BINGE: Pee-wee Herman
Once in a while a character comes along that hits the right notes. Pee-wee Hermann is the man-child, alter-ego creation of Paul Reubens, who came from a background in conceptual art and improv comedy. Pee-wee began as a stand-up act, then a stage show, then an HBO special, which led to the delightful movie Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. It was the first feature film directed by Tim Burton, and in it Pee-wee goes on a road trip across the country to retrieve his stolen bike, encountering kooky and charming characters along the way. The movie kicked off the beloved Saturday morning puppet and animation TV show Pee-wee’s Playhouse, which ran from 1986-91. The sets were designed by underground cartoonist Gary Panter, animation by folks who worked on MTV, Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh and Cyndi Lauper did the opening theme song, and the cast of characters included a talking easy chair and a king who screens old cartoons. And at the center of all that creative energy was the spastic Pee-wee, sweet but mischievous, with a warbly voice and expressive rubbery face. The show is as delightful as candy. The 1988 movie Pee-wee’s Big Top was a flop, but that year’s Christmas special was a joy; in the early ’90s Reubens got into trouble that derailed his career; but he’s kinda back, including 2016’s awesome Netflix movie Pee-wee’s Big Holiday. His charm never gets old. On various streaming services.
LISTEN: To educational kids music… no, really
Parents, by now you’ve probably got learning apps going, made peace with Google Classroom and Zoom schooling, maybe indulged in so-called education video games (Minecraft’s Education Collection is still free, through June). All this interactive digital stuff is well and good. But don’t sleep on music – even if it is educational in nature. You can find Sesame Street andVeggie Tales music albums that impart basic lessons to little kids, but they are tuned to much younger ears than your own. And Yo Gabba Gabba’s Music Is Awesome and Ozomatli’s OzoKidsare stellar and hip, but more fun than nutritional. If you want catchy indie music with a solid learning curriculum, you and your offspring may both embrace They Might Be Giants’ so-calledHere Comes trilogy from the late 2000s. These are thematic albums from the prolific indie duo about numbers, the alphabet and science. In “The Vowel Family” from Here Come the ABCs, a baritone puppet sings “Vowels are important letters/ There’s a vowel in every word.” From theHere Come the 123s album (which won a Grammy for children’s album), the song “High Five!” really earns that exclamation point in the song’s title – it’s ridiculously catchy. But the third in the trilogy, Here Comes Science, is a classic filled with gems like the human body road trip song “The Bloodmobile,” “Science is Real” (a lot of adults running around now should hear this one) and “How Many Planets,” a song in which they give every planet its own distinctive sound. The videos for these albums are whimsical too. Amazon, iTunes, theymightbegiants.com.
WATCH: Aquarium cams
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is closed, but they’ve got a menu of live cams aimed at various exhibits that stream you those fascinating sights and sounds. But which cam is best for you? It depends on your mood. If you want to relax, Kelp Forest Cam is a shot of the amber strands of kelp swaying in the water while relaxing music wafts and colorful fish swim by. If you need some laughs, Penguin Cam might deliver. But sometimes they’re pretty chill, just sleeping or preening. Go to the Otter Cam for sure entertainment. When they’re on camera, they are playful and curious and cannot keep still. Want trippy visuals? Jellyfish Cam or Moon Jelly Cam is your lane. They float by, twisting and turning to Brian Eno-like ambient music. Also, they have ruffles. If you miss the beach, try Monterey Bay Cam. It’s a shot of the tidepool shore near the aquarium, with sea otters swimming, seals draped over rocks, and birds flying by. Occasionally an unseen camera operator will zoom and pan (thank you, invisible hand). For more action, tune in during narrated feedings – the times are posted. montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams.