Monday, March 31, 2008


Please, please, please forgive me for wiping out 13 perfectly fine comments in order to put a slightly improved version of the video up. I just couldn't bear to watch the video run silent for the last 45 seconds! If I'm able to re-cut this sometime in the future I'll run the music throughout instead of dimming it for the SFX. That and 50 other changes should fix it!

Friday, March 28, 2008


Here in one video are two terrific songs from Judy Garland's first feature, "Pigskin Parade." How old is she here? 14? 15? 16? Something like that.

She does a great job on the first song,"Texas Tornado," and when you hear it you think, "Well, that's it. She's not going to do better; nobody can,"...then she proceeds to top herself with the second song, which is nothing less than masterful.

This second song (which I've just forgotten the name of) must have been especially hard to sing. The lyrics and melody are awkward in the extreme. You get the feeling that she decided to make a big splash and if she couldn't do it with a good song, she'd hunker down and do it with a bad song. Listening to this is like watching soldiers fight door-to-door. She broke down the song into parts and somehow found a way to beat life into each separate segment.

I learned something important from this performance: if you can't find the perfect project to show the world what you can do, take the godawful project you're stuck with and force it to be great, one scene at a time.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


What do Ayn Rand (above), Barbara Stanwyck and Wally Wood have in common? They all lived 20 minutes or less from my house! Of course that was the era before the land was sub-divided into housing developments. Come to think of it, Jimmy Cagney lived around here too, in Porter Ranch, but I don't know exactly where. In LA no part of the city is more than a stone's throw from some kind of historical film landmark.

Yesterday Milt Grey and I decided to get in a car and look up the sites where the homes of these people used to be. I wish I'd thought to bring along extra batteries for the camera. I only managed to get a few pictures but you might still be interested to see what we came up with.

Barbara Stanwyck (above) and Ayn Rand were next-door neighbors in what is now called Northridge. That's right, Northridge, where the Earthquake was.

Here's (above) a picture of Ayn Rand's house, address: 10000 Tampa Blvd., taken in the 1940s when half the valley was still covered with orange groves. It was originally designed by Neutra for film director Erik Von Sternberg.

Today the house is gone and in it's place is a public junior high, Noble Middle School. I had to get this picture off the net because my camera froze.

10000 Tampa is a few blocks up from the local mall, The Northridge Fashion Center. It's funny to think of people at the mall's book store perusing Rand books that were written only a few blocks away.

After Northridge we headed in the opposite direction to Wally Wood's (portrait above) last apartment at 15150 Parthenia in Van Nuys.

We discovered a somewhat run-down neighborhood but I imagine it was OK when Wally was there. My camera started working again so I got this picture of the side of the building where Wood had a street-level entrance. That's his apartment behind the grey car.

To get to Wood's apartment (above) you turn right after opening the brown gate.

And that's his place, number 71. I met the occupant and she was delighted to learn that a famous artist lived here. I didn't have the heart to tell her that Wood shot himself there. It was three days before the body was found.

According to Milt, Wood came to LA to find work in animation because it was getting harder and harder to make a living doing comics in New York. He was desperate for money because he had kidney problems which required expensive dialysis treatments. He tried to sell projects to Hanna Barbera and others but nobody was buying. I think his final work was comics for a local porn publisher, a real come-down for someone of Wood's stature.

I'm tempted to say that a gloom hung over the apartment, but really it was just the opposite. In bright mid-day it was positively cheery. Thank God life carries on.


A dealer in Norway claims to have found authentic watercolors of Disney characters drawn by Hitler, the "A.H." in the lower left of the Doc drawing. Since Hitler is known to have had his own copy of "Snow White," and since the pictures were found hidden inside a previously authenticated Hitler painting, some people are thinking they might be real.

Boy, there's no accounting for taste. Arafat was partial to Hanna Barbera, and Sadahm collected Boris-type fantasy art. Horowitz and Maria Callas liked Archie comics, and Einstein is said to have watched "Beany & Cecil." Maybe we shouldn't be surprised that Hitler liked Disney.

All this talk about Hitler made me curious to see his pictures again so I googled them, and here are a few of the better ones. This picture of the city street (above) is my favorite. I wonder if this is a copy of something someone else did. It's more imaginative and passionate than Hitler's average work.

Most of Hitler's pictures seem to lack passion. Take this one (above) of the dog. It's admirable but oddly aloof, and distanced from its subject. Hitler seems to be drawing an ideal dog rather than the one that was in front of him.

Hitler experimented with impressionism in this picture (above), but he didn't seem to get it. Impressionism isn't just unconventional color, it's a way of perceiving the world as being organized by light. Of course Picasso did a lot of faux impressionist pieces and he seldom got it right either, at least not in his early work.

If Hitler was foolish enough to show this (above) to the art school he was trying to get into then I can see why they rejected him. It's pure kitsch. Something about it even suggests mental disturbance. It's hard to imagine that the same artist did the nice city street near the top.

Sunday, March 23, 2008



The Potemkin (above) steams into the harbor.

The sailors (above) watch as a political demonstration on land is thwarted by the Czar's soldiers.

It doesn't look good (above) for the demonstrators.

SAILOR: "Comrades! Wait a minute! There's a baby carriage on the edge of the steps!"

SAILOR: "Merciful Heavens! The soldiers are coming and there's a baby on the edge of the steps!"

SAILOR: "Wait a minute! What am I worried about? Nobody would push a baby down the steps!"

CAPITALIST (on the steps): "Hey, there's a baby! Push it down the steps!"

Baby "Waaaaaaa!!!!!"

SAILOR: (Gasp!)

DEMONSTRATOR: (cry of anguish)

SAILOR: "Man, that was harsh!"

SAILOR: "Well, at least we have this cool lighting. How do you like it? It's all done with a flashlight! "

Saturday, March 22, 2008


"Hi folks! Art Teacher Uncle Eddie here!"

"Today we're going to talk about sketching outdoors."

"Well, not really outdoors...I mean, the real outdoors is dirty and full of bugs and rain. I mean the civilized outdoors that you find inside malls."

"OK, let's see. What examples do we have here?"

"Yikes! This (above) is just what I was talking about! Never, ever, ever do sketches like this! Why? because nobody wants to see realistic depictions of boredom or drowsiness! Half of being a good sketcher is knowing what to sketch. Not every subject is equally worthy of your attention."

"What is worth drawing? Well, cute girls for one thing! Here's some by Katie Rice!"

But that's (above) not the only thing. Character types are worth drawing...anybody that suggests a story...anybody that's fun to think about, even if they're evil or silly.

"But a word of warning! Never draw people who are pulpy! Fat and skinny are OK, even ugly is OK, but not pulpy and shapeless. Most people who will see your drawings worry about their weight and reminding them of it depresses them."

"Resist the temptation to draw what you see. Empty tables (above) are boring. The perspective problem is an interesting one, but as a story-telling cartoonist your time is too valuable to spend on this.

If you must draw this scene, move the foreground person to a table in the distance and ask her to look forlorn, as if she's oppressed by all the emptiness around her. Imagine that she's waiting for a date who will never come."

"Was that helpful?"

"There's more but I reckon that'll do for a start. See ya next time!"

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Wow! Talk about eccentric walks...E.O. Costello found a great one (above) on YouTube: It's by Al "Rubberlegs" Norman from "Paramount on Parade."

Here's (above) some great eccentric dancing from Jackie Gleason...I mean, "Reggie Van Gleason III." Many thanks to Kevin for finding this!

Just to round out the program, I'll throw in some boogie woogie (above) from Meade Lux Lewis.


Don't you just love a good walk? Walk acts were a whole genre in vaudeville. They were considered a type of "eccentric dancing." Cagney was good walker, so was Buddy Ebson, but I'll bet the best walkers were names nobody would recognize anymore. Here's a great one that Mike turned me on to (above): Dean Martin's uncle Leonard. Sheer bliss to watch!

Another great walk (above) by a guy named Wall. Holy Cow! It makes you want to burn your Preston Blair (well, sort of....)!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Sorry about the Shakespeare rant! I admit that I'm way too sensitive about this subject, and I sincerely apologize. Most Theory Corner people are artists or people who are interested in art. Of course they save their most intense passion for other artists, or for people in fields related to art, like film or music. That's perfectly natural and I was a jerk for making people feel guilty about it.

