Thursday, January 31, 2008

"Self-involved" doesn't quite capture it all

I assume that the Internets are full of amateur etymologists.

I need a word that means "The act of an author compulsively checking the sales rankings of his works on"

Don't let me down my cyber brethren!

And just so you know, Star Wars is doing pretty well, Gear School not so much.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Your new favorite band

I ran across this time-waster meme at my buddy Greg's blog. Credit where it's due: he found it on Sara Ryan's blog. Anyway, here's my effort:

I picture Silver (EP) as an emo band, but still, you know, peppy.

Here's how to generate your own:

The first article title on the page is the name of your band.

The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.

The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Thermals

I mentioned before on this blog, and not too long ago, about how my paying attention to music is only a recent phenomenon. Prior to this, I just listened to whatever was on the radio and bought a lot of albums based on what got played there. Now I almost never listen to music on the radio, I get all my recommendations for new music from friends, and am much happier about what I listen to. I never just discover music.

Case in point: A few years ago, my friend Lani gave me an excellent CD anthology, House Full of Friends from Magic Marker records. All of the bands on the collection played house shows at the home of the Magic Marker Records' founders in Portland, Oregon. And if you wonder about the state of indie music in Portland, you could do worse than to give the set a listen. Ever since Lani gave me the disks, it's been a source of Good Things to Listen to; I discovered Eux Autres, The Shins, and Mates of State there.

And now The Thermals. A three-piece post-pop-punk band from Portland made up of singer/songwriter/guitarist Hutch Harris, bassist Kathy Foster and drummer Lorin Coleman, The Thermals are currently the only band to which I'm listening (their site also has several videos which I watch fairly compulsively). It's everything I feel Pop Music should be: stripped down, catchy, and angry. Angry in the way that only rock and roll can be. The band describes the sound of their first album, 2003's More Parts Per Million as "no-fi." That's pretty accurate and in no way should you be turned off by the label. Each successive record, 2004's Fuckin A and 2006's The Body, the Blood, the Machine, has been more and more polished. But they're still a long way from the over-produced and lifeless recordings that garner radio play.

It makes me sad to know that The Thermals were active in Portland for at least a year before I left town and I never got to hear them. I'm making up for lost time now, I suppose.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Ravenclawz 4evah!

This lived on my myspace profile for a while and now I want it to go away. I am geeky enough, however, that I want to keep a semi-permanent record of it. Thus its inclusion here.

Which Hogwarts house will you be sorted into?

Don't judge me.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Heart-shaped scar

I'm not sure why, but I'm thinking a lot about high school lately. Maybe it's because my 20th reunion is coming up this Summer. Maybe it's something to do with the book proposal on which I'm currently work, though that book has absolutely nothing to do with high school.

Anyway, today I was sitting in a coffee shop, drinking a tea and reading a book (From the Teeth of Angels by Jonathan Carroll, which is fantastic, by the way) when this memory came to me and wouldn't go away. Not even a memory, really. I just started thinking about this girl with whom I went to high school. Her name was Angie and she was nice and pretty (an unusual combination in those days, it seemed). We were never friends or hung out or anything, but we had classes together and I remember that she was always pleasant to be around.

What I found myself thinking about this afternoon was the fact that as a baby Angie had had open-heart surgery to correct some defect or another. When she wore certain shirts, you could see the very top of her surgery scar peeking out from the collar. I wanted so much to see the rest of that scar.

Monday, January 14, 2008

No Reservations

Just because I have a crush on a man doesn't make me gay, right?

Anyway, Anthony Bourdain has a new blog.

I'll be unavailable for a little while until I read every entry.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

They don't re-print crappy books, right?

I just got word from Dave Land, my male lover my editor at Dark Horse, letting me know that Dark Horse are going to go back to press on Gear School and that, further, the book has started to turn a profit. This is spectacular news. For me, personally, I mean, and not on a planetary scale or anything. This won't help the polar bears, but it gets me one step closer to my dream of... of being able to write more comics, I guess.

