Posts Tagged ‘songs’

RIP – Robert Sherman – Songwriter

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Robert Sherman was a songwriter who, along with his brother Richard, wrote some of the most memorable tunes for Walt Disney pictures.

One of my favourites of his (and reputed to be Walt’s most favourite song of all) was Feed The Birds from the film Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins was the first film I ever saw in a theatre and, despite Dick Van Dyke‘s execrable Cockney accent, it left a deep and lasting impression on me.

Robert Sherman died yesterday at the age of 86.

Thank you, Mr. Sherman.

P. S. The role of the “bird woman” was played by Jane Darwell, perhaps best known as “Ma Joad” to her son “Tom” as played by Henry Fonda in 1940′s The Grapes Of Wrath. Disney himself insisted on her for the part.

Ruffus The Dog’s Christmas Carol – Finally

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Ruffus The Dog’s Christmas Carol is now online and available for the world to see and share. You can even watch it here:

It would help a lot if you go to the YouTube site to Like and Comment on the show. That kind of audience engagement – *cough*buzzwords*couch* – really does make a difference.

We’ll also be posting it to our channel and a bunch of other sites very soon – as in: as soon as I can get my shit together to do so.

I promise to write a whole bunch more about how we made it, with photos and clips, and what our next steps will be for the Ruffus project – but for now you can check out what other people are saying by checking out their posts and leaving comments:

Please share this show with as many others as you can. It’s our gift to everyone for the holidays.

Download links will be posted soon – and if you want to watch the earlier Ruffus episodes you can find them on the official Ruffus web site.

And if you really really like JP Houston’s song “Merry Merry” you can find it on our Bandcamp site as a free download. It’s an immensely catchy tune and deserves to be heard over and over again. Enjoy!


P. S. Comments here are also appreciated. Tell me what you think of the show – I’d really like to know.

Merry Merry – Music Video From Ruffus The Dog’s Christmas Carol

Monday, December 5th, 2011

This is one of JP Houstons’ amazing songs from our production of Ruffus The Dog’s Christmas Carol – it’s called Merry Merry.

The full production will premiere online on December 17th. We’re also having a screening at the Revue Cinema that day where Ruffus will appear in person to answer questions. I’ll probably be there too.


Ruffus Christmas Carol – Help Us Get It Done

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

The holidays are fast approaching and I made a promise last year that our Ruffus The Dog’s Christmas Carol would be finished and released by then. Here’s how you can help make it so.

When we started the project we attempted, through Indie Go-Go, to raise the full $8,500 we expected we could scrape by on to make the whole thing work and release it to the world. We only managed to achieve $2,090 but that generosity from our supporters convinced us to carry on and go ahead with the shoot. I’ve blogged about that before – here and here and here – and here’s our original Indie Go-Go pitch.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Ruffus show itself you can find all the original episodes on the official Ruffus The Dog website or on our YouTube channel.

Well now, after almost a year of gradually, inexorably (if not continually) working on the post production of the show we are coming down to the wire. The many favours and dedicated sweat equity contributed, in addition to the much needed cash, have carried us almost to completion but once again we find ourselves in need of real money to ensure the project gets finished at the level of quality it deserves and to enable us to release it to the world on time for the holiday season.

So we have launched this 2nd round of Indie Go-Go funding.

We’re trying to raise at least $3,000 to cover further post-production costs, DVD and bandwidth expenses, and a pantload of promotional work.

There’s going to be a screening at the Revue Cinema (I’ll be posting more info on that later) with the proceeds going to support the Toronto Public Library Foundation.

The show will be released online for free streaming and downloading with the option to buy DVD copies, songs, posters, calendars, t-shirts and (hopefully) a graphic photo-novella. But it’s gotta all be done and ready for release before December 15th.

Our clock is ticking.

If you can contribute that would be freaking awesome. If you can’t you can still help us with word-of-mouth, just telling people about the project.

Mention us and link to our Indie Go-Go page on your own blog, your Facebook wall, your Twitter account, or maybe just stand on the street corner with one of those sandwich board signs whilst ringing a bell and wearing a funny hat. Whatever it takes.

Full Disclosure: When I refer to “we” on this project I am mostly referring to “me”, since I’m the guy who has always chosen to wear too many hats. Hey – I got a fat head – might as well use it, right? But I always say “we” because I am not a one-man-band; I rely upon and have benefited from the extraordinary generosity of my friends and family – all of them colleagues and collaborators in this work with me. I couldn’t do a thing without them.

Thanks in advance for your generosity. If you have any comments or suggestions or if you have any questions please feel free to post them here or via email.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back in the basement and keep working on the show.


Ruffus RoundUp – Thus Far

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

As you may have noticed I’ve been posting a lot about our efforts to get Ruffus The Dog’s “A Christmas Carol” financed through contributions from the crowd-funding web site IndieGoGo.

Once upon a time . . .

