A Slice of Fried Gold

Yes Month

Monday, August 31, 2009

I hope this leads me to Harry Potter parties AND dating Zooey Deschanel

Yes Man was Jim Carrey's last movie and it was not a particularly good one. It was cute but ultimately kind of ridiculous and definitely forgettable. Well, for most. For some reason, in my given mindset the concept of saying yes to everything seems attractive. Lately, I've found myself making excuses for almost everything and turning down things that would likely be fun. I think it's led me to being pretty stagnant and routine, which has gotten really freaking tiresome.

No more!

I am now starting what I will call Yes Month, in which for the entirety of September I will say yes to every opportunity (offered to me) so long as it isn't a) illegal or b) directly involving me losing my job (unless it's my own choice) or c) if a person is asking me to buy something for them (unless I want to). I'll track my successes (or extreme lack thereof) on my blog this month, so I'll make sure that you get all of the dirty details. It's a pretty drastic response to a minor life problem, but I really feel like it's a good idea for me. I need change and I feel like I'm young and I'm passing up too many opportunities. It's time!

Now let's just hope it wraps up with me dating Zooey Deschanel. I really don't feel like that is so much to ask for. If not her, then some other cute and dorky band frontwoman. Come on now universe, throw me a freaking bone here.

Disney buys Marvel (plus I'm back!)

Let's hope that Marvel is treated better than that broom

Evidently crazyness infects the world when I'm gone, because Disney purchased Marvel Entertainment today, sending Marvel's stock skyrocketing, their stockholders into glee driven dance-offs, and their comic fans into a tizzy as everyone worries about our favorite characters becoming "Disney-fied."

Of course, Disney is not a company that has thrived for decades because they are stupid. They are the company who owns Miramax, so it's not like they went to QT and said "hey, perhaps you should replace the Gimp scene in Pulp Fiction with a friendly game of poker" (no pun intended). Our characters will be fine. It's par for the course that comic fans read this news and immediately think the sky is falling, but that's the nature of comic fans - we're kind of crazy. Given that I'm a comic fan by way of corporate life, I see the silver lining: added longevity and exposure of the product. For a long time, Marvel's biggest problem was assured cash flow, and with this move Marvel now is safe enough that they can take even bigger risks in the future. What those risks are, I don't know (ROM: Space Knight...the movie!), but I'm excited to find out.

On another note, I'm back in action. Empowered by repeated compliments about my blog (thanks Eric and Erik!) I'm going to look into writing more than ever. Beware Goldies, beware.

Dead Man's Bones Inaugural Tour

Friday, August 21, 2009

Dead Man's Bones

In what has to be one of the coolest sounding musical projects ever (or at the very least, for an actor turned musician), Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields will be releasing the self-titled debut album for their group Dead Man's Bones October 6th. Featuring Gosling, Shields, and the Silverlake Conservatory Children's Choir, little is really known about the album besides the fact it will have a flair for the baroque and noir and that it will be very stripped down.

To promote this album, the duo will be going on a 12 city tour and I have to admit, this sounds like the type of event that would actually be worthy of flying down from Alaska to experience (thank god for Seattle and Portland dates). Gosling and Shields have arranged it so there will be a local talent show opening for each event, handpicked by them and more than likely arranged to mesh well with their event. Also, given that it's the duo with a children's choir (who are notoriously difficult to bring on the road), they will be getting the assistance from specific choirs from each city they visit. Rad.

Check Pitchfork for tour dates and more info, including a link to a great interview with the titual duo. Also, watch the promotional video below. Creepy and awesome, all at the same time.

Dead Man's Bones Hypnotism from biz3 publicity on Vimeo.

Slices of Fried Gold: The Decade Ending Edition

This is the last year of the decade. Obviously. Ultimately that does not mean a whole lot to anyone as it's just another new year that just happens to belong to a new decade. However, to the pop culuture and zeitgeist obsessed bands of people who make up the blogosphere, it's a huge time. Now that indie music stalwarts Pitchfork have announced their list of the best 500 tracks of the decade (topped by the irrefutably awesome trio of Outkast's "B.O.B." (my very first illegal download!), LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends", and M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes") and Bill Simmons has started his EssGee Awards, anyone and everyone who is obsessed with music, movies, TV, books and all the rest is frantically coming up with what they're going to do themselves to celebrate the culmination of a pretty fantastic decade.

