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Zine Review: Queer Times

ZINES_Queer TimesQueer Times: A Tale of a Little Baby Fledgling Sexuality
Perzine & queer zine, Emily Cowan, 8pgs, littlebluecarrot.tumblr.com, $5

Emily Cowan should start making Baby Queer T-shirts. The cover of Queer Times is just one example of the overall dedication she takes in exploring the evolution and elasticity of gender, and how people in the LGBTQ+ community learn to recognize who they are, with outward appearances sometimes catapulting their new found identity. The person, who we assume is Emily on the cover, is wearing a shirt with Baby Queer on the front, price tag still attached. This sets up the idea of labels; a thread that weaves throughout this zine.
Emily is very gracious in letting us take a peek into her own struggle as she figures out her privilege, how she fits in the world, and how wrong it can feel to be assumed as straight. It’s a superb coming-of-age identity zine, with brilliant illustrations to accompany each page’s inner monologue. The paper is sturdy, the ink is dark and some of the font is a little small, but overall the structure of Queer Times is good quality with just a touch of minimalism. If you’re interested in more of Emily’s work, she has an online comic called Boundary which is filled with her great sketches and characters. Queer Times may not be up everyone’s alley, but for all it’s worth it’s a great zine and comic which I recommend all baby queers to check out. And Emily, seriously, start making the T-shirts! (KK Taylor)

Book Review: The Culinary Cyclist

BOOKS_culinary_cyclist

For Anna Brones, “good food doesn’t have to be complicated, and it certainly doesn’t have to be pretentious.” In The Culinary Cyclist, Brones shares her personal philosophy of living well as it relates to entertaining, cooking, making sustainable shopping choices and, of course, cycling. She provides tips on a range of topics, such as how to stock a pantry, how to transport groceries and prepared food by bicycle, how to pack for a picnic, how to host a dinner party and other matters of relevance to the urban two-wheeled foodie. The book contains just under 20 sweet and savoury recipes, most of which are desserts, drinks, or appetizers that — as an added bonus! — are easily carried to and from on a bike. All recipes are gluten free and vegetarian and most can be made vegan using substitutions. Johanna Kindvall’s delightful illustrations provide useful visual explanation.

This pocket-sized volume covers a lot of ground and, in doing so, spreads itself too thin. Several chapters would benefit from additional content to flesh out ideas and concepts more meaningfully. For example, one chapter outlining serving ideas for a vegan dinner party only lists four options, three of which have no accompanying recipes. Another chapter explaining how to build a bicycle friendly home bar includes a single, lone cocktail recipe. A section on how to make recipes vegan-friendly by substituting ingredients notes that substitution quantities are not always equal, but fails to elaborate how. As any baker will attest, this information is crucial!

Beginners will find much to nibble on in The Culinary Cyclist. Brones provides a general overview of basic kitchen skills and explains key principles of food sustainability in a way that is simple and easy to understand. More experienced cooking enthusiasts may find their appetites sated elsewhere. (Melissa Hergott)

Zine Review: When Deadlines Become Zombies #1

ZINES_DeadlinesWhen Deadlines Become Zombies #1
Zine, Z.F. Thrimej, 26 pages, www.zfthrimej.wordpress.com, zfthrimej@gmail.com, $5

While I have read (and dug) many a hand-written, cut-and-paste perzine about mental illness, bullying, and race, I have to admit this is the first one I have ever read that is completely written in rhyme. And Deadlines Become Zombies not only rhymes – it also has a killer layout. However Deadlines is a zine that wants you to come to it and navigate its small type with its maddening tendency to change direction, which caused me to squint and flip the zine around to the point where I began to lose the thread a little.
While Deadlines is funny and detached in some ways, there is sincere feeling here as well – real pain. I was impressed that some of the pages were colour photocopied, but more stoked that the zine included a suggested soundtrack at the end; this is one of my favourite carry-overs from ’90s zines. The soundtrack is an eclectic mix of music and stand-up comedy including no-brainers like Fugazi, New Order, and Gil Scott Heron and comedians like Bill Hicks, David Cross, and Richard Pryor. While $5 is on the pricey side for a zine (probably due to the colour photocopying), if I saw a future issue of this, I’d probably pick it up. (Chris Landry)

Book Review: Too Much on the Inside

BOOKS_Too Much on the InsideBOOKS_Too-Much-on-the-Inside

Too Much on the Inside Danila Botha, 227 pgs, Quattro Books Inc., $18 

Aptly set in the heart of Toronto’s mecca for self-expression, Queen St. West, Too Much on the Inside depicts the inner conflicts of four young individuals from South Africa, South America, Israel and Nova Scotia. Danila Both’s first novel serves to reflect the alienation and loss of identity behind the veneer of multiculturalism in Canada’s largest city.

Botha’s greatest achievement lies in the power of her highly authentic and often disturbing portrayal of these disparate voices. Motivated by political violence, personal tragedy and the suffocating expectations of family and church, desires for escape are exposed through personal flashbacks weaved throughout the plot. However, it becomes apparent that geographical distance does not ensure immunity from the torturous ruminations and memories of their previous lives.

A former ballet dancer, Marlize, leaves her native South Africa after an unspeakable crime dismantles her family. Dez feels smothered by his Catholic upbringing in Belo Horizonte: the expectations of which lead him into an ill-judged marriage despite his insatiable sexual curiosity. An obligatory stint in the Israeli Defence Forces, followed by a failed relationship, spur Nikki’s quest for independence and self-discovery in Toronto. A chance encounter in a record store leads her to embark on a doomed relationship with the emotionally damaged Lukas, the description of which is both harrowing and illuminating in its honestly. A sensitive and artistic individual, Nikki’s attempts to heal Lukas and cope with his intensely self-destructive actions only exacerbate his angry and violent outbursts, thereby shattering her self-worth: “I didn’t want to fight him because I wanted him to hurt me.”

Not without hope, Botha’s characters are nothing if not resilient. Recently landed immigrants, and indeed anyone who has experienced the simultaneous elation and dread that accompanies embarking on a new relationship will see themselves here. Too Much on the Inside will surprise you with its insights and comfort you with its wide appeal. (Susan Carolan)

Zine Review: Unproductive #1

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 4.34.37 PMUnproductive #1
Comic, Robbie Robert (artist), 28 pgs, unproductive.storenvy.com, $3

If you like your humour darker than your coffee, then Robbie Robert’s Unproductive comic series might be right up your manic-depressive alley. Vignettes about powdered meat, brain tumors, and disfiguration are played out using egg-and-stick characters who float up and down the page in an alienating abyss of black and white. Although lacking a central narrative, this self-described “death illustrated issue,” which came out last April, actually broods over a life of desolation, where our characters masturbate to Internet porn, hang themselves, and literally rot from loneliness. In one particularly memorable moment, an egg surgically snaps his teeth apart with toe-clippers in order to appease a critic. What makes this all funny, I suppose, is the absurdity of how we might respond to those critics, experts, or marketers who otherwise try to convince us that this hurt is somehow our fault. In this way, while Unproductive #1 is sad, it’s also wonderfully cathartic. (Jason Luther)

Zine Review: Drawing Thinking of You Dancing

Drawing ThinkingDrawing Thinking of You Dancing
Comic, Jason Kieffer & Mairi Greig, 46 pgs, jasonkieffer.com, $5.

Jason Kieffer and Maira Greig’s Drawing Thinking of You Dancing is exactly as sweet as it sounds. The zine, which consists of 46 pages of drawings of a dancer, captures the strenuous actions involved with the process. The drawings are strategically placed and sized, some pages
featuring multiple drawings revolving around one big drawing, and some pages featuring rows of
drawings that incrementally become larger until she arrives at the ultimate pose.
While at first glance the zine may seem too repetitive to be all that interesting, the range of positions and
expressions are explored to the point where you feel as if you can feel the dancer becoming more in tune with herself as the workout progresses; you feel the unsteadiness, for example, as she lands incorrectly.
The zine becomes only more visceral with the occasional employment of sound bubbles. The choreography and isolated poses captured in this zine, void of actual motion, allow one to better connect with the dancer as a person. I also like that the title of the zine gives us some information about the emotion behind the zine, and points to admiration. The lack of narrative detail allows the reader to more closely appreciate the drawings and project their own narrative, which makes it only more accessible. (Rachel Davies)