Thursday, July 31, 2008

Everytime I think about back home, it's cool and breezy...

In about 13 hours, I'll be on a slow boat to Saskatchewan, with a three-hour portage through Edmonton. That will treble the cumulative amount of time I've spent in Alberta over the last decade.

Already, a week feels too short, but once I'm back on solid ground, on fertile soil, with no NYT Crossword, no jackhammers outside my window when I'm trying to sleep, I'll probably start pining for ye olde urban lights and blights of Vancouver.

Nicole left on Tuesday morning. She asked me to help her fill up her mp3 player for the trip. "But none of your jazz," she hissed. This from the lady whose first three picks for girls' names were Billie, Nina, and Simone. (Of course I know the difference between jazz-jazz and the free-type jazz I've been into lately.)

Nicole's musical tastes don't always run parallel to mine, which is fine. Over the years, I think I've become less and less discriminating when it comes to music. Having to go to multiple Tommy Hunter concerts will do that to a person. In a lot of ways, I think it's made me a happier person than the 20-year-old snob I was when I started writing about music. But Nicole's kept her edge. She will occasionally vehemently dislike something I think is excellent. So I knew I was on to something when I was going through various new songs I'd been sent and about 15 seconds into "N'Heat" she said, "Yes, put this on my player."

"N'Heat" is from Chicago's the Spectacles (not to be confused with the wedding bands of the same name from Conneticutt and Tennessee) and their new album, Home. They're from the same stable as other Chi-Town pop we've brought you like the Fake Fictions and the Prairie Spies. All three bands, and a few more, will be playing this Saturday, Aug. 2, at High Concept Laboraties in Chicago. Me, I'll be in Saskatchewan on Saturday, having just jumped the broom. But if I wasn't doing that, and if I was in Chicago, I'd totally go to that show.

mp3: "N'Heat" by the Spectacles
mp3: "Outdated Model" by the Spectacles

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Night Shift, Batman & Me

Scientific American Q&A's "movement researcher" and bona fide Batfan E. Paul Zehr on why Batman could exist (he already does, duh!):
The difficulty for Batman is he's going to be trying to sleep during the day. He's going to be really tired, actually, unless he can shift himself over to just being up at night. If he were just a nocturnal guy, he would actually be a lot healthier and have a lot better sleep than if he were doing what he does now, which is getting some light here and there. That's going to mess up his sleep patterns and duration of sleep.

Sounds familiar. Am I Batman? I'll never tell. Okay, I would totally tell if I was Batman. Which is why I wouldn't be Batman for very long.

mp3: "Telescope" by the Telepathic Butterflies
mp3: "A Scathing Report" by the Telepathic Butterflies

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Mystery that Almost Was

Finished Mortal Causes last weekend. I had to wait a long time to get it. Previously, when I've requested Ian Rankin books from the VPL, I've always been the only person requesting the book and been able to pick it up within days. Not this time. I was sixth on the wait list. INCONCEIVABLE! Somehow, since the beginning of the year, when I began my mission to read the Inspector Rebus books in sequence, the series has become more popular--at least in Vancouver. I'm inclined to shoulder the responsibility for that, since I talk about it on my blog here, and we all know that my blog is perhaps the most influential music/comics/Rebus blog on the ENTIRE INTERNET.

As much as I'm reading Rankin for enjoyment, I'm also reading the series with a bit of a studious bent, paying attention to Rankin's progress as a novelist--a process greatly aided by the sweet introductions by the author in the editions the library lends me. It seems like each introduction features some variety of "This was the novel where things really clicked." Which is inspiring.

Anyway, I finished Mortal Causes, and was all jazzed to read the next one, Let It Bleed. But the VPL doesn't have it. Oh sure, they have the "sound recording", which I guess is the AudioBook. And they have Rebus: The Lost Years, which is an omnibus edition with three novels in it, the first of which is Let It Bleed--so that would've worked, especially since I've got a bunch of lakeside reading time coming up real soon. But it's checked out and not due back until Aug. 12, so fat lotta good that does me.

