May 2006

2006
May
22

The New Calvinists

In recent months, I have become an on-line acquaintance of some of the bestest artist/writers in the field of Webcomics. I will be giving them props here in the blog in the near future, right after I give props to my favorite Bloggers, some of whom I’ve known since the previous millennium. In the meantime, something in one of those comic strips that are printed on crispy kleenex has gotten my attention.

One of my favorites in that category is “Frazz”, about a grammar school janitor who’s better at teaching life lessons to the kids than the teachers. I consider it one of the best-written comics for its mix of wry humor, philosophy and playful positivity (incredibly without ever getting over-sweet – a rare accomplishment).

It’s often compared to “Calvin and Hobbes” (a high honor by calvinandfrazz.GIFitself), but mostly for its visual style – look at this composite picture of Calvin and Frazz both “rockin’ out” (No, the two characters have never actually shared a comic panel; that’s just me playing with my graphic thingy again). As a result, some comic strip critics have suggested that Frazz himself is a grown-up version of Calvin. If that were true, then Frazz has learned a lot since his childhood, most notably to leave fantasy behind. There isn’t a spaceship, T-Rex or talking tiger anywhere near Frazz’s environment. There is one kid in the strip, Caulfield, who is Calvin-esque in his ability for mischief; he might just build sadistic snowman tableaux IF it ever snowed where he lived. Frazz gives Caulfield a lot of personal attention, working in a non-controntational way to nudge him into more maturity – maybe he sees in him some of his own past mistakes. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I have just seen the first thing in “Frazz” that seems to be a blatant copy of “Calvin and Hobbes”. If you remember C&H, then you must remember the chaotic sport called Calvinball (If not, click on that link for the “official” “rules”). On May 1st, “Frazz” introduced a new sport that he and the kids called Bedlamball. And for four days of strips, it was deja vu all over again.

bedlamball.gif
(At least there was no mention of flags or masks.) After these four strips, Frazz artist Jef Mallett wisely moved on to another subject before the World Calvinball League could call its lawyers… Then again, for all I know, Bill Watterson himself may have contacted Mallett and said “you know, there were a couple things about Calvinball I never got around to…”
For those of you wondering, yes, I am eagerly awaiting a C&D from Frazz’s syndicate.

AND NOW A WORD FROM SOMEBODY WHO MAY HAVE NEVER HEARD OF ME...
2006
May
21

Graphical Greatest Hits

Every once in a while I fire up my not-quite-photoshop graphics program and create some kind of whimsical/satirical image thingy that, individually, has been desperately unimpressive, but, gathered together into some kind of portfolio/gallery, may motivate some of my several viewers to click on my Google Ads just to get the hell away from this site as fast as they can!

Aren’t All Casinos Like That?
When the “Morongo Indian Bingo Hall” expanded into a full-fledged casino/resort in the desert near Palm Springs, I thought it had one big thing going against itself – its name, as I demonstrated in a simple animated GIF thingy.
moron-go.gif

Meaty Commentary
Remember those good old days when everybody and his monkey were doing parodies of the Homeland Security Color-Coded Alert Chart? I was one of the few who noticed that, at the same time, Mad Cow Disease was providing a secondary level of hysterical fear. So, I designed an appropriate hybrid graphic.
threatlevels.jpg
Another enterprising satirist made a more appropriate version of this idea, with “Red for Rare” on the top, but mine looked better. In addition to Mad Cow, this will also protect you from Happy Cows from California, the Creepy Burger King and Morgan Spurlock, but failed to protect me from Jack.

