Friday, October 21, 2011

More Positive Quarantined Reviews

Simon Smithson of The Nervous Breakdown says that, "At the core of Quarantined is a story of redemption and humanity—the main characters are driven by past sins and sufferings to make it through the hellish surroundings they find themselves in." And Monty's art is "highly reminiscent of some of Tony Harris’s work, especially the strongest panels and sequences of Ex Machina, a graphic novel which shares some of Quarantined‘s questions of morality, humanity, and survival."

A comparison to Brian K. Vaughn--I'll take it!

And Christopher Grant of Eaten Alive says, of the book's plot, "I can’t recall this being used as a plot device before in any of the zombie fiction that I’ve read, comics or otherwise, or any zombie flick I’ve ever seen."

So, if you are looking for Halloween reading, check out Quarantined. There are many ways to get your copy, many of which are listed right here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fright Fest!

It's October, so that means a month full of gleeful horror film indulgence. Some I've never seen, some favorites (Halloween is a yearly tradition).

Here's what's in store:






Friday, October 14, 2011

The 53%

There's a trend in this country right now, and a frightening one at that: acceptance of the status quo.

Hard work, dedication, paying your dues--these are all admirable qualities. But there's something fundamental about the OWS protests that these "Other 53%" folks don't get: No one is saying anything about those qualities. Not a thing. The rhetoric coming from this movement is the same used to demonize the poor--these protestors are lazy, they want handouts, to live off the system, to have everything in life given to them, etc. It's a classic ploy that Republicans use fully to their advantage, turning the tables on the poor as a way to take attention off the rich. Kick those already down, rather than those who are up (because, after all, that maybe cause things to trickle down).

OWS isn't about how hard someone works, or how many jobs they have, or what their student loan debt is--not fundamentally, at least. The message is about how the rules of the economic game get made. Because somewhere along the way (Regan deregulation, Bush tax cuts, Clinton's diving into the pockets of Wall Street, amongst other factors), the game became unplayable for some and dominated by others. These protestors, these are people who played the game as it was taught to them all their lives: go to school, stay out of trouble, work hard, and you'll have a stable life. But that's not the case. Because instead of creating jobs for these people to obtain, these heads of industry have shipped them overseas, they've cut work forces in the effort to maximize unnecessary profits, they've driven down wages and destroyed unions. This is about power, how the people who control capital in this country have amassed wealth through the its wholesale purchase. They've created their own rules, laws, and system to ensure that they can continue to horde and take risk, and never with consequence.

But that's getting a little off point, to be fair. The thing I wonder is what kind of life are these Other 53% people promoting? One of 70-hour work weeks for the better years of your life? Of no vacations? Of constant fear of getting sick because you can't afford healthcare or to miss a single day of work? Like I said, I admire hard work, I truly do. But that's no life I want to live. If this is indeed the greatest country in the world, everyone is entitled to an honest wage for honest work. And they're entitled a slice of their life for leisure, for family, for arts, and culture, and books, and seeing the world. All the things that make life worth living.

Curtis White, in his book The Spirit of Disobedience, told a story about how he'd get angry letters, irate letters, from people expressing indignation over the fact that, as a college professor, he had the opportunity to take occasional sabbaticals to research, write, and explore his interests. Letters would come in, asking "why do you get to do this?" White replied, saying, "I think the better question is why don't you get to this?"

So, to the 53%: your traits are admirable. But you're missing the point, both of this protest and of life in general. We're here to live, not live in servitude.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Few Reincar(Nate) Shots...




Let the wild Internet context speculation begin!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

PJ 20

Tomorrow night, I plan on watching Pearl Jam Twenty, a documentary about the band, directed by Cameron Crowe. For starters, I'm a very, very big PJ fan and have been since...well, for awhile. Now need to cut me open and count the rings. The release of this movie and the retrospective renaissance PJ has been experiencing over the past few months has worked to reignite my passion for the band. I'm never to far from my last listen to one of their albums (and my recent acquisition of Sirius radio, which includes a Pearl Jam station, has kept the saturation level at a pretty respectable high), but I never really committed to words what makes the band work so poignantly for me.

