Disney, My Head Is Spinning

This time, I’m reviewing some more collections of Disney comics.

Donald Duck: The Black Pearls of Tabu Yama, by Carl Barks – One of the better stories begins with the bizarre premise that canner P.J. McBrine is trying to ruin the cucumber crop in order to sell the pickled rutabagas he wasn’t able to get rid of before. Donald and his nephews travel to the Amazon to get some razor wasps to kill off McBrine’s augur-nosed pickle-haters. They end up discovering a valley of live dinosaurs, with McBrine trying to sabotage them the whole way. Many of the stories involve Donald getting a new job. He works as a hotel manager, a mailman, a baker, and a milkman, with varying success. He’s comically bad at some and surprisingly competent at others, usually with circumstances beyond his control working against him in the latter. His enemy in the milkman story, Mr. McSwine, looks just like McBrine in “Forbidden Valley.” Is the majority of Duckburg of Scottish or Irish ancestry? The mustached pig has had several other names, but his mostly-official name has been verified as Argus McSwine. Another has giant ants invade a billionaires’ picnic, while another gets a surprising amount of mileage out of Donald trying to get out of helping Daisy with her spring cleaning.

Mickey Mouse: Timeless Tales, Volume 3 – These collections from IDW are made up of translated versions of foreign Disney comics, some old and some new. There’s a lot of work in this volume by Italian writer and artist Andrea Castellan. One multi-part tale written by Castellan takes place in a futuristic city Mickey visits on a layover, where the Phantom Blot is using a robot he built himself to try to take control.

Another has Mickey, Goofy, and world-traveling archaeologist Eurasia Toft being forced by a secret organization to work mining orichalcum, the mystical metal said to have used in Atlantis. A Romano Scarpa story has Goofy turn into a werewolf as part of a plot by Pete’s mad scientist cousin Portis to turn cats into other animals and sell them for a profit. It’s pretty convoluted, but it’s interesting in light of the difference between animal-people and regular animals in this universe. Pete is officially a cat, although he doesn’t look like one, but Portis has more feline features.

It also uses the sentient but troublesome mynah bird Ellroy as a character. Scarpa invented Ellroy as the adopted son of Ellsworth, a genius bird who was popular in American Disney comics in the 1950s, and remained popular in Italy. Apparently the American publisher at the time didn’t really like a character who was clearly an animal rather than an animal-person, but with human intelligence.

Uncle Scrooge: Timeless Tales, Volume 3 – The most prominent story here is an Italian one where Flintheart Glomgold, John D. Rockerduck, Magica de Spell, and the Beagle Boys team up to take down Scrooge’s empire. Rockerduck is a character who was created by Carl Barks, but he never really took off in the States, while he’s more popular than Glomgold in Italian comics. Magica sends the contents of Scrooge’s money bin into a pocket dimension and takes his first dime, only to be deprived of her evil powers by the Council of Dark Magic and turned into a good fairy.

Scrooge and Donald visit the underworld to argue with the Council, and end up allying themselves with the earthquake-making Terries and Firmies, whose territory is being polluted by Glomgold’s waste disposal industry. Donald also makes a few appearances as the Duck Avenger, and the Maharajah of Howdyustan is referenced in Scrooge’s plot to take down Glomgold and Rockerduck. There’s a Polish story that builds on the idea of Donald as a master video game player that I’ve seen a few times before, in which Scrooge has a game made of his own life and the two of them compete. Scrooge ends up winning because Donald treats it more like a game where he has to gather quest objects, while Scrooge makes business deals like in real life. Goldie O’Gilt’s impetuous granddaughter Dickie Duck, a Scarpa character whose grandfather has never been identified as far as I know, is introduced in a story from 1966.

Another character less familiar to American audiences who shows up in a few short comics is Scrooge’s half-brother Rumpus McFowl, a creation of Canadian artist William Van Horn. Rumpus has some traits in common with Gladstone Gander and Gus Goose, but is also an opportunist, coming across as similar to Wimpy from Popeye.

