Category Archives: Literature

What Lisa Simpson Would Subscribe to

I’m addicted to magazines.  Sure, my love for reading goes beyond periodicals– I love reading anything and everything–comics, fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, websites, the backs of shampoo bottles… but there’s something special about magazines.  Maybe it’s the glossy pictures, maybe it’s the perfect for a short-attention span articles, or maybe it’s just how easily they travel.  Nothing like unfurling a new magazine to read on a long journey.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that one of the hardest parts of moving over to the UK was acknowledging that my precious weekly Friday ritual of coming home from work to a new Entertainment Weekly in my mailbox was at an end.  It’s pathetic but true.  Don’t judge me too harshly.  I’m a creature of comfort and they don’t have anything similar over here.  Sure, they have gossip rags and a couple of film monthlies–it’s not The Moon…but there’s nothing like EW with its easy to digest pop culture news and insightful commentary.  Sometimes I go to the website just to see what the cover is for the week.

It hurts that much more if it's either a comic book focus OR a Tina Fey cover.

I’ve been this way as long as I can remember.  My Mom helped fuel my lifelong addiction by not only letting me purchase The Muppet Magazine whenever I saw it in the store, but by signing me up for no fewer than four subscriptions BEFORE I hit the age of ten.  Every month, an issue of Penny Power, Highlights for Children, Zoobooks, and today’s great thing:

146.  Cricket Magazine

Technically, I didn’t get Cricket every month as it’s only published nine times a year.  But, close enough.  Now, I don’t want to assume that everyone out there is familiar with Cricket.  Not everyone had a first grade teacher for a Mom.  You may not have been privy to the wide selection of periodicals available for the under 13 set, so let me tell you all about Cricket. It’s a literature magazine for kids.  It was started up in 1973 by a woman (Marianne Carus) who wanted to market something like The New Yorker but for the swingset-set.

They’d usually come up with a theme for the issue and then fill it with the best short stories, poems, art, and non-fiction that they could.  They’d draw some pretty big names too:  Eric Carle, Ursula K.  Le Guin, Tomie dePaola, William Saroyan…

She pretty much hit the bullseye…especially when it comes to the cover style.  Just as The New Yorker is revered for its cutting edge and highly inspired cover-art, check out some previous Cricket covers.  They too, would reflect the theme of the issue:

Not gonna lie…lots of the sophistication was wasted on me.  I didn’t read Cricket cover to cover like I did with some magazines.  Even with Penny Power, I’d read most of it.  Penny Power was like Consumer Reports but for kids.  I used to love reading the letters from other readers that explained how they successfully complained to companies about melted popsicles and action figures that broke when you threw them too hard against the wall.  It really instilled a ‘the squeaky wheel gets the grease” mentality in me that impresses so many of my stiff upper lip non-complaining type British friends.  But with Cricket, I’d flip and only stop on stories and artwork that caught my eye.  If it didn’t hook me, I wouldn’t bother.  But to be fair, the magazine was pretty dense with options.  They really tried to get something for everyone in each issue.  It’s only now that I truly appreciate the richness of this publication.  And like how wooden blocks and ‘learning’ toys, were foisted on me in the sunny days of my childhood, I’m going to foist this magazine onto my nieces when the time comes.  What goes around comes around, girls.  You’ll thank me later.

Also, it should be noted that as an adult, I don’t exactly read The New Yorker cover to cover either.  So, I may never learn the true joy of expanding my knowledge–or paying attention to items that I’m not interested in already.  However, one thing I never ignored was the delightful comic-strip continuity of the bug-world.  You know me, I love me my comic strips.

The following quote is from a highly useful article I found when researching today’s topic.  It explains the history of The Caruses–Marianne and her husband Blouke Carus first ventured into the world of publishing by attempting to one-up the boring” Dick and Jane” style reading primers by producing what they deemed as  more interesting texts.  They created the Open Court textbook line, that they hoped would keep children interested in reading.

CaltechNews

“Perhaps Cricket‘s greatest appeal rests with the band of irrepressible insect cartoon characters—the result of absent-minded doodling by illustrator Trina Schart Hyman during planning meetings for the prospective magazine—who crop up in the margins to define exotic vocabulary or merely perpetrate good-natured mayhem among themselves. One of the characters is an ant named “Aunt Marianne.”

1939-2004

Caldecott Award winner Trina Schart Hyman gets an A+ from me not only for her awesome creations but for surviving childhood with not only the name Schart attached to her, but also the name Hyman.  The interaction between serious-minded good-guy Cricket and chocolate chip cookie-scoffing goofball Ladybug is to die for.  She’s the Ernie to Cricket’s Bert…the Homer to his Marge…the Goofus to his Gallant.  I think, even as a youngster, I really appreciated the comical character being a female for once instead of being the straightman…as it were.  Anyway, here’s the gang:

Everybuggy

Another feature that I like about Cricket is that there’s no advertising.  This makes it less likely that you come away from the experience wanting crappy toys or anything.  Although it DID ruin the lives of several insects in my backyard.  So many caterpillars caught and accidentally destroyed.  Soz to all of those almost-butterflys that I played with until they died.  I didn’t mean it.

Cricket has mags for just about every age group:  Babybug is for up to the age of three, Ladybug is for up to the age of six, Spider for 6-9, then Cricket, and finally for the teenage set–Cicada.

Of course, after your teen years, you need a steady diet of Newsweek, The New Yorker, and EW. An old copy of The Muppet Magazine never hurts either…


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Filed under Comics, Literature

A Man of Letters

When it comes to cultural satire, it seems you can’t shake a stick today without hitting a ‘prankster’.  Whether that pranking comes in the form of phone calls, fake documentaries, ‘gotcha’ style interviews,  (not in the dumb Sarah Palin way, but the cheeky Borat way), or fake newspapers, it’s all about making fun of this stupid society that we live in…or as The Onion cleverly put it in their amazingly funny atlas– Our Dumb World.  The prankster satirist’s premise is typically this:  Come off as completely sincere in your inane questions or statements and you can get the subject to fall into your trap, hopefully exposing THEIR idiocy by fooling them with YOUR idiocy.  A sort of  “Come hither, moron”.

One of the first innovators of this satirical styling,  in my pop-cultural lifetime anyway, was Don Novello.  You may know him better as his alter ego, the hip and supremely chilled priest and editor of The Vatican Enquirer, Father Guido Sarducci.

The Pope...is so fat...when he sits around the Vatican...

Long before he worked, in that guise– as a regular on SNL’s Weekend Update segment– he was just a regular old stand-up and satirist.  One of his projects was a book that my Dad, a humor enthusiast,  gave me for a birthday.  The book was called The  Lazlo Letters. I was about twelve or thirteen and was skeptical of this text with its late seventies and early eighties references and faded cover.  I figured that he probably found it at a used book store and assumed I would be interested because I was all into SNL at the time.  (It was the Phil Hartman years, after all).  He was one for weird gifts–though they always came wrapped in fun and exciting superhero paper.  One time, he gave me a brush that the head came off of to reveal a hardened plastic shiv.  Like this:

Hand over my money? OK...let me just...brush my hair first...Ha! Have at thee, criminal!

I was 12.  What can I say?  He was protective.  To be fair, he was very encouraging of my interest in martial arts.  He bought me my sparring equipment, my kickpads, and even a hanging bag.  I think he got the brush out of the back of a kung-fu magazine.

Anyway, back to the book. The Lazlo Letters actually wound up being a terrific present.   Thanks Dad!  Laughs from cover to cover.  And that’s today’s great thing:

142.  The Lazlo Letters by Don Novello

The Lazlo Letters was a collection of correspondences from Don Novello to famous people and corporations.  He wrote them in the guise of a character called Lazlo Toth.  (Laszlo Toth was actually the name of a deranged man who took a hammer to Michelangelo’s Pieta.  Apparently, he proclaimed himself to be Jesus and then started battering the ‘His Mom’ part of the sculpture.  He was obviously the rebellious teenage Jesus.)  Novello’s Toth was more of a well-meaning consumer rights advocate and man of the people.  He wrote letters of compliments and complaints to businesses like Kentucky Fried Chicken and figures like Richard Nixon.

When he received an actual response, he’d print that too…but even if he didn’t, you could still get a giggle from the ridiculous contents of the letter and the knowledge that someone at the organization at which it was directed had actually held it in their hands and read it.

I'm a genius.

Why not have a look, this helpful website reprints some of the letters:  Sullivansfarms

I suggest clicking on the McDonald’s link at the top of the page and then perusing those bits of correspondence.  That should give you a taste.  Then, get the books, of course.  There are three volumes now.  There’s the original…then, there’s the follow-up Citizen Lazlo!, and the third–From Bush to Bush:  The Lazlo Toth Letters.

There’s something special about The Lazlo books.  I think that unlike prank calling shows like The Jerky Boys and Crank Yankers, The Lazlo books never seemed mean.  Just smart and silly.  First of all, Lazlo Toth’s targets were always deserving.  He never threw sucker punches. But maybe the likeablity also has something to do with the elegance of letter-writing.  The question of whether or not Novello would ever consider emailing Lazlo letters instead of sending them through the post came up in an interview and he responded with: “No I haven’t. But with email you don’t get the letterhead, you don’t get the sense of who sent it. Anyone could have written it. It all looks like the same thing.”  Not to over-romanticize the concept, but I think letter-writing is a lost art and that Novello values the tactile aspect of it.   Anyone can be an idiot on the Internet.  I’m doing it right now!  But, an actual typed or printed letter will elicit a different response.

The rest of that interview, which is a good read, can be found here:  thesneeze

In wrapping today’s great thing up, two bits of fun.  First of all, here’s the website for another letter-writing humorist.  The author messes with folks a bit more full-on then Lazlo does.  Though one might find it derivative of the Lazlo stuff, this guy gets a pass.  First of all, he’s Australian.  Secondly, the author is of a very different generation.  So, it’s unlikely that it’s a direct idea-swipe–unlike the Letters from a Nut books that came out a few years ago.  Seinfeld is more of Novello’s comedy class and will (or SHOULD) have been familiar with his work.  Now, I haven’t read the Nut series of books but I sort of don’t want to, on principle.  I’m loyal.  I don’t mean to Seinfeld-bash…but the guy, in promoting these books, never really seemed to comment on how similar it all was to the Lazlo projects…come on now…

Anyway, I think you’ll find that there’s some very funny stuff here:  27b/6

Secondly, here’s a recent appearance by Don Novello on The Colbert Report.  He’s in Fr. Sarducci mode.  It makes me feel good to know that he’s still out there being funny.  Additionally, he soooo looks like my Dad in this here clip.  Enjoy:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Filed under Characters, comedy, Literature, People

The Girl With The Amazing Casting Abilities

I’ve just finished reading The Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson.  You know that book that everyone’s going bonkers about right now?  The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo?  Well, that book is the first novel of The Millenium Trilogy.  It’s a page burning read, whip-smart, with cracking characters and even a strong feminist outlook thrown in.  I really enjoyed it.  Sweden has already adapted TGWTDT and the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire and are almost finished filming the final installment, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest, I do believe.

The Swedish films are well-reviewed (the first a bit more so than the second) and I’m excited to watch them now that I’ve finally finished the series.  Never one to ignore potential profit, Hollywood is, of course, adapting the trilogy for the big screen as well.  Purists and foreign cinema snobs lovers everywhere are going apeshit.  Why can’t everyone just watch the Swedish ones this and Hollywood’s gonna mess it up that.  Well, I can’t say that having two film versions of an awesome book upsets me in the least.  I’ll be just as excited to watch the Yankee version as I am to watch the Swede ones.  I mean, have a little faith, folks…at least David Fincher is directing them and not Joel Schumacher.

Anyway, one area that the new US versions have to tread carefully upon is the casting.  People are precious with these characters, especially that of the fascinating and Aspergic heroine Lisbeth Salander.  I LOVE playing casting director and have decided to use today’s great thing space to do so.  I think my choices are solid and I’ve explained why as/when necessary.  For the ones that I don’t provide rationale for, know this:  I picked them because it’s who I visualized playing the part in my head as I read it.  Still, even without explanation, I think my instincts are good.  Nay…not good…Great!

139.  The Millenium Trilogy (a ‘Kate Casts The Film’ Blog Entry) I warn you now:  some minor spoilers ahead if you haven’t read the books but intend to do so, you may just want to give this one a pass…

some minor spoilers ahead

some minor spoilers ahead

some minor spoilers ahead

some minor spoilers ahead

some minor spoilers ahead

some minor spoilers ahead

some minor spoilers ahead

some minor spoilers ahead

I’m casting all of the books, not just the first one.  Let’s start with some of the supporting characters, shall we?

Henrik Vanger:  Christopher Plummer…I dunno.  He looks vaguely Swedish and also like a billionaire industrialist.

Retired industrialist...looking for answers to long-time unsolved murder

Holger Palmgren: Armin Mueller-Stahl.  I even knew how to spell his name without looking it up.  Check me.

Kindly Guardian

Nils Bjurman-:  Geoffery Rush

Sadistic Pig, Pervert, and The Rest

Jan Bublanski: Richard Jenkins

Good cop.

Evert Gullberg:  Robert Duvall

Retired Sectionist

Peter Teleborian:  David Tennant.  He’s played charming lots.  I think he could also do smarmy academic if he wanted.

Highly Respected Weasel

Detective Modig:  Sonja Sohn.  The book never describes her as black, but why not cast an actress of color?  Sohn has played police well before and she also comes across as someone who wants to do the right thing in any given situation.

Reliably Moral

Detective Faste: Jack O’Halloran…yeah that’s right.  The guy who played Non in Superman 2 and Emil Muzz in Dragnet. Awesome.  Somebody give this legend a job!

Bad Cop

Ronald Niedermann: Peter Hermann.  This man isn’t really a recognizable name yet, but he’s a big fella (six-foot five) who could easily step into the shoes of the merciless German giant.  He’s been on television loads and he’s also Mariska Hargitay’s husband.

Brute

Monica Figuerola: Franka Potente–the former Run Lola Run and Bourne films star is almost five foot nine and looks like she could add muscle to her frame easily if she picked up a dumbbell and added magical powdered nonsense weight-gain shakes to her diet.

Sapo Superhero

Zalachenko: Zeljko Ivanek–And not just because he has an already Eastern Bloc sounding name.  He’s wiry, small, and can be quite a vicious actor when it calls for him to be.

Baddie Daddie

Miriam Wu: Kelly Hu…because she was smokin’ hot as Lady Deathstrike in X2.  She’s proven that she can throw some highkicks.  Also, I’d like to see her in a more dramatic role.

Part-time Lover

Annika Giannini: Lorraine Bracco

Advocate

Erika Berger: Marion Cotillard.  The character is  supposed to be blonde but that’s what hair dye is for.  Plus, along with the other Brit-actors I’ve cast, she helps to make my picks a bit more Euro-classy, diverting criticism that the production is too American. (As if anything could ever be TOO American…please.)

Blomkvist Bestie

Mikael Blomkvist: Now, rumor has it that Daniel Craig has already been cast in the role of the intrepid journalist.  I’d like to call ‘take-backsies’.  Re-cast it to Aaron Eckhart, please.  I’m tired of Daniel Craig and I think this guy is a better actor.  And more middle-aged handsome!

Lisbeth Salander: I was thinking Kelly MacDonald…or maybe Elaine Cassidy…people are speculating that it may go to Carey Mulligan, but I think this prize of a role has to go to none other than star of How to Lose a Guy in Just Ten Days, Kate Hudson!!!!!  Just kidding, I think Sally Hawkins should get it.  First of all, she’s a fantastic actress.  She’s been amazing in everything I’ve seen her in from Happy Go Lucky to Fingersmith.  Secondly, although she’s actually my age, she can get away with early twenties.  Thirdly, she’s tiny with fine bone structure (Salander is repeatedly described as waif-like).  Hawkins also has the slightly crooked smile that the book describes.  Finally, she’s also played queer before.

https://i2.wp.com/theenvelope.latimes.com/media/photo/2008-11/43453451.jpg

Pick Me!

I repeat.  Sally Hawkins should play Lisbeth Salander.

Come on!!!

Now, if someone could just get this list over to the producers, that would be great.  Cheers thanks bye!

https://i2.wp.com/twitchfilm.net/news/Richard%20Jenkins.jpg

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Filed under Literature, Movies

PEI Girls Gone Wild!

My Mom made us watch PBS’s  WonderWorks series when we were growing up.  It was nourishing television.  Classy productions of children’s literature.  Typically airing on Sunday nights, it entertained  without overexciting us and refueled our brains for a week’s worth of school.  I have positive memories of those Sunday nights.  Even if I don’t have the most detailed recollection of each production, I have this vague happiness that accompanies the snapshots in my mind.

One time (I know…’at band camp’), when I was waiting tables at Cafeteria in NYC’s Chelsea neighborhood, Wallace Shawn came in by himself to have some lunch.  Of course I recognized him from a bajillion things, including but not limited to:  The Princess Bride, Clueless, and Uncle Vanya.  But, when I went up to him to refill his coffee, it was for his appearance  as Professor Silverfish in How to Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days (a WonderWorks production) that I complimented him.  He seemed absolutely tickled by that.  He must get so tired of having people approach him just to shout “Inconceivable!” in his face, that he was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t.  He was very smiley, left a great tip and made sure to say goodbye before he left.  What a nice guy.

Thanks for not mentioning 'the shrieking eels!'

