Archive for the ‘George O’Connor’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG-“I Think We’re Alone Now” (2020).

This quarantine has already brought out a ton of creative work from musicians.  If not new items, exactly, then certainly a lot of home concerts.  And also a lot of cover songs.

Billie Joe Armstrong released the first cover that I heard about that was specifically quarantine themed (even if jokingly).

It includes a homemade video (of what one might do at home with a lot of time on your hands).

So, yes it’s a cover of the song by Tommy James and the Shondells.  It’s about 2 minutes long and it’s terrific.

A simple. formulaic Green Day pop punk take on a simple, formulaic pop song.  It’s instantly recognizable as Billie Joe.  He recorded the song in his bedroom.  I feel like it sounds like it’s not the full band (the drums are really simple and the bass isn’t as prominent as usual).  But it’s a really short poppy song, so the spareness is understandable.

Whatever the case, it’s a fun cover and one of the, by now, dozens of fun things musicians have done to keep busy.

[READ: March 20, 2020] Comics Squad: Detention!

I really enjoyed the first two Comics Squad books and I was delighted when T. got this third one.  I wanted to read it when she brought it home, but I forgot all about it until I saw it the other day.

And what a better time to read a book about detention than during a quarantine.

Like the first collection, this one is edited by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Babymouse/Squish) and Jarrett J.  Krosoczka (Lunch Lady).

This book has comics from Krosoczka, George O’Connor (the Olympians series), Victoria Jamieson (Rollergirl), Ben Hatke (many many great books), Rafael Rosado & Jorge Aguirre, Lark Pien, Matt Phelan and the Holm siblings.

Like the previous book, the Holms and Krosoczka sprinkle the book with comments and interstitials from Babymouse and Lunch Lady. Like that Babymouse is in detention and Lunch Lady is going to slide her some cookies (no cupcakes?). (more…)

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fableSOUNDTRACK: CALLmeKAT-Tiny Desk Concert #152 (August 29, 2011).

callmekatKatrine Ottosen is CALLmeKAT and she is from Copenhagen.  I’m unclear what her sound normally is–if it’s fuller than it is here–but for this show, it’s her on a couple of synths and a drummer.

I like the interesting synth sound she gets in the beginning of “Tigerhead,” but, despite the two synths, the whole song feels a little thin to me. Nevertheless, she hits some admirable high notes.

She wrote the second song, “Going Home” at Newark airport—she says always miserable there, it’s “so depressing” (no argument there).  She samples herself on a tiny keyboard (Bob asks her what she’s doing singing into the tiny Casio–this has to have been before everyone was looping everything).  The song is very pretty but feels very slight again–even more so because there is no percussion.

The third song, “Glass Walls” also has a sample of her voice–the sample is just an “ooooooh” note.  She says she wrote this one in the Copenhagen airport (which must be nicer than Newark)  This song is a bit more robust.

I liked her voice but the whole show I wanted a bit more oomph, which is not a typical reaction from a Tiny Desk where I know things are usually stripped down somewhat.

[READ: February 15, 2016] Fable Comics

Following up on First Second’s 2011 collection of Nursery Rhyme Comics, comes this new collection of Fable Comics, also edited by Chris Duffy.

Duffy says that for this collection they wanted to use mostly Aesop’s fables (because they are the most widely knows).  But the book also includes a sampling from other traditions.  He says that cartoonist were allowed to embellish the stories but we asked that the lesson remained.

And so there are 28 fables and the artists are pretty much a who’s who of contemporary comics.  I’ve broken down the Fables by their creators:


The Fox and the Grapes-James Kochalka modernizes this a bit with a jet pack, which is hilarious.

The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse-Tom Gauld is back, and it’s great to see his work as he keeps the story fairly traditional

Hermes and the Man Who Was Bitten by an Ant ; Hermes and the Woodsman ; The Frogs Who Desired a King ; Hermes and the Sculptor. George O’Connor is responsible for the First Second Olympians series, so it’s no surprise that he tackles these stories about Hermes.  He remains faithful to the original and keeps up his very cool drawing style.

The Belly and the Body Members–Charise Harper has a wonderfully stylized look for this story about how the body parts need to work together or it can’t do anything.

Lion +Mouse–R. Sikoryak’s Mad Magazine style works very well for this familiar story about a mouse helping a lion (he has modified it somewhat of course).

Fox and Crow-Jennifer L. Meyer’s style is gorgeous.  This fable has a fantastic look to it with pale colors and circles of details.  I could look at it for hours.

The Old Man and Death–Eleanor Davis’s art is boxey and stark.  It works very well with this dark and Communist-looking story.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf–Jaime Hernandez.  I love when Hernandez does kids’ stoires because his characters are so perfectly cartoon and his colors are bright and fun.  His telling of this story is very good.

The Crow and the Pitcher–Simone Lia  I didn’t know this fable.  And I don’t really know how the beginning sets up the end. It shows crow as being very smart for others but the end has the crow being extremely smart for himself.   It’s a weird fable although it rings rather true.

The Dog and His Reflection–Graham Chafee does an awesome job of showing greed in others and leaving the dog’s story to be un-narrated.  He witnesses greed and acts accordingly.

The Dolphins, The Whales and the Sprat–Maris Wicks.  I was completely unfamiliar with this fable.  I’m also curious about how much Wicks has added.  I love that she adds some very funny factual details like that dolphins are actually a type of whale and that there are detailed asides about all of the animals throughout this story.  The moral is that they’d rather die than take advice from a sprat.  Still true today.

The Milkmaid and Her Pail–Israel Sanchez  This fable was also unfamiliar.  Sanchez’ drawings are stark and work well to tell this story of greed.

The Great Weasel War–Ulises Farinas.  This comes from a longer fable called The Mice and the Weasels.  I love Farinas’ art in this story.  The colors are spectacular and the creatures are great   And I love the moral is that they build these giant machines that cannot fight against nature.

The Sun and the Wind–R.O. Blechman. This fable was in Ava and Pip, so its funny to read it there and then see it here. Blechman’s simple drawings complement the story well.

The Hare and the Tortoise–Graham Annable’s art is great for this.  The tortoise is so crabby looking.  I’m unfamiliar with the deus ex machina that happens though.  It’s funny how many of these fables we may know without knowing them in total.

The Grasshopper and the Ants–John Kerschbaum’s art is so busy and full of detail, it’s really wonderful.  I’m unfamiliar with the ants asking the grasshopper to play for them at the end of the story tough.

The Thief and the Watchdog–Braden Lamb & Shelli Paroline. I really enjoyed the way these two created this fable.  The art is great–angular and simple but really powerful.  Having the dog explain why giving him meat won’t work is a great idea.

Demandes and His Fable–Roger Langridge.   I love Langridge’s clear lines and distinctive colors. He tries to get people’s attention and only succeeds by telling them a fable about Demandes.  I’m intrigued that his fable gets interrupted by himself.

The rest of the fables’ origins are mentions in parentheses after the title:

Leopard Drums Up Dinner (Angolan Fable)–Sophie Goldstein makes a fun visual of this story about animals trying to capture others with music.  I wonder how closely this aligns to the original, as its pretty crazy.

The Hare and the Pig (Indian Fable)–Vera Brosgol.  I didn’t know this fable at all.  Rabbit and Pig are arguing about who is best.  Leave it to fox to make the declaration.

The Demon, The Thief and the Hermit (Bidpai)–Keny Widjaja illustrates this amusing tale of a thief trying to join with a demon to rob a hermit

The Elephant in Favor (by Ivan Krilov)–Corinne Mucha.  I love that Corine modernizes the fable (the lion says Dude).  This is all about how everyone talks about the elephant.  He works slow but gets a raise. What makes him so great?  All the other animals speculate.  But it turns out that his ears are the real reason–for reasons other than the obvious.  This may be my favorite fable of all.

