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Archive for the ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’ Category

[ATTENDED: May 17, 2018] Kid Koala’s Vinyl Vaudeville

I have been a fan of Kid Koala since the early 2000s.  He’s not a DJ so much as a magician on the turntable.  He is able to make vinyl do amazing things.  His hands are fast, his timing is impeccable and he uses puppets too!

But I had no idea that his live show would be so much fun.  I mean, sure it was called Vinyl Vaudeville, but could it live up to his calling it “the silliest show on earth?”  Well, I dispute the silliness aspect because silly implies that it’s not also awesome, which this definitely was.

So what exactly does a turntablist do so it’s not just a guy scratching records?

Well, primarily he uses props.  Almost every song has a visual element.  In fact the very first song started out in total darkness with a black light and a sloth puppet.  I don’t know what the song was called or if it had anything to do with sloths, but it was fun to watch.   (more…)

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squish1SOUNDTRACK: I’M FROM BARCELONA-“Just Because It’s Different Doesn’t Mean It’s Scary” (2009).

miaI like I’m From Barcelona, although I don’t know too much about them.

This song opens with ukuleles (or small guitars anyhow) and a big farty bass line. It offers a sensible lyric about things being different and offers suggestions of new things you might enjoy, like fruit or a park.

The band has some fun backing vocals (“let’s taste it baby”), (“run run run run”) and have made a fairly complex song out of what is a very simple concept.

For these Yo Gabba Gabba songs I have to wonder if the bands have taken old songs and made them kid friendly or if they have written all new (fairly complex) songs just for the show.

This is a good one.

[READ: May 16, 2014] Squish: Super Amoeba

I thought I had written about all five of the Squish books so far (there’s a sixth one coming soon).  Except, I realized, that I never wrote about the first one.  So, here, three years after I first read it (I received it as a prepub for crying out loud, so I’ve had it for over three years), I’ve read it again for this post.

I hadn’t even read Babymouse when I read this book, although in retrospect it’s easy to see the similarities between the two (especially in the drawing style).  Of course, while Babymouse is colored primarily in pink, Squish is colored primarily in green.  And of course, Babymouse is a girl and Squish is a boy (well, a boy amoeba, but still a boy).  But there are kid friendly hardships and valuable (if not necessarily obvious) lessons to be learned.

All the characters who have been with us for the duration of the other books were introduced here: Pod another amoeba, who is Squish’ best friend and who is super smart, Peggy (a paramecium) who is happy all the time and Principal Planaria, who is a flatworm (and like all flatworms is really crosseyed).  This issue also introduces us to The Adventures of Super Amoeba, the comic book which Squish loves and the guy who acts as a role model for Squish. (more…)

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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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13SOUNDTRACK: JACK BLACK-The Goodbye Song (2009).

jbI love that Jack Black is a terribly terribly profane man, and yet he has also made a huge career out of doing kids shows and movies.  True Tenacious D are practically child men anyhow, but to think that the guy who sang some of those really dirty songs is also Kung Fu Panda?  Or the sweet guy saying goodbye to everyone in Yo Gabba Gabba land?

This song is, like most Yo Gabba Gabba songs, incredibly simple and repetitive (it’s mostly chorus singing goodbye) but each verse has one of the characters from the show singing a simple verse and JB saying something in return.

There’s nothing especially great about this song (you want it more for the visuals), it’s just always fun to hear Jack be funny and silly–and to rock out at the end.

[READ: May 9, 2014] File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents

I knew that his book was coming out and I was pretty sure it was Book 3 in the All the Wrong Questions series because, well, because it came out during the series and it was illustrated by Seth.  But it is not part of the series at all.  Well, that’s not true.  It is sort of part of the series.

It is set in Stain’d by the Sea.  Lemony Snicket is there with his mentor S. Theodora and all of the characters we have met so far in the series are here as well.  But this is a series of unfortunate incidents in which Lemony Snicket helps to solve some crimes or, if not crimes, at least possible crimes.  Thing of it as a short story interlude from All the Wrong Questions.  And yet, even though that seems dismissive, it is a great and fun read.

