Archive for the ‘Walt Disney World’ Category

SOUNDTRACKKIRK FRANKLIN-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #175 (February 25, 2021).

Religion is inextricably linked to gospel music, which I think is rather a shame became gospel music can be a lot of fun, regardless of the lyrics.

If I wanted religion in my music I would call on Kirk Franklin in a heartbeat.  His songs are super catchy and inspirational and he is a great band leader.

For nearly 30 years, Franklin has been widely regarded for revolutionizing gospel. He incorporated secular music, particularly hip-hop, while preserving the message and integrity of traditional gospel. Here, he and his powerhouse choir pace through a decades-long, sixteen Grammy award winning discography of faith, praise and encouragement while cracking plenty of jokes. I cannot recall a more moving Tiny Desk home performance.

The set begins with “Love Theory.”  Franklin doesn’t even sing on this one, leaving it up to the rest of his singers [from left to right Darian Elliot, Eboni Ellerson , Michael Bethany, Deon Yancey, Melodie Pace,  Tia Rudd] to croon the melodies.

He gets up and claps his hands.  He even does some dancing behind the keys.  His energy is undeniable.   And actually, this one could be secular: “I don’t love nobody but you.”  By the end of the song, he tells everyone to make it bounce y’all and the funky bass from Matthew Ramsey kicks in heavy.

Kirk Franklin, set up with his band and choir in a corner of Uncle Jessie’s Kitchen, makes a declaration. “I know you’re at home right now, in your draws, listening to some Jesus music. It’s ok. Jesus loves you in your draws!”  Those are your draws!  He blessed you with those draws.

“Silver and Gold” slows things down old school.  Franklin plays the piano but it’s all about the harmonies that the singers include.  They keep building on the word “gold” getting bigger and bigger to a huge, outstanding peak.

The Arlington, Texas studio, named after a long time close friend, features a large photo of the iconic “I AM A MAN” protest signs from the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike on the wall. The jubilant energy that Franklin and company emit, juxtaposed with a visual reminder of the strife that Black people have endured is illustrative of the importance of gospel music in the Black community.

He continues “If you still haven’t put any clothes on yet we gonna groove a little bit more. You in one sock, I see you with just one sock with a flip flop or a house shoe.  I see you.  You look crazy but Jesus loves you still.

“Melodies From Heaven” has a quieter intro, but it builds bigger and then Franklin gets up and dances around the room while Shaun Martin plays the keyboard and Terry Baker plays some crashing drums–But its all about that wild bass.

The song ends abruptly.  He says that’s all you gonna get now … but after the pandemic I’m coming to your house and I’m bringing everybody and we gonna do this in your living room, your living room–everybody gets a concert.

For the final song “I Smile” he gives this positive intro:

All you gotta do, no matter what you face, even if you don’t have all your teeth, even if you got one good tooth all you gotta do is smile.

It’s a fun, boppy song with some more terrific drums at the end.

If all church was like this, more people might go.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “Sixty-Nine Cents”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

Gary Shteyngart’s family moved to the United States when he was young and by the time he was fourteen, his accent was mostly gone.

He now had three goals: to go to Florida and Disneyworld, to have a girl say she liked him and to eat at McDonald’s.

His parents did not believe in spending money–they bought clothes “by weight on Orchard Street.”  Despite their frugality, their parents agreed on a trip to Disney.  The tickets were free after a timeshare presentation.
“You’re from Russia?
“Leningrad … please Disney tickets now.”

They drove to Florida and stayed in cheap motels along the way. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THOR HARRIS, DUMB NUMBERS-“Carol of the Tubular Bells” (2019).

I really like Joyful Noise Records.  They release some really beautiful music as well as some really out there stuff.  They are the home of Kishi Bashi and Ohmme as well as a number of other terrific bands. But they also release lots of noisy chaotic bands (call it joyful noise perhaps).

For 2018 they released JNR Holiday Party, Vol. 2 and eclectic bunch of holiday songs.

This song was recorded by Thor Harris & Dumb Numbers with David Yow, Ohmme, and CJ Boyd.

Thor Harris is, well, his Wikpedia page says he is “an artist, sculptor, musician, painter, carpenter and handyman.”  Musically he is a composer and percussionist who plays every instrument in the universe (on his last album he was credited with marimba, flute, vibraphone, voice, organ, duduk, tubular bells, gongs ,etc.”

Dumb Numbers is the project Adam Harding whose musical style has been described as doom, sludge, and “swooning feedback pop.”  He has worked with all kinds of people including David Yow, singer of The Jesus Lizard.

That’s the background for this nearly three minutes of bizarreness.

The song starts with a toy piano playing Carol of the Bells.  Soon enough, OHMME sing beautifully the actual song, including the ding dong ding dong.  Meanwhile the counterpoint vocals (normally “Hark how the bells, Sweet silver bells…”) features David You singing “Don’t go insane, don’t go insane” to that melody.

That’s all that Yow sings, over and over for nearly 3 minutes.  And he clearly starts to go a little insane.  His vice fades to a whisper, turns into a rant, and sometimes even gets back on track to the timing.  Meanwhile OHMME sounds really beautiful.

Around 2 minutes in, Yow seems to have lost it entirely, mumbling incoherently until he screams “look out mama, there’s a….”

OHMME stop singing and then the melody of “Carol of the Bells” suddenly morphs into Mike Oldfields’ “Tubular Bells” and the song takes on a whole new tone.

As the song fades Yow screams “Faaaaaaaaalllllllll on your knees.”

This is the song you play when you want everyone to leave your Christmas party.

You can watch Yow sing over the backing track here.

[READ: December 16, 2019] “Show Me Your Dantes”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This story was delightfully surreal.  I am very intrigued that it is an excerpt from an upcoming novel which is the second of a trilogy about  character named Prin.  Initially I thought Prin was a woman, because, why not.  But that was quickly settled, when it was obvious Prin was a forty-year old man.

The excerpt starts with Prin being interviewed by a Charlie Tracker.  Charlie asks him what he knows about this job and Prin says that if he got the job he would be working with Charlie but would be working for Hugh, Charlie’s son.

The story seemed to be pretty normal–a man getting interviewed–until Charlie says he is impressed that the Prin wore new shoes to the job interview, “most of the professors I’ve met over the years show up in shoes they stole from hobo camps.”  Since I didn’t know when this story was set I didn’t know how literal that was meant to be. (Apparently not at all).

As the interview gets going Charlie offers to let Prin see “the finest private collection of Dante manuscripts and Dante memorabilia in the United States.”   Charlie is a little disappointed that Prin wasn’t more excited about that but Prin says he’d be more excited if he knew what this position was all about.

Charlie gives a lengthy and affecting explanation of how he got into Dante (it had to do with the Vietnam war and a very disturbing scene).  We also learn about Charlie’s business background and how he succeeded after the war. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GRIEVOUS ANGELS-“Saturday Night in a Laundromat” (Moose: The Compilation, 1991).

Back in the 1990s, it was common to buy a compilation or soundtrack or even a band’s album based on one song.  Only to then find that you didn’t really like anything else on it.

Maybe that single sounded like nothing else on the album.  Maybe the movie was almost entirely one genre, but they had that one song that you liked over the credits.  Or maybe the compilation was for something you didn’t know, but a song you really wanted was on it, too.

With streaming music that need not happen anymore.  Except in this case.

I bought this compilation, used, recently exclusively for one song, Rheostatics’ “Woodstuck.”  It’s a goofy song and this is the only place you can get the studio version.  The actual compilation was not well documented, so I didn’t know what the other bands on it might sound like.  It turns out to be a compilation for Ontario based Moose Records which specialized in Rock, Folk, World & Country.  They put out another compilation in 1992 and that’s all I can find out about them.

Grevious Angles sound an awful lot like Cowboy Junkies–slow, downbeat folk/country that tells a story.  The story of being in a laundromat on a Saturday night is kind of interesting.

The band is still playing (after taking a brief hiatus in 2004 for singer songwriter Charlie Angus to enter politics for four years.

In this song, Michelle Rumball has a deep, sultry voice.  She left the band after this album, so I’m not sure what they sound like now.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Super Dads”

The July/August issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue.  This year’s issue had two short stories, a memoir, three poems and a fifteen year reflection about a novel as special features.

Another except from this novel was published in The 2019 Short Story Advent Calendar.

In this excerpt, three men, Frank, Nick and Prin are heading to Dizzy’s World, a theme park that has seen much, much better days.

Nick and Frank are from Terre Haute and used to go to Dizzy’s World all the time as kids.  They both have fond memories.  Prin is not from the area and has never heard of the place.

All three had been hired by an evangelical millionaire to help build a theme park inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Prin was a University professor. He understood footnotes and he knew that most people hated even the idea of them.  He was hired to talk footnotes to footnote haters. (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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SOUNDTRACK: “Grim Grinning Ghosts (The Screaming Song) Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride (1963).

When producer/musicians John Congleton was a guest DJ on NPR, he played some expected and then some very unexpected songs. The most surprising (although it does make sense) was this song from the Disney Haunted Mansion.

Maybe this song is the reason why he likes the dark so much.

It’s a fun bouncy song, like most Disney stuff it’s hard to believe anyone was really afraid of it, and yet as a kid, that voice and those sounds could certainly be frightening.  The song has all kinds of sounds in it–keys, tubular bells, xylophone, hammered percussion marimba, and a lot of backing vocals.  And of course the amazing vocals (and laughs) Thurl Ravencroft and others.  There’s also great effects with analog tape.  He also points out that the chord progression is quite chromatic: A to B flat to B which is jagged and close together and not easy to listen to.

Congleton says (listen around 34:50):

The vocals are done by Thurl Ravenscroft, who was the voice of Tony the Tiger and the Grinch. I mean, This is Tom Waits before Tom Waits. When I was a kid, I was so attracted to this song, but I was scared of it. The record would sit with my other records and I would see it in there, and I would be like, ‘Do I have the bravery to listen to it right now?’ And sometimes I would, and I was mesmerized by it. But the then I grew up, and I went back and listened to it, and was like, ‘This is brilliant. This is really, really well done.’ I never in my entire life heard background vocals that sounded as tight as that. Never in my life. The harmonies are the tightest harmonies I have ever heard ever. And it’s like, this is for a silly kid’s record — but they were committed to making something special. Everything about that song is incredible to me.”

And yes, it is a silly song, but the recording is really impressive.

[READ: April 20, 2017] Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?

It has been almost two years since I read Book 3.  The fact that I’ve had book 4 all this time and simply not read it was not a good sign.  And, ultimately, I found this story ending to be strangely annoying, vaguely compelling and ultimately unsatisfying.

This book mostly follows young Snicket on his solo mission.  He awakes in the middle of the night to see his chaperone S. Theodora Markson sneak out of their room.  He follows her to a warehouse where she steals something and then to a train.  She boards but he is unable to.

The train used to make stops in town but it no longer does and Snicket jumps on board at the only place he can think of).  While he’s hanging on the outside of the train, Moxie drags him in through the window.  That’s about the first third of the book.  It was nice to have another character for him to talk to.

Then a murder happens (this is a pretty violent series for kids).  And the blame is laid at the wrong person’s feet. (more…)

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longSOUNDTRACK: OLOF ARNALDS-Tiny Desk Concert #93 (November 22, 2010).

olof Olof Arnalds is from Iceland and she sings in Icelandic.  She sings a kind of experimental folk, although in this Tiny Desk it is just her and a partner, Davíð Þór Jónsson, playing acoustic guitars.

And playing acoustic guitars keeps these songs pretty grounded.    Arnalds is a classically trained violinist, but she sticks to guitar on two of the tracks.

“Innundir Skinni” is a beautiful melody and our first exposure to Arnald’s voice, which is certainly unconventional.  Her voice is quite high and really rather lovely, just more Icelandic than Western.  Although even though she sings in Icelandic, anyone can sing along to the “la la la” part.

On “Surrender” she plays a churango made from an armadillo shell.  It brings a beautiful delicateness to this song.  I love the staccato chorus

“Crazy Car” sung in English as a duet, in which their accents and non-English delivery (especially Davíð’s) is most notable. The end, when she sings a different vocal melody is lovely.

Her voice might be off-putting to some, but I always like to hear someone with a bit of character.

[READ: November 10, 2015] Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

This has been my favorite Wimpy Kid book so far.   I tend to like the ones that focus on a single long event and the whole family more than lots of little episodes at school.  So this book, which follows the Heffley family on a summer road trip was perfect for me.

