Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Animated Women

March is National Women’s History Month and time for the second annual “Animated Women” film festival at Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Library on Saturday, March 11, 2006 from 2:30-4:30 p.m. in Wheeler Auditorium. This is a film program I put together to showcase some of the best animated films created by the masters of the genre - people like Martha Colburn, Sally Cruikshank, Caroline Leaf, Louise Johnson, Kathy Rose, Michele Cournoyer, Janet Perlman, Suzan Pitt and others. All of the films shown at this free screening are available for loan from Pratt’s Sights & Sounds Dept. (410-396-4616). Below is the complete program guide and bios.



As a self-taught filmmaker, former Baltimorean Martha Colburn has completed over 50 films since 1994 in the US and Europe and was featured in the New York Museum of Modern Art/San Francisco Cinematheque's “Big As Life” 8mm retrospective. Her work has appeared in numerous festivals including The Sundance Film Festival and The Rotterdam International Film Festival. Her work is largely hand-colored, found-footage collage animation and features musical and spoken-word scores by The Dramatics, The Jaunties, Jad Fair, Jason Willett, 99 Hooker and others. Lately she has been exploring “paint-on-glass” animation, a labor-intensive process that involves doing thousands of paintings under the camera on a piece of glass and filming each image frame-by-frame. After living in Amsterdam for several years as a participant artist at the Rijksakademie, Martha recently returned to the States to work in New York City. She is currently showing her films on a multi-city tour with the indie rock band Deer Hoof, for whom she directed a music video (see it on www.killockstars.com). Pratt owns Colburn’s official film shorts collection The Films of Martha Colburn, 1995-1999, which is distributed by the Women Make Movies organization.

Web site: www.marthacolburn.com

Evils of Dracula (1997)
The media is a vampire sinking its fangs into the lifeblood of drained consumers everywhere. At least that what we think Martha’s getting at here! The soundtrack is by Jad Fair (of 1/2 Japanese fame) and local noise maestro Jason Willett. (1997, 2:36 minutes, video)
There's a Pervert in my Pool (1998)
Rather self-explanatory, with celebrity guest cutouts of pool pervs Peter Sellers, Woody Allen and Michael Jackson cavorting to the madcap words of Motor Moron Fred Collins and the zany sounds of Martha Colburn and Jason Willets. (1998, 3:40 minutes, video)
What's On (1997)
So many channels, so little content. More medium saturation with free-form oration/commentary by 99 Hooker.
(1997, 1:32 minutes, video)


Joanna Priestley has produced and directed 16 award-winning films through her company, Priestley Motion Pictures. Priestley attributes her interest in animation to a toy zoetrope that she had as a child, to the rain in Oregon and to a grandmother that did china painting. Priestley has teaches animation at the Art Institute of Portland and presents programs of her work and animation workshops worldwide. Her films are distributed by the Museum of Modern Art (212-708-9532) and Canyon Cinema (415-626-2255).

Website: http://users.easystreet.com/joanna/

Voices (1985)
In this award-winning short (available for loan on Pratt’s copy of the New Shorts On Video 2: Award-Winning American Animation 1980-1985 collection), Priestley uses a drawing-on-paper animation technique to humorously explore people’s shared phobias: of darkness, monsters, aging, being overweight and global destruction. Sound by R. Dennis Wiancko. Voice by Joanna Priestley. (Joanna Priestley, 1985, 4 minutes, color, video)


Not much is known about Peg McClure other than she’s a Seattle, WA-based freelance illustrator and graphic designer who likes cats. This humorous short looks at how two cats co-exist while getting into non-stop trouble; Nickelodeon liked it enough to feature it on their cable TV channel.

Housecats (1984)
Our version of Housecats is taken from New Shorts On Video 2: Award-Winning American Animation 1980-1985, a video compilation tape available in Pratt’s Sights & Sounds Dept. (Peg McClure, 1985, 5 minutes, color, video)


We were unable to find out any information about this artist, other than what our eyes tell us: she’s obviously very talented! Oh, and it looks like she did some rotoscoping work on 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.

Charlie’s Boogie-Woogie (1985)
This is another film taken from the New Shorts On Video 2: Award-Winning American Animation 1980-1985 video compilation tape. (Valerie Swanson, 1985, 4 minutes, color, video)


Wendy Tilby was nominated for an Academy Award in 1991 for Strings, a National Film Board animated short. Her other credits include the independent short Tables of Content. Tilby uses a laborious process of stop-motion animation and painting on glass to create the look of her films. Amanda Forbis directed the NFB animated film The Reluctant Deckhand (1995) and contributed animation work on Seven Crows a Secret (1994). Currently living in Montreal, the animation duo met in 1985 while students at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver.

When the Day Breaks (1999)
When the Day Breaks is the charming, bittersweet story of Ruby, the pig, whose life takes an unexpected turn after she witnesses the accidental death of a stranger. With deft humor and finely rendered detail, the film illuminates the links which connect our urban lives, while evoking the promise and fragility of a new day. The film, described as "a four-year labor of love" by the filmmakers, is exquisitely crafted, using pencil and paint on photocopies to create a textured look reminiscent of lithographs or flickering newsreels. (Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis, 1999, 10 minutes, color, video)


Caroline Leaf's animated films are renowned for their emotional content and graphic style, closely tied to the innovative animation techniques that she has invented. Her storytelling films flow fluidly with a handcrafted sensibility. They are made by manipulating beach sand on a light box or finger painting on glass under the camera lens, and scratching directly into film emulsion. Leaf is a master of this “under camera” animation technique in which, as Leaf has observed, “One films as one draws, and one image is destroyed to create the next image. When a sequence has been filmed, there is nothing left except the film.” Leaf has won numerous honors over the years, including a Life Achievement Award in 1996 from the Zagreb International Animation Festival. She currently resides in London, where she works for Acme Filmworks, and also is a part-time animation instructor at Konstatfack in Eksjo, Sweden.