The Mouse Council (medieval European fable)–Liniers. This is the story of putting a bell on a cat and how no one wants to risk their life for the good of all.  Liniers’ art is spectacular.  I love the subtle shading of his drawings and then the rough drawings by the mice.

Man and Wart (Ambrose Bierce)–Mark Newgarden.  I love Ambrose Bierce but had no idea he wrote fables.  This one about people’s need for privacy and not belonging to a club is pretty strange.

The Hen and the Mountain Turtle (Chinese Fable)–Gregory Benton. I was unfamiliar with this story about a wise turtle saving a farm.

These collections of short pieces are quite wonderful. I wonder what genre First Second will tackle next.  #10yearsof01

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nurserySOUNDTRACK: FRANK FAIRFIELD-Tiny Desk Concert #445 (May 29, 2015).

frankFrank Fairfield and friends Tom Marion (who plays mandolin on the third song) and Zac Sokolow (on guitar) play old-timey music (marches, polkas and mountain tunes).  Fairfield plays banjo and plucked cello (and apparently fiddle, although not here).

The first song “Tres Piedras” is an upbeat instrumental.  The second song “I Ain’t A Goin’ To Weep No More” was written by Harry von Tilser whose brother wrote “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

The final song “Campanile De Venecia/Sharpshooters March” has an overwhelming Italian feel (that mandolin, I gather).  I like that Fairfield yells “take it, Tom” so that Marion will play a lengthy mandolin solo on the for the final song.  There’s also a “traditional” Italian melody in the song that I know more from cartoons than elsewhere.

The songs feel like they leaped out of a 78 record (even Fairfield’s voice seems suitably “old” on “Weep” (although it appears that they were up playing late last night so he may not quite be up to par).

This was a fun Tiny Desk by an artist I’d never encounter anywhere else.

[READ: January 21, 2015] Nursery Rhyme Comics

This is a collection of Nursery Rhymes as drawn primarily by First Second artists.

The 50 nursery rhymes includes here are the traditional rhymes which remain unchanged.  So this was an opportunity for these artists to draw interesting visuals to accompany the traditional stories.  Some artists stayed traditional, while others went in a totally new direction.

It was fun to see that while I knew most of the nursery rhymes, there were quite a few that I didn’t know.

I always wanted to get a  collection of nursery rhymes for my kids when they were younger, and I feel like I never got one that would have been as satisfying as this one. (more…)

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lcoke1SOUNDTRACK: SUFJAN STEVENS and FRIENDS present Gloria songs for Christmas Vol. 6 (2006).

sufjan 6I was planning to write about Sufjan Steven’s first collection of Christmas albums, but I had forgotten that I had already done so back in 2009 [Vol 1 here; Vol 2 here; Vol 3 here; Vol 4 here and Vol 5 here.]

The next five volumes (from 2006-2010) came out in 2012.  This collection bucks the rather traditional tradition he had established with the earlier volumes.  Indeed, as the discs progress, they get more and more unusual.

But this first disc is quite traditional sounding.  It has 8 songs and is about thirty minutes long.

“Silent Night” is very pretty with gentle acoustic guitars and lots of backing vocalists. The solo is kind of a singing saw I think—a little odd, but neat.
“Lumberjack Christmas/No One Can Save You from Christmases Past” is filled with fiddles and is quite sweet (with a very familiar melody (and ho ho hos).
“Coventry Carol” I love the introductory melody of this song, it’s so pretty.  The voices feature multiple harmonies;  it’s quite lovely.
“The Midnight Clear” despite the title and first line, this is not “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” but a song inspired by that one. This is a very pretty song with a complex melody and lots of filigree in the instrumentation.
“Carol of St. Benjamin the Bearded One” I love this instrumental opening (about 90 seconds) which plays with a twist on “Hark Hear the Bells” and then plays some different instrumental sections but always returning to that Hark section. It’s very cool.  When the vocals come in it mellows out quite a bit and is still very pretty.
“Go Nightly Cares” has a very Elizabethan feel to it.  It’s a lovely 15th century instrumental.
“Barcarola (You Must Be A Christmas Tree)” is 7 minutes long. It begins slow but gets bigger and bigger with a section from Do You Hear What I Hear (the “following yonder star” melody)
“Auld Lang Syne” is a very pretty version on acoustic instruments with lots of singers.  It’s a nice way to end the EP.

