“How Did You Make Me Feel Like I Couldn’t Feel?”

The Portland Cello Project’s Beck Hansen’s Song Reader album has been the soundtrack to a lot of my 2013 so far; it started as something I bought/listened to as a reminder of their “Beck The Halls” Christmas concert from the end of last year (Where the above video was recorded; if you can imagine the view from the left of the audience, about midway back, that was me), but it’s unfolded into more of a delight than simply nostalgia the more I listen. Here’s another video from the December show, with the spectacular Jolie Holland providing amazing vocals (Seriously, these are vocals to die for), to give you an idea of what you missed.

Part of the appeal is hearing the music performed in such an un-Beck way; the PCP and guest vocalists give the music more of a jazzy feel, with some easy listening thrown in at times (“Just Noise” could be a Bacharach song), that manages to free the songs from what you’d expect of Beck, and makes his music into something… else, somehow. The humor is allowed to come through, in a way that his own performances tend to underplay for whatever reason. Check out “Last Night, You Were A Dream” and imagine it being performed by Beck; the joke would somehow feel flatter, somehow…?

Station Identification

In the traditions of Warren Ellis, Dylan Todd and David Brothers:

The World That’s Coming is the personal blog of Graeme McMillan, a pop culture and tech writer who gets paid to write for Time.com, Wired.com, Newsarama.com, and Digital Trends (An explanation of the blog’s name can be found here). His work has also appeared in Playboy magazine, Gawker Media’s io9.com, AOL’s dearly departed Comics Alliance, Comic Book Resources and many, many other places. He has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered Weekend Edition, CNN Radio, CBC and Sky News as a guest talking about pop culture.

Three times a month(-ish), he talks about comic books with Jeff Lester on the Wait, What? podcast and once a month(-ish), he participates in a comic book review round table on Kotaku.com with Evan Narcisse and Douglas Wolk.

He can be found on Twitter, Facebook (which he rarely checks, be warned) and Google Plus (which he checks even less often than Facebook). You can listen to his “jams.”

He lives in Portland, OR with his lovely wife Kate and their loud but adorable dogs, Gus and Ernie. If you want to get in contact for whatever reason, you can ');" href="mailto: ">email him and ask if it’s weird writing about yourself in the third person (It is).

I Turn Up The Radio/But I Can’t Hear It

So, yeah. I was on NPR awhile back.

nprIt was a surreal, but ultimately enjoyable, experience – Although, I’ll admit, it didn’t end up with “ultimately enjoyable” until after everyone had heard the interview. I was (and still kind of am) surprised and unsure that it aired at all; I had managed to convince myself that I had screwed up and the entire thing would’ve been unusable because I was so boring or something. I was also amazingly nervous, because look at that studio I was in. That’s a real radio studio, with multiple mics and someone that you can’t see through the glass working to produce the whole thing, even though I was in Portland and the interviewer was somewhere on the East Coast.

I meant to post this picture back then, when the episode of All Things Considered aired, but I forgot; I’m kind of glad, now. Enough time has passed that I feel like I can say that I’d happily go back, if I was ever to be asked. I guess for that to happen, I’ll have to write something suitably sticky for Wired again…?

It hasn’t stopped being surreal, though.

A Nice Failure

Every artist who ever lived is correct about critics: they are barren nursemaids, never-weres deficient in the slightest authority to dictate the placement of a comma. They are shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, and comics critics are among the very worst, lacking in even the brazen, flatulent delusion that marks the livelier movie types. Yours is a *nice* failure, Tucker, a sweetheart’s sigh of continued, contented disappointment, sauntering dignified into worthwhile irrelevancy, beyond which none will remember, nor care, nor will any demerit solemnify the ignorance of anyone who might be moved, through any impossible intercession, to somehow remember.

That’s from an email apparently sent by an unidentified body to critic Tucker Stone, and… Well. It’s kind of amazing, right? It feels like a joke – I actually hope that is a joke on Stone’s part, to be honest, because otherwise it’s been written by the most insecure person ever, desperate to pre-emptively respond to any negative criticism by yelling NO YOU’RE A BIG MEANIE WHO NO-ONE CARES ABOUT ANYWAY at the top of their voice. The mix of over-written insult (“never-weres deficient in the slightest authority to dictate the placement of a comma,” indeed), childish offense (“They are shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit”) and comedic patronizing (“Yours is a *nice* failure, Tucker”) marks someone so oddly desperate to convince that they really don’t care despite their visual upset and no these aren’t tears it’s allergies and why are you even looking at him anyway, jeez.

(It’s clearly a him; it’s comics, after all.)

As a critic of sorts – even a comic book critic, at times – I read this and instead of feeling suitably chastised at all of the clearly bad life choices that led to my failure as a human being, I get both ridiculously amused and very curious: Who could be that thin-skinned and childish to lash out like that? How can they survive in the real world without coming face to face with far harsher truths and criticism than anything a comic critic could share? And do they spend their spare time writing impassioned screeds in their journal that are just as wonderfully reminiscent of a smart, socially awkward 15 year old railing against the world?

(This reminds me of a story that’s not actually mine to tell, about a comic book creator who once spent an hour at the start of an interview telling the interviewer about all of the bad career choices that they had made. By “they,” I mean that the creator spent an hour criticizing the interviewer’s choices, getting more and more personal. I was once threatened with violence by a comic book professional on the floor of a comic convention. Things are weird, in the comics world.)

I can understand the urge to not want to read criticism of your work, but in that case, don’t read the criticism. It’s actually kind of easy not to, really. To instead try and shout down critics, tell them that they’re worthless and should give up, is just kind of pathetic, all told.

Run

TruckRunFrom the Guardian’s Photo Blog:

Pakistani boys run after a truck that was distributing election flags during a political rally in Lahore on the last day that election campaigns. Photograph: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

I love this image; there’s something so kinetic about it. There’s a story here, you know immediately. Everything is in motion, everything is happening.

Like the Lazy Ocean Hugs the Shore

Baby turtles at Melbourne Zoo, Australia - 01 May 2013From the Guardian’s Photo Blog:

A baby turtle is released into the exhibit tank at Melbourne Zoo. Reptile keepers have achieved a significant Australian first, the breeding of the critically endangered Chinese Three-striped Box Turtle, generally known as Golden Coin Turtles. These turtles are native to creeks in rainforests throughout South-east Asia and southern China. Photograph: David Caird/Rex Features

What makes this image is the colors, right? The way that the turtle seems to glow atop the kid’s head, and the beautiful turquoise rippled above even that. This is a beautiful picture.

“Your Sister Says That I’m No Good/I’d Reassure Her If I Could”

“You and Your Sister” is, in the strangest of ways, a disco song for me.

I mean, obviously, it’s not; it’s hardly danceable, and there’s nothing as insistent about it as the best (or even the worst) disco. You could hardly call it a dancefloor filler, although you could probably imagine it clearing a dancefloor if given the chance. But what I mean by comparing it to disco is it’s a song which sounds perfect, even if its lyrically banal at best.

The opening to the song is a perfect example of its clumsiness: “They say my love for you ain’t real/But they don’t know how real it feels.” That’s just… horrible. Similarly, “All I want to do/Is to spend some time with you/So I can hold you” may have an innocent honesty to it, but it’s bordering on twee if not fully in that area already. Chris Bell may have written some great stuff for Big Star’s first album, but the lyrics of “You and Your Sister” needed a second pass.

Despite that, though… Just listen to the song. The way that Alex Chilton’s vocals come in 0:48, grounding Bell’s voice in a strange way that strengthens it without swamping it (Chilton’s “Plans fail every day/I want to hear you say” at 1:23 is just lovely, too). Not that Bell’s vocal isn’t a thing of greatness on its own – The way his voice cracks on “time” at 0:34 gets me every single time I listen.

The arrangement, which goes from just the finger-picked acoustic guitar to the addition of a gorgeous string counter-melody by the end of the song (The strings falling as the guitar rises, which is such a simple but graceful move), is also worth paying attention to. By the end of the song, when you have the strings playing against the guitar and Chilton and Bell’s vocals crossing over each other, it just seems utterly perfect. As long as you don’t try to pay attention to the lyrics.

This Is A Job For

Indonesia Plane FireFrom the Guardian’s Photo Blog:

In Indonesia a British-made BAe 146 cargo plane caught fire while being unloaded on the tarmac at the airport in Wamena, Papua province. An official said that the plane caught fire after a drum of oil fell from the aircraft and somehow sparked the fire. Photograph: AP

As I said before: I am apparently unusually drawn to images of disaster.

A Kurt Power Novel

Kurt Power was Niles Golan’s signature character, a no-nonsense private eye and ex-lawyer who, on the days when he wasn’t solving cases involving serial killers, consulted for the police and anti-terrorist forces. He was divorced, with a drink problem and – the clever touch Niles was most proud of – an autistic six-year-old daughter, whose unique insights often provided the key to a difficult case.

In The Fictional Man, every now and again, writer Al Ewing will drop in the title of one of his lead character’s novels into the narrative. Here, thanks to the wonders of searchable Kindle books, are the collected Kurt Power works of Niles Golan (that we know of):

Pudding and Pie: A Kurt Power Novel
Down to The Woods Tonight: A Kurt Power Novel
The Saladin Imperative: A Kurt Power Novel
Power of Attorney: A Kurt Power Novel
Murder Force: A Kurt Power Novel
Edge of Doomsday: A Kurt Power Novel
Pocketful of Posies: A Kurt Power Novel
Little Pig, Little Pig, Let Me Come In: A Kurt Power Novel
The Moon Comes Out As Bright As Day: A Kurt Power Novel
Eye of The Scimitar: A Kurt Power Novel
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe: A Kurt Power Novel

In a perfect world, there would be garish fan art for these books already.