Saturday, February 14, 2009

Better than a Valentine's Day Box of Candy

An irate female once told me that men don’t need women to dance around poles as much as they need to be hit upside the head by them. I think that blind date cost me four stitches. I was only asking...

For all those female readers out there in the New England area who secretly dream of dancing exotically around chairs, poles, and other upright items found around the home, let me introduce you to Wendy Reardon’s Gypsy Rose Dance Studio in Boston -- the only establishment of its ilk in that part of the country. Today, Wendy is offering a Valentine’s Day special for all women who find themselves currently single and bitter, and who would rather one day shake their booty at future men-folk in their lives, rather than simply shaking their fists.

I met Wendy when she first came out to Los Angeles years ago to try her luck at writing scripts for Hanna-Barbera and other animation studios. Wendy always had a unique way of presenting her ideas. She would never sit in a chair so much as walk around and climb all over it. Not realizing that she was already looking towards her next career move, I thought she had St. Vitus Dance. One time she walked into my office and straddled my couch. To this day, I don't remember whether she was pitching a show about cute lemurs or bent femurs.

In between all the wiggling and giggling and her dancing, prancing and eyeball-enhancing moves, Wendy went on to get a Master's Degree in Medieval History. She knows more about the lives and deaths of the Popes than all of those guys running around The Da Vinci Code. Wendy has one scholarly work out in the marketplace already: It is far too erudite for me. Instead, I purchased her book on exotic dancing. I can't do any of the moves, but the pictures look far better tacked onto my refrigerator door than a stack of unpaid bills.

The next time I'm in Boston, I plan to visit Wendy's studio. Who knows what sort of animation ideas she has come up over the years since tackling this rigorous form of exercise? I guarantee that 50% of the population over the age of thirteen would watch it even if it involved dancing femurs and bent lemurs.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lincoln and Darwin: Two great men together again for the First Time

On this date 200 years ago, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born. Talk about less than six degrees of separation between me and these two great men: Darwin wrote about man's linkage with simians; Lincoln’s critics called our 16th President, the Great Ape. I worked for Hanna-Barbera. They're humans. Hanna-Barbera created the Grape Ape. I love that show!

I don't buy this nonsense that man personally evolved from monkeys. Monkeys are far too smart and understand the ecology of waste management much more so than us human people. Anyway, most of us are far closer to being a horse's ass than a monkey's uncle.

I am so happy that Ross Altman wrote this song. It means I don't have to come up with anything witty to say about either Lincoln or Darwin today. As you can see from my first two paragraphs, I don't know anything about either man except that both had two names, bushy beards, and the ability to enrage millions of people with their words and deeds.

I do know a little more about Lincoln than I do about Darwin. I've driven in his car. I've passed through his town. I've read the play he was watching the night of his assassination at Ford's Theatre. (Until Eugene O'Neill came along, this sort of melodramatic claptrap was the apex of dramatic theatre in America.) I even memorized The Gettysburg Address as a high schooler, something kids were required to do back then to prove that public school education was about more than smoking cigarettes in the bathroom and attending Friday night football games at Breese Stevens Field.

Isn't that video the weirdest thing? Not the animated Lincoln, but how the synchronization makes it look like a poorly dubbed Chinese martial arts movie? It's that kind of thought process that made me into a C student.

Monday night, February 16th, I will be watching The History Channel's "Stealing Lincoln's Body." It's one of those odd chapters in American History that few kids know about because no one has been able to download it yet on ITunes.

Virtual animation apparently can now bring Lincoln to life to the point where he now looks more and more like Royal Dano, the voice behind Disneyland's Main Street Opera House's animatronic, "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln." Incidentally, Disney never one to miss a great PR opportunity, has had that exhibit closed since 2005 while it continues to show some self congratulatory 50th anniversary film about the Park. I wonder what Walt would think?

Since I do not want to slight Charles Darwin on his birthday, perhaps a primer on how evolution works for the layman is in order. I've watched it already and I still don't quite understand natural selection. But then again, I also pick up food off the floor that's been there for more than five seconds and I'm still around. I guess that makes me evidence of survival of the most foolish.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Amy Winfrey Makes It Look So Fiendishly Easy

Amy Winfrey's Making Fiends

My art skills are on par with those of a groundhog. I can neither draw a circle with a compass nor a straight line with a ruler. Even my stick figures look fat and out of shape. Most of my adult life, I've worked around animators and designers who've make it clear that their talents are God-given and not man-made. This makes me feel very bad about myself until these very same artists allow me to bask in their brilliance by taking them out to lunches and dinners.

I'm also tone deaf, color-blind, knock-kneed and pigeon-toed, physical attributes that have not helped my animation abilities or my profile on eHarmony. However, I do know what I like when it comes to twisted cartoon humor. Amy Winfrey's Making Fiends is a series of web toons brilliantly perverse in its simplicity of design and structure. The writing and music are subversive in their guilelessness. The series is now a deserved hit on NICKTOONS.

Why do I bring all of this up? Recently some addlepated, mutton-headed, snot-nosed son of a friend of mine wanted to know what I thought of his animation web toon. I told him it was rough, crude, and unfunny. He told me that anyone who fluffs up his chest hairs, wears polyester, and still listens to Loverboy on an eight-track can't be trusted to know anything. I referred him to Amy's website if he wanted to actually learn something. Last I heard, his father was forking over major bucks to get this kid into a school where they teach students how to draw stuff other than a beer.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Run, Rabbit: Dick and Jane for a Homeschooling World

Image source: Fun with Dick and Jane: A Commemorative Collection of Stories. San Francisco: Collins Publishers, 1996

Generations of American children learned their ABCs using the Dick and Jane readers. Perhaps that's why most of us still write in complete sentences of no more than three words before all grammatical hell breaks loose. The books' pictures were simple; the animals dishearteningly cute; and the kids were all whiter than the Dover Cliffs. I just wish my mother had not thrown out my primers. Untouched editions sell quite well on eBay.

Leave it to the British to come up with an updated version of Dick and Jane. Their humour, unlike ours, is so disturbing and violent, it is shocking no empire ever developed from their skewered view of humanity.

For more information about Run Wrake and "Rabbit," read the PingMag interview or visit Wrake's website.