A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Saturday, November 29, 2003


In typical fashion, I sent off a pitch for my Faye Wong piece, but then ended up sitting down and writing it, with no idea of length or anything. With my luck, it's turning out about three times as long as what they would accept (were the mag to accept it), and I'll have to go through the heartbreak of cutting it to ribbons. Regardless, I may at some point post the several false starts and rambling bits that preceded what ended up being the version of the article I am currently calling the article (and a version that still needs an ending). I've been enjoying laboring over some writing again. It's been a while. Most of the editorials I do for Oni are done in one take, due to time. I like approaching something with a more open pace.

Anyhow, I had been avoiding reviewing Faye's new album, To Love, as I thought maybe this article would cover it more. As it turns out, I ended up writing primarily about my overall feelings about Faye's music with my sole specific focus on my favorite song of hers, Lovers & Strangers-track "The Moon at that Moment."

Anyhow, I got my copy of To Love a couple of weeks ago now, and I haven't stopped listening to it. There is a palpable beauty of a Faye Wong record. Her voice, the music, it wraps around you, as if a physical presence in the air. To Love is certainly no exception. I could just sit here and listen to how pretty it is without even worrying about any of the other aspects of it. Her voice is particularly lovely when backed by the sparse string arrangement on "Beautiful Mistake." She sings soft in the verses, just a few points of volume above a whisper, but goes higher, bolder for the choruses. Gorgeous.

Elsewhere on the disc, including songs Faye composed, there is a harder techno edge, balancing out against the orchestral ballads. The title track actually reminds me some of Bjork's "Army of Me," while the more straight-up pop songs would sound at home on Natalie Imbruglia's White Lilies Island.

Adding to her resume of impressive covers, Faye tackles the song "Going Home" by Sophie Zelmani. Unfamiliar with Zelmani's work, I downloaded the original. It has a simple arrangement, lead largely by acoustic and steel guitars, and grounded by a hook that sounds like maybe it's played on a flute. Faye keeps the flute, but adds some piano and the occasional electronic ambience. Zelmani reminds me a little of Luna, oddly enough, while again, I hear maybe some Natalie Imbgrulia on the To Love version.

As an extra bonus, To Love came with a VCD with about three minutes of behind-the-scenes footage for the video for "To Love." Wong looks fantastic, dressed all in black, and sporting raccoon eyes. Her continual fashion transformations put her on par with any western artist as far as cultivating image, staying fresh, bold, and interesting.

It really is too bad that music doesn't cross borders more. Faye's material can be a pain in the ass to get over here, and it seems rare that she would be discussed in any music press. Perhaps she'll get some attention if Miramax ever finally releases Hero, which she did the theme for. (It's currently rumored as early next year, a full year after the movie lost the Oscar for best foreign film 2002). Also, with Wong Kar-Wai having finished his latest film, and Faye a featured player, perhaps next year I'll be bemoaning how she is no longer my private passion.


A couple of movies I have seen recently have gotten me thinking some about storytelling.

Last year's Neil Labute picture, The Shape of Things is interesting in that over the course of several months, he developed the story as a play with his four principle actors, and then almost immediately took them from the stage to the screen, rewriting and directing the film himself. There is definitely a staginess to a lot of the scenes, with particular chunks of the movie taking place in one area between a set number of people. On the DVD, Labute talks about the process, and also indicates by breaking out of the mold of a stage, he can show more of the story and thus create a more varied moral gray area; a trade-off for the audience interaction that he was allowed in the theatre. Near the end of the film, Rachel Weisz is delivering a speech to the audience, and when it was a stage play, that meant the actual audience in the theatre became part of the narrative.

In discussing The Shape of Things with a couple of people, I've decided it's not entirely successful in getting its point across. The best trait of the movie is that it's a film about ideas, that attempts to say something; its failing in that it doesn't do that as well as it could. In articulating this feeling, I noted that it's not that I wanted it to answer the questions it posed, but perhaps to pose them better or maybe pose the right ones. In particular, Weisz suggests that some of her actions were done in the name of art, yet there is no explanation given as to how her project actually is art. Similarly, while the supporting characters act as mirrors and counterpoints to the main couple, they don't actually get the resolution they deserve or need to drive the point of their existence home.

