I am still a relative newcomer to the pen and stationery hobby, but like so many, once I dive-in, I tend to devour and learn all that I can. It is my personality and is most assuredly an off-shoot of my librarian/archivist/academic tendencies. So it was that, pretty quickly, I became a bit confused and annoyed with the rather loose definitions of the terms “vintage” and “modern” by those in the community. Ask 10 hobbyists how they would define “what is vintage and what is modern,” and you would probably get at least 5-7 different answers, if not 10! For me, this is a problem because I need some guidelines at the very least!
We could try and use the qualifications that are applied to antique/vintage car registrations, which can vary between state and country, but they usually label as vintage anything that is between 20 or 35 years old. This, while giving us a set length of time, also yields a moving window, meaning that—eventually—everything becomes vintage. Which might be fine for some…but not for me. And my feeling that way is due to how people will talk about a “vintage inspired design,” not unlike how some talk about vintage clothes, which points to a more aesthetic criteria for what is vintage vs. modern. (For example, see the cover story of Pen World February 2019, which touts, “Vintage Inspiration” in a story about Armando Simoni Club, Wahl-Everysharp, Conway Stewart, and Bexley, pp. 42-9.)
I love blue, it is my favorite color by far (with purple a medium distant second), and even better is that the color has a fascinating history in our culture. It is a color that is sad and joyous. It is the color of royalty and the color of the commoner. It is one of the rarest naturally occurring colors and yet is also the color most associate with both our planet and its two most prominent features: water and sky.
And it is a color that has been among the hardest to produce for dyes and pigments until relatively recently. It is a color that at one time was so prized in Western art that artists had it written into agreements how much patrons would provide for them, and it was reserved for only the most import subjects in art: Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
I will not attempt to rehash the history of blue here, but the links to the following YouTube videos will provide a more thorough (and entertaining) recap of this fascinating color:
RADWIMPS is a Japanese band I first became familiar with via their music for Makoto Shinkai’s beautiful anime film Your Name, and whose music I will forever associate with my final months in Virginia—a time of my life that will forever stir up complex and uncertain emotions. And while the exact memories and images of places accumulated in my ten months at the College of William & Mary have already begun to fade as I settle into my new life in Memphis, the music of RADWIMPS will always yank me back to the sidewalks and streets of Williamsburg, VA.
The music of the group is a mélange of styles, ranging from hip-hop to rock, but the majority of their music would fall into what I would squarely call pop. And catchy, sensible pop at that. So it was that shortly after falling into the world of Shinkai and Your Name, I quickly downloaded all the albums and EPs that I could and put them on repeat. Which is to say that I had listened to most of their catalog prior to moving to Memphis, and which is why I find it curious that it was not until after I had moved that I had the experience of being stopped in my tracks by the song “Weekly Shonen Jump.” Continue reading “Dreaming of a Future: RADWIMPS’ “Weekly Shonen Jump””→
Almost any film (or narrative story) is about “the journey.” It is what gives a character their arc and shows their growth. Sometimes there is a very literal metaphor of this arc with a character climbing a mountain or driving across the country with a friend or their father’s ashes…or Einstein’s brain. Regardless, something they all have in common, though, is that the journey is the means by which the character grows. This is the essence of “The Hero’s Journey” and the well-trodden Joseph Campbell Hero With a Thousand Faces and what not.
But what about a film that is not about the hero’s journey and how it changes them? What about a film in which the journey itself is the point? A journey that, while somehow revelatory of the character and either their motivations for the journey or society as a whole, rather than changing them or causing them to grow as a person, instead ends up either not affecting them or, if anything, leaving them worse off for making the trip.
