I’ve been thinking about Kris Marshall lately

Not much reason for a random American to think about the British actor except that I’ve been watching Murder in Paradise, the British mystery series he’s been starring in for the past few seasons. He took over as the lead after the original star Ben Miller left the show at the beginning of the third season. To be honest, I still prefer Miller and his character. I think that he’s funnier than Marshall in general and I think that his character–who walked around the Caribbean island in a dark suit and without sunglasses, complaining about how hot and bright it was–was just more entertaining.

Having said that, the show’s sixth season airs next year and Marshall has been on the show for longer than Miller has. The truth is that Marshall has grown on me and though I still will find myself occasionally thinking that the show would be funnier and more entertaining if Miller had stayed, it’s a relaxing and enjoyable show in the cozy mystery tradition.

Also I hope that it’s helped tourism to Guadalupe, where the show is filmed, because it’s a beautiful place.

Now I know form a cursory internet search that Marshall has acted in a lot of things over the years but like most Americans I would guess, I know him for one role: Colin in Love Actually.

For those of you who have forgotten (or just blocked it out) is a twenty-something British jackass in the beginning of the film. Because he’s crude asshole who acts like god’s gift to women, he doesn’t get a lot of dates. In fact women tend to be repulsed by how he acts.

Now in another movie, he would hire someone or meet someone who would take him under their wing and Colin would learn to not be such a jackass and become a little suave, get a little style, change his behavior, learn not to be crude in the workplace, and he would eventually met a woman and blah blah blah. You know how it goes, you’ve seen that movie. Probably a few different times with a few different actors, let’s be honest.

But that’s not what happens in Love, Actually–which for the record I found a loathsome and unfunny movie long before Lindy West’s excellent takedown of the movie was published by Jezebel in 2013. (Though I will admit that I enjoy rereading the article in the same way that some people like re-watching the movie). You see, writer-director Richard Curtis doesn’t see Colin as a vile manchild with toxic ideas and behavior. No, Colin, you see, is one of the heroes of the movie.

According to Colin, the problem is English women. If he goes to America, women there will get him. They’ll find him charming because of his accent, you see. So he gets on a plane to Wisconsin. At a bar he meets her and her roommates who are so charmed by his accent that the three women it is implied have an orgy with him.

Then at the end of the movie he returns to England, with a hot chick for him and her sister in tow for his friend. Because men like Colin don’t need to grow up or smarten up, no, they just need to find stupid American girls and all is well.

I was reminded of this watching the fifth season of Death in Paradise as the divorced Humphrey Goodman, played by Marshall, is trying to date again and his awkward interactions with women. There is an honesty to those interactions, which may be funny and sometimes played for laughs, but there is an actual truth to those interactions which is completely missing from the adolescent sex fantasy that is Love Actually. And I’m not saying that I think that the plot in Death in Paradise is brilliant, but there is a reality to it.

Reality seems like such a small thing to ask for sometimes, but there we are.

Articles Published the Week of December 18th

Benjamin Frisch's Fun Family is more than a Family Circus parody

Frisch is a cartoonist and radio producer and his first full length book Fun Family is much more than parody, it's a dark look at family and illusion, about the distance between art and life, it's about how we get through the day. It looks very cute (and Frisch talks about how he changed his style to make the book) but it's not a cute book. It's thoughtful and haunting and I can't wait to see what Frisch does next.

Riad Sattouf on growing up between the lines of France in Syria in The Arab of the Future

Sattouf's graphic memoirs are extraordinary and fascinating books. His father was Syrian and his mother French and Sattouf grew up in Libya and Syria, with trips to France throughout. Throughout his career Sattouf has been interested in children, in their inner lives and how they see the world and these books show life in a small rural village and we spoke about this new volume.

Tom Gauld discusses nostalgia and science fiction in Mooncop

Gauld is perhaps best known for his short funny comics but in this book, his second full length graphic novel, he tells the story of the last policeman on the moon, which is both a dry funny story about loneliness, and a look at nostalgia and our relationship with the past (and the past's idea of the future).

Glen Weldon examines Batman and Fandom in The Caped Crusade

I love NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour (I mean, really, who doesn't?) and that's how I first got to know Glen Weldon, who has written a book about Batman that also traces the rise of fandom and how the two went hand in hand. He makes a number of controversial statements - Joel Schumacher's films weren't THAT bad, Frederic Wertham had a few good points - and I argue, is nicer to Bob Kane that a lot of writers are. (And nicer than I would be). It also diagnoses very thoughtfully how fandom can be toxic and problematic. He also does a very thoughtful reading of the Batman comics of the past 10-15 years. A really fabulous book.

Dave McKean: Black Dog

To my mind, Dave McKean is one of the world's great artists and he can do just about anything. His new book - a beautiful oversize volume - is a series of dreams about the British painter Paul Nash and it is a fascinating and thoughtful and incredible book that I keep coming back to and looking at this book again and again because it's some of McKean's best compositions and as complex and thoughtful as anything as McKean has ever made.


I guest produced an episode of The Colin McEnroe Show on WNPR

As I sometimes do, I produced an hour long show for the NPR affiliate here in Hartford, CT, WNPR. Which to my mind is one of the best and most interesting local stations around. (And no, I'm not just saying that). We spent an hour talking about the boy scouts with a historian, with the leader of the scout-like (scout-esque?) group Navigators USA, and two local scoutmasters from different troops who started talking and making plans to work together during the breaks.


Articles Published the Week of December 11th

For Mutts' Patrick McDonnell, it's always the Year of Yesh!

Patrick McDonnell is one of the best cartoonists and he's also one of my favorites. His strip Mutts is brilliant and his children's books are really amazing. I interviewed him a few years ago, and we spoke again recently to talk about his strip, the two new collections that are out, his children's book, writing a Mutts movie, the upcoming musical based on one of his books. One of the nicest, most talented people you'll meet. And reading his new collection, the 21st annual collection of the strip, it's obvious why.


New Cottonelle Advertisement?

Cottonelle has been running ads challenging people to "go commando" because of their great toilet paper.

Now as someone who has gone commando and honestly is not a huge fan of it - I mean I understand for the purposes of the commercial why that's a great approach to take and great evidence of it working well, but I'll be perfectly blunt, not a fan. Let's be honest, pants are designed to be worn with underwear or boxer shorts and are much more comfortable that way – at least for those of us with hair down there and with external genitals.

Two words: zipper fly.

So while I find the commercials both amusing and clever, I'd like to suggest a slightly different approach for their next round of commercials promoting a clean bum.

(I am, by the way, all for entertaining British personalities asking about people's "bums")

Scene 1:

Our intrepid interviewer appears naked except for a smile. Naked but pixelated, that is. Get your mind out of the gutter. This is television, after all. Not HBO.

"I'm here at the Beautiful Bare Buns Naturist Park to talk with people who really care about a clean bum."

A young woman, pixelated below the neck. "The first time I came here I was worried that people who stare at me. Then I was worried that I wouldn't be able to stop staring at other people. The truth is that everyone is really nice and after a while you almost forget that everyone is naked."

"Why almost?" our host asks

"I'm still a little's my bum."

"You need some Clean Confidence," our host tells her. "Try Cottonelle's flushable cleansing cloths."

She leaves and then returns.

"Oh my god. It's totally different. With the texture you can really feel it working."

"Are you worried people will be staring at your bum?" our host asks.

"Not anymore. I feel extra clean."

Scene 2:

A couple with their two children are sitting lake front on the beach, all pixelated.

"Have you tried Cottonelle cleansing cloths?"

Both adults try them and then send their kids to the bathroom with them.

"I love the the clean ripple texture," mom says.

"It definitely leaves you feeling extra clean," dad says.

"And believe me, it's bad enough when your kids have dirty bums normally. But it's especially embarrassing here!" mom says

"I don't think we'll be able to use anything else again," dad says.

Scene 3:

"Do you mind?" she asks the yoga instructor, who steps to the side so that our intrepid host can address the nude yoga class, which is meeting in a meadow in the early morning. "Have you tried Cottonelle? Do you have clean confidence? Because if I'm doing this class, I'm definitely going to want clean confidence. Does anyone want to try?" She holds out a box with flushable cleansing cloths.

About half of the men and women in the room walk over and take a package before briefly exiting the room, including the instructor. She turns to the people who are still in the room.

"Show of hands. Who used Cottonelle today?"

Everyone's hands shoots up.

"I already use them," one man says.

"I may not be wearing clothes but I always keep a package of those in my bag," one woman says.

"I never go anywhere without Cottonelle," one man says.

"I wouldn't be in the front row if I didn't feel extra clean," one woman sayes laughing.

People filter back into the room including the instructor. Our intrepid heroine asks the instructor, "do you feel extra clean?"

"I do now!" she says.

Our host takes her place among the other class members and the instructor tells them, "Okay I want you to stretch and show your clean confidence, everyone."

CleanRipple Texture for an Extra Clean Bum.
No Matter What You're Wearing
(Or Not Wearing!)


Articles Published the Week of November 27th

Aimee de Jongh Prepares The Return of the Honey Buzzard

The Dutch cartoonist and Animator Aimee de Jongh makes her North America debut with the translation of her first full-length graphic novel The Return of the Honey Buzzard. The book is beautifully drawn, thoughtfully written and really just a stunning book in every way. In the two years since it was released in Holland, de Jongh (who also has a daily comic strip) has animated an hour long project and made another graphic novel. Also this book was turned into a movie for Dutch TV.

An Interview with Kerascoet

I've been amazed by Kerascoet for years. The married couple are the artists behind Miss Don't Touch Me and Beauty and Beautiful Darkness and the just-released picture book Paul and Antoinette. They're also drawing the upcoming picture book written by Malala Yousafzai. We had the chance to sit down while they were in New York recently and we spoke about their many projects