Of course, this is my announcement that between October and November I will be releasing my favorite albums, songs, comics, TV shows, and movies of the decade, hopefully developing a pretty comprehensive list that highlights who I am as a pop culture junkie. It should be pretty interesting and a fairly difficult list to compile (turns out that there were a lot of releases in this decade), but I will do it no less.

Look for Slices of Fried Gold: The Decades Ending lists coming very soon.

Why can't he just go away?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A coworker of mine is a die hard Green Bay Packers fan and by association a die hard Brett Favre fan. Over the past couple years, we've had many discussions about Mr. Favre as he has provided a lot of water cooler talk for football fans around the world, and his opinion has progressed in an interesting path. See below:

After initial retirement and Packers going with Aaron Rodgers: "Oh yeah, Brett got a raw deal. He deserved better than that. I hope he stays retired though."

After he returned with the Jets: "Good for him. He was treated poorly and I think it's okay that he went to a team in a different conference. He obviously still wants it."

After his season ends in tears after a horrendous performance, murdering the Jets (and Patriots season): "He just needs to retire."

After he "retires" again: "It needed to happen. I'm glad he finally did it."

Yesterday after Favre showed up at Vikings practice and signed: "He's dead to me. I hope when he goes into the Hall of Fame they make him wear a Jets or Vikings uniform. I cannot stand that guy."

Has an athlete ever went from deification by a fanbase to complete and utter derision from the same faster? Seriously, who would sign with the bitter rival of his long time team at the twilight of his career? He really, really needed to end his career, and now he's going to spend another year making bad decisions and ruining a new team's playoff hopes. I really cannot wait until he finally disappears, and I can think of a number of people who agree with me in that regard.

My Fantasy World

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The draft board

Are you ready for some football?!

Hank Williams is, that's for sure. Approximately 35 million other people world wide are really excited for football as well, but for a slightly different reason than ol' Hank, and that's because of Fantasy Football. Maligned by girlfriends and wives and loved by men worldwide (besides Jason who hates it and calls it "fantasy f***ball"), it is about as prevalent of a hobby for American men as anything is. Well, with the exception of drinking beer, but the good news is that actually heightens your fantasy football experience!

With the football season right around the corner, my yearly league Suckout Central once again gathered to draft together, this time with a slightly larger group than usual (14) and in a new location. This league has mostly been comprised of the same group of pairs of friends and combined acquaintances for a long time now, but it's my third year and Colver's second so we are fixtures within the league at this point. Given that this is a group who only gets together when they want to select which football players will make their team better than every other team within the league, it's more than a bit competitive. That competitiveness comes out entirely within one liners from everyone at the draft about every pick made (when they are bad or suspect).

Example: league commissioner (and my former boss) Pat spent his first five to six rounds drafting older players. Really, really good players...don't get me wrong, but older players. This of course led almost everyone to making jokes about his gameplan, culminating in me casually suggesting that he change his team name to "The 2006 All-Pro Team." Hilarious if you're there, not so funny if you're not, but the point is fantasy football is all about friendly competition mixed with more than a little derision and jokes at others expenses.

This league is particularly awesome though as it is loaded with people who know a lot about sports and people who actually put in time to research (with a few exceptions: there is one or two horrible owners yearly without fail). You know it will always be competitive and fun, but that leads me into the bad part about fantasy sports - nothing ever compares to the draft.

Especially this year when we had a draft board (essentially a big board that you stick names to that guides you through the draft) and a clock making sure everyone wasn't taking forever. The whole draft was fast paced and a blast, plus the new location was loaded with delicious food that people cooked for the draft and ample amounts of beverages (beer!). As I said before, there is also the aspect of making jokes about everything, as every pick is analyzed with a Mystery Science Theater 3000 spin. It's always the one time everyone is together and the one time we really talk about the league besides message board posts, so the comraderie dwindles throughout the season.

