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Archive for the ‘Cupcakes’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 3 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 10, 2005).

This was the 3rd night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.   Each night’s show has gotten longer, with this one reaching almost two and a half hours.

Ford Pier is back on keyboards.  They are joined by Alan Pigguns for a couple of songs and Jen Foster on accordion.

Throughout the show, someone is yelling “Legal Age Life” It never gets played–so that ought to teach you something about shouting requests.  But they are very friendly to the folks from San Diego who get lots of shoutouts.

The opening band was The Mellow Grove Band, and Tim says, “I’d only ever heard The Mellow Grove Band on CD.  I wanted to see them live.  They totally blew me away.

“Saskatchewan” is a beautiful slow opening with twinkling pianos.  Martin sang the first verse through his robot voice and it sounded pretty cool, but seemed to throw everyone off–no one did backing vocals and no one caught on to the chord changes.  Dave says he screwed him up with that robot voice, so they start over and it sounds great (and you can hear someone yell “Thank you, Martin”).

As the song ends, Martin plays a few lines of “Hey Hey, My My” before the final piano keys twinkle out and the rhythmic clapping of “Rain Rain Rain” picks up.  Dave is playing the bongos and Martin calls out “Bongo Davey!”  Dave keeps playing and Mike shouts: “You’ve got your whole life ahead of you!  You go!    Dave says “Bongo solo is supposed to be at the end of the show.”  Mike: “This is the end of the show.”  Tim: “No, it’s now or never.  Let him go a bit.”  When “Rain Rain Rain” starts, you can hear the loud woman singing along with him.  It even makes Martin chuckle.

During “Polar Bears and Trees,” Dave interjects, “the land of polar bears and trees, that’s Canada.”  Then Martin says “Hi there” which gets the Martin fans nutty.  Before singing “The Tarleks,” He does a lot of talking in the Tarlek voice: “Love what you do.  Dave Bidini, your books are such great books.  Mike, your production work…fabulous.”

Dave send the next one out to people who aren’t from:  Toronto, Scarborough, Markham, Etobicoke or  North York. Mike: what about Mississauga.  Dave says you know I don’t even acknowledge Mississauga,  mike.  You know that all of the worlds problems stem from Mississauga, let’s face it.  Tim: Our last drummer was from Mississauga.  Triumph was from Mississauga.

They play a delightful “We Went West” and then start talking about hydrating.  Dave mentions “precious bodily fluids.  It all comes back to Stanley Krueger, Krubrick.  Someone put liquid acid in my bottle of water.  Everybody knows it was the guys from San Diego.  They scored liquid acid at Queens Park today (they shout “last night”).  And you thought it was a Tylenol.

“PIN’ starts with the outro music and then launches into the intro with lots of strummed acoustic guitars.  There’s pretty twinkling sounds at the end with Martin stating “On the Dirty Blvd.”

During “Mumbletypeg,” Dave states: “We’re Klaatu from Etoboicoke.”   During the outro, three of them are all singing different things in a chaotic fugue.

While people are shouting out their requests, Dave says, “Thanks for your requests, we’ll get to them later.  Or not.  You’ll go home disappointed but we’ll have your money.  That’s the way it is. That’s the rock n’ roll business.”

This seems to get the audience riled up and I hate that you can hear people yelling and talking loudly during the opening quiet part of “In This Town.”  Whats’ wrong with these people?

Dave adds an intro to “Power Ballad For Ozzy Osbourne” “Death to you and death to me / death to the head of the company / corporate whores and superstores bring death to the future that i see / death to the men in pistols and pointed hoods who run F.M. radio and Hollywood.”  There’s some really  pretty vocals at the end of the song before Martin and I assume Ford take turns screaming the last note.

Why is someone hollering during the quiet beginning of “Northern Wish”?  Martin sings “gonna launch it from my garage.” And after that Martin seems to get lost but Dave is there to help him out.  At the “we don’t need submarines” (fucking hate em).  And then someone starts doing a doot doot submarine sound.  And then at the end, Martin is still doing the “land ho” when the band kicks into the “launch it from my pad” section.  Then Martin starts singing another verse and Dave says I believe it’s the end of the song.  So they do the land ho part again and everyone (even the crowd) sings along.

