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Archive for the ‘Comic Strips’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE POP UPS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #13 (April 23, 2020).

When my kids were little I tried pretty hard to introduce them to interesting children’s music.  I often wonder if I ruined them by not just letting them enjoy Raffi.  Because they don’t like much of what I listen to these days.

I’m not sure how long The Pop Ups have been making music, but this is sure a fun (and informative) children’s band.

The Pop Ups (Jason Rabinowitz (on the keytar) and Jacob Stein) sing the theme song to the wonderful NPR podcast Wow In The World and perform at Wow in the World live shows. In their Tiny Desk (home) concert, they save the earth from an asteroid, explain sound waves through a sing-a-long and a keytar, and encourage us all to invent and create.

Before the first song Jason introduces the greatest instrument in the world.  The guitarino?  No, the keytar.  Then he talks about the kind of sound waves a synthesizer can produce: a square wave, a sine wave and sawtooth wave.  “Synthesizer” is a song about making these sound waves–and you are encouraged to dance around and make those waves yourself.

Then Jacob wants to see if we can stump Jason with sounds the keytar can’t make: saxophone, whistle, marimba, organ?  Nope, it can do them all.

The next song, “Meteor” introduces a puppet, Doctor Bronc the Brontosaurus.  Dr. Bronc saw a meteor in the sky so he created a laser to shoot at the meteor.  If everyone turned off their lights for one day, it would save enough energy to power the laser.  The moral: “You can save the world when everybody tries!”

The final song “Inventors” introduces us to a woman I have never heard of.  Mary Anderson in Alabama saw that snow was piling up on the street cars.  She figured there was something that could clean off the snow and so she spent much of her time coming up with windshield wipers.  Which we still use today!

Young inventors will help solve the problems that our generation made for you.

It’s sure inspirational, and a useful piece of history.

[READ: April 26, 2020] “Little Donald’s Sneeze”

I love any cartoon that is going to mock trump.  It’s especially excellent if you can use his own words against him (which isn’t hard because he never stops saying stupid things.

I particularly enjoyed this cartoon because of its old-fashioned look.  Since I can’t find the original cartoon this is based on (or maybe it’s just based on the general style of Winsor McCay’s strip), I can’t tell if Kuper did all of the art himself or if he judiciously used the original panels.

I also don’t know what’s at the header originally, but this one pretty succinctly describes the man who is killing people with his deceit.

The header of this cartoon lays it out clearly: He just simply couldn’t stop lying / He never told the truth!

Why is it that cartoonist knows this but news reporters can’t seem to catch on and actually believe him when he says things? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ADAM SCHLESINGER (October 31, 1967 – April 1, 2020).

Adam Schlesinger was best known as the co-founder of Fountains of Wayne.  I always appreciated the band because I was familiar withe the store Fountains of Wayne (in Wayne, NJ).  But I was never a big fan of the band.

They wrote indie pop songs, which were not really my thing in the late 90s (although I did really enjoy “Radiation Vibe”).

Ironically, Schlesinger was pretty much simultaneously involved with a band that I really did like called Ivy.  I liked Ivy a lot primarily for the vocals of Dominique Durand and had no idea that Schlesinger was involved.

Since then I have really come to appreciate Schlesinger’s songwriting (he’s written amazingly catchy songs for just about everyone).

The Coronavirus is devastating the world and Schlesinger’s death from it just amplifies the unfairness of this deadly virus.  That a man who made people happy with his melodies should be killed by it while people who are causing direct harm are not even infected by it just seems to show where we are in the world.

[READ: April 1, 2020] “Inside Tove Jansson’s Private Universe”

I’m a fan of the Moomin Universe and I know a bit about Tove Jansson.  I also know that her brother Lars (she called him Lasse) took over doing the Moomins at some point because she had burnt out.  She died in 2011 at age 86.

This essay is more or less a book review of a new collection of Jansson’s correspondence called Letters from Tove, which I might consider reading.

I did not know that Jansson wrote short stories. Her short story “Messages” is composed of snippets of letters she received: “Last time you didn’t make a happy ending.  Why do you do this?  We look forward to your valued reply soonest concerning Moomin motifs on toilet paper in pastel shades.”

