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

Friday, April 28, 2006


Permanent Records is a year-long project. Each Friday (or thereabouts), I will post a new entry about one specific album, chosen due to its significance to myself as a fan. Though the list is numbered, a particular record's placement should not be considered a ranking. There will be 52 albums in all.

This endeavor is based on a concept started by Chris Tamarri at Crisis/Boring Change. It has since been expanded as a concept, as Neal Shaffer takes on a study of album covers over at Leftwich.

Personnel: John Wesley Harding, vocals/acoustic guitar; Greg Leisz, guitars; John Leftwich, bass; Ephrain Toro, drums and percussion; Steve Berlin, organ and various horns; Chris Cavacas, pump organ; Scott Mathews, John Rubin, & Andy Paley, additional vocals
Producer: Steve Berlin/ Label: Sire/Reprise

Historically speaking, the last five years have not been so great for America. I'm not going to couch this in apologetic language or emphasize that this is an arguable opinion by adding indicators like "some people feel," because this entry is about speaking up and speaking plain. So, no bones here: our President is a bully, a villain, and a liar; his government is full of cheaters and crooks; our country has lost respect around the world, and economically, we seem to be sailing down the river Styx in a handbasket made for less than market value on the other side of the ocean. We're stuck in a war that looks increasingly unwinnable. Good men and women are being asked to fight it, and our leadership has pulled a fast one by convincing a good portion of the populace that the most despicable thing a person can do is point out that the powers-that-be aren't giving these soldiers the support and guidance they need to get out alive.

The state we're in is a real damn mess.

Some of us have tried not to take it lying down. We write about what we see as injustice, and we go to protests and call our congressmen and try to direct money to the right places when we can. I am sure there is more I could be doing, I have fallen down on the job more than once, but I've put my foot in and said I won't move. I have friends who have relatives in the war, and I want to see them returned to their families. I want to see George W. Bush and his cronies put things right and to answer for how they ignored things like the unsafe levees in New Orleans while listening in on our phone conversations.

Sadly, this is all I can do. I am just one of the little guys, and I've often sat and pondered with other little guys where all the big guys were. We try to get together and add ourselves up to a larger sum, but we could sure use a hand. For instance, where is all the protest music? Where is the subversive art? Are we so scared of the '60s that we aren't going to use popular entertainment to try to shape a dialogue? Sure, some people have spoken up, but the other side shouted them down. The common refrain is, "Who are these celebrities and this cultural elite to tell us what to think?" Well, I ask, since when is being elite a bad thing? Look it up, it means "the best or most skilled members of a given social group." I always thought the American Dream was that all of us could be part of the elite if we tried. If you want to see it as a snobbish few who think they're better than the rest of us, then how is Dick Cheney not tarred with the same brush? Where did Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity get their credentials to express their opinions, and how do their big salaries not make them separate from the common man? Since when have us big, bad, stubborn Americans become so weak-willed that we're scared of another person's opinion so much that we dare not let them express it lest we no longer know how to form our own?

It's all ridiculous. Art exists to reflect society, to inform it. So writers and actors and musicians are required to speak about what is happening, or they break the covenant they have with their supporters. At least they speak for themselves, which is more than can be said for the scripted commentators on cable news. So, God bless the select few who have spoken their minds--Sean Penn, the Dixie Chicks, Bright Eyes, Green Day, Margaret Cho--and refused to back down. But what's wrong with the rest of you? What kind of wimp do you have to be to let the Dixie Chicks have a stronger courage of their convictions than you? Madonna may have caved in like a paper house in a rainstorm after her American Life debacle, but at least she stood up. The other side of this argument has no problem saying what it thinks. Toby Keith has been cutting the American flag into dollar bills ever since 9/11, and no one ever asks who the hell he thinks he is. And if they did, he'd have the balls to say, "I'm Toby Keith, who the hell are you?"

Thankfully, the climate seems to have finally changed. Neil Young, for instance, is releasing an anti-war record precisely because he feels his peers have been quiet and meek for far too long. He hoped that the younger generation would rise up, but he can wait no longer and now must set an example. Bruce Springsteen has released an album of Pete Seeger covers that doesn't touch specifically on current issues, but it reminds us of a tradition of addressing injustice through music. Bob Dylan is apparently at work on a new record, too, one with political teeth. I am sure they will all meet with opposition, but then, that's the point of debate, isn't it? My history books always told me that our country exists because we weren't going to let tyranny steamroller over us and all views would be given voice.

I've been meaning to write this entry for some time now. I first opened this document back in February and set it aside as part of a handful of albums that I wanted to get to when the time was right. Back then, I wrote this intro:

Bob Dylan sang that the times, they were a'changin'. It's a sentiment that seems adorably naïve now, since it could be argued that they didn't change and maybe never will.

John Wesley Harding took his moniker from a Bob Dylan song, and though it certainly wasn't his intent to do so, his album Why We Fight kind of puts proof to my statement. Recording in response to the original Gulf War perpetrated by the original George Bush...

That's where I stopped. Everything else you're reading is brand new. Why did I wait nearly two months? I don't know. I guess my head was stuck in my own personal pile of shit, too busy rooting around in the detritus of my sappy emotion in search of some truffle of personal knowledge. I was going to make a point about how fourteen years ago a British transplant stood alone to show us how it was done and maybe we'd better take his cue, but now the zeitgeist has caught up with me.

And yet, there is still much we can learn from John Wesley Harding's protest record, and its eerie prescience is proof positive if we keep letting the governmental privileged get away with these shenanigans, they'll never stop until everything we believe in is gone.

As far as I know, no one else wrote music in opposition to Gulf War I. Hank Williams Jr. was the Toby Keith of his day, releasing some jack-assery about making camels run, but the skirmish was over and done so fast, Bush Sr. and his moneyed crew got away clean. While the general populace let itself be mesmerized by the rockets green glare on our television, Harding was paying attention to what else was going on. He chronicled his observations and made his third and most consistent album. Borrowing his title from Frank Capra's WWII documentary, the fight in Why We Fight is a one of civil discourse. We fight with words because if we don't, we'll lose the power to do so.

"Kill the Messenger" opens Why We Fight, perhaps a knowing nod on Harding's part to what he thought could happen to him. Read the first verse and tell me you wouldn't swear this was recorded last year:

"The messenger came with bad news from the front
Said 'The soldiers are starving and their swords are all blunt
They need a show of support or some futile sign
That's what they told me to tell you, not even the words are mine...'

The messenger came with bad news from the war
Said 'The fine young men forgot what they were fighting for
They don't wanna be stars on your TV screen
That's the general feeling, please don't blame it on me.

And, of course, the people he delivers the news to don't want to hear it. Bad news disrupts their good day. The whole scenario brings to mind soldiers questioning Donald Rumsfeld over the army's lack of proper equipment and then being dragged through the mud for it; of members of the White House staff insisting the worst thing any citizen can do is say the war isn't going well, because then somehow the terrorists win.

You have to remember, the original Gulf War is when the "Support the Troops" rhetoric was started as a way to keep people from questioning what was happening. It doesn't matter how many times someone points out that the best way to support our soldiers is to get them out of harm's way, this way of thinking refuses to die. It took guts to speak up. Yet, Harding's feet were planted squarely in the folk tradition (hmmm, that word again); that's what folks singers have always done. They've always been punished for it, too, and that theme continues on the album's best song, "The Truth."

In "The Truth," our troubadour is "arrested for disturbing the peace/ But, hey, I was disturbing the war...And they cut out my voicebox of course." Sung over an amiable acoustic twang and tambourine, Harding relates a narrative of a labyrinthine court system where guilt is presumed, and the corruption goes all the way to the top, where no one seems to see what's really going on. The citizenry applauds when he is convicted, and the TV news reports his crimes inaccurately. In this surreal, topsy-turvy world, everyone else is blind and the one-eyed man is shunned for his ability to see. The song's simple question, once again, is apt for 2006: "Where's the truth around here today?/ Where do fact and fiction separate?" When aluminum tubes can build nuclear weapons, when a terrorist attack can be used to justify regime change in a country that had no connection to that attack, when our President can tell us he will fire anyone in his employ who committed a crime but then fails to do so when they are caught and he may have even authorized said crime himself--just what the hell are we supposed to believe?

Harding wasn't punished for his efforts. In truth, Why We Fight passed by with little notice. That doesn't make the stance any less brave. Last I saw of Harding, when he played in Portland last year, he hadn't lost any of his courage. He spoke of the ills of Bush's America, knowing full well he might be told to go back to his own country--despite his longstanding residency in the U.S. What with the Patriot Act and other bureaucratic atrocities, it's probably more dangerous now than ever. I suppose he should count his blessings that he's a light-skinned immigrant, so he won't be as easy a scapegoat when Bush needs to pull a bait-and-switch.

It should be noted that not all of Why We Fight is straight up agitpop. As Harding's 2004 song "Protest Protest Protest" suggests, you can't be overly sincere all the time, and Why We Fight is a better album for being an all-around snapshot of the times, not just an anti-war record. "Kill the Messenger" and "The Truth" are as blatant as it gets. Yet, the other ten songs touch on the same sense of anxiety, the same sense that something isn't right. "Ordinary Weekend," for instance, is the first person story of a man desperate for work who resorts to desperate measures, only to discover the people promising to bail him out are only there to stab him in the back. It may have a film noir feel, but it could also be read as allegory for life amongst an oppressive regime.

In fact, there is a sense of noir throughout, the tropes of black-and-white crime movies used as a metaphor for shady dealings in the halls of government. (Even the back cover evokes Sunset Boulevard with the musician floating face down in a pool, making this the second in this series to do so.) "Where The Bodies Are" is from the point of view of a killer with a secret, and yet it's also about a society where bad is being done and no one can exactly say where. "Some people don't wanna know/ The facts behind the scam," he sings, once again noting our ability to turn away from what we'd rather not acknowledge. "To notice pointless death's become/ A brand new way of life." And a decade before Abu Graib, we'd have thought nothing of the lyrics "Pain's too difficult to prove/ They're not going to make pain illegal/ To think that we were once naïve;" now they seem as undeniable as stark photographs of torture.

"Get Back Down" is a jaunty rocker about living in a state of denial ("You're so high on higher purpose/ You don't know what you've lost"), and similar feelings of futility infuse a poignant throbbing into the wistful ballad "Into the Wind," though the song offers us the ability to carry on, vain or no ("'We have love to burn/ If it burns into the wind'"). And despite the political climate, Harding does not forget the politics of the personal that made his previous records so insightful. "Me Against Me" and its chronicle of self-destruction rates with earlier songs like "The Person You Are" and "You're No Good."

