Yes, this is the first time I'm writing The Vaunt. This column is a platform for me to talk about all the nerdy, amazing shit that I didn't personally make. It's what's giving me life (as the gays say); these are my favorite things (as Oprah would say); "Oh, Mackenzie doesn't hate things after all" (as my college friends would say). These are all things I love. For a long while or just a few minutes, these things have made my life better and I'm going to do my best to share them on a weekly basis.
If you like word play, literature, video games, artisanal food, traveling, home decor, movies, tech, great apps, teaching strategies, political videos, Taoism, nerds, cartoons, improv, or Tina Fey's parodies of Boston... then jesus god I hope I get around to talking about one of those things.
The idea is that I'll only praise things I love.
Star Wars Rebels
I am so, so excited about Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, but so many don't yet know about Star Wars Rebels. This show (on Disney XD) had a rough start, but was partially written by one of my favorite people – Greg Weisman. The guy who did Gargoyles and many other great shows. He's not involved in season 2, but essentially Act I of the show is over.
No spoilers, but everything went crazy in the season finale. Someone bit the dust, a major character made a return, and (obviously) Darth Vader returns to the Star Wars franchise. This is literally the only place to get more Vader.
Fans of the previous cartoon show will recognize a lot of familiar faces in this trailer. Captain Rex is someone who I grew to love and I'm so happy to have him back unexpectedly. Hondo is... still around. And the only 'Sith' (that may be spoilers) more fun than Vader – Ventress is hinted at as still being alive.
There are plenty of rumors about the future of fan-favorite Asajj Ventress – none of which are worth repeating here until they're fact. I don't want to go nerd out in The Vaunt, but if I were to ever cosplay... I'd shave my head, do drag, and put on whiteface for Ventress.
Aw, crap. Sharon Needles already did that.
NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast recently introduced me to Stromae. If that intro didn't give you a hint, this Vaunt is going to get a tad hip.
Stromae is a Belgian rapper / pop star whose father was Rwandan and killed in the 1994 genocide. Papaoutai (roughly: "Dad, where are you?) is an echo of that. It's angry, it's sad, and it's really catchy. I love this song. Not only because it's not in English – I just think that Stromae deserves more international recognition. This song came out in 2013. Oops? Guess I'm a little behind the times.
Papaoutai has been on repeat in my car between episodes of...
...another one I'm late for the game on. My Aunt recently kidnapped me for a performance of Tig Notaro. And I was hooked. After the show, I was asking her if there's more of Tig and her friends out in the world – she told me "yes, yes there is." Professor Blastoff is a weekly podcast and the funniest thing to happen to me in a car since that time I put my hand in Taylor's vomit* (sorry, Taylor). So now I, too, am a Blastronaut.
New episodes on Tuesdays. If you like dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, moist humor... then you're also missing out. Don't be like me. No one wants to be like me. This guy? I'm not even likeable. You should start listening now. To be less like me.
If you really want the gold star, start from the beginning because I'm not that ambitious.
Saga is a new comic series from Brian K. Vaughan, author of Y: The Last Man and some of the better Lost episodes. It's pretty much everything you could want in a fictional story. It's Star Wars meets Harry Potter meets Battlestar Galactica. Prince Robot IV (above) basically sums up the tone of the series. If you're not intrigued by this porn-prone, TV-headed antagonist, then you're not going to get into Saga. Sorry. Skip to the next thing.
I picked up the first trade paperback (at a reasonable $9.99) at an independent comics shop. Yeah, yeah. I shop local. The first arc is easy to get into and hits all the right marks while pushing the envelope. This is another "no spoilers" moment, but the artist almost refused to draw a scene. It's rough.
Ultimately, the series is about bringing life into a crazy world. Why would anyone want to do that? This is fantasy, but it's got truth in it that hits home.
The Magic Whip
FINALLY! And 'finally' in The Vaunt... Blur has a new album. After a 12-year gap (in which time they made the Gorillaz), Blur has released a new studio album. It's on iTunes Radio First Play right now. I highly recommend giving it a listen. It's the quirky British rock you didn't know you missed.
I Broadcast (above) represents some of the finest of Blur. It's high-energy and comes close to dissonance a few times. It's their quintessential sound.
I've been a Blur fan since college (i.e.: after their hiatus started, oops). Stumbling on this new album was a happy accident and gave me something to look forward to this week.
That, and it taught me the value of using artist alerts in the iTunes Store.