Tag Archives: Youth

Webcomic Review: MY ROOMMATE, THE INTERNET

MY ROOMMATE, THE INTERNET

“My Roommate, The Internet” is a very good title. If it were a play, I’d go to the theater to see it. If it were a game, I’d play it. For now, perhaps forever, it is a webomic and it does a fine job of it. A lot of us out there have created, or attempted comic strips. Some of us, like myself, did a comic strip in college. I peg this one as that sort of thing and done well. Back in the day, home-grown college comic strips were a big thing. I suppose they still are. Writer Andy Nordvall and artist Alexander Neish have climbed on the shoulders of many a comic about young people just hanging out. “My Roommate, The Internet” succeeds in having a distinctive irreverence and tapping into the zeitgeist.

Young people, in many respects, have not changed all that much in the last few decades. Attitudes have changed dramatically. Styles have changed dramatically. And so on. But a sad sack slacker from fifty years ago could pretty easily navigate the same couch and bag of potato chips as his brethren of today. Okay, the big difference would be…the internet! Nice segue back to our review. The premise of this webcomic is dealing with a roommate who is “as annoying as the internet.” That already sounds so goofy that I can’t help but want to check it out. It makes me think of a bad suggestion thrown out to an improv comedy troupe. But that’s okay. That’s totally okay.

It’s what Nordvall and Neish do with their oddball premise that matters, right? I’m thinking a nice mix of jokes and character-driven narrative. It’s a weekly comic. It’s just a question of developing both the jokes and characters. In general, that’s a tough slog so I’m not looking for a home run every single time. I’m looking for passion and consistency–and I see that. Do I see more? I think so. The gags have a good offbeat timing. Neish is having fun with facial expression. Both of these guys are having fun and that carries over to the reader. All in all, nice work.

In general, a comic strip, dealing with regular deadlines, is vulnerable to burn out. It happens to the best of them. Jokes repeat themselves. Material can feel like just filler. My recommendation to these guys is to play up the internet theme for all its worth. If, for example, you have a problem with trolls on Reddit, then bang that drum as loud as you can! If you become frustrated by social media etiquette, then let everyone know just how frustrated you are! So, if I have a gripe or criticism to express about this comic strip, it would just be a very general disdain for holding back and being relatively too nice. I think these two guys are on the right track. Just keep exercising those creative muscles and you’ll keep getting more and more awesome.

One last word, I only do some ranting because I care. I am holding you guys to a very high standard and I’m confident in your work. I’m told that Nordvall and Neish welcome followers. I think these guys are on the right track and you should follow them. You can find them, and follow them, at these fine locations: Instagram, Twitter, Patreon, Tumblr, and Facebook.

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Filed under Comics, Humor, Internet, Satire, Webcomics

Review: SCORCHED EARTH collection by Tom Van Deusen

SCORCHED EARTH collection by Tom Van Deusen

SCORCHED EARTH collection by Tom Van Deusen

A wretched staleness in the air. Lost souls strewn about. And it’s all played up for laughs! Welcome to the wonderful world of cartoonist Tom Van Deusen. I really admire Tom’s style, in person and in his comics. Tom is a very likable and professional gent. So, it’s a unique treat to then read his comics featuring Tom’s vile and hateful alter ego. I reviewed a couple of issues of his Scorched Earth comics. You can read that here. This new collection, published by Kilgore Books, that came out this year simply goes by the same running title and contains a fine mix of old and new material. You will want to seek this out.

Tom Van Deusen’s aim is to satirize the oily underbelly of hipsterdom with a neo-underground sensibility. His characters traffic in a Robert Crumb-like netherworld where hedonism and arrogance commingle. Like Crumb, Van Deusen is both fascinated and repulsed by the hipster zeitgeist. Van Deusen’s alter ego, Tom, struggles to connect with a woman who is willing to sleep with anyone…except him. She’ll even sleep with his doppelgänger but not the original. Tom can’t even get a handle on the e-cigarette craze that all the “cool kids” have latched onto. For Tom, vaping does not involve a slim little gadget delivering dramatic puffs of vapor. No, for Tom, it involves a monstrous contraption that looks like an iron lung.

Hanging out at Glo's Diner

Hanging out at Glo’s Diner

One of the best bits in the book takes place at Glo’s Diner, located in what is the Capitol Hill district of Seattle, a densely populated area and a counterculture mecca. I curated art shows at Glo’s Diner for five years and presented work from local cartoonists including David Lasky, Ellen Forney, Jennifer Daydreamer, Farel Dalrymple, and myself. It is a small space. The food is okay. But there is something about that peculiar little oily spoon that reads authentic. It’s great to see a cartoonist of Van Deusen’s caliber pick up on that. He takes his time to capture the place’s true dimensions and spirit.

