Scopitones, anyone?

Live from, here are some Scopitone* videos for your Valentine’s Day viewing pleasure:

*What’s a Scopitone? According to Wikipedia:

In the 1960s, French technology developed for the aerial photography during the war was adapted to create the Scopitone, a modern visual jukebox. The Scopitone was a hit in France with fairly primitive scenes of bands playing, but when it was introduced into the US, the videos took on a vivid quality, with crooners wandering through crowds of girls in bikinis or “jungle” furs. The Scopitone also was a hit, but involvement of organized crime led to its demise, just as rock and roll was being revitalized, too late for Scopitone.

Thanks again to Beancounter Pam for finding, maybe the best thing to hit the Internet since Max Raabe.

Words of wisdom from your local toilet

talking toilet

2013: Okay, Enough Nature

Emboldened by our Year of Nature, I reserved one of the year-round cabins at Savoy Mountain State Forest for President’s Day weekend.

Savoy is nestled in an off-the-grid part of Massachusetts, that mysterious area between the Pioneer Valley and the Berkshires without cell service or high speed internet. Which is one of its charms.

Cabin 3

Cabin 3

It turns out that there are limits to nature loving, especially for people who have spent most of their adult lives living in a city. When the temperature drops to 5 degrees and you realize the sleeping bag zipper didn’t magically fix itself after you shoved it in the closet last fall and you’re out of wood because you burned through the two-day supply in one night, then it is time to reconsider nature.

View From Cabin 3

View From Cabin 3

So on day two, we bailed. Did some great snowshoeing on the Tannery Trail and fled back to civilization. Back to hot chocolate at the Old Creamery, back to electricity, running water, and indoor toilets, and back to the sweet, sweet thermostat.

Saturday afternoon in Kensington, Philadelphia

This week’s CSA share included Greensgrow bucks, which we spent on bread, heirloom tomato salsa, and a Port Fishington cookie.

The resident chickens seemed in good spirits, and there were signs of fall at the farm, including mums.

Arts Pick: emptiness of pop culture

Hello Kitty cake

Today’s arts pick is an astoundingly brilliant commentary on the emptiness of pop culture. The ubiquitous subject is familiar to most people as a loveable kitty exploited to sell everything from school supplies to thongs.

But don’t be deceived by the sweet exterior, which lacks substance and depth and merely serves to conceal the despair caused by crass consumerism. The most obvious example of this hopelessness is the subject’s right ear, which has been savagely removed–perhaps as an homage to Van Gogh–but does not bleed the blood of the living. And though the vacant eyes have been pierced by instruments of illumination, they cannot be windows to an entity that has no soul. Alas, the mouthless subject must endure her abuse in silent anguish.

This piece is currently on display in a Philadelphia refrigerator. Please be advised that security is high because several visitors have attempted to remove the left ear.

South Philly

Bizarre sandwiches aside, Sunday was a perfect day to explore the city–sunny and unseasonably warm. During a late afternoon stop at the South Philly Tap Room, where Lenny Kravitz and Frank Sinatra were in heavy jukebox rotation, I saw another slice of South Philly.

Beethoven’s Fur Elise began playing, which didn’t seem unusual since it’s a popular ringtone. However, as I peered over the rim of my Yuengling and glanced out the window, I realized that the music was coming from a pink ice cream truck driving slowly down Mifflin Street. Right on the tail of the ice cream truck was an angry SUV driver honking his horn and shaking his fist, which made the ice cream guy slow down even more, which made the SUV guy get out of his car to show the ice cream guy a thing or two, which made the ice cream guy take off and leave the SUV guy stranded at a red light. Now that would’ve been a good picture.

MOMA fashion police

The recently re-opened Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) is overwhelming. Not only is the place filled with sculpture, photos, drawings, paintings, and film, it’s filled with people. Lots and lots of people. Many of them are wearing questionable clothing. Is it art?

Exhibits A and B: a protest against the traditional repression of undergarments?

moma fashion faux pasmoma fashion faux pas

Fahrenheit 9/11. Also, what is Ray Bradbury’s damage?

People everywhere are writing about Fahrenheit 9/11. I mostly agree with this review at IMDB, so I won’t add to the discussion except to say that, whatever else you think of him, Michael Moore does not make boring movies.

But why oh why is Ray Bradbury being such a cranky old curmudgeon about the film’s title? I hate speaking ill of the man; Fahrenheit 451, along with 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, Brave New World, etc., represents one of my favorite genres: “apocalyptic futures that could happen if you all don’t pay attention.”

The internet has been full of angry Ray Bradbury stories for the past few weeks, but I got mad all over again when I heard Tuesday’s interview on the radio program Here and Now.

I hope this film sinks away and is forgotten.

Nice. If any filmmaker wishes to use the title of a Good Grief! post, he or she should feel free to do so. Words of Wisdom From Your Toilet, Dating Polar Bears, and Roy Orbison and the Infidel Ray would make fascinating documentaries.

Surrealism in American Animation

Tonight, The Secret Cinema presented an amazing program of short cartoons:  Surrealism in American Animation.  Awesome, awesome, awesome, even if you don’t buy the program’s premise that surrealism in the cartoons of the 20’s and 30’s is related to the rise of Surrealist art.

Each piece in the program was a testament to the creativity of early animators, and I liked most of them better than Logorama, this year’s Oscar-winning animated short.*  Here are the toons I remember, and happily, most of them are on YouTube (although this format doesn’t do justice to many of the brilliant details).

  • Max Fleischer’s Dancing on the Moon:  newly-married animal couples ride the Honeymoon Express for some dancing (and necking, in the case of the giraffes).
  • Tex Avery’s King Size Canary (1947), in which a cat, a dog, a bird, and a mouse drink a bottle of Jumbo-Grow plant food.
  • Van Beuren’s Tom and Jerry–not the cat and mouse–Rocketeers (1932):  Tom and Jerry accidentally land in the deep sea and end up living the good life with mermaids.
  • Betty’s Museum (1932):  Betty Boop gets locked in a museum overnight.
  • Ub Iwerk’s Balloon Land (1935):  A land made of balloons is threatened by the evil “pin cushion man.”  Silly me–I thought Billy’s Balloon was about as twisted as balloon cartoons get.  Not so.
  • Music Land, a Disney Silly Symphony (1935):  The Isle of Jazz’s saxophone prince falls in love with the Land of Symphony’s violin princess.  Unfortunately, they are separated by the Sea of Discord, the prince is imprisoned in a metronome, and the two countries wage a battle of classical versus jazz.  There’s a happy ending!
  • Paul Terry’s The Magician (1927):  Secret Cinema showed this silent film with pre-recorded music and was kind enough to prevent audience confusion by explaining Tong Wars beforehand.  Sadly, I couldn’t find an online video for this cartoon about a cat who takes his girlfriend to Chinatown for chop suey.
  • To Spring (1936), a Happy Harmonies piece about the the little men who create Spring.  Interesting side note:  the Happy Harmonies name (and Merrie Melodies too) were derived from Disney’s very successful Silly Symphonies series.

The Secret Cinema event came two day’s after I saw Kristy Graybill of MiNDTV give a computer animation workshop at Philly’s Free Library.  As part of the discussion, Kristy pointed out that stories and artistic concepts trump animation tools and techniques.  So true.  Long live creative animation!

*The technical execution of Logorama is top-notch, and it’s a very clever way to display logos, but it lacks a good story.  It didn’t deserve to beat out some of the other nominees.