Monday, April 27, 2009

Happy birthday, Oscar!

Today is Oscar's first birthday. We took him to a local bookstore, then spent some time at A. C. Gilbert's Discovery Village. A nice, relaxing birthday.

Many new photos, including lots from today, are up at our flickr page.

Happy birthday, mister, I love you like crazy.

Friday, April 24, 2009

So many murderous girls...

I was tooling around on the book tracking/social networking site Good Reads (of which I am a member) tonight and, because I'm a glutton for punishment, I was reading the reviews of my little book, 100 Girls. Many of the reviews point out the fact that for a book aimed at young adults, it's amazingly violent.

This is interesting to me. My immediate response is, "it's not meant for young adults!" or, at least, it's not aimed at them specifically. Also, a lot of folks seemed to imply that the art's being so violent is somehow Todd's fault. Poor Todd Demong! I have to take the blame here and point out that Todd didn't draw anything that I didn't ask him to draw. Todd is actually a very nice man who, as far as I know, has few violent tendencies. He's Canadian!

When I sat down to write the book, I had no specific audience in mind. I was writing it for myself. So, in that case, I guess one could say I was writing it for slightly depressed thirty-something men who'd recently been laid off, but that's kind of a niche market. I took the story exactly where it wanted to go without worrying about who might be reading it in the future. I figured that if people didn't like it, for whatever reason, then they simply wouldn't read it. A not unreasonable assumption.

I remember the first time I had a little mental "uh-oh" about the book's content. I found out that some friends with an eight-year old girl were giving it to their daughter to read because it was comics, which the girl liked, and it featured a strong female protagonist. All good enough, but while she sat there reading the comic, all I could think of was Sylvia's tearing the arm off a wolf creature. And her implied killing of a man. And so on.

When the book was originally published by Arcana, it was released sans any kind of rating or age recommendation. It was only when the book was picked up by Simon and Schuster that that publisher placed it at its young adult imprint, Simon Pulse. When I learned what their target market was for the book, I gritted my teeth and wondered what they'd say about the violence.

And (I hope I'm not telling tales out of school here) they never mentioned the violence. The one thing they asked if we'd mind removing was a bit of (in my mind, very coy) sexiness between the adult characters Tabitha and Chase. This actually left Todd and I a bit flummoxed. Sylvia does many terrible things in the course of the book, both on-screen and off, and a shot of Tabitha in her underwear and Chase's bare chest is what they didn't like. Todd and I had our agent tell Simon and Schuster we'd rather not alter or drop the offending scene and nothing more was ever said about it.

Back to the violence.

I always assumed that if people questioned the violence, that they would assume I had an overall plan, or goal, in using it. And I do. I totally do! It's important in the story. Really. Of course, I'm not going to tell you what the purpose of the violence is right now, but rest assured it's not merely gratuitous. I say "not merely" because I am aware that it may very well be gratuitous. I'll expand on that purpose someday when either Todd and I finish the story we've set out to tell or when it becomes apparent that we'll never be able to finish it. For now I hope raders will trust me.

One last thing: the title of this post come from a review from a comics web site wherein the reviewer called me to task for the brutality in the book. We later had a one-on-one conversation where I believe I assuaged his concerns. Would that I could do that with everyone who is put off by poor Sylvia's behavior.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New photos -- finally

Many new photos are up on our flickr page. There's so much Oscar cuteness there that you may want to ready an insulin shot.

You've been warned.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Happy birthday!

Today is The Wife's birthday. She took the day off and we spent a lazy day together. It's been a great day--just as it's been a great few years since I met her.

I am a lucky, lucky man.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Through the wonders of the Internet, I figured out how to make a version of my 2008 mix CD that you, the visitor to my blog, could listen to. Or to which you could listen, if you want to be all grammatical. Using the site, I threw this little number together. Give 'er a whirl and see what you think!

And a note: if you listen to this more than once, the 8tracks software randomizes tracks. That is all.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Speak No Evil

Update: Elan Trinidad just wrote to let me know that this comic has been nominated for an Eisner award for digital comic. Congratulations, Elan! And may I say what a wonderful eye I have for talent.

This is a page from a bizarre and bizarrely touching piece of comics from Elan’ Rodger Trinidad called Speak No Evil. I suggest you read it. I think you'll like it. This and other works can be found at Mr Trinidad's Theory of Everything Comics website (which is a name I wish I'd thought of).

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The '08 playlist

It seems late in the year to finally be posting my end-of-year CD playlist, but that's how my life goes now that I'm taking care of my son. I haven't even gotten the CD to everyone on the mailing list yet, but I think enough people have it that I can post this. There was no year-end letter like there was last year -- I just didn't have the time or energy for it this year. Maybe next. But I did start off the playlist with a brief note:

The Playlist

First, a word: Music for me this year was a sort of dichotomous thing. I listened to a fair amount of new (to me) music, but there were also a lot of old songs—songs I'd not listened to in a decade or more—that crept into the mix. I blame my son, Oscar. One of my favorite things to do is to hold him, walk, and sing to him. The songs I know best, for some reason, are those songs I listened to in the '80s and early '90s. No idea why this is. But after singing some of them for a while, I decided to go to iTunes and start buying some of that music, or to unearth my CDs that were gathering dust and to rip them. Regardless, it's been fun, rediscovering this music, singing it to my son. Because even if I can't do it well, singing is one of my favorite things. And, so far, Oscar doesn't complain about my vocal talent.

1. “Joy” - Dan Jones - One Man Submarine

In a lot of ways, I feel like this song, which comes off Dan's 2003 album, is my theme song from the last few years. Learning how to let joy into my life has been the hardest and the best thing I've ever done. Dan is a local musician headquartered in Eugene, Oregon, and he's a friend. I've gushed about his music before so maybe I don't have to do so again, but, man, I like his music.

2. “The Disco Song” - Au Revoir Simone - Verses of Comfort, Assurance and Salvation

I recommend you go to Type in the name of your favorite bands and prepare to be made happy. Pandora will play songs that are similar to bands you like. Many of the songs on this collection are ones I heard for the first time there. This song is a nice little piece of pop magic. The band consists of three keyboards and a drum machine, but, to me, there is nothing cold or mechanical to this song. I especially love the vocals.

3. “A Pillar of Salt” - The Thermals - The Body, The Blood, The Machine

I spent most of the Summer listening to nothing but The Thermals. My first exposure to the band was on the CD anthology, A House Full of Friends (which has spawned several cuts on past CDs, and which was given to me by the excellent Lani Schreibstein). For some reason I decided to look up this band online and was instantly blown away and had to have all three of their albums. Loud, bombastic, angry, too-clever-for-their-own-good—this was a band after my own heart. They are a deliberately low-fi band, and I think that just helps to bring their excellent song writing to the front.

4. “L.A. County” - Lyle Lovett - Anthology Volume One: Cowboy Man

I have a weakness for murder ballads and this one, by one of my all-time favorite song writers, is one of the few I feel I can sing to Oscar. Most are kind of explicit, but Lovett is literate enough to leave some details to the imagination. Johnny Cash's more blunt Sam Hall was a contender for this CD.

5. “That's Alright Mama” - Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash - Dylan/Cash Sessions

Speaking of Cash: I'd heard of this recording of him and Bob Dylan before but I'm way too lazy to try to hunt down such things in record shops, so I thought I'd never get to hear it. Imagine my delight when a blog I read (Boing Boing) pointed to an internet radio station that posted the entire album and made it available as free mp3 downloads! Cash is cool. Dylan is cool. The two together are nearly transcendent.

Note: No link for this entry as the site that originally posted the songs, Aquarium Drunkard, has taken them down. I would still recommend visiting that site because it has so much great, free music. While I was searching through their archives looking for the Dylan/Cash songs, I saw at least a dozen things I need to go back and get.

6. “How We Operate” - Gomez - How We Operate

This is one of only two music recommendations from my friend and collaborator, Todd Demong. And he made it two years ago while we were at San Diego Comic Con. I finally downloaded the album and I really like it. I'll start listening to Todd more often, I guess. Oh, and for your information, the other recommendation was Vampire Weekend—an album I bought this year but haven't had much of a chance to listen to yet. I'll let you know what I think.

7. “Bird on the Wire” - Lilac Time - I'm Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen

My first exposure to the songs of Leonard Cohen was on the tribute album I'm Your Fan. A lot of those songs only sound right when I'm hearing the covers. This is one of those songs. I sing this to Oscar a lot, I think it's a lovely little song. I know nothing at all about the band that sings this song, but I suppose I should look into them....

8. “Crazy” - Violent Femmes - Crazy EP

Last year Gnarls Barkley did a cover of Violent Femmes' "Gone Daddy Gone." It was...serviceable, I guess. Nothing special. Well, this year Violent Femmes returned the favor and did a cover of Gnarls Barkley's big hit, and they've really made it their own. It's creepy and atmospheric just like the best of their original work. It makes me hungry for more from them.

9. “Pearl/Ebony” - Mill Race - Diary '05-'08

With the arrival of Oscar into our lives, Melissa and I sort of faded from the Salem music scene, but one of the few events I actually left the house to attend was the Mill Race CD release. Only Mill Race and their complicated, energetic unclassifiable rock could tear me away from Oscar for an evening. I keep waiting for this band to be discovered by a much wider, non-local audience. I'm confident it'll happen.

As an added web-only bonus, here's the entry I wrote about seeing the Mill Race CD release show. I cannot deny that I likes me the Mill Race.

10. “Shakin' Shakin' Shakes” - Los Lobos - By the Light of the Moon

A favorite since I was in high school. Los Lobos is probably the best band I have never seen perform live. They alternate between blues-fueled rock, mournful ballads, and Mexican traditionals. What is not to love? I remember when I first saw the band—a photo in a magazine, or on MTV, or something—and I thought, “Oh, my God, those guys look just like my uncles!” And they still rock. Hard.

11. “I Like Giants” - Kimya Dawson - Remember that I Love You

Okay, here's a confession that may earn me some bitter enemies: I did not like 2007's indy-darling hit, Juno. Not at all. However, I loved the soundtrack which featured Kimya Dawson, late of The Moldy Peaches. This song is not from the film, but it gives you a good idea of what she's about. Low-fi, irreverent, but ultimately upbeat. I think of her music as a sort of fusion between punk and coffee-house folk. However you define it, it uplifts me when I listen to it. Oh, and for those with kids who are looking for music that they can listen to along with their kids: Dawson has an album of kids' songs called Alphabutt that's really good.

12. “Fire Escape” - Fastball - All the Pain Money Can Buy

This song serves as testament to my love of pure pop music. I like to sing this to Oscar. Oscar also loves the pop.

13. “Naked As We Came” - Iron & Wine - Our Endless Numbered Days

I get the sense that I have come very late to the Iron & Wine party. How could I have missed them all these years? They seem right up my musical alley with their folksy ways and their well-written lyrics. I'm sure that if Iron & Wine featured a female vocalist, I'd have discovered them years ago....

14. “The Town that Never Was” - Eux Autres - Cold City

Portland-based Eux Autres continues to make me smile. Melissa and I saw them play back in 2007, and we spent some time chatting with drummer and vocalist, Heather. She was so damned nice that it made me like their simple, pared down music even more.

15. “Three Little Birds” - Elizabeth Mitchell - You are My Little Bird

These days Melissa and I are always on the lookout for kid-friendly music that will not drive us insane. Elizabeth Mitchell, who earned her chops fronting the grown-up indy band, Ida, fits the bill. She has a lovely clear voice and her songs are compulsively singable. This album gets a lot of play in our house.

16. “Here Comes the Sun” - The Beatles - Abbey Road

I sing this song to Oscar most mornings as we go through the house opening up the blinds, letting the sun shine in. Oscar seems to enjoy it.

17. “Last Favor” - The Finches - Human Like a House

Found via This song is sort of a template for everything I like about a certain type of pop music. It's pared down, it's got sweet lyrics sung by a clear-voiced woman. What's not to like? I could listen to music like this all day long, until an urge to hear Violent Femmes and The Thermals kicked in, anyway.

18. “A Little is Enough” - Pete Townshend - Pete Townshend Live: A Benefit For Maryville Academy

One of my favorite albums as a kid was Townshend's Live at the Deep End. I had it on cassette and listened to it until the tape wore out. For some reason I never replaced it or bought it on CD. After Oscar came along, I started singing a few of those songs to him. Then, a few months ago, I found this Townshend live album on my laptop's iTunes. I have no recollection of buying or downloading it. It is there as if by magic. It's not Deep End, but it does have this version of “A Little is Enough” that I like quite a bit.

19. “Pink Champagne” - Venus Hum - The Colors In The Wheel

This is my favorite of the songs I found using I have seen this band listed as Electronica. Electronica? Okay, if you say so. I like that the song is sexy without being overtly sexual. I think a lot of that is the singer's voice, which makes me want to purr when I listen to it. Have I shared too much?

20. “How We Know” - The Thermals - Fuckin A

Two songs by the same band? I figure I'm justified since their three albums were all I listened to for months on end. Enjoy.