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My, But That Was A Long Nap….

22 Aug


by Rachel Newstead

Abandoned blogs annoy me–if they’re good blogs, it saddens me. So much potential wasted, be it from lack of interest, lack of focus, the demands of real life, or all three.

And I’m annoyed especially at myself, for having been one of the worst offenders. For all of the above reasons, in addition to simple exhaustion from trying to keep up a steady flow of posts. Many good bloggers don’t post daily, or even weekly, but I was damned and determined to. And of course, given what I do (lengthy reviews with as much inside information as I can cull from sources I can find) it’s simply impossible.

I’m sorry to say simple ego also played a part.

Back in 2010, I posted a Freeze Frame Friday entry detailing a sequence from “Service With A Guile” that I assumed to be by Jim Tyer. “Assumed”, as it turns out, is very much the operative word here: shortly thereafter, I happened upon Bob Jaques’ “Popeye Animators” blog. Specifically, this post in which he takes wannabe historians like me to task for spreading misinformation about cartoons, in particular attributing scenes to animators which they did not do.

I had no desire to contribute to the problem, so I sent off an e-mail to Mr. Jacques to try to confirm that the sequence I posted was indeed by Tyer. To my mortification, it wasn’t.

I was indeed one of those spreading information, and about Tyer, no less, an animator I can usually easily spot (let’s face it, Stevie Wonder could spot Tyer’s work). Therefore, my credibility was zero–or so I felt. Never mind that it was just one mistake. I had blown something simple, a mistake I knew better than to make. So in trying to earn the respect of my fellow animation enthusiasts (a hard thing to do when you’re a girl trying to get into the boys’ club) I was back to square one.

Now, I don’t blame Mr. Jacques. He simply corrected a bit of misinformation, for which I’m grateful. But my pride had been wounded.

My original plan was to lay low for a few weeks, so I could regroup, dust myself off, and pick up where I left off, with a renewed pledge to be more careful about what I said in future. But weeks turned into months, which turned into “maybe someday I’ll start again.” And all because of one thing, something which has lurked in the background of my life since I was ten years old–depression.

It’s not a subject I particularly enjoy talking about, as I open myself to judgmental comments from others, who feel I’m merely a “whiner” and need to “snap out of it already.” But depression is persistent, and it’s a lifelong battle–not something you can “snap out of” (any more than you can “snap out of” a severe flu). You can blunt it with drugs, you can stuff it down under a faux cheery demeanor and fake smiles, you can relegate it to the background. But you can’t–I repeat, can’t–cure it.

And when you have it, it’s all you can do to get the basic tasks of daily life accomplished. Doing anything creative is too much to hope for.

Right now I’m in a remission of sorts, following a bout which began about eight months ago, one complicated by the loss of my mother to cancer in March. It has made writing all the more difficult, as my sounding board has gone. Mom and I exchanged frequent letters via e-mail, particularly in the last three years of her life. She had a wickedly barbed sense of humor, and you had to be on your toes to spar with her verbally. In writing to her, I challenged myself to be as funny as I could, writing about my misadventures in northern Wisconsin. I could vent, I could laugh, I could cry, and know I would get reassuring words back.

Now those words have been silenced, and my creative energies have to be directed elsewhere. And I could think of no better place to which I can direct them than this blog.

You see, when I gave this blog up, I noticed an odd thing happening. People kept coming, and at a rate faster than when the blog was active.

Now, I will be the first to admit I’m no Jerry Beck, or Mark Kausler, or Mark Evanier. There are other blogs that do what I do, and do it far better, such as the fascinating, informative Yowp Yowp and Tralfaz blogs. I am just a middle-aged, disabled fangirl in front of a computer terminal in a tiny living room in Wisconsin. But this blog has something people like, and I won’t question it.

I cannot guarantee I’ll post every day, or even every week. I have no long-range plans for the future of this blog, but I have a few ideas I’d like to put to you readers. Please respond if there is something among them you wish to see here, and by all means, give me suggestions of your own.

Freeze Frame Friday will be gone, as it was one of the causes of this blog being abandoned. The feature required that I identify who did each scene, and that’s not something one can leave to educated guesses, as my debacle showed.

I want to do “theme” days, perhaps a “Flintstones” Friday, in which I review one of the 166 episodes, as well as the movies and specials that came after. I intend to do the same with shows such as “The Jetsons” (especially the “classic 24” from ’62-63).

I’d like to add a separate Essays page, in which I write in depth about about an animator, director, or series, along the lines of the “Before He Was Tex” essay posted here. Fortunately, WordPress makes that rather easy.

My original intent in starting this blog was to go beyond the subject of animated cartoons, and I hope to do that in months to come, talking about comic books, comic strips, and live-action TV shows.

As to the Facebook page, I have no plans as yet. My hope is to do video podcasts in which I review an individual cartoon. As I do not have the quality of video equipment I feel I need, however, that might have to wait.

Beyond that, I have only one other thing to say to the blogosphere, and my fellow geeks out there.

I’m still here.


Going Upscale

7 Apr

Frame of pampered cat from "The Aristo-Cat"

Houston, we have a domain.

Because we wish to attract more traffic–and because the old URL was so devilishly hard to type–the Test Pattern has moved to a pricier neighborhood, so to speak. As of midnight last night, the address is Fortunately, those of you who have our old address bookmarked (if there are any out there) will still be able to use it–you’ll be rerouted here.

You may already have noticed the blog has a different look. This is a new WordPress template called “ChaoticSoul”, and not only is it sleeker than the one we were using, it’s the only new template that didn’t require us to put our “Cecil as test pattern” header up all over again.

We’re planning a few more “tweaks” as finances permit–like the ability to embed our own video and audio–but for now, make yourself comfortable in the new surroundings.

Still Here–And Boy, What I Have In Store….

2 Apr

by Rachel Newstead

If I have one flaw, it’s this: one little comment is often enough to send me into a depressive tailspin.

I didn’t react well to Bob Jaques’ recent comments on my recent Freeze Frame Friday post. Though I know, intellectually, that he was only trying to be helpful, I became so self-conscious over the last week or so that it has become difficult, if not impossible, to write anything without second-guessing myself. Consequently, I haven’t been around much lately.

Fortunately, the bout was temporary and my confidence has returned. It has not, however, returned quickly enough to do a Freeze Frame Friday this week. That feature will, however, return on April 9, with a look at a cartoon that is perhaps Hugh Harman’s single finest work, The Field Mouse. There’ll also be a bit of a surprise. What that will be, I’d rather not say–you’ll have to, as they used to say on TV, tune in next week.

I can, however, give you an idea of what’s in store over the next few days:

  • Buddy has to be the “Rodney Dangerfield” of cartoon characters, but is that reputation deserved? You’ll find out what I think tomorrow when I talk about the last–and possibly the best–Buddy cartoon, Buddy The Gee Man.
  • As you might have already guessed, I love early television as much as I do cartoons, and have a little piece for your consideration about the man who invented the home video recorder–in 1928.
  • If you ever needed proof that Pinto Colvig was as much an actor as a voice man, you need look no further than the 1942 Ding Dog Daddy, which I’m going to review.

The time I’ve spent away hasn’t been entirely unproductive–in addition to enjoying some unseasonably warm spring weather for Wisconsin, I’ve been haunting Stu Shostak’s Shokus Internet Radio site. I have to tell you, this is one of the net’s little undiscovered treasures, especially Shostak’s own Stu’s Show. This week our friend Mr. Shostak has as his guest the king of oddball radio, Dr. Demento–a man who introduced me to the novelty records of a fellow named Benny Bell.  It’s been airing since Wednesday, but repeats will run for the next few days.  I strongly urge you to catch Stu and The Demented One tomorrow at 7 PM Eastern Daylight Time. You were warned….

“Flickers” Addendum

17 Mar

by Rachel Newstead

Frame From Fractured Flickers, ©VCI Entertainment

Our weak-headed hero, Jack Headstrong. It's obvious where Jay Ward and company got the idea for the Bull winkle "Wossamotta U" segment. Image ©VCI Entertainment

Good news for fans of Jay Ward and Fractured Flickers: this morning I received permission from VCI Entertainment to post an entire sequence from the Fractured Flickers series. This segment, “Cornell Goes Wilde” is one of many I recorded with my trusty cassette recorder in those bygone years of the ’70s. It’s the story of Jack Headstrong, star football player for downtrodden Scrooge University (and all-around lunkhead) and his passion for…drop kicks, something he loves far more than he loves his fianceé, Rosa Picardy. Will Jack keep the team from going down in total humiliation during the big game? Will Rosa learn to love drop kicks? Since this is a Jay Ward program, you can probably guess the answer to those questions….

“And A Little Child Shall Lead…”? Learning About Music (And, Hopefully, Lending that Sense Of History In Return

11 Mar
Frame from Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" video

Lady Gaga, from her "Paparazzi" video

by Kevin Wollenweber

Well, I’ve actually spent all day, today, listening to Shokus Internet Radio and their new lineup, beginning with what is called The DJ And Hip-Hop Show With Lisa Shostak. Lisa Dorothy Shostak is the daughter of the internet station’s main programmer, Stuart Shostak, and she plays the big tween hits, from Lady Gaga to Snoop Dogg to the Jonas Brothers to…well, even a classic Beatles song gets thrown in the mix, but I smile to myself and think that this is Daddy prodding his daughter to give her audience that history lesson.  As much as I enjoyed hearing “Here Comes the Sun” and have hailed the new Beatles remasters even on this weblog, George Harrison’s fun little tune really felt out of place amid the louder, bass-heavy beats of hits by the other younger acts here.  As I listened, the music fan in me took over, and, although my crude equipment probably did not allow me to send good copies, I ended up rushing around trying to find certain music that I thought Lisa should hear and even include on her show. Continue reading

Self-Defense The Flintstones Way (That’s For Very DANG Sure!): “The Prowler”

2 Mar
Prowler sits atop a pile of rubble as Wilma looks up and Fred comes up from underneath

Both Fred and a poor schlub of a prowler underestimate Wilma’s mastery of the art of self-defense in “The Prowler”

by Rachel Newstead

The Prowler

Episode P-3

Original Airdate:  Dec. 30, 1960

Writer: Joe Barbera

In short:  Fred poses as a prowler to scare Wilma, but doesn’t count on a real one showing up…

Having already utilized the “dueling neighbors” and “battle of the sexes” plots, it’s perhaps inevitable that today’s episode, “The Prowler,” would make use of the next item in the Stock Sitcom Situations Handbook, the “wounded male pride” plot.

That’s not a criticism–every sitcom works its way through these, sooner or later. The good ones burn them off quickly and get them out of the way before moving on to more original material. The great ones take these stock situations and still make a brilliant episode. “The Prowler”‘s use of this particular standard situation reinforces this series’ position as one of the great ones.

“The Prowler” very nearly subverts the standard plot structure it’s placed in. Fred objects to Wilma’s taking up judo to defend herself not so much because he’s the man of the house (or cave), but because he’s too darned cheap to pay for the lessons. Pride matters to him, but not as much as money.

The male characters in this sort of plotline often sulk for days before something happens either to convince them they really are big strong he-men after all, or (more common these days) show them they don’t have to be.

Not Fred–he’s too full of misplaced confidence (and too stubborn) to go the “sulking” route. He takes a unique approach by posing as a prowler himself, to prove first that Wilma really needs him, and second (and most importantly, to Fred) that they don’t need the expense of lessons. But as we’ll soon see, the best-laid plans of Fred Flintstone often turn catastrophic. Continue reading

And Now A Word From Our (Cough!) Sponsor…

27 Feb

by Rachel Newstead

In keeping with this blog’s current Flintstones theme, why not take a smoke break while waiting for the next review in my series to come up? Or at least watch this commercial, if you’re skittish about lung cancer:

I have to be honest. I’m a bit bewildered that so many people today find it so strange to see Fred Flintstone pitching Winstons. The over-the-top outrage and sarcasm I see in the comments every time something like this gets posted to YouTube are growing a bit tiresome.

As someone who grew up in that era (the 1960s, not the Stone Age, smart guys) a cartoon caveman selling cigarettes seemed no more unusual to me than a cartoon tuna selling Starkist (and believe me, the implications of the latter seem far darker to me).

I guess the notion prevalent today that these commercials were some sort of evil plot to hypnotize the kiddies into lighting up is the most confusing thing of all to me; the people who think that, I’m guessing, are those that consider anything animated to be strictly for children. Anyone who’s ever seen a Tex Avery cartoon would surely know otherwise.

The only truly strange thing about this commercial to me, really, is that the pack of Winstons isn’t “Flintstone-ized”; the artists could have, to use a TV term, “goofed it up” a little to make it more Stone Age-like.  It just doesn’t seem as though it belongs in the same “universe” as the Flintstones.

And now that I think about it, doesn’t the pack  appear huge in relation to Fred and his druggist?  I guess they made ’em a lot bigger back in Fred’s time….