Saturday, January 31, 2004

Uncle Tim's Children

If you pay any attention to the links at the side of this page, you've probably at least glanced at - owned and operated by a dear friend of mine, Matt Slote. He's got a recent post that is of some tangential interest to those who were enlightened by our recent Otaku discussion, especially in terms of how geek/nerd-dom is percieved by the population at large and the respective sub-cultures.

In all honesty, I don't see how I could possibly be offended by such a glowing and complimentary dissent. There's a great part of me that wants to say that a great deal of this issue boils down to the specific and subjective connatations certain words have to certain people. I'll be honest - when I see the terms "geek" and "nerd", I can see nothing but bad connatations. I will admit that - happily - I was never beset by the kind of social predators who apperantly castigate their peer group by social rank. I never suffered from the label "nerd", anymore than that it was possibly how I might have defined myself under some circumstances. But I saw those who did define themselves as "nerds" - and they were unhappy for a lot of reasons besides their level in society. Whatever it was, they needed something that their particular "nerd-dom" gave them, something they didn't get from the rest of their lives.

So, yeah, a lot of this seems like it might just be the proverbial tempest-in-a-teapot. I make no bones about the fact that I read lots of superhero comics in my formative years - and when I say lots, I think its safe to say we're talking in the metric tons here. I mean, just to be on the safe side, I'll go full disclosure: I once sang a twenty-minute freeform acoustic ballad about Jean Grey continuity.

But - I think the difference here is that I just don't feel like much of a "geek" or "nerd" anymore. I still love comics but I'm happy to say my love of the medium has almost completely overwhelmed my love for that particular genre. I still read a few superhero books because - frankly and unabashedly - I enjoy the hell out of them when done right. But if I had nothing to read but superhero books for the rest of my life I'd go insane. I'd prefer any old issue of The Journal to any comic you care to mention. I have realized that the proclivities of a child are not necessarily the healthy preoccupations of a man. Its not quite the old "when I was a child, I played as a child..." bit, because I'm not abjuring all those wonderful things I grew up with. I'm simply saying that that's not enough to base your life on.

There are a lot of wonderful things in this big wide world of ours. It seems to be that the "jock" and "nerd" divisions are just too rigidly Manichean to encompass anything resembling the entirety of human existence. It seems like these are terms that should be retired from your vocabulary once you leave high-school. Hopefully, after high-school you should realize that a person's worth is something more than the sum of however many vintage 'Return of the Jedi' Burger King glasses they own, or however many touchdowns they score. If you choose to define yourself as either of the above - a "jock or a "nerd" - fine, good for you. But for me - its limiting. I am nothing less than the sum total of my experiences and my experiences, to me, are more than mere nostalgia.

Its been a hard life, these past few years - if you know me you know that Anne and I have been through more than our fair share of ups and downs. I don't consider myself a "geek" or a "nerd" because despite all of this I don't have any need to reply on those labels as a crutch. I know who I am - and while those things may be a part of me they are not all of me. Perhaps once - but I don't really identify with those things as I once did. I just don't feel it anymore.

There's a lot to be said for the psychological support that comes from making yourself an outsider in your own mind - the underdog hero in a tapestry of rejection, cruelty and abitrary. Most kids just can't conceive of how much bigger the world is than them, how much bigger than their concerns and quandries. I don't consider myself a "geek" or a "nerd" because I don't need or want these things to make it through the day. Perhaps once, a long time ago, but no more. Basically - I grew up. Life is unfair, its brutal and its tough - and a false sense of superiority isn't going to help you. I would gadly give all my knowledge and acumen in whatever minor fields of expertise I may possess an insight for a clean shot at contentment and peace - which is the same thing everyone else with their head screwed on tight wants as well, and with good reason. If I'm a "nerd" I'll gladly throw my proverbial books into the sea in order to just be a human being.

Life is too short.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Domo Aragato, Mr. Otaku

The Great Otaku Debate continues, courtesy of Shawn Fumo:

Just a quick note that I wrote a lot on the subject at my blog.

As I mention, while WaiWai is definitely tabloidish, it doesn't meanthere are no cultural frictions involved...

One comment on the guy that wrote in on the definitions of Otaku. I'm fairly sure the Gainax movie came out after it was a fairly negative word. Otaku no Video is kind of a self-parody of the industry while still obviously having a love for it. The main story involves a regular kid who gets involved with a group of nerdy kids, everyone from anime fans to model builders to military enthusiasts. He gets
more and more evolved, eventually becoming the "Otaking", the greatest fan of them all.. ;) It is also interspersed with fake live-action segments that profile various kinds of fans, some of which have their faces hidden by shadows to protect their identities, many of which were done by staff members...

Gainax was actually a group of hobbiest animators that first joined together to make some videos for a sci-fi convention, sort of collages of sci-fi pop culture in Japan at the time. Eventually they started up their own company and Gainax was born, so they've always been a bit more playful and self-depricating than most.

Dreamland Japan is a really good book. It is a little outdated now, as it is from the 90s, but it looks at a lot of aspects of the market at that time, everything from issues of censorship to how the market is split up by genere and sales numbers, as well as profiles of the various anthology magazines and some individual authors.

Don't really have a lot to add to that, other than Mr. Fumo's blog is amazingly informative - its certainly worth a minute or five out of your busy day.

Looking around, I see some pretty interesting discussion about the schisms between superhero fandom and, er, everything else - discussed somewhat in this article and elaborated by Mr. Fumo. He eventually gets around to something thta might just be the most important problem facing the general domestic comics industry:

We could use more people who are just generally casual readers and might not be involved with any comic cultures, or even create their own cultures that are separate.

Is it even remotely possible to say that enough? I don't think so.

Fumo goes on to discuss the "conversion" theory of comics advocacy. Its sad but true - for some reason there seems to be this mindset in some quarters that if you can get a friend to read a comic they must be just two seconds away from becoming a stark raving comics fiend. It just aint the case, and as long as people continue to have this really insular attitude about these things, the problem isn't going to get any better. Of course, on the other hand, the fandom we're left with is pretty much the hard-care who couldn't conceive of the notion of a "casual" fan if their lives depended on it. I'm sure these days most retailers would probably ratehr take the 50-50 chance of a new reader becoming a casual/occasional customer than the 5-95 longshot that they'll become an obsessive.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Letters, We Get Letters, We Get Sacks and Sacks of Letters...

Courtesy of Mr. Alan Zabaro:

You mentioned on your weblog that otaku is an insult in Japan. Oddly, my understanding is that it didn't start out that way. It started out as an exalted way to refer to somebody else (I think it literally means "your house", just as in English we address a judge as "your honor").

