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Woody Allen: stand-up comedian, film director, comic strip character
12.24.2013
06:32 am

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Amusing
Art
Media

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Woody Allen

woodycomic
 
This irrational and improbable thing actually happened: a comic strip titled Inside Woody Allen - starring the man himself - was syndicated by King Features from 1976 to 1984. Created and drawn by Stuart Hample of later Children’s Letters to God fame, the strip was based on Allen’s familiar persona—the angsty, neurotic, Jewish everyman if every man was a cripplingly overanalytical disaster—and it still got printed in daily newspapers for eight years!

Hample recalled the process of working with Allen in the anthology Dread & Superficiality: Woody Allen as Comic Strip, excerpted in 2009 by The Guardian:

I had a lightbulb epiphany. It occurred to me that Woody might make a terrific comic strip. But how would he – 39 and by now wildly successful – react? I ran a test scene in my head. Me: “Woody, I have an idea for a comic strip based on you. Possible?” Woody: “Sorry. Up to my neck writing a movie, editing another movie. Writing a piece for The New Yorker. Don’t need the money. Try me next year.”

So I asked him in person. Woody was intrigued enough to say: “Show me some sketches.” I based my drawings on how he looked in his late 20s, when we’d first met. He OK’d the Woody cartoon character (he even had it animated for a sequence in Annie Hall) and said: “What about the jokes?” I brought jokes. He looked through them. “Maybe,” he said, “I could help you with the jokes.”

Assuming he was offering to write them, I wanted to shout: “My saviour!” Instead, I said: “OK.” Which was more appropriate, since his help turned out to be dozens of pages of jokes from his standup years. Some were mere shards, such as “tied me to Jewish star – uncomfortable crucifixion”. Others were even more minimal: “bull fighting”, “astrology” (Woody occasionally translated these hieroglyphs).

But there were longer notations: “Sketch – man breaking up with female ape after his evolution.” And there were little playlets: “Freud could not order blintzes. He was ashamed to say the word. He’d go into an appetiser store and say, ‘Let me have some of those crepes with cheese in the middle.’ And the grocer would say, ‘Do you mean blintzes, Herr Professor?’ And Freud would turn all red and run out through the streets of Vienna, his cape flying. Furious, he founded psychoanalysis and made sure it wouldn’t work.”

A newspaper syndicate agreed to publish the feature. They requested six weeks of sample strips. I went each Saturday to Woody’s Fifth Avenue penthouse, where he judged the material and offered suggestions on how to develop characters and pace gags, and pleaded with me to maintain high standards. On 4 October 1976, the strip was launched. Woody, the pen-and-ink protagonist, was angst-ridden, flawed, fearful, insecure, inadequate, pessimistic, urban, single, lustful, rejected by women. He was cowed by mechanical objects, and a touch misanthropic. He was also at odds with his antagonistic parents; committed his existential panic to a journal; had regular sessions with his passive-aggressive psychotherapist; was threatened by large, often armed, men; and employed his modest size to communicate physical impotence the way Chaplin, in the guise of the Little Tramp, suffered humiliation.

I often wondered why Woody gave the concept a green light. In 1977, he related the following anecdote. He had cast the actress Mary Beth Hurt in his movie Interiors. Hurt regularly phoned her mother in Iowa to reassure her that she was safe and happy. During one of those calls, she proudly announced that she was going to play Diane Keaton’s sister in a movie “by somebody you probably haven’t heard of, a director named Woody Allen”. “I know about him,” said her mother, “he’s in the funny pages.” Woody’s manager figured it was no bad thing if his image was disseminated daily out in the heartland.

 
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Read those again, and check out this small online gallery of strips, keeping in mind that these ran in the daily funnies. Children in the late 1970s and early 1980s were seeing gags about the dead bluebird of happiness alongside Marmaduke and The Family Circus. There are plenty of reasons that Gen X turned out so messed up, but might this strip be in that mix? Could this have been a contributor to our baffling consumption of shitty angst-rock and Fruitopia?

That’s probably an overreach, sure, but still, that’s pretty damn advanced matter for the funnypapers.

Much of that angst was attributable to Allen’s participation - and was of course necessitated by obeisance to his stand-up persona - but the most notable gag writer for the strip was David Weinberger, who later went on to a career as an online marketing guru, best known for his Cluetrain Manifesto and Small Pieces Loosely Joined. Interesting how Hample and Weinberger, the auteurs behind arguably the most openly neurotic and fussily intellectual daily comic strip ever syndicated in the United States went on to greater fame for such square stuff! I suppose angst is a less reliable cash generator than cute kids and formulae for success. So it goes.

Upon the 2009 release of Dread and Superficiality (not the only anthology of the strip, by the way, just the only one widely available presently), Hample appeared with Dick Cavett to talk about Allen and the strip at the fantastic NYC bookstore The Strand. There’s video, in five parts. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5.

For another amusing sample of Allen in an unexpected medium, check out this footage of him appearing opposite Nancy Sinatra on the game show Password in 1965.
 

 
More Woody and Nancy after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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‘Murdoch is evil’: Message hidden in one of his own newspaper’s children’s puzzle!
12.11.2013
07:11 am

Topics:
Amusing
Media

Tags:
Rupert Murdoch

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Last week, one of Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper’s the Australian Sunday Telegraph published a word search puzzle which included the hidden message:

“LIVESIHCODRUM

Which in reverse reads:

“MURDOCHISEVIL”

The message appeared on page 79 of the newspaper, in “Harry the Dog’s weekly word search.” According to the Guardian:

It took reporters in Australia two days to spot the apparent swipe, which sparked joy among many observers on Twitter.

The Sunday Telegraph refused to comment. It remains unclear if Rupert Murdoch completed the quiz himself.

Perhaps, Mr. Murdoch will let us know?

Meanwhile, here’s an old clip from British satire show with puppets, Spitting Image, of Trepur Hcodrum contriving a “news” story on some English cricketer called Botham.
 

 
Via the ‘Guardian

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Quality television programs equal income, argues horrible person


 
In what would surely be the most amazing troll posted to a serious web site in recent memory if it didn’t seem to be perfectly earnest, columnist, author, and apparently completely shameless toady to the ruling class Virginia Postrel has argued on Bloomberg View that ordinary people are better off economically today than we typically reckon - because the quality of TV has improved. I’m not even slightly kidding about the impossibly stupid thing I just told you.

On a flight across the country, you watch the playoff game on live television, listen to some favorite playlists as you catch up on work, then relax with some video poker. Arriving home, you delete the game from your DVR and consider your options. Too tired for an intense cable drama—which you prefer to experience in immersive weekend marathons of at least three episodes each—you stream a first-season episode of “Duck Dynasty” from Amazon.com, then run last week’s “Elementary” from your DVR queue. While watching, you check IMDB.com to see where you’ve seen that familiar-looking guest star before, then you jump to your Facebook and Twitter feeds. You finish the evening with “SportsCenter,” recorded just far enough ahead that you can skip most of the commercials.

Little of this customized entertainment would have been possible a decade ago—and almost none of it shows up in the income and productivity statistics that dominate our understanding of the economy. A form of progress that large numbers of people experience every day, the increase in entertainment variety and convenience represents a challenge to the increasingly conventional wisdom that American living standards have stagnated, at least for the middle class.

Hear that, middle class? Standard of living, schmandard of living, you people have TIVOS!

Now, I suspect that viewings of Duck Dynasty and SportsCenter don’t show up in income stats because TV shows aren’t income. But what do I know? I’m not the former editor of Reason. Or a shockingly tone-deaf, overprivileged asshole.

After all, it’s not as though no one has noticed the improvements. Critics often opine on whether the proliferation has produced a “new golden age of television,” while media companies and advertising agencies live in fear of what all that competition means for future profits. From the mobile-phone business to social media—not to mention movies, games, music and sports—an enormous amount of innovative talent goes into developing new entertainment goods and services.

Yet in the economic statistics that measure living standards, this real-life value goes largely ignored. For the very reason that entertainment is so cheap, the enjoyment people derive from having a better chance of finding exactly what they want, when and where they want it, doesn’t count for much. Giving consumers new features for little or no additional money increases well-being but doesn’t do much for productivity statistics.

I would venture a guess that the proliferation of the entertainment industry into every nook and cranny of American life doesn’t find its way into productivity statistics because sitting on your ass watching So You Think You Can Fart Your Life Away is the opposite of productivity. But of course, I’m just a humble pop culture scribe for Dangerous Minds, not a respected, Ivy League-educated columnist for The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The New York Times and Forbes. Or a self-satisfied, grotesquely over-rewarded libertarian tool.

But let’s skip to the money shot, huh? Does she or doesn’t she tell us to watch cake?

“Too many people presume that what the poor want from the Internet are the crucial necessities of life. In reality, the enchantment of the Internet is that it’s a lot of fun,” the Indian journalist Manu Joseph observed in a September New York Times essay. “And fun, even in poor countries, is a profound human need. Quality of life is as much an assortment of happy frivolities as it is the bare essentials of survival.”

