Monday, December 31, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, January 1, 2013

If You Want a Mustache – Space Balloons
White And Nerdy – Weird Al Yankovic
Balloon Fest – Ozomatli
Me and My Brand New Haircut – Billy Kelly and the Blah Blah Blahs
Set Fire To The Rain – Adele
Make Me – Big Bang Boom
Catch My Breath – Kelly Clarkson
They're Red Hot – Randy Kaplan
Kiss You – One Direction
Stop at a Mom N' Pop – Uncle Rock     
Sleepover – Ellen & Mark

Space Cadets to the Rescue!

Tim Kubart and Matt Puckett remember being kids. In fact, they've encapsulated their memories on ANTHEMS FOR ADVENTURE, their first full-length CD as Tim and the Space Cadets.

The Brooklyn residents are already veterans of the New York kindie music scene, having played gigs around town for the past few years. The new CD shares their loves of all things small and insignificant, such as "Bumblebee" and "Rainy Days" (featuring Alison Bartlett, Gina from Sesame Street).

There are also songs that triumph the big deals in a kid's existence, whether it's the power going out ("Blackout") or making a deal with the sun to extend the weather ("Endless Summer").

The Space Cadets' big breakout was the tune "Superhero," about the longing for superpowers and larger-than-life action. The song inspired the album's theme, which comes with two separate songs, "The Anthem Part 1" and "Part 2" to start the CD.

I was kind of partial to "Second Grade Show," since I have fond (and not-so-fond) memories of many past stage performances and glories:

I gotta look good in my brown and green
And I gotta stay real still tonight 'cause next time you see me,
I'll be playing a tree in the second grade show.
My parents coming to see.
And if you're trying to fine me
I'll be shaking my leaves.

The Space Cadets remain upbeat and lively as we enter 2013. And why not? Who couldn't use a blast of positive energy and summery fun in the dark of winter. ANTHEMS FOR ADVENTURE is due for "Blast Off" (another song on the CD) at the end of January. Grab your cowl and cape and head out (the door, not the window) or to your nearest e-tailer.

Here is the video for "Superhero":

ANTHEMS FOR ADVENTURE will be available through Tim and the Space Cadets' website, Amazon, CDBABY, or iTunes.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Monday, December 31, 2012

Blue Sky – Elizabeth Mitchell
Don't Speak – Glee
The Christmas Song – The Raveonettes
Little Little Baby – The Harmonica Pocket 
Is This a Joke? – Billy Kelly and the Blah Blah Blahs       
Escalator – David Tobocman
Turning Tables – Adele
Young Girls – Bruno Mars      
Shake It Off! – Uncle Rock       
Worms – Dog On Fleas

Pt At Last (new podcast)

Physical therapy finally started.

Two sessions in, here are some thoughts.

I mean to talk for many 15 minutes and do another topic, but things sort of got away from me.
Hope it's all interesting.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Winding Down 2012 With (Uncle) Rock

The year 2012 went out with a musical blast. First we saw Billy Kelly at the LICM. Now it was time for the gentleman music farmer from upstate, Uncle Rock at Symphony Space.

As I wrote a few weeks back, this blog is in part the result of Robert Burke Warren recording children's music and getting it played on a podcast that we began to listen to. Click here for the entire story.

An earlier start time (11 am) than Billy Kelly (1 pm) worked in our favor, as did an extra holiday train that allowed us to arrive 30 minutes prior to showtime – and Matt decided to take a rare morning nap, which made him happy and perky for most of the concert.

As Ben pointed out, the last time we saw Uncle Rock was at Symphony Space – four years ago. A lot has happened since then including the release of THE BIG PICTURE, Robert's most complete statement on the state of his career.

We arrived as Robert concluded his sound check and stumbled upon our group in the foyer. He asked Ben for any requests. Ironically, Ben had just issued an entire rundown of Uncle Rock songs, which Robert asked him to repeat, pen and paper in hand.

The Family series at Symphony Space has served us well over the years, introducing us to artists such as Dan Zanes and allowing us to see performers from around the country. San Francisco's Sippy Cups were a treat, as were South Carolina's own Lunch Money.

Robert opened with "My Favorite Things," which we've heard him cover going back to shows at Books of Wonder. Many adults chose to sing along, causing some major looks of confusion and consternation from the tykes. That was not the case with "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch," which got adults and kids singing along.

The hour-long set involved much audience participation, and Robert has his patter down to a science. One early toddler yowl invoked the expected Axl Rose reference, to the mystification of anyone under the age of 10.

For a year-ending show, there were not many big themes discussed ("Leave the Bees Be" and "There Is No Away" were unplayed). Robert chose to stick with his lighter tunes, "Disco Nap" and "Shake It Off" behind highlights.

"It's Hot, Don't Touch It!" became an instant favorite of Matt's. He returned home and has repeated it like a mantra many, many times. We'll see what happens when it turns up in one of Ben's playlists in the future.

Has it really been four years since we saw Uncle Rock? Apparently so. But now that Matt has met his newest uncle, we'll have to arrange another encounter in a shorter timeframe. 

You can purchase Uncle Rock's music through Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Billy Beats the Blahs at LICM

Billy Kelly and the Blah Blah Blahs, the pride of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, descended upon the Long Island Children's Museum on Thursday, December 27. Since the date fell during the winter break and Ben is a fan, we made the relatively short trek to Carle Place for the performance.

It was two-year-old Matt's first encounter with a museum – although a children's museum is vastly different from any traditional exhibition hall. For instance, the first thing the two kids did upon arrival was sit and build with Keva Planks for 10 minutes. Then we walked over and made giant bubbles for another 10 minutes. This might seem like a long time for either activity. I directed Matt to a faux beach sand area, where he happily sat down and began filling a bucket. They could have gone another 5-10 minutes at any of these attractions, but our late start meant we were already on the clock.

We headed upstairs (bypassing the tools area) and only saw about half of the second floor. It was time for Matt's destination appointment in the "Tot Spot," which Ben had enjoyed before he aged out in the mid-00s. Just writing that gives me a chill down my spine. He'll be 12 in two weeks!

The wife and Ben headed off to start lunch while I took Matt for some tot time. Having just gotten over a cold, this was his first re-exposure to a large play setting. Matt was overwhelmed at first by children running every which way, and he clung to me. But Matt dove from my arms when he saw the the "market" full of clunky fake food. Crisis averted.

Still, we were running short on time (and Matt was working on borrowed time with a nap coming imminently). After lunch, we all headed into the theater for Long Island-bred Billy Kelly and his band, the Blah Blah Blahs. The boys are prepping for the release of their fourth CD, "AGAIN," which comes out in January (look for my review). It's a peppy collection of tunes – we played it for the first time last night over dinner.

It's our first time seeing the band, but apparently Billy wears a red tie, white dress shirt, and black jacket when he plays. And here he was with just a silver bow tie and no jacket. As Billy explained, "The shirt is clean and the jacket is nicely pressed and they looked real good on the back of the bedroom door, where they still are, in Pennsylvania." Oops!

The trio worked a nice hour set that covered hallmarks of children's music performances – singalongs, questions and answers, false finishes, and even a fishbowl drawing for a t-shirt. For the finale, "Johnny Box" him/herself made an appearance and took pictures with attendees.

Ben, who seldom shows any hesitation to interact with performers, immediately began jawing with Billy from the second row. In return, Billy dedicated the next song (about his town) to Ben.

