Tag Archives: Cities

Review: ‘Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City’

Tenements, Towers, and Trash!

Cartoonist Julia Wertz has a distinctive outlook (irreverent, pithy, snarky) that has gained a loyal following of readers. With her latest work, she brings her unique style to bear on the Big Apple. It is an honest, funny, and insightful approach to learning about how cities evolve, particularly New York City, the quintessential urban mecca. Early in her cartooning career, Wertz said she resisted writing some sort of coming-of-age book set in NYC. Now, more mature, she can dish on the history of the city that never sleeps while also, inevitably, sharing something of her journey of self-discovery. It all makes for an intoxicating blend: “Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City,” published by Black Dog & Leventhal.

Wertz sets up a poignant and vulnerable starting point: the remains of the New York World’s Fair of 1964. It’s not a pretty sight. No, it’s a mishmash of faded totems to the future. Ironic stuff, indeed, irresistible to a wise-cracking cartoonist! Surely, you know that most, if not all, cartoonists have a sardonic sense of humor. And Julia Wertz is just the sort of sardonic tour guide you would want. But it’s not just about the snark–far from it. Sure, Wertz puts the 1964 World’s Fair through the wringer, deeming it a celebration of corporate-sponsored consumerism. Now, the 1939 New York World’s Fair had style but, in its own way, it too was a celebration of corporate-sponsored consumerism. This sort of comparison easily lends itself to delving deeper and therein lies what this book is about, what makes it unique and beautiful.

Egg Creams, best to keep them simple.

New York City is all about the tension between the pretty and the not so pretty. Wertz revels in this fact. It seems as if she can’t get enough. Just when you think you have this book figured out, Wertz will delight the reader with shifts in narrative, compelling visuals, and overall heart-felt enthusiasm, the sort of lust and vigor you’d expect from an Indiana Jones in the jungle except this is Julia Wertz on countless urban expeditions. She tracks down everything: bagels, egg creams, The Village Voice, railroad flats, micro-living units. It’s all here and then some.

I love New York almost beyond words. My heart goes out to Julia Wertz and her marvelous long walks spanning hours upon hours and covering multiple boroughs and miles. I highly recommend taking this book on a NYC trek of your own. It’s a hefty hardcover but, if you make it your primary item in your backpack, you’ll be just fine. You can make your own comparisons and connections guided by all the amazing drawings that Wertz has to share of bygone and contemporary New York. This book is really an inspiring combination of prose and artwork and comics. This is simply a dazzling book collecting a treasure trove of insight and information and making it all feel like a carefree conversation.

223 W. 42nd Street in 1964 and in 2014.

“Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City” is a 284-page hardcover published by Black Dog & Leventhal.

If you’re in Seattle this weekend, be sure to stop by and see Julia Wertz at the annual comic arts festival, Short Run, or the the Seattle Public Library. At Short Run, on November 4th, Wertz will be giving a slideshow/talk about her urban exploring from 3:30-4:30pm at the Vera Project. And at the downtown Seattle Public Library, on November 5th, Wertz will hold a slideshow and conversation with cartoonist Nicole Georges from 2-4pm.

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Filed under Comics, graphic novels, Julia Wertz, New York City, Short Run, Short Run Comix & Arts Festival

Comix Scene: Seattle Cyclists

Cyclists in Seattle are in a highly awkward position.

Cyclists in Seattle are in a highly awkward position.

Seattle would like to be considered a first-rate bicycle-friendly city. Unfortunately, it’s just not up there with Copenhagen or Amsterdam. Not even close. We locals are facing a lot of problems. There’s a huge push to get cyclists on the roads despite intolerant car drivers. We have a poor infrastructure for cars let alone bicycles. We have the City of Seattle with ill-conceived solutions including confusing and impractical bike lanes. We have a city official, Scott Kubly, who used his influence to have the City of Seattle buy a failing bike-sharing system, Pronto Bikes. Cyclists in Seattle are in a highly awkward position. They are risking their own lives to pursue their cycling passion in a city ill-equipped to accommodate them. And, given what they go through, they feel entitled: they push right on through, jump onto sidewalks when they feel a need, and make life for pedestrians just a bit more stressful and even dangerous. I have many fond memories of riding a bicycle. I have fond memories of once driving a car in Seattle–not anymore. Seattle has a long way to go before it can call itself a cyclist paradise.

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Filed under Cities, City Living, Comics, Comix Scene, Editorial Cartoons, Henry Chamberlain, Political Cartoons, politics, Seattle, Urbanization

Denny’s Brings You The SLAMTASTIC 4 Menu: Superhero Grub!

