Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

30 November, 2006

Bonuses for Bibliophiles

Most of us are by now familiar with the bonus material on DVDs. In addition to the movie, we get scenes deleted from theatrical cut, commentary tracks, making-of featurettes, interviews, etc. Well, I discovered the other night that some books now have bonus features.

I noticed this when I was thumbing though As Nature Made Him. There's a little "P.S." in the lower right-hand corner of the cover indicating that there's "Insights, Interviews & More" to be had. For the book at hand, this means that readers get an interview with the author, John Colapinto, an interview with the subject of the book, David Reimer, as well as an excerpt from Colapinto's novel, About the Author. I also noticed extras in Matt Ridley's The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture. Unfortunately, I discovered that this was merely his previous book, Nature Via Nurture, which I already own, retitled. Why the reprint demanded a new title is beyond me. So caveat emptor. The P.S. bonuses are only on certain trade paperbacks published by Harper Perennial.

Now that I look it up on the Internets, I find the press release.

It could be really interesting, especially for fiction, if they ever included material that was edited out for publication. I mean, we readers want our deleted scenes too. Throw in something that fell prey to the chopping block and then have a bit which explains why.
|| Palmer, 12:10 PM || link || (0) comments |

At the Sinny

Hilldale Theatres will be shutting down on 17 December after a run of the sing-a-long version of The Sound of Music. Madison will be short one arthouse until the spring when the fancy schmancy Sundance 608 theatres open.

The Orpheum Theatre is trying to get its marquee lit again. There will be a benefit on the 12th to raise funds for the project. Folks have the chance to contribute to a good cause and see We Are Marshall before the rest of the country.

I was in Chicago over Thanksgiving and got the winter season schedule for the Music Box Theatre. They are going to be screening some great films. Aguirre, The Wrath of God opens on 8 December. It's a new print of Werner Herzog's classic starring Klaus Kinski. David Lynch's newest, Inland Empire, opens in January. Unfortunately, the full schedule is not up at their webpage. I got it as an insert in the Chicago Reader and I don't have it with me, at the moment. I recall that there's a series of epics in December including the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Yes, you can spend all day there watching Mr. Frodo and Co. – and get this - for only $10!! But wait – there's more! Lawrence of Arabia will also be screened. Keep an eye on their webpage for the winter schedule. I am thinking a roadtrip is in order. Buy pelmeni at Argos Bakery, eat lunch/dinner at that Madras Indian joint on Devon, and then some good cinema.

Lastly, I saw Casino Royale the other night with The Dulcinea and enjoyed it immensely. The opening bit in black & white was neat and had some great cinematography. And the chase scene that followed was fantastic! I got vertigo as they climbed the girders and were punching each other on the cranes. As we left, I noticed a puddle of drool by The Dulcinea's seat so she obviously adored Daniel Craig or at least his body. She's now got some crazy ideas in her head after having seen Craig naked in the torture scene at the end. I think he made a great Bond. We see him get his wings here, basically, so he's a bit rougher around the edges. This is the first Bond story, after all. Less gadgets and no Q, unfortunately, plus fewer one-liners. Judi Dench does her usual great job as Q and Eva Green is a hottie. The Bond here is less ostentatious and not quite the stoic figure we're used to. Looking forward to the next one. Will it be Live and Let Die, the second Bond novel?
|| Palmer, 11:25 AM || link || (0) comments |

29 November, 2006

Word of the Week

lordosis [lawr-doh-sis] - a posture assumed by some female mammals during mating, in which the back arches downward.
|| Palmer, 8:23 PM || link || (0) comments |

The Arts in Madison

The Isthmus recently had a Pint and Policy Forum entitled "Culture Crash in Madison's Art Scene". I wasn't able to attend the forum but it sounded interesting.

The Madison arts scene has exploded in the past 15 years, with a sharp increase in arts groups and arts events. Can a medium-sized city support this big-time arts scene? Can our many arts groups find an audience and survive? And how has the new Overture Center changed the playing field?

It was ironic because, a couple days before it took place, I found myself writing a lengthy email to a listener of my podcast who was keen on moving his family from the northern Chicago suburbs and was considering Madison. He told me the vocations of his wife and himself, that he had kids, and that he was looking for an area that was liberal & had a good arts scene. The gentlemen is an art director by day and a (gasp!) progressive rock musician by night so you can bet your ass that I did my best to convince a fellow prog fan to relocate here. Despite my desire to endear Madison to a fellow prog fan, I was honest. I told him about the reputation of Madison's schools and that I had no basically no idea where an art director would find work here; I gave him some ideas about activities around town for kids; I talked about Madison as a mid-sized city; and, to cut the list short, I gave him a run-down of the Madison arts scene.

After talking about the virtually non-existent progressive rock scene here, I babbled on about the usual stuff. You know, the Overture Center, the forthcoming expansion of the Chazen, the WI Film Fest & the soon-to-be Sundance Cinemas, and a run-down on the music scene generally. One area that I could only gloss over was theater and performing arts.

Then I read a summary of the forum at Dane101. I thought about my own experiences with the performing arts and realized that it's been a long while since I've experienced any. The last time I did was about 2 last year at the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago when I saw The Living Canvas. Actually, I took in a fair amount of performing arts the 2 or 3 previous years as well. I saw Copenhagen at the Overture Center and Squonk Opera at the Civic Center; also in Chicago, I saw Blue Man Group as well as Stomp; swinging back closer to home, I'd take in at least one play at American Players Theatre per season and go to Broom Street Theatre a few times a year; I went to dance performances by local troupes Cycropia Aerial Dance and Kanopy Dance Company; and I even took in a couple bellydancing performances as well. So, if I was all into the performing arts and, as I wrote the gentleman in Illinois, Madison has a fairly large and diverse arts scene for its size, why was I not enjoying any of it?

Looking at the summary, I noticed that the main points that were made don't really have a whole lot to do with me. I can't make the owner of an apartment complex give a discount on rent to artists; I can't facilitate collaboration amongst the various arts groups in town; and I can't single-handedly change the cirricula of our schools to include arts education. But I could give money. And, I suppose that it goes without saying, I could attend performances more often than I do. Maybe my tastes are just too parochial and I just lucked out in 2002-2005. There just happened to be performances by a number of artists that appealed to my limited palate.

I recalled a debate I had on the Isthmus forums with someone about the artist merit of the shows at the Overture Center. My interlocutor wrote at one point: "If we were to see a roster with Bill T. Jones, Laurie Anderson, Elliot Sharp, Arnie Zane, John Zorn, Lounge Lizards, Drums and Tuba, Tortoise, Radiohead, Bob Dylan, and P-Funk, there would be no argument from ANYONE that Overture is not truly supporting the arts." Now Bob Dylan, P-Funk, and Tortoise have all played here, though not at the Overture. And then someone pointed out that "Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zanes Dance Company was here this spring. It was one of the most exciting shows I'd ever seen here, but ticket sales were pathetic, really pathetic."

What this illustrates is, not only will people forever be arguing about what constitutes "real" art or art of "real" merit, but also that the Overture has a real PR problem. If someone like christopher_robin, a man of some refined taste, I believe, completely misses the fact that a couple artists that he seems to really enjoy were at the Overture, then there is little chance for stuff like Bill T. Jones and the Arnie Zanes Dance Company coming here again. I mean, if fans of such artists have blinders on that only allow them to see the big budget musicals on the Overture schedule and the performances of these artists are woefully under-attended, then what hope is there that there will be more? As an artist, would you want to come back here? Would the folks who run the Overture want to take another such loss when finances are already shaky?

