We here at the Watchtower do like Magnolia, but beyond that, we stand with Wil Gibson as he counts the ways. Video taken at Union Square Slam, NYC, NY and posted by Erin Anastasia.
If you watch the CW series The Flash or are just a comic nerd in general, you will know of the concept of a multiverse. Parallel Earths, vibrating at different frequencies, but all existing within one space. I would like to submit to you that after reading Nicole Homer’s first full-length poetry collection Pecking Order, that Homer may be the newest multiverse in existence. There are many Nicoles in this book but they are all one Nicole Homer.
You may best know Nicole from her Walking Dead recaps and other pop culture goodness over at Black Nerd Problems (including the only movie review show you’ll ever need, “Nicole and Omar Hate Everything”) and to discover her poetry is to pull up a seat at the Real Talk Table and be blown away by the sheer force of her honesty. What is it like to be a mother? A black mother? A black mother affected by colorism inside and outside of her home? Poems like “Things Only A Black Mother Can Prepare You For” and “The Colorist” shed insight via story and dialogue in a way that is both compelling and unflinchingly honest.
Pecking Order is peppered with dialogues and monologues from many perspectives in the motherhood universe, specifically existing in Black American motherhood (“The Children Speak”, “Portrait of My Grammama on her Grammama’s Lap, Neither of Them Smiling”, and the acerbically perfect “The Woman Who Is Not The Nanny Answers At The Grocery Store Concerning The Evidently Mismatched Children In and around Her Cart”) via many voices threaded through the same family. In “Townies”, Homer states “No one lives in The Town of Motherhood/ but me/ says every mother/ including me” and through these poems, we are given a tour of this town (which is many towns, which is many mothers, but only one--the multiverse of motherhood).
This tour is not always and often very deliberately not pretty. “The Paper Trail” begins with the narrative:
In the driveway, the soft and squeaking toys and jagged gravel press into each other. In the kitchen, the dishes, dirty and chipped, are piled in the sink. The dining room the table is almost imaginary, under the crayons, pencils, papers...
And this kind of earnestness in the face of owning her role as a mother and woman and human continues on in addressing depression and fatigue in poems like “Threshold” “Hunger” and the succinct power of “Motherhood”:
Motherhood is like
made from my
by beaks sharpened
on the woman
when I slept more
or sang the song I stole
my mother’s mouth
Video courtesy of Nicole Homer
And in poems like “How I Became A Mother Contemplating Loss”, the strength that lies beneath in all mothers is summed up by these lines:
That is the scariest thing:
that we do it anyway. The blood, the screams, the milk.
The dynamics of Homer both being raised in and raising a multiracial family are addressed throughout the book, from outside perspectives like “Casual Racist” to inner monologues like “The Lottery”; in “Things I Want To Say To Rae Dawn Chong”, the poet to the actress:
But you and Arnold in Commando. Oh, Rae, you two were unlikely and perfect and snapshot one-liner. You were the first people on TV that I understood. You had nothing in common. My father hated grits. My mother is from the south, Rae. Do you understand? What do the Chinese and Scottish or the Africans and the Canadians have in common except you?
For every question asked and examined throughout Pecking Order, family inevitably answers back, as in “When I Had Children With A White Person”:
...in our house / we say family in both of our mouths with every tongue we have
Homer ends this collection with the poem “I Wish I Was More Mothers (after Brenda Shaunessy}” and as we are left with this wishlist anthem, we realize that these words vibrate at such a necessary frequency that, even if Nicole Homer doesn’t realize it, she is more mothers. One and all.
Pecking Order is available from Write Bloody Publishing and from the author’s website at nicolehomer.com.
Video courtesy of Poetry and Pie Night
by Mikkel Snyder, Multimedia Editor
If I was asked to described Multiplex, a long running webcomic that spanned over 12 years, the simplest explanation is that it is a comic about a movie theater. However, that explanation doesn’t really do the series justice. Multiplex is about the workplace antic that Gordon McAlpin’s characters partake in as they work in a theater. It’s a romantic comedy, looking at how people change (or don’t) over time and find the people they need at the times they need to. It’s a critique on cinema, with movie reviews and commentary about trope. And at times, particularly during Multiplex: The Revenge, it’s corporate thriller with kinetic action sequences. But I suppose at its core, it’s a character study. McAlpin even concedes that in the preface of his newest book, he wanted to explore “the kind of changes that happen to people (and businesses and industries) not overnight but over the course of several years.”
Multiplex: The Revenge is the third print installment of the Multiplex webcomic. It’s a collection of Chapters 11-15 of the series, covering a period of time between March 2008 and March 2009. McAlpin’s introduction to the book serves as the perfect recap of Chapters 1-10, seamlessly introducing the cast of characters and their dynamics through evocative scenes that perfectly capture the core duo of Jason, the film critic archetype, and Kurt, the movie fanboy. While I fully recommend picking up Books 1 and 2, McAlpin takes great effort in making sure the series is accessible and you don’t experience continuity lockout, a common occurrence with any long running piece of media.
The book starts with Jason reaccelerating to life at the theater after he attempted to distance himself from the place due to his messy relationship with coworker Becky. Jason is not the most sympathetic character when we meet him. He is snarky, caustic, a bit of a know-it-all, and needs to be the right side of the argument to be happy. He is also one of the most relatable characters this mixed Filipino American has had the pleasure of reading in all of my pop culture consumption. Jason is largely situated from McAlpin’s own experiences, and in his annotations during the first chapter about the atheist Jason dating the very Christian Angie, we see Jason slowly taking steps in order to become a better person, and a journey that we see slowly unfold over the next chapters.
As the book continues, we also see the dynamics of the theater playout. We get an insider’s look into what the employees do after hours. We see the joy they take in dressing up for major theater releases and interacting with parents and adults. We see them in advanced screenings of film, and watching a wide ranges of movies from blockbusters to smaller indie joints. McAlpin says in his autobiography that he’s never worked in a movie theater, but you’d be easily forgiven given that amount of detail and evidence of research that he has put to make it feel like an authentic theater. You can feel McAlpin’s love of cinema in every panel; all of the jokes and criticism come from a place of wanting better media, of wanting better stories for everyone.
As the book continues, we also see one of the defining arcs of Multiplex unfold as Gretchen, a would-be journalist who is a bit confused between the difference of truthful news and sensationalism, throws wrenches into the theater through a combination of snitching, prying, and “reporting.” Her actions have massive ramifications throughout the book, but her character is less outright villainous and more overtly antagonistic. The actual big bads of the story find more subtle ways to interfere with our lovable ragtag bunch of misfits, and we see the seeds of future story arcs cleverly planted, and the final set piece is a perfect conclusion to this particular saga.
McAlpin’s style is visually stunning and unique. He manages to show a wide range of talent, as he alters his stylistic presentation to match the medium he is telling in. His crisp, elegant character design of the Multiplex staff stands in contrast to the flowing, kinetic black and white depictions of video games. His Mario Kart is one of my personal favorites. This collection effortlessly translates the single strips into a beautiful book, creating a much more active pacing, while still maintaining the punch necessary of individual jokes.
Having been a fan of the original webcomic, I was/am really excited for the opportunity to share this with our FreezeRay fanbase. And if you’re a long term fan of the comic, the additional strips and commentary are more than worth that purchase. There is an authenticity and honesty in this story that is sometimes hard to find. But McAlpin manages to capture the cinematic year and create a cast of characters that feel familiar. Multiplex: The Revenge succeeds where many other period pieces fail. It is grounded in its present, but still remains timeless. Still remains truthful. If you are a fan of workplace comedies, of romantic comedies, of slice-of-life, of movies, of comics, I can pretty confidently say you’ll be a fan of Multiplex. McAlpin has created a diverse cast of characters, and you’ll be right at home.
Multiplex: The Revenge is available now. And if you liked what you read, consider supporting Gordon McAlpin at his Patreon.
Multiplex #248: Training Day
Multiplex #285: I Can Only Suspend My Disbelief So Far
Mikkel's audio review of the whole Multiplex phenomenon will be available for your ears via our podcast Broadcasts From The Watchtower soon!
Now, I’m not going to spoil anything because if you haven’t read the book, you should go read the book. Find a brick and mortar bookstore that may or may not exist and get a physical copy to hold in your hands so you know it’s real. But I will say the central statement of the novel, to me at least, is that we give power to the things we believe. What we choose to believe. What we choose to worship. What we choose to remember. And high-school me had this epiphany, and he called this epiphany “meta-divinity” and it was important for this Catholic raised me to have this idea click. I believed in something so strongly that it could turn a communion wafer into the Body of Christ and wine into his Blood. Why is my belief so much more real or relevant than anyone else’s? Who is to say that the people of years past did not believe as strongly in their gods? To them, was Zeus not lightning and Poseidon not the ocean? To them, was Ra not the Sun, and Isis the Nile? To my ancestors in the Philippines, was the Minokawa not their way to explain and name the eclipse? My belief does not, did not, should not negate others.
American Gods is a story about belief, but more than that, it is specifically a story about the imposition of belief onto others. It is about the consequence of blind faith, and devotion to wrapped ideal. It’s a story about realizing that your belief can have tangible impact to the world. It’s about sacrifice. It’s about learning where you stand and what to do when you learn the truth about the world. Belief is not just in the ephemeral of the gods, but in concepts of our everyday life, the people we trust. If I had to point to the defining seminal work of my life, it’s going to be this one.
And this 2017 TV Series on Starz coming out on April 30 has me too hyped. I’m well aware I’m significantly behind the curve, that there have been many more opinion pieces and even some reviews of the first few episodes. But I don’t care. This series is important. This adaptation of my favorite novel is important. This deserves to be talked about again and again. It’s important because how Neil Gaiman and the studio how important it was not to whitewash the cast.. It’s important because they have updated the cast to reflect moderns times, where it be the addition of Vulcan or the sleek take on Technical Boy. It’s important because the juxtaposition of technology and mysticism is always going to be important. It’s important because I, and so many others, believe in it is. I’m getting a Starz subscriptions through Amazon Prime solely to watch this series and I have no hesitation or regrets.
Belief is a powerful thing. What conviction we hold defines us and defines the world around us. You probably didn’t me to confirm that. And I’m not trying to convince you of anything either. I’m just saying, there is a storm front rising and I’m personally getting front row seats.
Welcome to the first episode of Broadcasts from the Watchtower, a FreezeRay free-for-all where we get extra passionate about our fandom. We kick off the first show with Rob Sturma talking to wrestling journalist extraordinaire The Lady J (The Lady J Says, Facelock Feministas, #pwgrrrlgang) about the glory that is pro wrestling fandom and what she's doing to champion independent and inclusive spaces in the professional wrestling community.
Click on the purple links to learn more!
I used to say, pretty fervently, “escapism is my favorite coping mechanism.” However, recent events have made it painfully clear that we can’t just disengage with the world. We have to live in it daily and we have an obligation to make it better. As a mixed race cishet male, I work well in the current capitalistic system that we currently have in place, but the reality is that many of my friends are not and will not feel or be safe in the coming years. And there is work that needs to be done on a variety of levels.
I’m making a decisive change to my mantra. I’m going to be saying “pop culture is my favorite coping mechanism.” Because pop culture is truly indicative of the change we want to see in the world. Pop culture is grounded in the world. And now, it’s more important than ever to support the artistic work of queer and PoC communities. And now it’s more important than ever to make sure we are doing all we can to make sure their voice is heard in every medium.
So, here at FreezeRay Poetry and Press, we’ll be compiling a a list of queer and/or PoC content creators (and in a few cases, ones that actively promote Queer and PoC rights) that we have gathered over the last couple of weeks. The list is going to keep growing. But it’s a start. It’s a start.
This is not a comprehensive list, although we will update it regularly. This list is meant to be a starting point, a quick reference guide of sorts. We started this list based off a lot of google searches, friends’ and friends of friends’ recommendations, and random assortments of social media posts.
And you can find that list here.
So as we close out this <Insert Adjectives of Your Choice> year, take some time to look at some really cool content creators out there. With a special shoutout to Steenz and Ray Nadine, two really talented St. Louis artists who indirectly inspired the creation of this list.
One of my fave things about being a multi-media nerd is when someone else opens me up to a new nerd-thing I didn't know I needed to nerd about (like "Hamilton" or Florida Supercon Wrestling). One of my fave things about poets is that they bring their nerd game to the next level by throwing down the words that make you care about the things they care about (like this journal, ahem). So in this "Everybody's Throwing Down The Writing Gauntlet" month of November my man Gus Wood is beefing up his blog "Just The Nuggets" by opining on 30 recommendations in 30 Days. He's already dropped science on Bobby McFerrin and The Wizard of Oz on Ice, Yahtzee Croshaw's video game reviews, and Busta Rhymes. He's got a lot more days to enhance your nerd life, so follow along this month and may the YouTube rabbit holes you fall down be full of pillows and the beverage of your choice!
Just The Nuggets can be found here:
FreezeRay family member and Navigator of the Poetry Super Highway RICK LUPERT (who blessed us with his amazing ode to Leonard Nimoy from Issue #6) has now published a totally rad poem about his Lego Spaceship in Silver Birch Press' series "My Most Prized Possession"! You can check it out HERE! Anyone who has ever had their Lego heart busted over some busted Legos will feel this one!
From the author:
"The poem was written out of the frustration, grief, and sadness of events this week (7/8). Between Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Dallas...there has been ample need for reflection and expression on a personal level. Addressing the frustration of both observing such blatant terror, and having our grief silenced by those unaffected by it, brought me to a place of needing poetry to get my thoughts straight without having a to-the-death debate with everyone on social media. The Death Note metaphor came to mind while reading Lauren Bullock's 'Pokemon Go and Choosing the Blackest Joy'. I don't know if it was actually there in her writing, or was sparked indirectly (but either way, thanks to Lauren for the piece!), but the poem ended up being something I hope to share. For healing, sympathetic outrage and grief, for something other than dead-end despair. Hopefully something good can come from it. "
Death continues to court us.
Love-struck shinigami, its
is not an invited romance,
nothing in this melanin to misconstrue
as a spur in the side of its stalkership,
but its still us catching glances for the
aftereffects of its harassment.
Maybe if we didn't lead Death on, boast
its favorite shade in the beauty given us,
in the magic pronounced by unbowing heads
and tongues 400 years
have yet to bleed the song from, maybe then
we wouldn't find ourselves forever addressed
the bullets and badges
straight laying us out like speed bumps.
Maybe then, expiration dates wouldn't hang
their haunting promises overhead for those
with the right eyes to see, and to feel
like mouths devouring our insides. We
have begun to walk assuming each
one fear-gnashed traffic stop away from those
ghosts becoming zeroes.
How many breathless black bodies did it take
for Misa's bargain to wet our eyes
with this more horrible vision?
Our eyes are the only reminders we need that
those who look like us are little more than prey,
that those most responsible for our protection
are increasingly knife and fork at our necks,
and that those tick-tick-tick-ticks
we know to gloat overhead
will never be proof enough for people
who've already decided the guilt of the dead.
There Is A Shame
aimed at you
in the nerd
you admit that you
like Teen Titans Go
almost like a betrayal
of its predecessor that
is now dead, though pre-
maturely and never to
rise again. And I suppose
I could hide behind my
daughter's love of the
team who can't seem to
be respected enough
to be taken seriously as
my conduit into such
forbidden fanfare, but
honestly I just enjoy
watching a Black character
like Cyborg withstand
assaults and aggressions
and death every day
and still standing at the
end of the episode
or at least smiling through
the best laid plans of the bad
guys or who he assumes are
his allies. Especially when
the only other image dragging
its bloody memory behind
my eyes is Alton Sterling's
murder like so many vacated
plots and nonsense
before him and even though
I cringe when Cyborg yells
Boo-yah, I at least know
that joy follows the sonic
boom of his call out, but we
Black folk have a catchphrase
too that sounds too much
like a fired gun and our
name uttered by strangers
that miss the living version
of ourselves. Besides I can't
be concerned with what my
fellow snobs have to say about
my choice of cartoon as I lay
across the floor with my daughter
laughing at what we are watching
because I can't guarantee
she won't see her father
on TV one day get hit
with something and not get
back up and then laughter
will become a language
she forgets in my wake.
The FreezeRay Blog! From the hearts and mind of the staff, these are the things that get us geeked. In the best way.