Thursday, May 31, 2007

Follow-Up To My KRS-One Live Experience

You recall my recent review of KRS-One at the Black Cat in DC, don't you? Of course. Today whilst browsing YouTube I found the following footage from said show; most are shot by fans in the audience, but the last (and longest) clip is from a TV show that intersperses interview footage with that of the show. Look for the white girl in the front getting foinky! Sweet Jebus, I am so glad I don't consider what I may look like on the Internet when I enjoy myself at a concert.

"South Bronx"
"Freestyle"
"Classical"
"More Freestyle"
"Yet Even More of KRS"
"The Mic Check Show"--check out the dancers at the end!


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Lee Ranaldo, Giving You Bits and Pieces

This interview is 3 years old, but oh in the annals of Sonic Youth query history it is an all-timer. My favorite thing about it is as follows.

"What should everyone shut up about?
Let’s skip that one.

What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
Oh lord. Let’s skip that one.

What advice should you have taken, but did not?
Let’s skip that one too."

Hereby, one would assume, establishing clear boundaries within this harmless questionnaire. It would seem Lee Ranaldo does not want to get too negative or too personal.

Later....

"How do you spoil yourself?
With long bike rides, long walks in the woods, delirious sex, and playtime with my children."

The thought process of Lee Ranaldo thus becomes hilariously clear: "Hmm, no, I don't want to talk about personal decisions of great import and I don't want to insult anybody...but I have no problem bragging about how I'm approaching age 50 and still banging like a trash can lid in a hurricane."


Monday, May 28, 2007

We Now Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Blog

For the second straight week, the "You Send It" roundup appears on Monday. Writing is going to drive me batty.

Monday was weaksauce on an undercooked chicken breast, but the remainder of the week did quite well.

TUESDAY, 5/22

"The Democrats only offer you more taxes, the gay marriage and anything else."--BOONSBORO

THE gay marriage? Like, the ultimate in homosexual nuptials? What the hell would that be, Harvey Fierstein wedded to John Waters with Nathan Lane presiding?

"But what do you do with somebody who blows cigarette smoke in your face and pollutes your lungs when you're walking into a shop or any place else?"--WAYNESBORO

Just wait...you are soon to find out.

WEDNESDAY, 5/23

"...Miss Hillary Clinton, who God forbid that this country ever gets to the point where we allow her even the ability to be our president."--HAGERSTOWN

Well, see, this is rather a wasted sentence. I present to you the requirements for being President of the United States:

1--must be a natural born citizen of the United States (Hillary Clinton was born in Chicago)
2--must be at least thirty-five years of age (Hillary Clinton is, as of this typing, 59 years old)
3--must be a resident of the United States for at least fourteen years (yessir).

So she meets all 3 of the above requirements. Truly then, Hagerstown caller, America has gone to Hell in a basket of some sort.

THURSDAY, 5/24

"To the person who called in...about people blowing cigarette smoke in your face when you enter a place: if you don't like it, just hold your breath. Don't breathe while you're entering...because America tells you that you can't smoke, that's when we're going to smoke even more, so get used to it."

Oh, here's a lovely attitude. While I do often feel that adults in general would improve their quality of ilfe by occasionally allowing themselves to regress back to the simpler pleasures and considerations of childhood, this is a little too much. "Mom says I can't, so I'm gonna do it even more"? That's fantastic. "Don't breathe while you're entering"? You can't tell me what to do! I'm gonna breathe even more! I'm gonna take gigantic, drawn-out, planet-swallowing inhalations! I'M GONNA BREATHE IN YOUR FACE, AND I DON'T CARE HOW HEALTHY IT IS, IT'S MY BREATH!

FRIDAY, 5/25

"This is America. We need to close our borders."--HAGERSTOWN

All I will say on the issue of illegal immigration is that it's one of those topics that really peels back the onion skin. I oppose it because, well, it's illegal. But legal immigration does not bother me at all. Why would it? But there are certain of people who feel that any and all comers from foreign lands shouldn't be allowed here. Scratch that...amend to "any and all dark-skinned comers from foreign lands."

That's why I heartily support free soapboxes. We can see how many people actually just care about observing law (with those who follow it rewarded and those who do not follow it punished) and how many folks are just xenophobic isolationists.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

SHOW REVIEW: KRS-One At The Black Cat, 5/18/07

Best...post title...yet.

Simply put, the best live hip-hop show I have ever seen. I have only been witness to five, but hey, one of those was the mighty Wu-Tang Clan.

Patrick picked me up after work; the drive to Olney was blastmastered by Criminal Minded. As the car eased down the surface-immaculate suburb to the house Patrick calls home, a nearby middle school eased out a casual exodus of students. From the passenger seat I glanced over to the sidewalk and caught sight of a young girl obviously thrilled that it was Friday: as she walked towards home, she broke out into this hesitant-by-design pop-lock. This visual, combined with the loping piano of notorious borough-bitchslap "The Bridge Is Over" snaring my ears, was simply hilarities.

"I don't even think she has an iPod or anything", I told Patrick. "She's just dancing to her own ineffable Awesome."

"Wow. Works great with the beat."

Pad Thai was munched and ESPN was watched. Seeing media talking heads try and sell people on why the NBA Finals should be acknowledged this year if the dirtier-than-Pigpen San Antonio Spurs beat the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of their series started Patrick off on "dynastyism" in the NBA, the tendency of a few teams to monopolize the championship. As we expected, the NHL playoffs got 15 seconds airtime. Still hurts, huh, Worldwide Leader?

Whether we go to the Black Cat or 9:30 Club for shows, Georgia Avenue must be driven down. While many in the "nicer" surroundings would only be found there if knocked unconscious outside their fine homes and dragged to, say, the Wings N Things, it is a fun road to observe from one's passenger side window. "Omni-restaurants" abound: look, here's a place that serves subs/chicken/pizza, there's a joint that serves Chinese/seafood/pizza/burgers, oh shit, look at that--subs/chicken/pizza/burgers/seafood/Chinese/ice cream! The undisputed king of the "omnis" is Wonder Chicken. Not only does it serve as a marker indicating we are close to Howard University and thus ready to make our turn to the club...it's called Wonder Chicken, for God's sake.

Patrick and I almost always attend shows together. Mothers Day last week, however, he saw To Live and Shave in LA solo. I had wanted to go, but...my mom. Ya know? I promised I'd be with her. I take that serious as my father's cancer.

"So," I asked Patrick as we stopped at one in a series of interminable red lights. "When you were talkin' to Frank, Rat Bastard, AKA...did you ask him about ATP?"

Pause.

"Oh shit! I totally forgot that we saw him there! Ah, shit!"

"See, I knew I shoulda gone with you. Even though with my mom, I just knew. Without me, you forget the crucial shit. You remember Noise Against Fascism, but you forget ATP. Unbelievable."

"Oh my GOD." Patrick can hardly believe his oversight.

Parking only took a half hour. We ended up parking in front of a school, unsure of the legalness of it all. Fortunately, a cop was parked opposite us. However, he was not 100% sure if we would be ticketed or not. Wow, that Blue Curtain is some serious business.

We chilled in the bar for a couple hours until we were let upstairs; the crowd was ample and a real sample--white, black, Asian, Hispanic, fellas, ladies. Everyone loves Blastmaster!

"Man", I told 'Trick. "This almost seems unreal. KRS is a legend in hip hop. He's playing the Black Cat. This is what, 500, 600 tops? It's like Paul McCartney playing the Sonar."

It took quite a bit for the first openers to take the stage. Time was passed by the two average white fans up front with talk of music and sports.

Emon I Fela was the first opening act, a teenage (!) girl with the sass of Salt and or Pepa, but the effervescent rhyming skills of old-school MC Lyte and empathetic intelligence of Lauryn Hill at her least-insane. A quintet of musicians backed her (2 on synth, one on bass, a guitarist, and drummer) while a stool-bound man provided soulful adlibs and choruses. Emon is from DC, apparently, and stood out with not only her songs but her overall presence, decked out in bright bagging clothing, with custom Nikes and oversize eyeglasses. While the crowd was hungry for knowledge reigns supreme, Emon got a great reception and deserved it.

A thorough-ass DJ set from a DC hip hop radio jock followed, going from "The Message" to "Cher Chez Le Ghost" in terms of timeline. The DJ set pre-headliner is less a chance to show off on the 1s and 2s and more an opportunity to let the concertgoers show and prove. Hence, there was no shortage of hearty recitations when any number of classics made their appearance over the PA: "Top Billin'", a medley of Eric B. and Rakim, "La Di Da Di", Wu-Tang, "Time 4 Sum Askshun", a stunning string of A Tribe Called Quest songs ("Scenario Remix" had everyone in the place going hoarse), before chilling with "Umi Says" by Mos Def. I was by this time sweating like a sweaty thing, and had to remove my jacket, baring my grey Snoopy shirt for all to see.

There was one more opener, a solo MC/poet from DC. His name I can't remember, lamentably. His initial look grabbed me as a militant Freeway, with his expansive goatee and bald head underneath Muslim headgear, but his lyricism was quite different. He delivered politically, racially charged rhymes with a fiery voice and never doubted his control for a nanosecond. He told a story about appearing on Def Poetry Jam and reciting a poem that warranted FBI at his apartment the next day. It began, "I am not angry/I am anger/I am not dangerous/I am danger". The power of words!

During his brief set, a problem arose on the other side of the audience. Whether it was a fight, or just an impatient fan starting shit, we never found out.

Then finally...after what seemed like 95 hours in 119 degrees...



Yeah, KRS-One wears a shirt with his face on it.

As far as a chronological set list...SNOOPY, PLEASE! The whole scene was far too drenched with sweat, arms, hands, cameras and beats.

Speaking of cameras, it didn't take long for Patrick to tell me: "He is the hardest performer to get pictures of ever. He moves so much!"



"THE REAL HIP HOP IS OVER HERE!"

KRS-One has a long-standing reputation as a rare beast: the entertaining live rapper. His action on stage, his delivery, and choice of songs are all impeccable and should set a template for the brave to follow. He threw us classics ("Criminal Minded", "South Bronx", "Outta Here", "Love's Gonna Getcha", "Self-Destruction") and tracks off his upcoming collabo album with producer Marley Marl "Hip Hop Lives". For the newer songs, KRS implored his DJ to turn the beat low so we in the audience could really hear what he was saying.

"Hip means to know, it's a form of intelligence
To be hip is to be update and relevant
Hop is a form of movement
You can't just observe a hop, you gotta hop up and do it"

And here is the chorus of the year:

"You wanna get away with murder?
Kill a rapper"

As is almost par for the culture's course, there was an especially buoyant white dude up front who knows all the lyrics. Don't take that as some snide insult, by the by. I noted that in addition to him, there were a few black guys, a few black girls, and my white gal ass. Truly a diverse front row in this day and age of hip hop performances.

In addition to straightforward renditions of some hits, he gave us such treats as legendary verses over different beats ("My Philosophy", "You Must Learn") and fresh freestyles over classical pieces. (Kris over Vivaldi? Why the hell not!)



MCing is only one element of hip hop, so KRS invited any b-boys and/or b-girls in the audience to take the stage and show off. DC represented for the ladies lovely; indeed, of approximately 8 or 9 folks who got up there to pop, lock and break, only one possessed testicles. He was okay, and a couple of the girls were just half-assing, but the rest of them, oh my hell. Insane, crazed moves. Rhythm for days and nights. "This is braaave", KRS reminded us as they did their thing. "This takes COURAGE."

Kris loves DC. "I go back to Go-Go with y'all. I don't think you understand, I go back to Trouble Funk with y'all!"

In classical guerrilla promo style, KRS and his peeps handed out posters for the new album and KRS took about 10 minutes in between songs blessing those of us lucky enough to get hold of a poster with his signature, wielding the mic and the Sharpie with equal adroitness. Very hilariously, he signed the plain white back of a few of them, including mine.

"Which side are you gonna hang up?" Patrick half-joked.

"White people only get the white part signed", I cracked back.

As drenched with perspiration as we all were, no one was dripping the beads like the man on stage. At one point, he even told the club to kill the air conditioning. Whoa.




His hype man, Channel Live, was stoned and onpoint throughout, a rare and welcome combo. When KRS let him take center stage to drop a few hot verses (calling out 50 Cent for bigging up George Bush was a real treat, and so called-for) until a perturbed Teacha finally took over again and told Channel Live, "People like you don't need a microphone!" Ah haha.

How'd it all end? The fuck you mean, is the Bridge fuckin' over? He only did up till the "Queens keeps on fakin' it" line, which was more than enough. I was bellowing his lyrics back to him (as was everyone else up front) and got inadvertently punched in the head a few times from an appropriately-zealous, wildly pumping fist. Really, did I expect differently? No bothers, brothers and sisters.

Before he exited stage "holy shit", KRS handed out "dap". If you don't know, lemme explain. "Dap" is a form of hand gesture wherein one person slaps their hand into the proffered outstretched hand of another person and grasps it for anywhere from a half second to two seconds (anything longer may be considered "weird"). Well, when KRS-One gave me some dap, I thought I fuckin' owed him money. I will likely never receive a sweatier, stronger dap in my life, and he held that grip for like 3 or 4 seconds until we both relented. I think it actually took me a couple seconds to grip back where he was happy that this was an equal give'n'take dapping. Fucking wow, I'm telling you.

"We should get some more posters", I advised Patrick. "They might be selling them."

