Category Archives: Reviews

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

View all my reviews

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

View all my reviews

This Blog Post Will Make You Understand Why Amanda Palmer Is The Worst

I’ve established a bit of a reputation for myself as a Professional Amanda Palmer basher, ever since I wrote an angry little parody poem in response to her “Poem for Dhzokhar” which ended up exploding onto BuzzFeed and The Guardian UK. I was never particularly fond of her, even before that — some of her music is fine, sure, but her Neutral Milk Hotel Jukebox Musical left a very sour taste in my mouth1, and her production of Cabaret at the American Repertory Theatre was the single worst (not to mention most masturbatory) professional theatre production I have ever experienced — but it wasn’t until recently that I really started seething at the mention of her continued existence on our shared plane of reality. That might sound a little extreme — she hasn’t, you know, killed anyone or anything — but the cognitive dissonance between the message that Amanda Palmer conveys and the things that she actually does fills me with such vehement anger, that I feel the need to articulate the ongoing problem that she continues to present.

I’m choosing to write about this now is because I’ve had a number of people bring my attention to her latest blog post about Justin Bieber’s arrest, all saying that they awaited my snarky response to it. And while sure, I could do that (hell, maybe I still will), I thought it would be better for me to take the Amanda Palmer approach and express my feelings in a rambling blogpost which I can then in turn proclaim to be “art” and thereby diminish any and all criticisms of my own shortcomings by blowing a raspberry at my detractors and say “IT’S JUST ART YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND I’M JUST TRYING TO EXPRESS MYSELF AND THAT IS BEAUTIFUL.”

Continue reading This Blog Post Will Make You Understand Why Amanda Palmer Is The Worst

Upcoming Stuff & Events & Things (Nov. ’13)

Hello, website! Long time, no update! I swear that one of these days I am going to actually train myself to just make brief updates here as they happen, instead of these info dumps.

ANYWAY. I’ve got some stuff going on, because of course I do. It goes like this:

  • Saturday, December 7, I’ll be returning to MORTIFIED and performing some hilariously terrible songs that I wrote when I was 16. The performance will take place at Space 538 in Portland, ME; tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. Do I know anyone in Maine that I can even embarrass myself in front of? I don’t know, but I can tell you that it is definitely worth it to go to Maine to laugh at my terrible, terrible songs.
  • I’ve also got 2 new short plays in the 4th Annual Boston One Minute Play Festival, January 4-6 at Boston Playwrights Theatre. They’ll be directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian and Meghan Mueller, which I’m sure makes my sister proud in some way.

Meanwhile, in addition to my normal duties at Five By Five Hundred, I have a review of Eric Smith‘s new book The Geek’s Guide To Dating on Tor.com, and some coverage of SpeakEasy Stage Company‘s world premiere production of Make Up Your Mind, a brand new play by Kurt Vonnegut even though he’s dead.

And then, ya know, the youge (like, the slang/shortened word for “usual,” but spelled phonetically? Is that right?): Workin’, writin’, so on and so forth. Tonight at the Huntington we start performances for The Cocktail Hour by A.R. Gurney, which is directed by Maria Aitken, a favorite of ours at the theatre. Here’s a little video I made for that:

I also wrote some fun stuff about ghost stories at the theatre on the Huntington’s blog which is still worth reading even though it’s after Halloween, as well as two pieces of flash fiction in this “Quantum Shorts” competition that you can go read and vote for so I can win some monies: I Kill Dead People and Not Dead Yet (which was the basis for my story in Grayhaven Comics’ Fifth Dimension anthology).

Wow that’s a whole lot of dead stuff. In that case, I should end this on a happy note, which is that Maurissa Tancharoen both listened to and enjoyed my song “I’ll Fight A Whedon For You”; unfortunately, her husband Jed was less than impressed.

So now I’ve pissed one Whedon and armwrestled another, which only leaves Zak for me still to cross. But overall I think that means that I’ve successfully become a Whedonverse villain?

Holy crap, I’ll be 28 in 2 weeks.

Oh, and One More Thing…

Who’s got two months and totally has picture (along with the rest of his talented Clarion 2013 cohort) in this month’s issue of Locus Magazine, like some sort of real-life science fiction/fantasy author? THIS GUY.

That’s me in the center, with the Red Sox shirt and sunglasses. No, not that guy with the sunglasses, that’s Will Kaufman (though you should probably know him, too, because the dude writes the weirdest fucking stories that will absolutely break your heart and blow your mind and he’s kind of brilliant and hilarious and also I love him dearly). I’m the handsome one next to him.

*This month’s issue of Locus also includes features on two of my incredible Clarion mentors, Nalo Hopkinson & Cory Doctorow, as if my handsome mug weren’t reason enough to check it out.

You For Me For You Reviews

The reviews have started coming in for You For Me For You, directed by my girlfriend, M. Bevin O’Gara. EDGE Boston says:

“M. Bevin O’Gara’s sensitive and humanistic direction satisfyingly plumbs the depths beyond the novelty of the script to keep our hearts and minds firmly engaged in the sisters’s fate.
O’Gara has the benefit of a wonderful cast of mostly Asian actors who have freed themselves from the muted performances too often imposed on them to this day in the popular American media. They give their emotions full throttle and so engage ours.”

So, ya know. That’s nice. Here’s a little video I put together of audience testimonials, in case you’re still not convinced!

Wow. Our Town. Wow. Okay.

I say this with no personal bias — not because my wonderful girlfriend, the producer of this fine production, has been busting her ass for 10 months to make this show as a reality, and not as an employee of the theatre company that is presenting the show.

David Cromer’s production of Our Town at the Huntington is one of the Desert Island All-Time Top 5 Most Moving Shared Communal Experiences I have ever had in my entire life.

Perhaps it’s especially poignant for me when I think of the friends that I’ve lost in recent years, but I watched the show on both Tuesday and Wednesday night, and I couldn’t stand to watch it for a third time last night for our opening because I was already so overwhelmed with emotion. Three days in a row, and I think I would be eternally reduced to a sobbing puddle of flesh lying in fetal position on the floor. Yes, this show is so good that I literally could not watch it a third time (although I will probably go back at the end of the run, and hopefully catch some things I missed the other 2 times, because there’s so much to see in the nothingness of this production, and as the play itself suggests, we can’t possibly appreciate all of it when it’s happening).

Anyway, there’s a video I made up there about the show. I cannot stress enough how powerful and poignant this production truly is. Our Town might be seen as hokey and sentimental and high school-y to many people (though oddly I grew up in Thornton Wilder’s hometown and never read or saw the show once, although I did play lots of shitty punk rock shows at Thornton Wilder Memorial Hall), but man, David Cromer just gets it, in a way that’ll just blow your mind.

(Also don’t read the review in The Boston Globe because [a] it’s douchey, [b] IT SPOILS THE END OF THE PLAY, and [c] it’s douchey. Yes, Our Town has been around a while, so there are certain spoilers that are now beyond the statute of limitations, but to spoil what makes this production so remarkable — and to spoil it in such a nonchalant manner — is awful. If this guy had reviewed The Sixth Sense when it first came out, he would have said “And then it turns out that Bruce Willis was dead the whole time which was totally brilliant and stunning — I mean, that is to say, if you’re one of those people who enjoys brilliant and stunning things or whatever. But otherwise, meh.”)

They Like Me! They Really Like Me!

GOOD NEWS: The 2012 BroadwayWorld Boston Award nominations are out, and my play True Believers has been nominated for a ton of them, including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Direction, and Best Ensemble (they seem to have gotten rid of the “Best Play – Small/Fringe” category this year, jerks)

BAD NEWS: Now you have to go vote for me. With every email address you have. Also tell your friends to do the same. Or else The Cyborg Head of Stan Lee will come to your house and destroy your soul. KTHXBYE.

(also, while you’re at it, vote for my girlfriend M. Bevin O’Gara’s incredible production of Love Person at Company One, in all of those categories, too, ’cause she’s awesome.)

(you can also vote for the Huntington in all of the Large Theatre categories as long as you’re there, ya know?)

Batman and Robin Will Never Die!

Is there anyone alive who doesn’t agree that Batman is totally awesome? No? That’s what I thought.

It’s also well documented by anyone who’s ever met me that I have a serious fascination with comic book writer / chaos magician / Scotsman / rockstar / occasional fictional character Grant Morrison, who, by sheer coincidence, has been guiding the adventures of the Dark Knight for the past 7 years or so as the man behind the pen. The good folks at Tor.com were kind of enough to let me indulge my Morrison obsession and love for clever poetic puzzles, and I re-read his entire story (so far) to provide a critical analysis of what appears to be his deconstruction of the identity of Batman — both as a symbol or piece of mythology, and as the man himself behind the mask, Bruce Wayne.

This undertaking proved to be much more epic than I had originally anticipated, but I’m still quite pleased with the end results. So check it out, even if you haven’t read all of Morrison’s Bat-epic (but really, you should probably do that).

“How Grant Morrison’s 7-Year Batman Epic is Becoming the Ultimate Definition of Batman” on Tor Dot Com