Archive for May 31, 2005

Art Decade

May 31, 2005

From my friend Karolyn Gehrig:

Rebecca Gee and I will be showing recent work at our studio on June 11th from 6-9 pm. Come out, take a look and have a drink with us!

61 Greenpoint Avenue

Room #216

Brooklyn, NY 11222

Take the G train or B61 bus to Greenpoint Ave. Exit and walk one block west, towards the water. The studio is at the northwest corner of Greenpoint & Franklin.

I would especially like to bring this to the attention of all you MoCCA attendees, since this pretty awesome event is taking place on the same Saturday as the MoCCA Festival. Go to the show in the daytime, head over to the studio at night–make a day of it! (Harvey Award ceremony, Schmarvey Award ceremony.)

Special needs

May 30, 2005

This post by Curt at The Groovy Age of Horror strongly arguing for specialist rather than generalist horrorblogs got me thinking about the other pop-culture blogosphere with which I’m most familiar (and the formation of which I like to pretend I had a hand in as well), the comics blogosphere. Regarding the horror one, Curt says:

A good core concept should be broad enough that you have lots of stuff to post about, but tight enough to define and individualize your blog. “Horror” is way too generic and amorphous. If there’s one thing the emerging horror blogosphere doesn’t need, it’s a bunch of “horror” blogs. That’s not the kind of horror blogosphere I want to see develop.

This philosophy has certainly worked well for Curt, who’s pretty much cornered the market on horror kitsch/trash/exotica from the bell-bottom era. But in terms of the comics blogosphere, we haven’t really seen a lot of this. I’m sure there are dozens of comics blogs that talk only about Big Two supercomics, but since I’m usually not interested in hearing from people for whom that is their sole point of comic-book reference, I don’t read them. There are some mostly-manga/anime blogs, there’s Egon (all art/alt/underground, all the time, to the exclusion even of the likes of smarter supercreators like Grant Morrison or Alan Moore), there’s NeilAlien (in theory a Dr. Strange fan/news site, in practice one of the best general comicsblogs around), and I suppose you could classify Fanboy Rampage as a specialist blog if comics-fan and comics-creator stupidity is a specialty; but for the most part the comics blogs that I like the best, and also the comics blogs that seem to have moved the blogosphere furthest forward, are generalist blogs. Some, like Tom Spurgeon’s unbeatable Comics Reporter and Dirk Deppey’s seminal

Thoughts on Garden State, a movie I saw months ago but just now wrote a bit about on a message board and I have now decided to share my thoughts about it with you

May 29, 2005

Nice. Nice. Not thrilling…but nice.

In all seriousness, it was fine. Zach Braff is talented, and he’s terrific on Scrubs, the best current sitcom on television. But a) his character was far too one-note; b) Natalie Portman was terrible; c) you can’t have an actor with the commanding presence of Ian Holm in your film and underuse him as greivously as this movie did; d) I have yet to deduce the purpose of the best-friend character; d) congratulations, Zach! You have hip taste in music! The weekly John Cusack Club for Actors Who Love Showin’ Off Their Awesome Taste in Music meeting convenes in fifteen minutes, at the usual meeting place of UP MY ASS; e) a lot of it felt a little gratuitous, like a film student who has a great idea and shoehorns it into his senior project screenplay regardless of whether or not it really works with the tone or technique of the rest of the film simply because he wants to get all his good ideas in there (I know what I’m talking about here, believe me)–the African adoptee, the plane-crash fantasy, the slo-mo party, the people who lived in the quarry, yelling in the rain, the rich inventor friend, the Method Man/hotel scene, etc.; f) you’ve got to have a lot of faith in the might and majesty of the Shins in order to make the liking of them a crucial plot point–I, alas, do not share that faith; g) I know this isn’t the movie’s fault, but I can’t help but unfavorably compare it to Eternal Sunshine literally every time I think about it.


May 29, 2005

Courtesy Eve Tushnet comes this Christianity Today essay on horror films by W. David O. Taylor. Wait, it’s not what you think! Taylor makes a thoroughgoing attempt to analyze what horror tells us about the world and what constitutes “good” horror, with both a lowercase and capital “G.” Obviously it’s the capital-G part that speaks to a sensibility which at this point is almost completely alien to me. (I didn’t realize how alien until I was forced to attend Mass during my sister’s graduation from a Catholic university last weekend.) This is not to say that I will never object to a film on the grounds that it is immoral–google search this site for Grosse Pointe Blank or Lars Von Trier if you don’t believe me–just that much of this:

