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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Reverb, Toronto, ON (August 29, 1997).

This is the final show Rheostatics show from the 1990s that I haven’t mentioned thus far.

I’m not sure what the band had been doing before this show (aside from making he Nightlines show), but they’ve apparently not played live for a while.  This return to performance seems to have brought out the wildness in them.  This show has all kinds of jamming moments with eight songs lasting over 7 minutes.  There’s also some slower moments or songs played differently.  It’s a cool, unique show–very different from their other shows.

There’s even an “opening jam” with a guitar riff explored around some bass notes.  Then a new guitar comes in with some rums.  The whole jam is about 3 minutes but it doesn’t really turn into anything, it’s just a like a warm up jam–I even wondered if it was just the guys messing around until all four of them were on stage.

They play the opening riff to “Fat” but he only plays a clip of it and then stops (allowing Tim to do some bass fills).  During the “bye bye” section they stop the music a few times unexpectedly as well.  It’s an interesting jamming opportunity and runs a pretty long time.

After the song Dave says, “we haven’t played togetehr in a long time well, we haven’t played live in front of people.  We played together at the CBC.”  (the Nightlines show mentioned later).  “So now we got one under our belt.  We forgot our songs had so many parts.”

Dave continues, “There’s a lot of people from Michigan here tonight for some strange reason.  They think the Stanley Cups is here.  But it’s not.  We’ll send this next song out to them.”  It’s “Aliens” At the end, Martin takes off on a wild solo as the band really rocks out.  There’s also an extended jam with someone singing a “dit dit dit” part while Martin plays along on guitar.

“All the Same Eyes” is pretty straightforward except that there’s some real wailing from Martin throughout.

Someone shouts “Are you looking for some fun?” and Martin says “We’ve got a new version of that song we’re gonna play.”  Then Tim says, “Just write your requests on a plate.  Dave: “There’s a private party upstairs and there’s lots of plates outside the door.”  Martin: “There’s a private party for um the three little boys with sandy blonde hair… hamsum?  handsome?”

Then they play the first known occurrence of “Junction Foil Ball.”  Martin introduces it: “we’ll do a kind of a new song”  Don: “its new and we’re kind of going to do it.”  I’m impressed with the interesting sound effects that Martin gets while playing this song.  During the “acoustic tile” section he even distorts his voice like it has slowed down–is that effect of Martin’s singing.

“Four Little Songs” sounds totally different.  It’s got a kind of swinging opening.  The first part is really heavy.   Dave’s part is interesting because while still in the trippy intro section, he begins singing the lyrics to Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.”  When he finally gets to the song, people sing along to his first lines!  Martin has crazy fun with the riff at the end–lots of squeaking solo noises.

Dave asks: “How are those chamois working out, martin?” “They’re remarkably absorbent for large quantities of liquid.”  When I saw them Martin was very sweaty.  I wonder if he always was.  There’s a solid, slow version of “Bad Time to Be Poor,” which Dave says was written awhile ago…but it’s still a bad time to be poor.

Before “Sweet Rich” Martin says, so I’m going to do this solo, okay Tim.  Just the first bit.”  It’s a great version.

“Joey II” has a long rollicking jam in the intro with Martin chanting “I’m about to fuck up, I’m going to fuck up.”   During the middle of the song he asks if any musicians in the audience have played at the Royal Albert Hall in Winnipeg–well that’s what this song is about.

They play an early version of “Easy to Be with You” which goes to “California” instead of “Harmelodia.”

Dave introduces “Stolen Car” by saying “We’d like to do another new one for you.  We played this at our last concert but we’re going to play it a little differently.  This is Tim Mech one of North America’s greatest unsigned artists.   Seriously, he won a contest in Musicians magazine and was named one of the ten best unsigned artists.   We recorded this for the last Nightlines program.  We recorded about 32 minutes of music.  Old stuff, new stuff and a version of this song.  Dave’s last show is tomorrow night.  Thats 104.1 FM CICZ-FM in the local area!”

As the song starts he says (I assume referring to Mech’s guitar) “this is a Hawaiian guitar that’s autographed by Ben Harper.”  ( I had no idea Ben Harper was noteworthy back in 1997).  There’s a weird electronic drumbeat through the song, and the music is primarily guitars–gentle and smooth.

