Arts & Culture

The Fan Art That Made Me Watch Stranger Things

As an unabashed scaredy cat, I willingly admit that I had reservations about watching the “thrilling” Netflix original series, Stranger Things. And while I knew the series was inspired by Spielberg’s PG movies, do you remember how much scarier PG movies were in the 80s?! So I hid from my needling Netflix suggestions.

But that didn’t stop Stranger Things from infiltrating my social media channels. Scrolling through Instagram I was snared by the charming illustrations of Laura Manfre, who I recently started following.

 

I liked this post without realizing it had anything to do with that creepy show I was intent on avoiding. I do like cute dresses and Eggo waffles! *Especially* when I was a eleven. How did you know?

 

Next, I assumed this was a portrait of a dear friend of Laura’s. That Barb certainly has a flair for fashion, doesn’t she? So retro!

 

It wasn’t until I scrolled back through Laura’s feed for more of these delightful illustrations, that I began questioning the context. A walkie talkie? Christmas lights? Headwear? What could these things possibly have in common?

STRANGER THINGS.

That’s when I knew, I had to watch.

If you haven’t watched Stranger Things yet because you’re afraid it might be too scary, put some Eggo waffles in the toaster and get ready for a treat. Maybe just leave the lights on . . . especially if they’re Christmas lights.

 

Follow @laura_manfre on Instagram. She posts lots of pictures of her cats, which would be another good thing to look at if you’re a scaredy cat like me and need some help falling asleep after watching Stranger Things!

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Arts & Culture, Books

Love Stranger Things? Read Paper Girls

Rage_of_demons_-_Demogorgon_-_D&D_5

If you’re like me, then you started Netflix’s original series, Stranger Things and couldn’t help but binge-watch it in one sitting. And while those 8 hours were certainly glorious, now there’s a demogorgon shaped hole in our lives.

PaperGirls_Vol01-1Luckily, Paper Girls, a comic written by Brain K. Vaughn and drawn by Cliff Chiang offers similar 80s nostalgia and sci-fi intrigue — but with the added bonus of multiple strong female protagonists!

I don’t want to give too much away, but walkie-talkies and bicycles are just as important in this story, which all begins with a paper route in the wee hours after Halloween night.

The first trade paperback, or Volume 1, of this comic is available and well worth purchasing from your local bookstore. If you enjoy Paper Girls, you should also check out Vaughn’s award winning Saga comics, which offer more hours of sci-fi meets fantasy entertainment.

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Arts & Culture, Personal

Revisiting Nickelodeon’s “As Told by Ginger”

I was raised by the glow of the television, and cartoons on Nickelodeon were my favorite. Recently the theme song for “As Told by Ginger” (as sung by Macy Gray) came to mind:

“Someone once told me
The grass is much greener
On the other side
And I paid a visit
(Well, it’s possible I missed it)
It seemed different,
Yet exactly the same
(Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
‘Til further notice,
I’m in-between
From where I’m standing,
My grass is green
Someone once told me
The grass is much greener
On the other side.”

In my mind Macy Gray has never conformed to gender expectations for women singer-songwriters. And I always appreciated how her voice set the tone for a cartoon show about preteen girls in middle school. The show premiered in 2000 just as I was entering middle school and ended in 2009, the year I graduated from high school.

While I remembered liking As Told by Ginger because the protagonist Ginger is a writer, I did not remember how well the show itself was written. I am not surprised that creator Emily Kapnek went on to create Suburgatory, a short-lived but cutting satire of suburbia seen from the perspective of a teenage girl. Kapnek also contributed to episodes of Parks and Recreation as a consulting producer.

After re-watching, I am impressed by the complexity of each episode’s plot. While the story always centers around Ginger, her friends, her brother and her mother also play significant roles.

In the second episode, Ginger invites her school’s popular girl over for dinner while her younger brother invites the fantastically grotesque older woman he met at a nursing home. “Carl and Maude” was the cartoon’s homage to the movie Harold and Maude. If you’ve been watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt you may recognize Carol Kane‘s voice in this episode.

Characters on As Told by Ginger are well-developed and believable as real people while conforming to established archetypes: the mean girl: Miranda, the popular girl: Courtney, the gross younger brother: Carl.

Miranda’s insecurity drives her malice, while Courtney is a popular girl looking for true connection. And Carl articulates his passion for the bizarre with Poe-like eloquence.

