Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Birthday, Superman

When I was a kid, I had some Superman activity book that listed Big Blue's birthday as February 29. For some reason, my brain has decided to retain that information while the quadratic equation has completely disappeared. I haven't seen the date mentioned in recent Superman lore, but even though no one else seems to care enough about Superman, a guy who's saved our planet about five times a day for 70 years, to celebrate the anniversary of his...his what? His birth on Krypton? His rocketship's arrival on Earth? Or is Feb. 29 just a lie he told Lois Lane to throw her off the trail of his dual identity as newsman Clark Kent?

If you've read more than three posts here at Bulldozer/Wreckingball, you've probably figured out that I'm pretty wild about Superman. I was as a young tyke, and then I went through a twenty-year phase where I thought I was too cool for Super-School. I was wrong. Oh, sure, there have been a lot of really terrible Superman stories that only reinforce the misconception that Superman is a total square (the 90s mullet didn't help).
Here are some recommendations of stories that will hopefully make you fall in love with Superman as hard as I did.

Showcase Presents Superman Family Vol. 1: This black & white reprint collection is almost entirely issues of Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen from the mid-50s, which is maybe the best POV from which to view the classic iteration of Superman. With Superman relegated to supporting player status, he becomes slightly more accessible and a lot more fun. Showcase Presents Superman Family Vol. 2 just came out this week and finds Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane getting equal play. I'm only about 30 pages into the over-500 page book, but already it's as gnarly as the first volume.

The Superman Chronicles Vol. 1: This colour reprint package collects the first year or so of Superman's published existence. It's pretty mind-blowing to see how raw the character was at the beginning.

All Star Superman #5: The whole series is highly recommended, and I'm sure the first six issues have been collected in hardcover by now, but this issue in particular is frighteningly amazing.

The Day of the Krypton Man: I don't know if this early-1990 storyline that ran through Action Comics, Adventures of Superman and Superman has been collected, but it's a fun romp as an ancient Kryptonian artifact called the Eradicator slowly turns the midwest farmers' son Clark Kent into freaky spaceman Kal-El. Along the way Supes fights a vengeful, cab-riding alien...on the moon.

Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil: Okay, this isn't actually Superman at all, but Captain Marvel, a Superman clone from the 40s who was briefly more popular than Superman himself (Elvis was a fan). This 2007 miniseries by Bone genius Jeff Smith returns Captain Marvel to the awesomeness he has been missing for the last 30 years. Mike Kunkel is doing a sort-of follow-up ongoing series due out later this year that promises to be fun. Below is an advance look at Kunkel's take on Captain Marvel's mad scientist enemy Dr. Sivana. YES. Anyway, Captain Marvel provides yet another way of looking at Superman, though the best stuff (like this) tends to mostly treat the Shazam fam sui generis.

mp3: "Man of Steel" by Frank Black
mp3: "Love Your Spaceman" by Robert Pollard

I still believe in Harvey Dent...

...but maybe not enough to give him my phone number.

Bad news, folks

It looks like the Earth won't survive the death of the Sun after all. Seven-point-six billion years is all we've got. I know, it sounds like a long time now, but time flies when the Sun "fuse[s] the last of its hydrogen into helium, turn[s] into a red giant and expand[s] to 250 times its current size." Ouch.

Bonus question for all you Bulldozer comments page folks: From what location would you prefer to watch the Sun go supernova?

mp3: "The Wishes Pile Up" by Jim Bryson

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Maxim, Harper's Tories: What's the Diff?

glasses, steel
Theatre of the grotesque in Parliament, theatre of the oh-come-on-now at Maxim. I want to say I'm more disgusted by the alleged doings of the Conservative Party, and, well, I am. But it's the Maxim biz that's really got me puzzled. I mean, the Black Crowes? Them? Really? Is this 1992 and the world still cares enough about the Black Crowes that they're demanding coverage of a new album, damn the consequences? Oh wait, people are still reading Maxim? Maybe it is 1992.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A repo man spends his life getting into tense situations.

In the course of my adolescence, there were maybe five movies that I could not get enough. One was Taxi Driver. Another was Roadside Prophets. Two of them were Alex Cox's Repo Man (original and edited for TV "melon farmer" edition). The fifth was another Alex Cox flick, Straight to Hell, probably the greatest terrible spaghetti western ever.
Multiple internet places are now reporting that the long-fabled Repo Man sequel is on its way. Waldo's Hawaiian Holiday hits next month, but it won't be coming to yr local multiplex. Just yr local comic shop.
To be honest, I'm not really getting my hopes up for this. I mean, Otto (now mysteriously renamed Waldo) is not really what made Repo Man so awesome. It was all about the supporting cast, Harry Dean Stanton especially, but also Sy Richardson, Dick Rude, and Tracey Walter. Plus, the whole point was that it was a totally kick-ass punk rock cheapo movie.
Another movie I watched as a teenager that had less of an effect on me was Permanent Record, a grim teensploitation feature starring Keanu Reeves and Lou Reed. I remember picking up the soundtrack to that on cassette for, like, 99 cents in the mall. The soundtrack, compared to the movie, was pretty freaking fantastic. Side A was entirely Joe Strummer & the Latino Rockabilly War. Side B was mostly melodramatic college rock snooze tunes, and pretty wicked Lou number called "Something Happened", that was at least as good, if not better, than Mistrial.
But the Strummer stuff was wild and fantastic. Noisy rock better times eight than latter-years Clash. "Trash City" (featured below) was easily the best track, but the instrumental "Theme From Permanent Record" was also exactly the kind of song that was everything great about Strummer. I was quite surprised how few mentions Strummer's output with the Latino Rockabilly War got when Strummer was duly eulogized. For that matter, Strummer's killer performance in Straight to Hell was barely mentioned either. I remember feeling like this integral part of my coming-of-age had been Stalinized.

mp3: "Trash City" by Joe Strummer & the Latino Rockabilly War
mp3: "Straight to Hell" by Steve Ketchen & the Kensington Hillbillies

Friday, February 22, 2008

this is friday: do you know where your mother is?

Here's a bunch of random stuff to tie up all the loose ends from the week:

In their coverage of last week's New York Toy Fair, comic publicity machine Newsarama posted picture of Deathstroke the Terminator among action figures being released as tie-ins to the upcoming Dark Knight flick. OH REALLY?
For the uninitiated, Deathstroke the Terminator is super-powered mercenary introduced very early in the 1980 New Teen Titans series. Sort of a Captain America super-soldier gone bad, Deathstroke originally claimed that he never left a contract unfulfilled. After nearly 30 years of getting his clock cleaned by the Boy Wonder & co., however, I thinking his asking price has gone down a little. Toward the end of the 80s, maybe even 1990, Deathstroke got his own mag, where he became a brooding anti-hero, like in, oh, every other comic during the post-Frank Miller era. There are two things I like about Deathstroke the Terminator.
1) His disco boots, sadly absent from the Dark Knight version of his costume.
2) When he was introduced, the Terminator part of his name got the emphasis. Then some movie came out. So he started going by Deathstroke. Then he started appearing in the kid-friendly Teen Titans cartoon, and you can't talk about Death or Strokes with the kids, so he became the actually-quite-sinister-sounding Slade.

Stephen Harper's war on science has been recognized by science.

Holy Fuck is going to be here in Vancouver (at Richard's) on Monday night. I wonder if I'll be able to convince my mom (who'll be visiting) that going to see them would be an excellent way to spend time together?

In the meantime, we are going to see Kiran Ahluwalia tomorrow night.

I found my White Hassle Lazy Susan 7" b/w "Good Feelings" (Violent Femmes cover).

mp3: "Good Feelings" by White Hassle

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Every now and then, I turn into a character from whatever book I'm reading. Last night (this morning) I fell asleep with a book in my hand. It's been a long week already. I usually catch myself nodding off while reading and manage to acquit myself properly before slumber hits. But this time, the book hit right after slumber did. In the face, since I was lying on the couch.
I'm about 50 pages from the end of Hide & Seek, Ian Rankin's second Rebus novel. It's a relatively new edition, 2005, I think and features a forward by the author that has given me one metric tonne of inspiration and hope regarding my own fictional aspirations.
Yes, it's another of my beloved books about places (see also: Carl Hiaasen, Mordecai Richler, David Simon, etc.), and so fits in with this months CITY theme. This time it's Edinburgh (the one in Scotland). Rankin makes his city just palpable enough, but what's really giving me the thrills is the subtext of Edinburgh's economic growth contemporary to the novel, and the parallel with what seems to be going on in Regina right now (and even Vancouver, a little bit.)
Rankin is another in the long list of things I've picked up from my dad (see also: Carl Hiaasen, John Hiatt, facial structure, etc), though for I was immune to it for a while. I wasn't actively trying to resist, but I just didn't read any Rankin until last fall, despite having ample access to them for about five years previous.The first Rankin book my dad gave me was a Rebus Omnibus, three books in one, and, y'know, it was just too big. Y'know, a real monster. Even though I knew that each book within was entirely manageable, the physical HEFT of the volume intimidated the frug out of me.
Now that I'm actually into Rankin/Rebus, though, I'm into it.

