Dec 5, 2007

Here's What I've Been Up To

I have instructions from Rob to "post something bitter." I'll attempt to do that soon, but in the meantime here's an explanation for the prolonged absence:

Slant Six Creative

For the past couple of months I've been working to get this up and running, and now it's in sufficient shape that I'm ready to start revealing it slowly to the world. That starts with however many folks are left who still regard Leftwich as worthy of their regular rotation.

The deal with SSC is that I'm gathering together all of my writing/creative experience, pairing it up with the fact that I know some truly brilliant people who could always use more work, and putting my/our services on the market. Writing, editing, design, creative direction, advertising, etc -- Slant Six is about creativity and great ideas.

Take a look and let me know what you think -- feedback is always welcome. And if you know someone who needs a press release, or an ad, or a new identity, or to have a proposal edited (among a host of other services), please send them my way. I'll owe you a beer if you do.

Along with getting SSC put together I've also been inching closer to taking a new "regular" job, and the company has been steadily feeding me freelance work along the way. Things are looking like they'll settle down soon after the holidays, however, and here's what they'll look like going forward.

The blog component to Slant Six will be updated regularly (there are already some posts up) with a lot of the things I would otherwise have said here (design stuff, writing stuff, etc). I hope you'll all join me there. I got linked by Seth Godin today, so I'm pretty stoked.

This space will continue to exist as a kind of repository for everything that doesn't fit under the Slant Six banner. Probably at least a post a week going forward, if not more.

Things like, for example, the bitterness Rob requested. Gimme a couple days on that one.

ns

Oct 16, 2007

Has It Been a Month or More?

Kind of hard to believe I haven't posted here in over a month. The truth is that I've been neglecting this space for good reason. I have a new venture underway that will start to occupy more and more of my time over the next few months/years. I hope that when I'm ready for an official announcement you'll all be interested. All, what, five of you?

Leftwich will, of course, always remain active in some capacity or another. There's no room here for dire pronouncements of any kind.

As I organize, consider this qoute. It's apropos of nothing in particular but I think it's worth keeping in mind:

A writer is always selling someone out.
--Joan Didion, from the introduction to Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Sep 12, 2007

Work Update

It's time to take stock of my work, for you and for me.

Comics work continues. The third issue of Borrowed Time is in process, and we hope to release it early next year. I also have two other potential projects brewing, though I can't say much about them at the moment. I'll be psyched if they happen, though. I'll be at SPX next month to help the process along.

I'm taking on more and more copywriting/marketing work, as well. I've been writing survey questions, proofreading marketing/communications plans, and generally trying to step into that world wherever I can. That's fast becoming my main focus.

My sports website, The Loss Column, has been growing steadily since I launched it a year ago. I'm really pleased that I've been able to (partially) achieve my goal of building a community, and in the process I've learned a ton about marketing, social media, and other relevant pursuits. We're up to about 600 page views a day, which isn't so bad.

There aren't any specific journalism projects in the works right now.

I maintain close contact and friendship with TBM, and you can bet on us doing something amazing eventually.

Daniel and I are co-teaching a Narrative Illustration class at MICA this semester. That's been a lot of fun so far.

That's what's up for now. It seems like a decent situation, but I always feel like I need to work harder. Fucking internet.

Sep 9, 2007

"Everybody has a marketing plan; his marketing plan is racism. It just shows you what bloodsuckers do: they abuse something like the Virginia Tech [tragedy] for show ratings. You can't talk to a person like that."

I'm fascinated by this, Nas' reaction to Bill O'Reilly. In less than 50 words Nas has produced an almost impossibly accurate, succinct summation of the current state of political discourse in this country.

Every pundit -- on both sides -- has a brand now, and they all speak a kind of hidden language.

Aug 29, 2007

Here's a good story.

This man wrote a book. He brought the force of his creative vision to bear on a piece of work and turned it into something people liked. Then he realized one day that some bottom-feeding types in the "entertainment industry" had jacked his idea down to the last detail, repackaged it, and sold it to Network Television. Now, they're making a pretty penny while the brains of the operation has no choice but to sit back and swallow hard.

But the moral of the story -- the thing that makes it worth mentioning -- isn't what it seems. It's not about the inherent injustice of the situation, it's about how Pete Hamill has responded to it.

