Friday, April 30, 2010

I Wish I Had, I Wish You Hadn't...

The other day I realized something about myself. I can't read a book without this nagging question in my mind: How would I have written this?

It is very similar to the reading affliction I suffered during my years as an English Literature major and the subsequent years that followed when I couldn't read without a pen in hand itching to underline and make notes in the margins. I've since freed myself of the apparatus. And I no longer read with the idea of constructing a literary argument. Now I tend to read as I imagine most writers probably do, with a critical eye to where I would've taken a different course with the narrative or structure.

Having recently rated a huge chunk of the books I've read in my life on with its limited and crude 1-5 star system, I took a look at my 5 star ratings. There is some benefit, beyond vanity to these kinds of undertakings. Like any data, once entered, it can be reviewed for patterns...only it's more interesting than your average marketing or sales report, because it reveals trends about a subject I very much A trend I noticed in my favorite books: They are all books I wish I had written or could write.

I also realize that these books, though very influential for me, are not necessarily inspirational. They are daunting. One can't help but feel inferior to perfection. I aspire to them. In many ways it's the 3 and 4 star books that really inspire me to write...when I see flaws in a book, it pushes me to examine my own manuscripts for such flaws and highlights paths I wish to avoid.

So in conclusion, let this serve as a warning to all would-be writers. Once you've made that plunge, reading often becomes work. Sure, there's moments of pure escapism...but for the most part reading is never purely for pleasure when it's so tied to what you do. But as work, well, reading is one of the best jobs you can get.

I also think a common mistake young writers make is to keep comparing their work with their favorite books. I hear this a lot from teens who write to me, how they worry about not coming close to the writing of their favorite authors. Not that you shouldn't hold yourself to a high standard, but at the same time, don't get down on yourself for not instantly being your own favorite author. Honestly, I think it would be a sad world to live in if I were my own favorite author. In my own top ten? Yeah, that I could deal with.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Reading is Wonderful

I had heard my mother and father discussing me one night when they thought that I was asleep. My mother told my father that she didn't think it was normal for me to be happy without friends. -from Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth.

Last fall, I spent $3.00 at the local library book sale and walked away with a treasure stack of children's books, one of them being an early edition of Jennifer, Hecate,...Elizabeth by E.L. Konigsburg. I'd been aware of this book for years, and was always intrigued not only because of its fine author, but also that a book could be published with such a clumsy, yet endearing sort of title. What I discovered between its covers was a beautifully written story about two lonely ten year old girls who find friendship in the most unusual way.

I don't know that a child reading this would necessarily see the sadness that underlies the narrative. Reading it as an adult though, I couldn't help but feel for the main character who is obviously desperate for a friend (desperate enough to do whatever the girl says, including eating raw hot dogs every day for a week). As one who writes about outsiders quite a bit, I can tell you the trick to creating a lonely character is making them someone the reader would want to befriend. Konigsburg does a fantastic job at this. Elizabeth is easily the one character in the book you'd want to get to know, to the point where you wish you could step into the story and tell her so.

-The rest of that week seemed to have a month's worth of days, but Saturday came. It was a golden day full of smells of autumn. I told my parents that I'd skip going grocery shopping with them. I told them that I had some work to do at the library. No argument. I was usually a nag for them to take to the A&P. I wasn't very popular at the A&P either. Once I had rammed the cart into a big mountain of cracker boxes. Avalanche! I told the manager that I'd pick them all up, and I did. I arranged them very artistically; the aisle was blocked for forty-five minutes. I hadn't been very popular at the A&P since.-

Perhaps what struck me most about this book is that Elizabeth felt like a girl who would grow up to be like one of the characters from my books. She's a budding Lacie (from Perfect World) or Hannah (from Zombie Blondes). A girl who, if anyone took the time to know her, would discover she has a lot to offer. From the vantage of experience, to see her younger and know this is going to happen kind of breaks your heart. Yet, the story is hopeful. She doesn't end up alone. Two like souls find each other.

Also like some of my books, I've seen a ton of reviews from readers decrying this book for being "boring". This really gets me more than anything else. An intimate character portrait is not boring! This is one thing a book can do that no other medium can. If you read solely for plot, I suggest you watch TV, you're time will be better served. Plot is what TV does best. It gives you tons of plot. A book that gives you intimate time with a character is a treasure. This is one of those books.

I laughed. I cried. I loved it.

-"Have you ever thought that most people wear their socks on their feet, not on their hands?"

I shook my head, "Yes."

She said, "Will you repeat after me: socks are for feet: mittens are for hands."

I said, "Socks are for feet; mittens are for hands."

She said, "Say it again."

I said, "Socks are for feet; mittens are for hands."

She said, "Now please tell me, where are your mittens?"

I said, "In my sock drawer."-

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Great Rabbit Wars Pt. 17

Entry from Recovered Rabbit Child's Diary 001 (access previous documents)

The seventh of Rabbit Month, Year One

Dear Journal,

Today, the good rabbits took us all down to the river. It was very nice. We sang songs about Rabbit Nation and said our Pledge. That part was a little boring. I don't like having to stand so still for so long. (I'd better not let Bianca see this part...she'd get really angry!) But then came the best part. We got to swim and play. Then we ate a picnic lunch of carrots and bread...of course, we only ever have carrots and bread.

Later, something really strange happened. I'd wandered off again. Bianca says I have a bad habit of wandering and that one of these days I'll have to see Fival to fix that. I really hope she forgets - I don't like Fival, he frightens me. Anyway, it seems I'm wandering here on the paper too. (hee-hee)

In the woods, I came across a girl, but she wasn't like any girl I know. She didn't wear rabbit ears. That means she probably came from the Bad Place where people live. If I see one of them, I'm supposed to tell the Rabbit Soldiers. Only this time, I didn't. Because this girl was different. She had wings like a large bird. And there were arrows in the ground all around her, but every single one had missed. Our rabbits never miss! I touched her to see if she was alive. She was.

She almost woke up, but then someone called my name. I didn't want her to be found, so I ran. I hope I'll see her again. I'm going to go back and look tomorrow. It should be okay. I can just say I wandered off again. (hee-hee)

Good Night Journal.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Story Picking Time

-Conversation with him could be kind of trying, because he had trouble with his words. He could find them all right, but he couldn’t get them out, they’d stay in his mouth making noises.- Journey to the End of the Night by Louis Ferdinand Celine

It's that time again...time to choose the next story to write. One thing that always happens when I work so long on one project is that a bunch of story ideas accumulate. I have about five or six possible projects that I'd be ready to start today if I wanted. But picking the right one is important.

I have a garden of interesting characters sprouting for the pages of my notebooks, all who I'd like to get to know. One thing I'm sure of, it will by a younger children's book rather than a novel. Though fear not novel fans, there is a next YA novel peculating. But I always need to distance myself from novels after finishing one. I need a few months between before starting that involved process all over again. A mischievous elementary school story is just about my speed right about now.

Not to give too much away, but I'm thinking of something furry, funny, and fantastic. Is it just me or is the starting of a new project the most exciting part...until the finished book is in your hand that is.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Weekend Music Roundup (Special 7" Edition)

In the spirit of last week's Record Store Day, a day when many bands release special 7" records for the occasion, I thought I'd devote this week's roundup to some from my own personal collection of 7" records. For those digital age kids, many of you don't know the joy of these perfect little 1-4 track gems. I've always been a bit of a sucker for singles because I often find B-Sides to be some of the best tracks by an artist. Even when I was a teenager and obsessed with the CD and CD single, I still bought a 7" records here and there. In high school, I had to use my younger siblings Sesame Street record player to spin them. Nothing like hardcore coming out of Big Bird. Now, I got a better hi-fi, but still love me the single.

Arctic Monkeys - Leave Before the Lights Come On: This two track record was put out between the first and second albums and neither track appears on other releases. The A-Side is vintage softer Monkeys while the B-Side cover of "Baby, I'm Yours" is phenom.

