Posts from January 2019

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

For Your Wednesday Listening Pleasure: “Will You Dance?” by The Bird and the Bee

C'mon, hurry up and dance, Patton's really gotta get in there…

C’mon, hurry up and dance, Patton’s really gotta get in there…

Hey, listen up, I really love The Bird and the Bee. Alright!? I know they haven’t released a new album since 2015, but I’m really jonesin’ for some of that sweet, sweet, jazz-inflected, dreamy, electro-exotica pop.

Here’s the video for their first single, “Will You Dance?” from their most recent album, Recreational Love. It stars Simon Helberg and Patton Oswalt! How can you beat that?

Gosh, I’d love it if they’d put out more music. Here’s a fun thing to do: go to Pandora and make a station based solely on The Bird and the Bee. Do you hear all of that music? That’s my favorite kind of music!!

Categories: Wednesday Listening Pleasure.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Warren Dunes Birthday Beach Party (at the Aquarium!!)

It's beachy keen…

It’s beachy keen…

Hey-o! This Thursday night (I know, how inconvenient is that?), January 17th 2019, there is a great-big Warren Dunes party happening at the Seattle Aquarium!

According to the Seattle Aquarium:

Adults take over the Seattle Aquarium for this 21+ event featuring animal experiences, music, a cash bar and more.

Shake the winter off at the Aquarium After Hours BEACH PARTY! Dress in your favorite Aloha wear and bask in the indoor sunshine while exploring exhibits and learning more about our Hawaii research.

And here’s more info from Warren Dunes if you can stomach nonstop aquarium-themed puns:

This is your O-FISH-AL invitation to the winter party everyone will be CLAM-oring over this month!

This show will include not one, not two, but THREE sets from yours truly! Your $25 ticket includes the show as well as access to all of the exhibits in the Aquarium!! It promises to be a WHALE of a time!

Also, it just so happens to be Julia’s birthday and all she wants from you is your PRESENCE!!

Details:
After Hours: Beach Party (Get Tickets Here)
January 17, 2019 at 6:30-9:30pm
@ The Seattle Aquarium
1483 Alaskan Way, Pier 59, Seattle, WA 98101 (map)
21+, $25 (Discount available to Seattle Aquarium members)

If you can swing it, you should bring it!

And by “it” I mean “yourself to the aquarium on Thursday night to hang with Warren Dunes.” Except not the first “it,” that one means “going out on a School night and being able to afford $25 per person.” Yeah!

Categories: Concerts/Shows, Seattle.

Friday, 11 January 2019

TV Review: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

"I am Adora, He-Man's twin sister, and defender of the Crystal Castle. This is Spirit, my beloved steed. Fabulous secrets were revealed to me, the day I held aloft my sword and said, 'For The Honor Of Grayskull! I AM SHE-RA!!!'"

“I am Adora, He-Man’s twin sister, and defender of the Crystal Castle. This is Spirit, my beloved steed. Fabulous secrets were revealed to me, the day I held aloft my sword and said, ‘For The Honor Of Greyskull! I AM SHE-RA!!!'”

This new She-Ra show is absolutely brilliant at showing the difficulties of navigating interpersonal relationships. It is, however, still firmly ensconsed in a younger “Saturday morning” genre of shows.

The story follows the same basic beats as the original She-Ra. Adora was kidnapped as a baby (though no mention is made of a manly brother) by the Horde and groomed to be its next great leader. When she discovers the horrors of what the Horde is actually up to she defects and happens to find a sword that can transform her into She-Ra.

Where this show differs wildly from the original is in its depictions of the relationships between all of the characters, particularly the villains. What once were one-dimensional evil caricatures are now fully fleshed-out, unbelievably sympathetic people. The main thrust of the whole show is the sisterly relationship between Adora and Catra, who were both raised as basically sisters by Shadow Weaver, who is (let’s be frank) a pretty terrible mom. Shadow Weaver constantly raises up Adora while denigrating Catra. And even though Adora deeply loves her adopted sister and tries to help her, the fact that she has to rely on Adora so much makes Catra feel weak and resentful.

