Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Fictionalized animation history

Terry Teachout notes how Who Framed Roger Rabbit made him look back at animated films and consider why they might be important. That entry got me thinking about Kim Deitch's "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams," which is a graphic novel about the early days of animation and how some of the animators were crushed in the process. It's very good and I think Teachout (and just about everyone else) would enjoy it. I learned about the book after Jeffrey Ford did an interview with Deitch at Fantastic Metropolis.

More books on music

There's a whole new set of those 33 1/3 books coming out, including Elvis Costello's Armed Forces by Franklin Bruno, the Replacements' Let It Be by Colin Meloy, and The Beatles' Let It Be by Steve Matteo, as well as a bunch more.
I had mixed reviews for the first two I read, but it's an interesting enough idea that I may pick up some of the new ones if I see them at the bookstore.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Jeffrey Ford in Locus

Jeffrey Ford will be the lead interview in the next issue of Locus. LocusOnline sometimes does interview excerpts, so keep a watch out. (It's a great site anyway; they keep up with the latest genre fiction news.) I'll be rushing out to my bookstore next week to find the magazine on the shelves. Meanwhile, The Mumpsimus has put together a few hot links to Ford interviews while you're waiting for the issue. (Also a previous entry of my own includes many Ford things to tide you over. And I'm still looking for anyone who might be interested in a free hardcover copy of The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque.)

Excellent new blog: Tingle Alley

Tingle Alley is a new blog by a Maud Newton guest blogger. It's terrific. It's already made it to my everyday check list. Today she has outdone herself. She responds forcefully to a New York Times Book Review essay. The second entry is a look at the questions an apprentice writer must face.

I write this to help me remember it. Because for the past year I’ve suffered more doubt and insecurity than ever before about my writing. Enough unhappiness that it’s seemed worthwhile to ask myself, “Why not just stop?” Why have what amounts to basically a glorified hobby (no one pays me to write fiction) that makes you so miserable? And guilty. And hunch-backed. Why not just be happy with the good husband and the satisfactory job in plumbing supplies, and with friends and family and trying to be a good person in the world? Why not just read the books other people write? Why not choose to be content?
It occurs to me that there are two kinds of misery you can encounter as a writer: The misery of apprenticeship — basically, the frustrations and humiliations involved in learning how to do your craft well — and the misery of why bother with it at all.

Check out Tingle Alley, there's lots of good stuff there.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Godzilla tramples New York

In August, the Film Forum in New York will host two weeks of Godzilla films (scroll down). The festival includes Gojira, Destroy All Monsters, Mothra, Godzilla Mothra Mechagodzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. and many more. I have to find a way to get to these.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Sweeney Todd coming to a theater near you

Apparently Sam Mendes, the director of American Beauty and Road to Perdition, will be directing a movie version of the musical Sweeney Todd that is scheduled for release in 2005. I didn't think much of American Beauty, but it was well directed. I love the Stephen Sondheim musical, I only hope Mendes does a good job.

The Sound of Shatner

Ben Folds is working on a major new William Shatner release that will include the likes of Henry Rollins, Aimee Mann, Joe Jackson and a song written by Nick Hornby.

"It is a great record and it is really worth going out and doing some shows in major cities," Folds told "(Shatner) is not a musician at all -- he's not rapping or singing -- but he is still part of the music. I've never heard a record quite like it."

A true classic in the making. I can't wait to see the tour. (Thanks to Charles for the heads up.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Annoying ad

I noticed when I went to IMDB, the most annoying ad in the world came up. Every time I found a new movie, these two giant metal arms would appear on the screen and shake my browser for 10 seconds or so. It would be followed by an ad for I, Robot (I refuse to link to it, both because of the ad and because it looks like it will be a travesty.) Why do advertisers do this? Don't they know it just annoys the hell out of us? There should be some reforms in Internet advertising. It's not getting them anywhere.

Original Godzilla soundtrack

La-La Land Records will be releasing a 50th anniversary version of the Godzilla (Gojira 1954) soundtrack. This company seems to be pretty good. They've got soundtracks of Hollywood movies like the Punisher and the Butterfly Effect and TV shows like the new Battlestar Galactica and Saint Sinner. According to Henshin! Online:

The CD will contain Akira Ifukube's orchestral soundtrack, sound effects, and a 16-page booklet featuring liner notes and production stills. The CD cover will feature exclusive artwork for this 50th Anniversary release. The CD will have a retail price of $15.98. Source: Toho Kingdom

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Cult members found guilty

That crazy cult leader and murderer and his accomplices were found guilty. Sentencing will be on June 24.

Fictional character blogging

Gabe Chouinard is experimenting (again.) He's nearly completed a novel called "Dead Cities" and is planning to write a sequel starring a secondary character from the first. But he needs to work on the character. So he's created The Journal of Aristin Swift, in which his character will blog about his life.
Chouinard says:

I thought this might be an interesting opportunity to accomplish both a bridge work between the two novels and to explore the 'making of a character' in an interesting and innovative way. We've all read 'excerpts' from 'journals' in fantasy novels. So let's take it a step further, shall we?

DarkEcho blog has a new address


A Scanner Darkly report

Everyone else is linking to it, so why can't I. The Philip K. Dick Trust (members of Dick's family) visits the set of "A Scanner Darkly." I'm excited about this film because it appears to be a faithful adaptation of a Dick work (one I haven't read, by the way.) I'm depressed because it has Keanu Reeves in it. I'm hoping for the best though. It's illustrated in the same way "Waking Life" was done. It will be interesting to see that technique used for an actual plot. Hopefully it will make up for Reeves acting abilities.

Going to the prom

Slate is doing this odd story about proms. David Amsden, a writer in his mid-20s, is taking a 17-year-old girl to her prom -- in the name of reporting, of course. He uses the event to talk about our culture's obsession with young girls. It's actually very good and not nearly as prurient as it sounds. The second installment is here. I'm waiting for today's. Apparently some people have made enough complaints about the piece for Amsden to respond:

Nothing remotely taboo occurred during my night at the prom, which anyone can learn by reading the piece. It's strange, then, that the majority of you should be so thirsty for it to be a legitimate "confession of a pervert" type story, which, surely, everyone knows Slate would never publish. What's going on here?

I went to 3 proms when I was in high school (mine, my girlfriend's and a friend who needed a date). None of them were all that great. They're expensive and just seem to be an excuse to party afterward. I wonder if they're any better now that there are these big afterprom events where the school sets up an all night alcohol-free party? I doubt it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Godzilla cartoon release

Three episodes from Godzilla: The Series is coming out on DVD in August. The cartoon series was based on the 1998 movie, but far exceeds it (which really wasn't that hard). The trilogy being released, called "Monster Wars," was pretty good as I remember. They basically rounded up all the monsters from the series and created an all out battle. Like "Destroy All Monsters," but without all the big names.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Cult, murders, nude models and more

Professor Hex has latched onto a wild story this time (well, he always does, but this one's particularly good.)I hesitate to describe it. There are too many details and they're all fascinating. The story includes brutal murders, a violent cult, a Playboy model, a good witch raising money for Armageddon, Elvin Bishop's family, rohypnol and a plot to take over the Mormons.

The culmination of [cult leader] Helzer's plan was to have been an operation codenamed "Brazil", in which he would send South American orphans to Salt Lake City to kill the 15 elders who run the Mormon church.
According to Godman's testimony, Helzer imagined he could blame the murders on the "government behind government" and take over the leadership of the world's 12 million Mormons himself.

Here's the latest on the case. It's horrifying, but you can't turn away.

JJA interviews Richard K. Morgan

The Slush God does an interview with Richard K. Morgan, author of Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Market Forces. I read Altered Carbon and thought it was a great combination of noir detective stories and science fiction concepts. I have Broken Angels on the shelf, but wasn't really in the mood for another noir novel. Now I find out that's not exactly what it is:

In Broken Angels, the sequel to Altered Carbon, you radically change gears, from a brutal future-noir crime thriller to a brutal militaristic, alien archaeology tale. Likewise, Kovacs changes careers from detective to soldier of fortune/archaeologist. What has been the reaction to it thus far?
Morgan: By and large, the reaction's been good. I think there was always going to be an element who expected me to churn out a series of future detective stories until my toes curled up, and those guys I was always going to disappoint. But most readers seem to have gone with the change without a problem. Some like Altered Carbon more, some seem to think Broken Angels is better. And one guy in a bookshop told me they were both great but in entirely different ways, which of course is the result I was looking for!

