Posts Tagged ‘music’
I love this album cover. Barnbrook, the designers, talk about it at their blog.
Carnival of souls: Gossip Girl, Edie Fake, Fluxblog 2012, Chris Ware on Newtown, Shallow Rewards on shoegaze, moreFriday, January 4th, 2013
* Gossip Girl aired its series finale a few weeks ago. I watched every episode of that show and spent much of that time delighted in smiling-while-shaking-my-head-and-muttering-”you-magnificent-bastards” fashion. My friends Ben Morse and Kiel Phegley have reviewed the finale and the entire series in a two-part conversation that’s my favorite writing about Gossip Girl I’ve ever read. Here’s part one and here’s part two. The final two episodes of the show included two major events I’m still trying to wrap my head around; they both leave a bad taste in my mouth, but as Kiel and Ben convincingly argue, a Gossip Girl climax that didn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth wouldn’t be Gossip Girl.
* Edie Fake has come out of nowhere with a series of gouache and ballpoint-pen pictures of buildings called Memory Palaces that are among those rare works of art that make me go “Wow, I had no idea you could do that.” If you took the castles at the end of a Super Mario Bros. level and imagined that culture evolved forward a thousand years, you’d get something like this. It also puts me in mind of the old NES game Milon’s Secret Castle, or at least my hazy memories of same. Finding out where the buildings are from only makes it more remarkable. I sit and stare at this art like an apeman at the monolith. Never saw it coming.
* Still the best: Matthew Perpetua has released the Fluxblog 2012 Survey Mix, a TEN-disc overview of the year’s best music. It’s an overwhelming number of songs in a dizzying variety of genres and styles, but Matthew puts each disc together with thought and care and attention to flow, so you should feel free to DL ‘em all but listen to them one at a time. Find one with a few songs you dig or are intrigued by and let the rest come at you.
* My wife is a teacher and we are parents, and Chris Ware is the greatest cartoonist, so virtually every aspect of Ware’s New Yorker cover and essay about Newtown resonated with me deeply. This passage in particular evokes the way all of my personal and political anger and dread runs together lately:
In the course of the next few days, I was privy to the exchanges among my wife and her colleagues about Newtown, culminating in flabbergasted e-mails and Facebookings following the farcical N.R.A. press conference. Memes abounded, like, “First they call us union thugs and now they want to arm us?!” and self-mocking jokes about their own forgetfulness: “Do you really want to trust people like us with guns?” (Teachers are notoriously overworked and so occasionally forget their two pounds’ worth of keys in one classroom or another.) What astonished me most was that the gun lobby seemed to imply that it was somehow partly the unarmed teachers’ fault that the Newtown shooting occurred at all. Well, why not? Isn’t everything lately always somehow the teachers’ fault?
Meanwhile, our government revved its engines to Evel-Knievel itself over the fiscal cliff, civilization’s rock face having partly crumbled away because a clot of representatives seem to feel that government shouldn’t be funded at all. Over the holiday break, news arrived that thirty-seven Philadelphia public schools were closing because of budgetary cuts, and meanwhile the whole idea of public education continues to be cored out nationwide by taxpayer-funded private “charter” schools in a sleight of hand that I still can’t believe is legal. (Meanwhile, my union-thug wife is too busy grading papers and planning lessons to be able to get properly mad about it all.)
* A pair of standouts from Tom Spurgeon’s Holiday Interview series: Tom Kaczynski on his surprisingly ambitious micropublishing outfit Uncivilized Books and Dean Haspiel with a startlingly frank and harsh assessment of his own career.
* The Comics Journal has self-selected its best posts of 2012. Something for everybody.
* Forgot to link to this before, but wow: The MoCCA Festival, now under the new management of the Society of Illustrators, has announced a new steering committee for its 2013 show: Anelle Miller, Kate Feirtag, and Katie Blocher from the Society, as well as Leon Avelino (Secret Acres), Charles Brownstein (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund), Karen Green (Columbia University), William Hatzichristos (CollectorZoo), Paul Levitz (Writer/ Educator), Barry Matthews (Secret Acres), and Tucker Stone (Bergen Street Comics). That’s an institution that’s getting serious about a small-press show that suffered from years of malign neglect — as ably detailed by Barry and Leon, who are now helping to guide it. Also I’m sure Tucker Stone and Paul Levitz will have a lot to talk about.
* Please go read First Year Healthy by Michael DeForge, now available in its entirety on one continuously scrolling page. Subtly effective horror with an extravagantly inventive sense of design. This is one of the best things he’s ever done.
* In contrast with the previous few links, all of which involve artists breaking their own mold in some way, this jaw-dropping Julia Gfrörer piece is more a matter of her becoming the most Julia Gfrörer she can be. I said “Jesus, Julia” out loud when I opened it.
* Always good to see new Uno Moralez work, no matter how small.
* Gorgeous cover by Zach Hazard Vaupen. Makes me wish he’d work in color more often.
* Dave Kiersh continues to post his old minicomics, which are ungainly and funny and pervy and immature and romantic and which put it all out there.