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Crazy Celtic Cruises

A common theme in mythology and related fiction is that of the sea voyage that includes a visit to a bunch of weird islands with bizarre people and creatures. This sort of thing can also happen in stories of overland journeys, but islands are insular by definition, so it makes sense that they’d have their own cultures and little interaction with the outside world. The Odyssey might be the most famous example of this, with Odysseus visiting strange islands, encountering monsters and other supernatural beings, visiting the world of the dead, and finally returning back home after losing his crew. In medieval Ireland, there was a popular genre known as the immram, which involved a sea voyage of a spiritual nature. The name literally means “rowing out,” and it was heavily influenced by the earlier echtrae, a voyage to the Otherworld in pagan tradition. Immrama are specifically Christian, although there are definitely elements of earlier Irish mythology. Whether the immrama are specifically inspired by the Odyssey and similar Greek stories isn’t entirely clear, but there are some obvious similarities. There are some borderline cases, like the Voyage of Bran, or Immram Brain, which sounds like a mental condition.

It was originally pagan, and the sea god Manannan mac Leir appears as a character, but it has had Christian interpretations. When Bran mac Feabhail (not the same as Bran the Blessed, although he also seems to be of royal blood) hears from a woman about a magical land of peace, happiness, and plenty, as well as chariot and boat races. When Bran sets off across the sea with a crew led by his foster brothers, he first arrives at the Isle of Joy, where the inhabitants just stand around and laugh, and when one of Bran’s men goes ashore he begins doing the same. Then they reach the Land of Women, where Bran is ensnared in magic thread and he and his crew brought to land. They remain there in a dreamlike state for what seems to them to be a year, but due to time flowing differently, many years pass. They return to Ireland, where one of them jumps to shore and turns to ash, similar to the story of Oisin’s stay in Tir na n’Og. The others tell their story and then go back to the sea and are never seen again.

The story of St. Brendan, the oldest written version of which dates to around 900, has some similar themes. After hearing from another cleric about a visit to Paradise, Brendan sets out to sea with a crew of monks, coming to various islands with spiritual meanings, including one inhabited solely by a dog, and another where birds sing hymns. They also come across a rock where Judas is given reprieve from Hell on Sundays and holy days, are saved from a sea monster when God sends another one to kill it, see a giant bird fight a griffin, and spend Easter on the back of a whale that moves when they light a fire. The whale is identified as Jasconius, the world’s biggest sea creature, who unsuccessfully tries to put his tail in his mouth. I guess he figures that, if Jormungand could do it, so could he.

The story of Sinbad also has him landing on a whale he thinks is an island, and it also moves when he lights a fire on it. After years of travel, they reach Paradise, an island surrounded by mists where they find a lot of fruit trees and a river they’re not allowed to cross. St. Brendan the Navigator is believed to be a historical figure who lived from the late fifth through early sixth centuries and founded several monasteries in his native Ireland, but accounts of his life seem to mix fact and fiction. Other people later claimed to have seen the island of Paradise that Brendan discovered, and it appeared on some maps.

There’s even a theory (the popular kind, not the scientific one) that Brendan reached North America.

The Voyage of Mael Duin seems to date back to around the eighth century. Unlike the two previous explorers, he isn’t voyaging to find an earthly paradise, but to avenge his father. It’s kind of weird because not only did he never know his father, the warrior Ailill Ochar Aghra, but Ailill raped his mother. But he’s intent on it, and sails out to some familiar places, including the island of laughing people who make anyone who lands there one of them and one with women who make the visitors stay longer than they want. And while a member of Brendan’s crew steals from the island inhabited just by a dog and is possessed by a devil, here it’s an island with a cat that jumps right through the thief and burns him to ashes.

Other islands include one with giant ants, one with a creature like a horse with the legs of a dog that wants to eat the sailors, one where salmon fall out of a stream that flows through the air, one with fire creatures, and one where the sheep change color when crossing the land. The crew decides not to land there for fear they’ll change color, which sounds kind of racist. But my personal favorite discovery is a beast that turns around by moving its bones and muscles around inside its skin.

Finally, they visit an old hermit who receives food from an otter, who advises Mael Duin to forgive his father’s murderer, which he does upon his return to Ireland. I’ve been reading about different translations of Final Fantasy VI on Legends of Localization, and it came up that the Esper Maduin, father of Terra Branford, is generally thought to have been named after Mael Duin.

I don’t know that there’s any real connection between this character and the one from the immram, but the hidden land of the Espers does bear some similarity to the Irish Otherworld.

As indicated in this review of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, this book is heavily inspired by the immrama, centered around a voyage to Aslan’s Country and stopping on multiple weird islands, including one where a fallen star in the form of an old man rules over one-legged people, and another with a table holding a holy relic and surrounded by people in an enchanted sleep.

