SD Reader Cover

We did it! I would like to take this opportunity to thank the USPS, for making this opportunity possible.

Also, a very nice blurb about the story in this morning’s edition of Voice of San Diego:

Walking the Mail Beat

San Diego Reader cover stories can be a major drag to read, but this week’s is an unusual treat: it’s a snappily written and engaging first-person tale by a young man who got a job as a temporary mail carrier.

The writer talks about, among other things, an hour-long video about dog “language” (I’d like to get the Berlitz version), the perennial threat posed by snarly Post Office supervisors (wait, all bosses aren’t delightful dreamboats?), and the rash of carriers who call in sick on rainy days (and the bounty they miss around Christmas).

Read the story here!

Last Night on Earth (final cover)

There it is, folks.

It was barely over a year ago that Justin and I were drinking whiskey on my front porch, and he was telling me about his idea for a book. It was an idea that we’ve all thought about – what would you do with 24 hours to live?

We wanted to go further than an creating an anthology–we wanted to create a crowd-sourced book that followed a singular, narrative arc. We had pretty specific rules:

  • Try to write a scene that takes place during one particular time of the day. This will be much easier for us to edit into the final product than if you write a story that spans the entire day. If you do need to use different moments in time during the last day, try to break them up into smaller separate scenes. We’ll be arranging the final stories in a chronological order that takes the reader through the entire last day on earth, and are able to revisit your story at multiple points throughout the book.
  • The recurring idea that has arisen from discussing the concept over the last two years is that for most of us, we only appreciate parts of our lives when they’re over. By knowing we are going to end, we’d actually notice and value how we live, once the expectation of “a future” is removed. You do not have to agree or follow that idea, but I thought it worth sharing.

A recap of the general rules of the world and our time-line:

  • No mass hysteria.
  • No available air travel.
  • The end will come suddenly but painlessly, shortly after midnight / during early morning in the dark hours.
  • The roads, depending on where you are, may be clogged with traffic but are open.
  • It is never specified how the end of the world is coming.
  • Phones connect sporadically.

I’m thrilled with the amount of talent in this book. We are on our third round of editing, and we have a pretty good idea of how the book is turning out. I’m just going to say that you should be pretty excited.

Burgers, Bill Murray & SXSW: Finding Connections in Austin

I get a facebook message from Craig Oliver asking if I want to go to SXSW with him: a 22-hour drive from San Diego to Austin, both ways, to promote his label, Volar Records. We don’t have badges, don’t know where we’re staying, but says he’ll figure it out when we get there.

He sends me the message two days before we’re supposed to leave.

“What do you think?” I ask my wife, Jessica. “It’s kind of short notice and I know Craig, but I don’t KNOW know him. Plus, I got plenty of stuff I need to do.”

Jessica, newly-tanned from a week-long cruise—a Girls’ Trip but one I couldn’t afford anyway—looks at me with disbelief. “Things to do?” she says. “Like what?”

She has a right to be incredulous. I’ve spent our entire married life—about six months—unemployed.

I’ve gotten weird.

I justify not leaving the house so I can finish my Black Metal screenplay. I eat an abundance of apples and apple-flavored Nature Valley Bars to somehow compensate for my lack of exercise. Upon Jessica’s return from the cruise, she found all our reusable grocery bags in the fridge.

“You should go,” she says. “It’ll be a better opportunity than any listing posted on craigslist this week.”

This is her really nice way of saying: you need to get the fuck out of the house.

I’m 27, married and this is the first time I’ve been on tour. Really, I thought my window had closed. I spent my teens in a pop-punk band called The Flare whose claim to fame was playing the band in the made-for-TV Disney movie The Poof Point (I’m credited as “Ryan”). These factors do not add up to the romanticized sleeping-on-couches/playing-in-basements aspects of touring that I craved so much. Simply, there’s nothing punk about The Poof Point.

Our touring “band” is me, Oliver and Peter Holslin, music editor for the San Diego CityBeat. A car full of music-writers and musicians makes for a strange dynamic, like giving your assassin a ride to your execution.

Not that I’m really a music writer. In my 20s, I spent nearly three years writing about music for the numerous publications until I became burnt-out on it. At first, I found it fun to live vicariously through these bands I interviewed, sort of an extension of my own failed musical career. But there were only so many times I could listen to a band talk about our great-but-underappreciated scene. I hated rewarding mediocrity because it was “local.” I ran out of adjectives (writers should be allotted the word “blistering” once a year).

Before I leave, I send a few emails to some of my old contacts, telling them that I’m going to be at SXSW, seeing if they need coverage. Only one person gets back to me, telling that they already have someone down there. When Holslin asks who I’m providing coverage for, I say, “Oh, I have a couple places I could send it to…”  and trail off.

****

Holslin and Oliver. Texas has the most terrifying PSAs at their rest areas.

Oliver and Holslin love music. It sounds like a really stupid claim, but I know tons of people that are into music that don’t really love it. I’ve recently recognized that quality in myself, and it’s utterly dismaying. I sit in the back seat and listen to them gush about local artists and I can’t think of an album I’ve bought in the last five years that would make my Desert Island list. It feels like the last time I was truly interested in something was the ’92 Barcelona Dream Team, and that was when I was eight. I spend my days listening to the punk I was into when I was 16: Hot Water Music, Jawbreaker, Refused, Samiam, etc.

I love Holslin’s enthusiasm, especially. His excitement about everything is earnest and sincere, almost to the point that, if you didn’t know he doesn’t drink or use drugs, you’d swear he were high. “Whoa man. This groove is… killer!” And he’ll often punctuate his enthusiasm with repeating the phrase, albeit in a cooler way: “This groove is total killage”. He’ll nod, then I’ll nod, because yes the groove is killer. He also doesn’t have a driver’s license, which he doesn’t tell us until his after he’s already started driving.

****

Soft Riot is a band from the UK that Oliver wants to sign to Volar Records. He plays a track called “Your Secret Light Shines At Night”. It’s a brooding, minimalist electronic track punctuated by horror organ (horrgan?). It’s hypnotic, terrifying and puts me in a trance as I-10 races under us.

It’s 3 AM and we’ve just spent the last half-hour talking about ghosts and aliens. Oliver and Holslin fall asleep. The music sends a chill down my arms. I’m sure West Texas is haunted and I’m ready for all the highway ghosts to show themselves.

****

We arrive at Trailer Space Records around 3:30 pm. I’ve had roughly 4 hours of sleep in the last 24 hours. The day is overcast and muggy. It’s my first time in Austin. The air holds me.

It’s only two minutes into Austin and we’re already drinking. A Burger Records showcase is going on at Trailer Space Records, where kids smoke openly inside and there are two massive tubs of icy Lone Stars that await us.  Oliver immediately knows everyone there. I trail behind him like a quiet satellite, awkward and increasingly disheveled. Everyone talks music and I don’t have anything to add to the conversation—a sidekick with the occasional one-liner.

Burger Records is home to a slew of bands including Nobunny, The Oh Sees, and Jacuzzi Boys. They have (by my count) at least 4 all-day showcases happening during SXSW and might be the most important thing happening in punk rock right now—a grand presumption that I come to after my fourth free beer. One of Oliver’s “Rules of SXSW” is that you can only drink cheap beer to keep the stamina up (actually, the only rule). I watch The Cosmonauts play some hard-driving garage rock, the staple sound of Burger.

I take a picture of my Lone Star and text it to Jessica. I tell her we should move to Austin. She replies: “So free beer but no free abortions? I’ll think about it.” I find this hilarious and laugh out loud.

I get sidetracked into talking with a wiry fellow named 4AM, who got his name from the time-slot he used to begin his electronic music sets in Europe. He’s drunk and wishes they had a Lasik surgery that would let him read his cellphone better when he’s intoxicated.

Somehow it’s gotten dark and we leave Trailer Space to go downtown. Holslin heads off to get his official SXSW badge, given to him through the CityBeat. Oliver and I go to the Sacred Bones showcase at the Elysium to see Zola Jesus, Wymond Miles and The Men, but not before eating a sausage wrapped in a tortilla. They call that barbeque in Texas. We eat them in an ally adjacent to the Fiona Apple line that stretches around the block. A girl passing us looks at the line and says “We’re lucky we don’t get excited for popular things.”

****

This is what I tell Oliver outside the Elysium: “I don’t have a problem with music, I have a problem with how it’s written about.  The example I think of is the last Kanye West album.  Yes, It was good, but after the perfect scores given to it by Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, music writers had this obligation to become more elaborate in their praise. Because nobody is doing anyone a favor—music writers like music, sure, but they’re writing to get read. And in some cases, they use their vitriol or praise—

(hiccup)

—they use their vitriol to build their own cult of self. You see this kind of local-god stuff in a lot alt-weeklies and radio-personalities. Cantankerous writers who emphasize their own agenda over the music they write about the worst thing to happen to whatever credibility music journalism has left. Anyway, so these writers are piling praise after praise on this Kanye West album so their take on it will stand out from the pool of other blogs. While it was a good album, it wasn’t nearly as great as everyone said it was. Everyone wanted their voice to be heard. In essence, it’s not that music has become boring, but it has become a victim to those who write about it.”

I don’t remember what Oliver said to prompt that.

****

You can’t buy beer in at Austin grocery stores after midnight. I don’t know why we’re looking for more; I have to walk around just to keep from falling asleep. We end up back near Trailer Space—a few kids hang out in the parking lot. There’s a bar around the corner and rapper Danny Brown is playing to about 50 people there. And we only came for the beer.

****

I wake up on a hardwood floor in a single-room apartment. It’s nearly 1 PM. I don’t sleep this well in beds. Oliver sleeps beside me a leather love seat too small for him. His body remains straight and he looks like a surf board.

The apartment belongs to Clarke Wilson, a member of Burger Records’ The Vomettes and Volar Records’ Cowabunga Babes. He’s very welcoming and has the soft features of a Shel Silverstein drawing. He buys us breakfast tacos which look surprisingly like burritos. I learn that that’s what they’re called in Austin.

Wilson also lives within walking distance to Spider House, a woodsy, sprawling indoor/outdoor coffee shop and bar that reminds me vaguely of an Ewok village. Oliver turns around and tells me that this is where Psyche Fest is going on. We pass four stages before entering an inconspicuous door that seems that it should be hidden by a bookcase. The room is dark; the stage is lit red. The air-conditioning and the coffee I drink make me feel good. Alive again.

LA band Cold Showers plays. Afterwards, Oliver asks me if I want a beer. I suppose it’s about that time.

****

When Jessica told me that she was going on a cruise, I bought David Foster Wallace’s collection of essays A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. In the titular essay, Foster Wallace spends a week on the exact same cruise that Jessica was going on. It’s a fantastic portrait of a mind that loves low culture but cannot connect to it without intellectualizing it. He spends pages breaking down the cruise’s brochure but throws a fit when a 9-year-old beats him at chess. Most of his problems with the cruise seem to come from his own neurosis.

I’m thinking about this essay when during a Mikal Cronin set featuring Ty Segal, who is absolutely killing it on guitar while ollying on a skateboard.  Everybody looks mildly amused. Everybody crosses arms over their beer bellies. Everybody has beer bellies and concave shoulders from hunching over computers. They have spotty facial hair and unflattering, long hair that only accentuates their balding. All the girls have bangs. They all thumb the screens on their smartphones. These are the bloggers that control the fates of these bands.

Jesus, I think. Why can’t they just have fun?

****

Here’s a list of everything I eat on the trip:

– 2 In N Out Burgers/fries/sodas

– Egg/sausage burrito

– Bag of assorted chips (snack mix)

– Starbucks doubleshot

– Sausage rolled in tortilla (bbq)

– 2 bags of fritos

– 1 sausage/egg breakfast taco, 2 chorizo breakfast tacos

– 7 slices of pizza

– Pack of donettes

– Bag of mini Nutter Butters

– Shredded beef bbq sandwhich

– Jambalaya

– Huevos rancheros

****

That night, we go to see Thee Oh Sees at a genuine wood mill. The space is large and only a quarter filled. Signs everywhere tell you to not smoke, but a group in the parking lot has started a bonfire which, in addition to the playground climbing dome out here, makes it feel like a Mad Max movie. A fire marshal patrols the perimeter, anxiously eating trail mix out of a baggie. He seems to be hired by the show-organizers to cover their asses, but he looks like he’s in over his head. As a shirtless man fans the bonfire with a large piece of cardboard, he visually measures the distance between the fire and the wood-mill before walking away. He picks his battles; surely an intervention would cause an uprising of Lord of the Flies magnitude.

Fancy beer cools in orange, industrial hampers, free for the taking. We’re on our second or third when Oliver begins talking about girls.

Craig Oliver might be the most out-going person I’ve met in San Diego. He loves meeting people and making friends, but he never forces himself upon you. Shadowing him, I get the sense that he’s a superstar in Austin—taking and giving hugs to everyone, dishing out warm heeey buddys by the boatload.

