Under the Radar by Oliver Matthon is about people who pick wild mushrooms in northern California. It's a zine 40 pages long but reads like a short book. It's an ethnography. Reading it, I got a sense of northern California mushroom picking culture.
Under the Radar focuses on one man, a buyer named Alvin. This is a good center to the story. We see Alvin being approached by many pickers, and Alvin has to accept or reject the pickers' harvests. There's sometimes conflict.
Oliver Matthon himself is central to the story too. It's his adventure.
Something I noticed about Under the Radar was the lack of women. There's one important woman noted: Connie, who drives a brand new SUV and is the link between the rich of Napa and the poor mushroom pickers. Other than that, women are just noted as the girlfriends of pickers. The men are the real players here. This made me uncomfortable, and I can't tell whether it's a problem with the writing, a problem with the world, or a combination of the two.
Something else I noticed was that the writing seemed to jump around. Sometimes details were given in a seemingly-random fashion--I didn't see connections between the ideas. A lot of information is thrown at the reader--people's beer bellies, how tight their jeans are, hair color, etc. Oliver Matthon seemed to want to give us a quick sketch of a person. I would have welcomed more depth, but maybe he was limited to 40 pages.
I liked when I saw a scene--I liked when Oliver Matthon painted a picture for me, as opposed to listing details. One of my favorite parts was at the pot farm, a scene of decadence and humor. Here is a quote.
"When I opened the door, he was sitting on a chair in the middle of
the room with no shirt on, trimming buds on a huge platter
balanced on his knees, telling weed stories over loud music. There
were bags of pot everywhere. The old man was lying down on the
couch, smoking a cigarette. His son and the Mexican kid were
preparing to smoke weed through a black trumpet mushroom."
I think Under the Radar would have been better as a regular-length book. I hope other ethnographers are documenting cultural realities in a more thorough way.
Under the Radar could be a good introduction to the mushroom picking
life for someone who is newly feeling an interest in it. It could be a
snapshot document of a particular culture in a particular time and
place. It could be an interesting read for someone who's really into
mushrooms and would like to know where they come from.
Sunday, April 28, 2013
No Biggie City #1, early early spring 2013, Olympia, WA was mailed to me in mid March and I read it just yesterday, at the end of April. It floated around in my backpack for a while... Visually it's chaotic and stimulating, which turned me off initially, but it actually wasn't difficult to read.
I say no music zines and this borders on music zine--there's something about the band Dogjaw, an essay with lots of pics about show flyers, and an interview with one of the organizers of Queer Rock Camp. That's a lot of music-related stuff. But I still liked it a lot.
This zine has a good energy about it. There are a lot of good feelings and intelligence in it. I feel like the people who worked on it are interesting and full of life. Reading this zine made me feel happy. I read it all in one sitting and by the time I was done felt happy about humanity and wished I could be friends with them.
Other than music-related stuff, there's work about animal rights and harm reduction. I love art, but often I'm immune to the art in zines. But these animal drawings were really good.
Nothing's boring. It's all unpretentious and fun to read. So rock on, No Biggie City. May all zine blessings come to you.
size: 8.5 x 7
sharkpact at yahoo dot com
PO Box 913
Olympia, WA 98507
Friday, March 1, 2013
The Life and Death of Mr. Burger is a comic by Derek Baxter. It's about a burger-person whose life spirals out of control. I didn't like the potty jokes or prison rape jokes or setting cats on fire. But I did like when the burger tied a girl on the train tracks while dressed as an old-timey villain. I did like when the burger says, "Come back, dragon..." and you see the tail of a dragon in his imagination, and then there's an inset panel showing what's really happening, which is that he's sitting on the street with a hypodermic needle in his arm next to a trashcan and a cardboard sign saying, "Will do anything 4 $."
I expressed interest in this comic based on its cover. I like the idea of a burger-person whose life is out of control. I like the charming drawing style. But again, much like La Poubelle, I am not really the intended audience for this zine. Most of the jokes were not funny to me, though this would be a really great zine for the right person. And like I said in the review for La Poubelle, I will pass this along to my comics-loving neighbors who work at a comic book store and probably have much broader comics tastes than my narrow ones.
La Poubelle by Derek Baxter and Brian Canini is a comic in French. I took French in high school and remember some, so I was able to read about...50% of the words? Or maybe more. But there were a lot of gaps. I could understand, "Now I am going to kill the ninjas," toward the end, and, "I want to be rich and have sex with a whore," which someone told a lamp genie. There are a few scenes and I don't understand the relationships between them, for the most part, but there are no divisions that make me think they're not supposed to be related. So I don't know if that's my failure to fully understand the French or if the connections really are very loose.
Overall it's light and sometimes funny, like when the bull-person says, "I'm going to eat this rose," and does. Or when they're suddenly at a disco at the end. I like the beginning, which is about the way the word for poison and the word for fish are very similar in French. But the part with the dead prostitute is disturbing, and I'm clearly missing some of the jokes. "L'amour, c'est comme une etoil de mer...dur et pointu." I knew that says, "Love, it's like a star something...something and something," then looked up three words and learned it says, "Love, it's like a starfish, hard and pointy."
Overall, I think I'm not the audience for this comic. I am a big fan of graphic memoir and some non-superhero independent comics, and this one's non-superhero, but my sense of humor mostly doesn't work with the sense of humor of the creators. I'm sure lots of comics lovers would really enjoy this, though.
