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

Thursday, January 30, 2003


Someday I’d like to maybe write an article on all the things a freelancer can do to drive an editor crazy. It would be an advice piece, for those people out there getting into the field, featuring all the pearls of wisdom I’ve gathered in my time on both sides of the fence. It could even include the alternative, a note to editors about what they may not understand about the freelance life. I’d do it now, but I'm afraid that everyone I work with would read into what I have to say and think it’s them. That’s trouble I don’t need. The fragile, eggshell egos of creative folks…the Napoleonic complexes of editors.

I have been working on my afterword for Days Like This, and it’s been reminding me of how long I’ve been out of the freelance music critic game…as well as how shitty I am at being a journalist. I’ve got no discipline for research, and I sit down with the vaguest of points and just run. I am the writing equivalent of a young child who has escaped from the bath and is running around the front yard naked. I think my biggest fault is that my brain makes connections too easily, and so the actual article doesn’t really spell out how these things hook up, leaving the reader confused. And most weekly papers don’t edit you to help you learn. In fact, if you ask them what you did wrong, what caused them to change it, they’ll give you the “You didn’t really do anything wrong, we just wanted it more in our style.” (My friend Christopher McQuain and I were just talking about this--style schmyle, we say!) So, whatever bugged them, you keep doing it, because how could you not?


Super Confessions Pop Star goes to Andy Greenwald who may have a lead on Faye Wong! Andy is the real deal, a true journo. He got Pounded and Vertigo Pop! London in Spin, and he’s currently writing a book that I will plug here when concrete info exists, coz he deserves whatever small fame we can acquire for him.

Current Soundtrack: Depeche Mode, Ultra


Wednesday, January 29, 2003


My cat is sitting in my lap and I am kind of trapped here, in my chair, in front of the keyboard. The CD ended about five minutes ago. I was playing the first disc of the Erasure “Solsbury Hill” single, and I guess I should have picked something longer.

Haircut today. Last time I went in I gave Jennifer a copy of Cut My Hair since it was just before Christmas. I felt kind of cheesy and egotistical doing it, but at the same time, I do like to share. You never know what to do when you see someone again after giving them something like that, though. I don’t want to bring it up and ask if she’s read it. I’d feel like I was hounding her. But she brought it up and said she was halfway through, she had to wait to start it until she had finished her other book. She said she liked it so far, and really liked the illustrations. So, yay…though I worry I may be pigeonholed as the guy with illustrated novels. I am not sure I really want to do that with The Everlasting. Bonus was the really good haircut. Showered when I got home, too, which is always a nice feeling when the hair is cut short. I should have shaved it all off just to piss of Chynna at the Alternative Press Expo. Letters to Blue Monday suggest we don’t bicker enough anymore, so this would hopefully kickstart an argument revival.

January has kind of been a crap month. Even if we ignore the war that is seemingly inevitable because, frankly, our leaders seem to be the madmen they claim they want to destroy, it’s just been a real rush work-wise. And I have a bunch of trade paperbacks and original graphic novels (or as we like to call them, OniGNs) on deck, which are piling up and seem really hard to put together. The Hopeless Savages: Ground Zero trade is just around the corner and I am just now preparing. We may have a lead on the girls who were in Kenickie, though, which would be great. We failed to make contact to get a quote or an introduction for the first collection (though bless Andy Greenwald, he tried), so if we can pull it off—well, a lot of people may not care, but we’ll think it’s cool as all hell.

Cat just got up. Good. My legs were falling asleep and I need some noise. How about Kenickie’s Peel Sessions disc for good luck?

I’m feeling a bit stressed. Or maybe not stressed, maybe rushed. I have that feeling that my guts are moving at a faster speed than the rest of me. There has been some misunderstanding, and a book at Tokyopop that I thought I was taken off of so I could do Gravitation has now come back around, and they are in a pinch, so I can't say no, meaning I now have three books to do in the next six weeks, with this one--Man of Many Faces--being due next Friday. I thought Jake said I wasn’t doing it because it was too girly even for me. I think I am going to try to start Gravitation right now—which I was going to do tonight anyway—just to get a jump.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of contacts – if by some bizarre chance someone who reads this knows how to get through to Faye Wong’s people, I have an alternative American magazine interested in me doing a piece on Faye for an upcoming issue—about her music and about me being a North American, English-speaking fan. My e-mail is below. Help! So far, I’ve had no luck. Even just a direct contact to Sony Asia would be appreciated, as I've gotten no reply through their website.

Current Soundtrack: Kent, Isola (just moved forward to the next CD in the rack when refiling Kenickie, and thought it would be great to hear “If You Were Here”)


Sunday, January 26, 2003


The weekend was full of The Divine Comedy.