But Oliver has a dark side, and Volar Records couldn’t be a more apt reflection of it. Volar has two taglines that exemplify this duality: “Community Not Competition” and “Give Me Your Weird.” Volar’s arguably most-famous bands, The Beaters and Ale Mania, are punk bands with slight garage-rock leanings, which gives lazy music writers the excuse to categorize Volar as a punk/garage label. Going through Volar’s catalog, however, I find that every band is considerably darker and meaner than anything Burger puts out. In my opinion, The Beater’s Fishage album could give anything put out by Steve Albini a run for its money. That doesn’t even count the gothic psych sound of Oliver’s own band, Spirit Photography.

Actually, we’re not talking about girls, we’re talking about the gym. It’s a casual topic I bring up during one of my drunken fits of body-anxiety and the fact that these Lone Stars are doing nothing for my unemployed physique.

“No, I’ve never joined a gym,” he says. “But there was a few years ago where I went through this break-up and I just began running. I wasn’t even that overweight. I would run like four miles a day. Not even for the exercise, just to keep me from going crazy. I lost like 20 pounds.” He goes on about close relationships that destruct once the prospect of commitment enters. He talks of just wanting somebody to watch movies and have breakfast with. We talk about parents. We talk about the dark shit that we’re attracted to—the music, the books we read. A disjointed conversation rooted in commitment and beer. We’re looking for what the other has: two different connections, but connections all the same.

We watch a band called the K-Holes destroy. We leave to meet up with Holslin at a funnel cake stand. He tells us that the Tom Morello secret performance turned out to be a bust. “It was a bust, man,” he says. “A major, total bust.”

****

The Volar/Burger showcase is an all-day event that takes place at The Grand, a pool hall in the center of a dilapidated strip mall. The façade looks suspiciously retro-future, or like the helmet that Shredder wore in the Ninja Turtle cartoons. The space is massive; the bands are tucked into the corner, next pinball machines (Tales from the Crypt, Addams Family) and in front of the glass exit, which makes taking decent pictures impossible.

Everyone has the disgruntled/tired look that comes partying from two days straight. I drink luke-warm coffee from the bar, anxious about a phone interview I’m about to have. It’s a marketing position for a company that sells Astroturf—the main responsibilities are spreading the brand’s image through social media and other campaigns. I’ve come up with a mock campaign to send along with my resume that I won’t get into detail here, but if “Turf Wars” ever becomes a thing, you’ll know where it came from.

I get the call. The interviewer asks me what my interests are. Specifically, she asks why I’m passionate about social media. It’s a tough question. I stutter and grasp for what I like about internet blogging, facebook, twitter, whatever. She stops me and says “I think there’s a poor connection.” I find a place where she can hear me and tell her that I like engaging with online communities.

****

The Stalins of Sound are a three-piece synth-punk band who plays to a drum machine. They wear black, quasi-Fascist uniforms and scream, but after two days of listening white-dudes-with-guitars-rock, the sound is incredibly refreshing. A drunk guy in a “Wasted Youth” shirt and an orange hat forms a one-man mosh pit, jumping and kicking on the slippery tile. He leaves once they are done.

Comfort returns as a country band with cute girls plays next.

****

With so many people paying attention to their smartphones, it’s very easy to cut in line everywhere you go. I learn this from my friend Nick, who doesn’t wait in line. I play along because these are the kind of places I’d rather die than wait in line for: dance clubs, sports bars and rooftop bars.

I’ve known Nick since high school and have seen him off and on since. He lives in Austin now and gets in touch after he knew I was coming to SXSW. He calls me around 9—Oliver’s pool hall showcase still has 5 hours left—and asks if I want to go downtown with him to 6th Street.

While we drive, he tells me that he moved to Austin to get away from a girl. He tells me  of a marriage that didn’t work out.  He moved to Austin to disconnect.

We push our way into a shitty dance club called Barcelona to meet up with a potential hookup for him. We end up doing shots of tequila, clearly breaking Oliver’s cheap beer rule. The girl Nick came to meet shuts him down. She’s not very attractive; Nick doesn’t seem all too upset.

6th Street is filled like Mardi Gras. Kids take their shirts off and challenge each other to fights while tourists take pictures.

We end up on the roof of a bar called either The Green Pig or Maggie Mae’s. The crowd here is considerably more attractive than at the rock shows, but in the kind of way that you’d see in Vegas or the Gaslamp, San Diego. Everything feels disingenuous. Bartenders keep their tips without offering change. Everyone grinds each other while a man with a shitty pork-pie hat butchers a rendition of Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” Every band I see on this main drag wears a hat of this variety, and they all look like terrible versions of Smashmouth. I have a feeling that this is why the majority of people come to SXSW: drinking, mostly. But also boring bands, skanky girls and side-boob.

