Saturday, January 31, 2009


Hard to believe I'm talking about the end of my third year using eMusic. Here's what I got in January...

A.C. Newman/Get Guilty
Andrew Bird/Noble Beast
Bon Iver/Blood Bank
Tokyo Police Club/Elephant Shell
Rilo Kiley/The Execution of All Things
David Byrne & Brian Eno/Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

Looking forward to year 4!

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I know I talked about suspending the blog last week but I get to Sunday and I have to do the shuffle. It's been a ritual for over 2 years now and I don't want to stop. As for the rest of the blog, I don't necessarily want to stop that either. I think I just have to accept that I won't post on everything I want to and just be happy posting when I have the time and inclination. Anyway, here's today's ten...

1. Natural Disaster/Andrew Bird (2)
2. Lit Up (Remix)/The National (10)
3. Winter '68/The Black Angels (11)
4. Untitled Instrumental/My Morning Jacket (9)
5. Smokin from Shootin/My Morning Jacket (6)
6. Rivers/Destroyer (6)
7. One True Vine/Wilco (12)
8. Blood Bank/Bon Iver (2)
9. Late-Century Dream/Superchunk (13)
10. On the Way Back Home/Lucero (4)

A couple songs I haven't heard in over a year-and-half; a couple songs I just downloaded the other day; that same MMJ instrumental that played last week, and Wilco. Interesting batch today, no?

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I had great plans to post this week and nothing came of it. I did actually write some songs yesterday, which I'm very happy about. College started back up this week too, so my life is busier once again. It's also possible I'll take a break from the blog but we'll see. For now, here are today's ten...

1. Don't Make Me a Target/Spoon (20)
2. The Penalty/Beirut (3)
3. War On War (live)/Jeff Tweedy (7)
4. Flying High Again/Sloan (16)
5. Untitled Instrumental/My Morning Jacket (8)
6. Will I Belong?/Sloan (19)
7. Andiamo/The Twilight Singers (10)
8. Nothing Left To Make Me Want To Stay/Sloan (14)
9. Que Lindo Sueno/King Khan and The Shrines (10)
10. The Good In Everyone/Sloan (12)

I guess it was Sloan's day today! 

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Obviously, I've had some problems formatting my recent posts on comics. I decided I would try and get some more images in my posts this year and while that part has worked well, I can't seem to get the text to do what I want it to. I won't give up and I'll see what I can figure out. If anyone has tips, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

THis past week went rather quickly, as I got back to work both at the school and at the Y. This week starts the new semester at PNC, so I'll be getting busier once again. The good news? There is only a half day of school this Wednesday, so I get a bit of a break in the afternoon before I have to teach swimming. On to music...

1. Sea Legs/The Shins (8)
2. Jezebel/Two Hours Traffic (12)
3. So Convinced/Superchunk (8)
4. Black Postcards/Luna (6)
5. We Close Our Eyes/British Sea Power (4)
6. Nothing Can Hurt You Now/Glossary (5)
7. Please Tell My Brother (live)/Jeff Tweedy (11)
8. I Could Have Done This Myself/Lightspeed Champion (3)
9. Ill Placed Trust/Sloan (15)
10. The Stars/American Music Club (7)

Saturday, January 10, 2009


One of my Christmas presents was Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes, a hardcover collecting the six issue storyline from Action Comics. Written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank and (inker) Jon Sibal, it features Superman reconnecting with his childhood friends and allowed me to reconnect with mine, as this series features the original versions of the long-running (and twice-rebooted) Legion. I talked some about this issues as they came out but I think I enjoyed the story even more this second time around.
Originally, I was swept up in the plot and the pure joy of seeing Blok and Dawnstar and Polar Boy again. But Johns really nailed the essences of these characters - the hotheadedness of Wildfire balanced by the calm practicality of Dawnstar; the arrogance and compassion of Brianiac 5; the positive attitude of Polar Boy.
He also showed why Superman was the inspiration for the future. A non-powered Clark (thanks to Earth's sun having turned red) still fights the fight and is not only loyal to his friends but is still able to inspire them. Obviously, he does not appreciate the Justice League (former Legion rejects, some of whom were members of the Legion of Super-Villains) distorting his life to spread xenophobia on Earth and bring the United Planets to the brink of war. In their final confrontation, Earth-Man tells Superman he doesn't know what it's like to be an outsider, to be rejected. Superman's reply is powerful and well set up by the story.
All of these serious themes and subjects are undercut by bits of humor as well. A major source of this is the reappearance of the Legion of Substitute-Heroes, who hijack a space bus and attack the Justice League in their headquarters. I do love Stone Boy.
The art is a big draw here as well. Frank and Sibal like working on the ladies - rarely have Dawnstar and Shadow Lass looked so good. But they also give us a Superman we can believe in, as well as the entire Legion. Johns ended each issue with a great cliffhanger and the art did not let down the story - Chapter 5's ending of a powerless Superman taking the fight with Earth-Man into space is awesome.
I'm very glad I got this series in hardcover, as I suspect it's one I will return to. My rereading also comes at a good time, since there has been a long gap between issues of Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds (the third is coming at the end of the month, finally) and I was itching to see more of the Legion. It is work like this that makes me continue to love super-hero comics.

