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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Just a quick update.

* The new "Can You Picture That?" is now online at the Oni site.

* I have no new video picks for March. Our February picks got postponed due to the Portland International Film Festival. You can relive February here.

* Confessions123.com is allegedly changing servers, possibly this week, so if you see outages it's either because of our regular shitty service or our attempt to flee said service. Don't be alarmed. Also, Greg McElhatton has stupidly agreed to help me update the site, so it should be all fresh with info soon.

Current Soundtrack: The Decemberists, Her Majesty...

Current Mood: anxious

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

Friday, February 24, 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.

Personnel: Shock G, Money B, Chopmaster J, DJ Fuse, Schmoovy-Schmoov; guest stars: Humpty Hump & MC Blowfish
Producer: Digital Undergound /Label: Tommy Boy

"Are you guys old school, new school, r&b, or hip hop?" an anonymous person asks Shock G at the beginning of "The Way We Swing," the second track on Sex Packets, the debut album by Northern California's Digital Underground. The song itself is an explanation of sorts, convoluted in its language, placing less importance on information than on Shock's verbal dexterity, the words he uses trumping what he actually says. "The Way We Swing" attempts to elucidate that which cannot be elucidated, and so it's fitting that the poetry tumbles in on itself. Digital Underground, as a group, were difficult to compartmentalize, and it would take more than six minutes--or the words in this essay--to nail everything down. The most important element is all you really walk away with: that MCs, fans, and the band itself likes the sound being made. And when the song is done, you like the sound of the Underground, too.

It's almost hard to remember a time when rap and hip hop were possessed of a seemingly unlimited capacity for creativity, where anything could go and usually did. When Sex Packets came out, Dr. Dre and The Chronic were just around the corner, and that disc would begin to solidify the foundation of mainstream hip hop, for better or for worse, to spawn endless deviations of the same. Hip hop was about to become serious business, and nothing else would be entertained. In some ways, the Underground would orchestrate their own demise, blazing a trail with the kind of P-Funk samples that would become a cornerstone of the West Coast sound and elevating Tupac Shakur from a back-up dancer to a performer, but when they debuted on the scene, there was nothing else like them.

Back then, rap was already mainly about boasting, but groups celebrated their lyrical skills rather than the cars they would eventually have repossessed and the criminal activities they allegedly indulged in. The Underground would not spend just one song promoting their untouchable style, but would immediately follow with a second, "Rhymin' on the Funk," where Shock and his rap partner Money B would decree, "We solemnly swear to never bust a style that's bunk." The track after it is titled "The New Jazz (One)." The first half of Sex Packets is like a blueprint for a music group, a map for where they were going, for all the things they intended to encompass. Funk, Jazz, hip hop...and whatever else their ears fell upon. "Gutfest '89" is an epic narrative of a massive party and music festival. It begins with Shock G broadcasting from the event, posing as a reporter named Phil, explaining what Gutfest attendees can expect from the weekend. Surely it's telling that the first three bands he mentions as performing are the Who, the Clash, and Digital Underground, drawing a lineage of bands that mattered, lumping his own in with rock groups. The only hip-hop band mentioned is EPMD, and the jazz stage will feature Herbie Hancock, Chic Corea, and Miles Davis--all innovators and cross-over artists.

With these influences under their arms, the group cooked up amazing things in the studio. Perhaps their philosophy was best summed up by one of their singles, "Doowutchyalike," a party jam telling everyone to do as they pleased and not be ashamed. The song is all forward momentum, sampled ooh-ooh's, a simple bass line, drums that shimmered at a steady pace, scratches like cheers. Midway through the song, at the radio-friendly three-and-a-half minute mark, a female operator informs all DJs that the record will fade on their behalf, only to come back up for anyone bumping the track at a party, where one need not be restrained. By this point, it's no surprise when the song suddenly breaks down and a free-form piano solo takes over, becoming a new voice on the number. The rest of Sex Packets is imbued with the same spirit. Any of the songs could go anywhere, from the dirty sex party of "Freaks of the Industry" to the oddball remix of "Underwater Rhymes," which seems to exist merely as an excuse to rap with filters on the vocals and give Shock's Edward G. Robinson-imitating MC Blowfish a place to take center stage. Digital Underground were not an overly serious rap group who were afraid to have fun.

In fact, Blowfish was one of two characters Shock played. The other, the large-nosed Humpty Hump, ended up being more famous than the man behind the proboscis, and his anthem was Digital Underground's biggest hit. "The Humpty Dance" didn't quite crack the top 10, surprisingly, but it was everywhere, pushing Sex Packets to platinum status. A goofball single hearkening back to manufactured dance phenoms like "The Twist," it introduces the band's court jester, a musical prank that took on a life of its own. Though the identity of Humpty Hump seemed pretty obvious, from the sound of the voice to the facial features not obscured by the fake snout, Shock G went to great lengths to foster the illusion that he and Humpty Hump were two people, going so far as to have stand-ins onstage to play either identity when he was in the other. I know I had at least one argument at the time with someone who wouldn't believe that it was just one guy. Go figure.

