Saturday Morning Lobotomy

In today's episode of Clutch Cargo, Paddlefoot the dog goes to outer space. It aired in 1959, a couple years after the flight of Sputnik 2 and its canine inhabitant, Laika.

Wikipedia says,

the show was the first to use the "Syncro-Vox" optical printing system, superimposing live-action human lips over limited-motion animation or even motionless animation cels. To further cut costs, Syncro-Vox was supplemented with other time- and money-saving tricks. Movement was simulated not by animation but in the real-time movement of the cel itself. Other live-action shots were superimposed as a means of adding a certain degree of realism and to keep production costs down. For example, footage of real smoke was used for explosions.

Don't touch that dial, kiddies. It's time for another abominable cartoon/live action hybrid, The New Adventures of Huck Finn:


Mail-Order Monkey

A firsthand account follows from a guy who ordered one of those monkeys from an ad in the back of a comic book. To keep his parents from finding out, he had it shipped to a friend's house...

It came in this little cardboard box. I mean, I’m saying small. It was probably the size of a shoebox, except it was higher. It had a little chicken wire screen window in it. There was a cut out. All you could see if you looked in there was his face. I brought it home, and I actually snuck it into the basement of the house.

No instructions [were included]. He had this waist belt on, a collar, if you will, on his waist, with an unattached leash inside the box. So I opened the box up inside the cage, the monkey jumped out, I withdrew the box and found the leash. I have no idea where it came from; I assumed it came from Florida. I figured, well, it’s probably near dehydration, so I opened up the cage to put some water in it. It leapt out of the cage when I opened it up the second time! I mean, it was eyeing the pipes that I was unaware of. As soon as I opened the cage, it leapt up and grabbed onto the plumbing up on the ceiling and started using them like monkey bars, and he was just shooting along in the basement, chirping pretty loud. It was heading towards the finished side of the basement, where there was a drop ceiling, and if it got into those channels, I never would have got it. It would have been days to get this thing out of there.

I grabbed it by its tail, and it came down on, starting literally up by my shoulder, like a drill press it landed on my arm, and every bite was breaking flesh. It was literally like an unsewing machine. It was literally unsewing my arm coming down, and I was pouring blood. I grabbed it by its neck with both my wrists, threw it back in the cage. It’s screaming like a scalded cat. I’m pouring blood. My friend’s laughing uncontrollably, and my father finally comes in the basement door and goes, ‘Jeffery! What are you doing to that rabbit?’ And I go, ‘It’s not a rabbit, it’s a monkey, and it just bit the hell out of me.’ ‘A monkey? Bring it up here!’ I’m pouring, I wrapped a t-shirt around my arm to stave off the bleeding, carried the cage upstairs, and I don’t know why I bothered sneaking it in, because they fell in love with it, and it was like, there was no problem at all. They took me to the emergency room and I got 28 stitches on my arm.

More here. Big gallery of comic book ads here. Referred by boingboing.net.


Love in the Age of Circuitry

The following text is excerpted from Analog Days and takes place in the early 70's. For additional context, you might want to first scan the wikipedia pages for the Buchla synthesizer and Suzanne Ciani.

Suzanne's ultimate goal in working for Don Buchla was to acquire her own synthesizer. She slowly built up her $8,500 synth, module by module, acquiring some of the basic ones while at Buchla's workshop. To have the system she wanted, she realized she'd need to earn more than the $3 per hour she was paid for stuffing Don's circuit boards. She got a break from a friend of a friend who filmed commercials, and was hired to make sound signatures. The skill she was developing was in "sound design": "It wasn't so much the note as it was a poetry of sound - you know, what is the sound of a fur coat? What is the sound of perfume? And developing metaphors in sound... the feeling you got listening to it. This poetry of sound is what I brought to the industry."

(samples can be found here)

With the money from these first commercials, Suzanne put together her Buchla 200. As she added modules, she found herself becoming closer and closer to the machine: "Some people have a fear of technology, they look at this thing with all the knobs and holes and dials and go, "Oh my God". Whereas for me, it was like, "I'm going to get to know this. This is a living, breathing, entity. It has desires and abilities, limitations and possibilities... and it was alive, you know, and you build up a relationship."

As a struggling artist trying to make it in New York, Suzanne increasingly turned to sound signature work. She became known for many industry trademarks: The GE dishwasher beep, the Columbia pictures logo, the ABC logo, the Merrill Lynch sound, the Energizer battery sound, the Coca-Cola logo and the Pepsi logo.

Suzanne by now was so enamored with her Buchla that in New York it was about all she had for companionship. Her apartment contained no furniture, just her Buchla with its flashing lights in the middle of the room. It was her partner, co-worker, and courtesan: "It wasn't a static thing. Everything was shifting, everything was breathing. It was on, literally on, for ten years. I had a problem, in a way. I was scared, because I was in love with a machine."

In addition to commercial work, Ciani did the voices and soundtrack for Xenon, the sexiest pinball machine in history (coincidentally, the author of the post you're reading has had a crush on Xenon since he was 11).

Yet another one of those "I can't believe I've been given the opportunity to see this" moments which happens so often while searching youtube; an Omni documentary all about the Xenon project:




Built in France from spare aircraft parts after world war II, The Scopitone was a coin-operated jukebox that projected 16mm films. After catching on throughout Europe, they were distributed in the USA, and the first music videos were soon being shot exclusively for the format. The machines were most often found in bars, so the content was more risque than what could be found on television, and today serves as an archive of the fading burlesque era. But it never quite found success in the states. This was due to distribution problems with the mafia, and the campy films quickly became dated as psychedelic culture took hold. The machines disappeared by the end of the 60's.

Listen here to a short NPR story about one of the last working Scopitone machines. An enormous archive of films can be seen at this site, which also sells scopitone movies on DVD. It's more rewarding for you to discover some of these gems on your own, but I can't stop myself from posting this superlative film starring the Queen of the Scopitones, Joi Lansing:

(I wrote this for another blog 1.5 years ago, but I'm posting again because it's worth revisiting. This is an exception, not a precedent.)


Futurechimp Theater: Condoms

blow-by-blow commentary:
4:17 - mr. fonzerelli barbarino bowser:"Yoo nevah bawt a condom befooah?"
4:25 - Terror at the Pharmacy, scored by John Williams.
5:04 - You know what your sex life needs more of? Animal intestines.
6:45 - you look confused. Should we use fewer big words?
7:30 - Can I at least stretch it over my head, like Howie Mandell?
8:12 - a Look Around You visual gag, during the "put it on correctly" narration.
8:52 - When you're done with that broomstick, dispose of the condom properly.
9:40 - after all that prep, you're backing out? You pansy.

Indifferent casting, a near-absence of medical information or statistics, greasebally names in the credits (which even give "thanx" to "the gang")... was this produced by the mob, which then sold it to schools and clinics under penalty of death? Or did someone get legitimately paid to make it?

Doesn't the theme of bewildered actors staring back at the camera remind you of that post-punk-nuclear-apocalypse-themed-porno Cafe Flesh?(n.s.f.w)