Thursday, November 30, 2006
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
One day I was in a really philosophical mood. The ideas were first-rate and they were coming fast and furious! These were too good to write on napkins; I decided to grab my diary and run to a restaurant where I could write in seclusion. On the way to the parking lot I passed the apartment complex jerk and (most likely) drug dealer. I hated the guy and he hated me so we gave each other the usual icy stare and I got in the car and drove away. So far, so good.
About half way to the restaurant I suddenly realized that I'd left the diary on top of the car when I got in and had driven away while it was still up there! In a panic I checked the roof of the car then turned around and traced my path back home, carefully scoping out the street. I didn't see anything but I didn't really expect to. The diary most likely would have fallen into my parking space. When I got to the parking space there was nothing there but the drug guy, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. I asked him if he'd seen a book on the ground and he nodded "No" in a way that tantalizingly could have meant "Yes." Later that night I heard uproarious laughter comming from the drug guy's apartment. My guess was it was the drug guy and his biker friends reading my diary.
So what does it all come to? My worst enemy reads my girl-colored diary. Not only that but the diary was full of incredibly sappy, whining passages like, "I'm so good and the world is so bad. Why doesn't the world recognize my goodness?" It's like something Little Lord Fauntlyroy would have written to express his anguish over finding a hair on his lace cuff. Well, I never wrote or even thought anything as wimpy and self-pitying again so I guess I got something out of the experience. Most of all what I learned was..... NEVER KEEP A DIARY!
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Isaah Berlin asked the question in a famous essay and people have been repeating it ever since.
Are you a hedgehog, i.e., someone who has one strategy that they apply to every situation, or a fox, i.e., someone who has many possible strategies? If you're like me you probably consider yourself a fox in this respect but it's possible that friends who know you would disagree. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Hedgehog atrategies are suprisingly effective.
The most high-profile hedgehog I know of was General Patton of WWII fame. Pattin often took command of units that were demoralized from innaction. The previous command was usually mired in the bog of too much information. They had conflicting intelligence about the enemy so they did nothing while they tried to sort it out. Patton would take over and immediately order an attack. Morale would shoot up immediately. Automatic attacks may seem like a dangerous strategy but Patton rightly figured that bad morale was a greater threat than a formidable enemy besides, if the enemy were so strong why hadn't they attacked before now? Hedgehogs are blessed with certainty and self-confidence and that's a big asset.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Notice that I didn't say Marty was the best romance. Marty isn't a romance, rather it's about needing people and survival in the relationship jungle. I like it because it's about a subject that's really important. It's amazing how many dramas are about unimportant things. Animated films are often about learning to be yourself, which surely rates at the bottom of any objective list of important themes.
Glenngary is about how serious work is and how easily work can be taken away from you. You have to work to live yet work is not a right but more like a kindness that an employer bestows on you and can withdraw at any time. I don't mean to attach any political interpretation to this, I'm definitely not a Marxist, I simply note that it's surprising that something as vital as a job is apt to be so fraught with insecurity.
In modern society we're no longer independent hunters or farmers but rather supplicants with our tin cups out, hoping that someone with a job to offer will look kindly on us. It seems odd because philosophy and religion describe each individual as immeasurably important yet in another way we don't seem to be important at all. It's a puzzling icongruity which David Mammet presents without comment.
On the comments page Anonymous is always asking me what I think about Glen Keane. I don't have much to say about the man that's original. Like everybody else I think He's a wonderful draughtsman and animator and I'd kill to take a class with him. I just regret that Disney chose to do so many feature films about realistic human beings that required Glen's level of talent to pull off. It must be hard to make fun and imaginative films when so much attention has to be devoted to the technically grueling task of moving anatomically correct figures around the screen. Glen sometimes lectures to art schools and a friend told me that his latest lectures are full of references to a book called "Blink." I'm listening to a library copy of that book in the car now. According to the book we should trust our first impression of things. Our brains are very good at sizing up people and situations and finding a single criterian for judging them accurately. Glen applies this to drawing. On the first glance a person might strike you as boxy or wolf-like and that's the way you should sketch them, no matter how much other analysis you do. John K used to say that. It sounds right to me.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
"First you add up all the female nude scenes (Hurray!). When you've done that you add up all the male nude scenes (Yuck!). Subtract the number of male nude scenes (Yuck!)from the number of female nude scenes (Hurray!) and voila, you have the numerical value of the fim! The higher the number the better! That's all there is to it!"
