Friday, October 31, 2008


Studs Terkel died today.

He was 96, but that doesn't make my heart hurt less. His autobiography Talking to Myself changed my life. Everything I know about listening I learned from him, the original rockstar with a tape recorder.

Here's a long obit.

Safe travels, friend.

(Tribune photo by Charles Osgood / May 16, 2007)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


As you can see by on the widget to the left one of the projects I'm supporting over at Donors Choose has been funded! All you cool kids that helped out please pat yourself on the back and await your tax deduction.

Everybody else, please drop a few bucks for some microscopes for these awesome middle schoolers. When donating, please click through the link at the top of this post so I can see whose donating through try harder.

From the teacher whose classroom we helped:
Dear Carrie Tryharder [and all of you--ed.],

All I can say is WOW! I am so excited about the new materials our class will be getting. You just don't know how much I appreciate your generosity and I know when I tell the students about our new materials they will be overjoyed. You have my promise that the materials will be used to build curiosity and excitement about science. So many inner city children don't get an opportunity to explore science in depth and these materials are a step in that direction. Again, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Sincerely, Kim


Hop on over and check out my new reviewing gig at Inkstuds. The dilemma about reviewing single issues has be solved!

Though my first post has already been seen here, please check back for new reviews soon.


Dag, Frankenstein is good.


Write me some letters!
Send me some review copies!

Carrie Try Harder
New York, NY

RoadStrips: A Graphic Journey Across America Edited by Pete Friedrich

This anthology by Chronicle Books had been peering out at me from the Strand’s shelves for a few years. Mostly I was drawn to seeing new work (work made for the anthology) from Mary Fleener, Jessica Abel, Carol Tyler, Phoebe Gloeckner and Roberta Gregory. I also hoped the promise of anthologies, to see great work by artists you’ve never picked up before, would be fulfilled by this book on such a juicy subject--American identity.

The book is divided into five sections: Pacific Northwest, East Coast, West Coast, Midwest and The South. The East Coast, West Coast and The South sections are opened by essays that supposedly say something about the region and comics, separately or combined. All three feel misplaced. “New York: Newsprint City” by Dan Nadel is on an interesting enough subject, 19-century media and its place in making comics popular, but it doesn’t address either the theme of the anthology or the comics that follow. “Oh Ye Sovereign Organism” by Jack Boulware is a rather straightforward introduction to the comics that follow with some annoying commentary about being a Californian thrown in. Chris Offut’s essay, “Why I Love Comic Books,” is about exactly that- theme be damned.

But, ok, ok, to the comics. Though a few were fun to read and great examples of the artist’s talent, the collection did not do the theme justice. The best were meditations on place, like John Porcellino’s quiet meditation on cities “Chicagoan,” the dust n’ sleaze of “Nevada” by Phoebe Gloeckner and “The Landed Immigrant Song,” on the complexities of California, by Mary Fleener. The other winners contained depictions of a certain time that said something very specific about being an American, like the very personal “The Day After” by Martin Cendreda, a story of a Cold War childhood that reflects today’s American’s everyday fear and easy forgetting and “Kid Games” by Pete Friedrich which shows America’s unique relationship with good guys, bad guys, and the price of war. Like “The Landed Immigrant Song” many of the stories featured tales of going somewhere else and coming back to the U.S. (or having a foreigner visit), all of which were pretty standard omg-fish-out-of-water things. Post-9-11 pondering of the U.S.’s place in the world and/or hating on Bush is another commonality between a few of the stories, both of which can be fertile (but unsurprising) topics, which made the collection feel dated and mired in angry reaction. (Which may go a long way toward creating the “time capsule of alternative perspectives that define us in this moment” that the editor was looking for, but doesn’t do much to make a good anthology).

Overall the anthology presents two sides of American identity: feelings of anger, frustration and self-deprecation and “just be yourself and anybody who doesn’t like it can go fuck themselves” (Gilbert Hernandez’s “I’m Proud to Be an American Where At Least I Know I’m Free”) sentiment. With these contributors, I expected something a little more unexpected.

Next time I’ll just read some Studs Terkel.

Monday, October 27, 2008

not dead!

Just busy.

Sorry to leave you all staring at my disapproving face, but my head is stuffed with math and html code and spreadsheet columns and other pressing, but unbooky, stuff.

Some things I have been doing:
1) Studying for the GRE
2) Trying to launch a website at work
3) Getting a PO Box
4) Writing some stuff for [redacted] which will be up soon. When everything is ready for my newest venture, I'll send you [redacted]'s way.
5) Discovering that scientists that study the medical sphere are, on the whole, freaky looking. However, immunologists are the exception to the rule.
6) Reading Frankenstein. Well, that is book-related, but a lady must have a respite, no?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

try harder to try harder


Donor's Choose update:

After a strong first day (see my introductory post here), tryharderland's denizens seemed to have given up giving to the projects I'm supporting over at Donors Choose.


We have only a few months left to get those kids their bugs and microscopes! Please head over to try harder's "giving page" (gag) and drop a few bucks for the Philly kids. No amount is too small and your donations are tax deductible.