"The Humpty Dance" was a step above a novelty single, its slithering bass line and its sense of humor making it unforgettable. Humpty Hump was a braggart who exposed his own oafishness with his inane boasts. "I like the girls with the boom/ I once got busy in a Burger King bathroom," is perhaps the most famous. "Ya know I'm in charge/ Both how I'm livin' and my nose is large." It's a goofy shtick, but it works, allowing Shock G to tear through the braggadocio of the rap world without really exposing himself, freeing Digital Underground from the crippling need to pursue an image of "authenticity" while also emphasizing the importance of performance. There's no other rapper who is so deep into his alter ego that you might consider that guise to be its own entity. Part of this success is that the band trots the character out sparingly. Humpty's only on two songs on Sex Packets, and he doesn't even appear on the album cover. Eminem invokes the name of Slim Shady so often, it's impossible to tell the two apart, much less figure out where his supposedly "real" identity of Marshall Mathers fits in.

But such is the nature of Digital Underground. As I've emphasized all along, there is no easy path here, no dipping your toe in. They're going to pull you in and expose you to the entire world they've created. It's not just about the sound, it's about the experience. If the first half of Sex Packets is meant to establish the terrain, then the second half is the payoff, a grouping of the five songs from which the album takes its title.

This is where the long-arm of Pete Townshend suddenly becomes evident, when Sex Packets becomes a concept record. One can even feel echoes of Townshend's unrealized, futuristic Lifehouse opera in the concept: in a society where sex has become unsafe, science steps in. Instead of the regular drugs, dealers on the street now sell "sex packets," condom-shaped sleeves smuggling pills that when ingested will give the user a fully realized, virtual-reality fantasy featuring the girl pictured on the cover. All varieties of females are available, you just have to choose. (Adding to the Underground's prankster mentality, false announcements about actual sex packets being developed by NASA were sent out by Shock G and fooled a couple of real-life media outlets.)

The cycle of Sex Packets songs plays like a sci-fi blacksploitation picture. "Packet Prelude" is the overture, just a simple, meandering piano leading to Shock exclaiming, "It's so real!" A disembodied answer assures him, "It is real." This leads into the title track, another mellow roll where the concept is explained, sometimes in utopian terms: "It's not what it seems/ there's love."

Third in the line-up is "Street Scene," a skit about a guy looking to score that sets up the energetic "Packet Man," where a buyer who sounds suspiciously like Humpty Hump haggles with a dealer over his merchandise. "Packet Man" is the concept's Isaac Hayes number, complete with a horn section and bouncing rhythm. Despite the illegality of his enterprise, the Packet Man is providing a service: "There's only one thing safer then using your hand/ Dial that beeper number, and call the packet man." He is a kind of urban antihero, and yet the end of the song takes us back to the characters of "Street Scene," the first man so caught up in the throes of his packet addiction, he's willing to do anything--including trade his TV and VCR--to get another pill. One can't build a utopia without pulling it down.

"Packet Reprise" closes it all off, returning us to the piano of "Packet Prelude," taking us out on a dream melody, the slowed-down, deeply buried pulse of a bass drum.

The finale is the ultimate payoff for the Digital Underground promise. It's the realization of all their claims to being "the microphone masters/ known to MCs as the raw dog bastards." The way they end up swinging is only limited by what crazy things they can come up with, and it's proof positive to the hip-hop community that this particular genre of music has unlimited potential. Too bad the mainstream wasn't paying more attention, as creative masterminds like Dan the Automator would be the norm, dominating over the safely limited P. Diddies and Kanye Wests, and we'd have hopefully gotten more than the handful of Digital Underground albums that were to follow, themselves struggling to live up to the standard of the original.

As it stands, Sex Packets exists as the concrete realization of its own internal metaphor: pop open the packet/jewel case and insert the pill/disc, then sit back and enter this brave new world of aural sensations.

#52 #51 #50 #49 #48 #47 #46

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: Mogwai, Mr. Beast

Current Mood: working

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


I'm here to sell you stuff.

In stores this week, Put the Book Back on the Shelf: A Belle & Sebastian Anthology. I posted a full line-up a bit ago, but all you really need to know is that Marc Ellerby and I have a story in it, adapting "Marx & Engels," the B-side to "I'm Waking Up To Us." Click on the cover and buy it.

Mumps has heard that we might be the only people who opted for black-and-white. That worries him a little, but it excites me. I relish the chance to stand out! It was a style decision, we didn't feel our story needed color. I have been watching a little Jim Jarmusch recently, and among many other right-on things, in reference to Down By Law, he said he chose to film in black-and-white because color is distracting. Color draws your eye away from what is essential, and with some stories--particularly human stories--you want people to stay focused on what's important. This is one of the many reasons I am suddenly in love with Jim Jarmusch. Another is his hair. Another is how he talks about music. Jim, where have you been all my life?