I still like this play, especially this version of it, but if I ever talk about it again I hope it's in the role of a friend sharing, rather than whatever I was here.

I'll be gone for a couple of days to take care of business but I'll be back before most people know I was away!


I got one response to the post about "Julius Caesar"! What's wrong with you guys!? I thought Theory corner readers were more together than that. Is Shakespeare not good enough? Not worth listening to? Would you care to tell me who's more worth listening to? Is there a better writer that I don't know about!?

The version I put up is, or at least is close to being, an excerpt from a best version. The best version of the best writer isn't worth your attention?

Sunday, March 16, 2008


This is about the so-called "catalytic personality." In entertainment this would describe people who are lucky in the sense that great things just seem to happen when they're around. Everybody just seems to do their best work when this kind of person's near, even if they're not working on the same project. Lorne Michaels, the producer of Saturday Night Live, is reputed to have had that quality. Very often the catalyst gets overlooked on the screen credits, yet the project would have been much poorer without him.

Clampett (director of all the cartoons on this page, save the stiff Daffy cartoon above) strikes me as someone who was a catalytic personality. Did he create Bugs Bunny? I'm not aware that any single person did, Bugs appears to have had several fathers (especially Tex), but it's impossible to imagine Bugs arising without Bob's influence, at least indirectly. Things happened around Bob. Look at the vibrancy of the other pictures on this page. What does that tell you about someone like Bob?

But this isn't a piece about Clampett, it's about catalytic personalities in general. It's sad to realize that catalytic personalities are so often overlooked and under-rated. There's no screen credit that reads: "The person who goaded, provoked, planted seeds, and gave away gags to friends that he would like to have kept for himself." That credit doesn't exist.

In animation a catalytic personality does more than contribute gags. His gags lead to something. They suggest a vision and and an over-all structure.  You ask this kind of person for a gag, expecting to get something like, "How about if he steps on a rake?", and you instead get a gag that suggests a unique character doing something that only that character would do.  You get an action that suggests a new way of pacing the scene, maybe the whole cartoon.  The gag forces you to re-evaluate your whole way of looking at what you're doing.  Catalytic personalities like to wrap up their gags in something larger and more useful.

One of the reasons catalytics can be so helpful is that they're constantly running story ideas and character types through their minds. These people don't offer gags, they offer pre-thought out worlds.  The gag is often something deep that's been simmering in the pot for years. It may be a fragment of a structure they'd been painstakingly building for their own use. The risk they run is that you'll run away with the larger idea the gag implies,  and then they won't be able to use it themselves. These are generous people who take big risks for no credit. 

The person I know who best fits this description is John Kricfalusi. Things mysteriously happen around John. People get lucky around him. Ideas somehow improve. The man has contributed millions of dollars worth of ideas to projects all around town, but is probably officially credited mostly in the cartoons he's made himself. 

I wonder what other people this would apply to. The big names are obvious but I'm thinking of less well-known names like Bill (Bob?)Nolan who worked on the early Lantz Oswalds.



Here's part two of that post, the one that contains what I believe is the best expression of friendship in all of English literature, the best I know of, anyway. Brutus and Cassius are allies and close friends but they have irreconcilable differences and they clash just before the play's final battle. The way Shakespeare has them reconcile is nothing short of brilliant.

It's a pity that I had to trim this to bare bones so that it would fit into YouTube's 10 minute limit. Now I have to decide whether to put up part one. It contains Marc Antony's speech to the crowd after the assassination of Caesar. It's probably the best speech in the English language, and this is a terrific version, but it depends on Brutus's speech to set it up, and I had to cut that for time. I put up this awkward,too-lean version on YouTube but I might refrain from running it here.

Aaaargh! I just watched the clip again and realized I said Marc Antony met with Brutus when I meant to say Cassius! Sorry, my mother had a stupid child!

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Sorry about the excessive chatting. I'll try to make these introductions shorter. Also, I haven't given up on outdoor photography and printed posts. I just can't stop playing with the new built-in camera, but that won't last forever.

Eshniner wrote in with a link where Ellison damns to perdition all who would use his material without paying for it. I don't know if that includes blogs like this one but just to be safe I'll have to refrain from putting up more of the radio show. Too bad. It might have introduced the man to some people who didn't know about him before.

