Deep Blue

 

Let me go on record now by saying I am pretty much over the whole year-end top 10 list of movies, TV, music, et cetera. They’re cheap, easy things to write and pretty much required for any creative person. Websites are cluttered with them, comments sections are cluttered with disagreements over them, and every year they repeat.

I am so done with them.

So, in the spirit of the season here’s Brad’s Top 5 of 2014, plus runners up which I guess makes this Brad’s Top 10 List. Not necessarily The Best in movies, music, TV, comics, and books, but the ones that most left an impression on me, and will likely remain with me for years to come.

MOVIES

I start with movies because they’re technically my thing.  And I really had to make a Sophie’s Choice here because of the movies I did see in 2014 two stood out from the pack for very different reasons, and deciding between them was a monumental chore.  And while the year technically isn’t over yet I doubt anything I see in the next two weeks will equal, let alone surpass ..

boyhood-teaser-poster

If I was to make a movie version of Mixtape it would probably be like Boyhood. Not in the sense that we’d film it over a dozen years, but because Boyhood is such a great celebration of the moments you don’t think will amount to anything but in the end realize they’ve had enormous impact on you. For me no sequence captured the power of film than a brief one where young Mason dresses up in a Hogwarts costume to attend a midnight book launch of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix  with some school friends. These friends only appear in that scene and then we’ve jumped forward another year. We never see these friends again. Their lives are just supporting roles in the life of Mason, just like so many of or friendships are just points on a map. When the book of the first decades of the 21st century are written, Boyhood will surely be a part of it, documenting average, ordinary people moving through life in search of those special moments, only to realize those moments were with them the entire time.

Runner up:

grand_budapest_hotel

Because I had a big goofy grin on my face throughout it. Beautifully shot, performed, scored, funny, touching and surprisingly sad all at once. It may even be my favorite Wes Anderson film. But what puts it atop my list is that I think The Grand Budapest Hotel, despite its 1930s setting, spoke most poignantly to life in the year 2014. That deep down we’re all decent people struggling to remain so in a world that seems increasingly spun out of control into chaos and darkness.

MUSIC

Lykke_Li_-_I_Never_Learn

My wife and I jetted across the Atlantic to Scandinavia back in October. We toured Stockholm, then Oslo, then Copenhagen, and back to Stockholm to make our return flight. On our last day we loaded up on souvenirs – clothes, shoes, and candy, and I grabbed I Never Learn the latest album by Sweden’s Lykke Li. Probably because I’d listened to it on the flight over on Air France’s entertainment service, probably more because I wanted some audio record of our adventures that I could listen to in years to come and remember things like Gamla Stan at night, the train to Oslo, Tivoli Gardens. It’s also a really great album too and I’m glad I discovered her.

Runner up:

jw

I’m a fan of Jack White. I’m a fan of his music, be it with the White Stripes or the raconteurs or the Dead Weather. I really like his solo work, and Lazaretto is as good if not better than his first solo album Blunderbuss. But what I most like about him is he’s been able to carve out his particular niche of music and business of it in an age where everyone and everything is competing for your dollar. That low-fi approach of third man records is a model I wish more creative types emulated. I certainly hope to do so with my work.

TV

2014 was the year I realized television was, for me anyway, the more exciting visual medium. Certainly more so than movies were. It was the year “event” television became the clock around which I organized my free time around. And while I could have gone with Vikings, The Americans, True Detective, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, or Masters of Sex, my favorite TV show kind of snuck up on me.

fargo-fx-tv-series-poster

Because on paper it shouldn’t have worked but it did. There wasn’t a false note in the ten episodes of this twisted, twisty story that more than captures the feel of the Coen brothers’ 1996 classic – it made that film feel like a smaller chapter in a much bigger story. Loaded with memorable performances, particularly Allison Tolman’s crusading cop and Billy Bob Thornton’s malevolent killer,  it was the one show that really snuck upon me. And with Season 2 taking place in a different time period with a brand new cast, expect to see more TV like Fargo in the near future.

Runner Up:

peaky

Set in post WW1 Birmingham as a gangster played by Cillian Murphy attempts to build a criminal empire while still remaining an honorable man in a world without it. Standing in his way; Sam Neil, Noah Taylor, and Tom Hardy. If those names don’t grab you then trust me when I say Peaky Blinders is not the show for you. But if they do chances are you already saw it.

COMICS

With the release of Mixtape #5 in June and the completion of Vol. 1, I actually had time to get back into comic book reading. Much of that was catch-up with some ongoing series – The Massive, Fables, Astro City – I’ve been reading for some time. And while my choices didn’t technically see their initial release in 2014 I picked them because they grabbed me.

trillium1

Printed in 2013 but collected in 2014, Jeff Lemire’s endlessly inventive dystopian time travel love story sci-fi epic surprised me with each turn of the page. I want to write volumes about how much I loved it but hate the thought of spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t. So let me just say if you did read Trillium you already know why it’s so special, and if you haven’t, here’s your chance (doubly so if you haven’t picked up a comic book in years).

Runner Up:

saga issue one

Because Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples’ sci-fi epic is as good as everyone says. Maybe better.

BOOKS

This is a tough one because I only read one book in 2014 that was actually published in 2014, and this is supposed to be a 2014 list. There are 2014 books on my “to read” list but with work reading and writing dominating much of my year I missed out on things like The Bone Clocks, Perfidia, Revival, etc. And if I’ve been a good boy maybe I’ll get some of those for Christmas. But in the meanwhile

FICTION:

Terror_simmons

technically fiction, even though the characters and situation are all-too real. but the great thing about unsolved mysteries is you’re free to imagine what could have happened, or just chuck it and tell your own white-knuckle story. Published in 2008, I got around to reading it this year, fueled in part by my travels through Scandinavia, and by my ever-present interest in the age of polar exploration. Plus, the fact a scientific team discovered the remains of Erebus at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean this year reignited that interest.  And while I have some quibbles about The Terror which I won’t get into because it ventures into spoiler territory, I admire its attention to detail and for putting a desperate bunch of characters into a terrible situation, then having that situation deteriorate even further until you think things can’t get any worse. Then they do. Again, and again. Best read at night while the wind howls outside the window.

NON-FICTION:

ME

It’s rough around the edges and could use a good copy editor, but Keith Sharp’s look back at the rise and fall of Canada’s Music Express Magazine pressed all sorts of nostalgia buttons, even though its heyday was well before I was a big music fan. Maybe because as a Canadian living in America for the last 6 years there’s that need to stay connected and reconnect with your homeland. But more because the book and the Music Express era were a unique time and place for Canada, and for the music industry that most certainly will never come around again.

So that ends my 2014. I hope anyone reading this finds time in the weeks remaining to read, watch, and relax with a good book, a movie, some television, and some music.

 

 

Shut Your Mouth

My wife was having dinner the other day with a friend, catching up after several months apart. The usual chit-chat developed into the familiar question; “what’s new?”

My wife answered; “Oh you know, this and that. Spent a week in Scandinavia …”

This was news to my wife’s friend, who wanted to know everything. She also expressed surprise that, despite them being Facebook friends, my wife hadn’t mentioned the trip at all. She hadn’t updated her FB page while we were trekking through Stockholm and Oslo and Copenhagen, and hadn’t posted any photos from our vacation, save for changing her profile picture to her in a Copenhagen bar that bore her name.

Scandinavia October 2014 159

Pictured: not my wife and not that bar. But Copenhagen was really nice.

Oh yeah, we took a lot of photos – well over 200. But on getting back home we decided pretty quickly that we weren’t going to upload them anywhere public. At most we were going to create an album of them here, to sit on our shelves, as memory of what was a fantastic trip. Naturally you’re asking what this has to do with, well, anything.

Then you maybe notice it’s been a while since I updated this website.

Yeah.

***

I’ve always been what you would call taciturn. I’m not one to offer up information out of the blue. Ask me a question I’ll give you an answer. But in any social situation you’ll find me gravitating to the nearest wall. Some interpret this as me being snobbish or unfriendly. Others figure I’m just an introvert, when the truth is I really just don’t like people or being around people that much.

Okay, that was a joke, but I don’t consider myself an introvert. I like to watch, and listen, not to talk. The world is full of talkers, and some truly have the gift of gab. But the majority of it is a white noise of lip-flap, and eventually it’s just static in search of a signal.

Look, I know how it’s supposed to work. In our hyper-connected world we’re supposed to share our vacations, our family moments, our personal moments with people we barely know. Heck, I even considered doing a post vacation update to this website with some observations on Scandinavia, its people and culture. I even drafted one and was deciding on which pictures to upload when I realized I didn’t want to share those photos, those moments, or those memories with anyone. It was a wonderful vacation – a genuine adventure – but by feeling obligated to share the details of it, I felt I’d only diminish the experience.

I get it. We’re supposed to be linked in, we’re supposed to cultivate our little patch of cyberspace so people know to stop by. What we’re not supposed to do – especially if you’re a creative type – is let that patch of landscape grow neglected and fallow. If you’re a writer you’re supposed to blog constantly, optimise your SEO, contribute guets blogs, direct people to your author page on FB and Goodreads, and constantly pimp out work – available on Kindle for only .99 cents – while you amass tens of thousands of twitter followers (i.e. “buy followers”) and generally puff yourself up to be someone more popular and more important than you really are. because it’s important people know who you are and what you do at all times.

Ahem

Ahem

Thing is; all that is, to my mind at least, total bullshit. You don’t need to do any of it – you want to, but you don’t need to. What you need to do is spend less time talking about your work and more time doing that actual work. So that’s where I’ve been the last number of months; I’ve been doing. Hard at work on several projects that I feel no string compulsion to talk about just yet. First off, they’re not anywhere ready to be talked about, and even then, to what end does telling you what I’m working on make any difference whatsoever? They have yet to be produced or broadcast or published; maybe when we get closer to those dates I’ll start promoting them, but for now I’m content for these projects of mine to remaine mine and nobody else’s.

But in this age of connectivity I would like to submit the somewhat radical notion that maybe not constantly talking about or promoting yourself and your work is the new black. Despite your personal feelings on the recent U2 album that magically appeared in your iTunes, you have to admit that it just appearing out of the blue was a bold move. Contrast that with the usual process – announce the project-to-be, drop a trailer or a song and video, get some (hopefully) glowing advance reviews, blitz your media and then hopefully people are lining up for the resulting work. And that approach definitely works.

Until it doesn’t work.

Because sometimes you just get so burned out hearing about something before it’s released, by the time it does appear you’re already well and sick of it. And if the end result underwhelms you’re going to be over it in about a week. Books get read and shelved. Albums uploaded, listened to, and forgotten. Movies watched once, and never more than once. Sometimes talking about a thing can rob it of its power, and its wonder. Sometimes too many samples of it, too many sips or nibbles, and eventually you lose the taste for it. It’s a variation of the advice Charles Beaumont gave to Harlan Ellison on the latter’s arrival in Hollywood. And I paraphrase:

“Achieving success [in Hollywood] is like climbing a mountain of cow shit to pluck the single, solitary rose at its summit. By the time you reach it, you’ve lost the sense of smell.”

So as we close up shop on 2014, I look forward to cocooning a little as I sit out the eye of the storm circling me at present. Catch up on some reading, some movies and TV, and brace myself for 2015. Because I want to keep my sense of smell. Because if I don’t how am I going to appreciate the fragrance of that single solitary rose?

Because 2015? That is going to be quite the year.

And I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

UPDATED:

Irony of ironies that this blog entry has become one of the most popular I’ve ever done. I should blog about not blogging more often. Or is that less often?

But on a serious note I’m setting the alarm and turning off the lights on 2014. It was a great, albeit frequently exhausting year full of travel and work and adventure and more than its share of surprises, many of which won’t fully raise their heads until 2015. So I’ve earned a break. Catch up on reading. Do family stuff. Oh, and maybe squeeze in some revisions to a TV project I’m planning to send out in the new year.

Later, gators.

The Miracle

U2_Songs_of_Innocence_cover

So if you were living under a rock last month U2 released their new album Songs of Innocence on iTunes for free. And people bitched about it. Let me correct that; people on the internet bitched about it because that’s what people on the internet do. Always needing something to rail against. Even now a month plus out they’re still complaining about it. “Why is this U2 album in my iTunes?” “How do I delete this U2 album?” How do I dress myself?” Et cetera.

How many of them actually listened to the album?

