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

Thursday, October 30, 2003


Seattle’s The Stranger ran its own Elliott Smith tribute today that was also reprinted in The Portland Mercury. It’s written by Kathleen Wilson, who used to live down here and write for the Willamette Week, before moving on to better places. This town was always hostile to her, it was weird. She has a unique, indivdual style that makes you feel like you are getting to know her as a person as well as a reviewer, and it’s always lent more weight to her reviews for me, because there was the sense that you knew where she was coming from.

So, it’s no surprise that her article on Smith is much more fulfilling. It struggles to understand the man, his work, how it all relates to the music, and how it relates to Wilson not just as a fan, but a person who has met him. It’s a tack that makes sense, given the personal nature of Smith’s music. And it doesn’t reduce him to an empty icon or figurehead, or even attempt to point out where he went wrong, just that he did and that it’s sad.

It’s funny, because I imagine if someone from Willamette Week or some of the local journalists stumble on this post, they’d get all frothy. Like I said, Kathleen pisses people off. At one point, there was a group who had organized a “Fire Kathleen Wilson” campaign, who took the refuge of internet anonymity, claiming that she could hurt other writers or bands who might be involved. I ended up on their mailing list, and became a target, as well, because I had a letter published in The Stranger thanking Wilson for, coincidentally, her eulogy on Frank Sinatra. I was pretty sure that someone behind it was someone I knew, and likely worked for one of the publications I wrote for at the time, the now-defunct Anodyne. I am not sure how else I would have ended up on their radar. Plus, Anodyne loved that shit. They loved fake feuds with other papers, other journalists. It was all rather base. I think I even argued once that such things were boring. No one wants to open one newspaper and read about how another newspaper sucks. I was alone in that opinion. (I still hold it, too. I think it also applies to the comics industry, and is a lesson some publishers and creators could stand to learn.)

I entered the contest run by these dunderheads with an ironic piece that was, of course, about why Kathleen Wilson was great. I think the prize was a subscription to Mojo, if you can believe it, and I am sure that I gave them crap for holding up a classic rock mag as a bastion of journalism (though now I often read Mojo myself). These people wrote me back and told me they liked my writing, but threatened me—pleasantly—that were I to stay behind Kathleen, I would be seen as her toady and it would hurt me as a writer in Portland. I told them that was fine with me.

I even pointed out to them that they could discount my opinion as they liked—they called me a lackey or a crony or something in one of their mailings—but that was hard to support since Wilson never hired me, and hasn’t to this day. I may not be to her taste, she may not hire writers from Portland, I don’t know. It’s fine by me. I’m an editor, I respect an editor’s right to choose.

I need to make it a habit to find her work more often. It still works for me. She even has a review of Ride’s Waves disc this week that is spot on.

So, yep, still her crony.

Current Soundtrack: Dandy Warhols b-sides; The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow


Wednesday, October 29, 2003


The Willamette Week today reminds me why sometimes I truly despite Portland.

For those of you not from here, the Willamette Week is probably our leading arts weekly. This week, it has a cover devoted to Elliott Smith. It’s a nice, tastefully designed photo cover—and it makes sense, he was from here, he was important to people here.

But the actual material inside takes a horribly wrong turn. It gets too hung up on the geography of it all.

Not the personal testimonials. There is a good section of quotes from friends and colleagues about the man. Some of them are raw with grief and anger, but it’s only been a very short time. It’s understandable.

It’s the editorials that rub me the wrong way. There are two essays, and a map guide of Elliot-related places in the town, that typify the worst of the Portland arts mentality. Essentially, they dehumanize the man and recast him as the living, breathing embodiment of the city. Particularly in the underlying suggestion that had he stayed here, had he not left for New York City and Los Angeles and run down the dream of success, that this would have never happened. How dare you attempt to see beyond the bridges and the rain and the change and pocket lint that they will pay you in local clubs! Don’t you know that you’re ours?!?!

To me it felt like a socially mediocre high school student standing up at the funeral of a nerd and saying, “Well, when I hung out with him, it made me feel cool by comparison.” Are you oblivious to the fact that none of this is about you?

It’s one thing to do it in life. The Willamette Week’s Dave Walker actually chastised the local art crew for doing the same thing to Gus Van Sant, criticizing him if he ever dares to venture outside our borders. But this…this is just a pathetic tribute to an artist that touched a lot of lives. To reduce Elliott Smith’s significance to the fact that he mentioned street names and puddles is just…well, sad. But the wrong kind.

Elliott Smith, 1969-2003

Current Soundtrack: Super Furry Animals, Phantom Power


Saturday, October 25, 2003


Just some quick working updates.