There’s also a clear sea, something found in the stories of Brendan and Mael Duin. Aslan’s Country is located at the eastern edge of the Narnian world, and everyone but Reepicheep only gets a glimpse of it. And he goes there in a coracle, a sort of boat often used in the immrama.

Posted in Authors, C.S. Lewis, Catholicism, Celtic, Christianity, Chronicles of Narnia, Conspiracy Theories, Final Fantasy, Greek Mythology, Maps, Monsters, Mythology, Poetry, Religion, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Swarm of What-Will-Bes

Neil Innes and Fatso, Farewell Posterity Tour – Recorded during a reunion tour with his band from Rutland Weekend Television, this is an eclectic mix of material. It includes some comedy bits, like “Testing 1, 2” with its number puns, and an Elvis-style skit where the background singers argue with the lead. The Bob Dylan parody “Protest Song” and early Bonzo Dog Band hit “I’m the Urban Spaceman” are both included, the latter with more of a country sound than usual. So are Eric Idle’s “Philosophers Song” and “Brave Sir Robin” from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. There are a few Rutles songs scattered throughout, including John Halsey who played Ringo Starr analogue Barry Wom doing the lead vocal on “Living in Hope,” as well as a medley of several other Rutles tunes. And on the Beatles theme, there’s a cover of George Harrison’s “Beware of Darkness.” “Eye Candy” is a mariachi-style song with some fake Spanish in the chorus, about the heavy influence on television on society. The country song “Crystal Balls” lets the audience yell out “Balls!” at appropriate times. I’ve heard the song before, but I’ve come to appreciate this one more from the live rendition. There’s a thematic consistency in that it’s followed by the swing number “Fortune Tellers.” “Ego Warriors,” which appeared on the last Bonzo Dog Band album, includes an amusing swearing-in session.” Charlie Big Potatoes” is a rambling narrative about an obnoxious character, with its title coming from golf commentary. “One of Those People” comments on how much crap we have to put up with. It’s a good combination of stuff from throughout Neil’s career.

Posted in Albums, Beatles, Concerts, Humor, Monty Python, Music, Television | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome to Hell Hotel

Aerie, by Maria Dahvana Headley – The follow-up to Magonia takes place a year later, with Aza and Jason still a couple. He’s been hiding a secret from her, though, that a secret government agency monitoring Magonia is forcing him to share intelligence with them. I know he felt like he didn’t have a choice, but he really should have told her. Aza teams up with the girl she initially replaced on Earth, who was an antagonist in the first book, and seeks out something called the Flock in order to fight her mother, who still wants revenge on the Earth. Other characters return and several other secrets are revealed, including the identity of Aza’s father. There’s still a lot about Magonia that remains unexplored, though.

Summon the Keeper, by Tanya Huff – This is the first book I’ve read by this author, and I liked it, although it seemed a little weirdly uneventful for a book with such a cosmic premise. But then, maybe that’s because it’s so Canadian. Claire Hansen is a Keeper, someone whose calling is to seal incursions of evil magic into the world. She also has a talking cat, easily the most entertaining character in the story. Claire finds herself being in charge of a bed and breakfast in Kingston, Ontario. Guests there include a vampire who’s also a popular college musician, a few werewolves, and a group of retired Olympian gods. The furnace room contains a portal to a conscious Hell that argues with itself, a woman is in a cursed sleep in another room, and there’s a horny Quebecois ghost haunting the place. And even more annoying is the nosy neighbor who seems almost too normal, but turns out to have a strange connection to the supernatural events. There’s some romantic tension between Claire and both the ghost and the charming young man from Newfoundland who works as the caretaker. I just checked out the sequel, The Second Summoning.

A Map of Days, by Ransom Riggs – The fourth book in the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series starts with Jacob Portman living in Florida again, only to have Miss Peregrine and her charges show up there. She wants them to help with the recovery effort for peculiars after the events of the last book, but Jacob has the idea of carrying on in his grandfather’s footsteps by running secret missions in the United States. He and his friends soon find out that the situation in America is complicated, with several rival gangs mostly being in charge of the peculiar world there. There are several new characters based on old photographs, much like in the previous books. It expands the world quite a bit. I do have to say that I became frustrated with Jacob’s refusal to listen to anybody, but at the same time the secretive authorities don’t come off well either. And I’m glad it actually addressed the weirdness involved in Jacob dating his grandfather’s ex.

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What a Piece of Crap Is Man

It’s interesting that Satan’s rebellion against God has become such a significant part of the mythology of the Abrahamic religions, when there isn’t a whole lot of support for the idea in the Bible. It’s described in Revelation, but the nature of that book makes it unclear whether this is something that happened in the past or will in the future (or both?). Anyway, there’s another wrinkle to the rebellion story that I had heard of before, but hadn’t looked into that much, that his fall was directly related to the origin of humanity. I was aware that it showed up in the Quran, but there’s precedent for it before that. It seems that it first appeared in a first century manuscript called The Life of Adam and Eve, or sometimes The Apocalypse of Moses, even though Moses isn’t in it; I suppose the idea was that he was the narrator. Set in the time just after Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, it has the couple do penance by standing in rivers up to their necks and fasting. Satan shows up and tells Eve that God has already forgiven her, tricking her into breaking her penance. Fool me once, shame on you…no, wait, God punished both Eve AND the Serpent the first time. Adam asks Satan what they ever did to him, and the Devil explains how, after God created the first man out of dirt, the Archangel Michael told the other angels to worship Adam, as he was made in the image of God. Satan insisted that he was superior as he was made first, and when Michael insisted, decided to launch a rebellion against the Almighty. The narrative then goes on to describe how Seth tried to find some oil from the Tree of Life to heal his dying father, is bitten by Satan, and told by Michael that there’s nothing that can be done for Adam until the end of days. This idea would also appear in an explicitly Christian context in the Gospel of Nicodemus. Also featured are the Pillars of Seth and the idea that Adam was created in Bethlehem from different substances found all over the world.

Many of the ideas from this text reappear in the Questions of Bartholomew, the exact origins of which are unclear, but it might have been from around the fifth century. Bartholomew asks Jesus about some of the mysteries of the universe, including the harrowing of Hell and what happens to the dead. Jesus then brings Satan, here called Beliar, up from Hell so that Bartholomew can ask him questions, compelling him by stepping on his neck. You know, Jesus is largely remembered for his advice to turn the other cheek, but some stories indicate that he wasn’t always opposed to violence. Then again, I guess Satan is basically immortal. Beliar reveals that he was the first angel created, made from a handful of fire (sounds painful). When Michael tells Beliar to worship Adam, the Devil not only objects because he was made first, but also because Adam is a material being while he’s made from fire. Also, he deceives Eve by poisoning the source of the waters of Eden with his sweat and armpit hair, on the advice of his son Salpasan, a woefully underused character.

In the Quran, the Devil is referred to as both Iblis and Shaitan, although from what I’ve seen (and I haven’t read the Quran, although I probably should; I’m not sure which translation to use), it seems like the latter is more of a title. Iblis is a jinn, formed of smokeless fire, who refuses to bow down to Adam when ordered to do so (in this case by Allah Himself, rather than Michael), and hence is cursed. But Allah allows him to live until the end of days and serve as a tempter of humanity. He never tries to take God’s throne in this version of the story. There’s some emphasis on how Iblis only functions at the behest of God. This is true in Christianity as well, but it seems that popular theology focuses so much on Satan’s role as the opposite of God as to make him a much more significant part of the religion. Perhaps Muhammad was consciously trying to get away from Zoroastrian influence, which makes it kind of ironic that the place where Zoroastrianism originated is now a strictly Islamic country.

Anyway, this recurring theme is a rather odd one, as the whole idea of monotheism is that God alone is worthy of worship. I’ve seen it suggested that the angels bowing to Adam was supposed to be a mark of respect rather than actual worship, but the translations I’ve seen of these works make it sound more extreme than that. And really, considering how humans act a lot of the time, Satan might not have been so wrong to hold mankind in contempt. Look how easy it was for him to tempt Adam and Eve. But it goes back to the general theme in these religions that humans are both totally amazing and inherently sinful. Which maybe we are in a relative sense, but it seems like an all-powerful, all-knowing creator could have done a better job.

