Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Book Review: Keith and the Girl's What do We do Now?

For all your rude but effective relationship advice

There’s a new relationship guide on the market and it has a bit of an attitude, as the subtitle indicates: smart answers to your stupid relationship questions. Not for those devoid of a sense of humour, clearly. The writers of What do we do now? are themselves a couple and they run one of the biggest podcasts out there: Keith and the Girl. They ‘air’ five free podcasts per week, each one with a run-time of somewhere between one and two hours. Topics are varied: news, celebrity gossip, personal experiences and relationships, all given a comic spin. It helps that within the varied supporting cast there are a lot of stand-up comedians to join in with entertaining banter.

The show is known and loved for being very un-PC while having its heart in the right place. N-words, F-words and plenty of other bad, bad words are regular visitors and it may take listeners a couple of shows to figure out that there’s no reason to take offense here, as it’s all coming from a good place. You might not always agree with the opinions that are being aired, but if you get riled up about something, there is room for discussion on the message boards at the Keith and the Girl site. Time difference permitting, you can even sound off and give feedback during the taping of the shows in a live chat room.

KATG has been keeping itself alive and running with the help of sponsors and merchandise sold through the site, but has now branched out into the publishing world with their book full of ‘modern advice for modern couples’. The book is divided in chapters by topic (In-Laws, Money, Sex and Kink, etcetera.). After a short and personal preface on the subject at hand, Keith and Chemda (aka ‘the girl’) reply to conundrums presented by their listeners. They do this separately, sometimes disagreeing with each other and getting into a discussion. The playful tone is apparent from page one, with Keith gate-crashing the introduction by his editor and berating him. Soon after, Chemda ‘speaks up’ for the first time:

Keith: Hey, baby! When’d you get here?

Chemda: They just edited me in, I guess.

Their advice tends to be funny, broadminded and blunt. As with the opinions on the podcast, you might get rubbed the wrong way from time to time, or just disagree, but you’ll easily get over that because you’ll find yourself smiling for much of the rest of the way. If the dynamics of relationships interest you, then this is a lighthearted sounding board for your own thoughts on the topic and a good book to read with a partner and discuss.

A sample chapter can be found through this link. Also check out a video promo for it. If the book tickles your funny bone, remember there are also over a thousand very entertaining free Keith and the Girl shows to feast your ears on, available through iTunes and the KATG-site. What do we do now? Now we buy the book.

Comic Book Review: The Walking Dead Compendium

The Walking Dead might just be those WITH a pulse…

The Walking Dead Compendium, which was released last year, collects the first 48 issues of an ongoing, gripping and moody comic book series, which deals with a doomsday scenario involving zombies. Not the fast-running, overly aggressive kind as seen in recent pop culture, but the old-fashioned, lumbering, dumb kind, that will – however – still rip you apart, given half the chance. They roam around in hungry herds, attracted to noise and movement but solitary ones may also pop up out of nowhere for a fatal surprise.

The Walking Dead has a large and mutable cast of characters-who-still-have-a-pulse, with frequent additions as old friends and foes fall by the wayside. The ‘lead’ is Rick, a policeman. In the first issue of the series, he wakes up in a hospital-bed from a coma, after having been shot in the line of duty. The siege on humanity is already well underway at this point, the cause unknown. Rick heads out to find his wife and son, hooks up with other survivors and turns into a leader of sorts, trying to keep everyone alive and out of despair.

The dynamic between the survivors is what makes this book tick. It’s not so much brain-eating that takes center stage but the effects on the human psyche of a global disaster, with no clear hope that the situation will ever get better. Some people go crazy, others commit suicide, or let their base instincts take over and prey on the weak, while a few soldier on and try to live their life with some semblance of normality. Disagreements about the best way to survive lead to aggression and in-fighting. As you might suspect, this isn’t a very cheery book, though there are some bright spots now and then to alleviate the grimness and there is always enough tension to keep you glued to the page, wondering what happens next. No one is safe in this comic and even long-time favorites may be given the axe – or more likely the ‘chomp’. Author Robert Kirkman has stated that even Rick may die at some point, the book going on without its (former) main character.

Kirkman started out this series with the pitch: a zombie movie that never ends. He was left wondering ‘What happened next?’ several times when the credits started to roll on undead classics and decided to come up with his own answer. Now nearing issue 70 of the series, there is still no explanation for the downfall of civilization as we know it and no end in sight. It’s a testament to the strength of Kirkman’s storytelling that you don’t feel annoyed by this lack of an explanation. Providing one might take away from the feeling of being overwhelmed and out-of-the-loop, and the reason would likely be somewhat silly in any case. The artwork suits Kirkman’s story well, being somewhat coarse and gritty: Charlie Adlard has been the artist from issue 7 onwards. Tony Moore did the much cleaner, detailed traditional artwork for the first 6 issues but had to bail due to time constraints.

The Walking Dead is currently in production as a television series by Frank Darabont, director of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. It will only loosely be following the comic book series in terms of ongoing plot though, much in the same way Dexter – the series – only somewhat resembles Dexter – the books. So there is no excuse to miss out on the Compendium: dive into it as a primer to the characters and to just wallow in some good and moody storytelling. And rejoice, the credits won’t be rolling on this story anytime soon.