Thursday, October 20, 2011

Comics and Stories truly begin

I've been reading Walt Disney's Comics & Stories chronologically, and after a few years of reprints from Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Silly Symphonies newspaper strips (Bucky Bug, lots of Floyd Gottfredson), and adaptations- usually text-based- of shorts, I've finally gotten to the original stories.

And as can be expected, they show hallmarks of things to come.

The first one (I'm 99% certain) is of all things a Jose Carioca story, his second published- the first was in a '42 newspaper story. Starring an unexpected character? Check.
The next ones surprised me even more. Flower from Bambi (beautifully drawn by Ken Hultgren, I might add) meeting Little Hiawatha, renamed Little Bear for no reason, complete with racist dialect. A text story about Elmer the Elephant (why??) together with the crows from Dumbo, as blackbirds for no reason. Friend Owl thwarting off-model Foulfellow and Gideon. Unexpected, sometimes inexplicable crossovers? Check!
Carl Barks ducks? Checkeroonie.

Licensed character kids' comics are just... so... weird.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Important issues of the day: Pirates vs. Ninjas

I know, I know, it's an old debate that's been beaten to death, but I thought I'd throw my two cents in.

First of all, I think it'd be best to say what side I'm on to get it out of the way: I prefer pirates.

I've never been crazy about ninjas simply because they have no personalities. Think about it: Your typical ninja doesn't even reveal his entire face, denying us a huge chunk of potential expressions. They're always jumping around, looking real cool, but what else is there? Any good writer ought to know that mere skills, no matter how impressive, do not make for a compelling character. Ninjas are almost always identical, faceless assassins that merely serve to get in the hero's way. I've never even heard of a ninja who had a distinctive personality, appearance, or much less played the main character.

If you ask me, there isn't any comparison. Pirates are extremely flexible characters, with an array of costumes, voices, weapons, quirks, ethnicities, and potential positions on the scale from good to bad to choose from. They can even be supernatural. I've heard the argument that pirates are dirty, scruffy characters (which is actually part of the reason I like them), with no style or grace, while ninjas have grace to spare. Who says a pirate can't be graceful? What about Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn?

I honestly think it's better to make a comparison of pirates and cowboys. But the trouble is that they both has similar advantages and a similar flexibility, while the main difference is that one is skilled on land, the other at sea.

It is perhaps best to ask ourselves what the differences between pirates and kung fu warriors are. Kung fu warriors can have any kind of personality they please, as proven by Kung Fu Panda. Or perhaps samurai. But it kinda boils down to aesthetics, really- what environment the stories take place in, what fighting skills they possess, and the style of the costumes and art.
When you get down to it, it's all about aesthetics. You could compare pirates to old-school gangsters, or medieval knights, or barbarians. It's all kinda depends on what they wear, what weapons they use, what time period it takes place in, and what the buildings look like. Everything else is fair game.

But so long as ninjas remain one type of ninja, I don't think the rivalry is valid.

Canonicized lameness

Something that's really been bugging me about entertainment targeted towards preteens and young adults lately is that I frequently can't tell if it's being ironic and satirical or if it's actually trying to represent how young people act and think.

I'm thinking mostly of Disney Channel sitcoms. I'll see the young teens on that show saying things like "Wazzzzuup, muh homeeeez? We's gunna party fo' sheeeeezle!" and the audience is expected to laugh at it, but then I recall that when I actually was surrounded by people of this age- around the time when Shrek first came out- they would say these things as if they were simply the sort of things you said.
What I'm trying to say if that it seems as though it's trendy to lame and dorky- that it's cool to be a poser.

There have been many times when a character on TV will use a word or phrase I've never heard before, and they act like I'm supposed to know what they're talking about, without any context. It usually doesn't sound like the way real people talk (which, admittedly, isn't something I'm fully knowledgeable of).
One example I can think of is from an ad for the cartoon Johnny Test- which is a cartoon I'm surprised still exists, considering that when it was on Kids WB, I watched one episode and found it incredibly dull and stupid- and the main character uses the phrase "ice cream mouth". He says it with such conviction, it's like it's supposed to be as common as "brain freeze" or "milk mustache". Since when did people who aren't four-year-olds get ice cream all over their faces, anyway?
And I've been hearing people on TV use the phrase "ice cream headache" instead of "brain freeze"- almost as if "brain freeze" is copyrighted or something. Saying "ice cream headache" takes twice as long to say, so I'm thoroughly unconvinced that anybody uses it in real life.

It's become increasingly frustrating not knowing what's real and what's a parody. Sometimes I suspect that the people who write this stuff are secretly brutally mocking their audience while being the sort of swill that they actually go for. You can't expect me to be interested in modern trends, but I would like to be able to glimpse at it and understand what the heck is going on. It's like when someone tries to be sarcastic but isn't very good at it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The clothes make the man, apparently

You know what confuses me? When people dress in really weird, sometimes shocking clothes and claim to be "expressing themselves".
So... you're expressing that you wear shocking clothes? If taken literally, that means that their clothes is who they are as a person. Like their clothes is their entire being. Isn't there something better for you to be doing?

I think the reasoning behind it is that they're using their clothes as a means to say what they're into. The phrase "fashion statement" goes around a lot. If you were to say, "I wear these clothes because it's the sort of thing I like," that'd be a lot less confusing. I understand expressing your interests through a t-shirt or something, which is basically what I do.
But when you merely say "yourself", you make it sound like there's nothing more to yourself. Like all you are is weird clothes and a desire to bug people. That's a pretty empty statement. Can't the weirdness express something other than visual subversiveness? To be subversive for the sake of subversion solves no problems. Why can't a person be more like Yoko Ono, whose weirdness makes a social statement as well, dedicated to the promotion of love and peace?

