Tuesday, May 27, 2008
  The Incandescent Brain of Jeremiah McDonald

How do you follow Will Elder? A tough act to follow. So the logical choice is ultra-talented Jeremiah McDonald, the man of multiple identities who was once labeled "The Best YouTuber." Imagine Lee Evans meeting Doodles Weaver as directed by David Lynch. Imagine lightning over water as directed by Dziga Vertov.

Better do this post now before the mainstream media offers him big bucks. But how do I pick just one? Okay, even though embedded on other blogs, the logical choice is Jazz Dispute (2:28). Posted November 2006, it is now approaching 400,000 views on YouTube. The recording (from 1950) is "Leap Frog" by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Field hollers, call and response... and all that jazz. Jeremiah, gonna take us highah, highah.

Not too much has been written so far about McDonald. Here's an article by Jason Wilkins from the Boston Phoenix (March 21, 2007):

Since the Lord is reportedly present throughout creation, it stands to reason that he pervades the World Wide Web. And lo, His cyber-prophet has emerged in Maine.
The Church of Blow emerged a few months ago, and has issued more than 30 video-sermons to its growing flock. They all feature a young man in a purple robe decorated with green hearts. He has a Biblical beard and a bug-eyed look. “Hi, I’m Reverend Cornelius Blow,” he lightly drawls. “I have had a vision... I was instructed: ‘Cornelius, it’s time to start a church... on YouTube.’” Eagle-eyed fans of local theater may have already identified the RevCorBlow (“that’s my hip-hop name”) as Jeremiah McDonald, who has graced Portland-area stages with his laser-sharp comic timing. McDonald is also a filmmaker who has embraced the Web as a way to hone his craft while finding an audience.

Second choice: The self-referential Bernard K. Smith: My Part in His Downfall (Part One) (6:06) is more recent, from February 2008. It cites the above Jazz Dispute and gangs up on a gang of doppelgangers. Haven't we meta before? Perhaps last year in Marienbad? Don't blink or you'll miss the quick flash homage to Film (1965). Imagine Donna Tartt and Samuel Beckett as filtered through Ken Nordine. Bernard K. Smith is effervescent. Did you effer see him when he effervasn't?:

In 1965, the filmmaker Fred Mogubgub painted a towering cartoon woman down the side of a Manhattan building alongside an immense sign that asked, "Why doesn't someone give Mogubgub Ltd. two million dollars to make a movie?" McDonald doesn't need to go to that extreme, since his talent speaks for itself. But I'll say it anyway: Why doesn't someone give Jeremiah McDonald two million dollars to make a movie?

Click title heading at top to hear jazz and blues on Concertzender.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008
  I was so much Elder (1921-2008) then; I'm younger than that now.

Mad pages ©2008 EC Publications.

Will Elder, one of the great funnymen of the 20th Century, died on Thursday. He could draw anything and make it funny. He took whatever Harvey Kurtzman came up with and carried it one step further.

How influential was Will Elder? Even film directors took a cue from him. In Louis Malle's Zazie dans le métro (1960) one scene is an Elder-style situation translated to live-action comedy with background action upstaging the foreground. Psychology Today once ran an illustration homage to Elder's memorable "Mole!" (Mad #2). In the 1950s, when other comic book publishers attempted to duplicate the success of Mad by spewing forth such titles as Wild, Crazy, Eh! and Madhouse, they focused on Elder's panels and had their cartoonists do chaotic backgrounds filled with silly signs and bad puns. But that only made it clear that they did not see funny the way Elder did.

"Restaurant!" is from Mad #16 (October 1954). When you click on the splash panel to expand it to immense size, amazing details are revealed, and you can also see that he did not cheat. Almost every character has an extreme action or gag. A dog and an open mouth hint at the RCA Victor trademark. Two characters imitate the Kilroy nose pose, famed from WWII when the UK's Chad character was joined with the signature of Quincy, Massachusetts shipyard inspector J.J. Kilroy. Stanley Link's Ching Chow stands framed in the doorway (not unlike being framed by panel borders). On the wall is a giant ad for Bufferin. A woman wears a teapot on her head. The fan blows a man's false teeth from his mouth. Almost like a puzzle, the guy in the pink shirt conceals the scissors he used to clip the girl's hair ribbon to make his tie. The reader becomes aware of panels within panels and stories within stories.

To Elder it was only logical that Terry Lee and Pat Ryan from Terry and the Pirates would go to a Chinese restaurant in the comic book world. And in a real life restaurant, Elder once stood at the cash register and pulled lettuce from his wallet. What those other comic book publishers failed to understand was that Elder viewed life itself as the true theater of the absurd.