Trials and TiVolations
While the folks at Google are trying to live up to their motto “Don’t Be Evil” (and apparently failing, according to Dilbert), some other tech trailblazers aren’t really trying. That’s why when the news first broke about some of TiVo’s data mining practices, I designed this alternate logo.
tivil2.gif

The Second Internet Crash
When Howard Dean was supposedly using internet-based grass-roots campaigning to pursure the Presidency, I had a suggestion for a mascot for his campaign.
deanpet.JPG

Hey, Cookie!
One of the more localized memes of the last few years was the British thing featuring a picture of aging crooner Lionel Richie with his old ’70s afro replaced by a giant “Rich-Tea” brand biscuit (cookie, for you non-Brits). They called it “Lionel Rich-Tea”. British humor. Gotta love it. Still, I thought it needed to be made more current, more topical, more “Now Generation”, so I created…
nicolerichtea.jpg
Nicole Rich-Tea! Why I am not the UK’s favorite blog I’ll never know.

Speaking of Talent-less Second-Generation Celebrities…
From Early 2001:
bushes.jpg
and in response to a “design your own campaign sign” thingy, I harkened back to the DIY spirit of the Sex Pistols…
ballots.jpg

Highlight/Lowlight
Okay, the first impression I got from one of Bin Laden’s infamous tapes was that he was trying to look like a TV Anchorman…
binladenanchorman.jpg
…but I think I made my point with this little image, which, if you haven’t guessed, used three parts of the same crowd picture…
demonstration.JPG

More to come. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

May
21

No Big Deal

Just when the buzz from my “Deal or No Deal” interview/spoof with The Banker had died into the background noise, the 50% owners of MSNBC.com decide it’s good enough – and “funny” enough – for their mega-front page.
deal.JPG
Lots of fresh eyes reading a piece that has some serious content that only a fan of “Numb3rs” could really love… and more people clicking the link over here to find out “WHO IS THIS GUY?” (I’m not even sure myself). But still no word from the other 50% owner of MSNBC.com, for whom “Deal” is their biggest primetime hit show, and who may not appreciate me pointing out just how much The Banker lowballs his early offers. But then, tomorrow, I may open my front door and find 26 lovely model-type ladies – who will beat me senseless with steel briefcases…

2006
May
19

Krispy Kleenex!

Speaking of Opus, his comic on Sunday, May 14th contributed what, to me, is a great new way to refer to the “dead tree media”, as he deals with a young person so tech-involved that he may know the News, but doesn’t know the Paper…
crispykleenex.gif

2006
May
17

Animated, Ain’t I?

rockbull.jpg Hello. My name is Wendell and I’m a blog stats junkie. I had just gotten my 90 day chip for not looking at my stats for over three months when, while setting up my new site, Armageddon or Not?, I lapsed and looked at my stats. As I’ve said before (in a blog post that has since become a broken link), Google has been veddy veddy good to me. Kind of too good. This last week, even with TWO current articles at MSNBC.com (this and this), over half of my traffic came from Google searches. Unfortunately, more than half of those were looking for content that, after all my software and hosting changes, had become broken links. And, oddly, more than half of those were looking for one particular graphic image. That’s it, up there. The headline at the bottom wasn’t even my idea and I can’t recall whose it was, but the image was attached to a post NOT about anything political, but pointing to this article I had written about the State of TV Animation in 2004. (Another piece about feature film cartoons and the stars who do voices for them was a couple weeks later, for a different editor; both are now a little dated, and if I may point it out, I am not responsible for my MSNBC.com articles’ titles or accompanying illustration.)
Anyway, that’s it. There is the much-requested pic. I just hope it doesn’t end up on every Right Wing Blog in the U.S.ofA., because if Kerry and Edwards were the Bullwinkle and Rocky of American Politics, then Bush and Cheney are the Pinky & the Brain.

2006
May
16

All Hands on Deck

Are you noticing a kind-of recurring motif in the new design?

hands.GIF

May
16

The Incredible Truth About Minneapolis

I’m finally getting around to re-weblishing the lost content from past incarnations of the blog. In order to give the impression that I am actively creating when I’m not, I’ll show these oldies on the front page for a week or so before putting them in their proper chronological order (which, happily, will not effect their ‘permalink’ location in the least). Cool, eh? OK, this was originally published at epinions.com when I was trying to sabotage its business plan of being a “user-generated product review site”. Actually, others were more outragious in their rebel content, but the concept for this goes back to an argument I had with an ex-semi-girlfriend in 1984, where she was getting all snotty about how culturally superior her home town of Minneapolis was to Los Angeles, and I came up with the response that the City of Minneapolis was just a myth perpetrated by people who’d moved out of Minnesota and didn’t want to admit there was nothing there…

It started when I attended an event at Hollywood’s Museum of Broadcasting saluting “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”. The emcee, Gavin McLeod, announced that all of the show’s original writers were present “except for Allen Burns, who, as you probably know, is so busy with the Minneapolis Project.”
There was a general murmur of approval from the audience, and I, puzzled, asked the sunglasses-wearing-indoors person next to me what the writer/producer was doing in Minneapolis.
“No, man, he’s not doing anything IN Minneapolis, he is DOING Minneapolis.”
And he went on to explain that the metropolitan area of Minneapolis/St. Paul was the totally fictional creation of Hollywood writers, devised to provide a location for the popular ’70s sitcom.
“Now wait a minute, I know there was a Minneapolis before that. Didn’t the Lakers basketball team start there?”
“Yeah, that’s where the name Minneapolis got started. It was some deal between the NBA and Hubert Humphrey Sr. to avoid admitting that the state didn’t have a single city with a population larger than 20,000. The MTM Show people picked up on that, and, of course, Allen Burns was the perfect guy to put in charge.”
“Why was that?”
“Hey, he did the same thing before when he wrote for ‘Bullwinkle’. You know… Frostbite Falls.”
My mind was reeling as he explained how, after the series ended, Burns was hired by the State of Minnesota to “produce” the city. Their most successful project was the “hometown entertainers project” which helped give breaks to performers in exchange for their claiming to be from Minneapolis.
“I mean, think about it, do you really think a character like Prince could have come from anywhere in the midwest?”
“Yeah, that one’s a stretch, but what about Garrison Keillor?”
“Oh, now that was genius. A perfect example of what magicians call misdirection. Everybody thinks Lake Wobegon is a fictional town…”
“It’s real?”
“Yep, just before the 1980 census, the state house passed a law re-allocating a percentage of the population in all the towns to go toward Minneapolis. Trouble was, a few of them lost enough numbers to fall off the map. Keillor picked one with a good name, and the rest is media hype history.”
“But his Prairie Home show…”
“Done in New York City from day one. I think he’s renting the Ed Sullivan theater on weekends these days…”
“And what about the Mall of America?”
“Oh, that’s for real, and another great bit of misdirection. I mean, after you’ve been in that mall, you just forget whether you’ve seen any part of a real city…”
The story was amazing, but as I thought about it I realized, I knew people who moved to L.A. from rural Minnesota, but nobody from Minneapolis. Therefore, either it’s such a great place to live nobody ever moves away, or it really doesn’t exist!
I found the City of Minneapolis office in a North Hollywood strip mall, next to a “99-Cents Only Store”. The office manager refused to speak on the record, but declared that they had nothing to hide.
“We’re awfully busy right now trying to fix some problems with the population reallocation.”
“What kind of problems?”
“Well, somehow, it got Jesse Ventura elected governor.”
“I’d better let you get back to work.”
“Hey, at least we’re doing better than the Arkansas Project.”
The Arkansas Project?

2006
May
10

Rhyme, Sime, Rhyme!

Okay, the new Paul Simon album is out (a collaboration with Brian “Collaborates With Everybody” Eno) with a website where you can hear four of the songs in their entirety and read all the lyrics like they’re short essays. Now, in my long-lost youth, I wrote one-liners for disc jockeys, was so thankful for Simon songs like “Kodachrome” (Momma don’t take my Kodachrome away, you’re already overdeveloped) and “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” (Start runnin’ and stop rhymin’, Simon!) and “You Can Call Me Al” (…as long as you get the name right on the paycheck), so an opportunity to play with not-very-tall Paul’s words is like a day at the beach…

“If the answer is infinite light, why do we sleep in the dark?”
Because we want to be awake to see the answer, duh.

“It’s outrageous a man like me stand here and complain.”
Truer words have seldom been sung.

“Who’s gonna love you when your looks are gone?”
On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.

“Trust your intuition. It’s just like goin’ fishin’.”
Yep, that’s Awkwardly Rhymin’ Simon. Fishin’ accomplished.

“We brought a brand new baby back from Bangladesh… Beautiful.”
What no infant from Iran, child from Chad, adoptee from Argentina or rugrat from Russia?

Not so sure about Eno’s contribution; musically, it sounds kinda like parts of “Graceland” with all the ethnicity surgically removed. Ah yes I’m goin’ to Graceland, and after that, to the old Nixon house, Disgraceland.

2006
May
4

Every Day (in May) is a Holiday!

Sorry I wasn’t able to deliver the NEW and IMPROVABLE OneSwellFoop NetWorks on the first of May as I had semi-promised, but the recent cluster of holidays really messed things up, and the interruptions aren’t over yet. Last week, as I noted, we had Administrative Professionals Day, so I had to give my Assistant-Who-Knows-More-Than-I-Do (or AWKMTID) some time off, and Friday was Arbor Day so I had to give my wood office furniture some time off.

Then Monday was Day Without Immigrants Mass Protest Day and since my AWKMTID is an immigrant – actually he’s only half-immigrant on his father’s side, so he had to take Monday AND Tuesday off – and he had the keys to the internet… Wednesday was National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, and my AWKMTID is also a teenage girl on MySpace… Wednesday was also World Press Freedom Day, so I ended up spending the whole day trying to get 1000 copies of the First Amendment done at Kinko’s.

Today, Thursday, is the National Day of Prayer here in the U.S.ofA., and considering the state of the country today, I have a lot of praying to do. Then Friday is Cinco de Mayo, the day when non-Mexicans act like they think Mexicans do, so I’m going to be joining a mass protest somewhere. Besides, it’s also No Pants Day, which coincidentally is part of how I celebrate Cinco de Mayo, and Saturday is Astronomy Day, so I’ll still have my pants off to do some mooning. Fortunately, it’s also National Nurses Day, who coincidentally are the people I have most often mooned (I blame hospital gowns). Then Monday is International Red Cross Day, which just makes the three-day period optimal for calling in sick. Next Tuesday is National Teachers Day, so I’ll be going back to school, followed on Wednesday by National Receptionist Day, and if I don’t give the Receptionist the same time off I gave the Administrative Professionals last week, I won’t be getting my phone calls for the rest of the year. Somewhere amid all this is International Midwives Day, and if I don’t give the Midwife the same time off I gave the Receptionist and the Administrative Professionals, I won’t be getting any deliveries…

Then Monday the 15th is Peace Officers Memorial Day, when I traditionally turn myself in for my past crimes (and this last year has been a doozy), and Tuesday the 16th is National Bike to Work Day and unfortunately, I only have a stationary exercise bike. The 18th is International Museum Day, when I go to the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum to visit my giant ball of string, the 19th is Malcolm X Day, which I always spend watching ten episodes of “Malcolm in the Middle” (you got your traditions, I got mine, and I am very very very white, okay?), the 20th is Armed Forces Day, when I traditionally turn myself in for being AWOL, and the 21st is National Waiter/Waitress Day, and I’ve got a lot of tipping to do.

The 22nd is International Day for Biological Diversity so I’ll be taking a platypus to lunch, while the 23rd is World Turtle Day, so you know things will be running v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y that day. The 25th is National Missing Childrens Day, Towel Day (inspired by the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy), National Tap Dancing Day and Western Christian Ascension Day, and it’s gonna take me until then just to figure out how I’m going to celebrate all four on the same day.

Then the following monday is Memorial Day, and by then, I most likely won’t remember a thing… so I’ll catch up with you folks in June.