Saturday, July 04, 2015

CARICATURES OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS

It's the Fourth of July and what could be a more appropriate for a cartoonist's blog than funny caricatures of the American founding fathers? Unfortunately I set out to find caricatures that were both funny and respectful, which I realized too late was a contradiction of terms. Oh, well...I hope my respect and gratitude for these great men will show through none the less.  


The holiday also prompts me to think of the soldiers who gave their lives during the War of Independence. More than the battles I think of the torturous Winter spent at Valley Forge. I can't even imagine what that must have been like.


Those brave soldiers did that so that people like me could could freely elect our own government and could say whatever we like in venues like this blog. A few of those soldiers survived long enough to be photographed in their old age. I'll see if I can find the pictures.


Here's George Washington. He deserves to be at the top of the list rather than the bottom, but I just couldn't find an adequate caricature.

The story about Washington that I most value is the one about his speech to his officers after the war was over. Some among them wondered if he would declare a dictatorship...he certainly had the support of the army if he'd wanted it. Instead, like the Roman general Cincinnatus, he retired from office, handing the army back to the civilians. Geez, what a guy!

Friday, July 03, 2015

A WIZARD OF OZ VARIANT


I just started a file called "Motion" which consists of photos of unusual walks and moves that might look good in animation. I don't have many pictures in there yet, but the ones I do have seem to suggest a story...well, sort of...a motion variant of "Wizard of Oz." I thought I'd put up some of the pictures here and see what comments they provoke. 

Like I said, the story would be a variant of "Wizard of OZ." The depressed woman above might be The Wicked Queen. She does a foot-dragging march when she walks, indicating that she's also obsessed.


Here's the Dorothy character. No? Well, like I said, The file doesn't have many pictures to choose from.


The local OZ police are always on patrol. They're always synchronized.


Synchronous anything seems to work well in small doses. 


Above, the Wicked Queen's chief henchmen. They move like marionettes, even though they're humans and have no strings. 


 Above, the Wicked Queen's Palace Guards. Geez, I like that red jacket. How can I get one like that?


Above, poor Dorothy's lost and distressed. OZ is a place where everybody walks funny, so Dorothy's had to learn to do that too.


She makes friends but they're kinda' ditsy and are inclined to wonder off while mumbling to themselves.



Last but not least (above): The Wizard who eventually gets Dorothy back home to Kansas. He moves and talks like Ed Sullivan.

Well, whadaya think?


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

BEG FOR A BOILERMAN"S JOB [EXPANDED]


 The book that inspired this post is "Maxims and Instructions for the Boiler Room" by N. Hawkins, copyrighted 1897 to 1903. That's roughly 115 years ago when earthy, gritty, beer-drinking eccentrics dominated the field and were fiercely proud of what they did for a living. The author's enthusiasm is infectious. Spend only an hour or two with the book and you'll want to drop what you're doing and beg for a job on the nearest boiler.



He starts by paying homage to the great boiler men of the past: Evans, Stephenson and Robert Fulton. Stephenson is especially interesting because he was illiterate til he was 18 and some of his inventions were presumed to be stolen because he had such a gruff exterior.


Hawkins begins his book by explaining what goes through his mind when he arrives at the shop, smells the air, and looks around:





That's beautiful, isn' it? Few things are more interesting in print than a man explaining his passion for his work. Imagine what Shakespeare or Eugene O'Neil could have done with raw material like this!

I guess I don't have room to discuss another unusual book I've come across: Wernher Von Braun's "Mars Project." The book was published in 1948 and outlines Von Braun's dream of going to Mars and back with 4 - 6 V2 type rockets lashed together. The trip would take 9 months each way with only a small time spent on the planet's surface.

If you've never heard of this it may be because Von Braun believed an Earth-orbiting space station had to be built first, and he was talked out of that by a young American engineer from the Grumman company.


Friday, June 26, 2015

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT FRONT LAWNS


This post is going to make amateur gardeners mad.  I'm not an amateur gardener myself for the simple reason that I don't know enough to be an amateur. Even so, I have my opinions:

Q: "Is this (above) a beautiful lawn?"
A: "NO!!! It's a neat lawn, which is not the same thing!"

This is a beautiful lawn! Beautiful lawns require trees and interesting borders.


Q: "Are these plants (above) beautiful?"
A: "NO!!!!! The flowers are beautiful but the stems are gnarly. Not only that but they're often planted far apart with awkward, empty spaces inbetween."


I never plant roses myself because the stems are so unappealing but I get an idea of what works from seeing what other people do. It's easy to see that rose bushes need to be closer together and the ugly stems need to be covered by shorter plants  (or maybe miniature roses in containers). It's true that roses produce more flowers when they have lots of room, but they still do okay with less space.

BTW: the purple flowers above aren't roses but they're close enough to illustrate my point.

Q: "Can a fence save a drab lawn?"
A: "NO! No fence can compensate for an ugly lawn, and some fences are downright ugly."


If you feel the need to separate your house from the street try a small retaining wall like the one above. You'll need a couple of truckloads of dirt and some old bricks. 


Q: "Will a garden of winding paths through little green balls satisfy?"
A: "NO, not unless you have fantasies of being a giant who stomps hapless villagers." 

'Nuff said.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

ECONOMY OF MOTION (PART 2)


This is a post about economy of movement, the idea that all screen movement should have a specific purpose, and that superfluous movement should be avoided. By way of a negative example, here's (above) a speaker whose gestures are overwrought and distracting. Actually, it's kinda funny if you only watch for a minute or two. Repeating the same exaggerated gesture over and over is a good way to convey nervousness.



Here's an example (above) of the opposite: Madeline Kahn delivers her monologue beautifully when she's stiff as a board with only slight movement of the body. Most of the acting is in the face. I love face acting.


Here's an example (above and below) that combines minimalism with maximalism. The gestures are flamboyant at the same time they're pose-to-pose. It works great! Geez, I remember the first time I saw this. I nearly fell out of my chair.



Economy of motion is a powerful technique. John used it in Ren and Stimpy with  devastating effect. Even so, the wrong person might take it too far. I'm thinking of the acting class where the student lost points because he gestured with his hand when he spoke the line: "Why don't you sit down and take a load off your feet?" Purists would say that he should have indicated the chair with a simple nod of the head.

Haw! Minimalists hate hands. Actors are sometimes told to think of their hands as mittens without individual fingers. The theory is that splaying the fingers would call too much attention to them.


A purist would never get up out of a chair the way many people do, by leaning forward and pushing up off the knees. A purist gets up by simply...standing. It takes a bit of practice but purists like it because doing it smooth like that makes the act unobtrusive. After all, for them the dialogue is the important thing. The body is just a delivery system.



Even better (for the minimalists) is if the stander puts his hands in his pockets as he rises. That gets the despised hands out of the way. When the stand is completed the actor immediately begins to walk...no dawdling! No hand gestures!

So what's the Theory Corner take on all this? I love doing things with hands so minimizing them is probably not in the cards for me, but it's a fascinating idea, especialy when applied to secondary characters. I'm dying to have some excuse to play with it.

BTW: I knock motion theorists here but some of them are about putting interesting motion into an act, rather than taking it out. I'll write about them in a seperate post.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

GOOD-BYE TO ALL THAT

It pains me more than I can say but I might be moving out of LA in 6 months or so. It especially hurts because I love this city like no other. It's a city that in its modern incarnation was built by people like me, for people like me. Here you can make a living doing outrageous things that you'd be tarred and feathered for anywhere else. I exaggerate, of course, but its wonderful to live in a place that invites that. 

Most of all I'll miss my friends. Some are in the Warners group caricature (above) that Bruce did. They're generous, enthusiastic, exciting people who I care about immensely. This city is a magnet for talented people from all over the world, and its amazing how wonderful many of them turn out to be. 


On top of that, I love the city itself. With all its urban problems there's still a sense in which everything is new and being tried for the first time. Even now there's still what Bob Clampett called a "Gold Rush" feeling in the air.


I'll miss the audacity that abounds here. Readers who live here will know what I mean when I say that I'll miss the Angelyne billboards. San Francisco used to be home to a beloved eccentric who called himself "The Emperor of San Francisco." Everyone in the city loved the guy and when he turned up at official ceremonies his visit was regarded as bringing good luck. That's what Angelyne used to be for LA.

I'll also miss the ubiquitous Cliff May-type ranch houses. I won't see many of those where I'm going. Cheerful, playful houses like this (above) only make sense in a fun place like LA. 


Where am I going? [Sigh!] To...to the farm belt. I certainly admire the people there and if I'm lucky they might regard me as a tolerable oddity...but I don't think I'll ever be accepted as a member of the pack.



Good old L.A.! How many people realize how great you are?



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

CARNIVAL FREAK SHOWS

The whole subject of carnival sideshows interests me, why I don't know.  Maybe it's because the people you see on exhibit there are artistic amplifications of what actually exists on the streets. We like to see sideshow attractions for the same reason we like stories: we all like to be reminded of the endless variety of people in the world.


Circus clowns and sideshow comics seem to have gotten a lot of ideas from cartoonists, but which came first: the performers or the cartoons? .


The act that anchored the sideshow was usually the fat man or fat woman. Unlike some of the other acts the fat man was a performer. He was expected to put on a show and put the audience in a mood to see the other acts.

 Professionally fat people aren't the fattest people you'll ever see, they're just people who know how to caricature the fat they do have. The best of them are skilled entertainers just like Oliver Hardy or Jackie Gleason.


Professional fat has to be learned. For one thing you have to learn how to exaggerate your silhouette. In the picture above the fat man sits with his arms and legs way out and the fat woman sits in a way that deliberately forms a circle or a heart. There's probably a funny fat way to walk, to pick up a small object, and to cut an orange. You have to learn it all.

I imagine you also have to develop a fat personality. A fat man might have the most even temperament in the world but when the stage lights are on he either has to be jolly or over-the-top-cynical and foul mouthed. There's no inbetween.


Ditto for professionally thin people. They either have to come off as chick magnets or gay: there's no inbetween. When I was a kid the thin man I saw was eloquent and funny, and could dance a little like the young Fred Astaire.

The best sideshow people were performers. That's why it's so tragic that reformers try to close down these shows. They're trying to put an end to a sophisticated medium with long and honorable traditions.