Just to put it into perspective: I don't think the Star Wars book I wrote went back to press, so this is a big deal.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The '07 playlist

As promised yesterday, here is the playlist and liner notes from my end-of-2007 CD.

1. Joe Jackson....................Is She Really Going Out With Him?
2. Stealers Wheel.................Stuck In The Middle With You
3. Mirah..........................Cold Cold Water
4. Tom Waits......................Misery Is The River Of The World
5. OK Go..........................Don't Ask Me
6. Mates of State.................Punchlines
7. Billy Bragg & Wilco............Ingrid Bergman
8. The White Stripes..............My Doorbell
9. Mill Race......................Pink and Red Lights
10. Dan Jones and the Squids......what if the whole wide world could be your baby tonight
11. Feist.........................1 2 3 4
12. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club...Devil's Waitin'
13. Bob Dylan.....................Thunder On The Mountain
14. Cake..........................Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle
15. Gin Blossoms..................Hey Jealousy
16. The Who.......................You Better You Bet
17. Jenny Owen Youngs.............voice on tape
18. The Replacements..............Alex Chilton
19. Michael Nesmith...............Cruisin'
20. Violent Femmes................I Held Her In My Arms

1. Joe Jackson
Is She Really Going Out With Him?
Joe Jackson: Greatest Hits (via iTunes)
iTunes makes it super easy, perhaps too easy, to half remember a song from your youth and then to find and buy it. Often the result is buyer's remorse. This song, however (and the other Joe Jackson songs I bought), are an exception: Jackson is a great songwriter with very smart lyrics. This is a fun, mean-spirited song. And we've all felt the sentiment it espouses.

2. Stealers Wheel
Stuck In The Middle With You
Reservoir Dogs Soundtrack
A great song by one-hit-wonders, Stealers Wheels. This song was little known before Quentin Tarantino put it in his film. This song features quite a bit on the soundtrack that plays constantly through my head.

3. Mirah
Cold Cold Water
Advisory Committee
I have a weakness for female singer/songwriters with haunting voices. I found Mirah when I was on a music recommendation site: I was told that if I liked The Blow (which I do), then I'd like Mirah. They were right, I do like her.

4. Tom Waits
Misery Is The River Of The World
Blood Money
I bet that one in ten albums I listen to is a Tom Waits album. 'Nuff said.

5. OK Go
Don't Ask Me
I remember first seeing a video this band had made that was making the rounds on the Internet. The one where they do a home brew dance routine in their back yard. I sought out more videos by them and eventually bought this album. They are not profound or complicated, but they are good, simple rock songs. It seems to me that it's not easy to make a pop song that's also good. Be warned: there's a bad word in this song.

6. Mates of State
Bring It Back
An up-and-coming husband-and-wife duo from the Mid-West. They are getting some notice now, after having been featured in a national ad for a cellular company and after touring with Ira Glass for a This American Life road show. A male/female duo may evoke The White Stripes, but this pair is a different animal. More pop, tighter lyrically, and they have harmonize. Good stuff.

7. Billy Bragg & Wilco
Ingrid Bergman
Mermaid Avenue
During the last years of his life, Woody Guthrie wrote nearly a thousand songs that were never recorded. Guthrie's daughter approached Billy Bragg and Wilco about choosing some of those songs, putting them to music, and recording them. This is the first volume of the resulting songs (the second is Mermaid Avenue, volume two). Over the course of the year, I've listened to these albums dozens of times. The collaboration between Guthrie and the modern-day musicians is an amazing melding of talents. We were lent these albums by our friends Beth and Michael Casper.

8. The White Stripes
My Doorbell
Get Behind Me Satan
I love the pure, stripped-down rock of this duo. Listening to them, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Led Zepplin was the only rock band by which one could be influenced. Although, and I'm ready to take a ribbing about this, I like The White Stripes more than I ever liked Led Zepplin.

9. Mill Race
Pink and Red Lights
Two EPs
A song from Salem's pre-eminent rock band. This song is about a brothel that once existed in the city. I love the quality of singer/keyboardist Julian Snow's voice on this song, and the ragtime sound of that keyboard. Mill Race is amazingly versatile, able to perform everything from Eric Satie compositions to sci-fi westerns. And yes, some of their music has been given that label. More than most national acts, I am looking forward to anything this band does in the future.

10. Dan Jones and the Squids
what if the whole wide world could be your baby tonight
totally human
Another local(ish) band. Dan Jones is a friend and an amazing singer/songwriter. And he really comes alive when he's backed by his band, The Squids. This song, like all of the others on Dan's fourth album, is raw and harks back to the days when garage bands could have taken over the world. I've said it before, but I'll say it again: most songwriters are compared to poets, but I think Dan is a short-story writer. And I can't think of a better compliment.

11. Feist
1 2 3 4
The Reminder
Feist was featured on my last year-end CD, where she was a favorite. This song is off her second album and it was featured on a commercial for the iPod. I hesitated to pick a song that had so much exposure, but, really, it was the song that grabbed me most. On the whole, I didn't care for this album as much as her first, but it's still worth checking out.

12. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Devil's Waitin'
This band is completely new to me and recommended by former work-mate, Tyler. I borrowed this CD not expecting much of it, but I was really taken with it. Good lyrics, great vocals. A nice surprise.

13. Bob Dylan
Thunder On The Mountain
Modern Times
Another Tyler recommendation. This is a fantastic album. I think I like it as well of any of the other Dylan CDs I have. Maybe not as good as, say, Blonde on Blonde or Blood on the Tracks, but still a solid album. And of course, Dylan is eight-hundred years old, so that's impressive.

14. Cake
Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle
Motorcade of Generosity (via iTunes)
One afternoon, Melissa and I were talking about bands we liked. She mentioned a cake song she likes, I mentioned another. We went back and forth that way until we'd named half a dozen. Only one thing to do in that circumstance: to iTunes! They are funny, clever songwriters and there is this perverse part of me that just loves the singer's voice.

15. Gin Blossoms
Hey Jealousy
Outside Looking In: The Best of the Gin Blossoms
I think most people would describe this choice as a guilty pleasure, but I never feel guilty about the things I like, so, you know, I won't. This was a band I listened to as a kid and, wonder of wonders, I still like them. Again, this is a band that seems to borrow more from the short story tradition than from that of poetry. I like that.

16. The Who
You Better You Bet
Face Dances (Remastered)
The Who is one of my favorite bands. Even their lesser albums, of which Faces Dances is one, has gems like this song. This was on the dance mix for Melissa's and my wedding. It's one of the few Who songs that Melissa knows and we'll sometimes sing it or no reason other than it makes us happy to do so.

17. Jenny Owen Youngs
voice on tape
Batten the Hatches
I'm on myspace. One of the things that happens often on myspace is bands you've never heard of send you requests to befriend them. Usually I go and listen to a song, then I promptly deny their friend request. Jenny Owen Youngs sent me such a request and I went to listen to her stuff. I liked the first song I heard, but thought it must be an anomaly. But then I liked the second and third songs. I liked them when I re-listened to them. And then I bought the album and liked that a lot, too. I like her ironic/sardonic take on the folky singer/songwriter thing. This song is probably the straightest take on that genre, and it still has an individual signature.

18. The Replacements
Alex Chilton
Pleased to Meet Me (via iTunes)
More music from my youth that I still like after not hearing for fifteen or twenty years. And I love the subject matter. Alex Chilton was the singer/songwriter from Big Star and this is The Replacement's love letter to him.