21 Grams is a different kind of animal, but it certainly tackles a storytelling technique I think best suited to cinema. The drama focuses mainly on three people, and how their actions intersect and not only affect one another, but the periphery characters in their lives. However, all linear storytelling is removed in favor of a slow build. Events are given out of order, and often incomplete. Like the movie is on several different TV channels, but it started at different times, and as a viewer we are jumping back and forth. I almost want to get a bit pretentious and compare it to William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom, which reminds me of a painting--it starts with the basic sketch and as Faulkner goes over the image, each time adding color, the full picture comes to life. 21 Grams is more disjointed than that, however, and doesn't work with as much repetition. But there is a kindred spirit there. And it works best in cinema because we can get smaller snatches without the luxury of being able to look back if we miss it (though, it doesn't hold true once on DVD, perhaps bolstering David Lynch's stance against chapter breaks).

And to be honest, as much as I like Memento, I think for sheer complexity of narrative, 21 Grams puts it to shame. Just going backwards seems so simple by comparison. (Though, really, both screenwriters most likely planned out the entire story in a linear fashion. The writing isn't necessarily done out of order. It's more the skill of rearranging.)

Current Soundtrack: To Love, naturally; The Beatles, Let it Be...Naked


Wednesday, November 26, 2003


Gravitation volume 7 and Truman Capote have been taking up my time. I've been going the gay way. In Margaret Cho's mother's terms, I got the gay.

Several ideas in the planning stages. I hate writing about things ahead of the game, so no details will be spilled. Funny, because I read in the Plimpton book on Capote today how he was driven to share, he had to read his stuff out loud and tell people all about it. Like he was road testing it. Anecdotally, it was related that E.L. Doctorow had noted that once he told a story at a dinner party, it was no longer something he'd want to use in his work, it was lost to him. While I am not that severe, I am not necessarily the big generous sharing writer either. One must ponder what we'd be treated to if Truman Capote lived in the blog age.

But the thing is, too, I suck at planning. I am not a preparation type person. You'd just get vague ramblings. "It starts here, and it ends here, and I know I want at least one scene in the middle that goes like this." Ooooh, neat!

Which can be a bit sucky when you owe some folks some material. Gotta get a package together for someone who has been waiting for it, gotta follow up with someone else on Monday about Cut My Hair, and still haven't done anything about that Faye Wong article. May just write it and see what they think, and if they don't dig it, print it here. (Did all this info live up to my vague promises?)

By the by, the photo joke in the previous post was inspired by the evil Jen De Guzman posting a particularly hideous picture of me on the Oni Press message board. Seeing it, I realized the sad fact that all these years of trying to be Holly Golightly, I failed to realize that I had become Truman Capote. Rather than wallow, I embrace it.

Current Soundtrack: Simpsons rerun where Homer sexually harasses the babysitter



I'm so delighted by my new outfit for the Thanksgiving holidays, I had James take a picture...

Sunday, November 23, 2003


It's been several years since I'd last seen Placebo. They've always been a fantastic live act, but I had the added excitement this time of knowing they were a different band. I'm not just talking level of accomplishment, but the fact that I knew they had taken on a touring keyboard player and second guitarist as back-up (back-up being right, as they backed those guys way the fuck up; the guitarist was often invisible behind a bank of speakers). Going from a taut trio to a fleshed-out five piece could prove quite interesting.

Of course, that interest would be postponed while waiting for Eagles of Death Metal to get off the stage. If Josh Homme, he of the overrated Queens of the Stone Age, wasn't the drummer, you'd be hard-pressed to fathom why this band was ever given a gig of any kind, much less an opening slot on a pretty decent-sized tour. Peddling boring barroom rock with a touch of Southern riffs, you'd almost think this band was ironic, what with the name (Death Metal? Not in sight!) and the lead singer's porn star moustache. But the man in charge is so bereft of charisma, and choruses like, "Shit, goddamn, I'm a man," you realize that irony is too subtle, too intelligent for this outfit (and this from me, a boy sick to death of irony in the kitsch sense). Only the lead guitarist proved to be at all interesting, but his equipment only worked intermittently. And Homme, who looks a bit like a jock normally, actually resembled Eminem with his little bandanna on. And he's a better singer than he is a drummer, which isn't saying much at all.

(While I strongly dislike Queens of the Stone Age, I am digging the single Homme did with PJ Harvey as part of his Desert Sessions side project. "Crawl Home" is a cool, sharply cut song, and the b-side has Homme leading a cover of Harvey's "The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore." Definitely curious to hear that album now.)

