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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Rock On With Your Socks On -- Having spend over a decade as a disk jockey, I have to admit that the music I played for much of that time -- mind-numbing crap by the likes of Michael Bolton, Celine Dion and Gloria Estefan -- turned me off of music in general. Over the past few years, some acts have somehow penetrated my defenses, especially Moby, Beck, Green Day, Tool, and the whimisically addictive James Kochalka Superstar.

Spin magazine recently compiled a list of its top 100 albums of the past 20 years, and as a card-carrying member of the Blogoverse, I am legally bound to comment on some of their choices.

1. OK Computer Radiohead 1997 -- Shamefully, I am almost completely oblivious to Radiohead's music. A buddy was supposed to burn me some CDs. I have Drunken Punchup on my harddrive. There ends the intersection of my life with the work of
Radiohead. For now, anyway.

2. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back Public Enemy 1988 -- It's already clear to me that I will have nothing to say about a disturbing majority of the albums listed here. This is one of them.

3. Nevermind Nirvana 1991 -- Now, this one I remember. I remember it blowning my mind, just one great song after another, that seemed perfectly in tune to its times, as much great music does. Years later I almost never listen to Nirvana anymore, although I do have that Best Of CD that came out a few years back. But when I hear them on the radio, I don't change the station, and when I hear Kurt say things have never been so swell, you know, I don't believe him much, but I sympathize with the lie.

4. Slanted and Enchanted Pavement 1992 -- Nothing to say about this one.

5. The Queen Is Dead The Smiths 1986 -- Or this one.

6. Surfer Rosa The Pixies 1988 -- Or this one. Hmm, I am so culturally lost.

7. 3 Feet High and Rising De La Soul 1989 -- Now, this one, also nothing to say.

8. Sign O the Times Prince 1987 -- Hmm, Prince has done some great singles. As I recall some of them were on this album.

9. Rid of Me PJ Harvey 1993 -- Nothing to say once again.

10. Straight Outta Compton NWA 1988 -- You guessed it.

11. Achtung Baby U2 1991 -- I think this is where I started to hate U2, after loving them from their debut album on. For my money The Joshua Tree was as good as it ever got, although certainly they've done some good singles since then. U2 is the only band I've seen live twice, once on The Joshua Tree tour, and I think on the tour for Achtung Baby.

12. Paul's Boutique Beastie Boys 1989 -- I have this on my harddrive and need to give it a listen to see if I want to burn it to a CD or just delete it.

13. New Day Rising Husker Du 1985 -- Nothing.

14. Daydream Nation Sonic Youth 1988 -- Nothing.

15. Exile in Guyville Liz Phair 1993 -- Nothing.

16. Odelay Beck 1996 -- I recently got into Beck after enjoying a lot of his stuff I heard on the radio. I made a Best Of CD, though, and it's been occupying my CD player. I need to spend more time listening to the individual CDs.

17. Illmatic Nas 1994 -- Wow, never even heard of this one.

18. Appetite for Destruction Guns n Roses 1987 -- My feelings about GNR are similar to my feelings about Nirvana, so, see #3 above.

19. Live Through This Hole 1994 -- Nothing.

20. Enter the Wu Tang Clan (36 Chambers) Wu-Tang Clan 1993 -- Nothing.

21. Fear of a Black Planet Public Enemy 1990 -- Nothing.

22. Loveless My Bloody Valentine 1991 -- Nothing.

23. Stankonia Outkast 2000 -- Nothing.

24. Dig Me Out Sleater-Kinney 1997 -- Nothing.

25. The Downward Spiral Nine Inch Nails 1994 -- I like NIN in principle, really I do -- but the music is just too demanding, like, you have to set an hour of your life aside to immerse yourself in it. I haven't had time like that for music in over a decade.

26. Post Bjork 1995 -- Nothing.

27. The Head on the Door The Cure 1985 -- Nothing.

28. Definitely Maybe Oasis 1994 -- Nothing.

29. 13 Songs Fugazi 1989 -- Nothing.