Martin shouts, “Its’ been great playing in our home town–Toronto!”  They play a long version of “My First Rock Show” with a lengthy introductory instrumental section.  Near the final verse, he whispers the “many years later” section and someone shouts “bird in a cage” at the right time.  As the song ends they play the chorus of Trooper’s “We’re Here For A Good Time (Not A Long Time).”

“California Dreamline” is quite extended as well.  After the first verse there’s a dance jam before the second verse begins.  The middle has a kind of vocal jam with a light bass and guitar motif and everyone singing different parts in a fugue state.  It’s a weirdly unique version.  At the end Martin says, “That was ‘California Dreamline,’ we’re going to do ‘Record Horse Count’ next.  They do neither and in fact play a really slow almost country-feeling version of “Claire.”  It’s so different sounding that they kind of mess it up here and there.

Things get quiet and then people start clapping along and you can barely hear them playing an acoustic un-mic’d version of “Bread Meat Peas and Rice.”  Dave says the name of the song “for those of you who could hear it.  You kind of understand why you use microphones.”  Tim starts talking about the band Farm Fresh. “They had a similar kind of thing with their Peanuts and Corn record [what?] and apparently they’re supposed to be releasing a new record, is that right?  They’ve made two cassettes and they are both for sale and are both really good.”  Dave: “Whats with that T-shirt, Tim?”  “Free with every cassette sold.”

Someone shouts again, “We’re looking for some fun.”  Dave: “Are you?”  And they launch into “Fishtailin'” which opens with that lyric.

After the song Dave asks “What is the time, late or early or what?  What time do bars say open til  4?  5?  [Shouts of four and Five] Tim: According to the new mega city law they close at 1 [boooos], so we’ve got half a song left.

They surprise ever one with “Bees,” a short quiet song with Martin making bee-like sounds on his guitar.  It leads to a long, quiet intro for “Michael Jackson” with Martin still doing some cool guitar sounds.  The whole beginning is slow and a little odd, with Dave singing “but an auto-bon would be better.”  And later, “Elvis is king because he’s dead.”  In the middle of the song Dave starts “rapping” and he says “I’d like to call Pip Skid (I assume) to the stage.  Pip Skid from Manitoba does a rap that’s kind of hard to hear.  Then there’s some soaring guitars from Martin.  The whole song is 11 minutes long and ends in a vocal jam that grows ever quieter.  Martin sings “It feels good to be alive” (hitting great falsettos) while the others are singing snippets and oh yeas.

They play an 11 minute “Dope Fiends” which has a bass and drum solo in the middle as well as just a drum solo later.  After 8 and a half minutes the band keeps going with some simple rocking.  At the end Martin says, “Thanks guys for giving me a second chance.” [?].

They leave the stage for the encore with a drum machine blipping away.  They come back with the drum machine still playing and someone plays a slow meandering guitar line. Another instrumental jam for 3 or so minutes before Dave says, “We’ll play one more.”  He also says that they’ll have their live album out by Christmas (stocking stuffers!).  And they end the show with a great non-nonsense version of “A Midwinter Night’s Dream.”

This is a wonderfully atypical show for the band.  A real treat for fans and an interesting entry point for fans of jamming shows.

The next Rheostatics show that I’ll mention will be in 2001!

[READ: March 16, 2017]  “The Pickle Index”

This story is written in a fascinating way.  There are newspaper articles from The Daily Scrutinizer (written by Mark Hamper) and with them, there is the Pickle Index, a series of recipes.  In fact, it’s a recipe-exchange network “for citizens by citizens.”   Daily participation is mandatory (though surely that’s unnecessary since the treats within are so tasty).

From the Scrutinizer we learn that the official strike team has captured Zloty Kornblatt,the instigator, conspirator and fomenter. He brought a troupe of “performers” into the village to mock, destabilize and cause anarchy.

The Pickle Index begins with Fisherman’s Dills (by Sarafina Loop)–brine-ing cucumbers in the ocean.  And then comes Hollow Gherkins by Flora Bialy.  Although midway through the recipe, it shifts directions and talks about Zloty.  How he left them last night and the writer, Flora Bialy wonders why–was it their incompetence or was it her?  She says that once, years ago Zloty’s team was a real circus with clowns, a trapeze and roasted nuts, but now they were reduced to an extended residency in Burford. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RARE ESSENCE-Tiny Desk Concert #636 (July 19, 2017).

I have learned of go-go music exclusively from Tiny Desk Concerts:

Dominated by drive and momentum, heavy on percussion and bass, go-go music is all about the beat. Live, “songs” can continue on for half an hour, as the percussion continues to simmer and punctuate between and across different pieces. “That’s why we call it go-go, because it goes on and goes on and goes on,” as guitarist Andre Johnson put it in a documentary film.

This visit by Rare Essence perfectly encapsulated the genre’s incomparable meld of soul, R&B and, most importantly, funk (with a dash of Afro-Cuban influence).

So that’s go-go.  What about this band?

Rare Essence emerged not long after go-go itself did, beginning as a group in 1976 in Washington D.C. Ever since the group has kept a steady schedule playing around town and around the world.

The band plays seven–SEVEN–songs in sixteen minutes.  Many of them are just riffs that go on for a minute or so like “Down for My Niggas.”  Whereas “Rock This Party” is a bit more of a call and response piece–with some good congas.  “Freaky Deak” is pretty much a riff or two before they start talking to the audience.

They thank Suraya for arranging the show and there’s a lot of shouts outs and hand waving.  And then they start with one of their favorites, “One on One.”

All of the songs more or less flow into each other as one long jam.  There are multiple lead singers and everyone participates in the responses.

After a spell of their name (R-A-R, Double E, S-S-E-N, C-E) the lead guitarist sings lead on “Bad Bad” (he’s the oldest looking guy but he still has the power in his voice).

As they segue into “Lock It,” We apologize we could play this song for ever but I know everyone got to go back to work.  We’re gonna play the short version  We could play this for at least an hour.  They keys plays a nice Cuban sounding melody–almost like xylophones.

“After three minutes, he says this ant even the first part of the song–we still got about fifty more minutes.” Then they segue into “Overnight Scenario” which everyone sings along t o.

Anthony Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson (guitar, vocals); James “Funk” Thomas (vocals); Charles “Shorty Corleone” Garris (vocals); Leroy “RB” Battle, Jr. (keyboards); Calvin “Killer Cal” Henry (vocals); Michael Baker (bass); Kenneth “Quick” Gross (drums); Samuel “Smoke” Dews (congas); Kym Clarke (trumpet); Derryle Valentine (sax, flute)

[READ: July 23, 2017] “Bonebreaker”

I find Nell Zink’s stories to be weird but compelling.  She writes about strange things in unusual ways.  The people are often peculiar but compelling.

But this story was especially odd to me because the two characters seem really stupid

Both Jed and Laurie are fleeing the States.  As the story begins they go to the airport with a lot of cash.  But they knew that the TSA would be suspicious of that.  So when they see the “money sniffing” dogs, they know the TSA is on to them.  They leave their stuff at the airport and return home–which puts them on the no-fly list.

After a few more aborted attempts, they decide to take a barge–a real refugee situation. Not only do they not get where they are going, they lose a lot of money and are mostly miserable.

Why are they fleeing? (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: March 2017] The Organist

organistAfter really enjoying The Organist in 2015, the season ended and I hadn’t heard that there were going to be anymore.  So I stopped looking for them.  And then the other day I got an email reminding me about recent episodes.  Well, sure enough there had been an entire season last year and they were already part way through this year’s season.

So I’m playing some catch up here.  But they are timeless, so it’s okay.

Each cast has a section in brackets–this text comes from the Organist’s own site.  The rest is my own commentary.

The Organist is a free podcast from KCRW & McSweeney’s.  As of this writing, they are up to episode 82. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LA SANTA CECILIA-Tiny Desk Concert #327 (December 16, 2013).

santaAs this disastrous presidency continues to dismantle all the goodness in our country, and as the liar who current resides in the White House continues to claim that those who disagree with him are enemies of the people (I mean COME ON), I wanted to share magazine covers that show that a majority of people (both inside and outside of our country) think that Trump is the real enemy.

Originally I planned to just run these covers with no comment.  Then I heard this band La Santa Cecilia and decided that they needed to be put with these images.

La Santa Cecilia are from Los Angeles, California.  “Some of us were born here some of us were brought here and we have a passion for traditional Latin American music; but we also love to rock n roll.  We love blues and jazz.  And we love to celebrate that diversity.  And we love to celebrate where we come from and where we are.”

