fishpiss

Print Reviews, 2003

PRINT REVIEWS from 2003

Reviewers:
ME: MissE Goodwin
LR: Louis Rastellli
MA: Mitch Amihod

Crackers + Honey #7,
www.crackersandhoney.com.

See Sweet honey very delicately being spread onto a thin European cracker and raised from lovely girl fingers to pink girl lips. Crackers and honey is a tactile journey into the heart of the femme. This zine displays excellent, precise craftsmanship (see:craftsgirlship) with all kinds of textures of fabric and paper collaborated in delectable and suprising ways. Like a rare, colourful butterfly that is contrasted to the grey concrete cityscape behind it, crackers +honey #7 reminds us to thank god for girls. (ME)

All Day Breakfast, Valerie Joy Kalynchuk,
Conundrum Press, Box 55003 CSP Fairmount, Montreal, Que. H2T 3E2

This is the perfect little read for those with a short attention span. It jumps from vignette to vignette in a young girl’s life. I like Kalynchuk’s technique, beginning All Day Breakfast from the perspective of a child, the prose styled along the thought patterns of a kid. Simple, direct, short sentences. As you move through the stories, the character matures, as reflected through more complete and complex thoughts. While this is no comedy, Kalynchuk delivers some smiles, such as in her tips for having a mental breakdown in Montreal and Pecky Chicken. Conversely, there’s plenty of imagery to offest any smiles, from the casual cruelty of children to Rodney bleeding to death on his kitchen floor. So, if you come across All Day Breakfast, pick it up, it’ll be an hour well spent. (MA)

Pigeon cake—an Interesting Anthills Produckshun, Cashew H. Saffower
& Carolyn A. Shaffer, 4964 Rosedale, Montreal, Que. H4V 2H2

Pigeon cake explores human interactions that are both painfully beautiful and devastating. Set against a collaged sea of attractive and ugly sketched human forms, the text resonates with awkward mumbled apologies, the sound of breaking hearts, and the weight of touching another’s face with kindness. To fully taste the bittersweetness, this read would best be enjoyed on a grey, contemplative afternoon, with enough depth in the delightful doodles to allow them more than just a glance. (ME)

Dissidents Insistence, by Moose

Ah, there’s nothing like a classic, handwritten, photocopied personal zine sometimes. Especially when the person writing it has led such an interesting life, without really realizing it. (Some perzines cry out “I’m so special, I’m going to tell you all about my favourite bands”—this is NOT one of those.) Starting from his journey train-hopping with his dog from Cape Breton to Quebec and then Montreal, Moose quickly finds the right ‘home away from home’ at recently relocated vegan cafe Les Vivres. His fluent narrative is a real page-turner, punctuated by his poetry, pieces, observations and photos/ graphics. His story coincides quickly with other very interesting ones: the strange involvement of the Raellian cult with Les Vivres’ owner, for one; Sept. 11 for another. His efficient use of words makes one hardly notice the self-reflexive digressions that would otherwise turn a personal zine into psychoanalysis. In all, an incredible amount of experiences are crammed into these 96 pages, and they are a joy to vicariously live through with the Moose, even if they aren’t all great or happy experiences. A fine work of zining. (LR)

The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas, Davy
Rothbart 3455 Charing Cross Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48108-1911 www.21balloons.com

A tight colllection of five short stories by Davy Rothbart, whose current claim to fame is Found Magazine. Rothbart is a great storyteller. The best stories are the ones that have the ability to move your mood, and Rothbart acomplishes that. I found myself laughing at one page, only to be brought down hard 2 pages later. But the overall mood the stories leave you with is a deep melancholy. As it stands, I’m now eagerly waiting for his Rothbart’s first novel. (MA)

Weirdbooks

This textbook of fictitious titles is a strange collection reading like a chapbook of ‘101 jokes for Campkids.’ Some examples are “Rancid Candles through the ages,” and “those crazy Kangaroo Rickshaw Drivers.” Adolescent boy humour. Wacky. (ME)

fuzzy heads are better 10

Life imitating bad art and raked with hypersensitive introspection and philosophical analysis. Author finds herself displaced and disoriented in Nova Scotia to pursue a higher art education. All discussed and grappled with over a fine slab of brie. A pseudo punk form, as being “bratty” is described as refusing to take off a fisherman’s cap in Dr. Bacon’s gifted grade 10 math class. Tasty graphics and reviews. Packed with juicy bites for the intellectual, lecture attending, pink hair artist in you. Patti makes for an interesting mind to yak (I mean, ahem, discourse) with. (ME)

Various chapbooks/ zines Kaboom Press, www.kaboompress.com; Loudmouth; Ugly Duckling Presse, 112 Pioneer St., Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY 11233, www.uglyducklingpresse.org

