NTWON: Easy

This month's feature is the Netflix original program Easy. On first glance, it seems as though Easy is just another comedy. But do not be fooled by the trailer's upbeat music and editing. This show provides a candid and realistic examination of actual problems that people face when in relationships of all levels of commitment and complexity. 

Netflix has pulled out all the stops for Easy, as the lineup is chock-full of famous names. The reason they are able to load the show with so many celebrities is because each individual episode is a self-contained story of its own. However, if you pay close attention, you'll notice a continuous narrative thread spanning across these eight stories. It's not enough to bring them toward any larger point, just a little something to reward dedicated viewers for their attention.

The thing that is most striking about Easy is how accurately the relationships are depicted, especially the sex lives of the characters. They don't try to glam it up with fancy angles or romantic music. The directors work to show average, everyday sex, which can be uncomfortable if you aren't mentally prepared to see such a thing. 

The relationships between the characters are emphasized to the point where they are at the center of all of the action. Many of the episodes do not have a conflict. They merely serve as character studies for when one type of person gets involved with another. The plots tend to be understated at best and nonexistent at worst, with most episodes ending as abruptly as they started. While this does break typical convention for television, it is not a bad thing at all. 

The thing that makes Easy such a great show is that it depicts the mundanity of modern living without being mundane itself. It shows real relationships between people who could plausibly exist and it shows real sex without being vulgar or embarrassing.

Give this one a watch if you're in the mood for something different.

Unknowing and Curiosity- Steve Sangapore

You might remember Steve Sangapore from the New Haven Open Studios. He was kind enough to share some more of his paintings here on ALSO THAT. His work is striking and surreal and usually painted on unconventional canvases and panels. It branches out across walls or bulges in three dimensions, toeing the line between painting and sculpture. The level of detail in his work is astounding and can only be fully appreciated in person. 

Visit his website here.

Follow him on Instagram here.

It is the duty of the 21st century artist not to represent the world as mankind already sees it, but rather how we feel and think about it. Instead of directly representing life, it is the painter’s obligation to represent what a setting or object subjectively feels like in that moment. In the digital age of science, technology and reason, I can think of no grander creative subject than exploring the nature of reality and conscious experience. I dub my work as Sci-Surrealism; a contemporary take on the surrealist approach while fusing themes in science and philosophy. The mysterious and inherent duality between consciousness and matter is the direct subject of my latest work. Using metaphor to convey relationships between identifiable objects and forms, I illustrate a sense of universal oneness: connectivity between matter and the conscious experience in contexts of micro and macroscopic spaces. Using a hard-edged and illustrative style, these dense themes demand a disciplined technique and great attention to detail. Each painting connects the tangible impermanence of matter with transcendental, spiritual unity through shape, depth, texture and arrangement. As a result, the works will rouse the audience to unearth and illuminate mankind’s indelible state of unknowing and curiosity for what we experience as life and reality.

-SS

My Papa's Waltz- Theodore Roethke

The whiskey on your breath   
Could make a small boy dizzy;   
But I hung on like death:   
Such waltzing was not easy. 

We romped until the pans   
Slid from the kitchen shelf;   
My mother’s countenance   
Could not unfrown itself. 

The hand that held my wrist   
Was battered on one knuckle;   
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle. 

You beat time on my head   
With a palm caked hard by dirt,   
Then waltzed me off to bed   
Still clinging to your shirt.

Colleen Blackard- Fluid Lives

You may remember Colleen from Greenpoint Open Studios. She has graciously agreed to share more of her intricate creations here on ALSO THAT as September's guest poster. This series is part of a new collection called the "Abandoned Series". Learn more in her artist's statement below:

Sunken Depths

Colleen Blackard combines natural, celestial and man-made elements in occasionally surreal compositions that explore light, memory, consciousness and change. Her signature style uses continuous, circular, intersecting lines to create a luminosity that clarifies the subject and gives life to every detail. Whether in ballpoint pen, archival marker or ink washes, she is constantly pushing the envelope on the types of atmospheres and effects she creates with these dynamic lines and the light between.
Currently, she is creating the “Abandoned Series” to discover the light within her experiences of sibling rivalry, heartbreak, and loneliness through the trials of an abandoned barn. These dramatic scenes can be interpreted through a variety of perspectives, ranging from the very real dangers of global warming to personal responses to the constantly shifting changes and conflicts of our modern fluid lives.

-CB

Visit her website here.

Like her Facebook Page here.

Follow her on Instagram here.

 

Evolfo- Last of the Acid Cowboys

Last weekend, Mick talked with Matthew Gibbs, Rafferty Swink, and Kai Sorensen of the Garage-Soul band Evolfo about their new EP,  Last of the Acid Cowboys.

Visit their Soundcloud here.

Like their Facebook Page.

Check out their site.

MT: How did you guys get your start?


MG: I started the band in College. We were all living in Boston, going to school living in and around Allston, Brighton, and Brookline. I wanted a band where we could play glammy funk and soul and do house partys and basement shows and things. And we did. And we had a good time. And I tricked them into thinking it was super casual. I knew I wanted to demand a lot of time of everyone and I think everyone was having a good enough time that they bought into it.

MT: Can you guys attest to that?

R: Yeah! I met Matt through my first roommate's boyfriend's cousin was Matt's roommate. And he was the first drummer in the band while I was in the band. They were our next door neighbors, so we started hanging out our freshman year.

