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No Spectators: Renwick’s Unique Art Experience

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Marco Cochrane, Truth is Beauty sculpture. Picture taken by Emily C. Scheppegrell.

Renwick Gallery, a free art museum in Washington, D.C., provides a unique and fascinating look into the infamous Burning Man festival in Nevada. Every year, 70,000 humans fill the empty, sandy desert of Black Rock, Nevada, constructing a temporary city. Art installations, steampunk costumes, and innovative futuristic vehicles fill the desert with radical self-expression as far as the eye can see. Burning Man is a celebration of human innovation, creativity, and genius, a once-in-a-lifetime experience one could only achieve by traveling thousands of miles to Nevada in August – until now.

Renwick Gallery offers a look into this riveting cultural phenomenon for anyone with a few hours in D.C. . Even better, they offer it for free, a great option for college students who can’t afford a pricey museum ticket. The downstairs portion of the gallery takes you through various art creations made and featured in the festival in previous years, from ornate, science fiction aesthetic costumes to massive sculptures and vehicles. A time-lapse features the entire Burning Man experience, from the music and festivities to the grand finale of burning several wooden sculptures in a grand celebration of freedom and renewal. A miniature theater shows silent, black and white movies, while the next room asks museum-goers what they want to do before they die. Various answers include “travel the world,” “have a family,” “go sky-diving,” and my personal favorite, “go full yeet”.

The upstairs area of the museum is a collection of rooms, starting off with the large recreation of a temple from Burning Man. While the other installations demonstrate creativity and celebration, the temple is a more serious place, created to honor grief and remembrance of those we have lost. The quiet atmosphere in the dimly-lit, elaborate temple is broken only by the scratching of pens on wooden tiles; visitors can write on a tile in honor of someone they have lost or an experience they have had, and then place it somewhere in the room. This ties into the theme of “No Spectators”. Visitors to Burning Man aren’t simply visiting, they are participating, and adding to the culture. The same goes for visitors to the Renwick Gallery’s art show.

The next rooms include dynamic, massive glowing mushrooms that rise and fall based on visitor interaction, paper-lantern-esque creations visitors can climb inside, and a psychedelic art screen on the ceiling that visitors watch from a lying position on the floor.

If you’re not one for typical art museums with halls upon halls of landscape and portrait paintings, don’t rule out the Renwick – the gallery is extremely interactive and really does require museum-goers to interact with exhibits instead of merely walk through. The exhibit will remain open until January and is an easy, cheap adventure for Goucher students. Students can utilize the college shuttle to reach the train station for free, and then buy the MARC train ticket to D.C. for only $8. From there, it’s around a twenty-minute walk to the gallery. Have fun, and remember, no spectators, everyone is part of the experience.

Crazy Rich Asians Review

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Photo Credit: IMDb.com

Crazy Rich Asians is an absolute must-see for the beginning semester. Set in modern day, it starts with the life of Rachel Chu, a Chinese-American economics professor who lives in New York. She has happily been in a relationship with her boyfriend, a dashing young man who is known by the name of Nick Young. When Nick receives an invitation for his best friend’s wedding back in Singapore, Rachel takes the chance to finally meet his family. Much to her surprise, the mild-mannered and sweet boy she met is the firstborn heir to his family’s vast fortune. The movie follows Rachel as she tries to navigate falling head first into the world of the vastly wealthy and her relationship with Asia’s most eligible bachelor.

Going into the picture, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I knew it had good reviews and a promising premise since it had been based on a book, but other than that, nothing. What I watched was a beautifully executed love story that would warm the heart of any romantic.  Overall, I thought some parts felt a bit self-indulgent. Without getting too far into spoilers, the way the family shows off wealth is potentially off-putting for some people. However, I found it sort of like a breath of fresh air. As the perpetual fear of student loans and god only knows how many other financial troubles await me, it was nice to see someone who just didn’t have to worry about it. It was nice to watch someone who seemed to be a genuinely likable person sit in the lap of luxury, even if she did have to fight for it. Another thing that I appreciated was just how dedicated to the culture the movie was. Admittedly, I knew nothing about Singapore or the culture that it has, but that too was like a breath of fresh air for me. Seeing Rachel speak with English subtitles underneath her just felt so genuine, and I can’t quite recall the last time I’ve seen a Hollywood movie do that before (except for maybe Star Wars, but alien tongues don’t count in my book). Not to mention that the movie wasn’t afraid to be a little ridiculous. Sure, the comedic relief was a bit over the top, but I liked that about them. They are the type of people we wish we could be for our friends, completely unbound by social norms and unafraid to shout into the streets looking like a crazy person just to show support for those you care about. I like that about those characters. Also, I won’t ruin the ending, but the movie ends on a truly touching note that I found to be very sweet.