One thing creative types will never be able to overcome is the fact that ideas can't be owned. The only thing you can own is your execution of the idea. You have to trust that your vision is strong enough to stand above the copycats. That's a less-than-ideal situation, but what's the alternative? There isn't one.

Pete Hamill knows in his heart that he did the story first and best. And his bemused attitude speaks volumes about his character. It's something all of us in the creative industries would do well to study and understand. We are all likely to get fucked at some point or another.

Aug 23, 2007

Just watch...

Aug 7, 2007

Tonight I sent my (soon-to-be) agents the first draft of my book proposal for The Vegan Bachelor. The information is becoming organized, the focus becoming clear. Much work remains, but it's a pretty nice feeling to reach that first plateau.
Help

Awhile back I was walking Derby through the woods near my house and I got real agitated. Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm no particular fan of development, and especially of development designed to tempt Young Money with promises of coffee shops and granite countertops. That's what's going on near my house, and it's deeply annoying.

Annoying, but no big deal. What's really galling is that the developers are putting up half-a-million dollar "green" homes designed to lure that particular class of person who feels like gluttony is OK if its couched in friendly rhetoric. In the process of erecting these (admittedly cool) green homes, they've allowed their contractors to dump all kinds of trash throughout the previously (mostly) clean woods. All in the name of progress.

While watching it happen I came up with the idea of making speculative street signs designed to blend into the urban landscape at a glance, but offer subtle commentary to those who actually notice. The idea isn't to present a particular message, but rather to inspire original thought. To snap the viewer out of his/her routine for a moment and force a consideration of the surrounding environment.

See the other two here. More to come.

Jul 11, 2007

Lynn asked me to put together a list of my essential daily (or near-daily) reads in terms of design, creativity, business, technology, and related concerns. In response, I combed through my feeds and settled on the sites that I simply could not do without.

It only makes sense to share, so here you go. Not necessarily in any order, though I'm happy the Art Dump comes first.

The Art Dump
Art, design, culture, etc from the folks behind the Girl Skateboards Art Dump.

Design Observer
Setting the standard for online design/culture writing.

cidoc
Infrequently updated but often invaluable news related to corporate identity.

Speak Up
Similar to Design Observer and equally good.

Debbie Millman's blog
Thoughts from the president of Sterling Brands, who also hosts the Design Matters podcast. Smart stuff.

Signal vs. Noise
Hard to describe exactly but always, always brilliant. File under design, business, culture, technology, usability, writing.

Subtraction
Khoi Vinh is the Design Director for nytimes.com, and his blog is never anything short of impressive.

kottke.org
Jason Kottke’s blog has been around forever for a reason. He’s smart and plugged in like nobody’s business.

Brand New
Connected to Speak Up, this is all about analyzing developments in the world of branding. And doing it well.

New at Pentagram
The latest and greatest news out of the various Pentagram offices.

Design Notes
Michael Surtees, like Jason Kottke and Khoi Vinh, writes well about interesting things.

Quipsologies
Another blog from the Speak Up/Brand New family, this one serves to aggregate interesting news from around the Internet.

Nussbaum on Design
Bruce Nussbaum at BusinessWeek provides a valuable perspective on design and innovation in the corporate world.

Frogblog
News and thoughts from employees of the venerable Frog Design.

I'm sure I'm leaving something out, but I can't find any argument against this list. Follow the links and you'll find what you need one way or another.
The good people at Pentagram recently completed a slate of work related to the construction of the New York Times building. It's all rather impressive, but the true stroke of genius was getting legendary photographer Annie Liebovitz to document the construction process itself in a series of photos that are, at times, breathtaking.

See what I mean by by clicking here.

Jul 6, 2007

Yes, yes. That's more like it.

Jun 28, 2007

Remember when comics were cool? Really cool?

When I check out some of the gems on this site, it just makes me sad that mainstream comics even exist anymore. There are still great comics, of course, but it isn't the same as it was even fifteen years ago. You're no longer going to find the best comics at the local newsstand or grocery store, meaning that most of them will simply never find a mass audience. The same mass audience, ironically enough, for which the medium was intended.

But that's really a side point. I don't care where it comes from, I would just love to see somebody put together a series like Weird War Tales or House of Secrets or Tales of the Unexpected. The talent is out there to make it flat-out awesome.

