Books

So Long Internet Privacy, Hello Dystopia

It looks very likely that our internet histories will soon become available to the highest bidder, thanks to House Republicans and ultimately, Donald Trump.

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As corporate interests shape our relationship to privacy, I propose we take a moment to consider the dystopian road this could lead us down.

Brian K. Vaughan’s graphic novel Private Eye envisions a future in which people fiercely guard their personal privacy through public disguises.

The story follows a detective as he works to solve the case of a mysterious murder.

The plot is fast-paced and surprising while still adhering to the film noir genre. My favorite parts involve the protagonist’s grandfather: an aging Millennial who is hard of hearing, fully tatted and video game obsessed.

Illustrator Marcos Martin’s attention to detail is fantastic, which you can see in the selected panels below:

Like I said, film noir

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The variety of disguises is incredible

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Marijuana cigarettes: legal in the future?

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Millennials: the generation with nothing to hide?

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A future where the Press are the Police

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This clamshell iBook from 1999 makes a significant cameo

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If you’re feeling down about the future of privacy and the internet, I recommend visiting your local library. Many librarians are surprisingly dedicated to protecting the privacy of their communities — and as an added bonus, they can probably help you find this book.

 

 

 

 

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Arts & Culture, Books

Love Stranger Things? Read Paper Girls

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If you’re like me, then you started Netflix’s original series, Stranger Things and couldn’t help but binge-watch it in one sitting. And while those 8 hours were certainly glorious, now there’s a demogorgon shaped hole in our lives.

PaperGirls_Vol01-1Luckily, Paper Girls, a comic written by Brain K. Vaughn and drawn by Cliff Chiang offers similar 80s nostalgia and sci-fi intrigue — but with the added bonus of multiple strong female protagonists!

I don’t want to give too much away, but walkie-talkies and bicycles are just as important in this story, which all begins with a paper route in the wee hours after Halloween night.

The first trade paperback, or Volume 1, of this comic is available and well worth purchasing from your local bookstore. If you enjoy Paper Girls, you should also check out Vaughn’s award winning Saga comics, which offer more hours of sci-fi meets fantasy entertainment.

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Books

Book Review: Trash Market by Tadao Tsuge

 

After President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima today seventy-one years after the bombing, you may be surprised to learn that many young Americans and Japanese do not realize that the United States and Japan were not allies in World War II. American historian Carol Gluck explains these conflicting memories of Hiroshima and WWII in “Ghosts,” the May 20th episode of On the Media. And to explore the post WWII narratives of Japan, consider reading Tadao Tsuge’s Trash Market.

Tsuge is known as a pioneer of alternative manga with a cartooning style that doesn’t shy away from the gruesome. Born in 1941 and growing up in the slums of Tokyo, Tsuge has been a prolific cartoonist who made ends meet by working at an “ooze-for-booze” blood bank from a young age. His stories are inspired by the people he knew and observed and the tensions of poverty and post traumatic stress.

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Drawn & Quarterly‘s collection of six Tsuge comics is followed by excerpts of Tsuge’s autobiographical writings and an essay by editor and translator Ryan Holmberg, who is an art historian specializing in Japanese work. The title, Trash Market refers to Tsuge’s harsh, although not unsympathetic, assessment of the “trash people” selling their blood and bodies in the slums and red light districts of his youth.

Holmberg writes, “as the creations of an artist who had the luxury of only momentary respites from the blue-collar grind, Tadao’s comics offer an opportunity to imagine what it was actually like to live as a man inside the human trash market of postwar Japan.”

In the same way that a sketch is often more compelling than a polished piece, Tsuge’s work unravels as a collection of loose impressions that do more to capture a feeling than a tightly wound comic would. Holmberg writes, “He begins drawing with only a rough beginning, middle, and end in mind, with no script or breakdowns. ‘Part of the excitement of making comics,’ [Tsuge] says ‘is seeing how things will turn out.'”

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If you plan to read this collection, remember that while Tsuge’s comics are dark, these postwar narratives do not lack optimism.

