Saturday, September 30, 2006

Everybody's Working for the Weekend: By Mike Gillis

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[Ringing telephone...]

Magnus: Hello?

Rexor: Dude, what's up?

Magnus: Hey man, not too much. Just trying to get out of here.

Rexor: Slow night?

Magnus: Brutal.

Rexor: Shitty. Listen man, are you still coming tonight?

Magnus: To Zordok's party? Shit yes, once I'm done here.

Rexor: Do you know how to get there?

Magnus: No... I thought I'd grab a lift with you.

Rexor: Can't do it, my chariot's fucked. Sherry's going to let me borrow her steed and there's only enough room for the two of us. But I can give you directions.

Magnus: Fuck... ok... hold on...[rustling of scrolls] okay shoot.

Rexor: All right, you know where Hawkblood Mountain is?

Magnus: Yeah.

Rexor: It's on the other side.

Magnus: In relation to what?

Rexor: In relation to where you are right now.

Magnus: O.k..... so he's on the same side as the Manticore's cavern?

Rexor: Yeah exactly, but you have to go around the mountain, you can't take the Tunnel of Thieves?

Magnus: Why not? It's like a million times quicker.

Rexor: I know, but the Sorcerers have been busting a lot of those Orcish punks for drinking mead up there and torching some Tree People. It'll be a fucking hassle.

Magnus: ok. so I go the long way... then what?

Rexor: Uou know where the Emerald Claw Tavern is?

Magnus: Yeah, I think so... on the old Berserker's Warpath? Where they're building that new Starbuck's?

Rexor: Exactly... go left when you get to that intersection and keep going till you reach the Well of Confusion.

Magnus: Well... of... Confusion... ok, that's perfect because I need smokes anyway.

Rexor: Don't get 'em there, get them from the Swamp Mage. She's like a block away from Zordok's and they're way cheaper.

Magnus: All right... so where after that?

Rexor: After the Well take another left, go two or three blocks and take a right at the nearest Soul-Chasm. He's right on that street, near the Tree of Eternally Rotting Flesh. If you see the Edge of Time you've gone too far.

Magnus: Got it. When are you heading over?

Rexor: Sherry and I are leaving in, like, twenty minutes.

Magnus: Are you bringing your cell?

Rexor: No, it's dead. You'll be all right, it's easy to find. the boys'll probably be jamming anyway so you'll definitely hear us.

Magnus: Cool man. I'm just gonna finish closing up here then I'll grab some Elixir and head out.

Rexor: Don't bother with the Elixir, Zordok picked up like four kegs.

Magnus: Four?! How big is this party?

Rexor: It's gonna be pretty nuts man, so don't worry about booze. Just make sure you bring some gold.

Magnus: Will do. Do you uh... do you think Janelle's gonna be there?

Rexor: Sherry was just talking to her, I think she's there already. Why? Are you gonna tap that?

Magnus: I’m gonna try... she just broke up with Dekram.

Rexor: I heard. I hope he doesn't show up, I fucking hate that guy.

Magnus: Douche bag. Thinks he's so fucking mighty. Do you think I should bring my sword?

Rexor: I'm bringing mine, do it.

Magnus: Awesome. So I guess I'll be there in like an hour and something? Rexor: Sounds good man. See you in a bit.

Magnus: cool. Tell Sherry to put in a good word for me.

Rexor: Will do. later.

Magnus: Later.


Poetry Heals - By Mike Gillis

Roses are Red

Violets are Blue

I Hate Mel Gibson

Because Gibson Hates Jews.

It's ‘Cause I Comb my Beard With Honey - Mike Gillis

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The sound of dead and dying leaves; the smells emitted by trees and plants slowly stumbling into their winter comas; the sidewalks a sea of sweaters and scarves; the cool mountain air roaming in and scaring the humidity out of town.

It was because of these things that I let my guard down.

And it was because I let my guard down that the wasp attacked me and chased me for two city blocks.

When the temperature dips low enough to warrant the breaking out of the leather coat, I officially stop worrying about wasps, bees, flies, dragon flies and Atlas moths.