Jun 25, 2007

Bob Burnquist 01.JPG

Maybe I'm wrong here – I'm no professional after all – but I'm damn proud of that picture. Even more so at the large size.

It's part of this 46-pic set from the Panasonic Open, a skateboarding/BMX/FMX event that stopped in Baltimore this past weekend. I wrote a cover story about it for PressBox, then used my media pass to check out the goings-on Saturday (more info here). All in all it was a hell of an event and a damn good time.

And a nice chance to flex some amateur photographer muscles. My Sony DSC-H1 was up to the challenge, performing surprisingly well on the action shots. It's got 12X optical zoom and image stabilization built-in, and if that sounds like a free ad then I suppose it kind of is.

Jun 19, 2007

It's long-past time for me to have mentioned one of the best things going right now in terms of art and comics on the web:

The Process, by my friend and collaborator (on Borrowed Time) Joe Infurnari.

Joe's a true artist, and one of the best of them working in comics today. Whether or not you're a fan of Borrowed Time I highly encourage you to give The Process and the rest of the work on his site a look. You won't be let down.

I believe I've mentioned the name Richard Ford once before. I've been trying to do more non-Internet reading lately, and in keeping with that resolution I picked up Rock Springs last week on something of a whim. I'm only three stories deep but I feel safe in saying this: pick it up.

Ford is a lot like Raymond Carver (the two were acquainted) in that his stories deal with the complex, often terrifying details of supposedly unimportant lives. The trick for both writers is their astounding ability to convey empathy without ever seeming overwrought or condescending. You can't help but root for these characters even as you know no good is likely to come for them.

I've got little patience for novels these days, though I suspect it'll return eventually. I hardly need it between Ford and Carver, both of whom can be read and re-read endlessly, revealing something new each time.

Jun 14, 2007

Every now and then I remember a piece I wrote in the past and get curious about how it holds up. While reading an article about the state of book reviewing I recalled a piece I wrote in 2002 for Gadfly, about Bill Moody's Looking for Chet Baker.

The result can be found here. It's the only time I've written a dedicated piece about a book and I'm happy to say that, a few mistakes aside, it holds up pretty well. That's always nice.

Jun 12, 2007

Some sad news today from the world of entertainment and wonder: Don Herbert, better known as TV's Mr. Wizard, has passed away at the age of 89.

I have fond memories of watching his show on Nickelodeon, bearing witness to the wonders of the scientific world along with thousands of other kids my age. It's a shame that he's passed, but 89 is a good run and he accomplished a hell of a lot.

Is there an equivalent today? If there is I bet he's "extreme".

Jun 6, 2007

I'm sorry, truly. But I can't help it. This song has been in my head for about three days now, and I want to share that glorious torture. This is Summer Jam 2007.

Jun 5, 2007

If all goes according to plan I'll be helping my good pal Daniel teach a class in narrative illustration at MICA this fall. In coming up with a potential reading list I was careful to include Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. I'm looking forward to seeing how the students deal with Carver's approach of leaving meaning in the margins. Will they choose to illustrate what is said, or the infinitely more important world of what isn't said? It should be fun.

As I got to thinking about Carver, I got to poking around the Internet looking for more from and about him. I turned up an amazing find in this 1981 essay on the craft and process of writing. A sample:
In an essay called, simply enough, ''Writing Short Stories,'' Flannery O'Connor talks about writing as an act of discovery. O'Connor says she most often did not know where she was going when she sat down to work on a short story. She says she doubts that many writers know where they are going when they begin something. She uses ''Good Country People'' as an example of how she put together a short story whose ending she could not even guess at until she was nearly there:

''When I started writing that story, I didn't know there was going to be a Ph.D. with a wooden leg in it. I merely found myself one morning writing a description of two women I knew something about, and before I realized it, I had equipped one of them with a daughter with a wooden leg. I brought in the Bible salesman, but I had no idea what I was going to do with him. I didn't know he was going to steal that wooden leg until ten or twelve lines before he did it, but when I found out that this was what was going to happen, I realized it was inevitable.''