I live about two blocks away from a pretty good book store that has a whole entire shelf full of Rebus novels that go for about $8 a pop. So I figured I might as well just go grab Let It Bleed from them, and quit being such a mooch. Not in the cards. They have copies, multiples, of 16 different Rebus novels, but no Let It Bleed. I was starting to take it personally.

If you know me, you know that I love to take things personally. Nothing warms my heart like a good vendetta. From Edmond Dantes to Barney Panofsky, my heroes have always tended toward the vindictive and thin-skinned. But even more than I love being offended, I love to solve mysteries. And the seeming disappearance of Let It Bleed was looking to be a stone cold whodunnit.

The bookstore near my house happens to sell those nice Moleskin notebooks for, like, $11, so I got the flip-top reporter's notebook and got ready to investigate why the universe was conspiring against my desired reading. By which I mean, I grabbed a coffee and did the crossword. Nothing gets the wheels turning like trying to think of a ten-letter word for "Pinata material".

Sunday, then, Scott and I went to the beach. We walked around Kitsilano for hours, pounding the beat. Eventually, we ended up on West Broadway. It's interesting to look at how different neighbourhoods shake out. West Broadway, for example, is a lot like Commercial Drive in some ways. Lots of people on the sidewalk, lots of food stores, restaurants and cafes. But unlike the Drive, W. Broadway is almost devoid of convenience stores, which suggests to me that the people who live around there are healthier than the Drive folks, since convenience stores do most of their business in cigarettes.

West Broadway also has a number of bookstores, both new and used. The first one I investigated was in the same family as the one near my place, only with a much smaller Rebus shelf. Not surprisingly, there were no copies of Let It Bleed. Walking out, full of confidence that I was embroiled in a great quest, I espied a used bookstore on the other side of the street. They had a small crime/mystery section against the back wall and it didn't take me long to find their Rebus selection. The first book I noticed was Knots & Crosses, which had a tag on the spine that read "1st Rebus novel". I was in the right place. And then I saw it. My epic journey of less than two days was at an end at lest and I could set my weary mind at ease. There was Let It Bleed.

I'm glad I found it, glad I got it, but also sad that my investigation barely had the chance to develop into a full bore obsession. Sigh. And besides, I have to finish When You Are Engulfed In Flames first, so that Nicole can take it back to the Burnaby library.

Just when you thought I wasn't going to mention Batman (still haven't seen TDK), the excellent comics blog The Beat has word about Ian Rankin's new career as a comics writer!

mp3: "Rebus 1" by Joe Morris, Ken Vandermark and Luther Gray

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pacific NorthWhat, now?

Geography has never been one of my strong points (nor the days of the week, see previous post), so I'm having a hard time figuring how Saskatchewan managed to score a seat at the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region. Did someone confuse potash for salmon? Though I guess if Idaho and Montana are in, why not the Ess-Kay? Of course, our dear friends Alberta sponsored our admission (does this mean we can call them in the middle of the when we relapse and spend the night downing Great Western Light with Manitoba?), and that means they're gonna expect little something-something in return. But then, I don't know if we want to stand too close to Alberta today.

And while I'm repping for the L-P, this is a sorta disgusting post from their A Moment In Crime blog, which is kinda wanting for local content, but pretty okay in a weird crime kinda way.

It's funny that I'm using we to talk about Saskatchewan. It's been two years since I left, and I'll be there in about ten days, and I'm kinda looking forward to seeing it again. A lot's changed since I left, and I'm eager to check it out. Of course, I'll have a full plate once I touch down, and a good amount of the week I'll be there will be spent at the lake, reconnecting with silence. Outside of affordable housing, silence just might be the scarcest of resources in Vancouver

But silence isn't always the best. Sometimes catchy synth-pop from New Zealand is better. Little Pictures have a new album called Owl + Owl. They're touring NZ this summer. I'm going to Buffalo Pound. I win.

mp3: "I'm Not Scared" by Little Pictures
mp3: "I Am A Camera" by Little Pictures

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tonight: SYLVIE

EDIT/UPDATE: Of course, by "tonight", I mean TUESDAY NIGHT, JULY 22, MEDIA CLUB: SYLVIE.

