Archive for the ‘Monkeys’ Category

fableSOUNDTRACK: CALLmeKAT-Tiny Desk Concert #152 (August 29, 2011).

callmekatKatrine Ottosen is CALLmeKAT and she is from Copenhagen.  I’m unclear what her sound normally is–if it’s fuller than it is here–but for this show, it’s her on a couple of synths and a drummer.

I like the interesting synth sound she gets in the beginning of “Tigerhead,” but, despite the two synths, the whole song feels a little thin to me. Nevertheless, she hits some admirable high notes.

She wrote the second song, “Going Home” at Newark airport—she says always miserable there, it’s “so depressing” (no argument there).  She samples herself on a tiny keyboard (Bob asks her what she’s doing singing into the tiny Casio–this has to have been before everyone was looping everything).  The song is very pretty but feels very slight again–even more so because there is no percussion.

The third song, “Glass Walls” also has a sample of her voice–the sample is just an “ooooooh” note.  She says she wrote this one in the Copenhagen airport (which must be nicer than Newark)  This song is a bit more robust.

I liked her voice but the whole show I wanted a bit more oomph, which is not a typical reaction from a Tiny Desk where I know things are usually stripped down somewhat.

[READ: February 15, 2016] Fable Comics

Following up on First Second’s 2011 collection of Nursery Rhyme Comics, comes this new collection of Fable Comics, also edited by Chris Duffy.

Duffy says that for this collection they wanted to use mostly Aesop’s fables (because they are the most widely knows).  But the book also includes a sampling from other traditions.  He says that cartoonist were allowed to embellish the stories but we asked that the lesson remained.

And so there are 28 fables and the artists are pretty much a who’s who of contemporary comics.  I’ve broken down the Fables by their creators:


The Fox and the Grapes-James Kochalka modernizes this a bit with a jet pack, which is hilarious.

The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse-Tom Gauld is back, and it’s great to see his work as he keeps the story fairly traditional

Hermes and the Man Who Was Bitten by an Ant ; Hermes and the Woodsman ; The Frogs Who Desired a King ; Hermes and the Sculptor. George O’Connor is responsible for the First Second Olympians series, so it’s no surprise that he tackles these stories about Hermes.  He remains faithful to the original and keeps up his very cool drawing style.

The Belly and the Body Members–Charise Harper has a wonderfully stylized look for this story about how the body parts need to work together or it can’t do anything.

Lion +Mouse–R. Sikoryak’s Mad Magazine style works very well for this familiar story about a mouse helping a lion (he has modified it somewhat of course).

Fox and Crow-Jennifer L. Meyer’s style is gorgeous.  This fable has a fantastic look to it with pale colors and circles of details.  I could look at it for hours.

The Old Man and Death–Eleanor Davis’s art is boxey and stark.  It works very well with this dark and Communist-looking story.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf–Jaime Hernandez.  I love when Hernandez does kids’ stoires because his characters are so perfectly cartoon and his colors are bright and fun.  His telling of this story is very good.

The Crow and the Pitcher–Simone Lia  I didn’t know this fable.  And I don’t really know how the beginning sets up the end. It shows crow as being very smart for others but the end has the crow being extremely smart for himself.   It’s a weird fable although it rings rather true.

The Dog and His Reflection–Graham Chafee does an awesome job of showing greed in others and leaving the dog’s story to be un-narrated.  He witnesses greed and acts accordingly.

The Dolphins, The Whales and the Sprat–Maris Wicks.  I was completely unfamiliar with this fable.  I’m also curious about how much Wicks has added.  I love that she adds some very funny factual details like that dolphins are actually a type of whale and that there are detailed asides about all of the animals throughout this story.  The moral is that they’d rather die than take advice from a sprat.  Still true today.

The Milkmaid and Her Pail–Israel Sanchez  This fable was also unfamiliar.  Sanchez’ drawings are stark and work well to tell this story of greed.

The Great Weasel War–Ulises Farinas.  This comes from a longer fable called The Mice and the Weasels.  I love Farinas’ art in this story.  The colors are spectacular and the creatures are great   And I love the moral is that they build these giant machines that cannot fight against nature.

The Sun and the Wind–R.O. Blechman. This fable was in Ava and Pip, so its funny to read it there and then see it here. Blechman’s simple drawings complement the story well.

The Hare and the Tortoise–Graham Annable’s art is great for this.  The tortoise is so crabby looking.  I’m unfamiliar with the deus ex machina that happens though.  It’s funny how many of these fables we may know without knowing them in total.

The Grasshopper and the Ants–John Kerschbaum’s art is so busy and full of detail, it’s really wonderful.  I’m unfamiliar with the ants asking the grasshopper to play for them at the end of the story tough.

The Thief and the Watchdog–Braden Lamb & Shelli Paroline. I really enjoyed the way these two created this fable.  The art is great–angular and simple but really powerful.  Having the dog explain why giving him meat won’t work is a great idea.

Demandes and His Fable–Roger Langridge.   I love Langridge’s clear lines and distinctive colors. He tries to get people’s attention and only succeeds by telling them a fable about Demandes.  I’m intrigued that his fable gets interrupted by himself.

The rest of the fables’ origins are mentions in parentheses after the title:

Leopard Drums Up Dinner (Angolan Fable)–Sophie Goldstein makes a fun visual of this story about animals trying to capture others with music.  I wonder how closely this aligns to the original, as its pretty crazy.

The Hare and the Pig (Indian Fable)–Vera Brosgol.  I didn’t know this fable at all.  Rabbit and Pig are arguing about who is best.  Leave it to fox to make the declaration.

The Demon, The Thief and the Hermit (Bidpai)–Keny Widjaja illustrates this amusing tale of a thief trying to join with a demon to rob a hermit

The Elephant in Favor (by Ivan Krilov)–Corinne Mucha.  I love that Corine modernizes the fable (the lion says Dude).  This is all about how everyone talks about the elephant.  He works slow but gets a raise. What makes him so great?  All the other animals speculate.  But it turns out that his ears are the real reason–for reasons other than the obvious.  This may be my favorite fable of all.

The Mouse Council (medieval European fable)–Liniers. This is the story of putting a bell on a cat and how no one wants to risk their life for the good of all.  Liniers’ art is spectacular.  I love the subtle shading of his drawings and then the rough drawings by the mice.

Man and Wart (Ambrose Bierce)–Mark Newgarden.  I love Ambrose Bierce but had no idea he wrote fables.  This one about people’s need for privacy and not belonging to a club is pretty strange.

The Hen and the Mountain Turtle (Chinese Fable)–Gregory Benton. I was unfamiliar with this story about a wise turtle saving a farm.

These collections of short pieces are quite wonderful. I wonder what genre First Second will tackle next.  #10yearsof01

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SOUNDTRACK: KISS-Hot in the Shade (1989).

Before this album came out, Paul Stanley did a little club tour.  My friends Matt and Nick and I got to see him in Wilkes Barre, PA. It was a pretty great show, and intimate in a way that Kiss shows can never be.  So we were pretty psyched for this new album.  And yes, this album holds special memories or me because we used to listen to it a lot after the show.

The biggest problem with this album is bloat.  I don’t have any kind of evidence to back this up, but this was the first Kiss album that took advantage of the compact disc’s length.  And so it’s easily twenty minutes longer than most Kiss albums (and the later albums had some filler on the already).  Plus it’s  almost longer than Kiss’ first two albums combined.     That’s just too much.

Even Kiss’ weaker albums usually start with a good song.  Not so much Hot in the Shade.  “Rise to It” is pretty generic even by mid 80s Kiss standards.  They try to make it fun with the Ri–e i-e-i part, but it doesn’t quite make it.  “Betrayed” is a bit more of a rocker and is quite a good song.  Lyrically it’s not so great (it’s funny to think of Gene Simmons trying o be down with the common man), but it rocks pretty hard.  My friend Matt and I liked “Hide Your Heart” quite a bit when it came out.  The chorus: Ah ah ah ah, hey hey hey do do do do do do do do do” is pretty bad though.  “Prisoner of Love” musically sounds like Kiss of old, until the verses come in.  “Read My Body” is really catchy until you realize it sounds just like “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”  That’s embarrassing.  Although the metaphor is well done, at least.  “Slap in the Face” might as well be “Let’s Put the X in Sex” from Thrashes Smashes and Hits.