With lessons about self-confidence, family dynamics and friendship, I would recommend this cartoon to any preteen girl. I know it helped me get through middle school!

 

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Arts & Culture, Travel

From the Archives: “Snæfellsjökull Healing” for the Reykjavík Grapevine

The following is an article I wrote in 2013 about Iceland’s Extreme Chill electronic music festival while interning for the Reykjavík Grapevine. Thanks to the Panama Papers, things are not “extremely chill” in Iceland at the moment. The beats you’ll hear in Iceland today are the beating of pots and pans outside government buildings protesting the deceit and corruption of the prime minister.

Make sure to follow the Reykjavík Grapevine for up to date coverage of the protests in Iceland. If you need some “Snæfellsjökull Healing” (like Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”) read on and harken back to chiller times.

Covered Kirkjufell close to Olafsvik.

Armed only with rumours that I would most likely encounter cold weather and people doing A LOT of drugs, I headed for the fourth annual Extreme Chill Festival bundled up in my warmest gear, haunted by visions of neon booty shorts and glowsticks. What I didn’t expect to find was a warm and welcoming group of electronic musicians and fans communing with nature under Hellissandur’s mystical glacier, Snæfellsjökull.

It all began with a stop in Grundafjörður to plant a tree. The Sterna bus we took to Snæfellsnes doubled as a guided tour of the Snæfellnes peninsula, and when it stopped I woke up in confusion. A guide invited passengers off the bus to plant a birch sapling in a community garden that we christened “Little Chill Fest” in honor of our final destination.


Undír Jökli

Thanks to the tour guide, I soon realized Hellissandur was near Ólafsvík, the birthplace of my great great grandmother, Ólína, whom I share a name with. She emigrated to Canada near the turn of the 20th century during a famine, and tragically lost contact with her sister. As the first Ólína to return to Iceland from our family tree, I have reconnected with her sister’s offspring but had yet to make the pilgrimage to her hometown.

 

This is when I first began to sense the pull of Snæfellnes’ glacier, Snæfellsjökull. It is this same glacier Jules Verne made famous as a portal in ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth,’ and the same glacier my great great grandmother undoubtedly saw many times in her early life, and while, the distinctive twin peaks of the 700,000-year-old ‘jökli’ were hidden by low clouds, there more than enough scenic views to go around.

Calm before the storm

We set up camp in a grassy field near a corral of friendly Icelandic horses that came right up to the fence to watch the first tents pop up. A group had already established itself at the far end of the site, with eight smaller tents surrounding a covered communal area complete with a voodoo skull planted on a stake. Despite the skull, the group was incredibly welcoming and explained they had come together to honour the memory of a recently passed friend who had brought them all together. As the campsite began to fill up, car stereos pumped muffled beats and a small colony of nomads formed and spread out along the banks of a small stream.

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Up the street from the campsite, a few Extreme Chill posters pasted to covered windows identified Röst, a modest venue with all the necessary amenities including a sizable stage, a projection booth and acoustic wood panelling. Inside, electronic music pulsed along to visualizations from the surrounding environment: snowy roads, rushing waves, craggy rocks and grassy fields. Tea candles and incense burned on tabletops surrounded by chairs. The overall effect was more calming than raving. Throughout the festival it was common for the crowd to sit or lay-down, some even practiced yoga near the front of the stage.

According to Árni Grétar, a.k.a. Futuregrapher, Extreme Chill is unlike any other electronic music festival because of this spiritual element. While violent fights are common at many Icelandic festivals, Árni maintained Extreme Chill attendees “don’t want to destroy themselves or others.” Which is an atmosphere the controlled number of attendees, purposefully capped at 400, helps maintain.
However, this is not to say the festival was lacking in moments of intensity. The second day in particular featured the eerie stylings of father-son duo, Stefán Finnboga Péturs; the heavy beats of the Swiss artist Mimetic, and the hardcore dance rhythms of 101 Reykjavík’s Future-grapher and Maggi Lego.

Beyond the MacBook

I talked with one of Extreme Chill’s organisers, Andri Már Arnlaugsson, at Kaffi Sif, where performers and attendees congregated over beers and hamburgers. As we sat on the outdoor deck, he explained the festival’s rigorous selection process: “We seek out performers with a stage presence. Nobody wants to see a guy standing behind a MacBook. Enough of that already.”