19. Michael Nesmith
Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma (via iTunes)
Ever since I was a kid, I've been kind of fascinated by Michael Nesmith. I watched reruns of The Monkees every day after school; he is an accomplished musician; his mom invented Liquid Paper; he produced the film Repo Man; I could go on. After our friend Peter Harmon posted the video for this song on his blog, I had to find it on iTunes and listen to it over and over exactly one hundred times.

20. Violent Femmes
I Held Her In My Arms
Add It Up (1981-1993)
Damn, there's a lot of old music on here. Violent Femmes are perennial favorites of mine. They tap into the anger, frustration, and paranoia that I felt in my life as a twenty-something and that still sometimes feel. I think this is as close to a love song as they ever recorded.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Musing about music

2007 is the third year I've put together a year-end mix CD. Back in December of 2005, Melissa and I received a mix CD from our friend Dave Zartman. This was a tradition going back a few years, maybe back to high school, when he and another friend of ours, Shane Larson, used to exchange mix tapes. I enjoyed that CD, but didn't think much of it. Until a few days later, anyway, when I started to obsess about it. Obsess.

I started making lists of what I had been listening to over the last year. Thankfully most of this music was on our iTunes which made gathering it fairly easy. But after gathering it, I didn't want just to burn it to CD and pass it out. I think I've mentioned before that I'm something of a design dilettante; so I designed a complete CD package, complete with photos I'd taken, and I wrote extensive liner notes. It only took me a couple of weeks, and it was loads of fun.

In 2006, my friend Justin Nitz was nice enough to let me use one of his illustrations called “Robot Luv” and I designed all the packaging around it. This was the first year that I knew I would put together a CD at the end of the year and so I was aware of the music to which I was listening in a way I'd never been before.

Now it's something I think about throughout the year as I listen to music. Doing these CDs just adds a level of awareness to listening to music. I'm no longer thinking about whether or not I like it, but do I like it enough to include it on the year's playlist; what would I say about it in the liner notes?; how would it fit in with other songs that I'd chosen?

Until a few years ago, I was never very mindful of music. I liked it or I didn't and that was pretty much it. I think the thing that made me start to pay attention was meeting so many musicians while living in Portland. Seems like half the people I knew up there were in bands. It made me aware that there are people actually creating this music. It gave me a more personal connection to the music they made. That connection continued once I moved to Salem since Melissa seems to know the entire Salem music scene ( a scene that seems to be garnering attention outside of the city finally). Musicians are great, enthusiastic lovers of music, of course, and they want to share with you what music they love, which is a great way to be educated, and to get recommendations, too.

Anyway. Tomorrow I post the actual playlist and liner notes.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

End-of-the-year letter

This is the end-of-year letter that Melissa and I will be sending along to family and friends in the next week or two. We're including it in the packaging that goes with my third year-end mix CD. I'll blog about that tomorrow. For now, posting this letter seemed like a good way to sum up the year we had so that we can concentrate on the year ahead.

I started by making a comment about our growing family...

What's that? A family, you say? That's right, on September 1st, Melissa took a home pregnancy test and it came up positive! On October 2nd we heard the baby's heartbeat for the first time and on December 11th we found out that we're having a boy. The little, so far unnamed, bundle of joy is expected on April 28th. Both Melissa and I are super excited about this turn of events. We decided just late last year to start trying for a baby and weren't sure how long it would take for it to happen (honestly, I'm still unclear on how it all works), but we're happy that it did happen so soon. Now we have a few months of getting the house ready for a baby to look forward to.

In other, somewhat chronological news, Melissa and I traveled together to Europe this Spring. Our friends Beth and Kevin Cahill were living in France for a year (Kevin is a high school teacher and received a Fulbright Fellowship to teach there) and we went to visit them at the same time as friends Jerry and Tanya. All of us stayed with Beth and Kevin and their kids Colm and Tess in the small coastal village of Lege. We also all took a three day trip together in a rented van through Dordogne valley where we saw castles, prehistoric cave drawings, and lots of vineyards. While Melissa is a fairly experienced traveller, it was my first time off the continent, and I think I've caught the travel bug.

Melissa was given a promotion at the Statesman Journal in May. In addition to overseeing the customer service staff, she is now also producing content for the SJ's web site. Despite some very long hours, Melissa is loving her new duties.

In July, I found out that big-deal publishing house Simon & Schuster wants to repackage and republish the first 100 Girls story arc by me and my partner, Todd Demong. I don't know about Todd, but I danced around and screamed like a happy little girl when I got the news. You'll be able to find the book on store shelves starting in June.

August found us in La Grande where we attended Melissa's 20th high school reunion. This was a lot like the film Grosse Pointe Blank only minus John Cusack or anything remotely fun. I kid. It was a good time and a lot like a sociology experiment from my view point since I knew only a couple of Melissa's classmates and got to observe her in an environment completely alien to me. Conclusion: I'm sure that I would have liked Melissa if we'd gone to school together, but I don't think she'd have liked me.

October was a big month for me. My book, Gear School, came out from Dark Horse Comics. I wrote the script for this book last year right before Melissa and I were married and I've been waiting ever since to see it in print. It's a big relief to finally be able to hold it in my hands. Also in October, I was involved in my very first car crash! Someone turned left in front of me and I clipped the back of their car. I say “someone” because I have no clue who they were as they fled the scene. Good times. The upshot is that the car I was driving is totaled and Melissa and I are now in the market for a new car. Thankfully we'd been borrowing Melissa's mom's truck at the time so we've had something to drive since the accident. I was fine, by the way.

Melissa and I once again spent Thanksgiving at the Oregon coast with her dad, aunt and uncle, grandpa, brother and sister-in-law and a whole passel of cousins and nieces and nephews. This was the second year for this gathering and I hope the tradition continues. The weather at the coast was unseasonably warm nearly every day we were there. On that Saturday I was actually walking around town in just my shirt sleeves. Compare this to the weekend after Thanksgiving when the coast experienced hurricane force winds and so much rain that several highways were closed due to flooding.

Throughout the year we continued to be the social animals that we've been in the past. We travel often to Portland to visit friends and family, and to see plays. We also try to see lots of music in Salem as well as participate in several clubs: House Club (where members gather to help each other with house projects and eat potluck lunches); Talking Pictures (where members gather to watch movies and eat potluck dinners); and Melissa is involved in her book club and in directing the cable access movie review show, Reel Film Snobs (now in its fifth year). We understand that all of these activities may have to be curtailed once the Sprout makes his appearance.

All in all, it's been a good, maybe a magical year for the both of us. It was the first full year Melissa and I spent as a married couple, and we discovered that we're adding onto that little unit. The outpouring of love that announcement garnered has left both of us stunned and grateful.

We hope that your past year has also been a good one, and that you have a good year ahead.

All our best,
Adam and Melissa

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

After all the traveling that accompanied Christmas, it was a relief to stay close to home for New Years. Our friends Sarah and Stuart had a small get together with lots of good food and drink and the Wii. Grown folks twisting and flailing and shouting at the TV is a lot of fun, even if I wasn't very good at any of the games. After midnight, we played Scene It, at which I was good -- a New Year's confidence booster.

At noon, more of our tribe gathered for lunch at Los Dos Hermonos, a Mexican/Honduran place that is a favorite of mine and Melissa's. On one wall, the owners have a number of photos, all of which are labeled “First Customers of 2007.” One need only show up on New Year's Day to garner a spot on the wall of honor. Melissa and I have been planning to do so for months now. We dragged ten of our friends with us and got an enthusiastic greeting from the hostess/owner. We also got free drinks (most opted for margaritas, yummy), our pictures taken, free T-shirts, and excellent food. And then home for a food coma nap.

All in all, it was a fantastic way to see in the New Year, and a great group of people to see it in with.

I hope everyone reading also had a good New Year, and that 2008 is better than any year that's come before it.