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Poop Culture

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Friday, June 17, 2005

Nose Candy

So, I'm sitting in my office at work this morning, stirring some strawberry-flavored protein powder into my cup of plain yogurt, when a little pocket of air burps out, dusting my face and nostrils with finely granulated red powder.

I'm scratching and wiping my nose, wiping away as much of the powder as I can, when not one, not two, but three senior VPs enter to talk to me about a new project.

I quickly look at my fingers and they're covered in dark pinkish snot.

I have thin, viscous reddish fluid and powder running out my nostrils.

I have no napkins.

I love my job.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Steve "Baby" Gerber - My Hero

We’ve established I was a pretty strange kid, spending hours and hours alone in my bedroom, obsessing over my favorite records and comic books, instead of outside in the sunshine playing ball with the other boys and girls. My idea of physical activity was maybe going to our backyard pool for a swim, then capping it off with a few rounds of “Kaboom” on the Atari 2600. Basically, I was a brainy geek with tastes in music, books and television that ran counter to the norm – a bad thing to be in junior high, but a good thing to be later in life.

While my mostly like-minded nerd comic book buddies preferred Spider-Man and the Avengers (NO ONE read DC – that stood for “DUMB COMICS” – der hey), I can still remember the first two comics I ever sent away for subscriptions to, way back in the fourth grade; “Howard the Duck” and “Captain Marvel”. “Captain Marvel” I read mostly because he had a kick-ass costume and the action took place mostly on other planets and in outer space. But, why was a nine-year old boy in Elyria, Ohio reading “Howard the Duck,” a notably more adult in tone comic?

Stop. Quit thinking about that awful movie. “Howard the Duck” began life in the comics as a fully rounded, strangely human character who just happened to be a duck. He was left-leaning, but aware enough to notice lunacy on both sides of the political fence. He railed against status-jumping materialists, greedy industrialists, politicians, rock stars, movie stars and even numb middle-class morons, mostly to no avail.

Shit, Howard even suffered a nervous breakdown and got committed. That was, until he got possessed by a demon and the rock band KISS broke him out. Then, he suffered the ultimate fate – a mad genius with a bell on his head named Doctor Bong stole his girlfriend and turned Howard into a…a….HUMAN.

Yeah, it was that kinda book.

How exactly I discovered this comic at an age when my peers were still on Uncle Scrooge has been lost to the mists of time – I vaguely remember seeing a news report on it (probably because most of the action took place in Cleveland), and our local late night TV horror hosts, WJW’s Houlihan & Big Chuck, used to read the Howard comic strip out loud while showing the pictures on a 5-minute segment between the local news and “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” (yeah, it was that popular in Cleveland at the time). Perhaps that’s how I got into it. However it happened, boy, did I love it.

As I grew older, I paid more attention to the credits and noticed Howard was written by Steve Gerber, or Steve “Baby” Gerber as he was nicknamed. Gerber had also written other titles, including “Man-Thing,” a dark horror comic about a shambling muck monster, and “The Defenders,” a “non-team” of heroes including Doctor Strange, Sub-Mariner and Hulk who hated each other but had to work together. I soon started picking up back issues of these books, digging on the bizarre and twisted takes Gerber would impose on these usually predictable genres.

Take the “Headmen Saga” in the Defenders, for example. This nearly year-long story involved a brilliantly evil collection of intelligentsia calling themselves “The Headmen” – all of their heads were freakish in some way, thanks to various experiments, accidents, what have you. The best of the lot was a woman named Ruby Thursday, who created a sentient, plastic computer she promptly transferred her consciousness into. She then lopped off her real head and placed her new red plastic orb of a head onto her body.

Drugs are fun!

The Headmen Saga involved an army of rampaging clowns called Bozos, a celestial asshole named Nebulon, a plot to shrink the White House, and an evil elf who would pop up in a running subplot and shoot random people in the face. For no reason.

It sounds like a mess, but Gerber was so fucking brilliant, he not only made it all come together in the end (except for the elf…he was supposed to be random and unexplainable), he made it GREAT and compelling. As a kid, I thought “I like this, but I don’t know why.” As an adult re-reading it, I’m in awe.

Steve Gerber was a huge inspiration to my budding creative mind, alongside Michael O’Donahue and Jack Kirby. Nice company to be in. All three taught me to never be happy with the easy way out, the first draft, the pandering method. Strive, strive and then strive some more. The right people will get it.

Gerber is still writing great stuff, most notably a new series for DC called “Hard Time,” about a young teen partially responsible for a Columbine-like shooting. He’s now in prison for life without parole…only he seems to be possessed by an other-worldly force. It’s sort of like “Oz” meets “X-Files” – that’s my crappy Hollywood log line, not Gerber’s. It’s available on Amazon and Borders-ish stores everywhere.

Thanks for fucking up my young mind, Steve Gerber. I owe you one.

Check out Steve Gerber's blog.
Steve's entire Howard the Duck run is still in print, cheap, along with Vol. 1 of "Hard Time" at Amazon.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Here Come The Tears

When Suede called it a day a couple years ago, it was almost a relief. I had watched one of my favorite bands go from creating huge, dark soundscapes filled with atmospheric dread teamed with lyrics from singer Brett Anderson about smack, sex and isolation, to recording chirpy songs titled “Positivity” with no irony whatsoever. This shift in attitude can be traced to one event in Suede’s history – the departure of guitarist/co-founder Bernard Butler after the band recorded its second and best album, “Dog Man Star”. After Bernard left, it was gloss pop city.

That’s why, after Suede broke up, I was excited to hear that Brett and Bernard mended fences and were writing together again. However, Suede was not returning…instead, they would be called The Tears, complete with a new backing band. Hmmm.

The Tears

The first Tears single, “Refugees” was merely okay. It sounded more like mid-career Suede than the early, superior stuff, but at least it wasn’t awful like the last Suede album. Last week, the entire album, “Here Come the Tears” dropped in the UK (no U.S. release is slated anytime soon – don’t hold your breath – the last Suede CD wasn’t even released here), and it’s half bad.

It’s also half good.

The bad:

• Brett’s still singing in the lower register he adopted after kicking drugs. He’s become the Mariah Carey of Britpop, a shadow of his former voice. Boo.

• The lyrics – oy, the lyrics. “You taste like orange chocolate / you put your hands in my pockets” he sings on “Imperfection,” a song about, of course, how his partner’s imperfections are beautiful regardless. Ick.

• Not enough Bernard is showing. I find it telling that Bernard is listed as “Producer,” while Brett is listed as “Executive Producer.” Hmm. The album sounds like it was recorded from two rooms over via a tin can and some nylon string. Awful.

The good:

• When the tempos slow and the mood is heightened, The Tears hit some of the glory of Suede’s best moments. The strings, the strange, wiggly guitar sounds, they show up here and there…just not enough.

• After sludging through 11 songs, The Tears finally hit one out of the park with “Apollo 13,” a fantastic ballad that could have come off of “Dog Man Star”. Check out the blistering solo during the final 1:30 of the song…goosebumps central.

Verdict: Worth buying and it might be a grower. There’s potential here, if these guys can keep it together. I’ll be interested in seeing how the upcoming b-sides sound – that’s where Suede used to blow everyone away, tucking their truly epic tunes away as extra tracks on CD singles. I don’t want to say it’d be nice if Brett got back on drugs, but…well, it’d be nice.

Download “Apollo 13”.

Fine Folks

"...and by hubris, I mean overweening pride!" - Johnny's Greatest Hits

25 Year Loop
Fucking Woof
David Live
The Night Before
Jobriath Was First
She's in Parties
She's in Parties Pt. 2
Tales From the Dragon Club
Tales From the Dragon Club Pt. 2
Okay, California...You Win
How to Sell Used CDs

Previously on "Johnny Is a Man"...

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