Author Archives: Douglas

the muttering whistle

You know: the one that says “if I could only tell you about the things I’m working on now.” But I can’t! So I mutter and whistle and whistle-mutter instead.

New bylines:

*at MTV Hive, a history of the various incarnations of Black Flag, and a roundup of bands inspired by My Bloody Valentine

*at eMusic, interviews with FIDLAR and Local Natives, plus a review of the Hot French Chicks in the Garage compilation

*in O magazine and, a little piece about Becky Cloonan

And I made a pretty good winter-melon soup with little pieces of tofu in it the other day; that counts for something, right? (I also tried to make a sauce for veggie “khao man gai” from this recipe–it took me a little while to find all the ingredients, but I did it–but what came out was way way too salty. Back to the drawing board.)

three limericks about Television

A while ago, I offered (as a premium for the Best Music Writing Kickstarter) to write three limericks apiece, clean or dirty, about the musical artist or recording of five backers’ choice. (All five picked “dirty.”) One of them–Bryan Waterman, the author of Television’s Marquee Moon (33 1/3)–asked specifically for limericks about the Richard Hell-era lineup of Television. Here’s what I came up with; I managed to sneak in a lot of in-jokes about the band, including a sideways reference to my favorite unreleased song of theirs…

Theresa’s mien on the marquee
Means there’s only one foxhole–oh me!
++A more aching-tushed fool
++Says Stern’s johnny’s a jewel–
She’s a TV Rrose Sélavy.

Richard Hell’s clothing lacks enough closure
For the Bowery coppers’ composure.
++The fuzz don’t mind the nip,
++But his jeans’ jimmy rip
Gets him busted for double exposure.

So they grill Richie down at the station:
“Are these duds how you get circulation
++To your glamorous willie?”
++He snaps “Just ask Hilly:
I’m part of the ______ deviation.”


Recent stuff I’ve published:

*The last three “Dredd Reckoning” reviews: on Insurrection, the third Judge Anderson: The Psi Files collection, and (with Carl Wilson) Tour of Duty: Mega-City Justice.

*MTV Hive pieces on Yo La Tengo’s “Ohm” and its relatives, and on New Order’s family tree.

*A Pitchfork review of New Order’s Lost Sirens.

the road with a yellow line through it

For the last year or so, I’ve been playing once a month (roughly) at “Cover Songs Super Spectacular” at the Jade Lounge, the bar down the street from my house: people sign up in advance to sing three covers of their choice. Sometimes there’s a theme, usually there isn’t. I bring my ukulele and sing things. The first time I did it, a woman came up to me afterwards and said “you have a beautiful voice, but I think you should really think about getting therapy.” That made me realize I had to keep doing it. (Admittedly, I’d just sung “Pirate Jenny.”)

For some reason, I always like to do at least one song whose narrator is a terrible, terrible person (actually, “Pirate Jenny” is arguably one of those too). This time, all three songs I sang more or less fell into that category: The Who’s “Odorono,” ABBA’s “One of Us” (whose speaker is not a bad person when a woman sings it but definitely is when a man sings it–I like songs whose meaning changes depending on who’s singing them, too), and Momus’s “Bishonen.”

Published this week:

*A Dredd Reckoning piece on Mega-City Undercover Vol. 2: Living the Low Life

*A review of Peter Bagge’s Reset at the Washington Post

*A piece for MTV Hive on Broadcast’s Berberian Sound Studio soundtrack and some of its evident inspirations

*An interview with Warren Ellis about his new novel Gun Machine, over at the L.A. Times

how to make kale chips

I made kale chips and brought them to the New Year’s party I was at a couple of nights ago. They were very, very popular. When I had to leave after a few hours, and picked up the storage container with the last few in it, a friend of mine literally made a little “uh!” sound and grabbed for them. Kale chips are ridiculously expensive per unit weight, but also remarkably easy to make at home. Here’s how I made mine.

Start by soaking a cup of raw cashews (well, they’re not really raw, but you know what I mean) in water for an hour or two. In the meantime, prepare two bunches of Tuscan kale by carefully stripping them off their stems, washing them well, and drying them as much as can be done easily. (You could use curly kale too, and that might even be better. But the Tuscan kale strips are long and delicate!)

