Kiki’s Therapy Service

Hayao Miyazaki is without a doubt one of my favorite filmmakers. I can prattle on and on about his movies but I’ve always liked some more than others. For me he had two movies that I liked but just referred to them as his “delightful” movies. They were great to look at and I had fun watching them but I didn’t find much to unpack after viewing.

One of the two was Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) but I recently had the chance to see it in a theater (in 35mm no less!) I was just going, because, honestly, I could see it for free and I love seeing actual film in a theater. But it knocked me on my ass. It touched me more than I ever thought it could.

A little background on me: last time I watched this movie I was still in high school and living at home. While the idea of striking out on my own like Kiki does at age 13 seemed very cool to me, I just thought the whole film was a pleasant A to B story without much else happening.vlcsnap-2016-07-22-11h55m26s432  Flash forward almost a decade later and I am in the huge new city of Los Angeles struggling to figure out my life.

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New Comics: Black Hammer

Jeff Lemire must be the hardest working person in comics right now. He captained four books in Marvel’s All-New All-Different relaunch; continues to publish the excellent Descender with Dustin Nguyen, has a full graphic novel scheduled for release early next year, and will be writing Marvel’s new Thanos series for this fall’s Marvel NOW! initiative. For starters. But his new Dark Horse series Black Hammer, debuting this week, may end up being my favorite Lemire book this year.

Together with artist Dean Ormston (Sandman, Lucifer), he tells the story of a Golden Age super-team now mysteriously trapped in an alternate reality and relegated to life on a small farm, just outside city limits of an equally small town. In fact, the main adversarial conflict in this first issue seems to be from the local sheriff, jealous of the attention his ex-wife is giving to “Abraham Slam.” The mystery deepens as we discover that, in the process of protecting Spiral City from an unnamed threat, the titular hero sacrificed himself to not only save the city, but his teammates as well.

File_000 (9)There’s a special reverence in the creation of Lemire’s Golden Age-inspired heroes, the kind that we’ve seen from so many other writers and artists over the years, from veteran auteurs like Grant Morrison and Alan Moore, to more recent homages by folks like Jeff Parker and Paul Jenkins. All of the characters in Black Hammer are classic Golden Age archetypes, lovingly brought to life by this creative team, and imbued with that sense of wonder and space-age fantasy that first captivated society more than three-quarters of a century ago. Some of them, like Martian warlord Barbalien, are obvious nods to what must be some of Lemire’s favorite classic heroes (“Mark Markz..? Uh… it’s Swedish.”)

Like it or not, we live in an era of scrutiny and suspicion, where every opportunity to disgrace and denigrate is embraced with the speed of a Tweet or soundbite. Knocking people down a peg has become a full-time job for anonymous Internet trolls and publicly recognized spokespeople alike. Human heroes have always had flaws; but it seems like rather than celebrate the ability to overcome those flaws, we’d rather bury people in them. Not even our superheroes are safe. Shields are tarnished, capes are torn, and  they’re at war with one another.

So when you get to the last page of this first issue of Black Hammer, and you discover that an intrepid reporter (the Golden Age worship is nonstop!) from their home reality is still searching for those heroes, even ten years later… her words “no matter what, I’m going to find them” resonate with serious profundity. She’s looking for heroes, for all of us.

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Favorite Albums of 2016 (So Far)

One of the most old man things I’ve ever heard myself say is to comment on how quickly the year has gone by. But, really. It’s July? We’re already past the All-Star Break? It’s hot out? (Purportedly. Still gloriously foggy and chill by Ocean Beach.) It does seem as though the first half of 2016 has gone by in a blur… until I look back at the list of albums I’ve enjoyed since January. Here are five of my favorites, as well as a link to a bite-sized playlist of representative tunes, courtesy of the Idle Time Mixcloud.

hinds albumHinds – Leave Me Alone
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Those two ladies from Madrid whose “Trippy Gum” made its way onto every other playlist I made in the summer of 2014 (back when they were known as Deers) became a four-piece last year, and then opened twenty-sixteen with this record, their outstanding debut LP. There’s a wild, carefree zest to their brand of jangly lo-fi rock n’ roll that reminds me of Love Is All. Despite releasing in January, Leave Me Alone hasn’t left my rotation alone yet this year.

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Favorite Comics of 2016 (So Far)

eisnerawards_logo_11Comic book award season is upon us, and before this year’s Eisner Winners are announced in San Diego, it felt like a good time to reflect upon some of my favorite releases thus far in 2016. Outside of the conversations we’ve had regarding Marvel’s All-New All-Different initiative, and DC’s recent Rebirth, the funnybook-obsessed Idlers hadn’t really discussed everything else we’d been digging until just recently.

Nice to see we’re all on the same page regarding Vaughan & Chiang’s Paper Girls (although, personally, I’m rooting for Zander Cannon’s Kaijumax in the Best New Series category). We all snatched up Clowes’s Patience as soon as it came out. We all agree that Jason Aaron can’t possibly script enough books. Beyond that, here are five other highlights from the midpoint of the year.

TurningJapaneseTurning Japanese – MariNaomi
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MariNaomi’s follow-up to 2014’s Dragon’s Breath is every bit as moving and personal as that collection of autobiographical comics, but with a more singular narrative focus. She recounts the exploration of her Japanese heritage, primarily following a move from San Francisco to San Jose in the 90’s, and a subsequent gig at one of that town’s underground Japanese hostess bars. She sets about learning Japanese, with a curriculum rooted in one of the most improbable and hilarious settings one can imagine. From there, it’s a year spent in Japan, more fully immersing herself in the culture and reconnecting with her family.

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I’ve always been very interested in the notion of “home,” particularly as modern generations exhibit an increasingly restless disconnect with what defines that home, both physically and culturally. Similar to MariNaomi’s experience with the Japanese language, I didn’t learn Italian until later in life (although, unlike her situation, it was due to my own stubbornness – my folks tried like hell to teach me when I was a kid), and extended visits to Italy always filled me with an odd mix of pride and alienation. Her novel isn’t just a beautiful, often funny, poignant memoir of her own cultural affirmations; MariNaomi’s Turning Japanese is a tour guide for all of us wandering souls who haven’t given up on finding home, or reconnecting with some aspect of ourselves.

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Movie Mondays #2 – Inside Llewyn Davis

As part of our Ultimate Playbill project, each week a faculty member will take the time to extol the virtues of one of the beloved films on this list. This week, I tackle djlazybear’s #3 pick, Inside Llewyn Davis (2013).

Defining yourself is no easy task. One often finds themselves during a course of hardship in their life and uses the experience to paint a much clearer picture of their ideal self. The Coen Brothers have made it their mission with their films to shatter this idea and show people trapped in their cyclical natures.

With Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen Brothers made their cruelest film showcasing this point. While some may argue for No Country for Old Men (2007), that film actually ended on a note that people still have a fire in them. Inside Llewyn Davis has none of that and remains a ton more relatable than No Country to the average person caught up in the same cycle.

Using the early 1960’s New York – Greenwich Village folk scene as a springboard, the Coens leap into the frustrating tale of Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) and his inability to break through musically, financially,  and through his own depression.

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Civil War II and the Marvel NOW! Preview

File_005 (5)Bendis and Marquez’s Civil War II #3 provides plenty of shock value this week, and in the world of melodramatic superhero event books, where every reveal is built up via rickety scaffolds of significance, that’s saying something. So, yes, major spoilers ahead. This book is as recommended as they come, so if you haven’t already done so, check it out, and then report back here for some fallout analysis. We’ll hang tight. Skedaddle.

Fresh off the encounter with Ulysses, in which the Inhuman with the power of prognostication gives the assembled superhero community a palpable vision of The Hulk’s impending murderous rampage, the capes and tights gather outside Bruce Banner’s mountain laboratory for a much more stressful confrontation. Things go south from there.

Over the last decade, the death of a superhero has become a dangerously cliched plot device. The media at large makes note of it, adding to the artificial significance of the event, despite every comic book reader of any interest level knowing full well that it’s only a matter of time before the character is resurrected. Besides, you can’t kill superheroes. Particularly in this modern era of Hollywood blockbusters, animated television series, and mobile video games, when the concept of a canonical timeline has become blurred to the point of irrelevance, telling anyone that The Hulk is dead rings a little hollow. Hell, just today the fine folks at Marvel Puzzle Quest unveiled their five-star Hulk character, the Bruce Banner edition. The Hulk seems pretty okay to me.

So what is relevant? Why is this single issue so powerful? Like all good superhero epics, the weight is in the delivery and the treatment. How Bruce Banner is killed is as important as why he is killed, and if the developing storyline can make us question the meaning of heroism and the responsibility of power, then all the better.

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PBC #4 Through the Looking Glass

Playlist By Committee is a subdivision of the Institute of Idle Time dedicated to the preservation of the mixtape format. Each month, four governing members and one guest contributor choose a theme and each pick five songs that best correspond to that theme. The songs are then reviewed and ranked by the committee, with the the top songs being added until an 80 minute blank CD is filled. The list is then published via Mixcloud for the listening pleasure of all who seek it. This is our 4th playlist.

Idle Timers are a group of people who value escapism, it’s part of the reason we all came together (okay, and to assert our opinions). While the earliest PBC lists were about individual artists/bands, we quickly moved onto themes. While different from one another, they always had a quality of music that took you somewhere be it a cave or a drug induced coma.

With our guest this month, GWC decided to pick one theme that reached into the whimsy side of IT. Those songs that have such an otherworldly feel, that you can’t held but be transported to another world. So here we have an assortment of various songs that will take us all over the places all over our mind. We’ll start with a little psychedelic explosion before cruising over to an electronic dreamscape and finally ending in the haunting world of your mind. We hope you can stay with us the entire flight.


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Electronica Brief – July 2016

The Electronica Brief is a recurring article with electronic music picks by faculty member Vico Vault. The picks don’t have to be new releases, they just have to be worthy of recommendation.


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Four Tet – Randoms
2016

Four Tet offers up this “random” collection of tracks that were made as one-offs. For a hodgepodge it’s still a very consistent sound and great working music.

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Movie Mondays #1: Let the Right One In

As part of our Ultimate Playbill project, each week a faculty member will take the time to extol the virtues of one of the beloved films on this list. This week, I tackle LDG’s #3 pick, Let the Right One In.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about tribes. How we form bonds with people who share similar beliefs, customs and ideas. It’s interesting to me that in a population of billions, one of the ways we establish our individual identity is through the people we surround ourselves with. Perhaps one of the most meaningful things we do with our lives is open ourselves to others, build trusting relationships, and love one another. At its heart, Let the Right One In is a film about a young boy finding his tribe and forming his first truly intimate bond.

From the moment we first see Oskar (Kåre Hederbrant), as a hollow reflection in the window reaching into the night, he exudes a sense isolation. His mother, though loving, is preoccupied with finding romantic love with another man, while his rarely seen father has a boyfriend. Whether his parents were ever married is unclear, but Oskar walks through life with ambivalence, knowing that he is not the most important thing in either of their lives. Continue reading Movie Mondays #1: Let the Right One In

DC Rebirth – Week 7

DC’s Justice League, the successor to comics’ first super-team, the DC/All-American Justice Society of America, has become something of an institution among comic book fans and pop culture junkies in general. For most of us who grew up with Super Friends every Saturday morning, this was the definitive assemblage of superhero icons, and in an era in which Hollywood has rabidly placed its hooks into every cape, cowl, and domino mask, trying like mad to control perceptions and dictate narrative directions, it’s more important than ever for these comic book institutions to stand on their own.

Bryan Hitch has the reins for this week’s Justice League: Rebirth, one of the “zero issues” that precedes the proper first-issue series reboot in DC’s Rebirth initiative. It’s a mostly familiar roster centered on the Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman trinity (albeit a pre-New 52 Superman who is still being regarded with some suspicion by his comrades). Aquaman and Flash are there, of course, as is Cyborg who, a few years ago, graduated from the Titans to the JLA. Taking the place of Hal Jordan are the two newest Green Lanterns of Earth, Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz.

This one-shot succeeds, possibly more than any of the Rebirth introductions to date, at offering an ideal starting point for new or returning readers. Obviously that has a great deal to do with the fact that these are all recognizable characters; even beyond our cultural familiarity with DC’s franchise heroes, however, Hitch does an excellent job of featuring the individual powersets, the organizational dynamic, as well as the new status quo with an unfamiliar Superman and new Lantern recruits.

That’s a lot to cram into 22 pages. Oh, and there’s a giant techno-organic space beasty invading the city (more Watchmen-crossover hints?) attempting to harvest the populace. And because that’s a lot to tackle, the comic stumbles a bit. Not to give away too many spoilers, but there is a climactic everybody-shoot-at-once scene inside the creature that would feel lazy even in a Saturday morning Super Friends episode. Not to mention that it isn’t at all clear where they are when the guns are blazing (or still trapped inside its tummy when it flees the atmosphere?) It’s a super-team book, and that’s a tough dynamic to iron out. When you’re tasked with tidying up a complete story that involves a major extinction-level threat in the confines of one issue, then you’re going to deal with some wrinkles.

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