Holy free market, she actually managed to outsource her “Let them eat cake” line to India. Got that, poor people? Quit hogging those public library Internet terminals for your stupid job searches and bill payments! There’s fun to be had - ENCHANTMENT, even!

So let’s recap - time wasted is income! We can fairly extrapolate from this that the unemployed are the wealthiest people in America - so long as they watch assloads of TV. Thinking of goosing your budget by canceling that cable subscription and using the savings for unproductive mundanities like heat and food? Not so fast! Grey’s Anatomy is health care! The Apprentice is a national jobs program! BY GOD, THE SYSTEM WORKS.
 
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Virginia Postrel, totally down with the commoners—the kind of Libertarian you can have a beer with!

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Society of the spectacle: Classic ‘Media Burn’ art prank skewers American life, 1975
11.21.2013
07:15 am

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Art
Media
Television

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Media Burn
Ant Farm

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On July 4, 1975, the San Francisco art collective Ant Farm staged its highly media-savvy “Media Burn,” in which a revamped Cadillac would crash, Evel Knievel style, through a wall of flaming television sets in the parking lot of the Cow Palace sports arena and entertainment venue.

It was the perfect mix of Yippie-style anti-establishment protest and avant-garde art of the Nam June Paik type. According to a speech given by “Bill Ding” before the staged crash, “fifteen hundred man hours” had succeeded in transforming a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible into a preposterous “Phantom Dream Car” with an elongated hood and a massive tail fin with a video camera embedded inside. What made the event so distinctive, and perhaps utterly American, was the media circus Ant Farm managed to instigate around the event.

Scheduled to coincide with the country’s 199th birthday, “Media Burn” was larded up with a healthy dose of patriotic folderol. The overriding metaphor of an epochal space launch accentuated the general feeling of ridiculousness (this was actually a Cadillac crashing into a bunch of TV sets, remember), complete with a star-spangled tarp to cover the “Dream Car” before the event and a special appearance by John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated twelve years earlier, complete with Secret Service detail and presidential open-air limo. In the car, the Ant Farm “dummies,” as they were labeled, were wearing space-age outfits right out of the The Day the Earth Stood Still.
 
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The act of destroying a bunch of TV sets was intended as a comment on our media age, but Ant Farm didn’t stop there—the entire afternoon was conceived as a mock media phenomenon, complete with self-important press releases and the issuing of “legitimate” press credentials, in an effort to sucker S.F. news outlets into covering the event. (It totally worked.) As the press release winkingly stated, “MEDIA BURN is NOT open to the public”—yet several hundred people did show up, and programs and hot dogs were happily sold to spectators.

One half-expects DEVO to show up halfway through and play “Jocko Homo” or something. “Media Burn” was so thoroughgoingly conceived that it almost precludes commentary. It’s enough to watch and enjoy it.
 

 
via Internet Magic

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin debating the future of America in 1986


 
Watching this debate between Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin from 1986, I was struck by how little has really changed since the late 80s despite the fact that, to Rubin’s way of thinking, we’ve had two “yuppie” Presidents in the White House. Hoffman’s vision seems more prophetic in light of the Occupy Movement, but I see the truth to be somewhere in the middle of their opposing points of view.

Despite his emphasis on maintaining a healthy body, no amount of good health helped Rubin. Ironically, the law-abiding straight-lace yuppie was killed in 1994 while fucking the system, run over by a car in L.A. as he was jaywalking. Hoffman gave up the good fight and committed suicide in 1989. The future they speak so passionately about in this debate was not theirs to further impact, though both had done their fair share starting in the Sixties. From founding the yippies, mobilizing the march on the Pentagon, leading the charge in Chicago in 1968 to inspiring John and Yoko’s sleep-in, there’s no question both Hoffman and Rubin managed to change the world we live in. Abbie’s style of guerrilla theater, activism and peaceful dissent was very much alive in the past few years on the streets of American cities like New York and in Europe, Turkey and during the Arab Spring movement. Rubin’s concept of revolution from within the system is less vivid and harder to measure. I don’t think it works for the most part but I’m still voting.