This is why I'm becoming increasingly suspicious of Lady Gaga. She claims that she's being honest and genuine, and just being herself. Honest about what, exactly? That she likes bizarre costumes?
I understand that it's all an experiment in the phenomenon of celebrity. But that kinda rubs me the wrong way. It almost sounds like she considers fame a toy, and in some ways that attitude kinda boils down to "I'm in it for the fame". It's weirdness for weirdness's sake, but I'm not entirely sure if it makes people happier like I would like it to be. Or even especially more open-minded.
I doubt that she'd be getting much attention if it weren't for the costumes. The music's decent, but I'm curious what statement it makes, if any.

Part of it is that it's nothing John and Yoko, Andy Warhol, and Madonna hasn't done already. John and Yoko made themselves look ridiculous to advertise peace and love the same way politicians get votes and commercials sell deodorant. Andy Warhol sought to bring attention to the shape and form in commercial art and iconography, and make it a legit art. Madonna probably wanted to bare raw emotions and desires that women have.

I guess what I'm saying that while being different is good, there has be an underlying purpose and goal behind it- the weirdness ought to be a means to an end. Even if it's just for the sake of having fun once in a while. At least do it for that.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Why "Star-Spangled Banner" comes out best from a Marshall stack

Any classic rock fan, rock guitar fan, psychedelia fan- or heck, music fan ought to know about Jimi Hendrix's impromptu rendition of "Star-Spangled Banner" from the Woodstock Festival.


To me, this is the best, most definitive version. Why do I think that?

I think that because, in my opinion, it expresses the American spirit better than any other version.
Think about it: This rendition is about as unconventional as you can get. And what is more American than rebellion against oppression? The United States is founded on saying "You can't tell us what to do!" Hendrix didn't follow the rules of conventional music.
Hendrix himself, in a way, defied the normal definition of what constitutes as "uncoventional" on the Dick Cavett Show, Sept. 9, 1969:
Dick Cavett: ...When you mention the national anthem and talk about playing it in an unorthodox way, you immediately get a guaranteed percentage of hate mail from people--
Hendrix: It's not unorthodox, it's not unorthodox.
Cavett: It's not unorthodox?
Hendrix: No no, I thought it was beautiful.
So it's clear here- it stands to reason, anyway- that Hendrix didn't intend anything unpatriotic- it was an expression of how he felt about the song. The wailing feedback, unprecedented vibrato arm technique, screeching Octavia, wah pedal and unexpected forays into sheer dissonance wasn't meant as a destruction of the song.

The electric guitar, in of itself, should be considered a symbol of America. Although the claims to its invention are various and unclear, the guitarist Les Paul and the manufacturer Rickenbacker are usually credited to solidifying the concept. Leo Fender, the founder of Fender guitars, finalized the solidbody guitar, and invented the world-famous Stratocaster- Hendrix's favorite instrument.
Rock 'n' roll music is another American invention, evolving out of musicians speeding up the blues and incorporating elements of boogie woogie, western swing, country, and gospel. The people who first played rock music were faced with a lot of prejudice and hatred, and soon playing and listening to rock music became a form of rebellion- an expression of our natural desire for freedom.
There is also something to be said about Hendrix being a black man: more than just about anybody else, black people suffered unfairly at the hands of ignorant, unsympathetic men, and out of their suffering came the blues and gospel music. When rock 'n' roll came out, black musicians struggled to compete with their white contemporaries.
1969 was a time when black people were finally starting to get equal treatment and a voice in what was meant to be a fully democratic society all along. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated just about a year earlier, so the Civil Rights Movement had reached its peak. Hendrix was expressing his newfound freedom with all of his music, expanding what was possible and conceivable, and brought about the next evolution in rock music.
Hendrix did things on the guitar- and with rock songwriting and production- that very, very few people do even today. Even the wildest and craziest heavy metal bands today don't seem to dare touch what Hendrix tried. Sometimes I get frustrated by this...

Hendrix's interpretation of "Star-Spangled Banner" is also an expression of the hippie movement: Those who were in it for social change instead of the sex and drugs were fighting for a philosophy (among other things) that had been largely forgotten, and that is the plea for freedom by the Founding Fathers.
My dad once told me that he once went around asking for signatures for a petition that included words taken directly from the Constitution and the Gettysburg Address. The conservatives he talked to accused him of being "anti-American", and when he explained where the ideas came from, all they could do was call him a "smarta**".
During the late Sixties, America was in the throes of the Vietnam War. Hendrix's dissonant screams on the guitar are frequently interpreted as being representative of falling bombs and shooting rockets, especially since they follow the words "and the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air". He then follows these with a brief quotation of "Taps", commonly associated with funerals for dead soldiers. The tune originally has lyrics about the day ending and becoming night.
Hendrix never said anything to the contrary, but I doubt this was his intention, although we do know that Hendrix strove for peace and disliked war as much as anybody. He looks like he's enjoying himself too much. But it does prove that his version touched people when many, many Americans felt the pain of going through a brutal war that, in the end, was largely unnecessary. In a way, this harkens back to what the lyrics of "Star-Bangled Banner" mean: through the lights of bombs and rockets, it can be seen that the flag- the symbol of America's independence- still stands. And we still managed to survive the Vietnam War.
If there's any truth to the "bombs and rockets" interpretation, then it expresses both joy and pain. To me, this makes his rendition especially powerful.