Because even Olde Vancouver could use a little dose of New Regina on a Monday night, my favourite pack of Rider Priders is in town tonight for a little dose-do at the Media Club.
Why you should care: Sylvie is a beautiful band made up a beautiful people who make beautiful music. Their 2005 album, An Electric Trace was called "stunningly awesome" by no less authority than the Regina Leader-Post. With every new album, this band has improved by leaps and bounds, and every time I see them, I like them more. I haven't seen them in about two years, so they must be exceedingly awesome by now.
Why you should go see them tonight: They've just finished recording their new album with J. Robbins (Government Issue, Jawbox, Burning Airlines), due for release in October on Smallman Records. What that means is NEW SONGS. Songs you can't even hear on the internet. Unless you're reading this six months from now. In which case, you totally missed the show.

mp3: "What You Find You Leave With" by Sylvie
mp3: "Common Art" by Sylvie

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Let's Go, Chum!

At midnight it begins. The Dark Knight. In theatres. At IMAX, if I want to go all the way to Richmond, which I kinda do and I kinda don't. Do: Want to see TDK in IMAX. Don't: Want to go to Richmond. There are worse fates, I suppose. And besides, the real issue is going to be magically avoiding line-ups. Waiting until next weekend = magic. Sigh.

Christian Bale is vehemently anti-Boy Wonder, which is silly. If there was ever a Batman who needed the kind of brightening up that comes from spending your nights in the company of a laughing young daredevil.

I am expecting a sidekick of my own. A little partner to whom I can pass on some of my earned wisdom and acquired detective skills. Actually, I imagine I'll more likely be playing Robin to my child's Batman, quipping bad jokes as we chase away the darkness. Or, even better, I'll be my Bat-child's Commissioner Gordon, a steady beacon of integrity, always at the ready with some expository dialogue and a whiff of Weltschmerz. I've been wrestling with the idea lately that I'm about to become a supporting player in the movie of my life. It's not without appeal, going from leading man to character actor. Those roles are usually more fun. Charactor actors get all the best lines.

In non-Batman news, Kids These Days are going to playing a rare show on July 30th at the Railway Club, along with Octoberman. You could do a lot worse.

mp3: "Intoxicated" by Kids These Days
mp3: "The Captain" by Kids These Days

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

But what's it got to do with a new track from Chad VanGaalen?

Margaret Wente should know better.

In her first of four columns on (or against) Harm Reduction for the Globe & Mail, she seems to place all the responsibility of Vancouver's out of control drug problem at InSite's doorstep. Never mind that the Supervised Injection Site was never intended to solve addiction, let alone heal an afflicted city. Even the experts Wente so enthusiastically quotes don't seem to support her conclusions as boisterously as she purports them.
"Safe injection is a misnomer," says Milan Khara, another veteran addictions doctor. "Insite is a supervised injection site. Injections inevitably lead to medical complications."

That's just a factual statement, not a value judgment. Though Wente presents it as damning evidence against harm reduction. Wente cites anecdotal evidence, quotes "experts" of questionable authority, such as the police officer--one that Wente claims to have witnessed reaching into a woman's bra to seize a crackpipe--who's assessment of InSite is a snorty, "It's like saying, 'Hey man, you're really high. Want some treatment? Here's some more drugs!' "

For the record, which Wente shows no interest in mentioning, InSite has never provided drugs to its participants.
Despite her best efforts, Wente does actually hit on what actually matters in regards to harm reduction: "Harm reduction without a treatment component is a failed policy," addictions doctor Stan de Vlaming tells her.
Harm Reduction is just one of "four pillars" of Vancouver's drug policy, along with Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement. The idea of four pillars is that each complements and supports the others, like legs on a table. You take one leg away, the table starts to wobble.

