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Archive for the ‘Sesame Street’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: Bob Boilen’s Favorite Tiny Desk Concerts of 2019.

For 2020, I intend to put more albums in my Soundtrack section.  But it’s amazing how time consuming that can be.

Nevertheless, I’ll always be posting about Tiny Desk Concerts because I watch all of them.  So I’ll start 2020 with Bob Boilen’s favorite Tiny Desk Concerts of 2019.

It amuses me that Bob Boilen and I often share very similar tastes in music, but our favorite things are usually quite different.

When we first started filming musicians playing behind the Tiny Desk in April 2008, the beauty was in the intimacy and simplicity of these concerts. Now into our 11th year, after more than 900 Tiny Desks, the other treasure I find in these concerts is the variety. I remember having the cast of Sesame Street here in May, with NPR parents and their children seated on the floor watching the Muppets. The following Monday we had the blood red-faced raging of Idles, climbing all over the desk and singing “I’m Scum.” The scope of music is invigorating, especially considering a world of listening where we can not only get comfortable with what we love, but where the quantity of music from any particular genre could keep us happy all year. Tiny Desk concerts are here to shake up your tastes a little and help you stretch your ears and discover something you never knew existed or convert you to something you never thought you’d like. Here are 10 great examples of that magic from 2019.

I don’t have a list of favoirtes, but I will make some observations about Bob’s.

Bob seems to really like bands who put their names in all caps.  Also bands who have a number (specifically 47) attached to their letters.

Quinn was the Tiny Desk Contest winner.  Sesame Street is pretty iconic.  Taylor Swift is something of a surprise, but was clearly the biggest name they’ve ever had.  And yet, Lizzo’s Tiny Desk has twice as many views as Taylor Swift’s (5 million to 2.5 million!).

Looking forward to their 1,000th show later this year.  I wonder who it will be.

[READ: January 6, 2020] “Playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain”

This was a great short story about playing a video game.

For decades, the video game industry has been releasing video games in which a protagonist kills people from other countries.  Since I don’t play these games, I never really thought about what it would be like to be from that country and to play those games.

Surely people from all around the world like to play video games, and they probably want to play the popular ones as well.

In this story an an Afghani-American kid, Zoya, who works at Taco Bell has saved up all of his money (the money that he doesn’t give to his out of work father) to buy the final game in the Metal Gear series.  He has been playing this series which has becomes “so fundamentally a part of your childhood that often, when you hear the Irish Gaelic chorus from “The Best is Yet to Come” you cannot help weeping softly into your keyboard.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SESAME STREET-Tiny Desk Concert #856 (June 10, 2019).

Yes, Sesame Street.  Not the OTHER puppet band Fragile Rock, the actual Sesame Street characters.

It’s a convergence of NPR and PBS!

And there they are at the Tiny Desk: Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Rosita, Abby Cadabby and Cookie Monster, all singing about a sunny day and how everything is A-OK. The Sesame Street crew — including Elmo, Grover and other surprise guests — visited NPR’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., to celebrate Sesame Street’s 50 years of teaching the world its A-B-Cs, its 1-2-3s, how to be kind and how to be proud, all while spreading love and joy.

Everyone knows Sesame Street, but it’s also worth talking about how awesome it is.

Sesame Street has won more major awards than any other group to play the Tiny Desk, including 11 Grammys and 192 Emmys. There was a lot of love as the cast of Sesame Street got to meet NPR hosts and newscasters, who in turn got to geek out meeting their favorite Muppets and the creators behind the felt and fur. These folks include Matt Vogel, Sesame Street’s puppet captain and performer, and music director Bill Sherman.

The Muppets get through six songs in 15 minutes (no soloing here).

Count von Count and the NPR kids count us down: 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1!

Andwhat Sesame Street show could begin without “The Sesame Street Theme (Sunny Days)” (Rosita & Elmo, Ernie & Bert, Abby Cadabby, and Big Bird and Cookie Monster).