When the band announced their U.S. tour, they initially didn’t have Portland on their itinerary, so I made plans to visit my friend Christopher in Seattle and we could attend the show there. The Divine Comedy are a spectacular band, well worth the travel. I had only seen them once before, and it wasn’t really a "them"—bandleader Neil Hannon performed an acoustic solo set in the opening slot on the Ben Folds tour (talk about pearls before swine); therefore, this would be my first opportunity to see them as a band. (Though, the heyday of the string and brass sections are gone, this was just a quartet.) Besides, as good as the last performance was, it’s a bit rough seeing someone you really enjoy do a quiet set for a room packed with people who have zero interest in hearing what he has to say.

Thursday night down here was fun because it was extremely loose. They had only gotten off the plane from England a few hours before, and the boys were all pretty jetlagged. There were a lot of false starts and charming mistakes, as we got treated to a handful of hits and a handful of new material (a bit sub par lyrically, sounding like Hannon spent too much time in the faux-clever tour bus of Ben Folds). In contrast, Friday night was a lot tighter and featured some different songs, including a cover of “Daydream Believer” that worked out pretty well.

Friday night I was also able to witness two of the worst types of concertgoers in their natural environment.

First was the Attention Seeker. This is the guy who somewhere got the idea that his name is on the ticket. Tonight’s particular Attention Seeker was clearly brought to the show, he wasn’t in attendance out of any interest on his part. He was actually there with four women and one of their boyfriends, and the women seemed to really be into the music. Not that Attention Seeker cared. If no one was looking at him, he would tap one of his friends on the shoulder to relay to him or her the latest quip he had come up with. They tried protesting at times, but if even their dancing couldn’t deter him, why would a direct plea? And if they weren’t giving him his due, you could see him looking around to see if there was anyone else to make eye contact with. Because not talking was not something he was prepared to do.

The second was the Auditioner. The Auditioner is actually a fan. In fact, he’s a bit of an uber-fan. He’s the guy down front and center, right under the microphone, who knows every word. How do you know he knows every word? Because he is going to sing along and/or lip synch so dramatically that you can make out every lip curl, every tong thrust on the th sound, so that you can see just how white his teeth may be. He emotes like the member of the chorus of a musical who has heard there is a talent scout in the audience and figures it’s his one chance to be seen. And in this case, Neil Hannon made the grave error of acknowledging the guy’s existence between songs. It took several minutes for the Auditioner to be quieted down at that point, basically ending when Neil reminded him whose show it was (and no, it wasn’t the Attention Seeker’s, oddly enough). But that gave the Auditioner a chance to point back at Neil and give him that “You da man” wink. (Hilariously, it was the only pointing cue the Auditioner got right the whole show. Any time he would attempt to point at an appropriate moment of a song, he was off.) There was also a bit of irony when the Auditioner made fun of another fan for grabbing the set list. I guess since he and the singer shared a personal moment, he had surpassed the level of such geekery.

Current Soundtrack: The Divine Comedy, Fin de Siecle


Thursday, January 16, 2003


I feel like I am being showered by some strange karmic raspberry with the current situation with Pete Townshend. It’s been very disheartening. I am not sure I have ever been around to see someone I admired so much in such a horrible situation. His explanations sound perfectly reasonable, and the evidence will hopefully bear them out, but will it matter? Will anyone listen and accept that he wasn’t guilty of the crime he is accused of? There are already jokes, song parodies – this is the stuff talk show hosts and bad radio DJs dream of.

So what does this have to do with me? Why is it karmic?

Well, I believe O.J. killed his wife and her lover. He was acquitted. I believe Michael Jackson is guilty of doing inappropriate things with children. And He was never convicted. I make cracks about both of them without considering that these people have fans, too. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago I theorized to someone that being a Michael Jackson fan is a rough business, because there is a lot of weird shit you have to get behind, a lot of bizarre behavior you have to accept, to continue being his fan. I have a feeling those people can hardly enjoy Jackson’s music anymore without someone coming along and saying, “Dude, don’t let your son go down on me.” “That’s Elton John, you idiot, and those tabloid reports weren’t true about him, either.” “Shut up.”

It’s actually something you encounter as a Morrissey fan, too. People go out of their way to tell you what they think of Morrissey’s music for no other reason but some odd compulsion to tell you. It’s why at Dark Horse I found the most obnoxious Moz poster I could and put it on my wall, facing out to the hall. Even I wanted to hit him for how he looked in that photo. But I am off-topic…

Point is: Townshend is barely going to be able to take a step without some hearing joke about the true meaning of Tommy or “Pre-Teenage Wasteland.” And that’s sad--but do I have the right to condemn behavior I would have previously condoned and even engaged in because this time it’s someone I like?

On a lighter note: I already posted this on the Oni board, but Kelly Sue Deconnick has written the best review I have read in a long time in any category. Read it here. It’s for Colleen Coover’s Small Favors, a book I agree with Kelly Sue 100% on. Try it if you like that sort of thing (and yes, I realize it’s an odd book to recommend at the end of this post. Sue me.)

Current Soundtrack: Ms Dynamite, A Little Deeper


Wednesday, January 15, 2003


Miyuki-Chan in Wonderland is a wonderfully strange book. About 100 pages in length, it’s essentially a collection of non sequiturs. Each chapter doesn’t remotely relate to the previous, except hapless Miyuki laments that she has unknowingly stumbled into another mishap. Each chapter is simply her tumbling through the rabbit hole or into the looking glass and into some oddly sexual alternate world, where she is terrorized into losing her clothes before she wakes up back home. My favorite is when she ends up playing strip mah jongg. There is something wonderfully absurd about it.

The funny thing is, though, it never gets very dirty. There is a goofy, erotic innocence to the book. While you might see some lingerie, or Miyuki will feel the sting of a dominatrix’s whip, there is no nudity and no real sex. I adore when Miyuki cries because now that the evil women of Wonderland have removed her clothes, she won’t be able to wear white to her wedding. It seems a bizarrely Western convention to find in a silly Japanese softcore comic.

I am eager to get back to The Everlasting now that I am ahead on my manga. Christine Norrie turned in Cheat in penciled form and I just love it, I am heels over head for it. When my friends do their romance comics, they make me want to dig into my romance novels, and Christine in particular makes me want to go deep and find the real, heart-breaking stuff. The final quarter of Cheat is just devastatingly emotional and I hope I can achieve a similar impact.


News! Tokyopop have added the last of my current assignments to their website. Gravitation. I think if you read the description, it's fairly obvious why I was chosen to do this. I am also kind of excited because it's going to be one of the first of a very different genre of manga to make it to North America--romance comics featuring all male characters, but written and drawn for girls to enjoy. I have a feeling a lot of its audience over here will be gay men, but there is something kind of cool about the idea of a comic with boys kissing purely for the pleasure of Japanese school girls.

Current Soundtrack: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Navigation: The OMD B-sides


Monday, January 13, 2003


Tip for anyone on blogger.com: Always type your post in a word document or something other than this window here, because if this damned service isn’t working, as it often seems not to be, when you go to post, if it comes up an error, you’re fucked. In other words, take 2:

As promised, here is my list of my Top Music of 2002. It’s the latest installment of my intermittent column, which used to be called Big Talk from The Smallest Face, but somehow seems to have been changed to the rather mundane Big Talk when James redesigned the Oni sight last year.

Last week I had to bang through Clamp School Detectives rather quickly. It may have been the fastest I have done any of the manga, and being the first volume, there was no time to get my feet wet. I had a hard time really getting the voices of the boys, but once I decided to look at it as part of that British genre of boy detectives and see them as well-to-do English school kids, it fell into place. I had them speak properly, which the translation already suggested, only not going for English accents or slang. I played Akira as slightly less sophisticated, as if he were Watson and Nokoru was Holmes. Suo I considered a boy who sort of saw through the image that Nokoru/Holmes projected, but didn’t seem to mind letting it stand.

Now it’s on to Miyuki-Chan in Wonderland, which is short and should be fun. It has a gorgeous collection of color pin-ups up front that I hope they can reprint in the American edition. I also remembered that once Jake had me ask Paul Dini if he would be interested in doing the script; he didn’t have time, and it’s rather flattering to be the second choice after him. (Paul actually called today, and he had his assistant Nancy phone for him, which he rarely does, but I think he thought he was in a little bit of trouble. I made a joke about it that made Nancy laugh. I learned a long time ago that the key to Paul’s office was making Nancy laugh. Just don't tell him.)

My next Tokyopop assignment, which I will do while alternating Clamp School Detectives and Dukylon, will be my first non-CLAMP title in a while, so I am looking forward to it. I still love CLAMP, but I want to wander a bit. They haven’t announced the title yet, though, I don’t think, so I am not sure how much I can say.

Oh, the first Magic Knight Rayearth box set hits comics shops this week. It’s a really nice package. Definitely look for it. The reproduction slays the old editions.

Ever since I fell in love with F. Scott Fitzgerald, I’ve wanted his book All The Sad Young Men. It’s a short story book they don’t keep in print. While the stories are likely dispersed in other collections, it’s a shame not to be able to get a collection he put together. Plus, I’ve just always loved that title. It’s a jazz title, but it just seems to be the quintessential Fitzgerald name. I’ve always envied him getting it first. Anyway, there was a copy with no dust jacket on eBay yesterday, and I couldn’t decide whether to bid on it. It was at $60, but without the reserve having been met. I didn’t know if that was a good price—until today Chynna showed me a site where they sell out of print books, and the cheapest was $125 with no jacket. Damn it.

I did get in the mail today, though, the Wong Kar-Wai book for In the Mood for Love. It’s small, but fat, and comes in a neat slip case. Apparently it was very limited and available only in Hong Kong. It’s nothing but stills from the film. Lovely.

Current Soundtrack: Trash Can Sinatras, A Happy Pocket; Faye Wong, Lovers & Strangers


Friday, January 03, 2003


Welcome to the working year…

Okay, now it can be told. I went to China for a few days. You know me. International Man of Misery. Just hopped off to Asia on a lark. No serious. I did. I had some Christmas cash, and my friend Rebecca has been attending university there and has been asking me to come—I had motive and opportunity and just went. I didn’t publicize it beforehand because I get all paranoid about saying I am actually leaving the country. Like angry comics hooligans whose dreams I have shattered will come and kick in my windows and Sadie will have to defend the homestead. (She’ll win, mind you. I am the only champion who can best her.)

’s funny because people flipped out when they heard I was going and would only be there for three days. So much for spontaneity. Truth be told, the experience was pretty overwhelming, and I always feel that vacations are both too short and too long. This length seemed to work out okay. We saw a lot, but there is also a lot to see. Rebecca has been there four months and she says she still hasn’t seen it all. And obviously, yeah, not the whole country—we’re just talking Beijing. It’s massive. Yet, it may also be the only city in the world where, no matter where you are, you can hail a cab in under a minute. Every time.

We did some touristy things, like go to some Palaces (both Forbidden and Summer), and just took our time looking around the city. You learn pretty quick to adjust to the masses of people, and also to blow off anyone you don’t know coming up to you and saying in English, “It’s so nice to meet you.” While they could just be students looking to practice their language skills, it’s also often a scam. You’ll have a conversation and end up at a point where you discover they have an ulterior motive to talk to you. The common one seemed to be the art gallery they were preparing for a show in America, and they so wanted American opinions—which is all flattery to try to get you to buy art. One guy tried two poor techniques—first by assuming that we were Swedish because we were supposedly blonde, and then when Rebecca waved him off, grabbing my arm and saying, “You going to let the woman decide for you?” Yeah, dude, she’s got the money.

It was interesting seeing a bit of a New Year’s celebration in another country. It’s certainly not the drunken amateur night that we experience here. We actually ended up in a private room with some Uygher students at a Muslin restaurant. The Uygher are a people who live in Eastern Turkestan. They have splendid food, even if what we had was a Chinese approximation of it (sort of like how our Chinese food is an American approximation of Chinese food – you’ve never had Kung Pao chicken like the Kung Pao chicken I had over there). There was spicy lamb and potatoes, roasted dates, an amazing apple salad, soup – just a feast. They showed us some traditional dances, and generally kept us entertained. It’s a bit awkward to be in a room where you can only understand one of the three languages being used—and probably the one used the least. But I enjoyed myself immensely. (For more about the Uyghers, start here: http://www.uyghurinfo.com/.)

Oddly, I was in a plane and on my way back home before anyone in the states had entered 2003. Actually, even more oddly if you think about it, I left China at 9:30 in the morning on January 1st, and arrived at 10:30 in the morning on the same day. It was like I was in the sky for one really, really long hour. I did, though, nearly fill up my travel journal, which I started on my trip to England last Spring.

Overall, the Chinese experience was quite a whirlwind. In some ways, it seemed like a flurry of illegal DVDs and CDs, but really, what it ended up being was just one giant crowd that I got to wander through and observe. Beijing is a city of people unlike any other. It makes New York look like a rural hamlet. I enjoyed its sites, its food, and even got to see a wonderful acrobat show—and all with one of my best friends. Spontaneity worked out.

Of course, now I am a little jet lagged and a little behind. I need to get on Clamp School Detectives. I need to start rolling on some Oni work. I need to do my new editorial for the Oni site and update my site.

Soon. Just a little more sleep.

Current Soundtrack: New Order, Retro (the “Pop” disc); Morrissey, Maladjusted