Highlights of the set included a cover of ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky" and a tune written for his wife, "You Made Me a Sock Monkey," both of which I caught on video (not very well).

For a power pop trio, the Blah Blah Blahs have a very full sound. The distaff version would be akin to the original touring version of Lunch Money (prior to the addition of a touring horn player).

Matt seemed riveted for the first half, then pitched sideways and was out cold for the remainder of the show. Oh well. A 1 pm concert start time appears to be a 2-year-old's kryptonite. Maybe things will work better with Saturday's Uncle Rock concert at Symphony Space. In any event, Billy puts on show that got many kids up and bopping and didn't appear to put any adults to sleep. The Blah Blah Blahs kept the blues away during the dog days of December.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Friday, December 28, 2012

Lucky – Jason Mraz
no matter how far – Justin Roberts
Change My Mind – One Direction
I Found You – Caspar Babypants
Ayo – Play Date
Sacagawea – The Deedle Deedle Dees
Sing Loud – Melissa Green
eBay – Weird Al Yankovic
Ice Cream Soup – Jambo   
Skyfall – Adele

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Thursday, December 26, 2012

Count Them As They Go – Justin Roberts
Gingerbread Man – Lunch Money
 I Like How It Feels – Enrique Iglesias feat. Pitbull
Flat Tire – Dean Jones
Bag of Dreams – Steven Courtney
White And Nerdy – Weird Al Yankovic
Let's Be Friends – Jambo     
Good Time –  Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen      
Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart – Fountains Of Wayne

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sylvie – Elizabeth Mitchell
Sunspots – Bob Mould
What Will You Ever See? – Lunch Money
Easier To Do – Justin Roberts
Over Again – One Direction
Binary – The Board of Education
Worms  – Dog On Fleas
Wimoweh – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
More Than A Memory vCarly Rae Jepsen   
Hootenanny – Jambo   

Monday, December 24, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I Wanna Party – Hot Wings
Generator (First Floor) – Freelance Whales
A Wild One – Justin Roberts
Same Mistakes – One Direction        
You Are My Sunshine  – Charity And The JAMband
Set Fire To The Rain – Adele
Celebration – They Might Be Giants
We Are All One Kind – Jambo       
Song Without A Rhyme –  Steve Songs        

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Monday, December 24, 2012

May This Be Love – Elizabeth Mitchell
Bluebird > Redbird, Redbird > Reef – The Deedle Deedle Dees
When Will You Die? – They Might Be Giants
Puzzle Pieces Within – Lunch Money
Grumpy Boy – Steve Songs     
Mammal – They Might Be Giants
Turning Tables – Adele
Don't Play With Your Food  – Jambo        
Tell Me A Lie  – One Direction       
Lose My Mind – The Wanted     

Denyin’ the Mayans (new podcast)

People who believed the world was going to end on 12-21-12 have a lot in common with climate change deniers.

I do a quick comparison.

Plus an update of my PT saga.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Hoot and a Holler From Jambo

Didya ever wonder what a Lyle Lovett album for kids would sound like?

Chances are, it would sound a lot like Jambo's new album, HOOTENANNY.

Frontman (and sideman and co-producer) Steve Pierson prepped for this gig by playing the blues around Los Angeles, prior to his daughter Lucy's birth in 2002. Turning his attention to music production for film and TV, Steve could not turn away completely from a desire to create roots-based music.

As pointed out in the Blues Brothers movie, there is both country AND western music. Steve's Jambo project creates American music that doesn't immediately make you think of slide guitar and cowboy hats.

The mashup of blues and kids music comes full-circle in "Don't Play With Your Food." You get wailing blues guitar and piano as well as childrens' vocals on the chorus:

Don't play with your food, 
Don't play with your food, if you don't want to be rude, 
Don't play with your food.

In a perfect world, you could take the family on vacation to New Orleans, walk into a honky tonk, and they'd be playing Jambo. Distancing himself from strong messaging, Pierson sticks with positive messaging for his preteen audience. "Be Yourself," "Try," and Let's Be Friends" are fairly self-explanatory track titles. Playdate excitement and a sax solo rule in "Groovy Day":

I've got a good, good feeling though my head is reeling,
It's gonna be a groovy day.
My heart is leapin', even when I'm sleeping,
It's gonna be a groovy day.

Years on the road clearly paid dividends and were instrumental in Pierson's creation of Jambo. One also must give credit to strong co-production by Grammy nominee Tor Hyams. I definitely came away from HOOTENANNY with more of an appreciation for an underutilized genre on the kindie circuit. Prepare to make some gumbo; let's Jambo.

HOOTENANNY will be available in February 2013 at Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Friday, December 21, 2012

Jingle Bells – Renee & Jeremy
Joy to the World – Dan Zanes
The Crocodile (Wouldn't Brush His Teeth) – Boxtop Jenkins
Come To California – The Hipwaders
Too Dirty To Love – Caspar Babypants
Candy Garden – The Bazillions
Lightning – The Wanted
Live It Up – Chris Isaak
Sacagawea – The Deedle Deedle Dees
Up All Night – One Direction      
Flat Stanley – Steve Songs       

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, December 20, 2012

Summer Daze – Susanna Hoffs
Set Fire To The Rain – Adele  
Zou bisou bisou – Gillian Hills
eBay – Weird Al Yankovic 
Kindhearted Babysitter Blues – Randy Kaplan
Thank You – Dan Zanes & Friends
C'mon, C'mon – One Direction
Days That End In "Y" – Kepi Ghoulie
All In This Together (MLK) – Steve Songs   
Planes, Trains and Automobiles – Henning Ohlenbusch

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Turning Tables – Adele
Peace And Love  – Fountains Of Wayne
Pleadia – Andy Z
DeeDee Taught Me How To Count – Kepi Ghoulie
My Happiness – Chris Isaak
We Just Won't Be Defeated – The Go! Team
Wag More (Featuring Indigo Girls) – Boxtop Jenkins
Burning Coffee – They Might Be Giants
Rock MevOne Direction
Superhero You – Steve Songs   
Everytime – Glee

SteveSongs Monkeys Around With Orangutan Van

Mr. Steve is back.

For those of us who see him on a fairly regular basis as part of PBS Kids, Steve Rosionek really never goes away.

Back it's nice to have Stevesongs back with a collection of new songs, ORANGUTAN VAN.

Now a family man in his own right, Mr. Steve delivers a kid-tastic selection of tunes. From the title track to "Flat Stanley," his delivery and lyrics bring children into the musical experience, tossing in a little educational content along the way. "All in This Together (MLK)" takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King and transforms them into a danceable tune.

Guest stars include Secret Agent 23 Skidoo on "Be A Superhero," and pro basketball player Glenn "Big Baby" Davis on "Soaring With Reading." The Rosionek kids even make contributions, from singing to writing lyrics. Mrs. Steve (and related moms) even make an appearance on "Grumpy Boy."

And I have to make mention of the "Song Without a Rhyme," which we saw performed at Kindiefest this past spring.

We're gonna make a song without a rhyme so we can sing it for you.
Yeah, a song without a rhyme, that's what we're gonna...accomplish.
You know it's gonna be tricky, it's gonna take time.
To make a song without words that end with a repeated sound.

