PBS remixes Reading Rainbow, Bob Ross

03-Dec-12 11:06 AM by
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Earlier this summer, non-profit public broadcasting television network PBS demonstrated surprising savviness when it recruited YouTube user melodysheep (musicalscience on Twitter) to create a remix music video of Mr. Rogers. With over seven million views, the video has been incredibly popular, proving an effective melding of nostalgia and modernity.

I should've realized PBS would know it had a hit on its hands and would follow up with additional hits. Today, PBS Digital Studios published its latest remix, a music video featuring Levar Burton of Reading Rainbow:

But wait, there's more! "In Your Imagination" wasn't PBS's second remix; that honor falls to this summer's publication of "Happy Little Clouds", a celebration of the soothing tones and happy little paintings of Bob Ross:

I love the themes that are present in all three of these shows and videos: creativity, imagination, and self-confidence. We can do anything we set our minds to, if only we believe in ourselves. It's a lesson that we need to hear as much as adults as we did as children. I'm just sorry none of the shows being celebrated are still on the air. Do we need to wait for a Sesame Street remix?

In celebration of her 100th birthday, Julia Child got a remix, too. See all four remixes in one playlist.

(more…)

Mister Rogers Remixed: Garden of Your Mind

08-Jun-12 7:46 AM by
Filed under Television; 1 comment.

Like many kids my age — heck, like many kids any age — I grew up in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Paired with Sesame Street, the two PBS shows were not just entertaining; they also laid a subtle foundation for literacy, curiosity, and creativity.

In the past few months, I've encountered, both in-person and online, assertions that Mr. Rogers' on-screen character was very different from his off-screen personality. This belief is in sharp contrast to any first-person reports I've heard from individuals who had the opportunity to encounter this preacher and teacher. Stories that, in a previous life, Fred Rogers was a military sniper, or that he wore cardigans to cover violent tattoos, struck me as disrespectful. Sure, society likes to see its celebrities fall — but Mr. Rogers' star should be above such sullying.

So when I saw floating around Facebook a Mr. Rogers music remix that debuted on YouTube just yesterday, I was hesitant. What was next — were they going to turn my childhood hero into a gangsta rapper?

See for yourself:

This remix is officially sponsored by PBS Digital Studios:

When we discovered video mash-up artist John D. Boswell, aka melodysheep, on YouTube, we immediately wanted to work together. Turns out that he is a huge Mister Rogers Neighborhood fan, and was thrilled at the chance to pay tribute to one of our heroes. Both PBS and the Fred Rogers Company hope you like John's celebration of Fred Rogers' message.

I think Mr. Rogers would be very pleased with the tasteful, respectful work this artist has produced, just as it made me happy and, at the same time, a bit sad. I can only hope our children have a Mr. Rogers of their own.

(Hat tips to Seth Weintraub and Brendon Chetwynd)

Cello Wars

06-Dec-11 2:11 PM by
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Star Wars and John Williams' soundtrack for same have inspired many lyrical masterpieces that pay homage to the original while creating their own unique variation and atmosphere. The format and style has ranged from the faithful Star Wars: In Concert tour to a corny Star Wars: The Musical the interpretive Dancing with the Stars.

Adding to that eclectic body of work and currently topping the YouTube charts is what's sure to be an instant classic. Please enjoy Cello Wars:

And yes, that's the same guy on both sides of the duel. In the YouTube video description, artists The Piano Guys detail the investment in this production: "70 days later, more than 7,000 frames, 72 audio tracks, 24 hours of filming through the night in front of a green screen, the most props and costumes we've ever used, several broken bows and strings, and over 1,000 hours of editing and rendering". I'd say it was worth the effort!

You can download the MP3 version for free, though it features only 75% of the above video's soundtrack. Snagging this file (which has no ID3 tags) requires engaging in a viral marketing campaign by sharing a link via Facebook page or Twitter; far less obnoxious is subscribing to their YouTube channel — a pretty low price for such a quality product.

May the strings be with you!

(Hat tip to Jessica Kreutter)

William Shatner Performs Bohemian Rhapsody

20-Oct-11 7:55 PM by
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As my friend Andy put it: that which is seen cannot be unseen.

William Shatner, who launched his musical career in 1968, has not let his lack of talent deter him from staying the couse. "Bohemian Rhapsody" is part of a twenty-track album that Shatner released last week:

Captain Kirk lives! With an eclectic set of songs about space, William Shatner continues his hilarious, touching, inspired, and insane approach to music. Since he isn’t really a singer, he surrounds himself with folks like Brad Paisley, Sheryl Crow, and Lyle Lovett to help with the heavy lifting.

Seeking Major Tom is currently available for $11.99 from Apple iTunes, $7.99 from Amazon, or $13.99 as a physical CD. Though before making an investment, you may want to consider how far Shatner's musical abilities haven't come:

(Hat tip to Roddenberry.com)

A Cappella Star Trek

22-Feb-11 4:39 PM by
Filed under Star Trek; 1 comment.

As an undergraduate, I was a happy member of the school's Glee Club, the second oldest collegiate men's choir in the United States. Yet, unsatisfied with this brotherhood of song, I annually set my sights on the elite subset that formed the a cappella group, as it was their performances that drew both the applause and the ladies. Alas, whether it was my vocal quality or my lack of suavity, I never made the cut.

Perhaps I was auditioning for the wrong group, as I recently became aware of Hi-Fidelity, who performed at the 2006 Harmony Sweepstakes competition. I've often attended the preliminary rounds of this annual competition and have observed that the best groups have either plenty of personality or a gimmick. Hi-Fidelity had both, performing a pair of original, Star Trek-themed songs — in character, no less!

These comic stylings are courtesy tenor Craig Ewing, lead Dan Jordan, bass Martin Fredstrom, and baritone Gregg Bernhard. Together as Hi-Fidelity, they accrued an eclectic geek portfolio in the past decade, even providing the vocals for an incongruously violent Xbox video game commercial. Alas, their Web site has not been updated since their Pan Pacific Championship 2008 win.

Now, where's my pitch pipe …

After These Messages: Chiptuning the Eighties

03-Dec-10 10:33 AM by
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I'm a fan of chiptune music — the use of retrocomputing hardware to synthesize original or remixed songs — and have written about its use within both video games and the Apple II community. It doesn't seem like a topic that would have a natural intersection with Showbits, though. But Doctor Octoroc has proven me wrong.

This musician and artist has previously created 8-bit versions of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Twilight, and Jersey Shore, rending these overwrought performances into interactive adventures modeled after role-playing games of yesteryear. But his latest reimagining is solely an aural experience. The music album After These Messages is a tour-de-force of nostalgia for any fan of the Eighties, as it features nearly three dozen melodies from the era's sitcoms, cartoons, game shows, and commercials.

After These Messages

Here's the full album listing:

  1. The A-Team
  2. Thundercats
  3. My Secret Identity
  4. Diff'rent Strokes
  5. Toys "R" Us
  6. M.A.S.K.
  7. Gummibears
  8. He-Man
  9. Heathcliff!
  10. Jeopardy
  11. Doublemint Gum
  1. The Fresh Prince
  2. Beverly Hills 90210
  3. Saved by the Bell
  4. Sledge Hammer
  5. Night Court
  6. Big Red Gum
  7. The Price is Right
  8. Transformers
  9. Law & Order
  10. Hawaii Five-O
  11. Magnum, P.I.
  1. Juicy Fruit Gum
  2. Alvin and the Chipmunks
  3. G.I. Joe
  4. ALF
  5. MacGyver
  6. Sprite
  7. Fraggle Rock
  8. Cheers
  9. Tales from the Crypt
  10. Airwolf
  11. After These Messages…

Although Doctor Octoroc's previous album, 8-Bit Jesus (a timely purchase for the holiday season), is available from iTunes, After These Messages is a direct purchase from the artist himself. The price? You name it! Just make a donation to his PayPal account, and all the above songs are yours.

Although the album is less than 36 minutes long, the number of tracks prompted me to consider it no less a full-fledged effort. I bought it for $10, as I would any iTunes album, and am digging these creative interpretations of some of my favorite shows. The only issue I have is that there's no dead air or fade-out at the end of each track. If you're playing the tracks sequentially, the playlist goes from one song to the next without break, making for one long song instead of 33 shorter ones.

