Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Stuff That's Creeping My Shit Out

One in a series, cos there's so damn much of it. Today's Exhibit A: Pull-Ups training pants with Cool Alert.

PULL-UPS® Training Pants with Cool Alert™ is an innovative new potty training pant that helps toddlers feel cool within seconds of becoming wet. This cool feeling is an additional aid to help potty train your child... When the child wets the pant, sorbitol crystals dissolve, which cools the urine in the patch. When the cool urine in the patch contacts the skin, the child feels the coolness...
Putting thermoreactive chemicals in close proximity to the genitalia of small children: Who thought this was a good idea?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Rally ‘Round The Flag, Boys

We were sent to the wars some thirteen years ago.

I say we were sent. The truth is we enlisted—volunteers, the two of us—but there was an air of inevitability to it. There was never any way we were going to leave this one alone. You were never one to run from a fight. And me—well, where you were going, I was following.

Or was it the other way around? I can never remember anymore; and we’ve gone back and forth so many times that it’s hard to tell who’s on point. We keep going forward, somehow, so we don’t question it much.

It was a hell of a day, I remember that. The pipes played “Be Thou My Vision” as we tore down the gangway, and we hadn’t even made it to our transport yet before the sky filled up with incoming fire. Friendly fire, as it turned out. Those knotted bags of rice were a bad idea.

The good guys wore black, mostly. I suppose we should’ve taken it as a bad omen later, when the Padre went down in a hail of cartilage and tentpole, but instead we decided to simplify the comedy = embarrassment + time equation by laughing our asses off right then.

funny ha-ha

Of course, the Magazine Man, God love him, had something to do with that, too...

He’s an object lesson in trench-fighting—mostly, he taught us about going over the top.


It’s important to surround yourself with people who aren’t afraid to carry things too far. The thing about this fight is that you can never quit. And for that reason, it’s vitally important to surround yourself with people who don’t know when to quit. Because when the Big Blow came down, and the old soldiers rallied ‘round the flagpole, when things got ugly, you didn’t quit.

And when I think of you, standing in the howling wind wearing your grandmother’s dress and your bravest face—maybe the bravest, the bravest face I’ve ever seen—I think that another woman, a saner woman than you perhaps, would have quit right then—sensing, probably rightly, that things were going to get uglier still.

And they have. And they’ve gotten better, and then worse again, and then better, more times than I can count. And that’s what keeps us going, I think—the promise that we’ll get up one more time than we fall down. We don’t give up, because if we do we’ll never know how it all works out. So we’re still in this fight.

You and me against the world, kid.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

What's The Buzz?

You know, I'm always on the hustle for new gigs. A man's got to look after his career opportunities, you know? So I'm thinking that if this writing lark doesn't pan out, maybe I can get work as a barber.

Like, at Fort Dix, maybe.

buzzcut 1

I could turn out jarheads by the dozen. There's nothing to it.


Okay, maybe not.

Monday, May 15, 2006

This Should Please The Magazine Man

From the DC Comics product solicitations for August 2006:

Written by Matt Wagner
Art and cover by Wagner

Join Matt Wagner as he revisits the early career of the young Batman in another adventure inspired by DC's Golden Age in this blood-curdling sequel to BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN!

The Dark Knight is learning that there are more twisted faces of evil than those worn by the street criminals and mobsters of Gotham. Now, Batman must counter sinister machinations and new dimensions of wickedness as he confronts the hooded menace of the Mad Monk!

Promises be a fun read, as the original 1939 story, like many early comics works, makes not a goddam lick of sense. Still, it boasts what is probably my favorite line of dialogue from any story in any medium ever:


Matt Wagner may be a comics big shot, but if he omits that line from his retelling, then by Jesus I will track him down and slap him upside the head.


Separated at birth:

A delicious chocolate-coated biscuit snack

A daughter miserably be-itched by a once-common childhood ailment, despite having been vaccinated against it years ago

Uncanny, isn't it?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

On Accounta th’ Economy

I usually listen to the radio while I fold the laundry. There’s a decent triple-A station out of Buffalo, and yesterday they played Springsteen’s “The River.” Later on I’m talking to D, and I mention that I’ve always thought “The River” is one of the greatest fake-out songs in all of rock ‘n’ roll. She looks at me kind of blankly.

