June/July 2008

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In this writing exercise, I have composed a scene from actual blogger comments from the Cartoon Brew website, with the consent of Brewmasters Jerry Beck and Amid Amidi. Blogger lines are indicated in green.

Scene: Happy hour at a local bar. Dave and Chris, animators in their mid-twenties, enter engrossed in conversation.

Chris: I got a Kleenex box with Ratatouille on it. It's nice cause the images on the box look way better than that floral crap they normally have, and the tissues are normal white - no cartoon characters on em.    I also found a Clutch Cargo DVD...for a buck, who could resist?

Dave: Only reason I'm not clawing my eyes out is through the apathy and indifference this generates within me.

They scope out the bar.   Two empty barstools stand before them, next to two very attractive, young, professional women.   At a table sits a fat, middle-aged slob of a man with bad pattern baldness devouring nachos and Diet Coke. This is Larry from layout. Chris and Dave join him, ordering two Bud Lights from the passing Waitress.

Chris: Speaking of cows, if you think about it, any cow who boasts of a preference for steak over hamburger obviously hasn't looked in the charnel house mirror and noticed that, regardless of taste, half their ass is still missing.

Dave: Bwahahhahaaaaa...hahaha
...ha...haha......huh?    I don't get it.   If only eight people in the world will get your joke, invite them to your house and share it over dinner.

The two very attractive women at the bar share a big laugh, courtesy of the bartender.   The guys watch enviously.

Chris: Yikes...

Dave: I wish I had that level of skill, even if only once.

Chris: What can we do about it? I mean that seriously, not rhetorically. A more pressing concern is what're you gonna do if you're on a date? I believe the $10 is too much for a movie already, I'm not gonna pay another $5 just to watch Ice Age VIII with one more dimension.

Dave: Try to make out with those dumb plastic glasses on.

Chris and Dave take long looks at the very attractive women, drinking them in.   They look to Larry, wiping his plate with his finger and sticking his finger in his mouth.  

Dave: The current situation just stinks.

Chris: Where is my goddam Korgoth. That's all I have to say.

Dave: I don't mean to be a party pooper. That's just how I feel. I don't owe you bastards anything.

Dave steps up to the bar, ordering a "Cartoon Brew" on tap.   The two very attractive women, Amy and Brie, take notice.  

Amy:   Cartoon Brew?   Is that really the name of a beer?

Bartender: (nods) Micro-brew.  

Amy: Stupid name.  

Brie:   Who came up with that one? Combine alcohol and kiddie shows?   

Amy:   That's just plain wrong.

Dave: If by "just plain wrong" you mean "holy cow awesome" then yes.

The bartender hands Dave a pint of Cartoon Brew.  

Dave: The seventies was the golden age of adult animation, a small sub genre, but still growing-- one was even nominated for the Oscar this year. Ratatouille is a first-rate entertainment, and not without depth, but Persepolis is a rarer and more profound work of art. I'd also argue that Heavy Traffic also happens to be an incredible film. Today its loud, obnoxious, and ugly. There are only few shows still in existence which don't require a lobotomy to watch. The Batman, Legion of Super Heroes,and The Spectacular Spiderman.

Bartender (to Amy and Brie): Don't mind him.   He's an animator.  

Dave (to Bartender): Hey, it's the Black Ox, the evil robot from Mitsuteru Yokoyama's classic series Tetsujin-28!

Long beat.

Brie (to bartender): Another Pinot.

Amy: Vodka and cranberry.  

The very attractive women turn away from Dave,   sharing a private laugh.   Dave stands an uncomfortably long time before, with no graceful exit, making the walk of shame back to Larry's table. The waitress is serving Larry another order of nachos and a Diet Coke refill.  

Larry: I had hoped that JL would have been able to stop the Tinkerbell thing from happening, but it's got a billion dollar merch engine pulling it into existence, so that sucks.

Waitress: Hey Check this out!  

She turns around, pulling her shirt and jeans apart enough to reveal a tattoo of Tinkerbell flying from the crack of her ass.

Dave: Sweet Zombie Jesus.

Chris: Eh eh eh ...

Larry: I like it.

Waitress: Tinkerbell rocks!

She gives them a big-tip winning wink, then glides away as the guys stare like bobble heads.  

Chris: Continuing the Tinkerbell brand makes perfect financial sense. It's a huge moneymaker and it's not exactly high profile. If the Pixar guys were to pull the plug on this, they would probably suffer severely.

Dave: What are you guys, some sort of dev. execs? All kids care about is whether the voice is funny. The mindset you posers are adopting is what's ruining cartoons today. Don't think so damn much fellas. Why did Bugs Bunny have a Brooklyn accent? Trust me there ain't no bunnies in Brooklyn. They did it because it was FUNNY! Stop whining so damn much!

Brie (from the bar): Hey, you guys do animation?

Dave: Animation? That’s the thing with the fart jokes right?

Amy: Draw us!

Dave leaps to his feet, approaching the bar in a sixteen-beat Preston Blair strut.   Chris does the same, only much more exaggerated, amusing no one but himself.   Larry, reluctant to leave his nachos, brings his plate along. They stand over Dave's shoulder as he attempts to draw the two very attractive women on a cocktail napkin.   

Chris: Man that's awful.

Dave crumbles up the napkin.    Grabs another.

Brie: Goofy's a dog, right?    

Dave: Goofy, as far as Pluto's concerned, is no dog. He's a poseur.   Disney should sue the estate of George Orwell for the line "Four legs good, two legs bad!"

Brie: O....kay.....

Amy: So what do you guys do for fun?   Blog about cartoons?

Chris (regarding Dave's drawing): The design is shit.

Dave: Don't hold back. Say what you really think, please.

Chris: Pure shit.

Larry: Sums it up quite nicely, doesn't it?

He crumples up another one, grabs a new napkin.  

Amy:   Do you guys work on Family Guy?   That's the only cartoon I watch.

Dave crumples up another napkin. Starts over.  

Chris: I won't get stoned if I mention that I might actually like this show, will I?

Dave: FAMILY GUY is, in my opinion, the most overrated and unfunny cartoon on television. Next to Seth MacFarlane, Matt Groening and Mike Judge are geniuses.  

Larry: Walter Lantz was the Seth McFarlane of the 1920's.

Chris: Didn't Lantz have a studio in the Valley as late as the early nineties? Or was he in some way involved with one? I shared an elevator with him while visiting a friend who was working on "Where' s Waldo?" series. (regarding Dave's drawing) That kid's hair looks like my Barbies' hair used to after I cut them.

Dave: God I need a drink.

Larry: Give me the classic TV cartoons from the 1950s and 1960s anytime. I have been watching cartoons for 50+ years and find very little that is being made today that makes me laugh out loud. There will never be another Chuck Jones or Tex Avery, and they are sorely missed.

Amy: Who's Chick Jones?

Larry chokes on a nacho.   Badly.

Chris: Instead of sitting here complaining about Family Guy come up with something better and get an agent and present it.... then you can all see family guy go away while you educate all the small minded people with more educated smart humor.   (regarding Dave's drawing) Is it a girl or a boy?

Dave: You people are making me go bonkers. OF COURSE it's a girl. Jeez.

Chris: So boring it's practically androgynous.

Dave: Hey, can we accent the positive ?

Larry, still choking, passes out.  

Chris: It's called artistic integrity, thank you.

Dave: I'm super pissed about this.

Dave slams Larry's plate of nachos over Chris' head.

Chris: Ouch.

Dave: I'm so sick of all you! All of you.

Chris swings a barstool into Dave's solar plexus.

Chris: This is Disney dammit...the friggin standard-bearer of this art form for much of the past hundred years.

Dave hoists Larry over his head and throws him at Chris. Larry lands on the very attractive women, flattening them, literally.   

Chris: Calm down a bit....no need to get so angry! Remember.... it's only a cartoon.

An anvil bounces off Chris' head.   He holds up a small sign that reads "Mommy!" And falls over dead.   The fight is over.  

Dave: You're entitled to an opinion of course. But some of you should know better than to engage in such knee jerk reactions and go off on it based on so little.

Dave wipes his hands in victory, then turns to walk out, unaware of the gigantic stick of lit dynamite tucked in his back pocket. There's a huge explosion, sending body parts all over the bar.   Beat.

The bartender rises from behind the bar and puts a coin in the juke box.   As Kurt Weill music plays, the various body parts move toward the center of the room, climbing onto each other to form a mish-mash creature featuring the heads of Dave, Larry, Chris and Amy and Brie.         

