Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Nerd Geek Dork

Recent employment shan't halt my plans to have the Beatles discog reviews up starting early next year. This overview will consider the albums in the Mono and Stereo box sets, although I won't be setting it like, here's a review of A Hard Day's Night in Mono, now I'll do it again for Stereo. That would be incredibly annoying to write, and thus even more vexing to read. I actually like my readers, so I won't be doing that. I'll be delineating within each album entry the differences between the recordings, as well as my usual heart-stopping impressions on the songs themselves.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Greatest Peanuts Sundays--10 to 1

10. 10/24/99

For the record--Charlie Brown didn't kick the football. Schulz would never let him. But Rerun takes so much crap from Lucy, it's nice to see him turn the tables and drive her crazy.

9. 9/22/96

A sublime indictment of general attorney uselessness.

8. 6/30/63

We didn't often see Lucy's self-doubt manifest itself via harsh self-admonishments; usually it came through in her harassment of the other kids. We often see Linus' out-sized heart, and most brilliantly here.

7. 8/8/82

Charles Schulz was a proud supporter of women's athletics, and look no further for proof than this Sunday strip. Look also at all the names lost to history! This strip is just as relevant now as then, sadly.

6. 2/24/72

You may recognize this as the show-stealer in Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown. Yes, Charles Schulz put much of his first wife into Lucy Van Pelt, but these extreme moments, full of rage and sorrow and loathing, are the dregs of his soul darkening the paper.

"The tortures of a memory of a lost love"--what a beautifully worded and structured phrase--sends the poor girl into a paroxysm, sending the not-as-poor Schroeder out of the frame and taking out his piano as not-quite collateral damage. When faced with such meticulous fury, one can only look on in awe.

5. 3/9/69

Charles Schulz singled this out as one of his favorite Sundays, and clearly I agree. It could have been printed with no text and still worked just as well. What is it Linus wants to hand off? Worms? Coconut candies? It remains unknown, which is why it scares Snoopy so intensely. When he reluctantly receives the mystery booty, he can't help but want to pass it along. Schulz drew wonderfully expressive faces throughout all the phases of Peanuts, but nothing tops the diabolical mischief that twists along Snoopy's visage as his failure-face of an owner approaches.

4. 2/18/62

Snoopy just wants some friends; it's not his fault he takes so keenly to cold, inert precipitation creations. He is right to be wary, but awwww...life is risk and love is risk, so death must be like Sorry! or something, and that's not as fun as the game of global domination, so lean into that snowman and feel the love and HE DID IT AGAIN! Never has an "Augh!" torn at the heart so viciously! Poor Snoopy.

All relationships, good bad or indifferent, end. Some quite unceremoniously. All we can hope for, indeed the very finest outcome we can dream for, is to have a carrot left over at the end.

3. 11/5/72

A beginning panel of Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown frolicking on a fall day leads into an unusually thoughtful Patty busting out one of the grandest similes my mind has ever registered. "Life is like a bracelet" is just a beautiful thought. Leave it to self-absorbed Charlie Brown to not recognize the moment this young girl is trying to share with him. His loss. Charlie Brown's life is like a bracelet, all right...the ones made of candy.

2. 3/18/53

The second time ever we see Snoopy dance, and it's the dooziest. Such style, such suave, such grace, such power, such cute. (A real-life dog like this would be a viral sensation; take that, Ninja Brown Bear.) The joke is decent enough (and gotta love the double exclamation points over Snoopy's head near the end) but really this one is all about the visuals. The whole gang, save Shermy, bears witness to this magnificent display, adding to the festive feel of the strip, causing it to virtually leap out at you with a sense of communal joy.

1. 9/22/63

Lucy's psychiatrists booth is the favorite Peanuts gag of Matt Groening, but he just adores Lucy in general. The concept totally fits in with the mercenary nature of many children, as does the circular logic in much of the advice she dispenses.