Overall, if you aren’t a big fan of rom-coms, this movie probably isn’t for you. However, if you want something that will brighten up your weekend a little bit more, I say why not give it a go with an open mind.

Movie Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

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Photo Credit: IMDb.com

We all go through crushes. Since according to zodiac signs I am a Cancer, when I develop a crush, it can become quite an emotional experience for me. If only I had thought about writing a letter to all the boys who had unknowingly stolen my heart! “Liking” someone can be an overwhelming experience for some: constant butterflies in the stomach, nervous to be around the person they admire, and also being afraid to say how they feel due to fear of possible rejection. For others, having feelings for someone does not have this effect; it is just an extra amount of liking for them versus their “regular” friends. Lara Jean Covey (portrayed by Lana Condor), however, falls into the first category of people who have crushes.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, originally a book written by author Jenny Han, was directed by female director Susan Johnson and premiered on August 17, 2018, on Netflix. The movie follows the life of a teenage Asian-American girl, named Lara Jean. Lara Jean wrote five letters to five different boys who she had developed a large crush on. Somehow, the letters get out and are sent to the five guys. Peter Kavinsky, the boy with the beautiful smile and starry eyes (portrayed by Noah Centino), addresses Lara Jean about his letter, which later, much, much later, turns into a happy ending for the both of them.

Throughout the film, Lara Jean is able to talk to the other four boys about the letters and all of them are understanding, well, except Josh, but that’s another story. Peter and Lara Jean decide to “date” to make his ex-girlfriend, Gen, jealous. Slowly but surely, and quite obviously, Lara Jean begins to develop real feelings for Peter, and little does she know that he feels the same way. She continues to tell herself and him that it is all fake due to not wanting to get hurt by him. After the big ski trip, Lara Jean and Peter make themselves official, but it only lasts about ten minutes because, of course, Gen ruins things when they get off the bus. SPOILER ALERT: In the end, Lara Jean and Peter end up together, and the audience and fans now must wait until it is confirmed that there will be a sequel to the movie to see how everything really ends.

This movie did a great job of casting the perfect actors for the roles that they had. Lana Condor fits the role of Lara Jean in every single way imaginable. She is sweet, kind, genuine, but also very strong and knows how to stand up for herself. Noah Centino, whose big debut was on the Freeform show The Fosters, had everyone’s heart throbbing throughout the movie. His talent shone throughout the movie, proving to fans that he knew all the right ways to play with the camera and his emotions. This movie felt very relatable for me, and I am sure others feel the same way. Twitter and Instagram went crazy once the movie was released on Netflix, and all actors immediately rose to fame (if they hadn’t already) due to the roles they had in the film. If this movie has taught me anything, it is to not be afraid to tell someone how you feel in-person, even if you don’t end up with a happy ending like Peter and Lara Jean had.

 

Edit on 9/17/18: The second sentence of the article was changed for clarity.

It’s More than the Title – Crazy Rich Asians

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For the first time in a quarter of a century, Hollywood has made a rom-com movie with an all Asian cast entitled Crazy Rich Asians. Starring Constance Wu, Harry Shum Jr, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Remmy Tan, Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding and so many more, the lineup is breaking grounds. This book turned movie is hitting the big screen on August 17, 2018 and is one of the few blockbuster films starring Asians in lead roles (but the only one with a full Asian cast) this summer. Backed by Warner Brothers and directed by Jon M. Chu, known for Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, Step Up and Now You See Me 2, the trailer for the highly anticipated movie dropped on April 23 on The Ellen Show.

