This week in popular culture: “Doctor Strange” “Moonlight” and a mess of albums

“The Lyrics, 1961-2012” by Bob Dylan (Simon & Schuster). As you might have heard, this guy just won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Here’s why, more or less. (Nov. 1)

“Avengers” #1 (Marvel). Good jumping on point for all things Avengers. Current roster includes Captain America (Sam Wilson), Thor (Jane Foster), Vision, The Wasp (Nadia Pym), Hercules, and Spider-Man (Peter Parker). Mark Waid writes, Mike Del Mundo draws. (Nov. 2)

“Champions” #2 (Marvel). Mark Waid is also writing this fun book, which focuses on younger heroes disillusioned with the old fogey Avengers.

“Doctor Strange.” The next chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe stars Benedict “Sherlock” Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange, an arrogant surgeon who becomes humbled after his hands are damaged in a car accident. Seeking answers to life, the universe and everything, he travels to the East to study that which man was maybe not meant to know and becomes a master of the mystic arts. There was a bit of drama over Tilda Swinton cast as the Tibetan-in-the-comics Ancient One, given that she is not Asian. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Baron Mordo (who may or may not be a bad guy; he is in the comics), and Mads Mikkelsen plays the super-obscure baddie Kaecilius.

Dr. Strange is the creation of Marvel creative godfather Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, also the creative team behind Spider-Man (whatever happened to that character?). While Spider-Man was very much the Hero Who Could Be You (school/work stress, lived with weirdly old aunt, girl trouble) who fought (in the beginning, anyway) street crime and midpowered supervillains, Dr. Strange was the hero who lived in a weird pad in Greenwich Village, had a servant named Wong (mercifully not a servant in the movie) and fought bizarre baddies in other dimensions while holding his hands in really odd ways. In an era when Marvel was giving comics fans increasingly psychedelic work, “Strange” was the trippiest. With luck, this will be a Marvel movie with a look and feel unlike any other. (Nov. 4)

moonlight-poster “Moonlight.” Barry Jenkins writes and directs this adaptation of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.” Starring University of Texas graduate Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe and Mahershala Ali, the film is the first in-house production from indie powerhouse A24. It is also absolutely, positively one of the year’s very best movies. (Nov. 4)

 Common, “Black America Again” (Artium/Def Jam). America’s favorite rapper-turned-actor who isn’t Will Smith (OK, maybe he’s more popular than Smith at this point) delivers a new album complete with Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Bilal, Syd tha Kid and more. (Nov. 4)

Jim James, “Eternally Even” (ATO/Capitol). The My Morning Jacket frontman produces an allegedly political album, so, you know, it’s come to this. (Nov. 4)

Alicia Keys, “Here” (RCA). It’s the singer and “Voice” co-host’s sixth album and her first since “Girl on Fire” from 2012. The collection will likely include “Blended Family,” “In Common” and “Hallelujah” (not the Leonard Cohen song). (Nov. 4)

Tad, “God’s Balls (Deluxe Edition),” “Salt Lick (Deluxe Edition),” “8-Way Santa (Deluxe Edition)” (Sub Pop). Everything grunge is new again with the re-release of this Seattle outfit’s 1989, 1990 and 1991 albums. (Nov. 4)

This week in popular culture: John Grisham, Alejandro and “Inferno!”

“The Whistler” by John Grisham (Doubleday). In the newest by legal thriller savant John Grisham, an investigator for the  Florida Board on Judicial Conduct gets a top about a corrupt judge from a sketchy lawyer and gets pulled into a world of Native American casinos, the Gulf Coast mob and deadly secrets. (Oct. 25)

detail “Vision” #12 by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta. (Marvel). Here it is, the long-awaited conclusion to the year’s most emotionally affecting series from Marvel.  King and Walta have crafted one of the all-time great superhero fables. Look for writers to be ripping off this series for years to come.

Neil Diamond, “Acoustic Christmas” (Capitol). The Jewish Elvis is still out there, making that music. Mazel tov, Santa! (Oct. 28)

“Inferno.” The third movie in the Dan Brown series, following “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels & Demons,” wherein Tom Hanks again plays Dr. Robert Langdon and Ron Howard directs him once again (likely) giving a whole lot of exposition about vast conspiracies. (Oct. 28)

Nina Diaz, “The  Beat Is Dead” (Cosmica). Girl In A Coma’s solo joint is more of a big-beats-n-bigger-guitars rock album than Coma’s punkish roar. Not too shabby. (Oct. 28)

Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein, “Stranger  Things (A Netflix Original Series) – Volume Two”  (Lakeshore). Another volume of soundtrack work from two Austinites in S U R V I V E. (Oct. 28)

Alejandro Escovedo, “Burn  Something Beautiful” (Fantasy). Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey helm the NOW DALLAS-BASED rock icon’s new album. YES, HE LIVES IN DALLAS NOW, PEOPLE. (Oct. 28)



Posters, toys and “A Clockwork Orange:” MondoCon3 is here!

It’s time for MondoCon 3, which takes place Oct. 22-23 at the Austin Film Society Cinema (6226 Middle Fiskville Road) and the Holiday Inn Midtown Conference Center.

Mondo is, of course, the graphics and merch arm of the Alamo Drafthouse. Mondo is most famous for their limited-edition, screen-printed posters based on film, television and comic properties, and MondoCon is a celebration of all things Mondo.

It is a celebration of, in a word, stuff.

con_beer_square_grandeNo, really. The “stuffness” of Mondo is very deliberate, what with its focus on collectibles, vinyl records and things one can hang on a wall.

One of the stuff achievements Mondo unlocked this year? Their own beer, called Con Beer, a hoppy lager brewed by Austin Beerworks.

“It is being canned even as we speak,” MondoCon head cheese Justin Brookhart said Wednesday.

The halls at AFC will be packed with poster artists such as Austinite Becky Cloonan, Olly Moss (a British artist Brookhart describes as a huge get for the fest), comics artist Jock, and Jay Shaw.

At one event, called “Mondo Live: Draw & Design,” Moss, Jock and Shaw will be participating in a live jam to create a poster in real time.

“The audience will pick the movie, and then those three will draw it,” Brookhart said.

Elsewhere, composer Clint Mansell will be in attendance to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Darren Aronofsky’s “The Fountain” and the release of a new Mondo vinyl for the soundtrack. “A Clockwork Orange,” also celebrating an anniversary (45 years), will screen in glorious 35mm at the convention with a surprise limited-edition screen print from artist Rory Kurtz.

The Graduate by Rory Kurtz 24"x36" Screen Print, Edition of 325
The Graduate by Rory Kurtz
24″x36″ Screen Print, Edition of 325 (This is not the Clockwork Orange poster. Obviously.)

Panels include such topics as a behind-the-scenes look at how Mondo creates its collectible toys, a discussion of the state of soundtracks in 2016 and a panel on the popular site (Look for a review of OMGPosters’ new book next month in the American-Statesman.)

There is also a silent auction featuring rare posters and a mess of food trucks, including Frank Hotdogs, Micklethwait Craft Meats, Vegan Nom and many more.

Tickets are $90 for both days and $45 for Saturday or Sunday only. While 75 percent of the seats have been held for RSVPs, there will be a line for the remaining 25 percent of seats, plus any no-show RSVP spots. It is possible the screenings will be sold out at press time; check for updates.


The week in popular culture: “Supergirl,” “Boyhood” comes to Criterion and Moby

Superman and Supergirl in "Supergirl" (photo: The CW)
Superman and Supergirl in “Supergirl” (photo: The CW)

“Supergirl” (The CW). The often-extremely charming superhero series, which co-stars former Austinite Mehcad Brooks as James “Jimmy” Olsen, returns for a second season. The show moved from CBS to sister network the CW, filming moved from LA to Vancouver,  and the cast is joined this year by Tyler Hoechlin (“Everybody Wants Some”) as Clark Kent/Superman, which insures that the Man of Steel will always have five o’clock shadow.  (Oct. 10)

“The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War” by H.W. Brands (Doubleday). The Austin historian breaks down one of the most dangerous periods of 20th-century American history. (Oct. 11)

8192l4agb0l-_sx342_“Boyhood: The Criterion Collection” (Criterion). It was only a matter of time, really. With a 2K digital transfer, supervised by Austin director Richard Linklater, a new audio commentary featuring Linklater and nine members of the film’s cast and crew, a new documentary chronicling the film’s production, a new discussion featuring Linklater and actors Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane, moderated by producer John Pierson, a new conversation between Coltrane and actor Ethan Hawke, a new video essay by critic Michael Koresky about time in Linklater’s films, an essay by the great Jonathan Lethem and more. (Oct. 11)

The Austin Film Festival. The 23rd annual fest kicks off with a screening of Austin director Jeff Nichol’s “Loving.” (Oct. 13-20)

Darkthrone, “Arctic Thunder” (Peaceville). Magnificent black metal from some of the best in the game. Drummer Gylve Fenris Nagell, aka Fenriz, was recently elected councilman of Kolbotn, Norway. No, really. (Oct. 14)

The Dillinger Escape Plan “Dissociation”  (Party Smasher Inc. / Cooking Vinyl). The math-metal titans’ first album since 2013. The riffs will be very complicated indeed. (Oct, 14)

Dr. John “The Musical Mojo of Dr. John: A Celebration of Mac and His Music” (Concord). Concert at New Orleans’ Saenger Theatre celebrating John’s music; with  Bruce  Springsteen, John Fogerty, Irma Thomas, Widespread Panic, Warren Haynes,  Mavis Staples, Aaron Neville, etc.

Kings of Leon “Walls” (RCA). To the surprise of many, possibly including the band themselves, this is the band;s seventh album. Expect a different, larger sound.  (producer: Markus Dravs; Read here; MP3)

Moby & The Void Pacific Choir “These Systems Are Failing” (Mute).   Most timely, accurate album title ever.


Austin author Karan Mahajan is a National Book Award finalist

Karan Mahajan (photo: Molly Winters)
Karan Mahajan (photo: Molly Winters)

Austin author Karan Mahajan is a National Book Award finalist with his novel “The Association of Small Bombs” (Viking).

Mahajan, who will be teaching at UT in the spring, holds an MFA from the Michener Center. His first novel, “Family Planning” (2008), won the Joseph Henry Jackson Award and was a finalist for the International Dylan Thomas Prize.

The prizes will be awarded Nov. 16 in New York. The Texas Book Festival, which Mahajan will be attending, is Nov. 5 and 6.

The complete list is below.


51ao-p7gr4l-_sy344_bo1204203200_2016 National Book Award finalists, fiction:

Chris Bachelder, “The Throwback Special” (W.W. Norton & Co.)

Paulette Jiles, “News of the World” (William Morrow)

Karan Mahajan, “The Association of Small Bombs” (Viking)

Colson Whitehead, “The Underground Railroad” (Doubleday)

Jacqueline Woodson, “Another Brooklyn” (Amistad)


2016 National Book Award finalists, nonfiction:

51ok705rhtl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Arlie Russell Hochschild, “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right” (The New Press)

Ibram X. Kendi, “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” (Nation Books)

Viet Thanh Nguyen, “Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War” (Harvard University Press)

Andrés Reséndez, “The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Heather Ann Thompson, “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy” (Pantheon)


collectedpoemsdove_97803932859492016 National Book Award finalists, poetry:

Daniel Borzutzky, “The Performance of Becoming Human” (Brooklyn Arts Press)

Rita Dove, “Collected Poems 1974 – 2004” (W. W. Norton & Co.)

Peter Gizzi, “Archeophonics” (Wesleyan University Press)

Jay Hopler, “The Abridged History of Rainfall” (McSweeney’s)

Solmaz Sharif, “Look” (Graywolf Press)


2016 National Book Award finalists, young people’s literature:

march-book-three-cover-100dpi_lgKate DiCamillo, “Raymie Nightingale” (Candlewick Press)

John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell (artist) “March: Book Three” (Top Shelf)

Grace Lin, “When the Sea Turned to Silver” (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Jason Reynolds, “Ghost” (Atheneum Books for Young Readers / Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing)

Nicola Yoon, “The Sun Is Also a Star” (Delacorte Press / Penguin Random House)


Mindy Kaling at the Texas Teen Book Festival: “I think I was just a friendly, chubby kid”

In case you missed it: on Saturday Mindy Kaling gave a one-on-one interview with Sarah Pitre of Alamo Drafthouse and Forever YA Book Club for the Texas Teen Book Festival, hosted by St. Edward’s University.

The writer and star of Hulu’s The Mindy Project talked about childhood influences, the start of her writing career, and her upcoming role in the film adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, directed by Ava DuVernay. When asked to describe her teenage self as a YA protagonist, Kaling said that at fourteen years old, she was bookish, awkward, and an underdog.

“[I was] painfully shy, acneic, overweight–to the extent where you’re not worried about health but just shy of that,” Kaling listed. “I think I was just a friendly, chubby kid.”

Kaling also said she was ignored in school, which encouraged her writing abilities.

“I liked talking to people but was largely overlooked in school, so I found solace in books,” Kaling said. “I think fairly early on, when I was being ignored largely, I was left alone a lot because both my parents worked. You could either read or you could write. I think I always knew I wanted to write but it wasn’t until I was eight or nine years old that I learned that you could write for television.”

Kaling, who was at the festival promoting her books Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) and Why Not Me? said that when she was younger she started writing comedy skits for SNL.

“I was starting to write some short plays,” Kaling said. “I’ve realized that writing fiction felt, for me, so different, and so much harder than writing dialogue, which I’ve been doing for the past fifteen years. The reason I like writing essays so much is because I feel like I’m talking to a friend.”

When asked about the glamour of Hollywood, Kaling credited The Office for teaching her about the aesthetics of writing television shows.

“In order to find happiness for me, I just have to find situations where what is real is beautiful,” Kaling said. “In The Office, the most important thing is not everyone being beautiful. I like comedies where nobody cares about looks, where being funny is what’s most important.”

Kaling said that when she was a teenager, the book that affected her the most was House of Mirth by Edith Warton, and it still influences her writing choices today.

“I went through the whole Jane Austin canon, and then after that Charlotte Bronte, and then I read House of Mirth,” Kaling said. “In this book there was this lead who was stuck in her time, but also wanted selfish things and discovered her sexuality. Especially looking at all of these shows nowadays, that character’s still in my mind. I love flawed characters.”

Kaling also talked about her upbringing and how it influences her material.

“[My parents] were extremely strict but also very chatty. So I couldn’t go out or do a lot of things, but we’d sit inside and watch episodes of Seinfeld and talk a lot about why we liked them. Or we would listen to music on long car rides to Niagara Falls and talk about why it worked for us…people think the best quality in children is being expressive. In my house, it was much more important to be perceptive.”

“What is so cool is that the director, Ava DuVernay, has picked a really inclusive cast,” Kaling said. “And there’s a really interesting thing where she doesn’t want to say ‘diverse’, she thinks that’s a word that turns people off and doesn’t represent the same thing as ‘inclusive’, which I really agree with.”

When asked for more details about the movie, Kaling teased that the movie would be set in Los Angeles.

“If you’ve read the book, you know it takes place in England. If you’re not Caucasian, you feel like you love the book but you feel outside of it, like you’re admiring it in a really anthropological way,” Kaling said. “What’s great about [DuVernay’s] interpretation is just how inclusive it is.”

This week in popular culture: ‘Timeless,’ ‘The Girl on the Train’ and a whole mess of records

“Timeless” (NBC). There are three time-travel shows debuting this season (Google “Time After Time” and “Making History” for more info) and, as someone who never gets tired of alternate Earths, alternate histories, changes to the timeline, or timey-wimey stuff in general, I could not be happier. From Eric Kripke (“Supernatural,” which was a smash, and “Revolution,” which nobody cared about) and Shawn Ryan (“The Shield,” which ruled) comes this story of a baddie (what’s up, Goran Visnjic) who absconds with a time machine intent on changing the past to wreck America. He must be stopped! With Matt Lanter, Abigail Spencer and Malcolm Barrett. Man, I still miss “Voyagers!” Someone reboot “Voyagers!” (Oct. 3)

a0822931127_10Brookzill!, “Throwback to the Future” (Tommy Boy). Hello, 1990s. Game-changing producer Prince Paul joins Ladybug Mecca (of Digable Planets), Rodrigo Brandão and Don Newkirk for a blend of old-school, sample-based East Coast hip-hop and Brazilian music. (Oct. 7)

Green Day, “Revolution Radio” (Reprise). They are apparently back to making short, sharp shocks. Remember when they were supposed to be a total pan-flash? (Oct. 7)

Norah Jones, “Day Breaks” (Blue Note). She keeps on keepin’ on. Guests include Wayne Shorter and Lonnie Smith. (Oct. 7)

Loretta Lynn, “White Christmas Blue” (Legacy Recordings). Lynn has been around so long that you can say things such as this is her first album of seasonal songs in 50 years. (Oct. 7)

meshuggah_-_the_violent_sleep_of_reasonMeshuggah, “The Violent Sleep of Reason” (Nuclear Blast). Complicated, thunderous, extremely extreme technical death metal. Very few do it better. (Oct. 7)

Pitbull, “Climate Change” (Mr.305 / Polo Grounds Music / RCA). Remember when this dude used to be kind of hard? That was weird. With Jennifer Lopez, R. Kelly, Robin Thicke, Joe Perry and many, many more. (Oct. 7)

“The Birth of a Nation.” The story of this Sundance sensation, which tells the tale of Nat Turner’s slave revolt, became much more complicated after it became commonly known that director Nate Parker had been acquitted of a rape, and his screenwriter convicted of one, a conviction that was later overturned; the woman involved committed suicide in 2012. (Oct. 7)

girlontrainposter“The Girl on the Train” It was only a matter of time before Paula Hawkins’ bestselling thriller hit the big screen. Tate “The Help” Taylor directs Emily Blunt as Rachel, who may or may not have seen a brutal crime. (Oct. 7)