So despite being a little disappointed that this wasn’t the next book in the series (I’m quite hooked) I really enjoyed these short “cases.”  It also turns out that the “bonus” story that came in the Barnes & Noble edition of Book 2 is one of these incidents.  I didn’t enjoy it that much as a “bonus” story, but I found it far more enjoyable this time in the context of Snicket trying to figure things out here. (more…)

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39SOUNDTRACK: THE ROOTS-“Lovely, Love My family” (2009).

miaThe Roots are known for many many things–most recently being the house band for Jimmy Fallon.  They do intelligent hip hop, but they also play “neo-soul” and this fun sorta-ska-like sweet song from the first Yo Gabba Gabba Music is Awesome CD.

It’s 2 minutes of poppy happiness. It’s fun to see ?uestlove bopping along, and to see the whole band in front of these bright colors.

This song is utterly catchy, with smart fun lyrics that are easy to sing along to And unlike some of the Yo Gabba Gabba songs it’s not terribly repetitive.  It’s even got a tuba solo.

Check it out:

[READ: May 6, 2014] The Dead of Night

I was pretty excited to get into this third book of the series, but something about this book burnt me out a bit.  It may have been because it was increasingly dark.  Or maybe that Atticus was in trouble from the get go and had to do a lot of work by himself–that seemed somehow more difficult to read than Dan and Amy working together.  It also seemed to have a bit less humor than the other books–like this one was all down to business, or that the stakes were higher or something.

Indeed, the book opens with Atticus in the back of the truck being taken away by the evil Wyoming kids.  They know he is a Guardian, even if he doesn’t know quite what that means. They are taking him somewhere in secret–which involves an airplane.  How is he ever going to notify anyone of where he is?  But it turns out that Dan and Amy aren’t the only techie kids, and soon Atticus has a way of signaling his friends that he has been taken to Turkey.

Meanwhile Amy is feeling especially guilty for everything that has happened–she’s supposed to be the senior family member in charge.  And Jake isn’t helping with that.  At the same time Dan keeps getting texts from AJT–the man he believes to be his father.  And they are making his mood even darker. (more…)

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medusaSOUNDTRACK: PETER BJORN & JOHN-“I Wish I Was a Spy” (2012).

awesome4Yo Gabba Gabba has always been a source of interesting music–very cool bands devote time and music to this, frankly bizarre kids show.

This song from Peter Bjorn and John is fantastic.  While the lyrics are kid friendly, there’s no reason that this song need be played only for kids.

The song opens with a good vibrato “spy” guitar lick and vocal breaths.  The unusual percussion really shows how much this song sounds like a PB&J song even if it is of a very specific genre.  When the vocals come in (sounding very PB&J), the lyrics simply state that he wishes he was a spy, and then he gives some great examples of what he would do as a spy.

But the big surprise comes from the chorus which s bright and bouncy and talks about how we can all pretend we are all agents.

The Yo Gabba Gabba version ends at 2 minutes, but the extended version has more instrumental surf/spy guitar work.  It’s kind of an extraneous coda, but the sound they capture is really cool, so it’s fun to get the extra minute of guitar work.

[READ: May 6, 2014] The Medusa Plot

When I finished Vespers Rising, I said I would pace myself because the Cahills vs. Vespers series was six book which would conclude in March 2013.  Clearly I paced myself too slowly because here it is May 2014, Cahils vs. vespers is long done, and they are on the next series already.

But hey, I’m not playing the online game so there’s no time constraints for me.

Also, Clark started reading the original series so I wanted to keep a little ahead of him.  It seemed like a good time to start this middle series.

And man, once I started reading I was immediately brought back into the exciting world of Dan and Amy Cahill.  I had forgotten about the short story in Vespers Rising (about the ring that Amy now has) and about the Vespers in general.  But that didn’t matter, because it was quickly set up that the Vespers (led by the unknown V-1) in particular are bad and they will stop at nothing to achieve their goal (which we don’t know yet).

It has been two years since the end of the 39 Clues.  As the book opens, several members of the disparate Cahill family clan are kidnapped: Fiske Cahill, Reagan Holt, Natalie Kabra (who, with her brother is now poor since their evil mother disowned them for not being evil enough), Alistair Oh (no!) and Ted Starling (his brother Ned escaped), Phoenix Wizard (Jonah’s little cousin) and, gasp, Nellie Gomez!  They are taken to an undisclosed location, given jumpsuits and left in a small cell with nothing to do and minimal food on a regular basis. (more…)

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ricky1.2SOUNDTRACK“WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-Alapalooza (1993).

Weird_Al_Yankovic_-_AlapaloozaAlapalooza came out hot on the heels of Off the Deep End.  I was in college, the perfect time for a “Weird Al” rebirth.  And the fact that “Jurassic Park” and “Bedrock Anthem” had a great videos (and my college cafe played MTV), meant I got to see these videos quite a bit.  (So I was surprised to read recently that this album didn’t sell like gangbusters (it went gold whereas Off the Deep End went platinum)).

“Jurassic Park” is a crazy wonderful parody–a spoof on the crazy song “MacArthur Park,” a song that I like a lot because it is over the top and absurd, although truth be told, I like “Jurassic Park” better.

“Young Dumb and Ugly” is a heavy metal song this is certainly dumb.  This is one that parodies a style so well that it’s actually not a very fun song to listen to.  “Bedrock Anthem” is a Red Hot Chili Peppers mashup/parody with the intro from “Under the Bridge” melding into a rocking parody of “Give It Away.”  I’m not exactly sure that it works as a parody (the Yabba Dabba part is a wee bit forced) but the song rocks well and Al and co. do a great job with it.

I never much liked “Frank’s 2000″ TV.”  I’m surprised to read (Wikipedia) that it’s a style parody of early R.E.M.  I can kind of hear it but compared to some of his other style parodies, I don’t think it really works.  “Achy Breaky Song” is the most apt song, lyrically, ever: “Don’t play that song, that achy breaky song, the most annoying song I know.”  It’s surprisingly mean about the song it is parodying and it turns out the proceeds from the track were donated to United Cerebral Palsy, as both Cyrus and Yankovic felt that the song was “a little bit, well, mean-spirited.”  “Traffic Jam” is a synthy number that sounds like it’s from the 80s.

“Talk Soup” was commissioned as a new theme for the show Talk Soup.  Although the producers approved the lyrics and enjoyed the final result, they decided against using it.  Which I can understand as it would make a terrible TV theme song.  It sounds a bit like Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer.

“Livin’ in the Fridge” is a fun parody of Aerosmith and it really sounds like them.  This parody works both as a twist on the original and lyrically–it’s very funny.  “She Never Told Me She was a Mime” is a weird original.  It doesn’t sound like any other bands, and is kind of a classic rock type of song.  The lyrics are pretty funny, but not all that funny.  And there’s not all that much to enjoy musically.

“Harvey the Wonder Hamster” is an awesome anthem which at 21 seconds, can be enjoyed again and again and again.  It’s funny that I felt that “Talk Soup” sounded like Peter Gabriel because “Waffle King” is actually a style parody of Gabriel.  This is a weird song because the verses are good, but the chorus falls kind of flat.  But the final song is a wonderful twist on Al’s usual polka medley.  This is a polka version of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  I read complaints that it sounds too much like the original (which it doesn’t) but it’s a testament to Al’s skill as a mimic that he can make his crazy polka version (which is much faster and with lots of his silliness thrown in) sounds so much like queen.  It’s certainly an Al highlight.

After this release, Al put out Al in the Box a 4 CD box set and then a series of greatest hits type albums–an actual Greatest Hits and then a collection of Food Songs and TV Songs.  I would never have bought the Food album except that I got to meet him after a show and I wanted something for him to autograph (which he did).  He was super duper nice and very cool.