What she tells Charlie Brown here, however, is the truest thing Charles Schulz ever put in his comic strip. There is a great curiosity among many people to look at the lives of others not to enhance their perspective on their own life, but to grow envious and resentful and wonder why. Lucy puts it rather plainly (and loudly): Do and die, blockhead. That's ours.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Greatest Peanuts Sundays--20 to 11

20. 2/17/74

The only thing Peanuts characters do more than pine or AUGH is sigh. What makes this strip special is not the Scripture quote, because Schulz dropped Biblical wisdom so frequently that a pastor named Robert Short wrote a best-selling book called The Gospel According To Peanuts. It's the novelty of this quote (which further proves the expansive intelligence of Charles Schulz). There's a couple handfuls of lines from the Old and New Testaments used by and/or known to most people, from devout believers to rampaging atheists. This ain't one of them.

19. 10/20/63

In 1962, in the case of Engel vs. Vitale, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional for state officials to compose official school prayer and require it to be recited by students in United States public schools. A year later, Charles Schulz composed a nearly text-free masterpiece tackling the issue of school prayer that appeared in papers on Sunday. Naturally.

The reaction to this Sunday was enormous, with the pro- and anti-school prayer factions confident that Schulz had drawn the perfect encapsulation of their feelings on the issue. Mind you, anyone claiming they saw their point of view validated in Sally's mega-paranoid behavior just revealed themselves to be not quite bright. The neutrality of the strip was another flare of Schulzian genius, meaning impressionable, emotional readers would twist it to fit their beliefs, but when dared to pinpoint the moment in the strip that they could see the cartoonists solidarity with them...they couldn't do it.

"I don't believe in school prayer. I think it's total nonsense." - Charles Schulz, interviewed in The Comics Journal in 1998.

In case you were wondering.

18. 2/8/82

Silly rebellion is the best of all. Anarchy isn't funny, and that's why it'll never work. Snoopy dancing is always funny. Snoopy singing? Funnier than Redd Foxx doing an impression of Slappy White proposing marriage to a bottle of Thunderbird while an alley dog knocks over a small child getting out of its mothers car mere feet away.

17. 9/18/94

Gotta love origin stories. Spike in the desert was one of the more average Peanuts runs, and to my eyes this was far and away the best strip featuring Snoopy's emaciated brother and his cactus buddies. We all need someone to unburden ourselves upon, even if they have shallow roots.

Snoopy's whole clan is down with the bunnies; if Spike ever told his brother this same tale, Snoop would probably weep and quaff a root beer in memory of the departed.

16. 1/30/83

Creepy nightmare fuel. Wonder if Schulz ever had a similar dream. Wonder what this dream meant?

It meant he was asleep!

15. 10/21/73

A clinic in intriguing penmanship, right from the title panel featuring the mean faces of Snoopy and Peppermint Patty snarling at each other from each end of the world's largest football. It's goin' down.

I love the strips where Schulz threw curveballs at the reader; here, he not only draws a tackle between Patty and Snoopy, he surrounds it with words. Most hilarious: SOUND OF GLASS-BREAKING. He coulda just put SHATTER! but he didn't, 'cause it's not as funny as SOUND OF GLASS-BREAKING.

Charles Schulz spoke to me in the oddest ways sometimes.

14. 2/16/58

Hoary punchline...but not really so hoary at the time. Reminiscent of a sequence in A Charlie Brown Christmas, which is another reason I rate it so highly. It's art that evokes pungent, positive memories. So is Peanuts art? Yessir.

(Note: where is Snoopy's collar?)

13. 5/21/72

Peppermint Patty's simple question (although it isn't, really) inspires a fabulous Charlie Brown story on the folly of memory. The text bubbles are packed sick, the twist is ruefully humorous, and Snoopy not only gets in a super cool ending line, he also has his eyes closed throughout the strip. Snoopy plus shut lids equals COOLER THAN US. If it were possible for humans to function as well as Snoopy seems to with closed peepers, you'd never catch sight of my baby blues again.

12. 10/11/70

Another example of weaving scripture effortlessly within art. The joke is hilarious, but chilling. Lucy's remark about being "unable to accept the finality of the Lord's judgment" makes me think of the disappointment, sadness and anger Charles Schulz would feel almost thirty years later, when his body began to break down on him, robbing him of thinking and inking up any more strips.

11. 9/22/57

Not the first of the football gags, but the best. Lucy's sheer glee swiping away the ball, sure, but there's also the out-of-control comedy in Charlie Brown's incredulous "SHE DID IT AGAIN!" whilst flying up in the air.

Poor Chuck, always a sucker for a woman's reassuring words. I don't imagine he was really sold at all by Lucy's attempt at a sincere face, however; she looked like a pelican imitating an alligator.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Greatest Peanuts Strips--10 to 1

10. 10/29/59

And so was born a legend. Linus, sick of his peers' insincere toadying up to a big, ostensibly jolly fat fella, announces his belief in something called "The Great Pumpkin," which one can only imagine is the most gigantic, most benevolent and beneficent fruit in the world.

The Great Pumpkin was one of Charles Schulz' most original and brilliant story ideas. It was translated to the li'l screen with smashing success (said special aired twice this week on national television) and has become part of the pop culture vernacular. There's just something about a kid refusing to buy into the crap parents have fed their kids forever and creating his own mythology to pour heart and soul into, built on sincerity above all.

9. 10/21/87

When you see Patty and Marcie seated in the theater, some bickering is sure to follow. But here, Patty is actually delighted (rather than confused) by what's transpiring on stage, resulting in a satisfied smile rather than a furrowed brow on not just her face but Marcie's as well. Patty's last words mirror precisely my feelings while reading these strips.

8. 2/27/52

Bits and pieces of the artist come out in their work. It is inevitable, unless of course the creator is a complete sociopath (in which case they're probably country music songwriters). From the very beginning of Peanuts Charles Schulz did not hesitate to channel his irritations into the minds and mouths of these li'l folks. In this beauty from '52, a self-absorbed Violet rambles on to a clearly disgusted Charlie Brown about the film festival that played in her brain last night. While many people are fascinated by the world of dreams, seeking deeper meaning in the succession of images and sounds, others are content to shrug them off as biological futzery. Perhaps it is his determination to make dreams come true during waking hours that has Chuck so skeptical and annoyed? The moral here is that the unexamined subconscious life is entirely worth living.

7. 11/20/78

There was a mutual admiration society going on with Schulz and Christo, two of the more daring artists of their time. My favorite single panel in Peanuts history is the final one here. Snoopy's fourth-wall-crashing reaction, the visual of Christo having worked his magic...flawless. Looks great on a shirt too.

Twenty-five years after the strip's debut (and three years after the death of Charles Schulz), Christo wrapped the doghouse for real. Viewing this masterpiece was one of the highlights of my 2009 trip to the Schulz Museum, right behind the recreation of Schulz' personal studio. Which actually made me tear up.

6. 1/10/52

Charles Schulz served in the U.S. Army during World War II, an experience he spoke of with pride. His admiration for the military and those who served was apparent throughout his work, be it in the seventeen strips where Snoopy pays tribute to (and quaffs some root beers with) Bill Mauldin or in any of the 1990s strips honoring D-Day.

Before he felt comfortable citing the war and wartime, however, Schulz gave a glimpse into one very specific, haunting incident that occurred in May 1945, as he and the other members of his task force traversed Bavaria. Several of the men in the group gathered some pieces for their personal collection and they moved on. Sergeant Schulz playfully aimed a recently acquired pistol at an army medic across the street, the red cross on his helmet making him a tempting play-target. Schulz then fired a shot, having not checked to see if the firearm had any live rounds in the chamber.

It did.

The shot grazed one of the medics cheeks, but did not cause any serious harm. (Army soldiers unwittingly shooting themselves or their comrades with fancy new "enemy" weaponry was not uncommon at all during the war.) Schulz did speak of the incident in one recorded interview and could not help but reflect how the world would have changed but for mere inches. The hard-working, dedicated Sergeant who dreamed of making the comics page his life's work may have lost it all with one ill-advised squeeze of the trigger.

Knowing of this incident makes the strip at number 6 a complete breath-thief. It may seem so silly and random to suddenly have Charlie Brown scream out the report of a child's fake pistol, then apologize for it, but to Charles Schulz there was nothing silly or random about what happened that day in May. It's a man who forgets no slight, no shame, who is still learning to live with regrets even as he makes manifest his destiny.

