Transformative Artistic Impulses and The Walking Dead

It usually doesn’t bode well when you get a call from the teacher in the middle of the day. Usually it involves vomit, fevers, biting with broken skin, diaper explosions, seriously bonked skulls, and so forth. So when The phone rang and Stella’s teacher started off with “Everything is OK, don’t worry,” I was still dubious.

Previous calls like this had detailed an emotional saga where bites were exchanged between two young women as they conversed on the subject of who was to sit in the swing directly adjacent to a young man with dreamy eyes. In this particular case, the story was almost as interesting- and it came with a picture. A picture of the “thousand word” variety.

Apparently Stella is not a strong napper at school. At this point she was sleeping directly behind the easel, out of view of the teacher in the classroom. Oh, those were innocent times. During the nap, back in those days, the teachers were blithely responding to parent emails, or uploading pictures of the kids, or eating lunch, or even taking a much needed break. Suffice to say they were not staring at Stella, who had woken up, obtained a dark purple marker, and began steadily coloring the floor and cabinet next to her. When that was sufficiently covered, she started to apply the ink to her own self. Observe.

Psych!

Just kidding. That’s not really a photo of my 3.5 year old girl, you silly. That is internet tattoo legend, Mr. Cool Ice. Below is the real picture, as admitted into evidence. She looks less like a tattoo legend and more like an extra from The Walking Dead.

Braiiiiiins...

I know- a lot of ink, right? She’s got more ink than Mr. Cool Ice!

How fitting that this young rapscallion is wearing a Bartman shirt. And look at that face-she’s not quite sure how to feel about the attention she is getting at this moment. She was a bit mortified. The washable marker did come off, though it took a few days to be completely gone. That corner of the classroom still bears the scars of that day’s skirmish with Sir Marks-A-Lot, and the tale has become legendary among the teaching staff and a fair number of parents.

Her teachers deserve a commendation for how well they took all this is stride. I am sure they spent hours scrubbing stuff, including my kid, and they didn’t worry about it too much. There was much laughter than tears. But the following day, when two other young women repeated the trick, which was not as amusing, for some reason.

So in addition to being a artistic genius and a rebel, my kid is a trendsetter and an amateur Zombie Makeup Artist. Aw yeah.

Speaking of The Walking Dead…

Cycles: A Wicked Awesome Trippy Video To Show Your Kid

“That Teddy Bear ate the man! That’s silly, Daddy!”

Hey- it beats Barney videos.

More by Cyriak here.

Most of it is kid friendly, so to speak, though perhaps disturbingly bizarre. I recommend you preview it before sharing with kids. It takes a special kind of parent to show this special kind of stuff to a special kind of kid. Special.

I originally learned about Cyriak on Boing Boing.

The Yo Gabba Gabba – Archie Bunker Toy Connection

Huge Yo Gabba Gabba! fan here. I consider it one of the best kids shows on TV. This is going to be an epic post. I am going to take my time meandering around to the point, because I have some meandering to do. Deal.

Our Protagonist with Yo Gabba Gabba! star, Foofa.

Yes, that’s right- we MET FOOFA. Foofa’s mitten hand was coming off, and Foofa had hairy wrists and a watch on, but still- as far as a 2.5 year old is concerned, we are now close personal friends with Foofa, the very embodiment of femininity.  In fact, Foofa gave Stella little Brobee doll, and a Tee. I mean come ON. Does it GET any more awesome? The Foofa in this photo and video moved like Foofa, which was pretty impressive, as I found out after the fact that this guy in the Foofa suit was a last minute stand in who had no idea who Foofa is. He never saw the show! He does pretty well. I guess the suit, cheapo knockoff though it is, just has the awesome supergirly Foofa vibe, you can’t help but fully become Foofa when you don it. It’s like method acting. They guy actually LOVED flowers while he was wearing this suit, and was not at all afraid of the dark. Watch the entire episode in the video below:

That video has more views than most of my youtube stuff. People dig this Foofa pretty hard!

We have metric tons of the YGG! toys and crap, originally valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, including Halloween costumes, shirts, bath toys – you name it. I put those YGG! guys’ kids through college. Stella was Foofa 2 years in a row for Halloween. I was DJ Lance Rock at a Halloween gig last year, and we both reprised our roles at Dragoncon, though admittedly it was partly for economic reasons. We couldn’t afford the Ghostbusters car.

DJ Lance Rock and Foofa at Dragoncon, 2011.

I even remixed Brobee’s hit single “Party In My Tummy.” I haven’t gotten around to doing a full Yo Gabba Gabba! mashup collection, but I WILL!  Click below for raw SOPA-defying tunage!

