21st Century Digital Boy

I realize I don’t really write much about tech. Probably because I have a love-hate relationship with it, especially with things internet-related. For every positive the internet has given us, there’s like ten awful things. I’ve actually been stepping back from all things online over the last year because it was becoming too much. Too much drama, too much distraction, too much bullshit. So it was under that particular cloud that late last year I said to my wife, “we should get an iPad.”

I’m not sure what brought this idea on, because I prefer my books on paper, my TV on a 42 inch set, my movies in a theater, and my music on – well, on my iPod (but preferably with a nice stereo system on hand). Plus, given that I spend my day staring at computer screens, the last thing I want to do on my downtime is stare at another.

I had also never even really picked up an iPad. Maybe at a friend’s place once or twice, but to me it just seemed like an oversized iPod. I didn’t think I needed one. But after doing a little research (thanks, Internet), we decided rather than having a whole pile of Christmas gifts under the tree, we’d splurge on one big gift we could both get some use out of. So we pooled our Xmas spending money, added in some money from our families back in Canada (in our home Christmas season is “Money From Canada” season), and bought a 128 GB iPad Air 2.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

And five months later it has become indispensable.

First, for work. Having found travel to be part of my writing life as of late, having the iPad with me on those travels has made doing my job a lot easier. Sending and receiving emails, obviously, but with Dropbox on my desktop and the Dropbox App on the iPad I was able to access work docs when I was up in Toronto last month. So that was handy. Also handy; Skype and Face Time. Skype, because my writing partner Kris is based in Halifax, and while email generally gets the job done, sometimes we need to talk face-to-digital-face. Face Time is great because my wife has it on her phone, and it makes calls to her while I’m away a bit nicer, especially on those longer trips. Given when we started dating back in 2003 (her in NY, me in Toronto) we racked up long distance bills equal to the GDP of a Third World Country, making calls for basically what we pay in internet access is a huge deal.

Second, for news. I don’t watch a lot of network or cable news because this is America and news here is crammed with partisan bullshit from which there is no escape. I am, however, a big magazine guy, having had a National Geographic subscription pretty much my entire life, and I’ve been an Economist subscriber since 2009. Both magazines have apps for subscribers, so I can download the new issue of the Economist on Thursdays, when the print edition sometimes doesn’t show up in my mailbox until Monday, by when I’m at least half way thru the latest issue on the iPad. I can download the latest NatGeo a day or so before the print mag arrives, and they have some additional features – video interviews, interactive maps etc. I also get Intelligent Life Quarterly for free, thanks to my Economist Subscription, which is chock full of goodness. I’ve even been considering switching to the Digital Only versions of my magazines when my subscriptions are up for renewal, for the convenience, and to maybe spare a few trees.

Don't let that fool you -- those are just the recent issues.

Don’t let that fool you — those are just the recent issues.

Third is entertainment. Spotify, iTunes, iBooks, but also (takes a deep breath) HBO GO, Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Instant Video, PBS, Hulu Plus, and the NFB.

Pictured: All The Entertainments

Pictured: All The Entertainments

A bit about those last two; I went all in for the Hulu Plus subscription ($7.99/month) for one big reason – this:

Drool

Drool

Yeah, that’s pretty much the entire Janus Films/Criterion Collection library at my fingertips. Were I to buy each title seperately I’d be broke. But having Bergman, Herzog, Kurosawa, Chaplin, Lloyd, Keaton, Lang et al just sitting there anytime I want them? Well worth the monthly rental.

But I have to say the real treasure is this NFB app. That’s The National Film Board of Canada’s library (they’re constantly adding titles). I found out about it when I was up in Toronto, downloaded it later that day, and found to my delight it’s accessible in the US.

O Canada ...

O Canada …

It’s also totally free. No charge for the app, no charge to watch. And they have a great function that Netflix, Hulu et al do not– the ability to download films to watch offline. They stay there for 48 hours, but when you’re travelling or just offline, you can watch Neighbors, Paddle to the Sea, the Log Driver’s Waltz, The Burning Times, The Cat Came Back, Ryan – everything.

If there is a downside to all this, it’s that it feels like I have too much entertainment at my fingertips. Funny to think though that five, ten years ago if I wanted all this content I had to go look for it. Like, in a store. So the ease of delivery and access is great.

But there’s 125 titles in my Netflix queue – titles, not individual things and much is TV. There’s well over a hundred Criterion titles in my Hulu Queue, plus there’s all the HBO stuff, the NFB stuff, lots of great public domain content on YouTube, and that doesn’t even cover my Spotify playlists. I’m never going to have time to enjoy all of it.