What am I anxious about? Typos. Please don't let there be typos. Not after Four-Letter Worlds.


Two manga I have scripted. Ai Yori Aoshi vol. 12, and the first installment of the darkly comic romance book, Gacchagacha. Seek. Buy.

(I should actually note that I'm not entirely positive that Gacchagacha is out there. I believe there has been some title confusion, and there is another book from another company with the two-word title used on Amazon, which is even different than the one on the cover. But I think that's it, as it's listed as five issues on the Diamond shipping list, and the one I worked on is five.)

(And now that I'm building my links, I see someone went on a Jamie S. Rich comic book shopping spree at Amazon, buying all my original short work...and a copy of Lost at Sea. Thanks, whoever you are.)

* * *

Ian Shaughnessy and Chynna Clugston have let me know that at long last, Strangetown #1 is finished. It should be in stores in late March, courtesy of Oni Press. It's a hilarious book, and some of Chynna's best work to date. Just look:

As previously announced, I wrote a text piece for the back, a mock-up of one of the character's newspaper columns. Hilarity!

* * *

The new assignments are going well. I got a lot of work in last night. I'm almost completely nocturnal now. I just kind of slipped into it. I stayed up until 4:00 a.m. and slept until almost 11:00. This from a strict regimen of going to bed between midnight and 1:00 and being up at 7:30 in the morning.

Current Soundtrack: Suede, Suede; Pet Shop Boys, "Your Funny Uncle;" Jenny Lewis w/ the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat

Current Mood: determined

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

Monday, February 20, 2006


Happy 26th Birthday to Joëlle Jones!

Normally I post my comic book birthday wishes on the Oni board, but Joëlle doesn't frequent that forum. Plus, this gives me an excuse to show more art from 12 Reasons Why I Love Her!

* * *

I'm starting to do interviews for my upcoming projects. Interested parties can either contact me at the address below or e-mail Maryanne Snell at Oni. I've completed one and am in the middle of a second.

Posting may lighten up a bit in the coming weeks. I have recently gotten some much needed freelance rewriting gigs and those will have to take precedence. I'll be starting tonight, actually, and I should have a better sense in a couple of days how it will all go and then maybe be more liberal with my time.

Current Soundtrack: My Latest Novel, Wolves

Current Mood: busy

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

Friday, February 17, 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.

Personnel: Paul Heaton, vocals; Jacqueline Abbot, vocals; Dave Hemingway, vocals; David Rotheray, guitars; Sean Welch, bass; David Stead, drums; Damon Butcher, piano; Martin Ditcham, percussion
Producer: Jon Kelly /Label: Go! Discs

This week's entry is a brother to the sister of last week's entry. Your post-Valentine's Valentine. If Neil Hannon's Divine Comedy struck a pose I know far too well--romantic boy with a self-deprecating defense--then Paul Heaton's Beautiful South, on their album Miaow, has found my other guise--hopeless romantic as cynic. How else do you explain an album that opens with an anthem about the hopelessness of social ills ("Hold On To What?"), creates a ballad for the destitute (my February 14 download, "Especially For You"), and a decidedly sentimental song about growing old together, celebrating the wrinkles on a lover's face as if they formed a map of the relationship ("Prettiest Eyes")? The same man writes the lines "I'll still be trying to get your clothes off/ When I lie 6ft below" and "But you'll never hear the crack of a frown/ When you are here/ You'll never hear the crack/ Of a frown"--how can that be?

Surely the answer can be no surprise to you. If you've paid even a little attention to life around you, you'll know that the most rotten doom-and-gloom bastard has the shiniest heart of gold. Right? Or is the cynical side of us more correct, and when we mutter, "No one will ever notice how special I am," we're speaking truer than we know?

Shit. Now I'm depressed.

But...never mind, because you know I'm right when you think about it. Like, who is the biggest, most macho, gruffest guy out there? Papa Hemingway, yeah? Well, if you've read the end of The Sun Also Rises and it didn't make you melt, then maybe you better start thinking about your own position on such things. The dude was a lover!

Hell, spend five minutes with me, and chances are you'll see my mood swing from hopeful and triumphant to doomed and dismal in no times. I am the guy who walks around telling people I write romances, but who harbors a fantasy hatched all the way back in high school where I would go to my true love's wedding to another guy, get trashed, give a drunken toast, and then go home and hang myself as their jet takes off for the honeymoon. Trés romantique! (Don't worry. I can't do it now, because I told everyone about it, there'd be no surprise to it. Then again, I have also thought about committing suicide and leaving a note that says, "Oh, like you didn't see this coming!" So, one never knows.)

