Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hurricane Gustav

My posts of late have taken me back to A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES, a comic disaster novel set in New Orleans of the mid 1960's. Ironically, the Gulf region is facing a real disaster for the second time in recent memory and people there need all the help they can get. Here's a link to SAVE THE CHILDREN fund that can hopefully put donations to good use. If you haven't already, please give a click and give what you can.


Here's how I felt in the moments before I kicked the crap out of an iPod recently:

Perhaps nobody portrayed the insidious betrayal of technology better than Chuck Jones, notably in seemingly endless gags of the ROAD RUNNER/COYOTE series. But in ONE FROGGY EVENING he pinpoints the nexus of frustration in the body of the singing frog--it's not just that it doesn't function, it's that it functions perfectly until it's critically crucial. In fact, it only functions when it isn't necessary, which is something I have detected in hi-tech machinery since even before the days of personal computers.

The now deceased iPod wound up taking the fall for a number of similar malfunctions that have happened of late and I can't exactly say I'm proud of it. Though it was over a year old, I only started using it recently and it only had a few hundred songs on it. But abruptly, for no apparent reason, the audio output ceased, (which kind of defeats the point). The files appeared to be running, but no audio, despite several tests with different headphones. The cost of looking into it at the "Genius Bar" would have only been time and a little $$. The cost of wiping it clean to factory settings (which probably would have worked) would have even been free.

But the cost of kicking the crap out of it? Priceless.

Friday, August 29, 2008

More DUNCES fan art

Mother Riley laments her son's chosen profession.

Irene phones a friend.

Ignatius smolders at another missive from Myrna...

...and contemplates a fitting response to the minx.

Irene Riley in glorious color (mostly henna rinse).

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Once again my scribblings have returned to imagining Ignatius Riley, the "hero" of John Kennedy Toole's comic novel A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES.

Gainfully employed, by the Paradise Dogs hot dog company.

Brandishing his stage prop sword.

Outside THE NIGHT OF JOY BAR, the nexus of madness.

Our boy contemplates the whims of Fortuna in his Big Chief writing pad.

FYI Updates in Blogland

My friend Mark Pudliner has a blog, cataloging his latest and greatest. Mark is a fine CGI character animator with a background as an equally fine 2D animator. Check out his work, including recent storyboards, online CGI characters and solid storybook illustrations. 

Bill Riling has logged his 100th "Lewis and Cluck" strip over on his blog. To commemorate, he is making a 2009 calendar available, featuring the exploits of his characters from the past year. 

Bob Logan has re-done his site and added a new image to his print collection. 

Elizabeth Ito has separate site now for additional artwork and material for sale--Kikutowne. (This has been around a while but I am just getting up to speed). 

Monday, August 25, 2008


When the late great Al Hirschfeld wasn't busy being one of the premiere caricaturists of the 20th Century, he also illustrated books and magazine stories for authors like S. J. Perelman, Ray Bradbury and others. One such assignment I particularly coveted was DO RE MI, a Garson Kanin novella published in 1955 with a generous helping of Hirschfeld magic.

This shows a rare but intriguing side of Hirschfeld--drawing characters from imagination instead of conjuring an uncanny likeness of a performer or celebrity. Not surprisingly, he excels here too. DO RE MI turned out to be as delightful to read as it is to look at, a Runyonesque tale of some aging gangsters who get mixed up in the pop music business as an adjunct to conquering the juke box racket. Their prime musical discovery is a talented young elevator operator turned songbird. This country girl turns out to be something of a recording industry one-woman gold mine, with her signature zither and "singing and whistling at the same time" vocals. Unfortunately for "Fatso" (the lead gangster) and his boys, their songbird also falls hard romantically for a rival recording agent named John Henry Wheeler and hijinx ensue.

Co-incidentally I got my hands on a copy of this book about 15 years ago, just as AMC was running THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT, a Frank Tashlin directed feature starring Jayne Mansfield and Tom Ewell. The plot involves Mansfield as the hapless corn-fed girlfriend of a gangster named "Fats" (Edmund O'Brien) who is pushing her into a career as a pop singer. She appears to have no talent whatsoever, except a strange siren scream that is featured on a rock and roll platter that becomes a huge hit. In the process, she falls hard for Ewell, who plays a top agent with a tortured past. The surface similarities (including a rival ex-con named "Wheeler") and dominant jukebox motif made me wonder if there was some connection between DO RE MI and this movie, although the credits don't mention any.

If anyone has any information, I'd be interested in finding out. I just re-watched the film and re-read the book and remain convinced it's more than mere coincidence. DO RE MI was a popular book written by Kanin, who was a respected New York writer with sterling Hollywood credits as well ( he co-wrote some of the Tracy-Hepburn movies with his wife, actress Ruth Gordon). My theory is that 20th Century Fox either legitimately obtained the rights to the book and then had it's merry way with the story, ultimately changing even the title; or they couldn't get the rights and gave Tashlin & co the task of "paraphrasing" the tale enough to keep it legally kosher.

Either way if the movie is derived from the book (legitimately or otherwise) the fact that the movie takes more than a few liberties with the plot seems to make sense on close inspection. Most of the charm of the book comes from the device of the prose: Damon Runyon often wrote in the first person "voice" of a street hood, but Kanin goes him one better. The text is a scrupulous re-creation of a written jailhouse confession penned by a low-level accomplice in the plot, complete with his naive syntax, woeful grammar, spelling and malaprops, and even a number of deliberately awkward hyp--henations. The character remains both dead-pan and dead serious throughout cataloging the absurd events of the story.

Those events however from a dramatic point of view are fragmented and mostly anti-climactic. The escapades are colorful but not cohesive and for the most part the characters exist in a limbo between cynicism and naivete. If Tashlin felt free to mess with the story, Kanin was not much more faithful to his own material when he adapted it into a Broadway musical (about five or six years after TGCHI was produced). A quick scan of the story's synopsis shows considerable shifts in emphasis and the roles of various characters moved around in the process. Unfortunately just about everything else got lost in translation as well: the show was so troubled in creation and previews that it was something of a legend. Although the score features the Comden and Green standard "Make Someone Happy" the show itself was a colossal flop. Ironically, the original book and stage show are long forgotten, while the derivative cult hit movie lives on.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Quick sketches

Nothing monumental to report, but I just thought I'd throw these on to see if anyone is still out there. For the record I am still trying to limit my internet time and general computer dependence and finding it is a wise thing to do. As if to remind me why, a new iPod went south on me yesterday and my trusty scanner became arbitrarilly and permanently demon possessed when I turned it on to scan these simple drawings. That this slight post has eaten up more than an hour of time when it should have only taken minutes makes me realize what a nuisance the digital process is in practice (as opposed to theory). At times like this I begin to entertain driving around door to door to share posts and artwork to spare myself the sheer aggravation of it all. My computer woes don't end there but this rant will in the interest of keeping things moving.

I did these last weekend as our 4 year old son Danny zoomed around our playroom like a bee, playing with toy cars and blocks without a care in the world. I always said I love doing quick sketches and nothing moves quicker than a kid in the play zone. These were done with a chisel tip marker at no less than half a minute to a minute long.

At one point brother Tommy made a visit to sit for a sketch. Then back to Nintendo.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Bear with me

Friends, bloggers, blurkers and countrymen (and country women), my apologies for the snail's pace of my posting of late. I will be back into a steadier pace at some point after Labor Day but for now, various demands on my time will continue to limit the posting output here. Hope everyone is enjoying their summer, I will definitely find time to check in here if anything major breaks, but in the meantime ignore the tumbleweeds blowing through here for the next four or five weeks.