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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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1997SOUNDTRACK:LOS HACHEROS-Tiny Desk Concert #545 (July 5, 2016).

hacherosLos Hacheros play “Afro-Caribbean music that provides the source material for modern salsa and all of its permutations.”

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. (more…)

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peanuts-1995SOUNDTRACK: TINARIWEN-Tiny Desk Concert #184 (January 5, 2012).

tinariwenTinariwen are a band from northern Mali, whose members met in the training camps of Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Much has been written about them and their story, which is pretty amazing.  I’m only going to talk about this Tint Desk Concert.

Typically, they play an interesting electric guitar kind of trance music.  But for this one they were all acoustic.  As Bob Boilen notes, they are his “favorite electric-guitar-based band on the planet.”  But he says he was:

“initially worried and disappointed when I learned that it was coming to play the Tiny Desk as a trio carrying acoustic guitars. My heart sank a bit more when the three Tuareg musicians from the Sahara arrived in jeans and polo shirts instead of the beautiful, flowing robes I’d seen them wear on stage so many times.

But they switched clothes and they do not disappoint on acoustic guitar.

I don’t know their music all that well, but it feels like the acoustic nature of this show is even more soothing and trance inducing.  The two acoustic guitars interweave–one playing lead (which is mostly hammered notes–not a “solo” per se) and the other strumming.  The percussion is the sound of two hands rubbing, clacking (with a cigarette lighter) and pounding (for bass drum) a large gourd.

The songs tend to be almost looping.  Like they could go on forever.  There’s no real verse chorus structure that I can tell.  It’s more of a meditative sound.

All of the vocals are in Tamashek and I have no idea what the songs are about.

On “Adounia” both guitarists sing and the voices sound very traditional, almost atonal. “Takkest Tamidaret” opens with a more conventional sounding guitar lick, but it’s all so quiet in the mix, that you can’t tell how much his fingers are moving.  The lyrics are a bit slower, but still in that droning style.  I love the way “Tenhert”  has a a cool riff from the lead guitar–one that probably sounds more intense on electric guitar.  He sing/speaks incredibly quickly.  “Tahlamoyt” is a much slower song with the lyrics pretty much all spoken word.

The “Mali sound” is pretty distinctive and Tinariwen are great proponents of it, spreading it around the world for all to hear.

[READ: June 8, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1995-1996

I was under the impression that these last few volumes of books would show a serious drop in quality.  I had assumed that with the amount of product the Peanuts characters were sponsoring that these strips would be more cute.  But that is far from true.  I enjoyed this book as much if mot more than some of the other recent volumes.

I was also surprised to discover that I really enjoyed the Sunday cartoons more than the dailies.  In the past I haven’t really gotten big laughs form the Sundays–it seemed like the big stories and jokes were in the dailies and the Sundays were unrelated one offs with varying degrees of punch.  But I enjoyed a dozen or so in this book.

One of the major additions in this book is the inclusion of a slightly older Rerun.  He is now mobile and even heading to kindergarten (I love that he is aging while the others aren’t).  But rather than using Rerun for obvious cute child jokes (he’s no longer riding the back of his mom’s bike) Rerun is now making funny “outsider” observations about the world of Peanuts–he is constantly disenchanted with the way  things are going and with the belief that people are always lying to him.  There are also a ton of strips of him trying to shoot a basketball and failing miserably.  Schulz has always tended to take an idea and run and run and run with it, but this one is pretty good for the number that he uses it. (more…)

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1993-1994 SOUNDTRACK: LEON BRIDGES-Tiny Desk Concert #469 (September 8, 2015).

leonLeon Bridges has a great old soul voice.  Indeed, I had no idea he was so young until he started speaking after the third song and all manner of young person chat came out of his mouth: “Thanks to my main man, you all looking beautiful man.”  His voice is pure and clean and hearkens back to 1960s soul singers like Sam Cooke.

The way he sings “baby baby baby” in “Coming Home” is classic soul.  And his enunciation of “mouth” is just gorgeous.  This song features the backing vocals of his sister Jesse.