Still, as I noted in my assessment of "Into the Wind," Harding isn't ready to give up on humanity yet. "Ordinary Weekend" has a set of lines that serve as a rallying cry (even if there is a dark coda immediately after):

"So hear you desperate women and hear you desperate men
Don't take you life for granted
Don't live your life in vain

This idea is given full flesh in the album closer, "Come Gather Round." Wes makes one last attempt to gather all sides in one place, be they ones who are willing to come out for the rally or just stay home and watch it on TV. Far less a hippy-dippy come together than the idea of smiling on your brother and loving one another, it's a cynical finger pointing at those who can't muster up the gumption, from the music industry rife with "rich kids trying hard to be sincere" to the liars on the throne, be it the seat of power or behind a news desk. It's shot through with a belief that in the end, people won't take it, and Harding sums it up best in the big finale:

"Come all you desperate rebels and hang your heads in shame
For those who live in self-contempt with just themselves to blame
And for those who can, who do nothing, and those who can't, who succeed
To cry out 'bloody murder' the moment that they bleed...

It's a warning straight out of Dante: to have the power and the means, but yet still sit back and let it all happen, is the worst sin imaginable.

We've hit the breaking point, America. Silence can no longer be tolerated, nor can overzealous opposition to the truth. Which side will you stand on? How will you be classified? Will you "hold hands in a circle, or stare bored straight ahead"? The choice is yours, the time is now, and I've made mine.

It's time to give art back to the artists and rise up with fists in the streets. Are you with me?

#52 #51 #50 #49 #48 #47 #46 #45 #44 #43 #42 #41 #40 #39 #38 #37

Reminder: As always, this post is full of links to Amazon. Click on any one of them when shopping, and Amazon will shave a few pennies off their take to give to me. So, if my reviews make you all hot and bothered and you just have to own one of the things I'm talking about, use my link and contribute to buying me more stuff to review. (Those reading a Live Journal feed will likely have to click to the actual blog page first before heading over to Amazon, though.) Either way, thanks for reading.

Current Soundtrack: Bruce Springsteen, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

Current Mood: irate

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * The Blog Roll

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Last night I retired to a regular watering hole to do some work on the script for Love the Way You Love vol. 3. My shift at the store left me tired, and my brain needed a little bit of dislodging so I could solve some problems. I rarely thumbnail things myself, but I do find it handy for thinking through sequences. Here you will find the worst, most unreadable story notes known to man:

I would have given a spoiler warning, but chances are no one can read this. If anyone wants to take a crack at translating what I wrote, the first one to e-mail it to me correctly gets the first 3 issues of the comics series free. I have every faith that I will be keeping those comics myself.

Love the Way also got its first blog mention courtesy of Mason West.

Part of the fun last night, too, was that my favorite waitress was working: none other than Joëlle Jones. She had her sketchbook with her, and I was able to look at some gorgeous cover ideas for 12 Reasons. It was tough picking what my favorite was, because I liked them all. I told her I could guess which one Oni would like, though.

I commandeered their jukebox for a while, and here is what I played:
Primal Scream - "Trainspotting"
Blur - "Sing"
The Jam - "Absolute Beginners"
The Clash - "Rudie Can't Fail"
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - "Do You Love Me?"
Elvis Costello & the Attractions - "Man Out of Time"
Bjork - "There's More to Life Than This"
King Black Acid - "Into the Sun"
Buddy Holly - "True Love Ways"
Nina Simone - "Fine & Mellow"

The last song was the lady's choice. And a good one at that.

Current Soundtrack: The Orb, Okie Dokie! It's the Orb on Kompakt

Current Mood: mischievous

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich


Stolen from Han, a list by critic (?) Jim Emerson of the 102 movies everyone should have seen to call themselves a literate film nerd. I don't know who this Jim is, but I'm game to spread it around and put the list up with a * next to every one I've seen and see who I have a bigger celluloid dick than.

