Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Portland Part One

12/30/08 - Tuesday

We walk into Burbank airport as the PA system plays "The Power of Love". I'm in a fog from last night's sleeping pill, which is actually good, because I'm too hazy to have a meltdown over travel chaos.

8:00AM - We're in flight, and the women two rows behind us won't shut up. Their kids aren't making a peep. These women have their amps on eleven, they sound like a copy of OK! magazine read aloud. They won't stop talking about Jacob, Bela, Kristen, and "New Moon" (I later learn that New Moon is one of the Twilight novels). They used the word "exactly" a lot. Is this the new trend speak? I thought the new trend speak was "You stay classy, fill in name here." We couldn't even hear the flight attendant's explanation about the oxygen masks and what not.

12:00PM - Corned beef reuben at Kenny and Zukes. Excellent.

1:00PM - shopping at Powell's books. The store is huge. Ursula buys a bunch of stuff. I decide to come back later to go on my shopping spree, buying a copy of Salem's Lot. I've read it before, but this time I want to break it down for analysis. I am made of fun.

3:00PM - stopped by Floating World Comics, one of a few shops I had hoped to visit. I picked up the new Mister X book, a copy of the Omega book by Jonathan Lethem, and The Caterer, which is kind of like Sealab 2020 after a judo chop from Bob Burden.

3:56PM - In the lobby of the Ace Hotel in Portland. We're only staying here for the night, but I could see booking another night at the end of the week; pretty cool digs. "Killing an Arab" is playing on their PA system. There is a photo booth in the lobby. Sitting diagonally from us on another couch is a guy who went to UMD with me. I can't remember his name, but I remember that he used to play ballad-y sort of songs on an acoustic guitar at the experimental stage nights where I used to read spoken word stuff. He still has a pony tail. He doesn't recognize me; I decide not to bother him.

6:30PM - Messed up going to see the Auteur at the Living Room theatre, grabbed some dinner at Clyde Common. Maybe a little too much beer...as you can tell by this choppy post.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Club Suicide at the Dragonfly



The Suicide Girls have been around for over seven years. Originally their success was due to a combination of a DIY work ethic with an alt-rock aesthetic. Nowadays alt-softcore is getting mashed up with burlesque and other ideas, and we get to enjoy the results. Case in point: Club Suicide.

The Club night is held on Saturdays at the Dragonfly. The club itself is not that unusual - a large stage with a dance floor surrounded by tables and multiple bars. Of course, the first thing I noticed were the Suicide Girls dancing on the go-go pedestals. They're actual members of the site, which makes things rather surreal. Next was the photo booth near the coat room, where people get in on the SG act, at least for a night.

The music driving the club is conducted by two DJs - Amanda Jones and Robert Lockerby, the current crop of synth-heavy bands on Indie103.1's heavy rotation. Occasionally they played something that sounds a little out of place - like the Strokes - but that's probably an attempt to make things more accessible to newcomers.

The crescendo of the evening is the Electric Hula-Hoop performance by Suicide Girl Xiolita. As the club pulsed to Peaches "Boys Wanna Be Her", she whirled her hoops until they practically strobed in the dark (psychotronic pics here). The spectacle was the ultimate in neon noir, bringing out everyone's inner Blade Runner.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Wrestler directed by Darren Aronofsky



The Wrestler is the story of Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke), a professional wrestler twenty years past his prime. After a heart attack and bypass surgery he tries to reconnect with his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and start a relationship with a stripper (Marisa Tomei), but the ring eventually pulls him back home.

Stylistically the direction of the film mirrors the state of Robinson's life. Aronofsky often follows Rourke with a handheld camera, shooting The Wrestler in a style much closer to a documentary than his previous efforts. The result is the opposite of the sort of spectacle that was Robinson's life in his heyday. This is life after fame.

As far as Rourke's performance goes, I'm happy to say that the Motorcycle Boy reigns once again. His performance drives the movie, and it's not hard to see why the award nominations are starting to appear.

Unfortunately, the film's flaw presents itself when the story tries to meet our expectations. In order to succeed in keeping his new found life, Robinson has to avoid wrestling. However, if Robinson were to follow through on this heroic journey, we wouldn't have the big finish that mainstream audiences expect. The choice is made to contrive against Robinson's character arc to appease this expectation. Ultimately disappointment in our hero is the result.

