31 August 2007

BSB Flashback: Hop on Pop

9 April 2007

Author/Illustrator: Dr. Seuss

Many point to Bruno Bettelheim's award winning book, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, as the moment that Freudian psychoanalysis officially came in contact with the realm of children's literature. While it is true that Bettleheim may have been one of the first academics to tackle the subject, it was the seminal work of Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) that introduced children to Freud for the first time. Case in point: his playful exploration of the Oedipal complex: Hop on Pop.

Hop on Pop was published in 1963, a full 13 years before Bettelheim's Enchantment, and decades before Freud was widely dismissed by the psychological community as a coked-up sex fiend. Pop can be read as a thinly veiled introduction to the disturbing psychosexual theory that the father is the enemy who is preventing us from realizing some deeply ingrained sexual need for our mothers. Gross! Luckily, Seuss didn't get too caught up in the raging Sigmundsteria of the times, otherwise he may have been tempted to go all-out Oedipal and written his book as Hop on Pop then Marry Mommy, which probably would have tarnished his otherwise untouchable legacy.

Upon closer inspection, Freud and other psychological influences can be found sprinkled throughout Seuss's work. The Cat in the Hat is nothing more than a hyperkinetic romp through the subconscious with the Id, Ego, and Superego. The entire plot of Green Eggs and Ham is driven by Freud's theories of the repression and sublimation of base impulses. (What else could "Sam I Am" be, other than an anal-retentive individual's guilt-ridden projection of the repressed self and its latent desires?) And Horton Hears a Who? Horton hears a psychiatrist diagnosing him with schizophrenia, that's who he hears. In fact, if you read too closely, Seussville runs the risk of becoming an inescapable labyrinth of Freudian slips and slides... so maybe we're better off reading with eyes wide shut.

29 August 2007

Live From The Bottom Shelf: Kyra Hicks

Today, we are pleased to welcome Kyra Hicks, the distinguished author and quilter extraordinaire to the Bottom Shelf. I could try to list all of the Ms. Hicks' accomplishments and distinctions, but that might leave me with carpal tunnel syndrome. Seriously, the woman has done a lot! So here is the link to her impressive bio.

She joins us today to discuss her book, Martha Ann's Quilt For Queen Victoria, which is based on the true story about a former slave who moves to Liberia with her family, and whose determination leads her to a personal meeting with the Queen of England (back when being the Queen of England actually meant more than just wearing funny hats).

But enough from me, let's get down to business. Without further ado, here are Five Picture Book Related Questions For Kyra Hicks.

BSB: What inspired you to turn Martha Ann's story into a children’s book?

Kyra: I’ve spent more than five years researching Martha Ann Ricks’ life and wanted to share her inspiration with a younger generation. I was inspired by many elements that are not traditionally written in picture books such as the African American experience in Liberia or about Black folks meeting British Royalty or about a Black father purchasing his family out of slavery.

BSB: Is there a strong connection between quilting and storytelling?

Kyra: I believe there is a strong connection between quilting and storytelling on two levels. The first is the creation of story quilts where the quilt is the canvas for the story itself. The story is sewn onto the quilt. Many kids and librarians will recognize Faith Ringgold’s famous Tar Beach story quilt as an example of this kind of connection.

The second connection is in the transmitting of the story behind a quilt. An example is when a family member shares insights about who made a family quilt, points out familiar pieces of cloth within the quilt or share the reasons why the quilt was created in the first place. The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy is an example of the oral quilt tradition.

BSB: Was quilting introduced to Liberia by the African Americans who came through the American Colonization Society? Is quilting part of the culture in Liberia today?

Kyra: There were dozens of indigenous tribes in Liberia before the first American settlers arrived in the 1820s. I haven’t researched the textile traditions of the various tribes to know if they included quilting techniques. I do know, though, that many black folks who emigrated to Liberia in the nineteenth century quilted. In fact, there were monetary prizes given for quilts at the first National Fair in Liberia in 1857. Yes, quilting remains apart of Liberian textile arts today.

BSB: What lessons do you hope children will take away from your book?

Kyra: The primary lessons I hope kids learn from Martha Ann’s Quilt for Queen Victoria are that dreaming huge is permissible and that achieving one’s dreams takes work. Martha Ricks spent 50 years, or if you’d rather five decades or 18,250 days, pursuing her dream in the face of ridicule and a low bank balance. Yet, she achieved what few in the world did. She had an audience with Queen Victoria.

I’ve been to a few school visits and continue to be amazed by what the boys and girls pull out of the book. I tried to capture many of their questions and comments in a free discussion guide.

BSB: Do you have any plans for more picture books? Are there other famous quilters that you think would make for good characters?

Kyra: Yes, I do plan to continue to write picture books, with an emphasis on historical characters. I am researching my next picture book now. As for other famous quilters, I’d love to see a picture book about the nineteenth century quilter Harriet Powers, creator of the Bible Quilt, which is part of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History collection. I’d also love to read a picture book about the nineteenth century African American Siamese twins Millie-Christine.

And now, a few non-picture book related questions:

BSB: If you were making a quilt to send a message to the next president of the United States, what would you put on it?

Kyra: HOPE!

BSB: If you were forced to be on one reality television show, what would it be and why?

Kyra: I can’t sew clothes worth a darn, but I’d LOVE to be on Project Runway for its creative energy and inspiring assignments. And, what quilter wouldn’t LOVE to be given x dollars and let loose in a fabric store?

So there you have it. Thank you Kyra! To read more about Ms. Hicks, check out BlackThreads.com and her blog about kid's lit. Also, look for more of her work in your local bookstore... and tune into Bravo and see if you can find Kyra matching wits with the devastating (in oh so many ways) Heidi Klum on Season 3 of Project Runway. Watch what happens.

27 August 2007

Guess How Much I Love You

Author: Sam McBratney
Illustrator: Anita Jeram

This classic is one of those quietly perfect books, a true masterpiece where the tone, pacing, and illustrations hit the right note each time. In it, Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare go back and forth telling the other one how much they love eachother, playfully trying to outdo the other.

Little Nutbrown Hare uses his arms, legs, toes, and whatever else he has at his disposal (i.e. "I love you as high as I can reach,"). It is the nature of love that we use whatever we can find to demonstrate it. For those of us who are artistically inclined, it may come in the form of a painting or a drawing. Or if you fancy yourself a writer, then maybe you'd write a beautiful love poem.

Or if you happen to be one of the greatest rock guitarists to ever live, I guess you'd write an immortal song. Check out this unbelievable story I read in The Week:

Pattie Boyd (left) inspired two rock 'n' roll legends to create their most beautiful music. In 1969, her husband, George Harrison, wrote his biggest hit, "Something," for her. A year later, their good friend Eric Clapton drew her aside. "He played me the most powerful, moving song I had ever heard," Boyd tells the London Daily Mail, "It was 'Layla,' about a man who fall hopelessly in love with a woman who loves him but is unavailable. He played it to me two or three times, all the while watching my face intently for my reaction. My first thought was, 'Oh God, everyone's going to know this is about me.'"

Boyd had rebuffed Clapton, but he kept trying, and told Harrison, "Man, I'm in love with your wife." One night, Clapton arrived at Harrison's house drunk, and the two men decided to fight over Boyd--with music. "George handed him a guitar and an amp, as an 18th-century gentleman might have handed his rival a sword, and for two hours, without a word, they dueled. The air was electric and the music exciting."

Wow. Can someone PLEASE build a time machine now? If only to go back and record that epic guitar duel between the two drunken masters and post it on YouTube for the rest of us to see, it would be worth it.

Oh and how does the story end? Well... you know that lyric from Something that goes:

Somewhere in her smile she knows
That I don't need no other lover

Apparently her smile doesn't know shit, because "A year later, Boyd left Harrison when she realized he was sleeping with Ringo Starr's wife. She wound up in Clapton's arms."

At first I was going to accuse Harrison of lyrical misrepresentation, but then I realized that he didn't actually lie. Check the lyric again: I don't need no other lover... I'll be damned! That cunning linguist tricked us all with a double negative! (If he doesn't need no other lover... that means that he does need an other lover... right?)

Moral of the story: It's time to stop guessing how much they love you and time to go back and check all your old love letters for grammatical loopholes before you find yourself in for some hard day's nights.

24 August 2007

22 August 2007

No, David!

Author/Illustrator: David Shannon

David is a little rascal who just can't seem to stay out of trouble. Not only can he not stay out of trouble, but he appears to be possessed by the devil himself. Rather than pay for an expensive exorcism, the beleaguered mother can only muster a few frustrated "NO!"s as her son blazes a swath of devastation through the home.

As any parent knows, simply yelling NO! is not going to do the trick. Effective discipline requires patience, consistency... and a little bit of creativity. To get the ball rolling, perhaps David's mother should take some cues from the Thai police force. In a much publicized move, last week the police in Bangkok announced that any police officer violating department rules will be forced to wear a Hello Kitty armband.

From the NY Times: “This new twist is expected to make them feel guilt and shame and prevent them from repeating the offense, no matter how minor,” he said. “Kitty is a cute icon for young girls. It’s not something macho police officers want covering their biceps.”

While there are some grumblings about this policy perpetuating archaic gender stereotypes, there has been a noticeable decline in officer misconduct. So for now, the controversial new policy will stand. Hello Kitty, Goodbye Bad Behavior.

In fact, the policy has proven to be so effective that variations are being adopted by a number of countries and has even made it's way into a few local precincts here in the United States.

Second Lieutenant Ignatius J. Reilly of the San Bernardino Police Department after he failed to submit his timesheet by the 5pm deadline.

