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Archive for the ‘Tom Tomorrow’ 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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mcsweeneys3SOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-Riot Act (2002).

riotactThis album seems to get overshadowed by the anti-George Bush track “Bu$hleaguer.” Evidently many people were turned off by this track, and that may have had an impact on sales. Of course, I’m sure many other people were introduced to the band by this song, too. Regardless, the rest of the album shouldn’t be judged by this track, as it is rather unusual.

This disc is the first one to feature a dedicated keyboardist, “Boom” Gaspar.  He’s present on all of the live discs from this concert tour, and it is quite disconcerting the first time you hear the audience yell “Boooooooooooom” when he comes out.  But he plays a mean organ solo.

“Can’t Keep” opens the disc sounding unlike other PJ tracks.  It has a vibe like Led Zeppelin III–almost a world-acoustic feel.  “Save You” rocks out with the classic chorus, “And fuck me if I say something you don’t wanna hear.  And fuck me if you only hear what you wanna hear.  Fuck me if I care.”  A great fast song with a cool bassline.  “Love Boat Captain” feature Boom Gaspar’s first contribution to a song: lots of organ.  It’s a rather touching song, a gentle piece, except for a center part which rocks out. “Cropduster” features a delicate chorus after a skittery verse.  If you are familiar with Matt Cameron’s contributions to the band, you’ll not be surprised by the unusual sound of this song.

“I Am Mine” starts a section of three great songs. This one is acousticy and uplifting.  “Thumbing My Way” is a pretty PJ ballad.  Then “You Are” has a really funky wah wahed sound on almost the whole song.  Three great tracks in a row.

Not that “Get Right” is bad.  It just doesn’t quite fit the mood of the previous three.  Rather, this is a punk blast that feels more than a little off-kilter (another Cameron track, of course).   “Help Help” begins the really weird section of the disc with this peculiar song (catchy chorus though).  It’s followed by “Bu$hleaguer” a spoken word rant, with an abstract chorus.  The chanting aspect is interesting, th0ugh.  “Arc” is a short chant, no doubt reflecting Eddie’s duet with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

“1/2 Full” returns to the “proper” songs with this sloppy jam.  The verses are quiet but the choruses rock.  “All or None” is another mellow disc ender, this one has some good subtle drumming that really propels this jazzy song.

At this point in Pearl Jam’s career, we get yet another solid effort.  You more or less know what to expect on their releases although there’s always a surprise.

[READ: May 7, 2009] McSweeney’s #3

This is the third volume of McSweeney’s print journal.  This one, like the first two, is a white, softcover edition.  If you click on the cover above it will take you to the flickr page with a larger picture.

[UPDATE: September 25, 2009]

It has just come to my attention that David Foster Wallace DOES have a  piece in this magazine.  (See my comment on the Notes from the authors).  His piece runs on the spine of the book and is called:
“Another Example of the Porousness of Various Borders (VI): Projected but not Improbable Transcript of Author’s Parents’ Marriage End, 1971” (which is also available in his book Brief Interviews with Hideous Men under the title “Yet Another Example of the Porousness of Certain Borders (VI)”).

The piece itself is almost shorter than the whole title and is basically a funny argument about which parent would get the double-wide trailer and which parent would get him.  Pretty funny stuff, and even funnier for being on the spine.

Okay, back to the issue.

[end UPDATE]

The opening colophon on this one explains the price increase (from $8 to $10).  It’s because this is a longer issue, it has color plates (foldouts!) and because of a sad but amusing anecdote of a lost bag with $2,000 cash.
There’s also notes about some stories (the Hoff & Steinhardt pieces are true) and an apology of sorts for running a story about the Unabomber.

And an actual (presumably) envelope sent from the titular Timothy McSweeney, as a way of verifying the authenticity of the title of the journal.

The final page of the colophon shows a sample of how long it will take for them to respond to submissions (which should not be funny fake news).  And it ends with a half a dozen or so random questions, which they do answer: ARE THE RIVERS THAT FLOW FROM HOT SPRINGS HOT? They are often very warm.  DO THEY GIVE OFF STEAM? Yes, and they smell vaguely of sulfur. MARTIN VAN BUREN: He had a certain charm.  etc.

LETTERS PAGE:

JONATHAN LETHEM
Ride with Jonatahn Lethem and the Mad Brooklynite as he narrates Manhattan’s superiority complex when it comes to the other boros.  Funny stuff. (more…)

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