Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Greatest Album Cover of All Time

So when I say that my personal choice for "greatest album cover" of all-time features a comical Satan, I won't be surprised or offended when you jump in with, "Ahh, yeah. 'Satan Is Real'. Lovin Brothers. Hilarious." That particular cover has reached iconic status even among folks who don't peruse web sites devoted to collecting and displaying wacked out cover art, like this one. Admittedly, it's great; two milquetoast thin men pictured in the midst of exaltation while behind them a ridiculously huge wooden Satan oversees flaming tires. But it's not sharp enough, the overall appearance far from crisp. This matters to me.


I have never heard the contents of this record. I rather shudder to contemplate what such an experience would do to my notoriously tender soul. Might send me inside any of the 391 churches I pass on my way to work, for one. Or, inside any of the 420 bars I pass on the same trek. (I do have an audio file on disc of Van Impe sermonizing on the sexual revolution, with hilarious results. When I dig it up, I will share. Let's just say, Jack Van Impe don't give a shit about your orgasms, bitches!)

What's to love?

The use of color is brutally effective: one half vertical red, the other vertical black. The lettering and--crucially!--the cross are white.

The head 'n' shoulders profile shot of our humbling host is intended to express that this man proselytizing within brooks no secular nonsense. Gaze upon the expansive forehead, the tight-lipped half-smile as he considers the very little odds that the minions of Lucifer stand against his formidable combined shields of unbreakable piety and a head of hair blessed with all the V05 God's willed allowed. Please note that said picture is framed by a white square. Holiest of holies, color I shall smite thee.

Now--if you can summon forth the necessary inner strength--let's check out the Satan side of the cover.

White letters spell out the seemingly-contradictory title, which seems to be blemished by a rather devilish acne breakout. Hey, I know facial bumps'n'craters aren't exactly sightly, but it's rather rude to equate them with the Habitation of Fallen Angels. Underneath the title are several other words equating with what Christians call Hell (Hades, Gehenna, Tartarus) and the beckoning words--IS IT THE GRAVE? The question mark may seem needlessly greater than the actual words, but these religious record makers are far from foolish; why would you want to listen to Jack Van Impe preach his glorious sermon if you didn't want answers? Christians are always thinking, even when it seems they are not! Which is so very often! But we must remember, thoughts that are not very logical are still thoughts. See, I'm trying to be tolerant and set the good example.

Standing in the middle of some isolated flames, right next to the title like it's his drinking buddy is Satan--a bad Don, indeed.

Except...he's not. Look how small he is. Certainly it is not feasible to expect that the artists would render the Dark Lord to scale, but there's a certain standard we have come to adhere to. The Satan depicted here looks like a goddamn Gummi candy. How am I supposed to pledge to further my soul against the Devil when said evil angel appears before me in such a way that I want to go to 7-11 and raid the entire sweets section? Also, the poor state of his teeth seems to suggest that Satan is English, and golly, that's just xenophobic and inaccurate. I've been to England twice, and let me assure you...Satan wouldn't fucking bother.

So far, an awesome blend. It just needs one more element, one more outrageously silly...YES!

Why is Gummi Satan holding a pitchfork that is easily twice as long as he is? How unwieldy is that? "Obey my word, or I will have to make a few clumsy attempts at stabbing you!" Seriously, I don't think Satan even holds it any way but vertically. By the time he was able to maneuver it into position to give you some extra holes, you could have him in a figure four leglock. (Satan must hate when deceased wrestlers end up in his fiery realm, what a blow to his self-esteem. Wouldn't surprise me if he made a deal with God to send Lou Thesz to Heaven after one double wrist lock too many.)

"But that's the brilliance of it, woman! God is trying to show how ludicrous Satan is, and summarily, how ludicrous any human would be to worship such a foolish-looking charlatan! You can either find out through the Word of God, or a comical depiction on a record of sermons. You wanna do it the easy way or the hard way?!"

There you have it. Frankly, the cover to Hell Without Hell never fails to bring a chuckle of wonderment to this agnostic gal. Its almost enough to make me rethink my opinion that the world would be improved by the instant obliteration of organized religion. That's a scary five seconds in my brain, lemme tell ya.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Steve Jobs Wants Me For a Sunbeam

The New York Times says "the album is dead."

Mind you, Vanity Fair proclaimed irony dead after 9/11 and that ended up becoming more prevalent and intolerable.

So listeners have become so blase about the oversaturation of available music that they will now give a similar lack of a shit about degraded audio becoming the de riguer form of enjoying songs? MP3's are so convenient...and as with so many things preferable due to their accessibility and expedience, they're half-assed at their best. Lossy audio formats are unacceptable in the live trading community, so why should they be fine and dandy for actual studio recordings?

It's a disgusting turn of events, and I'm not sure who to be more enraged at, the rich-beyond-sanity motherfucks who still crave more bucks and thus take turns inventing/exploiting every gadget-based trend or the schlubbos who have no respect for art and artists. I'll be damned if I let any of them tell me how to listen. I check MP3s of new albums and if I like the album, I delete the MP3's and buy the actual CD. It sounds better, and I love having shelves of plastic cases. I love the physical experience of taking one and opening it, placing the disc in the player, and even checking out the booklet. Now, if I come across an album I've downloaded that only has a few good songs, will I burn those tracks in lieu of wasting my money? Yes. That's what downloading is good for...previewing someone's work to see if it's worth my cash.

If this causes artists to freak and try to make every song a single so people will listen...bye bye good music.

Time to take it back underground. Fuck the Applefied nation. I'm not dissing technology; I'm on the Internet too much to do that with a cara polo visage. But I'm sick of i-this and i-that. "May as well embrace it", I hear, "it's going to be the norm." Yeah thanks, Steve Jobs. Stop trying to convince me that the way I listen to music is outdated or even wrong. Think about the effects of treating art as a Pop-Tart.

Don't let music be relegated to the background of your life. Don't let hard-working musicians feel hopeless and desperate. Don't settle for 128 kps. Don't cling to the iPod like a security blanket. Take the time to love music.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Kill Your Idols

HOLLYWOOD, Florida (CNN) -- Anna Nicole Smith does not appear to be a victim of foul play, according to preliminary results of an autopsy performed Friday.

Seminole Police Chief Charlie Tiger said prescription drugs were found in Smith's hotel room. However, Perper said no drugs were found in her stomach.

Smith died Thursday after her private nurse found her unresponsive in her room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

"There are a number of possibilities," Perper said, including natural causes, a drug reaction or some combination of causes.

Perper said there was no indication of blunt-force trauma, asphyxiation or other physical trauma.

He said Smith had a small bruise on her back, which probably resulted from a fall in the bathtub earlier in the week.

The medical examiner said his office is awaiting results of toxicological and other tests, but there were no drugs in Smith's stomach.

He said if she had taken a large number of pills, some of the medicine would have remained in the stomach.

