Monthly Archives: March 2011

GloomCookie Vol.1

Valentino, S. & Naifeh, T. (2001). GloomCookie. San José, Ca: Slave Labor Graphics.

The GloomCookie world reminds me of being 14 to an almost painful degree… oh the drama and angst of it all!
I like the art, although Ted Naifeh has done better stuff. Mostly this is because things of a gothic nature appeal to me (hence the HR Giger in my featured artist section). The story is fairly interesting, although there were a few too many characters and I had a hard time keeping up with who wasSebastian’s Monster related to who and who was in love with (or at least sleeping with) who… Also Sebastian’s Monster confused me at first, but I kinda figured it out. After all, I think It was my favourite character!

I’m not sure how old the characters are supposed to be, they drink and have sex, activities associated with people aged 17+, or so, but the dialogue is junior high material, at best! In fact, there are many places where…excuse the junior high lingo… the dialogue is downright barf worthy. Still though, I think this is an entertaining book and effectively stylized to give the reader a good sense of what being in the GloomCookie worlds is all about.

Another interesting addition to this book is that Naifeh has a bunch of his preliminary sketches in the back of the book (not uncommon in the graphic novel world). As well, there are a few pages of fan art, which isn’t that great, but it’s nice to see the GloomCookie community supporting its own.

This book is exactly what I picture a gloom cookie to be. A nice dark treat, with little nutritional value.

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Sentences: The life of M.F. Grimm

Carey, P., & Wimberly, R. (2007). Sentences: [the life of M.F. Grimm]. New York: DC Comics.

In an earlier post I’d kinda trashed Word Up! magazine for providing incomplete coverage of questionable role models. This book by Percy Carey, aka MF Grimm, is a great example of success in the areas that Word Up!’s coverage of Lil’Wayne fell short.

MF Grimm has a story comparable to Lil’Wayne he unapologetically talks about getting in fights, shoot-outs, dealing drugs, and the “glory” of the gangsta life. The main difference in MF Grimm’s story is that he doesn’t just share the glory, he shares, his pain, his regret, and the consequences of his actions as well. He never blames anyone else for his paralysis nor for his several incarcerations (well, okay he does blame a snitch as the reason the cops pinned him, but admits that if he wasn’t dealing drugs he wouldn’t have been in the situation in the first place).

The graphics are engaging; not too explicit, but not watered down. The dialogue is rough, but real. The story is captivating, heartbreaking, and inspiring. Even in the roughest of situations, Percy Carey is sure to remind readers that good influences are always around. True, Carey’s fighting spirit is what got him into a lot of trouble but, after he smartened up, it was that same fighting spirit that got him out of trouble.

This story is a rollercoaster ride of a black man’s life growing up in NYC in the 80’s and trying to break out of the gang life and into the hip-hop industry. From Sesame Street to being jailed and paralyzed, Carey’s story alterates between down to earth and boastful, but that’s an element of hip-hop regardless. Also, one final shout-out is to the credit that Carey gives the strong female role models he’s had in his life; his Mom, grandmother and sisters. It is nice to see women of colour represented as people rather than objects, a mistake made far too often in the rap world.

Anywho, here’s MF Grimm stats on AllMusic.Com and here’s a track that keeps it real off of his album American Hunger, “I Rather Be Wrong”

The Manga Guide to Electricity

Fujitaki, K., & Trend-pro Co. (2009). The manga guide to electricity. San Francisco: No Starch Press.

This is a really interesting format for learning! The manga style is both nonthreatening, yet detailed and credible. The plot is intriguing, but the technical language can get pretty intense at times. Here is an example of the dialogue on page 177:

“Two types of transistors are NPN and PNP transistor. They have three electrodes referred to as B (BASE), C (COLLECTOR), and E (Emitter).”
“They have one more electrode than a diode!”
“If an NPN transistor is connected like this… [quote is set inside a technical diagram of a transistor]…The electrons in the collector are drawn to the positive pole where they accumulate.”

I suspect that the story is strong enough to carry average to committed reader through the technical bits, probably even educating them along the way. The plot involves a girl, Rereko, from the planet Electropia being sent to Earth for a summer study session. She is teamed up with a young earth student, Hikaru, who tutors her in the “simple” principles of earths electricity. A bond begins to form… but can two young people from distant worlds really get along. Read the manga to find out!

If you like this want to learn about more science & tech stuff you’re in luck because this book is part of a manga series that also has titles on Statistics, Databases, Physics, Calculus, Molecular Biology, and many more!

Columbine

Cullen, D. (2009). Columbine. London: Old Street.

I found out about this book while reading a YA Library journal, it was in the recommended new release section and the write up grabbed my attention.

Columbine a single word, a verb, a proper noun, one school and an event of massive historic influence. The author, David Cullen was a reporter at the time of the shootings and this 360 page book (Plus notes, timeline, and fifteen page bibliography) details the ten years that Mr. Cullen has spent investigating the events of the shootings, what led up to them, what ensued afterwards, and the powerful draw that April 20, 1999 has on the North american psyche.

What I liked about this book:

  • David Cullen has extensive research citing interviews, victim impact statements, police reports, the killers journals. While he does make some assumptions they seem reasonably grounded in the evidence at hand.
  • Bullying, teen ostracism, and the devastating effects have increased since 1999. It is crucial to understand why people bully, what the effects of bullying can be, and what the warning signs of disaster are.
  • The book doesn’t have to be read from cover to cover, one can pick it up at a random page and start reading (see following comment about what I DIDN’T like about this book)

What I didn’t like about this book:

  • This book jumps around like House of Pain! Reading it straight through is the same as reading it by randomly picking pages.  It’s like he took his 10 years of notes and just bound them up into a book without bothering to organize them into sections.
  • The book is for OLDER teens, or at least mature and morbid teens. Though I saw this book in a YA Library journal it was cataloged as Adult Non-Fiction in my local library.
  • The writing is… average. Short and to the point, but lacking in artistic flavour.

All in all though I’m glad I read this book. For all the coverage this story got in the news at the time. It takes the extensive documentation that David Cullen has collected here to really start to understand what happened at Columbine and why.

Word Up!

Enoble Media Group. (2009, Dec/Jan). Word Up!.

This magazine has been categorized as Undecided, but I think I’m going too easy on it. My problem is the target age group and the magazine’s portrayal of black people, which can be a touchy subject and I wish wasn’t an issue… but is. Moving on…
Word Up! magazine has a layout that is nearly identical to Seventeen magazine so one assumes that the audiences will be roughly the same age level 14 – 16 year olds, give or take a few years. Just replace the regular audience of suburban middle class teens, with urbanless advantaged teens. Then replace the girly cosmetic adds with ads for specialty hair products for black hair, replace Taylor Swift with Lil’ Wayne (aka Weezy) and you’re good to go.

Now, I’m not saying that Seventeen promotes wholesome characters, far from it in fact. But, the specific issue is how different the role models are depending on your skin colour. The medias constant promotion of black celebrity thugs is exemplified in this magazine. At the time of publication Lil’ Wayne was already up for charges of possessing a loaded fire-arm and for drug charges. The second main star of the magazine was Chris Brown, a man who in a months time would be charged with assault and making criminal threats on his girlfriend, Rhianna. The only charge that carries any palpable jail time is Weezy’s drug possession charges which is sickening in itself when you compare it to Chirs’ assault charges. Furthermore, it doesn’t help that Lil’ Wayne’s official reason for quitting coke (the powder, not the soda pop), if he even quit, is because it gives him acne, not because of the bad highs.

I am a middle class, white male. I easily make the judgments that guns are bad and coke ares bad because I never grew up around them. The only exposure I had to knowledge of these items was from every authority I knew saying they were bad. Lil’ Wayne grew up in a very rough neighbourhood of New Orleans where crack-cocaine wasn’t a foreign threat, but a factor in everyday life. It is very easy for people who have never know hardship to harshly judge those who have only known hardship, and I am trying to avoid judging the magazine (and Lil’ Wayne in this way).