K: I think it's funny because we each have our own story meeting Matt and coming into Evolfo. And mine was an invitation from Rafferty to come jam. I knew Rafferty cause I lived down the hall from him. I was 23 at the time while these guys were 18, and I'd hang out with Rafferty and hook him up with beer and vodka and the next thing I knew I was at a rehearse with a trumpet and the rest was sealed.

MT: So what about the other guys? Were they shanghaied into joining the band as well?

R: The core of the group was brought together pretty quickly. We did a recording session as a quartet without horns, then the next month we booked a gig and Matt got the horns and that was pretty much when we came together. It's been a rotating cast over the last five years we've been a band.

MT: A seven man band is a large group. Are there any challenges that come with having so many people collaborate at once? Are there any advantages? 

R: It was bigger at one point. We used to have a percussionist and sometimes a four or five man horn section. Sometimes Matt would invite other guitars as well and so there would be a bunch of people on stage.

M: Long story short 12 people was the maximum on stage at the same time.

R: That being said, it's not as if all 12 of those people are contributing to the actual music writing. In the beginning it was basically all Matt. On the first EP, he wrote all but 2 songs. As we've gotten older, we've gotten more collaborative. I think we're still trying to make it more of a group thing, cause with the Acid Cowboy stuff it was mostly Matt and I writing the songs and we'd bring it to the full band and arrange it together and I think we're trying to get it where everyone is contributing at the same time, but yeah, it's hard.

K: Yeah, they've shared like 95% of the song writing. What I think is really cool is for someone like me, who's a total rookie at song writing, is that there's an open environment to bring in an idea and hash it out. It might turn into something and it might not, but you never know. I think it's really important to have that.

R: Ideally, I think everyone in the band is making music. Sometimes it's for Evolfo and sometimes it's not. Everyone is just creating and I think that creates a good atmosphere because everyone around you is doing stuff and that makes you want to do stuff.

M: I would say that it's a huge advantage. 

MT: You guys describe yourselves at Garage-Soul. Can you go into detail about what defines this genre and possibly name some other acts that would fall under such a category?

MG: King Khan and the Shrines are definitely a current band that carry the torch. I think King Khan would absolutely hate my guts, but I love his show. As far as other influences, The Seeds, The Sonics are sort of the old-school rock influences.

R: Even The Stooges in a way.

MG: The only thing I struggle with in that respect is I want the 4 horn section, which you don't see much in groups like that. That's where I think you see more Soul than Garage. 

T: I think when we started the process, we had a vibe and aesthetic in mind. We liked the blown-out lo-fi thing and I think we've stayed true to what we've grown up on. I love to just keep the dance going, and maybe that's the Soul part, and the Garage is more the badass metal-rock thing.  It's just a really cool combination that's emerged from the combination of the seven of us.

MT: The new EP The Last of the Acid Cowboys has a different sound from your other works, in that it has a more somber, bluesier sound to it compared to the more upbeat funkiness of other songs, like "Wild Man". Can you guys talk about the direction you are moving in creatively?

MG: I think we just want to tell more stories. The songs I was writing earlier on, I didn't feel like I was writing songs, I felt more like I was writing a cool groove and saying “let's play this until a song pops out”. Now, I feel much more imaginative, like I'm writing stories instead. I don't want to be stuck, since we're not beholden to anyone at this point. So, we're still crafting our story and what makes people interested in our band. I want to tell stories and I want to be dark and crazy and wanted to move away from the groove writing.

R: I think that ties into the idea of genre. In the beginning, it felt like we were letting the idea of genre and our instrumentation affect the songs we were writing. We were saying “Oh, because we have horns we need songs that sound like James Brown,” when actually, we can do whatever the fuck we want. Like Matt said, we're just trying to take the song writing aspect more seriously and making that more of a unified aesthetic. 

K: We've headed into a more genuine direction. I think we're staring down the barrel of whatever a music career means today. It was an important departure for us. At the end of the day, the creativity and imagination and whatever we're doing for ourselves is for an audience. When it's genuine at its core, it will be received better in a long term.

MT: You guys keep using the word story. Is this a concept album?

MG: Yeah, I would say so.

MT: Based on what's written about you guys in press releases, it seems like you all approach your work with serious creative intention. Can you all go into detail into how songs come together both musically and lyrically? Is there any kind of message behind your music?

MG: It goes along with the lines of what I was saying before: we're not beholden to anyone. I feel like I can get imaginative and that's really liberating. I can write a story. We can write about whatever the fuck we want, and that makes me really excited. Raff and I realized we can draw from other influences like other great songwriters and right now we're interested in Western stuff and folk and Americana as well as funk and soul and blues. The creative process got more focused by becoming more broad. By drawing more influences, we were able to decide what we really wanted to do.

R: I agree with that. Instead of broadening, I think it's more like not limiting yourself. I think before we were limiting ourselves to writing songs in the first person where the narrator of the song is the singer. We did that for a long time. We played a lot of gigs for a lot of years before we went back to the studio and I think over that time we got tired of that. We just realized that if we stopped limiting ourselves in this little box of what songs we think we're supposed to create.

