Eurus

Next up on the chopping block: Euros by The Oh Hellos. Cross your legs, align your chakras, and let’s get a little bit spiritual.

But first, an ad from our sponsors:

Are you tired of today’s pop songs, always drawing from the same grab-bag of well-worn tropes and tired-out lyrics? Ready to trade lyrics like these:

“I’m that motherfucker bustin’ heads,
Finna push it to the ledge,
Yeah, I’ve been smokin’ my meds
Ain’t got no love for the feds.”

– “44 More” by Logic

Or

“I met up with an acrobat
In Brooklyn or some place like that
With life and taxis flying past
We tore that dance hall down”

“Fire Escape” by Andrew McMahon In the Cat Café or whatever his band’s called. I don’t even know why this dude makes me so mad… Hold on, I’m gonna take a second to Google him. This has been going on for far too long with no real, concrete basis…

See, my problem with McMahon began when I heard “Cecilia and the Satellite” on the radio, and it just really rubbed me the wrong way. It’s, like, if Buzzfeed created an indie lyrics generator; that’d be his music. Or, his popular songs anyway. Admittedly, I haven’t listened to any of his albums in their entirety, but isn’t that so often the case with the things we dislike? We never really understand them… anyway, then he calls his band Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness, and I’m like,Ok, frèrot, but what do you really know about the wilderness?” Where is this dude from… Portland, maybe?

Oh, holy shit, he has leukemia. Oops, is he OK?


He…
Is…

…still touring, cool. So, I guess he had cancer. Well, let’s wind this little rant down before the water gets too hot. If you’re feeling ticked off about me ragging on a dude that had and maybe still has cancer and wanna donate to LLS, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, you can do so – here – and prove to yourself that you’re a better person than me. And maybe you’re thinking, I don’t need to prove anything to you or myself, I didn’t roast a guy with cancer, well that sounds to me like you’re just trying to get out of donating.

Where were we? Right, so if you wanna trade out lyrics like that, for lyrics like this:

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Property of AF’s Media Division

Then you should check out this band. I mean, these siblings really lay it on thick in this album. Let me put it this way: if these lyrics were the sesame butter, and this album was the sesame butter and jam sandwich, one bite of this sandwich would have you chewing for days, nay, weeks. You would drink a whole orchard of almond milk just to lubricate your mouth hinges enough to swallow a bite of this v i s c o u s lyrical sorcery.

So dive into this album with a glass of almond milk and your bible handy, because the Heath’s are notorious for their biblical allusions as well. They’re a well read family: the Heath kids (they’re older than me, I don’t know what I’m going on about, calling them kids) have listed C.S. Lewis, classical mythology and fantasy literature as an influence in the past. Dear Wormwood, one of their former albums, takes its name from the demon nephew in The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis, a read which I would strongly recommend. Disclaimer: I’m only a quarter of the way through, though; so far, it’s not only been a cutting critique of the Church at the time, but also a philosophically ponderous epistolary novel. What I would recommend is reading Kandinsky’s On the Problem of Form, then diving straight into The Screwtape Letters. There’s probably a better pairing out there, but I like pretending that the Devil’s the leader of “The Black Hand” from Kandinky’s essay, and God is the Abstract Spirit. Also, if you (like me) are not a religious person, this might help you get more out of the reading. Just some ~ food for thought. ~

Let’s just quickly follow the breadcrumbs back to the original thread…

So, I started listening to this band about a month or two ago when tracks from Notos started popping up in my recommended new music playlist on iTunes. I’m not reviewing that album currently, but I would definitely recommend giving it a listen. Not to mention, Eurus frequently makes reference to and builds upon this work, so it’ll def elevate your listening experience.

Enough foreplay, let’s bust it wide open, one track at a time:

“O Sleeper,” (not the first time they’ve mentioned the “O Sleeper.” See “Caesar,” from Dear Wormwood) hitt’n you hard, right off the bat with some biblical imagery: floods, dunes and dales, and sacred rams? Actually, that last one is from Egyptian mythology, I believe. Sorry, breaking apart these lyrics for me is like trying to disassemble a piece of Ikea furniture if every screw required a different sized screwdriver. It’s like, in every line, I’ve got to go back to Google and type in shit like, “Sacred ram? Holy rocks? Pillars of an ancient empire?” and filter through death metal bands and satanist cults until I find the right screwdriver.

“Dry Branches,” tittering strings, the clacking of wood, a sort of stream-side chatter that crescendos and comes into focus over the course of a minute in this instrumental transitional piece.

“Grow,” which was released as a single before the album, plops us down in the living room, now a couple millennium removed from Ancient Greece. I feel like the first stanza paints a good picture of the creative process, or just what it’s like reading about ancient mythologies; maybe you’re reading the Odyssey late at night and your bed side lamp casts shadows that “look like a twisted apparition from the past.”  It really sets the mood for a nice, long read.

