AND WHEN I START MY NEW LIFE I WON'T TOUCH THE GROUND
Blimey, whoever wrote these first 100 pages of The Everlasting is a total genius. I can only screw it up from here...
Current Soundtrack: Depeche Mode, Construction Time Again
A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.
SLEEPY HEAD GET OUT OF BED, THE BIG BAD WORLD IS CALLING
I can't help but imbue my life with pop music symbolism, so first thing this morning I played Suede's "...morning" and The Primitives' "Outside," songs about new days and sunshine. I opened the blinds and stretched in the overcast light that tumbled in through my windows, mug of coffee in hand. The cat didn't even bother to wake up this morning, so settled into our new life of leisure is she. Previously, I guess it was in her best interest to get out of bed and squeeze some attention into those bits of time before work. Now she has me all day, so what does she care?
Friday was anticlimactic. The last day of a job is usually overrun with a sense of "Why did I even come in today?" There is no mad dash of unfinished work, no overwhelming emotion--everyone usually has settled into the idea by that point, particularly when you've given a lot of notice. James gave me a lovely bottle of scotch, since I had joked that I was going to spend the weekend drunk amongst a pile of DVDs. And I must admit it made Tokyo Drifter nearly impossible to follow. Not that it wasn't already pretty scattered. Or that I wasn't.
So, now time lays out before me completely willing and ready to be taken advantage of, and if there is any fear, it's that I won't know what to do with it. Will we discover once and for all that I was kidding myself, that I don't have what it takes? No one would tell me I was one of those guys that I'd make fun of, the sort that sent submissions to me that clearly had no business ever doing anything creative? I've read more bad pitches about nerds looking for love than you can imagine, and at some point, I could no longer avoid asking, "Is this me? Am I as blind to my lack of talent as this guy?!?!"
We shall see. A holiday is also a weird day to start things off on...but first order of business is reading over what I've got for The Everlasting, refresh my notoriously bad memory. (I quickly forget things I read and write; I've been known to self-plagiarize simply because I didn't remember writing a line the first time.)
And for the record, I haven't gone 100% slovenly. I shaved today. Then again, I'm also not wearing pants.
Current Soundtrack: The Primitives, Pure
JUNK OF THE HEARTS
It went smoother this time. It was nice actually having an editor, having some direction, rather than stumbling through it blindly. The writing is cleaner and more in tune with what the Tokyopop novel line will end up being.
And I did some unexpected writing this week for the Too Much Hopeless Savages trade paperback, due in August from Oni. Christine Norrie and I were brainstorming ideas, and we stumbled on a good one for a two page strip--the first page serving as the intro to the story, the second as an afterword. She will draw, and I get to play Alfred Hitchcock.
The other unexpected item of the week is the new Cardigans record, Long Gone Before Daylight. Sweden's finest have returned to the fray quietly, and what they've come back with is entirely unexpected.
This is not the cocktail pop that made them famous. Gone is the happy face in the midst of heartache; now the heart is on the sleeve. Gone are the breezy rhythms, and just about everything that made up the cliche of the Cardigans sound. What they've come back with is more slide guitar, some Southern rock inflections, Mazzy Star without the doilies. From the get go, "Communication," I was in love. Nina Persson's voice is full of pain and defiance without being over-emotive or showy. It's all so simple, all so direct, as she she sings over a soft rhythm about a lover who just can't be straight with her. It's tragic and redemptive, broken and standing tall.
Things continue apace from there. The single, "You're The Storm," follows--love as war, love as uncontrollable weather. A soaring chorus. Gene's "Fighting Fit" recast for windswept plains ("Fighting Fit" being my ultimate song for sexual fervor, and why it's been referenced for the second time in as many record reviews here).
And that's just the first two tracks. It's all this good. It's all surprising and special and something oh so new. Where did this come from? And does it matter? Because this is certainly going to be one of my favorite records this year.
Current Soundtrack: The Cardigans, Long Gone Before Daylight
BE MY ICON
Four slags past their prime and Nick Rhodes
The fourth installment of "Can You Picture That?" is now up, having previously been delayed by the scheduling conflicts of other columns. Its focus is two DVD releases of old Duran Duran material (shall we say, "vintage"?) and the newest Faye Wong romantic vehicle, Leaving Me Loving You.
