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Archive for the ‘Fantagraphics’ Category

19893 SOUNDTRACK: TEDDY ABRAMS-Tiny Desk Concert #491 (November 30, 2015).

teddyTeddy Abrams is a young piano player (he was 28 in 2015) and he was recently made conductor of the Louisville Orchestra.  Here’s some fun details from the Tiny Desk blurb:

For his first week on the job in Louisville, Abrams played jazz piano in the streets and took his orchestra players into nightclubs and African-American churches. PBS made a web series on his first season.  Earlier this year, he put two first symphonies on the same program — Brahms’ First and a debut symphony by Sebastian Chang, a composer still in his 20s — just to gauge audience reaction. Abrams filled the hall by giving out free tickets to first-time symphonygoers. He was happy to hear that many of them liked the new piece best, saying they appreciated hearing the composer introduce it onstage.

Abrams plays three pieces.  Two originals and one from Beethoven.  The first, “Big Band,” [from the blurb: swirls with jazz history. Hints of Thelonious Monk fly by, along with tips of the hat to the stride style from the early 20th century] is a fun and fast piece with Abrams playing fun and bouncy rhythms and very fast solo runs.  It’s infectious.

Abrams decided to begin the opening movement of Beethoven: Sonata No. 30 in E, Op. 109, I. Vivace, ma non troppo with a short improvisation, noting that the great composer was known for riffing at the piano for hours on end and was often getting into improvisation battles.  At he end, he says that we shouldn’t have been able to tell where the improv ended and the song properly began (although fans of the song could probably tell).  By the end of his life Beethoven was experimenting and some of his later stuff is pretty out there and modern.  That may be true if you know classical music, but it just sounded pretty to me.

He ends the set with a bluesy number, “The Long Goodbye,” [from the blurb: describing it as a slow ballad halfway between “My Funny Valentine” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”].  It is indeed a wonderful conglomeration of jazzy melodies.  A lovely and fun piece that is familiar but new at the same time.

[READ: July 26, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1983-1984

As 1983 opens, Schroeder finally goes on the attack against Lucy “I have resolved not to be so serious..I’m going to try to laugh more” and then he pulls the piano out from under her and laughs like crazy.

For the past few books there have been a lot of jokes with Schroeder’s musical staves like Snoopy crawling through them.  Most have invoked Woodstock interacting with them.  As Schulz tends to do he will go on tears were he makes similar jokes every day for a week and then drops the joke for a while.  There’s also been some strips with Woodstock singing .  In one of my favorite, he is singing and the rain comes and actually washes the notes away from the stave. Even funnier is in Nov 1984 whee the rain comes and makes the notes droop really low.

For Valentine’s Day this year, Linus did not send Sally a card and she is very upset. Charlie says he should punch Linus in the nose.  But he says instead that Linus should just walk into his fist.  Charlie holds out his fist but Lucy walks into it instead.  That’s pretty funny.

More abuse for Lucy comes from Linus.  he gets a small bit of revenge by using Snoopy as a strange catapult and launching a snowball at her.

In the summer of 1983 while Snoopy is on a hike with the troops, the birds Bill and Harriet run off and get married and they stay in Point Lobos. (more…)

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1981 SOUNDTRACK: SON LITTLE-Tiny Desk Concert #496 (December 18, 2015).

sonlittleI know of Son Little, although only vaguely.  WXPN has played his song “The River” quite a lot, although I don’t think I’ve heard anything else.

For this Tiny Desk Concert, he’s really stripped down–just his acoustic guitar, a percussionist (Jabari Exum playing a djembe with accoutrements) and a backing vocalist, his sister Megan Livingston.  His playing is even pretty stripped down–his chords are minimal, almost more like accents for most of the songs (although he does play louder from time to time).

As such, this really celebrates his voice which is strong and almost gospel-like.

He plays three songs. “Lay Down,” is a quiet soulful song with perfectly spare accompaniment.  When it ends, everyone seems adorably shy with Little saying, “just mildly awkward enough.”

“Your Love Will Blow Me Away When My Heart Aches” is a bit bigger–Little sings a bit louder and plays louder chords, but it is still quite minimal.

He ends with “The River” which is certainly stripped down from the radio version.  It opens with some claps and he encourages everyone to clap along although “If you’re like clap challenged then maybe… don’t–you know who you are.”  The song has that bluesy rock feel even in this understated form.  And while I like the original better, this is a great version–that quiet clapping and percussion is really nice.

[READ: July 26, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1981-1982

So far the 1980s see Schulz settling into a few consistent themes in his strips–regular motifs that he mines over and over again.  Although it’s interesting to see how they have morphed over the decades.

Patty is constantly falling asleep in school (and getting D minuses), Snoopy continues to write funny/bad jokes and gets rejection letters about his books (this is usually pretty funny but it’s also surprising as Snoopy is usually the “successful” one); Snoopy also plays a lawyer a lot in these strips.

1981 begins where 1980 left off with Patty loving the story of Hans Brinker.  1981 also has a lengthy section about Valentines Day (a subject that gets more emphasis in some years than others), although this year Sally is the major protagonist (and her Sweet Babboo her object).  1982 also has a Valentine’s Day with Sally–she gets her hand stuck in the Valentine’s Day cards box.

Schulz used to do bible instruction which is why he quotes it so much.  And he occasionally peppers his strips with religious commentary.  There’s a joke about school prayer–Patty has to go up to the board and when her teacher falls ill she shouts “school prayer works, Marcie.”  There’s an amusing joke that Snoopy used to teach Sunday School at the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm.

Although the running jokes are funny, I love when he gets a new idea.  Like the a fun twist on the dog ate my homework joke when Snoopy as the WWI pilot steals Sally’s homework claiming it is the enemy’s secret papers and he eats them.

Sometimes Schulz gives a one-off joke that’s just silly and funny like when Woodstock “poofs” a dandelion and it “poofs” him back. (more…)

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1979SOUNDTRACK: HAPPYNESS-Tiny Desk Concert #468 (September 4, 2015).

happynessHappyness are a trio from London: Benji Compston (guitar), Jonny Allan (bass) and Ash Cooper Drums).  They play mellow Britpop with rather clever lyrics.

The first song “Montreal Rock Band Somewhere” opens with a steady bass line and smatterings of guitar chords.  And when the guys  sing, Benji sings into a normal mic in a kind of deep whisper and the Jonny sings into a processed mic to make his voice sound kind of tinny (in harmony).  And the lyrics are great.  I like when the second chorus comes in and the processed vocals go up an octave for a really cool harmony effect.  And I mentioned the lyrics.  Here’s an interesting verse:

I’m wearing Win Butler’s hair / There’s a scalpless singer of a Montreal rock band somewhere / And he’s all right

Before the second song starts, they have a bit of fun while Benji tunes his guitar.  Everyone is standing around awkwardly and Benji tells Jonny to tell his whale joke.  Jonny says no and that it’s not his whale joke he took it off the internet and would like to put it back.

For the second song, “It’s On You” the guys switch places (it  was suave, kind of Bob Fosse-ish).  Benji sings into the processed microphone. The song also has some busy basslines but the guitar is more pronounced.  Hearing him sing in that processed tinny voice is really interesting.  More interesting lyrics: “You said I’m an anarchist, communist, feminist phlebotomist.”

Before the final song, they switch places again.  Benji says he’s “not the most flexible boy in this collection of people.”  “Who is?”  “Definitely [the bassist].”  Bob asks, “Who tells the best jokes?”  “Unintentionally [the drummer]  Jonny says to the drummer: “You could do the whale joke… don’t do the whale joke.”

The final song, “Weird Little Birthday Girl” is nearly 8 minutes long.  It opens with a cool bass riff and some lovely overlapping guitars.  There’s a nearly three-minute instrumental opening and when Jonny starts singing it has a distinctly Wilco quality (partly because oft he processing on his voice but also his delicate singing).  There’s a nice shout out to Prefab Sprout in the lyrics:

Its so easy to replace it / some things hurt more much more than cars and girls / an evening in an iron maiden / a morning in your funny little world.

I really enjoyed this set a lot and I’m intrigued that their album (on bandcamp) has some really short songs too.   I wonder if their sound is different on the record.  Guess I’ll have to give it a listen.

[READ: July 12, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1979-1980

I foolishly thought that this book would play up the idea of moving into a new decade. But as I should have learned from years past, Schulz doesn’t really care about when it is.  His strip is mostly timeless.  There are of course references to time passing, but they are very minor.  So, on New Years when it  turns 1980, the strip heading says 1980, but there’s no other mention of it.

It’s also interesting how some things that he’s talked about in the past cycle again–many many years later.  In January 1979 Peppermint Patty is on a quest for a library card (we saw Sally get one like 5 years ago).  She says that once she gets one she wont leave home without it.  Marcie says Karl Malden will be happy to hear it. This is a reference to a an American Express card commercial that I remember hearing all the time when I was a kid (although I had o idea it was Malden doing it).  She also get a very funny line about junk food: “Life is more than carrot sticks, Marcie…what is a stomach that’s expecting a chocolate bar going to say when it gets a carrot stick?”

The World War I Flying Ace never really went away, but it seems to be making a resurgence in this year, with Snoopy wandering around speaking French and then later German to all the young ladies. (more…)

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1975SOUNDTRACK: ESKIMEAUX-Tiny Desk Concert #466 (August 28, 2015).

esquimeauxEskimeaux is Gabrielle Smith, who is the keyboardist in Bellows, a band that played a Tiny Desk Concert just a few months before this one.  As far as her stage name,

as an adopted child, Smith discovered that her biological father is Tlingit Eskimo; she describes the -eaux suffix as “just a playful jumble of letters that represents the way I record — a confusing layering of sounds that somehow coalesce into something simple.”.

Smith sings three songs in less than ten minutes.  She has a pretty, unaffected voice–just clean and clear vocals.  For the first two songs it’s just her and her guitar

“Folly” is a simple song as you might expect from just a strummed electric guitar.  But there’s something about the way she sings her lines in a series of rising notes that is really inviting.  She also has a nice way with words.  Like:

In my dreams you’re a bathtub running / You are warm and tender / And bubbling

“A Hug Too Long” is a faster song with a simple but interesting guitar riff that’s followed by a simple but interesting vocal melody.  Again, her clear voice fits perfectly with the music.  It features the intriguing chorus: “You went to work, I went to New Brunswick.”

Her final song is “I Admit I’m Scared.”  She has her bandmates from Bellows come out to sing with her.   There’s no extra instrumentation, but Smith sings in a slightly deeper register and Bellows fleshes out sections of the song (they even do a kind of deadpan synchronized move after each chorus).   Another great line of hers is: “And everything I said spewed like sparklers from my mouth.  They looked pretty as they flew but now they’re useless and burnt out.”  As the song ends, everyone sings louder “If I had a dime for every time I’m freaking out” which leads to a  dramatic climax before the final resolution: “We could fly around the world / Or just get out of your parents’ house.”

Bob jokes at the end that they can come back any time with a new band.  She says they have five other bands (including Told Slant and Small Wonder).  He says “you could come in every Tuesday.”

Bellows isn’t that different from Eskimeaux in style–pretty, quiet songs that are articulate and almost deadpan.  But having Smith sing (and presumably write) changes the way the style is created.  Which is pretty cool.

[READ: June 8, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1975-1976

I really enjoyed this book a lot.  In the introduction, Robert Smigel talks about how it seems like in this era, Schulz turned a corner a bit to become more absurd.  The jokes are sillier, with new characters and some crazy ideas–like talking buildings, pitching mounds and body parts.  He wonders if it was Schulz’ happy marriage or just a desire to take some chances rather than repeating himself.  But whatever the case, the book is really fun.  I especially love the Peppermint Patty/Marcie strips in which Schulz just seems to be having a great time.  I also love all of the jokes with Sally in which she makes herself laugh with some awful puns–I just imagine Schulz cracking himself up and not being able to wait to draw the strips.

But for all of the newness of the strips, Peanuts is always seasonal.  So 1975 beings with ice skating and snowmen.  Linus has made a snowman reclining and reading a book. Charlie asks if it’s Robert Frost and Linus snarks “You said it, I didn’t.”

Patty has been falling asleep a lot in school–her dad is away–and Snoopy makes as terrible watchdog for her.  More funny Patty moments are when she is being so decisive about true false questions.  “Irrefutably true, understandably false, intrinsically false, inherently false, charmingly true.”  To which Franklin asks “Charmingly?”  Patty also becomes the first disciple of the Great Pumpkin–but she blows it by asking for a gift, as if the Great Pumpkin is some kind of Santa Claus. (more…)

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1973SOUNDTRACK: LUCINDA WILLIAMS-Tiny Desk Concert #412 (December 20, 2014).

lucindaI set tiny, manageable goals for this blog.  They often change over the course of the year, but I like to see if I can complete them.  One such goal was to write about all of the Tiny Desk Concerts from 2014.  And here’s the final one.  (Another such goal is to write about the remainder of the 2016 shows, which is doable).  I also want to write about all of the rest of the First Second Graphic Novels (there’s about 20 of them left).  Insignificant goals that I find satisfying to complete.

I’ve never been a fan of Lucinda Williams.  Although, while I’d certainly heard of her, I obviously didn’t know any of her music. The blurb talks about her distinctive voice.  And it is certainly that.  About 20 years ago a sort of friend of mine saw her open for somebody else and she dismissed Williams as trying to sound like a different singer (wish I could remember who it was).  The irony that Williams has been around since the late 1970s was not lost on me.

But Williams has changed her style over the years.  She originally sang country and has morphed into more of a folk and now a blues style.  This Tiny Desk Concert focuses on her bluesy songs.  I know she’s something of a legend, but I found her demeanor through the whole show off-putting until the end, when she loosened up a bit.

She sings four songs.  “Something Wicked This Way Comes” is rocking blues song.  And I have to say I was pretty shocked by her voice–rough and raspy and sounding not a little hungover.  Her lead guitarist was really the start for me, effortlessly playing some great groovy licks.

For “Cold Day in Hell” (she laughs at saying the title) she straps on an acoustic guitar and then sings like Tom Waits.  That seems like a joke, but the structure of the verses is pure Tom Waits–I would have even suggested he wrote the song.

The third song is the more bluesy “Protection.”  There seems something so inauthentic about this song.  I just don’t believe her rendition of it–I don’t believe that she actually needs protection.  It’s really disconcerting.

She finally smiles after this song and says “Now I’m kinda getting used to this … I’m not a wake yet, that’s what the thing is.  She straps on her guitar and says this is based on the story of the West Memphis Three.  It’ my favorite song of the four–she seems to really get into it.

But all the same, I really don’t like her voice all that much–she’s got a weird drawl and sounds like there are some marbles in her mouth. It’s very strange.  I listened to a bit of a song from a live show from 1989 and her voice was quite pretty–deep, yes, but very pretty.  By 2007, her voice has changed–it’s deeper, with a pronounced drawl.  At a show in 2013, she sounded kind of pretty again.  So, I don’t know what to make of it.  I’ll have to just go back to not listening to her.

[READ: June 8, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974

I really enjoyed this volume a lot.  There were a lot of really funny jokes and the characters are really nicely distributed by now.  I don’t want to say that Schulz hit his stride around this time, because he’s been pretty solid right from the start, but this book was easily my favorite so far.  Possibly because it contained so much of Marcie and Patty who have easily become my favorites.

The year starts off somewhat inauspiciously with the anticlimactic return of Poochie.  She shows up, realizes that Snoopy isn’t a cute puppy anymore and leaves.  Never to be seen again.

More interesting is that Linus decides that since Charlie has been their manager for so long and worked so hard that they ought to throw him a commemorative dinner. They plan it for a couple of weeks and when he finally hears about it, his smile is awesome.  They even get Joe Schlobotnick to agree to come. Of course, then Marcie starts saying that they’d all be hypocrites if they actually showed up and said nice things about him since he’s a terrible manager.  And so they cancel it at the last-minute–while Charlie is there. (more…)

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1971 SOUNDTRACK: DAVÍD GARZA-Tiny Desk Concert #405 (November 15, 2014).

garzaI first heard of Garza back in 1998 with his minor hit “Discoball World.”  I really liked it.  And then I assumed he just went away.  But apparently he didn’t.

