The Outbreak: March 2005

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Today we went out to move the body off the front lawn and one of them attacked us. All of a sudden I felt a weight on my back and I fell forward. I flipped over and it was yelling and grabbing for my face. It was an old man in a suit. I didn't recognize him. I pushed upward and kept him away from me, and as I did that my arms felt totally at ease, like I could have lifted a car up just as effortlessly. John and Mike pulled him off of me. I went back inside and I really felt fine, until I realized I couldn't remember how to lock the door. I could feel my head throbbing and chest pounding and the whole everything seemed to move in and out. This time I tried trazodone.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

I am sorry about my o utburst yesterday

This afternoon I dreamt that I was at Chaminade, my old high school. I was outside, in the front of the building, and it was very bright out. They were all over the place. You couldn't really see them--they were just shadows, black shadows in solid form. And I was trying to get in but the doors were locked.

I dodged them and ran around the side of the building, through that little parking lot on the corner. I banged on the door that opens stage left in the auditorium and someone let me in. There were a lot of people inside. I saw Bro. Rupert, my old drama teacher, showing someone how to use a shotgun.

People started ceding a lot of authority to me because I knew how to handle myself in this sort of situation. As I was making my rounds I saw that someone had left the auditorium door that I had come in through open. I went around from classroom to classroom with a bullhorn, instructing people that they had to keep the doors shut and chained. Everyone was very talkative and seemed like they were having a good time so I wasn't sure if they were listening to me.

I guess in order to pray for help, the brothers decided to have a Mass. (This was a Catholic school.) Me and some of my old friends, who were also there, refused to get up and receive Communion. We laughed about it. What were they going to do, give us detention? We were grown-ups now, and besides, had they looked outside lately? There was more to worry about than getting sent to the dean's office. The brother who was ushering laughed too, like "look at the chutzpah these guys have." This was the brother who in real life told our sophomore year religion class that and I quote the Inquisition had some good points.

Real life. This is real life now. It hurts, it hurts so bad. It comes over you in waves, like waves of sick. My chest, my shoulders, my jaw where the saliva pools, my head behind my eyes.

Three things to remember about today: My parents called and got through, and told me their cat had come back, a little scratched up but fine. The phone seemed to go out for good around 11 this morning and it's still not back up. And I accidentally made eye contact with one of them through the window and it didn't run right for the house. Learning.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Stay put

Don't kick us out of the house, Kurt. He's not reading this but I want to say that anyway. We're not a part of his family and no matter how well we've gotten along in the past, everything has changed. So please don't kick us out of the house, because I don't know how we'll make it to Garden City right now. They really just launch themselves at cars and if enough get to you you crash. Last time the news was on some truck driver panicked and took his tanker onto the Southern State, crashed into an overpass, no one cleared it, as far as I know it's still burning. I am still going to slip the rent under the door on Friday.

I do know my family is alright. They're staying upstairs because there's no door between the side door and the basement. They're thinking about going outside to the garage tomorrow first thing to get the door that used to be there and put it back up. Everything's much quieter during the day but that's relative because every day is worse than the last now. I'm a little calmer, at least, but that's probably the halcion. Amy's more doped up than I am, and spends most of the day sleeping or crying. Halcion, ambien, melatonin, tylenol pm, benadryl, nyquil. I remember when she used to work in the emergency room. Already using past tense? Anyway when she'd work in the emergency room and see a dead body she'd be really disturbed. She hated it. I only ever saw one, and I didn't even really see it. There was a white sheet over it, a car accident on Covert Avenue in Stewart Manor, near Sewanhaka. Nothing.

Amy's family is okay too. Everyone I've talked to who is still okay is still okay because they haven't left their houses. Trying to take advantage of the situation, fucking, People who travel should just be shot, the fucking son of a bitches. Kill them all, kill them all.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Our landline isn't working anymore. This morning it was staticky and cut in and out, then it just stopped working. Maybe it's the rain. Cellphones are useless, even Verizon. Cable, electricity, water still running. We haven't heard from either of our families since this morning. The fire engines are still on the street, you can hear them most of the time.

This morning we decided we should try and bring the lady next door and her dog over here. Kurt, his two sons, his brother-in-law, and I all went over there. Her back window was broken in and we saw the 7-11 guy, who had wandered away last night, in there. His stomach, well, you could see it out of his body. He kind of looked at us for a minute and then made a noise, like a retarded guy. He started running for us and Kurt shot him in the neck. There was a big splatter of neck torn off from the left-hand side and he stopped making that noise, but now it was like a hissing sort of sound, and he was reaching out the window after us. John (younger son) hit him in the head three times, hard, with the baseball bat. At this point we break in and we can hear her making these high-pitched squealing sounds in her basement. We just closed up the door. Her dog had been hiding behind the couch and came out when we got in there. We brought him back home.

Once we boarded everything up with shit from Kurt's van we didn't go outside again. I came back up here and I'm stayig back up here I am not going anywhere. It's not even a question, I mean where are you going to go? The answer is that I want to go to find my family but it could take five hours to get there. This is not a snowstorm. If you wantt o go outside then go, but this is part of the problem. Everyone stay inside.

You can't put it away is the problem. When you wake up tomorrow it will still be this way. It's never going to be fixed, this is what's really happening.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Woke up to someone banging on the front door, over and over and over again. Peeked out the window, didn't recognize him, figured it was for the landlord. Tried to go back to sleep but the guy kept banging. I didn't want to go downstairs to find out in person from the landlord what was going on because then the guy who was banging would be able to see me in the landing, so I called. When the phone rang I heard the guy start banging even harder, like he was throwing his shoulder into the door. Sure enough about five seconds after my landlord picked up I heard the glass door break, then thudding against the wooden door behind it. My landlord said that no, they didn't know him, and they didn't want to open the door to ask him what he wanted because (what I couldn't see from up here) his right ear was missing. They'd called the police an hour ago. Then he asked me if I'd seen the news at all this morning.

Once I saw what was going on they asked me if I wanted to come down into the basement with them, but I didn't, not with that guy still at the front door. I actually figured it'd be safer up here once I hung blankets up to block the windows. Once we did that I called my parents. They were still okay except that one of their cats had jumped out of a hole that their next-door neighbor had accidentally shot through their window when he was firing at somebody. Ryan was worried about his girlfriend but I told him to stay put.

By around lunchtime when the news started ignoring the regulations and showing the bodies we realized the banging had stopped. I peeked out from behind the towel we hung on the front window and saw the guy lying on the front lawn. His hair was wet-looking and matted down in one place and he wasn't moving. I didn't want to leave Amy but I knew I needed to talk to Kurt (landlord) so I ran downstairs, but they'd locked the door. So I ran back upstairs and called again. This time they'd disconnected the phone on the ground floor, so we didn't attract any attention. I ran back downstairs and once Kurt opened the door we crawled across the living room and down to the basement. They'd had to muzzle their dog but they were otherwise okay. Basically Kurt had taken one of the swords he had from his martial arts days, opened the front door and brained the guy. Just as he was closing it up again he saw another one run down Jerualem Road after a car riding on rims. Also, something at the gas station was on fire, but he figured that if it had been the pumps we'd have known it by now. He asked if I knew how to fire a gun but I didn't.

When I got back upstairs I vomited, which scared Amy worse than anything else so far. But I think that was a one-time situation--I'm trying to keep it together much better than that now. I'm trying not to think about it. I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and ate it, and I made Amy eat something or else I knew she wasn't going to eat at all. She had ceral. We had to turn the TV off while we ate.

Finally around 2 the police came by the house, but Kurt said that they didn't even ask him any questions when he opened the door, they just saw the guy on the lawn and told Kurt to stay indoors. I looked through the side window as they drove away and there was this huge reddish-brown smear on the trunk and rear bumper. I also noticed that the fire at the gas station was out.

I don't know, I'm fucking tired, I'm writing this in a closed bathroom so that none of the light escapes. My parents and brother and sister were still fine last time we were able to get through. Amy's parents too, things aren't as bad out there still. (I want to tell you that Bobo passed out again today at the vet, because that is still important, I don't care.) We turned the TV off because of the light once it got dark out--this was right around the time they all started showing that church. It felt like it got a lot worse after the sun went down. That's when we heard the car crash, I guess into the 7-11. The last time I looked outside the 7-11 guy was in our backyard. Every once in a while he yells. Then the old lady next door's dog barks and you can hear one banging on her side door. Most of the guy on the lawn's body is gone now. Not all of it, though, not FUCKING all of it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I still, I don't know. Amy gave me some ambien.

Saturday, March 26, 2005


Something just flew overhead that sounded like a jet.

When we woke up the rioting had already started, so I called Ken and Savas and a couple of other people in the city to find out if they had any clue what was going on. They didn't, not really, though they both thought the "shoot-out between gang members in the emergency room" explanation was pretty weak. It had already gotten pretty bad. But it did take me a while to reach them, so it's tough to characterize what the immediate cause might have been in the epicenter(s?) hours earlier.

One of the stranger aspects of whatever the hell is going on is that wherever else it's happening in the city, it's also happening in SoHo and the Village. That would be like the Rodney King riots centering in West Hollywood. It doesn't make sense to me, and neither does the Asian situation, which is totally out of control by whatever accounts are still making it out. Then you've got places like Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan where you don't really know if it's even out of character given the political climate, but the mind wants to see patterns. You really can't make any judgements from the news anyway, since the TV is pretty much just showing "all smoke and skylines all the time" instead of any on-the-ground footage; the picture being painted by the NYC-based bloggers is pretty goddamn grim, though, that's for sure.

I had to go out this afternoon to replace my glasses, which I had snapped in half at lunch the other day in a misguided effort to tighten the fit. This was around 5 p.m. and I didn't really notice anything out of whack here. Aw shit, that isn't true, is it? Now that I think of it you could see the cop cars down by the Nassau University Medical Center. Probably unrelated, but actually? Probably not, at this point. I'll see the patterns until they're proven otherwise.

Amidst all this Amy got a call from her parents telling her that her dog Bobo passed out in the middle of the night and had to go to the veterinary ICU. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure about a year ago, and that's what caused this. Probably the last thing she needed to hear today, the day after she got back from visiting. He seems fine now but they're keeping him overnight, and they've got him on oxygen and on higher doses of medication. Amy called the animal hospital a few minutes ago and things were still normal out there.

You can hear sirens fairly frequently now, so I'm sleeping with earplugs in.

Home again, home again, jiggedy-jig

Amy's back, though it took a while. Captain Oblivious here knew her flight was going to be late, which worked out fine for me thanks to a big accident on the Van Wyck and a virtual flotilla of cop cars at that Jamaica Medical Center or whatever along the way, but it was only as I unplugged my iPod from the car stereo in the airport parking garage that I caught any news on the radio about the riots, or whatever it is, in Southeast, and now I guess just plain, Asia. It was still early enough in the day that the ripple effect only added an hour or so, but I can't even imagine what it's like now that all those airports have been closed down for this long. In certain areas I can almost comprehend what causes something like this--I mean, they've suffered enough as it is--but man. I know I swore off talking politics, so that's all I'll say: man.

I'm glad Amy made it out to Colorado (and got home under the wire). Her whole family lives out there, except her brother and his family who live even farther away in California. She's got nieces and a nephew and her sister and her parents and, I think most especially, her dogs, including her best friend Bobo, who's long in the tooth though still hale and hearty. What this means is that every time she has to leave them, the process is about as clean and painless as ripping a bandage off a burn victim. I know how much she worries about losing--actually, losing not just Bobo, but how she worries about losing anyone, ever. I don't know, she's far more eloquent about this than I am, and I don't want to speak on her behalf at any rate. She does always have a swell time when she goes out there, and she does always come back with a dozen fun stories and a digital camera full of doggie and baby pictures. But she's sad to have to come back, and I'm sad that she's sad. Not just in the sense that I feel bad for her, either, which is tough to admit, but true. I'm in competition with that emotion for her attention is how it feels sometimes. It also feels like I should be doing a better job showing her just how many aspects of herself should make her happy, which is of course everything. But then I marvel at my contemptible ability to see people I care about as outgrowths of me, rather than as people I care about.

Well. For all my movie watching and Pabst Blue Ribbon drinking and staying up past bedtime and not shaving and such that I did while she was gone, I was awfully lonely (feline companionship excluded), and I am awfully glad that she's lying on the bed asleep right next to me, instead of across the continent.

Friday, March 25, 2005


Can anyone figure out why my Blogroll and Archive links don't show up on my permalinked entry pages? 'Cause I sure can't. Please leave a comment if you think you know what's going on.

UPDATE: Fixed it. I'm smart.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


Today I worked from home because of what I thought was a ton of snow that hit where I work, which of course is about an hour-hour and a half away from here, so I have no real way of knowing. This evening I went to see The Ring Two with my mother and sister, which was fun. (Don't believe the bad reviews; it's a fine, compelling film, if not the brain-melting scare machine that the first one was.) Now I'm cleaning up the apartment (after a week of the bachelor life, it needs it) in anticipation of Amy coming home tomorrow. And not a moment too soon, if the weird news is to be believed.

Anyway, not a lot of writing was accomplished this week, and you know what? I think I'm fine with that, pretty much. I watched a movie every night this week, something I hadn't done in ages, and it felt like such an indulgence. I need more indulgences.

Ways I could have fixed The Matrix Revolutions, if anyone had asked for my help

I finally saw the third film in the Matrix trilogy, and I actually liked it. But I liked Reloaded too, so maybe that’s not surprising; for some reason, though, I just wasn’t really interested in seeing Film Three when it came out. Now that I’ve seen it I think it has a lot to recommend it. The big battle for Zion was something I was extremely skeptical about—when you have access to a world where characters can fly and rewrite reality, I reasoned, why would I want to watch a bunch of people in Sigourney Weaver’s loading rig from Aliens shoot bullets at robots with tentacles?—but I was wowed by it from beginning till end. The aerial fight between Neo and Smith was terrific as well—Bryan Singer’s Superman film has a tough act to follow. And that subway scene at the beginning was just lovely.

That being said, this was a deeply flawed movie. I don’t know that the Wachowski Brothers could ever have lived up to the promise of the first Matrix, which after all was so well-received because of its many mysteries. Explain them away and the project loses much of its appeal. The first film was also so much of its moment, and benefited so greatly from the fact that it was introducing so many cinematic images and ideas to American audiences that hadn’t seen them before, that the sequels were almost bound to disappoint, unless the Wachowskis were the Beatles of action cinema and could reinvent the wheel with each new movie. They weren't and couldn't. But they could have made this one great. Wachowskis, if you’re reading, here’s how you could have done it.

1. Remember who your main characters are. Hint: They are Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus. (Okay, that was more than a hint.) It’s understandable that you need to expand your cast beyond this core of three, but you could have done this with a lot more aplomb by a) not being so profligate with the crew members from Film One (what happened to that guy Tank, anyway? I thought he survived that movie.); b) spending Film Two building up—and I mean really building them up, a la Eowyn, Theoden, and Faramir in The Two Towers—a secondary core cast centered on Link, his wife Zee, and possibly Naiobi, rather than wasting time with stock sci-fi clichés-with-feet like the Council (I’ve never seen Babylon 5, but I imagine it as full of these kinds of robe-wearing, stentorian hair disasters), the tough-as-nails commander(s!), and the rookie with a lot to prove who’s gonna show ’em what he’s made of in the end. We don’t care about these people.

2. With #1 in mind, make sure to show your three main characters doing something together at some point in this, the climactic chapter of their story. No, having Trinity, Morpheus and some cipher named Seraph kick ass in a lobby together is not good enough. Neither is having all three characters together, but in the midst of a sprawling crew of other ciphers, some of whom are inexplicably being given equal narrative weight, and where all they’re doing is debating who gets to take what ship where.

3. If you feel like you need to separate the three of them, fine, but make sure what they’re doing is equally interesting. Return of the Jedi managed this with its tripartite climax—Luke dueling with Vader and the Emperor on the Death Star, Lando piloting the Millennium Falcon in order to blow the Death Star up, and Han, Leia, Chewie and the droids helping take out the Death Star’s shield. You had Morpheus co-pilot a ship—and badly, I might add—then sort of take shelter while other people fought, while Neo and Trinity drove a ship and then got into what basically amounted to a car accident. The bulk of the climax involved none of them.

4. If you’re going to make two of your main characters into a couple whose love essentially decides the fate of humanity, try to cast actors who have even a little romantic chemistry. This way, you won’t have to have all the other characters continually say to them, “I see that you are in love.” The audience wouldn’t need this pointed out to them—they’d know.

5. If one of your main characters has to tragically die, don’t have her do it after a glorified car chase that ends up reading like a less interesting, less-at-stake re-run of the long car chase that other, less central characters just got finished having. Don’t have her die from crashing her ship into a wall. Don’t force her lover to emote with a blindfold on. Don’t shoot the whole scene in nearly identical fashion to the similar scene from the much better received first film in the trilogy.

6. When you are shooting the final scene in your epic trilogy, don’t you think one of your main characters should be in it? At least one?

7. Don’t count on the audience caring about the Oracle. We don’t—the Oracle is a concept, not a character. This goes double because—through no fault of your own, we know—you had to switch the actress playing the oracle two-thirds of the way through your trilogy. We weren’t particularly attached to her as a character before, and now she’s a whole new person, literally. The explanation for why she’s changed wasn’t particularly good anyway.

8. The second film in your trilogy introduced a lot of new and interesting characters and concepts—the Merovingian, Persephone, the whole idea of rogue programs, the Architect, Agent Smith taking over an actual real-world human, et cetera. It would be nice if these ideas actually had anything to do with how the trilogy is concluded. They didn’t.

9. In particular, the Merovingian and Persephone are captivating characters who had exactly nothing to do in this film, and disappeared with little fanfare after 20 minutes. Don’t do that next time around. Same deal with the Trainman, who you introduced in this film and therefore got even less worthwhile screentime than his boss and his boss’s wife. Same deal with the Indian program and his “family.”

9. The only innovation from Film Two that did drive the plotline of Film Three was Smith’s ability to hack into other avatars and programs and duplicate himself. But if you’re setting this up as a threat to the existence of the Matrix and everyone and everything in it, it might help to show him taking the Matrix over, rather than abandoning the Matrix for about an hour, then coming back to show Smith’s victory as a fait accompli.

10. Here’s an idea to help resolve #8, #9, and #10—we can assume that Smith is able to conquer human avatars in the Matrix without much problem, but what about rogues like the Merovingian and his crew? How about we show them fighting, and Smith defeating them, which we assume happened off-camera anyway? That way we’d feel like we’d spent so much time building up those characters in Film Two for a reason. Plus, I think it would just be plain cool.

11. The climax of Film Two involved Neo meeting the Architect, a sort of “master program” who ran the Matrix and put a sort of philosophical smackdown on Neo’s attempts to undermine it. So maybe it would be a good idea to have the Architect have something, anything to do with the climax of Film Three? In nerd terms, he is your “Big Bad,” along with Smith. If you want to have some three-way conflict, that’s fine, but a climax that’s all Neo vs. Smith doesn’t convey that.

12. Nor does the big talking Wizard of Oz head in Machine City.

13. Since this film is called The Matrix Revolutions, perhaps you should a) spend more time in the actual Matrix; b) show the result of the Revolution therein. I’m sure you’ll argue you were going for something else philosophically, but to not show Neo either a) awakening avatars within the Matrix to the actual nature of their world, or b) showing the people in the big energy pods being freed is a borderline criminal missing of what the films’ point should have been.

14. Maybe someone else should handle the dialogue writing next time around. (“Are you from the Matrix?” “Yes. No. I mean, I was.”; “You did it.” “I didn’t do it—we did.”) Also, no councils, rookies, tough-as-nails commanders or cheering crowds with arms held aloft next time. And try to get your Australian actors to work on their American accents a little more. Finally, have Fishburne lose weight—his paunchiness undercuts his character’s authority and coolness, to say nothing of being out of place in a world where humans subsist on synthesized protein gruel.

15. In many ways you are victims of your own success. Film One was as mind-blowing as it was at least in part because American audiences had never seen wire-fu before; now it’s everywhere. (Same with bullet-time.) Moreover, the vinyl trenchcoats and black shades aesthetic defined cool for its brief moment, but in a post-Strokes world, stuff that pristine and “signifying” looks dated. Actually, Kill Bill outdid you in all these regards, with terrific fight choreography, a great sense of the plasticity of time that nevertheless did not rely on digital tricks, and a dusty, retrofit denim-and-leather style. Many commentators also posit that the dot-com boom helped make the first film’s look, and plot, make more sense. I don’t have advice for you here, but these are things worth considering.

Book Meme

Courtesy of Mr. Jim Treacher.

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

I'm not sure I understand the purpose of this question, but I suppose The Lord of the Rings or 1984.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Yes, when I was in sixth grade: Carrie Kelley, aka Robin, from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Actually, now that I think about it, I also had crushes in elementary school on Andy from The Goonies, Elizabeth Shue's character from Adventures in Babysitting, and Candace Cameron's character on Full House.

The last book you bought is:

There were a couple, from the DCBS: Seaguy by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart, and Marvel Knights Spider-Man Vol. 3: The Last Stand by Mark Millar and Terry Dodson. If we're talking about prose books, hmm. Maybe Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden?

The last book you read:

Tokyo Tribes Vol. 2 by Santa Inoue. Prose: The Lord of the Rings, for the ninth time.

What are you currently reading?

I'm between books right now, but next is probably Planetes Vol. 4.2 by Makoto Yukimura.

Five books you would take to a deserted island.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (and let's face it, I'd cheat and bring The Hobbit and The Silmarillion too)
The Stand by Stephen King
The Complete Books of Blood by Clive Barker
The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
1984 by George Orwell

I would not be very popular on this deserted island.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

The Missus, Ian, and Alan, because I'm reasonably sure they acutally read this thing.

Monday, March 21, 2005


Past bedtime, drinking, alone, Kill Bill Volume 2.


As Jane's Addiction's Ritual de lo Habitual cycled into Jermaine Jackson's "Erucu" (from The Funk Box) on my iTunes today, I couldn't help but think "Damn, that song sounds a lot like LCD Soundsystem. Like the 'Pretentious Version' of 'Yeah'? Wow." Jermaine Jackson--yet another James Murphy reference point, apparently.


This was quite a week for me and Amy. Bad thing happened; very good thing happened; now she's out of town and I guess we get to process things on our own for a few days. I wish she were here, or I wish I were there.

In the meantime I'm left here with my cat and my violent movies, and the belief that some aspects of everyday life are like taking a dump: It's not something you like doing, but it's got to get done, so there's no real sense in getting all depressed about it and letting it overshadow the rest of your day--just go where you need to go, do what you need to do while you're there, and leave when it's finished. Compartmentalize.

I like dragons

As the type of person who, after the catastrophic failure of director Rob Bowman's Elektra, thought to himself, "Dammit! Now Reign of Fire will never get the respect it deserves!", I couldn't have been happier with Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real, which aired earlier tonight on Animal Planet. It's the latest "what if?" documentary Animal Planet has produced, this time breaking down how dragons "really" would have looked and acted had they actually existed. The special was remarkably well thought out, using the unusually uniform appearance of dragons in the mythologies of disparate cultures to create an unnervingly and delightfully plausible natural history for the creatures. It was all done in a mockumentary-style tone that, aside from one straightforward disclaimer at the beginning of the show and several implicit ones later on (after each commercial break), dropped the "what if?" tone and treated it like straight science. Apparently this was too much for some critics to process--read this, oh, I guess let's call it a review, why not? from Linda Stasi at the NY Post; you can practically smell the wood burning as Stasi tries to plow through her own confusion, and hopefully the odor will distract you from how embarrassing it is that she expects you to be just as uncomprehending--but for the rest of us it was a fascinating way to while away 90 minutes on a Sunday evening. (Less than 90 minutes with the magic of TiVo at your command, of course.) The damn thing was even narrated by Patrick Stewart. About the only false note came in the appearance of some of the later dragon species, who had forelegs, hind legs, and wings, rather than the far more feasible hind legs/wings combo; it just kind of jumped out at me all of a sudden that this evolutionary quirk, which has no analogue that I can think of in all of non-insect biology (indeed, the show's website resorts to fruit flies for justification), had gone completely unexplained and unremarked upon by the special, in a clear sacrifice of plausibility for artistic license. But other than that, all the questions you'd want answered (how does it fly? how does it breathe fire? how long did they last?) are answered in spectacular fashion, as are some you didn't think to ask (they manage to account for variations in the descriptions of dragons between different cultures, and even link the creatures to sea serpent myths). If you are a nerd, and I'm assuming you are, this is great TV.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


For some reason I didn't know that this site existed until last Friday or something like that. Actually, that's not entirely true: I think I'd heard of it, but assumed that with a name like that it was some sort of Papa Roach/Damageplan fan site. Nu-metal, like Communism, can still do a lot of damage in its lingering death throes. Call it Snow Patrol Syndrome. (It's amazing how much damage a poorly selected moniker can do. I mean, I've got to assume I'm not the only person who drew that conclusion about the site, since let's face it, any thought that occurs to anyone has occurred to somebody else, and probably lots of sombodies else.)

Anyway, I just got done browsing through a review or twenty on Pitchfork, and it was time well spent. In many cases they were the type of reviews that are erudite, well-informed, devoid of point-scoring and trainspotting, intelligently argued, impeccably sourced, and still wrong (kinda like a superhero comic review by Tim O'Neil), but (as is the case with Tim, who of course is one of the four or five best writers in the ol' comics blogosphere) all that other stuff is nothing to be sneezed at, so I enjoyed them a lot. (Case in point: they kinda pan LCD Soundsytem's record, but have the good sense to a) note that the Eno homage "Great Release" is the best thing on the album; b) point out that "Never as Tired as When I'm Waking Up" owes as much to Floyd as it does to the Beatles, which everyone else seems to have missed. (I would have pegged it to Meddle rather than Dark Side, but the point still stands.))

All this is my roundabout way of introducing this thought: Once you've named your band Vietnam, you might as well call it a day, no? I mean, you're never gonna come up with anything that brilliant ever again.

God, I wish I think of something half as awesome as naming a band Vietnam. (Maybe my "if you've thought of it, thousands of other people have too" rule is bogus. I'm reasonably sure this is the only band called Vietnam, and that's a goddamn astounding idea.)

Postscript: Finding out that Chromeo was spawned by Vice Magazine explains an awful lot.

Chris Butcher

is soooooo right about the video game Katamari Damacy. It's one of those games that will make you glad you don't own a PlayStation 2, in the sense that if you did, you would never do anything else, ever. I played it briefly once, and I was instantly transported back to college, where we'd have Mario Kart 64 sessions that would last for literally hours--or back to my old job, where some days we'd just play Vice City in lieu of actually working. The neatest thing about Katamari is that it really is fun for the whole family, and, as Chris says, it's like no video game you've ever played before. Woof, just thinkin' about it makes me want to scrap my planned Kill Bill marathon today and go buy a PS2. Thanks a lot, Chris.

In other news, Amanda is away for the week, visiting family in Colorado. In theory this means I could probably get a lot more writing done over the next few days. In practice, it means things like the aforementioned Kill Bill marathon. Well, if anything interesting crops up, I'll let you know.

Hi honey! I miss you!

Thought for the day

Never trust anyone who doesn't like the Beatles or Abraham Lincoln.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Now any fool with an internet connection can comment

Somehow I'd set the comments to be registered users only. No more! Comment away, you anonymous son of a bitches!

Hey, kids! Comments!

For now. I have deep-seated reservations (most of which are are articulated here) about these things--if you've ever paid a visit to Fanboy Rampage, how can you not? And that's to say nothing of the horrors of any given comments-enabled poliblog. But I'm gonna give this a shot for a while. Please don't make me regret it!


I put in a special guest appearance in the Very Special St. Patrick's Day Episode of my brother- and sister-in-law's podcast, AirFerg. So enjoy. I suppose.

The Five Things Meme

Courtesy of my own bad self, here are five things that are very popular among my circle of friends but that I don't really see the fuss about. Or in the words of Caesar, "Nice. Nice. Not thrilling...but nice."

1. The Simpsons
2. Coffee
3. The Arcade Fire
4. Darwyn Cooke's DC: The New Frontier as representative of Everything Superhero Comics Should Be
5. The Incredibles

Try it, you'll like it!

Quick and shallow, ending with a thinly veiled "Happy St. Patrick's Day" message; also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMY!!!!

Album that is better than I thought it was: Tyrannosaurus Hives by the Hives

Album that is better than other people think it is: Frances the Mute by the Mars Volta

Album that is better than I thought it was but still not as good as everyone else thinks it is: Elephant by the White Stripes

Album that is just as good as I think it is but better than everyone else thinks it is in the sense that I don't think anybody else has heard of it, much less heard it, much less formed an opinion about it: Pursuit of Happiness by Weekend Players

Ditto: Attention by Gus Gus

Album that almost makes inviting Ron Wood to join your band seem like a good idea (almost): Some Girls by the Rolling Stones

Album that for some reason has I think the lowest sales rank of all the Brian Jonestown Massacre albums but is actually enthralling and comparatively accessible: Bringing It All Back Home...Again by the Brian Jonestown Massacre

Album that it was probably a good idea for Capitol Records to put the kibosh on in favor of the songs that eventually became The Dandy Warhols Come Down: The Black Album by the Dandy Warhols

Album that it is probably not a good idea for Sony Records to put the kibosh on in favor of, well, apparently nothing: Extraordinary Machine by Fiona Apple

Album that, while entertaining, I think illustrates the artistic limitations of slavishly faithful recreations of the sounds of the early-to-mid-'80s: She's In Control by Chromeo

Album that would be the band's third five-starrer in the music magazine in my head if it weren't for the fact that its emotional high point, "Walk in Fire," is distractingly similar to said album's predecessor's emotional lead single, "There Goes the Fear," so now it's "just" a four-starrer: Some Cities by Doves

Album that everybody should listen to at least once today: Jailbreak by Thin Lizzy

Another album that everybody should listen to at least once today: Zooropa by U2

Monday, March 14, 2005

There should be dozens of horrorblogs

When I first realized that there might be, I assumed there must be. But instead of dozens there was, to the best of my knowledge, only one: Sam Costello's Little Terrors. And now there's not even that one anymore. This seems like a crime to me, even above and beyond the fact that Sam's blog was excellent and will be missed. Horror buff I may be, but I certainly don't have the exhaustive vocabulary of specialist knowledge needed to maintain a horrorblog--not, for example, in the way I know comics, meaning that I've forgotten more about comics than normal people ever know. Surely there are at least as many people in this wild world of ours who know horror in this way? Click the Blogger button over on the right and set something up, please.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

It's not up to me

I've sort of been fascinated with my own reaction to feedback I've been getting about "1995" over the past few days. This is really the first time I've gotten outside reactions to a comic of mine (this is only the second finished comic I've helped produce, after all), and to my surprise I've felt extremely uncomfortable with explaining how the strip is "supposed" to read. My reluctance to come out and tell inquisitive folks the meaning or tone or whatever of the comic is borderline Gloeckner-esque, which I truly did not see coming. It's not that I think all opinions about a given work of art (including mine) are equally valid--just that it's not my place to conduct binding arbitration as to which is more valid than the others. I'll be curious to see if my thoughts on this change as I produce more stuff that people can read.

One thing's for sure: If this is how weird I feel when I hear from people I've asked for feedback, I truly don't understand the mindset of the creators who seek out and argue against opinions from total strangers!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Commute; Work from Home; "1995"

Yesterday it took me two hours to get to work and five hours to get home. Yes, you read that right--five hours. I could have driven to Boston in that time under normal circumstances. These, however, were not normal circumstances, as this commute was alternately the most frightening and the most excruciatingly dull driving I have ever done in my life. It started out in near-whiteout conditions, slipping and sliding on flash-frozen streets with a delightful slushy-snow coating, then culminated in taking about three hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic to traverse something like fifteen miles. It was beyond awful, and today the prospect of residual lousy traffic so terrified me that I stayed home and worked off my laptop. I got at least as much done here as I would in the office, with the added bonus of doing it in my pajamas. Fortunately the Missus just got back from choir practice and reports that the roads are now dry and ice-free, so tomorrow's commute looks to be fear-of-impending-danger-free.

Speaking of awkward sexual encounters I had in high school, here is a link to the much talked-about short autobiographical comic I wrote, "1995." It was drawn by artist Shawn Cheng, a member of the Partyka crew and a fellow son of Eli. This comic is not safe for work, and I assure you that I am not fucking around when I tell you that. In fact, I am going to attach the link to the actual phrase NOT SAFE FOR WORK just to make sure that none of you can say I didn't warn you. I can also tell you that it reveals, and I use that word deliberately, a lot more about me than you may want or need to know. That said, I hope you enjoy the comic, or whatever the appropriate response to it is. Follow the link, and then follow the links to the individual pages from there.


Monday, March 07, 2005

At random

Not since Gary Glitter has there been a man whose name is as fortuitous for Cockney rhyming slang enthusiasts as Andersoon Cooper.

It's fun when people take Ambien, then stay awake past the point when it kicks in.

I wrote that comic I was talking about. One down.

Does anyone know anything about seeking permission to reprint lyrics? I'm probably a ways away from that stage at this point, but it pays to be prepared is what I'm told.

One drawback to writing for a living is that you feel like your time is not your own. You could always be working on something. I'm trying to figure out how to navigate that.

All killer, no filler

I think we can all rest assured that there's a particularly uncomfortable section of Hell reserved for Sum 41 because of how they ruined that phrase for the rest of us. And because of a wide array of other reasons.

"All killer, no filler" is a good way to describe Daft Punk's new record Human After All, as it turns out. I found this somewhat surprising based on the nature of their last album, Discovery. Now, as anyone who has listened to that album can tell you, the first four songs ("One More Time," "Aerodynamic," "Digital Love," "Harder Better Faster Stronger") comprise pretty much the best first-four-song sequence on any album whose first four songs are not called "Black Dog," "Rock and Roll," "The Battle of Evermore" and "Stairway to Heaven"--I defy you to find me a better suite of hands-in-the-air-there's-a-party-over-there music on God's Gray Earth. Unfortunately, the rest of Discovery can't help but feel like a let-down by way of comparison. Out of the entire 14-song platter, I think around nine are worth listening to. (The others being "Something About Us," "Voyager," "Veridis Quo," (especially) "Face to Face," and, depending on what mood you're in, either "Nightvision," "High Life," or "Short Circuit.") And the five (or so) clunkers are real killers, man. That closing song, "Too Long"? Talk about truth in advertising!

So the first thing you notice is that Human After All is pretty much wall-to-wall rockin’. Seriously, you throw this bad boy on in your car and your head will nod from beginning to end, to the point where about halfway through the album you’ll actually think to yourself “Jeez, am I still bobbing my head?” The second thing you’ll notice is that the house feel of Discovery and its direct antecedent, the classic single “Music Sounds Better with You” by DP side project Stardust, is gone, vocals by Romanthony and all. We’re back quite solidly in the electro-funk vein first tapped in DP’s debut album Homework. But these folks are so good at it that it doesn’t feel like a step backward at all. It feels like they took some time off to sharpen their weapons, then came back and killed with them, is what it feels like.

I’m serious. Human After All’s title track is a relentless funk monster, proof that in a world of “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House,” Daft Punk themselves can still hang. When the vocoded vocals kicked in I actually exclaimed, out loud, “Wow, this is pretty good!” Ditto the next two tracks, the grindingly glitter of “The Prime Time of Your Life” and the eye-of-the-tiger techno of “Robot Rock.” DP’s ability to wring mightily entertaining music out of the most shit-stupid early-‘80s pop-rock-dance clichés—vocal distortion, guitars that are overproduced by an order of magnitude, the sudden halt of all music at once--is awe inspiring. Like any good post-1985 superhero comic you’d care to name, they make you marvel simultaneously at both the sheer visceral joy of a well-executed trope and the self-awareness and cleverness with which they utilize them.

And as I said, the awesomeness pretty much does. not. stop. Tracks like “The Brainwasher” will appeal to the Chem Bros/Meat Beat fans out there; you can pretty much guess how “Television Rules the Nation” will sound based on the title alone and gauge your interest in the track from there (me: yes please!); the chipmunk-esque litany of can-do I.T. department tasks “Technologic” has probably already been used as background music in a runway show, and if not, I will bet you a thousand American dollars that it will be. But the album’s most intriguing song is “Make Love,” a subdued and eerie number that fades in, eventually fades out, and seems tailor-made to be used over the end credits of a Sopranos episode next season.

All in all this is a fabulous album, and I really wish it wasn’t because now I’m going to have to go buy the damn thing rather than just rely on the bootleg mp3s I got, which is what I was gonna do if it was only so-so. But I need that much rock, people.

*postscript: Okay, so there’s one throwaway found-noise track that lasts for a minute in the middle of the album. It’s short, you’ll get over it.

Saturday, March 05, 2005


Sorry to everyone who's emailed me at the address to the right over the past couple weeks. I just kind of assumed no one was reading this, so I assumed no one would write, so I haven't checked my inbox until five minutes ago, at which point I see there's quite a backlog of messages. I'll try to get back to everyone asap.

Friday, March 04, 2005


Ooh ooh ooh. Sometimes spending three hours a day behind the wheel of a car isn't so awful. For example, sometimes when you're listening to your iPod while you're puttering across the Tappan Zee Bridge, it occurs to you that you could write a pretty cool short comic with the lyrics from the song you're listening to, and that in so doing you can combine your twin loves of horror and retro-electro. Delightful!

(I guess I'll have to figure out how to get permission if I ever wanna do anything with it, though.)

Thursday, March 03, 2005

This weekend

Could be a good one for getting some writing accomplished. (Not this kind of writing, dear reader, though I do love it and you.) No major plans, no work-at-home to attend to. I'm going to try to get links to the would-be True Porn story posted up here too--I think it'll be good by way of inspiration. For me, at least. Revulsion for you? That was the idea, so fingers crossed!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Belated Best of 2004

During the (surprisingly, and yet unsurprisingly, brief) period I wasn't actively blogging, I ended up writing the occasional lengthy music-review missive to the members of the file-sharing listserv to which I belong. This meant that these people got personally subjected to my year-end music wrap-up. The bonus, though, was that they could actually download my favorite albums of '04, because I uploaded them to our file-sharing server. Can't do that for you all, but in my continuing quest to make a liar out of myself when I said this wasn't going to be a music blog, here's my favorites from the year that was. (I even made specific song recommendations—they were intended to help folks make downloading selections, but I figure they might be helpful for you-all too.)


HONORABLE MENTION. THE BRAVERY—Okay, this barely counts, because this NYC-based band doesn't actually have an album out yet. But I saw a video of theirs on Fuse's "The Dive," which as readers of this young blog well know is one of the only good music-video show in North America at this point, and loved it, so I downloaded bunch of songs of theirs I downloaded off "the online," as my mom likes to say. This is a very, very hipster-friendly band, and they sound like a melange of the Hives, the Faint, and the Dandy Warhols. So maybe they're not the most original-sounding band in the world, considering that each of those bands is itself a melange of other bands, but still, if you're like me, that description alone gives you a glass-cutting nipple erection. Everyone else is simply advised to listen to the first twenty seconds of both "Fearless" and "Unconditional," and I defy you not to dig the hell out of this.

15. DAVID GUETTA: JUST A LITTLE MORE LOVEThis is probably the camp-est record on this list, and since this list contains albums by Rufus Wainwright, the Faint, Scissor Sisters and Kylie freaking Minogue, that’s really saying something. This is just straight up hands-in-the-air divas-and-vocoders Ibiza-type house, but sort of clever and self-aware, with some electro flourishes and a great riff on Bowie called “Just for One Day.” I recommend the first two tracks: the title song and “Love Don’t Let Me Go,” which may be the gayest songs ever recorded. (Yes, gayer than “I Need This Job” from A Chorus Line.)

14. !!!: LOUDEN UP NOWVery solid and rockin’ discopunk for those of us who wore out our Rapture records. Actually goes more for the Talking Heads-type feel than the Gang of Four one adopted by other bands of this ilk. Lots of cussin’, too, which is always a plus. Recommended: “Pardon My Freedom,” “Me and Giuliani Down by the Schoolyard.”

13. RUFUS WAINWRIGHT: WANT TWOThis is the sequel to last year’s awe-inspiring Want One, which is the album Radiohead might have made if they weren’t embarrassed to be playing rock music these days. This is not as good, but Rufus still sounds like a mushmouthed angel, and it begins with an actual Agnus Dei, which appeals to me because I admire pretension in rock music. (No Rob Sheffield, I.) My favorite track at the moment is the very long closer, “Old Whore’s Diet,” which features guest vocals from Antony, the guy who sang on Daft Punk’s “One More Time.” (CORRECTION: Turns out the guy who sang on Daft Punk's last record's name was Romanthony, not Antony. I got my "male diva vocalists whose names are odd variations on 'Anthony'" mixed up.) Rivals David Guetta for sheer fantabulousness.

12. ELBOW: CAST OF THOUSANDSMancunian art-rockers with Peter Gabrielesque vocals, these guys toured with Doves, which is very appropriate. This is a much more ebullient record than their last one, and it has some fine anthemic moments, like the “Grace Under Pressure,” “Ribcage,” and “Fallen Angel.”

11. CAKE: PRESSURE CHIEFWhen I first listened to this I got up to song four before I actually yelled, out loud, “Hooray for a new Cake album!” Rock solid Cake-y goodness, as always. Recommended: their cover of Bread’s “The Guitar Man,” “Dime.”

10. TV ON THE RADIO: DESPERATE YOUTH, BLOODTHIRSTY BABESHooray for art-rockers with Peter Gabrielesque vocals! These ones, though, are from NYC, and they’re very arty indeed, part of a loose collective that includes the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Liars. This is another band I discovered through “The Dive,” and they have some beautiful industrial (not in the metal sense, in the weird electronic sense) music on here. The three song suite of “Staring at the Sun,” “Dreams,” and “King Eternal” is one of my favorite musical moments of the year.

9. U2: HOW TO DISMANTLE AN ATOMIC BOMBVastly superior to their egregious 2000 effort at making music for mall PA systems, All That You Can't Leave Behind, in every way but one: no song on here is as good as “Beautiful Day.” But that’s okay, because “Beautiful Day” may well be the best song they ever did. Convincingly rocking and a good synthesis of 80s sincerity and 90s irony for those of us who enjoyed both, and only one lyrical misstep (“Original of the Species”), which is reassuring after the “Elevation” debacle (who among us can forget “a mole, diggin’ in a hole”?). Recommended: “Vertigo,” “City of Blinding Lights,” “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own,” “A Man and a Woman.” The second-best U2 album of the year, after the Walkmen’s record. Still, I find myself not listening to it much anymore. It seems that whatever they lost when they made All That, they lost permanently.

8. KYLIE MINOGUE: BODY LANGUAGEKylie is awesome. Madonna and Britney wish they could make an album this good. Non-stop funky electro with sexy Betty Boop vocals. It makes you wish you lived in the UK so that this was your disposable musical wallpaper rather than that Usher/Li’l Jon song. Recommended: “Still Standing,” “Sweet Music,” “Chocolate.” Put this on at your next party and people will love you.

7. SNOW PATROL: THE FINAL STRAWThis is a wonderful album from a band with one of the worst names around. (Raise your hand if you thought they were a nü-metal outfit.) It's melodic hard rock from Ireland, sort of like if you crossed The Colour and the Shape-era Foo Fighters with Coldplay. One thing that really impresses me about this band is their sense of economy: Nearly every song doesn't extend pass two iterations of verse and chorus. They intelligently incorporate a lot of early-90s influences without ever delving into nostalgia, and their hooks and choruses often have a My Bloody Valentine-esque sense of melody to them. An unexpected and very welcome addition to the list. Recommended: "Wow," "Spitting Games," "Run"—really, the whole album is quite good.

6. SCISSOR SISTERS: SCISSOR SISTERSA tour through 70s camp, from Elton John (obviously) to Bowie to Roxy Music (their liner-note poses perfectly replicate the liner-note poses from Roxy’s first record) to (as Ken pointed out to me) Billy Joel to disco. This really has grown on me from “yeah, that’s pretty good” to “wow” the more I’ve listened to it, thanks to moments like the piano chords before the chorus of "Mary" and the pre-choruses in "It Can't Come Quickly Enough." I hope they make a lot more records, at least so the wait for between Fischerspooner albums won’t seem as long. Recommended: “Comfortably Numb” (if you download only one song from this whole list, make it that one), “Music Is the Victim,” “Mary,” “Lovers in the Back Seat,” “Filthy/Gorgeous,” “It Can’t Come Quickly Enough.”

5. KEANE: HOPES AND FEARSWow, is this ever good. I mean, it is good. If you cross this band and Elbow you get Doves, so that’s nice; and everyone compares them to Coldplay but they’re definitely their own, keyboard-based thing. The vocals are just beautiful, with hints of Freddie Mercury audible on occasion, and the songcraft is tremendous throughout—those simple keyboard hooks are devastatingly effective. Particularly recommended: “Somewhere Only We Know,” “Bend and Break,” “Everybody’s Changing,” “Sunshine,” “Untitled 1,” “Bedshaped.” Those last three almost perfectly replicate the feeling I got from the brit-pop/trip-hop/melancholic "electronica"/Fiona Apple type music I was listening to in college, but without being nostalgic at all, in much the same way that “Maps” and “Y Control” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs put me in mind of Soundgarden and Alice in Chains and Jane’s Addiction without sounding anything like any of them. Awesome.

4. THE FAINT: WET FROM BIRTHNobody writes lyrics like the Faint's. Nobody. The specificity and "they wrote a song about that?"-ness of them simply must be heard to be believed. Throw in the fact that they do the 80s-revival bit better than just about anyone, with enormously fat synth riffs that rival the monstrosity of Gary Numan's Telekon, and you've got a fuckin’ killer record. Recommended “How Could I Forget,” “Erection,” “Paranoiattack.”

3. FRANZ FERDINAND: FRANZ FERDINANDSexy, slinky music from Scotsmen, if you can believe it. You’ve heard this on the radio, but you really need to hear the whole record, which fully deserves the hype. Extremely sophisticated—between this and Scissor Sisters, are the heirs of Roxy Music walking the earth? Recommended: “Take Me Out” (duh), “Dark of the Matinee,” “Jacqueline,” “Auf Asche,” “This Fire,” “Michael” (please please please release this as a single, guys).

2. THE WALKMEN: BOWS & ARROWSOkay, here’s where the hyperbole sets in, but I really can’t say enough good things about this record, which has the most astoundingly intense guitars I heard all year. I’ve read reviews that say that they really capture early U2, which they do, but you have to imagine an nourish, urban, angry U2, or maybe (better) a Joy Division that directed their anger outward rather than inward. I’m making it sound more grumpy than it is, though—they’ve got a great sense of humor and warmth, and it shows in slow and fast songs alike. NYC boys in thin sweaters. Frighteningly good, very, very close to the album of the year. Recommended: “The Rat” (best song of the year), “Little House of Savages,” “My Old Man,” “Hang On, Siobhan,” “New Year’s Eve,” “Waiting for a Dream I Had,” “Bows & Arrows.”

1. INTERPOL: ANTICSEveryone’s saying that this is the album where Interpol learned to write songs, which is stupid, because their first record was chockablock full of great songs. But on here they’re even better, believe it or not—their sonic palette has expanded to let in a lot more color and light, with great use of major keys and more hooks than a box of fishing tackle. The vocals are still reminiscent of Ian Curtis in places (more than ever in certain places, like the chorus for “Slow Hands”), but now there are Michael Stipe elements too—but it’s still very much its own animal. I was amazed by how good this album is—every song gets to a point where you’re just like “oh my God.” Best of the year. Recommended: the whole damn thing, but highlights include “Evil, “Narc,” “Slow Hands,” “Not Even Jail,” “Length of Love.”

And there you have it! Apologies to Ghostface, the Streets, and DFA—I’m sure your albums are really good, but I just never got around to actually getting them. Happy listening!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Ten Things Meme

Courtesy of Eve and Dave, here's a list of ten things I've done that you probably haven't.

1. Visited Loch Ness
2. Won an award for Best Senior Essay in the Yale Film Studies department
3. Married my high-school sweetheart
4. Played Brad in the floor show of The Rocky Horror Picture Show
5. Had my writing called "so fucking smart" by Clive Barker
6. Attended, and helped to host, several Naked Parties
7. Burned my junior year religion textbooks
8. Gotten both a Star Wars and a Lord of the Rings tattoo (Rebel Alliance insignia on right bicep; emblem of the Kings of Gondor on left bicep)
9. Had "Happy Birthday" sung to me by the Dandy Warhols
10. Worn a "FRANKIE SAY RELAX" t-shirt on my honeymoon

I’m comin’ like Lebanon and givin’ the people what they want

I truly did not intend to start a music blog. And this isn’t going to become a music blog. But I am going to be doing some music blogging, and probably more than I otherwise might thanks to the positive reinforcement I’ve been getting from the likes of Dave, Bill, Eve, and Dorian. That’s why I’m easy.

With the help of my trusty TiVo programming guide, I decided to put a theory to the test a month or so ago and flipped through a week’s worth of shows to determine how many hours per week MTV (“Music Television”) dedicates to playing actual music videos. The answer was eight. This is a shockingly low number, even to someone like me who expected my most cynical guesses to be met, but certainly not surpassed. I suppose I could have been more generous and granted them Making the Video, which after all does culminate in the playing of one whole music video per episode. However, the bulk of that show is just more of the same celebfotainment what-have-you that fills up the rest of the network’s program hours. Moreover, I was already being fairly generous by counting TRL, which if you’re lucky plays maybe the equivalent of a full music video during its hour-long parade of 30-second vid-snippets.

It seems almost unnecessary to say that all the good music videos have been hounded right off the network’s schedule. 120 Minutes is gone, though it outlived its more mainstream-friendly kid brother Alternative Nation. Amp, the net’s mid-‘90s sop to “electronica” (yuck--do they call rock, country, and blues “guitarica”?) died out around the time the third Chemical Brothers record tanked in the States. Headbanger’s Ball is around in some incarnation or other, but without Riki Rachtman? Please. (Gotta love how they can take something they completely fucked up, like Riki and the Ball, make a special about how badly they fucked it up, and somehow weave that into their tapestry of the Wild History of MTV and come out looking better than ever. Hideous.) And everything that was great about Yo! MTV Raps disappeared somewhere along the line as the show was shitcanned and the network coopted hip-hop as its lingua franca. (On a peripheral note, I can’t even remember the last entertaining VJ. There was something sort of entertaining about the bald hardcore kid who held all the music he was forced to talk about in such obvious contempt, but Kurt “I’m above it all, yet I still enjoy sucking Madonna’s dick every two years or so” Loder wore that schtick thin years ago. I guess there was that Jesse dude a while back, but Jesse, you are no Randy of the Redwoods. You aren’t even the Wiez. In fact, as it turns out, Beavis and Butt-Head, with their almost unerring ability to separate the wheat from the chaff, were probably the best VJs MTV had this side of Martha Quinn.)

So boy oh boy were the Missus and I excited when we stumbled across The Dive, a show on rival music-vid channel Fuse. Airing at 10pm on Saturdays, which is nice because we are borderline hermits, this show plays honest-to-God alternative music. Until very recently it was literally the only place on television I’d ever seen videos by Interpol, Death Cab for Cutie, the Postal Service, the Walkmen, Electric Six, Elefant, TV on the Radio, Handsome Boy Modeling School, and more that I’m probably missing. We soon discovered that it’s immediately followed by a show called Tower Records’ Next Big Thing, which I guess runs slightly closer to a Warped Tour aesthetic but otherwise seems no different, except that the videos you see one week on The Dive play on NBT about three weeks later. So in the space of one hour on Fuse, you’ll see more good videos than you would in a full week--or more likely a full month--of watching MTV.

Does the Old Gray Lady of Madonna-Rolling-Around-in-a-Wedding-Dress Clips have anything to counter with? Well, sorta. Remember its sister network, MTV2? You know, the thing that started off as all music videos, no commercials, no reality shows, no behind-the-scenes shows, no cartoons, stuff from the vaults, commercials starring Devo and Biz Markie, wasn’t even called MTV2 (it was M2 until someone remembered that lecture on branding from b-school)? How the mighty have fallen, man. (If you ever have the chance, flip through the first dozen issues or so of Brian Bendis’s Powers and see how hard he humped this station in the letter columns, back when it was everything MTV watchers had dreamed of. How many future Bendis-Boarders are ruing ever following that advice? That is, if they can tear themselves away from the latest self-congratulatory train-wreck MTV autodocumentary, perhaps one in which the suits pat themselves on the back for breaking down racist barriers by playing “Billie Jean,” racist barriers that they themselves erected. As an angry orc would say, “Garn.”)

But anyway, MTV2 does have its own alt/indie show, a little number called, with typical imagination and subtlety, Subterranean. (Actually, I'm guessing that this show predates The Dive, since Fuse has only been "Fuse" for a relatively short period of time, before which it was MuchMusic USA. But I'm still giving more credit to The Dive, because if I were Desi and MTV were Lucy and my day at work was the last two and a half decades or so, MTV would have some 'splainin' to do.) So for the last few weeks the Missus and I have been TiVoing it, along with the two Fuse shows. It took us a while to get the kinks out--for some reason you can’t get a Season Pass to either The Dive or NBT, while Subterranean was always losing out to the higher-priority Sealab 2021 in our To Do List, until I bit the bullet, rejiggered the Season Pass Manager and kissed Debbie, Marco et al goodbye for the sake of the rock--but this evening we were finally able to sit down and watch two hours of non-Usher videos in a row. Well, less than two hours, since we can fast-forward through the commercials. (I’ve taken to shouting “We are not barbarians here!” at the ads as we zip past them, all civilized and shit.)

One thing I noticed right off the bat is that, when you combine The Dive and NBT (each is half an hour long) and stack them up against Subterranean, the former hour contains at least three more videos than the latter. In part this is because Sub features segment intros from host Jim Shearer, who also does a couple of brief interview spots per ep with a guest band. But we’re not talking Charlie Rose here--we’re not talking Joe Scarborough for that matter--so I think we’d be better off losing all that jive, and oh yeah, THE METRIC TON OF COMMERCIALS, and playing more music.

But the music is the real point. Since I no longer get sent comp copies of albums as I did back at my old gig, radio is basically a lost cause, and standard music television is a joke, I pretty much rely on these shows to get a taste of what’s out there--hence the TiVoing. Each time, there’s some interesting new stuff, some favorites, and some “eh.” Here’s how I’ve handicapped this past weekend’s efforts.

Subterranean (MTV, 12am Mon. (or midnight Sun., whatever you want to call it); most recent playlist here, past playlists here; MTV's official site doesn't even have a homepage for the thing)
This is only the second episode of this show that I’ve seen. Last time around it kicked off with videos by Saul Williams and the Chemical Brothers, so I thought it was going more in an electronic direction than the indie/retro-dance-rock Dive typically travels. But if this week’s ep is any indication, that’s merely how they get started before settling into that same groove. (Warning: You will have to put up with the giant opaque two-headed-dog MTV2 logo in the corner, as well as giant opaque bars that appear right in the middle of the fucking screen to tell you what video you're watching and, in the middle of the video, what show you're watching. What can you even say about that?)

LCD Soundsystem - Daft Punk Is Playing At My House
LCD Soundsystem is to Rapture producers DFA as N.E.R.D. is to the Neptunes, and this is the terrifically funky lead single off their debut full-length. Lyrically it’s a clever little boast about how cool this dude and his party are, vocally it gets interesting with the “a-whoo-hoo, yeah”s, musically you are going to shake your ass, and visually, despite the homages to different Daft Punk videos (and “Sledgehammer”!), it’s kinda boring. Oh well.

Phoenix - Run, Run, Run
This band had a marvelously nostalgic song on the Lost in Translation soundtrack, “Too Young,” which with its crystal-clear production and happy-sad New Wave-isms recalled for me Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out.” On the strength of that track I gave a listen to a comp copy of their album United that we had lying around the office, and I remember being disappointed and not even bothering to take it home, though in retrospect I’ve questioned that decision because “Too Young” is so good. Watching this video, I can take comfort in the knowledge that I made the right decision. At one point they just keep saying “Run, Run, Run”--what they need to do is run, run, run to the Rock Store and by theyselfs some ROCK. (Tangential aside: Apparently, Phoenix used to be Air’s back-up band. Learning this prompted me to stage an impromptu reenactment of what I thought Air’s dismissal of the Phoenix personnel must have been like. It turns out that in my mind, Air sound a lot like Batroc ze Leepair.)

Doves - Black And White Town
I’m already on record as saying that this is my favorite song of recent weeks, and I feel like it gets better every timeI hear it, from that insistent yet contemplative piano line to the liberatory noodled-out guitar solo. And the video is perfect--a gaggle of awkward, homely, malnourished British adolescents make trouble for themselves, like Kids but without being stupid.

Interpol – Evil
Another great song from another great band, with an incredibly perplexing video that’s been growing on me. It involves a car accident and a puppet, and I think it deliberately dances on that thin line between funny and serious, a line called “unsettling.” Same for the puppet itself, which we’d be comfortable with as viewers if it went in either direction along the realistic-cartoony axis--if they gave it a nose, say, or took away those teeth. Instead, we’re in (not to be blogosphere-hackneyed about it, but what can I do) Uncanny Valley, pop. Interpol. This is actually an excellent match for the song, which like the rest of the second Interpol record is an attempt to wed the very very dark stuff they get compared to all the time with the major-key rock they apparently enjoy. A successful wedding indeed.

The Good Life - Lovers Need Lawyers
So, apparently, do Squeeze and the Shins. I suppose this is the Saddle Creek label’s leap upon the indie-rockers-with-beards bandwagon. This is not for me.

Pinback – AFK
Neither is this, though I am sorry he’s upset.

The Music - Breakin'
Started off promising, but then the lead singer showed up. I’m trying to put my finger on who he sounds like, but whoever it is he’s not pleasant. And I know he thinks he’s movin’ and groovin’ like Robert Plant, but trust me, sir, no one comes to mind so much as the guy from the Spin Doctors. I certainly admire their passion for the Madchester scene, right down to The One Guy In The Band With The Normal Haircut, but I’m sorry, no.

Tegan and Sara - Speak Slow
This is what Beavis and Butt-Head would refer to as “college music.” I made this observation to Amy, who recalled the bit from the time the boys were watching that Helium video where they theorized that the lead singer had just woken up and was still really sleepy, but she’d probably take a late lunch and then commence rocking. I think it was awfully nice of them to give her the benefit of the doubt in this regard. Anyway, this is also what I call “Amy music,” which is to say female-fronted indie rock that kinda rocks you in an unassuming, sweater-wearing way, though their vocals are obviously slightly indebted to the sassier, Joan Jett-derived school. They don’t appear to be very good, though, and the almost confrontationally hipster haircuts are a little much, as Amy observed. Seriously, if Williamsburg, Brooklyn were the United States Marine Corps, these girls would be sporting the haircuts they’d dole out during the opening credits of Full Metal Jacket. My first instinct was to say “their hipster hairdos are makin’ me feel ill,” but then I realized the line was “Hitler hairdos,” and to the best of my knowledge Hitler never did lines in the bathroom of North Six, so nevermind.

Death From Above 1979 - Romantic Rights
If you never learn anything else about me, learn that band names like Death From Above 1979 are right the fuck up my fuckkin’ alley. (Didja know?: LCD Soundsystem alter egos DFA got their name by abbreviating “Death From Above”!) This is one of them two-person listen-to-how-much-low-end-I-can-get-out-of-my-guitar bands, a la the Kills, the Black Keys, the Raveonettes and the mighty White Stripes. They, too, do not appear to be very good. The riff the song centers on, for example, is not nearly as good as they think it is, which is sad because there is a really good riff that they end up wasting on what I think was the bridge. All they had to do was come see Sean, the Rock Professor, during his office hours, and he coulda told them whether they was getting’ a passin’ grade. Also, get your hair out of your faces, it’s driving me crazy.

The Dive (Fuse, 10pm Sat., 3am Mon. (or 2am Sun.--it varies); recent playlists here)
This is my favorite of the three shows, perhaps for sentimental reasons but mainly because it truly does have the highest quality selection of videos, in my experience. This week was a pretty representative sample. Sadly, a gander at those time slots can probably tell you all you need to know about Fuse’s faith in this show, so get it while it’s hot.

Eisley - Telescope Eyes
I think Amy put it best when she said, “Calm. Down.” (She was being facetious.) I appreciate that they’re all related and that they named their band after the wretched hive of scum and villainy from Episode IV, or at least tried to before Lucas sicced his lawyers on them, but c’mon, folks, call me when you get back from the Rock Store, or when your Xanax prescription runs out. They make *CALLBACK ALERT*the girl from Helium*END CALLBACK ALERT* look like Susan Powter.

The Postal Service - We Will Become Silhouettes
Now that’s more like it. The Dive is an almost guaranteed fount of Ben Gibbardy goodness every week, and this go-round it’s his electro-pop side project’s apocalyptic opus. The video is a scream, with Ben decked out in flawless late-‘80s normal-guy attire (stonewashed jeans with no belt = gawjuss) and singing to his family (including wife Jenny Lee (we think) and teenage son Jimmy Tamborello) before they all don sci-fi-circa-1973 tunics and ride off into a stony desert to drink fruit juice and gaze into the sunset. This song is one of the strongest on a very strong album. It was also one of my favorite science-fiction works of the year 2003, and the video is pretty boss too. There’s a look Ben gives his younger son when he hands him a cookie that’s just to die for if you know this type of fellow (Amy’s brother-in-law fits the bill), and Jenny Lee, if that's who that is, is lovely, though I’ve got a bone to pick with her, as you’ll see later. (Dun-dun-DUNNNNN!)

Futureheads - First Day
When I first heard this song I was like, “I guess they listen to a lot of Gang of Four.” As it turns out a member of Gang of Four produced their album, so put one in the win column for Sean. This is a short, tight, neat little number that in addition to the G4 influence reminds me quite a bit of Talking Heads circa “Don’t Worry About the Government” in terms of lyric and a sort of merry, mathematical chaos to the instrumentation. The video has just the right amount of creep to it, with artificial limbs and taking-a-photo-of-your-cat flashed-out eyeballs popping up at odd moments. (Same with the guy who spits out his food as he sings.) The song is a tribute to a new employee’s first day on the job--a tongue-in-cheek one, predictably, as we all know it’s just awful that we all have to work at relatively uninteresting jobs, isn’t it. But the thing is, despite the fact that this has been a lyrical target of slightly-too-easy leftist rock songs since at least the Clash’s “Lost in the Supermarket” (to say nothing of Gang of Four’s entire debut album)--well, it’s kinda true, isn’t it? I for one am finding the prospect of a lifetime of day jobs just this side of horrifying. At any rate, as Amy pointed out, you really don’t hear songs sung about this sort of thing very often, as nearly everyone in rock and pop is still singing about their junior proms in one way or another. This is a very well-done song and video and I’d like to hear more.

Kaiser Chiefs - I Predict A Riot
I first heard this song on a business trip out to Los Angeles a month and a half ago, where KROQ played it incessantly. (This blew my mind, because New York City’s K-Rock, to put it as politely as possible, does not break new music EVER.) Everything that the Killers’ “Somebody Told Me” apparently did for everyone else in the blogosphere, this did for me. Hoo, did it ever. It’s tough to think of a single more Tailor-Made For Sean To Like It this side of the Hives’ “Walk Idiot Walk.” Holy God, that chorus! That accent! That rhyme of “leery” with “tell thee”! The video has a mildly clever conceit--the “riot” ends up being a massive pillowfight--and tons of footage of a lead singer who reminds me of The State’s Thomas Lennon doing a parody of a cool early-‘80s rock band’s lead singer. (I just keep picturing his impersonation of Fred Schneider in a dream sequence from the show they did with Jon Stewart, You Wrote It, You Watch It: “It’s a par-ty line, and the party’s goin’ fine!” “Everybody’s takin’ a poo-poo!”) This was another case of downloading a whole bunch of tracks from the album and being left flat--it sounded to me like warmed-over Kinks, which means it probably sounds to people with a slightly more extensive power-pop education than mine own like warmed-over Jam. But they can’t take “I Predict a Riot” away from me.

UNKLE featuring Ian Brown – Reign
We all like that first UNKLE record, from back when DJ Shadow might still have been the future of music and people were still holding out hope that Tricky would record something worth listening to again one day. And this is nice. But man, it is nothing to write home about. The symphonic electronic/trip-hop thing has been done so many times since Massive Attack invented it with “Unfinished Sympathy,” and the faceless-electronic-musician-recruits-Mancunian-singer-with-shaggy-haircut-to-sing-on-the-single schtick--well, it’s been almost as long since “Setting Sun” as it has since “Unfinished Sympathy.” Even the video feels like I Love the ‘90s as Represented in the Music Review Section of the Campus Daily: Some ectomorph who looks like the grown-up version of the kid from Deliverance writhes around in a glass tank while submerged underwater, and believe it or not I just described this video rather than (or more accurately, in addition to) the one for Radiohead’s “No Surprises.” I feel for James Lavelle, who’s soldiering on gamely in the absence of Shadow and in the wake of Timbaland, Pharrell et al; and everyone owes Ian Brown a hearty handshake for “This Is the One” if nothing else; but I can’t help but think that this is 2005, and this video isn’t. And unlike the case with every other band I listen to these days, this isn't a good thing here.

Rilo Kiley - It's A Hit
The song is more Amy Music, which is fine, but that is not the important thing when talking about this video. The important thing is that this is the meanest video I have ever seen, and I am not going to watch it ever again. George Lucas famously remarked that any idiot can work an audience’s emotional hot button--just get a kitten and wring its neck. (This is actually done in Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws, by the way, and it works.) In this case what Jenny Lee and company did was create a cartoon about a couple of hedgehog-type creatures who are in love with each other, then brutally kill one of them toward the end of the video, then have the survivor become superpowerful in its grief and zap all the bad guys, and isn’t it so sensitive because gee that sure is the way the big bad world works, and all we emo types have are our earnest love songs and our lo-fi cartooning and BLEEECCCCCCCHHHHH!!!!! Ugh, this is the crassest, most emotionally manipulative video ever. If you want something to compare it to, compare it to milk-cartons-in-love clip for Blur’s “Coffee & TV,” but strip away all the humor, cleverness, jauntiness, originality, and humanity. Also the happy ending. Ugh, fecch, terrible. When I first saw this video I literally burst into tears because it upset me so much--not just killing the cute cartoon animal, but the fact that anyone could see this as an acceptable aesthetic strategy. OhmyGod I HATE this video. (Mildly political aside, offered without comment: Amy has since informed me that the song, and one would imagine, by extension, the video, is some sort of commentary on the Bush Administration.)

Tower Records’ Next Big Thing (Fuse, 10:30pm Sat., 3:30am Mon. (or 2:30am Sun.--it varies))
Or, Where Dive Videos Go to Get Played Every Single Week for Like a Month. Here you will see bands that seem to stand a greater chance of actually making the jump to music-television-dom proper, though the distinction is nearly nonexistent, and nearly all of these videos start out on the other show and flip here without much apparent justification. It’s often seemed that one week’s NBT is identical to the next’s, except perhaps for one video. I’ve since discovered that this may well be the case, because the show is technically a platform for some sort of “Next Big Thing Award,” where viewers can vote from the month’s batch of in-rotation videos, and the winner gets declared the Next Big Thing or something. So if you don’t like any of the following bands and don’t feel like taking the crap shoot on the remaining two or three videos available for play this month--well hey, it probably don’t matter, since March has just started and I’m guessing the playlist will get a shake-up! (Just thank whatever god you pray to that you dodged January's Zutons bullet.)

The Bravery – Unconditional
At first I wasn’t sure if I liked this song or not. Then I decided that I was pretty damn sure I did. I’d literally never heard, indeed never heard of, this band of NYC-based sharp-dressed retro-dance-rockers before seeing this video on The Dive, and I’ve since voraciously downloaded whatever stuff of theirs I could find--finally, this pays off with a band that actually does do it for me! I really like their rinky-dink homemade keyboard sound, used to great effect on the intro for this tune (and even better effect on the intro to future-single-I-hope-I-hope-I-hope “Fearless”). Lots of sexy hipster girls in the video, probably too many for it to be good for the band’s ego, but other than that, it’s a hit.

Razorlight--Golden Touch
When will this song start rocking? The answer, as Amy and I have discovered to our chagrin, is never. Don’t be fooled, because it sounds like at some point it’s gonna start rocking, but it doesn’t. Rock, damn you, because you’re really not that cute.

Kasabian--Club Foot
This song does rock, in theory. But it doesn’t rock nearly as hard as it thinks it does--or for that matter as hard as the Primal Scream records it thinks it’s not ripping off because we’ve grown beyond that, man. Nope. The Spring of ‘68/Eastern Bloc video, the obscure Manson reference in the band name, the metallic distortion on the guitars and vocals--since I’m sure you’ll appreciate an extremely obscure Python reference, we done them.

The Honorary Title--Bridge & Tunnel
Nothing happens in this video except that we follow around some tattooed bohemian behind the scenes as he sets up for his video, and fella, you are just not cute enough to make this worth anyone’s while.

Head Automatica--Beating Heart Baby
Wasn’t impressed by this at first, but it grew on me. The screamy emo stuff wasn’t completely overblown My Chemical Romance style, which I appreciated. They all look fabulous and sweaty in blazers (not suit jackets!) and ties, and the lead singer is kind of fey, which I also appreciate. Turns out Dan the Automator was somehow involved in this project, which is probably a good sign, even though everything he’s done since the first Handsome Boy record has been extremely hit or miss. I’ll give ‘em the benefit of the doubt.

The Mars Volta--The Widow
This is the band that evolved out of At the Drive-In--the good one, I mean. (Sparta: eh.) Amy doesn’t like this video for some reason. You will like it if you like Palomar. I love this band, and no one to whom I recommend them (Alan, Ken) seems to agree with me. You all are nuts. What amazes me is that critics honestly felt that this band was inaccessible. Clearly today’s critics do not listen to enough King Crimson. Anyway, this song has modern-rock-radio hit written on it in giant block letters that glow in the dark. Good for them.

And there you have it! Tomorrow: More blogging, as I have a snow day. (At least I hope I do, since I’m now up way past my bedtime. My poor cat is so confused.)