And only one review I wrote that I had already written and included last time.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. One of the Big, Important Books from the early 2000s -- it was a finalist for the Pulitzer -- but I probably wouldn’t have bothered if my brother hadn't given it to me a few years ago. The title is pretentious enough to put anyone off, though it might also intrigue someone enough to check it out, just to see what kind of hubris it takes to title a book like that. Damned thing better be good. I didn’t really plan on getting around to reading it but the audiobook is on eMusic and it just seemed to fit. I was looking for fiction; it says on the cover that it’s a memoir but, again going with the title, something like that has to have some kind of fiction, an elevated non-fiction at least. It really is a memoir, though one written by a guy in his early 20s. Yeah, not a rich vein to tap, but the writing style keeps it going, by force of will if nothing else. The guy’s life is unextraordinary -- his parents die and he raises his little brother, he almost becomes a cast member of The Real World, he starts a magazine -- some life-forming events but nothing that warrants being written about in a book. Most of the book’s movement happens when he goes into manic, stream-of-conscious rants, in his own mind, about things happening around and to him. These are also unextraordinary events, as anyone with a hyperactive imagination could say the same thing happens to them, so why there was ever a big deal about this book is a bit of a mystery. But it's written well and it's likable.
It’s not a bad book, and it’s even funny at parts, but it’s not a particularly amazing book -- not genius, especially not staggering, and heartbreaking only if you’re not familiar with personal tragedy. The most notable feature of the book is a snapshot of being in your early 20s in the early-to-mid-’90s, especially being so close to the pulse of culture like living in San Francisco at the time or almost getting on The Real World, though it’s drenched in that same mixture of confused angst and limp cynicism that makes the period so embarrassing to look back on (or maybe it’s because I was close to that demographic during that time and often felt the same way (not that I want to admit to any of it)). Eggers tries hard to make his story -- both the work and his personal history -- as interesting to anyone else as it is to him, but it’s just himself that finds it that interesting. It’s assumed that he ends it right before he has the idea to write book, which he mentions never occurred to him at the time, and since the book went as big as it did, launching his own career at least, it’s a shame that it stops before his life got really interesting, with the awards and notoriety and everything that his Wikipedia page says happened to him. That means there could be a sequel (as any memoir by a young, successful, living person will have) but it will inevitably not be nearly as good as this one and it’s hard enough to get through this one. But maybe he’ll have grown up a bit by then (if not gained the wisdom to not keep pushing his luck).
The guy who narrates the audiobook is as manic as the writing, which would be fitting but it’s exhausting to get the entire thing listening to that level of energy. But the guy speaks clearly and quickly, moving the story along just quickly enough that it doesn't quite start to wear on your patience.
There are 12 tracks in the audiobook (this might differ in another form than downloading it) but it ends with the 11th. This is sudden, as it would be anyway even if you were reading it in print, but you think there’s another chapter and it’s over. The 12th track/disc is the preface, which is interesting that it comes at the end and not the beginning, like it does in the printed version. The narrator asks that you not read it, that it’s only for the author, but it’s actually fairly essential. It adds a bit of information, including the small type that comes in most books, though there are some comments along the way, some of the funnier parts of the book. The list of acknowledgements isn’t as long as it notes it is and there are some good bits in there. There are also some passages that were deleted which actually, even out of context (if you didn’t listen to the whole thing in one sitting), are as interesting as anything else in the book. There’s also a guide through the metaphors in the book, in case you’re not already clobbered over the head by them. But most importantly, there’s a short explanation about the title of the book, and even admits its own hubris. That doesn’t save it but it makes some kind of sense. Regardless, the title might be enough to get you to read the book, just to get you to crack it open. It may not overwhelm you but it’s enough for a fairly casual read.
The quality of the story in and of itself is debatable. The plot barely holds together, skipping around to different places and hardly following a through-line (the book is named after a character that Burke has a relationship with, not even the most important element of the story, but it could have had any other title). Though it isn't a negative thing: the jumping around contributes an energy and it's constantly unpredictable where it's going to go. It shows more of the history of the characters, especially of Burke, which sets the stage for all the stories and books that come after this one. The story connecting the titular character isn't much to speak of anyway but it provides a loose hub that all the other pieces go in and out of. This is actually a surprisingly non-traditional structure, even more against convention when it was originally published, but though it seems piecemeal, it holds together just enough to have that energy and to push forward, and it works. Surprisingly, none of the other books were this loose and it might be why this one, in its way, is the most exciting and compulsive. It goes to all the same dark places that Vachss is guide to; the rooms might be smaller but there are more of them, and the hallways between each are just as dark.
The track-listings on the CDs for the audiobook are weird: the titles for each chapter come out as something decidedly different from a crime-fiction book, rather something inspirational or religious. I don't know how those could get mixed-up but it can be amusingly when you consider the differences between them.
Girl Walks Into A Bar by Rachel Dratch (audiobook). Yet another autobiography written by a Saturday Night Live cast member. But that's what gets me to read the thing. Dratch was never my favorite cast member but she would have some decent bits on occasion. Jay Mohr was barely on the show and he had enough in his book to enjoy. There seems to be a gold rush with celebrities or near-celebrities putting out their memoirs when they're probably not even halfway through their lives, and there seems to be even more people from SNL writing books, especially after Tina Fey had so much success with hers. They'll all sell at least one copy to a guy in southern California (or to download the audiobook). But if they have a story to tell, having to do with the show or not, they have as much a right as anyone.