Special Confessions Duran2 Bonus: I recently rediscovered their Medazzaland album. When it came out in 1997, I had written it off as their worst album, starting fine and then tumbling off into nothing by the end. I think this was largely down to the bile I had for "Electric Barbarella," which was hailed as a comeback, even though I still think it's the worst single they've ever released, a self-parody that they tried to dress up in retro futurism. I must say, though, with several years of space between myself and the last listen, I find myself really liking Medazzaland. The front half is a glam rock album, and the back half is actually analogous to Bowie's Berlin period. "Out of My Mind" should have been a big hit, and "Who Do You Think You Are?" is a buried treasure worth digging up. Give it a second chance, if you're so inclined. Just skip track 3. (And the album cover, which is an all-time low for the band.)
Gravitation volume 6 is in comics shops this week, and so I imagine is already in bookstores (though, not on Amazon for some reason). I am starting volume 9 next week, so they're catching me. Also in stores tomorrow is the trade collection of Scooter Girl, which I am very proud of. (Click on the pic above to order from the Oni store.)
You can also now order Grosse Pointe Girl, a new novel about female adolescence by my friend Sarah Grace McCandless, with illustrations by Christine Norrie, a total Hon. Amazon says it ships in 24 hourse, and you can actually read my review of the previous--slimmer, with no drawings--edition here.
I find it amusing that my old employer (and, technically, current on a freelance basis) Dark Horse is going into prose publishing. Even moreso that the current press release doesn't indicate who the author is of their first book. We know who is writing the screenplay, though. Read into that what you will.
Current Soundtrack: Duran Duran, Medazzaland; Blur, The Best of Blur
YOU MADE ME FORGET MY DREAMS
So, Andrei Rublev--a film made with a painter's hand about a painter. A film made in Communist Russia in the 1960s about an artist and monastic man in Russia amidst political and religious upheaval centuries before. And under this umbrella of creativity, the message that emerges is that man turns against man because the Powers That Be--God or government or even the demands of our own body--distract us and cause us to forget we're actually all in this together, that the haves are outnumbered by the have-nots and that will always remain so as long as they keep us fighting amongst ourselves. And one of those ways is by telling artists to create work that supports our innermost fears--be they religious paintings depicting hellfire and damnation, or films that support the whitewashed Soviet ideal.
No wonder the Russian government tried to ban it. And once again, 2004 is no different from 1966 than that year was from 1366.
Current Soundtrack: Belle & Sebastian, Lazy Line Painter Jane EP
I finished the first draft of the second Clamp School Paranormal Investigators novel at 2 a.m. this past Tuesday (or, Monday, as it feels, as I had not hit the sack when I hit "save" for the last time on the file). It's due a week from today, so I should be able to give it a couple of reads by then, tweak it, rewrite where I can. The same day will be my last day in the Oni office, as what was to be my last day is both a Monday and a holiday--should have checked that ahead of time. I plan to--or at least jokingly plan to--load up on sake and spend the weekend drunk on my floor with a stack of DVDs. I firmly believe in relaxing before moving on. (As opposed to this weekend, where I have to watch a couple of things to finish off the next "Can You Picture That?" due on Tuesday.)
I won't be writing about the passing of my editorial career in this forum. My blog has never really been the place for that anyway (enough of that at the Oni forum). I have a long interview due, as mentioned before, and that will be my last word for quite a while.
Speaking of, the second Comic Book Idol starts soon. Read about it here. I am not a judge this year, but I will be involved as a writer contributing to the assignments. My judging last year, you may recall, led to myself and Patrick Scherberger collaborating on this.
I finished reading Nancy Mitford's Love In A Cold Climate yesterday. I got off the morning bus with ten pages to go, and had to sit down at the bus bench and kill it off. I was too close.
