Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Spam Roundup: April 2013

Increased traffic has meant increased spam to this blog. And a few comments have provided some unintentional humor. Here's a sampling of some of the best of the worst -- with my own thought thrown in as well.

For some reason, my post on Fastidious Spam (which was about goofy spam) attracted a fair amount of its own. Goofy spam, that is. My comments are bracketed.

 - This is a topic that is close to my heart. .. [I'm sure it is -- spambot] best wishes! Where are your contact details though [to the right, in plain sight]

  - Way cool! Some very valid points! [Points you've just helped prove, BTW]  I appreciate you penning this post and also the rest of the website is extremely good. [Why thanks. High praise indeed for a spambot.]

  - Hey very nice blog! how to cure hemorrhoids at home on Fastidious Spam [OK, that's not an image I want in my brain.]
  - Thanks for finally writing about > "Fastidious Spam" < Liked it!
[Oh yes, we're into hard-hitting editorials here at Off  Topic'd.]  Also visit my web page - treatment for hemorrhoids [What is it with hemorrhoids? Is it just professional admiration from one pain the ass to another?]  

 - What's up to all, it's actually a fastidious for me to pay a visit this site, it consists of priceless Information. [Your use of "fastidious" is priceless to me.]

This is the toy that inspired spambots to write about
lollipop cigarettes, online money, South Africa, and poetry.
Another popular post proved to be The Straco Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering along, which is just about a small Japanese tin toy car. Really. So I'm not sure why it attracted the following comments:

  - I used to be able to find good info from you? content. My weblog - South African Government Travel Advisory [So sorry to disappoint. But I didn't have much to say about South Africa in my post about an early 1960's lithographed Japanese toy car.]

 - Yes! Finally someone writes about money online. [Really? Well they didn't do it here!]

- Lollipop shaped v2 cigarettes incredibly preferred amongst ladies. [Cryptic advice from the spammers. You heard it hear first, ladies.] 

- Hi there colleagues, how is all, and what you wish for to say on the topic of this article, in my view its truly awesome for me. [Yes, how is all, y'all?]

- What a material of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious familiarity regarding unpredicted feelings. [Sheer poetry.]

And in conclusion, we have a comment that refers back to a previous post and ties everything together nicely.

What's up, this weekend is fastidious for me, since this point in time i am reading this wonderful educational article here at my residence. 

Wishing one and all every fastidiousness at their residence.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Thea Musgrave: Chamber Works for Oboe - an unusual but effective composer portrait

Thea Musgrave: Chamber works for oboe
Nicholas Daniel, oboe
Harmonia Mundi

Oboist Nicholas Daniel is uniquely qualified to present this program (which is probably why he did so). Daniel commissioned a concerto from Thea Musgrave, and the working relationship they established gives Daniel special insight into Musgrave's music. This recording brings together Musgrave's compositions for the oboe in chamber settings, and represent over fifty years of compositional development.

The earliest work is the Trio for flute, oboe and piano (1960). To my ears it sounds academically atonal, as was the fashion then. And yet, it's not at all harsh or unmusical. The inherent lyricism of Musgrave might be buried, but it's lying very close to the surface.

The featured piece, Night Windows for oboe and piano, is more recent, dating from 2007. Based on a Edward Hopper painting of the same name (which appears on the cover), Night Windows is a series of musical sketches, each one delineating a different emotion: loneliness anger nostalgia despair and frenzy. The sparse piano part coupled with the single-line of the oboe present these emotions in a simple and straight-forward manner. Here Musgrave's melodic gifts are to the fore, making this work quite effective and appealing.

There are some shorter and lighter works on the album, such as the two impromptus and Take Two Oboes, which is just some good-natured fun.

For me, works for live performer and tape don't age well, but Musgrave's Niobe is an exception. Although composed in 1987 for oboe and tape, its atmospheric and ethereal sounds have a timeless aspect.

The Threnody for cor anglais and piano makes a fitting close to the program. The cor anglais has a warmer and darker sound than the oboe, an the change in timber from the previous oboe pieces almost serves as a coda. The work was commissioned to make the passing of a beloved teacher, Musgrave effectively conveys deep sorrow and a sense of loss without sounding maudlin or trite.