Thankfully, the wait between bands was rather short, and Placebo came on at quarter past ten, digging right into "Bulletproof Cupid." Brian Molko was a mighty midget, eventually stepping to his microphone like he was cornering it for some inappropriate touching. On the other side of the stage, towering over Molko in height and presence, bassist Stefan Olsdal sashayed and posed and played to the audience's adoration. As the one completely queer member of the band, he gets a lot of attention, and clearly he loves it. They even had it figured out where he could walk through the audience via the aisle separating the all ages and the drinking areas. I couldn't see, but I am sure there was much groping.

The early portion of the set was heavy on current album Sleeping With Ghosts, and despite the early airing of "Every You Every Me," reliant more on album tracks than hits. So we got "Plasticene" and "Black Eyed" and a surprising turnout for "Harder Faster" from the first record (the only one from it, in fact). The crowd didn't seem to mind these detours away from the expected; the energy level was high. The people who were there knew the band, was ready for them. It was an act of teasing. We knew they were going to give in eventually, but we were ready to hang on and build with it (for a band so sexual, I doubt calling this foreplay would be off-base). Then, as the set began to crescendo, they started to pepper in the singles from Sleeping With Ghosts. It was fantastic.

The main set ended with the only bum note of the night. "Special K," from Black Market Music, was a mess. There seemed to be a general lack of clarity. That song has about three hooks, and they all collided with one another, and the changes between them were nigh invisible. Plus, it sounded like they were rushing, cramming the song in and just getting it out of the way.

Things picked up for the encore. A dance-addled "Taste in Men" was transitioned into a kinetic "Slave to the Wage" by a quick snog between Stefan and Brian (hey, give the kids what they want). This was, of course, followed by the obligatory "Pure Morning," which gets more and more ragged. There's no need for perfection there anymore, to be honest. It's the big singalong, and that's all it needs to be.

I think the Crystal Ballroom assumed that was going to be it, because all the house lights came on before Placebo could start the last song. If they noticed, they made no sign of it, and unleashed their fantastic Pixies cover, "Where Is My Mind?" Oddly, it received the loudest cheers of the night, and the most audience participation. It's strange what fans will latch onto.

Current Soundtrack: Depeche Mode live in Los Angeles, 12-12-1998


Tuesday, November 18, 2003


I spent the last weekend in Savannah, GA, as a guest of the Sequential Art program at the Savannah College of Art and Design. They were having an editors weekend, and I was one of four invited. It was a pretty good time. I am not used to being pampered in my position as a comic book editor, but they housed me and fed me and lavished me with praise. The portfolio reviews on Friday were much more pleasant than most portfolio reviews at conventions—where people show up thinking they’ll get hired and told they’re a genius. These were genuine reviews, where feedback was the true goal, and we could talk one on one without all the static of throngs of fans behind us. Plus, they were timed, so it was rare that they went on too long or meandered. Each review had to be productive.

On the plane ride out, I started reading a new book. Truman Capote, an oral biography by the late George Plimpton. It’s a format I really like: a narrative strung together with quotes from various interviewees. I first encountered the style in Select magazine several years ago when they went through Blur’s career song by song. One of the best examples I've encountered is Tom Shales’ Live From New York, a look at the history of Saturday Night Live. I read the bulk of that book on my trip to China. In fact, seeing as how I started Truman Capote on a plane, it’s certainly a form that lends itself to travel.

Capote is undoubtedly a larger-than-life figure. You’d almost think that to him, his characters might have seemed terribly mundane in comparison. You could almost imagine him bored with them. His life arguably contained more fiction than he ever put on paper. If there is one thing anyone can agree on, it's that he invented much of his own history, changing it as he traveled from person to person. While most authors would have been the narrator in Breakfast At Tiffany's, Truman Capote was really Holly Golightly. This makes it all the more fitting that we would get visions of him through multiple eyes, since he presented himself as a different person to each one.

While in Savannah, I went to see a performance of Private Lives, a play by Noel Coward. It sort of fit. Two witty and urbane gay writers—and me in the South. Okay, it didn’t fit all that much. But in a passage in Truman Capote I read later that evening, they mark a date by the premiere of the play in New York with Tallulah Bankhead starring. That’s something, right?

