This music swings and bounces and with such simple instrumentation: an upright bass and a guitar. With the main melodies constructed by the trombone and vocal (the trombonist doubles on violin). But the rest of the band is there for percussion–cowbells, shakers and the conga.
The band plays three songs all sung in Spanish. It’s fun to watch them get into the groove and begin to sway in unison to the music.
“Baila Con Los Hacheros” features a violin solo that is pretty intense “Papote’s Guajira” features an acoustic guitar solo that is complex and fun to watch. It also has a lengthy flute solo (the violinist also plays the flute!). “Bambulaye” features NPR’s own Felix Contreras on congas–he gets a solo–apparently he has been playing in bands for years. What a nice surprise.
[READ: November 3, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1997-1998
This is the second to last book of collected strips from Schulz. Rerun features quite prominently and Linus has faded somewhat. Snoopy is no longer playing characters (except for the soldier..always soldiers) and Charlie is still pining for things he won’t get.
1997 opens with Charlie showing Linus his autographed Joe Shlabotnik baseball. But Linus thinks it’s a forgery. Cue a week of strips about an autograph forger (who tries to hire Charlie as his accomplice). I love that Schulz went on strange little tangents like this, but I always feel like he doesn’t follow through with these funny ideas. The whole premise of this just ends never to be heard from again.
And then in a surprise to me, Snoopy starts acting like a Revolutionary War patriot standing guard at Valley Forge. He seems to have given up on WWI and gone back in time to a far less dramatic role–he mostly just stands around in the cold. Strips about that occur from time to tome with him talking to General Washington. The last one is in December 1998 where he realizes he is only guarding snow.
Rerun has hated going to school and now he has a real reason. A girl in his class says she’s tried of Kindergarten so he asks why they don’t run away to Paris. And he gets called to the principal for harassment. Then he asks where Paris is.
But what may be my favorite Peanuts joke ever also comes from Rerun. Why he was late for school “our kitchen was full of squabbles.”
In February 1997, I think Schulz is speaking through Marcie. Marcie freaks out about people not communicating well. She asks Charlie is he likes her. Her responds Do I What? and she freaks out “‘Do I What?’ I walk all the way over here to as you a question and all you can say is ‘Do I What?'” Two strips later she recounts the story to Patty who says “You Did What?” And she loses it again “I just told you! Why do you ask me again?! Doesn’t anyone talk anymore? ‘Cool!’ ‘No Problem!’ ‘Whatever!’ ‘How You Doin?'” Finally she seeks solace with Snoopy She says it’s too bad he can’t talk, he’d probably say something worthwhile. The last panel has Snoopy saying “Soccer mom.”
The dogs can’t talk thing goes on for the whole two years of the strip with someone occasionally saying that it’s too bad dogs can’t talk.
And speaking of Schulz being annoyed by the present: the list of players on another team includes Clay, Blake, Morgan, Travis, Trent, Hunter, Bailey, Madison, Taylor and Justin.” Charlie says “Nobody’s named Bill anymore.”
Marcie gets another rant in April when the roof stars leaking again. She goes to the principal to tell him about it but instead she says “This is how it is… half the kids in our class can’t read and half can’t multiply 6 x 8 none of then ever heard of Bosnia and couldn’t tell you who wrote Hamlet.”
This book sees the return of a bunch of minor characters. “Crybaby ” Booby comes back to play Snoopy in tennis (she beats him and he bites her). Pig Pen comes back for a week in which we find out he is batting .712 (neatness doesnt bat .712).
And Snoopy’s brothers Olaf and Andy keep popping up throughout the year. They left the farm and they’re looking for a new home. They can’t stay with Snoopy because they eat too much. So they go in search of Spike. And they never do find him. They return in August saying they got lost and once again make a Citizen Kane “Rosebud” joke. When they return again in October (having been to Egypt apparently) the story shifts points of view by having Snoopy type their saga “And so Andy and Olaf set off once again to find their brother Spike.” On a few other occasions Snoopy is typing up their story, which takes things to a whole other strange level (are they even real?).
In another delightfully meta strip, Schroeder discovers that Ellen Taaffe Zwilich has composed a piece of music called “Peanuts Gallery” and “we’re all in it!” There are six movements (each only about 3 minutes): “Schroeder’s Beethoven Fantasy,” “Lullaby for Linus,” “Snoopy Does the Samba,” “Charlie Brown’s Lament,” “Lucy Freaks Out” and “Peppermint Patty and Marcie Lead the Parade.” Schroeder notes: “The world premiere will be at Carnegie hall.” This was all true and you can see a performance of the piece here.
In February 1997 Lucy comments that she will be 21 in another 14 years.
Sally is still snarky, her new philosophy is “what do you expect, a medal?”
Alice in Wonderland pops up a few times, with Rerun misremembring the whole story–the clumsy kid who fell down the rabbit hole and the Chesapeake Cat and she met Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods comes up again later on in March 1998. Rerun has a hoe and he swings it saying “here’s Tiger Woods hitting a 3-Wood to the 18th green.” . Later in September 1997, Alice returns. Snoopy is her attorney intent on proving negligence about her falling down a rabbit hole. For some reason, Alice is drawn in a really crazy-looking manner.