So now maybe I'll read Broken Angels earlier than I expected.

Yahoo Mail is new and Web attacks are frustrating

So Yahoo! has updated its mail service. This is, of course, an attempt to fight off Google's new mail service.

Marcel Nienhuis, a senior analyst for the Radicati Group, a market research firm that focuses on online communications, said those worries are now probably moot. Yahoo's free service is probably enough for most people, while the premium service will appeal to hardcore Internet users, he said.
"This will negate the storage benefit of Google," Nienhuis said. "The Yahoo service is better than the Google service. Users are familiar with it, and many of them have their contacts there."
He also added that Yahoo's spam filter is better than Google's.

Well, that's all fine and dandy, but it seems now Yahoo mail doesn't work. Every time I try to do something, my computer can't find the page. It's really frustrating. And at a bad time, since I just started a Google mail account too. I like that Yahoo is updating their service, but can they please make sure it works right before unveiling it? I'm sure in a day or two these won't be problems.
UPDATE: Well, as Cybele pointed out in the comments, the slow down doesn't appear to be Yahoo's fault. There was an attack on major Web sites (including Yahoo) today. So I'll chalk it up to that. The mail seems to be working fine now.

Gi-ant movie

Fred Olen Ray is apparently working on a giant ant movie. Ray has made some truly awful B-movies over the years, but they are usually goofy fun. I'm not sure I'm looking forward to this movie, but I'll certainly check it out.

More on comic books

Scribbling woman says much the same that I did about comics and art but, you know, better and more interestingly.
Also, there is an excellent response at Rasputin's I Am Uninformed to this whole thing.

The Mumpsimus does interviews

As if The Mumpsimus wasn't a great enough blog already, Matthew Cheney has started interviewing people. He talks with K.J. Bishop about her novel The Etched City, her story "Maldoror Abroad" in Album Zutique and her writing process.

I don't think I have an impulse to tell stories so much as an impulse to spend time with characters. I always used to imagine things about my favourite characters from movies and books, and over time those characters would change in my mind, turning into people who were similar to the originals but different enough for me to think of them as separate. When I started writing, I discovered that the process of writing allowed me to get to know them much better than I could by just daydreaming. I also discovered that I liked writing in and of itself -- the pleasure of making things out of words, of finding the way to express something, to define some notion or feeling of mine that previously had been vague.

Also, while I'm talking about interviews, Maud Newton's latest "Fiction Writers on Writing" (previously "Making Book") is with Stephen Elliott.

Can comic books be art?

This review of the comics issue of McSweeney's has been upsetting some people around the world of blogging. In it, Martin Rowson takes aim at the urge to believe that comic books can be great art. He gets truly heated up by the end:

This [the McSweeney's issue] is yet another sally in that old, old struggle to get comics to be taken seriously and recognised by the adult world in general as "respectable".
Except that comics aren't and shouldn't be respectable. The closest they should come to the adult world is as a kind of foul-mouthed, filthy-minded and grubby adolescence, with adolescents of all ages duly sequestered in that teenage bedroom and, between bouts of what teenagers do, thumbing through thin, flimsy funnies instead of damaging their wrists trying to hold this latest over-weighty, overproduced whinge. Ware, after all, is rich and famous, and thanks to this book will doubtless be mobbed by the thousands and thousands of ageing retards for whom comics still float their boat. Which is fine, but I wish he and the rest of them would accept that, in the ecology of culture, comics flourish where they are for a reason, and so he should stop pushing against an open door into an empty room.

Linking to this, the Literary Saloon says:
but it's nice to see someone argue that all this talk that comics should be taken seriously has gone too far

The Return of the Reluctant comments further on this idea:
There have been too many insalubrious suggestions from the "comics as literature" crowd without justification or solid arguments. It's one thing to state it, but it comes across as a callow undergraduate announcing for the umpteenth time that God is dead. It's another thing to have someone like James Wood or Christopher Hitchens weighing in on the matter and offering a proper historical or critical perspective. Ergo, it's nice to see someone rock the boat (with admittedly too much gusto), if only to get the pro-comics crowd reconsidering their arguments.

Bookslut dismisses the whole thing out of hand:
Oh, Jesus fucking Christ. Someone is trying really hard to be controversial, aren't they? I got the link from The Literary Saloon, who seems to agree. A certain someone also insists I should have arguments to back up my claim that comics are literature. But this article doesn't make me want to defend my claim. It makes me roll my eyes and get along with my day, just as any other boneheaded statement meant to get people angry would. I can't be bothered to care. More 100 Bullets for me.

So a tempest in a teapot, but those are my favorite kind. I, for one, agree with Bookslut's dismissal of the article. Rowson is so nasty at the end there. My biggest problem with Rowson's article is the statement "Except that comics aren't and shouldn't be respectable." Is he trying to set himself up as some guardian of art? Is there any reason why comics shouldn't be accepted as having the potential to be art?
As for the more reasonable request that we comic fans should tell the world what the classics, the "Ulysses" or "Canterbury Tales" of the comic book world, are, I can name a few.
Here's a few comic books I believe are masterpieces (with links to Amazon so you can buy them and decide for yourself):
From Hell, Watchmen, Maus, Jim Woodring's Frank series, Sandman, Harvey Pekar comics, Through the Habitrails, Love & Rockets, Mr. Punch, A Contract With God, Jar of Fools.
Some of those are the books everybody mentions, some are personal to me, but I think they are all important in some way. And I haven't included some single issues of comics by people like Bernard Krigstein, Dan Clowes and David Mazzuchelli that are also beautiful, important art. For that matter, I haven't included any foreign works that also deserve notice.
Maybe people are going crazy for comics now because they are hot. And maybe some comic books are being overrated because of this. But I don't see how that makes any difference to whether comic books can be art.
I would like to see somebody make a cogent argument as to why comic books can't be art that isn't based on the fans ("foul-mouthed, filthy-minded and grubby adolescence") or particular bad examples (if you take a bad comic off a comic book store shelf at random, I can also walk into a book store and easily find a trashy novel just as bad.) Do people believe there is something inherently wrong with comics that keeps them from being art?
I just don't get it.
Anyway, I'm not the best person to make the argument, but I felt somebody should be sticking up for them.
Now that I've written all this, I notice that Rowson is an editorial cartoonist. (Maybe many of you know this?) Could this put a whole different spin on things? Here's an interview with him on politics, which inludes this paragraph:
But Rowson is not one of those who bangs on about the 'power of the cartoon' and its potential impact on political life. 'The fact that I do horrible drawings of politicians doesn't disempower them in any way at all - and what I can do is nothing compared to what they can do, because they have power over my destiny.'

Maybe he just hates himself (or thinks comic books are beneath editorial cartoons.) Whatever.

Richard Hell on Robert Quine

More on Robert Quine, this time Richard Hell talks about the guitarist and his final days.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Fox-deer thing and the credibility of photos

This guy took a photo of a mysterious creature in back yard. The creature looks like a cross between a fox and a deer, with a cat's tail. It's very strange.
It's funny how the digital age has completely taken away the credibility of photographs. As soon as I saw the picture, I said to myself "that's a photoshop!" I have no idea if it is, but how can anyone tell? I suppose if he has original negatives on film, rather than digital. Still. Cool looking photo anyway.
(Link found at Professor Hex.)

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Acid, absinthe and upset tummies

I was searching Fortean Times today, hoping their H.P. Lovecraft article had made the Internet (it hasn't), but I find they have an interesting collection of articles on how acid, absinthe and upset stomachs inspired several writers: Thomas De Quincey, August Strindberg, Aldous Huxley and Lewis Carroll. Tied to that there is an article on the Grateful Dead if you are interested in that sort of thing.
The Lovecraft article, published in their latest issue, is very good. It's sure to point out that Lovecraft was a stout nonbeliever in the occult, but it still explores its influence on him and how others have brought his work into the occult. It's a good read. I'll try to remember to link to it when it's up on the Web site.