K: For me, I think it's been a process of uneducating myself. I did 8 years of music in college. And so originally, creatively, I was bringing in charts and feeling like you have to go to a certain chord. Through the help of these guys and listening to other things, this idea of doing whatever the hell you want is really important to the creative process. And Rafferty, I think you've been telling me this for a while now, but you need to write so much more than you think you need to because only a little bit of that is going to stick to the wall. And that's so important to our group and our process.

MT: What words of advice do you have for aspiring artists?

K: Climb through all the BS. It's so important just to put yourself out there and make the experience happen. Take the gig. I've taken a lot of trumpet gigs and through that I've realized there are a few gigs I would never do again. But I learned about myself and my art through those experiences. So my advice for anybody is to gain experiences. 

MG: Don't be afraid that you're annoying people. I think I lost so many opportunities because I was afraid I was bothering someone.  Being self-conscious has no place on the stage. It has no place in an industry that relies on you giving your music to people. You gotta be ready to entertain. I want to entertain people. I don't want to make people pay for a ticket and then make them wish they spent their money on beer. So I'm not afraid to annoy people.

R: For musicians, trust your ear. Think about what you like and what you think sounds good. That's one of the most helpful things you can do for yourself. If it sounds good, it sounds good. Noone can tell you. There's all these rules, but at the end of the day most of the people who stand out are those who learn the rules and then disregard them. If you just trust yourself and trust your head, you can save yourself a lot of time. 

Helen Brechlin: Alternative Narrative

The End

Recently, ALSO THAT regular Helen Brechlin made her grand return to the United States from a six week stint in Beijing, China serving as the Artist in Residence at the Inside-Out Art Museum. She was kind enough to answer some questions about her experience and share the work that she created there.

Follow Helen on Instagram here. 

Visit her website here.

Visit the museum's website here.

MT: How did you land this Artist in Residence Role in Beijing?

HB: At the end of my senior year at MassArt the chair of the Painting Department Chair had set up an amazing opportunity for the graduating seniors. All could apply by the a certain date and be considered to receive a one month residency at the Inside-Out Art Museum in Beijing, China! I quickly wrote my statement and sent along my additional images and resume. After some time I received the incredible news that I was the chosen student and I could choose a month between October and April to go on this fantastic journey.

 MT: Was the change in your surroundings reflected in your work?

HB: Absolutely! Residencies are great because they give an artist time to focus on their work without many worries beyond, “What am I going to paint today?” Part of this residency was having the city impact my work. There would be no point to being in such a unique city like Beijing if was making the same work I did back in Boston. This change manifested itself in an intense shift in my color palette. I typically used a very muted color palette, but in Beijing the color exploded. The concept of these paintings was centered on the idea of a nature in and surrounding the city reclaiming the land in a post-human world. These “Snap Shots,” as I’ve been calling them, are glimpses into this alternative narrative. Everything is slightly askew, the colors are acidic, nothing feels what we would describe as natural, which I wanted to reflect as the permanent impact of pollution in Beijing.


MT: Were there any challenges in bridging the communication barrier?

A New Beginning

HB: The short answer is yes. I was only able to pick-up on two words, hello, nĭ hăo, and thank you, xiè xiè. This made traveling beyond the confines of the museum a little difficult, but not impossible. Everyone at the museum was extremely welcoming, warm, and beyond helpful. Many of them spoke English, so I only had to worry when I went into the city. I had a very handy guide book written by the Lonely Planet (which I highly recommend!!) so I mostly stuck to restaurants and sites that were described in the book, and used the map that came with it. that map became a new fixture in my pocket. Beijing is a very safe city. I became versed in the universal sign language of the world. I could pull out my map point to landmark on it and even though we couldn’t understand each other the person I was asking for would gesture towards the general way I should be going. The biggest challenge was ordering food at restaurants not in the book. One specific time I went into a restaurant that had a large picture menu. It was the first time I had gone out completely alone in a place without an English menu and they were not used to seeing tourists. I pointed to something on the menu frazzled by the waiter standing over me waiting for me to order. When my food arrived it was a bowl
full of spicy peppers and scallions to increase the flavor with very little meat along with the
customary hot water to drink, and no rice. After a painful ten minutes, a very kind waitress came over with rice. She seemed to know that I didn’t know what I had ordered.

MT: Did you notice any cultural differences in how your work was regarded?

HB: I think the main difference was that everyone was positive? It’s hard to say. I couldn’t talk to everyone about my work, and I found most people to be polite. So, if they had something negative to say, or even constructive criticism, it was kept to themselves. This is also being compared to my previous experience inside a college studio class, where the point is to receive feedback to push further, while in Beijing I was mostly on my own.

MT: What was the biggest take-away from the entire experience? Would you do it all again somewhere else? If so, where and why?

HB: Besides thoroughly enjoying Beijing and the amazing cuisine and sites, my biggest take away was my individual growth throughout the experience. Knowing when to ask for help, and knowing that you can survive on your own in a city that you don’t speak the language or know much about in general was invaluable. I feel stronger than I was before the residency. I would absolutely go on another residency like this one. Traveling is a huge interest for me and ideally I would like to go everywhere, so this is a hard choice! My top two would be either France, a home of great painters, beautiful views and of course amazing art historical sites; or Japan, a bustling country that also has historically great painters, views and sites, plus I’ve always wanted to see the Golden Temple!


MT: Do you have any words of advice for aspiring artists?

