Tuesday, December 26, 2006

When the power went out, I was working on a story. This was the first time, at school. And as my made my way home, I thought about how what I wanted was to sit in the dark, with one other person, and tell them the story I was writing. I had plotted it all out in my head, but was having trouble putting it down into sentences when I was reminded of the inconsistency of technology. So oral tradition revival felt like something romantic in those moments.

The next day I'm talking about this to Gianna and she gets excited. And so we fake it, we turn off the lights and we all gather around and leave ourselves to channeling something.

It became a game of jam sessions, with Graham, Gianna, Sam Adams and I. But at the end I wanted to bring it back to what it was, with me just telling something solo. But the story I had plotted out in my head was told first, so I just went ahead and started improvising off the top of my head, as everybody lay down on the edge of sleep.

Then I thought the story turned out so well I thought I'd write it down as best I could recall. (I wanted tapes for transcript but none were available.) And I'd rewrite it where necessary, to fill in the gaps in my memory, but hopefully the charm of it persists. To me, I think it's very charming, a nice little bit of automatic writing that darts from point A to point B with each of those points being something that occurred to me, and that in their traversal maps out some kind of psychic territory. I think it shares thing in common with the stuff that I like, while being its own thing, which is really all I want out of my work.

But anyway, here's the second or third or fourth draft, probably not quite done. (The first draft is that which I spouted spontaneously, when I closed my eyes and saw arrows.) When it's done I think I'll submit it to the school literary magazine which I don't think is very good. For now it's here, for you to read, maybe to the tune of the Beck song off Mellow Gold with the lyric "The sales climbed high through the garbage pail sky, like a giant dildo crushing the sun." "Pay No Mind." That's just the tune I read it to on reread.

Anyway yeah okay so this story right here is copyright 2006 Brian Nicholson.

It's called "Sugar Suture."

The arrows sailed over the walls of the city, with some hitting billboard bullseyes and the rest gliding down into the populace. One plunged into my shoulderblade, leading blood to spurt and drip like twisting the cap off a shaken-up soda bottle. I needed medical attention, but leechings were costly, and I was uninsured. I also had suspicions that such practices were not all they were professed to be. But blood was leaking with such speed that I wouldn't be able to walk far, and I was closer to the hospital than anywhere else.

I walked into the emergency room and expressed my reservations in regard to the practice of leeching. The doctor told me there was a new treatment, that involved no leeches but produced comparable results. I consented to this, and the doctor then removed the arrow from my back and replaced it with a clear plastic hose. He stood in front of me and started to suck on the hose until blood rushed through, up towards his mouth. He then quickly removed his mouth and put his end of the hose in what he referred to as "a new kind of bag," which started to fill up with blood. I soon fell asleep.

When I had woken, my blood had completely vacated my body for a bag. It had become its own thing, something like a son, consisting of half of myself. He had taken half of my vocabulary. My blood told me that he had his own life to live. I needed something new to pump through my veins.

I left the hospital and went to the 7-11 next door. I walked up to the Slurpee machine, and placed the flared-out end of one of a brightly colored straw into my wound. I turned one of the bubbled lids upside down, and placed the top end of the straw at the lids smaller opening. I cupped the dome in my hand with the straw falling between my fingers, pulled the lever on the machine to the right and filled myself up with softly frozen cherry soda. I replaced my blood with something cooler. I didn't know what I would do about my bones, but my bones insisted they'd be fine.

When I went home to my wife she was bothered by my lack of passion. "What happened to you?" she asked and I explained. And then she said "What are we going to do about this?" and I told her I assumed that everything would go about as usual. "What about a child? I thought we were going to have children, and I'm not sure we can do that now that you're something that's human." I had forgotten all about words like child and children. My blood had taken them when he stole half of my language. So I just shrugged, because I had become something cool. As time went on and I cared less and less about her as I cared less and less about most things. She didn't have the same stuff running through her veins, and it became clear that I would have to leave and go on to other things. But she still needed something.

And so I went down to the pharmacy and bought myself one of those new kinds of bags, and I masturbated into it three times a day for two weeks. When my semen had accrued enough to take on a life of its own, I presented it to my wife and told her that was all she could have of me. And I left the two of them together and went on to pursue an art career.

Then one night at the end of a party that didn't turn out the way as planned I said aloud, "I don't know what I'm going to do about you, bones."

And my bones insisted that they were sticking with me. We were in this together, my bones and I, even though he was bothered by my always blaming everything on him and never acknowledging the closeness of our connection.

When the cold weather came, there was nothing left to keep me warm. The chills that came made me feel like I would shake my tendons loose and my bones would finally fall out, but they remained steadfast. I was hoping I could return to my blood and we could hold each other at night while we slept. But my blood had left the city, to go to war against our enemies. On the night of the winter solstice I received word he had been killed. When I learned this, I cried high fructose tears that stuck to my face. My bones insisted that this was not enough mourning.

I returned to my wife in the middle of the night and drank my semen from the bag. I hoped this would restore me to the person I once was, but it filled up all the wrong spaces.

I left the city with a white flag waving and asked the opposing army if they could help me find the spot where my blood had been spilled into the dirt. They showed me a small patch of land, and I asked if they would do me the favor of burying me alive, so that the dirt would fill my lungs and in this way my blood would be returned to me. They agreed to do this, but made me dig up my own grave. And when the hole was dug, someone pushed me over. I fell into the hole and felt the dirt fall as they shoveled it back on.

I laid down and died and didn't feel myself get any closer to what I once was. Everything gets diluted in the dirt, which outstrips me by a million to one. Now that everything has been eroded, only my bones persist.


And Merry Christmas everybody.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

And I realized that I was wrong about art, that that wasn't what got me through the year. Because this year was a whole lot better than last year, filled with actual exciting things, like travel and new experiences, and not just records. There was the Pacific Ocean, and California, and vagina. Democratic elections! Blackouts! I don't know whether rock shows count as art or actual life experience, but I guess in a lot of ways it's all a blur, but you know: Lightning Bolt, The Boredoms, and Hrvatski. Yo La Tengo and Why? Man Man, Akron/Family, Shellac, and Boris. Also others- USAISAMONSTER, Wooden Wand. Whatever, I talk about almost every show I go to on this blog. Read the archives. (This isn't addressed to friends of mine so much as it is addressed to me in the future.)

I wrote a top five comics of the year list for a message board, which I will now edit a bit to post here. For my own personal records. Not a top ten, because of the fact that I didn't read a lot of stuff I probably would've liked.

Number one comics of the year for me were Kevin Huizenga's. I'm kind of trying to write an articulate essay about why for another website, but basically- Dude is still young as a cartoonist, he's under thirty, and you can see him talking in interviews or his blog about how he wants to get better: Have characters that are singular aspects of his personality, rather than just an everyman character that's faintly autobiographical. Have his characters do things, rather than just think. So I like that he's a young dude who knows how to get better, and is making that clear, transparency in the artistic process. (In what's maybe his best comic so far, the 28th Street story, he has his character do stuff, and what he does is awesome.) But this year, his comics are all thinking, basically. But what he's thought about is how the world works and he did enough comics to talk about that and nail it from a bunch of different angles. All his comics came out with different titles. The Curses book, a collection of short stories that I think are all from 2002-2004, is awesome. That has 28th Street in it, which I hadn't read until this year. Or Else 4 is so weird and abstract, it comes off like a minicomic Koyanaqatski basically. I heard someone in the comic store talking about how they couldn't finish it, which is too bad because the ending is great, where the Earth collides into the moon. Ganges 1 is a lot more straightforward and readable and pretty cool in itself, dealing more with how people interact with each other rather than how nature and society interact. His pamphlet for the Comics College is probably more interesting than that Scott McCloud book about how to make comics that came out this year, that I didn't read. It's about making art, which none of the other comics explicitly discuss, but seems important. And yeah, he's just really great at comics as a vehicle for metaphor, so for something to be explicitly about that at certain points was really great. I'm especially fond of the "perspective exercise," addressed towards those who want to be cartoonists, where the items asked to put in perspective are a masterpiece, money, sweat, and some other things. It seems hacky when I type it but in context it's great. I didn't read his minicomic of sketches he drew in church, but I like that it exists as a further "here's my artistic process." That guy rules.

Number two comic would be the Brendan McCarthy Solo issue, which got me to buy some stuff from the eighties. It's about as weird that Huizenga is under thirty as the thought that I think McCarthy's over fifty. He hasn't done comics for over ten years, he's been doing concept art for movies I would never watch, like the Lost In Space remake. Which is hilariously hacky for someone who is so plainly not a hack, who has such a weird vision and ambition. God, this comic was so pretty. I don't even know how to talk about something like this, besides wishing there was more of it. What unites my top three, I realize, is this combination of transparency in the artistic process, McCarthy wears his influences on his sleeve. And what's important is that I'm unfamiliar with the influences, but the transparency actually teaches me stuff. Brendan McCarthy made me look into Mervyn Peake, who in the early part of the twentieth century wrote nonsense poetry and did painting. Kevin Huizenga goes on about birds and folk tales, and Ganges had this one quote from a geologist that has haunted me.

