If laughter is the best medicine, then Netflix’s mockumentary “Cunk on Earth” is the perfect dose. This is one of the funniest shows I’ve seen in a very long time.
Playing like a hybrid of Monty Python and Stephen Colbert, this brilliantly idiotic take on history has Diane Morgan asking the hard questions, like whether the ancient Egyptians built their pyramids from the top down, or if Mona Lisa is smiling because she has a balloon between her knees. She’s grateful to the volcano at Pompeii for teaching us that “Ancient Romans had gray skin, were completely bald, and spent most of their time lying around their shockingly dusty houses”. When viewing prehistoric cave paintings, she wonders aloud if we’ll ever know why cavemen were at war with cows.
Her deadpan delivery and commitment to the inane are comedy gold. Morgan’s unscripted interviews with real-life historical experts are worth the price of admission alone. Add in hefty doses of irony, her crushing disappointment that Aristotle never said “you’ve got to dance like no one’s watching”, and the inexplicable use of 1989’s Belgian techno hit “Pump Up The Jam” as a historical barometer, and you’ve got everything you need to feel a little better about life.
A more somber reflection of life was to be found at Titanic: The Exhibition, which I visited in Manhattan this month, and which seemed appropriate as we’re coming up on the 111th anniversary of the sinking. The exhibit is very well done: profiles of passengers and crew, artifacts recovered, diaries, menus, letters, interviews, recreations of hallways and individual rooms, along with a thorough biography of the ship from its birth in Belfast to its watery grave 400 miles off Newfoundland.
The ship was a microcosm of society. Debtors escaping creditors, families seeking better opportunities, youths fleeing scandals, and torrid love affairs… all aboard a floating technological marvel brought down by a chunk of 100,000-year-old ice. It’s a traveling exhibit, so if you get the chance, it’s worth it.
So here’s an unusual announcement: I just sold a nonfiction story to a new edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul that focuses on cats.
Because apparently, I’ve become the guy who talks about his cat.
My story is entitled “Cyrus, Defender of the Universe” as my cat clearly believes he is the cosmically appointed guardian of my household. He follows Donna and I everywhere, is aggressive to strangers, and keeps vigil at the windows… presumably in case a Cat Signal tells him his skills are needed in Gotham.
The edition is titled: Chicken Soup for the Soul: Lessons Learned from My Cat. And indeed, I’ve learned many lessons from little Cyrus. Intelligence may tell me that cats are quadrupedal mammals bound by the laws of physics, but wisdom hath shown me that Cyrus can teleport, turn invisible like a Romulan warbird, and quantum tunnel his way to wherever I am and whatever I’m doing.
My horror sci-fi story “Howlers in the Void” is now available in the hot-off-the-press Worlds Long Lost anthology, with the nicest editorial intro I’ve gotten yet:
“Trent has a knack for telling stories that cross a range of subgenres, while letting his own voice and personal touches shine through. For this story, he’s managed to bring a lot of his signatures to play. Marooned soldiers on an alien world, hostile alien pirates, and far more dangerous things lurking in the dark corners of a dead world… the resulting tale is a rollercoaster.”
And I’m simply tickled to see that the book was favorably reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, with a special callout to yours truly:
“Brian Trent’s ‘Howlers in the Void’ starts off as what seems like a traditional human crew versus alien space fight… until they all crash on an unknown planet. Things get very weird and very bad very quickly. This is the sort of spectacularly bleak story that will have you rooting for everyone, even the bad guys, and praying they all make it out alive. Bonus: The main character is named Dunsany, a tribute to the writer of ‘The King of Elfland’s Daughter’ and other classics.”