HB: Try it all! I think I held back a little while I was in Beijing, and I wish I could change that. When I did step out of my comfort zone (which was a huge portion of the trip) it was extremely rewarding. I think this applies to even your hometown area. Try something and don’t let hesitation and fear get the best of you, it’s something we all fight with, so don’t think you’re alone.
Also, do a drawing a day.

The One Percent

There exists a plethora of full length films and documentaries on Youtube all exploring a range of voices and perspectives. Created by Jamie Johnson, heir to the Johnson and Johnson fortune, it affords viewers an examination of wealth inequality through the eyes of those that benefit most from it.

There exists a plethora of full length films and documentaries on Youtube all exploring a range of voices and perspectives. Created by Jamie Johnson, heir to the Johnson and Johnson fortune, it affords viewers an examination of wealth inequality through the eyes of those that benefit most from it.

Johnson works to keep things objective as he interviews family members, close friends, and other members of the elite, sometimes compromising their income in the process. Warren Buffett's granddaughter Nicole Buffett was disowned by her notoriously guarded grandfather for her participation in this documentary. 

The interviewee's reactions ranged from deep discomfort, to indignant outrage, to naked entitlement, to near apology. Most fascinatingly is the focus on Jamie's father, who refuses at every turn to participate in the documentary in spite of the fact that when he was Jamie's age, he worked on a documentary about apartheid.

On the whole, this documentary serves to illustrate how those on the other half feel about their position without any kind of overt condemnation. Viewers are allowed to draw their own conclusions from the impressive list of people interviewed, who each have their own unique perspectives on their wealth and their place in the world.  

Watch the full documentary below:

CXL

In 140 characters or less,
describe what it feels like
to hold a newborn baby in your arms.

Turn the camera around and raise it high
to get a good angle as you take a selfie
with the wrinkled turnip-like subhuman.

Instagram the new life and reap a bounty
of likes and comments in a flurry
of hashtags like #blessed, #newborn, and #adulting.

In 140 characters or less,
describe the black bottomless pit of grief and guilt
and the fall of Eden. 

Set up a Go-Fund-Me to cover funeral costs
and collect a second harvest of words of encouragement
and “good vibes” being send your way.

Create a Facebook event for the memorial service and watch
as an army of blue thumbs pointing skyward accumulates
as the majority of attendees RSVP “Maybe”.

In 140 characters or less,
wonder if you have a soul, or
if your very existence is as ephemeral as the wind
and that any bit of documentation is another piece of you
immortalized in a string of 1's and 0's
thumbing their noses at entropy.

Watch as the retweets and likes pile
at your feet like the spoils of Troy
and wonder what's going to happen
when your battery dies.

Taylor Reviews: Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad is a movie released in a state unlike any film I’ve seen before, and I mean that earnestly. Years from now, I will point to what will probably be known as the “theatrical release” (in hushed tones) in order the showcase exactly why editors deserve to be paid more money, or perhaps given more time than whatever was afforded to whoever painstakingly worked on this botched cinematic experience.

Warner Brother’s Suicide Squad follows a rag-tag group of DC’s most interesting rogues gallery and C-tier villains (read: almost entirely from Batman’s universe) as they’re assembled as a black ops group. This group serves to perform behind-the-scenes missions deemed too “gray-area” or dangerous for any members of, say, the Justice League. The “bad guys” have to be cajoled into the roles through promises of shorter prison sentences or increased visiting rights for their families. Just to make sure, they’re rendered obedient by their handling government agency through use of what’s effectively a grenade collar while out in the field.

That’s the premise on paper at least – to fight villainy with villainy. Suicide Squad instead finds the team tasked with taking out an ancient power by utilizing entirely heroic and documented means – which leaves the viewer asking why Wonder Woman, Batman, or the Flash (the latter two actually being in the film besides) can’t save the day from the now-cliché giant trash vortex in the sky. I’d have added that Superman could have saved the day, but the movie takes a good minute of screen time to remind you that in this cinematic universe he is dead, and definitely not coming back.

As much as I would love to hand wave this movie away as a “mindless summer action flick,” I find it impossible to do so. At least in Batman Vs Superman, or even Suckerpunch, the visual spectacle was persistent, engaging and digestible. Sure, in those movies the monsters are green-screened to heck, but the punches seem to have weight and the character designs are good, right? But the best thing that Suicide Squad had going for it on the onset was its really unique and beautiful art style I can only refer to as “Erratic Neon,” which it finds itself almost immediately ditched after the “music-video style” introductions and flashbacks of every character in the squad has concluded. The film features an entire underwater sequence that’s indecipherable, as murky water and poor lighting leaves no hints as to what is happening to who or how. The only time dismal broken concrete and rebar vistas are swapped out for different set pieces is when it’s for ‘generic dimly lit bar’ or ‘stock-photo abandoned business office skyscraper’ interior.

The movie is decently acted: Viola Davis commands the scenes she helms, Will Smith succeeds as being Will Smith, Jai Courtney gives a few laughs - but its dialogue is just so poorly written and disjointed. I honestly felt that Leto’s attempt at The Joker fell flat, but it’s hard to like any version of the Joker written to be “grim and realistic” and “flashy gangster” and “cartoonishly insane.” Leto’s Joker is pulled in too many directions, and that leads to the comparisons to Ledger’s 2008 gritty and believably anarchistic version of the character likely to never swing in Leto’s performances favor.

