Blog comic reviews

teacher of the year

The award “Teacher of the Year” gets tossed around a lot this time of year, and with good cause.  After all, the teachers of today are the evil masterminds of tomorrow.  We best be giving them plenty of cheap praise to inflate their delicate sense of self worth.  If we don’t bury them in awards, they may wise up to the fact that they haven’t been given a raise since 1974.

When I created Pam, the retired schoolteacher javelina, I knew immediately that she was a bitter chain smoker.  But I also knew she never lost her dream of writing a bestselling murder mystery series.  img_20081103 Teachers may seem tough on the outside, they may seem world weary and gruff, but on the inside they are probably the most optimistic people in the world.  After a lifetime of seeing the laziest children doze through their classes, they never gave up.  Why?  Because there was bound to be that special student that made a career worth it.

And that is why today, Falling Rock National Blog is proud to announce the 2010 Teacher of the Year Award goes to Mr. Jim McAllister of Carver High School.election_04

Mr. McAllister, played by Matthew Broderick in the film Election based upon the novel of the same name  written by Tom Perrotta, is a hardworking teacher who ultimately gets fired for ballot fraud.  (Trust me, if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, that won’t spoil the story for you.)

Mr. McAllister does what he feels is right, and for that he deserves Falling Rock’s Teacher of the Year Award.  Congratulations Jim, wherever you are.

Blog friday robot

friday robots: john day, again


These robots were discovered among the fossils at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.  John Day is known for their exceptional and plentiful Friday Robot specimens.  And while you’re there, be sure to consider the Oreodont.friday-robots-5-28-10-2


live albums

I’m ambivalent about live albums.  On the one hand, it’s nice to hear familiar tunes sung differently, especially by bands long gone or (in Bob Dylan‘s case, for instance) a singular performance that can never be repeated.  There are times I like the “live” version better than the album one.  They naturally have more energy; they can be looser and can be played better simply because the artist has sung them more often.  A concert album can have a better track listing than any one album by a band because the band knows nobody wants to hear those album filler songs.  Live albums can make a better all-the-way-through listen.

There are, however, very few live albums I listen to frequently (say, more than two or three times).  Most keep way too much of the audience noise.  Applause is awesome if you’re up on stage, but it is annoying to hear on headphones.  If the album says “live” on the cover, we all know there was an audience.  Keep it to a minimum.

The individual songs, however good they may sound, are impossible to put on a mix.  Audience cheering is so annoying when it’s cut off abruptly.  For a while I had a program that let me fade out the cheering.  And really, how many times do you want to take those extra steps for a mix?  Is the girl worth it?

I’ve been listening to Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall.  Recorded in 1971, right before he released a little album called Harvest, Massey Hall includes many of the as-yet-unreleased Harvest songs.  In all, I like Massey Hall.  Neil puts on a solo show, switching between guitar and piano.  The in-progress nature of much of his material lets us peek into his process as songwriter.  This is partly a way for me to geek out about music.

But how many times will I want to listen to Neil tell people not to take pictures of him while he’s performing?  Or to tell the same story about ‘Old Man’?  Or, most egregiously, how many times will I be able to take the nearly 5 minutes of applause before ol’ Neil comes out for an encore?

Some of the same problems plague John Fogerty’s live album, Premonition.  John reveals himself as a goofball who mostly talks about his guitar and amp between songs.  He has something to say about almost every song, and it usually includes jokes that are corny the first time and downright aggravating every time afterward.

The saddest part is, these are probably the best version of his Creedence Clearwater Revival songs you’ll ever hear.  His band is actually competent this time, and he really tears into his older material. 

Dan Bern put out a live album that stands up to repeated listens.  Live in Los Angeles includes previously released songs as well as stuff he’s never put on any album.  When I saw him (live, for real) in Portland, he said what I’d been thinking of live albums all along:

“When I hear live albums, I think, They sound like they’re having a good time.  I’m not having a good time listening to this, but it sounds like it would have been fun to actually be there.”

He obviously kept this in mind when putting together his collection.  There is very little between-song chatter, minimal cheering, and no 10-minute guitar jams.

It is possible to make a superlative live album.  (Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps, Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison, and Sam Cooke’s Live at the Harlem Square Club are also good examples.)  But beware! when you purchase a live album or record one.  It is a journey filled with peril and a path littered with failures. 

Blog comic book

write-up in coin-op

Pinball Publishing has done a swell write-up of my latest Falling Rock book, See America First!

Here is the story.
pinball book interiors
And here is where you can purchase your very own copy of See America First!
Blog fiction

goodnight moon: the movie poster

The wait is over for the long-anticipated Goodnight Moon movie poster!goodnight-moon-the-movie

Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, this summer blockbuster is slated for release in 2018.

This blogger can’t wait to be first in line for the adaptation to one of my all-time favorite picture books.  And with a poster this evocative, the movie will certainly not disappoint.

Blog friday robot

friday robots: bend afternoon

friday-robots-5-21-10 These robots were discovered cavorting in Smith Rock State Park, just north of Bend, Oregon.  When you’re in Bend, visit Smith Rock.  Then head over to one of Bend’s many local microbrewerys and have yourself a well-deserved drink. friday-robots-5-21-10-detail

Blog comic

new business cards

I finally ran out of my old, makeshift business cards.  They were cards I never got to use from an old job, onto which I put stickers that had my name, occupation (“Full-Time Cartoonist”), and website info.  When I used the last of those up, I decided my next cards would be special.

I went to my old friends at Pinball Publishing.  They make 3.5×5 inch pocket postcards, printed on the same chipboard I use for my comic book covers.  They’re rounded at the edges, a nice touch.  I decided to continue the theme of Works Progress Administration-style art and draw a picturesque scene that visitors would find in Falling Rock National Park.  On the back, I have my name, website address and email, along with space to actually write a message and send the card through the mail.

If you see me at a comic convention, or, heck, while riding my bike, I’ll hand you one of these:joshshalek-business-card-grayscale

They are a reminder to visit Falling Rock National Park and to support your local cartoonist.  I can’t wait to give them all away.

Blog comic

park ranger dee

For the inevitable Falling Rock movie, my humble suggestion for the actress to play Dee:zooey-d-hat3 zooey-d-hat2 zooey-d-hat

Just sayin’.

Blog reviews

a note to Jeff Gaspin at NBC

parks_and_recSo I hear you’re going to push back the third season of Parks and Recreation until 2011.  This is very disappointing for a variety of reasons.  Parks and Recreation is one of my favorite shows on TV right now (a tie between it and 30 Rock).  I understand you have a lot on your plate right now, what with commissioning a bunch of new shows for 10pm and finding another lanky, witty redhead to replace Jay Leno someday, but please reconsider this one move.  It doesn’t help anybody.

I don’t watch a lot of TV, but the Thursday night lineup of Community, Parks and Rec, The Office, and 30 Rock is just right.  In executive land, when something works you have to fix it.  Why don’t we just pretend the current slate of shows doesn’t work so it can stay the same?

Parks and Recreation is, in its second season, far better than most shows, ever.  With each episode the characters and the town of Pawnee, Indiana expand in natural, interesting directions.  There is not a weak link among the cast.  Ron Swanson has become the Libertarian father I never had.  Rashida Jones is always a favorite.  And of course parks are a resource I hold close to my heart.

It doesn’t matter the reason: bring back Parks and Recreation this fall, not next year.  Do me this favor and I promise to watch your shows on an actual TV set instead of on the computer or DVD.parks and rec