January 2009 Archives
Hey, everyone: the excellent writer Monica Kendrick has a blog now! Go pay attention to her!
I actually got out of the house last night—to see Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, who asked from the stage if anyone had seen them at Doug Fir but are now big enough that they sold out the Crystal Ballroom. (I might have linked the fascinating Times profile of Gabriel “Bosco Mann” Roth here before, but here it is again.) I love that band dearly, and as glad as I am to have been able to see them at the Doug Fir (and, long before that, at what I suspect was their first NYC show as Sharon Jones & the Soul Providers, in front of about 20 people), I’m also glad to see them pulling big crowds. Like I twittered, I never get tired of hearing Binky Griptite introduce Sharon as “the super soul sister with the dynamic je ne sais quoi.” (And I approve of the conga player, who has the squarest-looking ’50s salaryman outfit I’ve ever seen.) Good to see they’ve been able to change their set a bit with the times, too—“This Land Is Your Land” seems to have been stolen back by Pete Seeger, and “What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes?” is maybe a little less relevant at the moment; they’ve been replaced by an apposite cover of “A Change Is Gonna Come.” But given her habit of pulling people out of the audience to address songs to/dance around her, I wish her… a better selection of front-row audience members. And more new songs as good as the gospel number she closed with.
Here’s a YouTube clip of them four years ago, covering “Things Got to Get Better”—I probably would have levitated about two feet from sheer happiness if I’d seen that in person.
I think Jon Lewis was probably pretty hungry when he drew this.
Jon is a great guy and a terrific, very weird cartoonist—the mastermind behind True Swamp, most famously; I’m still waiting for the second half of his Power of 6 project.
Carrying on from the theme of #13—sort of. (Actually, I’m posting things from the sketchbook totally out of order). As I recall, the story behind this one was that as Charles Burns was sketching it, he or somebody near him was talking about some European collector who has a legendary sketchbook, but asks every cartoonist who draws in it to do something that’s only a picture: “please—no words.”
The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop poll came out this week (while I wasn’t looking). My ballot for the best songs and albums of the year is here. (My favorite song was the Magnetic Fields’ “The Nun’s Litany”; my favorite album was Arthur Russell’s Love Is Overtaking Me; my favorite album of newly recorded music was the Hercules & Love Affair record, which surprised me a little.)
I also point the curious toward Glenn MacDonald’s annual Pazz & Jop stats-crunching here. I’m voter #443 out of 577 on the “centricity” index (and I’m amused that Melissa Maerz and Chris Molanphy, both of whom I’ve known for years, are #1 and #2).
A joke I never get tired of: what if all of AC/DC’s songs were about being incredibly wealthy and upper-class? I hadn’t realized that the Upper Crust made a video for “Let Them Eat Rock,” though.
I also find it kind of hilarious that they’re probably now best known for “Eureka, I’ve Found Love,” thanks to Guitar Hero.
The record that’s been stuck on repeat in this house for the last few days is Group Bombino’s Guitars from Agadez—a “limited one time pressing of 1500 copies” from Sublime Frequencies. Specifically the second side of it, a live recording from Agadez, Niger, made two years ago by Hisham Mayet, who explains in the liner notes that there is one set of amps and PA that every band in Agadez uses (and that “most of the guitarists are still borrowing guitars to play”). The recording is pretty basic, but the guitars sting and grind ceaselessly for the whole side—every track is the band hitting a groove and staying there. Really excellent grooves, too: in my mental triangle, the other two points are Talking Heads’ Fear of Music and Yximalloo’s 1982 live album. I might digitize “Boghassa” (which might be a Tinariwen cover?) for a “Crickets” broadcast on Shouting Fire sometime soon.
In other music news, I reviewed Sparks’ Exotic Creatures of the Deep for PItchfork. I was pretty disappointed by it, I’m afraid.
I just wrote this piece for The New Republic, about the Obama administration’s redesigned whitehouse.gov site, and particularly about President Obama’s first official proclamation and where some of the language in it came from. Go have a look.
