After largely missing them in New Orleans due to explodey-chest syndrome, I had the pleasure of seeing Neil and Amanda at a great engagement party at agent-extraordinaire Jon Levin’s house Saturday. Lots of new and old friends there, but I have to make special mention of Stephin Merritt, who I’d never met before but is one of my favorite songwriters. We’d just watched Pieces of April two nights before (a Thanksgiving tradition in our home) which has songs by Merritt in it, so he was on our mind already.
Okay, it has nothing to do with comics, but wow, what a great performance. We’re talking me watching on an iPhone at a Payless Shoe Store and getting a tear in my eye. Seriously. Janelle Monáe. Janelle Monáe. Janelle Monáe. Damn…
Anyway, I was talking to our friend Matt yesterday about death music (note change of subject, since the above video is 100% LIFE) and he volunteered Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song” before I could, but that one is definitely on the list. Got me thinking again about my own short list of death songs.
By “death songs” I don’t mean songs with lyrics about death, or music with a morbid style. I mean music that takes you right to edge of what-it-is-to-die. Existentially transportive songs, if that makes any sense.
On my list:
“River Man” by Nick Drake
“Pyramind Song” by Radiohead
“Meeting Across the River” by Bruce Springsteen
“Wayfaring Stranger” The Charlie Haden Quartet West
“Old Man” by Randy Newman
Chopin’s Nocturne in C Sharp Minor (personal connection there)
Purcell’s “Man that is Born” from the Funeral for Queen Mary
The theme for NPR’s “Selected Shorts.” Not sure why.
I’m even okay with the ’60s Batman-style sound effects! Thanks, everyone I’ve ever known for telling me about this as soon as I got home.
Oh, and hey, as long as it’s Random Friday, I’ve got a question: I’m dying to find a reeeeeally old music video from the ’80s—maybe even pre-MTV. It had a funky, electronic song (possibly no words) with black and white, photocopy-style animation. There was a recurring assembly line motif with hamburgers and hands and that creepy masonic eye/pyramid thing. Really cool and jerky, almost like it was made by a robot Terry Gilliam. Does anyone remember this video? I’d love to find it out there somewhere but I don’t know anything about the director or even the musician(s) involved.
As some of you might have guessed, based on past blog entries, music is very important to our whole family. Sky is going to Coachella this year with a friend of ours and I’m envious, but after Italy, I’m going to be too eager to get back to work on the book, so I’ve got to miss it yet again.
I love that my daughter has been listening to bands like Passion Pit, Hot Chip, and Vampire Weekend* (all at Coachella) while simultaneously getting into Bob Dylan and Bob Marley, on LP no less—and that I had nothing to do with those last two. Well, any of them technically, (though I did discover Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros before her).
I used music constantly while working on the first draft of the layouts for the new book. I had several different playlists for different kinds of scenes and I’d go for long walks trying to imagine sequences, while letting the music sustain the mood I was going for.
Recently though, I mentioned this to my Mom over the phone and she said she hoped I took the headphones off once in a while to listen to the sounds around me too. (Which is both reasonable, and exactly the kind of thing you count on a Mom to say.)
Funny thing is, though, I’ve discovered that music actually distracts me during those walks now that I’ve entered the rewriting stage of the layouts. Keeping a sustained mood through music actually makes it harder to step back and consider the structure of a scene or set of scenes in my head, and how to change them for the better, or to implement the suggestions of my panel of “kibitzers.”
That trance I needed to put myself in while conceiving sequences would now prevent me from evaluating those scenes objectively. More proof, if any was needed, that we need to appeal to different aspects of our creative personality at different stages of the creative process.
Hm. This post is like a Simpsons episode. One thing leads to another and…
See you Monday!
*Pop Quiz: If I added Peter Gabriel’s name to those three band names and asked you which of the four was not like the others, which would you pick and why?
Belated Happy Birthday to Ivy! We went to Disneyland for her birthday on Tuesday after a very full day of work Monday, and yesterday was a lot printing and mailing, so I didn’t get much blogging, tweeting, or, um… facing… in this week.
Round One of the “rough draft” for the graphic novel is done! I’ll be working on revisions/rewrites for the next couple of months and then, starting in March, I’ll be doing finished art for two years. The book is currently at a whopping 461 pages, but I’m hoping it’ll get shorter in revisions. (Note that my “rough draft” is basically just a rough sketched-out version of what the finished book will look like, all captions and balloons in).
Fun fact: My roughs are done forty pages at a time in a single photoshop document so I can slide panels back and forth and think of the flow more organically and not let the page dictate pacing too much. They’re really big files!
The whole family is getting into the Avett Brothers this year.
Winter and I finally finished watching Deathnote on DVD. All the kids in anime club were yelling at her to finish it already so they could talk about it. That is one crazy show! (And oh, man, that opening theme and animation for Season 2…)
Still loving Mad Men.
The preview for Iron Man 2 makes me feel 14 years old again. In a good way.
Best comic of the year? For me, probably Asterios Polyp, but now that I have a bit of free time, I need to read a few more contenders.
Creatively, I thought 2009 was a great year for comics, music, and movies. Financially, though, it sucked donkey balls for a lot of people in our community. Let’s hope ’10 is better.
I couldn’t even tell you the lyrics to a lot of my favorite songs. I usually fall in love with the music itself, even if the lyrics are a muddled blur.
But there are a few songs I love for the lyrics. Below are fragments from some of my favorites. I’d be curious to know how many of you recognize them (without Googling of course) and I’d love to hear some of yours.
Hair blowing in the hot wind
Time hanging from a clothespin
There’s no sorrow that the sun’s not gonna heal
Bowel shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse
Assail him, impale him, with monster truck force
Shooby Doo, rock steady crew
Find him an octoped ingenue
I killed my dinner with karate
Kick ‘em in the face, taste the body;
Shallow work is the work that I do.
Socrates and Milhous Nixon
Both went the same way—through the kitchen
I nuked another Grandma’s Apple Pie
and hung my head in shame
‘Cause this guy don’t dance
And word’s been passed, this is our last chance
He looks up from World War Two
Then you catch him catching you
…catching his eye.
They said you were hot stuff
And that’s what Baby’s been reduced to…
Everybody got their Black & Decker
Blood and fettucine everywhere
You can call me Aaron Burr
From the way I’m droppin Hamiltons
And you couldn’t see a city
On that marbled bowling ball
Or a forest or a highway
Or me here least of all
You can raise welts
Like nobody else
Write your letters in the sand
For the day I’ll take your hand
In the land that our grand-children knew
One of my favorite This American Life segments: David Rakoff’s heartbreaking “Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace,” Act Three of Episode 389 – Frenemies. If you agree with me that TAL is one of the best shows ever on radio, consider a donation.
Had a surprisingly good time watching Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Probably helped to be sitting between two kids who were laughing at all the genuinely smart and/or bizarre gags. Way better movie than it needed to be to fill it’s demographic slot.
Whole family is enjoying Glee and rooting for it to get better already.
“Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” by Das Racist/Wallpaper. Find it. Listen to it. Hate me forever for making you do it.
Yesterday, some cartoonists I know expressed sadness over Michael Jackson, which I understand. Personally, I thought it was a sad ending to a sad ending. But others were baffled by how anyone could sympathize with anyone accused (and presumed guilty) of such horrible things.
Fortunately Adobe just released a new Photoshop filter for just such occasions (screenshot above). I like to work in grayscale and RGB myself, but some out there might find it useful.
[Hypocrisy disclaimer: Anyone wanting to knock me off of my high horse can just point out my own rant about Fredric Wertham on that audio interview the other day. Guess we all do it from time to time.]