Number three would be Casanova. What that teaches me is the same stuff as Tarantino movies, basically, that knowledge of a breadth of cheap exploitation stuff which I know enough about to like but not enough to outnerd anyone. It's a spy comic, clearly in debt to Danger: Diabolik, but also referencing a bunch of stuff I don't know about at all. It's in one color, like old Barbarella comics, which was not a fact that I knew about said comics- I know Jane Fonda was in a movie I didn't see, but which this comic then informs me Paco Rabanne did costume design for. But yeah, it's a spy comic, and a fast-moving one, and I'm sure it has plot holes, just because of the speed it moves. But yeah, really, the only monthly comic that grabbed me, because it was the only one where I never knew where it was going, because that's how spy stuff operates. That weird stream-of-consciousness plotting. The writer of this also read that Esquire article George Saunders wrote about the kid that was meditating for days straight. The one I only heard about, but don't buy magazines so I was left in the dark. Yeah, breadth. It taught me things I didn't know.

Then there's Scott Pilgrim, where Bryan O'Malley talks about the shit I know, essentially, but he knows more. There's instinct where I have to think about things. Dan Nadel, dude that runs Picturebox, referred to it as "cute teenager stuff that I guess cute teenagers like" which, um, guilty, I guess. I thought it was really likable. It talked about stuff I understood, but you know, it was funny. And in such a good format. Every comic listed has been in a different format, this was released straight to 200-plus page chunks of stuff I hadn't read, digest size, readable at a fast pace but with enough happening to give it some heft, and had things happen for long enough that I was able to get highs of joy from it. Closer to a movie or a record in how it doesn't give you stuff to linger on, and is fairly immersive. It's the comic that feels closest to the feeling of watching a movie, but said movie is so pure so as to be someone else's lucid dreams. It's all in the confidence, and there's so much of it that when I first read it I thought it was the most confident comic I'd ever read. All of the drawings seem so organic and easy and FAST that they come off like living doodles, all of the plotting just seems intuitive. Even the meta stuff doesn't seem self-aware in the bad way, so much as a thing that happens in a stream of consciousness. Oh, and this and Casanova both had New Pornographers references, fun fact. But the difference being that in that book, it was a comic being written while listening to the New Pornographers, and in this, there's just a moment where, in your head, a New Pornographers song starts playing, if you know it.

Tales Designed To Thrizzle is funnier than any other comic. Funnier even than that issue of Dork which was such a bargain. This is weirder, more charming, whereas that was darker and crasser. This is closer to the type of comedy I like, even though I thought that comic was funny. If John Hodgman drew this would pretty much be what he came up with.

Okay so now an albums list. I decided awhile ago that Paper Rad's Trash Talking was my album of the year. It's a DVD, but it's out on Load Records, and it functions closer to a record than a movie in terms of its non-narrative structure.

So, okay, here's a list I don't feel too strongly about. (I wish I'd heard Scott Walker, Juana Molina, The Goslings, Herbert, OOIOO, etc. Justin Timberlake, Earth)
2. Matmos- The Rose Has Teeth In The Mouth Of A Beast
3. Liars- Drum's Not Dead
4. Yo La Tengo- I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass
5. Man Man- Six Demon Bag
6. Sunset Rubdown- Shut Up I Am Dreaming
7. Ghostface Killah- Fishscale
8. Califone- Roots And Crowns
9. Camera Obscura- Let's Get Out Of The Country
10. Wooden Wand And The Enablers -Spring Tour CD-R
11. Swan Lake- Beast Moans
12. J Dilla- Donuts
13. Islands- Return To The Sea
14. Nina Nastasia- On Leaving
15 might be Beirut. Spank Rock would be the rap album to come up if another were to come up. Wooden Wand's Gipsy Freedom is also a contender for the end but you know, the list is falling apart. I'll also admit that I don't even quite know what to think about that Liars album, I downloaded a rip that annoyed me with its low quality in a way that fucked me up and I fell asleep on first listen, only to be woken up by that amazing final track. Now that it's on vinyl at the house it's good, but still, so many of my early listens were tainted it's hard to judge. I don't like Joanna Newsom's voice but am half-tempted to pick up a copy of Ys for the sake of the benefit of the doubt. But that cover is pretty ridiculous. Swan Lake has Shary Boyle art! God, furthering the argument that that hippy-lady just has kind of bad aesthetics.

It's so late. Anyway, here's hoping I can make it up to Providence for that Wunderground show, and be back in Philly to see Black Dice/Excepter on January fifth, a show I learned about last night! (I made a Black Dice shirt and now they'll be able to see it!) And I think I'll spend New Year's Eve at the Khyber, seeing Paper Napkin, who I met last new year's eve, at another bar I was able to sneak into, but I wouldn't have had such luck at the Khyber. I turned twenty-one this year. Woop woop. But yes, bigger and brighter things. Next year in Jerusalem. (But I'll probably write more here between now and then.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

So I've written on this blog about listening to the One Kiss Can Lead To Another box set, but I've also talked about it in real life. "I've been listening to a lot of girl group pop," I say to my friend Graham, and he responds with "You mean like the Pipettes?" and I think I then got one of those faces that old music snobs get when you have a conversation like that one.

But those old sixties songs are on my computer, and that's in Washington. I'm doing the late-night music blogging on my mom's computer, without mp3s. But there's YouTube, and Pitchfork linked to songs by The Pipettes when running down the best tracks of the year. I'd heard them before, but I heard them again today. And the reaction is still the same, I guess, that face. The face that says "I know what you're talking about but no that's not what I'm talking about."

Part of the appeal of the box set of singles is how it brings out the diversity in all the different bands, all the weird angles. So a band that's going after specifically the Shangri-Las misses a lot- The weird reverbed guitar solos, the dramatic (as in theater) choruses.

And that girl group box set has solo performers on it as well.

So that leads to something I wanted to talk about, an amazing Olympia moment. At a house party, bidding farewell to the aforementioned Graham, (I think this is actually where we had that conversation) there is a dance party, and I am dancing supposedly amazingly, supposedly violently. The type of dancing you do when you mostly dance at rock shows but then some girl says that she heard you are a good dancer and you should dance with her if that is the case. (Sam Adams, who said I redeemed that party, said that I did everything short of punch this girl in the face, so violent was my dancing.) But I am not the star of this anecdote I wish to tell. The star is The Blow, who wasn't even there, except in song. But when the Poor Aim EP started to play and all the girls that were dancing started to sing along to various lyrics, for emphasis, I don't know, it was something special. The point of pop music as I understand it came through so fucking strong, in that whole danceable + relatable sentiment intersection. When I was walking home I thought about how the difference between good song lyrics and good prose is that song lyrics are all about understanding the world, sung from a position of authority that comes when you're creating the sonic world, whereas prose is all about confrontation with the actual world outside the page. But that was just theory that fact doesn't always bear out. What's important is the dancefloor singalong moment. The EP pretty much played out in its entirety, and I think every song had someone accompanying a line or two. (The Pitchfork Top 100 tracks of the year list is right on when talking about Parentheses, right down to the Me And You And Everyone We Know comparison, and the name of that movie and what it evokes is what makes the sheer being in public with friends group singalong so much a perfect moment.)

The Blow is on the modern girl group pop compilation, the one that exists in my mind. So is Saturday Looks Good To Me. So is Camera Obscura.

Now I want to talk about Camera Obscura, whose last record I don't think I heard save a track or two. I know the record was lent to me and I pretty much rejected it on Belle And Sebastian grounds. I heard the opening track of the new record on The Best Show On WFMU and downloaded the whole thing. Alex and I were bitter at the Pitchfork review, with its talk of it distinguishing itself the old-fashioned way, through melody and lyrics, because it came shortly after the not-as-enthusiastic-as-we-thought-it-should've-been Matmos review. But then that song (Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken) came across the speakers, and even Alex was interested. He's not as into the rest of the record as I am, we haven't talked about it, but yeah, I think it's great. I put music from this year on shuffle and a song came on I didn't recognize but thought was so great I checked to see what it was, and it was Camera Obscura. The person who lent me the last record doesn't like it so much, nor does her boyfriend who bought her the record. I was talking to him, and he said it sounded like stadium rock. I said that if stadium rock was fronted by smallish twee girls I would like it way more, and so that's the appeal. It's really great. I haven't formulated an albums of the year list but that record- It's got the standout singles but what's odd is how the rest has stuck with me, the way that I think of the song "Come Back Margaret" at odd intervals- Sometimes because I'm looking at a girl in class named Margaret and I am simple but also sometimes when I am watching movies and that song is just a catchy song, for how low-key it is.

Camera Obscura is just on the whole more girl-group than the aforementioned Pipettes, which I guess is just me saying they're better, or that they're actually good. I should maybe go forward with a back catalog investigation but so far that hasn't shown any rewards.

I'm also tempted to talk about Lavender Diamond here although they're very different. The only association that there really is is that, for my next installation, where I make a movie, I want to use the Dawn song "I'm Afraid They're All Talking About Me" (which is amazing, and which ran through my head when I was in a vietnamese restaurant and thinking that these teenage girls were giggling about the way I was eating chicken) as some kind of Quentin Tarantino-esque pop song coup and I also want the band Lavender Diamond to play in the installation, because I think they would, but I don't know what song I'd use for unexpected purposes. I like that band though. The cartoonist Ron Rege plays drums, and Jeff Rosenberg (from Young People, and also the guy from Pink And Brown I didn't meet) plays guitar. Becky Stark seems like very good people, judging from the creation of a thing called Comedians For World Peace and being inspired while in Providence during the Fort Thunder days. Also the song "You Broke My Heart" is pretty much the jam, and the probable pick were it not for my belief that something that plainly expressive would overwhelm any scene in any movie. It's not the same genre as what I'm ostensibly discussing.

I could go on about that though- the most recent Saturday Looks Good To Me mixtape appearance was the song "Lift Me Up" off Sound On Sound volume 3, which starts off with these HUGE bass notes and goes odd places and is just generally very girl-groupish in a way that works. So's Yo La Tengo's Beanbag Chair, despite the male vocal. I guess the issue isn't the idea of citing a modern band so much as the issue is citing any single band when confronted with a genre, as the idea of saying a genre is that it should bring to mind a bunch of bands, and that saying "You mean like The Pipettes, and Saturday Looks Good To Me?" would be a much more acceptable answer.

I imagine there will be a post about comics that will be pretty lucid in between now and the time where I write a year-in-review. I'll talk about Kevin Huizenga's output for the year. You know, this kind of shorthand exercise where I talk about art so when I talk about the year, of which art was a huge part, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

So if I am able to control my mannerisms I want to start saying "you're RA-cist" to the tune of "By Mennen!" Stolen from Tom Scharpling.

But it turns out I cannot control my mannerisms, which is why a dude I went to high school with was able to identify in a Salt Lake City airport. What was I doing? I was standing, leaning against a wall kind of, looking down towards my feet and maybe in a weird way but yeah, I talked to John Knox. He, who had been able to change his mannerisms: Previously known as Squeaks, because his voice squeaked oddly, in high school. He saw a speech therapist and found out that was not physiological, but a psychological block. So I wouldn't have been able to work it out from that, previously his most identifiable trait. Also his skin cleared up and adam's apple receded to a normal level. But yeah. I also ran into a girl who left Evergreen after two years at the Seattle airport. (This all came because I missed my scheduled flight to a transfer point in Cincinatti.)

When I talked to them I had good stories. Not all of which I've blogged.

The power went out in Olympia before I left, plunging everything except for downtown into postapocalyptic zombie darkness. Leaving and going to downtown felt like some kind of caveman ritual when the sun went down, gathering around the fire for warmth, only the fire was a bar or someone's studio apartment.

An end of the year post is forthcoming, in a more introspective, list-making, nerdier, mood. Right now I'm in the post-party-people afterglow, from end of quarter dancing at people's houses and a whole lot of running around.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The new idea inspired by stuff kind of alluded to in the last post is a radio show that would just go back and forth between two different genres every week. Girl group pop and coke rap, old folk/country and noise rock, free jazz and early electronic music, no wave and disco, outsider music and greatest hits, video game music and metal. The idea being that genre format radio just strips music of its individuality and that by juxtaposing it with an imagined opposite it brings out the strengths in both and destroys false binaries. Then there'd be me talking about maybe esoteric subjects throughout, but in a humorous manner. Maybe I could even do something not unlike WFMU's Aircheck where I would juxtapose insane political opinions from both the right and the left. (Since most political opinions from the left aren't actually that insane, it would probably just be hippy blather instead.)
I am going to blog about the new Clipse album because that is what white people do with this type of rap in the year 2006.

What the fuck Sam Hockley-Smith, like I get that the beats are good in theory, like that Momma I'm So Sorry song, that's a beat I would like for a shorter period of time than four minutes.

Anyway okay remember when I was talking about Cadence Weapon and I was saying that the punchlines are good but the stuff that's chosen to be repeated as hooks isn't exactly well-chosen? The shit that gets repeated on this album is stuff like, on that Momma I'm So Sorry song highlighted earlier, "I'm so obnoxious," which, for those who haven't heard it, is pronounced "ob-nok-SHISSS" which is so goddamn obnoxious. Is that how the lyrics are smart? In that meta way? Like is the meaning of the word "Trill" some kind of sniglet about words that don't mean anything, and on a mixtape somewhere they defined through some kind of anacronym?

Not that it's all bad. "I love you like I love my dick size," that's a good line. Oh wait, that was Method Man. Right before I listened to the Clipse I was listening to Only Built For Cuban Linx cut up with selections from that Rhino girl group box set. I guess that just comparing all rap to the Wu-Tang Clan isn't exactly a good critical standard, especially since my response pretty much always comes down to "This isn't as good as the Wu-Tang Clan."

So how about food? My roommate compared the girl group stuff to candy which made me start comparing music to foods- indie rock is quesadillas, tacos, and other easily wielded, relatively light, mexican foods (not burritos, they spill). Anyway southern rap is either bacon or like the deep-fried Oreos and Snickers bars you can eat in Atlantic City. When dude is saying "Wamp Wamp" I am saying "oh fuck, my arteries!"

Alright maybe I am missing the good lines, it's totally possible. I just realized that I was so distracted by dude's extended S'es and the nonsequitur "Miami Vice!" that I missed the line about "My only accomplice my conscience" that I saw somewhere on the internet and I was like "that's an okay line."

I think I stated in an earlier post that Craig Finn gives me the whole "music where the lyrics say so many references" thing that I like in rap, which probably makes this shit suspect. (Although it seemingly doesn't make that dude Tom Breihan suspect, even though IT REALLY FUCKING SHOULD) (Again, new record, not that good, but I found a gem of a lyric amongst the cast-off tracks. "She said she was coming but she mostly made hard fast noises. It sort of sounded like The Locust," but maybe that's not funny if you're not a huge nerd.)

And wait what the fuck is with this stuff about Jews? I just heard something about "This Pyrex is Jewish" which - okay I rewinded, that makes sense. Jews love money, got it. Sorry I doubted you, Clipse. I thought you were just spouting nonsense but I was wrong. This is a good beat, doing that whole fake Indian bit that was Timbaland's shit for a while (By the way, Jazz: Indian food.)

Oh iTunes alphabet- It turns out that The Coachwhips is what I want to hear when The Clipse is done playing. But only one, oh iTunes, why'd you have to keep going, fuck.

Oh shit it just became clear to you the reader that I haven't heard all of this- Just the first few tracks and a few days ago I heard that Trill song. I thought I'd start writing and do it real-time style but the downloads stalled.

I will say this though, holy shit I wish these beats went to Ol' Dirty Bastard, because this record is better than that also delayed all the goddamn time A Son Unique record which blows.

But I guess that mostly yes what I want rap is highly specific, which is probably symptomatic of it just not being my shit very much.

Friday, November 24, 2006

This Thanksgiving was spent all by my lonesome, with Alex gone to Portland and the buses having stopped running so I couldn't go to the little gathering I was invited to. I baked an apple pie with a lattice top, a turkey lasagna, and made some mashed potatoes. All good! The turkey lasagna was a weird compromise based on the idea that my mom would make stuffed shells at family holiday dinners for my vegetarian brother, liking turkey but having cooked a turkey breast like two weeks ago, and having lasagna noodles around for a while. The lattice top was an attempt to try something new that would be visually impressive when I went to someone else's gathering, but then that didn't happen and yeah a lattice top is just not as delicious as the crumb topping.

But on Tuesday I grabbed some movies from the library. I've watched two of those. One was the Philip Kaufman adaptation of The Unbearable Lightness Of Being, which I got with pretty much no expectations- I think I wrote earlier about how the book wasn't very good, (with the exception of the one line that was transformed into the name of last year's Shining album) and thought that maybe the movie would bypass some of my problems, with the addition of nudity! It's not a good movie. Leaving aside the source material: The cinematography is pretty decent. Daniel Day-Lewis looks like a jackass throughout, in that he seems like a late-eighties idea of what a man who can have sex with whoever would look like- Someone I'd like to punch in the face! And do to the aging of that type of eighties idea, it actually is almost kitschy, not a monster at all. Juliette Binoche is alright, charming in some kind of twee way.

But tonight I watched Black Narcissus, the Powell And Pressburger film from right before The Red Shoes, which I haven't seen. I really liked the solo Michael Powell film, Peeping Tom, and that one made me reconsider my preconceptions about them as being like Merchant-Ivory type boredom peddlers. Now I'm watching the documentary on the cinematography, which is fucking great, especially for technicolor technology, which, as the documentary explains, is fucking crazy. As for the plot- It's easy to get characters confused, what with most of them being identically dressed nuns, and with that so goes thematic conflicts. Two notes: one being that Pink Narcissus is a gay porn film made by a guy there's a song about on the new Matmos, and the other being that there's an Indian actress in the film whose real name is Jean Simmons, which is funny to me. It's a good movie. The next Powell/Pressburger movie I see will probably be The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, which Patton Oswalt named as one of his three favorite movies- unranked, just one of those "oh I can't just pick one" moments.

The third movie, which I haven't watched yet, is Jean Cocteau's Testament Of Orpheus.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

My dad was in court yesterday, and he's not going to prison. He's had his license taken away, but he still has his car, and is still driving it.

According to him, his lawyer pulled something out of his ass that seemed like it could set a legal precedent. State vs. Nicholson and a ruling in favor of drunk drivers. Yes, the family name will live on! Happy Thanksgiving!

When talking, there were hilarious parallels in our lives that I don't think he noticed. He, having moved out of his parent's house finally, sleeps on a mattress that lies on the floor. His apartment doesn't have enough natural light and so induces depression. And he doesn't have a driver's license. Funny stuff!

The conversation ended with an acknowledgement that we don't have a very good relationship, and him wishing to fix that by communicating more. Who knows how that will turn out?

Parent-child relations are so weird at this age, and probably from now on. I guess it's based around being very different people, but having been around the other person so much that you know their reasons for being the way they are and can maybe relate to them so you like/love them based on that knowledge, although the knowledge of certain details are still completely disgusting?

In other news, I'm doing animation for this art installation. I keep on making decisions to do really ambitious experimental things. Here's hoping it's a good habit. The latest idea I've had, for a possible Senior Thesis, would be to do a film that's basically structured like Koyanasqatski (sic) or something, but filled with talking, and about human interactions rather than the environment and creation myths. Until then it's experiments to get to that point, and when that point is reached I'm sure my brain will have moved on to something else entirely. When I say experiments I don't mean it in the arty sense, I mean the scientific sense. But even then, like a child's sense of science experiments, trying to replicate things I've seen but haven't done and use to my own ends etc. Like for this animation, the experiment is hand-drawn perspective shifts of a fairly large scale, the type of thing which is probably mostly seen in computer animated stuff, but sloppy and about a stick figure with swords jumping over an overweight man impaled with missles, and then lighting those missles on fire because his swords are on fire.

I'm working hard right now, feeling like I'm building something. I'm turning a shirt that's kind of shitty into something awesome, beginning with sewing Black Dice in yarn onto the front in a near-replication of the Creature Comforts sleeve. I need to make it longer and give it a hood and maybe a fleece lining.

I guess it might look like shallow frivolity. But it feels like building something just the opposite.

The other day I learned that another friend from Evergreen was pregnant and was amazed that we still haven't yet improved the world to the point where such a thing seems like a good idea. Except for the fact that doing such a thing, if you're the right person, is just the type of gesture that leads to that type of thing. I still think the same thesis of a short story I wrote a couple years ago, that art on a grand scale could save people on a small scale.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

There are times when I think it might be for the best that women don't find me attractive. Like when a girl plunges her hand through a window for catharsis over sexual frustration and depression and ends up cutting a vein and bleeding all over a party, with the object of desire (who is mostly uninterested due to being involved in a relationship with someone who is not fucking crazy) being the only person able to talk said person (who is drunk) into going to a hospital.

I went to a party. I walked home. It was far from here. But a good party by I think any standard.

I wore a Black Dice shirt I made that day, that almost replicates some writing on the Creature Comforts sleeve.

I said a funny joke about having the charisma of a thousand Jay Lenos and ate some sort of spicy shrimp stew. Also there were beers, friends and enemies, and a shitton of strangers. Those strangers seemed mostly uninteresting.

I thought I would have more reportage, but what is there to say, besides an exasperated "Women!"

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I fall asleep in class quite a bit, possibly to the point of coming off narcoleptic. It's early in the morning, rarely engaging- Things happen.

Also I am unhealthy. And I fall asleep during other things, because of the sleep schedule being not-so-hot.

So it's 3:38 now, and I'm not tired.

I napped earlier, and when I went to bed two hours ago I started to think about my plans to make myself a Black Dice shirt. Plans that I really would like to follow through on.

Today, I was told by a partner in this art project that she doesn't get mad at most people- Only me, because of the confrontational way of speaking which I basically attribute to the East coast. Rubs her the wrong way. And this is someone I like, obviously. Why is that obvious? Because it's someone I talk to like a normal person, which is to say that there are a lot of jokes and whatnot.

Alex ordered a copy of the Brian Chippendale book, Ninja. This was a few weeks ago, when it became available for preorder from Picturebox. I'm anxious for it to arrive. A lot of the Fort Thunder comics don't really grab me- There's a reason I didn't buy Teratoid Heights when it was in print- but I like the posters a lot, and the stuff I've seen from this (Stuff on the Gallery Agniel website) looks fairly advanced, actually possessing emotion rather than the Maggots era stuff I've seen. I found out before attempting sleep today that the Highwater Books site has online strips I'd never seen by the likes of Chris Forgues (CF) and Ben Jones, and I kind of like those guys' work more than the stuff more directly borne out of Fort Thunder. Most of the Highwater site is no longer online, due to the company shutting down. The stuff that persists does so mostly at random.

While talking comics: Here's one of the few pre-Roast Beef and Ray Achewood comics I've read that I think works.

Kids In The Hall Season Two Disc Two arrived from Netflix, and so Alex got to see the Daddy Drank sketch which is never far from my mind.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Okay so The Wire. I find it hard to roll with pretty much any TV, let alone TV dramas, these days. Even the HBO stuff- A lot of it leaves me cold. But I just finished downloading and watching season four of The Wire, which we kind of paced, although the season isn't done yet. I've never seen season two. I imagine it's good, but there's been a huge leap in quality.

Complaints about this show: They're not good at using music, except as a background element. The opening credit sequences, where each season a different cover of the same song plays, is always awful- A bad song and bad cover versions. If memory serves, every season so far has also ended with a montage sent to music as a way to tie up loose ends while accelerating through time. These parts are always kind of awkward and that has something to do with music as well.

Anyway, people have compared the way the show works to novels, hinting at quality beyond TV. A lot of the writers are prose writers. David Simon's a former journalist, George Pelecanos writes crime novels. I'm pretty much convinced The Wire is better than their books, especially once you start to take all of the show as one work that grows in scope with each new season. It's just so hugely structurally complicated, at this point there's probably as many characters as The Simpsons or Gravity's Rainbow. I get lost as to character names. It's just so huge. It has to be, each expansion of the cast into new territory starts to seem integral to what it's doing.

What it's doing is huge, genuinely important seeming stuff, about basically the deterioration of inner cities, a liberal view of how society fails through a combination of bureacracy, politics, pettiness, and people's brutality. I really can't imagine it working as a book and still capturing the basic human nuances- The simple ease of acting at sketching characters.

At the same time, it works on the same basic visceral entertainment level of any cop show, although one that seems to wear its dark sense of humor more on its sleeve. And it encompasses the criminals on the other side, selling drugs, which gives greater humanity and sociological insight, at the same time giving you different people to root for and against.

The level of structural complexity is probably what makes it seem not fun at all, even though it's actually what makes it so entertaining- There's so many people to care about and they're all thwarting each other. It's drama and... yeah, ridiculously complex. It really does feel like the best TV show, even though it might not be my favorite, due to a handful of biases.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Well, the whole Lucid Thoughts idea has mostly not panned out, due to only having the energy for such things when I'm really tired, where my mind can't really handle such things. But I'll try to articulate things.

Kramer's Ergot is this anthology of arty comics that's been pretty much the premier of the aughts. It's expensive, but it's big, in full-color, and prints a lot of stuff that wouldn't otherwise get such exposure, a lot of minicomics people, but working in full-color so it's all very pretty. Daniel Clowes called it an heir to Raw, which was the big art-comics thing in the 1980s, but says that with the reservation that no one in Kramer's Ergot is as good as Gary Panter or Charles Burns. Gary Panter has actually had stuff in volumes five and six, but that was arguably half-assed and not the point anyway. The point of the book is that it features new people.

Alex has bought volumes four, five, and six. These are the ones that matter, basically, as the first couple were smaller, black and white, and... well, no one cares about anyone in the first two, which were basically just the size of normal comics.

The thing that's most important is that the quality hinges on the longest stories, whoever gets the most chance to shine. The longer stories are the high points. Part of this also comes down to who is getting the longer stories. In volume four, it's Souther Salazar and CF, both of whom are kind of awesome.

Souther Salazar's stuff is actually completely amazing. He does these collage-comics, that he prints himself. (although I don't really get how, due to the high-quality that seems evident) There's a lot of emphasis on pen and ink drawings, but there's a kind of collage texture at work. He's in all three books, but gets decreasing pages each go-round. His stuff is great- It seems to go back and forth between this stuff that's kind of poetic sensitive-boy comics and this stuff that has this really funny, childlike edge to it. Five and six have more of the latter, with the creation of these characters Fervler and Razzle, who are minimal stick-figure animals, but- There's a lot of texture and a lot of jokes per page, on different colors of paper so it comes off beautiful even in the simplicity. Issue four he's got a bunch of comics, at least one of which I know is a reprint of a minicomic. It's called Please Don't Give Up, and it's words of encouragement accompanied by drawings of kittens. This might sound awful, but that's because I'm consciously selling it short. It works because of the variation of the lettering, and the quality of the drawing, and the ability to sell that type of really direct writing. It might seem weird and art-objecty, but I feel like the appeal's the same as that found in Craig Thompson's comics.

Marc Bell's in all of them too. But I hate his comics kind of a lot- I think they're stupid, unfunny, and really dense with this wordplay-writing that's exhausting in its attempts at cleverness. I've seen it a lot and have never liked it.

CF's stuff is good, though. He's a noise-rocker guy, who put out an album on Load Records I've been listening to. His noise stuff is just kind of there and existing, but sometimes, like on half of the eight tracks on the album I have, he does this singing over just a strummed electric guitar with a good tone. That stuff works a lot for some reason. It's noisy, but human. I wish I could say his drawing was a parallel to it, but it's not. He does these kind of simple pencil drawings, sometimes watercolors over them, and tells stories. The thing in 4 isn't as good as the bit in 5 in a way that I'm just willing to chalk up to progress. In both 4 and 5 he gets a while to do his thing, while in volume 6 he and Souther Salazar (who holy shit has an amazing name, in case you'd noticed it and didn't think I did, how could you not) both get five pages so it's not really satisfying as an aesthetic swim.