Hendrix's version of "Star-Spangled Banner" always reminds me of what the concept and ideology of the United States means to me. This is why I think it's the most American, patriotic version.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Nevermind. The Looney Tunes Show is CRAP.

I just saw two new episodes. I couldn't finish the second. It's like they're not even trying.

If the show had a completely different cast of characters- original characters- then it would be a good show. But as it is, it seems as though after the first episode, they brought in scripts from a rejected series and shoehorned the Looney Tunes characters into it.

I'm not even convinced that the writers had even seen any of the original cartoons.

And after seeing Invasion of the Bunny Snatchers right before it, it made me think: Had they learned NOTHING from that short? The Dell and Gold Key comics are actually more accurate. I'd rather watch the Looney Tunes cartoons made by the aging, uninspired McKimson and Freleng in the late 1960s than the new show. I'd rather read the poorly drawn Gold Key comics from the late 1970s. It's that bad.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Whoeth be the Captain Ersatz?: The Pegleg Pete cloning

Once you start getting into the works of Walt Disney from the 1920s, you notice a thread starting from the Alice shorts all the way up to Mickey Mouse: Pegleg Pete. Starting with 1925's "Alice Solves the Puzzle", Pete antagonized Alice and Julius as a bear. He went on to become a dog in Oswald shorts, starting with "The Ocean Hop". Of course, as we all know, Pete finally became a cat, and Mickey's rival, in "Gallopin' Gaucho".

But when Universal took Oswald away from Walt in 1928, it would seem that they assumed Pegleg Pete belonged to them as well. I noticed this when I started looking for post-Disney Oswald shorts on YouTube. That's him in 1929's "Yanky Clippers". Notice the peg leg?
So what was happening? Both Walt Disney and Universal were using pretty much the same character, only that they were different species.
This all begs the question: Who technically owned copyright to the character? Was Pegleg Pete included in Universal's copyright papers, and did Disney just not know that they owned him? If so, how did Universal not notice? Or did Walter Lantz's team just assume that he came with the package, even if he was technically not included in their copyright?
Of course, eventually Universal stopped using their version of Pete, and Disney was able to claim copyright of the character without anybody noticing the similarity. It's obvious who was using the character more effectively, and Disney's Pete overshadowed Lantz's attempts by a millionfold. But it still strikes me as very odd that Universal potentially owned copyright to the character for about eighty years, and either handwaved Disney's version because they gave up on Oswald, or didn't notice somehow.

If I may be even geekier, if we think in terms of the universe seen in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Bonkers, it makes you wonder who was the original Pete. In that world, was Disney's Pete the clone because Universal owned the original, or did they sneak him out of the studio? Is Universal's Pete the clone because Disney managed to take their Pete with him?
Actually, I find the first explanation more likely: Why wouldn't Universal claim copyright to Pegleg Pete? It makes me think that Disney's Pete is actually a clone that outlived the original.

It also makes you wonder- if Disney made new Oswald cartoons today, who would be the villain? In many ways, Oswald has as much right to claim Pete as his rival as Mickey does.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Our latest musical fascination

Regional rock music that was banned by dictatorships. For instance, rock music done in the Soviet Union or in Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Looney Tunes Show has been bitten by the Gambling Bug

If you get that reference, you probably agree with me.

I have mixed feelings about the new Looney Tunes show. On one hand, I did actually get a few laughs out of it, but the first thing that put me off was the choice of Jeff Bergman as Bugs and Daffy. This guy is the absolute worst choice- he did Bugs and Daffy right after Mel Blanc died, in Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue of all things, the most bizarre thing any Looney Tunes characters appeared in. I guess he's slightly better in Blooper Bunny, but still- you might as well have chosen Noel Blanc or Jeff Bennett, or even some random impressionist on YouTube.
(Heck, even my brother can do the two better than Bergman, although hardly anybody seems to agree.)
I don't understand at all why they didn't pick Joe Alaskey and Billy West, whose Bugs and Daffy are almost indistinguishable from Mel, especially on good days (Billy West's Bugs wasn't always so hot). Did Alaskey and West decline to play the parts, because of the script? That's my best guess.

The next decision that baffled me was the change of format and humor style- I could've gotten past the redesigns because the animation is nice enough- instead of simple slapstick-and-wordplay-based humor, with "We vs. They", "Bad Guy chases Good Guy" plots, they've chosen to do suburban settings, with humor based entirely on personality interaction. It's nice that the writers seem to know who they're writing for, but it all reminds me of '60s-era Bob McKimson cartoons and the Dell and Gold Key comics.
I should think that slapstick would've been the easiest route- it would've required less mental effort and less complicated backgrounds, and most certainly a heck of a lot less dialogue. Why work so hard to attempt cynical lampshading?

I also wonder what on earth Cartoon Network has been thinking when it comes to promoting the show. It was bad enough that they stopped playing the original stuff on Boomerang for unfathomable, unjustifiable reasons, potentially depriving an entire generation of children of some of the most brilliant and mind-expanding cartoons ever made. To play the original stuff at noon, when nobody but children who haven't started school or people without jobs are watching, is completely nuts if you ask me.
I have severe doubts about kids today. Do they know who the heck these characters are? Are they counting on the parents buying their kids the DVDs, or recording the noontime airings on their DVRs? Many of the jokes in the new show were so self-referential- particularly the way they described Bugs' catchphrase- that I seriously doubt many kids understood what they were talking about.

