29 June 2011
28 June 2011
27 June 2011
Last week, I posted briefly about the new Kaiser Chiefs album, The Future is Medieval, but what I didn't mention was the marketing concept behind the record. Basically, they premiered clips from 20 tracks on their Website earlier in the month and offered fans the chance to create what is essentially the first Bespoke album. Out of the 20 tracks previewed, fans could choose 10, in any order, select the artwork and then actually promote and sell the album. And profit from it, too.
It's an interesting idea, and from what I've read, they've sold around 10,000 copies of the album this way so far. That's a far cry from the over three million copies they shifted of their debut album, but considering a standard CD edition is available today (featuring 14 of the 20 tracks) and the album's receiving much better word of mouth than their last two releases, I'd call it a fairly successful marketing stunt.
I actually found trimming it down to 10 songs somewhat difficult: No matter how I chose, several songs I liked didn't make the cut. Here's what I came up with, though:
1. Back in December
2. Can't Mind My Own Business
3. Cousin in the Bronx
4. Coming Up for Air
5. Dead or In Serious Trouble
6. Little Shocks
7. Man on Mars
8. Problem Solved
9. Things Change
10. When All Is Quiet
That makes for a pretty short album (under 40 minutes), so in a perfect world, I'd add three more (probably "Heart it Break," "If You Will Have Me" and "Long Way from Celebrating") to get it to a more satisfying listening time. (And a more satisfying listen, compared to the official track listing of the 14-track CD.)
Anyway, if you want to play along, you have but to visit kaiserchiefs.com to do so.
26 June 2011
25 June 2011
24 June 2011
And you can find out more about HPA at homelessyouthalliance.org.
23 June 2011
22 June 2011
21 June 2011
19 June 2011
Her name was Mrs. Thomas.
That could have been her entire name as far as I was concerned: I don't think it ever even occurred to me to ask what her first name was. I was eight at the time so, really, whether or not another name was somehow wedged in-between "Mrs." and "Thomas" didn't make much difference. All that mattered was that she was the most fascinating and extraordinary woman I'd ever met in my life up to that point.
She had dark brown hair, I remember, so dark you would have sworn it was black. And she wore it straight, not feathered, which was a bit of a novelty at the time, because in the late '70s, it was practically a prerequisite for every last member of the female gender to wear their hair in the style of Farrah Fawcett or Dorothy Hamill. Her hair hung almost to her waist, though, and she had bangs that immediately set apart from everyone else. But I'd be lying if I told you her hair was what I had my eyes on.
See, as much as I'd enjoy recounting a story about my first student/teacher crush, that's not at all where this is going. In fact, Mrs. Thomas wasn't even one of my teachers, she was a friend's mother.
His first name I knew: It was Robert, and we'd met a year or so earlier when we were in the same Cub Scout troop together. I don't think either of us lasted in Cub Scouts more than a few months, but during our brief dalliance with whatever the hell it is Cub Scouts is supposed to be did result in a friendship that lasted all through elementary school. And the fact that we shared the same teacher from second grade on up didn't hurt.
Nor did the fact that we both collected comic books.
I think I discovered that Robert was just as nuts as I was about comics at the second or third Cub Scouts meeting we attended together. We'd both been kept late after school in this particular instance (long story, best not entered into here, but involving our relentlessly insolent behavior while class was being taught by a substitute teacher) and we were late for the meeting, which was near enough to our school that both sets of parents had agreed to let us walk. When we got there, though, we were a) completely clueless as to what was going on and b) completely disinterested in finding out, so we just kept to ourselves and started playing with Hot Wheels or whatever.
Well, until Robert pulled out a copy of Marvel Two-in-One #22 from his school binder.
Marvel Two-in-One was one of my favorite comics at the time, mainly because it featured the Fantastic Four's Thing. The fact that he teamed up with other Marvel superheroes on a monthly basis was really just a bonus; the Thing was (and remains) one my favorite characters in comics. I hadn't seen this particular issue, but it featured the Thing and Thor in battle with Seth, the Egyptian God of Death, and what's more, it was part one in a two-part story. And hot damn if Robert didn't have issue #23 tucked away in his binder, too! He and I sat looking at the comics and talking about Thor, the Fantastic Four and all the other Marvel heroes until the meeting was over and our parents arrived to pick us up. There was some discussion between our parents and the Den Mother about our tardiness, so my folks weren't exactly pleased with me. We left in a hurry, with Robert trying to find out if I could come over to his house the following day. Another time, my dad said.
What he really meant was that I was grounded. For a week. And I wouldn't get any comics that weekend. Damn parents. They knew all my weak spots and just how to exploit 'em!
