Thursday, August 3, 2023

The curse of narrative thinking.


Hello again. I've been away from collecting for awhile, but it's not a bad thing. I've actually been more active in creative fields - both writing and cartooning. And more recently, I've been actively collecting with different focus, so I'll have more to write about shortly.

But right now, today, I want to ask if any writers out there, or even dedicated fans of TV and films, suffer from occasional bouts of narrative thinking paralysis.

Not sure what I mean? It can happen anytime. It happened to me recently:

I was talking with my friend Shelby - or texting, I actually don't remember which - and she asked if my wife and I had any plans for the weekend. We usually don't particularly, but this week we did. But before I could answer, narrative paralysis set in. I thought:

If this is a movie about me, Shelby asking what my plans are is a harmless exposition scene to establish the general path of the film.


If this is a movie about Shelby, her asking what my plans are will establish why I'm gone, then I come back in act III with either some terrible event from the weekend, or don't come back at all.

...or even...

If this is a horror film about me, something terrible is going to happen to me, AND Shelby is going to get pulled into it in Act III.

Crazy? Trained from structuring out dozens of stories, and also from watching and studying hundreds more, I applied Chekhov's gun to real life. Like, if I say plans out loud, there's a "narrative reason" for it, and something will come of it. 

You know that's not what I mean.
I only  paused a moment, and I did give a real "normal" answer, but I found the thought very interesting. And for the weekend, as we drove out of town in unfamiliar places down unfamiliar roads, I occasionally considered - am I in a narrative?

Has this ever happened to you?

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

In the beginning, there was Sealab. 2021.

I've been think about the evolution in animation at Cartoon Network that led to the creation of The Venture Brothers, one of my favorite series. At times it seems like it's particularly aimed at a fan-collector-geek of my generation. 
So, Cartoon Network announced way back in the 90s they were going to start creating "Adult oriented" animation for their late night block. I was skeptical at the time, but quickly came to love it.
Sealab 2021 begat Harvey Birdman Attorney at law, both of which were important steps in the de-sanctification of the networks animated archive, but also the rebirth of it as an age-appropriate appreciation of baby boomer and GenX Saturday Morning Nostalgia.
One small but crucial element was "The Night of the Living Doo," this spin on the classic Scooby Doo Movies, with celebrities David Cross, Gary Coleman, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. How 90's!
I originally caught this only by literally changing the channel to Adult Swim just as it was starting to air, and franticly hitting my Tivo record button. I have a homemade DVD of this somewhere that's quite clear, but for online, this fuzzy Youtube video will have to suffice for the moment. Enjoy!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Curious Tale of Monkey Island

I was very sorry to hear "Dickie" Jones, best known as the voice of Pinocchio, passed away this week.  I really only ever met him once, but surprisingly, it had almost nothing to do with Disney.

A few years back when I was very into "Searching Ebay For Cool Old Stuff," I came across this matchbook cover for Monkey Island:

This looked fascinating to me.  "1000 Monkeys running loose!  No Bars - No Cages - No Danger."  Even better, the address put it pretty close to where I lived in Hollywood.  Cahuenga Boulevard now has the 101 freeway alongside it through "The Pass," and this address put the site of Monkey Island very close to my home, and right near what is now the Barham Blvd. exit from that freeway.

A little Googling led me to sites like this that gave the history of Monkey Island: basically, it was a concrete island surrounded by a concrete moat filled with water.  Here, as one account put it, "You paid a quarter to watch monkeys watch you watch them."  Apparently, it was also a popular place for divorced Hollywood dads to take their kids on weekends.   But most interesting to me it mentioned Dickie Jones as one of the celebrities who had visited.

Now, I happened to be reading on this on the day after one of the Disney Legend Ceremonies, where I had seen Dickie on the Studio lot, attending as a previous recipient.  My curiosity to hear an eyewitness account of the place led me to track down his phone number, and I placed a call a few days later.  I admittedly felt a little silly, and perhaps a little presumptive and rude, to be calling a stranger about something so obscure, so long ago. 

His answering machine picked up, and after his cheery, slightly familiar but much more mature voice greeting and the beep, I left my message:

"Hi Mr. Jones, I saw you at the Studio the other day, but I'm not calling about Pinocchio.  Uh, I saw an article that said you once visited 'Monkey Island' in Hollywood, and I was just wondering if you might remember anything about the place-"

I was cut off by a sudden clattering as if someone desperately grabbed for the phone.  Then, a gravelly voice, fraught with drama, grimly rasped five words I will never forget:

Dickie:  "They learned how to swim!"

Me:  (a pause): "What?"

Dickie:  "They learned how to swim!  There were monkeys all over Cahuenga Boulevard when you drove up there.  At night, they'd go back to the island to eat, but they were all over the place!" 

A few months later he was at the Studio to record an interview, and I introduced myself as the guy who called.  "Monkey man!" he happily named me, and shook my hand enthusiastically.  He was very happy to receive printouts of the matchbook and other images I'd found of Monkey Island online.  I was most curious about his reaction to this one. Another copy of it (which I can't find now, sorry) had the original caption attached which positively confirmed this is Dickie, "enjoying" an experience most visitors never had, of being on the island itself literally up to his knees in hungry monkeys:

This looks like a terrifying experience to me.  Perhaps it was, worthy of repressing, because to my surprise Dickie looked at this photo and said with a deadpan face:

"I have no recollection of this at all!"

That's the whole story.  Rest In Peace, Dickie.

Postscript:  Awhile after that, my friend Dave Kooi and I visited the site of Monkey Island today, following vintage and current aerial photos to find the exact spot.  It is now the El Paseo De Cahuenga Park, a tiny little square of green almost exactly the size of the original Island location.  There's one tree in between the park and the freeway that's old enough to have shaded some monkeys.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Nice to know

I like both George Takei and Penn Jillette very much, so I was quite glad to see Takei comment on meeting Penn on "The Celebrity Apprentice":

He especially enjoyed working with Penn Jillette, whom he found to be "an extremely well-read person, a walking encyclopedia. Where most of us forget or bury details in the back of our minds, he has the ability to recall dates and places and historic elements in conversation. When he's interested in something, he really digs in and explores it, and when he talks about a subject like that, you feel like you're getting a college lecture." Takei expects to catch a Penn & Teller show "the next time I'm in Vegas."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

On the internet, nobody can hear you scream first.

I rarely try to be particularly timely in my posts here - to provide breaking news on geekdom happenings - but the look at the Prometheus trailer that premiered online today does make me want to jump into the pool of voices eagerly crying it's either a prequel or otherwise related film to the Alien movies - and particularly to the 1979 classic that started the series.

First, take a look at the trailer here.

Despite overall feeling like the Alien series - which could be simply dismissed as both being science fiction films from the same director - there are two dead giveaway elements from the first film.

1) The space jockey.

As he was called, the dead pilot of the alien ship found by the Nostromo in Alien. His seat, at least, is clearly seen in the trailer at 0:39.

2) The ship.

Several shots reveal the same horseshoe shaped spaceship that the Nostromo discovered crashed, and explored:

Here's another image from Prometheus, clearly showing the whole horseshoe shape:

This is all news to me, but if you search the internet, you'll find plenty of references to the upcoming film, and even a quote from Scott confirming it is about the space jockey from the original film. I don't know how many of these are true, but I know I'm looking forward to this one with almost the same anticipation I felt for the first when I went to see it in theaters back on my 13th birthday in 1979.

This also underlines how much movie making has changed since the first sequel Aliens was released in 1986. Then, returning to the ship depended on the existence of the model, which had been stored somewhat exposed to the elements in a driveway in Burbank CA for several years.

Damage to the model had lead to the idea that a lava flow had cut through the ship since Ripley had last visited, but now I can't recall if that appears in the film or just in the comic book / novel adaptations.

The space jockey couldn't have appeared again without CGI (hence adding to the need for a path into the ship that didnt pass him). I'm told the original giant space jockey, sculpted out of foam, was on display in the forecourt of the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood when the film premiered, until a stray cigarette caught it on fire and destroyed it in a matter of seconds.
Egyptian Theater photo swiped from here.

Next time: 'Tis the Season to Collect....

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Apparently, we have a new theme.

It's "footage of 1970's TV spaceships that ends up in karaoke videos on new programs." Last week's episode of Community featured scenes of Joel McHale as Jeff Winger and Jim Rash as Dean Pelton (that's him on the left screaming) making karaoke videos in the mall. They break into a fight as another video starts rolling behind them, and there once again appears the Salvage 1 spaceship on network screens for the second time in thirty years. (See the last entry if you're confused at this point).

Is this a new trend in television? Or the last time it'll ever happen? How odd.
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