Archive for January, 2013

gigglerSOUNDTRACK: SCRUBS-“Everything Comes Down to Poo” (2007).

Iscrubsn season 7 of Scrubs, they created a musical episode (trendy yes, but pretty much always funny) called “My Musical.”  One of the highlights was the song “Everything Comes Down to Poo” in which Turk and JD sing to a patient that they need a stool sample.  The song is full of a ton of different terms for poo and where it comes out (and it’s all rated PG).

It’s very funny and quite clever, given the subject.  Who doesn’t love seeing a chorus of doctors and nurses high kicking down a hospital corridor singing “Everything comes down to poo.”


[READ: January 30, 2013] The Giggler Treatment

Who knew that Roddy Doyle, humorist of Barrytown and very serious chronicler of women’s pain would write an outrageously silly children’s book about dog poo?  I don’t know what prompted him to write this book (he has written several children’s books since), but he manages the chapter book format with aplomb and a slight (hilarious) disrespect for the genre.

So The Giggler Treatment is structured in a manner not unlike Nicholson Baker’s early novels in that pretty much all of the action takes place over the span of about a minute.  Mister Mack is about to step in a huge pile of dog poo.  And  the story flashes around to different pieces of information as we watch with bated breath for his shoe to inch its way closer to fate.

Mister Mack is a decent bloke, a good father, a hardworking biscuit taster (a different biscuit every day from the factory where he works).  [Incidentally, I assume that these details are extra for the American edition, but Doyle includes a warning that explains that biscuits are what they call cookies in Ireland. There’s also a hilarious glossary which translate rudies, bums, knickers and other things for young U.S readers.]  Mister Mack is on his way to work, but is distracted by a talking seagull (who hates fish) and while his head is turned his foot is headed right Rover’s poo. (more…)


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capn3SOUNDTRACK: SARA HICKMAN-Radiation Man (1997).

Tmisfitshis is a bouncy song from Sara Hickman  a folkie who I saw open for Natalie Griffith many years ago.  I liked her enough to get a couple of her CDs back in the 90s (Her song “500X (The Train Song)” blew me away.  And one of those CDs was Misfits, from which this song comes.  It’s a collection of oddities which is why a silly song like this is on it.  Interestingly, I know Hickman more recently as a children’s music maker. W e have her CDs Newborn and Toddler.

So this song is about Radiation Man. He’s having a bad day.  He landed his spaceship on the planet and when he waved to everyone he radiated everything in sight.  Oops.  There’s no real redemption for Radiation Man, but the song does try to mak e you feel better about your mistakes.  It’s also got some fun backing vocals and comments from the other musicians.  It’s a bit of fun.

The end of the song encourages everyone to  take off their clothes and mingle naked.  And to send your clothes to her so she knows you bought the CD.    It’s not too late to still do so.

[READ: January 22, 2013] Captain Underpants and the Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space (And the Subsequent Assault of the Equally Evil Lunchroom Zombie Nerds)

I admit that one of the things that I really like about Captain Underpants is the really absurdly long titles that Pilkey gives the books.  And it is quite accurate as well.  Like the previous book, this one opens with a summary of the life of Captain Underpants so far.  We see all of the details and learn that a snap of a finger turns Principal Krupp back into Captain Underpants.

The book opens with George and Harold learning about adding vinegar to baking soda and making a volcano.  They decide to play a great prank by creating a recipe for Principal Krupp’s birthday  cupcakes that contain baking soda and vinegar.  The lunch ladies make a batch that is ten times the size and it floods the halls with the fizzy lava.  And then the lunch ladies quit.

As it turns out, three aliens named Zorx, Klax and Jennifer landed on the roof of George and Harold’s school.  They intend to take over the world, and with the lunch ladies having left, they apply for the jobs.  That day they serve  a hilariously awful menu to the kids (a menu that George and Harold marvel at because it sounds like something they would change the menu board to say).  The highlight is Zombie Nerd Milkshakes.

George and Harold did not have the milkshakes and are thus unaffected.  When they see that the lunch ladies are really aliens, they investigate.  They discover the evil growth serum and pour it out a window.  Right on a dandelion (uh oh). (more…)

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McSweeney’s #13 (2006)

13SOUNDTRACKPARTS & LABOR-Stay Afraid (2006).

partslaborParts & Labor have changed t heir style over the years going from noisemakers who have a melody to being melodious noisemakers.  This album is one of their earlier releases when noise dominated.  Right from the opening you know the album is going to be a challenge.  The first song has pounding drums (electronics that sound like bagpipes) and heavy distorted shouty vocals.  By the end of the songs there is squealing feedback, punk speed drums and screaming distorted vocals (complete with space sound effects).  It’s an aggressive opening for sure.  Song two opens with a long low rumbling and then “Drastic Measures” proves to be another fast-paced song.

“A Pleasant Stay” is 5 minutes long (most of the rest of the album’s songs are about 3 minutes).  It continues in this fast framework, although it has a bit more open moments of just drums or just vocals.  The way the band plays with feedback in the last minute or so of the song  very cool.

“New Buildings” has a hardcore beat with a guitar part that sounds sped up.  “Death” is a thumping song (the drums are very loud on this disc), while “Timeline” is two minutes of squealing guitars.  “Stay Afraid” has a false start (although who knows why–how do these guys know if the feedback sounds are what  they wanted anyhow?).  The song ends with 30 seconds of sheer noise).  The album ends with the 5 minute “Changing of the Guard” a song not unlike the rest of the album–noisy with loud drumming and more noise.

The album is certainly challenging, it’s abrasive and off putting, but there;s surprising pleasures and melodies amidst the chaos.   Indeed, after a listen or two you start to really look forward to the hooks.  If you like this sort of thing, this album s a joy.  It’s also quite brief, so it never overstays its welcome.

[READ: April 15, 2011] McSweeney’s #13

I have been looking forward to reading this issue for quite some time.  Indeed, as soon as I received it I wanted to put aside time for it.  It only took eight years.  For this is the fabled comics issue.  Or as the cover puts it: Included with this paper: a free 264 page hardcover.  Because the cover is a fold-out poster–a gorgeous broadside done by Chris Ware called “God.”  And as with all Chris Ware stories, this is about life, the universe and everything.  On the flip side of the (seriously, really beautiful with gold foil and everything) Ware comic are the contributors’ list and a large drawing that is credited to LHOOQ which is the name of Marcel Duchamp’s art piece in which he put a mustache on the Mona Lisa.  It’s a kind of composite of the history of famous faces in art all done in a series of concentric squares.  It’s quite cool.

So, yes, this issue is all about comics.  There are a couple of essays, a couple of biographical sketches by Ware of artists that I assume many people don’t know and there’s a few unpublished pieces by famous mainstream artists.  But the bulk of the book is comprised of underground (and some who are not so underground anymore) artists showing of their goods.  It’s amazing how divergent the styles are for subject matter that is (for the most part) pretty similar: woe is me!  Angst fills these pages.  Whether it is the biographical angst of famous artists by Brunetti or the angst of not getting the girl (most of the others) or the angst of life (the remaining ones), there’s not a lot of joy here. Although there is a lot of humor.  A couple of these comics made it into the Best American Comics 2006.

There’s no letters this issue, which makes sense as the whole thing is Chris Ware’s baby.  But there are two special tiny books that fit nearly into the fold that the oversized cover makes.  There’s also two introductions.  One by Ira Glass (and yes I’d rather hear him say it but what can you do).  And the other by Ware.  Ware has advocated for underground comics forever and it’s cool that he has a forum for his ideas here.  I’m not sure I’ve ever read prose from him before. (more…)

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greyhoundSOUNDTRACK: BIG BANG BOOM-“Hippie Mom” (2012).

big bangThis song is a loving tribute to crunchy, loving hippie moms (“granola making yoga taking,”  “I love to watch her twirl and sing.  She loves me more than anything.”)  While the song definitely teases some of the clichés of a hippie mom, it is a sweet, happy song.

It’s got a kind of rockabilly sound that makes you want to tap your feet and sing along.  I’d not hear of Big Bang Boom before, but I need to hear more from them.

[READ: January 28, 2013] A Greyhound of a Girl

After reading Doyle’s story in McSweeney’s recently I checked out to see what he had been up to.  I had no idea he had written a series of children’s books.  And this one was the most recent (and the library had it!), so I had to see what Mr Doyle could do for kids.

Well, this is an extremely heartwarming and sad story about four generations of Irish women.  It’s delightfully simple with very few characters.  And for that, it packs a wallop.

Mary is a twelve-year-old girl living in Dublin.  She has two brothers, who don’t really enter the story but I mention them since their names are Killer and Dommo.  Mary’s best friend, Ava, has just moved away and she is devastated.  On the way home from school–the way she usually walks with Ava, an old woman–well, she’s actually young, like a young adult, but she is dressed old and talks like her granny–asks about her gran.  Her gran, Emer, is in the hospital.  She’s very old and is clearly not long for the world.

Mary tells her mother, Scarlett, about the old woman and how the old woman seemed to know her gran.  She’d said her name was Tansey.  Scarlett is taken aback.  She explains that Emer’s mother was named Tansey, and isn’t that a weird coincidence.  Then, we flashback and learn the history of this family.  Tansey died when Emer was but  three years old.  Tansey’s mother helped to raise Emer and her baby brother with their father.  Later, Emer gave birth to Scarlett, and 12 years ago Scarlett had Mary.  We learn about the farm that Emer grew up on and how she hated the greyhounds that her father raised for racing–they were too skinny and pointy. (more…)

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lacavaSOUNDTRACKFUCKED UP-David Comes to Life (2011).

Fdavidor a band named Fucked Up, they make music that is surprisingly catchy.  Of course, as befits their name, they also have a pretty aggressive punk sound with lots of drums and loud guitars.  But many of the guitar lines and choruses are surprisingly melodic.  And then comes singer Pink Eyes.  He screams in a gravelly, rough, cookie-monster type voice (although he is mixed lowish in the mix so he doesn’t often overpower the music).  Despite the fact that most of the words are indecipherable, he also have a good sense of melody.

So how does a band that plays distorted hardcore punk with a barely comprehensible singer decide to make a 78 minute concept album?  Beats me.  But guitarist 10,000 Marbles has written a pretty solid collection of songs.  Of course, it also beats me exactly what the concept is.  According to allmusic the plot is: In the fictional town of Byrdesdale Spa UK, David has a humdrum life working at a light bulb factory, and finds an escape by falling in love with a communist rebel rouser, only to find out later that she has died in a terrorist bombing and that he has a lot of emotional turmoil to face.

I’ve listened to the disc a dozen or so times and never got that plot.  I even followed along with the lyric sheet and never got that plot.  Part of the reason may be that Pink Eyes sings all of the parts in the same way, so it’s really hard to notice that there are different characters (like Veronica) in the story.  While it is fascinating to hear a really catchy choruses sung by someone who is kind of scary, it doesn’t do a lot for the story.  The other odd thing is when Mustard Gas provides female backing vocals–they are sweet and pretty–a drastic counterpoint to the noise that Pink Eyes makes.  But she only comes in on a few songs.  I wish she did more.

There are some really great songs on this disc.  Song two, “Queen of Hearts” has some incredibly catchy sections.  And the “dying on the inside” harmony in “The Other Shoe” compliments the grizzly “It can’t be comfortable when you know the whole thing is about to fall” very nicely.  The b vox are also great in “Turn the Season.”  I find myself singing the “Hello my name is David, your name is Veronica.  Let’s be together. Let’s fall in love” section over and over.  It’s surprisingly sweet when sung by such a voice.

Since this is a concept album (or rock opera I suppose), there’s things like the nearly two-minute instrumental intro to “Remember My Name” which doesn’t fit with the rest of the song but is really catchy.  There’s also a kind of introductory “theme” that crops up in the album.  Fucked Up confound you at ever turn with beautiful melodies that morph into noisy punk.

By the middle of the disc (where I gather David is a low point), there’s some really loud heavy songs.  Amid the pummeling noise, there’s some nice acoustic guitar in “A Slanted Tone” and some very cool rumbling drums and bass that propel “Serve Me Right.”  These songs help to break up the flow nicely.  “Life in Paper” which is near the half way point opens with the same staccato notes as the disc itself, and it proves to be a very catchy song in which David asks “Who can I trust?”

The second half of the disc continues with the more catchy style with “Ship of Fools.”  But as the story nears the end, it starts to feel very samey.  There’s a few breaks, but it’s a hard row to hoe.  There is redemption in the end, but you still feel exhausted.  Perhaps 78 minutes of Fucked Up is too much.  For some listeners even 5 minutes will be too much.  Despite the accolades (and they received a lot), you won’t be hearing this one the radio (and not because the DJs couldn’t say their name).

And yet amid all of the noise, there are some really shiny gems.  They have even released four music videos for the album!  The first one, “Queen of Hearts” is especially cool as the video is set in a classroom and the kids sing all the parts (after a nearly two-minute spoken intro of the song.  I admit to not having any idea what’s actually happening in the video, but it’s still cool.

[READ: January 26, 2013] An Extraordinary Theory of Objects

This is a strange little book.  It was another one that I saw while waiting online at the library.  I was attracted to the cover (I know, don’t judge… but honestly, you can tell a little bit about a book by the way it is marketed. And this was marketed at me.)  It’s a small book with a stark cover and interesting drawings on it.   And then there’s the unusual title.

The book was only 180 pages (plus notes and a bibliography) and it was chock full of pictures.  I mean, this thing can be polished off in an afternoon.

And here’s what it’s about.  Well, let me modify that.  Here’s what’s in the book.  Stephanie is a young girl when her family moves to France (for her father’s work).  She has always felt like an outsider and now feels even more so in France.  She is introverted and spends a lot of her time in books.  Then she moves back to America and reflects on her childhood.

Yeah, that’s about it.  For here’s the thing, Lacava isn’t famous and she hasn’t done anything that you might have heard of.  She’s just a person who went to France as a kid.  The introduction kind of gives you some reason as to why you should read the book.  Lacava was a sad and miserable child and she took refuge in objects–not as a collector so much as an admirer.  On her windowsill she has collected various geegaws that she treasured (and which she brought from America in her carry on, they were so precious).  And she has this interesting relationship with objects.  Although, as with many things in the book, that relationship is not really delved into very much.   (more…)

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CV1_TNY_12_24_12Viva.inddSOUNDTRACK: BEN FOLDS FIVE-“Do It Anyway” (2012).

doitThis single comes from the first Ben Folds Five album in over a decade.  I have been listening to the album recently and I can’t get over how much I love this single (which has long come and gone and made nary a dent on any chart).  When I first watched this video a few months ago, I was so busy watching it (with the gang from Fraggle Rock and other guests) that I didn’t really digest the song.  But man, it’s got everything, and I’m sad that it didn’t barnstorm the charts.

It’s one of Ben’s loud songs–where he bangs on the piano (a lot) and it’s got that awesome distorted bass that is so Ben Folds Five (the solo at around 4 minutes is great!–I mean, it’s no John Entwistle but it’s still great).  And to hear Ben get really excited singing “Okaaaaaaay” by the third time around is infectious.

I don’t really understand why Fraggle Rock are in the video.  It’s cute though (and Ben and the guests do a  quick cover of the Fraggle Rock theme at the end).  I imagine that having Fraggle Rock in your video might just limit its appeal to a young hip crowd, as well.  But whatever, the song is fantastic.

[READ: January 20, 2013] “Shirley Temple Three”

I tried to imagine what this title would mean–what could this possibly be about?  My logical conclusion was that it had something to do with an indie rock band.  Well, the accompanying drawing is off a small elephant-like creature.  And, indeed, the story is about a miniature mammoth named Shirley Temple III.

Here’s the thing though.  The story is ultimately about a relationship between a mother and her son.  The son is a distant, jerky guy who doesn’t show up to a family wedding and who makes his living on an Atlanta-based reality show.  The mother is a forgiving and loving woman who is God-fearing and hoping for the best for her boy–despite the choices he makes.

And yet, there’s the whole mammoth thing.  The reality show that the son is the host of is a show that brings extinct animals back to life.  There’s no science given to it but they usually resurrect two of the creatures (for TV) and destroy one of them…keeping the other in their extinction zoo.  Totally weird premise, right?  But again the story is more about the family than science fiction or even reality TV.

The plot transpires that the technician who created the mammoth couldn’t euthanize the second one, so the son brought it to his mother’s house (several states away) to avoid suspicion since what they are doing is against the law.  She asks her to watch it for him until the heat is off.  It’s a dwarf mammoth (no idea if such a thing existed) so it’s not going to get big.  Then he goes away for a couple of months.  She keeps it in the pen that used to house their dog Shirley Temple.


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elsewhere1SOUNDTRACK: THE BOARD OF EDUCATION-“Know Your Inventors, Part I” (2008).

boardI enjoyed yesterday’s Board of Education song so much I wanted to listen to more.  So I went back to their first album for this song whose title intrigued me.  To my surprise, the song is very slow, a languid kid’s song?  Of course, this being a kid’s song, it does run through a series of styles.  The song picks up the pace some, then throws in a waltz, a little disco and a mildly catchy chorus (all in three minutes).

The song is about the inventor of pavement (“nobody knows his name”): William W. Averell, and it’s informative and kind of funny.

It’s not nearly as catchy as yesterday’s song, but it has moments of joy.  I now wonder if this is a different sound for the band on their first album or if all of their songs sound different.

You can hear it here.

[READ: January 21, 2013] The ElseWhere Chronicles Books One & Two

I found this series at the library–Book One was prominently displayed and it looked really interesting.  The artwork on the cover (and inside, it turns out) was really compelling–simple lines (little white circles for eyes for some of the characters) and a bunch of kids looking scared–what more could you want?

So it turns out that Book One is cool, but Book Two is amazing.

In Book One, Max Theo and Noah are watching a funeral (well, they are sitting in a graveyard) for Old Man Gabe, a local eccentric who lives in a haunted house.  Meanwhile, a young girl, Rebecca, is with her family watching them bury her Grandpa Gabe.  (I don’t know if this is significant, but Rebecca is black and her parents/guardians are white with two white children, but nothing is made of this in book one except that someone points out that she is black.  She says she was adopted, and that’s that).  She never met Gabe (and neither did her father–who has a hip soul patch).

Rebecca wants to explore Gabe’s house–she is not afraid of it being haunted (there’s wonderful surprises as they tread through the building).  But all of the rooms are strangely empty.  Except the library which is full of books, including some written by Gabe.  There is talk of demolishing the house, and Rebecca is now determined to save the books.  But the kids also discover a kind of movie projector.  And when they turn it on it opens a kind of portal.  And Rebecca gets sucked into it.

The boys eventually get her out–she says it was locked from her side and she looks awful.  But before they can lock it again, she is grabbed by something from the other world and dragged back in.  Max jumps through the portal to save her and they are both trapped in this new world.  The reason I said book 1 wasn’t as good as 2 is because the world they go into is dark with lots of shadows and hard to see things.  It’s scary (but not really) but not very easy to figure out what’s happening.

Then they run into an old man (who speaks English and a young girl (who doesn’t) .  They assume he is Grandpa Gabe, but he later claims he is not, he is Norgavol and he explains this world to them.  A little. (more…)

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