Martin: I think somebody slipped some ludes into my bottled water.   I was just enjoying the sweet grooviness of what was going on and I fell into a dream.”

Then up comes Jennifer Foster on the squeeze box.  She’ll be accompanying on “Who Is This Man And Why Is He Laughing?”  Dave: It’s a Michael Philip Wojewoda composition and it goes something like this (he plays drums really fast). Martin: “Put Dave behind the drum kit, he can barely contain himself.”  By the end on every fourth beat the audience starts shouting “oh!” in time.

We’d like to invite another beautiful person for tonight’s program, Alun Piggins.  Alun: “I’m just flattered that you called me beautiful, Dave.”  That idiot is still shouting of r”Legal Age Life” and Dave says, Al didn’t learn that.  Dave says “we;re gonna act like we didn’t discuss what to play.”  Ford: “I didn’t”  Alun: “Was that you, Mike?”  Mike: “No that was Ford, another smart ass in the group.”  Let’s do Fred.

They do a cover of Fred Eaglesmith’s “Freight Train.”  It sounds so different from anything else they play.  There’s even a harmonica solo.  It really rocks and sounds great.  I never heard the song before.

Note: When I write about kids books I try to keep the music somewhat clean.  It doesn’t always work.  And since I’m in the midst of this Rheos marathon who are usually only mildly dirty and am doing First Second books, I didn’t expect what comes next.  So, if you’re easily offended skip the next paragraph.

Alun asks if he can do a Christmas song. After some abuse, he says it’s a lonely Christmas song about a guy who spends Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day masturbating to internet porn.  Probably at triple xmas dot com.  Dave asks, Is this like that McLean and McLean song “Merry Christmas Handjob.”  Alun: No, I wrote this one.”  Dave is insulted by the McLean song saying “he calls it a handjob but he’s actually masturbating.  You know how fucked up that song is?”  Mike: “Is that from Toilet Tricks?”  Dave laughs and then admits that he does like the song. Alun’s song is called “Dirty Dirty Dirty Dirty Christmas” and it’s pretty damned dark.

When it ends, Mike notes: That man was in The Morganfields (a thrash/folk act).

“Here Comes The Image” has cool long keyboard solo and effects.  And a woman keeps shouting for “Making Progress,” but they don’t play it.

Dave says they’re going to play three songs from Whale Music, and that they’ll be doing the whole album on Wednesday.  And that tomorrow night is the all-ages show.

“King Of The Past” is a bit sloppy although Martin plays a great solo at the end: “ride that wild stallion, Martin.”  During “RDA”  Tim is pretty much screaming the backing vocals and laughing like a maniac.  Then Dave throws in a few choruses of “I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.” and starts chanting:

we have no voice
when force is the noise
when force is the sound
when guns are the melody
when wrongs are the truth
when the newspapers are the crime

Which sounds eerily prescient for 2017.

“California Dreamline” is kind of sloppy but “Feed Yourself” is really intense.

After the encore, Dave plays his two acoustic songs, “Last Good Cigarette” which he says is “our White Stripes tribute” and “My First Rock Concert.”  The end gets a kind of reggae style and Dave sings in an almost reggae-but-really-inaudible way.  Then Dave asks Ford what shows he saw at 14.  And boy does Ford have a list

Big Country, Killing Joke, The Pogues’ first European tour, Black Flag, Husker Du.  And that’s when I became a non-U2 fan.  During the Unforgettable Fire tour, when he was singing Pride and Martin Luther King was projected and I thought…this is….  Dave says, “I’m pro U2.”  Mike: “Martin and I are more into the spy plane, actually.”  Martin: “Dave said the War tour was awesome. The Waterboys opened.”

Another request for “Making Progress.”  But Martin says, “Let’s go back to the 1950s with this next number.”  Mike: “When nuclear energy was still hopeful.”  They play “Torque Torque” which segues into ” a rollicking Claire.”  Paul Linklater comes up for a solo as well.

You can hear someone ask Dave something and he says, March 2007 at Massey Hall we hope (and that did come to pass).

They end this lengthy show with a wild “Satan is the Whistler,” which they have been doing very well lately.

[READ: October 17, 2017] Crafty Cat and the Crafty Camp Crisis

I was surprised to see that this second book had come out already (and a third one is due soon).

In this book Birdie is excited to go to Craft Camp. Birdie and Evan had a deal.  He would go to Crafty Camp and afterward she would go to his house to play Pumpkins & Pirates.  And when she loses the game, she will watch him do the victory dance.

She has high expectations for what this camp will be like–a big table full of brand-new craft supplies?  Maybe the walls will be sparkly and decorated with all the cool crafts we’re going to make?

Her best friend Evan is running late and there’s an amusing scene where he shows up but has to go to the bathroom.  While he’s in the bathroom she gets a visit from Cloudy who tells her that she is a good friend.  But Cloudy won’t tell Evan to hurry because it doesn’t do bathrooms.

Evan also bursts her bubble–“Craft Camp. It’s just in our regular classroom at school.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 2 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 9, 2005).

This series of shows contains the final Rheostatics live shows that are left to write about–except for their “final shows” and their “reunion shows” (which I really hope to see some day).” This was the 2nd night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe. Ford Pier was once again on keyboards.

This show was slightly longer than the previous night.  Unlike the 2004 Fall Nationals, however, they are not promoting an album, so there is a lot more diversity of songs.  Although there are a few “new” songs.

As the show starts, Dave says, Thanks to TruthHorse for the films.  [TruthHorse is a sketch comedy troupe who makes a lot of short films.  Like this one].

They have a lot of fun teasing the intro of “Onilley’s Strange Dream.”  You can hear Ford Pier and Martin occasionally playing the melody, but it takes almost four minutes before Dave says “we’re trying to set the record for playing the longest sustained G chord…. Ronnie Milsap currently has the record.”  Ford Pier goes on a lengthy bullshit rant about Medieval scholars and Boethius and chords and colors and physical and celestial bodies.  He says essentially that the G chord should make you think of the color blue and the sun.  After five minutes, Martin starts singing.  He doesn’t seem to recall all the lyrics, but Dave helps him out.  The song fades out and picks up with an interesting opening to “Fan Letter To Michael Jackson.”  It’s pretty rocking with a lengthy jam in the middle and a big keyboard section (“Ford are you ready to feel alive.”).

Dave chats with the audience: “How old are you?  Happy 22nd.”  The belligerent man with “her” says “Sing it to her, I’m not joking, right now.”  What? “Happy Birthday.”  Dave: “Oh if we did that the union would be all over us.  I don’t even now it.  We’ll dedicate this completely inappropriate political rant to you, if you’d like.”  That rant would be a rocking “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  Dave introduces Tim: “Straight from the Czech Republic.”  Tim: “Slovak.”  Dave: “That’s what I meant.”  Tim ask the birthday girl: “Are you Heather?  Oh.  Three birthdays today.”  Dave: “There have been three babies born here tonight and they have all been named Rheostatics.”  Mike: “Just imagine the cruelty on the school ground.”

“Record Body Count” has a lot of organ in the background which changes the sound somewhat.  Next comes “Four Little Songs” which they start but don’t actually get going.  Mike: “What, no melody?”  The song takes off and sounds good.  Then for the third verse: “Here’s Ford Pier to sing you a song.” Over a circusy keyboard melody he sings about a magnificent driver.” No sure if it’s a real song or improv.  At the end Ford Pier plays the “soulful sounds” of Canadian Airlines.  The music they would play as you boarded….before they folded.

Then comes Tim’s new song, “Sunshine At Night.”  It rocks with a good thumping bass line.   It’s followed by “the civic premiere” of a new Martin song “Teen On The Staircase.”  It’s pretty spare to start.  And it’s either not finished or Martin is just having a hard time.  It’s got simple lyrics:  “Teen on the staircase, wash your interesting hair.”   They get lost on the song and finally jump to the chorus.  The lyrics seem very stream of consciousness.

Dave chastises someone: “It’s very dangerous to hide beer bottles under the poinsettia.  You;ll cut your foot.  What are you doing?  You must be from Brampton.”

Mike says: “Fuck the sophistication, let’s go with the stupid”  Dave messes up the first line of “Me and Stupid”  “What the fuck happens in this song anyway?”

“The Tarleks” starts in the wrong key. No one notices and they get along quite well and then stop.  “Shit that was sounding good.”  Then Ford picks up his earlier thread: “This is what I was referring to, it was moving a different organ than we are used to.”  He mentions INXS and a New Sensation. And then Martin says “INXS is one of the only relevant bands from the 80s.”  Which is a pretty bold statement.  They pick up where they left off in the correct key.

Next comes two of Dave’s acoustic songs “Song Ain’t Any Good” & “Pornography.”  It makes me laugh that there’s a line in “Song Ain’t Any Good” that dismisses writing songs about unicorns or cats, and yet later they play Happiness which is about cats.

“I Fab Thee” comes as a surprise. It’s a rollicking bouncy version where Martin sings “caught you masturbating” which is not in the original kids song.

Dave notes that “Were entering the shank part of the evening.”  I didn’t know what it meant last time either.

Ford asks if anyone noticed that there’s a different backdrop this evening.

Then it’s two Tim songs, “Introducing Happiness” and “Marginalized.”  Marginalized has some trippy synths which takes some of the bite out of the crunchy guitars.  But it sounds kind of funky this way.

Mike asks if anyone has a drum key and amazingly someone does (why doesn’t he?)  Then Tim asks if anyone has 20 bucks.

Dave has some kind of guitar trouble during “The Land Is Wild” but they don;t get sidetracked.  It’s followed by “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds” in which the middle drum solo section finds Dave playing the guitar soloing riff from another song (I can’t place).   They take a break and for some reason, Martin mentions again that he smokes Gauloises Blue just like John Lennon and Bruce Cockburn.

After the break, Tim plays a solo version of a new Violet Archers song “Truth.”  It will appear on 2008’s Sunshine at Night.  Dave mentions that  they have the Violet Archers debut album as well as Martin’s solo albums and Dave’s books.  Ford talks about positive visualizations and about his 2005 accomplishment list.  One of them was playing a Fall Nationals.   “The other 9 or 10 items on the list… once the first domino has fallen… there’s three whole weeks left.”

Then comes two bird songs. “Take Me In Your Hand” is slow and spare–at first just drums and acoustic (with some keys on top).  There’s no coda at the end.  After making him feel like a  little bird, then comes “Little Bird, Little Bird.”

Someone requests “Whats Going On.”  Dave says we’re doing our whole whale music album Wednesday.  They guy says, I have an exam.  Well, you’ll have to fail.  You can surely fail a course to come and see us.

The last three songs are fun rocking versions of “PIN,” “Fish Tailin'” and “Soul Glue.”  For the last song, someone starts playing “Soul Clue” and then stops and Mike chants: Veto.  But then they play it again and everyone is happy.  The show was just over 2 hours.  And as they walk off, they thank Creaking Tree String Quartet and TruthHorse.

[READ: July 7, 2017] The Amazing Crafty Cat

This was a cute book about crafting and creativity.  I was totally caught off guard the way it started.  We see Crafty Cat in her room creating something (and saying Purrfect, which I didn’t like).  Crafty Cat keeps an eye out for colors and shapes that work together.  And with lightning fast paws, Crafty Cat makes it look easy. Crafty Cat has made a panda clip and Crafty Cat is a Big Winner and a Crafting Genius!

But then we hear a voice say “Birdie, you’ll be late for school.”  And that’s when we learn that Crafty Cat is the imaginary alter ego of a little girl named Birdie.

I was so relieved by this because I was afraid that the whole book was going to be Crafty Cat making crafts (which would have been a strange book, to be sure).

This breaks the Crafty Cat spell–she’s not ready to go to school just yet.   And she certainly doesn’t want to talk about homework.

But nothing can really bring her down because today is her birthday!  And everything will be perfect because she has a box of panda cupcakes!  She imagines that everyone will love them, even the mean girl, Anya.  (The flashback to Anya’s birthday is really hilarious–her birthday treat was playing a game called “I’m the queen and you’re all my loyal servants.” (more…)

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luchSOUNDTRACK: CRISTINA PATO-Tiny Desk Concert #305 (September 21, 2013).

patoI didn’t know who Cristina Pato was or what instrument she played.  So when the show started (without visuals), I assumed she was the accordionist (because the show starts with some wild accordion music).  But in fact, Pato is playing the bagpipe.  Pato’s instrument is the gaita, a Galician bagpipe, and her roots lie in traditional Galician music — though she also boasts graduate degrees in classical piano, music theory and electronic composition.

I love the sound she band gets together with the funky staccato accordion notes and the wild racing pipes.  They are very jazzy and very idiosyncratic.  Her percussionist uses several different types of drums—the ubiquitous box drum and a hand held drum as well as various shakers and other sound makers.

They play three songs.  It’s interesting how much of the first song is taken up without the bagpipes—there’s lenghy sections where the accordion has the floor and she is just happily dancing around.  And the accordionist is amazing.  he plays all kinds of different styles and gets an amazing range of sounds out of that one instrument. He wails!  Of course I see now that the song is actually written by the accordionist: “Victor Prieto: ‘Mundos Celtas.'”  So it’s no wonder that she is happy to sit back and let him shine.  (Prieto , like Pato, is a native of the town of Orense in Galicia).  While he is playing, she whoops and hollers to get everyone pumped.  But once she gets her instruments going she is a nonstop blur of fingers and wild notes.  I particularly like that she has a section where the note is slightly flat and she continues to slowly raise it until it gets in pitch.  I also love–due to the nature of the bag pipes–that she can scream and whoops while still pressing air out of the bags.  And at the end of the song, she is just wild with fast notes.  It’s a very intense piece.

The second piece “Traditional/Cristina Pato: “Alalá Re-rooted” starts with her singing.  She is unmiked so you can’t really hear her, but I don’t really enjoy her singing as much as her playing so it’s okay.  I do love the interesting sounds the percussionist Shane Shanahan (Shanahan is American, but is also a longtime member (with Pato) of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble) is making.  Overall, this is a fairly dissonant piece—with her sounding almost like a free jazz players (but on pipes rather than sax).  I do love near the end where she almost seems to get a harmonic overtone on the pipe.  It’s a great moment—but fairly weird how the song just sort of fades away before seguing into the final song.

Victor Prieto & Emilio Solla: “Muñeira For Cristina” this song seems to be all about percussion with lots of drumming and a very noisy tambourine that Pato plays.  She gets the crowd clapping along and then  when she and Prieto play the same awesome riff together,it sounds great.  I love watching her shake the finger part while she’s playing it, to get a cool almost whammy bar sound out of it.  The song totally rocks and the whole set with the unlikely combo of accordion and bagpipe is startlingly wonderful.

[READ: April 20, 2016] Comics Squad: Lunch!

I really enjoyed the first Comics Squad book and I was delighted that a second one came out.  I just recently saw that a third one is coming out the summer–I love that it is called Detention and is coming out on Independence Day.

Like the first collection, this one is edited by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Babymouse/Squish) and Jarrett J.  Krosoczka (Lunch Lady).

But the rest of the line up is quite different this time around, which is cool–allowing other artists to shine.  This time there are stories from Cece Bell (El Deafo) ; Jason Shiga (a great indie artist who does some kid-friendly and some decidedly not kid friendly books) ; Cecil Castelucci & Sara Varon ; Jeffrey Brown and Nathan Hale (his own series of historical stories).

Like the previous book, the Holms and Krosoczka sprinkle the book with comments and interstitials from Babymouse and Lunch Lady. (more…)

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recessSOUNDTRACK: BUIKA-Tiny Desk Concert #298 (August 26, 2013).

buikaI had never heard of Buika before, so I had to rely on the blurb:

Concha Buika’s voice doesn’t come from inside her petite body: It comes from Africa, and from the past. There are obvious traces of flamenco, itself a historical mash-up of the Moors and various transitory cultures in southern Spain and north Africa.

During her flights of improvisation, we also hear the influence of Cuban vocalist Celia Cruz, a product of Afro-Cuban culture, mixed in with Ella Fitzgerald, who was the pinnacle of African-American jazz vocal expression.

In these two performances, we hear Buika interpret her own lyrics after a handful of albums in which she’s interpreted others’ words. With her eyes closed tightly, she inhabits these poems of love and heartache as if she were reliving them again before our eyes.

Buika’s singular voice has attracted a cadre of fans who’ve become enchanted by her voice and her leave-it-all-on-the-stage performances in clubs and theaters around the world. Watch this video and join the club.

So as the notes say, these two pieces are improvisations.  Not knowing Spanish all that well, I don’t know how much is made up or even how much is just sounds rather than actual words.  But it certainly sounds more off the cuff than written out.

The music is just a piano and a box drum and her voice.  Her voice is raw and pained, but quite pretty.  The two songs are called “La Noche Mas Larga” and “La Nave Del Olvido.”

[READ: April 15, 2016] Comics Squad: Recess

I found out about this collection in the back of a Babymouse book.

Comics Squad is a collection of eight comics from some of my favorite artists.  It basically works as a bunch of short, shall we say graphic novellas, from Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Babymouse/Squish) ; Jarrett J.  Krosoczka (Lunch Lady) ; Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants) ; Dan Santat ; Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman  (Smile and Astronaut Academy); Ursula Vernon (Dragonbreath) ; Eric Wright (Frankie Pickle) and Gene Luen Yang.

Since it’s edited by the Holms and Krosoczka they sprinkle the book with marginal comments and interstitials from Babymouse and Lunch Lady.  But each artist/author gets a story, and I enjoyed them all.

GENE LUEN YANG-“The Super-Secret Ninja Club”  This was a really fun story about a group of boys who meet at recess.  Once they know that noone is watching, they put on their masks and become the super-secret ninja club.  But Daryl, a decidedly un-ninja like boy wants in…desperately.  He’s never had a passion for any club before but this one is totally him.  The one boy says that since winter break is about to start, when the get back to school, they can talk about him joining.  So Daryl spends all inter break practicing.  Will it be enough?  The answer is very funny.

DAV PILKEY-“Book ‘Em, Dog Man!”  This story begins with a letter to the parents of George (the main character in Captain Underpants) from his teacher saying that she asked for a written assignment and once again he drew a cartoon.  She has attached the offending (and offensive) cartoon for them to see.  Petey the cat is in jail .  He wants to beat the superhero Dog Man.  But Dog Man is too smart  So Petey realizes that if he removes all the words from books no one will be smart anymore.  He invents a ray which does just that.  What will the world do when they can’t read anymore?

JARRETT J, KROSOCZKA-“Betty and the Perilous Pizza Day”  “Lunch Lady” is a cartoon I didn’t really know before reading this collection. Lunch Lady appears in the margins of the pages of the book, but not in this actual cartoon.  Rather, the star of this cartoon is Betty, Lunch Lady’s helper. And since Lunch Lady can’t be there, Betty will have to deal with lunch.  But it is pizza day!  The only hope is the Pizzatron 2000.  Unless, of course, it develops a mind of its own and goes on a rampage.

URSULA VERNON-“The Magic Acorn”  I don’t know Dragonbreath all that well, although C.  has read all of them.  This story is pretty simple.  Although since I don’t know the characters I don’t know if it is representative of anything prior.  Scratch, a squirrel who is rather realistically drawn (Vernon’s drawings are great) is interrupted by Squeak, a far more a cartoony squirrel.  Squeak is excited because he found a magic acorn.  Scratch states that this is the 318th “magic acorn” that he’s found.  And besides they have recess in ten minutes.  Well, this acorn may not exactly be an acorn, but it is certainly magical.

JENNIFER L. HOLM & MATTHEW HOLM-“Babymouse: The Quest for Recess”  In this brief story Babymouse has a few fantasies that prevent her from actually getting outside for recess.  First she is late for school (dreaming about Camelot) then her locker brings her to Zeus, making her late for class.  A western dream makes her disrupt lunch and then the barbarian fractions invade during math class.  Can she keep it together and actually get outside?

ERIC WIGHT-“Jiminy Sprinkles in ‘Freeze Tag'”  So I don’t know this comic at all either. Jiminy Sprinkles is a new student to the school (he is a cupcake). He immediately befriends a peanut who tells him to watch out for The Mean Green Gang, a group of vegetables.  (Their leader is Russell from Brussels (ha)).  The Mean Green Gang is pretty tough but Jiminy has a secret weapon of his own–a very funny one that the Mean Green Gang actually gets a kick out of too.