He drops me off at a Wendys where I meet up with Oliver and Holslin. Holslin tells us all about how he ended up at a Norah Jones concert. “It was a weird, man. I’m not even a big fan. Someone in the audience asked her out on a date. What a dork.”

****

I can remember the first time I went in a mosh-pit. I was 15 years old and watching a melodic punk band called Ten Foot Pole. They were opening up for Millencolin on a Punk-O-Rama tour. A band called Osker opened up for them. I watched from the back as the crowd moved and pumped their fists in unison. I pushed my way through and was picked up and thrown to the other side as someone caught me. That was more than ten years ago.

I think about it as I watch Peter Case and Paul Collins from The Nerves play Burger’s Spider House Showcase. It’s our last night in town.

Before they go on, guys with sacks of foil-wrapped burgers launch them into a hungry crowd. Nothing could make more sense. Bill Murray walks onstage to announce the band. He asks the crowd if anyone would like some pretzels before claiming we are all in Burger Heaven. The crowd pushes to get a photo of him. It feels revelatory.

Case and Collins play classics I didn’t even know I loved: “Hanging on a Telephone,” “Don’t Wait Up for Me Tonight,” and “A Million Miles Away,” one of my dad’s favorite songs and seems laced with meaning. I text Jessica: #imissyou. Hashtag jokes are our thing. I get pushed further into the crowd as people go crazy for these power-pop legends. They run through a catalog of The Nerves, The Beat, the Plimsouls songs—they look like they’ve never played such an eager audience. A mosh pit doesn’t break out, but people are holding each other, dancing. This tent is hot, humid and for the first time it feels like there isn’t a disconnect between band and audience. People are not watching critically. There’s no over-analysis; nobody is holding their iphones up—this will not be a video on youtube anytime soon. This is the community that can only exist in music.

****

30 hours later, I wash the jambalaya out of my jeans.

Tutorial: How to Make a Flyer for Your Local Stand-Up Comedy Night

Stand-up comedy flyers are complex beasts: how do you convey the level of hilarity at your show while providing the essential information?

Open a new project in Photoshop. I use PS3, but I’ve found that an effective flyer can also be made with MS Paint. Default “web” project will be in 640 x 480 (or landscape). You’ll want to invert those numbers to get a portrait layer. Nothing funny has ever been made in landscape. Or, no fatty flyers, amirite??

Next, find a suitable background. There are plenty of gradients that will give you the option of choosing two simultaneous colors. I’ve picked yellow and orange because they caught my eye first. And that’s key in creating effective marketing: catching the eye is way more important that making it look good. Like a train wreck, your eye is immediately drawn to it.

For this example, I set my stand-up night in Laughlin, NV because it had the built-in joke. You might have to stretch to find puns, word-plays in your own community, but this step is very important. Do not let people think your comedy night is bland, and for the most part, people like a good jab at their city. Off the top of my head, “San Fransciscjoke”, “Butt Lake City”, and “Salad Toss Angeles” are just a couple more examples. Feel free to use them.

“Support the Troupes” is a reference to both the patriotic slogan and the age-old comedy “troupe”. This will tell people that you’re populist and all are welcome. A credential or accolade doesn’t hurt either.

Notice that I’ve used three very hilarious fonts. The first is called “Porky’s” and manipulated into an arch shape. This tells people that I’m bending the rules. Things are going to get wacky. The next font is called “Pizzicato-Swash.” Pizza! Getting hungry already. Finally, the showtunes-looking one is “Budmo Jiggler,” which sounds like how I order a drink when I’m drunk: Hey Bud! Mo jiggler! Feel free to use that too.

General rule of thumb: if you can’t decide on one font, just use all the funny ones. People who tell you that it looks “busy” or “shitty” are idiots.

Next up is finding your “troupe”. Stand-up comedians are a wily bunch, many of whom will not return emails or send you a headshot. In that case, you raid their facebook for the best pictures you can find. I’ve added a picture of myself drinking out of a boot, which is inherently funny. Oi Oi! Give em the boot!

Sometimes you’ll have to crop pictures from larger pictures to effectively highlight your comedian. Sometimes stretching happens. I don’t know how to fix that.

