If you watch one werewolf movie this Samhain, make it Ginger Snaps. Not only does it share its name with my favorite cookie, it is the best movie about female puberty ever. Lycanthropy as a metaphor for male puberty is nothing new, but menstruation remains taboo. Ginger Snaps isn’t afraid to stare menstruation right in the face.
Goth sisters Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) are in a world of their own. Sworn to a suicide pact against adulthood, Ginger inadvertently breaks their bond by being attacked by a werewolf and getting her first period on the same day. The girls deal with this unexpected turn of events their own way on their own terms, the same way they have dealt with everything that has come at them before. Things get a little out of hand when Ginger can’t control the urge to kill neighborhood dogs. It only gets worse killing-wise. Brigitte is forced to turn to the neighborhood pot dealer (a boy – gasp) to help find a “cure.” Will Brigitte administer the antidote? Is their mom really a werewolf too?
Are you thinking this doesn’t sound like your thing? That’s what I was thinking too, but after a reluctant viewing, I was charmed. Isabelle and Perkins perfectly embody the introverted sisters. Their charisma fuels the film’s engine. The script is far more intelligent than it first appears and is laugh out loud funny to boot. Ginger Snaps could only be true to itself if written by a woman, and it was, in this case Karen Walton. The ambiguity surrounding the nature of Ginger’s “curse” should keep you thinking until the next full moon.
by Ishmael Reed
Juice! tells the story of aging African American cartoonist Paul Blessings and his experience of the O.J. Simpson trial. As a 1960s black radical, it is obvious to Blessings that O.J. is innocent. The management at the TV station where he works doesn’t necessarily see it that way. Hijinks ensue as one by one those around him come to believe O.J. is guilty and his work is increasingly censored by his “betters.” Mirroring Blessings’ mental struggle with the Simpson case is his physical struggle with diabetes. Censorship and illness are both new battles for an artist unaccustomed to compromise.
Reed is an author whose edge has not dulled with age. Juice! is a hilarious satire of the car horn performance art that has become cable news. The book charts this devolution. Though laugh out loud funny, furrowed brows are for everyone as Reed refuses to float any of our assumptions about race, sexuality or privilege. Reed’s work doesn’t conform to formal expectations either. He blurs the line between fiction and nonfiction, and specifically in this case, cartoons and prose. Blessings’ cartoons are included, all drawn by Reed.
Juice! is particularly timely now that there is another trial making the cable news rounds in which the jury seemed to disagree with popular opinion. Doubly delightful for me is the metafictional shout out Reed gives to Gerald Vizenor, one of my favorite under read authors.
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
by Laurence Sterne
Sorry, I could not finish this. I made it to about page 250. Which was better than anyone else in my book club. I felt better knowing no one else could finish it either.
The same joke — 18th century English gentry’s formal speech is funny ha ha ha — for 600-800 pages depending on the edition you pick up is a bit much. Maybe there was something of a language gap? Yes, but everyone in my book club agreed that when we read Shakespeare we don’t have the same problem. When we read Grandpa Willie we read it and laugh and are amazed. Not so much with Sterne. I chuckled through first 30 pages and the rest was grind. It’s worth noting Shandy was originally published in installments so no one in the 18th century was hitting an 800 page monster.
I admit there is probably a lot more going on thematically than I realize since I didn’t finish. Sometimes the aboutness of a work grows like a benign tumor (or maybe a malignant tumor in the case of a book like Infinite Jest). I reluctantly acknowledge my ignorance and bow out. I wouldn’t feel so bad about myself if the book I am reading in lieu of finishing Shandy wasn’t John Krakauer’s book about Pat Tillman. It feels low. Maybe that is not so bad. Maybe that is like choosing to watch Frontline over Masterpiece Theatre.
Maybe it feels salacious because Krakauer is so compulsively readable. I can’t put Where Men Win Glory down. Tillman’s stranger than fiction life is more than enough reason to read Where Men Win Glory but the book is also a concise military history of contemporary Afghanistan, the Taliban, and the role of Osama bin Laden therein.
If you are interested in religious fanaticism you would probably like Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven which profiles homegrown religious criminals, mostly the marry-your-own-14-year-old-niece type.
If you are more interested in Tillman’s rugged individualism (personally I’m more interested in soft and tender individualism) you should check out Krakauer’s first book Into the Wild, a biography of Christopher McCandless, aka Alexander Supertramp, which Sean Penn turned into the popular film of the same name.
But if Tristram Shandy is more your thing, the library has many copies and various editions can be downloaded for free from Google Books.
