GOD IS DISAPPOINTED IN YOU
I have finally read the bible. Praise, Jesus! My first attempt at reading this book was abandoned pretty early—like midway through Genesis early. I quickly became hopelessly bored after the 200th "begat". A few years ago, thanks to R. Crumb, I did make it through Genesis, but even that was no walk in the garden, so to speak. It is probably not surprising either, that after roughly 15 years of forced church going, I was pretty close to being totally ignorant of just what the heck went on in this book. (Some pretty crazy shit is what the heck.) Now before you get too proud of me, let me just say that I didn't actually read the whole unabridged version of the Bible, but I did read the pithy 200 plus pages of Mark Russell's God is Disappointed and that counts. While this Mark Russell is certainly a satirist, he is not the piano playing political comedian, Mark Russell, you may be thinking of. No, this Mark Russell is actually funny (sorry other Mark Russell).
God is Disappointed in You boils down the essence of each and every book of the Bible, Old and New, into small digestible morsels. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, and yes, by the very fact that it exists, it is irreverent, but it's the good kind of irreverence, not the sacrilegious, blasphemous variety. It's more like a gentle, good-natured ribbing to remind us what ridiculousness appears in these allegorical tales. It doesn't read like an atheist's jab at the Christian tenets of faith. The Richard Dawkins version would be very different, and humorless. This is just a lighthearted romp through hundreds of years of blood, gore, enslavement and miscellaneous human suffering. Whether you’re a fan of religion (this one or that one), a skeptical atheist or a wishywashy agnostic, whether you are Pat Robertson or Bill Maher, this is simply a hilarious book that keeps the morality intact. (More so the New Testament, the O.T. is just bananas, quite frankly.) The cartoon illustrations were provided by Shannon Wheeler, whose work you may recognize from the New Yorker and his long running Too Much Coffee Man series.
Jake Austen is a dance show host, freelance writer, puppeteer, rocker and publisher of the zine Roctober, Jake has been an important and busy part of Chicago's musical culture. So we figured we'd ask him a few questions about 20 Years of Roctober and other things. Read the Interview!
Part Huckleberry Lewis and part Meriwether Finn, Unsinkable is a tale of life on the river—that river being the Mighty Mississippi and that life being a few months spent aboard the shanty boat Snowball. Now I knew punks lived on the streets and I knew punks lived out in the sticks. I knew punks hopped trains and criss-crossed the country like the hobos of yore, but it never, ever occurred to me that there were punks on America’s waterways. But there are and leave it to Robnoxious to provide me with an education on the subject.
The subtitle of the zine is "How to Build Plywood Pontoons & Longtail Boat Motors Out of Scrap” and Unsinkable is a bit of a how-to mixed with a travel diary (I’d say it’s about 90% travel to 10% how-to). I’m not a very technical person, I don’t build things out of other things, so I was more interested in the human side of the story. The Flight of the Snowball, the journey itself started in Kansas City, Missouri and follows Robnoxious and friends, both human and canine, on a river voyage that ended in Caruthersville, MO. Floods, strong currents, and things that float off in the night were just a few of the hardships the crew of the Snowball had to contend with. Drinking, smoking, camping, chilling and letting the river set the pace provided the balance. It sounds like a soggy, muddy and sometimes dangerous good time. Also included is a humorous article on the Asian Carp by Savannah who got caught in a fish mosh by this invasive species. The Asian Carp fearlessly fling themselves at the heads of unwary water travelers and as a result can do some serious damage to your cranium. Come on, Asian Carp! That kind of rude behavior is gonna get your ass on a Long John Silver’s menu, but probably under a different name and very heavily battered. [Robnoxious]
RAILROAD SEMANTICS #2
Microcosm has re-released another issue of photgrapher and travel writer (and freight train jumper) Aaron Dactyl’s gripping rail riding zine Railroad Semantics. Originally published in 2009, this second issue recounts Aaron's travels along the West Coast from Southern Oregon to Northern California. The romantic notion of living a life off the grid, free from the responsibilities of jobs and family and the hassles of The Man in general has always had a great appeal, maybe especially in periods of economic suckedness. Traveling at leisure or at the dictates of a locomotive with an unseen driver, from one town to the next in search of food, booze, shelter, temorary work or something even less specific is the name of the game. It can be grimey and dangerours but watchng the scenic Pacific Northwest roll by after a few slugs of whiskey or beer soundspretty goldang cool. Credit must be given to Dactyl for brining it alive with his writing a style the mixes enought rail lingo with some pretty vivid passages of the scenery, the people and the towns he encounters.
Trans-Siberian is a travelogue in mini-zine form making it the perfect size for globe trotting. It’s literally a pocket book of stories and observations about Bart’s travels from Korea to Russia via China and Mongolia.
The story begins with Bart having just finished a job in Korea. He flies to Shanghai, moves onto Mongolia and finally reaches his destination in St. Petersburg, Russia, home of his great grandfather, a Russian of German origin. In and along this route, and in no particular order, Bart interacts with fellow travellers on trains and in bars and hostels. He eats local cuisine. He is warned to be wary of the Mongols. He goes on an intercity car race with Russian teenagers. He drinks the local booze, takes in the scenery and is often times alone, under the stars with his thoughts.
Bart’s writing is well-paced and moves quickly with him as he glides through the cities and countrysides of Asia. His journalistic chops are in tact even as he keeps his writing on a very personal level which makes it interesting reading without being melodramatic.
THE COLD WAR
J. Gerlach is back with another mini-history lesson, this time on the Cold War between the two Super Powers of the mid-to-late 20th Century: USA vs. USSR. The Cold War is quickly becoming a distant memory as we fry new fish in the 21st century. We like our wars a bit warmer now, but the War on Terror still plays the same games. We still prop up weaker allies whose interests we belive match our own while inadvertantly sowing the seeds for future conflicts. This is now and that was then, however. In this current intallment, Gerlach lays out all the major events and the players in his Cliff's Notes of History style. You got your revolutions, your arms races, your pacts, your treaties and agreements as well as espionge, air lifts, thaws, freezes, police actions, standoffs and stalemates and it all ended when Mr. Reagan asked Mr. Gorbechev to tear down that wall in Berlin. Not quite, but I've heard it spun that way. Let us also not forget that the Cold War produced some great movies too. No, I'm not talking about Dr. Strangelove and the Manchurian Candidate, I'm talking about Red Dawn and Spies Like Us!
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