I also have some qualms about the characterization. I appreciate the effort to make Daffy somewhere in between his early screwball duck incarnation and his later jealous, egotistical jerk incarnation- he's now a goofy jerk- but he was never THAT stupid...
So far, the only real atrocity they've committed is their total revamp of Witch Hazel and Gossamer. Why in God's sacred name have they become black people? They sound like Suzie Carmichael from The Rugrats. What's wrong with June Foray's voice, and what's wrong with a huge brute?

Overall, I think the show is extremely misguided, if not a complete mess- I'm still willing to give it a chance, but the more I think about it, the more I think that Warner Bros. is taking the biggest risk they've ever taken. And not the good kind.

EDIT: Okay, I have to say that another decision of theirs is equally as bad as making Witch Hazel a black woman- drastically changing Lola's personality.
Say what you will about Space Jam- it's based on Michael Jordan's passing celebrity and pop culture references that quickly became outdated, but at least it introduced a strong female character to the cast for the first time.

Nobody really remembers Honey Bunny, Bugs' first steady girlfriend as seen in the Gold Key comics. I can tell by just looking at her that she's not a good role model, and extremely boring. When Lola first appeared, here was a strong, independent, and very talented woman who wasn't there just to be Bugs' foil.
If the team behind The Looney Tunes Show was trying to be more politically correct by losing Lola's curves and keeping knee-jerk feminists from labeling her as mere eye candy for male audiences, they completely canceled out their efforts by making her an air-headed, creepy ditz. This is a very tired, unflattering stereotype that should be only reserved for antagonists or foils to a more level-headed female character.

The very idea that being an attractive, curvy woman is considered politically incorrect is a concept that's becoming increasingly irritating to me. It's almost as though you can't be such a woman in real life- and that you're an awful man if you prefer them.
I can't think of a single fictional female character who had curves and beauty that didn't have positive personality traits of some kind, save for the femme fatale. In movies (especially those from the 1940s), comic books, and pulp fiction, these women are all strong-willed and anything but helpless or unintelligent. When I create an attractive female character, it's not because I expect every woman to look like that, it's just because I like women who look like that better. It's supposed to be a compliment.
So making Lola no longer entirely beautiful (at least in my eyes) not only makes her more boring to look at, it associates women who aren't curvy with the ditzy personality she now has, which isn't fair. It's like they thought, "Hey, let's make Lola more like Honey Bunny!" I guess signs of this were seen in "Dating Dos and Don'ts", when all she ever did was giggle.

If they really wanted to make a ditzy female character, they should've chosen Tina Russo Duck (aka "Melissa" from "The Scarlet Pumpernickel", "The Muscle Tussle", "The Duxorcist" and Baby Looney Tunes). The most she ever did, originally, was whimper and cry for help- which is completely unlike Lola. It's like they decided to switch their personalities.

I worry that kids are going to be reading the Looney Tunes comic books and wondering why they're not like what they are on television, but for entirely different reasons. It's a complete turnaround- the DC comics were the first to make them like the cartoons, finally making the two coincide, but now it seems as though they're trying to make the cartoons more like the way the comics used to be. Blecch.

So I don't know what the heck they're doing, but I want the old Lola back. Space Jam, for all its associations with late '90s teenage culture, is looking better all the time.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Jack's Bourrée

So I've just listened to Bach's "Bourrée in E minor". Does anyone think that the main strain sounds like the first verses of "Jack's Lament" from Nightmare Before Christmas?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Oswald's girlfriend(s)

Before I get into the details, I suppose my underlying beef here- just to get it out of the way- is the tendency for people of any fandumb to become obsessive with the characters they're fans of.
I'm sure you know what I mean- and it's not just the habit of creating self-insert Mary Sue girlfriends, either. I've seen people who literally think they know exactly how a particular character thinks and feels, despite all evidence to the contrary, and believe that they're the only authorities on the subject, and speak for the character in a way that no one else can- not even the creators.
(Personally, I prefer a "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" approach, and I only invent new traits based on inference- not for the sake of using the character as a mouthpiece.)

A milder but not necessarily less irritating form is when a fan will be disappointed with a decision the creators made concerning a character they supposedly "admire", and go on to claim that their version is the "correct" version. Not only is this extremely arrogant, but it's also an insult to the creators- it implies that the creators don't know the characters best. By extension, this is also a denial of who the character really is, canonically and artistically, because they prefer a derived ersatz character.
So I don't believe that these people are really "fans" at all. They're fans of their version of the story.

So it particularly irks me to see "fans" of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, most of whom weren't aware of his existence before Epic Mickey came out, don't want Ortensia to exist. It mostly surprises me that they even bothered to find out more about the character, much less learn that his girlfriend used to be a rabbit.

I first learned about Oswald through the Disney books that my parents used to own- so I've known of his existence since before I can remember, although like most I never saw any of his cartoons- just some drawings- simply because they weren't available.
So when I learned that Disney had bought back Oswald from Universal and was going to put out a Disney Treasures set, I was excited by the prospects of it all. We bought the set as soon as we could...

Admittedly, I didn't care for the decision to make his girlfriend into a cat either. It simply made more sense to me to make the two of them rabbits, and I liked the way she was drawn and animated better. I think it's perfectly okay to be unhappy with a decision an artist makes, and regard it as a mistake that could've been done better- but it's not okay to claim that you have made the "correct" version. Nobody but the artists who work for the people who own the copyrights of these characters have the authority.
This isn't to say that you can't write fanfiction. I'm just a bit of a stickler for canonical continuity, and I don't like it when it's disregarded for one's own ends.

