Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Reader's Diary #2183- Lily E. Hirsch: Weird Al Seriously

A long time fan of Weird Al Yankovic (still the best concert I've been to), I have no issue with taking Weird Al seriously. I seriously wish he'd get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I seriously think the man has serious talent (as does his band who should be inducted with him).

Lily Hirsch tries to take him even more seriously, sometimes trying to paint him as a leftist progressive. I don't disagree that he leans to the left but sometimes her analyses of his work attributes more serious themes than I think he usually intended. She acknowledges that Al himself sometimes downplayed this in their interviews.

Still it's a very in-depth look at the man and his work. I definitely learned a few things. Didn't know he was an architect, that the longevity of his original band ranks up there with U2 and ZZ Top, that he was such an Elton John fan. (Why has he barely parodied Elton John at all?)

And, despite my suggestion that Hirsch's biography was a bit political, it's still a light, often amusing read.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Reader's Diary #2182 - Kevin O'Cuinn: Bear With Me

Usually finding the terms "short fiction" and "short story" interchangeable, Kevin O'Cuinn's "Bear With Me" is better classified (as it is on the Feathertale website) as short fiction. Definitely not a story in the plot-sense, it's the musings of a bear (yes a bear, so definitely fiction) on various topics, as if being interviewed but readers don't get to see what the questions were exactly.

It's amusing, occasionally thoughtful, and has a rich overly-sophisticated voice (which adds to the amusement). I don't know that I'd care to read a longer work like this but it works for a shorter piece.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Reader's Diary #2181- Ann Leckie: Night's Slow Poison

Ann Leckie's "Night's Slow Poison" is an example of a great science fiction story. Wonderfully developed world, compelling story, and enough reflections on life that have meaning in our very real world.

The most obvious of the latter is how she talks about immigration and prejudices. However, there's a bit of a throwaway paragraph about people using rudeness as a mask that I especially enjoyed. It calls out those folks who brag about how they "say it like it is" and man, did I appreciate that.

The descriptions in the piece are supremely well done. She has a spaceship navigating through a particularly precarious space in which it must proceed slowly and carefully for a few months and wow, does she ever make you feel that.

The one thing I got a little lost in were the various cultures and why they dislike one another. This is more of an issue with me though. I know I had a similar issue with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine back in the day as I found it hard to differentiate between the Cardassians and Bajorans.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Reader's Diary #2180 - Foenkinos and Corbeyran (writers), Horne (illustrator): Lennon the New York Years

I hadn't been in a major rush to read Corbeyran's Lennon: The New York Years (adapted from a work by Foenkinos). It was hyped a bit at first but then I remembered some critics who said it was full of inaccuracies. I eventually broke down, largely due to Bohemian Rhapsody. As many have pointed out, it's also full of inaccuracies but I knew that going in and still enjoyed it as a movie.

For the most part, I also enjoyed this graphic novel. I do wish though that those who called it inaccurate would have given more examples. Not really having studied Lennon's life before, I didn't pick up on much except it omits any part of him being physically abusive to women or Julian, which he himself has admitted to.

It was interesting to leave that stuff out as other flaws were left in (violence towards men, drug abuse, disinterest in Julian, infidelity) and I suspect it ties back to the frame story. The story's being told from John himself as he unburdens himself from a psychiatrist's couch (this also didn't happen, by the way). I've encountered a lot of framing devices that I really haven't enjoyed, and I know some critics didn't enjoy this one either, but I found it effective in portraying him more sympathetically. I suspect the authors knew the misogyny and child abuse were lines in the proverbial sand that would destroy most readers' sympathies.

Another complaint I've read by reviewers is the repetitive use of certain panels. I will absolutely not knock this or any aspect of the art which was gorgeous (grayscale watercolours). The repetition was always purposeful, a reflection back to a previous scene which now had new context, a reminder that he was sometimes spinning his wheels, repeating previous mistakes.

A will, however, point out that the title is misleading. It implies a memoir of a very specific time in his life, when in actuality it's a full-on biography starting with his birth right up to his death.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Reader's Diary #2179- Various artists and writers: Taskmaster Anything You Can Do...

Hearing that the main villain in the Black Widow movie is going to be Taskmaster I was immediately interested in discovering who he was, not having come across the character before. Fortunately a certain pandemic bought me some time and I've finally gotten around to a Taskmaster collection.

To be sure, he's a great character and I've learned a lot about him. He has the ability to instantly replicate physical moves from a single watching, granted they're not of the supernatural sort or require special equipment (he can for instance, replicate Hawkeye's perfect aim, but cannot shrink like the Ant-Man or doesn't possess the strength of Thor) and I must say, I like that these skills and limitations are well-defined. He also has a schtick of training thugs for hire and has the uncanny ability to escape right at the last second. Oh, and he looks like Skeletor with a cape and boots.

The stories in the collection are all pretty solid though because they've been collected it does grow tiresome that he explains (usually during battle) over and over again what his powers are, presumably for new readers when they originally appeared with lots of time between stories. I also wish collections like this would give a little more info about when they were originally published. I could narrow decades down by context and styles but that's about it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Reader's Diary #2178- Séan McCann and Andrea Aragon: One Good Reason

Not too long ago I read a memoir by another former Great Big Sea star, Alan Doyle. At the time I commented that I'd been surprised to find how similar our upbringings were despite being from outport Newfound; he was a Catholic and a musician, neither of which am I, and yet still we seemed to have shared so many life experiences.

Despite being a musician and a Catholic and being from the same band, Séan McCann's earlier years seemed remarkably different. And reading about the trauma he endured, Doyle and I should count our lucky stars. McCann had been groomed by a local priest, sexually assaulted, and became an alcoholic.

Billed as "a memoir of addiction and recovery, music, and love" I would say the emphasis is on the addiction aspect, as I would also say that despite given co-author credit, the focus is more on McCann than his wife Andrea Aragon. This is not to suggests any of this particular focus is a problem, just throwing it out there so as other readers know what to expect.

His time with Great Big Sea is nonetheless interesting. A folk band is not what one would think of a group living the Rockstar life, but they certainly did. It was also fascinating to read about the level of fame beyond the Canadian border and what that meant for performances. And while he doesn't come right out and name names or get into too many specific grievances, the sting of the break up of the band was still prevalent during the writing of the book. One does not sense the other guys were particularly supportive of his struggle to go sober. I do wonder if any of them have reached out since the book.

Overall, it's a well-paced, inspiring book. It does beg for a sequel at some point down the road though!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Reader's Diary #2177- Emma Cline: Son of Friedman

Emma Cline's short story "Son of Friedman" is a depressing story. It's well written and she certainly captures father/son angst (not to mention aging, success, as well as a few other themes), but yes, depressing.

The whole story takes place in one night as two old friends, Hollywood types, meet up to go to the premier of a film one's son has just produced. Expectations are low.

As an aside, it made me want a martini and a steak.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Reader's Diary #2176- Jared Hines: What's In the Box?

Jared Hines' short story "What's In the Box?" practically overdoses on descriptive and figurative language. It's effective though in slowing down the pace and building up the tension of readers who just want to know what the hell's in the mysterious box that's arrived on his doorstep.

I feel that the "reveal"/ twist-ending is a bit on the preachy side, but otherwise a fun story.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Reader's Diary #2175- Jessica Gunderson (writer), Pat Kinsella (illustrator): Hip-Hop Icon Jay-Z

This is my second musician biography comic from Capstone Press and I'm confident enough now to say I'd advise skipping them. I perhaps learned a bit more from Hip-Hop Icon Jay-Z than I did with the Michael Jackson book but mostly because I just didn't know a lot about Jay-Z to begin with. And to be sure, at just 30 pages I didn't learn a great deal this time either except a few major milestones in Jay-Z's life.

Framing the story around an interview regarding his supposed retirement concert in 2003 isn't a bad idea per se, but the dialogue is forced. The most egregious though is the art. I don't know if there was fear of a lawsuit from using celebrity likenesses or whatnot but not of the people here look like who they're supposed to be. Not Beyonce, not Rihanna, not Kanye, and not even the title man himself.