When I read this some years ago it came as a shock that she, or anyone for that matter, wrote stories in this fashion. I thought this was my uncomfortable secret, and I was just a little uneasy with it. For sure I thought this way of working on a short story somehow revealed my own shortcomings. I remember being tremendously heartened by reading what she had to say on the subject.
A rather large passage to excerpt, I know, but worth it all the way. And, in fact, you'd be foolish to avoid reading the whole thing, whether or not you pursue writing in some fashion.

Also, if you buy that Carver book or anything else from Amazon using that link it'll make me some scratch.

May 21, 2007

corn on the cob
You may recall that a couple of months ago I mentioned I was working on a cookbook project. Details were still under wraps a bit at the time, but now I'm getting rolling for real and am pleased to announce it:

Head on over and check out The Vegan Bachelor. The tagline I'm working with is "Vegan Eating Demystified," because the idea is to write a low-stress, low-budget cookbook for folks who'd like to eat vegan food – for whatever reason – but don't have the time or the money to get into crazy ingredients and recipes, and who don't feel like completely changing their lifestyle just because they'd like to eat better.

There are only a handful of posts up right now, but the number will grow steadily over the next few months. Eventually, if all goes according to plan, the whole project will be assembled into a factual, actual book. One you can buy in stores and everything.

Please check it out, bookmark it, offer up suggestions, etc.

May 16, 2007

Couple of things...

First and foremost, today marks the release of the first issue of Left on Mission, a new comic book series created and written by my good friend Chip Mosher. I've been following this series since Chip first sent me the script to review, which was...I don't know. Ages ago. It's great to see it out there, and I encourage everyone to check it out. It's an espionage thriller of sorts, but more interesting than that description alone implies. Worth your time and money for sure, and when have I ever steered you wrong?

Second, kottke hipped me today to this interview with writer Jonathan Rauch, which touches on a host of issues relating to politics, identity, and intellectual honesty. Highly recommended.

Finally, I posted a few weeks ago about new music that I had been digging. In that post I mentioned leaked tracks from both Dinosaur Jr. and Wilco, and mentioned that the digging of leaked tracks should be a precursor to actually buying the album(s) when the time came. I did that today, hoofing my ass to Best Buy to pick up "Beyond" by Dino Jr. and "Sky Blue Sky" by Wilco. That's my way of trying to make the give-and-take work. They gave, I took, I gave.

It would have been just as easy -- and maybe even easier -- to download both albums for free. That would not have been cool.

May 10, 2007

This article is an absolute must read for anyone working creatively today:

The Secret of Apple Design

There are so many fantastic quotes that I'm hard-pressed to pick just one to point out. But I'll try:

"The businessman wants to create something for everyone, which leads to products that are middle of the road," says Brunner. "It becomes about consensus, and that's why you rarely see the spark of genius."

It's one of many passages worthy of deeper consideration. Just as importantly, note the way the piece is written. The first two paragraphs create an immediate sense of intrigue, deftly suggesting that the article will end up being less than it actually is while leaving you wondering what might come in paragraph three and on. The writer also knows his audience – people who are likely to understand the Apple mythos and want to know more about why and how it works.

All in all it's a fantastic read.

(via kottke.org, ever excellent)

May 9, 2007

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago how stoked I was about Mumble Magazine. Nothing has happened since then to dampen my enthusiasm. In fact, quite the opposite. The content has been spot-on, including a wonderful profile of Rebecca Westcott, an artist whose life was tragically cut short.

Check out the latest promo postcard (click for larger version):

***
While I'm at it, I wanted to pass along this photo (again, click for larger version):

Eye of...?

Kind of hard to look at, I know, but I find it fascinating. I pointed my camera phone straight up at the sun on a beautiful, clear day and this is what it gave back to me. There's something vaguely unsettling about it.

May 3, 2007

Like many of you, I watch Road House every chance I get. Tonight I finally got curious enough to go digging around on the internet looking for more info about it, and so of course I started at the Wikipedia page.

What I found there, much to my surprise, is actually an amazing piece of writing.

Whoever put it up managed to do two difficult things quite well: strike the perfect tone (in this case a kind of knowing distance) and explain plot accurately and economically. In fact, the 800 or so words (I didn't actually count) used here to describe the film say pretty much everything there is to say. A sample:
Dalton rips Jimmy's throat out in the ensuing fight, mirroring an incident that occurred years before. In revenge, Wesley declares that he will kidnap and murder either Wade or Elizabeth if Dalton doesn't leave town. He flips a coin to decide who will be murdered. When Dalton finds Wade dead (it was tails), he rushes to confront Wesley in a final showdown.