Something I really like about this song is the way Maggie Heath leads the band into a verse. She leads the charge with the “You” in “You shout it down,” like a queen at the head of her army. I’m not a singer, and I’ve never tried to compose a song like this, but I feel like there’s a sort of lyrical complexity… a sort of, well, actually, je ne sais pas du tout. You know what? I’m going to ask someone.

Fast forward one day and ~ Bam! ~ That’s how time works and I’ve got an answer. How cool is that? We just traveled across time together! I feel like we’ve grown closer… you know? Temporally speaking, anyways. Here’s what pre-school piano teacher, choral sorceress, and my mother Cathy had to say about the song:

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Ok, mom, well, looks like I might have been wrong about my previous claim. Oh for one, as they say some places at some times. But you know what? That’s just one opinion, let’s hear what the wonderfully talented jazz pianist, DJ and musical mage Hunter Brake had to say about it:

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You read that? “Fantastic panning” and “wide yet realistic acoustic space.” Not at all what I was getting at, but I’m giving myself half a point for being a good sport. A lesser man would’ve edited out his mistake. Not me, though. Never me. I like to think these reviews are as much about us growing as individuals as actually reviewing anything.

There’s also a theme that runs through this song like a ~ river, ~ this idea of letting nature be, absorbing its wisdom without imposing any of your icky, sticky human-ness upon it. Furthermore, this image of the river running its course reminds me of the adventure of Siddhartha and his final apprenticeship with the ferryman, Vasudeva. Siddhartha was able to finally reach enlightenment by watching the flow of the river, by just being and learning everything he needed to know in the passing waters.

Please direct your attention to the line, “let the wild takeover;” there are numerous references to satyrs and the wild in general in this album and the general consensus over on genius.com is that the wild and nature represents God’s perfect work, or, if you like, a white light or spiritual energy that we should interact with only by observation and acceptance. Moving on with the tour, we’ve definitely spent too much time on “Grow.”

“Eurus,” a great song, lead by Tyler Heath this time, warns against the treacheries of materialism and greed, similar to the messages in The Screwtape Letters. Some helpful soul on genius.com added that Eurus, the greek god of the Eastern Wind, was considered unlucky, thereby demystifying the line, “as Fortuna sits idly by,” which ushers us into a brilliant scene depicting the narrator, driven to depravity in his quest of earthly fortunes, sitting under the goddess’ table and subsisting on her crumbs alone.

“A Convocation of Fauns (A Faunvocation, If you will),” another instrumental, and this time it’s a banjo that carries the melody. Hot dog, this album really tickles my fancy.

“Hieroglyphs,” We’re in the home stretch now, and the band is kicking it into high gear. Picking up the beat after the last crescendo of “A Convocation of Fauns […],” the whole chorus chants us into a hot and sweaty fervor of biblical proportions. We’re stamping our feet after an enemy that’s been killed off long ago, or so the story goes, and I think the band would like us to ask ourselves, “Did we ever consider these beats might not be coming from the drums of war?” Now read:

“Cause maybe you’ve been to busy thinking ahead,
Of where we’re all going after we’re dead
To maybe consider our bodies are worth
More than the dust that we can return.”

Which, I think is a refreshing perspective, and one that I, personally, was sorely in need of. Again, like all of their songs, there’s something in there for everyone, even if you’re not a religious type. Sometimes we just get caught up in thinking about our legacy in a very selfish way, and we neglect all the good and happiness we could bring about in the present. Think about it.

Side note, this is the song I snatched the quote from in the review’s illustration. Check it out again to refresh your noggin meat.

And what about that old wheel that keeps on turning? What is that all about?

Well, it seems to me, that the old wheel is the cycle of life and death; it’s a boulder that each of us, a mortal Sisyphus, begins rolling up our own hill the day we’re born until at last we die and the boulder rolls back downhill, the next generation picking it up again. We keep turning that wheel until eventually the sun burns out and we, the rock, and even the hill itself are all burned to ash and dust. So, maybe, while you’re pushing that boulder, take a look around, pick a flower along the way, and do a couple reality checks from time to time.

And here’s something else that’s interesting about Sisyphus: when you’re learning to do anything, artistic or otherwise, learning that craft feels a lot like pushing a boulder up some well-worn path. You pass by all the spots that artists before you passed and maybe, if you do it quick enough and long enough, you get a chance to see a part of that hill that all the other Sisyphi never saw. Just a thought.

“Passerine,” at last we’ve arrived. An ode to what is to come, a moment of reflection upon the current project. By the way, a Passerine is a bird; I didn’t know that and I don’t expect anyone else to know that, so, maybe I saved at least one person a trip to dictionary.com, the unofficial sponsor of my work. Returning to the album, “Passerine,” the song, makes reference to their coming albums in this supposed tetralogy, heralding the coming of Borealis, the Northern Wind.

