Friday, July 27, 2007


We're heading to Ohio for a few days, starting tomorrow. That's the reason for a bunch of posts today and why you won't see any posts until the end of next week (that includes "Sunday Shuffle"). So, everyone have a good week and I'll see you in a while.

We went and saw The Simpsons Movie this afternoon. Grant was more excited than I was, which was very cool to see. What was even cooler to see was the movie itself. It was a lot of fun with great jokes (both verbal and visual) and the heart that always beats within the show. I have no complaints.

I also bought some comics again this week...

Justice League of America #11 is a change of pace, focusing on two heroes trapped in the rubble of a building that is sinking into the water. How Red Arrow and Vixen deal with each other and try to get out is the whole of the story. And it works. Of course, that's helped by Gene Ha's art, which is not your standard super-hero fare. I know there have been many people unhappy with Brad Meltzer's run on the title but I've enjoyed it well enough. One more issue and then we'll have a real change of pace in Dwayne McDuffie; I'm looking forward to that.

Grant Morrison goes near-apocalyptic in Batman #666 with a look at a future where Barbara Gordon is police commissioner and Damian Wayne has taken over for his father in the Batsuit. Who's he? The son of Bruce and Talia (daughter of the evil Ra's Al Ghul). Anyway, the comic is grim but it's also entertaining. The Morrison and Kubert team has been turning out good comics.

Finally, I picked up Grendel: Behold the Devil #0 (which is only 50 cents). I've been a Grendel fan since way back and this is a short teaser for a new mini-series which will fill in unknown details of the original Grendel, Hunter Rose. Even if you've never read the series, I think this issue would intrigue you enough to come back for the series when it starts in November. I don't think you can go wrong with Matt Wagner.

I finally decided on a name for my music career. I wanted something with a band feel because I plan on working with a variety of people as it goes along and because I thought it would be cooler than just my name. So, I am now Aquatic Detective and I have a MySpace here. It's bare bones for now but I will add to it over the next few weeks and I want to get some music recorded and up there as well. So, come on by and say hi.

I don't think I could have been any more satisfied with the way J.K. Rowling finished the series with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It took me only four days to read the book and that time would have been shorter if I didn't have to split time with my wife (or do pesky things like go to work). I enjoyed every moment I spent flipping its pages, which were full of tension, action, humor, heart, sadness, and answers. I admired the way things from previous books were brought back, not only the people but the ideas as well. I had absolutely no problem with the ending or the epilogue. In short, I loved it. I also can't wait to see what Rowling does next...but she can have a few years to sort it out.

No, not Jack Bauer. I gave up on 24 this past season anyway; sold off the DVD sets. Instead I'm talking about Jack Horner, also know as Jack Be Nimble or Jack Giantkiller. Last year, he spun off from Fables into a book of his own and I've finally gotten around to reading the first collection, Jack of Fables: The (Nearly) Great Escape. It collects the first five issues of the ongoing series. Fables writer Bill Willingham is here, sharing those duties with Matthew Sturges. Tony Akins and Andrew Pepoy are the art team.

When we last saw Jack, he was kicked out of the Fable community and told never to come back to Fabletown. Why? He became a Hollywood producer and made three movies based on his exploits. The problem? Fables are supposed to keep a low profile. That's never been Jack's style, however, though that serves him in good stead here.

The book starts with him being captured by Mr. Revise and put in a prison made to look like a retirement community (and it is one of sorts - Mr. Revise's goal is to strip away the myths of all the Fables he has imrpisoned) and as the title indicates, he spends the next few issues planning an escape. We meet new Fables, come back in contact with those already familiar to us (like Goldilocks), and have the whole thing told from Jack's point of view. He's a bit of a bastard but he's our bastard, as they say. There are some fun concepts here and the interplay between characters is lots of fun. I think if you like the main series, you'll like this one too. I know I did.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

FINISHED about 8:50 tonight. I'll put up a review soon...without spoiling anything. And let's put it this way - I didn't go and perform at the open mic tonight so I could finish.

Monday, July 23, 2007


Today we went to the Porter County Fair and by "we" I mean Jill, Grant, my dad, and me. Grant had a ticket from the library so that he could go on rides for free from 11-2. Ride tickets were also available for the rest of us for only $7 during that time period, which isn't too bad. We got there a bit before noon and were able to go on 8 rides. Grant was unsure of himself at first, describing himself as "cautious." But he really relaxed into it and enjoyed most of the rides we went on - the Tilt-A-Whirl, Hang Glider, Matterhorn, Spider, and more. I was proud of how he went with it. He strangely wanted to ride next to me the whole time too; I guess today he felt safer with me than with Jill...sometimes you need your dad. I saw tons of kids that I've taught at the Y and got hugs from many of them. We also ran into some close family friends at lunchtime. We split two giant elephant ears among us for dessert, plus Jill and Grant had cotton candy. We also looked at old tractors and lots of animals. It was a fun afternoon.