Last week was pretty hellacious. The new manga took way too long. Not since Duklyon have I had anything comparable, and this was about 25% longer. Monday night I just buckled down and attacked it until it was done. Plus, Bendis dropped the latest Powers trade in my lap, already behind in scheduling, and that sucked up a ton of extra hours. Ironically, he and Alisa invited the Oni folk out for dinner on Wednesday, and my not being able to go reinspired his ire that I am an antisocial git, probably putting me back on his list of people he won’t invite places, completely ignoring that the reason I had to stay home was that he fucked my schedule (hence, the irony). In addition, I was working to get Last Exit Before Toll, Scooter Girl #4, and The Complete Soulwind off to Quebecor, so it wasn’t like my day job wasn’t kicking my ass, too. (Soulwind is still dangling.)

Wrote a quick review for the Oni mailer detailing and continuing my recent Suede love. I was going to link it separately so those on that list wouldn’t have to have their eyes offended by it again, but my cocksucking Front Page program doesn’t want to work and since slapping the shit out of my keyboard doesn’t seem to fix it, fuck you, you can suffer. (Besides, in this one I fix a couple of typos that the person who sent out the e-mail, who I asked to proofread before he sent, because I had only written this in five minutes, didn't catch. Grrrrr...)



(Sony Music UK)

It was on my second listen of the new Suede SINGLES compilation that I felt my life shift. Since I was probably 15, if you had asked me who my favorite band was, who was the best of all-time, I’d say The Smiths without thinking. Suede and The Who would easily follow behind (though, granted, Suede arrived when I was a bit older).

But listening to the 21 tracks on this disc, something switched my head on, and I found myself thinking, “This. This is a good as it’s ever been.”

If I stop to analyze it, my only guess is that Brett Anderson and company can play all sides. They can be as sad and romantic as they come (evidenced here by the aching “The Wild Ones” and the dreamy “Saturday Night”), hopeful and touching (“Everything Will Flow”), nasty and mean (“We Are The Pigs”), and plain rocking (“Beautiful Ones,” “So Young”). For all their charms—the wit of Morrissey, the hooks of Johnny Marr—The Smiths very much had their thing, and they worked that furrow until it was complete (and some would say Morrissey is still working with it). Their career went in a straight line, easily drawn from THE SMITHS to STRANGEWAYS, HERE WE COME. Suede haven’t done that. They’ve gone from glam to goth to super glam to electronic to acoustic, all in the space of five albums.

And this one has it all. We have first single, “The Drowners,” still effective in its bizarre adolescent sex fetishism, all the way to new tracks “Attitude” and “Love the Way You Love,” both bizarrely patterned and completely unexpected, the sound of a band with loads of confidence who aren’t afraid to just do what they want. And impressively, only twice on this album are tracks from the same record put back to back. They’ve shuffled them all up, and it works. You don’t feel like you’re jumping around, that there is no plot. It’s all being buzzed out of the same amp.

Granted, right now I am full of the euphoria of a new release, and my mind could slide back to give Morrissey & Marr their crown—but as of right now, the queen of my world is Suede. – Jamie S. Rich

Current Soundtrack: The Beautiful South, Welcome to…


Wednesday, October 22, 2003


Yeah, easy for David Bowie to say (and write a great song about), but christ, I'm looking a bit haggard these days, aren't I?

Current Soundtrack: Nirvana, Incesticide (what?)

Monday, October 20, 2003


I’m bored with other people. I just thought I’d get that out there. Everyone else is jerks.

My Suede singles have arrived. “Attitude,” spread across three formats, with various b-sides and rarities, playing up the retrospective angle by mixing in unreleased old stuff with the new stuff. Both “Attitude” and “Golden Gun” are quite remarkable. The live versions I had heard did nothing to reveal the sonic fuckery the recorded versions sport. Great headphone songs, with the odd riffs snaking in and out of different ears. The track I keep returning to, though, is 1999’s “Heroin,” a b-side for the Head Music singles that never got released, likely because it’s a bare account of being hooked on the stuff, which Brett Anderson was trying to kick at the time. Old Suedeheads will remember “The Living Dead,” another of their B-sides on the same subject. One of their saddest moments, it was actually from the point-of-view of a lover of an addict and details the toll it is taking on her (Anderson’s protagonists often being female). It had some of my favorite lines: “If I was the wife of an acrobat, would I look like the living dead, boy? Out on your wire and you can’t get back, let’s talk about the living dead..” With a simple acoustic guitar backing, there was a warmth to it. Sad and desolate, yes, but the sense that this person, at least, was still alive.

