Friday, July 27, 2012


we consume LOTS of content. when i read/watch/listen, i prefer to be focused - "all-in." all other distractions are left far, far away. but with so little time, and so many things vying for attention, one must be selective.

reviews and recommendations from trusted, similar-content-minded friends drive many selections ("you gotta check out ______!"). naturally, only the best stories make the cut.

thus, the role of the storyteller is key. 

over the years, as my tastes have matured (endured?), i've begun ignoring a LOT of the noise, and grown to implicitly trust a select few...creators. when their new movie, show, (comic) book, or album comes out, i'm all-in. immediately. no questions asked. 

so below is my list, because that's what i do. the criteria (beyond being awesome)? their body of work must be large, and proven. but not necessarily 100% perfect. after all, everyone's allowed some "misses" in their pursuit of greatness. so let's say...90% has to be really, really good. i've broken out creators of works i listen to, read, and watch - respectively ordered by my first discovery. let's get started.


Rivers CuomoWeezer was one of the first rock bands i ever really got into (ok, Toad the Wet Sprocket came first, but where are they now?), and have never really gotten over. Rivers is pretty much the driving creative force. he was "emo" before emo (Pinkerton?), and defined the modern age of angst-ridden nerd rock (being dumped by a lesbian, and/or "Kitty Pryde, and Nightcrawler too"). the Blue Album is one of rock's all time greats (some of rock's best opening and closing album tracks). Maladroit, Red, and Make Believe keep the faith alive. we'll just pretend Raditude never happened, and hope there are still more gems to be discovered, and to inspire many other acts to follow.

Miles Davisi only started actively listening to jazz in high school - well after my deep forays into the rock music. Relaxin' With the Miles Davis Quintent and Kind of Blue a few late afternoons in the art studio and i was done. and i'm not saying i'm sophisticated by ANY measure. but for me, Miles is a mainstay. he's my original. i still stumble upon new-tome-recordings/remasterings i've never heard before, and they always thank you. be kind to the wait-staff.

Thom Yorke: melancholy crooning and wailing? yes please. Radiohead's The Bends and In Rainbows will get me through any long work day, drive/flight, or break-up. the evolution from rock to synth club beats has been fascinating to watch, and has given me an appreciation for the latter i did not have before. as a solo artist, his constant experimentation keeps me surprisingly interested and coming back for more. i'm always interested to see where Thom is going next.

John Lennon i was even later to the Beatles (it took me awhile to get there, which reminds me...i need to dedicate the time and energy to experiencing Bob Dylan). and while my favorite Beatle is technically George ('While my Guitar Gently Weeps'), Lennon's short lived solo career was more memorable (i'll try to ignore most of the Plastic Ono Band, i still hold a grudge against Yoko). i keep trying to give Paul a chance, but he was pre-empted by the exit of his longtime partner, and i think stuck around at the party too long. 


Bill Waterson:  as a kid i would always gravitate to the "comics" section of the newspaper (no surprise there). Calvin & Hobbes was easily the most artful, engaging, and thoughtfully amusing. soon i was skipping the entire comics page and ONLY reading C&H. i soon graduated to the books/collected edition, anticipating their release and being first in line at the local book store to gladly give away what little money i had to spend. and one day? Bill decided to go out on top and quit. still some of the most treasured book collection on my shelf. 

John Steinbeck: along with Lennon and Davis, one of the guys on this list i have not parsed the entire library of, but am satisfied every time i pick up something new-to-me. Travels with Charley still inspires me every time i read it. him and Hemingway, while distinctively different, tell common, but often outlandish tales of things that could have, and must have been. 

Nick Hornbylike most of us, i saw first saw the film High Fidelity (with John Cusack) before reading the book. when i discovered there WAS a book, i quickly picked it up. a close friend soon got me a copy of Hornby's About a Boy, BEFORE the film came out. two for two, i was hooked at the tongue-in-cheek, pop-culture, could-be-your-life narrative and dialogue. every book that followed delivered the same. his "obsession commentaries" (Polysyllabic Spree, Fever Pitch…ignore the Jimmy Fallon film) are cringing-ly familiar to my own OCD, while other fictions (How To Be Good, A Long Way Down) touched a nerve because he somehow got too close. others, like SLAM, simply made me laugh. after all, what WOULD Tony Hawk do? 

Brian Michael Bendis: originally a simple crime-noir author turned comic book artist, Bendis redefined many of Marvel's icons for the modern age. whether a revival of Daredevil, his insane 12+ year run on Ultimate Spider-Man (seriously, the most poignant interpretation of the character since Lee & Ditko introduced us to Peter Parker in the 60's) or the superhero crime drama Powers, Bendis never fails to deliver. human stories that rival most television/film, and a knack for realistic dialogue real people would have if thrown into some of the insane tales that comic-bookery so-often weaves. 

Jhumpa Lahiri: how a lady from Canada (besides my wife) gets me so well, i will never know. want to understand what it's like being the child of an immigrant being caught between two cultures? Lahiri literally wrote the book(s) on it. the Namesake is probably one of my favorite pieces of fiction of all time (oddly enough, the book had me relating to the son, while the film, the father, which made me feel like i spent my childhood/teen years being a real jerk to my dad…i blame Kal Penn's bad acting). she did the same in her warm-up act, the Pulitzer Prize-winning short story collection, the Interpreter of Maladies. her most recent short-story collection - Unaccustomed Earth - while darker, doesn't miss a beat.

Mark Millar: before the Avengers was a movie Millar's the Ultimates was THE story to see how it could be done on the big screen. his run on the Authority gave Warren Ellis a run for his money. but most of his comics read like treatments for summer action flicks - before they started optioning comic books. he's the guy behind Kick-Ass and Wanted (again, the original comics being far superior to their film adaptations), but also a number of others you may have never heard of - Red, Nemesis, Superior. and what if Kal-El had landed in mother Russia? read Superman: Red Son, and you can thank me later.

Robert Kirkman: he's only got a few, but man are they good ones. this Kentucky-based comics creator behind two of the most exciting page-turning books in the business right now - Invincible and the Walking Dead (the source material of the top cable show on AMC, with Kirkman as a producer). despite belief-suspending realities, Kirkman paint character stories that are relatable and engaging, even in the best and worst of situations. whether zombies have taken over, or (spoiler alert), your dad is really a crazy super-hero-turned-alien-invader.


Wes Anderson: if you don't like the Royal Tenenbaums, we probably can't be friends. i'm sorry. Anderson's quirky tapestry of characters (often families), settings, and narratives charm you as they pull you into plots and dialogues that are so simple, you're left wondering what everyone else is doing in the movie business. Rushmore, the Life Aquatic, the Fantastic Mister Fox all consistently deliver stories you want to read in a storybook, but are charmed to see them on the big screen. his most recent, Moonrise Kingdom, is probably the best movie i've seen all year (and may just be superior to RT).

Aaron Sorkin: i was late to the game on the West Wing, but quickly got pulled in and caught up (declaring it one of the top 10 TV shows of all time). in my hunger for more Sorkin, i discovered his earlier, short-lived Sports Night. even the shorter-lived Studio 60 got me my fix. Sorkin represents what good TV should be (having won an Oscar for the Social Network, is pretty adept at the movie-business as well). he's brings you lovable characters, and stay-with-me-if-you-can dialogue that many on this list also have. but beyond just the art, Sorkin has a message, a (political) point of view…that isn't just liberal, it's rational, and optimistic about where we should be going as a society (and/or nation). i'm following the Newsroom closely, but am glad it's on HBO, so we can let Sorkin be Sorkin. 

Chris Nolan: Memento. Insomnia. Batman Begins. the Prestige. the Dark Knight. Inception. and yes, the Dark Knight Rises (i promise this post was in process before all the madness/leadup to this one). Nolan delivers. he doesn't compromise and make the crap Hollywood would have us waste our lives on. thank you sir. 

Fareed Zakaria: not quite a storyteller, but the most rational man (with the most consistently global POV) in the news business. i guess that makes him a…narrator? he has a book (the Post-American World - one of my top non-fiction reads of all time) and writes news magazine editorials. those on the right, left, up, down (B-A, B-A, Select-Start) respect him. those who are crazy and just want to be on TV know they don't stand a chance, so stay away from him. if you want to learn something about the world. read/watch some Fareed. he's the nerd i want to be when i grow up. 

there are a handful of others that didn't make the list - companies (HBO, Google), and technologists (Tesla, Musk, and yes, even Jobs) alike. more often than not, i trust the motives behind products and services, though there are sometimes failings in execution. 

so that's my list. i'm sure there are some i missed, so let me know who YOUR creators are. maybe i'll give them a try.

you're welcome.


  1. a friend read this post and critiqued as to why there weren't more women in my list (MY LIST).

    after a few witty one-line back-and-forths. i conceded that i must be a chauvinist, or at least have a healthy male bias. but maybe there's some truth there.*

    MUSIC: I know there are some great female composer/singer/songwriters out there...but i have not discovered them for myself. Liz Phair is inconsistent. Same for Kim Deal. and Ani is not really my thing. someone help me find some great female musicians!

    FILM//TV-MAKERS: frankly, I don't think there are many, and the few there are (Tina Fey, Sophia Coppolla) don't have large enough bodies of
    work...YET. N=perhaps this is a field with not too many women, because Hollywood (like most things) has been a bit of a fraternity/boy's club

    BOOKS: you'll note many of my authors were comic book writers. Not a
    field with lots of women, bc people who write (and read!) comics are all GIANT DORKS WHO DON'T GET WOMEN (dual-meaning there if you catch my drift).

    *but MAYBE there is something to be said towards my male-creator bias. the personal appeal to many of those listed above is that they write stuff i relate to (Nick Hornby, Wes Anderson, Rivers Cuomo, and yes, even Jhumpa Lahiri...a woman) - a boy/man's
    journey, heartbreak from girls, etc.

  2. Ah yes, you did miss the women :) So, on your list, I fully agree with you on:
    i) Thom Yorke
    ii) Fareed Zakaria
    iii) Chris Nolan

    My wife would agree with you on:
    i) Jhumpa Lahiri
    ii) Nick Hornby


  3. So on your list...I would agree with you on:

    i) Thom
    ii) Chris N.
    iii) Fareed
    iv) Miles

    My wife would agree with you on:
    i) Nick
    ii) Jhumpa

    You were a bit hard on the women tho'! :)



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