ramblin' man

The World's Greatest Cook is watching the Oscars and I got all my Monty Warts drawn for the day, so allow me to jabber "freestyle".

I'll throw this out first, simply because I have a graphic to go with it, and I like pictures. I hate history, and I am sick to death of hearing every side's side of the freaking Middle East situation. So imagine my surprise when Michael Oren starts speaking on C-Span's BookTV and I am fascinated for an hour listening to this guy talk about history and the Middle East. I have not read the book (I just saw him on C-Span a few hours ago) and to be honest, I cannot see myself reading a 733-page history book. But I'll listen to the book-on-tape when it hits the discount racks. Meanwhile, I hope everybody who feels passionately about the Middle East and has strong feelings about Cowboy Jingoism in the 20th Century will read this book, or at least read ABOUT it or watch Michael Oren on BookTV. Or read this interview.

I think history is pretty much like current events, in that each side will see reinforcement of their opinion in it. But at least you'll know this thing goes way way WAY back beyond - well, unless you already know why that copy of the Koran was in Thomas Jefferson's study, don't assume you know.

The other thing I wanted to jabber about is this site that eeTeeD linked to. Just want to bring it up front here, out of the comments section, and second the motion that you check it out. It's always fun to listen to grouchy miserable people who hate their job and think that the industry they work in, once proud and noble, is now a cheap whore controlled by a rich pimp, churning out rancid product that the public devours greedily like a dog eating vomit.

HOWEVER! I must take exception to the popular sport of Simpsons-bashing! All of these elitists who say the Simpsons is crap now, and has been "ever since Season Whatever"...

I disagree.


Jed said...

TV writing for animation, for the most part, was never a noble profession, with a few notable exceptions like Jay Ward.

I think the main beef this guy and a lot of people have with the Simpsons is that it's very very focused on the writing over the visuals. It doesn't have the sense that anything started or was generated visually, that a gag is dependant on anything that can't be described and then executed. And then there's the endless telegraphing, where characters overexplain what you're already seeing. When you think back to the classic days of animation, some of the best gags wouldn't be funny at all if you were to explain them in a script. Wiley Coyote falling off a cliff over and over just sounds kind of lame when you try to explain it to somebody. Herein lies the rub.

Also there's a particular kind of humor that's dominated the American scene ever since Saturday Night Live, and it's very much derived from the Harvard Lampoon crowd. The Simpsons is an extension of this. Sometimes it's really really sharp, but it often has a certain well-we-didn't-really-mean-it toothlessness that seperates it from genuinely cutting satire--even Kurtzman era Mad was bolder and went more for the throat.

Marky Mark said...

2 questions:

1. Do you actually watch the Simpsons?

2. What cartoon do you think rises to the level of visuals-over-writing and Kurtzman era satire? I'm assuming Jay Ward material, but please clarify so I don't make an ass of u and me.

Jed said...

1. Hey, I dig the Simpsons. Haven't seen the latest couple of seasons though. Am I full of shit? Bullwinkle was often seriously writing focused, but it was good writing, and I'd say the same about the Simpsons, but that doesn't change my criticisms. Bullwinkle certainly had a lot of telegraphing, but it was used to comic effect--the narrator would describe what was happening, and then the characters would also describe what they were doing while they were doing it, which only made the thing they were doing--which was already inherantly silly--even funnier.

2. Visuals over writing: Samurai Jack. It's not earth shattering, but it's one of the few TV cartoons that are effectively image driven, and it's really pretty to look at--beautifully designed.

3. Kurtzman level Satire just can't be found in TV cartoons. I'd say Steven Colbert is up to that level, though. Early Dan Clowes Eightball. Now thats satire with some serious teeth.

BonzoGal said...

I keep hearing that The Simpsons has "jumped the shark", but I still enjoy it as much as I ever have, which is a whole dang lot. I especially love it when the first ten minutes are spent in some twisted, complicated plot that turns out to just be a set up for the "real" plot. The writers/directors of The Simpsons seem to be in tune with their audience, staying just one step ahead of expectations, plotwise.