Ellison isn't only a writer, he's a performer. You can tell from listening to the video excerpts. Those clips were beautifully orchestrated to take advantage of Ellison's unique style of delivery. It's important to hear things like this because you get a lot more out of his written work, especially the essays, when you can imagine the way he'd read them.

More Ellison, more authorized Ellison, can be found on YouTube interviews and on his unofficial fan site:

Friday, March 14, 2008


Here's a "tiurF yciuJ" chewing gum commercial done in the Kovacs style. Sorry for the bad sound edits.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


The story of Little Miss Muffet is so delightfully primal and the spider is such a great symbol of maleness. I can only imagine what it must be like when a sheltered little girl wearing frilly petticoats and lace, fresh from a pink bedroom stuffed to the gills with glass unicorns, suddenly encounters the ultimate symbol for hairy, salivating, low-rent men. The experience is evidently so traumatic that it's found it's way into what might be the most frequently memorized poem in history.

Monday, March 10, 2008


This is about the golden age of newsreel and racetrack announcers, though I only have one example to cite. This guy was a genius! His fast style was all business. He flattered the audience by making it seem like their time was valuable, not to be wasted. He savored the odd names of the racehorses and made the names seem aristocratic and musical. He seemed to have deep knowledge of the sport, and the way he talked about it invested it with enormous dignity.

My guess is that Walter Winchell invented this style in the twenties. It was perfect for newsreels.

Just for fun, I also include the opening narrative of the recent film, "Nicholas Nickleby," the Alan Cummings-Anne Hathaway version. It describes the birth of Nicholas. Dickens manages to be playfull with words at the same time he's serious and sentimental.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


Here's a quick, un-edited video on the subject of bullying. I made it for LadyMaryJay who's a schoolteacher in the UK, and who works for an anti-bullying program there. I almost didn't put it up here because it didn't seem relevant to a theory site, but I changed my mind when I realized that coping with bullies is actually a philosophical problem as well as a practical one.

The video's over nine minutes long. I should have have said it much faster. Oh well, here it is....

Friday, March 07, 2008


Somebody on the net "replied" to the French clip with a video of his own! The guy's kind of ugly, and he's pretty stingy with the compliments, but I was still glad to get it!

Thursday, March 06, 2008


It's up! Ha! My first pantomime video, called "Uncle Eddie: Paris Love"! Unfortunately the double exposures were fragmenting so much that I had to stop shooting. What causes that? Anyway, there's enough there that you can see where the story was going.

I'm sorry that so many of my recent posts have been about me. Even my own mother wouldn't want to read about me all the time. Even I'm getting tired of me. I think this self-obsession came about because I've been on the computer so much lately. I got a manual and I was determined to learn everything I could. I didn't realize that doing that would make me such a dull person to talk to. All my most recent adventures have been inner ones. Oh, well. I'll put the book on the shelf for a while.


I just did another video, one that tells a story, but YouTube wouldn't take the upload tonight. I figured I'd better do two in a row so I don't forget how I did it the first time. Anyway, visiting YouTube so often made me aware just how many Uncle Eddie's there are. There are cartloads of us! Here's a few examples from the spots right next to mine....

The first is Uncle Eddie, the rich real-estate dealer from Ghana (above). This guy is rolling in dough! If I ever get hard up for cash maybe I'll visit him for a hand-out. After all, we're related!

Here's (above) the hundred year old Uncle Eddie who still manages to beat up muggers. Lots of Uncle Eddies are old, which gives me the creepy feeling that nobody's being named "Eddie" anymore. That's a pity. The lineage is so noble! I don't know of any kings named Eddie ("Edward" doesn't count) but lots of athletes were.

Here's (above) somebody's "drunken Uncle Earl." I thought the title said Eddie, which is why I imported it. I'll still put it up because Uncle Earl had the spot immediately above me when I started out. Believe it or not drunken uncle videos are a whole genre on YouTube. There's a million of them!

Here's the most modest of the Uncle Eddies. He sings behind a coffin lid and never emerges.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

MY FIRST YOUTUBE VIDEO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here it is! Two minutes and twenty seconds long, it's my very first internet video! I just found it by doing a YouTube search on "Uncle Eddie." I can't believe it! I've finally lost my virginity in this medium!

It's a terrible film and I apologize for it. The sound is beyond bad and the clips sometimes have no relation to each other. That's because each shot was really an excuse to experiment with some different facet of the iMovie 08 program. Oh well, I'm glad I did it. Seeing it has taught me a lot about what works and doesn't work on YouTube, and I could only have learned that by putting something out there.

Thanks to the commenter who prompted me to look up this "Wacky World of Tex Avery" clip. Yeah, I worked on this title, along with Mike F., Glen Kennedy, and Mike Maliani. I had nothing to do with the title card that began and ended the clip.

The concept for the title was simple: Tex would do something right and the series villain would attempt to do the same thing and would botch it. The problem was that the time devoted to the title animation was compressed so things happened too fast and there was no time to make adjustments in the animation.

The thing I remember most about working on the titles was the difficulty of keying action in the film to the words of a song whose only lyrics were the word "wacky," endlessly repeated. You can't say to someone, "The character hits the ground at the start of the word "wacky," because every word in the song was "wacky." I can laugh at it now but it drove me nuts at the time. I actually ended up liking the song but maybe I'm a victim of The Stockholm Syndrome.

The series was done in a timeframe and for a budget that would make Clutch Cargo look like "Gone with the Wind," so any comparison with the original Avery cartoons is impossible.

Monday, March 03, 2008


Doggone it! The YouTube video I uploaded still hasn't appeared on YouTube yet. I'll post it here when it does. In the meantime here's a post devoted to two of my favorite news stylists, Walter Winchell and Edward R. Murrow.

I'm not aware that either one of them had a serious newspaper background before going into radio. Murrow arranged educational lectures and interviews, and Winchell was a vaudevillian and a gossip columnist. You could say that both were like actors who played the role of journalists and managed to beat the real journalists at their own game, at least where presentation was concerned. They both were good, but I'll start with my favorite, Walter Winchell (above), maybe the greatest news stylist in broadcast journalism.

Winchell (above, introducing the characters about a minute into the show, then leaving) saw the radio news as an entertainment medium. That's common today when when lots of people get their news from Comedy Central, but it was a relatively new thing in the twenties when Winchell did it. He had a fast, ratatattat way of speaking, and he combined serious news with gossip and human interest stories, giving equal emphasis to both.

They say that watching Winchell broadcast was a real experience. He'd prepare for every show like it was the most important thing in the world. He paced up and down, deliberately psyching himself into a nervous state, not allowing himself even the relief of using the bathroom. During the show he'd tap on a disconnected telegraph key, sit on his knee, throw papers on the floor...anything to sustain the mood of urgency. He frequently referred to the busy Jergens Newsroom, which is funny because Jergens was a lady's hand lotion and there was no newsroom. I love the way he started his show: "Good morning Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea!" Now THAT'S style!

Murrow was the master of understatement, of the pauses between words. He had a grave way of speaking yet his delivery had a note of self-parody in it, even when he was in earnest. It was a killer style that demonstrated that restrained under the top can be almost as drastic and surreal as wild over-the-top.

Murrow spawned a whole school of imitators including David Brinkley and Eric Severeid. The trick was to give every bit of the news that grave, measured, metronome beat. My guess is that Murrow's style came about as a reaction to Winchell's magnificent hysteria. Murrow decided to inhabit the silences that Winchell ignored.

Murrow was the kind of guy you'd watch compulsively. There was something magnificently awkward about him, the kind of awkwardness that translates into charisma. He had a thin, lanky body which required deliberate and thoughtful control to make it do the simplest things of life. He had to work at crafting facial expressions and he chain smoked to the point where he became a sort of patron saint to smokers everywhere. Cartoonists should study guys like this.

The "Person to Person"interview with Marilyn Monroe (above) is one of Murrow's best TV shows. You could argue that he didn't do very much in the interview but that would be a mistake. Murrow accomplishes a lot by simply transferring his awkwardness to other people. Marilyn was really spooked by it and so, apparently, were the other people in the room. We got to see a side of her that nobody else brought out.


I was dying to put up my first iMovie video today (Sunday) but it looks like that won't happen, so I'll shoot for Monday. It's just me sitting infront of the computer camera but I managed to bugger it up somehow. I'll see if I can fix it and get it up during the, I mean get the film...well, you know what I mean.