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

Friday, September 29, 2006


If today's entry intrigues you and you live in the Portland area, please support Lara Michell and go to one of the record release parties for her band Dirty Martini that will be going on this weekend. For more information, see their website. I'll be in the audience on Saturday.

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: Lara Michell with Rob Scrivner (some additional guitar & bass) and Erin Sutherland (backing vocals on "Overheard" and "Phrygid")
Recorded by Rob Scrivner / Label: NewHat

The first time I saw Lara Michell play, the natural brunette had blonde hair and was strumming guitar for Carmina Piranha, an all-girl quintet who looked as loose and unrehearsed as could be when they sauntered on stage, joking around and laughing, but then changed all minds when they started playing and revealed they were one of the tightest bands in the mid-'90s Portland scene. The Lara I saw that night wasn't really the Lara I would come to know. Maybe it was the peroxide, but she seemed serious. Her brow was furrowed, her big blue eyes a little stony. After Carmina's slot, she came down and stood with her then-boyfriend and they watched whatever other band was playing that night (the Atoms, maybe?). I observed her from my vantage point leaning against the pillar that sits in the middle of the floor at Berbati's Pan, much to the chagrin of anyone who has ever been stuck behind it during a concert. I was wont to go off to shows on my own in those days, and I was just as likely to spy on the crowd as I was the performers.

The thing I remember about that night was that Lara stood with her back to her boyfriend, pressed up against his chest, her arms stretched behind her and wrapped around his neck. I've always envied couples who stand like that. It's never happened to me, which must speak for my taste in women. I remember seeing a pair of kids stand like that at a New Order concert in 1989. That's how long I've been holding that image in my head, and probably why the pose stood out for me so many years later. It still holds up, as two young lovers stand that way in Love the Way You Love #5--something I mention because of that book's tangential relationship to Lara Michell. (In fact, I picked her album this particular time out because the second issue of Love the Way You Love goes on sale this week, and if you don't know why that connects, go here.)

I would see Lara again, and actually meet her this time, backstage at a different concert. This was in my most glam phase, wearing stuffed-animal backpacks and silver clothes. I often wore lipstick and eye shadow and painted my fingernails. It was the height of Britpop, I was on the TeeVee, and I would blast my way through gigs just about every night of the week. I was chasing a completely different band girl (see this entry), and she was on the bill with Carmina Piranha. Lara and I met backstage, and we joked and shared champagne and got along pretty much instantly. We didn't exchange info, but I knew where to find her.

At the time, there was a local radio show called the Church of Northwest Music. I disliked most of Portland's music but knew enough people that it was worth listening to the show to hear performances by my acquaintances, and occasionally I might get turned on to something new I would like. The show aired Sunday nights, and the following Sunday, I heard a song that I thought was just incredible. Unfortunately, the DJ would play long blocks of music and only announce what was what after it was done, so I had to wait to find out who it was and do the backwards math to hopefully pick out the right name and match it to the right song.

Of course, it was Lara Michell.

I had no idea she had done any solo material, but according to the DJ, she had an album out called Tide Pool. (I have long since forgotten what song I heard that night.) The next day, I went to all the downtown record shops to see if they had it, probably starting at Ozone and Django's because they were closer, and ultimately finding myself at 2nd Avenue Records, which was usually the last ditch effort. I think they were still in their old location back then. Imagine a store like the one on the cover of DJ Shadow's Entroducing, but instead of being reduced to fit on a CD cover, Shadow just printed the place at actual size: that's what 2nd Avenue was like. If someone was in one of the two aisles, you couldn't actually go past him, it was too cramped. They kept all of their CDs either in the glass case up front or in a cardboard box behind the counter. Lara was in the case.

Listening to Tide Pool now, I think it's fair to call the production naïve. It didn't strike me as such at the time, but the DIY aesthetic was still very much in vogue then, and the credit on the inside is not a "produced by" credit but "Recorded by Rob Scrivener @ his house." That says it right there, I think. It's not bad, I'm not being insulting. What I am describing is a sound of distance, almost like they had one tape recorder and they hit play and record at the same time and then just went for it. Lara is playing guitar and leaning over the machine, and Rob is behind her pounding on a drum kit that his parents bought him when he was 11 (though, Lara plays the drums, trainspotters should note). It actually sounds pretty good, kind of quaint, like a first album maybe should. Like, in all the ways Cut My Hair (which has a Lara Michell quote up front (see "Notable B-Side" below)) was young and clumsy but was (hopefully) endearing for it, so was Tide Pool. The record of initiation for an artist coming into her own.

Because if you listen to the first three tracks, you'll immediately be struck by how ambitious the songs are. "More of Everything," "How Should I Know?," and "Tyrant" are proper pop songs, a little British, a little Veruca Salt. They exceed the record's capacity to contain them. "How Should I Know?" was so catchy, I actually played it on my Britpop TV show. At the end of every episode, we'd pick something bouncy and we'd dance to it over the closing credits. (It was one of those "What were we thinking?" devices that started as a joke but then became the thing everyone liked and we couldn't get out of it, much to our chagrin when the director would call for the credits early and we'd be stuck out there on live television dancing for much longer than anyone could ever want to.) The lead guitar has an almost Peter Buck quality to it, a chime that borders on being a siren. The drums are a simple bap-boom-boom-bap, and Lara strums steadily behind it, her trademark. Her voice is soft and distinct, rising up in the chorus, multiple tracks showing her range. Someone should have put it in on a 45, it would have been a hit.