Despite the problems with the story, I would see The Wrestler's performance again for Rourke's performance alone. Hopefully he'll stay in the ring this time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

CSS & Natalie Portman's Shaved Head at the Echoplex

The first time I went to a show, I had no idea what I was getting into: Sonic Youth at the Living Room in Providence. I walked in and stood right in the middle of the audience, with a perfect view of the stage. The moment they broke into "Mary Christ", the crowd erupted, and I found myself in the air above them. I distinctly remember being able to see the band perfectly...and stepping on someone's collarbone.

Eighteen years later, I'm off to the Echoplex to see CSS. Again, no idea what I'm getting into. I had been to the Echo before (on Election night), but never to the Echoplex. The club was painted in standard red and black, but was much bigger and cleaner than I had expected. The crowd was a sea of Members Only jackets - exactly what I expected on that front. We came in late for the opening act: Natalie Portman's Shaved Head. They were halfway through their set and loud as hell. They reminded me of Ima Robot's quirky brand of pop, but when they broke out "me plus yr daughter", Ursula and I decided to check out the sequined action. The rest of the set was great, finishing up with "Sophisticated Side Ponytail."

CSS was off to an energetic start with "Meeting Paris Hilton", complete with a masked Lovefoxx riling everyone to get moving. The crowd responded, about a dozen twenty-something girls in stilettos and legwarmers bouncing around slumber-party style. But by the time the band got to "Music is my hot, hot sex", things had slowed down. The only action really going on in the audience was six people capturing footage on their phones and cameras. I didn't really check back in until the encore - "Let's make love and listen to Death from Above" and "Alala". I'd probably see CSS again, but it would only be a sure thing if Natalie Portman's Shaved Head opened for them.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Meat Beat Manifesto at the Knitting Factory

My favorite scene in music has always been Industrial, because like Punk, there was not only a community behind the music, but an intersection with philosophy and methodology. To be specific, I'm interested in the deconstruction and reorganization of found elements in order to produce a new meaning, or the "Cut-up". This informed not only my perspective on music, but writing and visual arts as well (I started to touch on this in some entries a while back). The cut-up is still a staple of Industrial music, and although it's not completely accurate to call Meat Beat Manifesto an industrial band, they do use the cut-up technique. Hence my interest in seeing them perform at the Knitting Factory.

The last time I checked out the Knitting Factory was back in 2005 to hear Andy Khouri spin, so all the new businesses in the Galaxy complex threw me off; I almost missed the sign to the club. I had also made the mistake of not checking with friends to see when the bands came on, so I showed up early. Luckily I had my notebook, and the bar had cheap beer. A half-hour later Gabriel Dub opened. The set started off with a guy behind a macbook triggering a grating sound which eventually morphed into heavy heavy dub. Like Bauhaus Dub interludes with triple LFO. A black guy with dreads sang mutant dancehall over it. I liked it alot - at least until two more musicians came out, one of whom was a woman playing what looked like an electric violin. but sounded like a shakuhachi flute in reverse. If the Goths had shown up at that point, their pet bats would be flying into each other. Anyway, the electric violinist eventually playing something less atonal, and I enjoyed the rest of the set.

For this show, Meat Beat was comprised not only of Jack Dangers, but Mark Pistel on electronics, Lynn Farmer on live drums, and Ben Stokes on video. The set opened up with VO samples and shots of Marshall Applewhite over MBM classic techno/hip-hop/industrial beats. The highlight of the set - or my favorite - was "Radio Babylon" in front of shots of Grace Jones and flames. The encore was a barrage of beats and a obama-animation followed by "Edge of No Control". As the show wrapped up, I noticed quite a few people capturing video with their phones, probably for posterity, but hopefully some of them intended to do some remixing of their own.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I have a tendency to collect crap - or stuff, as George Carlin put it. My house is the big pile of stuff with a cover on it that Carlin was talking about in his routine. Stuff collected from the past ten years that I intended to do something with at some point. A lot of this stuff is books. Some of the books were actually bought by friends, paperback novels leaving their houses for the Salvation Army, but somehow making a several-year pit stop at mine. One of these books is the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Gatsby's story is told through the eyes of Nick Carraway, a young man who moves to Long Island and becomes Gatsby's neighbor in the 1920s. Nick's shallow cousin Daisy and her husband Tom also live in the area, as well as Jordan Baker, Nick's love interest. At the center of the story is Gatsby, a man of mystery and a former lover of Daisy's who wants her back.

