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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Check out my review of Jen Vaughn's Menstruation Station: Menarche Aboard! at inkstuds.

Monday, June 29, 2009

picture of a deformed head here

Nobody is writing anything good today, it is sunny out and I am in, my head hurts, and and and

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Doesn't it seem like sometimes everybody else is doing great projects but because of various disabilities on your part you can't join in? That's how I am feeling. Though I am about to embark on the MLS project (a commitment of many kinds), I've got all this summer juice percolating in my brain and no tall, condensation-smudged glass to pour it into. While time may not permit the metamorphosis of all my thoughts from liquid to solid I'd still like to take a crack at it.

Did we say that we were going to do some projects? Ok, let's do them.

Until then, I'll be napping in my room.

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Contest entries and pictures of amazing things are appreciated.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Buddha 1 & 2 by Osamu Tezuka

A friend who wanted to get me into manga master Tezuka’s work gave the first two volumes of the Buddha biography to me as a birthday gift. I read each thick volume in one or two sittings.

Tezuka uses two styles to tell the Buddha’s story—a finely detailed, naturalistic style to show the lush Indian backgrounds, architectural edifices and certain animals and a big-eyed cartoon-y style for the characters in the story. It was the latter that distracted me from the story. The character treatment, while it works in the action sequences that are shoehorned in to fill out the Buddha’s world, distanced me from the characters. I felt little investment in their fates. Also, the female characters look very much alike. Tezuka depicts many of the characters topless for much of the time. Strangely, he only draws nipples for them part of the time. I can’t explain why this bugged me so much, but it did.

The dialogue is childish and stilted, which may because of the translation, but seems to be a result of trying to put modern idioms in the mouths of centuries-old characters. The relationships between the characters, especially the romantic ones are equally superficial and don’t really create any tension.

While I enjoyed the books as a way to pass time on the train and waiting in waiting rooms, I didn’t feel the urge to go out and buy the rest of the volumes. Partly this is a reaction to the price of each, even the Strand’s discount didn’t bring them under ten dollars. Ultimately, though, it was a matter of Tezuka’s lackluster character design and writing.

Tezuka is considered a master of the form and I respect that. I guess I’ll just have to see more of his work before I can decide what I think of his stuff.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Reminder

You have one week left to enter the Summer 09 Contest. Send in those entries!

The Tent by Margaret Atwood

I hated this book. Almost every minute of reading the bloodless short shorts and poems within it I spent waiting to get to something strong and vivid and Atwoody. Instead the stories are vague and unmemorable and are almost entirely in one of my least favorite voices: the mythmaker.

The mythmaker voice is almost always a distant first person and uses the word “we” a lot. The rhythm is slow and sing-song, all the better to lull one to sleep:
“The young look up at you, wide-eyed. Or maybe they look down at you: they’ve become very tall. How young are the young these days? It varies. Some of them are quite old. But they are still credulous, because you were there, once upon a time, and they weren’t.” (“Winter’s Tales”)

“The Heritage house is where we keep the Heritage. It wasn’t built for that—it was once a place where people really lived—but the way things need to be done was cumbersome, what with the water coming out of the well, and the light coming out of oil lamps and tallow candles, and the heat coming out of a stone fireplace, and then there were chamber pots to be emptied and the tin bathtubs to be filled.”” (“Heritage House”)

“But who are we now, apart from the question Who are we now? We all share that question. Who are we, now, inside the we corral, the we palisade, the we fortress, and who are they? Is that them, landing in their illicit boats, at night?...It’s a constant worry, this we, this them.” (“Post-Colonial”)

This voice is usually employed when there is no real story, and the author wants to add weight to a story that’s clichéd, characterless, or just plain boring, or wants to write an essay, but doesn't have enough facts. I realize that this entire short work could be taken as an exercise, but that doesn’t mean that I want to read it. Even I in a mood more indulgent toward such wifty tales, the themes matter and none of Atwood’s take on themes in The Tent—including aging, aging as a woman, the problems of modernity--did much for me.

The only good of this collection is its high object value. The cover and design are beautiful and it’s a great size for toting around. Why you’d want to I’m not sure.

The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

While most of the stuff on io9 concerns poorly made television shows and gossip about films I have no interest in, I must confess a love of editors Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders. When Annalee rustled up a list of books that will make you think differently about robots, I was intrigued. I am in a place where I think I need to think differently about robots so I thought I’d check out a few of the suggestions. Luckily the library had both of the ones I was interested in.

The Alchemy of Stone is a steampunk affair, without the punk. The story concerns a housekeeping robot-turned-companion named Mattie and her painful relationship with her creator, Loharri. Although she is emancipated and has her own alchemy work making potions for apothecaries and lost lovers, her creator has the only key to her clockwork heart and lords this fact over her when he feels powerless against her ambition. The alchemists and the mechanics, of which Loharri is part, run the city, which is also looked after by a dying race of gargoyles. Mattie’s newest commission is to help the gargoyles while the people who do its dirty work threaten the order of the city.

A machine-girl is an interesting idea, but I found Mattie to be an uninteresting character. Her naiveté, explained as resulting from her short time out of Loharri’s care, comes off as grating, especially when applied to the unsubtle anti-discrimination theme of the book:
“And yet, she couldn’t shake her anger as she walked downhill. Not al Ilmarekh but at those who chose that life for him—just like the anger she felt when the soldier on the metal mount called her a clunker. There were these people—she wasn’t sure exactly who they were—who kept telling them what they could and could not be. And Mattie was quite certain that she did not request her emancipation just so she could obey others beside Loharri.” It’s the “quite certain” that gives away the prim simplicity of the book’s take on race relations (and to some extent, gender relations).

In fact, it is primness overall that makes this book forgettable. “Mattie thought that she had never yet seen Iolanda like that—so energetic, so giddy, crackling with some hidden excitement. And the fact that she was here and undressed… she decided to ponder the implications later, when she wasn’t so distracted.”

Despite the requisite bit of Victoriana present in the book, I just couldn’t believe that a former blank slate, made by a flawed and dark creator and exposed to the ugliest of human emotions on a daily basis would evolve such an earnest do-gooder personality. While the questions her existence asks—what is emancipation, what is bondage, can a mechanical thing love—are compelling, nothing complicated can be pinned to such a blah character, and relieves Sedia’s exploration of those topics of any weight. Sedia never goes past Mattie’s limited perceptions (except during the aggressively italicized passages in the gargoyles' voice, who speak like forgotten royals struck with a fever of vagueness), to really mine the themes she has set up and is instead content to write a chaste romance novel with a steam and metal wrapper.

I hope the other book I got from the list is much better.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

bits of good

Some thoughts on internet persona and anonymity by bug girl. Work, passion, Darwin and Tootsie all make an appearance.
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Michael Schaub is back at bookslut. Hooray-a-thon. He is hilarious and smart.
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The excellent Matthew Cheney talks about books on a particular shelf over at Strange Horizons. The only downside to the essay is that he opens with a confession of bookshelf voyeurism and I wanted to know more about what he's gleaned about others from their display.
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Cure for the rainy-month blues:
spicy vegetarian chili
iced tea with garden herbs
books set in Seattle, Scotland, Jupiter or beneath the earth
cotton blankets
Maniac Cop

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Coast City Comics



When JetBlue hands you a sweet deal, sometimes you just have to overpack, underdress and barely prepare for a rainy vacation in Maine.

While I was there, Coast City Comics in Portland opened. It seems to be a more superhero and toy-oriented scene than I am into, but an employee assured me that there would be more local stuff and minis to come. If you love mainstream floppies and paraphernalia, this is the place.

Here are some pics which showcase my deteriorating photo skillz. Eye redaction for everyone!

The welcoming crew

One part of the massive back issue selection

Employees, one with smile, one without

The satisfaction of a job well done


As part of the celebration various prize packs were raffled off to lucky winners. Imagine my surprise when our hostess, formerly known as Mary Millwhistle won one of three mystery packs! She'll be well-stocked with bulging biceps and rocket boobs for months. (Also comics history):




For much better pictures, see here later, probably...
Back again from the land of blueberries and beards (sorry Mary). I'll have some new stuff for you soon. Ok? Ok.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I have a new review of Runx Tales #1 over at inkstuds.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

I have a review of Papercutter 9 featuring Aron Nels Steinke, Hellen Jo and Elijah Brubaker over at inkstuds. Enjoy.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Some things about MoCCA

1) I can't believe that I missed Kate Beaton.
2) I saw a ton of oversized minis this year. It's a neat idea, but if I can't carry it home with me from the con without crushing it then maybe it's not such a good idea, you know?
3) There weren't many prints this year--good for my wallet, bad for my walls.
4) Speaking of my wallet, I overspent by almost twice my budget in a handful of hours. That's how much good stuff there was.
5) The armory was an interesting space, at the least, even though the giant openness lent a trade-show feeling to the affair.
6) The sketch tables were poorly positioned and advertised so I didn't even know what was happening there until SEC was toiling away behind the tables. A lot of people missed out on great sketches by her and many others.
7) I saw Jason, all by himself, drinking a Diet Dr. Pepper on the corner. I stared at him; he looked away.
8) I had fun with the Indie Spinner Rack guys. Their new book looks really good.
9) Madison Square Park is an excellent place to take a post-con nap.

My haul (above), B's below


I didn't stay very long at the show either day, didn't interview anybody, didn't take any pictures and actually enjoyed myself. Working during conventions isn't fun for anyone... but if you want to chat, drop me an email.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Before I head off to MoCCA, I wanted to share some pics from my rain-weary garden:

The first lily! A lollipop lily to be exact.


Herb garden


Yellow digitalis (foxglove)


Impatiens and ferns and bleachy sunlight

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

"Handle (with care!) the taxidermied squirrels!"

I am getting that feast or famine feeling here in NYC. This weekend is MoCCA, a million parties, some cool readings, a ton of one-day-run films and this:
The Morbid Anatomy Library will be open from 1-6 on June 6th and 7th, as part of the 2009 Atlantic Avenue Artwalk.

I've been there and it is great. The library is small, but includes a ton of books and objects to tickle the fancy of any oddity-lover.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

heads, tails, links

A Vermont locale, a collection of comics, zines and ephemera, and treasures from that archive posted on a nicely written blog. What more could you ask for? The Charles Schulz Library
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Some gorgeous photos of people's private oddities.
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Kate Beaton has a wily mermaid tale in the works.
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Do you have an idea for the summer contest yet?

Monday, June 01, 2009

I have a review of Sarah Oleksyk's comic series IVY over at inkstuds. Go leave comments!