As a kid and burgeoning adolescent I spent almost every weekend for a period of years longer than I’m willing to admit at the local shopping centre. When you start to measure the passage of time by shopping mall additions and renovations you know you’re in trouble. It wasn’t just that I was dragged along every week by my shopaholic mother and enabling father, although that was certainly a key factor, but that I genuinely found some comfort in that palace of commerce and all its sterile, air-conned glory. It wasn’t even for any semblance of a family outing; apart from the obligatory lunch together during which I would dread being spotted by anyone I knew, it was the parting of the ways. My father would get a newspaper, plant himself somewhere and usually fall asleep until my mother was ready to go; my mother, a small unassuming woman who came into her own each week in that maze of products and price reductions. This was her element, and in it she became a woman on a mission, disappearing into a few hours of blissful, driven consumerism. As a budding consumer and capitalist flag bearer myself I would disappear into my own day of spending, or rather, a few minutes of spending, preceded by a day of anxious decision making. At that age I was dead in the midst of a self-induction into the wider world of music, graduating from what my older brother and friends turned me on to to what I discovered for myself via the internet, and each week my pocket money went straight into a new CD fraught with possibility and risk. Risk, because in those days of low bandwidth dial-up internet and my father’s fear that the smallest flaunting of anti-piracy laws would result in the Feds breaking down our front door within minutes, I could read about a ton of new music but I couldn’t listen to it, and so the weekly expedition to pick up a new album by somebody I’d never actually heard was loaded with anxiety and excitement, and you can believe the choice between two or more different CDs was not a light one. I would spend all day staring at album covers, track listings and spine labels, trying to imagine what was inside those mystical plastic-sealed jewel cases.
“Between us, there always seemed to exist some deeper identification, born of a deep, unspoken bond; an underlying sense of kinship. It was as if loving Narcisa was like loving some wayward, feral strand of myself; a distorted funhouse mirror image of my own brutalised, mangled, forgotten inner child, restructured into rude juvenile delinquent female form, with a crooked, charismatic smile of mischief at the end of her fuzzy pink tongue.”
Jonathan Shaw’s Narcisa is a classic tale of addiction. Not of drug addiction, although there is plenty of that riddling its decrepit, cobble-stoned sub-tropical streets, but of the addiction of one person for another. What, in most other instances, would be called “love”, although you won’t find many referring to this book as a love story. That is, however, exactly what it is; as buried as it may be beneath a thousand grimy layers of depravity, dysfunction, violence and insanity, Narcisa is a far more realistic, accurate, and pure portrayal of love than whatever turgid shit Hollywood or Jodi Picoult is churning out these days. Shaw captures the side of love that sends Hollywood running for the hills, the tortuous, strung-out junkie experience of knowing that someone or something is pure poison and loving it, needing it anyway.
I’d heard word that they put on punk shows at a few different places around town. This news blindsided me because I didn’t think anything worth mentioning ever went down in my boring little slice of suburbia. Punk was something I thought would never hit my world at large, outside of the internet and occasional schoolyard whisper, or in hand scrawled logos on skate decks at the local park and on the ratty shirts of the older kids who rode them. These ghostly encounters were just the occasional here and there, and mostly I had to go to my room and slip my headphones on to get to this world.
I definitely didn’t think there were enough of these secret elite to warrant an actual show in these parts, let alone the existence of one – if not more – bands. My magazines told me punk existed only in California, Boston, New York, anywhere but here. And even in those places it didn’t. Punk was dead. Punk blew up and burned out decades before my belated arrival on this planet, and all the original punks were dead, shit-kickers and folksingers now.
This year we have an interesting collection of art posts for the Top 6 of 2013 in the Art category. We introduced the “tattoo” category, which has gotten a lot of love from our readers, and all in all, you can see what posts scored the highest with our readers – you bunch of dark motherfuckers…
This book isn’t even out yet, but we learned that just the hint of putting “metal” and “cats” together is enough to cause a huge stir. Our readers love cats. And metal. So By the time Alexandra Crockett gets her book of awesome portraits of metal dudes and their cats out, she won’t be able to print enough copies!
Photos & Text from The Bold Italic
In the early ’90s my friends and I used to tape flashlights to the handlebars of our bikes and go riding around in underground storm drain tunnels. There was a whole network of these tunnels under the city that sat empty for most of the year. We would go for miles snaking up and down the sides of the tubes, clapping and yelling to see how far our echoes would carry, eventually popping out in some other part of the city covered in cobwebs and bat guano. When the tubes got too small, we laid down on skateboards and kept going. If we found a flooded part, we taped garbage bags around our legs and crossed our fingers.
