Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Turning Tables – Adele
no matter how far – Justin Roberts
Summer Love – One Direction
Wimoweh – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
Thank You and Goodnight – Uncle Rock
Flat Stanley – Play Date
Stand Up – Kira Willey
Clap Your Hands – The Time Outs
Join a Rock and Roll Band –  Dean Jones
Up Periscope – Recess Monkey
National Fossil Day – Jeff Wolin

Kindiefest 2013 Peaks Early, Winds Down Slowly

Kindiefest is always an experience.

Our experience is always different from other people, for a number of reasons.

As a D-list reviewer/blogger, I've been attending since the early (Stink) days at Jalopy in Red Hook.

Now Kindiefest has evolved into a whole movement and we attend the annual "family concert" that closes out the event on Sunday.

Two years ago, with a six-month-old (Matthew) in the house, it was just me and Ben. Last year, Matthew made his debut and we all attended. This year we were all set for BAM. And then my wife ate some bad mushrooms (in a hamburger from Five Guys). With her out of commission, I packed everything into one bag and headed off with the kids.

Robbi K and Friends
After some prior nightmares with traffic due to scheduling conflicts with the Five Boro Bike Tour,  this year's commute was uneventful. I even pre-paid for parking across the street from the venue. Arriving 90 minutes late, we said a quick hello to co-founder Stephanie and hurried into the theater in time for Robbi K and friends.
Backed by a drummer and bass player, Robbi played a pretty mellow set that included a cover of Ella Fitzgerald's version of "My Favorite Things." For the finale, she brought out a rooster puppet. It made an impression on Matt, who mentioned the "singing chicken" when we got home that night.

In previous years, I've brought a camcorder and taken videos of many performances. Since the room was packed (and dark), we sat on the floor. Matt plopped himself into my lap and I fired up the camcorder. Less than a minute later, an usher whispered in my ear, "Still pictures only." Alas, I had left my daguerreotype at home, which left me with an iPhone 3 with less-than-steller clarity.

The next performers were the (very) high energy Dirty Sock Funtime Band (DSFB). Suffice to say, if we were still sitting on the floor by the end of the set, you must have been stuck to some gummy bears or chewed crackers. The band played a boisterous dance set with enough energy to lighten the entire room.

As they took the stage, I remembered that my iPhone has the (primitive) uStream video app. Disabling the wi-fi to extend the battery life, I glommed the opening number of the set:

The DSFB have a decent following. They were regular performers on Jack's Big Music Show, which Ben used to watch when he was younger. Unfortunately, I recorded several episodes onto a DVD. The DVD then skipped. And if you know anything about spectrum kids, they fear anything unexpected. So we could never play that DVD again. Nor did he want to watch live episodes, thinking THEY would skip as well.

Dirty Sock Funtime Band
By the third number, the DSFB had loaded the stage with more than one dozen singers and performers. That's pretty impressive. And I was kicking myself for not recording their last song, "Dino-Soaring," which included funky choreography from everybody on the stage.

After the DSFB left the stage, something happened. It was to be expected, since this was the "headlining" act and they were done two-and-a-half hours into the (close to) four hour show. Basically, the majority of the crowd got up and left. They vamoosed. We hit the bathrooms and by the time we came back, Matt Pryor (The Terrible Twos), was on stage before a sparse audience. One would think this was the opening act, not the sixth act on the bill.

Matt Pryor aka The Terrible Twos
We've got two of the Terrible Twos CDs and enjoyed them. "When I Get to 11" is a great kid's song and Matt held the (existing) audience with his repartee. Ben yelled "Old Man Miller!" during a between-song lull. I was afraid it had thrown Pryor, who said, "This next song is about a porcupine." Ben immediately smiled, since the opening line of the song is "Old Man Miller is a porcupine." I think Pryor was happy that in this near-vacant room, he had a vocal fan.

The final performance was from the David Wax Museum. This was intriguing – a guitar, a violin, and a dancer, doing spanish-tinged songs. I felt bad that more of the crowd had not stayed to hear them. Perhaps some lineup juggling needs to be implemented in the future, separating one or two "bigger" acts or shortening the event to three hours to stem the departure flood rate.
The David Wax Museum

Violinst Sue Slezak did walk around the room, at one point standing on a chair next to Ben while she played. It made the performance much more interactive than if they had stayed on the stage. Then again, since the remaining audience had backed from the riser, it gave David and Sue (and their dancer) a chance to bring their music directly to the people who stayed to hear them.