Robert didn't stop talking about having me over to his house, though, because he wanted me to see his comics. And the way he talked about them, there were hundreds of them. Actually, I was half-convinced that he was the most compulsive liar in the world, because when we'd talk about the Fantastic Four and I'd mention some of the really old issues, he'd say he had them.
First appearance of Doctor Doom? "Got it," he would say, as casually as could be.
"You mean you've got that Bring on the Bad Guys book, right?"
"Oh, yeah, I've got that book...but I've got the real comic, too."
This seemed unbelievable, I thought, so I figured I'd try another one – the first appearance of the Sub-Mariner (or Sub-Mareener as we all called Marvel's Prince Namor back then).
"Got that one, too," he said.
Right, I thought, and obviously he meant that he had an actual copy of Fantastic Four #4, not just the book that reprinted it. I gave it a little thought and decided it just wasn't possible. How could he have comics that old?
Well, as it turns out, he didn't. I did eventually go over to his house a week or so after my parents let me off restriction, and as I suspected, he didn't have a single one of the comics he'd told me about. We had walked over to his house on Steele Street, just about six blocks from school (and my house, incidentally, which was right across the street), and he kept telling me the whole way that he couldn't wait for me to see all his comics. I think he knew I didn't believe him, but he seemed to genuinely want to prove that he had the stash he'd been so busily talking up over the last week or so.
And he did have comics. There was a stack of recent Marvel books on the desk in his bedroom, along with a few of the over-sized Treasury editions everyone seemed to have but me. The funny thing, though, was that he didn't even have Bring on the Bad Guys or The Origins of Marvel Comics like he'd said. So, in my eight-year-old mind, I hastily scrawling a mental note: "Nice kid, but never believe a word he says!"
Then his Mom came in to say hello.
Even with Cub Scouts and all that, I'd never met Robert's mother before. He'd never mentioned her, either, so I hadn't really given her much thought beforehand. I knew my Mom had spoken with her on the phone to make sure it was all right for me to visit, and I think I'd been instructed to be polite and not to ask for anything and all that other crap parents tell kids when they're going to a friend's house, but the fact that Robert actually had a mother seemed a tad irrelevant.
Right up until she opened her mouth, that is, which is when she uttered the magic words, "So Robert tells me you're really anxious to see my comic book collection..."
Had she told me that she was going to take me in the backyard, skin me alive and roast me on a spit, I don't think I'd have been more shocked. My Mom didn't have a comic book collection. Why the hell would Robert's Mom?!?
But she did, in fact, have boxes upon boxes of comics and even more amazingly, Fantastic Four was her favorite comic book, too. We spent a good part of that afternoon looking at examples of her collection and after a while, I felt more like I was hanging out with Mrs. Thomas than I was with Robert. And as I flipped through a copy of Fantastic Four #61 and marveled at how the Sandman could take on the Thing, Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Girl all on his own – without the Frightful Four, whom I'd been introduced to in FF #177 – Robert started talking about getting a snack and then heading outside to play. I wanted to tell him to do just that and leave his mother and myself be, but before I knew it, the boxes were being put away and Robert's Mom had transformed from starry-eyed comics fan back into...well, Robert's Mom. She made us peanut-butter sandwiches and they were pretty great...but nowhere near as amazing as the simple fact that she – an adult, another kid's mom – collected comic books.
These days, more adults read comics than kids probably, but back then, Marvel and DC were still doing their damnedest to keep the 7-14 crowd enthralled in the four color fantasies they produced month-in and month-out. If older readers stuck with the series that captured their imaginations during their youths, that was fine, too, but comics – especially superhero comics – were still being created with mop-headed kids like me in mind.
Mrs. Thomas, I later learned, just plain loved to read. She liked science fiction and fantasy, and since she'd been reading comics since she was a young girl, she still enjoyed reading about the characters she'd grown up with. She'd didn't have quite the same level of fanatical enthusiasm for the fabulous F.F. and the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing that I did, but she still liked comics enough to know how I felt and, more importantly, why I felt that way.
Various people had told her it was "stupid" or "silly" for her to read comics, from the time she was a girl right up until she'd married and had kids, but she didn't mind. "Comics aren't just for kids anymore," she'd say, years before DC Comics actually started using that phrase as one of their many marketing taglines. I don't think she was referring to what would later become the growing trend toward more mature subject matter, though. Instead, I think she simply meant that the stories were fun enough to be enjoyed by readers of all ages. People thought less in terms of demographics and focus groups, then, so maybe it was just a different time.
Whatever the case, Mrs. Thomas made an indelible impression upon my young mind, so much so that when my parents would pester me about collecting comics in the years that followed, I'd often respond by mentioning Robert Thomas and his comic-collecting mother. And all these years later, I still think she's a pretty neat lady.
Even if I never did know her full name.