Now, for some, the plot may seem a bit too generic. Rich man falls in love with a poor woman, decides to introduce her to his family, his mother doesn’t think the woman is good enough, and hilarity/drama ensues. But for the Asian American community, this is a huge deal. For, in Hollywood, Asian American representation is not very common since the practice of whitewashing of roles in major films is very frequent. With the most publicized of these being Emma Stone in Aloha, Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange, Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in a Shell, basically the whole cast of The Last Airbender, and Matt Smith in The Great Wall. Even Crazy Rich Asians and the soon to be made, live-action Mulan, almost became the victim of whitewashing too. And so, while YouTube creators like Wong Fu Productions, Anna Akana, and Domics produce lots of stories about the Asian American/mundane experiences of life, and television shows like Fresh Off the Boat, My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Dr. Kim and Master of None fill in some of the gaps with regards to representation for Asian Americans, the impact is not the same.

However, with all the fanfare around this film, it should be noted that the movie does not represent every Asian American experience. I mean, how could it? It’s an hour to two-hour long film! But if anyone wants to hear more about this topic, the YouTube channel FUNG BROS did a video called CRAZY RICH ASIANS – WHY YOU SHOULD NOT WATCH IT AND WHY YOU SHOULD.

This conversation about what the movie means is only a small part of a much larger discussion. No matter how one spins it, Crazy Rich Asians is a step forward towards representation in the media for Asians and Asian Americans.

Photo Credit: Google Images

The Webcomics Vacuum

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The Webcomics Vacuum

Webcomics are amazing medium, filled will all sorts of experimentation, talent and a diversity of stories, people, and topics that make it wholly unlike any other sector of comics. These comics, though, are severely underrepresented in the wider comic journalism world. Webcomics just aren’t given the space alongside their print counterparts on sites such as IGN, CBR, or the site I work for, Multiversity Comics. The question remains then, why?

Well, that’s what I’m going to try to talk about in this article. Before I try to tackle that, I want to give you an idea of what the webcomic review landscape actually looks like instead of making broad, seemingly baseless claims.

(My Best Approximation of) The State of the Industry

Regardless of what my prior statements may have implied, webcomics are not invisible to comic review sites, as evidenced by the multitude of “best of” webcomic/digital comic lists, and even a category on NPR’s yearly summer series, “Let’s Get Graphic: 100 Favorite Comics and Graphic Novels.” Yet, once the award season has come and gone, they disappear into the ether, with nary a discussion to be see. We hear all about the fantastic in blurbs and yet we come away knowing only a title, a small description and the knowledge that it has caught the attention of enough people. Where is the breakdown, the lengthier analysis of what makes them award worthy? For those that aren’t on the lists but are no less good, where are the highlights of these? Where is the coverage of the new, the strange, the historic?

On sites with recognizable names? Nowhere. Or, more specifically, nowhere prominent or dedicated. Gizmodo has a webcomics tag but it’s sparsely populated. One of its sister sites, Kotaku, has one as well, although it hasn’t had an article since 2016. Newsarama had a column called “The Wild World of Webcomics” which only ran for one, possibly two, years (2011-12), according to the tag on their site. The most recent, and most consistent, webcomics column is from The Beat, though even that one is inconsistent in its updates, with last year being an obvious push to cover more webcomics than in previous years as a part of the site’s “A Year of Free Comics” series. While it seems to have shifted to a bi-weekly schedule since the start of the new year instead of the wildly ambitious attempt at DAILY REVIEWS FOR A YEAR – an attempted feat to be commended – this still isn’t close to the coverage that “regular” comics get.

There are, however, a few dedicated webcomic review sites. These sites tend to be lone blogs run by one person or, in rarer cases, a small team of people. Some are now defunct, such as Wild Webcomic Review, while others, like The Webcomic Overlook, are still alive and kicking. These are also examples of blogs that take a broad, general look at webcomics while there are others take a more specific look. For example, the blog Yes Homo boosts and talks about webcomics that contain positive representation of queer characters.

