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Archive for the ‘Star Trek’ Category

alcaterlSOUNDTRACK: SA-ROC-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #30 (June 4, 2020).

sarocI have never heard of Sa-Roc, but I was blown away by her lyrics and delivery.  I really enjoyed that her delivery was intense and serious, even angry, but her delivery was so thoughtful.

If you want protest music for the uprising of the American consciousness, then look no further. Sa-Roc (born Assata Perkins) is an emcee from southeast Washington, D.C.

Sa-Roc bears her heart and soul here, weaving together influential threads from her upbringing; Pan-Africanism, the hardship of her father’s experience as a sharecropper in Virginia and her own childhood in Congress Heights, D.C., an area ravaged by violence and the crack epidemic in the 1980s.

In this Tiny Desk (home) concert, she debuted two exclusives, “Deliverance” is about reassessing where you are in making a commitment to change things. I love the beats and the lyrics.  She references Posdnous and De la Soul and then has this moment where she says this is the world’s tiniest violin and a violin sample plays.

After the song, she lights some sage to clear the energy.  She wants her space to experience joy and to be a stress-free peaceful environments.

“Hand of God” is her latest single about staying true to yourself.  It has a sung chorus and Sa-Roc has a pretty singing voice along with her flow.  In the second verse she raps with a sped up version of herself which is pretty neat.

“r(E)volution,” is from her upcoming album, The Sharecropper’s Daughter, which is produced by her partner in life and DJ, Sol Messiah.  It starts with a pretty guitar and a great bass line

On “r(E)volution” she spits bars: “Embedded in the home of the brave, the darkest of interiors. / Saw street scholars and soldiers defect cuz they post-traumatic stressed from the American experience.”

“Forever” is for little girls who ever felt like they were held to impossible societal standards; and if the world told them they weren’t good enough, weren’t valuable enough, weren’t worthy enough, weren’t dope enough to take up space or use their voice; they didn’t come from the right area or the right class or education; didn’t have the right skin tone or complexion; anything that made them feel less than.  This is about how dope you really are with all of your perfect imperfections.

I love that after a quiet clapping moment the song soars with guitars and bass.

[READ: May 8, 2020] Kitten Clone

In the Douglas Coupland collection Shopping in Jail, there was an essay called “All Governments Seem to Be Winging it Except for China.”  The essay said that it came from this book: Kitten Clone.

I wasn’t sure how interested I really was in reading about the history of Alcatel-Lucent, but I should have known that Coupland would do his thing and find an interesting and unique way to write about something that should be dull.

The only weird thing is that Coupland implies that he is alone on this excursion, but the photographs are not his (which is surprising since he loves art) the pictures are by Olivia Arthur.

This book is part of a series called Writers in Residence created by Alain de Botton, with the slogan: “There are many places in the modern world that we do not understand because we cannot get inside them.”  Coupland’s book is the third in the series.  The other two are Geoff Dyer: Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush and Liaquat Ahamed: Money and Tough Love: On Tour with the IMF.

This book looks into the past, present and future of Alcatel-Lucent and the cover of the book sets the stage: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BRITTANY HOWARD-Tiny Desk Concert #901 (October 15, 2019).

I don’t really like Alabama Shakes because I don’t really like blues rock.

But I have really enjoyed a lot of the Brittany Howard solo songs that I’ve heard (which might make me appreciate the Shakes’ music a bit more).

This Tiny Desk Concert is pretty outstanding and Howard is a terrific frontwoman full of passion and fire.

From the moment Brittany Howard walked into the NPR offices, I could sense her intense commitment and passion. Her eight-piece backing band, all decked out in red and black, played with a soulful subtlety that bolstered Brittany Howard’s tender songs about her family — stories of a mixed-race child growing up in Alabama.

She plays four songs.

All the songs performed at the Tiny Desk come from Jaime, an album Brittany Howard dedicated to her sister who died at the age of 13 from a rare form of eye cancer, the same disease that has left Brittany Howard partially blind in one eye.