Giant monster designs

So the rest of the monster artwork for "Godzilla: Final Wars" has been released. Most of the monsters show little change from their '60s look. Gigan, with it's metal body and detailed hooks, and Manda, now green instead of red and with a sleeker head, seem the most changed. Hedorah looks like they've added a few gross details and Rodan looks sleeker. Otherwise, it's all very traditional. Have I mentioned how much I can't wait for this movie?
While I'm on about giant monsters, Retromedia released Return of the Giant Monsters backed with Magic Serpent. I don't have either movie and while Retromedia doesn't use the best prints, I like just having a copy of the films.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Read what I tell you! Buy Vandermeer's books!

You know, I keep trying to push authors I think are great to you readers, but I don't know how much you care. I fear that half of you have no interest and the other half are way ahead of me. No one has asked for that copy of "The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque" yet. Do I really have no readers interested in reading Jeff Ford?
Well, regardless if I'm putting you to sleep or making you skip a couple of entries a week, I'm going to continue promoting authors I enjoy.
One of my favorites is Jeff Vandermeer. Apparently, he has just completed work on his new book, "Shriek: An Afterword," which will be the latest book set in his city of Ambergris. If you're interested (and you should be!) check out his blog at and you'll be able to read excerpts from the book. His collection of short stories, "Secret Life", is available now. When I have some money available, that's going to be the next book I pick up.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Robert Quine 1942-2004

Guitarist Robert Quine, 61, has died, possibly of a heroin overdose. What a loss. The guy was an amazing guitar player. He made a name for himself with Richard Hell & the Voidoids and went on to revive Lou Reed's career with The Blue Mask. He played punk music, but he was a guitar god. His sound was distinctive and aggressive and he played like few before him (or after him for that matter). I was always excited to hear him on an album. This really is a tragedy. He had already done great work, but nothing would have stopped him from doing more if he had lived.
There are comments on his death here, here and people are talking about it on the I Love Music board. I'll add more as I find it.
Here's a bit on Quine from Victor Bockris' book "Transformer":

The purest of musicians with the highest of standards, Quine let his music speak for him. As soon as he played a single, inimitable note on his guitar, there was no question that Mr. Quine was in control. If an artist's work can be judged by how quickly it is recognized, then Bob Quine was on eof the all-time greats. By 1977, his playing was so inspired he had developed a cult following.

Bockris' book makes it clear that Quine not only aided Lou Reed on his album, but basically revived Reed's confidence in himself and set him back on the road to greatness.
Bockris also quotes New York Times music critic Robert Palmer:
Robert Quine's solos were like explosions of shredding metal and were over in thirty seconds or so.

And here is Lester Bangs on Quine:
Someday Quine will be recognized for the pivotal figure that he is on his instrument -- he is the first guitarist to take the breakthroughs of early Lou Reed and James Williamson and work through them to a new, individual vocabulary, driven into odd places by obsessive attention to "On the Corner"-era Miles Davis. Of course, I'm prejudiced, because he played on my record as well, but he is one of the few guitarists I know who can handle the supertechnology that is threatening to swallow players and instruments whole -- "You gotta hear this new box I got," is how he'll usually preface his latest discovery, "it creates the most offensive noise ..." -- without losing contact with his musical emotions in the process. Onstage he projects the cool remote stance learned from his jazz mentors -- shades, beard, expressionless face, bald head, old sportcoat -- but his solos always burn, the more so because there is always something constricted in them, pent up, waiting to be released.

