January 2009

28 JAN 2009

Carl Hiaasen
Quail Ridge Books and Music—Carl Hiaasen made his name with such crime thrillers as Lucky You and Basket Case, but in the last several years, he’s earned a new reputation for such acclaimed children’s books as Hoot and Flush.

Like Hoot and Flush, his just-released Scat is a contemporary story that deals with children in Florida having an adventure with environmental implications. The multilayered tale includes an endangered panther and the father of one of the kids, a National Guardsman who returns from Iraq with an injury.

“There are thousands and thousands of veterans coming home with severe injuries, and you almost never read about how it affects the kids,” says Hiaasen. “I think if you’re writing contemporary fiction, you have to write about events that are affecting everyone’s lives. And unfortunately, I was confident that we would still be deeply engaged in Iraq when the book came out, for better or for worse.”

The multitalented Hiaasen, whose works co-authoring several songs with the late Warren Zevon, is next at work on a more adult novel and a pilot for HBO, along with continuing his weekly op-ed column for the Miami Herald. Hiaasen assesses the state of daily newspapers as “grim,” but hopes that things will improve: “I think it’s a big tragedy if we start losing daily newspapers at this time in history,” he says. “I think they’ve always been the singular public watchdog. In a place like Miami where corruption is pandemic, you need a good, healthy, public newspaper.”

He hopes that his children’s books will alert kids to ecological issues, without the darker edge of his adult novels. “With a kid, you don’t have to describe three divorces and a crack habit, like you do with an adult character.”

Hiaasen appears at 7:30 p.m. Visit www.quailridgebooks.com for more information. —Zack Smith


Reprinted from the Independent Weekly

Gustafer Yellowgold hooks kiddies early with alt-rock hooks

29 JAN 2009  •  by Zack Smith

Gustafer Yellowgold
The ArtsCenter
Jan. 24

“Are you ready to soft-rock?” asks Morgan Taylor as he addresses a crowd of pre-teens and their parents at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro. It’s Saturday morning and a packed room full of kids have been dragged away from their cartoons to witness Gustafer Yellowgold, a fusion of indie rock and kiddie tunes that’s become one of the most acclaimed children’s acts in the country.

The stage, festooned with Christmas tree lights, looks like it could be for one of the more adult-oriented acts at Cat’s Cradle just a few doors down, and indeed, Taylor’s background includes playing in the band Autumn Season with members of Wilco. But it’s not exactly the Wilco audience at The ArtsCenter—in fact, most members are still in preschool.

On stage, Taylor, wielding an acoustic guitar, is joined by his wife, Rachel, who sings backup and mans the laptop display—all with their 10-month-old son, Harvey, in a papoose around her. A large projection screen displays illustrations with limited animation as Taylor sings of Gustafer, a friendly character resembling a stick of melted butter.

Some of the songs involve such learning-based concepts as sharing (“Aye, Aphid”) or counting (“Mustard Slugs”), but as you can tell from the titles, they’re a bit left-of-center from the “Wee Sing Silly Songs” tapes your parents might have used to pacify you on car trips. At times, they’re weirdly poignant, such as the imaginative “Rocket Shoes” or “Pinecone Lovely,” an anthem about eating pine cones. It makes sense if you hear it.

It’s an enjoyable set, but seeing as I’m not the intended audience, I surveyed some of the kids getting DVDs and stuffed toys afterward. Six-year-old Henry Carson, whose mother drove him from Hillsborough to the show, says he likes Gustafer “because he’s weird, and I like weird things.” Musicians take note: That’s how you get kids hooked on alt-rock early.

For more on Gustafer, visit www.gustaferyellowgold.com or watch his videos on YouTube.

Welcoming the Muppets Back to Comics

By Zack Smith


BOOM! Studios aims to make a splash in all-ages comics this March.

We already talked to Mark Waid about The Incredibles: Family Matters, and now we’ve got Roger Langridge on bringing one of the best-known all-ages concepts ever to comics – The Muppet Show.

First known for Fred the Clown, Langridge has become a fan favorite in recent years for such works as Marvel’s Fing Fang Four . Now, he’s writing and drawing a full book of Muppets for readers every month that revives many of the classic characters and gags from the original show. Not only did he talk with us about this new book, but let’s just say he went above and beyond the call of duty in answering our questions. Read on to see…

Read the full interview here.

Mark Waid: Bringing The Incredibles to Comics

By Zack Smith


Pixar’s Oscar-winning animated film The Incredibles is widely considered one of the best superhero movies ever made…and Mark Waid is widely considered one of the best superhero writers in comics.

That in mind, it’s only natural that Waid be the one to bring the Incredibles to comics in March’s The Incredibles: Family Matters from BOOM! Studios. Waid, who also serves as BOOM!’s Editor-in-Chief, talked to us about what his new series will entail, and what this work means to him personally.

Read the Full Interview Here.

A Comic Book/Movie Love Child – Underworld’s Kevin Grevioux

By Zack Smith
posted: 22 January 2009 12:38 pm ET


Actor/writer/renasissance man Kevin Grevioux is a busy guy these days. His latest acting project is Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, the newest installment in the film series about the war between vampires and werewolves, or “Lycans.” This latest enty delves into the backstory of the series, and allows Grevioux to reprise his role from the first film as henchman Raze. We got up with Grevioux for a quick chat about the film. He also provided us with some info and art from his upcoming comic book projects.

Read the full interview here.

22 JAN 2009

Gustafer Yellowgold
The ArtsCenter—Parents, should you ever flip past the cable channel Noggin, you might find yourself confronted with any of a number of garish music videos from bands attempting to crack the lucrative children’s market dominated by the likes of Raffi and the Wiggles.

However, one children’s-song character is already earning credibility among independent rockers and children alike. Gustafer Yellowgold is a pointy-headed yellow creature who came from the sun to live in snowy Minnesota, and who hangs out with such characters as a flightless pterodactyl, an eel and a dragon named Asparagus. This morning, the character makes his Triangle premiere with a live show that combines music, sing-alongs and video projections.

The brainchild of Morgan Taylor—who’s also a member of a band called Autumn Defense with Wilco’s John Stirrat and Patrick Sanson—Gustafer has earned raves from numerous family publications and was picked as 2008’s “Best Kids Performer” by New York magazine. In addition, one of the Gustafer songs won the grand prize in the children’s category of the 2008 John Lennon Songwriting Contest. On top of that, Gustafer has been the wild card opening act for Wilco and the Polyphonic Spree. You’d never see SpongeBob do that.

“I think the core to Gustafer’s appeal is that he’s not pandering, and there’s nothing so kiddy about it that it turns adults off,” Taylor says.

Taylor believes the biggest mistake most children’s bands make is resorting to nursery-rhyme lyrics and overly obvious lessons. “I don’t really change the show that much when I play it for adults—there’s something disarming about asking a theater full of adults how they feel about dinosaurs.”

Taylor, who started his new tour in Charlotte, is gearing up for the release of Mellow Fever, his third CD/ DVD, March 17. “We’ve been in bands for years, so touring is the only way we know how to get something like this out there,” Taylor says. “It’s not like we have a TV show.” Just wait.

For more on Gustafer Yellowgold, including songs and interactive games, visit www.gustaferyellowgold.com. Tickets are $7. —Zack Smith

Comic Connections: Farmer on My Bloody Valentine: 3-D

By Zack Smith



A while back, Newsarama talked with Todd Farmer, screenwriter of such films as Jason X and The Messengers, about his comics debut with the Image miniseries Alien Pig Farm 3000. Now, Farmer has his biggest film yet coming out this Friday with My Bloody Valentine 3-D, a remake of the cult Canadian classic about a very angry miner with a pickaxe to grind. The first R-rated release in the much-vaunted “Real-D” format, the film stars Supernatural’s Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith and horror legend Tom Atkins.

With Valentine hitting theatres on Friday, we called up Farmer to get the goods on his new release. We wound up having a rollicking conversation about the film, its director Patrick Lussier, and the state of modern horror movies.

Read the full interview here.

Next Page »