Poetry Tuesday: Gabirol’s Riddle

By Solomon ibn Gabirol, 1021-1055, writing in Hebrew.

Naked without either cover or dress,
Utterly soulless, and hollow.
From its mouth comes wisdom and prudence,
And in ambush it kills like an arrow.

(A pen.)

;o)

Advertisements

Book Reviews: Graphic Gauguin and Grabbings

Please Don’t Grab My P#$$y: A Rhyming Presidential Guide
Four-line rhyming stanzas attempt to teach the Trumpster Dumpster and other asses like him what shouldn’t be touched without permission. Each little poem ends with a euphemism for the one word you would expect, some of them quite confusing.
I am a rhyming fanatic; I’ve even called out my fave musicians when they cheat on this, so it’s no surprise when I say that some of these attempts are atrocious. Maybe that explains why some of those that do rhyme make no sense whatsoever.
A few of the highly impressionistic drawings are lovely and funny, but most are just there.
If there’s one thing to take away here, it’s that this sets some high expectations and doesn’t meet them. Nowhere near as funny as the publicity pretends. A little bit more thought, and maybe not so lowbrow, and it might have hit the sweet spot.
2/5

Queen of Kenosha
Small-town musician in Noo Yawk tries to return a wallet and get pistol-whipped for her troubles. It leaves her open to an offer she can’t refuse.
I’ve read this author’s previous works, which took place in the hockey world, and it’s the same format here. The artwork is especially similar, but the story is completely different and much more ambitious, in fact maybe too much. There’s been plenty of Nazi conspiracy stories over the decades, but I can’t remember seeing one where they’re basically dropped into what’s always been a “commie” plot.
Though it’s an overused talking point, the difference between a black-and-white follow-orders-at-all-costs viewpoint and a don’t-have-to-kill-everyone approach is done well here.
Each issue has recommended songs, with one on each playlist by the fictional protagonist, so of course you can’t hear it. Another is “Both Sides Now”; I sure am getting tired of that song, it’s everywhere. And you’d think that since this takes place in the early 60s, songs from that era would be a better choice. I haven’t noticed any connection between the songs and the action, but I was amused by the inclusion of a Pretenders song. But it’s the insertion of a good Dire Straits song that made everything okay.
When on the big mission, they dress all in black but don’t paint their faces, neck, and hands. Worse, her blonde hair is loose. Author fail on the spycraft.
More than anything, there’s a huge plot twist at the end. . . which I’d guessed about halfway. I was hoping I was wrong, thinking it too contrived, too much of a coincidence, but it happened anyway. Actually not that big a deal in this book, but in the sequel it’ll be huge, and it won’t sit right then.
At the end are the lyrics to the made-up songs by the protagonist. Since this is a collection of all the issues, I don’t know if the lyrics were included with the song, but in this volume I would have liked to read them when the title was first unveiled.
There’s a lot of good stuff here, but also much that could have been done better.
3/5

Gauguin: Off the Beaten Track
The foreword tells you that this isn’t about the artist as much as about the guy who was his generation’s version of a hippie, though by this time in his life he’d become more cynical.
The graphic novel starts with paintings being sold at auction for what seem to be really low prices, though back then it could have been a lot. They’re won by a smug-looking accountant type, and then we go back two years to the sight of Gaugin sleeping on a ship with roaches crawling all over him. Lovely. From there the story switches between his arrival on the small island and the previous guy showing up after his death.
Some of the friends he makes are interesting. It’s fun to see him interacting with people from Vietnam, India, and of course the locals, though they’re all different too.
“You’ve lost your mind!” “And you never had one to begin with!”
“You must—” “When I hear ‘you must,’ I rebel!”
There some slight x-rating to a couple of panels, but the artwork is done in such a non-realistic style—even looks like Gaugin painted it—that’s it’s hardly noticeable and pretty much inoffensive. . . which kinda sums up this book. It paints a different side of the artist who’s only famous for these paintings, who is not in the consciousness of most like Picasso or such. It’s interesting, but not more than that.
3/5

