It’s nine billion degrees out, and that is fine with me.
Started the day by shaving with the Aveda supplies brought by the International Man of Mystery I mentioned yesterday. He has a plan to put in your hands a device of surpassing fascination, and it’s called –
Well, no. Later.
Anyway: he had brought not just shampoo but shaving cream, for reasons to baroque and banal to mention here, and by Bleat standards that’s saying something. They were Aveda products, which all have the same promise: you, too, can smell like Horst. I’ve been in the same room with Horst a few times. The fellow smells good. The room smells good when Horst enters. You could put Horst in a closed room in which 30 men were smoking cheap cigars, and the place would smell like a unicorn belched after drinking rosemary tea – but like the Empath in that Star Trek episode, it would probably kill him to take on so many foul odors. Horst can only do so much.
I applied the shaving gel. It did not foam. I consulted the label: it said that the gel did not foam. Nothing more needed to be said. Horst must regard foaming as overly showy. Whorish, almost. The only problem was the absence of a visual signal to show were I’d shaved – foam has the virtue of telling you where you’ve been. With clear gel, you have to think. You have to keep track. When I was done, though, I had the cleanest shave I’ve had in a long time.
I do not have Aveda Emergency Humectants, though. That’s another matter.
Tomorrow: the International Man of Mystery texts the Fifth Question.
So (G)Nat’s at a birthday party, and I figure I’ll head off to a remote coffee shop, write in the early evening light outside, eat where I please, and wander home around eight. As I’m driving I turn on the radio to the Hewitt show, and he’s doing the annual remote from Disneyland with the possibly animatronic Stacia, a walking Disney encyclopedia who knows everything from the number of hairs in Walt’s ear in 1959 to the type of bolt used to keep the cars from flying off on the Dumbo ride. This is always a great show, if noisy, and then I remember: I had promised to come on for the third hour. Hmm. Well, I start thinking of some questions, and I have two: whether MouseCo has any plans to do anything with the Oswald and Alice characters. Hah! That’ll prove my back catalog bona fides.
First caller I hear wants to know if they’re going to do anything with the Oswald and Alice characters.
Honest. Well, think of something else, then. I had supper, drove home, and had the most excruciating hour of radio I’ve had since I did my own remotes at the State Fair. The connection was the sonic equivalent of getting 12 new fillings and chewing on tinfoil for an hour. It got better, but other technical difficulties meant that I’d get dropped, and couldn’t hear what people saying, so I’d run to the phone, hear the question or topic on delay, then wait to be called back and hope I could come up with something possibly relevant to add if they went to me. It’s an odd life.
But fun. We did talk a bit about Oswald, how (G)Nat picked him out of an illustration in the Wall-E Little Golden Book (which I bought on the recommendation of Cartoon Brew – they noted it was done in the mid-century style of the old Golden Books, and they were right), and how this showed something about how simple and elemental the cartoon design was, blah blah blah. This led to more Oswald discussion, and I could neither hear what they were saying or what I was saying. Great moments in communication history, that.
But! A woman called in about an animator named Merle Gilson; she had met him as a child, and he’d said he was a Disney animator, and she’d always wondered if he was making it up or if she’d really met someone who had sitteth at the right hand of Walt. Stacia hadn’t heard of him, and since she can tell you who picked up Disney’s cigarette butts during a storyboard conference for “Plane Crazy” – the first real Mickey cartoon, strictly speaking – it seemed likely the caller had remembered incorrectly, or the fellow was fibbing. Well: off to Google.
Found the name. He was indeed an animator, but for Lanz. And he worked on the Oswald cartoons after the character had been ripped from Disney by the unscrupulous producer and farmed out to Lanz. So perhaps the old guy thought he was telling the truth, in a way, when he said he animated Disney cartoons. You wonder if he decided to shade the truth until he believed it himself. Otherwise, what do you tell a kid? I worked for Walter Lanz. Who? You know, he did Woody Woodpecker. Oh. Did you do Woody Woodpecker? Uh, no. I hope the woman was still listening. The old man hadn't lied. Much.
Otherwise: post-dentist, I went to a suburban coffeehouse to write the noon buzz post, then drove slowly through a first-ring suburb 1960s industrial park whose main drag has a poignant name: Computer Avenue. They must have expected this to be our Silicon Valley, back in the punch-card era. You wonder if they possibly thought that the computers of the future would be used by coffee-shop owners to reply to complaints from another blogger about whether a customer should be allowed to add ice to his purchase. (Yes, the story related yesterday goes on: see here.)
Drive down it if you like; it’s all low-slung early 60s buildings, some of which have tech firms still. (There’s a big Seagate facility as well, currently adding a new wing.)
If you didn’t hit buzz.mn yesterday, you missed the video of the hanging Barbies from which the picture above was extracted. It’s here.
Twitter note: here’s my page. http://twitter.com/lileks
I’ll update throughout the day, although until Twitteriffic fixes the iPhone bug that disses your authentication attempts, it’ll be a bit hit and/or miss.
Unlike the finest comic talent of our times, Chris Onstad, who brings it all home with Roast Beef’s wedding. If you don’t follow Achewood, or have dipped in only to wonder why something so sparely “drawn” with no respect for the high holy tryptich tradition of news-paper comics should be considered funny when it it obviously one of those strange things people on the internet like for reasons that make you angry, somehow, well, don’t go look.
I’ve been reading Achewood for years, and I remember my reaction to the very first comic: that’s not funny. It’s not absurd, it’s not surreal, it’s not brilliantly skewed, it’s just off, and it’s not funny, and it seems to know it’s not funny. I go back to that first comic now, and I think: I was right. On the other hand, it’s all there in that simple stupid strip - you wouldn’t have guessed it, but from that strip came the “Pogo” of the Internet. The comparison probably makes some cringe – Achewood doesn’t have Kelly’s artistic or typographical skill, and it had a lazy, gentle, absurd quality that drifted through the papers with the contented nonchalance of its main character. But like Walt Kelly, Onstad has built a cast of sharply delineated characters – some are one-notes, some are nicely shaded – and his skill at expressing character through dialogue surpasses Kelly’s, perhaps because he’s better at words than drawing. Like that Thurber fellow.
To be honest, and not totally go into the tank here, I thought the wedding arc was hit-and-miss – some exceptional stuff alternating with good stuff. But the final wedding strip was a lovely bit of work – given that the strength of his strip is the writing, telling the story with a series of pictures was a sweet move. Almost every panel had a backstory, and they didn’t need to be explained.
If you also read “For Better of Worse” out of some strange attachment to the daily parade of sentimental banality that strip coughs up on the carpet, you see the contrast between then and now, and the yawning demographic gulch between newspapers and the internet; Achewood would be impossible in daily papers. But I’d buy a paper that had Achewood in it. Even if I’d read it online the day before.
Anyway. That’s my annual Onstad-is-the-finest post. The New Yorker beat me to it, though.
New Minneapolis update. Here’s a preview:
Who are they, and where are they? Can’t answer the first, but the second question is revealed, here. See you at buzz.mn.