I feel so lucky to know Mike.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Believe it or not, I'm old enough to remember the first time male and female stick figures were used to designate restrooms. Previous to that the restrooms were labeled with words like "Ladies" and "Gentlemen" or "Seniors" and Senioritas."
I remember the very night I first saw the new symbols. They were on the lavatory doors of a Marie Calander's-type family restaurant that my friend's dad took us to. A bunch of frustrated patrons were gathered outside the restroom doors trying to puzzle out what the signs meant. The consensus was that the bell-shaped, flared stick figure might be a be a girl with a dress but what was the other figure? One lady thought it was a woman wearing a pant suit. Maybe both the bathrooms were for women, one for traditional dress wearers and one for pants-wearing new-agers. Somebody guessed that the the mens' rooms were somewhere on the other side of the building.
Every once in a while a frustrated citizen would knock on the door and if there was no answer he'd cautiously open the door and let himself inside. Everybody waited with baited breath to hear what he was seeing. When he came back with the answer the relieved crowd streamed into the appropriate rooms then ten minutes later a new crowd would form and the whole cycle would start up again.
What everyone in the crowd would have agreed on was that the new symbols were bold and futuristic. We all felt like we were entering restrooms on the starship "Enterprise." I wondered if it meant we'd all be wearing capes and gauntlet gloves and be carrying ray guns soon. It was heady stuff. A real glimpse into the future.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
I take Thanksgiving very seriously. Americans have a lot to be thankful for. I think about Valley Forge and about Washington nobley returning control of the Continental Army back to Congress after the War of Independence, of the Marines who died on Iwo Jima, of the fact that even the President of the United States couldn't enter my house if I didn't allow him. I think about how what we think of as the Jazz Age and the age of pulp magazines and Clampett cartoons coincided with millions being hauled off to slave labor camps in Siberia. I'm truly grateful for all that America's done for me and I'm delighted that a holiday exists to celebrate that. Now for some serious eating!
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!!!!!!!
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Sometimes I have trouble using my %$&#@ computer. Fortunately I have a techie daughter who answers my questions but I can see the thought balloon above her head which reads, "Why does my dad have so much trouble with this stuff? What's wrong with his generation? Why are they all so dense?" Consulting my crystal ball I can see where all this is leading...
PUTTING ON SOCKS IN THE YEAR 2150
Dad: Help! Daughter, you gotta help me! I can't put on my socks! They won't let my feet in!
Daughter: (rolls eyes up) Well, maybe you didn't enable them!
Dad: Enable? What's that?
Daughter: (rolls eyes way up) You know, enable them! You have to activate the program!
Dad: What program? I just want to put on my socks.
Daughter: (rolling up eyes again, can't believe how stupid her dad is) Here, let me do it (she punches a code into the sock)! Here!
Dad: I still can't put it on!
Daughter: Well, maybe you need a new driver!
Dad: How do I get that?
Daughter: Dad, if you'd taken that community college course in socks I told you about you wouldn't have to bother me with questions.
Dad: I shouldn't have to take a course to put on a pair of socks! When I was a kid eveything was so simple!
Daughter: When you were a kid socks didn't tell you the weather.
Dad: I don't want socks to tell me the weather!
Daughter: (exasperrated) Here, take this book: "Putting on Socks for Complete Dummies." It's only 300 pages and comes with a CD ROM. And here's the name of an online sock message board. You'll get the hang of it yet!
Monday, November 20, 2006
Sunday, November 19, 2006
I confess that I've only recently begun to like Herriman. Like almost everybody else I used to think of it as primitive, plotless and pointless. Moderns aren't the only ones to feel this way, even in it's own day editors only carried it because the big boss, Randolph Hearst, liked it. It had a fan following which included Hemingway, Picasso, T.S. Eliot, Menckon, Stein, and Edmond Wilson but the public was divided about it. Me, nowadays I love it, in fact it's one of the best strips ever in my opinion. Take a look at the Sunday page above, printed originally in 1926.
