Category Archives: John Anderson

True Confessions of a Reading Addict, or, Geographically Inspired Reading, Anyone?

There were so many ideas for posts that I had at the beginning of this six-week guest-blogging run, but alas, the ratio of time-to-blog versus topics-to-blog was lopsided in the extreme.  Even so, it’s truly been an honor and a pleasure to stand on Scalzi’s Soapbox a couple of times a week over the past six weeks, and I’m especially grateful for everyone who took the time to comment on my humble offerings.  Cheers for putting up with me; this guest-blogging stint has been big fun from my perspective and has, I hope, served as an at least mildly entertaining diversion for you during Scalzi’s absence.

Scalzi is due back anytime now, so this is going to be my final post.  While I was thinking about what the topic of my farewell post should be, I wanted to come up with something as inclusive as possible, and I think I’ve come up with a topic that should prove to have the broadest appeal of my Whatever ramblings to date.

Why do I think that?  Well, because the topic at hand is reading.  As a self-diagnosed reading addict, I feel pretty confident that, of the common traits I share with everyone reading these words, all of us being readers (and very likely voracious readers) probably ranks pretty high on the list.  I don’t know about you, but for most of my life, I’ve often weighed (either consciously or otherwise) my leisure time options in terms of, “I could do X or I could read a book.”  More often than not, reading a book wins.  Simply put, reading is my drug of choice and I believe I qualify medically as an addict (and yes, I’m more than halfway serious when I say that).

I could get into lots of examples (reading while walking the dog for a mile every morning is the one that most people find especially noteworthy; a neighbor once remarked with evident good humor, “You know, it would be more impressive if the dog was reading”), but I’m going to focus on just one of my reading habits today.  For years now, one of my favorite reading habits has been what I’ve come to think of as geographically inspired reading, and based on that designation, it’s exactly what I expect you’d guess it is.  Whenever possible, when I travel, I try to select a book (or books) set in the city/state/country that I’m visiting, and bring it/them with me to read during the trip.  I’m not talking about guidebooks, mind you, I’m talking about novels or non-fiction works of history or journalism (ideally, a mix of fiction and non-fiction, but I tend towards novels more often than not when traveling).  So far this year, I’ve read geographically inspired books in New Orleans (Pegasus Descending by James Lee Burke), London (He Kills Coppers by Jake Arnott,  Making History by Stephen Fry, and as a pre-trip mood-setter, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine) and, most recently, on my Oregon vacation.

Contrary to my custom with geographically inspired reading, the Oregon trip didn’t start with a geographically inspired book because, well, because it was the week that Mockingjay came out, and I wasn’t going to wait any longer than necessary to dive into that sucker (say what you will about “juvenile fiction” if you must, naysayers, but The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins represents some of the best SF I’ve read in years); luckily, I was able to polish that one off pretty quickly, reading most of it on the flight from D.C.  The geographically inspired reading kicked in next, however, as I moved on to Greg Rucka’s Portland-set mystery, A Fistful of Rain.  The Rucka was the only book set in Oregon that I had on my “unread” bookcase when I packed for the trip, but I was tipped off by the friend with whom I was staying in Portland that James Lee Burke’s daughter, Alafair Burke, had set her first few mysteries in Portland.  Armed with that intel, the next day on my (first) trip to Powell’s, I picked up Judgment Calls, the first book in Burke’s Samantha Kincaid series.   Both books were gripping mysteries, which was a treat in itself, but the main point of geographically inspired reading is the setting, so to a large extent it was Portland that was the real star of those two books for me.

Which is the long way of saying that if you haven’t indulged in the practice of geographically inspired reading, I highly recommend that you do so, especially when traveling.  If you haven’t indulged in the activity already, you’ll just have to take it from me that it’s quite the reader’s thrill to read about places you may have just seen/visited (Powell’s was mentioned in both of the abovementioned mysteries, for example), and you’ll likely learn some things about the city/state/country you’re in that you’d have been unlikely to learn from any guidebook.  As well, based on something you may read in the pages of a geographically inspired book, you might even be inspired to alter your plans to fit in a trip to a site that hadn’t previously been on your radar.  I’ve done so, most recently last summer in Barcelona while reading Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Angel’s Game, and it was a singular thrill.  And geeky though such a thrill may be, I’m happy to take my thrills wherever I find ‘em, thank you very much.

So, to my fellow reading addicts out there … how many of you engage in geographically inspired reading?  Any other “true reading confessions ” you’d care to share with the group?  C’mon, I went first, so don’t be shy…

A Conversation with Brett Warnock of Top Shelf Productions

Top Shelf Productions logo

Even if you’ve unfamiliar with the books published by Top Shelf Productions, odds are very strong that you’re familiar with big-budget Hollywood movies based on some of their books.  Mind you, I don’t think that anybody in their right mind would argue that those movies are the equal of their source material, but it’s worth noting for the uninitiated that both the Johnny Depp-starring From Hell and the Bruce Willis-starring The Surrogates were originally published as comics by Top Shelf.  And the fact that the former of those works was produced by a pair of comics veterans (and certified geniuses, if I may be so bold), and the latter was produced by a pair of relative newcomers is a pretty good representation of the breadth of the aptly named Top Shelf Productions’ high quality offerings.

Brett Warnock of Top Shelf ProductionsNote: Regular readers may recall that I mentioned in my last post that I had dinner with my friend Brett Warnock, co-publisher of Top Shelf (along with his business partner Chris Staros, who is also a friend) while vacationing in Oregon last week, so I make no claims as to objectivity with regard to Top Shelf  but, for what it’s worth, I was already an admirer of Top Shelf (and Chris Staros’ The StarHouse, which you’ll see referenced below) before I ever had the pleasure of meeting and becoming friends with Brett and Chris.

But enough with the prelude, right?  Let’s get to the interview…

Since SPX is taking place this weekend in Bethesda North, MD, and since Top Shelf has a long and happy history with that most excellent celebration / showcase of indie comics, SPX seems like a natural starting place.  It occurs to me that in addition to an unbroken streak of …what is it now, a streak of a dozen or more annual SPX appearances as an exhibitor?…  that it was at one of the famous post-SPX Sunday pig roasts of yore at then-Executive Director Chris Oarr’s house that you and Chris Staros first talked about joining forces and expanding the Top Shelf brand, wasn’t it?

Well, yeah, we’ve been at every SPX (either me and/or Chris) since 1996.  And that year (1996), me and David Lasky were the only two people from the West Coast to attend.  Chris Oarr worked me hard, but he knew he had a good thing going, and he also seemed to sense that I was heading somewhere myself.

And yes, it was that same year, while I was staying at Chris Oarr’s house (up all night stuffing bags and menial labor), that Staros approached me about partnering up.  Since at the time I was essentially out of money, it took me all of ten seconds to respond with a resounding YES!

(That’s also when I met you, Ian Sattler, and Greg Bennett.  I remember chatting it up with Greg at the pig roast, while we all beat up on a piñata.  Shannon Wheeler was there, as was Jeff Smith.)

Ha!  I’d forgotten the piñata!  Good times.  I understand that you won’t be in attendance personally this year, but Top Shelf will be well represented by Chris, along with Leigh Walton.  What’s on the docket for this year’s show?  Which artists will be appearing in the Top Shelf booth this weekend?

Since I won’t be there, I’m going to crib from Leigh Walton’s blog on our SPX 2010 slate:

BB Wolf and the 3 LPs cover“This year Team Top Shelf has a healthy blend of creators, both Top Shelf veterans and those who are new to the family this year, but all have been in comics for years!  Writer and retailer Johnnie “JD” Arnold is coming out to sign his debut graphic novel with art by Rich Koslowski, BB Wolf and the 3 LPs, as well as the awesome new soundtrack album of blues-rock songs written by the BB Wolf himself!  SPX vet (and award-winning minicomic auteur) Will Dinski joins us to sign his cool, clean, and creepy Top Shelf debut Fingerprints! And Eisner-Award-winner Nate Powell joins the party as well, guaranteeing some karaoke stardom as well as signed copies of his masterpiece Swallow Me Whole.  Rounding out the team are Chris Staros and Leigh Walton, ready to see old friends and make new ones.