[READ: February 22, 2013] Ricky Ricotta Books 7

Dav Pilkey planned to do nine books in this series (with Martin Ontiveros adding pictures).  According to Wikipedia, he had serious family emergencies for a while, which is why such a prolific author had literally no output for a number of years (from 2007-2010).  It also explains why book 7 is the last book that Pilkey has written in the series.  But the good news is that he’s back writing and that the eighth book is due out in December.

Of 2014.  Oh.

Well, in the meantime we have this book to enjoy.  Ricky and the Mighty Robot are learning what is fun and what is not fun (most of the things that Ricky likes to do are too small  for the robot to do and are consequently not fun for him).  Meanwhile, Uncle Unicorn lives on Uranus.  And he has turned it into a universe-wide dumping ground for toxic waste. I really liked seeing that all of the other bad guys from the series had a cameo dumping their stuff on Uranus.

But then Uncle Unicorn has had enough of the trash and he wants to leave.  He plans on going to Earth, but he knows that Mighty Robot is his major enemy.  So he sends Mighty Robot a gift–a Ladybot who immediately hypnotizes him and chains him up.  And now Ricky is alone. (more…)

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ricky1.2

SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-“I Can Be a Frog” on Yo Gabba Gabba ( 2010).

gabbaThe Flaming Lips make songs about all kinds of things.  This track, from Embryonic, always had a feel of a kid’s song.  So much so that when they modified it for Yo Gabba Gabba, they merely changed the word “She” to the more inclusive “You.”

You can be a frog / You can be a bat / You can be a bear / Or you can be a cat

This version sounds very similar to the record, but it’s really fun to see the guys playing on the hugely cartoonish instruments.  I also like when they pull back to show DJ Lance and his pals  dancing along (they dance very well for creatures in large costumes).

I’ve always been a little sad that my kids didn’t like this show.

 

[READ: February 22, 2013] Ricky Ricotta Books 1-3

Ricky Ricotta is a book series that Dav Pilkey created (with Pictures by Martin Ontiveros) in the middle of the Captain Underpants series (the guy never rests!).  He has nine books planned for the series (one for each planet).  This series is aimed at a younger audience than the Captain and is less “naughty.”  Ricky is a mouse who wishes he had a friend.  He is also picked on by bullies at school.  His parents tell him that one day something big will happen to him.  And indeed, one day something big does happen to him.

The evil mad scientist Dr Stinky has created a robot and wants it to destroy the earth.  But the robot doesn’t want to.  So the evil scientist blasts it with a laser ray.  Ricky sees the whole thing and he kicks a kickball at the scientist, making him drop and smash the ray gun.  Ricky and the Mighty Robot become friends.  Indeed the robot becomes Ricky’s best friend.  The robot immediately gets the bullies to stop picking on Ricky (without harming anyone).  And Ricky is happy for the first time.

But soon Dr Stinky is back for revenge.  He blasts the classroom iguana turning it into a huge, vicious monster which goes on a rampage.  Mighty Robot and the iguana fight (in Flip-O-Rama!).  By the end of the book the bad guy is punished and the iguana is restored to its normal self.  There is no indication of a continuation of the story (like in Captain Underpants), although we know from the back of the book that he has a while series planned. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WEEZER-Hurley (2010).

In my head, no band garners as much debate as Weezer.  According to this article, a man offered them $10 million to break up.  Even I go back and forth about whether they are great pop song writers or incredible sell outs.  I mean, look at one of the items on their thanks list for Hurley: “Dodge–makers of the timeless Challenger.”  Is this ironic or not and if not, does it matter?  I’m also torn by Rivers Cuomo’s Harvard degree, which I would think means he would write intellectually rigorous songs–and yet he never does.

But what of it?  Let’s talk about the music.  It has dawned on me that the closest band to compare them to is Cheap Trick.  They write poppy songs with often heavy guitars that are completely sing along-y but are in no way alternative to anything.  And yet everyone loves Cheap Trick, so why not love Weezer, too?

