Thursday, December 25, 2014

Culturally Significant Christmas TV Holiday Special 2014

It has come, that time of the year where we're all a little nicer to each other and we watch an onslaught of holiday specials. The problem with most TV specials now is there don't feature those classic commercials during the winter time that use to drive us wild with excitement. Your McDonalds with Ronald skating. Your Foldgers with the son back from Africa. Your Silent Night, Deadly Nights

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Your 90s Holiday Sitcom Playlist

Greetings, readers and fellow Squad members!

It's been awhile for Willa Murray, aka, Junior Professor of Bad Jokes. I've been gallivanting around the city in my attempt to obtain a piece of paper that says I'm officially a Master of the English language. But, no matter! I'm off for the next three weeks. This Christmas season I've been left to my own devices: alone the evening before Christmas Eve with nothing but white Russians, my fish, and YouTube to keep me entertained. Also, I've found that the best cure to keep the troll named Depression at bay is nostalgia: specifically 90s and early 00s sitcom nostalgia. The following YouTube playlist (cleverly entitled "CHRISTMAS") is filled with over 24 hours of television episodes, short animated films, and muppets. Because tis the season.

"CHRISTMAS" by Willa Murray

Playlist includes episodes and videos from...

  • Everybody Loves Raymond
  • Home Improvement
  • Roseanne
  • Frasier (duh)
  • Whose Line is it Anyway? (feat. Stephen Colbert)
  • Just Shoot Me
  • King of Queens
  • Shaun the Sheep
  • Becker
  • The Big Bang Theory
  • 30 Rock
  • Ally McBeal
  • Spin City
  • Cybill
  • Dharma and Greg
  • Saturday Night Live
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • Sesame Street (Bert and Ernie's "Gift of the Magi")
  • Boy Meets World
  • Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
  • Will and Grace
  • Patton Oswalt's "Christmas Shoes"
  • John Robert's "Christmas Tree"
  • A Muppet Family Christmas
  • Seinfeld
  • Charlies Brown

Video quality is low, but nostalgia quality is high. I tried my damnedest to find full episodes of Friends, Seinfeld, and Bob's Burgers. However, FOX keeps their copyrighted episodes tied up like the Krampus keeps his children: obviously very tight. (Come on. He's not letting them go. Give up hope already.)

With all my love and wishes for the Festivus/Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa season,

Willa Murray,
Head Librarian
Willa Murray at 4. Still not Krampus food after 21 years.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Winter has Come. Culturally Significant Holidays 2014.

Ok, I officially have the Christmas blues.

This seasonal blues doesn't come from a place of despair over the fast-approaching holidays or the depression of consumerism. I'm fine with all that. I have the blues because I feel that I have once again dropped the ball when it comes to blogging on a regular basis. I built up Octovember to barely post anything. And now my first post for December comes days away from Christmas. Yeah, I've been lacking...but with purpose.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Noah Van Sciver's Wasted Youth

Noah Van Sciver is a Denver-based cartoonist who has been working for some time, and in the past couple years began receiving more attention. I remember hearing his name here and there last year, but it wasn't until this year that I got to know his work, thanks to Fantagraphics' Tumblr page, where they would occasionally reblog some of his own posts. I think it was a diary comic that got my interest, as I'm a fan of those. After that, I started following Sciver online, and finding out more about his work.

His latest book, YOUTH IS WASTED (AdHouse Books), is a collection of short stories originally published between 2010 and 2013, as far as I can tell. Most of them appeared first in his one-man anthology, Blammo, though some of them came from various anthologies. The book is pleasantly designed, and includes author's notes on every story, which is always appreciated, and an introduction by his brother, DC Comics artist Ethan Van Sciver. It's interesting that both brothers chose careers in comics, in such different ways.

There is a total of 15 stories in this book, and they are a great introduction to Sciver's work. Though there is no shortage of comics about mundane and personal stories these days, a lot of them seem to not hit the spot for me. Sciver hits it way more often than misses it, offering honest, brutal, and sometimes amusing portrayals of common people. He is open about his admiration for R. Crumb and the influence shows, but at the same time, his stories read very differently than Crumb's. I would say Sciver is gentler than Crumb, whether he likes it or not.

Sciver's characters are largely losers, by his own admission. He is interested in the underdogs, people who have known loss, and still have to deal with it. He's attracted to the moments when things go wrong, to the small failures in our lives. A cynic might accuse him of whining or belittling his characters, but anyone with a modicum of empathy will know that is not the case. His stories simply express feelings that are more and more common in our generation, and offer a way of dealing with them, both for the reader, and, I suspect, the author.

My favourite story was "Because I Have To", in which a young man, still coping with the death of his younger brother helps a little girl who got separated from her brother on Halloween night. It's a very touching tale with small toucher of humour that work very well together. My least favourite - the only one in this collection I didn't care for, really - was "Punks vs. Lizards", which I might've liked if it was maybe two pages long. Still, I'm glad it was included in this collection, as it helps present a very wide range of stories by the same author. He goes from the silliness of "Punks vs. Lizards" to the bleakness of "1999", stopping by one-page nihilistic experiments and fairy tale adaptations along the way. And most of it works.

Excerpt from "Because I Have To"

Noah Van Sciver's art is an acquired taste. It didn't please me at first, I must confess, but the more time I spent it with, the better I started liking it, and the more it seemed to fit his stories. This book also registers his improvement as a draftsman and storyteller. The stories are not organised chronologically, but every story is dated, and one can notice the evolution of his art style through those four years. And from following his Tumblr page (which I recommend, also because he is often very funny online), I know he is still improving, refining his art more and more.

Besides YOUTH IS WASTED, Sciver put out in 2014 another book: THE LIZARD LAUGHED (Oily Comics). He already has two books scheduled for 2015: SAINT COLE and FANTE BUKOWSKI, both to be published by Fantagraphics. The latter was all posted on his Tumblr as he progressed, and you can still read it over there (though it might be a tad inconvenient to track the pages down).

Most of my favourite cartoonists that tackle these subjects that interest Noah Van Sciver take an awful long time to put out new work, so it's nice to see a young cartoonist on his way to join that select group being so prolific. I highly recommend YOUTH IS WASTED to anyone who's ever felt like a loser, and enjoys reading about common people.