The ambition rises higher on track 4, "Denial." It's a song with a lonely soul, the mix putting the soft acoustic guitar up front, the singing sad and plaintive in the back, striking out from the cave Lara refers to in the lyrics. One finger on the piano pushes a key here and there, the singer in pain and unashamed to lay it bare. That is until halfway through when the song gets angry. "She will never remember what you told her not to ever forget," Lara spits, and it's unclear if the singer speaks of herself or the competition. As she has said, "If you can remember every hand you've held in your hand, nobody else would stay." It's a damning detail.

There are tracks like "Denial" on Tide Pool, other intricate, brainy songs with a hint of schizophrenia. There is maybe a tad of Tori Amos in them, sometimes the convoluted imagery of a girl who is a little too book smart for her own good, such as "Phrygid," where Lara gives shout-outs to Charon, Minos, and Taratarus. "Hallway" is a short instrumental that wouldn't be out of place on a spooky movie soundtrack, and all the more fitting for its placement on the record. It leads into the noirish "You Didn't See Me Here," a change into outward sleaze for what has previously been a largely interior album. Its story is one of seductive, of the proverbial fly in the proverbial spider's parlor. Think "Trust in Me" from The Jungle Book. Someone has gone where they shouldn't have, and the old pros smell the new meat. (A later recording of the song with Carmina Piranha for their ballet soundtrack Revenge Poems, would make the dark dance even more clear, as Lara would trade vocals with Lisa Stringfield, each playing a character.)

Lara actually has a pretty good knack for capturing this kind of experience, of someone being where they should not, of being the observer to the twisted games played upon those who merely seek love even while standing outside of oneself. "Overheard" is one of my favorite songs on Tide Pool, an innocent sounding ballad that aches with the loneliness of being trapped in a loveless relationship. In what could be a case of disassociation, Lara eavesdrops on a conversation, but by the end of the song, it's not entirely clear if she's not really just looking back on her own memories. Or did she simply fall into the trap of giving the bad boy too much credit? The man she describes is the bullshit rebel. "He tells her he hangs out there on the fringes," a statement those of us who know such things will recognize as untrue just by the fact that it's been said. You don't have to tell someone how rock 'n' roll you are if you really are rock 'n' roll. But yet, how does Lara get from listening to his false promises to seeing the couple riding away in their car, the woman unable to extricate herself from the relationship? Therein lies the narrative question.

I listened to Tide Pool repeatedly, absorbed it, and eventually decided to write to Lara's P.O. Box listed in the CD booklet. It's a weird thing to do, to write a fan letter to someone you've actually met. I put my e-mail address on the letter, and she got back to me that way, and we started talking. Now she's one of my oldest friends. Me, the notorious bridge burner. We've seen the various changes people our age go through as they go on living, we understand how our art ends up being little time capsules of those periods of flux. It can't be by accident that we smashed into each other this way. There's too much that's similar. If Tide Pool is Cut My Hair, then her second album, Somniloquy, is I Was Someone Dead, standing apart and challenging outsiders to penetrate the arty veneer. Her third and most recent, Ruby Red is the kind of self-assured barn burner I tried to write with The Everlasting. And thus, it's also fitting that she would co-write the song for "Love the Way You Love," a happy and romantic song for a happy and romantic book. Products of the naïveté of being in our mid-30s.

My favorite song on Tide Pool is actually the one most like "Love the Way You Love" in gushy sentiment. I know Lara has a bit of a contentious relationship with "Crimson Flag." It's a tranquil song about being alone with your thoughts and being in love even if your lover isn't there just then. It was on the soundtrack for The Everlasting, and I think it pretty well fits the Lance Scott point of view.* "I fumbled to make everything fine/ and I guess you weren't such a big waste of my time/ I just wanted to make everything go/ With things about me that you still don't even know" is like The Everlasting in four lines. I even used a line from it as a chapter head: "Part of knowing is remembering that which wasn't bad." It's the rare moment when Lance stops and reminds himself that things have actually been okay every once in a while.

That's the pearl of wisdom I want to remember every time I listen to "Crimson Flag," and often why I actually play it. Lord knows if anyone needs to be reminded to pull his head out of the water, it's me. We all need a friend in our life--be it a real person or a compact disc--to teach us this lesson. Lucky for me, I got both in one.

NOTABLE B-SIDE: Not a B-side, per se, but one of the songs that immediately followed Tide Pool. Though it would show up again on album #2, it first surfaced on More, a Hush Records compilation of Portland-based female singer-songwriters. "Not For This World" is the song I quoted at the beginning of Cut My Hair, sharing a place of honor next to Pete Townshend. It's a dreamy song, beautiful in its heartache. Amidst all the beauty in the world, staring at the beauty of an individual, at the end of the day, you still stand alone, unable to be a part of the world at large. The crisis of the solitary man whose heart is as big as the universe, as bright as the stars he dreams of. There is a lovely violin on the track, and desperate whale cries on an electric guitar, and Lara creates her own world, the place waiting for her as the song fades out on the line "You'll know when you're ready to go." Once again, a Jamie Rich-like sentiment.

* Lance would also probably like the song "Volumes," and its central image of a "mind's library [where] there are volumes about all of you/ They are classified by the way I think you think."

#26 #25 #24 #23 #22 #21 #20 #19 #18 #17 #16 #15
(The first 26) (Permanent Records iMix 1)

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: still J.T.

Current Mood: nostalgic

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

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

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Almost Missed It: Indie Snob tipped 12 Reasons Why I Love Her as one of their picks for October.

I was surprised with a copy of 12 Reasons today, all printed up and looking fierce. I knew I was going to be getting the hot-of-the-press Love the Way You Love vol. 2, but James hit me up with both. What a happy day! Two fantastic comics fresh in my grubby hands. Love the Way is out next week, and expect to be astounded by what Marc Ellerby has done this issue. Wonderful cartooning. 12 Reasons is out in about three weeks.

