Apr 28, 2010

Tintin Banned In Congo

The BBC reports that a man in the African country of Congo is trying to get the Tintin comic book Tintin In The Congo banned because of its depictions of blacks, which even the author Herge admitted before he passed away was insensitive.

Apr 18, 2010

Dark Sky Festival 2010

The 501st Legion was invited to the Dark Sky Festival in the town of Harmony once again, and like last year, the crowd was very receptive. We couldn't go two or three steps without getting mobbed with people wanting pictures. The Dark Sky festival promotes practices that reduces light pollution so astronomers can see the stars at night with their telescopes.

There were two Imperial officers, an Imperial Stormtrooper, an X-wing pilot, a Clone trooper and Princess Leia. The event had all sorts of exhibits about astronomy, musicians, a magician, telescopes and even a guy on stilts!

My friend Robert in his Clone trooper armor, looking very intimidating

The group picture after nightfall. Good times, good friends, friendly people, that's what I'm talking about

To see the whole album of pictures, click HERE

Before doing the Dark Sky troop, I tagged along for another troop earlier in the day, a book fair at the University of Central Florida, where we entertained the kids by reading to them and signing (a lot) of autographs. The kids treated us like rock stars! 

Apr 15, 2010

Cartooning Advice

The creator of a 70's underground comic strip called Zippy The Pinhead, Bill Griffith, has a list of the top 40 pieces of advice for creating comics. Definitely check it out!

Apr 13, 2010

Conundrum - An Early Comic Strip

This is a comic strip I created while I was living in New York, called Conundrum. It was never published; I created it mostly to enhance my skills and practice my story telling. It had four main characters: Cuthbert, the sad-sack character for whom nothing ever goes right (especially with girls), Dirk Deadmeat, Ace Private Eye, who is an insufferable chauvinist who sees himself as a ladies man, Streeter, the intellectual, and Lily, the sensible female voice of the strip. Despite my attempt to keep it G-rated, it does get a tad edgy at times, probably too edgy for a commercial newspaper, which is just as well. It wouldn't stand a chance against stale relics like Blonde, Hi and Lois and Beetle Bailey.

Apr 9, 2010

Comic Book Maps and Diagrams

I discover a lot of great posts from BoingBoing, one of the most popular blogs on the web (which is why you should be adding it to your daily routine). This is another example; a fine site that has lots of maps and diagrams of comic book places and hideouts, like this map of the Batcave, circa 1968. Check it out HERE.

Apr 5, 2010

Random Videos

And now, in absolutely no particular order, and for no particular reason, are some random videos for you to check out and broaden your minds with. Everyone settled up front? Ready with the projector? Can someone in the back kill the lights? Okay, roll 'em!

This was a short-lived 1974 television series starring Ronny Cox, who is now mostly famous for playing bad guys. Back then he played a Dad named George Apple who decides to move his family from the hectic city life of Los Angeles to Appleton, a town founded by his ancestors. The Apples lived in a working grist mill, and was a modern version of the Waltons. It only ran for two seasons. I guess the opening is supposed to show how wholesome the whole family is or something.The show never caught on.

Jim Varney was a comic genius (sadly, he is no longer with us) who never received the credit he deserved because of his most famous character: Ernest P. Worrell. The character was used in countless commercials all over the country and became so famous, movies followed (Ernest Goes To Camp, Ernest Goes to Jail, etc). He was also the voice of the Slinky dog in the Toy Story movies, and played Jed Clampett in the completely unnecessary remake of The Beverly Hillbillies.

The commercials were the best vehicle for Varney's sense of comedy and the Ernest P. Worrell character: the nosy neighbor who was always inviting himself over and talking to Vern, the suffering unseen neighbor. Ernest's signature catch phrase was know-what-I-mean, trademarked as KnoWhutImean? Ernest would pester Vern at all hours of the day or night, always meaning well, but never quite understanding how inappropriate his intrusions were. The commercials were the creation of an advertising agency that used the Ernest character to pitch auto dealers, gas appliances, dairy products, soda and public service announcements. Check out these fine examples below:

Here's another good one:

And finally, one more good one, KnoWhutImean?


Maybe it's just me, but I think these commercials are hilarious. I have the definitive Ernest P. Worrell DVD collection with two DVDs of his commercials, some of which are out-takes and bloopers, and some behind the scenes footage to see how they are filmed.  The collection also has some rare appearances by other characters Varney created. To learn more about Jim Varney, click HERE. Sadly, Jim Varney died in 2000 from lung cancer, and the world is a sadder place because of it. If you want to pick up a copy of this fine retrospective, check it out HERE

Sesame Street Yip Yip Aliens
This one is a classic, and utterly hilarious. No explanation necessary.