But the wasp I faced today was no lazy ‘I buzz around a trash bin stealing sugar from soda cans’ wasp.

It was bigger, stronger, faster

and probably angrier.

An autumn wasp.

The fact he's even living at this time of the year is a testament to his (or her) awesome strength.

And since I had the guff to stroll around downtown with an ‘I'm allergic to wasps but what-fucking-ever’ kind of look written across my face, he (or she) decided to chase me.

So I walked faster.

Still being chased.

So I walked faster while casually swatting (flailing?) my arms all around me.

Still being chased, he’s/she’s going for the face.

I am running down the sidewalk like an idiot.

Flapping my ‘wings’.

Saying, "Fuck off!" and "Shit!" and "Hey, cool belt. Le Chateau?"

When I thought I had enough of a lead on him I ducked into an alley and waited, pretending to tie my shoe so as not to look like I was kind of lurking in an alley/hiding from a tiny insect.

When I felt safe enough I continued on my way.

If anyone happened to see this go down... I was practising some new dance moves... I'll show you on the weekend.

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus - Concert Review by Christine Albrecht

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus with Monty Are I

September 26, 2006

Croatian Cultural Centre - medium capacity

It is exciting to experience a band, firsthand, when its popularity has not quite taken off. That is the selfish side of me - the one who wants to hear great music, but is unwilling to experience it at an arena-like venue. If The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus can maintain its present momentum, stadium venues are not far off.

Two bands opened for RJA; unfortunately I missed the first band (Lorene Drive) but was able to catch the next. Monty Are I ('Are I' as a play on Rhode Island) banged out their first tune and kept their high energy throughout the entire set. Monty Are I consists of Steve Aiello (vocals, guitar), Ryan Muir (vocals, trumpet), Andrew Borstein (trombone, keyboard, synthesizer, sequencer), Mike Matarese (bass), and Justin Muir (drums). This was an act that was fun to watch - be it for the geometrical hair styling of the lead singer, or the wild dancing and gyrations of the trombone playing keyboardist. The audience may have been small, but they were true 'Monty Are I'ers ' singing along with Aiello for many of the songs. The band also seemed sincere as they repeatedly thanked the audience for their enthusiasm, as well as thanked The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus for the touring opportunity. Vocally, Monty Are I could have sounded better (clearer), but given the venue (the smallest of Croatian's rooms) it was overlooked. Definitely a band worth checking out when they return to our area.

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When Red Jumpsuit Apparatus came on, the adoration factor hit an all time high. This group has exploded onto the music scene via clever internet marketing and word of mouth buzz. As with Monty Are I, the audience was small in numbers, but huge in sound and feedback. The set opened with 'In Fate's Hand' (a nod to a prior band Ronnie Winter and Duke Kitchens had been in as well as the song chosen to be on Madden 2007 video game). I was immediately aware of RJA's similarity to Story of the Year - the two bands seemingly interchangeable. During one song, "Your Guardian Angel', Winter could have chosen to lip synch because the crowd was so loud (and accurate) in their sing-along.

Winter physically resembles a younger, healthier, pre-cosmetic surgery Axel Rose in his movements and style. He also appears to be a laid-back, confident singer speaking to the audience as if casually conversing in his back yard. He deadpanned a few statements that were very humorous, but initially hard to gauge whether he was joking or not. At one point, he scanned the audience and remarked that he could see many of the 'dudes' swaying in the background, doing some kind of 'kumbaya thing'. Then he remarked that if we were in Jacksonville, Florida, the audience would show these 'dudes' some serious moshing. That remark made the Croatian Centre a bona fide mosh pit.

The one downside to the RJA gig was the length of time that passed between songs. This could have been due to instrument malfunctions, or provided filler for a small repertoire of songs. After the seamless, (in regards to length of time between songs), energetic set of Monty Are I, this time mismanagement was akin to a bucket of cold water thrown on those eager to mosh. The moshers would have their pogoing set to 'high', only to have to stop and wait for the next tune.

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On a superficial note, this band definitely fulfills the 'eye candy' requirements of a video band, perhaps a detriment to Winter's serious lyrics such as 'Face Down' (a song about domestic abuse).

