Press Start With Your Mind Finger: "God Hates Astronauts #4"

Don't let God read God Hates Astronauts. He would hate it even more than he hates astronauts.

God Hates Astronauts #4

Publisher: Image
Length: 31 pages
Writer: Ryan Browne
Price: $2.99
Publication Date: 2015-02

God hates astronauts.

I can't say that I understand this. But, then again, I have always found the list of things that God hates to be somewhat inexplicable. And this is coming from someone who, in an earlier life, was a genuine, card-carrying theologian. God seems to hate some pretty loveable and wonderful things. I just don’t get it.

But why astronauts? I'm reminded of Homer Simpson's misquote of the poem by John Gillespie Magee, the one that used to accompany the sign-on and sign-off signal of a lot of local television stations back in the day when television stations signed-on and -off. I can never remember how the poem really goes, but I can always remember Homer's version -- recited as he prepared to launch Nibbles, the family hamster, into space. "Son," Homer says to Bart, "we are about to break the surly bonds of gravity and punch the face of God." Maybe that's what it is. Maybe every rocket launch is a slap in God's face. And now, after all these years, he's finally had enough. Still, it makes no sense to me. But, then again, I guess it doesn’t have to. (Isaiah 55:9!)

In any event, it’s a moot point because God doesn’t even figure in Ryan Browne's God Hate's Astronauts. In this story, it's not God who hate astronauts, but NASA. Now, NASA doesn't hate just any astronauts, mind you, but astro-farmers, a weird cult-like group of rural folk who, for some reason all wrapped up in their sense of divine purpose, are desperate to get to the moon or, as they call it, the Golden Moon Heaven. It is the job of the stars of this book, Power Persons Five -- working under the guidance of NASA -- to stop them.

It's all pretty weird. I don’t know where to begin. Some of the characters are human. Some are anthropomorphic animals. Some are humans with animal heads. In one case, a character is human but with the head of a ghost cow. One character, the narrator, is some sort of 3-D ghost wearing a cowboy hat. His blue and green outline hurts my eyes when I stare at it for too long on my iPad. (Eye Strain!)

Charles Bronson makes a guest appearance in this issue. (Death Wish!) And Carl Winslow, the father figure from that old TV show that was ruined by Steve Urkel, is a recurring character. (Die Hard!) He originally had gorilla arms but now his arms are robotic. He has a major sub-plot in the story involving the ghost of a former lover who is haunting him.

There is also a sub-plot about the trouble of finding a babysitter for a super-powered kid and one about the travails of Anti-Mugger now that he has a third, Hulk-like arm growing out of the center of his chest that seems motivated to do nothing but commit muggings. (Irony!)

And did I mention the bestiality? The guy with the ghost-cow head sometimes gets urges to pursue some barn-yard loving. (This is very upsetting to his wife. Fortunately, Time Giraffe can help.) And the latest story arc began with one of the astro-farmers falling madly in love with a chicken. This is something I haven’t thought about since I last watched Pink Flamingos. (Divine!)

Oh, but the real story is that the Earth is about to be invaded by an interstellar fleet from the Crab Nebula under the command of King Tiger Eating a Cheeseburger, who is, I kid you not, a tiger who is always eating a cheeseburger. (Burger King!)

This second series of God Hate's Astronauts isn't quite as disturbingly brilliant as the first, but that's okay. It is brilliant and disturbing enough. I think it may even be funnier than I think it is. There is something about it that makes me suspect that I am the one at fault when I'm not laughing. Maybe I read too much theology at an early age.

Read God Hate's Astronauts. Go back to the beginning and read the original run, then read the current run. But don’t let your children read it.

This is some funny stuff, but we probably shouldn't be laughing about it. I can’t put my finger on it, but it just feels wrong.

And for heaven's sake don't let God read it. God would hate God Hate's Astronauts even more than he hates astronauts.

Trust me. I used to be a theologian.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Nonetheless, there are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. There are singers tackling deep, universal matters of the heart and mind. Artists continuing to mess around with a genre that can sometimes seem fixed, but never really is. Musicians and singers have been experimenting within the genre forever, and continue to. As Charlie Worsham sings, "let's try something new / for old time's sake." - Dave Heaton

10. Lillie Mae – Forever and Then Some (Third Man)

The first two songs on Lillie Mae's debut album are titled "Over the Hill and Through the Woods" and "Honky Tonks and Taverns". The music splits the difference between those settings, or rather bears the marks of both. Growing up in a musical family, playing fiddle in a sibling bluegrass act that once had a country radio hit, Lillie Mae roots her songs in musical traditions without relying on them as a gimmick or costume. The music feels both in touch with the past and very current. Her voice and perspective shine, carrying a singular sort of deep melancholy. This is sad, beautiful music that captures the points of view of people carrying weighty burdens and trying to find home. - Dave Heaton

9. Sunny Sweeney – Trophy (Aunt Daddy)

Sunny Sweeney is on her fourth album; each one has felt like it didn't get the attention it deserved. She's a careful singer and has a capacity for combining humor and likability with old-fashioned portrayal of deep sadness. Beginning in a bar and ending at a cemetery, Trophy projects deep sorrow more thoroughly than her past releases, as good as they were. In between, there are pills, bad ideas, heartbreak, and a clever, true-tearjerker ballad voicing a woman's longing to have children. -- Dave Heaton

8. Kip Moore – Slowheart (MCA Nashville)

The bro-country label never sat easy with Kip Moore. The man who gave us "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" has spent the last few years trying to distance himself from the beer and tailgate crowd. Mission accomplished on the outstanding Slowheart, an album stuffed with perfectly produced hooks packaged in smoldering, synthy Risky Business guitars and a rugged vocal rasp that sheds most of the drawl from his delivery. Moore sounds determined to help redefine contemporary country music with hard nods toward both classic rock history and contemporary pop flavors. With its swirling guitar textures, meticulously catchy songcraft, and Moore's career-best performances (see the spare album-closing "Guitar Man"), Slowheart raises the bar for every would-be bro out there. -- Steve Leftridge

7. Chris Stapleton – From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville)

If Chris Stapleton didn't really exist, we would have to invent him—a burly country singer with hair down to his nipples and a chainsaw of a soul-slinging voice who writes terrific throwback outlaw-indebted country songs and who wholesale rejects modern country trends. Stapleton's recent rise to festival headliner status is one of the biggest country music surprises in recent years, but his fans were relieved this year that his success didn't find him straying from his traditional wheelhouse. The first installment of From a Room once again finds Stapleton singing the hell out of his sturdy original songs. A Willie Nelson cover is not unwelcome either, as he unearths a semi-obscure one. The rest is made up of first-rate tales of commonality: Whether he's singing about hard-hurtin' breakups or resorting to smoking them stems, we've all been there. -- Steve Leftridge

6. Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing (Big Machine)

Many of the exciting young emerging artists in country music these days are women, yet the industry on the whole is still unwelcoming and unforgiving towards them. Look at who's getting the most radio play, for one. Carly Pearce had a radio hit with "Every Little Thing", a heartbreaking ballad about moments in time that in its pace itself tries to stop time. Every Little Thing the album is the sort of debut that deserves full attention. From start to finish it's a thoroughly riveting, rewarding work by a singer with presence and personality. There's a lot of humor, lust, blues, betrayal, beauty and sentimentality, in proper proportions. One of the best songs is a call for a lover to make her "feel something", even if it's anger or hatred. Indeed, the album doesn't shy away from a variety of emotions. Even when she treads into common tropes of mainstream country love songs, there's room for revelations and surprises. – Dave Heaton

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

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