I've been trying to think of performances that would get my ass on a seat. I mean aside from seeing the above acts again. I would definitely see Quodia if they came here. Unfortunately, I can't think of any other troupes to which I'd commit. But looking at the Chicago theatre scene, some things catch my eye. For instance, there's "Gorey Stories: A Musical Entertainment":

Blindfaith Theatre's exquisite staging of stories and poems by Edward Gorey (The Gashlycrumb Tinies, The Gilded Bat, and The Unstrung Harp) is adapted by Stephen Currens and David Aldrich and directed by Nicolas Minas. The black-and-white design places things firmly in the vaguely turn-of-the-century, vaguely Atlantic-rim realm where Gorey's dissipated gentry amble toward their gruesome, comically inevitable ends. A string quartet tucked just offstage superlatively balances mood music and sound effects, breathing ghostly life into the whole.

Plus there's "Four Women":

Four black women pass the time together in a Chicago train station in 1929--ten years after the race riot, sparked by the stoning death of a young black boy on a south-side beach, that killed 23 blacks and 15 whites.

OK, "Four Women" probably appeals to me because I'm from Chicago and I still have affection for it. But I wish there were more plays done about Madison. It seems like we don't look around us for inspiration. Hell, maybe there have been such plays and they've just escaped me. But I can say that, if a play came out that featured, say, a bunch of folks down at the Caribou in 1970 discussing the student riots, I'd be there. You'd have cops there with some regular citizens and discussions could be about war, age vs. youth, class – who knows what a good playwright could get in there.

After all is said and done, I really don't have any suggestions for the arts community to get larger audiences. I do, however, wonder what would happen if media outlets covered the arts like they did other things. For instance, what would happen if Isthmus covered theater and dance as they did anything that happens at the High Noon Saloon. There are some issues where I think there'd be 4 pages left if anything related to pop music, especially "indie rock", were purged.
|| Palmer, 5:39 PM || link || (0) comments |

25 November, 2006

"Banned" Looney Toons 9: "Africa Squeaks"

This week we're going to look at the first Porky Pig cartoon in my series – "Africa Squeaks". It was released on 27 January 1940. While it technically stars Porky, he doesn't feature in it all that much. Instead, the short is mostly a series of vignettes of life in Africa.

It begins with a map showing Africa described by a narrator as a "land of mystery and adventure". He concludes that it is "truly the dark continent of the world". As we close in on the map, we go from "Dark Africa" to "Darker Africa" and finally to "Darkest Africa" with a beating heart in the middle, a nod to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. We then cut to Porky who is walking through the jungle followed by a line of native carrying crates on their heads.

The band comes to a screeching halt when they encounter Henry Stanley of Stanley & Livingstone fame.

He is looking for Livingstone and as Porky if he is him. This version of Stanley is a parody of Spencer Tracy who had portrayed the explorer in Stanley and Livingstone which was released the previous year. After this, we are shown a series of vignettes portraying life in Darkest Africa.

An ostrich has its head in a hole as it sleeps.

A couple lions chew over the remains of their prey and pull on a wishbone.

A mother monkey with her baby swing from tree to tree.

A gorilla comes out from behind a tree only to have a face familiar to viewers in 1940 – that of boxer Tony Galento - who says, "I'll moider da bum!"

A native uses a blowgun to get meat for food. Only it turns out to be a carnival game with a ham as the prize.

An elephant is kicked out of a boarding house and the owner tells him that she is keeping his trunk until he can pay the back rent.

Lastly, a buzzard flies overhead and spies a group of young deer wandering alone. So he does his best dive bomber imitation and goes after them. The deer jump into a clump of brush which folds down to reveal an anti-aircraft battery.

We cut back to Porky who is again wandering through the jungle. A native runs up to him babbling incoherently and tells him that there's "a strange white man living in the jungle amongst the natives".

Porky grabs Stanley from out of nowhere and drags him to the strange white man, thinking that he's Livingstone.

Instead he turns out to be Cake Icer.

Cake Icer informs everyone that he is going to get them dancing. And he does. The animals start playing music and everyone gets down.

The cartoon ends with Porky leaving Africa followed by one of the natives saying goodbye to the viewers.

Once again we see blacks drawn in black face while Africans are portrayed as being "uncivilized", simple, and primitive. So it's easy to see why this cartoon was "banned". In researching this episode, I can across a couple that mentioned how the guy at the carnival game with hams as prizes is a "Rochester character". This referred to Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, a black actor who became famous playing Jack Benny's valet on the radio show, The Jack Benny Program, which aired from 1932-1948. According to the Wikipedia article cited above, the Rochester character was initially very stereotypical – he carried a switchblade and shot craps – but changed as time went on. The revelation of the Holocaust moved Benny to radically change the tone of the racial humor. While Anderson and the Rochester character bucked some trends at the time (Anderson was very highly paid and Rochester poked fun at his white employer), the important thing here is that we once again see popular culture parodied.

The history of "Africa Squeaks", as near as I can suss out, is not so much one of being banned as it is of editing and revision. The short was originally drawn in black & white, as my screenscrapes above attest. The first attempt at colorizing was done in 1968 and then again in 1992. After the second round, the cartoon was shown on the Nickelodeon cable channel but in an edited form. I mentioned some edits when I looked at "Frigid Hare" but, in this instance, the edits were drastic: all scenes with the African natives were eliminated. With more than half of the cartoon missing, I have to ask: what's the point?

Reading about this, I also discovered that hundreds of other Warner Brothers cartoons have been edited for broadcast on television over the past 40 years or so. While the infamous "Censored 11" were perhaps the most egregious offenders, brief scenes with characters in black face were quite frequent and taken out of many shorts with otherwise inoffensive material. Scenes with Native Americans, Asians, and other minority races were similarly removed. In addition to racial elements being excised, various acts of violence, drinking, anything related to tobacco, and the use of the word "damn" (as in "Damn Yankees!") also found there way to the cutting room floor. And, to show just how things had changed, the Cartoon Network removed a scene from 1941's "Rookie Revue" which showed a trio of soldiers in a mess hall eating. There's a large bowl in front of them labeled "HASH". Apparently modern audiences don't know that hash, in a culinary context, is a mix of cooked meat and potatoes that's reheated. There's a good overview over at rotten.com of this kind of thing as well as the outright removal of toons from circulation. It notes:

Animated features with even the slightest reference to alcohol (including rum cake), adultery, breasts, chewing tobacco, cross-dressing, gambling, marijuana, pornography, profanity, "rim jobs" (i.e. dogs licking each other), vaguely sexual or flirtatious situations, recreational sex toys (i.e. Tom from Tom and Jerry sticks a vacuum cleaner up Mammy Two-Shoes' skirt, producing giggles), smoking of any kind, suicides (i.e. [sic] a flusterated Daffy Duck blows his beak around in circles with a shotgun) - and even baby ducklings emerging from their shells in demure strip tease were deemed unacceptable.

One issue this raises is that Looney Toons (and virtually all cartoons made up until the 1960s) are considered to be aimed at children. Hardly anyone raises a fuss about Patty and Selma smoking on The Simpsons because there is an understanding that the show is intended for adults despite the intrinsic notion today that cartoons are for kids. This is not to excuse racial stereotypes but rather to say that it's hypocritical to edit old cartoons that, like The Simpsons, were originally aimed at adults, yet let many of the same acts get a pass today in newer cartoons. All of the elements in the quote above are found in The Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy, etc.

While I find these hackjobs irritating, what I find more irritating is the prospect that unedited versions may be unavailable to adults. OK, so you're going to cut stuff out when you air it on Saturday mornings. Just don't hide the unexpurgated versions away in a vault and away from us adults who can handle the phrase "Damn Yankees". My next task will be to find out if the unedited versions are making it out on DVD.