I don’t even know how to start describing all the neat things I got from these kind folks from Kaboom at some zine fair awhile back—all sorts of superbly crafted, original, odd-format books, zines, and collections thereof from all kinds of authors. One book, 5 Stories by Patrick Hambrecht, is printed on an assortment of thick coloured paper and bound with an alien-skin-like plaster (!) cover. Another item, the packets vol. 2, is a box with beautiful, almost Paul Klee-like colour prints on the outside and inside surfaces, filled with 11 small colour chapbooks of varying lengths filled with a range of fiction and true stories, some funny ones dealing with New York right after 9/11, one by Mike Diana (which I never knew wrote any fiction—he illustrates the cover too). It is projects like these that make me realize I’m not the only idiot who spends hundreds of hours on DIY projects that barely pay for themselves.
Loudmouth Collective is another group of folks for whom time or money are no object when it comes to following through on creative visions. Among the items I got from them were a small box with rolled cigarettes in them, with teeny tiny one-line poems actually typed onto the cigarettes. Another was a numbered series of accordion foldout comics stapled into packs of matches (a good match for the cigarettes, except you wouldn’t want to set either alight. The one I got was Fun Times With War by Miriam Katzeff.) Still another item was a beautiful small, textured, silkscreened foldout binder with drawings by Shelton Walsmith beautifully printed on cards in one side, and a story by Craig Foltz printed on cards in the other. Also noteworthy were some nice small zines by Ryan Haley, such as How I $pent My Summer, which is literally a collection of photocopies of all the receipts from every purchase he made that summer—a bohemian’s expense account, if you will.
My final interesting discovery (for now) from the Big Apple were some small (often VERY small) books by Ugly Duckling Press, most by a certain Julien Poirier. These minis contain quirky, handwritten or typed poems or observations, which come out monthly and sport colour card covers printed (mostly) with what looks like a potato press (you know, when you carve a shape into a potato, push it into an inkpad and press it onto some paper.) Each one is a fun, quick read. And all of the above-described stuff is simply inspiring to behold. (LR)

Country Diction, Summer Nostalgia Issue

Take me home sweet Alabama. Where the cotton blows in the sunset. The dark side is no where to be found in this romantic collection. “In the watery reflected sun we are children, our worries don’t fit and drift away to shore.” Charming artwork and layout. (ME)

Gerbil Chronicles, Angelique Lalonde

No, this is not another hammy hamster, La da da da da da. Beautiful and bizarre drawings of wee little critters, with bilingual text and sewn onto denim with lacy ruffles here and there. Artwork that makes you want to curl up inside of it. (ME)

Food Not Lawns

For this collective of Qpirg activists, lawns symbolize the perverse. Well-researched and documented, a booklet that will inform you about the politics of fresh produce, the roots and legacy of the capitalist food system, seed saving, sustainability in agriculture, GMO’s, and foreign farm worker’s rights, just to name a few things to make you chew on… (ME)

Interesting Ant Hills #1, 2
Carolyn S. (same contact as pigeon pie)

Free-spirited ramblings on the author’s self-realization, and annotations on travels and adventures. Cute, cuddly collections, full of gypsy clothes made of tears and cobwebs, storms to break your proud bones, seaweed and rosehips. (ME)

Afterhours #18, 3-9-11
Kitazawa, Setagaya-Ku, Tokyo 155-0031, Japan, www.img8.com/~after_hours

Since this magazine is pretty much entirely written in Japanese, there unfortunately are limits as to how well I can describe what’s in it. It primarily deals with interesting, avant-garde or experimental music, and even if you don’t speak the language, it comes with no less than 3 full-length CDs to make it worth your while. This issue has a huge feature on Montreal, specifically its more experimental music scene. One of the CDs has all local acts and features mostly unreleased tracks by the likes of Hanged Up, Exhaust, Tim Hecker, Martin Tétrault, Montag, Les Georges and more. The 32 pages on our city has interviews with the Unireverse, Hanged Up, Mitchell Akiyama, Christof Migone, label honchos from Alien8 and Constellation, Casa’s Kiva Stimac and many, many more (including yours truly). The funniest parts are a map of downtown Montreal with our little “hip area” circled and a huge 2-page family tree of most people in or associated with godspeed and its associated bands. Now if only I knew the language… (LR)

Found Magazine #2, 3455
Charing Cross Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48108-1911 www.21balloons.com

