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Archive for the ‘Adam Rex’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: CHILLING THRILLING SOUNDS OF THE HAUNTED HOUSE (1964).

The cover during Phish’s 2014 concert was of this album.

Apparently many people grew up with this record.  I personally didn’t know it, but if you read the comments (don’t read the comments!) on any YouTube clip of the album you will see how popular it is.

Wikipedia describes it as  intended for “older children, teenagers, and adults” released by Disneyland Records (now known as Walt Disney Records). The album was mainly composed of sound effects that had been collected by the sound effects department of Walt Disney Studios. The album was released in several different forms. The album was first released in 1964 in a white sleeve, with a second release in 1973 with an orange sleeve. In both versions, the first side contained 10 stories narrated by Laura Olsher, complete with sound effects. The second side contained 10 sound effects meant for others to create their own stories.

Despite the title, most of the cuts had nothing to do with haunted houses or witches or ghostly spirits. Featured were such situations as an ocean liner hitting rocks, an idiotic lumberjack, a man crossing an unsafe bridge, someone lighting a stick of dynamite and a spaceship landing on Mars. Also, there are tracks with several examples of cats, dogs and birds (similar to “The Birds”) becoming enraged for some reason, as well as a skit about Chinese water torture. In addition, some of the screams were taken directly from the scene where Miss Havisham catches fire in the 1946 David Lean film Great Expectations.

The full track listing is

  • “The Haunted House” 3:00
  • “The Very Long Fuse” 1:28
  • “The Dogs” 1:13
  • “Timber” 1:45
  • “Your Pet Cat” 0:49
  • “Shipwreck” 1:39
  • “The Unsafe Bridge” 1:21
  • “Chinese Water Torture” 2:02
  • “The Birds” 0:46
  • “The Martian Monsters” 1:41
  • “Screams and Groans” 0:57
  • “Thunder, Lightning and Rain” 2:01
  • “Cat Fight” 0:37
  • “Dogs” 0:48
  • “A Collection Of Creaks” 1:54
  • “Fuses and Explosions” 1:11
  • “A Collection Of Crashes” 0:45
  • “Birds” 0:33
  • “Drips and Splashes” 1:18
  • “Things In Space” 0:53

Nothing is especially scary–although maybe for a kid, as many adults claim to have been really frightened by it.  Everything is quite over the top, especially the screams and cat howls and dog snarling.  Even the stories are a little silly, although having them in the second person is pretty genius.

But things like “one night as you lie in your lonely room in your stone hut on the moors…”  (What?).  And the Martian one.  Just keeping with continuity: if “you,” meaning me, went on the trip, then I couldn’t hear the crunching as it ate me.  Or the silly voice saying “I wonder what that was.”

And the less said about the horribly racist Chinese Water Torture the better.  I mean, the opening is bad enough: “The ancient Chinese were a very clever race” but the end of the song is really awful.  But if we can look past that, the rest of the record has fun with sound effects and is generally pretty enjoyable.

During the John Congleton interview, he also talks about this album and says (at 40:28) “the speakers are 180 degrees out of phase to make it sound extremely stereophonic.”  He says now as an engineer it is totally painful to listen to.  Bob says it sounds like it comes from the back of your head.

[READ: October 15, 2017] Half-Minute Horrors.

The premise of this book (edited by Susan Rich) is simple: how scared can you get in 30 seconds?  To me, the answer is actually not very.  I guess for me fear builds over time.  It’s hard to get genuinely frightened over something that just suddenly happens (unless it is just trying to frighten you quickly, of course).

Having said that, I enjoyed this book a lot (look at the list of authors!).  I liked the arbitrary goal of writing a scary story in a paragraph or two (or more).  And some of them were really quite creepy.

I was originally going to point out which ones I felt were the most creepy, but there are so many stories, I kind of lost track.  So instead, here’s a rundown and a brief summary. (more…)

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smekdaySOUNDTRACK: SUPER XX MAN-Tiny Desk Concert #12 (January 27, 2009, recorded Oct. 22, 2008).

superxxI included the recording date because this is the first one that actually mentions the recording date.  I had always known that the shows were recorded before they were posted, but i had no idea they were so far apart.

Super XX Man is another “band” that I only know about because of NPR.  Scott Garred is Super XX Man (pronounced Super Double X Man), and he has recorded most of his albums at home.  Interestingly, he is also a music therapist in the maximum-security wing of the Oregon State Hospital—the location where they filmed One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  His job is helping psychiatric patients cope with drug addiction, severe mental illness and other assorted disorders.

I’m not sure exactly what his recorded output is like (he has been recording for 15 years and had recently recorded with a band for Volume XII: There’ll Be Diamonds), but this solo venture is just him with a guitar.  He has a very nice voice and his melodies are simple and catchy.

“There’ll Be Diamonds” is a very nice catchy song—very positive.  The second song, “Big Balloon,” is for the newly admitted patients at the hospital.  It is a very tender look at people who are dealing with something quite traumatic.

“Collecting Rocks” comes from Volume VI, and is based on a story his grandfather told him a while ago.  It’s an incredibly sweet song about two people in love.  But it’s also fun how he gets the room to sing along at the end.  I imagine that NPR employees are more docile than his usual audience.

[READ: January 5, 2014] The True Meaning of Smekday

I have known Adam Rex first as an illustrator.  Then I knew him as a children’s picture book author.  And now, the other day, I saw that he also wrote larger children’s books.  In the library I saw Unlucky Charms. I was going to grab it but then I saw that he was “the author of” other books.  So, being the kind of person I am, I decided to read his first novel first, which was this one.

This novel combines art (photographs—which are drawn by Rex), comics (as drawn by an alien) and a school story written for a time capsule (as such, the font is in a weird sans-serif that I found bothersome to read (man I am really getting old)).

Anyhow, I thought this book was very very funny on so many level.  There were pop culture jokes, there was great dialogue and there were fun internal jokes.  There were some sophisticated jokes and some really juvenile jokes.  And they all combined to make for a very good read.

The only problem with the book was that it was so damned long.  No one needs to write a 422 page book about an alien invasion.  The story could easily have lost 100 pages and not been harmed at all.  And I say that because I loved the beginning and I devoured the end, but I felt rather adrift in the middle. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BEACH HOUSE-“Myth” (2012).

I‘ve really been enjoying the previous Beach House record.  And in the meantime, he has released a brand new one.  “Myth” was selected as one of the best songs of the year by the folks at NPR, and it’s hard to disagree with them.

It’s not groundbreaking for Beach House (or anyone, really)–nice keyboards and guitars melodies, soaring vocals, a shimmering effect.  But like any band that hits its stride, Beach House makes a simple and beautiful song seem effortless.  How he hits some of those notes I’ll never know.  (Well, because he is actually a woman, duh).

You can see the NPR list here.  Or listen to the song (no video) here.

[READ: June 22, 2012] The Guild: Beach’d

My friend told me that the free comic book day was featuring a Buffy and a Guild together.  I misunderstood and thought that the two worlds would be intertwining.  No such luck. Rather, it was a split issue with one half being taken up by The Guild and the other half by Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Which is still pretty awesome.

The members of Codex’s guild are lost for a place to gather now that Cheesybeards has burnt down.  Of course,  they are squabbling big time about it.  Codex doesn’t understand what the fuss is–just pick someplace. Tink just suggests that they never meet face to face again.  Ever.  But everyone else has some suggestions about where to go.

And when tensions flare up, they decide to battle it out.  Bladez proves the most formidable foe, killing most of his teammates.  The battle is awesome (I’m not sure what this does to their lives in the game, actually).  And he is pretty psyched that his spot–a strip club–will be there new permanent meeting place. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: My Volkwagen Jetta hates The Beatles.

Lately, I have been playing some Beatles discs in my car.  And my Jetta clearly hates them.

First it was Please Please Me, when the entire CD player shut off mid-song.  It had lost all power.  I had to bang on it for about 5 minutes before it came back on.

The player played other discs fine after that.  Then, last night I played A Hard Day’s Night and half way through the disc it shut itself off again.  This time I was able to power it back on, but it wouldn’t play the disc anymore.  I ejected it and put in a new disc which worked fine.  When I put A Hard Day’s Night back in, same spot on the disc (“Can’t Buy Me Love”), and the player was totally off: no power at all.

A bit more pounding on the face and it came back on, and today played a Rheostatics disc with no trouble.  I guess I’ll not be listening to The Beatles in the car again.  Is it because the Beatles recorded versions of their songs in German but they weren’t included on the disc?

[READ: May 8, 2010] The Clock Without a Face

This review is about my first read of this book.  When I get to the end you’ll realize why there will have to be a second read and updated review.

This is an amusing tale.  And also a confounding (and evidently very real–see the bottom paragraph!–) mystery. (more…)

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