Rigging his car to crash into Wesley's house as a distraction, Dalton sneaks into Wesley's compound and proceeds to take out each of his thugs one at a time. Wesley finds Dalton hiding in the trophy room, and the two fight until Dalton pins Wesley and threatens to rip his throat out. But Dalton takes pity on him and sees the error of his own violent ways; he turns his back, giving Wesley the opportunity to attack again. Doc shows up just in time to watch as the townsfolk Wesley has bullied over the years come to Dalton's defense, repeatedly shooting Wesley with their shotguns and then hiding the evidence. The police arrive but make little effort to investigate the matter. The town is finally freed from Wesley's tyranny.
Rather impressive.

I also found this site, and the less said there the better.

Apr 28, 2007

This is utterly incomplete but nonetheless interesting: an early review of 2008 campaign logos.

One thing that astounds me: entities with money to spend - political campaigns, large corporations, etc. - consistently have poor (or, at best, middling) aesthetics. I guess a longer post on why that might be is due in short order.

Apr 24, 2007

I can't help but relate this quote, from an article about Barack Obama:
Republican National Committee spokesman Chris Taylor dismissed Obama's criticism.

"It obviously takes a lot more than empty rhetoric to lead this country and that is what Barack Obama continues to give us," Taylor said.
I wonder if he's been misquoted...or is he just stupid? Because of course what he's actually saying there, if you break it down, is that Obama is offering a lot more than empty rhetoric.

Obviously.

Apr 19, 2007

I just posted something on the Loss Column that I think has an appeal beyond the sports topics I cover there. It's a writeup about Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour, including a link to a fantastic archive of the show's 50 episodes so far.

I just hope that the folks at XM understand that this sort of thing does nothing but help. It'd be a shame to see them take it down. Head over there now (but not all at once) just in case.

Apr 16, 2007

Two things:

First, I'm stoked to no end about Mumble Magazine. From the mission statement:
In plain english: we publish articles that have to do with influential artists, photographers, skateboarders, places, books, shit you can buy, music and whatever as well as some totally random shit that somehow fits into the picture.

Headed up by the former editor of Crailtap.com, we're dedicated to bringing real content back to the internet following the stranglehold that blogs have taken on it. We publish at least two new features every week.
Here, here! From jump street I've seen blogs and their attendant technologies as a fantastic means to make publishing and distribution easy and cheap. Plenty of people feel likewise and use them to for just that purpose. But somewhere along the way that model got subjugated to the notion of what a "blog" is, or what it means "to blog." It's refreshing as hell to see someone stepping up and trying to maximize the potential of the internet, which to this day remains oddly underused.

Second, Bruce Nussbaum at BusinessWeek has been ruffling quite a few feathers with his thoughts on design, technology, and process. His latest piece on the controversy makes for a good starting point.

I'd encourage everyone to read it, and then to start thinking. Communication and business are changing so fast that it's hard to keep up, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to keep up. Understanding what tomorrow's economy might look like will prove beneficial to anyone attempting to make a mark in a creative field. That starts by realizing that the lines between "us" and "them" are fast becoming irrelevant.

Apr 12, 2007

And there you have it: Kurt Vonnegut has died. You've no doubt heard the news already.

What to say of this? Who knows anymore. It keeps happening, one after another. By the time I reach 40 there will be none left of their kind. Pour a shot and drink up.

Apr 5, 2007

Apr 2, 2007

I've been having some fantastic luck with new music lately, something that hasn't happened in a long time. In addition to the new Wilco tracks I mentioned earlier I've got three new discoveries to share: Call Me Evil by Evil (left), "Fake Empire" (a leaked track from the upcoming National record), and a couple of leaked tracks from the upcoming Dinosaur Jr. album.

I discovered Evil -- a rap artist from Vancouver -- purely through happenstance. I don't listen to a ton of rap, and haven't bought a rap CD in over a year, but Call Me Evil has been a revelation. He's got an Eminem-esque gift for storytelling and persona, but where Eminem trades on anger and shock, Evil has a more nuanced and intelligent worldview. The production feels like Dr. Dre or Timbaland when they're at their most interesting, but with more of a rock/folk (!) flavor. The album pulled me in right away on the strength of "I'm Leaving" -- one of the best rap songs I've heard in years.

Stream that and a few other tracks over at his MySpace page.

As for the National...well, what can I say? They're one of the best bands around right now, and "Fake Empire" finds them at the top of their game. You can find it all over the internet -- try Stereogum. If that link rots out a quick Google search will yield other sources.

Dinosaur Jr., meanwhile, was easily my favorite band in high school, but I was mad skeptical about the reunion. No need for that, as it turns out. They haven't missed a beat, and these new tracks sound like 1993 all over again. Which, in this case, is a good thing.

(remember, kids: if you like leaked tracks you should always go out and pay for them when the albums eventually come out. These people work hard for the money. So hard for the money.)

On top of all that, co-conspirator Tony Larson forwarded me some tracks he's been working on, and they've likewise been in heavy rotation. If/when they go public I'll be sure to share 'em.

Mar 30, 2007

Every once in a great while (and I mean a great while), an opportunity arises where politics and common sense might interact to a positive end. Such is the case with the recent mass recall of contaminated pet food. From this story, a relevant excerpt:
One veterinarian suggested the international sourcing of ingredients would force the U.S. "to come to grips with a reality we had not appreciated."

"When you change from getting an ingredient from the supplier down the road to a supplier from around the globe, maybe the methods and practices that were effective in one situation need to be changed," said Tony Buffington, a professor of veterinary clinical sciences at Ohio State University.

The FDA's Sundlof said the agency may change how it regulates the pet food industry.

"In this case, we're going to have to look at this after the dust settles and determine if there is something from a regulatory standpoint that we could have done differently to prevent this incident from occurring," he said.
There are few things more horrifying to me than the idea of someone losing a pet (or, for that matter, a human family member) because some nameless, faceless organization acted with wanton neglect. Who do you blame? And really, what the fuck does it matter at that point? It's inexcusable on every level, and the only solution is to address and correct the systemic issues.

So while expanded government regulation is generally a bad idea, here we have a situation where it actually makes sense. And if such regulation means that more food producers find it prudent to start sourcing their ingredients locally, all the better. It's a win-win.

I should note, though, that my argument is limited to the safety of the food, and not the relative merit of the food.

I have a feeling that Bryan might have something to add here...

Mar 14, 2007

Three quick links, all fantastic in their own way:

First, some of the guys from the Girl Skateboards Art Dump (including friend and collaborator Tony Larson) have a cool thing going called the Art Dump Photoblog. Soon to be a permanent link in the sidebar, but bookmark it now. The creativity and good work coming out of those guys is equal parts mind blowing and inspiring.

Second, a company called Zenph Studios has developed a way to take old recordings and play them on a modern piano, duplicating the experience of seeing the pianist in the flesh. Their first target? None other than Bach's "Goldberg Variations" as played by Glenn Gould.

I've got so many thoughts on this is that I don't know where to start. It's really an entirely new idea, an entirely new way to look at technology and how it might enrich the creative and artistic world. Fairly amazing.

Third, here's an interesting article from the New Yorker about dueling. Well worth reading for the kind of historical perspective that can only come through purely human stories.

More later.

Mar 12, 2007

In keeping with the last post about giving work away, it's time to do something I've been planning on for a long time: give some work away.

You all remember the article I wrote recently about designers Milton Glaser and Paula Scher. The contents of the article represent a small fraction of the material I collected in the conversations I had with them. Once upon a time I wanted to write a second piece for another publication, but as of right now it doesn't look like that's going to happen. So...I thought I'd make the transcripts of my interviews available for anyone who's interested.

pdf downloads:

of the Glaser interview here.
of the Scher interview here.

On top of that, I wanted to share my scripts for Borrowed Time volumes one and two. If you're a fan of the book this should give you an insight akin to looking at sketches or character designs. At the very least it's a look into the comic book script format (as filtered through me - these aren't standard) and the ways and hows of making a book come to life.

pdf downloads:

of issue one here.
of issue two here.

I'd love to hear some thoughts on these, but even if you don't chime in I hope you enjoy.

