An Un-DWELLER Interview…

Sometimes reading this blog just isn’t enough. You want more, MORE, MORE!!! In that case, head over to “Book ‘Em Bob!” where I answered 10 very silly interview questions in a very silly manner. Plus there was a word association speed round.

This was a response to my open call to do guest blogs, interviews, or whatever kind of stuff you’d want me to do in whatever part of the Internet you call home. You can send questions, topics, or just a general “Write something for my blog, punk!” to

The Oscars…

Okay, thanks to my five-movie marathon yesterday (which included a second viewing of Inglourious Basterds) I’ve now seen eight of the ten Best Picture nominees.

The only really unworthy one in the bunch is The Blind Side. I enjoyed the movie–it’s entertaining and funny and well-acted–but there’s almost no conflict. It’s supposed to be inspiring, but what’s inspiring about a movie where an obscenely rich white family takes in a homeless black kid, who causes no financial difficulties and creates no real problems and the other kids are totally cool with everything and maybe the father has a brief moment of doubt but conflict there is less intense than if Sandra Bullock had brought home a stray puppy, and he doesn’t really “get” football, but a one-minute speech takes care of that, and he almost kills the younger son in a car accident because he’s not paying attention while he’s driving but it’s no big deal, based on a 10-second video clip every school wants to give him a full scholarship, and his grades are poor but that’s nothing that a full-time tutor can’t handle?

If you want an inspiring football movie, Rudy is the way to go. They should’ve widened the field to 10 nominees THAT year!

The race seems to be Avatar vs. The Hurt Locker for Best Picture, though my own personal debate is Up in the Air vs. Inglourious Basterds vs. District 9. Immediately after seeing Up in the Air yesterday, I was ready to proclaim it my favorite of the nominees, but I liked Inglourious Basterds even more the second time. That said, I may have to deduct a point for the scene with Mike Myers and give it to Up in the Air.

I loved Up, but I actually think it’s one of Pixar’s weaker efforts and a bit too heavy-handed with the emotional content. (Note that “weaker efforts” by Pixar standards just means “less brilliant.” It’s still worthy of a Best Picture nomination, at least with the larger playing field.) As for Avatar…can mind-blowing visuals and thrilling action sequences overcome some weaknesses in the story? In this case they can. It wouldn’t be my pick for Best Picture, but I won’t throw pizza at the television if it wins.

The Hurt Locker proves that shaky-cam can be used for realism while still maintaining coherence. It’s all hand-held and wobbly, but you always can follow what’s going on. Obviously, that alone doesn’t make it Best Picture material, but frequent readers of this blog know that I freakin’ HATE the current wave of incoherently edited action sequences. (Even when I saw Twilight I thought “This movie is a piece of crap, but at least the action sequence at the finale is edited in a coherent manner.) It’s a fantastic movie even beyond the tense bomb-defusing scenes.

An Education is the requisite “The Academy Awards are for pretentious snots! They have no idea what kinds of movies REAL people like to see! Now let’s go see Cop Out again!” flick. But it’s smart and funny and brilliantly acted and thoroughly entertaining.

I’m not going to pick my favorites category by category, but I am rooting for In The Loop for Best Original Screenplay. It’s a hilariously, savagely funny political satire and unless they took a sucky script and turned it into a spectacular film, it totally deserves the Oscar.

I saw all of the Oscar-nominated short films, and honestly, none of the live-action ones impressed me that much. I’ll give it to Miracle Fish by default. I enjoyed The New Tenants until the unspeakably stupid ending, and Instead of Abracadabra is like an episode of a mildly amusing sitcom–would it have ever stood a chance at an Academy Award nomination if it weren’t in a foreign language with an extremely unattractive main character?

The animated short films were much better. I’m rooting for Logorama, a breathlessly paced, almost exhilarating film comprised entirely of corporate logos and characters (most notably a foul-mouthed homicidal Ronald McDonald).

TRIVIA: Last year, 3 of the 5 Best Picture nominees featured graphic scenes of people throwing up. This year, I don’t recall any scenes of regurgitation in any of them, though I haven’t seen Precious or A Serious Man.

MORE TRIVIA: Two of this year’s Best Picture nominees feature the song “Bust a Move” by Young MC.

PREDICTION: Steve Martin was never more than mildly amusing as Oscars host, but by joining forces with Alec Baldwin he will reach the level of “moderately amusing” but still not quite “funny.”

What are you rooting for? Post your comments!

Festivals o’ Film

This year, the Florida Film Festival, Sarasota Film Festival, and Sunscreen Film Festival all overlap, which is a great big barrel of SUCK!!! As of yet, only the Florida Film Festival has announced a preliminary lineup, so it remains to be seen if I’ll be saying “Dammit! [INSERT FILM HERE] is playing at the Sarasota Film Festival the same time [INSERT OTHER FILM HERE] is playing at the Sunscreen Film Festival!”

But two of the announced films at the Florida Film Festival are movies I’d already wanted to see: Best Worst Movie and Punching the Clown. Best Worst Movie is a documentary about the enduring popularity of Troll 2 (which I haven’t seen–the original Troll was sufficiently poor) and Punching the Clown stars Dr. Demento Show favorite Henry Phillips.

The Gasparilla Film Festival here in Tampa March 18-21 fortunately does NOT conflict with the other three. I’ll definitely be there for Brainjacked on Saturday the 20th. I’ve already seen the movie…but is one viewing of Brainjacked enough? I think not.

There’s also a thriller called Endure which I will probably see, except that the the plot description on the ticket-buying page seems to offer one big frickin’ doozy of a spoiler.

And a comedy called Friends With Benefits, notable to me because it’s written and directed by Gorman Berchard, who made Psychos in Love in the 80’s. C’mon, how can I not go see a movie made by the director of Psychos in Love, with the director in attendance? That would be madness!

5 Oscar Nominees In A Row…

As usual, I’ve seen very few of the Best Picture nominees, but as with last year, AMC Theatres is letting me play catch-up by watching 5 in a row. (Of course, this year there are 10 nominees, forcing them to split it up between two weekends, but I’d already seen Avatar, Up, and District 9 from last weekend.) So tomorrow, starting at 10:30 AM, I’ll be seeing An Education, The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air, The Blind Side, and Inglourious Basterds. I’ve already seen Inglourious Basterds, but the plan is to watch it again. Whether that plan will remain intact after four movies in a row remains to be seen.

Plus, unlimited popcorn and soda!!!

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies: The Prequel!

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls hits bookstores on March 23, one week before Dweller, which should make author Steve Hockensmith my mortal enemy. Which he is, even though we don’t know each other…but rather than trying to use this blog entry to sabotage his success, I’ve decided to take the higher road and settle for flinging a molotov cocktail into his automobile.

As you probably already know, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies–which took Jane Austen’s classic novel and added the living dead–was the single greatest idea in the entire history of literature. I mean, yeah, Gutenberg’s press was a pretty big deal, but if we limit this discussion to storytelling devices, then Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is the greatest idea ever. It sold a million copies. (By way of comparison, my last novel did not sell a million copies.)

Now we’ve got Dawn of the Dreadfuls, an all-new prequel. As far as shameless cash-ins go, this is a pretty darn awesome one. The characters we all hated because we had to write term papers about them in school are back, and the central joke is the idea that for young women to become highly trained zombie killers just isn’t proper. What will the other people in town think? Will the Bennett girls’ invitation to the all-important ball be withdrawn, causing their mother to nearly die of shame? (SPOILER: Yes.)

Author Hockensmith is smart enough to realize that just doing splatter scenes written in a classy style would get old, and ultimately the book is far more Jane Austen than George Romero. The book is more “frequently amusing” than “laugh out loud funny,” but the sleazy/lazy Baron of Lumpley provides some big laughs, and the efforts to “cure” a captured zombie by treating it as a human (“He isn’t just a dead man. He’s a dead Englishman.”) are hilarious.

There’s romance. Training sequences. Heads going splat. Limbs being removed from their body of origin. And if my previous paragraph caused a brief feeling of worry that the book might not have enough zombie carnage, rest assured that the last few chapters are an all-out zombie army rampage (while matters of love and decorum still remain crucial), and your needs will be met.

If nothing else, Dawn of the Dreadfuls contains one brilliant idea that I’ve never seen: zombie droppings.

Does this book provide $12.95 worth of entertainment value? Hell yeah! Should you buy it? Hell yeah!

But you can also win one of 50 Quirk Classics Prize Packs, including such stuff as a free advance copy of the book (saving you the aforementioned $12.95), free audio books, a Dawn of the Dreadfuls poster, a Pride & Prejudice & Zombies journal, and even a box set of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies postcards, which you know darn well you want BAD.

To be entered to win, visit the contest page right here…

…and leave a comment saying where you read about the awesomeness of Dawn of the Dreadfuls. That gives YOU the chance to win free books and stuff, and ME the chance to leech off of the popularity of zombies in Regency England. (Remember: Dweller. Monster bromance. March 30 at your local bookstore.)

The official Pride & Prejudice & Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls page is right here:

Got your assignment? Cool. Now scroll down and read my interview with Canadian novelty music superstar Trevor Strong of the Arrogant Worms…

An Interview With Trevor Strong

One can be excused for thinking that Trevor Strong’s ascension to superstardom began with the awesome Dweller song (above). In truth, he was already well established in the biz as 33.3% of the Canadian musical comedy trio The Arrogant Worms, which is easily one of my favorite bands.

I went to see them in concert several years ago, knowing nothing but that they were a Canadian musical comedy trio…but really, what else do you need to know? It was one of the most entertaining shows I’ve ever seen, and it quickly led to acquiring the entire Arrogant Worms music collection and listening to each song approximately 8 billion times on my iPod.

Unfortunately, Florida and Canada are not adjacent, and my regular clicking of the “Tour” page of the Arrogant Worms site did not bear fruit until 2008, when they finally returned to Florida. Three hours away in Florida, but hey, I would have happily driven three-and-a-half or even three hours and forty-five minutes to see them again…and there was a world-famous hot dog place along the way. It turned out that the hot dog place sucked, but the Worms were as great as ever.

I met Trevor Strong on Facebook. Then he did the Dweller song. Then I read his book Grimm Fairy Tales. Then he did this interview, which was conducted at a leisurely pace via e-mail.

JEFF: I’ve already read Very Grimm Fairy Tales and loved it, but for the purposes of this question I’m going to pretend I’ve never heard of you or your book. What’s your book about?

TREVOR: Very Grimm Fairy Tales is about fairy tales that are… well… grim and Grimm. I love the old fairy tales where life is cruel, nothing is explained, and characters are killed instead of developed, and I wanted to use that style to tell my own stories. I’d have to say most of the stories aren’t really “about” much at all, except for maybe the whole “life is cruel” part. Oh, and they’re funny–at least they’re meant to be–and the body count is pretty high. I must admit I’m proud of the breadth of the work encompassing, as it does, everything from the dreams of a little girl, to a giant rabbit made out of raw hamburger that devours almost all life on earth.

JEFF: The raw hamburger rabbit is one of the most deranged things I’ve read in…well, pretty much ever. The whole book is quite a bit darker than your music (a body of work that, I should point out, includes a merry little tune about an alligator devouring a young boy). When you’re writing with The Arrogant Worms, do you guys tone yourselves down? What are the limits of poor taste that you’ll perform live in front of an audience?

TREVOR:  Because the Worms perform a lot of outdoor concerts to audiences of all ages, our material has to be a little on the safe side. For example, our naughty-word-o-meter stops at the words “ass” and “bastard”.  That being said, there is a surprising amount you can get away with as long as you deliver things with a smile. Some subjects we have sung about in front of little kids and grannies include: decapitation, murdering your neighbour’s dog, rampant alcoholism, and, of course, a boy being eaten one limb at a time by an alligator.

When we first played “Rippy the Gator” we were expecting at least some modest outrage. But, no. Nothing. Ever. Not a single complaint. In fact, the only song we receive complaints about is “Jesus’ Brother Bob” which is almost completely inoffensive. But it has the word Jesus in it, and some people seem to think he didn’t have a sense of humour. (Although the song has also been used in sermons.)

But yes, in a book you can go further (or is it “farther” I am still confused by these words), because the person is choosing to read it. The words aren’t blasting out of loudspeakers that carry half-way through town.

JEFF: Very Grimm Fairy Tales is your second book, after Get Stupid. Since you’re making a living in the brutal, cutthroat world of music, why enter the brutal, cutthroat world of publishing?

TREVOR: I guess once you’ve managed to make a living off of writing novelty songs, nothing seems impossible. Although I now know that some things are. Like getting a book published. I thought all I’d have to do is say, “Hey look, I’ve already made a living doing something way more ridiculous,” but they didn’t buy it. One publisher (that sat on one of my manuscripts for months) finally rejected it and told me it didn’t have enough “depth”. I told him that I like to swim in the shallow end of the pool. Up until that point I had never imagined that “depth” was a desired quality in North American society. So I’ve decided to publish on my own. Hopefully my faith in humanity’s innate superficiality will be vindicated.

JEFF: The live version of “Mounted Animal Nature Trail” is designed to encourage people in the audience to shout inappropriately, so that the band can tell them to shut up. And your live CD Toast is filled with unsolicited audience participation. Have you ever felt like you “lost control” of a show, and do you ever think “Excuse me, I’M the performer and YOU’RE the audience–please respect our assigned roles”?

TREVOR: I can’t think of too many times when we’ve “lost control”– occasionally an audience member will get a good response from something and then overdo it. But we’re pretty good at quieting them down, and besides, we have one big advantage: microphones. The only times we really lose control is when we don’t have control in first place. This usually happens at corporate gigs when they decide to have us play during the buffet or something similar.

JEFF: Your podcast, “Trevor Talks It Through,” provides listeners with a delightful 15-20 minutes of totally free laughs on a biweekly basis. A recurring theme of the podcast is that you haven’t done any preparation, but I feel like that may be a LIE! What’s the prep process for an episode?

TREVOR: Well, the first step is remembering to do the podcast. So far I’ve succeeded in doing that. If I remember a day early, I’ll often ask people on my Facebook page to send me ideas about a particular topic to turn into a song.

The day of the podcast I print off all the questions I’ve received and whatever responses I got on the topic. Then I get some coffee and find ways to procrastinate–read the paper, pet the cat, re-examine my feet. Eventually I’ll work on the song, then read through the questions so I have some idea what I’m in for. I’ll also try to think about whether or not there’s anything else I feel like talking about. If there is, I’ll might even write it down. This is followed by more procrastinating, then I’ll look at the time, curse, and set up the microphone. Then I ramble on until, finally, I don’t. This is the end of the episode.

JEFF: You wrote a wonderful song for my novel Dweller. If readers and critics declare the book to be a complete disaster, what are your plans to distance yourself from the project?

TREVOR: I have no idea what you’re talking about. Could we end the interview now?

Want to learn more about Trevor’s books? His music? His podcast? It’s all right HERE, kiddies!

Want to buy lots and lots of Arrogant Worms music? Visit their official website right HERE.

And, of course, you KNOW you want to hear “Rippy the Gator,” so…

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