Once again, my main subject was to ponder, as a working artist, what can engage or disengage various artists (particularly great ones) over time? I offered art of Chuck Jones' to illustrate not a sheer decline, but some wild ups and downs in the later years. As one of the "downs" I used an image I felt appropriate and I still basically feel it so:
But I also used a caption that was rude and beneath the topic:
Right image, wrong caption. Words like "stodgy" "creakier and stiffer" I still stand by, despite the fact others have disputed them as choices. But the language of the caption is simply too glib and familiar coming from me in a public forum, regarding the subject of an outstanding talent. Yes, I think it would be okay with Chuck Jones if he found us critical on this point and he'd probably be amused to know we were all publicly discussing it, as long as we weren't being unduly wise-assed about it. But the language of that caption isn't critique, it's off-handed ridicule. It's prominent position and tone-setting effect is what distracted. I have no doubt it is precisely what offended many, sent some over the edge, and worst of all, encouraged others to bash. I not only regret it, but quickly apologized. I am sure most people who saw the apology can understand this as sincere.
Not Michael Barrier. He has to re-frame things to remind everybody that once, long long ago, in a time when he could fob himself off as an "authority," he had the inside track on Chuck Jones and all things animated. (Thank God those days are long over.) He goes on to say that in my follow up apology I "all but flay" myself and takes care to surgically lift quotes that show me in a supplicant, backsliding light so that he can claim superiority. Please note that as he lifts my quotes, he edits them--specifically deleting the point about the rudeness in the caption.
A conspicuously subtle edit, but not an innocent one to my guess. It seems he needs to divert attention away from the damaging comment because it was a cheap shot, and damaging comments and cheap shots are his common currency. He no doubt likes to secure plenty of space for cheap shots since he only has them and his armchair opinions to offer anyone. And he is master of the cheap shot, the judiciously damaging edit and shows this by using my own words to frame me as someone unwilling to defend opinions of my own. Trust me friends, not the case. And he has been skillfully crafting such commentary for four decades. No wonder people are afraid to take him on.
I believe Mike Barrier doesn't want me or anyone else to recant cheap shots even at major figures, because as a trend it could all but silence people like him. Recently I read that he called an indie short film "11 minutes of sheer torture", which anyone can see isn't an intelligent critique, just a spitefully catty remark. I'm sure the filmmaker would welcome even harsh critisicim if it were useful or insightful, or at least more original. His remarks in total offered nothing on those counts. Okay then, if a short film can be called "torture" I could just as easily describe the time I wasted reading Barriers "History" book "assault with a deadly dull weapon." And I scrupulously read every vacuous, navel-gazing page, to be sure of the content. Or in this case the utter lack of it. "Sheer torture" indeed.
To me it's bad enough that non-professionals might stumble on his words and mistake them as gospel, but I always wonder why seasoned artists do? God only knows. Yet I recently saw Steve Busustow's son scrambling to curry his favor over some dispute Barrier raised regarding UPA minutiae. Why should he scramble? Shouldn't the scribe be trying to earn credibility from Mr. Busustow and not the other way around? Does anyone still really think that conducting interviews with legendary artists forty years ago makes him an historian? If so, I guess we can equate British royalty gossips with Arnold J. Toynbee. I've known and worked with some of the legends he interviewed and I can tell you at least one prominent one felt ill-used and betrayed by him. For that matter I have the impression many old pros generally felt the same. Some of his portrayals of their careers reads like trashy office dish. As far as I'm concerned Barrier is the Kitty Kelly of animation historians, not the Will Durant.
Historians? Many better IMO: Maltin, Canemaker, Solomon, Beck, Amid, Kausler etc. Critics? Lots of useful ones in this age when "everyone's a critic" has never been more obvious. And entertaining and insightful ones who have ripped on films I've had a hand in--I can take it. Insults? Well Don Rickles and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog shouldn't lose any sleep over Mike Barrier. Neither should anyone else. Let him use his own words to flog his weary, useless pulps, not mine.