Thursday, September 18, 2008


An impressive work of art in its own right(from the co-creator of everyone's favorite fumetti, A Softer World) is Joey Comeau's riotously funny and unapologetically offensive collection of cover letters, Overqualified.

A terrific distraction from the mind-numbing, spirit-crushing process of proofreading your own soberingly dull resumes and cover letters.

I think it should be the next big blog book, a trend, by the way, which is starting to irritate me just a little.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The most impressive display of free books I have ever seen in the city.

At 12th Street, between 6th Avenue and 7th Avenue.

Eight steps! Had I not been on my way to my friend's apartment, I would have stopped to peruse their selection of books. In hindsight, I regret not doing so. I'm not sure, but when I magnify the picture I think I can see a copy of Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way," which is a fine book. (Ed. Note: I don't recall if I own it, though I think I might; it was required reading for my Creative Writing seminar in college. I could have certainly taken a copy from Tarcher Penguin while I was interning there, if I had the forethought.)

As I walked past stoops cluttered with books, clothes, and toys, all outgrown by their former owners, I was reminded of my mother. I wondered what her reaction would be if she learned about my persistent habit of picking up books from the street. She would undoubtedly refer to the books as "garbage," stubbornly reject my belief that they were anything other than dirty remnants on the sidewalk. I find this thought very amusing, but also somewhat disconcerting, if my mother ever comes to visit me.

Monday, September 8, 2008


While it rained Saturday afternoon, I challenged my friend Neil to a little game of Scrabble.

Shaming myself as a former English major, I lost, 209 to 258.

Nevertheless, here is an amusing (and useful) excerpt from A.J. Jacobs's "The Know-It-All," the memoir in which Jacobs recounts his attempt to read thirty-two volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica: "I've actually dabbled in reference books before. After college, I spent a couple days poring over Webster's dictionary--but mostly I was looking for two-letter words that I could use in Scrabble to make annoyingly clever moves. (I was kind of unemployed at the time.) And that turned out to be a very successful experience. You can bet your bottom xu (Vietnam monetary unit) that I kicked the butt of my jo (Scottish slang for girlfriend) without even putting on a gi (karate outfit)."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

"One should never underestimate the power of books."

The Center for Book Arts, located at 28 West 27th Street, is offering a neat little exhibit for artists and bibliophiles, Artist As Publisher. The gallery is open Monday through Friday 10 am to 6 pm, and Saturday 10 am to 4 pm.

The CBA is home to an actual printing press, and provides classes, workshops, and seminars for people interested in bookmaking.

You are supposed to wear special white gloves when looking at the books, but there is little to no supervision, a point of which Neil took advantage.

(The abovementioned quote is from Paul Auster's "The Brooklyn Follies," and I think it's very apt. Books have the power to suspend time, to resurrect the dead and lost, and do so in a tangible, textured manner. Unlike, say, blogs.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

New greeting cards!

CCS, The Center for Cartoon Studies, just released a new series of greeting cards, in collaboration with Sunrise Greetings, available at fine retailers everywhere. I unwittingly bought one for my sister yesterday at work.



For the most part, I'm quite pleased with what they've done. The envelopes are, as you would expect, also very nice, and not as blurry as my poorly taken photograph would lead you to believe.

This reminds me of a late night conversation I had in college with my friend Chris, where we decided we would publish greeting cards that would make you feel worse, not better. This idea has since been done, unsuccessfully, I might add, by Melancholy Greetings. I think someone should show them how funny they aren't. Who's interested?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Unicycle Loves You; Unicycle Loves You (2008)

Proud Chicago sextet Unicycle Loves You are a portmanteau of sorts, on both fundamentally stylistic and complex musical levels. Here is my deconstructionist theory: in name alone, Unicycle Loves You seems to be an amalgamation of The Unicorns (whom the band sound like), to a lesser extent Bikeride (whom the band sound like), and to an even greater extent Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (whom the band sound like). In sound, as you may have noticed parenthetically, the band has imitated over a dozen different musicians.

When I first heard the band, I was in the audience at Union Hall this past Friday. I couldn’t describe what I liked about them, but I knew that I liked it. I also like promoting indie bands directly. It seemed only fate that I should purchase their album, for a reasonable ten-spot, while attending their show.