The only problem here? As is the case with every other site I’ve highlighted, their output isn’t exactly consistent or wide reaching. This shouldn’t be surprising, as they are run by one individual, in their spare time; one cannot expect a single person to be able to comprehensively and consistently review webcomics. The methodology with which these blogs approach webcomics plays into this as well but that is a topic for another day.

As with everything on the internet, I’m sure this doesn’t even come close to touching on the wide variety of smaller blogs that look at webcomics or the scattered posts among other comic review sites. That being said, this is it. These are the biggest, the most comprehensive, the most…well, professional places to find webcomic reviews/analysis on the internet. Again, it’s always possible I’ve missed something but in terms of widespread coverage, there ain’t much.

So, What’s the Deal Here?

My best guesses, and yes, these are just educated guesses, are that there are five major reasons for this lack of coverage. One is that webcomics are a tough medium to review in any sort of regular capacity due to a lack of consistent methodology. Do you review it one chapter at a time? What happens if a chapter is hundreds of pages long? Do you do it by month? Or by number of pages? If something updates frequently, does that mean it gets reviewed more? These questions, and so many more, have to be asked by each reviewer and picking one changes the frequency one can review a webcomic or set of webcomics.

The second is that due to the nature of the medium – lone creators working in their free time on passion projects instead of professionals with an editorial staff – there is a resistance to taking a critical eye to these projects and rightly so. It’s one thing to critique a professionally published DC or Marvel or Image comic and it’s another to critique a single page of a new artist who may or may not be young and just messing around in the internet age.

Third, webcomics are the new kids on the block. They’ve been around in their “modern” form since the publication of Scott McCloud’s fascinating, divisive, and wildly, hilariously outdated yet still relevant book Reinventing Comics in 2001, according to The Comic Journal’s article “The History of Webcomics.” I do realize this article is from 2011 making it, much like Reinventing Comics, wildly and hilariously outdated near the end but it still gives a good, brief look into the webcomic world as seen from over half a decade ago.

But I digress. Webcomics, despite being new, have found their ways in my and many other internet denizens’ lives. Yet they are still fairly niche, more so than “regular” comics. This is in spite of having been around in a similar format for nearly a century and currently seeing a golden age in the public consciousness. The market for reviews of a niche part of a niche medium isn’t exactly a large one.

Hell, even indie comics, as in unconnected to a named publisher like Black Mask or Aftershock, have a hard time finding space alongside the other “floppies” on review sites. You have to have a big name – Terry Moore, Jeff Smith, Carla Speed McNeil – to even be considered for the list.

Fourth, due to the lack of centralization I touched on earlier, finding webcomics, especially new webcomics, is a difficult task. There are, as far as I’m aware, nothing like the Diamond previews for webcomics. If a new series begins, you have to know someone who knows that creator in order to find out or be trawling through the web/hosting platform to find it.

There is also no list of past, published titles that can be easily searched. It’s all disseminated via word of mouth on the part of the reader, the creator or the collective/platform these comics are a part of. Each webcomic is its own world, sometimes a part of a stellar system comprised of many other worlds, other times all alone in the vacuum of space. Travel between worlds only works if you can see the other planets or take a long, hard look at the stars in the sky. Otherwise, you’ll never quite know what’s out there.

And, finally, it could simply be these sites just don’t have the desire to or the staff to cover a wide variety of webcomics. Here is my most speculative point. I do not know the staff numbers of other sites nor do I know the readership numbers on the sites I have cited in this article. However, based on the volume of articles and the number of different contributor names I’ve seen, I can make an educated guess as to the size of the various, non-webcomic focused sites.

Some sites have a small staff. Keeping up with news, “regular” comics and other content such as comics-adjacent TV & Movie reviews takes a lot of work and there may not be enough time in the day to cover them. Additionally, I’m sure a lot of these sites don’t make a lot of money, what with advertising and the way ads work on the internet being what it is, and so, unlike a newspaper/newspaper site, keeping staff members on retainer that work all day isn’t feasible. Again, this is just an educated guess. I don’t know how much money these sites make nor who is full-time nor who gets paid per post.