"Okay, but water first." Parched, we headed to the bar where the 'tender generously gave us a couple glasses of glorious H2O. Patrick's eagle eye caught a folded KRS and Marley poster by the far right of the floor and we snatched it with weary surreptitiousness. By the soundman's post in the middle of the floor, we found another one! That made two for me (one signed) and one for my man. Unbelievable luck. Or stupid people. How could you just abandon those posters? The real hip hop is not on the floor!


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

And Over To Your Right, You'll See a Banana-Nose and a Hockey Puck

Two more "Beacons of the Interweb" have joined my mighty blogroll. Conveniently, although not intentionally, they now occupy the top two spots (it's simple alphabetics, you gotta love it).

Aaugh.com is indispensable for those who want news, previews and reviews on the world of Peanuts publishing. The imminent arrival of what looks to be the definitive Charles Schulz bio (688 pages!) is enough to make me push Linus off a doghouse with glee.

The world does not need another sports-related blog, it needs another good one--enter Barry Melrose Rocks which as you may have been able to ascertain from the name deals with the National Hockey League. Longstanding Beacon Deadspin hipped me to an outstanding article on BMR dealing with the atrocious debacle that went down Saturday when NBC switched from coverage of an NHL playoff game set for overtime to the Preakness. (There really isn't a thing about that whole mess that's positive. Yes, the Sabres were eliminated, but I didn't get the joy of seeing it as it happened, and furthermore Hard Spun didn't win the Preakness. If you watched the Derby and the Preakness, no horse ran harder or more consistently.)

There is only one proper way to end this post....





Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Don't Shoot, I'm Only the Blogger

I've passed from cringing over my musical guilty pleasures, to flouting them, to disowning the very term, to reclaiming the phrase and the very idea of it...whilst redefining the terms of my reacceptance.

The appearance of Elton John on any guilty pleasures list no longer makes sense to me. Unless Victim of Love appears beside his name in parentheses, including Reg among one's abashed listening is officially quizzical.

Never mind his omnipresence in pop culture, his millions sold, his more millions spent, his Princess Di tribute--this man gave us "Your Song", "Someone Saved My Life Tonight", "Levon", "Bennie and the Jets", "Healing Hands". Yeah, I actually like that last one. Love it, in fact.

Elton John is not just a "singles artist" though; every album up to and including Rock of the Westies ranks at least 8 out of 10 on the Trapper Jenn scale. No matter how goofy or vindictive Bernie Taupin's lyrics, his partner dependably delivers stirring melodies and pleasantly nagging hookage for the whole family.

Forget Victim of Love (if you even remembered it). Sip from the river Lethe if the vision of a cokehead in a Donald Duck costume is clouding your mind. No more justifying Elton John fandom. I have half a mind to ask those who don't like any of his music to justify that stance.





Monday, May 21, 2007

Identify Me As "Malaise-ian"

After notching up a goose egg last week, the "You Said It" column rebounded--I guess--with two days of worthy calls.

Tuesday, 5/15, was the best. Some poor starved soul had called in last week to complain that the wind chimes audible from the homes of his neighbors disturbed his peace. A caller who did not leave their locale retorted, "You can have my wind chimes when you pry them from my cold, dead hands." Um...Mom?

Friday, 5/18, gave this gem:

"I read that the divorce rate is down....People are choosing to live together instead of marriage. It's hard to believe, but it makes me think that nobody really wants to commit today."

That was from a reader in Williamsport. I recall an earlier post in my blog archives wherein I had to explain the potential of our friend the brain to a Herald-Mail subscriber from that very city. And here we go again.

How is the increasing number of couples choosing cohabitation over connubial bliss at all difficult to fathom? No doubt many of the men and women involved endured and absorbed the pain of broken homes themselves; maybe they just have an especial self-awareness of themselves as individuals and as one-half of a romance, and felt that taking the step would be disastrous. I myself have been in a relationship for 4 1/2 years. Marriage appeals to me in my most lovestruck moments, those times when I'm in the throes of whatever super-concentrated joy the romance has to offer, but the yen is ephemeral. Without getting into ridiculous detail, both my boyfriend and myself have personal internal dramas that currently make the idea of being husband and wife as bemusing and unfathomable as the concept of renting a rocket to Neptune.

So, weird as this may seem to several, some couples don't need to feel legitimized by papers and rings. If you don't know the emotions involved, the feelings considered, and the scenarios labored over, you can't judge a couple that eschews tradition.

It is easy, though, to make assumptions in life. I did it today, although dare I say my leap was propelled by far surer legs.

A standard Sunday sojourn to City Park was going fine until I stopped to feed some mallards on Heyser Walk. My eyes shot from the gentle sight of ducks nibbling in the water to the railroad tracks that separate Hager Walk from the Park proper. It was a trio of boys, all of whom looked preteen: one sported a mohawk, another was shirtless on this cloudy-yet-warm day, and still another was holding a video camera. My curiousity was piqued when I noted one of the boys was hurling some of the rocks that layer the surrounding railroad tracks at his comrades. My mind harkened back to the swans. It was in the 1990s when the Park received ten gorgeous swans for the lake. It was a notable story, soon to be sadly surpassed by reports of the deaths of six within a short span. The lifeless waterfowl showed clear signs of head trauma. The mystery was solved when police snatched a group of teen boys wandering the grounds at night with a sackful of rocks.

"Leave it alone", my boyfriend advised in a sensible, even tone of voice.

"I'm not gonna make trouble. But all the time we bitch about assholes mistreating the ducks here, how can you stand around if you see it could happen right here in broad daylight?"

"Jenn, that's exactly why they're not gonna do anything. Look at all the people."

Indeed, it was the busiest I have seen the Park in '07. Heyser Walk is a popular spot for feeding ducks, and sports a few benches and swings for those choosing to take a load off, not to mention the number of cars that park at the edge, right where these boys were approaching from Hager Walk.

Any nagging voice that tried to assure me these boys were just rambunctious and harmless caught nasty laryngitis when the shirtless lad ran down into the grass and, all the while letting loose a wordless howl, disrupted several resting/nesting ducks.

"They're just makin' a home video for Mom and Dad," I sneered. Or Grandma, or stepdad, or whoever the hell is half-ass raising you. I continued, then, enjoying the slight breeze and emptying the contents of my little feed bag, confident that if any of those little shits even attempted to physically harm a duck, a concerned fellow parkgoer would raise a voice sufficient enough to scare them off.

We passed a gazebo with yellow "Caution" tape around it.

"That's foreshadowing," I chuckled. "One o' those brats'll get brazen with the main attractions and somebody'll snap and drag 'em right over there and beat 'em down. 'You like hurting defenseless creatures that are smaller than you? Me too!'"

Sure hope those kids nipped their violent impulse; earlier in the vicinity, we were witness to a vicious mallard mating fight: 11 males fighting for the affections of one--yep, one--female. Whew! They took it from the grass to the pavement to the water, and it was not playful ducky shenanigans. Those fellows had enough on their minds without idiot humans harboring sadistic half-thoughts.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Separation of Church and County

Montgomery County just approved a ban on trans fat for area restaurants, delis and grocery stores--the first county in America to take such a bold step. Ah, feel the Terp pride. (One of out of 23 ain't so bad, anyway.)

My favorite part of this article is the end:

"Church suppers would have to stop serving food with trans fatty oils unless the pastor gets a waiver from the county health department."

'
Cause a heart attack before the age of 50 just may be God's will.



Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Breakdancing and Negligent Parenting

You knew that they had to come together, and that YouTube would provide evidence of the convergence.

The mother should consider herself lucky that her child's wanderings resulted in no worse than turning a breaker's innocuous routine into something out of an Eddy Gordo-Christie Monteiro fight.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Warm Puppies Still Have Cold Noses

Two weeks ago, Patrick and I visited Borders at the Centre. With only 30 bucks to spend, I found it ultimately prudent to pass on the item that I wanted most of all:


Besides, there were 3 copies on the shelves. I remember being surprised that it was out for purchase on the last week of April; every site I had visited gave a May publishing date.

So yesterday I return to Borders with more money and a problem: they are gone. Sold out? Looks like. I check the shelves of the humor section--nothing. I give a thorough twice-over of the "newly released" section up front where tables of the most recent releases of potential mass interest are displayed--no contented Linus anywhere.

I make way to a nearby "customer computer" to see if I can place an order. What I see instead is that "this title has not yet been published--place pre-order now." Um...what? They were just in the store 2 weeks ago. The thought strikes that perhaps they were mistakenly stocked oh that fortnight ago and hastily removed once someone caught the error. How likely is that? Still...

So I get home and check online to see the status of "The Complete Peanuts" series. No better place to visit than the Fantagraphics site.

"Available Now!" it announces. I find it wise to believe them.

So what exactly is going on with Borders now I've no clue. Next week I'll see if the book is now restocked, if not, well, I'll place an order for it and some other items I've been keen on ("Daydream Nation 33 1/3", chiefly) and just wait some more. I look forward to giving reviews of each on here soon. Until then...




Thursday, May 10, 2007

You Know What Settles All These Rumors? A John Kruk--Barry Melrose Follicle War

Growing up in western MD, television was enormous in my upbringing. There were the standard local and national networks to provide sitcoms and dramas, MPT to bless my life with Sesame Street, MTV for my first profound exposure to music, and ESPN doing likewise for sports.

With age, my TV Eye became sharper at discerning the crap from the credible re: shows both old and new (I used to find Full House funny, for the love of Stamos). Sesame Street exited when I realized it had nothing further to teach me. MTV degraded year after year to their current sad, video-less state. ESPN, however, seemed to get better; they broadcast high-quality sporting events and presented viewers with the greatest hour on television: Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick anchoring the Sunday Sportscenter, aka, "The Big Show". Witty, unpredictable talent and natural flair for the games people play delivered by a pair of sports fanatics who lived to make one another laugh in between endless reports on runs, points and goals. They elevated the position of "sports anchor" by drawing ceaselessly from a rich well of reference, with Greek myth and Britcoms as likely to be thrown into the mix as cereal commercials from the 1950s and Seinfeld catchphrases. Much like The Simpsons, the casual viewer could be mostly clueless as to the deeper levels and still enjoy the program, while the more astute fan would feel rewarded.

Since Olbermann's departure broke up "The Big Show", Sportscenter suffered a gradual decline in quality. It couldn't help it, really; subsequent anchors were left leaping up at a bar set far too high, and given the choice between trying to ape the inimitable intellectual fanboy banter of Dan 'n' Keith or leeching off the privileged-white-boy-who-yearns-to-not-be-white steez popularized by Craig Kilborn, a whole generation (in television time, anyway) chose the road less requiring an attention span of longer than 8 seconds. Paving the way for Sportscenter after Sportscenter with loud men screaming lines from movies and Stuart Scott trying to appear whatever he thinks "hip" is (hey, it's not like I exactly know either). All of this may or may not enhance the actual appreciation of the highlights shown underneath, depending on your preference. Personally, I think that when I finally snap and wreak havoc on an unsuspecting populace, "Holla at a playa when you see him on the street" will be the words with which I choose to announce my imminent wrath-unleashing.

But, personalities aside, the fan is supposed to trust ESPN. The Bristol, CT-based network needs to be honest, forthright, voracious and appreciative of all that it covers. However, a number of viewers have proclaimed for years that the "Worldwide Leader in Sports" has an agenda beyond just scores 'n' stories. That while all sports and sports teams are created equal, some are created more equal. This is a sad thing to consider for the genuine sports fan; the outlet you depend upon (if not solely, then largely) for your sports fix is bullshitting you.

Deadspin.com (which hath supplanted ESPN as my favorite source for sports) recently linked up a sports blog that tells a sobering tale. I will highlight the same paragraph DS did, 'cause, honestly, it says it all:

"You may or may not have caught John Kruk’s act on Baseball Tonight last week. In a Q/A session with the other hosts, Kruk answered “the Pirates” when asked “who will be leading the NL Central at the end of the month?” Whatever, just another ESPN guy trying to look smart if it actually comes true. Big deal, right? Wrong. A couple days later, Kruky was on “The D-List” radio show here in Madison (it might also be on in Milwaukee, not sure) to discuss his pick. Kruk admitted that he really wanted to pick Milwaukee as his answer. Apparently, the ESPN brass tried to stiff arm him into saying he thought the Yankees would be leading the AL East by June. Kruk refused, so they made him make one bold selection, thus the Pirates pick. And this was all admitted on the radio by Kruk!"

The stunner here is not that ESPN bullies on-air employees so's to keep shows interesting and ratings steady. Nor is it shocking that Kruk would admit so freely to being the kid picking up teeth by the flagpole. (John Kruk has no shame. You have seen the sassafras atop his head, no?) And, no, it will not be a jolt when the powers that be at ESPN demand Kruk's remaining testicle as punishment for his loose lips. Read closer: Apparently, the ESPN brass tried to stiff arm him into saying he thought the Yankees would be leading the AL East by June. Kruk refused,

No...could it be...East Coast Bias?

Oh yes, an urban legend so persistent that even ESPN.com's famed "Page 2" dedicated a column to it These are but a few of the accusations levelled at ESPN for East Coast overlove, and it is intriguing to consider. If holding a soft spot in the networks heart means holding down the greatest amount of airtime, certainly this theory holds water. Both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees (individually and in the mighty shadow cast by their historic rivalry) get the royal king crap 'n' can opener treatment at the expense of other deserving teams and players (imagine, indeed, how godhead Albert Pujols would be considered if he wore pinstripes; consider, also, the corporate heart failure that afflicted the big E when Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins was named AL MVP last year over golden boy Derek Jeter). If you play for a New York team, expect your every feat (positive and negative) blown up to retarded proportions by not just Sportscenter, but any of the 23 programs shown before and after it. Well, it certainly seems to be that way.

But does the bias--if it's real--stop at a region of the country? What about actual league prejudices?

Fairness in coverage seems to suffer if a sport isn't part of ESPN's programming. The NFL, NBA, MLB and NASCAR are all under contract with the network and thus given solid coverage. (In the case of the NFL, some may say the love has reached a sickeningly sweet level--do we need a weekend of draft coverage? I mean, yeah it was fun watching Brady Quinn--or any Notre Dame player--fall so precipitously and without doubt the Vikings steal of Adrian Peterson made this long-suffering fan gleeful beyond sounds, but...stop trying to make me care where the Stanford QB ends up.)

The NHL? Oh, that league with the most exciting playoffs of all? Meh. Yeah, ESPN used to cover them. But now, they barely rate above the WNBA. When the NHL was on the network, and you could expect Red Wings vs. Avalanche once a week, the anchors by and large showed respect to a much-chided sport, and saved much of their snideness for NASCAR. You gotta love how the sport of "rednecks driving in circles real fast" goes from being a Dick Trickle of Dan Patrick's fancy to suddenly a legit concern, with panels of "experts" telling us about restrictor plates and why anyone who doesn't own a Confederate flag should give a shit. Meanwhile, Barry Melrose and his hockey knowledge is given shorter shrift the deeper the playoffs progress. Programming patterns such as these lend credence to the belief that ESPN has an agenda beyond "sports for the people".

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Hannity vs. KRS-One

Hip hop music is a popular goat to whip for the media, and the clearest examples of the massive divide between the culture of rap and the culture of conservatism come when MCs visit talk shows. From Cam'ron and Dame Dash yakking with Bill O'Reilly, to Shyne on Politically Incorrect (ah, Bill Maher, I can't hate you; you were in DC Cab, after all, the greatest film to ever star Mr. T and Gary Busey) to, just recently, KRS-One on Hannity America (what the hell name is that for a show? Next up, the Ann Coulter Christian Family Gun Hour).

Many hip hop fans bemoan that when someone like Bill O'Reilly attacks the music they love, he goes after people so entrenched in the life (or just not incredibly well-spoken) that they cannot help but come off as what he says they are: barely literate, loud, corruptive, offering vacuous half-excuses for "deplorable non-music".

"If O'Reilly ever went after someone like KRS or Chuck D, he'd get told!" they cry. "He won't go after rappers notorious for their intellect and have them on his show. He couldn't shout those two down."

Well, we can at least get KRS-One vs. the poor man's O'Reilly:



I thought KRS would wilt under the pressure of constant questions about his 9/11 statements
but went out on a strong note when Hannity "called him out" for his "cop killa" lyrics. It is a very cogent argument to make, that MCs intend to act much the same way authors of fiction or film directors do, to present reality in such a mannered way that it becomes a hyperreality. Perhaps talking heads, no matter their political slant, would be more willing to cut the genre of hip hop slack if there weren't such a pronounced premium on, "This is keeping it real. We live this." Whereas when you watch movies or TV shows that feature gratuitous violence and profanity, everyone knows these are just actors bringing a script to vibrant life. In all honesty, hip hop songs are just as full of fantasy as The Sopranos; next time you come across a hip hop song where the MC is telling you how "it ain't nothin'" for him to pull out his gun and blast a muh'fuh...yeah, it literally "ain't nothin'", 'cause he's never done it.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Yes, My Devil's Advocate Speaks In Italics

Only one day of the Herald Mail's daily "You Said It" held anything of interest for me, and that particular call was referencing one from early in the week. This weekend, with a nagging upper back pain making most everything a chore, I am grateful for the lack of quality material.

The sole remarkable call (piggybacking, mind you) comes from Friday's edition: "This is to the person who called in complaining about banning guns and trans fat. In the Constitution, it says, 'Right to bear arms.' It does not say anything about 'Right to eat trans fat.'"

When the fervor over trans fatty acids reached peak pitch in this country, I thought to myself (as someone who takes physical improvement seriously after years of not giving a Twinkie in Hell about it), "Well, good one on 'em, then. Maybe something can be done to curb this, raise some awareness, give options."

What makes trans fat so damn unappealing is that unlike calories, cholesterol, or any other type of fat--which the body needs, albeit in sensible quantities--it has no proven benefit, and increases a person's risk of coronary heart disease. Many nations have taken considerable steps to limiting the amount of trans fat its citizenry is exposed to, and finally America has joined in.

"Finally", you said. Hmm...wait a sec. Is this right? Should there be laws made to change what we eat? Can we, as a fast food nation, deal with a KFC bucket free of the stuff that just maybe went a long way toward making it so addictive, in addition to clogging our arteries? Oh sure...it's for "our own good" to futz with the recipes. I'm sure it'll be equally swell when they mandate those federal ID cards and ban guns, right? One seemingly innocuous law passed in the name of the public good opens the door for ten more designed to hitch the puppet strings. It's not right. I don't know why we can't be trusted enough to be given information about this trans fat, what we can do as individuals to lower its presence in our daily lives--IF WE SO CHOOSE--and if other people say, screw it, we all die and I'm gonna go eating a burger the size of a piglet cooked in a defiantly unhealthy way, they should have that right.

Yeah...I really said "finally". Lemme share a familial story with you.

I have a niece who is 11 years old and 200 pounds. She is not being "raised" by her single mother, she is being "lowered" by her single mother. The mama in question is the type of parent that assures a future generation of overweight, apathetic, depressed, unhealthy folks. She wants to be her daughter's "friend". I, mother of none but observer of many, know this to be folly. Children do not need mom or dad as "friends"; to quote more than one person I've spoken with on the matter (people who have actually breeded), "If your child doesn't say they hate you at least once before they leave the house, you're not doing your job as a parent." I suppose in this age of seemingly crazier kids with more avenues of personal expression, mothers and fathers are getting scared. Not of the big bad world their poor sweet babies are going out into--scared of the kids.

Now, a parent may say, "So long as my kid doesn't turn into some drug-crazed criminal, I'll be happy." And being overweight certainly doesn't devalue a human being (praises be!). But an 11 year old who is 200 pounds sets a child up for a future that her mother should fear. There are many parents in her position, unfortunately, and faced with the dilemma of doling out some cash to stuff their child's face with overportioned greasy fast food or fixing a meal made with 93% lean beef, hold the mayo, you don't need the soda have some water or juice--well, which is simpler? Which takes less time out of their day? Simple--the former option, a devastatingly efficient choice that goes a long way towards assuring they will live to see their children die. Unless the parent has equally unsavory habits, in which case, well, it's a race to the finish line.

