Archive for the ‘Print’ Category

Ramshackle: A Yellowknife Story

January 5th, 2016 | Print | 0 Comments

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Every time I visit my hometown of Toronto, there are a couple shops I make sure to visit. One of those is The Beguiling, a now-legendary comics shop located near Bathurst and Bloor, perhaps most famous for being the one-time working location of Scott Pilgrim author Bryan Lee O’Malley. I stopped by last week to see if any of the really independent stuff on the first floor (second floor is more mainstream stuff e.g. Marvel, D.C., Manga, etc.), might catch my eye. Alison McCreesh‘s Ramshackle: A Yellowknife Story immediately caught my attention.

I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow last year I became really interested in the arctic. I read Robert McGhee‘s beautiful book on arctic history The Last Imaginary Place. I watched stuff on YouTube about the arctic. I began dreaming of a road trip visit to Dawson City in the Yukon Territories. An old high school friend of mine lives there now. She posts about it on Facebook a lot. A book about life in Yellowknife sounded great. I knew basically nothing about the capital city of the Northwest Territories.

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McCreesh writes about how she and her boyfriend Pat finished university and, after some road trips and random jobs around Canada, decided on a lark to move up to Yellowknife for a while. Once there, living out of their van, they struggled to adapt to the unique circumstances arctic life, including limited water and ‘unorthodox’ methods of dealing with human waste. They made friends with normal people, artists, bohemian types, etc. And learned about the history of the city.

McCreesh details all this beautifully in the graphic novel. She also takes time to explain the history of city and its current the social, cultural details, in order to provide everything with the proper context. As a result, Ramshackle is a wonderful, adorable, and educational little graphic novel. It made me miss the adventure of the open road, and the kind of life on the edge that led McCreesh and Pat to make Yellowknife their permanent home.

The Nature Zine

November 15th, 2015 | Print | 0 Comments

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I’m a big fan of zines. They’re an obsolete media form, but I cherish them in the same nostalgic, idiosyncratic, non-sensical way I cherish vinyl and cassettes. My favourite place to find them in New York is at Bluestockings book store, especially because the store often has really interesting ones about political and/or ideological stuff. I found the Nature Zine there, and since I love reading about nature and nature-y stuff, especially before I go to sleep these days (it calms me down), I’ve bought all three volumes of the Nature Zine as I’ve been able to find them on Bluestockings‘ shelves.

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Each volume of the Nature Zine is a collection of short essays, photos, recipes and other miscellaneous writing relating to the natural world. The most interesting pieces are the essays (the recipes have more than three things and are therefore too daunting for me). The best are those that get philosophical about the way we, as humans living in the modern world, relate to what we’ve termed ‘nature’, examining the social and political repercussions of this. But a big part of the charm of the Nature Zine (and most zines in general) is its collage-y mix of everything into one compiled work, so I’m glad the zines are not just essays – even if the piece about how to identify venomous snakes wasn’t that interesting to me. It’s very possible somebody’s life will be saved by that, so, you know, it might be good that its there.

March

June 25th, 2015 | Print | 0 Comments

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Working a legal internship in Washington, D.C. is an interesting experience. Every day you meet congressmen and senators and people that you read about or see on Bill Maher. You watch democracy in action, bureaucratic as it may be. Sometimes it’s frustrating, and sometimes it’s inspiring.

My first week here, I was invited (sort of in relation to my internship) to attend a book signing. I was told the man signing books was John Lewis, but I didn’t know who that was. As I soon learned, not only is he a congressman, he was also one of the big six leaders of the American civil rights movement, and the only one of the six still alive. The book being signed was a graphic novel, or really, two volumes of a graphic novel trilogy called March. So far I’ve only read the first book which came out last year, and the third book hasn’t been released yet, but basically March is a graphic novel about John Lewis‘s life and his involvement in the American civil rights movement.

Lewis grew up on a farm in a rural little corner of Alabama, preaching to his family’s chickens and running to catch the bus to school against his dad’s wishes (he was needed for farm work). As a young man he went to Fisk University in Nashville and got involved with a rabble rouser there named Martin Luther King, Jr. Lewis, King, and the other young idealists they were involved with tried to emulate the non-violent protest methods of Gandhi to further their goal of breaking down the racial barriers then in-place in America. March allows one an insider perspective on their activities, as they organize sit-ins and other interesting protests to push against segregation’s limitations, making slow but steady progress over time, with the movement continuously gaining in strength and numbers.