Not many by my guess. Which is too bad because I listened to it and I have to say I like it. I actually think it’s one of their best albums and may be on a level with Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree – widely recognized as high water marks in the band’s oeuvre (and I promise not to use oeuvre again in this post).

It’s certainly their most personal album, with 11 songs (13 if you include the 2 bonus tracks on the Deluxe Edition CD) all drawn from the same well; dirty, dangerous Dublin of the late 70s. Songs about an IRA bombing – Raised by Wolves — about the sudden death of a parent – Iris (Hold Me Close) – and it opens with a song about how the right song by the right artist can change your life – The Miracle (of Joey Ramone). It’s an album about itself; about songs (no small coincidence one of these songs is called Song For Someone).

And I’m not at all embarrassed to say I like the album. Because it’s easy to hate things and be cynical about everything. It takes bravery to unabashedly like something others do not and will not and I don’t owe any of those people a reason to say I like it. But I’m not here to debate the merits of the album or its controversial release strategy. I’m here to talk about something much bigger than either. But I should point out that track 11 – The Troubles – which features a duet with Swedish singer Lykke Li led me to seek out and purchase her latest album, so the free iTunes release led me to spend money in a physical store. Score one for the good guys.

[Though to be blunt I think their “controversial” release strategy was brilliant. Yes it enraged the same people who are quick to rage about everything anyway, but it became part of the conversation. In a year that as of right now has seen zero platinum albums, that’s an achievement. The top selling album of 2014 remains Coldplay’s Ghost Stories, and that’s barely cracked a million units sold].

To me though the real story about the Songs of Innocence release is how much of my life has changed since I first heard Pride (In The Name Of Love) on a college radio station from Chapel Hill NC where I first heard it. I could tell you exactly where I bought every U2 album I own; what city, what record store, and even wrote a lengthy piece about the day I bought Achtung Baby (which you can find here). Even when my interest in U2 waned they were still contributors to the soundtrack that has been my life. I even reflected, on the release of No Line on the Horizon, that it was the first U2 album I’d bought online, not setting foot in a record store to buy one for the first time since, well, ever. I even wondered if there’d be record stores around by the release of their next album, whenever that would be (more than 5 years later for those counting). And now Songs of Innocence appeared in my iTunes back on September 9, while I was in Toronto pitching a project (that might actually happen), and it became a soundtrack to that week of pounding the pavement, shaking hands, and reciting the same sales pitch over and over again. I walked streets that were both familiar and alien to me as I listened to it; in a town I once thought I’d call home for the rest of my life but was only a dozen years. A dozen years from now when I listen to Songs of Innocence I know I’ll recall that ten-day stretch in Toronto, just like Achtung Baby makes me think of my last year of high school and The Joshua Tree makes me think of my first.

My life is measured in albums by bands like U2, and REM, and The Pixies. Everybody who knows me knows I’ve written about that experience *cough Mixtape cough* but it’s experiences like Songs of Innocence that make me realize just how far we’ve come in relatively short a time, and what we’ve lost in the interim.

Making art is hard. Getting paid to make art is even more hard. I’ve made art for a living the last 15, almost 16 years and it’s never, ever been easy. I dare to say it hasn’t gotten easier either; with the internet touching on every aspect of our lives the doors are wide open. If the internet has a soundtrack I’d imagine it sounds like the trade floor at the NYSE, filled with people holding up pieces of paper and yelling. Everyone has something to sell, or a cause to promote, or an agenda to push. You can buy a song for 99 cents, or an eBook for the same price. You can read comics for free. You can press a button and watch pretty much any movie or TV show you want.

That’s the great thing about the internet and the awful thing about it. There’s so much choice now it’s almost impossible to choose anything. There’s too much TV, too much music, too many movies, too many books to decide what I’m going to spend what precious little free time I have on. I don’t even play video games anymore because of the time suck it entails – and frankly because they’re big wastes of time IMO.

[I know, ooh he said something controversial that I don’t agree with and how dare you. Tell it to the comments. Oh wait, that’s right; there aren’t any. Suck it dweebs]

But what the internet has killed is the ability to take your time to experience something — really experience it. because there’s always The next Thing, the next distraction. Movies released in theaters in May arrive on video three, four months later. Albums are released, make a brief splash but barely a ripple and are forgotten. The reason the book is still my entertainment of choice is the commitment it takes to read one. And by book I mean “print’ not digital — I’m a proud luddite and will remain one.