Mar 11, 2007

Time to do a bit of catching up. This past week has been busy, to say the least. Generally speaking that's a good thing. So here's what's up:

First, a handful of tracks from the new Wilco album have found their way into the tubes. They are, in a word, fantastic. I got around to Wilco with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which struck me at the time as the most eerily perfect record I could imagine in the shadow of 9/11. The follow-up, A Ghost is Born, sounded solid but not spectacular. If the five tracks I've heard off the new album are any indication I think they're poised to do something quite impressive with this next record. It's classic songwriting in the same tradition of Dylan, Nilsson, Jackson Browne, et al, though it doesn't exactly sound like any of them. It just sounds like Wilco, staking their claim to a spot in that canon.

Look in particular for a song called "Either Way" - fucking amazing.

Second, I love this article about giving your work away - "the free download isn't a frivolous act". I couldn't agree more. Every bit of anectdotal evidence I've seen suggests that creative people benefit from making their work available for free on the internet in ways they could never achieve by sticking to the traditional modes of paid distribution. It's really quite simple when you think about it. To ask someone who doesn't already enjoy your work to pay for that work requires them to take a huge leap of faith. Producers of creative content need to be doing everything they can to make that leap of faith less of an imposition. Giving work away for free is the best way. I'm not suggesting either (a) giving everything away, or (b) failing to recognize one's own value. I'm simply saying that making content accessible nearly always works.

The article explains the numbers pretty well, and I definitely recommend a full read.

Third, here's a great article about why the Apple Store is so successful. In much the same way that giving creative work away seems counter-intuitive, the Apple store seems like it shouldn't work. Yet it does. Proving yet again that combining creativity and confidence rarely proves a bad decision. In fact, when has that combination ever not worked? Also note the talent they assembled before they even started - a high premium was placed on assembling great minds before any actual work was done.

Fourth, I watched a great documentary last night called Who Gets to Call it Art?, about former MOMA curator Henry Geldzahler. It's a riveting document of the New York art world from a time when it actually mattered. Equal parts informative and inspiring.

Finally, I may as well go ahead and announce the new project that I've been teasing: I'm writing a cookbook. For real. But it's not the kind of cookbook you're accustomed to seeing.

You may not know this about me (in fact, I hope you don't) but I've been vegan for about 12 years. While at 16 I might have viewed that as a political statement, my ethos have evolved significantly since then. I see it now, correctly, as nothing more than a personal choice about how to eat. So I'm creating a vegan cookbook that seeks to simplify and demystify the notion of vegan eating. I'm going to provide recipes, of course, but as importantly I'll be trafficking in ideas.

The whole thing will start off as a web-based project, but I've already secured some representation to help make it a physical reality, as well. I'll provide links and info as the process continues.

Mar 10, 2007

Wow. Brad Delp, lead singer/multi-talented genius of the band Boston is dead. Crazy and sad.

Mar 7, 2007

Following up on that last post, the folks at Comic Book Resources have posted the second part of their feature on Borrowed Time. This time it's a preview of issue two along with some quotes from me about the book.

click here to read it!.

And like I said, I've got a backlog of good stuff to talk about. Look for that (hopefully) tomorrow. In the meantime, read the previews!

(thanks)
I've actually got a ton of stuff built up that I want to mention/talk about/promote here, but I've been busy as sin for the past week. I'll get to everything soon, I promise, but in the meantime I wanted to check in and drop the big news.

The second issue of my ongoing graphic novel series Borrowed Time hit stores today. In conjunction with that, the fine folks at Comic Book Resources have released the ENTIRE contents of issue one, for free, online!

Click Here!

Later on today, the same site will feature a preview of issue two with some quotes from Joe and me. I'll link that when it goes live.

This is the easiest way I can imagine to get acquainted with the book, and I hope those of you who are on the fence will check it out. If you like what you see, head on over to the website or your local comic shop to pick up a copy.

More to come...

Feb 25, 2007

Having survived a harrowing Greyhound experience, I'm back from the New York Comic Con. It was like a mini version of the San Diego Con, but with a slightly better normal person-costumed nerd ratio. We sold a fair amount of books, gave out a bunch of buttons, and generally had a decent time. Sadly, going to these events (with the thankful exception of SPX) just reminds me how much work the comics industry has left to do. Superheroes and the like have their place, but it's a shame that the full potential of the medium remains largely unknown. Ah well...

