A Ben Cohen Ink Comic


By Ben Cohen a “legendary master of the left field.” -BRP!

“Unintentionally misunderstood since 1975.” –Anonymous

“A big f@#k you, to the audience.” -B. Pendarvis

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

On a Personal Note: Up In The Air

This may be the strangest review you read this year. I just got back from seeing Jason Reitman’s Up In The Air staring George Clooney as Ryan Bingham. A man who is hired to fire people and who has constructed a lifestyle and philosophy that is based in the seamless existence one can live when free of stuff and people. Sometimes a piece of art hits the right tanner and fits into the rhythm of that moment in your life. This film has already been doing that for weeks as it is focused on job loss, and we are emerging from one of the worst economic down terns in our nations history, and job loss as a lagging indicator still sharply focuses how far we have to go, and how this environment has effected us daily in very personal ways. That broader note that this film strikes while still relevant to mine (anyone looking for an Art Teacher) is not precisely the same note that hit me at this time and place.

Last week I had facial bone surgery as part of a permanent solution for my TMJ issues. Pre-Op, I had made a mix for me during the week, for my daughter perhaps when she sleeps and for my future students to help them work efficiently; it is called the Pacify Lullaby. I had also seen this surgery as part of a recent upswing in being a better person, husband and father (there is always room for improvement). The surgery was conducted by friends and went just about perfect, the night over in the hospital was not even close to as bad as the ones my wife had when our daughter was born, so it was beyond expectations. Post-Op I have spent this time coming down from steroids and dilaudid, watching my faces inflammation change into something not quite what it was before. I have not been able to smile, and talking has been intolerable for much of this time, I am on a liquid diet which makes it difficult to stomach the nutrition you need to keep yourself healing well. The toll this has taken on me, my wife and our daughter has taken us a bit by surprise, despite us working in this field. To top it all off they both have both had a severe illnesses this week. Despite them being home more then we had thought, I have felt very isolated during my transformation. As have they. Things have been so bad that I have not drawn a single panel of the pages upon pages of comics I had planed on cranking out pre-op. Yesterday was for some odd reason the worst of it (my pain is non existent and my inflammation is nearly gone). However, the highlight of my day, and really the highlight of all of my days, was being with my exhausted wife and our daughter who has uncanny abilities to bounce back with optimism. I lay there nearly dead with depression unable to control the muscles to even fake a smile and I was enjoying it as much as one could. It was certainly a welcomed change to my day alone.

Seeing Up In The Air helped me process this sense that I have had, and have from time to time; what it would be like without my wife and daughter. This week plus has sharpened the sense of how lonely that would be. In Reitman’s Juno my wife and I identified with
Juno MacGuff and Paulie Bleeker’s characters. Particularly when we think of ourselves in high school and/or our friends in high school. We are not high school sweet harts, so in a way Juno was a glimpse into what might have been. In Bingham I see another, “what if?” There are aspects of my life that are seamless, or designed to be so. I have always been enamored with Japanese culture and idealized it with this seamless design aesthetic. A purity of purpose and the world to go with it. Many of the comics I love depict sad cases, which I secretly admire for their rituals. When I worked in the coffee industry, I was Bingham (or perhaps his apprentice…my pal Donald totally fit this bill). The way in which Bingham approaches security in an airport is precisely how I aspire to approach it…this IS more difficult with a 2 year old. If my wife and I are not lucky enough to be struck dead at the same time and I am the one who caries on (lucky for me the statistics are not in favor of that) I am almost sure I will live the retired cartoonist/art teacher version of a man living out of a carryon and enjoying the burden less illusion.

Up In The Air in quality falls close to Juno (just not as lovable), but it falls close Reitman's Thank You For Smoking in feel. That said it really is its own animal. The opening sequences is pitch perfect (amazing how comics iconic gutters help sell a story about America). The palette visually fist the tone of the film. There is a nice pace to the film that is not jarring, a challenge considering the introduction of documentary style medium shots of people reacting to being fired. Clooney’s performance as it has said plays on all his strengths. And yes the character grows, but not outside reason. Vera Farmiga does compliment Clooney as, much as Anna Kendrick makes his character have to really grow to appreciate her. His hometown pulls on a thin strand with surprising results only catalyst by the relationships he has maintained under business duress and while up in the air.  The pieces all fit. The tapestry of story for fills the tapestry of visuals that make up the film and America’s amazing landscape when viewed from the air.

Now I feel a fog has lifted and am motivated to make comics tomorrow, the snow on the ground helps too.

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