Adam Radwanski, one of Wente's Globe colleagues, can smell what's cooking.

mp3: "Willow Tree" by Chad VanGaalen
mp3: "Thing (Summer in 6/4 Time)" by The Cape May

Why so serious, indeed?

Requiem for a cheeky Batman, from Variety

You should, of course, read Will Brooker's book, Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon, which deals unflinchingly with the Wertham questions and embraces all aspects of Batman over the years.

Not that long ago, the most talented man in the history of show biz, Jim Steinman (songwriter for Meat Loaf, Bonnie Tyler, Celine Dion, etc.), set out to write a Batman musical to be produced with Tim Burton. Sadly, Broadway wasn't ready for a Dark Knight tenor, and the project was shitcanned. Steinman has released some of the demos on his website, and they are STEINMANTASTIC!

mp3: "Wonderful Toys" by Jim Steinman
mp3: "(Vespers) Angels Arise/Graveyard Shift" by Jim Steinman

Monday, July 14, 2008

Who doesn't like covers?

This past weekend, my friendly neighbourhood comic shop, RX Comics (they of the sadly underused and underupdated website), was having a TITANO sale on back issues, and now that I'm a collector of fine comics with gaps in my fine collection to fill, I had to check it out.
I'm currently building a store of early-80s Legion of Super-Heroes issues, with a focus on those with art by Keith Giffen. I snagged a few primo pre-300 issues, including Legion of Super-Heroes #290, which is the first episode in "The Great Darkness Saga", which is probably the finest LoSH story ever. If you are interested in reading, it's totally worth it to AVOID the collected edition at all costs. I mean, don't even look at it. Or, get someone else to buy it for you and have them rip the front cover off.
So, all I'm missing now, from the "Great Darkness Saga", is the CATACLYSMIC CLIMAX in #294 (don't look at that one either).
In addition to my neat little bundle of 30th Century teenaged melodrama, I picked up a few more sweet early 80s comics just because of the awesomeness of the covers (before you freak your freak, Nicole, I paid ONE DOLLAR for the whole lot). I got Blackhawk #269, with a brilliant cover by the awfully underrated Dan Spiegle. Spiegle's got a great style that resembles Alex Toth's on the surface, but seems to come from a wholly different tack. Spiegle also drew the excellent espionage adventure strip Nemesis, which ran as a back-up in the Batman team-up book The Brave & The Bold of the same era. The other non-Legion issue I got was the Flash #329, with a classic-ish Carmine Infantino gorilla on the cover.

Speaking of covers, in the last week or so, I've received a couple of the musical variety. I don't mind covers, especially in a live setting, or if there's something new or interesting about them. Reinventions or deconstructions, or even just a fun way to close the show, what the heck, go for it! But I think it's a little dodgy to put a cover song out there as your calling card (unless, of course, covers is what you do). It's a gimmick, but it's a gimmick that works. It worked for Pat Boone, it worked for Limp Bizkit. Maybe it'll work for Bikini and/or Shock of Pleasure (which is one of the worst names I've seen in my inbox in a while).

mp3: "Superstar" by Shock of Pleasure
mp3: "1234" by Bikini

Hell yes, I'm ready!

Wade over at Signal Response has more or less declared this to be Batman Week. In case you haven't spent 15 minutes in my company for the last year, or have been living under a rock, or just have other things going on in your life, the new Batman movie comes out on Friday. (Is that the real reason I changed my work schedule from Tues-Fri to Mon-Thurs??? I'll never tell.)

In for a penny, as they say...

"He cuts through the film sort of like the shark in Jaws," says director Chris Nolan about the Joker over at CBR.

Harvey Dent interviewed on Gotham Tonight.

Throughout the week, in addition to links and stories, I'll also try to answer the age old question: "What's On Your BatPod, Batman??? and present songs I think the Masked Manhunter might listen to on those long lonely nights brooding against the Gotham skyline.

mp3: "Midnight Walker" by Bohren and Der Club of Gore

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

We're both victims of a weird experiment!

If I'm not thinking about Batman (which is rare), I'm thinking about the future. And you can't think about the future without thinking about the past.