Shakespeare Allowed usually meets at the Main Library on first Saturday of the month. The Shakespeare Reading Group meets the at Edmonson Pike branch on the last Wednesday of the month.
Shakespeare and Tristram Shandy really don’t have anything to do with one another.
Death Comes to Town
From the Kids in the Hall
I have been a Kids in the Hall fan since high school. I used to watch their sketch comedy shows on Comedy Central on Saturday afternoons when nothing else was on TV. I even saw them live at the Ryman a year or so ago, so when I heard about Death Comes to Town I was excited. New Kids in the Hall comedy? Sign me up.
And then I sat down to watch it. The first scene has Mark McKinney dressed as Death in a man thong and reaper cape and I thought “What have I gotten myself into?” Then someone dies – which makes sense, given the name of the miniseries. But who did it? So the whole miniseries is one arcing story line, instead of the old short sketch format.
It might start off a somewhat questionable, but once it gets going it becomes a little addictive. But addictive like reality TV, not like, say, Glee.
The main cast of characters are all new – being residents of the fictional town of Shuckton, Canada. But some old favorites show up to make us feel right at home: McKinney and McCullough’s cops, the Chicken Lady, and even the naked guy in the towel that I can’t remember his name has a cameo. There is also plenty of cross-dressing, just in case you were worried about that.
So to recap – starts slow, but definately picks up. My favorite character? Dave Foley’s nurse who takes care of Kevin McDonald’s cat. She is am awesome (watch it, you’ll get it).
Check it out. Watch it. Let me know whatcha think.
PS Feel free to look away whenever Death McThongy is on screen. After all, you don’t want to burn out your retinas, or you’ll never find out who dun it.
Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies set off a gore-filled fad of 19th century classics reinterpreted through a lens of comic-horror.
What better way to celebrate Halloween than digging into a brain, sorry I mean book, you had to read in school but now with flying body parts? Click here for a complete list of zombified classics.
These books might lead teenagers back to the original Jane Eyre or it might lead them to the genius of George Romero.
Fifteen year old Benjamin (Michael Angarano) is an aspiring SF writer whose manuscript is ripped off by Chevalier (Jemaine Clement) his aging literary hero. Getting his manuscript back is hilarious business as Benjamin also has to moonlight for mother’s custom nightgown business to make ends meet. Chevalier isn’t only person that wants Benjamin’s story. A local film production company is also trying to pervert his precocious novel. Gentlemen Broncos is a story within a story. Besides Benjamin’s quest to get his words back, we see his book, The Yeast Lords: The Bronco Years, envisioned by three different minds on three different budgets. Yes, The Yeast Lords is as funny/awful as it sounds. Imagine the rad doodlings of Napoleon Dynamite’s notebooks come to life. Brought to us by the same creative team behind Napoleon Dynamite, Broncos hilariously spoofs pompous SF writers and their geeked-out conventions (both literary and hotel-bound). You’re allowed to laugh if you are a nerd. Come to think of it, you probably won’t get it otherwise. I laughed the covers off my paperbacks.
The opening credits are a buzz inducing collection of trash surreal SF paperbacks with the lettering altered. If you appreciate that kind of thing you might enjoy:
Good Show Sir: Only the Worst Sci-fi/Fantasy Book Covers
The name says it all.
Awful Library Books
Yeah, the worst books ever offered up to be chortled over before hitting the dustbin. All genres, but tends to lean to outdated nonfiction.
The IT Crowd
Series created and directed by Graham Linehan
If you don’t enjoy the British or American version of mockumentary sitcom The Office, read no further. Stop reading! I’m not talking to you! If you are a fan of one or both versions of The Office, you should definitely check out the BBC sitcom The IT Crowd.
Computer nerds and social outcasts Roy and Moss work for Denholm Industries, as the IT department. They work from the basement (why are most IT departments located in the basement?), and their office consists of the stereotypical décor one might expect from computer nerds – collectibles, action figures, books, computer parts, and unhealthy snack foods. Roy’s stock answer when the phone rings is “Hello, IT, have you tried turning it off and on again?” Roy’s and Moss’s comfortable work life is turned upside down when an attractive woman is hired to run the department. Roy and Moss quickly find out new boss Jen knows absolutely nothing about computers!
The actors who make up the IT Crowd have great comedic chemistry, and company president Denholm is disturbingly hilarious. Why are workplace comedies like this so funny? If you’ve ever worked in a corporate setting, or office of any kind, you can identify with the characters and situations they find themselves in. Misery loves company, as the saying goes. Or at the very least misery loves a good satire now and again.