We live in the digital millennium where technology is vastly changing each and every day. Technology has become a necessity, deeply-rooted into our daily lives. Checking e-mail is daily routine, and for some, an hourly ritual. As great as technology has been on the music industry and more importantly life in general, has it actually helped throw away simple art forms that expand our minds?
For our youth and the vast majorty, the days of picking up a book to read for pleasure are long gone. We now have the Internet and hundreds of television channels to surf through, so why do we need to pick up a book? Most of us are guilty of it and some of us just don’t have the time. Our society has become ever-moving, and in a hurry to accomplish everything in life, the time to read has vanished. But don’t throw away all hope just yet. Ad Astra Books, which branched from We the People Records out in sunny Orange County, is doing their part to get kids to read again. When co-president Chris Haynie was asked about how there is now less importance of reading in youth and how the activity is fast becoming a lost art form, he responded with;
“Depends on the kind of kid you are. We’ll be selling these books to kids in line at A Static Lullaby show and I’ll hear, “I’m not into reading,” and that’s a shame, but we’re not going to force this on anyone, if you want to shut out the most popular form of media in history because Total Request Live involves less investment on your part, then you’re going to miss out on an incredible amount of good stuff. The aim of this is to get kids on the boat”.
Revolution on Canvas is filled with poetry and prose from several talented musicians from indie bands and other artists. The range of artists participating is an impressive one. You have Mike Burkett of NOFX, Kenny Vasoli of The Starting Line, Aaron Barrett of Reel Big Fish, Joey Cape of Lagwagon, Jamison Covington of JamisonParker, and Scott Gross of From Autumn to Ashes to name just a few of the contributing artists. There is definitely variety and something there to please everyone. The book also boats some fine artwork from Chris Tsagakis of the RX Bandits and Jason Cruz of Strung Out.
Music amongst the generation has centered towards its ability to harmonize for accessibility, while the art of lyricism and great song writing has become watered down. The words are what make us feel the emotion and passion of and within musicians. It is the words that we relate to and compare them to how we are feeling inside. It is the words which are significant, and Revolution on Canvas is filled with them. The book offers these musicians their chance to express their words and feelings in a new medium, which hopefully will get the kids reading again.
The idea spawned from Rich Balling, the editor of Revolution on Canvas, as Chris Haynie explains;
“Our friend, Rich Balling, had the idea, and had compiled most of the work beforehand, and since we had been meaning to start a publishing company, it seemed like it would be a great release to get the name out, and now it’s turned into this relatively big thing that lots of kids are in to.”
Since being released on Valentine’s Day this year, the book has done exceptionally well. So well that Hot Topic stores recently picked up the book for exclusive distribution in every outlet after selling out during the test run.
So the kids are going out and getting the book and reading it. The plan is following through. “That’s totally the effect we wanted,” said Haynie. “The scene is linked to so many aspects of modern culture, intellectual, ideological, aesthetic, everything, making kids more receptive to ideas outside of music. I mean, we should never forget that music started this, but that behind all the image and the nice hair, there are some light bulbs going on too.” There is also another aspect of Revolution on Canvas that must not be overlooked.
Fifty percent of all the profits from the book will go to the National Center for Family Literacy. The foundation is a nonprofit organization devoted to improving and refining the literacy skills of kids and their parents. Chris Haynie talks about how giving back is so important. “The whole project itself is oriented toward that goal, getting kids into written word. Money-wise, we’re pretty much giving this book away for free at the end of the day, after donations and costs are figured in, any extra money goes into reprinting, but that’s what it’s about, you know? We’d definitely be into more philanthropy beyond this, there are some needy arts schools in the area that need the help, and I’d love to work with them.”
Revolution on Canvas is undoubtedly a very positive outreach. From the talented writers sharing their work through the book’s pages, to the charity of giving back to those who are less fortunate; it is not just a coincidence that the word ‘revolution’ is in the title of this book.
Book Review: Crossfire – A Litany For Survival
Unflinching and authentic, Chin’s work shakes, confronts, and envelops you
LGBTQ poet and spoken-word artist Staceyann Chin is a powerhouse of an artist. (Exhibits A, B, and C: Her mesmerizing Def Poetry Jam performance of If Only Out of Vanity.” Her essay “Paradise of Lies,” published in the New York Times. And her hit play “MotherStruck,” set to soon work its way through the festival circuit as a series. Need we say more?) Unflinching and authentic, Chin’s work shakes, confronts, and envelops you. She is a rare talent that can captivate you in an instant — both by the political gravity of the subjects she so fearlessly and intelligently dissects and her sharp, mesmerizing, and sometimes hysterical turns of phrase. Her “snap-elastic words” can leave anyone who’s ever written for a living marveling (and wishing they had come up with them first).
This same fire is seen throughout Crossfire: A Litany for Survival, Chin’s first full-length collection of poems. Weaving adeptly between verses about the intersection of love, sex, race, gender, feminism, trauma, sexuality, queerness, motherhood, oppression, and so much more, Crossfire is a foot-on-the-gas-pedal kind of eye-opening, from start to finish.
In “Tsunami Rising,” she writes of the “weeping white women” who stood behind Tarana Burke’s #MeToo movement only once a rich white actress co-opted it — a heartbreaking address dripping with explanation and patience we don’t deserve, and a tired, frustrated anger that we do.
“We are unable to process our pain with you,” she writes, “Because we are exhausted from centuries/of holding you and your children.”
In “Zuri-Siale Samanaya” — named for her daughter, with whom she often records “Living Room Protests” — Chin reflects beautifully on raising a child who is both following in her activist footsteps but coming into her own as an individual:
I can hardly wait
to hear your voice
I expect us to rumble
to create generational bruises that will have to be survived
In “Raise the Roof,” Chin’s worries that this power will not be enough to carry her daughter safely through a world intent on silencing the voices of Black women are heartbreaking.
Every day I have to drown my fears
for my child/born Black and a girl in a country
in which her safety does not matter
to anyone with power
Among the book’s other standout gems are a reflection on 9/11 titled “September in New York” and a hilarious and incisive retort to the misogynist who harassed her on Twitter (aptly titled “Tweet This Motherfucker”). But really, there is no plateau in Chin’s collection of poems. Each page of Crossfire: A Litany For Survival is fire, soul, and just damn good writing.
When artists like Chin bare their souls to put the revolution to paper, it’s up to us to truly listen.
by Staceyann Chin
Crossfire: A Litany For Survival will be published as a paperback original on October 1, 2019 by Haymarket Books.
Book Review: The Disaster Artist – My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made
I cannot recommend The Disaster Artist highly enough. It might be one of the best reads I’ve had in a very long time.
In 2003, the world of filmmaking was shaken to its very foundations. Bursting onto the scene and blinding the city of Los Angeles and Hollywood like a renegade supernova, was a film that went by the insipid title of The Room.
The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made is a book all about the making of that film. For those who haven’t seen The Room, the basic synopsis boils down to a ‘love triangle’ plot, between a banker, Johnny, his fiancée, Lisa, and the best friend, Mark. There’s romance, betrayal, drama and finally tragedy. Seems simple enough, right? Wrong.
The final instalment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy might’ve won all eleven Academy Awards that year, but it was The Room that still managed to be the talk of the town (and eventually, the world) amongst many filmgoers.
Don’t be mistaken, The Room wasn’t a sleeper hit or master class in filmmaking. In fact, it was the complete opposite. A train wreck so disastrous that it’s still being watched, studied and talked about, to this day. “So bad it’s good” and “The Citizen Kane of bad films” are quotes often thrown around whenever The Room is muttered.
What makes The Room so bad? Well, to put it bluntly, everything. From the acting to the directing, to the sets and continuity, is a consistency of abysmal filmmaking. Yet despite its terribleness, there remains a kind of loveable charm. Most of this charm seems to stem from the man who helmed the project, the weirdly fascinating and enigmatic, Tommy Wiseau. Wiseau was responsible for acting as the lead character, Johnny, writing, directing and producing The Room (Orson Welles, eat your heart out).
Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell’s book, The Disaster Artist, doesn’t start at the premier of The Room in Los Angeles, 2003. It starts instead a year earlier, with a lunch between Greg and Tommy, a lunch so bizarre and off-the-wall, that it almost reads like sketch comedy. It’s a day before official production is about to begin on The Room, and Tommy with genius-gusto, decides to offer Greg one of the lead roles in his film, as Mark, Johnny’s (Tommy’s character and fictionalized version of himself) best friend. A plan so flawless, until Greg reminds Tommy that the role is already cast.
In the next chapter, we are taken back to 1998 in San Francisco with Jean Shelton and her acting class, where Greg relates his early origins into acting and his dreams of “making it”. It’s here that he meets the one-and-only, Tommy Wiseau, for the very first time. They’d later on become acquainted with one-another, after Tommy steals the show by giving one of the most ludicrous renditions of the famous ‘Stella’ scene from A Streetcar Named Desire ever witnessed.
“Most bad performances are met with silence. This was something else. There were murmurs. There were giggles. Everyone in that basement studio knew they had just witnessed one of the most beautifully, chaotically wrong performances they would ever see.”
– The Disaster Artist
What follows throughout the book is parallel storytelling, or intersecting storylines. One side focusing on the making of The Room, and the haphazard tyrannical way in which Tommy went about acting, directing and interacting with the cast and crew. The other, on the growing friendship and relationship between a young, Greg Sestero and not-so-young, Tommy Wiseau, both bonding on their dream and love for acting (and in particular, James Dean). Each storyline is as equally entertaining, funny and at times touching as one another.
The Disaster Artist is a book that doesn’t quite feel like it’s written from someone with journalistic prose looking-in on The Room, or the life of Tommy Wiseau. Instead, it’s a book written by someone who lived and breathed these experiences and moments. The final result is a raw and believable account, with a striking amount of humility and sincerity. The praise in this regard goes solely to Greg Sestero; he is quite possibly the best—and only—person capable of telling this story. His perspective is paramount to understanding the making of The Room, and Wiseau.
In terms of the content itself, there are many reasons why fans—or even those unfamiliar with The Room—might want to pick this up. For years, people have been baffled about almost every aspect of this film and the mysterious man behind it. From, “How did Tommy manage to get $6 million to fund this film?” to something as simple as “Just where in the hell is Tommy actually from?”
You don’t have to be familiar with the film itself, or even know a great deal about the players such as Tommy Wiseau to find this book enjoyable. After all, driving the engines is a timeless story, full of great characters and great moments.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It might be one of the best reads I’ve had in a very long time.
The Disaster Artist
by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell
(Simon & Schuster)