Fugazi - Furniture: This 3 song record dates from 2001, which I'm not afraid to admit is my favorite Fugazi era. Having fully moved away from late '80s and early '90s hardcore, the band made its most complex music in the time. Three great songs that could have been on any album from that time.

Elvis Perkins in Dearland - Lorraine, Lookout: That's my autographed copy pictured above, a prize possession. This came out last fall and is two songs of perfection. The A-Side is an unreleased gem and the B-Side is the chilling "I'll Be Arriving" from last year's full-length. Dynamite stuff.

William S. Burroughs - Three Allusive Tracks from Break Through in Grey Room: I bought this two weeks ago at the Princeton Record Exchange. Limited to 300 copies, this is by far the most surreal Burroughs release I've heard. It's manic and insane and a literary masterpiece.

Blur - Fool's Day: Released for Record Store Day, the original 4-piece band's first recorded new song in nearly a decade and it's truly great stuff. It recaptures the cynical sad look at our daily lives that wove through Modern Life is Rubbish and Parklife. Sooo good...and a free mp3 version is available at

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy & the Cairo Gang: Midday/ You Win: As mentioned last weekend, this 7" came with the purchase of the full-length album. The A-Side is a decent track, but the B-Side is easily the stand-out here. My favorite song by the combo yet, it feels strait out of Bonnie's "I See A Darkness" era.

Nirvana - Live: A white vinyl 7" that I managed to find years ago, this has a rare electric version of "The Man Who Sold the World" as a A-Side and the long lost "The Money Will Roll Right In" on the B-Side (though, not so lost now because it's on the Reading Festival Album). Blistering and brilliant.

Best Coast - When I'm With You: Released last Fall, this is easily the best I've heard from this band. I've recently been listening to their EPs and this single is leaps above. Perfect summer sunshine indie-pop, but they also have a fuzziness that really makes it sound special and unlike the million other bands doing the same thing.

Hole - Miss World: After revisiting the Unplugged a few weeks ago, I dug out this colored vinyl and gave it a spin. Of course the A-Side is classic Hole, but the B-Side "Over the Edge" is great too...raw and angry and the perfect balance to Miss World.

The Leaving Trains - Rock 'n' Roll Murder: I bought this back in High School, mainly for the cover, I'll admit it and being a sucker for colored vinyl. But it paid off (sort of). These 3 tracks are great '90s underground rock. The title track is epic. The two other tracks are great as well. The sort-of aspect comes in because after this, I bought a few Leaving Trains albums that never lived up to this 7" which I sill play.

M 'n' M's - My Boyfriend's Back: Dating from 1983, this three track trow-back is really catchy. The A-Side cover is done so well. The B-Sides are retro garage greatness, 20 years before retro garage was being done.

Appendix Out - Lider fur Kaspar Hauser: This 1999 release contains two tracks by one of my favorite Scottish bands. Alasdir Roberts writes these great fairy tale kind of songs that feel straight out 1800's children's books...dark, sad, mysterious and beautiful. If you have never heard the bands debut The Rye Bears a yourself a favor and get a copy.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Update on My New Novel

"He Reads Her Mind like a Book" from The Three Incestuous Sisters by Audrey Niffenegger

I finally finished the second draft of my new novel yesterday evening. For me, this is always more of a sense of accomplishment than the first draft because there is the feeling of having a full-fledged story in your hands, more or less. With the first draft, I know there's still a pile of work ahead, so it's hard to get too excited. I need to read through the manuscript today, searching for mistakes, clunky sentences and repetition...but other than that, it will finally be ready for someone other than myself to read.

This was definitely the most extensive second draft I've done in a while for several reasons. The story's complexity, the careful unfolding I wanted in the narrative structure, and my own determination to push myself all contributed to the following:

* 140 pages of new writing in the 2nd draft (50 pages of the original cut)
* A complete personality change for one of the supporting characters
* The addition of 4 new supporting characters
* New opening.
* New ending.

If it sounds like a lot of work, it was...but the results have been worth it. Unlike a few months ago, I now have the feeling of having written the book I set out to write. (We'll see how I feel in the morning after reading it through).

