Blog / wcw
With TCAF (Toronto Comic Arts Festival) around the corner, the city is abuzz with talk of graphic novels, comics, and zines. It seems like there are a million comic-related happenings right now and one of those events happened last night. It was the Toronto stop for artist Jillian Tamaki’s book tour, as she promotes her latest publication, SuperMutant Magic Academy. I had enough sense to go to her talk and she was charming, funny, and awesome.
In an industry that has been notoriously sexist, Jillian creates gorgeous work that is mostly about women and is being celebrated for it. Her last book, This One Summer that she made with her cousin Mariko Tamaki won the Governor General’s Award, she's in the middle of this book tour, and she’s a featured guest at TCAF this year.
On top of being an incredible illustrator and cartoonist, Jillian is a teacher and one thing she touched on last night stuck with me in a lesson-y way. She said, don’t wait until your work is perfect to put it out in the world. Figure it out in front of everyone and keep trying to make it better.If you are a fan of graphic novels you probably already know her work. If you haven't read much but have always wanted to, pick up one of her books. I promise you won't regret it.
We heard her laughing before we saw her. It was the scarier side of laughter, almost sinister so I guess it could have been more of a cackle. When I first laid eyes on her she was bigger than I expected, because all the machines in the Musée Mécanique in San Francisco were about half her size. Laffing Sal (also known as the “Fat Lady”) was a staple in carnivals across the United States in the 1930s and 40s. For a coin or two her 6’10” frame would jiggle and laugh, much to the amusement or terror of the patron.
She was a sloppy old stereotype of a fat woman that people could laugh at and fear. Some of the animatronic Laffing Sals were extra shabby but the one we encountered was quite dolled up, with a freshly restored face that included the missing front tooth that they all had. We popped in our 50 cents and she laughed for an uncomfortable amount of time. The record under her platform finished, reset itself and all the people who had gathered around moved on to their next antique game. My immediate reaction was to feel offended.
Laffing Sal stuck with me since I saw her in March and actually I’ve been quite charmed. I kept wondering why, out of all of the machines, this one was so iconic and why so many had been cared for and preserved over the years. I love her bold, loud, terrifying laugh – she doesn’t give a shit what people think. Or she wouldn’t, if she was a real person. I’m still not clear what the original intentions were for Laffing Sal but I like to think she’s a misunderstood babe doing her own thing and I want to celebrate that.
You can hear a sampling of her laugh on the Musée Mécanique site. It startled my sleeping cat when I opened it, you’ve been warned.
A couple of weeks ago I made a small declaration on Instagram about donating, repurposing and giving away a bunch of things that my partner and I had accumulated over the years. Aside from a club chair that had seen better days, the biggest item that we’ve sent packing so far was our television.
It felt right. I find commercials infuriating and even muting them wasn’t good enough. We realized that we rarely even turned it on anymore, we liked having that time to do other things and we didn’t want to pay for cable either. Full disclosure, there was one, kinda major reason for hesitation: how was I going to watch Scandal the second it was on?! Would I have to WAIT?! What if one of my lovely friends has a jerk spoiler passionate moment about it on Facebook before I see the episode and ruins everything?! Maybe we should just keep it until the season is over…
Alas, team minimalism won and out went the television. It was the right thing to do.
It hasn’t always been like this. Last summer a friend of mine was super late to meet me for a snack date and her reason was, “Sorry I’m so late, I was watching Scandal and I couldn’t stop.” At the time this seemed ludicrous, until I got sick around the holidays and decided to give this show that people are freaking out about a try. My expectations were low, I have never been much of a primetime drama watcher but I trust the taste of my tardy friend. Days passed and I went through the first two seasons like they were boxes of Kleenex.
I love Scandal. I’m so into the suspense of it all and the strong female characters and the president is a spineless wiener and Noel from Felicity is in it and I’m not complaining about that one bit. It’s not without problems – I would like to see some more body diversity in the cast and for main character Olivia Pope to be less in love with who she’s in love with. But Shonda Rhimes is definitely using this show as a platform for discussion of race, women in power, love, class, and more and I’m invested. The season is almost over and I know it’s going to be a wild cliffhanger before the countdown to next season begins.
So I guess I have forgiven my friend for her lateness that day because I probably (almost definitely) would have done the same thing in her shoes. It’s a miracle really, that she even pried her eyes away for social time and nourishment! If you haven’t watched this show yet and it seems like your thing, clear your calendar and prepare some snacks.
Sharon Jones is a bringer of joy. It doesn’t matter if you’re standing in front of her at a show or you hear one of her songs in the grocery store, guaranteed you’re feeling better instantly. Maybe you’d even consider dancing in public because you feel so good. Or maybe without your knowledge your feet have already started tapping and you have to sway the rest of your body back and forth for balance reasons but also for groovy reasons.
Sharon has been singing almost her whole life, before she hit the big time with the Dap-Kings she was a corrections officer at Riker Island while also doing session work for different bands. After ten years of making amazing funk and soul music together the band was set to release their sixth album, Give the People What They Want when Sharon announced that it would have to be postponed. She was about to begin treatment for cancer that was discovered in her bile duct. There was a real outpouring of love for her and within a year, Sharon was performing again. You can see their first video from that release here and if you love her this is a really great interview she did with the Village Voice a while back. Sharon Jones is an incredible woman, spreading positive energy everywhere she can reach and a crush forever.
One of my big plans for 2015 was to take that trip, another was to really as many books as I could. The ambitious and truly unreachable goal declaration was made - I WILL READ FIFTY BOOKS THIS YEAR! And I got to work carefully selecting a long-desired novel and creating a list of what was on deck. I was plowing through books like I used to and loving it. Thennnnnn I started getting busier as we prepped to go away and the P.G. Wodehouse that I had only just cracked the spine of was now gathering dust. I packed it in my carry-on and vowed to finish it (and start it, tbh) while I was gone.
This book was getting read whether I liked it or not and I was not going to put it off any longer when suddenly, I’m sifting through books at my fam’s place in Santa Cruz and I see a familiar name, Margret Wittmer. Her book is called Floreana: A Woman’s Pilgrimage to the Galapagos.
Last summer I saw a documentary so fantastic that I sent the trailer out to too many people urging them to go see it. The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden told the story of the first settlers to not abandon the island of Floreana in the Galapagos archipelago, it was attempted several times before. The film had tons of remarkable footage from the 1930s and the story was pieced together from journals kept by the two couples that lived there, Dore Strauch and Friedrich Ritter, and Heinz and Margret Wittmer.I was so excited that it was back to the carry-on for Wodehouse and I tore through Margret’s story of her incredible life that she built on an island that was mostly harsh volcanic rock.
Check out the shoes Margret made for her husband Heinz and stepson Harry out of tanned steer hyde.
This woman had a reserve of strength that few have matched. At 27, she arrived at Floreana nearly dead, with her husband and his child Harry who had limited vision. They had barely survived the journey over and were suffering extreme dehydration, but there was a theory that bringing Harry to an island like this could reverse his vision loss and they got to work settling into a cave and creating a sustainable garden. At the time, there were only two other inhabitants on the island, Strauch and Ritter who were not too pleased with the idea of having neighbours.Margret was five months pregnant when they arrived and she spent the majority of her time preparing the earth for a garden and building a water-resistant shelter. She had her baby without any assistance in one of the most intense passages I’ve ever read and that’s all in within the first four months of living on Floreana. This story had my the first time I saw the documentary but it was reading Margret’s book that really gave depth and perspective to what was going on in this isolated place. She passed away in 2000, the longest living settler in Galapagos and an amazing woman who many will never hear of.
So here’s a thing about me - my very first crush was half man/half cat beefcake Lion-O from Thundercats. If you haven’t laid eyes on this 80s cartoon classic, he’s a mulleted redhead catman stomping around in bright blue boots and matching wrestling singlet because no fabric in the universe could contain his raging biceps and thighs. Not exactly my type now.
I watched a ton of cartoons and dabbled in animation appreciation but never fully got on the bandwagon until I started dating my guy for life, an artist and animator. He showed me all sorts of cool things that I had never seen and I’m sure at some point last year he came home and exclaimed, ‘We have to watch Steven Universe!” because we’ve since spent many Saturday mornings watching it and eating pancakes.
Steven Universe is the first show on the Cartoon Network created by a woman. Her name is Rebecca Sugar and she’s the REAL crush behind this week’s #WomanCrushWednesday. At 26, she had already left her successful position at Adventure Time to do her own thing. Enter Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems, his three female guardians who are also protecting the planet from evil. Pearl, Amethyst, and Garnet are crazy awesome babe heroes who are smart and tough. They are all my favourite but Garnet is my MOST favourite right now as I write this. She’s kind of built like Lion-O but with an afro, all big thighs and strong arms which transform into gauntlets when she’s destroying enemies. Garnet (voiced by Estelle) is the kind of character that would have made an impact on me as a kid and it is really awesome and important that Rebecca Sugar is creating television full of complex female characters that are out of this world. Big love to Steven Universe!You can check out Rebecca Sugar on Twitter and here’s a really charming interview she did for the Cartoon Network.
Jillian Mercado is a force. I can’t remember the first time I saw her because all of a sudden she was just there. She is a force from New York City, where she works as a model, blogs and kicks ass as the Executive Editorial Director at WeTheUrban. Jillian went to the Fashion Institute of Technology and is a fashion-forward style queen, challenging beauty ideals and inspiring humans all over the place.
You can/should peep her on Instagram, definitely check out her gorgeous Tumblr, and do not miss her What’s Underneath video with Stylelikeu. In that interview she talks about being born with muscular dystrophy, finding independence and recognizing her beauty. I really love her last words, “If you’re different that’s sunlight in somebody’s world.” Preach!
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I have amassed quite the backlog of podcasts that I would like to listen to, so many that it almost stresses me out. It definitely stresses me out. All these pleasing voices, stories and useful/useless information are patiently waiting to be heard and enjoyed while I do other stuff instead. I got my shit together last week and tuned in to This American Life’s episode on internet hate, If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS. There was no way I could put this one off until later, all of the humans on all of my social medias were going crazy over Lindy West’s segment. I love Lindy West.
Author, editor and performer, Lindy talks a lot about bodies, feminism and pop culture in a way that is both hilarious and kick-ass. She is a strong, smart, happy, outspoken woman and therefore a target for internet trolls dishing out abuse on a daily basis, receiving probably the most asshole-y garbage that I’ve seen out there. That hate is what Lindy talks about on This American Life, where she confronts a reformed troll who created an online identity based on her recently deceased father and proceeded to harass her from various social media accounts. She’s getting a lot of well-deserved attention for this piece but if you want more of Lindy West’s work (and frankly, if you’re reading this blog you really do) follow her on Twitter and check out her site.
Jean and Valerie don’t give a rat’s ass about what you or anyone thinks about them. They are fabulous. They are really smart. They are gorgeous. They have incredible style. They live in the moment. They wake up happy. They approach fashion as an art form, not as a status to be maintained or achieved. They are cool. Their positive vibes are infectious. They aren’t afraid to be themselves. They are tough. They are feminists. They know what they’re talking about. They smile SO MUCH. They challenge notions about age and beauty. They get it.
Lauren Crow describes herself as an “honest photographer”. The bulk of her photos are raw, gorgeous feminist portraits of herself, friends and people she meets when travelling and I find it easy to linger on her work. I am actually late writing this because I spent a bunch of time looking at her photos all over again. Sorry, not sorry.What strikes me the most is the kick ass feminism and unrelenting self-love of it all. Lauren says it the best on a recent Instagram post:It’s important to remember that while the approval of others can sometimes feel really wonderful, ultimately the only opinion that matters is your own. Do you and do what you love even if not everyone ‘gets it’ even if it shocks people and they talk it down. Do you and do what makes you happy and enriches your soul. Also there are so many people who do get it and are rooting for you. Think more about those people.Big love to Lauren Crow for being a really awesome human and if you are into things that are great, don’t miss her portfolio.