Unfortunately, the performance was terribly mediocre. Of the four actors, only the female lead seemed to have enough verve to really pull it off. The rest of the performances felt like they were mimicking old movies. Plus, they were all wearing personal microphones. Now, I am a bit of a theatre purist, and I appreciate actors who can project to the back row. But even barring that, if you’re going to use microphones, then know how. The sound was echoey, it went in and out depending on how they positioned their heads, and whenever they embraced, it was like they stepped into a cave. The dialogue was funny, but sometimes it felt like I was fiddling with a radio tuner just to hear it.


I have to admit I find it kind of cool that I am in the 2004 Novel & Short Story Writer's Market. Granted, I’d have liked to have been featured as a successful writer, but being featured as a comic book editor in a round table interview isn’t all that shabby. (Plus, I get the book for free now! Woo!) I also like that my last four or five answers end in me either disagreeing or saying “I don’t know.” Me so smart.

Current Soundtrack: Robbie Williams, "Sexed Up," single; Kylie, "Slow" remixes


Tuesday, November 11, 2003


After I finished Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, which I absolutely adored, I decided to go in for a thinner volume. On a trip to the Sylvia Beach Hotel—an inn on the Oregon coast with rooms named after and decorated for authors; we stayed in the Hemingway and there were antlers over the bed—my friend Rebecca bought me a book at a tiny coastal bookstore. It’s by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, the author of Rashomon, and it’s called Kappa. I can’t recall for sure, but I might have reacted to it since I had heard of it from Usagi Yojimbo, and I believe there was a use of this demon from Japanese folklore in Hellboy, as well.

The book was written in 1927, the same year that Ryunosuke killed himself. According to the extensive biography at the front of this edition (printed in 1970), it is believed now that the author had some form of schizophrenia or other mental disease. His mother had suffered from schizophrenia, and Ryunosuke had feared his whole life that he would inherit her madness. In her altered states, she would draw pictures of people, but they would all have fox heads. Ryunosuke picked up a similar habit, but he’d always draw Kappas—a scaly creature with a face of a tiger, but with long beaks and saucers imbedded into the tops of their heads. Interestingly, the conceit of Kappa is that the story was told to the author by a mental patient.

A satire of Japanese society, this tale of a man who tumbles into the underground city of mythical creatures is both funny and bizarre. Its narrative is written in a very casual, natural style that I have seen in other Japanese novels, including much later work like The Setting Sun by Osamu Dazai. It runs the gamut of religion, sex, capitalism, and art, all skewered by the strange Kappa’s completely absurd approach to life. It also tackles suicide, as the Kappa poet Tok ends up being a stand-in for the author himself.

The book is wonderfully strange. The scenarios in Kappaland are deliciously over-the-top. I particularly like that she-Kappa’s chase down he-Kappas and tackle them, forcing them into sex and husbandly service. Family members all get involved in the hunt when the woman sets her sites on a man, and even if the man escapes the chase, he usually ends up sick and bedridden. The style with which this is all presented is so matter-of-fact, it’s addicting. I found myself sneaking a few more pages every chance I got.

The mental struggles of Ryunosuke Akutagawa is also something I can identify with, having my own anxiety over the subject, due to some maternal incongruities. Let’s hope they don’t take me over, too. Keep an eye out, and if I start doodling raccoon people, take action. Then again, I might get a cool book about tanuki out of it.


Noodled around tonight on some more concrete ideas regarding the possible graphic novel thing I hinted at earlier. Sent it off to the possible artist for opinions.

Current Soundtrack: Primal Scream, Dirty Hits remix CD


Monday, November 10, 2003


Believe it or not, I was prepared to really not like the new Britney Spears record, In The Zone. Those who know how much I actually do like Britney—and how much shit I take for it—will realize that statement is not at all facetious. My original inclination was to be excited for a new record, but the lead single, “Me Against The Music,” seemed pretty poor to me. The Madonna bits were the worst of it (and Madonna already ruined her own record this year), but the song itself didn’t really have much live. If you consider that her first three albums were lead by “…Baby One More Time,” “Ooops!…I Did It Again,” and “I’m a Slave 4 U,” you realize that the lead single is always a corker, and if “Me Against the Music” was any indication, In The Zone was going to be a relatively flat record.

Not to mention that even I am growing sick of the current promotional machine around her highness. Britney's attempts to have her cake and eat it too by showing her ass and then acting like she didn’t know it was hanging out come off as rather ridiculous. Once, maybe, you were tricked…but not this many times. And certainly not when they showed you a picture of Angie Dickinson with her ass out and you copied it. So, if Britney is turning me off, it’s clear the rest of the world is really going to be turning against her. It’s gotten so bad, I imagine even Christina Aguilera is looking at her former cohort and thinking, “Damn, she’s getting a lot of shit.”

