Category Archives: writings

Under the drill with Max Fleischer’s Gabby

The dentistry profession has come a long way since I last had work done. The new trend is to show movies to patients under the drill. Not unlike inflight entertainment, the viewing selections are all somewhere between populist and benign. Does it matter if I watch Paul Blart: Mall Cop two before one?

The anxiety of having my old fillings fixed aside, a different type of anesthetized panic set in when I was shown my viewing options. Was I going to have to watch Pixels (2015) or computer-generated Smurfs flit about the screen while my molars got filled with resin? Cringing at the prospects, I spotted an escape, a title called “TV Cartoon Classics.” “I’ll take that,” I told the dental tech.

The tech stared at the card for an uncertain second and shuffled off. When she returned, she explained that she was unaware that they even had it. “TV Cartoon Classics”, I figured, was no doubt a bunch of public domain cartoons like Herman the Mouse. Over two separate weeks, and two separate visits, I watched all Max Fleischer’s Gabby cartoons (and a couple Hermans).

Gabby character model
Gabby Model

First appearing as the town crier in the 1939 feature Gulliver’s Travels, between 1940 and 1941 Gabby was given to Fleischer by Paramount to direct1. The odd reference to the Lilliputians aside, the Gabby series has little to do with Swift’s satire, with each cartoon following Gabby, a wisearce with a taste for wise apples, who gets involved in various jobs and activities which he claims to be an expert and proceeds to bungle.

In Fire Cheese (1941), where Gabby becomes a firefighter, flames dance on buildings, blow blazes into each others’ mouths, and lick up the walls in hot ladders. Gabby, meanwhile, proves to be about as useful as Keith Flint giving pointers to Adele. Two for the Zoo (1941), my personal favorite, has Gabby claiming to be an authority on the fictional rubberneck kango, an animal that is a melange of kangaroo, giraffe, and elephant. By the cartoon’s conclusion, Gabby is locked in a cage as potential lion food.

Besides dentists’ offices, a complete Gabby cartoon can also be watched in the first-person shooter video game The Darkness released in 2007. I’m not familiar with the game, but I like to think that Gabby is a favorite of the figure featured on the game’s cover art, a standin for The Downdward Spiral-era Trent Reznor2. I’m guessing, however, Gabby’s occurrence in the game has more to do with irony, entropy, and that which is anachronistic.

The Darkness (2007)
“What have I become?”

In this light, it is probably no great shock that the Gabby animations are all but forgotten. The cartoon is perhaps too quaint and European in its sensibilities. Yet Gabby’s character is relatable and humorous enough; equally the cartoon’s sophisticated animation still shines through the faded public domain prints widely available today. Given the choice between it and the mediocrity of the Paul Blarts of the world, I’d still take Gabby. Hell, I’d take it over The Darkness, too.


  1. In 1955 Gabby was sold to U.M. & M. TV Corporation, which later became National Telefilm Associates, the logo of which appears at the front of many of the available versions of the cartoon today. Later the cartoon would ironically return to Paramount when it was sold to Viacom, the multinational media conglomerate, which today owns Paramount. While Gabby can be purchased on DVD, the cartoons are now in the public domain. 

  2. This is a missed opportunity: it should have been a Keith Flint double on the cover. 

The Capsules do Valerian

Kaneda and the Capsules arrive at a run down movie theatre hoping to score Valerian, only to discover that Valerian is a sci-fi flick. When they show up, it is debatable if one of them was aware of this and maybe wanted to actually see the movie. Heckling ensues, which quickly boils over into harassment of other theatre patrons and eventually edges into flatout violence and mayhem. This spectral visitant of Akria (1988) and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) keeps rattling in my head. It may well be heresy to fantasize about the anime classic and the hot mess of Valerian in this way, but it’s been hard to shake.

Besson’s Valerian stands as the most expensive French film ever made, costing around $150 million. Its premise follows a McLuhan-like global village that harbors an atrocity at its heart which must be atoned for. Sin and redemption along with some of the more interesting facets of the film, like Rihanna’s Bubble, get lost in the pastel shit-show. My wife likened the movie to an advertisement for a douche… in space, flowery, still a douche, and utterly pointless. Alien princesses pirouetting by vagina conch shells… a lot of the conversation surrounding Valerian has proceeded in these cheeky terms.

Cara Delevingne's Sergeant Laureline and Dane DeHaan's Major Valerian stare at the top of a web browser.
Cara Delevingne’s Sergeant Laureline and Dane DeHaan’s Major Valerian stare at the top of a web browser.

