Monday, July 28, 2003


I started on the previous rant yesterday, before Bob Hope died (and how many times will you hear or use the phrase "finally died" today?). So let's count the number of cartoons tomorrow that show St. Peter meeting Bob, and telling him "Thanks for the Memories." I predict that a slightly lesser number of cartoons will show Bob reunited with Bing and Dorothy on "The Road to Heaven." After that, golfing with Bing on top of a cloud. Betcha.

In fact, I bet most of those cartoonist had their Bob Hope Tribute cartoon all drawn years ago and ready to run, just like a newspaper's obiturary department. All they have to do is date it and submit it.

So let's wonder how many personalities already have clich�d memorial cartoons prepared for them: all the ex-presidents, no doubt, um, Clint Eastwood, who is 73, after all (St. Peter will be telling him, "Go ahead, make my day!" Yuk, yuk, yuk). The Pope and Billy Graham (the cartoons there would be just too easy).

And this is not to take anything away from Bob at all, but I notice the obit on said Bob had been "Known as 'Mr. Entertainment' or 'the King of Comedy'." Really? Just about everybody worthy of a Friar's Roast has been "Mr. Entertainment." The only nickname I remember applied exclusively to Bob was "Old Ski Nose."

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Are Cartoonists People?

  Here's a rant that been fermenting in the back of my head for awhile, and I'm finally getting it out.
  Editorial cartoonists are supposed to be able to summarize world events and distill them into a single image that makes a salient point, maybe even provoking a laugh. So howcum it is when some celebrity dies, their tribute cartoons are almost universally lame! Lame like Tiny Tim. "I'm talking 'Night Court' in its fifth season lame!"
  When Katharine Hepburn passed on, most of the editorial cartoonists once again centered their "tribute" aound a weak gag involving the recently deceased meeting St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. If you go to Daryl Cagle's cartoonist roundup on, you can see them. About half have St. Peter announcing "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner!"

  For this they give out Pulitzer Prizes.

  Coming up second in the pool of possible ways to remember someone who's been in the public eye for generations, is St. Peter fuming about Kate's determination to wear pants in heaven. You remember, how she scandalized all of fifteen people in polite society by insisting on wearing a pantsuit only SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO! It's like Garrion Keillor once said, No matter how famous or successful you are in life, back in your home town you'll always be the kid who dropped an easy pass and cost cost his team the homecoming football game. And how many writers have you seen reference him and Eric Cartman at the same time? Dig through that archive for the Mister Rogers tributes, and you'll see pretty much the same thing. (And too bad Barry White had to die less than a week afterward. No icon for the Icon of Love [I know Buddy Hackett died the same day as Kate, but I don't think anyone outside of the entertainment trades was planning a tribute. Sorry, Buddy])
  So what's the deal? Why are these guys so hard up for a nice thing to say about someone that they'll go back to a clich? from Grandpa's Sunday School lessons?
  Maybe they are. It seems editorial cartooning is still stuck in the world of clich?: lying politicians growing Pinocchio noses, Jimmy Carter the peanut farmer or Gerry Ford the clumsy oaf (just see how many cartoonists use those crutches when either of those two gentlemen passes on). Eighty years after the comic strips stopped having characters react to a joke by "flopping" off-panel, editorial cartoonists will still feature "feelthy" Frenchmen in berets and striped shirts, or Congressmen with their skinny ties and wide-brimmed black hats. I guess if you want to make a point quickly, you need to use imagery that's been with our culture ever since Thomas Nast first drew donkeys and elephants to represent the political parties.
  Still, it was kind of disappointing that when browsing the archive of Kate Hepburn cartoons, only one of the cartoonists featured just drew an affectionate portrait. I'd think if an entertainer or artists really meant something in your life or worldview, that's the best thing you could do.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

All Killer, No Filler?

Was just reading some news squibs about the fact that some bands, specifically Metallica and Red Hot Chili Peppers have refused to have their music sold online via Apple's iTunes Music Store. Their rationale was that they were unhappy with the service for allowing customers to download indivudal tracks, with the rationale that "Our artists would rather not contribute to the demise of the album format," This, in turn, has sparked the usual flaming on the discussion boards about how albums today have maybe two good songs, while the rest is just filler crap. Some songwriters have responded that they feel none of their work is filler, but represents their best efforts, and artists don't spend a year of their lives working on what they think is just filler, blah, blah, blah�
I'm here to tell ya [old man voice] these kids today [/old man voice] must not remember that when singles artsits in the early 60's--and that's most rock 'n' roll artists--were accorded the honor of putting out an album, they were just one or two hit singles and a lot of filler. Check out any original Motown album: you get one or two of the Supremes' latest two hits, and then ten cuts of show tunes, or covers of songs made famous by other Motown artists. I can understand an artist still wedded to the concept of an "album" as a single unit of music that he wants to control: Brian Wilson mixed most of the Beach Boys' LPs, especially "Pet Sounds," in mono so the listener couldn't fiddle with his vision of how the music should sound (that and he was deaf in one ear). But if you really want your album to be an intact "vision," then you have no business releasing singles from it to radio. That instantly divorces those songs from the experience of listening to the album.
Besides, each songwriter may think each of his efforts is excellent, but record companies determine early in the process that "these" songs will be the singles, which will have videos made for them, and which will get the extra production boost. No matter how much the creative person protests, there are less worthy songs on a CD that many consumers resent paying $18.99 for, and would prefer to have just one or two songs.

The way to really fly

Haven't had a chance to mention that my commuting time was severly hampered last week. Seems one of the trestles on the Illinois Central line that my Metra Electric train runs over burned down the night of June 22. I learned this as I was driving to my station Monday morning the 23rd: No trains would be running south of 115th Street (I'm at about the 215th Street area). So I decided my best bet would be to drive to the Metra Rock Island station in Oak Forest-- a bit of a detour involving driving through road construction either on Cicero Ave. or I-57. Made the train there, which ends at a different station meaning I walk further to work, only managed to be half-an-hour late. Tuesday, Metra announces that all affected riders should go to the Oak Forest station. Bigger crowds all 'round. They also "anticipate" the bridge will be repaired by the following Wednesday, July 2.
Wednesday, Metra breaks down and charters lots of buses to meet riders at some of the Electric stations and shuttle them to Oak Forest. We continue operating this way the rest of the week.
But, on Monday, June 30, they announce the viaduct has been repaired, and we can go back to using the Electric line a day early! That's pretty good for a public infrastructure project!
Now if only they could start that rehab of the Randolph Street station, which had all its amenities town out 3 years ago, then had it's rebuilding stalled while the city rebuilt Michigan Avenue, then its bloated Millenium Park project.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Worst Movie ever? (At least physically)

In one respect, yes. I saw Decasia over the weekend at Facets uptown. It�s kind of a �found film� project, compiled from film archives across the world, of old, unstable nitrate film in various stages of decomposition. It s indeed a little disturbing to watch. We see the images of people, sometimes barely discernable amid a swarm of flaked off emulsion, bubbles in the film itself, or images �solarizing� from an unstable fixed image. The scenes most commented on by critics has been one in which two boxers are sparring, but one of them is completely obliterated by a column of black streaks, leaving his partner to appear to be trying to hold back oblivion itself. Another scene shot at an amusement park shows a swirling miasma of emulsion on the left side of a frame, from which the cars of a whirlygig ride materialize. Given the premise of the movie, many less startling scenes take on an air of urgency. The films� subjects, who had done nothing more than walk in front of a movie camera years ago, now appear to be holding on to the last remnants of their souls. Even though these people likely died years ago, the film seems to represent the only trace of existence, now in danger of fading into oblivion. But again, this is due to director Bill Morrison's choices in presenting and editing the film; most of the subjects went on to live their lives without concern for the film they were. Heck, some of them may even be still alive.

Only problem in seeing the film is that it was produced as a backdrop for contemporary dissonant muscal piece by Michael Gordon, kind of a Philip Glass wannabe. That kind of work is best heard in shorter pieces, and not always sober.

Still, I'll willing to be confounded, challenged or frustrated by a movie. Just don't insult me for forking over my money to see it.