Parents are not doing this to kill off their children; the simple, quicker option is just there.

Bravo. No really, great stuff. But, um, you just said you're not a parent. Neither am I. Devil's advocate has waaaay too much on their plate to be bothered with such fleshly trifles. I'm responsible for me, and only me. I still don't like Big Bro comin' down with vats of peanut oil and ordering the removal of trans fat from foods. I understand what trans fat is, how bad it is for you...can't people be given the choice? I mean, what if somebody just doesn't care? We all do stuff that's bad for us. Ban trans fat on Wednesday, ban alcohol on Friday. I'd like to see what your blog would look like then.

I can't lie...the whole "ban trans fat" thing sounds great, but it's glossing over a lot of stuff in a way unique to this country. Zero trans fat doesn't mean calories or other fats don't matter. I can just see thrice-weekly visitors to the newly-TFF KFC putting on weight steadily and wondering, "Huh? But...but...." And then the backlash? Maybe.


I'm still not sure whether these trans fat rulings come down to, "The government is bullying the populace again" or, "The populace cannot make the right decisions".






Thursday, May 3, 2007

Shonen Knife--"Minna Tanoshiku" and the Bottomless Candy Bowl


Kurt Cobain has, in the 13 years since the Nirvana frontman ceased to exist, been made into such a daunting, impenetrable figure of near-spectral proportions that simple facts regarding his person are frequently forgotten as they do not conform to the myth cultivated by fans, friends, enemies, and cultural commentators. Among these facts are several I can't relate to: Cobain was a gifted singer/songwriter, a drug addict, a husband, a father, an ambivalent rock star.

There is another truth which does resonate personally, though--Cobain was a voracious fan of music. To gaze upon the much-dissected list of his top 50 favorite albums is to be awed and perhaps even skeptical (Public Enemy is the go-to rap act for insecure white kids who want to show you how cool they are). There's the melodic crunch of the Pixies, the bat-cave horror of the Swans, the sludge-pudge of Melvins, the saddle-ready classic rock of Aerosmith, and the gleeful amateurism of the Shaggs. And Daniel Johnston. And Shonen Knife.

Ah, Shonen Knife. Did ever a band so beloved by Kurt befuddle his acolytes so thoroughly? Here's the conventional wisdom of those resolutely not "of the knife":

Three Japanese women who want to be the Beatles and the Ramones all wrapped up in a pancake, and probably would be except that they can't play, can't sing, and really can't see how all these big artists who profess to be fans really are taking the royal piss. I mean, Sonic Youth, Redd Kross, Fugazi, Sleater-Kinney, Babes In Toyland, L7, Beck, John Zorn, for God's sake Lemmy, Bikini Kill even--please. Take away the matching outfits and the kitsch factor of cute Asian chicks and no one would give a fuck about a Shonen Knife and their been-there-done-that three fuzzy chords with an uptempo beat.

Well, if you are of the Knife, or don't have an allegiance either way, let's continue.

Shonen Knife began in 1981, two sisters (Naoko and Atsuko Yamano) and a friend (Michie Nakatani) on guitar, drums and bass, respectively with Naoko and Michie sharing vocal duties. After rehearsing and gigging around their hometown of Osaka for a bit, local label XA Records released their first cassette, Minna Tanoshiku ("Everybody Happy" in English) in 1982. The original pressing of 50 copies sold out and diligently XA produced more. However, after only 20 copies had left the presses, the band stepped in and demanded that the label halt. XA abided, and only 70 copies of Minna Tanoshiku were ever made.

Future albums enjoyed greater distribution and band support: Burning Farm, Yama No-Attchan, and Pretty Little Baka Guy, all released between 1983-86 (although the latter is best enjoyed in its 1990 reincarnation with the indispensable, legend-cementing Live in Japan). On these records were a band with a refreshing take on the classic punk-pop sound, reimagined through the minds and hands of musicians whose melodic genius and pure pop sensibility and passion surpassed their technical ability. The lyrics were sung mostly in their native tongue, offering up the personification of fruit, suicide among working women, ugly animals, space travel, and food food food. It still holds up as catchy, super-cute, and undeniably borne of unabashed love for performing music, all brought to you by three women who at that time were still working as secretaries.

Slowly, the American underground caught on. When K Records honcho/Beat Happening founder/all-around Zeus to skinny, sensitive boys in the Pacific Northwest Calvin Johnson trekked to Japan in the early 80s, his musical curiosity led him to the Knife. Enchanted, he blessed Burning Farm with American release in 1985, thus showing these shores their first-ever glisten of SK. A coveted spot on the Sub Pop 100 compilation followed. Still, the girls remained ensconced in the land of the Big Red Dot on a White Flag like baby pandas at the zoo who just cannot bring themselves to appear before the clamoring crowd, choosing instead to huddle in the warm of Mama's protective bulk.

To promote Baka Guy, Shonen Knife released a videotape of crude videos for 8 of the albums 10 songs, mixed with live footage. When a copy found its way into the hands of Los Angeles bubble-punkers Redd Kross, Shonen Knife's previous proclivity towards provinciality was soon to meet its end.

The smitten McDonalds bros. shared both the video and audio Baka cassettes with their friends in the land of sun 'n' smog, spreading the Shonen sensation. Soon, an entire community of hipster-ass Cali-kids were in love. Having been so enamored of the Shaggs, they were thrilled to now have their own Shaggs.

The secret spilled over on August 2, 1989. Cajoled by their newest fans on the West Coast, Shonen Knife played their first-ever US gig at the 2nd Coming in Los Angeles. One grand worth of flesh packed the place, with Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth among the luminaries present to witness history. Those there would go on to describe a scene resembling a religious ceremony at its most fervent.

With that, part of the band died. Just being pleased as papaya to exist and create was no longer the soup of the day. Muddy production and sloppy musicianship (which enhanced the early materials stunning sense of melody and rhythm) was "rectified", gradually, and with the questionable advice of their new manager (who will go unnamed here because he was by many accounts a swindler and he's dead now anyway) Shonen Knife began singing songs exclusively in English. The production values became much crisper. Someone made Atsuko Yamano drum to a click-track in the studio. It all began sounding too clean. Goddamnit, what happened to the rusty Knife?

Not to say that SK from '92 onwards was scrubbed squeaky clean (shut up!) of all appeal. They are to this day releasing quality albums and putting on hellaciously fun live shows. A world with Shonen Knife active within it is far more preferable to a world without. It is rare to come across a band so lacking artifice and pretension about what it is they do. When Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo cites Shonen Knife as an influence on his own massively-impactful band, you can bet it is not so much for their music inasmuch as their love of and dedication to music.

Some describe Shonen Knife as adults playing their music with the mindset of children. This should never be used as an insult; if such a state were strived for by more modern acts, you may very well see a considerable improvement in the state of music. Ah well.

---------------------------------------------------

Who knew, back in 1982, that the band who made a cassette they barely wanted anyone to hear would live on 25 years later as a viable recording and performing group? Who could have imagined that said cassette would be frothed after by a rabid cult, who gnash their teeth over its scarceness and fret themselves hairless over the likelihood that, with each passing year, some fool with a treasure he doesn't even appreciate tosses it in the garbage or lets it depreciate via exposure to any one of several hundred possible dangerous elements? All that we have had is a tracklisting and cover picture provided by some asshole who wouldn't copy it. More recently, Knife fans were set buzzing over the appearance of the tape on auction site gemm.com--the buyer is asking $632.50 for it.

I myself, as a devoted fan of SK, searched the Internet desperately. Certainly someone has put this rarer-than-a-Washington-Nationals-win piece of history up for download. Somewhere. Please.

This week...I found it. Where? Uh uh. No dice. Where I got it is easily accessible if you know how to work that Google. And let me tell you, it was a pain in the ass to download these tracks. I am providing, in one handy zip file, the much-desired, classic-without-hearing-a-single-note, shoulda-been-left-for-dead, Minna Tanoshiku. If you are a Shonen Knife head, you know what this tape means. It is Ground Zero, the book of Genesis, and "Simpsons Roasting On an Open Fire" all in one. One of the most geniune, joyous, enduring bands started here. Enjoy it.

http://www.megaupload.com/?d=JX4NZFVH

May you indulge a fangirl her own review?

As you will tell if you are already a fan, the majority of these songs were re-recorded for the bands next albums. Here then, a compare/contrast. Jesus, this is just amazing to able to do this!

BANANA LEAF--Later redone for Yama No-Attchan, and a personal favorite, this right off clues you in that you are listening to a muddled recording with low production value. And it's still good. The familiar riff is done via guitar here, as opposed to the later keyboard action, and Michie's ballast bassline is absent.

PARROT POLYNESIA--Appearing on the Burning Farm cassette, and the Minna track most unchanged in its later incarnation. Sing the riff with me, kids..dun-dun, dun-dun...

CANNIBAL PAPAYA--Destined for redo on Yama, this is the single Minna song that I will say they should not have made so many changes to. The bone-dry drums and scorching guitars of the intro are beastly, as is the appearance of backing "ahhhs" during the chorus. Many fans of the Knife bristle at the Shaggs comparisons, and I am one of them. The Shaggs could barely play. The SK of '83-on were never that inept. Well, folks...here's Shonen Shaggs. Michie's basswork and vocal delivery would improve immeasurably on the later version, as would Atsuko's drumming.

SABOTEN--A cover of Delta 5's "You" with new lyrics. The girls have a hell of a time reinterpreting a punky fave. You! You! You will be singing along or found to have no soul.

BURNING FARM--How is this different from the later version? Does starting with two straight minutes of African chanting and drums count for much? Wow. Once the girls come in, you will notice the song is much more sinister than the 1983 version in both music and vocals.

PARALLEL WOMAN--That riff again! Goddamn, few bands just took a riff and worked it into as many holes as Shonen Knife were doing for the stuff that ended up on Burning Farm. Slower than the later rendition. Still very much about workplace suicide.

AN ANGEL IS COMING--Live version of a Yama favorite. Not great.

SPIDER--Consider it confirmed--this is the version that appears on Live in Japan.

I AM A REALIST--Amazing to hear a studio version of this Live in Japan track. Anyone who thinks SK were all sunshine lollipops and Ramones chords everywhere needs to be directed towards this stark, jagged track.

VOICE OF CRANE/TORTOISE BRAND THEME--"Crane" is an almost-pointless intro, but this original version of an absolute Knife classic is a grand example of how rough they really started out. Is that a mouth harp? And oh, Naoko's riffing...damn, she got a lot better.

PLANET X--Never again released. Kinda sounds like "Planet Claire" by the B-52s as it starts. And oh shit, that riff! Except it takes a downturn, thereby another twist on the old formula. I just love it, some bands would take that chord progression, fuck with it, and choose the best-sounding strike to record. Not Shonen Knife. They took that riff and made half a goddamn album with it. Play it fast, play it slow, play this for everyone you know!

SUMMERTIME BOOGIE--Wouldn't appear again until four years later. I swear to God Michie is about to laugh when she and Naoko do the brilliant dual-"Ahhhh!" in the middle. So great.

MIRACLES--The "Miracles" of Burning Farm is the best song ever recorded by an all-girl band. Ever ever ever. So as you can imagine this version was bound to fascinate me. And it does. The avian flu progression of notes is there, but played by a submerged single guitar string as opposed to the latter version's fuzz-o-rama; a drum machine is present throughout; and the vocals are treated to comic effect, like Naoko's down in the water with the guitar string. Yes, kids, it's the best song on the tape STILL.

Wow...I hope you enjoy this find. I'm still on the sugar rush myself!


Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Freedom to Blog

Frankly, what's transpiring over at Bent Corner is a farce. I expect Ignatius Reilly to come in with a parrot and a pair of pants slung over his ample shoulders at any minute, yelling aloud words from his giant notepad. Then Major Major will have him shuffled along while arguing semantics and how you have the right to say whatever you want, just so long as you don't say the wrong thing (whatever the hell that is).

It is utterly ludicrous that Bent Corner may be taken from the blogosphere; all that was said by this blogger was he thought that a certain comic book artist "ripped off" a fan by selling a small sketch of work for $150. A sentiment which was later discovered by the artist via our dear friend Mr. Google and not only responded to but agreed to also! Should have been end of story. That it seems to be in fact only the beginning is both mind-boggling and depressing to me.

Good luck, Rick. I hope common sense wins the day and you continue to blog on.

It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown




First aired on network television 3/16/76, Arbor Day is one of the least-recalled and least-rerun of the "classic" era Peanuts programs. This is due to a few things, none more obvious than the fact that this holiday the show celebrates is one in which no gifts are received, and no unhealthy vittles are devoured. One must simply love trees enough to take time out to cultivate and nurture one or a few. Did you know Arbor Day is celebrated the last Friday of April? Likely you did not. Arbor Day, then, is the Aquaman of holidays.