Here's how I feel about Ortensia: If Walt Disney himself decided to make Oswald's girlfriend a cat, then so be it- if you wanna argue about it, bring Walt back from the dead and tell him off. Maybe I do prefer that she be a rabbit, but you don't exactly see me changing Scrooge McDuck into a mean and nasty Christmas-hater just because that was what he was originally like.
I figure that's how Warren Spector felt about it too. Walt made her a cat, and that was how it was when he made his final cartoon before Oswald was taken away from him. Heck, Walter Lantz kept her that way.

In fact, I don't even know if Ortensia and the rabbit are separate characters! Most people interpret it that way, but I've yet to find any reliable source stating whether Oswald dumped the rabbit and hooked up with Ortensia, or if Ortensia simply changed her species- that what I thought when I first saw the cartoons. That happens sometimes, y'know. Pegleg Pete, for instance, was originally a bear, then a dog, and finally a cat after he was paired with Mickey.

UPDATE: I've found conclusive evidence that Ortensia is, in fact, a simply renamed and "respecied" Fanny.
First of all, according to the DisneyWiki, Oswald's rabbit girlfriend was definitely named Fanny, citing the book Walt in Wonderland: The Silent Films of Walt Disney. It isn't just a rumored fan name, like I previously suspected.
Also (and I don't blame fans for missing this), Ramapith: David Gerstein's Prehistoric Pop Culture Blog has provided the soundtrack to the Lantz-era Oswald short "Bowery Bimboes" here: http://ramapithblog.blogspot.com/2010/09/lucky-new-oswald-finds.html
Currently, the actual visuals that go with these sounds are lost.
I've listened to it, and the voice that's clearly meant to be Oswald says "Hi there, Fanny." As we all know, Oswald's girlfriend had become a cat. And this short refers to her as "Fanny"! So Ortensia is simply her new name, and Fanny isn't a separate character.
(On a side note: In the short "Spooks", Ortensia/Fanny is referred to as "Kitty". Not that it makes much difference.)

Hopefully, this'll end all the debate. Unfortunately, all the artists who have been drawing Fanny and Ortensia side by side will have wasted their time...

UPDATE 2: Turns out I was wrong about Lantz keeping her a cat. By 1932, beginning with "Carnival Capers" at least, they turned her into a dog for some reason. And she's still referred to as "Kitty". Seems as though she's gone through so many changes that it doesn't really matter what the heck her name is.
UPDATE 3: Things have gotten more confusing- in "Springtime Serenade", Oswald's girlfriend is a rabbit again. So yeah. Ortensia, therefore, is based entirely on Walt's decisions!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Smell that fresh, deadly scent!

It really baffles me that air fresheners are supposed to have a pleasant smell, but the warning on the back says not to inhale it. And how, pray tell, are we supposed to smell it without breathing in?

Cokeys

So we've recently discovered that chocolate chip cookies go great with cola- something like Coke or Shasta (the red-colored kind).

See, I feel frequently frustrated seeing so many freakin' wines in grocery stores and beer commercials that make beer, lager and ale sound like the latest gourmet booze (what's next? Fancy wine coolers?), and I keep hoping that soda will get the same treatment. There is something of a subculture, as evidenced by all the options you have at Whole Foods and stores that specialize in retro sodas.
Unlike many people, I like to pair my sodas with the meal. My reasoning is that you got the different kinds of food on your plate because they go well together, so why defeat the purpose of those selections by neutralizing your tongue with water or drinking fermented plant juice? You might as well eat things that go badly together- like pizza and steamed artichokes.

(And don't tell me that there's a recipe for that. Ick.)

So choosing a soda to compliment your meal I think is something severely undervalued. I often wind up getting Coke or root beer at sit-down restaurants, but that's because they usually sell comfort foods.

I can't believe it's not Bieber... oh wait, it is.

So I just caught Justin Bieber guest-starring on SNL last week. And whaddya now, I actually find him very, VERY inoffensive.
Yes, I said inoffensive. I figured as much- I didn't think all the hatred was justified. I mean, it's just... catchy pop and nothing more. It's not syrupy, cheesy, unenthusiastic, or anything. Heck, the song he sang was a doo-wop song, which I found extremely refreshing- I didn't think anybody did them anymore!
I mean, sure, his pitch wasn't perfect, but at least he wasn't lip-synching. Not that I support bad singing for the sake of "authenticity".

I pretty much feel the same way about Miley Cyrus, The Jonas Brothers, and Lady Gaga. And I also like black metal. So nyeh.

(Not so sure about Rebecca Black, though.)

UPDATE: I still find his music inoffensive, but the whole Anne Frank fiasco changed my mind completely about his character. He's just a jerk.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Don Francisco's coffee

Been having some of their butterscotch toffee flavored coffee. Pretty tasty. They're one of those real old mostly-average sort of brands that I'm starting to like (although technically the actual brand is fairly recent- their business of making coffee is far older).

Monday, March 21, 2011

Our commercials are EPIC

A trend I find disturbing and irritating is when a TV commercial will have the same budget as a feature film. This is particularly popular with car and electronics commercials, which are frequently drowning in CG and green-screen effects- and none of it ever makes me want the product. In fact, sometimes I can't tell what the product even IS.

The worst ones go like this: I'll be watching what seems at first to be a movie trailer, and I'll go "Wow, this looks like a really awesome movie- wait, this is an ad for freakin' smartphone??"

It also makes me feel sad about movies of today. I'd rather be watching the movies these ads pretended to be rather than most of the real ones.

But it mostly makes me wonder- is this where all our consumer money is going? Why the heck are we spending millions of dollars for 30-second spots when we could be spending them on actual entertainment- or better yet, the products they advertise? Or do these companies really have that much money to burn? It makes me wonder if it was worth it to give America's car manufacturers all those bailouts.