I have heard a few songs form this album, but the one I know the best is “Stay High.”  This pretty song starts with Lloyd Buchanan playing a kind of bell melody on the keys.  There’s also gentle acoustic guitars from Alex Chakour (whom she calls the crown jewel).  As the image fades in, some simple bass from Zac Cockrell is added and then some drums from the amazing Nate Smith.  And then it’s all about Brittany.  She lives these songs as she sings them.  When you add in the pretty backing vocals from Shanay Johnson and Karita Law the songs sounds even more amazing than on the record.

On these songs (and in particular at this Tiny Desk Concert), there is more nuance than I’ve heard in Brittany’s past projects, including her work with Alabama Shakes and Thunderbitch.

It’s this more complex music that I find so appealing about these new songs.  But also that Howard seems to be having a really good time singing them.

After the first song she says, To all them people on YouTube I’ll let you know its hot in here.  All the bands about to go on… know to dress light.

Up next is “Georgia.”  The blurb says:

The music has a sense of wonder and playfulness, even when the subject is heavy, as in “Georgia.” She tells the audience that it’s a tale of “a little young, black, gay girl having a crush on an older black girl and not knowing what to say and how I was feeling.”

This is a song where it’s nice that Nate Smith is visible because his playing is dynamic, including the rumbling crashes he adds (electronically) throughout the verses.  Buchanan plays church-sounding organ while washes of keys from Paul Horton (Brittany’s cousin) fill in behind the song.  There’s also a buzzing guitar solo from Brad Allen Williams as the song builds and builds.  This is a powerful song that really brings you right into the words.

Britanny says she’s wanted to write songs like this since she picked up a guitar when she was 11 years old.

Brittany Howard knows how to tell a story, to foster empathy and understanding and, in this intimate setting, the songs feel at home. The connection with the audience felt visceral … even a small child in the arms of their parent screamed at the appropriate moment during the climax of Brittany’s song, “Baby.” It gave us all a good laugh just when the weight of the words felt the heaviest.

She introduces “Baby” as “a love song.  Love.  Doesn’t it just give you chills.  But sometimes love is not 100%.  Sometimes you got that 80/20 split and you’re on the bad side.”  This song starts quietly but builds and builds to a huge moment as Brittany and the backing vocalists sing “Baby!”  The song hits a full pause and you hear a child scream.  She points at the child, smiles and says “Now pick that shit back up” as the band rocks out some more.  As the song nears the end, she says, “Fool me once.  Fool me twice.  Fool three times?  (the band plays two hits) not three times (hit hit) as the song ends.

She says, “Thanks to the little one for hitting the right notes at the right time–I gave him a record before we came out.”

The final song is “Goat Head” a shocking song of growing up as an interracial child.   It’s amazing she can dance to it when there are lyrics like:

See, tomatoes are green
And cotton is white
My heroes are black
So why God got blue eyes?
My daddy, he stayed
My grandmama’s a maid
My mama was brave
To take me outside
‘Cause mama is white
And daddy is black
When I first got made
Guess I made these folks mad
See, I know my colors, see
But what I wanna know is
Who slashed my dad’s tires and put a goat head in the back?
I guess I wasn’t supposed to know that, too bad
I guess I’m not supposed to mind ’cause I’m brown, I’m not black
But who said that?
See, I’m black, I’m not white
But I’m that, nah, nah, I’m this, right?
I’m one drop of three-fifths, right?

But the introductory guitar riff is really catchy.  When the main verse starts the music is menacing and pretty at the same time.

It’s a short song bt very powerful.  And its a fantastic ending to this Concert.

[READ: November 16, 2019] “The Final Frontier”

I haven’t read a lot by Michael Chabon, but what I have read, I have enjoyed.

This is an essay about his dying father and their connection through Star Trek.  Specifically, he tells his father, “I love Mr. Spock because he reminds me of you.”

