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Archive for the ‘Pseudonymous Bosch’ 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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writeSOUNDTRACK: THE MINIONS-“Banana” (2014).

Ibanan really enjoyed both Despicable Me movies, and the minions crack me up.  So how did I not know that bananas are a big deal for them?  At Universal Studios, bananas are a huge part of the Minion gear that they sell, but I had no idea why.  When we watched Despicable Me recently, I saw them fighting over a banana, but it seemed like a minor thing.

Well, anyhow, the minions have done a cover of “Barbara Ann” as… well, you get the point.

And man, is it irritating, especially in the two hour version I present you with below.

I honestly can’t wait for the next movie though.

[READ: November 9, 2014] Write This Book

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while.  I didn’t want to read it until I finished the Secret series.  And since I did, I decided to read this right away.  (You don’t need to read the Secret series to enjoy this book–especially for the h ow-to elements which are outstanding whether you know his work or not)

I wasn’t really sure how this would work–there was an excerpt at the back of the You Have to Stop This paperback.  He sets up the story for us and has us finish it, was it just going to be blank pages?  No, it is not.

Indeed, it is a very clever book because it accomplishes two things very well.

1) It creates a simple yet compelling mystery (with Bosch’s typical flair for twisting things around on their heads) and

2) It teaches young writers a ton about how to write.  In fact, I hope Clark reads this soon, because I think it will really help him with his storytelling. (more…)

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stopthisSOUNDTRACK: PHARRELL WILLIAMS-“Despicable Me” (2010).

meAfter coming back from Universal, we watched Despicable Me again.  I had totally forgotten that Pharrell Williams, that “Happy” guy, had written this song about “having a bad bad day.”

Now since this is an open credit sequence, I think he can be forgiven for repeating the two verses FOUR TIMES.

Of course, that makes it insanely catchy (I’m havin’ a bad bad day), and the melody is a nice combination of bouncy jingle and suspenseful spy type movie.

It’s nice to see Williams run the gamut of emotions in these two songs (“Happy” comes from Despicable Me 2).

[READ: November 7, 2014] You Have to Stop This

This is the final book in the “Secret” series.  It has been quite a while since I read book four, so I was a little worried that I wouldn’t remember what was going on.  And I really didn’t, but that didn’t matter too much, because I immediately jumped right back into he plot and figured out the details as I went along.  And I flew through this (it was a great vacation book).

One of my favorite things about this series is the way that Bosch plays with the conventions of storytelling.  I’m not even sure if young readers can appreciate the jokes at this level (have they read enough to know what is being spoofed?).  So when chapter one begins with a pick your own beginning, it made me laugh because of the types of opening lines you can choose, but also because of what the answer is.

And then in chapter 2, the narrator promises to reveal the Secret right away… (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SPOON-Transference (2010).

The first thing I think of when I think of this disc is staccato.  I’ve read that the disc sounds like a demo, which I don’t quite agree with, although it does sound very raw and spare (in the way the Peter, Bjorn and John’s Living Thing does).

Although the opener “Before Destruction” has a lot of guitars washing around, the dominant sound is a loud short chord and drum combination.  And from the second song on pretty much, things get very chunky.

“Is Love Forever?” has a riff based on tight military beat with guitar chords that match.  There’s very little in the way of extended notes or washes of sound.  “Mystery Zone,” an insanely catchy little ditty, has a similar staccato/spare sound.  Britt Daniel’s voice is pretty much the only instrument that holds a note for more than a beat.  (That’s not literally true, but it seems like it).  Meanwhile, “Who Makes  Your Money” is all drum beats and single keyboard notes.

It’s surprising that this spare musical accompaniment works so effectively, but it does.  Especially on “Written in Reverse” a predominantly pizzicato piano track that rocks in a maniacally-echoed fashion.  Or even more so on the 5 minute “I Saw the Light” which is basically drums and a propulsive bass.  There’s occasional guitar chords which build until the 2 minute mark, when a  3 minute minor chord piano & drum coda takes over.

“Good Night Laura” is a simple piano ballad (again with pizzicato piano chords), while the final song “Nobody Gets Me But You” is full of cacophonous piano runs, most of which sounding precariously on the verge of being random and out of tune, but which always manage to be weird and cool.

Spoon’s last album had a pretty big hit with “Don’t Make Me a Target” which was similar in style to these songs but which had more orchestration.  These songs feel like an attempt to strip away as much as possible and see what remains.  And I guess it’s a testament to the quality of the songs that it works.

[READ: December 1, 2010] This Isn’t What It Looks Like

Is it the nature of children’s books in the 21st century that they are all parts of a series?  Do authors write singular books with no plan of a sequel?  I don’t know.  And I’m not sure that I mind all that much.

This is the fourth book in the “Secret” series, and Bosch hasn’t lost any steam or quality for this part of the saga.  When we last left our heroes, Cass was in a “coma,” induced from eating a time traveling chocolate bar.  Max-Ernest has more or less given up speaking (which is impossible for him) because he feels so guilty about encouraging Cass to eat the chocolate.  And, Yo-Yoji, their erstwhile third member, is off in Japan with his family.  What is M-E to do?

Luckily for M-E, an old friend has returned to school, and he’s causing quite a stir.  Benjamin Blake (the awkward synesthetic artist from the first book) has returned from his finishing school.  He is polished and refined, he uses words like “chum,” and people seem to be well, interested, in him.  And most interesting of all (as only M-E knows), he seems to be able to read people’s minds!  And that’s just what M-E was hoping to do with Cass while she’s in the coma.

For Cass, you see, is “living” in the past.  In our time, she is in the coma, but her mind has traveled back in time to meet The Jester, the man who holds “The Secret” and the man who is her great- great- great- (etc) grandfather.  She is fully conscious in Renaissance times.  The big difference, though, is that she is invisible!  And, in a wonderful publishing joke (the kind of thing that Bosch does so well) all of the chapters that are about Cass are listed as negative (so the book starts with Chapter “-Ten”).  M-E’s chapters start at one, mind you, so you have positive and negative chapters which all converge at a hilarious interlude called Chapter Zero.

The bit about the Renaissance also works very well because their school is having its annual Renaissance Faire (I wish I went to THAT school!) which is sponsored by a theme restaurant which features jousting and medieval times (but which is not Medieval Times, ha ha–I love that everyone says how bad the burgers are but they love the experience).  The Ren Faire is a wonderful plot set-up because with Cass lost in “real” Renaissance, the parallels to the Ren Faire are very clever and often very funny.  (I also love that M-E keeps trying to explain that there is a big difference between Renaissance and Medieval but no one will listen).

And, indeed, cleverness is the word of the book (and the series).  Bosch is having continued great fun with word play (and footnotes!).  He also has some clever puzzles to solve.  The biggest one is the “Hint to the Secret” that the Jester leaves for Cass (and which even a fortune teller tells her about).  I was convinced I had the puzzle sorted out but I was wrong (and it was so obvious when it was revealed!).  And, there’s also a revelation as to the true identity of Pseudonymous Bosch (not the real life author, but the “author” of the books).  I had put a little of this together myself when reading the dialogue in M-E’s head.  But I won’t spoil the revelation of that.

The only secret I will reveal is to say that this is not the final book in the series.  For awhile it seemed like it was heading towards a conclusion.  But as we dramatically learn, there will be more adventures to come.  And that’s pretty cool.

I love an exciting series, but I especially love an exciting series that doesn’t talk down to its readers.  The footnotes and clever games are very fun and thought-provoking (there’s even two emails that are written in code that you need to decipher (unless you cheat and look in the appendix).  And speaking of the Appendix, there’s also a one-way staring contest and directions on how to make a camera obscura (which features in the book and seems like a fun project).

I honestly have no idea how nay books Bosch plans to write in this series (and I have no idea who Pseudonymous Bosch (the author) is for real.  It’s all part of the mystery that I enjoy quite a lot.

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On July 25, I reached 90,000 hits.
It took me seven months to get from 60,000 (Dec 25, 2009) to 90,000.
It took me nine months to get my first 30,000 hits.

There are some obvious contributing factors to this improvement (not the least of which is links from referrers that make absolutely no sense whatsoever (and which are pretty clearly spam, but hey, numbers are numbers, right?)  But the most obvious is the huge outcry at the failure of Scholastic to continue publishing the Ulysses Moore series.

If you Google “Ulysses Moore” I am the first post (after the official Scholastic site, Amazon, and fantasticfiction).  I have received so many comments from people who are frustrated that the can’t finish the series. It is amazing that so many voices are ignored.  As you can see, this series has garnered me 4020 views.

