She comes in colours everywhere

The new, completely crazy Play-doh bunny ad for Sony Bravia. (Thanks, Jon!). I searched about and found the ad with the making-of at the end of it, because you *know* you’re gonna want to see this. Seems like a lot of money spent for something meant to sell televisions, but on the other hand, who would fund this if it was “just” a short film? The bunnies are very cute. I especially like the yellow one waiting to cross the road.

New Harry Potter Film not going so well…

It was to be one of the biggest science experiments ever seen yet there was not a bunson burner or test tube in sight. Around 1,500 students kitted out in waterproof ponchos discovered exactly what happens when you drop a mint sweet into a bottle of Coca Cola, in an attempt to break a world record. The students, from Belgium, tried to out-fizz the previous record for so-called Mentos fountains by simultaneously putting Mentos mints into bottles of the soft drink.The resultant chemical reaction shot hundreds of streams of carbonated soda into the air.The explosive record-breaking event was held in Ladeuzeplein square in Leuven, Belgium.

From the Daily Telegraph

The Worst Food in America


A disgusting, high-calorie list from Men’s Health:

Outback Steakhouse Aussie Cheese Fries with Ranch Dressing
2,900 calories
182 g fat 240 g carbs

Even if you split this “starter” with three friends, you’ll have downed a dinner’s worth of calories before your entree arrives. Follow this up with a steak, sides, and a dessert and you could easily break the 3,500 calorie barrier.

The Revisionism of Dr. Wertham


A few issues back, the New Yorker had a book review/story about the comic book hearings of the 1950s and how horror comics were blamed for juvenile delinquency. What followed was a “Comics Code” that was even more puritanical than the one that censored Hollywood films in the 1930s. The first half of the article by Louis Menand sums up the history fairly well, the second half dives into David Hajdu’s book on the subject (“The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America”) and finds some interesting revisioning of history. Dr. Wertham, for example, seen as somebody’s conservative stern uncle, was nothing of the sort. He was, rather, more of a progressive, and saw the relationship of comics to kids as mass consumerism to those least likely to ward it off and the most impressionable.

He was against the code. He did not want to censor comic books, only to restrict their sale so that kids could not buy them without a parent present. He wanted to give them the equivalent of an R rating. Bart Beaty’s “Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture” ($22, paper; University Press of Mississippi) makes a strong case for the revisionist position. As Beaty points out, Wertham was not a philistine; he was a progressive intellectual. His Harlem clinic was named for Paul Lafargue, Marx’s son-in-law. He collected modern art, helped produce an anthology of modernist writers, and opposed censorship. He believed that people’s behavior was partly determined by their environment, in this respect dissenting from orthodox Freudianism, and some of his work, on the psychological effects of segregation on African-Americans, was used in the Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education.
Wertham thought that representations make a difference—that how people see themselves and others reflected in the media affects the way they think and behave. As Beaty says, racist (particularly concerning Asians) and sexist images and remarks can be found on almost every page of crime and horror comics. What especially strikes a reader today is the fantastic proliferation of images of violence against women, almost always depicted in highly sexualized forms. If one believes that pervasive negative images of black people are harmful, why would one not believe the same thing about images of men beating, torturing, and killing women?

Somewhere in this tale is a lesson about getting more than what you wished for, and how a desire to protect can be manipulated by those in power to satisfy their cravings to repress and contain.

WITMOT?


My main homey Jon Crow has a new blog. What’s that, you say, a new blog? I didn’t know he had an old blog. Well, that’s where you’re wrong. But I forgive you.

WITMOT deals with: movies, James A. Garfield, traveling, James A. Garfield, kvetching, and for those who don’t like James A. Garfield, there’s sport. Here’s a sample of his writing:

Back in 1998, after I graduated from U of Michigan with a Master’s Degree in Japanese Studies that I knew would prove to be worthless, I panicked. I wanted to go back to Japan, but I really did not want to teach English again. I taught it for two years between 1994 and ‘96 and I felt my brain softening a little more with each day I worked there. The few job leads that I had in Japan fell through and suddenly I had no clue what I was going to do with my life. The future looked confusing and uncertain and I was overwhelmed. So I did what any red-blooded lad hailing from the stout state of Ohio might: I sold my car and traveled around the world. Along the way, I wrote a series of mass emails detailing my adventures with included climbing Himalayas, getting chased by a Rhino and getting naked with a room full of Russians. I thought of them as a sort of proto-blog though blogs were at that point a good five years away. So now, ten years later, I finally have these missives in a blog format. You can read the first entry here.

Please do check it out, even though he only paid me $10 to give him a plug. He’ s a good guy.

Joan Acocella on Kahlil Gibran


Here’s a good profile in the New Yorker on Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet, a book that continues to sell well into its 8th decade. Gibran turns out to be an odd fellow indeed who luckily hooked up with the right kind of dependent relationship.

Mary Haskell, the headmistress of a girls’ school in Boston, was a New Woman. She believed in long hikes, cold showers, and progressive politics…She was not rich, but by careful thrift—the school’s cook, who also had some wealthy employers, sneaked dinners to her from their kitchens—she managed to put aside enough money to support a number of deserving causes: a Greek immigrant boy who needed boarding-school tuition, and another Greek boy, at Harvard. Then she met Gibran, who would be her most expensive project.

In the beginning, her major benefaction to him was simply financial—she gave him money, she paid his rent. In 1908, she sent him to Paris for a year, to study painting. Before he went abroad, they were “just friends,” but once they were apart the talk of friendship turned to letters of love, and when Gibran returned to Boston they became engaged. It was apparently agreed, though, that they would not marry until he felt he had established himself, and somehow this moment never came. Finally, Haskell offered to be his mistress. He wasn’t interested. In a painful passage in her diary, Haskell records how, one night, he said that she was looking thin. On the pretext of showing him that she was actually well fleshed, she took off her clothes and stood before him naked. He kissed one of her breasts, and that was all. She got dressed again. She knew that he had had affairs with other women, but he claimed that he was not “sexually minded,” and furthermore that what she missed in their relationship was actually there. When they were apart, he said, they were together. They didn’t need to have “intercourse”; their whole friendship was “a continued intercourse.” More than sex or marriage, it seems, what Haskell wanted from Gibran was simply to be acknowledged as the woman in his life. As she told her diary, she wanted people to “know he loved me because it was the greatest honor I had and I wanted credit for it—wanted the fame of his loving me.” But he would not introduce her to his friends. “Poor Mary!” Waterfield says. Amen to that.

Acocella links this way of interpersonal behavior to his writing:

Then, there is the pleasing ambiguity of Almustafa’s counsels. In the manner of horoscopes, the statements are so widely applicable (“your creativity,” “your family problems”) that almost anyone could think that they were addressed to him. At times, Almustafa’s vagueness is such that you can’t figure out what he means. If you look closely, though, you will see that much of the time he is saying something specific; namely, that everything is everything else. Freedom is slavery; waking is dreaming; belief is doubt; joy is pain; death is life. So, whatever you’re doing, you needn’t worry, because you’re also doing the opposite. Such paradoxes, which Gibran had used for years to keep Haskell out of his bed, now became his favorite literary device. They appeal not only by their seeming correction of conventional wisdom but also by their hypnotic power, their negation of rational processes.

It’s well worth a full read. Thanks to Mr. C for the link.

Flock, Vector Maker, and a simple Address Book/iCal birthday tip

I spent way too much time today playing around with Flock, a web browser that threatens to supplant Firefox for all-over Web 2.0 goodness. I’m still deciding whether it’s too crowded and busy to do so, but as someone who is constantly checking Flickr and Facebook, its incorporation of friends and feeds into a left-hand column is totally ace. Add to that the ability to click-drag-and-drop a web photo onto a friend icon and send that to them…add to that a Flickr uploader…add to that the incorporation of most Firefox extensions…add to that my being able to blog on the browser from within the browser and…well, it’s pretty cool. Check it out here.
I also checked out this completely free and versatile web-based Vector Graphic maker at Stanford that will convert a bitmap image to vectors for Illustrator. Crazy. This used to be the domain of Adobe Streamline (remember that?) but this does it within the browser, offers three levels of detail and three export options (png, evs, and svg). I ran one of my cartoons through it and it handled the line and color work nicely. See that here.
And finally, maybe this is just me, but I had no idea that a simple checkbox in iCal’s general preferences populated your calendar with birthdays of all that have them listed in Address Book. So I did so.

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Opening the gates of the NYT, and an early restaurant review

Kottke.org, by way of Chuck Taggart’s blog, went nosing about in the recently unlocked New York Times online archive and found the earliest restaurant review. That’s worth reading for many reasons, including a list of the types of dinner to be found in New York in 1859 (Stetsonian! Delmonican!). But what tickled me most was the excerpted account of dining at the last on the list, an unnamed “Third-class Eating-house”:

The noise in the dining hall is terrific. A guest has no sooner seated himself than a plate is literally flung at him by an irritated and perspiring waiter, loosely habited in an unbuttoned shirt whereof the varying color is, I am given to understand, white on Sunday, and daily darkening until Saturday, when it is mixed white and black — black predominating. The jerking of the plate is closely followed up by a similar performance with a knife and a steel fork, and immediately succeeding these harmless missiles come a fearful shout from the waiter demanding in hasty tones, “What do you want now?” Having mildly stated what you desire to be served with, the waiter echoes your words in a voice of thunder, goes through the same ceremony with the next man and the next, through an infinite series, and rushes frantically from your presence. Presently returning, he appears with a column of dishes whereof the base is in one hand and the extreme edge of the capital is artfully secured under his chin. He passes down the aisle of guests, and, as he goes, deals out the dishes as he would cards, until the last is served, when he commences again Da Capo. The disgusting manner in which the individuals who dine at this place, thrust their food into their mouths with the blades of their knives, makes you tremble with apprehensions of suicide…

Not too different from now, except we can add TVs blasting out cable news and twats on cellphones.