In [some] cases you’ll want to be careful. Saint Patrick’s phrase, “the knowledge that defiles,” applies equally to the movies that we watch as to the rest of our lives.[…]some of it is dangerous. Evil is real, and the extent to which horror movies deal with evil, whether supernatural or natural, we want to be careful not to treat it lightly

Fashionably late to the end of the world, and other scary stories to tell online

May 28, 2005


When I first got the idea for The Outbreak (I first wrote about it, in an email to pal Ken in an email dated Feb. 20th, though the idea itself was maybe two or three days older than that) I thought to myself, “You know, this idea is too damn good never to have been thought of by anyone before.” I did a ton of googling for zombies and zombie blogs, and though I did find some neato zombie-outbreak simulators, I didn’t find anything resembling my idea of an ongoing real-time chronicle of life during a zombie epidemic. So I did my month or so of regular blogging, launched into the revenant stuff, and never looked back.

Today I’m checking my referral log for the site and I come across this messageboard discussion at a site dedicated to the zombie roleplaying game All Flesh Must Be Eaten. It starts with a link to The Outbreak as quoted from this pleasingly favorable plug from Christopher Bahn’s intimidatingly massive linkblog Incoming Signals. It’s a brief discussion, but what it did was lead me to a couple of sites. Sites with the names Slow Motion Apocalypse and Day by Day Armageddon.

You see where I’m going with this?

Oh, well. I knew it was too good an idea not to have been done before. But I’m not all that upset. I’m not going to read too much of those other sites because I don’t want my writing to be influenced by what they did or didn’t do, but simply by taking a quick glance at their site designs you can see that they’re going in a very different direction than I’ve done. They’re much more in a “suited up, ready for war, here are the stats of the assault rifles I’ll be using today” mode than I am. That was an approach I thought about for a bit but quickly rejected. It probably works wonderfully for them, it’s worked wonderfully for some of the zombie/post-apocalyptic fiction I’ve seen in the past, but it just wouldn’t make any sense for me. The notion that I’d successfully become a sharp-shooting warrior even in the face of the undead hordes bearing down on me and mine is just laughable. Much more frightening to me than the thought of having to thrive as a killer is the idea of having to but not being able to, and most likely not even trying. Inadequacy and failure are where I find horror in my own life, and–well, I’m reluctant to get too on-the-nose with how I describe what I’m doing in any of the fiction I write, but, well, yeah. In addition, the mechanics of the plague seem to be much more grim for both parties–SMA, which appears to have been operative for almost four years now, is described by its creator as the saga of the last living human on Earth. Needless to say, insofar as my zombie blog relies on the continuing viability of Blogger (a proposition dicey enough even when legions of resurrected cannibals are not a factor), the situation is not nearly as dire. Finally, from a technical standpoint, both sites appear to be much more elaborate and designed-y than my humble stock-template Blogspot site.

So I think I won’t let the fact that I’m not the Neil Armstrong of Zombie-Centric Online Journal-Style Fiction get me down. And if you’re into that sort of thing, by all means, go and gorge yourself. It’s what the zombies would do, after all.

In other horror fictionblogging news, I spent the morning wending my way through the various sites associated with Dionaea House, and wow. How I’d never heard about this before is beyond me–but you know, between not being able to find any zombie blogs until today and not being able to find a horror blogosphere until a couple of weeks ago, I guess the Internet is just too damn big to know where everything you want is, so I’m not going to let that get me down, either. Instead I’m going to give Dionaea House an extremely enthusiastic recommendation. If you get past a couple-three too-pat moments in the first few pages, you’re in for what is probably the scariest thing I’ve ever read online. (And it looks like I’m not alone in that estimation.) One post on one site in particular is give-you-the-chills, leave-the-lights-on scary. Trust me, you’ll know which one I mean.

Clicking through several of the links posted in comments throughout the Dionaea-related sites led me to other interesting online horror destinations as well. Ted’s Caving Page is ancient in Internet years, having been created and completed about four years ago. It certainly bears the marks of its era–gotta love that primitive htmling!–and it’s not as well-written as some of the other fictionblogs I’ve come across, but it combines deeply specialized knowledge of a particular field and the type of steadily ratcheting fear to which projects of this nature lend themselves so well in what I found to be a fascinating, if not entirely successful, manner.