Bare Coverings

So, I hit play on In The Zone with my eyes closed, reaching my hand out as if I were afraid the machine might shock me. Or the way you do when opening up a mysterious package that just might have your lover’s head in it.

"Me Against the Music” is track 1, and it’s what it is. No surprise here. Track 2 is “I Got That (Boom Boom),” guest the starring Ying Yang Twins (currently all over the radio, guesting on a Lil Jon cut). They start off the song with a little skit about how hot Britney is hot, and I’m a little worried we’re going to descend into a parade of guest stars that end up marring the album by taking time away from the person that got me here in the first place (a problem normally reserved for hiphop records). As the song starts, it fares better—deep beats, a banjo sample. It’s a decent enough track, but the rapping by the Twins makes it smack of trying a little too hard—not unlike having Madonna on “Music.” No one ever needed to hear the word “crunk” on a Britney Spears rekkid.

“Showdown” begins to cleanse the palette. It’s dancier, with some odd bloops tangled around Britney’s voice…but it’s not until song 4, “Breathe on Me” that the tide turns once and for all. A sexy house song, featuring breathy vocals a la Madonna’s “Justify My Love” and “Erotica,” “Breathe On Me” isn’t like anything Britney has done before. It’s a more sophisticated dance song. Things are looking up.

This shift is confirmed by the next track, the Moby-produced “Early Mornin’,” a post-club chill out. Things get even better on “Toxic.” We’re still in the dance realm, but now we’re getting snatches of strings, and it sounds cool. In fact, they stick around a bit later for the first semi-ballad, “Touch of My Hand.” The production keeps it from straying into schmaltz, and the lyrics are more than a little suggestive. Has Britney delivered us another pop tribute to masturbation? Does she bop?

It’s clear by now what we have with In The Zone. Notice that the word dance keeps turning up? This isn’t so much a pop record as it is a dance record. These songs would be perfectly at home in a club. They’re shiny with glitter, not a heavy production gloss. Even, as I said, the well-worn ballad territory isn’t littered with predictable big sounds, but stick to the electronic squiggles and abstractions. There are also some Middle Eastern riffs on songs like “Outrageous” and “The Hook-Up.” The latter actually sounds like an outtake from No Doubt’s Rock Steady, incorporating a Jamaican influence. Points, too, for having a toaster on the song that isn’t Sean Paul.

“Shadow” is our second ballad-style number, though it sits okay amongst its more beat-oriented peers by not being too slow and maintaining a pop melody. “Brave New Girl” picks things back up with a new wave style, including the sort of talk-singing that was used on hits of the period by bands like The Waitresses.

The finale is “Everytime,” the closest to a traditional Britney slow number as we come. Yet, it makes for a nice, gentle ending point, a sweet good-bye. And lest she break convention by going to far into old habits, the harp lullaby that runs through the track gives it something special.

Despite all my fears, I really, really like In The Zone. It’s the sort of assured genre album Britney Spears should have made at this point in her career. It seems like a natural step, suggesting a bit of maturity while not completely abandoning the frivolity. I’ll be curious to read the reviews. Will it be the cool thing to hate it? I mean, Pink has a new record, so I am sure every critic will be rushing to talk about how authentic she is. Perhaps comparisons to Madonna’s Erotica are indeed apt—a time in the artist’s career where the press and the public are wanting to rein them in, they release a record that, despite some patchiness, gives a big nod to club trends of the period, and end up being totally misunderstood.

On a similar note, another pop diva that everyone counted out at one point has another record. Kylie Minogue released Body Language in the UK last week. My understanding is that North America is going to have to wait until February for it. It’s an interesting turn for Kylie, coming off her biggest worldwide success with Fever and the smash “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” It’s still disco, still fantastic, but similar to Britney, not as pop as Ms Minogue is known for. Rather, it’s slow disco, full of easygoing rhythms, laid-back funk arrangements. There are a lot of winners here—the sensual “Chocolate,” the come on of “After Dark,” the computerized charms of lead single “Slow.” The techno tinklings of “Secrets (Take You Home)” remind me of a an updated take on the Tom Tom Club sound, and Kylie’s metronomic robot vocals achieves the right futuristic feel. The little rap recalls Blondie, as well. “Sweet Music” has classic Studio 54 grooves with a little bit of Dee-Lite production, and the huskiest vocal performance since Bacall told Bogey to put his lips together and blow. (A line delivered by Britney in “Breathe on Me,” actually.)