Here's a sample, starting with The A-Team:

Share your thoughts on this album below! Or if Doc Ock missed your favorite show or decade, let me know where you think he should focus his attention next.

Summer Shorts: The Passenger

14-May-10 12:00 PM by
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Our inaugural entry in the 2010 Summer Shorts premiered in 2006 and was awarded Best Animation at the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival. Despite this sterling record, it is not one of the better-known shorts to have circulated the Internet. In my own effort to remedy the situation, I present to you The Passenger:

Many animated shorts eschew dialogue completely while nonetheless making impressive use of audio. The Passenger takes it a step further by incorporating sound as a central plot element. As for the visual inspiration, the titular passenger looks like an inhabitant of Oddworld, a video game published in 1997 by GT Interactive. That company was purchased in 1999 by Infogrames, a company this short's creator worked at until 2000. Coincidence? Probably.

The Passenger is available on DVD with multiple extras for $18.11. Though I believe artists should be rewarded for their work, $18 for a seven-minute film is a tough sell when you can often get a 90-minute production for the same value. But when you consider that, from conception to release, the film took eight years to craft, that's less than five cents a week to watch the film (and considerably more to render it). If you enjoyed spending seven minutes on this blog post, what do you feel is the best way to appreciate the artist?

Beantown Is Geektown

02-Nov-09 2:22 PM by
Filed under Potpourri, Star Trek, Star Wars; 4 comments.

The passing of Halloween means the holidays are nearly upon us — but if you're a geek in Boston, then there are far more significant festivities headed your way. The biggest and best celebrities of science fiction will be coming to Massachusetts for three different events this month:

• On Saturday, November 14th, the touring "Star Wars In Concert" comes to the TD Garden for both a 3:00 PM matinee and an 8:00 PM performance. The concert is described as "John Williams' breathtaking score from the epic Star Wars saga … performed by a live symphony orchestra and chorus, accompanied by a stunning video montage on an enormous LED screen." Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) has been narrating this concert, though it's unclear if that's only at specific venues. Us Bostonians are no stranger to hearing Mr. Williams' soundtracks performed live, as the composer is also the director emeritus of the renowned Boston Pops Orchestra and often serves as guest conductor, but a dedicated concert to this particular score is a rare treat. Tickets are $32.50, $52.50, or $72.50, plus applicable taxes and fees.

• That same weekend is the New England Fan Experience (NEFX) sci-fi convention. Star Trek headliners include Bostonian Leonard Nimoy (Spock Prime) as well as John de Lancie (Q), though the former will be available only on Saturday, competing with the aforementioned Star Wars concert. Online tickets (via a Web site that is remarkably reminiscent of a GeoCities page) are available through November 6th for $45 each, or for $50 at the door.

• NEFX 2009 is held a week earlier than in 2008, avoiding the conflict that occurred last year with the annual Super Megafest, traditionally held the weekend before Thanksgiving. That means this year, you can attend NEFX one week and Super Megafest the next! The latter is held in Framingham, less than a half-hour west of Boston. The expo — which features an unusual amalgam of sci-fi actors, comic book artists, TV show stars, and pro wrestlers — will this year present Brent Spiner (Star Trek's Data), Ray Park (Star Wars' Darth Maul and, more recently, G.I. Joe's Snake Eyes), and James Marsters (Buffy's Spike). In addition to signings, each star also has a half-hour Q&A session, though the schedule is unknowable prior to the event: an email from its coordinator informed me, "No, panels will not be posted on the site. Most celebs will do Q&A sessions both days. However sat is probably the better day to see more Q&A sessions." Last year I happened to show up just in time to see Jonathan Frakes; otherwise I would've been out of luck. The actual show floor is quite small but packs a lot into it. Tickets for the entire November 21-22 weekend are only $20.

Though the two conventions offer cheaper admittance than the orchestral concert, they also have the most potential to drain your allowance, based on how many celebrity autographs you want to go home with; typical fees range from $20 to $50 or more per signing. This will be my third Super Megafest, and I usually budget $100 for at least three autographs.

If you'll be attending either the Star Wars matinee or the Super Megafest, be sure to say hello to Showbits!