Archive for the ‘The Muppet Show’ Category

[LISTENED TO: December 2016] Nightmares! The Lost Lullaby

I was really excited to get this third volume of the Nightmares! series.

The previous book ended with the startling revelation that on the first day of the new school year, India Kessog (INK) is sitting in Charlie’s classroom.

INK and her sister ICK were responsible for creating the tonic that nearly destroyed Orville Falls–not to mention the Dream Realm, the Netherworld and the Waking World.

Charlie and his friends knew that INK was on this side of the portal and that her sister ICK was still in the nightmare realm, but they never expected that INK would come to them rather than then having to track her down.

INK is still dressed like she has always been–in old-fashioned clothes with a red bow–exactly the way that she (or ICK, they are twins) terrorized everyone’s dreams in Charlie’s town.  As INK walks through the school–observing everything very carefully–all of the kids keep their distance and stare and whisper.

When she sits down to eat, she is repulsed by the chicken nuggets–who wouldn’t be?  But she loves the tater tots.  That must make her okay right? (c’mon, EVERYONE loves the tater tots).  Charlie is just about to go approach her when his little brother Jack beats him to it.  And he starts talking to India (he calls her Indy) like she was his friend instead of a monster.  They seem to be having a good conversation until a new characters approaches. (more…)


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[LISTENED TO: December 2016] Nightmares! The Sleepwalker Tonic

2I though the first Nightmares! book was great.  I had listened to both of these books before, but what was fun about listening this time is that the end of book one gives a little hint at what book two would be about.

Towards the end of Book One, the story tells us that Charlotte’s business was doing well, although a new store had opened up in the next town and was also doing very well–possibly taking away her customers.

And that’s essentially what book two is about.  (No, not about small town commerce).

But let’s back up.  In book one, Charlie Laird and his three friends Paige, Alfie and Rocco prevented the evil president of the Netherworld from taking over the waking world.

Back up some more.  Nightmares aren’t bad.  They are there to frighten us, yes, but their goal is for us to face our fears and come out stronger.  They don’t want to hurt any of us. But the nightmares have an enemy–the goblins.  The goblins have been forced out of the nightmare realm never to return.  And they are constantly trying to get back into the Netherworld. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: Summer 2016 & November 2016] Nightmares!

nightmresI loved Jason Segel on How I Met Your Mother.  I loved that Jason Segel was instrumental in bringing The Muppets back to the big screen.  And now I love that Jason Segel has written a series of really enjoyable–funny and frightening–children’s books.

This book is about–wait for it–nightmares.  But not in the way that you might expect.  Segel (and Miller–I have no idea how much she contributed to the book) have created a realm where Nightmares live.  It is a wonderfully realized and very well thought out world.  And I am really impressed with how well the whole story works.

It is the story of Charlie Laird.  Charlie is a pretty normal kid.  He does okay in school, he has friends, his family loves him.  But three years ago his mom died unexpectedly.  It was a harsh blow to him and his family.  Charlie has never really gotten over it.  And what has made it especially tough is that Charlie’s dad recently got remarried.  Apparently he got over it just fine.

If that weren’t bad enough, Charlie’s family moved from his old house–the house he grew up in and loved–into the mansion on the hill.  Not a far move–still in the city of Cypress Creek–but worlds apart from what he was used to.  Or what he wanted.

The mansion has always been there in town. It is huge and…it is purple.  It towers over the whole town–you can’t avoid looking at it–and it has always been rather creepy.  It was built a long time ago by Silas DeChant, and it has been in the DeChant family ever since.  So it makes sense that Charlie’s new stepmother, Charlotte, who is a DeChant, would want to live there.

But Charlie hates it  And he hates Charlotte, and he hates anything that tries to get him to see reason about his horrible stepmonster (I didn’t like the lazy use of this term, but it is rather appropriate). (more…)

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1981 SOUNDTRACK: SON LITTLE-Tiny Desk Concert #496 (December 18, 2015).

sonlittleI know of Son Little, although only vaguely.  WXPN has played his song “The River” quite a lot, although I don’t think I’ve heard anything else.

For this Tiny Desk Concert, he’s really stripped down–just his acoustic guitar, a percussionist (Jabari Exum playing a djembe with accoutrements) and a backing vocalist, his sister Megan Livingston.  His playing is even pretty stripped down–his chords are minimal, almost more like accents for most of the songs (although he does play louder from time to time).

As such, this really celebrates his voice which is strong and almost gospel-like.

He plays three songs. “Lay Down,” is a quiet soulful song with perfectly spare accompaniment.  When it ends, everyone seems adorably shy with Little saying, “just mildly awkward enough.”

“Your Love Will Blow Me Away When My Heart Aches” is a bit bigger–Little sings a bit louder and plays louder chords, but it is still quite minimal.

He ends with “The River” which is certainly stripped down from the radio version.  It opens with some claps and he encourages everyone to clap along although “If you’re like clap challenged then maybe… don’t–you know who you are.”  The song has that bluesy rock feel even in this understated form.  And while I like the original better, this is a great version–that quiet clapping and percussion is really nice.

[READ: July 26, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1981-1982

So far the 1980s see Schulz settling into a few consistent themes in his strips–regular motifs that he mines over and over again.  Although it’s interesting to see how they have morphed over the decades.

Patty is constantly falling asleep in school (and getting D minuses), Snoopy continues to write funny/bad jokes and gets rejection letters about his books (this is usually pretty funny but it’s also surprising as Snoopy is usually the “successful” one); Snoopy also plays a lawyer a lot in these strips.

1981 begins where 1980 left off with Patty loving the story of Hans Brinker.  1981 also has a lengthy section about Valentines Day (a subject that gets more emphasis in some years than others), although this year Sally is the major protagonist (and her Sweet Babboo her object).  1982 also has a Valentine’s Day with Sally–she gets her hand stuck in the Valentine’s Day cards box.

Schulz used to do bible instruction which is why he quotes it so much.  And he occasionally peppers his strips with religious commentary.  There’s a joke about school prayer–Patty has to go up to the board and when her teacher falls ill she shouts “school prayer works, Marcie.”  There’s an amusing joke that Snoopy used to teach Sunday School at the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm.

Although the running jokes are funny, I love when he gets a new idea.  Like the a fun twist on the dog ate my homework joke when Snoopy as the WWI pilot steals Sally’s homework claiming it is the enemy’s secret papers and he eats them.

Sometimes Schulz gives a one-off joke that’s just silly and funny like when Woodstock “poofs” a dandelion and it “poofs” him back. (more…)

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1978SOUNDTRACK: LAND LINES-Tiny Desk Concert #494 (December 11, 2015).

landLand Lines are a trio from Denver.  They have a drummer, a synth player and a cellist/lead singer.  Although their music is pretty spare and simple, I find them really compelling.

On “Wreckage,” Martina Grbac plays the cello with her fingers, strumming chords on the neck of the instruments in a way I’ve not seen anyone play before.   Grbac sings quietly and her voice–echoing and effects-laden–reminds me of someone from the 1990s, although I can’t exactly pinpoint it (maybe a Cocteau Twins vibe?  but not quite). James Han plays really interesting chords and textures on the keyboard.  Sometimes he adds melody lines, and other times, like at the end of this song, growing washes of sounds.  Ross Harada’s percussion is also fun for the complex and different sounds he adds to the songs.

“Anniversary” has a similar vibe withe that cello chord playing.  The opening keys play simple echoing notes which add a nice atmosphere to the acoustic chords and percussion.

For the final song, “Fall or Fall,” Grbac plays a rapidly bowed cello (which has such a different sound than the other songs).  The bass is provided by the synth (a good sounding bass).   I love the way her voice contrasts the keyboard chords.  The chord progressions throughout the song are interesting and I really like the unexpected sounds that close out the song.

I’d never heard of Land Lines, but I liked this show enough to listen to it a bunch of times.  I’ll have to check out their other songs as well.

[READ: July 9, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1977-1978

I feel like this era is when I would have read Peanuts the most, although I have no recollection of any of these strips.

The covers of the books don’t necessarily depict who will be prominent in the collection, but Peppermint Patty on the front does equal a lot of Patty inside.  While Peppermint Patty continues to do very poorly in school, she does get some witty remarks like “What was the author’s purpose in writing this story?  Maybe he needed the money.”

We see a return of Truffles in January which also introduces Sally calling Linus her Sweet Babboo for the first time.  “I’m not your Sweet Babboo!”  Truffles is very excited to see Linus and vice versa but it kind of ends with unanswered questions because, in one of the first times this surreal gag was introduced, Snoopy flies in as a helicopter–a joke used many more times in the future–to sort of interrupt the whole saga.

Snoopy also pretends to be the Cheshire Cat a few times.

It has been a while since Linus has built anything outstanding (something he used to do a lot as a precocious child).  Well, in Feb 1977 he builds a snowman of Washington crossing the Delaware (to show up Lucy’s George Washington snowman with a little sword). (more…)

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rjSOUNDTRACK: YUSUF/CAT STEVENS-Tiny Desk Concert #411 December 9, 2014).

catAs this Tiny Desk Concert opens, Bob Boilen tells his story of being 17 years old and saving up money to buy a guitar so he could learn Cat Steven’s “Father and Son.”  He says he’s now old and has a son and the song still means a lot.  And that introduction makes the song even that more emotional when he plays it later.

It’s a shame that he is so known for the controversy about the fatwa back in the 1980s, but his conversion to Islam is pretty interesting: “In 1976, Cat Stevens almost drowned off the coast of Malibu. In his panic, he says, he shouted, “Oh, God! If you save me, I will work for you” — at which point he recalls a wave that came and carried him ashore. He converted to Islam, changed his name and left the pop world after one last album in 1978.”

He released his first non-spiritual album in decades in 20o6.  He released another one in 2014, which was a record of some originals mixed with standards and blues covers.  He plays two songs from this album here (which is a bit of a disappointment, as I could have easily listened to him play the entire Greatest Hits album).  But these two songs are quite nice.  “I was Raised in Babylon” is a bit dark, although his voice sounds great.  “Doors” was originally written for the musical Moonshadow.  It’s a delicate ballad.  And it also as a religious impact with the final line being “God made everything just right.”

In between these two he says he doesn’t know what to play next, but he has some kind of gadget that he scrolls through.  And he chooses “The First Cut is the Deepest.”  He comments maybe some people know I wrote this one, it wasn’t Rod Stewart.  I really like this song a lot.  It sounds different from the record because it’s just him and his guitar, but his voice is unmistakable. and he sounds great.  And if it makes him feel better, I’ve never even heard the Rod Stewart version.

He dedicates “Father and Son” to Bob and it’s just as beautiful as the original.  And yes, it should make you tear up, especially if you have a child.

After listening to this Tiny Desk I really wanted to see him play live.  I know that he is currently on tour and will actually be in Philly on this very night.  There are still tickets available, but since the cheapest seats cost nearly $200, I’ll be skipping this one.

[READ: April 4, 2016] The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, in which the zoo animals put on a play of Macbeth.  Well, the zoo is ready again for their next performance.  I enjoyed that the audience is aware of the previous play–the kids are even wondering why it’s another tale of woe instead of something happy.  Later when the lion (who was in Macbeth) comes out, someone addresses him as the character from that play.

What I thought was interesting about the way this play was done was that they made the story kid friendly.  I liked this and that it allowed me to share this story with my kids.  Rather than being lovers, Romeo and Juliet want to have a play date, and rather than killing themselves at the end, they wind up hibernating. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEFTONES-Diamond Eyes (2010).

diamondBefore releasing Diamond Eyes, Deftones had two band crises. The first was that they didn’t really seem to like each other anymore.  The previous album was fraught with tension and they barely toured.  After deciding that they wanted to remain as a band, they were invigorated and made an album called Eros.  But during the recording, bassist Chi Cheng was in a car accident and was in a coma.  As of yet he has not fully recovered.  So they shelved Eros, hired a temporary bass player Sergio Vega and set about recording Diamond Eyes.  And for whatever reason, it proved to be one of their best releases so far.

“Diamond Eyes” opens with a heavy down-tuned guitar–very abrasive–until the chorus come in and it’s their most beautiful ones yet–with soaring keyboards and  harmonies.  And then the heavy guitars come back–it’s what Deftones do so well–beauty and ugly together.  Stephen Carpenter really shines, as always.  “Royal” is a fast song with a great harmonizing chorus.  “Cmnd/Ctrl” has a shocking low riff that explodes into a  bright chorus.  “You’ve Seen the Butcher” has guitars that seem almost untuned as the song starts.  But it morphs into a kind of sexy butt-shaking chorus.  And Abe Cunningham’s drums are, of course, fantastic.

“Beauty School” is the first that doesn’t really start out heavy, it’s a got a gentle guitar intro and the first song where Vega’s bass is really prominent as a separate instrument and it creates a beautiful alternative song–great vocals throughout.  “Prince” brings in a lot of new textures to the album, including a clanging guitar sound and a great screamed chorus. “Rocket Skates” is one of my favorite songs on the record, it has a classic metal riff and the great screamed-beyond-comprehension chorus of Guns, Razors Knives and a weird little whoooo that ends the chorus.

“Sextape” is a surprisingly gentle song, opening with an echoed guitar riff and one of Chino’s most gentle choruses.  “976-Evil” has an echoey guitar and voices not unlike the Cocteau Twins.  “This Place is Death” has another great alt rock feel–a big song with bright guitars and dark lyrics.  I haven’t really mentioned Frank Delgado on keyboards and samples.  He’s been with the band since White Pony, and I feel like his presence was made notable on a few songs here and there.  But it seems like on this disc he really comes to the fore, adding new textures and sounds to the album which really fill it out.

[READ: March 12, 2013] McSweeney’s #14

After the colorful extravaganza of the Comics Issue of McSweeney’s #13, this book settles down into something more somber  The book is softcover and all white.  The cover depicts a cartoon of George Bush with both legs blown off and the caption, “I Am So, So Sorry.”  On the spine in small print: “We’re praying as fast as we can.”  It is the most context-full cover they’ve done yet and, nearly a decade away it seems like a rather mean cover, but if I remember correctly at the time it seemed apt and delicious, especially in light of the upcoming election.

Yet despite the overtly political cover, the content inside is not political or even thematic (although it is pretty dark stuff).  Nevertheless, the table of contents gives us a small joke when it says “To help you know which stories to read first, we have indicated with either a * or a † those that deserve special consideration from you, the reader.  If you see either a * or a †, do not miss that story.”  Of course every story has either a * or a † but they cleverly did not put any kind of pattern to the symbols.

The colophon explains that when they were in Ireland, they met an actual Timothy McSweeney.  He had been given a copy of Issue #3 and then promptly forgot about the magazine.  But when McSweeney’s was in Galway to do a reading at the Galway Arts Festival, Timothy (Ted) McSweeney traveled from Dublin to check it out (not a short trip).  This also resulted in a letter from Mr McSweeney which is actually quite funny.

There are also illustrations in the book, although they are small illustrations and are placed on the title of each piece in the book.  All of the illustrations are old, mostly coming from the 1800s, although one dates back to 1670.  They illustrations are all technical scientific ones and don’t have anything to do with the stories. (more…)

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