Mr. Steve has entertained kids for 15 years and spent the past five years as the face of PBS Kids through popular interstitial songs. ORANGUTAN VAN is another welcome addition to his oeuvre. Our two-year-old is in good hands (and ears) with Mr. Steve on the scene.

Here is the video from Kindiefest of "The Song Without A Rhyme":

Fresh for the holidays, click here for a free download of Steve's song, "Our World."

You can find ORANGUTAN VAN and his other CDs through SteveSongs Website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Neil Brews a Santa Song

Here's a link to Neil Brewer's new holiday song, "Sometimes Santa."

That's all. Just a quickie post. Enjoy your day!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Here Comes The Sun – Ben Rudnick & Friends
Accentuate the Positive – NRBQ
Monkey Love (Featuring Caspar Babypants) – The Harmonica Pocket
Similes And Metaphors – The Bazillions
Twirl! Twirl! Twirl! – Mr. Leebot
Playin' On A Sunday – David Tobocman 
Mammal – They Might Be Giants
Little Things – One Direction
White And Nerdy – Weird Al Yankovic
Die Young – Ke$ha
Ride In My Little Red Wagon – Willie & The Wheel

Holiday Rockin' Out With Yer Uncle

A cat may only have nine lives; Robert Burke Warren will take the many lives of a musician.

From his teenage days as the bassist for RuPaul (yes, it's true) to a two-year stint with the Fleshtones to portraying Buddy Holly on London's West End, Robert has literally been around the world. And I have yet laud his ongoing gig as Uncle Rock, purveyor of fine children's music.

As the holidays roll around, it's time to dust off (or buy yourself) a copy of Robert's EXPRESS YOUR ELF collection of December tunes. We've been performances of "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and "My Favorite Things" in his concert sets over the years, and the recordings here are faithful and original, as far as cover songs are concerned. Listen to samples here.

Robert also includes a live version of his song, "Too Many Presents," which hit a major chord for us, coming off eight nights of Hanukkah, followed by a massive family gathering with even more bags of goodies for the kiddies.

Robert brings his Uncle Rock holiday show to Symphony Space on Saturday, December 29. We saw him there a few years ago with his band and are looking forward to introducing Matt (2 years old) to the venue for the first time.

In some measure, Robert is partially responsible for the my "career" as a children's music blogger. My wife used to work for his wife, Holly George Warren. We were early adapters when he released his first Uncle Rock CD. Robert sent out e-mail when "Rock and Roll Babysitter" got airplay on a radio show/podcast called SPARE THE ROCK. We started listening and Ben became an avid fan of the genre. I started blogging his morning playlists and was approached by PR people to write reviews. Ultimately, I was asked to do a writeup for Robert's upcoming appearance. The circle of life, people, the circle of life.

We've seen Robert at book store gigs and clubs. But we're always delighted to return to Symphony Space, a venue that routinely brings in groups from across the country and around the world. If December traveling is a little dicey, they have acts booked through the spring. Take a look and you'll be glad you did.

EXPRESS YOUR ELF can be purchased through Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

50 In April (New Podcast)

My cousin, who is six months older than me, recently turned 50.

Which means the clock is ticking for me.

A few birthday thoughts that came flashing through my head this week.

Plus a look at a couple of preconceived notions, including one that was broken.

Ben's Playlist - Monday, December 17, 2012

Valley Winter Song – Fountains Of Wayne
Heart Attack – One Direction
Little Demon – Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star – Caspar Babypants
Bike – Charity And The JAMband
eBay – Weird Al Yankovic
Makin' Wickey-Wackey Down in Waikiki – The Moonlighters
Turning Tables – Adele
Don't Dream It's Over  – Glee        
Cicada – Chickasaw Mudd Puppies

Ben's Playlist - Friday, December 14, 2012

Sourwood Mountain – Carolina Chocolate Drops
Are We There Yet? – Big Bang Boom
Ice Cream – Charity And The JAMband
A Road Song – Fountains Of Wayne
Change My Mind – One Direction
Wag More (Featuring Indigo Girls) – Boxtop Jenkins 
Come To California – The Hipwaders
Man Gave Names – Aaron Nigel Smith
Skyfall – Adele

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Holidays Are Here – Big Bang Boom           
Ayo – Play Date
Move On Up – Curtis Mayfield
How Will I Know – Glee
Three – The Board of Education
Sacagawea – The Deedle Deedle Dees
Wimoweh – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
Call You Mom – They Might Be Giants       
No Homework – The Bazillions       
Spicy Kid – Lunch Money

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Let's Go – Matt & Kim
Kangaroo!  – Alex & The Kaleidoscope Band
Set Fire To The Rain – Adele
Peace Sign – David Tobocman
Rocketfuel – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Shrimp and Gumbo – Rebirth Brass Band
A Change Would Do You Good – Glee
White And Nerdy – Weird Al Yankovic
Die Young – Ke$ha      
You're Embarrassing Me – The Bazillions       

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Everybody Here is a Cloud  – Cloud Cult
Live While We're Young  – One Direction
Tomorrow Will Be Really Great  – Dan Israel
Born To Rock  – David Tobocman
Something Stupid   – Glee   
Turning Tables  – Adele
Row Row Row Your Boat  – Caspar Babypants
I Just Had an Idea  – Elska
Candy Garden  – The Bazillions       
eBay  – Weird Al Yankovic

Holiday Music a Big Bang Boom Period

Yes, I named Big Bang Boom's BECAUSE I SAID SO! my number 1 kids album of 2012.

I'm pleased to announce that the rocking trio have released five new holiday-themed songs just in time for all denominational December celebrations.

You can listen to all five songs at the band's web site: "Santa Didn't Come Last Night," "That's Just Christmas," "It's the Holiday Season," "It's Christmas Time," and "The Holidays Are Here."

Christmas time, the snow is falling.
Grab your sled, the hills are calling.
Christmas time, the bells are ringing,
Children laughing, can't stop screaming.
Christmas time, people singing.
I love Christmas time.

But how do you really feel?

If you liked their debut album, there's no reason not to stop by and hear the band's new stuff. And what the heck – they're giving it away (right now).

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Monday, December 10, 2012

Love Is A Superpower – Ben Rudnick & Friends
The Monkeys are Breaking Out  – Too Many Cookies
Mother Nature's Son – Aaron Nigel Smith
Live It Up – Chris Isaak
Worms – Dog On Fleas
The Scientist  – Glee
Celebration  – They Might Be Giants
Great To Be A Kid – The Not-Its!
Out Of The Box – The Bazillions        
Angels We Have Heard On High – Dan Zanes        

PT or Not PT (new podcast)

I finally got an MRI on my left knee and scheduled physical therapy.

More medical hijinks throughout the process.

Plus, a long bit from my college days – for the holidays, it's YOGI'S LAST XMAS!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Friday, December 7, 2012

Green Green Rocky Road – Randy Kaplan
Jingle Bells – Renee & Jeremy
Alien Girlfriend – Andy Z
Harry Elefante – Rocknoceros
Delicious – Orange Sherbert   
Clap Your Hands – The Time Outs
Three  – The Board of Education
I'm So Glad – Alex & The Kaleidoscope Band
Siyahamba – Aaron Nigel Smith
Mammal – They Might Be Giants
Deck the Halls – Dan Zanes       
Similes And Metaphors – The Bazillions       

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, December 6, 2012

Silent Night – Dan Zanes 
I Walk The Line – Chris Isaak
Twirl! Twirl! Twirl! – Mr. Leebot
Summer Love – One Direction     
Sleepover – Ellen & Mark
Sunshine – Vered
Butterfly – The Nields 
Chasing Pavements – Glee
Diamonds – Rihanna     
White And Nerdy – Weird Al Yankovic
Wimoweh – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights

Free Holiday Music: Brady Rymer

While setting up his Christmas tree, Brady Rymer came up with an idea for a song. A pretty simple and obvious one, if you think about it.

