websites

What We're Loving: Disfigured Narrators, Success Waffles, Interstellar Misleads

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week Ryan Callahan is superficial, Jonda Robinson believes in waffles, and David Allison aims for the stars.  imgresWolf in White Van by John Darnielle is a book I judged by its cover. Okay, it wasn't solely the cover; I read the inside flap of the dust jacket and the blurbs on the back. but the half-hypnotizing-half-headache-inducing cover sold me on the book more than anything else. The cover was like a Magic Eye painting. It pulled me in with the promise of worlds hidden in plain sight.

Wolf in White Van delivered on that promise. But. unlike a Magic Eye, which reveals a schooner or Micky Mouse, Wolf in White Van creates a world that, when squinted at, reveals an entire world hidden in plain sight: a desolated wasteland where everyone is alone and the only options are go forward or die, where the game never ends, and where our goals and dreams will forever be out of reach. The book takes place entirely inside the head of Sean Phillips, the creator of a mail-order role-playing game who lives primarily in seclusion due to an accident as a teenager, which left him horribly disfigured.

Wolf in White Van has no plot. Sean's narration jumps between the past and the present, between the game he created and the real world, all a series of overlapping memories. Through the memories, more information is revealed. We learn more about Sean, his game Trace Italian, the terrible accident that led to his creation of Trace Italian, and the terrible accident his game caused. The novel is dark and beautiful, full of evocative sentences and well-observed moments between a young man and his parents.

John Darnielle is apparently a well-known musician, the vocalist for the band the Mountain Goats. I knew nothing of his work prior to picking up his book. But now I'll have to listen to all of it. Or buy all of it, listen to one song, tell myself I'll listen to the rest someday, and move on to another interest. - Ryan Callahan

imgresWhat do you believe in? Yeah, this just got deep. The reason I pose this question to you is because it’s a question I’ve recently asked my eighth grade students. We’ve spent the past week studying up on what others believe and figuring out how to pick and portray an idea that we really believe in. As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time checking out what other people believe at www.thisibelieve.org.

The website belongs to This I Believe, Inc, a “not-for-profit organization that engages youth and adults from all walks of life in writing, sharing, and discussing brief essays about the core values that guide their daily lives.” Based on a radio program that ran in the 1950s and was hosted by Edward R. Murrow, it’s a place where individuals can publish essays explaining their beliefs on a topic, with the end goal being to encourage people to have a respect for the beliefs of others. When I was browsing the site, I decided to check out the “humor & laughter” section, because hey, I like humor! I like laughter! I was not disappointed when I stumbled upon an essay entitled “Give Me a Waffle,” because waffles are delicious and a great way to celebrate successes, deal with whatever is going on in life, or distract your friends when needed.

The website features thousands of essays on a variety of topics, ranging from everyday people talking about courage to Albert Einstein explaining his belief that we should put service to others above our own gain. Check it out, and maybe you’ll feel inspired to let the world in on something that you believe. - Jonda Robinson

lsff-logoThis week, I’m loving the ol’ silver screen herself, MOVIES.

Most cinematic attention this weekend will be directed toward Interstellar, which seeks to answer the question, “Can Matthew McConaughey fly a spaceship as well as he can drive a Lincoln?” I am very excited for this flick, but I’m sure you can find detailed breakdowns of it from much more qualified people that have a PhD in gaffing or whatever. Because of that, I want to use this space (GET IT??????????????????????) to talk about the opposite end of the spectrum—The Lone Star Film Festival.

Each fall, Fort Worth hosts a showcase for independent filmmakers and movies with very little distribution, known as The Lone Star Film Festival. It’s a five-day event that not only includes full-length films and shorts, but also gives us local yokels a chance to interact with real-life famous people! For example, 2013 saw Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Duvall participate in a Q&A (which is movie insider slang for Question and Answer) about their motion picture, Jayne Mansfield’s Car. I’m most excited for the short films, a medium that is a great opportunity for emerging artists on a tight budget to create something fantastic.

You can find out more about The Lone Star Film Festival by looking it up on the Internet. - David Allison

What We're Loving: Forgotten Presidential Impressions, Culture, Numbers, Dutch Angles

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison dusts off an unappreciated gem, Jonda Robinson lets pictures doing the talking, Amanda Hahn crunches numbers, and Ryan Callahan laughs inappropriately.  tumblr_inline_mh1n65gYIj1r8uzczIt’s very common for performers to become under appreciated as time marches on. Icons to the people that lived through their reign only to be forgotten (Or even worse, remembered for a stupid project that they simply did for the money) by the rest. One of the best examples of this sort of figure is Chris Elliott. Most comedians have heard the name and could probably pick his face out of a lineup, but in no way does he get the credit he deserves. Some of the best examples of his work would be Get a Life, Eaglehart, and his guest spots on Letterman. But there’s a sad chance that you don’t have a spare week of your life to watch all of that, so I’m going to recommend that you check out one of his strangest projects that just happens to be my favorite. This week, I’m loving Chris Elliot’s FDR: A One Man Show.

