Friday, March 30, 2012

Road to WrestleMania: 2012 Leads to 2013

Reports are that Brock Lesnar is in Miami and is negotiating with WWE.

WWE is happy with the one-year buildup to Cena v Rock for WrestleMania 27, and they clearly want to duplicate that success in 2013.

WWE wants to shoot an angle on next Monday night on RAW (April 2), which is generally the highest-rated episode of the year, coming on the heels of WrestleMania.

This may explain why The Miz was added to "Team Johnny," after WWE was doing a storyline that after headlining WM last year, he couldn't even get on a match this year.

Lesnar may be put in Miz's spot at WM - the guy who interferes in the main event, costing The Rock the victory against Cena.

The Rock would then show up Monday night and ask Lesnar to explain himself, leading to a physical confrontation. In all likelihood, John Cena would be the middleman, getting the two to agree to work the main event NEXT year (Rock v Lesnar). Remember that when WWE first brought in Lesnar, Rock was the one who put over Brock, which started him on his rise to the top.

Lesnar can also use his post-WWE success, as a guy who left and got even more famous in MMA - as the storyline material.

I could see them doing dual main events in 2013: Rock v Lesnar and Undertaker v Goldberg. Bill Goldberg has mentioned in conversations that he would like to come back for one more big match, since his son is now old enough to watch pro wrestling.

Add a potential Steve Austin v CM Punk match to the card and you already have three strong matches for 2013, with neither the World nor WWE Championships matches even being discussed.

Mommy, Me, and Sukey

Wow. What a misleading heading. One could think I was writing about a child with two mommies. Or doing something really strange.

In reality, I am experiencing a strange reorientation process. Ben is now 11 years old and listening to the music that is (mostly) appropriate for that age group. Over the years as he grew up, we have over-indulged (and then purged) ourselves of Elmo, the Wiggles, the Doodlebops, and dozens of other small fry favorites.

Now his brother Matthew is 16 months old. And is starting to watch SESAME STREET. So the process is starting anew. And a decade later, we are beginning to notice things. Like the technology that has changed the show. Who is Murray? Why do they need a narrator? And why do Muppets needs legs? Especially in segments like Abby Cababy's animated sequence every episode.

Be that as it may, we are also fine-tuning Matthew's musical tastes. We "repurposed" most of Ben's oldest CDs long, long ago. But my second (small-time) career as a children's music reviewer has given me the opportunity to find newer artists, specifically for our new small fry.

Sukey Molloy began working with children in 1985 and embarked upon her career as a children’s music performer in 1994. A trained dancer, Sukey has designed and taught music and movement programs in nursery schools, after-school programs, and elementary schools, and, in 2005, launched her own, Nyack, NY-based PlayMove&Sing program of “Mommy & Me” classes.

In April, Sukey is releasing her third CD of children's music, I AM HAPPY! The 18 tracks skew directly for the very young. For a parent who has not heard giggling or hushed, intense instructions on his kid's CDs for quite some time, it took until "Jack and Jill" for me to get comfortable again with the concept.

There was a period of time when my wife had the flu and I assumed all responsibility for taking Ben to his various activities. This included Mommy and Me classes at a nearby location. He loved the interaction and the instruments and we can't wait to take Matthew for his first sessions. You can definitely hear the clear "Mommy and Me"-style pathway for kids who listen to I AM HAPPY! and follow the directions. Sukey is cheerful, earnest, friendly, and a gentle guide for the toddling set.

Sukey has won a number of awards, including the Nappa Award (2009), the Mom's Choice Award (2010) and the Preferred Choice Award (2011). Her website includes videos and songs, as well as lyrics for parents and teachers, as well as a blog and information about her current classes and workshops.

I AM HAPPY! is coming out on Tuesday, April 17 through Amazon, CDBaby, and Sukey's own site.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Friday, March 30, 2012

Up On The Housetop - The New Standards
The Wrath of Marcie - The Go! Team
Wake Up Baby! - Dan Zanes & Friends with Shine
We Are Young (ft. Janelle Monae) - fun.
Born On the Bayou - Etta James
Open My Eyes - Bangles
La Isla Bonita - Glee
I Love Food - The Not-Its!
How Come You Never Go There - Feist

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Feel So - Box Car Racer
The Monkeys are Breaking Out - Too Many Cookies
T.O.R.N.A.D.O. - The Go! Team
The Wheel Deal - Josh Levine
I'm A Vampire - Roy Handy & The Moonshot
The Fox - Waco Brothers
Owl and Pussycat - Heidi Swedberg
Thank You - Dan Zanes & Friends
Fix You - Glee
Born to Be Loved - Lucinda Williams

