Here Come the ABC's

A host of animators and puppeteers illustrate the wonderfully wacky Here Come the ABC's, a recent children's DVD (also on CD) from the band They Might Be Giants. Highlights include the psychedelic "Pictures of Pandas Painting", "C is for Conifer," and "The Alphabet Lost and Found." TMBG, purveyors of whimsical experimental pop, celebrated their 20-year anniversary in 2002 with the release of their first children's CD, No!

Polio and its Aftermath

Fifty years ago, Jonas Salk announced a vaccine against polio at the University of Michigan. Today on the Diane Rehm Show, author Marc Shell talks about his book Polio and its Aftermath.

The Mighty Asparagus

There's an oft-reinterpreted russian folk tale about a big turnip, and lots of people try to pull it out, etc. etc. The titular Mighty Asparagus of this book is an obvious descendant of the russian turnip, but the brilliantly off-kilter style and tone of Vladimir Radunsky provide a wonderful new spin on the otherwise warmed-over folk tale that is eccentric and quite silly.

Radunsky uses famous renaissance paintings as visual fodder (and includes thanks and an apology to each pillaged artist in his dedication), and the result is a unique combination of rich texture and cross-eyed goofiness that overshadows (in a good way) whatever the parable is supposed to be about (even the smallest effort counts).

My 3-year-old son adores this book, especially the Ballad of the Mighty Asparagus at the end, but if you have a child who is into order, they may be a bit dismayed by the centerfold-style pullout of the fallen asparagus. Should that have had a spoiler warning?

Garden State Blues

Zach Braff is certainly a writer and director who we need to keep our eyes on. His motion picture debut Garden State can be put on the same shelf as Wes Anderson's Rushmore and Bottle Rocket. I'm looking forward to his next project.

Braff's musical picks for this motion picture turn out to be an ideal mix of melancholy, carefree, and sincerity. Featuring new and old (some long dead) artists, this OST brings together a thoughtful mix of styles that all seem to play off each other in a way that makes this a perfect summer spin for your home or car. Some notable artists are: Nick Drake, Iron & Wine, Coldplay, Shins, Zero 7, and Thievery Corporation.

The Cosmic Game

Thievery Corporation's latest offering definitely blows the lid off my expectations. What is so great about this band is that every single album they release pushes out in a new direction while maintaining the down-tempo soul that is at the heart of all Thievery music. The Cosmic Game is no different. While it fuses Indian raga, Reggae, and Middle Eastern invocations, it also brings in some familiar voices such as Perry Ferrell (Jane's Addiction) and The Flaming Lips.
These headline names, along with the vastly expanded musical ensemble, underscore the fact that Thievery Corporation has come into its own. Truly, every song on this album is fantastic.

Hothouse Flowers

Hothouse Flowers will be at The Ark on July 24 at 7:30 p.m. The Irish band, which started as a Dublin street-performance act, "made a name for itself during the late '80s and early '90s with a passionate, bombastic fusion of rock & roll with the rootsy sounds of Irish folk and American gospel." (allmusic.com).

The Emancipation of Mimi

Mariah Carey looks and sounds like Beyoncé on The Emancipation of Mimi, but apparently that's the right recipe. The album, previously #1, is currently #4 on The Billboard 200 and fans of Carey--the best-selling female performer of the 1990s--are hailing it as a comeback.

Remaking Gene Wilder

Poor Gene Wilder: Two of his films, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) and The Producers (1968), are getting remade this year. First, Johnny Depp stars as Wonka in the upcoming Tim Burton film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (which Burton is careful to claim is not a remake--but we know better), then Matthew Broderick takes on Leo Bloom in the upcoming film version of The Producers.

Lance Armstrong

armstrong

The new youth book Lance Armstrong, Cyclist by Michael Benson describes Armstrong's amazing journey from cancer survivor to today's frontrunner in the 2005 Tour de France.

Triplets of Belleville

As this year's Tour de France heats up, check out the The Triplets of Belleville, the 2003 animated film about a bicyclist kidnapped from the Tour, a film Roger Ebert calls "creepy, eccentric, eerie, flaky, freaky, funky, grotesque, inscrutable, kinky, kooky, magical, oddball, spooky, uncanny, uncouth and unearthly....It's one of those movies where you keep banging your fist against your head to stop yourself from using the word 'meets,' as in Monsieur Hulot meets Tim Burton, or the Marquis de Sade meets Lance Armstrong."

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