Saturday, January 31, 2009

Oh, hey, my friend Griffin (who I met briefly in Olympia, then hung out with a lot more in Baltimore) got written up in Vice Magazine's blog. They kind of make him seem like a drug-addled asshole when he is one of the nicest guys ever. I think I am hosting/performing comedy at his birthday in March. He came to my first comedy thing and brought me some pizza and a sandwich because I had been feeding him for a few days before he played a show and got paid. He laughed really distinctively and it was awesome. Way to go Griffin.

While I am linking to other people's blogs, I have had to tell some other friends recently about why the blog Hipster Runoff is awful. Luckily, Nick Sylvester just articulated it really well for me.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

This feels related to the post about The Silver Jews not being a band anymore, even though a completely different set of factors contributed to its happening: Kevin Huizenga will no longer be putting out his comic "Or Else." This has more to do with the feasibility of the comics pamphlet in a graphic novel world, but that format gave Kevin the chance to do whatever he wanted. Which, in the cases of issues 2 through 4, meant completely self-contained experimental books, priced cheap. He'll still be putting out minicomics, and his Fantagraphics/Ignatz thing Ganges (which is eight dollars per rigidly formatted issue), but the loss of a vehicle for him to do weird stuff is pretty sad. Or Else 4 in particular was pretty influential for how free-wheeling it was on its way to its end. Kevin is a great cartoonist, who has more range than you would expect from just looking at his more acclaimed work.

I imagine that his "Rumbling" story that began serialization in issue 5 will see publication when its finished.

What's funny is that while this bothers me, because Kevin uses Or Else to do whatever he wants, I still wish that Anders Nilsen would stop fucking around with the serialization of Big Questions and just put out a completed book, as each issue of that series becomes ever more expensive. That comic is done, and just being put out on this Chris Ware-informed release schedule of once-a-year, rather than in installments of whenever an issue's worth of comics is completed.

And again, I appreciate the value of the single-issue comic, and hope that, when Rumbling (or whatever Kevin's "graphic novel" ends up being) comes out, it is in a cheap format.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Silver Jews are soon to no longer be a band. This is fine, of course: Their last three records weren't as good as the three that preceded them, David Berman's book of poetry was of a high enough caliber to convince me that pretty much anything else he does will be interesting. (He's now looking into screenwriting, although I've also heard rumors of a novel.)

But, attached to this news, in his posts on the Drag City messageboard, was the revelation that his secret shame was his father, a fairly evil dude named Richard Berman, who worked for corporations under a variety of fronts to spread misinformation and try to break unions and keep the minimum wage low. Somehow this seems like an important enough thing to note, to tell other people to investigate. Trying to put the work of father and son into a narrative of two forces working against each other seems kind of wrong-headed even as it seems deeply appropriate. It makes more sense than talking about Silver Jews records in a context of Berman's drug abuse and suicidal depression, and it makes that stuff seem less cliched.

To restate: The Silver Jews are about an abiding melancholy, taking comfort in simple pleasures, and acting in resistance to an abstracted them of the rich and powerful. This is done through observation, feeling, and poetry. Sometimes the abstract is forsaken for direct appeals. Meanwhile, Berman And Company lies on behalf of the powerful and their lack of empathy. Old stories, old feelings. The appeal of simple pleasures can seem like not quite enough in the face of all that myth, and so maybe then is where the depression comes in, in not being able to transform all that you've inherited, and to aim for self-destruction instead.

Transform and transcend. So the Silver Jews are no longer a band. They're now a body of work. I wish David Berman luck, and do not want to tar him with a mark like "hero." Let us all keep on living, and try to observe as honestly as we can and feel as deeply as we can bear.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

This guy draws pretty cool.

I just gave my second go at the comedy thing. Again it went well, and again the out-of-towners for whom this is their life went over really poorly in a way that made me doubt how much of my success was due to being funny and how much was due to having an audience of friends and sympathizers. I got more applause when taking to the stage than actual laughter for any specific joke, but that's no complaint, really.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

It is 2009, everybody, and while we all sit glowing in the monitor light of best-of-the-year lists, somewhere in the shadows lurks the idea of the best-of-the-decade list, and with it canon-building. Now is the time to revisit work from 2000 to 2002 to see how it has aged. I maintain my belief that this has been sort of an odd decade for records, with so many bands' central appeal being based on general aesthetic, and expect a "best-of" list to select records based on what was the best example of that: Remember that Reveille was the best Deerhoof record, and remember they were one of the best bands this decade had to offer. Also, I think a lot of unassuming singer-songwriter records tend to hold up rather well. Again: The best Mountain Goats record was All Hail West Texas. Hopefully a lot of Animal Collective records, with their individual style, will coexist with each other without cancelling the others out.

As for cinema: I guess now would be the time to campaign for Punch-Drunk Love as a better film than There Will Be Blood.

My official stance remains that canons are useless, but the idea of best-of-the-decade lists is interesting as a corrective to the weird trends of fashion. But those trends still dictate nostalgia, and that's what we've got to be on guard against.