Although this essay was lovely and heart-felt, perhaps the most mind-blowing (or mind-melding) moment for me was learning that Chabon is a  writer, producer and showrunner of the upcoming Star Trek: Picard.  Since I’m a TNG fan more than an Original Series fan, I’m pretty exited about this.

As a kid Chabon had written stories that were like Sherlock Holmes or Robert E. Howard  or Larry Niven or even Edgar Rice Burroughs.  But never Trek.  He didn’t have the means or the chutzpah to do it until now. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STELLA DONNELLY-Tiny Desk Concert #819 (January 22, 2019).

Stella Donnelly has been generating some buzz lately, but I wasn’t familiar with her.  I didn’t even realize she was Australian.

She is adorable with her hair in two little nubs at the back of her head and a big smile most of the time.

She immediately won the office over with her broad smile, warmth and good-natured sense of humor. It’s the kind of easy-going, open-hearted spirit that makes her one of the most affable live performers you’ll see. While there’s no doubting her sincerity, she’s also got a disarming way of making her often dark and brutal songs a little easier to take in.

And indeed, she does not mince words when she sings.

“Beware of the Dogs” is a delicate song with Stella strumming her guitar with no pick and singing in a beautiful but soft voice.  There’s such a gorgeous melody for the chorus.

It turns out that this song and the other two are new.  Because she doesn’t even have an album out yet!

For this set, she performed entirely new — and, as of this writing, unreleased — songs from her upcoming full-length debut, Beware of the Dogs. Opening with the title cut, Donnelly smiled cheerfully through the entire performance while reflecting on the horrors that often lurk beneath the surface of seemingly idyllic lives. “This street is haunted like a beast that doesn’t know its face is frightening to behold,” she sings. “All the painted little gnomes, smiling in a line, trying to get your vote.”

As the song builds she gets more pointed:  “There’s no Parliament / Worthy of this country’s side / All these pious fucks / taking from the 99.”

She follows with “U Owe Me” which is “about my old boss at  a pub I used to work at back home.”

This song has a gentle guitar melody and some surprisingly soft vocals (including some vibrato at the end of each verse).   But the lyrics are straightforward and pointed (all sung with that disarming smile)

you put your great ideas up your nose /
and then try to tell me where the fuck to go /
you’re jerking off to the cctv /
while I’m pouring plastic pints of flat VB [or Foster’s or whatever].

At the end of the song she says, “He actually paid me a week after.  I was on the wrong week of my payroll.  It was very dramatic back then.”

She says “Allergies” is a run-of-the-mill breakup song.   “I’ve only got two of them and this is one of them.”  It’s a delicate, quiet song (capo on the tenth fret!) and once again, her voice is just lovely.

How can this Concert be only ten minutes long? I could listen to her all day.

Surprisingly, Donnelly chose not to play any of the songs that have gotten her to where she is in her young career — songs like 2017’s “Boys Will Be Boys” or last year’s “Talking,” two savagely frank examinations of misogyny and violence that earned her the reputation for being a fearless and uncompromising songwriter. But the new material demonstrates that her unflinching perspective and potent voice is only getting stronger.

I’m bummed that I am busy the night she’s playing a small club in Philly, as it might just be the last time she plays such a small venue.

[READ: January 26, 2019] Brazen

This is an awesome collection of short biographies of kick-ass women.  Bagieu has written [translated by Montana Kane] and drawn in her wonderful style, brief, sometimes funny (occasionally there’s nothing funny), always inspiring stories about women who spoke up for themselves and for others.  Some of the women were familiar to me, some were not.  A few were from a long time ago, but many are still alive and fighting.  And what was most cool is that the stories of the women I knew about had details and fascinating elements that I was not previously aware of.

What a great, great book.  It’s perfect for Middle School students all the way to adults.  I actually thought it might be perfect for fourth and fifth grade girls to read and be inspired by.  However, it skews a little bit older.  There’s a few mentions of sex, abortion, rape and domestic violence.  These are all real and important issues, but may be too much for younger kids.