Full page excerpt from SCORCHED EARTH

Full page excerpt from SCORCHED EARTH

The not so sweet young things remain out of reach for sad sack Tom. He remains on the fringes of the fashionable fringe element. The beauty of it all is that Van Deusen dares to keep vigil, take notes, and then pile it all into a blender and create some very funny comics.

Visit Tom here, find his comics at Poochie Press right here and find this recent collection of SCORCHED EARTH at Kilgore Books & Comics right here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Comix, Hipsters, Kilgore Books, mini-comics, Minicomics, Robert Crumb, Seattle, Tom Van Deusen, Underground Comics, Zines

Great Ideas at TEDx Seattle

TEDx Seattle at McCaw Hall, Seattle Center

TEDx Seattle at McCaw Hall, Seattle Center

You’ve seen TED talks on YouTube, right? You can always go right to the source at TED.com. If you’re unfamiliar, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. TED began in 1984 as a conference that today covers just about any topic. These are powerful short form talks in more than 100 languages.

Considering the "Greater Than" theme

Considering the “Greater Than” theme

Have you ever gone to a TED event? Well, there are a number of these around the world. I went to an independently run TEDx event here in Seattle. You can discover more about TEDx Seattle right here. With a zeal to learn and a trusty notepad, Jen and I took in a day of TED talks. For fans of TED talks, you can imagine how cool that is!

KCTS, a proud sponsor of TEDx Seattle

KCTS, a proud sponsor of TEDx Seattle

This is the first year for TEDx Seattle, formerly known at TEDx Rainier. This last Saturday, we settled into our seats at McCaw Hall at Seattle Center and were utterly delighted with each presentation: from Ranae Holland, a biologist-turned-reality TV star on the hunt for Bigfoot all the way to Suzanne Simard, a forestry expert advocating for all us to address climate change.

The theme for this event was “Greater Than,” an umbrella concept that reinforces our sense of community which is greater than the sum of its parts. The talks were further divided into sessions: curiosity > assumptions; future > today; together > alone; and > sum of the parts.

We had stopped by Stumptown Coffee Roasters on Pine and overheard a couple of young women. One said to the other: “And you can spend your whole life in public service, like Hillary, and still lose to a man!” That’s a good sense of what clings to the air and will remain in the air for years to come. So, heading to our TEDx event seemed like quite a fitting place to be: a place to try to make sense of the rifts and the shifts we are currently experiencing.

I was curious about how each talk would act as a thread to a larger conversation. Can we answer the big question, How do we all come together? Celeste Headlee, a longtime host at National Public Radio, made the case in her talk that we are far more isolated than we may realize. The healing won’t take root, said Headlee, until we respect each other and form authentic bonds. That struck a positive and constructive chord that reverberated throughout the conference.

Scott Wyatt talks about urban density.

Scott Wyatt talks about urban density.

As the day progressed, Jen and I got really caught up in the talks. In fact, there were so many ideas presented that it is a bit overwhelming to attempt to recap everything and do it justice. I will focus on just a few with some brief comments. Scott Wyatt, a partner at architecture firm NBBJ, hit the nail on the head regarding the critical mass we have reached as a crowded city. Part of the solution is to adapt and that is what Wyatt covered. With more and more of us shoulder to shoulder, it compels us to find ways to live in harmony.

Another compelling talk was on artificial intelligence presented by Oren Etzioni, an entrepreneur and AI researcher. His main point was that the robots are not coming for us and never will. No, it’s quite the other way around. It is up to us to embrace the new tech as it is ultimately there for us and to help us come together.

Eliaichi Kimaro. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

Eliaichi Kimaro. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

Eliaichi Kimaro presented an outstanding talk on her journey of self-discovery. Given the opportunity and the motivation, Kimaro found herself making her first documentary without any prior filmmaking experience. She set out to tell the stories of her ancestors in Tanzania. What she came back with were stories that would summon deep reserves for healing and transformation. Her wish for all of us is that we flood the world with our stories. You can visit the website for Kimaro’s film, “A Lot Like You,” right here.

We also greatly enjoyed the talk by Judge Wesley Saint Clair who has some impressive ideas on providing options for youth who find themselves in criminal court. No, he said, this is not a Hug a Thug program. Instead, it is a no-nonsense program that provides these youth with an opportunity to become part of the community. It was a moving talk and the judge deserves all the support he can get.

We ended the day on a high note with Suzanne Simard, a professor of Forest Ecology at the University of British Columbia. Her talk covered the intricate and complex nature of ecosystems. Simard made clear that climate change is very real. Ultimately, we all must come together, as Simard stated, not only for our sake but for the sake of our planet Earth.

In these uncertain times, we can always count on brave and thoughtful people to speak the truth.

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Filed under Culture, Design, Entertainment, KCTS, Seattle, Technology, TED Talks, TEDx Seattle

Interview: David Schmader on Literacy, Neighborhoods, LGBTQ, and Cannabis

David Schmader

David Schmader

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.

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Filed under Cannabis, Education, Gay, LGBTQ, Literacy, Marijuana, Seattle, The Stranger, Youth

Review: NVRLND #1 (of 4), published by 451 MEDIA GROUP

Wendy Darling gets the jitters about attending a new high school.

Wendy Darling gets the jitters about attending a new high school.

There is plenty to like about NVRLND, an exciting new comic involving wild teens and magic, published by 451 MEDIA GROUP. I’ve always said that a comic with a sexy element to it does best if it does not leave its brains at the door. This is a whipsmart sexy comic plus a lot more. It’s easy enough for a new publisher to fall into churning out exploitation content. 451 takes a different approach. Here goes: NVRLND is the sort of comic that promises and delivers a wild and interesting ride. It has a priceless scenario to kick off with: Set amid the underground music scene, kids are dropping like flies when they get hooked on the new designer drug, Pixie Dust, which makes them think they can fly.

NVRLAND #1

NVRLAND #1

Even if you really believe you can fly, is that enough to save you from sure death when you jump off a building? No, most likely you are going to die. That is exactly what is happening to kids in present-day Hollywood. Alexis, the mayor’s daughter, jumped to her death high on Pixie Dust. And so our story begins. Alexis had hooked up with Peter, the handsome young owner to the nightclub, Neverland. Peter had just taken the stage to perform in his band, The Lost Boys, when Alexis jumped from high above. Pixie Dust. Peter knows it is Hook, this mysterious tattoo artist, who is behind the Pixie Dust epidemic. It’s only a matter of time before the two have it out.

Leila Leiz’s artwork is quite stunning, full of life. The script by Dylan Mulick and Stephanie Salyers is genuinely clever and authentic. The whole creative team paints you an intriguing picture of the dark side of Hollywood! Yes, if this sounds oddly familiar, this is a brash and original “retelling” of the Peter Pan tale. As this first issue demonstrates, Hollywood, the land where you never have to grow up, is the perfect setting for this engaging story. For those who enjoy a narrative that faithfully uses local flavor, readers will enjoy the strong Hollywood connection. Overall, a fun and smart ride. It will be fun to see how things develop in this four-issue series.

NVRLND is available as of August 10th and is published by 451 MEDIA GROUP.

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Filed under 451 MEDIA GROUP, Comics, Hollywood

Movie Review: YOUTH

Youth Paolo Sorrentino

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.

Michael Caine

Michael Caine

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.

Luna Zimic Mijovic

Madalina Diana Ghenea

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.

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Filed under Creativity, Hollywood, Michael Caine, Movie Reviews, movies, Paolo Sorrentino, Youth

Pop Culture Focus: Randy Bowles and the Sixties

Randy Bowles at Simply Desserts

Randy Bowles at Simply Desserts

Here at Comics Grinder, we not only love pop culture but we dig deeper–all the way to its roots. With musician Randy Bowles, I have a friend who can share insights into the Sixties from a unique perspective. As a co-founder of Yakima, Washington’s Velvet Illusions (1966-67), Bowles found himself in a catbird seat to view and participate in his generation’s journey through identity, rebellion, and so much more. It was the beginning of a career in music that would take him in many directions.

Randy Bowles of the Velvet Illusions

Randy Bowles of the Velvet Illusions

Ultimately, Randy Bowles carved a niche for himself in folk music and he’s remained active in that, and general storytelling, ever since. You can enjoy his special brand of insight at his WordPress blog right here. We became friends through the WordPress community and it just goes to show you yet another benefit of being part of WordPress.

The Velvet Illusions (1966-67)

The Velvet Illusions (1966-67)

Getting back to Randy, an important thing to know is that he was in this cool band, The Velvet Illusions, and then he went on to other cool bands and his own solo work. As for Velvet Illusions, listen for yourself and you’ll find a fun and steady beat. Here they are singing the Velvet Illusions theme:

In our recent chat, we discuss the Sixties for a bit and mainly focus on fashion. Bowles provides some insight on the passions and interests of the Sixties generation: what was homegrown versus what was manufactured to sell to a mainstream audience.

Randy Bowles is a good guy. I look forward to sharing more with you in the future!

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Filed under 1960s, Counterculture, Music, pop culture, Randy Bowles, The Sixties, The Velvet Illusions

Review: ‘Figure Fantasy: The Pop Culture Photography of Daniel Picard’

FigureFantasy_Case_021815.indd

Many people enjoy collecting pop culture figures. Some collectors will add an environment to showcase them. What if the sky’s the limit and you could go hog wild? Imagine, for instance, the Joker facing off with G.I. Joe. And have that in a realistic setting. Well, as kids, the sky was always the limit! Your characters didn’t have to obey any rules and you could have all sorts of battles that would never have taken place anywhere else. In that spirit, photographer Daniel Picard has let it roll with some inspired work with icons we all know and love.

Insight-Editions-Star-Wars-Darth-Vader

Picard photographs 12-inch figures from Sideshow Collectibles, then does only what a skilled adult can do: create those sort of moments that kids around the globe conjure up just for the fun of it. These are to-scale environments with an uncannily realistic look.

Insight-Editions-Figure-Fantasy

Actor Simon Pegg provides a forward calling this collection, “a wonderful conversation piece.” Kevin Smith provides an afterword describing Picard’s work as a “salute to all the fun we had with our toys as kids.”

Daniel-Picard-Figure-Fantasy-2015

“Figure Fantasy: The Pop Culture Photography of Daniel Picard” is a 132-page hardcover, priced at $29.99 US, published by Insight Editions. For more details, and to purchase the book, visit our friends at Insight Editions right here.

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Filed under Collectibles, Comics, Insight Editions, Photography, Sideshow Collectibles, Star Wars, Toys

Webcomic Review: DAWN OF THE UNREAD

Dawn-0f-the-Unread-James-Walker

DAWN OF THE UNREAD is a graphic novel webcomic exploring Nottingham’s literary history created by James Walker. Now, this is quite an impressive project in its specificity and its execution. The underlying mission here is to spark the imagination of new readers and have them rediscover the world of fiction and, most importantly, their local library! To that end, this webcomic is interactive and contains very compelling content. A new installment is published on the 8th of each month. Let’s take a closer look at some of the previous chapters.

Above: Artist Francis Lowe discusses his collaboration with Adrian Reynolds for their “Little Boxes” chapter, published on 8 June 2014.

In “Little Boxes,” you are treated to a variety of interesting facts about Batman lore with a Nottingham connection. Did you know, for instance, that Wollaton Hall was Wayne Manor in one of the Batman films? Well, the focus here is the nearby village of Gotham. And, yes, total Batman connection beginning with Washington Irving bestowing that nickname on Manhattan. We end up making a detour to H.P. Lovecraft. This is a very cleanly drawn comic with just the right touch of whimsy.

"Little Boxes,"  by Adrian Reynolds and Francis Lowe

“Little Boxes” by Adrian Reynolds and Francis Lowe

Read it here.

Above: Cartoonist Steve Larder, with Alan Gibbons, discusses bringing Geoffrey Trease back to life in “Books and Bowstrings,” published on 8 January 2015.

With “Books and Bowstrings,” you get it all. Steve Larder, author of “Rum Lad,” provides a punk aesthetic with his quirky artwork. With the help of some literary ghosts, byway of Sherwood Forest, the local libraries are on their way to regaining the old spirit.

"Books and Bowstrings" by Alan Gibbons and Steve Larder

“Books and Bowstrings” by Alan Gibbons and Steve Larder

Read it here.

Above: Illustrator Amanda Elanor Tribble discusses her collaboration with Aly Stoneman for their chapter, “Ms. Hood,” published on 8 December 2014.

“Ms. Hood,” takes up a contemporary Robin Hood theme to great effect. The artwork is bold and engaging. The story manages to fit in a lot of food for thought.

"Ms. Hood" by Aly Stoneman and Amanda Elanor Tribble

“Ms. Hood” by Aly Stoneman and Amanda Elanor Tribble

Read it here.

“Dawn of the Unread” is an interactive graphic novel for PC, Mac, iPad, tablet and mobile. Be sure to visit right here.

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Filed under Books, Comics, Education, Libraries, Literacy, Webcomics

Graphic Novel Review: Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang’s IN REAL LIFE

Comics-InRealLife

“In Real Life” is one of this year’s most intriguing graphic novels as it raises questions not asked often enough. A New York Times bestselling graphic novel written by Cory Doctorow and drawn by Jen Wang, it is the story of Anda, a gamer, who discovers a black market system through the friendship she makes with, Raymond, a poor boy in China. The focus is on what exploited people must do in order to survive and what can be done to help them rise up and out of their circumstances. But it’s also about the avatars we use to hide from the world. As is clearly depicted here, Anda has problems with the real world and her place in it.

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Filed under Comics, Cory Doctorow, First Second, Games, Geek Culture, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Jen Wang, Orbital Comics