It's a strange feeling to be so caught up in a character and their story for months and have it end. At least until I get my editor's comments.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Earthy!

Dear Earth,

You rock! I really like the way you decorate your exteriors. I like taking vacations to your planet. I hope you will be around for a while. Doctor Who says you will be around for a long, long time. But that Bruce Willis movie says you won't. Please make more water.

Sincerely. Thank You.


P.S. You have a really nice moon.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I'm Not Listening to You...

There's two schools of thought among writers about reading reviews of your own books or not. I've always read them, but lately have been feeling like pitching tent over in the other camp. Here's the thing, I'm big fan of the Book Review Blog culture. I've said before I think it's done a wonderful job of spreading the word about books and reaching teens in a way that conventional book advertising doesn't. But recently, I've noticed some disturbing trends on these sites.

It seems as if whenever a blogger hates a book, there a ton of comments that follow thanking them for their terrible review and "saving" them from reading a book. Now, there's merit in respecting an opinion, but to assume you can never like a book because of what someone else thinks (someone who is typically not even the intended audience in the case of YA books) is kind of crazy. I mean, not to undercut a Book Blogger, but many of them aren't an authority on writing. They are just people with opinions...they carry no more weight just because they took some time to voice their thoughts publicly. They provide a useful service and insight, but to let a stranger dictate your reading choices is insane. It's sad to see people unwilling to think for themselves.

My most polarizing book by far is Zombie Blondes. It seems to be a love/hate kind of book. I find it completely ironic when I see a review that slams the book because they find the main character "obnoxious" and that it's unbelievable anyone would so blindly follow. Yet, they never seem to notice the sheep like nature of the comments following their review.

I've also noticed that most of the bad reviews for this book are being written by adults, many who probably believe Juno is a realistic portrait of teen life. It's not that I don't think they're opinion matters. Of course I do. Whether an artist wanst to admit it or not, there is a part of them that cares what people think--it's human nature. But I've always cared more about what teens think of my books as that is the reader I'm trying to reach and for who's enjoyment the story was structured to entertain. SO, in the interest of balance, let me share:

Nobody could ever describe popularity more than Brian James. This totally declares the populars for what they are. Everybody else is blind because of their beauty but if you've read this book, you know the truth.
Brooke (from

Very suspenseful... But a little creepy. I couldn't put this book down. Literally. I red this in the time between school and bedtime.
Cookie (from

At the beginning, the book was good an d it had kept me reading. Toward the end, It was really grabbing. The end was so freaky that I had a nightmare the night I finished it. The end was one of those books that seems like it needs a sequel, but it would not be very long. I highly recommend this book to both boys, and girls if you want a little scare.
Maggie (from

Zombie Blondes reads like a really good Twilight Zone episode. The ending literally gave me chills. I have to rank this as one of the best teen horror novels I have ever read.
Katheryn (from

brilliant book, loved everything bout it!!!!!!

Jemimah (from Facebook)

read the book it's sooooo good i got freaked out at the end but just love it. ♥

Cierra (from Facebook)

I'm not trying to rant, or even argue against bad reviews. I know the book isn't everyone's kind of story. However, it's never a good idea to read one review if reviews are how you make your choices (which is a whole other subject). And though I think most reviewers do a great job, there are definitely some out there who need to get off their high horse.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Great Rabbit Wars Pt. 16

Unfiled Report from Rouge Agent Eldon 003 (access previous documents)

---(unknown date, end of the first campaign)---

I was tracking Bianca on the outskirts of the city shortly before dawn when I noticed a group of refugees fleeing the underground Human Settlement. From a distance, it appeared they were following an angel up through one of the main vent tunnels. There must have been nearly a hundred people in the ragtag group. They looked thin. Dirty. But hopeful. Wide-eyed and hopeful, marching through the rubble streets without a single weapon or lookout to watch for Rodent Army troops. They were going to get themselves killed.

It is now midday and I continue to track Bianca and her perverted band of rabbit-humans. As I suspected, she is following the refugees from the Human Warren. She thinks like I do. I guess somewhere inside her, there is still the ghost of the person who once was my sister. Lucky for me because it means I've been able to sniff out her strategy. Snipers in the rock piles of what used to be a bank two streets north. A ravaged group of feral children clad in rabbit-ears to the south. It's a simple plan - cut off both routes and easy slaughter. My plan is simple too...wait for the aftermath and take Bianca and her soldiers down as soon as they are in the clear.

As the afternoon creeps on, the refugees are fastly approaching the trap set for them. They are signing and joyful. There is something about them that I haven't seen since...something human that I've missed. And as the snipers raise arrows to strike down the angel girl, I decide I cannot let this happen. Fool or not, there she is breathing hope into the population. I won't let that die. I will draw their fire. I must save the refugees, even at the cost of my own life.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Magically Delicious

The power of advertising is a strange thing. While watching Friday night's episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and fast-forwarding through commercials this Saturday morning, one image caught my eye. Wait, what? A new Pebbles cereal? I have to see this.

Besides being one of the coolest cartoon babies ever, Pebbles can make a mean cereal. Nothing, and I mean nothing, tops Cocoa Pebbles, either for breakfast or desert. Fruity Pebbles, though not my cup of tea, is still pretty darn good. So when I saw a new flavor, Cupcake Pebbles, I couldn't stop the wonder from eating away at me. Probably because of the sheer oddness that a new flavor would be introduced now, instead of say 30 years ago. Sure, there's was Bam-Bam's Berry Pebbles, but weren't they just Fruity in disguise.

Luckily, my daily activities brought me to the grocery store by chance that day. As I walked through the cereal aisle, there was this flickering image in my head. "Oh yeah," I thought. "I want to look for those Cupcake Pebbles." Apparently I wasn't the only one, there were only two boxes left.

I admit to staring at the box entranced. Perhaps it is the irresistible type font, or the subliminal hypnotic swirl, or the eye-catching NEW!, or the rather odd fact that it suggests Pebbles has swiped at icing before us and pre-tasted the ingredients...

Regardless, after I got home, I simply had to sample.

First...that wonderful scent. It's like an entire birthday cake in a box. Then, there's the taste. Whew Doggie! That's some delicious cereal. Fine going down and no bad aftertaste. Pure magic.

Pebbles, you done it again!

Honestly, I couldn't stop talking about all day. It's that good. And yes, despite evidence to the contrary exposed in this post, I assure you, I am an adult...almost.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Weekend Music Roundup (Record Store Day Edition)

Today is Record Store Day, the day we are all supposed to truck out to the local indie shop and plunk down cash for music in hand, the way us old schoolers used to do. I love Record Stores. Along with Used Book Stores, they are among my favorite places to spend hours upon hours of solitary wondering, or social discussion with a shopping partner of shared interests. Sadly, both of these dinosaurs are a dying breed. It's a shame really. I understand the cause, and though I love the benefits of variety that the web has created and opened up, there is something to be said about the old ways.

As a teen, I had to pay my dues in the record stores, listening to my elders, learning, and discovering. A record store was a library of music knowledge when there wasn't an Internet and a million different places telling you what to try. I did my studying at places like Noise Pollution, Third Street Jazz & Rock, the Record Exchange in Philly, Tunes in South Jersey, Venus Records, Other Music, Kim's Underground, Generation Records, Sounds, and Ethereal, in New York City. I've gotten my doctorate in places like Amoeba in L.A. and San Fran, and Rough Trade in London. But these days, I don't get out to the record store nearly enough, due mainly to my location where there are only a couple of used vinyl shops that I do hit up when I for sure. Knowing this, I made my record store visits last weekend while in civilization.

Not if, but when you go out to the record store today, may I recommend checking out some of these if you need something to look for:

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy & the Cairo Gang - The Wonder Show of the World: As I commented on their previous 7" a few weeks ago, I really like this pairing. It's very much a Bonnie 'Prince' record of his usual mid-western indie folk, but the full band instrumentation and choir style backing vocals make this one of the more necessary Will Oldman releases in years. (Purchased at AKA Music in Philly...comes with a bonus 7" with two great songs)

Dr. Dog - Shame, Shame: It's hard to follow-up Fate, one the best records of two years ago, but these Philly boys never disappoint me. Their blend of classic-rock inspired indie psych is really unique and several albums in, I still don't tire of it because the song-writing is so strong. This album feels like a grower. With each listen I hear more depth to it.

Lightspeed Champion - Life is Sweet! Nice to Meet You: His debut, Falling Off the Lavender Bridge was easily in my top 10 of 2008 and I've been dying for this one..and wow! What an epic record. Upon first listen, it was easy to declare it nearly perfect. It has the same indie-pop feel as the first record, but added is a blues undertone that just creates a brilliant sound. Bravo. Right up there near the top of my favorite albums of 2010 so far.

Yeasayer - Odd Blood: Another follow-up to a favorite of a previous year, 2007's All Hour Cymbals, a neo-psych masterpiece. This album is also fantastic. It's definitely a little more electronic, and '80s inspired, but uber catchy and clever. I could see some finding it annoying, but I'm loving it. If you have a chance to check out the insane new video, I highly suggest it for pure wackiness and over the top insanity.

Holly Miranda - The Magician's Private Library: Another new album that I'm quickly becoming obsessed with. This sounds like a female singer's version of Bon Iver's For Emma but slightly more upbeat due to more electronic elements added to the indie pop folk sound. A real quality album and a fantastic voice. (Look for the cover image to be used in an upcoming Rabbit Wars installment).

Midlake - The Courage of Others: The last of my highly anticipated 2010 releases on the list. I absolutely love their last, The Trials of Van Occupanter. This album takes the next step and you can hear the obvious progression of the band here. This is the kind of melancholy indie folk album I adore, but don't let that label fool you, this is not simple music. There's a level of sophistication and complexity that makes this band stand out from the field.

Graham Coxon - happiness in magazines: I've had this 2004 album since it came out, but never really gave it much of a chance before. I love Graham's (of Blur fame) first solo album The Sky is Too High, but after two sub-par punk inspired albums that followed, I kind of lost interest by the time this one was released. On a long drive home last weekend, a song from here popped on the shuffle and made me take notice. Much more in the vain of his first, this is Syd Barrett-esque lo-fi at it's best. Check it out...or any Blur album at the store and you can't wrong.

Joy Zipper - The Heartlight Set: Never far from my playlist since it's release in 2005, I've been listening to this again lately as the weather turns warm. Joy Zipper has to be one of the most underrated bands of the last decade. Every album they recorded is incredible. I put it here so that if you see ANY of their great sunshine indie pop albums in the bins, I recommend you buy it.

The International Submarine Band - Safe at Home: A short-lived Gram Parson's outfit, I found this great album in the bins at the Princeton Record Exchange last weekend. It doesn't stray far at all from Gram's solo masterpieces GP and Grievous Angel. Just perfect late '60s country rock. If Gram is lacking from your collection, your collection is lacking.

John Mayall - Blues From Laurel Canyon: This is one of the Mayall classic albums I'd been missing. The father of British Blues in the '60s, the guy who discovered Clapton, John Mayall has been a favorite of mine since college. I purchased many of his albums from the aforementioned Venus Records which was in the same building as my apartment and felt this discovery of the week was fitting for the list. Worth checking out also are the great albums: Bluesbreakers, Blues Alone, Turning Point, and Bare Wires.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Funny Money

One thing I love about vending machines that require purchases greater than your average soft drink is that from the wrinkled $20 you force feed into the scanner, you get $1 gold coins for change. Maybe it's the inner pirate in me, but there's something quite awesome about gold dollar coins that makes me giddy.

Last weekend, an automated parking lot in Philly spit out my change, not in the familiar Sacagawea dollars, but some other golden coin. I turned it over and stared. My brow wrinkled "Millard Fillmore? Is this real money?" I mean, nothing against Millard, we share the same birthday for god's sake, but I found it hard to believe he got a coin. And it's not exactly beyond the scope of Philly shadiness to stuff false coins in vending machines. Either way, I put in my wallet, figuring I'd be able to pass it off in some alternate dimension where Fillmore was a time traveler who saved the Titanic from sinking.

It's not unlike me to keep some funny money in wallet. (Not counterfeits...I grew out of that racket in college).

For the past 25 years, I've kept a Lando Calrissian coin in my wallet despite it's cumbersome silver-dollar proportions. I know it's not legal tender in this galaxy, but you never know when you'll find yourself in some galaxy far, far away. If that happens, my Lando coin will be my salvation.

I used to have a Canadian dime a few weeks ago. I passed it off on teller working the till a local retail outfit. Though, with the current exchange rate, I didn't nearly get the satisfaction from it that I used to from dumping Canuck coin on unsuspecting wage earners.

(Note: Some research confirmed the existence of the Fillmore coin as the first of a series of Presidential Dollars...really.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Great Rabbit Wars Pt. 15

Unfiled Report from Rouge Agent Eldon 002 (access previous documents)

---(unknown date, late period of the first campaign)---

I knew it was going to happen. I warned them, but they wouldn't listen. Now all the children the Human High Command sent to the rabbits have been turned against the cause. I see them training in the courtyards of crumbling buildings, swearing their allegiance to that twisted murderer, General Nippon.

Up to this point, I've been able to remain off their radar. I move through the shadows, striking only when I can. The Long Ears won't spot me. I don't care what the scientist say about their supposed advanced intelligence, they still appear to be dumb beasts in my opinion...only better armed than before. It's the children I worry about. If their indoctrination continues at the current pace, one of them is bound to catch a glimpse sooner or later and turn me in. I'd prefer not to make them my enemy, but I will do what is necessary to hold a human presence in this city.

The communications relay between the underground settlements was destroyed the other day. The explosion lit the night up like dawn. The destruction site is well-guarded. I haven't been able to get a close look, but given the size of the blast I have little doubt the towers are beyond repair. Those sad cowards in their caves are doomed now.

I keep monitoring the movements of the Rodent Army. It appears they are planning a siege of some significant magnitude. Gauging the size of the forces Nippon has assembled, I gather nearly all of the reserves have been called from the outer warrens. I'm beginning to think a journey there is in the cards. Unprotected, the outer warrens might make for a good target. I'll pick off the stragglers one by one. That will send a message those rabbits won't soon forget.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Worldwide Zombie Invasion

With the U.S., Canada, Germany, Australia, and Mexico already fallen prey and conquered, the Zombie Invasion has spread to the Czech Republic. Prague is currently overrun with the publication of Zombie Blondes. I tend to be popular in the former Soviet Bloc for some reason or other. It must have something to do with my love of bleak weather, grey buildings, and European military uniform styles.

I got my Czech copies in the mail the other day. They look really cool. It's the first translation that has gone with a different cover, so that's always fun to see.

I've been fortunate enough in my career to have been somewhat widely translated and flipping through a book you wrote and not being able to read a word of it never loses it's absurdest thrill.

People of the Czech Republic, enjoy. (You always be Czechoslovakia to me, thanks to endless map quizzes by certain former nun who happened to be my 7th grade Social Studies teacher).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weekend Music Roundup

This week's list is an odd collective to be sure. With at least one release from each of the previous five decades, it's bound to be a little disparate. Hopefully in a good way. It made for interesting listening, switching gears as it does. It many ways, I blame the weather which spanned from summer to spring to fall-like all in the span of a few days. When it's warm, I got to get the sunshine tunes going and then it gets windy and bleak and I want the comfort of feeling sad. Looking ahead to next week's list, it's going to consist mainly of my most anticipated releases of the first quarter of 2010 thanks to a trip to Princeton Record Exchange and the best record story in Philly, Aka Music on second. For now, may I present this oddball bunch for you to ponder.

Arctic Monkeys - My Propeller EP: Essentially a single, but with three unreleased B-sides, it felt like a return to the '90s when the single made a somewhat resurgence (at least with British bands). The title track is one of the best from the Humbug album and the B-sides are quality. "Joining the Dots" being the best. Worth it for fans.

Johnny Flynn - Sweet William e.p.: Flynn's full-length was one of my favorite albums of 2008 and I was pretty excited to hear this follow-up EP. Four songs long, they are all the same brand of that new contemporary London folk scene. Really smart song writing. Doesn't miss a beat from the full-length, but doesn't stray far either. All of these songs would fit seamlessly onto the album. That's a high compliment.

Mr. Gnome - Heave Yer Skeleton: Okay, so I fully admit to being attracted to this because of the amazing cover that reminds me of the haunting glimmer I have from some Raggedy Ann cartoon special I saw as a child. Sometimes, these intuitions pay off. I really enjoy this album. Sure, the singer sounds like a dead ringer for Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but the music is far more interesting than the YYY have been in years or maybe it's just that I'm obsessed with psychedelic folk at the moment.

AM - Future Sons & Daughters: I caught the video for the single from this album and was intrigued enough to hear the entire thing. It reminds me a lot of the late '90s Brooklyn scene of bands like Essex Green, Ladybug Transistor, and the non-Brooklyn band The Minders. Which is to say, it's pretty fantastic indie pop. It differs from those aforementioned bands in many ways though. It has definite L.A. feel to it that I'm always a sucker for. Kind of Portugal. The Man-lite sound.

Oneida - Preteen Weaponry: Oneida has been around for years and doesn't get enough credit for their endurance in a scene that is fickle to say the least. This is a pretty solid effort of instrumental neo-psy. Not earth shattering, or anything I haven't heard before, yet done with a professionalism that sometimes is lacking in the genre. If instrumental indie rock is your thing, this is certainly worth a listen.

Portugal. The Man - Under Waves of the Brown Coat: The latest PTM nod on the roundup, this stands to be the last for a while as I think I've pretty much caught up on their entire catalog (one album remains, but I'm kind of saving it). This 2005 EP is slightly lesser than most of the either work, yet still better than most others bands. Some great tunes on here though. If you are still unfamiliar with this band, don't start here, but once your hooked, certainly don't overlook this release either.

Tad - 8-way Santa: One of the early "Seattle Sound" bands the pioneered the scene along with Mudhoney and others, Tad is a band I've largely, and unrightfully, ignored for years. This is "classic grunge" (nod to Lifeseeker there). Heavier than most of the bands that went mainstream from the scene, Tad is h-e-a-v-y! I loved this album. "Jack Pepsi" is a must.

Jefferson Starship - Freedom at Point Zero: I've always been a giant Jefferson Airplane fan and skeptical of Jefferson Starship. Though I've recently been digging the Jefferson Starship albums "Blows Against the Empire" and "Red Octopus" and thought this one worth checking out (with a cover like that, how could I resist) even though it was 1979 and nearing the disaster that is Starship. Though not completely awful, this isn't exactly good either. Some quality tunes though. "Jane", "Awakening" and the title track are worth the listen.

Kyuss - Welcome to Sky Valley: Though I've always been a Queens of the Stone Age fan, I've never quite loved the root band Kyuss. I enjoyed Blues for the Red Sun, but didn't love it. This album is surprisingly different than that one. Very much an Alice in Chains sound on here. I liked it. It was heavier, but at the same time more commercial. Decent heavy rock album with a distinct '90s sound, but I still don't see the where the cult of Kyuss comes from. "Space Cadet" is the stand out track for me.

Neil Young - Neil Young: It's that time of year again. It seems every year for the last 15 years, I go on this Neil Young kick. I'm full-on in the midst of another attack. I'd never picked up this first solo effort (released a few months before the 5 star Everybody Knows This is Nowhere). But is is definitely a good Neil album. "The Loner" rocks of course, and I actually love the epic "Last Trip to Tulsa" in all it's Dylan-esque glory (a lot of people rail about that song, they're loss). More Neil to come in upcoming roundups.