I spoke on the phone with one of my oldest friends, JW, a couple of weeks ago. He was blowing through town on his way from Japan to Saskatoon, where another old friend was getting married. JW is set to be back in Vancouver any day now, and hopefully I'll get to meet his family. His new family. Not the people he grew up with, those familiar faces in memories of my adolescence, but the people he'll grow old with. Ol' JW has a wife and daughter. PH tied the knot about a week ago. WS just got engaged. RY's got a little tiny bundle of joy. Even newer friends like M has an infant. MO-L's expecting this fall. And, lord knows, I'm sure most of the people I haven't kept in touch with over the years have fashioned their own human beings and partnered up.

As weird as it is to think of the kids I was young and foolish with becoming responsible adults, taking out mortgages and raising young 'uns, I'm less freaked out by my own impending fatherhood. Which is not to say I'm not completely freaked out about it at moments, like when I read the "worst-case scenario" sections of books like What To Expect When You're Expecting, or Girlfriend's Guide to Being Preggers, or when I read about freak accidents in the paper, or when I dwell on the state of the planet or how much post-secondary education will cost by 2026. Mostly, though, I'm elated. This crazy little baby is going to have a great mother who is beautiful, smart, funny and sensible. It's going to have a dad who will make embarrassing jokes and try too hard to "hip with the kids". It's going to be born having already attended concerts by the Neins Circa, The Thing with Ken Vandermark and Jonathan Richman and whatever else I can convince My Baby Momma to come out to (though I think Nicole's pretty much had enough of crowded halls, uncomfortable seats, and wack hipsters for this trimester). It's going to be adored by an overwhelming extended family who will spoil it despite its parents concerns.

It's kinda wrong and hideous to keep my eventual baby it, but I don't wanna know what it's gender is until I meet it. The English language needs better words. Or maybe we just need to figure a unisex name (hey, shouldn't Jayden/Jaden count as ONE name??? Also, when did Quinn become a girl's name?) for this little creature. But that's a whole 'nother messy diaper.

mp3: "Old Friends" by Chuck Prophet
mp3: "When We Refuse to Suffer" by Jonathan Richman

Just when you thought there was nothing cool about Alberta anymore...


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Why I Hate Batman

Oh, Batman. For the World's Greatest Detective, you've sure swallowed a load of shit.
Comic Book Resources has another interview up with Christian Bale where the actor talks about how the movies he makes with Chris Nolan are true to Batman "creator" Bob Kane's vision.
“I feel like we’ve kind of gone back to its roots, when I’ve spoken with friends of Bob Kane, relatives, they’ve said, ‘No, he meant this to be a very dark character.’ He always viewed what Adam West did so well [positively], but he was spoofing Batman, he wasn’t really playing Batman [in the 1960s television series].”

Never mind that the OG Batman Bale speaks of was more the work of Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson than Bob Kane, or that Batman was a solo act for less than a year before the Boy Wonder showed up to lighten the mood. Never mind further that the Adam West Batman was as true to its comic book contemporary as Bale's is to what passes for comic books these days. Never mind even CBR's puzzling parenthetical inserts. Assuming that The Dark Knight carries on the tone and themes of Batman Begins, the Batman who stars in Nolan's film has less to do with the Kane Batman and everything to do with the Denny O'Neill and Frank Robbins Batman from the 1970s and the Frank Miller Batman from the 1980s. Even moreso, they have to do with 70s crime flicks, but that's another discussion.

So that's why I'm rooting for Harvey Dent.

mp3: "Steal Yr Face" by Royal Trux
mp3: "Slip Into the Sea" by Picture Atlantic

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Geekiest Day of My Life!

Yesterday was fun. Me and The Neph got an early start (early for a Sunday) and hit the local mini-Comic Convention at Heritage Hall on Main St. I'm starting to get a handle on these events now, being a veteran of two local mini-cons, and one giant con in Seattle. Usually, I just wander around. But this time I decided to actually check out the miles and miles of longboxes, following The Neph's lead. He was looking for back issues of The Darkness, which I think is a tie-in to a video game, but some of the issues had Warren Ellis's name on the cover, so they might be okay.

