Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I did another write-up for Late Night Wallflower. This time it's on one of my favorite records of the year.
Probably my utmost favorite album of the year is not something anybody I know that’s into punk, hardcore, or post-hardcore would truly like. Matter of fact, it would probably make people question my credibility and taste in music in general. Yet I see not guilt in something that I truly like, and see no real reason to have my tongue in my cheek as I write this. I can’t help but be rather defensive in describing my fandom of Journey’s 2008 album, Revelation.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

At the Movies Revisited

In the last few days, I've read this Los Angeles Times article on Ben Lyons, one of the critics on the rebooted, Ebert-and-Roeper-less version of At the Movies, a few times. I've also checked out Stop Ben Lyons! a few times. This prompted me to watch some reviews on the At the Movies site. Do I think the overall nature of film criticism is going downhill? Nope. Instead, I'm getting a better understanding how I find out about movies and decide whether or not I should see them compared to how I used to find out about movies and decide whether or not I should see them.

There was a time when Siskel and Ebert was the only place I really found out about movies beyond trailers, commercials, magazines, and Entertainment Tonight. Like what 120 Minutes was to me as a music fan, Siskel and Ebert was where I could see more coverage on stuff beyond the mainstream. But this was in the mid- to late Nineties. Hard for me to believe because it doesn't feel like it, but this was ten years ago, and plenty has changed since then.

I took plenty of classes on film and TV critique in college, as well as on writing. I heard plenty about what makes a good film good and a bad film bad. I met quite a few people who spouted their opinions as facts more than opinions, and I found that distracting. I watched plenty of episodes of At the Movies with Ebert and Roeper but lost track when it disappeared from its regular schedule. Somewhere in between then and now I reached a point where I decided that I wanted to form my own opinions on movies rather than regurgitate other people's opinions.

Make no mistake, there are plenty of films that I'm on the fence about seeing. These are the ones that I pay attention to what respected film critics say. Sometimes their opinions are the dealbreakers for me. Then there are a certain few movies that I want to see no matter how bad the buzz is for them. Some current examples are The Spirit and Mamma Mia! (yes, Mamma Mia!). I have my own reasons to want to watch and decide.

I still read Roger Ebert's reviews because I like his writing and value his opinions. I don't always agree with him (his review of Bottle Rocket and his review of Southland Tales are just the beginning) but I am curious as to what he says. Again, if I'm that curious to see a movie, I'll see it no matter what critics say. I'm so invested in films in general that I'm not somebody who doesn't have time to look into movies, wonder how they got made, etc. I've got the time and the drive to do this, so why stop now?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Above all . . . it's a love story

This week's A.V. Club inventory focuses on twenty-three films that have yet to appear on Region 1 DVD. Reading through it, I'm reminded that not everything is on DVD, and there is still a hunt for hard-to-find gems. I knew there was a good reason to still have a region-free DVD player and a VCR.

Thanks to Trailers From Hell and almost any interview with Quentin Tarantino, there is no shortage of lost films that I might like to see. Part of the enjoyment in these movies is the scarcity of finding a copy. As nice as it is to have old films restored and readily available on DVD, there seems to be something special with the hunt.

Case in point, a few months ago, I watched Freebie and the Bean for the first time. I enjoyed the film even though what I watched was a DVD-R rip from an old VHS tape. Since the aspect ratio of the film (2.35:1 I believe) was shrunk to fit the pan-and-scan 4:3, plenty got left out of the picture. Still, I found the film to be enjoyable and I hope someday it's released on DVD in widescreen.

But I can't forget something Tarantino once said on a commentary track. Saying something along the lines of seeing an old print of El Topo versus seeing a pristine copy of the film on DVD, it just wasn't the same. In other words, there's a personal sense of liking something that a lot of people have forgotten about or don't even know of its existence. The film is not going to look good and the chances of it appearing in a pristine transfer are small, thus making the gem seem more appealing.

That said, I can't forget seeing Kentucky Fried Movie in widescreen and on DVD. I got so much more out of seeing the film that way, and I have not pined to see it on VHS in pan-and-scan. So, there's always a hunt going on, and that's part of the fandom of films in general.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy Holidays

Blogging will be scant for the next couple of weeks because of the holidays. I hope everybody has a nice holiday.

To tide you over for now, here are some links:

My book is a great stocking stuffer.

I did a quick rundown of three great shows I saw this year for Frontburner.

My first column for Late Night Wallflower is online.

I was on TV earlier this week.

Cake Wrecks is a chance to laugh at cakes gone wrong.

Stuff White People Like is a chance for people my age to laugh at themselves.

Finally, here are a few Christmas videos to enjoy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

You're only as good as your drummer

Throughout the month of October every year, I think about what all I'd like to put on my Christmas list. This past Halloween, I decided that a certain item will not be on my list this year: Guitar Hero World Tour.

I have no problem with playing guitar on the Guitar Hero or Rock Band games. I have no problem with friends of mine playing these games and having a good time. It's just that my exposure to the drum parts on Rock Band, and especially Guitar Hero World Tour, has made me rather annoyed with these games.

When I played GHWT at a Halloween party this year, I tried various degrees of expertise and I could barely get through the songs. Super-simple songs, like the Smashing Pumpkins' "Today," were difficult to pull off for me. I can play the songs with no problem on my drumset, but no dice in the virtual world.

Probably my biggest gripe here is that a sense of rhythm is not needed. When it came to keeping a beat, no problem. When it came to doing fills, forget the rhythm. So when I recently played Wii Music, I was very, very happy to see that keeping a steady beat is required not only for drumming, but for playing all instruments. This is probably one of the most fundamental aspects of playing music, and I applaud the makers of Wii Music.

In lieu of the other games, I think the best way to play drums is on a real kit, and playing along to a record is not a bad idea either.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sometimes They Come Back . . . Again and Again

Well, the timing was weird for this, given the topic of yesterday's post: Variety reports today that Rob Zombie will be making a sequel to his take on Halloween. If this is as any good as Zombie's director's cut of Halloween, I will probably wait until his director's cut comes out on DVD.

What's frustrating about slasher sequels is that they all seem like a ploy. No matter how gruesome the apparent death of a monster, the monster always seems to come back. My cynical side says the real monster is not the one you see on the screen: it's the producers that keep wanting to audiences to come back each new installment. And yes, this is somebody who likes all of the Saw sequels. At least when the lead villain was killed in those movies, he didn't come back (for now).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Fooled Around and . . . Liked a Remake

In my continuing effort to arm myself with reasons why movies should not be remade, I've found myself defending a remake of one of my all-time favorites. No, it's not Zack Snyder's take on Dawn of the Dead (which isn't that bad and is surprisingly decent). And it's definitely not the Black Christmas remake (which looks good, but that's about it). I'm talking about Rob Zombie's take on Halloween.

The original Halloween is something I watch about once a year, usually near the end of October for obvious reasons. I still jump at the scares, find the acting believable, and find the film's look still really special. I thought a remake was a bad, bad idea for several reasons, re-stating my reasons why the idea of remaking is asking for trouble.

Now I'm not about to say Rob Zombie's take on the material is better than the original, but I will say see this movie if you're curious about the Halloween sequels and/or connection-in-name. If you want to see how to run a franchise into the ground and have the patience to sit through nearly a dozen hours of bad movies, see Halloween III, IV, V, VI, and Halloween Resurrection. If you don't want to do that and want to see some good sequels, see II and H2O. But I highly recommend Rob Zombie's take as well.

I'm well aware of the criticisms of Zombie's version. Stuff like making Michael Myers more human lessens his power as an evil entity and there's an unnecessary amount of nudity and gore. While I think those criticisms are valid, they didn't weigh the film down for me. I found Malcolm McDowell's take on Dr. Loomis was very good, and Sheri Moon Zombie is really, really fine as Michael's mom. (Maybe since I didn't like her character/acting in House of the 1,000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects I didn't have high hopes for her role. Still, she's really good in this.)

Yes, this is a modern update on a classic. No, I don't think making modern updates of classic movies is a great idea. But no matter how much people whine and complain about them, more are to come. So, I think it is worth my time to check out some remakes rather just respond to the idea of them.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A year in watching movies

Earlier this year, between the completion of Post and its release, the amount of DVDs I watched rose significantly. Now it's to a point where I see an average of three DVDs a week, all while finding time to do others things. Again, in lieu of having cable, I choose to watch a lot of DVDs. I don't see a lot of new movies in the theater, mainly because there are a lot of movies out there on DVD that I want to see for the first time.

Four movies I actually saw in a theater
And those four were: Iron Man, The Dark Knight, Saw V, and Zack and Miri Make a Porno. I still gripe about going to a theater, but these were movies I could just not wait to see them on DVD. Iron Man and The Dark Knight packed a visual and audio punch my home system couldn't, so I'd have to say these films were more satisfying to see in the theater.

DVD I bought just for a commentary track, even though I had never seen the film before
It seems rather risky and stupid, but I bought the "Director's Cut" 2-disc version of True Romance mainly because of Quentin Tarantino's solo commentary track. He has yet to do a commentary for the films he's directed, so this was something of a major curiosity for me. I liked what Quentin had to say, but for some reason I haven't watched the film itself sans a commentary track on. Strange, but that's just me. I also purchased Once Upon a Time in the West just for its multi-person commentary track (including directors John Carpenter and Alex Cox), but I have yet to watch anything off of it.

A great film that should reissued on DVD
Deceiver is a film I had first heard about from, of all places, Zao's Liberate Te Ex Inferis. Just a quick sample of some dialogue from the film made me curious about it. Featuring a number of great actors (Tim Roth, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Rooker, Renee Zellweger, Chris Penn, and Rosanna Arquette), the movie is quite a head-trip that doesn't end on a cheat. It's quite a great noir piece about deception, but its current transfer on DVD is not all that great. A reissue would be wonderful.

A film that everybody I knew liked but I didn't
I heard great things about The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, but when I saw it, I found its premise to be very, very thin. The record holder remains elusive while his fans try to undermine the number one contender. This ain't no underdog story like Rocky or even Mystery, Alaska. As much as I like video games, they aren't something I take that seriously. I just couldn't root for the underdog or this film.

A film I hated, hated, hated
Dan in Real Life looks great with its use of autumn colors, but what could have been a great look at grief and love felt like a long and painful test of my patience. Using a frequently-used plot device in half-hour sitcoms (waiting until the very, very last moment to be upfront with people about something), I could not wait until the film was over. That's not something I often encounter with films I choose to see, but it happened here.

A film that I hope more people see on Blu-Ray and on big screen TVs
It's funny, a Wachowski Brothers movie sold me on DVD: The Matrix. Now another one of their movies sold me on Blu-Ray: Speed Racer. Their live-action version of the beloved cartoon isn't all aces (I found the attempts at comedy with Spritle and Chim Chim rather distracting), but it's a visually stunning film with heart. I never thought I'd say that about a live action version of a cartoon, but there it is.

Films that get even better with repeat viewings
Suspiria, the original Black Christmas, and Southland Tales are films I liked when I first saw them, but love more and more with each viewing. I still can't explain what all happens in Southland Tales, but then again, I can't fully explain what all happens in Donnie Darko.

Film that I hope to see in the theater so I can get a better understanding of why its source material is so revered
I'm looking forward to seeing Zack Snyder's take on Watchmen, based on a graphic novel that is very, very highly regarded. I have only read the book once and found it to be a dated piece of Cold War fiction that apparently works on so many levels that I didn't detect.

Film that I hope to see on DVD once Netflix no longer lists it as "Long Wait"
WALL*E. A film I've heard plenty of great things about, but due to high demand for the movie on regular and Blu-Ray DVD, I, in the words of Bob Nastanovich, will just to wait.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

In hopes of not sounding like Matt Foley

Credit goes to Scott for this one, based on a recent post.

The day after Halloween this year, I came to a realization. Ten years ago, I spent my Halloween alone in my off-campus apartment watching Halloween and Halloween II on my 13-inch TV. This year, I spent it watching Zack and Miri Make a Porno in a theater and then going to two different Halloween parties hosted by friends. It was upon comparing these events based on my ten years of living in the D/FW area that I thought it was safe to say that I have made progress on the social front.

Upon this realization, I was reminded of how I had to keep a sense of faith with going to a university where I only knew a couple of people. My social life would have probably been easier if I went to the university my friends went to, but I wanted to go to a smaller school. Call it the road not taken or something like that. I thought I should just stick with making my own path. I was still in touch with my friends, and I'm still in touch with them today. It's not like there was a time when I considered giving up and switching schools. Sometimes things just sucked when I'd spend numerous hours by myself trying to find some ways to entertained. Other times it was great and liberating.

Over time, with each semester and new year, things started to really work out, especially with working at the campus radio station. All these years later, I think it's safe to say that the path has been totally worthwhile. But I don't think we really notice growth until well after the fact.

All I'm saying, if this were to be directed to a freshman in college, find something you are really passionate about. If you enjoy doing it, be it by yourself or with a few or a lot of people, stick with it. You never really know where exactly this passion will take you, but it's quite rewarding to find out where it takes you.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Anywhere But Here

I'd say one of the things I truly enjoy with Wes Anderson's film is their look. Some of them look like they could be filmed anywhere. In the case of Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, they were filmed in Dallas and Houston, respectively, but they don't look like the Dallas or Houston most people see. Maybe that's why I don't always think of those films when I drive around their filming locations.

Now, on the flipside, with a recent viewing of RoboCop (after not seeing it for seventeen years), I couldn't help but think of Dallas whenever there was an exterior shot. Save for the scenes in the saw mill, the exterior shots were shot around downtown Dallas. Dallas City Hall and Reunion Tower are very visible, and I couldn't imagine the story was set in Detroit.

I guess it boils down to the landmarks that are used in a film. Aside from the big Fair Park ferris wheel being visible in a scene in Bottle Rocket, nothing really screams "Dallas!" Same with Rushmore.

Believe or not, but this a major influence on the setting of When We Were the Kids. Town names are mentioned, but they are not supposed to be in one particular place. I want to give an idea of what it was like to live in a suburb in 1990s. Not all suburbs, but a typical suburb like the one I lived in, as well as several of my friends. Setting things in a very identifiable area and talking about very identifiable landmarks can limit things. Since I want to put across universal thoughts and feelings, I think it's good to set things in an area that could be anywhere.

Because this general idea is mentioned on the Rushmore commentary track, it's another example of how a commentary track informs me as a writer. Strange, but it is what it is.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Bottle Rocket Tour Re-revisited

As I patiently await the arrival of Bottle Rocket on Criterion Blu-Ray, I think about the day-long Bottle Rocket tour I took a few years ago. Since most of the film was filmed here in Dallas, I figured I should venture out sometime and see where it was shot. Just my luck, it was on an overcast day, the type of day you normally see in a Wes Anderson film.

I hit up the hotel where Bob, Anthony, and Dignan hide out, the bookstore they robbed, the school where Anthony talks to Grace, Bob's house, the street where Anthony and Dignan discuss the "Things Dignan's Not Supposed to Touch" list, and the location of Hinkley Cold and Storage. I never knew where the mental hospital, the prison, the Lawn Wranglers' hideout, the country club, the fireworks stand, the drug store, or the Mexican night club were, so I didn't try to find them. But still, I saw a lot in one day.

The weird thing is, as much as I love the film still to this day, I tend to forget that the film was made here. Dallas is not some small little town who has a single claim to fame. I'm sure more people from around the world come here looking for places filmed for the TV series Dallas than Bottle Rocket. But for me, there are times when I'm reminded that it was filmed here. Any time I pass by the Texas Ice House (the location of Hinkley Cold and Storage), I usually remember. When I park my car in Northpark Mall's parking garage, I remember how the bookstore used to be on that ground. When I went to a band practice at Bishop Manor, I think I passed by the Lawn Wrangers' hideout. In other words, there are reminders here and there.

As far as the film itself, I find it to be one of my favorite Wes Anderson films. Something about the subject matter (post-education guys trying to find their way in the world) still speaks to me, and the humor and music are fantastic. Hearing about all the struggles going into the movie and the subsequent limited release are definitely nice reminders that not everything is easy and peachy keen. I'm glad this special edition of film restores all of this and more.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

You Won't Forget

Over the weekend I received a very nice postcard from one of the most prominent people featured in Post. He congratulated me on the publication of the book, thanked me for sending him a copy, and said he looked forward to reading it. I found his gesture to be very, very kind and I immensely appreciated it. Sometime while processing this I came back to an idea I've discussed before: you never forget the experience of doing something yourself. Whether it's putting out records or books or making your own movie, that experience will probably stay with you for the rest of your life.

I have yet to meet somebody who deeply regrets doing any of the aforementioned activities. Not everybody has the drive and/or desire to see something from beginning to completion to release, so it's still somewhat of a rare thing these days. For me, I find way more common ground talking to a punk band about DIY than say, interviewing a member of KISS and wondering if it's OK to talk about KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. In other words, there's an entryway to something deeper beyond the facade of fame or popularity.