And unlike the hatred that we are inundated with: “La Santa Cecilia spreads joy every time its members plug in to do a show. They do it one dance step at a time, with cumbias, corridos, elegant mambos and plain old rock ‘n’ roll.”

La Santa Cecilia plays a traditional Latin American sounding music, although there is definitely a twist–lots of rock leanings.   “Falling” is sung in English and it is beautiful and heartfelt.  It’s also got a great guitar solo (and a cool little bass solo).

Introducing the next song, she says: “We’re proud to be from immigrant parents, to have been able to come to this country and to travel the world and share what this music is all about and that it is from the United States.  And we just need immigration reform so we can all be able to travel.  This is for all of the people who are out working in the kitchens in the beautiful strawberry fields.”

The song, “El Hielo (ICE)” is sung in Spanish.  But in the middle she recites a passage in English that has become more relevant now.  “Ice like snowmen in the wintertime; like ice cream under the summertime sun.  Happiness.  ICE: immigrations customs enforcement… and we never know when it will get… us.”

The final song returns to the joy.  “Monedita” is happy song.  “It’s Friday, lets dance.”  It’s got a wonderfully upbeat melody from the button accordion.

This push to ban immigrants is short-sighted and ignorant.  We are all from immigrants and immigrants have so much to offer.  Even if it is music and happiness.

So RESIST.

3068356-inline-i-1-nyt-one-side-effect-of-trump-seriously-great-cover-art

RESIST!

RESIST!

and more importantly

IMPEACH (and preferably IMPRISON) the racist hate mongerer.  #ITMFA

It is not normal for our country’s president to be so despised, especially by our allies.  It is not normal for our country to be humiliated by a man who spends more time on Twitter and then has the temerity to say ‘Nobody Knew Health Care Could Be So Complicated.’  Idiot.

So Democrats, Clinton earned 3 million more popular votes–do not cave to this White Power endorsing man who cares nothing for the citizens of this country.

And Republicans, stop putting your personal gains ahead of what is good and just.  Supporting neo-Nazis, bigots, polluters, dismantlers of the foundations of our country will certainly come back to bite you on the ass. (more…)

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manner SOUNDTRACK: BEN GIBBARD-Tiny Desk Concert #251 (November 19, 2012).

benBen Gibbard is the voice of Death Cab for Cutie.  His voice is instantly recognizable and his melodies are surprisingly catchy.

This Tiny Desk Concert (they say it’s number 250, but I count 251) is just him and his acoustic guitar.  I didn’t know he did solo work, but apparently he does (in addition to being in The Postal Service and All-Time Quarterback).

Gibbard just released a solo album, Former Lives, which he’s said is a repository for material that didn’t work as Death Cab for Cutie songs; from that record, only “Teardrop Windows” pops up in his Tiny Desk Concert. For the rest, he draws from Death Cab’s most recent album (“St. Peter’s Cathedral,” from Codes and Keys) and, of all places, last year’s Arthur soundtrack (“When the Sun Goes Down on Your Street”).

As mentioned he plays three songs and his voice is so warm and familiar I felt like I knew these songs even if I didn’t.

I knew “St. Peter’s Cathedral.” It is a lovely song with very little in the way of chord changes.  But the melody is gentle and pretty.  And the song appears to be entirely about this church.  Which is interesting because the second song is also about a building in Seattle.  “Teardrop Windows” is a surprisingly sad song about an inanimate object.  It’s written from the building’s point of view as he mourns that no one uses him anymore.  And such beautiful lyrics too:

Once built in boast as the tallest on the coast he was once the city’s only toast / In old postcards was positioned as the star, he was looked up to with fond regard / But in 1962 the Needle made its big debut and everybody forgot what it outgrew

The final song “When the Sun Goes Down on Your Street” was indeed for the Russel Brand movie Arthur.  Somehow I can’t picture those two together.  It’s a lovely song, too.

I prefer Gibbard’s more upbeat and fleshed out music, but it’s great to hear him stripped down as well.

[READ: January 2017] “My Writing Education: A Time Line,” “The Bravery of E.L. Doctorow,” “Remembering Updike,” and “Offloading for Mrs. Schwartz” 

I had been planning to have my entire month of February dedicated to children’s books.  I have a whole bunch that I read last year and never had an opportunity to post them.  So I thought why not make February all about children’s books.  But there is just too much bullshit going on in our country right now–so much hatred and ugliness–that I felt like I had to get this post full of good vibes out there before I fall completely into bad feelings myself. It;s important to show that adults can be kind and loving, despite what our leaders demonstrate.  Fortunately most children’s books are all about that too, so the them holds for February.

George Saunders is a wonderful writer, but he is also a very kind human being.  Despite his oftentimes funny, sarcastic humor, he is a great humanitarian and is always very generous with praise where it is warranted.

The other day I mentioned an interview with Saunders at the New York Times.  Amid a lot of talk with and about Saunders, there is this gem:

Junot Díaz described the Saunders’s effect to me this way: “There’s no one who has a better eye for the absurd and dehumanizing parameters of our current culture of capital. But then the other side is how the cool rigor of his fiction is counterbalanced by this enormous compassion. Just how capacious his moral vision is sometimes gets lost, because few people cut as hard or deep as Saunders does.”

These first three pieces are all examples of his love and respect for other writers–both for their skill and for their generosity.

“My Writing Education: A Time Line”

“My Writing Education” comes from a book called A Manner of Being: Writers on Their Mentors.  Saunders’ mentor was Tobias Wolff.  And for this essay, his admiration takes the form of a diary.  (more…)

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1999 SOUNDTRACK: JANE BUNNETT AND MAQUEQUE-Tiny Desk Concert #547 (July 12, 2016).

bunnettJane Bunnett is a soprano saxophonist and flautist from Toronto who performs largely with Cuban musicians.  She has been traveling there for about 30 years and has performed with all kinds of musicians.  For this Tiny Desk and her current she is playing with the women from Cuba in a band called Maqueque (they won a Juno award last year).

And they sound great together.  It’s interesting that Bunnett takes something of a back seat (or position anyhow) to singer Melvis Santa (who seems to mostly sing sounds (ah ah ahs, bop bop bah dah dahs, as opposed to words) .  But when it’s time to shine, Bunnett is there to impress everyone with her skill.

Felix Contreras says “If you want to hear what Cuba sounds like today, then be sure to listen.”

“Little Feet” features Bunnett playing a cool solo on her sax and Santa singing notes along with her.  But for this song Bunnett really wails.  (she’s quite winded by the end).

Of the three songs, the ten minute “Maqueque” is my favorite.  That’s in part because I don’t really like the sound of the soprano sax (she plays flute on this one) but also because the band membranes really get to show off their chops.  It starts with a simple piano melody and pretty vocals.  Then Bunnett plays the melody on the flute as Santa sings along.   When Bunnett gets her solo on, you can hear her vocalising a bit as she plays the flute.

After the song Bunnett says that women in Cuba don’t get the exposure they deserve, so she picked these woman to let the world hear them.

About 4 minutes in Dánae Olano plays an amazing 2 minute piano solo–fun to listen to and to watch as she is all over the keys–she plays  some great trills and riffs.  She’s very impressive.  About 8 minutes in Yissy Garcia (who Dave Matthews has said plays drums like Jesus) plays a great drum solo.  On the drum kit she is using her palms and fingers to play all of the drums and cymbals–she switches to sticks at the end. The percussionist Magdelys Savigne accompanies her, and while not actually soloing, she is keeping rhythm as well.

Celia Jiménez plays bass.  She doesn’t get to do anything fancy–no solos, but she keeps the rhythm perfect.

bunnett2“25 New Moves” has Bunnett back on sax with Santa singing along to her melody.  It’s a short (4 minute) catchy piece with another cool fast solo from piano and a few cool bass lines as well.

It’s a pretty great set with lot of cool jazzy Cuban melody and rhythms.  I enjoyed this set quite a lot.

[READ: November 3, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1999-2000

This is the final volume of Peanuts strips. After 50 years, it finally came to and end.

Schulz was diagnosed with cancer in 1999.  He died in February of 2000.

I was hoping that this book would be shockingly good–full of great “I’m finishing the trip” closure.  But as I understand it, he wasn’t ready to finish the strip, so things move on more as less as normal.

In fact, I found the first few weeks of 1999 to be kind of dull.  The punchlines just didn’t make me smile as much.  Of course there is something to be said for the consistency of the strip.  Linus still has his blanket, Rerun is still coloring (he has become a dominant force in the strip), Patty is still getting things wrong and Sally still doesn’t want to do anything. (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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