Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Tomahawk, Dunedin, NZ
np: Guided By Voices, "Alright".

scratching the surface of what is up, most of which I've probably mentioned or alluded to here:

- DARK DAYS IN MONKEY CITY, the show that I have been in Dunedin to work on the last 4 months, goes to air tonight (Tuesday February 24th) at 10 pm in the States. (No idea of international dates.) Credit-spotters, you won't see my name for a couple weeks yet (I came in late, and start getting credited on ep 5), but you'll get to meet our cast of monkey characters, hear the dulcet narration of John Rhys-Davies, and tell me what you think of it.

- Speaking of that TV show, we locked picture on the final episode today. It's mostly all over but the shouting now; my last day is Friday.

- Also on Friday: my proud return to the stage after 5 1/2 years (not counting that one song last month). My two new bands are saying hello as I say goodbye, at Chicks Hotel in Port Chalmers (just outside of Dunedin). Gelatinous Bleary Vampires have the same initials as Guided By Voices, whose songs they will be playing; I'll be drumming mostly, but also bassing, guitaring, and singing at various points. (Yes, I know bassing and guitaring aren't words.) Meanwhile, The New New Randoms (UK) carry on my improvisational-music side; we'll be playing some loosely structured tunes in varying styles, from ominous and drony to spastic and dancy to just kind of goofy.

- In the past two weeks, I have been back to Auckland twice. The tickets were originally purchased for the purposes of seeing David Byrne and Iron Maiden, respectively, both of which put on fantastic shows, which I still hope to write about at some point. It's also worked out as a great opportunity to refine my feature script with my producers and pass it out to the crew, and we're moving forward to shoot the feature in August. Go DIY filmmaking!

- Of course, there's a limited amount I'll achieve until I get back to Auckland; in the interim, I'll be travelling through NZ (a friend's birthday in Christchurch; a couple days chilling out in Akaroa; a possible scuba trip in Marlborough Sound; jazz fest in Wellington; and a night in New Plymouth), then heading to Australia and Vanuatu.

- And also, per my mother's suggestion, I'm going to try to get some random woman knocked up in the next month, as apparently it would be awesome for me to have a kid this year, and I'm running out of time.


- There's probably more. But do you know what is awesome, as I've mentioned before?


So here it comes, and goodnight to you.

YOTA Books #3 & #4: Anthologies-a-go-go!

McSweeney's THRILLING TALES is an issue of their periodical that transcended its bounds, and now lives as a stand-alone book. The conceit posited in an entertaining foreword by Michael Chabon is this: since the province of the literary short story has been ceded to the wistful evocative slice-of-life rumination for so long, a return to the pulpy tales of yore should be a chance for authors to explore and stretch themselves.

I'm not sure of his thesis - Stephen King has cranked out heaps of stories, for instance, most of which are better than what he's included here - but there are a number of good-to-great stories. Nick Hornby, Glen David Gold, Michael Moorcock, Michael Crichton (really!), and Dave Eggers (the latter in a story I've read elsewhere) all make solid contributions, as do less familiar-to-me authors Chris Offutt, Karen Joy Fowler, Laurie King, and Carol Emshwiller

But there are also a number of just hard-to-read frustrations, full of desperate attempts to cram in archaic or invented terms, or just poor marriages of style and content. Having read everything, I would say, by and large, that I could have decided within 5 pages of every story if it was worth continuing.

Still and all, I recommend it, for a smattering helping of awesome.

This collection is more encyclopedic in its medium - kind of. Brunetti has gathered many of the great names of cartooning, graphic noveling (?), and plenty of folks I've never heard of. If names like Art Spiegelman, Joe Matt, Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Charles Burns, Jaime Hernandez, Chester Brown, R. Crumb, Adrian Tomine, Joe Sacco, and Seth (to name just a few examples) are vaguely familiar to you, here's great samplings of their work; included, also, are a smattering of older cartoons, including the astonishingly artful Krazy Kat pages, which I'd never seen before, and several pages devoted to Charles Schulz.

Then, there's the completely unfamiliar authors. Richard McGuire's piece "Here" is a free-association through time of the contents of a room, sad and beautiful; David Collier's "The Ethel Catherwood Story" is a simple piece of reportage that has stuck with me far longer than I anticipated; and John Hankiewicz takes some of the prosaic stylings of Adrian Tomine and hyper-intellectualizes them in "A Paragraph By Saul Bellow (1915-2005)" in a way that instantly pegged him as a kindred spirit. Just a few examples; there are dozens, and I could read this book every year and find something different that struck me.

The book is organized non-chronologically, but roughly from primitive doodling styles to the more complicated, according to the author. The other organizing principle - the complete absence of any superheroes or superheroic-type things. I find this a slightly troubling omission, especially as it remains unaddressed in the preface - it's like a conceptual donut, designed to omit a central idea without calling attention to its absence. This minor frustration aside, though, a swell compendium for anyone who ever had the slightest interest in, um, "graphic fiction".

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

NEVER NOT AWESOME #1: The Big Picture

An ongoing series of articles about that which I guarantee will be, quite simply, never not awesome.

The idea is simple: several times a week, The Boston Globe's Big Picture is updated with an entry collecting pictures on a certain theme.

The reasons it is awesome:
1. The photography is presented in a large format, so you can really see it in its glory.
2. There are about 30 photos on each page, so you get a wide variety of images.
3. The site veers between the significant political issues of the day, more generalized topics that are less focused on an immediate news hook but still significant, celebratory images of festivals and holidays, and the otherwise unclassifiable item of interest. Some days, you'll be horrified; other days, you'll be grinning like a little kid; still other times, you'll go back and forth in the same entry.
4. Almost always, the work of many different photographers is featured, so you get many different eyes on the same topic.
5. Inevitably, there is at least one image that you are convinced is the best photograph you've ever seen.

Some links to examples, which I'm not posting here because I don't want to shrink down the pictures:
The China Lantern Festival (My personal "Holy Crap" picture, henceforth referred to as HCP: #12)
Sailing, around the world (HCP: #24)
Bolivia and its new constitution (HCP: #25)
La Princesse in Liverpool (HCP: #6, but really the whole concept is pretty HC)
Bushfires in Victoria, Australia (HCP: #25)
Scenes from Indonesia (HCP: #8)
African Immigration to Europe (HCP: #34)

And that's just recent stuff. Comb through the archive and you'll be continually stunned, dazed by beauty, moved to tears.

You will be experiencing awesome.

Monday, February 16, 2009


It is easy to be awesome when everything is going well, it is more difficult when it is not. A trivial statement, but a true one.

Of late, there have been several bursts of non-awesomeness, none of which individually are too big of a deal but cumulatively have been a wee bit overwhelming.

On top of this is a question about at what point indulging in awesomeness becomes non-awesome strictly by its volume.

I hit that point about two weeks ago, basically, and have been a bit wiped since then. Again: mind follows body.

One thing that I have learned clearly is that I am not going to make it through the Year of the Awesome - or any year, really - without my friends. I feel fortunate and grateful and neglectful all at once, and am looking at integrating my friends into this project in various, hopefully non-intrusive and fully voluntary ways. For now, I shall just say thank you.

Another thing I neglected to share here was one iron-clad, definitively awesome moment, which was staring the stage with Robert Scott of the Bats and the Clean. I wrote about this for the Nonalignment Pact a little while back, and you can read it here.

There is much awesomeness afoot. I am writing this on the plane to Auckland, where I am going to have my first pre-production meeting for the feature film, and also where I am going to see David Byrne for the first time. Next week is Iron Maiden. The week after that, I take the stage with two bands to play full sets for the first time since 2003, which is a matter of perennial excitement, and then after that a week drive to Wellington (via either Stewart Island or Marlborough Sound - debate which is more awesome in the comments, please), then rocket to Auckland to fly to Australia for a week and Vanuatu for two.

Then, finally, home, and with it: moving back in, starting another job, and most importantly, beginning pre-production on the feature in earnest.

So I am not surprised that with the upcoming onslaught, my body has pre-emptively gone into self-protection mode. But my scatteredness has also meant I've been making mistakes, neglecting things.

So, for now, I am refocusing, getting my act back together, and this, I think, will be crucial for the upcoming awesomeness.

More soon. I promise.