Monday, August 31, 2009

Big League Chu

Yesterday, a friend of mine lent me a comic book called Chew; authored by John Layman, illustrated by Rob Guillory. Usually, I am not one for comics or graphic novels -- or at least I haven't given them much notice. However, I was instantly hooked by this one. My friend guessed correctly that this would be right up my alley. A summary:

Tony Chu is cibopathic; which is to say that he receives psychic impressions from anything that he takes a bite out of. Whether that be a bite out of an apple, wherein he can sense what tree it came from and what pesticides were used; or a bite out of a hamburger, from which he can tell how badly the cow was treated. Oddly enough, beets are the only thing that he doesn't get a psychic feeling from. The stress associated with his superpower causes him to eat lots of beet salads.

He is also a cop. And in his deranged commitment to justice, he resorts to cannibalizing perpetrators in order to receive psychic answers to their crimes. Would a McGruff the crime dog joke be too obvious here?

A pandemic of bird flu has caused the U.S. government to outright ban poultry sale and consumption. This, inevitably, has created a black market for chicken, and has led to the creation of underground restaurants, or "chicken speakeasies." It has also led to the F.D.A.'s rise to power, which has eclipsed law enforcement to become the most powerful agency in the country, with complete jurisdiction over all black market matters.

Savoy, a leading F.D.A. agent, who is also cibopathic, recruits Tony Chu because of his special talent (there are only three known cibopaths in the world) and assigns him to a special crimes unit of the F.D.A. Tony Chu now takes bites out of forensic evidence, like decomposed fingers, in order to solve murder mysteries. And that's about as far as I've come.

Obviously, The Dead Zone comes to mind, as well as the movie Strange Days, mainly for its similar dystopian atmosphere and black market theme. I say dystopian, but Chew more mirrors contemporary society rather than projects the future degrading of a society (inextricably linked with the dystopian genre, I feel). In Chew, there is mass distrust of the government and its intentions behind the poultry ban, and those who speak out against it are dealt with in various ways. In one case, Tony Chu's brother Chow Chu, a celebrity cooking show chef, abruptly speaks out against the ban on his show and is subsequently suspended, while the network is fined the largest cable network fine in history by the F.C.C. (under the advisement of the F.D.A). In another, Tony Chu himself threatens a Poultfree chicken shack employee with the removal of his family if he doesn't cooperate. The threat is ever-present, and the citizens are being watched. I'm sure there are many parallels to draw here; this isn't all in Mr. Layman's imagination.

Anyhow, just thought I would share. I've read the first two episodes, and I'm about to read the third. I would comment on the illustrations, but I have nothing to really compare them to. Like I said, I don't normally read comics, so I don't know one artist's style from the next.

My friend also lent me the Art Spiegelman graphic novel Maus. I'll review that one soon too.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

And the tea leaves say...

    The first post on my first blog. Everyone else is doing it. Everyone else is jumping off of a bridge, so why shouldn't I?  Gallimaufry.
     I shall go under the name Tweenybopper until I find something funnier. Tweenybopper is a native Oregonian, Portland resident for the last ten or so years, and currently a student/unemployed guy reaching for a credential in the land where credentials seem to matter.
     You may be wondering: where the hell did the title of your blog come from? "A gallimaufry of textures and flavors," was a quip from a food critic for the Willamette Week, one of the weeklies here in Portland. In his review of the restaurant that I worked at, he determined that one of the desserts I had made was confusing and unpalatable. The dessert was a traditional semifreddo (a semi-frozen cream or custard) called Nougatine; a combination of Italian meringue, pistachio flavored whipped cream, crushed pistachio brittle, Amarena cherries, and chocolate. According to the critic, the flavors conflicted. It was a fair assessment. It was also a very funny statement, gallimaufry being a word one rarely comes across nowadays, even in a food review. In the context of a food review, it is accurate, however, since the word comes from the French dish, galimafree, a hash/stew of mutton -n- onions. At the very least, the review was mild -- unlike most food reviews which tend to be scathing and destructive.
     As for the shaman thing, the original blurb comes from the package of a Tazo tea bag, as follows: "Blessed by the mumblings of a certified tea shaman." I can never get enough of this line, mainly because of the vivid mental image it conjures. I picture the Tazo factory as a gray and somber warehouse, with its workers in their crisp uniforms slaving away over an assembly line, sorting and prepping with maniacal efficiency, while a  pudgy, rosy-cheeked, disheveled older man with long white hair and beard walks around harassing and bothering the employees when he's not sitting in his assigned chair at the end of the assembly line. The job of "tea shaman" merely requires him to look at each box of tea before it's shipped out, point at it, and utter something incoherent. His 'mumblings' are a mixture of drunken slurred speech and gripes; or sometimes you can catch him mumbling in his sleep while passed out in his chair. Also, you know that he's the certified tea shaman because he's the only one who doesn't have to wear a uniform. Instead, he wears a flowing red robe, has a necklace made out of bone fragments and stones, not to mention a driftwood staff that he primarily uses for getting people's attention with. And the employees all hate him so fucking much. Yes, this image is what springs to mind when I hear that fortune cookie-like phrase.
     Apparently, when some people hear that phrase they get scared and defensive, and call upon their fellow Christians to boycott starbucks, since Starbucks carries Tazo teas. This highly indignant blogger is genuinely troubled by this pact with the devil. The word shaman is what's deeply concerning this guy, and he fears that Starbucks' affinity for paganism (a corporate buy-out of another corporation, that is) is yet another example of the mainstream's inclination to shun Christianity in favor of other religions.
     Well, what religion does this guy think Starbucks is promoting exactly? Last I checked shamanism isn't a religion. Spiritual? Yes, typically most healers are, but there is no categorical religion that a shaman belongs to. "Intermediaries between the spirit world and the natural world" would be the simplest definition.To my mind, healers show up in every culture and in every myth. Hell, wasn't Christ a shaman if we're to define him as a healer and intermediary? Seems to me that this guy should be supporting Starbucks rather than boycotting it. However, I'm assuming that anything (whether that be a teabag, or a favorite cereal,...or an alarm clock radio, motor oil, whatever, etc...) that doesn't expressly mention Christ or Christianity is an atheistic attempt to indoctrinate.
     And all this fuss over a tea shaman, for Christ's sake. No one even knows what the fuck a tea shaman is. Maybe the corporate mumblings of a marketing genius? Ya think?
      Whatever. Boycott it if it makes you feel good. The silly part is the call-to-arms for fellow Christians to do the same. This is not surprising since perpetual guilt props up this House of Cards.
     And once you scroll down the page into the comments section you quickly see where this guy's head is at, judging by his responses to the responses. He has a persecution complex. He's either deluded himself, or has been trained to believe, that Christians are suffering under the oppressive boot of censorship and exclusion. He sees no difference between boycotting prayer in school with boycotting Starbucks, not to mention he believes there is a connection between the two.
     Well, that whole prayer in school "boycott" was the right for someone who believed in a different god (or none at all) to not have to be bombarded with Christian ritual and practice in the educational systems. It was about the right to not have to participate in a huddled prayer before a game, delivered by your fucking coach of all people. It's not our religion it's your religion, let's not forget. I'm sorry that your faith awards gold stars for proselytizing, but some of us are really, truly weirded out and put on edge by it. Point is, you wouldn't have much of a choice when your instructor was leading classroom prayer or the pledge of allegiance -- you'd have to tolerate it, however offensive it was. In Starbucks however, you have the choice of not drinking tea that's been given a thumbs up by a slobbering tea warlock, if it offends your particular religious belief.
     But really, the situation here is insecurity about losing the good fight. It must be hard to compromise when you are neck-deep in a monotheism that enjoys hegemony over every other religion in these here states. If you can transform secularism and atheism into a religion, then you can transform the argument over the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Then you become the victim of an atheistic religious plot, rather than, in actuality, being a part of a massive campaign of conversion and indoctrination. Last I checked, Christianity is still, by a staggering proportion, the dominant religion in this country. So, fuck that. They're not a minority, nor are they victims.
     I do agree with the guy on one issue though. Starbucks' coffee is overpriced and shitty.
     A bit of a rant, I know, but isn't that what blogs are for?
     Gallimaufry.