Bagieu’s art for most of the pages is very simple–perfectly befitting a kind of documentary style but after each story she creates a two page spread that is just a breathtaking wash of colors which summarizes the previews story in one glorious image.  Its terrific. (more…)

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academiaSOUNDTRACK: MARTIN TIELLI-“We didn’t even suspect that he was the poppy salesman.” (2001).

popptI wrote about this album once before, and while I made notes about it after listening to it again, I found out that they were pretty much exactly what I thought of the record four years ago.  So I’m going to simply repost the review here, but I’m going to add some new notes seamlessly intermingled.

Martin Tielli’s first solo disc is a proper solo release: it’s almost all him on acoustic guitar and his gorgeous alto voice.  I hadn’t listened to this disc in a while and I was delighted by how much of the disc I knew so well.

The opening track, “I’ll Never Tear Your Apart” is deceptively simple: beautiful harmonic’d guitars and his gentle voice.  There’s a great video to go with it here.  That is followed by the wonderful “My Sweet Relief” which sounds like a great Neil Young folk song: great verses an a strong chorus.  Lyrically, though, it is all Tielli.  “Double X” highlights Tielli’s beautiful acoustic guitar work.  It’s another great story song, this one about a destitute person hanging under a superstore with a K and an M.

“Voices in the Wilderness” is a simply beautiful song, a lovely guitar melody and Tielli’s high voice singing along.. I also love that the lyric  (mis)quotes Rush very nicely: “‘If you choose not to be free you still have made a choice,’ said a high and squeaky voice.”

“Farmer in the City” is the only track that Tielli didn’t write.  It’s a nearly 8-minute song by Scott Walker.  I had never listened to the original, but having now done so, I find the Walker version to be far superior.  Walker’s voice is so eccentric and wonderful.  So even though I love Martin’s voice, he just can’t compare to the original.   Also find Martin’s version to be just a little spare (the Walker version has lovely strings. Kevin Hearn plays celeste and Selina Martin plays wine glasses on the track.

It’s followed by the delightful “World in a Wall” which uses mice in the wall as a metaphor for a broken relationship (with wonderful detailed lines like: She’s like a mouse, I know she’s around It’s a gnawing sound. Leaves little brown poohs from a little pink bum.”

This is followed by “That’s How They Do It in Warsaw” which is the first really rocking song (it has bass and drums) and a voiceover in Polish by Kasia Zaton.

It’s coupled with a slightly less rocky but still loud track “How Can You Sleep?” (which makes another fun musical allusion, this time about Guided by Voices). It has a co-songwriting credit from Dave Bidini and has a kind of vocal allusion to Bob Dylan, although I doubt it is about him.

“She Said ‘We’re On Our Way Down’” is a song that I really want to enjoy more.  But It is so spare and Martin’s vocal line is so abstract, that I can never really get int it. But the guitar riff is really powerful and cool.  And yet, the song seems to eschew melody but then a gorgeous guitar or vocal line shines through and really sounds brilliant.  “From the Reel” is a beautiful, aching acoustic ballad.

The disc ends with the odd, seven minute “Wetbrain/Your War.”  The first part (wet brain) is kind of slow but it builds into a beautiful dark song about addiction.

This is a really beautiful album, although there are moments when I fell like Martin gets too delicate, it’s amazing to hear just what he can do when he’s on his own.

[READ: October 19, 2015] Academia Waltz

Way back a long time ago I was pretty excited to read all of the Bloom County reissue books.  Somehow I only got through Books 1 and 2, although I see now that five volumes were released in total.

Presumably at the end of that run, (which technically ended in 2011) comes this volume.  Academia Waltz is the strip that Breathed wrote back in college.  This book collects some (but apparently not all) of the strips.  It’s odd to not collect them all since there is also an art gallery with all kinds of original pieces (complete with edits and scribbled notes) that duplicate many of the earlier strips.