Astonishing, no? Of course it's fucking not.

This recently departed "busty blonde" was obsessed with Marilyn Monroe. She aped her fashion sense, sought to act in a remake of Monroe's "Niagara", and even blessed one of her canine companions with the name of her hero. Some of those close to Anna Nicole have stated that she also yearned to leave the world like Marilyn--still young, still gorgeous.

The story persists and festers and expands grotesquely day after exasperating day. The gossip culture needs its own modern Marilyn. Craves it and will cultivate it by any means necessary.

Never mind the the former Norma Jean Baker actually made some memorable performances in some memorable films ("Some Like It Hot", "How To Marry a Millionaire") while Anna Nicole acted so poorly that a "Razzie" award would be an honor. Or that Marilyn Monroe was actually attractive and followed no one before her.

If the proper connections cannot be made in life, well then, look to death.

A large chunk of the Monroe mystique is the seedy mystery surrounding August 5, 1962, the open-ended questions, the whispers that echo greater than shouts even 45 years on. This recent development for the Smith tale no doubt diminishes the flame born of two million calloused hands rubbing together two million toothpicks. Sure, the industrious soul-suckers will twist words like Barbie doll heads and tell us "A means B" and "tiny bruise on the back" is actually "gaping icepick wound to the neck." Oh my God, will we ever know the truth?

Hell, even the soap operas surrounding each woman's demises are day and night. Read any number of reflections, histories, recollections, theories or "exposes" on Marilyn's passing--you will see, over and over, names like John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Sam Giancana. Now that's a President, a Senator well on his way to the highest office in the land if not for a bullet to the head of controversial close proximity, and a friggin' Mafia boss. Today's celeb-culture would literally maim for that A-list. I mean, you'd have to deal with the inevitable C-lister, in this case actor and Kennedy-in-law Peter Lawford, but that's no problem when the world can be so enthralled by the political and criminal intrigue of the stars!

Well, this Anna Nicole drama is full of nothing but Peter Lawfords. Howard K. Stern, lawyer? Congratulations on not being the most famous guy with that name. Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband? I must confess I did not know she was already on marriage 45, although I must marshal due respect for any woman who snags a man nearly 25 years her junior (even if he does bear a resemblance to the killer dwarf in "Don't Look Now.")

(If the idea of a cerebral horror movie with lietmotivs by the barrelful appeals to you, I would not hesitate to check out that movie.)

Then we have Larry Birkhead. I am tickled that he is described as a "entertainment photojournalist." Dude takes pictures. He is probably snapping some heart-rending shots of his own teary face as we speak. I swear all the best male photographers are gay, and yes that peeves me. I want Richard Avedon in on this scandal so bad....

Anna Nicole Smith's most spectacular legacy, then, is her demonstrable failure at imitating her idol in life or death. Acting in movies, fucking lots of schlubby dudes, courting the bipolar adoration/calumniation of the press and shuffling off this mortal coil in defiance of the established life span is not cutting das mustard.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Visual Is Powerful

Washington County Circuit Court judge ruled Friday that a man convicted of killing a Hagerstown police officer more than 30 years ago is entitled to a new trial.

Washington County Deputy State's Attorney Joseph S. Michael said his office and the Maryland Attorney General's Office will appeal the ruling in the Special Court of Appeals to retry Merle W. Unger Jr.

Unger, 57, is serving a sentence of life plus 40 years for murdering Officer Donald Kline during a gun battle on Dec. 13, 1975.

Kline was off duty and tried to arrest Unger after he robbed a Hagerstown business.

Unger will remain in prison while the appeal is processed.

"We are confident that Mr. Unger will serve the rest of his life in jail for killing Donald Kline. ... We believe Mr. Unger got a fair trial," Michael said during a Tuesday press conference where he was flanked by a handful of Hagerstown police officers.

Michael said the ruling of a higher court in a case similar to Unger's prompted Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley to order another trial.

The Washington County State's Attorney's Office is disappointed by the ruling, but understands that Beachley was bound by law to make his decision, Michael said.

Unger has escaped from custody at least eight times, Michael said. Authorities will take special precautions to ensure that doesn't happen again should another trial occur, he said.

If the case is tried again, Michael said Unger's confession to Kline's murder probably would be reintroduced.

"We expect all of that evidence to bear against him again. ... It is still possible there won't be another trial," Michael said.

The Maryland Attorney's General Office will argue the appeal, he said. The Washington County State's Attorney's Office would retry the case.

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said he regretted that Kline's family will have to "relive this again."

Seeing this in the "old-fashioned" version of The Herald Mail gave me a jerk of recognition.

The murder of Officer Donald Kline occurred two years prior to my birth, so this story didn't dredge up unpleasant memories of outrage and despair over the callous dispatch of an officer of the law. Nor did anyone in my family know Kline. However, within a few years after this tragedy, our clan would welcome two Hagerstown PD street cops into the circle. One married my oldest sister; he would eventually rise to the rank of Lieutenant and retire with honor. The other wed my second-oldest sister; in life and in vocation, he never rose beyond the status of bitter grunt. Their marriage lacked the durability of its counterpart, ending after eight years. Despite the passage of 13 years since this divorce, this walking talking bit of detritus has kept a steadily nagging (some may even say "stalker-ish") presence in my sisters life--bipolar correspondence left sticking from windshield wipers, vague phone calls regarding the couples trio of classically-alienated sons. Although he now resides in Clear Spring, it's plain to see that those years spent cruising and pounding the perpetually-cracked pavement of Hagerstown as one of its blue finest ingrained in him not only the cynicism, racism, sexism and xenophobia that become trademarks of so many in that line of work, but also the tendency to impose yourself in the life of an ex that so many males in the Hub City possess. (Yes, of course women do this almost as an art form, which is why the preponderence of men unable to move the hell on when a relationship has been ended is by turns puzzling, hilarious, and sad.) I speak more from the experience of friends than myself here; how many times have I had to hear the sad lament of the woman who has had to change her cell # over a rejected former love who calls six times daily just to ask:

1. "Um, what're ya up to?"
2. "So how long are you gonna keep this up till you come back? C'mon."
3. "If you're free, you wanna go to Ledos? I'll pay."

Fortunately, I have no horror stories along the line of, "My friend was butchered by her ex-boyfriend and half her body fed to his bull terrier." Although it is no exaggeration whatsoever to admit that I and other family members have fretted hours about the potential of our sister ending up as a victim. As long as he's alive, that will always remain in our minds.

Times were once better. The now-pariah once ingratiated himself into the hearts of his folks-in-law by arranging for our family reunions to be held at the FOP Lodge. For three straight years, all told. I was in my preteens when these functions occurred, still young enough to be wowed at the drive to, and size of, the actual lodge and surrounding land. The world seeming smaller as you get bigger (read: older) is a cliche, but only for being utterly true.