Then purée in a food processor until it turns into a paste:

The soaked and drained cashews
The flesh of a red bell pepper (no stem, no seeds)
The juice of a juicy lemon (and, if it’s a good lemon, some of its zest too)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
Maybe a clove of garlic
A little sprinkling of sea salt (the nutritional yeast is already plenty salty)

You’ll need to do this in two batches, most likely, so put half the cashew-pepper-nutritional yeast paste in a bowl, then put half the kale leaves in there and mush it around with your hands until the leaves are unevenly coated. LIttle clumps of the coating here and there are fine, uncoated bits are fine too. It’ll stick. Lay the leaves out on nonstick cookie sheets or baking pans, with as little overlap as possible. (I used two big cookie sheets and still could only cook half the leaves at once. If you have a bunch of nonstick cookie sheets, mazel tov.)

Put them in the oven at its lowest setting, like 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the chips after 20 minutes or so, and every 10 or 15 minutes thereafter. You’re not trying to bake them so much as to dehydrate them. When they’re starting to get pretty dry, take the pans out and flip the chips over with a spatula. When they’re really, truly all dry and crispy, they’re done. If any of them are still kind of damp, they will make all the rest chewy rather than crispy when you put them in the same container.

Let your guests fall upon them ravenously.



onward to Act I

At the New Year’s Eve party I attended last night, a few people asked me what I’m working on these days. And since it’s been a good long while since I actually updated here (for reasons roughly 15 parts laziness to 1 part struggling with blogging software), that’s a decent question. My regular gigs at the moment:

*A weekly column, “Missed Connections,” for MTVHive. (Here’s the archive.)

*A weekly blog, Dredd Reckoning, in which I’m reviewing every collection of Judge Dredd and related comics. (I’ll be completing that project this month, though.) Relatedly: a monthly back-page text feature for IDW’s Judge Dredd series.

*Monthly graphic novel reviews for the Washington Post. (The first, on Brandon Graham et al.’s Prophet vol. 1, is up here.)

*A bimonthly column for Print magazine on album cover design. (A roundup of five of my favorites of 2012 is here.)

Beyond those, I’m contributing somewhere between “occasionally” and “frequently” to a bunch of publications:

*TIME! (Recently: my ten favorite songs of 2012 and a piece on One Direction’s songwriters.)

*The New York Times! (Recently: a graphic novel roundup, and a review of Chris Ware’s Building Stories.)

*Spin! (Recently: an essay about notable very long songs of 2012.)

*The Forward! (Recently: a review of El Iluminado.)

*Pitchfork! (Recently: reviews of Girls Aloud’s Ten and Amy Winehouse’s At the BBC.)

*Kotaku! (Recently: a discussion of various Marvel Now! titles.)

And there are a few still-secret projects in the works. More on those when I can let them be not-so-secret.

the year of the kougin aman

A kougin aman–more properly a Kouign-amann–is a pastry: a little crumpled circle of flour and butter and caramelized sugar and specks of salt. It was the specialty of Alder, a wonderful little cafe that opened down the street from my house in the spring. By the beginning of this week, it was gone. (My son was inconsolable. I was, too, but maybe less demonstrative about it.) I ate many more kougin amans than I wrote posts on lacunae in 2011. That’s fine; I needed a year (mostly) off. And now I can post here any time I want, but I can’t have a kougin aman any time I want it. There’s a parable in there somewhere. 

My friend Alissa just posted a list of her favorite pieces that she wrote in 2011; it’s probably not a bad idea for me to do the same–

1) Comic-Con Strikes Again! –This is the Kindle Single that I wrote (very quickly) about the amazing week-long culture-clash of Comic-Con International. I really enjoyed putting it together, and I’m happy with how it turned out. (It’s 99 cents, but if you don’t feel like shelling out for it and you happen to use Amazon Prime, you can also borrow it for free.)

2) The Smiths Complete –a review for Pitchfork of the entire-Smiths-discography boxed set. For some reason I ended up writing about old albums a lot more than new albums this year, but this band was really good with words, and enough has been written about them that I tried to get a little more playful than usual here.

3) “Monsters Inc.” –a.k.a. “how to write a feature about Lady Gaga if you can’t interview Gaga, see her live, or hear her album within your lead time.” My private title for this story was “Born This Way Has a Cold.” It ended up being an excuse to focus on the thing I think is most interesting about Gaga: her unusual relationship with her fans. 

4) “Fate, Feathers and Death” –a New York Times Book Review piece on Anders Nilsen’s remarkable Big Questions. 

5) “Britney in Miniature” –I’ve been doing a weekly column for Fuse on the relationship between new pop hits and older music; this one deliberately misreads Britney Spears’ video teasers for “Hold It Against Me.”

6) The Complete Case Files 05 –I’ve had more fun writing “Dredd Reckoning,” my weekly blog on Judge Dredd books, than practically anything else I’ve done this year. This particular one, a dialogue with Tucker Stone on the volume where our action hero commits genocide, was a blast. 

7) Kirb Your Enthusiasm #25 –Part of Hilobrow’s series of short meditations on individual Jack Kirby panels, this one on an image from Machine Man
8) “Chester Brown Pays for Sex” –I really enjoyed writing my weekly “Emanata” column on comics for Techland; maybe it (or something similar) will turn up somewhere soon. One never knows. This one (the final column) is about Chester Brown’s vexing Paying For It
9) “The iPad Could Revolutionize the Comic Book Biz–Or Destroy It” This Wired article had the longest gestation of any magazine piece I’ve written, and a lot of its “why hasn’t this happened yet?!?!” complaints are now moot. I enjoyed the process, though, and it’s got some amazing art by Ulises Farinas, Nathan Fox and R. Kikuo Johnson.
10) Arts Journalism Next –Not exactly a piece of writing, and not something I did by myself; this is a collaborative resource I worked on. But I’m pretty proud of it.  
Onward to 2012! 

I have a new thing out!

So I went to Comic-Con International in late July–as you might have gathered from the previous entry–and then I wrote a Kindle Single about it for Amazon. It’s called Comic-Con Strikes Again!, it’s 99 cents, and it’s all about what happens when fan culture collides with entertainment-business marketing. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out; I hope you like it too.

Notes from that Page One panel

At the “Page One” panel (with Jen Van Meter, Greg Rucka and Carla Speed McNeil) that I moderated at Comic-Con 2011, we discussed a bunch of opening pages of comics that we thought were particularly interesting or notable–that set the stage for what followed them in significant ways, or summed up the aesthetic of the whole project really well, or just offered a particularly compelling reason to keep reading. A few people have asked what the pages were that we showed and talked about, so here’s the list:

1. Bryan K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra and José Marzan Jr., *Y: the Last Man* #1

2. Kathryn Immonen and Stuart Immonen, *Moving Pictures*

3. Bryan Talbot, *Heart of Empire* #1

4. Jim Steranko, the Nick Fury story from *Strange Tales* #160

5. Charles Burns, *Black Hole*

6. Mario Hernandez, Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez and Dean Motter, *Mister X *#1

7. Neil Gaiman and Marc Hempel, *The Sandman* #57

8. Alison Bechdel, *Fun Home*

9. Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson, *Kurt Busiek’s Astro City* #1

10. Jaime Hernandez, *Whoa, Nellie!* #1

11. Bruce Jones and Brent Anderson, *Somerset Holmes* #1

12. Dennis O’Neil, Denys Cowan and Rick Magyar, *The Question* #1

13. Alan Moore and Ian Gibson, “The Ballad of Halo Jones” from *2000 AD* #376

14. Jamie Delano and John Ridgway, *Hellblazer* #1

15. Alex Robinson, *Box Office Poison*

an entirely new procedure

Happy 2011: a number that, as somebody noted this morning, is a prime number, and the sum of a prime number of consecutive prime numbers. For what it’s worth.

I’ve just watched [“Dinner for One,”]( the English-language (after its introduction) sketch that’s apparently a lot of non-English-speakers’ idea of what English-language comedy is all about. I can see why it’d be fun to watch once a year on a night associated with a lot of drinking.

As for what’s going on here: I spent the morning cooking–vegetarian Hoppin’ John (the same recipe a quick Google tells me I made eight years ago!), roasted Brussels sprouts, some steamed greens–and the afternoon hosting a little gathering of friends from around here, other states, and other countries. My friends are wonderful.