I'm stoked. I've got my name on some excellent comic books. Love the Way You Love is like a great pop record, a 12" that energizes your afternoon. 12 Reasons is a sophisticated album, bulkier by design. It has a soft, matte finish on the cover, cool like an autumn day; Love the Way is a shinier taste of summer.

Movie Reviews:
School for Scoundrels opens this week, and fans of Napoleon Dynamite have a lot to answer for. Fuck you for giving Jon Heder a career.

On DVD, I've reviewed:
* Avatar, the Last Airbender - The Complete Book 1 Collection, the best animated series to come along in a good long while
* Three Times, the latest masterpiece from Taiwan's Hou Hsiao Hsien
* Yaji & Kita, the Midnight Pilgrims, a contrived bid for cult status from a Takashi Miike collaborator

Current Soundtrack: Justin Timberlake, FutureSex/LoveSound

Current Mood: happy

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I apologize that all my posts this week are, "Look, my books are getting more reviews." Beyond my desire to share, the truth is that I've been hunkered down and writing You Have Killed Me, which looks to be on the schedule for next fall. (I heard a rumor that somewhere online I'm listed as debuting this book at the MOCCA festival in the late spring, but I haven't found where this was supposed to be; still, if you see that said, I have no idea who came up with such an idea.) It's hard to tell you exactly where I am with it, as I am not currently breaking everything down in pages and panels, a lot of it is just written as full scenes to be broken down later. I also spent a couple of hours yesterday looking at period photo books for the '30s and '40s. Writing-wise, I'll probably have at least 50% more when I open the file and start working today as I did on Monday--making me halfway there or more.

But before I get back to work...

Today we examine the double-edge of reviews. Sometimes they cut for you, sometimes against. Such is the game. I ain't mad.

The Johnny Bacardi Show has a review of 12 Reasons that is possibly as head-scratchingly "Huh?" as he accuses us of being, but in the end, I guess he liked it. Read for yourself: "There's a lot to like about this book; and a lot which just isn't my cuppa...but I was engaged all the way through against my inclinations, and that's saying something. B+"

And then over at Reader Views, Beverly Pechin has a completely awesome take on The Everlasting: "Jamie Rich somehow delves deep within the mind and soul of his main character, Lance Scott, and reveals a realistic view of man's mind and how it works. While I'm certain the book wasn't intended to open the window to a whole gender's way of thinking, it certainly happened upon it, even if only by mistake, with the end results being a quick smack to the forehead as you realize you know this guy in real life!"

Hot damn!

Current Soundtrack: Nicky Wire, I Killed the Zeitgeist

Current Mood: self-absorbed

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

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

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Curled Up With a Good Book has given The Everlasting three stars, and in addition to the above quote, they say things like, "Rich’s honest and tender prose about the complications of relationships is clever and engaging."

Read the full review here.

Thanks be also to the Comics Reporter and Journalista, both of whom linked to reviews of 12 Reasons Why I Love Her from their excellent blogs.

Current Soundtrack: The Killers, "When You Were Young" remixes

Current Mood: zany

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

Monday, September 25, 2006


Two more reviews of 12 Reasons Why I Love Her have surfaced, which some interesting, mostly positive reactions:

First, is Randy Lander over at Comics Pants: "12 Reasons Why I Love Her is a simple story, about two young adults who meet cute, fall in love, suffer difficulties and… well, I won’t spoil the ending. It’s the kind of thing that, in movies, would be covered by folks like Nora Ephron, Rob Reiner or Woody Allen."

Second, David Welsh, the Precocious Curmudgeon: "Rich and Jones have successfully crafted a work that feels very believable without lapsing into the mundane. Their protagonists and their world are entirely credible. Maybe they’re too much so."

Check it. Rocky has also resized my banner ad for square pegs.

Spread it around.

Current Soundtrack: Victoria Wood, "Fourteen Again;" DJ Shadow, The Outsider

Current Mood: content


Joëlle and I were hanging out today when she suddenly had the idea to go and get pedicures. "Do you want to?" she asked.

"Sure," I replied, but I didn’t think she believed me.

We walked down to the salon we thought would be open, a place devoted entirely to nail maintenance. I started to feel self-conscious as we approached. It was a fairly warm day, and as one might expect, my feet were sweating in my shoes. I don't normally have problems with my feet. I wasn't expecting a bad odor or anything, but even so, gross. I've never had a pedicure before, and though I imagine that the ladies working at a place like that have seen some really disgusting things in their time, it didn't necessarily alleviate my fears.

When we got to the salon, Joëlle entered first, and when asked if she could be helped, she said yes, she'd like a pedicure. The woman looked at her and said, "Just one?" and then turned to me.

"Two," I said, and I held up two fingers to make sure it was clear. I was in this thing. Joëlle cast a look over her shoulder. She should know. I'm a man of many surprises when I'm not being a boring old codger.

We were directed to a wall of nail polish and told to choose our color. At first, I was going to skip the color, and I think I even said as much, but when I looked at the wall, I thought, "Why not?" I used to paint my fingernails from time to time, it's no big deal. If I was going to do this, go the whole way. There was a dark blue with a semi-metallic sheen to it that was like a color I used to use on my fingers, so I picked that. I forget the actual name. It was something like "East Glacier." Joëlle picked a light, shiny pink.

They then pointed us to two chairs at the end of what I'll call Pedicure Row. There were about six chairs in total, each elevated with high backs and a water massage basin at the base. No need to worry about sweaty feet. Of course they would clean us up! It's common sense.

We climbed into our chairs and immersed our feet. The water was warm and bubbling. The chairs were also massage chairs and they had been set to "auto" and began to work on our backs. I wasn't too sure about the chair at first, but then it started pounding on my back with little tiny fists and I got into it. I even whipped out my "oh" face, which made Joëlle laugh.

Now, I realize the process I am about to describe is not at all unique. Many women get this kind of treatment on a regular basis, but most guys are completely clueless as to why. I describe this here as a public service announcement, because, fellas, I'm here to tell you that the ladies like this kind of pampering for a reason, and for a mere $20, you can enjoy a little of the high-life, as well.

The first thing they do is file down your nails. The woman working on me noted that my nails were already very short. It pays to groom, I must say. Joëlle was like some kind of superstar, though, as they cooed over her smooth, milky white skin. Her feet are like the Scarlett Johansson of the podiatry circuit: men want to take them home, women stare with envy. Her gloating was in slightly bad form, however, as was her making fun of the hair on my toes. I suddenly felt like I was Frodo or something. I'm an old man. There aren't many places on my body hair doesn't try to grow.

Next came the scrubbing away of dry and dead skin. That was my only other anxiety after the sweat issue. I've had some problems with rough skin in the past, but I regularly pumice and since I stopped working retail, my tootsies have had far less stress in their life. The scraping kind of tickled, especially when she went under the bottoms of my toes. I tried not to squirm.

After the scraping was the lotioning. They used a goopy green lotion that smelled like mint. I'm down with minty smells. I suffered another indignity, however, when my pedicurist had to get up and go get another squirt of lotion. If you are in the upper echelon of foot beauty, a supermodel of feet, you only need one squirt, and then it's on to the hot towel. If you've just crawled up from Middle Earth like me, they have to call in reinforcements. Then again, this was probably my favorite part of the pedicure, as they massage the lotion on your dogs and then up your shins and calves, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel pretty good. This was when we really started to relax.

They left us wrapped in the hot towels for a bit before cleaning off the lotion. Another quick check on the cuticles, and then they painted our toes. Joëlle got colorful toe separators to keep her piggies apart while the polish was being applied. My toes are much longer, something more akin to E.T.'s, so no separation needed. They extend out far enough on their own.

While the polish dried, we looked at some of the magazines that were lying around. I read up on how Mariska Hargitay designed her apartment, including a rather extensive library. I pointed to the shelf that had the same collection of Oscar Wilde as I do and noted that she and I share similar tastes in classic literature. Joëlle was not impressed, insisting those books were ringers used for the photoshoot. Our first lesson about pedicures: bring your own reading material.

Second lesson was in regards to the footwear you bring with you, especially if travelling under your own power. You don’t really want to put socks back on and stick your tootsies back into constricting shoes after that. Thankfully, they had paper flip-flops for us to borrow. They are a little thicker than they sound, more like a foam paper than writing paper. If Joëlle and I ever do 12 Reasons Why I Love Him, the guy will give his girlfriend paper flip-flops on their first anniversary. The ones at the salon had cartoon ducks wearing neckties printed on them. We weren't sure why until we tried to walk. To keep the shoes on your feet, you have to waddle like a duck. They only lasted about six blocks, though, before we had to resort to our own shoes.

From the knees on down, I definitely felt more relaxed. Hours later, the skin is still smoother, and of course, my toenails are a very handsome blue. Boys, you definitely want to consider getting a pedicure in the future. You won’t feel like less of a man for it, I promise. In fact, only lesser men are scared of such pleasures! If nothing else, consider a gift certificate for your significant other. He or she will appreciate it.

If you can, though, go with someone who has worse feet than you. It will be better for your ego. I think my toes looked pretty swell, but it was nothing like Ms Johansson sitting next to me. There are some areas in life where I just don't have what it takes to compete.

The actual feet of Scarlett Johansson

Current Soundtrack: Little Steven's Underground Garage

Current Mood: refreshed

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

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

Friday, September 22, 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. (I don't know why I link to them still. They're both pussies who couldn't hack it. Neither has updated the feature in a century!)

Personnel: Nick Cave, Mick Harvey, Blixa Bargeld, Thomas Wydler, Conway Savage, Martyn P. Casey, Jim Sclavunos, Warren Ellis
Producers: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and Flood / Label: Mute

It's only by some weird coincidence that today is Nick Cave's 49th birthday. I chose this record last week when I chose the Joy Division, and I had no idea dates were going to converge like this. It's a fitting moment of kismet, though, because The Boatman's Call marks a signal shift in the Bad Seeds repertoire, a move from the blood and thunder of yesterday to something that thunders in its capacity for reserve.

I didn't understand The Boatman's Call at first. I was used to the raucous Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, having come to them around the time of Henry's Dream, drawn in by the love song "Straight to You." I dug its declarative statements. Cave was like some kind of pool hall knight templar. His swearing his allegiance of love struck me as a new and infectious strain of black-pantsed chivalry. Once I educated myself to more Bad Seeds, I saw how far it extended. Nick Cave had invented his own kingdom, a Southern Gothic film noir full of murder, sex, and colorful characters. He was neither above nor outside the swampy narratives, he was up to his neck in them. Musically, the Bad Seeds played like rock 'n' roll was gang warfare. For every hack and slash in Cave's lyrics, the boys in the band would match it with a stab of the guitar, a slice across the drums, the violin screaming like a cut throat. They would get loud, out of control, the murderous kangaroo court of Fritz Lang's M descending on each song as if it were a child molester needing to be snuffed out.

