Showing posts from April, 2014

Kung Fu Comics: My Iron Fist Addiction

The 70's were an exciting time for superhero comic books. Marvel Comics had revitalized the form in the 60's when Stan Lee and others, including Jack "King" Kirby and Steve Ditko, had created a new breed of heroes dealing with more down-to-earth situations than what was occurring in DC books. These characters tended towards the neurotic and self-doubting, but, more importantly, their lives were set in a world that seemed much closer to the real one. Hell, they had problems and weren't just super powered ciphers. Now some of the art seems archaic and the dialogue is dated and clunky, but at the time superheroes were being redefined for a generation that was mostly consuming horror and romance comics.

After Frederic Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent was released in 1954, most comic publishers had accepted a self-regulated comics code that limited horror, sex, and death, among other things, in comics. EC comics got around the code by publishing magazines, suc…

Sunday Mornings

Sundays used to be a time to relax with a good cup of hot cocoa. My grandfather would swing by our house for a cup of coffee. He would stay for a long time before going into work at the garage. Or I would climb into my dad's old red F-150 and we'd go partridge hunting down the back roads outside  town, prowling for startled birds. We would drive down those lonely old dirt roads for hours, searching for dinner, scouring in the musky air.

Sundays have always held a peculiar fascination for me. Days of rest, maybe, but they can also be days of great excitement. Lately though, they're just more days to work. In front of a computer screen, I dole out the daily word count, wishing I could be up north or down south, any damn where but here. I'd rather be running through the woods, disc golfing, just walking down the street, and instead I'm here. I guess it's time to go.

Johnny Cash - Sunday Morning Coming Down

Kris Kristoffe…

Track This: Eef Barzelay's Love/Fear of the Unknown: "Could Be Worse" and "I Love the Unknown"

I've been a Clem Snide fan for a long time, enamored with Eef Barzelay's easy, literate lyrics and the band's indie country shuffle. They have released a number of solid albums over the years, and have now turned to putting them out digitally, recently releasing several fan chosen collections of covers. For my money the best albums are Soft Spot and End of Love, although I know that The Ghost of Fashion and Your Favorite Music are strong contenders. Eef's solo records present other sides of his songwriting that have been making their way into the later band output. The first is contemplative, while the second rocks like nothing else he has done.

For this edition of Track This, I wanted to review a track from his solo albums but had trouble picking one, so I chose two. The musically upbeat, yet lyrically down, "Could Be Worse" from Lose Big and the Rocket Science soundtrack cut, "I Love the Unknown." Both recognize Barzelay's ability to meld pop…

Track This: Mountain Goat's Cubs in Five

The Mountain Goats have long been critical darlings, but, more recently, they have found a wider fan base. Always consisting of John Darnielle, and in the last number of years, Peter Hughes and Jon Wurster (Also of Superchunk, Bob Mould's backing band, and the Dead Milkman song, Stuart), they put on a rocking show and turn out album after album of literary indie rock.

Since 2002, particularly with the release of Tallahassee and the start of their tenure at 4AD , their output has been far more polished and now consists of more instrumentation. Darnielle's early recordings were recorded on his Panasonic RX-FT500 boombox and are very raw and immediate,  often just nasally vocals and acoustic guitar. Once in awhile keyboards or backing vocals pop up. Albums like Sweden and Coroner's Gambit primarily rely on Darnielle's impassioned delivery and clever lyrics. On All Hail West Texas and Tallahassee, the sixth and seventh albums, Darnielle started exploring album length conc…

On Reading and Writing

One good thing about reading for exams is that what I read will always be with me. I'm a strong proponent of the idea that what has been read can't be unread and what you have written can't be unwritten. While the details might get hazy - plot, themes, characters, etc. - the very act of reading a book adds to your mental catalog of literature, helping you to better understand, if not create, your own essays and writing. Each book read shapes your mental corpus and allows you to draw on the experiences of other writers. Each essay written focuses your abilities. So the more reading and writing you do, the better you will get at both and the better you will be able to analyze and comprehend what others have written and what you need to know to keep writing. This all might be a tad elementary, but a continued sharpened knowledge base coupled with life experience can go along way to keeping you in the game.

Seasonal Shifts: Northern Illinois Railroad Pictures

I recently discovered three concrete railroad bridges on Illinois Route 64 in Kane County near Lily Lake, Illinois. The Great Western Trail runs along here, between the Dekalb County Line and St. Charles, because the railway has been abandoned. I snapped these pictures along the busy highway just after most of the snow melted. The first tunnel was occluded by brush, but the rest are well-used.

Recurrrent Isolated Sleep Paralysis

There are dreams and then, there are those dreams, shiny opalescent, glittery baubles bursting on the seashore of shattered horizons, the clattering of teeth in the cold dark, imaginary fingertips under blankets, stretched over my childhood bed. Recurring transactions with sandmen unknown, standing tall and imposing in darkened doorways, shuffling on flat feet, fidgeting in the early morning breeze, silvery frying pan in hand that turns slowly into a gold plated Ruger. Please mom, make it stop. I can't go on -- but I must, screaming with tattered voice, as the large visitor hovers, pointing its amorphous weapon. Paralyzed nightly, I see its slick face and fear that I might die, blanketed in a real cold sweat, trapped under the weight of lumbering fear. Is the door closed or open? Movement isn't an option anymore,  whether it ever was, trapped in stasis, awake or asleep, the gun or the knife. I can't see it, except in the periphery, behind my line of sight, yet clearly in m…

April Fool's Day

Another year, another April Fools' Day, and I haven't played a joke or had one played on me. In fact, it's been years since someone has fooled me and even longer since I've been fooled. I guess traditions are made to be broken, and I'll now almost certainly fall for something later today.

April Fools' Day is one of those holidays that has apparently gained more cultural cachet with the increasing prominence of social networking. Post after post on my timeline has paid some lip service to the time honored tradition of fooling one's friends, family, and acquaintances. Fake news stories find a ready audience on Facebook and twitter. Although not as ubiqitous as yesterday's opening day baseball posts, there is still something about April Fools' Day that resonates in the national (and international) zeitgeist. A day to drop all the stress and drama in order innocently fool our peers appeals to the embittered psyche.

If it happened on the opening day of …