Recommendations, 4/12

This week, our staff suggests new comics, Kickstarter’d magazines, and the practicality of life-size replicas of science-fiction spaceships.

Kevin

I’d be surprised if I read a better comic than Gilbert Hernandez’s Marble Season this year. It’s amazing that three decades into his cartooning career, Hernandez is still publishing his best work. He’s known for his prolific Palomar series, part of the larger Love and Rockets comics, which he has been co-authoring with his brother Jaime since the ’80s. But Marble Season, Hernandez’s first semi-autobiographical comic, is more straightforward and more accessible than anything I’ve read of his before.

Marble Season is almost like Hernandez’s take on Peanuts, set in a predominantly Hispanic California suburb in the ’60s. Through young Huey and his friends, Hernandez reveals a portrait of a pop-culture-soaked childhood, specific yet universally resonant. Also like Schultz’s comics, parents are figures that exist in the periphery but are never present. It’s mostly up to the kids to figure things out themselves.

Hernandez also taps into a disconnect between the way adults think of adolescence and the way teenagers think about growing up. As an older reader, we look at Huey and his friends with a nostalgic envy for a time when our days were spent wandering and playing pretend; and yet, Huey is overly concerned with the future, as teenagers are wont to be. In a moment of unknowing sweetness and insecurity, Huey announces that it is a beautiful day, and immediately after, wonders if he’ll like being a grown up. Hernandez has brilliantly captured the dilemma of adolescence in this single moment: wanting so badly to be an adult, while being so afraid of it at the same time.

marble_season

Darryl

In 1992, the USS Enterprise almost came to Las Vegas.

It’s probably good that this thing never got made. First — donning nerd glasses here — for canon reasons, since the new J.J. Abrams Enterprise is longer, bulkier, and built more like a Budweiser brewery.

But also, I don’t know if you remember the movies with the Enterprise-A, but that ship was nothing like its late-’80s-cruise-ship counterpart on The Next Generation. No Ten-Forward, no vast seas of eggplant carpet and Pier 1 blue glassware. It was claustrophobic and full of bunk beds. Even Captain Kirk had to sleep in a little cubbyhole area.

enterprise

So, novelty factor aside, the highlight would be dining in the same room where Captain Kirk compared Klingons to Hitler, and the rest would be the equivalent of wandering around a dormitory in space. And can you imagine in five years when this thing would have been in major need of, like, vertical supports on the warp drives and saucer section just to keep it from falling over? I don’t know what the Federation’s rules are for architectural liability, but I imagine your average Las Vegas sightseer is a bit more litigious.

Maybe this is a thing best left in the realm of imagination and concept art. Now, if they wanted to do this in Dubai, and not make it a strict replica…


Nick

Ray Barnholt’s Scroll is a “videogame history magazine,” which on its face is a brilliant idea. Videogame history is way cooler than videogame present. Not so long ago, all the games were weird, developers hadn’t been sucked up by soulless corporations, and the whole medium was so new that ideas were still fresh and exciting. Plus there was no internet for everyone to complain about everything all the time. This may sound like a rosy view of the past, but it’s also a fun one, and that’s what you get when you read Scroll.

Barnholt more or less runs the whole operation himself, and he just launched a Kickstarter for the 10th issue. With the money, he’s going to travel to Japan and interview the creator of his favorite old game for the magazine. Now, I’ve backed some pretty frivolous things in the past, but I don’t think this is one of them. Funding a pure act of writing is a rare pleasure, especially for someone who’s poured as much passion into a project as Barnholt has. Besides, we’re talking about an awesome, physical magazine (like, on paper) about videogames here. I am happy to throw cash at something so I can live in a world where that still exists.

scroll

Jonathan

Go to the symphony. Even if you think it is an outdated relic of outdated notions of High Culture supported by blue blooded one-percent-ers. Even if you think the symphony is boring — a two hour sojourn into a land with no smartphone and nothing in particular to look at. Even if you think you are too dumb or something to get it: go to the symphony. Throw away your pre-conceived notions, your biases, your feeling that it’s not for you and just go. Go as a citizen of the world, a neophyte, a fellow searcher after truth, and the symphony will re-pay your openness.

It doesn’t have to cost that much. Your area symphony will have rush tickets on off nights for a small fee. Years ago, I got a whole education on the third balcony of the Philly orchestra for $7 a pop. Now I’m closer to Boston, so I go stand in line at 4 p.m. on Thursdays and pay $9 to sit behind the permed ladies in the elegant, uncomfortable splendor of Boston’s century-old symphony hall.

Last week, I saw the Boston Symphony Orchestra attack Mahler’s insane Symphony No. 3. It’s a nearly two-hour epic featuring a full orchestra, six movements, a soprano solo, and two full choruses. The BSO did it all without an intermission. This was ballsy, requiring the concentration and stamina of an Olympic athlete from each of the 100+ orchestra members. Indeed, not everyone made it: a chorus member fainted towards the end.

Here’s the thing: I know next to nothing about classical music. But even to an unschooled listener, the thrill and tension of the BSO attempting to meet Mahler’s grand ambition with restrained symphonic virtuosity was beautiful. Mahler’s Third is a pantheistic paean to humanity and love, I learned from the liner notes. Whatever. Just listen. At first, you may struggle to settle into your head. You may search for another browser tab to open. Just give it time. Keep an open mind. The music will corkscrew into your mind and then pop goes your soul — rushing out to meet the music like a frolicking pagan. If there is something old and stodgy in that, so be it.


Ben

I sucked. All the time. My childhood was filled with binky disposal rituals where my parents prompted a far-too-old me to throw my binky in a fire, a river, anywhere I was unlikely to retrieve it. But was always a younger sibling to steal from, and my father’s obsessive chewing on pens felt to me like a win that adults could totally get away with an oral fixation.

While I did eventually give up the binky, it led to years of experimentation in search of new chew toys, and I want to share some of them here for other oral fixates in search of the perfect chewthings.

Q-tips strike the perfect balance between affordability, function, and not having to explain to others why you have a large quantity of them near your desk. To use, take out a fresh Q-tip, use your teeth to pull the cotton from the ends, and then break the Q-tips into segments 1-2 cm long. Take one of these pieces and put it in your mouth. As it begins to soak in saliva, the wrapped paper that forms the column of the Q-tip will begin to unravel. Grasp this between your front teeth and use your tongue to completely unravel the column into one long strip of paper on your tongue, re-roll it, and spit it into a nearby garbage can. Each Q-tip can generate roughly eight bits.

Amazon currently sells a 500-count box for $6.70, which comes out to $0.001675 per-chewable bit. At fifteen seconds per chew, that’s $0.40/hr.

q-tips

The resilient rubber tubing intended to carry air and water through fish tanks is perfectly suited to being constantly chewed on. Buy a roll, cut off 1/8″ segments, and chew away. It is more difficult to hide this on your desk or in your home if you don’t have a fish tank, and visitors will assume that you have a more sinister purpose than chewing.

Amazon currently sells 25 feet of 3/16″ Flexible Airline Tubing for Aquariums for $3.54, or $0.0177 per chewable bit. As a piece 1/8th” of tubing can be chewed on for two minutes (conservative estimate), it costs roughly $0.53/hr.

tubing