But that’s why I think the whole Songs of Innocence gamble paid off. It’s become part of the dialogue and the history. years from now people will refer to it as “that damn U2 album Apple forced down our throats”. Because everything has such a short shelf-life now, controversy, art, and creativity are measured in minutes because the next distraction is waiting right around the corner.

And because a month on, people are still complaining they can’t get that damn U2 album out of their iTunes.

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Pilgrimage

So I mentioned a little while back that I’d started work on Vol. 2 in the Mixtape saga,. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that it will be a while before you see it. Scripts need to be written, obviously, but I also need to figure out a way to pay for the art/printing etc. given that each issue runs north of a couple grand. Plus each issue takes 2-3 months to produce (penciling, inking, lettering, assembly), which is a factor as well. In addition I’m debating whether to stick with single issues like I did with Vol. 1 or do a straight up graphic novel telling one larger story. And I’m trying to do all this without crowdfunding it through Kickstarter or IndieGoGo if possible. Chalk that up to crowdfunding fatigue; if everybody and their cat is trying to raise $ what chance do I have? Also that potato salad guy. Fuck that guy.

Plus there’s Real Life Stuff. I’ve been occupied on three different film and TV projects which have ben eating up a lot of time, though if any one of them pops the whole “how do I fund Vol 2″ problem gets solved so fingers crossed.

Which is my way of saying Mixtape Vol. 2 is on the radar but still a ways away.

But if you’re still hungering for your Mixtape fix, you’re in luck, because this is the part of the job I love. It’s where I tell you all about the comics that influenced Mixtape. All are readily available, and all come highly recommended by yours truly. Every creative endeavor is built on the foundations of the work that inspired it, and these books more than any convinced me that Mixtape could indeed be a thing.

LCOAL HC C1-C4 LAYOUT9.indd

The genesis of Mixtape came when I was packing my things to move to the USA.  This involved sorting through boxes that hadn’t been opened in a good number of years – since High School in some cases. Among the many things I uncovered were many comic books, and many mixtapes. And so, rather than packing things, I spent my time listening to these tapes, and reading comic books, and saying to myself “self, there’s a story in this somewhere”. By the time I moved to New York, the idea was already simmering – I knew I wanted to write something about music, and how important it is to a teenager.  I also wanted it set in the 90s. I didn’t have a format – a movie like Dazed and Confused?  A TV series like The Wonder Years? I hadn’t really considered a comic book until I was browsing the racks at Midtown Comics and saw a hardcover collected edition of a series called Local by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly.  Local follows Megan McKeenan, a young adult, over the span of a dozen years, as she moves from city to city, ranging from Portland Oregon to Chicago Illinois, to Halifax Nova Scotia, and to my old stomping ground of Toronto, Ontario.  I’m a fan of Brian’s from his amazing DMZ and Northlanders series, and as someone with a wanderlust similar to Megan’s I scooped up Local, and by the time I finished reading it, I knew what that “90s era rock and roll story” was going to be. The stories in Local are self-contained, each separated by a year and by the geography of North America as Megan drifts from one city to the next, changing before our eyes from a wayward teen to a young woman looking for a home. It spans 12 years and by the end of Local you really feel you’ve been on a journey. It’s like a comic book version of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, and like Boyhood should not be missed.

boxofficepoison_lg

So when I moved to NY and started thinking more about Mixtape, I knew I needed to do more research. One book I had heard good things about was Alex Robinson’s Box Office Poison. Largely because the project that became Mixtape was originally a novella called “Daydream Nation” about a 40-something who travels back in time to inhabit his younger self in the early 1990s. Then I read about Robinson’s Too Cool To Be Forgotten and realized that story had already been done, and done well. I picked up TC2BF because to know your enemy is to defeat him, but realized Alex wasn’t an enemy and I wanted to read more of his work.

So there I was in Midtown perusing the shelves, and saw Box Office Poison. I pulled it out and flipped through it, and a customer passing by saaid “that’s a great book”. Then a staffer said the same thing. Convinced, I went to pay and the cashier said “that’s a great book.” And you know what? It is a great book – all 600 pages of it, all deftly charting post college life with an array of colorful characters, a love letter to that difficult time in life when you’re clutching your college degree and going “now what”? I just reread it again too and love it even more.

Oh, there’s an “epilogue” of sorts. At MoCCA a couple years later I was wandering the aisles and found myself at Top Shelf’s booth where Alex Robinson was helping out. A woman was glancing thru Box Office Poison and I said “that’s a GREAT book”. And she bought it. Alex was happy that day.

AC

Hold on, your’re saying. A superhero book influenced Mixtape? Are you hiding something from us, Abraham? Do the teens in Mixtape suddenly manifest super powers? How can a superhero book be an influence on Mixtape?

Well, probably because Kurt Busiek’s Astro City isn’t really a superhero book; at least not the way I read it. Sure it’s about superheroes and the world they inhabit, but it’s much more than that. It’s about the people of the titular city and how their lives intersect with the superpowered beings who stand watch over it. It’s about a family moving to this city and wondering if they have a place among the heroes and villains who they share space with. It’s about young woman deciding whether to stay in the cloistered and protected neighborhood she’s grown up in to get an apartment in a different part of town. It’s about a man haunted by visions of a woman he’s never met, only to learn she was part of a life wiped out by a battle between good and evil.

But also because in its earliest issues, each Astro City story had a beginning and an ending; what you call “one shot” stories. And Mixtape’s structure has been the same; single stories spotlighting a single character, with the others running support. There is an overall theme and story that these individual ones comprise, more like a mosaic than an ongoing storyline. It’s the snapshots of life in a city and world where superheroes are real that linger the most when I read Astro City.

The-Waiting-Place-cover

As I’ve probably mentioned too many times to count, I spent my teenage years in a small town, and that was at the tail end of a life spent in numerous cities. To say I felt rootless is an understatement; in fact to a degree I still do feel that way. And The Waiting Place captured that feeling of house parties, aimless driving, dead-end jobs, and deciding what you want to do with your life. Focusing on small-town teens as they navigate the world unfolding in front of them I fell in love with the characters and their stories from the get-go. Also writer Sean McKeever was gracious enough to answer some questions and offer advice when I was in the planning stages of Mixtape. He’s good people. Check his work out.

Ghost-World

Everybody knows Ghost World, right? Dan Clowes’ immortal saga is a definite influence on Mixtape, but when I say influence I refer to the movie more than the book (which I read some years after seeing it). Chronicling the adventures of Enid and Rebecca, recently graduated from high school and realizing they need to get their shit together and soon, Ghost World is one of those stories that somehow manages to be both eccentric and real at the same time.  It’s also a funny, sad, touching look at that monent in life when you’ve drifted away from your closest friends without realizing it until it’s too late. The arc of Mixtape Vol 2 is very much Ghost World’s, as the five mains face not so much the end of their friendship but the moment where that friendship changes, like it does for Rebecca and Enid.

Sleepwalk

Any Adrian Tomine will do, really but Sleepwalk along with Tomine’s Summer Blonde were and are my favorites of his, and probably Mixtape’s true genesis. It was reading Sleepwalk – a gift from one of my wife’s publishing pals – that really crystallized Mixtape’s potential. Because I saw Tomine was telling the type of story I wanted to tell. Stories about the little moments where those moments become, for a moment, important. I knew with Mixtape I didn’t want it to be an After School Special about Big Issues. I wanted it to be about the cleanup after the big party, and about the little moments in everybody’s life where important things happen and you’re too self-absorbed at the time to realize it. Stuff like that last time you were hanging out with a group of friends at someone’s house, and it was the last time you were in a room together.

So there you have it; the foundations on which Mixtape is built. And while I could only hope Mixtape achieves a smidge of the acclaim as these other books have received, it wouldn’t exist without these books. I strongly encourage* you check them out, both to support these creators and their work, but also because these books have meant a great deal to me and my work.

* I also VERY STRONGLY encourage you to buy these books from your friendly local comic book shop. Pretty much every town has one and they’ll be more than happy to order it if they don’t have it.

