Come On, Let's Go.
10Nov/101

Nite-Duck

Spotted this in "A Quack in the Quarks," an episode of one of my childhood favorite television shows, Tiny Toon Adventures. Other offhand references in the episode included a discussion of working for scale, an implication that Woody Allen was directing the episode, and the entire wardrobe of the main cast of Star Wars. You can watch it below.

28Oct/100

Kee-doodle!

Think of the number of things can go wrong in the creation of a cartoon: perhaps the sound timing is off, or the writing was bad from the get-go, or the whole concept is just abysmal. That's what would make a bad cartoon. To make a cartoon like Sam Singer's Bucky and Pepito, you have to have some sort of reverse-Midas touch. There is absolutely nothing right in what you are about to see. It is a perfect storm of terrible animation and for that reason alone needs to be witnessed.

Thanks to the folks at MetaFilter for helping me locate it.

30Aug/101

Damn, This Lung Is Heavy


Co. Achewood.

After nine splendid years of headaches, sore throats and money thrown toward my own demise, I've decided to Stop Smoking. Period. I spent the entire day on campus wearing a nicotine patch and it has been considerably less harsh than I thought it would be. I've “quit” twice before. The first time was a January several years back; it was a month-long group challenge of resolve, inspired by needing a month of recuperation from a December spent in the guise of Hedonismbot. The second time was just a few months ago when I stopped smoking for a week due to being more sick than I had ever been sick before. I was fine, honestly, until I had to actually leave the house and go to school, where I found myself surrounded by the vice. I gave in before the withdrawal tics turned me into a someone's Modern Dance thesis project.

...and now I'm done. Fin. Kaput. I swear that I will not turn into an evangelist and will still be as fervently pro-smoker's rights as I have ever been. I leave you with a small excerpt from David Sedaris' quitting essay “Letting Go” and one of the more bizarre Disney shorts I found while researching for this post on MetaFilter.

It’s one thing to give up smoking, and another to become a former smoker. That’s what I would be the moment I left the bar, and so I lingered awhile, looking at my garish disposable lighter and the crudded-up aluminum ashtray. When I eventually got up to leave, Hugh pointed out that I had five cigarettes left in my pack.

“Are you just going to leave them there on the table?”

I answered with a line I’d got years ago from a German woman. Her name was Tini Haffmans, and though she often apologized for the state of her English, I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any better. When it came to verb conjugation, she was beyond reproach, but every so often she’d get a word wrong. The effect was not a loss of meaning but a heightening of it. I once asked if her neighbor smoked, and she thought for a moment before saying, “Karl has . . . finished with his smoking.”

She meant, of course, that he had quit, but I much preferred her mistaken version. “Finished” made it sound as if he’d been allotted a certain number of cigarettes, three hundred thousand, say, delivered at the time of his birth. If he’d started a year later or smoked more slowly, he might still be at it, but, as it stood, he had worked his way to the last one, and then moved on with his life. This, I thought, was how I would look at it. Yes, there were five more Kool Milds in that particular pack, and twenty-six cartons stashed away at home, but those were extra—an accounting error. In terms of my smoking, I had just finished with it.

10Aug/101

Double-Oh-Seventh

Back in Russia, my grandmother owned a piece of cutting-edge consumer electronics: a VCR. Along with the VCR, she also had a number of tapes with Disney and MGM cartoons. I can still remember my favorite two. One was 1936's “Thru the Mirror,” which starred Mickey Mouse and was inspired by (and featured a copy of) Lewis Carroll's book 15 years before the Disney film. The other was a Tom and Jerry spy parody entitled “The Mouse from H.U.N.G.E.R.”, an obvious take on 60s spy series The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. I was, apparently, born with an innate taste for referential media.

6Jul/101

Frosty!

The heat wave continues, with temperatures reaching a record 102F today. Here's some stuff to cool you down for the night:

14Jun/101

Good Night, Everybody

There's really not much I can say to introduce or explain this scene. It's one of those rare cultural artifacts that defies explanation for its existence.

8Jun/103

Test Your Might

There is one measure by which I was born at exactly the right time: I was eight years old when the first Mortal Kombat game came out. Being dragged through 86th Street shops on weekends, arcade games were one of my few diversions while accompanying my mother on weekend trips to discounts shoe stores and the like. The times have passed street-corner arcade boxes in this neighborhood – the only arcade machines I see anymore are in bars – but in 1992 every bodega had one parked outside. Most of the games I paid attention to were the one-on-one fighting sort, Street Fighter II being the ur-90s-fighter from which all others hailed. It is hard for me to describe how it felt, entering that shop with the first Mortal Kombat machine on the block to go from this crap Fighter's History, for instance:

To this:

In the weeks and months after the game dropped, playground conversations would ensue over whether this clumsy-yet-so-awesomely-bloody newcomer was going to take the place of the beloved Street Fighter II. And, of course, who could take whom in a fight. While our childhood dreams of seeing a real Street Fighter vs. Mortal Kombat game will probably never come true (MUGEN be damned,) Newgrounds-based creator Proxicide gave us the next best thing a few years ago:

(There are also a prequel and sequel, neither of which, whether due to nostalgia or skill, match the one above.)

