Tag Archives: piano

As Alike as Two Bothers.

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Only now, at the end of the week, do we get a name for our little future Motzart. Robbie even has a brother. A brother in Mopey Pete cosplay.

I wonder if Alex and Robbie are intended to become recurring characters? I mean, regardless of intent, we probably will never see them again. Because even when Batiuk seems like he’s carefully introducing another actor into this slice of life drama, he invariably forgets about them. But it would be interesting if Batiuk figures piano lessons are a good way to milk the remaining Dinkle market?

As for the art, Dinkle’s huge flesh-toned couch is hideous. The little specks on it give the appearance that the furniture has been molded from sand.

But Dinkle’s face in panel 3 makes this whole week worthwhile. The man is scrumptiously morose; hunched over, tired , his lips pursed into a thin line as he tastes the bitter defeat coating his tongue. Never has disdain looked so exhausting. When Ayers delivers, he delivers, and he always puts that effort into envisaging misery.

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The Ultimate Racketeer.

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Potted plant is back!

I wonder if we’ve been a little harsh in our criticism of the bland offering of jokes this week. I showed the strips to a friend and they got a mild chuckle from her.

Our palates have really been ruined by consuming and analyzing EVERYTHING Batiuk provides in his greasy spoon buffet. When you’ve gagged over creamed corn that’s been congealing under a heat lamp for eight hours, it becomes so much easier to find problems with the innocent loaf of off-the-shelf white bread splayed out in slices at the end of the table.

I think it’s easy for us, deep in the lore, and with years and layers to our disdain for some of these characters, to forget that a week of strips like this is probably the only enjoyment casual readers get out of these comics, smiling half heartedly as they accidently let their eyes drift over Funky Winkerbean while searching for the obituaries.

Can you imagine being an average Joe, not a weirdo commenting obsessively over a comic strip online, and opening your local fishwrap to randomly read a strip from the L.A. Fire arc? Or Bull’s suicide? Or Zanzibar the talking murder chimp blessed be his name? Your brain would spit that wad of nonsense right back out to protect itself, like slamming the door on a Jehovah’s Witness.

But today’s strip? This is the kind of strip destined to be cut out of the paper and put on the fridge by kindly little old music teachers who paid for their grandkids’ Christmas presents with piano lessons. It’s a stolen joke, told with a microgram of charm, that will get a few smiles.

I talked earlier this week about Batiuk’s immortality. And, as much as he’d like it to be cancer or PTSD or teen pregnancy, it’s really one-off Dinkle type gags. I remember Dinkle strips posted in my own music teacher’s office. Tom’s real legacy isn’t massive volumes of collected comics, it’s yellowed strips of newsprint taped haphazardly to a filing cabinet beside a pile of music stands.

I can imagine, fifty years from now, a kid opening a cupboard in the attic of my old band room, where the retired uniforms and broken instruments are left to rot, and inside are a pile of dusty worn out band shoes, a few tarnished majorette hats, and, pasted to the door, a browned and crumbling clipping of Harry Dinkle, screaming at children in the pouring rain.

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Fourth Wall Frown

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Sure looks like Dinkle is ALWAYS ENJOYING giving piano lessons here. In panel two his face looks like it’s about to melt right off from all the pleasure teaching this child has given him. He stares out at us, his droopy face limp from all the aching joy coursing through him.

Kids today, amirite? What with their lazy ability to access nearly the sum total of the world’s knowledge through advanced pocket sized electronics connected to an invisible network of radio signals wirelessly transmitting nearly instantaneously across the entire nation. How annoying, that they can use this vast storehouse of information to interpret things they encounter that they don’t completely understand.

Back in Dinkle’s day, if someone purporting to be an expert told you something, you believed him. If you didn’t know the answer to a question, and you weren’t within arms reach of 100 pounds worth of encyclopedias, you lived with your ignorance. You didn’t get to instantly know why the sky is blue, or why mules are sterile, or when The Pet Shop Boys released the single, “I’m in Love with a German Film Star.”

So no, you snot nosed brat, you can’t ‘google’ it! You don’t get to know about Mr. Piano’s Mr. Middle C key until Mr. Harry Dinkle, The World’s Greatest Band Director, tells you!

And don’t you dare ask where my potted piano plant went!

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Mr. Whole Note Takes a Week.

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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.

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Coasting.

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Some observations about today’s strip:

1.) Dinkle’s curtains are that horrible pubic hair texture we often see on Funkyverse couches.

2.) You can faintly see leafless trees outside through the window. Which is a unusual amount of effort for a weekday strip. I’m getting used to characters conversing in strange gradient colored voids punctuated by door and window frames, like some kind of weird, artsy, theatre project.

3.) Dinkle is using a saucer under his coffee cup. When loitering needlessly at the highschool, I have never ever seen him use a saucer or coaster under his coffee cup. Instead he sticks the dang thing right on top of the piano, probably leaving behind more ugly rings than a thrice divorced Kardashian.

4.) Isn’t that just like Dinkle? To care for his own property, while treating the property of others with thoughtlessness.

5.) Seriously, Dinkle is just the worst.

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Always Enjoyable?

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Oh goodie! I get a Dinkle arc. Having to scrape together some kind of humor or commentary for Dinkel arcs is ‘always enjoyable.’ But it gets tedious trying to remember everything that has happened to Dinkle in Act III that has slowly morphed him from a unique and bombastic caricature of a passionate band director into just another bland, smug, Westview Pod Person.

Please note, while Dinkle claims that teaching piano is ‘always enjoyable’ he doesn’t look like he’s enjoying it today, and…spoilers…he doesn’t seem to enjoy it all week long. Maybe in Westview the words ‘always’ or ‘enjoyable’ mean something very different than what’s listed in the dictonary?

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