David Schmader is an American writer known for his solo plays, his writing for the Seattle newsweekly The Stranger, and his annotated screenings of Paul Verhoeven’s “Showgirls.” He is the author of the 2016 book “Weed: The User’s Guide.” And he is the Creative Director of the Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas, a literary arts center offering free programs for youth ages 6 to 18. I had the opportunity to interview David and discuss better approaches to community and seeking common ground. Locally, for those of us who are a part of the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle, we have been undergoing a recharge, a rallying around, after a gas leak explosion that tore into the fabric of everyday life. With BFI preparing to return to its original Greenwood site this month, it seemed to me a good time to check in with a thoughtful leader in our community. I begin our interview going back to that March 9th gas leak explosion in the middle of the night. Fueled with cups of coffee, we settled in at Couth Buzzard Books for this interview.
Tag Archives: Creativity
Interview: David Schmader on Literacy, Neighborhoods, LGBTQ, and Cannabis
Filed under Cannabis, Education, Gay, LGBTQ, Literacy, Marijuana, Seattle, The Stranger, Youth
Movie Review: YOUTH
An emissary from the Queen of England (played by Alex Macqueen) has been tasked to persuade Fred Ballinger (played by Michael Caine) to come out of retirement and conduct his most popular work, “The Simple Songs,” one last time. Ballinger refuses due to personal reasons. He would much rather make music by manipulating a candy wrapper between his fingers. His skill and ability is still alive, albeit at a supernatural level, as we later see when he literally conducts a pasture full of cows. Well, he must have some pretty compelling personal reasons to refuse Her Majesty. And so begins writer/director Paolo Sorrentino’s “Youth.”
Amid the backdrop of an otherworldly resort away from everything, we find a number of people, young and old, confronting or avoiding their lives. Fred Ballinger has made a friend there upon whom he relies for good company. This is the famed film director Mick Boyle (played by Harvey Keitel). If Ballinger is having difficulty with one pivotal time in his career, then Boyle is struggling to sustain his legend. He’s hired out and brought with him to stay at the resort, a coterie of young and hapless would-be writers to help him complete his next cinematic masterpiece. Instead, Boyle spends most of the time lecturing them on life. In one brilliant scene, he demonstrates the difference between youth and old age with a telescope. Look through it and things seem close, like in youth. Look through the other end, and things seem far away, like in old age. His staff can only nod and agree with him.
And then there’s Jimmy Tree (played by Paul Dano) who fears he will never live down his role as “Q” in a popular sci-fi television program. Dano seems to be playing a man at least twenty years older than himself and he’s great at it. This is the sort of thing that Peter Sellers would have done to perfection in his prime. Tree is sympathetic to Ballinger’s plight. In another spot on scene, Tree empathizes with Ballinger having to wear his most popular work like an Albatross around his neck. “A moment of frivolity can be dangerous,” responds Ballinger.
It’s not just growing old that is a bone of contention. Those who are in the midst of youth can also find it bewildering and frustrating too. One young and nubile masseuse in particular, (played by Luna Zimic Mijovic) steals the screen whenever she appears. Mijovic’s uninhibited sexuality is irresistible and mesmerizing. She has established an understanding with Ballinger which gives her some control, at least over someone else. In contrast to that character’s powerful but unsteady position is Madalina Diana Ghenea as Miss Universe. Apparently, she’s at the resort just for a little R & R. She is, no doubt, gorgeous and manages to project an elegance and intellect even while simply gliding nude into a pool. If she has any problems, it is in having to convince others that she is smart and far from vulnerable.
The one person in the role of a bridge between the past and present is Ballinger’s daughter, Lena (played by Rachel Weisz). It is her unenviable position to have her life abruptly unravel when her husband runs off with another woman during her visit with her father. Her wayward husband, Julian (played by Ed Stoppard) happens to be the son of Harvey Keitel’s character, Boyle. In an amusing scene, Boyle and Ballinger not only interrogate Julian but also his new love, a pop star (Paloma Faith, playing herself!) Of course, Julian is a grown man and in no need of lecturing. Both Balliner and Boyle realize this but they welcome the distraction nonetheless.