There are two sides of this book for anyone that could be interested in it. She gets all the SNL stuff out of the way in the first chapter. She writes that she actually enjoyed her time on the show and she's nothing but positive about it. There's no scandal there but it's interesting to hear it from such a perspective, after there have been so many stories trying to mine some kind of scandal from it (and desperate too, since there's precious little of it, especially in the last dozen years). It's a good part but it's quick -- just one chapter. If you're reading it only to get an inside view of Saturday Night Live, there's no reason to keep reading from that point. The point of the book is how she dealt with an unexpected pregnancy in the years past when that kind of thing should happen. The SNL stuff seems to be in there just because she knows people will ask about it, and that might be the reason they initially pick it up, hoping to hook them enough that they'll stay with the rest, even if they aren't among pregnant, reading women, though there's a bit of overconfidence assuming that anyone will want to stick around after being so tricked. Someone defending the book might say it provides perspective, as single city girl vs. the pregnant girl in the city, but more likely it's two parts that not everyone is going to enjoy both of.
The rest of it is only for women who have interest in reading stories about women who get pregnant. There are some funny bits because Dratch is funny but mostly it's pregnancy and kids humor which really doesn't get me going but I'm not the intended audience (and found that out way too late). I personally don't much care when comedians go into jokes about father- or motherhood and all their jokes are about dealing with the kids. (And worse when it's men, usually because those are the comedians that used to have an edge.) I can relate to it a bit more now but with that kind of humor, a little goes a long way with me. Luckily the book goes quickly and there's not a lot of it. But seriously, if you're getting it to find out more about SNL, you have only the first chapter and you can stop.
Potentially the most irritating part is her voice. She sounds like she always has, like an 8-year old girl. I never noticed it while she was on the show but it's clear when everything she's delivering is through her voice. It probably helped her as a comedian but as a narrator it's grating. It might fit with the pregnancy stuff but for some of the jokes it doesn't work. Though she speaks plainly and easily, like she's having a conversation rather than reading what she got published. I got this audiobook on a lark, for something to listen to while I decided what the next book would be, but it was a lot lighter than the stuff I usually enjoy and a nice break. And I definitely enjoyed the first chapter but when she got deep into the pregnancy talk my attention wandered and I just wanted to trudge through it. So it probably took a little less than, say, a week and a half. But not time wasted, since even if I knew what I was in for I would have read/listened to it anyway.
Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. (Marvel). Warren Ellis doesn't do humor well. He's certainly had an amount of humor in his stories but as a side dish, not the entree. When the point is making a story based on comedy he doesn't fare as well than when he's using it as a tool. Humor worked well in Transmetropolitan but the bigger point in that book was the sci-fi and political aspects, and it was a mix of a lot of different genres that made it so successful. Nextwave is the funny elements pushed to the limit, with plenty of action and explosions, but that's about it. Ellis has never had a humor book on his resume but this checks off that box, and it feels like that was the point. Not that any publisher does a lot of humorous books, whether they sell well or not (but probably not since they're so difficult to pull off), that any good humor book would be easy to get approved. Failing that it would be funny enough to be worth it, put a big-name writer on it, then you can do whatever you want, including drudging up and mixing together a bunch of obscure characters (the stars being what gets a book going, more than the popularity of the talent). The characters here barely matter since personalities don't show up and backstories are ignored; the characters anyone was a fan of are missing. It's doubtful that Ellis even read their past stories (and maybe just as well, or better, for it). As interchangeable as they are, the characters are the usual Ellis cut-outs: they're all snarky and more bad-ass than everyone else. It can be wearying, especially when he tries to turn up the volume on the action by making all the characters tell, but it's a piece that fits. The problem is that the main characters are fairly foolish, and the villains and their world is entirely ridiculous, and the lack of contrast with something grounded and a bit serious, even a guest-star, leaves the entire thing a ridiculous cartoon, which then takes the consequence from the action, leaving all the explosions inconsequential, smearing the whole thing into irrelevance. Maybe that's the point but Ellis tipping the scale that far in that direction leaves the whole thing bloodless. It's an amateur mistake but this is Ellis cleaning out a closet, not making art. There's still a background of sci-fi techy stuff, but generally this is just an inconsequential cartoon book.
Immonen has always been a solid artist with firm layouts but his work has also been plain and here that blandness is even more stark as he brings nothing to a cartoon world. He's done so much time doing superhero action comics that it's hard to bring anything else to the page. The action bits are fine but everything else is as flat as it can be. Luckily most of the stories are all action so he gets by. And there's so much confusion in the action, he usually can't keep it straight, which makes it hard to follow, and in that way he falls as an artist on this, where his work is usually better for a single character.
In all, the book isn't a failure. It falls down as a humor book, and even as an action book it could be better, but it works well enough for an off-beat superhero book and it's unique in its approach in the fact that it goes full-throttle toward no one knows where but it's having a good time. It probably needed to stop at 12 issues since after that it would just start getting more stupid and even less funny. So for what it is, it's a compact, lightweight series that got in and got out. Ellis probably won't do another purely humor book, but after this he doesn't need to.
Blackest Night (DC). How many crossovers has Geoff Johns gotten to write for DC? It used to be that DC (and Marvel) would get their hottest writer to head the current crossover (or at least write the spine, since the editors if not the executives would hatch the overall idea) and that would be it for them, whether they moved on and out of comics entirely or they were so burnt-out on the experience that they wouldn't want to do it again. "Day of Judgment" should have been it for Johns if he followed that path but he's done, or contributed to, a number of crossover stories since. Which is fine, as long as they're good (or as good as they can be), and since he's been the hot writer (at least DC) for so long, he's the obvious choice. And his stock exploded after his first crossover anyway, especially with Green Lantern, which Blackest Night comes from. There's some great hubris to write the biggest GL story of them all, one eluded to the Green Lantern Corps' very motto, from the very first appearance, but in the comics world where every detail mentioned has to be explored at some point, it only had to be a matter of time until they got around to it. It should have been one of those tales that is only told within the world in legend, that actually doesn't have to be acted upon, since even a relative epic would be a disappointment. There have been universe-changing event that have been as big or bigger so it's just another thing. Even staging another "Crisis on Infinite Earths" -- which would be impossible to do again even when they've wanted to -- wouldn't quite reach the same level. But if it's another way to squeeze another story (and sales) from the Green Lantern world, you know they would. It probably wasn't necessary, since Johns was doing epic enough stories on his own with multiple Green Lantern series, but if they can step it up to a bigger event, then predictably a crossover, we would be fools to think they wouldn't. It's good enough as a big story, if you have to have one, but it's hard to will into being a huge epic. Even putting out new, related titles that run from other series is seen as a way just to sell more comics by making it part of a crossover rather than adding any weight to the importance of the story. "Crisis," after all, only had the mini-series and all the crossovers went through the regular series, which would have continued coming out whether part of the story or not. Now there are new mini-series, not interrupting the regular series, but with some of them part of it too anyway. Apparently someone buys this stuff. As much as a vocal minority complains about crossovers, they must sell well enough to warrant more, since DC and Marvel both keep churning them out, seemingly in bigger and bigger numbers. It seems like there's constantly some line-wide crossover going on, with each one flowing into or out of the ones before and after it, so much that I doubt a self-contained story in a series can be conducted for more than just a few issues before a crossover comes in (and that's not even considering the heavy hand of what the editor wants to do). But considering how crappy comics sales are anymore, it's probably only these crossovers that keep the big companies (and the whole industry) afloat.
But maybe the crossovers aren't always all bad (or at least not as bad as the crap in the '90s, which put the event -- any event -- ahead of any kind of plausible, acceptable story). It seems many of them in the past 10 years have been pretty well received, or at least tolerated, as much as they can be if so many comics buyers are going to swallow what they're fed. Maybe it's just the good ones are based on a good premise. The base of "Blackest Night" is basically that the dead come back to life. It's the most tired dramatic device in all of comics, and one that bugs me personally. A character dying in a story has absolutely no weight, since every dead character will come back eventually, usually within a few months. So in this story, the ones who die near the beginning come back, and even a few that have been dead for a while arise as well. That the big villain orchestrates this poses no threat, so the device also means nothing. It's actually not much more grand than that, except that it connects to the Green Lantern world, and if you're not following that (like me) it doesn't seem like a hindrance but it also doesn't move the story much. This story means a lot more to that GL world, which makes sense, but to the broader DC Universe, all it is is that dead characters come back, and they're all evil (whether they were before or not). The story ran through a number of related mini-series and maybe those fleshed out the story so that it actually held some weight, but the main mini-series itself stands as where most of the action seems to happen, and even then it's all one big, dark battle with lots of lightning, and reveals of villains that hold no shock. It's actually not horrible for what it is, though it drags out for a few issues too long and the characters have very little development (though it's hard for them to, which is what helps make these stories so lame). Ivan Reis's penciling is hyper-detailed, just this side of Jim Lee, the inks scratchy to give it a grislier look, the art with not much personality except that the guy who drew it seems to get a lot of work. It's good enough but not nothing exciting, like the whole story/event. The rare spark of fun is a team of ring-enabled Lanterns put together with new costumes but it was another patch-work assemblage of characters that didn't go beyond an initial thrill. At least it wasn't the New Guardians.
I read the thing partly as an experiment. Normally I wouldn't read any story unless I had read what had led up to it so I could get a full understanding of what is going on from what has gone on. But with these crossover events leading into and out of each other almost constantly, I didn't even know how far back I'd have to go. It turned out to be not all that important, as far as I could tell, though reading the Green Lantern stories might have helped, but that would have been a huge undertaking, and I'm not sure I missed out on all that much, as far as Blackest Night goes. I didn't really get why Black Hand was such a big deal and I don't know where all the villains come from, but even in a story with complete knowledge of what came before, stuff out of nowhere could happen anyway. As its own story, the main mini-series works the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" model, less for providing story details as it contains the climax and resolution of the whole event, giving the illusion of having a complete story, but more to provide a spine for the stories that weave through it, which is mostly the heroes with their own series dealing with figures from their pasts rising from the dead. Whether those stories were contrived or had any use in the first place is questionable, though it did produce one further issue for Starman, The Question, and Suicide Squad, all canceled series that are close to my heart. Those stories might not be necessary, even with some of the original creators, but as far as gimmicks go, there are worse (assuming they don't tarnish the original runs). The story is resolved when the villain is defeated and presumably the dead go back to being dead and the ones whose deaths were a cheap dramatic device come back, and some of those who had been dead already come back, depending on future story plans, and the whole thing leads right into the next crossover, "Brightest Day." As usual with these things, the only real consequence is that it ran into the next series, and the regular series it interrupted could keep going until the next thing, though since it was ingrained in the multiple Green Lantern series it probably kept running there, but that was probably the only real fallout. Overall not horrible, for a crossover, but nothing extraordinary, and not worth the telling of the legend. Maybe it paid off in Brightest Day but that's a lot more pages and more than I would bother with.
Starslammers graphic novel (Marvel). Marvel's graphic novel always perplexed me: there were creator-owned books, books with established characters, experimental stuff, pilots for new series (whether published by Marvel or elsewhere), weird stuff, stories by non-comics people, non-superhero stuff, superhero stuff, stuff out of continuity, stuff in continuity, sophisticated stories, mature-reader books, stuff intended for the Epic line, and so on. There never seemed to be an overall direction for them, except that the pages were in a different format but that shouldn't be enough for its own line (and something that would be preclude a project for that line just because the pages were that size, or one would be prevented from the line just because they used normal-sized pages). Even more confounding, Marvel would number them like it was a series, but that could have been for the olden thinking of having to keep everything sequential, for retailers or soft-minded readers to be able to organize their books (or think that they had to get each on so they don't have a hole in their collection).
Walt Simonson got a crack with his own book, Starslammers. The original book was done as an art school project but later he went back and did a new version which became the graphic novel (thanks, Wikipedia!). Presumably he did it, or finished it, at the same time as his seminal run on Thor, still the high point of his body of work. Starslammers is a sci-fi military book, swashbuckling space opera with wide panels and heavy inks, giving it a cinematic feel, which works best for Simonson's work. Rarely does anyone do wide-screen, big-image work like he does. Unfortunately, the writing is rough. It starts off as a militaristic stomp and eventually gets into some kind of plot about a mind-link thing that the protagonists share, then some kind of political thing about a planet they're on, then finally a space battle. It's an acceptable introduction to the characters and their universe but it delves into action before it establishes them and their situation and something we need to care about. But the whole thing is Simonson's raw talent, before it was honed but after he had some experience under his belt, and it might have done with a few more years of pages under him or an editor to help him shape it, but considering how far afield of superheroes it went in the early '80s, it's a commendable work. The ultimate goal was to launch further adventures of the characters, and those stories where Simonson has returned to them have surely benefited from what he's learned and done in the years between. Though I was paging through an issue of a new series and I couldn't connect it to what I read in this graphic novel at all. So there have definitely been some big steps of evolution in the stories of the characters, or in Simonson's imagination and ability.
Astonishing X-Men (Marvel). The series started well -- very Whedonesque, with clever dialogue, likable group dynamics, balanced drama, lots of action and character interaction -- but it seemed to downshift after that. He spent "Dangerous" in a story that only served to create a new villain and "Torn" was the return of one of the best X-Men bad guys but was a mess of overlapping conflicts that also didn't seem to have any consequence. It was all very well-written and the personalities were right but it seemed like just another set of adventures that would swept up and away by the start of the next story. The X-Men as characters had already been through so much, and it seems they're always either suffering or recovering from some life-changing event (until they die and come back again) that they just seem tired, worse when Whedon picks the most over-used X-Men as his stars (and even brings a few back from the dead). The execution is great but the story lags, one of the rare times that it wasn't vice-versa. Then it all comes together in the last arc, not as some grand climax but to wrap up what Whedon had opened to that point. Even the overlapping conflicts make some kind of sense, reminiscent of Morrison's second JLA arc, that had at least two big stories running through it and, as messy as it was, led to an epic conclusion. Whedon doesn't assemble just one story, since individually they wouldn't measure up, but he piles them toward the end, when a framework comes as a revelation, not a surprise, and he handles putting a conclusion to the end of it. It's less an Ellis-style clever ending where someone knew the plan all along and didn't tell the reader, but there are shades of the style, and it's the thing that finally sets it on fire, just when hope is nearly gone. Whedon doesn't even have to worry about continuity: gamely, he picks up the ends of what he wants to use then rolls it around wherever he wants, more to make the characters more human rather than slavishly heeding their workaday personas and bringing more complexity to them than they've had in years. It doesn't matter where he leaves them at the end, since the continuity will wrap around that, for the next writer to pick up for the rest of Astonishing or for the editors to pick over what Whedon created, as they do like vultures when it comes to new ideas.
Even the character from the second arc suddenly has a purpose, not essential -- since its creation, introduction, and use for only this part of the story would make it a contrivance -- but it's a piece that fits, among many that fall in. The finale isn't a survey of everything Whedon did on his run but it puts it all together, loose enough that it doesn't seem like it was so intricately planned all along and taking out any surprises along the way, but tight enough to show that there was some direction throughout. He also manages to throw in every big Marvel hero in the last issue -- perplexingly an annual but might as well be another issue (except for being negatively considered by the obsessive collectors who get bent when an important issue isn't part of the proper order) -- so that Cassaday can draw everyone he hasn't ever already. Of course he gives every one of those characters more visual personality than they've probably ever had, though his Spider-Man is a little plain.
Cassaday is as solid as he ever is. Maybe the most reliable artist ever to grace comics. He's the best a confident writer can ask for: he can render the action as well as is asked, and he'll do it a step better than it has to be, but he can take the story only so far. He won't save a weak story, as pretty and clean and consistent as his work is. Not that Whedon's story is lacking at all, but when the action dips, so does the art. Cassaday doesn't draw just to make pretty pictures, he works to the service of the story, which is what makes him so valuable and rare, which is sad but it's a world of art that is most valuable when it's catchy and easy. Cassaday's art is comfortable and it's always a treasure when he's drawing regularly, especially interior art. His design of Danger lacks complexity but to the rest of the X-Men's world's characters he lends personality, grace, and consistency. His art isn't the only reason to get into the series but with the writing it's a solid, unique combination. They did 25 issues, which is a feat, and without fill-ins or modern crutches. Even with that many issues, it's so good that you wish it would keep going. They told their epic but it would be so nice if it kept going and kept being so good. The whole thing is astonishing, if you will.
My Top Albums of 2013:
10. The Electric Lady- Janelle Monáe
9. Trouble Will Find Me- The National
8. Random Access Memories- Daft Punk
7. Pure Heroine- Lorde
6. Reflektor- Arcade Fire
5. Days Are Gone- Haim
4. Sunbather- Deafheaven
3. Hesitation Marks- Nine Inch Nails
2. MBV- My Bloody Valentine
1. Like Clockwork...- Queens of the Stone Age
Famous* People I've Met**:
- Midnight Oil
- most of the members of Oingo Boingo (but not Elfman)
- James Ellroy
- Judd Nelson
- Kevin Smith
- Greg Dulli (twice)
- Jenny McCarthy
- Dave Navarro
- Chad Smith
- the Cardigans
- Rodney Bingenheimer (multiple times)
- Melissa Joan Hart
- Frank Black/Black Francis (twice)
- one of the brothers from Good Charlotte
- Dave Lovering
- Soleil Moon Frye
- Trey Parker & Matt Stone
- Michael Penn
- Glenn Danzig
- Mitch Hedberg
- Ken Ober
- Scott Lucas (at least once)
- Tom Kenny
- Damon Lindleoff
- Dick Valentine
- Mikel Jollett
- Joseph Arthur
** Especially if your definition of "met" is very broad.
My Top Garbage Songs of All Time:
12. "Kick My Ass"
9. "The Butterfly Collector"
8. "Bad Boyfriend"
7. "Only Happy When It Rains"
6. "The Trick Is To Keep Breathing"
5. "Why Do You Love Me"
4. "Fix Me Now"
3. "Push It"
2. "Hammering In My Head"
Rock Stars Whose Autobiographies I Would Totally Read:
Axl Rose. You wouldn’t have to be a Guns n’ Roses fan to enjoy this book. It might even help if you aren’t. Axl is at his best/worst/most-buck-nutty when he’s backed into a corner. And considering how the other members of GnR wrote their books and what they said could be construed as critical of Axl (whether they actually are or not), he’d come out with crazy-insane-insane-crazy guns blazing.
Kim Deal. I’ll keep holding out hope that there’s one shred of something interesting in the Pixies’ history. If anyone has a decent story it would be Kim (if she can remember any of it).
Robert Pollard. He could write 50 of them and release one every three months. And most of them would be surprisingly pretty good.
Billy Corgan. It'll be the Moby-Dick of rock autobiographies -- a lot of it pretty good but chunks of dozens of pages you can skip. And maybe a discount on the pretension.
Leonard Cohen. No joke here. It would probably be a deep, well-written, lengthy book. Probably poetry in itself.
Billy Joe Armstrong. If it could stop him from doing another epic concept album, it might be an interesting read.
Mike Mills or Peter Buck. The Michael Stipe book would probably be insufferable but the band has a story.
Dexter Holland. More for a history of the early-'90s "alternative"/indie-to-mainstream scene than anything about the Offspring.
Colin Greenwood. The least interesting member of Radiohead probably has the best perspective of the story of the band. He also probably has the most time to write it.
Lou Reed. If someone found it posthumously.
Radio Stations I Have Programmed In My Truck:
89.9 KCRW. The Santa Monica college station. It's NPR but they play music outside of the news programming. Adventurous radio, all over the place. I used to listen obsessively in the morning when I was on staff. Most of any decent new music from the last 15 years got broke on this station. Not only have I discovered so much great stuff, but it's usually months before anyone else gets it too. And Rollins' show on Sunday nights (sucks that they changed him from Saturday nights, though). The signal is iffy in the Valley and yet it sometimes lasts until just about when I get to Rancho Cucamonga. If you listen to Internet radio, this is the one to get.
101.1 KRTH. The go-to for oldies. Back in the early '90s when I started listening to southern California radio, this was great for '60s stuff (though the Beatles were out of style then). It was weird when they started playing '70s stuff, though I've come to like the disco, but it was even weirder when they started playing '80s stuff, and just recently day I heard Bon Jovi. It's a sliding scale, I suppose, and it won't be too long before even early-'90s stuff will be considered oldies.
106.7 KROQ. You'd think I would listen to this night and day. And I did at one time but not anymore. I've just moved on. It's a lot of new-school rock and that's generally just not for me anymore. And I'm not going to sit around listening until they get to something good. I'd say they probably don't break a lot of stuff, since corporate radio doesn't reward adventure. I'd be tempted to listen to Rodney Bingenheimer's show again but it's on late Sunday nights.
97.1 Jack FM. Every major city has a Jack (or similarly named) radio station, so I've been told. I like that I generally can't ever guess what they're going to play next, though it leans toward classic rock ('70s, early '80s) which is fine by me. And it's easy enough to switch when they play Van Halen or Aerosmith, which is about every 20 minutes. But they play new stuff too -- I heard "Royals" once -- so that adds to some unpredictability.
98.7 KSTR. No, not Star FM (pop-rock) anymore. Now it's new-school rock, a lot like KROQ but less self-important. There's room enough in a big city for two "alternative"rock stations (though R.I.P. Indie 103, which was way beyond both of them put together). Half of what they play seems to be Muse so it's good I have five other stations programmed. Side-note:I haven't Shazamed any band more than Cage the Elephant, yet I haven't made the smallest effort to get any of their stuff.
95.5 KLOS. I was probably listening to KLOS even before KROQ, years ago. It's mostly classic rock, which is kind of redundant with other stations, but it's an institution, and as far as music goes, they usually play deeper cuts than other stations. And Breakfast with the Beatles on Sunday mornings. It sucks to be up that early (before noon) on Sundays, but if you have to be, there's probably not a more ideal show to listen to. If KXLU had a better signal, I'd probably put it in this place.
And if I could have KEXP in my truck (I have it in the TuneIn app on the Roku) then I would have that as my only station and I would never turn it.
I have less to say about Spotify than I thought I would. For a while there I was using it to play a lot of new albums but lately I've been coming home late so I don't have as much time around the house and the times when I'm home and Carla isn't, she's using the account, usually in her car. But everyone is saying that it's the wave of the future so I'll probably come back to it. The interface is a little clunky so it's hard to get around but it's pretty much got everything so it could be a great music resource.
My Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue backpack. The one I got years ago when I worked on the show (not the one in stores for kids). It's really practical so I put my stuff in it when I was going to be on my bicycle and also just for casual use. Lately I've dug it out from the back of then closet and my laptop fits in it so it's become more useful for everyday use. Recently it's had the added benefit of getting attention when I have it, as it's noticed by someone from the younger generation who grew up on the show and are impressed that I worked on it. But mostly it's just useful. (It's also starting to fall apart so I wanted to have a tribute to it in case I don't have it for much longer.)
Cooking. When I'm between jobs (which can go on for a few weeks), I'm trying to get back into cooking. When I would come home late at night, Carla would do most of the cooking so I'd like to balance the scales, as well as just trying to become a better cook and, you know, make dinner. I can follow a recipe but when I make a dish that comes out right, I want to move on and not make it again. There are only a few things I've made a second time. So I'm always looking for more recipes, though preferably for something that is healthy, cheap, and easy to make (since I'm making it). I started a recipe group on Facebook and my people have posted some great stuff I've made so far. There's also the Chow channel on the Roku that shows great, easy recipes and how to make them.
Cilantro. It's magic, man. I've gone most of my life eating it and not realizing how much I love it. Now I know what it is, I just order it with what I'm eating whenever/wherever appropriate (which I try to make as much as possible).
Mouthwash. Two or three times a day, it's just become a habit. Of course, the original golden sewer flavor. Also: Brushing teeth every 12 hours, just before going to bed around midnight, and usually just before lunch.
Putting this together was surprisingly painless this time. HTML is either getting more sensible to work with or I'm figuring out the tricks in advance to be able to deal with it.
I'm always stocking up more reviews and stuff I've written so it's not because of lack of material that I so rarely put together a zine, it's the putting-together part. I always say I'll do it better but you know me. The next one will be out when it's out.
MAILING COMMENTS (for PL #55)
Well, it was good while it lasted. A pretty good turn-out for the last issue. The same regulars, which is awesome, since they had a chance to give it a send-off. If that was the last issue of Pulp Legacy, I could live with that.
I actually meant to write mailing comments for the last issue a long time ago. Just because there isn't the regular format anymore doesn't mean that the zines that were produced shouldn't be appreciated and commented on. I meant to put my mailing comments into one of my blog-zines but up to now it either slipped my mind or I just wanted to get the zine written and posted so it could maybe get everyone else going with theirs. Then I realized that I hadn't even read that last issue of the APA. So I wanted to get it done anyway and I got around to including it here. As good a place as any. And I can close the book on the APA (unless we start it again) and you know that at least one person read all your zines. Even though I know it's been a while. Bear with me if what you had in your zine has aged significantly.
Once I got around to doing it, it got done quickly, quicker than I thought it would take. I thought I'd have to do it at home (not always my most productive place to work) but then I realized that I had put the PL issue on Dropbox so I mailed it to myself at work and read and wrote comments on it there. I think it went over a lunch then dinner break or two, then a Friday when I was having computer problems and had time to fit in some work on it. So, a few days, not that long. It probably took me longer to edit the whole blog-zine. And it took a lot less time, of course, because I didn't have to read and comment on my own zine. (Though I skimmed it. Yeah, that was, indeed, a while ago.)
Table of Contents
61 pages (with my zine included)/9 zinists (myself included) = 6.78 pages each. 38 pages (with my zine excluded)/8 zinists (myself excluded) = 4.75 pages each. My zine was almost half the total issue. WHY WON'T I STOP WRITING? WHY CAN'T I STOP WRITING?
Heitmeyer didn't bother to come up with an issue. Not cool.
Letter from the editor-in-chief (Jones)
I didn't have much hope that PL would keep going after that issue. If there's an easy way out, a thing will usually go that direction. There was talk about picking it up again but that went away. Even one issue seems like a big undertaking, especially with no one to head it. Now I've started doing blog-zines (with the hope that others would follow suit) so it would be weird to go back in the other direction to how we used to do it. It would be fun but I'm not sure if we could get everyone/anyone into it. We've already gone so long without it, every day is even longer. We're out of the habit We all probably forgot how long it takes to put together a decent zine (and for one person to put the entire thing together). But there's nothing wrong with all that. From what I can tell, we're still keeping in touch, mostly in e-mail circles and Facebook and such and that's what it was about, right? I've said from the beginning that I was most interested in the community shared by everyone. I still am. We've had some good times and I've made great friends through the APA. I don't see any reason why that won't keep on going. Pulp Legacy is dead. Long live Pulp Legacy!
I went to capitalize the Z in your zine title and it's the first time I realized why you named it that. Duh.
To be fair, the first female contributor was a real person, she was just using a fake name, I don't remember why. It, as well as participation, must have seemed like a good idea at the time.
A few bucks in a class action suit doesn't mean much on an individual level but if it's a lot of people, that can be a ton of money that someone is paying. Not much damage to a huge corporation but it could make you feel better for helping take a chunk out of your enemy, in this case Ticketmaster. And you don't even have to be anything more than just a number that they can include in the suit. It all adds up. I know how much you hate them. I hope you got some satisfaction from it. I thought I was on it too but I don't remember getting anything for it. I think I'd rather not have it if it means I have to give them more money to use the credit. You know, if they still had a physical front, they'd probably charge for the convenience of that, too.
Did you really stop getting tickets from Ticketmaster? Now my tickets are more expensive because you don't use them anymore. I still get tickets from them from time to time (the ones for Wicked probably had a fee so outrageous that I've blocked it from memory) but I'll try any other service first (though there's usually only one for each venue). Luckily we don't often go to big shows that use them as often as we used to.
I still talk to most of the people from that disclosed-recipient list (present company included). They didn't all join the APA but they're still holding that circle against me (as far as I know).
If you're a Mexican, teach Carla to like spicy food and hot weather.
I've eaten Zara's chickens' eggs. They're good.
Dark chocolate eggs?
There's no water in the L.A. River.
The lady bestowed the virtues of keeping chickens to you? What were they? You totally left us in suspense.
Why shouldn't you get a rooster?
You attract stray chickens? Do you really keep them all?
Do the chickens remember you when you go to feed them? Or do they just cozy up to you at the moment because you have food?
Have you known a lot of birds that are or aren't smart?
How does it affect the life of a chicken to have herpes? Maybe they all do? And if they do then it's not really a special thing. And how does anyone really find out if they do? And why does anyone care?
Zarko's Ramblings #37 (Zaric)
I've never thought you've rambled. At least no more than anyone else. You're a good, focused writer.
It still sticks with me about when the next zines are coming out and when I need to put mine together. I just need the release and I've been doing these things too long to stop. But then, I CAN'T STOP WRITING.
I bet the people anyone would consider great writers still have the same creative hardships as anyone else. They still have to make the stuff up and write it out just like anyone else. There's not a secret place or unique tool where they get all their ideas. We all start from the same place. But Jim Lee was right, that so much of it is crap when you start out. I've heard it's the first million words. I'm hoping that I'm approaching the end of that someday soon.
No, we won't all lose touch just because the APA isn't active anymore. We still have e-mail and all that. We'll be in touch as much as we want to be. At least if I have anything to do with it. You can't shake me.
I'd say the title of the story or novel is the least important aspect in the grand scheme of things. Getting the words out and how you want them is the most important thing, everything else are just surface details. A title comes along eventually, and when it comes naturally it's more honest. That half-hour spent trying to come up with titles could have been spent writing. But I'm not giving you crap -- I'm impressed that you made it any distance in producing such a dedicated work. It's been a while, where is it now?
I'm a fan of "menagerie" as well. Have you realized that what you described in considering that title comes close to The Glass Menagarie (one of my favorite plays)? I used something from that, also involving a theme of being in an enclosure, as the title of something of mine too.
Of course you'll cut some of the writing out. You're supposed to. Editing is when the real writing happens. But I'm glad that you decided to write to the end before going back to re-write. I've ruined way too many stories doing rewrites as I've gone along, without going to the end.
Congratulations on keeping to 500 words a day. I hope you've kept it up since then! It's true, about keeping continual pressure on it. Taking small bits out of it builds up to really big parts then the whole thing. And I do the same thing, keeping at writing, no matter what it is, as long as I'm writing as much as I can. Lately it keeps getting bigger and bigger; I get the most encouragement by writing so much and that makes me want to write even more. I'm on such a roll now, getting so much written, including so much of projects I've let pass for so long (like this), that getting it out of the way gives me so much encouragement to keep writing, and eventually I'll get into the meat of some really good stuff, and have the energy and ability and momentum behind me. Everything can build on itself.
I'd probably get the same scare from someone writing something similar to me (or vice-versa). But, like the lady said, yours is yours. And by the time you get yours out, the other one won't be so prominent, if not forgotten. It's a shame you didn't interact with the lady (or at least you didn't say you did) to pow-wow on how your stories go together. I'd say to send her one of your published copies! The novel I've been working on since high school is very similar to a certain big-name series of books, one that has been made into a franchise of movies that you've seen at least one of, but I didn't realize it until just a few years ago. But I'm going to keep going with my story since I know it's different from the big-name books, which I'm also purposely not reading (though I wouldn't have much interest in them anyway).
Writing is hard work. Most people, those who write and read, don't always realize that. But I'm proud that you have it in you to get down to it and get it out.
It might be better to be a middle-of-the-pack player on a team. If you stay with it and keep being consistent, you can eventually get to the front of the pack. The best ones often get burnt out or cause their own problems because of the recognition of their abilities. Less pressure being in the middle, too.
What's an "en suite" in a house?
I hope you've found a balance between writing and running. I know when I'm on one side usually the other one goes way away.
Pre-game parties are so alien to me. I've only rarely gone to football games -- one pro, one college, as far as I remember, maybe a handful of high school games, of which my own there was only one. Though just last weekend we went to Fresno for the college game there. My brother is going to FSU and we (the family more than me) went to his high school games but since he doesn't have those then we have his current school. My other brothers and their spouses and kids went to, my sister even flew out from Denver, and we were excited about it, went through a 20-pack of Bud Lite to get warmed-up, then we get to the game an hour before, ready to party... and they don't serve alcohol... and we can't leave once we were within the stadium (which we didn't know when we entered). So it was the entire game, dry. The ladies were about to blow their brains out. Then afterwards we couldn't find a bar, and we were so defeated by it already, that we just went with the family's plan of going to Denny's. It wasn't a disaster for me but it was torture for most of the rest of the family. What sporting event doesn't serve alcohol? It was even sponsored by Bud Lite, and yet didn't serve it! Yeah, it kinda sucked. I asked Jones and he said that unless it's a big college, they don't have alcohol. It was just... ugh. I'm glad you had a better time.
Even worse, that dude (surely it was a guy) puked on the door during the day. Some drinkers just don't know how to do it right.
Remind me about the live Robert Plant track I have.
About concerts for old-timers: We're seeing Fleetwood Mac in a few weeks. I don't care how old they are or the age of the crowd we'll be surrounded by. (Oh wait, I'm almost that age.)
That's a crazy scheme to pay for the city's hockey team. Aren't hockey tickets usually fairly expensive? But if people pay for them then there's no reason to make them a reasonable price. I guess they did the right thing, and the people got their team. But it's still crazy to think that there are so many people there that would pay so much for tickets.
I'd rather you don't look up times for any races I've run. But I had a good time doing them (though more for training).
If you're saying ultimate fighting is violence for the sake of violence, I'd say boxing is the same. I can understand the violence, and people's perverse need to watch it, but they're the same in that respect as far as I can see. I enjoy each as much.
There aren't many people I disagree about music with more than you. Not just OK Computer but we've had differing opinions about music I used to put on the year-end best-of CDs I'd send out. And that's cool to disagree. But OK Computer is still a great album. It might be an acquired taste, or you might just need more of a background with that kind of music. Or maybe you're just not a Radiohead fan. They exist. There are worse crimes. You've still got time.
I can't relate to back problems but lately I've been getting something I think are pinched nerves in my back, near the spine, both sides at different times, near the end of jobs I've been on. Could be the position I take when I sit or just sitting all day. Usually I just keep my spine straighter when I can and it goes away after a few days. But certainly the body starts to fall apart after a certain age. I feel lucky I can still run, after some of the punishment I've put my body through, including due to ridiculous shoes.
I didn't expect anyone to make money for a school Christmas concert. No one makes money at a school.
I think there's money back on empties in Indiana. I remember getting money when we'd take back glass bottles. I don't know if they have it in California, or if it's even worth doing. I put our stuff in the recycle bin but it's not worth the time to take the stuff down to get money for it myself. Though I did take in our old microwave that stopped working to a metal recycling plant and got $5 for it. $5 more than I thought I'd get. I would have put it out by the curb if they'd be cool with that.
