Angry boss

I think the inspiration for this guy (at least is glasses) is from the pseudo-senile sportscasting legend Harry Carey. Otherwise, not much to say about this drawing, except that for some strange reason, I kinda like it.


Toughest critic? Some duck.

When I find myself sketching, trying (in a very unfocused way) to come up with the next Icon of Popular Culture, I often hit a lengthy stretch of writer's block. I enter into patterns and draw the same safe, boring character over and over again.

Since I'm really the only person who looks at my work, it's up to me to criticize it. And, usually, it ain't pretty. Above is an example of one of the more polite ways I grade my work. I'll draw an animal (often a duck) and have it make fun of what I've just drawn. I'm sure there's a deeply psychological explanation for all of this, but mostly, I just like drawing ducks.


Technology scares me

Well, not all technology, but any advance in technology that kind of makes us look like futuristic freaks. Case in point, above is a drawing of somebody wearing one of those "attached to your head" cell phones (I was inspired when I saw someone in a meeting wearing one. And, yeah, this is an old sketch. Maybe this fad has passed by now. That's not gonna stop the following rant though...).

I mean one day, when we're all part machine anyway, this will be fine. Right now? It's a bit creepy. Are there really people who are on their cell phone enough that can justify having one attached to their head? And how does someone casually walk down the street and buy groceries with a hunk of plastic stuck to their ear? These are the questions the above doodle raises, then promptly dismisses.


New Shins!

Hey - like the Shins? Sure ya do. Well, the new CD (Wincing The Night Away) isn't available until January 23rd, but you can get one of the songs right flippin' now. It's called Phantom Limb and it's available from through Sub Pop right here, right now. Check it out!


Iowa makes it's way to the New York Times...

In fact, this was the number two e-mailed story on the Times web site. Complete with a very "How New Yorkers view Iowans" type of photo. I mean, granted, the guy worked on a farm in Adel, but still. Aren't there any non-farm related things happening in Iowa that deserve a national news story? Maybe I'm just being sensitive...

The gist of the story (which can be found here) is that a corn and soybean farmer in Adel has converted his farm into vineyard and tasting room. And it's been relatively successful. And he isn't the only one. Apparently, these days in America's heartland it's all about grapes.

Unfortunately, according to a quote in the story, the wine snobs from the coast aren't buying it. I guess the wine isn't ritzy enough for more refined palates. Too bad, but I'd be still be happy to one day hit the Marshalltown wine region.

In other Iowa news, on Studio 60 tonight, in a waaaay too drawn out and unfunny joke about peace in the Midwest, Amanda Peet asked us to take a moment to consider the suffering in Des Moines. Yeah! Iowa!! Seriously, why isn't this show canceled yet?


Masters Course

Check out this How To Be Funny article from a recent New York Times Magazine. It's enlightening and surprisingly....funny. For me, the highlights come from Paul Rudd and Bob Balaban...


Current obsessions...

Obsession on some of these things might be too strong a word. Also, be warned that some of these links take you off to fancy, Flash-lovin' Web arenas. Fascinating stuff, I'm sure...


Stranger Than Fiction
For Your Consideration
Harold & Maude

HBO (just got it a week ago and I'm watching it all the freaking time)
I'm Alan Partridge

New seasons of:
The Office
Aqua Teen Hunger Force
The Simpsons

70s-era Stevie Wonder (Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions)
Richard Hell
Best of 06 (Tapes 'n Tapes, Beck, Thom Yorke, Black Angels, Boris, Lupe Fiasco)
MF Doom (in various incarnations)
The What It Is! box set (on my wishlist...)

"Fast Food" burritos (various places, except Qdoba)
"Fake bacon" BLTs
UDF Reeses Peanut Butter Cup deep freezes
The search for the perfect trail mix

Lemon-lime Gatorade
Pibb Xtra
Amber Bock
Gin and Tonic
Hosmer Sangría

Coffee Emporium
Shake It Records
The Comet
The Northside Tavern
The Southgate House

- Get a handheld video camera, make stupid movies
- Actually update Ronsonville: The Web Site
- Create a new comics-based adventure/romp
- Post more interesting things on this blog than just a list of things I like (impossible?)


The dork knight returns...

Catman made his way back into my sketches the other day, so I thought I'd update you on his developments. Unfortunately, It's sad times for the feline-looking freak. For no apparent reason, he turned to evil and spends most of his days attempting to terrify people in suits. Those attempts are met with sarcasm.

Let's hope things turn around for him soon. Or that maybe he just disappears...


Book review #3: Please Kill Me

After some pretty tough words about hardcore (where did that come from?) I've decided to hold back a little and give a fairly unbiased review about my third summer reading choice:

Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain. Telling the entire story of a genre of music can very easily get out of hand. I suppose that's why Please Kill Me seems to focus specifically on the New York and Detroit punk movements from the late 1960s through the 70s. That means key groups: The Modern Lovers, The Clash, The Damned and the Sex Pistols are overlooked or sidelined for the most part (thankfully John Lydon's autobiography/punk memoir Rotten fills in the Sex Pistol gaps nicely). If you want the total history of punk, you'll still have some reading to do, but the books does an excellent job covering these 7 key groups: Velvet Underground, the MC5, The Stooges, Patti Smith Group, the New York Dolls, the Dead Boys and the Ramones.

Admittedly, I was most intrigued by the early chapters about the proto-punk bands (the Velvets, Stooges and MC5). Beyond that, Richard Hell turns out the most interesting interviews (his first band Television is mentioned briefly, followed by his brief involvement with the New York Dolls spin-off The Heartbreakers). Hell comes off as the original punk -- he lived the life, dressed the part long before anyone and wrote "Blank Generation" (the idea of which was rewritten by the Sex Pistols as "Pretty Vacant"). He's also one of the few people who escapes the a-hole or junkie or slut category that nearly everyone else in the book falls victim to at some point. Well, he almost escapes being an a-hole.

There's a lot to like about Please Kill Me. I totally bought into the interview format and the intertwining stories. But eventually, it starts to get tiresome. You can tell punk fizzled out by 1979 (coinsiding with the death of Sid Vicious), but the book still drags on over a decade later, through the depressing, drugged-out lives of its main characters. It finally ends in 1992 with the deaths of New York Dolls/Heartbreakers guitarist Johnny Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan.

Hmmm....how do I bring up this next part? OK, I'm just gonna say it: The book starts getting a little creepy when it begins romanticizing heroin addicts. It's true! Thunders, Nolan and Dee Dee Ramone are the focal points of the story and the book lingers on them well past their prime. I guess because their lives were so messed up, it makes for a more interesting read? Possibly? I have no idea. I just felt like there must be so much more to talk about, why fixate on this? I never thought punk and heroin were so synonymous, but apparently that's not necessarily the case. Eh. Just something I noticed.

There's also some typical "what is punk" nonsense that I'm not even going to get into. None of this takes away from Please Kill Me being a great read. It's an involving book. If you don't mind checking an index every five minutes to see who's talking and can get past some of the occasional shady undertones, you'll get an intensely detailed picture of the music and the people of punk, from the crazyass people who were there.


Poor K-Fed

"Let's get something to smoke, and pour me a glass of Privilege to wet my throat. Tonight it's going down."

Well, K-Fed, what can I say? We had some good times. This is your ticket back to obscurity. C-ya!

Book review #2: Our Band Could Be Your Life

Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes From the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991 by Michael Azerrad. Not sure what to say about this book, other than I was let down a little bit. I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but because of the number of bands it covers, it's very hit or miss. I found the chapters on Dinosaur Jr., The Replacements and Hüsker Dü to be the most interesting, the chapters on Fugazi, Minor Threat and Black Flag to be the most irritating and thought the Mission of Burma and Sonic Youth chapters were about great bands with dull stories.

The winner of the "Deserves Their Own Book" award goes to the Minutemen, who I didn't really know much about prior to reading this, but instantly wanted to buy their music when I was finished.

