4 Summer Flings
Apropos of nothing, and partially to alleviate my guilt at having been such a non-blogging fool lately, here's a small taste of my pop-culture life over the summer.
★★★★★ Awright, Adams has since proven himself to be a bit of a clown in the intervening years (Summer of '69 taunts and Message-board pissing matches with fake Jeff Tweedies haven't exactly bolstered his 'rock n roll bad boy' image.) But his work with Whiskeytown never fails to please me, so I sought out this, his first solo album, on eMusic. It's really great.. soulful when it should be, rockin' where it needs to be. And guest vocals from Emmylou on 'Oh My Sweet Carolina.' What more could you ask for? Sadly tho, I think this album may be Adams' high-water mark.0.3
★★★★☆ I've somehow found myself spending a lot of time waiting this summer. Vet's office, doctor appointments (for reasons I'll disclose later.) So I've dug out my Gameboy Advance, which had been gathering some dust of late, and this is the game that convinced me to do it. I loved the old Zelda game for SNES (A Link to the Past, with its fun and engaging overhead perspective and cartoony 2D sprites.) I pretty much lost touch with the franchise since then, though. It's all looked too 3D "immersey" for my tastes. So the Minish Cap has been a pleasant surprise - the 2D style is back from LTTP, as well as referential nods to that game in many of the character designs and dungeon puzzles. But it's been updated in smart ways too (including a fun 'Kinstone Fusing' technique that reveals side-adventures and opens up areas of the map for further exploration.) I would've given this game 5 stars, but the bosses were a bit too easy and there weren't enough dungeons.
★★★★☆ I realized a couple of months back that I'd somehow all but eliminated music from my daily life. Which was a painful revelation for me -- I've always enhoyed music. I met my wife when we were both working at a record store.
So eMusic has been my attempt to put myself back on a healthy track: listening to, loving, learning about and living with more music from day to day. I've been pretty pleased so far. The best thing, without a doubt, about emusic is the complete lack of DRM controls on the downloaded tracks. These are straight MP3s, baby. Play 'em anywhere, on anything (I found a nice little set of Applescripts synchronizing iTunes with my Sony Ericsson walkman phone, and the whole setup works like a charm.)
Of course, the whole eMusic catalog consists of small and indie labels, so you won't find your guilty-pleasure Justin Timberlake fix here, but you will find the whole White Stripes catalog, and the Replacements, and a buncha Willie Nelson, and Iron & Wine, and The Decemberists, and... they got a lotta stuff is all I'm sayin.
★★★★★ The premise is simple, but the series' creator Bill Willingham keeps finding new and deeply satisfying ways to twist it, tatter it and constantly break expectations. And the premise is this: all of our collective cultural Fables are real, across countless dimensions and worlds. And they've been driven from those worlds by a nameless, faceless bogeyman called The Adversary. Now Snow White, and the Big Bad Wolf, and Cinderella, Prince Charming, and the rest live in a quiet, ageless block of New York City where they try to stay hidden from our mundane ('mundy') world.
I'll admit it, this series started slow for me. Volume 1 "Legends in Exile" probably suffered from the same malady that befalls any origin story. A lot of the energy is expelled on just setting up the premise. But there's still enough thrill left in there for a pretty good whodunit, with Bigby ("The Big Bad") Wolf nicely wrapping up all the loose threads by the end. But you've really got to give the whole series a chance. With each successive issue (I've been buying 'em by the trade paperback) this world just gets better and better.
Around the time that Jack o'the Tales and Bigby Wolf blackmail a nosey reporter by staging some ... um, compromising photos of him with the eternally-young "real boy" Pinocchio, I knew this series was going someplace twisted and great. I'm only up to trade #5 right now (I'm trying to dole them out sparingly, cause once I'm all read up, the wait between releases will kill me) but it's been the best of the lot for me. I really admire the way that Willingham has been willing to take risks with his characters: some die; others disappear or move on; still others come to the fore, and grab the spotlight in ways that I wouldn't have imagined when the series began. Willingham even manages to craft something rare in comics today: a really sweet romance that's done just right between Snow White and Bigby Wolf. I can't wait to see how it all turns out, but my suspicion is that it won't be happily ever after.