We may be no Tomato Nation, but we can still drop the science, right?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Snake Oil 1 & 2 by Chuck McBuck [Forsman]

Last year I met Chuck McBuck at SPX. He was such a nice guy, and when he said he made comics and had some inside, I got a little nervous. What if his work was really bad or embarrassing? What if his work had giant balloon tits or ninjas in it? He led me over to the CCS table he was helming with Alex Kim and handed me a stack of comics made with creamy papers and stinky inks. I needn’t have been worried.

In April of this year Snake Oil 1 appeared in my mailbox. SO1 is number one of the two parts that make up McBuck’s CCS thesis. It begins with two trash men in a diner. Tim is heartbroken (and looks familiar…) and Bob is hungry. Soon Tim will feel much worse.

Later, we meet nice-guy Bob’s goth son Darryl and Darryl’s angry, lustful friend Kim. They are bored and decide to smoke some weed out of a pipe Darryl finds in his house. Kim starts without him and will soon feel much worse.

All the story threads end up as cliffhangers in SO1. Normally this would be incredibly annoying, but the differing landscapes that Mc Buck creates keep the plot from being an overwhelming element and keep your eyes on the pages exploring the art. The black and white pen drawings render policemen and buffalo thugs equally well.

The little touches in SO1 (endpapers that include elements from the stories strewn in a mysterious weed-filled lot, beautifully done title panels, the melancholy back-up story and the cover’s graphic eye-tease) made me excited for number 2 and called for a reread in between the issues, a must for a series where issues come out sporadically.

Both cover colors of SO2 are striking, but the blue called out to me. The plot pushes the characters further into distress and one of the mysterious characters is revealed. My favorite chapter (?) is a one-pager called simply “Darryl” that, in four panels, shows us more about the character than pages of dialogue could. Besides a few standout panels, such as the chorus of meows in “Pretty Kitty” and Bob and his wife waiting at the door in “Slow Down,” the art in this issue was less innovative. While I liked the writing in the back up story, I didn’t really enjoy looking at it.

Overall, Snake Oil reflects McBuck’s keen eye for creepy detail and a knack for pacing that much older artists should be envious of. I am really looking forward to see what he does next.

Happy Ignatz(s)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Pitts

Couch-sleeping weekend with the Prog Lady.

Sunny nature (not mine of course). Look at the gigantic web! It was somehow spared annihilation by roving cats. My sinuses were not.

Dang, Steve.

No trip to anywhere is complete without checking out the anarchist bookstore. the big idea's zine collection made me miss the bus. I enjoyed each of these:
Class Project, edited by Susan Ledgerwood: Found pictures with captions by various folks. this is always something I enjoy. Too bad the content can only be as good as the submissions the editor gets.
Skeleton Balls by Nils Balls: psychedelic comics, bitching about the state of things. Nothing really new here, but the art was compelling. I especially liked the anthropomorphic utensils.
Sugar Needle #32 by Phlox Icona & Corina Fastwolf: Candies from all over the world are tasted and teased by the above ladies and their friends. I got it for the interview with Dishwasher Pete, my zine crush forever. I wonder if I still have those notes from him somewhere.
Ker-Bloom! 66 by Artnoose: One of many issues of this pretty little handset zine. I wanted to see if my experience with all Aarons being assholes was upheld by "The Aaron Issue." Too bad the stories about him were so vague. I wanted to see this Aaron not read one sentence anecdotes about him! Oh well.

I miss you already, Prog Lady.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville

Well, well, well, classics, we meet again. Luckily, this time it’s on my terms!

My edition of Bartleby the Scrivener is by Melville Publishing, published as part of their “Art of the Novella” series to bring this in-between form some recognition. As you may have surmised from my Brooklyn Book Fest entry, each book has a different color cover—arranged just so they look like modern art objects and the feel of the covers is as creamy and pleasing as the toteable size.

I’ve had an interest in reading Melville for a while now but plunging into Moby Dick just seemed unwise. This handsome volume was my chance to sample more than a short story, perhaps dashed off in financially dire times, and less than an epic. Bartleby delivers.

The story is told by the last employer of the titular character, “a rather elderly man.” Bartelby, a scrivener (a copier of legal documents) appears on his doorstep “pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn.” The boss decides that he fits in well with the other three in the office, Turkey and Nipper, two dipsos with complementary alcho-clocks and Ginger Nut, a gopher. Melville uses these characters to add humor to the book in a predicable but delightful way. If you are a fan of Dickensian fools, you’ll love these guys.

Bartelby makes little impression on the mind’s eye, but this story is really less about him than about the effect of one man’s curious attitudes on another. He’s a ghost, perhaps of the boss’s lost rebelliousness—an old man; he is comfortable with the rhythms of law, industry and respectability. For, you see, Bartleby’s great distinction from the masses of pale, sickly dudes is that he “prefers not to” do most things. Melville’s choice of this phrase for Bartleby’s character is genius. Fear not, you will be flashed by that genius many times in this short work.

I was hoping to get a larger picture of 19th century New York City from the book, but though a few names, Broadway, Canal and Wall Sts. are bandied about, you really don’t get a feeling of the geography or character of the city.

I predict more Melville in the near future.