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Turning Tables - Adele
Rollerskate Banana Peel - Mo Phillips
Party Rock Anthem - LMFAO ft. Lauren Bennett & GoonRock
California Gurls - Katy Perry (Feat. Snoop Dogg)
The Christmas Song - The Raveonettes
Darwin - Artichoke 26 Scientists
Pretty Girls (Feat. Travie McCoy) - Iyaz
At The Zoo - Simon & Garfunkel
My Little Laugh - Randy Kaplan
Say, Say, Oh Playmate - April Smith & The Great Picture

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, March 27, 2012

First Light - My Morning Jacket
Palomino - Mates of State
Dancing Crazy - Miranda Cosgrove
Rolling In the Deep - Adele
Nemeses - Jonathan Coulton
Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart - Fountains Of Wayne
A Complicated Song - Weird Al Yankovic
Everybody Let's Jump - Eloise the Great
Agree & Disagree - Mighty Buzznicks
Twirlin' - Mo Phillips

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Monday, March 26, 2012

Parents Need Sleep - The Nields
For Those About To Walk (We Salute You) - Daddy A Go Go
Muriel's Hoof - Soft Boys
Twin Cinema - New Pornographers
I Like You - Jeffrey Gaines
Why Is Dad So Mad? - The Board of Education
Drive By - Train
Big Black Snake - Dog On Fleas
You Yes You - Tune-Yards

Friday, March 23, 2012

Put on Your Brand New Babypants!

Caspar's Back in Town!

If it's been nine months, then it's time for another CD from the prolific Caspar Babypants (i.e., Chris Ballew, former guitarist/singer for The Presidents of the United States. This year's release is entitled HOT DOG!

Animals of all kinds seem to be on Chris' mind this time around. Looking at the titles alone reveals the thought process: Sugar Ant, Crazy Blue Beetle, This Old Whale, Eleanor The Elegant Elephant, Bunny Brown, The Animal Lunch, Scared Scare Crow, Stompy the Bear, More Moles, and Even Bugs Are Sleeping. That's a pretty impressive non-human selection.

The former grunge rocker continues to refine his sound. A boy goes to sleep hungry and dreams of "A Thousand Tiny Doughnuts," complete with surf guitar (courtesy of Mark Klebeck of Top Pot Doughnuts). After spilling lemonade, Caspar launches into an ode about a "Sugar Ant" crawling all over the world.

Chris takes the regular activities of the younger set (going to the park, playground, pool) and turns it into the lively anthem, "Summer Baby (Let It Ride)":

When the sun is hot and the bees are in the air

Me and summer baby let it ride

Let it ride

An interesting collaboration would be Chris and Jeff Tweedy, who has demonstrated a sense of humor (look for his performance of the Black Eyed Peas "I've Gotta Feeling" on Youtube). I listen to a Caspar Babypants track like "Boot Got Grounded" and think about Wilco. Of course, that might just be me.

The best childrens music is made by people who still hold close what they love about childhood. Caspar Babypants knows that kids like animals, comfort food, playing, and being silly. They don't want lectures about the Earth and everybody getting along. Yes, you can slip one of those themes past them once in a while. But leave the sledgehammer at home. In a Caspar Babypants world, the toughest message would be summed up by the title of the song, "I Don't Mind."

Artwork for all the CDs is by Kate Endle, local artist (and Mrs. Ballew) who also did the artwork for two book/song combos with her husband. HOT DOG is available April 14 on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, and where all fine childrens music is sold.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Friday, March 23, 2012

The Unsinkable Fats Domino - Guided By Voices
It Had to Be You - Esquivel
Sacagawea - The Deedle Deedle Dees
Jump - Scott Fischer
Horse and Buggy - Kindercastle
Black or White - Glee
You Might Think - Weezer
El Jefe - Mexican Institute of Sound
A Daisy Through Concrete - Eels
Wimoweh - Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, March 22, 2012

Good Morning Tucson - Jonathan Coulton
The Cave - Mumford and Sons
The Wrath of Marcie - The Go! Team
Come Up, Horsey - Victoria Williams
I'm Just Thinkin' About What I'm Thinkin' About - Chip Taylor & the Grandkids
Half A Boy And Half A Man - Little Village
It's Raining Again - Supertramp
Making Silly Faces - In The Nick Of Time
Mammal - They Might Be Giants
Peaches - The Presidents Of The United States Of America

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Grandma's Hands - Bill Withers
Life's A Happy Song - The Muppets
Don't Worry About the Government - Talking Heads
When the Bells Start Ringing (feat. The Head & the Heart) - My Morning Jacket
Can You Picture That? - Quazar and the Bamboozled
Owl and Pussycat - Heidi Swedberg
Mr. Know It All - Kelly Clarkson
Buffalo Gals - Dog On Fleas
Somebody To Love - Justin Bieber
Accentuate the Positive - NRBQ
Mole in the Ground - Adam Levy & John Munson

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Toes - Mo Phillips
Sing Your Own Song - John Wesley Harding
Set Me On Fire - Spirits and the Melchizedek Children
We Are Young (ft. Janelle Monae) - fun.
A Song for Abigail Adams - The Deedle Deedle Dees
Making Promises - Indigo Girls
I Don't Wanna Wait - Bill Harley
Tommy Got In Trouble - The Bazillions
Cough Syrup - Glee
El Pussycat Ska - Roland Alphonso

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Monday, March 19, 2012

Good Morning Tucson - Jonathan Coulton
You Are the Everything - Redbird
Valley Winter Song - Fountains Of Wayne
Rollerskate Banana Peel - Mo Phillips
My Uncle, the Ant - Duke Otherwise
Sleepy Tigers - Her Space Holiday
Thank You - Dan Zanes & Friends
Bozmo's Breakfast - The Thinkers
Let Me Love You - Glee
Uncharted - Sara Bareilles

Friday, March 16, 2012

Get A Kick Out of Mo Phillips

Creativity is a marvelous thing, to state the obvious.

Portland, Oregon's own Mo Phillips had released two CDs of childrens music and was ready to record another album, but sought funds. He turned to Kickstarter and 98 donors later, MONSTER SUIT arrived.

Every good song comes from a clever concept and Mo Phillips has his concepts down pat. Songs like "Worst Party Ever Thrown" and "Ducks Don't Get Wet" are kind of self-explanatory. If you were expecting "Hot Lava" to rock with a B-52s beat, you would be sorely mistaken. It's actually about how a child's imagination can turn a living room into a fiery lake of molten fluid.

"The Princess and the Cowboy" is a tale of tolerance and role-playing. A little boy puts on a pink dress to become a princess and a girl transforms into a cowboy. The lyrics remind us:

Oh no it doesn't matter what you do you just how you do it

Make sure it's full of happiness and heart

Make sure it's full of love right from the start

How can you not like a sentiment like that?

An early childhood educator, Mo also teaches "Rock 'N' Roll Kindy" to children all over the Portland area. Working with the younger set (and two sons, Henry and Owen) gives Mo a close affinity with their foibles and interests. The title track explains that if the singer had a monster suit, he would run around and scare bad guys yelling "Boo." That's it.

Mo cites the Rolling Stones and Neil Young as main influences. There's no track that explicitly reminds me of anything from EXILE ON MAIN STREET, but really, could a six-year-old handle that? I can hear a stripped-down acoustic sound akin to Neil Young on some of the tracks on MONSTER SUIT.

"All Okay" reminds listeners that no matter how bad a day you may have, everybody gets a chance to start over. Mo Phillips got kickstarted for his third album (similar to what the Not-Its did). He delivers honest guitarwork and uncommonly good lyrics that bring a smile and make things feel all okay.

MONSTER SUIT is available on April 10 from iTunes,, and his own website.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ben's Playliist - Friday, March 16, 2012

Saturday Night - Bay City Rollers
The Amazing Baz Dance Remix - The Amazing Baz
Bad - Glee
Walking Wires - Radical Dads
Under a Cloud - Bangles
Octopus - Artichoke
You Yes You - Tune-Yards
Shoo Fly - Don't Bother Me - Sweet Honey In the Rock
It Had to Be You - Esquivel
Cool Papa Bell - The Deedle Deedle Dees

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sourwood Mountain - Carolina Chocolate Drops
When We First Met - Hellogoodbye
Wild Thing - Troggs
I Think I'm A Bunny - Todd McHatton
Born to Shake - Anna Oxygen
Section 12 (Hold Me Now) - The Polyphonic Spree
Everybody Loves to Jump - Mike Park
Putt, Putt - Holly Throsby
The Dreidel Song - Aimee Mann and Paul F. Tompkins
A Friend Like You - Steve Weeks