Because of Shadow Weaver’s parenting style, Catra never bought into the whole Horde thing. She was more cynical and self-serving. But all of the feedback that Adora got growing up made it so that she was pretty gung-ho about striving to be the best for the Horde. So when Adora does defect, Catra doesn’t feel betrayed because Adora left the Horde; she feels personally betrayed because Adora left her. Shadow Weaver spends much of the series trying to get Adora back because she believes Adora would be an amazing general in the Horde. Catra tries to get Adora back because she misses her sister.

Similar care is taken with most other villains (except Hordak, who remains a mostly-offscreen, distant ruler figure). Most fascinating are Scorpia and Entrapta. Scorpia is actually a princess whose family surrendered to the Horde rather than fight. She is rather simple, and doesn’t seem to actually buy into the Horde philosophy. Indeed, she doesn’t even seem to really understand it. She just believes she’s friends with Catra, and wants to help her with her plans because that’s what friends do, right? Entrapta is also a princess who is basically a mad scientist. She’s so in love with experimenting that she never thinks about the consequences of her experiments, and indeed doesn’t seem to see them as anything other than data points to incorporate into future experiments. As such she creates huge amounts of chaos not through malice, but carelessness and tunnel-vision. She joins the Horde simply because Catra encourages her reckless experiments and the mayhem they cause.

Also wonderful is Adora’s relationship with her new, non-horde friends, the feisty Glimmer and the upbeat Bow. Glimmer (who has the ability to teleport) is at first guarded. She has a lot of pain in her past because when the Horde originally invaded they killed her father (the only mention of a death in the whole series—more on that later), and now she’s pretty desperate to move out from both his shadow and the shadow of her immensely powerful, important, and protective mother. Glimmer wants to prove herself on her own terms. Bow, on the other hand, is almost completely unflappable in his optimism and happiness. Its his sunny outgoing-ness that reaches out with childlike naiveté and pulls Adora into the group. He wants to help! He wants everybody to be happy! It’s completely charming.

There is some interesting world-building as well (with reservations—see below). The world is divided into kingdoms (princessdoms?) that each house a very powerful crystal. These crystals form kind of a worldwide power network that the princesses can tap into, and allows them to use their unique powers. She-Ra isn’t a person so much as a global defense system. Adora is not the first She-Ra, she simply becomes the latest one. There are hints and signs pointing to deeper things that will (hopefully) be further developed in subsequent seasons.

Where the show falls short is in its handling of the more violent subjects. The Horde is ostensibly waging a war against the rest of the world, but the logistics of the war are nonsensical. And there is also a real problem of scale. Before the events of the show, the rest of the world (led by the princesses) joined together as a Rebellion and stood up to the Horde. It did not go well. The Rebellion disbanded with each princess going into isolation to protect only their own corner of the globe. But the Horde does not seem to have done anything to press that advantage in the ensuing 15 years (or so). There is no warfront. There are no armies. Indeed, at the climax of the series when the Horde army invades Glimmer’s kingdom, it seems to consist of about 12 tanks and maybe 20 soldiers, and the Rebellion consists entirely of half a dozen people. I wonder if there were budgetary problems that prevented showing larger conflicts? The newer Voltron cartoon handles the scope of war in a much better way. Also nobody ever gets hurt (in any serious way), and except for mention of Glimmer’s father, it is an absolutely deathless war. She-Ra has a gigantic sword that never cuts anybody.

It’s reminiscent of the original A-Team show that had in some episodes showers of machine gun fire that never hit anybody. It’s this feeling of being held back that makes the show seem aimed at an incredibly juvenile audience even at the same time that its handling of relationships is incredibly mature.

Categories: Reviews, TV Reviews.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

For Your Wednesday Listening Pleasure: “Gudetama’s Busy Days” by They Might Be Giants

A Lazy Groove for a Lazy Egg

A Lazy Groove for a Lazy Egg…

Hey, did you know that my all-time favorite band They Might Be Giants released not one, but two new albums (technically two, but in reality three because one of them contains a “bonus disc” that’s as long as a full-length album) right before the holidays? C’est vrai! They just kinda sneaked ’em out.

Here’s “Gudetama’s Busy Days” from the album My Murdered Remains, which is apparently about the “lazy egg” Sanrio character of the same name? As with many TMBG songs, it’s hard to tell what it’s actually about. But partake and enjoy anyway!

Seriously, though, those are some excellently lazy grooves in that song. Tasty.

Notice how I very purposefully didn’t say “egg-cellently lazy” in the previous paragraph! You’re welcome! An enjoyment has occurred!

Categories: Wednesday Listening Pleasure.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Movie Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Does whatever a Spider-Man… Men… Woman… Pig… can…

Does whatever a Spider-Man… Men… Woman… Pig… can…

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018): ★★★½

Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, & Rodney Rothman

There hasn’t been a Spider-Man Movie (that I’ve seen) that quite so successfully encapsulates the sheer exuberance of swinging through a city as Spider-Man.

Much of that must be credited to the wondrous visual style of SMItSV. Most animated movies nowadays have one visual style, and the whole movie looks like it. But SMItSV has a very idiosyncratic and expressive range of styles; individual scenes are animated with different effects depending on the need of the scene. And indeed, later in the movie when a handful of characters are introduced, they’re all animated in their own individual style in addition to the style of the movie. It’s simply amazing to look at, and extreme care was taken to make sure each shot in the movie looks as gorgeous as possible.

I’ve seen some complaints (mostly from those who have only seen the trailer/commercials) about the jittery-looking framerate, but the whole movie from what I could tell never dips below 12fps (which is the same framerate as such beloved animated movies as, you know, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King), so it never bothered me in the least. It just made it look like an animated movie instead of a CGI movie trying to ape real life. And I for one really appreciated that.

But beyond the look of the film, SMItSV is an excellent, very well-told story. It’s mostly the origin story of the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man, who hails from an alternate dimension. The relationship at its emotional core is about Miles and his dad, the strangely-named policeman Jefferson Davis (what black mother would name their son Jefferson Davis!?!?). Some great story and emotional beats about fitting in and figuring out how to find your passion and also help others flow through the film. Miles is an endearingly awkward and scatterbrained teenager just trying to figure out who he is even before he gains spider powers. The sequence where he goes to his Uncle Aaron for advise about the ladies (the “shoulder touch”) and then disastrously tries to implement that advice is just so well done. Also hilarious is the fact that for most of the movie, Miles is dressed up in a cheap Spider-Man costume bought at a cheap costume shop.

There is also a plot that involves villains breaking through dimensional barriers that acts as an excuse to introduce a bunch of different versions of Spider-Man from alternate realities.

Of these, the past-his-prime Peter Parker and the Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman (commonly referred to as “Spider-Gwen” in this world) are the most well-developed. Gwen in particular is incredibly appealing, with a great characterization and fantastic design (including a great albeit unintentional hairstyle). There’s a great running gag that whenever a new spider-person is introduced we see a quick, comic-book-style flashback of their origin story so that we get the gist of the character very quickly. In a lesser movie all these characters would muddy the proceedings up and the movie would become scattershot, but SMItSV is so firmly focused Miles’s story that everything that everything these characters do is brought around to how it affects Miles. That does mean that the other spider-people (other than Peter and Gwen) kinda get the short shrift, especially Peni. But this never really was their story, so I was okay with it.

My only quibble about SMItSV is the relative weakness of the villains, mostly because they have almost no screen time at all due to this being solidly Miles’s story. Dock Ock had the most interesting characterization as a mad scientist who wasn’t evil so much as just thoroughly delighted by mad science. I thought that giving Kingpin an unbelievably thick New-York-thug accent was a huge mistake. Kingpin has always styled himself as a cultured Manhattanite, not a lowly thug from Brooklyn. He should have a cultured New York accent.

If you don’t believe me that SMItSV is great, it just last night won the Golden Globe for best animated feature, beating out The Incredibles 2 and Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs. So there.

Categories: Movie Reviews, Reviews.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

For Your Wednesday Listening Pleasure: “Intergalactic” by Electric NoNo

Tripping the light fantastic…

Tripping the light fantastic…

Let us welcome in 2019 by enjoying this enjoyingly trippy “GIF-style” official music video for “Intergalactic” from Seattle stalwarts Electric NoNo:

“Intergalactic” is from Electric NoNo’s most recent release, the EP Cool Cool. You can get it on the Bandcamps!

Hooray! An enjoyment has occurred.

Categories: Wednesday Listening Pleasure.