Archive for October, 2009
Since I joined Robot 6 earlier this year, my webcomics and overall sequential art interviews have run there, for the most part, rather than here. But given that Red Plains writer Caryn A. Tate was already interviewed by fellow great Robot Sixer Brigid Alverson recently (go read it, it’s a great interview [thanks to Alverson's questions and Tate's answers] as is this one [again, thanks to Tate's answers]), I opted to give Tate a slot here at my home site to discuss her work at Top Shelf 2.0, Top Shelf’s online comics program. I’m always happy to support a Top Shelf creator, partially as I often say, because I consider the publisher to be my home team (both the publisher and myself are Georgia-based). As detailed in a recent Top Shelf press release: “Written by Red Plains series creator Caryn A. Tate and featuring beautifully and brutally rendered art by Larry Watts, ‘A Nice Place to Raise Your Kids Up’ focuses on the violence, corruption, and crime of the Old West that is seldom deeply explored. While other towns may have tried it, can guns really be outlawed in a place like Red Plains? Sheriff Doles, the recently appointed lawman in Red Plains, may find himself out of a job–if he doesn’t lose his life first. As a new family comes to Red Plains, meet the Escovido clan and find out what role to they have to play in all of this. Who will vie for the favor of the vivacious Lupe, and who will be scarred in the attempt? How many people will be calling on Doc DeGraff–and how many more on the undertaker?” My thanks to Tate for her time. Be sure to go back and visit Top Shelf 2.0 site frequently, as there will be new Red Plains chapters every two weeks.
Tim O’Shea: What attracts you to telling this tale in particular–why as a comic, as opposed to prose?
Caryn A. Tate: The tale of Red Plains is one that’s really dear to me. I grew up and lived in the West on working ranches and farms, being around Western people, and there’s a distinct beauty to the land, its lifestyles, its people. I’ve been passionate about telling our stories for a long time, and Red Plains is the culmination of all of that.
I love comics, and one of the reasons I think the medium is so satisfying as a creator is because the final result manifests faster than prose work. And I’m a very visual writer – I have a visual art background – so I tend to see things very clearly and I have a desire to see that on the page. But, that said, I do love prose too, so who knows?
Normally my favorite part of American Public Radio’s Sound Opinions is toward the end, when the show’s listeners call in with their supporting or counter points to the opinions of Chicago-based music critics, Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot. But this week, the show (which describes itself as “the world’s only rock and roll talk show”) introduced me to the French band Phoenix, through an interview and in-studio performance.
The set that Phoenix played on this episode included:
- Playground Love
I often appreciate how the show will mix snippets of the studio version into the show as a juxtaposition for the live versions that listeners get to hear.
If you’ve never heard of the show, do yourself a favor and give it a listen on your MP3 player (or at the show’s site on your computer). If this episode does not interest you, check out some of the archive (they wisely provide links to a variety of musical artists) as DeRogatis and Kot cover a variety of musical genres each and every week.
As noted by EW.com (citing Broadcasting & Cable), Hulu management has decided that as of 2010 it’s “time to start getting paid for broadcast content online”. Really? You think folks are going to go for that?
I’m a longtime fan of Hulu, as documented in this May 2008 post, but I sincerely doubt I will pay to see its content. Ask my cable provider, Comcast, about my spending patterns. I will watch all the free ON DEMAND shows they offer, but the minute I encounter any pay-per-view ON DEMAND, I keep looking until I find free content. I expect Hulu to be treated the same way by me.
I never understand Internet ventures that give the goods away for free, but then decide “hey, would you like to pay for the stuff that used to be free?” I’ll be curious to see how well Hulu does in terms of charging for content. Maybe they can make it work, but not with me.
For the week of October 23, the show covers “Jonathan Lethem, author of Chronic City; Frank Bruni on a new biography of Elizabeth Taylor; Motoko Rich with notes from the field; and Gregory Cowles with best-seller news. [Book Review Editor] Sam Tanenhaus is the host.”
The show started back to April 2006. I may try to point out some gems from the archives in the coming weeks and months. Be sure to share your own discovered gems from here, there or anywhere–in the comments section.
