For seven years in a row, my friends and I made what was practically (and maybe literally) a religious pilgrimage. As soon as the end of June drew near, we’d pack up our tents, sleeping bags, and beef jerkie, pile into our cars, brave the summer storms, and make the perilous (and exceedingly boring) trek across Iowa to the small rural burg of Bushnell, Illinois. Where we’d spend the next week staying up until all hours of the night, hanging out, enjoying amazing concerts, and everything else you do when you’re at the Cornerstone Festival.
The last time we made the trek was five years ago, and we swore we’d always return. But life inevitably gets in the way — folks get married, have kids, and move halfway across the country. And so our plans always just remained talk, couched in a heady dose of nostalgia.
This year, however, I am finally making my way back to Bushnell. It will, of course, be very different than how I remembered it. The bands will have changed, and I don’t know how many familiar faces I’ll run into amidst the unwashed and unkempt masses of youth group kids, punks, skaters, metalheads, goths, ex-hippies, indie hipsters, and every other subculture you can think of.
And most importantly, I won’t just be going as an attendee. This year, I’m also going as a speaker.
A month or so ago, Mike Hertenstein wrote me, asking if I’d be interested in helping out with this year’s Flickerings program. Flickerings is Cornerstone’s own film festival, and quite unlike what you might expect, screening films by Kieslowski, Dreyer, the Dardennes Brothers, Rossellini, and a slew of other greats.
Each year’s program has a special theme. This year’s theme is “J‑Pop” and the line-up looks to be an otaku’s dream. Speaking of otaku, I’ll be giving a presentation on otaku and Japanese pop culture — what it is, why it has become so prevalent and successful here in the States, and why it resonates with so many people.
I will also be helping out with the various post-screening discussions, and I can’t wait to delve into such titles as Haibane Renmei (my review), Bright Future, Space Battleship Yamato, and Only Yesterday with others. I’m also looking forward to finally seeing some films that have been on my “to see” list for quite some time now, such as Linda Linda Linda, Kamikaze Girls, and Darkon.
Needless to say, I’m very excited and honored (as well as a fair bit nervous). The topic is a very wide and diverse phenomena, and while it certainly won’t be possible to touch on everything, I hope I can do it justice. And of course, I’m anticipating all of the inevitable conversations, discussions, and geek-outs.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some anime to watch.