Creature: Jan Svankmajer? Ha!

Hot Chocolate in the Tenderloin

by James Baker 

A true story reprinted from James' blog.

Lately I have been in lockdown - just sleeping or working on illustrations - with periodic breaks to eat when I head out to an internet cafe. I can get some change of scenery, food and some e-mails (and maybe a quick blog post!) done all in one go.

I needed just such a break a few nights ago, but it was late in the evening and the cosy internet-cafe I normally go to for such a break was closed. So I took my laptop over to another cafe that I knew was open late. It was crowded inside and the music was loud, so I sat outside in the fresh air to do some e-mailing and web-surfing as I drank my hot chocolate.

I had just sent an e-mail when some snatch-and-grab crack-head scooped my laptop and ran off, bolting downhill into San Francisco’s charming Tenderloin neighbourhood.


After a brief startled pause, I gave chase, trying to make up the head-start he had on me, sometimes running down the road into oncoming traffic. I was giving this pursuit everything I had, and there was some great motivation - ALL the artwork for my dear old Dad’s Elephant book was on that laptop! As I chased the junkie, the life of the ELEPHANT BOOK was flashing before my eyes…

After about three blocks running as hard as I could, he wasn’t getting any further away, but I wasn’t getting closer either and I was reaching the limit of my middle-aged adrenaline capacity, whereas he had both youth and the perfomance enhancing properties of CRACK on his side. I didn’t think that I could keep up with him for much longer.

Mercifully, I was helped out by some folks in the street, who clearly read the situation when they saw a wiry dude clutching a laptop chased by a red-faced puffy bloke screaming obscenities. They realised that they needed to intervene and spare me a heart attack. Several people on sidewalks along the way tried to grab the thief or trip him up, and a few times he did stumble, giving me the chance to gain on him. Pretty soon there was one hell of a hulla-balloo - random passers by yelling “STOP THAT GUY!” and me yelling stuff I can’t write here.

As he rounded a corner, a group of people who had time to react in advance, tripped the thief up for good. One of the guys beat the stuffings out of him, after wrenching the laptop out of his fingers. This BADASS Samaritan briefly paused his expert pummelling of the baddie to give me a chance to get in some hits myself, like he was graciously offering me the last slice of a tasty desert, but I declined. I was too busy gripping onto the laptop with both hands, and bent double trying to get my breath back. Besides, the muscular, tattooed, and menacing dude beating on the baddie was doing a superb job on his own, and I didn’t want to mess up his syncopating rhythm. So the miscreant definitely got a form of punishment before he limped away. He didn’t look in very good condition.

Even though the wretch was tried, convicted and punished in the court of STREET JUSTICE, in hindsight I should have held him and called the cops, because that very same creep is probably going to pull the very same slimy move again, although after that savage walloping, his getaway speed may not be quite as impressive. I really wasn’t thinking straight.

I ALSO ought to have gotten the name of the anonymous avenger who helped me out (a tattooed SUPER HERO in my eyes) so I could buy him dinner, a beer, a monogrammed pair of brass-knuckles, or something. He was in the middle of helping some friends move, and they just headed off after shaking my hand. I did get a chance to thank him profusely, between gulps of oxygen, but I really should have got his phone number for a follow up.

But at that point I was already pre-occupied with the thought that I had left my shoulder bag on the table outside the coffee shop 3 blocks away and that it contained my check book and some other stuff. If this thief was an experienced operator he would have a partner to scoop my bag when I head off in pursuit.

I ran as fast as I could back to the cafe. When I got there, sure enough, my bag was gone. I figured that I had to call the bank and tell them a check book had been stolen. I still counted myself very lucky that I had gotten my laptop back, especially when I found out that, despite the crack-head’s spectacular sprawling wipe-out, it seemed to be working OK.

A guy congratulated me on getting it back. He had seen the snatch from across the street and wanted to hear the story of its recovery. I told him what had happened, and that the only minor bummer was the loss of my bag. He told me that my bag wasn’t stolen - it was waiting for me in the coffee shop. He had taken it in for safe-keeping.

I was very lucky to have had so many people help me out that day. Even now, I get horror-shudders when I consider what today would be like if I had NOT gotten my laptop back…


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