Okay, so maybe this wouldn't be the best method of disciplining children. The point is, parenting in the 21st century is going to take some unconventional thinking. Blunt negative reinforcement is soo 20th century. If you want to turn your children into sparkling examples of good behavior, start thinking outside the box!

Though, if you have to think inside the box, do so literally. Go turn on that magic box in your living room, watch Supernanny, and let her prime time disciplinary techniques wash over you. There's nothing like tough love and a no nonsense British accent to tame unruly children. She's like a modern day Mary Poppins... if Mary Poppins were reincarnated as an eggplant. (She's good with kids and a great source of potassium!)

Oh eggplant, is there anything you can't do?

20 August 2007

The Story of Ferdinand

Author: Munro Leaf
Illustrator: Robert Lawson

The Story of Ferdinand is the much beloved story (one of my childhood and current day favorites) about a peaceful bull. While his peers indulge in the machismo-soaked culture of bull fighting, Ferdinand just wants to "sit just quietly and smell the flowers". His pacifist approach to life eventually leads the bullfighters to leave him be.

While the story itself is very uplifting, the illustrations throughout the story are surprisingly sprinkled with melancholy images of death. Take this image for example:

"As the years went by Ferdinand grew and grew until he was very big and strong."

Notice the vulture (nature's harbinger of death) perched atop the hollowed tree stump. Ferdinand may be growing big and strong, but in the end, the unforgiving embrace of death awaits him... as it awaits us all. Each successive day is another tick of the clock measuring our steady march towards the grave.

Look closer and you will see vultures appearing throughout Lawson's illustrations; mounted on a sign to Madrid, quietly observing the bull fights... death is waiting around every corner.

One's natural reaction is to question Lawson's sanity... why put in these disturbing images in a book for kids?! What is your deal, you sick, sick, man?! But if you take a moment to pause and consider it... death is not inherently disturbing, it's just a fact. It is only inappropriate if you are afraid to face the inescapable reality of death, which is in fact deluding yourself. Perhaps it is best to be honest with children and subtly introduce them to the unavoidable nature of their eventual demise.

As a wise man once said, "The day you first realize that your life has an end, is the day your life truly begins."

(Note: The man who said this is now dead. I guess he proved his point.)

Ferdinand's hidden message is also a valuable lesson in the limitations of pacifist ideology. While his pacifist stance may save him from violent death in the bullfighting ring, it will not save Ferdinand from death itself. Which is a valuable lesson to learn for anyone considering a lucrative career in pacifism. It's not all flowers and rolling meadows, kids. I mean, look at some of history's most famous pacifists:

Martin Luther King Jr: Shot
Gandhi: Shot
John Lennon: Shot
Mother Theresa: Posthumously Skewered by Christopher Hitchens
Jesus Christ: Crucified
Siddartha Gautama: Poisoned by Bad Meat

My Word... who would knew pacifism could be so dangerous? For those of you who say pacifism is for sissies, think again!

...but at least Ferdinand ends on a positive note: with the image of a beautiful flower; the very thing that brought so much joy to Ferdinand's life; a symbol of peace... DYING. Seriously, on the book's final page (see below) sits a lone flower withering away, its dried petals falling from the stem of its long forgotten glory.

Even the most beautiful things eventually die.

Including You.

The End.

Sweet Dreams, Kiddo!

17 August 2007

How Are You Peeling?

Author: Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers
Illustrator: Saxton Freymann

Jeffer's and Freyman's book
about vegetables and their feelings really opened the door to a whole world of emotional depth that we never imagined. While the book broke new ground, it was only a matter of time before vegetables took to writing for themselves. Why should they rely on humans to tell the world how they're peeling? It's time to get the information directly from the source!

Well, wait no longer. We have officially gotten word from the first vegetable author and apparently this particular eggplant is peeling particularly religious. A couple from Boothwyn, PA sliced open this eggplant to discover it's divine message.

The opinionated eggplant is now in discussions with various publishing companies who are eager to attain the right to publish the first book from this articulate vegetable. Apparently, Tyndale House Publishers, the publishing company behind the best-selling Christian adventure series, Left Behind, has the early edge.

And writing is just the tip of the iceberg. The eggplant will also be making the talk show rounds and can be seen next on Larry King Live. He will be the appearing with Christopher Hitchens (author of God Is Not Great) and the two will discuss the role of religion in the 21st Century. He will also be a guest judge on the Emmy-nominated Top Chef and is auditioning for a cameo appearance as one of the ingredients in the sequel to Ratatouille.

14 August 2007

BSB Flashback: 365 Penguins

14 April 2007

Author: Jean-Luc Fromental
Illustrator: Joelle Jolivet

On January 1st, a mysterious package arrives in the mail. There is a penguin in it. Every morning for the rest of the year, another package arrives until the house is overrun by the bizarre flightless birds. Fromental skillfully mixes mathematical lessons into the narrative without sacrificing the playfulness of the story (he even throws in a message about environmental stewardship without sounding too preachy). All this while the poor family tries to figure out what to do with the overwhelming penguin invasion.