Today's mp3 comes from the Human Bell's new self-titled debut, The Human Bell. It's pretty swank post-rock instrumental polyglot guitar foxiness from a former member of Lungfish and another guy who's probably played on a few records you own too. We saw them open for Will Oldham in the fall of '06 and they were worth being early for.

Like Rankin's Rebus novels, the Human Bell's music is dimly atmospheric and oddly comforting, even when it's actually quite harrowing.

mp3: "Outposts of Oblivion" by the Human Bell

OH NO! You are missing HOLY F$#%!

But only if you live in Regina. If you do live in Regina, GET TO THE EXCHANGE RIGHT NOW. and say hi to Wade.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Best School Trustee Ever

(via Fark) Toronto Catholic District School Board, unlikely source of laughter, awesomeness.

Best Cab Ride Ever

Maybe you've heard about the giant explosion that happened about six blocks away from my house last week. It's become quite the bizarre tale full of strange twists and developments, and no shortage of human suffering.
Last night (or this morning, if you want to be precise), my co-worker Scott and I shared THE CAB in question on the way home after work. The cab driver was pretty cool about it and the car had obviously been cleaned since.
I thought it was interesting enough that the explosion happened so close to my house, but now I'm, like, part of it, because I was in the cab!

Anyway, Ladyhawk has a new album, Shots, coming out in a couple of weeks (like, March 4). They're going to be on tour in Western Canada in March with Black Mountain (and in Eastern Canada earlier in the month with Immaculate Machine). Dates include Regina. See Dave for deets.
MP3: "I Don't Always Know What You're Saying" by Ladyhawk

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

No More No Depression

Sad news, folks. With their May-June issue, No Depression is calling it quits (at least for print). Considering the state of both music and print media industries in this digital age, I guess it shouldn't really be as surprising as it feels.
I thought No Depression would've lasted longer than other music mags, though, since they're a niche mag that served so well a niche that seemed more likely than others to contribute financially to the music industry. If you know what I mean.
Though they covered a niche market, No Depression always managed to find ways to broaden what Alt-Country or Americana might include. Outside of the letter cols, and the occasional weird ad (one that sticks out read something like: "Alternative Country is the only Country and the only Alternative"), there was very little looking down on mainstream country. In recent years, hot Nashville acts like Miranda Lambert and Gretchen Wilson even received favourable write-ups within ND's pages.
No Depression could always be counted on for excellent writing on interesting subjects. Why, they even published me a few times at the beginning of this century. It was an exciting time for country music, and I was very excited to be part of it. I never really got the hang of pitching to them, which frustrated me (and continues to frustrate me--pitching is hard). But I was always treated with respect by editor Peter Blackstock. No Depression was the first publication outside of Regina to carry my byline, and it was both emboldening and terrifying. I don't remember how many pieces I ended up doing for them, but I know that I was proud of at least two of them. I had some good jokes in my review of Neko Case's Canadian Amp EP, and my Stompin' Tom concert review was one of the finest things I'd written up to that point.
I would have gladly written more for them, but, as always, the whole thing plunged me into an existential crisis. I was torn between trying to write in what I thought was their voice and pursuing my own developing style. Careerism was fucking up my shit.

Good night, No Depression.

mp3: "Country Song" by the Idaho Falls

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Love, Letters: It must be Valentine's Day

Got a note from Marcellus Hall last night. Hall is an NYC illustrator who also happens to make very good music. In the 90s, he led the indie rock band Railroad Jerk, perhaps best known for having a video mocked by Beavis & Butthead.
Toward the end of the 90s, Hall and RRJerk's then-drummer Dave Varenka shifted gears and formed White Hassle, perhaps best known for inspiring a more famous indie rocker's skin ink.
These days, Marcellus Hall goes it alone, or with a band. He hasn't released anything yet, but posts songs to MySpace, like everyone else on planet earth.
Anyway, Hall wrote to let us know that some of his non-music stuff will be seeing print toot sweet. He's got a comic in the anthology Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me, and he's done illustrations for the children's book Because You Are My Baby by Sherry North.

mp3: "Love Letter" by Marcellus Hall
mp3: "2 by Sea" by White Hassle

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Favourite Song of the Still New Year

So far, the theme of February here at Bulldozer/Wrecking Ball has been CITIES. If there's been a subtheme to that, it's been Calgary. I don't know why, things just worked out that way.
When I was a kid--like 18, maybe 19--I was obsessed with Jack Kerouac. For all the harm it did me, it got me writing. It took a lot of writing to come out from underneath that post-ado whumpity-whump, and I've certainly spent a lot of time emulating other, less obvious, writers since.