5. 10/16/81

For proof of Charlie Brown's acceptance of himself as an undeniable failure face...here you go. Life may get better for him, but not by that much, and not for too long, and it was probably an accident anyway.

(Slight issue I have here. Patty and Chuck are chatting at the neighborhood wall, then at the last square, the wall is gone. Did they start walking away, then Charlie Brown suddenly thought, hey, I got the perfect person for you to talk to right here? I kinda wish Schulz had made this a Sunday, with that exact scenario playing out.)

4. 8/27/57

Math! Ugh! Or, rather, AUGH!

Linus defends his right to be dumb as rocks (with one of the most gut-bustingly hilarious lines Schulz ever conjured up). Which is quite cute when you're a kid, but when you get older, such behavior should be discontinued and discouraged lest you end up enraptured with the mystery of magnetism. I distinctly remember as a child wondering why there was a "highest" and a "lowest" but no "mediumest." Later I realized there is no such thing as the "most middle."

3. 4/8/63

You can rest assured that the composers and pieces Schroeder mentions were not selected haphazardly. Charles Schulz put the utmost care into the words he animated his drawings with.

This strip is so damn relateable that multiple music blogs, sites and forums have utilized it, always affectionately. The first panel itself is Thurston Moore's existence in a square.

2. 10/2/50

The first Peanuts strip ever, and it's a knockout blow. Right away the reader checking out this new-fangled kiddy comic sees that this will not be the standard milquetoast fare that saturates the daily paper. This is the inexplicably resentful and two-faced nature of humanity illustrated through the soundless voices of young children. "Good ol' Charlie Brown. How I hate him!"

Just why would Shermy feel that way? Just why did Charles Schulz regard himself as a "blah" type of person with a forgettable face? Why would he question if he would be of any value to anyone without the acclaim brought about by his talent? Why would existential panic seize him in the night?

Some people just don't like the Charlie Browns of this world, the ones that don't know when to quit, or maybe even why they should quit. They believe in love. They treat people decently and are satisfied with doing the best they can, despite knowing that "winning is the only thing" will always be more oft-quoted than Vince Lombardi's later lamentation retracting the very statement that made him a legend in leadership. They feel with every inch of vessel inside their body. They are frayed ends and exposed viscera. They don't care about the dreams you have when you're asleep. They do, however, care about everything else.

Did Charles Schulz hate Charlie Brown by putting so much of his agony into this poor blockhead?

No. Charles Schulz loved Charlie Brown. That's why he became the unceremonious dumping ground for the neuroses that plagued Schulz. It made him infinitely more interesting and funny. I think deep down Schulz wanted Chuck to boot the football, but he just couldn't make it happen because...then what? Also...not funny.

1. 4/25/60

"Happiness Is a Warm Puppy" catapulted Peanuts into the pop culture stratosphere. A book of the same name that featured various scenarios showing what the Peanuts kids considered the state of being happy became the fifth best-selling fiction book of the 1960s. Peanuts posters and pennants dominated dorm rooms. Schoolchildren bombarded Schulz' office with their own "Happiness Is..." drawings. "Happiness Is a Warm ______" became a popular phrase, with no end to what you could use to fill in the blank. A firearms periodical titled one of their articles "Happiness Is a Warm Gun," which so intrigued John Lennon that he used it for one of the most beloved Beatles songs ever.

It is, of course, a simple strip. Lucy walks over to Snoopy, pats him on the head, snuggles up to him and walks away with a smile, uttering the phrase that launched an empire. The genius of it is Schulz' decision to make Lucy the one who says this heartwarming sentence. She is easily the most irascible of the Peanuts children, yet even she needs to feel secure and loved and warm and happy. She's a fussbudget supreme, and Snoopy isn't even her dog, and sometimes she wants to pound him, but at that moment that dog represents the peace that everyone needs to find and nestle into.

There is no hatred. No doubting. No arguing. No clever reference. There is love here, and it's requited. It's so requited your teeth could hurt. Just happiness. Elusive for so many hours of our lives, but resplendent when realized. So much of Peanuts delineated in pinpoint detail the suffering that plagues us. This strip recognized that it is not all despair. For what it represented to the world of Peanuts as both a work of art and a business franchise, it is my favorite daily.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Greatest Peanuts Strips--20 to 11

20. 9/14/90

Chuck was not entirely luckless in love; for a couple years (in strip timeline, anyway) he had an on-off thing with Peggy Jean, a girl he met at summer camp (you will recall her from last post as the girl who initially confused Snoopy with Charlie Brown). They even shared a little kiddy kiss. Alas, the lad's luck ran well and dry by the end of Peanuts, when he learned that Peggy Jean had moved on for good, with a new, jock-stud boyfriend.

This strip shows Charlie Brown dealing with the aftershock of a letter from his beloved, wherein she swore her possibly-at-some-point-dying-but-as-of-that-moment-still-breathing-heartily affection for him. His bliss caused him to blank out in the batters box, blowing yet another game for his woebegone crew.

He doesn't even seem to notice Lucy screaming in his ear; the agony of defeat will always trump the thrill of victory. Remember what Charles Schulz said when asked why he set up his characters to live out life as a series of miseries: "Happiness isn't funny."

19. 1/7/56

Pigpen's popularity struck his creator as inexplicable, and to read Peanuts in his entirety, you see that fans were more into the concept of a perpetually filthy kid than anything he ever actually did. (Other than be dirtier than a New Jersey public pool, that is.) After his introduction, his only major story was to be an unlikely, super-brief crush for Peppermint Patty. Dude never even got an unrequited love to call his own!

What transpires in this strip is instantly recognizable to any of the millions who cherish A Charlie Brown Christmas. Although the show swaps Violet with Frieda, the dialogue is lifted near-verbatim. And why not? It's utter perfection. 10 out of 10, two thumbs up high, gold star, A++, would laugh at again.

Is it too much that I say "On the contrary, I didn't think I looked that good" when I get ready to leave the house in the morning whilst appraising myself in the kitchen window?

18. 2/9/60

Ignore for a moment that Snoopy's doghouse is in a place we have never seen it before or since. Charles Schulz has a story to tell, and he's gonna tell it. And the moral is: Uneasy rests the head that faces impalement via a perched liquid sword.

How bold for Mr. Schulz to place this poor pup in this perilous predicament. Normally reigning o'er the Ministry of Funny Dogs (damn a Cleese), Snoopy awakes one white winter morn to impending doom. Dance your way outta that, buddy! His rambling fright-train of thought concludes with what is pretty much my philosophy on mortality. (Kids read this stuff back then? Like over cereal? Mommy, is Snoopy gonna die? Never question why I love Charles Schulz; question why you don't.)

17. 3/6/56

One thing about Shermy, and this isn't as smart-ass as emotionless font may make it seem--Schulz could sure draw a mean buzz-cut.

This is another example of a devastating, adult observation made by a child (who shall most assuredly not lead anyone). "Mental scars"? But don't dare call Chuck B "proto-emo"; he's way too real for that.

16. 1/25/60

Lucy, even in her absence, is the greatest antagonist in the Peanuts universe.

The build up makes this piece so classic. Linus and Charlie Brown walking placidly along, talkin' 'bout the inner war that no man is safe from. With each successive panel, however, the blanket-less mini-philosopher grows increasingly freaked out by his innate turmoil, and the reality of the treaty-less years ahead, and his body shakes like some invasive supernatural force seeks release until, finally, he cries out, as if putting the very word "peace" into the air will cause it to form and tunnel its way into his long-suffering soul, replacing the ambivalent monster that he forced out through sheer will.

I can't stand it.

15. 10/3/50

Second strip ever features original Patty--she of the bow and plaid dress--moving daintily down the sidewalk, reciting that hoary couplet about one of the two original recipes. Of course, she stops briefly to "whap" a poor boy so hard that his eye blackens upon impact. She will laugh at the memory much later, whilst forcing dolls to eat mud pies.

It confuses me when I see the occasional critical opinion that Mr. Schulz somehow shortchanged his female characters, or villainized them. On the contrary, I didn't think I looked that good. (Sorry! Damn window.) I mean, on the contrary, he created several young girls with personalities as rich as Charlie Brown and Linus, and certainly more intriguing and genuine than most of the roles written for women on television and film these days. Just check out the strip above. Patty is very feminine, yet not above random violence. She seems to have no difficulty reconciling the two. You will, if you are paying attention, notice this effortless dichotomy in the majority of children as they develop.

14. 6/10/58

Another strip famously animated. "Let's all kick him" is so wonderfully Lucy.

Couple things: if Chuck's baseball squad is so notoriously terrible, how are they in any championship? Plague take out every other team except one, and they were placed against each other by default? Why aren't Linus and Violet wearing caps?

13. 5/11/60

Ah, more baseball! More dog undermining owner authority!

Charlie Brown's attempts to coach the hell out of his team are infrequent, and cute. While he puts emphasis on key words like "speed," "running," and "runningest," all it does is encourage Snoopy to get silly. "Go go go!" Eventually, the Snoopometer needle has broken, and multiple beagles dance before us in insouciant delight around manager Brown, who is clearly writhing both inside and out. This is why Snoopy is the coolest. He's carefree, in and of the moment, following his heart (and feet). He can imagine it, he can do it. Life's too short for strategy, Charlie Brown.

(This scene was also animated, yet I enjoy it more here jumping from still motion renderings. Easier to appreciate Snoopy's coolness throughout. He never opens his eyes once!)

12. 1/26/83

We join the Van Pelts mid-conversation. Linus is typically earnest, Lucy atypically tolerant. "When I was your age, I was dumb too."

I say the exact same thing whenever I read comments left by young True Blood fans on the Internet. So young, so hormonal, so hymen-having, so convinced in the utter rightness of their mere baby opinion. The joke of the strip is that Lucy is not so much older than Linus--and honestly, she is nowhere near as thoughtful--yet feels those mere few years have accorded her a weary wisdom he cannot yet even fathom. That understood, we can all take different things from works of art, and what I take from this strip is that certain age groups are not to be taken seriously, namely teenagers who fantasize about overhyped steroid monkeys who play characters surpassed by Dick, Jane and Spot for overall depth and development.

When I forget how dumb I was as a teen, I just read the poetry I wrote then. Masochistic, but helpful.

11. 11/16/93

And y'all? Stop smirking. Indulge me this.

I loved Schulz' latterly dependence on the beanbag. Comfortable, comical. Just the word "beanbag" is chuckle-worthy, and Schulz loved words that just sounded funny. (Cf. "zamboni".)

There's not much to the joke here, another wry Sally comment on the relative worth of her wishy-washy big brother. What propels this to just outside the Titanic Ten is how Snoopy is drawn in the last two panels. In the third square, he is reacting to Sally's zinger from his cozy nook on the beanbag. His ears are not visible, his eyes are closed in delight, and a grin is just creeping up on his face. In the last panel, he has turned ever so slightly to reveal a bit of ear, but his eyes are still closed, and his smile even wider. Unbelievable cuteness that I shall not apologize for loving to pieces and bits.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Greatest Peanuts Strips--30 to 21

30. 6/22/74

How depressing is the sight of tears in a comic strip? Especially when they streak the face of a little girl lamenting her supposed unlovability.

There is some genuine, labyrinthine mind-screwness happening here with this entire story. Charles Schulz' unrequited pining for Donna Wold was manifest in Peanuts with Charlie Brown's hopeless yearning for the Little Red Haired Girl. Schulz, in panel after panel, poured out his unresolved anguish over being shunned by the woman he desired so strongly. Two marriages, five children, worldwide fame, and more money than a human realistically needs, and he still could not put his lost love behind him.

So it's interesting that here he has another character react to the Little Red Haired Girl so strongly. There was never a strip where Charlie Brown reacted jealously to a boy that he knew the LRHG was interested in, so I would venture that this is Schulz putting his own distraught, distorted self-reflections into the Peppermint Patty character. Which clicks on a couple levels: it saves Charlie Brown from even more suffering (seriously, the Book of Job is like Poky Li'l Puppy compared to Peanuts) and puts him in the entirely novel position of "object of desire."

29. 8/22/51

The greatest America's Funniest Videos are ones where animals go all kamikaze on little kids. 'Cause I guaran-damn-tee you bratty children nationwide do worse to their supposedly beloved four-legged friends daily. Pull ears, kick bellies, yank tails...so really, dog doing the Liu Kang bicycle kick to the face and chest is the least those spoiled incorrigibles have coming to them.

(It's wrong, but the Appalachian side of me just wants to pick baby Schroeder up and punt him into a swamp.)

The faces here are a wonder. In the first panel, Schroeder's look is of pure joy at causing pain. What a little bastard! Then we have Snoopy's tongue-jutting surprise, leading to his fuzzled anger. It's hard not to share in his clear vengeful happiness at dropping the ball--literally. When I'm feeling really mean, I imagine it's a shotput crashing on Schroeder's head.

28. 2/4/69

Linus on the longest ski ever. Snoopy's toothy grin in the last panel. Just a delightful strip to look at.

27. 7/4/91

Snoopy doesn't think much of the kids that surround him, but in the 1990s, he sure started acting more and more like them. Being excited for the grand old time food is going to have at camp is so something a young child would feel.

Honestly, what the hell was with the cookie obsession? I mean it makes more sense than James Joyce's fart fetish, but why cookies over pizza? Easier to eat, I suppose; still, it seemed every other appearance by the beagle showed him namedropping, munching on, or reminiscing over, those baked circles of deliciousness.

This is not a complaint, per se; Schulz couldn't have Snoopy daydreaming his life away all the damn time, so he used the very basic yen for cookies to ground his most beloved character on the terra firma along with the others.

26. 3/20/82

Ah, Joe Writer, the greatest novelist there never was, and next to Flannery O'Connor and Joe Wambaugh, my heavy bones hero. Any scribbler can relate to that moment when the text seems to turn on you, came at your head, merciless. It is a rueful laugh I let escape my belly at the sight of runaway exclamation points raising Snoo-brows.

25. 5/27/68

Ah, the circular logic of a child in love, who as a child, doesn't actually know what love really truly is yet!

Measuring your worth of self via how successful you are at the most dangerous game of love is flawed and potentially fatal. Then again, Charlie Brown's other indicators of value come up short as well: miserable athlete, wishy-washy student, average dog owner, walking fashion faux pas...poor kid. He really is something.

24. 12/23/98

Rerun is...wow. The honors bag featured a strip wherein he waxed nostalgic on the climax of Anna Karenina, and now we have him framing the sideways revelation of Santa's true identity in the context of America's premier judicial body. If kids actually spoke like this more often, I could be around one for more than five minutes without feeling the unnatural urge to grab them and throw them into a refrigerator.

23. 7/31/89

A potential love interest for Charlie Brown goes awry when A) he sweatingly introduces himself as "Brownie Charles" and B) she mistakenly thinks Snoopy is "Brownie Charles." Here we see Snoop at his finest: eating and making fun of a child. Just like "My mind reels with sarcastic replies," I've been known to use "You're more confused than you think, sweetie" in daily conversation.

22. 10/1/52

Sheer meta. Schulz would never do anything like this again, and the better it is for it. Having a relatively minor, vanilla character such as Schroeder utter the punch was a smart decision. Gives the impression he's truly outside the main orbit.

21. 11/28/52

Within this strip, the classic story of musicians and the girls who fawn over them.

Lucy appraises Schroeder as the young boy caresses the piano's keys, filling the air with the delicate notes of a Beethoven masterpiece. Entranced, she comes ever nearer. A rare drawing of a character from the back indicates that both she and Schroeder are clearly in deep concentration now.

She can no longer hold back. She hops up on the smallest grand piano in the world, looks the little fella dead in his inscrutable india ink beads and says--

"You fascinate me."

Thus begins two of the greatest one-sided love stories in history: Lucy and Schroeder, and Schroeder and Beethoven.

It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown will be airing twice this year, 10/28 and 10/29 on ABC at 8 PM EST. It doesn't matter how many times you've seen it...you can always see it again. And again.