See the subtle joke at 5:25:
11. A conscious awareness of God is intrinsic to human nature.
Tara Brach recently told the story of a four year old who was excited to have alone time with his new baby sister. When he finally got to the side of her crib, he asked her, “Tell me what heaven is like. I’m starting to forget.” If we didn’t have a conscious awareness of God, we wouldn’t be striving so hard to find Him in everything from houses of worship to fictional characters on the big screen. Don’t let atheists fool you; they might not believe in a God in the sky, but they’re worshiping something, nevertheless, whether its money, power, or simply themselves.
It was so wonderful having the opportunity to reconnect last month. I enjoyed getting to know you better and coming to understand more of the parallels in our political and spiritual journeys. I look forward to many more deep discussions in the future.
I look forward to exploring these subjects in pieces more soon and think we should continue brainstorming together; let’s definitely plan on collaborating more in the future on ways to explore these concepts in articles, perhaps with some of your delightful artistic illustrations?
I want to congratulate you for your invention of the Bamusers, as showcased in your new collection of sketches that straddle the line between art and humor.
We’ve already talked about a few directions you might want to consider exploring using the Bamusers style of quick, simple illustrations accompanied by short titles. Today, I wanted to encourage you to consider another that could have some potential, both as a way to make perceptive cultural commentary and connect with new audiences: generational theory. Here are two books I’ll throw back your direction:
In my previous post, I noted that I grew up getting my ideas about marriage from The Flintstones.
Hint: This was not a good thing.
However, cartoons have evolved almost beyond recognition since I sat cross-legged in front of the TV every lunchtime, more or less surgically attached to “The Uncle Bobby Show.”
That makes animation an outlier, since pretty much every other entertainment genre – especially movies and music – has been in arrested development since the late 1980s.
Of course, both classical and computer animation have advanced artistically, thanks to advances in technology.
But story quality has become more sophisticated, too.
Characters – and, dare I say it, messages – are often more realistic yet more idealistic at the same time.
Some post-modern cartoon characters are even pretty good role models.
(At least, better than Wilma and Betty scheming to get their husbands to buy them mink coats, or Fred and Barney trying to keep track of the fibs they’ve told their wives.)
Dear Spencer Klavan,
I’d like to congratulate you for your first PJ Lifestyle piece that we published today, ”10 Movies Stolen Right Out of The Odyssey.” Editing it and talking with you inspired me to finally get around to finishing a list that’s been on my mind lingering for a few weeks now. But I’m also going to twist things up a bit to really start pushing this list business further. I wrote my previous list post in letter format to Lisa De Pasquale in response to her book Finding Mr. Righteous, and I think it’s a style I’m going to continue and encourage for others as a way to, borrowing a phrase from my wife, kill two stones with one bird. This month I’m going to start focusing to try and write more lists myself but they’ll be with the increased goal of trying to encourage dialogue between writers and readers and to inspire ideas for more articles.
Over the course of several months this spring I watched through and featured all of the Silly Symphony Disney cartoons from the 1930s in the PJ Lifestyle Cartoon at Noon feature. They’re all available on YouTube and are filled with insights into the period’s culture, fashions, racial shortcomings, and technological developments. In studying them and now in comparing to other studios’ generally less impressive releases, it’s clear how Disney dominated: he continually pushed the technology further and he used it to develop meaningful art drawing from deep, substantive mythological sources to promote positive moral values. I believe cinematically these efforts reached their peak with Fantasia, what has become my favorite film of late, and whose pieces can be seen in some of these earlier efforts.
Spencer, with your background in classics and your interest in bringing out some of the dark, hidden aspects of Greek and Roman mythology and their relation to our culture today I’m really excited about the ideas you’re going to start developing. Here are some of the ideas that I’ve been considering courtesy of some of the mythology, folklore, and fables Disney drew from in making his shorts.
CCing some of the other Lifestyle writers exploring pop culture and moral value themes on occasion too: Chris Queen, Susan L.M. Goldberg, Kathy Shaidle, and Hannah Sternberg, I’d invite you to consider these subjects too in your own writings. (And if anyone else would like to submit a blog post responding to these ideas DaveSwindlePJM @ gmail.com or lets talk on Twitter: @DaveSwindle. I’d like to start featuring more Twitter discussions at PJ Lifestyle.)
Jeff Koons, whose pop art retrospective runs at the Whitney Museum in Manhattan through October 19, is controversial in a way different from most self-consciously “transgressive” artists. For one, he’s very popular among collectors, which is in certain circles unforgivable. Left-wing art critics (but I repeat myself) accuse him of vulgar capitalism and make hay off his history as a (gasp!) commodities trader. The Village Voice called Koons’ career “the triumph of stupidity,” and if that’s not a recommendation I don’t know what is. (How critics can denigrate Koons but exalt Andy Warhol, another artist who made a vast fortune by playing with America’s cultural iconography, is a deeper mystery.)
Blissfully ignorant of the current art scene, I found the camera-friendly exhibition, generously stocked with over 120 pieces, at the least amusing and occasionally amazing, with a couple of smiles guaranteed. I dare say it would be a great visit for children, though given that a Koons’ piece once sold for $58 million (making him the most expensive living artist) perhaps don’t let them get too close.
Even Koons’ most contemptuous critics are disarmed by his 10-foot tall Play-Doh sculpture on the 4th floor (that floor houses the newest, brightest, most childlike stuff). Who knew the world wanted to see tons of aluminum painstakingly crafted to look like the result of a toddler’s random play-date? An adjoining gallery is stocked with masses of stainless steel, painstakingly worried over for years by teams of artists to make it look identical to the inflatable floats available for $7.99 at Wal-Mart. “Art” or not, the technical achievement on display is undeniable.
The Mae West-inspired Duck could be compared to a similar seductive bird featured in two of the Silly Symphonies, the 54th and 61st:
Fleischer Studios’ romanticized idea of a sultan’s harem was a common cartoon trope at the time, see “Mickey Mouse in Arabia” from 1932 and Willie Whoppers’ appearance in “Insultin’ the Sultan” from 1934:
Pop culture has become as much of a religious powerhouse as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or any other faith. Don’t believe me? Sit in a college classroom. Better yet, attend a fan convention or simply rent the film Trekkies. Films, shows, bands, comic books and their like have become, for some, sources of spiritual nourishment. Do you feel the power?
12. What was once DVR-able is now weekly appointment television.
“Appointment TV” doesn’t begin to describe your weekly ritual. All pressing engagements are pushed aside, phones are silenced, and ritual food is laid out on the coffee table to be partaken in as the ceremony commences. You still DVR the show for good measure, being sure to re-watch at least once, if not multiple times in deep study so that you may discuss the meanings of both text and subtext with fellow fans.
Hat tip: Deadline Hollywood