Last night I went to bed around 11:15 and Jill was out on the porch reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I woke up around 3:15 this morning and noticed the light was still on the living room and there was no sign of Jill. I got up and discovered her still sitting in her spot on the porch, getting ever closer to the end. She stayed up and finished it...I told her she was completely mental (as Ron Weasley would say). Anyway, the book is mine now and I'm up to pg. 445. Jill said I'm at the point where you can't stop but I put it down to do the dishes and type this post. Tomorrow I will finish - only work and cooking will get in my way. I want to be able to give it to Dad on Wednesday, so hopefully it will all work out.

You can check out John Vanderslice's new album, Emerald City, on his MySpace page. Sounds pretty good. I'll have to order it at some point, since Barsuk isn't on eMusic and I'm sure Best Buy won't carry it. Still no option to download the new Jason Isbell or Buffalo Tom yet.

Oh, and Chris Roberson linked to my short review of his short story from the other day. Looking forward to the next one, Chris!

Sunday, July 22, 2007


I made it through 7 chapters of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows yesterday (136 pages) and Jill got through 11 chapters (222 pages). Today we have to clean the house and do laundry; Jill has a bridal shower to go to and I am going to a new open mic about 40 minutes away tonight; we both have a lot more reading to do, obviously. But I can't not bring you a Sunday Shuffle...

1. Phone Sex/Superchunk (11)
2. A Glow/Okkervil River (7)
3. A King And Queen/Okkervil River (12)
4. Undertaker/M. Ward (11)
5. Radio King (live)/Jeff Tweedy (4)
6. Against Pollution/The Mountain Goats (15)
7. I Could See the Dude/Spoon (15)
8. Darling We're Out of Time/Cracker (10)
9. Let's Just Laugh/The Lemonheads (11)
10. California Stopover/The Ladybug Transistor (2)

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows arrived about 10 minutes ago. I was in the middle of the dishes but now I am finished and ready to start reading. Here we go...

After reading the Malmont novel, I didn't want to start a new book before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows arrived and was able to jump right into another issue of Asimov's. It starts with a Sheila Williams editorial about some of the cover artists the magazine has had over the years and a Robert Silverberg essay about Limbo. It finishes with Paul Di Filippo doing the "Books" column; he is my favorite of the rotating reviewers. And, of course, there is some poetry sprinkled throughout the mag. As usual, though, I'd rather say a few words about the stories.

Brian Stableford is in the leadoff spot for July with "The Trial." We're talking about a pharmaceutical trial here, specifically treatment for Alzheimer's. The medication works all too well on William Asherson and makes him remember something he had tried to forget. It's an interesting take on the issue and it works pretty well.

Next up is "Bullet Dance" from John Schoffstall, a writer new to Asimov's and to me. He gives us a solid tale of a young girl who is taught how to dodge bullets by death gods and grows up to complete that training at a cost to her. The tone of the story really carries it along.

Chris Roberson gives us another story in his Celestial Empire sequence with "The Sky Is Large and the Earth Is Small." Cao Wen must interrogate a prisoner about Mexica (this is an alternate reality where China rose to world power) and instead learns more about himself and the world. The setting is strong and the character work is good, especially in the form of the prisoner, Ling Xuan. Good stuff.

Robert Reed returns with "Roxie," a tale about the relationship between a writer and his sled dog along with the possibility of the world being hit by an asteroid. It's a mood piece rather than one of his idea stories but it is still very effective. I don't think I've ever read a Reed story I didn't like.

The same goes for the next writer too - Michael Swanwick. His story is from his future self and highlights the high and low points of Asimov's future in "Congratulation from the Future!" It is short and a lot of fun.

Finally, we get from Nancy Kress. "Fountain of Age" deals with an aging man who loses a momento of the week he spent with the love of his life years ago, a beautiful prostiute. He decides to do something about it, to see her again. He knows he can see her because her tumors were discovered to freeze the aging process for someone...for only 20 years. It's a very interesting future. Max Feder isn't a very nice person but the reader is easily caught up in his quest and, of course, he redeems himself in the end.

I have only one more issue and I will be caught up completely with Asimov's. Of course, I'm still behind on F&SF but that's another story.

This morning I started my first Saturday morning shift in the pool; my boss was having a hard time filling up the teaching slots and asked if I would do it. Obviously, I said yes. I can handle doing it for five weeks, especially since I'm not it the pool every day of the week already. Things went well, of course, and I already knew many of the kids in my classes (just three of those). Grant is doing his swimming lessons on Saturdays too, so he and Jill came over after I left and I sat and watched after I was done. When we got back home, there was a slip on the door from UPS - they had tried delivering our copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows before 10:30 when there was no one here! The slip said they would make the next attempt between 10:30 and 2:00, so here I sit. It's 11:50 right now. I just know it will come any minute. Of course, Jill and I then have to decide who is going first with the reading; we are going to try and read it relatively together so we can discuss things as we go. But the sooner we get it, the sooner we can start! I just know it's coming any minute...any minute now...

Earlier this week I read The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont. It has two famous pulp writers as its main characters - Walter Gibson (who wrote The Shadow under the pen name Maxwell Grant) and Lester Dent (who wrote Doc Savage under the pen name Kenneth Robeson). The two are not very friendly at the start of the book but they and their significant others get caught up in a mystery involving the death of H.R. Lovecraft and a mysterious statue in an abandoned Chinese theater that now serves as an opium den. Along the way they are accompanied by other writers like L. Ron Hubbard (who would go on to found a religion) and a famous science fiction writer who gives calls himself Otis Driftwood. Of course, there are mad escapes and danger and humor and winking nods to the pulp (and pop) culture of the time. It reminds me a bit of what Mark Frost did with Arthur Conan Doyle in The List of 7 and The 6 Messiahs, though this book is a different beast. I had a lot of fun with it.

One consequence of reading the book was that it made me miss reading comics as they come out even more than I had been. I always go back and forth on the idea of waiting for the trades or reading right now. But I've decided to stop worrying about it. I know I don't have space to keep a big pile of single issue, so I'll buy and read what I can...and if I eventually buy it again in trade format, so be it.

I put that into practice this week with two comics. First, I read All Flash #1. It heralds the return of Wally West as the Flash (after a tragedy involving Bart Allen, who had taken up the mantle when Wally and family disappeared during Infinite Crisis), as well as the return of Mark Waid as the writer of Flash. That's a great combination in my book. Waid's run on Flash in the 90s made Wally one of my favorite characters and I'm eager to see what he has in store this time around. This particular issue deals with other heroes welcoming Wally back, his pursuit of Inertia (who put into motion the events that killed Bart), and some glimpses of what is to come. There are a handful of artists on the book but the transitions work reasonably well; the last couple pages are by Daniel Acuna, who will be the artist on the series as it goes forward with #232. It will certainly be a different look for the book. Anyway, I am onboard and looking forward to more Wally West.

I also picked up Justice Society of America #7. This issue focuses on Nathan Heywood, the grandson of the Golden Age hero Commander Steel, who now has similar powers due to a fight with some Neo-Nazis. This issue reunites him with some younger members of his family and he debuts as Citizen Steel. We also get a chat between Superman and Starman about the Legion of Super-Heroes. This subplot drove the last few issues (and crossed over with Justice League of America) and I am completely fascinated by it, as it is my Legion that is appearing. It's a solid issue of the series.

And speaking of the pulps and super-heroes, news came out in the last few days about some new projects featuring old super-heroes that are now part of the public domain. One is called Superpowers and it will be done by Alex Ross and Jim Kreuger (more info here). The other is by Image and will be called the First Issue Project (more info here). Both sound like they could be cool.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


The June issue of Asimov's yielded a first for me on the year - a story that I abandoned. I usually like stories of alternate history but this one was told in a dry style (articles and editorials) and I could only stick with it for a few pages. One out of a hundred plus on the year isn't too bad, though.

The next story was "Three Days of Rain" by Holly Phillips and it was more successful in entertaining me. It's a tale of class in a future where water has become scarce. Solid character work and a nice mood piece.

R. Neube's "Studies in the Field" was a neat look at a relationship between a scientist and an alien species, whom he helps with food and defense against another marauding species (and going against his scientific methods by doing so).

James Patrick Kelly makes yet another appearance in a June issue (he's somewhere over 20 straight, I think) with "Don't Stop." Lisa Schoonover can see dead people and that has naturally affected her life. She's also a runner. At this point in her life she's trying to decide whether or not to try and live or just continue the way things have been. It's not Kelly's best work but it is definitely worth a read.

"Tideline" by Elizabeth Bear is a look at a relationship between a damaged war machine and a young boy. It's a sweet little tale.

Jack Skillingstead has been one of my favorite Asimov's writers the past few years and he doesn't disappoint with "Scrawl Daddy." Alien technology, clones, graffiti, space exploration, sex, and more form a very cool future tale. My second favorite story this issue.

"Marrying In" by Carrie Vaughn shows at the sacrifices that go into a marriage when each spouse in from a different state in a future where immigration happens within our country's borders. Interesting idea and a decent story.

The last story in the issue is "Alien Archaeology" by Neal Asher. It is a story in his Polity sequence and is full of action and mystery and cool aliens and rogue AIs. I remember his story about the Gabbleduck, which meant I was a bit more infested as the Gabbleduck mystery is at the heart of this story. I could read science fiction like this all day; maybe I should check out Asher's novels.

As always, I read the usual array of editorials and essays and the book column (Peter Heck this time around). I've already started on the next issue as well, though I won't read the stories until I'm done with the book I'm reading (and that's off to a good start). I recently renewed my subscription, so you can look forward to these columns for a good while longer...lucky you!

Starting this a bit later than usual today. Grant and I have watched two episode of Batman: The Animated Series, including one of my favorites - "Almost Got 'Im." I've got a couple loads of laundry through and I walked about a mile-and-a-half. Jill and Grant took the train into Chicago a while ago, so I'm running solo for a few more hours yet. Here's the music...

1. Magic Door/Elk City (5)
2. Tallahassee/The Mountain Goats (7)
3. You Can Stay With Me/Mary Weiss (3)
4. Biggest Fan/Voxtrot (2)
5. Mistaken For Strangers/The National (6)
6. Flashes and Cables/Centro-Matic (11)
7. It Was A Beautiful Car/M. Ward (3)
8. Duet For Guitars #1/M. Ward (3)
9. Airline to Heaven (live)/Jeff Tweedy (6)
10. Wasting My Time/The White Stripes (4)

Friday, July 13, 2007


I've gone a couple days without posting, so I thought I just do a longer post with some shorter mentions of what's been going on.

I spent a good portion of my day driving to O'Hare and back, as my parents returned from Europe this afternoon. Their flight got just before 4:30, so the Chicago traffic was very thick both going out to the airport and coming back in towards the city and then out to Indiana. Not much you can do about it and I really didn't mind - it just swallowed my afternoon and evening. But I'm happy to help out my parents and I got to listen to some good music on the way in - half of Magic Potion (The Black Keys); all of St. Elsewhere (Gnarls Barkley), Icky Thump (The White Stripes), and Get to the River Before It Runs Too Low (Sea Wolf); and a few tracks off Because of the Times (Kings of Leon).

Last weekend I finished reading Austin Grossman's debut novel, Soon I Will Be Invincible. It's a super-hero story told in a literary style and it is fantastic. I suggest you all read it. I already can't wait for his next novel, no matter what it's about.

Earlier in the week, I read the latest Invincible trade, My Favorite Martian (which is Vol. 8 of the series). The issues contained here dealt with some long-running plot points and saw some major changes in the love lives of many of the characters. This is a good super-hero comic.

Saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on Wednesday and it was another good adaptation. Lots of plot points from the books that had to go by the wayside but I think they ways they weaved together the gist fo the story by using established characters and not overwhelming us with new ones was well done. Of course, this makes me even more excited to read the last book. Next Saturday isn't that far away!

I was stymied in my effort to hear the new Jason Isbell record that I spent a week building up hasn't been made available on eMusic yet. Not sure how long it will take for it to show up either (I'm also awaiting the new Buffalo Tom). I did have new music to listen to, at least; I grabbed the new Spoon early Tuesday morning. Man, is it good.

Monday, July 09, 2007


The last of the Jason Isbell-penned Drive-By Truckers song is "Daylight," his second contribution to A Blessing and A Curse. It unrolls at a more languid pace than "Easy on Yourself" but it's not an acoustic song. Guitars and a chugging bassline (on the chorus) are present. And his vocals on the chorus are soaring as he sings "While we still have the daylight, I might look these lessons in the eye/While we still...I might become some brand-new kinda guy." Crank up the guitars a bit on the bridge and add some B-3 organ and you have another winner from Isbell.

Tomorrow brings his first solo record, Sirens of the Ditch, on New West Records. I can't wait to hear it and see what kind of songs Jason Isbell has brought us this time around.

Yes, the 2007 baseball season has hit the All-Star break. I am a huge baseball fan but it's been harder to keep track of things this year - getting out and playing music means I don't see as many games and episodes of "Baseball Tonight." I also used to pore through the box scores from around both leagues but these days I usually just hit the White Sox, Cubs, and Red Sox lines. I still love the game, though, and watch when I can.

My White Sox have not had a very good year, though they've played much better as of late (especially if you take Friday's doubleheader loss against the Twins out of the equation - giving up 32 runs in a day? Come on!). However, they are still 8 games under . 500 (at 39-47) and 13 1/2 games out of first place in the division. The starting pitching hasn't been the problem for the most part - Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, and Javier Vazquez have all been pretty solid and even the rookie John Danks has held his own (Jose Contreras, what has happened to you?). The bullpen, on the other hand, has been awful outside of Bobby Jenks (our lone All-Star). The offense has been missing as well, with a horrible average and home run numbers that are far below the usual Sox output. Now it would have helped if everyone had been healthy and in the lineup - there have been very few times when the lineup has been Podsednik, Erstad, Thome, Konerko, Dye, Iguchi, Pierszynski, Crede, and Uribe. Heck, three of the guys are on the DL right now! The playoffs are probably out of the realm of the possible for this season but I'd like to see them get on a good run and at least get over .500 for the year. Not only did they go into the break winning 2 games in a row but they also resigned Buehrle to a 4 year contract extension; I can't believe they would have traded one of the best left-handed pitchers in the game, who is not only the heart of the club (along with Paul Konerko) but who threw a no-hitter earlier this year! Finally, something that went right.

The Cubs had some stretches of bad baseball as well, though they have played very well recently to pull themselves back over .500 (at 44-43). The starting pitching has been solid with surprising contributions from Rich Hill and Shawn Marshall. They had some bullpen problems but that seems to be under better control. After the big Carlos Zambrano/Michael Barrett dugout fight (with Barrett's subsequent trade), the team has come back to life. Getting Aramis Ramirez back of the DL has helped matters too, though the team still hasn't hit for a ton of power - Alfonso Soriano and Derek Lee have great averages but not a lot of homers (Lee especially). Luckily, they are in a division where everything is up for grabs and they are only 4 1/2 games behind the upstart Brewers. The North Side will be where the playoff race is in the second half of the season.

I enjoy the All-Star festivities. I plan on watching the Home Run Derby tonight and I will skip performing to watch the All-Star Game tomorrow night. Looking forward to both.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


Last year saw a new Drive-By Truckers album, A Blessing and A Curse. It's a little more compact than the previous few had been, with only 11 tracks and a running time around 45 minutes. Of those 11, two are written by Jason Isbell.

It's a rock song with multiple guitars weaving in and out and has Jason's usual impassioned vocals. He is joined by Patterson's harmony on the chorus (and later echoing of Jason), which is incredibly catchy and is definitely the centerpiece of the song lyrically as well as musically...

"Don't be so easy on yourself
'cause this one might be all that you have left
Rearrange the voices in your head and remember what they said.
Don't be so easy on yourself

It's got some great guitar solo work as well. Really, it's everything you could ask of a three-and-a-half minute rock song.

On Friday afternoon, the three of us went to go see Transformers. When I first heard they were doing a movie I was skeptical but I was won over by the trailer. I don't necessarily consider myself a fan of the cartoon series, though I used to watch it from time to time. I only remembered the main concepts of Autobots and Decepticons and specifics like Optimus Prime and Megatron. So, I didn't have any high expectations for what I thought the movie should be. It turned out to be a great summer movie.

First of all, the movie is very funny. One-liners abound from characters both robotic and human. Second, the action sequences are very cool (though sometimes it gets hard to tell what you're seeing). The transformations themselves are handled very well too and there are plenty of them. Third, Shia LeBeouf is very watchable and charismatic even as he's playing a misfit. You get why the potential love interest falls for him (she's a cutie too). Fourth, John Turturro is awesome. You get the point. This is not a deep movie but it is a perfect summer blockbuster and I had a ton of fun watching it.

Last night I watched a movie I had never seen before (and you can all guess what it is from this entry's title, I'm sure). My friend Andrea loaned me Fight Club months ago, when she found out I'd never seen it. I told her it would take me a while to get around to watching it and I was right. But last night seemed the perfect night for it - a hot steamy evening in July.

I liked it. I'd heard about the big twist long ago, of course, but I thought it was pretty obvious throughout the movie what was happening. It's disturbing. Very disturbing in places. The ramblings of Tyler Durden are both appealing and revolting. The end is disturbing after 9/11. But the performances of Ed Norton and Brad Pitt pull you along, as well as Fincher's always appealing directorial style. The soundtracks certainly adds to the overall feel as well. One thing, why would you be attracted to Helena Bonham Carter the way she is in that movie? Yeck. I am glad I finally got around to watching it and I may need to watch it again some time.