Now, here's the story as I remember it (I don't have cites on hand, but I might have picked this up from one of Schodt's books): otaku is an archaic term. A bunch of anime and manga fans are holding conventions (late 70s, early 80s?), and a bunch of them address each other with this overly polite and outdated form of address. Some observers take this as a sign that the fans are very out of touch with normal, non-fan society (quite possibly true), and adopts the term "otaku" to refer to these fanboys and fangirls. I don't think the label was too big a stigma at this time...anime company Gainax even made an anime/live action production called Otaku no Video (Otaku's Video), so the fans at least didn't seem too bothered by it.

However, at some point a freak named Miyazaki (not related to the anime director) committed some horrific crimes (killed a kid, and some other things I'd rather not look up). Because he apparently had a huge collection of anime and manga of the most perverse kind, he was labelled as an otaku, and that kicked off a media frenzy in Japan. I understand that the media and the public have since accepted that this guy was in no way representative of otaku, but even so some part of that stigma still remains (even though I don't think it's considered a horrible insult...)

Anyway, my understanding is that the term "otaku" was used by Japanese fandom before it was used by most outsiders to refer to them...the opposite of many appropriated epithets here in the US. Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure I read this in Schodt's Dreamland Japan : Writings on Modern Manga. If you're interested in the topic, you'd do better to read that than to rely on my memory.

You know, its funny - originally, this was not exactly a topic I had a lot of interest in. I'm don't read much manga. (That is, other than the same manga most American comic readers probably have: 'Lone Wolf & Cub' and 'Akira'. I picked up the first book of 'Battle Royale' and definitely plan on picking up more - and I plan on at least trying out Tezuka's 'Astro Boy' and 'Buddha' one of these days...) But anyway, what started as a random blog entry has evolved into an increasingly complicated - not to mention interesting conversation. Now, 'Dreamland Japan' is a book I have definitely heard of, usually mentioned in the same breath as Schodt's similarly-themed 'Manga Manga' volume. Perhaps one day if I want to understand these things I will pick up some Schodt - as it is, for now I think its enough to say that otaku seems to be an insult on par with "fanboy" in America.

Now, for me, "fanboy" is about the most offensive thing you can call me - I'd almost rather you call me a wife-beating pederast Republican and get it over with. I know fanboys - and, Sir, I am no fanboy. Seems that if Otaku is similar in meaning (which is what it seems to me that you are saying) then I can use the term pejoratively and with impunity.

I will say that after I read this letter I went back to Google to find where I had originally seen the negative definition. Big surprise - I couldn't find the one I was originally looking for. However, I did find this, which seems to sum up all these arguments very nicely.

So, if you're keeping track at home, that's Tim 0 - Otaku 1. But, you know, considering I don't wear plastic pants and have tattoos of Sailer Venus on my ass, I think I can sleep safely. (Yeah, cheap shot - but I had to get it in there somewhere, right?)

Where was I... oh yeah, Alan Zabaro!

Oh, as far as that article from Mainichi's web site: did you notice the blurb near the bottom of the page? It goes:

WaiWai stories are transcriptions of articles that
originally appeared in Japanese language publications. The
Mainichi Daily News cannot be held responsible for the contents of the original articles, nor does it guarantee their accuracy. Views expressed in the WaiWai column are not necessarily those held by the Mainichi Daily News or Mainichi Newspapers Co.

My understanding is that these "Japanese language publications" that the WaiWai stories come from are tabloids. I'm not sure if that necessarily makes them inaccurate, but...well, take a look at some of the other stories in that section. I might not dismiss those stories, but I tend to take them with a grain of salt.

Now next you're going to tell me that the Bat-Boy isn't real.

In this case, I'm inclined to believe what an acquaintance who spent a year in Japan wrote about this article:

This whole thing is SO not news-worthy. A writer for a low-brow newspaper had too much time on her hands and wrote about some people griping about something they consider a nuisance. So what? There's virtually no activity on this whole wide earth for which you couldn't find someone who's annoyed by it.

Well, if its true that this paper was a tabloid (which, in my defense, I had no way of knowing) then we must indeed proceed with caution. However - I think that unless they were just plain fabricating the story out of a whole cloth, part of my initial point lo those many days ago still stands: comics in Japan, while much more popular than in America, are still not the perfectly 100% accepted art form that they have been characterized as by overzealous American fans (and this isn't just Otaku, for generations fanboys have been parroting this line).

No-one would object to a man reading a novel or a newspaper on the subway - millions (billions?) of people across the world do that every day. This is the type of societal immersion comics fans long for, the metaphorical equivilent of society opening its arms and embracing the fanboy who has been shunned and insulted by the world at large for so long. Well - it took hundreds of years for novels to become accepted as normal by all strata of society. If there is ever to be a time when comics are accepted alongside "normal" literature and art, dollars to donuts we won't live to see it.

Its ain't fair but that's life, and I'm just not going to tolerate self-indulgent fantasies from the fanboy contingent who want to see every man, woman and child on the planet reading 'Green Arrow'.

(Man, I got some spleen to vent, don't I? I need to get a punching bag with Comic Book Guy's face on it or something...)

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

John, I'm Only Gouging

What the hell is up with David Bowie?

I'll admit, I like me some Bowie. I'd be wiling to excuse a lot from an artist of his caliber - much like Iggy Pop or Lou Reed, I can forgive a lot of crap based on their storied histories. But it seems that in the past year or so the David Bowie Corporation (whatever are they calling it?) has just taken a turn toward the surreal in terms of the amount of material they're releasing.

First, you had the 30th Anniversary Edition of Ziggy Stardust. Fine, I bought it, I loved it. It sounded great and there was some cool bonus material and a really nice package. If ever there was album that actually deserved commemoration, it was this.

Then he released a new Best-Of. OK, I can see that, it had been a while since he had had a definitive Best-Of on the market. For the two-disc set, the first disc was basically the previous '1969-1974' and '1974-1979' collections reduced onto one disc, with the later two decades stuck onto the second disc. The single disc version does a servicable job of covering his entire 35+ year career on one piece of plastic. Seems like a good deal for those who just want the hits. There was also, inevitably, a DVD.

Here's where it gets silly.

There's the double CD remastered reissue of the D. A. Pennebaker concert 'Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars'. OK, I bought this and this rokked. I have not yet bought the DVD reissue, however.

There's the 30th Anniversary Edition of Alladin Sane. Is he gonna do this for every album he ever released? Sure, it looks good, but at this point you might be wondering if its ever going to stop.

Hey, I've got a great idea. Lets release another greatest hits collection, virtually identical to the last one released not a year ago only this time its got a disc of superfluous remixes. And, trust me - I like remixes, and these are for the most part horrible (with the notable exception of David Guetta's hard house tweak of 'Heroes'). The Club Bolly remix of Let's Dance is perhaps one of the worst remixes I have ever heard in my life of a great song.

Of course, if you only want the remixes you can buy those on a seperate import-only disc as well.

Let's rerelease a boxed-set from the early 90's that all your fans already have, only lets make it 3/4 identical to the original box and put a fourth disc with a couple rarities on it.

Let's rerelease a mostly-forgetten early 90's album on three discs. Oh, one of the discs is a DVD, too.

There was apperantly a DVD release of the Glass Spider tour as well.

Oh, yeah, forgot all the albums of all new material he's been vomting, er, releasing the last two years. There was 2002's Heathen, also available in a deluxe limited edition with a bonus CD, as well as a recently released SACD version. Then hot on the heels of that album he released Reality, again in both regular and decaf versions (no SACD yet).

Are we there yet? Oh, well, one more - this February sees the release of a special edition deluxe double DVD reissue of Labyrinth.

So, man, this is just rough. I can see a lot of Bowie completists easily going insane trying to swing all this - wither that or going without food or shelter. This just goes to show you: selling the future profits from your catalog on the stock market is a bad idea.
The Mailbag Marches On

Got a reply from Mr. James Smith on our recent Manga debate. (Incidentally, for those who keep track of these things, Mr. Smith has his own peachy keen neato website here.)

I mistook your comment about manga presence here to mean there was none at all. Yeah, it wasn't exactly what I would call market penetration. I'd argue though, that the creation of Viz and TokyoPop were a direct result of the influence of those first few books. But that doesn't disprove your point.

Oh, yeah. I'm sure there are many older otaku who remember buying Robotech and Lone Wolf & Cub back in the day - or there might not be, I don't really know. I do know that nowadays a great deal of the manga fandom in America has no overlap with the American mainstream, and it would be interesting if we had any way of ascertaining whether or not this was historically true as well. In any event, from a business point of view, those titles are undoubtedly the trailblazers. Hell, Lone Wolf was around for the first Manga wave in the late 80's/early 90's, and it was still around (albeit with a different publisher) in time for the manga tsunami of the early 21st century (apologies to Bill Jemas).

(Incidentally, I just found out that apperantly otaku is actually a horrible insult in Japan. Is it kinda like with how black people appropriated the "N" word, and how gay people appropriated the "F" word - or is it just another instance of people being stupid?)

I've finally been able to read the article. I find it odd, but not unique. I've also read articles where Japanese people decry animation, despite the fact that the 2nd highest-grossing movie there was a cartoon. So it cuts both ways, apparently. Obviously, many people there despise comics. But looking back over your previous post, you did say conventional wisdom was "partially" wrong. So I guess I can't find fault with that assessment.

Well, there's still the kind of market penetration/saturation that any American publisher would kill for. But, I think this article implies that there is still stigma attached ot the genre by some in Japanese culture. Its not quite the wonderland that the bright eyed fanboys have been prognosticating for a decade. I still would rather have American comics follow a more European model, but fat chance of that happening.

Over on Newsarama recently, there were a couple articles about manga's US invasion. In one of them, a Japanese publisher stated that they generally find American comic art to be boring. One man's opinion-- apply salt liberally. Paul Pope was a member of a group of American artists (I can't recall any others) who were asked to go over and create for the Japanese market. At the last moment, they were all fired. The publisher decided they only wanted to publish Japanese artists.

Oh, one last bit. Colleen Doran described on Comicon once how she was favorably greeted at a Japanese comic convention, because her work was so obviously inspired by manga. She then went on to explain how she had been doing A Distant Soil for years before she'd ever even seen a Japanese comic. Like you, I always get a little laugh at Conventional Wisdom when people assume she's an example of "American Manga."

You know, looking at Doran's current work I cannot possibly conceive how she was ever labeled "American Manga". Admittedly, I am not that familiar with ADS, but from what I do know of her work it just seems a stretch.

I remember reading a while back, I think it was actually in the Journal's big Erik Larsen interview, how he and a few other American cartoonists (notably Lynn Johnston of 'For Better or For Worse') were invited over there by some sort of manga association for some sort of conference/convention. They were apperantly treated like royalty on the trip.

But regardless, I guess there must be as ingrained a prejudice among domestic Manga fans in Japan towards the "American style" as there still is in certain fanboy quarters towards the "Manga style". It unfortunate, but as I said, I still believe there are probably some market openings that a savvy publisher could take advantage of.

There are any number of properties - say, long-running and popular stuff like Love & Rockets or Savage Dragon - that could easily be repackaged and sold in that market. You could have nice, thick digest size books just like they like over there. (If Crossgen taught us anything, its that you can print some really nice color at a smaller size for a comperable price.) Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know. But it seems to me that if at least some American creators and publishers weren't trying to get some reciprocal business from the Land of the Rising Sun, there's a definite opening here.

I think you really need to listen to the Ramones, preferably the first album when you play the game.

(Courtesy of Journalista!, as if you needed to be told)
Mail Bag

Hey, we got letters, we get stacks and stacks of letters...

James Smith writes:

Couple things about your recent post. No manga presence ten to fifteen years ago? The earliest Robotech series a quick google turned up was first published in 1985, by DC. Lone Wolf and Cub from First Comics began in 1987. Speed Racer from Now Comics, 1987.

They were a novelty. I remember all the series you mention, and in all those cases they were sort of shoehorned into American pamphlet format (to the considerable disadvantage of books like Lone Wolf & Cub). Considering that we had three (possibly a few more) Japanese series being serialized in America, I would not call that a presence at all - and in any event, the average American fanboy, even if they bought one or more of the series, would still have been as basically ignorant of Japanese comics culture afterwards as they would have beforehand. It wasn't until people like Viz and Tokyopop started publishing manga the way it was published at home and deluging the American market that we really saw the nature and breadth of the Japanese beast.

That same Mainichi article you link to I can't read right now. But I'm going to go out on a limb here, and guess that the issue at hand is that many men read overtly sexual manga on the train. Many many Japanese comics and cartoons have a disturbing amount of young girls in short skirts hanging out with men twice their age. However, Japan also has manga about cooking and gardening. Not fictional stories about a gardener or chef. I mean, magazines that adults rea. To get gardening tips and cooking tips. No matter how much lip service we may like to give to Scott McCloud, Japan is the only place where both the creative talent and the *market* exist to prove him right. Not in the future, but right now.

Well, unfortunately, the article doesn't really discuss sex, except to say in passing that there is sex, along with violence, in much of the popular manga. Otherwise, the article (which I will link to again in case you missed it the first time) basically pillories comics in general, regardless of genre, as being unfit for mature readership. And as for the marketplace . . . I don't know. I'm no manga expert - but I have yet to see the Japanese equivilent of a Fantagraphics or a D&Q. The Journal occasionally spotlights someone in the Japanese "underground" but the implication is that those folks are even more "underground" than their American counterparts. Thats the kind of market diversity I'd like to see - comics as something more than a commodity.

As far as I've read, the only American comics folks with any real presence in Japan right now are Mike Mignola and Jim Woodring (the latter of whom claims he had to escape through a backdoor to get away from all the people clamoring for his autograph.

That last link was really cool. I think I had read something before about Woodring's fame there - which is great. It also makes perfect sense that Mignola would be popular. But... is that it? Seems to me like the majority of serious American publishers here are missing a bet.

Anyway, thanks for the letter. Keep 'em coming!
My Oh My

Man, sometimes conventional wisdom is sooo wrong and I know it shouldn't make me so gleefully happy, but I would have to guess I'm just an asshole in any event.

For generations of American comic book readers, Japan has been the Promised Land - where grown men openly read comics on the subway, as the stories repeatedly mention. Japan was held as the 'Gold Standard' in terms of social acceptance for funnybooks... but, as with many things in recent years, American CW has been proven at least partially wrong. (Link courtesy, as usual, of Dirk and Journalista! ... but you knew that, didn't you?)

Seems to me that the bottom line of this story is that while comics are accepted by a wider spectrum of the population in Japan, manga is still by no means accepted by society at large. In fact, I daresay that from a cultural standpoint, the traditionally rigid Japanese might tend to frown on manga even more fervently than the American bluenoses, for whom most comics are probably still blessedly below the radar screen. The 'Subway Men' make the problem more pronounced in Japan (and the tentacle sex probably doesn't help either).

Another thought that comes to mind - I can recall that as recently as ten and fifteen years ago, before Manga had any presence on American shelves, the average fanboy thought quite highly of Japan. Now that Manga is actually in America, and not just in America but trouncing American comics sales, the average fanboy is far less pleasantly disposed to the genre. Not only do the books sell well, but Japanese creators and manufacturers could care less for the genre stratifications that define American comics - which means nothing to you and I, but for your average fanboy its probably the equivilent of a deep existential crisis that the top selling comics in America aren't superheroes anymore. Are we going to see some nasty xenophobic reactions in the near future here, as the ingrained and continuing failure of the American mainstream to meet the Japanese challenge becomes an inarguable fact of life?

Another thought: just how well do American books sell in Japan? I don't just mean mainstream stuff, how well does stuff like Hellboy and Love & Rockets and Black Hole sell over there, if its sold at all? Its an interesting question.

Monday, January 26, 2004

New Releases for 01/27/04

As usual, courtesy of our friends at Ice magazine. No real rhyme or reason for the spotlit titles - just stuff that loks interesting (or not).

AIR Talkie Walkie (Astralwerks)

Already discussed this one. Go here if you forgot.

Interestingly, Ice has a feature article contrasting the new Air album with the new Crystal Method album. It calls the Crystal Method "daring and globally adored". OK, here's the deal: I think the Crystal Method are happy when they don't suck. They are simple folk with simple demands out of life, and I applaud their courage, for every day is another battle in the never ending war on suckitude. Most often they lose, but the fact that they keep plugging away makes them worthy of our respect, or something.

DAVID BANNER MTA2: Baptized in Dirty Water - Screwed & Chopped (Universal)

This the same David Banner who released that 'like a pimp' song a while back? That was horrible. And, as with last week's Scarface release, its got that whole Screwed & Chopped thing going on in the title. What's up with that? I just don't get it.

BIG BOI Big Boi’s Boom Boom Room (Arista)

What the fuckety fuck? Is this real or a joke? Big Boi, in case you didn't know, is one half of Outkast (along with Andre 3000). You'd think if he were releasing anything, there'd be a big deal about, especially if it were a solo release. Perhaps its important to be skeptical here.

DAFT PUNK Daft Club (Virgin)

I think this is probably the definition of "stopgap", but that doesn't mean I don't really want it anyway. Its got some of the b-sides and remixes from their Discovery album - great stuff. In addition to Aerodynamite, which just might be better than anything which actually made the album you've got mixes by the Basement Jaxx, the Neptunes, SLum Village, Demon, and a few others including Daft Punk themselves. Its great stuff, its just kinda frustrating that its nowhere near complete. No Digital Dub, no Pete Heller or Breaker's Break remixes of 'Harder Better Faster Stronger'.

Still, you know I'm buying it so I should just stop complaining.

MIKE DAVIS Trumpets Eleven (Hip Bone)

Its Miles' younger brother, Mike. He plays the trumpet, too. (No, not really. I have no idea who this is - don't get excited.)

DISKONTO We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About (Six Weeks)

Yes, yes you are.

ELECTRELANE The Power Out (Too Pure)

Ooooh, I remember them. They're good. They're British and they first showed up on a couple editions of Skint's Brassic Beats compilation - they were the only "real" rock group alongside producers like Fatboy Slim, Midfield General and, ahem, Doctor Bone. Sort of an interesting vibe, last I heard them, sort of a post-rock thing with some psychedelic overtones but in a very poppy way, if that makes sense? They didn't use to have vocals but apperantly they do now.

FILLMORE SLIM Funky Mama’s House (Fedora)

Whoa, talk about synergy. He's on Fedora records, and he's got a fedora on the cover of his album.


Whoever their art director is, he's doing his job.

FIVE FOR FIGHTING The Battle for Everything (Aware/Columbia)

You know, I seemed to recall disliking these guys but I had kinda forgotten who they were. I went to and sure enough:

Customers who bought this title also bought:

My Private Nation ~ Train
America Town ~ Five for Fighting
Message for Albert ~ Five for Fighting
Feels Like Home [ENHANCED] ~ Norah Jones
Lucky ~ Melissa Etheridge
Heavier Things ~ John Mayer
Superman (It's Not Easy) [CD-SINGLE] [IMPORT] ~ Five for Fighting
Long Time Coming ~ Jonny Lang

These guys run with a tough crowd.


I guess this means I'm totally out of the loop, because I have no idea who probably 2/3 of the young up and coming Goth/synthpop/industrial acts signed to Metropolis are these days.

INCUBUS A Crow Left of the Murder... (Epic/Immortal)

Who wants to guess this'll be big? No-one? What, too easy?

You know, I've always liked the idea of Incubus. Not that I've particularly cared for their music, but I do appreciate it when good, solid rock & roll music becomes popular. They seem like nice guys, can't resent them for that. Better them than Slipknot.

J-KWON Hood Hop (Arista)

OK, this is obviously a big and important launch from Arista, because an search finds Jason Mraz and Cat Steven's classic Mona Bone Jakon, but no J-Kwon.

CLEDUS T. JUDD The Essenshul (Razor & Tie)

You'd think this joke would write itself, but I will refrain from going the obvious route. Instead, I will merely point out that this would be the number one record in the country if they had Soundscan at gas stations. (Rim shot)

KEB MO Keep It Simple (Secretly Canadian)

Ah, Keb Mo. If you had known how long and successful your career was going to be, would you have picked a different name?

LOSTPROPHETS Start Something (Columbia)

I guess that Emo computers don't have space bars, they've probably been co-opted by The Man or something.

MEAT BEAT MANIFESTO ...In Dub (Tinocorp)

As opposed to some other artists I could mention, MBM are still going as strong as the day they started. This album kicks ass from start to finish, especially if you like your breakbeats served up with a heaping side of dub. Its ostensibly a remix album for last year's RUOK?, but there are only a few tracks which even slightly betray their origins - its a new and beautiful beast.

MICROPHONES Live in Japan (recorded February 2003) (K)

I got real excited when I was coming down the page because I thought for a split second it said Micronauts. We've been waiting five years for that Micronauts full-length from Astralwerks. No, I don't want to buy it on import, why do you ask?

MOUNTAIN GOATS We Shall All Be Healed (4AD)

Heard some buzz on this. Supposed to be good. They're quite prolific, apperantly.

EDDI READER Sings the Songs of Robert Burns (Compass)

Hmm. Robert Burns. Scottish poet-laureate. Hmm.

RUN RUN RUN Drizzle (w/Phil Cunningham of New Order) (The First Time)

I guess if Peter Hook can do a track with Hybrid...

VAZ/THE SEAWHORES Vazzed in a Sea of Whores (EP) (Essay)


VA The King of Crunk & BME Presents: Trillville & Little Scrappy (Warner Bros./Reprise)

You have to wonder if that's an official title or whether or not he's a pretender to the throne, a la Howard Stern and his King of All Media shtick. Is there a royal governing board?

VOODOO CHILD Baby Monkey (Virgin)

Man, this is a damn good album. Really, unbelievably good. It's Moby, in case you didn't know - Voodoo Child is an old psuedonym of his. He decided after a few years tooling around on the fringes of electronic music with Play and 18 he wanted to release a hardcore dance album. Sure enough, its about everything you would expect from that: its recognizable Moby all the way through but its got the techno, its got the old-skool, its got some deep house, breaks, and latin house as well. I keep meaning to write at great length about just how good this album is, maybe I'll get around to it in the next couple of days. In the meantime, just go buy the damn thing, OK?

OST Barbershop 2 - Back in Business (new Ice Cube film) (Interscope)

Remember when Ice Cube was tough and hard and cool? What? Oh yeah, that was before you were born, sorry.

OST Lion King 1 1/2 (Walt Disney)

Hmmm. Methinks they are going to make this franchise bleed until it dies. Well, at least they got back all the original voice actors, which is better than Disney usually does (especially since Nathan Lane is so busy - hey, I wonder, if he ever gets confused and starts talking like Timon during 'The Producers' - "Bugs! Bugs! I wanna eat some damn bugs, bitch!!!" Or something).

Not that I'm gonna watch the damn thing in any event.

There's, like, six music DVD's out this week and not a one of them worth watching. Pity.

Friday, January 23, 2004

StilL Doesn't Quite Get It

Axel Alonso keeps insulting his customer base. He may entertain illusions that his Marvel Knights readers are somehow a cut above the normal everyday fanboy, but I've some news for him: their not. I hope it makes him sleep better, but what he's doing is basically the eqivilent of packaging peanut-butter to people who don't eat peanut butter - people who don't eat peanut butter still aren't going to buy peanut butter, and the people who do eat peanut butter will buy the peanut butter but will be angry for having been both insulted and foresaken.

If you are buying superhero comics on a regular basis anymore, you are hard-core. I think wondering whether or not the Hulk or Thor is stronger is pretty much a requisite for being a superhero comics fan - the genre has pushed out the weak until the only people left are the witless who don't read anything else and people (like myself) who really should know better. But still - chances are if you buy any Marvel comics now or ever, you have spent at least some time pondering who is stronger between the Hulk and the Thor. This fabled new audience of Alonso's just does not and has never existed.

The good news is that, of course, he can insult the remaining hard core as long as he wants - they're still gonna buy 'Wolverine'. They'll just make their retailers' lives a living hell until they get John Byrne back on the book.
I Love The 80's Strikes Back

If you've been watching VH1 lately (and even if, like me, you haven't been but just pay attention to stupid things) you've noticed a new show called Bands Reunited. Its a remarkably simple concept: take bands whose commercial and critical heyday is twenty years in the past, make them reunite and play a show for their fans and the viewing audience. Although I could argue that this gimmicky format would only tend to further trivialize already-misunderstood but still influential artists such as Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Flock of Seagulls, I will refrain from this because I do not wished to be laughed at.

Anyway, it seems to me that in their survey of 80's hitmakers, they missed one of the very biggest of that decade, and of any decade. At the time he was even bigger than Michael Jackson - and he certainly had better fashion sense (even if they shared that samed comically limpid gheri curl hairstyle). This guy was so big, he was practically a God unto men... but no, he was bigger even than God.

He was from Beyond.

After the success of the first two Secret Wars, the Beyonder had a hard time of it. He was so widely identified with those two projects (and with the strongarm tactics of his domineering manager, 'Slim' Jim Shooter) that he had a hard time making a place for himself in the diverse music scene of the late 80's and early 90's. Shooter distanced himself from his onetime protege, even going so far as withdrawing an already-tendered offer for the Beyonder to perform a guest vocal on Shooter's 'Unity' project.

In addition, the excesses of the 80's had taken their toll on the Beyonder's once cheery disposition. In a recent interview with VH1's 'Behind the Music', the Beyodner admitted that he was not sober a single day during the second Secret Wars. He teared-up as he shared the story of Spider-Man himself taking him aside and pleading with him to "get off the blow". Unfortunately, it would be almost a decade before the Beyonder would succeed in getting the monkey of addiction off his back.

However, in recent years, the Beyonder has turned his life and career around. He's four years sober (and counting), and living with his former stylist Vanessa Gordon in sunny Fresno, CA. "She saved me," he recalled during that same interview, "if it weren't for her I'd probably be dead... or just have grown a new body without any cocaine still in it. Either one, really." He's even dipping his toe back into the music business, making music on his terms and for no one's satisfaction but his own. The underground hip-hop community has embraced the one-time Omnipotent All, who recently dropped a blazin' guest vocal on a white label mix of 'In Da Club' rumored to have ben produced by, yes, Jim 'Dandy' Shooter himself. Apperantly the hatchets have been buried, old friendships have been mended and the future looks brighter than ever for the One From Beyond.

(And if that wasn't bad enough, go here for some truly horrifying geekery...)

Thursday, January 22, 2004

The Anti-Jigga

OK, there have been some who have taken the success of the film adaption of Harvey Pekar's 'American Splendor' as an excuse to berate Pekar for a percieved "mercenary" nature. (No links, I'm hardly going to give these people the exposure.) These folks will probably find this essay grist for their mills - further proof of Pekar's ultimately incorrigable status as a miser (courtesy, as with all things, of Journalista!).

I suppose its inevitable... but it seems to me that to complain about such a thing is to miss the whole point of Harvey Pekar, and what makes him work so well. Pekar writes about economic and spiritual depression. Living on the borderline as he does it makes as much sense for him to write about poverty as Jay-Z to rap about luxury - its their life to write about. I suppose some read his constant talk of money and see nothing more than a greedy old prick trying to figure out how to separate them from their cash in the most cynical way possible. I think its more to the point to say that Pekar's preocuppations aren't grating simply because they're true. If you want your art to be blissfully removed from commercial endevour, there should be ample volumes of Wordsworth and Whitman down at your local Borders. Right now and for the foreseeable future, Pekar's life entails trying to pay the rent - maybe it hits too close to home for some to be entertaining in the slightest but I can't conceive of another comic professional whose work is more apropos of today's world.

But all that said - I am surprised to see that the movie hasn't provided at least a noticeable uptick in his sales. Fantagraphics has never been shy about the fact that the semi-successful Ghost World film helped them sell a lot of copies of Ghost World books and even - gasp - selected merchandise items. I've seen the American Splendor movie tie-in and it looks like a great intro to his work - so why isn't it selling more copies? American Splendor has been a bit more successful that Ghost World was, I'd think. The universes continues to mystify me.

(Besides, was it a typo or was he complaining about getting his page rate boosted from $17 to $44? Am I nuts - or could that be considered a good move?)

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

When It Rains It Snows

Whoa, big day hear at O'Neil HQ... got a couple reviews of mine posted online on the very same day.

First, if you'd like to read an expanded version of the Air review I did a few days back, the fine people at Poopsheet would be happy to oblige you here.

Secondly, a while back I did a review of Fantagraphics' recent translation of David B's epochal graphic novel 'Epileptic' (originally titled L'Ascension du Haut Mal, if my memory and my horrid French serve me well) a while back on pure 'spec' for the Journal. They didn't print it but I thought it was a good review and sure enough the good folks at thought so as well. Go here to read what I have to say about a book which has been called "the most acclaimed European graphic novel of the 1990s" (that quote courtesy of the Fanta store).

In any event, enjoy...
Let The Weak Die

In response to Chuck Rozanski's recent e-mail newsletter, Rodrigo Baeza has some interesting things to say which I reccomend you read.

I've come to respect Rozanski as a retailer and as (from my my admittedly limited perception) that rarest of rare specimens: a successfully ethical businessman. His columns for CBG, while occasionally lapsing into self-hagiography, have been for the most part riveting reading for anyone interested in the history of the direct market's development (he's probably the one reason, besides Fred Hembeck, I still buy the damn thing). However, its worth noting that Rozanksi carries perhaps too favorable an opinion of his fellow retailers. Sure, comics specialty stores when done right are wonderful things - but in my experience many of them are also pitifully decrepit hovels filled with bad T&A books and covered with ten-year old Legion posters.

So, why do these stores deserve to live? Simply put, they don't and they wont. Market diversity is a joke in the direct market and one day these stores who actively ignore every market but one (and we all know what market that one is) will find that that one market can't support them anymore and that the people who buy 'Chobits' or 'Powerpuff Girls' or 'Love & Rockets' shop elsewhere. If there's not a Comic Relief anywhere near, they may just have to shop at Borders.

Right now, the direct market seems to be insisting it deserves to live simply by virtue of the fact that it has always existed. That's not good enough: give us, the comic buying public, a good reason to spend our money on you, or we won't. It's that simple.

This is courtesy of both Dirk at Journalista and Neil Gaiman courtesy of his own bad self - but since I know not everyone checks in with Journalista every day like they should (to which I say - Bad! Bad!) here's something truly wonderful:

One of Alan Moore's singular contributions to music.

OK, perhaps it isn't strictly Moore. The credits read "Translucia Baboon" (as well as Alex Green and David J., who I'm sure are perfectly nice fellows as well). However. I have it on good authority that Translucia Baboon currently resides in the body of Mr. Alan Moore, so its close enough for me.

Why do we do what we do, whatever it is that we do?

Because the alternative is to lay down and die, and that's the stone truth of the matter.

You have to believe that what you do means something, and you have to believe that what you believe means something as well.

Me? I believe that aesthetics matter. I believe that there is good art and bad art, and that while reasonable people can disagree on these matters, some kind of consensus as to the demarcating line of "good" and "bad" is necessary for our society. There are certainly the subjectivists in our audience who will sigh and remind us that all aesthetic judgement is subjective - to which I say, of course, but that's beside the point.

The fact that aesthetic beliefs are ultimately subjective is only the better reason to stand by our accepted standards of what is good and noble and what is bad and disgraceful. Societies create standards and a healthy awareness and constant examination of these standards is what makes for vital discourse. I believe that good art is worth dying for, is a cause worth devoting your life to.

To a degree, I've done so. I'm not living in a garret yet, but I haven't had a shower in over a month, we have no heat besides space heaters (during the coldest New England weather in decades, no less), this house is falling apart, our life is falling apart and my wife is in the hospital. Again. What keeps us going? Besides our love (which is something that I am certain you do not wish to hear about) its a dogged belief that life matters, that its important to keep living and keep striving. This is not where I thought I'd be at this point in my life and for this I am grateful. Pain and turmoil can only make us stronger, can only strengthen our commitment to those things in life that do matter.

So, on the behalf of the Missus and I, here's a big message to everyone out there in this great wide world of ours:


Tuesday, January 20, 2004


Yeah, he's finally back and he's made at Iowans. Not a lot of shooting or drinking, but lots of cussing. Good clean family fun.

Monday, January 19, 2004

New Releases For 1/20/04

Here's a partial list of everything coming out in stores tomorrow, courtesy of our friends at Ice Magazine.

Big Advice Love Shines (Electric Monkey)

I have no idea who this is but Electric Monkey were responsible for a very interesting album from a fellow named Joel a while back. Interesting soulful house type stuff... who knows what this is, might be good?

Cee-Lo Cee-Lo Green... Is the Soul Machine (Arista)

Good to see that Cee-Lo is still going strong. It was a shame what happened to the Goodie Mob, especially considering they imploded just a year or so before Outkast went big in a major way. Its not hard to think that they could have probably ridden those coattails had they survived. But anyway, Cee-Lo is very good in his own right, very funky Southern rap with some gospel and electronic overtones, if his past output is any indicator.

Ani DiFranco Educated Guess(Righteous Babe)

So, what is this, her 87th album or something? She's actually slowed down recently, which is good - we already have one Guided By Voices - they're called Guided By Voices.

Dizzee Rascal Boy in da Corner (Matador/XL)

Now, from the electronic music POV, this is probably the biggest release today. Dizzee Rascal is the next in a long line of British MC's who've tried to break the American market - but America has traditionally been very resistant to anyone rapping with an accent (save for the occasional Caribbean island dweller). Anyway, you've heard Dizzee Rascal if you've heard the Basement Jaxx's 'Lucky Star' - and while I'm not a fan of this performance on that song I do think he might go better on his own. His production is supposed to be very good, but they said that about the Streets as well and I was underwhelmed. Oh well, do I sound pessimistic? I really do want this to be a good album, if for no other reason than its always nice to see some UK Garage - even hybridized UK Garage - on the charts.

Front Line Assembly Civilization (Metropolis)

Its heartening to know that some things never change... every little while you can expect Metropolis to release something from a group you thought was dead years ago. Nothing wrong with that, mind you - we'll always have a soft spot in our hearts for the old school industrial sounds.

King Cobra King Cobra (EP) (Troubleman Unlimited)

Is this possibly a product tie-in to some kind of Malt Liquor?

Necronomitron Necronomitron (Load)

New contender for 'Best Band Name Ever'. Unfortunately, the name is so cool I honestly doubt the band can live up to it.

Northstar RZA Presents (Koch/In the Paint)

Dude. Its so good to see that coming out of the closest hasn't affected Northstar's rap career. I mean, first he gets that great assignment in Uncanny X-Men, now this - I'll bet he pretends not to know Puck anymore when they meet each other in the supermarket, you know?

Greg Palast Weapons of Mass Destruction (Alternative Tentacles)

Hmmm. Wonder if this CD might just have some political content.

Scarface Balls and My Word (Screwed and Chopped) (PBK)

Whoever named this CD obviously didn't want people to buy it.

Man, this is a dead week - must be January. Oh wait, it is!

Sister Hazel Live*LIVE (two CDs) (Sixthman)

OOOOH! Buy two they're small.

We're All Gonna Die Go to Hell (Underdogma)

What a positive, pro-life message here. Warms the cockles of your heart, doesn't it?

DVD MTV Punk'd - The Complete First Season (Paramount)

Is it possible to boycott the release of something you weren't going to buy anyway? In any event, I want to see the episodes where everyone sues Ashton Kutcher for being right asshole. Now that would be good TV.

DVD Belle & Sebastian Fans Only (Matador)

I see I need not apply, then.

DVD Meat Beat Manifesto In Dub 5.1 Surround (Music Video Distributors/Lakeshore)

Ooooh. This looks nice.

DVD Audio Cornelius 5.1 Plus PM (CD/DVD combo) (Matador)

Now, this might be good. Can't figure out what it is, though... OK, according to Matador its your standard videos comp with a twist - its got a bonus CD of Cornelius remixes done for Cornelius by his fans for a contest. Might just be good. I have fond memories of listening to 'Fantasma' way back in the day - but then again, I obviously never cared enough for it to buy a copy myself, so who knows what that says?

Tilting At Windmills

Reading Brian Hibbs' column this week brought to mind a couple of random thoughts.

First, there's this quote:

"Some [publishers] are trying to eliminate the periodical comic from their mix as much as they can, preferring to issue "permanent" editions as a GN. This, I think, is probably a mistake, because frontlist drives backlist, especially as the sea of choices expands. Creators need constant visibility and "market presence" in order to develop as their own "brand". We'll talk more about this one in a future column, I promise, because I think that the rush towards "books-only" is a dangerous course for us to take."

This is an interesting notion, but I think its a bit reactionary given the shifting economic indicators. I think that the "books-only" model that Hibbs decries is probably going to become the standard format in five years time, if not sooner. So, talking about whether or not is should be the industry model is probably silly because if it happens its going to happen fast and its going to happen because the publishers - specifically the Big Two - want it to happen. As we've seen ad infinitum, the Big Two have a way of making their ideas industry standard. The only reasons the Big Two haven't already done this can probably be chalked up to ingrained corporate lethargy. If you go back and read this interview with Joe Quesada from a few days back you'll notice that when asked about the possibility of moving incrimentally toward the OGN publishing model, Quesada demurrs slightly by stating that such OGN's would cost somewhere in the region of $30-40, which would price the books out of the range of most fans and negatively impact the creators' (and Marvel's) pocketbook.

Now, first of all, while this may seem a negative forecast its worth noting that he's describing the exact same model that the regular publishing industry had labored under for hundreds of years. Second - if you're OGN's are going to cost $30-40 and be all of 90 pages, you're going to go out of business, its that simple. And third, all the little assumptions and inferences that go into this line of thinking point to the fact that the mainstream is still indellibly stuck in the periodical mindset, which could kill us if they're not careful. There's no money in comics as periodicals - its not a growth industry. I think a great deal of Tokyopop's success has to do with the fact - and I don't think I've seen anyone mention this before - that the Tokyopop books aren't periodicals. They come out regularly on a periodical basis, yes, but they are designed to have a long shelf life in the bookstore. I think this simple fact creates a far different impression on the minds of potential readers than anyone has yet taken into account.

Comic books = periodicals = not a good value in the mind of the consumer.

One day soon I think we'll start seeing manga TPBs racked next to paperback books in grocery chains and Wal-Marts.

Its probably going to be someone in accounting, a junior VP or someone who we've never heard of, who makes the final realization. Its going to happen fast when it finally does happen. One day soon someone at either Marvel or DC is going to realize that they're paying their creators too much on the front-end, and make the move to a more standard publishing model. When that happens, your favorite creators are going to have to learn to either work faster or work better in order to maintain their current standard of living - just like writers do in real publishing. (Not that I'm implying that mainstream creators are overpaid - quite the contrary - just that however much they are paid they're going to start getting paid a lot less.) Artists who work at a snail's pace will probably move away from the mainstream publishing and into smaller initiatives that will come to resemble the European album more than anything else (Brian Hitch, this one's for you). There's going to be a lot of upheaval but the smart retailers and creators should land on their feet.

Back to Hibbs - I was especially curious to read the last paragraph of his article:

"The Direct Market is back on a cycle of growth, for the most part, and if we want to accelerate it, it's time for Marvel to get back into the supply game."

Although he qualifies the statement with "for the most part", I have to wonder how he can parse the distribution numbers he cited earlier in his very own article to mean that there's anything resembling a "cycle of growth" currently at work in the mainstream industry. I think, although I have not yet crunched the numbers, that a great deal of the "growth" we've seen has been dependent on a series of gimmicky pushes from the Big Two - such as the Ultimate line, 'The Dark Knight Strikes Again', 'JLA/Avengers', and the Jim Lee 'Batman'. I think, although again I do not know, that a lot of the sales energy generated by these successful launches has come at the high cost of a dwindling midlist. The economics of scale in comics publishing are so small now that halfway successful books just can't cope anymore. How many people have had to put off buying books such as (just too name a few noble failures) 'Automatic Kafka', 'Sleeper', 'Outlaw Nation', 'Black Panther' or 'Spider-Girl' because they had to buy the new Jim Lee Batman? Since we don't have an infusion of new blood in the shops, the amount of money that can be spent in the direct market every month is effectively capped. The Big Two are robbing from their left pocket to pay their right pocket - and since smaller publishers can survive on smaller profit margins, its mainly the Big Two -and fans of smaller titles from the Big Two - who are feeling the burn.

Nice little viscious cycle, eh?
See Hilarious Mars Rover Cartoons

It says a lot about the state of editorial cartooning in this fair land of ours...

A few days ago the comics blogosphere rather amusedly reported on the fact that when the Mars rover landed on Mars, every editorial cartoonist on the country had the same idea: ie, of course, what could be funnier than finding Osama on Mars? Well, I'd rather have a toothache, but thats just me.

Its about the lamest gag I can possibly conceive - given that its not funny in any remotely humorous way. Its more like humor through the tried and true Pavlovian response method: jam two familiar but dissimilar current events into the same panel, rinse and repeat. Of course, the audience has been trained to chuckle at such toothless fare by generations of precedent. The fact that so many cartoonists had the same idea, or a very similar variation on the theme, is reprehensible, and says a lot about the editorial cartoon as an instrument of civil protest and satire in the year 2004.

So, anyway, when I check into my e-mail this morning what do I see? Slate's Daryl Cagle is making a virtue of his profession's total cluelessness by running a laundry list of Mars Rover cartoons. There's only a page of Osama gags - even though there were many more produced - but there's a WMD reference or twenty as well as the obligatory Britney Spears and Michael Jackson punchlines. Someone even threw in a Jimmy Hoffa for good measure, because I guess it just doesn't get any more topical than people who've been dead for almost thirty years.

Air (Jean-Benoit Dunckel & Nicolas Godin) are quite possibly some of the very best producers in the field today. Everything they touch just sounds brilliant - smooth as silk and sweet as candy. The problems arise when they try to write songs, because - frankly - sometimes they embarrass themselves.

The problem with 2001's '10,000 hZ Legend' was not that the album didn't sound great, but that the songs were just not very good. I really think they need some sort of ombudsman in the studio, because under no circumstances should fake robot voices and spelled-out chorus lines (P-E-O-P-L-E I-N T-H-E C-I-T-Y) ever leave the confines of the studio. Looking back, '10,000 hZ Legend' is mainly notable for the presence of Beck, who, in retrospect, obviously seems to be straddling the cosmic goof-funk of 1999's 'Midnight Vultures' and the heady sincerity of 2002's 'Sea Change'. Otherwise, aside from Beck's contributions there are a lot of songs that just fall apart because of one or another goofy idea that just should never have made it past the demo stage.

'Moon Safari' still holds up. It still sounds wonderful, distinctive and is just a little bit corny in all the right ways. One of the reasons the album holds up so well is that they seemed to understand that at the heart of any good music is strong songwriting. They lost this concept altogether on '10,000 hZ'.

Thankfully, 'Talkie Walkie' is nowhere near the embarrassment of their previous album. Its got some good moments - and a few very good moments. Even though I dislike the helium-pitched little girl voices they affect on songs like 'Cherry Blossom Girl' and 'Surfing on a Rocket', the songs still work somehow. There are still a few blunders - such as 'Biological', featuring just the kind of lame lyrics that ruined their last album - but on the whole they seem much more conscientious this time out. Perhaps the very visceral backlash to '10,000 hZ...' upset them, perhaps not - in any event, they've not so much returned to the sounds of 'Moon Safari' as reigned in their songwriting... eccentricities.

All things considered, I think I can give 'Walkie Talkie' a tentative reccomendation. If you liked 'Moon Safari', well, you've probably already got this reserved down at the Sam Goody, don't you? In any event there's a lot to reccomend this album, and the good outweighs the bad.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Portentous Twaddle

...AKA I just sat through 'The Hours' on Showtime.

Man, rarely have I seen such strong talent thrown at such mediocre material. I mean, really. Foreshadowing is a tool, not a bludgeon.

I almost turned it off, I really did. But it takes a lot for me to walk away from a movie. At the very least, 'The Hours' had good key-note performances from John C. Reilly and the underrated Jeff Daniels - but perhaps the reason they come off looking so well is that they were only in the movie for brief passages, and thus had less in the way of truly tendentiously awful pretentious dialogue to try and speak. Real people don't speak like that, the only people who speak like that are Movie People. I'm not asking that everything be straight from the Method school, but you should at least not be consciously trying to bowl me over with your affectedness.

And where was Philip Glass' score? Barely perceptible. All in all, it seemed nothing more than a hollow excercise in the most callow type of award-mongering I've seen in years.

So, everyone and their mother is getting all excited about the possibility (still unconfirmed although its been a while) that Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is writing New X-Men in Grant Morrison's wake. In any event, I suppose it was impossible to get a name that would satisfy any of Morrison's fans, especially those (like myself) who bought New X-Men solely for Morrison (and will be dropping it like a hot potato once he's done) - but are they even trying? I mean, seriously.

May I make a modest proposal? Instead of Joss Whedon, how about Adam Rifkin? Who's Adam Rifkin, you ask? Well, he wrote this mid-90's Kristy Swanson and Charlie Sheen vehicle:

If the criteria they're using for picking the next writer of Marvel's commercial flagship is whether or not a person has written bad Kristy Swanson movies, I think you will find Mr. Rifkin to be more than adequately qualified.

(By the way, 'The Chase' isn't even available on DVD yet. If that's not the definition of injustice, what is? Was there ever a movie more suited for the luxurious DVD format?)

Saturday, January 17, 2004


OK, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the Justice League cartoon (currently airing on the Cartoon Network) is probably the best action cartoon on the air today. It's also probably the best superhero team of any kind currently being produced - it makes the current 'JLA' comic look anemic.

In fact, I daresay this show is so good at what it does that it pretty much obviates the comic. If you were twelve, which would you think was cooler? Obviously, based even on Newsarama's rather optimistic numbers, only 62,171 folks even bothered to buy 'JLA' in December. Considering how many people see the Justice League on TV, that's pitiful... but then again, what do you expect? Even if they could get the people who like watching the Justice League on TV into a comic shop, there would be such a marked difference in quality between the two products that I sincerely doubt any of this new audience would stick around.

Besides, the Justice League cartoon doesn't make me feel like I need a bath... and the last time I read a mainstream DCU title I felt very dirty afterwards.

Here's a nice picture of the Man of Steel colored by Yours Truly with the aid of Adobe Photoshop. Digital Cameleon ain't got nothin' on this...

If you would like to color your own picture of Superman, you too can do so here.