* Finally, congratulations and come back soon to Chris Ott, who says he’s wrapped up the initial run of his Shallow Rewards music-criticism video essays with (oh boy oh boy oh boy) the first two installments of a promised shit-ton of videos about shoegaze.
My piece on musical chills and ASMR made editor-in-chief Ben Smith’s list of the best BuzzFeed posts of the year. It made the editors’ list of BuzzFeed’s best longreads of the year, too. Plus there’s the best music writing list I mentioned earlier. I’m chuffed.
My pieces on musical chills/ASMR and Godspeed You! Black Emperor are featured in this list of the editors’ picks for BuzzFeed’s best music writing of the year. But besides that there’s rock-solid writing on Passion Pit, Bruce Springsteen, Kendrick Lamar, Ke$ha, Frank Ocean, Bat for Lashes, Taylor Swift, the Replacements, PJ Harvey, Nicki Minaj, Ben Folds Five, Rihanna, EDM and more.
* It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Tom Spurgeon has begun his annual series of lengthy holiday interviews with comics luminaries, with Alison Bechdel kicking things off. I’ll probably get less enjoyment out of these this year than previously because I just haven’t read as many comics this year as I used to do, but I’m telling you, curling up with my in-laws’ dogs and sinking into the couch with the Comics Reporter Holiday Interview series on my laptop is one of life’s great pleasures.
* Liv Siddall’s essay on Chris Ware and Tavi Gevinson’s interview with Ware himself, both for Rookie, are both very good, but more importantly they both come with the most life-affirming comments sections you’ve ever seen on anything involving comics. Just a slew of kids saying “Wow, this sounds great, I’ve gotta check it out, thanks.” Gevinson uses her power to rep hard for the High Alt comics makers, and she does it well, and I’m glad.
* You can look at this lengthy post by Grant Morrison on the history of his feud with Alan Moore and think “good for him, sticking up for himself” or “yikes for him, living in this headspace.” A bad thing to do would be to troll the detractors or supporters of the writer of your choice with it — even at their crankiest and crank-iest, these guys have earned better than that.
* Big comics interviews I’m saving for later: Tim Hodler talks to Tom Kaczynski, Alex Dueben talks to Charles Burns, Tim Hodler and Dan Nadel and Frank Santoro talk to Jaime Hernandez and Gilbert Hernandez.
* Speaking of Frank the Tank, he’s an Eisner judge this year, so I think it’s safe to say the days of Jaime shutouts are over.
* Christopher Tolkien’s disgust for Lord of the Rings licensed products, including the movies, is a depressing fact of life for those of us who’ve enjoyed both his father’s life work (which also became his own) and the work derived from it.
* The television critic Alan Sepinwall recently self-published a book called The Revolution Was Televised, outlining the New Golden Age of TV Drama with a chapter apiece on twelve landmark shows: Oz, The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 24, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, The Shield, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Friday Night Lights. I’ve been reading Sepinwall on and off for years and years now — he more or less invented weekly reviewing and he’s a central figure in the TV-critic back-and-forth I follow on twitter and in the field’s seemingly countless podcasts and such — so there’s something of a local-boy-makes-good element to the book getting a rave review from Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times before she put it on her top 10 list for the year. Anyway, here Sepinwall talks about the books to one of my favorite TV critics, Willa Paskin.
* Lots and lots of people wrote lots and lots of words attacking or defending Homeland season two, but my podcasting pal Stefan Sasse bucked the trend and took some shots at Homeland season one instead.
* I quite liked Jessica Hopper’s interview with Grimes, who made one of the year’s best records and who emerges here as a forcefully thoughtful presence.
* The oral history trend has clearly reached its baroque period, where instead of culture-defining/altering movements or mega-masterpieces, they’re now about the “Blackwater” episode of Game of Thrones or Interpol’s first album. That’s a wonderful use of the form if you ask me.
* How embarrassing was Richard Cohen’s column decrying the physical fitness of Daniel Craig’s James Bond as some sort of affront to the masculinity of book-readin’ types like Richard Cohen? I’ve had a coworker walk in on me while I was using the restroom in the altogether and I still found this thing more mortifying.
* If you were wondering when the next time Michael DeForge would level up was gonna be, you’ve got your answer: “First Year Healthy.”
* Jonny Negron has — ha, like I even need to say anything at this point. Like I don’t put Jonny Negron art in every linkblogging post I do. It occurs to me that what Jonny does is invest “cool” imagery with the sense of mysterious and sinister don’t-try-this-at-home-kids intimidation it held for me as a kid. As alluring as these people are I’d be afraid to walk into a room where they were hanging out. For what it’s worth I think his last couple months of work are much more strongly erotic than anything he’s done in a while, but that could just be me. And look at the skintone on this one! LOOK AT IT
* Big new Gilbert Hernandez books coming in the new year: Julio’s Day! Marble Season! A now-completed collection of work he serialized during Love & Rockets‘ second volume and a pseudoautobiography, these could send him in the direction of critical and audience reappraisal that the outré sex and violence of his recent comics have denied him.
* I’m super-excited to purchase Magical Neon Sexuality by Kevin Fanning, though I’m waiting until I’m flush with Christmas cash. Fanning is the genius, the literal genius, behind The Cold Inclusive, which is sort of like magic realism only it’s sex with celebrities instead of angel wings and shit and which is one of my favorite things I ever saw on the Internet. I gather this book is in that vein. I realized today that Fanning’s stories are a big unconscious influence on me in that Drake comic I did with Andrew White and two or three other things I’m working on now.
* Kevin Mutch has begun serializing a slightly recolored version of his Xeric-winning graphic novel Fantastic Life online. I liked that book a lot — it’s kind of like a lo-fi X’d Out.
* Eleanor Davis made a comic about her friends skinning a fox and it’s brutal and beautiful. Go through the last month or so of her blog, because Davis is on fire right now the way, say, Gabrielle Bell was two summers ago.
* Sally Madden’s book about working at Philadelphia’s gross, awesome medical-oddity showcase the Mutter Museum, Gray Is Not a Color, has maybe the best cover of the year. Herb Alpert’s throne of skulls grows taller by the day, I’m told.
* New Cindy & Biscuit by my man Dan White! Some publisher with a solid and adventurous kids’ comics program should snap this up, for real.
* This comic by Benjamin’s fellow Collective Stench member Tom Toye seems to vibrate off the page.
* If you didn’t like the liberties Peter Jackson took with The Hobbit, then man oh man are you going to have complaints about Josh Simmons’s commissioned portrait of the Witch-King of the Nazgul.
* Guy Davis fanart for Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit? Sure, I’ll eat it.
* Zak Smith asks and answers the question: “Why is this picture so good?” (It’s by Adrian Smith.)
* Uno Moralez’s first image/gif gallery in a long time is also the scariest one in a much longer time.
* I don’t know of any rationale for keeping a nonviolent offender who’s not a risk to himself or others in literally torturous solitary confinement like the Obama administration did to the Army’s Wikileaks whistleblower Pfc. Bradley Manning, I just don’t. Who does?
* This Glenn Greenwald piece on the horror of Newtown as reflected in the drone and bombing deaths of Pakistani and Yemeni children at American hands (or Palestinians at Israeli hands, and let me warn you the photo that leads that link is enormously upsetting) is literally the most important thing to think about in the world right now. It is so vital for us to see that all lives are of equal value, and to understand that the mass death of children caused by the American military/intelligence apparatus abroad is just as devastating and horrifying to their loved ones, and to the conscience of the universe, as the mass death of children caused by maniacs here at home. Once you make this connection you can never unmake it, which is why it’s so important to make it. This has in one way or another been the topic of almost everything I’ve written this year. It’s never far from my mind, ever.
* Fittingly finally, David Chase explains the end of The Sopranos. None of the above?
This is normally the sort of thing I’d reserve for a Carnival of Souls linkdump post, but by now I’ve put off putting one together for so long that I’m actually intimidated by the volume of stuff I’ve got bookmarked for it. Besides, I think this deserves its own showcase.
If you haven’t seen them already, I want to introduce you to Chris Ott and Shallow Rewards.
Shallow Rewards is a series of video essays, I guess you would call them, in which Ott blends music criticism, music-criticism criticism, industry talk, and pop-rock history lessons in the most seamless and engaging fashion I’ve ever seen.
Here’s the first one I really watched, independent of the he-said/he-said intercritic tussling that attracted me lookie-lou-style to the series in the first place. It’s about Bruno Mars’s surprisingly great Police pastiche “Locked Out of Heaven,” to which I was exposed in the very same way Ott was: Driving my family around in the car, listening to pop radio. This is him singlehandedly carving out the discourse the song deserves, looping in the Police, Sting, the Romantics, Gorillaz, superproducers, Mark Ronson, poptimism, nostalgia, and more, all amply illustrated with video and audio and textual support.
And this is the video that really floored me, somehow. It’s Ott in his rant mode rather than his music-history raconteur mode, explaining how the Internet’s ubiquitous access to a wide variety of music, coupled with music criticism websites’ need to drive hits by talking about the things people are talking about, has led to “peak distortion”: the canon is discussed to death while the median, with which listeners were once forced to come into contact via scarcity-bred chance, is invisible.
The first time I watched these videos — and let’s pause and reflect on the import of that statement: the first time, out of several, I’ve voluntarily watched the same recordings of a music critic talking into a camera — I watched them in mix-and-match fashion, gravitating toward the topics I was most interested in: the Ministry episode, the 4AD episode, the opening series of rants, the Duran Duran two-parter (!). That’s a great way to watch them.
But I think it actually does a tremendous disservice to how thoughtfully Ott arranged the arguments he made and the videos in which he made them. When you start at the beginning and work your way forward, the cumulative impact is just tremendous. There’s a cataloguing of symptoms, there’s a diagnosis, there’s a prognosis, there’s a prescription, and there’s a demonstration of what things would look like when cured.
Were I to boil it down it’d all sound like truisms: Don’t chase attention, don’t write about the same things everyone writes about, don’t willingly or unwittingly serve the interests of commerce or PR, reclaim your worth as a writer and/or musician and/or music fan by talking passionately but non-hyperbolically, originally but not obscurely, about good-to-great music wherever you find it. But laid out as Ott lays it out it’s like taking the red pill and seeing the Matrix for the first time.
Ott is a big, funny, combative personality. Boy, is he ever. His twitter feed is scabrous, and as I said, I first came across him when he did a whole video going after a review by Mark Richardson, one of my other favorite music critics in no small part because there’s not a ranty bone in his body. But this facet of Ott’s work doesn’t drive me crazy the way similar work done in comics criticism drives me crazy (literally, in some small way this year), for a few reasons. First, I’m far enough removed from the issues and industry and personalities involved that little to none of myself is invested in the outcome of the fight. I can watch it like I watch a football game my family puts on the TV during a holiday gathering.
Second, you may disagree with the contours or conclusions of Ott’s angriest arguments, I know I do from time to time (I don’t see the need to cede the discussion of Death Grips to the band’s grandiose pronouncements about themselves instead of talking about the way their music sounds, which I like a lot, for example). But they are always actual arguments, not a bunch of assumptions, ad hominems, and contrarian-conventional wisdom hastily jerryrigged into a platform upon which to perform standup insult comedy.
Last, and not necessarily not least since I believe in the inherent value of criticism independent of what else you do but not necessarily least either, he’s doing so much more than rant. He’s being the change he wants to see in the world. Moeover, he’s being the change he wanted to see in his own life and career, which is probably more important. He saw what was out there, he identified what didn’t work, and he’s fixing it, video to video. Video to well-made, thoughtful, funny, clever, sometimes charmingly self-important, always entertaining video, might I add.
(The “Crap Guitars and the Madness of Crowdsourcing” video above is the ne plus ultra of the form. Damascene-conversion insights, dishy insults, funny rock-nerdy insults (Lana Del Rey “is the reason the KLF lit a million pounds on fire”), thoughtful fuck-yeah music cues (ending a rant about the “industrial effort…like making a car” put into creating Lana Del Rey with a quick and unexplained cut to “God” by former one-time record-industry people-pleaser Y Kant Tori Read frontwoman Tori Amos), an “I know how this looks and I really don’t care” cut back to a silent shot of Ott drinking a beer and shaking his head in disgust while looking off-camera — it’s all there.)
A few weeks ago it looked like I was about to pull out of the depressive nosedive I’ve written about recently. I had a great, relaxing weekend with my wife and kid and cats. Boardwalk Empire was incredible and Homeland aired the best episode of the back half of Season Two. I was writing about all sorts of things all the time, and getting money and recognition in return. I finished a comics script I’m really excited about that said a lot of what I wanted to say at that moment. Then a few days later dozens of people I know and like got laid off and treated badly in the process and I was blown prostrate to the floor again. C’est la vie.
Anyway, the point is that perhaps more than any of the other things I just listed, discovering Shallow Rewards, watching and rewatching them, literally losing sleep staying up to watch just one more video before bed, helped me out of the tailspin. I’d become unmoored from comics criticism, the thing I’d spent a decade defining myself by doing — over unpleasant interactions, over feeling out of step with the prevailing tone, over a gradual inward transition from “writing about comics” to “writing comics,” over getting more intellectual and emotional and financial and interpersonal rewards from writing about television and music, over a lot of things. Seeing these videos made me feel like criticism can do anything it wants to do if you love the thing you’re talking about enough to want to live up to that love. If you’re angry, fine, you can do something with that. If you’re obsessed, great, you can do something with that. If you want to recreate the overall vibe of the most fascinating fact-filled chat you’ve ever had in a bar with some guy or girl who’s into something you’re interested in and just totally, totally knows their shit and communicates it to you with such effortlessly revelatory power it’s like you just learned about a 27th letter of the alphabet, awesome, you can do something with that. The point is that you can do something. If it’s possible to do with pop music, an industry that’s fallen off from its ’90s highs but still has cash and infrastructure enough to support the creation of a fleet of Star Destroyers, it’s possible to do with literally anything you’re interested in enough to talk about. Anything.
I can’t think of a work of criticism that hit me as hard as these videos did in a long, long time. I wrote a fawning fan letter because of them. To a critic. How about that?
Start your holiday break early and watch them. Maybe they’ll inspire you the way they’ve inspired me. Enjoy.
I’m depressed. I’ve also been obsessively listening to Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s album ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! These two phenomena are not unrelated. I wrote a piece for BuzzFeed Music explaining why.
My friend and editor Matthew Perpetua put it this way in the hed/dek he crafted for it:
How 2012′s Most Miserable Album Helped Me Through Depression
Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! was the only record that made sense to me when it felt like my world was falling apart.
It’s something I was building toward writing for months and I hope you like it.
Hottest Chick in the Game, the comic about Drake that I made with Andrew White, made BuzzFeed Music’s list of 44 Wonderful Things About Music in 2012. We beat Animal Collective. Thank you to everyone for reading it.
DOWNLOAD VOLUME ONE // MIRROR
The Nights of Wine and Roses – Japandroids // Summer Child (feat. Sarah Teresa Brown) – Intermissions // The Fever (Aye Aye) – Death Grips // Mercy (feat. Big Sean, Pusha T, 2 Chainz) – Kanye West // Beez in the Trap (feat. 2 Chainz) – Nicki Minaj // Genesis – Grimes // Losing You – Solange // Her Fantasy – Matthew Dear // Bangarang (feat. Sirah) – Skrillex // Some Nights – Fun. // Die Young – Ke$ha // Let’s Have a Kiki – Scissor Sisters // 1991 – Azealia Banks // Anything Could Happen – Ellie Goulding // Unto Caesar – Dirty Projectors // Let Me Be Him – Hot Chip // Something Inside – Jessie Ware
DOWNLOAD VOLUME TWO // MIRROR
Every Single Night – Fiona Apple // Into the Black – Chromatics // How Do You Do? – Hot Chip // This Kiss – Carly Rae Jepsen // Oblivion – Grimes // Money Trees (feat. Jay Rock) – Kendrick Lamar // Okay Cupid – Kitty Pryde // Purple Kisses – A$AP Rocky // New God Flow (feat. Pusha T & Ghostface Killah) – Kanye West // Liquorice – Azealia Banks // Don’t Deny Your Heart – Hot Chip // I Belong in Your Arms – Chairlift // Cool Light – Bear in Heaven // Blue Meanies – Opossom // Elephant – Tame Impala // Some Time Alone Alone – Melody’s Echo Chamber // Monkey Riches – Animal Collective // Hacker – Death Grips
DOWNLOAD VOLUME THREE // MIRROR
The Night – School of Seven Bells // Met Before – Chairlift // Offspring Are Blank – Dirty Projectors // Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen // I’ve Seen Footage – Death Grips // Gotta Ball – V Nasty & Lil’ Debbie // Go Hard (La. La. La.) – Kreayshawn // Crush – Sleigh Bells // Kiss Me Crazy – Bear in Heaven // Back from the Grave – Chromatics // Everything Is Embarrassing – Sky Ferreira // Locked Out of Heaven – Bruno Mars // Running – Jessie Ware // Lemme See (feat. Rick Ross) – Usher // Oh Yeah – Bat for Lashes // Swan Song – Jessie Ware // The House That Heaven Built – Japandroids // A Wall – Bat for Lashes // Dome Horizon – Geoff Barrow/Ben Salisbury // Wide Awake – Katy Perry // Hot Knife – Fiona Apple
DOWNLOAD VOLUME FOUR // MIRROR
The Exact Colour of Doubt – Liars // Devotion – Jessie Ware // Bird on a Wire – Action Bronson & Riff Raff // Ice age – How to destroy angels_ // Scavenger – School of Seven Bells // Laura – Bat for Lashes // Running from the Sun – Chromatics // Sun in Your Eyes – Grizzly Bear // Mladic – Godspeed You! Black Emperor // When David Heard – Eric Whitacre
In the grand tradition of 2009, 2010, and 2011, here are several mixes of my favorite songs of the year. I’ve enjoyed making and listening to each disc, though let’s be honest, Vol. 4 is where I’ve lived for some time now.
If you want to go a little deeper, here are the 10 albums I liked the best this year:
Godspeed You! Black Emperor: ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
Jessie Ware: Devotion
Chromatics: Kill for Love
Azealia Banks: 1991 EP
Death Grips: The Money Store
Bat for Lashes: The Haunted Man
Dirty Projectors: Swing Lo Magellan
Bear in Heaven: I Love You, It’s Cool
The Kendrick Lamar album seems pretty good too, but something that lyrically dense will take me a while to properly appreciate.
If you like anything you hear, please buy it, because people who make music you like to hear deserve your money!
I wrote a piece on Muse as legacy superheroes and Matt Bellamy’s voice as their superpower for BuzzFeed Music. The piece was pitched to me as “What is the essence of Muse? What is it people like about them beyond sounding like Queen and Radiohead?” This is what I came up with. Big thanks to my pal Matthew Perpetua for whipping it into shape.
I wrote about “Vogue” by Madonna for my music tumblr, Cool Practice. The pre-sexual dreams of a starstruck sixth grader are invoked.
I encourage you to listen to the song and watch the video from beginning to end, especially if you haven’t done so in a long time. It’s remarkable how much anticipation and excitement she packs into that thing. It’s a curtain being drawn back on a new world.
* The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival was this past Saturday. I missed it because I was busy throwing a surprise 60th birthday party for my mom, which went great, thanks, but it’s still a bummer to miss the best comics show I’ve ever been to. Tom Spurgeon liked the show a lot; Robert Boyd did not. To this outside observer it appears the show has reached the “victim of its own success” tipping point, where those not favorably predisposed to attending or exhibiting may be turned off by increased overcrowding, venue issues and suchlike inherent to the show picking up steam from year to year that veterans and enthusiasts are more able to gloss over or ignore. But since the acknowledged strength of the show is its organization, in terms of presenting a thoughtful and rewarding selection of exhibitors, panels, satellite events, and special guests in order to entice attendees and make them feel glad they came, I’d imagine the organizers will be able to use that same intelligence to fix logistical problems. This isn’t something that could have been said for, say, the MoCCA Festival when it reached its own tipping point a few years back, since in retrospect that show did as well as it did because it was the first (and only) of its kind in the area. (For what it’s worth, they handled growth really well by expanding to two days and multiple floors in the original venue, the Puck Building, then really poorly by moving it to the Amory and not preparing at all for change. Obviously exhibitor relations left a lot to be desired as well.) Anyway, for an idea of what I missed, here’s what Leah Wishnia bought there. (Man, is that ever a BCGF haul photo!)
* WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS? My friend Rob Bricken, bless his heart, is leaving Topless Robot, the caustic nerd-news site he created and edited since its inception, for a gig at io9. I got a lot of enjoyment out of what Rob did there over the years. In true Topless Robot fashion, Rob signed off by posting lists of his eight favorite listicles, five least and five most horrifying fan-fiction posts, and five favorite things about the site overall. I was always very very happy with the few things I wrote for TR, particularly the music posts.
* Eventually my current headlong retreat inside myself only to find I can barely stomach anything in there either will come to an end and I’ll read all the comics I have lying around. At that point I will then read the following reviews: Chris Mautner on Ron Régé Jr.’s The Cartoon Utopia and Theo Ellsworth’s The Understanding Monster. Katie Haegele on The Cartoon Utopia. Grace Krilanovich on Charles Burns’s The Hive. Marc Sobel interviewed Ellsworth, too.
* “Operation Vaporizer” by Jordan Speer is one of the best webcomics I’ve read all year, and I’ve read plenty.
* I’m always glad to see a new Conor Stechschulte comic — his Water Phase debuted at BCGF. No one textures pages like he does.
* Goodness, Space Face Books is a promising new publisher. I mean, it’s all but made good on its promise already. Forsman, DeForge, Hanselmann right out of the gate.
* When evaluating the recent work of Jonny Negron, please do not overlook the cementing of his signature style — meaning, literally, the style of his signature.
* Yuko Shumizu’s drawing of Shirley Manson from Garbage pretty accurately captures the appeal of Shirley Manson from Garbage.
* Carrie Battan’s article on the creation of indie-flavored pop music by Solange Knowles, Sky Ferreira, Charli XCX and others is a fascinating look at how some fairly tasty sausage gets made.
* Jessie Ware’s album Devotion has quickly become one of my favorites of the year. I’ll never not be a huge mark for sophisticated late-’90s dinner-party music, and this is that at both its most sonically refined and most emotionally raw. And my my my my my this video.
* Finally, it occurred to me I never linked to Meghan “Moneyworth” Garvey’s astonishing hip-hop Illuminati illustrations when she and I got in touch a few months ago. She’s great; they’re great.
* It’s wonderful that we’ve had going on two solid weeks of non-stop Chris Ware Building Stories talk on the comics internet, though it’s also sad that I haven’t participated in any of it because I haven’t had the time to read the book yet. (I know, I know, be the change you want to see in the comics internet, but it’s a lot easier in terms of time, energy, and attention to blow through a few chapters of an inconsequential Secret Avengers arc and suchlike in dribs and drabs over the course of a couple weeks than to sit down and work your way through a 14-chapter box set by your absolute favorite cartoonist.) Stuff I’ll certainly be checking in on once I’ve done my due diligence: The Comics Journal’s massive series of Building Stories essays; Joe McCulloch’s suggested reading order for the “book”‘s 14 individual volumes; Joe McCulloch, Chris Mautner, Tucker Stone, and Matt Seneca’s podcast about the book; and Douglas Wolk’s review for The New York Times.
* A judge just handed the family of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster a major defeat in their battle to reclaim the character’s copyrights from DC Comics and Warner Bros. It’s an ugly situation where a 1992 agreement made in large part for Shuster’s sister to receive an annual pension which in today’s dollars amounts to less than an assistant editor makes in exchange for her claims to a billion-dollar character that gave birth to an entire genre of fiction is now being used against her. Read the link above for the best explanation of what happened, then read Tom Spurgeon for impassioned analysis. As Tom always points out, DC/WB’s treatment of the Superman creators and their heirs is a choice, one they make anew every day, and one they could reverse whenever they wanted to. Individual people have decided they don’t want to.
* Ben Katchor’s satires of late capitalist society for Metropolis are merciless. Fun fact: He’s got a collection of these strips called Hand-Drying in America and Other Stories coming out in February 2013! That’s gonna be a beast.
* The AV Club talks to Los Bros Hernandez at length. I love hearing them talk about how they spurred one another to improve in the early Love and Rockets issues.
* Matt Fraction looks back on his fine tenure on Invincible Iron Man, which is just about to wrap up. That’s one of the best superhero runs of the past half-decade.
* I came up with the topic for Tom Spurgeon’s latest Five for Friday reader-participation feature: Name five female comics-makers and their best male characters.
* Mostly music critic Brandon Soderberg interviews the great horror comics creator Josh Simmons. No one goes as far out as he does.
* Mostly music critic Tom Ewing reviews Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, the other big recent comics-related book release I haven’t read yet.
* Haw, Benjamin Marra made a trashy funny-animal comic called Ripper & Friends! This oughta be a hoot.
* One of the best things about Matthew Perpetua’s BuzzFeed Music is that you get a lot more Matthew Perpetua music writing. Here he is on two wonderful albums of recent vintage, Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! and Bat for Lashes’ The Haunted Man. These both make for excellent late-October listens, if you’re interested in that sort of thing, though I’m more in an emotional place for the former, which features a 20-minute instrumental metal epic named after a Bosnian Serb war criminal, than the latter, the key lyrics of which include “Thank God I’m alive” and “Where you see a wall, I see a door.”
* Also on BuzzFeed Music: Jayson Greene’s harrowing essay about being ceaselessly bullied. As a newish parent this shit really gets to me now, more even than as a former bullying victim. I get to toss my daughter into this maw? Fucking terrific.
* Katherine St. Asaph digs deep into the rise and apparent fall of “Call Me Maybe” singer Carly Rae Jepsen, whose album Kiss is Kylie/Robyn-level delightful but not selling.
* I’m with Noz on the quasi-parody rap critic Big Ghostfase. The schtick is overwritten, more than a little condescending, and ultimately unrewarding.
* The best horror writing you’ll find this Halloween month comes from Matt Maxwell’s bite-sized posts on George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which are all illustrated by absolutely gorgeous screenshots. Here’s one of them.
* Someone played The Shining from front to back and back to front simultaneously and claims the overlaps are meaningful. They’re meaningful only by coincidence, but they’re beautiful coincidences.
* Plenty of good writing on last weekend’s terrific Homeland episode out there, if you’re in the market for it: Willa Paskin, Alyssa Rosenberg, Matt Zoller Seitz (he and I are really in sync on this season), Alyssa Rosenberg again.
* Vulture’s Gwynne Watkins profiles Elio García and Linda Antonsson from Westeros.org. Those two mean the world to me and I just love this profile.
* Mark Bowden writes very well about how the military-intelligence apparatus tracks down and kills enemies of the state — this was true in his absurdly engrossing Killing Pablo, about the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar, and it’s true in this lengthy Vanity Fair excerpt/adaptation of his new book about the death of Osama Bin Laden. That said, if you believe the bubbemeise offered up here that Barack Obama wanted to capture Bin Laden and try him in court, but the Navy SEALs called an audible on the ground, established a “shoot all adult males on sight” protocol all on their own, and plugged a wounded and unarmed Bin Laden in the head where lay despite the entire national security team’s express wishes to the contrary, I’ve got a fucking bridge to sell you.
* The justification of America’s drone-strike policy offered by TIME columnist Joe Klein as discussed in this Glenn Greenwald post is so soul-deadeningly horrifying, so sick even by the degraded standards of America’s normal discourse on this issue, that I thought it bore special mention.
KLEIN: “I completely disagree with you… . It has been remarkably successful” —
SCARBOROUGH: “at killing people” —
KLEIN: “At decimating bad people, taking out a lot of bad people – and saving Americans lives as well, because our troops don’t have to do this … You don’t need pilots any more because you do it with a joystick in California.”
SCARBOROUGH: “This is offensive to me, though. Because you do it with a joystick in California – and it seems so antiseptic – it seems so clean – and yet you have 4-year-old girls being blown to bits because we have a policy that now says: “you know what? Instead of trying to go in and take the risk and get the terrorists out of hiding in a Karachi suburb, we’re just going to blow up everyone around them. This is what bothers me… . We don’t detain people any more: we kill them, and we kill everyone around them… . I hate to sound like a Code Pink guy here. I’m telling you this quote ‘collateral damage’ – it seems so clean with a joystick from California – this is going to cause the US problems in the future.”
KLEIN: “If it is misused, and there is a really major possibility of abuse if you have the wrong people running the government. But: the bottom line in the end is - whose 4-year-old get killed? What we’re doing is limiting the possibility that 4-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror.”
Tribalism at its most repellent; a willful rejection of empathy for other human beings, even children, with cruelty so casual it’s astonishing to behold.
* Klein should be quite excited to learn of the Obama Administration’s “disposition matrix,” a codification and systematization of pervasive surveillance and extrajudicial killing, conducted in secret and intended to become a permanent fixture of the executive branch. The object of power is power. Won’t it be fun to vote for these people anyway, because this election is like choosing between cancer and a less aggressive form of cancer?
* In happier news, I still like Beyoncé.
I wrote about Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and the coolest kid in high school for my music tumblr, Cool Practice. I still love everything about this band — totally inerrant melodic instincts, and that lead bass sound is singular, and the lyrics could not be more practical for the unlucky in love.
(The answer to the above question is Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, but Ned’s is a close second.)
* One’s temptation to crumple the entire comics internet up and throw it in the garbage decreases considerably when everyone starts writing about Chris Ware. The Comics Journal is doing a whole series on Ware’s astounding new collection Building Stories; highlights so far include Joe McCulloch’s thoughts and Chris Mautner’s interview with Ware.
* Mike Mignola, John Arcudi et al’s excellent B.P.R.D., long an ongoing series in all but name, will make it official beginning with “issue #100.”
* Ware was one of the human highlights of the recent iteration of SPX, and unsurprisingly Tom Spurgeon has the best con report. One thing that happened there that had never happened to me before was that total strangers came up to me to compliment me on this blog four or five times, which was wonderful and uplifting, so thank you, strangers.
* If you’re looking for comics to try you could do a lot worse than to use Jessica Abel & Matt Madden’s list of Notable Comics from Best American Comics 2012 as your guide.
* Or you could read all of the Kevin Huizenga comics that have been posted online.
* Michael DeForge’s “Leather Space Man” is as good at depicting the weird un-logic of urban legends and pop-culture mysteries like “Paul is dead” or “Andrew W.K. is an impostor” as Kevin Huizenga’s Ganges #2 was at depicting the weird un-logic of Mario-style video games. Meanwhile “Manananggal” is as strong a horror/SF thing as he’s ever done and “Splitsville” is the same for the sex-comic category and Ant Comic remains the best webcomic going. It’s a shame he abandoned Open Country, that awesome minicomic series about astral-projection art, though. Michael, don’t abandon/destroy your comics anymore. They’re good!
* Josh Simmons made a minicomic called Flayed Corpse for Chuck Forsman’s Oily Comics line that I’d like to read, and he also drew this tribute to Hans Rickheit’s Cochlea & Eustacea and this one-panel gag comic.
* Wow, look at this comic “Sparring” that my collaborator Isaac Moylan made.
* Ben Max F. Urkowitz made a very nice comic here — a little Tim Hensley, a little Gilbert Hernandez, a little pre-Maus Art Spiegelman even. Click to read the whole thing.
* Go buy a whole bunch of troubling, compulsively drawn comics by Heather Benjamin, who’s really got everyone else in comics beat in terms of interview attire and candidness.
* Once you’ve learned the grim true story behind the making of The Birds, this gif, which I’ve thought for years and years now is Hitchcock’s single most revealing-of-self moment, takes on an even more troubling new meaning.
* I once wrote an oral history of Marvel Comics with a 13,000-word first draft for Maxim, yet I’m still absolutely enthralled and regularly enlightened by the clips I’ve read from writer Sean Howe’s forthcoming book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Here’s a bit on the ’90s boom and Image defection, and here’s a justifiably internet-famous bit on the freewheeling, acid-dropping ’70s.
* In her Bloggingheads.tv show “Critic Proof,” Alyssa Rosenberg, who is one of my favorite TV critics, talks to Willa Paskin and Todd VanDerWerff, who are two of my favorite TV critics. Paskin is just a mercilessly efficient and effective critic, man, jeez.
* I’m looking forward to listening to four excellent comics talkers, Tucker Stone, Matt Seneca, Joe McCulloch, and Chris Mautner, talk about Love and Rockets at length in their podcast.
* Vanessa Pelz-Sharpe is probably the best sex writer I’ve ever read. Her advice in that post makes for excellent sex scenes in addition to excellent sex IRL, too.
* Please read this marvelous, harrowing true story about the coolest kids in the author’s hometown. Blood Sugar Sex Majik is a hell of a drug. (Via Molly Lambert.)
* Ta-Nehisi Coates presents an escaped slave’s furious response to an infuriating letter from his ex-master’s wife demanding he pay for the horse he rode off on. Incandescent writing.
* Coates is actually responsible for some of the best political writing I’ve read in ages himself: “Fear of a Black President”, his magisterially angry essay on the reaction to the Obama presidency that dare not speak its name.
* Conor Friedersdorf on the debilitating psychological effects of living life in constant terror of American drone attacks. Think about this every day, please.
* I don’t really know Zak Smith beyond liking his writing on gaming, art, and fiction and exchanging the occasional tweet or comment, and I don’t know his girlfriend Mandy Morbid at all, so I felt weird trying to talk to either of them about the issues raised in this post directly, so instead I’ll tell you to read Zak’s profoundly moving and blunt post on Mandy’s chronic, intensifying illnesses and living with death as a presence in your life and leave it at that.
* A very happy belated birthday to Jack Kirby, the King of Comics and one of the greatest artists, of any kind, of the 20th century. That link takes you to this year’s Kirby tribute gallery by Tom Spurgeon, an annual comics-internet highlight.
* Finally, I like Beyoncé.
I wrote an essay on growing up on Long Island and my resulting love-hate relationship with Billy Joel for BuzzFeed Music. I kind of can’t believe it either.
James Franco started a band with an art-school classmate (and Smokey Robinson) and I talked to them (not Smokey) about it for Rolling Stone. If you were wondering, he was extremely nice and soft-spoken and appears to do all the different things he does not out of ego but simply because he really enjoys working.
I wrote a list of 23 things John Bonham did during the quiet part of “Stairway to Heaven” for BuzzFeed Music. It is ridiculous, and yet I believe an accurate portrait of the John Bonham gestalt. It does not include this astonishing performance of “Kashmir” but you get it here anyway.
I also wrote about “Teenage Kicks” by the Undertones for Cool Practice, my tumblr about music and coolness. Blueballs in music form.
I wrote an article on the chill-inducing phenomena of ASMR and musical frisson for Buzzfeed Music. I’ve gotten chills from certain musical passages for as long as I can remember but never thought about why until very recently. Sourced reporting from evolutionary psychologists and choral composer Eric Whitacre, the works, baby.
I’m honored to be a part of the site’s launch day!