It is supposed to be hot and humid around here today, so I got up early and started doing some of my chores. One of those chores is my progress reports for work - the summer five week sessions go fast. I'm about halfway done, so it's all downhill from here.

I would also like to take a moment to wish my mom a happy birthday. She and my dad are in Europe right now with my aunt and uncle and I hope they are all having a good time. Happy Birthday, Mom!

1. I Can't Sleep/Sloan (9)
2. Open Eyes/Apples In Stereo (9)
3. Letter From Belgium/The Mountain Goats (10)
4. Into the Open/Heartless Bastards (8)
5. Dead Man's Will/Iron And Wine & Calexico (15)
6. Nobody But You/The Black Keys (9)
7. Word On the Street/The Broken West (13)
8. Working Girls (Sunlight Shines)/Pernice Brothers (10)
9. Continuation/John Vanderslice (3)
10. Sick Priest Learns to Last Forever/Destroyer (8)

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Yesterday I talked about the one/two rock punch that comes at the end of Drive-By Truckers 2004 album, The Dirty South. The final punch comes with an acoustic-based song from Jason Isbell, "Goddamn Lonely Love." It's got piano-tinkling from Patterson Hood and an aching melody and lyrics and I don't know how else to talk about it except making you listen to it.

It's been an interesting week of performing at the area open mics. And the highlight had absolutely nothing to do with me.

A couple months ago, my wife asked Graham if he would be interested in doing a number where he played the guitar and she tapdanced for the percussion. He thought it would be cool but it was only last week when they figured out what they would do - a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp." They started practicing last week, both of them working out their parts; Graham decided he wanted to use the kick drum to, so Jill's tapping became like a snare (though she was often in concert with the kick). On Thursday night, they performed it at the end of Graham's set (he was the host at Front Porch) and they did a great job. Graham sped up a little with the energy of it all but Jill kept right up with him and the crowd just loved it. It really raised the energy of the place, which was packed. I was very proud of Jill and it was neat for both us to perform on the same night.

One of the songs I played that night was "Let's Get Married Tonight," which is a higher energy tune than one I was going to play; I had also been telling Randall (a great local poet) the story of how Jill and I ended up together, so I thought the song would be appropriate. Afterward, Tom Adamson (another friend who is in the band Bottle Rocket Blue, with whom Graham and I played in February) said he had thought of a guitar part to go with the song. Last night was an open mic that Tom hosts, so I had him get up on stage with me and play it. It worked out pretty well, especially by the end. He said we should play it together a couple more times and really get it down, which is great. It would be cool to play that as a full band some day. I also had Graham come up and play guitar with me on "Holding Pattern," after having watched us on You Tube performing it that night we opened for BRB - his guitar part really adds to the song.

I started the week with some collaboration as well. My friend Britt Owens was the host at Anneliesje's; I've been bugging her to let me sing harmony on her song "Let's Run Away," which is a great little pop song. So, without any practice she had me come up and do it with her. It went reasonably well for a first time - she laughed a little at the start and I had forgot where I was going at the end of the verses but if we do it a few more times, it should sound pretty good.

I really enjoy doing music with other people, so this was a fun week for me. And watching Jill do her thing was very cool.

Friday, July 06, 2007


Entertainment Weekly recently put out a double issue featuring "The EW 100," their list of people across pop culture lines they find of interest at this time. I always like those issues, getting tidbits on upcoming projects or learning more about ongoing ones. They feed the pop culture junkie in me. Stephen King's column in this issue talks about "pop dope," that stuff you just can't get enough. It's reassuring that one of the most widely read writers in history is just as excited about the new Harry Potter book and Battlestar Galactica as I am. And that's what I hope I'm conveying in this blog - my love for the cool stuff in books and music and movies and so on. I'm hooked on a wide variety of pop dope and I'm always searching for the next hit.

This is my 300th post to this blog. Back when I posted my 200th, I said that if I kept up my rate of production I would hit #300 in late June. Well, I was close. It took me 7 months and 20 days to reach #100, 6 months and 6 days to reach #200, and now it's only taken me 5 months and 1 day to reach this milestone. Look for #400 later this year...

Today I'm talking about the third Jason Isbell song on The Dirty South (Drive-By Truckers), "Never Gonna Change." It starts up with a nice riff on electric guitar and some thick bass and gets into a nice groove. Lyrically, Isbell sings about the state of things in South Alabama and the kind of people there. They "ain't never gonna change, so shut your mouth and play along" and we get some high harmony in there too. There's a wailing guitar solo that careens and crashes amid the swirl of multiple guitars and the riff just chugging along underneath. It drops down to the basics as we find out "there ain't much difference in the man I wanna be and the man I really am." Then the drums come back in and off we go, riding the chorus until the end of the song. It's a great rock song, though it is immediately surpassed by Patterson's "Lookout Mountain." But what a one/two rock punch to send the album out on a highlight...until we hit the final track, which is Isbell's fourth song on the record. More on that tomorrow...

And speaking of the DBTs, if you go over to KEXP and hit the streaming archive for Tuesday (July 3) at about 5:28 PM you can hear the gang playing three new songs and "The Living Bubba." The new stuff sounds good. And if you go to about 2:58 PM the same day, you can hear Rhett and Murray doing some Old 97s tunes as well.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


Jason's Isbell's second song on The Dirty South (Drive-By Truckers) is "Danko/Manuel." It's an acoustic-based shuffle and features some really soulful vocals from Isbell. As you could guess from the title, it talks about two deceased members of The Band. Isbell is singing about the way life could be, how you don't always do what's best for you, how things have turned out to be "Something else you can't believe." It's a very powerful song and one of the highlights from a record that is full of great songs.

Yup, I finally got around to reading the May issue of Fantasy &Science Fiction a couple days ago and I thought I would share some impressions of its contents.

The longest story in the issue was the first, "The Master Miller's Tale" by Ian R. MacLeod. The early parts of the story are very pastoral - the English countryside, an old-fashioned mill that works in part from spells and song. I was particularly taken by the concept of the wind-seller, whose wares could be used on those days where there was no wind to turn the mill. In the end, the story concerns itself with the progress of technology and the death of the old ways and also has a could-have-been romance at its core. The end is neither hope nor despair but one that reminds us that change always comes. A solid story.

Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Tamarisk Hunter" posits a future where water can only be used if you have the rights and is told through the eyes of the titular hunter, who schemes to keep his job as best he can. It's a solid story but not up to his best work.

Paul Di Filippo is back with another "Plumage from Pegasus" with a look at the trend of established writers working in YA literature with "Grow Old Along with Me." It's not so much a story as a catalog of possible projects done by writers such as Thomas Pynchon (Camp Gravity's Rainbow) and Hubert Selby (Last Bikepath to Brooklyn). I particularly enjoyed his Alan Moore and Beverly Cleary collaboration, The Lost Girlhood of Ramona Quimby.

Next up was a tale of frustrated romance by K.D. Wentworth, "Kaleidoscope." The frustration comes from the fact that Ally Coelho appears to be shifting through a myriad of infinite possibilites - her friends' lives change from moment to moment (a goddaughter exists and then doesn't and then does again). Through all of this, she waits for glimpses of her Barry, who works in a zoo (and not in insurance or anything else). I liked it quite a bit.

That was followed by Don Webb's, "The Great White Bed," a rather creepy tale of a young boy who has to care for his Alzheimer's-afflicted grandfather. There is also a book that reads people rather than the other way around and his grandfather's discovery of this book leads to some startling role reversal. I enjoyed it well enough while reading it but don't know if I would recommend it.

The final story is another odd one, "Telefunken Remix" by A.A. Attanasio. It's the story of the future of Heavinside and the present of Errth, a flawed would that shouldn't have turned out the way it was. There are clones from the future who changes places with those in the past, soulmates, early radio signals from Errth, and more. It's bizarre but it holds together pretty well.

I didn't mention the book, film, and science columns but I always enjoy those. In all, it was a solid issue of the magazine. No one story really stands out but the overall quality is pretty good.

I still have 6 issues of SF magazines stacked up, as two more came in in the past few days. I'll keep plugging away in an effort to get caught up.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


In 2004, Drive-By Truckers put out another new album, The Dirty South. It was a record with a theme and had strong songs from all three writers, including 4 from Jason Isbell.

"The Day John Henry Died" is another rock song and it tackles the myth of the steel-driving John Henry. "John Henry was a stell-driving bastard/But John Henry was a bastard just the same" - that about sums up the song. Okay, it's full of good lines and has a sorta-framing sequence to it but it does what it needs to go - has a lyrical through-line and rocks. What else do you need in rock music?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


If Jason Isbell's "Outfit" was a statement that the Drive-By Truckers had possibly found a talented third songwriter to add to the band, then his second song on Decoration Day confirmed it. That talent was real, real enough that they named the whole album after it.

"Decoration Day" is a rock song all the way. Electric guitars and minor chords and a simple bass pattern and pounding drums. And, oh, the guitar solos. It's the story of a long-running feud between the Hills and the Lawsons sung by one of the remaining Lawsons. He doesn't know how it got started but he knows what it has cost. He hates his father for it.

The song really takes off at the end. The lyrics finish with a slowed down picking pattern then the drums kick in and we hear some electric guitar. Then another guitar comes in on top and the whole thing just ascends into a swirl of guitar, bass, and drums. One of my favorite codas in rock.

The famous tenets of the Spider-Man mythos (with great power comes great responsibility) are in full force in a relatively recent comic book update. Back in 2000, Marvel decided to relaunch some of its core concepts in an effort to have them connect more with a teen readership. The highest profile of those was Ultimate Spider-Man under the team of Brian Michael Bendis (with some story input from Bill Jemas) and Mark Bagley (with inks from Art Thibert and Dan Panosian). I read the first trade when it came out and was lukewarm about it, though I did buy many subsequent trades and eventually came to like the series quite a bit. However, I stopped following it a number of years ago and had given away my copy of the first trade. Well, in the wake of Spider-Man 3, I decided I might be interested in catching up with Ultimate Spider-Man and decided to pick up a new copy of the first trade and read along until I eventually caught up.

Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 1: Power and Responsibility collects the first 7 issues of the series and it definitely takes its time in rolling out the basic story. That's not necessarily a bad thing. We get to know Peter and Uncle Ben and Aunt May and even Mary Jane Watson. We see Peter get picked on, get bit by an experimental spider, and see his believable reactions to these events. Norman Osborn is tied up in all of this, as well as Doctor Otto Octavius. It's a good story and this volume does a good job with it. Sure, there are some jarring instances of storytelling - mainly in the cutting between Peter's story and Norman Osborn's story - but you smile when Peter finally shows up in his costume making wisecracks and you're sad when Uncle Ben dies. In fact, the creators did a better job with it than I remember thinking the first time around. I guess we'll see if I think the story still holds up as it goes along.

Monday, July 02, 2007


Jason Isbell's first solo album, Sirens of the Ditch, comes out next Tuesday. I've been looking forward to it ever since it was announced, back before we found that he was leaving Drive-By Truckers. I first came to the DBTs only a couple years ago when they released The Dirty South and I susbsequently bought every album. Although I like all their albums, I've felt the last three were particularly strong in that they had the three songwriter attack of Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, and Isbell. Now, I love Patterson's songs and I love Cooley's songs but I've tended to gravitate just as much to the Isbell songs. So, I thought I would spend the next week looking at Isbell's songs in preparation for next Tuesday.

"Outfit" was the first Isbell-penned DBT song on Decoration Day, which came out in 2003. It's a song from a father to son, telling him how his life turned out and wanting his son not to make the same mistakes, as well as telling him how to be a man. "Don't call what you're wearing an outfit." "Don't worry about losing your accent, a Southern man tells better jokes." "Don't sing with a fake British accent." These are great lines in a song full of great lines. The music fits the words as well, a mostly acoustic strum and pick with some pedal steel, then the electric guitars come in to solo at the end. The melody is strong with some great high harmony. It's a great introduction to the talents of Jason Isbell.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


My plan for the second half of 2007 is to give you more with this blog - more posts, more talk about music, just more. I'm also going to try and do more in my creative life as well. I always thought about trying to do it all, so why not give it a shot for six months and see what happens. So, stay tuned for more...

I've already been to O'Hare and back this morning; my parents are flying to Europe today for a couple weeks of being in Switzerland and Italy. Traffic was pretty good - it only took me about 80 minutes each way. I listened to half of Bruce Springsteen with the Sessions Band/Live in Dublin, all of The White Stripes/Icky Thump, and just over half of Ben Kweller/Ben Kweller. And now it's time for ten random songs from iTunes...

1. Injustica/Kathleen Edwards (12)
2. Going Nowhere/Elliott Smith (5)
3. Nature of the Experiment/Tokyo Police Club (9)
4. Getting Saved/Portastatic (13)
5. Sparks/The Broken West (14) - finally changed the info for the EP
6. Jen, Nothing Matters to Me/Irving (2)
7. Magnetic Heaven/Slobberbone (14)
8. Skinny Boy/Amy Millan (11)
9. Penny and Jack/The Essex Green (18)
10. Mapped By What Surrounded Them/The Twilight Sad (3)