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GUEST ROOM | Stay Cool, Stanley Uris

On Sept. 8, The Forward published a column by Noah Berlatsky titled “Stephen King’s ‘It’ Shows Hollywood Still Has a Jewish Problem.” You don’t have to tell me twice that anti-Semitic tropes still run rampant in Hollywood. But I was surprised that Berlatsky argued that It proved this point. In It, Pennywise the Clown faces off against a ragtag band of lovable outcasts — the fittingly named “Losers Club.” Among the misfits stands Stanley Uris, a Jewish tween in what seemed to be an almost entirely Christian town. I could relate.

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Sherman | Absurd, Radical, Fancy: on Avant-Gnar and the Right Way to Move

More than three years after the Vice article which put them on the map (and almost two years after the next Vice article which let everyone know that, yea, they’re still hanging around somewhere on that map), skateboarding’s least reverent crew, Fancy Lad, released their fourth full-length movie one week ago to much… acclaim? The Fancy Lads are are an amorphous collection of giddily impoverished and moderately talented skate-rats from Boston, whose main schticks include (but God knows are not limited to) inventing vaguely skateboard-related four-wheeled contraptions, not landing their tricks, splicing forgotten VHS clips into their edits, shaky camera-hands and yelling. FL4: The Final Chapter, this most recent opus of theirs, brings all of these “techniques” (and so many more) to a sort of inglorious and completely captivating fixation. The movie’s “frame story” revolves around a bunch of (literal) Craigslist actors at an audition for FL4 itself, where the lines they (poorly) recite are just variations on the Lads’ ad-libs throughout the actual video.

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Lego’s Troubles Revisited

 

Two weeks ago I wrote about the Lego Group, and the financial troubles they’ve been having. I also spoke optimistically about the boost that The Lego Ninjago Movie would give them. Sadly, iIt turns out I was wrong. Box Office Mojo had estimated a $30-35 million opening weekend. I agreed, thinking the recent lack of quality family movies would draw families to Ninjago.

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SWAN | The Artist’s Struggle

The last column that I wrote for this paper considered my own identity as a student of ethnomusicology and the importance of experiencing the art of different cultures. I was planning on broaching a different topic this week, but then an actual hate crime occurred in our community and to ignore that would be blissfully ignorant and cringingly self-indulgent. In my last column — and in other previous ones — I feel as though I stopped just short of explicitly commanding everyone to go engage with black art. Well, now I would like to say it explicitly: everyone really needs to go engage with black art. It might seem somewhat trivializing to attempt to connect these recent events to some lesson about artistic consideration.

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JONES | The It in Our Community

There’s a moment about halfway through Andrés Muschietti’s new film It, an adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name, where the band of kids (“The Losers”) are discussing the monster that’s been haunting them. The monster is a being that takes various shapes but prefers that of a demonic clown, and the kids realize as they listen to each other that it has been appearing in the form of whatever they fear the most. Mike, whose parents burned to death, sees their charred arms struggling to get past a door; Eddie is a hypochondriac due to his mother’s emotional manipulation, so he’s stalked by a leper; Beverley, who has a sexually abusive father and is afraid of how the arrival of her period will challenge her father’s insistence on her remaining “daddy’s little girl,” faces a sink erupting in a fountain of blood. Finally, Richie, the comic relief of the group, is asked what he is most afraid of. In response, he pushes his glasses up his nose, shivers and mutters, “Clowns.” Rough luck, Richie.

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Chicken Fat: A Great Thing That Comics Do

I’ve been reading Fog Over Tolbiac Bridge, a classic French comic by the great Jacques Tardi, recently reprinted by Fantagraphics. It’s an adaption of a detective novel, and it is good. Tardi has a way of telling hard-boiled detective stories with this loose, springy style that brings another level of joy to the work — picture Shel Silverstein let loose on film noir.

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On Ethnomusicality and Listening

Cornell’s Department of Music is an institution so wonderfully varied in its scope that one must step back from it occasionally and ponder the vastness of the thing. Once, in the middle of a piano lesson during my freshman year, before I even considered myself a real member of the department, my instructor hilariously described to me this great divide. “On one half, it’s like 1750 all over again. ‘Alright everyone, let us put on our pantaloons, sit down and play our harpsichords!’ Meanwhile, on the other side of the rift, people are busy questioning whether ‘music’ even exists. ‘What is music?

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JONES | Lessons from my Time as a Pre-Teen Zealot

As a child, I was fascinated by Christianity. The ritual aspect of it was, I think, what appealed to me most: the concept of slowly and constantly improving oneself through meticulous observation of holidays, prayers, communion, etc. Ironically, I went to fairly laid-back Presbyterian and Lutheran churches with my parents, so I was denied the liturgical, repetitious grandiosity of Catholicism, for which my young, faithful and perhaps even slightly bureaucratic soul was clearly hungering. In retrospect, I was more fascinated by the rituals themselves than what underpinned them: belief in a responsive and singular God.

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SHERMAN | Should We Stop Shooting Nature?

Circuitous as I’m sure it might seem, accounts of the havoc that Hurricane Harvey is currently wreaking in Texas have got me reflecting on a visit which I made to the Philadelphia Museum of Art a few weeks ago. I found myself alone in Philly for a couple of days, and it was scorching hot. With a handful of hours to spare and an acute desire to get somewhere cool, fast, I decided to trudge my way towards the hallowed, climate-controlled halls of the city’s eponymous art museum. Never having been before, I was struck first by the building’s stateliness, then by its enormity and finally by the impossibility of the task looming before me: which infinitesimal fraction of what’s on view should I try to consume in the short time I have. So, naturally, I allowed myself to be herded — by flowing banners and eager docents — towards the PMA’s then-hung blockbuster exhibition: Wild: Michael Nichols.