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.