Also, I like this idea of “purifying the holy rock to melt the gilded seams;” it’s a beautiful way of saying that they’re recasting their religion and forging their own interpretation, one that feels much more pure and spiritual than one that focuses on the very concrete, cosmetic Christianity we see gumming up the pews these days. I’ll definitely have to come back to these albums after I get around to reading the original ~ Good Book ~

So, how are we feeling about this album? I really like the juxtaposition of Greco-Roman mythology and Christian lore. I know I personally have a lot of beef with the believers, and I think that’s a shame, because like Siddhartha, The Bhagavad Gita, and a lot of good scientific literature, there’s a lot we can all learn from their work, and I’m a little annoyed that my past experience with people beating me over the head with it has turned me off reading the damned thing for so long.

So I give the album my first 10/10, because I can appreciate a couple of well-read people making good music and creating some art. Admittedly, it takes a lot for me to listen to anything falling even close to the brand of Christian rock, and this band got me there, so kudos to them. Anyway, I hope you liked the review, feel free to check out our other eight reviews on the site, and we’ll see you again next time!


Hey, you. Yeah, reader guy, or gal, or whatsit, or whoseit.

Let’s have a talk. Grab a seat; get comfortable; make yourself a cup of tea if you’d like. It’s been a long review, I know. Your eyes are tired, you probably wanna rest. Please, just stay up a little longer with me; what’s it gonna hurt?

A lot of readers munch on yummy content like what I’ve got splattered all up and over these pages and I know they don’t really expect a lot in return, but hey, here I am, and I wanna know: how you doing? I wanna know: where do you read these things? Maybe on your phone while you’re on the bus or in the metro? Why are you even reading this smut, anyways, huh?

I know reviews aren’t supposed to have emot—er, seasons, but episode ten of AF’s reviews is just around the corner and it feels kind of like we’re reaching the end of Season One of AF Reviews. I think that’s pretty cool… I mean, we’ve got a good thing going on, right? I write these reviews; you read them; what else really is there to it? Look at what we’ve accomplished too: we’ve got a voice now, a sort of style; it’s like, now you open these babies up, and you kind of know what to expect.

I guess what I’m trying to get around to asking is: what do you, the people, want to see reviewed next? I’ve got a lot of ideas for this milestone: a look at selected pieces of Vonnegut’s work, a review of the animated series Gravity Falls, maybe even a look back at my experiences with Francegiving… What do you want to see? Where should we steer this ship? Because I’m telling you, with the shadow of our tenth review looming before us, I’ll point the bow in whatever direction you want. We’ll take this boat right into the eye of the storm if that’s what’ll get your goose got; I’ll get as nitty and gritty as your grimy hearts desire. We’ll get weird. We’ll get real weird.

Leave your suggestions in the comments. À toute.

Expectations

Composed by Wild Child, reviewed by me. 

Bonjour y’all, and welcome to another cerebrally titillating review brought to you from the somnolent Saintes, a town perpetually blanketed in clouds and cool breezes. Today we’ll actually be doing a double-feature, reviewing two works related, not only in genre, but in geographical origin as well. Join me as we travel to the Lone-star State, where everything is folksier, and, (surprise, surprise!) more ~ introspective. ~

Also, today the American Fables’ team of one is breaking from their haphazard reviewing methodology in favor of reviewing something that’s actually ~ relevant. ~ Some of you might be asking yourselves, could this represent a turning of the page in the history of American Fables’ Reviews? Could this be the start of AF’s rise to reputability as a general reviews kingpin? That, faithful readers (all, what? one or two of you?), is up to you to decide.

So, without further ado, if everyone would take this opportunity to put their listening ears on and get ready for AF’s review of Wild Child’s latest release, Expectations.

It’s pretty good, definitely better than that moment you realized love at first sight only maybe exists, and if it does, it’s is a lot more like winning the lottery than waiting for that special someone to just come knockin’ on your door. And I don’t just mean that it’s, like, holographic Charizard rare, but also that putting all your eggs in the ~ Love at First Sight ~ basket will probably lead to a kind of emotional destitution that’s akin to the cycle of debt many compulsive gamblers face. It’s pretty much the difference between finding a career you enjoy and working hard at it, saving up and building a life you’re proud of versus buying lotto tickets and trying to cash in on your innate ~ specialness. ~

Anyway, it’s also worse than Tyrell’s Veggie Crisps. I opened up a family sized bag the other day on my way back from the grocery store and the next thing I remember is waking up on the couch, groceries lying on the floor, drenched in sweat and one hand still in the empty bag. What I’m saying is, maybe it’s a OK if everything’s not as good as Tyrell’s Veggie Crisps.

Let’s take it from the beginning.

Did you enjoy the small child voice from “Crazy Bird”? Well, have yourself another heaping serving of baby voice in “Alex,” the opening track that sets the tone for the rest of the album. Though the rhythm is more upbeat to an extent that I wouldn’t describe “Alex” as melancholy, the lyrics become maudlin enough that at times I felt like, “Okay, Alex, I know you’re upset about the relationship, but, come on, you’re kind of being a…. Jerry.”   

Slipping and sliding on down the list, “Back and Forth” hands us a couple who’s distorted the notion of love and relationships to the point that it’s more apt to describe what they’ve got going on as a sort of spiteful game, a metaphor that returns in “Expectations.”  Throughout the whole album, there’s this recurring warning in the lyrics, advertising the perils of holding on too tightly to a ~ Sinking Ship. ~

Tired of reading this balderdash? Need to rest your tired, pink word-sponge? I had myself a little search on the ol’ Youtube and found one music video that they’ve already released for their title track. Check it out here. You can listen to the band playing in a dusty old room while Wilson lights candles then casually dips out to explore the joint.

Hold up, let’s see what we’re actually looking at here… Wilson wanders off from her band in some kind of… lightly haunted mansion? Sorry, I’m watching it now and I’ve only gotten about halfway through. Wilson’s upstairs; Beggins is holding down the fort downstairs with the band, probably wondering where their lead singer got off to. Should they keep playing? She’ll probably be back, right? Oh, wait, there she is. She’s been there the whole time I guess, I don’t know, I guess the daylight part is happening at a different time from the night time… I mean, it sounds obvious when I type it out, but it just wasn’t registering with me that these juxtaposed cuts were going on at different times. Ok, I’m at the climax now, and things are really starting to happen. So, is she like a witch? Is someone demolishing the house? Some sort of I, Robot, Will Smith still trapped in the ol’ mansion kind of deal? Looks like things settle on down after she finishes singing the line, “you can’t possibly give what I want from you.”

Looking at the lyrics now, really puttin’ on my reading glasses and wiggling my nose up and down the screen. I don’t see anything about ghosts, but I do see two ideas emerging from the page like phantoms of a sort. Looks like we’ve got ourselves a Class B12 relationship hazard: unrealistic expectations paired with a sense of ownership over your partner. You know, now that I’ve put on my critical analysis overalls and really waded around in these lyrics a bit with my music boots, I’m seeing how the band could’ve equated the idea of perfection that we project onto our partner with ghosts. I mean, when someone dies, it can be super hard to cope. You want something so bad that doesn’t exist, that can’t exist, that you start to project these expectations onto inanimate objects, onto happenings that aren’t supernatural in the slightest. But, you know what? I could be ~ wrong ~ and I encourage everyone to leave your own interpretations in the comments.

Also, there’s a live duet of “The One” on Youtube (here), where Wilson goes full Margot Robbie on a mountain top. One thought I can’t shake, though, is where’d she get the water from? Are they in a camping site? Is there a house nearby? Did they bring the water up in jugs from down mountain?

I really like “The One;” it’s sort of reminiscent of the break in “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, that part where the Ebert and Castrinos recollect that fateful fall that got them ~ falling  ~ in love. I mean, the message in these two songs is completely different, but something about the boy-girl dynamic and conversational form gets me thinkin’.

You know what this video reminds me of? There’s a scene from the movie Victoria & Abdul, where Queen Victoria goes on a “picnic” in Scotland, having her servants carry two or maybe even more tables, plus chairs, along for this lunch in the Scottish Highlands that lasts all of thirty minutes before the rain forces them back down the hill again. I bet Wilson had her servants haul that goofy ass bathtub up the mountain, shot the music video, then hopped back in the Jeep like it was the Mystery Van and said toodles, something to the tune of, “Right, so I’ll see all you tub people down at the bottom?”

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Property of AF Media Division

Just realized Wilson’s wearing a little kerchief in the tub. This little bit of L’Art pour l’art has got me thinking about Réné Magritte, not because he was a proponent of aestheticism (Was he? I don’t know.), but because of La Trahison des images (The pipe one. It’s the painting of the pipe.); a reminder that this is art and not real life, you’re not watching Kelsey Wilson taking a bath on the mountainside, you’re watching a performance, a video of Kelsey Wilson who is in a bathtub, but who is not bathing. Basically, this is a representation of the thing, not the thing, and that’s maybe what Wilson and Beggins wanted to communicate in this video. This song, “The One,” is not the relationship itself, they are not the ones in the relationship, and there was a relationship, maybe even still is, but it’s not exactly this thing that we’re singing about.

 

I swear, Beggins reminds me of someone… Somebody in the comments for “Crazy Bird” said he looks like Edgar Allen Poe, but I think he might be more Sam Brown from WKUK than Poe. Actually… I don’t know that that’s it either. Is it Jack White? Meg White? It’s the eyes and nose, but only when you see his profile. Haunting.

What did we even talk about this review? I’m pretty sure we totally neglected “Sinking Ships,” arguably the most popular track on the whole album.

Still, before I sign off and assign this work of art a somewhat arbitrary number of frozen water droplets, I want to talk about the last track on the album, my favorite track, “Goodbye Goodnight.” The coup de foudre struck when that chorus first came in and swelled, filling my ears like the rising tide making a run on the coast. But then, after the tide scurried back, I took a look at the tide pool verses, and I have to say, there’re some interesting critters floating around this song.

In the first few verses, we tie this album together, rounding out that allusion to childhood made in “Alex,” sustained through the entire album, and then we’ll plunged once more into the utter tragedy that is ~ the r e a l world. ~ And then that chorus, “don’t want to say goodbye, I’ll say goodnight,” it’s got me saying * this *

So, how are these cookies going to crumble? Are there any songs on Expectations that could compete with past hits like “Crazy Bird,” “Living Tree,” or “Pillow Talk”? I don’t think so, but as a whole, the album functions really well, existing as more than the sum of its parts. There’s enough recurring themes, solid flow, and general groove to keep this sinking ship afloat I’d say; I give Expectations seven snowflakes overall.

Stay tuned for review number two, coming at you in 3… 2… whenever you click on the link…

Over The Garden Wall

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Image snatched off of Youtube

Led-through the mist,
By the milk-light of moon
All that was lost is revealed…
– “Into the Unknown,” Over the Garden Wall

 


 

Created by Patrick McHale, reviewed by me. 

Hey everyone, this week we’re delving into the Unknown with Over the Garden Wall, a 10 episode mini-series created by Patrick McHale. I’m really excited about this one; I’ve been a fan of this gem for a minute now, and I really enjoyed The Panda Tooth’s recent Over the Garden Wall piano medley, a wonderful arrangement showcasing some of the story’s most enchanting melodies, commemorative of the series’ third year anniversary. Although, this does beg the question: why review it now… well, I’m already using the word review generously here, and I think these forums mostly boil down to one-sided banter and light researching on my part. It’s kind of like live-streaming someone write their term paper the night before it’s due. Exciting.

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I nabbed this nifty nubbin off of Wikipedia. I promise, Wiki, when I get paid, you’ll get paid.

So, yeah, the series is pretty good. I’d wager it’s better than actually getting ~ Lost in the Woods ~ especially if it’s autumn/winter time like it is in the series, because then you’d probably die. I know in the show you just sort of turn into a tree if you fall ill or give up, but in Real Life Land™, you’d die. Anyway, yeah, to round out that comparison, this series is probably worse than having Jack Jones sing you off whenever you exit a scene in your life. That would be pretty neat. Not to get ahead of myself, as I will be discussing OTGW’s soundtrack shortly, but this is probably some of Jack Jone’s best work. I say after my 5-min Itunes adventure, but I mean, I love his performance in the show as both narrator and frog, yet, it’s hard to divorce him from the image of the man who sang “Wives and Lovers,” a charming big-band classic that fixes gender roles tighter than a two ton cement mixer.

 

Let’s talk origin stories, DC. It all started with my laddie Patty’s pilot-y-ish episode, Tome of the Unknown, which you can watch here. A quick word of warning though: the voice of Beatrice is different in the pilot, and you might think that it’s all good and groovy, but if you’ve already seen the show, it’ll bother you. It’ll bother you so much. It’s like a knowing there’s a spider in your room while you’re trying to sleep. It’s like putting the toilet roll on the wrong way. It’s like the English dub of Alphonse in Full Metal Brotherhood. It shouldn’t matter, but it does.

The cast is a good time, everything from a Python to a Hobbit, which sounds like a food chain, and in the acting world probably is when you consider that John Cleese is the Python and Elijah Wood is the hobbit. The story follows two half-brothers, Wirt and Gregory, voiced by Wood and Collin Dean respectively, as they travel through the fairy-tale forest of The Unknown with the help of their guide, Beatrice (Melanie Lynskey) the blue bird. In this mysterious wood, where McHale-storm presents us with “little pockets of stories,”  we encounter enchanting characters such as the witch, Adelaide of the Pastor (Cleese), and her Studio Ghibli-esque sister, Auntie Whispers (Tim Curry). There’s the Woodsman (Christopher Lloyd, aka Doc from Back to the Future) who must chop down Edelwood trees to fuel his ghostly lantern, the silky smooth baritone of Jason Funderburger the Frog (Jack Jones), and the omnipresent Beast. Each episode is presented as a 10-11 minute self-contained adventure, taking you to a new section of the forest every time, whether that be on a Ferry Boat with frogs in suits, or battling against the North Wind in Cloud City, or kicking back in a bazillionaire tea mogul’s mansion with John Cleese.

Let’s talk about the soundtrack: it’s an absolute trip. Inspired by the American folk music tradition and featuring voices like Jack Jones, C.W. Stoneking (who you’ve probably never heard of but he plays the sad pumpkin and sings like a beautiful, rugged, country angel), and Janet Klein (who you’ve probably also never heard of, but her she’s got a very particular saloon groove that matches this very particular series). All the music was written by the Blasting Company, and if you’re looking for some quick and dirty peeks at these tracks, check out this melodious sample, Patient is the Night, or this sweet, sweet cover of Can’t You See I’m Lonely. If these songs don’t make you want wander off and get lost in the woods, I don’t know what will. But don’t do it. Like I said, you’ll probably die. Instead, you can read my short story, Lost in the Woods, and run a much lower risk of dying while exploring it! No guarantees, though, I assume no legal responsibility for those who happen to die while reading my stories.

If you wanna delve even further into the Unknown, check out the comic series written by McHale and illustrated by Jim Campbell. It fills in some of the spaces in between the episodes and gives you a little more time to get lost with these intrepid (half) brothers. If you’re still not convinced of how intriguing a ride this mini-series can be, check out this young man’s analysis of the series’ inspirations right here; his very thorough research helped me quite a bit in my review-making process.

All in all, I give the mini-series nine snowflakes, my main critique being that there are parts of the narrative that feel rushed, and being beholden to the 10-11 minute formula it’s easy to see how that could be the case. Still, there are definitely some episodes that feel perfectly paced such as one of my personal favorites, “Hard Times at the Huskin’ Bee.” But still, every once in awhile you’ll feel a conversation seemingly cut short or a transition rushed.

Ultimately, this is an iconic series that has an amazing soundtrack and is short enough to watch in one sitting. I mean… Stranger Things is debatably short enough to watch in one sitting if you’re trying to make that sit last a full day, but Over the Garden Wall runs a little over two hours total, so it’s a pretty moderate sitting. My friend told me this is the series he watches whenever he’s sick, so I think it’s safe to say it’s got some homeopathic properties to it as well.

Hope you enjoyed my first animated series review, I’m hoping to do more like it in the future. If you liked this review, feel free to digitally like it, share it, print it out, make a hat out of it and wear my review on your head, do whatever your little heart fancies until next week. Bye.

The Square

Directed by Ruben Östlund, reviewed by me. 

Snatched this poster of Allociné’s site. Still not sure if I can do that or not, but here we are, giving credit where credit is due. 

Hey, everyone, so today I’m doing my first movie review. I should probably mention I’m a pretty avid reader of Rotten Tomatoes’ home page, and I’ve read a lot of their certified critics’ one or two line reviews. So, that said, I think I’m ready to go ahead and cut my teeth on this year’s Palme d’Or winner, The Square, directed by Ruben Östlund. I watched the original version of this film with French subtitles about a week ago in the Théâtre Gallia. I wanted to write this review while it was still fresh in my mind, but, like, also ripe enough to really dig into, so that’s why I’ve given it a few days to mature in my mind-garden. I’m sure other film critics would argue that it’s better to write a review right after you’ve seen the movie, or even watched it a second time, but you know what, I’ve never subscribed to that kind of Rorschach, first impression applesauce.

So, all in all, it’s pretty good. I’d say it’s definitely better than watching The Room with your parents, but worse than eating saltwater taffy at the beach. Or eating anything while watching The Square; Théâtre Gallia is apparently too good for a concession stand. Their philosophy seems to be that we’re supposed to feel adequately nourished by the experience of auteur cinema alone, without the aid of snacks or drinks. I even snuck food into the theater once, but I couldn’t eat it because no one else was eating and pretzel M&Ms are too crunchy to eat inconspicuously and alone.

For all my philistine readers who just aren’t in the know, ol’ Ruben’s a Swedish director from Styrsö, a quaint town of roughly 1,300 inhabitants and famous for its exportation of Ruben Östlunds. And this film is, for the most part, in Swedish with the exception of scenes featuring Elizabeth Moss, which are in English. Elizabeth Moss, however, wasn’t in most of the movie, so I spent the better half of two hours reading the movie with my adoptive compatriots. Actually, that reminds me: as I was leaving the film, one of my adoptive compatriots was discussing the film with the lad working the front, and complained that it was a long film in which nothing really happened.

I, on the other hand, would beg to differ. Christian, our film’s protagonist, goes through a whole roller coaster of awkward emotions and encounters. Sometimes Christian shares genuine moments of camaraderie with strangers, fending off staged aggressions against women who then rob Christian of his wallet while he’s distracted. Sometimes Christian yells at obnoxious little boys, who’ve broken in to his apartment, and who’re causing a ruckus during the wee hours of night, much to the abject horror of his daughters. Sometimes Christian tries to flex his affluence, only to arrive at a distressing half-chub of ostensible power that thinly veils his true status as yet another pawn in this cruel and pitiless world. This seemed like a pretty important point, you know, that even though Christian is a well-to-do, white, middle-aged, sexy-in-that-rugged-hipster-dad kind of way dude, he’s gettin’ the business just like everyone else.

And by everyone else, I mean mostly homeless people. This film really drives home the wealth inequality and destitution that the humans of Stockholm are experiencing. If Christian isn’t in the office neglecting his responsibilities as museum owner or at home pulling his screaming daughters off of one another, he’s out and about interacting with the other half. Usually by passing them by and ignoring them only to change his mind later and interact with them in some charitable or recompensing way.

I do see where my disgruntled adoptive countrywoman was coming from though. The movie doesn’t really end on a high note; we’re left with a disillusioned and jobless Christian driving his daughters home after his quixotic quest to right his wrongs against an underprivileged family is cut short. But my boy, Ruby Two-Shoes, was aiming for that glorious, murky sweet-spot of désespoir, weltschmerz and crushing absurdity. Really a winning combo. He stated in an interview that he was aiming to capture that feeling of trying to right a wrong that you’ve committed only to discover it’s now too late and the moment’s passed. Basically, if ol’ Rubes wrote the ending of Chamber of Secrets, Fawkes would’ve arrived a minute later and dropped the sword of Gryffindor on Harry’s petrified corpse.

So, like I said, I watched this movie about a week ago and it was in Swedish, so I don’t really have any good quotes ready for you. But I do have some quotes from my first review, John Green’s Turtles all the way Down, that fit the bill pretty nicely, so I’ll be supplementing square-quotes with turtle-quotes.

Towards the end of the novel, Daisy tells Aza this with regards to their own tale and how it ended in a somewhat unresolved and unsatisfying way:

“You pick your endings, and your beginnings. You get to pick the frame, you know? Maybe you don’t choose what’s in the picture, but you decide on the frame.”

And I think ol’ Ruben would agree with that. See, ol’ Ruben’s not the kind of guy to crop you out of his profile picture; he’s the kind of guy that crops you in and then also the older gentleman photobombing your photo with his fly down, pecker out. When Ruby edits a movie, he doesn’t just leave the fat on the final cut; he leaves a little bit of skin and hair on there too. His shots are just a little bit longer than you want them to be, and you get that extra screen time with moments you just wish would’ve already ended or never existed in the first place.

Midway through the movie or maybe even later there’s a scene in the film where Christian and his two girls are hanging out in the museum, checking out the Square, and Christian explains to them a little bit about what it represents. By the way, the eponymous Square is a piece of modern art that Christian spent way too much money on to have brought to his museum in Stockholm. Sorry, totally should’ve mentioned that earlier. Anyway, allegedly the Square is a place where anyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, can stand and feel safe. The poor can stand among the rich here, and if you need help, help will be given; if you need to talk, then good conversation will find you. Inscribed on a golden plaque near the piece are the words:

“The Square is a sanctuary where trust and altruism reign. Inside, we are all equal in rights and obligations.”

Or something. That’s my translation of the French translation from its original Swedish. Or maybe it was in English… this might be an English translation of the French translation of the original English plaque. Doesn’t matter, it’s a plaque with a kitschy slogan on it. Similarly, in Turtle’s All the Way Down, Aza and Daisy are walking through an old sewer and they see the words ,“THE RAT KING KNOWS YOUR SECRETS,” scrawled on the sewer’s wall. I don’t want to equate the potency of these two masterstrokes of genius, but I think one thing the Rat King has over The Square is its likelihood of actually influencing the life of a homeless person. Although, that’s more of a geographical commentary than a content one.

All in all, I give this film seven snowflakes, because as far as auteur cinema goes it’s pretty accessible in that you can watch it and be pretty interested without having Bourdieu levels of cultural currency. Also, it really highlights the misgivings social classes have about each other and how it can be hugely awkward when they try and interact, even with the best of intentions, and deflates upper-class philosophical philanthropy and idealism, which is good, because a lot of us like to talk a lot and at the end of the day we’ve changed nothing other than the way we feel about ourselves. Plus, Östlund nailed the tone and experience he was going for, leaving us in a uneasy state of moral ambiguity.

I hope you liked this review and feel free to like it, or share it, or print it out and throw it in a bin. Either way, I’ll see you next week!

Turtles All the Way Down

Written by John Green, reviewed by me. 

Hey, everyone, welcome to my first review!

Ouf, that looks a little funny… probably kinda weird to say welcome to a review. I mean, this isn’t, like, a physical space; I’m not opening my review’s front door and ushering you in to my review’s foyer, taking your coats and scarves and hats and all that. You didn’t bring me, like, a page-warming gift. No baked goods, or flowers, or edible arrangements. I mean, it’s not a physical space, I know, but wow, that would’ve been really rude of you to show up here empty-handed. It’s a good thing, I guess, that I’m not really welcoming you into anything other than, y’know,

Knowledge.

I’m still trying to figure out what kind of review we’re going to do here. Not really sure if I want it to be funny or serious. I definitely want to make you, the audience, think a little bit and, well, let you get a taste for whatever this book has to offer. Don’t really know how to write a review either… I guess we’ll just, you know, start this thing.

So, Turtles all the way Down. All in all, it’s pretty good. I’d say it’s definitely better than a terminal case of Clostridium Difficile, but worse than the first time you saw Orion pull back his bow on a clear summer’s night. This book is good, I’m not saying

Résultat de recherche d'images
Found a nice little cover shot on the interwebs. Got it off of Google Books, so don’t, like, sue me or anything. I thought this would be better than just a picture of my Kindle.

it isn’t, but I’m talking about a human experience here. Like the kind where you leave your apartment for once and actually go talk to human people. A book is still just, well, a book. I mean, it’s not like anyone’s gonna go and fight a war or kill anyone over a book. It’s all just pages and letters; the night sky is pretty much infinite.

I mean, listen, you’re sitting there, with your back against the grass, and you don’t have a care in the world. It’s summer, the weather’s nice, you’re enjoying this little vacation from life’s worries. Maybe there’s someone special there with you. You’re sitting there and then maybe you think about holding the hand of that special someone who’s fortuitously reclined next to you in the grass. It’s him or her, that boy or girl you’ve had your eye on for a little while now. You’ve never done it before and you know your hands might be sweaty, but perspiration be damned! You’re here, under the night sky, safe in that perfect moment you’re sharing with them. It’s rare, you know? To be sharing the exact same view as another human being. I mean it’s like Aza, the protagonist from this book I’m supposed to be reviewing, said:

“Anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.”

And you’re not thinking about class. You’re not thinking about biology. Specifically, you’re not thinking about your intestines. You’re definitely not thinking about C. Diff, about how you could have a life-threatening colony of bacteria growing inside of you as we speak, usurping the aristocracy of your current micro-biome. Now C. Diff is standing on the tables of their lavish banquet halls, pulling down its pants, and defecating on the food prepared as a commemorative feast honoring the many years of peace and prosperity within the micro-biome pffftabaleacdasaepoiavh…

Oh, woah. I just dozed off for a second. Also looks like my cat just walked over the keyboard or something, I should probably go through and edit all that…

What are we doing? Where am I? It looks like… right, a review. I’m in a review.

Ok, so the drama here is that we’ve got a 16 year-old high school girl trying to solve a missing persons case while juggling her social life, a new relationship, and a crippling case of OCD. There’s a lot going on there for sure. Definitely a lot to unpack… Not sure how I’m gonna get started on this…

Let’s talk about the author.

John Green is an author and vlogger, among other things, and runs a Youtube channel with his brother, Hank, called vlogbrothers. He’s also one of the creators of CrashCourse, an educational channel that puts out videos talking about everything from World Mythology to explaining the Nature of Reality through DiCaprio’s Inception. The videos they’ve put out are wonderfully informative, well delivered, and accompanied by simple graphics and animations that help delineate their points and break up the monotony. They strike a similar vein to KurzgesagtA channel as helpful and inspirational as it is hard to pronounce, whose animated videos are well structured and deliver incredibly thought-provoking and intricate ideas in a logical, easy to follow fashion. Better yet, just think Khan Academy, but with animated ducks.

Um, yeah, that’s John Green. He’s done that stuff and some other things and then he wrote this book and published it pretty recently. Uh, I guess, let’s see, why did he write this book again?

So, right, OCD is a topic very near and dear to Green; its an experience that he shares in common with the story’s protagonist, Aza. On his vlog and in interviews, he’s spoken out against the romanticization of mental illness, noting examples from film and television in which a mentally ill protagonist uses their illness like a superpower. For Green, this has not been his experience with mental illness at all (as he states in his video What OCD is like (for me)), and this has in turn helped inspire Turtle’s all the way Down. Aza Holmes is constantly at war with her “invasive” thoughts, and often times feels like she’s miles away from the world going on around her. For her, OCD doesn’t give her a leg up on the detective game. It doesn’t make her a better friend or a better girlfriend—in fact, it often times leaves her feeling quite the opposite. She’s painfully aware of how self-involved her illness makes her seem, and this awareness juxtaposed with her inability to express her situation to friends and family produces some of the most provocative and sincerely moving moments of the novel. Ultimately, we feel as though we understand the futility of Aza’s struggle, and that compounds our frustration when we realize the shortcomings of language in dealing with matters of the head and heart.

Another fascinating subplot of the novel is Green wrestling with his own existential crises. The same video wherein he denounces Hollywood’s portrayal of OCD, he also goes on to mention that the illness poses certain problems with regards to how he constructs his personal identity:

“If I can’t choose my thoughts, and I am at least in part made out of those thoughts, then am I actually the captain of this ship I call myself?

Pretty hard line of internal questioning there. But this question is ubiquitous within Green’s narrative; Aza is constantly doubting her own agency. She starts off “her” story suspecting that she may indeed be a fictional character in a novel, muling over her lack of agency before sharing this revelation:

“But I was beginning to learn that your life is a story told about you, not one that you tell.”

I mean, unless you write an autobiography. There were probably, like, brackets or an editor’s note in the first draft saying something similar. I mean, if you write an autobiography, then it’s both. Anyway, I digress and Aza goes on to say in the next paragraph,

“Of course, you pretend to be the author. You have to. You think, I now choose to go to lunch, when that monotone beep rings for on high at 12:37. But really, the bell decides. You think you’re the painter, but you’re the canvas.”

It just goes to show, any thing or place can be a platform for discussing existentialism and your place in the universe, even a… Whoowee! Look at the time. And by time, I mean word count. This review is just all over the place. I’ll probably edit all this, take out that part about laying in the grass, put in some simpler allusions to the text, and omit that shameless plug about Kurzgesagt. By way of wrapping all this up, let’s give this book eight snowflakes for lending you a tremendous insight into the life of someone with OCD, a kind of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time meets John Green’s obsession with micro-biomes, plus some philosophical musing and teenage drama. If you liked this review, let me know. If you didn’t, cool, maybe I’ll hit the mark next time.