I wasn't really looking for anything. I already have too many comics (get in touch if you want some, I've got heaps of mid-00's DC superhero dreck). But a few things caught my eye, and my money. Action Comics #563 in pristine condition, for a dollar. The second of three cover appearances of Ambush Bug in Action, and the only one I didn't already have from my first go-round as a comic buying individual. I'm not only a huge Ambush Bug fan, I'm also a huge Keith Giffen fan, so when I found a whole schwack of early-80s Legion of Superheroes in the dollar bins (bagged and boarded, no less), I scooped those up too.

I've long loved the Legion. I picked up the first issue of Giffen's 1989 dystopic relaunch based on the bleak, but portentious cover alone (and who can resist first issues?) and was immediately hooked on the Legion. Though that series was hardly friendly to the uninitiated, that was part of the fun: putting together the clues Giffen, along with series co-writers Tom and Mary Bierbaum, dropped throughout the series. Though the Legion existed within the same fictional universe the rest of the comics I was reading then were set in, it was set 1,005 years in the future and gave me a whole new dimension to explore.

But best of all was Giffen's unlike anything I'd seen before. So dynamic and sharp. What's great about the Legion stuff I scored is that it's got Giffen art just at the point where he was developing into the master penciller he is now--though you'd hardly know it these days.Most of his current work is as a writer. I highly encourage you, however, to check out his layouts for 52, the good weekly comic DC put out a couple of years ago. He is, however, pencilling (as well as writing) a new Ambush Bug mini-series that starts later this month. Huzzah.

I also picked up a couple of stone-cold graphic novel classic for dirt cheap. I got Watchmen, to replace the one I bought when I was 12 that I traded to Travis for V for Vendetta when I was 15 and never ended up trading back. I also, finally, got a decent edition of Batman: Year One, which is only my favourite Batman story ever...or one of them.... I got them both because, y'know, The Neph is reading The Darkness, and while I support him in pursuing his own interests, I also want to encourage him to read something 100% awesome.

Weighed down by our loot, The Neph and I hit Vera's for some hamburgs. Nothing especially geeky about that, but, whoo yeah, that's a burger.

Then we went downtown to meet up with Nicole. While we were waiting for her, we accidentally signed some petition, just to be nice. I hope it wasn't for some cuckoo cause. Like the environment or something.

Nicole showed up and we went KRAZY! I love Geo. Herriman, and my eyes stared at ORIGINAL HERRIMAN ART. And original Chester Brown, and Chris Ware (nice) and Lynda Barry and lots of other awesome stuff.

Then The Neph and I ditched Nicole and met up with Jesse and we got ice cream and sat in the park and talked about Batman. Then we went over to Jesse's and barbecued hot dogs and watched Justice League: The New Frontier. Awesome. Yes. And then we watched all the bonus features.

I eventually stumbled home, drunk on geekery, a full 14 hours after I'd left. What a day.

mp3: "The Lucifer Rebellion" by Hypatia Lake

mp3: "Long Walk Home" by Radars to the Sky

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Local Yokels

Sad news...for Vancouver newspaper fans, at least. Frances Bula, formerly of the Sun, has moved on to other things in her life. Don't ask me what, for I do not know. But I'm sure going to miss her blog, City States. During my last five years in Regina, I was borderline obsessed with municipal politics, and City States helped get me up to speed in the who's who and why should I care of Vancouver. Bula's blog complemented her reporting perfecting. The news was news, straightforward and informative. The blog offered insight, background and depth. Blogs are a pretty new feature of the CanWest newspaper line, and most of them aren't worth the paper they're not printed on. But Bula's City States was pretty ace. Hopefully her successor will be up to the standard.

In happier Vancouver news, local cowboy singer Cameron Latimer is finally putting out his debut album, Fallen Apart on Black Hen Records. It's been a long time coming!

mp3: "Empty Saddle" by Cameron Latimer