It’s alright if you throw in some local inside jokes here too. I don’t know what or who The Gooch is, but it creates some intrigue. If I had a little more space, I’d add his famous catchline: “Here coma de Gooch!”

Information is key. Make sure people know when and where the thing is happening. “No cover for ladies” shows respect and lets them know that it’s not just a boys club. The string of exclamation points reinforces this fact.

Nearly done! In this case, you may notice some empty space in the upper corners, which screams amateur hour, but nothing that a couple pieces of clip art can’t fix.

And voila!

Hope this was helpful.

Everything I’ve Learned About Producing an Independent Comic (and what I still have to learn)

Two years ago, I had a dream to produce a comic called Edgewater. The story centered around a a society… ugh… beginning a synopsis with the word “society” is the most pretentious sci-fi cliche. I can already hear you snoring.

Edgewater is a small town. Robotic companions are not only the norm, but have infiltrated the sex market (because: of course they would). Sexbots, they are.

The conflict of Edgewater arises when somebody begins “killing” off the sexbots. At the time of writing, I was really interested in how technology affects intimacy and the age-old “body-as-commodity” theme.

It’s touchy subject matter for sure, and really not for everyone’s taste. Combine that with my non-existent experience in comics, the only way to get it produced was for us to put up the money myself. Luckily, I had an artist: Zandria Sturgill. We had worked together on a grotesque children’s book Christmas Follies of the Half Jewish Lobster, so I knew that she had the skills to produce something great, something that didn’t turn away from the subject matter. She agreed to illustrate Edgewater with the proper funding.

Back then, there was a new, invite-only site called Kickstarter, and I decided to give it a try. I made a video, wrote some goofy text and put it up. I hadn’t even written a script yet.

Through some very strange, very serendipitous events, we received all the funding and then some. I can only describe the feeling as “magical”. It was the first time I’ve ever been funded to create anything.

But a lot can change in two years.

(The part where I offer a lot of scatter-brained, sometimes contradictory statements and pass it off as advice)

Beware the Kickstarter

On the whole, I think Kickstarter is a really fantastic site. Incentive-based crowd funding is genius (no matter what the haters say).

But Kickstarter projects require no due dates. This is good for artists, bad for pledgers. Over two years, your priorities shift: you find a real job, you take-on projects with due dates. You lose family members, you gain some. You get married. You change careers. All of these have happened during the course of Edgewater.

The whole idea of strangers funding your work is also a bit daunting and I would probably not do it again. Family and friends are privy to your struggles/victories in life, which only sound like excuses to strangers. It’s an uncomfortable position that creates a lot of anxiety.

It seems really irresponsible to blame kickstarter for not setting stricter boundaries for due dates and artists. I really just want present the mindset/parameters that allow a project to drag on.

Obvious Advice: Don’t take 2 years to complete a project

I love Zandria. She is one of the most talented, outgoing, thoughtful and thoughtful people I’ve met. But we’re different people than we were two years ago. Even if her art says otherwise, Edgewater does not interest her anymore. She’s tired of monochrome. Sexy robots were my thing, not hers…

Were. Even my writing has changed/improved immensely. I’m afraid to look at the original script, fearing that it will be too schlocky, angsty or overtly genre. Robots just don’t hold the appeal that they did for me two years ago.

It’s easy to go back and trace the project’s erosion. Our emails when the project was funded are long, full of numerous links, clips, inspirations and excited language. Now, we communicate through clipped text messages.

Treat your artistic collaborations as professionally as possible.

It’s sad that our friendship has suffered during this whole process, which I know could be alleviated if I was a bigger asshole through the beginning stages of this project, if I took charge as more of a “boss”. People are paying us, after all.

In my opinion, the let’s have a good time attitude rarely produces good art. Negative reinforcement is not productive, but I think conflict can produce some truly impressive stuff.

The part where I mention the comic is nearly done.
After all that: Yes, Edgewater is close to being done. I’m not going to say when, because making promises is another lesson I’ve learned not to do. Despite the bitching, the pressure, the passive-aggressive, bickering emails, I couldn’t be happier to tell you that Zandria is sending me ready-to-print pages. It’s the kind of stuff that makes your hair stand on end. In every panel, I can see her conflict with the art, which (to me at least) holds a very abrasive, kinetic energy which is very fun to look at. We’ve been wallowing in the dark for so long, these images feel like rockets that shoot us into the sun.

I’m excited about Edgewater again.

What you can do to help.