Click for the mp3.

Peanut Butter Jam (Buckwheat Boyz vs Technotronic vs Yo Gabba Gabba)

I mean, if you haven’t guessed by all my weird bragging about how strange my tastes are, we are deeply into this show. In fact I would die happy if I got a gig doing the end-of episode remix on an episode of YGG! Are you listening, Adam Deibert? (bats eyelashes)

So yeah, anyhoo… last year, I really wanted to bring Stella to the YGG! show and get backstage. We tried to win passes by making a ‘Cool Tricks’ video, but no dice. Here’s Stella’s Cool Trick video. I spent so much time making original music and editing together the video that I delayed the release and I fell behind in the voting. Excuses, excuses. It lost to an unedited video taken on a phone of a far less lovable child spazzing out in front of a huge television. AN OUTRAGE!

Through some luck and the kindness of a friend, (yay Jen Hill) we were able to score backstage VIP access and tickets, which meant that with my original tickets, we were now lined up for TWO shows back to back followed by a meet and greet. And healthy snacks with the Gabba Gang. Good lord. We’d died and gone to Gabba Heaven! Aaaaand of course I made a video. Do you hate me yet? No one’s MAKING you watch them! With this one, like the first 7 minutes is the show itself. If you want to see DJ Lance Rock and the gang backstage, skip to about 7:30 minutes in.

Stella loves that Biz.

OK, so with all that in mind- and I realize it is a lot to absorb- here is how I find my mind exploding one recent morning. I am drinking my coffee and browsing reddit. And here’s a Mentalfloss piece with more than you ever wanted to know about Yo Gabba Gabba. I begin skimming it, being such a deep YGG nerd that I already know most of more than you would ever want to know about Yo Gabba Gabba. And then, as I read one of the quick asides, I made one of the most jaw-droppingly insane pop culture connections I have ever made in my entire life. I think about this stuff way too much.

The Aquabats. Christian, aka MC Bat Commander, is the one on the left.

Christian Jacobs, highly inventive creator of Yo Gabba Gabba, lead singer of The Aquabats, voice of everyone’s favorite yellow robot Plex, was one of the cherubic child actors who played Archie Bunker’s grandson, Joey Stivic, on the spinoff “Gloria.” PLEX IS ARCHIE BUNKER’S GRANDSON.

My initial excitement paled slight when I learned roughly 15 kids played Joey Stivic on Archie Bunker and the various spin-offs through the years.  Still, it was pretty cool to learn that the creator of Yo Gabba Gabba had played this strange side-character in pop culture history. Joey Stivic was the first baby to have his diaper changed on TV- by Archie Bunker himself, I’ll have you know. And I am not going to let the fact that Jacobs played a roughly 10-year-old Joey, and not the iconic crying pee-pee factory Archie hauled around, lessen my bizarre satisfaction at making this connection.

You took er a dumpy-poo, dere, lil' Plex!

There was a baby doll made based on the “Joey Stivic: Archie Bunker’s Grandson” character, and the doll had working junk.

You heard me. Working. Junk. WORK. ING. JUNK.

Shudder.

That’s right! This doll was a ‘PHYSICALLY CORRECT MALE’ baby that drinks and wets. See the box for yourself. Disclaimer- these photos are from the wonderful site X-Entertainment. I did not take this horrible photo, oh no. I would never do such a thing. I just saved it and reposted it to my own website.

His first word: "Meathead."

Apparently, this doll is expensive and sought after by doll collectors, I suppose as a weird example of marketing gone awry. It caused mild outrage when it was released, apparently. I guess the objectors thought it would appeal to pedophiles or something? Or turn little girls into pervs when they played with it? I have no idea. And neither does Wikipedia, so don’t bother looking.

All I want for Christmas this year...

A lot of Yo Gabba Gabba toys are pretty collectable as well. Kid Robot made some nice big character dolls and they go for hundreds on eBay and Amazon now. I LOVE these guys! I can’t justify being a serious collector of these, though. I can’t afford this Foofa. Or this Biz Markie doll.

$250 Foofa doll. 1% of children love it!

So that’s the Yo Gabba Gabba / Archie Bunker Expensive Collectable Toy Connection.

The more you know!

Parenting Advice from Rudyard Kipling

If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

Book Review: Kids Go! by They Might Be Giants

Forgive the lateness of this review. This book came out in 2009, and it is now 2012. So sue me. I have spent the last three years making sure my children didn’t die or get abducted. Also, feeding them things, and wiping poops. So I didn’t have time to keep up with the ten billion TMBG projects for kids. I didn’t want to get poop on them. It didn’t seem sanitary.

Think of The Children.

That’s right- They Might Be Giants have done a TON of music and other media for kids, and their adults, and they have a history of stepping outside the bounds of standard rock band realm of albums and music videos. They have done so much stuff, they have their own wiki to track it all. Like freakin’ Star Trek! TMBG had a glorious beginning as an 80’s “alternative” band, with a sweet sound and quirky style that was 100% awesome and unlike anything else out there. They did a McSweeny’s book, for fancy literate hipstars. They did a charming song for the film Coraline, actually an entire soundtrack, but most of it got nixed. They did the “Malcolm In The Middle” theme and the “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” theme, two of the most annoying pieces of TV music on the planet. (Those two are so obnoxious I refuse to link to them.) And they have done a couple of children’s records, “Here Come The 1-2-3’s,” “Here Come The ABC’s,” “Here Comes Science” and “No” which are all pretty popular, critially acclaimed and well-loved.

Kids Go!

And then there is this hardbound book, packaged with the companion DVD: Kids Go! Apparently this song and video were made for PBS as part of a campaign to get kids to get up, move around, and stop being so damn obese. They don’t phrase it that way, but that’s the general idea.  That would explain why the song clocks in at a speedy 2:20, 1:00 if you watch the TV edit. Here’s the video for the PBS cut- sorry the sound is not synched correctly. Sound appears to lag by one second. All the ones online are like that. This is the official Simon and Schuster video, and even it is screwed up! Good job, Simon, good job, Schuster. I include it here purely for gloating purposes. The time lag is about to drive you bonkers.

I’m about to videotape my TV and upload another video of it to youtube, though. I might be crazy, but I’m not insane. I can’t stand the lag, and the full version has some cool bits you gotta see.

See? The song is short, but kind of catchy! GO! Not too shabby. I told Stella to weigh in. “It’s good” she said, before the vocals even began. I had to agree.

OK, now to the book itself. It’s hardbound, nice graphic design from A French Artist (Pascal Campion), cool dust jacket, cool cover, cool end pages. Cool sleeve for the DVD in the back. Campion’s art inside looks pretty much exactly like the video. Very fancy packaging-wise, kind of like a high-end graphic novel or something. Obviously built to appeal to the parents and hardcore TMBG fans, and it does succeed as an ephemeral object.

Cunning design!

Cute cover under the dust jacket!

However, content wise, it falls flat. I read this over lunch, and I wasn’t particularly impressed. I mean the art is cute, a sort of loose sketchy style with two kids and a monkey jumping around and so forth. A French Artist did the art, so of COURSE it’s cunning!

“Get off your chair and GO GO GO!” we are told. “If you’re hearing this song, it’s time to jump along!” Well, that line actually only works if you are hearing the song. If you are reading the book, say, at bedtime, then you are NOT hearing the song, young lady, and please don’t jump around, thank you very much. Get under the covers, put your head on the pillow, and calm down. I’ll pick out another book. This one doesn’t have much of a story.

It’s true, actually. The song lyrics are the entire book. There IS no story- just a couple of kids and a monkey jumping around like idiots. At least they aren’t obese idiots. Don’t get me wrong, it works great as a song, and is very cool as an animated short on PBS. But making this 2:20 minute long song into a book, and then charging $20 for it, was not the wisest decision The TMBG International Corporation ever made. The message is a good one, but in the context of a book, it makes for some pretty thin reading. No pun intended. (Seriously, I did not intend to make that pun.) You can either awkwardly read the lyrics, which doesn’t really work, or you can sing the song to your kid, which I really didn’t feel like doing. This may explain why I found it in the bargain bin at Walmart for $4. I guess the Walmart shoppers in Georgia are not up to speed on their They Might Be Giant ephemera.

$3.97 is more like it.

“But it comes with a DVD!” you cry. Yeah, the DVD was a selling point. I figured it would have a handful of cute TMBG animations and would be worth the $4 price tag by itself!

X! (cue Family Fued buzzer) WRONG!

You get the two minute, twenty second long video, kids, that’s it! No mp3, nothing else! But rest assured- it’s on infinite repeat! You thought Barney was annoying? Try watching THIS for 30 minutes. 5 minutes into it, Stella told me to shut it off now, Daddy.

Two minutes, twenty seconds. It takes longer than that for me to power up the DVD player, open the tray put the DVD in, close the tray, change the input on the TV, get the remote and push play. How often will it be worth it for us to play this DVD? Exactly ONE time, that is my prediction. To see what is on it. That’s it! I don’t have much higher hopes for the reading part of things.

All in all, it is worth four bucks, but not twenty.