For starters, there's the music, which has seemed to evolve with my own tastes. Sure, at the foundation, PJ will always be PJ. But at the same time, I can't think of many mainstream rock bands that have taken the creative chances that PJ has over he course of their 20-year career. What started as an anthem-fueled arena rock grunge band evolved into an introspective, tight knit group of musicians all contributing their own unique voices to each and every album. Listen to Ten, then listen to No Code, then up to their most recent release, Backspacer. Between the three, there are wild variations in sound, lyrics, and overall album construction.

Of course, part of my fondness is based in nostalgia--that's a given. PJ was the first real band that I felt was my own. I grew up in a pretty music-friendly household, with a musician father. I learned all about Claption, oldies, and The Beatles at an early age. But PJ was the first band that I really felt a personal kinship to. I still remember getting Ten as a gift for completion of a science fair project; and there's the memory of skipping school to pick Yield the day of its release.

As for the PJ story, there isn't a whole lot of ground to cover that hasn't been said before. Though one of the fathers of the grunge scene, they proved to be one of the few bands to be able to evolve past the genre they helped to create. No one knows what the future may have held for Nirvana; Alice in Chains faded under Layne Staley's heroin addiction; Soundgarden broke up and were never able to reclaim their former sound (or integrity, thanks to Chris Cornell's ill-fated solo decisions); the rest of the grunge movement either disbanded, fell into obscurity, or weren't that good to begin with.

The band battled Ticketmaster to the point of refusing to tour (and likely costing themselves significant chunks of money in the process); they battled bootleg recordings of their concerts so adamantly they started releasing entire tours on CD (in fact, I believe they still hold the record for most albums released on a single day). Otherwise, they've stayed relatively free of personal drama, public feuds, all the nonsense that distracts from the single purpose of a band making music. And that's what PJ has done, at its core, for 20 years: They've carved out a niche where they have the freedom to make the music they want, on their own terms. A pretty rare thing these days.

So, as I think of the band and get all nostalgic, I decided to rank my top PJ albums. My favorite three are listed here, in no particular order.

1. No Code

This is the album where PJ through down the gauntlet and said "this is the music we're making; you're either in for the evolution, or you'll be listening to Ten for the next fifty years." Judging by subsequent album sales and radio play, most philistines--I mean fans--were more than happy listening to Even Flow for all of eternity; others were excited by the complexities PJ was unearthing. Granted, No Code is a flawed album--but it's a fascinatingly flawed effort, and that's what makes it so great. Off He Goes can stand to be a little more uptempo, and Present Tense could have been better produced (especially after hearing their live incarnation). But songs like Red Mosquito, Hail Hail, and In My Tree represent the band at its best.

2. Backspacer

Lean, direct, and fun, Backspacer gives a glimpse of PJ feeling comfortable. After a few albums mired in its own political agendas--Riot Act was especially disappointing--the band clearly went for a straight rocker. The Fixer was their best single in years, and songs like Breathe and Unthought Known raise the band to new, mature heights. Johnny Guitar is a terrific Ramones tribute.

3. Yield

After years of battling music media, battling Ticketmaster, and battling the band they used to be, PJ was finally able to settle into making an album that wasn't reactionary (unlike Vitalogy, which was almost completely reactionary). Songs like Faithfull, Low Light, and All Those Yesterdays sound so unlike the band, yet are distinctly PJ at the same time. It's the most lush album and represents the band at its best--comfortable with the music they're making, and making it free of outside influences.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Needle!


The cover is set for this Fall's issue of Needle Magazine, which will feature my own suspense story, "Anonymity."

I certainly don't mind sharing cover space with Keith Rawson, Gil Brewer, Ray Banks, and the like!