Thursday, September 29, 2005

Society's End, tricksters, and bellzukies...

The Society's End sessions are finished! What we have sounds excellent and, needless to say, light years ahead of our 1993-94 work. The bad news is that Josh and I ran out of time and had to whittle down our plans for a full album into a mini-album. The good news is that, as we don't have enough material to warrant a full CD, we'll be uploading the entire mini-album, Yes, Sonic Ted?, to in December as our Christmas gift to all you snarfy kats who have an interest in such things. CAN U DIG IT??

In other news:
Bill Sherman has posted a blog entry about one of my favorite movies, H. G. Lewis's Jimmy the Wonder Boy! For the past few years I've been mulling over a possible "Aaron Marx" storyline that would involve the JTWB character Mr. Fig, the Time Killer, but I'm not too clear on the legal issues involved. I have a soft spot for unhinged trickster figures. It's a pity there aren't many (if any) female tricksters in fiction. I'm sure Joseph Campbell would have something to say about that... and maybe I should do something about it myself.

And speaking of Joseph Campbell, fewer things are nicer than Joe Harnell's recording of So Soon from his 1967 album Bossa Now!. In fact, thanks to Bossa Now!, I finally learned about the bellzukie, one of those extremely cool instruments that seem all too specific to mid-to-late 60s lounge music. Invented by Vinnie Bell, the bellzukie has a sound that you recognize instantly but can never quite place, and which lets you know immediately that the recording was made sometime between 1966 and 70. As it says in the liner notes, the bellzukie "is another sound maker that has the freshness and vitality of today" with a "musical range from the whine of a Honda to the mellowness of a cello". It's exactly the kind of neglected instrument that needs to be rediscovered by groups like TMBG.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

RIP Don Adams

What can I say? First Bob Denver and now another indelible part of my childhood gone. I was, and still am, a fan of Tennessee Tuxedo, Get Smart, and Inspector Gadget (the Matthew Broderick film was simply unacceptable). And, unlike most GS fans, I felt that the series actually improved towards the end of its run as it began referencing, in its own goofy way, late 60s and early 70s youth culture (including a memorable acid trip for Maxwell Smart.. accidental, of course). It was like a parody counterpoint to Jack Webb's recently revived Dragnet.. which was extremely funny in its own right.

Besides his TV work, Don Adams had a long career as a stand-up comic. In Ted V. Mikels' The Girl In Gold Boots (1969), you can even see his name in lights on the LA Playboy Club's marquee. Would you believe Don Adams doing a blue stand-up act? No? Would you believe Don Adams reciting suggestive limericks?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

On dodging bullets...

Rita sez "FACE!!! I'm going to go crap all over Louisiana again instead." All I can say is, we got extremely lucky. Houston city officials are now trying to keep the evacuees out of town to prevent a second deadly traffic jam. There is NO gasoline in or around Houston right now and the city is effectively closed for business. Aside from the cicadas, it's eerily quiet outside. The smell of barbecue is wafting through my screen door from somewhere in my neighborhood. It's nice, but after five days of sustained panic, the calm feels like a undeserved pardon that could be revoked at a moment's notice.

I don't blame anyone for fleeing. The TV coverage of Rita from outside Houston was scary as hell. I saw a report on BBC World News where a reporter was standing Downtown in the middle of an empty Travis Street saying, in his most ominous tones, "But what will America do without its oil capitol? Tomorrow we'll see!" CNN coverage was little better. Coverage from inside Houston was far more measured, but still enough to get me to pack my bags, despite my not being in an evacuation zone. And that night I discovered that every route of Houston was a hundred miles of gridlock. By late Wednesday, people were having heatstroke in their cars, running out of gas, burning out their engines, having to defecate on the medians.. There was a deadly bus fire on I-45 that killed 24 nursing home residents from Bellaire. And then the gas stations finally ran out of fuel and closed up, stranding hundreds of vehicles all over Houston's freeways. Here's a promise: the next time Houston has a CAT 5 hurricane bearing down on it, most of the people who evacuated are going to end up staying put.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

UH Daily Cougar: Katrina Victims are comically greedy stereotypes!

This one made the local TV news last night. On Monday The University of Houston Daily Cougar ran what is likely the most offensive editorial cartoon in that paper's history. Not surprisingly, they quickly pulled it from the paper's website. The cartoon by (talentless.. and I'm not just saying that out of spite) Arturo Gonzalez depicted a jewelry-bedecked "gangsta" NO refugee flashing FEMA debit cards in an attempt to seduce a nurse at the Memorial-Hermann Emergency Room. The dialogue included such gems as:
"What's the deal baby mama! You look'n PHAT ... I'm a survivor of Katrina ... straight from the middle of the dirty dirty ... still pimpin ... Girl gimme dat! ... gettin off soon huh? We could chill on my cot ... I got mad cases of MRE's ... we could grub after we blaze ... "
Aside from writing Albert and The Daily Grind for the Cougar, I split editorial toon duty for two years with cartoonists Ed de la Garza and John Palamidy and believe you me, if the editor has a problem with your work it has to be revised or it just doesn't get published. Period. It may piss the living hell out of you but that's the job of the editor. In this case the editor is one Matt Dulin who last night trotted out the tired and utterly inadequate excuse that the offensive cartoon represented only the opinion of the cartoonist. In his half-assed apology today, he even claims that the cartoon is open to multiple interpretations (such as?). Likewise, today's staff editorial features an attempt to cloud the problem by raising the dread specter of censorship:

The most important thing to remember is the cartoon in no way, shape or form represents the views of the editorial staff, our writers or the University. An editorial cartoon is like an opinion column -- it represents one person's viewpoint, not those of the staff.