Motorcity
An unconventional new cop—with tats, piercings, etc.—in a small town in Sweden works on missing persons case. We get to see what happened to that missing person, and it’s not nice, so we’re given a sense of urgency for the cop and her partner to get there and save the day.
She knows most of the players, which is handy, though who knows if that’s a great idea, were she to run into someone she actually likes. There’s also an idiot too-much-testosterone older cop who looks like he came out of any American police show. The book ends with a small discussion on the Swedish subculture that was the background for the story, which was interesting enough to make me look it up.
The writing, or should I say the translation, is pretty good, except for too many fake-sounding instances of “Ha ha.” The artwork was a bit Day-Glo for my tastes, but since the protagonist is a fan of superhero comics that’s not a big deal. And even though the story was a bit by-the-numbers, the characterizations, especially the lead, made it worthwhile.
3.5/5

A Sea of Love
A comedy of errors at sea: an old fisherman sets off on what he thinks is just another day at work, and then one thing after another goes wrong. In the meantime, his wife doesn’t give up looking for him, and her adventures are a lot more fun.
Right away it makes me laugh with how huge the fisherman’s eyes are with the glasses on. It starts with the typical morning routine, with recognizable moments between the married couple, going from mad to laughing in a second. Totally sympathize with him on the sardine situation. The part where he meets up with the bigger boat seemed to take forever to get through, could have been done quicker. And never fire a flare near an oil tanker. . . just sayin’.
She doesn’t take off her ridiculous hat in the swimming pool; funny. Her housekeeping/cooking skills make her a star. She was smart all the way to interrupting Castro’s speech, a misstep not only for her but for the book; too ridiculous, though not as much as her becoming an internet sensation. Still, it was nice to see her having as much of a role as he did.
Some funny moments, some poignant. Neither the fisherman nor his wife ever give up; it’s inspiring. Even the bird carries out its agenda without fail. The ecological lessons are rousing in a different way, more of a call to action.
The artwork isn’t meant to be realistic, almost caricature but not over the top.
I think this could have been 25% shorter, and I would have liked it more.
3.5/5

Lady Mechanika, Vol. 4: Clockwork Assassin
Okay, I’m gonna pretend the Day of the Dead volume never happened. Also a bit sad I missed the Free Comic Book Day edition, but what can you do?
A mysterious lady who could easily pass for Mechanika slashes an industrialist on an empty street. Luckily for Mechanika it’s her “admirer” Detective Singh who’s on the case, but after two more murders even he’s not sure of her innocence.
I love that Harry says he’s the brains and she’s the brawn, and Mechanika doesn’t object.
“Umph. That was graceful. Executed with all the poise of a proper lady.” I keep saying it every time: my favorite trait of Lady Mechanika is her always surprising sense of humor.
The bad guy is not that hard to guess, but then I’m not here for the story. The real reason to be here is the artwork, particularly but not just the renderings of Lady Mechanika.
The girl reminds me of Emma Watson. . . or a certain witch she played.
So, nothing that screams out new, but more of the same good stuff.
As always, there are extra visual goodies at the end; I will never believe Mechanika stopped moving long enough to pose for them.
3.5/5

Infinity 8 Vol. 1: Love and Mummies
In a plot far too confusing to be summarized here, a spaceship cop is sent outside into a space junkyard to find out what’s going on, and hopefully tell the reader too.
It’s one thing for her to be wearing such a tight spacesuit—justifiable, but not likely—but the uniform she wears on the job is ridiculous, and leads me to not be able to take her seriously as a security agent. Another female agent is dressed the same way, cleavage practically falling out. Bad job by the artist there, but who knows what he’s thinking.
Lots of scenery porn in the shape of. . . well, a lot of different shapes of aliens. The ship is shaped like a high-heeled shoe!
Best line: “Kiss my ass.” “Okay. Is that how humans do it?”
Though it happens a lot in these stories, I still don’t like how Captain Obvious she is. Turns out she’s kinda dumb too. An officer never gives up their weapon!
Brightly painted, especially for being in space.
After a page of in-story commercials, some of them funny, there’s a big sign that says “14 pages of extras!” Cute, but too late to make a difference.
2.5/5