Now that I'm in a position where people are contacting me about writing a book themselves. Whatever help I can offer, I'm more than happy to share with them. I'm not going to forget the people that inspired me how (and how not) to treat others looking for advice. I'm not one to discourage as I've found those with the passion to do something like this will do it with your help or without your help.

Monday, December 01, 2008

New Born

Well, it's only taken me nine years, but I can now say I am a fan of Muse. It's not like there was a time when I hated the band's music. It was just not the right time when I first heard the band.

Well after Radiohead released OK Computer but before they released Kid A, there seemed to be a number of Radiohead-like bands getting a push on college radio. Palo Alto was one of the many, coupled with a large number of bands with Jeff Buckley/Thom Yorke-like singing. Hearing falsetto after falsetto got to a point of breaking for me. So when Muse's "Uno" and "Muscle Museum" were added into high rotation, I was not impressed. (Adding fuel to the fire: I remember getting a call from a woman asking about that new Radiohead song I just played.)

Basically, the Radiohead comparisons had to stop. Radiohead had to put out a new record. I followed Radiohead through Hail to the Thief and still enjoy them, but I don't listen to them as much as I used to. With Muse, I lost track of them, but I was still aware they had released a few more albums. I had dug "Starlight" because of its similarity to an 80s dance pop song I can't seem to remember its name. I had also attempted to get through "Knights of Cydonia" on Guitar Hero III.

Fast forward to a month or so ago: I see their excellent DVD of a concert at Wembley and I see High Tension for the first time. Knowing the band put on a really great live show and enjoying the use of "New Born" in High Tension, I figured I'd invest some more time into the band. Now it's reached a point where I can't stop listening to their stuff. Even the Showbiz songs, there's something I really have a new appreciation for.

All I can say is, I can't swear off a band forever. Sometimes life has its way of reintroducing a band you loathed but later love.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A post-Thanksgiving of thanks

In addition to my family and friends, I'd like to thank the following:

--People having a genuine interest in reading Post. It's very nice to just tell somebody about a book and he or she is interested just because of the pitch. No DVD players, concert tickets, or vacations are necessary to bargain.
--Quarterly royalty statements from the book publisher. One of the bigger reasons I went with the publisher I went with.
--The breakfast taco place down my street. Amazing what happens when a place offers great food and the owners truly appreciate your business. What a novel concept.
--My dog for not peeing on my bed, so far, this year.
--Working a job where random strangers are not allowed in so they ask you tons of questions while you're trying to work.
--A nice, long street to run and walk on.
--LOST Season 4 for being awesome.
--The DVD selection at Movie Trading Company and Borders. All hail DVD prices $8-$12!

Monday, November 24, 2008

A year in music

So, here's my attempt to summarize my year in listening to albums. Once again, I don't see any harm in talking about records that weren't released in 2008. If they were records that rocked my world more than in previous years, they get listed. Also once again, no clear-cut ranking here, just a listing, save for the last few.

British Sea Power, Do You Like Rock Music?
Knowing someone who's a big BSP fan and knowing that another person had a copy of this record, I decided to take a listen to "Waving Flags" on the A.V. Club's "The best tracks of 2008 so far" feature. Sounding like the Doves covering the Flaming Lips' "Race for the Prize" (in a good way), I had to hear this record. I'm quite a fan of the drumming and the lead guitar playing in this band because of this record. I haven't really checked out their previous work, so I'm a latecomer. This record definitely reminds me of great U.K. rock bands from earlier in the decade that weren't trying to sound like a garage band.

Mates of State, Re-Arrange Us
Full credit goes to Eric for introducing me to this record. If you loved Mates of State before, you probably will dig this record. If you hated Mates of State before, here's more avoid. I've dug this band for a while, but have never gotten around to hearing a full-length. Re-Arrange Us broke that trend. Very pleasing piano/keyboard rock from this two-piece, with songs that can be hard to get out of my head.

Death Cab for Cutie, Narrow Stairs
When this record was released, I wrote the following on Frank's blog: "Death Cab is one of those bands that I have to listen to their latest record many times before I can come up with an opinion. I really didn't care for them until Transatlanticism, but upon the first couple listens to Plans, I wasn't that impressed. Well, did a few more listens and then really dug that record. So, I'm listening to Narrow Stairs a few more times before I come up with my opinion."

That was in May, and I proceeded to listen to Narrow Stairs more than a few more times after that. Once again, Death Cab's records since The Photo Album have been growers for me. Parts of the record sound like older, pre-Atlantic Death Cab while others sound nothing like what they've done before, but it's never to a point where it sounds like they have an identity crisis. Maybe that's why I like this band so much.

Abe Vigoda, Skeleton
Pundits can say this band plays the same song over and over, but in this band's case, I don't mind. The drums and melodies are what really grab me with Skeleton. As a matter of fact, not since I heard the Appleseed Cast's Mare Vitalis have I heard a band whose sound has been so critically tied to the drumming. The drumming is busy, busy, busy, and disjointed, but it all complements the guitars and vocals very well.

Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
I don't really understand why this band wasn't massacred by a lot of critics (as in, the ones who get paid to write about music) for sounding a lot like older My Morning Jacket. Maybe it's because My Morning Jacket released an album this year that was massacred by critics (more on that later). That said, I find this debut album to be a wonderful late-night or early-morning drive record. There are gorgeous melodies here; in some spots they remind me of My Morning Jacket's It Still Moves. Once again, I reiterate my tongue-in-cheek theory that Fleet Foxes is actually My Morning Jacket, and Fleet Foxes is a record My Morning Jacket abandoned to create Evil Urges.

Torche, Meanderthal
This record was featured on a "Buried Treasures" episode of Sound Opinions back in September. I liked what I heard, but wasn't drawn to immediately listen to Meanderthal. Hearing the band was coming through town last Friday, I decided to go. Man, I'm so glad I went because I had a great time watching this band play a satisfying mix of sludgy metal mixed with friendly melodies and hot licks. Here's some live footage from the show for proof (I was standing right next to the cameraman, by the way). I was very happy to find out that the band's live sound translates to record, and Meanderthal is highly recommended by me.

At the Gates, Slaughter of the Soul
I have heard great, life-altering praises of this record since it was released back in 1996. Plenty of metal bands I like have name-checked this band and album. I finally got around to hearing Slaughter of the Soul this year, and now I understand why this record was so ahead of its time in 1996. Definitely something to speed-headbang your head to, and something to marvel at even though so many bands have copied their sound.

Band of Horses, Cease to Begin
Chris suggested I check out this record after he read my 2007 list. I must say I like this record more than their debut. There's something so incredible about this band: their songs are very simple and easy to play, but they have so much conviction and passion in them. "Is There a Ghost?" is one of those songs I love to air-drum to, at any time of day or night.

The Dillinger Escape Plan, Ire Works
I loved this record when it came out last year. For some reason, I couldn't stop listening to it this year. Seeing them put on one of the best shows I saw this year only made me listen to the record even more.

Metallica, Death Magnetic
I can't help but get defensive when I see people write about how Metallica's previous album, St. Anger, was a "failure." My argument is, if the band had not made St. Anger, they wouldn't have made Death Magnetic. Moreover, to me, if the band had put out Death Magnetic in 1991 instead of the Black Album, they would have become a band not too far removed from Slayer or Pennywise. Meaning, a band who doesn't want to take any risks with their sound after finding their sound, thus making records that are only for the converted, hardcore fans. Metallica has taken plenty of risks throughout their career (before and after Master of Puppets, mind you), and Death Magnetic is an insanely awesome record.

Certain people have moaned about the sound quality of this record, saying it's distorted and poorly mixed. Well, as someone who has blasted this record out of his car since it came out in September (and still has his hearing), there's nothing wrong with the sound of this record. Now, if you try to listen to this on your iPod, there's plenty of distortion. But I argue this is not a record to listen to on an iPod. It deserves to be heard loud on CD or vinyl.

Journey, Revelation
I'm firmly aware that there are people (mostly men, aged ten to fifteen years older than me, who hated Journey with a passion back in 70s and 80s, and still hate Journey to this day) that will find my credibility as a rock music fan in doubt with this choice. Moreover, naming it one of my absolute favorites of the year may make people my age wonder if I'm making some sort of funny, ironic statement about a band who doesn't have the same singer from when they were massively popular. Plus, this band is clearly treading old waters again. Well, this ain't no joke: Journey's Revelation is something I've listened to over and over this year, and have enjoyed it without any shame or guilt.