Then it’s on to Grover singing “People In Your Neighborhood” with Rosita.  Grover oberves a person making sounds with a soundy-making thingy.  Rosita is there to help learn about musicians.  Then a Reporter comes out to talk about what she does.  Finally Bob Boilen himself comes out (Grover: “who might you be sir, you do not appear to be doing anything.”  Bob: “I’m the producer, Grover.”  Grover: “Oh well that explains it”).

I even got to sing with Grover. And I’ll also say, on a personal note, that this may well have been the hardest-working, most dedicated group of performers I’ve ever worked with. I’m so proud of these Muppets and so happy to celebrate all that they’ve meant to the world for these 50 years.

Then they sang two new songs (imagine them having new sings in the last fifty years).

“What I Am” sung by Abby, Ernie and Elmo, a sweet song if ever there was one.

There’s even some full-sized Muppets in the audience (although the kids don’t seem that excited to be near them).

And then it’s Bert’s turn.  But Bert’s kinda shy and is nervous.  Thankfully Big Bird is there to sing a song together (and then confuse the proceedings): I

Its simple.  We’re gonna sing a song and we’re gonna sing it all together and i’ll start singing the song and then they’ll sing then song when I sing what I sing in the song and the you come in singing the song after i sing what i gonna sing when the song starts and we’ll sing the song.

There’s even more fun when Big Bird sings a long high note and Bert says: really?

Cookie monster wants a cookie, but it’s time for the medley” “Whats the name of that song?” (Elmo) then “Rubber Ducky (Ernie) and “C is fr Cookie” (Cookie Monster).  Then Big Bird sing a line before a funky piano and bass riff for “12345, 678910, 11 12… TWELVE!” (my personal favorite).

It segues into perennial happy song “Sing.”

Then Oscar comes on and tells everyone to scram.

[READ: June 4, 2019] “The Children”

This story reads like a fairy tale.  It has a slow inevitability in the pacing and real lack of urgency.

It is called an adventure of lost heirs.  It runs concurrently with a series of beheadings that were happening on Anjavavy island.  The story is quick to point out that the beheadings do not impact the story, they are just mentioned for context.

It begins in the early 2000’s on the island.  Giustinia was visiting Shay in Anjavavy for two weeks before heading off to Madagascar.  They are staying at Shay’s house which is mostly empty.  Shay lives on the island for part of the year and in Italy for the rest of the year.  Shay’s husband will be returning soon.

Giustinia is a poet and a critic  She and Shay became friends when Shay translated some of her essays for an American magazine.   Her family has ancient roots in Tuscany and has an unconscious regal air.

Shay hopes news of the beheadings doesn’t reach them during the fortnight. (more…)

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spacedump SOUNDTRACK: YO-YO MA, EDGAR MEYER, CHRIS THILE AND STUART DUNCAN-Tiny Desk Concert #175 (November 17, 2011).

yoyoYo-Yo Ma might be the most well-known cellist in the world.  I suspect that everyone has heard of him.  But it’s likely that people don’t know just how diverse his musical range is.  As the NPR blurb says:

He’s reached out to a broad range of musicians (and Muppets) to play not just Bach and Beethoven, but also Brazilian samba, Argentine tango, jazz, songs from Sesame Street and a smorgasbord of Asian music with his Silk Road Ensemble. American roots music also figures into Ma’s melting pot: He teamed up with double-bass master Edgar Meyer and fiddler Mark O’Connor 15 years ago for the gentle new-grass album Appalachian Waltz.

For this 2011 venture called The Goat Rodeo Sessions, he has created another Americana album, this time with mandolin master (and multiple Tiny Desk Concert player) Chris Thile.  Meyer is back on double bass and they have added Stuart Duncan on fiddle.

I can honestly say I never expected to see Yo-Yo Ma on a song called “Quarter Chicken Dark” but there he is, playing along as Thile begins the song on the mandolin.  The cello, fiddle and bass are all bowed so, despite the mandolin, the song feels a bit more classical (Thile has also made classical music on the mandolin, so the pairing actually makes a lot of sense).  I think Thile comes off as the star of this song with a wild solo in the middle.

For “Attaboy,” the mandolin starts the song again, but pretty quickly the strings dominate.  There’s a beautiful opening by Ma and a great fiddle interplay in which Duncan hints at the big Irish section he’s going to play.  There’s some wonderful fast mini solos from all of the instruments, including the bass, and then the whole song switches to a jig with Duncan playing a very Irish riff while Duncan and Ma keep the low notes coming.   Incidentally, I believe that Thile and Duncan are playing the exact same solo by the end, which sounds great.  But it’s watching Yo-Yo Ma’s fingers and bow move so fast that is really amazing.

For the final song “Here and Heaven” Aoife O’Donovan joins them on vocals.  And for a chance of pace Duncan switches from fiddle to banjo.  (Although mid way through the song he switches back to fiddle).  Donovan and Thile sing the song together.  On the first verse they are a little too quiet.  But once they start belting out they are fine.  This song is catchy and fun and the vocals really do change the feel of their music.

It’s clear that these accomplished musician are having a lot of fun together.  Meyer and Ma actually wave to each other during the second song, and Thile makes lots of little jokes.  And when he introduces Aoife, it’s funny to hear Yo-Yo Ma cheer like a little kid.

While Yo-Yo Ma if probably the most famous musician here, I like them all, and I’ll honestly listen to Thile do anything.

[READ: August 29, 2012] Space Dumplins

Craig Thompson has created a pretty diverse collection of books.  From the serious and beautiful Habibi, to the weird-looking and sad Goodbye Chunky Rice to this trippy sci-fi story.

The story is about Violet Marlocke, a young girl who lives out in a space trailer park.  Her father is a space lumberjack (whatever that means) and her mom is a seamstress.  They are poor but pretty happy, and that’s okay by Violet, since family is everything to her.

But as the book opens we learn that space whales (okay, I’ll stop putting “space” before everything, because he doesn’t) have just eaten her school.  The whales have been rampaging all of the planets in the area. At first Violet is happy to have no school but her parents have to do something with her.  So her mom brings her to work at Shell-tar where they try to see if she can enroll in the state of the art school there.  She can’t because her dad has a criminal record (and he’s opposed to the fancy school anyway).

While Violet is looking around, she meets Elliot Marcel Ophennorth, a small chicken who is incredibly smart (and has visions of the future).  We also meet Zacchaeus, the last Lumpkin in the world. He works at the dump.  Violet quickly befriends them both, although they don’t all get along very well at first.

Two things then happen pretty quickly back home.  Violet and her dad buy an old piece of junk space bike to fix up and Violet’s dad takes on a dangerous job to make some more money. (more…)

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mermaid[ATTENDED: February 27, 2016] The Little Mermaid

I pass by the Montgomery High School every day on my way to work.  And for years I have seen them put signs out about upcoming plays.  I’ve always been impressed by their selection of works, but I’ve never considered stopping in to see one.  I guess it seemed weird to go to a high school performance at a school where my kids don’t go (and won’t go).

And yet, why should that be?  It’s a fun way to spend some time watching talented actors doing a good show, right?  With Clark doing stage crew for his upcoming fifth grade play and Tabby really enjoying performing in the house, I thought that perhaps it would be fun for everyone.

Well, it turned out that neither Clark nor Sarah could go, so I took Tabby.  And we had a wonderful time!

Tabby was thrilled by the show and I enjoyed it very much (and was shocked to realize how much I did not know the music for this story–I guess we’ve watched other Disney movies a lot more than this one). (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: April 29, 2015] Bossypants

bossyAfter listening to Amy Poehler’s audio book, it made me want to listen to Tina Fey’s book.  Sarah had read the book and said it was very funny, but I imagined that the audio would be even funnier.  And boy was it ever funny.

And here’s where I apologize to Tina Fey.  I had always heard her spoken about in such lofty terms as the funniest writer, the golden child (insert various rave here), and I wound up holding her to an unfair standard.  I never found her funny enough for me.  She made me laugh, but, for instance, I thought Mean Girls could have been…more somehow.  After listening to this, I realized what the problem was for me.  I always felt like her stuff could have been more pointed or something, but I realize that given the media she works with she was unlikely to “get away” with anything more pointed–certainly not on Saturday Night Live or 30 Rock.  Rather, she did lots of subtly feminist (or sometime over the top feminist) jokes that I didn’t really appreciate for what she was doing.  But when she lets loose in this book it is really amazing to hear what she herself–not a team of writers–has to say.  Of course, having said that, and having listened to the book, I absolutely need to rewatch 30 Rock (although I never cared for the Tracey Morgan or Jane Krakowski characters) and maybe even some old Weekend updates.

But, I already know Tina’s response to me, because she says it in the book.  And, it talks about something Amy Poehler once said.
(more…)

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red treeSOUNDTRACK: ELVIS COSTELLO-“Monster Went and Ate My Red 2″

elvisOf all of the songs that I might think would get turned into a children’s song for Sesame Street, I must say that “The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes” was pretty low on the likelihood list.  It’s one of my favorite songs, but what might you do with it for the Street (and why would you pick a sorta popular song from 40 some years ago?).

I can’t answer the last part, but you can tell by the title what you’d do with it:  turn the angel into a monster and the shoes into the number 2.  And now Elvis can’t count to ten because the monster ate his red two.  Lyrically it stretched credibility somewhat, but when accompanied by the video in which Cookie Monster does in fact eat a number 2 that is red, it all makes a kind of weird sense.

True, Elvis never sings the “She said drop dead and left with another guy” line.  In fact, Elmo sings that verse in which he goes and gets another red two.  But, just when you think it’s all good, there’s a surprising twist.

And, best of all, Elvis looks like he’s having fun.

[READ: July 1, 2014] The Red Tree

It was surprising seeing this children’s book come across my desk, but since I love Shaun Tan’s work, I was excited to read this one (his other children’s books are gorgeous).

This story is quite dark–perhaps a little too ark for my six-year-old, although I feel like she could relate to it on some days (perhaps the wording was a little much even if the feelings were spot on).  And she has red hair too.

The story opens with a girl sitting in bed with the caption that “Sometimes the day begins with nothing to look forward to and thing go from bad to worse.”  Sure everyone has experienced days like that.  And the drawings are wonderful–in this case, the girl’s bed is swamped by leaves. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOGWAI-Special Moves (2010).

This is Mogwai’s first live album and it really captures the band in all of its intense glory.  This is a good year for a Mogwai live recording because they play some of their newer song which are a bit more melodic (and sometime have words) but they also revisit their older songs–which still sound intense.  It’s a great overview of their career so far and it’s a great testament to how different their music sounds over the course of so many years–even though they still sound like Mogwai

We get two songs from Their (then) latest The Hawk is Howling –“I’m Jim Morrison I’m Dead” and “I Love You I’m Going to Blow up Your School.” Two songs from Mr Beast “Friend of the Night” and the stunning set closer “Glasgow Mega Snake.” Two from Happy Music “Hunted by a Freak” and “I Know You Are But What am I.” Two from Rock Action “You Dont Know Jesus” and “2 Rights Make 1 Wrong.”  From Come On Die Young we get “Cody” and from their debut, two classics: “Like Herod” (which is amazing live) and “Mogwai Fear Satan” (also amazing)–each one over 10 minutes long and full of the emotional release that we’ve come to expect from Mogwai.

This is a great place to start if you want to hear what Mogwai is all about.

[READ: June 4, 2012] Jailbird

First off I want to say how neat it is that I took this book out of the library and that it’s from 1979.  Thirty-three years old!  Books are cool.