All this PLUS Eddie Campbell’s nomination for the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Artist! Will he win? We’ll find out Saturday night.”

Moving on from SPX (while at the same time looking forward to it … that’s the Small Press Expo, taking place this Saturday and Sunday, September 11-12 at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, kids, and as always, all proceeds benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund!), let’s look back at another important annual event for Top Shelf: Comic-Con International in San Diego.  I trust that, as always, it was all-hands-on-deck for the Top Shelf gang at The Big Show.  How was this year’s show for you?  What were the big Top Shelf premieres and announcements at the show?  Any fond (or not-so-fond, for that matter) memories of Comic-Con 2010 you’d care to share?

The show seemed to start off slowly.  All of Hollywood’s events and panels are starting to suck people off the floor.  But lo and behold, by the end of the day on Sunday, we’d done alright.

We had several debuts, and a fleet of our authors were on hand pimping their wares.  New books included:

- BB WAX: A Collection of Alternative Manga coverolf and the 3 LPs, written by Johnnie Arnold and drawn by Rich Koslowski (both present)

- Fingerprints, by Will Dinski (not present)

- The Playwright, written by Daren White and drawn by Eddie Campbell (not present)

- Johnny Boo volume 4 and Dragon Puncher, by James Kochalka (present)

- AX: A Collection of Alternative Manga, edited by Sean Michael Wilson (present)

Other authors working the table included: Jeffrey Brown, Stuart and Kathryn Immonen, Matt Kindt, Jeff Lemire, Nate Powell, Kevin Cannon, and Andy Runton.

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Ode to Oregon, Including a Trio of Sunsets

I should begin by confessing that I’ll be stretching the definition of “sunset” pretty close to the breaking point with the pictures herein, but if you’ll forgive me that, let’s continue, shall we?

I’m home after a glorious week spent in the Pacific Northwest with my wife and, though it’s good to be home, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I left a not-insignificant piece of my heart in Oregon.  Amanda and I fell in love with the city and surrounding regions (we spent three nights in Portland proper, three nights in the wine country of the Willamette Valley, and two on the coast in Pacific City) and, without any doubt, I can say with certainty that we’ll be returning for (at least) seconds.

Sunset off the Oregon coast at Pacific City

We’ll have to return not only to see friends we were able to see on this trip, but to meet new friends (alas, due to vagaries of missed calls on both ends, fellow Whatever guest blogger Mary Robinette Kowal and I were unable to get together), and while we were able to take in quite a few of the restaurants, brewpubs, and wineries that were recommended both here and elsewhere, there are many more that we simply didn’t have time for … and based on how much we loved the ones we did visit, we’re already champing at the bit to find out what we missed (and, yes, to return for seconds to some of the ones we were able to hit).

Much as I’d like to dedicate individual posts to each region we visited, and to the delights discovered therein, I’m afraid that time just isn’t going to permit my doing so, what with the return to work tomorrow, going out to shows two nights this week, and the ‘rents staying over for a night while en route to New York for my Grandma’s 99th birthday party (as well as my own departure for that weekend soiree) … but I’m determined to find time to get in at least one or two more posts before the clock runs out on what has been an enormously fulfilling guest blogging opportunity.

Twilight in McMinnville, Oregon

In the meantime, just a few highlights of our trip in the form of brief shout-outs:  superb meals at Por Que No?, Screen Door (with my pal Brett Warnock of Top Shelf Comix, Portland’s finest purveyor of comics), Voodoo Donuts, and Pok Pok, as well as superb beers at Henry’s, the Green Dragon (including a couple hours at the equally superb Rogue Nano Fest which included two beers each from over twenty small-batch craft brewers), A Roadside Attraction, and Deschutte’s (all Portland); memorable meals at La Rambla, Nick’s, Bistro Maison, and A Tuscan Estate, the B&B at which we stayed while in wine country (all McMinnville), and equally memorable wines at … well, too many to mention them all, but I’ll single out Soter, the Carlton Winemakers Studio, Eyrie, and Archery Summit (all Willamette Valley); and finally, more great food on the coast at Pacific Seafood in Bay City, Fat Freddy’s, the Pelican Pub & Brewery (great beer there too!), and our B&B in Pacific City, the Craftsman Bed and Breakfast.  A visit to Pacific City features many charms, and with Mike of the Craftsman B&B as your gracious host, you’ll be made to feel completely at home while you enjoy as many of them as your schedule permits.

In closing, if I may say of Portlanders/Oregonians … you folks are among the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, anywhere in the world.  Seriously, it was as if everyone we met in the state was a self-appointed ambassador for the region, and I think that Greece may be the only place I’ve ever been where I felt that so strongly.  And to the friend with whom my wife and I stayed while in Portland, from whose porch off Skyline Drive the following view of the Willamette Valley comes, please don’t wait too long to let Amanda and I return the favor!:

Sunset over the Willamette Valley from a porch off Skyline Drive, Portland, OR

Now playing:  After a week of living, eating, and drinking locally in Portland, I’m home and listening to the insidiously infectious pop punk of new-to-me local heroes Driving East of Fairfax, VA.  Cheers to my pal Greg, bassist for local indie rock heroes the Jet Age for putting Driving East on my radar.

Now drinking:  On the beverage score, my heart and palate remains in OR as I enjoy a sublime 2007 Eyrie pinot gris.

The Swell Season Ensure that Their Fans are Not Left ‘Alone Apart’

As if their abundant talent as artists weren’t admirable enough, in the wake of tragedy, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who perform together as the Swell Season, yesterday provided another reason to admire and respect them.

Perhaps you may have heard that tragedy befell the band a week ago when, in the midst of their performance in Saratoga, CA, a man climbed onto a lighting rig above the stage and leapt to his death onstage, an apparent suicide.  In the days following the tragedy, the band met with grief counselors “to help try and make sense” of the situation, and I’m proud to say that one of the counselors who got the call to work with the band is a friend of mine.  As proud as I was of that friend when I heard that he’d gotten that call and had provided counseling for the band (of those conversations with the grief counselors, the band say they “were of great service to our mind, body, and soul”), I’m every bit as proud of the Swell Season for the statement they made yesterday on their official website.

Full details are available in the statement but, in brief, in recognition of the traumatic event that their fans experienced a week ago tonight, the band has arranged for both one-on-one and group counseling sessions over the coming weeks with Kara, a Bay Area organization, and the sessions are available for free to any and all attendees of the Saratoga concert where the tragedy occurred.

You hear artists talk about “giving back to their fans” fairly regularly (although it tends to be a curiously vague notion when you hear such things), but it’s not too often that you hear about an artist demonstrating this level of thoughtfulness, concern, and genuine caring for their fans, and I, for one, thought that such action merited public recognition and thanks.

Not familiar with the band?  Watch Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous performance of “Falling Slowly” at the 2008 Academy Awards.  The song is from Once, the charming independent movie in which they both starred, and for which they took home the “Best Song” Oscar later in the program:

On a personal note, I’m off to Portland on vacation in the morning and, with grateful thanks to the Whatever community, I’ll be arriving in the city with a mouth-watering to-do list of restaurants, brewpubs, wineries, and arts-related recommendations.  I plan to return to guest blogging duty on Labor Day with a passel of Portland tales to tell…

Now Playing: The Swell Season, by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, an achingly beautiful album that I haven’t listened to in far too long.

Love ‘The Wire’ and ‘Toy Story’? This Post’s for You…

N.K.’s posting of Inception parodies the other day reminded me of what may very well be my favorite movie mash-up to date.  For my fellow fans of both The Wire and Toy Story, especially those of you who aren’t represented as being among the nearly 300,000 hits the video has seen to date on YouTube, you’re in for a treat, and it’s my pleasure to serve it up.