Actually, I watched the inauguration at home with my family; here we see my son attempting to hug our new President:
But then we went over to our friend Wendy’s party, where there were lots of happy people and delicious Ethiopian food and a stereo system alternating Janet Jackson’s greatest hits and some Extra Golden album (nobody was sure if it was the one with “Obama” on it or not), both of which sounded great. We brought doughnuts, figuring they were O-shaped; today, Voodoo made them with red, white and blue sprinkles.
In the Dept. of Stories I Wrote With Headlines I Didn’t Write: this piece from Art + Auction magazine, about the high-end comics back-issue and original-art market.
A neat color piece by Peter Kuper, the co-editor of World War III Illustrated and a first-rate political cartoonist.
I’ve got a sizeable shelf of books he’s illustrated, but he’s not even credited on the cover of one of my favorite books collecting his work (from an unexpected but totally apropos place): “Spy vs. Spy 2: The Joke and Dagger Files.”
I neglected to mention the other day that I’ve got a piece up over at the Daily Beast about the Watchmen movie and why it’s a big deal. And am I the only person who can’t hear the name the Daily Beast without thinking of Spider Jerusalem?
Also, a reminder: I’m still hosting “Crickets” on Shouting Fire, broadcast Mondays at 11:30 AM, 3:30 PM and 7:30 PM Pacific time, and repeated Saturdays at 2:30 PM Pacific time. (This week’s episode includes songs about Patrick McGoohan, changes in Presidency, and the torments of hell.) And I’ll be appearing on The Erika Moen Show, with your host, Erika Moen, this Tuesday at 7:30 PM Pacific time. It will probably be very silly.
Ladies and gentlemen, Steve Lieber, one hell of a cartoonist and the official Nicest Guy in Comics, a field that’s not short of nice people.
“Demo,” her collaboration with writer Brian Wood, has a pretty impressive stylistic range; I’m psyched to see the second set of “Demo” stories that’s due out this fall.
Also: Yesterday, Tom Spurgeon, Paul Gravett and I got to discuss some comics that made an impression on us (one way or another) in 2008 with Robin McConnell on Inkstuds—there’s a podcast version linked there.
Because a few people have asked, and because the full list didn't run with PW Comics Week's roundup:
1. Jaime Hernandez: The Education of Hopey Glass
2. Lynda Barry: What It Is
3. Dash Shaw: Bottomless Belly Button
4. Kramers Ergot 7
5. Jonathan Lethem, Karl Rusnak & Farel Dalrymple: Omega the Unknown
Review forthcoming one of these days.
6. Yuichi Yokoyama: Travel
Reviewed in that Times holiday piece too.
7. Lewis Trondheim: Little Nothings: The Curse of the Umbrella
8. Chris Onstad: The Great Outdoor Fight
9. Joann Sfar: The Rabbi's Cat 2
10. Scott McCloud: Zot! The Complete Black and White Collection
Reviewed here (in the same piece as the Shaw).
I also listed my favorite single issues of 2008 in the Daily Cross Hatch's roundup: Fight or Run: Shadow of the Chopper, All-Star Superman #10, Mome #12, Big Questions #11 and Omega the Unknown #10.
The final update to Mincing Up the Morning went live this morning—L.L. Cool J and Etienne Daho, for the record. Over the past year, I’ve posted close to 900 music videos there; I’ve completed the yearlong cycle, and it took a significant amount of time and effort, so I’m stopping it now. But I hope people enjoy the archive—on the front page alone, the Cynthia Robinson and Trevor Rabin videos are particularly worth checking out, and there’s some fantastic stuff if you feel like digging through it.
Still working on a new project to replace this and Final Crisis Annotations, which will be winding down after this month (and by “winding down” I mean “we’re still waiting on most of Legion of 3 Worlds”). Stay tuned.
Kevin Huizenga is the creator of Or Else, Ganges, Fight or Run, Supermonster and a bunch of mini-comics. He’s one of my favorite living cartoonists, and I’m particularly fond of this piece for obvious reasons.
If you haven’t read Curses, you have a treat in store. (His page from Kramers Ergot 7 might be my favorite piece in that excellent volume, too.)
I don’t know why I don’t make it up to Mississippi Records more often. It’s my favorite record store in Portland, and it’s not like we don’t have a big selection of good-to-excellent record stores to pick from. It’s a little store up in North Portland’s hipster district, and it stocks almost exclusively vinyl—really good vinyl, mostly at reasonable prices. (They also have a tiny little shelf with CDs and CD-Rs by a few local artists, and a few shelves of cassette-only releases—the Daniel Johnston catalogue and some curious handmade compilations.)
In the last couple of years, they’ve started putting out LPs on their own label (and sub-labels including Change Records and Little Axe)—fantastic compilations of gospel blues and African pop, reissues of D.I.Y. punk oddities, what have you. They have no Web site, as far as I know; their records don’t tend to turn up at other Portland stores; they release everything in small quantities, you snooze you lose. I admire that attitude, actually; Lord knows I don’t mind making people work a little bit to get some music, either.
So I went up there yesterday to see what Mississippi releases they had on hand. Not a lot, it turned out (and there were a few things I already had in other incarnations, like the Clean’s Compilation LP and some Animals + Men material), but the three I ended up with were totally choice: Washington Phillips’ What Are They Doing In Heaven Today? (twelve of his 16 extant recordings), a reissue of Dog Faced Hermans’ splendid Mental Blocks for All Ages, and Oh Graveyard, You Can’t Hold Me Always, a compilation of post-war (I think) gospel that’s co-released with Mike McGonigal’s new label Social Music. I’ve been playing all three pretty much constantly since I got home with them.
For a second, I was thinking “I bet it’ll only be about three or four more years until early-’90s indie-rock starts sounding really revelatory to a new generation of listeners, and I can start combing through those thousands of 7-inches around here and putting together some compilations that will blow people’s minds.” But, actually, that DFH album was recorded in the spring of 1991—almost 18 years ago, he said with a shudder—and right now it sounds like a flock of stainless steel razor-edged sparrows smashing through my wall and letting the sunlight in. As far as I’m concerned, it never stopped sounding like that, though.
Unsurprisingly, some of the pieces in the con sketchbook have ended up being about the book itself. I picked out this one because today is also the ridiculously talented Lucy Knisley’s 24th birthday. (And yes, this is the other one where Hope Larson appears as a character…)
She posts her work regularly at her LiveJournal—go feast your eyes!—and also has a few books out, most recently “Radiator Days.” I hope I get to read her book-in-progress (about her experiences with food) soon.
As pretty much everyone in my circle knows, I’m a karaoke fanatic. Somehow, though, I’ve barely gotten to do any in the last few months. I’m also neurotic about not being the guy who always sings the same song at karaoke, so I have a self-imposed rule of (almost) never doing the same song in the same location twice. This means that I’m not always singing what I’m best at, but it’s more fun for me, if not for the other people in the bar. So this week I tried to get back into practice by hitting the karaoke bars twice—last night, it was for a birthday party for three friends of mine, at the very crowded Ambassador.
All of this is basically just an excuse to post the original version of the first song I did (before many of the people I knew showed up, fortunately—old-school hip-hop isn’t really the most dazzling category for me): Special Ed’s “I Got It Made.” That last verse is particularly impressive.
A really charming piece by Denis Kitchen, who’s probably best known these days as a publisher and agent but is also a fantastic cartoonist. I don’t think I’ve ever watched anybody draw a line as meticulously as he drew these. At some point I’ll post the page his daughter drew in the sketchbook, too…
There doesn’t seem to be a book collecting his comics in print, which is a shame. He did, however, put together a great little book of vintage postcards called… uh… Reading Comics. (He had the name first.)
As promised, one of the strips in which Hope Larson appears as a character—this one by the incomparable Bryan Lee O’Malley.
(Also, two corrections to the panel listings on the NYCC’s site: Dash Shaw can’t make it to the character-design panel I’m moderating with Christine Norrie and Thom Zahler on the 6th, and Jillian Tamaki won’t be able to appear on the coming-of-age panel I’m moderating with Jason Little, Jeff Parker and Raina Telgemeier on the 8th. More news on both panels TBA.)
A fantastic piece by the mighty Hope Larson. This one’s also a four-panel strip, although it took me a moment to notice it. Hope also appears as a character in a couple of other cartoonists’ pieces in the sketchbook—I’ll probably post those at some point too…
After a few straight years of celebrating my birthday with vegetarian dim sum in New York, I did something a little different this year (chiefly because I wasn’t in New York): put together a little flavor-tripping party here at my house.
I’d been wanting to try miracle fruit for a while (Wikipedia entry here, New York Times article here); at a friend’s suggestion, I bought a little box of dried miracle-fruit tablets off eBay back in August, and hauled them with me to Burning Man, although I didn’t get to use them out there. So I gathered a few friends, set out a spread of strongly flavored foods, and (after a ceremonial amuse-bouche of vanilla salt), we each let a tablet dissolve on our tongue.
The effect of miracle fruit is that sour and bitter things taste sweet—or, rather, sour and bitter tastes are dramatically muted, but sweet tastes aren’t. (“Dramatically” is relative, and I think I was less strongly affected by it than other people at the party, although still strongly enough that I was happily eating big chunks of lemon and lime.) Things that are already sweet and not much else aren’t affected—I had wondered if the line “bananas were just bananas” from the Times piece meant “bananas were only bananas” or “bananas were totally crazy,” and it was the former. But citrus, especially sour citrus, was very different and extra-delicious. (I wish we’d had some rhubarb. Next time.) Other things, like radishes, artichokes and Brussels sprouts, had their taste changed more subtly. Fava beans were almost flavorless; sour pickles tasted like mild sweet pickles. Black coffee was gentler than café au lait normally is, and had a nifty aftertaste/aroma. Tabasco, straight up, was like mild barbecue sauce. Some things tasted different after we’d had a few bites of them. The consensus favorite, I think, was balsamic vinegar, of which we drank tiny little shots—it was gentle and aromatic on the tongue, then burned going down the throat.
After about an hour, some of us noticed the effect starting to wear off, but by then we were all stuffed anyway, and retired to the living room. I could barely eat anything later on—I’d eaten a lot of acidic fruit.
I have been known to call this one my favorite page in the entire sketchbook (I’ve said that about others too, but I say it about this one a lot): a brilliant use of the four-panel grid by Carla Speed McNeil, a cartoonist’s cartoonist if ever there was one.
If you don’t know McNeil’s stuff, I heartily encourage you to buy her books from her site, where you can also read the first chapters of some of them. (I usually point people toward Talisman as a good starting point.)
A very simple but very effective piece by the New York cartoonist Fly, whose real name I know but will never tell. I first met Fly when she was playing with God Is My Co-Pilot (and the… related band Zero Content) in the ’90s, and I seem to run into her every time I stop into St. Mark’s Books.
Here’s the page he drew in the sketchbook:
I think I’ve bought every comic I’ve ever seen his art in, but I have a special place in my heart for the material collected in “Zoot Suite.”
Back in 2004, I went to the MoCCA festival and bought a little sketchbook with blue lines dividing each page into four panels. I asked a bunch of the cartoonists I saw there if they could draw something in it; I’ve occasionally brought it to other conventions I’ve been to, and a lot of amazing artists have been kind enough to draw in it. It’s become one of my most treasured possessions. Over the next few weeks, I’ll post some of the wonderful things from the little square sketchbook here.
One of the first people I asked was Seth, who asked if he could draw something on the cover. I ask you: who would say no to that?
I believe Seth’s most recently published work is his illustrations for Joshua Glenn’s handsome little book “The Idler’s Glossary.”