* "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968) Stanley Kubrick
* "The 400 Blows" (1959) Francois Truffaut
* "8 1/2" (1963) Federico Fellini
"Aguirre, the Wrath of God" (1972) Werner Herzog
* "Alien" (1979) Ridley Scott
* "All About Eve" (1950) Joseph L. Mankiewicz
* "Annie Hall" (1977) Woody Allen
* "Apocalypse Now" (1979) Francis Ford Coppola*
* "Bambi" (1942) Disney
"The Battleship Potemkin" (1925) Sergei Eisenstein
* "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946) William Wyler
* "The Big Red One" (1980) Samuel Fuller
* "The Bicycle Thief" (1949) Vittorio De Sica
* "The Big Sleep" (1946) Howard Hawks
* "Blade Runner" (1982) Ridley Scott
* "Blowup" (1966) Michelangelo Antonioni
* "Blue Velvet" (1986) David Lynch
* "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967) Arthur Penn
* "Breathless" (1959 Jean-Luc Godard
* "Bringing Up Baby" (1938) Howard Hawks
* "Carrie" (1975) Brian DePalma
* "Casablanca" (1942) Michael Curtiz
"Un Chien Andalou" (1928) Luis Bunuel & Salvador Dali
* "Children of Paradise" / "Les Enfants du Paradis" (1945) Marcel Carne
* "Chinatown" (1974) Roman Polanski
* "Citizen Kane" (1941) Orson Welles
* "A Clockwork Orange" (1971) Stanley Kubrick
* "The Crying Game" (1992) Neil Jordan
* "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951) Robert Wise
* "Days of Heaven" (1978) Terence Malick
* "Dirty Harry" (1971) Don Siegel
* "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (1972) Luis Bunuel
* "Do the Right Thing" (1989) Spike Lee
* "La Dolce Vita" (1960) Federico Fellini
* "Double Indemnity" (1944) Billy Wilder
* "Dr. Strangelove" (1964) Stanley Kubrick
* "Duck Soup" (1933) Leo McCarey
* "E.T. -- The Extra-Terrestrial" (1982) Steven Spielberg
* "Easy Rider" (1969) Dennis Hopper
* "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) Irvin Kershner
* "The Exorcist" (1973) William Friedkin
* "Fargo" (1995) Joel & Ethan Coen
* "Fight Club" (1999) David Fincher
* "Frankenstein" (1931) James Whale
"The General" (1927) Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman
* "The Godfather," "The Godfather, Part II" (1972, 1974) Francis Ford Coppola
* "Gone With the Wind" (1939) Victor Fleming
* "GoodFellas" (1990) Martin Scorsese
* "The Graduate" (1967) Mike Nichols
* "Halloween" (1978) John Carpenter
* "A Hard Day's Night" (1964) Richard Lester
"Intolerance" (1916) D.W. Griffith
"It's a Gift" (1934) Norman Z. McLeod
* "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) Frank Capra
* "Jaws" (1975) Steven Spielberg
* "The Lady Eve" (1941) Preston Sturges
* "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962) David Lean
* "M" (1931) Fritz Lang
* "Mad Max 2" / "The Road Warrior" (1981) George Miller
* "The Maltese Falcon" (1941) John Huston
* "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962) John Frankenheimer
"Metropolis" (1926) Fritz Lang
"Modern Times" (1936) Charles Chaplin
* "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1975) Terry Jones & Terry Gilliam
"Nashville" (1975) Robert Altman
* "The Night of the Hunter" (1955) Charles Laughton
* "Night of the Living Dead" (1968) George Romero
* "North by Northwest" (1959) Alfred Hitchcock
"Nosferatu" (1922) F.W. Murnau
* "On the Waterfront" (1954) Elia Kazan
* "Once Upon a Time in the West" (1968) Sergio Leone
* "Out of the Past" (1947) Jacques Tournier
* "Persona" (1966) Ingmar Bergman
* "Pink Flamingos" (1972) John Waters
* "Psycho" (1960) Alfred Hitchcock
* "Pulp Fiction" (1994) Quentin Tarantino
* "Rashomon" (1950) Akira Kurosawa
* "Rear Window" (1954) Alfred Hitchcock
* "Rebel Without a Cause" (1955) Nicholas Ray
* "Red River" (1948) Howard Hawks
"Repulsion" (1965) Roman Polanski
* "The Rules of the Game" (1939) Jean Renoir
* "Scarface" (1932) Howard Hawks
* "The Scarlet Empress" (1934) Josef von Sternberg
* "Schindler's List" (1993) Steven Spielberg
* "The Searchers" (1956) John Ford
* "The Seven Samurai" (1954) Akira Kurosawa
"Singin' in the Rain" (1952) Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly
* "Some Like It Hot" (1959) Billy Wilder
"A Star Is Born" (1954) George Cukor
* "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951) Elia Kazan
* "Sunset Boulevard" (1950) Billy Wilder
* "Taxi Driver" (1976) Martin Scorsese
* "The Third Man" (1949) Carol Reed
"Tokyo Story" (1953) Yasujiro Ozu
* "Touch of Evil" (1958) Orson Welles
* "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1948) John Huston
* "Trouble in Paradise" (1932) Ernst Lubitsch
* "Vertigo" (1958) Alfred Hitchcock
* "West Side Story" (1961) Jerome Robbins/Robert Wise
* "The Wild Bunch" (1969) Sam Peckinpah
* "The Wizard of Oz" (1939) Victor Fleming

That's 88 out of 102. I'm actually okay with the fact that I own the DVD of one of the movies I haven't seen (Tokyo Story). I can live with that; had it been more, that would have been embarassing. I almost count Un Chien Andalou because I have seen it in chunks here and there and feel like I've watched it straight through; same with Singing in the Rain. It's A Gift is the only one I haven't heard of.

EDIT: Oooops. I also own a copy of Metropolis, another one I feel like I've seen even if I've never sat and watched it straight through. By the by, anyone who wants to donate DVDs to fill in the gaps, if there are movies you are just absolutely shocked I have not seen, I always accept donations. They would be watched immediately. ;)

Current Soundtrack: 94.7 KNRK FM

Current Mood: nerdy

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Comic Book Resources has an extended preview of Love the Way You Love vol. 1. CLICK & READ! And then spread the link please.

I'm halfway through the script on volume 3, and am feeling completely energized by the 12 pages Marc turned in from the second issue. If you like what you see in the preview, just wait. You ain't seen nothin' yet. It just gets better and better. His newest pages are even more alive, full of character and every anal-retentive detail this ridiculous writer could ask for. Page 7 of #2 may be the ultimate Jamie S. Rich page. I should have a contest to see if someone can identify everything in Tristan's bedroom.

Current Soundtrack: Beastie Boys, Paul's Boutique

Current Mood: in love

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich


The new "Can You Picture That?" is online. This month's DVD: Breakfast on Pluto.

Current Soundtrack: A 1990s Britpop comp I made for Denny Haynes; maybe he can finally update his blog by writing about it when he gets it

Current Mood: drained

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Wordstock went fairly well. The crowd for Matt Wagner and I consisted of about 40 or more people, only five of which were peole I knew, including Oni publisher Joe Nozemack and the ever-excellent Joëlle Jones. I had carved my moustache to try to match Tony Leung's in 2046 so I was looking dashing in my light jade shirt and tie. Even neater is that Wordstock gave all the authors silver pocket watches! I love having a pocket watch. I had one in high school and college that I lost years ago. My first stepmother had given it to my father for their one-year anniversary; I got it when they didn't make it to a second. It had an inscription from her to him that had, of course, become ironic, as well as a moon dial. I can't wait to wear my new one around!

The talk went well. Matt and I both have big mouths, so we were able to fill the time pretty easy. The audience was engaged and asked questions. Author Marc Acito moderated, and he was funny and genial and seemed to take an active interest in the topic. It still seems weird, though, to sit next to Matt and talk about comics that I am doing. Matt Wagner's one of the main reasons I am in comics. If he is God, I'm just some bad-haired televangelist who got lucky.

The signing after was so-so. I sold about one copy each of my various prose books and anthologies and talked to a few people. I had the flyers Marc had designed for Love the Way You Love, and little cards promoting all three of the books I have coming this year that I set-up--and all of these were made by James Lucas Jones for me; thanks James!--and I handed out some of those. So, maybe reached a few people.

I browsed the floor a little bit, hoping that the Cosmic Monkey booth would have copies of Scott Morse's Noble Boy (they didn't), but I did find a birthday present for someone well in advance, so that is an accomplishment. Joëlle and I then celebrated with some deli sandwiches, and I had a chocolate egg cream. Nummers!

Travis Fox also sent me some sketches for my author portrait for Love the Way, and they're all very funny. Go, Travis, go!

Current Soundtrack: Neil Diamond, 12 Songs & The Greatest Hits: 1966-1992

Current Mood: happy

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich

Friday, April 21, 2006


A pretty piece of flesh...

That's the designed version of the cover to The Everlasting, the result of Chynna, myself, James Lucas Jones, and Steven Birch at Servographics putting our heads together.


11th Cat volume 4 has been turned in.

My interview with Mike Allred for the Bottle Rocket magazine anthology is pretty much complete. Ian R. Shaugnessy is also interviewing me, and they will be running an unpublished Lance Scott short story as well. Joëlle Jones and Chynna Cluston will be contributing illos to my stuff, and Marc Ellerby is doing a strip of his own. It's a family affair, all edited by Zach Trover. Out in July for San Diego Comic Con International.

I can't wait to see this movie.

Current Soundtrack: Massive Attack, Collected (both discs)

Current Mood: scrumptious

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich


Permanent Records is a year-long project. Each Friday (or thereabouts), I will post a new entry about one specific album, chosen due to its significance to myself as a fan. Though the list is numbered, a particular record's placement should not be considered a ranking. There will be 52 albums in all.

This endeavor is based on a concept started by Chris Tamarri at Crisis/Boring Change. It has since been expanded as a concept, as Neal Shaffer takes on a study of album covers over at Leftwich.

And the inherent question for my use is not where "There" is, but who is the "I"?

Personnel: Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel
Producer: Bob Johnson - Simon, Garfunkel, & Roy Halee - Tom Wilson/ Label: Columbia

I didn't write I Was Someone Dead with a soundtrack. Unlike most of my recent work, I didn't create a playlist on iTunes full of songs that were expected to get me in the mood for writing. And since the story itself doesn't have a musical element to it, there are no references in the book that I can draw from. Thus, it makes writing an entry similar to the one I did on Cut My Hair a little tricky.

Except, I did realize somewhere on the way to publication that there was a record that existed as a musical equivalent to I Was Someone Dead, and it had just been waiting for me to discover it. It occurred to me one day as I was walking, listening to the album on headphones, my best time for experiencing music. It was Simon and Garfunkel's Sounds of Silence. This is the story of inspiration stuck in reverse.

I wonder where along the way Simon and Garfunkel got their namby-pamby image. Is it just a by-product of having the "folk" term attached to their music? It's such a dirty word anymore, having lost any connotations of fiery protest or macabre maundering. No one wants to be considered a folk artist, no one does folk music. It conjures images of acoustic guitars and sandals, hippie flower children and the summer of love. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel have somehow been lumped into this. They are sensitive school boys with turtleneck sweaters. One of them has poofy hair and the other one is married to Edie Brickell, meaning he must accept her notions about smiles on dogs.

Except this is a myth. Or, if it has a basis of truth, it's from other albums than Sounds of Silence. These are no gutless troubadours. Sounds of Silence is a heavy record, looking at the depths of human sadness, expressing feelings of alienation and a desire to leave. The album cover is of the duo walking away, taking one last look at what they are leaving behind, only wilderness ahead. Like Hieronymus Zoo in my novella, the modern world has failed them, and they are looking for something beyond it. The title track opens the disc, after all, and it has one of the most famous opening lines of all time: "Hello, darkness my old friend/ I've come to talk with you again." They can't warn you any more plainly than that. (Interesting note: the version of the record I have is from the mid-'90s Columbia box set, and they reproduce the original record cover on the back of the sleeve. On there, the title of the song maintains the plural "sounds," while the reissue material and the hits package I have amend it to be merely "The Sound of Silence." Is this a Freudian indicator that the solitary existence we are thematically seeking has been found?)

"The Sound of Silence" is a song about losing faith: in man, in God, in life. The narrator walks alone among "ten thousand people, maybe more." He is restless, he is anxious, he feels apart from everyone. They reach out for things he has no stock in, claiming that some unknown force speaks to them, but for him there is nothing, only emptiness...the sound of silence. A persistent sound that, like the tempo of the song and the delivery of the singers, subtly becomes more insistent the larger it, "like a cancer," grows. "O Lord, why have you forsaken me?" our man asks later in "Blessed," as he ironically combines a list of people who God accepts and he will never be and the list of people God would likely never accept, but who exist everywhere he looks, probably with a greater chance of entering Heaven than he does. "I have no place to go...Ah, but it doesn't matter, no/ ...My words trickle down, like a wound/ That I have no intention to heal."

Amidst a generation where the main message was to "come together," where people were believing in their own power, Simon and Garfunkel only believed in their own powerlessness. It's hard to imagine now that Sounds of Silence wasn't considered some kind of blight, a dark stain on the tie-dyed canvas. Again, people have this picture in their heads of this duo smiling in Central Park, playing a free concert for everyone, but through those grinning teeth come words of despondence. Even happy sounding songs like "Leaves That Are Green" have black undercurrents: the persistence of time, the inevitable passing of life, unrequited love. "That's all there is," they say, these mutable objects that "crumble in your hand," our hearts that stop beating, that can love without being loved in return. This approach will be used again later on the album in the seasonal ruminations of "April Come She Will," but the next love song to come in the sequence is "Kathy's Song," and as a writer, it's hard to miss that both it and "Leaves That Are Green" equate frustrated romance with an inability to write ("...but she faded in the night/ Like a poem I meant to write," "And a song I was writing is left undone...With words that tear and strain to rhyme"). There's nothing as frustrating as pounding your brain against a piece of writing that just won't come off the way you want, except maybe trying to make someone who doesn't love you return your affections. If my fondest desire fails me, what are words worth anymore? Paul Simon has already equated them to wounds. Certainly someone like myself who writes romances can understand this. It's hard to craft fictions about the triumph of love with real conviction when your own relationships "wither with the wind."

At times, I definitely felt the writing of I Was Someone Dead was something like this. I could poke and prod it, but it was never right. Only later was the riddle solved, when I realized that the female lead, Nadya, was not as she should be. The way I had sculpted her, she was not the right love interest for Hieronymus Zoo, and thus the story could not hum the way it was intended. I had to get the proper girl for my boy, his one true love, before the story could ever be set right. Until then, it was unstoppable will smashing into immovable object.

But that's not the real parallel I was seeing between Sounds of Silence and I Was Someone Dead; rather, these first four tracks were setting the kind of mood a Hieronymus Zoo-type character would find himself in: unloved, cut off from society, seemingly living outside regular experience. At some point, an acknowledgement that he was different, that he had to make a change, would come--and that would be track 5--but I'd rather linger on "Kathy's Song" a paragraph longer.

Though ostensibly written for someone else, presumably the Kathy of the title, a girl whom Paul Simon loves but who lives in England, far beyond his grasp, and despite its use of exterior sights--namely, the rain falling outside his home--the song is largely interior. It moves from real "roof and walls" to the metaphorical ...shelter of my mind/ Through the window of my eyes." It's a painful poem about longing, about the ache of a love that cannot be touched and the self-doubt it engenders. While there are specific references to the existence of this Kathy, there is no real reference to connect the two. For all we know, they may have never met, and even if the have, she might not return his affection. Any contact between them is in his brain. He is obsessed with her, and it disrupts his ability to express himself. Kathy invades every moment. For me, the whole song turns on the final stanza, and particularly the final line:

"And as I watch the drops of rain
Weave their weary paths and die
I know that I am like the rain
There but for the grace of you go I

It seems to me that one's whole interpretation of this song rests on where the listener decides "there" is. Usually the phrase "there but for the grace of God go I" (here, God is replaced with a human) is meant to indicate something escaped. As in, "I could be homeless like that man. There but for the grace of God go I." Only your luck and good fortune, and perhaps divine providence depending on your belief (though in this song we "stand alone without beliefs"), have kept you off that path. Yet, Paul Simon doesn't say he's not like the rain, he says he is. So, is Kathy keeping him from a weary death, or sending him to it?

I love "Kathy's Song." My blathering about it up there has nothing to do with I Was Someone Dead. I just wanted to note it. It affects me every time I hear it, and the central mystery is what drives me back to it again and again. I once even quoted it on Lance Scott's journal, posting the bits about being unable to write all by themselves. (In The Everlasting, Lance listens to Bookends, which is something to perhaps be explored at a later date--perhaps hinging on my favorite song, the tellingly titled outtake "You Don't Know Where Your Interest Lies.")

Yet, thinking again, maybe that central mystery is also connected to I Was Someone Dead. So much hinges on what you choose to believe is real vs. what you decide is metaphor. What's the Thing? Where is There?

Similar verbal games are played in "Somewhere They Can't Find Me," which easily could have been an alternate title for my book. At one point, Simon suggests his "crime" is "an illusion," and for as deep into the soul as the songs on Sounds of Silence go, there is an element of playacting surrounding this particular number. I can't quite buy that either Paul Simon or Art Garfunkel have robbed a liquor store and are on the run from the law. Yet, it's a significant track as it's the first time where the theme of escape is finally addressed. The man in the song needs to get out, to find the place where he can't be found. He is leaving behind his lover, and the fact that he committed his crimes while she slept, leaving their bed to complete a heinous deed, destroying it all--it almost seems like a blatant attempt at self-sabotage. He is creating his own catalyst to escape a life he knows he doesn't belong in.

Poofy hair and turtlenecks.

Escape and isolation take a stronger thematic hold on side 2 of the record. Both of the opening songs on the flipside are about the suicides of two men who no one really knew. Richard Cory is such a bigshot that he gets a song named after him, but not so big he can find happiness in the material world. Eventually, his empty riches push him to take his own life, an action the man who has nothing cannot understand. The narrator--one of Cory's employees--would rather escape his life of labor and poverty in exchange for suffering from his boss' rich man's problems; Cory would rather escape this earthly plane entirely.

The same for the subject of "A Most Peculiar Man." This is the song that reminds me the most of Hieronymus Zoo.

"He was a Most Peculiar Man
He lived all alone within a house,
Within his room, within himself,
A Most Peculiar Man.

"He had no friends, he seldom spoke
And no one in turn ever spoke to him,
'Cause he wasn't friendly and he didn't care
And he wasn't like them.
Oh, no! he was A Most Peculiar Man

Once again, Simon's protagonist kills himself. (Coincidentally, he dies in the same manner of Hieronymus Zoo's parents.) He could have just as easily transplanted his solitary lifestyle to an even more isolated spot, the way my protagonist does. Both of them tire of the pretense of fitting in and decide to just stop.

Where these two peculiar men intersect, I suppose you also find the peculiar man who writes this for you. Recently, someone e-mailed me to inquire about my apartment building. They were friends of a friend of mine, and they were moving to Portland from another state and had read a little about my building online. I instantly had a fear of anyone I knew living in the same complex as me. I keep to myself most of the time. People leave me alone, and I like it that way. Instantly, I was thinking of ways to defend my fortress, to remain an island. I wrote back, kind of jokingly, that if they saw me in the halls, I'd be the guy with the headphones in his ears who never says anything to anyone, implying that they should not be surprised when I freeze them out.

I fancy myself as my apartment building's Most Peculiar Man. I try to live as just myself, away from the community of the complex, a miniature escape occurring every time I walk through my door. But when do I cross the line to wanting to beat a full-time retreat? Where is my island? And how long before anyone notices I'm gone? (Here I could suggest that maybe someone could come running over to stop me, a la "We've Got a Groovy Thing Goin'," and suggest the disc's penultimate song is the antithesis of everything else on the record, leading us into the stronger stance of the final song...but instead, why don't we skip it? It doesn't fit, and as the original liner notes tell us, it's "Just for fun." Toss it and move on.)

Sounds of Silence closes with the hit "I Am A Rock." Again, we have a happy melody, a sing-a-long tune that may or may not hide a darker meaning. If "I Am A Rock" is meant to be ironic, I'm not sure where Simon and Garfunkel let us in on the ruse. It sounds fairly confident. It's I Was Someone Dead without Hieronymus Zoo's dream ever crumbling.

"I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.*
I Am A Rock,
I am an island

The capitals alone suggest a firm belief: "I Am A Rock." Or is it less a real belief in practice, and more a crystallization of the escape, an acceptance of the illusion--of the crime from "Somewhere They Can't Find Me," of the Kathy who doesn't return our pone calls--and like the rock we feel no pain, like the island we never cry, ignoring the fact that the admissions made elsewhere in the song say otherwise. "I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain" suggests one has been stung before, and to remember that pain means you actually know of it.

Still, how oddly fitting. Is it Jungian that Hieronymus Zoo had a rock (The Thing) and lived on an island? That he traded people for books, and insisted that his system worked? "I Am A Rock" sounds very I Was Someone Dead to me. Again, I can't claim direct inspiration from Sounds of Silence; when I first conceived of Dead, I don't think I had even heard the album. (Point of fact, the first inspiration for the tale was as the end of a cycle of short stories about pain that I was going to call The Ballad of Strangelove, and I drew a lot of the feeling, including rising out of the water triumphant, from a Frankie Goes to Hollywood track with the rather unmysterious title of "Kill the Pain." It was in high school. What can you do) Yet, by the time I was finishing the novella off, I had come to love both the album and Simon and Garfunkel in general. When I heard Sounds of Silence within the context of writing about Nadya and Hieronymus Zoo, the music changed completely for me. All the elements of it I had absorbed through osmosis were suddenly released, and I understood the songs in new ways. It's impossible for me to figure out if Sounds of Silence informed I Was Someone Dead, but now I Was Someone Dead informs Sounds of Silence, and both are better for it.

* Compare Morrissey's "I entered nothing, and nothing entered me" from "You Have Killed Me" on Ringleader of the Tormentors.

#52 #51 #50 #49 #48 #47 #46 #45 #44 #43 #42 #41 #40 #39 #38

Reminder: As always, this post is full of links to Amazon. Click on any one of them when shopping, and Amazon will shave a few pennies off their take to give to me. So, if my reviews make you all hot and bothered and you just have to own one of the things I'm talking about, use my link and contribute to buying me more stuff to review. (Those reading a Live Journal feed will likely have to click to the actual blog page first before heading over to Amazon, though.) Either way, thanks for reading.

Current Soundtrack: Simon & Garfunkel, Bookends

Current Mood: thoughful

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * The Blog Roll

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich


This is a public service announcement: If you find yourself hanging with Lara Michell at a bar and she asks you to hold her cup of ice while she goes and pees, you should know that you've been duped. Just throw that cup of ice away, because it will have melted and then be frozen again in the next ice age before she comes back. The girl has ditched you. Evil, evil musicians!

The night was real up and down overall. Dinner in the evening with fellow writer Robert Fortney: up. The Harvey Pekar appearance downtown: down. I now feel much less nervous about my Wordstock appearance on Sunday. I love Harvey, I've worked with Harvey while I was at Dark Horse and spent many an hour on the phone with him, but whoever decided he should be booked in halls and speaking from a podium needs to rethink the plan. He is an amazingly insightful writer, but public speaking is not his forte. The first 3/4 of the night was him going over his basic bio, leading up to the American Splendor film and including a list of festivals the film played and awards it won. Things that one should assume we'd all know if we were deciding to show up at this event. The night got more interesting when he started talking about his new and forthcoming books, but then it was over.

Stolen Sweets and Vagabond Opera at the Fez: up. Both bands were on top form. Erin Sutherland of the Sweets looked faboo in her newly lightened hair. I looked like an ass with a thirteen-day-old moustache, but I danced and blurred my image with my swift moves. I had on my black-and-white shoes and got all sorts of compliments everywhere I went. It was a really good time, and I was able to laugh at minor annoyances like the woman who kept praising those of us who danced by oursselves for being "independent." "Good for us! We don't need need partners!" If you're truly independent, lady, then why not talk to yourself, too, and leave me out of it, okay?

And what's with guys in swing dance couples wearing only T-shirts and jeans? I had on a suit and tie, nice shoes, and I swear to you, boys, that outfit is actually the easiest to put together. These hipster doofuses probably spent more time finding the appropriately ironic tee than I took to assemble my entire ensemble. You've already put in the time to learn the moves, why not finish the job? Don't let your pretty girlfriend hang out there all alone looking fancy while you look like you just got out of bed.

Not having my Permanent Records done: down. But I am going to make some vanilla tea and start now. I know what I am going to do, so I will make it for Friday, no problem. I usually consider myself early by posting them while everyone is asleep. Friday is the only real requirement!

Current Soundtrack: Erasure, Union Street

Current Mood: aggravated

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Tuesday night, I started the script for Love the Way You Love volume 3, and after several weeks of only intermittently touching my own work, it felt really good. Those characters are like a comfortable pair of pants, and we understand just how we fit one another. It's certainly lightened my mood. Sunday and Monday were particularly bad days where I was ready to kill if someone dared to say the wrong thing to me. I feel like I am now back on track.

I daresay there is a little pressure to perform on this script, though, as the first two are so very good. I was reminded of how good in going over them to gear up for what had to come next.

My morning ritual for some time has been to get up and spend about an hour on the exercise bike. I use each session sometimes to catch up on the previous night's television, and I have watched all of my concert DVDs multiple times. A good disc can make the time fly by. The last couple of mornings, I haven't had any TV so I turned to this cheap-ass film noir collection I picked up last year. Previously, I had only watched the underwhelming print of the excellent Detour (1945) and the worth-the-price-of-admission transfer of Ida Lupino's classic The Hitch-Hiker (1953). I still had seven of the nine movies to go.

Wednesday I chose The Stranger (1946). I plan to spend as much time this weekend with the new The Complete Mr. Arkadin from Criterion, and I'd like to pack a little bit more Orson Welles around it. It's been years since I saw The Stranger, and I remember being lukewarm on it. Not so this time. I loved it. For all the virtuoso filmmaking, Welles held back when it came to characters. Both he and Edward G. Robinson give superb performances that take place largely under the surface. Both men are constantly thinking, their gears turning just like the ones in the big clock at the center of town that seems to be the hub for all of Welles' evil. The difference between the two men is that Robinson's detective merely needs to be told the time, whereas Welles' on-the-run Nazi needs a big explosion, a gotterdammering. Both get what they are after. The final confrontation in the clock tower rivals Welles' famous house-of-mirrors scene at the end of Lady from Shanghai for its impressionistic editing, the odd angles and dark shadows bringing forth the chaos and anxiety in a sick man's mind.

Today I watched a film that was entirely new to me, Quicksand (1950), starring Mickey Rooney and directed by Irvin Pichel (perhaps best known for The Most Dangerous Game). Rooney plays Dan Brady, an average schlub, a Navy vet who is now a mechanic. His main weakness is for the ladies, and like so many of us, he's a cad to the nice ones and only chases after the tarts. When he earns a date with the blonde bombshell at his local watering hole, he suddenly realizes he's in a bind: he's got no money to take her out. He borrows $20 from the cash register at work, and in order to replace it before he gets caught, he's forced to think of more drastic measures to get more cash. Each attempt to cover up the previous scheme leads him into a nastier one, until he is in that proverbial quicksand of the title. The movie rests entirely on Rooney's shoulders, and he's surprisingly up to the task. It's easy now to forget how natural he was onscreen, given how much he became a regular butt to jokes. You don’t ever think of him as Mickey Rooney or Andy Hardy or any of the other things he is known for: he is Dan Brady. He occupies the physical space of this character, jumping believably from foolish bravado to shame-faced comeuppance. Peter Lorre also has a role as one of the thorns in Rooney's side, but it's hard to tell whether the actor or the character has given up on life, the way he sleepwalks through it.

Sometimes the print for The Stranger was a little hazy, but it was generally clear, as was the sound. I've seen more expensive versions of this film hawked around (it's in the public domain), and the samples I've seen of those DVDs haven't been any better. Quicksand was actually nearly pristine, without many pops, cuts, or hisses at all. I'm thinking they pulled it from some kind of print for TV, as there were moments where the fades seemed pretty heavy, like we were going to a commercial.

In any case, this set is certainly value for the money. Even if the other five films are crap, you'd still have four welcome additions to any film noir collection.

Currently Reading: Love in the Time of Cholera by Garbriel Garcia Marquez, a gift from Jennifer de Guzman. Strangely, it opens by evoking a smell much in the same way as my comic script You Have Killed Me. Quel coincidence!

Current Soundtrack: Ocean Colour Scene, A Hyperactive Workout for the Flying Squad

Current Mood: refreshed

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich