I heard about the 2016 documentary Kedi on the podcast “Movie Therapy with Rafer & Kristen.” The hosts were advising a listener looking for comfort after her beloved cat passed away.
Kedi is a documentary about street cats in Istanbul. The film explores the many ways the cats are viewed by the city’s human inhabitants. For example, one restaurant owner prefers a cat for pest control over chemicals. Another bakery owner considers the neighborhood street cat a nuisance, begging customers for food and refusing to be shooed away. Most often, the cats are loved. A market vendor is the to-go person when a cat is found injured. He has a running tab at the veterinarian’s office. A woman lets one cat come and go as she pleases through the apartment but can’t imagine even attempting to make the street cat a house cat.
Underlying clever cat camerawork is a commentary on a changing city. With buildings rising up and green spaces shrinking at ground level, the documentary’s human participants wonder how the cats will continue navigate their space. But after surviving for thousands of years in the city already, the cats are sure to adjust and change along with the city.
The film is subtitled but like many great documentaries the story is told through visual narratives from which it is impossible to look away. The cats are the stars of the film. Unlike internet cat videos, this isn’t a short clip of a cute trick. Rather, it’s a long observation of the joy and comfort cats can bring to the human experience.
Vacation goes from boring to thrilling with the not-so-simple ring of the phone in Dial H for Hero by Sam Humphries.
Our story begins with young Miguel Montez being rescued by Superman after a swimming pool accident. He spends the rest of his childhood chasing the adrenaline rush, which makes his teen years working in his uncle’s mayonnaise-themed food truck a real drag. In the mist of a dirt bike stunt, Miguel stumbles across a new way to save himself — dial H on the rotary phone falling next to him.
Fellow adrenaline junkie Summer soon joins Miguel — in a stolen food truck, no less — in chasing the rush of being a superhero for one hour every time the H-Dial is activated. Hot on their heels are villains and fellow civilians alike, all wanting to play the superhero fantasy. The catch is, no one has any control over what type of superhero they’ll turn into. Sometimes they are save-the-day archetypes such as Monster Truck or Lo Lo Kick You. Other times, they spend the hour as comically bad superheros, such as Summer becoming Chimp Change, a pistol-toting, fishnet stocking and high heel clad chimpanzee. Miguel is transformed into “Lil’ Miguelito,” a character reminiscent of a Family Circus cartoon.
Miguel and Summer quickly find themselves in over their heads and they take on a new mission: Get the H-Dial back to the one hero they trust — Superman!
Dial H for Hero volumes 1 and 2 are available now through the Davenport Public Library.
On a rainy, mid-quarantine day, I dusted off my old Nintendo Wii. My goal was the play the the last game made for the Wii: Just Dance 2020.
It was the perfect pick-me-up for a day stuck indoors after days of not going anywhere. While I’m not a super-fan of any of the songs, the game is filled with upbeat tracks. I giggled at the throwback “Everybody” from Backstreet Boys. Not having kids of my own means that even “Baby Shark” was a refreshing change of pace. Other songs from around the world kept me challenged to follow along with the unfamiliar beats and rhythms. I threw enough energy at the game so that it counted as my workout for the day. I would recommend this game to fans of the Zumba workout. It was fun to unlock new avatars, compete for stars and rack up points.
Don’t worry if you’ve let your Nintendo Wii fall into disrepair after switching to a Switch or another platform. Just Dance 2020 is available from the Davenport Public Library in the Switch format as well as PlayStation 4 and XBox One.
Despite living in the Quad Cities nearly 20 years I have only a rudimentary knowledge of local jazz legend Bix Beiderbecke. I feel like I am missing out on an important part of local lore.
In the graphic biography Bix by Scott Chantler, the musician’s story is illustrated rather than told. With the use of wordless, static, straight panels we get a sense of Bix’s confining young life when in school and interacting with his parents, particularly his father. As a reader, I can feel the panels trying to fit him into a box, making me feel claustrophobic for the protagonist. Finally the panels begin to float and dance on the page whenever music is in the scene — whether hearing it pass on a riverboat, trying the trumpet for the first time or upon entering a Chicago jazz club.
Once Bix makes the decision to leave Iowa and dedicate his career to music he leads a life typical of young adults: work, good times, and romance. Just when I started to think of Bix as a nice guy who got swept up in talent and fame come scenes that show an in-demand, cocky musician willing to lie and manipulate. In this graphic biography, we don’t hear Bix speak until this part of the book — about a third of the way through. His first conversation? A lie he tells his girlfriend. Bix becomes difficult to work with and unreliable. Static panels return to show drinking as a default reaction to everything — both good and bad. As his drinking spiraled out of control, my heart broke for the lost talent.
I was pleased to catch the familiar scenes of Davenport in the early pages. It took me the better part of an afternoon to read, but the time was spent getting a better sense of of who Bix was beyond his connection to the Quad-Cities. The life of Bix Beiderbecke doesn’t fit neatly into a box. He wasn’t just a ground-breaking, successful jazz soloist. He wasn’t just a wide-eyed innocent guy in over his head. This graphic novel treats its subject with compassion and care while not forgiving him for his self-destructive behavior. Through artful storytelling I have a better understanding of Bix’s multilayered life.
Bix is available on Overdrive as well as physical format.
When I start something new, I have to start at the very beginning. Lately, I’ve been wanting to take a deep dive into the world of graphic novels, but I know I’d quickly get overwhelmed. However, Harleen might be the perfect fit to both start at the beginning and jump into an established universe. The new graphic novel from Stjepan Sejic tells the fall-from-grace origin story of Batman and Gotham City’s favorite antihero — Harley Quinn.
We meet a restless Dr. Harleen Quinzel looking for funding to develop a method for detecting stages of deteriorating empathy. What are the trigger points throughout a lifetime for creating a sociopath? After presenting her theory at a conference she encounters a classic Joker / Batman duel on the streets of Gotham City.
The outcome of this fight is:
- a demoralized Gotham City Police Department and the rise of the Executioners, a group of masked officers taking justice into their own hands.
- newly disfigured District Attorney Harvey Dent taking leadership of the Executioners and veering into his own villainous ways.
- Joker in the Arkham Asylum as a subject of Dr. Quinzel’s study, newly funded by the Wayne Foundation.
When Dr. Quinzel meets her new patient, the Joker (Mr. Jay, she respectfully calls him), she becomes infatuated with him. As she reflects often, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Dr. Quinzel alternates between falling for his manipulation that he is the perfect candidate for her study, therefore an asset to her career, and believing she can cure the Joker from his mental illness.
Dent and the Executioners stage a breakout of the Arkham Asylum. In an effort to protect the Joker, Quinzel kills a security guard, falls into the arms of the Joker and is baptized Harley Quinn.
The characters are complex and intriguing. More than once, I found myself questioning if Harleen and the Joker were manipulating other characters, themselves or me, the reader. Harleen and Harvey Dent struggle to keep a grasp on reality, while the Joker seems eager to get back to a world chaos and madness.
Clear flashbacks and subtle flash-forwards compel the story through a coherent timeline. There is so much set up for future stories, I’m looking forward to reading anything else that comes out of Sejic’s Harleen story and going further into this universe.