It is Monday afternoon, and I am home listening to Unicycle Loves You’s self-titled album, no longer drinking and drunk. I still like what I am hearing, but rather than sit passively tapping my toe, I feel the need to further dissect their sound. What I initially appreciated about the band was the sense that every song sounded different than the last. “Great Bargains for Seniors,” the first track off of the album, could have easily been a b-side off of The New Pornographers’s 2000 release Mass Romantic. Just as surreptitiously, vocalist Jim Carroll then adopts a sultry tone, almost like Jarvis Cocker doing an impression of David Bowie. The song shifts once more, with an unexpected a capella verse, much like The Futureheads popularized with their self-titled album in 2004.

Track two, “Kiki Bridges,” is a fast, guitar-heavy, Broken Social Scene-esque song. In other words, the lyrics can be as meaningless as possible as long as the beat is good; in which case, I might be obliged to compare them to the Canadian rock band Stars instead. Carroll modifies his vocals to sound like an early nineties indie rock band, most recognizably Dinosaur Jr, with bassist Nicole Vitale on backing vocals. “$ + C” is an altogether forgettable track that does nothing to harm nor improve the album, and requires no further commentary.

“Highway Robbery” is perhaps the most infectious track on the album, starting with a drum solo and culminating into a guitar riff that sounds exactly like the opening to Chad VaGaalen’s “Clinically Dead,” which was originally released in 2004, then re-released in 2005 by Subpop. The chord progression is changed just slightly, sort of like when Sublime released “What I Got,” and everyone who had a general knowledge of music knew the song was basically their own bastardized version of “Lady Madonna.” Only this strikes me as a much more egregious offense, pilfering the riffs of a relatively unknown artist, VanGaalen, instead of paying homage to one of the most famous bands in history. Furthermore, the song ends anticlimactically, as if the songwriter had absolutely no idea what should come next.

“Yum Pla Muk” demonstrates another instance where Carroll alters his vocals, in this case, to sound like Britt Daniel of Spoon. Likewise, most of the song is instrumental, relying heavily on intricate bass lines. “Under 18” is another upbeat pop song in the likes of The New Pornographers. The song is at its most unbearable when Carroll and Vitale exchange spoken words, alternatingly between the chorus: “Feels like 150 degrees / All your friends say I’m OK, whatever that means / I ain’t gonna do nothing to solve it / I still remembered not to look at them girls if they’re under 18.” I understand that insightful lyrics are not a requisite component in music appreciation, but I wonder sometimes why certain bands give us their lyrics in the liner notes when they obviously took little care in crafting the words to accurately convey their message or concept. “Woman Bait for Manfish” is a great song in which guest musician Alan Scalpone provides a delightful trumpet solo, a song made great, perhaps, in its sparse lyrics. “We Got Animals,” again, features Vitale sounding a lot like Amy Millan of Broken Social Scene. Finally, “Dangerous Decade” truly offends the listener, insulting his intelligence with a scratchy, atypical beat, reminiscent of Franz Ferdinand’s first album in 2004. Really? Did they think I wouldn’t notice?

I have come to this very realization: Unicycle Loves You has not made a concept album, like many of their beloved predecessors. They have merely collected a range of sounds, from the likes of whom are very talented and user-friendly, and, in turn, released an album which misleads the listener to believe that they themselves have created something original.

This is not to say that Unicycle Loves You are a complete waste of time. I believe, given their raw abilities as musicians, they may someday be able to hone their skills and produce an album of substance. Their debut ten-track (one dollar per song?), self-titled LP Unicycle Loves You, however, is not that.

Monday, June 9, 2008

MoCCA Art Festival; June 8, 2008

When I arrived, I spent the first fifteen minutes trying to recover from the intense heatstroke I was convinced I had suffered on the humid train ride from Brooklyn. Wandering around three loud rooms filled with hundreds of faces, both real and drawn, only exacerbated my anxiety. I took a few sips of my water and stood in a doorway. Then I recognized Neil Swaab and went to his table. I looked at the original pieces he had for sale, and told him “I love your work.” His face lit up. He asked me how I knew him, and I said I’d been reading his stuff on-line for about three years. He seemed impressed until I started sweating profusely and muttering incoherently about how overwhelmed I was. “My brain isn’t quite working,” I said, panting as I walked away with a few postcards and a button. He smiled and nodded, glancing in my direction every so often throughout the afternoon.