Finally, there’s that special scene with Jane Fonda as Brenda Morel, who starred in Boyle’s best work. She lets Boyle have it by letting him know how far off the mark he’s gotten. In a film that evokes a Fellini sense of wonderment, this is an all-time great cameo.
“Youth” speaks to the common desire to be young forever, and fear of growing old, by seeing youth not as something fleeting but as something sempiternal. In old age, we can return to youth, if we’re open and brave to confronting our ambitions and missteps. To see each main character grapple with the folly and substance of youth makes for some of the most memorable moments you will find in contemporary cinema.
Filed under Creativity, Hollywood, Michael Caine, Movie Reviews, movies, Paolo Sorrentino, Youth
It Happened in Seattle
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.
Filed under Art, Comics, Creativity, Essays, Julia E. Light, Photography, Seattle, writers, writing
A Recap to ‘What’s Up Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones’ at the EMP Museum in Seattle From a Cartoonist’s Perspective
I was the guest cartoonist at the grand opening of “What’s Up Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones” at the EMP Museum in Seattle this Saturday, June 13, 2015. My role there was primarily to draw. I was there to do what I know and love, draw comics. In this case, comics with a Chuck Jones theme. I was simply there to express as much as I could about what I know and love about the world of Chuck Jones. Yikes! Where to begin? Well, one rabbit ear at a time.
Review: THIS IS CEZANNE, published by Laurence King Publishing
Like Van Gogh, Cezanne (1839–1906) stood out from his contemporaries. He was the original bad boy, or “enfant terrible.” He was brash, experimental, and ahead of his time. Unlike Van Gogh, his life and work is not nearly as familiar to the general public. “This is Cezanne,” part of the This is Art series from Laurence King Publishing, provides an inviting and illuminating look at a most intriguing and influential artist. You will delight in this work, monograph by Jorella Andrews and illustrations by Patrick Vale.
Cezanne first gained notoriety, or infamy, from his paintings that parodied some of the leading figures from the older generation of artists. It shocked. It offended. It was a sensation. And that common thread of sensation ran through his later work concerned with the tactile and immersive. A rebel to the end, Cezanne did enjoy working with conventional compositions (still life, plein air, domestic scene), often with a sardonic twist and, just as often, with a gentle quality.
Bad boy antics aside, Cezanne was deeply interested in art tradition at its roots, going back to basics of line and color. This was also of great interest to a fellow artist provocateur, Edouard Manet. The two of them lampooned mindless art traditionalists. However, they could both be found in the Louvre studying the masters…on their own terms, gleaning what they needed.
“This is Cezanne” is available now. Visit our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here. You can also find this book at Amazon right here.
Filed under Art, Art books, Art History, Cezanne, Laurence King Publishing, Modern Art
Interview: Jason V Brock and the World of Fantasy and Science Fiction
Jason V Brock is an author, artist, and filmmaker who finds himself in a very interesting place in pop culture. For starters, he has created two well-regarded documentaries that focus on two very different men, both great contributors to science fiction, horror, movies, television, and the arts in general. One is Charles Beaumont. The other is Forrest J Ackerman. We chat about them and the creative process. How do you create art? One rule of thumb: Do it yourself! We begin with a look back at Brock’s childhood and how he, a child of the ’80s, grew up with the DIY ethos. In Charlotte, North Carolina. That’s where Brock cut his teeth on comics, retro cinema, vintage LPs, pulp fiction, and Playboy. Brock began working at his local comic book shop at the age of 13. His dad was a writer and graphic designer. It sounds like an idyllic way to grow up, right out of a Ray Bradbury story.
Speaking of stories,there are so many stories to cover just in Brock’s documentary on Beaumont. Take the case of the short story, “The Crooked Man,” by Charles Beaumont. It is a classic today that was highly controversial for the time, circa 1955. It imagined a society where homosexuality was predominant while hetrosexuality was outlawed. The story was bought by Esquire but subsequently was not published. It turned out to also be too hot for the pages of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. But when Playboy published it in 1955, then that same story became okay, more than okay. Charles Beaumont sold his first science fiction story, “The Devil You Say,” to Amazing Stories in 1950. By 1954, he had written the first work of fiction, the landmark work, “Dark Country,” to appear in Playboy in 1954. This kicked off over a decade of Beaumont stories in Playboy. Writing for movies and televison soon followed including some of the best episodes of “The Twilight Zone.” All this, and so much more, before his life was cut short at 38 by a mysterious illness.