Me, an adulterer? Oh, heavens no.
If you're going to get into Morrissey, start with the Smiths, the earlier the better, their best being The Queen is Dead. Every song they did is a classic. Morrissey's solo stuff is more hit and miss, with a few awful albums but some good songs here and there. My favorite track by Morrissey, including when he was in the Smiths, is a solo one of his.
A Case against Mercy (Griesbach)
Did you ever make that case against mercy? I never understood that title.
PL isn't dead at all. It's up to us to continue it. If we want.
I've read your favorite comics series, probably even your copies, though I still haven't read Swamp Thing. One day. As far as awesome comics reading goes, it gives me something to look forward to. Though I hope it's not the version of Alan Moore who wrote with his head in his ass.
There's not really a market for plots written out, until they lead to something. What did you do or plan to do with that plot?
Dear Pulp Legacy... (Arnett)
That should have been the title of everyone's zines.
It's good that you were able to get something in to the last issue. It was an apt ending and your words ring true. It's only a shame that you didn't contribute more but if you're writing stuff that's going to get published, that certainly takes precedence. I'm really proud that you've had success in your writing and I hope to see more of what you've done!
As for when you got your feelings hurt or from the endless strings of e-mail circles, you didn't say my name but I get it.
You weren't always there towards the end of the APA but I always remembered the title of your zine.
Yeah, it had to end sometime. It went about as well as it could. I can look back on it with pride.
I think the members that didn't join would have been the hardest to recruit, you were just the one that eventually gave in. Unless you're referring to something specific that happened.
Why aren't we all doing the occasional Pulp Legacy Fiction?
There are mean streets in Hollywood?
I think Zara has probably been a part of more brotherhoods than the rest of us put together.
Stuff I Think is Cool by Eric Bowen (Bowen)
It's a shame you didn't continue your usual format to the last issue. I miss all the talk about horror movies.
You don't dig all kinds of music. You stop at Pink Floyd, I know that.
It's always interesting to me when bands cover covers. Hey, why not? These songs get handed down and sometimes you grow up with the newer version. But always interesting to go back and compare the original. You're right: I didn't know most of those songs were covers.
I couldn't click on the music to hear it and I don't know what songs you were listing. But I probably know them anyway.
The difference between what we were writing for in the APA and what we might have ended up doing as a day-job is that one was a job and the other was a dream. You might get paid for writing but you're writing what someone else wants. In the APA we could do what we want. That's ideally what we all want to do, though the pay usually sucks (if it exists at all). But if you want to write, it's a good job to be a writer. Personally I'd like to do more editing. Maybe I should have done that more in the APA (as if I wasn't a perfectionist enough about my own zine).
Can't you write and draw on the plane on your way to these trips? There's your creative time right there. How big are the pages you draw on?
I could imagine something bigger than Pulp Legacy going on, but better? That was cockier than taking a limo ride.
"Boyd" is better as a first name than "Atticus." But reversed sounds better when they're together, though putting "Jones" at the end of that is rather plain. But what you went with sounds best all together. Good work.
I like names that sound like old people. "Mary" should have a comeback. That's a great name. Most kids' names these days are dumb or repeated way too much.
I think if I was 15 years older I'd be EVEN LESS of a Zep fan. But I've been coming around lately. Of their music in my collection, I think I have one song and it's a cover.
How's your Kindle working? We should talk Kindles more. I haven't been using mine a lot, though Carla read Gone Girl on it a few months ago, but I have some ideas of what to do with it, when I get some other things in place. Ours used to be effectively out tablet for home computer until I got the new (in January) laptop.
I usually read at least three books at a time. I can't even remember how many I'm on right now. Though lately, with everything I do, I'm trying to focus on one thing at a time and give it my whole attention. I've been doing better with getting to things one at a time. I'm buying into the theory that multitasking, as great as we all think we are at it, is bullshit. But that's a whole other topic that we can take somewhere else.
Why do you have the need to read three books at once? We not just take a single book around with you? Or is it a case of not having what you want to read with you and having to get an alternative, thereby starting another one?
I tried to warn you about Green Lantern. I don't write those reviews for my own health and safety, you know.
Are we all still on for Chicago Comic-Con 2015?
You really think an e-mail from me would only be occasional?
PULP LEGACY MUST DIE!!!/Spendlove
No Wilco song to quote for a title?
Have I ever seen a picture of your wife? Have you ever dared to let us see one?
It's not a big deal that you left out some names in your shout-outs, but why in the world did you include Boring? He ought to win an award for the most amazingly half-assed contribution ever, an award that could crush him and put him in the hospital when the total amount of his physical movement would be slowly typing out letters for zines that he's making to be included in the APA retroactively. Except for dropping into every e-mail circle we've ever had, could he really be considered a member? What was the minimum participation? And how did he manage to get under even that?
Oh, wait, these are your mailing comments. Though he still might read this. And he doesn't even have a zine I can make comments about.
Maybe everyone and everything is all the same cloud and we all get little parts of it?
Electrical engineering and mechanical engineering are two different things?
Did you figure out how to get your CDs onto the cloud? I'd assume you just import the CDs into something like iTunes, then you can share them from there. At least that's how I understand it. I think I did it that way. Though I'm still not sure if I'm even in touch with the/a cloud. I haven't seen it labeled anywhere.
The form that the APA community took post-APA is probably the movie review e-mail circle. The funny thing is, a lot of the non-APA people in that circle (or at least the ones that write in to it) are people that would be good recruits for the APA. We just could never get them in before it went away. But if you want something to keep going, that's it. Not what I would have picked necessarily but at least we're all still together at some point and we're sharing ideas and some writing and keeping in touch.
Hey, that's a pretty good way to end it (and better than talking about a Micheal Buble Christmas album).