You spend three verses thinking it’s going to turn into a murder ballad, I sez. And it’s true. The song is tense; the phrasing is fraught with danger. And maybe I’ve been listening to too much Nick Cave—but the mournful melody, and the almost comical way that miseries keep piling up on the narrator, seem to be heading towards a lethal conclusion. Somebody’s gonna end up sleeping with the fishes, you think—it’s just a question of homicide or suicide.

And we seem to be heading towards it in the lead-in to the final chorus: Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse that sends me down to the river... But it’s a head-fake: the river, at first a (kinda hokey) image of endurance, now symbolizes the indifference of nature to human suffering.

But, I sez, it’s like we’re being set up to imagine the narrator snapping. Then I sing, in a woeful baritone,

I held her down in the river
And in the river she drowned
O stones from the river
Weighed her down...
A cool, curious glance. And then D says, “That really never occurred to me.”

And right then I realize: Oh shit. She’s never going to look at me again in quite the same way.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Okay. P. Craig Russell is, indisputably, some kind of comics genius. Trippy, ethereal, fine-line work, innovative layouts, rock-solid storytelling, standing up for the ability of comics to tell any kind of story, and for the fusion of comics and the other narrative arts, particularly opera.

And I should be glad, I suppose, that he has turned his hand to the rip-roaring adventures of Robert E. Howard's iconic character, Conan. I'm not a huge fan of the "barbarian" subgenre of fantasy, but Russell's adaptation of The Jewels Of Gwalhur is, in many ways, tremendous fun—expertly paced, energetic, and amusingly lurid.



I can live with the physique—even if, in some panels, it looks like Conan's got a beer gut, it's a more realistic body-shape for a working soldier than the huge-shouldered, wasp-waisted steroidal absurdity of John Buscema's classic interpretation (or Arnold Schwarzenegger's, for that matter).

But with all due deference to a master of the form, I cannot buy a Cimmerian reaver with a mullet and board-shorts.

As John Milius (not coincidentally, also the screenwriter for the first Conan movie) once put it; You either surf or you fight. And Conan don't surf.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Agent Takes Fifteen Per Cent

Another thing I like about my cheap little MP3 player is the playback-speed feature. I used to use it occasionally at the gym, to synch a tune up to my stride. Now, because MP3 is a digital format—because there are no moving parts involved—it’s a simple thing for the player software to alter the playback pitch without altering the tempo, or vice versa: I can do it with a single click in the free open-source audio editor I use to make my DJ mixes. But for whatever reason, the speed function on the Lexar emulates a physical medium, like a turntable or a tape deck, and effects pitch and tempo together. Which leads to some left-field discoveries.

I had my first breakthrough with a Pogues song—“My Baby’s Gone,” a Rankin/Finer album cut (and—if this squib is to be believed, and I’ve no idea if it is or not cos these guys have a history of lying ruthlessly to the press—the most emotionally devastating song the band ever recorded). It’s a breathless song, overstuffed with words even by Pogues standards, and it scans for shit. I wondered if it would sound less clumsy if it were slowed down a titch, given room to breathe. It did—and then some.

Suddenly, this skittery little blur had some heft. At 85%, it was a gutbucket blues stomper. The bass and drums were heavier, but not ridiculously so; Hearing this made me realize just how thin and weedy Michael Brook’s production of Waiting For Herb was—it took an act of sonic violence to give the record some bottom end. It’s my preferred version, these days. The original was so fast, so short, so trebly, that slowing it down turned it into a solid rock song—and it’s still over in less than three minutes.

Most astonishingly, though, Andy Rankin seemed to have been transformed into Tom Waits.

The funny thing is, it kept happening: I would tweak a singer and he or she would sound like someone else entirely. At 85% speed, Bryan Ferry becomes Nick Cave, and the Go! Team’s “Junior Kickstart” is a thing of creeping menace. At 85%, the guitar squall of The Skids becomes Morricone—postpunk roar to spaghetti-western raunch. And most amusingly, the divine Emmylou Harris somehow morphs into big-haired 80s poseur Richard Marx.

The late DJ Screw was doing stuff like this ages ago, but this isn’t dance music for people all fucked up on cough syrup. This is more like one of those morphing photographs—except that nothing is added to the image. Nothing but time, I guess. Which makes different people of us all, in the end.