At this point I was just beginning to hit my peak in terms of antisocial behavior. As my sisters, in-laws, and brats spawned therefrom all mulled and milled around, as tables and chairs were being appropriately placed, as the TV blared some meaningful baseball game (the fact that asshole ex-brother-in-law is a Yankees fanatic is reason no. 876 to despise those pin-striped dickheads), I would be sitting at the far end of a black leather couch, speaking only when spoken to, my verbal economy borne of the discomfort and ennui that would soon intensify when I entered the sheer hellish miasma of high school.

Of all the police paraphernalia displayed within the wood-panelled lodge, nothing impacted my eyes and mind like the black-and-white framed headshots of slain local police, hung in memoriam. There were...four, five? No more than that, just enough to solemnly line one-half of the wall the TV was placed against. The only one I can recall is Donald Kline. Mind you, I never remembered his name; but when I read the front page article yesterday and saw the photo of the officer in was the very same picture as was hung at the FOP Lodge.

The face of Officer Donald Kline as captured in that photograph struck me superficially as belonging to a cop of two decades earlier. A Car 54, Where Are You?-type visage. The lack of color doubtless contributed to and encouraged this impression, but there was more. The fullness of the face, dark hair thinning and slicked-back, prominent ears which struck me most of all. He looked, even in spite of the presence of a discernible dimple, like an exacting type of cop. The type who breathed the badge, who lived for the unpredictability of the streets, the camaraderie of the job, the prestige of the position...the precise kind of cop who, off-duty, would make it his business to try and stop a robbery in progress.

For the time that has elapsed since those family reunions--about 17 years--I have seen, read and heard about many cop killings. As we all have. In almost every instance I have remembered the stern face of that cop whose name, until just recently, I had forgotten. Even when the deaths are fictional.

In my favorite novel of all time, 1974's The Choirboys(a fantastically riveting story of ten LAPD patrolmen written by former cop Joseph Wambaugh) the elder of the foot soldiers is shown shortly after roll call beseeching a lieutenant to hang the framed portrait of his former partner, a recent on-duty suicide, in the precinct along with the other men so honored for losing their lives while in service of the city of Los Angeles. The supervising officer refuses, reminding the infuriated beat cop that, unlike his beloved partner, those men were murdered in the midst of performing police duty. He is unmoved at the officer's insistence that a cop turning the gun on himself is doing so mainly due to the incredible stress brought on by the job, and can thus be said to have died as a result of his police duties as much as the cop who was blasted twice in the head point-blank while trying to break up a robbery.

The detail of the framed portrait took me right back to the one I had seen in the Lodge. I could never shake it. It wasn't that it made me uneasy, mind; just I firmly believe everyone of us has a story, and a damned interesting story at that, and the fact that this officer's tale ended so obviously abruptly fascinated me.
Remember the asshole I used to refer to as my brother-in-law? Well, he and my sister used to live directly next door to my parents when I still lived there, and the proximity cannot be understated. By this time, I was well into high school and the antisocial behavior alluded to earlier was now in bloom. During one particularly brilliant summer I grew fond of going up to the attic and crawling my chunkafied frame out through the window onto the roof. Right next to our window was one where I could peer into my sisters attic. It struck me to check if their window was in any way secured. It was not, and I giddily lifted it and plunged my big self forward.

Amid the piles of toy packaging and decimated Nerf basketball hoops I stumbled--quietly as possible--upon quite the treasure, what I came to recognize as "His Stash." Police procedural manuals, high school yearbooks, Yankees memorabilia, Joseph Wambaugh novels (already a devoted JoWa reader at this time, I was wowed to find these in his possession), and scrapbooks. How many scrapbooks I can't remember; not a hell of a lot. Most of them were filled with clippings from the local paper, detailing some particularly heinous criminal activity, or some outstanding cop heroics. One clipping combined both: the murder of Officer Donald Kline. I was immediately struck--I knew that face, goddamnit. My brother-in-law, I knew by then, was a rookie when the murder went down. I also understood, thanks to Wambaugh's novels, how all cops despaired when a fellow officer was slain.

The impulse to rip the clipping from the page on which it was stuck visited me and left almost in a single step. I placed the scrapbook back and left the attic with some of the police manuals instead.

Melvin Unger will most likely die in prison. Donald Kline will return to the recesses of my memory.

The visual is powerful.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Incomplete Opinion About De-Evolution

Maligned by many though he was (and may still be), hey--at least Ringo Starr could write some good songs as a solo artist. He truly wasn't some useless clueless stool-stump.

Queen are remembered as "Freddie Mercury and some other guys", but all four members have at least one number one song among their writing credits. Brian May penned "We Will Rock You", Roger Taylor wrote "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", John Deacon pounded out "Another One Bites the Dust", and that frontman of some charisma managed to give us "We Are the Champions."

The greatest band in music history, Sonic Youth, have gone through eight different members over fifteen official releases. None could fairly be deemed "without worth"--Richard Edson brought a funky style no other Yoof skinpounder has dared approach; Bob Bert brought the possibility of his name being "Robert Bert"; Jim Sclavunos has been outed by Lydia Lunch as a bisexual freak fond of anal insertion, in addition to manning the bulk of SY's first full-length; Steve Shelley's tight-as-a-young-boy-ass drumming took the band to uncharted structural terrain; Thurston Moore the lanky foxy guitar heathen with an eternally musical soul; Kim Gordon being the second most amazing woman to walk the earth's face (my mother being number one), a fiery artist with a genuine tendency towards subversion; Lee Ranaldo, space pirate Beat-brat; and latterly, Jim O'Rourke, jack of all trades and master of more than several, with the fashion sense and wanderlust befitting an eclectic genius.

I'm getting at something.

Great bands tend to lack dead weight. It's not a prerequisite, but it's real close. Les Georges Leningrad were an average quartet till they dropped the blonde chick, going instantly from whipped cream hurling Residents yentabes to Quebec's reigning maniacs, the anti-Arcade Fire. As just one example.

But tonight, watching the indispensable DVD collection of Devo's videography, The Complete Truth About Deevolution, I was reminded of why ifs and buts could give us all happy holidays. Because great bands--certifuckingfiably great--can and do have dead weight.

You know Devo, right? The "Whip It" guys? Those flower-pot wearing NEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRDDDSSSS!? Awesome racket-gang, I think. Their first three records are pyramid pattern classics. The fourth and fifth are very good and very underrated. As for the remainder of their output...nah. Not heading over there. Staying right here in this particular spot of the potato patch, thanks.

In addition to some formidable audio, Devo left a truly stunning legacy in the world of the music video. Fucking around with primitive (groundbreaking at the time) technology, vocalist/bassist Gerald Casale masterminded their mini-films and thus assured Akron, Ohio's finest would be a visual reality as well as a musical one.

Watching these historical clips, a few facts become apparent:
1. Potatos rock. Without them, no french fries.
2. Cross-eyed Asian women would make lousy hitpeople.
3. At the moment of your death, you will taste chocolate donut.
4. "Disco Dancer" really sucks.
5. You wanna know...keep on reading.

Tonight I had an epiphany. The circumstances were near-perfect: last day of work for the week and my boyfriend Patrick and I had just wrapped up a couple hours QT. Mind clouded by the effects of multiple orgasms, I put in the Devo DVD right after putting on some clothes.

"Bob Casale was a useless piece of shit." The brother of Gerald, synthist/guitarist. Honestly I had never given the matter much thought before, and some may argue I'm not really giving it a hell of a lot of thought right now, but it was then I realized: THAT motherfucker, out of all five motherfuckers in the band, was a big ol' do-shit lump. His brother was a genius; Mark Mothersbaugh, the walking talking personification of the entire Devo concept; Bob Mothersbaugh brought great skill and showmanship to his role as guitarist/occasional backing vocalist; Alan Meyers actually looked "devo", like the first time he saw Revenge of the Nerds he cried over the bond he felt with the Anthony Edwards character. But Bob Casale, the fuck?

Patrick is a frequent devil's advocate. "Maybe Bob did a lot in the studio."

I am a frequent persistent bitch. "Okay. or, maybe, as some close to Devo have claimed, Jerry Casale is a self-absorbed paranoid prick who felt so intimidated by the Mothersbaughs he brought in his own sibling to even things up. Like, watch these videos. In 'Whip It', he does shit."

"Well then let's do it. Let's see." Yes, fucking let us. Sans "Jocko Homo" and "Secret Agent Man", both of which are Bob2-free.


Hardly Exhibit A, or even Q. Everyone's just saluting the fan blowing their magnificent Devo hair. Bit of a chronology fuck, as this is off their second album, Duty Now For the Future


Just a cover, your ass. This is reinvention. Jerry provides a jittery thunder while Mark goggles his way through legendarily lustful lyrics in the classic vocal delivery of a singer who cannot in fact sing. Bob2, aka Casale, is not everyone who can be the tallest person in a group and still just manage to blend in. At least Bob1 had the toaster guitar, in case he wanted some Pop Tarts. Bob2 was probably the goddamn Pop Tart gofer for the shoot.

Speaking of toasters, because aren't we as concerned citizens always...I saw this video as a very young gal (the days of MTV not swallowing the entire cock) and was instantly, totally compelled to ape the monkey boys. I stuck the nearest fork in the nearest toaster; but instead of being electrocuted, I was visited by homicidal Care Bears giving Strawberry Shortcake what she had coming to her. WITH TWO BY FOURS. Seriously fucked up my shit. Upon reflection, I wonder if Bob2 has ever had a moment that interesting in his life ever.


All the party people in the place too busy to be, do you love drunk bowling just like me? Hey Bob2...your backing vocals are dull. And where's your enthusiasm? Everyone's all hyped up except you! "Uh, whoa, don't throw that sign over here pal!"


The first scene of this video is the greatest shot in the warped history of the now-defunct artform.

The band are synching in front of a blue screen, Casales manning keybs with varying results. Gerald is a Mexican jumping bean while Bob is...standing there. Like wow, your focus astonishes me. When the scene shifts to a lab, we see the band administering tests on a young girl; Bob1's, it turns out. Bob2 couldn't even have his OWN kid to use! Loser.

The topper is when the members not named Mark are shown scrolling across a Najavo-blanketed screen: Bob1 rocks out like a mildly-toasted surfer; Gerald bops; Alan the metronome; and Bob2...well, Bob2 is either doing some wacky improvised lower body dance or there's squirrels fighting in his pants.


Part of Neil Young's flick, "Human Highway." My orbs have yet to absorb said movie, and likely never will. I think it can be safely said that Devo's section is the highlight, lambpit.

Devo play nuclear waste transporters who sho 'nuff get the glow. They get to do some acting before bursting into cover song, loading up the truck, and destroying yet another precious patch of the planet. It is decided that Mark gets the Oscar (he already has an Emmy). Patrick deems Gerald the least-convincing ("We're not gonna get ANY breakfast") but I of course make the case for mumbly-ass Bobbo2. Not gonna get any breakfast? Your brother's obviously eating the mashed po-fuckin'-tatos already!


By their third LP, Freedom of Choice, Devo's music took a poppier turn and their image would enter its most cited phase: energy domes, kid. Which I am still convinced they ripped off from the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine (a classic which predates this song by 15 years, so UH!).

Now, instead of the spuds being the sole freaks on display, we have a pudgy Hispanic woman in charge of dispensing vittles, cowboys and cowgirls guzzling cheap beer and hooting cheaper innuendo, the Asian woman who's totally seein' double here! and oh yeah, the woman who lets Mark "whip" off her attire.

"And Lily Tomlin got offended by this!" Patrick remarked with a cute smirk.

She did. Devo were all set to perform on the comedienne's talk show when she got wind of this video, deemed it horribly sexist and put the kibosh on the whole shebang. Makes me want to break a rocking chair.

Anyway, Mark and Jerry are center stage trading off vocals, but only Mark is where the action is, so to speak. The other guys are corralled off in a pen, playing away. Alan is the first one we actually see, half his face covered up as he shows off his very-underappreciated skill. Bob1 provides sly, so-key guitwork while Jerry lays down a bed of hot synth punctuated with nasty whipcrack effects. Bob2 plays three notes on the keyb strapped around his neck. Repeatedly. Repetiveness is his job! It's his job to be repetitive! His job!

When the "now whip it!" part kicks in, he is the one responsible for that horror flick-style bed of synth which Patrick claims "makes the song". But did he write it? ANY of it? EVER? Mark and Jerry handled the bulk of the songcrafting, and Bob1 has the awesome distinction of co-writing "Blockhead", but the second Bob?

"Patrick, wait. That's not even the highlight of the song for him."

That would be the closest thing "Whip It" gets to a solo, a single whiny synth note played at the end of each bar.

"Look at that fuckin' determination!" I am by now on the floor as I spit this out, next to the screen, eyes like Stanley Roper, hands gesticulating wildly. "That guy is so fuckin' Devo!" The money shot is Bob2 hitting his note and jutting his chest defiantly forward, as if to say, "Even if I do not write, I play, and I play with the bearing and potency of a Roman god! You would never be so bold as to whip off my apparel."


Should have been Devo's biggest hit, but then I remember the world makes no sense. The spuds are doing it discolored for an audience of screaming gals so homely I actually look fuckable compared to several.

Mark's dancing in this clip inspires Patrick to accuse Erase Errata vocalist Jenny Hoysten of outright fruggin' thievery. Gerald tries his hardest to make the Keytar look cool, but in this matter I have to concur with Dave Mustaine--Lars Ulrich sucks. I mean, the Keytar is a futile attempt by keyboard players to appear as cool as guitarists. Bob1 is winning the game of life with his "potato" guitar slinking out the radio-ready riff that had O-hi-O diehards squealing "sellout!" Even Papa M. (no, not the band) is given lens love, as General Boy is spotted backstage manning the controls of Devo's stage dancers with a glee befitting Mr. Burns about to shut down an orphanage.

Bob2 is once more an impotent penis. Just kinda there. I shit you never, Timbaland put more effort into manipulating this song for Tweet's masturbation smash "Oops! (Oh My)" than Bob2 did this whole shoot. That footage of the fat kid on some antiquated exercise equipment? Eerie foreshadowing.

(Also...homely or not, guaranteed Jerry Casale smashed half those girls, easy.)


How 80s can you get? LA Rams headphones, for God's sake.

The first time I watched this DVD and saw this video, I nearly flipped. The scene with the chocolate donuts...I distinctly remember seeing that on MTV as a young girl. In between Huey Lewis and Rod Stewart, no doubt. Patrick was hyena over my bug-eyed reaction.

The choreography is crackin'; check the skateboarders moving perfectly to the music in the beginning.

Bob2 gets to hold onto Mark's leash (he's the dog who licked two bones). It's cute how you can see him jiggle the leash in a sweat-desperate attempt to look like he's doing something. No one loves drummers, but at the end, when the skaterats get Pygmalioned by the Great God Gap, who is invited to join their shadow-altering ranks but Alan Meyers!


Bob1 cowrote this, so score one for cocaine. The band themselves play a minor role; mainly we see actors of questionable dancing ability zapping the Hinky Dink Crew. Although, Devo did give them their spudguns. Not so minor, then.


Funny; when my dad hit my mom, her head never popped off.

Patrick was bemused by this vid for different reasons. "I don't know how you can do. I really am having a hard time telling the Bobs apart."

"Well, okay. For one, Bob Casale is taller. And..."


"Bob Casale is also the one who's completely fuckin' useless."

"You are relentless."

"Thank you."


Gerald Casale's crowning achievement as a video director...and he sticks his baby brother at the end, damn near! HAHA! Tremendous song, too; I have a soft spot for those songs where Jerry sings like he's posing for a sculpture.


Toffy! The first of the trio of vids from their last great album, all shot on the same stage. More boring Bobness abounds. You bore me, boy! No excuse whatsoever when the song itself is so damn upbeat.

"I love those shots, when they show Mark and Jerry straight on, and Jerry's over his shoulder", Patrick comments. That is coolness quite, but the peach pie prize goes to Bob1. He has a limited part in the song, so when he's not playing, he just stands perfectly still, fists balled on hips and a face frozen in a stare of comical stoicism. When he does play, the facial expressions kill--almost as if the act of picking the strings is excruciatingly painful after all that time spent statue.

Fun fact: Jerry sings on this song. Mark lipsynchs in the video. On the DVD commentary, neither of them comments on this.


That insane laughing, good God. If you ever play this game with your baby and they laugh like that, burn them. Without delay.


I cannot utter a fib--this has got to be the shining moment of Bob2's life. Oh, I know he has kids, but could children even BEGIN to live up to the glory of THIS? An average song is saved, fucking REDEEMED from the 80s new wave trashbin, by Bob2 swinging his body (and, by extension, keytar) in precise time with the handclaps that punctuate this ditty. Patrick and I were ready to fuck all over again upon witnessing this shocking brilliance. Snoopy hats off to you, Robert! Gerald was so proud, I bet. Aww, hugs in the editing room.


Song sucks. Video sucks. Yay cocaine, huh? No, wait--yay yayo. Rush rush. Hey, who would win in a kickboxing match between Debbie Harry and Paula Abdul? Seriously. Whatever time you waste pondering that is still better than watching this ish.


Devo don those "Smooth Noodle Maps" suits, the ones colored like the phones in Duran Duran's "Rio" video. Wow, now there's a videography I need in my collection.

One of the few listenable later Devo tracks. "I'd cry if you died--were I not a post-post modern man!" The open road is duly traversed by our boys after they all rode the train on some Playboy bunny chick, the idyllic adventure shattered by Mexican carjackers. Sucks to be Devo! Bob1 steals the show as per usual by being asleep when the enchilada snackers snatch him from the backseat. Bob2 is shown with the face Patrick gets on those rare occasions I let my teeth slip.


GVC did not direct this QVC-inspired song-ad, and thus the band did not care much for it. Bob2 is bland as ever, but sadly the video as a whole is pretty dull. It's not bad, just not distinguished. I still feel Bob2 coulda saved the day ala "That's Good" by leaping to the forefront and showing the shrinking segment of the garden that still gave a flying spud that golly gosh galoshes, Jerry's little bro DOES have personality, presence, talent, charisma, and all the other characteristics he has failed to show in damn near any other video! Clearly, "That's Good" was a fluke.

The concept is Devo for the conspicuous consumer, ie, Kevlar suits, Snoopy hats, NuTra pomps, flying younguns. But for the maximum fun you can bleed from this succession of images, pop the disc into your computer, and set it up so you can play the scenes where scantily-clad hotties parade around in front of the seated spuds on a loop. Now fire up the hip hop classic "Superhoe" by BDP. Concentrate your gaze on Jerry. SHIT! (If the East Coast is not your syrup, feel free to substitue with Ice-T's "Girls Let's Get Butt Naked and Fuck" for the West flava, or rep the Dirty South with the unimpeachable 2 Live Crew legend, "Me So Horny." It's all Jerry!)

Be sure to cast a glance at Bob2 during this flesh fest; he's just checking those chicks like they're pieces of gallery artwork to be politely appraised. Pussywhip it good!


Not on the actual DVD, 'cause the estate of Jimi Hendrix wasn't having it. Thus, we hunted it down on the Internets. One of 3 listenable songs on "Shout" (guess the other 2 and win cookies), this shows Devo as Grimaces with bowl wigs. Well running dry?


Not on the DVD, 'cause the estate of Dan Akroyd...oh wait, he's not dead. Well, he should be. What an unfunny Canucker he is. Take him out of "Blues Brothers" and substitute him with a wooden martial arts practice dummy named Tetsujin and no one would have noticed.

I have meaningful beef with this cop sucker. As a young lass, I was snug comfy in bed when I happened to stop the TV on one of his Julia Child parody skits he did on SNL. As "she" cuts up a turkey, the knife slips and "blood" spurts prodigiously into the air, onto the counter, the turkey...that shit some people think is comedy singlehandedly ruined something inside me. I feel immediately nauseous and faint when I now see ANY blood--real, fake, in person, on a person, on screen, in tubes. Thanks, asshole.

Nothing makes sense about the movie (professor turned pimp, yes I'll have another) and the video follows suit. Mark is running in place, in what I suppose to be a futile attempt to escape his hairstyle. Ooh, look, Bob2 is fiddlin' with equipment. 'Cause that is what useless loser assholes DO. They man the control panel. (Check "Beautiful World")

Bob1 and Alan are dressed up as cowboys, for which I must again say...bless you, cocaine. Exalted drug of kings!

Dick is all over this clip. Dan Akroyd IS a dick; a rising pink balloon gets pin-popped by a stern-looking Asian woman; Jerry sings his part holding a dildo; and Bob2 gets the meter rising (woo woo) with some broad who's come to help him man the panel. YEAH, BABY, I'D LIKE TO MAN YOUR PANEL! Entirely plausible. Jerry probably fucked that same girl immediately BEFORE AND AFTER that scene was shot. "Here's a ball, Bob2. Perhaps you'd like to bounce it."

So. What have we learned, Charlie Brown?
1. Sonic Youth, Snoop Dogg, Yoshimi, and the Grateful Dead have all given "Peanuts" propers. So why don't Devo acknowledge their obvious debt. Duty now for the dog!
2. Breathing detritus being in your racket-gang DOES NOT automatically impede your overall Awesome. In the case of D-E-V-O, 3 geniuses and a guy what kept beat real good cancelled out that other douche.
3. To have inspired all this, Sir Bobert of casale must have quite a bit going for him. So here's to him! You magnificent bus stop.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

So I Says About Sonic Youth, I Says....

so i says about sonic youth, i says...

the above is a neato greedo Sonic Youth article, which i feel compelled to comment on, as i am now in the manic phase of my recent attack.

it is a good article, interesting above all else, and almost makes me not want to call out the author on sheer douchebagery for neglecting the pre-shelley work.

my thoughts, as i read...

"sister" is not perfection, as it contains "tuff gnarl", which while having sharp lyrics is the one time where thurston's proclivity to sing the guitar line is cringeworthy. there isn't enough else happening to distract from it.

"daydream nation" is "overrated", ahhahahahahahah, oh what nonsensical backlash hath thou wrought, library of congress?!

"goo" is in fact tremendous, and i was warmed when the reissues brought a spate of interviews wherein the band admitted to having taken a new shine to the previously disregarded material. "dirty" is still to my mind a wonderful album of the time, but i do not think as highly of it now as i did upon initial purchase as a 15 year old. "wish fulfillment" is so overdone.

:"jet set" may as well have had nothing by thurston, as he was apparently too preoccupied with "psychic hearts" and impregnating his wife to put much effort into his tracks. speaking of fucking rules this album, which makes a recent "uncut" article wherein she deems this wreckhard her least favorite of the band's output absolutely befuddling.

"washing machine" is great, but overrated (ooh, two lee songs! a song that's almost 20 minutes!).

"a thousand leaves" is stunning, indeed. my god, stop sleeping on this brilliant womb and let yourself sleep in it. (oh, and in the same aforementioned "uncut" piece, thurston called this his least favorite SY release. WOW.)

as far as "nyc", hey...

small flowers crack concrete/the ringtone boss mic contact soda pop redirection/bleed orange onto paper mache/hat trick marijuana".

i am a huge o'rourke fan, and loved his contributions, particularly live (listen to what he did during "eric's trip", and that bassline for "plastic sun", holy shit)..."sonic nurse" is still better than "murray street", and "rather ripped" is flat-out great.

have to love an SY mix that contains the word "haiku".

BECUZ--amazing opener...first time i ever heard this was on the very day it was released and my best friend took it and a cd player to a pavillion to eat BK and listen.

INCINERATE--but are the guitars as hard-panned as "hudson hawk"? i mean, really. great pop song with the lyrics only a heartbroken stoner poet can pen.

SHADOW OF A DOUBT--chilling as this night is, and the video is hard to separate from subsequent listenings.

'CROSS THE BREEZE--disposable heroes, kid. kim g IS master of puppets.

STEREO SANCTITY--stop giving thurston credit for "i can't get laid cuz everyone is dead" and read a book, assholes. i'm not talking about the author of the piece, as he makes no such error, i mean YOUR dumb ass.

UNMADE BED--steve shelley is the best drummer right now. my sister who knew nothing about SY before i played "rather ripped" for her two weeks ago (and the title of which would prove an unfortunate description of where our relationship would end up) even made the comment that "the drummer is really good, he holds them together." yeah, now tell your klepto meth-head son to get away from my purse.

RAIN ON TIN--duh...the truly sucky thing about death for me is that when it finally greets me, i won't be able to hear this song anymore.

MOTE--"yah, give lee more songs!" yeah, because you sooo wouldn't take it for granted if they did. think, mcfly.

THE SPRAWL--whatever kim is sellin', you want 3 of it.

HOARFROST--snow is my favorite form of precipitation, and this song evokes it perfectly.


"Goo is the Sonic Youth album with the heaviest Los Angeles vibe"

er? nah, that's "dirty." quite clearly so. this is actually emitting the vibe of "oh my fucking christ stop being so amazing".

WISH FULFILLMENT--i'll take "genetic" over this. you know what? i'll take "hendrix necro" over this (stop ignoring that song, i blasted that in my headphones last week and was dancing while in a sitting position on the bed). i have a lee live rendition from 1996 that is breathtaking. the lyrics deserve the sparse approach, not the glossy sheen that served the other songs on the album well.

BEAUTY LIES IN THE EYE--i guess there are people who don't like this track. i call those people, "radiohead fans."

UNWIND--lovely thurston/lee duet. did not work out so well live.

KAREN REVISITED--or "karenology", or "madonna sean and karen" or whatever the shit. IT IS NOT ABOUT KAREN CARPENTER! this is not a return to "tunic", it's a reference to "karen koltrane". this is not excusable. lee was never "tethered" to karen carpenter. (that would have literally been as useful as being tethered to a feather).

CHAPEL HILL--a great of their best choruses.

WILDFLOWER SOUL--aww, did tbone write another lullaby for coco? yeah, he did, and it beats piss out of "mockingbird", so you know.

And That's What Playing Fourth Fiddle Is All About, Charlie Brown

Since 1982, when I was a shy, chubby little girl left largely to her own devices by parents too worn out by six older children to give much the shit about what I did, I found comfort and entertainment in the comics and cartoons of the "Peanuts" franchise. The newspaper and the library provided panel after panel of the black-and-white (color on Sundays) brilliance that appealed to so-called "gifted" kids like myself and wry adults, while the tv screen flashed forth more easily digestible renditions of this motley crew and their neurotic swagger. Even the mind of an "advanced" child is still a child's mind, though, and it would take until years later when I reappraised the legacy of a barber's son from Minnesota with an adult brain that I could start to appreciate a universe where losing without respite is the rule. In "Peanuts", no one could die; they must keep failing. Imagine Sisyphus trudging up the hill mightily, with a round head and zig-zag shirt, Zeus bellowing "Blockhead!" every half an eternity or so. Tis the world that Charles Schulz created and developed for 50 years. Think of that...not 49, not 51. 50 years. Perfectly round.

Here now, the 18 major characters throughout the strip's run, ranked by my personal preference (18 being the least impressive, 1 being of course the most beloved).


An OG character who lost her place as Schulz decided that she was not worthy of further development, and thus transferred her more outstanding traits into Lucy (where do you think Miss Fussbudget got the moxie to coldcock ol' Chuck in the first place?) Her plaid attire (with matching bow, even) was a nice touch, but the nether regions of listdom is the place for this lil folk, gone for good by 1976.


Original bud-o'-Chuck with a clockwork haircut. Very little actual personality, but forever entrenched in history via his outstanding dancing in "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (do the Frankenstein!) and the fact that the very first strip consists of words spoken by Shermy and
Shermy alone. Phased out alongside Patty.


Arrived in 1961 with naturally curly red hair and a seemingly-boneless cat named Faron. While she never really blossomed, she did stand out as an antagonist to Snoopy, berating him for not fulfilling his canine duty by chasing rabbits.


If "Peanuts" is the granddaddy of shows that feature preternatural younguns, such as "South Park", then Franklin is the old crotchety bastard that Token has to tolerate endless "back in my day" stories from. Wearer of amazing pants and the least neurotic of the entire clique, perhaps due to having to put up with much larger issues such as racism.


The template for Lucy in attitude and hell, even appearance; loosen the ponytail and she's everybody's favorite crabby ho. Eventually, student surpassed teacher and Violet found herself relegated to parroting lines that years ago would have been hers alone ("Yeah, hello stupid!") and was eventually sent to the same purgatory that Schulz created for Patty and Frieda when the challenge of making them intriguing got to be too daunting. Except...Violet had far more personality than Patty or Frieda, and could be found in such strip runs as comparing her father favorably to Charlie Brown's, or in great individual moments such as punching Charlie Brown out of frustration when he began explaining how you solve your problems without resorting to physical violence. Schulz would frequently berate his strip choices, ie, lamenting Pigpen's one-dimensional character becoming so popular. One of Schulz's undeniable errors, although one I never saw or heard the man himself give voice to, was the gradual phasing out of Violet. She and Lucy could have co-existed, and to the benefit of the latter, at that.


One-note piano wunderkind...okay, not literally. He sure could whip up a wicked "Jingle Bells". But was Schroeder his first name, or last name? Unrequited love, such as that Lucy felt for this oblivious ivories tickler, is almost always intriguing (even if only as a penetrating gaze into the heart and soul of the poor asshole on the yearning end), but this particular hopeless fondness grew positively inexplicable as Charles Schulz steadfastly refused to make Schroeder much more than an isolated prodigy obsessed with an ethereal mentor. Schroeder and Beethoven, there's your fuckin' unrequited love.


So as the festival ended the 60s, the bird began the 70s. Yellow and mischievous, like the contents of the port-a-johns that met unfortunate ends at the Woodstock of the 90s, and certainly cuter. But having to have much of your humor come from another character (in this case, Snoopy) as he paraphrases your indecipherable straight-line gabble means you are overly dependent and thus can't rank too high in the JenntheBenn stakes. He gets this high, however, due to the fact that in the realm of overly dependent relationships, Snoopy & Woodstock is legendary. Inseparable, adorable, caring and unlikely...hey, just like me and my boyfriend!


Is he really brother to the world's most beloved beagle? Or is in fact this bedraggled, emaciated, desert-dwelling pooch really just another figment of the Mitty Puppy's wild imagination? This theory has been bandied about by a few of the strip's fans, most recently Whoopi Goldberg in the introduction to the Complete Peanuts 1959-1960. While Snoopy has had some of his craziest reveries aided and abetted by some of the neighborhood kids (think Marcie tending to the Flying Ace in her kitchen, I mean, French cafe), Spike has simply interacted with too many of them convincingly for the speculation to hold up. From Rerun's brief adoption of Spike as his own dog, Violet's outright rejection of the "part beagle, part disaster", to Lucy's taking to him as a project to indulge her inner nutritionist ("I'm nursing him back to health, stupid!"), this ragged vagabond is plenty real in the "Peanuts" sphere.


Popping up in the 70s, the littlest Van Pelt was mildly confusing--why, he's like a mini-Linus! As the script approached its demise, this increasingly-popular character was getting to be too much like Linus in a very unfortunate way: Charles Schulz was getting older and older, and while his mind remained sharp in his vision for the strip, his drawing hand wavered, and Rerun would oftentimes resemble his big brother a little too much. The fans who stuck it out were treated to a sweet, fun-loving kid with the requisite curiousity and knack for the wry observation, one who was able to carry a later period animated special, "I Want a Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown" (with the invaluable assist of an outstanding child voice actor and lines like, "Oooh! Supreme Court stuff!")

Personally, though, I will never forget my first exposure to Rerun through strip collections featuring him as the newest, smallest member of Charlie Brown's absurdly doomed baseball squad. Too small to pitch to, he walks in the winning run--"What's all the commotion about? We must be winning the Stanley Cup!" It is later revealed that the win must be forfeited; Rerun bet on the outcome with Snoopy.


Above all, this young man is awesomely filthy. He was not always so; but then, he was. It became a source of pride; his dirt is the dirt of life. To gaze upon his perpetually soiled skin, to pass through his formidable dust clouds, is indeed to be part of the inexorable chain of history. Additionally, he gets a pass from hippies for providing late Grateful Dead keybman Ron McKernan with his sobriquet. Most personally, my eyeglasses have been christened "Pigpen" due to their annoying propensity towards uncleanliness.


When you think of a dog from Minnesota, this is it. Fat Snoopy, and thus funny as all fat creatures are. If Larry and his bros. Darryl had a dog, it would be Olaf. The outstanding moment in Olaf history came upon winning an "Ugly Dog" contest Lucy entered him in, when the roly-poly beagle dealt with the humiliation by doing a header off Snoopy's doghouse, much to the owner's fright. Olaf explained that he always does that when he's depressed.


Booksmart, with little common sense. Much like this humble writer. Where I once burned water trying to make spaghetti, Marcie tried to waffle eggs. We both know the joy and pain of wearing glasses. We have both been accused of being lesbians. Only one us, however, had a "sir" to alternately idolize and condescend. The appearance of having no eyes to correct in the first place gives Marcie a stunning visual edge over other characters, and it is to her credit (and by extension, that of the artist, Mr. Schulz) that her smile is among the most warming things to be seen in a "Peanuts" strip.

And don't forget one of the great lines in the strip's history: "You are inordinately weird, sir." Used by me to this day.


Arriving 2 years in, she never looked back. Would be even higher if not for the undeniable shrillness of her person. Matt Groening once proclaimed this maddeningly complicated bull-terrier-in-a-dress his favorite "Peanuts" character, and she's impossible to dislike, if only off the fact that a preteen girl has been rendered so meticulously human. Yearning for love? Yep. Looking for a fast nickel? The Doctor is REAL IN. Brutal to both boys and her own girl friends? Believe that. The stomping, stewing contradiction that was, is, and ever will be Lucy Van Pelt cannot be ignored. A great negative is her lack of doppelganger, effective upon the unceremonious dumping of her friend Violet from the strip. While it helps Lucy stand out as her own entity, it would have been nice to have her face some competition.


Yeah, Sally has an unrequited love...they all fucking do! But her brother calls his oblivious amor "Little Red-Haired Girl", which is like calling an orgasm "Considerable Myotonic Reaction". Meanwhile, lil sis is on the hunt for her "Sweet Babboo", which is like baboon, or boob, and thus endlessly giggle-worthy.

Whereas Lucy has the hard-edged face and dark hair, Sally has a much rounder face and buoyantly blonde locks reflecting her younger age and wide-eyed naivete, the latter brought to wonderful life through her proclivity towards the murdering of the language. Sally has written earnest correspondence to "Mary Christmas" and "Samantha claus" and once told her class about "a very arrogant cowboy. He would only ride on pompous grass." To say she does not care about kings would be accurate indeed.

Most importantly, her heartwrenching emotions for Linus illustrate the antipodean appeal points of the "Peanuts" world: there is her gaping, naked-to-the-world affection greeted by his utter disgust. At no point do the kids "learn" to hold back, or "wake up" to the reality of the situation. In the face of hopelessness, at the feet of impossibility/implausibility, everybody remains steadfast. Admirable or asinine? For the answer, look to the next gang member on my list.


The focus, the center, the beleagured axis of this macrocosm. No kid could ever look like him or dress like him, but they could sure as hell love and lose and mope like him. What shines about Chuck Biz in a world of innocence lost quicker and quicker is that in 50 years, he never gave up the quest. And it never really paid off. Sure, he hit a homerun to win a game once. But did he win the love of his young life, the "Little Red-Haired Girl"? Negative. Would he ever? Of course not. This failure about all others defined him and colored those brief moments of triumph; Charlie Brown was never thoughtless, in either sense of the term, even if the world around him seemed to be. Perspective was never this kids problem. He knew who he was, where he was, but he also grasped the importance of persistence and belief. How many of us would just choose a different path? Not Charlie Brown.


You can just see Linus growing up to break hearts and being utterly torn up about it. If Linus has an animated decendent, it is Lisa Simpson. Two young children wise beyond their ken, sensitive souls seeking and searching, who remain tethered to the talismans of tykes: Lisa with her Malibu Stacy dolls and Linus with his dictionary-fattening "security blanket". The emotional turmoil of wanting to be older but needing to stay younger rages poignantly in both Linus and Lisa. So as Lisa is my favorite "Simpsons" character, Linus receives high marks here for providing Charlie Brown's reliable heart with a weary soul.

He is also the faithful preacher for "The Great Pumpkin", a Santa stand-in who provides Linus with the same crutch as all the other kids, but at his desire. The jolly fat man is someone the parents claim exists; Linus is telling everyone else about this magnificent fruit of benevolence. For stealing the fucking show out from under the round-headed kid in 2 of the first 3 animated specials, Linus Van Pelt gets a well-deserved bronze medal.


I can never tell how popular PP is among fans, as she is not exactly love/hate; late additions don't generally inspire that level of feeling. Her cultural reimagining as an example of a cartoon lesbian is well-trod material, and hardly one of the reasons I put her in the runner-up slot. She mixes the bungling of Sally with the yearning of Charlie Brown and even adds in the athletic prowess ol' Blockhead wishes he had. To see a tomboy in a book or on the tv screen meant I saw me. I had no freckles, no neatly matched attire, no sandals, no father to call me "a rare gem", but Patty's passion for sports and upfront manner ("I'm a real swinger") were instantly relatable. As voiced on the specials (often by boys), her raspy, deeper-than-normal voice meant that now I heard a girl who had a "weird" way of talking, just like me.

She worried about being feminine and beautiful--she saw it as the be-all end-all when mired in her deepest moments of self-doubt. She loved someone who could never, ever love her back--and clashed with her best friend over it. She absolutely sucked at school--and agonized over it. It so many times felt like Schulz was inking my feelings.

Patricia Reichardt is the head of the "Peanuts" kids on my list, then, due to her brash personality, the way she stomped into the neighborhood and left it all on the pitchers mound. The fact that Marcie idolized her despite such brainfreezes as believing Snoopy was just a "weird-looking kid" whose doghouse was a guest cottage (and that's the most egregious example; need you be reminded of the time PP thought she graduated from private school early only to discover she had spent the past several weeks earning a diploma from an obedience school for dogs?) speaks to her status. But there can only be one #1.


Behold, the simplest shit to understand EVER. Snoopy is king of "Peanuts", king of comic strips, king of dogs, king of cartoons, king of Japan. Relentlessly imaginative and hungry and cute--never underestimate the appeal of that last one--he is not just how you want your dog to be. He's how you want to be. Eternally cool, if not always hip; attractive, if not always good-looking; hilarious, if not always happy.

There are more than a few (Ken Tucker, "Entertainment Weekly") who point to the rise of Snoopy as the death of the strip. The beagle took off, and never landed. His face became synonymous with "Peanuts", right there with his owner, and some people wondered if all the plush dolls, figurines, posters, throw rugs, and toothpaste didn't dilute the strip somewhat.

It is true, "Snoopy Groupies" abound. I am a Snoopy fanatic; I find him the most comforting, endearing, joyous, huggable creature to ever be. Schulz drew him wonderfully (even the "banana nose" period) and fed his thought bubbles with radiant humor. The animated specials take on new life when the beagle gets his Joe Cool on, or takes to the skies against the Red Baron or, my favorite, when he smiles inexplicably as the kids fret about one thing or another. Snoopy at his peak is the greatest fictional character ever conceived.

Unfortunately, there are some who focus on the dog to the detriment of the lil folks. I have witnessed these people at Camp Snoopy, thoroughly unimpressed, if not outright befuddled, at the appearance of "Charlie Brown", this brave soul costumed to the nines and having to shrug with each "Where's Snoopy?" that gets asked by fat kids and their fatter parents. I wish all Snoopy Groupies would embrace the whole gang; that they don't is hardly the fault of Charles M. Schulz or United Media. The separate hysteria Snoopy can inspire only makes the 1. by his name that much more obvious.

Joe Cool, Flying Ace, vulture, Literary Ace, Legal Beagle, masked marvel, Easter beagle, pawpet performer, Flashbeagle, practically the entire animal kingdom...the roles he took on in the quest to be something more are so multitudinous as to justify another blog altogether. For the joy he has provided me, unabated, since I was knee-high to a cricket, Snoopy gets the #1 spot. Quaff a root beer for the greatest.