Body Language is a wonderfully self-assured record. Kylie clearly isn’t overly worried about her success. Perhaps it’s the hard-won battle of getting to her position after all these years that she has no need to for desperation. Instead of getting caught up in the fleeting nature of fatal fame, she’s having the confidence in her music.

While I am on the subject of Pop Queens, I should also note my vast enjoyment of a Pop Princess’ latest. Mandy Moore’s Coverage is a fantastic little disc. Covering everyone from XTC to Cat Stevens to the Waterboys to Elton John and the previously referenced Blondie, she’s put together a great collection of other people’s songs and given them new life. While at times Coverage threatens to stray into over-production, it almost always escapes (however narrowly), and all in all, is an addictive listening experience. With this and covers albums by Martin Gore and Erasure, it’s been a good year for artists stepping outside themselves and into other people’s shoes. Paul Weller is preparing to do the same next year, and I can’t wait. (He already released a collection of covers he had put out as B-sides as a bonus disc in his Fly On The Wall box, but this will be all new recordings.)

Current Soundtrack: Kylie, Body Language, Dave Gahan, "Bottle Living" DVD remixes


Sunday, November 09, 2003


Elin Winkler has come through with the explanation of "cop shoot cop," for those interested:

I know nothing of Spiritualized, but I could hazard a guess on the phrase "cop shoot cop", based on my extensive reading about drug addicts and

My guess would be it describes the cycle heroin addicts are constantly in-- their days are filled with the cycle of cop heroin, shoot it, then cop some
more. Reading about Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, Edie Sedgwick, Dee Dee
Ramone & others would bear this out, since "copping" seems to be a
heroin-exclusive drug term- people "score" other drugs, but "cop" heroin. I don't know why
that is, but it's also shown up in other songs, notably "Chinese Rock" by the Ramones: "You wanna take a walk, you wanna go cop"

I think I know too much about drugs for a straightedge person. In an
abstract, intellectual way.

Current soundtrack: Spiritualized, Pure Phase

Saturday, November 08, 2003


There are bands that, when they come to town, I will see no matter what sacrifice I have to make to do so. Depeche Mode, Low, Garbage, Suede (formerly), spring immediately to mind. Same goes for Spiritualized. I discovered Spiritualized live, seeing them open for Jesus & Mary Chain and Curve in 1992. That was pretty much on the ground floor, the first album and likely the “Medication” EP. I immediately sought out Laser Guided Melodies, and my college wallet was pleased to find it used.

My love affair with this band has been unwavering. J. Spaceman, also known as Jason Pierce, has a brilliant, obsessive mind. One can’t just be a casual Spiritualized fan. You don’t just like one song. You don’t just have one album. To do so is to invite scorn. It’s like showing up to a PETA meeting in a fur coat, crying that you’re a vegetarian as you’re run out of the room. Each successive piece of music for this band builds on the last. You have to buy the singles to go with the albums, to hear the B-sides that are often instrumental versions or live tracks or straight-up revisitings of songs—as Spiritualized is a band that isn’t content to just let it lie. If a new idea comes for a different approach, they will explore it. (The first volume of Complete Works is a testament to that, containing multiple versions of many tracks. I am dying for the second volume, hoping upon hope it has an amazingly sad version of “Spread Your Wings” that was on a Select Magazine mix tape. That song has one of the most gorgeous violin riffs known to man.)

And when I say band, I really mean Jason Pierce. He is the driving force behind it all, the voice and the vision. He doesn’t have a lot of range when it comes to themes. Drugs—both good and bad, romance—both good and bad, religion—both good and bad. That’s about it. But if he repeats himself, it’s either to refine or to progress, to take his ideas to whichever extreme he deems necessary. In a way, it reminds me of Brett Anderson’s lyrics. He is much the same way, repeating sounds and rhymes and ideas, searching for the perfect expression of it. Anderson took a lot of flack for the writing on Suede’s fourth album, Head Music, for recycling lines, for going back to the “she” well too many times (he likes the sound of the word “she,” and will write songs where nearly every line begins with that word). I wrote an article that was accepted for the fanclub magazine (but never published) defending this practice. I compared it to Hemingway, who insisted an author wrote the same story every time he put pen to paper. It’s the same defense I’d make of Spiritualized.

