Flashuary continues! Under the tutelage of Jay Garrick, Wally West is now the current Flash—but not for long! A familiar face shows up at his doorstep and flips his world upside-down! In order to overcome this new adversary, Wally West will have to confront the legacy of Barry Allen—and surpass it!
The original column was published on November 15th, 2018 and can be found below.
It’s silly, no? When a rocket ship explodes and everybody still wants to fly But some say a man ain’t happy unless a man truly dies Oh why? Time. Times.
I realized something recently. I don’t listen to music on accident. I’ve never really listened to the radio, not really as a kid and not now. Because of that, there’s a whole lot of music that everyone seems to know but me. But with the way I talk about music, and spit seemingly endless trivia, this always comes as a surprise to people. I have these huge gaps and I’ve been making a real effort to fill them lately. There are several reasons why I’m finally expanding my base, so let’s hit some of the big ones.
I’ll address the elephant mascot in the room real quick and just say, yeah, the world is absolutely terrible and the regular old escapism I’ve relied on for years just isn’t cutting it anymore. But that’s obvious and boring and stressful to talk about, so let’s get more micro here and forget the macro for a second.
I recently got married. My major source of stress/pride at the wedding was that, instead of a DJ or a band, I pre-mixed music that we chose ourselves. I’ve always loved pop, but my partner was much better versed in dance music and R & B than me. So when it came time to mix these playlists, there was a lot of music in there that had this vague familiarity, but was basically foreign to me. But, after listening to these songs over and over (and over), I started feelin’ it a bit. And seeing everyone on the dance floor really made me take a closer listen to what I was missing.
Right around the same time I was making this playlist, my partner gave me a bag of CDs for my birthday. Now, if anyone knows me, they know I don’t really let people just pick media for me. I do tons of research, make a plan on how best to immerse myself in the material, and dive DEEP into what makes whatever I’m into SO good. (Yeah, I know, the most sterile way to enjoy media organically, but what’re you gonna do? I only get to listen to something for the first time once.) But this time, my almost-wife made a plan for me and pushed me to start filling two of my biggest gaps, Prince and David Bowie.
I’m sure you’ll hear more about Bowie in a later column, but I’m here to talk about Prince. I followed her plan and started with 1999. It was great! But it didn’t *really* speak to me yet. Yeah, “1999” and “Lady Cab Driver” ruled, but I didn’t really feel like I was missing out all these years. Then I went on to Parade. Ok, I was starting to get it. “Girls & Boys,” “Under The Cherry Moon,” and “Kiss” were some killer tracks. Then it ends with “Sometimes It Snows In April,” and my god. I was really looking forward to the third album in her list.
This was the album I needed to get me through the weeks leading up to the wedding and the dreaded midterm elections. The opening title track is somehow both so 1987 and so relevant. I’ll let Prince speak for himself.
In France, a skinny man died of a big disease with a little name By chance his girlfriend came across a needle and soon she did the same… Hurricane Annie ripped the ceiling of a church and killed everyone inside You turn on the telly and every other story is tellin’ you somebody died A sister killed her baby ’cause she couldn’t afford to feed it And yet we’re sending people to the moon… Baby make a speech, Star Wars fly Neighbors just shine it on But if a night falls and a bomb falls Will anybody see the dawn?
Double albums tend to have a bunch of filler, but every song on this album is so damn good. Just when the first disc starts to wrap up, as my unmarried life wrapped up with it, you get the fantastic ballad closer, “Forever In Your Life.”
All that is wrong in my world, You can make right You are my saviour, You are my light Forever I want you in my life There comes a road in every man’s journey A road that he’s afraid to walk on his own I’m here to tell you that I’m at that road And I’d rather walk it with you than walk it alone You are my hero, You are my future When I am with you, I have no past Oh baby, my one and only desire Is find some way in this doggone world To make this feeling last
The second half of the record is just as great as the first, and if you’ve never heard it, you gotta give “If I Was Ur Girlfriend” or “Strange Relationship” a listen right now. The jams in “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man” and “It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night” are worth the price of admission on their own and really showcase just what a diverse and talented group of musicians Prince brought together for this era of his career.