Spike makes his first appearance in May. Many of Spike’s jokes concern Mickey Mouse now. One of the funnier ones is when he says that Mickey can’t talk–his voice is dubbed.
And in a WWI Flying Ace series of jokes, his mechanics, the birds, are all playing Bridge. (For many days, I wonder if the cards they are playing are in any way funny).
Peppermint Patty and Marcie are still very busy. Marcie was named outstanding student of the year in May 1997. Patty is inexplicably outraged by this, believing it should have been her.
In September 1997 Patty tries to get Marcie to come out and play football in the rain. Marcie says “It’s raining and I hate football.” Patty asks, “What if you marry somebody who likes to go to football games. ” Marcie says “My husband will be very wealthy and own a luxury box.”
Schulz has been getting more and more intense about his war remembrances. So in 1997 his June strip is pretty intense with Snoopy swimming in the water under barricades with the caption “June 6 1944, to remember.” On Sunday, May 31, 1998 he printed a photo from the war and had Snoopy standing in front of it. And for November 11 he has snoopy on the battlefield wishing men a Happy Veteran’s Day (he signed his name and “my hero Bill Mauldin.”
In 1997 Lucy pulls the football away and says “sorry…I thought I heard someone say the millennium is coming.” In 1998, Lucy says Charlie will kick the ball because he has a positive attitude: you talk the talk and you walk the walk. But when he misses she says, but you don’t kick the kick.
As I was reading through the end of 1997 I thought some of the jokes seemed very familiar. And then I realized that several strips were identical to earlier ones. It turns out that Schulz took a vacation in December 1997 (his first one! It was evidently 35 days in total) and they reran strips (primarily about Charlie buying gloves for Peggy Jean which is way out of sequence!).
In Jan 1998 Patty and Marcie both call Charlie to invite him to a school dance. There’s another dance in May and both girls invite him to that one as well, but Charlie has his sights set on the littler red-haired girl. Snoopy goes to the dance (he is supposed to be a kid in a dog costume–he thought it was a costume party). Snoopy pretends to be Gatsby “trying to look casual and uninterested in the dancers.” But while Patty and Marcie come running up to Charlie, we see a silhouette of Snoopy dancing with the little red-haired girl (evidently it’s a big deal that he showed her even in silhouette!).
There have been fewer but funnier jokes about Schroeder’s musical notes. We see Snoopy raking and sweeping them up. In another one, he walks across them and they hurt his feet and my favorite is in July 1998 when he is cooking them over a fire.
In July 1998 Snoopy finds the caves where the zambonis go during the summer. And then in September on a Sunday he and Woodstock go to the cave to watch them come out.
In September 1998 Spike plans to stand on a corner where a beautiful Hollywood type girl will come by and bring him home. But he winds up standing in front of an animal clinic. The vet brings him in and the vet’s daughter Naomi is there to help him out–she fixes him up until he’s very happy–and then throw him back home. Olaf and Andy walk by at the end of this sequence as well–once again not seeing Spike.
In October 1998 Linus tries to sell a Great Pumpkin newsletter. No one is interested, but someone says it should have cartoons in it. Linus asks “What’s the name of the guy who draws Dilbert.” Rerun is pretty excited to go trick or treating this year. He keeps saying he hopes someone gives him a bicycle. In a funny twist on Charlie’s I got a rock, Rerun looks in his bag and says I didn’t get a bicycle.
As the year ends, Charlie is making a Christmas card for the little red-haired girl. Sally asks if her Sweet Babboo is getting helps making a Christmas card. Charlie yells, “He’s not your Sweet Babboo.” Finally Charlie signs his card “Merry Christmas from your Sweet Babboo.” Linus freaks and Charlie hides his face saying “It’s a family expression.”
The year ends with Snoopy explaining what a calendar is to Woodstock. “It tells you what day it is, what month it is, what year it is …No it doesn’t tell you where you mom is.” Poor Woodstock.
Paul Feig wrote the introduction and says that Schulz’ influences are all over his work (he is bummed that he never met the man). But he says his family lived in the suburbs of Detroit and things looked a lot like Schulz drew in his world. He really related to Charlie Brown as well–the optimist who faced every day as a clean slate (and had as little success as Charlie did).
There was a ten-year period in his life when he could not sleep without reading a Peanuts book before bed. He was introduced to so much from with Peanuts–from sarcasm to Sopwith camels–and he laughed a lot.
Feig was a producer for The Peanuts Movie and says he reread a lot of the strips and had forgotten how funny they were. He gives a very detailed account of a great strip where Snoopy bites into Lucy’s blow up pool as an act of revenge and how masterfully it is drawn and told “His humor is never forced or far from pathos and emotionality.” Schulz was a”confident, self-assured master letting us in on the human condition in its most honest, relatable and funniest way.”