So, if a site doesn’t have the staff to spare to diversify their content to cover a notoriously tricky, decentralized and niche piece of a market, it stands to reason that there isn’t any desire to push for any consistent or comprehensive – an impossibility, I know – or critical webcomic representation. It isn’t worth it to delve into the history of anything webcomic related or do a retrospective on something like “Digger” or “8-bit Theater.”

If it sounds like I’m being too harsh on these sites, believe me I’m not trying to be harsh or critical of them. This is just the reality of the situation. I could also be wrong about these reasons, although I suspect that some combination of these factors is the truth. Motivations are a complicated and many times subconscious thing, guessing at them is a shot in the dark. Do not think ill of them for their mistakes, they are only human.

Photo credit: Google Images

Goucher Poet: Rowan Youngs

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As a part of this semester’s theme of community, the Kratz Center for Creative Writing sponsored an event series called “Poetry as Community,” bringing local poets to campus. In conjunction with this theme, the Q has asked student poets to send in their own poems. This issue features a poem by senior American Studies major Rowan Youngs.

Lamp in Three Parts
1.
My friend was born with a lamp for a head.
She has lost the ability to discern between people who truly care about her and those who simply need the light.
It gets worse during the winter months—she’s almost no fun at all.

2.
First and foremost: you are not valuable in isolation. It’s important that you learn this now, so that later when the sadness arrives it can operate un-impinged. Confusion clouds the waters, muddies that which is and that which could be. It’s important that you know this now, before you start to get any bright ideas haha, because the truth is that it can’t. Be, that is.

Without the detritus of the life you cast yourself upon there is simply no need. The necessity for your illumination comes with a qualifier, and it is everything aside from you. See the photo, strangled behind warped glass? See the plastic cup of milk, the lavender handkerchief it kisses and the spot on the couch where the cigarette fell between bare thighs? See the bird? That is the family bird. It is the color of bone marrow and it is loved. It must be seen, too.

You are the silent sentinel.
Function and form, at least theoretically. You specifically have not gotten any younger.
More than anything you are provider of choice. Choice. The moment they are not yet ready for the dark—That is your time. You are never to cry (you can’t) but if you have to (it’s not possible), don’t.

You will be positioned inconveniently. Behind a couch, at an oblique angle, half hidden behind the perennially desiccated ficus. You will be installed beneath a draft or by the bedside table of lovers gone sour. As they fuck, tangled in the stained periwinkle quilt she sewed over long nights in a desperate bid for wholeness you will mourn the loss of something vital and unspoken and you will not look away. You can’t look away, but more importantly, don’t turn from them. Never turn from them. After he wilts he will fix his eyes on the oil painting of a little boy, a little boy in a little house with a large dog and he will howl in the space that you yourself brighten. Isn’t that special? Isn’t that wonderful, how needed you are in this moment and all moments to come?

3.
It came on in the night
Some dark summoning
Probably a test
I’ve heard of these things
Happening somewhere else but
Never here.

The next morning, foggy, slide tomatoes and sea salt down my ripe gullet whole.
Gird yourself for the battle
Fall for your queen so that we might rise
Whorled pads against chilled glass
I begin to unscrew, one turn, two
Turn and turn and turn
Days pass and I look around.
Joints ache
There is dust at the corners of my eyes, tiny drifts like
Fallen snow.
Faded curtains hang open
I hope no one has seen me at work.

The Poetry Corner Part Two

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As a part of this semester’s theme of community, the Kratz Center for Creative Writing is sponsoring an event series called “Poetry as Community,” bringing local poets to campus. In conjunction with this theme, the Q has asked student poets to send in their own poems along with poetry recommendations. Here are student poets Sebastian Bronson Broddie, ‘20, and Thalia Richter, ‘20 on poets whose work they appreciate.

Sebastian’s Poet Recommendation: Gwendolyn Brooks is well known for crafting powerful poems about racial identity and many hold evidence of her engagement in politics, from when she worked with the NAACP in college. What I most love about Gwendolyn Brooks’s work is her ability to make me feel a great deal more like who I am supposed to be, or to feel a greater appreciation for who I am right now. I always feel like she knows exactly who I am when I read her poems, and that who I am is to be celebrated. Her subjects…sometimes seem to leap right off the page and envelop you in a warm, soft, comforting light.

