We watched Shrek the Halls last night on ABC. Christmas TV shows tend to be things that started airing when my generation was growing up; indeed, the show paired with it was that other green creature, the Grinch. With Shrek, we howled.
It had more gags than Shrek the Third (which seemed tedious compared with the first two features), and a bit of a plotline, to boot. Amid the jokes and parodies - my favourite was the Gingerbread Man's tale of horror, featuring cookie-eating Santa - was a trademark of Shrek storytelling, with a maudlin song playing as Shrek, alone and isolated, figures out how to the do the right thing.
I hope this is still playing when my son, who was asleep in his bed while this played last night, will be watching it with his kids.
It's Black Kids, with a top-shelf title to boot: I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You. Imagine Robert Smith of the Cure forming a band in this era. The video is described as being unofficial, but is still kind of amusing, too:
Circular Road - the stretch of it by Bannerman Park - is a well-known bit of architecture in St. John's, with Victorians that have by and large lasted since they were built. Here's a video showing how a gingerbread house modelled on them was built. (Thanks to Rock Recipes for the pointer.)
Carbon/ Silicon: Why Do Men Fight? If there's a camp that divides Clash fans between Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, put me in the Jones camp, even though it's definitely more acceptable (read: fashionable) to pick Strummer. Post-Clash, Jones has often been a disappointment, as Strummer usually was, but he's still working it out. Carbon/Silicon is an unlikely collaboration with Tony James, of all people. Excellent tune to start the day, though.
Jill Cunniff: Lazy Girls. I picked up this tune from the ex-Luscious Jackson singer months ago from a KCRW podcast; it sat stored away for months before I noticed it.
Ron Sexsmith: All in Good Time. Ron Sexsmith = best living songwriter. I tend to think that many days. So many of his songs are so finely crafted, it's hard to knock them. All in Good Time has been a staple for a long, long time, and although it's a bit mawkish to admit it, the song's message gets heeded when I feel a bit run down.
The Beatles: Drive My Car. Speaking of tight songwriting ... From Rubber Soul, an album that is so lean and straight-up, Drive My Car - running all of 2'30" - is among the longer songs on the entire record. (Only one song on Rubber Soul, You Won't See Me, runs over three minutes!) Drive My Car is one of those songs I grew up singing along to, and probably one of the first where I sniffed out innuendo on the radio.
Manny Corchado: Chicken and Booze. From a Mojo compilation, a nice slice of jazzy funk that warms up a walk in mid-November.
I (really, really try to) post five songs from my revolving playlist to a queue on this blog. Click on the label below to see more.
vozMe is a web application that converts text to audio, and pretty quickly at that. The results are read back in a monotone "voice" but I can see all kinds of applications for this. To do a test, I copied and pasted the Surf's Up column that I posted to this blog a couple of days ago. Here's the link to listen to yourself.
To download, right-click on the link above, and save to your computer.
The cadences, as written, tend to get missed, and the program glides a little clumsily from one sentence to the next. But this utility opens up possibilities for people - for making material more accessible to the visually impaired, as a time-saving technique for busy multi-taskers (eg, copy a briefing note into this and listen while you make breakfast or do a workout), as a teaching aide, and so on.
You can stream the audio right away, or save it for playback later. Interesting.
Cursor Invisible is a game that rewards those who don't need to see a pointer to know where their mouse is focused on a screen. It takes a few moments to figure out, but it can get addictive pretty quickly: click on a popping array of plate-like circles, and rack up the points for every successful hit. The game ends as soon as you click into the darkness.
[Surf's Up, as publishedin the St. John's Telegram on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2007. Click here to read more columns.]
In October, our family joined hundreds of other parents and children for one of two readings by Robert Munsch, the acclaimed Canadian author who has written dozens and dozens of books beloved all over the world. Seeing such a large crowd made me realize what an impact Munsch has had, at bedtimes and day-cares and playgroups all over.
I was among those who got a kick out listening to Munsch deliver the stories himself, in his own voice.
If you’ve read stories like Alligator Baby or the Paper Bag Princess to your kids, do make a point of checking out Munsch’s terrific website.
Robert Munsch The site offers a treasure chest of material – including recordings of Munsch reading many of his works. You can download them and play them back when you want, and hearing him read them is a great insight into how Munsch wrote them, crafting the lines over and over, getting them just right for kids to enjoy.
There’s plenty else to see and do; the “what’s new” section includes photos and notes from his travels, and a selection of unpublished stories (he apparently has dozens) comes as a treat to those who’ve worn their own copies down.
Storybook England From Mary Poppins and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five to Harry Potter and the His Dark Materials books, fans from around the world have long had English storybooks … so much so, perhaps, that tourists expect to find characters right out of their favourite childhood novels when they go to visit. (I guess, sometimes, that they do.) This site offers reading resources to young readers who’ve fallen for stories from across the pond; click on the title, the author or the geographic area to find out more. The site may also offer some additional reading ideas for parents and children alike.
Fairy Tales Collection Fairy tales come in many packages, as this site suggests. It features work by Hans Christian Andersen, Aesop and Mark Twain … so far. Other sources (the Grimms, for instance) have been identified, but this site is still obviously a work in progress, and hopefully more content will be added over time.
Eric Carle Our son loves Eric Carle’s bright, inventive books, which combine collage-inspired art with words that fly right off the tongue. The companion site is a fine way to learn more about the beloved children’s author.
Just One More Book Many tired parents will know the exclamation “just one more book!” from evenings when the couch calls, but the siren call for another book is too tempting to ignore. It’s also the title of a podcast for parents looking for new material; the tone is loose and fun, which makes sense, as it’s recorded in a coffee shop. You can play more than 250 episodes from your web browser, or subscribe to have new shows downloaded to your desktop.
Granny Bates The little store for kids (and their parents) on Bates Hill in downtown St. John’s offers its catalogue online, as well as shelf pics. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the store personally, try out the online offering.
DAWCL search engine DAWCL stands for Database of Award-Winning Children’s Literature, and that accent on quality makes this search engine a useful tool for parents, teachers, librarians … and kids who know how to use a search engine! Select criteria (genre, age range, historical period, etc.), sort out the years of publication, and see what comes back.
Dot Dot Dot is Morse code for the letter 'S,' the full message Guglielmo Marconi claimed to have received atop Signal Hill in St. John's in 1901. It ushered in the age of telecommunications. My maternal grandfather worked as a telegraph operator for Canadian Marconi on Signal Hill for many years.
As well, I have a habit of overusing the ellipsis when I write ... as frequent readers might notice.