Actually, I couldn't care less about how much they spend on smartphones. I'd rather that movies get more attention.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ees tuff 2 b a Kidd

One persistent phenomenon in children's entertainment- particularly books- that always baffled me was this attitude of hating parents and adults in general.

What I mean is when the protagonist, usually a six-to-ten-year-old boy, talks to you about how lame his parents are, and how much trouble it is to be a preadolescent. "Adults don't know anything, they don't understand"- "Parents are so totally lame because they're baby boomers"- "Only kids understand the ways of the world, and deserve to eat this cereal"- "This is the only place where kids can be kids"- "I don't ever want to grow up"- "It's tough being a kid!"

Lemme tell ya- the only adults who don't understand kids, if you ask me, are the people who wrote this garbage. You think you know how tough it was? You don't know!

But my real point is that I could never relate to this attitude when I was a kid, and still can't. It's as though these people want children to rebel as early as possible, but no matter how many times you told me that my parents were dorks, I still wouldn't believe it.
The main reason for this, I think, is that I was never given a reason to believe my parents were inferior. I get the impression that most kids will believe something without motivation, but not I- the preconception that adults had lost some sort of secret knowledge only retained in children was lost on me, simply because I never perceived a lack of understanding of my thoughts and feelings in them.
The whole problem was that nobody ever explained what it was that they didn't know or understand.

I was a kid who never truly connected to other kids my age- in fact, other children, from my viewpoint, had nothing to offer other than taunting, so why bother? I'm GLAD that I've reached adulthood, because now I can do I wanted to do when I was a kid! If a book or cartoon really wanted to communicate with me, they should've made the children the enemy. I was never particularly interested in relating to the characters, anyway.
Also, I was frequently absorbing the music and culture that my parents grew up with at home- I was listening to oldies and classic rock stations and Beatles tapes, and watching Looney Tunes and Tex Avery cartoons. No one ever gave me enough reason to dislike them. The very idea that something old is bad is a concept that still is completely incomprehensible to me.

I knew that disallowing adults to have Trix was completely absurd from the get-go.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Congratulations, punk rockers...

The Wonder Pets Save the Skunk Rocker

...you've been reduced to an episode of a kiddie show.

(UPDATE: The full episode's unavailable... so here's a clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWqWfAxfiSk)

Should you be offended? I don't really know. I mean, I certainly can tell that the episode doesn't touch upon certain key aspects of the punk attitude: that is, the various levels and shades of rebellion. But I guess pre-schoolers wouldn't get that.

I mean, I actually like The Wonder Pets- mostly for the music- but this strikes me as kind of risky. What if a kid wants to listen to punk, and finds that there are few that are G-rated? I'd recommend the Ramones myself, but not if you're uptight about violence.

From what I know, the music sounds right- it would seem that the writers wanted to treat it as a mere musical genre rather than a genre entangled with philosophy- and frequently, politics- like so many people do. I do admit, though, that it is odd that they should for some reason seem to be specifically imitating Oi! music, which is frequently associated with working-class populism and anarchism. It might've been better, I think, if they did pop punk.

Also, the lyrics are kinda dumb- several "oi's" sprinkled throughout doesn't make for punk lyrics, and I can't help but wonder if some kids will think that's all there is to it.
I don't think a keytar really belongs there, either. That's more of a New Wave thing, from what I know.

UPDATE: Josh Selig has done it again! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eywisIot1wU
This time, the music is definitely more polished- in that it's a more complete song. They do address one key philosophy of punk culture this time: individualism.
I'm wondering what motivated this decision... it's all very curious.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mice and Ducks

I'm definitely liking Floyd Gottfredson better than Carl Barks so far. There's something a bit more real about them- perhaps this is due to the more rubbery drawing style and Mickey's peculiar dialect and his occasional dives into moral grey areas. Carl Barks' drawings always struck me as being somewhat rigid, and the dialog not necessarily naturalistic.
Perhaps there isn't as much high-flying exotic adventure in the Mickey comics, but there's certainly plenty of action, notorious crime, intrigue and suspense. I could easily compare Duck comics to suburban sitcom or adventure films, and Mouse comics to gangster and mystery films.

I dunno, perhaps I have a desire to be less predictable. But I do think Mickey has untapped potential still...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

That mink is a minx

I've been skimming the Animaniacs comics, and I swear to God, Minerva Mink is intentionally pure, unadulterated furry bait. Every one of her stories in the comics are like pages and pages of pin-ups.
So I think I can safely say that they were asking for it- nay, practically begging for it. It's like: "Go ahead. I dare you to not find her sexy."
And some people wonder where it all comes from.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My very few nitpicks with Epic Mickey

First off, I have a LOT of love for Epic Mickey- it is by far the most beautiful and fresh thing that Disney has produced since the glory days of their Renaissance. Period. And as strange and eerie as the game seems, once you've delved deeply into Disney like I have, one can find that it's very pure Disney. I could go on and on about it, so I won't.

If the public is smart and a pearl hasn't been cast before swine, I think it ought to bring about newfound interest in classic cartoons and giving the characters therein edgier adventures.

The only problem I have doesn't have to do with the gameplay or the design or the story- I actually have a bit of a problem with Warren Spector's view of recent Mickey media. He's said in interviews that Disney hasn't been doing anything interesting with Mickey lately (which is mostly true) and that he hasn't been in any stories in 15 years or so- which, to my dismay, means that he's discrediting House of Mouse, which premiered in 2002. And many of the shorts are from Mickey Mouse Works, which premiered in 1999.
House of Mouse did some of the freshest and funniest cartoons with their classic characters ever, if you ask me. And they even brought back Mortimer!

I've also peeked at some videos of Mean Street and Ostown, and for some reason he wants you to think that Mickey doesn't recognize Horace Horsecollar or Clarabelle Cow. I'll admit that they faded into obscurity around 1940, but they remained regular supporting characters in the comics throughout Mickey's career- and what's more, they appeared regularly in House of Mouse, while Horace was in The Prince and the Pauper (1990), and Clarabelle was in The Three Musketeers (2004)!
And it's not like the latest batch of kids wouldn't know who Clarabelle is- she appears regularly in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse!

He also has mentioned avoiding making allusions to recent Disney productions, which may be his reasons for doing this- but most of all, I think it's the reason that he can't mention how the Thinner is inspired by the Dip in Roger Rabbit. He's gotta stick to his guns, I guess.

Also, from the way he talks, you would think that he doesn't want to acknowledge that Oswald had a career in Universal cartoons and comics for as long as Mickey has- regularly appearing in cartoons in the 1930s and comics in the 1940s (New Funnies, as well as one shots for Four Color), with sporadic appearances in comics afterward. He makes it sound as if Charles Mintz bought him but didn't do anything with him after 1928, and Oswald was left stagnant for eighty years.
And I think that the 1940s Oswald comics are very interesting, and worthy of inspiring new Oswald adventures.

Although I can forgive him not mentioning Roger Rabbit- as much as he deserves credit and attention that he doesn't get- my final disappointment is that there are no freakin' weasels. D: There are no characters in the entire Disney catalog more worthy of revitalization, and yet so nearly entirely unknown, save for perhaps regular visitors of Disneyland. But how many people who go on that ride would be able to name the Toon Patrol? (And no, it's not "Wise Guy".) He could at least have mentioned the ones from Mr. Toad.
Even among rejects they're rejected and forgotten.

Or as Yukon Cornelius would say, "Even among misfits you're misfits!"

(But one video I came across had him talking about how he avoided live-action Disney films, which- annoyingly enough- include Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. He mentioned that maybe-possibly-who-knows he might make a Roger Rabbit game. Is there hope for weasels?)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Hiiii..."

Have you ever noticed those weird little children that for God knows what reason wave and say "Hi" in a vacant voice?

I can't help but wonder where they pick up that habit. I do know that kids will often learn some social ritual or merely some silly sound they can make and repeatedly test it- not something I recall ever doing myself, but it's a possibility.
I assume that they assume that the automatic and mandatory response is to wave and say "Hi" back, having some inkling of the concept of a greeting. Of course, anyone who gets beyond this phase knows that isn't so.

This is why I make it a priority to never encourage this behavior by responding, so I try to ignore them. I always took the "don't talk to strangers" bit seriously, and I still do.

But what do they expect to achieve from doing this? I know most don't rationalize or think about their reasons and/or motivations to do certain things, but those reasons and motivations still exist in everyone. The kid perhaps doesn't know what he/she really wants, but does it anyway for whatever subconscious reason.

Perhaps I'm overanalyzing this, but it sort of creeps me out.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Loss or denial of faith is counterintuitive

When most people see someone breaking their own rules or doctrines, why do they almost always conclude that these rules are false?

In particular, I've seen people hate Christians because they've met only hypocritical ones. For some reason, they assume that the very concept of Christianity is evil, despite the fact that it's all about peace and love and stuff. I don't think they actually know what Christ's message is- they just see that these bad Christians are saying non-Christians are evil and then go and commit adultery or something.
Or maybe it's just a knee-jerk reaction to Christians telling them what to do- which you know, is a horrendous crime to humanity (sarcasm).
Of course, this sometimes intense hatred makes these critics no better than the bad Christians. Perhaps their reasoning is "I may be hateful, but at least I'm honest about it".

It's very sad, really. These sort of people never seem happy.

Whatever train of thought it is, it's a path of logic that doesn't add up. They're putting two and two together, but these twos aren't twos that should be together- and frankly, it's a conclusion I can't comprehend, because it's a conclusion I can't possibly come to.
It's like they're putting two and π together.

In the end, I can't help but wonder what their concept of good is supposed to be. Is it really something other than peace and love?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Getting a buzz

Lately I've been getting high on sweetened, flavored coffee. Over the past month I've been drinking peppermint and gingerbread flavored coffee (stocking stuffers from Christmas), and adding brown sugar to it.
The weird thing is that it makes me feel sleepy. And I experience a high. It's not always a good high- if I don't make myself relax, I start getting tense for some reason.

If I get this much of a reaction from caffeine and sugar, I can't imagine what would happen if I did pot or something like that. Maybe fall over unconscious.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"I can't even draw a straight line..."

The next time you say this to an artist you admire, just remember that I, an actual artist, told you this:

Straight lines are hard.

Most professional artists use rulers if they want a straight line. In fact, it's far easier (and far more useful) to draw curved lines.

That's what you should focus on if you're an aspiring artist.

"Dat double-crossin'..."

Have you ever noticed that the Popeye cartoons often misuse the phrase "double-cross"? Usually it's when Popeye takes back Olive Oyl from Bluto, causing Bluto to grumble about how Popeye "double-crossed" him.

I always got the impression that the phrase referred to when a criminal (or just someone mean) crosses another once, and then twice. But every source I can find about the phrase online seems to say that it simply refers to when a criminal betrays another criminal, therefore "crossing the crossers".
Bluto still isn't using the phrase correctly either way- neither of them are criminals (usually), and Popeye certainly never betrays him, unless you consider the two to be friends, and stealing a fickle and unfaithful girlfriend away from a brutish rival to be betrayal. Sure, Bluto was certainly being "crossed", but...

Maybe a lot of people in the 1930s thought of the word "double" as a means of emphasizing "cross", like "double dare". That would make sense, but it would be nice if it were explained somehow. I've seen this seeming misusage in some Hal Roach comedies too, like Laurel and Hardy and "Our Gang" (aka The Little Rascals).

A thought on Disneyland ghosts

In an older post here, I wrote about how there don't seem to be any ghosts dating from after the 1950s.
But after reading up on ghost stories about Disneyland, I can safely say that I was wrong about that- most of the attractions that are haunted were built after the 1950s. This includes The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and especially Space Mountain.

But so far I haven't heard of any other such places. But once you think about it, Disneyland seems like a real hotspot for paranormal activity, doesn't it?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Artifacts of our Childhood: The Pagemaster

If there's any way to get kids interested in classic books, it's to tell them that they have cool stories in a cartoon. I don't mean that a cartoon should say "books r kewl" as a bland, general statement- because that never works- I mean they should say that they have something in them that makes them worth opening up. In other words, tell kids what's actually in them.
In other other words, tell them why they should read them.

Kids don't like direct commands, no matter how much you have your backward-cap-wearing cartoon character spouts words like "awesome" and "wicked". They need to be tricked into doing something.
"Watch SWAT Kats on Cartoon Network- it has explosions."
"Really? Awesome!"

Of course, most things we trick kids into believing- dreams come true, good always wins, work together- don't usually fully register until many, many years later, when they start actually believing things. From my experience, this would be about when they're nineteen years old. If they're lucky. Sometimes they're told to NOT believe things at around thirteen, and that can stick if that message is given to them persistently.

For me, The Pagemaster only gave me an inkling of the concept that classic English literature is cool. (Pirates! Ghosts! Dragons!) So around thirteen, I read relatively easy books like Treasure Island, Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. But only recently have I delved deeper on my own accord, which is more due to my mom's homeschooling- where I familiarized myself with Homer and Dante- than the movie alone.
The whole "curl up with a good book" attitude, where books are "magical" and "awesome" because they "take you on a journey of imagination", is still slightly confusing to me, and only recently have I come to sort of understand it. I don't like such flowery language, but I get that it's inspiring and a good way to spend free time.

The Pagemaster is one of the many second-or-third-tier (mostly) animated features that I suspect many nostalgic children of the '90s remember fondly. The film is also ripe with voice actors that were all over the era, but of course I didn't recognize them at the time- except Whoopi Goldberg for some reason. I don't know why.
Christopher Lloyd was already introduced to me through Roger Rabbit. I recall seeing Star Trek: The New Generation with Patrick Stewart when I was a kid, but he's a little hard to recognize with a pirate voice. Of course, Jim Cummings and Frank Welker- whose voices are impossible to avoid hearing- are there also. I knew who Spock was, but Leonard Nimoy was not somebody I would've been familiar with.

Oddly enough, the only other book I've read that features in this film besides Treasure Island is Alice in Wonderland (which is only briefly referred to). I don't think A Christmas Carol counts.
I also have serious doubts that The Curious Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde would really be well understood by anybody in their childhood or even teen years.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Horror bubblegum

You've probably never heard of this genre. But believe me, bubblegum songs with horror-themed lyrics do exist, and there is in fact one group that specialized in it.

It all began during bubblegum's heyday: 1968. The obscure bubblegum/psych-pop group October Country released their sole self-titled album in '68, which included the song "My Girlfriend is a Witch", a somewhat surf-y and appropriately dissonant song about the strange behavior of a young man's girlfriend, including flying on a broom.

The next year, the series Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? premiered, and although none of the songs sung by Danny Jannsen have horror lyrics, there would be an association with bubblegum and chases through haunted houses.

Also in 1969, the Hanna-Barbera creation The Cattanooga Cats released their only album, which- because the songwriter(s) of October Country did the songs- included a version of "My Girlfriend is a Witch".

Beginning in 1970, Filmation came out with the series Groovie Goolies, which was a spinoff of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. About two-thirds of their songs had horror-themed lyrics, with few straight songs in between, making them the only pure horror bubblegum group.

Closely related is the music of The Chan Clan, as part of the series The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan starting in 1972. The association of bubblegum and teenage mystery-solving is made stronger here, because the songs use detective work and espionage as metaphors for love and relationships. The vocals were in fact sung by Ron Dante, best known for his work for The Archies.

The genre more or less ends there, but it is survived by the horror punk genre, which likely had its beginnings with The Ramones songs "Chainsaw" and "I Don't Wanna Go Down in the Basement" (who, mind you, loved the 1910 Fruitgum Company). The most obvious link between horror bubblegum and horror punk is the band The Groovie Ghoulies, who named themselves after The Groovie Goolies.

Horror bubblegum had one last gasp in the Johnny Bravo episode "Bravo Dooby Doo" from 1997, where Johnny meets Scooby and the gang. In contrast to the original series, the song that plays during the chase scene is actually horror-themed, called "Happy Haunted Sunshine House". The middle also shows a clear Beach Boys influence.

As we can see, it's inescapable to say how closely related pop punk and bubblegum are, even when they're singing about zombies. I don't who The Misfits listened to, but I don't see any reason that they shouldn't have known about The Groovie Goolies.