30. Ready to Die Notorious BIG 1994 -- Nothing.

31. You're Living All Over Me Dionsaur Jr 1987 -- Nothing.

32. Tim The Replacements 1985 -- Nothing.

33. AmeriKKKas Most Wanted Ice Cube 1990 -- Nothing.

34. Either/Or Elliott Smith 1997 -- Nothing.

35. The Chronic Dr Dre 1992 -- Nothing.

36. Doolittle The Pixies 1989 -- Nothing.

37. Bee Thousand Guided by Voices 1994 -- Nothing.

38. The Low End Theory A Tribe Called Quest 1991 -- Nothing.

39. Lucinda Williams Lucinda Williams 1988 -- Nothing.

40. Raising Hell Run DMC 1986 -- My college friend Jake loved Run DMC and turned me onto them around the time this came out. "The King of Rock" remains a sentimental favourite track of mine, although I think that was from the album before this one.

41. Siamese Dream Smashing Pumpkins 1993 -- Nothing.

42. Nothing's Shocking Jane's Addiction 1988 -- I like a handful of Jane's Addiction tracks, but I don't think I've ever sat all the way through one of their CDs.

43. Criminal Minded Boogie Down Productions 1987 -- Nothing.

44. Dookie Green Day 1994 -- American Idiot is very near the top of my all-time favourite CDs list, with its insistent musicality and sharp, insightful point of view pretty much saving my life during some rough times over the past year. I have the rest of their stuff on the harddrive, but haven't made the time yet to burn off some CDs to listen to in the car, which seems to be the best way to get through the barriers in my life that seem to prevent me from hearing much music.

45. College Dropout Kanye West 2004 -- Nothing.

46. This Nation's Saving Grace The Fall 1985 -- Nothing.

47. Paid in Full Eric B & Rakim 1987 -- Nothing.

48. Kid A Radiohead 2000 -- Nothing.

49. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill Lauryn Hill 1998 -- Nothing.

50. Low Life New Order 1985 -- Nothing.

51. In Utero Nirvana 1993 -- See my comments on #3, above.

52. Licensed to Ill Beastie Boys 1986 -- My brother loved this album.

53. The Battle of Los Angeles Rage Against the Machine 1999 -- Nothing.

54. Last Splash The Breeders 1993 -- Nothing.

55. Dig Your Own Hole The Chemical Brothers 1997 -- Nothing.

56. To Bring You My Love PJ Harvey 1995 -- Nothing.

57. White Blood Cells The White Stripes 2001 -- Nothing.

58. Master of Puppets Metallica 1986 -- Nothing.

59. The Lonesome Crowded West Modest Mouse 1997 -- Nothing.

60. De La Soul Is Dead De La Soul 1991 -- Nothing.

61. Pinkerton Weezer 1996 -- Nothing.

62. Supa Dupa Fly Missy Elliott 1997 -- Nothing.

63. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain Pavement 1994 -- Nothing.

64. The Marshal Mathers LP Eminem 2000 -- Nothing.

65. Remedy Basement Jaxx 1999 -- Nothing.

66. Aquemini Outkast 1998 -- Nothing.

67. Reign in Blood Slayer 1986 -- Nothing.

68. Maxiquaye Tricky 1995 -- Nothing.

69. Entroducing DJ Shadow DJ Shadow 1996 -- Nothing.

70. The Blueprint Jay Z 2001 -- Nothing.

71. Psychocandy The Jesus and Mary Chain 1985 -- Nothing.

72. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Raekwon 1995 -- Nothing.

73. Different Class Pulp 1995 -- Nothing.

74. Dummy Portishead 1994 -- This guy Mike that I used to work with a couple years back made me a Portishead compilation CD, and although I haven't listened to it in a while I do like it.

75. Le Tigre Le Tigre 1999 -- Nothing.

76. If You're Feeling Sinister Belle and Sebastian 1997 -- Nothing.

77. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Wilco 2002 -- I keep meaning to get this in some format...I liked The Minus Five's Down with Wilco CD, and all the songs I heard off the most recent Wilco disc, and this is the one everyone talks about, so, yeah. I
should listen to this sometime.

