There is no corner bar where I can go, play pinball, have a shot and watch TV for a while, not really paying attention because it’s hockey or basketball, and then walk home, grateful there’s a little outpost of conviviality. So I went to Target.
It’s not quite the same. But I needed a broiler pan. (Neighborhood bars rarely have those for sale.) As it turned out no one who shops at Target does much broiling; aside from one small pan that doubled as a roaster and would accommodate a Cornish Game Hen (but not two; the wire would bend) there wasn’t anything useful. So back to DVDs to see if Coco was available in 4K.
It was! And they were out. Around the corner was a man with his tween son, looking at other animation.
“Oh man,” said the dad, picking up a box set of Jonny Quest. “I can’t believe it.”
“The original?” I said. He nodded. “I think this came out the year I was born. I loved it.”
“The spider thing,” I said. “The orb that landed and then grew legs and walked around and stared at everything with that eye.”
“It gave me nightmares,” he said.
“The invisible creature they could only see when they dumped paint on it.”
“The sound it made haunted me for my entire childhood,” he said.
He stuck out his hand and we shook.
“Thanks,” he said.
And we parted.
At the register, there was a 4K version of Coco. Well then! No broiler pan, but a fantastic movie.
Speaking of animation: We may complain about the effects of the internet on our culture, but on the other hand, I typed “cartoon dog who levitates” into Google and came up right away with Snuffles, complete with a picture. He was in Queek Straw.
How, and why? My editor at work had asked if I remembered the dog, during a conversation about old cartoons; I had responded to a request to fix something in a piece with the stupid vulture voice from a Bugs Bunny cartoon. This led to more googling for cartoon details, since I was convinced that Babalooie (from, you know, Queek Straw) was put in a box in the closing credits of the show, and from the box he saw “s’awright.” And that this was actually a catchphrase from Señor Wences.
All these things are settling neurons alight, and lead to additional inert memories hauled to the surface and instantaneously resuscitated. Sshe remembered something about Ignatz, my precious and I was taken a bit aback - well, wouldn’t that be Krazy Kat? But that predated our generation.
Turns out no, it didn’t; they made Krazy Kat cartoons in the 50s, which ran endlessly in syndication. This, I think, was a mistake. The characters needed no voices and the requirements of cartoon plot and pacing were anathema to the surreal cartoon. Which was about a cat in love with a mouse who threw bricks at her head.
The cartoon also lacked the context of the original, which usually appeared in a stack of dull, indistinguishable comics. Wiki:
Despite the slapstick simplicity of the general premise, the detailed characterization, combined with Herriman's visual and verbal creativity, made Krazy Kat one of the first comics to be widely praised by intellectuals and treated as "serious" art. Art critic Gilbert Seldes wrote a lengthy panegyric to the strip in 1924, calling it "the most amusing and fantastic and satisfactory work of art produced in America today.
As I said last week, you can learn a lot by a subscription to newspapers.com. I’ve been studying the comics of the 20s, and they’re just not very funny or unique. Would you like a preview of the 2019 Bleat Updates? Why of course you would.
The serial strips are mostly forgotten today, but here’s a shocker: in the 20s they made a movie out of a comic. Ella Cinders.
Of course Colleen would do the character; she'd made a splash in "Flaming Youth" in 1923.
The strip started in 1926, and ran until 1961. You can guess the basic situation from her name. A 1929 strip:
The sameness and predictability of the strips was blown wide open by Krazy Kat - the Bloom County of its day, in a way. Anyway: the kids who watched the cartoons in color probably had no idea where this was coming from, any more than we knew that Daws Butler was ripping off Bert Lahr to do the Snagglepuss voice. Does it matter? Nope - except it’s cool to know the antecedents, and I don’t understand people who don’t care about them. I don’t mean you have to CARE in some GEEK WAY where it’s important to KNOW STUFF, so you can unfurl your feathers at the Peacock Con. But care in the sense of adding to your understanding of the innumerable small things that made up the culture you inherited.
Ah heck, let's just do all cartoons for Thursday.
Four pieces of 1926 humor from Gaar Williams.
The kid could've got those pants out of a 1970s Sears catalogue.
That's a lot of front door for a house. Maybe they liked to move the piano outdoors when when the weather got warm.
No one saves their first dollar anymore . . .
. . . unless you're a bar. The tradition seems to survive for bars
"Secret Ambition" was one of the themes he used. In those days a single cartoonist could rotate between concepts as he pleased
This might have been the concept he used the least.
Gaar was moderately successful, and well-regarded:
Gaar Campbell Williams (December 12, 1880 - June 15, 1935) was a prominent American cartoonist who worked for the Indianapolis News and the Chicago Tribune. His scenes of horse-and-buggy days in small towns of the Victorian era included situations taken from memories of his childhood in his hometown of Richmond, Indiana. Labeled the Hoosier Cartoonist or the James Whitcomb Riley of the Pencil, his cartoon panels captured the flavor of a bygone era to the degree they were deemed worthy of reprinting in the mid-20th century years after his death.
Calling someone the James Whitcomb Riley of the Pencil means just about zip to 99.9% of the country today.
Welcome to Detroit, again.
I find the ruins of this city endlessly fascinating, and dismaying. The big ruins get all the press, but it’s the old commercial streets that have been scoured and blasted that give
A nice little Moderne structure, still in use. Glass blocks! The windows of the future!
A few years ago . . .
And a recent view.
Always a comforting sign when an old church is still in business.
Go on, try. Make it something plausible. I can’t. Perhaps the windows and door faced an alley that no longer exists - but it’s obvious something else was built and then destroyed. Fire? Gravity?
Let’s revisit a building from a week or so ago.
Since I took the snaps, the Google Car returned. The return of the neighborhood to green grass continues:
Another example. 2013:
We’ll end with this. Imagine the stories and lives that played out in this elegant old apartment store.
Only one story left, and that’s the one about the day it finally falls.
That’ll do for Detroit, for a while.
And now you have restaurants to visit - the last of the exterior shots for 2018. Then it'll be interior shots, which are so much more fun! Right! No, of course not. But we'll get through it together.