August 28, 2009

Dinosaurs Are Notoriously Bad At Making Decisions

#8 Cat And Girl

See Introduction | #9

It's been genetically proven that every new webcomic since 1995 is a direct descendent of Calvin and Hobbes. But not one is a more direct descendent than Cat and Girl.

You have a girl of undetermined age, accompanied by a cat of dubious reality. Together they muse on life, society and philosophy. The strip is even populated by the occasional dinosaur.

In the beginning (circa 1999), the strip tilted more towards Calvin's imaginary world view, fighting monsters that jump out of paintings, or facing off against invaders from outer space.

But over the years, Girl has become a speed bump in the fast lane of society, worried, alarmed or disgusted by what the masses would term progress. Nearly every strip now is a rumination on life and the human condition. Cat breezes through, seemingly unconcerned with the world at large, determined to enjoy his own personal kingdom. He does his best to bring Girl joy and solace.

Cat tries to entice Girl into having more fun. Cat tries to comfort Girl when she realizes they are not part of the elite. He helps her choose between creation and destruction. And he consoles her when she wants to give up.

Life for Cat and Girl is usually not easy. Cat takes it all in with aplomb, unfazed. Girl accepts it with a bittersweet resignation. Together, they suggest two extreme ways to go about living life. For the rest of us, we are somewhere in between.

Lyric Of The Day:

Hello cowgirl in the sand
Is this place
at your command
Can I stay here
for a while
Can I see your
sweet sweet smile
Old enough now
to change your name
When so many love you
is it the same?
It's the woman in you
that makes you want
to play this game.

"Cowgirl in the Sand"
-Neil Young

August 25, 2009

The World Needs More Laughter. Fewer Awkward Silences.

#9 Goats

See the introduction here.

I am in love with webcomics. Using your favorite rss aggregator (Google Reader in my case), they get magically zapped to your computer in a 21st century version of the funny pages. If you are tired of the awkward silences after reading Marmaduke, do yourself a favor and join the world of digital webcomics.

I am no expert, but I believe when it comes to longevity, webcomics qualify after about 6 months. Goats began on April 1, 1997. That is twelve years ago, people!

Something of an Internet institution, Goats is scatterbrained and offensive, but with adorable animals characters. The bizarro plot bounces from the Chaos Pope, to the Good Hitler movie, to a dimension full of infinite monkeys working on infinite typewriters. Anything can happen. And it does.

The characters include Diablo: a satanic chicken hellbent on government overthrow; his maniacal offspring, Oliver: cute, obscene and destructive; and my favorite, Fish: the innocent goldfish who lives in a glass of beer.

Goats peaked around 2004. The comics from this time period are among my favorite. Like when Diablo fed Oliver some chocolate. Or when Phillip challenged Diablo to a villainry duel. Or when Fish goes to do battle with the Space Wizards who have been inserting sadness into his brain.

Unfortunately, much like Harrison Ford, Goats 2009 lacks the vitality and genius of its younger days. The plot lines have spiraled out of control. The punch lines no longer sparkle. Even the artwork has declined. I keep reading, much as I went to see Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I expect a hollow reminder of how awesome they used to be, but hope to be pleasantly surprised.

So skip the new stuff, and go right for the classics. Goats used to be first rate. And it helped to popularize the genre, which ought to count for something. Like number 9 on the all time list of great webcomics.

Lyric of the Day:

I didn't die and I ain't complainin'.
I ain't blamin' you.
I didn't know that the words you said to me
Meant more to me than they ever could you.
I didn't lie and I ain't sayin'
I told the whole truth.
I didn't know that this game we were playin'
Even had a set of rules.

We named our children after towns
That we've never been to.
And it's true that the clouds just hung around
Like black Cadillacs outside a funeral.
And we were laughing at the stars
While our feet clung tight to the ground.
So pleased with ourselves
For using so many verbs and nouns.

"Black Cadillacs"
-Modest Mouse

August 20, 2009

All Sorts Of Blue

Fifty years ago this week, the greatest jazz album of all time, Miles Davis's Kind of Blue, was released. How do I know it was the greatest album of all time? Because everyone says it was. For an example, read this tribute from Slate, which should allay any nagging doubts.

As I celebrated in an earlier post, everything has been listified. What's the best movie of all time? Citizen Kane. The Best Album? Sgt. Pepper's. Who's the sexiest man alive? Hugh Jackman.

These lists are great. They avoid us having to wonder about our favorites. They demystify the seemingly unknowable. They categorize the infinite choices we are faced with everyday, and fit them into easily digested summaries. Even God agrees.

Unfortunately, not everything has been organized into a list for us. Dance With Sunflowers pledges to do its best to rectify that problem. In a continuing series of things we like, organized in the order we like them, here are the greatest webcomics on the web today.

(How do you know they are the best? Because we have read every single webcomic. That's how.)

Because of the awesomeness of these comics, to try and cram everything into one blog would fail to do them justice. So welcome to Webcomics Week at Dance With Sunflowers.

And happy anniversary Miles.

August 11, 2009

Conqueror Of The Old Northwest

Well, it has finally happened. The email responses to Dance With Sunflowers have become so voluminous, I can no longer keep up. So I have decided to start a new feature of my blog where I answer reader questions.

Let's call it the Weekly Mail Blog.

Email #1

Dear Doc,

Where have you been? You use to post several times a week. But it's been months since your last post. What's going on?

Missing you,
Holly Graham
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Dear HG,

As much as I like blogging every day, there are other things I like just as much, like trips to the dentist or sentry duty. If I blog too often, I will be neglecting these other worthwhile pursuits, and I could end up as the next Wil Wheaton.

But rest assured that I will keep blogging as much as I can, when I am not busy doing other things I enjoy more.

The Good Doctor

Email #2

Dear Doc,

I have been reading your blog, and I've been thinking, "Hey, it can't be that hard. I should start a blog of my own."

Any advice for a first time blogger? Is it even possible for a guy to start blogging without the backing of a huge corporation and unlimited resources?

Aggressively opinionated,
Roger Matthews
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

Dear RM,

I'm sorry to say that most blogging sites require a master's degree in one of the hard sciences and three letters of reference from people that don't actually know you but will vouch for your forthrightness. As if that weren't enough, you must also show proof of certificate from one of three fully accredited etiquette and good manners training programs.

Fortunately, several of the top universities now feature major opportunities in microcommunications. Early figures indicate 27% of graduates are able to secure at least part time blogging employment within the first six months.

The Good Doctor

Email #3

Dear Doc,

Who's your favorite historical figure?

Jonas Abraham
Bucksport, Maine

Dear JA,

Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author and printer, satirist, political theorist, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, soldier, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. He invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, a carriage odometer, and the glass 'armonica'. He formed both the first public lending library in America and first fire department in Pennsylvania. He was an early proponent of colonial unity, and as a political writer and activist he supported the idea of an American nation. As a diplomat during the American Revolution he secured the French alliance that helped to make independence of the United States possible.

Franklin is credited as being foundational to the roots of American values and character, a marriage of the practical and democratic Puritan values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious, with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment. In the words of Henry Steele Commager, "In Franklin could be merged the virtues of Puritanism without its defects, the illumination of the Enlightenment without its heat." To Walter Isaacson, this makes Franklin, "the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become."

Franklin became a newspaper editor, printer, and merchant in Philadelphia, becoming very wealthy, writing and publishing Poor Richard's Almanack and The Pennsylvania Gazette. Franklin was interested in science and technology, and gained international renown for his famous experiments. He played a major role in establishing the University of Pennsylvania and Franklin & Marshall College and was elected the first president of the American Philosophical Society. Franklin became a national hero in America when he spearheaded the effort to have Parliament repeal the unpopular Stamp Act. An accomplished diplomat, he was widely admired among the French as American minister to Paris and was a major figure in the development of positive Franco-American relations. From 1775 to 1776, Franklin was Postmaster General under the Continental Congress and from 1785 to 1788 was President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania. Toward the end of his life, he became one of the most prominent abolitionists.

His colorful life and legacy of scientific and political achievement, and status as one of America's most influential Founding Fathers, has seen Franklin honored on coinage and money; warships; the names of many towns, counties, educational institutions, namesakes, and companies; and more than two centuries after his death, countless cultural references.

And to answer you question, my favorite historical figure is George Rogers Clark.

The Good Doctor

Lyric of the Day:

Everything alive must die
Every building built to the sky will fall
Don't try to tell me my
Everlasting love is a lie

Everlasting everything
Oh nothing could mean anything at all

Every wave that hits the shore
Every book that I adore
Gone like a circus, gone like a troubadour
Everlasting love for ever more

Oh I know this might sound sad
But everything goes both good and the bad
It all adds up and you should be glad
Everlasting love is all you have

Everlasting Everything

August 9, 2009

In The Sequel, They Have To Rescue Barbie

Though it is possible it could have been even more magnificent with a bit of attention paid to the script and special effects, the new G.I. Joe movie definitely achieved an acceptable level of magnificence. Dennis Quaid's ham-fisted performance notwithstanding--I found myself googling "Dennis Quaid recent stroke victim" to find out what was wrong with him--the Joe movie far exceeded even my prodigal expectations.

You have Zartan, played by the Mummy. You have Destro. You have the Baroness, and Scarlett and Heavy Duty. Best of all, you have Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, battling it out every time they lay eyes on one another, starting at age 10. Despite all the grumbling from critics (seriously, what were you expecting? The characters are based on a line of Hasbro action figures?) what you really have is a $170 million child's fantasy translated to the big screen. I mean, isn't this exactly what we were imagining when we were playing with our G.I. Joe's as kids.

In fact, the only real disappointment for me was the one part of the movie I expected to be infallible. Cobra Commander, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, should have been the highlight. Instead, from the big reveal on his mask at the end (how could you mess this up?) to his lackluster, under the top acting, the ultimate megalomaniac came off as little more than a petty thug. Dr. Horrible makes a better super villain.

Here's hoping in the sequel, they ramp up the awesome with Cobra Commander. Or better yet, how about a prequel with nothing but Snake Eyes vs. Storm Shadow. With a cameo from Shipwreck thrown in.