Anyhow, I have a stack of dozens of books I want to read, and yet somehow Vonnegut said, no, read me now.  In addition to Vonnegut books being relatively short, they are also very quick to read.  I read this in a couple of days, which is very satisfying.

My old boss at the library told me that she thought Vonnegut more or less stopped writing good books after Breakfast of Champions.  I disagree, but that has certainly colored the way I look at his later books before I read them–which one had she read that turned her off?  I kind of suspect it was this one.

In some ways this is a minor novel.  It’s fairly brief (240 pages, although there’s  30 page Prologue which I gather is from Vonnegut himself (you never know, he has so many layers going on)).  He explains some of the details that are in the book and several other interesting preface-type things.  I enjoyed the bit about the fan who wrote to Vonnegut and (Vonnegut claims) summed up all of his works in just seven words: “Love may fail, but courtesy will prevail.”  And that is the basic plot of this book. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TEGAN AND SARA-“Alligator” on CDC Kids’ Mamma Yamma (2010).

Tegan and Sara take a slightly different approach than the other artists on Mamma Yamma.  Rather than creating a new song, they took their hit “Alligator” and made new words for it (much like many artists have done on Sesame Street).

The melody is exactly the same (which is good, as it’s a really catchy song). But rather than being about a failed relationship, it’s about alligators.

Old lyrics: Run around on me, I’d sooner die without

New lyrics: Run around a tree, skip and jump about

It’s a cute version and the band sounds very good.

I really enjoy these introductions to interesting musicians on kids shows.  I wonder if kids actually like seeing grown up musicians like this.

You can watch it here:

[READ: April 20, 2012] Vespers Rising

I finished The 39 Clues series last year. Or so I thought!  After completing books 1-10, I found out that they were planning a whole new series.  And they began with this transitional book, which they called #11 and which was co-written by four of the prominent authors.

Vespers Rising is actually four short stories that trace the history of the Cahill family and their feud with the Vesper family.  The Vespers were not a part of the first series at all.  In the first series, the 39 Clues were a kind of Amazing Race for Cahill family members.  (I’ll get to some details about the family in a moment).  It was a kind of private race for the prize–which was a life-enhancing serum.  But this book introduces a new villain to the story and explains that the villain has been there all along, just lurking.

Rick Riordan wrote the first story in this book takes us back to the beginning.  In 1507, off the coast of Ireland, Gideon Cahill invented this serum.  He was and alchemist, seeking an antidote for the Black Death which was ravaging Europe.  He was working for Lord Damien Vesper, a man bent on power.  Vesper wasn’t interested in helping people with the Black Death–he had no real value for life–however, he was interested in the results that Gideon might discover. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE MAGIC GARDEN (1970s).

When I was growing up in the 1970s one of my favorite shows was The Magic Garden. Even though I enjoyed Sesame Street and The Electric Company, Carole and Paula were my favorites.  And it was the songs that were so memorable.  Thanks to the Web, here’s four of their original songs, all of which I loved (although I understand the opening credits only ran on a few episodes).  So, travel back in time to The Magic Garden: Opening Credits, Story Box, Goodbye Song and this Theme Song which I seem to remember most of all.

The one song I can never seem to find is one that was for Sherlock, the squirrel.  There were lines like: Today is Monday…Monday peanuts…all you hungry squirrels we wish the same for you.  I’ve had the melody in my head for what seems like decades now, but I can’t find the lyrics anywhere.  Can anyone help out?  Oh, and if you were a fan Carole and Paula have a website where you can get some stuff.

[READ: June 8, 2010]

Kochalka is the son of James Kochalka, the Vermont based cartoonist/comic strip guy and leader of James Kochalka Superstar.   Sarah’s brother (who live sin Vermont) sent her some Kochalka books for her birthday and included in the set was this book by his son (who has several webcomics). (more…)

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