"Herr Meets Hare"
"What's Cookin' Doc?"
"Goldilocks and the Jivin' Bears"
"All This and Rabbit Stew"
"Sunday Go to Meetin’ Time"
"Uncle Tom's Bungalow"
"Frigid Hare"
"Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips"
|| Palmer, 11:00 AM || link || (3) comments |

24 November, 2006

Goodbye, Maddie

1 September 2005 - 23 November 2006

Thanksgiving didn't start well. The Dulcinea awoke to find Maddie motionless and virtually unable to move. When I got to her house, there were tears in her eyes as she explained that Maddie's condition has deteriorated significantly and that she'd found a vet that was open to euthanize her. (Maddie's condition had been getting worse the past couple months.) I never had a pet as a child so it was the first time I had to put to sleep an animal that I loved.

It was hard to see her take her last breath and it's almost as hard thinking about it now. I miss her.
|| Palmer, 6:47 PM || link || (1) comments |

"Atheists: The New Gays"

From Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, comes this blog post, "Atheists: The New Gays".

Prior to 9/11, it would have been career suicide for a public figure to come right out and say God is a fairy tale. Now it’s a feature of popular culture...

Ask a deeply religious Christian if he’d rather live next to a bearded Muslim that may or may not be plotting a terror attack, or an atheist that may or may not show him how to set up a wireless network in his house. On the scale of prejudice, atheists don’t seem so bad lately.

And he even makes a prediction:

I think that in an election cycle or two you will see an atheist business leader emerge as a legitimate candidate for president. And his name will be Bill Gates.
|| Palmer, 5:48 PM || link || (2) comments |

Beyond Belief

There is a wonderful series of discussions available to watch about reason and religion up at Beyond Belief 2006. The conversations took place earlier this month at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California in a forum entitled "Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason, and Survival". The topics include:

After two centuries, could this be twilight for the Enlightenment project and the beginning of a new age of unreason? Will faith and dogma trump rational inquiry, or will it be possible to reconcile religious and scientific worldviews? Can evolutionary biology, anthropology and neuroscience help us to better understand how we construct beliefs, and experience empathy, fear and awe? Can science help us create a new rational narrative as poetic and powerful as those that have traditionally sustained societies? Can we treat religion as a natural phenomenon? Can we be good without God? And if not God, then what?
|| Palmer, 4:18 PM || link || (0) comments |

Friday Skin

|| Palmer, 4:16 PM || link || (2) comments |

22 November, 2006

Roast Your Own

Roasting one's own coffee is becoming more popular. "Coffee snobs move on to homemade roasts" gives an overview of the still nascent movement. It even quotes a Cheesehead - Dave Borton of Monroe. Imagine brewing some coffee that was roasted just a few hours ago. Mmmm...
|| Palmer, 3:16 PM || link || (0) comments |

R.I.P. - Robert Altman

One of my favorite directors, Robert Altman, has passed away. :(
|| Palmer, 9:01 AM || link || (2) comments |

21 November, 2006

The Role of NPR

The National Endowment for the Arts recently laid into NPR for its turn away from music and towards more news/talk radio.

A new report from the National Endowment for the Arts blasts public radio, saying it fails to fulfill its obligation to provide music that commercial stations won't touch. The NEA says public radio -- once dominated by classical, jazz and other minority forms of music -- is retreating ever further from that mission, choosing to focus on news and talk.

National Public Radio pleads guilty to using its new resources to build a stronger news operation, but rejects the NEA's notion that public radio is abandoning its cultural mission. Rather, NPR maintains, it plans to use the Web and other emerging technologies to introduce a new generation of listeners to music you can't hear on the radio.

NPR is turning towards news and talk because, it claims, people who listen to this programming donate more $$. I was saddened, but not surprised, to read that, as of last year, there were only 28 commercial classical radio stations left in this country.

Personally, I prefer to hear music on the radio where I can listen to it on good speakers and news over the Net where sonic fidelity is not a big deal. Besides, the advantage of sitting in front of my computer while listening to the news is that I can go out on the Net and pursue topics of interest further. I can get more background, more context, and more of the story by using the Web. The Internet should be a tool for both news and music.

It has been a while since I thought of this. Earlier this year, my friend Andy in Chicago lamented that WBEZ, the flagship station of Chicago Public Radio, was dropping all music programming in favor of all-talk and news. I found this editorial by Steve Johnson at the Chicago Tribune's webpage and I think it aptly demonstrates the problem as outlined by the NEA:

Can you believe that WBEZ-FM 91.5 is dumping jazz, world music and blues? Neither can I.

I thought the city's public-radio station would never get around to making this smart decision, a big improvement over its current personality divide.

It's not that I hate jazz, blues or world music. A little of each goes a long way for me, to be sure, but they are all fine, even splendid, at certain times -- like during brunch and over tinny speakers in college-town clothing stores.

But even melodic jazz (as opposed to the numbingly virtuosic kind; I get it, dude, you can play your horn) is no match for a lineup of first-rate public-affairs programs, and the latter is just what WBEZ aims to put in place of the nighttime and overnight music it now plays.

That Ivy League education of his made him into a real aesthete: "Music by colored people is OK to shop to, but not worth a dedicated listen." What an asshole.

But this shift to all-talk apparently also entails a shift away from local jabber in addition to dropping music. (How can CPR drop blues programming considering the role the city has had in the genre?) Check out this letter at the Jazz Institute of Chicago webpage:

In a letter to Robert Feder's Chicago Sun-Times TV/radio column published Thursday, May 18, 2006, on p. 55, the astute Joe Cappo, recently retired as longtime publisher and columnist for Crain's Chicago Business and Crain Communications and legendary advertising columnist for the Chicago Daily News and Chicago Sun-Times, sums it up:

"In the past six months, WBEZ has canceled 'Odyssey,' cut 'Eight Forty-Eight' down to an hour and replaced these two locally oriented programs with endless hours of news from BBC and Canadian broadcast sources. Are we sure that BBC can produce enough news and features about its former colonies to fill WBEZ's plan to go all-talk? Why can Wisconsin Public Radio produce a substantial number of news, talk, call-in, discussion and other local informative shows and we get only an hour a day? Wait, wait, don't tell me."

Joe Cappo underscores a central point in WBEZ's ongoing and shameful failure to produce quality local programming -- the station's resources and priorities have been in partnering with NPR and PRI to develop nationally-syndicated programs with no connection to Chicago. With a multi-million dollar budget and a top-heavy management of vice-presidents and producers, this gang that can't shoot straight currently offers a grand total of *11* hours of local programming *per week* ! -- EIGHT FORTY-EIGHT (5 hours), WORLDVIEW (5 hours), and HELLO BEAUTIFUL (1 hour). Yet we are supposed to believe that they will now be able not only to fill out 80 or so additional hours on WBEZ within a few months but *168* new hours on their new station, WBEW!

At the same time, of course, without discussion or solicitation of opinions from outsiders or staff, Torey Malatia has decreed an end to all music programming -- a key part not only of the station's mission and history but of the city and the country's history as well. Jazz, blues, gospel, swing, Latin, and world music are the sounds of the people who built Chicago and made it an international music and cultural capital -- Black Americans, Latins and Hispanics, and the worlds' immigrants.