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Last Friday Night - Glee
Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing - Stevie Wonder
Shake Me Down - Cage the Elephant
How Fast Can You Run? - The Quiet Two
Up Up Up - Givers
Holiday Road - Matt Pond
Summer Baby (Let It Ride) - Caspar Babypants
I've Got a Brother - Nick Cope
Hi 5 Dance - Flannery Brothers

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Man Or Muppet - Jason Segel & Walter
I Wish You Well - Bill Withers
I Want You Back - Glee
Bunny Brown - Caspar Babypants
At the Bottom of the Sea - The Thermals
Rock Around WIth Ollie Vee - Buddy Holly
TV - Music For Aardvarks Presents David Weinstone
The Worst Party Ever Thrown - Mo Phillips
See the Seasons - The Rock Doves
My Favorite Things - Glee

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Monday, March 12, 2012

Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) - Katy Perry
Harry Elefante - Rocknoceros
Sneaking Cookies - Cake for Dinner
Here's To Us - Glee
So So Good - The Good Miss Padgett
Music Is the Medicine - Derek Miller
Donuts - Jeff Forrest
June Hymn - The Decemberists
Agree & Disagree - Mighty Buzznicks
In the Land of Dreams - Kesang Marstrand

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Friday, March 9, 2012

The Unsinkable Fats Domino - Guided By Voices
Helicopter - M. Ward
Daybreak - Barry Manilow
Clap Your Hands - The Time Outs
Fire Of The Sun - Rocknoceros
I Want An Alien for Christmas - Fountains of Wayne
Popcorn Tree - Music For Aardvarks Presents David Weinstone
Turning Tables - Adele
Pretty Girls (Feat. Travie McCoy) - Iyaz
I Really Like You, Baby - ScribbleMonster
Type A Prayer - Alchemystics

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, March 8, 2012

Alphabet Produce - Kathleen Edwards
Get Together - Youngbloods
Hometown Glory - Adele
Ole´ - Pearl Jam
Valley Winter Song - Fountains Of Wayne
Shining Like a Star - Laura Doherty
T.O.R.N.A.D.O. - The Go! Team
Green Submarine - Flannery Brothers
Open My Eyes - Bangles

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Daydreams - Adele
Because I Said So - Keller Williams
It Had to Be You - Esquivel
Sugar Ant - Caspar Babypants
Don't Worry About the Government - Talking Heads
(I Love the Sound of) Breaking Glass - Nick Lowe
Darwin - Artichoke
Go Out and Play - The Plants
I Don't Wanna Wait - Bill Harley
Baby Brother - Detective Kalita

WM 28: Cena's Final Promo (Suggestion)

World Wrestling Entertainment is building to its annual super event, WrestleMania 28 on Sunday, April 1 from Miami, Florida. The main event is current superstar John Cena versus the "last generation's superstar, "The Rock."

The matchup apparently came from a conversation that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson had with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon in early 2011. Earlier in his career, The Rock had wrestled returning icon Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 18 in 2002. With his acting career at full throttle, Johnson had growing itch to return to the ring. A plan was hatched to have The Rock return at last year's event and cost Cena the title as he challenged The Miz. The following night on RAW, Cena and The Rock shook hands on a singles match for 2012.

The itch grew into a rash last fall and Johnson teamed with Cena at Survivor Series. The storyline made no sense, but The Rock wanted to fulfill another dream - to wrestle again at Madison Square Garden, where he made his WWE debut. PPV numbers were lackluster but fans who did buy the show saw that Johnson was in great shape and eager to perform once again.

Now the WrestleMania promotional machine is going full force. For the past two weeks, Cena and the Rock have closed Monday Night RAW with dueling promos (a combination of scripted monologues and off-the-cuff remarks). Leading up to WM 27 in 2011, The Rock wiped the floor with Cena (and Cena's opponent, the Miz, who was almost an afterthought, even in victory). This time around, the battle has been surprisingly even.

The Rock talks about how the fans are sick of Cena. In response, Cena talks about how he will never leave WWE and his fans, like the Rock did to go into movies.

But if Cena really wants to give a convincing argument, I would suggest the following promo to close the last RAW prior to WM (Monday, March 26):

The Rock says that I'm the problem and he's the solution, but he's got it backwards.

This year is not be the first time we've both wrestled at WrestleMania.

No, we both wrestled at WrestleMania 20. That was back in 2004, when I was a pup, still wet behind the ears, thinking I was the Doctor of Thuganomics.

I was in the curtain-jerker, which is what people in the business call the opening match. As Cody Rhodes showed earlier tonight as one of The Big Show's WrestleMania embarrassments, I won the United States title from him.

Thirty minutes later, The Rock and Mick Foley lost to Evolution - Batista, Randy Orton, and Ric Flair.

Then he disappeared for seven and a half years.

The next year at WrestleMania 21, I defeated JBL for the WWE Championship.

According to The Rock, that's when the problem started.

But I say the problem started when the Rock lost at WrestleMania 20. The problem was, he lost.

See, the year before that, The Rock was in the main event and won. He beat Stone Cold Steve Austin. In 2004, he was waaaaaay down the card, in a tag team match.

Once you've been on top, that's a long way to fall.

Me? I went from being in the curtain-jerker to tearing down the house in the main event.

The Rock? In 2004, he went backstage, shook hands with two or three of the boys, packed up his toys and went home. He went to Hollywood. Made movies. Did well for himself.

The Rock leaving the WWE after WrestleMania 20 was the problem, and I was the solution.

It ate him up that he wasn't in the main event at WrestleMania. And who was? Someone younger, someone more charismatic, someone smarter - let's face it, me.

The Rock says that John Cena is what's wrong with the WWE. Well, you know something, Rock? If I'm the problem, then you have nobody to blame but yourself.

YOU LEFT. You walked out on your fans - these fans - the WWE Universe - the greatest, most loyal and dedicated fans in the world.

This Sunday at WrestleMania, The Rock is in the main event - because I shook his hand and agreed to wrestle him. But that's my spot now. You can't turn back time, Rock. You had your time in the spotlight and now your spotlight is in Hollywood.

My time is now and my spotlight is in this squared circle.

And Rock, you think you can turn back the clock, walk back into MY HOUSE, and push me back to being a CURTAIN-JERKER? If you do, here's a throwback for ya - you can choke on MY NUTS [Cena throws a package of peanuts at The Rock].

Monday, March 05, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Man Or Muppet - Jason Segel & Walter
Lonely Glove - Caspar Babypants
Princess Of China - Coldplay Feat. Rihanna
First Love - Adele
Marry You - Bruno Mars
Hello - Martin Solveig feat. Dragonette
We Are Young (Glee Cast Version) - Glee
Peace And Love - Fountains Of Wayne
Wrong Thing - The Hipwaders
Harry Elefante - Rocknoceros

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Monday, March 5, 2012

Good Morning Tucson - Jonathan Coulton
The Monkeys are Breaking Out - Too Many Cookies
Sacagawea - The Deedle Deedle Dees
Rumour Has It / Someone Like You - Glee
Polka Face - Weird Al Yankovic
Let The Good Times Roll - Harry Nilsson
You Might Think - Weezer
The Happy Vegan Thanksgiving Song - Todd McHatton
Twin Cinema - New Pornographers
Bamboleo/Hero - Glee

Friday, March 02, 2012

Celebrate Earth Through Music

We've got only one planet and Recess Music wants to remind us why that's important.

The fifth release in their acclaimed Celebrate Earth series, La Bella Stella, hits music resellers in time for Earth Day 2012.

A collection of 15 tracks, La Bella Stella features artists such as AudraRox, Rocknoceros, and Charity and the JAMband. If anything, the Recess Music approach is slightly too reverential. The closest thing to a rock-out jam is Andy Z's "Galaxy Song."

Music is a great way to educate and that requires an open mind. I would hate to be called closed-minded because a children's music CD is not something I would listen to on a regular basis. After all, I'm not the target demographic. I'm certainly glad that there's a company like Recess Music producing this series - FIVE CDs so far!

Everyone puts their best foot forward and the song topics over nature, ecology, the solar system, and science. You can't hit children over the head continually with strong messages and except them to like it. La Bella Stella uses a warm, gentle approach to education through entertainment.

I would listen to this CD at home and not in the car, where it might lull me to sleep with its mostly gentle messages. The suggested audience is ages 4-11 and it's definitely right in their wheelhouse.

A portion of the proceeds from CD sales will be donated to the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, New Hampshire.

La Bella Stella is available March 27 through iTunes, Amazon, and the company's home Web site.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Friday, March 2, 2012

You Are the Everything - Redbird
I Wish You Well - Bill Withers
We Are Young (ft. Janelle Monae) - fun.
Tommy Had a Super Towel - Todd McHatton
We Just Won't Be Defeated - The Go! Team
Twirlin' - Mo Phillips
In My Blue Jeans - Rabbit!
Been There, Done That - Eno/Cale
Ruling Me - Weezer
How Come You Never Go There - Feist