78. The Stone Roses The Stone Roses 1989 -- Nothing.

79. Everything Is Wrong Moby 1995 -- I can see why, if you're going to pick one Moby CD, this is the one you'd pick. There's always four or five songs on each of his CDs that I really like, and one of these days I will have to compile and burn a Best Of, which will probably encompass two CDs.

80. Voodoo D'Angelo 2000 -- Nothing.

81. Mellow Gold Beck 1994 -- Good stuff.

82. Grace Jeff Buckley 1994 -- Nothing.

83. Relationship of Command At the Drive-In 2000 -- Nothing.

84. Superunknown Soundgarden 1994 -- Nothing.

85. Automatic for the People REM 1992 -- Maybe I just don't have the "care about music" gene like most people seem to. The CDs I love, I really love, but so little stays in the long-term memory. Like, I really liked REM in college, circa 1985-'86, but I don't even remember which songs were on this CD. I am pretty sure this is about where they lost my interest, though.

86. Up on the Sun Meat Puppets 1985 -- Nothing.

87. Parklife Blur 1994 -- Nothing.

88. Emperor Tomato Ketchup Stereolab 1996 -- Nothing.

89. Fever to Tell Yeah Yeah Yeahs 2003 -- Nothing.

90. Sister Sonic Youth 1987 -- Nothing.

91. Skylarking XTC 1986 -- Nothing.

92. Atomizer Big Black 1986 -- Nothing.

93. Ten Pearl Jam 1991 -- Nothing.

94. Spiderland Slint 1991 -- Nothing.

95. Elastica Elastica 1995 -- Nothing.

96. Rum, Sodomy & the Lash The Pogues 1985 -- Nothing.

97. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea Neutral Milk Hotel 1998 -- Nothing.

98. When I Was Born for the 7th Time Cornershop 1997 -- Nothing.

99. Gentlemen Afghan Whigs 1993 -- Nothing.

100. Is This It The Strokes 2001 -- Nothing.

So is it me? Am I really this out of touch? Or is it Spin ? Maybe I am just out of touch with their sensibilities, although at one time it was the only music magazine I read -- these days I don't read any, except the occasional Rolling Stone if I am really interested in who is being interviewed this month or whatever.

My feelings about music are a lot like my feelings about comics, I guess; I don't adhere to any one particular genre, I just am attracted to certain qualities and if the work doesn't contain those it generally will fall beneath my radar. There are some groups on the above list that I am definitely interested in checking out someday, in the same way I suppose I would like to read all the comics of Jordan Crane or Kevin Huizenga. In cases like this, I've been exposed enough to be intrigued, but I guess I am so lost at sea when it comes to the circles their work travels in that I have no idea where to even start my investigations, and then when you factor in all the other exegencies of life -- family, work, visits to the emergency room (like this week's), man, it just seems like there's never enough time.

I hold some acts in the very highest regard -- Peter Gabriel, The Beatles, Pink Floyd circa 1973-1986 or so -- but when it comes to music, I go through definite honeymoon phases and then it seems to fade away. When d. emerson eddy turned me on to Tool and their awe-inspiring CD Lateralus (which I would think belongs on the above list, God knows it would be on it if I had compiled it), I listened to that disc over and over again for months. It's powerful, complex, layered, and its point of view is pretty simpatico with my own vision of the world around me. Just writing about it here for a moment has me wanting to dust it off (literally -- man, my CDs get dusty) and pop it in for a spin. Maybe I even will when I get home. The Tool spinoff group A Perfect Circle also has a couple of awesome albums that I should listen to more often than I do. If nothing else, writing about Spin's list has really served as a grim reminder of how little time I set aside for music in my life, even music that I love. At one time I had a CD collection numbering probably over 600 discs, but a lack of cash in the '90s caused me to sell off 99 percent of those, and these days I have maybe a few dozen CDs, and maybe a couple dozen of those I would consider essential, and even those, I probably rotate through the same four or five on a regular, pathetic basis.