All ends well when their neighbor, Morgan Freeman, comes to the rescue. Using the soothing power of his gravel and honey voice, Freeman narrates the penguins out of the house and into cinematic immortality as the stars of March of the Penguins. Following the surprising success of this film, Freeman begins to train his newfound penguin army in preparation to overthrow the majestic baritone of James Earl Jones, his chief rival in the field of narration. If the penguin brigade is able to execute what they hope will be a bloodless coup, Freeman plans to rule the world of documentary film with an iron fist of eloquence and grace. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to Freeman, Jones has amassed his own private military force, comprised mostly of Star Wars fanatics dressed as Storm Troopers. Eventually, the two sides will meet on the battlefield in what will be widely known as The Voiceover Wars.

Note: The documentary The Voiceover Wars will be narrated by Al Gore and his mesmerizing monotone. It will not win an Academy Award and will effectively end Gore's wild Hollywood ride.

Note on Note: Ironically, the documentary Gore's Wild Hollywood Ride (directed by Ken Burns) will be narrated by Morgan Freeman and will win an Academy Award.

13 August 2007

So Few of Me

Author/Illustrator: Peter Reynolds

A kid named Leo is swamped by all the things he has to do and thinks "I wish there were two of me." Poof! Just like that, there are two of him! Naturally, it doesn't stop there and the clones begin to multiply. Surprisingly, Leo soon finds out that his workload hasn't gotten any smaller with his new help... instead, his list of things just keeps growing.

Given the mounting insanity of his workload, young Leo poses the zen-like question of "What if I did less--but did my best?" That's fine... but you'll never get into a top-notch college with that attitude, young man!

With the increasingly competitive (and insane) nature of college admissions, you would think that students these days would need clones just to keep their resumes up to snuff. When you look at some of these applicants, it seems impossible that one human being (let alone one teenager) could do all this without the help of a clone or two. For an example, check out this pretty typical sample resume:

And we wonder why teenagers are so miserable! It would not surprise me if the most ambitious parents would attempt to harness the power of cloning technology in order to build the most luscious and eye-popping transcript for their children, something guaranteed to blow admissions officers out of their chairs.

Problem is, once a few people resort to cloning, everyone else is going to have to follow suit just to keep up. The whole admissions process will become more corrupt as applicants who must rely on their own abilities will be at a distinct disadvantage to those who can afford a small army of overachievers. Soon cloning will be as prevalent as SAT prep courses (Kaplan, with their finger on the pulse of the lucrative college admissions industry, will soon offer Clone Management courses to go with their standard slate of test prep classes).

Unfortunately, this would not stop with college. Because of the massive student debt that you are burdened with upon graduation, you will need your army of clones to work multiple jobs just to make your monthly payments. One poor soul will work in an investment banking firm, one will struggle as a freelance journalist, one will grow interesting facial hair and work for tips at the local a coffee shop... you get the idea.

Luckily, the odds of this cloning dystopia becoming a reality are slim because most of us are already familiar with the dangers of cloning. This is thanks in large part to the prescient warnings in the groundbreaking scientific treatise, Scientific Progress Goes "Boink" by the eminent scientist and philospher, Bill Watterson. How he didn't win a Nobel Prize for that invaluable contribution to humanity still blows my mind.

10 August 2007

Was it a Yellow Hat?

I knew it was only a matter of time before he slipped. From Wednesdays headlines:

6:52 a.m. EDT, Wed August 8, 2007

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Passengers aboard Spirit Airlines Flight 180 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to New York's LaGuardia International Airport had an unexpected travel companion Tuesday: a small monkey.

A passenger who originally departed from Lima, Peru, and connected in Fort Lauderdale had been hiding the small monkey in his ponytail, under his hat, according to Spirit Airlines spokeswoman Alison Russell.

During the flight, the monkey crawled out of its hiding spot, forcing the owner to hold it in his hands, where the unexpected visitor was soon spotted by fellow passengers and crew members, Russell said.

Left: An unofficial police sketch of the incident. The authorities have yet to confirm that the man's hat was indeed yellow.

The Port Authority Police Department was contacted by Spirit Airlines, and officials met the owner and the monkey at the gate. Port Authority spokesman Pasquale DiFulco released a statement saying the monkey was never loose in the airport, as originally reported.

"We've contacted health officials, and man and monkey will be turned over to appropriate officials. He was never on the loose in the airport," DiFulco said.

Editor's Note: Authorities refused to comment about the identity of the detainee. Some eyewitnesses claim that the man did have a yellow hat, leading many to speculate that the man in custody is in fact the infamous Man with the Yellow Hat who is wanted for the kidnapping of George the monkey and has been at-large for decades. We can only hope that the police have the right man and that he has finally been brought to justice.