Web site: www.awn.com/leaf/

For a good overview of her career, also see the National Film Board of Canada’s Web site: http://www.nfb.ca/e/highlights/caroline_leaf.html

The Street (1976)
This Oscar-nominated film tells of a family's summer-long deathbed vigil in the Jewish section of Montreal. Based on a short story by Mordecai Richler, it conveys the frustrations, resentment, worry and selfishness a young boy and his family experience as they await the death of the ailing grandmother. Leaf used paint mixed with glycerine to lend her images the effect of moving sand. (1976, 10 minutes, color, video)
Note: If you like The Street, Pratt also owns two other Leaf short films: 1986’s Two Sisters (Entre Deux Sœurs) and 1977’s Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa, which are included on the video Tales from the Dark Side.


Janet Perlman was born in Montreal, Quebec, and studied graphic design and film production at the School of Art and Design of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. She joined the Animation Studio of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) in 1973. For the next ten years she wrote and directed theatrical shorts, educational films, films for children, and television spots. Pratt owns several Perlman films from this period - including Lady Fishbourne's Complete Guide to Better Table Manners and The Tender Tale of Cinderella Penguin (we screened both of these shorts at last year’s “Animated Women” film program) – as well as the more recent Dinner for Two and Bully Dance.

Dinner For Two (1997)
This film was part of the NFB’s “ShowPeace” series of animated films without words, designed as flexible tools to explore conflict resolution. The story describes how peace in the rain forest is disrupted when two chameleons get stuck in a conflict, with catastrophic results. As they battle over territory, these two small animals realize that their conflict affects not just them, but their whole environment. Luckily, a frog observing the fracas turns into exactly what they need - a mediator. Awards: 1997 San Diego Film Festival best animation award; Animated Eye Award at the Aspen Shorts Festival; Bronze Apple at the National Educational Media Competition and the Best Short Film at the Montreal World Film Festival. (Janet Perlman, 1997, 8 minutes, color, video)

Another Canadian female animator, Louise Johnson received a bachelor's degree in Fine Arts in drawing and painting from the University of Calgary and graduated with distinction from the Concordia University Film Animation program. According to her National Film Board of Canada (NFB) bio, Johnson’s student films garnered numerous awards, including Concordia University's Norman McLaren Award for Outstanding Achievement in Animation in 1989. After teaching animation to children for several years, she received a Canada Council film production grant, worked freelance in the animation industry and served on the ASIFA (Association international du film d'animation) Canada Board, as vice-president and editor of the ASIFA Bulletin. Her most recent film for NFB, A Monster’s Calling, is about personal anxieties and body image.

When the Dust Settles (1997)
Like Janet Perlman’s Dinner For Two, When the Dust Settles was produced for the NFB’s “ShowPeace” conflict resolution series. This award-winning film, which was screened at over 50 international festivals, addresses how two gophers resolve their territorial dispute. This seven-minute short was done entirely “under-camera” using dust, graphite, colored pencils and an electric eraser. (Louise Johnson, 1997, 7 minutes, color, video)


Lynn Smith started life as an independent animation filmmaker in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1968 and moved to Montreal in 1975 to work at the National Film Board of Canada, where she specialized in children's filmmaking. Her past credits include the award-winning children’s classics The Shout It Out Alphabet Film, Teacher, Lester Bit Me! and This Is Your Museum Speaking. She currently teaches animation at Concordia University in Montreal.
Pearl’s Diner (1993)
The idea for the film was originally suggested by a chance meeting with a waitress friend of the animator, who mentioned that she thought two people were using her restaurant as a romantic rendezvous. Her curiosity piqued, Smith applied her labor-intensive animation technique, which involves using thousands of paper cutouts – to produce one of her few works for and about adults. Smith prefers to animate “directly under the camera” with pastels, cut-outs, paints, or crayons. Pearl's Diner received numerous international awards, including the 1993 Genie Award for Best Animated Short from the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. (Lynn Smith, 1993, color, 8 minutes, video)

Quebec native Michele Cournoyer is a hard-luck painter and independent animator who made her first film while studying graphic design in 60s London. In a July 2001 interview with Take One writer Chris Robinson Cournoyer recalled, "I went to 'swinging' London in the 1960s with a $90 plane ticket and a government grant of $2,000. I was printing pillows on pillows, pearls on pillows, hands on gloves. There my images started to move with music, and then film came to me one day." From that point there was no looking back for Cournoyer, whose battles with personal and family illness (she put her art studies on hold for three years to care for her mother, who died when she was 20) have cast a dark shadow over her films, which often deal with emotional or sexual abuse. In fact, Chris Robinson has commented that Cournoyer's films take viewers, “to places we do not want to see, to a darkness that lurks behind our scared small-talk smiles. In this darkness we stumble.”

La Basse Cour (A Feather Tale) (1992)
This film about abusive relationships is considered Michele Cournoyer’s strongest film after Le Chapeau (The Hat), which dealt with sexual abuse, and landed her a job with the National Film Board of Canada. As Take One’s Chris Robinson describes the film:

It opens with the shot of a cracking egg forming a face with tears. Something has been broken. A sleeping woman receives a call from her lover. He wants her to come over. She obeys and arrives in a take-out delivery box as a chicken. The man holds her, rocks her, pulls her feathers off and begins to eat her. Initially, the woman allows herself to play this role, but she realizes she must take control of the situation before she completely loses herself. The final shot of the film shows the woman waking up, the man snoring beside her, and feathers on the ground. The addiction is over.

(Michele Cournoyer, 1992, 5 ½ minutes, color, video)


Sally Cruikshank’s animated films have long been favorites of the indie and animated film festival circuit. Besides her independent film shorts, Cruikshank also did animation sequences for the mainstream comedy features Mannequin (1987) and Ruthless People (1986). Cruikshank’s films are now available on DVD through her Web site, including Quasi at the Quackadero, Make Me Psychic, Quasi’s Cabaret, Face Like a Frog, Chow Fun, Fun On Mars and Ducky.

Web site: www.funonmars.com

Quasi at the Quackadero (1976)
The animated story of Quasi, a science fiction kid who goes for a day's outing with his grownup friend, Anita, and a little robot, Rollo, to the Quackadero, an amusement part of the future. This short made the list of honorees in Jerry Beck’s 50 Best Cartoons book. With music by Bob Armstrong and Al Dodge of the Cheap Suit Serenaders (a band whose lineup once included cartoonist Robert Crumb). (Sally Cruikshank, 1976, 10 minutes, color, 16mm)


Kathy Rose (sister of experimental filmmaker Peter Rose) creates her own animated and live action film projections, intricately integrating herself within them in live performance to create a fascinating poetic "alternate universe". Inspired by the work of Japanese animator Toji Kuri, she began to work with animated film in 1972. Born in 1949, she received a BFA in film from the Philadelphia College of Art in 1971 and an MFA in animation from the California Institute of the Arts in 1974. She was a visiting lecturer in animation at Harvard University in 1978 and 1979 and has also taught animation at Pratt Institute, the Fashion Institute of Technology and the School of Visual Arts of the New York Film Academy.

Web site: www.krose.com

The Doodlers
The cartoon character named Miss Nose and her doodle friends have fun doodling and erasing their drawings to suit their whimsical moods. (Kathy Rose, 1975, 5 minutes color, 16mm)

Mirror People (1974)
An animated film in which elegant, goon-faced characters cavort with their double images. (Kathy Rose, 1974, 4 minutes, color, 16mm)


Suzan Pitt is an artist and independent animator whose acclaimed works are characterized by their raucous color schemes and concern with the spiritual and psychological journeys of their protagonists. Interested in the aesthetic of moving painted images, her goal has always been to make animated films that are gorgeous to look at but which also have something important to say. Her animated film Asparagus ran theatrically with David Lynch's Eraserhead (once you’ve seen it, you’ll understand why!) and won the grand prize at the Oberhausen Short Film Festival. Her animated film Joy Street was shown at the Sundance Film Festival, New York Film Festival and won Best Short Film at the Naples International Film Festival. Her current project is El Doctor, a 26-minute film set in Mexico.

Web site: http://home.earthlink.net/~suzanpitt/

Asparagus (1979)
Years in the making, this mind-boggling surrealistic dreamscape rocked audiences upon its release and catapulted Suzan Pitt to the front ranks of indie animation. Beautifully detailed cel animation propels its blank-faced protagonist into a world of Freudian symbolism and Jungian archetypes. The film's stunning set piece occurs before a claymation audience that gapes as the artist opens her Medusa's box to release rare wonders. (Suzan Pitt, 1979, 19 minutes, color, 16mm)

Total program running time: approximately 1 hour, 47 minutes

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Numbers Game

Mick Jagger is obsessed. Not only with longevity (the only metric by which one can EVER say the Stones surpassed the Beatles), but with legacy as well.

He's had his wine, women and songs. Now, dealing with the sobering reality that he will, in fact, die someday, just like everyone else, he seems determined to leave behind an audit trail, a historical footprint (and not just a biological one, as evidenced by siring six children) of his and the Rolling Stones' greatness. In other words, he's building his Tower of Babel, climbing his Stairway To Heaven, erecting his Golden Calf for the idolatry of history's masses. Biggest, longest, oldest...all the superlatives now about the Stones reflect an obsession with stats and with how they'll be remembered in the record books (will Mick go so far as to put a statistician on the payroll? Can he lure baseball number-cruncher Bill James away from the Red Sox?)

How else to explain the Stones' current "Bigger Bang" world tour, which takes stadium rock to ridiculous lengths of hype and excess? Over the weekend, approximately 1.2 million fans packed on to the sands of Rio de Janeiros' Copacabana to witness a free concert that was the Brazilian leg of the Stones' world tour. (However, Saturday's crowd was not as big as that at Rod Stewart's 1994 concert, also at Copacabana beach, which drew a crowd of 3.5 million.) Everyone made a big deal out of the fact that Mick impressed the crowd with a few Portuguese phrases and the fact that he had a Brazilian son, Lucas Jagger - though no one mentioned he initially demanded DNA tests to prove that Papa was a Rolling Stone before he would embrace the Portuguese babbling progeny he conceived following his tryst with Brazilian underwear model and TV personality Luciana Gimenez Morad.(The two met at a previous Stones concert in Brazil, quickly exchanging genetic information behind a bush while attending a post-concert party. Their brief rumble-in-the-jungle certainly turned out to be a "Big Bang" for Jagger, going by the $35,000-a-month child support Morad asked for their love child, which a palimony court reduced to 10,000 per month. It also reportedly cost him his marriage to Jerry Hall, a split that also generated out some impressive settlement numbers. Hope he got his money's worth!)

