Sunday, August 8, 2010

KaraokeFanboy Weekly #4: The "Come Talk to Me" Issue

KaraokeFanboy Weekly, vol. 1 no. 4: The "Come Talk to Me" Issue


The latest issue of KaraokeFanboy Weekly makes its way online a little later than usual, but I have a good excuse: I was the featured poet at Conspire's Open Mic in Phoenix on Wednesday, August 4. Fortunately, the event was recorded and I've published my reading in four parts on YouTube; you can find them at my channel. This was my third feature but the first I've ever made available for public consumption; I hope you enjoy it!


To parallel my posting the Conspire feature, this week's theme is connection, specifically the connections we share with people and our surroundings, and I can think of no better song (or performance) than Peter Gabriel's "Come Talk to Me." This live performance (which introduced Paula Cole to the world) is especially stirring.


I scratched a comedian off of my bucket list this weekend when my girlfriend, my oldest friend Wade and his girlfriend, and I saw Nick Dipaolo at the Comedy Spot in Scottsdale. I didn't know of any other comedy venues in the greater Phoenix area than the Tempe Improv, and while I was grateful to find a new venue, the intimate setting was almost too much so for a quick smart mouth like Dipaolo, who absolutely couldn't stand the loud table behind us. He badgered them (and rightfully so) into silence many times throughout the show until they just eventually left -- but why anyone would go to a comedy show and talk through it is beyond me. In many ways, even above the intricate and delicate word play of slam poetry, stand-up comedy is the last great demonstration of oration in contemporary society. Whereas slam poetry is designed to elicit a variety of emotions depending on the piece, and even the humorous ones don't demand laughter, stand-up demands laughter. This laughter implied an attentiveness -- that's where the audience participates. Unless heckling enhances a comedian's routine (and sometimes it really does), just sit back and enjoy the show. Indeed, the way many comedians analyze their job is no laughing matter. Thankfully, Dipaolo is better than anything a stuck up Scottsdale crowd can throw at him, and his show was worth the wait.


Note: I'm eager to include two new staples to KaraokeFanboy Weekly; the first is a weekly comic book review. From July 2006 to June 2007, I actually reviewed A Comic A Day on a blog with that very name; my sophomore effort to read another 365 comics failed barely one fourth of the way through the year, and the blog's recent incarnation to find the daily influence of comics was a flop, too. So, I'll continue the legacy here, albeit weekly, with whatever comic or graphic novel I've read lately.

Batman: Snow (DC Comics): written by Dan Curtis Johnson & J.H. Williams, illustrated by Seth Fisher

A year and a half into his career as the Batman, Bruce Wayne is both tired yet determined to continue his one man war on crime. When he realizes his few friends in arms are limited by their allegiance to the law (James Gordon as a cop, and Harvey Dent as a lawyer, of course), Batman assembles a small, diverse of talented individuals that could offer research and reconnaissance to his cause, and at first their efforts are successful. Unfortunately, parallel to their efforts in capturing an up-and-coming crime lord, the origin of the villainous Mr. Freeze is unfolding elsewhere in Gotham City, and when the plots collide, the results are certainly a snowball of circumstance Batman can no longer control. In the end, Batman dissolves the group and resolves the only partnership that could really benefit him is one involving someone willing to listen to his every marching -- somebody that can watch his back. Good thing the circus, with their feature act the Flying Graysons, are coming to town . . .!

Seth Fisher's art is this story's true selling point, as the artist passed away way before his time and this work stands along Green Lantern: Willworld and Flash: Time Flies as his most mainstream, superhero work. I hate to say it, but honestly I'm not a fan of Fisher's Batman. His work is simply too detail-oriented to depict the Dark Knight as the living shadow many artists personify; for better or worse, Fisher's Batman is way too human. I do like his Mr. Freeze, and the character's incremental development from scientist to hallucinating madman suit Fisher's eclectic style perfectly. Above all, Fisher's passion for illustration is prevalent throughout the story (originally published in single issues of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight) and is greater evidence that the industry lost a star way too soon.

Mr. Freeze has always been one of my favorite villains, but I hadn't thought of him as Batman's first super-powered villain until this storyline. Indeed, thanks to his suit, his strength and defense is more than an average person could handle, so when Mr. Freeze's bosses and the Gotham underworld work together to weaponize that cryogenic technology, everybody's in over their head, especially Batman. Further, while Batman always brags about flying solo, he is in fact one of the neediest characters in comics, and this story ambitiously and successfully sets the tone for both Bruce Wayne's need to work with others and why he's just so darn picky about it. Batman realizes his limitation as one lone ranger in Gotham, but as events unfold in Snow, he also discovers how a group of conflicting personalities becomes a greater liability than its worth. As much as this is Mr. Freeze's origin, it's also that of Batman's feelings toward Robin and the Justice League. Robin's the kid he was able to mold into the perfect partner; the Justice League is a bunch of adults with different, oft unyielding methods and opinions. Mr. Freeze gave Batman a good reason to have a cold shoulder.


The other new feature for KaraokeFanboy Weekly is actually an old feature of sorts, recycling posts from my old LiveJournal. Since I started this blog, my LiveJournal has slowly but surely breathed its last, but I don't want to abandon it entirely, as it represents a foundational part of my life in writing. In their recycled incarnations here, I can hopefully offer some insight to my mentality when I wrote this stuff; I know in this case, I was examining the crossroads of my life in California and the possibility of moving to Arizona. I was sitting at the Coffee Plantation in Scottsdale before heading out to Comic Con, and Phil Collins' "Take Me Home" came on the radio. I was already thinking of Plato's analogy of the cave, and the concepts clicked. So, submitted for your approval:

"Take Me Home, Because I Don't Remember"
originally posted on Tuesday, July 21, 2009, 3:34 p.m. on KaraokeFanboy LiveJournal

First of all, Phil Collins is the Plato of our generation. Don't believe me? Listen to his song "Take Me Home," or at least read its lyrics here, then remember Plato's Allegory of the Cave, summarized like all things by and for general consumption at its Wikipedia. Both contributions to society depict a character that has been "a prisoner all my life," with a "fire that's been burning right outside my door," and that seems content with the delusions that have pervaded his life. Indeed, adult contemporary radio is the Socratic dialogue of our generation.

I first heard of Plato, Socrates, and the Allegory of the Cave my freshman year in high school, when Mr. Poslaiko introduced them in a discussion about the relevance of learning via our five senses. Of course, this analogy easily extends and can describe the way one lives his life, as well. Unlike the victims of Plato's allegory, some people choose to live chained and to behold those vapid shadows as their only understanding of reality. In one of his dialogues, Plato even explains how one freed from those chains and dragged into the real world might prefer the shadows, as they were his original and thus true perception of the way things should be -- and some people act like that today, as well.

We call these people the Amish. Kidding . . . That was too easy.

I don't live in a cave. I live in a tunnel. At either opening, I can turn to see a different vibrant reality, but right now I'm looking at the shadows they cast on the wall. These shadows sometimes blend into one distorted image with the dancing shapes of each, depending on the way the fire behind me burns and pops. Other times, the shadows are cast so far apart, I may as well crane my neck that extra inch to look outside, but then I see the opposing reality in its colorful, third dimensional glory, in stark contrast to that different, static silhouette, and I get confused. It's enough to make me want to put that that fire out.

I suppose Plato's prisoners had a third option, though I don't think he ever explored it: though their limbs and heads were bounds and immobile, they could've closed their eyes and refused the shadows to create a reality all their own. The snag in this plan is that the imagination could only conjure and distort what it's already seen, so even their make-believe escape would consist solely of shadow, too -- but in my case, I've seen it all. I've seen both ends of the tunnel, the shadows they cast, the tunnel itself. I've seen the ground beneath my feet and can easily tunnel another way out, something I've done a few times before and would rather not do again. That it's always an option is enough.

Yet keeping the two worlds at bay to remain in the tunnel is not enough; it is, as the Allegory of the Cave insists, an empty existence. So, what's the answer? Good student that I am, I consult the Phil(osopher) Collins and his treatise: I feign memory loss, and I demand: Take me home. After all, I'm not a prisoner; I walked into this tunnel. Someone lead me whence I came, out the way I'm most familiar. Take me home.


There's no place like it,
Russ a.k.a. KaraokeFanboy

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