This is one of those zines that shortly into its existence generates an insane amount of publicity. Like others before it (Beer Frame, Thrift Score, Infiltration, Temp Slave to name but a few), Found covers something the rest of the media never thought of covering; in this case, interesting writing, photos, documents, diaries etc. that were left behind somewhere and found by someone else. Put them all together, and you get a very strange and enrapturing reading experience, ranging somewhere between voyeurism and psychoanalysis. What were they thinking? you might think of some of these. My God, did she end up coming back? you might think after reading others. Or, why is that black dude in the photo standing naked in the street holding a street sign?
Since its inception, I’ve heard tell editor Davy is flooded with so many submissions a whole fleet of other projects are planned to make use of them. I suspect many people (myself included) have gathered odd items picked up over the years, such as photos or letters found by the curb or in recycling boxes, and never knew what to do with them. Now people know, and are sending tons of the stuff to Davy. Aside from reprinting the more interesting tidbits, this second ish features some fun anecdotes involving found stuff, a page of all the keys one person found and why they kept them, an interview with a man who sculpts with found items, a “finder spotlight” and other (surprisingly professional) articles. For $5 I gotta say, this zine is one helluva find… (LR)

La Conspiration Dépressioniste #1,

Mais c’est quoi, le dépressionisme? Premièrement, c’est un nouveau fanzine Montréalais de gros format (pages 8-1/2 x 14) fort intéressant. Pour la vraie definition du concept, mais là, il faut lire la thèse qui se retrouve sur la première page du premier numéro. En bref, il semble être un philosophie de réaction contre la bourgeoisie de l’établissement des arts, du genre ou même absurdiste. Ou peut-être, dans leurs mots, ‘Le Dépressionisme est un mouvement méconnu aux oeuvres monumentales.’ Ou encore: ‘Le Dépressionisme est une négation matérielle de la vie et du champ privilégié des subjectivités.’ Si ca ressemble un peu à un long, lourd discours intellectuel, il faut mentionner qu’il n’a pas que ce type de discours dans ce zine: il y a une belle article sur une visite au Wal-Mart, une analyse des effets de la planification de la banlieue sur l’âme moderne et encore plus. Beau design, début prométtant— vive la conspiration! (LR)

De Dieu et de ma Camisole de Force,
Annie Gauthier, Les Éditions Rodrigol,

Premier livre pour cette nouvelle presse locale, une partie de ‘L’Empire Rodrigol’ qui, depuis 1990, organise des événements type cabarets, aide à sortir des films et a sortie quelques disques des Abdigradationnistes, parmi d’autres choses. Dans ce livre, la jeune (26 ans) auteur Annie Gauthier écrit un type de récit de voyage un peu impréssioniste, fort étrange, mais très séduisant. C’est une femme qui à déjà vécu beaucoup dans sa vie, et on le ressent. Comme dit la sortie de presse, sa ‘seule envie [est] de n’obéir à aucune contrainte,’ et ceci s’applique autant au style de l’auteur qu’a ses expériences. Exemple: ‘Je vais appeler mon fils Shampoing. J’appelerai ma fille Suce ou Suce-Anne, je n’ai pas encore décidé. Je travaille, comme tout le monde.’ Je ne peut pas donner justice à tout qui se passe dans ce livre dans une petite critique comme celui-ci; suffisant de donner une haut recommendation pour ceux qui recherche quelque chose de nouveau, quelque chose très, très inspiré. (LR)

Squirrel Girl #7

Welcome to another magical moment, where we find ourselves once again walking hand in hand with S.G. on one of her romps through the hard surfaces of this city, tasting and seeing all of the observations in her world. “Bare skin is baking slowly…but we are hungry and happy and sexy.” True to the rest of the series, #7 is finger-licking good, with fresh, original text and drawings that will amuse and inspire. (ME)

L’Enfance du Cyclope,
Zone Convective

This sequel to the original Cyclops anthology of a couple years back easily outdoes its predecessor, and gets my vote as the most innovative graphic novel of the past few years. Innovative, because I know of no similar projects where such a talented community of artists take on a loosely-organized set of themes, stories, narratives, render them with such a varied array of graphic styles, yet still end up with a deep and coherent work of art in the end. Containing material almost totally different (in size also) from the English version which was published simultaneously, this Cyclops sports a beautiful wraparound full-colour cover by Helene Brosseau (see back cover of this magazine), wherein all the artists involved are depicted as children frolicking in a field (fitting the major theme of most works here, childhood. The back pages show the actual childhood photos the cover was based on—among other things, we learn the scary truth of how many of these obscure, underpaid stalwarts of the comics pantheon are over 40!!!) There’s a lush 32-page colour section, where the graphic novel form starts to blur with photos, paintings, photos of paintings or sculptures interacting with drawings, vice-versa, upside-down and then some. Each artist sticks to the story but also sticks 100% to their own original modus operandi. When you give such freedom to talents such as Marc Bell, Rupert Bottenberg, Mavreas, Siris, Bernie Mireault, Caro Caron (to name but a few), and actually PAY them for their work (this project was made possible by a government grant), the art is, not surprisingly, top-notch throughout. Throw in unclassifiable graphic narratives from Alain Renault, Marc Tessier and Stéphane Olivier and what can I say, I wish I could review this straight up for its story or whatever, without being distracted by its visual oomph, but man… what a feast for the eyes! OK I’ll stop raving now… (LR)

