Celebrity OGN Trade Post: Get Jiro & Greendale

get jiro Get Jiro! (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Anthony Bourdain & Joel Rose, drawn by Langdon Foss
Original Graphic Novel

Call me crazy but I’m one of those people who gets a little peeved when general news outlets refer to comics or trade paperbacks as graphic novels. Aside from simply being the wrong term, it also carries with it a sense that the writer is trying to make comics sound more mature, a distinction that’s unnecessary to anyone even remotely familiar with the adult-oriented medium. What’s the difference? Well, a trade paperback is a collection of single issues brought together for an easier read while a graphic novel was created all at one time. It’s basically the difference between calling a short story collection exactly that versus a novel (well, not exactly because the issues are serializing one big story usually, but you get the idea).

The two books I’m writing about today actually are graphic novels, though and they also both happen to have been written or inspired by well known people. How much involvement said celebs actually had in the creation of the book itself, I have no idea, but that’s not really important.

I started off with Get Jiro because I needed a tonal shift after finishing another book of Y: The Last Man and this certainly gave it to me. As regular readers of UnitedMonkee and Monkeying Around The Kitchen know, I’m a pretty big fan of Anthony Bourdain having read both Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw and regularly watched No Reservations. One of the interesting aspects of reading through Jiro was that he and Rose put in a good deal of elements seen on various episodes of Reservations. You’ve got the little eels from Spain that only exist for a few weeks cooked simply over fire and the little birds you eat whole (except for the head) while wearing a towel over your head, plus others. This was an interesting experience because, while the thing being done was more described than shown, I had the images already in my head from watching the series.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself, what’s the book about? Set in a future version of Las Angeles, Get Jiro takes place in a city completely obsessed with food and nothing else. LA has become a zoned area where only the privileged can live on the inside eating amazing food made by one of two camps: money hungry Bob or ultra-hippie Rose. Niether are particularly likable  but that’s okay because they’re the bad guys. Our hero is Jiro, a sushi chef on the outer rim who garners the attention of both who want him in their camps, but more so don’t want him to join the other guys. All in all it’s a hyper-real, satire with healthy doses of blood and violence. The book really felt like a more light-hearted Frank Miller/Geoff Darrow book in both look and feel which is by no means a bad thing.

But, it’s not perfect. I thought the world-building was pretty light. I didn’t need everything completely laid out for and actually enjoyed the opening text the succinctly explained the world’s super foodie culture, but wish they would have explained the set up of the city in a little more detail or maybe just showed a map, that would have done it. It also felt like a lot of set up for a relatively quick payoff, I could have done with more of the big battle at the end, but I guess that wasn’t the story they were going for which is fine.

For his part, Foss is a delight to read. He packs so much into panels that he really is Darrow-like, a trait that more comic artists should aspire to and a trait that fits in really well with the graphic novel idea because guys like this tend not to be able to hit monthly deadlines. Still, I’d rather get larger doses of these kinds of artists a few times a year than one issue every year. There are times, though, when Foss lets his background characters look a little dead in the eyes which can be a little off-putting, but that’s a minor complaint.

I’m not sure how well this book would go over with people who aren’t fans of Bourdains because of all the cooking stuff, but it felt like there was enough explanation to bring in new readers (though the big blocks of text explaining such things might turn some people off) but if you are a fan or just like the gonzo craziness of something along the lines of Crank, then give this movie a watch. I just realized how insane a Neveldine and Taylor adaptation of this movie would be and now I want to see it!

Greendale Neil Young’s Greendale (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Joshua Dysart, drawn by Cliff Chiang
Original Graphic Novel

Greendale was pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum in every way from Jiro both as a piece of fiction and as a story that I interacted with. Neil Young’s name is on this book, but it’s basically based on his concept album-turned-movie from earlier in the 00s, neither of which I have any experience with. It’s also tonally and artistically different from the kinetic, hyper-real portrayal of reality seen in the other book. This is a much more grounded fantasy done in a softer artistic style. This is pure Cliff Chiang and looks exactly like anything else you’ve seen of his, but there seems to be a strange softening effect added to every single page, which was kind of a bummer because these pages really sing and could have used some brightness even given the darker elements of the story.

Speaking of the story, this one focuses on Sun Green who lives in the fictional West Coast town of Greendale. She’s a teenager trying to figure out who she is, how she fits into the grand scheme of things and how she really feels about all of the war and environment issues that went on during the Bush Administration (and still do, this story’s just set in that time period). She also comes from a family of women who tend to display supernatural abilities tied to nature and disappear when they feel like it. Sun meets a boy and starts thinking about heading to Alaska to try and stop off shore drilling when a mysterious man (who looked a like like Neil Young to me) shows up and starts messing with her cousin and brother.

After reading this book, I’m not completely sure how I feel about it. I think I liked it, though it was a little heavy handed at times. On the other hand, I like how it kind of presented the weirdness of this world as the story progressed and didn’t feel the need to front load everything. You’re just kind of thrown in, given a little information and figure things out as you go. I like that, I’m just not quite sure how I feel about that journey itself. It’s got a good “we can do it” message, but, at the end of the day, so does every high school/college movie pitting a bunch of kids against a corporation like Step Up Revolution. Does the way a message is conveyed make it any more or less meaningful? Maybe when it’s presented so many times that it becomes noise. On the other hand, it sure is a pretty looking book and did make me feel something, so I think I’ll keep it around for at least one more read.

Ambitious Summer Reading List 2012

Longtime readers might remember that I tried to tackle a large stack of classic books for my Ambitious Summer Reading List last year. Well, that wound up spreading into the beginning of this year and wound up not being a whole lot of fun. So, this summer, I wanted to try something different and finally read some of the books that have been sitting under my bed for ages. This is a mix of autobiography, mystery, psychological thriller/horror, slice of life, drama, food, music and just about everything else. I started off with Nick Hornby’s About A Boy (review coming soon because I finished it today), but don’t have an order figured out (last year’s was chronological).

The pile includes another Fletch book by Gregory McDonald (Fletch And The Man Who), Stephen King’s Misery, the aforementioned Boy, an oral history of the punk rock and new wave movements called Please Kill Me by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, Anthony Bourdain’s follow-up to Kitchen Confidential called Medium Raw, Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake (I loved her book An Invisible Sing Of My Own), Alice Sebold’s The Almost Moon which I know nothing about but liked The Lovely Bones, the latest Diary Of A Wimpy Kid installment which doesn’t really count but I want to finally read it, Steve Martin’s autobio Born Standing Up, actor George Hamilton’s autobiography Don’t Mind If I Do, a book about a band I’ve never heard of called Petal Pusher by Laurie Lindeen and Erik Larson’s historical thriller The Devil In The White City.

It’s a pretty eclectic mix, but also a pretty apt representation of the kinds of books I’ve been wanting to read for a while, found for a few bucks at various places or both. I’m hoping that by choosing books I’m interested in, I’ll stick with them a little better. I also admit that the idea of actually focusing on getting through a dozen of the books I’ve been collecting for more years than I can count and either put them on a shelve (or more likely a box in storage) or give away to someone else. I’d much rather store books I’ve read and liked than ones I’m still waiting to get to.

Casting Internets

Hey gang, this is going to be another long one with some fairly old links, but I think there’s a little something for everyone in here.

First and foremost, I have yet another blog I’m working on. In addition to UnitedMonkee and my dad blog Pop Poppa, I have also started a food blog called Monkeying Around The Kitchen. Check it out and enjoy! If you want to keep up on everything I write, follow me on Twitter @PoppaDietsch because everything gets linked there.

In other me news, I talked to Mark Kidwell about ’68 one-shots, Rick Veitch about The Big Lie, Justin Jordan about The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, Paul Grist about Mudman, Dennis Hopeless about Lovestruck and Bob Schreck about the CBLDF Liberty Annual all for CBR.
I’m amazed that this is the first time I’ve ever even thought about a Warriors/Ramones mash-up. Thanks for enlightening me Nathan Stapley! (via Gallery 1988)

There’s been a lot of back and forth between Anthony Bourdain and Paula Deen, Andrew Zimmern defended his fellow Travel Channel host on his blog. It’s a great read about food awareness and cooking.

Speaking of food blogs, I just discovered CB Cebulski’s Eataku. Everything he eats looks amazing.

Reading the Horror Movie A Day review for Twice Dead made me want to watch that movie again.
Wynn Ryder drew Sean Connery’s James Bond from Dr. No. I of course and reposting and linking to his site.

Why oh why didn’t Sly Stone just record an all new record instead of the same old songs? Hopefully I’m Back will remind Stone of how fun recording can be and he’ll do something more original next time! (via Rolling Stone)

Rolling Stone also tells me that Krist Novoselic will be performing the entirety of Nevermind with various Seattle bands in that town on September 20th. That is a show I would like to hear live complete with everything Novoselic says on stage. While I haven’t fully written about my love of Planet of the Apes or even reviewed any of the flicks on this site, I am a HUGE fan who hopes he can get out to see Rise in theaters. In the meantime, I’ll settle for Dan Hipp‘s art inspired by the movie. And by “settle” I mean “bask in the glory of.”
Have you guys seen Giorgio Comolo‘s Galactus art? It’s amazing. (via Kirby-Vision)

Book Review: Kitchen Confidential By Anthony Bourdain (2000)

I’m kind of obsessed with Anthony Bourdain. On Monday I realized that I had spent more time watching his show (five different episodes of No Reservationsstill my current favorite show–were on, including the new one) and reading his chef memoir Kitchen Confidential than I did with my wife. The worst part about that is that I’m sure it would completely creep the dude out. Heck, it creeps me out a little.

I started off enjoying Bourdain’s TV persona as a world weary traveler who actually really likes traveling and then wanted to learn more about him and also check out his experiences as a chef. I didn’t really know much about Kitchen Confidential other than the fact that it spawned the Fox sitcom I quite enjoyed both when it was on the first time and again recently. Turns out the book’s no nonsense, brutally honest account of Bourdain’s time in kitchens all over New York not only caused a stir among the cooking world but also gained all kinds of attention from the general public. I had no idea about any of this at the time because I was, 17, in high school and didn’t care about cooking at all.

I care about cooking now. A lot, even. I love cooking for my family, wish I had more time and space to really mess around and was even thinking about maybe, possibly doing something in the industry in the future. I’m not so sure anymore after reading KC. Bourdain’s account of working in restaurants, starting out in the 70s through the 90s, is pretty rough. He compares the groups of cooks behind the scenes making your food as a pirate crew and it sounds about as debaucherous. Aside from all the grab ass and drug use in the kitchen, the point that Bourdain makes over and over again is how absolutely dedicated you have to be to really make it in the biz. It’s not that I lack the motivation, dedication or dislike the idea of working my way up, but I feel like I’m too old at this point and will be even older by the time our daughter will be ready to go to school. I guess I’ll just keep having fun in our tiny galley kitchen before moving up to something bigger at our eventual house.

I’m also impressed by Bourdain’s writing skills. I assumed he wrote a lot of his on-screen dialog on TV, but this guy murders every page (that’s a good thing). Words, often profane and crude ones, flow out of him with such ease that it actually depresses me as a hopeful writer. He writes like he talks to the point that I was reading the book in his voice instead of mine. That’s how I write in my head, but somehow things get wonky when I start putting them on paper or typing them out.

Lately I’ve been really getting into people like Bourdain who worked hard, got their hands dirty and wound up doing something pretty amazing that a lot of people enjoy immensely. Bourdain fits the bill, obviously, but so do podcaster and comedian Marc Maron whose podcast is currently a favorite, filmmaker and podcast empire-builder Kevin Smith and baker/TV personality Duff Goldman. These guys all saw something they wanted, went after it and have turned that into wealth and celebrity. They worked hard and are reaping the rewards now. It’s nice to see that in the world still.

Anyway, I think anyone interested in cooking, rock and roll, self-made people and bad asses doing bad ass things will dig this book. I tore through it and I’m a pretty slow reader. I want to read the rest of his books and buy his cook book now to learn some French cooking. But, again, this is starting to feel a little stalkerish. I swear, I don’t have a problem.

Cancelled TV Cavalcade: Kitchen Confidential (2005)

Back in 2005, I had no idea who Anthony Bourdain was, so he wasn’t the draw for me when it came to watching Fox’s Kitchen Confidential. It was all about the cast for me. I had seen Bradley Cooper in Wedding Crashers, one of my all time favorite movies. Sure he played a heel, but you could tell there was a ton of charisma under that douchey role. In addition to Cooper, the show also featured Nicholas Brendon, better known as Xander from Buffy (another favorite series) and John Frances Daley who I first dug in the amazing Freaks & Geeks and later in Waiting… where he played pretty much the same part (kitchen newbie). The cast also included John Cho who I probably wasn’t familiar with yet, Frank Langella (yeah, Skeletor), the lovely Jamie King and Sam Pancake who played Barry Zuckerkorn’s assistant on Arrested Development (another favorite). That’s a lot of goodness all in one package.

After getting really into Bourdain’s show No Reservations and remembering liking the few episodes I saw, I suggested to the missus that we watch the show. It was only two discs through traditional Netflix, but we still burned through them pretty quickly. The title of the show is based on Bourdain’s 2000 memoir and Cooper’s character share’s the famous chef’s name. The plot of the show revolves around Cooper’s washed up rock star chef getting another shot at running a restaurant thanks to Langella’s good faith. Cooper then puts together a team that includes Brendon, Cho and a few others. The key, though, is that Cooper needs to do everything on the up and up because he sees this as his last chance at this kind of opportunity. Another aspect of the show I really enjoyed aside from the performances and comedy, of which there’s a great deal, was it’s various philosophical points about food and cooking. Cooper’s voiceover often reminded me of those scenes in Ratatouille where Remy describes how two different foods taste together. There’s lots of insight from the point of view of cook which I find really interesting. I’m not sure if these things are taken straight from the book (I’ve got my eye out for a copy) or if they were written for the show, but I liked the insight. As my role in our kitchen has gotten more prominent, I find myself drawn towards the world of cooking and restaurants a lot more than ever before, so a kind of insider look at the biz was a lot of fun for me.

We really enjoyed watching the series’ 13 episodes and I highly recommend checking it out. By combining a few well worn elements like a workplace drama and a guy looking to make up for past indiscretions, Kitchen Confidential wound up being something unique and fun. I’m pretty surprised the show didn’t do well, but considering Fox’s past with shows like Firefly and Arrested Development, it should come as no surprise that something with so much potential got the axe so early.

Harvey Pekar On No Reservations

The missus staid home from work today because she’s got the cold I had over the weekend. I went out to grab lunch for us and by the time I got back she was telling me that Harvey Pekar was on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations which was filming in Cleveland. Did people know about this? I didn’t, but it sure is cool and not just because of Pekar’s involvement. Bourdain hangs out with Pekar in various Cleveland landmarks and then they go get some food, but there are animated panels with Pekar doing voiceover presumably to comics he wrote in coordination with the show. Far as I can tell the art is by Gary Dumm, longtime Pekar collaborator. It’s pretty cool. Pekar’s not in the whole episode, but the art is, which is pretty cool. I also liked this episode because my Grandma lives in Cleveland and my Mom lived there before moving to Toledo, so it’s cool to see some stuff I’m sort of familiar with. I’m still embarassed to say I haven’t been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which Bourdain visits with Marky Ramone of, duh, the Ramones. Here are clips of the episode. The second and third have Pekar, Marky Ramone pops up later in the third video as well.