For those still reading, I think the band was becoming too much of an adult contemporary act with Steve Perry in the band. As great as his voice and songwriting was, the band was becoming less of a rock band and more of, something not as rocking. Having Steve Augeri in the band, their records got a nice kick. With Arnel Pineda now fronting the band, Journey has reaped the rewards.

For those still reading, hearing songs like "Never Walk Away," "Faith in the Heartland," "Wildest Dream" remind me of why I like the band in the first place: songs that are melodic and strong and they make me feel uplifted. With a nice mix of slower ballads and a couple of so-so songs, Revelation isn't too long or too short. It's just right for me as a life-long Journey fan.

Lastly, here are some records that I refuse to call disappointments or failures, but records that left a lot to be desired.

My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges
I'm very, very hesitant to group this record here instead of elsewhere, but I'm still going to say this. Evil Urges is not -- I repeat, not -- a bad record. Save for the second and third tracks, this record is the logical follow-up to Z. Pretty much all of the other songs are special, but the dry production kind of takes their magic away. They sounded great live and fit in very well with the band's older material.

Ben Folds, Way to Normal
I am not one of those people who completely abandons an artist I've loved for years because they made an album I didn't embrace and enjoy as much as their older records. That said, Way to Normal is not essential Ben Folds. There are some decent, enjoyable songs, but the prevailing bitterness and anger dressed up in Ben's style of tuneful piano rock bogs this record down.

The Secret Machines, The Secret Machines
I really, really enjoyed the band's previous album, Ten Silver Drops. I think the only thing that holds this record back from being on par with their older material is the absence of guitarist/singer Ben Curtis. It's just not the same band without him, even though they come close.

Parts and Labor, Receivers
The first two songs on here are great. After that, the shift in the band's lineup is what I blame for why I couldn't get into this record. The absence of powerhouse drummer Christopher Weingarten is very obvious. He was such a major part of the band's sound and style, and while I commend the band for branching out as a four-piece with a different drummer, it's not as grabbing to me. I don't know how long the band could have gone in the vein of Stay Afraid and Mapmaker without things getting stale, but still.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Core Principle of Our Metareality, and/or Pat Riley's Head

Donna recently had the pleasure of Chuck Klosterman visiting her university for an appearance. Yesterday she wrote a few things about Klosterman and I was reminded of why I like his writing. (I know I've written about him before, but I simply wanted to reiterate a few things.)

I blame my slow reading habits as to why my copies of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Killing Yourself to Live, and IV have sat on my "to-read" shelf for months. I will get to them eventually, but for now, all I really know of Klosterman's work are his articles in Spin and Esquire, and especially his first nonfiction book, Fargo Rock City. Fargo Rock City really inspired me in tackling a subject matter in a serious manner, knowing full well that it is often ridiculed by a lot of people. His personal take on hair metal goes beyond the surface of hair metal itself. In short, his experience as a hair metal fan was the gateway to deeper things.

In reading his stuff, I realized how I can use what I like in life to try and reach a deeper level thought of life itself. If DVD commentary tracks, books on rock bands, and playing in rock bands point me towards something that a book of Socrates's philosophy can't, so be it. I don't listen to commentary tracks to hear how genius and brilliant a director of photography or set designer is. I don't read books on rock bands to get dirt on a band. And I don't play drums to look cool. These are simply some of the things I like and see no reason to jettison them because someone else disapproves.

So if you're looking for a source in what inspires me, a lot of it goes back to Klosterman, among many others, and they are not all writers. I'm talking directors like Jim Henson, Kevin Smith, Peter Jackson, and Mary Harron. And that's something I have no apologies with.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's not a habit, it's cool, I feel alive.

I think I spend too much time on the Internet. I think most of us spend too much time on the Internet. But I wonder if this is an addiction or just a necessary way of modern life. Furthermore, can something like this be considered an addiction?

I believe I spend roughly seventy hours a week online. It's a staggering amount of hours, and it doesn't seem like such a big deal. I like checking my e-mail regularly and surfing the web, and a portion of my job requires being on the Internet. Is it a crime to be up to date on everything sent to me virtually? I don't think so. So, what gives?

Maybe addiction is really only a problem until it starts to affect how you interact (or don't interact) with people. For example, there have been a few Dr. Phil segments on married men addicted to watching Internet porn, treating the topic as a problem. Men choosing to look at naked women online more than their wives naked? Then that's a problem. Men checking the score of a college football game every two minutes on their BlackBerry? Not seen as a problem.

Maybe addiction is really only a problem when there are physical side effects, like with drinking too much alcohol, smoking cigarettes, or taking hard drugs. I don't know, but I know there's plenty of life out there and life's too short to spend it all surfing the web.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Goodbye 20th Century

I recently finished David Browne's superb biography of Sonic Youth, Goodbye 20th Century, and was quite amazed by how many people Browne interviewed for it. To me, it's a matter of the people he didn't get to interview for it (which, I gathered, was a really short list). In other words, he interviewed pretty much everybody who's still alive first-hand, including ex-members, friends, record label people, and roadies, as well as the band members themselves. As a result, I found the book to be a really well-rounded view of a band I've always wanted to know more about.

Throughout reading it, I was reminded of how hard it can be to interview that many people. I'm not talking just about the interviews themselves. Getting somebody on the phone or e-mail was quite a chore in quite a few cases while I was researching Post. I made every effort to interview everybody I wanted to, but I didn't get everybody, unfortunately.

I'm proud to say I did interview at least one band member from every band I featured in a chapter. In some cases, with Jawbox, Braid, and Hot Water Music, I interviewed all of the members. It felt good to have access to all of these guys' thoughts and opinions, allowing me to draw from my own interviews and less from other people's interviews.

I was only turned down by a couple of people. One of the many ex-members of At the Drive-In politely turned down an interview with me. Guy Picciotto politely declined as well. Then there were the unreturned messages, where I put two and two together after a while that I should stop trying to reach them. My attempts to reach Cedric and Omar from At the Drive-In resulted in unreturned e-mails from their publicist and manager. Numerous attempts to get James Dewees on the phone did not follow through. And lastly, my e-mails to Blake Schwarzenbach were not responded to.

In the case of Blake, when I read this lengthy interview with him in 2005, he seemed to spell everything out:
NR- You have obviously dropped off the scene for a while, are the militant fans trying to get to the bottom of things via correspondence?
BS- Periodically someone will write to ask me something.

NR- And can they count on you to respond?
BS- No. Where I feel like I can help I do, where I can’t, often I don’t because I’ve kind of parted myself from the indie scene.

NR- Oh wow, why did you do that?
BS- I’ve found we have divergent ideologies.

Maybe I mis-read this, but I thought I had received my answer to why he wouldn't respond to me. So, I did the best I could tying together my interviews with Chris and Adam for the Jawbreaker chapter, coupled with the many, many interviews with Blake I found online. Part of the whole thing about the book was restoring the context of the day, and part of that had to include quotes from interviews.

I'm happy to see Blake is in a new band, the Thorns of Life, and am quite impressed by what I've seen from their show last week. Plus, I'm glad that Blake was interviewed for this long in-development documentary on Jawbreaker. So hopefully those will fill in gaps that wasn't able to cover in my book.

All I'm saying, not every book can cover everything about a band, even the ones with multiple years of research into them. While I was quite satisfied with Goodbye 20th Century, there's probably somebody out there complaining that there isn't enough of this or that. Whatever, I say. No book can really be the end-all, be-all, final word. That's why it's great there are books out there, and people want to write them, and others want to read them.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The calls are coming inside the house

In an effort to have better ammunition for an argument, I decided to do some research into the world of modern horror movie remakes. After recently watching Zack Snyder's decent take on Dawn of the Dead, I decided to check out Glen Morgan's take on Black Christmas. All I can do is groan and roll my eyes after seeing this flick. But I'm glad I watched it for several reasons.

Bob Clark's 1974 original has become one of my favorite horror flicks, right up there with the original Halloween. My review basically states all the things I dig about the film, but I'd also add that the scares, pacing, and (especially) the visual style are what make this a great film. In regards to the 2006 remake, the visual style is quite good (especially with all the Christmas lights), but that's about all I can praise about this film.

I have a long list of complaints about the remake, but I'll just share a few for right now. My big complaint is with the "protagonists" (aka, the women being stalked by Billy). Making most of the women bratty, cardboard sorority girls loses my sympathy vote. Unlike the well-rounded, non-stereotypical women in the original, seeing these women get offed one by one was like watching a skilled marksmen at a carnival shooting booth. I knew all the targets would be hit, it was just a matter of when and how.

