For Halloween: The Great Pumpkin

great pumpkin

“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” was one of the first televised Peanuts specials, and one of the best. Here are a few selected scenes dealing with Linus’s misguided belief in the Great Pumpkin (who will only rise from the most sincere pumpkin patch in the world), and Sally’s reaction when she realized that she’s wasted her whole Halloween evening.


Happy (belated) birthday, Ludwig van Beethoven

beethoven schroeder

Beethoven’s birthday was a few days.

How do I know this? Why, the dear late Charles Schulz, of course.

Charles Schulz was the artist behind the comic strip “Peanuts.” He created the character Schroeder, who played his toy piano as if it were a grand piano, and who especially appreciated the music of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Schulz said later that he loved the idea of a child playing real music on a toy piano, and he showed this by showing Schroeder playing the actual (complex) Beethoven scores. You can always identify the music that Schroeder is playing; Schulz reproduces it perfectly, note for note.

And every December Schroeder remembered and celebrated Beethoven’s birthday, on the seventeenth of December.

Was Beethoven really born on the seventeenth of December? No one is sure. He was baptized on the seventeenth, in any case.

In belated honor of Beethoven’s birth (and baptism): the lovely ethereal opening movement of the late E major piano sonata No. 30, op. 109.



Kid stuff: Sparky Schulz


We are dismissive of anything labeled “kid stuff.” If a book or a movie is marketed toward “young audiences,” we tend automatically to assume it’s mediocre at best. And some media / art forms – animation, comics – are automatically consigned to the “kid stuff” bin.


But everything in the bin doesn’t necessarily belong there. The author / artist may well have had children in mind, but that doesn’t mean that the art is childish.


Charles Schulz – well, hats off, gentlemen, a genius. I grew up with “Peanuts,” and I still get a thrill from the sharpness of the dialogue and the simplicity of the drawings. There’s also the bizarre juxtaposition of everyday reality – school, baseball, lunch, holidays – with the distinctly surreal atmosphere created by a dog who pretends he’s a World War I flying ace, and whose best friend is a bird who communicates in long strings of punctuation marks.


For a long time, I assumed Schulz was a devout Protestant Christian. Somebody (usually Linus) is always quoting the King James Bible; whole parables get acted out sometimes. And there was Schulz’s public image: an amateur hockey player in a funny sweater, whimsical, modest, a family man.


Then I read David Michaelis’s bio of Schulz.


It turns out that Sparky Schulz was not quite like that. He drifted away from his church after a while; he had extramarital affairs, and he actually used the strip to communicate with his girlfriends. Remember all the times Snoopy fell in love? Schulz was dropping codewords and sweet nothings into the dialogue, messages to the women in his life.


The one stable point in the strip, I think, is the bittersweet note of resignation. Charlie Brown is resigned to being a loser. Peppermint Patty is resigned to being a failure in school. Snoopy, much though he struggles against it, is resigned to being a dog. Linus is resigned to being a little brother.


You don’t always get what you want, and sometimes you just have to live with what you’re given.


Kid stuff indeed.



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