I went to that blog/website and was turned off immediately by a long and angry post about how female executives are killing animation because while male execs are apathetic toward cartoons, females actually HATE cartoons and enjoy destroying the hopes and dreams of animators. It was the biggest load of horse poop I've read in a while. One female commentor tried to correct this skewed view of female producers, and the blog owner shut her down with "My comments would only make you mad if they fit!"


Speaking of MAD, Al Feldstein is going to be in SF this weekend, and I'm gonna go see him! Weeehah!

Jed said...

I didn't get so far as the "all female producers suck" part of that blog, but I would tend not to lean favorably towards the idea that gender gives you a predisdisposition one way or another to the medium of animation. Is it a prenatal thing? Or are women socialized to hate cartoons? I was sort of having fun reading that blog but it's a bummer that he turned out to be such a lunatic. I'm embarassed that I actually reccomended that site to people.

Al Feldstein: Where is he appearing? Al Feldstein is the shiznit. I think my favorite thing about Al Feldstein is his wonky Weird Science and Weird Fantasy and Weird Science Fantasy covers, like the one with the slimey google-eyed aliens who just shot a giant hole through a planet with craters on it. Clearly Kang from the Simpsons is inspired by these EC era lovlies.

When, exactly, did I say I didn't like the Simpsons? Main points here: it's a writer-based show--the shows strength, and weakness is its writing. The writers think like writers, not like animators. That's really the only point I wanted to make. I would like to make it clear that when I mentioned Samurai Jack in this context I was NOT trying to say that Samurai Jack was a better show than the Simpsons. The Simpsons is probably the best situation comedy ever to air on TV. I was just posing it as an example of a writer driven show, versus a visually-driven show--why some animators, like this guy, may not take a shine to it.

And yes, I kind of resent the relentless reign over American humor that those Harvard Lampoon/National Lampoon guys have been carrying on for decades. CaddyShack, without Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight to save it, otherwise would have been a piece of shit. This level of fratboy banality has seeped into too many of our comedy institutions: David Letterman, Conan O'Brian, Saturday Night Live, the Simpsons, and so on. I'm not saying these shows suck, but there's just too much comedy inbreeding going on. Lets get some new blood in there!

The other question, and I'm only posing it as a question and not necessary as a position: what is subversive humor? And I don't think humor has to be subversive to be effective.

What really bugs me though, is when something pretends to be subversive when it just aint. David Letterman and Saturday Night Live, case in point. Silly Nixon imitations and Chevy Chase pretending to be Ford falling on his ass just doesn't cut it.

There's a mild subversiveness to the Simpsons, but it's mainly just funny. And it has no pretensions to being anything other than just funny. I can respect that.

As for my Taboos: I couldn't regret the loss of my Taboos more. I lost them to a teenage crush on a patchouli wearing goth hippy girl. To this day, the insidiously wretched scent of patchouli only serves as a reminder of those lost Taboos, among other regrets.

Jed said...

And Benny:

Make sure after you put in your coments it says this:

Your comment has been saved and will be visible after blog owner approval.

BonzoGal said...

Al Feldstein is going to be a special guest at a comical book convention in San Francisco this Friday/Sattiday/Sunday at the Moscone Center. (WonderCon, if'n you're thinking of going.) And I think he may appear at the downtown Cartoon Art Museum this Friday evening at a reception for the con guests. I'm a member of the museum, so I might go and drool on Al's sleeve or something. (The Cartoon Art Museum of SF focuses mainly on newspaper comics, which is my main interest in the comicals world.)

I'll wear my BAD MANS! t-shirt and be the envy of all the geeklets there.

I agree about Samurai Jack- a few episodes had no dialogue at all, but were still fascinating to watch.

Anonymous said...

I must say I was very ignorat about history either but lately I have found it interesting and I am even enjoying some history documentaries On TV.

by the way have you ever listen to that audio book Flyers???
that is huge part of the jhistory.