Also, after watching the original only a couple of days before watching the remake, I found the abundance of backstory a problem in the remake. To me, all the backstory you really need is mentioned in the obscene phonecalls in the original. But no, we have to be told everything in the remake in hopes we understand why Billy is the way he is. Is it such a crime to have enough information to where we can come to our own conclusions?

The point is, I'm glad I watched the remake. I think you can learn a lot from a great movie about how to make something effective. But I also think you can learn a lot from a bad movie about what not to do. It's not like I intentionally watch bad movies. It's not like I'm forced to watch bad movies. If there's enough of a curiosity factor, even if the film has received mostly bad reviews and bad word of mouth, I'll get around to seeing it. Now I'm not one to dance on the failures of others so I don't feel so bad about my own. I just want a better understanding of what I want and what I don't want.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Is There a Way Out

In Post, there's a good reason why I excluded quotes about bands never getting back together. Those quotes never look good when a band does get back together. It's one thing for band members to say in articles that the band will never reunite. It's another thing when a statement of that magnitude is said in something like a book or documentary.

There was only one band member I interviewed who said his old band will never get back together. I'm not saying who it was or which band it was, but I will say this, it wasn't a member of the Get Up Kids. With their reunion show on Sunday, I'm very thankful none of them said a reunion would never happen.

Maybe I'm comparing apples to grapes here, but I came of age when super-popular bands, who swore off all possible reunions for years, reunited. I remember the Eagles' Hell Freezes Over concert, album, and tour all very well. I remember the Pixies and Pink Floyd (with Roger Waters) reunions. Basically, all those ugly statements made in the press became null and void (or just made light of) when the reunion occurred.

If anything, I've learned that almost any band can reunite. And it doesn't matter if all of the members are still alive or not. The nature of reunions is still a mystery to me. All I can say is, you can never really say never to almost anything.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

For Me This is Heaven

Reading over Scott's post on Jimmy Eat World's upcoming live performances of Clarity, I got to thinking. First of all, this is a great idea for the band. When I saw them open for the Foo Fighters earlier this year, I was surprised they played "Blister." Since they have done three albums since Clarity, I figured set lists were becoming less on material from their second and third albums. (As an amusing side note, I'm curious if they'd ever try to play their first album, a turbo-charged pop-punk collection, front to back live.)

As somebody who was very much a Jimmy Eat World fan back when Clarity came out, I'm very happy that these shows are happening. If they came anywhere close to where I live, I'd try to see the show. The response to Clarity was not like Jawbreaker's Dear You was received. It was not almost-universally-hated when it came out in early 1999. Quite different. There was something very special about this record that, aside from a few tracks, sounded quite different from their previous record, Static Prevails. Clarity is still my favorite Jimmy Eat World record, closely followed by Static Prevails. Heck, there was a time when that record was my favorite record of all time. That has since changed, but not drastically.

I'm not making light of the band's popularity with 2001's Bleed American. It's just Clarity hit me at the right time and right place in my life, and simply, that time has passed. I wanted to honor that time in the Jimmy Eat World chapter in POST. Rather than dance around why the band was so hot in 2002, I chose to spotlight how their levelheaded, humble nature kept them from becoming another rock 'n' roll casualty.

So, major kudos to the band for this.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


For some reason, whenever we hear stories of people's lives drastically changing once their first book, film, or record is released, we think everybody's life drastically changes when that happens. Well, for most of us, there are plenty of moments of pure joy mixed in with the day-to-day activities of life that were there before the release date. And that's perfectly fine by me.

Maybe it's reading a book like Rebel Without a Crew (especially the part where Robert is in the middle of a bidding war between large studios) or hearing how Kevin Smith's life changed after Clerks, there's this sense that the proverbial snowball effect either happens completely or not at all. Well, the maybe not-as-entertaining story involves a lot of downtime with some great highs and great lows. I know this all too well.

In my case with Post, the phone hasn't been constantly ringing. Editors at large publishing houses haven't been chasing me or my agent down with offers for a re-release. I still have a regular day job that I enjoy. I'm not living the high life, partying every night with all sorts of new "friends." Basically, it's like how my life has been for the past year. I still have plenty of free time and spend most of it online, reading books, hanging out with friends, working out, and watching DVDs. That said, I am very happy with how the book has come out, how people have responded to it, and how new people hear about it every week. So coupled with all those things that I was already doing, there's a sense of relief that the book's out there.

Make no mistake, on the day my copies of Post arrived, I got to live my own George McFly moment at the end of Back to the Future when his first novel came in the mail. It felt great and euphoric, to say the least. Since then, I've received some nice feedback from people who have read the book or who are just excited about the concept of the book. Recognition here and there is a very motivating factor to keep promoting.

Maybe the way I tell my story doesn't make for a compelling underdog, David-and-Goliath kind of story. That's OK by me. I find happiness in just doing something creative with my free time instead of squandering it and wondering where all the time went.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Clocked In

Another crazy thought that enters my head after hours upon hours of thinking: what if all books were intended to be read, start to finish, in the same amount of time most movies run? Meaning, what if you had only ninety minutes or two or three hours to read an entire book?

If that were to be the case, I would read way more books in my lifetime. But it's not how it is. It takes me at least two weeks to read an entire book, averaging four to ten pages on a regular day, twenty to thirty on a not-so regular day. And this is with plenty of free time on my hands. So I'm amazed when I read friends' blogs about reading entire books in under a week. How is this possible, and I am a super-slow reader?

I've touched on this subject before, but what takes so long for me is reading every single sentence. What I read has to resonate with me. It's hard to understand what's going on without knowing that.

So I wonder: how can I spend one ninety-minute sitting watching a documentary while it can take weeks to read a book on the same subject? I fully understand there's different action with watching a movie and reading a book, but I would find things tragic if all books were meant to be consumed like a complete film.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Plug time

-Here's a little plug for my author page on GoodReads. I must applaud the site for allowing the actual authors to maintain their own pages. Why? A certain, widely-read site thinks it's a conflict of interest for this kind of ownership, and bans anyone who tries to maintain their own page. Don't you just love the game of Telephone the Internet can be?

-Looks like Brian's book will be coming out next spring on Revelation, with a really big release show planned in Chicago.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Be Your Own Publicist

Time for some more advice to those thinking about writing a book, inspired by Robert Rodriguez's "ten minute film school" featurettes.

Yesterday I found out that I saved quite a bit of money by not hiring a publicist to promote Post. How much? Well, based on what my publisher quoted, it would have been equivalent of buying two 42-inch flat-screen TVs or a quarter of the price to buy a brand new car. Now, I'm well aware that many other publicists charge far, far less, but a general rule of thumb became abundantly clear: use your own contacts and go from there.

Long before the book came out, I envisioned giving the book out to people who would want to read it right away. I knew I couldn't afford to give away a lot of copies, so I had to really narrow my list down. I was fortunate enough (and quite flattered) to have a number of people buy a copy right as it came out, so that helped narrow the list down even more.

My prevailing hope with sending out these copies was that, above all else, the people would read the book. Make no mistake, press is nice, but it sure means a hell of a lot more to me when somebody actually reads my book and responds to it (good, bad, and everything in between). If people tell more people about the book because they genuinely like the book, I believe you're doing just fine. The reason why? Nothing kills something crappy faster than great advertising.

Also, when you're sending out notifications, keep in mind who you're sending these out to. If you can personalize your messages, even better. Why I say this is because I'm someone who receives e-mails almost everyday from publicists, band members, and record label owners. Because I do a blog, I'm in a position where I can give some attention to something. Not a huge amount of attention, but some. But, given the nature of what I choose to cover on this blog, I often wonder if these people actually read my blog. I rarely talk about new bands, post MP3s, or video clips. So why are they sending me poop about some new remix or a band doing an East Coast tour? Because I blog, that's the small price I pay. But it's not a horrible thing because I usually just delete those e-mails.

Maybe this whole attitude comes from being in a band that worked tirelessly to promote themselves, I don't really know. All I know is, if you take your work seriously and don't treat your potential audience as a herd of wandering sheep, you can find success in promoting yourself by yourself.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Big Takeover

The commentary track is done, and hopefully will be online soon. Until then, I thought I'd share this nice review that will appear in the next issue of The Big Takeover.

Eric Grubbs

James Mann

In tracing the evolution of the “post-hardcore” scene, Eric Grubbs has done a vital and laudable job at shining a light on the leaders of a genre that hasn’t seen a lot of critical inspection, despite its growing influence. Nirvana’s “Nevermind” acts as ground zero for the bands depicted here- from Hot Water Music to Jawbox, Fugazi and Dischord Records, but where they went from there is an arresting tale, well told. Grubbs discovers the personalities behind the faces, such as his compelling look at Sunny Day Real Estate, or the Promise Ring. While stylistically divergent, all the bands spotlighted here share the same sense of experimentation within musical forms, and a dedication to the emotional honesty that true creation demands of an artist. So does Eric Grubbs- and it shows. Recommended.

