A Retrospective Look at Jane Austen’s Brain-eating Habits

Can you believe it’s been 5 years since the release of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies?  And just over 200 from the release of the original novel? Well, to celebrate, the folks at Quirk Books (who published …and Zombies and its followups, as well as many other fine collections of pulped trees) asked me to do some digging and explore the past, present, and future of their massive mashup mega-hit — where it started, how it worked, and what it did for the company over the last 5 years. The short answer is that it basically launched their entire fiction line, which is now tremendously successful — and also served as an accidental omen to our current pop-culture status of zombie overload (seriously! They beat the trend! But barely).

For the long answer? Check out my 3-piece retrospective on Pride & Prejudice & Zombies on the Quirk website.

 

 

Oh Hey What’s Up Kate Burton

This past weekend, we began previews for our production of The Seagull at the Huntington. I can say without bias that this is the funniest Chekhov play I’ve ever seen (and possibly the first time I’ve actually looked Chekhov to be humorous). But on top of that, the production also features Kate Burton (aka Vice President Sally Langston on Scandal plus like a million other things) and her real-life son, Morgan Ritchie, as the onstage mother-and-son Arkadina and Konstantin, which is pretty cool. Here are two videos I put together about the show, which runs through April 6 at the BU Theatre:

Plastic Paddy’s Wake (and Bake)

thomdunn:

 

To celebrate the occasion of St. Padraig’s Day (specifically the 73 people arrest at UMass Amherst’s “Blarney Blowout” this past weekend), I’ve taken an old traditional Irish song and updated for the dudebro crowd. You’re welcome.

Originally posted on five by five hundred:

(to the tune of “Finnegan’s Wake”)

Plastic Paddy lived on Linden Street,
A mutt with a tinge of Irish blood.
His North Shore accent wicked sweet
and in his life, smoked too much bud.
So he had a sort of a tipplin’ way
With a love for jäger bombs he was born.
And to help him get to class each day:
Sambuca in his Dunkies ev’ry morn.

CHORUS:
Chug, Chug, Chug, bro, let’s do shots
’til you hit the floor and your stomach aches.
Dudebro, it’s a rager here
At Plastic Paddy’s wake and bake!

One night he shotgunned too much beer.
His head felt heavy, which made him shake.
He fell from the second floor balcony
And they gathered around to help him wake.
They moved him to the futon
where they slapped him twice upside the head.
Someone panicked, “Call the cops!”
when they felt for sure that…

View original 169 more words

The Backyard Committee at the Huntington

Last night, I had the pleasure of joining my friends in The Backyard Committee for a few songs on lap steel guitar at one of our 35 Below parties at the Huntington. I’ve played a shows with them before, mostly on keyboards, and this was a fun, different experiment, as I don’t really get to play lap steel guitar out in front of people very often (it’s also a very difficult instrument to play by yourself). The band is essentially Mike Sembos, and whatever musicians he finds to accompany him. Even if I hadn’t been friends with Mike for 12 or so years now, I’d still love this band, because Mike is an utterly fantastic songwriter. So they’re always a blast to play with, and I’m hoping to do it again pretty soon. Did I mention that you can download both of their albums for free on their website?

…also there was Duck Hunt:

REVIEW: Polarity by Max Bemis and Jorge Coelho

Polarity

As much as I enjoy Say Anything (the band fronted by writer Max Bemis), I was hesitant to pick up this comic because, well, the premise sounds exactly like the pseudo-autobiographical premise of their first album “…Is A Real Boy,” which kindofsortamaybe chronicled Bemis’s descent into super-powered bi-polar disorder — except that, while recording said album, Max Bemis was actually diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and locked himself up for a while. But, the book was on sale for $4 on ComiXology, so I figured hey, why not.

While I tend to be the kind of person who connects with comic books more the writing than the art (although I do love a good collaboration), I’d first look to say that the artwork on this book is PHENOMENAL. It’s slightly cartoonish, but not a childish way, and accurately portrays hyperviolence, superhero action, internal mindscape struggles, and hipster culture. As for the story itself, it didn’t shy away from the fact that it was a slight variation on the story that Bemis has told several times already. The basic premise is that Tim is an artist and self-loathing hipster who suffers from bi-polar disorder, and after he’s institutionalized and begins taking pills, he can’t create his art. So he goes off his medication, and soon discovers that his untreated condition literally gives him superpowers. But maybe he’s too dangerous, and maybe there’s a Shadowy Government Organization trying to create an army of Bi-Polar Super Soldiers? Meanwhile, his art is getting better, and he meets a girl.