[READ: December 5, 2014] Locke & Key 1

I heard about this graphic novel series when Joe Hill was on Seth Meyers’ show.  I didn’t really know too much about his writing style but I knew he wasn’t someone I was anxious to read (even if his book Heart Shaped Box must have something to do with the Nirvana song, right?).

But Seth made this graphic novel series sound really compelling, so I decided to check them out.  There are six collections in the series and they are all available now.

The first collection is called Welcome to Lovecraft and it sets the story in motion pretty much from the get go.  As the book opens we see two creepy looking youths harassing a pretty woman.  We see that they have killed at least two people, and things don’t look good for the lady.

Then we cut to some kids.  An older boy, Tyler; a young teen girl Kinsey (with dreadlocks and piercings) and a little boy. Bode.  They are all complaining about how much they hate living where they are.

Jump cut to a funeral with a bright red urn and Tyler looking down at it. (more…)

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ballopeenSOUNDTRACK: PIER 1 IMPORTS: Holiday Magic: classic holiday favorites (2001).

pier1 This collection is a mixed bag for me.  I love a bunch of the songs but dislike a number of others.  It starts out poor but picks up by the end.

EARTHA KITT-“Santa Baby” I hate this song in general, and dislike this version (but less than some others).  NANCY WILSON-“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” a slower version than I like for this song, but it’s fine.  LOU RAWLS-“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” I’m mixed about this version as I don’t really like his delivery so much.  BENNY GOODMAN-“Winter Weather” I like Benny although I don’t always love his vocalists. Peggy Lee is cool, but I’m less thrilled by Art Lund’s verse.  ELLA FITZGERALD-“Frosty the Snowman” The first verse is so unexpected (like a prelude that I’ve never heard anywhere else). I like Ella’s version quite a lot.  NAT “KING” COLE-“All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)” Because Nat is awesome, I like his version of this song (which I dislike in general), but Nat can make anything sound good.

BING CROSBY-“Winter Wonderland” Now we’re talking.  Bing makes everything alright.  JOHNNY MERCER AND THE PIED PIPERS-“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” This is a weird version that I’m not really familiar with.  They add some weird verses and call and response.  Like the opening “fat man’s coming fat mans coming” (which sounds like it was on a Bugs Bunny cartoon and is pretty naughty in my book).  I especially enjoy the way the lyrics gets even more threatening as the song goes on.  HOLLY COLE TRIO-“I’d Like to Hitch a Ride with Santa Claus” I’ve never really thought too much about this song but I like it.  DEAN MARTIN-“I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” a classic version, excellent.  LENA HORNE-“Jingle All the Way” She has fun with this and plays around with conventions, I think it’s cool.  PEGGY LEE-“Happy Holiday” Peggy is back.  I like it even if it is a little stiff.

So overall, this is a pretty solid collection of “classic” songs.  I would have picked a few different versions, but it’s solid.

[READ: December 7, 2014] Ball Peen Hammer

My experience with First Second books has been very positive.  The stories tend to focus on people who may not ft in, and who may not get a voice in every day society.  They’re usually pretty satisfying and/or positive.  Either that or they were children’s books that were largely funny.

So imagine my surprise upon reading Ball Peen Hammer and discovering a violent, nasty story about a dystopian future in which there is really no hope of redemption for anyone.  It is dark dark dark.

The story is pretty simple (although it is told in a convoluted way so you don’t really know what’s going on for much of the book). (more…)

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