At 60,000 views I posted some theories as to why I thought these posts were so successful.  Since very little has changed (mostly just a little shuffle of the top ten), I won’t bother repeating that.  But, there is one post (see the bottom, hee hee) which has absolutely skyrocketed in just a few short months.

1. 4020 views posted April 25, 2009 [was #1 at 60,000: 1663 views]
Pierdomenico Baccalario–Ulysses Moore series Books 1-4
SOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-Vitalogy (more…)

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[cue music]:

I saw these stats come sailing in, on Christmas Day on Christmas Day.
I hit 60,000 views on Christmas Day in the mor-ning.

I hit 30,000 views back in March, and I was quite thrilled.  When I started the blog in May of 2007 I didn’t expect to get all that many views, it was more or less a blog to keep track of my books and maybe have other people comment too.  And so, it took nearly two years to get to 30,000.  Imagine how delightful it is to reach the next 30,000 views in the span of just nine months!

So thanks everyone for checking out what I had to say.  And thanks also for all the comments.  As with the first 30,000, I’ve included the stats that have brought me to this hallowed (but random) spot.  And I must add that Infinite Summer, which is underrepresented in my top ten posts, was absolutely essential for this huge spike in views (thanks DFW fans).  But, by far the biggest surprise was the surge that came from the first book(s) on the list below.  I posted about the Ulysses Moore series in April.  And it was by far the most frequently sought and (presumably) read post on the blog.  So, Scholastic Publishing, if you read this, please note the craving that my readers have for the rest of the series!  And please update your site!!

So, anyhow, thanks all.  Listed below are the Top Ten (and a few extra) viewed posts on my blog.  Happy New Year!

(more…)

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boschSOUNDTRACKKATE BUSH-The Dreaming (1982).

dreamingThis disc focuses Kate’s intensity somewhat.  I was just reading that it was nowhere near as popular as her previous discs in England (where she had been number 1 many times), although, interestingly it made the charts in the US because of college radio airplay.

The disc is still experimental (there’s all kinds of weird things going around) but it feels kind of claustrophobic.  The disc opens with the manic percussion of “Sat in your Lap” (this song also features the gamut of Kate’s diverse vocal talents: whispered verses, shrieking bridges and bellowing chorus).

“There goes a Tenner” is about a robbery (and is sung with an East End accent).  There’s also the weird and wonderful “Suspended in Gaffa” (recently covered by Ra Ra Riot).  “The Dreaming” is about Australia (and is sung in an Aussie accent).

Meanwhile, “Houdini” breaks briefly from its raging vocals into a mellow string-filled middle piece (with more of that gorgeous fretless bass). The cover of the disc shows a “scene” from the song (she’s slipping a key into Houdini’s mouth).

The disc ends with the outrageous “Get Out of My House.”  It is a scary, crazy song with Kate shrieking like a madwoman and the male vocalist turning into a donkey (hee-hawing as he goes).

I have always enjoyed this disc.  It is a wonderful step between the all-over-the-place crazy of Never for Ever and the gorgeous controlled beauty of Hounds of Love. It’s not afraid to showcase Kate’s crazy side (okay, really crazy side), and yet it still keeps a sense of humor (and has some wonderful melodies as well).

[READ: November 13, 2009] This Book is Not Good for You

I’ve been a fan of the Pseudonymous Bosch books since the beginning.  I love the whole concept of the series (that even the author is being persecuted by the bad guys and can’t give out any real names, not even his own).  This book is no exception.  The mystery concerns the adventure of our heroes: Cass, Max-Ernest and Yo-Yoji in their fight against the Midnight Sun, who….   Well, I have to be honest, I’m not entirely clear exactly what the Midnight Sun are up to.  I’m not even sure that not knowing is a bad thing.  We know that  they are mysterious, that they are all very old (they have gained knowledge of a formula for eternal youth), and they really don’t like our heroines or the Terces Society that they belong to.  But aside from that I’m not sure what their long term goal is.  It may have been mentioned in the previous books, but at this point, I just know they’re bad.

This volume has an added element of fun in that the author himself is under attack from the Midnight Sun in the very pages of the book!  (They drug him and at one point even slip an extra piece of paper into the book (which tells the reader that the Midnight Sun is being misrepresented by Bosch).

But really, the story is all about chocolate.  Bosch himself is a chocolate gourmand (he disdains milk chocolate and especially white chocolate, although he doesn’t have a problem with vanilla per se).  There’s a thorough guide to chocolate in the index.  There’s even chocolate recipes! (more…)

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