The first song, “Texas is My Hometown” is a slow jazzy song about how much he loves Texas.  He sounds like an old-timey crooner, except that he references all kinds of contemporary musicians.

And then he plays “Discoball World.”  It sounds quite different because it’s all acoustic guitar (although his strumming is pretty intense).  I prefer the original, but he’s really intense while singing this version.

He says he was walking around DC and he ran into his favorite singer in the whole world.  Then he invites Gaby Moreno to sing the final song, an old Spanish song their grandparents used to sing.  And indeed, with wonderful flair, he plays a beautiful Spanish guitar.  Gaby sings lead (in Spanish) on the whole song and her voice is really amazing.  She can hold a note for a really long time and then really powers through a loud note.  He does backing ooohss when needed, but Gaby is the star of this song.  Until, that is, he plays some great guitar at the end, very percussive, very powerful.

It’s a good set.

[READ: June 1, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1971-1972

I took some time off from my Peanuts reading–I needed a break after fifteen years.  And it was fun to come back to the strip really looking forward to the 1970s.

There seem to be three big consistent ideas in these two years.  Woodstock becomes very prominent, Sally gets to complain about school a lot and Peppermint Patty comes into her own, with strips about her and Chuck, her and Franklin and her and Marcie (who is finally named!).

1971 starts off auspiciously with Charlie saying that this is going to be his year of decision–he’s going to start making changes.  But Lucy interrupts saying that she is going to spend the whole year regretting the past-“Forget the future!” (more…)

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jan2016 SOUNDTRACK: STEVE EARLE-Tiny Desk Concert #123 (April 25, 2011).

earleSteve Earle is pretty cool.  He’s a country outlaw who is a socialist and an outspoken Bernie Sanders supporter.  He is a vocal opponent of capital punishment.  He’s also written a song “directed towards the state of Mississippi and their refusal to abandon the Confederate Flag and remove it from their state flag.”

For this Tiny Desk it’s just him and his guitar as he sings songs from his then new album.

He opens with “Waitin’ On The Sky” and says it’s the first time he’s played it in front of people.  He has to restart the song because “debris from a Cobb salad shifted in his throat.”  He also forgets some of the words, but it still sounds great.

He is very chatty with lots of stories about the recording of the record and how a song that he mentions isn’t on the record, but it is on a download or vinyl.  “We used to make records for girls and now we make them for nerds.”

“Every Part Of Me” is a slow ballad, it’s quite pretty.  His voice sounds good and hard-worn as he sings.  He says it is “the song you’re most likely to hear on the handful of radio stations that actually play me.”

While tuning before his third song he says that he is  involved with a show called Treme “that’s ‘treme,’ just like it sounds… if you’re French.”  In the show he’s a street performer in New Orleans.  He says that there are non-traditional buskers–professional musicians who sing on the streets for tips (hundreds of dollars a day).  And he tells about the turf wars that began in the 80s.  Eventually an agreement was reached between the players.   That’s all a lead in to a song that is on the Treme soundtrack called “This City.”  It’s a touching song about New Orleans.

I’d always thought that he was much more “country” sounding, and maybe he is on record, but at least here, he is simply singing well writing and well-though out songs.

[READ: February 23, 2016] “To Laugh That We May Not Weep”

This is a brief essay about cartoonist Art Young.  Young would be 150 years old this year and Spiegelman says that Bernie Sanders would have been the best birthday present we could have given him.  Because Art Young was a radical! Political !! Cartoonist!!!  (the oblivion trifecta).  The only concept less inviting is a political radical.

Spiegelman says that once upon a time political cartoonists were very powerful (although in some respect they still are, as you can see by the the murdered Charlie Hebdo artists).

Young was a talented cartoonist who drew for all kinds of publications.  He was never convicted for his drawings, but he was put on trial for libel.  He was found not guilty; he drew a picture of himself sleeping with a caption “Art Young on trial for his life.”

Spiegelman contends that political cartoons are usually short-lived and timely but that Young’ are more timeless–and perhaps sadly still relevant.  And that he was never shrill or humorless. (more…)

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1969  SOUNDTRACK: ABIGAIL WASHBURN-Tiny Desk Concert #101 (January 3, 2011).

abigailAbigail Washburn had plans to study law at Beijing University in China.   Before she left, she bought a banjo—she wanted to take something to China that was American.  Then Washburn went on a road trip to study the banjo and to learn some tunes. She found her way to the Augusta Heritage Center in West Virginia, then to North Carolina and then Kentucky to the International Bluegrass Association. It was there that she sat down with a few women to play music, and right then and there was offered a record deal. She blew off China ans has made a career as a banjo player–typical story.

In the ten years since then, she has been to China (with her banjo) where she learned Chinese folk music.  She now mixes American bluegrass and folk with Chinese folk music.  For this Tiny Desk, she plays three songs with her band Rob Hecht on fiddle, Jared Engel on bass, Jamie Dick on drums and Kai Welch on keyboards and trumpet.  She uses two different banjos, a normal sized one and, om the final track, a great big-bottomed one.

The first song “City of Refuge” she says is done in hop high tuning (in case you were interested).  It’s fun seeing how fast her right hand is moving while her left hand is fairly still and her vocals are fairly slow.

“Taiyang Chulai” is a traditional Chinese song meaning “The Sun Has Come Out and We Are So Happy.”  She sings in Chinese (and plays no banjo).  Her Chinese sounds amazing (and it’s really funny to see her speaking/singing it).  She says that taught American folk music in China and learned that she needed to do arm gestures since all Chinese folk songs have accompanying arm movements.  She also wore armbands which her grandma made for her.

“Bring Me My Queen” is the final song.  I found it interesting that her songs are rather slower than the Chinese song, at least in tempo.  This song is even slow for a banjo song.  But it’s quite beautiful.  In addition to being a great banjo player, Washburn has a lovely voice, too.

[READ: December 8, 2015] The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970

I was excited to get to this book to see which strip was published on my birthday (it’s sort of like seeing the headlines from the New York Times on your birthday).

Well, sadly, my strip was kind of boring–part of an annual be kind to animals or national dog week or something like that.  Nothing life-changing or earth-shattering.   Good grief.

I also decided that I’m taking a break from Peanuts for a time.  I have really enjoyed what I’ve read, but I need a breather.  I have read twenty some years of the strips over the last few months and, even if Schulz never rested, he didn’t condense twenty years into a few months either.  So sometime later in 2016 I’ll resume the books.

This book is notable for revealing Woodstock’s name!  I feel like that was the last big revelation that we’ll see for a while.  I am curious to see if the 70s added any new characters. (Well, there is Marcie.  I wonder when she comes along).

1969 starts out with Lucy saying that this is her year, “it’s all mine.”  Although a few days later she asks for a refund.  Lucy finally gets fed up with Schroeder and not only kicks his piano but throws it into the kite eating tree.  In March of 1970, Lucy says “I’m a new feminist.”

There’s a lot of Lucy/Snoopy rivalries.  In May 1969 we see the first an only reference so far to tether ball–Lucy is great at it (until Snoopy beats her).  There has been a somewhat recurring joke about Lucy beeping Snoopy on the nose (which he hates).  She does it in April and says it has been 384 days since she did it last (I wonder if anyone confirmed that).  In June, Charlie and his family go on vacation and Lucy is in charge of Snoopy (and she is particularly harsh).

Los of things happen to Snoopy this year.  As is per usual, Snoopy is skating in the winter time.  He is planning to win trophies (skating with Peppermint Patty–although she has to break the news that she is not interested).  He is also in preparation (in March 1969) to be the first beagle on the moon (wearing an astronaut helmet).  Surprisingly, there is no acknowledgement when the first man does land on the moon.

In April 1969, Snoopy goes on a two-week journey looking for his mom (but doesn’t find her).  In July of 1969 Snoopy takes up roller derby (for a very brief time).  In September of 1969 Snoopy finishes his first novel and submits it for publication. But he is rejected!  In Sept 1969 there are a lot of football jokes involving Snoopy and the little bird (the bird being too small to move a football of course).  March 1970 shows the return of the Easter beagle.

1969 sees a lot of talk of “Head Beagle.”  First Frieda reports Snoopy to the Head Beagle for not chasing rabbits.  Later Snoopy is appointed Head Beagle but can’t handle the workload.

In the summer of 1970, Snoopy goes to give a speech at the Daisy Hill puppy farm and a riot breaks out with tear gas!  And in September 1970 Snoopy wears a cooper bracelet to cure his arthritis.

In July 1970 Snoopy reveals a good truism “If you think about something at three o clock in the morning and then again at noon the next day you get different answers.”  Also in July is the first mention of “The Six Bunny-wunnies” fictional series of books.

For a few weeks in August of 1970 Snoopy pretends to be a grocery clerk (butter 28¢, bread 39¢, eggs 59¢, tea 79¢).

Lots of things seem to happen on the baseball field this year.

And in April 1969 Charlie Brown’s team wins two games in a row–neither team could make it so they both forfeit (Franklin is on one of those teams).  Later in June of 1969 Snoopy wins the Rookie of the year award for the baseball team.

In March of 1969 Linus make a sports drink which “replaces the body stores and prevents and diminution of vitally needed electrolytes and nutrients.”  (Gatorade was invented in 1965 and became popular with athletes in 1967).

Some great moments in this book:

In May of 1969 (on the baseball mound, of course) the team is talking about the costs of college “it can cost almost sixteen thousand dollars to go to college.”  The joke comes that Charlie is hoping for a baseball scholarship and every one busts out laughing.

In May of 1969 the school nurse is going to weigh them and Linus says he’s going to as about his hurting shoulder, “never pass up a chance to get a little free medical advice.”

In August, Linus’ gramma says she’ll donate $10 to his favorite charity, “ten dollars is a lot of money.”  (He ultimately decides not to accept).

In July of 1969 the little red-haired girl moves from Charlie’s street!  And Charlie never says anything to her.  Later in December 1969 Linus Charlie and Snoopy go skiing (on a school ski trip).   Charlie sees the little red-haired girl and falls off the ski lift.

Charlie makes a funny joke when he offers to shovel Lucy’s snow.  He asks for a quarter and she says “What if it snows tomorrow and covers up our walk again.  Do we get our quarter back?”  He replies, “No by then I will have spent it on riotous living.”

Peppermint Patty gets a lot of strips in these two years.  In Nov 1969 she talks about school: “I signed up for Folk Guitar, computer programming, stained glass art, shoemaking and a natural foods workshop.  I got spelling, history, arithmetic and two study periods.  I learned that what you sign up for and what you get are two different things.”  (I would TOTALLY sign up for those classes too).

She returns a lot in 1970–she’s a great character allowing Schulz to explore all different kinds of kids and ideas.  In the beginning of 1970 she is called to the principals’ office because she’s not allowed to wear sandals to school any more.  She cries and calls Charlie Brown for advice.  It takes Snoopy to kiss away her tear to snap her out of it.  The strip series ends with Franklin saying, “All I know is any rule that makes a little girl cry has to be a bad rule.”

Patty also says that she got an F on a test because she has a big nose–if a teacher doesn’t like your looks there’s nothing you can do.  Franklin looks at the paper and says “you turned in a blank test paper.”  She sighs, “there’s nothing you can do.”

In December 1970 Peppermint Patty invites Snoopy to a “turn about dance” (where the girls ask the boys).  They have a good time until a boy asks who her weird-looking friend is.  She punches him out and feels guilty about it until Snoopy says he had a great time and he’s the one who bit the chaperone.  Their friendship is great.

In Sept 1970 Patty has a crisis–thinking she’s not beautiful  (then Snoopy gives her a kiss).  The following week her dad gives her a dozen roses and says that the boys will be calling on her when she grows up and he wants to be the fist one in her life to give her a dozen roses.  It brought tears to my eyes.

In June of 1970, Peppermint Patty asks to borrow Charlie Brown’s glove for a kid on her team named “Thibault.”  Which leads to Charlie asking “Thibault?” at least twice.  Then Thibault (who has sideburns), refuses to give the glove back.  But Charlie Brown is happy by this because Thibault accuses him of “thinking you’re better than us.” And Charlie gleefully says “Me?  Better than someone else?”

1969 ends for Charlie when he buys a ticket to a sports awards dinner.  He gets a seat right next to Joe Shlabotnik…who never shows up.

This strip really sums up why Charlie Brown is so likable.  On October 26 in which Linus describes an amazing football game in which a team makes an amazing come from behind victory with seconds left in the game .  He describes the great plays and then Charlie’s response is “How did the other team feel?”

Sally is starting to become a more fully developed character–opinionated but often horribly wrong.  In May of 1970 she buys a fish tank saying “This is the age of aquariums.”  And she has no tolerance for school.  In Sept 1970 she asks why they have to learn all of these things in school.  Why does she have to learn the names of rivers?  “I’ve never even seen a river!  They could at least take me to see a river.”  Later she writes a theme for school, “If I had a pony:”  “If I had a pony I’d saddle up and ride so far from this school it would make your head swim.”  Then she crumples it up and says “That’ a good way to get a D-minus.”  In Nov she shows the class a document that is written by “an actual caveman.”  The punch line: “Show and Lie is my best subject.”

The best Great pumpkin joke comes in Oct 1970 when Lucy says “Santa Claus has elves to help him…what does the great pumpkin have, oranges?”

There are a couple of topical jokes.  In July 1970, when it rains during a game Lucy starts singing “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” (which was a hit in early 1970).  And in December 1970, the kids use a Ouija board which had been released as a game earlier that year.

And then on June 22, 1970 the little bird reveals his name to be Woodstock!  (strangely it was a year after the concert).  With a name he acts no differently.  In Nov 1970 Woodstock tries to fly south but gets lost.  So Snoopy walks with him.  After a week they get grabbed by a girl who say “Ma, I found a stray dog!”  Then Snoopy is tied up for a few days while Woodstock tries to rescue him.

The year ends with Sally doubting whether you really have to be good for Santa to bring you presents “the old rascal is bluffing…I know that [he] will bring me presents whether I am good or not.”  Then on Christmas Day, ”I was right!”

This was a great book, with some excellent strips and character developments.

Mo Willems, beloved children’s author, wrote the foreword.  Mo says he started his career by selling black market drawings of Snoopy and Charlie Brown in second grade.  He learned that even bullies liked Charlie Brown.  He says he could utterly relate to Charlie’s world, “For me, an immigrants kid, recently plopped into the middle of a small school in the insular world of uptown New Orleans, Charlie Brown was the only one who understood how confused and unhappy I felt.”

He says he aspired to Linus-ness: to be wise and kind and highly skilled at making gigantic structures of playing cards.  But he knew he was always a Charlie brown.  “Sometimes when I am in a deep funk and feel like my life if is an uphill battle…I try to stop and imagine someone reading the comic strip of my frustrated life and laughing.”

All of his characters are an homage to Schulz in some way.  And the greatest lesson her learned from Schulz, is “never let the characters know they are funny.”

He concludes by saying that Peanuts isn’t Art… it’s better.  He toured the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center and held an original comic but he found it anti-climatic.  They were too precious to be enjoyed…they became Art.  The magic that you get from having them in a book or newspaper was missing.

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1967 SOUNDTRACK: JULIAN LAGE TRIO-Tiny Desk Concert #140 (July 7, 2011).

lageJulian Lage is a jazz guitar prodigy.  he normally plays with a quintet but for this set he brought only a trio which includes bassist Jorge Roeder and percussionist Tupac Mantilla.

This was my first exposure to Lage and he does some really impressive lines and riffs.  He plays a hollow-bodied electric guitar that sounds an awful lot like an acoustic guitar. He does some phrasings that are really pretty or really interesting

But I was more impressed with Mantilla on percussion.  He uses thick brushes, he uses his hands on bongos and cymbals.  He uses his hands on his body–playing his lap and chest).  He even uses little dusts brooms (which must be unwieldy).  He’s also got some kind of drum (perhaps a loose snare?) with a great sound and even a bell.

They play three songs.  “Welcoming Committee” is a new song not recorded as of then.  At the end of the song, they all laugh as an office phone rings the end.  Julian is a sweet funny guy with some interesting stories about his songs.

“However” is an upbeat bouncy song (with some less noodling).  Interestingly, it was written by their saxophonist who is not playing in the trio today.

Before introducing the final song “Untitled (No. 24)” he says he started a blog for inspiration–to get people to bounce ideas off each other–healthy peer pressure with incentives for song writers.  The most recent one was a song a day for 30 days.  This was number 24.  (Hhe jokes that the first 23 sucked).  It’s a really fun piece that doesn’t feel incomplete at all.

[READ: December 8, 2015] The Complete Peanuts 1967-1968

It’s 1967 and Schulz has had huge success with Snoopy’s Red Baron plots.  In December 1966 The Royal Guardsmen made a song called “Snoopy Vs the Red Baron” which made it to number 2 on the charts.  So The Red Baron plot takes over a lot of this year.  And while I enjoy seeing him like that and I get how it’s funny, I don’t really like it all that much–the jokes are too samey for me.  But despite all of the Red Baron excitement there are other things going on this year too.  Like the introduction of the Easter Beagle.  And of Franklin!

The kids get involved in many different sports this year.  In Feb 1967 Lucy begins arm wrestling (and beating) everyone.  She even takes on the Masked Marvel (Snoopy).  In Oct 1967 Snoopy plays hockey for the first time (I think).  He references Bobby Hull).  Later in Jan 1968 all the kids play hockey together.  Lucy beats everyone up and say how much she likes the game.  And at one point Snoopy smiles and is missing teeth.  In Oct 1968 Snoopy shoots and scores (on his doghouse) and says “they’re not sleeping well in Montreal tonight.”

In December 1967 Snoopy considers going to the Olympics in France for his ice skating.  He says he misses skating with Sonja Henie).  In April 1968 Snoopy is going to the Masters in Augusta.  When that doesn’t work out (we never see him there), later in April Snoopy is a wrist wrestler who is going to go to Petaluma for the world competition.  (There are many jokes about Petaluma).  Snoopy is disqualified because he has no thumbs.

In August 1968 Snoopy says “jogging is my thing.”  And in Nov 1968 we learn that Snoopy has a pool table but that Minnesota Fats won’t play him.

And of course there is baseball.

Peppermint Patty comes back in March 1967 to play against Charlie’s team.  She has a new player, Jose Peterson, who doesn’t really hang out in the strip for very long, but who is an awesome slugger.  In November of 1967, there’s a reference to the lousy New York Mets.  I didn’t realize it but at the time of this strip, the New York Mets were a recent expansion club with a terrible record.

In summer of 1967 Charlie and snoopy return to camp and they see Peppermint Patty is there.  Patty strikes out Charlie a whole bunch and says she considered letting him hit one but he wouldn’t want that, right?

In march of 1968 snoopy takes over as manager and is really mean.

And of course, Snoopy has a lot going on too.  We learn that August 10 is Snoopy’s birthday.  He also says a lot of things are gauche.

In a very funny skit, in May 1968 Snoopy watches a bird chomp a worm and then says “I’m going to be very very very very very very very very sick.”

June 1968 introduces Lila again, and how Snoopy pines for her.  Then in August she writes to Snoopy again.  And finally on Aug 24 we meet Lila for the first time.  Lila is a girl in the hospital.  But it’s not until the end of the month that we learn that Lila was Snoopy’s previous owner who lived in an apartment and had to get rid of him.  AND THAT’S ALL THAT’S SAID ABOUT IT!

On a lighter note, in March Snoopy pretends to be a piranha for a few strips.  In April 1967 there’s some Cheshire cat jokes from snoopy (who is only a smile)  April 1968 sees the first mention of the Easter Beagle (Lucy doesn’t believe Linus who is the only one to see him).

Linus and Lucy pop up a lot of course.  They revisit a lot of the same ideas with variations.  In August Linus’ grandma agrees to give up smoking to get Linus to give up his blanket.  He thinks she’ll never do it, but he goes through the real withdrawal.

In Dec 1967 Lucy ups her psychiatrist booth’s price to 7 cents (winter rates).  And then as the book ends in Dec 1968, Linus is taking shorthand notes for her.

Father’s Day this year had Peppermint Patty writing a card.  She says that her dad calls her a “rare gem,”  This phrase is used as a joke in the strip and then a few more times.

It seems like summer is a good time for new things as well.  There are two weeks of strips starring Peppermint Patty at camp!  She is a counselor of littler kids.  There is a little girl who looks like Marcie but isn’t (her name is Clara).  And then later that week another little girl, Sophie, calls her “Sir.”

And then July 31, 1968 introduces Franklin!  He and Charlie play at the beach for a few days.

Religion pops up from time in the strips, especially with quotes from the Bible.  But in March 1967, Violet asks Charlie if they go to church.  He says yes, but she says her family “used to…now they belong to a coffee house.”  And in April Schulz revisits the “here’s the church gag.”

[From the Peanuts wikia] On February 8, 1963, Sally watches while her big brother uses his hands to illustrate that old rhyme: “Here’s the church…here’s the steeple…open the door…and see all the people!” After carefully examining his closed fingers, she announces, “It looks like a rather small congregation!” Four years later, on April 8, 1967, Sally watches as Linus delivers the same rhyme…and then she provides an almost exact response: “Sort of a small congregation.”

Most of the strips are totally timeless, with me even thinking that I read some of them when I was much older than I did.  I can’t say as I remember a lot of specific strips, but I always remember the one from Dec 5, 1968 (which is from before I was born, so I obviously read it in a collection).  Peppermint Patty says that it snowed last night Her dad says that “when it snows you should always take a slice of bread out for the birds.”  She places a whole slice on the bird’s head.

I think the timelessness of the strips are what make reading these volumes so much fun.

In May 1967, Charlie asks Linus if he wants to be the first man on the moon.

In July 1967, the bird (unnamed yet) has “long hair” and Snoopy calls him a bird hippie.

Charlie writes to his pencil pal in Nov 1967 and says, “According to what I read, your country hates my country and my country hates your country.  I don’t hate you, and I don’t think you hate me.  I think about this a lot.  It makes sleeping at nigh very difficult.”

In Jan 1968, the girls are going to have a “crab-in.”

Dec 18 1968 Snoopy has a sled and Charlie looks at it and says “Rosebud?”

In June 1968, Snoopy says he thinks he is in love with Twiggy.

In August, Snoopy says that you never hear anyone sing “Chloe” anymore (although which song that is, I’m not sure.  Perhaps the Al Jolson one).

In Nov, Snoopy says he is feeling groovy (the Simon and Garfunkel song came out in 1966).

There are references to the election year with the birds holding ups signs that say ? and !!  Snoopy say he’ll vote for the one with the paw print on it.

My two favorite jokes in the book have to do with math.

Sally is trying to learn her times table and guesses answers like “Four-thousand six? elventy-twelve? fifty quillion? overly-eight?  twiddelty-two?”  Then she  asks “Am I getting close?” And Charlie responds, “Actually it’s kind of hard to say.”

In Dec 1968, Peppermint Patty says she loves numbers.  “Twos are sort of gentle, threes and fives are mean, a four is always pleasant.  I like sevens and eights too, too but nines always scare me.  Tens are great.”  When a classmate asks if she has prepared her division homework, she says “Nothing spoils number faster than a lot of arithmetic.”

~~~~

In my edition the May 1 strip is repeated instead of the May 3rd strip! (The missing strip will apparently be printed at the end of the next book).

John Waters give the best foreword yet.  He actually references strips in this book!

He says he became obsessed with peanuts when he had mono in 6th grade.  He loves the depression paranoia and delusions.   But John was all about Lucy.  He loves her politics, her manners “Get out of my way!” her narcissism and her rants.   He says he has a niece named Lucy and Schulz got the expression perfect when she yells “No” on page 61.

He also says that for the most part the strips don’ age at all (with a few exceptions).  He talks about Lucy shouting “police brutality” at Charlie as a crossing guard!  He also says that Schulz was criticized for including the minority characters (which is shocking).  Waters is also fascinated by characters like Roy who are rarely if ever heard.

Pig-Pen was an inspiration for Dingy Dave in A Dirty Shame; Divine cutting up her daughter’s jump rope in Female Trouble is inspired from a Peanuts strip.

He sums up with the attitude that Peanuts presents:

You are dealt a hand.  Deal with it.  But most importantly he teaches all ages that if you can learn to laugh at the things that cause you the most pain, you will be the strongest of all.

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1965 SOUNDTRACK: TIME FOR THREE-Tiny Desk Concert #291 (July 27, 2013).

time for 3Time for Three are a string trio who play many types of music.  There are two violinists Zachary De Pue and Nick Kendall with a double bassist Ranaan Meyerand.  And over the course of their three songs (all original) they play classical, jazz, bluegrass and just about everything in between.

“Banjo Love,” features two contrary violin solos which get support from Meyer’s expressively propulsive bass.  It opens with the two guys strumming the violins before breaking into some lovely bowed playing.  Both violinists switch off solos (the blond player is a bit faster and more “showoffy” (but great)).  There’s even a bit of a bass solo after which the three guys all make a big grunt before continuing to the end of the song.

They say they are honored to be on the Tiny Desk series and compliment them on their new offices.

“Sundays” is a slow piece that features lots interesting bass parts behind the slow violin melodies.

They have funny stories about the origins of their songs.  “Don Don” is so named because the baseline goes don… don.  This has more of a bluegrass fiddle feel than a classical feel.  It’s super fast and fun with perfect slides and solos to really keep the song moving.

The notes say that they wished the guys played more, and I do too.  Interestingly I see that they have covered Daft Punk and Kanye West, so I guess they’re up for just about anything.

[READ: December 8, 2015] The Complete Peanuts 1965-1966

A whole bunch of ideas that I think of as BIG PEANUTS ideas come along in this book.  May of 1965 introduced the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm and Snoopy’s desire to meet his siblings.   In July of 1965 we get the first instance of snoopy at the typewriter writing “it was a dark and stormy night.”  We see Charlie Brown refer to the tree as a “kite eating tree” for the first time.  In July 1965 it’s the first time I can recall seeing the phrase “jelly bread.”  It’s the first appearance of Snoopy as Beau, the World War 1 flying ace (Oct 1965).  And in September 1966 we get the first appearance of Peppermint Patty!

The pop culture references seem to have dimmed somewhat too, although in January 1965, Linus cries “Annette Funicello has grown up!”

The “Happiness is” quotes are fewer, although Lucy squeezes Snoopy and says “Felicitas est parvus canis calidus,” which is Latin for “Happiness is a Warm Puppy.”   Of course later when he kisses her she freaks out “get some disinfectant, get some iodine” and he says “next time I’ll bite her on the leg.”

Linus’ blanket also takes on a mind of its own in March 1965 actually hissing at and attacking Lucy. (more…)

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