– Write a comment. We’re always fishing for compliments–they make our engine work faster.

– I’m still unsure of how this will get printed. I’ve looked at Ka-Blam and have read pretty mixed reviews. Anyone know of a better printer that will cater to comics?

– In the same vein, what platform do people use now to put comics on tablets? I’ve been impressed with how comics look on tablets and really want to push that. Any info about that would be awesome.

– If you’re a comic publisher, you could buy Edgewater, pay us lots of money for it, and print it on golden plates. I’m not really asking for too much here.

Thanks.

On Horror Writing

I wrote Horror Business between the ages of 22-23 during a time when I was obsessed with B-movie horror and reading a lot of horror theory. At the time, I think I wanted it to come off as my own critique of horror and male adolescence. Really pretentious stuff.

I self-published through Lulu, sold enough copies to pay my Brooklyn rent for a couple months (thank you family and friends!). It’s gone through a couple revisions, gotten a shout-out by Jim Ruland, but I think it’s pretty much gone as far as a self-published piece can go.

“Bradford’s debut is both a spirited homage to horror and a cautionary tale about the perils of loving scary movies too much.” – Jim Ruland

There is some admittedly embarrassing writing (plot-devices), but there’s also some really sharp scenes that I can go back and read without closing my eyes. It wasn’t until I started researching places to submit that I realized how hard it is to sell horror without relegating it to genre-fiction. I think that Horror Business is a little more introspective (timid?) than  bloodlusty/Fangoria-esque writing that marks genre horror, but maybe not as lyrical as some of the horrific indie-lit that comes to mind (done really well by Blake Butler and Nick Antosca).

You’re Not Unemployed. You’re a Freelance Writer.

“It’s for a student movie.”

These are the words Mike Gooodman uses when his mom catches him masturbating in front of the family video camera.

Granted, there aren’t many things to say in this situation: sitting at the edge of your bed, covered, waist-down, while the camera pointed at your crotch counts the seconds out. It’s amazing that he thinks of anything.

And even more amazing that Mrs. Goodman seems to buy it. She is a lot of things: devout Mormon, government conspiracist… But Mrs. Goodman has never been a connoisseur of the arts.

But for his next birthday, Mike receives his very own video camera, so he can film whatever he wants, on his own time, without endangering the family equipment.

We never ask Mike why he was filming himself. Let me remind you that this is before the age of camera phones or sexting; no youtube, no porntube, no youporn. The only audience for this video is Mike, and the amount of meta that goes into making a masturbation movie for your own enjoyment is some fifth-level Inception shit.

We’re not excited about why he does it, we’re just excited about that he does it. In the name of art! The Student Film. Any tomfoolery is tolerated when you’re holding a video camera. And one thing is for sure: Mrs. Goodman never bothers us again.

Over the years, the phrase “It’s for a student movie” becomes less believable. Youtube comes along and makes the Film Degree the biggest joke of academia. Suddenly, everyone is jerking off in front of cameras and nobody cares about the mise-en-scene or the F-stops anymore. It’s all poor lighting and awkward angles. It’s disgusting.

I jump ship to the second-most useless degree. I become an English major.

I become a writer.

After four years of traversing the English program, I emerge on the other side with more knowledge of the phallus than Mike’s movie could ever teach me; I also come out with a line. The line, in fact! The five words that get me into and out of every adventure of my adult life: “I am a freelance writer.”

The beauty of this role is that it doesn’t require credentials, props or costumes (although a grizzled beard won’t hurt). Even the English degree is unnecessary. You, you and you, sir, can all be freelance writers!  Even the title sounds attractive: Freelance —you answer to no one. Writer—you probably have access to top-notch antidepressants.

“I’m a freelance writer.” The line gets me into music and film festivals. I get VIP treatment at the CMJ music showcase. I meet my hero George Romero. I get access to more House Party-themed photo-shoots than the average person.

I use it to get an internship at Vice.

In this environment my freelance power fades. I’m simply known as The New Guy. The other intern, an 18-year-old fashion blogger, uses her title to seduce the entire editorial staff, none of whom are at all interested in my story lines. I spend my days cleaning toilets assaulted by vegans and fishing American Spirits out of ashtrays, waiting for the opportunity to show them that I am more than just The New Guy.

That opportunity comes in the form of an invite to a cooking presentation. The email reads:

 Vapor cooks better

Learn Why & Taste How

Join us for the Launch of 360 Cookware — a revolutionary, eco-advanced

new line with an innovative new cooking method.

