30 August 2006

Random Acts of Malice, edited by Sharon Grehan (Liason Press, 2005)

The full title is actually Random Acts of Malice: the best of happy woman magazine. This book looks like a collection of clippings from a typical woman's magazine (think Woman, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, etc.) albeit with a little more -- no a lot more sarcasm.

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I ended up liking it. It has a nice hip look to it and I love the idea of skewering that genre. I was happy to find out they were the best selections from Happy Woman Magazine online. I figured a compilation drawing on 5 years of material would be filled with biting sarcasm, humour, and even the malice as promised in the title.

The first few pages were pretty amusing, but then it got a little tired. Perhaps the most tedious sections were the agony aunt column, "Dear Madrone," advice from Donna Corleone. If you've ever watched a really bad gangster film -- one that packs every last sad mobster cliché into 90 minutes -- then you have an idea of what these segments offer.

Luckily the rest isn't so dire. There are plenty of beauty tips and mock diets (my favourite was the Soup Diet: rotate through three days where breakfast lunch and dinner each consist of soup) that cut almost too close to what you actually read in women's magazines; there are tales of triumph; and there are goofy do-it-yourself articles.

Maybe my mistake was reading it all in one go. Now that I think about it, my head might burst into flame if I had to leaf through five years of Good Housekeeping, so perhaps I got off lightly with just a mild headache. Random Acts of Malice provides plenty of smirks and the odd, guilty laugh out loud, but it's not a book I'd read more than once.


Buy Random Acts of Malice from Amazon.ca

Heavy Metal (Columbia-Tristar, 1981)

Heavy Metal came out at a time when people weren't really making animated films -- except for the Disney studios -- and certainly not adult-oriented musical animated films with just the barest excuse for a plot.

Naturally, it became a "cult hit."

Many of my friends in high school watched this show. They went on and on about it, doodling the large-breasted vixen from the poster on their binders. Somehow, despite frequent midnight showings and its release on both VHS and DVD, I managed to avoid seeing it until very recently. I wish I had continued to avoid it.

The film is a series of vignettes, tied together by the glowing green orb that calls itself Loc-Nar, the sum of all evils. Aside from the opening sequence, "Harry Canyon" which seems to be the inspiration for Bruce Willis' part in The Fifth Element, only one of the vignettes really appealed to me: B-17 about a bomber pilot plagued by zombies. Not only was the sequence tense and greusome, but the animation was much more crisp and focused and the plot had a very Twilight Zone feel to it.

Unfortunately, the other sequences feature varying combos of large-breasted women and bloody violence; most are so tedious that I very nearly dozed off a few times. I think there were two things I should have had before waching this film: 1. something to chemically alter my consiousness and 2. lived life as a 14 year old boy. I really don't think this film is meant to appeal to anyone watching it straight/sober or any adult who didn't first see it and love it as a hormone-riddled teen.

That said, I'm sure there are fans out there; I'd love to hear why.


Buy Heavy Metal on DVD (widescreen) from Amazon.ca

11 August 2006

Temple of Cod by Adrienne Jones (Creative Guy Publishing, 2005 )

note: this review is for the chapbook edition

Temple of Cod
is a perfect example of a book that should not be judged by its cover. The cover art by Chris Cox (whose cartoons are perfectly passable) is immature -- it reminded me of something the boys at the back of art class in high school would sketch on the front of their binders, between Led Zeppelin symbols and Heavy Metal heroines. But, should you open the cover, you will find a story that not only pulls you in but also drags you along by the left ankle, leaving more than a couple of bumps on the back of your head.

Do you smell fish?

For years Elliot has made a living selling painting after painting of the same lighthouse -- the one at his Grandfather's cottage where he was raised. When his girlfriend leaves, he tries painting something else but it all goes horribly, horribly wrong. Is he hallucinating? If so, what just chewed through his tires? Who is taunting him with rhymes from his childhood? And what the hell was that thing? When he can't take it anymore, he calls his friend Bobby who also happens to be a registered psychiatrist. Trouble is, Bobby can see the hallucinations, too.

Getting to the bottom of what Elliot unleashed takes him on a wild ride into his past that reveals some creepy, nasty truths and a few surprises. What starts as an odd story develops into something downright nightmarish that Jones then pushes over the top to a deliciously greusome conclusion.

I can't wait to read her next tale.


Buy the chapbook from Project Pulp
Buy the eBook from Fictionwise
Buy the chapbook, eBook or audiobook/podcast from Creative Guy Publishing

07 August 2006

Harold and Maude (Paramount Pictures, 1971)

Harold is young, rich, and gets his thrills by, among other things, attending funerals. Maude is a free spirit who befriends Harold after seeing him at several funerals. The relationship evolves over time as Harold opens up to Maude's way of life.

Along the way, there is a lot of very dark humour -- mostly around suicide and death, but also around his attempts to avoid dating the women with whom his mother has arranged dates. This film clearly has a 1970s sensibility -- Harold rejects his mother's expectations, the military, and society in general -- and yet like many great films from the era, it is still relevant today.

With my tastes, I am surprised I avoided this film for so long. It's very very funny and very very dark, but there are touching moments, too. In the end, Harold and Maude are two human beings who need one another. If you are a fan of Six Feet Under, M*A*S*H, or black comedies in general, Harold and Maude should be on your list to watch.


Buy Harold and Maude at Amazon.ca

02 August 2006

You're Not Very Important by Douglas W. Texter (Liason Press, 2003)

If you've ever thought that maybe you could be President, an American Idol, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company then you should stop everything and read You're Not Very Important. Inside you will learn about the dangerous potential of everything from education to diversity to self-actualization.

Douglas W. Texter pokes fun at self-help, self-improvement, and everything else self-centred in the space of just over 200 pages. Texter has a gift for taking any situation and following it through to the most outrageous conclusion imaginable -- in fact, many conclusions are unimaginable. The gag runs thin before the subjects run out, and there are a few too many references to European dictators, but the book as a whole is entertaining. There were many passages which made me laugh out loud:
  • on how to judge the effectiveness of a wedgie, "It is wildly successful if the said undergarment tears off completely."
  • on identifying philosophers,"In a sense, philosophers greatly resemble street people, except that the latter aren't able to apply for MacArthur Grants."
  • on changing the world, "When people ask you to embark on an adventure that promises to make the world a better place, you should do your part for humanity by running away screaming."
Each chapter takes on a Myth -- the Myth of Religion, for example -- by introducing a scenario, blowing it out of proportion, and closing with suggestions for how to avoid getting caught in the same trap. It's clever satire and would make a great gift for your manager, the coworker who talked you into attending that pyramid scheme meeting, or that in-law with visions of grandeur.

*** 1/2

Buy You Aren't Very Important at Amazon.com
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tags: self-improvement, humour