“Heroin” isn’t clear on any such assurances. It begins with the electronic detachment that was the coda of Head Music, but with the sound of falling rain behind it. A piano starts to work its way in as Anderson begins to sing. At first, this could be to a lover, a melancholy lament of a relationship gone wrong, but the chorus takes away those pretensions. “Heroin, heroin, I’m out of it.” Brilliant ambiguity there. Is he out of the stuff itself? Or is he free of it? Or is he simply stoned? As the music builds—adding acoustic guitars, more texture—the vocals get more distant. Is the singer disappearing into the high? Coming through it? The song ends with no music, the final “I’m out of it” and the fading rain—and thus no answers, either. On alternate listens it can be full of hope or devastatingly brutal. It’s brilliant. (Audio samples here.)

It reaffirms why I love Suede. Suede ain’t jerks.

Very much looking foward to this book...click on the pic'.


I’ve seen Kill Bill twice now, and I’d like to advance a theory: Quentin Tarantino has made a hiphop movie. Consider all the references to other movies, both in story, visuals, sound effects, and music. In a way, Tarantino is sampling. He’s laying down his own beat, but constructing his movie around it with bits and pieces of other films. (I also see some Godardian influence in his use of sound, with random patches of music, abrupt endings to songs (think Uma going from wheelchair to Pussy Wagon).)

I still love Sofie Fatale, even with one arm...

On Vegas Jones’ suggestion, I pulled out my Jackie Brown DVD on Friday night, too, and rewatched it. It holds up splendidly. While being incredibly well-structured and tightly plotted, he lets his scenes breathe, let’s his characters live. The romance between Jackie and Max is one of the most believable in cinema—despite never really catching fire up until the very end, and only then a small flame before returning to smolder. It was the extras, though, that gave me another Tarantino revelation. The man, for all his abilities to express through cinema, is very limited when it comes to expressing himself. Watch the near-hour interview with him on disc 2, and you’ll see what I mean. His face and voice have an extremely limited range. He gets very excited and animated, but it’s his body that does all the work. He’s never at a loss for words, but his tongue only has a few tricks for unveiling them. The face is almost rubber mask-like, and his voice cowers behind a wall of nervousness. He does a bunch of impressions, but they all have a restraint to them that is almost like he’s in a crowded room and scared of being overheard. It’s very odd, and actually makes an otherwise interesting interview a little tedious.

Seriously, his action figure is more poseable...

The button-up sweater brigade should be happy. Trevor Horn didn’t turn Belle & Suckastian into leather boys with slogan T-shirts, playing mega-produced disco. He does get them to open up Dear Catastrophe Waitress’ lead single, “Step Into My Office, Baby,” with a fantastic Adam & the Ants drumbeat, and overall, for once, a B&S album sounds like…it has a producer! Holy moley! I mean, let’s be honest. Five albums in, the out-of-tune, recorded-in-a-shed affectation was getting to be a bit much. (Now we can all move to laughing at the Morrissey fans scared that his next producer has worked on AFI and Sum 41 records, that Moz will now record pop punk with poor adolescent puns. Okay, that last bit could happen.)

Trevor say, "Relax, boy of twee."

Unfortunately, I agree with Christopher McQuain that Dear Catastrophe Waitress is more akin to The Boy With the Arab Strap in being uneven than it is to their other three superb albums. I have listened to it once or twice a day since I bought it on Friday, and Dear Catastrophe Waitress wears out its welcome by the end nearly every time. In fact, I think half the time I don’t even finish the last track, “Stay Loose,” before I decide to do something else before it can finally end. The single and the title track start everything off quite fantastically, and “I’m A Cuckoo” is fun, and I like the mixed metaphors of “If You Find Yourself Caught in Love” and the twisted ‘60s pop of “You Don’t Send Me”—but overall, the album suffers from a sameness (ironic, since the aforementioned Arab Strap suffers from being all over the place—for a band that started off with an anything-goes communal attitude, they only work with the right balance of restraint and eclecticism).

Current Soundtrack: Bjork, Homogenic


Monday, October 13, 2003


Blind Assassin coincidence: The second generation of men in the button-making family all have names inspired by Wagner and the King Arthur stories. The youngest of the three brothers is named Percival. In my “Romance Trilogy,” all three brothers are named for Arthurian knights, and the youngest is Percival. Atwood and me, like our pinkies are interlocked in a secret society of knowledge.


The new manga is kicking my ass. Starting off a new book can sometimes be such a bitch. I did 20 pages in about two hours, which is pitiful. Just haven't found the groove. My eyes are also bleary from too much Powers. Going over stuff for the Anarchy tpb, which I think is volume 5. Trying to make sure names are conistent, and then Bendis and Oeming did a long conversation text piece for the back, which took a lot of editing. Inbetween did some jamming, playing with some characters I have in search of a plot.

