Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Obama's Mandate: Two Views

"[Obama's] case was a clear and bold statement of the need for sustained public investment and leadership to move us into the future with new energy, reform of our broken health care system, and provision of a world class education from birth to a career for every child."

Robert L. Borosage

"If he can keep us all from fighting over food scraps in restaurant dumpsters in the next four years, he will have done a good job."

Marc Maron

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Doghouse is dead, Long live the Doghouse

As somebody who mostly works alone with my own head for company, I depend on talk radio and podcasts for my sanity. I got hooked on the JV & Elvis rado show when they were at Howard Stern's old station in New York, where they came after a long successful run in the Bay Area. JV (on the left) was fast and funny, and he impressd me by not trying to take cheap shots at Stern. I got to know them a little by emailing cartoons to the studio, and they were really cool to me.

I always felt that these guys could have successfully taken over Stern's legacy, and if they'd been given a shot ahead of Opie & Anthony, Adam Carolla or (gah) David Lee Roth perhaps they would have, but as it was they were buried in a midday shift. What's worse, they happened to be working for the same corporate parent as Imus in 2007, and they became a casualty of the first pressure group to hitch a ride on Al Sharpton's showboating ass. They won a judgement for wrongful firing, but the damage to their careers was done. They took the settlement money and launched an internet radio venture, but the pressure took its toll on their partnership, which ended live, on camera, in an astonishing two-hour fight.

I kept checking in as JV ran the website on his own, putting up blogs and YouTube videos and generally keeping up a brave face. This week, almost two years after getting fired, he starts doing mornings back at his old station in SF, and I can finally listen to him on a daily basis again. I'll be streaming the show from the station's website, and I look forward to regularly bombarding him with cartoons once again.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The world's saddest-looking android

Governer Schwartzenegger's budget woes apparently now far outstrip those of Gray Davis. Which after all were what motivated the recall election that put Arnold in office in the first place. Who's the girlie man now, Arnold?

If Californians were so determined to elect the Terminator, they should have thought about Robert Patrick from T2. Because at least he would have known how to stay liquid. ZING!!! I got a million of 'em!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Classix Nouveaux

Today I'd like to take you back to a magical, forgotten time, a time we called the "Eighties".

This was a time when MTV used to show these things called "videos", which were like these short films that promoted this thing called the "music industry". And the way it worked was, you would watch these videos, and that's how you decided which music you were going to "purchase".

I guess I'm not very metal for having thought this was cool, but I just dig the hell out of this crazy nut. As rock gimmicks go, "Transvestite Nosferatu playing a mirrored Gibson Explorer" is pretty much irresistible to me.

My daughter saw me working on an earlier version of one of these drawings, and decided to help me out with it:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Jason and the Final Girl

Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween

Bunche had a post on his feelings about the new Friday the 13th reboot, which sent me scurrying around the nets reading all about the series. (Weird fact about me: I'm often more interested in reading about movies than in taking the time to sit down and watch them.) Thanks to good ol' Wikipedia, I learned about the theory of the "Final Girl", the last survivor of a typical slasher film, usually a female who conforms to a certain set of characteristics. Partly due to derivative scripting, no doubt, but even higher-caliber stuff like Alien and Silence of the Lambs fits the model very closely.

What I found really interesting in the theory is that the audience identification shifts over the course of the movie. The typical (male) audience for a slasher film more or less starts out identifying with the killer in a vicarious way. But by the last reel the audience is usually persuaded to shift focus to the "final girl", and root for her to defeat the killer. It's a feminist theory, and there's supposedly all these gender politics associated with the shift in identification from male killer to female victim (The killer is a male whose masculinity is in crisis, the final girl is a viginal type who becomes "masculinized" through taking up a phallic weapon, yadda yadda yadda). But I think it really demonstrates something fundamental about the three-act dramatic structure. It shows how the third act of a film is a very different animal from the first act.

The first act of the film belongs to the killer, because the killer is the 'gimmick', the hook that gets you into the theater. The gimmick is what usually dominates the first act, no matter what kind of movie it is--serial killer, spaceships, Indian TV game show, what have you. But it's our nature that the gimmick isn't enough to sustain our interest for the run time of a film--even a film with expectations as low as that of a "Friday the 13th" film. Unless you're a hard-core fan of the genre, your interest is going to start to wane by the end of act one. We start to fatigue of the cheap thrills, therefore dramatic complications have to set in that can persuade us to stick around for act two. By the time we're in act three, we've become invested in the character drama, as thin a gruel as that might be.

What this means is that even in a cheap slasher film, we demand some kind of character arc. We demand identification with a character with recognizable vulnerabilities, who experiences fear and uncertainty that we can relate to, and who grows and evolves in order to overcome an apparently insurmountable challenge. As awesome as the crazed killer might be, he's too one-dimensional to carry the audience identification past act one. At least 'til the next sequel.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Gratuitous nudity

What can I tell you. Sometimes gratuitous nudity is what you feel like drawing. Don't judge! You can't judge me! I AM AS GOD MADE ME!!! (Bursts into tears, covers face, runs from room weeping.)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Vomit Comet

No need to get into too many details to set this up: long story short, the other night on the New York State Thruway my three-year-old took a half a bite of rest-stop pizza and promptly threw up everything in the world all over everything in sight. I had to use whatever I could find lying around the car to mop up her seat, and create something she could sit on to ride the rest of the way without completely freaking out.

After getting home and getting the kids down, I break down the car seat and haul her clothes and all the detritus to a laundromat, figuring it’s better to do it in an industrial machine rather than sully my wife’s most treasured possession. I get there just in time for last wash, and later as I’m hauling stuff out of the dryer I notice the laundry lady eyeing me sideways. What is her problem, I’m wondering?

And that's the moment where I had one of those beautiful moments of clarity where I was able to stand outside of the situation, free of all egoic illusions, and see what I looked like at that moment to the eyes of the world: I’m a slightly sketchy-looking guy who’s showed up in the middle of the night at a laundromat he’s never visited in his life, without so much as a laundry bag, carrying under his arm a bunch of questionable items including but not limited to: a small rug, a sheet and pillowcase that don’t match, some odd-looking straps that do god knows what, and oh yeah, at that exact second I’m holding in my hands a little girl’s underwear.

Someday I might look back and wonder when exactly it was that my dignity and I parted ways for good, and I'm thinking this might be it.