One of the things that started to bump me off my Kerouac kick and start reading other things was his short story "cityCityCITY", which I read in the collection Good Blonde & Others. I may have even read it in Calgary. I'm 95% sure I at least bought it there. Probably in the summer of 1996, when I imagined I was a hobo. Anyway, it's one of Kerouac's only attempts at science fiction, and it's pretty dull. There's a lot to be learned from Kerouac's writing, and some of the stuff in Good Blonde is pretty damn fine as far as that goes. But the biggest lesson I learned from the book was that there had to be more to lit-rit-cher.

I actually carried on in my Kerouackisms for a couple more years, but things were never really the same after "cityCityCITY".

All this talk of THE CITY and Calgary (which is a city) makes me think of The Summerlad (which makes me think of the Michael Chabon novel Summerland, which I've never read) and their giant ART piece City of Noise. I remember talking to a member of The Summerlad (Garrett McClure, I think?) about it right after their second album, Themes: International, came out in 2005. The original City of Noise work was a 45-minute happening inspired Peter & the Wolf, Solzhenitzen's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and, of course, Calgary. It was commissioned for Calgary theatre dynamo One Yellow Rabbit's High Performance Rodeo.

Summerlad has finally recorded City of Noise (you probably want the vinyl, dude), and it's about as awesome as I thought it would be nearly three years ago. Which puts The Summerlad one up on Kerouac.

Get Local (BC only)

sky spider

It's a new week, and it's already almost half gone. What the heck? Over at my house, we're making a renewed effort to eat better foods, after a December and January of eating delicious but awful stuff. One way to eat better is to eat local, but before you can eat local, you gotta Get Local. And really, living in a place like the lower mainland, with so much grown and raised nearby, you gotta feel shitty if you're not eating at least a little bit locally.

And you should listen locally, too. But also not-locally. Let's imagine, say, you don't live in Regina. So why should you listen to Regina's Goldenmile? Because they're awesome, and because Scott made sure I got a copy of their new album Stay Golden. Goldenmile may never tour. If they do tour, they might not play your town on a night when you don't have prior commitments. Should you punish yourself for that?

mp3: "Death Moves" by Goldenmile

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Oops, forgot to keep the meter fed!

My file storage service has exceeded its monthly whatever, and most of the mp3s on this blog are going to be unavailable for the next few days. Boo friggin' hoo, right? So maybe I should start thinking about better file storage or something, since this blog has mysteriously become more popular than I ever expected (I think it's the recipes).

But don't despair music addicts! Here's a sweet song from Ottawa's Andy Swan's 2007 album Andy Swan's Ottawa.

mp3: "Can I Pay You With Sunshine?" by Andy Swan

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A Grudge and Anticipation

Dear Aaron/Erin Neely:

For at least two months I have been receiving phonecalls for you. I am not impressed. It doesn't really make any sense, because I've had my phone number for well over a year, and the calls for you only started recently. Either you've got a number very similar to mine and a lot of inattentive friends, or you've been giving out my number as a random fake phone number. Today, I stopped being polite about it. I thought you should know.

Meanwhile, I am expecting to get my hands on the really new debut album, Stay Golden, from Regina's Goldenmile in a couple of days. When I left Regina in the summer of oh-six, Goldenmile was one of my favourite bands to see live, even though I almost always missed the first half of their sets. So I'm very excited to hear the album. The record is out on the new Regina label Young Soul Records, whose website I want to punch because it is useless. Their MySpace page isn't much better, but at least it has songs. And if you're on MySpace, maybe you can be their friend and maybe there's some benefit to that.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

This City, or Any City

sidewalk closed

It's been a year and a half since I left Regina, and I'm only now starting to do some of the things I came to Vancouver to do. I mean, I needed a change, that much was sure. And for a while, change was enough. The novelty of shedding my by then five-year-old routine was exhilerating. I was doing different work in different clothes. Well, mostly the same clothes, really. But now I feel overdressed in the same clothes that used to feel underdressed.

So Tuesday afternoons now have a purpose, which is welcome and overdue. Now I have a reason to get out of bed before 2 in the afternoon at least once a week. I feel like the choice to live in Vancouver is finally right, when before it was merely convenient. It could have Toronto, it could have been Montreal. It probably wouldn't have ever been Calgary. I'd say I've got nothing against that city, but I'd be lying. My distaste for Cowtown doesn't run so deep that it includes the people who live there or the music that comes out of it.

It's mostly coincidence that I came across this song, by Kara Keith (formerly of Falconhawk, whose website is still advertising an "upcoming show" from 2005), today, as I was thinking about cities (Saskatoon's been on the brain lately, as well).

Maybe you can tell, but I'm not blogging as much lately, and there's good reason for that. I'm busy writing other things. But I'm going to try to post at least twice a week, whether I have something to say or not.

mp3: "Kick This City" by Kara Keith
mp3: "The City's End" by Falconhawk