The time has run out for that effort and while we didn’t raise the full $8,500 we were hoping to, we did clear over $2,000 and managed to garner a bit of attention for the show itself. It’s all good.

The process of using IndieGoGo was an interesting learning experience. I have no doubts we’ll bring other productions forward through that site. The level of participation from contributors is a difficult one to anticipate; I’m sure everybody thinks their own project is the absolute most bestest in the whole universe. There are a lot of great recommendations from the operators of the site on how to best leverage awareness of your project and ensure you are getting the maximum return for your efforts – but it is up to you to make it happen.

Did I do everything humanely possible to guarantee full or even excess funding of “A Christmas Carol”? No, of course not – I’m a lazy procrastinating slob with too much work in front of him and preternaturally shy about blowing my own horn. We did have a lot of help from many people out there – friends, family, colleagues and total strangers – to which we are indebted. It’s gratifying and humbling to see others get out and make noise in an effort to help us in this quest.

Thanks to you all from the bottom of my sordid little heart.

Today is Tuesday – next week, on Monday, we will begin shooting “A Christmas Carol”. I’ll be documenting the entire process here on this blog and probably on another site set up just for that show. There will be photos and tweets and possibly a live video feed on UStream. We can’t get too ambitious with all that because we do have a show to shoot and that is, perforce, ambitious enough in its own right.

When it is all finished and ready for release it will, of course, show up on the official Ruffus The Dog web site as well as its own online location, and right here and on YouTube and anywhere else we can place it.

There’s a lot for me to do between now and when we wrap the shoot – as well as thereafter with our tight post-production schedule – and while there is plenty for me to be raving, raging and ragging on about (TSA, Copyright, Internet Censorship, stupid cat videos, Net Neutrality, the Singularity, government corruption, cool art, corporate malfeasance, fascist hijinks and general monkey assholery to name but a few) I shan’t be able to indulge my usual blog musings in earnest for a while. That doesn’t mean you won’t see things posted here – I am, after all a lazy procrastinating slob – just that my posts may be somewhat minimal for a few more weeks.

After all is said and done will it have been worth it?

Of course! I get the chance to play with my friends in a creative endeavour and tell a great story in our own way and show it to the world. What’s wrong with that? Paying the bills would be nice too but that’s gonna have to wait until we’re finished this – then I’ll go out and get a job and complain about it at length here.

In the meantime, I’m taking great comfort and inspiration from a slender little volume I picked up at our local bookshop – The River Trading Company, on Queen West (the real Queen West: Parkdale) – where I found it perched in their front window display of nifty holiday stuff.

A lovely thing.

It’s an Atlantic Monthly Press 1920 reproduction of the original edition.

I don’t believe in omens and signs but I’ll take what I can get – and this will be the book Ruffus reads from in the show.

Once again – my deepest thanks to everyone who contributed and supported our fund raising efforts – our creative team will now strive to make the best Ruffus show possible. Keep tuning in for updates.


A Message From The Producer

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Today I posted this short video as part of our last efforts to raise productions funds through IndieGoGo for “Ruffus The Dog’s A Christmas Carol”.

The process of using IndieGoGo has been interesting and I’m pretty sure it will prove to be useful for other projects we come up with in the future. Our initial goal was for $8,500 which was a painfully low amount considering how ambitious this production has become. With only 5 days left to our IndieGoGo deadline we have only managed to secure about 20% of our goal – but we’re forging ahead with production regardless.

I’m sure I could have done a better or more aggressive job of promoting our efforts to raise funds but all excuses and caveats aside – I’m a puppeteer, dammit! We did manage to get a very nice mention in BoingBoing which helped draw a lot of attention to all this nonsense we’re up to.

Luckily, I’ve been blessed with a team of friends and colleagues who are both dedicated and talented. Their generous contribution of time and skill will be what makes our version of “A Christmas Carol” really shine.

Our shoot days are coming up fast and I’m looking forward to the four days of hilarity and hard work that lie in store for all of us.

The miraculous Jane Edmondson, assisted by Tatiana Hernandez-Deutsch, has been creating wonderful miniature ealry Victorian wardrobe for our cast of puppet characters. And our designer, Karen Valleau is crafting new puppet characters and just finished an exquisite snowglobe with St. Paul’s Cathedral inside.

Earlier this evening I had a Skype call with our composer, JP Houston – he’s currently in L.A. recording and rehearsing for a European band tour – and he’s been sending me demo tracks of the songs for this production and they are frickin’ awesome. Unfortunately he won’t be able to come to Toronto for the song recording sessions so we’ve been organizing a back-and-forth effort with him sending tracks here – we record the vocals and send them back – and so on and so forth until my brain melts out my ass.

It’s all fun and games until someone’s brain melts out their ass.

And for those who know me well – today I found myself alone in the kitchen making production sketches – and involuntarily let loose with one of those maniacal laughs.

Felt good.

Please, do what you can to help us out – or at least encourage others to help – every little bit is greatly needed and appreciated. The finished show WILL released online on December 21st. So there.

Here’s the original IndieGoGo pitch video:

And here, of course, is the widget that leads you to our IndieGoGo pages:

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go edit some footage of Sinbad the Sailor and these two pigs, Ray & Harry, the Hausen brothers.


The Troll Under The Bridge – Ruffus The Dog

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

This is our version of the classic fairy tale “The Troll Under The Bridge.

I wrote this in response to a lot of social justice issues that were bouncing around our city that year – none of which, alas, have been resolved to anyone’s satisfaction or needs – and was also inspired by my readings of (and brief correspondence with) Prof. Jack Zipes.

This story seemed to be a good mix between a classic folktale that advised for and supported a local xenophobia to ensure the safety of townsfolk when confronted by unknown individuals who seemed all too ready to prey on the unsuspecting – and some of the uncomfortable realities we seem to have trouble addressing in our current day to day lives.

It’s too easy to continue to prey and profit upon the blind fears of the unknown – and far more difficult to explain the community and individual need for compassion and necessity of learning what (or whom) something (or someone) actually is before passing judgement.

Heady stuff, perhaps, for a kids puppet show.

But I figured if you’re going to tell a well worn tale you might as well wear those tattered shoes upon a path less trodden and, in doing so, perchance take your audience to a place they might not have otherwise found.

This is especially true with young audiences. Present them with classic literature, iconic stories, archetypal characters, and then put those stories and characters in the context of the world(s) our young audiences inhabit today – the impact will (hopefully) be more meaningful, long-lasting and most certainly resonate more deeply throughout the rest of their lives as they grow up and away from kids puppet shows and begin their own walk upon the paths offered to them by the so-called real world we all must eventually, inevitably and inexorably inhabit.

It’s all about context.

Don’t worry kids. It’s just a puppet show.

And yes – there are monsters in the real world. They do prey upon you. You must beware them – and know them for who they really are. But know them truly – and don’t be afraid to look closer – and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes those who cry wolf or demand the destruction of a monster – are monsters themselves.

So there.


P. S. Apologies for the opening ad in the video. If it’s irritating and you hate it – say so in the comments and I’ll drop it like my trousers at a – uh – nevermind. Just leave a comment.

P. P. S. If you – or anyone you know – want to see more tales like this please visit our IndieGoGo site where we’re trying to raise enough funds to make our own version of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”. Many thanks. Tell your friends.

Here’s the widget:

UPDATE: Cory Doctorow very kindly gave us a mention over at BoingBoing with a nice snippet from this post, an embed of the Troll video and the info on our efforts to raise funding for our Ruffus version of “The Christmas Carol”. Thanks, Cory!

Ruffus The Dog – “Around The World In 80 Days”

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

The latest episode of Ruffus The Dog to be posted online is our own version of “Around The World In 80 Days”.

It was scripted by Bill Murtagh and contains some seriously silly shit. I recall when we made it we couldn’t stop giggling over the audaciousness of our trying to cram Jules Verne’s classic adventure tale into a mere 14 minutes of screen time.

Here’s the short promo video for the full show:

This episode also features what is perhaps my most favourite JP Houston song from the entire series: “Ol’ Blue Soul”.


<a href="">Ol&#8217; Blue Soul by Ruffus The Dog</a>


The process of posting the full episodes along with these little promo spots is becoming more of a manageable routine. It’s gratifying to see the viewer numbers slowly rise – as I have more info on our stats I’ll be sure to share it with you here.

We’re also rolling out the show in other venues – like our own YouTube channel, an iTunes podcast, along with the de rigeur Facebook fan page and Twitter account – on the understanding that wide exposure is the best possible promotion on the internet.

Over the coming weeks I’m preparing a series of interviews with some of the folks involved in the original production and will be sharing those here and on the Ruffus web site too. Eventually all those interviews will be cut together with other footage to form a Making Of documentary as part of the DVD extras.

Something else I’m going to try – like I don’t already have enough to do – is to shoot some new short spots with Ruffus and some of the other characters. Just little 1 to 2 minute bits based on nursery rhymes, jokes, poems and any emails or comments we’ve been receiving. Extra bits – you know – for the kids.

The writing of the storybooks continues as well as some other plans for the online existence of Ruffus. One step at a time. Tell yer friends.


Swine Flu, Pirates, Torture – J. P. Houston Sings The News

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

My musical compadre, J. P. Houston, has decided to start singing the news. This first installment, entitled, Swine Flu, Pirates, Torture was written and recorded today.

J. P. Houston Sings The News

You can listen to it on his site or right here:

J. P. now resides in LA and hangs out with the Joshua Tree music scene. He wrote the songs and scores for all our television productions including The Big Comfy Couch and Ruffus The Dog. His personal work is always stunning and his ambitious plans for future projects is inspiring.