CF founded Paper Radio with Ben Jones, before Ben went on to do Paper Rad with the Ciocci siblings. I really like Paper Rad, I think their stuff is funny. They're in Kramer's as well, and are superstars. Their piece in issue six is fucking crazy-It starts off as a Seinfeld riff (Paper Rad are really into shameless copyright violation) where Kramer trips on drugs, peels the skin off his couch to find 90s indie rock CDs contained within, which he then listens to, being so inspired by Smog that he draws a comic where Bill Callahan takes out his huge dick. It's funny and it's obnoxious. All their stuff is good though, basically.

Okay I shouldn't just run down all the content. There's a lot of it. Most of it has its charms. But not all of it.

Anders Nilsen does a great thing in issue four about Sisyphus and a Minotaur.

The stuff I like is mostly stories. Some of it isn't. Some of it is drawings and collages. This stuff doesn't grab me so much but it really helps add to the overall next-level vibe.

Issue five is the best on the whole, essentially. It has lots of people given extended chances to work through their ideas. Chris Ware gets four pages. It's the one most likely to throw out traditional comics stories that work as narratives. (Kevin Huizenga!) Issue six is mostly short work, but some people get extended chances. Matthew Thurber comes off as funny and impressive with a comic that has a narrative that's just really weird in how it develops and what it's about. It just seems ridiculously fully-developed for someone I've never heard of, as a complete and total voice. Oh, and Shary Boyle gets a showcase for her paintings, which are completely great. Although I'm not certain how good the printing is- The watercolor stuff just gleams on a flat-screen monitor, better than the printed page. There's a lot of good people who just do short work though, and it ends up being pretty unsatisfying.

What's weird is the nature of the arty comic though. Daniel Clowes was talking about Raw being better, and what's funny there is how piss-poor comics were in the eighties. Even the good ones, what was hyped at the time. Like, I downloaded some Chester Brown Yummy Fur comics- Chester Brown is a creepy weirdo, for one thing, and this is the era before he did autobio comics about him being a loser, where he just did surrealist stuff. Totally critically adored at the time. It's interesting, but just- Not literary, is how I'd best put it. Not like that's necessary at all for something to work, endings, but it's so much about the tone. It doesn't work as literature. That shouldn't be a prerequisite, but it's just not even an issue in most eighties comics, having an ending with emotional weight and a point behind it.The precedent just isn't there- It's all ongoing serials and comic strips or underground comics drawn while high. Or slice-of-life auto-bio which never really ends or has a literary arc. That stuff isn't here as well, for the most part. But I feel like Clowes' point probably has more to do with the higher standard that exists now, that he kind of helped to create. But then, I haven't read Raw and Charles Burns is pretty fucking great.

Anyway these comics are expensive and I didn't buy them. But I've read them and they have their appeal even if on the whole they don't add up to my favorite shit, which is just kind of the nature of the anthology.

One cool thing about the new volume is it gives dates of birth for the artist. A lot of them aren't thirty yet. But only one was born in the eighties, and that's the editor/curator, Sammy Harkham, who appears in each but who I haven't mentioned. His stuff isn't very good. It's encouraging in its vision of youth who are older than me but have a bead and now seem to know what they're doing. What's funny is how relatable what they're doing is to someone younger. I read an interview with Sammy and he, in talking what he liked and put in, talked about the sincerity of all of it, and how, even though it might seems arty, it really is either totally comics or coming from that worldview and set of aesthetics.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I want to inaugurate a series of essays here, called Lucid Thoughts, where I am much more articulate and try a bit harder to talk about things. Perhaps I will even write drafts in Notepad in advance.

But now I see that it is late and I really shouldn't rack my brain at this point. But I'm thinking the first two installments will cover the TV show The Wire, and the comics anthology Kramer's Ergot. I think my talk of the latter will be more critical than what I've seen but my talk of the former will be more blind hyperbole of the type normally associated with praise of that show.

Before that, some inarticulate thoughts on the TV show Garth Marenghi's Darkplace. It's a British comedy that's a parody of eighties British television. Which would place it in the same category as the Owen Wilson/Jack Black/Ben Stiller/Rob Schrab pilot Heat Vision And Jack, if this didn't have more levels. It stars Matthew Holness, who was one episode of The Office, and some people who just seem to flutter around current British comedy. It's funny, with the last episode maybe being the funniest. It's hard to explain why it works. Partly it's because it's parody, and the things that are the funniest don't actually seem like jokes, just come off as very over-the-top moments. Or, because these moments are frequently violent, make the show seem darker than it is- It's very light, it's a parody, but one executed by British people giving bad line readings rather than the staff of Mad Magazine. It shares with The Office the ability to write bad jokes and not have that reduce the overall effect, which strikes me as something hard to do, as someone who thinks of humor as coming very natural and every time I see someone say a joke that strikes me as awful, I think about how even when I am just making stupid jokes for the sake of saying something I don't say things that awful because it's not how my mind works.

Tomorrow there will be lucid thoughts.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I have to keep a journal for this class I'm in right now. And by have to keep, I I mean I falsified a few weeks of entries not too long ago, late at night, pounding out words meditating on art. I came up with a lot, thought about posting it here, but thought that would be too self-indulgent. This stuff here is written with at least some awareness of an audience, and an audience consisting of people I like. The other journal, done for class, is being kicked like scraps into the void of a teacher whose opinion I don't really care about, and so I can write in these self-reflexive curlicues. I came up with a glossary explaining the shorthand I use when talking about art by way of reference to work that already exists, in the way I like about it, to make it clear when I talk about wanting my work to be like rapping I mean that I want it to be really expressive of how awesome I am and where I'm from, not a reflection of hip-hop culture. I don't talk about how I get what I like about rapping out of The Hold Steady's Separation Sunday. Although I do, even though I like elements of rap music that aren't present there. Again, Separation Sunday is pretty great. Although the more that I think about it, their new record, not so good.

I have other writings to do for that class, all with varying degrees of formality. The journal being the least formal, and the most formal being critical analysis essays about art shows that leave me completely unmoved. I'm avoiding writing one of those now, as I listen to Califone.

Califone are one of those bands with a cool aesthetic and sound but not really the type of melodies that stick and bring me back leaving aside a few moments. They're a good band and I own none of their records. Their best songs are covers, I think: The cover of Slayer's South Of Heaven they did with Modest Mouse that was the first thing I heard is really great, as is their cover of Psychic TV's The Orchids that's the highlight/centerpiece of their new record, Roots And Crowns. If you haven't heard them, I should point out that they don't sound like any of those bands. They're really into the Harry Smith Anthology Of American Folk Music but there's electronics at work, creating their own kind of buzzing textures to replace antiquated recording technologies for stuff done on computers. There's the stuff of clay and mud but also wires. The lyrics mostly seem like cut-up, which is why The Orchids comes through so strong- The refrain of the chorus is strong enough to stick in the mind as an idea, which cut-up doesn't do so well.

I saw the Borat movie. Some people like the skits more for adhering closer to their idea of what smart satire is but this is much better-paced and has a lot of fat trimmed that would've been left on for the TV show. Momentum! And sight gags. Cinema! Arguably dumbed-down but if you're making points about stupidity - Hey I don't know how to finish that sentence. I was going to say that "too much intelligence seems elitist" for like a second there but that's not actually true. How about if you're making the argument that it's too dumbed-down, you're coming off elitist and superior to a movie that's actually pretty damn funny and pretty smart. Anyway yes it's funny but I imagine that the hype will destroy it, especially once the hype starts to turn into spoilers. So see it as soon as you can with as low expectations as possible. Your expectations should probably just be "I bet this will be funnier than all those movies that I refuse to see because they look god-awful, like Employee Of The Month."

I borrowed a copy of George Saunders' In Persuasion Nation from my friend Graham. I think it's good, funnier than Pastoralia, but I still wish that he could work all his tones into something all-consuming, balancing the haha with the affect a bit more strongly, the satire with the humanity. He gets at it sometimes with some stuff in this, but that's so different from the pieces that are closer to the traditional short story. I guess I'm wishing for him to become a novelist, but if he were I'm imagining he'd probably just write Catch-22 which maybe isn't necessary in this "Catch-22 has already been written" era. Hopefully that bit of criticism should hint to you all that George Saunders is pretty fucking good.

I also read Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation. I tell of the history I learned to my friends who seem largely ambivalent. And I'm being selective from what she talks about, narrowing it down mostly to talk of sex cults and anarchists. It's a fun goddamn book.

I imagine that if I write more here I will write more elsewhere also, in those books I'm writing, that I lent excerpts to friends, who didn't read said excerpts. I haven't been doing a lot of writing lately.

Goddamn, Califone. Quicksand And Cradlesnakes is pretty good, even though I don't often listen to it. I don't listen to the sound of rain too often either, but that says nothing about it's quality.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

I am opposed to bumper stickers, but were the scenario to come, I'd gladly have a "Sasquatch/Obama for a cooler tomorrow" sign in my window, or on my lawn.

Sasquatch made his presence known in a Montana mountain town that was veering towards economic collapse. He ran for mayor and won, with a plan that called for a greater tourist industry and an influx of new capital. He worked all day passing legislation assisting small businesses and spent his nights doing what he could as a tourist attraction, as a guitarist in a rock and roll combo that would play at struggling taverns.

People came from all around to visit the town with the rock and roll Sasquatch mayor, and their money would go to local bed and breakfast owners and restaurant proprietors. Taxes were never even officially raised, with sales taxes funding a great deal of improvements. The Sasquatch made sure the funds went to improving the public schools and building a library for the citizens, never neglecting them in favor of the tourists.

He ran for governor and won, not just in youthful college towns like Missoula but throughout the state. Even though he was a Democrat, there was no stigma attached. The Sasquatch had never even gone to college.

He was the most electable Sasquatch the United States had ever seen. And the Democrats took notice, realizing that a Sasquatch driven ticket could win over the libertarian west as well as established strongholds.

And then the Republicans took notice, and ran their own mythical creature. "Minotaur/McCain for a tougher America" might not appeal to you, but it took hold of the heart of the American people. The Minotaur was tough on everything: Crime, terrorism, immigration, welfare. He had certain lines he wouldn't cross though. Being punished in a massive labyrinth had made him sympathetic towards the stipulations of the Geneva convention. He was also opposed to Domestic spying.

They set him lose in Afghanistan, and using skills learned in the labyrinth, he emerged days later with a mangled corpse he claimed belonged to Osama Bin Laden. The dental records matched.

The Sasquatch responded by giving speeches about a variety of issues. He avoided certain hot-button issues involving sexual politics, but the general "Hey everybody let's chill out" tone hinted at liberalism. He spoke of the importance of taking care of the environment, which the minotaur ignored as an issue.

There are rumors that either creature, if elected to office, will let the facade drop and go on a murderous rampage. There are precautions in place: The Sasquatch can be easily put down. In the event of a Presidential Minotaur rampage, there is a series of bombs planted in Washington DC to turn a segment of the Mall into an island, and to move the seat of governance back to Philadelphia.

So yes this election day I will be voting for the party of the Sasquatch. The Minotaur might be better than George W. Bush but there's still something scary about his vision of America.

Monday, October 09, 2006

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Monday, October 02, 2006

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Now that I've stopped asking myself "What am I doing?" while at work, I've found a new internal mantra. "What are we going to do about all the depression?"

And then, a few nights ago, I think I might have solved that riddle as well. I sent ten dollars to a PO Box in Rhode Island, ordering some copies of Paper Rodeo and maybe Chris Forgues' Low Tide. On the back, I felt the urge to draw. I drew my left hand, with "What are we going to do about all of the depression?" underneath it as a caption. Then, a frog, hanging out inside the mouth of a skull, which was wearing bunny ears, said "If this is a problem that can't be solved by being awesome then I don't know what to do." And then in conclusion there was a cubist drawing of a dinosaur saying "Wait I think it is."

And that I guess sums it up. And tonight in another situation, I was able to stem the mantra of "What am I doing?" again, via different means.

Also I saw an interview with a neuroscientist who wrote a book about how we respond to music who answered the zen koan "If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?" The answer is no, as sound is defined by pitch, which only exists once the vibration hits an eardrum.

There are jokes in my head that I won't write until they become true. Most of my jokes that I speak aloud, or write on the Rupert Murdoch Must Die blog, are just absurd lies. Who knows what will be the final fate of this joke? Maybe it'll just be the Joe Sayers minicomic punchline that was source material.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

So Saturday I went and saw Man Man play in a warehouse turned art gallery. They were pretty aces, you know.

Then I hung out with my brother and watched Big Top Pee-Wee. I didn't want to say this to my brother, but I think Big Top might be better than Big Adventure. My brother is a pretty big proponent of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure as one of the best movies ever but it's one of those comedies where I find it hard to find the jokes. Big Top Pee-Wee I can find the jokes and laugh at them, because they're really bizarre- It's the whole "Why is this in a popular movie" type of hahas, but then you remember that it wasn't actually a popular movie.

I don't know if you heard about this, but the new Mike Judge movie Idiocracy kind of came out but is being completely buried by Fox and I guess I will see it on DVD.

Sunday I found out that Spaceboy Music is closing! Holy shit! Oh, South Street, you are in decline.

Okay I am listening to an old Best Show on WFMU and sucking on a lollipop so I can't really bring the blogging right now.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

So tonight, at the Shellac show, I ran into people I used to work with, when I worked at a music store run by a former crackhead. One got fired, one quit. And the owner? It turns out that "former crackhead" is kind of a misnomer, as he got caught on South Street with a hooker and thirty-six bags of crack. But those two crazy kids have opened their own music store, Long In The Tooth Records, which I actually walked past when I tried to go to the comic book store (Fat Jack's) on Sansom to pick up the new Brendan McCarthy Solo. (The store was closed but man I anticipating reading that thing.) I don't think they have any employees besides the two of them. They are a couple who really like hardcore punk and horror movies and Janice was the first person to recommend Jan Svanmajer's work to me. I can't vouch for the quality of the store- They're not so into the stuff I'm into and I think that might be mostly below their radar but no kidding great people. Living the dream. It made me really happy.

You know what else made me really happy? Shellac. I appreciate that their songs when played live are in some ways vehicles for them to fuck around, or at least have, within all the tightness and mathiness, these spaces set off for Bob Weston and Steve Albini to put their arms out and say "Look at me, I'm a plane!" or for lyrical improvisations. They opened with Squirrel Song and Prayer To God was the next-to-last song. They played other songs I can't remember and songs I didn't recognize. But they were good.

Openers and-or co-headliners Uzeda were loud enough to cause hernias, I think. I felt my intestines move about. They disheveled my organs.

I'm not making mix CDs so how can people know what songs I've stumbled across I'm really into? Oh I know. I could write about them.

There's this song I got from an mp3 blog- I don't know which one- but it's an M. Ward song. I don't think I like that guy. But when I said it's an M. Ward song, I don't mean it- It's a Daniel Johnston song. That M. Ward covers. And adds Neko Case harmonies on the chorus. So any problems with M. Ward- Like that maybe he's generic and his production is toothless and really I just don't get it- Get blown away by, for one, the Daniel Johnston thing- Kind of like how I downloaded an Okkervil River song he guests on and I actually like it, even though I have the same complaints about Okkervil River- Daniel Johnston's unquestionable earnestness sells the shit out of some stuff that might approximate Matchbox Twenty or something similar, even if the artists with their name on the album are just using him for instant cred. But then there's Neko Case who is a much better singer than M. Ward. I'll give this to old M though- For a harmonizer his voice has a low end in a way that a Neko Case/Daniel Johnston collaboration would lack. (To say nothing of the fact that such a collaboration, if you're imagining it, would probably be terrifying for Ms. Case, oh man.) The Daniel Johnston song is "To Go Home" by the way, which I think I've heard, as the chorus "I'll stay true, to you, you know I will, I'll stay true forever or until" seems like it was in my memory already. That's the part Neko Case sings, by the way. Think that over in your brain and maybe you'll get why it makes me melt. The part where M. Ward says "I come home" over and over using like protools echos doesn't effect any change to my status of being a liquid, but that's fine because at that part I am already molten and I wouldn't want to become gaseous.

Then there's The Blow's Parentheses, which is the only good song on her new album, Paper Television, which I was totally excited for at one point. Oh, the things it does that the other songs don't- Like have two poignant relatable and painting-a-perfect-picture-of-a-persona lyrics. One of those being "If something in the deli aisle makes you cry, of course I'll put my arm around you and walk you outside, through the sliding doors, why would I mind" which is perfect because there've been times when the grocery store has freaked me out but every time I would expect other people to be bothered by my instability and there's been times when I've been unresponsive to other people's freaking out in the presence of that which is literally minor but symbolically huge. And then there's what it doesn't do that other songs do, like use the word "heart" and/or shit imagery.

Another one I'd put on a mix would be Swan Lake's All Fires. It's a Spencer Krug song but I think maybe with Dan Bejar and Casey Mercer doing harmonies way buried. Can I talk about this song? Only in allusion and off-handed ways. I mentioned it to a friend in an e-mail that was largely about a conceptual band and writing from holy fool persepectives. There's something at work within it. It's really good, certainly.

I have to keep listening to this new Akron/Family album. I did the thing where I downloaded it thinking I would only listen once and then buy it but then on that first listen was attacked by doubt. Because it does things like in the course of say the opening track, where it starts out with drum beats, then adds guitar noises, and at this point you're totally down, but then the vocals come in and it's weird in a way which is kind of awesome but also kind of ridiculous and then it keeps moving but more in that jam direction, away from the vocals, so the structure just seems really fucking weird and that part that was so crazy as to make you unsure whether or not it was a bad idea starts to seem like a bad idea (by the way, I'm not talking about the scatting that starts it off, that part clearly rules, I'm talking about when that scatting gives way to a capella singing of the title of the song- when that happens I'm like wwhhhaaaaaaaatttt and then the guitars come in all like country-ish or something) and then that stops and something else completely happens which is I guess better but structurally you think "is this what prog is like? What the fuck is happening? This is not a song." And then it just keeps on not really being a song, and it goes on for nine and a half minutes, and... You know it would be fucking thrilling live. Duh. Oh my god yeah see Akron/Family on tour certainly. But I already knew that. What about the album? I guess I have to keep listening to the album. It's got its moments.

