Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Reader's Diary #2032- E.C. Segar: Popeye Volume 1

Having an interest in those odd pop culture characters that exist outside of Disney, Marvel, DC and the like and yet have existed for a long, long time, I was quite happy to finally get my hands of the first collected volume of E.C. Segar's Popeye strips. Actually, it begins as Thimble Theatre, but it's Popeye's first appearance.

Having been more familiar with the old original cartoon than the comic strip, I began being surprised, then pleasantly surprised. There are quite a few notable differences from the cartoon: spinach is never mentioned, Bluto, Wimpy, and Swee'Pea have not yet made an appearance, and Popeye spends more time with Olive Oyl's brother Castor Oyl. Besides these trivial differences though, I was happy to find that there were some generally funny moments (of the Looney Tunes, punny and slapstick variety) and that the adventure stories ran the length of many strips compared to the one-offs I'm used to from most of the Funny Pages.

It's a long volume though and it definitely outwore its welcome. I was enjoying Castor Oyl at first, reminding me somewhat of Phoncible Bone from Jeff Smith's Bone comics with his constant scheming. He was even getting some character development as the strips went on. However, I guess Popeye struck a nerve with fans and Segar allowed him to take over. But perhaps more troubling he froze Popeye in place. Like Jimi Hendrix always having to light his guitar on fire to appease his audience, Popeye had to remain a simpleton who solved all problems with his fists. Worse were the occasional glimpses of racism and misogyny.

I'm glad to have read them but do not feel compelled to read the subsequent volumes.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Reader's Diary #2031- Julia Christensen: No Home in Homeland

Add it to the list of things most Southerners don't realize about the North: there is a huge problem with homelessness here. This tends to shock people as they have no idea how anyone could survive our temperatures without a roof over their head. The sad truth is, many don't.

It's a complex issue with no easy solutions and Julia Christensen does an admirable job identifying the issues and providing much provocative thought around the context and necessary truths that must be faced before we all move forward. Perhaps the biggest takeaway for me was the idea of homelessness as compared to houselessness. It is the latter that we often mean, but when we consider the cultural damage of colonialism, it widens to an even more severe concept of homelessness. Of course, homelessness and houselessness are dangerously intertwined.

Another very important point stressed by Christensen is the contradiction to the idea that homelessness in the North is a Yellowknife/Inuvik problem when it is often the lack of supports and resources in the smaller communities that push or pull people to the larger centers.

Sometimes I'll admit that the book was overwhelming. It was especially difficult to read about the lack of second (or additional) chances. Once someone is down it seems frightfully, near on impossible, to get back up. Fortunately, Christensen was able to share examples of some that did overcome it all and these are inspiring to say the least.

The book is dense though and at times repetitive, reading like a thesis which introduces an idea, am exploration of that idea, and then a summary of that idea. I do wish there was a plain language version of the book as I fear many of those of whom the book is about would find it inaccessible.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Reader's Diary #2030- Lucy Robinson: The Plunge

Lucy Robinson's "The Plunge" has a great, wry sense of humour that is needed for a story such as this with what could otherwise be too hefty themes; aging gracefully and fear of a parent's mental decline.

There was one moment which felt a little contrived (it involves someone hitchhiking though it turns out the ride was pre-arranged with her new boyfriend) but otherwise I enjoyed the story.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Reader's Diary #2029- Vicky Daddo: Eye of the Beholder

I don't know if it's due to my cynicism, what I normally read, or the times we're living in but most of the time while reading Vicky Daddo's "The Eye of the Beholder" I was expecting the positive, happy story to take a dark turn.

A woman recalling her wedding day, with beautifully rich imagery, I thought it was bound to end with a divorce, death, or spousal abuse or something of that nature. Pleasantly it did not go in that direction. But that's not the only surprise...

Monday, May 06, 2019

Reader's Diary #2028- Kevin Spenst: Grotesqueries of the Gods

Kevin Spenst's flash fiction "Grotesqueries of the Gods" is a darkly funny tale of a serious man and his imaginative dog. It seems to support the old saying, "the more people I meet, the more I like my dog," even though it doesn't wind up making a whiff of difference to the dog in the end.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Reader's Diary #2027- Gary Newhook: How a Small Newfoundland Town is Saving Canada's Urban Middle Class

Gary Newhook's "How a Small Newfoundland Town is Saving Canada's Urban Middle Class"is a flash fiction story prompted by 1949 newspaper article titled, "How a Small Newfoundland Town is Saving Canada." However it's set in the current day.

Itself told as a newspaper article, it seems to present the situation of mainlanders snapping up cheap property on the island as a symbiotic relationship. However, as this is barely fiction, many real life Newfoundlanders today recognize the sly subtext in the story, subtle hints that the short term gains of locals may have dire consequences down the road. Not symbiotic, but parasitic.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Reader's Diary #2026- M. Shayne Bell: The Thing About Benny

M. Shayne Bell's "The Thing About Benny" is a short story with a bit of a science fiction edge, though it's hardly unfathomable. It deals with a world and time where the Earth's plant species are going extinct and two botanists are in search of plants that people are raising in their homes and offices but are no longer found in the wild.

Giving the story an extra quirky and interesting angle is that one of the botanists is named Benny (like Benny Andersson) and obsessed with Abba. He draws inspiration in his detective/science work from listening to their songs on repeat.