Daniel plays with a clean, clear tone and is in complete command of this material. He has the ability to be warm and expressive, and to play aggressively and with great agility as the music demands. An unusual but very compelling portrait of a modern master.

Friday, April 26, 2013

CCC 069 - Carlos Colon Quintana

The Consonant Classical Challenge features Carlos Colon Quintana this time around. Colon Quintana was born in El Salvador, and moved to Guatemala, where he first studied composition as a teenager. In time, he made his way to the United States where he is active as a composer today.

Colon Quintana writes primarily orchestral and choral compositions. He incorporates the music of Central America into his works, which makes them readily accessible, even on first hearing. At the same time, his music is structurally sound, taking full advantage of the complexities that classical composition can offer.

El Alabado de Margil is a good representation of Colon Quintana's style. Listen for the blend of contemporary art music gestures with the rhythms and harmonic patterns of Latino culture.

The Obertura Para Un Martir is a powerful work for soloist, choir and orchestra. Part concert work, part theater piece,  Colon Quintana sublimates the folk elements to the imperative nature of the text.

Colon Quintana writes quite effectively for chorus. This excerpt from his requiem shows how Colon Quintana uses the human voice in sometimes unusual ways to communicate the emotions he wants. Confutatis from the Requiem demonstrates this principle in action. And in this video, the composer conducts, providing further insight as to how he envisioned the work to be performed.

Carlos Colon Quintana is part of a distinguished company of  Central and South American composers who have successfully blended folk traditions with classical conventions to create a unique musical voice.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any recordings to recommend. And that is unfortunate, because all of his works I've heard have been appealing, engaging, and well-crafted. All we need is some rising conductor to champion his music (and perhaps record it for Naxos).

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lessons from York - What we didn't see: Vendors!

Dad and I recently returned from our semi-annual trip to the Train Collectors Association Eastern Division toy train meet in York, PA. As always, we discussing what we saw a lot of (and what we didn't) -- and why.

There are cycles to what we see at the York show. What was missing? Well, a lot of the things that seemed to be in disproportionate abundance in earlier meets -- like the vintage Pennsylvania Railroad wall calendars, the Lionel Coke Sets, or the Tootsietoy box sets.

But what was really missing this time were the vendors. Not that the show was undersold -- far from it. Every table had a name affixed to it. But strangely, every hall had a significant number of tables that were empty.

So what?

I've done professional trade shows, and compared to the rates we were charged, the York meet is a bargain -- $30 per table, with most vendors spreading out over two or three tables. Now according to the rules, there is a penalty for leaving the show early. It runs from noon on Thursday through noon on Saturday, and (rightly), the organizers don't want a ghost town to those who can't make it during the work week.

There's no penalty for arriving late, though, and that's what made what we didn't see interesting. Every hall had 5-10 vendors that simply weren't there for the first day of the show. Now in the past, the first day has been critical. In the past, the first hour was a feeding frenzy as collectors rushed down the aisles hoping to find the good stuff before another eager collector snatched it up.

So the first hour of the first day would be a prime time to sell. Maybe.

Missing out, or conserving energy?

This year, the energy level was a little lower. The first hour was very active, but not frantic as folks moved in a brisk but orderly fashion through the halls. So why did some vendors -- who had invested $60 - $120 for tables -- not show up?

Perhaps they did more volume on the weekends and didn't see the need to sit around the first day (and perhaps the second) with little to show for it.

And if that's so, then that could suggest an interesting shift in the demographics of the attendees. The hobby has tended to skew old. That time when you're old enough to want to reclaim the toys of your youth and have the disposable income to do so usually doesn't happen until your own children are grown -- around middle age.

Folks in their late 50's and early 60's are usually senior enough in their companies to have enough leave to attend York on Thursday and Friday. Those older are often retired, which also lets them attend during the week.

Younger collectors, though, might not be able to take off during the week -- or with limited days off, not consider it important enough to do so. For them, a weekend visit is an option.

 We know the vendors have to be there through the end of the show on Saturday. Are they seeing an increase in the weekend traffic? And could that mean that the market is beginning to shift? We're not sure, but I'll be paying attention during the fall meet to see if there are any increases in the no-shows, or if the rules change to cover arrival as well as departure times.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lessons from York - What we saw: A change in scale

Dad and I recently returned from our semi-annual trip to the Train Collectors Association Eastern Division toy train meet in York, PA. As always, we discussing what we saw a lot of (and what we didn't) -- and why.

Although the particulars of these posts are about toy trains, that's not what they're really about. Rather, it's how changing demographics affect collector's markets.

The York train show is a good place to spot trends. It's one of the biggest shows in the hobby, drawing 13,000 - 15,000 attendees, and has over 1,000 vendor tables. It's also the show that most major manufacturers in the field (such as Lionel) roll out the new product.

What we saw

The biggest change in this year's show was the appearance of vintage N scale items. Not only did a significant number of vendors offer them, but for the most part, the objects for sale were in good condition and reasonably priced.

A little background

The Train Collector's Association was founded to further the hobby of collecting toy trains. In the 1950's, that meant Lionel and American Flyer (and the prewar companies that preceded and in some cases were bought out by them). For prewar trains, it meant metal construction and bright colors. For postwar (1949-1970) it meant metal and plastic construction and more realistic colors.

In any case, gauge (or size) mattered. Trains in standard gauge (1:32 scale), O-gauge (1:43 scale) and even S gauge (1:64 scale) were acceptable. HO trains (1:87 scale) were not.

The reason was two-fold.

First, HO gauge was considered the scale for modelers. Many HO hobbyists started with an O or S gauge train set as a child and discarded it when they became serious modelers. a majority of TCA members are former HO modelers and now look to replace the toy trains they gave away.

Second, what HO scale toy trains there are have virtually no value. There were inexpensive starter sets made that were sold for younger children to play with. They were cheaply made, and quite fragile. As a result, they were often broken through rough handling. And being plastic, these trains weren't easily repaired. Broken plastic trains missing most of their parts aren't attractive display pieces.

Scale model HO trains also have little collector value. Assembling and customizing model kits is a highly individualistic form of expression. Others may admire the craftsmanship, but few are interested in purchasing such a "used" HO train piece.

The HO scale trains and accessories I've seen at York have received no love. They're usually just dumped in a cardboard box and offered as a lot. Even well-modeled pieces are indifferently displayed and sold.

A small change

Enter N gauge. (1:160 scale). N scale really became popular in the late 1960's. Like HO, a number of starter sets were offered, and there were model kits available. But there were some differences. First, because N scale locomotives and cars are so tiny, wheels, gears and motors had to be made with precision in order to work at all. Which mean even entry level N gauge sets were built to a much higher quality standard than corresponding HO sets.

Second, although there were (and are) many serious N gauge modelers who modify their gear in the same fashion as their HO counterparts, a large percentage of rolling stock was used "as is" straight out of the box. The cars were so tiny it was difficult to work on them, and because of their size, it didn't seem to matter. N scale trains can look very realistic without any work.

So why the influx?

N scale trains are not something you give to a child. The first generation to really embrace N scale probably purchased (or were given) their first set as a teenager or later. Now in their late 40's and early 50's, these TCA members are ready to do what most toy collectors do -- replace the objects of their youth.

There's now a market for this scale. The vintage N scale trains I saw offered for sale were clean and in good condition. Most were in their original boxes, and none had been tampered with.

And something else: the couplers that were used universally by N scale manufacturers has recently been replaced by a smaller and more realistic coupler. So if you have an N scale layout with older rolling stock, you can't use the current offerings with them. Another good reason to start haunting the train meets. And at York, I saw some bargains -- and, perhaps, a new market for a new generation.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Martin Perry Plays Carter, Bartok and Rozsa in intriguing program

Martin Perry plays Carter, Bartók, Rózsa
Martin Perry, piano
Bridge Records

Martin Perry presents works by three composers that aren't often grouped together: Bela Bartok, Miklós Rózsa, and Elliot Carter. And yet the three works on this disc form a cohesive and intriguing program.

Bartok used folk songs as the basis for his Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, Op. 20. But as the title suggests, he didn't simply present the folk songs intact. He works with his material, often taking it in unexpected directions. The overall effect is that we're hearing both something old and something new -- which we are.

Miklos Rózsa is best remembered for his film scores, but he started his career as a classical composer, and remained so throughout his life. His Piano Sonata, Op. 20  has the some of the post-romantic gestures of his movie music, but there's more to it than that. Rózsa's composition is densely textured and complex in structure. Perry rises to the challenge, articulating the intricate lines that weave in and out of each other.

The 1945 piano sonata of Elliot Carter is something of a transitional work. Carter was still writing in a neoclassical style in the 1940's, but one can hear the move towards what would become his highly personal form of serialism. Martin Perry plays with clarity, and illuminates the overarching organization of the work. His phrasing makes connections between the various motivic elements, so that the music builds logically rather than sound like a series of isolated incidents. Despite being devilishly difficult, Perry makes the piece flow, and even plays with élan.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Martin Perry scores big with American composers

Martin Perry Performs Binkerd & Ives
Gordon Binkerd: Essays for the Piano
Charles Ives: "Concord" Sonata
Martin Perry, piano
Bridge Records

Both works on this new release are first recordings, but for different reasons. Gordon Binkerd isn't a composer who's often performed, which is why his Essays get a recording premier here. Charles Ives' "Concord" Sonata has enjoyed several recordings, but this oft-revised work exists in many different versions -- this is the premier recording of one of them.

Gordon Binkerd was a Midwesterner who was active in the mid-Twentieth century. His music has a deliberately homespun roughness to it, which Binkerd used to express the inherent Americaness of his work. Whether the stance was authentic or not, Binkerd never received the attention of Copland and Barber, and his work has been sadly neglected.

I say sadly, because the three Essays for the Piano played here are well-crafted works that deserve a hearing. These works sound "American" without any affectation, and have real expressive power. The Essays are in a somewhat dissonant style, but still full of interesting and engaging melodies and harmonies.

Ives continually revised his Second Piano Sonata even after he had it published. So there are a lot of different -- and sometimes conflicting -- versions of the work in existence. Pianist John Kirkpatrick (who would in time become the curator of the Charles Ives Archive at Yale) pulled together all of these variant versions and created a definitive, final edition of the work. That's the version Perry plays in this release.

As played by Perry, the sonata is very expressive, with some of the quieter sections sounding almost sweetly sentimental. Even during the roaring climaxes, Perry plays with taste and musicality. The music gets loud, but it's always under control -- not a mean feat with the maelstrom of notes and tune snippets Ives throws at the player. Perry delivers a very distinctive -- and faithful, I think -- interpretation of this complex work. And one that provides additional insights when compared to other performances.

Friday, April 19, 2013

CCC 068 - Jocelyn Morlock

This installment of the Consonant Classical Challenge features Canadian composer Jocelyn Morlock. Although not as well-known in this country, Morlock is an established and well-respected composer in her native country. According to one source, she's quickly becoming one of the most commissioned composers in Canada.

Morlock is concerned about expressing emotion, and does so effectively by using tonal material in a unique and unconventional fashion. Much of her work uses modal scales and harmonic motion -- something very much part of the current musical vernacular.So while there's a core to her music that's readily understandable, its used as a starting point to take the listener into new sonic worlds.

Her "Prelude and Fugue" follows the well-established form, but the form doesn't hem in the music. Listen especially to the expressiveness and freedom of the prelude. The fugue is a model of counterpoint, without sounding stilted or academic. It, like the prelude, simply flows.

Aeromancy is double cello concerto. Morlock writes, "Aeromancy is divination by observing atmospheric conditions. My concerto, Aeromancy, has at its foundation an oscillation of mood from bright to ominous and back, seeking equilibrium but never quite finding it, always questioning." The openness of the sound might remind one of Copland, but not the orchestration. Morlock uses the resources of a chamber orchestra to achieve the effect of oscillation, and subtle shifts of moods.