The dismissal of music programming and its replacement with endless jabber -- which, listeners are assured, will now include jabber *about* music! -- also is indicative of a basic misunderstanding about what arts and culture are, how they can and should be presented on television and radio, and what the purposes of public media are. While one also *can* talk about music, drama, poetry, or visual art, talk is never a substitute for the art itself. That WBEZ will now join commercial radio in abandoning support for music that is an essential part of the city's history and heritage -- and that is among the great legacies of Chicago's Black, Hispanic, and ethnic and immigrant communities -- is simply a betrayal of its mission to serve and educate the public.

I think the best point made here is that the situation "is indicative of a basic misunderstanding about what arts and culture are, how they can and should be presented on television and radio, and what the purposes of public media are." I agree. Public radio should definitely include news & talk of a local, national, and international nature. But it should also address the arts and culture generally in ways that private media outlets do not. I can't see how a balance of the two cannot be had.

This trend has also hit Wisconsin Public Radio as detailed here.
|| Palmer, 12:03 PM || link || (0) comments |

Losing Faith in Faith

Tuesday, November 21, 8:00 pm. FFRF co-president Dan Barker will talk about "Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist," and activities of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2650 Humanities. The Humanities building is on Park Street/Library mall. The event is sponsored by the Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics at UW-Madison, a campus club. For more information, contact aha@rso.wisc.edu or Chris Hallquist.
|| Palmer, 8:00 AM || link || (0) comments |

"On Wisconsin!"

The UW gets a mention in the Sept-Oct 2006 issue of mental_floss magazine. There's a piece about school fight songs called "Something Something RAH RAH" that includes the one from my alma mater.

The UW's fight song, "On Wisconsin!" was written by William T. Purdy with lyrics by Carl Beck, 1909. The piece notes that the music was written for a fight song contest at the University of Minnesota. Beck got Purdy to dedicate the song to the UW instead.

Here's something I never noticed: there are a few bars of "On Wisconsin!" in "Be True to Your School" (1963) by The Beach Boys.
|| Palmer, 7:57 AM || link || (0) comments |

20 November, 2006

Another Autumnal Suds Report (With Spirits Too)

2006 is winding down and I've still got a lot of good brews to try before 2007 arrives!

Capital Brewery has introduced their Vintage Ale. I had some at Mickey's Tavern and it was very, very malty and tasty. Also, note that their expansion is ongoing.

Tyranena's Spank Me Baby! barley wine-style ale is, according to brewmaster Rob Larson, being bottled this week so look for it on store shelves soon.

From the folks at Furthermore comes Three Feet Deep. According to the website: "With a hint of peat smoked malt, this stout is a return to county cork and the warmth of the Irish hearth." It made its Madison debut last week.

J.T. Whitney's brewpub has some seasonal brews on tap including Pumpkin Ale and Mad Badger Barley Wine.

Also in the brewpub arena, the third Great Dane location at Hilldale Mall is due to open next month.

Down in Monroe, Huber has released their Hazelnut Winter Ale.

The fall seasonal from Chippewa Falls, Apple Spice, is Leine's offering until their Doppelbock arrives when things are really cold.

The friendly folks at Lakefront in Milwaukee offer Riverwest Stein as their November beer.

Also in Milwaukee, Sprecher has released their seasonal Winter Brew and the limited Dopple Bock.

Up nort at the Viking Brewery, we have JuleØL, a traditional Scandinavian Holiday brew. It is "a light lager delicately spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg & sweet orange rind".

Finally, we swing back to Milwaukee. Firstly, the Milwaukee Ale House is expanding to become a brewery! You can keep up with construction at their webcam.

Lastly, I want to shift from suds to spirits. The Great Lakes Distillery has introduced Rehorst Premium Milwaukee Vodka. Currently it's only available in the Milwaukee area and not Madison. Hopefully it'll makes its way west soon.

|| Palmer, 6:03 PM || link || (0) comments |

18 November, 2006

"Banned" Bugs Bunny 8: "Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips"

This week's "banned" cartoon is "Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips" which was released on 22 April 1944, right in the middle of America's struggle with Japan during World War II.

It begins with a view of the ocean and the sky labeled as being "Somewhere in the Pacific". As the camera pans across the scene, we then hear Bugs lazily singing Vera Lynn's "Someone's Rocking My Dreamboat". (Lynn was an English singer who was extremely popular during the war. She is referenced by Pink Floyd's in their song "Vera" from The Wall.) We then see a crate floating on the waves with a pair of familiar ears sticking out.

There is then a cut to the interior of the crate where we see our protagonist, Bugs. He looks at the camera and, in a bit of self-reflexivity, says, "Just killin' time til the island that inevitably toins up in this kind of picture inevitably toins up." And the inevitable island does turn up. Bugs sticks his arms out of the crate and paddles towards it. Once ashore, Bugs adoringly talks about the beauty of the island and the quiet, peacefulness there. This is then shattered by artillery fire with clouds of black smoke appearing around him.

Bugs runs and jumps into a haystack which is improbably sitting just off the beach. He pops his head up to see what's going on and then the haystack mysteriously grows a pair of legs. And arms. And the arms plop a hat down on Bugs' head. The legs start creeping along. This is actually a really funny scene with Bugs' head and unknown arms & legs jutting out of the hay. We then discover that a Japanese soldier is in there as well.

The soldier is portrayed as a classic stereotype of Japanese people – short, buck-toothed, and big round glasses – and yells in gibberish that approximates Japanese. Bugs takes off as the soldier slashes at him with a machete and dives into a hole for protection. Tossing a bomb down the hole and piling dirt on top, our antagonist waits for the explosion. He hears it and digs up the dirt only to have Bugs pop out and hand the lit bomb to him. It explodes in the soldier's hands which only serves to irritate him more. Bugs' ear are sticking out of the hole and, as the solider prepares to take the machete to them, Bugs pops up dressed as a Japanese general and his pursuer drops to the ground in deference.

But, when the general pops a carrot in his mouth, the guy sees through the subterfuge. We cut to a close-up of the soldier and he talks directly to the audience in another bit of self-reflecivity: "Oh, honorable a-ha! That-a not-a Japanese general. Oh no! That-a Bugs Bunny. I see in Warner Brother Leon Schlesinger Merrie Melodie cartoon picture. He no fool me." With the jig up, Bugs takes off and jumps into a Japanese fighter plane and the soldier pursues yelling his gibberish. As his plane takes off, we see that there's rope attached to it and Bugs is diligently tying it to a tree.

This leads to the plane being ripped out from underneath the soldier, leaving only the cockpit glass. He opens it, jumps out, and then opens his parachute. Slowly falling back down to the island, Bugs flies up to him and gives him an anvil saying, "Here's some scrap iron for Japan, Moto." And the guy plunges down to the earth.

With his enemy dispatched, Bugs keeps score by painting a Japanese flag on a tree. When done, he turns around and is confronted by a sumo wrestler. Taking the massive guy on in a match, Bugs loses and ends up in knots. The wrestler then goes to the tree to mark up his victory when he notices a woman clad in kimono and clutching a fan approaching.

This is, of course, Bugs' obligatory scene done in drag. Luring the wrestler with a kiss, Bugs pounds him over the head with a hammer. Thinking that he's finally done, Bugs begins to walk away and then notices a Japanese troop ship just offshore with landing vehicles pouring onto the island.

Bugs puts on his thinking cap and comes up with an idea. Next thing we hear is the bell of an ice cream truck which comes into view as it rambles along with Bugs holding up an ice cream bar. A close-up reveals that there are hand grenades in it. He stops the truck and starts barking, "Get yer ice cream here!" Soldiers babbling in faux Japanese and clutching cash scramble to get a bar.