Also, there's a nice little plug for the book on Decider, along with some very cool news about Brian's book release show next spring.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

When Crazy Ideas Aren't Crazy At All

Every once in a while, some idea hits me and I think I'd be stupid not to follow-through with it. In regards to the proposed book commentary track, as much as I appreciated the feedback from people saying it was good idea, I pretty much decided to do it whether or not anyone said anything. If anything, even the worst naysayer wouldn't have stopped me from doing this.

The deal is, I don't often think this way. It's just sometimes I come up with something that I think it very doable and plausible and I should not pass it up. Better to risk and see what happens rather than to not do anything and only wonder, right?

In the case of the commentary, I know where and how I can record this, I have a good idea about what I want to talk about, and I have a pretty good feeling about being able to get this whole thing out there. Usually if there's any serious doubt that pops up, the idea stalls on the tracks.

Maybe this is some TM by way of David Lynch and Wayne Coyne talking here, but a part of me wishes I had this gung-ho attitude a bit more in my everyday life. Somehow I'm think it's starting to seep into other parts of my life, given the fact of recent events which I shall remain mum on until it's safe to say openly.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

When Crazy Ideas Attack

A temporary Internet outage a few hours ago somehow inspired me to come up with this seemingly not-so crazy idea. Since I like listening to DVD commentary tracks, and find them very inspiring and helpful, what if I did a pseudo-audio commentary for the chapters of POST?

What I have in mind is recording eleven relatively short (5-10 minutes at most) clips and post them on a site. Each clip will be devoted to a chapter, discussing the process and whatever stories I'd like to share about writing and researching the chapter. I have plenty to share that I haven't shared on this here blog, so I don't think I'll be at a loss of words.

I have the means to record and produce the tracks already at my disposal. Now I'm just wondering how many people would actually like to hear these tracks. Feel free and leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Plot Does Matter

In Bruce Campbell's book If Chins Could Kill, one picture shows him wearing a T-shirt that spoofs the Godzilla ad campaign of "Size Does Matter" with "Plot Does Matter." Knowing I will probably catch heat for saying this, I must say that the plot is the reason why I paid good money to see Saw V in the theater this weekend.

Reading Nathan's review of the film the day before, I wasn't swayed. Based on what he wrote, I figured if you hated the previous Saw sequels, you were going to hate this one as well. The same went if you loved the sequels. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit and thought the entire series could end with this film. (Not so, Saw VI, the apparently final film is already in the works.)

All the earmarks that have made the series a bankable box office and DVD franchise are there. I still don't enjoy watching torture or excessive gore, but since I know it's actors with makeup and CGI, I'm able to suspend belief and not be weirded out. And knowing that, I came to this realization: a horror film franchise like this would have never happened in the 80s or even the 90s.

Maybe we can thank (or blame) plot-intensive shows like LOST and CSI for this, but it's very safe to say you can't watch and fully understand what's going on in Saw V without seeing the previous four films. There are so many characters, set-ups, and backstories at this point. This, as opposed to the Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween (except for the first two), Friday the 13th or Sleepaway Camp series. In other words, I'm compelled by the overall plot of the series to see each new one.

Maybe the rose-colored glasses are creeping up on my eyes, but basically what I gather with the mindset of splatter franchises in the 80s was this: the plot is irrelevant because all you need are the same earmarks that made Halloween and Friday the 13th box office hits. But there's a reason why the original Halloween and Black Christmas still hold up and so many of their imitators don't (and also why Student Bodies is still a genius film): there's actually more to the story than just scares, gore, and nudity.

That's why I say, with a slight defensive tone, that the same applies to the Saw films. Groan all you want about the so-called "torture porn" aspect, but to me, these films are more gory noir films with a twisted moral logic than just brainless splatter flicks.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

And in June reformed without me

The recent Ben Folds Five reunion, where they played The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner in its entirety, is now online. Definitely something worth checking out. Don't know much about these guys? Read my guide to them, along with Ben Folds solo material up to Songs for Silverman.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Five years later

Five years ago today, we heard that Elliott Smith passed away. Now, I'm not one to celebrate an artist's death or birth, but I think it's worth mentioning today. Norman did a great post on his site yesterday. As far as my feelings on the matter, I point to that Complete Idiot's Guide piece that I did on Elliott's music for

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The "So What?"

Part of my constructive (or sometimes, destructive) self-talk about committing to a major project involves a question of, "So what?" I once heard Simon Cowell say those words to a finalist on American Idol, and I've always thought he's got a valid point. Why should somebody read this book? Who do you imagine reading this, outside of your friends and family? Why should anyone care?

This isn't a call to bend over backwards and please everyone. Far from it. But it's a question of understanding why you're doing what you're doing and why you want it out there.

In the case of the second book, knowing full well that any accolades I received for Post could be zapped (or not) because of how people respond to it, I think there's a lot of value in this risk. No matter how maligned the sophomore effort may be received (or not), I think people should do a sophomore effort if they believe in their heart and mind that there should be a sophomore effort.

With When We Were the Kids, I see tremendous value in looking at the relationships between people who play in bands. There are enough books out there about teenage relationships, but none that I've seen really capture what it's like to play in a garage band as a teenager. Moreover, the kind of experience that I, along with plenty of other people I've met, have had.

Plus, I want to present a story about playing music that has nothing to do with receiving Gold or Platinum records, playing sold-out shows, or making millions of dollars. We have plenty of stories that cover the spoils and tragedies of those feats. So, how's about a more universal story where playing in a band is more of the foundation rather than the walls, windows, and doors?

This is where my head is, even though I have maybe twenty pages of material written so far. I guess this asking of "So what?" is close to what my mother had placed at her computer as she wrote her dissertation. More proof that I'm definitely my parents' son.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Book #2

Looks like this week will be the week I start back to work on Book #2. To recap, here's a rundown.

--Though it's a fictional book, it's heavily based on real life experiences of playing in bands. Specifically, high school garage bands. So, there will be no passages about seeing naked grandmothers, being chased by mind-reading zombies, or meeting people online while living in New York.

--It will be told like an oral history. No, this isn't about dentist visits, Oral Roberts, or stories about Deep Throat. Nope, it's just all quotes from various characters. Look at books like Fool the World, Please Kill Me, and We Got the Neutron Bomb for examples. Except those are nonfiction oral histories. Max Brooks's World War Z is a fictional oral history. But again, no zombies in my book.

--The tentative title is When We Were the Kids. The title is also the title of a song by this now-defunct band. I liked the song title, "When We Were the Kids," even though the lyrics are a little different than the book I have in mind.

--No release date or even a projected finish time. When it's ready, I'll let everybody know on this blog.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cover design

Part of the whole idea of "make a book I'd want to read" was designing the cover of Post. I knew I wanted to use that picture I had taken of Red Animal War (at the show that pretty much changed my life) in some way, so I started there. Using Word -- yes, Word -- I laid things out, including the entire pic, which not only features Justin playing live, but also Jeff and Jaime. Nick suggested I crop the other guys out to focus on the shot of Justin screaming his head off away from the microphone.

Coupled with the advice from Nick's partner in Mission Label at the time, the title itself was in a different color than the rest of the artwork. Since hunter green is my favorite, I just went with it. It's an odd coincidence that the picture of Red Animal War was at a place called Green Means Go! Since I realized that, the phrase "green means go" has meant a lot of other things to me.

Where I placed all the lettering of the book was intentionally to the right. This book is about post- things, so why in the world would I want to put the lettering on the left or center of the cover?

I haven't received a lot of feedback from people about the cover, but one of the few that has said something really flattering. It came from a friend of mine who is music junkie (in the best of ways) and loves album artwork. Not only with albums, but especially with singles artwork. Then I got to thinking; I subconsciously designed the cover in the vein of what a lot of Jade Tree releases looked like (especially the Promise Ring's).

So, if you dig what you see, it's all me. If you hate what you see, blame me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I'm somewhere in between

Being a regular reader of Modern Drummer from 1994 until 2000, I often heard about drummers playing along to the dreaded click track. Essentially a glorified metronome, it was sometimes the reason why a drummer was replaced in the studio with an ace drummer-for-hire. As in, it didn't matter if all of the band members sucked at playing their instruments; if the drummer couldn't pull things off according to the producer, he or she's out of there, or worse, out of the band.

