Monday, October 31, 2011

Mulligan Stew

I'm sure some of you are scratching your heads and wondering what the image above has to do with an improvised dish said to have been prepared by American hobos in camps in the early 1900s?

And some of you have found a corner of your room to curl up into a little ball and shudder because you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about.

The Great Nutriton Turn-On? Really??

Being a pudgy, self-conscious fifth grader growing up in Spencer Massachusetts circa 1986 I went to Maple Street School. One of the thing I remember, other than getting emotionally scarred by my classmates, was by the end of the year they showed us this educational program called Mulligan Stew which was supposed to teach us the benefits of good nutrition and eating healthy

But the only message I got out of it was "You're fat"!

The biggest problem with said program above was that it was horribly out of date by the time we saw it in 1986. But I have a feeling that it was probably fairly out of date when it was being broadcast in 1972. The thing that the Teen Titans series taught us from the 1960's is that adults cannot write for teens. Probably one of the biggest mistakes to do when you are writing for teens is write "hep lingo". Because by the time you are using these "far out" catch-phrases, it's most likely they've gone out of style.

And by the time Mulligan Stew was being all "groovy", albums like The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and Black Sabbath's Paranoid were what kids were listening to at the time. And the hippy music of 1967 that the kids from Mulligan Stew were "playing" was passe.

So you can imagine just how passe it was when my fifth grade class watched it in 1986. Then again, in hindsight the paisley shirts and bell-bottom slacks were probably better than some of the rolled up suit jacket sleeves and neon fashion nightmares that were hip in the 80's.

I got the feeling from many of the teachers that they didn't particularly care to watch it either. I'm certain they had been showing it for ages in the public schools and the school board thought "Well, what's good for 1972 is just as good for 1986".

Unfortunately, I don't think pizza is considered a "health food" anymore. Yes, it has the basic four food groups on it. But that's stretching it a bit, isn't it?

As for the show itself. According to Wikipedia, Mulligan Stew was a children's educational program, sponsored by the 4-H Council and shown both in schools and on television. It was produced by Michigan State University and premiered in 1972 during National 4-H Week in Washington, D.C. Named for the hobo dish (and also for the initials of Michigan State) each of the six half-hour episodes gave school-age children information about nutrition.

Produced by V. "Buddy" Renfro, Mulligan Stew featured a multi-racial group of five kids: Maggie (Sherry Wright), Mike (Steven Einbender), Micki (Mion Hahm), Manny (Benjamin Sands), and Mulligan (Larry Friedman), plus one adult, Wilbur Dooright (played by Barry Michlin, who later had a minor career in movies and TV). The group went on nutritional adventures around the globe, although the series' filming usually stuck close to Lansing, Michigan (the opening sequence was filmed in MSU's football stadium.)

My criticism of the series was more for having to sit through it rather than making fun of the cast involved. I learned my lesson from my blog on the Peril's of Penelope Pit-Stop.

I've found reading many of the comments on Youtube, for some family members of the cast involved this is something they're proud of because it was their Dad, Mother, Aunt or Uncle who were one of the people involved. Besides the fact Sherry Wright who was Maggie in the series passed away. So making light of that would be in really poor taste.

Most of what I wrote was me voicing what I thought at the time watching the series.

But as grating as this series was, at least they stuck to nutrition and they didn't produce a series of sex education episodes with the Mulligan Stew gang.

That would have probably given me nightmares.

Dirty Gerund Poetry Show: A Very Haunted Ruckus is TONIGHT!!

I'm really not much of a night owl. Usually by 6PM I'm in shut down mode and ready to relax with a nice beer and movie with my wife and bitey cat. Right now we're watching the Brother Cadfael series on DVD and really enjoying it.

However, when my good friend and current collaborator Susurrus Din suggested doing the Dirty Gerund Poetry Show at Ralph's Rock Diner in Worcester I immediately said YES!!

If you haven't had the pleasure of meeting Susurrus Din as of yet, he looks like he stepped out of a Charles Addams cartoon.