Throughout the novel Carraway idolizes wealth. And although his perspective on morality changes, his perspective on materialism does not. While reading the novel I couldn't help but think of not only the excess of the 80s, but the alterna-yuppies, starbucks punks, & chuck basses of today. Not much has changed, and as I shop for a blu-ray dvd player to go with my HDTV, I doubt much ever will. But hopefully we can treat each other a little better (especially this holiday season), lest we suffer the consequences, like the characters in the Great Gatsby.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Coraline

Things are pretty smurfy on the fulltime freelance writing front. I just finished work on videogame dialog for Coraline, and should be finishing another draft of Destiny Men shortly.

I'll be in San Francisco from 11/12 through 11/15 with the wife to meet up with pals. At the moment we're considering a visit to the Cartoon Art Museum and some stuff Geetika suggested. I'll post photos if Ursula finds the camera.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Iron Man: Armored Adventures


Last Saturday morning, Marvel Studios treated an all-ages audience at Comic-Con International to the first two episodes of “Iron Man: Armored Adventures.” The panel consisted of head writer Chris Yost and Nickelodeon executive Keith Dawkins. Marvel Studios’ Josh Fine introduced the footage, produced by Method Animation studios in France.

Read the whole piece here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

SCLA: Stereotypecast

Second City Los Angeles will perform their final showing of Stereotypecast Friday June 27th . I checked the show out with Ursula a few weeks ago and really dug it. The show is a collection of sketches about stereotypes, ranging from everyday occurrences to surreal situations. Ticket are $10 each in cash at the door only. Show starts at 9:30 pm.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Batman inked by Me

Here's a Tony Daniel Batman cover inked with Adobe Illustrator.

Monday, March 24, 2008

WWLA: THE X-MEN PANEL



Marvel marketing guru Jim McCann took the lectern at the WWLA X-Men panel Saturday afternoon clad in a black and red X-Men jacket as Peter David, Matt Fraction, Craig Kyle, Aubrey Sitterson, and Chris Yost took their seats. Marc Guggenheim phoned in while he fought traffic on the I-10 freeway.

The two screens displaying the Marvel logo over Lenil Yu’s Skrulls switched to a presentation for the “Divided We Stand” event. Addressing the slide for “X-Men Legacy”, Sitterson said, “there’s a nostalgia aspect to it, but it’s also a story picking up directly from "Messiah Complex". Sitterson also revealed that Daken returns to “Wolverine Origins”.

When the slide of Mutant Town was presented, Peter David remarked that X-Factor will have to protect the town as it is being burnt to the ground. David also mentioned the Quicksilver and Layla Miller “Divide We Stand” one-shots. The Layla Miller one shot will address what happens to the character after she was stranded in the future at the end of Messiah Complex. Artist Larry Stroman will be returning to “X-Factor” to draw an upcoming X-Factor/She-Hulk crossover, which is also a Secret Invasion Tie-In. In addition, Darwin and Longshot will be joining the X-Factor team.

The presentation moved on to the other “Divided We Stand’’ one shots, focusing on Cannonball, Surge, and Nightcrawler. The Nightcrawler one-shot will be written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Jamie McKelvie. This will be McKelvie’s first work for Marvel.

After a bit of shtick involving Ed Brubaker’s answering machine, it was revealed that Matt Fraction will co-write “Uncanny X-Men” with Brubaker starting with issue #500 in July. Greg Land and new Marvel exclusive Terry Dodson will rotate art chores. A story fourteen months in the making, Fraction joked, “Stuff explodes, everybody has lots of sex, and then everybody dies…and then the team moves to San Francisco to clear their heads.”

Jim McCann noted that Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi will be taking over “Astonishing X-Men” with issue #25. Bianchi is doing costume redesigns for the team, and slides were shown of Cyclops, Nightcrawler, and Wolverine in their new uniforms.

The floor opened up to questions from the fans, and David responded to one regarding the Siryn-Madrox pregnancy:” There will be developments that will happen in that storyline that will make the internet light up like a Christmas tree.”