I loved it, but not as much as The Pursuit of Love. A lot of that was down to their being no character to compare with Linda. The narrator of both volumes, Fanny, still has an enticing voice, but her subjects, the coldly glamorous Polly and the overbearing fop Cedric, just don't have the same appeal. Once again, it's Fanny I'm really wanting to fawn over. There is a simple directness to her, and yet the feeling that there is much more that we have yet to discover--especially suggested by her insights and mode of expressing them. She is unassuming and people protest her own efforts to play down her charm, and I can’t help but want the mirror to be turned around on her. (This apparently does happen in the next book, Don't Tell Alfred.)
I am already into my next reading assignment: the advance reading copy of A Gentlemen's Game: A Queen & Country Novel by Greg Rucka, to be published by Bantam in October. As most of your probably know, Queen & Country is an espionage comic series that Greg publishes through Oni. So, I am excited to dig into it as both a fan of Greg's and as someone who has seen the characters flourish from their earliest stages.
So far, only 40 or so pages in, it's already some of Greg's tightest prose, certainly the best since my favorite of his books, Shooting At Midnight. His work is efficient and economical without losing a sense of fancy for language. Working with British characters has allowed Greg to have a little more fun with his approach, getting his typing fingers all tangled in the intricacies and cleverness of that culture’s approach to words (though, at times, maybe too much: should I really have to go look up a word that means "stamp collecting"?).
If the prose itself remains this much of a pleasure, the quality of the plot itself--a terrorist threat in London that the Minders have to put a stop to--is going to be a moot point if A Gentlemen's Game is this crisp throughout. With Rucka, though, I think there is always a point of no return with his books, somewhere about a quarter in where everything takes off, and they become impossible to put down.
The new PJ Harvey Uh Huh Her isn't an easy listen. It's sparse and rough, like Rid of Me, but with the same loose approach to song structure as Is This Desire?. It's a different sort of album, one that requires a little work on the part of the listener, and though I can't honestly say how much I love it yet, the fact that I want to put the work into it that Polly Jean asks of me, that speaks volumes.
Current Soundtrack: Low, Murderer EP; Ash, Meltdown
LET ME KISS YOU
Another favorite blog of recent times is Maryanne Snell's 100 Books. It's just that: her quest to read 100 books. I have bought at least one book based partially on her recommendation, tremendous Hon that she is.
Oh, Morrissey, try not to look so desperate for attention.
CLAMP Paranormal Investigators volume 2 is progressing. My work days have been averaging starting at 8 am at Oni and ending at 1 am on the laptop. My social life--such as it was--is ground to a halt. I even have to skip one of Randy Bowen's fantastic poker games.
Current Soundtrack: Alfie, Do You Imagine Things?
THE INTENSE HUMMING OF EVIL
War is on everyone's minds these days. Supposedly people support what is going on in Iraq, but I don't really know many--meaning that either this support isn't really there and we're just told it is, or I travel in an isolated circle. Right now, of course, there is a big controversy surrounding how a certain amount of our soldiers treated Iraqi prisoners, engaging in torture and humiliation that is appalling to anyone who has a heart in their chest (or, at the least, took high school gym). To be honest, though, the acts themselves are less shocking to me than people being shocked that stuff like this happens. It's a war. We are sending thousands of people to go kill thousands of others. Human beings cross the lines of what is right and just when they aren't in extreme conditions; when we put them in extreme conditions, can we expect every single one to restrain themselves from going over that line in equally extreme ways? Yes, it's wrong, it's contemptible, I think the soldiers and their commanding officers should be tried as war criminals, and I think Rumsfeld shouldn't have to resign, because he should be fired (and for those who agree, sign this petition John Kerry has going). I'm just not shocked that people can stoop to some pretty fucked up lows.
I think history tends to support me. I am guessing just about every war has similar atrocities. I watched two films on war today, and they suggest so. In Errol Morris' Fog of War, a documentary on Robert S. McNamara, the Secretary of Defense through the first chunk of the Vietnam War, we see archival footage of a soldier in Vietnam loading a bomb with the words "Only The Beginning" scrawled on the side. Certainly not electricity to the testicles, but isn't this how that sort of thinking starts?