Thalia’s Poet Recommendation: My favorite book of [Maggie Nelson] is Bluets, which is written as a cross between poetry and prose, ruminating on depression, loneliness, and love through the lens of the color blue. The book begins, “Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color. Suppose I were to speak this as though it were a confession.” Nelson’s obsession with the color blue bleeds into her discussions of depression, sometimes eliding the two, so that emotion gains literal visibility. Loneliness is blue, and perhaps parts of love are red, but no matter what, Nelson made me believe in the tangibility and physical realities of these emotions…Her poetry depicts love and heartbreak side-by-side, as though the latter is inevitable, but worth it for the sake of the former…by articulating her loneliness, Nelson creates a sense of shared sadness, and perhaps that can help lessen the burden.

To read the work of Sebstian and Thalia, look here.

Featured Image: Gwendolyn Brooks. Photo Credit: The Poetry Foundation

Goucher Poets: Sebastian Bronson Boddie and Thalia Richter

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As a part of this semester’s theme of community, the Kratz Center for Creative Writing is sponsoring an event series called “Poetry as Community,” bringing local poets to campus. In conjunction with this theme, the Q has asked student poets to send in their own poems along with recommendations for poets whose work they appreciate. This issue we feature Sebastian Bronson Broddie, ‘20, and Thalia Richter, ‘20. They’ve also shared what they appreciate about each others’ work.

Thalia Richter on Sebastian Bronson Boddie: Sebastian’s poetry has an undeniable individuality. My favorite poem of his, “the love letters of pretend gods,” is a love story built from imagery, like the sound of the speaker’s laughter and the taste of chocolate. Instead of leaning into cliché, Sebastian creates a specific moment, when this pretend god awakens in their tomb and sees their lover again. This moment is visceral, described through taste and scent and touch. Sebastian’s imagery comes from unexpected places and doesn’t relying on sight alone to carry the reader. He always brings a completely unique voice to his poetry and provides an insight into his own thoughts which is not only accessible to readers, but stunning to read.

the love letters of pretend gods
sebastian bronson boddie

there is nothing sweeter than waking up in my
tomb and feeling around in the darkness and silk for you and drinking in your joy
at our reunion. the black is so different with you in it. nothing is
quite like the way your skin tastes when i bite into the meat
of your hand and smell the sap that rushes out, tasting like hello. we are the same,
cut from jewel and geode, made to reflect back. the sun is sinking into the lines on your palm as
we speak; you break off a piece of the sky and taste it, say it is better than twelve
pieces of that fair-trade, organic, $18 chocolate (Ethiopian?)
we bought at the market in D.C. and my laugh sounds like goats
bleating for their milk back. but even this cannot break the moment, standing
facing one another in the living room, aching to kiss ancient dirt away. perfectly silent
as we trace the lines of each other’s godly faces in
our minds, cataloguing how many laughs these cheeks have suffered. how many tears the
skin has harvested. how many flowers will bloom from wrinkles. morning
is not for some time. that is just fine. the moon gives us a new light.

golden shovel poem
line 15-16 of jack gilbert’s “the forgotten dialect of the heart”

 

Sebastian Bronson Boddie on Thalia Richter: Thalia is really good at plucking a piece of nature that I’ve never seen before in poetry and attributing it to the subject of the poem. The nature imagery that she often uses is really its strongest point, because it’s never cliche, and I’m never expecting it; it’s very fresh. Paired with the way that she always manages to imbue the poem with a mythic air, even if the subject is not myth-related, makes for a poem that feels very holy. The images are never expected, and even if the subject of the poem is not particularly startling, it is profound in its quiet magic and air of mystery. It is always a pleasure to read.

Laura Palmer
by Thalia Richter

The pine trees sway together,
holding each other for company
and dry leaves skim the ground,
never touching, but twirling,
stroking the bark,

and she is here.
She’s always been here.
Hair like fox fur,
and her eyes, blue like stone,
or maybe the way
the mountains rest on the horizon.

Her eyelids never quite close,
and her gaze never quite meets yours,
but you can’t stop looking at her,
at her skin shining in the moonlight,
and she is so beautiful.
She is the only person in this whole forest,
except you of course,
and you’re not really here.

There are clouds now, rolling over the moon
the hollows below her eyes are shadows
and she is fading, returning to the pines,
their needles brushing her cheeks.
You want to ask her to come back,
but the trees join hands
and she is lost behind them.

To read the work of another Goucher poet, look here.

To read about poets that Sebastian and Thalia recommend, check out The Poetry Corner.

Featured Image: Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks. Credit: Backtotwinpeaks.com

Black Bolt Vol. 1: Hard Times Review

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While the Inhuman royal family’s live-action debut last fall was, erm, let’s be generous and call it hot garbage left out on a summer’s day, do not fret dear Marvel fans! The royal king of the Inhumans, Blackagar Boltington (yes, that is his real name) is fairing much better in the comics. Well, better quality wise as his solo-title sees him suffer quite a bit at the hands of the creative team of Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward and the villainous Jailer.

As an introduction to the character of Black Bolt, you can’t do any better than this volume. Collecting the first six issues of Ahmed and Ward’s twelve issue run, the volume is a thriller seeped in cosmic psychedelia complete with a jailbreak, a colorful cast of characters, a deeply flawed main character, and a heartbreaking redemption arc. If you’ve never had any experience with Black Bolt and the Inhumans, the first issue gives you all you need to know through some truly creative and beautiful panels. One such page is modeled after an MC Escher painting and sees Black Bolt walking through the interstellar prison he’s been trapped in. In the background are bits of who he is and how he got here and, later in the series, we learn more and more about his tragic backstory.

Upon first opening the volume, you are greeted by a fairly simple page. The first panel is a black box with some small, white text. It is short. It gives you all you need to know. The next three panels elaborate, slowly revealing that someone has been bound, chained, muzzled. He has no memory of who he is or where he is. The next page sees a voice yell “Name your crimes! Repent your crimes!” before the muzzled man is shocked.

He remembers that he is not a criminal but a hero. A king. He remembers this as he falls into unconsciousness… or something worse. Upon turning the page, the sequence repeats, albeit differently. We know more information this time and as the repetitions continue, we, along with Black Bolt, gain our footing. We began by being disoriented, stuck in the deep black-blue darkness but now, through the patterns, we are no longer confused, and we are ready to escape the cycle. From there the adventures, or more accurately the trials and tribulations, of Blackagar Boltington, the Midnight King, the Most August Ruler of the Inhumans, begins.

In just these few pages, Ward and Ahmed show their mastery of their respective crafts as well as what a truly magnificent creative team can accomplish. Christian Ward’s art is just gorgeous to behold, and Ahmed’s sharp dialogue manages to be funny, heartfelt, dramatic, and most of all, genuine, all at once. Every character is fully realized through Ward’s command of posing and facial expressions. The prison they are trapped within is ever-shifting, massive, and oppressive which Ward manages to capture and convey perfectly.

The comic is bathed in deep neons, both bright and dark, and Ward’s lineless digital art gives the world that constantly shifting feel I just mentioned. He turns every page into a canvas, from the largest battles to the smallest conversations. What is most impressive about his work, though, is his paneling. Let me give an example from Issue four. Crusher Creel and Black Bolt have been chained up and are just talking.
In this scene, Ward does something unconventional for the series so far – he sticks to a nine-panel grid for the Crusher focused flashback sequences. Anytime Black Bolt or present Crusher are in the panel, the comic breaks from the very rigid grid. Let me explain. On one page, the top three panels are laid out as you would expect for that grid: all the same size, all spaced out the same way. Then we get Black Bolt and Crusher talking once again in these skinny panels that are recessed into the center of the page more than the grid panels. Then, for the final panel of the page (which is a shot of a cop car from the past), it is back to the perfect grid panel, placed as if the whole page were a normal nine-panel grid.