If, like me, you regard The Wire as being the Greatest Show in the History of Television (yes, I realize I’m hardly alone in thinking this, and if you’re not a fan, or you haven’t gotten around to checking it out, I’m sure it’s beyond tiresome to hear someone else make that claim at this point, but for what it’s worth, I’m probably in the minority of those who say it who believed the show had the potential to become exactly that pretty much from the moment the end credits rolled on the night the first episode aired …because yes, it’s true, I’m all about the writing, and I was already predisposed to love the show given the involvement of two of my favorite writers, David Simon and George Pelecanos… and when the series later went on to also feature teleplays by the likes of Richard Price and Dennis Lehane, well that only served as so much icing on an already delicious cake), and especially if you also happen to love Toy Story (and really, does anyone who’s ever seen it not love Toy Story?), get ready to be happy.

Two final notes, and then I’ll finally shut up and leave you to it.  Note the first is that if you haven’t seen The Wire (and, specifically, the first season), what follows will probably be, at best, mildly amusing, so you might want to take a pass.  Note the second is that, while the images herein are all from Toy Story and are thus suitable for all ages, the dialogue is all from The Wire (and, it must be said, the syncing herein of characters/scenes from The Wire with characters/scenes from Toy Story is pure genius), and you should thus be warned that “earmuffs” may be necessary depending on your particular viewing circumstances, as there are several bombs launched herein, and some of them are of the “F” variety.

Onward!

Exciting News for Bryan Fuller Fans: Scripting a Pilot for SyFy

The news apparently broke last Thursday, but it only just came to my attention this morning that Bryan Fuller of Pushing Daisies and Dead Like Me fame has signed on to write the pilot episode of what could become a new SyFy series.  The pilot will be based on John Christopher’s 1969 SF novel The Lotus Caves, which the SyFy press release describes as being “about colonists who rebel against the rigidity of their lunar colony by exploring beyond its proscribed boundaries and discovering a series of caves ruled by a super-intelligent, alien species.”

I’ll freely admit that I’m unfamiliar with the title or author, but I ordered a copy of the out-of-print title within moments of hearing the news of Fuller’s involvement with the project, and expect I’ll be reading it in the not-too-distant future.  If you’re a fellow Fuller fan in the market for a copy, get thee to the mighty BookFinder.com and score yourself one before news of the proposed TV series spreads, potentially triggering an increase in the price of the book.

What this news means for the long-rumored Pushing Daisies comic book series that Fuller has been reported as writing for DC Comics, however, I can’t say.  I’d like to think that the comics project hasn’t been scuttled though, as I’d truly love to see that wonderful, and wonderfully original, TV series given the proper ending that it (and its fans) deserves.

If anybody knows more about the status of what was reported as being a 12-issue Pushing Daisies series Fuller was going to write for DC, by all means, please share the (hopefully good) word!

I Heart Scott Pilgrim

Scott Pilgrim

As I sit down to write these words, I just got home from an advance screening of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.  Given that Scott Pilgrim is a) a movie, b) based on a comic I love by Bryan Lee O’Malley, and is c) steeped in rock ‘n’ roll, I expect you can probably guess it’s a flick that I’ve really been looking forward to.  OK, to be completely honest, “looking forward to” is kind of an understatement.  I had really high hopes for the movie, and I was rooting for it to capture the spirit, manic energy, tone and, perhaps most crucially, the heart of the graphic novels. I’ll admit that I had some concerns, especially concerning Michael Cera’s ability to believably inhabit the role of Scott Pilgrim as portrayed on the page.

If you share those concerns, or any others regarding the adaptation from the comics page to the screen, I’m here to tell you that you may hereby breathe easily and relieve yourself of any and all fears.  Simply put, director Edgar Wright’s onscreen realization of Scott Pilgrim is a triumph, and one that’s not content to merely succeed on every imaginable level, but which scores bonus points with the greatest of ease. Even when the movie deviates from the graphic novels (which, yes, it does at times, just as any truly successful adaptation of a work from one medium to another must, so settle down, Beavis), it preserves the integrity of the source material.  (And if you’ll permit me a brief aside, I feel compelled to note that Scott Pilgrim shares this trait of deviating from while at the same time preserving the integrity of the source material with Kick-Ass, my other favorite comics-based movie of the year so far.)

In a nutshell, if you’re a fan of the graphic novels, pretty much everything you loved about the books is present in the movie. In addition to the aforementioned spirit, manic energy, tone, and heart, add to the list: the breathtaking pacing; the charmingly visible sound effects; the attention to detail in realizing the visual flair and design sense of the source material; and, yes, those crucially important video game elements that are seamlessly embedded throughout. It’s all there, my friends, and more. If, on the other hand, you’re unfamiliar with the graphic novels, fear not, for if you’ve ever been young and crushing on someone, you’re perfectly equipped with the necessary tools to adore this movie.

Scott Pilgrim doesn’t strike so much as a single bum note, a phrase which is especially apt given the importance of the believability of the original music in a movie whose title character is the bassist in Sex Bob-Omb, a band whose performance in a Battle of the Bands is integral to the plot. Credit for the songs of Sex Bob-Omb goes to Beck, who did a remarkable job of realizing the sound of a band that had previously only existed on the pages of a comic book (and in the mind’s-ear of its readers).  If you’re interested in learning more about the original music of the film, I highly recommend checking out an excellent piece by Todd Martens in Pop & Hiss, the L.A. Times Music Blog.

If you’re a gambler looking to place your bets on the success of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, I’d advise you to bet the farm on Scott. Here’s how I know beyond any doubt that this movie is going to be a hit: when I exited the advance screening, some two-and-a-half hours before the opening “day” midnight screening was scheduled to begin, there was a group of teens already camped out at the front of the line … and every one of them was costumed as a different character from the graphic novel / movie.

Joss Whedon blurbed the just-released final book of the six-volume graphic novel series thusly: “Scott Pilgrim is the best book ever. It is the chronicle of our time. With Kung Fu, so, yeah: perfect.”  Substitute “movie” for “book” in that blurb, and Joss could just as easily have been fawning over the movie as, intentionally hyperbolic though they may be, his words are perfectly in tune with the material, striking nary a bum note.

So, yeah: perfect.

The Rumpus (“Busting at Its Seams” edition)

Since Scalzi kind of teed it up for me in his “Meet the Guest Bloggers” post by mentioning (and saying kind words about) the monthly-ish email he gets from me that’s filled with music recommendations, I have chosen to interpret that as encouragement to share one such missive with all of you.  And since I just sent out a new “edition” a few minutes ago, what better time than the present, right?

By way of providing a little background, I’ve been sending the Rumpus out to friends (and, over time, to friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends, etc.) for, jeez, I don’t know, well over ten years now.  It started out as an informal means of giving like-minded friends a heads up about upcoming (mostly rock) shows of note, and as the distro grew over time, I realized I couldn’t cater to the individual tastes of specific friends who I knew were already into a given band, and I started adding links and song recommendations, along with some editorial commentary in the hopes that the Rumpus would serve as a means for folks to discover some rockin’ new sounds.

Over the years, many Rumpus readers have encouraged me to turn it into a blog but, for a variety of reasons, I’ve been resistant.  Perhaps by posting the latest edition here will serve as the kick in the pants I’ve needed to finally get over myself and turn it into a blog of its own.  In fact, one friend was so insistent that I turn it into a blog that he created a Posterous account for me/it last year.  So it’s entirely possible that this post will end up serving as the impetus for the Rumpus to, at long last, begin appearing regularly in a blog  of its own.

If you’ll permit me just a few final notes, I promise I’ll get out of the way:  As you’ll see, I shamelessly quoted myself from past Whatever entries in the Moneybrother and Gentleman Jesse and His Men entries.  If you’re wondering if that was done out of sheer laziness, I congratulate you on your perspicacity.  If you’re wondering what’s up with the asterisks that appear next to some of the events, they denote new entries which have been added since the last edition (this one features a lot more new entries than is typical, hence the “busting at its seams” title).  The only other item of note is that while the vast majority of the events listed (all of which are in D.C. or its ‘burbs unless otherwise noted) are bands, there are a couple of author readings in the mix as well, and this is not at all uncommon.  (No SF authors, at least not in this edition, but if William Gibson comes to town on his book tour this fall, he’ll almost certainly be the next SF author to make an appearance.)

OK, enough with the prelude.  Let’s get to the goods, shall we?

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Herding Cats

I’m back from an excellent long weekend on the Jersey shore (the Gaslight Anthem show was fantastic, by the way, even though they didn’t play my favorite song, “I’da Called You Woody, Joe,” a.k.a. the finest tribute-in-song to Saint Joe Strummer ever written), and am reporting for guest blogging duty once again.

I mentioned in the comments section of my last post that for my next post I might attempt to describe the outcome when Kirby, our born-to-herd English shepherd decides that Monty, our cat, is in need of herding.  Excuse me a moment, Monty is asking to be let outside.  Back in a sec.

Sorry about that.  Where were we?

Right, herding cats.

I should probably introduce them properly before we go any further, huh?

Behold!

(L to R) Kirby and Monty

That’s the best picture I have of them both together (as seemed appropriate for this particular tale), and if I was going to write a caption, it would probably be Kirby’s: “What?  I wasn’t gonna do nothin’, honest!”  If you’re so moved, do feel free to share your own caption in the comments.  (He said, fully expecting that Monty will end up with all the best lines.)

So, yes, a herding dog who is often powerless to resist his natural herding instinct, and a cat who, simply put, is not to be trifled with.  If the phrase “hijinks ensue” comes to mind, it’s with good reason.

Picture, if you will, me and Amanda relaxing on the couch in front of the TV while Kirby’s over there on “his” couch, and Monty, as is his wont, is doing his own thing elsewhere in the house.  Until, that is, he decides to wander into the room with the rest of us, at which point Kirby’s herding-sense starts tingling as he swiftly raises his head from the couch, swiveling it in Monty’s direction with great purpose.  Perhaps he glances over at us, as if to say, “He’s taking a liberty just strolling into the room like that unannounced, and I can’t have him taking a liberty, can I?”

Monty meows as he takes his next step into the room, and this is simply too much for Kirby to bear, and he’s off the couch like a shot, herding Monty out of the room at top speed.  Amanda yells, “KIRBY!  Leave him alone!,” but it’s useless, for Kirby is fully possessed by his breed’s herding instinct at this point.

While they’re out of the room, let’s pause for a second to assure everyone that Kirby intends (and will inflict) no harm; he’s merely moving Monty from point A to point B because his brain is hard-wired for herding.

They’re out of the room for, say, ten seconds, and then we hear the ruckus which heralds Kirby’s return (also at top speed), followed a split second later by the sight of Kirby racing back into the room, hurling himself at his couch and turning around … because this time it is Monty who’s in hot pursuit, having once again successfully turned the tables on his “little” brother.

Monty then returns to whatever it was he had originally intended upon entering the room (probably jumping onto Amanda’s lap), as Kirby looks around as if to say, “wanna go again?!”

I mentioned in my last post how much I’d like to capture this scene on video someday, but it’s an infrequent enough occurrence that it’s highly unlikely to ever occur.  Upon consideration, however, what I’d really like to see captured on video is the moment (unseen by human eyes to date) where Monty realizes that it is he who truly wields the power in this relationship, suddenly stops running, and turns towards his pursuer with a wicked glint in his eye.

Now Playing: Introducing Gentleman Jesse, by Gentleman Jesse and His Men.  I love me some power pop, and this terrific outfit out of Atlanta serves up some of the best (and hookiest!) I’ve heard in recent years.  If you, too, are a sucker for the power pop, I implore you to hit their MySpace, drop the digital needle on “All I Need Tonight (Is You),” and get ready to be happy.

“Hey, Wasn’t there Supposed to be a Fourth Guest Blogger?”

Greetings, fellow citizens of Scalzi Nation!

I feel like I should apologize for being so late to the guest blogger party, but since I was warned against beginning with an apology by a scene in the beautifully written, acted, directed, and generally note-perfect flick The Kids Are All Right just the other day, I’d better not, huh?

Oops.

OK, take two.  It was an honor and a privilege to be asked by Scalzi to join his handpicked group of sacrificial lambs guest bloggers, so despite the fact that I’ve never attempted a, for lack of a better phrase, “whatever-style” blog, here’s hoping that I’ll take to the form quickly … or at least, for your sake, fail in a spectacularly entertaining manner.  Scalzi hasn’t thrown a total neophyte at you though… I’m no stranger to blogging, it’s just that to date, and with just a handful of exceptions, my blogging has been limited to music (I’m a fiend for live rock ‘n’ roll; I easily see over a hundred bands a year, and blog the SXSW music festival annually for Twangville.com), comic books (back in my AOL days, when I co-created ComicsAlliance.com with my colleague and fellow lifelong comics geek Chris Dooley … man, getting paid to cover Comic-Con International a few years back?  As exhilarating as it was exhausting!  If I recall my stats correctly, they went something like: 5 nights, fewer than 20 hours of sleep, and over 50,000 words blogged … but, like Peter David, I digress), and Microsoft SharePoint (my current employer is Bamboo Solutions, a Microsoft Gold-certified partner and a leading provider of SharePoint add-ons).

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One of those three blogging topics is not like the others, huh?  Yeah, that’s the one I’m least likely to be blogging about here, especially since I haven’t had a platform to blog comics, movies, books, etc. in front of an existing and engaged audience since the AOL days, but given the size of Scalzi Nation, and my loyalty to my employer, I figured I had to get in a plug for Bamboo since I figure the odds are strong that many of you are SharePoint users and/or pros.  And for those of you reading who are SharePoint users/pros, if you have an interest in doing some guest blogging of your own for Bamboo Nation, the Bamboo community of which I am Managing Editor, by all means, please give me a shout.

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So yeah, books, music, comics, movies (and in the era of HBO/Showtime/AMC original series, even TV) … that’s the stuff.  In other words, I’m a pop culture junkie (reading is my primary drug of choice, but music comes in as a close second), so that’s the kind of stuff I’m most likely to blog here.  I look forward to reading your responses to the stuff I’ll share that’s rocking my world, and (even more so) looking forward to hearing the stuff I might be missing out on that you think should be rocking my world.

A little more about me so you know where I’m coming from … I hang my hat in the ‘burbs of Washington, D.C., along with my fabulous wife, Amanda, our dog, Kirby, and cat, Monty.  Kirby’s an English shepherd, and they’re natural herders, so, yes, he’s been known to (attempt to) herd the cat and, yes again, if I could ever manage to capture the results on video, you better believe that I’ll share them with the world through the magic of YouTube.  This six-week guest blogging stint will also find me traveling to Asbury Park, NJ (for the Gaslight Anthem show at the Stone Pony this Thursday, followed by a couple days on the beach with my wife and a group of like-minded friends), Portland, OR (and surrounding wine country and coastal areas, a.k.a. Amanda’s and my summer vacation), and Long Island, NY (for my Grandma’s 99th birthday party), so you may very well see some “locally sourced” content influenced by those travels in addition to my arts and entertainment love letters.  Oh, and if you’ve got any Portland tips, I’m all ears.  I already know to plan on spending at least a half day at Powell’s though.

And with that, I’ll sign off now with what I expect will be a regular “Now Playing” feature at the end of my posts, in the hopes that, even in non-music-centric missives, I might be able to turn some of you on to some sounds that are rocking my world, in the hopes that you’ll make with the clicky so that they might rock yours too…

Now Playing:  Real Control, the new album from Moneybrother, a fantastic blue-eyed soul / rock band out of Sweden that I saw about five or so years ago at SXSW.  Happily, they’re coming back to the U.S. for a tour this fall with Jesse Malin (who’s also a fave of mine).