And for that kind of torture, Gillo Pontecorvo's 1965 film, The Battle of Algiers, alleges that the French used similar tactics to get Algerian rebels to inform on their compatriots. In one montage, Col. Mathieu (played by Jean Martin) escalates what he calls Operation Champagne to ferret out the leaders of the revolutionary movement and we see the sorts of things that his soldiers engage in under the banner of "interrogation"--heads under water, men trussed up, electrodes attached to ears. I imagine in 1965 the scene of Mathieu lying in a press conference when asked directly if torture is used was scandalous; today, it feels like your normal everyday occurrence.
Pontecorvo's movie is heralded for its historical accuracy, and Rialto's re-release couldn't be better timed. The Battle of Algiers is extremely relevant to today, as we see a people tired of having a foreign army occupying their streets resort to the only measures available to them. At one point, a terrorist is asked why he feels it is morally acceptable to smuggle weapons in the baskets of the Algerian women. He states rather plainly that he wonders if it is more acceptable to napalm villages from an airplane. If so, then if the French would like to give them some planes, they would gladly start using them rather than leave bombs in cafes. (And, of course, we see what people at the time did not: the violence escalated when some pumped-up French officers left a bomb on the doorstep of an Arab apartment building in the middle of the night, killing everyone inside. The soldiers on the winning side have never been the bullies, eh? Supposedly "civilized" nations have never resorted to terrorism, either.)
The genius stroke of The Battle of Algiers is that Pontecorvo doesn't editorialize. Sure, it's clear whose side he is on, but he never has a character proselytize on his behalf to make sure we get that. The action of the rebels is enough. The closest he gets to commentary is with Mathieu. Naming the operation off a billboard points to the opulence of the imposing power, and there is the irony of his defending his actions by tossing out the fact that he fought in the resistance against the Nazis, never once seeing he is now the one to be resisted. (Overall, you wonder if the French government ever noted that it wasn't that long ago that they, too, ousted rulers they no longer wanted to serve in their own Revolution. Does the U.S. government ever consider that when they take over another country?)
In the end, it's hard not to watch The Battle of Algiers and think about how long the Arab world has been fighting to maintain its independence, been dealing with outside racism and forces that don't understand how they live. Their world and the Western world are totally at odds, and it's going to be a rough road bringing the two together. The April 2004 Vanity Fair has a heart-wrenching article about the Muslim population of Paris, and the women who want to break out of the ghettos and have a secular life full of choices and freedom, and how the French government and media are ignoring these problems. I read it and wondered how there could be anyone who could not see how wrong all of this was. But those people do exist, and the fundamental difference in thinking is not a gap we can traverse through war.
A belief I am confident in saying Robert S. McNamara would easily back me up on. In Fog of War, he states clearly that he believes the U.S. to be the most powerful nation in the world, and as a result, we should never impose our views through violence. If we can't deal with any problem with any foreign government rationally and through negotiation, if we have to resort to fighting and economic sanctions, then we, as a power, have failed.
Keep in mind that this is a man who helped establish a program to train WWII officers at Harvard, who helped devise the strike plan for firebombing Japan, who aided Kennedy in averting the Cuban Missile Crisis, and tried to assist two Presidents in Vietnam, all the time advocating that we needed to get the hell out of the conflict. I remember seeing a trailer for this film and someone hissed when McNamara came on, but all were silent when the trailer ended with him saying flat out, "We were wrong." This is a man who was against killing, and has pondered questions that we can only imagine in the abstract and put them into action, such as "How much evil must you do in order to do some good?"
Perhaps the most chilling thing he says, in addition to saying a power such as ours should never instigate foreign conflict, is that none of our allies felt we should be in Vietnam (including the French, who knew what it was like, having been a former colonial power there), and for that reason alone we should not have entered the War. Sound remotely familiar?
Morris breaks McNamara's philosophy down into 11 lessons. The final one is that you can't change human nature. I think that's clear in how we're seeing history repeat. Our leaders, the segment of soldiers abusing their power, the people who are fighting back--all exhibiting a human nature we have seen over and over again.
I wish hey would run these two movies repeatedly on TV every night until everyone gets it. Barring that, Fog of War is out on DVD this week. The Battle of Algiers is doing the art-house rounds right now, and will be out on a 3-disc Criterion DVD in the fall.
Interesting aside: a woman came into the video store to rent the VHS of The Battle of Algiers. She said we were the only store in Portland that had. The other two stores like ours had reported they had it at one time, but that the tapes had all been stolen. No one knew why. And now it's three or so weeks later and last I saw she hadn't returned it. Is it some kind of conspiracy?
Current Soundtrack: JJ72, I To Sky
AND HE STOLE ALL HEARTS AWAY
Okay, I got this ready faster than I thought I would. Note that it was mainly written as I listened, just jotting down the thoughts as the album rolled by--though, truthfully, probably the tenth or so time I've listened to it since yesterday.
"America Is Not The World": What's this? An intro that sounds exactly like Primal Scream's cover of "Slip Inside This House" and Moz telling me to shove a hamburger up my ass? Where the hell am I? Actually, though those things are true, this isn't a bad track. A bit lackluster for us to open with, and the politics are muddled and a tad ham fisted--but not awful (not, say, "Sorrow Will Come In The End," still the lowest of the low). "Meat Is Murder" was always a tricky bit of business. The message was pretty straightforward, but abstract enough to make it work; whereas the currently unreleased "Mexico" was a little too clumsy in its open-faced opinions. "America Is Not the World" falls somewhere in the middle, and I imagine if it had the rough delivery of a James Dean Bradfield or the shout of a Joe Strummer, it might work. But as presented, it's a bit limp. Unlike, say...
"Irish Blood, English Heart": ...which, as noted in an earlier post, has a backing track with a lot of drive, and the message gets propelled by the force of it--or, if one doesn't want to care about Labour or Tories, then they have a pop song to shuffle mindlessly to. This is where "America Is Not The World" fails: as a song in general, it's basically mediocre. "Irish Blood" is where You Are The Quarry starts good and proper.
"I Have Forgiven Jesus": There is a good sense of humor at work here that shouldn't be missed. In some ways, it's the sort of woe-is-me Morrissey number that gets him labeled as this dour, wilting flower. But you have to see the wink in a song sung to Jesus about how our narrator has come to terms with the fact that our creator didn't make us better. Nice organ flourishes balance out the tired device of counting off the days of the week, and the final minute where everything climbs to a big racket ("do you hate me? do you hate me?") isn't to be missed.
"I'm Not Sorry": Jethro Tull can burn in hell. There's a goddamn flute on this! And, okay, I'll admit, it's actually all right. I mean, Tarantino proved Zamfir even has a good song, right? Another long narrative and a nice companion piece to "Camden."
"The World Is Full of Crashing Bores": And Morrissey's mouth is full of long titles. This was always a bit eh on the live recordings that floated around, but Moz and producer Jerry Finn seemed to have found the lilting melody, tossing in the random piano, layered arrangements (a hint of strings?), and suddenly I can feel the acolytes sweaty and packed in, swaying in unison, declaring they, too, are boring. Morrissey's final refrain of "take me in your arms and love me" is full of honest romantic longing, and the little outro tacked on the back is quite cool.
"How Can Anyone Possibly Know How I Feel": Even if I can dig the sentiment, this isn't Morrissey's best lyric. It's a lot of "if you think this positive thing, then you must be this negative thing," and in the end, I'd almost tag it as a B-level Kill Uncle track. Not all bad, though. There is a neat call-and-response bit near the end of the third quarter, and it has one of those chugging train guitar riffs that Boorer and Whyte are particularly good at.
"First of the Gang To Die": Morrissey film noir. The obvious single, and where Finn's crystalline production really comes through. I can hear every guitar noodle, the drums rattle the cages, and the backing vocals on the chorus are rock 'n' roll heaven. The tune has always been great, but the chorus now has an excellent chant-along feel, like a leather boy anthem. And when Morrissey sings his "You have never been in love" lines, I get that gorgeous heart swell that I should get when I hear pop music. A good pop song should make you get the chills of puppy love. And you can never hate a Mozzington "a-hey a-hey." Even Buddy Holly is jealous.
"Let Me Kiss You": This was also recorded by Nancy Sinatra, and is intended to be her single, unless I'm mixed up. It's like a section of "Late Nite, Maudlin Street" recast as a come-on ballad. There is a bit of a dance shuffle to the beat, and maybe my favorite piano line on the album. Not the best, but I wouldn't kick it out of bed.
"All The Lazy Dykes": Brett Anderson sold his "bored housewife" concept on eBay, and Moz bought it. He's added a whole "you're really gay" element to it, but I worry about any lesbian song that has imagery like "indigo burns on your arms." It's like Stan from South Park mishearing what CD he should buy to be a gay woman. Okay, I'm being cheeky, because I like this song. There is a nice ambience to it, electro squiggles rolling around behind acoustic guitars. There is longing and self-doubt, an element of alluring danger (the gang from "Asian Rut" now lesbians trying to pull you into their world). If nothing else, it proves he still has a knack for narratives from the outside looking in. But he should have called it "Sappho Spawned A Monster."
"I Like You": This song used to be a silly wimp, but I think it's been working out. Garage band drumming, Casio keyboards, and a new Moz who is going to be forceful about how he feels. Gene's "Fighting Fit" dressed up in a cardigan, but still ready to get it on; Roddy Frame-style mixed metaphors of politics and love. "You're not right in the head, and nor am I, and this is why" also ends up making the "How Could Anyone..." lyrical "you love me, you must be crazy" approach seem all the more clumsy. (And hey, for the record, I like you too, you big lug. Shucks.)
"You Know I Couldn't Last": I'm a little done with Morrissey taking on his critics. He doesn't need to, obviously, and he did it so well on "Speedway," the cap is on. But...damnit, this is really good. The soft singing over the piano makes it feel like he's pulling me aside to confide in me, like the idol in "Paint a Vulgar Picture" has grabbed the fan and showed him the other side, the loneliness and the exploitation. When the chorus kicks in, the loud guitars going mad, and the wails of "Please take me home," I'm compelled to utter, "Okay...you don't mind a futon, do you?" Whereas "America Is Not The World" started us off on a near bum note, "You Know I Couldn't Last" takes us out on a high. The lights are on in the arena--Morrissey reaches out, we reach back. Good night, and thank you.
(Let's consider for a moment how good Morrissey is at ending an album: "Margaret On the Guillotine," "Tomorrow," "Speedway," and "Satan Rejected My Soul" more than make up for "Tony the Pony" and "Southpaw.")
Current Soundtrack: Uh...duh.
COMES AS NO SURPRISE
Yesterday was a good day. Despite being home sick with stomach troubles (I haven't been pooping well). Yesterday, the new Morrissey album leaked in full (I take it with clear conscience, having already bought the vinyl and planning to purchase the CD/DVD package on day of release), and Brett Anderson performed his solo debut since leaving Suede. Four songs done at a wedding for Dutch royalty--three Suede tunes backed by an orchestra, and one new one. Funnily enough for the opening song at a wedding performance, Brett chose a number called "Love Is Dead." I can say if this is anything to judge by, any fears about his going solo have been put to rest. "Love Is Dead" is a Scott Walker-style ode to sadness, with Brett singing with big, floating melodies with an open throat (and, should be noted, less of a dirge than a lot of Walker). Whatever he was searching for, this thing he calls his "demon," he seems to have found it, even if ends up being that way for just four-and-a-half minutes (hey, every guy who goes solo usually gets a good one the first time).
(A review of You Are The Quarry will come in another post, though I will say except for an occasional misstep, it's quite marvelous.)
Dead is Love
Yesterday I also turned in my short comic script to Scott Allie (as alluded to in a previous entry). It's for the third horror anthology in his Hauntings series (published by Dark Horse). It's coming out I think in the fall and is The Dark Horse Book of the Dead. I am doing an original Japanese fairy tale--samurais, water spirits, and zombies. Weird stuff for me, and I was surprised when Scott asked me, but he said he wanted me to do the things that make me unique, which he felt would stand apart from the rest of the book. I said, "I don't want to parody myself. I don't want to do teenagers in love or undead rock musicians." He laughed and said, "No, I don't see you as that. I want something emotional, something with heart. I want to offset the gore." It was a great way to get me started, and what we ended up with is strange and romantic and I think pretty good.
It was actually pretty tough finding the right voice. I had to invent a narrative device to help me impart information quickly, and the fairy tale aspect allowed me to shorthand complex emotion to get straight to it (eight pages doesn't leave a lot of room for puffery). The good news is that Guy Davis is drawing it and Dave Stewart is coloring it, so even if I am the fat boy at prom, I'll be wearing a nice tux. The even better news is that Scott and Guy really liked it, and we're a go!
I'm really spoiled. My past comics work has been illustrated by Chynna Clugston-Major and Patrick Scherberger, and my next two stories are Guy Davis and Andi Watson. How am I going to take it when I get saddled with whoever is drawing Green Lantern in a given month?
Thursday I finished reading Mary S. Lovell's The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family. In a word: swoon.
Lovell's greatest achievement in this book is showing us a portrait of a family that in one generation stepped out of the ordinary into the extraordinary, giving us a vivid look at each sister and the complexity of their personalities, all the contradictions and the nuances that make them real people (and by many accounts the opposite of what the girls disliked in previous biographies; they were shown for their extreme politics, but the grace and humor were cast aside). For instance, you adore Decca at one moment for her dedication and humor, and hate her the next for her inability to see when she was being stubborn and cruel. It's amazing that the sisters were all so extremely unique, and yet so alike. Everyone went off in different directions to distinguish themselves--and some of them, like Pam and Debo, were resigned to being normal as the only way to stand apart--and yet were so clearly Mitford in how they approached life with a gentle tease and a slightly askew glance.
What impressed me most, though, was how much all of the Mitfords stood by the courage of their convictions. They were unashamed of being themselves. Even though Diana's fascist leanings are not very agreeable (particularly in hindsight), I completely admire that she refuses to apologize just because it might be fashionable to do so. It allows her critics to label her "unrepentant," but frankly I'd rather rail against the fascism of thinking that says she must repent at all. Certainly her way is much more honest.
Of anyone, though, I identify most with Nancy. The unsuccessful romantic with the sharp tongue, who couldn't resist a good dig and often got into trouble for it, and who followed many a lost cause of the heart.
I need to figure out a way to work into one of the Scott family stories a line about how in their perfect literary world, Zooey Glass married Nancy Mitford. Or perhaps not to mix the literary with the real, Linda from The Pursuit of Love.
Finally, I'm starting to make good progress on Clamp Paranormal Investigators #2--or, I was, until I spent way too much time this morning piddling around with my journal!
Current Soundtrack: Morrissey, You Are The Quarry; One Dove, Morning Dove White; and, I admit it, I'm currently watching the last episode of Friends, because even though I didn't watch the last two seasons, I watched the first eight, and I don't actually care what you think so why am I explaining? Go fuck yourself. :)
THE MATINEE IS MINE
One of the fun things about working in the video store is that we have to pick five movies each month that will be our personal recommendations to our customers. And since we all know how much I like to share my opinions, it's particularly easy for me. My May picks are:
*Absolute Beginners, dir. Julien Temple
*Charade, dir. Stanley Donen, starring Audrey Hepburn
*The Cranes Are Flying, dir. Mikhail Kalatozov
*Happenstance, featuring Audrey Tautou
*Heaven, dir. Tom Tykwer from a script by Kiewslowski, starring Cate Blanchett
There is only a loose theme there. I tried to go with stuff that was somewhat romantic. Last month, I went with contentious couples:
*In The Mood For Love, dir. Wong Kar-Wai
*La Notte, dir. Michelangelo Antonioni, starring Jeanne Moreau
*Quartet, dir. James Ivory
*Scenes From a Marriage, dir. Ingmar Bergman
*Two For The Road, dir. Stanley Donen, starring Audrey Hepburn
Current Soundtrack: The Roots of Tommy, a compilation of Who influences from Uncut magazine
THE NEVER-PLAYED SYMPHONIES
The Morrissey quest eventually worked out. Hopped off the bus on the way home and hit Borders, and I got the only copy they had. I almost missed it. It's a thin, cardboard sleeve, and it was just filed in with his other discs.