No doubt Valerian is destined to provide comic fodder for some time to come, but it is worth remarking on the connections between it and Akira. The films each find roots in comic books that are not of the superhero variety. Though I’ve yet to read Valerian, I imagine that like Akira, the comic is best considered as a separate text rather than an adaptation. Each also stands out in its contemporary big-budget cinematic landscape: Valerian for its euro-trash splash and Akira for its techno-phantasmagoria. Most of all, neither makes a whole lot of sense. In both the plot is obscured: for Valerian it’s all a high kamp kick with Cara Delevingne’s Sergeant Laureline never bothering to break runway strut, while for Akira it’s almost with a relish, a nod to the punk ethos of its Capsules, who in the face of conformity, conspiracy, and corporate-militarism continue to exert their identies and could really give two flying fucks about plot.

Continue reading The Capsules do Valerian

Shaving: Part 2 – How to Half-Shave

Ritual, art, membership to a cabal of manly-men-boxing-fools in a brew pub — these have never been associations I’ve had with shaving. As Tim has already indicated, our dad gave us a pretty abridged shaving tutorial. Along with scant demonstration, he may have mentioned, “Try not to kill yourself.” Whether he did or did not impart this final kernel of wisdom, there was no follow-up lesson or even a check-in to see if we had garroted ourselves.

As a result, for pretty much all of my shaving-life, I have half-shaved at best. My father’s lack of teaching surely contributed to this, but so did the milieu of the ’90s. In the social circles I traveled then, there was no stigma associated with whatever you decided to do with your facial hair. By the end of the ’90s and the early ’00s, I was shaving maybe once a week. Eventually I found a decent beard trimmer and with it, my shaving became more erratic. Sometimes I had a beard, sometimes I had a shadow, sometimes I was clean shaven, sometimes I had an experimental look, but most of the time I had some amount of hair on my face. This was largely because in those instances when I was clean shaven, I would never continue to do so beyond a couple days because I’d either forget to keep up with it or I got razor rash.

Still, I do razor shave on occasion, and when I do, for nearly two decades it has been with a Mach3. As Tim has also duly noted, the Mach3 is really the bane of shaving. After it materialized in 1998, the facial hair horizon was forever leveled. It is as if no other razor had ever existed since or after. With it, razor cartridges were to forever be things that existed behind locked glass, and the only thing better than three blades was more blades.

Razor, Stand, and Brush
Merkur 34C Heavy Duty Classic Double Edge Safety Razor, Stand, and Escali 100% Pure Badger Shaving Brush
About a year and a half ago, I decided to razor shave; accordingly I dug out my Mach3. Problematically, I had no idea which blades were old, new, or rusted. Because I don’t razor shave that often, this frequently happens to me, and when it does I inevitably just go out and buy all new blades. This time, however, out of spite for the Mach3, I decided to explore other options. This eventually led me to buying a safety razor. While this does potentially mark me as a hipster, after reading up on them, I decided that I shaved infrequently enough to invest in something as arcane as it was asinine.

Continue reading Shaving: Part 2 – How to Half-Shave

MIFC # 1

Far too many years ago I started drawing a comic called MIFC and in a flurry of distraction and too much other shit going on lost track of it. This morning, while shirking work and listening to Kraftwerk and Monomer, I decided to start reposting it.

I have a folder on my desktop called “Write,” which for some time has become a repository for items I feel an inclination to return to.

Write Folder

In January, I started sifting through it. The 5 Stooges meet Frank Perdue was one document I found; a document I won’t be returning too ever again – that one’s on me Hollywood. The folder also has a bunch of pictures, some old, some new, half written poems, gifs of my dogs, a transcript of an off-color conversation between a friend and myself about starting a fanfiction podcast, a year old promo video for Goblin 1, meditations on coffee, and a folder with MIFC comics in it.

MIFC is a multi-storyline comic set in the ’90s in Salisbury, Maryland. If the comic does continue, I’m sure Ocean City will make an appearance too.

Before leaving you with the first installment of MIFC, a friend of mine over at Theology Girl started blogging again. Her stuff is always humorously philosophical; if that is in your wheelhouse, be sure to visit her site. Also, I’ve submitted H.P. Thomcraft’s Game of Pawns to a couple of festivals (9 so far). Some I’ve never heard of, some I have. If anyone has any other suggestions of fests to check out, let me know. I like existential challenges.

MICF # 1
MIFC # 1

  1. Goblin is a screenplay I’ve been working on with my business partner in Black Square Productions

Pictures of Screens – “Fatty Joins the Force”

In jail, wearing a policeman’s hat and slouching against the bars of the cell, his face – a man-child’s written with petulance, frustration, and defeat – is streaked with dirt and the remnants of blubbering. He’s absurd, cartoonish, but also ironic; the recent turn of events that have landed him in prison must be weighing on him. He had been offered to join the force after he saved a young girl from drowning, even though he had always been courageously reluctant. That helpful push into the lake from his fickle lover was really at the root of why he dove into being a hero.

Roscoe Conkling "Fatty" Arbuckle in "Fatty Joins the Force" (1913), directed by George Nichols and produced by Mack Sennet
Roscoe Conkling “Fatty” Arbuckle

Twelve months ago I sat across from the man, Roscoe Conkling “Fatty” Arbuckle, trying not to catch weird reflections in the TV screen that I was photographing. Continue reading Pictures of Screens – “Fatty Joins the Force”

Little Richard’s The Cabin in the Woods

“No matter how ironic a mullet is, it’s still a fucking mullet,” said my brother as the credits rolled for The Cabin in the Woods (2011), directed by Drew Goddard. And he is right, for The Cabin in the Woods is still just a horror movie that fails to come into its own because it gets buried under its own statement.

Co-written and produced by Josh Whedon, the film follows a group of friends who vacation for a weekend at a cabin in the woods. With more than a nod to the Evil Dead (1981), directed by Sam Raimi, the movie follows a group of friends who soon find themselves attacked by zombie-like creatures. The twist is that the zombies and evil dead are actually part of a larger conspiracy that designs conventional horror movie death-traps for the younger generation.

Continue reading Little Richard’s The Cabin in the Woods

MAGFest XI

On the first weekend of the year, I surrounded myself with thousands of sweaty nerds at MAGfest XI. I should have done a write-up about MAG much sooner than this, as my first time attending came just 15 days after the inaugural post of Protozoic, back in late 2004.

BIT BRIGADE
Bit Brigade, which plays rock renditions of video games while one of the band members plays completely through the game. Above they’re finishing up Contra. Photo by “GlamGoreMuffin”
Continue reading MAGFest XI

Interview – Jennifer Juniper Stratford, director of The Multinauts

Back when I was living in NJ working a string of bad temp jobs, my roommate and I made it a habit to go through Comcast On Demand on a ritualistic basis and watch all the Something Weird videos, any music video we’d not heard of, all the Misty Mundae movies, and anything we’d deemed appropriately obscure. During this time, I swear we watched Dungeon Majesty. If we didn’t, my roommate and I watched it somehow, somewhere. And when we did, it was our equivalent of seeing the light. Part cable access camp (before Tim and Eric were names), part geek-chic and 100% brilliant, we both knew whoever was behind it was living the dream we’d always wanted to live.

Fast forward to present and my discovery of said genius, the video artist/photographer Jennifer Juniper Stratford. Much like Dungeon Majesty, I stumbled across her latest work The Multinauts but this time on the internet. If Dungeon Majesty was a 100% brilliant, this was a 120%. Incredibly ambitious the current two shows of The Multinauts run approximately 20 minutes each in length. Both shows boast an impressive array of visual effects, including model-making, 2D animation, various analog and optical techniques created by Stratford.

If The Multinauts only fired the visual neurons with pleasure, it would be enough. But The Multinauts is much more. It is funny, strange, unclassifiable, art-house Tom Baker era Doctor Who crossed with the Unearthed Arcana. To boot, The Multinauts features the music of Ariel Pink, Geneva Jacuzzi and has cameos of like-minded artist Leslie Hall.

I conducted the following interview with Stratford where she talks about The Multinauts and her other work as an artist.

Could you talk a little about the things that influenced The Multinauts?

On the surface level, The Multinauts is influenced by Dr Who (specifically Doctors 4-6), Max Headroom 20 Minutes into the Future, and Star Trek the Next Generation. In RPG terms it tips its hat to Dungeons and Dragons, Gamma World, Star Frontiers, and my beloved Shadowrun. The use of the Multiverse is inspired by Michael Moorcock. The script is written by Christine Adolph, Riley Swift, and myself (Centari, Xanthor, and Gigs ) and we would constantly refer to all these references with our deepest affection and then would add our personal touches to the characters.

Continue reading Interview – Jennifer Juniper Stratford, director of The Multinauts