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

Monday, August 30, 2004


This week, Queen & Country, vol. 5 - Operation: Dandelion hits comic book shops and bookstores. Greg Rucka, the writer of the series, was kind enough to ask me to contribute an introduction to the volume shortly after I left Oni Press, where I was one of the editors on the project. I said yes, of course, and after mulling it over for a couple of days, sat down and wrote out a version, playing around with an idea. I gave it a couple of days, decided I didn't like it, and immediately wrote something else. That something else is basically what I turned in, and the original version was little more than me cracking my knuckles and stretching in anticipation of the real thing.

I present to you now, the original version, in all its messy glory, just for the hell of it. When you're done, click on the cover below and buy the damn book. It's good stuff, likely better than what you're currently reading. (You can also go to Amazon, but their listing is screwed up.)

This is a book about spies.

Not just any spies, but the best damn spies that could exist in any world, be it real or fictional. They aren't the best because they can blow up the lair of the evil villain and end up on a raft with a pretty girl without ever spilling their martini, nor are they the best because they are a jaunty brigade of well-dressed individuals who believe in the higher ideal of truth, justice, and whatever way is currently in power.

The Minders--Tara Chace, Tom Wallace, the soon-to-be-met Nick Poole, their leader Paul Crocker, and perhaps most importantly, his P.A., Kate--are the best because they get the job done despite how dirty and inglorious it is and somehow manage to keep their souls intact.

And they do it not for service of Queen and Country, no matter what the title tells you--they do it in service to their comic book counterparts, the best damn people in the industry today. I say this having been one of them, one of the guys down in the Ops Room. I am probably Ron.

You know Ron. He's the guy who nobody likes or has any respect for. He screwed up once. We don't know why or how, but Crocker tells him if he does it again, he's out on his ass. I've always felt sorry for Ron, because everyone gives him shit. I've read ahead, though, and know eventually he claws his way back...if only just a little.

Anyway...the point isn't about what a dunderhead I am, it's about who the Minders are in service to. It's a rather gangly metaphor, adolescent in its design, not quite grown-up but moving as fast as it can towards adulthood given that I just thought of it.

You see, there are a lot of comics on the stands. Just like there are a lot of movies and a lot of TV shows and a lot of trashy novels that they actually expect you to buy before you get on a plane, because God forbid anything should happen to the flight, but if it does, you want to enter the Pearly Gates having just finished the latest "page turner" by some hack who doesn't even know what a metaphor is, much less a gangly one. And like those other mediums, much of what fills the cultural space allotted to comic books is shit.

Not so in indie comics. Indie comics are where you find The Minders, the people with ink all over their hands and peeling punk rock stickers on their laptops, locked away in some dingy basement that could use a good dusting. There are other indie creators at their level, but these guys, they don't have what it takes to be part of Special Section. They work for Kinney, the national team, the ones content to stay in their little world. They'll tell you how that world needs them, but those of us in the Pit, we smile over our Scotch and wink, knowing that in reality they don't have the balls for the work we do.

Frances Barclay is mainstream comics and all the more bitter for it, because mainstream comics knows it needs to go to The Minders if they really want to do anything of quality or relevance anymore. Look at how much work Barclay gives Greg Rucka if you don't believe me.

(And if we really want to keep these balls in the air, we'll say that Hollywood is Walter Seccombe. We don't like it, but they've got a lot of cash and our pockets could use an influx.)

You can't be a Minder without having an unnatural drive to do what you do. You're in it for the long haul when you join Special Section. You can't be weak, you can't give up easily--indie comics creators have a long road to hoe, but when a Minder in this world does his or her job well, the results have long-lasting repercussions.

Greg Rucka is our Paul Crocker. He wants to be Tara, because he likes to wear pretty things, but he's really too good for that. Crocker is in charge of everything. He knows the ins and outs of every operation, and not just the ones under his purview. It's Crocker's job to know what everyone is doing, where all the players are at any given time. He's the one that must maintain the passion and the focus, and the one who will take it most hard when it doesn't work. Anyone who has worked with Greg Rucka or even just read one of his many novels, graphic or otherwise, knows that Greg absorbs the whole of the world around him, sees where each piece does or does not fit in his narrative scheme, and makes art of it. He commands words the way Crocker sends Kate out for coffee, and they sometimes snipe back at him, but it's only because they respect Greg as much as Greg respects them.

For all intents and purposes, Mike Hawthorne is Nicky Poole. He's the new kid on the block that you're about to meet. He's been knocking around, got some good training on books like Ruule, Whiskey Dickel, and his own Three Days in Europe and Hysteria, but now that he's joined the Special Section, Mike's talents have surpassed anything that has come before. If you know what has come before, you're probably thinking that I've made one bold statement too many, but Mike's linework is going to prove you wrong. This guy is phenomenal, it's why we asked him to join up. It was just our crazy luck that he got even more phenomenal while in our presence.

