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Book Review: Hot, Wet and Shaking: How I Learned to Talk About Sex

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Kaleigh Trace, 144 pgs. Invisible Publishing, invisiblepublishing.com, $19.95

 

When I picked up Hot, Wet and Shaking: How I Learned to Talk About Sex, I was extremely excited to read it.   After reading the first chapter, I was instantly hooked.   Kaleigh Trace has done something extremely important when it comes to literature on sex and sexuality; she’s infused her experience as a disabled person into each story with ease. In this reader’s experience, much of this type of literature spends time attempting to theorize, define or deconstruct disability into what it could or should be. In this narrative, disability simply is.

Reading this book, you felt like you were sitting with your best friend, recounting the embarrassingly hilarious date you had the night before.  If, like myself, you are someone with a disability, you may see yourself on the page as just another part of a great story, and feel as though you are not alone in trying to navigate the often-unchartered waters of sex and disability. This book is a much needed lighthouse that guides us all with love and laughter. (Andrew Morrison-Gurza)

Zine Review: Wholly Shit: Church Reviews From a Serious Punk #2

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Zine, Stéphane Doucet, Issue 2, whollyshitzine.wordpress.com, $1

 

Sometimes even best zine ideas play themselves out. Such is the case for 20-something punk Stéphane, who throws in the towel at the end of this second and final issue of Wholly Shit, a rich anthology of Winnipeg church reviews.

Compiled from blog posts from last December though April 2014, these reviews sharply account for each church’s music, humbly faithful, ideology, decor, foodstuffs, and “scare quotient” — and then lets us in on the experience of it all through his blasphemous, conversational account of the proceedings.

Although introduced as “destructive criticism” on the first page and nihilistically dismissed as a “redundant and boring” experience on the last, Wholly Shit is more generous toward its subject than one might think. Several pastors are, of course, written off as boring hypocrites while live muzak failures are laughed at in ALL CAPS, but these are punctuated by Stéphane’s more exposed moments when he’s stuck in an unwanted hug, imagining a church bell spliced into a doom record, or calling out the punk community for its own fucked-up conformities. While this ethnographic writing exercise has gotten old for Stéphane, Wholly Shit’s victory lap is a thorough and thankful joy for readers. (Jason Luther)

Book Review: Curationism: how curating took over the art world and everything else

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David Balzer, 137 pgs, Coach House Books, chbooks.com, $13.95.

 

That David Balzer set out to write a book about art is certain; whether he also meant to reveal himself as an astute cultural psychologist remains to be seen.

In Curationism, Balzer takes us through a dense whirlwind of cultural-historical touchpoints explaining the emergence of curatorial practice as we now know it, detailing the curator’s evolution from an agent in service of the institution to tastemaker and integral player in proliferating the institution’s brand and existence. The text finishes with an exploration of the professional future of the role in both art commerce and the cultural landscape beyond.

Much of modern curation, Balzer suggests, is mastery of illusion by way of value impartation, a component of the role that has grown since the 90s when capitalist sentiment and the economic instability of the 90s heavily shifted public focus to value.

A thorough analysis of curationism is amiss only insofar as Balzer neglects to fully dissect curation as it applies to our own lives. In an animated conversation with famed curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, the author opens the book pondering a fascinating assertion: that the loss of individual identity and the desperate yearning to reclaim it are behind the curatorial impulse that dominates our performance in the digital and physical realms.

Balzer seems to insist that personal connection to and application of curatorial practice is inseparable from our modern understanding of the phenomenon. Yet he decidedly focuses his study at a macro level where institutions and brands are concerned: brief discussions of connected ideas like carefully tended-to music libraries and the Normcore movement function as millennial bait for an idea that, regretfully, is not fully consummated. Despite Balzer’s decidedly scant coverage of nascent lifestyle connoisseurship, Curationism shines for all its diligence otherwise. (Lydia Ogwang)

Zine Review: Vagina Horror

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William Brown, Ohme Made Books, price not listed

 

If you (like me) enjoyed Mad Libs as a child and (like me) still laugh at jokes where genitals are the punch line, you will enjoy Vagina Horror.

The day-glo cover of this quarter-size zine conceals 32 pages of random facts with one key noun blanked out, and the subtle suggestion to replace it with “penis” or “vagina.” Example: “[Vagina] Island is located between the tip of S. America and the top of Antarctica.” Second example: “The position your [penis] sleeps in may provide clues to your personality. If your [penis] sleeps curled up, you’re most likely shy.”

Each “fact” is accompanied by a line drawing resembling mid-century clip art, like the ones used to jazz up school newsletters and church bulletins before everyone got computers. I also liked that the “Horror” in the title on the cover is supplied by the type of neon sticker you used to find on VHS boxes at video rental shops, so the title effectively says “vagina HORROR” — emphasis on the horror. I hope William has zines incorporating, “Be Kind, Rewind” and, “Sorry, I’m RENTED” stickers, too. (Mary Green)

Book Review: According to Plan

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Rob Kovitz, 669 pgs, Treyf Books, treyf.com, $33

Got any plans this weekend? Next week? For the next five years? No? No sweat, friend; Rob Kovitz has enough plans for all of us. In his new book, According to Plan, Kovitz skillfully edits excerpts from film, television, literature and newspapers, all having to do with “plans”. Having created his own publishing outfit, Treyf Books, Kovitz is known for this juxtaposition-style of book, identifying as an author-artist.

This style of book was completely foreign to me, and admittedly, a little overwhelming. Although there is structure to the book, each section laid out in chapters used the copying and pasting of quotes and unsettled my type-A personality — the part of my brain that was trying to fit this style into the traditional format of continuous words.

Personal qualms aside, I did manage to appreciate the book. Kovitz has brought editing to the forefront and turned it into an art form. While initially I was searching for even a paragraph written by the author in order to really hear his voice, I slowly realized that the quotes he used, and how he used them, were his voice. Even his bio is a list of quotes.

The sheer amount of planning that went into this hefty tome is incredibly impressive, and is quite notable as one reads through the various sections. Kovitz has managed to execute a hybrid genre, combining literature and design to make an elaborate collection of information on one deceptively specific subject.(Carissa Ainslie)

Tying in Diversity with Twine Games

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Above: Twine designer/writer merritt kopas

by: Soha Kareem

I grew up engrossed in video games. I remember hiding behind a pillow, navigating past two-dimensional monsters exploding with pixelated blood in Doom II and heroically defeating monsters to rescue Princess Zelda in The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. I bonded with my siblings, cousins, and childhood friends over countless hours of multiplayer games that required both teamwork and brutal deceit. As an adult, I now find myself contemplating games academically and psychologically, attempting to situate titles in broader social contexts and meanings. Unfortunately, as an Iraqi-Palestinian queer woman, there isn’t much room for folks like me in the games I grew up admiring.

With each year that passes, video game critics often speak about the lack of diverse representation in blockbuster-budget video game narratives. A quick scan of most commercial titles shows characters that are mostly white, straight, able-bodied, cisgender and male, tasked with acts of violence and dominance in order to complete the story. The mantra of critics is clear: since gamers themselves are a diverse demographic, video game developers should work to represent more diverse voices.