Then comes the cheesiest ballad in Kiss’ history—actually written by Michael Bolton, yes Michael Bolton.  And man do I love it.  Paul is in full voice, he sounds great, the harmonies are spot on.  It is the cheesiest metal ballad ever, but I never get tired of it.  It even has an acoustic guitar solo—pre-made for Unplugged!  “Silver Spoon” is a good rocker, with a fun chorus.  Although the gospel singers at the end are a bit overkill—it seems silly to have invited them in for 90 seconds of singing.  “Cadillac Dreams” is just a bit too close to a Beatles song for my liking.  “King of Hearts” is a decent song, and “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away” (were Kiss really hard up for money?  what’s up with these lyrics?).  We had an in-joke on my dorm floor, so I can never take this song seriously (that may also be because they steal the “Hey man” right out of David Bowie’s mouth).  Love Me to Hate You” is pretty generic although catchy.  “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell” is also a decent song.

“Little Caesar” is the first (and only, really) song that Eric Carr sang lead vocals on.  As a singer he’s a really good drummer.  The song is pretty generic too and is unfortunately given the same name as a bad pizza company.  “Boomerang” has a good fast pace (once again, not unlike a Van Halen song).

[READ: August 11, 2012] “The Cryptozoologist”

This is yet another short story broken down into lots of little sections.  What’s neat about the way that this one is done is that because the narrator is a cryptozoologist, each section is headed by a cryptid (animals whose existence has not been proven).  But in addition to discussing these animals, the sections also describe a history of the narrator’s life.  His life in this field started when his grandfather told him about a snake which latched onto the end of its own tail and rolled away from its pursuers (section title: Hoop Snakes).  His grandfather never lied, so it had to be true.

It proceeds through The Mušhuššu (a serpent dragon spoken of in ancient Babylon), through the Jenny Hanivers (jeunes d’Anvers), into The Wolf of Ansbach (believed to be an old Bürgermeister who was transformed into a werewolf), and on to The Batutut, a monkey man in Laos.  Most of these sections describe the origins of the cryptids (and his lack of success at spotting them), but The Batutut section is also about himself and how he was in the war when this particular cryptid entered his life.

Then we move on to The Altamaha-Ha in Southeastern Georgia, while Giglioli’s Whale, which had two dorsal fins dates to 1867.  The Mongolian Death Worm, said to live in the sands of the Gobi desert is a cryptid that he actually experienced in the American desert.  he didn’t see it, but he could feel its presence.  The Madagascar Tree is a killing tree–it looks like a pineapple and eats sacrifices.  This story was told by two adventurers who saw the tree eat a woman.  The best part of is that there is no proof that the two men who are credited with telling the story actually existed themselves. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-Due to High Expectations…The Flaming Lips are Providing Needles for Your Balloons EP (1994).

This EP came after the success of Transmissions from the Satellite Heart and the single “She Don’t Use Jelly.”  Naturally that is not the single here, rather it is “Bad Days,” a new song tha sounds of the period.  As does “Jets Part 2 (My Two Days As An Ambulance Driver)” a fuzzed out trip.

“Ice Drummer” is a primarily acoustic but still distorted song.  It’s kind of boppy and light which is odd since it is a cover of a Suicide song.   “Put the Waterbug in the Policeman’s Ear’ is a demo with strings and piano.  It also has a very lengthy introduction in which Wayne explains his brother’s proclivity for drugs and his belief that he can control bugs (and have them attack the policeman who is trying to arrest him).  It was recorded on a boombox.

“Chewin’ the Apple of Yer Eye” is a live version recorded at a record studio.  It has nice guitars with scritchy violins.  “Chosen One” is a cover of a Bill Callahan song at the same venue.  There’s a lengthy introduction explaining that it’s a cover and why he likes it so much.  It’s a nice version, very stripped down.  “Little Drummer Boy” is a travesty, but a good one (and is 1,000 times better than their version of “White Christmas.)”

“Slow-Nerve-Action” is a live version apparently broadcast on a Top 40 radio station.  The squall of noise as the song opens would frighten off anyone listening to Top 40, but the middle of the song’s acoustic section is rather pleasant (if not a little scratchy and staticky).  Although this EP racks in at 44 minutes long, it’s really not that essential (although the live versions are nice).

[READ: May-July 2012] Deadly Kingdom

If you have any kind of animal phobias–literally any kind: snakes, sharks, spider, rodents, bugs, stay away from this book.  Indeed, even if you don’t have this kind of phobia, you may after reading this book.  As the title says, this book tells you every single conceivable way that an animal can kill you–from biting to clawing to stomping to crushing to infections to diseases to parasites to long lingering diseases to numbness to elephantiasis (and that’s just chapter 1).  Somehow the author is not afraid of everything that moves, and is even a collector (with his wee son) of all manner of unusual creepy crawlies–tarantulas, hissing cockroaches and the like.

Sarah bought me this book for my birthday because David Sedaris recommended it when we saw him speak.  When Sedaris read from it, it was funny but dark.  Sedaris’ comment that “Monkeys are such assholes “was certainly borne out by the book.  Sedaris’ other comment–if you ever feel bad about eating meat, just read this book–is also completely accurate.  Even cows can be assholes.  This book is hard to digest in large doses.  I found that I had to put the book down after a section or two because there’s only so much you-will-die-if-you-do-this reading that I could take.

Grice has done a ton of research–he has looked into all manner of medical and death records and talked to lots of scientists around the world.  And he breaks the book into five major categories: The Carnivorids, Aquatic Dangers, The Reptiles and Birds, The Arthropods and Worms and Other Mammals.  The introduction more or less explains his origin story for being interested in deadly animals–a cougar was on his Oklahoma panhandle property when he was six years old.  His grandfather dispatched it, but he had to stay safely in the car during the ordeal.  And he has been curious ever since.

The introduction also contextualizes the violence that animals do to humans.  Is it all defensive (as we take over more and more land, it’s hard to know exactly what is defensive) or is it straight out aggressive. But he says the hardest part about this kind of descriptor is that “besides our usual biased views of all the parties involved, is that violence rouses strong emotions.  We are almost forced to take sides with the injured humans or the slandered animals….  Many writers depict virtually all animal attacks as “provoked” by the victim.  On the other side, some writers are at pains to paint dangerous animals as monsters of cruelty.  All of these views are simplistic.” (xxiii). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 11, 2012] David Sedaris

I have enjoyed David Sedaris for a number of years now.  When our friend Melissa went to see him a few years ago, she said he was hilarious.  I’ve heard several readings done by him and had to agree with her–he’s very funny live.

I find that he’s much funnier when I hear him read his stuff than when I read it myself.  Indeed, when I read his stories I try to imagine it in his voice, just so it will be funnier.  Turns out he does a much better David Sedaris than I do.  Each of the stories was very funny (tear-inducingly funny) and very typically Sedaris.

This show was him on stage reading from a number of his pieces and from his diary.  I didn’t know the first piece, called “Understanding Owls,” which was about Owls and taxidermy.  It was also about trying to find the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for his boyfriend of 20 years (wow!), Hugh.  He wanted to buy a stuffed owl because of a long running joke about all of the owl tchotchkes in their house.  The setup alone was hilarious and the sequence in the taxidermist was very funny and rather uncomfortable. (more…)

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They Might be Giants first children’s album, No! featured a ton of great songs.  TMBG were practically writing for kids anyhow, so they just removed some of their songs of love and death and replaced them with songs of pre-teen angst.  The title song “No!” is a wonderful look at life as a child.  But there is something so wonderfully absurd (but possibly not for kids) about “Robot Parade.”

It starts out with a funky distorted keyboard.  Which gives way to a slinky keyboard melody.

The lyrics are so simple and so joyful (despite the robotic singing style):  “In a future time/Children will work together/To build a giant cyborg.  Robot Parade, Robot Parade…robots obey what the children say”  To me this song exemplifies the childish fantasies that TMBG can present.  And even though the song is less than 90 seconds long and it doesn’t do a whole lot (listening to it again now, I was sure there was more to it), it has left a wonderful impression on me. 

And I’m sure that my children, who love putting pots on their heads and saying “I am a Robot” will one day be singing, “Robots obey what the children say.”

[READ: December 2011] Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Noisy Problem

I picked up this book on a whim when I saw the title at the library.  I mean, who wouldn’t love a monkey with a tool belt?  The art is weirdly wonderful, but it’s the story itself that was so intriguing.

First off, the monkey, the one with the tool belt, has the best name in all of children’s picture bookdom: Chico Bon Bon.  How great is that?  So great I must say it again.  Chico Bon Bon.

The real selling point (literally selling point, because I bought this for my kids for Christmas) is that there’s an elephant in the book named Clark (if you haven’t been paying attention, my son’s name is Clark.  And you NEVER see his name in anything).  So how cool to have it as a character in a book series?  And Clark’s initial appearance is awesome!

But so, if you don’t know anyone named Clark (or Chico Bon Bon) why should you read it? (more…)

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