Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Friday, March 1, 2013

The Christmas Song – The Raveonettes
Little Little Baby – The Harmonica Pocket 
Green Green Rocky Road – Randy Kaplan  
One of a Kind – Milkshake
Shake It Off!  – Uncle Rock  
Sacagawea – The Deedle Deedle Dees
Just Be – Walt Wilkins
Vote or Don't – They Might Be Giants
Full Tilt – The Not-Its
Holidays – Princess Katie & Racer Steve
Crazy crazy dinner lady – Nick Cope 
Burning Coffee – They Might Be Giants

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, February 28, 2013

a wild one – Justin Roberts
Turning Tables  – Adele
I'm Your Boyfriend Now – They Might Be Giants
Mr. Blue Sky – Billy Kelly & The Blah Blah Blahs 
Balloon Fes – Ozomatli
Carry On  – fun. 
Wimoweh – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights 
Charligan – All
Last First Kiss – One Direction
The Family Song – Preschool Of Rock 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sunny Christmas – Renee & Jeremy
Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin
Did You Feed My Cow? – Ella Jenkins 
Ice Cream Soup – Jambo   
Bag of Dreams – Steven Courtney 
Up All Night – One Direction  
Born To Roll – Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis      
Sunshine – Vered 
Mammal – They Might Be Giants
Worms – Dog On Fleas  

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I Wanna Party – Hot Wings 
Turning Tables – Adele
Beach Party At High Altitude – Jeff Wolin
Wimoweh – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights 
Groovy Day – Jambo
Kiss You – One Direction
Walk or Ride – The Not-Its
Pizza pie – Nick Cope 
Squeeze Please – Yello     
You're On Fire – They Might Be Giants   
Free To Be You And Me – Vanessa Trien & The Jumping Monkeys

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Monday, February 25, 2013

Set Fire To The Rain – Adele
If You Want a Mustache  –  Space Balloons
Participation Trophy – The Not-Its
It's Not Fair to Me – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow
Twirl! Twirl! Twirl! –  Mr. Leebot
Can't Keep Johnny Down – They Might Be Giants 
I'm Dreaming – Randy Newman 
Butterfly –  The Nields
Birthday – Milkshake  
Ho Hey – The Lumineers   
Sacagawea – The Deedle Deedle Dees

Nice Haircut (new podcast)

How many haircuts in a lifetime?

How many haircuts while you still have hair?

Why does it take longer to get a haircut, the less hair you have on your head?

These questions (two out of three, anyway) are asked this week.

Friday, February 22, 2013

New Swagger In WWE Title Picture

Maybe the pot affected his common sense.

Who knows.

But WWE performer Jack Swagger picked a heck of a time to be speeding...while in possession of marijuana.

On its most recent PPV, Swagger bested five other competitors in the "Elimination Chamber" to win a WrestleMania 29 championship match against World heavyweight titleholder Alberto Del Rio.

Jack Swagger and manager Zeb Colter.
The next night on RAW, Swagger and manager Zeb Colter (Dutch Mantel) issued another anti-immigration rant, meant to aggravate Del Rio and build heat for their face-off.

On Tuesday night, following the taping for Smackdown (which airs on Fridays on SyFy), Swagger got in his car and headed off – very fast and apparently very high. Cops pulled him over and charged him with speeding, possession, and DUI.

WWE could have immediately written him out of their plans for WrestleMania, as they had two days to rework Smackdown before it aired. They did not.

Swagger is not out of the woods, however. WWE has in the past used a possession charge to strip a titleholder of his belt (Rob Van Dam). On the other hand, Randy Orton allegedly smoked dope in the building where WWE was taping shows and was never penalized. And WWE Dvia Cameron was arrested for DUI last year and attempted to bribe the police officer. She, too, is still on the active roster.

Swagger should be punished by WWE for his actions. Perhaps he's blown his chances at winning the title any time in the near future. However he is certainly hotter (media-wise) then at any time in his career. And on Monday night, it will be interesting to see how the live crowd reacts to him, knowing his current situation.

If WWE wants to capitalize on the arrest and turn it into some kind of positive, I would propose the following scenario.

Swagger and Colter come to the ring. Swagger wears a suit. He takes the mike and says something like this:

First of all, I want to apologize for my actions last week.