The drawing of the mesa in panel one is exquisite. Blogger doesn't reproduce fine, cross-hatched lines very well but if you could see the larger print version it would blow you away. It's moody in a way that only graphics can achieve. The mesa lettering reminds me of the title letters Eisner used in The Spirit. Come to think of it, the content of the words throughout the page are funny and full of the love of language. They're also beautiful, even the ones in word balloons: ignorant, horse-hairy kind of letters, the scratchy kind that fleas would make if they could write.
The stork tries to deliver a baby in the town but the closely-packed, glowing, night-time town is empty. Look at the size of the buildings relative to the characters! I love that! I also like the fact that the buildings are larger when they need to be. Why be consistent? How do you like the bird walking down the street with the buildings diminishing behind him in railroad perspective? That street almost animates! In the end the sun, which is bottom shaded like a ball, comes up below the mesa throwing sizzling, frenetic clouds before it. All this in a page displaying a wonderfull and innovative balance of shapes, of blacks and whites, and strangely appealing steel wool-type lines. Wow! What a treat!
Buy this book or you'll regret it later: "Krazy & Ignatz" by George Herriman (covers 1925-1926).
Saturday, November 18, 2006
John recently wondered out lout loud if he should continue his blog, http://www.johnkstuff.blogspot.com/ John's a natural teacher and he puts up a lot of training tools on his blog. The problem is that most of the people he helps to train won't make themselves available to Spumco but will take what they've learned to schlocky Saturday Morning studios where they can make more money. According to John this puts him in the position of training artists for the benefit of the big studios. Those studios don't pay him anything for it so what's the point of keeping up the blog? That's his argument, anway. Boy, I hope he rethinks this.
So far as I can tell John is the best practicing line artist in the world. No current popular or fine artist can beat him. Even the densest critic would have to admit that he and Robert Crumb dominated all of art in the last 40 years. Losing someone of that stature on the net would be a serious loss.
It's hard to think of an argument that might make him change his mind. I can only report what my own feelings are when I think about it. Whatever small things I've done to help out other artists - nothing that compares to what John's done- came about because I felt the need to express my gratitude to the people who helped me when I needed it. I remember Ben Washam (one of Chick Jones' best animators) who held free animation classes in his basement once a week. When asked why he did it he said, "I've had so much fun in this industry...I just felt the need to give something back." I know what he meant. This industry not only gave me a way to make a living but it gave me an identity, a sense of mission and a shared community. It connected me to something grand and magesterial and mind-blowing, something full of history and tradition. I'm not just Eddie, I'm Eddie the cartoonist. I'm not a cork on the waves, I belong to something worthwhile. In a modest way this blog is an expression of my gratitude for that.
John certainly doesn't owe us anything. He's spent a lifetime doing favors for the rest of us, including people he's never met. If he decides to discontinue his blog we've no ground to complain. We should just be grateful for what we've gotten already. Besides, that'll leave John with more time to do cartoons the rest of us can slaver over. Even so....
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Don Martin looks great...so 50's! Basil looks like a class clown grown up and Scribner looks like John Daily, Daily being the actor who starred in "It: the Terror from Beyond Space."
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
"YOU CAN NEVER FIND A REALLY IMPORTANT LOST ITEM UNTILL YOU PUBLICLY ACCUSE AN INNOCENT PERSON OF STEALING IT!"
I don't think it's necessary to support this with argument. Anyone who's tried it knows that this is true. It's especially effective if the accused person is a good friend who's done nothing but good for you.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Looney Tunes four is out and I think I have a couple of commentaries on it. I commented on two interesting cartoons, Tashlin's "Stupid Cupid" and Jones' "Aristocat." I'm afraid I did a horrible job this time and I thought you might be interested to hear why.
Over the years I developed a superstition about public speaking which can be summarized as "Whatever you do, don't think about what you're going to say on the day you're going to speak." You can prepare all you want the previous day but on the day of the speech you have to completely put it out of your mind till the time comes to deliver it. Ignore this and on stage you'll end up babbling like a fool, unable to put two words together. Well, I ignored it and that's exactly what happened.
I've often wondered why the mind works this way. Jackie Gleason had the same superstition that I have. He didn't believe in rehearsal because he didn't want to waste his first and best performance in a situation where only the stage crew could see it. People say that that Red Skelton's TV show was brilliant in rehearsal but lackluster on the stage for the same reason. I should have paid more attention to these guys.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Now take a look at the picture above. Notice that two people hang back leaving a large space between themselves and the people at the counter. That's OK, they're probably not ready to talk to the counter yet. Nothing wrong with that, that's fine, but I've been in fast food restaurants where the line starts this far back and the people in line get indignant if you walk up to the counter and try to order. What's with that?
My guess is that that men who don't know how to form a proper line are the same men who leave paper hand towels in urinals. You know who you are!
Sunday, November 12, 2006
These are pictures Vincent sent me in an email. Boy, they lose a lot when they're reduced this small! Click to enlarge. I can't tell wether this mountain is in Japan or China. It seems to be a mountain-climbing trail for people who people who don't know how to climb mountains. You climb with the help of narrow wooden ledges and chain guide lines. No ropes keep you on the ledge. If you fall you're dead. I would LOVE to take this hike!
It looks like the people who survive the hike get to sip tea in civilized surroundings on the summit. Where do we sign up?
For one thing tortoises exist in daunting numbers and often share common values and goals. Hares are fewer and tend to be loners. At the outset of the race hares run roughshod over the sluggish competition only to find themselves in mid-race mired in the mud with few allies or sympathetic friends to help. It's very scary!
Obviously I sometimes picture myself as the hare in the story but I'm not bringing this up to indulge in self-pity. What I really want to do is acknowledge that tortoises are not always the boobs that hares think they are. Whenever I get to thinking about this I remember the stories about common heroism in WW2 when ordinary sailors would run through oil fires to save their buddies on the other side. I think about parents who make enormous sacrifices for their kids or a whole society that changed its mind about race prejudice in just acouple of generations just because it was the right thing to do. No doubt about it, tortoises are often good people... when they're not being an obstacle to progress.
Friday, November 10, 2006
This together with a couple of the New York City ferry pictures by Cecil Bell (already posted, in the archive) are my favorite pictures of that city. Philadelphia used to have el trains complete with stations and tracks that look just like the ones on New York, and I used to look forward to riding them. The elevated stations were designed to resemble German railroad stations of the 19th century. Maybe Frank Furness, the famous Philadelphia architect and champion of railroad architecture designed some of these.
Furness believed in designing ordinary residences and business buildings to look like old railroad stations and modernists widely criticized him for it. I can't imagine why. German railroad stations are one of the most pleasing structures ever built by man and it makes no sense to confine their use to only one purpose.
I love the film noir slatted shadows cast on the street by the tracks and steel above. How often do you come across architecture that distinguishes itself by the fascinating shadows it casts? Walking up the steps and through the corridors of these elevated wood and steel cathedrals was a real treat and I for one miss it.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Lots of people have "dreaded-consequences-of-scratching" stories, so many that I'm beginning to think that scratching an itch is one the most perilous things you can do. It was in my case. Here's the story...
Years ago a famous German director made a low-budget, 8-hour movie called "Our Hitler." The critics raved about it and I was curious to see it. Evidently the public didn't share my curiosity because, even though I saw it on opening day, there were only about ten people in the audience. I found a seat in a completely empty section of the theater and prepared to be blown away by high art.
Well, to put it mildly, there was no art. The whole film was an amateurish, stream-of-consciousness home movie about whatever trivial thing the director felt like talking about. Sitting through it was torture; I wanted to strangle the critics who recommended it! I found my self endlessly re-adjusting my position in the seat, refolding my jacket, and scratching imaginary itches. Sometimes I'd get itches on my arm and, since I had nothing else to do, I'd roll up the sleeve of my shirt just to get a good scratch on just the right place. I particularly liked scratching my five-o'clock shadow which was bristley and made a noise. Once or twice I tried scratching like a dog just to see what they saw in it.
Hour after hour the film plodded on and I got more and more restless and itchy. I was scratching like a madman. Just when I was in the middle of the mother of all raking scratches a giant moose of a face appeared from the seat behind me and shouted at the top of its lungs: "Stop it! S T O P I T!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IF YOU SCRATCH ONE MORE ITCH SO HELP ME I'M GONNA KILL YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
I froze and slid way down into the seat, too scared to move. I didn't even breathe. I just tucked my head into my shoulders and looked rigidly forward. Where did this guy come from? In a nearly empty theater why did this giant have to sit right behind me? I stayed there completely still for the rest of the film. When the film finally ended and the light came on I discovered the seat behind me was empty. There were only about three people left in the whole theater. I guess my outraged citizen found the film intolerable, even without the scratching.
So that's my itching story. What's yours?
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
A man who we'll call Fred wants to kill his friend Joe. In order to do this he enlists the help of another man who looks just like Fred. The two look-alike Freds, wearing identical clothes, arrange to to be in public places at opposite sides of town at, say, noon the following day. It would help if the public places happen to have a large clock which displays the time.
At the appointed time each of the Freds, in opposite sides of town, loudly declares that he is Fred (using Fred's entire real name) and the real Fred shoots his victim, which I forgot to say was skillfully maneuvered to also be at the right place at the right time. The other Fred deliberately breaks a store window. Both the Freds make their getaway. Passer-bys will tell police that that they saw a man named Fred, who dressed in such-and-such a way, and will site the time, which was on a big clock. Can you see where this is leading?
Neither of the Freds can be tried for murder because each can prove he was somewhere else at the time. The police know that one of them did it but can prosecute neither since both Freds have an air-tight alibi! The murderer must be turned loose!
OK, that's my perfect crime! What's yours?
Monday, November 06, 2006
From the hardware store buy a yard or so of transparent rubberized tubing (not pictured), the kind you wrap around naked wires for insulation. It only costs a couple of bucks. Run the tube down the inside of a long-sleeve shirt till one end peaks out from the cuff and the other end discretely peeks out of your open shirt collar. Now you have all you need to suck up the drink of the person beside you without being noticed. "OK," you say, "that gets me a drink but how do I get a meal?" Read on!
The meal comes to you courtesy of Extend A Fork (shown extended above), which is available from any fun shop. You probably saw them the last time you made a rubber chicken run and just never noticed them. It's a normal-size fork that telescopes out like a car aerial. You simply divert the attention of the meal sharer and feast!
The obvious question to ask is why, if the technique is so fool-proof, do I not take advantage of this meal-sharing technique today? The answer has to do with a tragic story regarding Mike Fontanelli. We were at a restaurant near Warners and I had my hidden straw in his tomato juice. Every time he took a sip of his juice he would return the glass to the same spot next to my "wired" arm. All was going well till he randomly put the glass down on the other side of his tray where I couldn't reach it.
I asked him why he put his juice down on that side and he gave me a strange look and said, "What do you care where I put my juice down?" I answered, "Me? Me!? Hey, I don't care! You can put your drink down anywhere you want! I'm just inquiring about the reason." Well, we bickered like this for a while and I didn't notice that a siphon effect was still operating and the tomato juice still in the tube was gushing out all over my white shirt. Eventually Mike saw the red stain on my chest and freaked out. He thought I'd been stabbed! He behaved nobly in my defense till he saw the fleks of tomato around the stain and did a double-take. You can guess the rest. Mike now always sets his drink down on the far side and has a wary eye out for the extending fork. Not only that but he warned everybody else. Alas! The well has run dry!
You gotta give it to David. He had trouble breaking into the industry at first so he hunkered down and studied cartooning and animation and now he's turning out cool drawings like these. I got these from David's blog, cartoondavid.blogspot.com.
Sorry I had to reproduce these so small. A bandwidth problem again. Click to enlarge. I only wish I could have included the hilarious commentary that went with these.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Here (above) is a page from her sketchbook. I love to look at artists' sketchbooks, especially when they're as interesting as this. The swatches of color on the top just burn out of the page! How did she do that?
Here's (above) a glimpse at Chloe's workspace. Isn't that a beautiful table?