** And ICYMI Mixtape 1-5  are available for purchase right now with both print and digital options.

Right Here Right Now

So I have this website/blog thingy. I’ve had it for four years now. You can travel back to the very beginning and my very first post in August 2010.

The whole point of this website was to give me a web presence. So whenever someone (like a prospective employer or person I met at some industry thing) punches my name into a search engine, this website popes up, they click through, read about me, read my works and go “damn this dude is good –  let’s throw money at him.” As you can imagine this hasn’t happened yet, but having a web presence in this day and age is essential for a successful yet somehow still struggling creative type. People read or view your work or just want to get some insight into you as a person, they can find out.

But sweet Jeebus I hate blogging. Hate. It.

If I’m lucky I can knock out one, maybe two posts a month. Contrast that with people who do it every day and I’m failing at it. Often I write and post just to make it look like the website is still active. Sometimes I’m inspired, other times amusing, and occasionally I say things relevant to the writing process. Once I even had a post go viral, though the subject matter – my discovery of David Bowie and Duran Duran – may have had something to do with it.  But my need to keep this website current means too often I fall into the trap of this little nostalgia bubble. I’ll write about stuff that happened years if not decades ago, and try to make some tenuous connection to present day, but more often than more often it comes across – IMO – as being too maudlin. Yes, I did shit when I was younger. Some was fun, some wasn’t, but increasingly it looks and feels like the sad reminiscence of someone past their prime.

That’s bullshit. I’m better now than I ever have been, creatively, personally, you name it. Cool stuff – a lot of cool stuff – is happening right now, and I hope to be able to divulge details on all of it very soon.

But what about the here and now? What is exciting me or entertaining me or making this a very cool time in my life and one that I’ll look back on years from now? What keeps me moving forward by not looking to the past?

Well, I’ll tell you.

jack-white-lazaretto-628x541Yes, I dig Jack White. Yes, I dig his music, his business model, his attitude. Yes, his attitude. Sure he’s a cocky asshole – and one of those types I can’t stand to be anywhere around – but if you were in one of the few genuinely *great* bands to debut at the turn of this millennium, formed your own record label specializing in vinyl albums of all things, while forming two other bands and producing a bunch of other albums before launching one, then another solo album of your own, you earned the right. Plus his new album Lazaretto is really good and you should pick it up now.

(And you should listen to the 7th track at least once a day like I do because it’s my fave)

gregory-s-coffee

Gregory’s Coffee. Picture a less douchey and less corporate Starbucks. They’re a NYC based chain and they do coffee right. Seriously, I need to grab an Americano there once a week, and they have a location conveniently close to Midtown Comics, so you can go grab your purchases and then read them at Gregory’s. Plus they bake their own croissants, biscotti, cookies, muffins, and donuts. Plus the WiFi is free and speedy. And unlike Starbucks their coffee doesn’t taste like ass. Actually screw the rest of this update, I’m going there now.

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House of Cards. Apparently it doesn’t hold a candle to the original (nothing ever does), and it gets awfully silly at times but damn if it isn’t totally addictive. I’ve been soaking TV up like a sponge lately as I’m in development on two different TV series of my own so naturally I like to see what’s out there so I don’t fall into the trap of “oh there’s totally a show like that right now, sorry you wasted all that time on your thing”. I’d also add Masters of Sex, Justified, Hell on Wheels, Turn, The Americans, Sherlock, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Da Vinci’s Demons, Downton Abbey and Spartacus to the mix. That said I’m not a fan of the whole “binge watch” – I need time to absorb what I’ve seen before speeding through the story. Like reading a really good book you have to apply the brakes to avoid racing to the end and wanting more.  But another thing I’ve found is the most TV I can handle at a time is 2 hour-long episodes. Any more and my eyes glaze over. Probably because I spend most of my day staring at a screen there’s only so much more of that I can take when I want to unwind. I am in awe and a little bit frightened by people who can tear through a season in a weekend, the “binge watch” that has become ubiquitous. Me, I’d rather read a book.  And speaking of reading:

ALL-AMERICAN ADS BOOKS (3)Taschen. In particular their All American Ads series. Partly for research as one of the aforementioned TV projects is set in the 1950s, but also because I find them utterly absorbing. Like:

GAYAnd:

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And let’s not forget:

(The "T Zone" is cancer)

(The “T Zone” is cancer)

