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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Redneck Cheese, Mother In Law's Mustard, and a Chair Named Charlie Chaplin

I've purchased a share in a local organic farm. This means I have to find something to do with eleven pounds of organic vegetables every week. First pickup is today, and I'm expecting to put all the beets into the juicer. Funny how I never liked beets until they were juiced--or made into Ukrainian borscht. That is really yummy.

Of course Ukrainian borscht is not really do-able if you are a vegetarian. I've decided to forego the meat this summer for ethical as well as practical reasons. One: It is easy to eat vegetables in the summer. B. You don't need to cook as much,and I have neither the time nor the inclination to cook in summer. C. Maybe it makes you thinner. Did you ever see a fat vegetable?

Now there is a problem with eleven pounds of veg per week; it's a lot for one person to eat. Well, I decided (being a Socialist at heart) to approach my upstairs neighbors and suggest that if I bought the vegetables and they cooked them, we could split the dinners. It saves me the problem of cooking and them the problem of buying the veg. All of this produce is organic and it's going to be about fifty per cent cheaper than going to the market. Even I could do the math.

Well the neighbors are currently in Uganda looking at bonobo chimps, also known as the "Horniest Apes on Earth". (excepting humans?) I call them the apes that would rather Make Love than War. They are the original Party Animals. People in zoos complain about their behaviour and ask the zoos to make them stop (they don't come with a parental approval button, though they have tried literally all the others). Monique is studying aggressive behaviour in bonobos. This is like studying the popularity of McDonald's Burgers in a Hindu community, I told her. No, it seems that there is aggression in bonobo populations; else why would they need to prevent it, or apologize for it, with hot monkey love?

So they're in Africa for another week and a half. I have been catsitting for Jacques, Soleil and Luna, aka the Three Beach Balls, upstairs. The big one would make three of Gizmo; the smaller ones easily weigh fifty per cent more than she does.

But when they're back we'll have the world's smallest food co-op here. Everyone seems to think it is a good idea. Monique is a good cook with vegetables. I can do it too but would rather just keep working on my drawings...especially since I may be doing a lot more of them.

Anyway, this farm share doesn't include fruit, so I went to the market today to see what was there. Lo and behold, amidst all the imported California stuff was genuine New York state strawberries, asparagus, and apples. You have to be very careful at this particular market since a lot of people are not local farmers, just truckers selling stuff outside the supermarket venues.

But the local people are great. There are lots of Amish people selling cheese and cake and bread and honey. One boy asked me whether my bicycle was expensive. I said no, it just was a nice looking machine. Amish kids cannot ride them.

There are lots of surprises at this market...I found a Russian man selling halavah and bought a block. Halavah, when fresh, is a delight. When it is stale it is like eating a stack of old newspapers covered with sugar. This was fresh.

The Russian also had mustard in a jar with a sour-looking old babushka on the label. "What does the lettering say?" I asked. "Is strong--like mother-in law!" the man replied. I bought the mustard for the label and will see if I can scan it--it's hilarious.

Then there was the farmer selling Red Neck Cheese. This is not cheese with a poor education. The cheese rind is a reddish color since it is 'washed'. I don't know what that is, but I know that it is delicious. This was the best American cheese I've had in a great many years; quite as good as anything from Europe.

For breakfast I went to the large cheese shop that sells European cheese. They have a special breakfast with goat cheese and egg and ham on a bagel. I get it with goat cheese and tapenade instead (My own invention, and it's a lot easier to eat; they charge less as well, probably out of pity.) The chair I sat in had the name CHARLIE CHAPLIN printed boldly on the back. Next time I shall have to ask why.

Simple pleasures are geniuine ones. I'd rather mess around in the farmer's market and play with my cat than go to the multiplex to see most of the new movies today.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Revenge of the Cartoons

It's been announced on Jerry Beck's Cartoon Brew that John Musker and Ron Clements' THE FROG PRINCESS has been greenlit. It will be produced in hand drawn cartoon animation.

I'm happy that the guys are back at Disney. That's really 'home' for them. It should be fun to hear about the development on the project (it's THE FROG PRINCESS, but the setting is highly unusual.)

Meanwhile I'm still staggering along on the book illustrations. Coming down the home stretch and something else possibly will need to be done in the same time period so I need more stamina or perhaps an extra 'me'. It is a busy summer.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

It's Got One More D

I was just sent a link to an online site that posted an article on why drawn storyboards were obsolete.
A second article countered the argument. Very well, too.

The mindset that 'everything can be done with a computer' is not correct. It's not even something that is worth arguing about. It's a lot cheaper to work out ideas on paper before using an expensive machine to work it up in three dimensions. Why is it necessary to keep restating the obvious?

My colleague John Van Vliet once drew a cartoon showing a ponytailed producer talking to an artist at a computer terminal. The producer says, "And I want my entire project in 3D! It's much better than 2D!"

The artist replies, "Why is it better?"

The producer responds with a beatific smile. "It's got ONE MORE 'D'!"

the artist thinks "Cheer up. Someday geeks will inherit the earth."

John swears that this conversation actually occurred.

Hopefully, the truth will out.

Monday, June 19, 2006

tribute to thomas nast

This image of skyrocketing interest rates and 'credit card mountains' pays tribute to Thomas Nast's caricature 'THE BRAINS'.

The first image shows 'credit card addiction' with varying interest rates on the bottles. I had to ask my friends the value of the 'most expensive poker chip!' The idea of gambling with the house was my own.

The second cartoon shows the different rates of interest on three classes: rich, middle class and poor. The idea was Dr. Manning's. He also suggested the brilliant touch of having the refrigerator crushing the poor woman. I added the silly name on the diaper bag.


RIT is 12 miles from my house and the public transportation is erratic (I usually take it to go home since it's more important to 'be there on time' than to get home at a certain time, though Gizmo might disagree with me here.)

I found a lady from the Business school who lived nearby and who was willing to carpool. We would commute each morning and return most evenings.

One day there were bags of popcorn--big ones--piled in the back seat. "Party?" I asked. "Screening," she replied. "It's a new documentary on credit card debt based on a book by Doctor Manning; we are viewing a work in progress."

I asked if I could attend this screening. My class couhad lab work that afternoon so I took off and viewed the work print IN DEBT WE TRUST , a film by Daniel Schechter.

Before I get to the rest of the article, let me tell you to GO SEE THIS MOVIE. It was one of the most important documentaries I've seen in years. There's no distributor yet but there will be a screening somewhere in Upstate New York (Rochester?) on July 4. The response in Nantucket (where it premiered at the veddy veddy tony film fest there) was outstanding, with two sold-out screenings.)

anyway when I saw the work pic I noticed that there were slugs inserted for 'animation'. I also noticed that my good friend Nenad Bach was doing the background music!

I spoke with Dr. Robert Manning after the screening and asked whether he was looking for an animator. He was. When was his wrap date? Two weeks from now. "You will never get animation finished in this amount of time, but you WILL be able to use illustrations!" I told him. I then volunteered to do them myself. after writing to Nenad, who told me that it was a great picture and he'd recommend me to his friend Daniel Schechter.

The upshot of the deal was that I spoke with Daniel Schechter about what sort of illustrations he wanted; explained that it was really too late for animation; drew up a bunch of roughs and showed them to Mr. Schechter and Doctor Manning ; both suggested changes and so I drew up a mess of political cartoons for this film and for the upcoming website--my first in years and the only ones published. I always wanted to be a political cartoonist but never had the fire in the belly that a Thomas Nast or a C. D. Batchelor or Vaughn Shoemaker did. I am not a devotee of the 'ha ha funny' school of political cartooning that is popular today; I prefer the older guys to just about everyone working today. There is nothing funny about politics today!

Since I've spent my entire career doing 'funny stuff' there is an element of comedy in these drawings. But I was never more serious in my life.

Two of the drawings are in the film, the rest are to be used on the upcoming website, and two more will appear as illustrations in PREPARE TO BOARD.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Book News

MEANWHILE BACK AT THE RANCH: The school year ended with a terrific show from the RIT animation students. Focal Press editor Paul Temme made a special trip to Rochester to see the program and it did not disappoint him. I like to show that my 'methods' actually work, and so student work illustrates some of the exercises.
All the negative examples are mine. I'm having a lot of fun messing with storybook characters such as the Three Bears and the Three Little Pigs.

Summer arrived this week; it's well over ninety outside though a nice breeze from the lake makes it not too intolerable. Worse weather will arrive later. The apartment has special curtains that help reflect the heat, so I'm prepared for the inevitable brownouts.

My own student film showed at the Museum of Modern art at the beginning of the month. I also invited friends, spent too much money, and showed the RIT seniors' work to a number of people and also to the curator of the new Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in SoHo. Their current show, SHE DRAWS COMICS, is curated by noted historian Trina Robbins. It features original comic art by women cartoonists such as Edwina Dumm, Grace Drayton, and Dale Messick who were famous in their day and are not given their proper due in most comic histories. This museum has no shingle or sign outside and it's a must-see in lower Manhattan. Go to see this show!
A new book on the female NEW YORKER cartoonists, FUNNY LADIES, has just been published. I had no idea that "Sher Mund" was shorthand for Barbara Shermund. It's also a crying shame that there were many female cartoonists in the original New Yorker but their number greatly declined in the Sixties.
I've decided that there should be a certain percentage of female artists in my book since I'm fed up to the back teeth with the guy-centrism that is even more apparent in animation than it is in comics; a comic artist can publish her own book, but a female animator must work on a project with other artists, the vast majority of whom are male. Quick, name a female animation director. --Thought so. (Yvette Kaplan and Jun Falkenstein come to mind in the USA. Europe does better; Joanna Quinn makes wonderful films and there are other female directors on the Continent.

So I have a few artistic contributions from Nina Paley, Nina Haley (no relation), and RIT students Brittney Lee, Kimberly Miner and Sarah Kropiewnicki. And of course there's my stuff all over the place.

The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art will host RIT in a special animation show this fall! The curator was impressed enough with the works I showed to suggest that a student make a presentation; and I believe we can arrange to get one of this year's seniors who has to come back for one more class (for some reason) in the fall term. I'm going to recommend showing maquettes and color work as well; we can 'have wall space' which means it might not be a one day's presentation. This will be excellent publicity for the school's animation program and the museum. I'll write more about it when it actually gets scheduled.

I don't know if we'll be able to have a book signing there too in January when PREPARE TO BOARD is published, but I wouldn't mind it. Right now it's more important to get the student work in front of the public. There are some excellent films to choose from and by no means all are senior projects.