Hurley is no different.  Each song is 3 minutes of pure pop (for crying out loud Desmond Child is on one track–put one in the sell out column).  But they also have some odd fans on this disc: the crew from Jackass sings backing vocals on “Memories” and Michael Cera plays mandolin and sings backing vocals on “Hang On” (although you can’t hear any of them really).  “Hang On,” by the way is their most Cheap Trick-y song to date.

“Unspoken” features a flute and acoustic guitars until about two minutes into a three-minute song.  Then it bursts out of acousticland and into heavy rocking guitars.  The one song I don’t get is “Where My Sex?” which I suppose is the controversial song on the disc.  He’s clearly talking about socks but he keeps saying sex.  I really have no idea why.  It’s not funny, even remotely.  It’s just an odd decision.  And I would say I rather dislike the song, but the chorus is great, as is the totally unexpected third section (which is like  pop song unto itself) that comes in 2 and a half minutes out of nowhere.

“Smart Girls” has to be ironic, but who knows anymore.  To me the most interesting song is “Brave New World.”  It eschews the standard big-chords-for-choruses format they’ve been using with a much heavier guitar and single guitar notes in the verses.  (Although the chorus is, once again super catchy).

My version of Hurley has bonus tracks which are separated by an interesting 10 seconds of string music.  The bonus tracks include a cover of a song from Yo Gabba Gabba ( I really must watch that show some time).  There’s also a great cover of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” (in many ways Weezer is like a harder rocking version of Coldplay in terms of success and obvious sellout possibilities).  Although this live version shows that Rivers’ voice is no match for Chris Martin’s.

“I want to Be Someone” is an earnest acoustic solo track while “Represent” (Rocked Out Mix) is one of the heaviest things they’ve done.  I assumed the original was on Raditude, but it’s not.  Evidently it’s the unofficial song of the U.S. World Cup soccer team.  Huh, who knew?

So yes, it seems that they’re pretty much sell outs.  And yet for thirty minutes (all of their discs are so nicely short) it’s easy to stop worrying about “indie or not” and just sing along.

[READ: November 7, 2010] Fate, Time and Language: An Essay on Free Will

First I wanted to thank Columbia University Press for sending me an Uncorrected Proof of this book. I was pretty excited to read it, but to get it a few weeks early was even cooler (and, no, this won’t have any impact on my review).

Second, I wanted to state exactly what this book IS (because I wasn’t entirely sure myself).  The book is a reprinting of David Foster Wallace’s philosophy graduate undergrad thesis.  However, rather than just publishing the thesis (and giving us a short book or a long book with one sentence per page), Columbia University Press has packed the book with a great many essays that help to contextualize the thesis.  The Preface by Steven H. Cahn & Maureen Eckert explains this quite neatly.

So, my (briefer) version of the background: DFW’s thesis is about Richard Taylor’s article “Fatalism” (1962).  CUP has also included Taylor’s initial article (so we can see what DFW is talking about).  And even more than that, when Taylor’s article was initially published, it caused a bit of controversy and a lot of responses.  So, to get a sense of everything that DFW was working with (and against), this book also includes the intellectual dialogue: articles that range from four to ten pages (and also include a dense of Taylor by Steven H. Cahn himself (published in 1964).

Part II of the book includes an introduction by Maureen Eckhart and DFW’s essay.

Part III is a brief look at DFW as a student written by a former professor, Jay Garfield.

Before I get to the meat of the book itself, I wanted to say that I didn’t know anything about this essay.  And I’d thought about this thesis as possibly an interesting piece of philosophy from an author whose work I greatly admired.    Well the introduction to this book states in pretty certain terms that my thinking about this thesis is a massive understatement.  For, in fact, DFW’s thesis undermined Taylor’s argument in ways that no other argument had been able to do before.  His thesis more or less repudiated Taylor’s original essay.  The thesis also won the Amherst University Gail Kennedy Memorial Prize in Philosophy (and a wonderful piece of trivia: DFW’s father James won the same prize in 1959).  So, yes, this isn’t just a graduate undergrad thesis, this is real philosophy.

On to the book: (more…)

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