Curiously, most of the obits and tributes over the past few days make little or no mention of the superb work the team of Elder and John Severin did in the early 1950s with Severin penciling and Elder inking on stories for EC's two war comics (Frontline Combat, Two-Fisted Tales) and EC's science fiction, notably on two Ray Bradbury stories, "The Million Year Picnic" (Weird Fantasy 21, September 1953) and "King of the Grey Spaces" (Weird Fantasy 19, May 1953).

For more on Elder, take a look at Eddie Hunter's Chicken Fat, a blog named after one of Elder's familiar running gags. For more on Elder's influence, see the journal of William Stout and the Vancouver Art Gallery. The New York Times carried his obituary, "Will Elder, Cartoonist of Satiric Gifts and Overpopulated Scenes, Dies at 86," by William Grimes on Sunday.

Elder influence on Firesign Theatre album cover illustration by William Stout.

In Gary Vandenbergh's film, Will Elder: The Mad Playboy
of Art
(2002), Kurtzman and Elder discuss their working methods.

On last page of "The Raven" (Mad 9), note the panel five lettering error which ignored the balloon stem, prompting an additional error of stem covered by color.

For previous Kurtzman/Elder in Potrzebie go here.
For Gary Groth's interview with Elder, go here.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008
  Pull My Daisy
The evocative Pull My Daisy (1959), co-directed by Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie, remains just as watchable as it was in the 1960s. It's included in the evening program of the 5/15 Robert Frank retro at Lincoln Center. Jack Kerouac's narration was a spontaneous improvisation, but here's what makes it work so beautifully: When the narration was joined to the film, instead of being synchronized to the moment, it was moved back a few seconds, making Kerouac's delivery anticipate the images.  

The 28-minute film was adapted from the third act of Kerouac's play, The Beat Generation. The cast includes Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Larry Rivers, Peter Orlovsky, David Amram (who also did the music) and Delphine Seyrig (1932-1990), who starred two years later in Alain Resnais' Last Year in Marienbad (1961). Appearing as the Bishop's wife is the painter Alice Neel (1900-1984), famed for her painting of Joe Gould with multiple penises. She was portrayed by Susan Sarandon in Joe Gould's Secret (2000) and is the subject of the recent documentary Alice Neel (2007) by her grandson, Andrew Neel. The Bishop's sister is played by dancer Sally Gross, the subject of a recent Albert Maysles documentary, Sally Gross: The Pleasure of Stillness (2007). Ginsberg and Kerouac did the lyrics for "The Crazy Daisy," sung by Anita Ellis. (When you see Rita Hayworth sing in Gilda and other films, you're actually hearing Anita Ellis.) In 1996 Pull My Daisy was added by the Library of Congress to its National Film Registry.

Pull my daisy
Tip my cup
All my doors are open
Cut my thoughts for coconuts
All my eggs are broken

Pull My Daisy
Pull My Daisy

Jack my Arden
Gate my shades
Woe my road is spoken
Silk my garden rose my days
Now my prayers awaken

In the shade love your made
In the shade pluck the day
Like a daisy

Bone my shadow
Dove my dream
Start my halo bleeding
Milk my mind and make me cream
Drink me when you`re ready

Dove my dream make me cream
Dove my dream

Hop my heart on
Harp my height
Seraphs hold me steady
Hip my angel
Hype my light
Lay it on the needy.

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Friday, May 09, 2008
  Ripley Redux
Control click heading to hear excerpt from the audiobook of Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) read by Michael Hayden.

This is a scene from Purple Noon (1960), adapted from Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley. Below is the scene recreated for an advertising campaign by the South Korean firm Polham.

From 1942 to 1948, Highsmith scripted for comic books. She talks about her work for comic book publishers in this 1987 interview. Having left the field, she got in a nice jab at the comics world in The Talented Mr. Ripley when Ripley phones comic book artist Frederick Reddington (pages 14-16): "Tom had a hunch about Reddington. He was a comic-book artist. He probably didn't know whether he was coming or going."

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Sunday, May 04, 2008
  Gabriel Bá

Control click above for Jeffrey Siegel's Straight No Chaser salute to Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Cover illustration by Brazilian artist Gabriel Bá. Control click to hear Paul Desmond play Luiz Bonfa's "Manha de Carnaval" from Black Orpheus. Control click to hear "The Girl from Ipanema" by Dictionaraoke (songs created by splicing together online dictionary audio clips). Go to Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá blog. Click to read Casanova #1. Click for The Umbrella Academy excerpt. Gabriel captures Fábio inking Casanova:

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Masquerade of the albino axolotls

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is the editor of Against the Grain: Mad Artist Wallace Wood (2003), reviewed by Paul Gravett.

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