One of the most glaring problems with the film is the existence of a character created solely to be stuffed into the fridge (If you aren’t familiar with the trope, it refers to “any character who is targeted by an antagonist who has them killed off, abused […] for the sole purpose of affecting another character, motivating them to take action - taken from TvTropes.com). I had to look up the character in question, “Slipknot”, as his name and power are only mentioned once in passing, in the film. Slipknot is introduced well after the rest of the characters are already mingling together before the once and once the character has established a single second of screen-time, he then proceeds to immediately punch an unarmed woman in the face, unprovoked, “because she had a mouth” and isn’t seen again until he speaks two lines and dies by his handler activating the collar. If the audience paid no attention to the fact that Slipknot is missing from every single trailer and piece of marketing for the film, then it probably became obvious that the instant the character arrives to no fast-paced and engaging neon flashback/character card that he is bound to die “in order to show the stakes.” Instead of doing so, Slipknot, who we didn’t know or even empathize with at all, dies an entirely predictable death to thinly give the impression that any of the rest of the characters we are actually (supposed to be) invested in could be taken at any minute.

Suicide Squad is full of strange decisions like this. A helicopter crashes when the squad enters the terrorized city, but not a single person dies and it doesn’t actually serve the plot in any way. Characters pull out their weapons to join a firefight, but the editing makes it look like they don’t join the fray for another good minute, causing any agency in them joining the melee to evaporate by the time they actually start fighting. Continuously, characters forget the fact that they are fitted with the blast collars and are only reigned back in when one of their handlers re-explains it. One of the last spoken lines of the film is a character (insultingly) explaining the plan, which is already 95% complete, to the audience.

These mistakes and blatant continuity errors drown out the few truly beautiful moments there are; Harley Quinn and the Joker sharing an actually intimate scene in the Ace Chemical Factory is beautifully directed and edited and their “embrace” will stick with me for a long time to come. A very quick scene where Harley is separated from the rest of the group and allowed to show true emotion, before just as instantly steeling herself away and going back to sadistically upbeat when the others return show Margot Robbie bringing real characterization to what was otherwise edited and written to be a mobile pair of spandex shorts. The first sequence of June Moone transitioning to the Enchantress, shown by June extending her hand only for a shadowy mirror version of the same hand appear underneath and interlock her fingers, and as the camera spins upside down the shadow version takes over is completely and utterly hypnotizing.

It’s a wonder what kind of state the film will be in when it come out in the inevitable “Directors Cut” and “Original Version” of the film come out on DVD in the coming months. The haphazard music editing, Joker’s second act disappearance and jilted dialogue can perhaps be fixed with “45 minutes of bonus content” but until then theater-goers are left with a summer (anti) hero film that’s honestly just a jumbled mess of an edit.

3/10


Taylor Headshot.jpg

TAYLOR RAJ OPERATES A TV STUDIO AND CAN'T ENJOY MOVIES SINCE HE LEARNED CINEMATOGRAPHY. HE'S SCARED ONE DAY HIS SKELETON WILL ESCAPE. YOU CAN FIND HIS INANE RAMBLING AT @TAYLORR37

Satirist In Residence- Kevin Higgins

It is a pleasure and an honor to be able to share the poetry of the best thing to happen to Ireland since fermentation, the whip-smart Kevin Higgins.

Kevin Higgins is co-organiser of Over The Edge literary events in Galway, Ireland. He has published five collections of poems: The Boy With No Face (2005), Time Gentlemen, Please (2008), Frightening New Furniture (2010), The Ghost In The Lobby (2014), & 2016 – The Selected Satires of Kevin Higgins. His poems feature in Identity Parade – New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2010) and in The Hundred Years’ War: modern war poems (Bloodaxe, 2014).  Kevin is satirist-in-residence with the alternative literature website The Bogman’s Cannon. The Stinging Fly magazine recently described Kevin as “likely the most widely read living poet in Ireland”.

Visit his website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.

 

Traditional Los Angeles Curse

May the lawyer with the pec implants
trade you in for a Guatemalan waiter. 
May your alimony settlement slot neatly
into the speedos of the dwarf you marry next, 
as he makes off down the highway
on his miniature Harley-Davidson.  
May this be the start of your
getting beaten up in parking lots phase. 
May you bring home the dough
to have your chest reupholstered
by starring in porn versions
of Charles Bukowski stories. 
May a curtain straight out of
a Tom Waits song come
crashing down on you
in a motel near the airport.  
May even the Chihuahua
who called the ambulance
be found to have been
not be entirely innocent. 

 

Resume

The weekend I worked as a lifeguard
no one dared go for a swim;
even the bacteria at the bottom of the pool
kept an exceptionally low profile.

During my time as a hired assassin
I only succeeded in blowing
a hole in my own ceiling.

Since my brief stint as a priest
guys have been coming up to me
in car parks, claiming to have been
the sole member of the congregation
during my one and only sermon.

That morning I spent directing traffic
I saw not one car or heavy goods vehicle,
despite it being rush hour.
Not so much as a passing bicycle.

For legal reasons, I can’t comment
on the winter I bluffed my way into a job
as a part-time weather forecaster,
predicted sun the day of
the eighteen hour blizzard of hailstones,
because the investigation
into those matters is ongoing.

With all this, my love life thus far
has been a speed dating session
to which no one turned up but me.