Enter Avariz, Marc Ngui,
Conundrum Press

Enter Avariz is the first book-length Zak Meadow adventure. Readers of this mag should be familiar with the Boy Ugly and his world, and with versatile artist Ngui. I always found, from years of knowing many comic artists, that very, very few of them are able to conceive and construct entire worlds of characters, in which they can then stage all kinds of adventures. Ngui is one of these artists, and the world he’s built up in Zak Meadow is a fertile canvas for some very biting social commentary. This graphic novel begins when passing businessmen discover that Zak Meadow, because of its rather slack, casual cartoon inhabitants who pass the time with sundry adventures and little else, has ‘no jobs! (100% unemployment), no shops! (zero competition)’ and therefore, near-unlimited potential to be marketed to! (The sad reality of what’s happening in Iraq now is testament to the supreme jadedness of global capital—the less that’s there and functioning, the better it is for “capital markets,” which literally make their money lending cash to those who start with absolutely nothing. Oil or energy production is but one facet of such markets.) So, enter Avariz, Inc., a mega-conglomerate ready to start developing this fertile ground, starting with billboards, direct marketing and real estate. They quickly discover that not only is Zak Meadow an untapped market, it also sits over huge reserves of a substance called ‘smink…’ Without further giving the story away, let me just say that Ngui is very adept at both constructing a fun, dramatic story to read and at layering it with many parallels to Our Modern World. If it’s true that graphic novels are becoming increasingly recognized as an art form, let’s hope that whoever’s doing this recognizing comes across this book. They could hardly find a more accomplished example of meaningful visual storytelling. (LR)

A Maze In Grace,
Sammy Lo Giudice

This local chapbook traces, through poetry, the “maze” the author went through after hitting a particular rough patch in life, before finally finding a way out, largely through a rediscovery of religion. This would come off as predictably corny if it weren’t for the author’s quick tie-in to a very pragmatic and useful social service he discovered through it, an organization called the EAST foundation which provides services to physically and intellectually disabled children in Montreal’s east end. The author here is fully aware of how alienating any mention of Jesus or religion is, and tempers the works from being too proselytizing. The humble appeal to help the EAST foundation does more for his cause than any bible-thumping could, and for that, he deserves some recognition. (LR)

Cyclops: Aim For The Eye, Conundrum Press

Cyclops is an anthology of graphic narratives from more than 20 Montreal artists (several of them regulars in this magazine). There are a number of artists anyone familiar with the local comix scene will recognize. For anyone who has never really been exposed to Québec graphix, but love the form, would do well to pick up a copy of Cyclops. It’s the perfect introduction to the various Quebec artists, each with their own distinct style, of both drawing and storytelling. A good chunk of the pieces are autobiographical. I won’t get into ‘I liked/hated this particular piece,’ since there are so many styles, no one person can be expected to like them all. Suffice to say, you won’t be disappointed if you find yourself staring at the Cyclops. (MA)

Offline#23, 35 Barker Ave. #4G,
White Plains, NY 10601

This long-running zine begins this issue with an excellent appraisal of (and forst-hand anecdotes about) legendary activist Phil Berrigan, the former Jesuit priest who became world-famous for his always-original actions against the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons. Berrigan died last winter, his obituaries fittingly coinciding with the most recent unnecessary US war. This piece is the best I’ve read on him, partly because the author met him numerous times, partly because zines like this are where you’ll read perspectives you won’t see in the mainstream media (and most major newspapers had little choice but to run articles on Berrigan’s passing). Mostly it’s because the author is forced to reconcile his limitations as an activist during his encounters with Uber-Activist Berrigan, and the resulting internal debate reveals a lot about so-called “activism” itself (the term never meant anything specific until the last decade or so—Berrigan himself would’ve probably hated the notion that someone could choose to “rebel” as casually as one could choose to become a dentist. But then again, rebellion against so many different things has become so necessary now that the fact that it’s become a specialty may not be so bad.)
Aside from that topic, the zine contains an insightful account of someone’s experience as a substitute teacher. Its smooth narrative lets its main points emerge from experience, such as when a math lesson gone amok makes the teacher realize “I though the point of the lesson was to learn about reading graphs. The real lesson was in following directions, obeying instructions, finding things on command. Poor kids.” It’s the friendly, casual tone and interesting stories that make this zine more effective than political zines which beat you over the head with the same messages over & over. A fun read. (LR)