Which is fine - almost none of these people are my friends, but it would be more fun and intense if we all got together from time to time to talk about the league. One person suggested that everyone gets together and gets drunk right before the trade deadline (my name is David Harper and I support this idea), but besides that there isn't a lot of discussion of interaction to improve the quality of the league.

The good news is I still have more drafts, with the first annual "Will Play for Beer" draft this Thursday, featuring actual friends of mine as my buddies Sobo, Erik, Colver, Marc, Tim, Ryan, Sam and a couple of Colver's coworkers will all be participating in what is hopefully a yearly league. This league will assuredly be full of trash talking and completely ridiculous overstatements of team quality (mostly by yours truly, I fear), which means it will be a blast. I'm glad we got it together, and am looking forward to future years in that league, but not nearly as much as I am looking forward to this year of football.

Are you ready for some football?

Hell yes I am Hank.

Prisms: A District 9 Review

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Science Fiction is a genre that is grossly misunderstood. Very few people accurately grasp its true value as the stereotype of aliens and phasers and teleporting and cheeseball ways typically prevails over any thoughts of it being anything of actual depth. Of course, you could make the argument that quite often science fiction earns the derision it receives. More often than not, even the most well received pieces of science fiction (like 2009's Star Trek) just use the genre conventions strictly to develop new methods to entertain audiences. However, science fiction's true power appears when it is used as a metaphor for real world issues and when creators imbue their thoughts on the world into their project. This happens very rarely, but perhaps one of the greatest examples of this is the Neill Blomkamp's new film District 9.

District 9 posits a version of the world where in 1982 aliens came to Earth, and instead of landing in Manhattan or Paris (as they say in the movie) they came down directly over Johannesburg, South Africa. After days of absolutely no movement, the ship is boarded and what is found is a group of malnourished aliens that are stranded without the ability to leave. Somewhat predictably, the nations of the world decide that the best solution is to set the aliens up in slums within the Johannesburg city limits and the ramifications of that decision are what gives us the core of the movie. The protagonist of the film is Wikus Van De Merwe, an agent of MNU (Multi-National United) and the person that has been tasked with the job of notifying the aliens (called Prawns) that they will need to leave their slums for a new home 240 kilometers from Jo'burg, and during the performing of that task is where the fates of everyone involved suffers a dramatic shift.

What Blomkamp and company do that is so astounding is using the sufferings of the Prawns and the divide between them and the human race as a prism through which we can view our own destructive tendencies related to race, namely South Africa's own past with apartheid. Blomkamp (and many of the other people involved with the film) is a native son of South Africa and someone who lived through apartheid, and you definitely see the parallels between that time and what the Prawns suffer through. Whether it's the signs pasted all over Jo'burg businesses stating the lack of welcome for the Prawns, the sentiments of residents Blomkamp brilliantly shares in short, documentary style interviews, or the point of the outright segregation of the Prawns to what are effectively modern day ghettos from WWII, the film does not let us miss the similarities.

To so closely pigeonhole it as a straight parallel of apartheid would be a mistake though, as it is more a window into the darkest versions of racism. Really, you could substitute any race or group of people that are strongly disliked in the place of the Prawns, and the film would be wholly believable. That Blomkamp uses aliens in lieu of them makes the commentary more palatable to audiences without sacrficing any of the power. Short of Ronald D. Moore's reimagining of Battlestar Galactica, I cannot think of any piece of science fiction that so elegantly layered commentary within the threads of entertainment and dramatic tension.

Even if you completely disregarded the subcontext, this film would be a stunner. With such a powerful message being conveyed, many writers and directors could easily lose sight of making this film basely entertaining but assuredly Blomkamp does not have this problem. From the first minute, this film draws you in and demands your undivided attention. The whole film is told as a retrospective, with various talking heads interjecting in interview segments to dissect the Prawns way of life and the events that are unfolding within the primary story thread, which follows Wikus on his journey as the most wanted man in the world after the events that unfold during the process of evicting the Prawns. Setting the story up in such a way allows it to manifest in a very mysterious and provocative manner, as if it is a beautiful painting that is slowly but surely revealed piece by piece.