By the way,  I waited on quite a few celebs there.  It was a hugely trendy 24-hour faux diner chic hotspot in a neighborhood with lots of expensive shops and nightclubs,  but the other person I served who was enthusiastically grateful to be recognized was Paul Dinello from Exit 57 and Strangers With Candy.  I don’t mean that to sound like he was desperate.  But, Exit 57 was hugely underappreciated and I think it made him happy for me to go on a bit about how great it was.  And it’s not like I was just buttering him up just to hobnob with famous comedy folk .  Exit 57 was pretty ace.  Again, he was super nice and gave a proper tip.

Thanks for your comedy patronage!

Anyway, back on topic.  WonderWorks was an excellent, excellent family tradition.  I loved ’em all.  But, today’s great thing is the WonderWorks production that I have the greatest recollection of:

137.  Anne of Green Gables

That’s Anne with an ‘e’, if you’re nasty.

Anne of Green Gables and its equally great follow-up Anne of Avonlea, are, seemingly, universally beloved.   Google the titles and you’re drowning in links.  Much like 80’s cartoons, there is a huge fan-base out there…hungry to talk about their love affair with this program of yesteryear and geek it up a bit.  My sister and I loved this one so much that we purchased them on VHS!  If you’re one of the unfortunate few that never saw it growing up, this homemade trailer sums it up pretty well.

That actually made me well up a bit!

At this point, I have to say My sister always held slightly more ownership of the Anne franchise.  Make no mistake…I loved it.  But, as siblings, you need to give each other some breathing room in areas of hobby and fandom.  You don’t want to crowd each other out whilst you’re seeking your individuality and personality.  I was comic books, karate, Cyndi Lauper, and comedy.  She was fine art, Russian culture, Howard Jones, and Anne of Green Gables.  We could appreciate each other’s interests but we’d never cross the line and try to claim them as our own or edge each other out if one of us claimed it before the other.  I think she loved its literate roots, gentile setting, and most of all–how Colleen Dewhurst as stern but fair matriarch Marilla reminded us of our super-loveable Grandmother.  Her name was Mary….Mary—Marilla…not too far of a stretch.  Like Marilla, she too was rarely seen without an apron.

I like your sleeves...they're real big.

Kathryn Hepburn had been considered for the role but couldn’t take it due to other commitments.  (Side note…her great-niece plays Diana Barry).  But, as terrific as I’m sure Hepburn would have been, Colleen Dewhurst was born to play the part of Marilla Cuthbert.  An amazing actress, Dewhurst died far too young, thanks in part to her Christian Scientist beliefs (she refused treatment for cervical cancer).

Anyway, the reasons that Steph, my sister, loved Anne of Green Gables aren’t entirely different from my own.  But, I bet I did get one lasting impression out of the production that never occurred to her.  That would be the strikingly close ‘friendship’ between Diana Barry and the titular heroine Anne Shirley Cuthbert.  They were ‘bosom friends’, you see.  They had the sort of intimate friendship that you only ever see between two girls in either:

A. period pieces

B.  films with a lesbian subject matter

C.  period pieces with lesbian subject matter

Of course, it’s probably only lesbians that ever infer sexuality onto the relationship between Anne and Diana.  But, give us a break.  When I was ten years old there was pretty much zero representation.  I needed to foist that dimension onto them.  And it’s hardly like I was alone in this self-satisfying conclusion.  Witness this excellent recut masterpiece and tell me that you can’t see what I saw:

How awesome is that?  Thank God for YouTube and free time!

Anyway, it’s that video that really reminded me of the delightful memory that is the Anne of Green Gables series.  I think I’ll go hunting on Amazon.  It’ll be erroneously filed in the ‘family’ section instead of the ‘gay/lesbian’ section, but wha-hey.  You can’t win them all.

Now, what of the delightful Megan Follows who played Anne Shirley to slate-cracking perfection?  Well, she still acts.  Every once in a while she’ll crop up in movies or on the teevee.  But, mostly she does theater.   I was lucky enough to catch her at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival when I was in highschool.  What a day that was!  My first real exposure to the works of Shakespeare, it was a beautiful day in Canada, and I was lucky enough to see a minor-celeb in the production.  I actually paid attention to the whole thing!  By the way, sorry if this post reads as a page long diary of ‘famous people that I saw once’.

In 2010 she was in a production of Caryl Churchill’s Cloud 9.–one of my favorite plays ever!  Check out the company-made trailer below… I know it looks bizarre but when the play is done well, it is an inspiring statement on gender politics throughout the ages and it is absolutely hilarious (if you believe those two aspects can co-exist.)

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Filed under Literature, TV

Ain’t No Party Like An Unbirthday Party!

I recently droned on about my excitement for Tim Burton’s upcoming adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.  You’ve seen Helena Bonham Carter’s CGI-enhanced forehead haven’t you?  It’s bigger than my television. The film will be super-weird, in the best possible way, I hope.  Anyway, beyond my enthusiasm for the upcoming version, I’ve always loved Disney’s animated take.  My girlfriend was really surprised that I rated it so high.  She thinks that, especially for kids, it’s too trippy and twisted and, as she couldn’t remember much about it, unmemorable.  I think I was partial to it for several reasons:

One–it was broadcast all the time on The Disney Channel when I was growing up.  So, I got to watch it over and over and over, as kids do with films.

Two–it was an unconventional story.  Typically, Disney animated heroines are pining for princes but romance wasn’t even on the cards in this tale.  A literal pack of cards were though.  An army of head-chopping cards.  The simple but relatable goal here was for Alice to follow her curiosity–something that definitely inspired me.

Three–the music and animation are top rate.  There are sequences in this film that are pure magic.  And that brings us to today’s great thing:

115.  The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland

https://i0.wp.com/1.bp.blogspot.com/_lj0cVJ5xcfQ/SY9KgeeeR1I/AAAAAAAABDk/e5tnqniugXY/s400/saupload_alice_in_wonderland.jpg

That rabbit is definitely on something.

Lovingly overseen by Walt himself, who’d been trying to get the film into production for over a decade, this scene in particular is  as joyous as fireworks and slick as oil.  I don’t even like tea THAT much but watching this again makes me want to boil the kettle and toast some bread.  It IS my unbirthday, after all.  Let’s watch:

The DVD, which I got as a last-minute Christmas gift (after mentioning how much I enjoyed it as a kid) also came with a featurette called “Operation Wonderland” which was originally broadcast in 1951, the same year the film was originally released if you can believe that.  The thought of what animators must go through to bring a story to life has always given me sympathy arthritis pains.  I mean, I was the sort of kid that could barely make it through one picture when coloring it in.  I can’t fathom having to draw hundreds of ever-so-slightly different panels in order to create one scene.  Pass the Bayer.  So, I’ve always admired the good folks that work in animation.  It’s not only the drawing that fascinates me but it’s also the scientific measures they go through to make the fantasy as real as possible–for instance, hiring actors to don special costumes and walk around drunkenly like a walrus might for the walrus and the carpenter scene.  It’s akin to watching how Willy Wonka makes his mythical Everlasting Gobstoppers.

The behind the scenes featurette illustrates not only how much work goes into a hand-drawn film but also, perhaps, how the concept of a ‘behind the scenes’ type featurette was so novel in 1951.  Note the cheesy set-up for Walt to walk in on young Kathryn Beaumont who is:

A.  Studying her algebra

B.  About to be called to action

Also, look out for the scene which shows you the fantastic Ed Wynn as The Mad Hatter and Jerry Colonna as The March Hare and how absolutely inspiring they must have been to the cardigan-draped chortling animators.  Oh, how I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and visit the set myself!  And so that I could bet on winning sports teams and get rich (hats off to Biff from Back To The Future II for that scheme.)

Disney’s Alice in Wonderland is actually an amalgam of two Lewis Carroll books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass.  Carroll was not only an author, a reverend, a mathematician, and a photographer, but also a logician.  In a bit of synchronicity which has worked out nicely for my obsessions, a book that I’m currently reading–Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up, references Lewis Carrol’s logic.  Carroll wrote very droll syllogisms.  Here are two that Martin mentions as especially inspiring to his comedic voice:

1.  Babies are illogical.

2.  Nobody is despised who can manage a crocodile.

3.  Illogical persons are despised.

Therefore, babies cannot manage crocodiles.

I like that one because it also implies that babies are despised.

Another example is given:

1.  No interesting poems are unpopular among people of real taste.

2.  No modern poetry is free from affectation.

3.  All your poems are on the subject of soap bubbles.

4.  No affected poetry is popular among people of taste.

5.  Only a modern poem would be on the subject of soap bubbles.

Therefore, all your poems are uninteresting

Snap!!!

Maybe later, when I put my brain in, I’ll try writing one.

1.  Writing syllogisms is hard.

2.  I am easily distracted when faced with difficult tasks.

3.  Oh look, a squirrel.

https://i2.wp.com/www.alice-in-wonderland.net/alicepic/disney-movie/march-hare-mad-hatter-and-dormouse.jpg

Deeeee-Runk

Maybe I’m giving too much credit here, but I think the Mad Hatter sequence really captures that teasing Carroll lunacy.  All of the characters that Alice encounters do nothing but give her shit–perhaps never more so than at the Unbirthday tea party.  The girl never even gets a drop of tea.

Though this film took years and years to find its audience (it was not a hit when it was first released), it is rightly labelled as some of Disney’s very best animation.

And now, in closing, let’s look at a different take on The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and remember:  it’s hard out there for a little adolescent Victorian girl.

P.S.  Anyone see The Princess and the Frog yet?  I’m really looking forward to it…out in Britain in February…

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Filed under Literature, Movies

Natalie Squeeeee!

So, recently, I don’t even really remember where or how, I came across a Natalie Dee cartoon.  It was this:

http://images.tribe.net/tribe/upload/photo/16c/5ec/16c5ec1a-3c9b-4840-8935-242692e32437

Where it all began.

Hilarious, yes! I love Mom jokes AND I love accusing everyone around me of being gay.  Especially Moms! Absolutely right up my ally when it comes to one-panelled humor strips.  Love it.  Of course, I was devastated to learn approximately two and a half minutes later that it was NOT on sale as a tee-shirt as I had previously believed.  But still, I loved it enough to go to the source–Natalie Dee’s website.  click here!

#108:  The cartoons of Natalie Dee

I’m tempted to use adjectives like ‘obsessed’ when I describe my feelings about Ms. Dee.   But apparently, Natalie Dee isn’t her real name and the reason that she doesn’t use her real name is because she doesn’t want to encourage stalkers/overly excitable types.   I can appreciate that.  So, I’ll try not to let loose too much here.  I’ll pull back a bit on the normal cyber-stalking that I engage in when prepping for  blogs.  Let’s just appreciate the output, shall we?   Here’s three samples from her archives.  All good.

https://i2.wp.com/www.nataliedee.com/021409/unthreatening-scorpion.jpg

It's a scorpion with a purse. She's going to town!

https://i1.wp.com/www.nataliedee.com/051304/dogginaround.jpg

I can relate directly to this one. I especially love the look of hopelessness on her face.

i got yer raisins right here

I actually did buy this on a tee-shirt.

Writing a one-panel strip is hard work, but Natalie Dee is a fricking champion.  Between the ‘i can relate to that’ feeling and the odd miscellany that she captures so perfectly in her simplistic drawings, I’ve been consistently entertained.  I can’t stress how much I love it when things are anthropomorphized.  It just works.

Also, I adore the noseless wide-mouthed faces and the little hands that look like q-tips.

Natalie is married to a humorist as well.  Her husband Drew writes excellent toons called “Toothpaste For Dinner” and “Superpoop”.  Natalie co-writes “Married To The Sea” with him as well.  You can reach ALL of their collective efforts through http://www.nataliedee.com For merch, click here:  the goods

The bad news in this one-way love affair?  I’m almost done scrolling through the Natalie Dee archives.  The good news is that when I’m done with the cartoons, there WILL be more (she updates daily) and she’s also got blog pages that I’ve barely read yet.  It’s a good, funny, personable blog.  The first entry details Natalie trying to cook an emu egg that she purchased at Whole Foods.  She also runs an advice column from time to time in those pages.

As someone who dreams of chucking in my day job of helping disabled students get support during University (it’s not nearly as exciting as it sounds) to sit around all day in my jammies thinking of funny things to say and occasionally watching daytime tv/playing video games, I really admire this woman.  She has made it work and is living the dream.  I found a good interview with Natalie at venuszine.com  (OK…so I did a little bit of e-stalking…)  Here’s some wise words for those of you out there who reach for that golden ring of creative fulfillment/working from your home as well:

“Making comics is just like taking a crap,” says Dee. “It’s necessary for my well-being, and it is sometimes enjoyable… When I make comics, I don’t analyze them afterwards, like, ‘Is this too dirty?’ or, ‘Is this too cutesy?’ or, ‘Is this too weird?’ or, ‘Is this too messed up?’. I don’t care what people think. I make comics to express myself. You don’t write in your diary with the thought of someone who might break into your bedroom and read it. That defeats the purpose.”

(Full article here:  Venuszine)

OK, that’s all the lovin’ I have time for.  But!…one more to part on:

smell like cereal and look like mountain dew

So true!

P.S. if you’re scrolling through the archives, be sure to pay attention ot the toon titles on the right hand side.  Some are just explanatory but others are pithy.  That’s right, I said pithy.

How come stuff like this isn’t in the newspaper funny pages anymore?

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Televitriol

Typically, this blog is a lovefest.  I mean, that’s the point isn’t it?  To revel in the bits and bobs that make up my pop-culture obsessions.  It just doesn’t seem right to be critical or negative in these pages.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty that I’d like to bitch and moan about.  I read the papers after all.  It just seems contradictory to do it here.  Plus, it’s February–a month that Hallmark tells me is designated for nothin’ but love.  But, now that Valentines Day is just a blip in the rear-view mirror, maybe I can at least celebrate someone that really excels at hating things. That counts as positive energy doesn’t it?

73.  Charlie Brooker

He hates things so articulately.  I could never ever compete with his cynical skills–or his carefully inserted f-bombs and.  I love reading his bile.  The art of hating something is a delicate one, you understand.  Hate, as Yoda knows, can cloud your judgement–make you stumble over your words and leave you–the hater–in a vulnerable position for retaliatory attacks.  But Charlie Brooker has proved himself to be one of the most erudite misanthropes to hit the airwaves and the papers.

Charlton Brooker, a uni dropout originally from Reading, England–began his career in media as a cartoonist for Oink! comic magazine.  He also penned and illustrated a strip called “Cybertwats” for PC Zone magazine.  I wish I could type both the words “Oink!” and “Cybertwat” into my resume.

https://i0.wp.com/3.bp.blogspot.com/_448y6kVhntg/STqNk6Q7IyI/AAAAAAAAC6g/JcEj7hKOpBg/s400/Oink1986.jpg

Right back at 'ya.

He’s since moved on to satirizing worthy targets in both The Guardian newspaper and his own television show “Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe”.  Charlie Brooker is a recent find for me.  I remember that a friend of mine, Paul, actually recommended that I check out some episodes of “Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe” about a year ago and I never did.  Finally, one day, an episode of “Harry Hill’s TV Burp” came on and I confused that terrible program for “Screenwipe”.  It was shit.  Hammy shit.   It actually made me second-guess Paul’s sense of humor.  It was only recently, when my pal Stu also recommended Charlie Brooker to me that I connected the dots.  Paul didn’t recommend Harry Hill…it was this guy, Charlie Brooker!  Paul, who never knew that his taste in the comical had been knocked down a peg in my estimation, is back in the upper echelon of my ‘funny’ friends.  I’m sorry that I ever confused your predilections, Paul–if you’re reading this.  Meanwhile, just because I enjoy “You’ve Been Framed”, as narrated by Harry Hill does not make me a hypocrite.  The laughs there belong solely to the water-skiing squirrels and the trampoline accidents and NOT Harry Hill.  I think that clears my name of any inconsistency relating to this past I Love Things That Are Great entry:  Exhibit A

Anyway, Charlie Brooker also has a hand in producing other shows like the recent “Dead Set”.  Unfortunately, I can offer no commentary here as I haven’t seen that.  My romance with Charlie Brooker is fairly new.  Give me time, people.

A collection of Brooker’s Guardian columns can be found here:  Brooker Columns

I’ve been enjoying the backlog of them during breaks between actual bits of work at my day job.

Captain Cranky-face, I salute you.

Captain Cranky-face, I salute you.

Here’s a couple of clips from his television program.  A pretty decent library is available on Youtube.  It was very difficult to make selections as I was greatly amused by most of the videos I’ve seen thus far.  But, after much deliberation with my desk-mate, here are two pretty excellent clips.  This first one examines one of my most favorite shows to hate on and seethe at, MTV’s “My Super Sweet Sixteen”:

This next one is perhaps a bit more Brit-centric as some of you Yanks won’t have seen the ads that he is raging at.  Still, trust me when I say that you’ll get the gist.

Just because I was so torn, I’m going to give you a link to a third clip.  It’s a bit longer than the other two (which are a tasty morsels, running about 3 minutes in length).  But, I’d like to share it with those of you who might now be smitten with Charlie Brooker.

This clip holds special appeal for me.  I’ve been trying to write a bit in my stand up for years about how British people will watch anything.  I just can’t make it work.  And yet, the joke practically writes itself.  I mean, BBC runs a show called “The Trees That Made Britain” in Prime-time.  Prime. Fricking. Time.  And yes, it’s just about trees.  That’s not a metaphor for a colorful family or a codeword for a special section of law enforcement, or a sit-com about park rangers or anything.  Just trees.  So, your guess is as good as mine as to why I can’t write a flippin’ decent joke about it.  Mercifully, Brooker has done it.  Now I can put those efforts to bed as this subject has been sufficiently mocked.  Bad British telly, you are in good hands.

Clip found here: British Telly Exports To US

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