Just a few weeks earlier, the Stones performed at halftime in Detroit for Super Bowl XL, where the in-attendence crowd was relatively puny compared to the televised audience in the hundred-millions across the world who watched the predictable performance of mostly 40-years-old standards. Mick introduced the 1965 hit "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by saying that it could have been sung at Super Bowl I (1966), smarmily commenting that, "Everything comes to he who waits." But apparently not a good command of grammar. Mick the celebrated lyricist was taken to task by no less a wordsmith than William Safire of the New York Times ("On Language" column, 2/19/06). Safire wrote that Jagger's comments were "a verbal malfunction more shocking than a previous Janet Jackson halftime." Not that football fans would notice, but contrarian grammarian Safire correctly pointed out that "Because he is the subjective case of the third-person male pronoun, it cannot be the object of the preposition to. The pronoun must be the objective of him." Anyway, Mick's flubbed reference was to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's line "All things come round to him who will but wait."

Of course, Mick's egotistical obsession with "firsts" and "historical records" is well-documented. The infamous 1969 Altamont disaster was an unnecessary free concert contrived at the last-minute to provide an ending for the Maysles brothers Mick-commissioned documentary Gimme Shelter, which Mick wanted to come out before the Woodstock concert film (it did - at a cost of four lives, including Meredith Hunter being stabbed and stomped to death by the Hell's Angels "security" staff, bad vibes for the half million people there, and the death-knell of the utopian Sixties Flower Power dream). At that show, the Mick and Keith arrogantly sipped wine and ate grilled salmon sandwiches in their trailer, making the 300,000 plus fans wait for almost two hours until it got dark - so that Mick's make-up would look better under the night lights and to provide a dramatic late-night ending to the film. (Of course, the Stones immediately were whisked away via helicopter - after thanking the Hells Angels! - while the "Stoned" masses had to deal with the traffic gridlock of getting out.)

Six months earlier, the Stones played their huge free concert in Hyde Park on July 5, 1969 (supposedly as a tribute to Brian Jones, who had died a scant two days earlier), after celebrated turnouts for free shows by Pink Floyd in 1968 (the first ever free Hyde Park concert) and earlier that year by short-lived super group Blind Faith. By all accounts it was a mediocre performance (newly recruited replacement guitarist Mick Taylor was still learning the songs!) and not that fun for the 250,000 fans crammed like sardines in the park to "see" the Stones.

None of these Stones gigs were ever about the fans. They were always about Mick's and the Stones' over-inflated egos. At Altamont, if there hadn't been such a rush to set up the stage in less than 24 hours, they could have put up barriers and an elevated platform so that the Hells Angels would not have been needed to protect the stage and inflict damage on the crowd. There could have been a better parking plan, better access to toilet facilities, and so on and so on. Why the rush? For the Stones film, of course. Ironically, it only made them look bad, very bad, especially Mick whose lame attempt at hip lingo ("Brothers and sisters, everybody just cool out...we can groove") and crowd control exposed him as weak and ineffectual in a time of crisis.

Talking about the 1969 Rolling Stones tour of America (which only came about because Brian Jones conveniently died - he was prohibited from traveling due to drug charges), in which the Stones routinely made audiences wait for hours before taking the stage at their annointed hour, promoter Bill Graham famously characterized Mick Jagger as a selfish, self-indulgent egomaniac. He did, however, concede that on stage, "that cunt was a great performer."

There's your legacy Mick! Damnation with faint praise if ever there was. And a great potential tombstone inscription.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Random Acts of Assholery

For every action there's an equal and opposite reaction. Newton said that.

For every random act of kindness in this world, there's a random act of assholery as well. I said that.

In fact, in the last 24 hours, I've been subjected to 4 of them. All perpetrated by dog owners and sullen teen punks.

Last night as I got out of my car, I suddenly espied a clunk of dog doo right on the edge of the curb. Only a spastic triple axel spin move worthy of the Winter Olympics saved me from landing on it. Nice placement, I thought. Almost like a booby trap. I grabbed a soggy Towson Times from the stack on my porch (I never deign to bring this rag inside) and scooped the offending excrement away.

An half hour later, I got back in my car to go to the gym. On my way I encountered a moving road block in the form of four skater punks in the middle of the street, all clad in night-friendly Ninja black save for the lone neon green scrawl on one kid's t-shirt that read "Misfits." As the street urchins slowly got out of the way with their skate boards, they paid respect to their elders in the form of flipping me the bird. Ah yes, the true spirit of punk, suburban style. Privileged Rodgers Forge rebels without a clue, but with Mom and Dad's credit cards and mall-friendly attitude courtesy of the skater clothes racks at Hot Topic.

Around the very next corner another bunch of sullen suburban punks walked right out in front of my car, slowed down, took their time crossing and then also gave me the finger. I was half-way tempted to slam on the brakes, pop the trunk and grab the aluminum baseball bat there and ask them if they wanted to play Bad News Bears with me, but thinking of William Donald Schaefer's curmudgeony Old Man crankiness (he's in the news again - this time for ogling a secretary!), I decided against it. At my age I have to at least pretend that I have a certain dignity that can rise above such vulgar displays of ire. But it's hard!

Finally, as I walked out to my car this morning in my bleary-eyed pre-coffee consciousness, there were three massive piles of dog shit on my walkway, right below my front steps. They looked like a hieroglyphic, almost spelling out the symbol for Om. Again I had to grab a soggy Towson Times from the porch and scrape the shit into the birthday bag my girlfriend gave me (also on the porch because the damn thing had those annoying glitter/tinsel sparkles on it that get all over your clothes). The shit was getting closer. What's next - doggy doo on my front porch? How about right on my Welcome Mat?

That's it, I thought. If I catch some a dog owner letting their mongrel scat on my walk without cleaning it up, I will make them scoop it up - right into their mouth! Hey, it can't taste worse than those bitter Starbucks dark chocolate-covered Expresso beans. And it's almost a Baltimore tradition thanks to Divine in Pink Flamingos.

Better yet, maybe I'll save the doggie doo in my birthday bag so that I can fling it at the next bunch of rude skater punks who give me a hard time.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Random Acts of Kindness

They still exist.

Pump It Up!
Last week I went to Towson University's fitness center to torture my aching bones with a pointless exercise in futility (commonly known as a "workout") and when I returned to my car in the parking garage, someone had slipped a note under the windshield. It read:
Your left front needs abt. 10 lbs. of air...Not good for Beltway, hey? I got an auto-air pump at K-Mart for $14. Wal-Mart has them @ good price tew [sic].
- Ted

Thanks Ted! My tire was low on air, a result of me absent-mindedly driving over those stupid concrete blocks they put in some parking lots to prevent idiots like me from driving over them. God I hate those things!
I put the requisite 10 lbs. of air in them and learned that air is no longer free at gas stations (75 cents at Exxon! - no wonder they have record profits this year).

Cheers Kim!
No wonder Kim Clijsters is the WTA's most popular female tennis player. Check out this offer she made to her fans (from CBS Sportsline.com):

Clijsters to offer Champagne to fans at Diamond Games

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Kim Clijsters will offer every fan at her Diamond Games home tournament this month a bottle of Champagne to celebrate reaching the No. 1 ranking.

"Kim has taken the initiative to thank her fans," tournament organizer Bob Verbeeck said.

It could be a costly gesture for the Belgian, who won't play at the tournament because of the ankle injury that forced her to pull out of last week's Australian Open semifinals.

The Sports Palace in Antwerp can hold 10,000 fans and each bottle costs about $30 in stores. Her prize money so far this year, $226,475, should just about cover the cost.

She was to have been the main attraction at the Feb 13-19 Diamond Games tournament in Antwerp, which is played less than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from her home. She will be out for at least another seven weeks.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Dick Cheney: The Hunter Gets Captured By the Game

Dead-Eye Dick Bags a Lawyer

Ah Dick Cheney (pictured left in his warm and fuzzy "Feel the Love" guise), the Face of Armageddon, the Halliburton Boss Hog, the modern equivalent of Lionel Barrymore as mean-spirited Mr. Potter in It's a Wonderful Life...in other words, the Embodiment of Evil in America today...is in the news again for his engaging and compassionate conservative ways. By now everyone's heard about his latest gaffe, the accidental shooting of his hunting partner in Texas over the weekend. On the serious side, the most cogent words I've read on this incident involving the poster boy of the National Rifle Association were offered by David Burn of AdPost, who observed that,"When your sport involves loaded guns there is NO ROOM for a mistake of any sort, ever. Period."

And had he hit his intended avian target instead of Harry Whittington, the fun-lovin' sportsman might have inflicted this kind of NRA-worthy damage to the quail:

Is hunting a great sport or what? (It's really too bad Dick didn't do a commentary track for the nature documentary Winged Migration.)

Happiness Is A Warm Gun

On the lighter side (is there a lighter side to Dick Cheney?), the press are already taking, um, pot-shots at the Veep of Darkness, and quite rightly so. Here are some of the best that I've been sent or run across.

1. "Cheney Alert System" from Andy Dolan:


Color-coded System Would Warn Nation of Future Attacks by Veep

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced today that his department would immediately implement a "Cheney Alert" system to warn Americans if an attack by Vice President Dick Cheney is imminent.

The Department of Homeland Security has been under pressure to respond to the widespread panic and anxiety that have gripped the nation since Mr. Cheney shot and wounded a fellow quail hunter while on a hunting trip in Texas over the weekend.

Across the country, people have holed up in their homes and hoarded food and water, fearing another senseless attack by the gun-toting vice president.

"What we have learned, the hard way, is that Dick Cheney can attack without warning," Mr. Chertoff said. "It is our hope that with this Cheney Alert system we will be able to give the American people some warning before he strikes again."

The alert system, with five color-coded levels indicating the likelihood of another brutal pellet attack by the Vice President, was derided by some in Congress such as Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del), who likened it to "closing the barn door after the horses have escaped."

"The fact is, the White House already had ample warning that Dick Cheney was going to strike, and they sat on their hands and did nothing," Mr. Biden said, referring to a Presidential Daily Brief dated February 4 with the title, "Dick Cheney Determined to Strike in US."

Elsewhere, former Education Secretary William Bennett said that he was "outraged" that an NHL gambling ring has been in operation for five years and he was never invited to participate in it.

2. David Letterman's Top Ten Dick Cheney Shooting Accident Excuses:

10. "Heart palpitation caused trigger finger to spasm"

9. "Wanted to get the Iraq mess off the front page"

8. "Not enough Jim Beam"

7. "Trying to stop the spread of bird flu"

6. "I love to shoot people"

5. "Guy was making cracks about my lesbian daughter"

4. "I thought the guy was trying to go 'gay cowboy' on me"

3. "Excuse? I hit him, didn't I?"

2. "Until Democrats approve medicare reform, we have to make some tough
choices for the elderly"

1. "Made a bet with Gretzky's wife"

3. "Now It's Cheney's Turn To Duck" from Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Now it's Cheney's turn to duck
Comedians get off some pretty good shots


One errant shot later and he's Duck! Cheney.

Seldom do talk-show hosts, bloggers and comedy writers get such ready cannon fodder to begin the workweek as they did when Vice President Dick Cheney peppered a longtime benefactor with birdshot while hunting quail.

