SOUNDTRACK: BARENAKED LADIES-Born on a Pirate Ship (1996) & Rock Spectacle (1996).
Continuing with my review of the BNL catalog…
Born on a Pirate Ship.
I recall really liking this album when it came out. But I just read the review on allmusic.com and they’re pretty harsh about it. I didn’t realize that “Shoe Box,” a really great song about adolescence, was an old song reworked. That said, I think the album overall still holds up well. “Stomach vs Heart” is a decent opener, but it’s really “Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank” that really wakes the album up. A great rousing song with the chorus “I am a Farmer… I work in the fields all day.” I enjoy it every time I hear it. “The Old Apartment” totally rocks, and was justifiably a single.
And, of course, the simply best song of passive aggressive breakup neurosis, “Break Your Heart.” The lyrics of this song are simply too good to pass up and should be investigated by anyone. But more important is the delivery. Hearing Stephen Page’s voice crack as he bursts into that last verse is really moving. But it’s even more affecting on the live record, which came out next.
Rock Spectacle (1996).
This album is a fantastic live representation of the band. It really captures the greatness that was a BNL show. There’s great stage banter, some funny outtakes after the set is over, and some really fantastic renditions of the band’s greatest hits. You cannot go wrong with this collection.
[READ: December 13, 2007] Ant Farm.
I heard about this book while listening to a program on NPR. I had never heard of Simon Rich, but he was really funny; he and the interviewer seemed to be having a great time talking about various neuroses and phobias. The more he talked, the more I laughed. But I hadn’t hears who he was, and I was just hoping they would say his name before I had to get out of the car. Then I learned who he was and that in addition to being an editor at Harvard Lampoon, he also had a book out. After he read a story, I made a mental note to check out the book. But when he sheepishly admitted that it was “really short,” only about 140 pages and with really big print, and five blank pages at the end, then that I knew I had to read it immediately.
The quote at the top of the cover is from Jon Stewart, who states: “Hilarious.” And, as with most things that Jon Stewart says, he is absolutely correct. This book is really, really funny. It contains some fifty-seven stories, none of which is longer than three pages. I don’t think this falls into the flash fiction genre per se, but who knows; it certainly falls into the category for technical specifications: short, complete stories.
The book is divided into five sections. The first covers childhood and has stories such as “A day at UNICEF headquarters as I imagined it in third grade” (UNICEF is an evil king) “Second grade realization” (the “who can’t be quietest the longest” game isn’t really a game at all!).
The second chapter seems to cover the middle school years. “What goes through my mind when I’m alone (from my mom’s perspective)” (funny as it sounds) “My friend’s new girlfriend” (whom he has never met and who has the exact same handwriting as his friend).
The third chapter contains some more adult musings like “If like were like hockey” (your punishment for most crimes would be to sit on a bench for two minutes).
The fourth chapter is about love: “Love coupons” (a man tries to redeem some after his breakup) “Endangered species” (the pressure the last two pandas alive must feel).
The last chapter is about love and war, including “Where are all the time travelers” (clearly, they are the people with all the money) and “The dog x-files” (investigating the weird things that happen to dogs, like electric fences and neutering).
The attitude of the book is of a detached way of looking at things that we have all experienced. If any of the titles seem even remotely intriguing then you owe it to yourself to read the stories. You’ll laugh out loud. I brought this home for Sarah and she was so tickled by the stories that she read the whole book in one sitting (admittedly, that only took 20 minutes) but we had lots of favorite highlights to share. See some here!
And that’s the other thing about the book. It’s really, really short. Rich wasn’t kidding. I read the book in about 30 minutes. And I enjoyed it immensely. It’s hard to summarize the stories without giving them away, and some of the titles are almost as long as the stories themselves. But the key to all of these stories is that they never, ever overstay their welcome. Many humorists could learn a lesson or two or three from these exercises in brevity.
The NPR show was actually PRI’s The Sound of Young America. You can listen to the interview here. This was the first time I had heard the program, and seeing the other guests they’ve had on, I’ll certainly be tuning in again (and downloading them too! [Nick Hornby, Upright Citizens Brigade, Chris Elliott…it’s gold, Jerry…gold!])
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
the ride back to beersheba
“A Conversation at the Grownup Table, as Imagined at the Kids’ Table” [from The Wisdom of Children New Yorker, March 26, 2007]
second grade realization
“A Day at UNICEF Headquarters as I imagined It in Third Grade” [from The Wisdom of Children, New Yorker, March 26, 2007]
i still remember the day i got my first calculator
our thoughts are with you
if life were like middle school
a fantasy i had in seventh grade
inside the cartridge
what goes through my mind when i’m home alone (from my mom’s perspective)
i can only think of two scenarios where high school math would come in handy
my mom’s all-time top greatest boyfriends
my friend’s new girlfriend
“may or may not contain peanuts”
patron of the arts
baseball’s hardest worker
if life were like hockey
sultan of brunei
mating throughout history
when the “guess your weight” guy from the carnival got married
my roommate is really hard to get along with
when small talk goes wrong
a conversation between god and the guy in a football helmet and a speedo who’s always shouting things next to the a&p
where are all the time travelers?
the dog x-files
glorious battles of the american revolution
a day in the life of the swiss army
how i imagine life in the u.s. army (based on the commercials i’ve seen)
how did all those funny army chants get started?
“How College Kids Imagine the U.S. Government [from The Wisdom of Children New Yorker, March 26, 2007]