What is THAT? – Oddities from the MT mailbox



Here’s the deal. Every day here at the Metro Times, our mail delivery includes CDs, books and all sorts of other promotional items. A lot of it we can use and review – local-interest music, DVDs, etc. But we also get a lot of weird and whacky items that just kinda build up. So that’s where this idea came from. Each week (or at least most weeks) I’ll gather up some of the more interesting, freaky and brow-furrowing promo pieces and offer them up here for you. I could be about to show you anything. On that note, feel free to send us anything to Brett Callwood, 733 St Antoine, Detroit MI 48226.

What is a Superhero? (Oxford University Press) is a book written by clinical psychologist Robin S. Rosenberg and Peter Coogan, director of the Institute for Comic Studies. Did you know that there was an Institute for Comic Studies? Me neither, but it somehow makes me incredibly happy that there is. The book seeks to do exactly what the title suggests – define the word and pin down what makes a character of myth, legend, fiction or even fact a superhero. It was convoluted from the start; Superman emerged in ’39, with his seemingly endless array of powers and his bright costume. The man was basically indestructible, and the world knew what a superhero was. 11 months later, Batman was born and, in the process, muddied the water. This guy had a dark costume, and no powers. 74 years and countless characters later, we’re no clearer. This very academic guide looks to set the record straight, but every comic fan has their own opinion, so it’s all subjective anyway. Still, it’s a fun read.

Adam Mansbach’s novel Rage is Back (Penguin) tells the story of a young graffiti artist, Dondi Vance, who happens to be the son of a legendary graffiti artist called Billy Rage. While the two have had a less-than-conventional father/son relationship due to Rage being on the run from the law for 16 years, they eventually reconcile and join forces to bring down Mayoral candidate Anastacio Bracken (best villain name since Darth Vadar?). Bracken was the transit cop who brought down Rage’s crew. The subways and back street hovels of New York provide the backdrop to a story that blends graffiti history and myth with an old-school crime story. Fun, but far from essential reading.

I interviewed Slipknot/Stone Sour front man Corey Taylor once, for Kerrang! magazine in the UK. Man, that guy can talk. He was nice enough, but he will literally spew words for an incredible length of time, diving off at weird and inexplicable tangents, forcing any hapless journo to seriously consider dosing his ale with Ritalin. Not really, but kinda.
Taylor’s new book, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven (Da Capo Press) reads pretty much exactly like that. Essentially a collection of anecdotes about the various ghosts and spirits Taylor believes that he has seen over the course of his life thus far, the author/singer opens the book by explaining why he is absolutely convinced that ghosts, poltergeists and the like exist, but is equally convinced that God doesn’t (“People everywhere weep and cherish his name like a good piece of ass they had when they were busy wasting their twenties.”)
Personally, I’ve always liked the word “agnostic” because it leaves some wiggle room. I really don’t know anything for certain. But there’s a disconnect here when Taylor is so passionately trying to convince his readers of what he believes he has seen, but his mind is slammed shut elsewhere. After that, the book reads like a teenager’s journal.

Elysium: The Art of the Film (Titan Books) by Mark Salisbury takes us through the sets, vehicle and costume design, etc, of the Matt Damon movie Elysium. There’s some cool stuff in here for movie and sci-fi geeks, with robots, spaceships and huge guns a-plenty. Best of all is the chapter on the surgery that Damon’s character had to endure. Gotta love those brains.

Finally, but perhaps best of all, we received a cool little book in the shape of a time capsule (I think) to promote the September series of films on the Turner Classic Movies channel called “The Story of Film.” This is going to be awesome; it kicks off on Monday, September 2 at 8 p.m. with films made in the 1890’s, and then takes in many of the greats as the month progresses. See the full schedule here.

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