Current Soundtrack: Simon & Garfunkle, Wednesday Morning, 3AM


Saturday, October 11, 2003


Watching the new Fargo disc and ruminating on the ruse of beginning the film with “This is a true story.” Is it a lie? The events aren’t real, but does that make it untrue in a story sense? Substitute “real” for “pure,” as in this is not a real story, but it is a pure story, a story through and through, true in the sense that it is story—a true story.

By some strange coincidence, shortly after typing the above, I started working on a new manga title I’ve been assigned (not yet announced). On the contents page, one of the chapters is listed as a “Dark and Story Night!” I am perplexed by it. It could be a typo (they meant “stormy,” and the translator missed the “m” when typing), or it could be a pun. Yet it strangely plays into my obsessions. Which does connect to my intellect. Can you handle it? (What?)

Current Soundtrack: Trash Can Sinatras, Zebra of the Family disc 2; Saint Etienne, “Action (Mr. Joshua edit);” R.E.M. covering Interpol


Friday, October 03, 2003


Just after I posted yesterday, I sat down and the last two installments of “Chance Meetings” literally just spilled right out. Even the ending became clear, and it took a couple of twists I didn’t plan on. I found it a pretty interesting experience, just because it’s such a confining format, the online comic strip. Unless you’re going for gags, there isn’t a lot of room to play around. So poor Patrick has 11 panels or so per installment, and he has to do a lot of acting with the characters, because dialogue is sparse and there is a lot of shorthanding.

Also, it seems like serendipity that Blind Assassin has a novel within the novel, and does all sorts of wonderful things with storytelling—and this only being 23 pages in. This is going to be a fun read, yes. (And for notes on literary fiction, please check Jen de Guzman’s live journal entry for 10/2, and then chalk me up as agreeing completely).

I was messaging with Oni’s little brother, Ian, today, and he was talking about trying to write while having to do tons of papers for college, etc. I told him how I used to write in the dorms every Sunday, and all I got out of it was my lousy screenplay, Lords of Order. It was an abysmal adaptation of the first installment of what was going to be a graphic novel trilogy (I actually wrote and partially thumbnailed the first two volumes of that in high school) about a group of teenagers with mental powers. And until I had brought it up, I had never realized that this was the first occurrence of three brothers in my work. Completely different characters, but in each section, we’d focus on a different brother (the first two violently dying in their volumes). They have since been replaced with Tristan, Lance, and Percival in the novels (with Tristan never being a main character)—and I wonder where this comes from? I know I always had a thing for dualities, and the little brother/big brother two-sides-of-the-same coin thing I have with Mason and Jack in Cut My Hair--something I chalked up to me being very Gemini. So where did I dig up this trio notion? I have no brothers, just one sister. I wonder where else I have done it without realizing it? (Perhaps, arguably, add Tristan to Jack and Mason, and it’s there, too.)

Self-analysis. Bah.

Current Soundtrack: Morrissey, My Early Burglary Years


Thursday, October 02, 2003


Patrick Scherberger is kicking ass on the first installment of “Chance Meetings.” It’s kind of cute, he’s trying so hard. I suppose I need to get off my ass and write part 2. We’re sort of just playing it by ear as far as schedule. When it’s done—I've still got to decide who will letter and color it—we’ll post it at the Oni site. I figure if he has to do his work for The Path anytime soon, that should take precedence.

Riding the bus again and not driving has increased my reading time a lot. Instead of taking me a year to read books, I am actually moving rather swiftly through them. I tried Graham Greene for the first time this week, The Third Man. It took me all of three days, but given his direct prose style, I am not sure it’s a fair assessment of my new speed (whereas the book I started this morning, Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, is the chunkiest of my bus fare so far; it was a gift a Christmas or two back, and I am making books gifted to me a priority, since I’ve felt most guilty about their languishing on my shelves).

Anyway, in the context of this journal, The Third Man is a rather interesting curiosity. It’s a novel that, according to Greene’s intro, was never meant to be published as a novel. Rather, it’s one long film treatment, done so that Greene could work out some of the emotional background on his characters, something he finds lacking in screenplays. The story differs from Carol Reed’s film by quite a lot, and Greene says it was never the intention that the novel be set in stone as far as the movie was concerned. Given my fascination with the process of transferring stories from one medium to another, and the layers of story that creates, this was right up my alley. (Plus, I simply love the movie version, and my Criterion DVD of it will someday get the attention it deserves.)

Additionally, the narrator of The Third Man is a policeman who is relating a story that he has pieced together, largely using testimony from the character Joseph Cotten would play in the adaptation. (Though, is it really an adaptation?) This creates a multilayered narrative, working under the conceit that the officer is telling the story to us, and interweaving third person accounts of his subject’s activities with conversations between them—often switching without warning, yet never getting confusing.

I shall be checking out more Graham Greene.

Current Soundtrack: Tim Burgess, I Believe (it's better when you don't pay attention to it)