This is why I am undecided. Even though the magazine glorifies the lifestyles of people who abuse powerful drugs, carry murder weapons, and beat up women Word Up! is also providing a platform for poor black kids to see people who were born in the same situation they were have (for the most part) rejected the streets, worked on their positive talents, and become successful. Lil’ Wayne is one of the hardest working artists in the pop music industry, an industry where fame and success are often bought and provided for performers rather than being earned. So what if Lil’ Wayne has problems. If you grew up where he did you would too. Check out this article if you want some context.

Ultimately though, Lil’ Wayne, has tons of exposure and there are better role models out there. Although his influence is waning from popular media there’s Master P and if you care to go back a little further, Louie Armstrong, all Louisianan successes. But, if you want to find a current black celebrity who is an entirely positive role model (not counting Obama because he’s a politician and I am specifically thinking about representation in the entertainment industry) they will be difficult to find… Wayne Brady, maybe? Then again the number of celebrities in the entertainment industry, regardless of skin colour, who are wholly positive role models can probably be counted on one hand, maybe two if you search around hard enough.

Artemis Fowl: The Arctic incident

Colfer, E., & Parker, N. (2004). Artemis Fowl: The Arctic incident. New York: Listening Library.

Listening to this audio book was my first dip in to the ocean of the Artemis Fowl empire and I am glad that I finally got my feet wet! I think a lot of guys will especially enjoy rooting for Artemis Fowl because he’s a good guy, for the most part, but is forced by the circumstances of his life to play that bad guy… until the REALbad guys show up! Action, emotion, a whole lot more action, some gripping characters, and then even more action is what one should expect from reading/hearing this book (and, I suspect, others in the series).

Nathaniel Parker’s narrate’s in a good range of character voices which is a bonus to the fact that he has a great speaking voice in general. So, I was pleased to see that he narrates other Artemis Fowl audio books.

However, when I do get another Artemis Fowl book (which I will be doing soon!) I will be getting a paper copy…unless I am going on a road trip, or out to a cabin in the woods. Why? Well, personally, I am very easily distracted. I listened to most of this book on my computer which means that after about 30 minutes I was listening to the book and playing Euchre or poker online, checking my e-mails, Facebook, and Twitter, and surfing around the web. The parts I listened to on a CD player lead to me sweeping the floor, folding my laundry and cooking. The story was interesting, but the format was the gateway to distraction… which means if I might want to reconsider using it as road trip material 😛

For a taste of the story and of Nathaniel Parker’s narration go to Youtube

Groovin’ With the Groovaloos

Rapier, B., Crumbs, ., Boogie, M., & Inspired Productions. (2004). Groovin’ with the Groovaloos: Learn the hip hop grooves. Roseland, NJ: Inspired Productions.

So, if you know me you know I’m a dancer. Not in the sense that I’m coordinated, or elegant, but in the sense that when the good tunes start playing my legs, hips, arms, feet, neck, eyebrows, well, everything starts shaking, twisting, and stamping, not in sync, but usually in that order. As such I felt it would be beneficial to brush up on my hip-hop groove styles by watching this instructional DVD.

Unfortunately I didn’t find this DVD too helpful. Firstly the group of dancers goes WAAAAY to fast for me, even when they slowed down and repeated their moves it was hard for me to keep up. However, that just might be because I’m old, stiff, and grew up listening to Black Sabbath and Metallica, so I spent most of my teenage thrashing my head around rather than swaying my hips. So, the fact that I couldn’t keep up may have been my fault, however the extenuating circumstances did little to facilitate my learning. The video is shot outside and the ever-changing background kept distracting my focus, there were a lot of dancers, I believe seven, so it was hard to pick one and follow them, and the lead Groovaloo didn’t do a great job of interacting with the audience, mostly just told us to watch rather than follow along, not cool Groovaloo, not cool. They were good dancers though.

With all this in mind I think that if I had started with volume 1, or had other people around to feed off of and show off with this experience would have been more fulfilling and my groovin’ might have been pimped out a slightly more than it was.