Nissan 300ZX Car Commercial
This commercial was directed by Ridley Scott, who did commercials before going on to direct movie classics such as Blade Runner, Alien, and Gladiator. The commercial ran only one time before it was pulled by Nissan because they thought it would encourage reckless driving. It was never seen on TV again. Too bad, because the commercial is a fine piece of film making. 

The Railrodder
This is a longer film, but extremely entertaining, starring the classic talents of Buster Keyton in one of his last films. It's a twenty-five minute trip across the gorgeous countryside of Canada on a two-seater rail cart used for track maintenance, and everything Buster Keyton needs he pulls out of the storage box. Filmed in 1965, it is an amusing little gem of a movie.

Visit the website for the National Film Board of Canada HERE for lots of free independent short films.

Allegro Non Troppo
This was an animated Italian film created in 1977 designed to be either a parody of, or challenge to, Disney's Fantasia. The animation is absolutely superb, and is a series of pieces set to classical music. This piece is set to the wonderful music of Bolero, and depicts  a Coke bottle left by an astronaut on an alien world that starts an evolutionary chain of events, creating legions of creatures, all on the march. Do yourself a favor and settle back and enjoy this one. It's a long piece; it has been separated into two parts on YouTube. To learn more about this movie, click HERE.

Apr 4, 2010

SLAPP Lawsuits - Silencing Free Expression

Do you know what a SLAPP lawsuit is?

A SLAPP lawsuit stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation and is a lawsuit that is filed by corporations, companies and individuals against people to burden them with legal fees to get them to drop their opposition and silence their criticism. A SLAPP lawsuit is not meant to be won, only to bully someone into silence (source: Wikipedia).

Let's say a group of people oppose a motion or business practice by a corporation or person. That corporation or person would then sue the protesters for defamation and slander, forcing them to hire expensive lawyers. Many people drop their opposition and protest rather than fight an expensive and potentially ruinous legal battle, even if the lawsuit has no merit. Bingo: protest has been silenced, and the corporation is free to continue the practice that inspired the protest.

Fortunately, states are beginning to enact laws to discourage SLAPP lawsuits. This link has a list of the more notable SLAPP lawsuits, including one filed by singer Barbara Streisand. SLAPP lawsuits are an abuse of the legal system to silence legitimate criticism  and stifle constitutionally-protected speech.

The Streisand case led to the term the Streisand effect, in which an attempt to silence criticism or a point of view leads to so much publicity that it would have been better had the SLAPP-filer never filed a lawsuit in the first place (a nice lesson for those who would try to silence others). Read more about the Streisand effect HERE.

In California, a group has been formed to fight SLAPP lawsuits; read about them here.
NPR (National Public Radio) has a program examining the issue of SLAPPs; check it out here.

Just another way groups are attempting to silence constitutionally protected speech.

Swiss Family Robinson Tree House

Kevin Kidney is a former designer for Disney, now a full-time artist and writer, who has a fine, very entertaining blog called Kevin Kidney. In this post he has some rare pictures of the Swiss Family Robinson tree house as it was being constructed in Anaheim, California at Walt Disney Land.

The tree house is based on a 1960 movie produced by Walt Disney studios, which is based on a book written by Johann Wyss. The tree is constructed of concrete, steel and stucco, and reaches 60 feet tall. It was one of the original attractions at the Anaheim Disney park.

The Swiss Family Robinson, besides being a movie, was also two television series as well; a one-year Canadian series in 1974, followed by a 1975 American series produced by shlock producer Irwin Allen, creator of such shows at Land Of The Giants, Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, and Lost In Space.

The American series starred Martin Milner, (most famous from Adam-12, the Jack Webb 60's cop show) as well as Willie Aames, who became a minor heartthrob in the 70's TV show 8 Is Enough.  And - get this - Helen Hunt also starred in this show, Helen Hunt who later went onto star in the TV sitcom Mad About You with Paul Riser. The Swiss Family Robinson lasted as long as the Canadian version: one year.

I actually remember watching an episode when I was a kid; it was pretty lame. Like, totally squaresville. Don't believe me? Check out the opening sequence below.

Apr 2, 2010

Time Lapse Painting

Enjoy this mesmerizing time-lapse video of Mark Ryden painting one of his creations, in this case Incarnation. It's always fascinating to watch how people create art.