When asked about Dazzler by Jim McCann, Fraction confirmed that Dazzler will return in “Uncanny X-Men #501” as “the mutant Madonna”, discovering a late career as a mutant entertainer in San Francisco.” On CBR there’s a thread that just exploded”, McCann joked.

The presentation moved on to “X-Force” with Kyle and Yost. Kyle said that the X-Force team should grow to six by the issue #7 or #8. “After issue #3, you’re going to see how big and bad this book is going to get,” remarked Kyle. “We’re going to give you as much as we can pack into twenty-two pages.” At the point, Ed Brubaker returned Fraction’s phone call, and Marc Guggenheim finally arrived. Of “Young X-Men”, Guggenheim revealed, “The first arc really set the tone for the next two years worth of stories. There are seeds planted throughout the arc. Hopefully you won’t see the seeds planted. It’s a book with a lot of surprises. I’m planning to twist the plot like a pretzel. The book, unlike me, is never late.”

The floor opened up to fan questions again. In response to a question about Forge, Jim McCann revealed that Forge will return, but he may not cross paths with Storm. When the same fan asked if there was a chance of Jean Grey coming back, McCann replied, “It’s Jean, there’s always a chance.”

A British fan asked about UK Mutants like Pete Wisdom, to which McCann directed fans to “Captain Britain and MI:13”, an ongoing series that addresses the Secret Invasion of the Skrulls in the UK. Another fan asked about Havok. Sitterson answered that the character would appear in “Divided We Stand” issues #1 & #2.

One fan asked about the red haired mutant baby from Messiah Complex, to which Matt Fraction informed the audience that the baby was Arcade’s. Another fan asked if there were any plans for the Hellfire Club. Fraction replied,” There’s a Hellfire cult."

When asked about plans for Firestar, McCann answered, “She retired in ‘Civil War: Frontline’, but I can say we haven’t seen the last of the character.”

And with that, the panel came to a close.

Check out some of my other comics-related posts here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wizard World LA

I'll be at Wizard World LA this weekend, so if you're there and see a scrawny bald guy scurrying around - say hello!

comics

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Batcave by Paul Rivoche

Here a design by Paul Rivoche of the batcave for Darwyn Cooke's The New Frontier dvd. Rivoche is one of the men behind Mr.X , part of the 80's vanguard, my favorite period in comics.


comics

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Queen Kwong at the Echo Curio

Queen Kwong by Lou O' Bedlam
Photo by Lou O'Bedlam

Sincerity is hard to come by in Echo Park, especially at night. Drive by the Echo any Friday, and you’re bound to see a dozen idiots with tight jeans, mullets, and Loverboy headbands; Bad outfits to convey irony, where the intent is actually to conform. So when I read that Queen Kwong was performing at the Echo Curio, I was a little skeptical.

The Echo Curio is on Sunset, a ten-minute walk from my house. I got there around 10pm, right at the end of Daniel Ahearn's set. I made my way to the back of the room packed with people, home-made d├ęcor, and various items on consignment. I had hoped to find a spot near some circuit-bent music gear (at the shop the last time I checked), but instead found myself near some used books (such as Helter Skelter) and DVDs (such as The Cult Life).

Queen Kwong – AKA Carre Callaway – and her support quickly got in front of the crowd as a group of her friends walked out of the back room of the shop. Some of the friends carried paper cat masks on Popsicle sticks that she had made before the show. She wanted them to hold the masks up in front of their faces as she played. I figured this was to distance herself; it would be easier to sing candid lyrics to a front row of friends that way...one of them told me later that she just really loved cats. Supported by a bassist and keyboardist (who also wore cat masks), Queen Kwong opened up with “Eddie the Kid”, a wall of sound powered by a Fender Mustang.

Barring a couple of deviations into other arrangements, Queen Kwong’s sound is a soft voice against texture. The contrast heightens the stark, direct nature of her singing style. I really enjoyed the set; my only criticism is that it was too short.

Buy Queen Kwong's MP3 EP Love Is A Bruise at Amazon.

Read my other Music Performance Posts:
CSS & Natalie Portman's Shaved Head at The Echoplex.
Meat Beat Manifesto at The Knitting Factory.