I was happy to reconnect with Facebook/kindie stalwarts Karen and Dave, otherwise known as the "luckiest raffle winners in Brooklyn." After the show, I said hi to Out With the Kids' Jeff Bogle and Gooney Bird Kids' Gwyneth before the attendants bum-rushed us to the lobby. Missed PR maven Beth by minutes, tho.

There was far less interaction between the bands themselves. Last year, Bari Koral was joined on stage by Joanie Leeds, Suzi Shelton, and SteveSongs (click through to see the videos). When Steve (the headliner) did his set, Bari came back up with Ralph Covert (Ralph's World), and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo (videos here). I was not aware of anything like that occurring in 2013.

BAM Fisher is a great space when it's full. Empty, not so great. But it's accessible and certainly a "class A" facility, as my father would say. We were sorry to miss the first three acts, but Ben has a Hebrew school commitment on Sunday mornings that will hinder us for a few more years.

Still, we look forward to Kindiefest's family concert every year. North Hempstead's Kidstock is growing on us, but remains a close second (access to the waterfront is a plus). Kudos to organizers Stephanie, Tor, Mona, and Bill. We'll see you next spring!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Set Fire To The Rain – Adele
Crazy crazy dinner lady – Nick Cope
Don't Dream It's Over – Glee
Lullaby Arms – Johnny Angel Wendell
Prehensile Grip – Dean Jones
The Owie Song – David Tobocman
Beach Party At High Altitude – Jeff Wolin
Holidays – Princess Katie & Racer Steve
Choral Reef – Recess Monkey
Mammal – They Might Be Giants

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 29, 2013

Stand With Me – Dean Jones
Moonshadow – Sara Hickman
Winter Wonderland – Renee & Jeremy
Lose My Mind – The Wanted
Gaia She Knows – The Hipwaders
Whole lotta fun – Nick Cope
Squeeze Please – Yello
Rocketfuel – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Mammal – They Might Be Giants
Sacagawea – The Deedle Deedle Dees

Kindiefest comments coming tomorrow or Tuesday!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 26, 2013

Beautiful – Carly Rae Jepsen Feat. Justin Bieber
Brian Wilson – Barenaked Ladies
Carry On – fun.
Shrimp – Recess Monkey
Red – Taylor Swift
Groovy Day – Jambo
Heart Attack – Demi Lovato
I'm Your Boyfriend Now – They Might Be Giants
Four Presidents – Johnette Downing

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 25, 2013

Makin' Wickey-Wackey Down in Waikiki – The Moonlighters
Set Fire To The Rain – Adele
Burning Coffee – They Might Be Giants
At The Zoo – Simon & Garfunkel
Love Factory – Mary Kaye
Shakin' Shakin' – The Little Rockers Band
Beach Ball – Recess Monkey
I Would – One Direction
Human Bean – Dean Jones
Is She a Girl or Is She a Monkey – Randy Kaplan
El Jefe – Mexican Institute of Sound

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 24, 2013

a wild one – Justin Roberts
Wimoweh – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
Superhero You – Steve Songs
Beach Party At High Altitude – Jeff Wolin
You Gotta Hold It – The Hipwaders
Bus Ride – Mary Kaye
Backyard Camping – Ratboy Jr.
Tambourine Submarine – Recess Monkey
Circus Days – The Dreamtree Shakers
Worms – Dog On Fleas

Recess Monkey Dives to New Heights

Many people still blame Yoko Ono for "breaking up the Beatles," when in fact Paul McCartney was the first one to leave. But just imagine if John Lennon had left the group and been replaced by someone else. Remember, the Yardbirds replaced Eric Clapton with Jeff Beck and went on their merry way.

Last October, Recess Monkey drummer Daron Henry announced that he was leaving the popular children's music trio "to explore new adventures with my wife and family." Sound familiar? I don't want to paint Daron's wife as the kindie equivalent of Yoko Ono, but this is the group that named one of their earliest CDs TABBY ROAD as a tribute to the Beatles. The press release even refers to their newest release as the "blue album"!