Skin & Earth HC
In a near-future Earth ecologically devasted, a young redhead goes from college through a nice neighborhood and reveals that she’s part of a lesser caste, to the point where she has to wear a mask so that she doesn’t breathe on this society’s higher-ups. A guard at the checkpoint back to the poor area, who should be more sympathetic considering he’s no highborn, provides further exposition while trying to bully her.
Of course she’s in love with a jerk. There’s a lot of talk and exposition, but nothing much happens. She doesn’t seem particularly smart, considering she tried to take a tattoo off with a knife. Then she meets a mysterious woman in a dream and they go off to get their revenge on the guy.
I did do a little research after reading the intro; turns out this is written by a musician, and the main character is kinda based on her, at least the visuals; the artwork, especially her red hair, is very true to life. The rest of the eye candy is okay, not meant to be realistic.
Favorite line: “I’m never drinking again!. . . boobs look nice, though.”
Other worthy utterings:
“It’s like some fucked-up Renaissance painting.”
“Show him what it’s like to fuck with a goddess.”
“Are you saying you’re forever years old? You look good!”
“I don’t know what this is all code for, but if you’ve got pills, I’ll take them.”
“You have a dangerous blend of sadness and curiosity.”
“I have other plans!” (I need a plan.)
Good use of chain metaphor.
Problem: if she’s not wearing the mask, how does anyone know if she’s a pink or a red? And I don’t mean her hair.
More to the point: each chapter has a Qcode for songs that go with the book, but as of my reading of this review copy, they only take you to the same general website of what looks to be the publisher. No worries, I found them on youtube, with a couple having videos. I found the songs, like many nowadays, overproduced; acoustic versions might be better, but there are some good hard-rocking melodies in there. As for the videos, one of them shows her making the artwork, while another has a couple of the panels recreated in real life, like the part when her “ghost” leaves her body.
3.5/5

;o)

Travel Thursday Encore: Morocco is Better than Rococo. . .

So, turns out I did write something substantial about that trip six years ago! Probably because of the visits to the Star Wars locales. From what I’ve heard some of them have deteriorated, been knocked down and built over, or simply drowned by the encroaching Sahara, which makes me all the more glad I got to see them.

Moorish proverb: He who does not travel will not know the value of men.

I’ve said this many times, but it certainly bears repeating: all the photos I take during these trips are the property of the company who pays me to go to such places and take photos, so I’m not allowed to show them. Some photographers scream bloody murder when they hear this, claiming they would never sell out in such a manner. I don’t agree, mostly because I’ve already been to most places, taken my own shots. I certainly don’t work 24/7, so I get plenty of time to explore on my own, as well as meet up with old friends, or see them compete in the Olympics or World Cups; had I not agreed to such a stipulation at Athens 2004, for example, I would have been sitting on my couch watching one of my favorite people in the world having a gold medal placed around her neck instead of taking a photo from about 30 feet away. Most importantly, I get paid for it! More than I would have made at home for the same amount of time and shooting. And I certainly haven’t paid for a vacation in years. . .
Okaaaay, on to da show!

Like most photographers, and possibly most people, wandering a medina, with a maze of mysterious alleys, is the most fun. Souks can be fun too, if you can take the incessant screaming for your attention and your dollars. {FYI: medina=old town; souk=marketplace. You’re welcome.} Morocco is probably the most Westernized Arabic/Muslim country, so there’s plenty that looks similar, yet still enough different for fun.
As always I tend to meander, in writing as well as in person, so here go a few interesting tidbits. Despite my knowledge of classics and archaeology, for example, I hadn’t known the Romans had been here, after the fall of Carthage. Said Roman colony was known as Ifrikiya in medieval times, which is the name “Africa” comes from. Cool, huh? Also, Berbers are named after the word “barbarian,” not the other way around; wonder how they feel about that.
Unfortunately, for a guy who likes walking around, traffic here reminds me of India, which is saying a lot. Even though I know this promise won’t last when I get back home, right now I feel like I’ll never complain about bad El Lay drivers again. I’m glad, at least, that I’m not driving; here’s an example. There aren’t that many roundabouts in the US, because there’d be too many macho accidents, but around the world you basically wait for an opening in the circular traffic before heading in. Not here; priority is given to those entering. Stupid and dangerous, even if you’re trying to cross the street. . . but then, I’m told this is a French invention, so go ahead and blame them.
The social stuff is a lot more. . . intriguing. For instance, the one time I was on the train, I quickly found that no one seems to get the point, or even the idea, of reserved seating. That’s just irritating, not shocking. . . no, shocking is reserved for sitting in an internet café next to some teenager watching hardcore porn. . . and no one around, especially the women, seem surprised. Suddenly the hotel’s wireless fee doesn’t look so bad. . .
Didja know that in Brazil it’s impolite to make the “OK” sign with your hand? Whereas at home I might wave my hand in the air, here the only way to ask someone to come over is by placing the palm down and literally sweeping the hand backward. Takes some getting used to. . .
Once again–I wished I’d told them I’d been to Morocco before–I was told about the Maezt-Dar L’Oudou, which I had them write down, as my French is rusty enough to be nonexistent. Basically translating to “Goat of the Lavatories,” it’s a spirit or poltergeist that inhabits toilets, and it only comes out at night, as you might expect. So there I am being told this in the restaurant as I needed to head to the head, so if you thought I was going to stick around to ask how to ward this bastard off–“Rukhsa, ya Mubariqin,” or “With your permission, O Blessed Ones”–you’re in for a long wait. Besides, I love to live on the edge. . . the edge of what, that’s the mystery.
On a non-completely-unrelated note, orange juice is everywhere, the national drink other than mint tea. I love oranges; I hate mints. I also love the hotel bathrooms. . .
And while we’re on the subject of bodily intake—and not the outtake—I was joined in one souk visit by a young lady of indeterminate European origin who was staying across the hall from me at the hotel. Being much more experimental than me–I asked if she meant more than just food, but she only grinned–she was easily persuaded to try a supposed local delicacy: animal penis. She didn’t even ask which animal, dove right in, making for yet more jokes I had to quash before they reached my mouth. . . though I couldn’t hold out when she claimed it was actually pretty good: “Knew it wasn’t your first time.” And then the guys in the stall laugh and tell her it wasn’t, just a trick they play on foreigners, which reminded me of my archaeology professor’s story about eating raw bat in a warrior ceremony on a desolate Pacific island, but we don’t have time for that now.
In fact, this intro has taken over, become its own blog entry, so more next week.

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Forest Trees of the Sea

19th century anonymous Hawaiian.

 

No, it is not too soon.

I have seen in my heart
that sea of forest trees
of tall-masted ships returning
to Honolulu’s harbor of Mamala,
making every sea-murmur a word–
Mamala’s murmur of unresting love.

Love’s home is Diamond Head.
Love’s shelter is where Pearl Harbor hills reach out to the sea.
Love’s gaze is keen and long.

Perhaps I should write a letter.
Perhaps I should show my love by asking his:
Come back, dear love, bring ease to me,
comfort of mind.

For you I sing my song
of forest trees on the unresting sea.