So, not to put too fine a point on it, this is the best that comics has to offer. This is Queen & Country. These are men and women working together at the top of their craft. When you're done reading, you'll be in awe of the things they pull off, but then you'll also understand how they earned the reputation that they have.

--Jamie S. Rich, a spy in the house of love (June 29, 2004)

Current Soundtrack: Alicia Keys, Diary of Alicia Keys cover

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All material (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich

Sunday, August 29, 2004


I finally saw The Passion of the Christ. I had been curious about the film, as I have enough of a religious background where such things interest me. I don't have any problem with the fundamental idea of religious movies, and think they could actually be pretty compelling. Unfortunately, this one isn't the sort of thing I'm looking for.

Gibson's beaten and bloody Jesus

Regardless of any greater moral debate, The Passion of the Christ is a badly made movie. It lost me in its second scene, where Judas stands before the Pharisees to collect his money and give up Jesus' location. The first problem of the scene is that it is poorly acted, in a stiff style that is meant to represent, one imagines, the formal nature of "life back then." The head Pharisee, who is our big bad guy for the whole film, says something to the effect of, "Thirty pieces of silver is what we agreed on. That agreement being between me [pause, points to self] and you [pause, points to Judas]." It played like a scene out of a bad cop movie, where the Pharisee would reluctantly be sent in to trap the bad guys in the Christ Corps, wearing a wire and secretly being filmed, and he overdoes everything so that it's clear, "Hey, I'm not the guilty one."

The scene only gets more ridiculous from there. The Pharisee tosses Judas his money bag, and Mel Gibson chooses to shoot the action head-on, so that the money is being thrown at the camera (and presumably the viewer, in one of many scenes that is meant to say, "Yes, you...you dirty sinner, you are part of this"). Then we cut to Judas, who of course catches it like a nerdy kid in gym, barely getting the bag in his hands, and the money flies everywhere. I guess the guy who gave up his Lord isn't manly enough to be good at sports.

That's not the worst of it, though. Both shots are played entirely in slow motion. It's the beginning of Gibson's heavy-handed technique of slowing down crucial moments so that we understand that this is important. It's the Lord of the Rings for the Lord of Man. Apparently, this already dramatic story wasn't dramatic enough, we have to have things highlighted for us so we get it.

It's appallingly clumsy, and we're only in the first five minutes. It doesn't bode well.

Much has been said about the rest of the film, and I pretty much agree with the negative criticism. The violence is extremely fetishized. The detail of it is entirely unnecessary. Everything is painted in the broadest strokes. The sadistic people who want to see Jesus go down cackle and emote to the point of distortion, while Jesus' followers are beautiful and serene in their sadness. Has anyone questioned the underlying misogyny in casting Monica Bellucci as the former prostitute, Mary Magdalene? Is Gibson perhaps trying to save this actress from her own sexy image? Sure, it's far-fetched, but you know, when you make a message picture, you have to be ready for every detail to be scrutinized. I personally didn't see the anti-Semitic subtext, but I can understand where you can find it in the film, and given Gibson's family history, I can't blame anyone for looking for it.

Mad Max saves womanhood

Ultimately, for me, it comes down to the idea that your message should be secondary to making a quality piece of art. You can have the best of intentions or the most noble truths to espouse, but if your presentation is crap, you've failed. (This, certainly, even applies to many of the documentaries I have reviewed recently, too.)

Then again, I am not sure I am down with Mel Gibson's message either. There is very little about Jesus' message to the world. Remove organized religion from the equation, and the basis of New Testament Christianity is a pretty good philosophy about personal responsibility and people treating each other well. Somewhere along the way, the religious powers that be decided it was best to make this a movement based on fear and consequences than about simply doing the right thing as a way to have a better life. Gibson presents us with Christ's suffering, but with very little reason for it. Jesus' life wasn't really about his death, it was about the message he delivered, which was then translated to ultimate action when he gave his life. People tremble before Jesus in the film, but only because he stares at them like a dreamy school boy--albeit, a dreamy school boy covered in blood. Where is the sense of the awesome power and inner contentment we are supposed to witness in Jesus the man? And how sick and wrong is it that Gibson supposedly had to be the one to drive the nail into Jesus' hand? That he himself knelt down by the cross to pound the spike in? Of all the characters, why would you want to be that guy? How about someone noble like the man pulled from the crowd to take the burden of the cross?

