The Culture-ist Articles

Emerson set up a partnership with The Culture-ist, an online travel/social justice/wellness magazine and the people at the Culture-ist are kind (crazy) enough to let some students take over their magazine for three months.

I wrote this article and edited this one.

So far so good. Just got to make sure to get all of the pencils out the ceiling before they come back.

Nights of the Demons ’88 Defies Tropes…but Still isn’t Very Good

I watched Night of the Demons ‘88 because my friend Paul told me that a lady pushed her lipstick into her nipple. That didn’t appeal to me on a sexual level, but one I’m a little more embarrassed about. I watched a feature length film so I could tell Paul I’d seen the “nipstick” scene.

That ninety minutes was about as well spent as it sounds. The movie had bad dialogue and worse acting. I think it could be fun with a lot of friends and a lot more beer, but it had one redeeming grace: not only did the black guy, Roger, not die first, he didn’t die at all. Roger, dressed as a pirate, is by far the best part of that movie.

I wouldn’t give the writer credit for subverting tropes, but that’s because I don’t believe he’s smart enough to identify tropes. I will give him credit for unintentionally writing the funniest slasher survivor of all time.

Roger gets to the abandoned funeral parlor where the high school kids are having their, as people do on Halloween. As soon as there is a modicum of evidence they’re in danger, he runs.

The girl who flees with him is killed. He does nothing to prevent her death. There’s no investigation. There’s no attempt at vengeance. Instead, Roger keeps running.

Then as his friends are possessed and killed one by one, Roger falls asleep in the car he’s hiding in. When he does wake up, he twice shirks the typical male role of saving the lead girl, Judy. The first time, a skeleton moves and he’s out of the room before Judy can tell him to wait.

They’re surrounded by the demons later. There’s seemingly no escape. Roger jumps through the window with no concern for Judy’s safety. He doesn’t say “Follow me” or “This way.” He acts in his own self-interest. Judy follows, but gets no help from him.

The piece-de-resistance, though, is the very ending. Judy follows him through the window but the ten-foot tall exterior wall has morphed its gate into part of the wall. She spots a wire that they can climb. She tries to go up, but doesn’t have the skill, so Roger cuts her in line and scampers to safety himself. He comes back over and saves her too, but only after he himself is assured of survival, and I love that.

It’s hilarious, and realistic. The person who worries about surviving themselves first in a bloodbath should live, provided they keep their wits about them. Roger did that, and though he couldn’t save Night of the Demons, he saved himself, which turns out to be his M.O.

A Humble Star Wars Fan Theory

There have been a lot of theories about who Rey’s parents are floatin around after Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out on December 18th. I’ve heard that she’s the daughter of Luke Skywalker or the granddaughter of Obi Wan Kenobi, and some have even said that maybe she’s Kylo Ren’s daughter. Okay, that lost one was my just immediate reaction after my first viewing of The Force Awakens because she seems to be saying goodbye to him as a girl in her force vision. I’ve given up on that one, but I have a humble theory of what’s actually going on.

I believe that Star Wars fans have fallen victim to some hidden ball trick style misdirection. Everyone is thinking about Rey’s parentage because it’s been intentionally left unknown and she fulfilled Luke Skywalker’s role from A New Hope. If the new trilogy follows the original trilogy’s blueprint as The Force Awakens seems to have followed A New Hope’s, then logically the creators will reveal Rey’s parents in the next film. But I think that’s an intentional move by J.J. Abrams et. al. to keep fans off the scent, which is something they’ve already done once.

One of the first things Abrams et. al let fans know about The Force Awakens was that they’d brought back the original cast to play Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, C3P0, and R2-D2. Then thy released trailers and promo materials that left off Luke. Nearly a year before The Force Awakens finally opened, they had fans throwing out all kinds of wild theories about where Luke was and what he was doing. Why wasn’t the main character in the trailers? Turns out it was nothing, and Luke only appeared on screen for like twelve seconds. And I think they’re employing the same kind of misdirection to have us thinking about Rey’s parentage, diverting us from thinking about the other key new character: Finn.

All we know about Finn’s ancestry is that he was kidnapped in infancy. He’s never met his family. Could he be a grandchild of Mace Windu? A son of Lando Calrissian (who is rumored to return in future Star Wars installments)?

This is where the “humble” comes in though. I’m not convinced Finn is a descendant of Lando or Mace. I just think we’re being directed away from his ancestry to Rey’s because his will turn out to be the important one.

As for Rey, I think her big reveal will be who she’s been waiting for and it will be someone who’s not related to her. She’s got years of tally marks, counting the days who or whatever she is waiting for has been away, so it ought to be good as well.

R.I.P. David Bowie

David Bowie wasn’t a huge part of my life before today. I’ve only heard ten or fifteen of his songs and while I admired his performance in The Prestige, it’s all I’ve seen him act in. All the same, I cried when I heard the news, and it took me most of the day to put my finger on why.

My friend Vinny and I were in band together for four years, and though we never covered any Bowie songs, we kicked around “Space Oddity” for a while. Like all of the music from Bowie I’ve heard, “Space Oddity” is a simple, four-chord (and more during the breaks) kind of tune. What made him great was how much style he infused into every note. All of his music seems easy pickings and playings, as long as you don’t want to do it like Bowie. No one could come close to doing that as well as him.

I don’t remember if we gave up on “Space Oddity” or I moved away before we finished it. We never played it out. What I’ll always remember is how much fun it was learning the calls and responses. In this small way, David Bowie made my life better. For that I pay tribute.

“This is Major Tom to ground control
I’m stepping through the door
and floating in the most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today.”

Rest in Peace.

David Bowie (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016).

 

Soccer Action at a Distance

This story was originally entered into the Quantum Shorts 2015 contest. You can see the original post, wonky formatting and all, here.

 

Soccer Action at a Distance

by Ryan Bradley

The other parents always stared at us on the sideline. My wife was stupendously beautiful. I’m not stupendously handsome. I am white. She is not.

 

So other parents came over and asked our names.

 

John and Sulgara.

 

Where are you from?

 

“I’m from Pittsburg,” I would say.

 

“I’m from New York,” Sulgara would say.

 

“But where are you from originally?” they’d say to her, circumventing me entirely.

 

“New Rochelle,” she’d say, refusing to give them the answer they wanted without them saying exactly what they wanted to know. She went neighborhood, street, building number, apartment number from there, until they asked her about her ethnicity.

 

And then she let them know how rude she found the question.

 

I’d share mine. Half-polish. A quarter Irish. And a quarter, believe it or not, Caribbean, something my off the boat Polish father found hilarious.

 

So I understand why Sulgara doesn’t want to come to games anymore. I do. But our son, Noel, doesn’t. He’s nine, and he’s got my eyes, so he needs all the support his mother can give him. I mean, they’re too close-together and too near-sighted for him to make the ten feet from his bedroom to the bathroom at night without his glasses.

 

So here’s the compromise: my wife—beautiful, adoring, and brilliant when it comes to everything but the mysteries of human interactions—has quantumly entangled her eyes, removing one and tethering it to her, which allows it to float outside her body and still transmit what it sees back to her. Once it became entangled, it was constantly linked to her, no matter how far it went. It goes with our son or me, following closely while she uses the other to work in the lab. Talking is much simpler. She’s rigged up a speaker that I clip to my belt. She’s got a microphone in her lab that she talks through.

 

And that’s why people look at us at soccer games now. We’ve gone from the only mixed-race family in our town to the only family where one member has manipulated quantum physics to watch the game.

 

It floats next to me, brown and beautiful like her. It’s at about the height she would be if she were next to me. But I’ve got her eye instead. It tracks the ball, going left when ball goes toward Noel’s end and right when someone boots it to the other side of the field. Maybe I’m projecting, but it even twinkles on the rare occasions Noel manages to do something correctly. Steal the ball. Pass the ball away before it’s stolen from him. Dribble upfield. All infrequent.

 

The other parents pretend not to stare, maybe they want us to feel normal, but none of them come near us. They yell their son’s names and even Noel’s when he’s doing well.

 

The conversation has shifted now that they can’t see Sulgna. It’s the conversations I remember my mother having at my brother’s soccer games growing up, although there are more men. One woman starts on the topic of anniversary presents. She brags that her husband wrote her a poem, and she reads it for us. It is sickening. Each line, all different syllabic lengths, rhyming words like “love” and “dove.”

 

Another woman’s husband took her on a surprise shopping spree in Manhattan. Though she’d appreciated the effort, she was the one who kept the checkbooks and splurged tepidly.

 

I didn’t think Sulgna would like me to share what we did. We’d been married in India, Kochi to be exact, so her grandparents could see us. For our latest anniversary, we’d gone back to visit, but after all the effort that she’d gone to make people stop talking about her race, I thought better than to bring it into the conversation this way.

 

But then I heard her voice, crackling from the distance of her lab to the soccer game telling the other mother’s about what we’d done. And then the questions started.

 

What’s it like there?

Is it true they don’t have toilet paper?

 

Does Noel get sick from the food or is that kind of tolerance for spice genetic?

 

To be fair there was a “how are your grandparents doing?” offered by the mother of a Brazilian boy on the other team. The eye bobbed, trying to follow the questions. I popped open an umbrella, careful not to give her a black socket like I’d done carelessy the last time. Without a lid, it needed to be shaded manually.

 

She needed to bring India up. Once some things become tangled, no amount of twisting or struggling can pull them apart.

End

You can see the shortlist and vote for winners here.

Graphic Novels I Read in 2015

1. Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues by Gail Simone and Walter Geovanni

2. Wonder Woman: The Earth’s Ends by Gail Simone and Aaron Lopresti and Bernard Chang

3. Jinx by Brian Bendis

4. Sin City: The Hard Goodbye by Frank Miller

5. Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar and Dave Johnson

6. Homecoming: Birthright by Joshua Williamson and Andrei Bressan

7. Sandman, Vol. 4: Seasons of Mist by Neil Gaiman and Matt Wagner

8. Sandman, Vol. 5: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman and Shawn McManus

9. Locke and Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

10. Sandman, Vol. 6: Fables and Reflections by Neil Gaiman and Brian Talbot

11. Sandman, Vol. 7: Brief Lives by Neil Gaiman and Jill Thompson

12. Spiral Into Horror Uzumaki by Junji Ito

13. Sandman Vol. 8: World’s End by Neil Gaiman and Mike Allfred

14. Sandman Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones by Neil Gaiman and Marc Hempel

15. Echoes by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Rashan Ekedel

16. And then Emily Was Gone by John Lees and Iain Laurie

17. Sandman Vol. 10 by Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli

18. The Monsters of Jimmy Crumb by James Patrick and Jen Hickman

19. Pretty Deadly Vol. 1 by Kelly Sue Deconnick and Emma Rios

20. Gyo Vol. 1: The Death-Stench Creatures by Junji Ito

21. Gyo Vol. 2 by Junji Ito

22. The Invincible Iron Man by Matt Fraction and Salvador LaRocca

23. The Tomb of Dracula vol. 2 by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan

24. Eel Mansions by Derek Van Gieson

25. Something Monstrous by Steve Niles, R.H. Stavis, and Stephanie Buscema

26. Transmetropolitan, Vol. 1: Back on the Street by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson

27. Batman: Court of Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

28. Batman: City of Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

29. Death of the Family by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

30. Gotham Central Vol. 1: In the Line of Duty by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Michael Lark

31. Batman: The Man Who Laughs by Ed Brubaker and Doug Mahnke

32. Tomb of Dracula Vol. 3 by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan

33. Habibi by Craig Thompson

34. Planetary vol. 1: All Over the World by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday

35. Beasts of Burden by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson

36. Life in Pictures by Will Eisner

37. The Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics Ed. by Peter Normanton

38. Blankets by Craig Thompson

39. Palestine by Joe Sacco

40. Bone by Jeff Smith

41. She-Hulk by Charles Soule and Javier Pulido

42. Wilson by Daniel Clowes

43. The Book of Magic by Neil Gaiman and John Bolton

44. I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura

45. Rise by Tarek Shahin

46. Prophet vol. 2: Brothers by Brandon Graham and Simon Roy

47. The Animal Man Omnibus by Grant Morrison, Chas Truog, and Doug Hazlewood

48. Intro to Alien Invasion by Owen King, Marc Poirier, and Nancy Ahn

49. All Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

50. Prophet vol. 3: Empire by Brandon Graham and Simon Roy

51. Stitches by David Small

52. Unknown Origins and Untimely Ends: A Collection of Unsolved Mysteries Ed. by Emi Gennis

53. Prophet vol. 4: Joining by Brandon Graham and Simon Roy

54. Batman Vol. 4: Zero Year: Secret City by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

55. Batman Vol. 5: Zero Year: Dark City by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

I read 55 graphic novels this year, which averages out to about one a week. It didn’t look like that in practice though. I cleared out Emerson College’s (where I’m finishing up my MFA) library’s graphic novel section in the summer, as well as going through my roommates ample collection. Now I’m going through their horror movies.

Graphic novels got their own list this year because they read so much quicker than prose/poetry books. It felt like I was artificially inflating my book number by including them, and I decided against continuing that.

I want to read more by women next year, so if anyone has any recommendations I’d love to hear them. I’ve read Alison Bechdel’s books and am ever so slowly making my way through The Greatest of Marly’s by Lynda Barry, but I need more.