Hang on. Why did you all back away when you read that? You don't see the dark and lovely tragedy of it all? There's a song on Miaow that kind of connects to these scenarios, so I know Paul Heaton understands where I'm coming from. "Worthless Lie" is the tale of two lovers--sung by Heaton and Jacqueline Abbot in tandem--who have been separated and are now with others; yet, the connection lingers in secret, so that everything they do in their current relationship causes them to think of who they are with as who they are not with. Like an update of the Smiths classic "There is a Light that Never Goes Out," but without the starry-eyed sheen of adolescence, the chorus declares, "When I die I hope it's you I'm beside/ To die with her would be a worthless lie/ To die with her would be a worthless die/ To die together would be worth a try." The song's fade-out is a solo verse where the man sees an ambulance speed by and he secretly yearns that it's his long lost paramour, dead as a doornail, so he can visit her in the morgue and whisper to her corpse, "Finally! Quietly! Actually!/ I love you!" And, of course, it's all delivered in the South's trademark easy-listening pop style.

Come on, you can't tell me you don't find that romantic!

You seem unconvinced, which is sad, but I'll keep trying. This theory of mine, it ties into a lot of what I said about the Divine Comedy's A Short Album About Love, about how to portray the emotional weight of the way one human being feels for another, you have to portray the whole picture, the dirty bits and the contradictions. It's always been my belief that you can't fully understand one thing without spending some time with its opposite. In order to really get how chilly the freezing cold is, you've also had to know sweltering heat. Similarly, to appreciate the mind-blowing joy of being in love, you have to experience the crushing pain of rejection. As the cliché (and James lyric) goes, if you never see riches, you can live with being poor, and so, you can't define alone until you've been paired with other someones.

In order to write something as lathered in loving as "Prettiest Eyes," we also need songs like "Worthless Lie." It's about depth of feeling, about the breadth of emotion one allows oneself. The real extreme on Miaow is actually "Tattoo." It's got one of the breeziest melodies in the record, buoyed by a train-track drum rhythm (played with brushes) and a soft organ on the verses, a string section in the chorus. In counterpoint to its upbeat arrangement, it's got the saddest lyrics, beginning in a pit of hurting and rising to glorious anger. The narrator is wandering in his despair, searching for something. Eventually, he finds his place in a line at a tattoo parlor, standing with a load of other broken hearts looking to get the names of the ones who did them wrong inked on their skin. Only our boy, he finds a nice twist, a final sartorial revenge: "When they put the needle in me I'll scream your name in pain/ And I hope he spells 'you bastard' right."

It's not exactly the warmed cockles of growing old together, but it's as unabashed in its venom as "Prettiest Eyes" is in its caring. There's no irony in "Prettiest Eyes," no dodge. It's a straight-up expression of love. As a lyricist, Heaton flashes forward, imagining a couple who have spent sixty years of ups and downs together, and he sees how regardless of how many downs there were, they always land on the up. The signs of age, the "crows feet sitting on the prettiest eyes," are just a reminder that they arrived together, and that neither would trade any of the experiences for a return to youth. She's still as beautiful as the day he met her.

Most artists who aren't in the musical mainstream would shrink away from such forthright sentiment--unless it's sad. I'm not sure what scares "serious" creative types so much when it comes to being happy. La tristesse durera, absolutely, but there is more to life than that, so why not celebrate it?

I don't want to give you the wrong impression. Miaow is not entirely about love. Its scope is much broader, but love does provide us with a basis of approach, particularly that cynical romantic element. Elsewhere on the record, the band gets political. The album opener, "Hold On To What?" speaks of the plight of modern life. Existence is fraught with problems, and when we reach out, we are told to wait, to just hold on. But when there is nothing there to grasp, that's where the rejoinder of "Hold on to what?" comes in. Everyone is ready to go for help, but no one is gonna put that hand in themselves.

A similar message is on display in "Hidden Jukebox." Fingers are pointed--and not without a little sarcasm--at some of the sources of societal ills: organized religion, institutionalized prejudice, politicians whose exclusionary views are indulged. Heaton is calling for inclusion. The song on the hidden jukebox is the one the oppressors would rather not here, because it's lyrical thrust is that in the end, the world has more have-nots, more of us who are just people trying to get by, and maybe we should link arms and get by together, leaving the jackasses to themselves.

In the end, that's the theme I would likely divine from Miaow: despite the skepticism life engenders, we're all in this together. Even the cover art--be it the banned-by-RCA original with the oddball dogs getting to listen to music with the rest of the pack (and presumably, as the title of the album might suggest, the music is made by cats), or the replacement with German Shepherds adrift at sea--is about inclusion, about sludging through in tandem. No matter how many pessimistic turns of phrase Heaton may use, they ultimately add up to something far more hopeful.

Which takes us back to love, and my favorite track, "Especially For You." It's another song of inclusion, a call to arms for the outcasts and the desolate. "Only buy this if you're lonely," it begins, "Only listen if you're blue/ If you are married and you're happy/ This song is not to do with you." There are plenty of songs on the radio and in the record shops for people who have found what they are looking for. They have the sing-a-longs at their concerts, and their parties and holiday celebrations. They belong simply by belonging, their attachment to another leading to an attachment to all. So, where does that leave the unattached? This is where the Beautiful South comes in, ready to bring us together with a song of our own. We are all the same in our emotions ("It matters not the mouth that's singing"). Beneath our skin, we all feel. We buy it from the band--regardless of how sappy it is--because in the bigger scheme of the album, we realize they get it. Just like we do. When we cynically mutter, "No one will ever notice how special I am," we can add "Except the Beautiful South."

And if that's not love, I don't know what is.

NOTABLE B-SIDE: For both this album and the previous, 0898 Beautiful South, a lot of the b-sides were covers of an obscure British performer named Michael Greaves. He wrote country-inflected songs about odd characters, their struggles and heartaches, and all of the Beautiful South's versions are excellent. They really should do a full album of the stuff. The Miaow b-side that has always stood out for me, though, was "Size," one of the flips on "Prettiest Eyes." It's a slow, seductive tune sung by a man who is tired of being jilted by his woman and fed a load of lame excuses about it. "If size isn't everything/ and I'm half his size/ Then how come it's him that keeps the prize?" It's bitter and mean, infused with the self-satisfaction of someone who is fed up with lies. My favorite lines are, "My heart's in the right place/ and my heart is twice the size of his arse." I even referenced it in an old short story, "In Your Car," it stuck with me so much. I also have a soft-spot for put-down songs, and you can't go wrong with "You fuck long and you fuck slow/ But you fuck like a walrus smoking blow/ I'm too ashamed to scream you name." Something tells me he's really not interested in getting her back, he just wants to kick her on the way out.

#52 #51 #50 #49 #48 #47

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: "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me"

Current Mood: whatever

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


Karaoke Watch: Are people actually reading this blog? Because our karaoke spot was swamped last night. Are you all stalking me? I managed to pull off an impressive performance of Pulp's "Disco 2000," and I was only a little buzzed. So, I think we learned that while a little liquid courage is good, it's better to take just enough or the performance suffers. The whole night turned into an impromptu early birthday party for Joëlle, so she was able to convince the K.J. to squeeze me in at the end to do a birthday encore of "Beautiful." I got some parts better this time, flubbed some others. Still working on it. Our friend Eliza did a great "Copacabana," and Ms. Joëlle proved she is still the best with "Nothing Compares To U"--during which a drunk girl tried to pull me into a slow dance, I think mistaking me for another girl. Ooops.

And how sad is it that my local coffee shop baristas now expect me to show up hoarse on Friday mornings?

Current Soundtrack: Morrissey, Live At Earls Court

Current Mood: guilty

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

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Let me save you the two hours it takes to watch the commentary with producer Richard Shepherd on the new Breakfast At Tiffany's: Anniversary Edition DVD by summing it up for you:

1. Gosh, people smoked a lot in 1960.
2. He's really sorry about Mickey Rooney.
3. People were skeptical about Audrey Hepburn being a girl who "gets $50 to go to the powder room."
4. Still, everyone loved her clothes.
5. All the people associated with the movie were total pros.
6. There were nine cats, not just one. All nine? Total pros.
7. Some of it was shot in NYC, most wasn't.
8. Pay attention to the Cracker Jack ring. It's important.
9. "This scene right here, this is what it's all about."

Repeat each several times, feeling free to switch up the order, and then you'll have it. I would have loved it if he had gone off on a scary tangent about how if each cat has nine lives, then really they had 81 cats on set, and how it blew his mind...but alas, he did not.

The other features are also pretty so-so (I think Paramount is still trying to get their lips off of the Tiffany corporation's ass), but worth the upgrade for the new transfer.

Current Soundtrack: Oasis, Don't Believe the Truth

Current Mood: bored

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

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


This is my Valentine to all the other misfits like me out there. I can't think of a more appropriate song to illustrate this corporate greeting-card raid on our self-esteem.

So, here in my role as Mercutio, who will clear the path for others to indulge in romance, I provide this mp3 to buck up the spirits of the castaways of the heart who need some support while everyone around them is receiving flowers.

The song itself is available here for 24 hours, unless James gets angry about my bandwidth suckage and cuts me off. I will delete it tonight as the day finally fades away.

Download "Especially For You"
(Please save to your desktop to play rather than streaming it off the site.)

If you have a Valentine--and I mean a real one, one who makes you smile and who will be going home with you tonight--and you download this song, I just want to thank you for horning in on our experience. For shame!

The Beautiful South - "Especially For You" Lyrics

Only buy this if you're lonely
Only listen if you're blue
If you are married and you are happy
This song is not to do with you

If you're listening at your work place
Feeling small amongst the men
Do not sing this to your workmates
This song is not to do with them

But if you're sitting on a barstool
Wondering what on earth to do
Don't let them tell you no-one cares
This song's one especially for you

If you are listening on your radio
Smiling while you drive along
Tune the band into another
Because this song is not your song

If you're working as a DJ
Leave this record in its sleeve
Cause this one's not for general airplay
This song's for the day she leaves

If you've bought this and you're sinking
And I think that you know who
It matters not the mouth that's singing
This song's one especially for you

So this goes out to the lonely
So this goes out to the sad
And it goes out to the only
One you felt you ever had

If you're there in total darkness
With a letter in your hand
Do not bother with the letter
lust listen to the band

So only buy this if you're lonely

Current Mood: morose

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

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

Saturday, February 11, 2006


My brain has been one big rifle blast for the last 36 hours. Like buckshot, each pellet a thought, each careening off into a different corpse of an idea. It's been nearly impossible to focus on any one thing. In the middle of it, I'll start examining the next target in the back of my brain until it works its way forward and I have to move over and get it out. This culminates with me stalking around my apartment with the music at full blast, or maybe even leaving just to walk for a couple of blocks and let the cold air shock me out of this system.

I've started watching Proof, and I feel like Anthony Hopkins, off the deep end, doing math problems while sitting in the snow, convincing himself that this is working, that he's on an impressive streak of creativity. And then I stand aside as my own Gwyneth Paltrow and wonder where this manic energy is coming from.

Because in truth, I am actually being productive. Work is getting done. It started on Thursday night when I rewrote the ending paragraphs of The Everlasting by hand in a tiny moleskin notebook, working from memory, and finally solving the riddle. (Though, would it work better in first person?!) It's amazing how long it took, how much I ignored my own advice. As an editor, I used to instruct artists who were having trouble with a tricky image to start from scratch. If you keep working over the same drawing on the same piece of paper, you'll get nowhere, because you can't obliterate the fractured image, you can't build on a poor foundation. Same goes for a piece of writing. If you keep working in the same file, you'll keep shuffling the same words, become married to particular phrasings. Yet, only now do I step out on my own.

And then I got through a particularly involved and harrowing sequence of Have You Seen the Horizon Lately? in between editing my MySpace profile something like ten times. And then I have to stop my exercising and pause my movie because I have ideas for the Lance Scott serial for the summer that I just have to write down right now or they won't leave me the fuck alone.

I've got a bloody scratch up my forearm and I don't know where it came from. Perhaps I should check under my own fingernails for tissue.

I say "in truth" that it's productive, but what if I come out of this haze and it's all shit?

This is writing folks. Terribly glamorous stuff.

Current Soundtrack: songs with the phrase "End of the World" in the title, featuring Black Box Recorder, The Cure, Herman's Hermits, My Little Airport, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

Current Mood: losing it

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

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

Friday, February 10, 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.

Personnel: Neil Hannon, vocals/guitars; Ivor Talbot, guitars; Bryan Mills, bass; Joby Talbot, piano; Stuart "Pinkie" Bates, hammond organ; Muguel Barradas, drums; and Christopher Austin conducting an orchestra of 26
Engineered & Mixed by: Jon Jacobs /Label: Setanta

What do we sing about when we sing about love?

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, it's hard not to think of such a question. Or to be reminded that something like 90% of music is about the topic. Most of this week's top 10 on Billboard touches on love in some way or another, even if it is in a strange "You are my boo" hip-hop variety, where one's boyfriend or girlfriend is more akin to a status symbol. It's pretty much been the topic of a good portion of music since music began. In fact, if someone told me the whole reason we have songs in the first place is because some silly boy became smitten with a girl and started humming to himself out of sheer happiness, I'd believe him.

Thus, when it came time to decide on this week's entry, I decided I wanted to write about the most romantic album I can think of. There are many candidates, but if I had to choose one, I'd probably vote for Spandau Ballet's True as the most out-and-out, damn-the-clichés love record. Obviously, though, I have not chosen to rock the Spandau this week. Rather, I've decided to go with a disc that is far more varied in its amorous pleasures: The Divine Comedy's A Short Album About Love.

A Short Album About Love is one of the more treasured pieces of my collection. I could listen to it a million times over in a day and not grow tired of it. It's one of those I repeatedly share with other people--though only once have I ever given an actual store-bought copy of it to another person, and it just so happened I did so on Valentine's Day. So, now it's sealed there. The ways in which I woo using A Short Album About Love are now limited, as there can be only the one time. And never you mind who that was. That's between me and her.

Though ostensibly a band with regular members, for all intents and purposes the Divine Comedy is the alter-ego of Neil Hannon. A bookish boy, Hannon made two full-length albums of literate orchestral pop with songs titles borrowed from F. Scott Fitzgerald before finding wider success in his native U.K. with 1996's Casanova. As the title suggests, Hannon stepped out of his library, emerging as an oily loverman with a taste for the ladies. The songs still had a wry lilt to them, and the hit singles, billed as numbered "Casanova Companions," played with his new dandyish image, insisting one should "become more like Alfie" and explaining how a single kiss could transform a frog princess not into one's fabled true love...but into a cow. A cow with instruments of destruction under her skirt, no less!

Buoyed by this success, the Divine Comedy set up a multi-night residency at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire. Playing with a full orchestra, Hannon spent the evenings entertaining his fans and the off-time recording the topic at hand.

A Short Album About Love is indeed short. It's only 7 tracks, just under thirty- minutes; however, its power is awe-inspiring.

Once more, Hannon steps out from behind a familiar guise, trading one mask for another. It's not entirely a new one, as it has its roots back in that stuffy ol' library, but the lusty Casanova was turned into a turtle-necked Bacharach. He's got the same swagger and a renewed sense of cool, but he's also a bit sensitive, a tad misunderstood. If we look at the album cover, we can interpret the iconography as being more honesty up front, an eagerness to break out and love for real. The back cover is of Hannon in the rear of a New York taxi, darkly clad, his eyes behind sunglasses, the windows spotted with rain. The front cover is much closer in. The frame of the cab is now cropped out, the sunglasses are gone. Hannon's hand is on the glass, his eyes fixed on something off frame--his longing has overtaken him, he wants to step into the downpour even as he remains shielded inside, moving rather than stopping.

The music here is full of contradictions, and that's why I can actually bring up the dreaded "H" word in the paragraph above. Yes, honesty, the excuse for more bad art than even greed. Be woeful of artists that strive too hard to be honest.

Hannon isn't striving, thankfully, he's just being. The effect of the collective songs is of a shy, poetic boy who wants to feel passionately, but has learned to place his words carefully. His wit, when decoded, unveils the reality of his heart, but should you choose to deny it, he can skip away under the pretext of having just been kidding. Take "If..." for example. The song is one long list. If the object of the narrator's affection is going to be one thing, then the narrator will become the complimentary thing. "If your name was Jack, I'd change mine to Jill for you," is one of the tamer ones; "If you were a horse, I'd clean the crap out of your stable, and never once complain," the most outrageous. Statements like that one are so over-the-top, they border on the ironic, and I have no doubt some people find them so. I never really heard them that way. They reveal a sense of humor, to be sure, but the songs come off as more sincere because Hannon is courageous enough to pull no punches elsewhere on the record. The album's opener reverberates with echoes of a grand tradition. "The Pursuit of Happiness" is unabashed in its goodwill, alive with Hollywood musicals, where emotions were allowed to be one-dimensional. He needs no other truth. This love will make bring him bliss, pure and simple. "Because when you're with me, I'm absolutely and totally quite uncontrollably happy."

The coda of "If..." reinforces that idea. Switching to a canine metaphor, the narrator declares amidst a grand crescendo, "If you were a dog, I'd feed you scraps off of the table, though my wife complains; if you were my dog, I'm sure you'd like it better then, you'd be my loyal four-legged friend, you'd never have to think again, and we would be together 'till the end." For all the moments where Hannon covers himself, the sincerity can't be outweighed.

There are plenty of points where Hannon exposes the symphonic lover as a feint. It's the dandy given voice in a testosterone-fueled world where wearing your heart on your sleeve can get your head kicked in. Even the unabashed "Pursuit of Happiness" fades out on a mild wink, "true happiness lies beyond your fries and happy burgers." The remarkably self-deprecating "If I Were You (I'd Be Through With Me)" uses self-loathing as its seduction. It's a catalogue of faults, the unworthy boy speaking to the lover he idealizes. "If I were you/ I'd look at me/ and fail to see/ the things I see in you." It's the sort of feeling that only someone who has so submersed himself in a relationship can understand, and it's a pose that makes A Short Album About Love's ailing heart ache even more, pumping out sadness in concentrated doses.

The thing is, for a true romantic, love isn't just about the happy things, about the spring it places in your step. It's about doubt, because doubt leads to desire, and desire is at the root of all of this. To be sad is to feel the emotion all the more acutely. Every sensitive lover out there gets it when, in "Timewatching," Hannon sings of sleepless nights and the need for the object of our heart to lift us when we fall, hold us together when we're going to shatter. The specter of doom is all we have to know it's real, because without the threat of mutability, it can't be alive. That's also why sometimes the sweetest love is the unrequited kind. Hence A Short Album About Love's single, "Everybody Knows (Except You)." The song is similar to "In Pursuit of Happiness" in how it explodes with hearts and flowers, and its bop-a-bop-bada's hop along the melody like a string of bubbles for our lover to skip along. Hannon revels in the notion that he is going to burst with this passion, and that everyone can see it but the person who needs to the most. "I told the passersby, I made a small boy cry...Everybody knows that I love you/ Everybody knows that I need you/ Everybody knows that I do/ Except you." The song can barely contain its own energy, which is what it's like to be in love. A boy could go supernova! Love makes us scattered, it sends our thoughts careening all over the place. It's why Baz Luhrmann had to do an insane medley for the scene on top of the elephant in Moulin Rouge: one song could not adequately express everything Christian and Satine are experiencing.

It's also the reason we listen to love songs and watch melodramatic movies like Moulin Rouge, and really, why it's been such a dominant concern for so long. As I noted earlier, love has been around forever. Some people like to shield themselves with the notion that romance is some kind of societal conditioning, that the idea of coupling and being monogamous is unnatural, but I can't imagine anything more natural. If we created terms for it--and then holidays to express those terms--well, I call that evolution. Somewhere along the line someone--that smitten child again?--decided to explain these feelings in ways that proved we were more than animals driven by chemicals and lust. Love songs are a reassurance of this, and when a band like the Divine Comedy creates an entire record devoted to the many ups and downs of human affections, it gives voice to the conflicts we all experience in our own hearts. It gives our personal quadrophrenics a stamp of approval and reassures us that the doubting is okay. This is what we sing about when we sing about love.

Don't get the wrong idea, though. I'm not selling you a record for sadsacks. Even with the dodging and the questioning, A Short Album About Love is riddled through with a determined spirit. The most important aspect of "Everybody Knows" is that he's not going to let his crush remain ignorant. "Yeah, and I'll get through to you/ If it's the last thing that I do!" Hannon declares. This determination is nowhere more evident than the final cut, "I'm All You Need," and its declarative chorus, "Don't look a horse in the mouth/ Don't let a frog get you down/ Dragging you 'round like a dog on a leash/ I'm all you need." For as much as the demons that search our soul may have plagued the singer of "Timewatching," for as much as we hope there is someone who can prop us up in the darkest hours, our fondest hope is that the intensity of our feelings will permit us to do the same in return, and that our love can truly go "on and on."

And, ladies, in case you were wondering...mine can.

NOTABLE B-SIDE: There were three separate discs for the "Everybody Knows" single, and each had three live recordings from the Shepherd's Bush shows. The best is an enchanting cover of American Music Club's "Johnny Mathis' Feet." The song is a meditation on the struggle of an artist to say what he means, with the great crooner invoked as a figure of wisdom who has managed to maintain a purity of voice in the dazzle and glitter of fame. "Why do you say everything as if you were thief/ Like what you stole has no value/ Like what you preach is far from belief?" When Mark Eitzel and his crew first recorded it, it served as self-flagellation, as he pored over his own need to stand out in front, naked, too scared to work from behind a stage persona. Once again, the woefulness of the desperately honest. For the Divine Comedy, it comes off like an explanation of an ethos, a statement of intent, and possibly a defense from a performer who does understand how to remain sincere while also striking a pose.

#52 #51 #50 #49 #48

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: The Divine Comedy, "Everybody Knows (Except You)" CDs 1-3

Current Mood: naughty

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

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


For those keeping track of the secret superhero life of Karaoke Jamie, tonight I performed a tryptic of awesome: "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera, "Gold" by Spandau Ballet, and "Everyday I Write the Book" by Elvis Costello and the Attractions.

This bar we're going to is the best ever. Last time, I performed Pulp's "This Is Hardcore" and James' "Sit Down." And Joëlle doing "Stray Cat Strut" has to be the smoothest thing since creamy peanut butter.

Current Soundtrack: Teenage Fanclub, "Mr. Tambourine Man," Aztec Camera w/ Andy Fairweather-Low, "(If Paradise Is) Half as Nice"

Current Mood: Goya!

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

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

Thursday, February 09, 2006


It's time to do a long overdue blogroll. I don't have any links on the side of my blog because (1) I like the unencumbered text version, and (2) when it loads over to my site, the sidebar would get in the way. So, here is a list of blogs I read and some blogs who link to me:

* All About My Movies
* All the Young Mod Soldiers
* The Beat, Heid MacDonald's comic book news
* The Boy Who Heard Music
* The Brian Hurtt Locker
* The Comics Reporter
* Scott Morse's Crazyfishbowl
* Eric Stephenson
* Eyesore (Marc Ellerby & Friends)
* Foxymoron Sucks
* Girl Farts, courtesy of Kelly Sue Deconnick
* Go Fug Yourself!
* Journalista, Dirk Deppey's comics news blog
* Teddy Kristiansen's art blog
* Large Hearted Boy
* Laurenn McCubbin
* Neal Shaffer's Leftwich
* Neal Shaffer's second blog, dedicated to his book Borrowed Time
* Lark Pien's Little Bird House
* Life of the Party
* Making It Up As I Go
* Man of Action comics collective
* Matt Fraction
* The Natty Minx
* More comics news on the Newsarama blog
* On Five, the Criterion Collection Blog
* Oni Press news blog
* Paul Chadwick
* Paul Pope
* Pop Candy, the USA Today entertainment blog
* Kevin Matthews' Power of Pop (see also Popland)
* Right Wing Watch
* Roger Langridge
* Sarah Grace McCandless' Sarah Disgrace
* Satellite Town
* Thoughts From the Bus Stop
* Top Shelf Comix
* Trappings
* Untouched by Work or Duty
* What Would Tyler Durden Do?

And this does not include all the people like Chynna Clugston, Andi Watson, Jennifer de Guzman, Marc Ellerby, Elin Winkler, Jen Wang, Debbie Huey, Jamie McKelvie, Vera Brosgol, Greg McElhatton, Ian Shaughnessy, etc., whose blogs I read through my Live Journal friends list.

Updated 1/2/2007

Current Soundtrack: Beth Orton, Comfort of Strangers

Current Mood: anxious

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

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