The Outbreak: February 2005

Sunday, February 27, 2005


Thank you to everyone who's linked to the blog so far. However, I do feel obligated to let Johnny Bacardi readers know that, alas, this is not strictly a music blog. But I expect you'll see a decent amount of that sort of activity going on here, at least until an oft-promised freelance opportunity along those lines finally materializes.

I could start by saying that I've heard the lead single of the next nine inch nails album (single: "the hand that feeds"; album: with teeth), and it's not very good. Musically it's nowhere near as interesting as the bizarre analog crunchscapes of the fragile (which was at one point my favorite album of the decade, though I feel I've grown away from it since), and lyrically--well, I suppose a part of me had assumed Trent Reznor's lyrical preoccupations would by this point have advanced at least slightly past where they were on Pretty Hate Machine way back when, but this does not seem to be the case. In fairness, the lead single (that is, the song the radio chose to play first; it was a b-side from the actual lead single, technically) from the fragile, "starfuckers, inc.," was by far the least interesting song on that album--aside from the cheeky carly simon swipe, it could have been done by Gravity Kills--so maybe we'll see a repeat of that pattern here.

It's interesting when an album by a band you were extremely heavily into a few years prior comes along while you're immeresed in music that's nothing like it. Last time this happened to me was when Underworld released A Hundred Days Off, at which point in my life After the Gold Rush, Hunky Dory, Beggars Banquet and Pink Moon were in heavy iPod rotation. But good will out, and that Underworld record was quite good indeed, and worked its way right into the '68-'74-fest in my brain without much hassle. nine inch nails have never been simply about metal aggression, but the bands I've been listenting to aren't about that at all--I read an interview with Interpol frontman Paul Banks in which he specifically stated he eschews his aggressive side when writing and recording. I'll be curious to see how the new NIN record meshes with the skinny-tie set.

On the other hand, my favorite song for the past two weeks or so has been Doves' new one, the astounding "Black and White Town." Naturally this group of moody Mancunians has the same main touchstone as Interpol (and nine inch nails, for that matter)--Joy Division--but the technicolor direction they take this in is a lot different from the angular dance-rock I've been into these days. (Does the "Heat Wave"-style piano take it back in that direction, or move it further away? You make the call!) Then again, Interpol themselves went in a more brightly-hued direction on their last record, so perhaps it's all more seamless than I'm making it sound. (Still, someone's gonna have to explain why I've been digging on Billy Joel's "Big Shot"...)

Don't even try to deny it

Last night my friend Ken threw himself a birthday party. And when I say he threw himself a birthday party, what I mean is that he did not fuck around. There was an open bar, a knife-throwing act, a ska band, an artsy marching band, burlesque dancers, and a happy-birthday-to-Ken strip show involving two of his friends that ended in an act that reminded me of nothing so much as George Costanza's declaration to a Senegalese home-care aide of his acquaintance, "I want to dip my bald head in oil and rub it all over your body," only in this case "oil" was replaced by chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and maybe some other stuff I couldn't see from that distance. When Amy and I left the party, there was a man with a face tattoo on stage doing some sort of revival-tent speech (that, or the opening for the MC5's Kick Out the Jams). As I said, Kenneth did not fuck around. What's funny about all this is that this was not for his 20th or 21st or 25th or 30th birthday (hell, given his and my predelictions, I'd have understood if it was his 23rd), but his 27th. I now sort of feel I can't ever have a birthday party again, because this would be pretty much impossible to top.

One thing I feel I discovered last night is that I truly can put away Guinness. I don't think this makes me special or anything, but I know that for a lot of people (my grandfather, for instance), it's just too heavy. It actually feels lighter than Pabst Blue Ribbon to me. I feel I am fortunate in this regard.

Another thing I discovered (or re-discovered) last night is that despite the fact that I work in the comics industry, I actually have one of the least ridiculous jobs of my high-school circle of friends. We count among our number a glass blower, a knife-thrower's assistant, and an anti-capitalist zine archivist. Granted, Ken's gig at a Fortune 500 company completely ruins the curve, but still.

Meanwhile the highlight of Amy's night was when a gay man complimented her ass. I do this all the time--seriously, all the time--but I guess she reasoned that this fellow knows from asses. Fine, fine, anything that gets her to actually accept a compliment. Right now she is asleep with her head in my lap, so perhaps I'll try subliminal messages to that effect.

We also saw the Gates last night, finally. Eh. It's impressive, in the sense that most massive things are impressive, but they just look like dirty shower curtains to me, or something from the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

Amy and I fought quite a bit yesterday. Wish I knew why, but I was just in a rotten mood and I let her know it. Yuck. On the other hand the nice thing about being married is that it lessens the drama--what're we gonna do, get divorced? Although, as Amy put it, there may be less drama but there's also more irritation, as we're stuck with each other. 99 times out of 100, though, that's just fine with me.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Bands that I just can't get into

I just can't get into the Killers. It's weird, because everything I listen to these days is totally faggot-ass retro: the Faint, Franz Ferdinand, Scissor Sisters, the Bravery, the Dandy Warhols, Interpol, LCD Soundsystem, Elefant, Fischerspooner, W.I.T., and on and on and on and on and on. I downloaded the Killers' whole album after going back and forth on "Somebody Told Me" (My question was, Can something that rips off Blur so flagrantly still be good? the answer is Yeah, it's still pretty good), but I don't know, something just didn't click. It's not like I hate 'em, I think they're alright, but I feel like I should be flipping out about them and I just ain't. I will say this for them, though: They dress well. And points for eyeliner, of course.

But this can only get you so far. I so wanted to like the Zutons because they looked damn sharp in the original video for that "Pressure Point" song (the version they show on Fuse as opposed to MTV), but if I hear that "ah-ooh, hoo, hoo" one more time, I'm going to drive my car through a Starbucks storefront.

I also just can't get into the Arcade Fire. I find this band really interesting because I think 90% of the people who've listened to them (myself included) had never heard of them before they started showing up on every, and I do mean EVERY, Best of 2004 list at the end of last year, in many cases in magazines that hadn't actually reviewed the record when it first came out. I know other *music critics* who hadn't heard of them until they showed up in the Best Of list their own publication published. I think a week before I first read a Best Of with them on it, one of my co-workers asked me if I listened to them and expressed surprise when I said no because I was his quote-unquote "hipster music connection," but that's it.

(Please note that I don't think anyone is less of an Arcade Fire fan due to when they started listening to the band, eg. after all the press they got. You can't listen to a band you haven't heard of! Life's too short to get worried about stuff like that.)

Anyway in the car on the way to lunch this friend from work played me "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" and I loved it--I thought this was another Rapture-style dance-rock band, and MAN, that sense of urgency. So I ran back to work and downloaded the album, and eh. Again, I don't hate them--the first 30 seconds or so of the first song are GREAT, and "Power Out" is still awesome--but the rest doesn't quite wang my dang, and I can't understand the absolutely RAPTUROUS reception they've gotten.

I think part of my problem with them is that the guy can't really sing--he's got one of those warbly Frank Black/Wayne Coyne/guy from Modest Mouse voices that don't really do it for me in the context of Big Anthemic Rock Music. (The only exception, for some reason, is the guy from the Polyphonic Spree, but they're so goofy and over-the-top that it doesn't matter; on the other hand you didn't see me running out to buy their second album, I guess.) If Arcade Fire Guy could sing like Thom Yorke they'd probably kick all kinds of ass, but as it stands it's like going to a Radiohead concert and finding out that Thom is sick and the guy who sets up the speakers is going to be singing tonight.

I dunno, like I said, I don't hate 'em, I just could take 'em or leave 'em.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Written on the wind

I spent the whole day writing, pretty much. I did this on a loaner laptop the Apple Store gave me while they get me a new computer gratis to replace the old lemon. All things considered I probably would have preferred to do all this work at work, but what can you do. Now it is time to pet my cat and watch a violent movie while I wait for Amy to return from her very first Tori Amos live experience--a talk with her and the co-author of her biography, Ann Powers, at the 92nd Street Y. Baby's first Tori. Awww.

Today I had occasion to speak on the phone with someone who felt compelled to disown a published project due to its substandard condition. It's hard to wrap my head around how badly something like that would suck.


Yesterday I found out that my submission (with artist Shawn Cheng) to the anthology True Porn 2 was rejected. I'm going to be honest and say that I didn't see this coming at all, to the point where, from what she'd heard about it from me, my wife didn't even know that the piece getting rejected was a possibility.

Beyond the general, form-letter-style "unfortunately we don't think your piece fits in the book" or whatever they said, there was really no explanation given. Amy asked me if I wanted an explanation, and I thought a bit and decided that no, I don't. I was happy with the way the comic worked, Shawn was happy with the way the comic worked--'nuff said, really. It's disappointing, more so because I have no idea where else we could publish a pornographic autobiographical comic (and it truly is pornographic, by the way), but I'll live. (I dunno, maybe I'll hit up Sammy Harkham and try and get it in Kramers Ergot 6--you got to shoot for the moon sometimes.) The bottom line is that I'm proud of the work, which is an exciting and unfamiliar way to feel in the face of rejection.

The funny thing is that a few weeks ago, as I started seeing the first completed pages from Shawn, I realized that if I spent the rest of my life doing whatever for a day job but making three or four good comic short stories a year, I'd be perfectly happy. I mean, I'd like to write the great American graphic novel, because if you don't have ambition, what's the point, but I could live the rest of my life simply producing things like the porn short story I did with Shawn and the sci-fi short story I did with Matt Wiegle and the Bowie biography short story I'm working on with Josiah Leighton, and feel fundamentally satisfied with myself as an artist. Of course, it would be nice if other people could see these things too, but I'm not even convinced that that's necessary at this point.

So my concrete goal in the short term is to start writing more short scripts. I shot a handful of short films on video in college, and I think nearly all of them could be translated into comics rather successfully, so I'd like to start adapting those. Right now it's just a matter of digging up the videotapes and watching them and working. I've found that that's harder than it looks, of course. A day job plus freelance writing gigs plus a wife you enjoy spending time with plus, y'know, TiVo and a 20-graphic-novel slush pile and about a dozen unwatched DVDs from Christmas, and, and, and you've got to prioritize is what you've got to do.

Anyway I planned on writing all this out last night, but my computer melted down for the fifth time since we bought it in September of 2003. So I've taken the day off from work and I'm at the Apple Store, blogging while I wait for all my old computer's information to load onto the loaner they're lending me while they put together a replacement computer. All told this has been an interesting day in terms of inspiring self-confidence in the fate of my new git-up-and-go writing attitude. Haw, as they say.

Last night as I was driving home from work across the Tappan Zee Bridge, the sun was just going down, and the moon was out, and it was huge, a huge Tattooine moon.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

By way of explanation

Yeah, I kinda find it as hard as you probably do to believe that I'm blogging AGAIN. (This, of course, is Seanblog Volume 3. And you, of course, do not exist, as I haven't told anyone I'm blogging here yet.) But I think I can use the outlet. We're going to have much stricter parameters this time around, though, and unlike last time, I'm sticking to them. No politics--too much agita. No comics--I'd kinda sorta lose my job or something. Just personal postings about my life and where it stands and where I want it/need it to be going. The first place I'd like it to go is the hell away from this sort of writer's funk (it's not quite a block) that I've been in. If I do nothing else this year, I'd like to break out of it. Hence the name of this blog. Hell, hence this blog itself.

See you soon!

Monday, February 21, 2005

And...we're up

Oh, Blogspot, it's nice to be back.

More to come, et cetera.