DAN SANTAT-“300 Words” This is an interesting look at the story The Giving Tree.  The kids were assigned a book report on the story three weeks ago and it is due today.  John is one of the boys who didn’t do the assignment and he’s about to write his 300 words now.  It’s a tree. It gives things.  But another boy has a better idea–he’s going to ask Sophia for her paper.  Even though the last time he talked to her he threw up on her.   Sophia has an interesting answer for him.

DAVE ROMAN & RAINA TELGEMEIER-“The Rainy Day Monitor” is a wonderful take on kickball.  Since the kids can’t go outside to play because of the rain, their recess is indoors.  And they are closely watched by Boring Becca the totally boring fifth grader.  When they ask if they can play kickball inside she asks the kids if they have ever played Dungeons and Dragons.  They groan until she says they should play kickball using dice and imaginary characters.  Pretty great idea Becca!

The end of the book is set up with fun fake ads and useful tips.

One “ad” is an offer for Babymouse Binoculars.  I also really liked Lunch Lady’s tips on how to draw Betty (which skip from 3 to 12 while Squish sweats).

This was not only a great introduction to all of these fabulous comic writers, it was a really funny collection in its own right.

The end of the book says “Do you think there will be another one? As sure as there is syrup on pancakes there’ll be a Comics Squad #2.”  And indeed, there was a second one.

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18SOUNDTRACK: THE SHINS-“It’s Okay, Try Again” (2009).

mia“Sometime you win, sometimes you lose.  But it’s okay, you try it again.”

A simple idea that no kid will ever believe in no matter how many times he or she hears this song.  Nevertheless, the song is poppy and fun, it’s pure Shins and it is infectious.

The song also feels a lot longer than 2 minutes.  They have really packed a lot into their choruses and verses (and middle third).

Yo Gabba Gabba has been excellent at getting great bands to play simple quickie songs for their records (and shows).

[READ: May 16, 2014] Happy Birthday, Babymouse

It’s hard for me to believe that it took 18 books before Babymouse had a birthday!  I got a chuckle out of the fact that in the book it acknowledges that we don’t even know how old she is [and that they break the fourth wall, too].

As the book opens, Babymouse imagines a full-on Times Square countdown for her birthday.  But that only makes sense because every other birthday that she has had in recent years was a disaster (no idea what season it’s supposed to be in since the disasters span just about everything you can imagine).

But this year she is planning something epic–she sends out a mailbox-filling pile of invitations (including to people in the Squish series–nice cross platform mixing there).  Everyone gets invited except for the gnomes–“they’re too troublesome.”  Of course then comes the dreadful information–Felicia Furrypaws is having her party on the same exact day.  And it promises to be everything Babymouse dreamed her party would be. (more…)

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exbabySOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-“Amish Paradise (single)1996).

amishAl took some time off between Alalpalooza and Bad Hair Day and he roared back on the scene with “Amish Paradise,” a wonderful parody of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise.”  There’s a funny saga about how Coolio didn’t appreciate the joke and Al (who always asks permission even if he doesn’t need to) was really upset because he thought he had the green light.  For awhile there was an unpleasant scene between the two (not like they were in the same circle or anything) but when they finally patched things up Al admitted he could stop wearing a bulletproof vest.

The song is a spot-on recreation, (Al has totally upped his game in the studio bu this point) and while the Amish jokes are easy, they’re still funny   This single (yes, I was buying singles at the time) contains three other songs, “Everything You Know is Wrong” a great style parody of They Might be Giants and very funny song in it own right.

It also includes “The Night Santa Went Crazy (Extra Gory Version).”  I recall thinking it was very funny but now that I have kids I’d hate for them to hear it.  The extra gory part is actually the original final verse which the record company asked to tone down a bit.  So he released it here.  The last song is a very strange  an instrumental version of “Dare to Be Stupid.”  What a random song to strip words from.  Although granted, the music is pretty cool.  But still…weird.

[READ: April 7, 2013] Extreme Babymouse

I was excited to see that book 17 of the Babymouse series had come out.  This one is called Extreme Babymouse and, as you can tell from the cover, it is about extreme sports, specifically snowboarding.

What was fun about this one is that Babymouse’s fantasy dream sequence involved Sean White (for who else would you have in a snowboarding book?)  She even has crazy hair under a toque.  But what is all this extreme talk all about?  Well, everyone in her class is headed to the mountain to go snowboarding this weekend (including her locker!) and (naturally) Babymouse wants to, needs to, simply must go!  (Even if she has never been snowboarding before).

After dying inside because she can’t go, the fates align and Babymouse is able to go (her family is given a cabin for the weekend–which sounds great except that everyone else is staying at the beautiful chalet!). (more…)

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thisoneSOUNDTRACK: JAPANDROIDS-Post Nothing (2009).

japan1Japndroids are two guys from Vancouver.  And man, they make a racket fit for a group double its size.  There’s a lo-fi quality to the recording but that’s mostly because the guitar is buzzy and noisy and distorted and the drums are miked very loud (and there’s cymbal splashes everywhere).  The vocals (which are mostly screamed/sung) are also pretty relentless (especially when the backing vocals come in).  And yet for their simple punk aesthetic  their songs aren’t short. “Young Hearts Spark Fire” which opens with some slower guitar (before crashing into a huge verse) runs over 5 minutes.  That’s five minutes of thumping drums and super fast guitars.  Well, they do take small breathers in the song, but they don’t last long.

But for the most part, the songs are simple, fast rockers and while there is a sameness to the album, there is diversity within their sound.  “Rockers East Vancouver” has a bit more treble in the guitar and a slow middle section.  It also has what sounds like a bass guitar break–but remember there’s no bass.  The thudding guitar and drums that open “Heart Sweats” also sound very different, as do the groovy Ooooohs that punctuates the verses–making it a very distinctive song.

“Crazy/Forever” opens with a nearly 2 minute instrumental before turning into a slow rocker that last for 6 minutes of catchiness.  The album closer, “I Quit Girls” has a cool feedbacky sound on the guitar that makes it sound rather different as well.  And the song itself is a slow almost ballad (bit not really a ballad, don’t worry) that really stands out on the disc.  So this debut is 8 songs in 36 minutes–a great length for a fun rocking album.

[READ:  February 19, 2013] This One is Mine

If you named a book Unlikable People Who Do Foolish Things it probably wouldn’t sell. Or maybe it would.  Regardless, it’s an apt subtitle for this novel.  Semple is extremely daring to write a story in which nobody is likable at all.  Luckily for her, though, is that she writes really well and the book itself is very likable, so much so that I stayed up way too late several nights in a row to finish it.

So this book is about a small group of people who run somewhat parallel lives.  David Parry is married to Violet.  His sister Sally is single.  Although David is the sort of fulcrum between the two women, the story is about the women far more than David.  But it’s important to start with David to set things up.  David Parry is a multimillionaire.   He works in the music industry–he’s the asshole that all the bands need on their side.  So, he has autographs with everyone (working on getting his daughter a photo op with Paul McCartney, had Def Leppard play his wedding, etc).  But he’s cold and distant to his wife.

Or at least he seems to be from Violet’s point of view.  Violet is a writer.  She wrote a very successful TV show but wanted out of that life.  When she met David, they had an amazing first date (and David still swoons when she looks at him that way, but it seems like she hasn’t been looking at him that way very much lately).  And when they settled in, she realized she didn’t have to work anymore.  But then she felt odd realizing that she wasn’t making any money herself.  So she threw her creativity into a new house.  Which took forever.  Then they finally managed to have a child (Dot), but Violet found being a mother overwhelming as well, so the nanny (called LadyGo) takes Dot much of the time (and yes, David is resentful of this too).

Violet is at loose ends with her life.  And then she meets Teddy.  Teddy is a loser–a former addict with Hepatitis C, he plays double bass in a Rolling Stones cover band.  When she first sees him, he is playing in the park for some kind of function (not as the Stones cover band, but in some other kind of band) and she is entranced by the music they make.  Teddy has a double bass and, when Violet runs into him after the show, because she parked near him, he is trying to fit it into his crappy car that breaks down all the time.  Indeed, it won’t start now.  He can;t afford to fix it which means he wont be able to get to gigs, which means he won’t have money for rent, etc.  He’s about as far from Violet’s one can get.  Yet, despite the fact that he is an asshole: verbally abusive, cocky and prone to make very bad choices, she falls for him.  She offers to pay to have his car fixed.  And then imagines when they can meet again. (more…)

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