If you want something not done,
call, and I won’t be there.
Spend the next forty eight hours
watching the phone in the hope
I never get back to you.

 

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Rhapsody for Self #Hillary2016

(Cheers, applause) It’s wonderful for you all
        to be here today with me. Together
we can make America
        a house with absolutely no ceilings. 
Such a vision kept my granddaddy
        going to work
in the same Scranton lace mill
        every day for eighty years,
even when it was shut
        for the holidays. If we can bottle
just a little of that spirit of acquiescence
        and allow people purchase it in gas stations,
at reasonable  interest rates, or give it away
        free with the National Enquirer, I know
together we can make America
        a house with no ceilings,
and perhaps no windows
        or doors either. It was faith
such as this made my father believe
        his small business printing drapery fabric
in the wrong part of Chicago
        could, if he scrimped and saved
with sufficient fanaticism,
        enable a daughter of his to one day
become a former Secretary of State. 
        It brings a tear to my eye, even now,
and I know, to many of yours too; 
        those of you who still have them, 
because, as we know, America
        has been buffeted by big winds. 
This time eight years ago she was flat out
        on the washroom floor.     
But we’ve dusted ourselves up;
        and are standing again. Though not as tall
as we’d like to be. America
        is still working its way back to you.
She just hasn’t made it
        all the way across the dancefloor yet.
The challenges we face are new
        and old. We can’t go on forever
re-enacting the War  of 1812.  
        It’s no longer 1791.  Or even
1513 when Spanish explorers first spied
        through the clearing mist
what we now know was
        the electorally vital
state of Florida. 
        Since then many of you
have taken extra shifts, given
        hand jobs, postponed
home repairs, and I’m running
         for President to make sure
all of this continues. 
         It takes a former
Secretary of State to properly
         burn a village.
Who do you want there,
        when the call comes,
at three in the afternoon,
        Eastern Standard Time, 
and something’s going on in the world,
        while you’re all
safely tucked up in bed
        with my husband?
Together we can build
         a shaky but serviceable footbridge
to the third decade of the twenty first century. 
        To this end, I will personally exhume
and fasten to a table
        kindly donated by Walmart
the skeleton of Ricky Ray Rector, before
        a specially invited audience
of major corporate donors. We can do this
        if together we have the courage to be
the as-we-more-or-less-already-were
        we want to see in the world.
Talk to your friends, 
        your enemies, and even
your family. Text “JOIN” to 4-7-2-4-6.
        Sign up to make calls
and kick down doors.  
        (Cheers, applause.)
God bless you and, more importantly,
        me. 

Good Fortune - Manny Blacksher

You may remember Manny Blacksher from the ALSO THAT Poetry Contest I held last year. You may also remember him from the ebook of his poetry I published here on the site. I'm proud to share his beautiful words with everyone today. 

Manny Blacksher is an editor, freelance copy writer, and researcher living in Birmingham, Alabama. His poems have appeared in Measure, Unsplendid, Works & Days, Digital Americana, and The Guardian's Online Poetry Workshop. He had the exceeding good fortune for Mick Theebs to design his mini-chapbook, earthly Sharpness, in 2015. He is now revising a full-length manuscript.

-MB

Check out this video of Manny reading his poem 'The Procession'.

Editing for Heartache


In Chapter 3, you mastered the “Old-New Contract”
and combined it with strong characters and actions
to give a gas utility shut-off notice
clarity and grace. Think of how a typical
“Dear-John” letter obscures purpose and fixed resolve
with abstractions and meaningless modal phrases:

4.1.A
    Hey, I know things haven’t been good lately. I mean, 
    we tried what Dr. Floss advised. I think we both
    know it’s just not working out. God, I’m sorry, but
    I’ve got to go away. I need some time alone.
        
I’ll bet you’re shaking your head. The lover has missed
a chance to tell the dumpee they will never fix
concrete problems, and the dumper cannot be swayed
to go on with their irreparably damaged
coupling. The letter needs help from a confident
prose editor. Let’s sink our teeth into this draft
and make the story both lucid and dramatic.

4.1.B
    Dear Aubrey,

            I have been thinking of us. A lot.

    We agreed with Dr. Floss to give ourselves six
    weeks to make the important changes we discussed.

You still don’t clean the tub. I found more pubic hairs.
You forgot to pay the electric bill. Again!
Last week, I went down on someone from Marketing.

    Clearly, neither of us wants this relationship
    to change. I hold it annulled by common consent.
    Appeals will be considered for forty-eight hours.
    Please contact me with any questions. 

                        Yours truly,

 

Precision Finish by Cimex


Good that you and I should like surprise.
Repaved, familiar speedways feel new
to old drivers. We gauge each other through
quick looks, customary jokes, apprise
the field: road-worn but going odds are under-            
valued. We’ve bright eyes, firm smiles. We’ll
take Manhattans, and, later, should we feel
the itch, a room to run that circuit. Blunders
of drifting hard through curves have taught us all
the risks incurred by transport on strange beds— 
but what bed’s not strange if one doesn’t park
alone to cool beneath clean sheets? Infested
mattresses race with other bodies, remark
jumping thighs, fast times never bested.