But the last song on this record I gotta talk about is possibly my favorite Prince song, “The Cross.” I’m not going to pull any lyrics because the song shouldn’t be experienced without hearing Prince’s voice. The first time I heard Prince’s screams in this song, I said, out loud, “My god. I get it now. This isn’t just Prince. This is Prince.” I’m an atheist, but my god, “The Cross” is a religious experience. And no one should die without knowing it.
I may be late to the party, and I know Prince isn’t here anymore. It breaks my heart, but records like this show that Prince made sure the party would keep raging long after he left us. This isn’t just a perfect record. It’s not just the highest point in a career filled with mountain ranges of highs. It’s not just about holding on to the love around you while your society darkens and radicalizes it’s traditional “values” around you. It’s a little of everything we had in 1987 and it’s a little of everything we still have.
The original column was published on May 28th, 2018 can be found below.
Oh, for once in my Oh, for once in my life Could just something go Could just something go right?
I don’t think I enjoy media anymore. Well, that’s a lie. I still love things, just not in the same ways I used to. I used to just pop on a record or watch a movie and just enjoy the ride without analyzing every single emotional beat and what it means to me at that exact moment. That’s a lie, too, but it’s easier to pretend that this is some big shift into the dramatic.
The first time I heard The Decemberists’ I’ll Be Your Girl, their newest record, I was driving home from a late night meetup with some friends on Record Store Day with my better half asleep in the front seat. When the first song, “Once In My Life,” started, it seemed like the Decemberists I’ve loved for a decade and I was feelin’ it. But then all these synths came in and I was… feelin’ it less. If you’ve never listened to them, they mostly write folky songs about boats and chimneys and medieval queens. After that first listen through, the record sat on my shelf for a month and didn’t get a whole lot of revisiting. Fast forward and I’m listening to it on repeat and crying on the side of the highway. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Since the election, I’ve been struggling with a lot. I feel guilty when I enjoy things that seem “trivial,” but I’ve also felt that those things are more important than ever. I’ve always been an escapist, but I was having a harder time escaping and not yelling “But think about what it represents in a larger context! Think about the ramifications of this story in Trump’s America!” to any squirrel or rabbit who hadn’t yet learned to run away at the first sign of “Post-modern breakdown Ryan.” This was embodied by my two favorite releases of 2017: Paramore’s After Laughter and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. They captured the dichotomy of this feeling better than I could explain. After Laughter is an 80s-style synth-pop record that’s so easy to dance to. But on the first listen, I missed just how sad Hayley Williams’ lyrics were on it. The big single from the album, “Hard Times,” was my “fun song of the summer,” but… well, I’ll let her explain.
All that I want Is to wake up fine Tell me that I’m alright That I ain’t gonna die All that I want Is a hole in the ground You can tell me when it’s alright For me to come out
Gonna make you wonder why you even try Hard times – gonna take you down and laugh when you cry These lives – and I still don’t know how I even survive Hard times – And I gotta get to rock bottom
And my favorite song of the record, “Fake Happy,” is… pretty self explanatory. Just like my 2017: wow, there’s a lot of great stuff in here and it’s so much fun! But woah, this narrator just shoe horns in some sad and self loathing stuff the whole time!
I’m not gonna go into a whole thing about Last Jedi. Enough people have heard my rant on how it’s all about identity politics and rejecting the savior mentality of the Berniecrats in a post-Obama world, while also rejecting the obsession with legacy and the past that the establishment Democrats won’t leave behind. But there’s so many good jokes and fun settings in it! So yeah, Star Wars.
So that brings me to The Decemberists and I’ll Be Your Girl. Knowing that it had some poppier production, I figured it would be a fun escape from all the terrible. And this time, I really listened to Colin Meloy’s lyrics. It wasn’t! At all! The opening lines are up at the top, but hell, did I start feelin’ it this time through. The songs seem dancy and poppier than the Decemberists have ever been, but the lyrics are maybe Colin’s best. There’s a track that sounds like a real throwback to the lighthearted mid-00s sound that I frequently pined to when it played over a crush’s myspace page, but with an added choir of children singing “We All Die Young.” I pulled open the case and saw a caricature of the president with a lyric in a world bubble. Looking for the full context, I found:
I alone am the answer I alone will make wrongs right But in order to root out the cancer It’s got to be kept from the sight
I was born to a jackal I was born in a whiteout Gonna smother you all till I choke you Gonna smother you all till you kick out
I realized that this album completed my trifecta of “happy, but not really,” when the campy “Everything Is Awful” came on. And I couldn’t help but say, out loud, to no one, “He’s not wrong.” And that silly, but tragic tune perfectly set the stage for my emotional wreck on the highway.
Right after “Everything Is Awful,” “Sucker’s Prayer” starts. I don’t know why this one resonated with me so hard. Maybe it’s the classic Decemberists’ sound that shines through. It sounds like The Band, but with anxiety. Maybe it’s just the day I was having. Maybe it’s because it was the third time through the record that day and it was finally sinking in. Whatever the reason, I found myself singing along as tears filled my eyes. And right then and there, in New York rush hour traffic, I realized something. This certainly wasn’t the album I wanted. But Christ, was it the album I needed.
I was not ready for the road I was so discontent to wear that heavy load And so I got down on my knees I made a sucker’s prayer A grim bode of baudelaire before
And when nobody did respond I took my glasses off and went to find a pond Stuffing rocks into the pockets of my pants And when I waded in Those currents carried them away
I wanna love somebody but I don’t know how I’ve been so long lonely and it’s getting me down I wanna throw my body in the river and drown I wanna love somebody but I don’t know how
Welcome to Flashuary, fellow Flash Museumgoers! This month our host Ryan is taking the boys through a curated list of some of the most infamous Flash stories, starting with Barry Allen v. Eobard Thawne AKA Professor Zoom (as well as an extended discussion over the trial of Barry Allen)! There’s drug rings, time travel, a wedding, and DEATH BY VIBRATOR, so don’t miss it!
Who shot JFK? It’s one of the enduring questions that America has never found a satisfying answer to. And it’s also… a question that pops up a lot in the Vertigo reboot of an old Steve Ditko character, Shade the Changing Man! Come on a wild ride with us as we hop into a serial killer’s body and explore the madness that is the American Scream!
Superman has gone rogue! Or… not-Superman has gone rogue and it’s up to the not-Justice League to stop him! Darryl, Phil, and Sly take a trip through the first eight issues of Mark Waid’s Irredeemable, and emerge out the other end… feeling bad for a genocidal killer? Best to listen to the podcast and not take that statement out of context!
Darryl can’t let go of his “-Man” suffix, Phil is the only person that knows the difference between Scylla and Charybdis, and Sly could do without all the sexual deviancy (that isn’t cucking.)
Brace yourself. I’ve never seen Stranger Things. I’ve never seen a whole lot of stuff, but Stranger Things is one of those rare cultural zeitgeist kinda things that everyone seems to really love. Sure, everyone was talking about Game Of Thrones, but half of the takes were about how trash it was. Everyone saw Avengers: Endgame, but there was still a lot of hate out there for it. I’ve never really heard anyone say anything negative about Stranger Things, though. I’ll watch it one of these days, I promise! But until then, I’ll gladly just cherish this rare thing where everyone I know all seems to be really into it and just bask in it. Which brings me to the new Ingrid Michaelson record, Stranger Songs.
As far as I can tell, this album isn’t officially affiliated with Stranger Things at all and is just heavily inspired by it. So, like I constantly do, Ingrid was just inspired by a piece of media and wrote a whole lot about how it made her feel, and thus, Stranger Songs was written. There’s something pure and beautiful about one of my biggest influences, just gushing about a TV show for 40 minutes through her music. (Ingrid’s been my favorite lyricist since high school and it’s only a matter of time before one of her early albums ends up in this column). It’s really cool to see someone whose work I so often project my feelings onto or to not feel so alone with, showcase the exact same thing for herself, even if I don’t get any of the references.