We got some snow overnight and into this morning; in fact, it just stopped snowing recently and I'm writing this around 2:00 PM. It wasn't a major snow, just a couple inches, though after all the bad weather we've already had this winter it is a bit annoying. Anyway, after a couple hours of procrastination I finally went out to shovel. The snow was light and fluffy, so it wasn't a big chore. I don't just take care of our driveway and sidewalk, though, I also do my neighbor's. She has a bad knee and had a heart attack just over a year ago, so it's best that she doesn't get out there and do it herself.

I had finished our house and was working on hers when she opened up the front door. She said hi and asked why I wasn't using the snowblower. It's actually her snowblower but we took it last year when we started shoveling both houses. I wasn't using the snowblower because I haven't used it at all. I leave it for my wife to use when we both get out and take care of things, which is usually when there's a lot of snow. I figure I'm perfectly capable of shoveling by hand, even if it takes me longer to do things that way. Plus, it's exercise.

After she thanked me and went back inside, I started thinking about the exchange and realized that I was doing what my dad would do. I'm okay with that.

Friday, January 09, 2009


One of the best parts about a new year is the anticipation for all the new music and books and comics and TV and movies that will be coming out. 2009 is no exception.

There are 5 albums coming out in the near future that I am looking forward to...

A.C. Newman/Get Guilty (Jan. 20)
Andrew Bird/Noble Beast (Jan. 20)
Bruce Springsteen/Workin' On A Dream (Jan. 27)
M. Ward/Hold Time (Feb. 17)
Neko Case/Middle Cyclones (Mar. 3)

You can go here to watch the new video for the amazing title track from M. Ward's album.

The next couple months also bring the following books...

Chris Roberson/End of the Century
T.C. Boyle/The Women
Colson Whitehead/Sag Harbor

The new Entertainment Weekly is all about the big 2009 movies. Can we say...

X-Men Origins: Wolverine?
Public Enemies?
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince?
Where the Wild Things Are?

I'm not sure about all the comics coming down the pike (did Wizard even do a 2009 preview issue?) but I know some I'm anticipating...

The last three issues of Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds
The (hopefully) continuing adventures of the original Legion
Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver on Flash: Rebirth
Scott Pilgrim Vol. 5!
A collection of the second season of Casanova? (please?)

And then there's TV, where the following shows all return soon...

Scrubs (it was back this week with 2 very good episodes)
Flight of the Conchords
Battlestar Galactica
Big Love

Plus, the debut of Dollhouse.

You know what's even better? All the stuff I don't even know about and that will be new to me and blow me away. Bring it, 2009.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Continuing my coverage of my ongoing attempts to get caught up on SF magazines...

The issue opens with "Way Down East" Tim Sullivan. It's a meditative story about dreams and class set in the world of lobster trapping. There is an alien as well but it's presence is really just the means with which to look at life. It's quiet and effective.

"Welcome to Valhalla" by Kathryn Lance and Jack McDevitt is a shorter high concept work about Richard Wagner and his encounter with on of the Valkryies, who shows him what will be done in the service of his music. It's a decent story.

Steven Utley steps away from his Silurian setting with "Perfect Everything," a story about misplaced love and a tragedy in space. It's solid.

The husband-and-wife team of Melanie and Steve Rasnic Tem appear with "In Concert." An elderly woman has always had the gift (curse?) of being able to hear snatches of other people's thoughts. It's not just people near her either - in this case, she gets impressions from an astronaut lost in space. This story teetered on the edge of my skipping the rest at times (it could be shorter and still work, I think) but in the end, I enjoyed where it led.

I've never been into Kerouac and his crew but Geoffrey A. Landis's "Still On the Road" is short and good for a chuckle.

The last, longest, and cover story was also my favorite of the issue - David Ira Cleary's "The Flowers of Nicosia." It follows an aging band (Downtown Dharma) as they try to unite West and East in Cyprus amidst upheaval over a biological weapon known as Amanita. The band are followers of Kurt Cobain and do covers of Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots as well as their own music. It's a character study, an issue study, and a big of an action story at times. I dug it.

That's all for this time around but I still have 5 unread SF mags, so the quest continues...

Sunday, January 04, 2009


I spent most of my day reading Prince of Stories, a book covering the work of Neil Gaiman by Hank Wagner, Christopher Golden, and Stephen R. Bissette. It features synopses of his comics, novels, short stories, and so forth along with details of his legal battles with Todd McFarlane and interviews and so forth. It's not a perfect book. For instance, the section on his Sandman series summarizes each issue and then includes a "People, Places, and Things" section that pretty much restates the summaries. Still, I enjoyed reading about his work and I chose this book to be my first of the year for a reason, which I will get to shortly. In the end, though, the book makes me want to reread Gaiman's work and pick up the stuff I haven't read yet. Guess the book did its job.

I learned yesterday that F&SF is going to be changing its publishing schedule to every other month starting with the Apr./May issue this year (I just received the Feb. issue in the mail yesterday). The issues will be bigger (longer than the usual double issues are) but they will be losing about 10% of their annual content. It's not surprising with the way things are in publishing these days and I don't fault Gordon Van Gelder for it in the least. I am also glad that the best SF magazine will still be published.

I chose the book about Gaiman because he is one of my favorite writers and I've felt he is an example of the sort of writing career I would like to have. I thought reading about him would help to inspire me. It's no secret that I've wanted to be a writer for a long time...really, ever since I was a kid. College was when I actively made the decision and then spent a long time putting a ton of pressure on myself and becoming depressed over the whole thing. It's a dream I've put on the backburner over the last five years or more as I found something I liked doing and found some self-worth for the first time since I was a teenager.

My "Year of 35" project back in 2006-2007 was a way of reconnecting with all of those old creative dreams. It was always my plan to include writing as part of the project but I was having so much fun with the music and it was on such a smaller scale that I was content.

I start this year realizing that I do still want to write and I think I'm in a better place to do so now. I've made changes in my life that have me heading in a direction for the first time ever and I am content with that direction. Looking back, I think part of my problem with writing is that I had pinned all of my hopes on it...I couldn't conceive of myself doing anything but being a writer. So much pressure. I don't have that pressure now.

I want to see what I can do. I'd love to eventually be published in a place like F&SF, because I respect the magazine so much and greatly enjoy many of the writers published therein. I know that's getting ahead of myself. I'm going to start by trying to get something down, to finish something I start, and see where it goes from there. It's a modest proposition and I'm perfectly fine with that. I'm looking forward to the journey.

Here's one feature that won't change for 2009...

1. Frozen Gtr/Thurston Moore (4)
2. Navy Sheets/The Hold Steady (14)
3. Make You Up/Portastatic (3)
4. Kicker of Elves/Guided By Voices (6)
5. Cannibals/Crooked Fingers (8)
6. Shivers Down My Spine/King Khan And The Shrines (10)
7. Buffalo Boots/Luna (2)
8. The Bear/My Morning Jacket (5)
9. Tonite It Shows/Mercury Rev (2)
10. A Voice At The End Of The Line/M. Ward (14)

Saturday, January 03, 2009


The first comic I bought and read this year also happens to be the first issue of a new mini-series from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, Incognito. This is their second creator-owned book for the Icon imprint and comes while they take a break from their ongoing series Criminal, of which I have been a fan without having read all of the series yet (a fact I plan on remedying in 2009). Incognito grew out of Brubaker's thoughts on the pulp origins of super-heroes, though this series focuses on a villain.

In this first issue, we are introduced to Zach Overkill. He is a former science-villain who teamed with his twin brother under the name Overkill Brothers. His brother is now dead and Zack is in a kind of witness protection under a system set up by Professor Zeppelin. They worked for an organization called Black Death but now Zach is working as a file clerk and his powers are controlled by drugs. He is cut off from society in a number of ways and numbing himself with drugs and women. Things change and events are set in motion that can only end badly. It should be quite a ride.
I am a big fan of Sean Phillips. He draws in a gritty yet clean and accessible style that works very well for these kind of books. He knows how to tell a story through his art. He also does a killer drawing of The Shadow for the back matter, in which Jess Nevins gives us the history of The Shadow. I never realized there were differences betwee the pulp and radio versions before.
Ed Brubaker is interested in what makes criminals tick and this looks to be another great character study. I'm looking forward to seeing where this series goes.

2008 was a very interesting year for me. I started the year continuing with my job as an assistant in charge of swimming lessons at the YMCA and it was a job a liked, though it could be stressful at times. As the months wore on, however, I became very disenchanted (for a variety of reasons) and started to become quite unhappy. It got to the point where I could see myself taking a long slide back into depression, a state of mind I had worked very hard to shed over a long period of years. I knew I couldn't continue along that path.

What I loved most about my YMCA job was being in the water with the kids teaching them how to swim. I had fun doing it and the kids had fun with me and their parents appreciated what I did for their kids. I realized that I really had become a teacher and found a lot of satisfaction in it. So, I decided I should go back to school and work towards becoming a teacher. Within a couple months of that decision, I was not only back in college but also working as a teacher's aide at a local elementary while also continuing to teach a couple hours of swimming lessons a week. It made for a very interesting a busy four months at the end of the year but I had once again put myself back on a course that was good for me.

Now it's 2009 and I always use the start of the year to try and refine myself as I go forward. I'm not making any specific resolutions for the year (outside of delivering more actual content in the this blog and not just be content to put up a series of lists). I just want to put myself more out there in terms of my life - more willing to try new things, to create, to give more of myself, to spend more time with family and friends, to do my jobs better. I want 2009 to be a year I don't regret, a year I can look back on as a year I completely came into my own.

I realize that sounds pretty ambitious but I think it can be achievable. I want it to be a good year and I'm going to work on making it happen. Wish me luck and I hope all of you have a great year as well.