 

The Procession

When they had rested, Jesus left that place,
But Ethel came behind him saying, Lord,
You’ve left your coat, and he replied, I’ll get
Another coat in Pergamum to last
For all the ages. Blessed be the fleece
Of Pergamum. All praise the tailors there,
The skillful needles. Narrow eyes can see            
How best to sew a button. Dust rose up

Before their watchful feet and kissed the sky.
When they had reached the hill where is a well,
They saw a multitude of Pharisees
All spitting beans at ghosts and crying out,
Leave us, Accursed! The Chosen One beheld
These fearful scribes and laughed aloud. He said,
You must not vex the dead, but come away
With me. They went with him but brought their beans.

Upon the road, a stone rolled hard against
The thigh of one whom Jesus loved. Hold up,
I’ve hurt my leg, said the Disciple. Wait,
My thigh is very sore, he told the Lord.
Let’s see how bad it is. The Son of Man
Put forth his hand and touched inside the wound.
I fear I may not walk. But Christ said, Thou
Will soon feel better. Don’t be a baby.
        
Later, they approached a market where
Was every kind of good thing on display,
All very keenly priced. The Lord said,
How difficult it is for wealthy men
To enter heaven, but I really like
This coat. What does it cost? The merchant said,  
Lord, if thou command, how can I not,
But I must sell this wondrous coat to you

For only thirteen silver pieces. Hear
Oh Sons of Judah, Jesus cried, how great
The faith of one who sells a decent coat
To me for six. Forgive your servant’s sin!
The vendor pleaded, Ten is this coat’s price.
Be healed, said Christ, and go in peace with nine.
He bought the coat and both were satisfied.
Ethel said, That coat looks good on you.

When they were on the road, the sun drew down.
The sun was broad and shone upon the fields.
Its light was gold on trees and stones, and wind
Bestirred the grass to din like distant cymbals.
The one whom Jesus loved was muttering,
It’s grown too hot, but Ethel looked about
And said, It feels like keeping promises.
And Jesus said, I know just what you mean. 
                                
Later, when they had reached another hill
Where is another well, a crowd of men
Possessed by ducks accosted them and waved
Their arms in fury. Rabbi, have you come
To foul our nests? The hour is at hand,
The Lord replied, when nests will be subsumed
In cypress boughs, and rivers cover all
The bank, and catfish eat your eggs. Fly south.

The sun was low. Christ said, Those ducks were nuts
—What a world. The Disciple who loved
Him said, You are the meaning in my life,
And Ethel said, You’re my inspiration.
Christ replied, Give thanks to God, it’s been
A perfect day, but I could eat a goat.
Let’s get inside. They shook the dust from off
Their coats and entered into Pergamum.    

Oh God, Why? - Keith Roland

Mick tasked Keith with getting weird with his photography in Photoshop. This little series is what he came back with. 

These photos are self-explanatory. I fucked with them in Photoshop using the rectangular marquee tool for most of them, then I realized I could make it an oval.
— KR

Eric Lee Bowman: Deceive The Eye


Mick Theebs: When did you first realize you were an artist?

Eric Lee Bowman: Well, I always knew I was an artist. My parents were both artists and they were both raised by artists. So it's been a part of the family forever. My mom is a painter and my dad is a photographer. My grandfather was a photographer. My grandmother was a photographer and a model. We always had an art cart rolling around the apartment with paints and markers and paper and stuff. Making art was the main thing to do around my house. Making art is just part of the culture of my family.

MT: How do you choose the subjects of your photography?

ELB: I'm doing mostly portraiture with this camera. The medium I'm working with calls for portraiture. It just works very well with the wet-plate collodion process.

Eric goes deep on the Wet-Plate Collodion Process

MT: Where did you learn to operate this equipment?

ELB: When I was in high school my dad set me up with my first camera. He gave me a Nikon FE2 and I was shooting 35mm film on that for most of high school. My dad showed me how to use the camera, my grandfather showed me some stuff with it and that's where it all started. With my current camera, you can't really get glass plates for it and adapting it for sheet film would require a little bit of work. I wanted to shoot on glass plates, since that was what the camera was designed for. So I knew how to operate the camera, I just didn't have film to put inside. So, I took a photo-chemistry course at SVA and studied a number of different antiquarian photo processes from the mid-eighteen hundreds.

MT: What are some of the challenges in working with such unique equipment?

ELB: The camera has a number of light leaks in it so I usually cover the camera with a heavy fabric or a heavy dark cloth, just to keep the light leaks to a minimum. I do occasionally still get a light leak or two here and there. Working with the chemistry is fun and I take a lot of safety precautions: rubber gloves, apron, goggles, and proper ventilation is important too.

MT: What if the camera breaks? How do you find parts?

ELB: Luckily nothing has broken on this yet. Really, there isn't much that can break. The wood could crack if I bend it the wrong way, but I can glue it back together or I can have a carpenter fix it. The bellows can be replaced. I just have to be very careful with the lens. The lens is the prize piece of the equipment.

Eric goes into detail on 'the prize piece'

MT: What are your thoughts on nostalgia and history and its relationship to present culture?

ELB: I know for me, using this equipment connects me to my family. There's a family tradition in doing photography and painting. I see that a lot in my day to day experience. In my apartment, I have something like fifty thousand photographs from my grandfather that he shot. That's just part of what surrounds me every day. Occasionally I'll open up my file cabinet and pull out some photos and that's my connection to the history of photography- through the history of my family.

ERIC SHARES SOME FAMILY HISTORY

MT: And you're absolutely keeping the history of photography alive in a very concrete way. Is there many people that still use this process today?

