Thanks to our glorious leader TF Hackett, who brought up yesterday that “Mr. Whole Note.” is, in fact, a song/training exercise for learning piano students. The excerpt he posted of ‘The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 2.’ is simultaneously infuriating and fascinating. So, I’ll let you all expertly dissect Dinkle’s non-joke in the comments, and look forward to your hilarious analysis. I’m going off on a tangent again.
Like a lot of mouth breathing nerds, I am a huge Tolkien fan. Like, I’ve read The Silmarillion more than ONCE kind of Tolkien fan. If you really start digging into his work, you find out that the man was a persnickety and easily distracted procrastinator who created reams and reams of unfinished material that his son, Christopher, carefully collated and annotated into multiple volumes. The famous Silmarillion is just the tip of the iceberg.
Reading through something like “The History of Middle Earth” series, and seeing his son deconstruct the evolution of his father’s work in parallel to his father’s life is to get a window into the creative process of a man. The single world that Tolkien invented is so complex, with thousands of years of history and dozens, if not hundreds, of complete stories and sagas he never thought finished enough to release. And his son spent his whole life studying and writing about his father’s work, carefully breaking down the evolution of concepts and characters. I feel like all the weird asides, and life commentary, written in the margins of The Complete Funky Winkerbean attempt to achieve the same thing for Batiuk’s massive world.
But, unlike Tolkien, who hid his unfinished material away, and really didn’t like the idea of psychoanalyzing authors to find parallels in their own work, Batiuk is compelled to write the deconstruction himself. He has to be the one to break apart and explain this weird, paper-paste, universe he’s spent his life creating, and tie it together with his own experiences. Writing paragraphs on his musical education and family life with serious self-importance, probably because there is no one out there obsessed enough to do it for him.
It’s really kind of sad. Tolkien was a deeply religious man, assured of his own immortality and humble in his act of subcreation. Even if you don’t share his belief, you can tell how his faith comforted him. His only self psychoanalysis of his work is a wonderful short story, ‘Leaf by Niggle.’ In it he writes a parable of painter that ends with the realization that even if the massive work of art he was trying to create was never finished, and never appreciated, and ultimately never remembered by anyone on this Earth, that somehow it would exist forever and finally be perfected in the world to come.
Tom Batiuk, meanwhile, has the Kent State University Press printing out an entire Midrash of Funky Winkerbean, trying to scrape together enough interest and importance for a hint of earthly immortality. And, it seems, the only ones who care enough to spend any time at all engaging with his world are a tiny cabal of beady-eyed nitpickers who he disdains.
28 responses to “Mr. Whole Note Takes a Week.”
“Can we play ‘The Lost Chord’?”
“It’s the oldest known recorded song. It was found on an Edison wax cylinder made in 1888.”
“I don’t have the sheet music for that.”
“It’s on-line! You can find it yourself, Mr. Dinkle.” He hands Harry his iPhone. “Here! Get Lost!”
“And then we can listen to Au Clair de la Lune recorded via phonautograph in 1860. Originally it was supposed to be a visual representation and recording of sound, and so couldn’t be played back. But thanks to modern science…”
“Kid…have you ever heard of Claude Barlow?”
You would think Dinkle would know, by now, that trying to teach someone to play music is not something where you get instant results. What a lousy teacher.
Only Tom Batiuk could author a comic strip about not repeating the action of the previous strip that nevertheless essentially recreates the action of the previous strip.
Batiuk needs to consult his inner musician and give it a rest.
It’s incredible, isn’t it? No one else thinks this way which is why it’s so difficult to accurate predict what’s going to happen in the strip, as it’s impossible for regular people to calibrate their brains to work that way.
He’s also apparently developed a weird sort of disdain for very young children. Skyler is a sullen tyrant, “Billy” is a foul-mouthed street urchin and this anon-o-kid is kind of a total dullard. It’s just peculiar is all.
“Nah, why bother trying? You suck as a student, I suck as a teacher, we’re all just going to die eventually anyway so what’s the point? Want some leftover pizza?”
We are all like Rabbi’s here, commenting on Batty’s Midrashim. Our Shulchan Aruch are these pages.
Our commentary may not be deep, but then again, neither is our source material. As Rabbi Akiva said “The paper burns, but the words fly away”.
Sometimes it’s fun to go back and look through the archived arc recaps and see just how many FW stories came and went without making any impact on anyone or anything at all. A solid 50% of them were just instantly forgotten, I’ll read some of the recaps and think “oh, yeah…what the f*ck was THAT all about?”.
“Rachel meets Becky at Jitter’s Coffee Shop to get some insight into Wally’s demons.”
“Owen escorts Alex to Westview’s Zombie Homecoming Dance. Sunday, a little boy tries and dislikes Montoni’s anchovies.”
“The ageless, physically fit Les dominates his out of shape former tormentor Bull at tennis. Sunday, Becky accompanies twins Amelia and Emily door to door to serenade citizens and raise band money.”
“Holly and Funky struggle to compose a text message to their son inquiring about his wedding plans; Sunday, Funky visits his Dad at Bedside Manor.”
See what I mean? No one remembers any of those randomly-chosen Act III arcs. Not only were they immediately forgotten once they ended, they were forgotten WHILE THEY WERE HAPPENING. And once you include Act I and Act II there are literally hundreds of others that might as well never have happened at all.
Now that the weather is turning colder, I plan on getting some FW books from the library so I can relive all those terrible moments.
My apologies for all of the misspelled words. My iPad is conspiring against me!
I’m not sure what the point of this arc is supposed to be. The last time we saw Dinkle (not counting Election Day) he was still actively roaming the halls of Westview HIgh and practically running the band rehearsals. Are we to believe that he’s also giving piano lessons to grade schoolers on the side? There’s no consistency, just random thrown-together arcs.
Mr. Whole Note has already hung himself in the Dinkle House attic.
As long as Mr. B Natural is still out there, I don’t mind Mr. Whole Note’s demise one bit.
Mr. B Natural was one hot man…or woman. I’m very confused and conflicted about him/her, but there’s no doubt young Buzz should have been sentenced to a lifetime of music lessons with Dinkle.
You guys sent me to Grandpa Google to seek out Mr. B Natural. And I thank you.
Does this mean that the Conn Musical Instrument Company was a pioneer in the trans/non-binary movement?
I think Robert Preston and Ethel Merman were set to star in a movie version of “Mr. Whole Note” that eventually got scrapped.
True story: I refreshed three times before I realized this is a new strip.
CBH, I enjoyed your literary look at Tom Batiuk’s tendency to analyze his own works. What’s interesting is that his analysis is just as bizarre as the source material. Like his calling Sadie Summers the the “worst mistake I ever made in creating a character” when all of Westview is a mess of uninteresting, misused clones.
Yeah, his personal writing style is as odd and incomprehensible as his writing for the strip. And he never learns from his mistakes. How many more Sadie Summers has he created over the years?
An entire cast of Sadie Summers by my count.
Haiku of the Day
When the whole note walks
Show the before and after
Skip all the action
C’mon Dinkle, you’re deaf as a post and Mrs. Dinkle ummm hopefully owns some noise-cancelling headphones, so make it a real one and teach him the opening bars of Moonlight Sonata!
CBH, I love your analysis and your comparison. Batiuk deliberately sets out to write on “serious” issues in the modern world, and yet the story of, say, Bull’s suicide has less impact* than a tale of elves, dwarves, evil overlords and magic rings. Quite the paradox. Maybe Batiuk needs to read more fairy tales.
*I’ll admit the one Sunday strip with the Bob Dylan lyrics kind of got to me, but I can hardly give Batiuk full credit for reprinting someone else’s writing.
He could have made this a musical joke. “Mr. Whole Note needs to take a Whole Rest.”
Admittedly, not a good joke.
What if he’s sent to a rest home?