BSB Flashback: The Man Who Walked Between The Towers

10 April 2007

Author/Illustrator: Mordecai Gerstein

Gerstein's beautifully illustrated story about a daredevil tightrope walker shows us the power of art to transcend tragedy. In the wake of 9/11, Gerstein presents us with a light-hearted memory that pays fitting tribute to the memory of the towers.

There is another man that the New York Times has dubbed "The Man Who Walked Between The Towers.": presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. Pundits wonder how much longer he can use the political capital of being America's Mayor during 9/11 without appearing to exploit an American tragedy. Talk about walking a political tightrope. At a recent campaign stop in South Carolina, Giuliani never actually uttered the words "nine-eleven", but he did use the phrase "terrorists around the world are planning to come here and kill us" nine hundred and eleven times during a 15 minute speech... a coincidence that did not escape the media's discerning eye.

Can a presidential campaign be fueled almost exclusively on fear? If so, can other things be fueled by fear? Forget about biodiesel! Put that vegetable oil back into the deep fryer! I'm running my Honda Civic on the Washington Times and Bride of Chucky!

Catch-22: As with all Energy Independence plans, there is a catch. While technically oil-independent, if we become a fear-dependent country, we run the risk of:

a) becoming dependent on the ever-present threat of terrorism. This can provide incredible momentum in the short run, but over the long haul it is unsustainable and eventually everything will grind to a screeching halt. (see exhibit A: the Bush Admnistration)

b) subjecting ourselves to more and more crappy horror movies every winter. I mean, did you see the previews for Dead Silence? The ghost of an evil ventriloquist?! How much money did they waste on that? It's worth it to walk or ride a bike just so we don't have to deal with an eternity of that crap.

(Awesome) Solution to Crappy Movies: With the aid of a time machine, we send a lone warrior back in time (preferably an attractive woman in a tight 70's style futuristic leather suit). She will have only her cunning and good looks to protect her. Her weapon of choice: a Powerbook loaded with iMovie. Her mission is simple: Preemptively take the worst horror movies of the year and combine them with the worst romantic comedies of the year. This way, instead of wasting people's time with an evil ventriloquest (Dead Silence) and a trite romance between two aging hipsters (Music and Lyrics), audiences would be treated to a crowd-pleasing movie where Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore get attacked by an of army bloodthirsty puppets while Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called To Say I Love You" plays in the background. I would gladly waste $10 to see that.

The Future Is Already Here Note: I suspect that our time-traveling savior may have already sprung into action. Last year, Miramax began production of a mediocre romantic comedy starring Luke "Warm" Wilson and Kate Beckinsdale. Meanwhile, Quentin Tarantino had begun filming the sequel to the ultra-gory hit, Hostel. Mysteriously, both projects were inexplicably cancelled and all records have since vanished. And now, coming to a theater near you, is the movie Vacancy, featuring Wilson and Beckinsdale getting sidetracked while on vacation and being forced to stay in a deadly roadside motel.

Bless you, bodacious video-editing babe from the future! Humanity owes you one!

Pass the popcorn.

08 August 2007

Live From the Bottom Shelf: PUNK FARM (Part Two)

by Cluck Ro

On Monday I sat down with Punk Farm as a group to ask them about their newfound fame. Today, I had the opportunity to take each member aside to get a little more personal... and to address some of the rumors that have been making their way through the internet and into the gossip magazines. Does Punk Farm care about these rumors? No, because they are punk. Do we care about these rumors? YES, because we are fans. It is our job to care. And so, I give you Part 2 of my interview: Punk Farm 1-on-1.

This question is for Goat: Who are your most prominent musical influences?

"There are so many. Jimmy Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Douglas Colvin, AKA Dee Dee Ramone…"

And what do you say to critics who say that punk rock began and ended with The Ramones?

"On one hand, that argument gives The Ramones the credit they deserve. On the other hand, it discredits too many good bands. I really don’t concern myself with such thoughts."

This question is for Pig: An anonymous source in Hollywood told BSB that you were originally chosen to play the lead in School of Rock (a role that eventually went to Jack Black), but that you turned down the part at the last minute. Is this true? And if so, do you regret that decision?

"You know, Hollywood is a rumor-mill. You can’t believe everything you hear. I took a few phone calls and that’s it. Good for Jack Black. I think he’s a brilliant actor and an even more brilliant musician. If I had landed the part, I wouldn’t be in this great band with my best friends, so no regrets."

For Chicken: Due to your subversive keyboard style, you are being hailed in the mainstream media as the Anti-John Tesh. Are you comfortable with that title?

"I’d rather be the Anti-John Tesh than the next John Tesh. If my keyboarding can cancel out the John Tesh-ness in the world to create a John-Tesh-neutral environment, I can die a happy hen."

For Cow: The drums are often considered to be the instrument that takes "the most guts" to play. Do you think the fact that you have 4 stomachs is a key to your success as a drummer? Or is it purely coincidental?

"Hmmm, I’ve never thought of it that way before. I would say that was coincidental, because I never think about any of my stomachs when I’m playing. There’s something primal about the beats, the bangs, the clashes… I’m able to release all of my pent up aggression."

For Sheep: Is there any truth to the rumor that Julian Casablancas (the lead singer of The Strokes) stole his look from you? If it is true, do you have any words for Julian?

"Julian. Hmph. I love Julian, I really do. I don’t know where he got his look. There are the rumors he stole his look from me, but I don’t concern myself with these things. I like to rock, Julian likes to rock. We met once and it was brief. Being the lead singer in a band can be stressful and I wish him the best."

This concludes the interview. I'd like to give one final shout out to Punk Farm's publicist, Jarrett Krosoczka for giving us time with the band... and for creating a diversion to distract Farmer Joe during the interview. As for me, Cluck Roosterman (for my bio, see Monday's post), I will be taking a brief sabbatical to work on my next book, Dark Meat Only: The Resurgence of Goth Culture. After that, the band and I hope to meet up again for another interview when they are on tour in the fall. Until then, Rock On.

06 August 2007

Live from the Bottom Shelf: PUNK FARM

by Cluck Roosterman

In April, Bottom Shelf Books wrote a review of Punk Farm... a review that was admittedly based mostly on rumors, hearsay, and conjecture. In an attempt to get to the truth, they sent their most awesome rock critic (me) out to track down the elusive Punk Farm and get the band's side of the story. I found them at their barn in Wisconsin prepping for their upcoming tour. Here is a partial transcript from the upcoming article, Barn Burning: A Conversation with Punk Farm.

(Cluck Roosterman is a renowned rock critic and best-selling author of Sex, Drugs, & Chicken Feed and Last One is a Rotten Egg: The Merciful Death of Glamrock. This is his first time interviewing Punk Farm.)

CR: Does the band's newfound fame leave you any time to do the normal everyday things that an animal does? Do you ever miss the simplicity of your pre-fame days?

SHEEP: Do I miss coming out of the barn at midnight without all of the flashing lights – yeah, sometimes. But do I want to put down my microphone? No way!
GOAT: You know what is an animal supposed to do anyhow? It’s all just society’s way of trying to hold us back.
COW: I want to make art, not just give milk. Fame is the trade off. It’s the sacrifice we make as artists.
CHICKEN: Look, if I wanted to live my life laying eggs, I wouldn’t be in this band.

CR: A recent article in SPIN Magazine said that your most recent concert "blew the roof off the barn." Was that just a figure of speech or did the roof actually get blown off? If it was, who is going to pay for the damages?

PIG: Oh man! That was a crazy show! Just outside of Wheatland…
SHEEP: It was Kenosha.
PIG: Right, Kenosha. Anyways, yeah it was nuts!
COW: There was so much rock, just so much ROCK, the pressure sent the roof flying!
[At this point, a horse in a suit enters the room and whispers in Sheep’s ear.]
SHEEP: Actually, our lawyer has advised us not to discuss details of this event. Next question, please.

Left: The Infamous Kenosha Concert. Police have yet to locate the roof of the barn. Eyewitnesses last claim to have seen it somewhere over Des Moines.

CR: How has Farmer Joe reacted to your success? Do you see him as a threat to your career, or does he merely provide fuel for the fire that rages within Punk Farm?

SHEEP: Whoa, whoa whoa, WHOA! Keep it down! Farmer Joe doesn’t know a thing and that’s how we intend to keep it.
GOAT: Yeah man, don’t blow up our spot!
SHEEP: Farmer Joe has been very good to us. He feeds us, he provides a place for us to play…he shovels our poop…
PIG: Yeah, but Farmer Joe also expects us to work. He has very high expectations of us and sometimes I feel like we’re never good enough for him. I mean how can we work when we rock all night long? I think the guy needs to chill.
CHICKEN: If Farmer Joe ever found out we were even giving this interview, he’d be so mad. And he’s a pretty even guy, but I don’t want to send him over the edge, ya know?
COW: It would be like his whole world would just come crashing down around him. We’re all he’s got.
SHEEP: So I guess it’s a catch 22. In many ways, yeah he is a bit of a threat to our career. He would shut down this Punk Farm party so quickly.

CR: As Punk Farm prepares to go on tour, is there any worry that leaving the farm will be detrimental to the band's creative flow?

SHEEP: Sure, there will always be that fear. We need to continue to write, but we also need to get out there and play for our fans. This is going to be an important tour for us. It’s our first.
PIG: I can’t wait to get out there and meet some of the fans in person!
GOAT: I’m pretty psyched to see the country. I’ve never been outside of Wisconsin before.
CHICKEN: There’s so much at stake. What if no one likes our new music? What if I mess up when I’m playing the keyboards?! This whole tour thing stresses me out!

