Archive for December, 2007

Experimental Post (Pay No Attention)

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

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Happy New Year everyone! This is an experimental post, I am learning new ways to save images on the computer and wanted to see if they make a difference in the loading speed of this page. The ad with the baby is a teaser for the strip starting here next week. We bid a sad farewell to Lane Allen’s Diary, since this is the last strip I could save back in 1958. Lane ran in a magazine that our church took but then suddenly cancelled. Does ANYONE know where this strip might have continued it’s run or what magazine carried it? I’d love to read what happened to Bouncer.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24th, 2007

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Deck them halls with books of comics! Cathy and I painted last week at the home of Brenda Swenson, famous watercolorist and author of a Walter Foster book, in South Pasadena. Although rain threatened, none fell. About 30 painters showed up to do studies of the old neighborhood houses and the South Pas. water tower. Brenda has a small collection of antique truck bodies in her back yard that proved to be cooperative painting subjects! She served great bowls of steaming bishop, plum pudding, hog jowls, chitlin’s and chestnuts! (I’m only serious.) I prefer hot Tom n’ Jerry, but it’s scarce in these parts. Cathy did a charming oil of Brenda’s front porch with wreath and poinsettia plant, I did the neighbor’s house with dark bougainvillea in the foreground. The light was very touch and go due to the shifting cloud cover. Have a peaceful and joyous Holiday season, everyone! By the way, there’s only one more episode of Lane Allen’s Diary, then maybe someone will step up with more of them!

La Casita Del Arroyo

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

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Here’s a milestone, the end of our first Tyer Felix story from 1962, “Beaux and Arrows”and the start of the next one: “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby”.  Also the next exciting episode of Lane Allen’s Diary—an evil hunter has designs on Bouncer the deer.

Cathy and I joined our painting group last week to do studies of “La Casita del Arroyo” over along the lower Arroyo Seco, a tributary of the Los Angeles river that runs through Pasadena. The Arroyo is a beautiful canyon, and the little house (“casita”) where we set up our easels is right at the edge. The Casita was built as a public meeting spot in 1933 by the famous architect Myron Hunt, using all natural building materials from the Arroyo. We mainly painted the lovely arches and delicate structure of the Colorado Street Bridge, which we could see plainly from the house’s veranda. Sometimes known as “suicide bridge”, it was built in 1913 in the Beaux Arts style and was named “suicide” for the large number of jumpers in the early years of the twentieth century. After a barrier was placed along the top of the bridge, there were fewer jumpers, but the name stuck.  It has been painted hundreds of times, and we’ve done it a few times ourselves, but every time we come back, something new presents itself. This time it was the fall colors of the sycamore and oak trees that fill the canyon’s gulley, 1400 feet below the bridge. Most of the year the trees are relentlessly green; their fall foliage gave us an excuse to break out a bit of red and orange-yellow. The bridge has large arched spans that act as frames for the Freeway 134 bridge just behind it. Mount Wilson is in turn framed by the arches of the 134 bridge, so it is almost like painting an “infinity” comic book cover. Afterwards, we had our usual critique, our friend Walter McNall actually liked my painting, only criticizing my dark trees in the foreground as being too similar to each other. Inside La Casita all the time we were painting and being criticized, a Holiday luncheon was going on. A whole lot of revelers were inside eating lasanga, wearing cloth reindeer antlers on their heads. All the centerpieces had figures of moose, reindeer or elk; perhaps the meat in the lasanga was venison!

Movies I have seen recently include “Knocked Up” (grossed me out), “The Assassination Of Jessie James” (beautiful graphics and photography, but the story was confusing and the characters numerous and non-differentiated) and “No Country For Old Men” featuring Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh. “No Country” is the Coen brothers latest film, and has a lot of horror and blood, a little comedy and some surprisingly sensitive writing. Tommy Lee Jones plays Sheriff Ed Bell, one of three generations of Texas lawmen. Anton Chigurh is really “the meanest villain in villainville” here, killing folks right and left with his little air gun. Chigurh knocks off Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), the film’s most sympathetic character, about three quarters of the way through. The rationale given for Chigurh’s killing spree is a drug deal gone bad, with millions in cash taken from the crime scene by Llewelyn Moss, who happens on the money by accident. Every time Chigurh turns up in the film, you feel a chill. Javier Bardem (“Before Night Falls”, Oscar nominee) is the outstanding player here, he is a psycho killer, exuding an almost ghostly presence in his uncanny ability to appear at odd times in the story. The Coen brothers work against the expectations of the audience, Chigurh does not get killed violently as payment for his crimes, but is badly injured in a car collision near the film’s end. Chigurh just walks away from the scene of the accident. Tommy Lee Jones as Ed Bell relates a dream he had about his father and fire to end the film. The story could be interpreted as a parable about the Iraq war, or the arbitrariness of corporate America: sometimes Chigurh just kills without warning, sometimes he gives his victims a chance with a coin toss, like some CEOs and Presidents we have known. New Mexico stands in for Texas through most of the action, although a few scenes were shot in the real Texas and Mexico. I could follow the story without difficulty, and I liked/hated the villain especially, see it!

I hope to post again just before Christmas, but if I don’t, have a great Holiday, whichever one you celebrate! See you soon.

Olvera Street

Monday, December 10th, 2007

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Here are the next two Tyer Felix pages and the next installment of Lane Allen’s Diary. I hope maybe Allan Holtz will be able to shed some light on this feature, we know it ran in 1957, but which magazine? How long did it run? I would love to read more than I have managed to collect.

Last Thursday, the painting group, Cathy and I went to Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles to paint the historic landmark and the bustling shops and milling tourists. The oldest surviving house built in L.A. is still there, and many other historic buildings. Cathy and I always walk over to the old train station, Union Station, which is across the street. I love the abandoned restaurant inside the Station with the checkerboard floor and old counter with the art deco stools. Maybe they rent this one out from time to time. I hope people can get inside the restaurant, it’s too big a space to just let sit there. Of course there are two newer eateries inside the station, TRAXX, which is the “sit down” restaurant, and the “Bagel Express” right across from it. The big brown overstuffed chairs have been used by passengers between trains for many years and would make great painting subjects in themselves. Christmas decorations reflected in the well-polished floors, invite the visitor to gaze at their welcoming splendor. It’s heartening that in this age of air travel, that the age of rails still has such a show-place.

Cathy and I painted the entrance to Olvera Street, right next to the bandstand. There was a big stuffed replica of a donkey which attracted the hordes of school kids that got off the buses to take their “Old Los Angeles” day trips. Old drunks offered to pay us $40.00 to paint their portraits, but we ignored them, they were obviously not in any mood to sit long enough for a portrait, let alone pay for it with their liquor money! This time of year they also have the traditional Mexican Christmas procession: “Las Posadas”. If you want to learn more about it, just thread your print of “The Three Caballeros” up and hear Panchito tell you all about it.

Today, Sunday, we went to the San Gabriel Art Association in the Old Grapevine room and watched the great Jason Situ paint a forest landscape. He worked from a photograph and just in a little over an hour worked out all his darks and lights, using his favorite color, Prussian Blue and Cadmium Red for the darkest tree trunks. He added a lot to the composition, making it appear that a little stream was coursing over a natural dam in the foreground. Jason is not only a master of foliage and plants, but can paint water very convincingly, like Josh Meador used to do. A lot of our friends from the Painting group came to the demo and really enjoyed it. This was only the second time that Jason has painted before the public, so it was not to be missed.

Movie seen this week: “Starting Out In The Evening”, very good, felt like a filmed stageplay with a great performance by Frank Langella as the old writer. Another rare attempt at doing a movie which touches on the creative process. It’s also quite erotic without much nudity, as a matter of fact, the only “nude scene” is in a very non-erotic part of the story. See it if you don’t have to spend too much money. Also saw “Grace Is Gone”, good, anti Iraq war picture, emotional, but restrained. Music score by Clint Eastwood! I liked it, but not as much as “Starting Out In The Evening”.

Castle Green

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

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Well here’s the next two pages of Tyer’s Felix story and the next episode of Lane Allen in which the beloved deer jumps into the underbrush. Pussyfoot’s crafty expression in the last panel on the second page reminds me of Sweet Tooth Sam the candy bandit in Tom Terrific. Tyer probably animated that scene of Sam.

Last Thursday, Cathy, the painting group and me all went to the Green Hotel in Pasadena, now called the “Castle Green”.  It’s a hotel that dates back to the 1910s, it’s  now been turned into a condominium. The rooms inside are all period furnished and have that “Grand Ecole” kind of look. We all congregated in the park across the street from the Castle. It was fun painting the two towers of the southern side of the building, surrounded by the many tall palms surrounding it. As we painted, two unfinished Rose Parade floats drove right down the street! It was weird to see how BIG the floats are, you don’t get that on TV, and how simple the underlying construction looks before all the flowers are applied to the float. One was obviously Glendale’s entry, it looked like the old tower of the Glendale airport, which is now full of Dreamworks and Disney buildings. There was an old Piper Cub taking off in front of the tower. The other float was a giant Indian Chief, looking something like an outsized Pontiac hood ornament. It was a wonderful experience painting the old hotel, and we got many enthusiastic comments from passing pedestrians. People are nice when not speeding past you in their cars! We’re hoping to paint in a really colorful spot this Thursday, I’ll report on it if it actually happens.

If you want to read my account of the KTLA (Los Angeles) 60th anniversary marathon over Thanksgiving weekend, here it is: 
“I watched quite a lot of the KTLA 60th over the weekend.  The presentation, especially of the 1940s and 50s material, looked OK, but was NOT respectful. The whole pace of television has changed radically since the “golden age”. In those days, the average half-hour show had 26 minutes of programming, now it’s 21, 9 minutes of commercials. In order to squeeze in those spots, KTLA radically edited and shortened most of the black and white programs. The Peter Gunns were so chopped up that they put in a lot of fake cross-dissolves and wipes to cover up the “slow spots” in the program. To me, that’s the ESSENCE of 50s TV, it was in no particular hurry, the directors took their time and held on shots and usually did slow transitions and long fade outs. This, admittedly, made the shows cheaper to produce, but without those transitions and longer shots, a lot of the charm of the old shows is missing. It was a great pleasure to see the Tommy Rettig version of LASSIE, I hadn’t seen those since the original airings, the Jon Provost LASSIEs have dominated TV slots since the 1960s. The Rettig LASSIES had a lot slower pace, but they radiate charm and innocence that’s missing in the Provosts. The POPEYE hour sadly didn’t include Tom Hatten, KTLA’s Popeye host for many years. They aired without fanfare) rather faded prints of GYM JAM, TOTS OF FUN, HOSPITALIKY (COLORIZED VERSION!), POPEYE AND THE PIRATES (STILL CENSORED), A BALMY SWAMI, QUICK ON THE VIGOR and SPREE LUNCH. The OUR GANG comedies they ran were just two: BEGINNERS LUCK (colorized) and TEACHER’S PET. They ran them with so many commercials that only ONE comedy could be shown in half an hour. The THREE STOOGES were treated with more respect, they ran three shorts in an hour: HOI POLLOI, A-PLUMBING WE WILL GO and MEN IN BLACK (with an artificial wipe in it to edit it down). The TIME FOR BEANY half-hour was the most disappointing for me, they ran episodes #281 and #421 (originally 15 minute episodes) from the DVD set. They were the same edits as in the DVD, except the audio in episode #281 was cleaned-up a bit more. But these great shows air so seldom on television, that you have to be grateful for even THAT small favor (at 4:30 AM). TIME FOR BEANY may be KTLA’S greatest show of all time, yet it’s shoved on the air at that un-godly hour, with no preamble or interviews to support it. The show’s treatment in previous KTLA anniversary programs was more respectful to say the least, but they only showed clips, at least here, they ran almost the entire programs. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait 10 more years to see TIME FOR BEANY again on LA TV. “The Traffic Zone” episodes of Hoppity Hooper were fun to listen to, they included a few Fractured Fairy Tales and Peabody’s Improbable History with them. “Underdog” doesn’t hold up as well, the prints they ran (including Tennessee Tuxedo) were pretty faded. It’s going to be a whole lot more fun watching the shows I taped from this Melee Massacree, at least I can fast-forward through all those commercials! If I ever saw “Larry” from the “Sit and Sleep” stores ads in a crosswalk( “Your mattress is FREEEEE!”), and I was driving, well, it might almost be worth the million-dollar fine and prison sentence to be rid of him! I might as well nail Irwin, Larry’s sidekick, (YOU’RE KILLING ME LARRY!), if I can find HIM in another crosswalk.”

Here’s a comment I made in response to another poster: “I can report that the image quality of the TIME FOR BEANY episodes was very good, just like the copies on the “Beany and Cecil” DVD of a few years ago. They were probably the same transfers, except the audio on episode #281 was cleaned up a bit from the DVD release. You are right about the KTLA kines being on 35mm. The Clampett family has a vault full of the 35mm episodes. I hope they are taking good care of them. How I would LOVE to have all the Bob Clampett puppet shows on DVD (sigh)! I just hope the prints are not going vinegar or suffering nitrate deterioration. I guess what keeps these from being transferred to DVD is that they probably wouldn’t sell in the millions. Also music clearance can be a problem.You have to meet these shows more than half-way when you watch them. Being a cartoon fan, I have no trouble entering into low-tech fantasy worlds, and I love Beany and especially Cecil’s world. Years ago in the Clampett library I saw a 16mm print of a prime-time Willie the Wolf show (KTTV) which had Spike Jones as the guest star with his pet kangaroo in tow. Bob C. had puppets interviewing live guests many years before the Muppet Show. As long as I’m wishin’ how about a DVD collection of the early Bil Baird marionette shows such as THE WHISTLING WIZARD or LIFE WITH SNARKY PARKER, directed by Yul Brynner! I watched the two HOPALONG CASSIDY eps. this morning, and they were shortened just like most of the other b/w shows KTLA ran. It was great to see old “Uncle Joe” Edgar Buchanan in the sidekick part, I think just about all the Hoppy TV eps. are out on DVD.” 

 I think I enjoyed that old Lassie episode with Tommy Rettig as much or more than anything they ran that weekend.