You may remember me writing about Dan Bern before. I love Dan Bern. His music is insanely good, ranging from folk to country to prog rock. You can visit his web-site right around here.
You may also remember that I enjoyed the hell out of his full-length novel, Quitting Science by Cunliffe Merriweather.
I hunted and hunted for Dan Bern's Ted the Cow, a long out-of-print novella written and illustrated by the musician. I finally found it on eBay, and I bought it and gave it a read.
I enjoyed Ted the Cow for many of the reasons that I enjoyed Quitting Science. Bern's prose manages to toe the line between true-to-life and funny-as-hell, with a wit that clicks. The book is divided into fifty-nine short-short stories, typeset into chapters with black-and-white hand-drawn images.
The story is about a cow named Ted, obviously, who wants desperately to go to the town of Corwich to get away from the hijinks of Joe the Cat, and any number of other bad situations. Here is an excerpt I found quite humorous.
Chapter 14 (excerpt)
Ted remembered he had a cupcake in his pocket. He didn't want to share it with Bert.
"I gotta take a leak," said Ted the Cow.
"OK," said Bert, "but be quick."
"Hey," said Bert, "you were gone for awhile. That was some leak."
"Well, I had to take a dump too," said Ted the Cow.
"You've got crumbs on your face," said Bert.
"Well, I had a cupcake, too," said Ted the Cow.
Funny stuff, and absolutely worth a read. It's quick and funny.
Color me delighted, then, when I read that Dan Bern was releasing another book in the series, entitled The Glorious Return of Ted the Cow. This book has Ted the Cow returning to his everyday life after the events of the first book, only to find himself in a bit of a depressed rut.
The book is a bit different than its predecessor. The whole thing is handwritten and hand-drawn, with only one or two sentences per page. The artwork becomes more important, and there is not an awful lot of room for long-form set-ups like in the original. It's not bad, but it's not as good as the first one, and certainly of an entirely different vein.
Anyway, it's all worth checking out, and Dan Bern is an extraordinary writer. He has a new short-story compilation called Tales of Toscana, which is next on my queue of things to read. Expect a review shortly.
I also played some more board games today.
Shogun is a Eurogame, and it's probably among my favorites that I've played. It's much like Risk, but instead of "WAR WAR WAR!" you are encouraged to conserve your resources and plan more thoughtful attacks. There are a number of interesting gaming mechanisms at work. The "dice tower" is a nice touch. Unlike any other dice tower, this tower catches some of your cubes, allowing for you to never know exactly what's going to come out. It adds a lot of excitement to your battles. A fun time.
Beyond Balderdash is an Amerigame. You are given a word, and everybody at the table needs to come up with their best guess as to what it means. Then, the table votes for the best answer, and points are allotted. This is more my type of game, inasmuch as it involves wordplay instead of careful strategy. Play it.