Fascinating for a different reason is The Confessional, another horror fictionblog discovered through a Dionaea-related comment thread. As you can imagine quite a few readers of the Dioanaea story created dummy blogs and accounts in an attempt to become a part of the story–this in my estimation is one of the coolest possibilities of Internet fiction presented in this manner. Rather than simply riff on the Dionaea concept as most such readers did, however, The Confessional’s Victor Kantius attempted to bridge it into his separate fictional cosmology. Well, either that or shoehorn in a plug for his site in a way that made it look less like a plug for his site. I’d seen his comment in at least one other location (which I now can’t find) than the one linked above, and intrigued, I checked out the site. It turns out to be a pretty good object lesson in the limits of this type of writing. In an attempt to jerry-rig the sort of believability factor that a period of quietblogging on mundane matters or parallel blogging on multiple sites would engender (we’ve seen one or both done with Dionaea, Laylasweetie, even yours truly), Kantius simply backdated several posts to New Year’s Day 2000–a fine enough tactic, if it weren’t for the fact that Blogger didn’t exist back then. His messing with timestamps gets the better of him on what ended up being his last post, one dated February 2006. The technological trickery available to Internet writers can be a valuable tool, but it’s used at the writer’s potential peril.

Three final notes before signing off:

* Reading through recent posts and comments at Laylasweetie led me to believe I was missing a lot. Now I know why. I can’t decide whether to be miffed that you can’t get everything out of the story simply by reading the LJ, or simply floored by the amount of time and effort that is apparently going into it all, but perhaps you can.

* Many a Dionaea commenter noted the similarities between the story and the novel House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. House came very highly recommended to me, but I quickly found the annoying footnote chronicles of the hipster who supposedly found the main text’s manuscript too obnoxious to take and gave up on the book, even though I found its premise a chilling one. Now I’m thinking it’s time to give it another shot.

* I am currently dogsitting at my in-laws’ house, which though I’ve been here many times is still relatively unfamiliar to me. Last night as I went to the bathroom before bed I was contemplating the few bits of Dionaea I had read, as well as Laylasweetie and other bad-place stories I’d come across. After I finished I turned off the light and started walking back to the bedroom. I turned down the hall and thought to myself, “Gee, it’s dark. Amy must have turned off the bedroom light. But wait, she turned off the light in the other bathroom, too? How could she have done that so qui–” and found myself falling down the stairs I had actually turned down rather than the hallway five or six feet to its right. I caught myself after a few steps, but still, yikes. Add in all the malicious real-estate input I’d had that night, and double yikes. Between this and that wicked attack of deja vu I got after reading Laylasweetie that time, I’m starting to think horrorblogging does things to your head.

Approaches to fictionblogging

May 27, 2005

Courtesy of the increasingly indispensable Infocult comes another horror fictionblog, Dionaea House. I haven’t gotten any further than the first two or three pages, but, well, delightfully unpleasant. It’s interesting to read fictionblogs besides my own and compare how the “stories” are structured. While I have several narrative signposts in mind, I’m mostly trying to blog the outbreak (lowercase) the way I blog real life–when I feel like it, when I have the time, when I have something to say, when one of the people in my comment threads provides me with material to riff on (this has been particularly helpful in hammering out how the epidemic has affected different regions of the country, for example). Sites like Dionaea House and Laylasweetie, for all that they take advantage of the Internet’s capabilities, seem to me to have a more traditional storytelling structure.

To coin a phrase, Go, Look

May 27, 2005

There’s a new horrorblog on the block, name of Corpse Eaters, and I’m already enjoying it quite a bit. Most promising is mononymed blogger Steven’s planned series examining interesting aspects of the Friday the 13th series. No kiddin’!

Also on the horrorblog tip, The Missus discovered a fascinatingly creepy series of posts by M Valdemar’s Howard Peirce on the time he spent living in a haunted house. Once again, no kiddin’!

My friend Karolyn Gehrig is a very talented artist, and she has a new website showcasing her work. I think it will be of interest to horror fans, just to stick with that theme, but by no means exclusively to them. Check it out.

It occurs to me that I should maybe mention when I have pieces out in dead-tree publications. Check out the latest issue of Giant Magazine (Tom Cruise’s beard is on the cover) for reviews of Joe Sacco’s War’s End and Daniel Clowes’s Ice Haven.

Finally, I put some clips from my old gig as an editor and writer at Abercrombie & Fitch’s magazine/catalog/softcore hybrid the A&F Quarterly up on the site as PDFs for your perusal. Lots of fun humor features and tons of interviews, including ones with Frank Miller, Underworld, Brian Bendis, Fischerspooner, Paul Pope, Drea DeMatteo, Craig Thompson, the Dandy Warhols, Phoebe Gloeckner, and Bettie Page. Yes, that Bettie Page. One more time: No kiddin’!

