The Internet Critic Conversation

Okay, here’s the premise: Daniel (D) submits image/story/cartoon to website. Random site user (C) decides to leave a comment on it. Here’s how it invariably falls out. Keep in mind that this has happened to me many times, with many different people.


C: This is bad. Just bad. Idea has been done a million times. Obviously you don’t know what you’re doing.

D: That’s a little rude, not to mention unhelpful. You’re giving me no ideas on what to improve. Every idea has been done a million times, so you might as well say this about every bit of art on the site. Finally, if I don’t know what I’m doing, perhaps you could be kind enough to enlighten me? If this is all you have to say, then just leave it alone.

C: Well, this being an ART/LITERATURE/PORTAL SITE, I don’t feel I have to hold back on what I say. You need a thick skin around here, so don’t get so butthurt. GOOD DAY SIR

I then discover that C has blocked me from further contact.


Now, I really don’t care what people like this think of my work. Obviously they don’t have any real opinion; they just want to break stuff down and feel superior to someone. As you probably already know, I get like that myself.

No, what pisses me off is the childishness of it, the lack of self-awareness. Don’t they realize that I too, am allowed to say what I want on these particular sites? Don’t they realize that just because they can say what they want, it doesn’t mean it’s going to go over well? And don’t they realize that blocking me because I called them out on their shoddy critique shows a pretty damn bad case of butthurt on their part?

I know, I know. “Just ignore them,” you say. Normally I do. The last time this happened, though, the criticism was leveled at the concept of the work, which I did not create. The idea belonged to the man who hired me for the commission. I wasn’t personally offended, but I felt compelled to stand up for my collaborator. Bear in mind that I did not use any offensive language. I simply said that it was rude to slam the idea without offering any positives. The “critic” then whipped out the tired old speech about their right to say whatever they want, and added that my art wasn’t even that good anyway (no details of course). Then I got blocked. It all fell out exactly as it did above.

The only analogy I can think of for it is that it’s like watching a grown man stick his tongue out at you and mean it. All you can do is squint incredulously.

You’d think I’d be used to this sort of behavior by now, but I’m not. My attitude toward humanity is like that toward a bad movie: I keep hoping that it’ll get better somewhere. It never does, though, and my mind is continually boggled. I mean, they can’t all be this stupid, can they? Can they??

I’d better just relax. Anyone have any Oxycontin?

Advertisements

Top Cartoons: Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol

magoo theater actor.png“Do you know the weight and the length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It is a ponderous chain! Oh, captive bound and double-ironed! Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one’s life opportunity misused? Yet, such was I….”

Not the sort of dialogue one might expect from a cartoon, eh? A snottier animator than myself might even say that it’s not something that belongs in some chintzy UPA production, but I’m no snot-rag.

To me, cartoons have never simply been about art and movement. They’ve always been about presentation, performance, and timing: all the things that make any drama appealing. Just ask any Pixar fan his or her opinion on the studio’s success, and you’ll realize that with animation, as with all forms of acting, motion always comes second to emotion.

This is why I consider Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol to be the best of the myriad animated “Carol” adaptations. Sure, the animation is limited. Sure, the backgrounds are wildly exaggerated. Sure, the characters rarely evince their existence in the third dimension. All these stylistic qualities are unarguable, but to fault this cartoon for them would only reveal an artistic prejudice in the viewer. Magoo is beautifully drawn, finely directed, powerfully acted, and a joy to watch.

magoo.jpgThe cartoon sets up the story as a Broadway production, in which the myopic Magoo is the star. Jim Backus does some impressive voice gymnastics here, as he successfully buries the familiar Magoo dottiness beneath a surprising veneer of cruelty, sorrow, rage, and fear.

And Scrooge has much to fear. The four ghosts of the story lose none of their malevolence in their cartoon manifestations. Christmas Present grandly admonishes and condescends, and the legless, looming form of  Christmas Future remains my all-time favorite version of the character. Even the childlike, androgynous Christmas Past exhibits an unsettling aspect in its final departure.

74c790eb3b2c850d26feaab5f619a9cf.jpg xmaspresent.jpgGhostOfChristmasFuture-Magoo.jpgBut the grooviest ghost of them all is Jacob Marley, by far. Thanks to a jaw-dropping performance by Royal Dano, Marley is sure to get the attention of everyone in the room as he laments with frightful, operatic anguish. Marley’s scene was one of the first in animation to move me to tears, but not in the way you might expect.

There is a particular moment in the scene when Marley orders Scrooge to peer through his bedroom window and behold the afterlife that awaits him. And then, several fiery threads knit themselves together: a desperate musical cue, a vision of lost souls, a horrified outcry, a somber warning, and a swelling bass tone. And it’s all constructed so well that it becomes a thing of limitless, abstract beauty: something I cannot react to except to weep. It is not Scrooge’s plight that overwhelms me, as no other adaptation of this scene has elicited such a response. No, I think that I am simply awed at a craftsman’s level — amazed and moved at this perfect achievement of effect.

marley.jpgOf course, there are moments later on that actually aim to yank out the tears, and I think they’re quite good too, considering the simple drawings we’re looking at. The talented musicians, songwriters, editors, and voice actors all deserve great credit for this accomplishment.

youngscrooge.jpg

Unknown.jpeg MrsCratchit-MagoosChristmasCarol.jpg

Still, Dickens’s timeless tale is the cradle of these emotional forces, and the truth is that any minor tweak to it can ruin the whole soup. Thankfully, UPA wisely treats the work with great reverence. While concessions understandably had to be made for time, much of the heady dialogue and darker scenes from the book were retained. No punches were pulled for the sake of offending a child viewer, and I think the results speak for themselves. Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol is by turns sad, warm, funny, wondrous, and frightening, and neither Disney nor Warner Bros. were able to pull the Carol off so well as this. The simple technical skill massed within these studios is meaningless without the innate understanding of timing, heart, and power that UPA demonstrated here.

Or, to make my point more simply, “it’s not the number of frames in the life, it’s the amount of life in the frames.”

Notes on Creating

1.) I am impatient. This a path, and I can only advance on it when I’m ready.

2.) I work best at night, when there are no obligations or interruptions.

3.) I work more efficiently when I listen to an audiobook or a movie, especially if it is educational. It distracts my mind from the pain of working. I move through the drudgery of inking and painting without even thinking about it.

4.) Perhaps the secret is not the distraction itself. It is not to soften the effort of work, or to blur my vision of it, but to avoid thinking too strongly about it.

5.) Thinking brings analysis. Analysis brings doubt.

6.) Work must be balanced with rest. Recreation after work is not loafing. Recreation without work, a conscious ignorance of the muse, is a sin.

One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying, Purple People-Pleaser

Recently, I shared an excerpt from my short story “Travis is Fired” with an English teacher at a nearby college. He gave excellent feedback, but he was also curious about the long-term stakes of the story. Where was this story going? What was Travis’s story arc? What kind of person was he, and what was he going to face?

Travis’s flaw is that he’s a people-pleaser, a man who keeps his world under control by making everyone around him happy. Or, at least, those people he deems worthy of happiness.

He also has an uncompromising sense of justice, and his expectations for others are so rigid they’re brittle. As you might guess, Travis’s personality doesn’t get along with itself.

As painful life events rain down on Travis, he devotes his energy into caging his frustration. Since he has chosen not to express his displeasure, for fear of upsetting others, his displeasure decides to express itself. It manifests as a whole other character that whispers to Travis in the dead of night.

This freakish doppelgänger, who calls himself Ralph, encourages Travis to release his rage, to say what he feels and then some. Travis realizes that this might be good for him, so he takes Ralph’s advice and lashes out at those he dislikes.

At first, this expression is therapeutic, but before long Travis is alienated. Family and friends are frightened at his transformation. Horrified that he’s hurt people he cares about, Travis becomes infuriated with himself. Ralph’s hissed suggestions turn to ceaseless berating, and Travis sinks into depression. He hits bottom in a dirt field, where he bleeds himself in the blazing summer sun.

I don’t want to go much farther into the plot. I just thought it was interesting to think about. It’s fascinating that people distort their views of the world. They need to keep it in a state that appears stable and familiar and safe, and if they can’t, they become afraid. This clamor for security, this need for comfort and steadiness, is so severe that people will go so far as to alter their behavior in irrational ways to satisfy it. They won’t even realize they’re doing it most of the time, and if they do, they won’t appreciate being called out for it.

Our minds are fragile and difficult to repair. Hopefully Travis can make it.

Support Beam Excerpt 6

And the story closes. Thanks for reading!

6

You don’t have to tell me what you’re feeling. I’ve told it to myself, and with significant amplification. I know what you really think.

I can hear you, and I understand what you’re saying, but I know it’s not honest. You speak in hope and fear and desperation, and as I’ve learned, people aren’t completely honest in that state.

More than that, though, I want you to stop speaking because I can’t tell you to shut up. Since I know what you really mean, I need to stop hearing it. All I can do is take in the veiled chiding, the hidden disappointment, with no way to quiet it or brush it aside. I know already, believe me, I know.

It’s not a lost cause, though. I’ve created a hum in my head to drown you out. I just think of the words “I love you, too” over and over now, and it seems to help. I just wish you could hear it, so you could stop blaming yourselves and go away.

I love you too, I love you too, I love you too.