I soon found myself in one of three rooms on the first floor, standing in front of Hope Larson’s table. Bryan Lee O’Malley was sitting next to her and they were busy eating noodles. I felt incredibly creepy (I’ve been to their flickr! Their cat’s name is Foley!) and tried to avoid eye contact, maintaining a severe amount of distance as I stared blankly at a pile of copies of “Chiggers,” the table, the floor, et cetera, which was probably the most unseemly behavior I could have exhibited. They looked like nice folks, and in hindsight I wish I could have managed to offer my praise, or a question regarding upcoming projects, or something other than whatever it is that I did. I struggled, perhaps, because don’t really know or like Larson’s work, and it seemed in poor taste to try to talk about Scott Pilgrim instead, especially since there had been no merchandise promoting the series.

I met Godfrey Chan, whose table was perpendicular to Hope Larson’s. He tried to engage me in his semi-autobiographical webcomic Wrong Turns, which revolves around a man and his “gay-best-friend Apple laptop computer.” When I didn’t seem sold on the idea, he handed me a flyer, assuring me that it was free. I pointed to a picture of a young Asian boy in a sweater, asked, “Is that you?” to which he replied, “Yes. That’s me. In my favorite sweater. Take it.” His frantic enthusiasm fascinated me, and I put my name on his mailing list.

I promptly went to the bathroom, which, unlike every other part of the Puck Building, was heavily air-conditioned and offered me a great amount of relief. I drank more water and put on my cardigan.

Questions seem to be ubiquitous at comic book conventions, from the mundane to the mind-bendingly obscure. I remember standing beside a nondescript table and overhearing the person next to me (yes, male) haranguing an artist with questions. “Are you, this? Yes? What do you do? What is this?” He sounded mildly autistic, and when I looked at him, I noticed that he was wearing a Star Trek t-shirt and cargo shorts. He had a small amount of dark facial hair on his upper lip and nowhere else on his face. He also had dozens of flyers and programs stuffed in his hands and pockets. He seemed to have a complete disregard for his surroundings. Meanwhile, there were other people in the room (female, yes, but a small minority) acutely aware of where they were and who they were talking to. These people bragged nonchalantly about how they had partied with Michel Gondry the night before, how they thought Charles Burns was “just okay,” and so forth, amounting in an endless stream of pissing contests left and right. I felt like I was at the Pitchfork Music Festival again. Who is the most original, most nonconformist hipster in the room? Who is the most well-versed in independent comic books? Who is wearing the best glasses? Me! Me! Me!

I remember walking by a table, feeling exhausted, wishing I could wear glasses, when I saw someone wagging a comic strip at me. Isaac, a jolly, bearded, horn-rimmed sort from Satisfactory Comics had his arm outstretched with a postcard in between his thumb and forefinger. He furrowed his brow. I stepped over and took the postcard. “It’s an actual postcard,” he said, “You can mail it.” Then I leafed through a few of his books. He has an interesting series of postcard comics, each with an escalating level of suspense, urging the reader to anticipate the next postcard.

I bought a “litany of beer” sticker from Jonathan Rosenberg, who writes Goats. I think it might make a neat coaster.

On the seventh floor, Michel Gondry was apparently drawing caricatures of his customers, so I immediately took the elevator up to see my favorite French music video director. He looked weary and irritable. I kept my distance. I did not mention "Be Kind Rewind." Instead, I walked the perimeter of the seventh floor, a vast space, where an overzealous young artist, Joshua Smeaton, practically begged me to read his comic, Haunted, which I hated. I contemplated purchasing a copy of “Tool Cool to be Forgotten” by Alex Robinson, but it only reminded me of my ex-boyfriend and his endearing attempts to quit smoking. This train of thought led me to think about how hard, yet completely worthwhile, it is to do things by myself. And to not just tap away at the computer in my room, but to complete overtly, publicly solitary acts. I have a tendency to avoid going places by myself, and I'm not sure why, exactly, especially given the city in which I live. Nearly every day I see a person eating in a restaurant by himself, ordering a single movie ticket, or milling around a bookstore (granted, most of these people are likely to pop open a cellphone within ten minutes). Most days I probably don't even notice when a stranger is alone. But when a relationship ends, there is a period of slow desperation, as you come to realize you have no one person to take you places, to stand next to you, to laugh at your dumb jokes and agree with your studied opinions. This is the time when you have to quiet the voices in your head and just silently observe. Otherwise you sound like a crazy person, talking to no one.