The inevitable: Episode III

May 24, 2005

I am utterly incapable of providing you with a dispassionate review of a Star Wars film–I do have a Rebel Alliance insignia tattooed on my right arm, after all–so I’m not going to bother trying. I do want to say that I loved this movie, and I’m going to try to articulate why:

It has all the seriousness, grandiosity, and gravitas with which a person like me, who grew up loving Star Wars so unbelievably much, imbued the events it chronicles as I constructed and imagined them in my young (and old) mind. It was not afraid to take itself just as seriously as I’ve always taken it. I appreciate that. I understand that this is also often a recipe for terrible, terrible genre art–the attempts of 35 year olds to justify their love of kiddie culture they’re embarrassed about liking by making it Grim And Gritty And Serious As A Heart Attack. The difference here, and I understand I might be parsing things in a too-indiosyncratic way, as some of my interlocutors have suggested I did in trying to differentiate between what Lost and Twin Peaks and Palomar do versus what Guiding Light or General Hospital do, but the difference here is that George Lucas was never embarrassed, and neither was I.

That’s all. I assure you there is next to no point in trying to engage me on this–my fault, not yours–but I’m not going to stop you if you feel you must.

Where the Monsters Go: infernal words

May 24, 2005

With a little help from the Missus, I have at long last procured working links for PDF versions of the various papers on horror I wrote during my bright (or perhaps dark (but shining)?) college years. You can find them all here. Individual links are as follows:

The Things That Should Not Be: The Monumental Horror-Image and Its Relation to the Contemporary Horror Film (this one’s my Senior Essay, and probably the one you want to read if you are really interested in my take on the genre)

Pigs: Deliverance, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and the Horror of a Dead Frontier (after my Senior Essay, this is the piece I’m proudest of)

Cry Havoc: The Use of Sound in Alfred Hitchcock

Television’s great leap forward?

May 19, 2005

Last night I was dealt a remarkably lousy couple of hands by my favorite reality television programs (Kahlen and Vonzell were both ROBBED), so I was very happy to discover that the new episode of Lost was terrific, a real corker both in the flashbacks and on the island. In discussing it a bit at work today, it occurred to me that it’s unbelievable that a network television show is still raising more questions than it’s answering this deep into the season (next week’s two-hour episode is the season finale). That is very ballsy indeed. Now, you can already see some of the stupider TV critics and writers getting attention-span fatigue and complaining about the lack of “resolution” (ecch, ptooey), but there does seem to be an audience for this type of multi-tiered, complex, teased-out storytelling, which is enormously uplifting. And I think this phenomenon is getting much less rare since the advent of The HBO Original Series. Pre-Sopranos, you could probably count the examples of this type of show throughout the entire history of television on one hand with room left over; the only ones I can think of are Twin Peaks, (and from here on out I’m just telling you what I been told; never watched these series) Homicide, Wiseguy, and maybe Hill Street Blues and, if you credit the “mythology” episodes and ignore the standalone enigma-of-the-week ones, The X-Files.

There are probably several reasons for this relative renaissance, the most obvious one being that The Sopranos was a big hit, and the desire to make David Chase bucks made the suits a little more willing to take a chance on series that don’t have an immediate episode-to-episode payoff. But I wonder if new technologies like TiVo and DVDs aren’t also playing a major role in how narrative fiction is developing on the tube, insofar as they’re making complex series economically feasible in ways they didn’t used to be. Back in 1990, a show like Twin Peaks could make a huge splash, but if it demanded too much week-in week-out attention from its viewership, network pressure to make the show accessible (in Peaks‘s case by revealing whodunit) would quickly kill what was special in the show, if not kill the show outright. Nowadays viewers, and more importantly executives and producers, know that it’s easy enough to “catch up” by hitting a few buttons on your DVR or renting the first season through Netflix. Perhaps we can expect the complexity of televised fiction, even on the benighted networks, to expand accordingly.

I only recently realized that television has the potential to construct the same sort of growing, organic, expansive worlds that the best serialized comics can. Why aren’t there more shows like Love & Rockets (Jaime Hernanez’s Locas, Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar), or like a really great superhero-title run (Brubaker & Philips’s Sleeper, Bendis & Maleev’s Daredevil, Morrison’s New X-Men, to name but a few)? YMMV on each of those examples (though few people can get away with saying they care for neither Gilbert nor Jaime), but as networks discover that the money is in fact there to be made, the ability of serialized narrative to do long-lasting layered storytelling is a source of strength that TV is only beginning to tap into.

POSTSCRIPT: I’ve been informed that the book Everything Bad Is Good for You by Steven Johnson addresses similar issues; you can find a debate between Johnson and Slate’s TV critic Dana Stevens here. Note that Johnson too picks up on the advantages TiVo and DVDs present to demanding storytelling, though he focuses only on the fact that these enable viewers to avoid the distraction of commercials.

Horror in unexpected places

May 18, 2005

Three unexpected places:

1) My dreams. In addition to the two extraordinarly vivid ones I described over at The Outbreak, I had another one involving a bizarre prelude to Star Wars Episode IV in which Luke was from Earth and got involved in a hideously violent child-gang massacre, and eventually executed their ganglord by hanging him from a tree with piano wire and leaving him to slowly asphyxiate.

2) My iTunes. Maybe it’s just because I was writing down my dreams at the time, but Elbow’s album Asleep in the Back is really chilling.

3) My weekly comics. Daredevil #73 is a surprisingly effective little horror comic, believe it or not. That’s about as much as I can say about that without getting in trouble, but if you read it you’ll see what I mean.

Where the Monsters Go: Resurrection

May 15, 2005

What with Little Terrors, Dark But Shining, M Valdemar, The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire, Infocult, Laylasweetie, Dracula Blogged, and all the other horrorblogs I’ve suddenly stumbled across, I thought now would be as good a time as any to point out that even before The Outbreak, I was something of a horrorblogger myself, sometimes quite intensely so.

While a quick Google search through the site for the term “horror” is as good a piece of evidence of this as any, my finest horrorblogging moment–well, less a moment than a month–was my October 2003 project Where the Monsters Go, a month-long horror blogathon. Presented below for your perusal are links to all the WtMG posts I did, from the initial posts in which I sketched out my broad feelings and specific theories about the genre (including those presented in my senior thesis from Yale) as well as explained the reasoning behind the project itself, to the big climax, The 13 Days of Halloween, during which I watched and reviewed the 13 scariest movies I ever seen. (Everyone diggin’ on that grammatical shout-out to Large Marge?) I really enjoy digging these posts up (pun certainly intended) and re-reading them every now and then; hopefully you will too. Consider them my contribution to this nascent (to me, at least) horror blogosphere.

(The only caveat is that the frequently promised links to PDFs of various horror-focused papers I wrote while in college are all down; I’ll try and come up with a solution to this soon, but it’ll probably take a while. I promise you they all got As.)

(UPDATE: And they’re up! You’ll now be able to access all of my horror paper PDFs through the links you find in all the original posts below; you can also find a handy index of them here.)

One last thing before I leave you to the links: I was reading this Laylasweetie post when I got hit with the hugest attack of deja vu. And then I read this Haunted Vampire post about that Laylasweetie post and got hit with it again. To quote my beloved Lost Highway, this is some seriously spooky shit, sir.

And now, the monsters.


10-1-2003: Where the Monsters Go: October is Horror Month at ADDTF

10-2-2003: Where the Monsters Go: The Things That Should Not Be (and yeah, I fixed the link)

10-2-2003: Where the Monsters Go: Scary Blogsters

10-3-2003: Where the Monsters Go: The Things That Should Not Be HTMLified

10-3-2003: Where the Monsters Go: Fear, Foreknowledge, Foreboding, Frisson, The Shining, Signs, Funk, Techno, Prog…

10-4-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “I don’t read horror comics”

10-5-2003: Where the Monsters Go: unfunnybooks

10-6-2003: Where the Monsters Go: I Will Be

10-7-2003: Where the Monsters Go: Scary Blogsters II

10-8-2003: Where the Monsters Go: Time

10-9-2003: Where the Monsters Go: Triple Double

10-10-2003: Where the Monsters Go: On with the Show

10-10-2003: Where the Monsters Go: Blood Feasts

10-11-2003: Where the Monsters Go: Game over

10-12-2003: Where the Monsters Go: in dreams I stalk with you

10-13-2003: Where the Monsters Go: In the Darkness bind them

10-14-2003: Where the Monsters Go: Paperhouse, or “So it begins”

10-14-2003: Where the Monsters Go: Here, There, and Everywhere

10-14-2003: Where the Monsters Go: IncisionDecision

10-15-2003: Where the Monsters Go: Disembodied brains

10-15-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “You know how things are: Life goes on”

10-16-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “What can we do? What can we do?

10-17-2003: Where the Monsters Go: Things I missed

10-18-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “People die every day”

10-19-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “No… No…

10-20-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “You’ll simply never understand the true meaning of sacrifice.”

10-21-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “seeking human victims”

10-22-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “We’re all expecting great things”

10-22-2003: Where the Monsters Go: A feature, not a bug

10-23-2003: Where the Monsters Go: They’re all messed up

10-23-2003: Where the Monsters Go: Scottie’s choice

10-23-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “Fuck”

10-25-2003: Where the Monsters Go: Note

10-25-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “Don’t look at me”

10-26-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “We’ve met before, haven’t we?”

10-26-2003: Where the Monsters Go: Beware of the Blog

10-26-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “they were screaming”

10-27-2003: Where the Monsters Go: feast your eyes

10-27-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “Don’t you understand?”

10-28-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “There’s just some things you have to do. Don’t mean you have to like it.”

10-29-2003: Where the Monsters Go: Later, again

10-29-2003: Where the Monsters Go: When there’s no more room in Hell

10-29-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “There is only one”

10-30-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “You’ve had your whole fucking life to think things over”

10-31-2003: Where the Monsters Go: Day of the Dead

10-31-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “What music they make!” 1

10-31-2003: Where the Monsters Go: A poem

10-31-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “What music they make!” 2

10-31-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “Help!”

10-31-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “What music they make!” 3

10-31-2003: Where the Monsters Go: “What music they make!” 4

11-3-2003: Where the Monsters Go: Picking up the pieces

11-4-2003: Where the Monsters Go: Requiem

05-15-2005: Where the Monsters Go: Resurrection

05-24-2005: Where the Monsters Go: Infernal words

Meta; Horror

May 14, 2005

Question for Blogger users: Did any of y’all notice a bizarre influx of random referrals from other Blogspot blogs yesterday, during a certain one-hour period? (I can’t figure out from my stat provider exactly what one-hour period it really was.) You know, the type of referral you get when someone clicks on that “next blog” button on the top of the page, only dozens of them almost all at once? I’d love to know what that was all about. Blogger maintenance of some sort?

In much more interesting metablog news, I’ve occasionally wondered aloud why there isn’t a horror blogosphere along the lines of the comics blogosphere we all know and love so well. I’d hoped that Kevin Melrose, Rick Geerling, and Sam Costello’s lovely site Dark, But Shining would spur some growth in that arena. Well, it has, as it turns out–just not in the way I expected. Apparently there already is something of a horror blogosphere out there, but I just hadn’t been looking in the right place! I discovered this when Sam used DBS to plug my autobiohorror site The Outbreak, along with the why-didn’t-I-think-of-that blog of the moment, Dracula Blogged (currently up to the awesome lizard-walk “what manner of man is this?” bit!) Sniffing through the comments left by DBS’s readers in that post, I discovered a whole slew of horrorblogs–and they also discovered me, or at least The Outbreak’s version of me, much to my delight. M. Valdemar and Benjamin are just a couple of the horror-centric bloggers out there. Feast your eyes, glut your soul!

The discovery I’m possibly most excited about from all this was made through Infocult, the regular blog of Dracublogger Bryan Alexander. It’s called Laylasweetie, and despite the innocuous, extremely LJ-typical name, it’s about a haunting. I presume it’s a fictional one, of course, which makes it a blog after my own heart; what makes it particularly interesting is the way the author has allowed the haunting to infect the blog itself, placing various clues, puzzles, and other spooky things throughout the entries and comments. Man, technology and people who like scary things can be a force to be reckoned with when put together properly. I heartily advise you to check it out.

A mix from my iTunes to yours

May 14, 2005

First of all, there is a new, real post waaaaaaay down there. Click here if you can’t be arsed to scroll.

Second, here is a giant master mix, assembled from the three separate iTunes playlists I whipped up for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week. This is how me and the fellas in my office keep it moving.

1. Truckin’ (The Grateful Dead)

2. Jailbreak (Thin Lizzy)

3. The Fire Inside (Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band)

4. Steppin’ Out (Joe Jackson)

5. Rise [DFA Remix] (Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom)

6. Just Let Go (Fischerspooner)

7. That Girl Suicide (The Brian Jonestown Massacre)

8. Space Face [Live] (Doves)

9. Yeah [Pretentious Version] (LCD Soundsystem)

10. Erucu (Jermaine Jackson)

11. Superstition (Stevie Wonder)

12. Get Up I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine (James Brown)

13. Jungle Boogie (Kool & the Gang)

14. Jungle Jazz (Kool & the Gang)

15. Don’t Walk Away Boy (Jade)

16. Believe (Gus Gus)

17. It Began in Afrika (Chemical Brothers)

18. Lust for Life (Iggy Pop)

19. You Can’t Hurry Love (Diana Ross & the Supremes)

20. Ain’t No Love [Ain’t No Use] (Sub Sub feat. Melanie Williams)

21. Spill the Wine (War feat. Eric Burdon)

22. Mama Told Me Not to Come (Three Dog Night)

23. Susie Q (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

24. Susie Q [Part 2] (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

25. Be-In (The Dandy Warhols)

26. Boys Better (The Dandy Warhols)

27. Do You Wanna Touch Me There? [Oh, Yeah!] (Gary Glitter)

28. Rock and Roll [Parts 1 & 2] (Gary Glitter)

29. Can

Mix and match

May 11, 2005

Courtesy of The NIN Hotline (like CNN for people who know every word to “March of the Pigs”) comes a link to this Pitchfork interview with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and the DFA. Ostensibly a what-do-you-think-of-these-songs feature, it ends up being a fairly lengthy rumination on Murphy’s part about the anxiety of influence. Here’s a quote I liked a lot:

I think a canon is important, but you have to grow into it. That stuff can overwhelm you. You’re 24 years old, you’re in a band, and suddenly people are saying, “Hey, you guys sound a lot like Chrome. You should check out Chrome,” or “You guys sound a lot like Roxy Music,” and you’re like, “I’ve never heard them,” and you go find it and it can just overwhelm you. It can destroy a band. Because it’s powerful stuff. I mean, the Strokes are swimming up some incredibly serious stuff: Velvet Underground. Television. It’s kinda soul-crushing in a way to go listen to “Perfect Day” and say, “I’m gonna go write a song like that,” and it’ll be fucking horrible by comparison.

He also talks about the difference between Iggy Pop appropriating “You Can’t Hurry Love” for “Lust for Life” vs. Jet appropriating “Lust for Life” for “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?”; the DFA’s strange pseudo-rivalries with the Rapture and Death from Above 1979; his nuanced and even-handed take on Trent Reznor (hence the NIN Hotline link), and more. I know the highly referential remix aesthetic has come in for some potshots around these parts lately, but if you’re interested in that sort of thinking at all, this is worth a read.

Pitchfork also has its review of with teeth up (again, courtesy of The NIN Hotline, which does not have permalinks–people, this is not hard). It’s laden with the kind of annoying I’m-too-snarky-for-this-album silliness that I usually associate with Spin‘s worse moments (or, at this point, anything from Rolling Stone), but I still thought it was interesting how the review points out that, where Reznor was once the maker of angry-teen music (what Murphy calls “lifeline music” in the interview linked above), he was supplanted by groups like Linkin Park, who stripped the music of both sex and existentialism and made it represent a very specific, personalized, journal-esque form of upsetment with one’s girlfriend or classmates. (Perhaps the smut migrated directly into hip-pop, leaving mook-rock to corner the anger market it inherited not just from Reznor and Cobain but from straightforward gangsta rap as well?)

While we’re on the subject, All Music Guide’s review of with teeth puts its finger right on my main problem with the album, namely that it does not feel like an album it should have taken five years to make. This goes double when its astoundingly laborious predecessor, the fragile, is taken into consideration. I like with teeth–I’ve probably listened to it two dozen times by now–but then, I really do have a direct line to Trent Reznor plugged into my brain someplace. It still feels to me like less effort went into creating this entire album than went into almost any one track off the fragile–“just like you imagined,” for example. Even if you were to remove virtuoso Bowie alums Mike Garson and Adrian Belew from that track, more would still be going on in just one of its crescendos than on songs 2-6 from wt.

Question: Does the reference-laden aesthetic of Kill Bill have anything in common with the reference-laden aesthetic of glam rock? I think too much of KB is outright homage to qualify Tarantino for the pasticheur tradition I’ve talked about in the past, but I wonder if there’s something there that explains my affinity toward both.

Also on the Kill Bill front, in one of his several posts on the subject Jon Hastings says the following:

But sometimes I get the sense that Sean (and others who share his anti-anti-nerd stance) won

My friends and the famous cartoonists who love them

May 5, 2005

Ol’ messboard pal Jim Dougan has written a comic that Roger “Fred the Clown” Langridge then deigned to illustrate: Oscar Chavez, Machismo Monitor!

And speaking of the messboard (normally we try not to), fine artist and occasional Jean Grey impersonator Karolyn Gehrig shows off her skills a booth babe in this thread.


What can you say?

May 4, 2005

Today I found out that my therapist is dead. The way I found this out was me and Amy went for our appointment at his home office, and since the door was locked and the lights were out but I noticed people at home in the actual home, I rang the home doorbell, and his wife came out and I asked if Dr. _____ was around because we had an appointment, and she said, “Oh, oh, oh, I thought we had called everyone. My husband died last week.”

He was a terrific therapist and a really cool person. I miss him.

The White Stuff (UPDATED)

May 3, 2005

A couple of verdicts are in on my critique of Ron Rosenbaum’s anti-Kill Bill/Sin City piece: Jog liked it; J.W. didn’t, mainly because he thinks I basically made up an anti-white bias on Rosenbaum’s part.

For the record, I totally knew I was breakdancing on the fine line between inference and invention with regards to the racial subtext of Rosenbaum’s piece, especially when I wrote the bit about Rodriguez, Avilan, Wo-Ping, Chiba, and Liu. (The gender of Avilan, and of Uma Thurman, was at least as important a factor in my writing that section as the racial angle.)

The real meat of my argument had nothing to do with race–it was more a question of gender and class, specifically that subset of both known as fanboydom. I lumped the racial stuff in there for good measure more because fanboydom is so overwhelmingly white rather than anything specific that Rosenbaum said, as I tried (and seem to have failed) to clarify when I said “to be fair, Rosenbaum doesn’t come right out and play the race card.” (Except for the Orientalism bit, which was just silly, since the Pai Mei character he’s attacking appeared almost exactly as-is in several Asian-made flicks. From this I deduced that it Rosenbaum thought it was okay for them (assuming he knew they existed, which, if he had that Annotated Kill Bill book he kept talking about, he would) but not for Tarantino.) Rosenbaum does come right and say that the maleness of the filmmakers behind KB and SC, and also of their fans, is a drawback, so I think it’s safe to say he’s not above deploying that kind of argumentation.

What I’m trying to say is that the main thing really is the anti-male, anti-fanboy bias, which I hope J.W. addresses at some point because I’m curious to hear his take on it. The white stuff is just the vanilla icing on the cake. Anyway, I recommend you read J.W.’s piece in its entirety, not just to get an opposing take on the issues I brought up but to hear of further problems with Rosenbaum’s attempted take-down (eg. the fact that Sin City really isn’t all that referential, or at least not in the way that Kill Bill is; and that the “this sucks/this rocks” comparison Rosenbaum tries to set up with something he calls the “L.A. Collage School” is slapdash and arbitrary).

(As for the “self-evident brilliance of the Wu Tang Clan” with which J.W. so passionately disagrees, well, it’s self-evident on my blog, at least. 🙂 )

UPDATE: I had a hunch the illustrious Steven Berg would weigh in on the anti-KB side, but I was surprised to see that he, too, thought (as he put it) “the bulk of Sean

Last Wednesday was my birthday

May 2, 2005

AWESOME. Thanks, honey!

En garde. I’ll let you try my New Dumb Avant-Garde style.

May 1, 2005

Care of the Tom Spurgeon comes this New York Observer essay by Ron Rosenbaum on Kill Bill, Sin City, graphic novels and hyper-referentiality. I didn’t much care for it. Actually, that’s putting it mildly: For a brief while it made me consider writing off the entire critical enterprise and creating in a vacuum for the rest of my life. But that’s me all over, and it’s probably not one of my finer aspects as a critic, or as a consumer, or indeed as a creator, of art. I have a Goldwaterian attitude toward the defense of work that I love, coupled with an occasional inability (unwillingness?) to articulate why, that does not become me. Fortunately, I also have the almost physical need to run on at the e-mouth about stuff like this, which was ultimately the impulse that won out.

So, Rosenbaum. I’ve read and enjoyed, if not agreed with, some of his writing on popular culture in the past, his participation in Slate’s colloquy on The Sopranos Season Four, for example. What I consider the greatest single season of the greatest single show in the history of televison he wrote off as so much meandering overreach, so perhaps he and I simply have different tastes. Which is fine, of course–everyone is entitled to her opinion. Indeed, there has been a somewhat depressing tendency of late among the Internet circles I move in toward ascribing some larger mental bias cum widespread critical conspiracy to certain opinions, as if people cannot arrive, in good faith, at a verdict that disagrees with one’s own. (Steven Berg wrote a read-the-whole-thing-worthy essay on the topic, so I don’t really have to.)

However, when you yourself attempt to construct a Grand Theory out of your opinion, you open that Grand Theory up to criticism. Here is Rosenbaum’s, inspired by the trampling underfoot of Daryl Hannah’s eye by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol. 2:

I don