On top of this, the click track was to blame for why a song sounded so non-energetic in the studio compared to how the band played it live. Usually the tempo was slowed down so that everything sounded "right." I've thought otherwise.

Given how long I've played drums in bands, the amount of time I've spent recording songs is far, far less. I've recorded a few four-track stuff where I played all of the instruments myself. When it came to band stuff, it was usually recording everything live in the room. The amount of time I've spent with digital recording has been few and far between, and sometimes fun and sometimes aggravating. Nothing's more frustrating while recording when you think you've got a keeper and realize the software froze up.

So this past Saturday, following my appearance on the Good Show, I recorded drum tracks for my friend (and former bandmate) David. He's been working on a record for a while at his house, playing all of the instruments himself. He asked me to play on four songs that he had laid some temporary tracks down. The recording went really, really well; we got through all four songs in about three hours. And I had to play to a click track the entire time.

But I found the click to be a real life-saver. It's easy for me rush whenever I do fills, so the pulsating beat in my headphones kept me on track. And there was no pressure; it was just a fun afternoon spent hanging out.

I think it's very safe to say that my life as a drummer is perfectly happy with this kind of schedule and vibe. Ashburne Glen is still active, but I'm not lugging my equipment around everywhere for practice. There are no late nights when I'm playing a show and then getting a few hours of sleep before the 4am wake-up. Frankly, I find playing drums as a pure fun, but still serious, hobby way more freeing than playing in a situation where there's a desire to become a big band in town.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I want to play a game

For several reasons, I had never gotten around to checking out any of the Saw movies. I knew what they were about, and I heard plenty of groans of displeasure from people with each new installment. I knew full well they'd be heavy on gore and non-plausibility with each consecutive film. But still, I wanted to check them out, mainly because I see copies of each film (filled with multiple commentary tracks and featurettes) everywhere I go for a really inexpensive price. Besides, since I like horror movies, why not brush up on a modern day horror franchise that doesn't involve remaking classic horror movies or rehashing the Halloween formula?

I am not someone who enjoys watching people get tortured. I'm not one of those dudes who will be in a screening of Hostel and cheer uncontrollably when the protagonists lose limbs or worse, their life. No, I'm somebody who likes horror movies because I can face my fears in a situation where I'm in the safety of my home, watching movies that are not meant for authentic reality. If anything, documentaries like Jonestown: The Life and Death of the Peoples Temple and Paradise Lost 2 are far more scarier to me. But I do like a good scare, and I appreciate it when a director or writer strives to say something beyond blood, guts, and jumps.

Moreover, I like the kinds of horror movies that aim for something deeper than horny teenagers getting hacked off one by one. I'm kind of curious to watch them, whether it's a cult classic, a new film, or some lost film that maybe only Keith or Richard has heard of. And no, I'm not some disturbed person living on the fringes of life who can't feel any feeling other than pain. I just like to see all kinds of movies, even the disturbing ones. (And yes, I am still a person who lists The Muppet Movie, American Graffiti, and Star Wars as some of my favorite films of all time.)

I've had a curiosity about the Saw franchise for a while, mainly because they keep making sequels after the third film, in which the main villain dies at the very end. Plus, after watching the first three films, I liked how the filmmakers tied the movies together with various character references, settings, and themes. But after watching the third film, I started to wonder if the audience was a part of a game where they want to see more films, but they don't get any relief with each one.

For me, the acting's decent enough (some great performances mixed in with some really unconvincing performances here and there) and the overall plot is intriguing (a villain who's dying of cancer who tries to make his victims change their attitude towards life), but I can't help but feel like I've been sucked into something like a Jigsaw game. At least I'll still have my limbs intact once I finish watching the proposed fifth (yes, fifth) Saw sequel.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Because not knowing how to cook . . .

As I've said before, how Robert Rodriguez explains his process of making films is inspiring to me. Even though I'm not tempted to make a movie, he's a message of "green means go!" to whatever you want to do. So it's not just with writing another book for me; it's now translating into cooking.

Since I cook for myself, I tend to take the really easy path: heat up something in the oven between fifteen and forty minutes. I get frustrated really easily with trying new things, but every once in a while I come across something where I believe I could possibly do. (I'm well aware that's something that goes beyond the kitchen, but in order to stay on track, let's stay in the kitchen mindset.)

Recently, I checked out the "10-minute Cooking School" featurette on the Sin City double-disc DVD set. The dish this time: breakfast tacos made from scratch. The first thing he recommends is making your own tortillas. Since he has a very simple recipe (and good reason to not eat the store-bought, rubbery kind of tortillas), I was tempted to try this myself.

Though I plan on using different kinds of filling for the tacos (salsa and turkey bacon, along with scrambled eggs), the inspiration is in place. But the devil's advocate in me wonders why I shouldn't just buy some ready-made breakfast tacos from the store or a fast food place. Or better yet, hit up the excellent, locally-owned taco place around the corner from my house. Because I have the desire to try something that I might horribly fail at and not feel like a total loser if I do.

So far, my attempts to cook things have not rendered a sense of strong disappointment to the people I've served my food to. There are no moans or groans of severe displeasure. There are no, "You should never do that" statements. Nope, it's just me and my attempts to do something. And for me, as long as people don't vomit or get sick because of my cooking, then I think I should stick to trying new things in the cooking department. When that attitude will transfer into other departments, that's left to be seen.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Today marks the day that I've done this blog for four years. Though I originally started the blog to track the progress of Post, I found a lot of other things to talk about. Here's a list of some things I'm thinking about expanding upon in the next week:

--Volunteering to babysit is not a bad idea.
--I'm curious if the makers of the Saw franchise think they're playing a game with the audience. You know, one that is not that far removed from Jigsaw's games.
--The click track is not an evil thing when laying down drum parts.
--Making homemade breakfast tacos from scratch does not seem that hard.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Good Show

Barring any sports pre-emption, I'll be on the Good Show tomorrow morning promoting the book. You can listen live here, and I have no idea exactly when I'll be on between 9am and noon. A podcast of the show should be available sometime next week.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Book notes

I'm quite honored to have Post featured on Largehearted Boy's Book Notes series. Here's the link. It's an essay discussing some of the integral moments for me before I decided to write the book.

Also, looks like there's another book in the works on 90s post-hardcore. There are some similarities to my book and Brian's book as far as bands covered, but it looks to be a pretty promising book on plenty of other great bands.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Now, for my next trick

I can't think off the top of my head exactly why this idea sounds bad, but something doesn't sound right at first. The idea: somebody writes a nonfiction book and decides his or hers next book will be fiction. Maybe it just seems like the writer thinks he or she can write anything and people will read it. Depending on the person, that can seem like a really egotistical, bad idea.

All this said, I'm still planning on going ahead with writing another book, and it's going to fiction. But I have a lot of reasons why I'm doing it this way.

I don't read a lot of fiction. Only six of the books on my "to read from scratch or never finished" shelf are fiction. Two are by Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho and Lunar Park), one is by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity), one is by Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club), one is by Stephen King (Cell), and one is by Max Brooks (The Zombie Survival Guide). Those, coupled with a handful of graphic novels/trade paperbacks, are greatly outnumbered by the number of nonfiction titles in my ever-growing library. Of course, all of my small library is vastly outnumbered by the number of books (fiction and nonfiction) my housemate has in almost every room of our house.

I just find myself attracted to reading more straightforward, nonfiction material. All the times I found myself frustrated in school reading The Lord of the Flies, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Patriot Games and wondering when the plot was going to really move forward and stop dancing in circles are probably my excuses. I loved the Harry Potter books, but aside from reading Fahrenheit 451, the amount of fiction I've read and really enjoyed in the last five years has been small.

So, I find a fun challenge in writing a fictional book that I would want to read and enjoy. It's definitely not easy, but I want to do it. I know the structure that I want to do it in, and I'm well aware it hasn't been done very much by other writers. There will not be page after page of a character's internal monologue about something that has been brought up already. There is a big story to be told, and it will have a lot of talking, but it will hopefully get to the point.

If Our Band Could Be Your Life, Fargo Rock City, and Wilco: Learning How to Die were the main literary influences on Post, I think it's safe to say that this second book will have completely different influences. Off the top of my head, books like Fool the World: The Oral History of a Band Called Pixies and The Other Hollywood are some of the big ones, along with movies like American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused, are really steering me in the direction of what I want to do.

I've been jotting down notes and writing a little here and there on this book for well over a year. My plan is to start up full steam the first day it gets cold here in Dallas. In other words, that could be by the end of this month. You've been forewarned.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Time takes time, you know

Since last week, I've given a number of spins to the majority of Ben Folds's third proper solo album, Way to Normal. Reading Jeff's post about his thoughts on the record, I'm finding myself in a bit of a pickle.