Two bits of news:

- Borrowed Time Vol. 2 should hit stores this Wednesday. We're hoping for some good press, up to and including a couple of large previews. With any luck I'll have a slew of links to share later in the week.

- I made some potential inroads on a new project that I'll be announcing soon. I'm not ready to say much except that it's completely different from anything I've done before and I think it's going to be exciting.

Feb 18, 2007

BorrowedTimeButton

Come Friday afternoon I'll be in New York for a couple of days as we debut the second issue of Borrowed Time at the New York Comic Con. I got my preview copy of the book in the mail the other day and I couldn't be happier with the way it came together. I think you're going to be equally happy, and by the time we've finished our six-issue run it should be one hell of a body of work.

That image above is the limited-edition promo button we'll be handing out for free at New York, and thereafter until they run out. It was designed by Joe based on the image Tony Larson created for volume one. If you want one, all you gotta do is track us down. If you can't do that, shoot me an email and we'll work something out.
Two things I forgot to mention:

- I've got a super-secret, web-based, ongoing project in the works. Something fun and...tasty.

Also, I had to pass this along:


(from a photo gallery at rollingstone.com)
Lots of stuff on the horizon...

- Barring any unforeseen and/or inappropriate slacking off, I'll finish up my latest piece for PressBox today. No idea when it'll be published though.

- The script for Borrowed Time vol. 3 keeps coming along. We're looking at a summer release for that issue.

- Speaking of Borrowed Time, I'm nearly finished revamping the website. Here's a screenshot of the (tentative) new front page:

Don't forget that both Joe and I will be at the New York Comic Con this weekend to debut vol. 2. Get in touch if you want to get in touch.

- Working on a pitch for a new comics series that, for now, is all kinds of strict hush-hush. But I could use positive energy, so send good vibes my way as far as that goes.

Feb 17, 2007

I'm a few days late in posting it, but here's the track listing (in order) for this year's Valentine's mix:

Remember - Harry Nilsson
Holiday - Albert Hammond, Jr.
My, Oh My - The Wreckers
Red High Heels - Kellie Pickler
Crooked Teeth - Death Cab for Cutie
Another One Goes By - Mazarin
Don't Get Me Down (Come on Over Here) - The Walkmen
You Are What You Love (live on KCRW) - Jenny Lewis
After the Glitter Fades - Stevie Nicks
Hang Down Your Head - Tom Waits
Love Will Tear Us Apart - Nouvelle Vague
You're Breakin' My Heart - Harry Nilsson
My Funny Valentine - Chet Baker
Crawlin' Back to You - Tom Petty

I think you'd be hard pressed to find a more eclectic grouping. In fact, I'm practically 100% certain that there isn't another mix anywhere in the world that includes both Kellie Pickler and Harry Nilsson. Nope. No way.

Feb 14, 2007

Speaking of redesigns and rebirths, it seems to be something of a trend right now.

The Oni Press website just got a fresh coat of paint, and it's better than ever. They've got a lot of books besides mine that are worth checking out. This new site makes doing that easier than ever.

And one of my favorite weblogs, Speak Up, has just reached its own tipping point.

So maybe there's something in the air? Maybe this is a time of great upheaval, and we're all looking for ways to adapt? That'd be nice...but I'm doing it regardless.

Feb 12, 2007

Leftwich has been reborn.

Or, more accurately, rebranded. This space is, in its own small way, a lot like a product or company. It began with an idea, gathered mass as it grew, and eventually became unwieldy. The focus got lost somewhere along the way. I had let it become Pizza Hut, and it was time to tweak.

On the outside that meant sprucing up the look and feel of the site. I upgraded to the new, more versatile Blogger template system (not that easy if you're thinking of doing it), and pruned the sidebar links a bit. Then I purged about 80% of the archived material (a ridiculously painstaking process, as Blogger doesn't have a batch edit mode) because a fresh start should be just that.

Behind the scenes, it meant a sharpening of focus. I'm back to basics: writing things that don't fit anywhere else in my work, and providing a place to share that which I find enlightening. Pretty simple, pretty clean, pretty fun.

I hope you like it but - no offense - I no longer care quite as much. If you know what I mean.

(thanks to Michael Surtees for the inspiration)