 

 

 

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Books

Book Review: Pachyderme by Frederik Peeters

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The maroon binding of Pachyderme has called to me from many a Graphic Novel section shelf. After years of picking it up, flipping through it and thinking, “another time,” I finally got around to reading a copy from the San Francisco Public Library.

I knew this graphic novel by Swiss cartoonist Frederik Peeters was not going to be a casual read. The woman suspended in air on the front cover portends the ominous suspended reality this book explores. There is a foreword written by the accomplished French cartoonist Jean Giraud (AKA Moebius 1938 – 2012) that says everything anyone could ever hope to say about the quality of Peeters’ story and illustrations.

Giraud writes, “Pachyderme is the perfect example of a vivid and poetic graphic novel that succeeds in conveying a sense of the unconscious, of true master. I have the feeling Pachyderme remains mysterious even to its author, who let his tale wander where his pen took it, live its own life, while paying close attention to storytelling and the quality of his art.”

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Much like the space between waking and dreaming, the story and art range from hyper realistic to completely nonsensical. Giraud uses the word, “oneric,” or dreamlike to describe this oscillation. This is a new word for me and I am excited to have it as a part of my vocabulary now!

The only problem with Giraud’s foreword is that it gives too much of the story away. So I suggest reading it after you have finished the book. I don’t want to review the plot or characters in detail because this book is best experienced firsthand and without any foreknowledge.

All you need to know is that the story is set in French speaking Switzerland in 1951 and that a woman is the central character.

Here are some of my favorite panels:

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Save Pachyderme for a quiet day to yourself.

 

 

 

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Books, KQED

Book Review: God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls by Jaime Hernandez

For a fan of comics, I have not always felt welcome in the comic book store. A bad experience actually inspired me to write an article in 2014 for KQED Arts called, “No Girls Allowed? Braving the Comic Bookstore.

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I start by writing: “Five years ago I went into a comic bookstore in the South Bay and emerged from its shadowy depths with a sexist Lois Lane comic book from the ’60s and the sense that I was definitely underrepresented and unwelcome.”

If only I had found Jaime Hernandez’s 2012 Ti-Girls first! Although Jaime is in fact a man, his representation of women is so dynamic, I never would have guessed. He is best known for the “Love & Rockets” series. Created with his brother Gilbert Hernandez, Love & Rockets follows primarily Latina teenagers in the 1970s California punk scene.

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With the Ti-Girls, Jaime clearly draws inspiration from his love of female wrestlers. His characters span different cultures, ages and classes. And while each character is pretty damn sexy, they are all drawn to be so in different and equally powerful ways.

We first learn about the Ti-Girls adventures from comic enthusiast Maggie who shares old issues with her friend Angel. What Maggie doesn’t know is that Angel knows all about superheroes, because she has just discovered her own super powers.

While sneaking out as her alter-ego “Boot Angel” she runs into the mysterious Russian woman living in her apartment complex better known as “Alarma” of “The Fenomenons.

But not everyone is so lucky to have super powers and belong to an all-star lady squad. Maggie’s other friend, Penny Century, stirs up some intergalactic trouble when she tries to achieve superdom by any means.

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Three generations of female superheroes come to the rescue and Boot Angel learns more about her own powers from each.

When the young and inexperienced Zolar Bratz fail, and the exclusive Fenomenons refuse to get their outfits dirty, it is up to the aging Ti-Girls to come out of retirement to set things straight.

The best part of this comic, is the rewriting of the superhero canon. Unlike male superheroes Angel’s mother explains that “all women are born with it, but most lose it at a really early age. It’s too subtle to notice because most blossom when much older,”  she continues, “Guys don’t get it. They gotta go out an’ have lab accidents and other stuff to get their cojones but we got it born right in us.”DSC_0401.jpg

Check out this book if you’re a fan of super ladies!

 

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Books

Book Review: Life with Mr. Dangerous by Paul Hornschemeier

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In a flurry of excitement about San Francisco’s public libraries, I checked out a criminal number of graphic novels.

To quote Julian Smith, “I’m at the library where they call me a crook. I never even pay for my library books. I take them from the shelves and if anyone looks, I say, ‘I’m reading a book man, I’m reading a book!'”

If you don’t understand this reference, watch this video now:

 

I finally got around to reading Paul Hornschemeier’s Life with Mr. Dangerous today in my favorite reading nook. I was actually interrupted, but I didn’t mind as much as Julian Smith did.

The first thing I will say about Hornschemeier, is that his drawing style seems to be heavily influenced by Daniel Clowes. I could be completely wrong about that though. Hornschemeier is skilled at weaving different cartooning styles into his narrative, although I think his pages that delve into the surreal are stronger than his representations of daily life.

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I loved this page about Amy’s relationship to her sweet tooth

The book gets its title from a cartoon show that the main character Amy is infatuated with. Unfortunately, the cartoon does not make much sense in my view, but perhaps that’s the point. With amnesia curing manure plot devices and catchy sayings like “My, but you’re fecund!” that may be hard to believe.

The dialogue was sometimes too wordy or sparse for my liking. At one point, Amy thinks to herself, “…Sigh… Barren, sweating, and twelve minutes late. What’s not to like?” This kind of forced exposition takes me right out of the story. What does Amy’s fertility have to do with going to dinner with her mother?

 

Hornschemeier’s biography for this book says a lot about his style of writing:

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“Paul Hornschemeier was born in 1977 [. . .] He currently lives in Evanston, Illinois with his wife. As he writes this about himself, a discarded Christmas tree rests on its side, waiting by the curb outside his window, to be picked up as trash, breeding simultaneous and oft-coupled pangs of nostalgia and depression. Then a dog walks by.”

I’m still cringing. Sorry Paul.

During a major turning point in the story, I was forced to skim some of the wordiest panels I have ever encountered in a graphic novel. Here’s a little taste without any spoilers, “Here you are, an invisible referee for an interspecies cage match. Your method of invisibility was explained to me by Moritz as he tamped a pipe with tobacco (that hinted of raisins and the South), but I lost the details. Something about string theory and a since discredited biography of Milton Berle [. . .]”

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Is it just me, or is this a lot of text?

As complex as these sentences may be, the story itself ended up being fairly bland and straight forward. There were certain themes that were well thought out and explored in the story, including ageism in the workplace and mother-daughter relationships, but Amy’s overarching trials in love were not among them in my book.

Perhaps Hornschemeier will speak more deeply to you if you work in retail and actively seek out manic pixie dream girls/guys?

 

 

 

 

 

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Books

Book Review: A Year in Japan by Kate T. Williamson

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I have had this graphic travelogue on my Amazon wishlist for almost as long as I’ve had an Amazon wishlist (so, ten years? The copyright on this book is 2006, so that checks out). Recently I have been dreaming of visiting my cousin Laurel who has been teaching English in Japan for the past three years. Now, more than ever I’ve been trying to get my hands on a copy of this book. Sadly, every bookstore I’ve been in recently hasn’t had it in stock.

While logged into the San Francisco Public Library App, I got the bright idea to see if it was anywhere within their system, and it was! After missing my hold opportunity and re-ordering it, I finally got to take this elusive book in my hands!

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Parts of this book are so beautiful, I’m considering buying my own copy just so I can leaf through it any time I need some inspiration. If you’re going to invest in physical books for a personal library, I highly recommend graphic novels, because they do not translate well into digital media. It was a challenge to even take these photos!

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Williamson has a gift for turning small details into thoughtful insights. My favorites are her observations about Japanese socks and fabrics. I whipped out my traditional Japanese furoshiki cloth for this photo shoot. You can read an article I wrote about this traditional art of wrapping here on my website or KQED Arts.

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If you have any interest in Japanese culture, I highly recommend this book. Check out the book’s website, where you can order prints and stationary with illustrations from the books and learn more about Williamson’s other projects!

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