STORY: Sally is compelled to do a school report on Arbor Day, while the rest of the kids (and Snoopy) dedicate themselves to growing a garden within the confines of the baseball field imminently due to host a game between Peppermint Patty's squad and that of the oblivious Charlie Brown. 7.5

MUSIC: More Vince Guaraldi "music to clink wine glasses to", with the notable exceptions of the baseball action and end credits, sequences featuring uptempo, danceable jazz playing that 30 years on is still smooth as summer lemonade sipped sitting in the shade under the largest tree you can find. 8

(This was the final Peanuts special to feature the music of Vince Guaraldi. Hours after finishing up the soundtrack for Arbor Day on 2/6/76, he went to Butterfields in Menlo Park, CA to perform the first of two sets. Back in his hotel room after the initial performance, he died of a sudden heart attack. The death of Vince Guaraldi at age 47 affected things of greater significance than mere children's shows, but the Peanuts animated legacy lost an immeasurable key to its appeal when Mr. Guaraldi passed away. The sound of cool jazz in the background with neurotic children in the foreground was the rare stroke of genius so well-executed, so singular, that no attempts at borrowing it could ever be made.)

ANIMATION: Subdued; fine coloring on the garden, as well as great renderings of the flowers, bushes, plants and trees that obtrusively decorate the site of the zig-zag warriors Waterloo. 10



VOICES: Dylan Beach gets a 7 for his attempt at Charlie Bizz, and his consistently flat, perfectly-enunciated performance is only that high thanks to his being given the highlight line of the show, stated below in the "great things" section. Sister Sarah gets an 9.5 for Lucy...this is about as good a Lucy as you'll hear, covering the fine line between shrill, shrewd, and crabby with panache.

Gail M. Davis is Sally, the girl who thought Arbor Day was "when the ships come into the arbor" and thus must atone by presenting a detailed history of this overlooked holiday to the class. Occasionally screechy, but redeemed to a score of 9 by her delivery of the lines meant to get laughs.

Vincent Dow as Rerun (animated debut), Greg Felton as Schroeder, and Michelle Muller as Frieda get 6, 5, 6, respectively. Rerun on the back of his mothers bike was done much better almost 30 years later in I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown (and the kid doing his voice sounds like an ideal Sally), Frieda was limited, and no one in the history of ever has ever given Schroeder good voice. A suitably dull history for an overrated character, I say.

Liam Martin as Linus does not start out great; his are the first words spoken in the special ("Okay Mom, Rerun's on the bike!") and they are screeled out in a voice that makes me want to rub sandpaper all over my private area just to calm the general discomfort. 7.5 Finally, Peppermint Patty is voiced by a boy, Stuart Brotman. It is very hilarious to consider this young lad voicing the insecurities of a rugged, love-starved tomboy. ("You're holding my hand, Chuck! You sly dog!") For overall gender fuckery, a solid 9.5.



Overall, the show gets an 8. Novelty both helps and hurts; there's nothing to compare a special like this to, but the rewatch value is lower than many of the other Peanuts presentations.

I SAID HUG THE TREE, NOT DRILL A HOLE WAIST-LEVEL THROUGH IT--GREAT MOMENTS
9. Well, not great, exactly--when the ball is hit to Lucy and Frieda in the outfield, they ignore it and continue conversing. This is not odd, if you know your Peanuts. But why are their voices garbled? I have yet to find an official explanation. Possibly the Mendelsohn/Melendez/Schulz trio getting all avant on us.

8. After Sally's faux pas, a classic Peanuts gag: attack of the killer HA's.



7. From the "the hell with it, kids like Snoopy, we need more Snoopy, could you possibly fit Snoopy in somewhere anywhere, Snoopy Snoopy Snoopy!" pile--Linus and Sally are walking home from school. Behind them, the decidedly non-BOE-approved Snoopy and Woodstock.



6. Despite everything going wrong for him--the flora orgy that is his ball field, the tree on the mound, the fact a dog is his shortstop, his mighty pinstriped opponent--Charlie Brown manages to take his team to the brink of victory. Then it rains. Mightily. As animals go off two by two, Charlie Brown pleads for mercy. "We were Winning!" This matter of wins and losses bothers no one...only poor round-headed kid.

5. Linus and Sally study up in the library. It does not take long for Sally to get distracted and swoon over her reluctant tutor and chase him down the street ("We can sip a drink from the same cup! A loving cup!" Yet another mildly-funny line in writing made classically hilarious by a top-notch reading.)

4. Snoopy and Woodstock, conversely, find the library hilarious. Snoopy is so overwhelmed with glee by the absurdity of the advice contained within a book that purports to help owners control their dogs, he runs to make copies of the choicest pages. A loop of heart-tickling Snoop guffaws follows, ceasing only when the bungling beagle brings his best buddy a little too close to the action.

3. In the throes of her education, Sally has no time for those who lack basic Arbor Day knowledge. "Mister Morton was an early voice for conservation!" Add in a raised fist and this is golden overkill. If you knew anyone who talked like that in real life, you'd never speak to or of them again.

2. Lucy hits a homerun (check for 'roids, I say) and Schroeder has to eat crow. Then, he has to kiss the heroine as she crosses home plate. As the moment of truth nears, Lucy glares at the reluctant catcher and spats, "If that's what it takes for you to kiss me, forget it! Another victory for women's lib!" Lucy was a great feminist.

1. Charlie Brown can't wait to see what his team has done to make the ball field immaculate for play. Ah, the fresh grass; the even dirt of the mound and base paths; maybe even fences with a new coat of paint. What a shock it is for him, then, when he sets his beads upon all the plant life. Despite passing out when all the blood rushes to his bowling ball, he rises to gaze yet again at the vines and leaves sprouting all over the scene of his always-imagined, never-realized glory. He points and proclaims, "My pitchers mound! It's got a tree on it!"

Those lines are wickedly absurd, and thus funny as all git-the-hell-out. They are elevated into the realm of "rewind until the button gets stuck and you have to beat it against a couch arm to free it back out" by Dylan Beach's recitation. It's a voice that may as well be saying, "My testicles! They've got hair on them!" Oh Dylan, today you are a man. And oh man, thank Jebus that the Peanuts creative crew didn't get a boy who had any real personality to do the voice of Chuck in this special.

It is a mistake, then, to disregard this in the overall canon. It would also be erroneous to take a Master of Puppets-type view (if I may dare to liken a relatively innocent show for children with one of the classic heavy metal albums of all time). That particular axis-altering album was the last Metallica would release before the death of their linchpin bassist, stoner gas-station attendant impressionist Cliff Burton. To many, although certainly not all, the band would not only never reach such heights of metal thrashing mad again, they were a demonstrably less able and impressive band, as if Burton's demise also claimed the heart and hunger that drove 4 young California metalheads to be "greater than" in the first place. Everything after was "Metallica Jr."

Some have said that with Vince Guaraldi's death, so too went much of the charm of the animated specials. Guaraldi's music gave Peanuts an indelible stamp, an air of cool and style that no other kids show in history has matched to date. Yes, tis true, later specials were often musically unspectacular, and in the case of a few Judy Munsen-composed shows, downright hideously scored. But the core of Schulz/Melendez/Mendelsohn was too good, too dedicated, too in sync, too unable to stop. It would take a full 24 years for the trio to release their St. Anger.