Acts like Úlfur, Modesart and Samaris featured live instrumentals, most unconventionally with Tumi Árnason on saxophone. My only criticism would be that with the exception of Jófrí›ur Ákadóttir and Áslaug Rún Magnús-dóttir of Samaris, the festival’s line-up was overwhelmingly male. Overall, the festival successfully highlighted some of the best experimental electronic music in Iceland while attracting big foreign names. Unfortunately, Le Sherifs from Egypt were unable to make it due to political unrest in Cairo.

In the past outdoor sets were extremely popular in the sunny weather, however, I chilled myself to the bone listening to Mixmaster Morris in the cold. The master lived up to his name as he mixed CDs live like a psychedelic gorilla, pacing behind the table in tie-dye pants and a sweater with large black sequins that swayed to the beat. The misty gray setting was a nice juxtaposition to a masterful sampling of Rhye’s lyrics, “It’s one of those pretty summer, summer days. Just a tiny one,” before I headed back to Kaffi Sif for a warm cup of tea.


Techno teepee

After the official sets ended at around 3:00, the party continued at the campsite. Local kids took matters into their own hands, appearing over a ridge shuffling under the weight of large speakers. On Friday night the biggest tarp I’d ever seen was turned into a pop-up techno teepee with the help of a few pieces of wood. The party continued well into the wee hours until the wind ripped the tarp off the ground and the structure collapsed.

Strangely enough, sleeping through this 24-hour dance party was easier than you would expect. It was only when the music stopped around 8:00 in the morning that I would wake up with a start. At Extreme Chill your body becomes accustomed to a constant, persistent beat and without it, you become suddenly lost. Luckily it usually wasn’t long before someone else’s stereo would take over the metronomic duties.


Clouded in mystery

On Sunday a blue sky peeked through the clouds and I hoped to get a better look at Snæfellsjökull, but the winds were not in my favour. Until my next journey, this glacier will remain clouded in mystery. But as Futuregrapher said, “It is beyond man to understand, but for man to feel,” which sums up most of my experiences at Extreme Chill this year.

Snæfellsjökull National Park - Iceland

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Arts & Culture

I Locked Myself in a Cinema All Night

At noon on Sunday, March 13, a crowd of bleary-eyed locals poured out of the Del Mar theatre into downtown Santa Cruz. This group wasn’t merely under the influence of marijuana — although, that can’t be ruled out — it had been inside the theatre since midnight the night before.

Not only did we pay $25 to forgo sleep and watch six movies in a row, we did so without knowing any of the movies’ titles.

“Why?” you may ask. For the glory.

An hour before the Santa Cruz Secret Film festival was set to begin at midnight, the power went out. Thanks to El Niño, the Del Mar theatre and the downtown block it inhabits had gone dark.

Nonetheless, dedicated film nerds formed a line to get into the theatre. One block over, closed businesses sparkled ostentatiously with garish lights. Chilly without a jacket, damp from the rain and tired after my road trip to Death Valley, I was less than ecstatic about the prospect of a 12 hour movie marathon. So I was a little miffed when the power went back on. I’m no humbug though, I joined in the collective cheers.

For years I have wanted to check the Secret Film Festival off my Santa Cruz to-do list, but it had never seemed feasible until this year. Is there ever really an ideal time to pull an all nighter though?

I am not exaggerating when I say sleep is my number one priority. Even so, I was able to make it through all of the movies, taking a brief, purposeful nap during a film I did not care to watch (Tales of Tales). Unfortunately, it was still going when I woke up. Those who stayed up through it said it was not unlike a dream in that you had no idea what was happening and in the end it didn’t matter.

Luckily, most of what I saw was really great and inspired me to write this post! Here are my reviews organized under the following headers: “Must See,” “Probably Want to See,” and “Must Miss.”

Must See

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

If you have ever wished Rambo was a comedy…

Therapy for a Vampire

If you hate Stephenie Meyer but love Freud…

Probably Want to See

Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

If you grew up watching Spielberg and tried making movies of your own as a kid…

Operation Avalanche

If you want to see how Canadian film students think the 1969 moon landing was faked…

Confetti of the Mind

If you like the following short film, and want to see more by Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo…

Must Miss

Tales of Tales

Unless you’re a Dungeon Master, like my friend Steven…


I offer these hard won insights so that you may use your time more wisely, perhaps, than I did. I still maintain, it was worth it for the glory!

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