ELB: Oh yeah, there is a big community of people still doing this. We're connected on Facebook and Instagram and we're all following each other. I think what I'm doing is a little different, using the trick photo processes I'm using. I haven't seen anyone doing anything that kind of thing.

MT: What words of advice do you have for aspiring artists?

ELB: It's important to get stuff made. Just keep making stuff all the time. I've realized recently that if I'm not making it, it's never going to exist. Art is for the most part a physical object. It's something that exists as something tangible. You can have all the good ideas in the world, but if you're not making it it doesn't exist. Ideas are all well and good, but artists keep making stuff.  


Legal Disclaimer: All works above are the property of Eric Lee Bowman and are not to be not to be printed, not to be used for the promotion of a specific project, not to be used for any commercial purpose, and not to be published on any other site or in any other app without the explicit written permission of Eric Lee Bowman.

Special Thanks to Will Star who took all of the photos (that weren't direct scans) of Eric Lee Bowman and his work. 

Taylor Reviews: Popstar

My dear friend Taylor Raj is full of opinions. He's always going on about what he likes and doesn't like. Always rating things on a scale from one to ten. Finally, I lost my temper and said "God damn it, Taylor, if you've got so many opinions maybe you should just write reviews for my website ALSO THAT!"

And Taylor said "Okay."

I'm proud and pumped to share his very first review here on ALSO THAT.

-Mick Theebs

I’ll start this review by saying that this was the first time in years I've left a movie and primarily negative thoughts swirled in my head. I openly admit that I laughed out loud at portions of Popstar: Never Stop, Never Stopping. I enjoyed the previous movie The Lonely Island (which is the name adopted by stars/directors/writers Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer) group put out in 2007, Hot Rod, well enough. I even paid actual money for the first two Lonely Island albums. How could this movie have possibly left a bad taste in my mouth?

Popstar follows Samberg’s Conner “Conner4Real” Friel, a pop-music celebrity flailing through life after releasing a terrible and over-produced sophomoric album. Of course, Conner’s narcissism and ineptitude cause him to stumble into a spiral of poorer and poorer choices beget of its comedy movie format, culminating in his realization that maybe true friends are worth more than fame.

For a parody rap-group’s movie parodying the current state of pop music and trying to bring to mind Justin Biebers “Never Say Never” tour movie from 2011, you would expect the movie to have decent beats pumping out comedic lyrics for the entire movie. Instead, all but one song are distilled to twenty to thirty second clips that leaves the viewer wanting more. The only song that was played in full throughout the entire movie was the single “Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)”, which had actually debuted on Saturday Night Live two weeks before. Unfortunately for the movie, the SNL music video is an objectively better watch than Popstar’s “dancing around on stage for a while” and the scene is hurt heavily by already knowing the hook of the track.

Another crux of the faux-documentary style format was the cameos. The likes of Justin Timberlake, Usher, Mariah Carrey, Snoop Dog, and even a fleeting glimpse of Weird Al Yankovic were each used in quite humorous ways; you could see the actors enjoying their roles and delivering laughs. Danger Mouse, Arcade Fire, Questlove, and Ringo Starr, on the other hand, made phoned-in efforts for throw-away cameos in what seems to be a vague attempt to garner respect from the viewer. “Oh, they booked (X) for this movie” even though they added nothing of content, not even a chuckle between them all. DJ Khaled should be celebrated in-that he was on-screen for a total of forty-five seconds and only spouted one of his stale tagline/memes once; Spoiler Alert: it was “you played yourself.”

So where’s the problem? A few misused celebrities when the cameos were almost filling the film to burst in the first place isn’t enough to subtract if the jokes are hilarious, and again, some of them are. The issue is that the script forces all of the jokes to become stale after numerous repetitions and reuse. Hilarious jabs at celebrity rumor-mill TMZ (referred to as ‘CMZ’ in the film) hit hard as Will Arnett and Eric Andre chew the scenery during the first two iterations but ultimately falls flat on it’s third bit. A “maybe I did do it… or maybe I didn’t… but I probably did…” ad nausem joke actually goes on for around a full minute. The entire proposal scene crowning with Seal being attacked by wolves adds not a second more of footage than that which was shown perpetually as THE SCENE for TV and YouTube ad spots.

And in that lies the answer. Popstar finds Samberg & crew once again breaking their normal 3-4 minute long skit formatting that was so popularized by the group via SNL’s Digital Shorts like “I Just Had Sex” and “I’m On a Boat.” The shorter format calls for every second to be packed to the gills with visual humor, scrupulously edited to be punchy and concise, and that catapults the videos to viral status. There’s no time for repetition and down-time. Instead, the group’s directing/writing/starring/producing quadruple-threat efforts ends up exhausting the documentary style tropes over the ninety minute run time and leaving the viewer feeling drained as well.

Ultimately, I recommend that people wait until the best/watchable portions of this movie are severed from the rest in four or five months when clips begin hitting YouTube, and stay optimistic that The Lonely Island will craft more digital shorts (with increased effort) in the meantime. There are laughs for sure, but they’re not worth sitting through ninety minutes and $12 to get to.

Final Rating: 5/10


Taylor Raj operates a TV studio and can't enjoy movies since he learned cinematography. He's scared one day his skeleton will escape. You can find his inane rambling at @TaylorR37