“Smooth Sailin'” features a sax solo and Bridges on guitar.  Since there are 2 guitarists already Bridges’ guitar doesn’t  add much, but for me it’s all about his voice anyhow.

“Twistin’ & Groovin'” is about how his grandparents met.  He says the first time he saw her at a party the thing he noticed first about her was her long legs.

“River” is just him on acoustic guitar with Jesse singing backing vocals.

It’s a solid set and Bridges’ star has continued to rise since this show.

[READ: September 18, 2016]  The Complete Peanuts: 1993-1994

I didn’t like the previous book all that much, but this one picked things up a bit.

The year starts with Snoopy taking a test in school and acing the true false part–the only one to do so!

1993 has Schulz’ first celebration of MLK day.  Patty mentions the “I have a dream speech” but I love that she just mentions it without making it a big deal, it quickly changes to an unfair lunch swap between a carrot stick and french fry.  Speaking of old words, Lucy begins insulting Linus with: blockhead airhead, noodleneck but then finds that these older words work better: puzzlewit, dimbulb.

In pop culture notes, April 1993 sees Snoopy as Joe Grunge and in May 1993 Sally asks why is Barney purple? (more…)

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peanuts-10991SOUNDTRACK: CHRIS STAPLETON-Tiny Desk Concert #484 (November 5, 2015).

chrisChris Stapleton is a big dude with a big beard and long hair.  He could be a heavy metal guy, but put a cowboy hat on him and you know exactly what his music is going to sound like–slow with an almost mumbling drawl (although his lyrics are quite clear).

The blurb says that his songs are timeless and in a way they are–I wouldn’t know if these songs were old country songs or new country songs, but that’s probably because I don’t much like country songs anyway.

“More of You” is a slow song in which he is joined by his wife Morgane on harmony vocals.  The song is fine.  But I was surprised by how funny he was when it was over and he asked, “When did DC turn into Louisiana?  It’s hot!”

“When The Stars Come Out” was cowritten with Dan Wilson but it doesn’t quite have Wilson’s super catchiness.

He is playing a beat up guitar that he says is 12 years old.  He doesn’t know where it came from, but he says he thinks someone has even used it as a canoe paddle and it has mud in it.  He says he has lots of guitars and his wife says Lots and Lots.

“Whiskey and You” is a song about, big surprise, drinking.  Lyrically it’s kind of funny, despite its intentional sadness.

[READ: September 14, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1991-1992

I was trying to figure out when the last original Peanuts strip I’d ever read was written.  I stopped reading newspapers in college.  But I’m sure I came across Peanuts once in a while.  My dad also used to get the papers, and I might have browsed through the comics.  But I have to assume it was sometime around 1992 or 1993 that I stopped looking altogether.

I wonder if Sparky started golfing again as there are a lot of golfing comics this year, including one on April 21 1991 where Snoopy is trying to hit it over a tidal wave.  This is one of those rare Sunday comic that he started doing with what was basically a full-page comic as opposed to several panels.

I also felt that 1991 was not a particularly great year for Peanuts.  We all know that Snoopy loves to be in different characters–and has recently been a surgeon.  Well, in January 1991, Snoopy pretends to be a road flagman.  Not very aspirational.

I loved the Peggy Jean story line from last year.  She finally gets a mentions again in March, but she has moved away. Which means he’s back to pining for the red-haired girl.  I know that the red-haired girl is classic Peanuts, but I really liked Peggy Jean.

But there are some great strips and themes.

I did enjoy that Sally after being steady rebuffed by her sweet Babboo calls herself his Sweet Babbooette.  Later, Sally comes up with a new philosophy.  “I’ve decided to put everything off until the last-minute and to learn everything in life the hard way.”  When Charlie says, “Good luck,” Sally says, “That’s what my teacher said.”

Sally asks Linus what happens if she doesn’t go to school and he tells her the sheriff comes and throws you in a dungeon with no food or water for ten years.  She hates that idea, but then thinks, “if we go to school for 12 years….”

Harriet’s famous recipe for seven minute frosting makes a return in April 1991 with all the birds talking about it.  Man, I should find out what this is.

And there’s a lot of scenes with Snoopy wrangling with Linus’ blankets which I always like.

Joe Garagiola gets some more abuse in May when he makes it into the hall of fame and Lucy says, “It means there’s still hope for us all.”

One thing I have never mentioned is the amount of times Schulz draws or mentions zambonis (and even calls them zucchinis).  I assume someone has collected this information, but he must have really loved the zamboni because boy does it ever make a lot of appearances.  Often times once a week for several weeks.

For something new Sally and Charlie are asked to teach a Bible class to kids, which is kind of fun.  The boy wish they’d gotten a “cute chick” instead of an “old lady” like sally.  And one of the boys keeps talking about the Great Gatsby, “Gatsby stood by the sea of Galilee and picked out the green light at the end of day’s dock.”  The series ends with the kid waving goodbye to her and Snoopy saying “So long, old sport.”

Way back in a previous book Billie Jean King says that whenever Sparky put her name in a strip it meant she should call him.  So in August Snoopy says “I’ve always wanted to call Billie Jean King.”

I enjoy this attitude from Patty: “Hey Marcie its a beautiful summer day  C’mon out and we’ll waste it away doing nothing. Then we can look back upon it and regret it for the rest of our lives.”

When I was a kid I believe I had the same seasonal beliefs as Patty does in Sept 1991: “the four seasons are baseball, football basketball and hockey.”

The football gag in 1991 shows Lucy waving a book about holding the football.  But when she pulls the ball away she tells him that she wrote the book.

Later in the year, Lucy speculates that the Great Pumpkin might be a she  “Never occurred to you, did it?”

As the year ends, Marcie and Patty give Charlie an ultimatum to decide who he likes best.  Of course he hesitates and they walk away.

In January 1992, Spike says that if he had an earache his dad would blow cigar smoke in his ear.  I’d never heard of this, but it is indeed an old wives tale.

Schulz loved having his Peanuts‘ kids read really big books.  And sometimes they were used a lot as punchlines.  But I enjoyed Patty saying A  Tale of Two Cites was written by “Charlie Dickens.  Chuck  Chaz?”  And then when she gives here report she begins “St. Paul and Minneapolis are…” and then we see her sitting next to Marcie who says “One of the great tries of all time, sir.”

Sally continues to be one of my favorite snarky characters.  “Sometimes I worry about you big brother.  Often?  No not often, just sometimes.  Like maybe seldom.  That’s it, seldom!”

Charlie is still being very loving and missing Snoopy.  He tries to get out of school a lot so he can sit with the dog and even worries when it rains.  When he goes away he calls over to where Snoopy is staying and talks on the phone (he says “Woof”) and Snoopy says “Woof? what does that mean?”

Another full-page Sunday strip came on April 19, 1990.  This may be the weirdest, most context-free strip of them all.  Snoopy is looking at a map and the whole page is covered with a gorge and the caption says “Every year thousand of tourists visit Victoria Falls in Zambia.”  Huh?

There are still more Tiny Tots Concerts, Patty still hates to be called a Tiny Tot.  Although she gets excited in May of 1992 because she thinks the new song is called “Hey dude” when it is actually “Etude.”

Pop culture references: in August 1991 someone described being suspended from the bungee cord of life Fried Green Tomatoes is mentioned in April 1992.  Spike does Velcro jumping in July 1992.  After playing some football, Marcie says she could be another Joe Iowa (Montana).

And Sally changed her philosophy from “who cares?” to “what do I care?”

In Summer 1992, Charlie goes to camp and helps out a kid named Cormac, although we don’t see him much after that.

In 1992, Charlie believes that Lucy in sincere about holding the ball.  When he misses, Sally says “You’re not in love with Lucy, are you big brother?”  When he says No, she says, “I should Hope not,  I’ve discovered that love makes us do strange things.  So does stupidity.”