The debate took place in Canada. Rubin and Hoffman make their points with lots of energy and Hoffman is of course quite funny. The first couple of minutes has an appropriate musical intro,  “I’d Love To Change The World” by Ten Years After.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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How to say ‘NO’: Whitey’s perfect reply to a TV company who wanted to use his music for free
11.06.2013
11:12 am

Topics:
Economy
Media
Music
Television

Tags:
Whitey


 
Amidst the ongoing discussions about the value of music, British alt/rock/tronica artist Whitey has had enough of being asked to donate his music for free to large companies who, by rights, can and should be paying him. After receiving one such email from a company called Betty TV, Whitey, aka NJ White, wrote this caustic response:

I am sick to death of your hollow schtick, of the inevitable line “unfortunately there’s no budget for music”, as if some fixed Law Of The Universe handed you down a sad but immutable financial verdict preventing you from budgeting to pay for music. Your company set out the budget. so you have chosen to allocate no money for music. I get begging letters like this every week - from a booming, allfuent global media industry.

Why is this? Let’s look at who we both are.

I am a professional musician, who lives form his music. It me half a lifetime to learn the skills, years to claw my way up the structure, to the point where a stranger like you will write to me. This music is my hard earned property. I;ve licensed music to some of the biggest shows, brands, games and TV production companies on Earth; form Breaking Bad to the Sopranos, from Coca Cola to Visa, HBO to Rockstar Games.

Ask yourself - would you approach a Creative or a Director with a resume like that - and in one flippant sentence ask them to work for nothing? Of course not. Because your industry has a precedent of paying these people, of valuing their work.

Or would you walk into someone’s home, eat from their bowl, and walk out smiling, saying “So sorry, I’ve no budget for food”? Of course you would not. Because, culturally, we classify that as theft.

Yet the culturally ingrained disdain for the musician that riddles your profession, leads you to fleece the music angle whenever possible. You will without question pay everyone connected to a shoot - from the caterer to the grip to the extra- even the cleaner who mopped your set and scrubbed the toilets after the shoot will get paid. The musician? Give him nothing.

Now lets look at you. A quick glance at your website reveals a variety of well known, internationally syndicated reality programmes, You are a successful, financially solvent and globally recognised company with a string of hit shows. Working on multiple series in close co-operation with Channel 4, from a West London office, with a string of awards under your belt. You have real money, to pretend otherwise is an insult.

Yet you send me this shabby request - give me your property for free… Just give us what you own, we want it.

The answer is a resounding, and permanent NO.

I will now post this on my sites, forward this to several key online music sources and blogs, encourage people to re-blog this. I want to see a public discussion begin about this kind of industry abuse of musicians… this was one email too far for me. Enough. I’m sick of you.

FUCK and indeed YES.

You can see the original screen grab of this email on Whitey’s Facebook page. As Whitey is at pains to point out, he has no problem donating his music for free to companies who literally cannot afford to pay him. He told me this via email earlier today:

I don’t want payment for everything. I don’t even care that much about money, I give away my music all the time. You and I live in a society where filesharing is the norm. I’m fine with that.

But i don’t give my music away to large, affluent companies who wish to use it to make themselves more money. Who can afford to pay, but who smell the filesharing buffet and want to grab themselves a free plate. That is a different scenario.

So what do you think? I completely agree, but I’m sure there’s DM readers who don’t. Are artists and musicians simply behind the times to ask that their music be paid for by large companies? What do you think Whitey’s music IS worth?
 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
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Devo and the dark psychedelia of Bruce Conner’s pop apocalypse


 
MOCAtv is the Museum Of Contemporary Art’s YouTube channel. MOCAtv has been showcasing some well-produced and very hip programs about art and music. One that is of particular interest to me is a series of short pieces on experimental filmmaker and artist Bruce Conner and his collaborations with Devo, Brian & David Byrne and Toni Basil. Conner began creating film collages composed of found footage, newsreels, animation and distressed celluloid back in the early 1960s and his style has been an undeniable influence on the MTV generation of video directors. His 1961 short film Cosmic Ray features Ray Charles singing “What I’d Say” set to a darkly psychedelic montage of go-go dancers, nuclear age imagery, cartoons and war footage that still carries some of the shock value that must have nailed viewers to the floor back in the early Sixties. Punk before punk.

In the mid-Seventies when punk erupted like the mushroom clouds in Cosmic Ray, Conner found a kindred artistic spirit in the subversive, often surreal, high-energy and over-the-top groups that were upending rock and roll in much the same that he himself had done with the visual arts more than a decade earlier. Conner’s creative juices were primed by punk and he spent many nights in the late Seventies hanging out with and photographing musicians at San Francisco’s Mabuhay Gardens.
 

 
One of the bands that really connected with Conner’s dada sensibilities was Devo. In this episode of MOCAtv, Devo vocalist, bass guitar/synthesizer player Jerry Casale talks about his encounters with Conner and the film that Bruce made for Devo’s “Mongoloid.”
 

 
In 1966 Conner made a film featuring Toni Basil dancing to a Northern Soulish single she had just released called “Breakaway.” It’s an amazing work on many levels—Basil’s dancing is exquisite, her nakedness is taboo-shattering: no female pop singer in the Sixties was so fearless and open—and there’s Conner’s gorgeous black and white photography and trippy editing. The film for “Breakaway” was, and still is, a fucking stunner. Conner’s buddy Dennis Hopper held the lights for the Breakaway shoot and ended up casting Basil in Easy Rider. I wonder if Kate Bush ever saw Breakaway. Basil and Bush are on similar wavelengths and after seeing Conner’s film I’ve become a Basil devotee. This ain’t no “Mickey.”

Toni Basil recounts her experiences with Conner in this episode of MOCAtv.

These presentations of MOCAtv were produced by Matthew Shattuck and directed by Chris Green.
 

 
The photos featured here of Devo in performance and Toni Basil in front of Mabuhay Gardens are both from 1978 and were taken by Conner. This is their Internet debut and they were provided to Dangerous Minds exclusively by the Conner Family Trust. We’re thrilled to be able to share them with you.
 
Watch the uncut (NSFW) version of ‘Breakaway’ after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Alex Jones explains Obamacare dressed as a lizard, continues downward mental health spiral


 
Is it wrong to hold up someone who is so obviously mentally ill to mockery and then sell advertisements against it? Am I a bad person for lampooning someone clearly losing his shit for laughs and banner ads?

Nah. This kind of thing happens on Fox News all the live-long day, doesn’t it?

I think if you showed a younger Alex Jones what he would eventually come to represent, and how the general public would regard him, as they do today, “Winning” like his pal Charlie Sheen, just a sad, pathetic clown, he’d probably break down and start sobbing.

Imagine the sheer, unmitigated hell his wife must go through!

Crack is wack, but whatever Alex Jones is on should be avoided at all costs.

Maybe the Illuminati HAVE already gotten to him. I guess I wasn’t thinking, you know, enough steps ahead!
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Glenn Beck: Beware Obama’s Marxist revolutionaries, next stop mass murders!


 
Still trying to live up to his reputation as Glenn Beck, on his program today Glenn Beck insisted that it was really “Marxist revolutionaries” in the Obama administration who were causing national parks and monuments to be shuttered during the GOP-led government shutdown.

Despite knowing fully well which party was to blame for the shutdown, Beck blamed Obama anyway, spinning a yarn about “a secret cabal” in the White House whose goal is to “inflict pain” on Americans.

“I want you to understand you are now seeing what I told you about three weeks ago. I told you they have gone from nudge to shove. Your next step is shoot.”

“Understand they are into shove, every Marxist communist revolution always ends with millions dead. Always, without fail, every time.”

Somehow Beck equates Stalinist and Maoist atrocities to the Washington Monument being closed down temporarily and a supposed starvation endgame of the Obama administration:

“They starved them to death. Why? To teach them a lesson. This is the beginning of teaching the American people a lesson: don’t you screw with us.”

Oddly, considering his animus for the “Marxist” President, at the clips end, Beck admonished his listeners to support his “Defund the GOP” campaign before “it will be too late.”

Seems like odd logic, but it’s Glenn Beck so why bother asking why?

How senile would you have to be to willingly choose to tune into Glenn Beck’s radio show??? His audience must have a collective IQ of approximately one peanut… The folks at Rightwing Watch, they at least get paid for this torture!
 

 
Via Rightwing Watch

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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War and Pixels: The complete Tolstoy archive goes online
09.06.2013
08:39 am

Topics:
Literature
Media

Tags:
Leo Tolstoy
Russian Literature

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If you’ve never read War and Peace or Anna Karenina—which is often described as the greatest novel ever written—then soon you will have no excuse, as all of Leo Tolstoy’s works will be available free on-line.

The Tolstoy.ru website will feature the 90-volume edition, which has been scanned and proofread, no less than three times by more than 3,000 volunteers from 49 countries. The texts, along with personal letters, and comprehensive biographical information is available in Russian, and will shortly be available in English.

The writer’s great-great-granddaughter, Fyokla Tolstaya told RIA Novosti:

“We wanted to come up with an official website that will contain academically justified information. Nowadays, it’s very important [to know] who posts information online.”

All of the novels, short stories, pamphlets, children’s stories and letters will be available for download onto all e-book readers and computers from Tolstoy.ru.

Below the only known film footage of Leo Tolstoy.
 

 
Via RIA Novosti, H/T Paris Review

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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