Given the films history as what effectively is a spinoff of Peter Jackson's Halo project (that project was unceremoniously dumped after Jackson announced Blomkamp, a no-name at the time, would be directing that film instead of him), you would expect it to be a visual tour de force, and your expectations would be fully realized in this case. From the presentation of the aliens, to the CG work on the effects of the alien weaponry, to even the usage of shaky cam and documentary styled shots, everything is carefully laid out to heighten the dramatic tension and to make everything feel like it is really happening. The utter realism of this film give the already weighty subject more substance and make the whole experience all the more immersive.

One of the most amazing aspects of the film (and this is a film that clearly has many layers of amazing) is that the lead of the film, Sharlto Copley, did not really have any significant acting experience (he had never even appeared in a feature length film) and he mostly improvised his role. Blomkamp knew Copley because Copley had once hired him as a computer graphic designer (when Blomkamp was just 14), and when he started developing the feature (which was based off a short starring Copley he had made originally), he kept him in mind. Given his inauspicious origins, you would think that even a minimally successful performance would be a boon, but Copley gives a fierce and lively performance, ranging from the dorky guy everyone likes to believeable action star scene to scene. His character is not only the protagonist but the on screen manifestation of humanity, as he struggles with his species driven rage and is backed into corners where he has to make despicable decisions. Successfully pulling that off while connecting the character deeply with the viewers would be a feat for the most experienced of actors, and that he did that is all the more impressive.

The last main point I will make about this film is that Blomkamp gives us possibly the only two CG characters (existing in live environments - Pixar doesn't count) in history that truly connect emotionally with his creations Christopher Johnson and his son. These two Prawns give us the perspective of what life is like from their side, as really these are a group of people who want to go home just as badly as humanity wants them to. Their relationship and their burgeoning one with Wikus give the film much of its emotional depth, and Blomkamp handles them with brilliant aplomb.

I could really go on and on about this film. This is without a doubt one of the single biggest masterpieces in the history of science fiction and is truly a unique film, especially given the current state of film (I hope you like remakes and adaptations!). This is possibly the single greatest blockbuster styled film ever made, as it has all of the excitement, action and humor audiences look for, while successfuly layering in an important message and being positively bathed in technical expertise and a keen eye for drama. Effectively, it is as if Blomkamp threw down the gauntlet on the rest of the filmmaking world and challenged them - "You too can be original still. You too can make your movies mean something. You too can entertain and inform simultaneously." The world of film is a better place with films like District 9 out there, and I sincerely hope filmmakers respond to Blomkamp's challenge by striving to make their films mean something as well.

District 9: A

TWD meets AMC: A Match Made in Heaven

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In quite possibly the most inspired pairing in comics to TV/movies history (with the exception of Christopher Nolan and Batman), AMC announced today that it is developing Robert Kirkman's the Walking Dead to be one of their new dramatic series. Given the quality of TWD and the content that AMC is putting out, it really seems like a match made in heaven.

For those that are unaware, the Walking Dead is, in my opinion, the best piece of zombie fiction ever released. Kirkman's ongoing story of a group of people trying to survive in a zombie infested world is a completely immersive experience, as you find yourself at times thinking as a part of this small band of people and of what you would do if you were there. The protagonist is Rick Grimes, a small town police officer who was in a coma (ala 28 Days Later) when the zombie apocalypse started, and by the time he had come to it was already too late for humanity. Following his perspective as he tries to find his family and beyond, Kirkman carefully crafts a hero we can root for, even as he reveals himself as psychologically fragile (to put it quite nicely).

In short, this comic freaking rules.

The fact that AMC is working on taking it to series and is putting esteemed writer/director Frank Darabont (directed a little film called THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION) means that they take this title seriously, and if all goes according to plan, the zombie apocalypse will be taking over America in real life as well because this thing will be what Emmy awards are made for. You heard it here first.

Here's hoping AMC ends up crossing their shows over, as a zombiefied Walter White and Don Draper could possibly make Breaking Bad and Mad Men even more entertaining. Think about it AMC.

This was posted originally at my comic blog. Click any of this text to go there.

New Kay Kay on Friday!

Kay Kay and his...weathered underground

Modern day 60's pop luminaries (and personal favorite) Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground are sneak attacking the world by announcing that they are putting their new album, titled Introducing...Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, up for stream on Friday on their Myspace page. Their debut release (self-titled, naturally) was my favorite from 2008 as it was filled to the brim with sunny, psychedelic pop gems, and I have really high hopes for this group.

Do me a favor and check this release out on Friday, and if you like it share it with friends. The album won't be released in physical form until a currently undetermined date, but let's start building excitement now folks! Blow minds baby.

Iron and Wine coming to Alaska

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sam Beam going for the natural look

Iron and Wine is coming to Alaska September 25th to play at UAA, in what will likely be one of the best fits to Alaskan audiences ever. Given that lately it seems you are required to have a beard to live here (damn inability to grow anything besides a throat beard), Sam Beam and his enormous beard will likely be welcomed with open arms. While I don't shower the guy with adoration like everyone else does (I have to be in a very specific mood to enjoy his music - it's kind of boring), I do appreciate his talent and better yet, I appreciate a good show. I feel like it will be a very restrained and high quality show for sure.

Regardless, I'm just happy Alaska is getting some decent concerts. The Hold Steady and Iron and Wine in one 8 day stretch? That almost makes it okay that I'm not going to make it to Musicfest NW this year.


The Motorcycle Diarist

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Kind of similar to Adriaan, but not exact

Today while I was sitting at Kaladi Brothers writing blogs, creating awesome mixes, and sipping coffee (not to mention surfing the internet and wasting time), a stranger stopped by my table. It was a man who was looking for somewhere he could burn a DVD. At first I started pointing him towards a Kinko's or somewhere similar to that. However, due to my extreme inability to explain how exactly he could get there, I just offered to burn his DVD for him right there on my laptop.

It turned out his name was Adriaan and he was from Belgium. He had traveled from Belgium to Miami, and then Miami up to Nova Scotia, all away across Canada, and then up to Alaska to collect his motorcycle. Anchorage is his starting point, and he is going to ride his motorcycle to the southern tip of South America (Tierra del Fuego) over the next year. We talked for around half an hour about what he's done (he also did land based journeys from Tierra del Fuego to Ecuador and one from Belgium to Australia), what he does for a living (global IT consultant), and differences between Alaskans and everyone else.

Most importantly, we talked about what I should do as a 25 year old that is feeling like he wants a change and to travel and to get new experiences. It was really interesting to get the perspective of someone who has done a little bit of everything in his life and is now really living the dream. "I really wish I had done these things when I was 25, I had a lot more energy then." Adriaan said. Well I'm 25, I have a ton of energy and I feel the need. Not sure exactly what that means for my life plans, but I think I am going to start looking into formulating and crafting my future.

No less, Adriaan took my picture (I did this too...very cool) and then departed off to some other place assuredly, and I got back to what I was doing. More of the same of what I've been doing, but perhaps that will change soon. Not in a "riding a motorcycle across multiple continents" sort of way, but in some way that feels right for me.

Slices of Fried Gold (8/8/09)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

After being thrown into overdrive for a few days by unavoidable events, illness, and new best friends, I'm taking a day today for significant blogging and nerdy activities. Also known as my favorite things. First up is a post on two recent things I watched/heard and enjoyed greatly.

Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue

Great. Another album Pitchfork raves about. I'm sure I'll disagree with this one too.

Wait, I forgot. That's what old David would say. Some time over the past year I went through a portal into a bizarre world where my tastes closely align with Pitchfork and rarely is there a big divide between our musical tastes. This album somewhat predictably is a complete hit with me, as I would quite possibly go as far to say that it is one of my favorites so far this year, along with the Thermals' Now We Can See and Portugal. the Man's The Satantic Satanists.

Bibio sounds like the love child between Rogue Wave and RJD2, two prodigious musical talents in their own right but the perfect alchemy of artists to craft Bibio's Ambivalence Avenue. While sometimes the album pushes hard in one direction (the purely RJD2 beat dropper "Fire Ant", the precious and emotional Rogue Wave-esque "Lover's Carvings"), most of the time this album finds a happy medium between soothing vocals and guitar pluckings and electronic production values. The combination of those aspects typically work off the pop music backbone of both of those artists, using the electronic structuring and beats to remove the listlessness of the folk aspects and using the emotional acuity of the folk to give this robot some heart.

This album from what I've read belongs in a genre titled "folktronica", which is extremely funny to me. Given that those two genres to me exist in two non-overlapping sections of the Venn diagram of music, the fact that Bibio not only successfully makes music with them is inspiring. The fact that he makes this album a favorite for the head bobbers and the deeply bearded alike is completely stunning. This is a wonderful album, capturing emotions without coaxing them out of me with cheap lyrics, eliciting grins with clever usage of production and instrumentation, and soothing me with pleasant and oft-charming vocals. Definitely worth a spin for you more adventurous musical folk.

Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue: A

The Hurt Locker (Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, written by Mark Boal)

From the director of Point Break, the writer of In the Valley of Elah, and featuring the stars of 28 Weeks Later and We Are Marshall comes the Hurt Locker, one of the most highly acclaimed movies of the year.

Okay, if you phrase it like that, the whole "most highly acclaimed movies of the year" thing seems quite far fetched really. The point is, this movie is greater than the sum of its parts and these actors, writers and directors are better than what they've previously shown. This film tracks the last 38 days of Bravo Company's time on a tour of Iraq, specifically through the eyes of a bomb disposal unit (comprised of the incredibly underrated Jeremy Renner, the stellar Anthony Mackie, and the quietly effective Brian Geraghty) recently formed because of a tragedy that happened to their former team leader.

This is not a plot driven movie however - it is more psychological, more about getting into these soldiers heads and finding out what makes them tick and how they can keep going, day in and day out, knowing that any movie could be their last. For some people this movie may not work, but I have to admit, seeing the intensely long lines at GI Joe (including many veterans who evidently feel more connection to a ridiculous movie about cybernetically strengthened soldiers than one about what it is really like to be a soldier) and then looking at the ten or so people in my theater during this, well, I was a bit disappointed. Well written, poignant, intense, visceral, and well acted by an extraordinary cast, this is everything a war movie should be.

Going back to the seemingly bad start in terms of who was making this, first I want to comment on director Kathryn Bigelow. While nothing in her career up until this movie really said she was capable of something like this, obviously she is as the proof is on the screen. The tension in every scene is palpable, and the way she and cinematographer Barry Ackroyd stage the shots is awe-inspiring. There were a few scenes where the intensity actually caused goose bumps on my arms. Writer Mark Boal wrote many powerful scenes, both in the action sense but also in the emotional sense. The way he demonstrated war slowly breaking each of these characters, and the way he revealed what was truly different about Renner's team leader Will James versus the rest was incredible.

Of course, that latter part would not have been possible if it weren't for Renner's tour de force performance. As a man only comforted by the rigors of war, a man who "is not much of a social person but one hell of a warrior" (paraphrased from the movie), he provides the smoldering center and the pivot point for all characters and scenes to spin off of. His teammates Sanborn and Eldridge are just trying to live long enough to go home and start families, but Renner's James is a complete wild card who is there because war is the only time he feels alive. Confounded by reality, soothed by danger, this is one of the most interesting and well drawn characters of 2009 and a role that will hopefully set Renner up for future successes.

The rest of the cast is superb, from the supporting team of Independent Spirit Award nominee (for this movie) Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty to the don't-blink-or-you-might-miss-them roles for Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, and Evangeline Lilly. Typically you wouldn't see that kind of elite talent in a tiny movie like this, but when a movie is so captivating and revelatory about two major population bases of modern society, I bet it was quite the fight to even get those roles for those major actors.

Incredible movie, and I would definitely say it fits snugly behind Up as my second favorite movie so far (pending...a lot of movies).

The Hurt Locker: A

Multiversity Comics Update: We're big time!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I have to admit, I'm really excited by how well the comic blog I'm writing for is doing. We're getting over 100 unique visitors a day, according to a comic site traffic aggregator we are the 55th most visited comic blog, and I'm even managing to successfully pull in a variety of creators for interviews. Upcoming creators that we will add to our list of interviews include Atomic Robo and 8-Bit Theater creator Brian Clevinger and the Sword and Girls creators the Luna Brothers.

However, the first person I interviewed was novelist and upcoming Bone writer Tom Sniegoski (which I talked about here). That interview is now posted and in my humble opinion, it's a very good read. It's pretty fantastic that creators who are likely quite busy are working with me to do this, and I really appreciate it. Hopefully I can keep getting more and more interviews and hopefully our blog will end up being a major success. Help us out by giving us a visit from time to time, especially for this new interview.

Music Release of the Week

Monday, August 3, 2009

Japandroids - Post-Nothing

While this album was released in Canada April 28th of this year and made its rounds across music blogs worldwide, it is finally seeing its physical release today in America from Polyvinyl Records. Japandroids fans proliferated to seemingly enormous levels as the buzz about this album was universally positive (as reflected by the 84 earned on Metacritic), as people evidently adore their better living through superior distortion method of music.

The question ultimately is not what does the world as a whole think of this album, but what do I think? While its roots exist in lo-fi, shoegazing guitar rock (not exactly my favorite genre), it is almost impossible for me to not often love this album. On tracks like album closer "I Quit Girls", it is impossible to not get completely sucked in by the dirty and dangerous sounding guitar, the desperate and sorrowful vocals, and the density and simplicity of the sound. This is without a doubt one of my favorite tracks of 2009 so far.

The album succeeds predictably when they pair the vocals and always driving and heavy instrument sound most cohesively, but sadly that is not always a sure thing. On tracks like "Wet Hair", all surging drums and barking vocals about french kissing French girls, they pull it all together and manage to make pop tracks out of something that very few bands could successfully pull off. Yet this does not always work out for the best, as lead track "The Boys Are Leaving Town" created rousing and robust instrumental layers yet leaves me high and dry with faded vocals that often verge on grating.

Very rarely do I find an album to progressively improve throughout, but this is definitely one that works that way for me. It is almost as if with every song their confidence in their sound improves and they start realizing what works and what doesn't. While this album is not the unblemished gem some are showcasing it as, it is an album filled to the brim with unadultered rock. Very few albums rock like this one, and in many ways it acts as a spiritual sequel to the Pains of Being Pure at Heart's debut earlier this year. While that was 2009 way by 1985, this album sounds like 2009 by way of 1995, when you wrote about what mattered to you (in Japandroids case...girls) and you rocked your ass off while singing about it.

Japandroids - Post-Nothing: B+

Come In Alone

Sunday, August 2, 2009

#10 - Come In Alone by Warren Ellis

Warren Ellis is quite the hyphenate. Depending on when you catch him he is a social media proponent, a futurist, a novelist, a blogger, and a writer of often inspired and always imaginative comic books, which is what I know him for primarily. While each role alone is typically invaded by other sides of Ellis, rarely are all aspects of his persona clearly evident in his work. Within the pages of Come In Alone, his collection of columns/essays he wrote for Comic Book Resources in 1999 to 2000, Ellis wears all of his hats simultaneously. The fusion of his roles allows Ellis to effectively take the world of comics to pieces and build it again from the ground up over that years worth of columns, and it results in a collection that should be required reading for everyone affiliated with the world of comics, no matter how tertiary you perceive your role to be.

One of the most amazing things Ellis does is create a thematic arc within his fifty two weeks of columns. You could even say he set it up in the classic three act method. In the first act, he presents the comic industry as it was in the year 2000 - comics of low quality ran rampant, incredible amounts of continuity made most mainstream books impossible for new readers to pick up, and comic stores made it impossible for small books to survive. However, he also showed us that there is hope in unknown (at the time) creators such as Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction and Carla Speed McNeil (all Eisner award winners now).

In the second act, he started to get deep into the doom and gloom as Marvel started falling apart with Bob Harras getting fired, Joe Quesada getting hired, and the company as a whole getting into dire financial straits. This proved to be one of the most intriguing sections as this was one of the only times in history that it seemed like the medium as a whole could go under. Ellis analysis of all of this was extremely compelling, as you never really think of all of the hell that these people go through, and learning more about how truly terrible the comic book industry was in the late 90's is terrifying and almost makes me feel bad for reading comics then.

The third act really starts to focus on how what Ellis saw the industry as a whole then and what stores, readers, and creators can do to fix what is broken. Because they were broken. Ultimately, as he says, there are two things that need to be done to fix comics: emphasize quality and to expand your horizons. To quote him and then expand, "read Ultimate Spider-Man but tell me you'll never bother cracking the covers on Jinx or Torso," as it makes no sense that you would enjoy one version of a Bendis book, but not the others. Comic readers only reading Marvel or DC because of some unearned and ridiculous level of loyalty, readers robotically purchasing superhero books because they have been for years, stores only promoting the new Jeph Loeb book because people seem to like him. It all needed to go because when you get down to it that is completely absurd. Comic readers only have one way to vote and that is by using their money to buy quality not quantity.

The good news for Ellis year 2000 is that everything that he said needed to happen, happened. Mainstream comics are hitting a level of quality that we arguably have never seen before. Creators such as Brian Michael Bendis and Grant Morrison, two creators who have made careers out of fearless decisions and love of the medium, have managed to not only transcend past being niche writers to dictating the flow of entire universes for the big two. Titles like Blankets and Fun Home are critical successes and commercial smashes as well. Not only that, but sales are stronger than they have been in a decade because of renewed interest developed by film adaptations and comics being good again. In many ways, all has gone according to Uncle Warren's plan he set out for the industry. Perhaps they were listening?

Besides the "fix the industry" stuff, we also receive a lot of really, really entertaining stories and anecdotes. Whether it is his night with Mark Millar (who evidently is completely insane), an awesome interview with Grant Morrison, or stunning revelations like when Mark Waid shares that in 1999/2000 Morrison and himself pitched DC on letting them take over the Superman books, and DC responded with "you will never write Superman. Ever." Of course, they got the last laugh as both wrote acclaimed runs on Superman titles. Naturally.

Whether you read this to get insight into the comic book industry, or to figure out how to properly run a comic retail store, or for the hilarious anecdotes, or even if you read this to get into the bizarre mind of one of the most enigmatic and outspoken writers in the industry, it is a damn good book. I'll go ahead and admit that it is not one you can sit down and go through in one fell swoop. The jarring transition from subject to subject really makes this almost a one or two column at a time book, but its a very worthy read for those interested in comics.

Come In Alone: B+

The Weekend Edition

After an intensely busy weekend, I'm completely wiped out. I had grand aspirations of writing a couple blogs on here and an additional one on my comic blog Multiversity Comics, but because of the busy weekend, the mass of laundry necessary and my busted knee (caused by my incessant need to be clumsy - arguably the thing I am best at) I decided it was possibly a better idea just to relax and watch some movies. The trio I've watched are Dazed and Confused, Kung Fu Panda and Children of Men, which pretty much expresses how odd of a person I am.

No less, here is what went down this weekend:

  • Colver's bachelor party (complete success)
  • Waking up real hungover and lazing about Colver's watching baseball and cracking jokes
  • Finishing up Warren Ellis' collection of essays/columns Come In Alone
  • Off camping in Denali by Byers Lake with the Crewnit
  • Chilling in Talkeetna for lunch with the Crewnit (Denali Brewing Co...cool, but not as good as I hoped it to be)
  • Relaxing and taking care of business

Hannah, Lorna and Amy - repping Alaska at Byers Lake

As I said, this weekend was a big one as not only were there large events to partake in, but it signified change. Friday night was Colver's bachelor party as he will be getting married August 29th, and will be the last of my best friends to get married. Not only that but our camping trip was Hannah's last big Alaskan adventure before she moves to New York and possibly Amy's last, as it is looking like she will move soon as well. All in all, lots of change coming. Two best friends moving, two best friends getting married (to each other no less! What the hell?!).

What does that mean for me? Is it time to up the maturity level and start pursuing major life milestones myself? Time to find the woman of my dreams and to settle down, or at the very least move and find my calling in life?


I'm having fun. I'll change when that stops, or something better comes up. Until then I'll just keep doing what I do until that stops working for me.