Denny's Slamtastic menu: Human Torch Skillet, Fantastic Four-Cheese Omelette, Invisible Woman Slam, and The Thing Burger

Denny’s Slamtastic menu: Human Torch Skillet, Fantastic Four-Cheese Omelette, Invisible Woman Slam, and The Thing Burger

FANTASTIC FOUR arrives in theaters on August 7th and Denny’s is part of the action. Comics Grinder heard the call and went over to try out Denny’s new “Slamtastic 4” menu. For a limited time, you have these superhero-inspired items to choose from:

Human Torch Skillet
A hearty breakfast sausage with seasoned red-skinned potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, fire-roasted bell peppers and onions, jalapeños and freshly made pico de gallo served on a sizzlin’ hot skillet. Topped with new spicy five pepper sauce, Pepper Jack queso and two eggs cooked to order.

Fantastic Four-Cheese Omelette
Delicious omelette stuffed with melted Cheddar, Swiss, Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, fresh spinach, diced bacon, onions and mushrooms tossed in a blend of sun-dried tomatoes and herbs. Topped with diced tomatoes and served with hash browns and your choice of bread.

Invisible Woman Slam
Two buttermilk pancakes cooked with blueberries, topped with fresh strawberries, banana slices and drizzled with a clear citrus glaze. Served with two eggs cooked to order, two bacon strips or two sausage links and hash browns.

The Thing Burger
Hand-pressed beef patty topped with crispy hash browns, an egg cooked to order, Cheddar cheese, two crispy bacon strips and punch-packing Thing sauce. Served on a Cheddar bun with a side of wavy-cut French fries.

Denny's in Seattle's SoDo District

Denny’s in Seattle’s SoDo District

I decided to test out a couple of these items: Invisible Woman Slam and The Thing Burger. I chose the Denny’s in Seattle’s SoDo District. This proved to be an excellent choice. My waitress was gracious and attentive. The whole place has a perfect vintage charm to it. I got a booth and contemplated the view. Sure, this is an industrial district so it’s a pretty pared-down scene but it has a nice blue collar vibe. People were enjoying conversation. The pace was quick and upbeat.

My drawing while at Denny's of The Thing about to devour The Thing Burger

My drawing while at Denny’s of The Thing about to devour The Thing Burger

So, it all began on a beautiful morning with thoughts of the upcoming Fantastic Four movie. As the official synopsis states, we’ve got “four young outsiders who teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe, which alters their physical form in shocking ways.” Looks like we’re going for an in-depth origin story. Perfect daydreaming for a cartoonist such as myself in a diner I admire. So, I kicked back for a few minutes, mind relaxed, and drew The Thing about to devour The Thing Burger.

The Thing Burger

The Thing Burger

With a pleasing dining experience to savor, ah, we can conquer the world. The Thing Burger! Yes, a lot would depend upon the “punch-packing Thing sauce” and it delivered! It proved to be a great complement to the tasty hand-pressed beef patty.

Invisible Woman Slam

Invisible Woman Slam

And the Invisible Woman Slam was utterly delightful. Truly good pancakes, nice and hot off the grill. Who doesn’t enjoy a classic breakfast, am I right? Hash browns, eggs, bacon, sausage! Well, Denny’s is indeed America’s diner. I had a great time and look forward to my next visit, and the one after that. It’s also easy to get to thanks to Seattle’s light rail system so I have no complaints at all.

Be sure to visit Denny’s whenever the mood strikes you and check out their current featured Slamtastic 4 menu. For more details, visit our friends at Denny’s right here.

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Filed under Comics, Denny's, Fantastic Four, Food, Marvel Comics, Promotions, Superheroes

Review: ‘Truth is Fragmentary: Travelogues & Diaries’ by Gabrielle Bell

Truth-Fragmentary-Gabrielle-Bell-comics

“Truth is Fragmentary” is the name of Gabrielle Bell’s latest comics memoir collection and it says it all. Think about it. Truth is indeed fragmentary. You can point out honest, even blunt, bits of truth all you want. People will process it however they choose. Some will deny what you said. Some will misunderstand. Some will have never even come close to getting it. Maybe a few will completely see it your way. It’s a carnival we live in. Thankfully, we have astute and witty observers like Gabrielle Bell. If you’re new to her work, or if you happen to enjoy sly humor, then this is the book for you.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Journalism, Gabrielle Bell, Travel, Travelogue, Uncivilized Books

LA Journal: Murals

Pacoima Neighborhood Mural by Levi Ponce

Pacoima Neighborhood Mural by Levi Ponce

Every great city has its murals. Los Angeles is a great city and its murals are grand, a part of the fabric of life. As part of Comics Grinder’s visit to LA, I want to share with you some of my favorite murals.

"You Are The Star" by Tom Suriya

“You Are The Star” by Tom Suriya

On Wilcox and Hollywood Blvd, there’s a truly landmark mural depicting many of Hollywood’s all-time legends kicking back and enjoy a matinee in a grand ole movie theater. It looks like they are viewing the viewer in “You Are The Star,” by Tom Suriya, painted in 1983.

Nancy Sinatra mural by George Sportelli

Nancy Sinatra mural by George Sportelli

Across the street, just opposite the Suriya mural is a new Nancy Sinatra mural by George Sportelli. This is one of his best among others on Hollywood Boulevard.

Hollywood High School mural by Eloy Torrez

Hollywood High School mural by Eloy Torrez

Then there’s one that really tugs at my heart, the mural at Hollywood High School by Eloy Torrez, on Highland Ave, painted in 2000.

Anthony Quinn mural by Eloy Torrez

Anthony Quinn mural by Eloy Torrez

Here’s a mural with Anthony Quinn as Zorba the Greek, right opposite the Bradbury Building on 242 S. Broadway, also by Eloy Torrez, painted in 1985.

Pacoima Neighborhood Mural by Levi Ponce

Pacoima Neighborhood Mural by Levi Ponce

And, finally, a most beautiful mural, the Pacoima Neighborhood Mural, at 10335 Laurel Canyon Blvd, by Levi Ponce.

On a different topic….

Comics Grinder Nominated for an Excellence Blog Award

I want to thank Aquileana from La Audacia de Aquiles for nominating Comics Grinder for an Excellence Blog Award. She shares great insight into Greek mythology, art history, and so much more. Aquileana demonstrates a passion for her subject. At the heart of this award is reaching out to other passionate bloggers.

The rules are that each nominee then nominates ten fellow bloggers and they go on to create a post similar to the one here, including the award logo. So, I follow up by humbly accepting my nomination and nominating ten bloggers that I have come to admire.

excellence

These are my nominees for the Excellence Blog Award:

1. Pastrami Basket
2. Set to Stunning
3. Projector Magazine
4. The Night Gallery
5. Ototsy!
6. Sci-Fi Jubilee
7. Shamagaia
8. Graffiti Lux and Murals
9. The Lost Lighthouse
10. Wrong Hands

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Filed under LA Journal, Los Angeles, Murals, Travel

Review: ‘Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences’ by Matthew Christopher

Abandoned-America-Matthew-Christopher

The immediate impact of these photographs is undeniable: Outrageous oblivion. Everything torn apart, inside and out. Nothing spared. Nothing redeemed. You quickly draw your own conclusions despite what your more sober thoughts might tell you. This is a book about total destruction, along with numerous more measured considerations. “Abandoned America” takes you on a most unusual journey with this collection of photography by Matthew Christopher, published by JonGlez Publishing.

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Filed under Art, Art books, JonGlez Publishing, Photography

BALLARD COMICS #14

Macefied Music Festival celebrated its debut on October 5, 2013. We were there as part of my 24-Hour Comics Day exploration of Ballard, Washington.

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What would Edith Macefield have to say about all the big changes in the once mellow neighborhood of Ballard? That’s what I’d like to know.

Macefield-Music-Festival-Edith-Macefield

Some things take time to fully understand.

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Filed under Ballard, Ballard Comics, Comics, Edith Macefield, Macefield Music Festival, Music, Seattle, Urbanization

BALLARD COMICS #9

As our story continues, we finally check in at Ballard Inn. For longtime residents, Ballard Inn is a landmark. Now, it is part of the ownership behind the brand new Hotel Ballard and the revamped Olympic Athletic Club. We made sure to enjoy our complimentary access to Olympic Athletic Club. And we dined at Hotel Ballard’s restaurant, Stoneburner.

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Hotel-Ballard-Olympic-Athletic-Club

The combination of all this hospitality was a thrill for the senses indeed.

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Filed under Ballard, Ballard Comics, Comics, Henry Chamberlain

BALLARD COMICS #8

Editor’s Note: Here in Seattle, we have an election this Tuesday. And, here in Seattle, we are going through some vastly problematic growing pains. What exactly are we doing as we sprout condos in every conceivable spot? Well, rest assured, Seattle will elect someone mayor. However, we the citizens of Seattle need to look beyond this, or any, election. Consider, for example, visiting a site looking to make a difference, Reasonable Density Seattle. Sure, growth can be wonderful, just as long as we don’t stomp out the very reasons Seattle is so attractive.

Ed-Murray-Mike-McGinn-Seattle-Mayor-2013

Emmett-Watson-Lesser-Seattle

Seattle-Mayor-Ed-Murray-Mike-McGinn-2013

Visit us every Monday for a new installment of Ballard Comics.

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Filed under Ballard, Ballard Comics, Cities, City Living, Comics, Editorial Cartoons, High Density Development, Political Cartoons, politics, Reasonable Density Seattle, Seattle, Social Justice

BALLARD COMICS #7

Editor’s Note: Any serious conversation on urban planning will include the thoughts of activist Jane Jacobs. She was a champion of urban spaces at a human scale and of the preservation of older buildings in a community. Just in terms of practicality, it was the older buildings that had intrinsic value. It was their presumably lower rents, that allowed for risk-taking ventures with limited funds.

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Ballard-WA-Comics-Henry-Chamberlain-004

When is gentrification too much of a good thing? Something to consider as Ballard continues to grow. Will there always be room for those things with the original sense of Ballard?

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Filed under Activism, Ballard, Ballard Comics, Comics