By driving while impaired, I could have seriously injured other motorists or pedestrians.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let me just say... It wasn't my fault.

I love professional wrestling.

I have always loved professional wrestling.

But it's hard.

Hard to learn, hard to compete, hard to become the best.

It's mentally hard and physically hard.

To become the best, you have to put wrestling first. So mentally, you turn off your life. And you turn off any physical pain.

Last year, I suffered a back injury. But I wanted to prove that I was the best, so I turned off the pain until I couldn't turn it off any longer.

During my time off, I found ways to treat the pain in my back. And I put my life back together.

When I was ready to reclaim my spot, I returned to the WWE and entered the Elimination Chamber and won. It was one of the greatest nights of my life.

Did I have any pain in my back? Sure. But I could turn it off.

A few nights later, while I was waiting backstage, a package was delivered to me. There was no return address, so I should have just thrown it away. But I didn't.

Inside was a note saying, "This will help your back pain."

The note was taped to a plastic envelope containing medical marijuana.

I'm not ashamed to say that I have used medical marijuana in the past. Like I said, I suffered from a legitimate back injury and I had a legal prescription.

However, I had no prescription for this medical marijuana and I was in a state where medical marijuana is not legal.

Long story short, you all know what happened.

Whoever sent me that package set me up. Somebody backstage in that arena waited until I had that package in my hands. Then they watched me leave the building and they waited and they called the cops. 

Like I said, it wasn't my fault.

As Zeb Colter says, there are people in this country who don't belong here. And there are people here in the WWE who don't like what he says. They don't like the truth. They want him gone, and they want ME gone.

Well, all they're going to get is the apology you people just heard. 

Alberto Del Rio...I have people investigating that package. And if I find out that you sent it, or that you know who sent it, there will be repercussions.

Alberto Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez
I don't mean just beating you at WrestleMania and taking your title.

I mean taking your passport, and your livelihood, and sending you back where you belong. Out of the WWE, out of this sport, out of this business, out of this country.

At this point, Swagger should be looking into the camera with his back to the ramp.

Alberto Del Rio runs from the ramp and attacks Swagger, ripping his suit off. As Colter tries to interfere, he is tackled by Del Rio's sidekick, Ricardo Rodriguez. Officials have to come to the ring and separate the men.

Working the arrest into storyline, Swagger stays a heel. By accusing Del Rio of being complicit in his arrest, he adds heat to their feud. And if everything works out, "the authorities" can come forward at a later time and reveal who DID frame Swagger, leading to the next feud.

Or the WWE can just punt, and take Swagger out of the title match. They didn't change Smackdown, so clearly they're waiting to see the public reaction. Well, here's my reaction. Your move, booking committee.

Miss Nina Looks Out for the Kids

First impressions can be deceiving.

I was going to write off Miss Nina as just another children's music performer, not on par with an Audrarox or Princess Katie. Then I took a closer look at the liner notes. Nina Stone is "all about the kids," as she puts it.

"It's common nowadays for performers to tailor their children's music to reflect the parents' musical tastes," she says. "But honestly, I'm a passionate advocate for children. I believe some of the power [of music] is lost if the performer is bent on producing carbon copies of adult music packaged for little ones."

Now dem's fighting words!

Instead, Nina turns her perspective to the preschool set and uses some literary references on her new CD, SHA DOO BE DOOP. "The Brown Bear Rap" incorporates the Eric Carle/Bill Martin classic into song. "Wild Things" pays tribute to Maurice Sendak.

Considering her audience demographic and mission statement, songs like "Wash Our Hands" and "Ridin' In My Car" are no surprise. The rocking "Angry Song" validates the emotions that kids feel when things don't go their way:

This is my angry song
When everything is going wrong
I'm mad and sad and full of steam
And all I want to do is yell and scream

SHA DOO BE DOOP may not be groundbreaking but it does offer easy themes, gentle encouragement, and positive reinforcement, with a dash of rock on the side.  A former Gymboree instructor, Brooklyn resident Nina currently teachers music and is expecting her first child. I expect some lullabies to follow in the future.

SHA DOO BE DOOP will be available on April 16 from Miss Nina's website, Little Monster Records, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is her video for the song "Clap, Clap, Clap Your Hands":

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Friday, February 22, 2013

Jingle Bells – Renee & Jeremy
What'd I Say – Ray Charles
Days That End In "Y" – Kepi Ghoulie
Millions of Things – Like Totally!
Grumpy Boy – Steve Songs
Just Be – Walt Wilkins
Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart – Fountains Of Wayne
Try it – Milkshake   
Tell Me A Lie – One Direction  
Burning Coffee – They Might Be Giants

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, February 21, 2013

Vote or Don't  – They Might Be Giants
Miss Elephant's Gerald  – The Pop Ups
Worms  – Dog On Fleas
The Owie Song   – David Tobocman 
I Would  – One Direction
My Eraser  – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow
Thank You and Goodnight  – Uncle Rock
Let's Go  – Matt & Kim  
Carry On  – fun. 
Washing Machine  – Milkshake  
Mammal  – They Might Be Giants

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Set Fire To The Rain – Adele
Swinging on a Star – Zak Morgan
Chasing Pavements – Glee
Rainbow – Milkshake   
Sacagawea – The Deedle Deedle Dees
DeeDee Taught Me How To Count – Kepi Ghoulie
Anything Could Happen – Ellie Goulding      
Electricity Man – Karlee Dean and Bill Goffrier       
The Family Song – Preschool Of Rock

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Turning Tables – Adele
The Christmas Song – The Raveonettes
What Will You Ever See? – Lunch Money
Summer Love – One Direction 
Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart – Fountains Of Wayne
Anything Could Happen – Glee   
One of a Kind – Milkshake    
Lose My Mind – The Wanted
Hot Shot – Princess Katie & Racer Steve

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Monday, February 18, 2013

Exactly Where I Want To Be – Grenadilla 
count them as they go – Justin Roberts
A Road Song – Fountains Of Wayne 
Ride In My Little Red Wagon – Willie & The Wheel
I'm Your Boyfriend Now – They Might Be Giants
Counting Backwards – Throwing Muses
Junior Ranger – Kirshel Augustine
Rocketfuel  – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Groovy Day – Jambo
More Than Me – Milkshake
Wimoweh – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights 

Communication Breakdown (new podcast)

I suffered through a few communication breakdowns this one.

One involved getting an updated prescription for additional physical therapy.

The other concerned the reimbursement for transporting our son to and from school during the current school bus drivers' strike.

An explanation of the phenomenon and how I dealt with both instances.

Listen and learn!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Friday, February 15, 2013

Set Fire To The Rain – Adele
Bag of Dreams – Steven Courtney
In A Timeout Now – Randy Kaplan
Sacagawea – The Deedle Deedle Dees
Mister E – Zak Morgan
Good Time – Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen 
Full Tilt – The Not-Its
Workin' Kid – Milkshake         
Up All Night – One Direction

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, February 14, 2013

Makin' Wickey-Wackey Down in Waikiki – The Moonlighters
How Can I Sing Like A Girl?  – They Might Be Giants
Participation Trophy – The Not-Its
Superhero You – Steve Songs
Explore, Learn, and Protect – Jeff Wolin   
Mr. Blue Sky – Billy Kelly & The Blah Blah Blahs 
Shake It Off! – Uncle Rock
Wimoweh – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
Tip Toe Thru the Tulips – Milkshake         
Worms – Dog On Fleas
Spicy Kid – Lunch Money

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Planes, Trains and Automobiles – Henning Ohlenbusch
Days That End In "Y" – Kepi Ghoulie
Accentuate the Positive – NRBQ 
Turning Tables – Adele
You Look Good in the Rain – Uncle Rock 
The Owie Song – David Tobocman
I Am A Scientist – Mates Of State
Junior Ranger – Kirshel Augustine 
Fart Like a Pirate – Papa Crow 
Catch My Breath – Kelly Clarkson   
Let 'em Know – Milkshake
Zou bisou bisou – Gillian Hills
Burning Coffee – They Might Be Giants   

Hey Cabbie! (new podcast)

The school bus drivers strikes is finishing its four week.

During that time, I've had to take the railroad and taxis to get my son to school.

Here are some stories about riding in cabs during the past month.

Plus a washing machine update, a PT update, and some notes on my ongoing eBay saga.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ayo – Play Date
Free To Be You And Me – Vanessa Trien & The Jumping Monkeys
The Plumbing Song – Weird Al Yankovic
The Scientist – Glee
Set Fire To The Rain – Adele 
Mammal – They Might Be Giants
Busy – The Not-Its
Water – Ozomatli
We Just Wanna Have Fun – Milkshake     
This Is the New Year – Ian Axel      

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Monday, February 11, 2013

a wild one – Justin Roberts
Miss Elephant's Gerald  – The Pop Ups
They Don't Know About Us – One Direction
Come To California – The Hipwaders
Chloe – Grouplove
If You Want a Mustache – Space Balloons
Sacagawea – The Deedle Deedle Dees
Whole lotta fun – Nick Cope
National Fossil Day – Jeff Wolin   
Millions of Things – Like Totally! 

Friday, February 08, 2013

Is This the Final Straw for Milkshake?

Baltimore's own Milkshake are back with their fifth CD, GOT A MINUTE?.  And they are seriously considering making it their final CD as a band. Why? They're growing up.

What, you say? But they're adults. How can adults grow up?

In order to explain, I'll need to digress from the band for a minute.

From my experiences, there are three types of children's musicians:
  1. Beloved veteran – Raffi, Bill Harley
  2. Dedicated pro – Dan Zanes, Laurie Berkner
  3. Intriguing newcomer – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, Billy Kelly, Joanie Leeds
The figurative "graveyard of children's recording artists" is littered with one album wonders, who thought it would be an easy market to conquer.

On the adjacent property fall those artists who recorded for a finite period of time, and then stopped to deal with real world issues or to segue into other areas of the business.

Berkner started her career a decade ago, prior to having children. Now she's started a family and renewed her motivation to maintain the mantle of one of the most requested children's recording artists.

Like many musicians, Roger Day entered the children's recording arena when his kids were fairly young. As he told me once, "My earliest songs are the simplest, motion-type songs." As his children grew older, the concepts in his recordings became more sophisticated. In fact, his most recent CD, Why Does Grey Matter?, is a concept album to teach kids why education is important.

Like Day, Milkshake's Lisa Mathews and Mikel Gehl's children appear on their recordings. It's family music in the literal sense. As the kids become part of the music, they are captured at that age forever. The music turns into a time capsule. But the people move on. And the four year distance since their last CD, GREAT DAY, is a chasm in a child's life.

According to Lisa and Mikel, Milkshake was conceived almost as an organic part of their kids' childhoods. Each recording fit the developmental stage of their children's lives. Now that the kids are hitting their teen years, do they really need to be singing "Clap My Hands"?

GOT A MINUTE? works on two levels. First, it anthologizes the band's early one-minute recordings for PBS KIDS and adds another 20 short, zesty songs. Second, it encapsulates the group's spirit as if to remind you, "This is Milkshake – remember them."

The band sings about odd jobs ("Workin' Kid Blues"), recycling ("This Is Our Earth"), and pollution ("Washing Machine"):

If the world could fit in my backyard
Well, keeping it clean wouldn't be so hard.
So that's why I say
We all have a part to play.

You also get a jaunty cover of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips," best known as a novelty tune made famous by Tiny Tim. Once again, a one-hit fluke changes from kitsch to hip as it travels through the looking glass to a new generation.

Likely Lisa, Mikel, and their crew have more to say. They may have outgrown the vehicle known as Milkshake but their followers are also growing up. There's a difference between growing up and moving on. Take a little time to enjoy Milkshake while they're still with us.

GOT A MINUTE? is available on March 26 from the band's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is a video of one of their PBS KIDS songs, "It's My Birthday":

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Friday, February 8, 2013

Sunny Christmas – Renee & Jeremy
Turning Tables – Adele
Why is the sky blue? – Nick Cope
Thousand Years  – Christina Perri      
Little Little Baby – The Harmonica Pocket
On the Greener Side – Michelle Shocked
Turtle Up, Turtle DownvJeff Wolin       
Worms – Dog On Fleas
Same Mistakes – One Direction

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, February 7, 2013

Some Nights – Glee
Set Fire To The Rain – Adele  
Green Green Rocky Road – Randy Kaplan
Let Me In – Zak Morgan
When Can I See You Again – Owl City
Twirl! Twirl! Twirl! – Mr. Leebot 
Beach Party At High Altitude – Jeff Wolin        
Thaddeus Kosciuszko Polka – Trout Fishing In America       
Wimoweh – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, February 6, 2013

easier to do – Justin Roberts 
Turning Tables  – Adele
Gingerbread Man – Lunch Money
Chickens and Dinosaurs – The Ukulady
Butterfly – The Nields
Good Time – Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen
Burning Coffee – They Might Be Giants
Junior Ranger – Kirshel Augustine       
Electric Fever – Free Energy    
Lose My Mind  – The Wanted

Monday, February 04, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Exactly Where I Want To Be – Grenadilla
Makin' Wickey-Wackey Down in Waikiki  – The Moonlighters
Don't Speak – Glee
The Plumbing Song – Weird Al Yankovic
Grumpy Boy – Steve Songs
Worms – Dog On Fleas
Mammal – They Might Be Giants
Hideous Sweater – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow      
Love Song – Sara Bareilles    
Thank You and Goodnight – Uncle Rock

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Monday, February 4, 2013

Set Fire To The Rain – Adele
Kindhearted Babysitter Blues  – Randy Kaplan
Explore, Learn, and Protect – Jeff Wolin      
Bag of Dreams – Steven Courtney
Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin
Heart Attack – One Direction  
Stop at a Mom N' Pop – Uncle Rock 
Celebration – They Might Be Giants  
Give Me Back My Hat  – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow        
Spelunca Funka – Dee Dee Graves      

Laundry Man (new podcast)

My mother decided I should start doing my own laundry when I started college and continued to live at home.

Here are my mostly self-taught memories from that period and beyond.

(Spoiler alert - Something happened 36 hours after recording this podcast that will necessitate an epilogue next week.)

Friday, February 01, 2013

Wide Open Spaces Beckon Junior Rangers

I don't recall Yogi Bear's nemesis, Ranger Smith, doing much singing.

Ranger Jeff Wolin is another story. On SONGS FOR JUNIOR RANGERS, Wolin wrote and/or musically arranged, performed, and coordinated the production of 19 original songs about a wide variety of national park themes, resources, and geographical locales, as interpretive learning tools to help diverse youth connect with the national parks.

Wolin accompanies himself on guitar and performed the songs across the country at a variety of Park Service and Department of the Interior special events. As the idea of producing a Junior Ranger music album began to take shape, he started collaborative partnerships between his Colorado park (Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument) and the Washington Office, the National Park Foundation, Eastern National Cooperating Association, and New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park.

Make no mistake about it – there's a wide variety of music on the disc (from surf guitar on "Beach Party on High Altitude" to rap on "Wapiti Hoppity"). However the agenda is education and bringing new, young, open minds (and bodies) into the wild blue yonder of our American national parks.

A whole cadre of artists, from Trout Fishing in America (aptly named and positioned on the CD) to Aaron Nigel Smith participated in the project. Their enthusiasm comes through clearly and (thankfully) not too earnestly. TFIA's song, "Thaddues Kosciuzcko Polka," celebrates the Polish-born patriot who helped win the American Revolution:

Now he and Thomas Jefferson share the same views...Thaddeus Kosciuszko
Were created equal a self evident truth...Thaddeus Kosciuszko
The Declaration of Independence spells it very clear
And it is said that when Thaddeus read it, he was brought it tears. 

There's almost too much to cover on the 20 tracks in the collection, which is billed as Volume 1 of who knows how many. Lyrics are included in a booklet with spectacular nature photogaphs, and you get a map copy of the Junior Ranger Game.

If you have a hankering for nature, or want to get your kids to appreciate the world around them (and not just the mall and skate park), here's a (forgive the pun) natural way to introduce the topic. SONGS FOR JUNIOR RANGERS won't give you poison ivy, won't attract mosquitoes, and just might teach your kids about the great outdoors.

SONGS FOR JUNIOR RANGERS is available through the eParks website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is a video for "Explore Learn and Protect" featuring Ranger Jeff: