The Thing Burger

Denny’s Slamtastic menu: Human Torch Skillet, Fantastic Four-Cheese Omelette, Invisible Woman Slam, and The Thing Burger

FANTASTIC FOUR arrives in theaters on August 7th and Denny’s is part of the action. Comics Grinder heard the call and went over to try out Denny’s new “Slamtastic 4″ menu. For a limited time, you have these superhero-inspired items to choose from:

Human Torch Skillet
A hearty breakfast sausage with seasoned red-skinned potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, fire-roasted bell peppers and onions, jalapeños and freshly made pico de gallo served on a sizzlin’ hot skillet. Topped with new spicy five pepper sauce, Pepper Jack queso and two eggs cooked to order.

Fantastic Four-Cheese Omelette
Delicious omelette stuffed with melted Cheddar, Swiss, Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, fresh spinach, diced bacon, onions and mushrooms tossed in a blend of sun-dried tomatoes and herbs. Topped with diced tomatoes and served with hash browns and your choice of bread.

Invisible Woman Slam
Two buttermilk pancakes cooked with blueberries, topped with fresh strawberries, banana slices and drizzled with a clear citrus glaze. Served with two eggs cooked to order, two bacon strips or two sausage links and hash browns.

The Thing Burger
Hand-pressed beef patty topped with crispy hash browns, an egg cooked to order, Cheddar cheese, two crispy bacon strips and punch-packing Thing sauce. Served on a Cheddar bun with a side of wavy-cut French fries.

Denny's in Seattle's SoDo District

Denny’s in Seattle’s SoDo District

I decided to test out a couple of these items: Invisible Woman Slam and The Thing Burger. I chose the Denny’s in Seattle’s SoDo District. This proved to be an excellent choice. My waitress was gracious and attentive. The whole place has a perfect vintage charm to it. I got a booth and contemplated the view. Sure, this is an industrial district so it’s a pretty pared-down scene but it has a nice blue collar vibe. People were enjoying conversation. The pace was quick and upbeat.

My drawing while at Denny's of The Thing about to devour The Thing Burger

My drawing while at Denny’s of The Thing about to devour The Thing Burger

So, it all began on a beautiful morning with thoughts of the upcoming Fantastic Four movie. As the official synopsis states, we’ve got “four young outsiders who teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe, which alters their physical form in shocking ways.” Looks like we’re going for an in-depth origin story. Perfect daydreaming for a cartoonist such as myself in a diner I admire. So, I kicked back for a few minutes, mind relaxed, and drew The Thing about to devour The Thing Burger.

The Thing Burger

The Thing Burger

With a pleasing dining experience to savor, ah, we can conquer the world. The Thing Burger! Yes, a lot would depend upon the “punch-packing Thing sauce” and it delivered! It proved to be a great complement to the tasty hand-pressed beef patty.

Invisible Woman Slam

Invisible Woman Slam

And the Invisible Woman Slam was utterly delightful. Truly good pancakes, nice and hot off the grill. Who doesn’t enjoy a classic breakfast, am I right? Hash browns, eggs, bacon, sausage! Well, Denny’s is indeed America’s diner. I had a great time and look forward to my next visit, and the one after that. It’s also easy to get to thanks to Seattle’s light rail system so I have no complaints at all.

Be sure to visit Denny’s whenever the mood strikes you and check out their current featured Slamtastic 4 menu. For more details, visit our friends at Denny’s right here.

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Filed under Comics, Denny's, Fantastic Four, Food, Marvel Comics, Promotions, Superheroes

Comic-Con 2015 Movie Review: ‘Vintage Tomorrows’

Historian James Carrott poses with Cherie Priest. Photo by Ben Z. Mund

Historian James Carrott poses with Cherie Priest. Photo by Ben Z. Mund

“Vintage Tomorrows” has got to be the best title you could give a documentary on the steampunk movement and it lives up to it. This is a much-needed comprehensive look, both informative and quite a lot of fun. The documentary made its world premiere at the Comic-Con Int’l Independent Film Festival this last weekend.

Produced and directed by Byrd McDonald, this documentary is based on the book, “Vintage Tomorrows,” by James Carrott and Brian David Johnson. They’re in the doc and so are many other notable figures. Interviews and appearances include authors William Gibson and Bruce Sterling (The Difference Engine), Cherie Priest (Boneshaker), China Miéville (Perdido Street Station), Cory Doctorow (Makers), Gail Carriger (The Parasol Protectorate series), Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett (Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel), Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (Steampunk, The Steampunk Bible), Nisi Shawl (Everfair) and Phil and Kaja Foglio (Girl Genius), and founder of Steampunk Magazine Margaret ‘Magpie’ Killjoy.

What’s all the fuss about, you ask? The story of steampunk, followers will tell you, is for everyone. To give a sense of the many voices and answers to the question, “What is steampunk?” we begin with a whirlwind of responses from many of the participants. Initial segments are sliced together with one person seeming to complete another’s sentence. “Steampunk is…” leads to answers such as “based upon science fiction of the 19th century” and on down to line to rallying cries such as, “you show up in a top hat and spats and you’re there to cause a riot!”

For an ostensibly literary movement, you would expect a rather low-key and subtle vibe running throughout. And, darn it, that is basically what you have and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, what people who are involved with steampunk would have you know is that there’s a strong sense of wonder, adventure, and excitement attached as well. And things are evolving. What may have begun as a quirky meeting of minds, circa 2005, has found formidable and creative leaders in the last ten years.

Steampunk today takes itself more seriously. The irreverence has been tempered a bit with a higher level of self-scrutiny. For instance, as the documentary explains, in order to be more inclusive, steampunk needed to confront the Victorian era’s colonialism and elitism. While history is what it is, attempts are made to address the past. For instance, you hear one participant say she no longer wears a pith helmet, an obvious symbol to her of colonialism.

Attempts to bring the Victorian era into the 21st century are likely to always be weird but that is part of steampunk. Enthusiasts will tell you that a big method to the madness is an attempt to get back to something tactile and real. While a steampunk follower may own an iPhone or iPad, that doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t do it grudgingly. A recurring battle cry is that we’ve lost something vital with today’s technology. There is no steampunk smart phone or laptop. However, we have each other. We have community. Steampunk encourages you to not be afraid to look backward as you find your way forward.

Be sure to visit the official Vintage Tomorrows website right here.

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Filed under Comic-Con, Documentaries, pop culture, Steampunk

Farewell to Seattle’s Cinema Books

Cinema Books, 4753 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle

Cinema Books, 4753 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle

We say farewell to a true Seattle landmark, the shop that’s catered to a movie lover’s needs since 1977, Cinema Books. It used to be that a sizable part of a fun date in the U-District could take place all on one block. On the corner of Roosevelt and 50th, housed within a structure that looks like it was an old Victorian house at one time, you would have dinner at Ristorante Doria, see a cool indie movie at Seven Gables, and lose yourself amid the stacks of movie memorabilia at Cinema Books.

Cinema Books is shutting its doors. This is its last weekend of sales. The final day is July 15th. I’ve been a Seattle native since 1993 and I would stop by now and then and browse the shelves. I was never a regular visitor but I valued every occasion. I found the owner, Stephanie Ogle, to be quite gracious. And, I suppose, I just took it for granted that the place would always be around. Well, of course, the fate of independent bookstores has become decidedly precarious.

There is simply no other place like Cinema Books in Seattle and nothing on the horizon to fill the void. The amount of material on view is quite staggering. Lately, my schedule has allowed me to stop by and check in on Cinema Books in its last days. It sort of pained me as I watched collectors and enthusiasts pile in and take advantage of the marked-down prices. Here were all these people who had never set foot in the store before and now, like culture vultures, they were leaving with armfuls of books. I could see an uptick in activity with each new visit. Quite frankly, I found myself buying one item and then another and another.

Gwili Andre, "America's Most Beautiful Model," 1932

Gwili Andre, “America’s Most Beautiful Model,” 1932

One curious gem led to another. How about a postcard of Gwili Andre? She was known as “America’s Most Beautiful Model” when David O. Selznick brought her to Hollywood in 1932. Alas, after ten films, RKO was unable to turn her into a star. Who Knew? Who will know? Yes, it’s all supposed to be on the internet but you still need to know where to look.

"Screening the Novel: Rediscovered American Fiction in Film" by Gabriel Miller

“Screening the Novel: Rediscovered American Fiction in Film” by Gabriel Miller

It is only in such a place as Cinema Books that each new visit is rewarded in unexpected ways. It saddens me that we’re losing this little haven. A haven that offers something precious. Hard-to-find and rare items are simply what they are. There are only so many out-of-print books. And they’re not all on Amazon. For instance, you won’t readily find a book I just bought from Cinema Books. How many places do we still have where you can stumble upon a treat in real time, hold it, examine it, maybe even discuss it a bit with real people in real time? Less and less.

How must Ms. Ogle feel about all of this? I’m sure she was experiencing a sense of loss that she was still processing. And yet, as far as I could tell, she was taking it all in stride.

Judy Garland, "The Wizard of Oz," 1939

Judy Garland, “The Wizard of Oz,” 1939

Observing Ms. Ogle with her patrons, it looked like it was business as usual in that moment. For these remaining moments, the show must go on. Judy Garland. Mae West. Marlene Dietrich. German Expressionism. Steven Spielberg. The Bowery Boys. Fatty Arbuckle. Hedda Hopper. Hitchcock. Tarantino. All of Hollywood, all of filmmaking, was still in play in that little store, that little magic shop. You’re looking for an anthology of Hollywood crime stories? Yes, we’ve got it. How about the definitive guide to film from 1946? Yes, it’s still here. All the memories. All the ghosts. Everything still swirling about, still dancing, for the moment.

"Charly," directed by Ralph Nelson, 1968

“Charly,” directed by Ralph Nelson, 1968

One of my purchases was an original movie poster for the 1968 film, “Charly,” starring Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom. I gravitated to the iconic image. I had taken it down from where it was pinned and was about to roll it up when Ms. Ogle quickly said, “No!” I waited for her next move. “You want to fold it up at the creases. That’s how the studios used to send posters to the theaters. It will keep best that way. Once you’re ready to hang it up, then you can smooth out the creases.” I gratefully followed her advice. Another treasure safely made its way out the door.

Perhaps the sense of loss was outweighed by a sense of freedom. All those items, all that clutter, would soon be gone. It brings to mind the recent collective sigh from the media at the sight of the entire set to “Late Show with David Letterman” in a dumpster. Heck, where was it supposed to go? Well, in the heat of the moment, no one had planned for that. Things change. Things need to go. Decisions need to be made. Either someone walks away with it or it needs to be demolished. We move on.

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