A couple of people asked for the veggie Hoppin’ John recipe, which I got from Crescent Dragonwagon. In brief:

Soak three cups of dried black-eyed peas, then drain, rinse, and simmer them until they’re soft in enough water to cover (you will need a big pot), along with a couple of canned chipotle chiles, a few bay leaves, an unpeeled onion with half a dozen cloves stuck in it, and couple of unpeeled heads of garlic. When they’re softened, add salt to taste; remove and discard the chipotles, the bay leaves and the onion, and remove but don’t discard the garlic.

While you’re cooking the black-eyed peas, sauté the following chopped-up things in another pan: a big onion, a few red and green peppers, some carrots, a few stalks of celery. Just enough to soften them a bit, really; then turn off the heat.

Back to the beans. Add three cups of water, bring it to a boil, add 1 1/2 cups of long-grain rice, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Take the lid off, but don’t stir it; squeeze the garlic from the heads you boiled earlier onto the top, then put the sautéed vegetables on top, cover again, and simmer for another ten minutes. Turn off the heat and leave it alone for ten minutes. Then stir it up together and you’re done. It may need more salt; it can definitely use pepper; a dash of Tabasco is good if you’re into Tabasco. This serves a *big* party. We probably had 12 or 15 people eating it over here, and we still had a bit left over.

what I did in Los Angeles

I spent two memorable weeks in Los Angeles earlier this month, thanks to the [USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program]( Here’s some of what I got to do:

Met [Larry Bell]( Had his image on the cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s” pointed out to me

Met [Ed Moses](;dept=contemp;method=artist;term=Moses%2C%20Ed). Saw the observation chair/throne he’s set up to view, from above, the room that displays his recent works–he makes a painting every day. Great quote from him: “I’m not an *artist*. What I do has no *meaning*. I’m not trying to *express* myself. What’s the other word I hate? ‘*Creative*.'” Was sternly informed by him that life is precious

Met art historian [Hunter Drohojowska-Philp](, and found out that she’s married to Dave Philp, the singer/guitarist of the Automatics, of “When the Tanks Roll Over Poland Again” ’78 punk fame

Saw former Village Voice food columnist Jeff Weinstein, the deputy director of the program and the guy who was kind enough to host many late-night drink-ups in his suite, read a [piece]( about [Musso & Frank’s]( flannel cakes; he later took the whole group there for martinis and rice pudding

Met Edgar Arcenaux, the director of the [Watts House Project](, a group of artists who are decorating the houses across the street from Watts Towers, one of whose residents cooked lunch for our group

Sampled many, many kinds of gelato and ice cream with one of the other fellows, the marvelous gelato blogger [Alissa Walker](; the best one probably came from a Mexico-themed shopping mall a mile from Watts Towers

Heard some stories from L.A. Library Foundation president Ken Brecher, then took the [Angels Flight]( shuttle down the big ol’ flight of stairs in downtown L.A. for what turned out to be the first of two times

Went up to Griffith Park Observatory on what I was told had to have been the prettiest night of the year and got my very first “ice pick headache”

Had a tour of [Inner-City Arts]( and the [New Carver Apartments]( (a recently built housing project for the formerly homeless, right by the freeway) and met their architect, Michael Maltzan

Got shown around The Grove by its developer [Rick Caruso](, a man who has ambitions

Got shown around the new [L.A. Museum of the Holocaust]( by its architect, Hagy Belzberg, and was very impressed

Attempted to eat at the Nickel Diner with my 9-months-pregnant friend Maya, only to find that it was closed for a movie shoot, but the guy who shooed us away called us back and said “hey, the trailer for the extras is just across the street–go over there and look like an extra, they’ll give you a good breakfast,” which they did; Maya looked over my itinerary for the two weeks and said “wow, you guys are really hitting all the high points of the WEST SIDE POWER ELITE, aren’t you?”

