Archive for the ‘Mariko Tamaki’ Category


[READ: Summer 2021] Laura Dean Keeps Breaking up with Me

Someone in the house brought this home from the libary and I knew I’d be reading it too.  I really like Mariko Tamaki and would read anything she wrote.

This story is about teen romance.  It’s set in Berkeley and has one of the biggest LGBTQ+ casts I’ve seen in a long time.  Since it’s set in Berkeley it’s not an issue, it’s common and cool.  It was great to read that.  I also like that she included a few segments about the earlier LGBTQ+ pioneers who made it safe for the younger generation to feel so safe.

The book opens with Freddy (Frederica) Riley writing to an advice columnist Anna Vice.  We see Freddy at a dance with her friends, including her best friend Doodle I love when characters have names like that).  Freddy is waiting for the titular Laura Dean to come to the dance.

Laura Dean is a tall, blonde, popular girl.  Their meeting story is adorable and Laura Dean is immediately charming. (more…)

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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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onesummSOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-”Foil” (2014).

foil;I wasn’t a huge fan of Lorde’s song “Royals.”  I liked it enough but it never really blew me away.  Al’s parody “Foil” seems obvious and yet it is such a wonderfully twisted take on the song that I think it’s just fantastic.

The video is set up like an infomercial (with Patton Oswalt as the director).  And it begins simply enough with all of the useful things you can do with aluminum foil (foy-ul).

What makes this better than a simple jokey song about using foil for your leftovers is that midway through the song, he tackles the more sinister uses of foil–keeping aliens out of your head.  The way the video switches from bright infomercial to sinister Illuminati conspiracy show is great.  And, amazingly enough he is able to keep the same bright Lorde-isms all the way through.

[READ: June 30, 2014] This One Summer

This One Summer is the second collaboration between Mariko and Jillian Tamaki.  In Skim, Jillian’s drawings reflected a very Japanese style of artistry, while in this book, the drawings are far more American/conventional.  This isn’t a bad thing at all, as they complement the story very nicely.

This is a fairly simple story (despite its length) about a family that goes to Awago beach “where beer grows on trees and everyone can sleep until eleven” each summer.  The protagonist is a young girl, Rose.  She is an only child and she looks forward to seeing her friend Windy there–they only see each other on these summer vacations.  Windy is a year younger, although she acts older and braver.  The girls are thrilled to swim, to watch horror movies and eat all the junk that they can.

But in this one summer things are not idyllic.  What I really liked about this story was that although nothing really happens to Rose or Windy, stuff happens all around them, and of course it impacts them as well.

The first thing is that Rose is finally interested in boys, specifically the boy who works at the convenience store in town, Duncan.  But Duncan is older–probably 17 and is dating a girl named Jenny. He teases with Rose and Windy but in a dismissive older brother sort of way–exactly the way that makes a crazy crush develop for Rose.  Windy and Rose are young, but are not that young–so they are full of misinformation.  And when they hear the older girls–Jenny’s friends–in town talking about things–abortions, oral sex–they learn more without learning everything . (more…)

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skimSOUNDTRACK: LOWLAND HUM-Tiny Desk Concert #341 (March 6, 2014).

humLowland Hum are the husband and wife duo of Daniel Levi Goans and Lauren Plank from North Carolina.  He plays guitar and she plays (snare) drum and percussion.  They tour with a few homemade wooden platforms that have small metal jingles, so when they stomp on them, they get great percussive sounds.

They play three songs.  The first is “War Is Over,” a sweet folkie song with tambourine. Their voices meld very nicely (interestingly, her voice which I think is doing harmonies sounds stronger here–but that may just be a trick of the microphone).  There’s something interesting and compelling about they way the song starts–the verses are slightly unconventional, but when the “war is over now” chrous kicks in it sounds like a very different song.  It’s a good combination.

Before the second song, “Pocket Knife,” Daniel explains that this is the first song they wrote together.  It’s a funny story about wanting to write together but being afraid that their voices or styles would be incompatible and how would a husband and wife deal with that?  (Fortunately, they felt very compatible). The song is surprisingly short.  The verse is very quiet, especially his voice. Then the song gets loud–but there’s no vocals during the loud part.  She takes a verse and then it’s over.

Then they open it up for questions.  They explain that they are on stage together and in the van together and so with audiences basically staring at them, they decided to  open up a dialogue on stage.  So they often ask people for questions and comments.  Someone asks about the lyrics books.  They have made lyric books and passed them out before the show (something they do at all of their shows).  They like having something tactile or the audience.  The previous song was number 19 (which reminded me of a hymnal).

“Four Sisters, Pt. One” has many parts and is really interesting.  It has dynamic sound changes.  And when they harmonize on the “use your voice” section, they sound great.  I like the duo and would enjoy seeing them opening for someone, although I don’t think I like them enough to get a record.

[READ: June 29, 2014] Skim

In Skim we meet Kimberley Keiko Cameron who is called Skim (because she isn’t).  She is a heavyset Japanese woman into the goth scene and a wannabe witch.  Her best friend is Lisa, already a witch and, despite her blonde hair, also kinda gothy.  The witchcraft is wiccan lite.

As the story opens, we see that Skim has broken her arm tripping over the makeshift wiccan altar in her room.  But trumping that is the news that Katie Matthews, a super popular girl in school was dumped by her boyfriend, John.  She has drawn a broken heart on her hand with a Sharpie.  Lisa hates Katie and Skim does too, sort of (she doesn’t really hate anyone), but it is still super annoying.

The other principal character is Ms Archer.  Ms Archer is a hippie with red hair and flowing dresses who teaches drama and English.  Skim likes her because she feel a kindred freakishness. (more…)

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 emikoSOUNDTRACK: DIANE CLUCK-Tiny Desk Concert #343 (March 17, 2014).

cluckI know of Diane Cluck only from one song that was played on an NPR show.  I really liked it (it’s called “Sara” and she plays it third here). Cluck has an unusual yet very compelling voice and a guitar style that is simple yet also unusual.

“Trophies” has a kind of Joni Mitchell feel to it–the whole thing feels kind of sixties, although not in the way she sings or plays, there’s just something about it that skews sixties–perhaps its the unusual vocal melodies in the verses?

For “Grandma Say,” Cluck switches to the piano and plays a bouncey but dark song with a fantastic vocal delivery and rather funny (but meaningful) lines.  For “Sara,” Diane puts some bells on her boots.  And when asked where she got them she sheepishly admits the truth.  “Sara” sounds as good live as it did on record–Cluck’s voice is just as compelling in this setting.

I really enjoyed this brief set.  And I was really struck by Cluck’s appearance.  She is quiet tall and extremely thin, and she seems even more stretched out by her tall hair and long neck.  And yet she seems to be putting no effort into anything that she’s doing.  She makes for as mysterious a figure as you might expect from these songs.   I was as captivated by watching her as I was listening to her.

[READ: June 26, 2014] Emiko Superstar

As part of this recent influx of graphic novels, I also scored Emiko Superstar.  This title looked familiar from the Minx sampler that I have, so I was excited to read it.

The story is by Mariko Tamaki and is about a young Japanese-American girl named Emily.  We meet her family right away–her father is a big burly American guy and her mom is a demure Japanese woman.  She is named for her grandmother Emiko, who was a vivacious and fun dancer (although Emily’s mother now frowns on dancing and public fun).  As might be expected, Emily is a quiet, nerdy girl, hanging around with the nerdiest kids in school.

She doesn’t really mind being a nerd until before one summer break, when all the other nerds plan to go to a convention that will help them land great jobs.  Emily doesn’t know when nerd meant being a corporate sellout, and she refuses to go.  Rather, she decides to stay around town and get a crummy job at a coffee shop.  But after one regrettable (or not) incident, she realizes she may be unemployed for the rest of the summer.

Her mother will have none of that, and finds her a job babysitting most days during the summer.   The family she babysits for seem pretty perfect.  The husband is an athletic happy, loud guy who is proud of his life, his wife, his kid and his house.  The wife is much quieter and seems a bit embarrassed by her husband, but otherwise seems reasonably content with her son and her life.  And there’s the baby, who is drooly but pretty easy to deal with.

One day at the mall, Emily sees a wild-looking girl dancing around, making a racket and advertizing a place called The Factory, where the freaks all go.  Before being dragged away by security, she throws flyers out into the crowd and Emily grabs one.  And Emily feels an electric shock in her body at the thought of going to this place. (more…)

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