While the portray of the Japanese soldier and Bugs' reference to "Japs" is offensive enough today, it is here that the film really hammers home the racism. As Bugs is handing out the ice cream bars, he says, "Here's yours, bow legs. Here, one for you, monkey face. Here ya are, slant eyes." The soldiers wander off and loud explosions can be heard. "Well, that's that," Bugs says to himself. But there's one last soldier who comes up to the truck. His uniform is in shreds but the stick from the ice cream bar says he gets a free one. Bugs gives him one and it explodes.

We then cut to Bugs painting numerous Japanese flags on trees and he starts talking about how the island is yet again peaceful and quiet. But he turns round and yells, "If there's one thing I can't stand, it's peace and quiet!" He then starts crying and lamenting that he's stuck on the island.

We then hear a ship in the distance. It's an American ship.

Bugs starts yelling for it to rescue him and he runs onto the beach waving a white flag. He suddenly looks to his left and the camera pans to reveal a pulchritudinous female bunny.

This drives Bugs wild and he hops after her into the horizon.

"Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips" was not one of the original "Censored 11" and its racist portrayal of Japanese people was largely disregarded until the early 1990s when it was released on laserdisc as part of The Golden Age of Looney Toons, Volume 1. Apparently it did not draw much attention at first as laserdisc players were not very common. But when the set was released on VHS, it drew protests from Japanese-Americans and both formats were withdrawn. When the title was reissued, the short was replaced by "Racketeer Rabbit". Having been given a brief, but official, release on home video, the cartoon isn't particularly rare and can be viewed via YouTube.

As I noted above, "Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips" wasn't released until the spring of 1944, about two and a half years after Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese prompting America's direct involvement in the war. I wondered why a cartoon like this hadn't been made earlier. One would think that propaganda like this would be made right as we were preparing to fight Japan, not 2+ years into it. While I wasn't able to find anything definitive, I did manage to come up with a theory.

I suspect that the cartoon was a response to the Battle of Tarawa. Tarawa is a tiny atoll in the central Pacific and was occupied by Japanese forces in 1943. The battle was one of the first offensive campaigns by the U.S. in the Pacific Theater and was an important conflict in our "island hopping" to the Japanese mainland. As the Wikipedia article linked above notes, it was a very bloody battle with 1,009 American soldiers killed and another 2,101 wounded over the course of 4 days. The piece also notes that "The heavy casualties sparked off a storm of protest in the United States, where the high losses could not be understood for such a tiny and seemingly unimportant island." And so I suspect that the cartoon at hand was a response to the protest over the battle to get Americans fully behind our efforts in the Pacific.

I chose "Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips" for today because the Pacific Theater of World War II has been on my mind recently. Firstly because of the recent release of Clint Eastwood's film Flags of Our Fathers which concerns the lives of the men who raised the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima in 1945. Secondly I read earlier this week about a new book called Impounded which collects photos from the Japanese internment camps during the war by Dorothea Lange. The images were apparently hidden away at the National Archives until now and you can view some of them at this page.

The Battle of Iwo Jima was still about a year away when this short was released but the internment of Japanese-Americans and the creation of an "exclusion zone" had happened about a year previous. The zone was a large area of the West Coast which covered western Washington & Oregon, the entirety of California, and southern New Mexico. People of Japanese ancestry were rounded up and sent to internment camps lest they not conspire with their "homeland". This included American citizens (about 62% of the roughly 112,000 people who were detained) and not just recent immigrants who were deprived of their rights. Wisconsin was part of this as Camp McCoy, an Army base, hosted one of these internment camps which opened on 1 March 1942. While German-Americans received their share of grief during this time, they were not, however, locked up. Folks of German decent had a long history in this country so there were more of them plus they "looked like us", i.e. - they didn't have epicanthic folds on their eyelids.

"Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips" is the first cartoon I've looked at which uses racial slurs. It is also the first to, not only portray racial stereotypes, but to also portray violence against minorities. To be sure, it's "cartoon violence" and the violence is little different from the stuff Bugs inflicts upon, say, Yosemite Sam, but, given the context, I think it's a bit disturbing. The images of blacks in "Uncle Tom's Bungalow" and "Sunday Go to Meetin' Time" are not flattering, to say the least, but no black characters die or are shown to be attacked by whites. I don't know of any scenes even close to an ostensibly white character handing out ice cream bars filled with explosives to a bunch of blacks so that they're killed when the bars explode.

Yes, "Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips" was made during wartime but it's interesting to compare & contrast the cartoon at hand with "Herr Meets Hare", when Bugs meets up with another of our enemies in World War II, the Germans. "Herr Meets Hare" came out in January 1945 and, despite perpetrating genocide at the time, Hitler is merely poked fun at and no one dies. While I don't want to say that this is conclusive proof of anything, it is certainly suggestive to see how whites come down on the Japanese (I guess it's not PC to use "yellow" here) very harshly in one cartoon during this time yet fail to do so when it comes to the Germans, who are also white.

I've tried to emphasize over the past several weeks that any discussion about the racism in these cartoons must not only include our views here in the 21st century but also context or the views of the creators and audiences at the times when they were made. And these aren't easy to suss out. "Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips" is interesting in that it wasn't deemed so offensive as to be pulled from circulation until the early 1990s. This says something about our priorities when it comes to dealing with racism and probably minorities generally. I briefly touched on this issue last week with "Frigid Hare" and Eskimos. When we go out and are critical of stereotypes, we're very cognizant of how blacks are portrayed. When it comes to racism, white vs. black is at the top of our list. But this shouldn't be surprising as this almost split apart our country and led to the Civil War. Plus there was the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s and a host of other social upheavals over this issue. So it should be no surprise that black vs. white is paramount in our minds. In recent times women, Native Americans, and gays stood up for their rights to be treated fairly. And today there is increasing awareness of portrayals of Latinos in our media as the Hispanic population of America grows rapidly. But there has never really been a time when Asian-Americans have banded together and really created waves in our society against the status quo. They've been quiet, so to speak, as a minority group so perhaps we let racism against them slide under our radar.

Part of the reason I feel this way has to do with the time I spent living outside of Eau Claire, which is in west central Wisconsin, and saw the attitudes of whites towards the Hmong. Many Hmong fled Laos and Thailand in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and immigrated to America. They were "welcomed" because many of them helped us in that conflict and were relocated with help of the federal government. Now, why Wisconsin was chosen as a place to send these folks is beyond me, but our state was chosen nonetheless and we have a pretty significant Hmong population today. Eau Claire and its surrounds were (and are) overwhelmingly white and it was not uncommon to hear racist remarks. People who made comments about blacks often did so in hushed tones as if they knew they were transgressing a law. But comments about the Hmong were usually made casually and with no attempt to hide anything.

I'll end here but I'd like to point readers, especially locals, to an article that appeared in the Capital Times lately which discussed the lives of Asian exchange students called "Different Worlds. I know it is perhaps only tangentially related, but it's interesting nonetheless.

"Herr Meets Hare"
"What's Cookin' Doc?"
"Goldilocks and the Jivin' Bears"
"All This and Rabbit Stew"
"Sunday Go to Meetin’ Time"
"Uncle Tom's Bungalow"
"Frigid Hare"
|| Palmer, 10:48 AM || link || (5) comments |

17 November, 2006

Friday Skin

The gun portion of this year's deer hunting season starts tomorrow.

|| Palmer, 5:54 PM || link || (0) comments |

R.I.P. - Milton Friedman

Renowned economist Milton Friedman has died. Even if you're on the far left, he is still worth reading as his influence has been far-reaching. A good place to start is Capitalism and Freedom.
|| Palmer, 9:20 AM || link || (0) comments |

The Return of the Leonid Metor Shower

Today marks the return of the Leonid Meteor Shower. Unfortunately, we Wisconsonians are going to miss most of the best action.
|| Palmer, 8:38 AM || link || (0) comments |

The Things People Do For a PlayStation 3

Oh, this is just rich. Some kid in West Bend injured himself while jockeying to get a PS3.

A 19-year-old man had to be taken to the hospital after he was injured racing other customers for a chance to buy the game console, which goes on sale after midnight.

The man was waiting with about 50 others outside Wal-Mart when an assistant manager announced the store would only have ten units for sale.

The assistant manager then placed ten chairs outside the store. At the signal, the customers could race to the chairs and whoever got a spot could buy one of the ten Playstation 3 systems.

The 19-year-old ran into a pole and struck his head while sprinting for a chair.
|| Palmer, 7:47 AM || link || (0) comments |

Phrase of the Week

I'm currently reading Misquoting Jesus, a book about textural criticism of the New Testament. The author, Bret Ehrman, describes how changes were made to the text during the years between them originally having been written and the modern era. Way back in the days before Gutenberg invented printing, manuscripts were copied by hand, often imperfectly, and Ehrman describes one type of copying error:

One common type of mistake in Greek manuscripts occurred when two lines of the text being copied ended with the same letters or the same words. A scribe might copy the first line of text, and then when his eye went back to the page, it might pick up on the same words on the next line, instead of the line he had just copied? he would continue copying from there and, as a result, leave out the intervening words and/or lines. This kind of mistake is called periblepsis (an "eyeskip") occasioned by homoeoteleuton (the "same endings").

And so this week's phrase is "periblepsis occasioned by homoeoteleuton".
|| Palmer, 7:39 AM || link || (0) comments |

16 November, 2006

An Epic Controversy

Verona-based Epic Systems looks to be in some hot water. An electronic health records management system of theirs has been rolled out and is now having lots of problems, though not necessarily all due to the Epic software.

An electronic health records management system being rolled out by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan/Hospitals has been nothing short of an IT project gone awry, according to sources at the company and an internal report detailing problems with the HealthConnect system.

Questions about the project arose last week at about the same time Cliff Dodd, the company's CIO, resigned. Dodd stepped down last Monday after another Kaiser employee, Justen Deal, sent a memo to every company worker warning of technological and financial repercussions related to the rollout of the nearly $4 billion system from Epic Systems Corp.

When fully implemented, it is supposed to give more than 100,000 of Kaiser's physicians and employees instant access to the medical records of some 8.6 million patients, along with e-messaging capability, computerized order entry and electronic prescribing. In addition, the system is supposed to integrate appointment scheduling, registration and billing functions and will offer various features to Kaiser members through KP.org.

But according to the report, that doesn't seem to be happening with any degree of regularity.

...part of the problem with the HealthConnect system is that the Citrix Application Delivery infrastructure implemented by Kasier just can't handle the load of the Epic Systems.

part of the problem with the HealthConnect system is that the Citrix Application Delivery infrastructure implemented by Kasier just can't handle the load of the Epic Systems.

They said the software was written in MUMPS (Massachusetts General Hospital Utility Multi-Programming System) -- a health care programming language originally developed in the 1960s.

"Basically, the problems really do follow the entire scope of the platform in that we have these issues with the adaptability of Epic and we have these issues with the information security of Epic -- so we implemented Citrix to try and protect that, and we're facing the scalability issues with that," Deal said. "Using Citrix is something that defies common sense. It would be like trying to use a dial up modem for thousands of users. It's just not going to work, and it's not something anyone would tell you a dial-up modem should work for.

I guess this is what happens when you "hodge-podge your architecture", as my friend said.

I never knew there was a health care programming language. And this company has the largest Citrix server farm on the planet? Holy crap!
|| Palmer, 3:17 PM || link || (2) comments |

Richard Dawkins on South Park

|| Palmer, 1:14 PM || link || (0) comments |

Goings On

Last month I briefly talked about the potential of passenger rail returning to Madison. As I wrote, the main impediment to an Amtrak stop here in Madison is, as with pretty much everything, money. Now that the election has taken place, it now looks possible that Wisconsin could get some federal cashola for this venture.

The Wisconsin State Journal has an article today which looks at the roles our delegates will be playing in Congress. With our legislators taking key roles on various Congressional committees, the promise of pork looms large. Of note to rail enthusiasts is Representative Tom Petri of Fond du Lac.

Debbie Gebhart, Petri's chief of staff, said Petri is trying to become the top Republican on the House Transportation Committee, which could put him in position to make sure Wisconsin is treated fairly in key highway and other funding decisions.

Thunderbirds are go for the Wisconsin Institutes For Discovery. Back in September the architects and engineers were selected to create this new biotech, nanotech, and IT research facility. University Ave will be impassable, er, I mean construction will begin "by early 2008, with completion in 2010." Not sure how this would have been affected if Mark "There's souls in them there blastocysts" Green were to have been elected. Luckily, we don't have to worry because he was sent packing.

Also in the campus area, the Chazen Museum put out a call for architects in July to design it's expansion. It is expected to be completed in 2009. Yet another reason to avoid University Ave in the coming 2-4 years.

Not sure when the complex replacing University Square Mall is to be done. 2008, I'd imagine. And I drove by Capital Brewery a short while ago and their expansion is in progress. Masons are hard at work as I type. The expansion will increase the brewery's capacity by 15,000 barrels and includes a grain silo for storing the wheat for the incredibly popular Island Wheat. As long as I'm blathering on about Capital, I want to say that I tried their Vintage Ale last week at Mickey's in the aftermath of the snowstorm. It was mighty fine! A lot maltier than I expected. It's a very limited brew so get some now.

I want to mention that I ate at King of Falafel for the first time a week or two ago. An old friend who lives in Stevens Point, Tiata, was in town for the night to catch the bellydance show at the Barrymore. In addition to bellydancing, she's a mum who raises bees and makes lip balm. I'd hope to get some balm from her that night but she forgot my order. So it was just dinner.

I had the falafel appetizer (how could I not have falafel at King of Falafel?) and Masaka which is described as "Layers of meat, potato, eggplant, tomatoes, and onions baked". It was really great as enjoyed the flavors of the rice and the spices, which I don't taste often enough. Ooh! And the Turkish coffee was great as well. Methinks I should eat more Middle Eastern food.

It was nice to see Tiata again as the last time I saw her was only briefly in the spring at WORT's block party. Prior to that, it had been several years. She's now married, has a child, and leads the bucolic life in Point. A couple of her friends were also there, including a woman from WORT which explained how Tiata ended up bellydancing at their block party earlier this year. You wouldn't think that Point would have a bellydancing scene but it does. While not large, I gleaned from conversation that it's doing alright. Time zipped by and soon we were out the door headed to the parking ramp. A big and she was off to the show while I headed home to deal with my post-prandial lethargy.

This past weekend I had a little soiree with a smattering of my dorky gaming friends and my dorky girlfriend. The Dulcinea got all culinary on us and baked a chocolate pecan pie and made Bacon Bitches. BB are tender nuggets of curried cream cheese with a jalapeno slice wrapped in bacon. For my part, I nuked some Kabonsy or Polish stick sausage. It was a good time. Firstly, I hadn't seen Marv in months so it was nice to actually hang out with him again. Another highlight was watching how, the drunker Dogger got, the more he talked about Neal Stephenson. Things got really dorky when the conversation went from Stephenson to English history to Nikola Tesla and elsewhere. I think The Dulcinea had had enough of the extreme dorkiness and she went to the den to partake of some TV.

But before she did so, the gathering of gamers watched some fan films. The first was The Gamers. Dogger, Marv, The Dulcinea, and I had seen it already but it was just as fun the second time around. In a certain sense, it was even more funny since there were more gamers watching. The video concerns a group of guys playing Dungeons & Dragons in a dorm room which disturbs a co-ed down the hall who is trying to study. It alternates between shots of the players in the dorm and their characters acting out the game in the fantasy world. And it's hilarious. Some of the humor would go over the heads of folks who've never played D&D but most of it doesn't require viewers to be RPG players. But, if you are, you get a little sumpin' extra out of it.

After The Gamers we watched Demon Hunters 2: Dead Camper Lake by the same folks. I bought the DVD at GenCon this year but had been waiting to get a group of suitably dorky friends together to watch it and I finally had the opportunity. I just have to say that it was absolutely fucking hilarious! It's a bit like Blade but with demons. And, while the characters are kinda sorta dressed like those in Blade, the story takes place in a rural area with lots of snow.

One of the great things about watching these flicks with my friends is that it takes advantage of the infectious nature of laughter. We all laughed really hard and there was one point when we had all calmed down and there's some non-humourous exposition onscreen. I look over at Dogger and see that he's giggling hysterically to himself. So I start laughing and then Marv and then Charles and then James and then Buke and then the Dulcinea sees all of us with tears running down our cheeks and she laughs...My stomach really hurt after watching it.

This weekend is the Polish Film Fest on campus. I hope to see at least a couple flicks.
|| Palmer, 12:45 PM || link || (0) comments |

14 November, 2006

Surveying the Vast Wasteland

With my roommates vacationing for week in sunny Mexico, I have assumed control of one of our TiVos. And so I availed myself of the opportunity to see what cable had to offer, even at times of the day when my ass couldn't be sitting on the couch in front of the TV.

I found that it remains a wasteland and seems vaster than ever. Despite (because of?) having hundreds of channels from which to choose, I really didn't find much of interest. Perusing the channels, I discovered that any event that's remotely like a sport is on cable. If there's rednecks in an arena filled with dirt, you can watch it. Another disturbing thing was the plethora of shows on channels such as the Discovery Channel and The Learning Channel that showed people chasing ghosts and the adventures of psychic detectives. Folks, science has looked into this and the verdict is in - ghosts don't exist and psychics are frauds. Why is the Discovery Channel putting on shows that portray these hucksters in a positive light?

Any show involving a shop that builds custom motorcycles should be taken off the air. Period. And so should most home improvement shows. There's about 80 million of them, though I think the trend is waning. I mean, how many rip-offs of the UK program, Changing Rooms, do we really need to accommodate? And how many of the hottie twenty-something hostesses of these shows know anything about remodeling? Come on! Carpenters are scruffy guys with lots of scars, not soulless midriff bearing automatons.

Still, there are some good programs to be had. One of them is Real Time with Bill Maher. I don't agree with him on everything and some of his jokes are bad, but, overall, he's funny and his is probably the only program on commercial TV in America where religion is called out as the bullshit it is each and every episode. Real Time is also probably the only show on American television that can claim Salman Rushdie as a (semi-) regular guest. Why Maher claims Ann Coulter as a friend, however, is beyond me.

One program I recorded was called Downtown Girls: The Hookers of Honolulu. Now, the novelty of documentaries examining the lives of prostitutes wore off a long time ago but this one promised to be different: the hookers it featured were all transvestites or transsexuals. Having met a trio of transgendered folks recently and having gotten to know one of them a bit, I was interested in hearing more.

It started off poorly enough with some horrid faux reggae music and this awful poetry being read over the top of it in some grotesque Beat poetry parody. This crap petered out around halfway through, thankfully. Here's a few observations about the show:

1) One of the hookers remarked that a particular block or street in Honolulu was around 90% trannies of whatever flavor. This made me wonder if there was something peculiar about Honolulu or whether this is common in large cities. How many prostitutes are transvestites or transgendered? The documentary didn't go anywhere near this question.

2) One of the transgendered women interviewed was very beautiful. There were shots of her crotch area and they betrayed no evidence of there having been a penis and testicles. My question is: how did that woman get the hourglass figure? Was that surgery too? Do hormones have a role?

3) During one sequence, the interviewer asked if the hooker accepted propositions from gay men. (I believe this was a transgendered person who had not yet had surgery on her bottom half.) She said that she didn't and wouldn't. Indeed, she seemed offended by the notion and came across as almost being repulsed by gay men. I found this really odd, though perhaps I shouldn't have. For my part, I assumed that someone who presumably understood gender as being fluid, someone who stood between the two poles of gender, that she'd be blatantly open and tolerant. Not necessarily that she'd take on gay men as clients, but at least that she wouldn't belabor the point that she found the idea abhorrent.

4) There are more pervs out there than we let on. One of the women, a transsexual who still had male plumbing, related how she had male clients who just loved to play with her penis. She also related a story about one of her johns that was into scat. I am convinced that there are more people in this country who are into kink of some kind than we normally let on.

5) Finally, I had to wonder where all of Madison's prostitutes have gone. They used to walk King Street - just off the Square. Watch the film Not a Love Story for some footage showing the porn shops and whatnot that littered downtown. State Street Arcade has closed making downtown Madison almost 100% squeaky clean for all the yuppies and tourists. A few years ago, the cops ran a sting operation busting hookers and their johns over on North Street by Red Letter News. So where are they now? Do they all work for escort services? Did they emigrate to truck stops?

Next up I've got a look at the impact that Hurricane Katrina had on the musicians of New Orleans. I saw a couple minutes of the program this morning and it features, amongst others, Irma Thomas. (The Rolling Stones covered her tune "Time Is On My Side".) I think I also set it to record some Mythbusters too. Last night I peeked into the recommended programs folder. I guess the TiVo has a feature that, if turned on, it will automatically record programs that it thinks you may like based on the shows you have already programmed it to record. Never having peeked into the folder before, I dared do so yesterday. And what do I find at the top of the list but a soft core porno from Skinamax.

I've also acquired some some stuff from the Canadian Broadcasting Company which looks to be interesting. Firstly there's a documentary about spam, the electronic kind, that is. Next is a doc on hysterectomies. Why is the rate of them 5x higher in the southern states here in the US than the rest of the continent? Finally there's one on the myths surrounding breasts and breast cancer.
|| Palmer, 4:30 PM || link || (0) comments |

11 November, 2006

"Banned" Looney Toons 7: "Frigid Hare"

"Frigid Hare" is a Bugs Bunny short released on 4 October 1949. It is not one of the so-called "Banned 11", which were pulled from circulation in 1968, but it is one that was pulled from the air only to resurface in an edited form. Why I chose to look at a cartoon that takes place in the South Pole on a blustery fall morning after a snowstorm the previous night is beyond me. I should have instead reviewed "Bushy Hare", which takes place in sunny Australia.

The short begins with an establishing shot of snow and lots of it. We're obviously in an Arctic or Antarctic area. Then a familiar trail of snow being pushed up is traced on tundra. It stops and a bottle of suntan lotion pops up as are an umbrella, chair, and other items handy for a day on the beach. Bugs pops out clad in his swimming suit and begins running.

He sings about how happy he is to be at Miami Beach and jumps into the water only to jump right back out all blue. Bugs pulls out a map and determines that he took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and ended up in the South Pole. As he's standing there, a small penguin rushes by and knocks him over. As he angrily straightens himself up, an Eskimo whizzes by and knocks him over again. Cursing the man, he returns with spear in hand and mumbles something incomprehensible. Bugs figures out that he is looking for the penguin and sends him off in the wrong direction by saying, "He went that way, Nanook."

The penguin returns looking doleful and Bugs takes this as a plea for attention.

This annoys Bugs as hanging out with the penguin would eat up his vacation time and Warner Brothers doesn't give him a lot. But he eventually agrees to lend a hand. So Bugs takes the little guy to the top of a hill and says, "Ooh! Look at that four-legged aeroplane!" With this bit of misdirection, Bugs kicks the penguin down the hill.

Thinking he was free at last to head out, Bugs then catches a glimpse of the penguin sliding down the hill and into the waiting bag of the Eskimo hunter. This angers our hero.

Bugs comes up with a little subterfuge to rescue the little guy. And, as in many of Bugs' adventures, this involves a bit of cross-dressing.

The Eskimo is struck by love and surrenders the bag holding the penguin to Bugs who surreptitiously opens it up and frees the little guy. The Eskimo offers a large fish as a gift and, when after a kiss reveals the true identity of the lovely maiden, Bugs uses it to smack the guy and escape.

From here, it's a pretty standard Bugs Bunny chase. One funny bit was when they are sliding down a slope lined by crevices. They have to widen their legs in order to avoid them and Bugs' get tied up in a knot.

The pair eventually find themselves at the very tip of a long outcropping of ice. It strains under their weight until it eventually cracks and falls.

Seeing what was happening, the penguin grabs a bucket from nowhere, and fills it up with water. He throws it over the cliff and the water freezes as it makes its way towards Bugs and the Eskimo who are clinging to the large piece of ice. The water magically catches up with them and stops their freefall just above the ground. Bugs hops down and, when the Eskimo does the same, he falls through onto a spout of water from a whale and is carried off into the distance.

Bugs returns to the penguin and prepares to leave. He's still got a few days of vacation left. He's informed that the days in the South Pole are 6 months long and he figures this means he's got a few years of vacation as long as he stays there. And so he joins the penguin beneath the aurora australis.

In 2001, the Cartoon Network planned a "June Bugs" marathon in which every Bugs Bunny short would be shown. However, Warner Brothers asked that 11 shorts be withheld and "Frigid Hare" was one of them. Initially I thought this was due to the portrayal of the Eskimo character as being primitive and backwards. However, "Frigid Hare" resurfaced in 2002 with edits as Wikipedia explains:

On the syndicated Merrie Melodies show, Bugs calling the Inuit hunter an "Eskimo pie-head" was muted out. The cartoon resurfaced on a February 2002 airing of The Looney Tunes Show on Cartoon Network (in an installment showing Chuck Jones cartoons due to his then-recent death), with only one edit: After Bugs finds out from the penguin that the days and nights are six months long in the Antarctic, Bugs’ line about how he won’t have to return to work until July 1953 is edited. When the cartoon aired again on a 2002 June Bugs where all the Bugs Bunny cartoons are shown in alphabetical order, both the 1953 line and the “Eskimo pie-head” line that was cut from the syndicated Merrie Melodies show were edited out of the CN version.

It seems very odd to me that the line about not having to return to work for a few years would be edited out. Exactly what was offensive or harmful about this? That the line "What an Eskimo pie-head" was cut makes more sense. But that the cartoon was aired with a couple relatively minor edits seems to indicate that the portrayal of the Eskimo wasn't deemed offensive in and of itself. As we will see in the coming weeks, portrayals of non-whites who are also not black seem to get a pass or are deemed less offensive. Is this because of something about the cartoons themselves or because there are not large groups of Inuit, Aleuts, or Yupik peoples who watch the Cartoon Network?

The Eskimo in "Frigid Hare" really isn't much different from any other character that would chase after Bugs Bunny. He has the same scowls and bad temperament. It's just that he's an Eskimo. Unlike the treatment accorded black characters shown in previous Looney Toons, there doesn't appear to be much stereotyping here. The Eskimo isn't shown in a racist manner as blacks were using a black-face look. He doesn't have some stereotypically racist preoccupation like gambling that certain shorts used for black characters.

One thing to consider is just how much folks watching "Frigid Hare" know about the lives of Inuits and the other peoples commonly known as Eskimos today, much less in 1949. Probably not a whole helluva lot. I would bet that there are still lots of people in this country that, when they think of Eskimos, think of igloos, hunting with spears, and the like. Yet this is not an accurate picture of these peoples.

At one point Bugs tells the Eskimo, "He went that way, Nanook." No doubt this line would go over the heads of many modern viewers. "Nanook" is a reference to Nanook of the North, which is considered to be the first feature-length documentary in the history of cinema. Directed by Robert Flaherty and released in 1922, it portrayed the life of an Inuit man and his family. Nanook's real name was Allakariallak and Flaherty is often criticized for the many reenactments and "falsities" in the film. Even in 1921, when the film was shot, the Inuits had abandoned the spear in favor of the gun. Indeed, the point of the film was to capture a vision of the Inuit that existed prior to contact with the white man. By 1949 the Eskimo peoples had had decades of contact with white culture and had certainly adopted some of their technology and their ways & customs as well.

It seems very likely to me that the vast majority of people watching "Frigid Hare" in 1949 got their notions of what the Eskimo peoples were like and how they lived from Nanook of the North. It was a tremendously popular film and, in those days of the nascent mass media, it seems to be alone in having Eskimos as central figures. Perhaps there were books or periodicals that gave realistic accounts of Eskimo life at the time, but I don't know of them and haven't run into any as I research this cartoon.

So, is "Frigid Hare" racist? That's a tough one. Certainly racist portrayals of Eskimos aren't acceptable just because they don’t form a significant portion of our country's population nor get much media exposure. I think that there are some differences between the character at hand and black characters in other cartoons that are not merely of degree, but of kind, as I explained above. To me, there is a difference between saying that blacks have an inherent affinity for gambling and Eskimos hunt with spears. And just how do you portray Eskimos in a racist light anyway? In my own mind, I'm not sure that "Frigid Hare" does anything to imply that white culture is superior to that of Eskimos. Perhaps it does and I'm missing it. Perhaps other viewers see it unequivocally. And certainly an Eskimo or someone of Eskimo decent might have a completely different take on it.

Today in 2006, women, blacks, and Hispanics dominate the discourse on how minorities are portrayed in our mass media. Still, I'm sure that there is a book or a thesis paper somewhere that details the portrayal of Eskimos. And so, unlike my look at "Uncle Tom's Bungalow", I really didn't learn anything much new here. I've seen Nanook of the North more than once and discussed it in a documentary film course in college. (A brief, but interesting, examination of the film can be found in Erik Barnouw's Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction Film.)

However, it did strike me (finally!) just how much the old Looney Toons/Merrie Melodies have in common with current cartoons such as The Simpsons and South Park, particularly the way they reference popular culture and are self-referential. Starting with the latter, Looney Toons characters poke fun at Warner Brothers just as The Simpsons do to Fox. This bit of self-reflexivity is normally thought of as a recent jaunt into post-modern self-conscious irony, but here it is being practiced 60 years ago. And just as The Simpsons constantly poke fun at movies, television shows, etc., so do the Looney Toons refer to works of popular culture from its time. The more I look at these controversial cartoons, the more I see this and learn about the cultural icons of decades ago. I've learned who Stephen Fetchit was and more about Uncle Tom's Cabin, for example. It's also been interesting to learn that the groundwork for some of today's cartoons was laid decades ago by Looney Toons and Merrie Melodies.

"Herr Meets Hare"
"What's Cookin' Doc?"
"Goldilocks and the Jivin' Bears"
"All This and Rabbit Stew"
"Sunday Go to Meetin’ Time"
"Uncle Tom's Bungalow"
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