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Thankfully, the authors and illustrator of March do justice to the importance of the subject matter. The book is beautifully written, especially in the intimate chapters detailing Lewis’s humble beginnings. Later in time (though early on in the story), a female visitor’s awe at being able to meet Lewis and introduce her two young sons to him ably illustrates the gravity of his and the civil rights movement’s accomplishments. Self-aggrandizing? Maybe a little. But with a story like Lewis’, to avoid self-aggrandizing would require significant effort and even be kind of disingenuous.

At the book signing, someone said that most American kids know nine words about the civil rights movement: Martin Luther King, “I have a dream”, Rosa Parks. Something like that. I can’t speak for Americans, but as a Canadian, I know my education didn’t consist of much more than that (and the underground railroad). When I saw Selma I was blown away by how much those activists went through. Seriously. Those guys were hardcore.

March can be thought of as a companion piece to Selma. It tells the film’s story from a different perspective, starting earlier and ending well after the events portrayed in the film. And really, I always thought I knew enough about all this American civil rights movement stuff, but the fact that what I’m learning now blows my mind so much says otherwise. This is an important story for everyone to learn, study, know. The story of the American civil rights movement is not just about Americans or black people, but about humanity. It’s about how we can sometimes be so stupid and ridiculous and horrible, but also about how a small number of people with a little hope and a lot of determination can make a huge difference.

Cometbus #56: A Bestiary Of Booksellers

May 18th, 2015 | Print | 0 Comments

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I found out about Aaron Cometbus and his zine a while ago from Jenn Pelly‘s great The Pitch column “Down Is Up” (which she apparently isn’t writing anymore…). Interested in his work, I soon went onto Amazon and ordered Add Toner, a collection of some Cometbus zines from his Bay Area days. Now he lives in New York, and I live in New York, and his latest zine, A Bestiary Of Booksellers, can be found in most cool book stores around the city. I picked it up one day to see how it compared with his older work.

As a writer, Cometbus has improved with time and maturity, though his main subject of interest remains the same: community. Since Cometbus is co-running a small used book store  in Williamsburg these days (the wonderful Book Thug Nation), it makes sense that A Bestiary Of Booksellers is Cometbus’s thorough portrayal of the NYC used bookseller community, composed of detailed, sympathetic depictions of all its odd, eclectic characters. Its chapters are titled alphabetically, like “A is for Adam” and “B is for Byron”. This perhaps helped Cometbus organize the book, but the thread connecting all the character histories and contemplative tangents is the narrator’s search for a woman known by all as “The Racoon”. Described as being clad in black leather, sporting distinctively dark eyeshadow, it’s less her physical beauty and more the fact that she’s a voracious used book reader that really captivates the narrator.

But The Racoon flits in and out through the chapters like a ghost disappearing and reappearing through walls. A Bestiary Of Booksellers isn’t about her, it’s about the ugly people: the weirdos, the old, the obsessive, the obnoxious ones behind the counter. They’re the people who interest Cometbus, and he tries to bring each to life for the reader: to tell their story, capture their essence, and print it. What’s impressive is that Cometbus does so with such humanity, never writing anyone off, but rather, trying to make even the most unattractive characters endearing, and show how each has his or her place in the community.

Stranger Than Bushwick

April 17th, 2015 | Print | 0 Comments

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I was at MOCCA (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) Fest last weekend and it was glorious. There were two or three floors of independent comics, a little exhibit of great comic artwork, and a beautiful rooftop where everyone could chill, read, talk, and enjoy the spring. I would’ve loved to just stay there and soak it all in for hours but unfortunately my law school reading doesn’t read itself 🙁 But while I was there I picked up a couple comics, including one that I loved too much to pass up: Jeremy Nguyen‘s Stranger Than Bushwick. (It didn’t hurt that he said I looked like Liev Schreiber, who I think is a super cool actor)

Stranger Than Bushwick is a short, humorous comic of little vignettes depicting life in Bushwick in 2015. So basically, yeah, it’s making fun of hipsters, but it does so from the ground floor of hipsterdom – which is basically what Bushwick is right now – so it’s not just the general stereotypes, but specifically Bushwick hipsters under the microscope. It also pays a lot of attention to the hook up culture in Bushwick, and let’s be honest, that’s what most peeps in their 20s (or early 30s) are most concerned with.

While Nguyen is poking fun at everything from the increasing ‘whiteness’ of the neighbourhood to the never-ending issues around paying rent in New York, he also can’t help but capture some of the beauty of Bushwick life, like the scrappy way in which life functions, especially with regard to parties, dating and art.

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You can see many of Nguyen’s comics here at Bushwick Daily.