Local radio personalities, always hungry for topics, gorged on the Saturday incident.

"Everybody in broadcasting was expecting this to be the top (story) as soon as we heard it," said KIRO radio's Dave Ross, who hosts an afternoon show.

KTTH's morning talker David Boze agreed. He opened Monday with the accidental shooting in his 5 a.m.-to-9 a.m. slot.

"There was an immediate response," he said. "Most people joked -- things like, 'We didn't know hunters in Texas got a lawyer tag.' "

The blogosphere hummed all day. Versions of "Cheney's Got a Gun" led national and international Web sites. Tweaked Scotland's The Herald: "Cheney Bags a Lawyer."

And just that fast "Dead Eye Dick" became a candidate for the political humor Hall of Fame, joining such stalwarts as Dan Quayle's "potatoe," Bill Clinton's intern encounters, George H.W. Bush's lap vomit and Jimmy Carter's attack rabbit.

Newsweek's Andy Borowitz reported that the federal government had issued a color-coded "Cheney Alert" to warn of future attacks. "What we have learned, the hard way, is that Dick Cheney can attack without warning," a faux Homeland Security boss Michael Chertoff declared.

Leno and Letterman writers were locked and loaded, of course.

David Letterman: "But here is the sad part -- before the trip Donald Rumsfeld had denied the guy's request for body armor."

Jay Leno: "The weather back East has been atrocious. There was so much snow in Washington, D.C., Dick Cheney accidentally shot a fat guy thinking it was a polar bear."

On Craigslist one satirical posting had Cheney blaming the shooting on "faulty intelligence" and contributors on another forum -- mostly serious -- wondered why it took the White House 22 hours to release the information.

Local blogger David Goldstein, on his www.horsesass.org Web site, wrote that Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean's recent comparison of Cheney to former Vice President Aaron Burr turned out to be prescient. Burr was the last second-in-command to shoot someone while in office.

"Burr, as us history buffs well know, shot and killed fellow founding father Alexander Hamilton on July 11, 1804, in Weehawken, N.J., in the most famous duel in American history."

By Monday evening, Goldstein's posting had 161 responses. The 42-year-old said he knew the shooting would bring traffic, even if it won't have much of a shelf life.

When he heard about the accident, he first checked to see if the victim, Harry Whittington, a 78-year-old lawyer, was OK. When he found out the man was in stable condition, it was, um, open season.

"What about the nature of the hunting trip?" he asked in an interview. "Those hunting lodges where they raise the birds are the avian equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. You could do this at a zoo. The guy (Cheney) just likes to kill things.

"(Hitting Whittington) was probably more sporting than the shooting of the birds."

Few likely were happier about the news -- and the victim's generally good condition -- than the writers of Comedy Central's mock news program, "The Daily Show." Too busy with the bounty to answer questions, the show's producers instead sent along an advance copy of Monday night's script.

Host Jon Stewart: "For more on the story, let's go out to correspondent Ed Helms, who is live in Corpus Christie, Texas. Ed?"

Helms: "Jon, I'm here at the hospital where Austin lawyer and Republican fund-raiser Harry Whittington is in stable condition after being shot by Vice President Dick Cheney during a weekend quail-hunting expedition. ... I'll be here all day with continuous coverage of how Vice President Dick Cheney shot a 78-year-old man in the face after he mistook him for a small bird."

Even politicians took aim, including the head of Cheney's home state. Offered Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal: "I would be proud to hunt with the vice president -- cautious, but proud."

4. Freedom of Choice: But Do I Have To Choose?

The Last Temptation of Tom Warner

In Sunday's New York Times, there was an article on some maverick advertising maven that quoted Apple's famous 1997 "Think Different" ad campaign - you know, the one with pix of Einstein, Picasso, Bob Dylan (there's even a recent campaign that puts The Thong and Kissing Lesbians alongside these greats!):

Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes - the ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them. About the only thing that you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things.

Think Diffident
This quote, a credo for Free Thinkers, explains perfectly why I have never succeeded in the business world. In fact, it's probably the anti-Mission Statement for my current municipal job where Status Quo is the Golden Calf that all prostrate themselves before, where blind obeisance to The Chain of Command is the altar on which all free thought and innovation is sacrificed. Think Diffident is the cattle call of these lemmings.

We Can Be Heroes
I admire people who live up to this Apple Credo of Intellectual Emancipation. I never had the courage of my convictions to be like these people. If I had, I would have ditched my day jobs and pursued writing, filmmaking, or broadcasting full time. Instead, I compromised, like my friend Lumpy. We took secure 9-5 jobs in fields that didn't excite us, getting our kicks doing what we wanted - making music, producing videos - as spare-time hobbies.

But I have known some intrepid souls who went for the gold, pursuing their interests at great risk to their financial stability and livelihood. Like Skizz Cyzyk (pictured left), who never compromised himself in the pursuit of making music and films, never taking a job that would intefere with his twin passions. And Martha Colburn, a latter-day saint of indie filmmaking willing to live like a squatter while pursuing her muse. And Scott Huffines (pictured right), founder of the original Atomic Books, who ditched a secure, well-paying gig with the State because he was bored out of his mind with the daily drudgery of it all and wanted to immerse himself in the the world of zines, alternative books and the fledgling World Wide Web. (These days Scott is inspired by performance artist Cornmo, who he calls the new Tyler Durden (of Fight Club fame). See Cornmo rant about "quiting your crappy job and following your dreams and sticking it to the man," then break into "We Are The Champions" by Queen: Cornmo Rant.)

Follow That Dream!