I should go to a record store, see if I can pick up the new Wooden Wand and The Sky High Band thing. When I heard a lot of those songs at some backyard BBQ I liked it a lot although I don't know what's actually on the album.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What I've been thinking about for the past two days or so is how great the riff that serves as the chorus to The Flaming Lips' "She Don't Use Jelly" is. The thing about the Flaming Lips- I feel now like people in 2000 felt when they were all "The Soft Bulletin rules" and being confronted with people being like "Aren't they a one-hit wonder from 1993?" only that I'm saying "The Flaming Lips are great" and people are thinking "oh huh yeah I guess you like stuff that is kind of adult-contemporary but with big-ass strings and indie cred" because last time I heard The Soft Bulletin I lamented a youth wasted living like an old man.

But stumbled across the high-larious performance on 90210 and was reminded "Man that guitar line is something killer"- Containing within it that whole My Bloody Valentine thing that led to me writing a post calling noise pop the best music ever, but in a way that's just ridiculously accessible and recognizable- A riff with a great tone, as opposed to the Only Shallow elephant-trunk guitar chord, which is a better sound but isn't, you know, a melody. Like it's poppy as hell but I've heard rumors of the volume of early-nineties Lips shows and I can imagine that as threatening. It's serrated, even though it's bubblegum. Having it hit you in the face is like on The Prisoner where the Rover bubble is on top of McGoohan's face and he's screaming, only imagine that as a sticky bubblegum bubble that once attached stretches the face out a bit.

So many guitar lines are more easily compared to knives than laser beam blasts. Like Fugazi or Sleater-Kinney. That's good stuff too. But I was imagining on my walk home a band with two guitarists trading off lines like those bands (or Televison or what have you) only the sounds are huge, they slash instead of stab. A band like that might as well call them Black Adam Sandler for all that they could be the new shape in entertainment.

Come on nineties revival.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The most recent post at the Rupert Murdoch Must Die blog, "Market Research" actually describes my life right now. It's there instead of here so it could more easily be filled with the jokes that are how I approach. But that's the situation.

On Saturday I went to Philadelphia to see Paper Rad. I bought the DVD and a minicomic. I could've bought more zines if I didn't buy the DVD, which had a lot of its content screened at the show, but I liked the idea of the DVD because it seemed so much more definitive and less ephemeral. This was probably dumb. Whatever. The zines were expensive, five bucks apiece for not a whole lot of reading content.

I meant to write more but Alfe's coming on now. I meant to watch this yesterday but couldn't find a DVD player in the house.

Oh, I didn't say in the Rupert Murdoch Must Die blog where exactly I'm working. Cherry Hill Mall. Consider that an actual blog exclusive. Do with that information what you will.

I pretty much can't get around without the bus system since there's nothing around here to do and it's hot as fuck out. I want to go to Oaklyn and try to track down obscure comics.

Alfe just said a thing about being out of sauce enablers. It's funny because my mom is awful at buying food and so the fridge is filled with condiments and repetition (four boxes of orange juice, what the eff?) and everything that's actual building blocks of meals is stored away in the freezer, not really marked and, you know, inedible without long periods of time spent thawing.

The Paper Rad comic I picked up (I think it's Ben Jones zine, Cartoon Workshop 2, Jessica Ciocci's is called Pig Tales and Jacob Ciocci's thing didn't seem to have a title and both were tempting and if I had ten more bucks on me I would've bought both) ends with the punchline of the character Ralphe saying "Does this burrito have cilantro in it?" Good stuff, good stuff.

Monday, July 31, 2006

I got a burnt copy of the next Blow record, Paper Television. It's a bad rip, and a bad burn too.

But on a first listen I think I'm still going to say that it's kind of disappointing, maybe intermittently annoying.

Track two, Parentheses, seems pretty good though, even though that's one where I think the bad rip comes through in my hearing- The chorus has what just sounds to me like the static of crinkling aluminum foil. But on the whole I'm still thinking it's a winner. That song, at least.

The record seems to have surging through it a use of too much of the same trite imagery (The word "heart" gets said a lot) and then there's at least one kind of overworked metaphor (That one involves poop. Actually, that one recurs as well. Awkwardly.) Parentheses has one or two lines that cut through all that malarkey to actually say things. Also, it has the best melody. The beats do cool stuff throughout, every once in a while, but what I think might be one of the best beats also has one of the worst melodies (It's the song where the word "shit" is said in the chorus, and the bad part of the vocal is Khaela doing like this scream-screech high note all over the damn place.)

Unrelated but: I am always wondering, always worrying about, what I would think were I to interact with a younger self, and what that younger self would think of me, the continuity in my behavior. The thing that makes me worry about this, I realize, is that in a lot of ways I'm not any better off than I was when I was younger. The things that I want now are things I think I've always wanted, that I have never had. Except for a few abstractions that I've grabbed momentarily.

There's a record store in Pennsauken where I could probably buy a bunch of Prince records for like two bucks apiece but the money situation's not too good. Self-control, self-control! There's also a copy of Bitches Brew for 25 bucks which is high but maybe it's an original pressing or some shit. I don't know. I shouldn't spend money anyway.

Oh right- I'm in New Jersey now. Have been since last Monday, when I pissed off my brother. He went away for a weekend, gave me chores to do- Giving the cat food and water. Which I do anyway, even when he's around. But after giving the cat food the morning of his return, my brother still came home to an empty bowl (Cats eat food) and concluded that I did nothing and so am not to be trusted and am hopelessly immature and can't stay with him for at least a while, which kind of fucked the whole "job in Philly" bit so I think now I'm looking for work in New Jersey, even though I don't want to stay with my mom either, I guess I'll just have to once I find employment.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

I'm at my mom's house, on her computer. I see she's been looking up Asperger's Syndrome. Does this make me paranoid that she thinks I have Asperger's? Yes. I kind of think that's the type of thing that if you had never actually seen someone who had it, you might think it was a problem for anyone whose behavior struck you as being odd or outside the norm of what you want and expect people to be. I have a different perception of social interaction and expectation than she does, I think.

This is just paranoia, she's not making any accusations or anything. Still I've got the fear.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

My dad might be going to prison. I wish I had known about this earlier. But he, being a drunk, often drives drunk. He was pulled over recently. A third offense. So he has to stand trial, and got an expensive lawyer to try to make it so the first time didn't count because he didn't have legal representation. Which strikes me as bullshit, but what do I know of the law?

It seems fairly unlikely he'll go to prison, what with being in his forties and white and all that.

I don't know what'll happen to him. I hope he doesn't get sent to rehab, just because I know he's not really repentant.

I don't want him to go to prison, even though that would be funny to me, in an awful kind of way.

He's moving out of his parent's house, though, which is for the best. Closer to work so that if his license gets taken away for ten years (which strikes me as something that should probably happen, and is apparently a possibility) he could still keep his job.

Interacting with my dad is weird. He belittles my haircut, I tell him that my brother saw him in a strip club and said he was the sleaziest dude there. He argues that he's not sleazy, he's playful. I say my brother calls 'em as he sees 'em, and is way less biased than he is, since no one wants to think they're sleazy. He tells me he might be going to prison, but he likes to party hard and likes having crazy friends. I tell him that it is bad to have crazy friends exclusively, and that a balance must be maintained between the crazy and the sane. Then I tell him not to go to prison, and point out that he, in living with his parents, tends to get angry about nothing.

I've been happier since I left home, but since he moved back in with his parents, he's had a heart attack.

What I'm saying is that I am now at the point where I am better at living life than he is. And I say this as someone who's unemployed. He's paid for a few quarters of tuition. You know what's funny? Life is funny. Life is goddamn hilarious.

I don't want my dad to go to prison, but I've wanted him to learn a lesson that would mean stop drinking to excess and hanging out with- when he says crazy people he means perverts with serious drug problems- but I mean I guess he is as against his own self-growth as I am mine.

My mom used to hope and maybe pray that my dad would get in a car accident, not too bad, but enough to make him learn a lesson. I used to imagine scenarios where he would hit me with a car while driving drunk. And when I was younger and more religious I would pray for his redemption, just a general becoming a better person. Now I just have a dark sense of humor but I still feel a kinship with that younger me, and feel like the connection between being deeply cynical and darkly humored and being religious and spiritual is undervalued. I don't know what'll happen to my dad, and I don't know if he'll change. More on this story as it develops, although as I type it I feel like nothing will ever happen.

I read Kurt Vonnegut's Jailbird, and liked it okay, and was able to relate to parts of it if I was being intellectually dishonest.

Monday, July 17, 2006

So this was interesting, a thing in Harper's about the right wing's strategies in forming the narratives they tell. It starts off slow, gets good with historical details, and ends up making sense in the end if you go into it already sharing it's political biases.

I'll tell you what wasn't interesting, what was kind of stupid, was this Lev Grossman thing in Time about how there's no literary voice of the generation. The best part is when it starts off listing the ages of authors as a way to dismiss people who were never nominated: Seriously I think that we all knew that Michael Chabon was pretty much writing exclusively for old people, specifically nerds. Really an awful piece of writing- The part where Zadie Smith gets cited but only almost, with the stipulation that she might not qualify because she lives in England- She's also a black woman and everyone else cited was a white man. But what's really important here is that she, at 30, is probably actually just outside the frame of consideration, in my mind.

Alex, when looking at the Paper Rad book, called that the art of this generation. I was like "they're older than us" but it's worth noting that they're still younger than Zadie Smith and at least I'm pretty sure the cultural reference points that are important are shared.

This should also come into play with the also-stupid-but-for-different-reasons Chuck Klosterman article about the lack of video game criticism.

Like I think it's important that Paper Rad (and cartoonist Bryan Lee O'Malley) are dealing with that detritus of video games in their art, their work that's not-prose-novels. Just from a position of if I were a cultural critic, what would I think is important in terms of shaping the lives of people alive right now. Or was important, in the past. There's important things that need to be taken into consideration with what people are dealing with- All cultural critics are thinking to say is 9/11, which is so fucking reductive and psychologically that happened after my personality was pretty much already formed. No one thinks to mention Columbine as a big thing but I thought it was huge at the time it occurred although post-high-school it seems less so, but maybe it taught some kids fear and empathy in a way that's shaped their lives.

But let's take, for the people that fell outside marketer's post-Douglas Coupland purview, the important formative stuff as happening from the late-eighties on. I don't know when to say the formative stuff ended. 9/11 maybe in terms of- that created a world that we now have to live with but seemingly cannot actually change. (This is why I started with that Harper's article, by the way- I like the idea at the end that a lot of people are just kind of over America.)

That means liberalism, by the way. Like, the way I think about it- Think of how much The Simpsons is imprinted on your brain, and how that's been there since childhood. There are other sitcoms that are important too- Thank you Seinfeld, for teaching me about unacceptable behavior. I mean I guess that's the mark of young people in general but my understanding of the show Diff'rent Strokes (I think- By the way, that show is an example of stuff around in the late eighties that didn't matter at all in terms of shaping the lives of people who are now in their twenties) is that that's not always the case. But I don't know- Maybe I am just a douchebag elitist in that in the same way I would think anyone conservative must have their head in the fucking sand, if they are young they are just completely out of step with the zeitgeist. (And not even because of the whole war equals killing of the nation's young thing, actually.) But I think of the formative stuff and I can't imagine- Like even growing up with rap so huge seems like it should maybe take the edge off racism a bit, which is so huge with conservatives.

I don't know, I'm not really that interested in that whole voice-of-a-generation bullshit but I felt obligated to comment on it as someone who's not a fucking old man writing for Time the criticial establishment- Why would that guy even think he would know who was speaking for the young people? God such an awful article. Also annoying is the similarity in tone for all the pieces he speaks for, the douchebag. All angry and whiny and snivelling, and by placing it in context, that is what he expects and seemingly wants from the future. I get the impression, vaguely, the a lot of the people producing good work now are producing work that's fairly gentle, possibly in response to how awful the global situation is, which is weird and maybe unlikely but I don't know: It seems like a lot of people are trying to be calm and buddhist and spiritual and communicate in their work, rather than just froths of rage and whininess. Maybe that's just like the calmness of living with the post-apocalypse and growing up without a feeling of entitlement.

By the way, I'm under the impression that the next Paper Rad book, the one that I think'll be out before the end of the year, will be like a collection of various previously released but in small-print-run minicomics and zines and whatnot.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

So, yesterday I found out that Syd Barrett is dead, the West African Black Rhino is probably extinct, and Sleater-Kinney's going on indefinite hiatus.

And today, here in Philadelphia, it's grotesquely hot and humid.

I need to look for work again. I found employment at the CD store briefly, but they realized they don't actually need employees, despite the help wanted sign in the window, and I don't follow directions so well when they're counter-intuitive and the reasoning is not explained to me.

I did one day's worth of work, with the store owner's wife, who is proof that even an awful pustule of hate can find love in this world, if only with another pustule of hate, if you don't mind that love being filled with resentment. She was awful.

Oh and this dude came into a store looking to use a bathroom, which I told him he couldn't do there, so he said "I guess I'll just go here then" and put his hand on his crotch. I told him to get out, and long interchange of dialogue back and forth made short since I don't remember it with that much accuracy anyway, (although an important part is when he brings his hand back to his head as if in preparation to slap me) his parting words are "Fuck you Jew boy."

Casual anti-semitism is so weird because I don't think that many people actually care that people are Jewish enough to hate them.

(I also had an interaction where I walked past a crowd of people sitting down at night and they spoke to me in genericisms, to which I said "yup" and one of them said "Yup? what are you, Jewish?" which is weirder.)

I still need that haircut, still need that resume printed, still need a section of the newspaper with classifieds. But now I also need the paycheck from that day I worked.

Friday, July 07, 2006

I read three books in between leaving Olympia and arriving in Philadelphia. I wrote stuff in my notebook that responded to the work, or were basically blog entries. This will basically be me writing about those books, but if anything else in the notebooks is of interest, I'll write it out. I also wrote notes on my laptop, but the laptop power cord has melted and so I'm using my brother's computer.

On the morning I left Olympia I saw a sign I'd seen before and had meant to document, but didn't. Something like "Obscene language is unacceptable in recovery." It was by that Vietnamese place on Fourth Avenue, right after the bridge, like behind it on a street that ran perpendicular that I can't think of. I viewed it through a window. I didn't think that place was a rehab clinic, and I don't really know what it's deal is.

Also on the day I left Olympia, there were Nazis in downtown, at the street fair, waving flags and wearing armbands. Everyone just greeted them with ambivalence, not wanting to give them the satisfaction, but the temptation to engage them in a way that could lead to violence was tempting. I could've said "Hey Nazis! Go back to douche-land!" or a variation that turned "Nazi" into "nozzle."

I left on a Sunday. Friday I saw Art School Confidential and then partied until five in the morning, and in doing so learned I don't have to worry about whiskey-dick. (Or at least not complete impotence resulting from drunkenness.) Also on Friday a bit of my cartoon was erased from a DV tape, but I took it in stride. It might not be a total disaster.

Portland seemed nice for the half hour or so I spent there.

Anyway, so the books I read. The first being George Saunder's Pastoralia, which was fun. I'd read the best story before buying the book. Two stories end with a character acting humanely and sympathetically in accordance to their instincts, but against what they reason is their better judgment. In the title story, which is longer than the others, the nice human behavior is practiced throughout, until the end, where there is a figurative straw breaking the camel's back. Another story, "The Barber's Unhappiness," ends with unreasonable expectations and plans for the future, which will probably not be fulfilled, which is for the best. But basically, this is the sympathy that goes throughout the book. I didn't dislike this stuff, it's gentleness, but- Saunders is actually a really funny guy, and that doesn't come through with that much regularity here. Part of it's that maybe that sense of humor, which is basically satirical, runs counter to the human sympathetic impulse. I prefer the funny stuff. I wish he was better at doing both at once, and maybe he is in other stuff. "Winky" wins the book for it navigating between both sides more easily than anything else, and even there, the humor is mostly found at the beginning.

Following that, I read Alan Moore's Voice Of The Fire, which I didn't really like. I certainly wasn't compelled to finish it, so much as I read it for lack of anything else to do on the train. I read it in two days, which doesn't mean I enjoyed it so much as I'm pretty confident I didn't miss anything. It seemed overwritten, trying too hard in its prose. It's also- it's ostensibly a novel, but it's basically a set of connected short stories, and so it ends up becoming very much about its themes, which aren't really that interesting. And they're specific themes, in that the writer has others, that he deals with in his comics, that are much more interesting. Some of what unites the book isn't a theme so much as it is just reoccuring imagery. Nothing really gets resolved. In the last chapter, there's also a reference to Pig Bodine as a character in Gravity's Rainbow, but I think he's actually in V. Although that's a minor complaint. But mostly- it's not fun, it's self-consciously difficult, and for no real payoff. Moore's a guy who's able to write good prose in comics, but so much of that really varies from work to work. Here, it's just kind of overheated experimentation that's maybe beautiful but is mostly obfuscating.

I also read Joe Sacco's Safe Area Gorazde, which is not really the type of thing I read regularly, but had heard was really good and it was a comic so it kind of falls into my purview even if I don't read a lot of nonfiction about recent events. I didn't dig it, which really shouldn't surprise me at all, considering. It's interesting, I learned stuff, even if I'm forgetting it now, but- Not my thing in a whole lot of ways. And really, I should've known this. I will offer this criticism though- He's not a very good caricaturist, and when he was drawing real people, I never really felt like I got an idea of what they looked like, and a lot of characters struck me as indistinct, which is a problem when you're doing journalism in comics form.

I wish I had more fun things to read on the ride from San Francisco to Chicago. Right now I've got my brother's books on hands, which means a lot of design books (Blue Note album covers , especially those designed and photographed by Reid Miles, are ill!) and I started to read Kurt Vonnegut's Jailbird. I also read The R. Crumb Handbook, which I gave him for Christmas, and was reminded of what I suspected/knew- That I don't really like that dude's work. (The racist imagery is particularly weird, because it's deployment probably isn't to racist ends, and I don't think he's a racist so much as he's playing with the imagery, but it's just fucking weird imagery, classic racist stuff that's so beyond my actual experience, in that even if I'm going to admit to having the occasional racist tendency, it's more a question of urban fear than weird inhuman caricatures. Like, big black dudes might beat me up, but I don't think they're subhuman. Crumb's depictions are just like what the fuck? That Crumb's frequently made a big deal of for his honesty, especially where the misogyny shows up- which I'm uncomfortable with as well, for a number of reasons, one of which is that his set of perversions and obsessions strikes me as weird- puts the racist stuff in a weird place in terms of being meant ironically.) He can draw, though. Won't fault him that.