The first part collects pieces from Academia Waltz the 1979 collection.  The second part comes from Bowing Out, the 1980 Collection. (more…)

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armadaSOUNDTRACK: RAID THE ARCADE PLAYLIST (2015).

raidIt should come as no surprise that Cline’s media campaign would include a Spotify “Raid the Arcade” playlist.  A playlist of the mixtape that the protagonist’s father made when he was a teen.

And I can pretty much see how this would have been a very satisfying mixtape for killing aliens and generally rocking out.  Of course, I had to have a listen and add my thoughts.

Side A: Track:

  1. One Vision – Queen (I was never a big Queen fan, particularly their later poppier stuff)
  2. Crazy Train – Ozzy (A classic, of course)
  3. Chase the Ace – AC/DC (I find it odd that the two AC/DC songs are instrumentals from the Maximum Overdrive soundtrack.  It makes sense given the guy who made them, but there’s so many better AC/DC songs)
  4. Hair of the Dog – Nazareth (One of my favorite classic rockers)
  5. Get it On – Power Station (I really hate Power Station a lot, and this version of an already pretty stupid song song is pretty dreadful)
  6. Old Enough to Rock and Roll – Rainey Haynes (I didn’t know this song.  It comes from the Iron Eagle soundtrack.  This song is not on Spotify and I imagine that’s because it’s terrible)
  7. Danger Zone – Kenny Loggins (This song is such a punch line that even if I did like it I’m not sure I could take it seriously)
  8. Vital Signs – Rush (I was totally psyched that he chose this Rush song)
  9. Barracuda – Heart (I’ve mixed feelings about Heart, but I do like this song a lot)
  10. T.N.T. – AC/DC (Now this is more like it for AC/DC songs–not an overplayed one either)
  11. You Really Got Me – Van Halen (Not my favorite Van Halen song, but a good rocker)
  12. Another One Bites the Dust – Queen (I loved this song when it came out.  It holds up pretty well (there’s some interesting sound effects in the background, but it’s nowhere near as good as the songs below)
  13. One of These Days – Pink Floyd (I love this song but never would have considered it particularly rocking–in the way these other songs are.  But it does rather work)
  14. Top Gun Anthem – Harold Faltermeyer (seriously?  Well, I guess if you like piloting video games, this makes sense.)

Side B: Track:

  1. I Hate Myself for Loving You – Joan Jett (I don’t care for this song, although the guitars sound good for the mix)
  2. It Takes Two – Rob Base (I’m surprised and pleased that this song made it into what is basically a metal compilation.  I never would have had such diversity at that age.  Although I got really sick of this song in college.)
  3. Hammer to Fall – Queen (I don’t really like this era of Queen)
  4. Twilight Zone – Golden Earring (I don’t love this song, but it is cool to hear once in a while)
  5. We’re Not Going to Take It – Twisted Sister (I loved TS back in the day, although I wince at them now. If this song wasn’t overplayed I could probably really get into it.)
  6. Rock You Like A Hurricane – Scorpions (I loved the Scorpions back in the day too. I certainly tapped my foot along to this one.)
  7. Black Betty – Ram Jam (This song is in a Rayman video game that Clark plays and while I think the song is really dumb, it certainly rocks.)
  8. D.T. – AC/DC (see above for instrumental AC/DC)
  9. Delirious – ZZ Top (I never got into ZZ Top, and while I do like some late 70s ZZ, I really don’t like mid 80s ZZ)
  10. Iron Eagle – King Kobra (Wow, this was obscure even to me–more pop metal from Iron Eagle)
  11. Run’s House – Run-DMC (Whose house?  It’s funny how stripped bare Run-DMC songs sound compared to contemporary rap.)
  12. We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions –Queen (overplayed but classic)

Bonus Track: Snoopy versus the Red Baron – The Red Guardsmen (a goof y novelty song that I think overstays its welcome.)

So I guess my verdict is that I really don’t like the Raid the Arcade mix all that much.  That’s kind of a shocker, actually.

[READ: July 31, 2015] Armada

I loved Cline’s first book Ready Player One.  And Sarah and I were understandably excited about his latest book, Armada.  I was surprised about the content of the book which is of similar plot to the new movie Pixels (I say similar based on what little I know of Pixels–that video game characters attack the earth).  This is surprising to me because Cline has already sold the rights of this book to Spielberg–and I have a  hard time believing someone would try to cut Spielberg with an idea.

Of course, Armada is rather different from Pixels in that the characters that attack the earth are not classic 80s video game characters.  Indeed, there is a whole back story that shows how very different these two premises are.

In a recent interview, Cline talked about how you have to include all the pop culture sci-fi and video games in his book because there’s no way you should be able to make a sci-fi book or movie on earth and not reference all of the pop culture that the protagonist grew up with.  So this story is not set in a vacuum.  In fact, it the pop culture establishes the plot.

Zack Lightman is a senior in high school.  He’s had a pretty crappy life.  His father was killed in a sanitation explosion when Zack was just a month old.  The death set him and his mom up for life, but he has spent his whole life immersed in his father’s life (he is close to his father’s age when his father died).  Zack has a lot of his father’s effects.  His dad was a huge gamer, spending a lot of time at the arcade, and loving all things sci-fi and fantasy.  His father would have been born around 1970, making the pop culture references perfect for those of us around the same age.

One day, while looking out the window of school, Zack sees an alien ship.  But not just a generic cigar shaped UFO.  Rather this is a ship directly from his favorite videogame, Armada.  Zack plays this game pretty much every day. In fact, he is ranked sixth in the world as a pilot protecting the earth from alien invaders.  Naturally he assumes he has gone insane–especially since no one else has seen it. (more…)

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speakSOUNDTRACK: STONE GOSSARD-“I Need Something Different” (2013).

stonegossardmoonlanderStone Gossard is the rhythm guitarist for Pearl jam.  He’s also one of their major songwriters.  He has one or two songs that he sings with the band.  This is a solo effort which indicates that he might be a heavier influence on the band.

Stone Gossard last released a solo album 12 years ago.  There’s a new Pearl Jam album in progress and Stone’s other band Brad put out an album not too long ago, so why not release a solo album?

I don’t know how much Gossard does on this song, but I rather imagine he plays everything (the solo is fine but not amazing and the drums are solid but don’t really standout).  And while that sounds dismissive, it’s not meant to be.  Gossard creates a solid sound of simple rock.

The guitars are loud and bouncy.  Stone’s voice is rough and workmanlike—there’s a reason he’s not a lead singer.  But his voice works great for this aggressive slice of rock.

The riff is continuous and non stop, while he sings I need something different.  And then at the mid way part the keyboards start—perhaps this is the something different.  The keys break the propulsion with a poppiness that you wouldn’t expect in the song.

Then the song returns to its original style.  It’s not a terribly original song, but it would be a fun bar anthem.

[READ: June 10, 2013] Speak, Commentary

When this book first came out I was pretty delighted.  What a funny concept—overblown writers and political pundits do DVD commentary about films they had nothing to do with.  It seemed like it would be very funny indeed.

And here’s the thing.  It is. For a few pages. But each one of these things feels as long as the actual movie they are commenting on.  Alexander and Bissell have done their research—they know what these figures will say.  And say.  And say.

As I said the premise is awesome, check out these wonderful combinations:

  • NOAM CHOMSKY & HOWARD ZINN on The Fellowship of the Ring
    ANN COULTER & DINESH D’SOUZA on Aliens
  • TERRY DWIBBLE & STEVEN McCRAY on Start Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • JERRY FALWELL & PAT ROBERTSON on Planet of the Apes (1968)
    WILLIAM BENNETT & DICK CHENEY on Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

[Terry Dwibble & Steven McCray are (presumably) fictional characters—die hard Trekkies who are thrilled to be able to add this commentary and, frankly, this is the best one of these pieces.]

I think part of the problem with the book is the sequencing.  The first piece is incredibly dry.  I recall reading this when I first got it.  I don’t know if I read all the way through Chomsky and Zinn.  And I know I didn’t make it through all of the second one (Coulter and D’Souza)—my d0g eared page failure still lingers to this day.

But I finished this time. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS-“Science is Real” (2009).

Indeed, I do love They Might Be Giants.  I love how their Here Comes series went from letters to numbers to science.  When you hear news of science being questioned from all sorts of places, it’s nice to have some super catchy songs to reinforce science fact.

“Science is real. From the Big Bang to DNA.”  It’s a great way to open an entire album full of interesting scientific knowledge (from the band who covered “The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas,” which gets updated here into a more accurate lyrical song).  My kids love this album, and it makes me proud when they sing along to the great catchy, short songs contained within.  I especially love that the lyrics don’t eschew fun for truth:

I like the stories
About angels, unicorns and elves
Now I like those stories
As much as anybody else
But when I’m seeking knowledge
Either simple or abstract
The facts are with science.

This is a rocking guitar song, fun for the whole family.  Sing it with me…  “Science is real!”

[READ: December 4, 2011] Babymouse: Mad Scientist

I’m almost caught up to the Babymouse series!  This one even came out this year!!  There’s only the Christmas one left–wonder if I’ll be able to get it from the library in time.

This book also introduces a new character, Squish.  I actually found out about Squish before Babymouse, because I received a prepub of the first Squish book.  And now I get to see Squish’s origin story.

This was a really enjoyable book.  After reading the two music-themes ones, I was wondering if the Holms could keep up the interest for 14 books, but they really brought it back with this one.

After some funny jokes about science experiments (and the state of her room) we get a good fantasy sequence set aboard the USS Cupcake (with an unexpectedy funny Star Trek joke from the homeroom teacher).

And now they have a new science teacher (after the experiment went awry with their previous science teacher).  Mr Shelldon is obsessed, and I mean obsessed with molds.  He wants the class to enter the science fair (and encourages them to do research on molds!) (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VAMPIRE WEEKEND-Vampire Weekend (2008).

There’s some hype surrounding this record. And of course, I wouldn’t have heard about it without the hype. But I have to say this is my favorite record in a long, long time. It has everything! It’s got really tight, fun catchy songs…some as short as 2 minutes. It has wonderfully pretentious lyrics, and outrageous instruments, like the mellotron and harpsichord. And yet somehow, it manages to avoid all manner of pretension. Rather, it’s just catchy as all get out.

I can’t even pick a favorite song, as they are all great in their own way. I’ve heard that this album is compared to Paul Simon and that it’s being described as AfroPop. I only see the Simon comparison on one song, and I’m not sure what AfroPop is exactly, so I can’t address that. But I will say that it reminds me of many different genres as the record speeds by. There’s even a retro ska feel to a couple of songs, and I do loves me some ska! No song overstays its welcome, and it all seems so effortless and joyful. I finally got to listen to it in the car on a warm night and it was absolutely perfect.

Yet despite all the simplicity and brevity, the album has a lot going on underneath it. The rhythms are fairly complex, the basslines are fantastic–not show offy, just busy–and yet they perfectly propel the songs along. And, since I love smart lyrics, I love these guys for their great couplets. The songs are smart, without being cute and even though they do boil down to basic love/lost love themes, the words within are original and wonderful.

I absolutely love this album.

[READ: April 10, 2008] The Lunatic at Large

This book is from 1899 and was reissued by McSweeney’s in 2007. I bought this book without knowing…anything about it. I’d certainly never heard of it before. I had put it aside with low expectations.

The introduction indicated that this book is a missing link between the humor of Oscar Wilde and P.G. Wodehouse. That was a promising idea, and I’m delighted to say that it is quite true.

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