Martin Scorsese says that his lifelong priest once told him (paraphrased from memory), "The problem with your films is there is too much Good Friday and not enough Easter Sunday." In other words, too much of the death and suffering and not enough of the life affirmation that comes out of it. That applies triple to The Passion of the Christ, and inevitably leads us to consider Scorsese's own Biblical picture, The Last Temptation of Christ.

Scorsese's movie was about a man trying to reconcile his heavenly message with the reality of the world. It presents a savior who makes sense, and who through the examination of his humanity, finds the truth that is the basis of his peaceful philosophy. With the film, Scorsese examined his faith in order to understand it, whereas Gibson merely presented his faith without any question. As Jesus' mother stares out at the viewer after taking her son off the cross, it's Gibson saying, "You either are with us or against us," a division he draws between the characters in the film, as well. It's ironic given the inclusive nature of his subject.

Essentially, I went into this film with an open mind, but Gibson immediately closed it with his own shuttered brain. I'm glad I finally saw it to form my own opinion, and maybe a little sad that I came to the one that I did. I don't think some religious discourse would be a bad thing for this world. It could go a long way towards creating some understanding. It's just that in order to do that, artists have to honestly open the door to their homes and be a lot more honest with themselves. And maybe see their own religion as a positive, rather than a negative.

Scorsese's image of a Jesus who feels

If Mel needs some proof that there is some beauty on this earthly plain, he should visit the new Japanese website of Wong Kar-Wai's 2046.

Current Soundtrack: Massive Attack, 100th Window; The Thrills, Let's Bottle Bohemia

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All material (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich

Monday, August 23, 2004


Eric Stephenson from Image Comics has added an update to his snazzy website about his Four-Letter Worlds project.

This one's an anthology featuring work by a number of different writers and artists, all offering their insights on Love, Hate, Fear and Fate and how differing perceptions of those four words tend to inform our lives. Originally planned as a four-issue miniseries, this will be a 144-page trade paperback and it will be out in January 2005. Some of the folks involved include Amber Benson, Joe Casey, Chynna Clugston-Major, Jay Faerber, Matt Fraction, Steven Griffin, Mike Hawthorne, Mike Huddleston, Phil Hester, Antony Johnston, Robert Kirkman, Steve Lieber, Jim Mahfood, Jamie McKelvie, B. Clay Moore, Scott Morse, Jeff Parker, Jamie S. Rich, Mark Ricketts, Matt Roberts, Steve Rolston, J. Torres, Andi Watson and myself.

Andi Watson and I are working on the "Fate" theme with a story called "T For True."

Also, buy the last issue of Andi's Love Fights. #12 is on sale on Wednesday.

Current Soundtrack: Kent b-sides


My review of Buddha vol. 3 by Osamu Tezuka is now online at Artbomb.


Current Soundtrack: light rain

Sunday, August 22, 2004


It's time to shill!

Amazon has updated their pages for the CLAMP School Paranormal Investigators novels. The covers for the first two are now up. I am posting those covers here, and if you click on them, it will take you to the ordering pages. I hope that anybody in the US reading this who is actually considering buying these crazy things, please do so by following my link. Any time you follow an Amazon link of mine on this blog, and then do some shopping on the site during that session, I get a small kickback. In the past, some of you have helped keep this poor boy buying his DVDs with a little extra aid (and I thank you; I know most of the items have been bought by this lovely lady, this one, and this one, but some have been anonymous); in this case, though, consider that whatever Amazon gives me will be the only royalties I will ever receive for the project! Or consider it putting less money in Amazon's pocket without costing you anything extra! :)

VOL. 1

For those interested, here is an excerpt from book one:

"Check it out. She's actually going to dive!"

Yuki's mouth was watering in anticipation of the imminent arrival of his tasty cream parfait. But while this thought tingled on his taste buds, a buzz of another kind was murmuring through the poolside crowd.

Koji came running through the gathering mass. Sweat was rolling off his face in thick trickles. "What's going on?" he asked.

He spun around, looking at all the students on the beach. One by one, they were stopping what they were doing, standing up, and looking to the far end of the pool.
"Is something happening?" he said.

Rion and Mifuyu had been reclining, enjoying the contented feeling the sweet desserts had left in their stomachs. But they, too, began to sense the buzz of activity. They perked up their ears to try to hear what was going down.
Koji finally saw it. "Look!" he exclaimed, pointing towards the far wall, at the diving boards.

The Emerald Ocean was a fully functional indoor pool facility, designed to facilitate a multitude of events. These ranged from your average school gym class to large--scale competitions.

That included diving competitions, and several different heights of diving boards had been built on the deep end of the Ocean. The most impressive of these was a Clamp School exclusive--a 15-meter platform, the only one of its kind in Japan. Most diving matches only feature 5, 7, and 10-meter dives. A 15-meter dive isn't a fixture of any public competition. It's in a whole other athletic stratosphere.

Which is why that diving board never got any use. Sure, it's seen its share of wet footprints, but usually they go out to the edge of the platform, only to turn right back around and go down the ladder again. Still, shortly after the board was built, whispers started to travel through the school hallways. Kids talked in hushed tones about a legendary swimmer who had braved the height, accomplishing a spectacular dive, appearing to drop from the heavens themselves.

The urban legend suggested that this high dive wasn't ever intended to be used. One particular version of this story claimed the board hadn't actually been built before that fateful plunge; rather, it had been erected afterwards, to honor this mythic figure, to commemorate the death--defying leap he had taken. (Though, no one ever passing this tall tale along could ever explain what the diver had leapt from instead of the diving board.) And even though no one had ever seen any student who had climbed up there exhibit the bravery to take the plunge, whenever anyone tried, there was always a rush of excitement. Maybe this time, this time it will happen!

As Koji and the others looked on, a thin girl stood at the edge of the diving board, staring straight ahead, her body poised as if she were going to jump. She wore a competition-style swimsuit. It showed her sculpted features, the muscles of a real swimmer. And it didn't matter where you were inside the dome of the Emerald Ocean, her sharply intense expression was clear to everyone watching.

"There's no way! That board is six stories high!" As a descendent of the Sengoku ninjas, Koji knew a thing or two about the boundaries of the human body. His declaration was a sobering dose of reality. "Even if you're diving into water, the force of the impact could shatter your bones!"

But then...


"She's diving!"

With one fluid motion, the girl's feet left the platform, and she soared into the air.

She spread her arms out wide, like a bird or an airplane. Her body moved through the sky, the sun glinting off her swimsuit, as if she were flying in slow motion.
The girl straightened herself. In one relaxed motion, her entire body became a straight line, spearing the surface of the pool, disappearing into the water, sucking the air she passed through down with her.

As if of one mind, the entire audience erupted into a gigantic cheer.
Even Koji, Mifuyu, and Rion found themselves applauding—and they'd seen plenty of amazing things as part of the Association. This...this was just inspiring.


"It's just like Mishima-san, and that story where he was diving for fish!"

Only one person seemed unmoved by the display. Yuki sat back, silently eating his parfait.

"Chairman...?" Koji whispered.

One student near them broke from the revelry. "Something's not right," he said. He turned to the guy next to him. "How long has she been down there?"

"About a minute," the guy answered, glancing down at the waterproof watch on his wrist.

"That seems like a long time. Shouldn't she have surfaced by now?"

"Hmmm...now that you mention it..."

Another minute passed.

Then another. Three minutes.

"H--hey...should someone--?"

Four minutes.


Koji felt a surge of panic shoot up his spine. "Oh, no! Could she have drowned? Maybe she hit the bottom, and then--"

VOL. 2

I turn in book 3 next week, so will be getting back to it shortly. This is the first volume where I have had enough time to let the material cool before diving in for a (in this case) third draft. I have no idea what the final products will be like (I am not even sure if they will give me a decet credit or bury me in the indicia like usual), but I'm just looking at it as a crazy experiment.

This week's reading: Scott Pilgrim, vol. 1 by Bryan Lee O'Malley & Peach Girl, vol. 6 by Miwa Ueda

Current Soundtrack: They Might Be Giants, The Spine; Elbow, Cast of Thousands cover

mailto:golightly@confessions123.com* The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All material (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich [except in this case when not]

Tuesday, August 17, 2004


So I disconnect.

Current Soundtrack: Depeche Mode, The Cardigans


The August installment of "Can You Picture That?" is now online. It's a review of the 1934 silent Chinese film, The Goddess.

Current Soundtrack: none, if you can believe it

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All material (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich

Saturday, August 14, 2004


I redid my Everlasting soundtrack so I could load it in my iPod. I added some tracks, swapped out some others, dropped some completely. Most of the Suede songs were changed, as was the Aztec Camera and Depeche Mode. Low's cover of Spacemen 3 was switched with their collaboration with Spiritualized on the same track, and a different Low track was added that actually is being used in the story. I also needed some Weller in there. (Original tracklist is in the archives under the 6/21 post.)

Manic Street Preachers - The Everlasting
Mansun - Legacy
T. Rex - Cosmic Dancer
Sebadoh - Willing To Wait
Lara Michell - Crimson Flag
Miss Red Flowers - Velvet
Embrace - My Weakness Is None of Your Business
James - Waltzing Along
Small Faces - Autumn Stone
Gene - Drawn to the Deep End
Geneva - Closer to the Stars
Geneva - No One Speaks
Tindersticks - The Not Knowing
Suede - Since You Went Away
Rialto - Untouchable
Venus In Furs - Tumbling Down
Suede - Indian Strings
Aztec Camera - Walk Out To Winter
Primal Scream - I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have
The Style Council - Waiting
Paul Weller - The Woodcutter's Son
Kim Weston - Helpless
Herman's Hermits - The End of the World
Small Faces/PP Arnold - (If You Think You're) Groovy
Depeche Mode - It Doesn't Matter
Low - Will The Night (demo)
Spiritualized - Lord, Can You Hear Me?
Gene - Save Me, I'm Yours
The Jam - The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)
James - Blue Pastures
Manic Street Preachers - The Everlasting [Stealth Sonic Orchestra Mix]
Gene - You'll Never Walk Again

Now I can listen to it wherever I am, whenever I need to get in the mood.

Current Soundtrack: "Passport Approved" import show on L.A.'s Indie 103.1

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All material (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich

Friday, August 13, 2004


So, I am a bad citizen. Or, at least, a lazy one.

I walked down to the waterfront for the Kerry rally, arriving 45 minutes after the gates were supposed to open. From what I could see, there was one line that circled an entire city block. I walked towards the end of it, seeing zero movement as I did, and got about a quarter onto the Hawthorne bridge before I gave up. I couldn't see the end of the line, and there was a procession of equal length walking ahead of me, also looking for the end--so people I would be behind once we got there. In the time I was walking, the queue had maybe--maybe--moved the length of five people. I could also see that once it got around the block going to the other way, it snaked under the bridge, and who knows for how far.

I had showed up ready to play. I really did. I even put on sunscreen before I left the house. I was planning to make a day of it. But this was too much, so I bagged it.

Probably a good thing. I get a sort of tourettes in crowds, and it was starting to come to the surface. As I crossed the street, a family of three was coming towards me, walking as a wall, not giving me any room. As the mother edged me out into traffic, I called her a filthy name that my female friends would disown me for. The problem with swear words is they are generally one syllable, and they take no time to say. So, when they come out unnannounced, there is no reaction time to grab it and shove it back in. And this word was particularly sharp and would have probably cut my hand anyway. My thinking is, had I stuck around, someone would have likely beaten me up.

Since I was already downtown, I went to see Takeshi Kitano's new version of Zatoichi. I have to say, I was underwhelmed. Everyone I know that has seen it has been loving it, but I just felt eh about it. The film had moments, but in between those, it simply dragged. Also, I can't believe I've not read of anyone panning the horrendous digital effects. How distracting is it to be watching a samurai movie and a computer-animated sword slides through someone's body, splattering super-red computer-animated blood? Is this what technology has taught us? How to fake things so they look fake, thus shattering the illusion? There is also a moment at the end where two characters morph from their younger selves to their older selves that is pathetic. I can't believe someone didn't say, "You know what, Beat, just write that off as a loss and use an old-fashioned fade. Better to waste the money and toss out the effect than look bad."

Not to mention a final shot that just made me scratch my head. I really didn't get it. I mean, I understand what was going on, but I am not sure what Kitano hoped it would convey. One last attempt to make me say "whatever"?

Current Soundtrack: Blondie, Parallel Lines cover

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All material (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich

Thursday, August 12, 2004


Lunch today with James Lucas Jones to discuss graphic novels.

Over 3,000 words on The Everlasting after, listening to The Jam all the while. "Wouldn't it be something if the city planners anticipated people like me? They could name streets appropriately. I'd be wandering along and I'd find myself at the corner of Nostalgia and Heartache. People would whisper that there is a back alley where Confusion crosses with Clarity, and if you find yourself there, everything changes. Morrissey fans could spend late nights down on Maudlin Street."

Now to start watching movies for the August edition of "Can You Picture That?" due to go live this coming Tuesday.

The John Kerry rally tomorrow?

Current Soundtrack: Keane, Hopes & Fears

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All material (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich


Backtracking a little bit, I originally reviewed The Killers' debut, Hot Fuss with a lukewarm response. Well, since then, it has grown on me considerably and I find myself listening to it all the time, digging on its strange narratives and John Taylor-ish bass lines. Turns out, too, that the track I despised, "Indie Rock 'n' Roll," is not on the US version, thus saving the record from having this huge speed bump in the center.

Similarly, if you had asked me what I thought of the second Interpol album, Antics, when it leaked, I'd have mumbled something about it being fine, nothing too great, but then I didn't love the first album as much as most people, blah blah blah. Well, turns out I am actually really into it, too. Repeated listens reveal a subtle simplicity, lots of hooks, and a generally more open sound than the dense Turn On The Bright Lights.

Finally, I seem to be having this thing for melodic, sensitive boys lately. Jen De Guzman turned me on to The Postal Service's Give Up, which is like electro twee. And I took a chance on Keane, since their name kept popping up, and was sucked into their melodramatic piano ballads. They have a real sweeping quality that reminds me some of old bands like The Origin and Blameless (you ever hear their absolute gem, "Breathe A Little Deeper"?) Hopes & Fears may be one of those albums that wears itself thin in the way Coldplay did, seeming nice at first and then just getting boring, but that kind of verdict is still out. The emotions are a little bare and that's working for me right now. And I swear I heard "Bend and Break" on some TV show before or something.

Single of the moment is Johnny Boy's "You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve." The Manics' James Dean Bradfield produced it, and it's agitpop scrawled like graffiti on the Wall of Sound. The b-side is a noisy, distorted cover of Dyalan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues." I'm charmed. Plus, it has a female singer, so it helps me from feeling like I need to go out and buy a bunch of sweaters and stop coming my hair and become an indiot sad boy.

Current Soundtrack: Elvis Costello & the Attractions, Almost Blue (Ryko) cover

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page]

Wednesday, August 11, 2004


Rounding out my trend of watching the current crop of politically motivated documentaries, the store got in a screener of Nickolas Perry and Harry Thomason's excellent The Hunting of the President. It's the most straightforward stylistically of the crop, relying largely on news footage and new interviews, perhaps because there is just so much information here, frills would get in the way.

Inspired by the best-selling book by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons, The Hunting of the President is an examination of a right-wing campaign to take down Bill Clinton by any scandal possible, with Ken Starr being the most public face of the cabal. It's almost a political thriller, a labyrinth of behind-the-scenes deals and strange motivations, with the bottom line being that the Republicans behind it would take anything, true or not, that they could to knock Clinton out of office. It took years and millions of dollars to get to Monica Lewinsky, the only charge they found with any real foundation, and which ultimately didn't work as well as they had hoped in the end. I had known that the Clintons were exonerated in the Whitewater case, but I had not heard to what lengths the facts were bent and often fabricated to try to drag them down, nor the personal cost paid by Susan McDougal, who took the hit because she would not lie her way to freedom.

I had not heard, however, that both the Genifer Flowers and Paula Jones stories were not as concrete as we may have been lead to belief. Of course, it ends up coming down to which slant you prefer; the left has as much of an agenda as the right. Still, the case is pretty convincing once you ask those women to step aside so you can see who is standing behind them. Plus, the filmmakers are honest when it comes down to Lewinsky, and one of the strongest things that comes through in the movie is the hurt and betrayal felt by Clinton's friends and supporters that he allowed such a stupid thing to happen.

All in all, interesting viewing. Paul Begala closes the film by noting that the beauty of the information age is that information exists in forms that can't be squashed, and eventually it will catch up with the people who it needs to be caught up to.

I think this only leaves Outfoxed on my list. Oh, and a note to the marketing people behind The Hunting of the President: the fact that Thomason directed Designing Women is not really a selling point in this case. Regardless of how one feels about Meshach Taylor.

Never fear, I have been writing this week. Both Monday and Tuesday, I messed around some with a graphic novel project I am getting ready to pitch, and I also had a really good day on The Everlasting yesterday. I feel back on track. I've also started reading Craig Thompson's Carnet de Voyage, which I am happy to report is excellent.

Current Soundtrack: Primal Scream, Screamadelica cover

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page]

Sunday, August 08, 2004


I was going to title this from a favorite Big Black quote, but decided "I don't know why I come here, I tell you I ain't no company man, but i can pull on a rope and kill a cow as well as any other fucker can," was too long in the end.


But, it would have fit. I just got back from seeing The Corporation, a pretty good documentary that is another in the line of politically charged films that are almost visual editorials, rather than documentary filmmaking in the traditional sense. The Corporation focuses on the idea that a business can incorporate and become its own entity, and the good and the bad (mostly the bad) that this new "person" can do. It presents a variety of sides, even though it's clear where the filmmakers fall, and has a lot of good information to impart. That said, it does faulter a little by suffering from too many Michael Moore-isms early on, leading with jokes to soften us up before it hits us with the hard facts. The style is lumpen, just a pastiche of clips from old films from the '50s, to suggest we're all so very naive--a technique as outdated as the mindset they are criticizing. Plus, I am tired of these guys feeling like they have to ease me into the film, like I wouldn't listen if they don't open with a couple of jokes. I'm here, I'm sitting in the chair, I paid, what confuses you about that? I'm listening. It seems to me you're adopting some of the advertising techniques you're villifying!

I also am once again a tad bit horrified by the smug, self-satisfied nature of the audience. Hissing for the bad guy, sudden outbursts of religious fervor when there is something you like, applause as the credits roll--honestly, I'm not really all that impressed that you are there. Just seeing these films doesn't get us off the hook as individuals. I know I'm one to talk, grabbing a Starbucks on my way home to blog about the film, but at least I know that I am ineffective and inactive. Far better are the kids outside the theatre who are doing what they believe in and trying to get Ralph Nader on the ballot (even if they can't understand that my refusal to sign is not me saying he has no right to be on the ballot, but just a show of non-support; by their fuzzy logic, I'd be an enemy for democracy by not throwing my weight behind Charles Manson getting on the ballot--he has a right to run, too, but not with my help).


I didn't end up going back to the Conference today. I just knew I'd regret it. I do want to note, though, the one thing I did learn there: independent comic book companies that pay advances are not actually out of line with other fields of independent publishing, and actually offer better royalty structures. Who knew?

Current Soundtrack: The Postal Service, Give Up cover

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

Saturday, August 07, 2004


Okay, so the Writers Conference turned out to be a bit of a bust. The Friday comics part was all right, with some very eager people attending; despite that, and though we were told that we actually did better than the first year they included screenwriting, it all seemed a bit lackluster. I know many of us were also a bit perplexed by some of the people brought on as "experts."

I went back today, though, to attend some workshops, and was simply appalled by the whole thing. It's exactly the sort of thing I hate about the writing community and publications like Writer's Digest. I am sure the people involved are sincere in their efforts, but it's the kind of event and the sort of instruction I see no value in.

Take the first workshop I attended, which was intended to inform people of what to expect of the process once they have had their book accepted for publication. Over the course of the 90 minutes, a total of 21 other people attended, some coming and going, and of those, only one of them was even possibly either my age or younger. Everyone was older than I was--and I'm no spring chicken at 32. And besides myself, only 3 other attendees were men. I found this very fascinating.

The workshop was conducted by a literary agent who himself was somewhere in middle-age--so, if nothing else, a voice with experience. However, the information he imparted was pretty basic, and often without nuance. For instance, he cracked what I thought was a joke about how whenever he calls an editor, he ends up getting the assistant or associate editor because the main editor is never at his or her desk. This may have been a joke, as I said, but he delivered it flatly and if he was kidding, it went over his audience's head. (One of them did, after all, ask him if the author had to pay for the reviews he or she receives in magazines, so I wasn't sitting with the largest letters of the marquee, if you catch my drift.) Yet, I started to wonder if it actually was a joke, because he explained the other things the editor might be doing instead of taking phone calls (meetings, lunch, etc.). I wanted to raise my hand and ask, "You know that you're just not important enough to talk to directly, right?"

There was also a general ageism underlying much of what he said. He seemed to have a problem with all the young editors in the business, since in general people with long-term careers in publishing move on to something else after a time. He felt these readers would not have the life experience to recognize quality work, and it felt a little like a dinosaur talking about how lizards don't understand what it's like being a large reptile, they simply can't understand what the view is like from several stories high--or, to put it cruelly, to be going extinct.

Of course, given the median age of the audience, they were right there with him. Certain attendees seemed to have a self-satisfied sense of entitlement, like college students hanging out at high school and thinking they know it all, they've been there before. It's funny, because it's the sort of stubborn belief in one's own smartness that older folks often accuse of the young--but then, we're always best at pointing out our own faults in others, yes?

And don't even get me started about when the subject of metrosexuals came up...

Even though I was thoroughly annoyed by the end of the workshop, I had intended to attend the one immediately following it, so I figured I may as well give it a shot. It was a long train ride out there, so I might as well make the most of it. The membership fee, which is several hundred dollars, was comped to me for being involved the day before, so having no financial investment was making it hard to stick it out. Still, the room actually filled up beyond the number of chairs available, and the group was a little more diverse. The women still outnumbered the men by about a 2-1 ratio, and now that I think of it, everyone may have been white. I was still probably at the bottom age range, though one guy that was definitely younger than me did wander in, only to leave again before it got started.

This second workshop was intended to be a "in the trenches" look at troubleshooting a novel to prepare it for publication. It was being run by someone from one of those companies that charges people to "edit" their manuscripts. The handout that was prepared for this topic began by informing us that a plot has three key elements: situation, complication, and resolution. That was enough for me. I was more than happy to give up my seat. (They also had a checklist of things your novel should have, the type of approach I am way too skeptical about. Have these people not see Adaptation, or did they not understand it?)

