Vice Cooler

Speed reading


In 2005, Xiu Xiu embarked on a tour and invited their fans to send them blank Polaroid instant film and an SASE. In turn, photographer David Horvitz took on the task of documenting the group’s travels, snapping shots in places ranging from backstage nooks to hotel bathrooms. Each day, Horvitz mailed packages containing 10 unique candid photos to the fans who provided film and envelopes: anyone who participated was rewarded with personal art from the tour. But Horvitz first scanned the photos and compiled them to create Xiu Xiu: The Polaroid Project (Mark Batty Publisher, 126 pages, $24.95). The result is a book containing nudity, blood, and urine, as well as empty skies, ocean views, and the landscape of backwoods America. The reader is left to fill in the blanks and imagine the circumstances behind each photo Even for those unfamiliar with the band, the adventure is well worth it. (Vice Cooler)

Continuum’s 331/3 series takes an unexpected turn with critic Carl Wilson’s witty, insightful, same-named exploration of Celine Dion’s Let’s Talk about Love (Continuum, 176 pages, $10.95). Tellingly, the book is subtitled A Journey to the End of Taste; the 1997 album — which sold more than 30 million copies and contains the dental-office standard “My Heart Will Go On” — is not. Wilson discusses how his feelings for his fellow Canadian’s music shifted from loathing to — well, he never becomes a fan, but during her Vegas show he has a moment of near appreciation. Along the way, he peers into the singer’s soul, touching on Quebec’s cultural history (including Dion’s rise from hometown hero to international superstar), Dion bashing at the height or depths of Titanic mania (in a chapter titled “Let’s Talk about Hate”), and the meaning of schmaltz, via analysis and some well-placed pop-cult references. He also investigates bigger questions that transcend the Dion debate: by whose standards, exactly, do we define guilty pleasures — and bad taste? (Cheryl Eddy)

Self-publish or perish


SELF-PUBLISH OR PERISH Janelle Hessig’s comic zine Tales of Blarg has always been the 510’s version of the ark of the covenant. Each issue contains only the most important information and gossip from the Yay. Perhaps you have been at a show where a dead dog is thrown into an audience? Or you were part of a grave robbery? No? Well, Hessig has — and she’s made a comic about it. Tales of Blarg just celebrated its 15th birthday: the latest edition kick-starts with "Truth or Dare with Brontez," a failed attempt at the game with the popular SF cruiser himself that turns into a hysterical account of his notorious sex life. What do two wizards, Rim Job the clown, and a crackhead all have in common? Not much besides the fact that they all did something with or on our hero’s penis.

But who can blame Brontez? We all have vices. In another article, Heather Jewitt explores some of her favorite weaknesses, such as masturbating because "she deserves it" and pissing in her cat’s litter box. And haven’t we all wished at some point to play a guitar with someone else’s boner? Well, the Clorox Girls have already done it, and Down at Lulu’s hairstylist Seth Bogart gets the dirt.

But Tales of Blarg isn’t simply outrageous — though it is, kind of. This issue’s highlight: depression analyzed through Hessig’s trash goggles. Overall, the comic is not only inspiring but clever, as its editor uses her gift for sharp observations — and subtle jabs — to save it from breaking down with a flat in Cheesyville. Save a spot for Tales of Blarg in the punk rock hall of fame — because Hessig’s brand of farce will always have its pedal to the metal. (Vice Cooler)

Tales of Blarg ($3) is available at Needles and Pens, 3253 16th St., SF; Rock Paper Scissors, 2278 Telegraph, Oakl.; Down at Lulu’s, 6603 Telegraph, Oakl.; and