I don’t know how many times I have seen Spiritualized now. I can think of at least five times, but it could easily be more, as venues here are often repeated and can blend together. Last night was at least #6. But I was just as excited as if it were #1.

I was not disappointed. The set-up is familiar. A drummer, two guitars, two guys on keyboards and various other instruments, a bass player—and Pierce, on both voice and a third guitar. The only real change was that Pierce sits down now, positioned at the side of the stage. He’s given up the pretense of the performance. Let the lights and the music do the trick.

The entered on the familiar “pure phase” tones, and launched straight into it with the raucous "This Little Life of Mine." The set was heavy on the latest album, Amazing Grace, with the last one, Let It Come Down, taking second place, particularly early on. I think only “Come Together” emerged before about halfway in, when the band delved back into earlier material with the awesome “Medication.” There was some drawback to this, in that the Roseland Theatre’s sound system seemed to have some glitches in it, and it was unable to handle the garage fuzz of the Amazing Grace material. When the music got loud, there was a speaker near me that would crackle.

This became too much to bear in “Cop Shoot Cop.” I was ready to draw some blood, at that point. You see, “Cop Shoot Cop” is always a highlight for me. The album closer on Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space, it usually clocks in at over 15 minutes. Pierce brings out an eighth player on saxophone, so that he has a full, massive, ear-shattering sound for the complete cacophony at the center of the number. An elegy to heroin, “Cop Shoot Cop” is full of heartbreak, desperation, and possible redemption. It’s middle bit where everything goes nuts and the musicians just thrash away at their instruments is awe inspiring. I often close my eyes and just let it take over. At one show years ago, I actually hallucinated I got so deep into it. As stupid as it sounds, I felt like I was inside the song, and I could see the colors it was making.

Well, a few minutes into it last night, the house lights came on for a brief second and one aspect of the sound system went out when they did. It may have been the monitors, because I noticed the musicians being a bit baffled and looking down at them. To their credit, they didn’t miss a beat, they kept playing, and the crowd cheered them on. But nearly a minute passed before the full sound came back, and when it did, there was still that crackle. Shameful!

As the show was approaching the two-hour mark, Pierce dusted off some oldies to round out the set. “Run” is still propulsive, still wonderful in its Velvet Undergroundisms; “Take Good Care of It” has a great build-up, getting more emphatic as it rolls; and “Smile” was an excellent closer, drifting from its romantic melodies to uninhibited noise, shrouding the band in feedback and distortion as they left the stage. There was no encore, but who needed it after a solid 120 minutes?

Perhaps my other highlight of the night was “Lay It Down Slow,” the end track on Amazing Grace. It’s a gorgeous song, reassuring and lovely. It’s amazing for someone who can write a song as deep down in the depths as “Cop Shoot Cop” or as sad as “Broken Heart” (the saddest love song ever?) can also write something so uplifting and hopeful. But that’s the beauty of this aptly named band. Their music is like religion. It does give you the spirit.

As an aside, does anyone know the origin of the phrase “cop shoot cop”? I know there was an absolutely terrible band by that name in the early ’90s, but does it predate them? As a concept, there are some interesting nuances to it. It suggests loss of order, of like turning on like, and in the context of the tune, one turning on oneself. I’d be curious to know where it came from. Drop me an e-mail if you know.

Current Soundtrack: Spiritualized, Flux & Amazing Grace


Friday, November 07, 2003


Okay, so I have to ‘fess up. I had my ass handed to me this morning. The person who had initially started talking to me about the Faye Wong article mentioned in my last entry read my last entry, and was justifiably pissed. I had already realized I had overreacted to the e-mail when I read it again later (and also realized my original pitch wasn’t too far off the mark for what was being asked), but when I had my actions pointed out to me, it was immediately clear what an ass I was being. To make it worse, I instantly realized that if I was the editor in question—or more accurately, if I had introduced someone to James Lucas Jones, and said person posted about J-Lu on their blog like that—I’d have been furious. Shit. So, my apologies to unnamed magazine. (And my thanks to Charlie Chu for offering to assist me in my Faye Wong search.)

As I get into the homestretch of The Blind Assassin, I find it increasingly hard to stop reading. I will likely be done this weekend. It’s been such an inspiration. My Novel #3, They Are All In Love, has some technical elements in common with Atwood. The themes of doomed, sensitive thinkers. The playing with text, using newspaper clippings, etc., to illuminate backstory. I am in awe of this book.

Atwood’s protagonist, Iris, is an older woman who is suffering the perils of her age—and I realized that old age is not unlike adolescence. You know better than everyone, but no one will listen to you. Your body is turning against you, rebelling in unpredictable and inconvenient ways. You just wish it would all be over. So many of us focus on our teenage angst when writing, but maybe we could all just change the ages and quit cluttering the market with nubile woe.

Been percolating on an idea for a graphic novel, which previously I had intended to be a screenplay—but it’s not too soon to switch gears. It’d be a little more abstract, I think. It’s telling would be more clipped, stylized—but it could work. I had one artist in mind, but in talking to another artist, am thinking maybe I would want that artist instead. Really, that artist would have been my first choice, but I didn’t think I could get said artist on board due to time; ironically, that artist would be into it and it’s less likely the artist I was going to replace them with would be available. The twisty snake of creation, eh?

Also finished Ai Yori Aoshi 4 about twenty minutes ago. Nearly a record, but I think Man of Many Faces is still the fastest manga rewrite I’ve done.

Current Soundtrack: misc. Suede live tracks (currently "The Power" from Norway in 2002)


Thursday, November 06, 2003


My word, am I wiped out today. The news of my departing from Oni to write has spread like mushrooms in a field, and I actually don’t like mushrooms all that much. My eyes are tired. I am sick of my e-mail dinging. Thank goodness I am not too self-important when it comes to the comics stuff (most of the time).

I was attempting to re-ignite my story on Faye Wong now that her new album is coming out, but I haven’t much desire right now to deal with either the record company or the magazine I was talking to about it oh those many months ago. The record company I think is reminding me that Ms. Wong is a huge, huge star overseas and wants a few hoops jumped through to justify her talking to me; the magazine has passed me on to a different person than I talked to before, and it appears none of the history of previous interactions was passed on to this editor, and the e-mail I received went overboard in the explanation department. It might be my mood, that I just don’t feel like being back in elementary school with some lame substitute teacher, or that it all struck me as a little too alternative journalism for me, but I just am pretty much going to hang it. He didn’t seem to care anyway, and it sounded like my pitching him was going to be a waste of time. I know I should pursue every opportunity right now, but last I heard, there was no paycheck on the end, and so I can’t be bothered. I’m going to keep my head in my honey jar, Piglet, because even though I like the honey in that other jar, it’s a pretty cool jar, my own jar is warm and the smell is familiar to me.

Plus, I woke up to multiple notices that Suede are calling it quits. The wording suggests it could be just for now, but damn. There is a weird connection here. I discovered Suede in 1993, in my last semester of college, and their first US tour was the month after I dropped out. I saw them three times that tour, if you include The Tonight Show, and it was as life was getting started for me, in many ways. I actually remember coming up to Oregon for my week-long internship on Spring break, playing Bob Schreck “Animal Nitrate” that I had taped off the radio.

And now just as it’s announced that I am making this change, poof! They go. Is it my fault? Am I secretly to blame?

Been working all week on manga. The untranslated copy of Ai Yori Aoshi 4 was a bit late in arriving—a fact I was fine with when it gave me an excuse to slack off this past weekend. But since it’s due Monday, 11/10, I felt a little more of a push to get moving. I jumped ahead onto Gravitation 7 this past Monday, so that even if we had to fudge the Ai Yori Aoshi deadline, I could catch up on the Gravitation one. (Terribly interesting stuff, eh?)

But Ai Yori Aoshi showed up yesterday and I actually sat and started it out at a coffee shop while a friend studied, and I cranked the first 50 pages in no time. She said she also got a lot of her studying done rather quickly, and we both admitted to not allowing ourselves to get distracted like we do when alone, in fear the other might have thought us a slacker. We could be on to something…

Random pic of Kylie Bardot

Finally, for those of you who may have an interest, who are not from the Oni boards and haven’t seen these and care, here are two more spots where I discuss my future: Newsarama and Comic Book Resources. Neither of them contain that terrible photo yesterday's did.

And if you don’t care, well, not sure I can be arsed either. So, cool.

Current Soundtrack: Coldplay, Parachutes (it's motherfuckin' James' pick; at least it's not that turgid second album)