Overall, it’s a pretty enjoyable story, and while applying science fictional concepts to mental illness is nothing new, I actually think that Bemis does it in a pretty fresh way — by essentially saying that yes, mental illness IS a superpower, but the same way that traditional superheroes suffer from their extra-human abilities, maybe it’s still better if you take your pills and try to function like a normal person. That being said, I’m not sure how this book would read to someone who was unfamiliar with “hipster” culture. The main character spends a lot of the book criticizing everyone around him for being hypocrites and poseurs, and ultimately realizes that he’s just the same as the rest of them. If you’re familiar with Say Anything’s music, Tim’s rants are all basically pulled straight out of the song “Admit it!” As far as cultural critique is concerned, it is an interesting analysis of hipsterdom that I mostly agree with, even if it is a bit misanthropic (which works well in a loud rock song, but feels different as internal monologue).

That being said, I wonder how someone who was outside of or unfamiliar with “hipster culture” would feel about this book. It’s very insular, and some might even say that hipsters criticizing hipsters for being hipsters is THE most hipster thing possible, and while the story does acknowledge that irony (while also criticizing irony as the cheapest form of hipster self-defense), it never quite transcends it. I suspect that if you weren’t already aware of and/or immersed in that post-art-school-Williamsburg-landscape, you’d think, “Okay, so these are a bunch of Urban Outfitters asshole who are too cool for Urban Outfitters and this main character is kind of an unlikeable dick who judges everyone around him for being fake judgmental assholes — why should I care?” And if that’s you, I might suggest that you’re better served by listening to “Woe” and “Admit it!” by Say Anything, which pretty much sum up the book.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Help Me Name My Blood Orange White IPA!

I have kind of a thing with blood oranges, and every year during those 18-days when they’re available (seriously it feels like it’s that short), I try to stock up as much as possible — including making some kind of blood orange beer. The first was a Chocolate Blood Orange Stout, followed by a hefeweizen, and then an IPA (whose recipe I sadly did not record).

White IPAs (basically a hybrid of a witbier/white ale and an IPA) are all the rage this year in the craft beer world, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon and create a Blood Orange White IPA. I based this on the Northern Brewer Witbier kit but replaced the hops bill with 1oz of Columbus for the full 60 minute boil, followed by 1oz of Cascade, 1oz of Citra, and 1oz of Centennial in the last ten minutes. I used the roasted peels of 6 blood oranges (removing as much white rind as possible), and boiled their pulp in water and added the juices to the wort.

If nothing else, I guarantee that it’ll look a purrty color.

Unfortunately, “Blood Orange White IPA” is kind of a clumsy name — it doesn’t really make sense to have orange AND white in the title, ya know? So I took to Facebook to ask my friends for suggestions, and rounded up my favorites in the poll below. Make your voice heard!…for the beer that goes in my belly (don’t worry, I’m willing to share).

REVIEW: The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty

The Shambling Guide to New York City

This was enjoyable, but it took me longer to get through than it should have, because I didn’t care enough. It’s a fun concept, I like the world, but I wish it had either been funnier, or darker (for example, and this is a slight spoiler: if you have a co-worker who’s a succubus and feeds on sexual energy, and he tries to seduce your character at a nightclub because he’s hungry, and you DON’T find a way to make that a metaphor either for date rape, or a regrettable but consensual one night stand with a co-worker? C’mon! It’s right there!). Instead, it was kind of a mediocre middle ground between monsters and tourism that was certainly fun, but nothing remarkable. I loved the idea of Public Works, and the zombies, and some of the characters were still fun (despite the fact that I have literally no idea what the protagonist looked like). By the time the epic ending came around, which I guess was kind of cool, I was more interested in finishing the book than I was in what actually happened to any of the characters (spoilers: they all live happily ever after. lame).

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

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