[Hear an excerpt on SoundCloud]

Morlock calls herself an "admirer of weird birds." Her work "t" uses the orchestra to create an atmosphere in which birds can be heard chirping and flying about. It's an evocative and effective work. Morlock incorporates bird calls into her score, and like Messiaen, uses them as motivic material.

[Hear an excerpt on SoundCloud]
Oiseaux bleus et sauvages (2003) -excerpt

Even based on even the small sampling of her music presented here, it's easy to hear why Jocelyn Morlock is attracting attention. Her music is accessible without being derivative. Although Not a lot of Morlock's music is available on recordings, which is a shame. The two selections below are compilation albums of Canadian composers, and each feature one work by Morlock. You can hear a good selection of her catalog at her Soundcloud page

Recommended Recordings

Musica Intima 20 by Musica Intima (August 28, 2012)

Centrediscs - 30 Years, A Canadian Music sampler 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Collecting -- and collecting information 8C

I have a new virtual hobby -- gathering information about the Model A friction toy cars Bandai manufactured in the early 1960's. In part one, I gave some background. In parts two and three, I'm sharing what I've learned so far.

Part Three - Truck Bodies
So far, I've only found examples of two different types of truck bodies -- a panel truck, and a pickup truck. As with the variations for the car bodies, I would expect that in addition to the two styles of convertible pick up trucks, there is at least one version with a hard top cab.

1) Panel Trucks

2) Pickup Trucks

A) Models with top up -- known body colors: red, yellow

B) Models with top down -- known body colors: yellow

3) Fire truck
This is a somewhat unusual piece. Although it uses the same basic body as the rest of the Bandai Model A series, the pumper mechanism looks like it borrowed from another Bandai toy, a Model T-style fire engine! Only the fluting at the top of the boiler is different.

The Bandai Model T-style fire engine. Note the pumper
assembly.The boiler is the same as the one on the Model A.
The Model A's version is missing the fluting at top.
4) Battery-Operated Vehicles
Bandai also used parts from the Model A series to make some battery-operated vehicles. The fire engine is very similar to the Model A friction toy, save for the base, which has the battery compartment. Plus, an additional spinning mechanism was added.

Incorporating many of the Bandi Model A friction toy
parts, this battery-operated toy nevertheless falls
outside the series.

This fire engine has a completely different
undercarriage than the rest of the Bandai Model A's
The battery-operated hot rod uses the coupe body. Look carefully at wheel base, and you'll see the same spinner that the battery-operated fire engine has.

 Updated 6/20/13

Part 1: Bandai Model A series overview
Part 2: Bandai Model A cars bodies

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Collecting -- and collecting information 8B

I have a new virtual hobby -- gathering information about the Model A friction toy cars Bandai manufactured in the early 1960's. In part one, I gave some background. In parts two and three, I'm sharing what I've learned so far.

Part Two - Car Bodies
So far, I've only found examples of two different types of car bodies -- 4-door touring cars with convertible tops, and 2-door coupe convertibles. I would not be surprised to discover hard top versions of these styles.

1) 4-Door Touring Convertibles

A) Models with top down -- know body colors: cream, green, red, green No. 10

4-Door Touring Convertible with top down (cream)
4-Door Touring Convertible with top down (red)

4-Door Touring Convertible with top down (green)

B) Models with top up - know body colors: blue, red, blue with Police markings

4-Door Touring Convertible with top up (red)

4-Door Touring Convertible with top up (blue)
"City Police" 4-Door Touring Convertible with top up (blue)

2) 2-Door Coupes

A) Models with top down -- know body colors: green

2-Door Coupe Convertible with top up (green)

B) Models with top up -- known body colors: cream, red, yellow, red No. 3 "Champion"

2-Door Coupe Convertible with top up (red)

2-Door Coupe Convertible with top up (cream)

2-Door Coupe Convertible with top up (yerllow)

3) Woody station wagon
known models: tan woody; white ambulance

Woody body in tan.
Ambulance body in white

updated 6/21/13

Part 1: Bandai Model A series overview 
Part 3: Bandai Model A truck bodies

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Collecting -- and collecting information 8A

Three examples of Bandai's Model A series.
One of the side projects I have going is collecting information about some Japanese tin friction cars I own. Bandai produced a series of Ford Model A tinplate vehicles in the early 1960's. By just changing out a few parts, Bandai was able to offer a line of toys, without the expense of creating tooling for each model.