That's not always clear given the nature of cartoons, which are often less formal and can be more anonymous than columns. Nevertheless, the same principle applies.

That principle, however, doesn't prevent The Daily Cougar from refusing to run something that could be considered offensive for the sake of being offensive. Censorship shouldn't be taken lightly by the press. College papers don't have wealthy investors or corporate bosses to answer to, just the students they serve. But if an item's offensiveness outweighs the merit of the idea behind it, then it may be appropriate to employ the "c" word.

Let's get one thing straight: this isn't a First Amendment issue. They let you know up front when you're hired; everything they run is subject to review and editing (on one occasion, an Albert strip was edited for language and nobody told me until it had gone to press) on grounds far more complicated and nuanced than merely screening out material that's "offensive for the sake of being offensive" (and in this case, I highly doubt Gonzalez was actively engaging in deliberately offensive outsized Swiftian satire). Moreover, the Cougar is largely funded by tuition money. If I were still a student at UH, I'd hate to think that one penny of my tuition went into the publication of Gonzalez's cartoon (or into his pocket.. the Cougar is not a volunteer operation). Speaking as someone who spent years at the Cougar as one of a group of students who worked hard to maintain the paper's integrity and quality, Gonzalez and Dulin should be canned immediately, if only for the paper's sake.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Eat the "HO-REN-SO"

Wow. My off-handed heads-up to Jerry Beck about Sammy's extremely keen Popeye pachinko machine ended up on the Cartoon Brew blog to be read by lord knows how many people. I'm rather buzzed by this machine, not because of any great love for pachinko, but because of the new Popeye anime used for the display. Some Japanese studio has done a very nice job with the characters, closely following King Features' Fleischer-based merchandising design guides. For one reason or another, E. C. Segar's characters have been hanging in limbo for a number of years now. The battle between King and Warner Brothers over the classic Max Fleischer cartoons (King owns the characters, WB owns the cartoons) has so far prevented them from being released to DVD. King has tried to fill in the gap by releasing a DVD set of their wholly-owned 1960s Popeye TV cartoons (which I enjoy) and then produced a not bad CGI mini-feature last year, Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy. But none of this has really counted for much. The pachinko anime suggests another potential path for KFS. A Popeye series produced in Japan, based on, or at least inspired by, Segar's original stories would probably be a Saturday Morning winner, appealing to both the anime crowd and those with more cartoon-y tastes (like me). And as I mentioned to Jerry Beck, the rubbery Fleischer style lies at the root of manga and anime thanks to Popeye fan Osamu Tezuka, the godfather of both medium in Japan. Given Japan's love of classic American animation, I have to imagine that a Japanese-produced Popeye series would be truer to the spirit of the Fleischer cartoons than most American attempts (anyone remember Popeye and Son?? Good lord! (choke)).

A limply-disguised Popeye cameo appearance in Osamu Tezuka's Lost World
(1948). Is the bee a reference to Popeye artist Bill Zaboly's signature? Who knows?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Been wondering why people didn't leave NO on foot?

The answer is shocking. The refugees were trapped in their sinking city by police from the surrounding communities. Why? So those communities "assets" would be protected from the crazed refugee marauders. Gretna sheriffs blocked more than 800 refugees on Highway 90, firing their guns over the heads of the crowd to turn them back.
In an interview with UPI, Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson confirmed that his department shut down the bridge to pedestrians: "If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged."

Was race possibly a factor? YA THINK??

And has anyone thought to compare the network TV coverage of 9/11 with the coverage of Katrina? There was very little standard programming for weeks after 9/11, and yet now in the face of a far deadlier, costlier, and more far-reaching catastrophe, the boob toob was business as usual after about three days. Gee.. I wonder why that would be.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"What didn't go right?"

According to Nancy Pelosi, Lovable King Clueless thinks everything is going just dandy. I have to wonder why he's even bothering with the pretense of an investigation.

She related that she had urged Bush at the White House on Tuesday to fire Michael Brown.

''He said 'Why would I do that?''' Pelosi said.

'''I said because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right last week.' And he said 'What didn't go right?'''

''Oblivious, in denial, dangerous,'' she added.

(cue laugh track)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

RIP Bob Denver

My favorite TV nebbish died today. As a kid, I lived on a (questionable) diet of syndicated episodes of Gilligan's Island and Dobie Gillis during weekdays and Far Out Space Nuts, The New Adventures of Gilligan, and Gilligan's Planet on weekends (I managed to miss Dusty's Trail until I found it on a dollar DVD this year. It's Gilligan's Island without the subtle wit and intricate social satire). There was scarcely a day that went by where Bob Denver wasn't playing some variation of his stock bumbling man-child on TV and I tried to keep up with all of it, spending the downtime playing with Playskool's extremely cool Gilligan's Island floating playset. I narrowly missed meeting Mr. Denver when he was signing copies of his autobiography, Gilligan, Maynard, and Me, at the local Bookstop in 1993. A friend who worked next door at the time called me. "Get your ass down here if you want to meet Gilligan!" I was about eight minutes too late (sob). Bob had skedaddled and I probably looked like a maniac to the Bookstop staff since, in my rush, I had neglected to brush my hair, button my shirt properly, or put on socks (I could have claimed I was doing an impression of Maynard G. Krebs, I suppose). I did buy a signed copy of his bio at a used bookstore the next year, though. The clerk snickered as she rang me out. "You know you're the fourth person to buy this? This copy has been sold back to us three times so far. Be sure to keep the tradition alive and sell it back to us in a few weeks!" I still have it.

Flash for rescue in NO??

"At one point, there were a load of girls on the roof of the hotel saying 'Can you help us?' and the policemen said 'Show us what you've got' and made signs for them to lift their T-shirts. When the girls refused, they said 'Fine' and motored off down the road in their boat."

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Kiddie Matinee updates...

Bill Sherman has posted a review of Barry Mahon's Jack and the Beanstalk (1970) and has unveiled a gallery of video captures from the absolutely incredible Mooch! Below you can see Mooch in her little sparkly stripper get-up and Jim Backus dressed as Mr. Magoo (did he make special appearances at shopping centers in that costume?). And there's also a close-up of the very professional-looking storyboard for the phony cartoon we get to see Jim recording his voice for. Good times! If you can find the dollar DVD, buy it.

Red Cross never allowed to enter New Orleans??

Was the Red Cross barred from helping victims in NO by State Homeland Security???? According to the Red Cross, yes! Since the storm hit, the Red Cross has not been allowed into the city to render aid. Why? The feds fear that the Red Cross would make things too cozy for victims who might otherwise be compelled to evacuate!! So the people of New Orleans are being deliberately starved and sickened in order to get them to abandon the city?? Here's a good Kos diary on this atrocity.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Houston Fire Marshall overruled!

They're now allowing those busses "on Astrodome property".. some 20-30 busses.. to unload. The story appears to be that a Harris County judge overruled the Fire Marshall who demanded the Astrodome close its doors. That decision was made based on the number of refugees being housed on the field, but didn't take into account the additional available space throughout the facility. This is very good news, but there's little chance that the Dome is going to end up housing the 25,000 refugees officials claimed. There seems to be ample evidence that there's little communication between emergency officials in Houston and New Orleans.

No more room at the Astrodome for refugees

Breaking news; as of ten minutes ago it was announced that the Astrodome can accept no more New Orleans refugees. The Dome was supposed to accomodate up to 25,000 refugees and the doors have now been closed after a mere 4,000 were allowed in. KTRK-TV claims there is "chaos" inside the Dome, there are no more supplies and "no one can take showers". Lines of buses loaded with refugees wait outside. No one seems to know where they're supposed to go now. Unbelievable.

Time out...

Bill Sherman has posted an extremely cool review of Barry Mahon's mindbending kiddie epic Santa Claus Meets the Ice Cream Bunny, one of several kiddie matinee pictures I sent him a while back. Bill thinks the Ice Cream Bunny may have been originally intended to be the Easter Bunny. I think the Ice Cream Bunny is called the Ice Cream Bunny either because his head is shaped somewhat like an ice cream cone or because kids like ice cream. Will the world ever know for sure???

"Who knew?" says Disaster President.

- President Bush on Good Morning America, 9/1/05

Well, for starters, a bunch of librul, evolution-believin', atheist eggheads have been suggesting such a thing was damn near inevitable for years. But what did they know? According to the Washington Post:

"The president's most recent budgets have actually proposed reducing funding for flood prevention in the New Orleans area, and the administration has long ignored Louisiana politicians' requests for more help in protecting their fragile coast, the destruction of which meant there was little to slow down the hurricane before it hit the city."

The potential for disaster was also suggested in almost every TV, radio, and newspaper story on Katrina as it approached New Orleans, but I forgot.. Dubya doesn't get news out in Crawford. I wouldn't trust Dubya to play SimCity, let alone lead the "free world". Electing Bush to two terms was an act of national suicide. Past the (thus far flailing) efforts to cope with this catastrophe, the big issue is this: after all the manly chest-beating over America's emergency preparedness following 9/11, New Orleans is in a state of anarchy following a closely watched hurricane whose after-effects were predicted years ago. Yet I suspect that the federal response to the outcry for better disaster preparedness is going to be more metal detectors and a few more draconian laws designed to root out potential "evildoers".