Longtime readers are probably aware of my fandom of Ben's work with Ben Folds Five and solo, so I'm a little torn with saying what I really think of Way to Normal and reflecting on previous Ben releases that didn't immediately grab me.

Right now, I can't say I'd go beyond the Sound Opinions rating scale of "Burn It" for Way to Normal. Something seems a bit off in the sense that the record is mostly whimsical and bitter at the same time. I dig tracks like "Brainwascht," "Hiroshima," and "You Don't Know Me," but I'm not getting much mileage out of them, or really any of the other tracks.

But before I go into a ritual I find strange and bizarre with some critics who get paid to spout their opinions, I want to come back to this record and let it grow on me. No, I'm not going to renounce my love for Ben's work ever since I heard Whatever and Ever Amen back in 1997. No, I'm not going to pull out the daggers and stick them into my nitpicks of the album. I guess since I'm not the hardest person in the room to be convinced and am usually reluctant to make bold, solid stance on opinions that are subject to change, the jury's out for me.

I remember when The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner came out. I was not really blown away by the record, given its rather dour tone, even on its most upbeat songs. I remember originally thinking Rockin' the Suburbs seemed like a simple retread of Ben Folds Five's best material. Both records spent plenty of time with me, and I grew to like them more over time. I'm just unsure how much more time I want to commit to Way to Normal.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A word of thanks

Thanks a plenty to everyone who's bought a copy of Post. I don't have exact sales figures, but I know it is selling well. Selling a lot of copies was not the intent when I decided to write it, but I did want people beyond my friends and family to read it. More coverage is coming in the next few weeks, and regular blogging will hopefully return next week.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Now available in physical form

The day has finally come: you can purchase POST: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007. Here are the links:


Amazon U.K.

Barnes & Noble


Books A Million

Borders U.K.

Powell's Books



If you're interested in carrying the book in your store, click here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Good in Everyone

With power pop fans, I've often found this kind of grouping. If you like Teenage Fanclub, you also like the Posies, along with Matthew Sweet, Jellyfish, and Fountains of Wayne, to name a few. Another one is Sloan, a band that, for some reason, has only now clicked completely in for me.

Other than the enjoyment of One Chord to Another's "The Good in Everyone" and Never Hear the End of It's "Right of Wrong," I had yet to find the band's material worth checking out. Something rubbed me the wrong way when I listened to the A Sides Win singles compilation, and felt unmoved by my first listen to Never Hear the End of It. I thought I was supposed to like these guys since I liked all of their sonic power pop brethren. Where was the disconnect?

I'm still not sure, but a light came on in my head right before I headed over to Ryan's place yesterday. I believed he had all of the band's material in his iTunes, so I loaded up on blank CD-Rs. When I left, I had copies of Smeared, Twice Removed, One Chord to Another (coupled with the Recorded Live at a Sloan Party bonus album), Between the Bridges, Navy Blues, Action Pact, and the 4 Nights at the Palais Royale double-disc live album. And I still have a few more to listen to. But I want it all because Sloan is that good and that prolific.

Maybe I should thank Noel for the mention of the band in last week's Popless. Maybe I should thank the screensaver program on Ryan's computer that shows album covers from iTunes, and constantly seeing various Sloan covers come up. I don't know, but it's like forces converged and moved me to jump in the deep end. Now that I have plenty of material to wade through and an appetite for their material, this stuff is sinking in very well.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Type Slowly

It's not like it wasn't going to happen, but I wondered when this was coming out. Well, details on the double-disc reissue of Pavement's Brighten the Corners have finally surfaced. I'm glad that it's set to come out in a couple of months, and I don't mind essentially re-buying an album I already own.

Make no mistake, other than the Slanted and Enchanted reissue, the digital remastering was not why I got Matador's reissues. The extensive liner notes are nice, but the whopping amounts of extras have made every Pavement reissue worthwhile. Just having "Painted Soldiers" back on CD for the Wowee Zowee reissue was justifiable for me.

I must admit, I haven't gone through every single reissue track by track, but it's nice to have way more material to sort through. Heck, I'm excited just to finally hear "Westie Can Drum," a song I read about in Rolling Stone while they were making the album, and I think the song was called "Westy Can't Drum." (Yes, I know the song was released as a B-side, but I never got to dig very deep into the band's B-sides when they were back together.)

This is the way remaster/reissues should be done: take the time to release a lot of good extras instead of re-releasing an album a year after it first came out and tacking on some fluffy extras.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

That's Entertainment

At times in the last forty-eight hours, when I haven't wondered whether my parents have electricity again or felt woozie because of my Monday night food poisoning, I've thought about something Jason Heller wrote on From the Jam. Who's From the Jam? Well it's a band comprised of Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler, formerly of the Jam, with two other guys, playing songs by . . . the Jam. Whether or not to call this a tribute act, cover band, or just a bad idea is not really my call. What I've thought about is this comment I left:
I have no problem with Journey continuing without Steve Perry and Steve Smith. However, in the case of From the Jam, this is like Creedence Clearwater Revisited. Something about having the rhythm section from an iconic band with note-perfect hired hands replacing the still-alive-but-still-bitter-ex-members is a tad off.
The Creedence Clearwater Revisited, not Revival, reference is to the band that bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford formed in 1995 and continues to this day. Playing Revival favorites, the band did the right thing and did not bill themselves as Creedence Clearwater Revival. For whatever reasons John Fogerty refuses to play with Cook and Clifford, Creedence Clearwater Revisited is, as it was bluntly put to me once, "a cover band with CCR's rhythm section."

Now, the purist in me thinks that a band's day in the sun should remain when it was. On the other hand, it's not a bad thing to hear classic songs done live again. I can't fully slag former members of an iconic band who want to play those old songs again. But you can run the risk of tainting a great band's legacy that way, especially if this new lineup decides to record new material and release it. So far, I don't think CCR's or the Jam's legacy has been tarnished for me.

The notion that has made me wonder why I am willing to pay to hear the post-Steve Perry/Steve Smith version of Journey while I really have no interest in seeing From the Jam. I thought I'd break it down:

--Journey's current lineup features two original members, along with a longtime member when they were a blockbuster act in the 1980s. Their current drummer has been in the band for ten years, is as good as Steve Smith, and can sing his head off on top of that. Their newest member, the singer, can hit those tenor high notes with ease, and well, makes me believe.

--From the Jam features two original members of the trio. The iconic frontman/guitarist still plays Jam songs live, but just not with the Jam's rhythm section. The difference between Paul Weller and Steve Perry is wide, and I think that's a key distinction. I don't think anybody considered Steve Perry the voice of a generation back in the late 70s/early 80s.

--Journey has issued new material since the departure of Steve Perry and Steve Smith. To me, Arrival, Generations, and especially Revelation, all have worth because there are great songs on them. So, it's not like the band is just doing the hits that the fans want.

--From the Jam, as far as I know, only does songs from the band's original run.

So, that's where I stand. As much fun as From the Jam might be, there's something that seems less-than-enticing for me as a Jam fan. As cooler as it is to like the Jam and poo-poo on Journey, I hold both bands' material in high regard. Whether or not I'll pay to see the latest incarnation/permutation of them is another thing.

Monday, September 22, 2008

E-book details

If you don't want to wait for a physical copy of POST, or just prefer e-books, the e-book version is now available. A release date for the physical copy is any day now. Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

New Orleans in the fall

I'm not usually one to blog and just say, "download this, now!" but this is a major exception. Plus, it's not by some young, emerging artist that has yet to release a full album. So there will be no tremendous praise quickly followed by a large backlash in the next few months.

This week's edition of Popdose's Basement Songs features one of my favorite ballads by Tom Waits: "Kentucky Avenue." Scott's writeup on the song is pretty strong and very well-said. All I will add is that this song really touches me whenever I hear it. Even though none of the childhood stories Waits describes in the lyrics were nothing like what I experienced, I think about random scenes from my youth. The final line about "We'll slide all the way down the drain to New Orleans in the fall" especially resonates with me, being born in New Orleans and living there until I was eight years old.

Like Waits's other ballads, like "Tom Traubert's Blues" and "Ruby's Arms," there's something about how his ragged voice, the lonesome piano, and the swirling strings complement each other so well. It's the same combination that blew me away back in 2005 when I heard "Tom Traubert's Blues" for the first time. I never knew of this side to Tom Waits since I thought he just made loud, atonal blues. Hearing "Kentucky Avenue" for the first time a while later helped solidified my fandom of his stuff.