Friday, August 30, 2013

Spotlight: Bill Watterson

"An artwork can stay frozen in time, but I stumble through the years like everyone else. I think the deeper fans understand that, and are willing to give me some room to go on with my life."
Depicting the adventures of a precocious six year old and his tiger best friend and syndicated by the Universal Press Syndicate in 1985, “Calvin and Hobbes” had a solid decade of unprecedented success, running a total of 3,160 strips long, collected into 18 books, and appearing in nearly 2,500 newspapers across the country. For Watterson, who from the very beginning was averse to the attention “Calvin and Hobbes” brought him, the personal triumph of writing a successful comic strip was at times overshadowed by the burdens that came with it.

“As happy as I was that the strip seemed to be catching on, I was not prepared for the resulting attention,” Watterson wrote in the introduction to “The Complete Calvin and Hobbes,” a 2012 compilation of all his work, weighing in at more than 14 pounds. “Cartoonists are a very low grade of celebrity, but any amount of it is weird. Besides disliking the diminished privacy and the inhibiting quality of feeling watched, I valued my anonymous, boring life. In fact, I didn’t see how I could write honestly without it.”

Whereas others have relished such a spotlight, Watterson shrank from the publicity, sure that neither he nor his work would survive what he saw as the curse of celebrity.

There were plenty of hustlers — not only businessmen dangling potential millions of dollars of paychecks in front of Watterson and UPS, but the likes of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were even attempting to woo Watterson to give up film rights with trips to Skywalker Ranch — but Watterson wouldn’t budge. The man was nothing if not staunchly dedicated to his personal ethics, and licensing his characters was simply out of the question. “If I’d wanted to sell plush garbage,” Watterson told the Comics Journal in 1989, “I’d have gone to work as a carny.”

“I’m convinced that licensing would sell out the soul of ‘Calvin and Hobbes,’” Watterson said in the same article. “The world of a comic strip is much more fragile that most people realize. Once you’ve given up its integrity, that’s it. I want to make sure that never happens.”

After years of fighting, Watterson finally gained full rights to “Calvin and Hobbes” in early 1991, thus ensuring that toy company’s dreams of Spaceman Spiff underpants and stuffed Hobbes dolls on their shelves would never be a reality. But Watterson’s ethical battle still wasn’t over — in fact, it would last well beyond the final “Calvin and Hobbes” panel he drew in December of 1995. This time, it would come in the form of reporters, and the ethics in question were theirs.

The Plain Dealer sent a reporter in 1998 and again in 2003; the Washington Post sent someone in 2003, as did the Cleveland Scene. All the reporters hoped to score that elusive golden interview with the man behind “Calvin and Hobbes,” and all found that Watterson proved harder to find than anticipated. The reporters went back to their newspapers more or less empty-handed, little more to show for their trip than a possible sighting from a distance or a brief conversation with Watterson’s mother.

For Joel Schroeder, the director of the documentary ”Dear Mr. Watterson” (which will be screened at the Cleveland International Film Festival in April), the decision not to contact Watterson was fairly clear from the days of pre-production. After reading Martell’s book in 2009, the choice became even more obvious — respect Watterson’s privacy. Don’t even try to reach out.

More information:
» Bill Watterson's Advice from Kenyon College Commencement Speech, 1990
» Honk: An Interview with Bill Watterson, 1987
» Mental Floss: Interview with Bill Watterson, 2013

Best Japanese Pranks!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Saint Rich - "Officer" (2013)

Beyond the Drone track list:
1. "Beyond the Drone"
2. "Officer"
3. "Sorry/Sadly"
4. "Dreams"
5. "Young Vultures"
6. "Crying From the Home"
7. "Black and Brown"
8. "You Ain't Worth the Night"
9. "Don't Bring Me Down"
10. "Coming Home"
11. "To the Sun"
12. "Already Gone"

Saint Rich tour dates:
September 13 — Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock Social Club *
September 14 — Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room *
September 16 — Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater *
September 18 — Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge *
September 19 — Boise, ID @ Neurolux *
September 21 — Seattle, WA @ Crocodile Cafe *
September 22 — Vancouver, BC @ Fortune Social Club *
September 24 — Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge *
September 27 — Visalia, CA @ Cellar Door
September 28 — Los Angeles, CA @ Echoplex *
September 29 — San Diego, CA @ Adams Ave Street Fair*
September 30 — Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress *
October 3 — Dallas, TX @ HOB @ Cambridge Room *
October 4 — Little Rock, AR @ Vinos
October 5 — Athens, GA @ Green Room
October 6 — Durham, NC @ The Pinhook
October 7 — Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church Sanctuary *
October 8 — New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom *
October 9 — Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club *
October 12 — New York, NY @ Bowery Electric (CBGB Festival)
October 16 — Brooklyn, NY @ Knitting Factory (Panache CMJ Showcase)
October 22 — Washington, D.C. @ U Street Music Hall *
October 23 — Pittsburgh, PA @ Rex Theater *
October 24 — Cleveland, OH @ The Spot *
October 26 — Chicago, IL @ Metro *
October 27 — Columbus, OH @ Kobo Live

* = with Wild Belle

Friday, August 16, 2013

Dave Chappelle Returns

"I want to make sure I'm dancing and not shuffling," he says. "What ever decisions I make right now I'm going to have live with. Your soul is priceless." The first two seasons of his show "had a real spirit to them," he says. "I want to make sure whatever I do has spirit."
New York Times:
In 2005, Dave Chappelle was merely the hottest comedian in America. Then he left his job and became a far more singular cultural figure: A renegade to some, a lunatic to others, but most of all, an enigma.

Now he is making a kind of comeback — Mr. Chappelle headlines the Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival, a new 15-city tour presented by the Funny or Die Web site that begins Friday in Austin, Tex. — and what makes it particularly exciting is how he’s using his hard-earned mystique to make more daring and personal art.

Mr. Chappelle didn’t just walk away from a $50 million contract and the acclaimed “Chappelle’s Show,” whose second season on Comedy Central stacks up well against the finest years of “SCTV,” “Saturday Night Live” and Monty Python. He did so dramatically, fleeing to Africa and explaining his exit in moral terms: “I want to make sure I’m dancing and not shuffling,” he told Time magazine. Since then, he has been a remote star in an era when comedians have never been more accessible.

Mr. Chappelle hasn’t done any interviews (aside from a radio appearance in 2011) or appeared on podcasts or talk shows. He doesn’t even have a Web site. He joined Twitter last year, then quit after 11 tweets.

But Mr. Chappelle has tiptoed back into the public eye over the last year. While he has stayed away from movies and television, he still drops in pretty often on comedy clubs and occasionally theaters, usually in surprise appearances that generate more rumors of a comeback. Beyond the Oddball Festival, Chris Rock has said Mr. Chappelle may join him on his stand-up tour next year. Since seeing him perform at the start of the year, I have noticed an increased urgency in his comedy by the summer. A show I saw in San Francisco in March was charismatic if chaotic: freewheeling, improvisational and full of crowd work. But when I caught three of his shows in June down South, his act was very different: polished, thematically unified, less work in progress than test run.

His characteristic laid-back delivery and pinpoint timing were in service of jokes that were more dark, intricate and revelatory than his stand-up from a decade ago. Seeing Mr. Chappelle evolve onstage was a reminder that he didn’t leave comedy so much as return home to the live form he has practiced for a quarter-century. Mr. Chappelle might have left television, but that departure has become the wellspring of his comedy now. He only needs a microphone and a stage to lay claim to greatness.

Don’t get the wrong idea: Mr. Chappelle isn’t all gloom and doom. He still earns consistent laughs but the most explosive ones build off this sober mood. Mr. Chappelle has always been deft at this two-step.

In early 2006, Mr. Chappelle did interviews on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “Inside the Actors Studio” and told a story about the struggle to be free in Hollywood. “I’m going to find a way to be myself,” he said on the latter show in one of his most compelling moments. His tone now is less defiant, occasionally even contrite. In one story, after struggling to come up with some life advice to give students, he settles on: “Don’t quit your show.” Instead of explaining himself, he dramatizes his own confusion, then makes it funny.

All great stand-up is the expression of a personal voice, no matter if it’s from a confessional, observational or prop comic. Mr. Chappelle has never been an exhibitionist onstage but his new material, even when oblique, seems revealing.

His stories wander but their baggy structure provides a nice frame on which to hang jokes. Part of the pleasing unpredictability of his delivery is that Mr. Chappelle would rather seem to stumble into punch lines than be guided by them.

In that same “Actors Studio” interview, the host, James Lipton, who has become friends with Mr. Chappelle, says that Richard Pryor’s wife felt that legendary comic had “passed the torch” to Mr. Chappelle. Like so many comics, Mr. Chappelle owes a debt to Pryor, and his career has in many ways retraced his steps. Both worked clubs in the Village and received big breaks from Mel Brooks (Pryor was a writer on “Blazing Saddles”; Mr. Chappelle appeared in “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”) before moving on to their own sketch shows and soul-searching trips to Africa.

Pryor cemented his reputation among many as the greatest stand-up of all time with the 1982 special “Live on the Sunset Strip,” only a few years after he accidentally set himself on fire while freebasing cocaine. He transformed a near-death experience into transcendent art. Mr. Chappelle has different demons and is a more elusive storyteller. What he burned up was not his body, but his career. Pryor located comedy in tragedy, but Mr. Chappelle deftly finds it in mystery.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Flying Lotus - Aqua TV Show Show Theme Song

Flying Lotus' love affair with Cartoon Network continues to pay dividends to fans of gloriously weird music and animation. The Los Angeles-bred beat auteur teamed up with his bass-wielding Brainfeeder bro Thundercat to record the latest theme for Adult Swim's Aqua Teen Hunger Force, which, as part of a running gag, will be known as Aqua TV Show Show for its tenth season. While the Until the Quiet Comes producer got an early break when the late-night animation block began using his beats as bumper music, recent history has seen him composing end credits music for Adventure Time and participating in the Adult Swim Singles Series.

He explained that, "[Aqua Teen creator] Dave Willis hit me up one day and asked if I was interested and I told him that it had to be me. Golden age MC Schoolly D provided the theme music for the first seven seasons, while Josh Homme provided the Season 8 song, and Schoolly returned backed by Mariachi El Bronx in 2012.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tough Mudder New England 2013!

I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge.
I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time.
I do not whine--kids whine.
I help my fellow Mudders complete the course.
I overcome all fears.

More information:
» Tough Mudder New England Event Photos