Posted in Christianity, Focus on the Foes, Islam, Judaism, Mythology, Religion, Snobbery, Zoroastrianism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

I Don’t Need a Rationale to Sing the Internationale

They Might Be Giants, My Murdered Remains – Even though TMBG’s albums tend to have a lot of songs, there are also quite a few they record that don’t make the cut, many of which are still quite good or at least strangely fascinating. Back in the day, they released a lot of EPs, but since that’s largely obsolete these days, they instead tend to follow every major studio album release with at least one collection of rarities. This one was named after a line from “Mrs. Bluebeard,” a song on I Like Fun. I believe they mentioned that was considered as the name of that album, but it makes more sense for this, as these are the remaining songs. They’d released most of these on the online version of their Dial-A-Song service, with accompanying videos. It has sixteen songs, but early copies included a bonus disc of sixteen more, some of them DAS stuff from 2015 that hadn’t been otherwise released. I’m going to look at the contents of both here, doing my usual thing for TMBG albums of discussing every song, even if it’s sometimes only one sentence.

The Communists Have the Music – A very clever and upbeat song with a lot of unusual rhymes and clever turns of phrase. It seems a little ambiguous lyrically, specifically whether it’s about someone naive who advocates a political philosophy for shallow reasons (in this case the quality of the music), or more of a manifesto in terms of how some of the best music tends to be radical and speak truth to power. I sort of relate it to “I Should Be Allowed to Think,” where the narrator is applying grand philosophical ideas to something personal and not that significant. John Linnell has said the song was inspired by a comment someone in his high school made comparing two bands, where one had the power and the other the tunes.

I’ve Been Seeing Things – This one reminds me a lot of “Erase,” particularly in the part about the violin case. Listening to them both back-to-back, it’s not as close as I originally thought; this one is a little harder, with its fuzzy guitar bits. There’s definitely a similarity there, though. Lyrically, it seems to be about someone assuming everything he sees has some great significance.

Gudetama’s Busy Days – Gudetama is a Sanrio character, a lazy egg starring in a series of animated shorts. Since John Flansburgh’s wife, Robin Goldwasser, once told my wife that she liked Sanrio (Beth had a Chococat purse at the time), I have to suspect she might have had something to do with the title. It also includes the phrase “Mountain Girl,” which is how Flans introduced Robin at a show a few years ago when she was dressed in overalls and had flowers in her hair. The question remains as to whether the song is actually about the Sanrio character or just borrows the name. It’s about someone down on their luck, which seems to fit the descriptions I’ve read of Gudetama. I like the line about selling explanations to the wall.

Dog – Musically, this song is made up of a bunch of altered piano samples, giving it kind of a jazzy feel. Like the preceding song, there’s a definite sense of ennui to this, that the dogs in question (I guess there’s more than one, since both male and female pronouns are used) have more or less given up on life. Looking a little closer, it seems like they’ve both screwed a lot of people over, but it didn’t benefit them much in the end.

Ampersand – The basic idea is something that I’ve heard done a few times before, that of turning normally unspoken things like punctuation into words. It’s a wistful love song, short but pretty sweet. The musical parts make me think of trucking or something, sort of a country driving thing.

Applause Applause Applause – Like many other bands before (and after) them, TMBG occasionally comments on the nature of performance. In both other songs and stage banter, they’ve commented on the idea that applause is a form of payment to the band. One line I’ve heard them say on occasion is “Your applause is his oxygen!”, and maybe the song derived from that. It’s funny, sort of a self-parody, but that saxophone sounds genuinely sad. There’s a video that appears to be a live studio session (that sounds kind of oxymoronic but really isn’t) with only Linnell on vocals and sax, Flans on acoustic guitar, and Mary Beller on cymbals.

The Neck Rolls Aren’t Working – Another song about that favorite topic of the band even when they were young themselves, aging. The narrator is obviously older than Linnell himself, who was only two when John Glenn first orbited the Earth. There’s a sense of futility created through repetition of the same words: “That air horn is blowing away the clear thinking that’s needed to stop the loud air horn” and “destroying my chances of wrecking any last hope of destroying any last hope that I had.” I suppose the neck rolls that aren’t working are exercises, although there is some potential ambiguity there.

Selectionist – An instrumental with a lot of electronic effects that sounds like it should probably accompany a dream sequence.

I Haven’t Been Right Yet – A collaborative effort between both Johns that started with a simple chord progression Linnell came up with. The image I get from the lyrics is that of a rambling guy sitting on a bench, but maybe there’s more to it than that.

Unctuous Robot – I can’t really think of much to say about this one, although I like the title. It’s a pretty good song, but not one that really stands out.

The Bullies – While the song could potentially be about any kind of oppressive forces in society, there are some clear similarities to earlier Flansburgh songs about the grind and corporate culture, particularly in the general distaste for clichéd phrases. “There’s no there there” is the same sort of overused and largely meaningless phrase as “the check’s in the mail, and I’ll see you in church, and don’t you ever change” or “have a nice day, you want it when?” Musically, it’s quite synthesizer-heavy, and I like the bridge with just acoustic guitar and vocals.

Tractor – I think it’s interesting that Linnell sings this in light of something I remember reading about the Johns, how Flans is a cat person and Linnell doesn’t get the appeal of cats. The character here is someone who feels no affection for other humans, but does for an equally aloof cat. It seems like people who don’t have cats are often unaware that they they can be quite affectionate; it’s just generally on their terms, not yours. The central metaphor, “heart of a tractor,” is interesting because a tractor is not just unfeeling, but also a moving object with some force to it. The bridge introduces some other unusual and confusing metaphors: the soul of a treadmill, the eye of a merchant marine, the stomach of an arachnid, and the spine of a vending machine.

Rowboat Mayor – This is another minimal-sounding song with a bizarre title. The instrumentation has kind of a Chinese sound, sometimes accompanied by Flans humming. The concept of a rowboat mayor sounds kind of like the proverbial big fish in a small pond, someone arrogant about his small amount of power. But then, the song says that not only is the character not a rowboat mayor, but that it’s not even a real thing (shades of “Shoehorn with Teeth”). So maybe it’s just about a guy with an overinflated ego. I checked the interpretations page at This Might Be a Wiki, and the one interpretation there posits that the narrator is a drunk guy complaining about someone he finds annoying, which I think does fit. What I think is particularly interesting is how the song plays on its own not-quite-rhymes, pronouncing “later” and “potatoes” to sort of rhyme with “mayor.” It kind of makes me think of Ogden Nash.

Tick Tick Tick Tick – Is this about the same tick that put them in a predicament? It’s another song about aging and the passage of time. The lyrics sometimes seem to be about an insect, but as is often the case, the metaphors aren’t entirely consistent.

Last Wave (alt. version) – I wrote about this song in the context of its appearance on I Like Fun, but I’m not sure I knew about its origins back then. It’s said this was written to sync up with the video for Aerosmith and Run DMC’s “Walk This Way” on mute, sort of a Bad Lip Reading kind of thing. It’s not like it’s totally new for them, either; “Complete Paranoia” was written to sync with their own video for “Snail Shell.” This is a demo version of the song, weirder and considerably less polished than the I Like Fun version.

Best Regrets – Not much to say about this breakup song, although I like that the ending line is “you even tolerated slang.”

And now, More Murdered Remains:

This Is Only Going to Go One Way – There’s a bouncy feel to this one, perhaps an inevitable result of a song largely based around toy piano and tambourine. The lyrics are amusing in parts with the ghost pirate and the magician (even though he does kill himself), but also quite dark with their references to a couple where one member wishes physical harm on the other, but they still stay together, like they don’t have a choice.

Prepare – Another passage-of-time song with a bit of a twist in that it’s about concentrating on individual seconds.

No Cops – A live opening bit with Corn Mo singing and playing accordion, which accounts for the circus-like sound. It’s similar to other introductions in that it’s darkly humorous, presenting the band as hostages.

Starry Eyes – Recorded for a compilation of covers of seventies songs, it was originally performed by the Records in 1978. I don’t think I’d heard the original before, but it’s the sort of catchy power pop number that I tend to enjoy. The cover is very close, and I think Flansburgh’s voice is perfect for it. It sounds like both Johns are having a lot of fun with it.

The Velvet Ape – This one sounds very theatrical, sort of a seventies epic kind of thing, that sounds like it’s about a pillow fight.

Tesla (2 4 6 8 Remix) – I’m not sure why they’re releasing so many versions of this song, unless it’s to make up for putting “The Edison Museum” on a few different records. It’s accompanied by what sounds like a kid counting by twos, hence the title. There’s not much else to it.

Whole Lot of Glean – From a promotional video for the album Glean, it’s a very straightforward song about signing copies of the record. Since it’s TMBG, though, there are lyrics about the band having complicated personal issues as well.

I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar – Originally by Jonathan Richman, whose song “Roadrunner” was cited by Flans as a major influence. TMBG also covered his “I’m a Little Airplane” back when they had a podcast. It’s apparently based on an actual experience Richman had, but it seems weirdly random as a choice for a cover. TMBG’s take turns it into much more of a dance song than Richman’s sparse acoustic arrangement.

Rock Club – This was an old Dial-A-Song that I first heard on an umpteenth-generation cassette. The thing is, I seem to remember people particularly disliking it even compared to other unreleased, low-quality DAS recordings. It’s certainly not one of the band’s best songs, but there’s a forlorn sound to it that I appreciate. I also think it paved the way for some of their other songs about the weirdness of performing.

Thankful for Your Service – According to TMBW, this was written for a compilation of songs based on the amendments to the United States Constitution. This was for the Third Amendment, so it references someone forced to quarter a soldier in his home, but in a modern context of a terrible roommate.

The Summer Breeze – This is another old DAS, uploaded onto the band’s website back in 1994. It takes the urban legend about a serial killer with a hook on his hand leaving said hook on a car door handle, and twists it in a way that doesn’t make that much sense, making the car itself the killer, and its door handle coming off on a radio dial. I’m glad they’re reworking some of these rarities.

Another Weirdo – A mellow, jazzy instrumental with a lot of sax and accordion.

Door to Door Minotaur – This was dedicated to Hardy Fox of the Residents, who died last October. While the Residents preferred to remain anonymous, Hardy admitted to being the composer and producer in 2017. The band was an influence on TMBG, particularly in their early years, and this song includes elements of their sound, like the synthesizer and gruffly spoken vocals.

The Greatest (full-length mix) – A longer version of the song from I Like Fun, which was extended a bit for the music video. It wasn’t one of my favorites on the album, so it’s not like I needed a longer mix, but it’s an interesting rarity.

Christmas in the Big House – I wonder if this was at all inspired by John Prine’s “Christmas in Prison.” They’re both quiet numbers about the same subject. I guess it could also be a follow-up to “Careless Santa.”

The Power of Dial-A-Song – A new version of an old jingle for the DAS service. And with that, we’re finished.

I’ve listened to TMBG’s other recent release, The Escape Team, but I should probably read the comic before I really get into it.

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Groening Goes Medieval

Disenchantment – I took a while in watching this still relatively new Netflix series created by Matt Groening, but I’m caught up as of last night. It’s an animated comic medieval fantasy, and as such the jokes focus largely on parodies of fantasy tropes and the crappy, unhygienic conditions of medieval society. Along with this, there’s a pretty callous attitude to minor characters dying or suffering other tragic fates. I’d say it’s consistently funny so far, but not uproariously so. Then again, The Simpsons and Futurama were both pretty funny at first but took a while to really hit their stride. The main character is Princess Tiabeanie, or Bean for short, daughter of King Zog of Dreamland. Bean is a rebellious sort, disliking the strictness and decorum associated with her position as many fantasy princesses do, but also with a drinking problem. The King is an angry and not-too-bright guy, sort of an Archie Bunker type as can be heard in the cadence of his voice, but does genuinely care about Bean in his own way. His first wife, Bean’s mother, was turned to stone, and he married an amphibian woman from a neighboring kingdom and had a son with her. In the first episode, Bean meets up with two other characters, who become her regular companions. Elfo, from a hidden village of elves that seems idyllic but insists on conformity and being happy all the time, is naive and has an unrequited crush on Bean. I love that they went with such a ridiculously simple name for the character, and it’s even addressed in-universe. And his clothes are basically the same as Bart Simpson’s, not counting the hat. Luci is a demon sent by a mysterious sorceress to corrupt Bean, although she seemed to be doing a pretty good job of that herself. Most of the other characters think he’s a talking cat. There are only ten episodes available so far, and the first few are pretty episodic, based on Bean getting in some kind of trouble and/or Zog trying to find her something useful to do, and returning to the status quo at the end. Towards the end, however, there’s are some major plot twists, and we’re left with a cliffhanger, as well as a death we’re actually made to care about (although I’m pretty sure it won’t be permanent). I have to wonder where it will go from here and how much the basic feel of the show will change in the next season.

Posted in Cartoons, Fairy Tales, Families, Futurama, History, Humor, Magic, Middle Ages, Television, The Simpsons | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment