Trevor Abes: Writer

Tag: entertainment

Forging Connections at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival (2013) was not your average convention. People weren’t dressed in carefully considered costumes or walking around in character stockpiling freebies indiscriminately. Set in the Toronto Reference Library over the second weekend of May, the intimate space lent itself to discovery and spontaneous conversation more than sweaty-palmed, star struck fervor. TCAF opened its doors to the simply curious and the comic-obsessed with equal grace, focusing attention on creators and their work.0511131157-00

Caitlin Cass, an artist based in Buffalo, NY, is the founder of Great Moments in Western Civilization, a cooperative dedicated to picking and blending stories from history. Her work draws on influences from Heraclitus to Paddington Bear in a poetic attempt to fit the whole world into one craggy group picture.

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Caitlin Cass, holding The Text, her latest Postal Constituent offering, about “the anxiety people feel about language and its unbreakable authority over us all.”

Matt Moses, head of New Jersey’s Hic & Hoc Publications, said, “TCAF is the best in my mind. It’s much warmer, and more welcoming, and so much better organized than most conventions.”And no, he’s not just being nice. As a home for alternative artists who eschew mainstream taxonomies, H & H is akin to illustrated Bizarro Fiction.

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Moses, left, with authors Lauren Barnett (Me Likes You Very Much) and Pat Aulisio (Bowman 2016).

Chester Brown promoted an expanded version of The Playboy (Drawn and Quarterly), a nostalgic and curious treatment of his obsession with Playmates and self-pleasure that was first published in 1992. A believer in the idea of looking back as a way of moving forward, Brown said of his use of autobiography, “I was inspired by my friend Joe Matt’s honesty and openness about his life in his comics.” Then, he flipped one open (Matt’s Peepshow #1and, with a warm and wistful smile, pointed himself out drawn on the page. “Of course, this is when I had more hair,” Brown added.

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Chester Brown with The Playboy.

This year’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival showed how the unlimited social circle is the fastest way to becoming yourself. From the small presses happy to have tables, to the centrally located major players digging through boxes of money to make change, everyone’s fictions were courageously laid bare for the sake of forging new connections where none existed before.

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The Tobacco Defenestration

The Tobacco Defenestration

Photograph by Jenny Downing.

From Record One: Peep Show

I’m sitting in a vanilla bean office chair next to my bedroom window on the 28th
floor of my postmodern apartment complex, Sonatina, where there’s never any music
playing. The chair used to belong to my uncle: he died from asbestos in the university
where he served as professor, from drinking whiskey and from smoking cigarettes. He
liked Dunhills, the ones with a crimson stripe on the filter.

I’m smoking a cigarette with a blue stripe on the filter, a beer-and-a-smoke kind
of cigarette that imprints on my lungs a hot patch tingle. Not a Dunhill, a Canadian
Classic. The pack has snow on it.

Despite the warmth of an atomic orange hoodie and thick green-scale
lumberjack-chequered pyjama pants, I’m sick as a parrot on a 3-day saltine bender.
My nostrils are dripping. Wiggly phlegm is coalescing in my throat.

The wind tends to blow in on the 28th floor, and I’ve taken precautions. There’s
a pair of dark blue skinny jeans slotted under the door with a wet Martha Stewart striped
towel to prevent smoke-swirls from sliding into the living room where mom
and dad are on the internet. A plastic fan whizzes against the breeze – blades
speckled with soot and ash because I only look at them when they’re spinning – and I
try to exhale into it from behind, into the window.

I don’t know it’s my last cigarette. At a more basic and less demanding location
in my brain, where the fundamental processes that keep me alive are carried out by
idiots and country bumpkins, I’ve known for a while. I’ve felt the tipping point
approaching on piles of guilt and cancer googling.

Read the rest here by downloading the anthology: Record One: Peep Show.

How to Write a Poem in 7 Easy Steps

Magic Poetry Typewriter1. Research how to locate and outline the chin of a toy terrier. Find a toy terrier, outline its chin, then count the hairs on said chin to determine the number of lines your poem will have.

2. Purchase a hatchet and 7 copies of your most loathed newspaper. Stack the newspapers and roll them together, fastening the resulting cake roll with elastic bands. Plate and freeze. In the morning, slice off a dessert-sized portion for melting next to your bowl of cereal and cup of black coffee. If, after breakfast, you cannot deduce at least one thing you hate about the newspaper from the soggy mush, its contents will determine your poem’s subject matter. Otherwise, dump it in the trash and try the next slice tomorrow.

3. Suppose you spot the word “politics” upside down drooping over the plate onto the table and the name “Tibetan Mastiff” crossed with the word “court” in the middle of the plate where ink should be pooling. You decide to take as your theme the history of court cases in which both defendant and prosecution are of the Tibetan Mastiff breed.

4. Research famous Tibetan Mastiff trials and choose one. Suppose you choose Price v. Shanti 1983, where one Shanti Warren was accused of stealing one Price Kennedy’s gold-encrusted leg of lamb and taking it abroad from Toronto to Botswana, where security discovered counterfeit AAA-grade kibble inside of it and duly detained her.

5. For rhythm, think of the last song you had to turn off to stop yourself from getting sick of it. Play it on repeat and improvise about the case; be how you wish you were most of the time; do this until your ears are worn to the metal. Then, continue in and relish the silence. Record using tape or laptop microphone.

6. From the resulting material, select sentences you enjoy as they stand on their own.

7. Try to put them together.

 

 

Silver Linings Playbook: A Review

Silver Linings PlaybookOn paper, a manic episode can read like a tantrum. A few hours before dawn, Pat Solitano, a man in his 30s, wants his wedding video. He could describe it frame for frame, but he will turn his parents’ house upside down, waking them and the rest of the neighborhood up until it surfaces. Move in a little closer, though, and you’ll find that video in Pat’s mind, enclosed along with his wedding song, Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour,” in a safe of infinitely layered neuroses. The tokens are insignificant next to his inability to stop returning to them through a narrow, obsessive, and unproductive focus on Nikki, his Cthulhu-like wife.

What Pat (Bradley Cooper) wants is to find room in the safe where nobody will bother him again. He thinks Nikki will take him back –despite an eight-month stint at a mental hospital– and is desensitized by her memory, an expert ignorer of how her absence has crushed him. She is his family and his friends, and all the strangers staring back at him for self-assurance that he hasn’t somehow given them bipolar disorder too. Pat is a hazard at their door, their real-life A&E.

Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) is similarly stuck, except she’s a little farther along in her recovery from trauma. She already let her husband’s death astonish and confuse her as to where to turn for relief. Now, past denial, she seeks self-expansion, to struggle with a thought process foreign to her own.

The differences between Tiffany and Pat are rooted in perspective. She listens to the whole orchestra, while he only hears the keyboards. He sees individual strokes and can tell them apart without knowing what the painting represents, that is until he gets curious and asks her. Their reactions to the world are pre-planned, dull and unchanging. They don’t have to live in the moment or be critically aware of their behavior, because good and bad are already rigidly defined.

What I take from Silver Linings Playbook is that you’re not supposed to know how to live through a broken marriage or a death in the family before those things happen (and hopefully they don’t). No matter what you do, you’ll be caught reeling, and the part of your brain that works free of insights and logical thinking will tell you to simply grit your teeth and hold on. It’s that moment of desperation when the ground beneath your feet dissolves and you’ll want nothing more than to make sense of what’s happening, however bizarre a story it takes. Pat’s delusion, revealed in the therapy scene, represents the human reaction to hardship, one far less difficult than the appropriate reaction of letting adversity make its own sense that can overcome you and force you to understand it.

Then, with any luck, you’ll be exhausted, left with football, your friends and loved ones, a good book, sleeping in, small things that can carry a life if afforded space among other less tangible things, like dreams and inherited images of what a good life entails, that can get in the way of what’ll be there when it’s time to start over or try something new.

Hail MarySilver Linings Playbook is uncomfortable to watch without the self-justifying comfort of reality television. It is a movie about the unavoidability of loss and stress and weakness, and how preparing for each one has more to do with experiencing them than browsing the Self-Help isles. Or to put it another way, a playbook is %99 guide, %1 Hail Mary. Its prescriptions can be broken at a moment’s notice if your players fail to get open or hold off the charging defensive line: in these cases, you are allowed to depend on whomever is available, even if you’re all that’s left. But if a long-ball prayer of a touchdown is the last hope for a win, your faith best reside in the familial faces crowding the end zone.

If we’re left with a moral, it’s an urgent, humble reminder that life is appeasable for those who realize that Hell is other people, but Heaven is too.

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