The present is visually distinct from Crusher’s past, as one is constructed, a story that has neat delineations, while the other is the present, a messy and tense time. As such, as the flashbacks creep closer to present day, the grid starts to bend and break. There are still nine panels per page but by the second to last full flashback page, the grid morphs, growing to show the increasingly complex nature of Crusher’s life. When we get Black Bolt’s single flashback page, the panels are a jumbled mess, strewn about the page, reflecting Black Bolt’s own view of himself at the moment. Is he a good man? He does not know. Nor does he know how to arrange his past.

Honestly, issue four is probably the strongest of all the issues in this volume and considering all six issues have the same level of quality, that is high praise. This volume and this series is an analysis of Black Bolt, of what it means to be a father, of what it means to be a prisoner. Of what it means to be a good person and how one can reclaim goodness for themselves.
Beautifully written, beautifully drawn and heartbreakingly bittersweet, this is comics at some of its finest. Give it a read.

Featured Image Credit: Google Photos

Coachella 2018: 5 Artists That You Should Know

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The second weekend of the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is here, and people across the world are gearing up for it. If you missed out on the debut weekend performances, check out various social media websites for live streams of artists’ sets. The Coachella lineup consists of talented artists who may be well-known in pop culture, but not all of them have a substantial following. So why not listen to some new music? In no particular order, here are five artist recommendations based on the Coachella 2018 lineup.
First is the female rapper and singer/songwriter Princess Nokia, or Destiny Frasqueri. Frasqueri began her career in 2010, self-releasing mixtapes on Soundcloud and YouTube with her original moniker “Wavy Spice.” In 2012, she released her song “YAYA” which got the attention of people from around the world. In 2016, she released her mixtape “1992”, which was then made into a deluxe album in September 2017 by Rough Trade Records. Frasqueri makes it clear that she sees herself as a feminist, a tomboy, and a queer woman from New York that cannot be held back. This woman is truly an inspiration, and her music showcases that as well.
The next artists are an alternative rock band from Los Angeles called The Buttertones. They were formed in 2011 by the original members, guitarist Richard Araiza, drummer Modeste Cobián, and bassist Sean Redman. The band is now made up of five members, with guitarist Dakota Böttcher and saxophonist London Guzmán joining in 2015. With influence from genres such as surf music and garage rock, the band has released four studio albums, one EP, and one single over the course of five years. If you like The Beatles or The Sonics, you will most likely enjoy The Buttertones.
Next up is a band that embraces indie-folk, and they are called MAGIC GIANT. The band is a trio, and the members are as follows: Austin Bisnow, Zambricki Li, and Zang (Brian Zaghi). Formed in early 2014, they create songs that sound like artists Mumford and Suns, The Lumineers, and Avicii had a music lovechild, combining banjo licks with electronic sequences. It provides for an upbeat experience unlike any other in the scene so far. The band’s single “Let It Burn” was called “a summer festival anthem” by NPR, and in June of 2017, Rolling Stone named them one of the 10 New Artists You Need to Know.
Returning to the punk genre, FIDLAR is a punk rock band formed in Los Angeles, California. Members Zac Carper and Elvis Kuehn founded the band in 2009 after working at a recording studio together. Brandon Schwartzel and Elvis’ brother Max Kuehn joined shortly after, and they’ve been performing ever since. The band has released two studio albums, three EPS, and numerous singles. In 2015, the band debuted on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and played two songs off of their album Too, “West Coast” and “Why Generation,” and in 2016 they performed on Conan. Full of angst, FIDLAR is a band that doesn’t mess around.
For the final artist, we have South African DJ and producer Black Coffee. His real name is Nkosinathi Innocent Maphumulo, and he started his career around 1995 in a time when the world was just starting to grow interest in the South African dance music scene. And as the years have passed, Black Coffee has grown to become Africa’s most influential electronic music producers. He has released five albums and one EP since he grew in popularity in 2005. Many of his songs are trance-like, emitting a calm feeling when listened to which isn’t very common in electronic music.

Coachella 2018 may be over in a few days, but these five artists will continue to perform and grow. Give them a listen whenever you have the time. Who knows, they could be a new favorite artist of yours. And if you’re up to it, check out all of the artists on the lineup. Each artist is extremely talented, and all of them have an exclusive performing style.

Featured Image: Coachella. Credit: Leonardo Pierce

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