The "Doesn't Deserve To Be In This Book" award goes to The Butthole Surfers, who look the most out of place lined up with the rest of these bands. I personally believe that the Buttholes are responsible for every crap alternative band formed in the 90s and that the only reason anyone is interested in them at all is because of the "butthole" in their name. Their chapter was a total waste and only made me hate them more. Runner-up goes to generic (but "the first!") grunge band Mudhoney, whose chapter was saved because it also told the much more interesting story of Sub-Pop Records.

Overall, you get the typical self-righteous vibe that comes with doing things independent and cheap and the venom against anyone actually trying to make money. I got the sense that every night these guys crashed on somebody's floor equaled three nights of them bragging about it. People who can't live in meager squalor (i.e. Henry Rollins) are labelled weak. Ian Mackaye is put on a godlike pedestal, which he happily accepts. Like I said, I got a little annoyed.

I found the book's heart to be the Minutemen story -- it was the least pretenious and most emotional. The Minutemen were definitely political and lived simply, but actually seemed to be concerned about how their music sounded too. They actually sang and created tunes rather than hardcore's typical brutish, loud and shouty songs that are spared by being jock jams because of their lyrics. I was in disbelief that Minor Threat and Black Flag seemed to be confused by their predominantly violent male followings. Like, people weren't "getting the message." Give me a break. Oops. Sorry, hardcore...

Also, sorry for that random rant it what is supposed to be a book review. Guess I had more to say than I thought. To sum up, read it for the bands you love, but don't expect to be turned on by the bands you're not sure of...

Book review #1: Cash

And here are my takes on the previously mentioned books, just so I feel like I accomplished something by reading them, starting with...

Cash. Probably the best book of the bunch. It's definitely the most hopeful tale -- Cash has an almost unbelievable story. His battles with drugs and self destruction seem the most intense, he reached a level of success few have attained, and yet he managed to keep a level head about it all through the end of his career. Of course, Cash had the advantage of writing this from a perfect perspective: If he had written it any earlier in his career, it would likely have come off as either too brash or cocky or preachy. While these sides have their moments, he manages to keep them from dominating. But, above all, what keeps you reading is his stories. Cash has some great ones, and a knack for telling them too.

My biggest criticism is that some chapters read like extended shout-outs to family and friends, which gets a little dry. Even still, Johnny keeps the tone conversational, so when he's bragging about his kids and grandkids you feel like the chat is between just he and you. It's a great memoir and I would recommend it to anyone who appreciates the music and wants to know more about Cash beyond the entertaining (but historically patchy) biopic Walk The Line.


Ugh, I need a recommendation...

Pictured above are the last three books I've read. In the early months of summer, while relaxing in Myrtle Beach, I read about the life of Johnny Cash. In the middle of summer I read about Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Black Flag and a slew of other American indie bands from the '80s. And on the plane trips to and from San Francisco I checked out the sometimes interesting, sometimes morbidly depressing lives of those in American proto-punk.

That's a lotta nonfiction music history. And I'm worn out. So I'm looking to you for some help. Any ideas you can throw out there, I'm receptive. The less to do with music, the better! The only conversation starters I have right now have to do with semi-talented junkie musicians from the 70s. It doesn't come up that often.


The Top Ten Songs of All Time Right...Now*

It's official. These are the definitive top 10 songs (of all time) today, November 2, 2006. At roughly 3:30 p.m. This may seem like an arbitrary list made up by one random person, but I did some checking and this indeed is the official list for this particular moment. All right, here we go:

Title/Artist (Album)
10 Fairest of the Seasons/Nico (Chelsea Girl - 1968)
9 Perverted World/Sebadoh (III - 1991)
8 Electric Relaxation/A Tribe Called Quest (Midnight Marauders - 1993)
7 Ghost Town/The Specials (The Singles Collection - 1991; orig, 1981)
6 Who Me?/KMD (Mr. Hood - 1995)
5 Sure Shot/The Beastie Boys (Ill Communication - 1994)
4 Nausea/Beck (The Information - 2006)
3 9 to 5/Lady Sovereign (Public Warning! - 2006)
2 I Believe (When I Fall In Love That It Will Be Forever)/Stevie Wonder (Talking Book - 1973)
1 Blank Generation/Richard Hell and the Vovoids (Blank Generation - 1977)

*This list is now completely invalid.