Then again, the Beatles were a quartet and Recess Monkey is merely a trio. There's already an example of a famous three-man act that lost one performer and kept going for decades – the Three Stooges! After Curly suffered a stroke, the boys brought back Shemp Howard, then Joe Besser, and ultimately Joe DeRita. Okay, it's a stretch. But Recess Monkey (with original members Jack Forman and Drew Holloway ) has always delivered lots of laughs – almost as much fun as a barrel of monkeys.

Recess Monkey's latest CD, DEEP SEA DIVER, features new drummer Korum "Shemp" Bischoff. It's a fun collection of tunes that continues the band's progression into the realm of conceptual material (thankfully not world music). The songs have a nautical thrust, from the opener, "Tambourine Submarine" through "Choral Reef" and "Seagull."

"Fish Sticks" recounts the story of an underwater drummer who can play any form of music with his drum sticks. And "Shrimp" reminds height-deficient children that they retain certain advantages over their taller brethren:

But did you ever think about the things a shrimp can do? 
Like sneak under the rail when you're at the zoo? 
Playin' hide and seek they won't see you 
Cause your body's even shorter than Pikachu

DEEP SEA DIVER is part one of a 2013 theme set. The CD ends with the haunting "Stranded." Ostensively about a best friend moving away, it sets the stage for DESERT ISLAND DISC, coming this fall. The followup imagines Recess Monkey after being set adrift on their own for four months. Hmm...depending on the food options, they could realistically come back as a duo.

It's thrilling to hear a band like Recess Monkey push themselves into new territory and not simply repeat their past successes. This is especially difficult since its "target audience" ages out of the demographic every 4-5 years, replaced by a new crop of eager ears.

Guest performers on DEEP SEA DIVER include producer Johnny Bregar, the ubiquitous Dean Jones (Dog on Fleas), and trumpeter Tom Baisden (The Not-Its). The list of plaudits and accolades for the band goes on and on. Perhaps it was the weight of expectations that drove the band to their new direction. If so, chalk it up as as good thing.

The year 2013 finds Recess Monkey heading in a new direction and they sound rested and energetic. They use the aquatic theme to reach some clever ends. "Up Periscope" is the terminology of a child locating a new friend in his classroom. "Tattoo Me" discusses the (hopefully) transient nature of artwork applied to arms and other extremities. Take the plunge with DEEP SEA DIVER and set sail for some musical hijinks. And look forward to the band moving even further into its future later this year.

DEEP SEA DIVER is available on Tuesday, June 18 from the band's website, Amazon, CDBABY, iTunes, and many other retailers.

Here is the video for "The Dancing Bear," from last year's IN TENTS CD:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Jobs Jobs Jobs (new podcast)

My office is being renovated for the first time in 15 years.
Due to the ongoing nature of the work, I am being actually forced to telecommute from home this week.
While doing so, it reminded me of a whole host of jobs that I've held, that led me to my current position.
Here are some stories of employment, from age 16 to 26.

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Exactly Where I Want To Be – Grenadilla
Turning Tables – Adele
What Will You Ever See? – Lunch Money
Counting Backwards – Throwing Muses
Electric Fever –  Free Energy
Let's Be Friends – Jambo
Sacagawea – The Deedle Deedle Dees
I Got Plenty O' Nuttin' – Randy Kaplan
Snail Mail –  Dean Jones

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 22, 2013

Set Fire To The Rain – Adele
Why is the sky blue? – Nick Cope
Up All Night – One Direction
When the World Was New – Dean Jones
Gaia She Knows – The Hipwaders
Walk or Ride – The Not-Its
Mammal – They Might Be Giants
Breakfast – Ratboy Jr.
The Kid Is All Id  – Randy Kaplan
Water – Ozomatli

Friday, April 19, 2013

Dean Jones' New World is Head of the Class

When we saw Uncle Rock (Robert Burke Warren) perform at Symphony Space in December, he told us, "The most fun I ever had in a recording studio was working with Dean Jones."

Judging by Jones' latest release, WHEN THE WORLD WAS NEW, Robert is not alone in his sentiments. Jones takes a mouthful like "Prehensile Grip" and answers the question, "Would we ever have become the top of the food chain...without prehensile grip?" The tune is so gosh darn catchy and sounds like it came right from a 1970s afterschool special.

"Snail Mail" is the boogified story of the U.S. Postal Service. Yes, a children's song about the joy of old-fashioned mail delivery. "It might take a little longer to get to me, but then I know how much I mean to you, too," he remarks.

"Human Bean" talks about how little babies (pre-birth) all look like beans. And that every animal looks the same way. "We're all beans inside our suits," he sings, before the trumpet solo. The title track asks, "What did we do when the world was new? Did we watch each other's backs? There were a lot of predators? People were the snacks," and then explains how people learned to stick together and beat the odds.

As the leader of Dog on Fleas, Dean has built a solid following in upstate New York as well as nationally through airplay on SiriusXM's Kids Place Live. The keyword to his style seems to be "quirky," which is not a bad thing. In this case, there's nothing wrong with being quirky. It's the quirky kids that can be the most fun, the most unpredictable, and the most memorable. Dean Jones is all of those things.

The lone exception to the mirth and merriment is the Natalie Merchant-esque "Stand With Me," with lead vocals by Shamsi Ruhe. Billed as an anti-bullying song, the song posits that the world is a better place when everyone plays by the same rules:

Will another Victor Jara or Martin Luther King come our way? 
I don't know.
But if we all stand together and be a little brave, 
you never know where we'll go.

One can only imagine a world where everyone stood with Dean Jones and produced as much well-respected and respectable children's music.

WHEN THE WORLD WAS new is available May 14 from the Dog on Fleas' website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for Dean Jones' "Snail Mail":

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 19, 2013

I Wanna Party – Hot Wings
Turning Tables – Adele
Burning Coffee – They Might Be Giants
Just Be – Walt Wilkins
Twirl! Twirl! Twirl! – Mr. Leebot
Fart Like a Pirate – Papa Crow
Space Kid And Banana – Ratboy Jr.
Pizza pie – Nick Cope
Spicy Kid – Lunch Money
Balloon Fest – Ozomatli
¡Sí Se Puede! – The Deedle Deedle Dees
Rainbow – Milkshake

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Christmas Song – The Raveonettes    
Crazy crazy dinner lady – Nick Cope 
Set Fire To The RainvAdele
OK By Me – Johnny Angel Wendell  
Hot Shot – Princess Katie & Racer Steve 
Full Tilt – The Not-Its   
Brilliance – The Underbirds 
Sacagawea – The Deedle Deedle Dees 
Noite De Lembrar – Márcio Faraco 
Guitar Pickin' Chicken – Ratboy Jr.     

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Are You a Mirror (...Or a Window?) – Quiet Company 
Change of Heart – Steve Weeks
Sunshine – Vered
Butterfly – The Nields
Here Comes Peter Cottontail – The Hipwaders
They're Red Hot – Randy Kaplan 
State Of Grace – Taylor Swift
Mammal – They Might Be Giants  
Pretend Your Hand's A Puppet – Ratboy Jr.  
Worms – Dog On Fleas

Monday, April 15, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Don't Dream It's Over – Glee
Let's Go – Matt & Kim
Turning Tables – Adele 
Excellent Birds – Laurie Anderson       
You're On Fire – They Might Be Giants
Shake It Off! – Uncle Rock
If You Want a Mustache – Space Balloons
Stand Up – Kira Willey
Upside Down – Ratboy Jr.    
Come To California – The Hipwaders

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 15, 2013

Green Green Rocky Road – Randy Kaplan
Set Fire To The Rain – Adele
Workin' Kid – Milkshake
Buy Nothing Day – The Go! Team
Flat Stanley – Play Date
Go Plane Go – Kira Willey
Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin 
Sacagawea – The Deedle Deedle Dees
Alligator – Mary Kaye       
How To Eat A Cloud – Ratboy Jr.

Those Pesky Food Allergies! (new podcast)

I ate everything I wanted to until college.

Then, as a result of avoiding dairy for 10 days to stave off excess mucus during a bad cold, I developed a lactose intolerance.

Things steamrolled from there.

And now my kids have food allergies as well.

Nature or nurture or nuts?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Hooray! I Smell a Ratboy Jr.!

Two guys can make a lot of noise.

I know this first-hand (from being a kid) and (from being an adult) listening to Ratboy Jr.'s new CD, CHAMPIONS OF THE UNIVERSE. Tim Sutton and Matty Senzatimore like to get children up and moving. Dancing, shaking, singing, clapping. In other words, participating in the experience. And that can get pretty loud.

But don't think the CD isn't educational. The guys are fully aware of their moral responsibility to youth and provide solid lesson plans, such as "How to Eat a Cloud" and "Pretend Your Hand's a Puppet."

Ratboy Jr. also are not afraid to ask the hard questions. For instance, in the song "Upside Down":

What would happen if the world were upside down?
Would it make my smile look like a frown?
Would the fish fall out of the sea?
Would my pockets always be empty?
What would happen if the world were upside down?

The song mentions how Lionel Richie sang happily about dancing on the ceiling. And we get a chorus of that tune.

Mostly produced by Dean Jones (Dog on Fleas), CHAMPIONS OF THE UNIVERSE is 15 tracks of kid-friendly whimsy and byplay. The duo wonder "Where Do Monsters Go (After Halloween)?" and herald the wonders of the "Guitar-Pickin' Chicken." No wonder they've found and kept a satisfied following in the upstate New York's Hudson Valley.

I put a rush on this review because once I opened the CD, Ben had already asked me twice, "Where's Ratboy Jr.?" High praise indeed, that the 12-year-old couldn't wait for an adult to finish with the serious analysis so he could use it for its intended purpose – juvenile entertainment.

CHAMPIONS OF THE UNIVERSE is available at the band's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for "Guitar-Pickin' Chicken":

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 12, 2013

Delicious – Orange Sherbert 
Sunny Christmas – Renee & Jeremy
Set Fire To The Rain – Adele 
Swinging on a Star – Zak Morgan
Rocketfuel – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
I Am A Scientist – Mates Of State
Fart Like a Pirate – Papa Crow
Mammal  – They Might Be Giants
Love Factory – Mary Kaye     
We Are All One Kind – Jambo
Birthday – Milkshake

No Language Barrier for Latin Dreamland

There's a fine line I walk with world music. While I don't consider myself innately xenophobic, I do miss many of the intricacies and differences between similar, yet disparate foreign cultures. That can be frustrating and annoying, especially when I scan other reviews by people who marvel at the natural tonality or native charm of these performers.

Having dug myself into a hole, let me state for the record that Putumayo Kids' new CD, LATIN DREAMLAND, is a fine compilation of songs. The company has collected recordings representing artists from Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, Mexico, and Peru. The 10 tracks range from traditional classics to reinterpretations of famous fables.

Pamela Rodriguez (Peru) sings "Cunita de Hielo (por Triste)," about the children of the South who sleep in cold climates and need their mothers to keep them warm:

Sleep my child, sleep
In your little cradle of forgotten memories
Dream, my child, dream
That an angel is bringing you warmth

Now that's COLD.

Brazilian Reginaldo Frazatto Jr. sings "A Jardineira (A Gardnerer)," a song first recorded in 1938 at a much faster tempo for Carnaval. In the song, a female gardener mourns the loss of one of her flowers. The singer tells her, "Don't by sad, my love, you are much prettier than the flower." Somehow I can just picture a Brazilian saying that, only as a pickup line.

LATIN DREAMLAND clocks in at a swift 28 minutes, which is to be expected from children's lullabies. The production is lively and full (listen to some tracks on headphones) with orchestrations that will go over the heads of most young children. Still, you don't need translations to convey the mode and magic that these performers bring to these songs.

LATIN DREAMLAND is available from the Putumayo website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 11, 2013

Your Sweet Baby Blues – Johnny Angel Wendell
Turning Tables  – Adele
Last First Kiss – One Direction 
Clap Your Hands – The Time Outs
Vote or Don't – They Might Be Giants
Superman – Glee 
Sacagawea – The Deedle Deedle Dees 
Just Not Me – The Hipwaders
No, No, No – The Little Rockers Band  
Bus Ride – Mary Kaye  
Rainbow –  Milkshake

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Red River Valley –  James McMurtry       
Makin' Wickey-Wackey Down in Waikiki – The Moonlighters
Chickens and Dinosaurs – The Ukulady
Jingle Bells – Renee & Jeremy 
Wimoweh –  Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
In A Timeout Now – Randy Kaplan 
Tell Me A Lie –  One Direction
Rolling Down the Hill   – Mary Kaye    
Busy – The Not-Its  
Worms – Dog On Fleas

Celebrate Earth Day With Magic (Bus)

Earth Day is coming!

Are you prepared? Who really is?

I'll tell you who's prepared – this year, close to one billion people will participate in Earth Day activities, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

To get your kids in the right frame of mind for Earth Day, Scholastic is releasing THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS: ALL ABOUT EARTH. The DVD features three all-new, previously unreleased episodes of the long-running Emmy-winning science adventure series, plus a bonus episode, "The Magic School Bus All Dried Up."

Episodes include "The Magic School Bus Goes to Seed," where the class' garden is going to be featured on the cover of Plant It! Magazine, but Phoebe's garden plot is glaringly empty; "The Magic School Bus Blows its Top," which explains volcanoes and shows Ms. Frizzles class how the earth makes islands, and "The Magic School Bus Goes on Air," about the mysteries and miracles of air pressure.

For more information on this title or any other Scholastic Storybook Treasures release, visit Newkideo.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Set Fire To The Rain – Adele 
Chasing Pavements – Glee
I'm Dreaming – Randy Newman 
Little Things – One Direction
Free To Be You And Me – Vanessa Trien & The Jumping Monkeys
I Love Music (feat. Wordsmith) – Rhymezwell  
Bag of Dreams – Steven Courtney
Come To California – The Hipwaders
Pizza pie – Nick Cope

Cena Victorious at WrestleMania 29, Now We All Suffer

Another WrestleMania is in the books.

The Undertaker chalked up another victory (that's 21-0 if you're still counting).

HHH broke his two-year losing streak. After staying behind the scenes since last August, he returned to sabotage next year's main event (but I'll get to that later).

Meanwhile, Antonio Cesaro, one of the WWE's standout performers, could not even get a spot on the pre-show.

But one thing remained constant. Since 2005, the face of the company (John Cena) was in a dominant position on the card. In fact, when the show signed off, The Rock had seemingly endorsed Cena, the man who had defeated him in the main event.

WWE was happy. Women and children were happy. Pay per view distributors were happy. Local merchants were happy. Independent wrestling promoters and wrestlers who booked and grappled on "tagalong" events in the vicinity of MetLife Stadium in New Jersey were happy.

There was just one thing wrong with this rosy picture. John Cena has not one new damn opponent under the sun to wrestle. Brock Lesnar? Beat him last year. Randy Orton (soon to turn heel)? Spent a whole year fighting him. Big Show? Their matches go back to the curtain jerker at WrestleMania 20. HHH? Beat him in the main event of WM22. Wade Barrett? They did that as part of the Nexus feud. Sheamus? Been there, done that. The Miz? Spent six months ruining him. CM Punk? Done as the setup for Mania this year, as well as the latter half of 2011. Etc., etc.

Unless Mark Henry's victory over Ryback was the setup for challenging Cena, there are precious few "new" options for the WWE's golden boy. And that's a problem for all of us, as well as for them (Cena already faced Ryback in a three-way with Punk last winter).

Rock vs Cena was touted last year as "Once in a Lifetime" and made so much money that the WWE felt they had to redo the match in 2013, this time with a title at stake. But it exposed an underlining weakness in the promotion's booking…the ability to get behind a performer – any performer who is not Cena – and stick the proverbial "rocket up their keister."

The WWE is attempting to turn Alberto Del Rio into a new Latino babyface superstar. Unfortunately, the same booking over the past 18 months made Del Rio virtually worthless to Latin audiences. But they are pulling out all the stops and feeding him second-tier opponents like Jack Swagger.

But where were the other babyfaces positioned on the WM29 card? The Miz (who got a main event victory over Cena courtesy of the Rock two years ago) was relegated to the pre-show. Sheamus and Randy Orton were gone after the opening match, beaten by the Shield and then laid out by KO punches from the Big Show. Ryback (perhaps leading to a heel turn) put over the aging powerlifter, Mark Henry. Vince does love those big men. Discounting senior citizens HHH and the Undertaker, that left Cena as the primary babyface victor to the general public.

Last year, HHH pushed the bookers to give his pet project (Sheamus) a rocket push with an 18-second victory over Daniel Bryan for the World title. Bryan was talented enough to stretch the feud for another two months. But Sheamus (the same age as Cena) never cracked that glass ceiling and plunged back into the opening match on this year's card.

Orton has been "there and back" for 10 years. Two drug failures have put him in an interesting position. The company had Randy as their "1A" babyface behind Cena. But Orton never clicked to the general public as well as Cena nor grabbed as many media appearances. And one more drug failure is a mandatory one-year suspension. So Orton has shot himself in the foot in that respect.

The WWE suffered through a "lost generation" of babyfaces a few years ago, due to the departures of Ken Kennedy (nee Anderson), MVP, and Bobby Lashley. The latter sought to pursue his MMA dreams and the first pair were plagued by injuries and fights with the creative team. Anderson went to TNA and has added nothing. MVP chose a different path and traveled the world, but could he be a difference-maker? He wasn't in three-plus years of tenure prior to exiting.

Every time I hear about "long-term" plans for a superstar, I know not to hold my breath. Where's that Dolph Ziggler title run? Whatever happened to John Morrison? Kofi Kingston was two blown moves away from main eventing PPVs.

Now there are rumors that the two top matches at WM30 – in 2014 – will be The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar and the Undertaker vs. John Cena. Splendid. Wonderful. Let's keep those four guys far, far away from the title matches and attempt to build up guys who can main event in 2015 and 2016 and beyond.

WWE needs to choose three or four guys. I'd say Ziggler, Barrett, Bryan, and Cesaro. And consistently book them over everybody else. Because after 2014, the Rock is gone. Cena will have headlined on top far longer than Hulk Hogan's reign. Undertaker may finally have hung it up. Steve Austin will be 50. The one-shot novelties and hot-shot angles may not cut it anymore. The promotion may have to back up their biggest show of the year with actual wrestling talent and a good storyline.

Are they up for the challenge? I'd like to think so. But it's going to take some courageous booking and turning a blind eye to ratings some weeks. When all is said and done, it would be great if CM Punk could fulfill his "last wish in wrestling" and headline WM31 against a super babyface who is NOT John Cena. The WWE just has to get their act together and begin building that babyface tonight on RAW.

Play Ball! (new podcast)

It seems hard to believe that I first played rotisserie baseball in 1988.
It seems harder to believe that I played rotisserie baseball for the next 20+ years.
It seems hardest to believe that the past two years, when I've tried to RETURN to rotisserie baseball, I've been thwarted.
That story and more is herein.

Wrong Turn Down This Avenue, KIds

Putting words to music, that's what it's all about.

When the music is 100 years old, or even more, that's another story. Or is it?

We've been fans of the Beethoven's Wig series for years. The songs introduce children to the composers and get across their styles and why "classica music is kinda important."

The question remains, is there enough room in the genre for a second (or third) version of that product? Short answer, not for us.

From the first song on WHATEVER I WANT TO BE, the new CD from Young Avenue Kids (YAK), we were non-plussed. The wife commented, "This is on Beethoven's Wig." Well, of course. It's a classical tune. But aren't there OTHER classical tunes that could have been chosen? Or are the YAK brain trust (Ilana Melmed and Stephan Cohn) blissfully unaware that someone before them did this same thing?

The gimmick here is slightly different – there are children singing along the lyrics. But in some cases, those lyrics are merely words that rhyme that in no way these kids would have thought of. For instance, this couplet from "William Tell Is So Sweet":

Let's shake our bodies head to toe
Remember Barry Manilow?

Doubtful any of the kids singing the song had a concept of who Manilow was until they Googled him. If you're pitching this as a CD by kids for kids, that's just sloppy songwriting. Even Matt (who is 2), asked us to turn off the CD after five tracks.

If you want to judge for yourself, you can find Young Avenue Kids on their Website. The CD will also be available on Amazon in May.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 8, 2013

Turning Tables  – Adele 
Little Little Baby  – The Harmonica Pocket
Millions of Things  – Like Totally!
What'd I Say  – Ray Charles
Let's Be Friends  –  Jambo  
Let 'em Know  – Milkshake 
Sacagawea  – The Deedle Deedle Dees
Explore, Learn, and Protect  –  Jeff Wolin 
Miss Elephant's Gerald  – The Pop Ups

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 5, 2013

Set Fire To The Rain – Adele 
Days That End In "Y" – Kepi Ghoulie  
Heroes – Glee  
Love Song – Sara Bareilles
Kindhearted Babysitter Blues – Randy Kaplan
Electricity Man – Karlee Dean and Bill Goffrier
Tip Toe Thru the Tulips – Milkshake  
Cake in a Cup – Ethan Rossiter And The Jamberries        
Robots On the Dance Floor – Rhymezwell        
Burning Coffee – They Might Be Giants 

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 4, 2013

no matter how far  – Justin Roberts
Turning Tables  – Adele
What'd I Say  – Ray Charles
Monkey Love (Featuring Caspar Babypants)  – The Harmonica Pocket
Beach Party At High Altitude  – Jeff Wolin
Washing Machine  – Milkshake
Everything Has Changed  – Taylor Swift Feat. Ed Sheeran      
Frog  – Artichoke   
Mammal  – They Might Be Giants

Today, Mary Kaye Stays Cool as a Cat

This week, I shall be reviewing Mary Kaye.

No, I'm not talking (or linking) to the cosmetics company. I'm talking about Maine-based childrens recording artist Mary Kaye. She recently released her fifth CD of original tunes, TODAY I WAS A CAT. All artwork is by noted illustrator John Klossner, who does the comics for Computerworld (a publication I'm familiar with through my day job in software).

A longtime educator and performer for young audiences, Mary Kaye writes from a child's perspective on many of her tunes. For instance, on the title track:

Today I was a cat.
In a tiny spot I sat.
Where the sun shines through the window and it warmed me.
I curled up in a ball.
I didn't do anything at all.
The house made quiet sounds in harmony.

"Love Factory" and "Underwater Wade Parade" typify the album's gentle, somewhat silly theme. In the latter, Mary Kaye envisions a selection of aquatic antics as she sticks her head in the sea. Will it get water-resistant kids to dunk their heads? Who knows, but it's worth a try.

Mary Kaye straddles the niche between folk and alt-rock. I looked for a musical comparison for the occasions when Mary Kaye rocks out. In what may seem like a stretch, I thought about Patti Smith during "Rolling Down the Hill." And believe me, I can't even picture Patti singing the song. Matt (who is 2) enjoyed singing along with "Alligator," with its chorus of "Uh-oh Oooh."

Mary Kaye is definitely not the cosmetic company. And her music goes deeper than a powdery or latex layer on your skin. Her songs get into your head, which improves your aesthetic. That trumps cosmetic any day.

TODAY I WAS A CAT is available at Mary Kaye's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Set Fire To The Rain – Adele 
Can't Keep Johnny Down – They Might Be Giants
Your Sweet Baby Blues – Johnny Angel Wendell       
a wild one – Justin Roberts
Delicious – Orange Sherbert 
The Christmas Song – The Raveonettes
Wimoweh – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
First Day of School  – Ethan Rossiter And The Jamberries  
Busy – The Not-Its 
El Jefe – Mexican Institute of Sound 

Monday, April 01, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Lullaby Arms – Johnny Angel Wendell   
Over Again – One Direction
Let's Go  – Matt & Kim 
Burning Coffee – They Might Be Giants 
We Just Wanna Have Fun – Milkshake  
Lose My Mind – The Wanted
Kidquake! – The Not-Its 
Sacagawea – The Deedle Deedle Dees
Begin Again – Taylor Swift     
Ice Cream Soup – Jambo