And is probably most amiable and the nicest guy you'll ever meet to boot. I met both him and his wife at my solo show at Dark World a couple years back and they were just the nicest couple.

And what better night to take part in this than All Hallows' Eve. Which has pretty much become the Mardi Gras of the holidays. There isn't a better day of the year to give into that suppressed side of you who wanted to be an actor and dress up in something extravagant.

If you were to do it on Thanksgiving or Arbor Day you'd just look weird. But tonight it's permitted.

Everything kicks off at 9:30PM at Ralph's Rock Diner in Worcester which we will be unveiling our new book Gloomy Presentiments of Things to Come. Susurrus reading selected works from our book while I work on a pen and ink illustration live at the show. The piece will be auctioned off at the end of the evening.

And since now I have the capabilities of accepting credit card purchases thanks to my technologically savvier wife getting the new Droid phone, the winning bidder may make their purchase with a credit card.

Even though I have not physically received the Square yet. We can enter everything manually.

Ralph's Diner is located on 148 Grove St. Right in close proximity of the prestigious Worcester Art Museum. So if you're looking for something to do we hope to see you there tonight.

And fancy dress IS encouraged.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Drinking and Drawing is just not my thing...

I remember the roommate I got stuck with my very first year at SCAD telling me that a Professor of his encourage having at least one drink while working on a project. There are even events called Drink and Draws which encourage artists to draw while getting lubed during the course of the evening.

While I (sort of) admire my fellow artists out there who have the focus to draw while consuming a Pabst Blue Ribbon or two I just cannot do it. Even one beer and my focus starts to falter. I've tried it on several occasions and it's just not a winning combination for me. I usually like having a beer and relaxing. Once I have one, the brain gets fuzzy and I really just want to chill out and relax.

I'm your classic One Beer Wuss. I admit it. I've come to accept it and I'm a better person to do so.

Besides, my partying hard days are happily far behind me.

And this coming Halloween night I will be illustrating while Susurrus Din recites poems out of Gloomy Presentiments of Things to Come. While I'm working I won't be allowing myself a drink to keep a clear head while I draw.

I've also instructed my wife to keep me honest during the proceeding.

So if I happen to refuse your kind offer of buying me a drink at the beginning of the evening, please don't take offense. I just want to remained focused so the piece people bid on looks great.

I will gladly accept your kindness when the piece is finished.

And if you happen to be in the area on All Hallows Eve starting at 9:30PM, stop on down at Ralph's Diner on 148 Grove St in Worcester MA for the Dirty Gerund Poetry Show.

Fancy dress and costumes are highly encouraged.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dave Sim Cerebus

Dave Sim Cerebus was one of my favorite series's when I really started getting into comics outside the superhero genre. This had to be going back to probably sometime around 1995/1996. I think I was still going to college at Mount Wachusett but getting ready to head off to finish my college edumacation in Savannah.

Dates and times are starting to get muddled. But it was somewhere within that timeframe. I was young, shaggy, bearded, smoking Lucky Strikes and looking like I just tumbled out of someone's cedar chest with the clothing I was wearing at the time. All the inch of a pretentious young artist. Thinking I had so many ideas but really very little to show for it.

However, that's for another tale.

But getting back to the story we used to have this really great comic shop in Spencer called Last Frontier. I couldn't always drive out to the Mecca which is That's Entertainment so having a place like Last Frontier in town was great. And for a smaller store Scott who ran the place had a pretty good selection of books to choose from.

I had started to get bored with most of the mainstream titles and I happened upon the latest issue of Cerebus. I got into the game a bit late so I really missed out on Sim's grandiose Church and State storyline. However, what I read in the issue I flipped through impressed me greatly.

I started collecting back issues of the current tale Mothers and Daughters as well as the story Reads which was happening at that time. This lead me into getting what are commonly known as the Phonebooks of the past stories.

I imagine the name of these volumes were derrived from the fact that they were literally the size of a phonebook and the gritty quality of the paper they were printed on had the feel of the page of a phonebook.

What impressed me was the artwork. Sim character designs and Gerhards backgrounds just seemed to work really well together. And his association with Gerhard improved Sims artwork greatly from many of the earlier stories. I think the artwork the two produced from High Society on is what really influenced my work down the road. Especially his use of crosshatch.

Sims draws characters very well. And I loved how he incorporated characters from Pop Culture like Groucho Marx and Oscar Wilde into this imaginary world he and Gerhard brought onto the pages of Cerebus. As someone who grew up appreciating the movies of the Marx Brothers, I was thrilled to see characters resembling Groucho and Chico popping up in odd places in the stories.

I began to fall out of love with Cerebus as the later tales like Reads and Guys dragged on. I felt as though he was just "phoning it in" and using the umbrella of "free speech" as a reason to just to be pornographically explicit. But that was just my feeling at the time and I might have been completely wrong. I think people sometimes go about the right of free speech the wrong way around. They seem to think if they constantly drop the "F" Bomb and make their work overly phallic they're making a statement.

And lets not get started about his views on women which would make Sir Arthur Conan Doyle blush.

Personally, I feel people who can find clever ways around being vulgar to be much more intelligent than people who feel the only way to talk is to use every four letter word under the sun.

Groucho Marx made people laugh with just wiggling of his eyebrows and the insinuation of what he was saying rather than just making a dirty joke. But we think it's a dirty joke all because of the delivery.

But you can disagree with me. Free speech remember ;-)

That's all besides the point. At it's height Cerebus both art and writing-wise was a great series. I still use examples of Dave Sim and Gerhard's collaborations in many of my cartooning and comic art classes. To show students what you can do with storytelling and art.

I highly recommend you stop in your local comic shop and check out the Cerebus phonebooks. Church and State I&II, Jaka's Story and Melmoth are highly encouraged.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Soon to be accepting credit cards at shows!!

For those of you who have asked me in the past "Do you accept credit card" and all I have been able to muster is a very sad shake of the head, well those days are about to end shortly.

I just signed up for THE SQUARE at the beginning of the week. I found out about it from a fellow Alterna Comics author at last year's Boston Comic Con.

From what I was told by said fellow author, it works very similar to Paypal only you don't have as big of a fee taken out for using it.

Even though I am still stuck in the dark ages as far as telephone technology is concerned (I don't text, don't send pictures and barely talk on my phone) Syd just upgraded her phone to the Droid, which supports it. So we're hoping to have the Square mailed to us sometime before the next show. Either Dirty Gerund or Beatnik's.

But I will make the big announcement when it arrives on our doorstep. As far as I know it accepts all band and credit cards. But I'll let you all know for sure which ones it does or doesn't.

Appearing at Dirty Gerund on All Hallows' Eve

I just wanted to pass along I will be performing live art at the Dirty Gerund Poetry show alongside Susurrus Din (who you might have just seen in the T&G's Things to To column) to promote our book Gloomy Presentiments of Things to Come on Monday night All Hallows' Eve at Ralph's Diner in Worcester MA. Everything gets underway around 9PM and runs till the wee hours of the morn.

Susurrus will be reading selected poems from the book while I perform live art during the night. The finished piece will be auctioned off at the end of the evening.

But if you have nothing to do and a couple minutes to spare stop on by and say hello. Fancy dress is encouraged.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What makes a good Dracula film?

Continuing from my comments from yesterday's blog post on Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of the Count, I think what makes the ideal Dracula film is purely subjective. My notion of what the ideal adaptation of Dracula may not be yours. I'm not a professional film critic and I would never pretend to be. What I write in my blog is my opinion and not a review.

My preferences tend to lean towards Christopher Lee's portrayal as the Count. And to be honest as much as I like his Hammer series it's his performance in Jess Franco's film I like the most. The film itself isn't an entirely perfect adaptation. The budget is very low and the film itself can be very plodding in spots. Not to mention both actresses playing Mina and Lucy look like soft-core porn actresses.

Which apparently they were.

However, Christopher Lee shines in the film. His monologue about his heritage to Jonathan Harker at Castle Dracula is one of my favorite moments in the films.

I also happen to like both versions of Nosferatu. Again, the biggest problem someone watching the 1979 version may find is how slow the film is. And it really has more of the feeling of an art film rather than a genuine horror film.

However, there are some genuinely creepy moments in the film just for how bizarre they are. My favorite is when Lucy (who takes the place of Mina in this film) is walking among all the plague victims who are either dancing around or left for dead in caskets.

The scene is how I imagine a Hieronymus Bosch painting would be filmed.

So as you can see, there is really no ideal version of Dracula because they all have their flaws. But still, it doesn't make them bad films. All adaptations have their flaws because we have our own opinions of how the character and the story should be handled. It's just what we do.

But as for what makes an adaptation of Dracula. Like I mentioned yesterday, I feel there should be a mystery to where the character is from. I think it takes something away from how truly frightening the character is by adding a "human element" to him.

And I think having the character be in love with Mina because she's believed to be the reincarnation of his long-lost love doesn't work for me either. In the original tale Mina despises Dracula because he represents all that she fears.

I'm not so bothered with interpreting the drinking of blood with sex or at least the inference of sexual arousal.

But I do think humanizing Dracula by giving him these longing or giving him a human origin is a mistake. What made Lugosi, Lee Schreck and Kinski's performances great is the fact that you have no idea where he came from. He could have been born in the pits of hell for all we know. Inhuman, immortal, merciless, ominous and the embodiment of evil is what makes a great Dracula for me.

What I wouldn't mind seeing at some point is an adaptation that utilizes both the look from Max Schreck's ratlike portrayal of the character perhaps early in the story at Castle Dracula and then have the character look more like Béla Lugosi and Christopher Lee later on as he becomes younger from the blood of his victims.

I suppose just as long as they don't "Twilight" the story of Dracula from what I have heard from a few sources.

Because that would truly be horrific!!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bram Stoker's Dracula

Francis Ford Coppola's lavish big budget adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula isn't a completely bad film. It's got a really stellar cast in the likes of Gary Oldman as Count Dracula, Anthony Hopkins as Professor Abraham Van Helsing, Richard E. Grant as Dr. John Seward (someone I still think would be a great Sherlock Holmes) and Cary Elwes as Sir Arthur Holmwood. It's very stylishly done as far the look and feel of the film. And the music they chose reminded me of David Bowie's Berlin albums like Low, Heroes and Lodger. Which I think helped the feel of the film.

The biggest problem for me is not Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker butching an attempt at an English accent so badly it makes Dick van Dyke's embarrassing attempts in Mary Poppins sound authentic. But at least Dick Van Dyke gave an effort. It was awful but it was at least an honest effort.

What really kept it from being a really great adaptation is the fact they added this back story how Dracula came to be. And adding that element of love. I think what makes past adaptations of Dracula starring Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee and even the two version of Nosferatu great is the fact there is a mystery to where this creature came from.

Having that element of mystery makes the character more frightening and even adding that element of love to the story ruins it for me. Adding the element of sex to it doesn't bother me as much. But making the character lovelorn was kind of a mistake.

However, do I think it's a bad adaptation. Absolutely not. I think the stylishness of the costumes and the scenes are very good. And the top-notch actors they have in the film make up for the likes of the more deadweight stars they unfortunately chose.

It's definitely either worth renting or buying for $5 at Wal*Mart or Target.

But it's just those unfortunate decisions Coppola (including going with Keanu Reeves rather than going with someone who could actually fake an accent), make that keep it from being a truly great film.

It's worth renting for your Halloween night horror marathon. And despite being not much taller than me, Gary Oldman is a really good Count Dracula.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New England Bloody Roots Music Festival at Ralph's

Helen Sheldon Beaumont, chair of the Worcester Arts Council as well as the lead singer of Guns of Navarone and Petticoat Junction has invited me to take part in New England Bloody Roots Music Festival which will be taking place this coming Saturday at Ralph's Diner 148 Grove Street in Worcester MA.

Helen has been a huge supporter of my work over the past several years through various shows and events around the metrop so I am more than happy to take part when she sent out the call for artists.

So here's the deal. I will be selling my books, art and prints from 12Noon till 6PM. During that time some of your favorite local musicians and bands will be taking the stage starting at noontime and playing long into the wee hours of the morning.

I will also be taking the opportunity to promote and sell my latest collaboration with local poet Susurrus Din.

So come on down and meet us at Ralph's and get your copy signed!!

Now available!! Gloomy Presentiments Of Things To Come

Gloomy Presentiments Of Things To Come
with poems by Susurrus Din and artwork by myself has gone to the printers!!

Copies of this decidedly chilling tales should be hitting the stores hopefully sometime before end of the week. Which will be just in time to do the Bloody Roots Festival on Saturday.

However, if you cannot wait till then, it is also available for purchase on today by simply clicking on the title of this blog above.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Gloomy Presentiments cover unveiled with a big thanks to Antoine Capitani

Here's what's going to be the cover for Gloomy Presentiments of Things To Come by by Ryan Coffman aka Susurrus Din to many of the folks around the Woo. The image is inspired by René Magritte's illustration "The Menaced Assassin".

It was actually my student Antoine Capitani at Eagle Hill School out in Hardwicke MA that reintroduced me to Magritte's work. When I saw The Menaced Assassin in the book on Magritte Antoine brought for one of his lessons. I just thought it was an image I would love to use in a project.

And when Ryan's project came up I felt it fit perfectly for the look and feel of the book.

I just glanced through the proofs and the book itself looks great!! It should be off t

Friday, October 7, 2011

Gloomy Presentintiments of Things to Come

Above is an illustration for the poem Gilbert the Ghoul for a book I've been working on with local poet Ryan Coffman aka Susurrus Din to many of the local crowds of the fair metropolis of Worcester MA for his upcoming book Gloomy Presentintiments of Things to Come which should be heading off to the printers shortly.

The best way I could describe the book as "Edward Lear on acid".

If you haven't had the chance to meet Ryan as of yet, he's a really great guy and his poems are playfully macabre with a sharp wit to them.

I will post more information here once the book hits the shelves. I believe the hope is to have it out in the next couple of weeks. Just in time for the shows I'll be doing between now and December. I shall keep you all posted.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Batman: Under the Red Hood

I finally got around to see Warner Premiere's direct-to-DVD production of Batman: Under the Red Hood. An adaptation of both A Death in the Family and Under the Hood story arc produced by DC Comics which saw both the death and (seventeen years later) the return of Jason Todd aka Robin Mark II.

I have to say I enjoyed it. Good cast and although there were a few changes to the location and plot elements from the original death of Jason Todd, Bruce Timm and company did a relly great job retelling the tale. Decent cast of voices and very well animated.

For the most part Warner Premiere has done a better job with bringing DC's characters to the small screen than most of the big budget film productions have. They've also stayed away from the Christian Bale "Sounds like he's been gargling a bag full of thumbtacks" Batman voice. They even managed to bag Kevin Conroy for a couple of their productions. And even he sounds as though he's been using a real voice rather than trying to make Batman sound overtly dark.

To me artist like Neal Adams and Jim Aparo got Batman right with making him dark but with hints of humor. As much as I've enjoyed the latest Batman films, I think they're making the character a bit too dark.

And for the most part, I've found the animated version fo Batman more satisfying than the Christian Bale version.

However, seeing the glimpse of the animated version of the "death" of Jason Todd has made me want to see a fully animated version of the story done in the style of Jim Aparo.

I see they dide something similar using Michael Turner's pencil art from the original Superman/Batman comic story for the characters design for the Superman/Batman: Apocolypse movie which it was basted on. I've often voiced that I would love to see an new movie or animation of Batman done in the style of the blue and gray Batman costume of the 1970's and 1980's.

However, I'll just have to be satisfied with the upcoming animated treatment of Batman: Year One.

What's already got my attention that this might be a really great project (besides the fact I like the original Year One storyline to begin with) is the fact they have Bryan Cranston of Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad fame as Lt. Gordon. He's always been a favorite actor of mine and I think he's the perfect choice as the voice of the man who would be Commissioner.