;o)

Book Reviews: Violins and Other Fantasies

Harriet Walsh: Peace Force
Origin story for a new hero in Simon Haynes’ wacky world, or I should say universe. This shows how Harriet was chosen—if that’s the right word for it—why she accepted, and how she impressed everyone—or at least a couple of robots/cars—with the way she handles her first case.
Harriet is immediately likeable, nowhere more so than when she’s having her first encounter with her talking car. I definitely like Harriet more then Hal, and Alice is preferable to Klunk, though just barely. The least said about Bernie the better; at least Steve was fun. More than anything, it’s funny, which is what I’ve come to expect from this author. The story is all light and airy, much like the Spacejock series, until two tremendously dark twists toward the end.
There’s a small blooper the first time she gets on the plane, but it’s doubtful anyone will notice. Other than that, pure fun as usual with this author.
4/5

Ouroboros
Syl and Rouen are back, having spent the summer hunting down leftover bad stuff from the first book and dreading going back to school. It takes a while to find the main plot, and then it’s a lot like the first one, without the Big Bad, but plenty menacing anyway.
As much as I enjoyed the first one, it wasn’t for the high school drama. Got into the beginning of this one, but it doesn’t take long for the school stuff to start again, and I feel like I just can’t. Still, I enjoy the dialogue and inner musings enough to persevere.
I love small moments, like the ladies kicking autumn leaves and grinning at each other, or studying solar wind, which as usual with such seemingly throw-ins comes back to be important. But my fave scene has to be the snowball fight.
For all the ugliness that takes place, thanks to Fiann the alpha bully, you not only get a sense that these two ladies will overcome the odds, you root for them.
3.5/5

Out of Tune
Small town girl and two friends give out exposition on a missing girl as they hand out flyers and then join the search, finding the body soon enough.
I mention exposition because in this case it was well done, unlike most ham-fisted attempts in such short stories. There’s a Twin Peaks feel throughout, making me wonder if maybe the victim wasn’t as goodie-two-shoes as she let on.
For such a short novel, there sure were a lot of suspects; just when the cops and Riley think they know who done it, someone else pops up. It’s a little exasperating, as the author doesn’t throw breadcrumbs for the reader to play along and have a chance at solving it. But despite that it’s still worth the read, as the writing and characters are where this short is strong.
3.5/5

The Killing Type
A woman tells her sister her husband is trying to kill her. Sis doesn’t buy it. Next thing we know the sister is married to him. . . and then he’s dead.
This would have been an ok mystery. . . had it been 200 pages. Instead it’s told too matter-of-factly to invest in the characters. At fifty pages—not sure if the sneak peek at the end counts in that total—it’s short enough already, but then a good portion of the back end has the confession, which is told with even more abruptness. Perhaps it’s a good thing it was brief, because a full-length book in this style would not have been finished by me. More than anything, the plot is too convoluted and Machiavellian to come up with in a few seconds the way it was described at the cafe.
2/5

;o)

Travel Thursday Encore: Morocco and Tunisia

In this second installment of Travel Thursday Encores, I will be combining some really short blogs that read more like Twitter entries. Guess I felt too lazy that week six years ago to write any more than that.

What a way to watch soccer
Watched Liverpool/Newcastle in a Moroccan café, a very surreal experience, even though I think I’m the only one here not high.

It’s a tough, yawny job. . .
Off to sunrise beach shoot with a naked girl on a horse. Wish me luck. . .

Clarification
Apparently some people–hilariously–believed I was RIDING to the beach on a horse with a naked girl. Nope, my back won’t stand for riding anymore. In case you haven’t figured it out, I was taking photos of a model bareback–in more ways than one–on the beach during magic hour. . . though twenty years ago I might have liked the first idea better.

Moving in THAT direction
After hopefully a good night’s sleep, I’m off to Tunisia, and then maybe Libya. It’s been fun, Morocco, but I may have overdone it. . .

Inner geek, meet outer geek
Off to shoot Star Wars cantina exteriors. I should not be this excited. . .

;o)