The Red Jumpsuit Appartus recently released their debut cd, 'Don't You Fake It' in July of 2006 . Purchase it today - it's worth the investment.

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus consists of:

• Ronnie Winter - Lead Vocals

• Duke Kitchens - Guitar, Piano, Vocals

• Elias Reidy - Guitar, Backing Vocals

• Joey Westwood - Bass, Vocals

• Jon Wilkes - Drums, Vocals

Note: Due to line-up changes over the years, the above noted members of RJA may vary with exception to Winter and Kitchens.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Interview with James Walsh of Starsailor - Christine Albrecht

James Walsh is a very level headed 26 year old. So level-headed that he appears mature beyond his years. Our interview wasn't as long as I would have liked (hey, I'm a talker) and I was unable to ask him some questions re: recording at Abby Studio, recording with Phil Spector, amount of control over videos, etc. Having said that, I did have a nice, albeit brief, chat with James about success, family in Vancouver, recording cds and life on the road.

Swanktrendz: So you are in Vancouver for a short while and then you are on to Seattle. How has your time been here, thus far?

James Walsh: Great - I have relatives here. My aunt (from his father's side) and cousins live here and they are coming to the show tonight.

ST: I don't want to repeat a lot of the usual questions - I know where the band's name comes from. I was hoping to ask you more about your song writing style. Do you find that you are writing for an outcome rather than from a feeling? For example, the pressure of the next cd being bigger and better than the one before it.

JW: Yeah, I think you definitely have to fight that battle. Every time you write a song now you fight it. I think the main way to combat that is to write as much as possible and just get it all down, absolutely everything, and some of it will turn out quite commercial sounding, inadvertently catchy sounding, and some of it will be quite weird. As long as you're not afraid to let it all go down on tape. Sometimes I will just sing into a mobile phone.

ST: So when an idea hits, that's when you get it down.

JW: Yes, because if you just sit down and say, okay I am writing an album now, everything has to be a certain way and it doesn't work that way.

ST: Now the first cd was hugely successful and then you have that period of time of the 'second album slump' where the pressure is so huge to produce a hit. How does it come naturally? How do you not get jaded with the recording industry?

JW: Yeah, well ... like I said, when I am in the mood, I just write it down as quickly as possible and don't try to think of what is expected.

ST: You write the lyrics - which are brilliant - I especially like the lyrics to 'In the Crossfire'. I've noticed your lyrics are becoming more politicized. I also wonder, when you are writing, do you have the melody first or do the lyrics come first?

JW: I generally have the melody first, and then the lyrics follow. I usually have a riff or a melody and then I take it from there. The songs kind of write themselves. Generally the slow songs, I write myself like, Jeremiah and Restless Heart.

ST: Yes, with Jeremiah (the murdered youth) did you read about it or hear it through word of mouth... how did you come to know of this individual?

JW: I heard it on the radio.

ST: And it just sparked something?

JW: Yeah.

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ST: I remember reading that The Clash used to watch the news, read newspapers, listen to the radio and come up with songs regarding the times. I've also noticed your lyrics becoming more politically aware. This current cd (compared to the debut) has a stronger rythymic element and I find that it is stronger lyrically (with global awareness). For example, "In the Crossfire '- is that aimed at the Iraq war?

JW: Yeah, absolutely.

ST: And how else do you feel about the war? What did you think of Tony Blair's decision to join in?

JW: Uhm, I think he is between a rock and a hard place. I think the alternative is another Tory government. I also think he's in bed with Bush for better or worse.

ST: Blair's decision surprised me as I always thought that Canada and the UK were aligned in thought, so when Canada said no to going to war, and Blair said yes, I was quite surprised.

JW: It goes without saying that war is wrong. It costs a lot money as well, which is useful for the economy.

ST: War always stimulates economy. The US started with a great economy, but as the war has dragged on, the economy is suffering.

JW: Well Blair kind of got the house in order for us and he did some good things.

ST: And what is your alternative? Again, about the cd - it is more rhythmic and more of a 'rocker' than the previous cds. Was this your intention?

JW: I think it kind of evolved. All the gigs we did were key to it (the evolution). A lot of people who came... well the first cd was such a huge success that that tag stuck with us - they had us down as plaintive, acoustic balladeers. The people who were expecting that music have come away from the concerts hopefully enjoying our new songs. We wanted to get a balance between the two sounds, and hopefully the fans will enjoy it. That balance was our key motivation.

ST: Do you have a family?

JW: I have a wife and a little girl, four.

ST: What's your little girl's name?

JW: Niamh. It's an Irish name that is pronounced Neve.

ST: That's a great name, Niamh Walsh. I want to get your perspective on fans' loyalty. I was wondering what makes the fans (and other indie groups) turn on an indie band when they become successful? When you are an indie band the fans love you, but when you become a commercial success they accuse indie acts of selling out. What do you make of this phenomena?

JW: I'm not sure why that happens, I think people just like having their own little secret -their own little club. I think also the innocence and the amateur nature that a lot of the first albums take on - well you can't recreate that. And that is what the fans want.

ST: That's a good point, you can never go back. There is that whole innocence of discovering an indie band, and as the band progresses the people are unable to move forward, or progress, along with the band.

JW: And some people can't or don't accept the change and rather than move on with the band, they move on to another band. I think with a lot of the young fans, they are more like that. They tend to be heavily influenced by what their favourite DJ is saying and if someone on the radio makes a negative statement, they tend to go along with it.

ST: When you achieve some form of success, do you find you have more people agreeing with whatever you say, or do you have people in your camp who point out when you are being an ass?

JW: Oh, we definitely have people pointing out when we are being asses. I think that is what a wife is for... I think there's enough people around who don't like us and kick us to the ground.

ST: I would think you'd need a thick skin to put up with that. Someone telling you that 'you suck' when they don't even know you.

JW: It just drives you on and makes you want to prove them wrong.

ST: I hear that when you opened for the Stones you wowed the crowd.

JW: The crowd really enjoyed our set.

ST: And this is an older crowd - so you turned on a whole new generation.

JW: The most important thing was that the Stones liked us as well. Especially Mick.

ST: Well that's a compliment in itself. You began touring for this cd 'On the Outside' last October (05)? When do you take time off?

JW: I am not sure now - we might be coming back out. We are set to go home in October. But in the middle of October we might be doing something else - I can't say too much because of the usual things like finances.

ST: Did you find that with the release of the videos the download sales went up?

JW: Yeah.

ST: What do you think of the downloading industry? I had someone tell me that in the 90's a band could sell 30 million cds and now they are lucky to sell 1 million. Without the internet, you wouldn't be as famous, yet with the downloading, you aren't as wealthy as you could be.

JW: I think the main thing that must be affecting album sales is reviews now and as well, on some of the sites, it says 'download this'. It will list 5 tracks from the album and every band will have a similar chart. Unfortunately, people will download those 5 songs and not bother with the rest of the album. That must be affecting album sales. A friend of mine made a good point the other day when he said somehow music has been cheapened. People are quite happy to pay $10.00 for the cinema and $3.00 for popcorn, but they expect to get a cd for $10.00. A sports game, like Liverpool football, is like 30 pounds for 90 minutes. If you sold your albums for 30 quid, nobody would buy them.

ST: I would like to hear about the most interesting gig you've played. In terms of interest or excitement.

JW: Probably the Stones gig. That was pretty special. We also played in a Town Square in Belgium and we were the headline act with Ice-T and the Sugarbabes opening for us. That was a great experience and it was a landmark for us. It was the first big thing that we've headlined. Definitely a boost going out on stage knowing that people were waiting to see you.

ST: Especially when they waited through Ice-T. Where do you find your numbers (in terms of audience) are really huge? In regards to your fan base.

JW: At the moment it would be France and Belgium. It happened by accident when a remake of one of our songs became a big club hit.

ST: Which song?

JW: Four to the Floor. And it kind of grew from there where a lot of people discovered the band. I guess a lot of dance music fans might have listened to the album and thought, that's not for me, but a lot of people bought the album off the back of that song. It's like America and the UK liking similar things. The French speaking parts of Europe listen to similar music - France, Belgium and Switzerland.

ST: When you played at Sundance, which I don't think is a great venue for a band, you came away from the experience a little sour. Was it bad press for you, or did it just leave a bad taste?

JW: We just felt like a lounge band. I think the thing that said it all was when the security at the venue asked the sound engineer to 'turn it down because people were eating'. We weren't briefed in any way about what this gig was and if we had have been we would have turned it down. We understand the industry and there are some things that seem awful but they will benefit us down the line, but this had no benefit to us.

ST: What do you despise most - photos, interviews or meet and greets, and don't say none as you've been around long enough to tire of something?

JW: I guess I would say meet and greets as we meet so many people like, 'this is a friend of a friend of Bob's gym and they play your music'. But really, I would say it's not so bad.

Well, the tour manager, Chris, popped in to say I went over my time (surprise) and I was on my way. Check out Lezah's review of the live performance.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Good News (other than Ernest Hemmingway) - Rob Williams

So a Texas commercial real estate developer has won Florida's annual Ernest Hemingway look-alike competition. This during the "26th Hemingway Days Festival, which ended on Sunday with an arm-wrestling contest in Key West at the tip of the Florida Keys,[and] celebrated the July 21 birthday of the Nobel Prize-winner, born 107 years ago."

What fun! I want to go the Hemingway Days Festival. It sounds like a hoot.

What's that saying, "When one door closes... another one opens?"

I recently got some really swell news: hot on the heels of my rejection (not getting the full time job at the college where I teach) I DID get a letter on Friday from a writers residency with the Djerassi Resident Artists Program (in Northern California) who said that my "application was ranked very high by our panel of professionals from your field, and you have been placed on alternate status for 2007."

Hooray! I'm actually very thrilled and honored to be even considered for alternate status. i had started to lose my faith in the whole writers residency thing-- having never gotten one, and having been rejected by several of them over the past 5-6 years. But this totally renews my faith.

Now I just hope someone decides to drop out! the residency, which is a 4-5 week stay, would not be until spring-summer of 2007, but that's great-- gives me enough time to finish the current book and get my stuff together for the 2nd book.

Cross your fingers for me.

Ok, back to planning my Fall Creative Writing Class--I'm sort of making my own reader-- I'm xeroxing a bunch of handouts, anyway. As soon as I'm done i'll post my final reading list (made up of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry) soon, but below are a few of my potentials. In fact, if anyone has suggestions for great SHORT nonfiction essays, short fiction, and poetry let me know. I emphasize SHORT-- meaning they should be an average of 5 pages (at least for the nonfiction); I know, that's short but it's because the class is HUGE and in addition to these short texts students have to read each others' work--AND because the class is so HUGE I'm encouraging the writing of SHORT short pieces; there is just not enough time to read 20, 30 page stories, novel chapters, or novelas. And anyway, it is just an Into to creative writing. I'm currently gathering all of The New Yorker Talk of the Town and other short pieces that I have.

So far I'm considering:


Rick Moody, "Twister," from Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven

John Cheever, "The Reunion," from The Stories of John Cheever (Believe me, if we could read the whole book I would assign it)

Jamaica Kincaid, "Girl"

Helen Schulman, "Pushing the Point," from Not a Free Show

Judy Budnitz, "Art Lesson," from Flying Leap

Manuel Munoz, "The Wooden Boat," from Zigzagger

Ann Beattie, "Janus"

Brady Udall, "The Wig" (If you haven't read this-- it is fricken amazing)

John Dufresne, "Lemonade and Paris Buns," from Johnny Too Bad (a heartbreaker of a story)


Jonathan Franzen, "Countdown" (from The NewYorker)

Mary Gordon "Pilgrimage" (from The NewYorker)

Nicole Krauss "My Summer in Poland" (from The NewYorker)


Shit, so many I want to use! Whitman, Plath, Mark Doty, etc. etc.

Suggestions for any of the genres are certainly welcome! (And, even better, if you're one of my writer friends who has a great short story, essay or poem published out there somewhere that you think would be great for me to teach in my class, let me know).