When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d

Posted by: on Jul 22, 2012 | 2 Comments

“Gee! It’s been a while since I posted an update!”

Whenever I see the above sentence (or words to that effect) as the opening statement of a blog post, I know it’s only a matter of time before the entire site goes dark. But I’m gonna buck the trend. While it has been some time since I last posted, I have a very good excuse: the birth of my son. Isaac Edgar Nelson entered the world on July 15th at 4:29 in the morning.

The birth was extremely difficult – about two months ago my wife developed “Cholestasis of the Liver”, a weird, rare disease the eggheads in the white coats know next to nothing about, save for the fact that it dramatically increases the likelihood of stillbirth (!). It also made my wife’s hands and feet unbearably itchy, and no medication would help. That was the worst part for her.

We were almost relieved when we learned the docs wanted to induce labor three weeks early, but after 72 grueling hours of hormones and IV drips and pills and machines that go “ping!!”, we finally decided to opt for a Caesarian.

And it was the right choice. Our little boy scored a perfect 10 on his “Apgar” assessment after birth (next stop: double 800s on the SATs!). He, his mom and his pop are all safely back home, and everything is rainbows and lemon drops.

I cannot even begin to express the fullness of my gratitude to the staff of Coolly-Dickinson Hospital here in Northampton, Mass. Everyone – doctors, midwives, custodians, nurses – was absolutely wonderful throughout the entire process. I literally don’t know what we would have done without them.

For all the details on the birth, as it happened in “real-time”, check out my Twitter feed, @arvidthetwit. Yes, this is a shameful attempt on my part to expand my Twitter followers. Thanks for falling for it.

Ecce Issac!

The Curse of the Neocortex

Posted by: on Aug 26, 2011 | 2 Comments

A friend of mine sent me a great article, “Uncomfortable Questions: Was the Death Star Attack an Inside Job?“. It perfectly captures the “I’m just stating facts here” lunacy of 9-11 conspiracy theories. The best part is the shameless plug for the author’s “book” and for Jar-Jar Bink’s campaign for the Imperial Senate at the very end. I don’t think most 9-11-was-an-inside-job theorists are actively dishonest, but it doesn’t even matter when they’re after your money.

It only goes to show how disparate facts and inconsistencies can be used to construct a version of history that actually seems plausible, at least, until you start thinking critically. The truth is, reality is always a little messy. There are always going to “questions”, lots of them. I mean, are we to believe Franklin Roosevelt allowed Pearl Harbor to happen? There are people who actually think that!

Anyone who’s read Zero Killer (all six of you) knows I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the second Bush administration. So I’m not apologizing for any of the things that happened as a result of 9-11.

But I like to think I’m something of a black belt in conspiracy theories. They’re so much fun, a kind of living science fiction. And having delved into the subject pretty deeply, I’m here to say they are all, indeed, fiction. The few exceptions are very obvious and very well documented, like the attempt of the Ku Klux Klan to infiltrate the US federal government in the 1920s. Aside from those glaring instances… garbage.

For whatever reason, conspiracy theories have changed from a provenance of the far right to the far left since World War II. In the early 20th Century, “the Jews” were a popular bête noire – they still are. Hell, Hitler made a career off of that one. The Bahá’í Faith is the subject of lots of conspiracy theories in Iran; it’s often denounced as an evil plot by, you guessed it, those scary Jews. But nowadays it’s more about spooky militarists assassinating presidents from grassy knolls and planting thermite bombs in skyscrapers.

But I don’t think conspiracy theories are popular because people are stupid. It’s sort of the opposite, in fact. We humans are so clever, we can convince ourselves of anything. It’s our pesky neocortex, the “highest” part of the brain, that does us in. Denying evolution, or global warming, 9-11, the Kennedy assassination, Jesus had kids… if you’re determined to believe something crazy, your higher brain is actually going to aid you in your lunacy. After all, making connections is what intelligence is all about. That’s what the neocortex is hardwired to do.

So in some ways, I guess I admire conspiracy theorists, for their intellectual… creativity. It’s just a shame all that mental horsepower isn’t being used more productively, because I absolutely agree with the 9-11ers on one thing: there are a whole lot of problems with the world.

Calvin and Hobbes

Posted by: on Aug 9, 2011 | 5 Comments

An Incomplete and Annotated List of Things That Annoy Me

Posted by: on Jul 7, 2011 | 11 Comments

1. Fortune cookies containing not fortunes but aphorisms. I demand to know I will one day crush my enemies.

2. Mass emails irrelevant to me beginning with the disclaimer “Hey everyone! Sorry for the mass email…” If you don’t do it, you won’t have to feel “sorry”.

3. DVDs encoded in such a way that the volume for the title screen is ten times louder than the volume of the actual show/movie.