CR: What do you see in Punk Farm's future?

COW: Rock, rock, and then more rock.

CR: Do you think it is possible to have mainstream success and stay true to your punk roots?

[Everyone looks to Sheep]

SHEEP: I’ll take this one. Yes. We decided early on that if success came before the rock, then that was it. Punk Farm would cease to exist. So Punk Farm will always exist as an entity that will remain true to its punk roots. If we had a million dollars in the bank and we didn’t need to live on this farm, if farm animals were allowed to open up bank accounts in the first place, we would still maintain the attitude of - we love to rock, we’re here to rock, now get out of the way so we can rock. Sure, there will be haters. There will always be haters.
PIG: Let them hate, let us rock.
SHEEP: Exactly.
PIG: You go whine in the corner, I’m plugging in my amp.
PIG: It’s like, go crying all you want, hate, hate, hate, I’ll be playing my guitar so hard, I won’t even care.
SHEEP: OK, I think they get it.

"...Punk Farm will always exist as an entity that will remain true to its punk roots... we love to rock, we’re here to rock, now get out of the way so we can rock."

TO BE CONTINUED: Check back on Wednesday, when we get up close and personal with your favorite banyard rebels with some one-on-one questions.


A big thanks to Punk Farm and their publicist, Jarrett Krosoczka (left) for letting us backstage for this interview. Be on the lookout for Punk Farm On Tour, which comes out in October and the Punk Farm rockumentary that is being produced by Dreamworks. Critics are already raving, saying that "What Ratatouille did for food, Punk Farm will do for music. Prepare to be blown away."

You can read more about Punk Farm and download their music at their website, or you can visit them at work in Studio JJK.

03 August 2007

BSB Flashback: Punk Farm

This is a reprint of a post on Punk Farm from back in April. What you are about to read is based on the reports of a former Bottom Shelf employee who claimed to be from the future... and therefore supposedly knew everything that was going to happen to the popular new band. We have since learned that this employee was actually not from the future... I won't go into details, but let's just say he sniffed a little too much rubber cement in Kindergarten.

In order to rectify the situation, we have spoken to Punk Farm's publicist, Jarrett Krosoczka, and he has graciously granted us access to the band members themselves. So on Monday, we will be posting an excerpt from an actual interview with the members of Punk Farm.

The Bottom Shelf's Ombudsman thought it would be prudent to reprint the old article before we set the record straight on Monday. We won't go so far as to call this a retraction, because what follows could very well turn out to be true. As we all know, raving madmen who claim to be from the future often to turn out to be correct (for an example see the documentary, 12 Monkeys).

So be sure to check in on Monday for an exclusive backstage interview with Punk Farm!

23 April 2007

Author/Illustrator: Jarrett J. Krosoczka

This is the story about the humble origins and early days of the legendary band, Punk Farm. Practicing in secret, Sheep, Cow, Goat, Chicken, and Pig wait until the farmer goes to bed to hold their barn-burnin' concerts. They rock. Their first underground hit is a punk rendition of Old MacDonald Had a Farm. It rocks. EE-I-EE-I-OOOOOOOO!!!

Krosoczka's chronicle ends just as Punk Farm is on the cusp of hitting it big. What follows is the stuff of rock legend. Their debut album, the eponymously titled Punk Farm, was an underground sensation. Seemingly overnight, Punk Farm was shooting up the charts. It was hailed as the first truly revolutionary album of the century by SPIN magazine and they were the darlings of self-important rock critics everywhere.

Unfortunately, as with most upstart bands, their meteoric rise began to corrode the original spirit of the band. The beauty of Punk Farm's music was its primal nature. Punk Farm mattered because they spoke to a nation of disillusioned souls and gave a voice to their anxieties. Each angry guitar chord screamed out against barnyard oppression. The relentless drums underscored the desperate futility of life on the farm. Punk Farm was simple, real... Punk Farm was important. Success changed all that. In a revealing interview with Rolling Stone, Sheep angrily claimed that Punk Farm "was being spoiled by the fattening embrace of success. We've lost touch with the raw emotion and spirit that made us great. Our music is being stifled by the uncontrollable arc of our suffocatingly decadent lives."

These words would prove prophetic. The rigors of life on the road and the pressures of producing a worthy follow-up album proved to be too much for the band to endure. Punk Farm split in the middle of recording their sophomore album: The Farmer in the Dell. Punk Farm was no more. As quickly as they had come, they were gone, leaving behind one album for the ages and legions of distraught fans.

Today, many hardcore followers (who staunchly insist that punk and popular success are antithetical) maintain that Punk Farm's demise was for the best because it ensured that they would never suffer the embarrassment of mainstreaming (a process that punk aficionados sneeringly refer to as Green Dayification).

10 years later, VH-1 Behind the Music released an episode charting the brief but iconic career of Punk Farm. The show, in its typically dramatic fashion, finally answered some burning questions about the band's legendary implosion. So, what really happened to the members of Punk Farm?

Pig: Tired of playing second fiddle to Sheep, Pig was the first to leave Punk Farm. Looking to break free from the stifling music world, Pig heads to Hollywood and leverages his musical fame into a major role in the dystopian nightmare, Babe: Pig in the City. Unfortunately, this marked the highpoint of his acting career. Despite critical acclaim, his Hollywood life never quite gets off the ground. He was last seen starring opposite Louie Anderson in a made-for-TV movie called This Little Piggy.

Goat: After nearly choking on a Coke can at a raucous party, Goat suddenly gets religion--near death experiences will do that to you. He sees the sinful nature of his debaucherous lifestyle and leaves Punk Farm to join the moderately successful Christian Rock group, Away In a Manger.

Chicken: No one ever notices the keyboard player. This was the sad case with Chicken, who was always in the background. Concealed by the obscurity of her instrument, one day she just disappears. Poof! She was last seen crossing the road leading away from the farm, but no one knows where she went. After a few days, the band filed a missing persons report and the police come to investigate. Unfortunately, clues are hard to come by and no one can tell the authorities why Chicken crossed the road. Pig, the most confrontational member of the group (and always looking to stick it to the man), suggests that, "Maybe Chicken crossed the road to get to the other side. You ever think of that?" The police were not amused by this snarky remark and Pig had to spend the night in the pen. To this day, Chicken's fate remains shrouded in mystery and has become the point of much speculation by amateur detectives and conspiracy theorists alike.

Cow: Always the gentle soul of the group, Cow's sensitive nature never recovered from the disappointment of Punk Farm's downfall. She had a nervous breakdown and was put out to pasture on a quiet farm in Connecticut. She can still be found grazing absentmindedly in the countryside, staring blankly at the quaint New England landscape. But if you could listen to her heart, you would find that it still pulses with the irrepressible drumbeat of Punk Rock. Unlike the others, for Cow, it was always about the music.

Sheep: The temperamental and hypnotic front man for Punk Farm captured the nation's imagination with the raw power of his voice and his reckless disregard for life... however, as is so often the case, the brightest stars burn the fastest. After the demise of the band, Sheep went into a self-imposed seclusion to work on a collection of autobiographical poetry. 3 months later, he is found in a field in New Mexico, having OD'ed on grass. The punk community mourns this great loss and his book of poetry, Fleece as White as Snow, is posthumously published by HarperCollins. It makes the New York Times bestseller list. Rock On.

02 August 2007

How Humans Make Friends

Author/Illustrator: Loreen Leedy

An alien comes back from an anthropological research trip to report its findings to an audience of alien colleagues. The presentation takes place in Auditorium B5, otherwise known as Mystery Science Theater 3000. Unfortunately, the report "How Humans Make Friends" hardly qualifies as academically rigorous, as it is based mostly on anecdotal evidence. Nowhere in the study does the alien researcher mention some basic attributes of solid research such as valid sample sizes or accounting for construct irrelevant variance, and there isn't even the slightest hint of any attempt to gather longitudinal data.

Nevertheless, the report does shed some light on the bizarre behavioral patterns of human beings. And one can hardly blame the alien for its low academic standards. It was only visiting our planet for a short while. Even humans who study humans for their entire lives are unable to come up with much in the way of groundbreaking revelations.

Just yesterday, newspapers all over the country were reporting on two University of Texas professors who released a report detailing the motivations behind sexual activity.

From the Washington Post: "College-aged men and women agree on their top reasons for having sex: they were attracted to the person, they wanted to experience physical pleasure and "it feels good," according to a peer-reviewed study in the August edition of Archives of Sexual Behavior."


(Disclaimer: The Archives of Sexual Behavior is housed in the Library of Shit We Already Knew.)

So college kids are having sex because "it feels good." Thank you Academia for clearing that up for us. Having blown the lid off of this whopper, Dr. David Buss and Dr. Cindy Meston will next unravel more of mankind's most persistent mysteries with three papers to be released in the upcoming months:

-People Eat Chocolate Because It Tastes Good: A Scientific Examination of the Yumminess Factor

-Hands: Good For Holding Things

-Puppies Are Cute: A Control Group Study Outside of Starbucks

Inter-rater Reliability Note: While Dr. Meston looks relatively credible (with a kinda scary, kinda intriguing dominatrix vibe), take a look at Dr. David Buss:

Now, he doesn't look like the kind of guy who would design a research project as an excuse to talk to nubile undergraduates and ask them detailed questions about their sex lives, does he?

Hey baby, why don't we go back to my place and finish this survey over a glass of chardonnay and some Baudelaire?

I'm not trying to start any rumors. I'm just saying... be wary of tainted data.