And I feel like I can't give a fair review since I'm not fluent in French. But lots of people aren't fluent in French, so maybe people who don't know French or who took French in school are supposed to be able to enjoy it too? Maybe the makers who sent it to me assumed I was French from my name, which I'm not. And I know I assumed that non-French speakers would be able to get something out of it since they were sending it to me without asking if I speak French. Maybe it was a misunderstanding.
The drawing is very good in a cartoon way, and I like the cover with its blues. Maybe I should have known from the name of the comics publisher, Drunken Cat Comics, that it would not match my sense of humor. I don't drink. I feel like a prude for not enjoying this more. But I want to be cool with who I am too.
Again, I think a lot of people would enjoy this, and I encourage you to get a copy of this zine if you're into this type of comic. As for me, I will pass it along to my comics-loving neighbors who work at a comic book store and probably have much broader comics tastes than my narrow ones.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
I got No Better Than Apples #9 by Kate Larson in the mail today. I started reading it immediately and didn't put it down until I was done. From the first page, the reader is plunged into a world of pain and medical trauma. There's also love and hope. But it's the story of someone losing feeling in their body and getting diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, dealing with doctors and seizures and MRIs and self-injection, what happens physically and emotionally.
I've read and written a lot about being different kinds of sick and dealing with western medicine. I have a lot of experience reading and writing about this. And I would have to say about Kate Larson's work that it doesn't get better than this. The account is harrowing, yet the speaker is very likable and approachable. It's dense but not too dense, difficult to take in emotionally, but very readable. I like the pace and the interplay of image and text.
But what I like most is the very artful way Kate Larson leads us into the experience of someone who's had their world turned upsidedown. It's deeply personal, and Kate Larson's desire to include us is generous.
I would encourage anyone who's been treated by western medicine to get a hold of this zine, anyone who's known anyone with multiple sclerosis, anyone who has chronic illness and chronic pain, or anyone who just enjoys world-class zines.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
I've been reading An Ilse Content Anthology by Alexis Wolf for a long time. It's dense and emotional. I love the speaker's poetic imagination. I love the amazing use of words with images. And I love the tone and the feelings. It makes me feel like I'm okay, like it's okay to feel things and need things. And it's okay to think a lot about our pasts and our ancestors.
A theme running through this book, which is an anthology of the zine Ilse Content, is Ilse, who is Alexis Wolf's grandma who died. The way the reader is so often pointed back to Ilse is comforting and good. As a reader, I developed strong feelings toward Ilse right away, and throughout the course of the anthology, my feelings deepened. Oh, how I love her. Oh, how I wish she were alive and could spend time with Alexis again. But she's so real, despite death--the speaker's poetic imagination draws me in, and I feel like I have always known Ilse, though I never will.
This is a very important example of this book's strength, but it's just an example. Everything is handled with this type of dexterity and intent skill: friendship, death, travel, the natural world, sex, gender, typewriters, the revolution, time.
I found myself reflecting on my own past and my own deceased grandma, who I used to pray to when I was a little girl. I would lie in bed at night, praying and praying to her instead of praying to God. An Ilse Content Anthology makes me want to make zines about my relatives who have passed away too.
The images--birds, water, flowers--are beautiful and help my mind do a different kind of work that compliments the work that's required by the text.
The tone is sweet and wistful and nostalgic, but not in a syrupy way. There's a stark realism too. There's a juxtaposition of the very real with the dreamy, or the very real and the dreamy are merged so that the real and surreal are merged.
What we're left with is a magical whole which is not easy to read but very rewarding. I want to come back to this book again and again and give copies of it to the women I love.
My favorite sentence of this book is "I feel blissed, like everything is talking to me."
Coincidentally, I was at a reading in Berkeley a few months ago, and Alexis Wolf was reading selections from this book. I liked them, but I like them much more now, in the context of the whole of the book, with the intimacy of being alone and reading words that seem whispered just to me.
I suggest this book to anyone who knows how to feel things or would like to learn. Ten stars!
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
I've been reading Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, which I checked out from the library. But nothing prepared me for Dodo Comics #3 Winter 2013 by Grant Thomas.
It's abstract comics, something I had never really seen before. There are no words, and there are no pictures to speak of. There are just lines. What do the lines represent? They just seem to be lines.
I started reading with high spirits. Despite the lack of words and lack of pictures, I tried really hard to feel the feelings I thought that maybe I was supposed to be feeling. I tried really hard to open my mind and understand. I think my efforts paid off for the first comic, Sonnet #1. I did get something from it, though I don't know how to articulate what.
By the next comic and the next, my spirits were lower. I tried to go with Sonnet #2. The lines in Sonnet #2 are all curves. I tried to feel the curved feelings, or the reponse-to-curved feelings. I didn't do so well.
By Sonnet #3, I was feeling like I Just Didn't Get It. Something was happening that was beyond me.
The three untitled poems that end the zine were lost on me. I clung to the text on the back cover where Grant Thomas talks about his accomplishments. But that wasn't the comics. That was blurbs.
Overall, I would have to say that despite my efforts, I failed as a reader. Dodo Comics #3 is not meant for someone like me. I think the audience is a die hard comics person who has a deeper understanding of comics theory. Or someone who's really good at abstraction and who doesn't need words. Or pictures.