UPDATE: Here's the New York Times obituary. Now they're saying it might have been suicide. Quine had been despondent over the loss of his wife in August. Also, Lou Reed has made a statement about Quine's death:
"Robert Quine was a magnificent guitar player -- an original and innovative tyro of the vintage beast," Reed said in a statement released to "He was an extraordinary mixture of taste, intelligence and rock'n'roll abilities coupled with major technique and a scholar's memory for every decent guitar lick ever played under the musical son. He made tapes for me for which I am eternally grateful -- tapes of the juiciest parts of solos from players long gone. Quine was smarter than them all. And the proof is in the recordings, some of which happily are mine. If you can find more interesting sounds and musical clusters than Quine on 'Waves of Fear' (from Reed's 1982 album "The Blue Mask"), well, it's probably something else by Robert."

There's some comments and a few more details at Richard Hell's site.
And finally, here's an interview with Quine from 1997 that goes over his whole career and from the same site, here's a list of Quine's favorite music.

Lost cities and peoples

Professor Hex put together a good batch of links recently. Especially interesting was his post about the possible discovery of Atlantis and his supposition that maybe it's Tartessos instead. The Tartessos link is fascinating. Unlike Atlantis, there's a wealth of historical mentions of Tartessos and it seems to coincide with Biblical references to Tarshish.
In the Altantis article, meanwhile, there's a reference to the Sea People:

Dr Kuehne noticed that the war between Atlantis and the eastern Mediterranean described in Plato's writings closely resembled attacks on Egypt, Cyprus and the Levant during the 12th Century BC by mysterious raiders known as the Sea People.
As a result, he proposes that the Atlanteans and the Sea People were in fact one and the same.

Here's some information on the Sea People.

Epic fantasy

At s1ngularity::front, Gabe Chouinard looks at epic fantasy and questions why he and so many book buyers love it when so much of it is mediocre.

What is missing from epic fantasy is PERSONALITY. Too much of it is homogenized, steralized, devoid of life. Without personality, epic fantasy is just a string of redundant novels telling a single story over and over again. We all know the tropes, we all know the Hero's Journey, we all know the way things will work out in the end. So it becomes a matter of style and idiosyncracy... and such traits are sorely ignored in most epic fantasy, which is why writers like Gene Wolfe and Stephen R. Donaldson stand out so prominently in the field. When the tale is familiar, it's the telling that matters.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Save the giant squid

Britain is fighting to stop deep sea trawling, which it believes is killing many underwater species, including the giant squid.

How I think

So I took the What Kind of Thinker Are You quiz at the BBC Web site. According to my results I am a:
logical-mathematical thinker
intrapersonal thinker
existentitial thinker.
It gives a little description of what each type of thinking means, people who were similar thinkers and jobs that best suit your thinking style. For instance, among the people who thought like me were: Graham Greene, Isaac Newton and Gandhi (actually, Gandhi fits into two of my categories.) Of course, all the jobs were different under each category.
It's an interesting quiz. See what you get.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

How giant squid aid you

Scientist says the eyes of the giant squid may hold the key to solving visual impairment. The story includes a rather awful picture of a detached giant squid eye.

Couch potato world record

So this British guy spent 47 consecutive hours watching TV and broke a world record. As world records go, this doesn't seem all that impressive to me, I've practically done it myself. The only hard part is staying awake. Got to be careful what you watch, one episode of "Full House" and you're done.
(Link found at Return of the Reluctant.)

Amazon's new thing

So Amazon has started a new thing, called a Plog. Well, really it's not a new thing at all, just new for them. A Plog is a "personalized Web log," and as far as I can tell, it lists your recent purchases and Amazon recommendations. It looks like Amazon is the plogger, although it's attached to your account. It's kind of an interesting idea, I hope they do something with it.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Writers and their multiple personalities

This link looks at the work of August Highland, a man on the Internet who has created 80 different personas who have numerous literary Web zines and publish each other's fiction. These 80 different persona have also created numerous literary movements. You can start on his stuff here. Of course, most of his stuff seems to be words strung together in either a "Finnegan's Wake" or William Burroughs cut-up novel style.
The whole thing reminds me of Fernando Pessoa. Pessoa was a Portuguese poet who created four "heteronyms." Each of these created personality wrote poems in their own style. They would write articles about each others work and would be inspired or outraged by each other.
(Original link found at Bookslut.)