The show seems to really hit some universal themes of love and rejection, themes that have always been prevalent in Ingrid’s work. It’s clear enough from the material itself, but right before the record came out, I saw her live for a “sneak peak” show and there was a lot of banter and explanation of why the show resonated with her so intensely. (As an aside, if you’ve never seen Ingrid, you really have to. She’s as hilarious as she is talented.) These universal themes shine through in songs like “Hate You.”
2 am, 3 am, then 4, I’ll never sleep, not like I did before You’re the living nightmare that I always dream about I can’t seem to live without you
I don’t hate you, I don’t hate you, I just hate how much I don’t hate you God I want to, want to hate you, I just hate how much I don’t hate you
I don’t hate that you called our love bullshit when you were drunk that night I don’t hate how much I love you, I don’t hate that I cry And I don’t know why, oh why, oh why
Or in “Best Friend,” a song that captures the romantic tensions that become the focus of most coming of age stories, certainly mine.
Wide awake, I lay beside you It’s in the middle of the night and I really want to Wake you up, tell you my secret, that you’re the one I want
But I don’t want to mess this up, I don’t want to say too much It always gets too real, when I tell them how I really feel
Here I go again, Falling in love with my best friend Try to hold it in, but you’re making it hard, hard to pretend
And we don’t just fall in love with characters because they show our best traits. Like in “Jealous,” you can see Ingrid latching on to characters that fall into the same traps we all do. Universal flaws that we can never seem to get right.
Hurts bad seeing you out, knowing that you’re happy now You’re laughing like the way we used to do I feel it rising in me, I feel the tide pulling deep I never knew I could be so mad at the one that I love, no
I do bad things when I’m jealous I do bad things, I can’t help it, I can’t help it It’s what you’re doing to me, ruining me, turning me upside down Yeah, I do bad things when I’m jealous And I’m jealous a lot
But more than anything, I think a good piece of pop culture can do a lot to break the norms and cause a paradigm shift in how we view societal status quos. Action and adventure stories have historically been a real boys’ club, and from all the recommendations I’ve gotten lately (I promise, I’ll watch it, I promise!), it seems like Stranger Things is opening up the genre and letting young girls be part of the adventure too, and that rules. Even if I haven’t seen it, or don’t need that as much as someone else might, I’m so damn glad it exists and will gladly pull up a chair and listen to someone tell me why it means the world to them.
I’m done spinning ‘round and ‘round, planted my feet in the ground I’m not afraid of the dark, I’m not afraid to get hurt
Head above the clouds, Mama, come look at me now I’m not afraid of the world, I’m gonna fight like a girl
Running around with my long hair, tear in my dress and I don’t care If you’re looking for something beautiful
I’m pretty sure that I’m all good, Walking away from you like I should Washing it all away, I’m not just pretty No, I’m pretty damn good.
Rosy cheeks and lips, she talks but nobody listens That’s just the way of the world, I gotta fight like a girl
It’s the end of the year, which means we’ve compiled our favorites and least favorites of 2019! It was a pretty packed year, so things might shake out differently than you’d expect! Not only that, but Phil and Darryl dive into Superman: Grounded, and walk away from that long walk feeling pretty good.
Ho ho ho-ly cow! It’s been another year which means it’s time for another Christmas-themed podcast! This time the Divisive Issues crew will be diving into the X-Men animated series as well as X-Men Evolution. Gather ’round the fire and let us regale you with tales of scorpions, alien girls, and flying angels…
Ryan becomes the defender of the downtrodden sewer folk, Darryl keeps thinking the leader of the Morlocks is a greek nymph, Sly evolves his opinion on x-mas specials, and Phil believes in angels.
This is it! Ichigo must race to the soul palace to save the Soul King! Or… does he have to? Does it matter? Does any of this matter? The DI crew is losing their minds trying to process what is happening at the very end of Bleach, bringing us to perhaps the most daunting question of all: Would we recommend Bleach?
Darryl pronounces omniscience as “am-nish-sense” like a paulo stulti, Phil’s favorite fight ends on a whimper, Sly has had his fill of “BAN-KAI!” hype moments, and Ryan now knows the meaning of TRUE despair.