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Archive for the ‘Matt Groening’ Category

peanuts-10991SOUNDTRACK: CHRIS STAPLETON-Tiny Desk Concert #484 (November 5, 2015).

chrisChris Stapleton is a big dude with a big beard and long hair.  He could be a heavy metal guy, but put a cowboy hat on him and you know exactly what his music is going to sound like–slow with an almost mumbling drawl (although his lyrics are quite clear).

The blurb says that his songs are timeless and in a way they are–I wouldn’t know if these songs were old country songs or new country songs, but that’s probably because I don’t much like country songs anyway.

“More of You” is a slow song in which he is joined by his wife Morgane on harmony vocals.  The song is fine.  But I was surprised by how funny he was when it was over and he asked, “When did DC turn into Louisiana?  It’s hot!”

“When The Stars Come Out” was cowritten with Dan Wilson but it doesn’t quite have Wilson’s super catchiness.

He is playing a beat up guitar that he says is 12 years old.  He doesn’t know where it came from, but he says he thinks someone has even used it as a canoe paddle and it has mud in it.  He says he has lots of guitars and his wife says Lots and Lots.

“Whiskey and You” is a song about, big surprise, drinking.  Lyrically it’s kind of funny, despite its intentional sadness.

[READ: September 14, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1991-1992

I was trying to figure out when the last original Peanuts strip I’d ever read was written.  I stopped reading newspapers in college.  But I’m sure I came across Peanuts once in a while.  My dad also used to get the papers, and I might have browsed through the comics.  But I have to assume it was sometime around 1992 or 1993 that I stopped looking altogether.

I wonder if Sparky started golfing again as there are a lot of golfing comics this year, including one on April 21 1991 where Snoopy is trying to hit it over a tidal wave.  This is one of those rare Sunday comic that he started doing with what was basically a full-page comic as opposed to several panels.

I also felt that 1991 was not a particularly great year for Peanuts.  We all know that Snoopy loves to be in different characters–and has recently been a surgeon.  Well, in January 1991, Snoopy pretends to be a road flagman.  Not very aspirational.

I loved the Peggy Jean story line from last year.  She finally gets a mentions again in March, but she has moved away. Which means he’s back to pining for the red-haired girl.  I know that the red-haired girl is classic Peanuts, but I really liked Peggy Jean.

But there are some great strips and themes.

I did enjoy that Sally after being steady rebuffed by her sweet Babboo calls herself his Sweet Babbooette.  Later, Sally comes up with a new philosophy.  “I’ve decided to put everything off until the last-minute and to learn everything in life the hard way.”  When Charlie says, “Good luck,” Sally says, “That’s what my teacher said.”

Sally asks Linus what happens if she doesn’t go to school and he tells her the sheriff comes and throws you in a dungeon with no food or water for ten years.  She hates that idea, but then thinks, “if we go to school for 12 years….”

Harriet’s famous recipe for seven minute frosting makes a return in April 1991 with all the birds talking about it.  Man, I should find out what this is.

And there’s a lot of scenes with Snoopy wrangling with Linus’ blankets which I always like.

Joe Garagiola gets some more abuse in May when he makes it into the hall of fame and Lucy says, “It means there’s still hope for us all.”

One thing I have never mentioned is the amount of times Schulz draws or mentions zambonis (and even calls them zucchinis).  I assume someone has collected this information, but he must have really loved the zamboni because boy does it ever make a lot of appearances.  Often times once a week for several weeks.

For something new Sally and Charlie are asked to teach a Bible class to kids, which is kind of fun.  The boy wish they’d gotten a “cute chick” instead of an “old lady” like sally.  And one of the boys keeps talking about the Great Gatsby, “Gatsby stood by the sea of Galilee and picked out the green light at the end of day’s dock.”  The series ends with the kid waving goodbye to her and Snoopy saying “So long, old sport.”

Way back in a previous book Billie Jean King says that whenever Sparky put her name in a strip it meant she should call him.  So in August Snoopy says “I’ve always wanted to call Billie Jean King.”

I enjoy this attitude from Patty: “Hey Marcie its a beautiful summer day  C’mon out and we’ll waste it away doing nothing. Then we can look back upon it and regret it for the rest of our lives.”

When I was a kid I believe I had the same seasonal beliefs as Patty does in Sept 1991: “the four seasons are baseball, football basketball and hockey.”

The football gag in 1991 shows Lucy waving a book about holding the football.  But when she pulls the ball away she tells him that she wrote the book.

Later in the year, Lucy speculates that the Great Pumpkin might be a she  “Never occurred to you, did it?”

As the year ends, Marcie and Patty give Charlie an ultimatum to decide who he likes best.  Of course he hesitates and they walk away.

In January 1992, Spike says that if he had an earache his dad would blow cigar smoke in his ear.  I’d never heard of this, but it is indeed an old wives tale.

Schulz loved having his Peanuts‘ kids read really big books.  And sometimes they were used a lot as punchlines.  But I enjoyed Patty saying A  Tale of Two Cites was written by “Charlie Dickens.  Chuck  Chaz?”  And then when she gives here report she begins “St. Paul and Minneapolis are…” and then we see her sitting next to Marcie who says “One of the great tries of all time, sir.”

Sally continues to be one of my favorite snarky characters.  “Sometimes I worry about you big brother.  Often?  No not often, just sometimes.  Like maybe seldom.  That’s it, seldom!”

Charlie is still being very loving and missing Snoopy.  He tries to get out of school a lot so he can sit with the dog and even worries when it rains.  When he goes away he calls over to where Snoopy is staying and talks on the phone (he says “Woof”) and Snoopy says “Woof? what does that mean?”

Another full-page Sunday strip came on April 19, 1990.  This may be the weirdest, most context-free strip of them all.  Snoopy is looking at a map and the whole page is covered with a gorge and the caption says “Every year thousand of tourists visit Victoria Falls in Zambia.”  Huh?

There are still more Tiny Tots Concerts, Patty still hates to be called a Tiny Tot.  Although she gets excited in May of 1992 because she thinks the new song is called “Hey dude” when it is actually “Etude.”

Pop culture references: in August 1991 someone described being suspended from the bungee cord of life Fried Green Tomatoes is mentioned in April 1992.  Spike does Velcro jumping in July 1992.  After playing some football, Marcie says she could be another Joe Iowa (Montana).

And Sally changed her philosophy from “who cares?” to “what do I care?”

In Summer 1992, Charlie goes to camp and helps out a kid named Cormac, although we don’t see him much after that.

In 1992, Charlie believes that Lucy in sincere about holding the ball.  When he misses, Sally says “You’re not in love with Lucy, are you big brother?”  When he says No, she says, “I should Hope not,  I’ve discovered that love makes us do strange things.  So does stupidity.”

In 1992, Marcie decides to help spread the word about the Great Pumpkin but she calls it the Great Grape.  When she realizes her mistake she says, “I guess it would be hard to carve a scary face in a  grape, wouldn’t it?”

Over the years there have been hundred of jokes about Schroeder’s musical staff and Snoopy either sleeping on it or breaking it or so many other possibilities.  They’ve all been mildly amusing.  I liked in December 1992, when Snoopy takes the notes and uses them as the sound of his bell when he is Santa Claus ringing bells on the street.  Because yes, for the last two years Snoopy has dressed up like Santa Claus on a street corner ringing bells.   I like the one later when Charlie brings snoopy his dinner and a girl says “Hey look, Ma, Santa Claus is eating out of dog dish.”

There’s two Sundays in a row with Sally writing a letter to Samantha Claus.  In the first one, Charlie asks if she goes Ho Ho Ho or just smiles daintily, but the following week we find out that Sally talked about her in school and was roundly mocked.

Spikes Christmases have been pretty sad, but I did get a kick out of this one. “Last year I exchanged a gift with a rock, I think he liked what I bought him…he still wearing it.”  And there’ s funny sequence where Spike puts lights on his tree then walks all the way to Needles to plug it in at the chamber of commerce.  There’s even a news story the next say, “Someone sneaked into the chamber of commerce building last night and plugged in an extension cord.  The cord led out of town somewhere into the dessert.  Everyone is puzzled as to who or why someone would do such a thing.”

Although perhaps the best Christmas joke ever comes in 1992 when Sally is writing her thank you note: “Dear Grandma, Thank you for the money you sent me for Christmas.  I am going to save it for my college education.”  Then she says “It’s hard to write with a straight face.”  And Charlie says, “I never said a word.”

1992 ends with a New Years Eve party at Snoopy’s and he says “What do you mean we’re all out of hors d’oeuvres.

So overall, it’s not a bad two years, there’s just not a ton of noteworthy jokes.

The introduction is by Tom Tomorrow.  He says his influences were Mad magazine, Garry Trudeau and Matt Groening but his earliest inspiration was Charles Schulz.

He says that in the 1960s he hit the perfect sweet spot with Peanuts:  old enough to understand the humor, young enough to truly appreciate the whimsy. When he was a child, he loved the Christmas Special, and he was excited that his parents bought their first color TV in time for its annual airing.  He had also been given a Snoopy astronaut in the year he became the unofficial mascot of Apollo 10.

He describes Peanuts as “a strip that spun heartbreak into wry humor.  A cartoon about childhood anxiety that veered frequently into the realm of magical realism.”

He loves things like that the doghouse was bigger on the inside than the outside (although that aspect has been downplayed in recent years).

When he was a young cartoonist, he wrote to Charles Schulz.  And Schulz invited him over for lunch. Schulz was very generous with his time. “We ate at the cafe adjacent to the skating rink he’d built. The table was always reserved for him and on which you will still find a reserved sign to this day.”

Tomorrow says he wrote the only obituary comic he’d ever done for Schulz and he quotes Schulz: “If I were a better artist, I’d be a painter. And if I were a  better writer, I’d write books.  But I’m not so I draw cartoons.”

Tomorrow addresses his change from the strict four panel strips of his whole career, which I noted with concern and excitement.  Evidently, Schulz always wanted to experiment with the panels, but he was unsure if the Syndicate would allow it.  Tomorrow jokes that at this point in his career, he probably could have demanded a solid gold table and a full complement of chorus girls to entertain him while he worked.

He concludes his introduction by saying that Schulz gave him an original strip–which is the middle strip on page 71 in this book (dated June 14), and what a nice one it is:

“It’s nice to be able to do something for someone once in a while that’s appreciated.”

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SOUNDTRACK: HELLOWEEN-“Halloween” (1987).

Back in the late 80s, I loved Helloween–they played speed metal, they had intricate solos, and they were German–what’s not to love?  Oh, and also, they were quite funny, with their little pumpkin mascot.

In 1987, they released The Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1, a concept album (hooray), with this song as the 13 minute centerpiece.  They also released a “radio friendly” version that’s about 3 minutes long.  How do you eliminate ten minutes of a song?  Take out some verses, some riffs, a whole middle section of vocals, a cool section that sounds like Queensrÿche, a little spoken word section and a whole lotta solos.  Surprisingly you do get the essence of the song, just none of the theatricality.

So Helloween are still around, although I gave up on them after the sequel to this album (Part Two) which really didn’t live up to the majesty of Part One.

But this song is fun and whether you choose the 13 minute or the 3 minute version, Happy Halloween.

[READ: November 7, 2012] The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror #18

Yes, that’s right, I read this after Halloween!  Hurricane Sandy means I can throw convention to the wind until I catch up.  Sarah bought this for me before Halloween, but I didn’t really feel like reading it on Halloween, so here it is.

Unlike in the TV show, this Treehouse of Horror has four stories!  The first thing you have to get used to in Simpsons comics is that the characters don’t look like the ones on TV.  This is deliberate–they get different artists to draw the pages, so the artist’s own style comes in.  The characters are obviously The Simpsons; it’s amazing how many liberties can be taken with icons and have them still be recognizable.

The first story is a parody of Evil Dead.  Homer takes the family to a cabin in the woods where Henry K. Duff created the secret recipe for Duff beer.  But when the recipe is read aloud…the spirit of the beer possesses the family.  This story is actually kind of gruesome, although my five-year old enjoyed flipping through the pages.  The twist at the end is completely unexpected and wonderful. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RUSH-“Headlong Flight” (2012).

A new single from Rush came out on Thursday.  And it’s seven minutes long!  Yeeha!  It’s also really heavy.

It opens with a cool bass riff and then thundering guitars.  This song continues in the heavier, grungier sound from Vapor Trails.  The middle section sounds distinctly Rush (late 80s style), and Geddy’s voice hits some pretty high notes.

There’s a brief extra section with a spoken word part–I’ve not been able to make out what it says, but the instruments (especially the great guitar sound) is fantastic behind it.  That’s followed by a great solo from Alex (that hearkens back to his wild solos from the 70s).  Geddy throws some cool bass fills–although he’s not showing off as much as he might).  And, of course, Neil is doing some cool drum things through the song–little fills and whatnot–and he sounds like he’s pounding the hell out of the drums.

Here’s the video

[READ: April 14, 2012] Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk

As I mentioned yesterday, I bought a book to have David Sedaris sign it, but decided the wait wasn’t worth it.  This is the book I bought.  It very excitedly claims to “with one new story” which I thought was funny both in itself and also because I hadn’t read any of the other ones (I gather they are from This American Life, although they’re mostly too vulgar to have read on the radio).  It also has illustrations from Ian Falconer, who is the guy behind Olivia, the children’s book series.

Anyone who has read David Sedaris essays knows what to expect–funny, presumably exaggerated stories about his family and loved ones.  Indeed, the stories that he read from during the show were just that–dark and funny and about his loved ones.  So imagine my surprise to find that these were all short fictional stories about animals!  No Sedaris’ are harmed in this book.

All of the animals are behaving like people, so Sedaris’ caustic wit and attacks on hypocrisy are all in play.  However, because they are animals, Sedaris can go much much further with them.  Matt Groening said that he could get away with a lot more social criticism because The Simpsons were cartoons; the same applies here.  Indeed, these are some of the darkest stories that I have ever read from Sedaris.

Some of them are kinda funny, but most of them left me mildly bemused at best.  Because while they seem to be a kind of laugh-at-the-recognition-of-our-foolish-behavior (as done by animals), really they are preachy and seem generally disappointed in us.   And who wants to read that?  It basically seemed like an opportunity for Sedaris to make fun of things that he doesn’t like about people.  But he knew it would be obnoxious to makes stories about people acting that way, so he made them animals instead.  And perhaps he thought that would make it funnier.  At times this was true, but not very often. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THURSTON MOORE-World Cafe Studio, November 16, 2007 (2007).

This World Cafe set is a nice contrast to the all-acoustic performance mentioned yesterday (even if it was recorded earlier).  Thurston has a full band with him (including Steve Shelly on drums).  Samara Lubelski from the other session is here too.  The band brings new dimensions to what are mostly the same set of songs.  Both sets included “The Shape is in a Trance,” and “Fri/End” but this one also includes “Honest James.”  The contrast is striking though.  The songs are bigger with the band (and allow for more intricacies) but they are still intimate.

  The interview is also interesting.  David Dye is a fantastic interviewer and he gets some great (and funny) answers out of Thurston. The whole description of how the lyrics to “Fri/End” came about is really cool (if unlikely).

Thurston and NPR: perfect together.

[READ: April 15, 2011] The Simpsons Futurama Crossover Crisis.

This was a wonderful Christmas surprise from Sarah this year.  It is a beautifully packaged (slipcase with a cut-away opening) hardcover edition of the 2002 & 2005 Simpson/Futurama crossover comics issues.

Despite all of my fondness for The Simpsons and Futurama, I never really got into the comics (gotta draw a line somewhere).  But they have Matt Groening’s seal of approval, and they play jokes with things that the show never really touches (not to mention, the shows never tries a crossover event–I can’t even imagine how that would work). (more…)

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