Now, for the point of this tech talk; How Much Has This Changed How I Spend My Money? Not as much as you’d think.

Granted, with so many streaming options for film and TV, I don’t buy nearly as many DVDs or Blu-Rays as I used to. Really, it’s mostly July and November, when Barnes & Noble have their excellent 50 % off Criterion titles that I go nuts, and even then usually to the tune of $100 for the entire sale period. The Criterion titles I can access on Hulu fill the rest of that void so I only buy the titles I really want copies of.

In addition I will admit my movie going has dropped off in the last year or so(that means “go to the theater to see a movie”). I used to go almost once a week. Now if I go once a month it’s usually for a good reason. Frankly there hasn’t been a lot to really entice me to the movies as of late. What I do try and do is seek out the smaller indie films than the big blockbusters. Age of Ultron doesn’t need my money, but The Babadook, It Follows, and The Guest do.

With one exception ...

With one exception …

With TV, we’ve cut our bill down to just basic service and HBO. We’re buying a new modem so we can return the one TWC charges a monthly rental fee. We could cut the cord entirely, but paying for the basic package gets us a good deal on our high-speed.

As far as music, I’m actually buying more even with Spotify giving me my music for the price of listening to their ads. I know Spotify gets a bum rap for the tiny royalties they pay out to the artists, but I’ve actually been prompted to buy songs and albums from a lot of the artists I discover on Spotify. I still like owning my music, and I like the artists to get a piece of my money because I want them to keep making music. In fact, if Spotify were to give you an option to buy digital files of the songs you stream, a lot of those criticisms might be muted.

Pictured: My shopping list

Pictured: My shopping list

I also find that with the iPad I am spending less time at my desk, which could be a lifesaver. A sedentary lifestyle is not a good one, and when my internet browsing was limited to that chair, it wasn’t doing me any favors. With my work desk focused on actual work it’s not uncommon for me to finish writing a couple hours earlier and switching it off for the day, keeping the iPad on hand to answer any emails that trickle in after the fact.

While it’s weird to think that 5-10 years from now iPads and tablets may look as anachronistic as flip-phones and Walkmans, ours has actually been a pretty good investment, especially when you realize this entire post was written on an iPad, and pictures were taken on it and uploaded on it.

Now all I need to do is know when to turn it off for the day.

 

If You Were Here

So I’ve been “laying low” pretty much since the beginning of 2015 for many reasons; work, personal, weather (seriously, was this or was this not the longest winter we’ve had in recent memory?). Plus I’ve been trying to downsize my involvement in all things online, which must be horrifying to the social media and SEO experts convinced my little patch of cyberspace is on life support. But to them I’d say “don’t worry about me” because things have been exceedingly positive on the work front, as the following will demonstrate.

NOW YOU KNOW

logo

Meet Howie and Baboo. They’re the stars of a new children’s series that will begin airing around the world this fall called Now You Know. It was created and produced by  Little Engine Moving Pictures, and I was asked to write five episodes of the first season. It’s an educational show, aimed at the pre-K crowd, where we provide answers to questions such as “how do rockets get into space” and “what happens when I flush the toilet”. It’s a lot of fun – and it encourages kids just about to enter Kindergarten to not be afraid to ask questions about things they don’t understand. I actually finished my work on Season 1 last year but before it even aired, Season 2 was greenlit. I’m proud to be involved in Now You Know also, because, it’s designed to instill an interest in learning in pre-schoolers, to teach them not be afraid to ask questions, and to not be afraid of giving a wrong answer. As someone who was quite shy starting out in school, that is important to me. Plus it has puppets, and puppets are fun.

MAGICIANS IMPOSSIBLE

At long last I have joined the ranks of published authors everywhere as my debut novel MAGICIANS IMPOSSIBLE will be published in 2017 by MacMillan Books. It’s about … well, just read this:

IMG_0297

This has been in the works for a while, probably since 2009 when in conversation with someone I was trying to say “Mission Impossible” and mangled the words as they escaped my mouth so they sounded like “Magicians Impossible.” And that someone said “you should totally write that”. And I thought to myself … maybe I should. That someone was my former agent Brendan Deneen, who left agenting to become a successful editor at St. Martins Press and producer at MacMillan Films. And while an earlier/different version of the Magicians Impossible story has long existed, both in screenplay and novel formats, it never quite clicked the way I wanted it to.  That was until a year ago when Brendan invited me out to lunch to ask what I thought about reworking the existing Magicians Impossible story into something along the lines of “Harry Potter meets James Bond”.

And over the intervening months as I worked feverishly on two other projects, I brainstormed MI’s characters and the world they lived in, wrote a detailed story treatment and character histories, and after much trial and error, delivered thirty pages of manuscript and an outline before jumping onto a plane to Scandinavia. Returning from my 10-day odyssey, I waited, and waited, and waited some more. And just before Halloween, Brendan and MacMillan made their official offer. After some months of back and forth while I sought out and secured the services of uber agent Jodi Reamer at Writers’ House  the deal was finalized. I deliver the manuscript in a year’s time.

60 SQUADRON

BB Cover-page-001

Now, time management will be key, because in addition to Magicians Impossible, I landed my first ever TV series created by me. Sort of. 60 SQUADRON – or “THE SQUADRON” which is the current working title (and rest assured there will be more titles run through the grinder before we settle on the final version) tells the story of the famous (some would say infamous) squadron that was home to notable flying aces like Albert Ball, Willy Fry, Grid Caldwell, and a Canadian of some note named Billy Bishop. This was the finest collection of pilots the Allies and the Royal Flying Corps had to throw at the Central Powers, and has been a story I’ve been wanting to tell nearly all my life. Along with creative partner writer-director Kris Booth (At Home By Myself With You) we in the very early stages of development, having just partnered with Copperheart Entertainment (Ginger Snaps, Splice, Wolves) to bring the adventures of 60 Squadron to the small screen in – we hope – 2017, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Bloody April – the most deadly month of aeriel combart in WW1. There are still many miles to fly on it and this is very much the start of what we hope will be quite the journey, but as it’s the culmination of an idea that planted itself in my mind way back in 2001 it feels like for the first time in a long time it could become a tangible reality.

MIXTAPE

The last, but certainly not least bit of news pertains to everybody’s favorite comic book about teenagers in the 1990sand their feelings. The ink is dry and I can finally announce Mixtape will be returning to comic book stores later this year. I just signed a deal with the brand new Space Goat Productions to publish itexclusively. The caveats: we’re reprinting Vol 1. (so Mixtape 1-5) and publishing it bi-monthly starting in September 2015.

Space-Goat

To those of you who already bought Mixtape this may come as a surprise and possibly a disappointment (though I hope not the latter). I’m routinely asked when Mixtape #6 will arrive, and can say that its arrival (along with subsequent issues) just became easier.

The fact is that outside of Mixtape #1, no issue of Mixtape has adorned a comic book shelf since April 2012. Issues 2 thru 5 were self-produced and distributed to what stores I could convince to accept them. Most of the sales came from comic book shows and conventions, sold personally by me to whomever stopped by my table. As you can imagine this is not a huge number. Local stores like Carmine Street Comics have really supported the book, but there’s a vast ocean of stores across the land and I want to get Mixtape into all of them. We’ll also be making Mixtape available digitally through Comixology, and other digital platforms, each arriving concurrent with the print version.

MIXTAPE VOLUME 1 will also be collected in a trade edition – something we’re calling a Deluxe Edition featuring playlists, behind the scenes notes and sketches, and hopefully a few “bonus tracks” in the form of guest artists, and a new Mixtape short story. We’re also considering adding a splash of color to the Deluxe Edition.
The plan is to segue from the “reprint” of Vol. 1 into Vol. 2, starting in July 2016. Volume 2, titled “Daydream Nation” has outlined and scripting has just finished on issue #6.

That gap in time gives us time to produce the books, and hopefully release it at a more consistent rate. Of course, this is all contingent on people buying the book, requesting it to be added to their pull-list, and spreading the word. And maybe, just maybe, Mixtape will find the audience that doesn’t even know it’s been what they’re looking for.

Now this does mean that issues 1-5 are being removed from IndyPlanet and iBooks as Space Goat takes over the print rights. This is unavoidable but if you already own the books in either form you still get to keep them. And we’ll be making some minor tweaks to the reprinted issues so the versions you already own will be collector’s items.

Plus, as detailed above, with Magicians Impossible and 60 Squadron dominating much of the next two plus years of my life, the ability to produce and promote Mixtape at shows and online is severely limited. The last thing I want is for it to die on the vine or be forgotten entirely – something that was in risk of happening before Space Goat stepped up. With the support of a comic book publisher with a solid marketing and sales plan in place, the job of getting Mixtape out wide becomes much, much easier.

And that’s where things are. That doesn’t include a couple other projects that may also be gearing up sooner than later. One is another TV project, the other a possible book-to-film adaptation, but they’re both in the discussion stages so I’d rather not dish on them just yet. But either way, 2015 is going to be one hell of a year.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll find time to update this website more often.

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.

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.