If one was to turn on FDR: A One Man Show expecting to see a pitch perfect impression of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, they would be sorely disappointed. But you’ll quickly agree that it’s much better that Chris Elliott’s FDR wields a lasso and can’t remember his lines. If that isn’t enough, Marv Albert plays the part of the announcer, consistently providing updates on the big high school basketball game happening simultaneously. Oh, and Eleanor is a trombone. Please check out this video so that you can start to appreciate this man. ADORE HIM. - David Allison

Chicago_Art_InstituteYesterday I had the chance to explore the Art Institute of Chicago. Now, I don’t know a ton about art, but one of the beautiful things about it is that you don’t have to have a thorough knowledge of it, or the ability to create it, to enjoy and appreciate it.

There were many pieces that I was excited to see up close and in person: Georges Sauret’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte--1884, Gustave Caillebotte’s Paris Street; Rainy Day, and one that has always interested me, Grant Wood’s American Gothic. It was the visiting exhibit, Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938, that really captivated me, though. I entered it not really knowing what to expect, other than that he was the guy who did the interesting self-portrait that features him in a suit and a bowler hat with a green apple obstructing his face. I learned, though, that he’s a Belgian surrealist artist who has a style that is all his own. It’s vivid, it’s sharp, it’s grotesque, it’s shocking, and some of the pieces make you want to look away instantly, but you can’t because you also feel a need to see them more clearly.

Because a picture (or a painting, in this case) is worth a thousand words, here are some of my favorite paintings of Magritte’s that I had the pleasure of experiencing. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

I know Magritte’s style is not for everyone, but for me, his works are incredibly intriguing because they take the reality that we are used to and alter it so that it becomes unknown and engaging to us. If you find yourself with a free afternoon to fill sometime, I highly recommend visiting an art museum near you. You just might run across something that speaks to and inspires you. - Jonda Robinson

550_information_is_beautiful_2nd_edition_UKIt's no surprise I’m a nerd, by now right? One of my favorite things to do is analyze data. One of my second favorite things is to absorb data. If you have data, I want to know about it. I’m also a firm believer that the better you’re able to explain something very complicated in a very simple way, the more you probably understand it and the more I will trust that you're correct. I also like pretty things.

All of this comes together with Information is Beautiful. Writer/designer David McCandless loves data too. And he too likes pretty things. So he made this website. There are a lot of websites out there that show data on pretty graphics and call it science, but it’s tricky to take them seriously because you don’t know where the data came from or if they’re interpreting things correctly. What I like what Information is Beautiful, is that the data, or at least where it came from, is available for you to see for yourself! (I’ve never taken the time to do this, but it’s nice to know that I could). Now, you wouldn’t be able to make any scientific claims from any of this, but it’s still fun to quickly learn a little bit about your world.

I’ve already learned so much! As a former obsessive calorie counter, one of my favorites is this caffeinated drink to food calorie comparison. Vizualizations are the best. I now know without having to even read much that a Frappucino has as many calories as an order of French fries! Neat!

Or you can see when people break up the most according to Facebook. Guard your heart right before Christmas and Spring Break, guys.

Or save your life by checking out your odds of dying in a plane crash. Another fun fact I learned from this chart is that I have a .000003% chance of dying while blogging right now. Consider me a daredevil.

Have fun learning a little something, kids. But of course, make up your own mind about how you interpret anything. - Amanda Hahn

jpegI'm in the middle of Herman Koch latest book, Summer House With Swimming Pool. Koch's previous book,  The Dinner, was one of my favorite books of last year. When I first read The Dinner, I knew it only as a wildly popular, controversial book, an international best seller describe as "a European Gone Girl." No one said it was funny. I found it hilariously funny, consistently entertaining - it was a book that I wish I had written.

Perhaps it is a coping mechanism, but I tend to find the most horrible things - death, people set on fire, genocide - when delivered in a deadpan, straightforward way, hilarious. On stage my choices run to darkness. Rare is the sketch I pitch that doesn't end with death or murder or wildly inappropriate sexual congress. Reading The Dinner was like connecting with a long lost uncle, a family member cut from the same DNA. The book was a revelation.

Summer House With Swimming Pool has many similarities with The Dinner: the structure, mounting mystery heightened by madness; the tone, wicked, gleeful misanthropy; the prose, short sentences that provide for easy reading. The Dinner told the story of a former professor, his politician brother, and a potential  scandal involving their children. It dealt with the dynamics of interpersonal power and the inherent darkness inside all of us. Summer House With Swimming Pool tells the story of a doctor to the quasi-stars who may have been responsible for the death of a famous stage actor. It deals with the dynamics of interpersonal power and the unavoidable decay of the human body. I realize, in writing those words, that I am not describing what sounds like a particularly amusing book. All I can say is this: Comedy is subjective. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have more terrible things to laugh at. - Ryan Callahan