The overwhelming feeling of adventure was intoxicating. I felt like one of the Goonies on my way to find One-Eyed Willy, albeit with fewer booby traps. My fascination with tromping around in underground tubes was also no doubt influenced in large part by my obsession with the Ninja Turtles. I mean, who didn’t fantasize about finding a long-forgotten subway station after watching The Secret of the Ooze for the first time? The idea that there was something literally deeper to explore beneath the white-bread suburbia we lived in utterly captivated my 12-year-old mind. Legos and pogs were cool and all, but this was real. We were seeing things that most other people never even thought to look for. Without knowing it at the time, we had rolled our BMX bikes straight into the world of urban exploration.
In the days of analog videotape, gas lamps and horse-drawn carriages, before even dial-up internet had hit my household, musical recommendations came by way of schoolyard traded mix CD-Rs, older sibling hand-me-downs, and music video television.
The first CD I ever bought was a collection of James Bond theme songs, a faux pas swiftly rectified by my older brother with the handing over of a burned copy of The Slim Shady LP. Schoolyard recommendations of Slipknot, Limp Bizkit and Korn followed, from a friend who, despite this, remains one.
One good thing that can be said for those early days of musical discovery is the lack of stylistic prejudice, something that is lost almost instantly when the teen turf wars begin and genre allegiance must be pledged. It takes years of falling through staunch subculture affiliations one by one to get that freedom back, but with puberty and the development of actual, realized identities and self-esteem issues that it brings still on the distant horizon, every style was viable.
Us kids had yet to even encounter the term ‘genre’ and everything was just ‘music’. You could bang your head to ‘heavy’ bands like Linkin Park, rap along with Shady, dig Blink 182 and also secretly like that Celine Dion song from that chick’s movie you also secretly liked.
For “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott (August 20, 1966 – December 8, 2004)
Steve Collins was my primary school’s resident expert on all things parentally unapproved: punk rock, horror movies, Stephen King and Sid Vicious. The introductions he made for me in the sixth grade alone would have been enough of a negative influence as any one person could be expected to have, but after the post-primary school holiday he turned up on the first day of seventh grade sporting freshly shoulder-length hair, the ability to play a guitar and a Pantera shirt, and the downward spiral continued.
Every guy in our class went home that day and either dug out their parent’s or older sibling’s until-now ignored guitar or else begged their parents to buy them one, and as soon as they’d all mastered a few power chords Steve lost interest and moved on to the drums, which of course he was also a master at. From there it was on to singing (voice like a choirboy, naturally), and ultimately gangster rap, but back in those days Steve was the mascot metalhead, and if you caught him early enough in the morning before the teachers did, you’d have a new band to go home and check out based on whatever shirt he was wearing before he was forced to change.
The Victorian Blood Book was a part of Evelyn Waugh‘s personal collection of Victorian texts and manuscripts, and arguably the most curious – a scrapbook put together by a loving father for his daughter’s wedding day, this book is an amalgamation of engravings by William Blake, Christian and nature imagery, blood red ink and written text filling all the gaps in between. The text on the pages, hand written by its creator John Bingley Garland in 1854, has the tone of religious ranting, rife with Bible quotes, with phrases such as “Truth! springs out of the earth! and Righteousness! shall look down! from Heaven!” A lot of exclamation points, so many that when I read the text, I read it in the voices of the crazy bums I’ve met on the street trying to convert anyone and everyone to their visions of plague and fire. All I can say is, if my dad gave me something like this, I would question his sanity. But hey, this was the Victorian era, so this type of zealotry was as mainstream and normal as it is today in a Texas megachurch. The creepy element is in the blood dripping from everyone and everything on its pages. Hand drawn in red India ink are bleeding crosses, blood dripping from people, animals, plants and fruit. Literally everything is soaked in the blood of Christ. That’s it, I’m converted! You can look at scans of the full book here, plus take a look at some of my favorites below.
PostApoc, by Liz Worth.
Now or Never Publishing, 184 pages.
The underlying anxiety of disaster fiction always stems from the question, how would we survive if the engine of industrialized civilization were to irreparably break down? Toronto-based author Liz Worth’s debut novel PostApoc has at its core the nihilistic observation that, if there really were nothing left, then there would no longer be any reason to survive. As such, it’s appropriate that the story begins with an ending – albeit a complicated one – in which protagonist Ang undertakes a suicide pact with her inner circle of friends, then finds herself the sole survivor. In a world that increasingly resembles painter Hieronymus Bosch’s surreal vision of hell in The Garden of Earthly Delights, Ang finds that escapism is a healthy means of coping with the slow, nightmarish collapse of not only the world but of reality itself.
OK it’s time for me to get my fanboy/nerdbrain on! On sale now is a new book entitles Guillermo Del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections and Other Obsessions and I want it! I dig his movies, but his drawings are pretty fucking cool looking. It’s interesting to see how a character starts as a simple sketch and then becomes a creature that’s a part of your own imagination. You can get Guillermo Del Toro’s book here – plus check out the preview below!