Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday: Dawn of the Dead as Non-Fiction

Another violent Black Friday has left consumers injured and embarassed.

The Oregonian, our daily newspaper, was 4.5 pounds on Thursday. It was filled with that many ads for Friday's sales. It seemed ridiculous and laughable the night before; sad and tragic the night after when reports were written about the going-ons of the holiday:
"Everybody was cutting in line. But there was one girl who was threatening me, so I told her that I'd shoot her," Lattimore told CNN. "I'm not a violent person, but police charged me with disorderly conduct."

Several eager shoppers were trampled Friday morning as they surged through Target store doors in North Buffalo, New York.

CNN affiliate WIVB had a camera inside the Target and captured the drama. People at the front of the line were pushed to the floor when doors opened. The commotion and screams drew additional store staff to sort the crowd out.

"It went from controlled to a mob in less than five minutes," shopper Rich Mathewson told WIVB. "And then it just got nasty."

That last line is almost an exact quote from a Walking Dead comic. Not to mention the fact that this whole concept of mobs of people killing each other to fulfill those consumer desires was foretold as early as 1978 in Dawn of the Dead.

I know most zombie literature is drenched in social commentary, but typically social commentary is meant to draw our attention to our shortcomings in various areas of humanity, not to set the model for how to further those shortcomings.

Watch the video. It isn't so different from some of the scenes from those famous mall-set zombie films, books, and video games.

The term "Black Friday" was created in 1966. It used to refer to the profit made by retailers, like "in the black" as opposed to "in the red". I'm not so sure that old definition still speaks true in the face of the numerous injuries and deaths that occur on this day every year.

Monday, November 22, 2010


I finished my album. If I ever held a microphone up to your face, your voice is probably on it somewhere.

It will probably be available on tape/cd at some point, so let me know if you want one.

Germany by Skyscraper

1. Swan
2. 18
3. It Takes So Much Time
4. Brave
5. Germany Part 1
6. Germany Part 2
7. Germany Part 3

Download here.

Friday, November 19, 2010


This is the kind of stuff I find saved in random folders spread throughout my computer.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Halloween Candy Claws--Masks and all!

Apparently these holiday months are a slow time for event catering here in Portland. Therefore, I was given a heaping 5 days off from work to do with as I please. I decided to take advantage of the days off by checking out a couple of shows, doing some unnecessary record shopping, and (hopefully) finishing my album. One song to go!

As posted below, I saw Tennis last night at the Holocene, but before that, I decided to go see Candy Claws again at Mississippi Studios. This was the third time I've seen the band, and each time, the band has been halved. Oh no! Someone is eating all the candy!

I first saw them in Des Moines (another awesome show Trista opened for) where they had 8 members. Apparently, their van had recently exploded and they lost all of their equipment, and they still managed to kill it at the Vaudeville.

The next time I saw them was here in Portland for the Musicfest Northwest Festival. This time they only had 4 members, brandishing new equipment and mostly just playing to a backing track.

A few nights ago, at Mississippi Studios, the once 8-piece band had dwindled down to a mere 2. I had to overhear something that sounded like the mention of members quitting, because I was too afraid to ask about it myself--the remaining 2 looked the part of the whole situation, as if they were just barely holding the whole thing together. So, a combination of that, the unexpectedness of only 2 members, and the fact that when they started I was literally the only person in the audience (people trickled in later) made for a supremely weird show experience.

The drastic drop in members also had a huge effect on the music they played as well. It may have had something to do with the fact that the 2 remaining members were ill at the time of the show, but they opted for a laptop performance (probably not having a lot of other choices), playing what sounded like a complete dance remix of their first album, not entirely unlike their 2 previously released 15-minute songs, Two Airships and Exploder Falls.

I hope all of this doesn't mark some sort of impending doom for this band. I'd really like to see them at their fullest. Ideally, all 8 members with proper equipment, and a fresh outlook, unhindered by months of touring and members quitting.

Of their previous two albums, Kay and Ryan of Candy Claws said:
On our previous album, "In the Dream of the Sea Life," we smashed all the sounds together as if they were at the ocean floor under the huge weight of miles of water... This time around, there's a lot more space in the mix("air" instead of the crushing weight of "water".)

It is this thought and inspiration that goes into each album that I really like about this band. I'd really like to see what the third album would consist of. With the way things seem to be going, I wouldn't be surprised by some sort of fire theme...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tennis OR Enchantment Under the Sea Dance (Be There or Be Square) OR I'm a sucker for...

I saw the band Tennis at the Holocene last night.

It is kind of weird how people can just decide to make a band and launch into the music you must hear world from the very moment they hit the stop button on their recording device. Tennis is a perfect example of this. Thank you Deus Ex Hype Machina. This whole situation was highlighted even more by the fact that the band that opened, The Rainy States, has a couple of years of music making as well as 2 albums (I think) under their belt. Unfortunately, they seemed to suffer from the our-guitarist-takes-this-way-too-seriously problem which has plagued bands at least as far back as 1964 when The Oneders saw their 15 minutes of fame with their hit single, That Thing You Do.

(Sidenote: Regarding The Rainy States' set, I heard someone in the audience say, "I think their was an underlying theme of depression" which I thought was pretty funny.)

But, when you're good, you're good, and with some bands it doesn't take 3 albums before people start coming to your shows.

After what seemed like 15 minutes of adjusting the keyboard and microphone height for his 4 1/2 foot tall wife, Tennis played, and it was wonderful. I wish I could have seen them in Des Moines when Maid Marian played with them.

Although the show looked kind of like this:

It reminded me of this:

Or maybe this:

Or maybe this:

Or maybe all three.

I'm such a sucker for all of this ocean-drenched, reverb-packing nonsense that is getting mass produced these days, and I hate that I fall for it. It's kind of like that feeling you get when you realize you are craving a Snickers bar after watching a Snickers commercial.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Marnie Stern vs. Shredder OR Stuck in a rut! Stuck in a rut! OR Mostly crossed-out to-do lists

Umm... about a million words (probably more) have been written about routines, ruts, etc. Sorry for the, uh, repetition.

Since graduating college and finding my first post-college job, I have found it increasingly easier to fall into routine than ever before in my life. It is too easy to just work when you have to and relax when you don't have to work. I try as hard as I can not to fall into it, but it happens more often than I prefer. I wrote an entire zine about it to keep from feeling stagnant. It kind of worked for a while.

I'm stuck in time-in a rut.
I cannot think.
I cant cant sleep, laugh, or breathe

I'm drawing lines in the sand
Night ranger to make amends
Bigger without boundaries.
Big enough to try.
Bigger than the whole world
Bravest in the whole world

There is nothing like a bit of BRAIN-SCRAMBLING to kickstart a dull state of mind. Sometimes, it can leave you more confused than before, but at least it injects a bit of turmoil and movement into your mind than you can wrestle with and arise from, fist first clenching some radical new motivation, Energy, VIGOR. A REASON TO LIVE!!

In need of a bit of mind-scrambling, I decided to go see Marnie Stern at Mississippi Studios a couple of nights ago. I arrived just in time to miss all of the opening bands and set up time between acts--right in the middle of Marnie Stern's first song.

I can't say a lot about the show without degenerating into explaining how unexplainable her music is. You really just have to hear it. And then add a bunch of reverb and that adrenaline you get when you finally hear the first notes of that song you've been waiting all night to hear (except, for nearly every song).

So i rearrange
And I don't mind the change, I don't mind the change.

And from the bottom up you must draw,
Where blue is the distance
and no one can come along.

Holding back will be forgotten
Holding back will be forgotten

I haven't listened to her new album yet, admittedly, because I am afraid of new music, but I will.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Naoki Urasawa and the importance of the ending

About 6 months ago, I had exhausted the graphic novel selection at the Ames Public Library, and moved one aisle over and started in on the manga. I don't know very much about manga, so I was mostly just picking out series that:

a) Had a cool cover
b) Had nothing to do with samurai
c) Did not have an unreadably large number of volumes
d) Actually had the first volume on the shelf

By following these standards, I came upon Volume 1 of 20th Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa, which looked something like this:

Described itself like this:
Failed rock musician Kenji's memories of his past come rushing back when one of his childhood friends mysteriously commits suicide. Could this new death be related to the rise of a bizarre new cult that's been implicated in several other murders and disappearances? Determined to dig deeper, Kenji reunites with some of his old buddies in the hope of learning the truth behind it all.

Humanity, having faced extinction at the end of the 20th century, would not have entered the new millennium if it weren't for them. In 1969, during their youth, they created a symbol. In 1997, as the coming disaster slowly starts to unfold, that symbol returns. This is the story of a gang of boys who try to save the world.

And only had 6 volumes on the shelf (I later found out there were 24 total).

Six months later, I have finished 20th Century Boys as well as PLUTO and Monster, two of Urasawa's other mangas.

Urasawa is not afraid of scale. That is, in all three of the mangas I have read, his character base has been no less than 50, the stories have taken place anywhere between Japan, Germany, and America, and the villains have settled for no motive less than the destruction of the entire world.

Impressive stuff.

He has the art of the cliffhanger down to a degree of perfection probably even beyond LOST.

But cliffhangers leave questions, and questions need answers.

While LOST was famous for leaving it's viewers with a boatload of questions, the most important being "Did the creators of this show have this all planned from the beginning, or are they flying forward by the seat of their pants at this point?" Ok, I'm sure not everyone worded the question this way, but ask any LOST fan and this question will not seem unfamiliar to them.

I made the mistake of believing that every single thing that happened on that show was planned long before they ever started filming. I now know that that very idea is ridiculous, but the show was very convincing in the way it connected things early on. I expected the series finale to be perfection--no more questions, no loose ends, everything would make sense in a way that would leave me thinking "I can't believe I hadn't thought of that!" Needless to say, it didn't quite live up to that standard.

It was simply good enough.

I believe that Urasawa's work suffers from the same "High Standards = Inevitable Disappointment" I discovered with LOST.

But, no matter how good or bad an ending is, it doesn't change the fact that I was desperately visiting the library or rental store every couple of days for the next book or dvd. In reality, it is maybe only 1 or 2 bad episodes or bad chapters among the hundreds of others that convinced you along the way that this series worth the time you were putting into it.

How much weight does the ending carry in the overall quality of a work?