I have to ask, who are these people and where do they come from? What draws them to this kind of conference? (One of the women I talked to yesterday came to Pennsylvania for this!) In the first workshop, half the room claimed to have publishing credits; however, when it became apparent that most of them had merely taken advantage of online outsourcing, the agent informed them that actual publishers don't rate a pay-on-demand service with no rejection process as a legitimate credit. You could hear the hearts shattering. Do I dare ask what it's like to be so far along in life only to discover that you really aren't?

I was planning to attend a full-morning seminar tomorrow where you work with the first fifty pages of your novel and go over some rewriting exercises, but I am really wondering if I should even bother. I thought it might be fun and even enlightening, but now all I can think is I really don't want to have to catch the train early enough to be there by 8:45 in the morning if it's just going to piss me off.

Oh, well, at least I finished Life of Pi, which itself examines the idea of storytelling and what makes a story vs. reality--teaching me more through example than the whole weekend ever could. (Though, since I am being so contrary, I didn't like Martel's notes for book clubs in the back. It felt like he wasn't giving myself, or his story, enough credit to click. Plus, I take issue with artist's explaining their work, when it's really up to the reaction of their audience--as dumb as we may be. And no, Martel did not pay me for this review.)

Current Soundtrack: Come to the Sunshine: Soft Pop Nuggets from the WEA Vaults; Tindersticks, Don't Even Go There EP

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

Tuesday, August 03, 2004


So, I've learned a lesson about taking on big projects. While I thought it would be a good thing to rush through the CLAMP novel and get back to what I wanted to be doing, I've discovered this isn't necessarily true. I completely depleted my batteries and have been having a hard time getting back on track. Not to mention that every time I get on my computer, my eyes start burning and I don't know why.

I heartily recommend this lengthy article on John Kerry from The New Yorker. It seems fair, looking at both pros and cons, and as someone who often feels that he can't get off the fence about anything, perhaps I identify. It also takes Bush to task for possibly being the real "flip-flopper."

I watched Centre Stage with Maggie Cheung on Sunday, an excellent biopic about Chinese silent film star Ruan Lingyu. I immediately went online looking to see if any of her films were available, but came up empty--only to stumble on this today. Hurrah!

My schedule for the Willamette Writers Conference for Friday 8/6:

8:00 - 9:00 am: Comics Panel, moderated by Diana Schutz, also featuring Brett Warnock of Top Shelf and Scott Allie from Dark Horse

10:00 - 11:00 am: signing (supposedly Cut My Hair and manga I've worked on will be there)

3:00 - 4:00 pm: working with individual writers on pitches

My bio from the event: Shortly after dropping out of the creative writing program at Cal State Long Beach, Jamie S. Rich moved to Portland, OR, and joined the comic book world. He worked as an editor at Dark Horse Comics before hitching a ride with Oni Press, where he would spend the next six years, most of them as co-owner and editor in chief. In that time, he would work with an astounding group of talented people that included Stan Sakai, Andi Watson, Renée French, Christine Norrie, Greg Rucka, Chynna Clugston-Major, and Judd Winick, as well as winning two Harvey Awards. Despite this rather impressive workload, he managed to keep busy freelance editing for Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Allred; hosting a cable-access show about music and writing criticism in the Portland area; and rewriting the English scripts for various Tokyopop manga publications (including the soon to be published Clamp School Paranormal Investigators prose novels). In 2000, he published his first novel, Cut My Hair, through Crazyfish/MJ-12 (later picked up by Oni), and in 2004, he left his job in comics, nearly ten years to the day, to finish his second book, The Everlasting. He urges you to visit him at confessions123.com, and advises you to follow the target when you do.

Current Soundtrack: various Timbaland, Utada Hikaru, & Universal Poplab mp3s; The Kinks, Village Green Preservation Society (new edition) disc 3

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

Monday, August 02, 2004


My monthly picks for the video store have now been chosen. No theme this month, just movies:

* The Chocolate War starring Ilan Mitchell-Smith, dir. Keith Gordon

* Mademoiselle starring Jeanne Moreau, dir. Tony Richardson

* One, Two, Three starring James Cagney, dir. Billy Wilder

* Shanghai Express starring Marlene Dietrich & Anna May Wong, dir. Josef Von Sternberg

* Wait Until Dark starring Audrey Hepburn, dir. Terence Young

We're going to try allowing comments on the blog now. Though I like sort of just talking to myself, it has been asked for, so we'll try it. My ignorance about webwork has created a compromise, though, in that you can't really tell I am taking comments. But, if you click on the timestamp under this and future posts, you should be able to add your thoughts.

Current Soundtrack: The Al Franken Show

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website