I also love the way Kinney taps into real things but modifies them just enough to make them somehow even funnier.  Like the way he creates the magazine Family Frolic (but uses the font of Family Fun magazine) and describes it perfectly–showing idealized family moments which no family can ever hope to recreate.   There’s also the hilarious way that trying to surprise kids with a trip can backfire (Manny is so excited to visit their aunt, that they have to delay their real trip to Disney World).

I also enjoyed the use of Flat Stanley (from the book by Jeff Brown) and the hilarious way he changed Captain Underpants to Underpants Bandits (by Mik Davies, rather than Dv Pilkey) which allowed him to make his own underwear jokes. (more…)

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abe[TRAVELED: November 1-November 8, 2014] Airlines & Chain food

Our Florida trip ended a week ago, so it seemed time to mention a few things  that were pretty great which were not related to theme parks at all.

The first was our flight from Lehigh Valley International Airport.

I used to love flying.  I remember flying on Eastern as a kid and getting free wing pins.  I even got invited to see the cockpit of the plane (but I thought I would have to fly up there without my parents so I turned them down–my parents were probably bummed that they didn’t get to check out the cockpit themselves).  I even have a few good memories of flying.  My best memory was flying on Dec 31, 1999 to Vancouver and, because it was the eve of Y2K, getting nearly an entire airplane to myself (chickens!) and being served champagne as a toast to the new year (in coach, mind you).

Since 9/11, flying has been an ordeal and I swore I’d never do it again.  We usually fly out of Newark, which I always assumed was a normal, busy airport, not the best but certainly not the worst.  But after flying out of ABE, I hope to never et foot in Newark again. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 7, 2014] Universal Studios Island of Adventure

ioaOur final day of vacation, and…nobody was sick at all!  Hooray!

It was another day at Universal.  I didn’t know if it could compare to the first day–how could it, really?  And while we didn’t do quite as many thrilling things, we fully explored the world of Harry Potter’s Hogsmeade and even left that island to explore others.  It was quite easy to forget was that there were so many other islands outside of the Harry Potter World.

We knew we wanted to ride the Harry Potter Express again–what’s the point of getting the MultiPark Pass if you don’t?  But we also knew that we wanted to start in Universal Studios Florida again because we wanted to go on the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem (the one ride that had a perpetually long line–oftentimes up to an hour) before heading over to Hogsmeade.

Remember, the entrance is shaped kind of like a Y.  You come in via City Walk and then you go left for Universal’s Island of adventure or you go right for Universal Studios Florida (the older f the two parks).  Unlike Disney, both parks are right next to each other.  But like Disney, if you pick to go in one, you can’t go in the other.  Unless you buy the Two Park Pass.  Then you can leave one and enter the other through the front, or you can go via the Hogwarts Express.


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[ATTENDED: November 5, 2014] Hollywood Studios

hollyFor our final day in Disney, we decided to do the most “teen friendly” place, as I like to think of it.  There’s some big time intense rides here–Tower of Terror and Rock and Roller Coaster.  We figured that after the big rides of the last few days, our kids might like to do one of these even bigger rides.  And then C. threw up during the night.

Yup, two stomach bugs marring our Disney trip.  C. was less intense than T.’s but he was still wiped out.  And it really put the kibosh on us doing anything crazy fun.  And yet, there’s no resting if you are sick.

So, we decided to do some of the more mellow events today.  We had some FastPasses, and they were in the middle of the day, so we had some time to explore. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 4, 2014] Magic Kingdom

magicFor day three we planned our biggest, longest day–Magic Kingdom.  We have since decided that you could easily spend two days there. Especially since poor T. still didn’t feel great.  C. , on the other hand, was raring to go.

Even if you’re not totally swept up by the Disney Magic, it’s hard not to be excited when your kids turn the corner and see The Castle for the first time.  Even T. who wasn’t feeling great was pretty excited.  And, as far as Disney Magic goes, it was great that they have people in costume–no one “famous,” just random costumed people–walking around to make chit chat.  And we met one such lady who was very funny and was quite charming with T. and it really set the day up nicely.

Our FastPasses were for the mid-afternoon, which meant we couldn’t leave at lunch time like we’d have liked to have done.  So, rather, we made a path for some fun things that we didn’t get to do last time we were there.  Like the Swiss Family Treehouse (more…)

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