Anyway, last night I had a dream that seemed directly linked to the Apple Credo. In it, I had the chance to leave my secure, grounded world and take a chance to be a gypsy, a wanderer. The people in the dream were a bunch of hippies and bohemians I knew back in college - the last period in one's life when you're totally free, away from parental control and the discipline of headmasters, free to find out who you are and what you want to study and do with your life, free to goof off before you have to go to work (or put off work by going to Grad School!) - in the 70s, when Hippies still roamed the Earth in their pre-Phish form.

I remember my friend Jazz was in it, and some of his hippie girlfriends (how fondly I remember going skinny dipping with them when we broke into my high school swimming pool!). They were hanging out with my in my house, where I was chained to my possessions. Everyone loved all my books, and magazines, and kitsch items. We watched movies, listened to music, etc.

Freedom's Just Another Name for Nothing Left to Lose (Or Leave Behind!)
But every time they were ready to hit the road and live like gypsies with no possessions, I balked. I couldn't figure what to take with me. There was always something I was afraid to leave behind. And clothes. How could I commit, like them, to only wearing one set of clothes and living in it, forever. I couldn't do it. I had to pick out several pants, shirts, vests, jackets - summer and winter wardrobes -I was carrying a Creature Comforts Chimera on my back and I couldn't shake it! Even the lure of sex, the two hippie girls, wasn't enough. A fastidious believer in personal grooming, I was afraid that I'd have to lug along my toiletry kit and blow-dryer for the Pachouli-scented hippie girls to find me attractive.

No wonder I never get drunk and avoid drugs. I'm a control freak who can't let go and take a risk. This was the last temptation of Tom Warner to free myself from conformity and the Rat Race and follow the Pied Piper of Footloose and Fancy Free Abandon. And I couldn't do it.

And I didn't have sex with the two hippies chicks either. This constitutes a bad dream. All tease, no appease.

...the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Nostalgia For An Age Yet To Come

J.K. Huysman once wrote that when the period in which one is "condemned to live" is dull and stupid (kinda like, um, now! - an age in which Reality TV rules the airwaves, Bush gets elected not once but twice, and oil addicts-in-denial are allowed to drive Hummers while lamenting our dependence on the Middle East and the high price of gasoline), "the artist is haunted, perhaps unknown to him, by a nostalgic yearning for another age."

I'm no artist, and I'm no schoolboy, but I know what I like...and lately I can relate. In the past several months I have repeatedly kept turning inward and backyard in my readings, viewing, and listening. Why, just this week I picked up two copies of the great British music mag MOJO, the ones devoted to The Who and The Kinks, both including 15-track CDs of contempo artists covering their respective Townshend and Davies-penned songs (the latter highlighted by Steve Wynn's psychedelic cover of Kinks rarity "This Strange Effect" and The Fountains of Wayne's power-poppy "Better Things.")

The week before, I picked up the Rolling Stones singles compilation box set, The London Years, because - though I am certainly on record as detesting Mick Swagger and the latter-day musical self-indulgence of these runner-ups (to the Beatles, of course, among other great British Invasion groups like the Who and Kinks, the latter of whom also enjoyed some longevity comparable to the Stones - 1961-1996 isn't too shabby a reign for the Kinks, eh?) - I grew up on those Stones R&B singles in the 60s and really dig some of those neglected nuggets on their B-sides like "Sad Day," "Off the Hook," and especially "The Singer Not the Song," which observes, nostalgically:
The same old places and the same old songs
We've been going there for far too long

Or not long enough...Yes, there's a certain security in the familiar, like Linus's blanket, for we aging Baby Boomers. My God, they've even brought Tab back (some say it never went away!), in the form of Tab Energy (3 times the caffeine plus a skinnier can designed to look more like a cannister of Red Bull, I guess).

And Hollywood movies? It's long been established that the Boomers have tried to remake every TV show of their youth, all to absolutely horrible affect, from Bewitched to Leave It To Beaver to Richie Rich to Little Rascals to Fat Albert, and so on and so on.

TV commercials, especially those for cars, seem to thrive on recovered musical memories of Boomer's formative years in the 60s and 70s. "Picture Book" by the Kinks drives that HP camera ad, anoter HP ad digs up late 70s New Wavers The Speedies performing "Let Me Take Your Foto," and so on. And how many damn ads use Iggy's "Lust For Life"?

This week, when I went to sell some CDs at CD Depot in Towson, I almost instantly invested in buying back my youth in the form of purchasingthe back catalogues of bands no longer in existence. I bought an Undertones singles compilation that I only had on vinyl, an Undertones DVD documentary produced by the late, great by John Peel, some Blondie records, a New York Punk compilation with tunes by lesser known scene makers like Mink Deville and The Mumps, and the great Wayne/Jayne County circa The Backstreet Boys.

The last couple of books I've read have been looks back too, a couple of Dylan bios, a Kinks book, two Rolling Stones bios, a Beatles book, and so on. I'm even thinking of going to see a Beatles tribute band play at Bobby B's in Essex!

When will it end? Will my last words be like Charles Kane's, as he mouths "Rosebud..."? Only for me it'll no doubt be Lenny Kaye's "Nuggets..." or "Rubber Soul."

Related Links:
Nostalgia Central

Thursday, February 09, 2006

True Love = ))<>((

With that dreaded commercial holiday Valentine's Day fast approaching, I tried to think of some sentiments about the day that didn't make me gag. And all I could come up with, when musing about L-U-V, was a line from Miranda July's film You and Me and Everyone We Know. In this film about the search for meaningful relationships in a disconnected world, 7-year-old Robby (played by 7-year-old Brandon Ratcliff) is exploring Internet chatrooms and, in over his head with a flirtatious adult chatter, is asked what would like to do with her. Not knowing about sex, he thinks up something truly outlandish.

"You poop into my butt hole and I poop into your butt hole ... back and forth ... forever." - Robby

Robby signs off with the symbol of his sentiment: ))<>((

What a concept! Back and forth forever. What a way of saying "I love you"! Ah, from the mouth of babes come words of wisdom! Amazingly, the film's official Web site sells t-shirts with this infamous sentiment and symbol. My girlfriend likes to repeat this line as a testament to our undying commitment to each other (*blush*). I think that qualifies Miranda July's film as a romantic comedy.

All I know is, I find ))<>(( to be a far more passionate paen to the otherwise entirely arbitrary, shallow, unimaginative, and commerce-driven concept of Romance we celebrate with the holiday called "Valentine's Day".

Though I will, hypocritically, still go out and buy my significant other the requisite maudlin card, sweet saturated fats, and, possibly, even risque lingerie. Because, at heart, I am basically a coward.

))<>(( Related Links:
Buy the Shirt!
Back and Forth Forever (Great blog review of You and Me and Everyone We Know)

Say No To VD!: Anti-Valentine's Day Links
Be My Anti-Valentine
Alternative Sweet Hearts
Anti-Valentine's Day Central
12 Steps for Anti-Daters
Love Sucks Month

Ivan Brunetti: Heart of Darkness

I stopped by Atomic Books last night to pick up the long-awaited issue #4 of Schizo (published by Fantagraphics Books) by my favorite black-hearted comic artist, Ivan Brunetti. I actually met Mr. Brunetti years ago at DC's Small Press Expo, and interviewed him for my public access TV show, ATOMIC TV (Brunetti appeared with a John Goodman Flintstones movie edition doll that he had modified to look like a Mini-Brunetti, replete with glasses, beard and trademark vest!). Brunetti is brilliant, an incredibly well-read, well-versed, well-dressed, talented artist but the reason I love him is his heart of darkness. No one is as cynical, morose or despairing as Brunetti, who is even more miserable than Doestoyesky's Underground Man, more bitter than Ambrose Bierce, more loathing of humanity than Pol Pot He even told me that his name literally translates in Italian as "little shit-brown man." Yes, Brunetti is one of those textbook pessismists who sees Bobbitt's penis as being half off rather than half on. But he's also amazingly funny (albeit in an Abyss staring back at you kind of way)!

To understand Brunetti, one need only look at his worship of Charles Schulz, who he considered the "Brando of Comics". For everything you need to know about Mr. B is in Peanuts, the comic strip he calls an "epic haiku." In his mind it redefined newspaper strips by bringing a psychological depth and raw emotion to the funnies. In his front-cover strip for Schizo #4, "Wither Shermy?" (Shermy was an early Peanuts character and a boy of firsts - he spoke the first line of dialogue in the debut strip and played first base on the baseball team), Brunetti waxes poetic on Schulz and his strip, calling his humor "at once tender, melancholy, joyous and savage" and lauding Peanuts for its redefinition of the "gag strip" in which jokes are often replaced with "merely a lingering sense of pain or sadness." No better words could be used to describe Brunetti's own work. But in place of Charlie Brown ducking as a baseball flies over his head on the pitcher's mound or falling on his back as Lucy once again pulls the football away from him during a field kick, substitute a panel showing Ivan Brunetti blowing his brains out or dangling from a noose. And then having someone piss or shit on his decaying corpse! (Did I mention he's dark? Darker than Turkish coffee?)

Schizo #4 shows the depth of the despair in Brunetti's depressing world view. In Schizo issues 1-3 he obsessed over his soured marriage and hellish divorce while he eked out a living as a freelance illustrator and comic book artist. These days, he lives with his two cats and an antique mannequin named Iris while working as a Web designer (which he describes in his Website bio as being "a cruel irony of fate for this hermit-like, nostalgic Luddite"). And his relationship with the world has gotten even worse, if that's imaginable. His strips in Schizo #4 show the effects of his increasing withdrawal from the oustide world into the safety of the nostalgic past, with celebrity bio strips dedicated to such ill-fated, lonely, or misunderstood idols as Louis Brooks, Francois Hardy, Erik Satie, Val Lewton, Soren Kierkegaard, Piet Mondrian, and nasty French misanthrope Joris-Karl Huysmans.

The recurring motif throughout all the Schizo strips is the plight of the artist to die poor and unrecognized in today's cultural Babylon, the agony of unrequited love, the torment of over-analysis, and, as one strip is entitled, "The Horror of Simply Being Alive." Brunetti seems to be constantly at battle with himself, despising his "bumbling, corpulent mass," plagued by fear and self-doubt, unable to get through work days without "happy pills" or sleepless nights without alcohol or thoughts of suicide. Even when he writes that he finds himself having sex with "the most beautiful girl in the world," he can't enjoy the moment, whining "Of course, I dread the moment when the relationship will implode...better not let myself get too happy."

Don't worry Ivan, that'll never happen! Even though the word is that he's getting married again, it's doubtful that the institution of matrimony will change his world view (at least, not going by his starter marriage!).

I'm just a little afraid of how much Brunetti and I have in common. He loves stupid Sanrio products, the Marx Brothers, Francois Hardy, Frank Capra, and pornography just like me. But we draw the line at his obsession with Drew Barrymore. I can handle gag panels of characters guzzling AIDS-infected blood, but Drew worship? I'll never be that sick!

Related Links:
Ivan Brunetti's Website
Atomic Books
Fantagraphics Books
2002 Chicago Artists of the Year - Ivan Brunetti (City Pages)
Suicide Girls Interview
Comic Book Galaxy Interview