If nothing else, the never-ending tenseness of the mainstream news cycle since Trump’s inauguration has shown that Americans of most political dispositions are welcoming of breaks in the barrage for levity, rarely though they’ve come. The “covfefe” foible, more so than anything else, was proof of this: if America’s right and left didn’t exactly find humor in Trump’s goof for the same reasons, they were at least, however briefly, laughing about it together. It’s been a similar story for the most recent marquee protest of the president, a 30-foot-tall inflatable chicken — coiffed and gesticulating just like the commander in chief — which was inflated behind the White House on August 9. Already and with bemusement from both sides, it’s been given a name, a hashtag, a Halloween costume, dozens of news articles and (of course) hundreds of memes. But its sheer ridiculousness has, in large part, clouded what might be the most important thing it’s been given: a political stance.
It’s been a busy semester, believe me, I know. Most of you so inclined have not had the time to read any comics, what with all assignments and studying, and guess what? Neither have I. But I have been able to pretend to have time on occasion, so with borrowed time I would like to recommend a few of the year’s best comics to brush up on when school’s out.
LEAVING RICHARD’S VALLEY by Michael Deforge
The Webcomic Pick
Many of you readers may have a sensitive wallet, so I thought I’d kick off this list with a comic you can read absolutely free of charge on a little place called the internet. Alt Comics enfant terrible Michael Deforge has been serializing Leaving Richard’s Valley on Twitter and Instagram in semi-daily updates with an improvisational energy that almost looks easy.
I find myself undergoing a mid-college existential crisis as I finish what has proven to be a rather formative sophomore year here at Cornell. It is not so much a cerebral catastrophe, one marked by some bleak, emotional indifference, but rather the overwhelming curiosity one experiences when discovering the utter vastness and complexity of the world, or less loftily, our own university’s community — less L’Étranger and more the end of Boyhood. I recall a moment that occurred in one of my first lectures at Cornell, ECON 1120: Introductory Macroeconomics back in the fall of 2015, when our professor offered us a bit of sage guidance: “During your freshmen year of college, you do not know anything, but you do not know that you do not know anything. In your sophomore year of college, you realize that you do not know anything. At the end of your junior year you definitely know some things, but you do not know that you do know something.
I started writing this column two years ago, and then again a year ago. No, really it’s in my iPhone notes. I’m a preemptively nostalgic sort of person, it’s not cute. At those times, my own personal zeitgeist must have seemed clear to me. Self-satisfied and obnoxious as these shriveled up column introductions read to me now — written bathed in the smug, warm glow of a coherent sense of self — their existence indicates to me that even within them, I knew these moments wouldn’t last.
This is my last column. It’s the last time I’ll spill out a series of opinions about musicians that I’m unjustifiably obsessed with, the last time I’ll claim any sort of authority on the arts. When I stumbled into the Arts and Entertainment section, I was a struggling sophomore, trying to find a space to write outside of my courses. My dad was eager for me to join The Cornell Daily Sun, having heard of the many successful alumni that started their writing careers at The Sun. I took his word for it, and started writing test spins and single reviews, enjoying my newfound freedom to spell out my opinions on quarter-page sections of the paper.
Imagine, for a moment, that you have somewhere between $1,000 and $4,000 to spend on a weekend getaway. Naturally, Instagram posts of your sort-of-friend’s Coachella experience inspire you to invest it all in tickets to the 21st century’s definitive live music event: Fyre Festival. Organized, in part, by Ashanti backup singer Ja Rule, the event promises a “luxurious” take on festival culture, complete with fine dining and the presence of at least one Hadid sister. In anticipation, you spend the subsequent months bragging to coworkers about your sure-to-be-great weekend of moshing to blink-182 in the Bahamas. You tell them to check out “this guy called Skepta,” who might rap with a funny accent but can put together a great song.
As an adolescent, I had a habit of watching too much stand-up comedy. Every Friday night, when there were football games and dances I was too anxious to attend, I would fall asleep to whatever performer I could find on Comedy Central Presents, and all was right with my life as long as I could laugh. I think I inherited this habit from my family, whose core philosophy — if they were to choose one — would center humor as a way to communicate with and understand others. My little brother used to tell me he could make anyone laugh once he got to know them. My mother told me how she laughed at her brother’s funeral, only because crying would have been too difficult. Not to mention she remembered how much my late uncle made her smile.
It became a cliché during the primaries and the general election that Donald Trump had stumped comedians. He was too outlandish, too unpredictable, too unreal to mock. Any absurdity that a comedian could dream up and then deliver in a Trumpian drawl would be outdone the next day, by Trump himself. Since mockery didn’t really work, some shows like SNL and Jimmy Fallon resorted to flattery, inviting Trump on their shows and allowing him to appear as something like a standard, self-aware candidate. It was during this period that Stephen Colbert became host of the The Late Show, following the end of David Letterman’s 33-year reign.
I used to be a lot cooler than I am now. Flashback to a while ago, about six years actually, right around the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, when I was a freshmen in high school. I played considerably more guitar (mostly electric) than I do now, and at that time I found myself as the rhythm and occasional lead guitarist in a Rage Against the Machine cover band. The entire group consisted of five young high schoolers, and it was organized through a shop at which we all received lessons on our respective instruments. We ultimately booked two performances, a week apart from each other, at two different dive bars in central New Jersey.
Like many Millennials, I have a deep-rooted fondness for Radiohead. They’ve been a favorite of mine since their 2007 release, In Rainbows. I distinctly recall my brother paying zero dollars for the album on their website, as it was originally released as a downloadable, pay-as-much-as-you-want LP. We got ahold of the album, and it was unlike anything I had ever heard. It was one of the first albums that my dad, brother and I enjoyed together, something all three of us could relate to.