What I’m Reading: Drinking at the Movies (Julia Wertz)

Julia Wertz is super funny, and you should read her work.

juliawertzgrownup

Wertz’s humour is what attracted me to this text while I was going through my standard process of book selection, which mostly involves me picking out 3-8 comics from the Central branch of the HPL based on some very quick page flipping because I am, inevitably, late for something.  (I’ve tried to pick a single panel that gives a solid impression of exactly what it is about her pacing that makes her work so funny.) I became hooked on Wertz’s work not by the humour (alone), but by her sardonic engagement with the rougher edges of human existence, and perhaps especially because her dark humour is so often directed at herself.

One of my favourite features of this text (which it has in common with Calling Dr. Laura) is that Wertz goes to great lengths to signal an engagement with space and place. Drinking at the Movies features several brief sub-sections dedicated to spaces, both the various apartments that Julia inhabits in her time in New York, and streetscape scenes. The effect is that I spent a good deal of time thinking about how architecture informs the character of a place in both a macro (city-wide) and micro (neighbourhood-wide, but also in terms of individual and family living space) sense. I’m working on a long-form piece of writing that looks, briefly, at architecture in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and, while my engagement with that text is of a different order than my engagement with Wertz’s work, her insistence that space is important on multiple levels (this is a story about her own life, but also about how New York City has shaped her) has helped to reinvigorate my excitement about the work I’ve started on Fun Home.

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What I’m Reading: Drinking at the Movies (Julia Wertz)

What I’m Reading: Calling Dr. Laura (Nicole Georges)

  A big part of what makes Nicole Georges’s Calling Dr. Laura an excellent read is that Nicole Georges is a neat, weird human. She loves dogs, rescues chickens, works as a karaoke DJ, and makes badass needlepoint –at one point, she channels her complex emotional response to a long-coming breakup (the reader senses it coming long before the character comes to terms with its inevitability) into a wall hanging that reads “tell that triflin bitch she can have you,” which is accompanied by a cross-stitched zebra. I am personally in love with the protagonist’s overall aesthetic, which probably makes me a fairly biased reader. As you can see from the image above, however, the text operates in a style that is potentially appealing to many- there are generally clean lines and shapes, along with detailed character depiction. In some frames, the use of lighting to texture hair (you can see it here, but there are some frames that center the effect more) gives a strong realist quality to the text, along with good depth of image. What I’m most interested in is Georges’ decision to move between the more realist style pictured above, and a flatter, more cartoony style. For the majority of the text, the switch in styles parallels a switching in timelines between the present moment and the narrator’s (traumatic) past. Towards the end of the text that line is muddied, and the switch seems to have more to do with trauma itself, or perhaps a certain kind of working-through. It is worth noting, I think, that this text is memoir, and while I highly recommend it, it is also very personal, so might not be ideal for every reader. 

What I’m Reading: Calling Dr. Laura (Nicole Georges)

What I’m Reading: Puke Force (Brian Chippendale)

So I put this text away for a few days until I recovered my usual, cheery demeanour, and then read the remainder of it in a single sitting. I’m still a little on the fence about it, though I do think it is interesting, and definitely worth a read. My thoughts about it are fairly disorganized (which is a testament to the text’s project), so I’m going to bullet point them.

1*Stylistically, it reminds me of Kathy Acker’s Blood and Guts in High School. This is a major plus, and has some wheels spinning in the academic part of my brain.

2*On the other hand, I found the extremely cluttered pages to be a little taxing. I spent a lot of time thinking about this, because it’s kind of out of character for me- Julie Doucet is one of my favourite comics producers, and her frames are equally cluttered. I think it’s because Chippendale’s gutters are virtually non-existent, which means that the space/time between moments and actions are more compressed. Combine this effect with the unusual reading pattern, and you get a fairly disrupted reading experience.

2a* A lot of my work is explicitly about form, so it was cool/useful to read a comics text that works so hard to get its reader to think about form.

2b* But sometimes the text was, in my opinion, ineffective. After a while, the unusual reading pattern began to feel ordinary. Additionally, the page-map labels were polarizing in their effectiveness. While “follow the trail of tears” was a poignant label (especially for how content-appropriate it is), “ready like anal leakage” was less so. I think it really works against the overarching project of form awareness at the heart of the text- anal leakage is the epitome of disorganization, far beyond the capacity of the comics form for disorganization.

3*There’s a reprieve section in the center of the text that depicts two full pages of twitter activity. This is my favourite section of the text- the account depicted is a real account, but there is no overlap in content between the two.

 

Extremely Effective

 

Extremely Frustrating

 

What I’m Reading: Puke Force (Brian Chippendale)

What I’m Reading: A Child’s Life And Other Stories (Phoebe Gloeckner)

I guess I’m technically cheating at my own project here, as I’m reading Phoebe Gloeckner’s A Child’s Life and Other Stories for my academic work, but: I also don’t really care. Gloeckner is formally trained as a medical illustrator, which informs her work in interesting ways. A segment titled “Time out For Pain- three 3/4 views by Phoebe Gloeckner” interjects a brief narrative on the overlap between the medicalised nature of pain management, capitalist discourses of pain as a symptom of weakness/laziness, and drug addiction as a social stop-gap in place of good treatments for depression and anxiety that both references medical textbook illustrations by way of the framing (I’m thinking specifically of the 3/4 view here) and discourses that are woven through the remainder of the partially autobiographical (sometimes biomythological) text. This is not what at all what I sat down to write about, but it is the kind of writing that I really love: allow me to untangle how the observation I’ve just stumbled into relates in a meaty way to the book manuscript that I’m working on. The title caption “Time out For Pain” signals that the following segment’s content will in some way be concerned with pain. However, it equally signals that this turn towards pain is a change in course, presumably from the remainder of the text’s narrative. Which is kind of bonkers, because A Child’s Life is replete with images and iterations of pain: the various Gloeckner stand-ins experience sexual and emotional abuse, minor neglect, and the insidious kinds of trauma and abuse that are bound up in drug abuse (there are multiple depictions of drug addicts consenting to acts to which they might were they living a drug-free existence). Effectively, the segment “Time out For Pain,” then reflects on the manner in which the various traumas depicted in the text

are not treated as medically recognizable pain (at least, not at the time of writing- there are recent changes, I think, in this area). This is exciting news for me, as it presents a solid link to the work that I’ve done in a recent conference paper that looks at how Julie Doucet’s My Most Secret Desire is concerned with various kinds of risk.

What I’m Reading: A Child’s Life And Other Stories (Phoebe Gloeckner)

What I’m Reading: Puke Force (Brian Chippendale)

I probably couldn’t have picked a worse text/circumstance combination for the first entry in my “what I’m reading” comics blogventure project. I’m at the tail end of both conference season* and a cold, am heading into intensive dance-show rehearsal time, and am generally walking around in a state of near constance annoyance as result. 

  Brian Chippendale’s Puke Force is the kind of project that intends to be a little annoying, so it’s been a rough go. Chippendale’s text is probably most annoying because it asks readers to engage in a non-normative way: the text is split predominantly into one-page stories split into three rows of panel that are to be read left-to-right (top row), right-to-left (middle row), left-to-right (bottom row). What results, after the initial annoyance has worn off, is a bit of a simple game-board feel, sort of like playing candy land. Only most of the final panels are either anti-climactic, cliffhangers, or extremely dark (so I guess it’s a little like playing candy land in hell), which is actually pretty effective; the social critique present in the text, when it’s clear, is actually very compelling (more on this next week, when I’m less annoyed at everything). I’m only about a third of the way through this text, but I haven’t put down or otherwise given up, which is a true testament to its strengths. 

*My conference season, that is. There are other academic conferences that are still to come, but I won’t be attending them.

What I’m Reading: Puke Force (Brian Chippendale)

Mario Bros, a sneaky pup, and Bear Flag Wine

Tonight is babysitting night: an irregular feature in my life that is always a special treat. The child I tend to is at a very fun age (3), is generally precocious and lovely, and has very cool parents who happen to be both friends and colleagues (sort of. It’s complicated.). IMG_1512.JPG

My night, thus far, has consisted of: safely transporting R from daycare to home, feeding her, bathing her, and putting her to bed; finishing my book (Camilla Gibb’s Sweetness in the Belly, which you can expect a blogpost about soon); playing Mario Bros (the original!) on a cartridge with no capacity for saving; and drinking some Bear Flag red. Oh! And trying to keep a very sneaky pup from sleeping on her people’s bed. Who am I kidding though: she is actually just conked right out on their pillows right now, and refuses to wake up/register my voice/care at all when I call her. Anyway, this wine is $12.95, but I’m babysitting, so it it also technically free.

Eyes
It’s very dark in color. It might be lighter if I weren’t drinking it from a (small) mason jar, but even when I tilt the glass to let the light shine through it’s a nice purpley-plum color. With no sediment, and virtually no legs, this wine is sending some mixed signals. “I’m real rich, but not *that* rich.”

Nose
Very little is going on with the nose on this. It is maybe a little fruity, but it kind of mostly smells like nothing. Possible reasons: I don’t know how long this bottle has been open for; this room is very cold.

Mouth
I really like the taste of this wine. It is smooth, and pretty dry but still fruity. Well balanced, overall. Some flavors that I get are: a nice flowery taste in the middle, and a rich plum flavor up front.

What Dirtbag Snacks Can I Pair With This Wine?
Foods that I have eaten with this wine: pretzels, saltine crackers, a single baybel cheese wheel. None of these are the right snack. I think I would like to pair this wine with milk chocolate, but it is hard to tell without any milk chocolate around.

10/10 for “would I drink this while relaxing after work” and 6.5/10 for “goes well with heavy winds,” though I would want something a bit more tart/firm for a full-fledged storm.

Mario Bros, a sneaky pup, and Bear Flag Wine

A Stellar Review of $9.95 Wine

IMG_1505.JPG Okay, so if you’re from the United States, or Europe, or Australia, or anywhere with a strong wine culture other than Canada,* $9.95 might seem expensive for over-the-counter wine. But in Canada, wine under ten dollars is hard to find (unless you’re drinking arbor mist, or another “wine drink”). My husband and I recently spent our fifth anniversary weekend in the Niagara region (wine territory), and basically did a bunch of fun things in between drinking various wines. It was glorious. We brought back some of our favorites, but wine-estate wines are also more expensive than LCBO wines (all of our purchases range from $25-$60/bottle). Sometimes you want a bottle of wine to pair with a nice dinner, and sometimes you want some wine to pair with your knee socks and paperback. I have put myself on a mission (along with reading good books, writing a dissertation, and maintaining some semblance of physical and mental health) to find good wines at the LCBO for under ten dollars. We’ll see how long this project lasts (when I find something I like I sometimes get very attached- this *may* be the only one), but for now: meet Trapiche’s 2015 Cab Sauv. This is an Argentinian wine, which seems to have won some awards. I assume that the awards are a good thing. My biggest association with Argentina, as far as wine goes, is inexpensive Malbec. I picked this wine because Trapiche makes my favorite LCBO wine, their $11.45 Malbec. But $11.45 is more than ten dollars, so here we are. PS: this is the hobby at which I am least qualified, but if you’re a wine baby you might find it useful, or at least interesting.

Eyes
If you’re going to taste some wine, you do it with your eyes first. You can skip this step if you’d like, especially if your goal has more to do with getting drunk than with tasting the wine, but it’s kind of a neat thing to do. You’re basically looking for color and viscosity. In both cases, more of each will usually mean stronger flavors.

This Cab Sauv is medium rich in color: deep burgundy at its darkest, and a kind of rich pink when the light shines through. It doesn’t appear to have any sediment, and is only a little bit viscous.

Nose
Step #2 in wine tasting is to smell the wine. If you’re doing a formal tasting, you’ll likely be instructed to smell the wine, and then swish/swivel/aerate the wine before smelling it again. Fancypants guides will tell you all about primary, secondary, and tertiary kinds of smells. I’m not that fancy. I like to try to pick out 1-3 things that I smell in a wine. Identifying smells has helped me to appreciate wine flavors, and especially subtle flavors, more.

This wine has a bouquet** that is a bit rich, but also fruity. Three smells that I identify are: blackberry, cherry, and a spice smell that is almost like cardamom.

Mouth
If you’re not interested in formal wine tastings, feel free to skip straight to this step (though I do think that practicing the other steps will help you taste more things!). This part includes things like flavor, mouth feel, and sweetness.

This wine is a bit sweeter than I would have thought, based on the smell and dark color, but is by no means overly sweet. The strongest flavor that I get when tasting is cherry, which begins as a sweet taste, but then gets nicely sour.

Cab Sauv Profile
I don’t drink a lot of Cab Sauv, so I had to look this one up. According to this website, CS characteristics include: dark, full body; dark fruit flavors; savory tasting notes. This wine is definitely full bodied with dark fruit flavors, but is more sweet/sour than savory. The effect is nice, but particular.

What dirtbag snacks can I pair this wine with?
Excellent question! Because of the sweet/sour flavor, I would pair this wine with savory snacks. I’m talking: reese peanut butter cups (maybe the mini ones you can buy by the bag?), regular potato chips, and beef jerky. Salty, salty snacks, and whatever cheap entertainment you enjoy on a Sunday night in your home alone. (For the record, I’ve cycled about 16 km today, and might just be low on salt.) For me, that means reading a book and possibly crying about my poor life choices, but you do you.

Update: I just paired this wine with some crusty rolls, guacamole, and twitter, which I highly recommend.
Overall Impressions
I like this wine. It is easy-drinking (read: great with weird snacks, with a movie, or just all by itself), and while it isn’t my alltimefavorite, it has some nice characteristics. 8/10 for “would I drink this while relaxing after work” and 10/10 for “would I drink this in the tub during a snowstorm.”

*fun fact: Canada has at least two globally renowned wine-producing regions.

**fancy word for “the way a wine smells.”

A Stellar Review of $9.95 Wine