4. Corn chips too wide for the f______ jar of salsa. Not sure why I’m more upset at the chip than the jar, but I am.

5. Locals who get irked at tourists for not knowing their way around a particular place. I’m patient with tourists in Times Square, I expect the same thing when I go abroad, thank you very much.

6 (new!). “Holodeck malfunction” episodes of Star Trek.

7. Spelling one’s name “Thom” instead of “Tom” or “Robb” instead of “Rob”. Yes, this includes Thom Yorke.

7a. Extraneous final Es. “Olde”, “Shoppe”, like that. Last names are exempt, but only because changing is a hassle. In other words, I only condemn Thom Yorke for “Thom”, not “Yorke”.

8. Those f______ Charmin™ ass-bears.

8a. “Cute” corporate mascots in general. Is it any wonder our society breeds serial killers?

9. The letters “c” and “q”, which really have no right or reason to exist.

10. Capitalized prepositions and articles in titles (arrgh!). Also: over-zealous use of commas/apostrophes.

11. Fascism (aside from the uniforms).

Into Another: Band on the Borderland

Posted by: on Apr 7, 2011 | 15 Comments

I’ll never forget the liner notes for Seamless, Into Another’s last (released) album; one of the guys in the band mentioned how everyone was going to “high-five” each other when they stopped touring in vans and finally upgraded to a bus.

I hope they made it on the bus. I wish I knew for sure they did, but I don’t. I actually signed up for Into Another’s fan club, the first and only time I made the effort to be an “official” fan of anything. But it was 1996, and, unbeknownst to me, they were going through major problems with their record label at the time. I never heard back from Into Another. They broke up that year; I never even got to see them live. The bass player, Tony Bono, died in 2002, while I was struggling my way through Rex Mundi.

It’s hard – impossible – to describe Into Another’s music as part of any of the trendy “movements” of the 90s. They were definitely not “grunge rock”. They came out of hardcore – Richie Birkenhead, the singer, was in Youth of Today, and Drew Thomas, the drummer, was in Bold. Those are legendary names if you are (or were) into straight-edge hardcore.

But hardcore doesn’t even begin to describe their sound. If I had to compare them to anything, it would be Rush. I guess. Richie Birkenhead’s voice has the same inhuman, androgynous power of Geddy Lee’s. “Prog rock” – in the best possible sense – is probably the best way to describe them, although it’s still like describing chocolate as “sweet”.

Even though Into Another’s sound moved very far away from hardcore, they maintained the moral foundations of hardcore, and that’s one of the things I admire most about them. I have a sense that most of the people in the bands I love are kind of sociopathic douchebags. But. I always got the feeling the guys in Into Another were actually really nice and humble and down-to-earth. Straight-edge vegetarianism wasn’t “cool” or a “fashion statement” for them. It was a way of being.

So it pisses me off, a lot, that Into Another has been swallowed up by time. They came and went just as the Internet was getting ramped up; if they had emerged a few years later, things might have been very different for them, but who knows? As it is, if you do a search for them on Wikipedia you’ll be auto-directed to a song of the same name by Skid Row. Into Another does have their own Wikipedia page – my deepest appreciation to everyone who contributed to it – but the link to “Tony Bono” leads to an indoor soccer player of that name.

Into Another started out on Revelation Records, the legendary hardcore label. They – Revelation and Into Another – were “emo” when that term meant something other than American Idol. The band’s problems came when they jumped onto a “major” label. Not only is bigger not always better, it’s usually worse. Hollywood Records (the label in question) doesn’t even have Seamless, Into Another’s first of two albums with them, available. Which is a shame, because every song on Seamless is a thing a beauty. Their final album, Soul Control, was never released in the first place. I’ve never even heard it.

Fortunately, all of Into Another’s albums on Revelation Records are available. I recommend starting with Ignaurus, their final full-length on Revelation. The music might grab you immediately, the way it did for me. But if it doesn’t, give it a chance.

I have a special place in my heart for “William”, the seventh song on that album. Only very, very recently I realized it was about William Hope Hodgson, a writer whom I just discovered. Hodgson’s life sort of reminds me of the story of Into Another, but he’s a subject for another post.

In completely unrelated news, I’ve been writing like a motherf—–, which is why I haven’t posted in a while. I feel like I’ve finally figured out all of the problems for my novel, all of the Tetris pieces have fallen in place. And I have lots of comics coming out. Finally, finally saw the letters and colors for Queen Sonja #16 – Edgar Salazar’s art looks fantastic. I hope it will be out next month. I’m writing a tie-in for Rage, the big new game coming out from id Software. And as soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to get started on the final issue of the first arc of Dejah Thoris. The reviews for Dejah have been really positive, thanks to everyone who read it and liked it well enough to spread the word.

I’ve got a new huge, stupendous project underway at Dynamite, too. I can’t talk about it yet, but as soon as I can… I will. Until then, “truth lives in a house on the borderland”.