"Untanglin' the Christmas Lights"

Want a free download? Click here.

You can also watch Brady's videos on MyKazooTV.

More holiday music is coming...

Bazillions of Reasons to Like Them

It's hard to carve a niche for yourselves in the children's music scene. You wouldn't it possible, but lots of categories are locked up: Princess Katie & Racer Steve are a premier costumed act and Dan Zanes is the gentleman folksinger.

Now the Bazillions have rightfully claimed their spot as the kids band comprised of geek rockers. Minneapolis' own Adam and Kristin Marshall used their backgrounds as educators at the Kenny School to create a curriculum of tunes for their band's second CD, HEADS OR TALES.

It's not often that you hear kids songs with titles like "Similes and Metaphors," "Triangular Triangles," "Prefix + Suffix," and "Perimeter Around the Area." But the Bazillions makes the concepts work – and the results are informative and rocking, at the same time.

The Bazillions operate on a neat concept. Take a premise that kids will relate to and don't skimp on the rock. For instance, "Out of the Box" deals with the anxiety that accompanies the opening of a desperately-wanted new birthday/holiday present:

Get it out, get it out, rip it out, tear it out, 
twist it out, I don't care, hit it with rocks.
Get it out, get it out, 'cause I'm having my doubts, 
that my new toy will ever get out of the box.

The band explores the pitfalls of parenting in "You're Embarrassing Me," the annoyance that kids feel every afternoon in "No Homework," and the frustration of bad weather in "Rainy Day Clubhouse." The Bazillions make sure to divide the CD between songs with wordplay and smarts ("Silent E") and just being a kid ("Candy Garden").

Like any band where music is quietly the "job on the side," the pitfall of the Bazillions is that it's taken two years (a long way from a bazillion) to produce another collection of songs. Take advantage while the CD is still fresh. Ben (11 years old) has not taken "Super Sonic Rocket Bike" out of his rotation since we first heard it in 2010. And heading into 2013, check out their live schedule. Now sharpen your protractor, it's time to rock out with your local lunch lady.

Here is the video to "Super Sonic Rocket Bike" from the Bazillion's first CD, ROCK-N-ROLL RECESS:

HEADS OR TALES is available from the band's website as well as CDBABY, Amazon, and iTunes.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, December 5, 2012

First Day – The Board of Education
In A Timeout Now – Randy Kaplan
Kangaroo – Caspar Babypants  
Water  – Ozomatli
Harry Elefante – Rocknoceros
We Just Won't Be Defeated – The Go! Team
eBay – Weird Al Yankovic
Joy to the World – Dan Zanes       
Make It Up – Astrograss
Last First Kiss – One Direction 

Christmas For Regular Folk, Courtesy of DZ

Dan Zanes carries the mantel of the gentleman folksinger as well as title of king of kindie music. His revised holiday collection, CHRISTMAS IN CONCORD, straddles that chasm.

Last year, Zanes originally released a five-song digital EP, recalled from his New England childhood. The project has expanded by two new songs, collaborations with Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. The due wrote "Counting the Days (Until Christmas)" during a drive back from New Hampshire to New York, based on a discussion of their fathers' military experiences.

Tracks include the traditional "Angels We Have Heard On High," "Joy to the World," and "Silent Night." There are no mind-bending guitar solos (listen for mandolins) and you will need to really listen to hear any drumming. CHRISTMAS IN CONCORD is folk with a capital F, which fits the genre, the spirit, and the mood of the season.

Running a lean 18 minutes, the EP is a pleasant sidebar to both of Zanes' career tentpoles (discounting his Del Fuegos tenure). Dan Zanes and Friends celebrate the (re)-release CHRISTMAS IN CONCORD with their second annual "Holiday Sing-A-Long" at City Winery in Manhattan on Saturday, December 8 at 11 am.

 Here is the video for "Rise Up Shepherd, And Follow":

CHRISTMAS IN CONCORD is available on Zanes' website and iTunes.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Glad You Came – The Wanted
Exactly Where I Want To Be – Grenadilla
Ride In My Little Red Wagon vWillie & The Wheel
Free To Be You And Me  – Vanessa Trien & The Jumping Monkeys
Spicy Kid – Lunch Money
I Found You – Caspar Babypants     
Sacagawea  – The Deedle Deedle Dees
Kiss You – One Direction       
Music – Alex & The Kaleidoscope Band       
Worms – Dog On Fleas 

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Monday, December 3, 2012

At The Zoo – Simon & Garfunkel
Blue Sky Time  – Alex & The Kaleidoscope Band 
Set Fire To The Rain – Adele
Yes And No – Caspar Babypants
Make Me – Big Bang Boom
The GolemvThe Deedle Deedle Dees
Playground – Astrograss
White And Nerdy – Weird Al Yankovic
Blow Me (One Last Kiss) – Glee      
Winter Wonderland – Renee & Jeremy

Two Years Old, Two Parties (new podcast)

Our younger son recently turned two years old.

We hosted two – count 'em – two family parties, one for each side (mine and the wife).

Two very different celebrations for a wonderful little boy.

Some thoughts about his entrance into this world in 2010 and more thoughts about the current state of the toddler.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Finding Caspar Babypants (It's Not Hard)

Caspar Babypants is the Mormon of children's music (in a good way). If it's been nine months, there's another Babypants CD in the mail pile! His sixth CD, I FOUND YOU! just made its way to our iPods this past week.

Chris Ballew, frontman for The Presidents of the United States, is the rare musician who has turned his sideline project (kids recording artist) into almost as big a deal as his "day job." Of course, these days that means expanding his cachet with books as well (artwork by his talented wife, Kate Endle). Guest artists on I FOUND YOU! include Mudhoney guitarist Steve Turner and singer Rachel Flotard, formerly of Visqueen.

Unlike Kepi Ghoulie, who references his punk past in some of his songs, you find none of that malarkey with Caspar Babypants. These are straight ahead, tongue-in-cheek quirky tunes for tots. Ballew's specialty seems to be taking traditional songs and redressing them. On I FOUND YOU!, listeners get new verses for "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and "Row Row Row Your Boat." Bet you didn't even know those songs needed extra verses. Well, two-year-old Matt did, and promptly requested a replay of "Twinkle Twinkle" so he could attempt to memorize them.

When the blazing sun is gone and the moon is up and on,
Then you shine your little light what a small and happy sight,
Twinkle twinkle little star how I wonder what you are.

"Yes and No" provides explanations to some daily quandaries that might baffle kids. For an 11-year-old reading for a science test on liquids, solids, and gases, this song acted as a rest break AND a study aid.

Water is so liquidy it flows around my shoe
But in the winter time that water can be solid too
Yes it can no it can't yes it can no it can't it is both yes and no.

We've seen Ballew in concert and he's a genial guy who invites sing-alongs. I FOUND YOU! provides ample opportunities for you and the fam to join in on choruses and share the silliness of "Too Dirty To Love" and "Say Farewell (to the baby worm)."

There's one guitar solo (from Turner) and fewer double entendres within the 19 songs on this new collection. And we can expect another Babypants to come tumbling down the babypath some time next fall. We'll look forward to it, as always.

Here is the video from an older Caspar Babypants tune, "More Moles," a favorite on SiriusXM Kids Place.

I FOUND YOU! is available from CDBABY, Amazon, and iTunes. Find lyrics and video links on his website.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Friday, November 30, 2012

Bike  – Charity And The JAMband
Born To Rock  – David Tobocman
Flat Stanley  – Play Date
Mary Anning  – Artichoke
Wimoweh  – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
A Little Breath In  – Preschool Of Rock       
They Got Feet  – George Carver
eBay  – Weird Al Yankovic
I'm So Glad  – Alex & The Kaleidoscope Band      
Heroes  – Glee    

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lucky – Jason Mraz
And We Dance – Preschool Of Rock
Tomorrow Will Be Really Great – Dan Israel
Swinging on a Star – Zak Morgan
Set Fire To The Rain – Adele
Little Demon – Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Great To Be A KidvThe Not-Its!
Playin' On A SundayvDavid Tobocman
Kangaroo! – Alex & The Kaleidoscope Band        

Dance With, Don't Spell Kaleidoscope

Music has been an integral part of our family experience.

We took Ben to his first concert (Dan Zanes at Symphony Space) when he was just shy of three years old.

Matt (two years old) is attending Music Together classes and beginning to grasp the basics of instrumentation and melodies. He is beginning to recognize – and request – songs that he likes, by name or through humming or singing snippets.

Which brings me to Alex and the Kaleidoscope Band. The Philadelpia-based troupe has released their fourth CD, I'M SO GLAD! and the title track incorporates the Nigerian folk song, "Fum Wah Alafia Ashe Ashe," which coincidentally is a standard for Music Together. As such, Matt was delighted to hear it when I played the CD for the family. And he subsequently requested the Kaleidoscope version be replayed. An early fan has been created.

Band founder Alex Mitnick should be pleased. A faculty member at both the University of the Arts and the Princeton Center for Teacher Education, he directs the music program for young children at the Princeton Montessori School. "What better way to ensure a bright future than to work with those who are closest to tomorrow – children," Alex said.

I'M SO GLAD puts lessons on the back burner and concentrates on the fun in music. The songs by Mitnick and lyricist Alan Bell give kids distinctive sounds and easily-digestible verbiage. "Kangaroo" gets kids up and bouncing. "Dino Dig" wonders where the dinosaurs went, with a middle eastern groove. "Blue Sky Time" delves into the vastness of the atmosphere:

I'm so big, I'm so empty
Even birds and planes fly in me.
Up I go above the trees
I'm the giant of the sky.

"Rhythm gets my feet to dance," the Kaleidoscope Band sings on "Music," and they mean it. Sweet music brings together a family – to dance, to laugh, and to share a common interest. This is a troupe for you, if you like the occasional euro beat but aren't "all-in" with World music. The Kaleidoscope Band has built its goals within arm's length of children and lets them swim in their colors.

Here is the video for the title track, I'M SO GLAD:

I'M SO GLAD is available from the band's website, CDBABY, Amazon, and iTunes.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Binary – The Board of Education
The Science Fair – Ashley Albert
Music Makes Me Feel – Astrograss
Changes – David Bowie
Turning Tables – Adele
Snow Day – Zak Morgan
Sacagawea – The Deedle Deedle Dees
El Jefe – Mexican Institute of Sound
States and Capitals – Macho Nacho and Mouth Trumpet       
Call Me Maybe – Glee

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What Katie Did  – The Libertines
Hippie Mom  – Big Bang Boom
In A Timeout Now  – Randy Kaplan
Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart  – Fountains Of Wayne
Why Is Dad So Mad?  – The Board of Education
Clap Your Hands  – The Time Outs
Let Me In  – Zak Morgan
White And Nerdy  – Weird Al Yankovic
They Don't Know About Us    – One Direction 
Makin' Wickey-Wackey Down in Waikiki   – The Moonlighters           

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Monday, November 26, 2012

Jingle Bells – Renee & Jeremy     
I Just Had an Idea – Elska
Peace Sign – David Tobocman
Let Your Love Grow Tall  – Passion Pit
Turning Tables  – Adele
Mister E  – Zak Morgan
eBay – Weird Al Yankovic
Back For You  – One Direction    
Dark Side – Glee   
Free To Be You And Me  – Vanessa Trien & The Jumping Monkeys

Why An MRI? (new podcast)

A few months ago, I hurt my knee while tending to my toddler.

When the discomfort became almost constant, I sought medical attention.

This week, I document the PROCESS (not the condition of my knee) and how screwed-up it's been thus far.

Also, an archived segment from October sees the light. An embarrassing home handyman incident that occurred on my watch.

I promise to talk about more vacuous things NEXT week!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Friday, November 23, 2012

Because I Said So! – Big Bang Boom
What Will You Ever See? – Lunch Money
The Owie Song – David Tobocman 
Alien Girlfriend – Andy Z
Everyone – Elizabeth Mitchell 
Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin
Burning Coffee – They Might Be Giants
Great To Be A Kid – The Not-Its!
Odd Girl Out – Alexandra
I Would – One Direction      
The Family Song – Preschool Of Rock

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, November 21, 2012

What'd I Say – Ray Charles
Bag of Dreams – Steven Courtney
Can't Keep Johnny Down  – They Might Be Giants
Worms – Dog On Fleas
Chasing Pavements – Glee
Set Fire To The Rain – Adele
no matter how far – Justin Roberts    
Sunny Christmas – Renee & Jeremy

Nothing Blue About This Preschool (of Rock)

What's a Blue Man to do?

Not a man who is feeling blue (although that could also be the case), but a legit former Blue Man (from the Blue Man Group). Michael Napolitano took his experiences traveling the world with the performance troupe and started the Preschool of Rock in his home state of New Jersey. The school brings a high energy enrichment that provides music education, age appropriate lessons, and physical activity throughout the Garden State.

More than that, Michael records children's music under the same name (Preschool of Rock) that artfully demonstrates his curriculum. His third CD, EVERYTHING MAKES A SOUND, uses more than the percussive backbeat that the Blue Men are known for (although "The Safari Song" goes heavy on drumming).

The title track lacks instruments but not musicality. The song is composed of house keys, voices, whistles, scratched glass, wrenches, clapping hands, rice, and more, with the lyrics stressing:

You don't need an instrument to make a sound.
Just say something that you're thinking and sing it loud.

Napolitano's dad, Tony, was a drummer with the '50s doo-wop group The Ideals. Here's one of their songs, recorded in 1959:

Napolitano brought his dad back to the music scene as a vocalist on the appropriately-titled "The Family Song." This one was a big winner when I previewed the CD for the family. Two-year-old Matt has requested it several times since the initial spin. So congrats – Preschool of Rock hit its target!

If anything, Napolitano needs to harmonize. Several of the songs have a sameness (not a bad thing if you're using them to teach youngsters) that become obvious after replays. It's not that Napolitano has a bad voice. Some level of sweetening could add a new dimension and help listeners differentiate between "Shake It" and "Jump When I Get Up."

But Napolitano does blow apart the canard, "Those who can't, teach." He clearly does know his stuff and the Preschool of Rock will get your toddler drumming and singing along, as it did with mine.

EVERYTHING MAKES A SOUND is available on December 4 on the Preschool of Rock website, CDBABY, Amazon, and iTunes.

Warm Holiday Tunes from Renee & Jeremy

The ever-ethereal Renee and Jeremy have released a holiday EP, SUNNY CHRISTMAS.

The title track, originally from 2011, received national airplay. Now the upbeat California-based duo have fleshed out the concept with five more traditional favorites: We Wish You A Merry Christmas, Deck The Halls, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Jingle Bells, and Winter Wonderland.

Renee & Jeremy deliver a consistently engaging package of harmonies and melody. With a Christmas sampler, you don't really need more than 5 or 6 songs to get across the bullet points… happy times, family, togetherness, peace despite cold weather. Mark off your checklist and pencil in R&J for a quick (15 minutes!) of fireplace music from the West Coast.

SUNNY CHRISTMAS marks the second release from R&J in 2012, following their CD of cover songs, A LITTLE LOVE (The Monkees, Supertramp, Coldplay). Renee and Jeremy spent their 2012 warming up for a new year and hopefully some new, original material that matches their stellar vocals.

The EP (and the rest of their catalog) is available from their website, CDBABY, Amazon, and iTunes.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bluebird > Redbird, Redbird > Reef – The Deedle Deedle Dees
Turning Tables – Adele
Kindhearted Babysitter Blues  – Randy Kaplan
Miss Elephant's Gerald – The Pop Ups
A Friend Like You – Steve Weeks
Three – The Board of Education
Heart Attack – One Direction    
A Road Song – Fountains Of Wayne
a wild one – Justin Roberts    
The Plumbing Song – Weird Al Yankovic

Fids and Kamily Awards 2012: My Ballot

The 2012 Fids and Kamily Music Poll results were announced this past weekend.

This year the Okee Dokee Brothers were the lucky winners -- their album Can You Canoe? was voted the best kids and family album of the year.  It topped another list of outstanding releases from familiar names, big name artists trying their hand at family music, and newcomers, too.

This was the seventh year that the  F&K awards were bestowed on children's musical acts. It was, however, the first year that I was asked to join the judging panel. It was truly a humbling experience, as I reviewed more than 30 CDs during the eligibility period – and still only placed three of my selections in the top 15!

Why? I only considered artists that I reviewed, not CDs that we purchased during the year. This made for some truly head-slapping omissions, in my opinion. Not that I would bounce many of the artists that I chose for my list. But it would have been a much tougher process had I included another 15-20 performers.

For 2013, I suggested the administrators assemble some kind of master list to help smooth over such potholes. I even volunteered to at least list the artists that I reviewed, so that others could flesh out a master list prior to the start of voting.

In any event, here was my top 10:

Because I Said So Big Bang Boom
In Tents Recess Monkey
Worlds of Wonder Alison Faith Levy
Hot Dog! Caspar Babypants
Blue Clouds Elizabeth Mitchell
Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie Randy Kaplan
Sing Loud Melissa Green
Monster Suit Mo Phillips
Family Values Charity & the JAMBand
Escalator David Tobocman

And here are the five favorite songs:
The Owie Song David Tobocman
In Tents Recess Monkey
Like A Spinning Top Alison Faith Levy
Alien Girlfriend Andy Z
Mister E Zak Morgan

Congrats to all the artists and to the PR people who deemed me worthy to add to their distribution lists!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Locked Out Of Heaven – Bruno Mars
Wimoweh – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
Burning Coffee – They Might Be Giants
Escalator – David Tobocman
Over Again  –   One Direction       
Thank You – Dan Zanes & Friends
Want U Back – Cher Lloyd ft. Astro
The Golem – The Deedle Deedle Dees
When I Was Your Age – Weird Al Yankovic  
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together –   Taylor Swift

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Monday, November 19, 2012

What Katie Did  – The Libertines
Five Minutes More  – AudraRox
Blue Sky (Little Martha Intro)  – Elizabeth Mitchell
Ride In My Little Red Wagon  – Willie & The Wheel
Punkin' Patch  – Andy Z
Sacagawea  – The Deedle Deedle Dees
Mammal  – They Might Be Giants
Change My Mind  – One Direction       
count them as they go  – Justin Roberts    
Catch My Breath  – Kelly Clarkson

Hurricane-Cast Epilogue & Lessons (new podcast)

With Hurricane Sandy and the nor'easter behind us, we're still settling back into our surroundings.

Five days until phones and cable service came back, around the same for gas stations to come back online.

Here is the epilogue of my tale as well as some lessons learned from the ordeal.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Friday, November 16, 2012

Rock Me  – One Direction       
You Are My Sunshine  – Charity And The JAMband
Great To Be A Kid   – The Not-Its!
Set Fire To The Rain   – Adele
Sleepover   – Ellen & Mark
Mary Anning   – Artichoke
I'm Your Boyfriend Now   – They Might Be Giants       
easier to do   – Justin Roberts       
Ayo   – Play Date

Justin's Lullaby CD an Eye-Opener


A Justin Roberts concert experience gets the kids on their feet; moving, singing, repeating simple hand or body motions (clapping, arms wide) in conjunction with the songs.


LULLABY, Justin Roberts' new CD, features 10 pleasing orchestral pieces that will get the kids off to sleep; shuffling, yawning, repeating simple hand or body motions (stretching, brushing teeth) in conjunction with bedtime.

When a children's music act tries to broaden their range, the three most common digressions are world music, re-interpretations of classics, and lullabies. There's something transfixing about hearing members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra back up a voice we've learned to love and respect over the past few years.

The opening piano on "Count Them As They Go" sets the mood. How can I, as a parent, calm my child's over-stimulated brain and soothe him to sleep?

An oak tree stands tall
Green leaves then red and yellow
They're holding on
Now count them as they go
Just count them as they go

The closest to "concert" Justin might be "What the Stork Sent," with vocals from Lisa Estridge and Donica Henderson from the Chicago production of HAIRSPRAY. The song contains a tease of a "baa baa baa" refrain that swirls around at least one number of every Justin Roberts' CD. And "A Wild One" did indeed make my wife think Justin was covering a Van Morrison song (no, it's an original composition).

Have I used enough synonyms for "mellow" to adequately describe this CD? LULLABY is not your typical children's music CD and truly a delight from a consistently entertaining performer. By nearly putting me to sleep, Justin Roberts woke me up through the evolution of his musical process.

 Here is the video for the lead track, "Count Them as They Go":

LULLABY is available on November 19 from Justin Roberts' website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lemonade – Charity And The JAMband
Continental Geography – Astrograss
A Road Song – Fountains Of Wayne 
On the Greener Side – Michelle Shocked
Peace Sign – David Tobocman
Gingerbread Man – Lunch Money
Lucky – Jason Mraz
Mind Over Matter – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Little Things – One Direction      
All Around The World – Ralph's World

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sylvie –  Elizabeth Mitchell
Water  –  Ozomatli
Wag More (Featuring Indigo Girls) –  Boxtop Jenkins
Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart –  Fountains Of Wayne
My Magic Trick –  Ralph's World
Flat Tire –  Dean Jones
Pleadia  –  Andy Z
Ah Ahsima –  The Deedle Deedle Dees
C'mon, C'mon –  One Direction 
Don't Speak –  Glee

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Binary - The Board of Education
Balloon Fest  - Ozomatli
Let Your Love Grow Tall - Passion Pit
May This Be Love - Elizabeth Mitchell
The Scientist  - Glee 
White And Nerdy - Weird Al Yankovic
The Crocodile (Wouldn't Brush His Teeth) - Boxtop Jenkins
I'm Not Tired  - Ralph's World
Zou bisou bisou - Gillian Hills
Harry Elefante - Rocknoceros
Live It Up - Chris Isaak
Freak Out - Astrograss

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hurricane-Cast, Part II (new podcast)

Our experience with Hurricane Sandy and the aftermath continues.

And a guest appearance by a nor'easter!

Do we ever get power back? It's a cliffhanger!

Ben's Playlist - Monday, November 12, 2012

The Christmas Song  -  The Raveonettes
How Can I Sing Like A Girl?   -  They Might Be Giants
If You Want a Mustache   -  Space Balloons
The Robot Looked At The Stars  -    Ralph's World
Breath Of Life   -  Florence + The Machine
eBay   -  Weird Al Yankovic
I Walk The Line   -  Chris Isaak
Worms    -  Dog On Fleas
My Uncle Is An Ant    -  Boxtop Jenkins   
The Owie Song  -  David Tobocman
Chloe    -  Grouplove

Friday, November 09, 2012

Good, Clean Infectious Fun with Boxtop Jenkins

Infectious is almost never a good word, especially when you're talking about children.

But Boxtop Jenkins invades your ears with a squeaky-clean kind of infection – one that cheers you up instead of deadening your system.

I can hear you asking, "What the heck is a Boxtox Jenkins?" and "Where do I get my vaccination?" But hear me out first.

Franklin Bunn (the voice behind the project) and his gang at "Team Boxtop" have produced a CD filled with neat wordplay and hummable tunes, including "The Crocodile (Wouldn't Brush His Teeth)." If you ever liked the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, that's the first song you want to spin on Boxtop's new CD, YOU'RE HAPPIER WHEN YOU'RE HAPPY.

The songs touch on a number of common kid things, such as Halloween ("Gettin' Down on Halloween" and "Rattlin' Rattlin' Bones," which features guest artist Shawn Mullins) and monkeys ("Five Little Monkeys," also with Mullins and "Swingin' Monkeys").

The title of the album comes from the song "Wag More," which has guest vocals from the Indigo Girls. The song is a moral song by a man who met a talking dog:

Wag more, bark less, 'cause you're happier when you're happy.
You're happier when you're happy.
So wag more.

The clever wordplay that I mentioned comes clearly into play on the song, "My Uncle is an Ant":

My uncle is an ant and he works inside a plant.
Every day along his way he greets the doorman.
It's a plant inside a plant
And my busy uncle ant
is always busy at the plant 'cause he's the foreman.

Got it?

It's not often that a children's musician has a "day job" conceivably more interesting than his sideline singing for kids. But Jenkins (Bunn) is also a puppeteer with the American Kasper Theater. Long story short, it's a form of german puppetry that dates back to the 17th century using very archetypal characters.

Day and night, Jenkins spends his time finding ways to entertain and inform children. Boxtop Jenkins' YOU'RE HAPPIER WHEN YOU'RE HAPPY might even chase the blues away during these dreary post-Hurricane Sandy days.

YOU'RE HAPPIER WHEN YOU'RE HAPPY is available through Boxtop Jenkins' website, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Friday, November 9, 2012

I Wanna Party – Hot Wings
When Can I See You Again – Owl City      
 I Like How It Feels – Enrique Iglesias feat. Pitbull
A Road Song – Fountains Of Wayne
Odd Girl Out – Alexandra
Kiss With A Fist – Florence + The Machine
I Am A Scientist – Mates Of State
Mother Nature's Son – Aaron Nigel Smith
Sing Loud – Melissa Green
Make It Up – Astrograss
Mammal – They Might Be Giants

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, November 8, 2012

 When the Bells Start Ringing (feat. The Head & the Heart) –  My Morning Jacket
 Rainbow Connection –  Weezer Feat. Hayley Williams
Monkey Love (Featuring Caspar Babypants) –  The Harmonica Pocket
  They Got Feet –  George Carver
Turning Tables –  Adele
 Clap Your Hands –  The Time Outs
Tomorrow Will Be Really Great –  Dan Israel 
My Happiness –  Chris Isaak
 Changes –  David Bowie

Obama Wins, Where Are the Graceful Losers?

Yes, I voted for Obama.

Did I vote for the "winner"? Did I vote "my conscience"? Did I vote for "the country"?

Listening to any of the talking heads on TV, you would think I did one or some combination of the above.

Unless you were watching FOX News, in which case they think I'm a deluded entitlement wuss who is terrified of standing on my own two feet and becoming a self-reliant job creator.

But hearing the blogsphere and reading social media (our power was out, so our exposure was limited to local CBS 880 AM news) exposes a very clear divide.

Which leads me to a sports analogy from the 2000 World Series. That year, the final baseball epic untainted by the events of 9/11, my cousin and I decamped to Shea Stadium to watch our New York Mets take on the Yankeees. The Mets had let a game get away from them, and who can forget the "Roger Clemens throws a bat at Mike Piazza" incident?

The Mets managed their lone victory in that series in Game Four and we were there. But they were still looking to stave off elimination in Game Five when we returned to Shea.

We'd had weekday season seats (which no longer exist) for many years. In that time, through upgrades, we had moved to Loge Section 5, Row B, seats 15 and 16 (aisle), right behind home plate. Glorious seats in foul ball territory where you could see all the action at a moderate price. Sadly, when the Mets built CitiField, they more than doubled ticket prices in three years. In the process, they lost us as regular customers. I became an occasional attendee. And my cousin has turned his back on the club entirely.

But I digress. There we sat in our fantastic seats for game five and waited to see if the Mets could hold off the Yanks for another day. If the Yankees were going to win, hopefully they would have to do it in THEIR stadium two days later.

This being New York, fans were wearing gear for both teams. Every time a "Let's Go Mets!" chant started up, Yankee fans would drown it out with a chant of their own. So be it. All in good, clean fun. Until the second inning, when the Yanks went ahead, 1-0.

A woman and her preteen daughter were seated in the section in front of us. They wore Mets hats and jackets and were SURROUNDED by Yankees fans, who went nuts when the Bronx squad took an early lead. By nuts, I mean they stood up, they hooted and stormed around, and gave the finger and cursed loudly at anyone who dared ask them to shut up, so people could watch the game.

They quieted down in the bottom of the inning, when the Mets took a 2-1 lead. At that point, the woman, who had heard enough, stood up for TWO SECONDS and cheered, "LET'S GO METS!" and promptly sat down.

The tense showdown between Andy Pettitte and Al Leiter went until the top of the ninth inning when Luis Sojo gave the Yanks a decisive 4-2 lead. The Yankees fans went nuts again, but it was a different kind of nuts. This was a completely TARGETED response. And their target was this poor woman and indirectly, her preteen daughter. They stood up, got in her face, and directed the entirety of their venom at her.

This was no celebration of the accomplishments of their favorite team. This was an angry mob delighting at being in an opposing team's stadium, buzzed on high-priced beer, and demonstrating their god-given right to applaud a two-RBI single.

It went over the line to the point that people sitting in the next level started pouring beer on them to get them to stop. Security ignored them. The attendants, sensing the end of the season was at hand, had all vanished. Even the most timid people yelled at them to "leave the women alone." And got the finger in return.

Three outs later, it was all over. The woman and her daughter fled. I clearly recall that group of Yankees fans jumping, hugging, and falling all over themselves, in delight that the Yankees had won in "Mets territory."

Now you may ask - what does this have to do with the 2012 election? Here goes.

Republicans are Yankees fans and Democrats are Mets fans.

Yes, both groups cheer and applaud when "their guy" is in the lead. But rarely do you see Mets fans gloat to the degree of Yankees fans.  I have in-laws who could not give a shit about baseball, except when the Yankees were the most winningest team in New York. Long Islanders, every time I asked if they were interested in Mets games, they would guffaw. Until the Mets were headed for the World Series against the Yankees. I had the unenviable task of explaining to them that THOSE tickets were earmarked for people who bought tickets to Mets games during the regular season. The response was, unbelievably, "But you never offer us those tickets."

I love that the Republican response to Obama's second team is to declare it's "not a mandate." Bush stole the 200 election and the Supreme Court gave him the Presidency.  FOX News then declared Bush had a "mandate." Obama wins by larger margins that either of Bush's two elections, but neither of those is a "mandate."

The other Republican response is to be offended at the outpouring of emotion at the Obama victory. It's like Republicans own the license to celebrate. It's a good thing there was no Facebook in 2004 when Bush won his second term – I can't imagine the degree of venom and derogatory pictures about John Kerry that would have been posted by GOP supporters.

Where are those graceful losers on the GOP side? It's their turn to ask for "compromise" and nod their heads that Obama did indeed run a better campaign. Because if Obama had lost, that's what the GOP would be calling for.

This generation of Democrats is being accused of acting like – gasp – Republicans! They are celebrating!!! victory!!! loudly and publicly!!! And that's a good thing. Asshat Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy's electoral seat in Massachusetts and the Democrats nearly pissed away the chance to create national healthcare. Elizabeth Warren reclaimed that seat. Anti-abortion zealots Akin and Murdock were soundly defeated. We DO have something to celebrate. And celebrate we will.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Binary - The Board of Education
Are We There Yet?  - Big Bang Boom
Planes, Trains and Automobiles - Henning Ohlenbusch
Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart  - Fountains Of Wayne
Shrimp and Gumbo - Rebirth Brass Band
The Science Fair - Ashley Albert
eBay - Weird Al Yankovic
Move On Up - Curtis Mayfield
I'm Dreaming - Randy Newman
Vote or Don't - They Might Be Giants        
Mary Anning  - Artichoke

Monday, November 05, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Love Is A Superpower - Ben Rudnick & Friends
El Jefe  - Mexican Institute of Sound
White And Nerdy - Weird Al Yankovic
Immigrant Song - Led Zeppelin
We Just Won't Be Defeated - The Go! Team
Twirl! Twirl! Twirl! - Mr. Leebot
Set Fire To The Rain - Adele
First Warm Day - The Incredible Chandler Travis Catual Birdomonic
Cicada - Chickasaw Mudd Puppies
Burning Coffee - They Might Be Giants
They're Red Hot - Randy Kaplan
Wimoweh - Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Monday, November 5, 2012

Sunspots  -   Bob Mould   
Little Little Baby - The Harmonica Pocket
Bike - Charity And The JAMband
When Will You Die?  - They Might Be Giants
Thank You - Dan Zanes & Friends
If You Want a Mustache  - Space Balloons
Make Me - Big Bang Boom
Here's To Us  - Glee
A Road Song - Fountains Of Wayne
Sacagawea - The Deedle Deedle Dees
Spicy Kid - Lunch Money

Hurricane-Cast, Part 1 (new podcast

You may have heard about this thing called Hurricane Sandy that hit the East Coast last week.

It knocked out our power and heat, so we've been "roughing it." That's tough guy-speak for "eking by."

In any case, this podcast discusses how we've managed through the actual event as well as the first few days of the aftermath.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, November 1, 2012

We lost power on Monday afternoon.

Ben did not make a playlist for Tuesday because we could not power up the laptop anywhere.

Tuesday, I went to a friend's house and powered up and Ben made a playlist but we had no network connection to share it.

Here is today's selections.

Five Minutes More - AudraRox
Today is Monday in New York - Johnette Downing     
Come To California - the Hipwaders
Turning Tables - Adele
Puzzle Pieces Within - Lunch Money
Sleepover  - Ellen & Mark
Clap Your Hands  - The Time Outs
Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart - Fountains Of Wayne
Green Green Rocky Road - Randy Kaplan

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ben's Playlist - Monday, October 29, 2012

Glad You Came - The Wanted
Barely Breathing - Glee      
Great To Be A Kid - The Not-Its!
We Just Won't Be Defeated - The Go! Team
Gingerbread Man - Lunch Money
Escalator - David Tobocman
Wimoweh  - Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
Mammal - They Might Be Giants
Reading Rocks!  - Johnette Downing   
Rocketfuel - Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
The Great Outdoors - Ralph's World

Friday, October 26, 2012

Cagey Cajun Style Delivers Reading Advice

When Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans, there were numerous side effects. One positive headline was the re-cultivation of an international interest in the musical traditions of the area. For a brief period of time (far less than 15 minutes), people remembered Allen Toussaint.

Fanning the flames of the New Orleans sound for children's music is Johnette Downing. An educator who has spent 20 years traveling the world, Downing has recorded 10 CDs as well as numerous children's books. Her efforts have garnered 21 national awards (check her website for the complete list).

Her latest CD, READING ROCKS!, stresses an obvious point. How do you get kids ages 2-8 to open a book? Well, you could do worse than have Downing sing them a story, which she does on "Why the Oyster Has the Pearl" and "Why the Crawfish Lives in the Mud." As you might expect from the titles, there's a strong, admirable respect for the culture and sensibilities of Louisiana.

"Books and music played an important role in my childhood and I wanted to share the thins I love with others," Downing explains. "My greatest musical influences came from having the good fortune to have been born and raised in Louisiana, the birthplace of jazz, Cajun, Creole, and Zydeco music."

Downing uses those influences on two versions of "Today Is Monday..." one set in Kentucky:

Monday burgoo
Tuesday sorghum
Wednesday hot brown
Thursday Bibb lettuce
Friday rolled oysters
Saturday derby pie
Sunday spoon bread
Come and eat it up.

And the other in New York:

Monday is apples
Tuesday pastrami
Wednesday Buffalo wings
Thursday Nathan's Hot Dogs
Friday cheesecake
Saturday pizza
Sunday bagels and lox
Come and eat it up.

As regular blog readers know (come on, there are some of you), I have a natural aversion to "message" songs and concept CDs. Downing does everything but hit kids over the head with her message. "Pick up a book and read," she sings on "R*E*A*D." The emphasis is hers, not mine. Okay, that song is barely more than 90 seconds, but we get the point.

However the stories are amusing and the tunes are catchy. Downing has been at this game a long time and she executes an amiable game plan: Deliver a message, teach kids about the music of her beloved New Orleans, and get out before they realize they've learned something. Mission accomplished. Have some creole.

READING ROCKS! is available on November 20 from Johnette Downing's website, Amazon, CDBABY, iTunes, and her Facebook Fan Page.