The Boatman's Call isn't like that.

The Boatman's Call is hushed and contemplative. Its two main themes were laid out on its advance single, the immediately brilliant "Into My Arms": God's love and human love. And how they entwine. I remember "Into My Arms" coming out, and it was unanimously loved, even by me. It's a song that gets better with age, too. I understand it more now as age pushes me on. Absolutes are a little harder the older I get. My hair should be graying to match my insides. Nothing is quite as clear as it was when I was just a wee lad. The Almighty is no exception. "Into My Arms" expresses doubt, and the desire to have the absolute ring true. It's a love song for agnostics, its famous opening line, "I don't believe in an interventionist God," being the statement of a man who isn't sure he believes but wants to.

What has prompted this soul searching? A woman, naturally. Someone who makes a man question his belief system. Someone he believes in so much it makes him want to have faith everything else and everything more, if for not other reason but to preserve this affection. There is even a wonderful blurring in the final verse: "But I believe in Love/ And I know that you do too/ And I believe in some kind of path/ That we can walk down, me and you/ So keep your candles burning/ And make her journey bright and pure." It's almost a Hemingway-esque juggling of pronouns, the way Papa drops speech signifiers in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" so the reader has to stop and ponder who is saying what, and how the choice affects the meaning. When Nick Cave goes from "you" to "her," it brings pause. Who was the "you"? Was it God, was it the girl? It's marvelous!

After this lead-in, though, I was nonplussed by the rest of The Boatman's Call. On the heels of the stabby-stab Bad Seeds of Murder Ballads, what was this record of piano-based ballads? The twelve tracks sound like gospels recorded on sleeping pills. It's the end of the night and Nick Cave is blitzed and they can't get him to leave the bar, he just hangs out banging the keys and wailing at the world. What the hell?

I'm not sure how much longer it took me to get it. A shift in my own thinking was required to understand that Cave was moving on, that Murder Ballads had effectively killed off that side of his career. I needed to wallow myself to help me understand what he was wallowing in.

That came in the form of a break-up. A relationship had gone on the skids, and for some reason, a cassette of The Boatman's Call that had been made for me by no less than Paul Pope found its way back into my car. I can't explain how it happened, but it was the perfectly right time for me to hear it again. It was exactly what I had needed.

The reason for the doubt, for the questioning, and for the resulting insistence on a larger truth is that The Boatman's Call is an album about being dumped. The songs are about being in love, but that love failing you. It's about not wanting to let it go, because if you do, there will be nothing left to stand on. It's of no less importance than a man's belief in a Supreme Being. If the heart can fail, than God is dead, and then what do I have? A cruel and fickle world? Myself, "this useless old fucker"?

I can't say for sure if Nick Cave was in a lovelorn gutter at the time of writing the record. The rumors were that he was. It has been alleged the PJ Harvey was the inspiration for cuts like "West Country Girl," "Black Hair," and "Green Eyes." Having come together to record "Henry Lee" on Murder Ballads, a torrid affair had started, the passion displayed in the video for that song (essentially, one long make-out session, the kisses pouring out even when their lips aren't locked) was not faked, but real. She broke his heart, and The Boatman's Call was Nick getting over it. Given that Cave's marriage had also ended in the midst of all this, other songs like "Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere?" and "People Ain't No Good" may not be talking about marriage in a figurative sense.

If you want proof of the darkness, the telegraphing of the hurt, you don't have to go that much farther into the disc. Track 2 is "Lime-Tree Arbor," and it swings to the other side. "The boatman calls from the lake," it begins, and though he is to take the lovers to a natural paradise (or is it supernatural?), the boatman is also the classic symbol of death. Though they begin in tranquil weather, walking among the trees, the climate grows darker, and though they manage to maintain for this song (the chorus is "Through every word that I speak/ And every thing I know/ There is a hand that protects me/ And I do love her so"), there is a feeling of melancholy that hangs over it all, and a similar onslaught of weather is going to prove to be their downfall on the next track.

"People Ain't No Good" makes no attempt to hide its cynicism. The lime trees have been replaced with cherry blossoms, it's springtime and two lovers are married. But then one chorus of "people they ain't no good" and we go to winter. The trees are bare, and though there is a suggestion that the couple has tried to stand together against these rotten others, the metaphor of the woman trying to protect herself from the storm by drawing " the curtains made out of her wedding veils" is ambiguous. The marriage could be the shield, but the removal of the veil and using it to block out trouble could also be seen as the wife drawing a line between herself and her husband. The bridge definitely suggests that the love has died, and Cave is giving instructions for its funeral:

"To our love send a dozen white lilies
To our love send a coffin of wood
To our love let all the pink-eyed pigeons coo
That people they just ain't no good
To our love send back all the letters
To our love a valentine of blood
To our love let all the jilted lovers cry
That people they just ain't no good

On the next couple of songs, Cave gets deeper into the mingling of the heavens and the heart. "Brompton Oratory" draws in images of Christ's tomb and suggests the hole left by a lover now gone has more power to lay waste to his soul than any god or devil. It's desolate stuff. On "There is a Kingdom," no bones are made about love and divinity being one in the same, of a woman being God made flesh on Earth. Yet, Cave continues the set-it-up-and-knock-it-down structure. In the first verse, she is an active power, and in the second, gone: "This day so sweet, it will never come again." There is comfort for his soul in "(Are You) The One That I've Been Waiting For?" but it marks the midway point on the album, and the tenor changes from there. The song lets us rediscover love so that we might lose it again.

After "(Are You) The One That I've Been Waiting For?", The Boatman's Call gets more specific. These are the songs that are often argued to be about the specific people. "Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere?" is interpreted as being about his ex-wife because she is Brazilian, and it starts with the lines, "I remember a girl so very well/ The carnival drums all mad in the air." It starts with passion that catches them up in its whirlwind ("going 'round and around to nowhere") but soon gets nasty ("the kitten that padded and purred on my lap/ now swipes at my face with the paw of a bear"). They end with nothing to say, with a concern for what this all might do to their child, but with no option, with nothing left to hope for, only the question of "O where do we go now but nowhere?"

Even still, he's not willing to accept that it wasn't worth it, to give up the love he felt. As the song ends, he says straight out that if he could do it all over, he'd head straight back to the beginning. If he completely gives up on love, then there would be nothing left. He certainly couldn't write "West Country Girl," a long list of details about a woman whom he adores. The lyrics show he still gives himself over completely to romance. He knows the risk, and he'll take it. He tells of her voice that "has been poured/ Into my human heart and filled me/ With love, up to the brim, and killed me/ And rebuilt me back anew." It's an existential crisis of love, fetishistic in its detail. The rebuilding is taken on faith, but is he a better man, or just different? Many of those details surface again on "Black Hair" and "Green Eyes," suggesting quite clearly that they are about the same woman. So also returns the wrestling with the finite nature of what should be infinite. On "Green Eyes," the closing song and the one where he calls himself a useless old fucker (while also referring to her "twinkling cunt"), he says straight out that he doesn't care if he gets hurt, but if we hearken back to "Black Hair," we know it's already over. "The smell of her black hair/ Upon my pillow/ Where her head and all its/ Black hair did rest/ Today she took a train to the West."

It's after the west country girl has gotten on the train that we get the two songs where Cave allows himself a little anger, where he lashes out at both the eternal God and eternal love ("Idiot Prayer" and "Far From Me"), but it's "Green Eyes" that we are left with, and on "Green Eyes," we are told that he will just get back into it again. If there is anything truly eternal about these things, it's that we will never be over them, and we will embrace their damage over and over. As Cave sings in "Lime-Tree Arbor," "There will always be suffering/ It flows through life like water"

The Boatman's Call runs the classic course of post-relationship grief. It questions, it reminisces, it turns inward for the blame, turns outward, resurges, grows angry, and then capitulates. We don't really heal, we just pick ourselves up and try again, because if we can't believe there is something more out there, then what do we have? The "Lime-Tree Arbor" quote about suffering continues, after all, with the lines, "She puts her hand over mine/ Down in the lime-tree arbor." With our acceptance that there is suffering in our earthly Eden, we also maintain the hope that there will be some comfort.

Amazing how something I didn't understand when I first tried it has come to mean so much. Perhaps why it was so easy to miss was that The Boatman's Call is so consistent in tone and theme, it could be misconstrued as single-minded. The thing that you realize, though, when you are feeling it as it is intended, as you go through it yourself, is that it's a state that lingers, a mood that needs to be poured over and dissected. If you don't dive all the way down in the water, you can't have the satisfaction of breaking through the surface again. Granted, you could never come up for air and you could drown, but you can't blame Nick Cave. He's lowered the rope and is ready to pull you up.

NOTABLE B-SIDE: "Little Empty Boat" was one of the flips to "Into My Arms," and I'd argue it's the bridge between Old School and New School Bad Seeds. Slightly up-tempo from The Boatman's Call, it has the anger and bitterness absent in the rest of the album. Anchored by a ghostly piano riff and an odd noise that almost sounds like a razor being sharpened on a strap, "Little Empty Boat" is a man wrestling with himself at a party, being chatted up by a woman he knows he shouldn't go to, but who he is having a hard time turning down. "That grave you dug between your legs is hard to resist," he says, by way of explanation. It could easily be a song about a man broken by love, who now finds his existence hollow. He is the little empty boat. Or his heart is. Or it's even a metaphor for impotence ("My little boat is empty it won't go/ And my oar is broken, it don't row row row"). God plays into it, but he may be gone, too. "I am the resurrection, baby," Cave says. When the individual only has himself left, everything is up for questioning. "I respect your beliefs, girl/ I consider you a friend/ But I've already been born once/ And I don't need to be born again." And yet, for all his protests, in the end, surrender: "Give to God what is God's and give the rest to me/ Tell our gracious host to fuck himself, it's time for us to leave." There is an "us." The tune is like a dark invocation, and one of those B-sides it's hard to believe was let go on an EP. The whole "Into My Arms" single is worth digging up. The second B is "Right Now I'm A-Roaming," a happier song, easily interpreted as the morning after "Little Empty Boat," or at least the letting go, finding redemption and happiness, returning to shore.

#26 #25 #24 #23 #22 #21 #20 #19 #18 #17 #16
(The first 26) (Permanent Records iMix 1)

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: Scissor Sisters, Ta-Dah!

Current Mood: moody


The first review of 12 Reasons Why I Love Her is in, and it's a really good one. Over at his Comic Book Galaxy blog, Alan David Doane gives an insightful write-up to our little comic. Read this excerpt, and then click through for the rest:

"Written by Jamie S. Rich and illustrated by Joelle Jones, 12 Reasons Why I Love Her is told in a non-linear fashion that convincingly immerses the reader in the reality of a romantic entanglement, with all the tension, joy, passion and sorrow that accompanies any longterm love affair. Jones has a confident, playful line and gives rich texture to the story, parsed out in 12 individual chapters. Each chapter has its own theme, mood and emotion, and any one of them provides an excellent standalone story."

It's not too late to order this book. Here's some info.

As for my own reviews, if you wonder why I've been so quiet this week, it's because I've been holed up trying to catch up on the pile of DVDs waiting for me, as well as sprucing up two theatrical reviews.

If you're thinking of going to the movies this weekend, avoid All the President's Men and head straight over to The Science of Sleep.

On the DVD front:
* The Big Animal, a social fable made from an unproduced screenplay by Krzysztof Kieslowski
* Film Noir: The Dark Side of Hollywood, a new box set of five previously released film noir discs
* Jiri Barta: Labyrinth of Darkness, eight surreal animated films by the Czech master
* Russian Dolls, the superior sequel to L'Auberge espagnole (The Spanish Apartment)
* Telling Stories: The Comic Book Creators, a flawed documentary featuring interviews with comic book creators from several generations
* Terry Moore: Paradise Found, another comic book documentary, this time about the creator of Strangers in Paradise

Readers of The Everlasting may find Russian Dolls interesting because it has some eerie parallels to my novel, including its structure. I was kind of weirded out by that.

Current Soundtrack: Friday's '80s at 8:00 am on 94.7 KNRK

Current Mood: crappy

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

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

Saturday, September 16, 2006


I'm consistently amazed by how much fandom of all kinds imposes the law of diminishing returns on what it worships. Musicians and novelists and filmmakers are always shackled by what people fell in love with first, and if you don't spend the rest of your career chasing after that initial blush of success, the people who "support" you will always be asking why you don't, just as they sharpen the second edge of their sword so they can stab you with an accusatory "repeating yourself" when you do.

Thus, we must love that which bucks the trend, that improves as it moves, that gets better as it goes.

So I am seduced by Casanova, the comics series by writer Matt Fraction and artist Gabriel Bá (Image Comics). The recently relased fourth issue is the best yet.

As a writer, Fraction has been climbing with each issue of Casanova. At its start, I'll admit I found the book a little hard to wrap my head around. There were almost too many ideas crammed into the pages, too much to let his eadership in on and possibly a structural misstep to try to do it all at once out of a grand desire to deliver the goods. With #s 2 and 3, I felt like Matt was getting more comfortable. He wasn't having to explain as much, and so the stories could start just being stories. He could rely on a familiarity with the characters and the world and no need to worry about giving us all the background. It's why I think the "sequels always suck" maxim is a lot of crap, because sometimes sequels can get down to business much quicker because you already know what the deal is. Something like X-Men 2 or (yes, I'm saying it) Wayne's World II (which today would be called WWII because it's so hard to type or, worse, say full titles anymore). No explanation needed. That's Wolverine, and that's Wayne and Garth, let's have some fun.

Casanova #4 is all about the fun. Now that Casanova Quinn has set up shop as a double-agent in an alternate timeline, Fraction and Bá need only concern themselves with creating new missions for their guy to undertake. This time around, he is sent to kidnap a guru who is either the greatest new religious figure since Christ or a bullshit performance artist who just pulled the bestest con ever. Given that this is a Fraction plot, boiling it down to option A and option B is silly and short-sighted of me, because we're going to get several other alphabetical choices before we close covers, but there you go. Yet, it doesn't feel cluttered. Ditto for Gabriel Bá's art. It doesn't feel as manic or crammed in trying to keep up with everything Matt is tossing into the three rings of their spacey circus. When Bá gets his action on, the comic really kicks.

The other thing that shows the series growth is that the character of Cas is becoming far more human. Last issue, he figured out where his mother had been locked away, and #4 gets deeper into that. Now that the concept of who and what Casanova is has been pushed out of the way, the actual guy gets the room to be himself. It made #4 the first issue I enjoyed without any reservation, and I hope it's the standard bearer of what is to follow.

Current Soundtrack: Sarah Nixey, "Strangelove;" Andy Bell, "I'll Never Fall In Love Again;" Placebo, "Infra-Red;" Michael Galasso, "Casanova's Flute;" Pet Shop Boys, "Casanova in Hell;" Petula Clark, "Casanova"

Current Mood: apathetic


I've got a couple of reviews up this week at DVD Talk.

In theatres, take a look at Brian De Palma's adaptation of James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia.

* Christie Malry's Own Double Entry, a British crime film that's best aspect is the score by Luke Haines
* The Viking Sagas, a low-grade period action film by the director of Clan of the Cave Bear

DVD Talk has also graciously put a banner for my books into rotation on their site. If you have a site with banners and you want to do the same, please feel free to snake this here image for your place of cyber residence:

Special thanks to Rocky for designing it.

In other news, the reading went really well Thursday night. It was decently attended, and people seemed to enjoy it. I read a selection from 12 Reasons Why I Love Her; "Moon on Your Pyjamas," one of the deleted scenes from The Everlasting; and the two chapters from "Romeo may be Bleeding, but Mercutio is Dead." It was strange, during the latter portion of the night, there was a blonde woman whom I did not recognize making the strangest faces. Her expression was like I knew her but she wasn't sure I would recognize her and she was being shy and goofy, with a big smile and bright eyes. Yet, it wasn't that, she was reacting to the work, I could tell. I could see her actually reacting, yet I couldn't figure out if she was laughing with Lance's grand romantic antics or against them. She didn't come up after with a book to be signed, so I don't know if I was losing her at that point or what. It was very bizarre.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who came out!

Current Soundtrack: Brian Eno, Another Day On Earth

Current Mood: lonely

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

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

Friday, September 15, 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: Ian Curtis, vocals; Bernard Sumner; guitar & synthesizers; Peter Hook, bass; Stephen Morris, drums
Producers: Martin Hannett & Joy Division / Label: Factory

When I was sixteen, I got a new car. I had made a deal with my father that if he bought a new car as opposed to a used one, I would go to college, the logic being that a new one would last me all the way through. At the time, it's what I thought I wanted. By the time I was eighteen and out of high school, the car had three dents in it--one from a screw-up in our expansive backyard while practicing shifting, one from a parking lot accident, the other from a time when I kicked it. I know you probably think you can't kick a dent in a car, because they are big and hard and you are small and soft, but trust me, you can. My desire to go to college had taken a couple of dents by then, too.

Writing was what I wanted to do, and I had picked up some romantic notions of what that meant. The car ironically figured into my plans to ditch out of school. I was dreaming of getting in it and driving, just going wherever the highway took me and stopping to make money where necessary. I'm not sure how I cooked up this plan, because if there was anyone who was ever more ill-suited for that kind of life than I was, I am not sure who that would be.

The car almost became the catalyst for my taking off in another way. The summer between high school and university, I went to the San Diego Comic Con (before it was international) for my fourth time. I drove myself and my friends down there. Parking in the hotel garage, I had to angle into a pretty tight spot next to a fat pole. I thought the guy in the passenger seat was watching the pole for me, which he was--he was just a little slow on pointing out that I was going to collide with it. I recall hearing the crinkling of metal a second before I heard him say, "Pole."

My car's fourth dent.

That dent haunted me the entire weekend. I kept imagining getting home, having my father see it, and hearing the lecture about how stupid it was that my car was in the shape that it was now in. I didn't want to go home. I didn't want to face it.

Sure, that sounds trivial in and of itself, but that dent became something larger. It represented all the things I didn't want to deal with, the decision I didn't want to face. Going home and taking the lecture, it meant committing once and for all to college, to locking myself away at school for several more years. If I chose to avoid facing my father's scorn, I could avoid everything else. Just run away, and leave it all behind.

I drove my friends back from the convention with this on my mind. They lived in a different town than I did, so I had to go there first, and then there would be some more driving before I would be home. There would be a further delay because I had tickets for the House of Love and Peter Murphy show at the Universal Amphitheatre that night. The plan on that Sunday was to take my friends home, go to the show, and then from there, who knew?

The show was good. An attractive girl came down to fill the empty seat next to me because her friend had gotten too drunk before the show and was too sick to come in. She was all by herself and the guys in her row were lame. She was very friendly, a kind of average Southern California girl--tan, with maybe a trace of Hispanic blood in her; long brown hair. We had a good time, but when it was all over, we just said good-bye, that was it. Why had I let her leave without getting more information? Why had I not suggested doing something else?

But then, this was indicative of my whole problem. I could see it. This indecision, this refusal to reach for something more.

I got in my car and drove out to the beach. I had a boom box with me and I took it and sat on the lifeguard station and listened to my tape of Joy Division's Closer. I don't think that it had been selected for any other reason than me being sad and looking for something to fit that. I can't recall there being any greater meaning than that, nor do I think the record's part in my decision boiled down to anything like an epiphany. I didn't hear a lyric and think, "Now I know what I must do."

Rather, I think Closer provided a momentary oasis, a place of heavy thought where I could be alone with my own heavy thoughts. It wasn't so much what Ian Curtis said, but the sound of his voice, the desolation and the loss, the loneliness. His deep tones provided the atmosphere, while the music provided the landscape. The weighty sounds of Peter Hook's fat bass lines, the smooth roll back of Bernard Sumner's guitars: these things built a safety area. There on the beach in the middle of the night, I could remove myself from the rest of the world for a while.

If I did try to point to one song, it would probably be my favorite on the album, "The Eternal."

Procession moves on, the shouting is over
Praise to the glory of loved ones now gone
Talking aloud as they sit round their tables
Scattering flowers washed down by the rain

Stood by the gate at the foot of the garden
Watching them pass like clouds in the sky
Try to cry out in the heat of the moment
Possessed by a fury that burns from inside

Cry like a child though these years make me older
With children my time is so wastefully spent
Burden to keep, though their inner communion
Accept like a curse an unlucky deal

Laid by the gate at the foot of the garden
My view stretches out from the fence to the wall
No words could explain, no actions determine
Just watching the trees and the leaves as they fall

Even if these words did not directly influence what happened, they definitely form an accurate reflection of what I was feeling at the time. I was standing in between two stages of life, feeling separate and helpless, looking at things I could not have and a dark fate that might be waiting for me. In whatever capacity, I found the comfort I needed to decide what I would do.

No surprise, I went home. I waited long enough so that I would not arrive until my dad had gone to work, so I could get some sleep before confronting the awful new dent. My reasoning for sticking to the plan was both not wanting to screw him and also realizing I probably wasn't ready to take the leap I had envisioned. Something like that, altering your trajectory in such a drastic way, is not a move one should agonize over. If it's right, you know.

As for the dent, I had blown it all out of proportion, of course. My dad saw it and just chuckled. "What's one more, I suppose?" he said. "Three or four, what does it matter?" I had gotten myself worked up over nothing. At least in that aspect of it.

That fall I would get my fifth dent, some guy named Homer Simpson (I kid you not) rear-ended me at a stop light. It didn't seem like such a big deal when it happened. I couldn't even tell you what was on the radio when the impact occurred. If it wasn't significant enough to have a marker like that, I guess it's pretty clear I had settled into my decision and was ensconced enough by that point not to be knocked out of it.

#26 #25 #24 #23 #22 #21 #20 #19 #18 #17
(The first 26) (Permanent Records iMix 1)

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: "Just Shoot Me"

Current Mood: relieved

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

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