Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tomorrow I Leave

For New York, that is. My 39th Sonic Youth show beckons.

It will be the last concert at McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn, which will then revert to--ahem--a pool. Neighboring high rises rejoice, you've won! And New York lost another great place to see a show.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Son of Dr. Dre Found Dead

The news of Andre Young Jr.'s passing at the age of 20 reminds me of the death last year of a co-workers stepson at that very same age. He went to sleep in his dorm and never woke up. Toxicology came back clean, but it was discovered that he had 90% artery blockage--a genetic proclivity, for his grandpops had died in his forties of the same condition.

Who knows if anything similar will turn out to have taken the life of Mr. Young, but it reminded me that I'm pretty lucky to have made it to age 30.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Jenn Shares To Learn

A new book of questionable value, really; the sole Amazon review slams the small print and
smaller "blanket". But how can you not love the nonchalant pose Snoopy has on the cover? How weak is Linus, anyway?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Peanuts is Timeless, Pt. Broken Watch

Peanuts still runs in the dailies because it's--ahem--timeless. No one is forcing it onto the public. It doesn't have to earn classic status; it already has it!

My fantasy football draft was this weekend. I had 8th pick and snatched up Randy Moss. Overall, the smash squad looks pretty, well, smashing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Schulz and Peanuts

Since last year my birthday fell on a Tuesday, I decided to celebrate it on a Sunday. My father was in the hospital, so it was just me, my mother and boyfriend. One of the gifts I received was David Michaelis' biography of an American master, Schulz and Peanuts. It took one week for me to read the 500+ pages, a task that would have been completed even sooner if not for the death of my father one day before I turned thirty.

His passing became inextricably linked with the book in my mind. I have only in my entire life cried over the passing of two human beings: my father and Charles Schulz.

Great controversy followed Schulz and Peanuts, the children of Mr. Schulz bemoaning the inordinate amount of space Mr. Michaelis gives to the single known infidelity Schulz committed. Oldest son Monte has been the most vocal critic of the authors approach, accusing Michaelis of taking a single angle--the Artist as Bitter Prick--and running with any anecdote that bolsters this view while downplaying and ignoring those events in Schulz' life that indicated a more emotionally well-rounded individual.

Anyone who loves Peanuts should read the book. It provides numerous insights that illuminate several running gags: Schulz' divorce written in as Charlie Brown kicking Lucy off the baseball team; an illicit affair turned into Snoopy falling in love; and those are just the most salacious examples. Throughout, Michaelis wisely uses reprinted strips to buttress anecdotal text. There are also a wealth of photos which give face to many of the names in the Schulz universe, including the cousin who inspired the look and attitude of Peppermint Patty.

The book is depressing; I would have felt careworn at the end of it even had I not lost a parent. (The frequent quotes of Monte Schulz made it a more onerous task at times; "Monte" was my fathers nickname.) But the scope of it is nothing less than what a tremendous artist deserves. For fifty years, Charles Schulz maintained a world of children who were too wise to be just "cute". That was the genius of Peanuts. Anyone who would profess shock that Schulz was not exactly a child-loving, happy-go-lucky, eyes-wide-shut Christian didn't pay enough attention. Exactly how wholesome is a man who sets up his hero for failure after failure? Who revels in sending his creations head on into the oil slick of unrequited passions?

Michaelis' exploration of Schulz as despairing is done almost too well. That he felt he could not explore with equal zeal the happier moments in Schulz' life is a shame, for the reader and for Michaelis himself.

If there is one thing that gives the book value above all else it is that it deepens the strip. Peanuts is treated reverently, even if its creator is not; the comic strip is seen as a fictional masterwork, a half-century long discourse on the human condition that only a man of deep thoughts and feelings could construct. The gossip is ephemerally interesting; the art of the man lives and breathes so long as there is a world fit to contain it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Peanuts on DVD: New News in the News...News!

There's a brand new site dedicated to the Warner DVD Peanuts reissues, and new release dates for the latest discs. The deluxe editions of You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and A Charlie Brown Christmas will all come out on October 7th. Each will feature a fresh "making of" special, and in the case of You're Not Elected, will mark the DVD debut of He's a Bully, Charlie Brown. Hopefully hi-res photos of the boxes will appear soon.

Peanuts Is Timeless, Still

Football gag in soccer story? Check.

I have got to get to the Schulz museum next year.

The Sno-Cone Machine dream realized for one man.

Bad writing ahoy.

Lest you never know, the picture in this article is of the short-lived, long-loved "Joe Grunge".

Dude, I seriously have to get to the Schulz museum.

Spelling error aside, this is a good piece.

It's called Linus' Blanket and its a literary blog. Win-win.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Stumbling Into Victory

Leave it to Hagerstown...go to your first Little League World Series in 40 years and win your game against Jeffersonville, Indiana 3-2 without getting a hit. That's Hagerstown, baby.

I love Little League baseball. Those kids swing at the damnedest pitches. Also, a lot of them look up to basketball players rather than major leaguers.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Building a Snoopy Army: Taking Inventory, Pt. 1

It's quite a "thing", this Snoopy collection of mine. Soon, aided by my oldest sister, I'll be taking complete inventory (index cards and all) of my beagle paraphernalia.

Let's take a look at what we're dealing with here. At least, some of it. Behold the contents of a single box in my exercise room:
























23 pictures...couldn't plan it if I tried.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Revisited: "Oh No It's Devo" by Devo

There is a conventional wisdom about the music of Devo, all the more hilarious for the very idea any conventional wisdom could exist where Ohio's finest are concerned. But so it goes that their debut Q: Are We Not Men A: We Are Devo! is their pinnacle, Duty Now For the Future valuable yet underwhelming, and Freedom of Choice, the "mersh" record, famous for giving the world "Whip It" and the energy dome. The product after is pretty damn negligible.

In the case of Devo's final three albums, conventional wisdom is dead-on. But the fourth album, the one with the potatos on it, is actually worth your time. Yet it seems only diehard Spuds know this. Oh No It's Devo is a minor classic in the realm of early 80s synth-pop, what the B-52s Whammy would have been if Fred Schneider wasn't so damn flamboyant.

"Time Out For Fun"
--Simon Says as motivational tool. Everyone find your inner happy rhombus! A straight-faced message of optimism that doubles as one of the bands greatest songs. Almost unbelievable coming from the cynical mind of Gerald Casale.

"Peek-a-Boo"--This song is like a baby. It's real cute. Then times passes, the baby grows into a toddler to a young child to a teen to an adult. Along the way, it stops being so damn cute.

"Out of Sync"--In the vein of "All She Wants to Do is Dance", in that it references a metaphorical "she". But Devo didn't write cautionary tales about cocaine, they just snorted the shit.

"Explosions"--A lost classic. Sounds the way an assembly line looks. The Discovery Channel, had it still the sense it was born with, would make this the theme to "How They Make It". I also like explosions that leave me feeling good.

"That's Good"--It's dancey, but not too, and they once played it on Square Pegs. Which starred Sarah Jessica Parker, who later starred on Sex in the City, which also featured Kim Catrall. Who once dated Gerald Casale. See what I did there? 'Cause I sure as hell don't.

"Patterns"--A redo of "One Dumb Thing" (found only on Pioneers Who Got Scalped), this is a spudly ballad, done in inimitable Mark Mothersbaugh style. Life is a series of patterns inside one larger pattern, and our life is better when we take the initiative to shape them to our benefit.

"Big Mess"--A schizophrenic radio DJ named "Cowboy Kim" sent interesting mail to an LA office that handled the fan mail of a local game show. Some of those privy to these missives just happened to be Friends Of Devo, and passed them along to the band. Hence, this song, which is luckily more dynamic than the backstory.

"Speed Racer"--Proof positive that Mark wrote better music than lyrics. I'd be fucking pissed if Weird Al did my own style better than me, too.

"What I Must Do"--Sounds like Gerald Casale hitting up the church confessional, if that made even the slightest bit of sense. "I must do what I must do/And I do/Though I know better". Like dating bisexual chicks.

"I Desire"--Infamous for consisting strictly of John Hinckley poetry. The beat is like what happens when manufacturers attempt to infuse toy soldiers with erotic feeling.

"Deep Sleep"--Not very somnolent. Almost out of Rygar, really.

And now I really wish I had my old Nintendo.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Snoopy Is Timeless, Pt. TMJ

Methinks a trip to the dentist in order....

Only two Peanuts items to report this week, and both mention Brett Favre. I apologize.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Sonic Youth Member Uses International Stage To Proclaim Infinity

Apparently, the new Sonic Youth album will be named "The Eternal." Mind you, Thurston Moore is notoriously unreliable with album titles. I still remember when A Thousand Leaves was going to be called New York's A Fine Town For Bacon.

As far as names for records go, well, "The Eternal" isn't so impossibly shitty that I can't imagine uttering it. It fits Sonic Youth most certainly, now in their 27th year of making music together. That is an eternity.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Our Long National Nightmare Has In Fact Only Just Begun

Brett Favre is now a New York Jet. Get ready for a season of 8 wins and 18 interceptions, Big Apple football fans!

Also, nothing can suck the fun out of sports like ESPN. They've covered this whole Favre story like the freakin' JFK assassination. (Which reminds me...Reclaiming History, by Vincent Bugliosi. Buy it. Read it.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Revisited: "Dare Iz a Darkside" by Redman

Released in 1994, Dare Iz a Darkside was the second album from New Jersey MC Redman. Whereas his debut, Whut? Thee Album, was stuffed sick with funkadelic beats and relentless lyricism that made up for an overall lack of content by being alternately hilarious, threatening, and braggadocious. Darkside dunked the Clintonian vibe in thick red syrup and set it on fire, using the resultant blaze to, well, blaze. For someone who never has smoked, this album is a Viewmaster into a foreign land.

1. "Dr. Trevis"--Redman's therapist takes his client over the first album and then proceeds to tell Redman that he must completely forget how he recorded said album. The funk must be elevated through cloudy concentration. (This must be richly ironic to the reviewers and fans who find this sophomore effort samey.)

2. "Bobyahed2dis"--Darkside was mixed by Ivan Rodriguez, who would gain greater fame as a Major League catcher. Or not. The "Atomic Dog" sample is predictable as all hell, but the snares slap nasty, the bass runs deep and murky like greasy-diner sink water, and the house is way fuckin' haunted.

3. "Journey Throo da Darkside"--The undefined bass on display here is almost the antithesis of the very idea of funk. Battle raps with cosmic weed wacking. Never does Redman come off as aggressively sexist or violent, but he still gets "more aahs than a dentist".

4. "Da Journee"--Another visit from the doctor.

5. "A Million and 1 Buddah Spots"--Just in case you forgot Redman smoked weed. And mixes it with suttin'.

6. "Noorotic"--The samples on this album seem to be more like basslines, while the actual basslines serve as the hooks. "I'll let your girl suck my dick from the back/And let your moms give me cornrows on my crack."

7. "Boodah Session"--So high, he can't even misspell the same word twice. Mo' skits.

8. "Cosmic Slop"--One day, Mobb Deep's Prodigy just up and says in a song, "fuck all you space rappers" (more or less). He didn't name names, but eh, it weren't hard to add 2 to 2. Subliminals and flat-outs got exchanged on wax, and at some point Redman's Def Squad comrade Keith Murray (who also appears on this song) snuffed Prodigy outside a club. It's always impressed me how Murray has incredible lyrical skill but negligible vocal presence.

9. "Rockafella (RIP)"--Rockafella was a rappin' friend of Red's, so Reggie gives the late artist some shine. Verdict? A dime-a-dozen rhymin' cousin.

10. "Rockafella"--"Built like NBA Jams/And you can have Chicago". One of my favorite battle rap lines of ever.

11. "Green Island"--Feel the breeze as you sway in the hemp hammock, sipping from a coconut, sweating underneath a toxic sun. In an interview with The Source, Redman expressed a sincere desire to reduce his weed intake and regain some lost brain cells. It took a rather amused Erick Sermon to explain that brain cells are not regenerative.

12. "Basically"--A swirl of bass and harmonica, not unlike something Kool Keith would rhyme over. Attacks mainstream rappers trying to exploit the underground and fast-food hos who wanna act fly.

13. "Can't Wait"--Not a Nu Shooz jack, sadly. The drums crack 'drums.

14. "Winicumuhround"--I admire how Redman makes a bunch of words into a single word. Izrlydope. See, it just looks stupid when I do it.

15. "Wuditlooklike"--Redman likes to sample his first LP a lot on this album. But why wouldn't he? I mean, if it ain't broke, take it with you.

16. "Slide and Rock On"--Red corn syrup slick with sleigh bells. High contact buzz bomb.

17. "Sooperman Luva II"--The second installment of a saga that Red continues on his releases to this day. He always samples some classy R&B and spins a hilarious carnal yarn. Here, Luva refuses an unsavory lady, gets tied up, shot, yet still manages to blast hell out of martians and Elizabeth Montgomery, who was just going to pick up some milk. And he smokes weed.

18. "We Run NY"--A single note guitar sample over and over. Wonderfully obnoxious. Hurricane G. can't even keep this from being the best song on the album, but she tries real hard.

19. "Dr. Trevis (Signs Off)"--Bye, Doc!

20. "Tonight's da Night (remix)"--The beat is inferior to the original, and the rhymes aren't superlative either. So, as with so so many remixes, this turns out utterly unnecessary. I sure hope he mispronounced "Pesci" with the hard "c" on purpose.

After Dare Iz a Darkside, Redman would make four more solo albums, and a near-classic collabo effort with bud brother Method Man. None of these works approach Darkside for sheer face-melting weirdness. One of the most overworn boasts in the hip hop genre is that said MC doesn't "give a fuck". But one look at their image, one listen to their songs, and you can tell they do. On this album, Redman did not give a fuck.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Peanuts Is Timeless, Pt. CBT

Snoopy Three, bitches!

Israel vs. World, Time Warner vs. Yahoo.

What Peanuts character does Barack Obama resemble? I really can't say. Was there ever really a character that all the kids rallied around and held up to impossibly high standards all while ignoring the fact that he acts smugly superior to the whole lot of them?