Friday, January 3, 2014

From Vampire Weekend to Candyland vamps

I had so much fun writing about books a couple posts ago that I thought it'd be fun to review a few more things I've come across. 

To start with:

1. Vampire Weekend "Modern Vampires of the City"


I'm not really qualified to offer serious music reviews. I stopped attempting to stay in the "I knew about them before they sold out" game once Lily was born. It's just too exhausting. (If you want to know what kid's music will become crusted to your ear like dried up oatmeal on the side of a plastic bowl, I can tell you that. "We Are Santa's Elfs." "A Friend Like You" from the Fresh Beat Band. "Hot Lava" from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Beyond that, I'm useless.) 

I rarely get to listen to my own music anyway (unless I want to listen to it while also listening to Lily scream at the top of her lungs, "I WANT SOPHIA MUSIC!!!!!") so I don't really want to squander the time, waiting to grow to like something. I fear a casualty of this will be the Arcade Fire's new album, which I got for my birthday. I really like "Reflektor" but the rest of the album hasn't really captured my fancy yet. And there are so many long songs. Six of them clock in at more than six minutes. My attention span and patience for jam sessions just ain't what it used to be. 

Anyway, a few weeks ago I was at BAM! doing some work and listening to Spotify when I remembered that Vampire Weekend had a new-ish album out so I decided to look it up. I don't think I'd ever heard their second album, but I really like the first one because it's catchy and fun and fresh and bouncy (even the girls will request "A-Punk" -- I only wish more of the songs on that album didn't have profanity.)

"Modern Vampires of the City" got me right from the start. I must've listened to it four times in that one sitting. Replaying "Unbelievers" over and over and bouncing around in my chair and tapping my fingers on the table like a fool. It's very jaunty for a song about damnation. "We know the fire awaits unbelievers/All of the sinners the same/Girl, you and I will die unbelievers/Bound to the tracks of the train."

And then there's "Hannah Hunt," that quintessential road-trip-in-your-20s song that's more sad that jubilant and kind of how I felt about being in my 20s anyway. Mentally plodding along in a quiet little music box with occasional frustrated, pleading outbursts. 

"Ya Hey" is lovely, too -- all spiritual and searching with a tribal-sounding hook in the chorus that catches you a little off guard. 

The band has grown up since that first album -- not so cheeky and irreverent -- more earnest and introspective. Of course I would like it. I can't remember the last album I so thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish (probably "I and Love and You" or "Between Two Lungs").

So if you care to trust the recommendation from someone who's home on a Friday night wearing saggy sweatpants (blue of course!) over leggings, two pairs of socks, a turtleneck and a sweater that just barely misses being qualified as a bathrobe, well then this is a good one.

2. "Happy Feet"




So we're big fans of "Happy Feet 2" in our household, having commandeered a copy from our penguin-loving neighbor last year. (You can find out why we like it here). 

The original "Happy Feet" was on sale at Target for $5 right before Christmas, so I picked up a copy as a gift for the girls. I'd seen the movie when it was in theaters back in 2006 and only have vague recollections of it having a big environmental message and a strong anti-zoo sentiment (by now no one should be surprised to learn that I cried my way through the scenes with Mumbles trapped in Sea World.) 

The first time we watched it together, I wondered if Lily even liked it. The tone of this movie is so much darker than the second one. There's, of course, the ostracization of Mumbles because he dances instead of sings and the fact that he never physically matures. There's a complicated father-son relationship that culminates in Mumble's dad exiling himself because of his guilt. There's the threat of starvation for all the Antarctic residents. The threat of being eaten by Sea Leopards or Skua's or Killer Whales. The threat of lost faith. There's Lovelace, the penguin, almost being strangled to death by one of those ubiquitous plastic six-pack rings that hold cans of soda. There's an unapologetic, uncensored look at the impact of humans on creatures at the bottom of the world -- the waste, the trash and the ravenous consumption of what should be shared resources. 

And that's not even touching on how the opening of the movie is just one long mating ritual … I'm mean, sure, they're penguins. But man are they horny. (IMDB even calls attention to a later scene: "When Gloria and Mumble are tumbling around on the ice after emerging from the water, they briefly slide into a human mating position (facing each other, lying down) and then slide into a penguin mating position (with Gloria on her belly and Mumble behind her"). So there's that.

If it weren't for Mumble's happy feet and the Adelie Amigos, I'm not sure it would be much of a comedy. 

Lily doesn't see it that way though. "Happy Feet" has just given her more material to use when she's pretending to be a penguin. Since seeing "Happy Feet 2" she insists on tapping dancing in the bathtub as the water drains (the splashing water is similar to the globally warmed melting ice in the movie). And now she likes to pretend to hatch from an egg poking her head out of the blankets on my bed. She swims under the sheets screaming that's she's being chased by a sea leopard. She jumps off the bed pretending to dive into the ocean. 

And then there are the less endearing moments she likes to re-enact. First, there's Mumble's horrible, ear-splitting singing (Lily is spot on, if not a few octaves higher … kind of like a cross between nails on chalkboard and fingers rubbing a balloon. It's awful.) She also likes to head butt me or her sister imitating the moments Mumbles runs or swims into walls and/or ice. And then today, in a moment that both repulsed and sent me into near-convulsions of laughter, Lily approached me with an odd look in her eye and told me to open my mouth because she had something for me. I knew right away what she was trying to do, which was pretend to regurgitate partially-digested fish in my mouth the same way Norma Jean does for baby Mumbles. So that happened. 

When Brad got home from work, I made sure that Lily offered him some fish as well.

In sum, good movie with a good message, just be wary if you have small children not to open your mouth at their request.

3. Candyland

Another one of Lily's Christmas presents was Candyland -- we figured it was time she learned to throw temper tantrums for legitimate reasons (IE: not winning) as opposed to questionable reasons (IE: having to put on socks). Luckily, for all of her dramatic ways, Lily has handled losing with grace (or maybe ignorance). 

The newest version of Candyland looks as if it was designed by someone who'd consumed large quantities of sugar (or maybe some other psychotropic substance). The game board (which is much more compact than the original) is so crowded with candy, it's kind of hard to figure out where you are or where you should be going. So many colors and shiny things. Like a casino, but for a preschooler. We've played a few times and Lily still can't seem to follow the direction of rainbow candy road.




Gone are the little cards that dictated how many spaces you go. In comes the spinner, which makes for less mess, but more opportunities for your quick-thinking preschooler to move the arrow to the most desirable spaces (IE: the one's with cupcakes or lollipops). 

And once you get to those coveted spots, you can marvel at the characters, who've all received makeovers, apparently from someone who loves Bratz, anime and leggy ladies in stilettos. Totally appropriate role models for a 3 year old!


Wait - didn't she used to be a queen? 
I'm not sure I want her sugar fairies to make me giggle.
And then there's Mr. Mint, who I'm fairly certain is based on an emo version of Chazz Michael Michaels from "Blades of Glory."


Wait … is that Adam Lambert?!
Brad tells me we read a blog post a while back on which someone complaining about the new Candyland. I don't remember reading it, but I did a little poking around on Google, and found plenty of others are ahead of me on the ranting end (that's usually the case). Here's a look at the evolution (devolution?) of the game from The Atlantic and SFGate.

I feel my concerns are obvious, so I'll spare you an extended tirade. 

Instead, I'll offer you my suggested makeover for Princess Lolly:




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