It’s easy to see how forty years of these letters would be wearying. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOY DIVISION-“Isolation” (1980).

This is the second song on Joy Division’s second and final album Closer.

It opens with a sharp drumbeat and Peter Hook’s recognizable bass sound.  Hook’s bass was often a lead instrument an the riffs in this song are propulsive.

A very synthetic synthesizer melody runs counter to the bass.  A descending synth line is the only thing that marks the chorus of the song.

Then Ian Curtis’ voice echoes from out of a well.

This song is about internal isolation and so it doesn’t really fit in with the quarantine theme, although this line does kind of fit

Surrendered to self preservation,
From others who care for themselves.

Midway through the drums turn to real drums–suddenly coming to life as the synths go a little wild with distortion.

With about ten seconds left the song kind of fades out with echoing sounds.  Apparently this cool ending came as the result of Martin Hannett’s efforts to rescue the original master tape from a botched edit by a junior sound engineer.

For a song that lasts less that 3 minutes, it conveys an awful lot about solitude.

[READ: March 29, 2020] Self-Isolating

I love Chris Ware.  I love his style and I love his tone.  Sure, sometimes he is too dark for me, but there’s always a sly humor that makes me smile no matter how dark the content.

Most of his pieces are long, so it was fun to see a one-page comic that I could post below (copyright The New Yorker and/or Chris Ware, but come on, this kind of fun should be shared with everyone).

So what’s the deal??  Well, a cartoonist who spends all of his time in a tiny room drawing pictures sure knows about self-isolating.  One might actually say this is his moment to shine.

Sometimes hardships bring out the best art.

(more…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SOUNDTRACK: TOOL-“Some Days It’s Dark” (2007).

I recently learned that Tool performed this cover of a song from The Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy live.

In the movie Bruce McCullough’s character Grivo’s band Death Lurks plays this very heavy song (written by Craig Northey and performed by Odds).  Lyrically it’s amusingly Dark

Some days it’s dark
Some days I work
I work alone
I walk aloooooooone.

Tool is considered to be one of the most intense metal bands out there with fans taking them very Seriously.  So the fact that they covered this song (in Toronto) is fantastic.

The cover is great (of course).  They get the sound of the original right on, especially when the big heavy part kicks in.  The only problem I would say is Maynard’s delivery.  It’s a little too deadpan,  I’d like it to be a but more over the top.  But maybe that wouldn’t be Maynard’s way.

You can hear it (no video) here.

There’s no word on if they also played “Happiness Pie.”

[READ: January 27, 2020] Extra Credit

When a beloved (and award winning) series nears its end, it is time to put out early and special features collections.  Usually they come once the series has ended, but this one has come early.  Whereas Early Registration was a good collection of early material, this collection is a bit more haphazard.

It collects some Christmas specials and some early “comic strips” from Allison.  Given this seeming completest nature of this collection, I can’t imagine that there’s another volume planned.

The first story is called “What Would Have Happened if Esther, Daisy and Susan Hadn’t Become Friends (and it was Christmas).”  It’s the 2016 Holiday issue drawn by Lissa Treiman.

We zoom in on DAY-ZEE on “the edge of the boundless sweep of space” as she zooms in one the title question.  [It’s important to read Early Registration first as this story references that story].

Esther didn’t help Daisy move in on that first day.  Esther was immediately grabbed by the popular girls.  They are sitting under a tree playing music on their phones which wakes up Susan who curses them out. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NICOLE BUS-Tiny Desk Concert #882 (August 21, 2019).

Nicole Bus is from Amsterdam.  Everything about her makes it seem like she has been around for a while.  Her style of music, her raspy voice (which makes her sound older than she is) and her choice of instrumentation (the horns and flute melodies sound old school).  But she is an emerging artist:

Nicole Bus’ sound is nostalgic. It’s reminiscent of vintage R&B, yet still feels current, and can transcend age and demographics.

Her style is R&B, but her singing style is far more reggae influenced.  It’s really fascinating.  The first song, “You,” opens with spooky piano from Eugene “Man Man” Roberts and slow horns from Chris Stevens (trumpet) and Aaron Goode (trombone). I love the addition of the flutes from Korey Riker.  More and more I can’t get over how good flutes sound in rock.  Her delivery is quite reggae until she lets out with her powerful raspy voice.  The song is really catchy.

Nicole followed by premiering a new song about women’s empowerment, “Love It.”  Drummer Mark Thomas starts with drums and then switches to hand drums.  Anthony DeCarlo adds acoustic guitar while Jasmine Patton sing high note backing vocals.  I love in the middle of the song when Eugene “Man Man” Roberts play a very 70s-sounding fill on the keyboards.  Riker adds more great flutes.

She ends the set

with “Mr. Big Shot,” an up-tempo banger mixing high-energy rhythms with ragga-influenced vocals.

Nicole plays acoustic guitar and there’s a cool, catchy four note bass riff from Ray Bernard that propels the song along.  Lamarcus Eldridge joins Patton for some great backing vocals.  This melody has been stuck in my head for days now.

I’d never heard of Nicole Bus, but I really enjoyed her set and her energy.

[READ: September 1, 2019] Paper Girls

This book turned out to be so much more interesting than I imagined.

The title was strangely puzzling and the cover had a kind of 1980s look to it.

It didn’t occur to me that “paper girls” meant newspaper delivery girls.

It’s coincidental that this book starts out with the main character, Erin, getting up at 4:40 to deliver papers since that’s almost exactly the same way as Middlewest in which Abel gets up at 4:30 to deliver papers.

Anyhow this story is quite different form that one because it has a cool feminist attitude, although it is also supernatural.

It begins with Erin asleep and dreaming of Christa McAuliffe in heaven.  Then she wakes up at 4:40 and gets ready to deliver the Cleveland Preserver.  It’s also November 1 (1988) as evidenced by The Far Side calendar (nice touch). The calendar has “hell morning” written on it.

Why?  Because at 4:40 on the morning after Halloween there are still hooligans roaming the streets.  One dressed as Freddy Krueger harasses Erin immediately.  But while he is giving Erin a hard time, three girls pull up on bikes and harass right back.  One girl uses some very inappropriate language which Erin (who goes to Catholic school) chastises her for.  The girl, Mac, waits for a thank you. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS AND HEADY FWENDS-“I’m working at NASA on Acid” (2012).

2012 saw the release of this very strange collaborative album.  Whether The Flaming Lips had entered the mainstream or if people who’d always liked them were now big stars or maybe they all just liked doing acid.  Whatever the case, The Lips worked with a vast array of famous (and less famous) people for this bizarre album.  Here it is 8 years later. Time to check in.

This song starts out with NASA voices and beeps.   The beeps turn into a rhythm and after a cool echoing guitar the song takes on almost a spaghetti western feel.  even with the bowed cello

The song features Lightning Bolt, a noise rock duo, and I assume they join in the fun in the middle of the song.

After three minutes, a pretty guitar melody leads to a sped up voice saying 1, 2,3, 4 as it soars into the next chaotic and wild section.  The riff speeds up, the drums and distortion increase and the song feels like an epic take off into outer space.

It runs for about two minutes and then slows down.  Way down.  After a backwards countdown 4,3,2,1, the song resumes as a gentle folk song kind of like “Space Oddity.”  It’s pretty cool.

[READ: August 1, 2019] Strangers in Paradise XXV #8

Katchoo is flying to Boston.  The voice over has a nice moment where we see just how much she loves Francine.

She lands and heads to Jet’s garage.  She tells Jet that she has something to give her.

They get into Katchoo’s car which is surrounded by ravens.  They seem to be following her.  I love Terry Moore’s art throughout this series.  He does realistic portrayals of women perfectly (even if sometimes I can’t tell some of the women apart).  I love the way he draws Jet so distinctively as well.  But those ravens, um, not so much.

Jet has no idea what the container is and when Katchoo explains the contents she thinks Katchoo is joking. Why did Stephanie send her to Jet if Jet doesn’t know what it is? (more…)

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