I have to say, I'm rather pleased. The whole 4-song EP clocks in at under 12 minutes, which means no fluff. In and out with zero fuss. The A-side proves to be a better lead each time I hear it, its propulsive melody ringing on even after it's been rung out. "It's Hard To Walk Tall When You're Small" is another rocker, and Morrissey plays with shifting rhythms, switching up his phrasing as if climbing and descending criss-crossing staircases. And "I can kill standing still, it's easy" are the best opening lines I've heard in some time.
"Munich Air Disaster 1958" is the weakest of the quartet. In some ways, it's almost like a sketch, an ambient bridge midway through the disc. Not bad, but not terribly memorable, which is fine as it makes way for the finest of the B-sides--the piano ballad "The Never-Played Symphonies." Morrissey comes off like a '60s torch crooner, singing of chances missed not with an overbearing melancholy, but almost a steely resolve. The song slowly builds, bringing in a string section, and then going out with a struck gong before a proper crescendo can take root--perfect. Thematically, it's another missed opportunity brought to life—literally, not metaphorically (to shake up the lyrics).
And I probably shouldn't dismiss "Munich Air Disaster 1958" completely. Lyrically, it hearkens back to "Suffer Little Children" for it's immersion in something real and tragic, as well as identifying with the victims. Overall, the lyrical content of this EP is defiant, heartfelt, and poetic without being bogged down by self-obsession. "Symphonies," which flashes forward to Moz reflecting on life from his death bed (a narrative moebius strip) is one of those nimble pieces where he balances between an all-encompassing anthem for the forlorn and the dangerously personal, like "Now My Heart Is Full" or "Nobody Loves Us." It's both a kiss-off and an embrace.
The next single is to be "First of the Gang To Die." It's a good choice, and though it would have been easy to play it safe when recording that track, since its performance on the last tour and his airing it out on the Craig Kilborn show makes it easily the most well-known of the new songs, the clip on Moz's official website, suggests they had fun with it. He let producer Jerry Finn introduce playful samples and abstract scribbles. I want to hear the whole thing, because I daresay they improved on it. (Guess I'll have to hold out two weeks for the album.)
Current Soundtrack: Prince, Musicology
I LOVE YOU (BUT YOU'RE BORING)
My last installment of my Oni website editorial column, Big Talk From The Smallest Face, is now online. My DVD column will continue, but now this will be the exlcusive home of me yelling and shaking my finger. (And Denny Haynes and I are working on an exit interview with me, to cap my editorial career, presuming Joe and James don't shoot me down in flames for shooting my mouth off!)
Out in the blogosphere, R. O'Donnell's is my current fave. He writes in a super-highway kind of style, going straight on without looking back, and convincing the reader to keep up just by his sheer confidence that you can.
I started volume 2 of what is now called CLAMP School Paranormal Investigators. I feel very much like I am starting back at square one, since the first time around I had no editor, and I am sort of the pioneer of this division of Tokyopop. I am adapting my manuscript format and some of my style to the editor's wishes in order to meet her goals for the line. Unfortunately, no time for me to personally look over the rewrites on #1, so what will eventually hit stands will be a combination of myself, the editor, and the original text. Should be interesting. (I also have read a bit of Kelly Sue's first Slayers volume, and I'm impressed by her ability to work the manic comedy of that series into prose.)
Of course, I started this at 11:30 pm last night. Normal schedule right now is into the Oni office between 8 and 8:30 am, leave between 4:00 and 5:00, the video store at 6:00, off at 10:00...and now hopefully hammering away at the CLAMP novel after a little chill time so I can meet the end of the month deadline. The gym is on hold depending on how that works, since the extra hour of sleep (I normally work out first thing in the morning) will be crucial for me not killing my office mates.
Oh, and Ai Yori Aoshi volume 3 is out this week. And the Morrissey single is out today, not that I have any involvement with it, but I have been to three stores and called around and only Borders has it, so I need to howl into the cultural void. Portland, you are lame.
Current Soundtrack: Tindersticks, Working for the Man, disc 2