Thursday, December 11, 2008

Old Blog Down New Blog Up

I'll keep this blog right here, but if you're looking for new updates, head this way:

New year coming. Shitty year and a half passing for good.

Let's change some stuff up.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Harry Chapin and Art Thinking

From an article about Harry Chapin's song "What Made American Famous," by Gerry Cagle:

As those of you who are reading this know, it was difficult to convince Top 40 radio programmers to play Harry's music. His songs were most often too long, too complicated and considered "tempo challenged" in the world of Top 40 when he first began recording. I had many arguments with Harry regarding his writing. He explained to me that his writing was art and he wouldn't compromise his art to fit into a specific format. I argued that if he was a true genius, he could create a wonderful piece of art that fit within a frame.
That's applicable to a lot of popular media. Is it possible to create "wonderful art" that fits within a frame? Is the mere act of trying too much of a compromise to call it "art"?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Music as Turkey Day nears

So, I'm a bit of a Paul McCartney apologist. I don't want to get into it, but I still follow his career as closely as anyone. I've been happy to see a late career revival in critical acclaim (even if I don't always agree with the critics), but I'm always hoping his next project will really kick me in the ass. Even when his albums have been solid (or even genuinely good), they rarely have me anxious to listen to them multiple times.

But, hey! Suddenly, out of the blue, Macca's churned out a disc that's likely to escape anyone's notice, but deserves attention.

I've never been all that into his "FIREMAN" persona (a recording identity he shares in conjunction with producer Youth). They've been interesting ambient or electronic experiments, but never really grabbed me until now. But the new Fireman release, Electric Arguments, is pretty great. Paul's stretching his voice, rocking out with authority, letting his voice bubble along behind evocative, electronic/electric music. There's all kinds of interesting stuff going on here. Soundscapes and McCartney stretching his voice in different directions. Hell, he's even a little angry on a track or two.

Anyway, it's the first time in a loooong time I've found myself hitting the "repeat" button again and again for a McCartney release. Check it out.

Also? Belle & Sebastian's two-disc version of their BBC Sessions disc is fucking brilliant. Early studio performances are intimate and full, and the bonus live disc demonstrates their taste in covers and the enthusiasm they bring to the stage when they're at their best.

Twee it up, kids!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

11/22 at Elite Comics

If you're anywhere near Kansas City, you ought to stop by Elite Comics next Saturday (November 22) for their 15th anniversary sale. Elite has long been the home shop for myself (along with Seth Peck and Jason Aaron, among others), and proprietor William Binderup is one of the good ones. And he always does these things up right.

In any event, I'll have to verify who all's going to be hanging out, but I think Jason will be there, along with Matt Fraction and a host of locally based kids whose work is well worth checking out. Probably Harold Sipe and Hector Casanova, whose SCREAMLAND is yet another Image book you pretty much have to read.

Also, me.

Monday, November 10, 2008

All Murdered and Mayhemmed Up

So, that was about the coolest weekend ever.

I can’t say I slotted right in with a gathering of “true” mystery writers, but I wasn’t the only graphic novelist there, as Tim Broderick, who wrote and drew the book Cash & Carry was in attendance. Also on hand was the delightful Kat Richardson, whose Greywalker books walk a fine line between mystery and science fiction. Kat and I ended up sitting next to each other on the flight home, and had a great conversation about publishing, Hollyweasels and future creative plans. And when it was time for my panel (on "Hooking the Reader," along with three other writers), I was pleasantly surprised that people seemed genuinely curious about my experiences writing comics.

The event drew a lot of people (250, I'd guess?), all of whom sat through the entire day’s lineup of panels, right up until the grand finale, when Michael Koryta interviewed Dennis Lehane in a rather illuminating conversation. I suppose it was telling that the one panel that seemed to draw the attention of all the assembled writers was Lehane’s. In fairness, a couple of things Lehane said really clicked with me, particularly about storytelling and his influences. And he proved to be as nice and down-to-earth a guy as the rest of the group.

Full credit and thanks to Penny Halle and the library, and, of course, Jon and Ruth Jordan, who opened their home (the Cave of Cool) to the entire assemblage of writers on both Friday and Saturday nights. I’d feel badly about imposing upon the Jordans if it wasn’t clear how thoroughly they loved every moment of it. And who the hell doesn’t love a bathtub full of beer? Great folks, the Jordans. I wouldn't have been there without their support.

Everyone was accommodating and provided great conversation, but special shout outs go to Mario Aceveda, creator of the Felix Gomez vampire detective series, who proved to be one of the genuinely nicest guys I’ve met in any industry, Victor Gischler, whose work I’d already enjoyed, and who, it turned out, is a lot of fun to sit around and drink beers with, talking about Wolverine, golf and Freddie and the Dreamers, Anthony Neil Smith, with whom I had a great conversation about comic books and creative writing programs, Tom Schreck, who moonlights as a world class boxing judge and gave me a beer koozy that doubled as advertising for his latest book, Chicago writer Michael Allen Dymmoch, who carted us all around Muskego when the mythical limos failed to materialize, and the list goes on. Special nod to Mystery One bookseller Richard Katz, who wasn’t much on comics, but provided great discussion about NBA and college basketball.

Also, if you’re in Milwaukee, you should really drop by the Iron Horse Hotel. I can’t explain the place (obviously, as my “upscale biker” description failed to move my wife at all), but it provided superior accommodations, from the humongous HDTV on the wall to the giant-sized shower that rained straight down on me from the ceiling. Fine eating at Slim McGinn’s (the meat really did just fall of those ribs, and…deviled eggs as an appetizer? Just call me Cool Hand Luke).
Also thanks to Sam and Jo, two comic fans who showed up and argued over the value of superhero comics while I nodded sagely at both sides of the debate (sort of).