Every once and awhile, a friend will ask me why I listen to Tony Kornheiser’s radio show (through its various incarnations, including its latest on WTEM/ESPN 980). I don’t disagree that Kornheiser can be completely unreasonable, cranky, myopic and anything else you want to call him. (His current claim that he was fired by the Washington Post is absurd even by Tony’s standards, given that most of his fans remember him explaining that the Post offered him a healthy buyout when he took it.) Anyways, the other day, I was reminded what makes his radio show so great.
In the middle of a regular show of pleas to fire Redskins coach Jim Zorn, political observation and the latest on the balloon boy family, Kornheiser devoted a few moments to comment on the passing of producer Daniel Melnick. Numerous outlets covered Melnick’s passing, but the best obit was written by the LA Times’ Valerie Nelson. Years ago, I wrote about the art of writing a great obit (inspired by 52 McGs.: The Best Obituaries from Legendary New York Times Reporter Robert McG. Thomas).
What makes Nelson’s obit of Melnick so effective is that while she covers the same vital ground that others did (he was a member of the Gourmet Poker Club along with Steve Martin, Johnny Carson and other Hollywood legends; he produced Martin’s Roxanne; and he had a son from his marriage to the daughter of composer Richard Rodgers), she also unearthed vital details that most others (the NY Times‘ Douglas Martin one notable exception) did not cover. Most importantly, Nelson notes that while Melnick never remarried, he did have a daughter from a relationship, Gabrielle Wilkerson-Melnick. I’m sure Ms. Wilkerson-Melnick appreciated getting recognized for her loss, while being omitted from several other obits.
According to Nelson, one of my favorite Martin films, L.A. Story, was made because “the pair had lengthy conversations about life (during the making of Roxanne) … They led Martin to write 1991′s “L.A. Story,” which Melnick produced.”
Go read the obit. See Melnick’s films. He helped make some great ones. And, in a sense, because of his work, part of him will never die. And I hope that’s some solace to his children.
Several months back, while shopping in the local Books-A-Million I ran across a music magazine I was unfamiliar with–Dirty Linen. And considering the bimonthly magazine, which describes itself as “the foremost U.S.-based magazine of folk and world music”, has been publishing since the mid-1980s, I’m ashamed to admit I had not read it earlier. After pouring through the issue, I contacted the co-editor Paul Hartman to email interview him about the publication. Here’s the core info on the publication: “It was founded in 1983 by T.J. McGrath of Fairfield, Connecticut, as Fairport Fanatics, a fan magazine for the British band Fairport Convention. In 1987, Paul Hartman took over as editor and publisher, expanded the coverage to include genres of roots music from many countries and cultures, and changed the name of the Baltimore, Maryland-based magazine to Dirty Linen. His wife, Susan Hartman, has served as co-editor for many years. Under the Hartmans’ direction, Dirty Linen grew from a photocopied fanzine to a glossy color magazine with international distribution and sold in chains including Borders Books and Music, Barnes & Noble, and Chapters. It is also available via subscription. There are six issues per year.” My thanks to Hartman for discussing his magazine, as well as his radio work and his love of music in general.
Tim O’Shea: You and your wife, Susan Hartman, have co-edited Dirty Linen since the late 1980s. Other than the increase in downloadable music and the dwindling number of music retailers, what have been the biggest changes you’ve witnessed in the folk and world music industry over these past 20+ years?
Paul Hartman: 1) Downloadable music is not the only format change we’ve seen over the years. In the late 80s/early 90s was the change from vinyl LPs & cassettes to CDs. Folk/roots music was a bit slower to switch over than mainstream music, perhaps due to the smaller manufacturing runs making it relatively expensive.
2) These days, anyone can record and make a CD. A decent laptop and software combined with an inexpensive duplication company makes it affordable for the self-produced artist to release a recording. Or even skip the CD part and make MP3s available online.
3) The Internet has made it easier to find obscure CDs. Even imports. Google is your friend.
4) More people want to learn and play music. More participation rather than just passive listening. Almost like going back to the days before TV and radio, sitting on the porch or in the living room and just having fun. Many music workshop camps have sprung up, such as The Swannanoa Gathering, Augusta Heritage Center, Lark Camp, Common Ground on the Hill, RockyGrass Academy, Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Song School, Milwaukee Irish Fest Summer School, and many more.
5) Speed. Everyone expects things to happen more quickly.
Thanks to Slate, I found out about a unique news article by The Newark Star-Ledger‘s Mark DiIonno regarding Philip Roth today. Apparently for the past several years, the Newark Preservation & Landmarks Committee has hosted a bus tour of Philip Roth‘s Newark. This year there was a slight twist, as Roth himself joined in on the tour.
I’ll be honest, except from limited exposure in my college English lit days, I have not been partial to reading Roth’s work. But here’s how good an article that DiIonno wrote, I now find myself wanting to read Roth. Or as DiIonno put it: “The mark of a good columnist is to know when to get out of the way of a great writer, and so Philip Roth’s written words speak for themselves.”
Follow this link to see what I’m talking about. Looking over the Roth’s excerpts, I think my favorite quote was Roth’s description of a Newark park (from Roth’s 1959 book, Goodbye, Columbus): “The park … was empty and shady and smelled of trees, night and dog leavings; and there was a faint damp smell too, indicating that the huge rhino of a water cleaner had passed by already, soaking and whisking the downtown streets.”
I respect a newspaper writer who can effectively quote literature.
I had a blast interviewing Tad Williams and Deborah Beale a few months back. The two writers have a great sense of humor, as well as a strong desire to share their creative process in unique ways. Many writers share their mechanics via blog entries, but Tad and Deborah have gone a step further–with Tragically Domestic on YouTube. It is described by the writers as an effort to “show us in our daily lives as we write, raise kids, and create and sell our books.” If you were not already visiting TadWilliams.com, hopefully now you have another good reason. For me, currently I’m even enjoying the outtakes from the project, such as this one (The Look).
Alisa Kwitney is writer who I have respected since her days as an editor and writer at Vertigo. So a few months back, while visiting Kwitney’s website to see what upcoming projects she had, I contacted her for an email interview. She was kind enough to accept the offer. We cover a range of topics in our exchange, but first a snippet of her official bio: “Alisa has written some half a dozen novels, two coffee table books, and assorted comics and graphic novels. Her novels, which have been described as ‘romances laced with satire and a mainstream flair’ (Library Journal) have been translated into Russian, German, Japanese, Norwegian and Bahasa Indonesian. She also writes dark fantasy/paranormal romance and science fiction under the name Alisa Sheckley.” My thanks to Kwitney for her time and damn fine sense of humor.
Tim O’Shea: Why do you make a divide between your work as Alisa Kwitney and Alisa Sheckley?
Alisa Kwitney: It actually wasn’t my idea – I was asked by my agent and encouraged by editors to publish The Better to Hold You and Moonburn under a different name. But I did think that they made a good point when they said it might confuse readers of my more realistic novels to discover that I had werewolves wandering around in these books.
O’Shea: Do you consider the two identities to have separate writing ”voices”?
Alisa: Well, in some ways, no. I think my voice, my sense of humor and my themes come through pretty consistently, whether I’m writing about scuba divers and driving instructors or shapeshifters and mad scientists. And I would argue that some of my Kwitney novels actually contain a fair amount of darkness and angst, while my Sheckley books have some Fawlty Towers style romantic farce – the whole man/dog dichotomy really lends itself to absurd situations. On the other hand, I did let myself go darker with the Sheckley books, because I was playing in the horror side of the playground.
I’ll be posting another interview later this evening, but it looks like I am fast approaching the end of my ability to post two interviews a week .
I may be able to post two interviews next week, but if not I hope to start doing some non-interview posts of interest. I am, as always, open to suggestions.
The past few weeks have been busy in terms of interviews at Robot 6 as well. In case you missed any, here are links to several of the pieces:
- Nick Tapalansky & Alex Eckman-Lawn on Awakening
- Nevin Martell on Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip
- Dustin Harbin on Storytelling
- Mark Waid on the Unknown
- Tim Hall on Uplift the Postivicals