The Model A pick-up with the top up. Change one
piece of metal...
If there's a theme to the Collecting -- and collecting information series, it's this: how much information can be gathered about an under-documented topic? And how best to make sense of that information in a meaningful and realistic fashion?

I remember seeing six of these Model A toys for sale at Kann's Department Store (where my grandmother worked);  a touring car with the top down, a touring car with the top up, a coupe with the top down, a coupe with the top up, a pickup truck with the top down, and a pickup truck with the top up.

All had the same wheels, frame and friction motor. They all had the same grille, hood, bumpers, and plastic headlights and steering wheel. I received three of these models as a boy, and until quite recently I was sure that I had half of the set.

...and you have a different toy. Changing colors
helps, too.
While checking on the prices for the Bandai Model A's I owned on eBay, I discovered I was wrong. There were body styles and colors I had not seen before. And so a new hobby was born. I'm curious to find out exactly how many Model A variations Bandai made.

In a sense, it's a virtual hobby. I'm doing some searches and saving images to a folder, but that's the extent of it. I have no desire to purchase any more of these toys, nor do I want to devote the space it would take to display them properly.

No, I just want to know how many variations there are, and so I'm just keeping track of them as I run across them. It's sort of like trainspotting, I suppose, and probably just as long-term. We'll see!

Part 2: Bandai Model A cars bodies 
Part 3: Bandai Model A truck bodies 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Lio and the Purple Crayon

It's a perfect match. Mark Tatulli often incorporates the lines of his comic strip Lio into the strip itself (see Lio and the Fourth Wall). And Crockett Johnson's classic children's book character Harold did the same thing.

In his adventures with his purple crayon, 2-dimensional lines were continually reinterpreted, driving the story forward. They sometimes came to life, and sometimes made pictures that become the objects they depicted.

Except in this sequence. (click to enlarge).

Johnson was also a comic strip creator. His innovative work Barnaby ran from 1942-1952. Which makes this a nice tribute from one comic strip artist to another.

Friday, April 12, 2013

CCC 067 - Wim Zwaag

This week's  Consonant Classical Challenge entry is Dutch composer Wim Zwaag. Zwaag is a relatively young composer (b. 1960), and has no problem using simple harmonies and rhythms as the foundation for his music. Zwaag writes:
 Music must strike directly to the soul of the listener through its emotion and passion. I consider it a touchstone of my composing.
Although Zwaag writes in a mostly tonal language, his music sounds fresh and vital. Its accessibility makes its emotional content so effective.

Zwaag has a balanced catalog of works, with an almost equal number of chamber, piano, orchestral and vocal compositions. Major works include two string quartets,  two piano concertos, and concertos for violin, cello and clarinet, as well as some large-scale orchestral pieces.

The Sonata for Saxophone and Piano has the essence of Zwaag's style. Although the individual components are quite simple, the way Zwaag puts them together creates a complex and engaging work.

Zwaag writes effectively for the piano, as both his solo works and concertos for the instrument attest. The Piano Concerto No. 2 also shows Zwaag's gift for melody, as well as his talent for orchestration. Listen how the carefully selected combination of instruments supports the piano solo part.

The Violin Concerto is another attractive work. Here Zwaag uses the violin's expressive ability to communicate the passion and emotion his compositions are all about.

Zwaag's set of 24 piano preludes are studies in simplicity. The Prelude No. 2 from that set is but one example of how Zwaag uses modest compositional building blocks to create wonderfully attractive music.

Wim Zwaag is not a crossover composer. His music is placed solidly in the classical tradition. And yet it's music that should be immediately understandable both to long-time classical listeners and audiences new to the genre. Zwaag uses classical traditions in new ways, creating music that can engage, excite, and delight. And it's music that one can return to again and again and gain additional insight.

Recommended Recordings

Violin Concerto & Piano Concerto No. 2

Symphony No. 1 and Symphonic Poem

24 Preludes for Piano Solo

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dick Tracy and the Jumble Crossover

Mike Curtis and Joe Staton continue to move Dick Tracy in new and innovative directions. I've noted some of their crossovers with other comic strips (both current and historical). But there's not been anything quite like this before.

The current continuity presents a crossover between a comic strip and a comics page puzzle. Yes, Pig, from Pearls Before Swine has appeared in Slylock Fox & Comics for Kids (see Pearls Before Foxes). But what the creative teams of Dick Tracy and the Daily Jumble have cooked up is an extended crossover sequence -- each feature doing what it does best.

From the Jumble side, last week featured puzzles all centered around Dick Tracy. Although unnamed, it's pretty clear that the cartoons star Dick Tracy, along with Flattop and Sam Catchem in supporting roles (click on images to enlarge).

On the other side, Dick Tracy is confronted by a villain who calls himself the Jumbler. His costume is made up of graphic elements of the Jumble puzzle, and his crimes are based on Jumbles.

Tracy visits the Jumble creative team. (I'd love to know how closely those characters resemble their real-life counterparts.)

Note these Sunday sections. In the upper right are the actual puzzles the Jumbler uses to give clues to the police. And if you look carefully, you'll see the resemblance in the Jumble cartoon to the Jumbler. The puzzle gives the reader an opportunity to participate. You can try to solve the puzzle before reading further and match your wits with Dick Tracy!

This is true comics synergy. If your paper carries only one of these features, you'll still be entertained. But seeing them both on the same page just adds an extra dimension of enjoyment.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Beata Moon: Saros

Beata Moon

BiBimBop Music

If you think modern music is just academic cacophony, then Beata Moon's compositions should quickly change your mind. Moon writes in an accessible style that combines post-romantic sensibilities with contemporary (if not necessarily classical) rhythmic and melodic gestures. As the works on Saros show, it's a powerful combination. Moon's compositions brim with energy and vitality. The musical language in this collection of solo and chamber music is familiar enough to draw listeners in even on first hearing, and reward their attention with insightful emotion.

(Beata Moon has also been featured in the Consonant Classical Challenge, series)

Dinner is West for violin, cello and piano starts the program. This ballet score is comprised of several small vignettes, each interesting and appealing in their own fashion.  Wood Water and Land is my personal favorite. It's a solo composition for marimba. The rich timbre of the instrument, especially as played by Wai-Chi Tang, is well-suited to Moon's music.

Moon isn't afraid of savoring beautiful tones. And her composition Tenancy for cello and piano shows. The cello is allowed to sing, especially in the first and third movements. Poignant turns of phrase and long, flowing lines make this a showcase that should be part of every cellist's repertoire (in my opinion). Dragonfly for clarinet, viola and piano flits about like its namesake, a light interlude that just sounds fun to play.

Dickinson Songs for soprano and guitar is one of the more aggressively "modern" works on this disc. Moon makes some interesting choices in her setting of the text -- choices that bring new insight into these familiar poems. A Collage of Memories for violin, piano follows, another piece that has modernist leanings. But it, too, wins listeners over with its emotional authenticity.

Rhapsody is a beautiful work for solo piano, performed by the composer. Moon is an accomplished pianist, and this gorgeous piece shows both her performing and writing skills to best advantage. A fitting end to this intimate portrait of a composer and her music.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Lio and the Fourth Wall 4

I've written about Mark Tatulli, creator of Lio, and his use of the panel borders before (Lio and the Fourth Wall). The two sequences below are good examples of his inventiveness. The first, from March 16, 2013 suggests the borders are some type of supporting framework. Cut them, and the panel falls (click on images to enlarge).

The genius of Tatulli's riff is how the function of the panel border -- which often the reader doesn't even see -- changes. In the April 4, 2013 sequence the border isn't a framework -- it's a vessel. And a fairly fragile one at that, apparently.

This is the type of metahumor that keeps me turning to the comics page first every morning!