Archive for April, 2011

Endangered Species

George “Buddy” Guy (born July 30, 1936) is an American blues guitarist and singer. He is a critically acclaimed artist who has established himself as a pioneer of the Chicago blues sound, and has served as an influence to some of the most notable musicians of his generation. Guy is known, too, for his showmanship on stage, playing his guitar with drumsticks, or strolling into the audience while playing solos. He was ranked thirtieth in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time“. His song “Stone Crazy” was ranked seventy-eighth in list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time also of Rolling Stone.

Born and raised in Lettsworth, Louisiana, Guy began learning guitar on a two string diddley bow he made. Later he was given a Harmony acoustic guitar, that, decades later in Guy’s lengthy career was donated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In the early ’50s he began performing with bands in Baton Rouge. Soon after moving to Chicago in 1957, Guy fell under the influence of Muddy Waters. In 1958, a competition with West Side guitarists Magic Sam and Otis Rush gave Guy a record contract. Soon afterwards he recorded for Cobra Records. He recorded sessions with Junior Wells for Delmark Records under the pseudonym Friendly Chap in 1965 and 1966.

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The Soul of Warner Brothers Animation, and of course, the voice as well.

I pretty much stopped watching any cartoons featuring the Warner Bros. repertory cast of characters when Mel Blanc died. I bet I’m not the only one. It was never the same. The animation art changed, sometimes drastically, over the years. From old school realism to modern minimalism, and everything in between. But if Mel Blanc was cracking one-liners, it was enough to keep me watching. And the range the man had, from the creaky voiced granny to the blustery baritone of an orating rooster, the brooklyn thug, the Eurotic Skunk, the speech impedimental cat, Abbott and Costello. You name it, he could voice it.

And my lovely assistant, Wikipedia, says:

Mel Blanc (May 30, 1908 – July 10, 1989) was an American voice actor and comedian. Although he began his nearly six-decade-long career performing in radio commercials, Blanc is best remembered for his work with Warner Bros. during the “Golden Age of American animation” (and later for Hanna-Barbera television productions) as the voice of such well-known characters as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester the Cat, Tweety Bird, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Wile E. Coyote, Woody Woodpecker, Barney Rubble, Mr. Spacely, Speed Buggy, Captain Caveman, Heathcliff, Speedy Gonzales, Elmer Fudd and hundreds of others. Having earned the nickname “The Man of a Thousand Voices,” Blanc is regarded as one of the most influential people in the voice-acting industry.

At the time of his death, it was estimated that 20 million people heard his voice every day.

He pulled the strings.

William Britton Baird (August 15, 1904 – March 18, 1987), professional name Bil Baird, but often referred to as Bill Baird, was an American puppeteer of the mid- and late 20th century.

One of his better known creations was Charlemane the lion. He and his wife Cora Eisenberg Baird (1912–1967) produced and performed the famous puppetry sequence for The Lonely Goatherd in the film version of The Sound of Music.

He wrote The Art of the Puppet (1965) and also provided the puppets for Dark Shadows. Baird also created the expandable nose Peter Noone wore as Pinocchio in the 1968 musical adaptation of the Carlo Collodi story that aired on NBC as a Hallmark Hall of Fame special. Baird’s choice of his professional name inspired Termite Terrace cartoon writer Edward Stacey Pierce III to add a second “D” to his own professional name, calling himself Tedd Pierce.

In 1934, Baird formed his own company, the Baird Marionettes. Their first performance was at the Chicago’s World’s Fair.

In 1951, Baird’s Marionettes performed some of the roles in the Broadway musical Flahooley, a fantasy about a mass-produced laughing doll who unintentionally threatens the American industrial system.

In a career that spanned over 60 years, Baird and his puppets performed for millions. They toured Russia, appeared in “The Lonely Goatherd” sequence in the film The Sound of Music (1965), as well as in the ABC-TV 1958 television special Art Carney Meets Peter and the Wolf, graced many World’s Fairs, and were part of five Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parades. During the 1964/65 World’s Fair in New York City, Baird’s Marionettes hosted “The Show-Go-Round”, an elaborate musical exhibit in the Chrysler Pavilion.

Baird was a recipient of a multitude of awards and honors, including the Medal of Achievement -awarded by the Lotos Club of New York,, Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Iowa, and was honored in 1980 by the Union International de la Marionette and Puppeteers of America at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

All above gratefuly stolen from beloved Wikpedia.

The photo I used to draw Baird’s portrait was a group shot of folks at a cocktail party. One of the folks standing next to Mr. Baird was Jim Henson. I vaguely remember watching Baird’s marionettes on Jack Paar, The Today Show and other 50s variety shows. I was impressed with the craftsmanship and imagination that went into the creation of the characters. The movements of the marionettes seemed so stiff and imprecise that I had difficulty suspending my disbelief in the proceedings, but if Jim Henson thinks he’s cool then I guess we should give him some props too.

Childrens' Clacissist

Robert McCloskey (September 14, 1914 – June 30, 2003) was an American author and illustrator of children’s books. McCloskey wrote and illustrated eight books, two of which won the Caldecott Medal, the American Library Association’s annual award of distinction for children’s book illustration.[1][2]

Many of McCloskey’s books were set on the Maine coast, including One Morning in Maine and Burt Dow, Deep Water-man.

Born on September 14, 1914, in Hamilton, Ohio, McCloskey arrived in Boston in 1932 after being awarded a scholarship to the Vesper George Art School. He then moved to New York to study at the National Academy of Design.

In 1940, he married Margaret (Peggy) Durand, daughter of children’s author Ruth Sawyer.[1] They had two daughters, Sarah and Jane, and settled in New York City, spending summers on Scott Island, Maine. That was the setting for his Caldecott Honor book, Blueberries for Sal, whose characters little Sal and her mother are reputed to be based on McCloskey’s wife and eldest daughter Sarah.

McCloskey’s wife Peggy died in 1991. Twelve years later, in 2003, McCloskey died at his home in Deer Isle, Maine. He was survived by his two daughters and by two grandchildren, Samantha and Seth.

Make Way for Ducklings was the 1942 Caldecott Medal winner. The book tells of a mallard family that comes to live in a pond in the Public Garden in the center of Boston, Massachusetts and how a friendly policeman stops traffic when the mother takes her eight ducklings across the street. This story has become an institution in Boston, and in 2003, it was named the official children’s book of Massachusetts.

My children’s literature teacher at Florida Atlantic University, related a nasty rumor that McCloskey allowed the ducklings to drink from a bowl of whiskey so that their motion would be slowed down enough for him to draw them more easily. Good thing PETA wasn’t around then.

I’m so cool that I let the momentous “Those Amazing Humans, #300” come and go with no hype or celebratory comments. Actually, when I look back to some of my earlier efforts, I wonder what I could’ve been thinking. Really shoddy art. I shudder with shame. But now I have evolved, through this daily discipline, to what I am today, and eventually what I will be tomorrow.

Even though I am cool, I will nonetheless, blow my own slidewhistle for a moment. A while back when I asked accomplished artist, Thomas Yeates (Tarzan, Captain Eo, Airboy, Swamp Thing, Princess of Mars) to take a look at my recent work, he was kind enough to do so. He said in an email: “Wow, Michael, you are really letting your inner Mort Drucker shine, brightly.”

If you don’t know Mort Drucker, he was one of the main talents in the Mad Magazine stable of artists from the sixties to the nineties; his specialty was dead-on celebrity caricature. So, if I can’t make any money with my art I can exist on the self-esteem calories from that one comment, for a little while.

I don’t know if I will be able to meet the standards of quality I had envisioned a while back. It is more difficult than I had imagined to be a serious artist and a serious writer at the same time. My art continues to improve while my text these days tends to consist of artfully arranged snippets from Wikipedia.

I feel a little like I am taking a course called “The Random History of Amazing Humans, 101”. It’s a fun course, I think that I am doing well, and I have learned about a lot of amazing folks. My life has been enriched by about as many intangible positives as I can handle. I tire of toiling away in obscurity and I fear I will not be able to meet my goal.

My goal, first and foremost, is to entertain and enlighten with sketches and comments on well known and unknown amazing individuals. I would hope that something about the experience of seeing my stuff would delight  you enough to prompt your return to see what’s going on in my Random Atlas of Amazing Humanity.

Second, and foremost, it is what some might derisively term, a cry for help. Help with turning my talents toward worthy goals like paying for gas, utilities and skyrocketing food costs. Will draw for food! Will write for propane. Somehow I must put a bow on the horn of this random rhinocerous of creativity and take it to market. Maybe I can trade it for some magic beans.

If you like what you see here, please tell your friends, especially the rich ones who’d love to subsidize a quirky old artist and his loveable family, through tough economic times. If nothing else, please do leave comments or subscribe or anything else you can do to acknowledge my existence on this lonely stretch of the Information Highway.

I am so ready to be a phenomenon I can taste it.

Just a few years off.

Wikipedia:

Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950) better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense, revolutionary opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language and a belief in democratic socialism.

Considered perhaps the twentieth century’s best chronicler of English culture, Orwell wrote fiction, polemical journalism, literary criticism and poetry. He is best known for the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (published in 1949) and the satirical novella Animal Farm (1945). They have together sold more copies than any two books by any other twentieth-century author.[7] His Homage to Catalonia (1938), an account of his experiences as a volunteer on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War, together with his numerous essays on politics, literature, language and culture, are widely acclaimed.

Orwell’s influence on contemporary culture, popular and political, continues. Several of his neologisms, along with the term Orwellian, now a byword for any draconian or manipulative social phenomenon or concept inimical to a free society, have entered the vernacular.

One-eye Blind.

What mystery woman stirred the first sexual yearnings in the young cinephile and future creator of Those Amazing Humans? Was it Marilyn Monroe? No. Jayne Mansfield? No. Jane Russell? No. The film was “I Married A Witch”, the actress was Veronica Lake. I could feel her enchanting my giblets right along with Fredic March’s.

Wikipedia:

Veronica Lake (November 14, 1922 – July 7, 1973) was an American film actress and pin-up model. She received both popular and critical acclaim, most notably for her femme fatale roles in film noir with Alan Ladd during the 1940s, and was well-known for her peek-a-boo hairstyle. Her success did not last; she had a string of broken marriages and long struggles with mental illness and alcoholism until she died of hepatitis.

During the making of Sorority House director John Farrow first noticed how her hair always covered her right eye, creating an air of mystery about her and enhancing her natural beauty. She was then introduced, while still a teenager, to the Paramount producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr. He changed her name to Veronica Lake because the surname suited her blue eyes.

For a short time during the early 1940s Lake was considered one of the most reliable box office draws in Hollywood. She became known for onscreen pairings with actor Alan Ladd. At first, the couple was teamed together merely out of physical necessity: Ladd was just 5 feet 5 inches (1.65 m) tall and the only actress then on the Paramount lot short enough to pair with him was Lake, who stood just 4 feet 11½ inches (1.51 m). They made four films together.