And, that gives you some sense of what to expect in Brock’s “Charles Beaumont: Short Life of Twilight Zone’s Magic Man.” You can find that documentary as well as Brock’s documentary on Famous Monsters of Filmland’s former editor, Forrest J Ackerman (Uncle Forry), “The AckerMonster Chronicles!” right here.
We also chat about Brock’s work in editing and writing his own stories. This led us to discussing a unique pairing of talents. In the course of working on the Beaumont documentary, Brock got to know one of the members of the Southern California Writer’s Group, William F. Nolan. They struck up a solid friendship. When Nolan was at a turning point on where he wanted to live next, it was a reasonable choice for him to move a bit further north from Bend, Oregon to Brock’s neighborhood in Vancouver, Washington. It turned out to be a natural fit and Brock and his wife, Sunni, could not be happier to share meals but not only that. Bill Nolan became family and you look out for family.
Among Brock’s impressive editorial work, there’s the recent anthology, from 2014, “A Darke Phantastique.” This is a 730-page lushly illustrated collection of some of the best dark horror fiction around with more than fifty stories, poems, and one teleplay. This includes Joe R. Lansdale’s “The Case of the Four-Acre Haunt”; Paul Kane’s “Michael the Monster”; William F. Nolan’s “The Last Witch”; Nathaniel Lee’s “The Wisest Stone and the Zoo”; Derek Künsken’s “The Buddha Circus”; E.E. King’s “Three Fables”; Jason Maurer’s “In Your Dark: Differing Strategies in Subhuman Integration Through Monster Academies” and S.T. Joshi’s “You’ll Reach There in Time.” “A Darke Phantastique” is published by Cicatrix Press and you can find it here.
And another recent anthology, out this year, is “Disorders of Magnitude.” This is a 336-page overview of the genres of horror, science fiction, and the supernatural. It will prove useful to anyone who wants a better understanding of the roots of one of today’s dominant forms of entertainment and art. Included in this collection are essays, reviews, and interviews. Brock studies such dynamic figures as H. P. Lovecraft, Forrest J Ackerman, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, Rod Serling, and William F. Nolan. This collection also includes filmmakers Roger Corman, George Romero, and Dan O’Bannon, and such fantasy artists as H. R. Giger. “Disorders of Magnitude” is published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. You can find it as Amazon right here.
You can listen to our conversation by clicking the link below. For anyone interested in writing, filmmaking, and creativity in general, there’s something here for you. Enjoy.
And be sure to visit Jason and Sunni Brock at JaSunni Productions to find out more about their products and services right here.
LA Journal: iO West and the World of Comedy Improv
Comedy is a serious business. Let that sink in for a moment. It’s a dangerous business too. Why else would some people rather have an eye poked out than stand up on stage and let it all hang out in the world of comedy improv? One of the best places in the whole wide world to answer such questions, and so much more, is iO West.
I laughed, and learned, so much from my visit to iO West. And it left me with plenty to process and incorporate into my own life, comedy-related or not. Let’s just say that what goes on in improv applies to life in a myriad of ways. Want to be a better problem-solver? Improv has got you covered. Want to be more creative? Improv all the way. Oh, yeah, want to be a better comedian, actor, and/or writer? Improv! Lucky for you, iO West is not only the place to see improv, it is also the place to train in improv. It also happens to be the place all the winners go to, like Amy Poehler. You know, the coolest and most successful comics and writers on the planet.
Go with your first instinct. That’s the golden rule. You think you’ve got something funny to say? Say it! Blurt it out and see what happens. You can see how that would apply to other aspects of your life. Everything under the sun, really. Don’t be afraid to go with your first thoughts. That’s what I got to see at a high level of skill. These were performances put on my teams of comics. Each team takes the stage and begins with a cue from the audience. They’re given something to work with and then create a narrative. How about the scintillating theme of…condiments? Or the alluring topic of being called a…schmuck. What is a schmuck, really? Well, a loser. This process of making with the funny is known as “Yes, and…” or “The Harold.” What it all comes down to is that this kind of contact sport comedy is as good as its players.
I took in a couple of sets from two fierce and hilarious House Harold teams, Heyday and King Ten. The key is trust. Each player makes a leap of faith that what he or she blurts out will be caught by another player and will either continue or be redirected or will be discreetly obliterated.
The object of the game is to not think, or not overthink. Do that when you’re writing. Just write. You already know this. But it always helps to remember that. You just do it. You edit later.
An improv team is both writing on the fly and editing on the fly. Heyday and King Ten are master storytellers able to create whole worlds from a single audience suggestion. Each team is made up of stellar players, like Heyday’s Mort Burke. I knew I’d seen him before somewhere. I saw him at the Seattle Improv Fest a while back. I really appreciate his droll style. If you’re performing at iO West, you’ve got the chops after many years of hard work, like Karen Graci, who is part of King Ten and is also an instructor at iO West. She has a distinctive bubbly vibe to her. Well, like I say, each player has his or her own unique qualities.
For me, I would love the danger of performing on stage. You would feel naked on stage, wouldn’t you? Ever have that dream where you’re naked while in a classroom full of students? Usually, you’re also taking a final exam. What does it mean? You want to bare your soul? You want to be, if you aren’t already, a nudist? How about: Everything is peeled away and you’re being tested. I have that dream a lot and I like it. I think it means I want to challenged. Reminds me of a comedy show I recently saw in Seattle and one set had a comic incorporate a confessional narrative with actually stripping down to nearly nothing. There’s a need in performers to expose a greater truth, let people see them raw. Yes, comedy is a serious business. It’s also an empowering business. Brings me back to the concept of “Yes, and…”
iO West is located at 6366 Hollywood Boulevard. If you are visiting Los Angeles, you need to go here. Did I mention the great drinks at great prices? Yes, you can order from the comfort of your own seat while watching the show too. If you want great comedy, if you want a taste of the real LA, then visit our friends at iO West right here.
Filed under Comedians, Hollywood, iO West, LA Journal, Los Angeles, Seattle Improv Fest
Review: Earth Runners and the Earthing Movement
Roy made himself comfortable by the fireplace. “You should get on with sharing your findings on those Earth Runners.”
“You’re right,” I said, “Now’s a particularly good time, don’t you think?”
“Well,” Roy nodded, “anytime is a good time. Now is a very good time. I’d add it to your burgeoning holiday gift coverage.”
“You’re right! No time to lose! I mean, considering how many people are still not aware of Earthing, tapping into the earth’s healthy energy. Thomas Jefferson’s regular morning routine was to dunk his feet in ice-cold water. He knew his feet were portals to jump-starting his mind and body. I can’t help but think that, if Jefferson tried on a pair of Earth Runners, he’d quickly pick up on the craftsmanship and design and would wholeheartedly approve! And when it comes to Earthing, Jefferson would have been a big fan too.”
“Alright then, get on with it!”
Filed under Creative Living, Creativity, Earth, Earth Runners, Earthing, Grounding, Minimalist Sandals, Sandals
Creative Living: Meredith Clark
From Meredith Clark’s “Residence,” a collection of poems:
The Inside pocket of his jacket.
Wool. The wind picked round
the owling boats. Found on the
wharf: a sheaf of black and white
landscapes, hand-tinted; flung in a
Meredith Clark enjoys working with small spaces, merging image to words, finding deeper meaning. In the above excerpt, we have an ambiguous image attached to a locale and to a poem. It is part of a collection of such arrangements on postcards creating a mysterious travelogue.
If you live in Seattle, you may have seen Meredith Clark at one of her street performances where she dutifully sits with a typewriter awaiting requests for a poem. That is one aspect of what she does and she finds these actions fascinating. She is always pleased to learn what the poem means to the recipient. She recounts one instance where the person had quite a palpable experience to the poem she wrote for him. It reminded him of something that was not literally in the poem but had managed to be drawn out nonetheless.
What resides between the said and the unsaid it what poetry can excavate.
I met Meredith as a local coffee shop and we took the time to focus on the subject of creativity. What does it take to be creative? How can we all be creative? It was just a conversation with no expectations to find solutions.
For Meredith, creativity is a selective process, a matter of what to leave in and what to leave out. It was the study of photography that opened up the possibilities of writing. She had always seen herself as a writer but it wasn’t until graduate work that she truly saw how framing a subject for a photograph was analogous to the editing process in writing as well as finding a subject to write about in the first place. It is these considerations that have served her well ever since.
So, you want to write but what do you write about? That’s where that photography analogy is so helpful. You concentrate on what is in the frame. You write about that. Well, not literally. But that’s what you can play off of. It frees you up. You are no longer attempting to write some stereotypical version of the Great American Novel. Instead, you’re getting to write in a deeper way. We chat about experimental writers that have helped pave the way to free up writers, going back to Donald Barthelme and his integrating words and images to the more recent trailblazing by Mark Z. Danielewski. Meredith recalls with delight a recent visit to Seattle by Danielewski. One member of the audience gleefully said that, since reading him, she feels she can now write anything!
Not everyone feels compelled to express themselves. Then you consider that we are not a nation, let alone a planet, of readers. Literacy rates are abysmal. The reading public is a relatively select group compared with everyone else. It’s a formidable minority with massive purchasing power but a minority all the same. Is it any surprise that most people are not in touch with their creative side? It is seen as a luxury, as something you shed away with childhood. It doesn’t have to be that way. In some respects, people like Meredith are role models even if she doesn’t seek that out.
We talk about how the internet has changed everything. That reminds Meredith of being a substitute teacher for a high school English class. She appreciated that the students were preparing for exams and suggested to them that they write out on paper an outline to help organize their thoughts. The class stared at her blankly. One student said that no one writes with a pen and paper anymore. What else do students not do anymore? Meredith believes that no one bothers to edit themselves anymore. “The internet,” she says, “takes away the ability to be deeply impressed by anything.”
You simply cannot appreciate one subject, while you have numerous others on a screen, in the same meaningful way when your attention isn’t compromised. And an image on a screen, of course, is never going to replace the real thing.
Those of us who are creative people are most sensitive to the pitfalls, distractions, and unforeseen factors that can derail a creative life. Meredith recalls an English professor relating his story of early success, being published in The Paris Review at age 18. It took him a decade to get over it, to recover his bearings and be able to write again. Just think of it, suddenly that aspiring writer has landed a major book deal, and he has no need for his day job. However, once he’s abruptly untethered himself from his routine, he finds he can’t write. No one said life would be easy, even when it seems to have done just that.
Meredith is at work on a memoir. You can find Meredith Clark’s “Residence” collection here. And you also read Meredith’s poem, “Land,” here.
Filed under Art, Books, Creative Living, Creativity, Meredith Clark, Poetry
Creative Living: Kathy J. and SHIFT: WHERE HEAD MEETS HEART
Comics Grinder is a place for creativity and wellness. Comics Grinder is all about Creative Living! In that spirit, we present to you someone who is a great supporter of that mindset, Kathy J. and SHIFT: WHERE HEAD MEETS HEART.
Kathy J. is a good friend. She has provided some essential craniosacral therapy for me and has proven to be an inspiration, a fabulous morale booster. I am thrilled to have her as a backer of my recent Kickstarter campagin for my collection of comics, A NIGHT AT THE SORRENTO AND OTHER STORIES. That Kickstarter campaign was a success! Kathy chose as her reward, a video interview, which I am happy to share with you at Comics Grinder.
Yes, Comics Grinder is obviously more than one thing as it covers a wide range of topics, none the least being wellness and creativity. You can’t get very far without your health!
If you’re in the Seattle area, please do stop by and visit Kathy. She has got you covered regarding your health and beyond. Stop by and check out her site here.
The following provides news on Kathy’s latest workshop plus more:
Filed under Art, Comics Grinder, Creative Living, Creativity, Health, Wellness, writing