Monday, June 28, 2021

Reader's Diary #2213 - Ruth Guthrie: Night on the Mosquito Toilet

I guess it's pretty brave to wrap a whole short story around a woman in an outhouse while dealing with the runs and mosquitoes, but Ruth Guthrie's "Night on the Mosquito Toilet" instead feels more grounded in reality because of these details than it does a bold choice. 

While this poor, unfortunate soul is in this predicament, she's not a lot else to do but reflect on the day past. She's at a tourist retreat in India and she's mostly dwelling on her husband's behaviour toward a young girl who begged them for a banana. You can tell that despite her own temporary condition, she's quite aware that the girl's situation is anything but. She feels her husband had been unreasonably cruel. Interesting though, a small detail is revealed toward the end in which the woman herself is shown to not always having been above cruelty and violence herself.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Reader's Diary #2212- Duncan Grimes: The Man in the Red Cap

 I feel like a bit of a hypocrite for my thoughts on Duncan Grimes' short story "The Man in the Red Cap." 

On the one hand, I like stories where something happens for no reason and much of the plot revolves around a townsfolk being put out by just that: a man shows up to town and swims each day to hang from a buoy for several hours then returning to shore, only to repeat this bizarre and unexplained practice everyday. They try to make sense of it, imagine all sorts of dark histories, but an answer never materializes.

But the story also doesn't have an ending, or really much of one (unless I missed something), and therefore the story is also strange for no reason and that I was less crazy about. I'm not saying I wanted an explanation, but I did at least want a resolution. 

Still, it held my attention and I quite enjoyed the setting and character building.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Reader's Diary #2211 - Tom Beaujour and Richard Bienstock: Nothin' But a Good Time

The subtitle of Tom Beaujour and Richard Bienstock's Nothin' But a Good Time is The Uncensored History of the 80's Hard Rock Explosion but make no mistake, this is a book about glam or hair metal. I think too many bands from that time never excepted those terms, or have since turned on the classification, but to me that's what it's always been. I don't attach much stigma to the terminology and would consider myself a fan of a good many such bands. 

Told as quick responses from interviews with ton of band members from that time (Skid Row, Warrant, Guns n' Roses, Quiet Riot, Ozzy, the Scorpions, Poison, Winger, Skid Row, Cinderella, etc) as well as other industry insiders, the book clocks in at a whopping 500+ pages but it goes by fast. It's always entertaining, sometimes insightful, and provides a great history lesson of a crazy time in rock history. 

It largely focuses on the early days when glam metal was competing to make itself known among the new age and punk bands on the Sunset Strip of Hollywood. I wish I'd known more about this time when I visited there a few years back. I checked out the Rainbow Bar where I know many bands at that era had frequented, but now I regret not having visited the Troubadour and the Whisky, both of which seem to have been quite important landmarks according to this book.

In some cases, my impressions on these bands didn't change. I was surprised to still hear some Motley Crue anecdotes I hadn't heard before, but nothing that endeared them to me any more. There were bands like Skid Row and Cinderella that I wound up liking more. And then there were ones like Faster Pussycat who, sorry, Taime Downe came across as more of a tool than I realized. Largely though I was pleasantly taken aback by the hard work and creativity of these bands back in the day. I was also impressed that most (not all!) were quite perceptive and honest about their status, quality, and level of talent. I guess being dropped from labels, moving from big venues to small crowds, combined with a lot of time and maturity has given ample time for these folks to reflect. Speaking of which, it was very interesting to hear how many acknowledge the rampant sexism of the time (Taime didn't appear to get the memo). 

Also fascinating to me was the exploration of the idea that Nirvana didn't kill hair metal as I've long believed. It seems to be more the case that the scene had just grown too large, too stale, and had worn out its welcome. Nirvana, more than anything, just happened to come along at the right time. People were desperate for something different. Of course, it helped that Nirvana were great. 

Reader's Diary #2210 - Sherrie Flick: Woodpeckers Peck to Establish Territory in the Spring

 Sherrie Flick's short story "Woodpeckers Peck to Establish Territory in the Spring" sees a woman walking through a woods familiar to her to from her childhood. She thinks back on when the woods used to scare her and eventually we see that perhaps the fears weren't unwarranted, but the danger isn't the supernatural sort of childhood imagination but sadly one that is all too real.

In addition to the thoughtful story and theme, Flick's story is rich in imagery.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Reader's Diary #2209 - Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Leinil Francis Yu (artist): Secret Invasion

Secret Invasion is a great example of how the restrictions on Marvel movies potentially make them superior to their comics. In the comics no superhero ever dies and new characters are created all the time, often winding up with an overstuffed mess. Who on Earth doesn't have a superpower at this point? In the movies, salaries, contracts, actor deaths, character rights, etc have actually prevented too much growth. Avengers is likely the biggest we're able to achieve. (I'm curious to see how they'll handle the introduction of all those X-Men now the rights have reverted back to Disney/Marvel Studios.)

So am I saying that the Secret Invasion comic is bloated? Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. It's not without fun from a fan point of view. I mean, just checking out how many characters you can recognize is fun. But it would certainly not welcome new fans and the story of Skrulls impersonating heroes on Earth is all premise. I literally just finished the comics a couple of days ago and cannot recall how they were they defeated except that the superheroes fought them off.

Still, I'm excited for the Secret Invasion tv series when it eventually airs on Disney+. I trust the constraints will only make it better. 

Monday, June 07, 2021

Reader's Diary #2208 - Glafira Rocha, translated by Gustavo Adolfo Aybar: Keys

Glafira Rocha's flash fiction "Keys" unfolds in a pretty unique way, with the central character searching for keys, listing off what he sees during his search, while slowly those items piece together a story. 

The story itself is dark. Near the beginning there appears to be a mistake or glitch due to the translation, but otherwise it's perfectly followable.