Don’t get me wrong: this sounds like capital The Worst, but I’m sure no one else will volunteer to cover it—automatic blog post for me. Also, I’m poor and fairly certain I can get a free pot out of it. (Cooked ramen? Everything is going Bradford!)

According to the email, the demonstration centers on these pots that utilize the “power of vapor” to cook food better. How is this different from steam? I’m not sure, but I am thrilled to call bullshit. I pitch the idea for the blog and the Vice editor says yes.

I get to the place—some non-descript warehouse loft on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Outside, a group of food-bloggers have gathered to bitch about some terrible restaurant that just opened. I try to fit in by sharing the only bit of food-knowledge I know: That the first KFC was built in Salt Lake City. One of the writers smugly says “I knew that.” It makes me want to stomp on both his toes and say “Double down, mutha fuckaaaa!” I run inside instead.

The man who guards the entrance cannot find my name on the RSVP list.

This is the moment.

I stand straight, look him in the eyes, and don my Freelance Writer disguise.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I say, “I’m a freelance writer for Vice Magazine. There must have been some mix-up.” The man with the list gets the biggest smile. A little stream of drool falls out of the corner of his mouth.

“My and my friends love the Dos and Don’ts,” he says.

I say, “Thank you, I write all of them.”

He ushers me in.

A spokeswoman from the 360 company takes us into a serene, bleach-white loft that looks less like a set for a cooking presentation and more like a scene from Gattaca. Everyone is well-dressed and has that passive, blank stare that I assume people from the future have. I become aware of my own stained shirt and ripped jeans, so I start the game I play when I’m in awkward situations: become the drunkest person in the room in the least amount of time.

Once word gets out that I am from Vice, people begin treating me with the same trepidation and fear as you would upon finding and viewing your son’s masturbation video. One of the marketing women from the 360 company starts talking about online traffic and the business-prospects of twitter, but since I only tweet about haunted houses and Dunkin Donuts, I can’t relate. The conversation ends with me recommending that she “tell the boys in the lab to make a 360 pot big enough to cook a turkey.” I say this with the conviction of a man who cooks turkeys on the reg. She does one of those “I’m gonna  stand over there” things.

By the time the actual presentation starts, I am about five or six cabernets in so the details are a little hazy. I do remember that there are five layers of stainless steel in each 360 pot and that cooking with vapor “locks in the flavor.” They keep describing how the food is “moist” and “stewing its own juices.” It grosses me out so I leave.

On my way out, the enthusiastic Vice fan gives me a door prize: my very own 360 pot! (I also take a wine glass, which isn’t a door prize, but pretty easy to fit up my sleeve)

The first thing I do when I get home is test the pot myself. I can’t wait to call bullshit. I am dismayed, however, when the awesome vapor locks in my ramen’s Oriental flavor. Vapor: one; freelance writer: zero.

Making of – Last Night on Earth book cover

I recently came across an article that heralded the importance of cover art, to which I absolutely agree. I think  the “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover…” saying is more applicable to people in Rachael Leigh Cook movies than books now.

At the moment, I’m co-editing a collection called “Last Night on Earth” – a novel approach to the anthology that travels through multiple authors’ final 24-hours – what they would do, how they would live, etc. Kind of like a crowd-sourced book. The stories range from bleak, funny, heartbreaking, despairing and hopeful.

I wanted to design a cover that encompassed all of those. This is what I came up with:

I knew I wanted it to be black and white. I wanted it to be stark. I had the idea of the world blown away like sand. You can kind of do this effect in Photoshop (with the smear finger), but I’ve never had much luck getting things to look organic with that. So I searched “earth stencil” in google which came up with:

I threw that into photoshop, inverted the image and made it black and white — so black continents on a white ocean. I printed that image out.

Using a Uni Ball Vision Elite BOLD pen, I scribbled on the edges of the continents. The ink in these pens is very susceptible to smearing, so after scribbling I ran my finger over it… creating that smeared/blown-sand look. I had to do it a couple times to get the wind-direction somewhat consistent.

Finally (original scan):

I liked how it looked slightly Stephen Gammell-ish, but ultimately didn’t like the garish, coal look. I threw it back into photoshop, re-inverted the image, and upped the levels. It looked good. It looked like sand/snow-blown. But it also looked glowing – as if everyone’s last night is going to be lit-up, celebratory. It seems bleak and uplifting at the same time. Singular and iconic.

Hopefully, you enjoy it.