I love art that reaches me. I am, in some ways, hard to reach. I have spent a lifetime building walls I didn't even know I was erecting, which is why when something speaks directly to me, like James Kochalka's work, or Paul Hornschemeier, or Dan Clowes, or Green Day, or Beck, I tend to bask in the glow of that work, and I tend to evangelize, especially when it comes to comics. I don't listen to the radio, which is probably why a lot of the above CDs that probably mean a lot to a lot of people reading this, never even penetrated my zone of awareness. I want to be as aware of good music as I am of good comics, and to a lesser extent good movies, but again, who has the time?

I wish I had more time...and the older I get, the more time I wish I had.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Bluesman Delayed in U.S. -- Here's the press release sent out on behalf of the creators of Bluesman:

BLUESMAN splits with Absence of Ink

(July 26, 2005)

Rob Vollmar and Pablo G. Callejo are announcing a
delay in the release of the second English
serialization installment of their critically-acclaimed BLUESMAN graphic novel. The
creators have been notified by Absence of Ink publisher S. Edward Irvin that BLUESMAN: Book One, published in February of 2005, will be that company's final release for the foreseeable future.

As a result, the English editions of BLUESMAN, which
is on its second volume in France with the second
Spanish edition due out this fall, is temporarily
suspended until a suitable publishing partner for the
series can be found.

BLUESMAN writer Rob Vollmar says, “It had been my hope
that we could make the transition to another publisher
in the English market quickly enough to maintain the
bi-annual schedule that Pablo and I had set out for
ourselves. Since that situation has yet to stabilize,
we just want to let the readers know what’s going on
with assurances that we are not only on schedule for
finishing Book Three but also laboring behind the
scenes to get the show rolling again.”

BLUESMAN is the story of itinerant musician Lem
Taylor and his harrowing trek as a fugitive across
Arkansas of the late 1920s. Vollmar and Callejo’s
debut collaborative work, THE CASTAWAYS was published
by Absence of Ink in 2002 and nominated for an Eisner
Award in the Best Single-Issue/One-Shot category.

Updates about the future of BLUESMAN in English will
appear at on Vollmar’s blog, found at
http://www.bluesmanproject.com as they become

Speaking for myself, as someone who loves great comics and thinks BLUESMAN deserves that designation -- I hope some visionary publisher picks this up so we can all read the next chapters in the story sooner rather than later.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


Point Blank -- I finally was able to pick up the Point Blank DVD re-release yesterday, after weeks of hunting it down and finally having to special order it from the local mall DVD store. It was certainly worth the wait.

Although obviously not tied directly into comics in any way, I have a hard time believing knowledegable readers won't be blown away by this film: Point Blank visually and from a storytelling perspective is simpatico with the work some of the most accomplished creators I can think of, including Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (this movie is about as close to Sleeper as you can get, at least until the story of Holden Carver is actually filmed), Darwyn Cooke and Gil Kane.

First and foremost, the movie's look, feel and especially the animal naturalism of Lee Marvin in the role of Walker was a direct inspiration for Kane's landmark His Name is...Savage; some of the night driving scenes, so marvelous with their shadows and neon signage, reflect the pop noir sensibilities of Cooke and his stylistic brethren. The use of vertical angles as a visual motif reminds me of Frank Miller's Daredevil heyday, and the love affair that director John Boorman's camera has with the architecture and settings throughout the film can clearly be seen in later works by directors as diverse as Quentin Tarantino and Jim Cameron. Los Angeles becomes a character under Boorman's skilled stewardship, here closing in on Marvin and his enemies with the stark diagonal planes of the LA river basin storm drains, there opening up the world as Marvin stalks the Hollywood hills with the city laid out beyond him in magnigficent, eye-popping clarity.

The story is one of passion, treachery, and revenge; the mechanics of the story are implicit not only in the spare, at times near-impressionistic dialogue, but in the stunning visuals Boorman's camera utilizes. From the acid-trip grooviness of the backstage nightclub battle, with the action reflected and commented on by the models' faces cast huge on a projected screen, to the splashes of psychedelic colour on Marvin's face at the conclusion of the scene, colour, lighting and angles are counted on to carry so much of this story -- and they bear the burden well.

I don't know if Patrick McGoohan was thinking of this film when he created The Prisoner, but fans of that series will also see echoes on the screen, in the way each scene is colour-coded across the board. On the commentary track, Boorman talks at length about his theories of colour in relation to the film, and it's a lesson with strong practical applications for anyone working with colour, in movies, comics, or any artform.

Point Blank is a movie I know I will be returning to again and again, to relish Marvin's primal scenery-chewing presence, and to bask in the glow of Boorman's vivid colour choices, so wonderfully recaptured on this DVD. If you want to tell stories, or if you just enjoy them being told to you well and with a challenging wit and intelligence, Point Blank is absolutely indispensible viewing.


Sunday, July 17, 2005

Something Good From San Diego -- At least, I assume it's from San Diego; Tom Spurgeon interviews James Kochalka at The Comics Reporter. Mainly under discussion is Super-F*ckers, but James also discusses his working methods, music, family and fans. It's a good, fun piece. Go check it out.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Tuesday Briefing -- You know, between you, me and the
lamppost, when I was putting together this whole idea of "The New
Comic Book Galaxy," I had no idea how much would need to be done on a
daily basis; editing, uploading, image management, and dealing with
other odds and ends have occupied so much more of my time than I had
imagined. I am starting to feel a bit like Stan Lee maybe two months
after Roy Thomas started writing all Marvel's superhero comics. This
seemed like a good idea at the time, but I sure miss seeing my name in
the credits, you know?

Anyway, this is my way of acknowledging in some way that while I am
thrilled to death with the high quality of the new columns and
features we've added, man, I need to get back to writing about comics
myself. I need to redouble my efforts -- wait, first I should double
them, then redouble them, no? But yeah, it's been too long
since I have had the time to write anything of substancve about the
artform that I love so much, and coordinating the efforts of so many
gifted writers here on the site is no substitute for getting down into
the trenches myself.

I'll tell you what, the thing that has been making me ache to write
about comics again is two fantastic books of film criticism by Roger
Ebert, The Great Movies and The Great Movies II. Each
volume has 100 essays about the films Ebert considers great, and it's
a delight to me how reading these books both makes me want to seek out
more good movies and write more and better comics criticism.

San Diego Unanticipation -- About the only thing I will miss
about not going to the San Diego Comicon is the chance to meet so many
of my online friends and acquanitances all in one place. I envy the
folks who somehow manage to find both the time and the money to make
it out there for the biggest event of the year in comics, even as the
comics lover in me recognizes that I would much more enjoy and much
rather attend an event like the MoCCA Festival or the Toronto Comic
Art Festival.

True Porn 2 -- I haven't read the first volume, but a look at the gorgeous Chester Brown cover to TRUE PORN 2 certainly gets my interest. You can get full details on the volume at the True Porn 2 page at Alternative Comics.

If It's Tuesday It Must Be Manga -- Yep, Rob Vollmar's latest International Geographic column is up, packed with reviews and commentary. This is Rob's fourth edition of the column already -- I can't believe how fast the great work he and our other contributors is piling up in the archives. If you get a chance, take a long browse through the main site archives and see if you don't agree.


Sunday, July 10, 2005

Sunday Afternoon DVD Stuff -- Just back from the local mall, where I special ordered the re-release on DVD of the Lee Marvin clasic Point Blank, which I have never seen. Enough people I trust tell me it's good that I plunked down the deposit for the special order with no reservations at all. It should come in this coming Friday, so, keep your fingers crossed for me.

I actually spent much of the day yesterday looking for this DVD, which was released last Tuesday, but came up empty in three different stores in Saratoga Springs. I guess there's not enough smart film lovers in either Saratoga or here in the Glens Falls area for any store to order a copy -- Jesus, that is a depressing thought. I might have been able to find a copy in Albany, but I didn't feel like driving all the way down there, and I couldn't justify it with a coincidental trip to the comics shop, since nothing of consequence came out this week that would make it worth all the hassle.

I did, yesterday, though, buy two other DVDs, since I was really craving some good-movie satisfaction after studying Roger Ebert's The Great Movies over the past few nights at bedtime. I picked up Dark City (which I had never seen) for 8 bucks at Borders. Between the excellence of the movie and the full-length Roger Ebert commentary track, 8 bucks for that disc is about the biggest bargain in DVDs that I can think of. I also, in the same store, picked up Night of the Hunter with Robert Mitchum. I liked it for many of the same reasons Ebert does, namely the sense of dread, the oddness of the child actors and the fabulously skeevy Mitchum performance. But I was surprised and a bit disappointed in the third act's overtly religious tone and sudden removal of Mitchum as anything other than a bit player. The transference of father-figure status in the mind of the boy as Mitchum is taken into custody also fell flat for me -- I get what director Charles Laughton was going for, and maybe it even could have worked with the right set-up, dialogue and direction, but as it is I'm kind of wishing I'd just rented Hunter, although I am happy with my purchase of Dark City and can see myself watching that one again and again.

Amazing, too, how much of Dark City you can see in works that came after, including The Matrix and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Also interesting to me was how much Mitchum's character in Hunter was probably an influence on the evil misogynist preacher serial killer in the final season of Buffy.


Friday, July 08, 2005

Last-Minute Weekend Shocker! -- Well, I can't really say I am surprised, but Roger Ebert's Fantastic Four review has changed my plans for tonight, at least. I trust Ebert implicitly -- more than any other movie critic, I find he is able to accurately convey to me the feel and form of a film -- and his fairly definitive condemnation of this latest Marvel superhero movie has me thinking if my kids ever see it, it'll be on DVD. If the studio sends me a review copy. Maybe. Parenthetically, why they even bothered to continue after seeing The Incredibles is a genuine mystery to me. At the very least, they should have reevaluated the script and tried to get a little of the superior film's energy, wit and imagination into FF. Stupid Hollywood make Hulk's head hurt. Bah.

So, in other news, lots of good stuff going on over at the main site today, including new editions of BREAKDOWNS and LAST CALL from Chris Allen and Johnny Bacardi, respectively, and also a Jef Harmatz review of James Kochalka's THE CUTE MANIFESTO, which Alternative Comics head honcho Jeff Mason told me earlier this week should be shipping within the next couple of weeks. It's worth your time and money simply for the inclusion of REINVENTING EVETRYTHING, in my opinion, but there's a ton of other fun stuff in there as well, making the book probably the second most essential Kochalka volume after the monster-sized AMERICAN ELF collection.

In strange neighbourhood news, my wife said she noticed a former co-worker of hers sitting extremely upset on the curb at an accident scene within walking distance of our house yesterday afternoon. Checking the morning paper, it seems this woman was driving a UPS truck that got slammed into by a motorcycle allegedly speeding down these quiet city side-streets, and the operator of the motorcycle lost his arm when he slammed into the back of the UPS truck. Jesus. Even knowing I wasn't at fault, as this woman apparently wasn't, that would still be pretty traumatic. And it makes me realize how lucky I was to get away from my own car accident a few months ago with only a stiff neck and back pain...

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Thursday, July 07, 2005

In Defense of Smut -- I stand firmly with Christopher Butcher on the issue of adult comics (or magazines, or books, or movies, or whatever) being legal and available for the adults who choose to buy them. His defense of smut at his awesome comics.212 blog is essential reading if you're interested in comics, freedom of expression, and most importantly the place where they intersect in opposition to governmental ignorance, suppression and oppression. Go read it now.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Quest -- Here's my favourite photo from Free Comic Book Day 2005:

My son Aaron searching the spinner rack for more, more, more, his bag already weighted down with comics. This, then, is the nature of The Quest.

Also Today -- Over at the main site is the fourth installment of Shawn Hoke's awesome SIZE MATTERS column on mini-comics. Hard to believe we're four columns in to the new version of the site, but I couldn't be more pleased with the quality of the work our writers are doing, so click on over and give 'em all a look, eh?


Monday, July 04, 2005

The Monday Briefing -- Happy Independence Day to all our U.S. readers. There's not much more I personally value more than independence, so I hope everyone, everywhere will take a moment sometime today to recognize genuine independence in some form and pay it the respect that it deserves, whether it's independent thinking, independent film, your local independent restaurant, movie theater, bookshop or comics store, and of course, independent comics. Those are the good ones, after all.






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