In 1992, Marcie decides to help spread the word about the Great Pumpkin but she calls it the Great Grape.  When she realizes her mistake she says, “I guess it would be hard to carve a scary face in a  grape, wouldn’t it?”

Over the years there have been hundred of jokes about Schroeder’s musical staff and Snoopy either sleeping on it or breaking it or so many other possibilities.  They’ve all been mildly amusing.  I liked in December 1992, when Snoopy takes the notes and uses them as the sound of his bell when he is Santa Claus ringing bells on the street.  Because yes, for the last two years Snoopy has dressed up like Santa Claus on a street corner ringing bells.   I like the one later when Charlie brings snoopy his dinner and a girl says “Hey look, Ma, Santa Claus is eating out of dog dish.”

There’s two Sundays in a row with Sally writing a letter to Samantha Claus.  In the first one, Charlie asks if she goes Ho Ho Ho or just smiles daintily, but the following week we find out that Sally talked about her in school and was roundly mocked.

Spikes Christmases have been pretty sad, but I did get a kick out of this one. “Last year I exchanged a gift with a rock, I think he liked what I bought him…he still wearing it.”  And there’ s funny sequence where Spike puts lights on his tree then walks all the way to Needles to plug it in at the chamber of commerce.  There’s even a news story the next say, “Someone sneaked into the chamber of commerce building last night and plugged in an extension cord.  The cord led out of town somewhere into the dessert.  Everyone is puzzled as to who or why someone would do such a thing.”

Although perhaps the best Christmas joke ever comes in 1992 when Sally is writing her thank you note: “Dear Grandma, Thank you for the money you sent me for Christmas.  I am going to save it for my college education.”  Then she says “It’s hard to write with a straight face.”  And Charlie says, “I never said a word.”

1992 ends with a New Years Eve party at Snoopy’s and he says “What do you mean we’re all out of hors d’oeuvres.

So overall, it’s not a bad two years, there’s just not a ton of noteworthy jokes.

The introduction is by Tom Tomorrow.  He says his influences were Mad magazine, Garry Trudeau and Matt Groening but his earliest inspiration was Charles Schulz.

He says that in the 1960s he hit the perfect sweet spot with Peanuts:  old enough to understand the humor, young enough to truly appreciate the whimsy. When he was a child, he loved the Christmas Special, and he was excited that his parents bought their first color TV in time for its annual airing.  He had also been given a Snoopy astronaut in the year he became the unofficial mascot of Apollo 10.

He describes Peanuts as “a strip that spun heartbreak into wry humor.  A cartoon about childhood anxiety that veered frequently into the realm of magical realism.”

He loves things like that the doghouse was bigger on the inside than the outside (although that aspect has been downplayed in recent years).

When he was a young cartoonist, he wrote to Charles Schulz.  And Schulz invited him over for lunch. Schulz was very generous with his time. “We ate at the cafe adjacent to the skating rink he’d built. The table was always reserved for him and on which you will still find a reserved sign to this day.”

Tomorrow says he wrote the only obituary comic he’d ever done for Schulz and he quotes Schulz: “If I were a better artist, I’d be a painter. And if I were a  better writer, I’d write books.  But I’m not so I draw cartoons.”

Tomorrow addresses his change from the strict four panel strips of his whole career, which I noted with concern and excitement.  Evidently, Schulz always wanted to experiment with the panels, but he was unsure if the Syndicate would allow it.  Tomorrow jokes that at this point in his career, he probably could have demanded a solid gold table and a full complement of chorus girls to entertain him while he worked.

He concludes his introduction by saying that Schulz gave him an original strip–which is the middle strip on page 71 in this book (dated June 14), and what a nice one it is:

“It’s nice to be able to do something for someone once in a while that’s appreciated.”

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1989 SOUNDTRACK: THE SUFFERS-Tiny Desk Concert #482 (October 27, 2015).

suffersThe Suffers are a ten piece soul band fronted by the charismatic Kam Franklin.  I loved how at the start of this show each band member counted down 1-10 while Kam stood on the desk to sing.

“Giver” is a slow R&B type song with lots of lengthy horn solos.

“Midtown” has a funky sound with a cool bass line.  I though that song started to get interesting towards the end but then they stopped it.

“Gwan” is my favorite of the three because it is more uptempo and fun and allows the band (including Kam) to really rock out.

Everything about The Suffers is right on–the horns sound great, the band is tight, Kam’s voice is string and powerful.  But I just don;’t like this kind of music at all.  And I don’t really need to hear The Suffers again (although that last song is pretty good.

[READ: September 10, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1989-1990

I had said that the previous book felt a little lightweight compared to previous years.  This book actually continued in that somewhat unsatisfying vein.  For point of reference, when I jot down strips that I really like, I usually fill two or three small pages of paper.  This book had only one page and a little over flow.

But, it also had one of the most exiting and emotionally satisfying sequences as 1990 drew to a close.

Schulz has also been having fun with the new fewer-panel style. It’s mostly three panels but he experiments with 2 panels and even one panel.  He seems to enjoy playing with the space afforded with one panel–its interesting to see.

The year starts off with an ugly dog contest and the introduction of yet another of Snoopy’s brothers, this one named Olaf.  Olaf is very ugly and wears a sack. When he takes it off he reveals himself to be a squat round version of snoopy with buck teeth or a tongue hanging out of his mouth.  In June of 1989 we actually see Snoopy’s Dad on Father’s Day. He looks like snoopy but with a big mustache (white), small glasses, and a cap.

Starting in the previous book and continuing through now, we often see Sally responding to things on the TV.  Most of them are pretty funny.  Later, Sally says that her school play is going to be Hansel and Grateful.

Marcie still has mixed feeling for Charles and tells Patty to throw a bean ball at him, but then takes it back.  In the summer of 1989 Patty goes to summer school and Marcie teases her that she (Marcie) and Charles area at camp togetehr.  Patty gets very jealous.

In July 1981 in a one panel; the kids are on line to buy tickets to the movie sand one of them says “Those two guys on TV hated it.”

Snoopy has another good food comment this year: “Do you want a cookie with nuts or a cookie with raisins?” “Neither, I prefer plain cookies.  I don’t like food in my food.”  But speaking of cookies, there are about 100 strips where the punchline is something about Snoopy eating cookies.  It gets a little out of hand.  There were always the jokes about the chocolate chip cookies calling him but soon all of the punchlines start to do with cookies.

Franklin is still talking about his grandpa with Charlie Brown.   And Pig-Pen returns for a little while.

In July of 1989 an “old friend” calls Charlie Brown.  She insists on coming over and says she hasn’t seem hm for a long time.  She seems to have red hair (but is not the red-haired girl) an upon seeing them, runs up to Snoopy, calls him Charlie Brown and takes him away.  She looks at Charlie and asks “who are you.”  She feeds Snoopy sundaes until he is nearly sick.

Over the summer Patty and Marcie are supposed to read four books, but Marcie reads an extra one: The Little Prince.  Patty says it’s so short what’s he big deal?  Marcie read it in French.

In August 1989 in the kids are lined up for autographs   $30 for Joe DiMaggio, $25 for Ted Williams.  Steve Garvey is $9 and Maury Wills is $5.  Charlie gets Joe Shlabotnick’s and the guys gives Charlie a dollar.  Joe Garagiola continues to pop up in the strip.  Charlie tells Schroeder he can have a career as a catcher and then after you retire you can go on TV like Joe Garagiola and Lucy says Who?

1989’s football gag has Lucy telling Charlie to think of the regrets he’ll have if he never risks anything.

Starting in 1989 and continuing for a few years it seems, Charlie has become very close to Snoopy–a relationship that was never really there before.  There’s a lot of pictures of Snoopy on Charlie’s lap (very cutely drawn, I must say.  It more or less starts in October with Charlie saying “All I seem to want to do lately is sit around holding my dog on my lap.”  This leads to Charlie quitting school and devoting his entire life to making Snoopy happy.  They eat a lot of food until Snoopy gets sick and he concludes ” I think I happied him to the vet.”  Charlie concludes that he was sorry making him happy didn’t work out and Snoopy replied “I was already happy.”

There’s also a  resurgence of the blanket battle between Linus and Snoopy which I always liked.

POP CULTURE: Lucy is listening to the radio and says she missed the ball because Michael Jackson hit a high note.  Later in the month Linus thinks to videotape the Great Pumpkin (although we never see him do it).  In August 1990, Snoopy calls himself “Joe Bungee” and in November, Snoopy is riding Rollerblades and then later Sally asks for them from Snoopy Claus.

In January 1989 Patty is watching her hero Donna Adamek bowl.

I really enjoy the wordless joke of the street sign pointing up and then a curve down.  One of the Woodstock birds stands on top of the sign, the other two where the arrow points.  Snoopy s says, “You’re right we should have had a picture of that.”

A lot of the Mother’s Day panels for the last few years have been about Woodstock trying to give a card to him mom, but in 1990 Charlie lets his mom pitch for Mother’s Day which is very sweet

For summer camp Sally refuses to go.  When Charlie describes on the phone that there will be canoeing, swimming, rock climbing, tennis hiking, soccer he turns to Sally  to sally and their Granma just signed up.

As I mentioned earlier, this book wasn’t that exciting for me.  I never really got into any of the story lines. Until summer camp of 1990 when things suddenly became awesome.  Charlie takes Snoopy to camp, which is kind of fun.  But then unexpectedly, on July 23, Charlie talks to a cute girl.  He says he always gets nervous around pretty girls.  But she says he shouldn’t be: pretty girls are human too.   Her name is Peggy Jean and he is so in love that he calls himself Brownie Charles, which she thinks is adorable.  She really likes him!  She even holds the ball for him to kick.  But he is so conditioned that he doubts her sincerity which just gets her mad.

But before camp is over, she tells him he’s the nicest boy she’s ever met and then she kisses him!  And a few weeks later when Charlie can’t figure out why she hasn’t written, it’s because Sally has been throwing out all the letters that came to Brownie Charles–if only he’d been waiting at the mailbox!

I also enjoyed the joke in August of 1990 where snoopy sells a raffle ticket and it say s “You don’t win anything but you’ll have the pleasure of owning your very own raffle tickets…  be the first on your block to start a collection.”

In Sept 1990 Pig Pen decides to run for class president.  Someone shouts that he has no dignity so he puts on a stove pipe hat.  Nobody votes for him anyhow.

And then in October, we get some real insight into Marcie.  She comes over to say that her parents are driving her crazy.  They want her to be perfect and get straight A’s.  Shes cracking up.  It’s a pretty intense moment for Peanuts.  And Charlie is in way over his head.  Marcie falls asleep at Charlie’s house.  When she wakes up she says “I don’t want to go home… can I stay here? If I go home I have to be perfect….  Sally shouts from the other room, “If she doesn’t want to be perfect she’s come to the right place!”  The sequence ends sadly open-ended with Marcie saying she’s going home so she can get straight A’s “just so I can go to some college they’ve already picked out for me.”  And Sally says “and end up marrying some nerd.”

In Dec 1990 Charlie goes to buy Peggy Jean some nice gloves. But they cost $25.  He sells all of his stuff to buy them for her only to find out that her parents just bought her gloves.    Sadly he gave them to Snoopy instead.

The book ends with one of the saddest Christmas strips ever.  It’s just Spike sitting alone with mistletoe stuck to a cactus and him saying “Rats.”

Apropos of this, the intro was written by Lemony Snicket.  Rather than raving about the strip, Snicket revels in how dark it is  He quotes all of the darkest lines in the book and says how odd it is that these sentences are found in the section marked Comics.

And then Snicket summarizes the strip:

The hero of this melodrama is a balding grammar school student paralyzed by fear and self-loathing.  Sadly, the psychiatrist he chooses is also a child, who not only offers him nothing but cruelty and scorn…One would be tempted to label her as the villain of this ongoing tale of terror, if she didn’t share the same unhappy hopelessness as her helpless patient.

Then there’s her young brother who shuffles around town clutching ragged bedclothes and trying to dissolve one of his own fingers in his mouth.  It’s no wonder the psychiatrist has fallen into a cycle of romantic obsession and violent argument with a temperamental musician.

Our hero, in the meantime, is not far from obsessive complication: two women compete for his attention, all the while maintaining a tense “friendship: with one another despite the fact that one of them, out of stupidity or malice, mistakes the gender of the other.

Even the neighborhood dog, who by all rights should remain clueless of the goings-on, is ravaged by the local madness.  When not talking to a bird who utters nothing but apostrophes, he fantasizes that he is fighting in one of the world’s mist horrific conflicts.

I am fascinated by the endless ghastly tale of these poor youngsters.

Make no mistake, Lemony Snicket is a huge fan.

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1987  SOUNDTRACK: GINA CHAVEZ-Tiny Desk Concert #472 (September 22, 2015 ).

ginaChavez’ voice is poppy but a little deep, almost muscular which I rather like. Or perhaps its just confidence, the blurb notes “the intense openness and warmth of her performances.”

“Fire Water” is primarily a capella and percussion (with interesting clicks and shakers and even a guy whispering “ahhh.”  A few bass notes enter near the end, but other wise it I a very stark song.

“Miles Da Millas” is dedicated to a fiend of a friend who died recently.  He loved Tony Desk Concerts.  Whenever someone mentioned a new band he would say “But do they have a Tiny Desk?”  So this make Gina feel like she’s made it  This song, a cumbia, is bilingual with the chorus in Spanish.  And her voice is just as strong if not more so in Spanish.   It’s fun when the percussionist yells and whoops and overall its a nice groovy song.  It’s a little weird that she hums a trumpet (quite well, admittedly) when there is an actual trumpet player in the band.  They take turns so I guess it’s kind of duet.

When introducing the final song, she says spent 8 months in El Salvador doing mission work teaching English in an all girls’ school.  Things are really bad down there, so she started a college scholarship fund called Niñas Arriba.  This song “Siete-D” is about a wild ride on the 7D bus from Soyapongo to San Salvador.  Soyapongo is the home of the MS13 gang, the place where guide books tell you not to go.

It’s a fun song (sung entirely in Spanish) with a cool “Sube! Hey! ho!” chant.  It’s a bouncy song with some great trumpet work.  There’s even a rap in Spanish

[READ: September 9, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1987-1988

I felt like after the major highs of the last few books, this one fell into a bit of a repetitive pattern.  This is not to say there weren’t memorable moments in the book, but there were a lot of variations on a similar jokes (especially with Spike in the desert–how many different ways can you make a joke about a cactus looking like a person with his arms up?  About fifty, I guess).

But perhaps it seems like things have changed because On 1-11 1987, that heading that has been there for so long–the hand-drawn looking “Peanuts featuring Good Ol’ Charlie Brown” had been replaced by a computer-generated font that just says “Peanuts.”  It also felt like the drawings looked different somehow–thicker lines, somewhat less polished?  And in July of 1988 it seems like Snoopy looks rather different. His ears are much smaller for one thing.  That seems to go away though.  But it’s some time round here or maybe even in a previous book that Schulz started drawing circles for eyes on Snoopy from time to time–mostly to express distress or angry.  But Snoopy is meant to have dots or sixes for eyes–the circles always look weird.  And sometime they look poorly drawn, if I may say so.   Especially on October 12 1988 (he’s supposed to look aggrieved, but they still look sloppy for Schulz).

And then, a huge shock to the system!  The daily strips go from 4 panels to 3.  Three panels!  What gives?  Is it because many of his fourth panels didn’t really have a punchline so much as a commentary on the punchline?  It’s mind blowing!  After thirty some years, he is finally messing with the format! (more…)

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