If there is one question left in my brain at the end of Ex Machina, it is “who was the true villain of the film?” For so much of its runtime we are left in a state of unease at the actions and personality of its erstwhile genius creator Nathan (Oscar Issac)—some sort Steve Jobs crossed with Mark Zuckerberg crossed with Dr. Frankenstein mad scientist—and we wonder when the other shoe will drop. Nathan is erratic, quick to anger and just as quick to soften; unpredictable, clearly an alcoholic, and also paranoid. His security measures prove to be his very undoing, and also cause the death of his unwitting test subject/examiner, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), one of Nathan’s employees who is there to perform a Turing Test on Ava (Alicia Vikander), Nathan’s android creation.
Danny Boyle’s Sunshine (2007), written by the future Ex Machina (2014) and Annihilation (2018) writer/director Alex Garland, was, for me, the film from which I learned the phrase “third act problems.” In this way, it was a seminal film in my development as a critical viewer and analyzer of the cinematic arts. And yet, despite these problems, it remains, in my regard, an outstanding example of the science fiction genre and a film that I whole heartedly recommend.
The following essay had its start in my long delayed hauntology project (I promise that will begin posting soon), but in the process of streamlining that series and removing a number of films because the essays I was writing kept getting longer, I decided that both Sunshine and Ex Machina did not really fit with the themes I was developing…though Sunshine was heartbreaking to remove because I do want more people to watch it, flaws and all. Continue reading “Stardust to Stardust: An Adagio to Life and Death (Alex Garland’s Sunshine)”→
Shokugeki no Soma, aka Food Wars!, is a strange anime. It is a show with its central focus on the world of a gourmet cooking academy in Japan, albeit one with a large, sprawling campus, a huge student base, though also is a school rigorous enough that students are routinely culled in intense examinations and trials. It is categorized as a: comedy anime, a slice of life show (it is essentially a high school series after all), a competition/battle anime (most of its story arcs revolve around the titular “Food War” battles), and also an ecchi series (or semi-erotic/sexy anime, in this case the clothes of various characters are routinely blown off as a way of demonstrating just how intense and flavorful the food is). As with any ecchi series, yes, many of the women are drawn without regard to realistic body proportions, but dammit if the show isn’t a hell of a lot of fun and also funny. And the actual food wars, or shokugeki, are absolutely thrilling and really make me want to do more cooking, or at the very least experiment more in the kitchen.
And it is the food wars that I want to to talk about a bit more here, or one in particular that occurred in the first half of season 3: Yukihira Soma (our main character) vs. Eizan Etsuya (a member of the school’s Elite Ten council of students).
One of the items I acquired over Christmas 2016 was the recent Funimation box set of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, a 2006/2009 anime based on a series of popular Japanese light novels. I had heard many recommendations for this series, and the basic idea of it sounded both weird and fascinating: a high school girl who is an unknowing all-powerful being who might accidentally wipe out existence if she gets bored. The trailer for Funimation’s release of the series gives a decent overview:
This clip also gives a hint at a fascinating scene that occurs in episode six (of the chronological ordering…yes there are various viewing orders and it is somewhat confusing so just read this) when Haruhi has created a “closed space” dimension and sucked our poor, snarky protagonist Kyon into it with her. During a climactic moment when Kyon realizes what he needs to do to escape with Haruhi the closing minutes of the first movement of Mahler’s Symphony #8 kicks in. The sequence lasts for almost 4 ½ minutes and features a seemingly unbroken stretch of the movement. Continue reading “Veni Creator Spiritus: Musical Quotations in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”→
N.B.—This is a lightly edited form of my remarks delivered at the 2016 Society of Cinema and Media Studies conference held in Atlanta and the 2016 Music and the Moving Image conference held at New York University. Hence why this is nearly twice the length of my normal post.
James Horner has been a divisive figure in the film music community, fandom and scholarship alike, for many years. The cause of this division stems from Horner’s predilection for not only lifting material from other composers—Sergei Prokofiev and Dimitri Shostakovich to name but two—but also from routinely recycling material from his own scores. But the legal debate over copyright and plagiarism is best left to the Hollywood lawyers, but understanding the debate surrounding Horner is important. Continue reading “Borrowing Beyond the Stars: James Horner’s Music for Star Trek II and III”→