I’d love to do it again, and hanging out with such literary minded kids has half-convinced me to (attempt to) adapt a nagging pulp/mystery concept into prose form…

We shall see.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Murder and Mayhem in Muskego

Don't ask how I scored an invite to the event, but tomorrow I'm headed out to Muskego, Wisconsin for the fourth annual Murder and Mayhem in Muskego...a gathering of mystery writers at the Muskego Library, each of whom will participate in panels on topics related to their work. Dennis Lehane seems to be the guest of honor.

I'll be participating in the "Hooking the Reader" panel:

11:00 - 11:45 "HOOKING THE READER"

Mario Acevedo
Kat Richardson
Chris Grabenstein
B. Clay Moore
Tasha Alexander

Events kick off with a mixer on Friday night, which should provide some terrific conversation and, you know...a bit of drink.

With Brian Azzarello and Duane Swierczynski having cancelled, I believe I'll be the only comic book creator attending. I'll be curious to see if anyone has any interest in what I have to say, but we'll have some copies of HAWAIIAN DICK on hand for those who find themselves struck with a desire to investigate my work...

Truth is, I'm looking forward to the event. Azzarello recommended it to me earlier in the year, and I'm intrigued about rubbing elbows with such a diverse crew of authors.

At some point I plan on plunging into prose. Maybe this trip will inspire me.

Stop by if you're near Milwaukee. With luck I'll score my son a new Packers jersey while I'm in town...


I've exhausted myself with this election. I've been a close watcher of Presidential politics since early in college, when I was fortunate enough to be taught be a professor who I would best describe as a political animal, Dr. Mel Kahn at Wichita State University. My father, who served from 2002-2006 as the Lieutenant Governor of Kansas, runs into Mr. ("don't call me doctor") Kahn on occasion in Wichita, and he still asks about me, which means a lot to me. He once asked why I didn't consider a career as a college professor, which was heady stuff for a confused nineteen year-old, but the mere suggestion that I had that potential had an impact.

In any event, it now seems as if the only professors I paid much attention to in college were the ones who were consumed by politics, and political season always brings me back to those days.

I never thought I would see a black man elected president. But in 2004, during the Democratic National Convention, I witnessed Barack Obama give one of the most electrifying speeches I'd ever heard. His message was one of inclusion and unity, and event hough he seemed to be the only one at the convention hitting those notes, I heard his message, and knew there had to be others who heard it as well. And I knew at that moment that Obama was a man I'd one day vote for for the White House.

I just didn't think it would happen so quickly. And I had no idea that he would run the kind of campaign I'd been begging for since I was eighteen. Instead of allowing his opponent to define him, Obama took all the heat thrown his way and remained calm, cool and collected, frustrating his opponents while he plunged ahead with confidence and class. He refused to stray off message and get bogged down in divisive issues that would only cloud the important issues that needed to be addressed. And everywhere he went, he spoke in eloquent, clear language. While Fox News and bitter Conservatives tried to build an issue out of the Reverend Wright's rants, Obama released the most intelligent, well-reasoned statement on race in America ever delivered by a man running for public office. He didn't hide from his associations. He simply explained them. When Fox News devoted hour after hour to Obama's "radical" connections (connections shared by many Republicans, for what it was worth), there was no need to give in to their slavish attack dog mentality. Not when most of America felt they had gotten to know the man, and understood that the last place they needed to turn for answers was a "news" network whose primary intention was clearly to fan the fading racist embers in a no longer jittery electorate.

And when he was finally elected, I heard him mention gay people and disabled people and people who didn't vote for him. There was no ranting rhetoric or lofty platitudes that didn't seem grounded in the reality of the day. There was a clear statement of purpose wrapped in an understanding of the challenges that face us as a nation. And the international community has regained their faith in a country that has, for eight years, done nothing but scare the shit out of them thanks to the irresponsible buffoonery of our current president.

The whole thing has been nothing short of astonishing. And very moving.

This will make me sound like a guilty white liberal, but it's the truth...last night around nine, as it became more obvious that Obama was going to handily carry the day, I ran up to the local grocery store to pick something up. There weren't a lot of people shopping, but I saw a black family pushing their cart through the aisles, and I realized that that little black boy following his mother around was going to grow up in an entirely different world from the one in which his parents grew up. Telling him that he can accomplish anything in life is no longer jingoistic bullshit. There's now a man headed to the White House that provides real proof that the American Dream isn't nearly as dead as I thought it was, and this little boy will grow up knowing that even the nation's highest office is truly open to the right person for the job, regardless of their ethnic heritage.

A beautiful day in America. The angry, scared bigots and frightened name callers will still linger in the woodwork, but as a nation we've overcome their influence, and given in to hope.

Laurenn McCubbin passed along this link of photographs from Callie Shell, who's been following Obama with her camera for a couple of years now. Please take a look:

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Hopeless Halloween

Stacey, the new kid and I dropped by the Hopelesses Halloween party (thrown by Dennis and Jesse Hopeless) Friday night. Tony and Kara (Moore) made the trip in to see everyone. Tony's Nixon (from HARD-BOILED) costume was fucking awesome. Also in attendance: Kevin Mellon (who handled the art for my Spearmint anthology contribution), Kyle Strahm (the future of horror comics if there's any justice), Harold Sipe (pick up the SCREAMLAND trade NOW), Jason Aaron (hack) and his lovely wife Kelly, and Steven and Dawn Sanders (dressed as one another).

Anyway, I'm sniping some of Steven's pics from Flickr. Hope he doesn't mind: