Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Dan Zanes Juggernaut

Gotta hand it to the man; he knows what works.

After nearly three fruitless years of attempting to interest the boy in Dan Zanes' music, we finally steered his attention to, where videos of Zanes and his band performing several of their hits finally turned the boy into a music lover.

In particular, the video of "Jump Up", in which Zanes enlists the help of a kindergartener on banjo ukelele, sent the boy to pick up his own ukelele (something he never does), and inspired him to ask daddy to pull down the mandolin and play it (where previously he only ever asked daddy to put the mandolin away).

Almost immediately the boy mastered the hand motions of "All Around the Kitchen", and we've heard him wandering around the house singing bits of "Malti", "Emmanuel Road" and "House Party". We're used to him reciting stories; singing songs is something entirely new.

I was so stunned by the transformation that I immediately went out and bought the DVD on which most of the online videos are featured.

Of course, this weekend's new favorite: "Smile, Smile, Smile", is only available online.

It's a minor inconvenience, however. We're happy with ANYTHING that gets him to forget the nightmare of music that is the Inky Winky Spider CD. He hasn't asked for it in days.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

M&Ms: Dark Chocolate

Okay, so you're a popular chocolate candy. What could be better than an interactive game for your fans?

Well, perhaps an interactive game that involves decoding visual riddles to find film titles, done in the style of, say, 15th century Dutch painter Hieronymous Bosch.

Of course.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Remembering Miriam, on All Things Considered

Melissa Block's remembrance of Miriam from this past week, with a link to the online archive of her earlier interview.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Chad Vader: Episode 4

A YouTube rarity: a comedy short that is actually funny. It actually got enough buzz that it appeared on Good Morning America last week.
This is an episode from a short lived series earlier this summer at

Chad Vader, Day Shift Manager.

Pratfalls. Total commitment to character. Banjo music for a chase scene.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Indian pop jukebox

Ronan's teacher Amena says this is the place to be for non-stop Hindi pop music and miscellaneous bits o'culture. Also available in Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

This Is Constantine Maroulis. He Wishes You Knew That. by Angela Ashman

I had this great idea to profile the most recent batch of MacArthur "genius" fellow here, with links to digestible summaries of their prowess.

But then the New Times' Village Voice ran a cover story on Constantine Maroulis of American Idol, and I got distracted.

He's young. Give him time. It's possible that even now the MacArthur Foundation's moles are watching his work.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Justin Roberts: Infectious Nod-Pop for grownups (and kids)

Melodic pop confections that trigger visualizations of singers and drummers nodding to the downbeat--it's what I call "Nod-Pop": early Beatles, Hanson, that first Spin Doctors album.

My new favorite Nod-Pop album comes from an artist who's best known for trading music video rotation slots with Laurie Berkner on the Noggin network: Justin Roberts. Imagine Fountains of Wayne's Welcome Interstate Managers but with songs written from a kid's perspective (actually "Stacy's Mom" and "Fire Island" already are) and you'd get pretty close to Roberts' 2006 release Meltdown!.

The track "Maybe the Monster" features something like eight of my 20 favorite pop hooks of the year. The remainder of the list would be crammed with moments from "My Brother Did It", "Our Imaginary Rhino", "It's Your Birthday", and the title track.

And the mellow ballad "Sand Castle" features sweet and sleepy Bacharach-style trumpet as an echo to the vocal.

Roberts was recently profiled on, for his use of GarageBand to develop more densely layered pop arrangements than he had on his previous five CDs.

Regardless of the tools, Roberts and producer Liam Davis have made a brilliant album that deserves to be heard (and purchased) by more than parents of preschoolers with premium cable service.