I also enjoy the series because it reminds me of how the mundane and everyday can gain extra meaning once time passes. It makes me think of my parents growing up under the shadow of these same ads. It makes me think of the comic books in my collection from the 80s and 90s, and how the ads and letter columns are what keep me from selling them and converting the series into trade editions; it’s that “in situ” act of reading them knowing how things changed but at the time nobody knew the ending.  In fact I’d say vintage advertising is the best way to get a sense of how people lived decades ago and – aww, there I go again down the nostalgia hole. Moving on. …

coldinjulyposterMovies. I still watch them, I write them for a living. And increasingly the bloom has been off the rose. I enjoyed The Winter Soldier and The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Raid 2 and Days of Future Past and Edge of Tomorrow but I didn’t love them the way I would have once (and I really disliked the Godzilla reboot after anticipating it for so long). And while I could blame The Movies for sucking, it’s not so much them as it is me. Tastes change and the stuff that used to get me excited before just doesn’t anymore. I want stories about people, not explosions, not comic book video game rebooted remakes.  And that’s why I keep watching and looking and occasionally find something unexpected that reaffirms my faith in the medium.

CIJMe and Joe Lansdale go way back as far as “author and fan” are concerned. I interviewed him for Rue Morgue a couple times. And Don Coscarelli’s adaptation of Bubba Ho-Tep was directly responsible for me meeting my wife.

So in 2009 when I was on a set visit to director Jim Mickle’s Stake Land that he mentioned he and co-writer/co-star Nic Damici had optioned a novel called Cold In July, I perked up. “Oh, the Joe Lansdale one?” The fact that I knew this “obscure” novel and “cult” writer grabbed Mickle’s and Damici’s attention too. And as I mentioned already I’m something of a fan:

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As the “Lansdale” shelf in my office would attest. And that’s only half of them.

Flash forward to 2014. That adaptation of Cold in July is in theaters and On Demand as I type this, and if you’re a fan of vintage John Carpenter or just plain good storytelling and propulsive filmmaking, you owe it to yourself and to cinema to see it. It’s also kind of restored my love in the movies. It’s the type of movie I got into the movie business to make. It’s the kind of movie that keeps my faith in the medium.  It does all of those things despite the fact that having read the book several times I was in suspense throughout it (even though I knew how it was going to end). That, my friends, is the hallmark of great storytelling.

And if you don’t support stuff like Cold in July you’re just going to get Tran5former$.

CSCCarmine Street Comics because they’re one of the few brick and mortar stores who stocks Mixtape, and because they’re a great conduit for indie comic creators to find an audience for their niche books. They have artists in residence, they hold regular events and signings and podcasts, and are everything a good comic book should be; carrying the Marvel DC books on one hand, but giving over substantial amounts of precious little shelf space to indie books. Plus, unlike a lot of comic shops they’re not dudebro dickish to female fans and creators so visit them and glimpse the future of comics retail.

TravelI should probably announce right now that I won’t be at this year’s NYCC. My request for an artists alley table was declined, and while I am on the wait list, there’s a thousand people gunning for the same slot so it looks like I’ll be out in the cold. It’s not all bad news; I’ve applied to some other shows and hope to appear at them instead, and while I could apply for a NYCC pro pass and would probably get one, that leaves me to just wander around aimlessly without benefit of a place where people can meet me, pick up some books and so on, which is why I go to conventions anyway.

Besides, if I’m going to wander aimlessly I’d rather do it here:

Stockholm

And here:

Norway

And here:

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My wife and I last got away – really got away, in late 2011 to Paris. And we’ve wanted to go back to Europe since then. We’ve been diligently kicking money into our vacation fund. All we’ve been lacking is time. Stuff keeps intruding. So when the rejection from NYCC came in I told her we were going back in October. Not back to Paris but a tour of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and probably Iceland because why not? And because we only have so many opportunities to have adventures and the worst thing you can do, whether you’re a writer or not, is to pass up that chance to look at the world with different eyes.

So there you have it. Stuff I like in the here and now. And in 20 years time, assuming the Internet is still a thing, this blog somehow still exists and I’m amazingly still alive, you can read my ravings about how awesome things were 20 years ago and hear me wonder where I left my car keys damn it.