3Jun/101

I Believe In Yesterdays

On a completely random jaunt through YouTube a few weeks ago, I discovered the following:

That piece of copyright-infringing insanity is a clip from a 2002 Armenian animated film entitled Yellow Submaryan (“-aryan” being a common suffix in Armenian names.) It is the
the work of Robert Arshavirovich Sahakyants (Роберт Аршавирович Саакянц/Ռոբերտ Սահակյանց) an Armenian animation producer and director, as well as an animator in his own right. Sahakyants is known throughout the countries of the former Soviet Union for his Soviet-era (and, naturally, Russian-language) cartoons based around Armenian folk tales and literature.

(Fair warning: both cartoons below are mildly-NSFW, depending on how your job reacts to roughly three seconds of animated nudity.)

This apocalyptic cartoon was a reaction to “the confused and sad Perestroika period [and the] events, moods [and] atmosphere prior to the August Putsch of 1991.” Entitled "Knopka" ("Кнопка", "Button") it is decidedly darker than the lighter folk-tale cartoons for which he was known. The distinct lack of dialogue in this film, along with the presence of an issue of ubiquitous party broadsheet Pravda (Правда, "Truth") and the dual-language credits indicate the difficulty the Armenian people (and by extension, all non-ethnically-Russian peoples in the Soviet Union) had to retain their own culture under Soviet rule and occupation.

Going further back in time, the last thing I wanted to show is the 1987 science-fiction cartoon "Urok" ("Урок", "Lesson"). Featuring early ambient electronica and cyberpunk themes, it is unlike anything I've seen come out of the Soviet Union before. I can almost assure you Peter Chung saw this before creating Aeon Flux; the surrealistic imagery, music and stylization all match his own. One of the odder things about this film is its post Cold-War attitude. While this cartoon was created during the Reagan era, it is still pretty shocking to see this sort of forward-thinking at a time when Americans were watching Red Dawn (not that the USSR didn't have plenty of anti-American propaganda, of course.) The written signs tend to be in both English and Russian, and there is a proliferation of branded Western items: a pack of Marlboros, a ray-gun marked “SONY.” (An aside: these little set-dressings remind me of one of US television's first science fiction-based goodwill move toward the USSR: including Chekhov, a Russian, on the bridge of the USS Enterprise in the original Star Trek series.) Even the non-ambient music is western: at 2:15 in Part 1 you can hear Herbie Hancock's “Rock It” and the film ends to John Lennon's “Imagine” (FYI: the blurry text at the end is the lyrics, translated into Russian.)

24May/100

You’re In Every Song I Know

If you’ve ever seen a cartoon or film parody of a giant, elaborate dance sequence you were watching an homage to one of the greatest musical film directors, Busby Berkeley. The Chemical Brothers’ “Let Forever Be” is a great example. Mel Brooks, too, was particularly fond of his work, devoting the ending of Blazing Saddles to the production of a flamboyant director named Buddy Bizarre and inserting this dead-on and beautifully sardonic sequence – featuring Jackie Mason! – into History of the World Part 1:

His films, hitting their peak during the Great Depression, parallel the current love pop culture has for Las Vegas. Shitty economic climes lead to a desire for escapism to an opulence we can’t have in our daily lives. So, Depression audiences escaped to Fred Astaire doing a two-step on the ceiling and Busby’s girls. I used to have a DVD rip of his greatest hits which I unfortunately lost in a hard drive crash. Luckily, BluDirect has thrown the entirety of it on YouTube. So, if you’re ever feeling down, escape to the wonderful world of giant geometric patterns composed of beautiful women dancing in sync. Someone was awesome enough to create a video for the Magnetic Fields song "Busby Berkeley Dreams" (the source of this post's title) with some of this Berkeley material, creating a nice little sampler:

My favorite of his pieces is “Honeymoon Hotel” from Footlight Parade. It is a little different than his usual faire, having a plot. Everything about it (outside of the creepy little person playing a lecherous child) is grand and wonderful. The best section, in my opinion, is the good portion of it devoted to the Honeymoon Hotel’s resident not-so-newlyweds schooling the new girl in the art of love in the most innocent 1930s musical way possible: innuendo-laced singin’!

Apparently this sequence was so popular, it spawned a Merrie Melodies parody the very next year:

12May/100

Gatekeepers of Mars

In 1931, under the auspices of author Edgar Rice Burroughs, Looney Tunes director Bob Clampett and Burrough's son John Coleman began work on an animated adaptation of Burroughs' John Carter of Mars series (soon to be a major Hollywood film in 2012.) Unfortunately, MGM's preference of Burrough's other original character, Tarzan, and the sheer oddity of the Mars stories canned the project. All that remains is a short segment of test footage.

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