Went to the Getty and got a tour of their panel-painting restoration studio, special-collections division, and the Conservation Institute Lab, where they showed us the shattered plastic chunks of the original version of Craig Kauffman’s [“Untitled Wall Relief, 1967.”]( Also toured the paintings division. Most impressive famous painting: James Ensor’s [“Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889.”]( My favorite that I’d never heard of: Bouguereau’s [“A Young Girl Defending Herself Against Eros”](

Ate dinner at the incredible Oaxacan restaurant [Guelaguetza]( with food critic [Jonathan Gold]( and [Slake]( editor Laurie Ochoa

Wandered around LACMA, met with some of the higher-ups there, and particularly enjoyed looking at the George Grosz drawings and Moholy-Nagy’s [“Diary of a Fly”](

Went to the [Machine Project](, where [Emily Lacy]( sang a song about the organization’s history and Mark Allen taught us to solder

Had a half-day writing workshop with Irene Borger, which gave me some interesting ideas for what I might want to try doing next

Visited [Steve Roden]( at his house, the last surviving American [“bubble house”]( built by Wallace Neff. Then got a tour of Roden’s show at the Armory, which is really fantastic, esp. a piece called “fallen/spoken,” a “translation” of a book of poetry by Pår Lagerkvist which he’s attempted to do without benefit of actually knowing any Swedish

Wandered through the “China Modern” exhibition at the Pacific Asia Museum; boggled at the Cultural Revolution-era propaganda art

Bought way too many CDs at Amoeba, not that anyone would have predicted otherwise

Went to a lovely party at a former editor’s place, and saw a bunch of people I knew from the ’90s NYC pop-culture-crit scene

Had an hour-long conversation about the visual aesthetics of superhero comic books with [Henry Jenkins]( (in front of an audience!); that was followed by a wonderful dinner at [The Gorbals](, a bizarre little pan-cultural restaurant in a SRO hotel where the menu includes “round of beers for the kitchen staff: $10” and where, after the rest of the customers went home, Sasha Anawalt (the wonderful director of our program, and a former dance critic, who appears to be able to befriend anyone in 45 seconds flat) convinced one of the waitresses to crank up the ambient-volume drum ‘n’ bass in the restaurant and demonstrate her impressive street dance technique

Dipped a finger into the Los Angeles River; heard from at least eight people I mentioned this to that I really ought to watch “Chinatown” sometime

Spent a day at Disneyland, including a backstage tour of the Indiana Jones ride; saw [“Captain Eo,”]( which was awful but fascinating; was most impressed by the [Enchanted Tiki Room](, which is astrophysics-grade kitsch and should by all rights be awful but is actually fantastic, largely because it holds nothing back in the name of potential “good taste”

Heard Ed Ruscha’s name mentioned more times each day than I’ve heard it mentioned in the previous 40 years. Saw a lot of Ruscha’s paintings. A lot

Had lunch with Barbara Kruger, a walking tour of downtown with David Ulin, and dinner with Luis Alfaro, who is adorable and took pictures of all of us wearing a pair of sunglasses he carries everywhere to take pictures of people wearing–all the same day

Toured Case Study House #22, a.k.a. Stahl House, the beautiful house where [this picture]( was taken; Mrs. Stahl still lives there, and she and her son were both very sweet to us as we consecutively tried to restage that photo

Saw a fascinating lecture by Josh Kun about the Mexican regional music scene in L.A., which is gigantic

Visited the [Sheats-Goldstein Residence](, a.k.a. the villain’s house from “The Big Lebowski”; all the furniture, and I mean ALL, is triangular slabs of concrete with gray-leather-covered triangular mattresses; the property also includes a gorgeous James Turrell “Skyspace,” which the owner has taken it upon himself to trick out with ca. 1997 Ibiza techno

Hung out in my very rare off-hours with a bunch of comics people, a novelist and a cupcake expert

Saw Esa-Pekka Salonen conduct Lindberg and Bartok pieces with the L.A. Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall, preceded by a meeting with the LA Phil’s CEO

Attended a screening, curated & hosted by Manohla Dargis (who I didn’t know is the daughter of the guy who founded St. Mark’s Bookshop!), of short films about L.A., some of which were very impressive–I really *really* liked the 10-minute excerpt we got of Charles Burnett’s [“Killer of Sheep,”]( and also enjoyed John Milius’ 1967 short [“Marcello, I’m So Bored”](,9171,837841-3,00.html) (sound editing by George Lucas!) and Thom Andersen’s newish [“Get Out of the Car,”]( the latter of which seemed fairly closely aligned in some ways with [Lisa’s]( aesthetic

Had dinner with a cast of champions, including Barbara Isenberg and Pat Flanagan, at the wonderful scene-doyenne [Lyn Kienholz’s]( place. Drank a glass of wine. Might have gotten a little effusive about toasting my co-fellows

Then came home to Portland, my head spinning.