TMBG Countdown #21: Robot Parade

April 10, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 637

First Release: TMBG Unlimited (2000)

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

Originally written for graphic design group The Chopping Block, and featuring lyrics (according to the band) that were “inappropriately anti-unicorn,” this song is really best appreciated in both of its two forms. There’s the softer version, found on the band’s first kids’ album, No!, and sometimes performed live; and then there’s metal-influenced the “adult version,” which one might call superior except that it relies, like an adorable set of salt and pepper shakers, on its counterpart.

Continue Reading

Continue Reading

TMBG Countdown #22: Hollywood (Venue Song)

April 9, 2015 Pop Culture Comments (0) 468

First Release: Venue Songs, 2004

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

OK, so this entry is, to some extent, standing in for the entire venue songs collection: In 2004, during their tour for The Spine, They Might Be Giants embarked on a quest to write an original song for each venue at which they performed. The results are mixed, but best experienced as a whole–preferably in the form of a DVD hosted by John Hodgman in character as “The Deranged Millionaire.”

Continue Reading

Continue Reading

TMBG Countdown #23: Spoiler Alert

April 8, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 625

First Release: Join Us, 2011

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

It’s exceptionally rare for a band that’s been recording for more than 30 years, but I think They Might Be Giants has released some of their very best music in the last few years. The band has hit a renaissance, inspired perhaps by their online fan base, their successful kids records with Disney, a new label (Idlewild), the emergence of digital music distribution, or just a fit of creativity (most likely a combination of all of the above), and Join Us is one of the band’s best records.

This song, sometimes performed live by the (literal) sock puppet “Avatars of They,” is unusual for being a rare true duet. Often one John sings backup vocals for the other, but in this case they share lead, portraying two drivers destined for a collision brought about by distracted driving–one is writing a book while driving, the other laying back and falling asleep. If you listen in stereo, each John gets one channel.

Continue Reading

Continue Reading

Book Review: “The Shattergrave Knights,” by David M. Haendler

August 11, 2011 Reviews, Writing Comments (0) 406

 

[Full disclosure: Dave is a personal friend.]

I wouldn’t exactly call myself an avid fantasy reader. While I greatly enjoy some entries in the genre, I’ve sampled many of the best-selling fantasy series and found them wanting. I only have so much patience for yet another repackaging of Tolkein: the unlikely hero, living a peaceful life in an idyllic region far removed from the world’s problems, finds a long-lost (or hidden) relic of great power, which attracts the wise old magician who sets the hero up with some motley companions and sends them on a long quest to challenge the rising power of the Big Bad. Along the way they fall into peril, they’re separated and nearly defeated, and the hero learns to wield a great power long forgotten in polite society. Ho hum.

Some of these are certainly tropes of the genre and relatively unavoidable, but good fantasy finds new and inventive ways of presenting the tropes. I’m pleased to say that The Shattergrave Knights, recently self-published by attorney and fellow Philadelphian David M. Haendler, does just that. The story follows Jack and Olive Merriwether, twins from the tiny hamlet of Muddy Hollow who are caught up in adventure when a simple act of kindness draws the ire of a paranoid and overreaching government. A quest to rescue their parents from extraordinary rendition leads to revelations about the history of the Protectorate and the Merriwether’s own sinister ancestry.  Continue Reading

Continue Reading