Daily Barks 04.05
The Daily Bark: April 2005
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April 28, 2005
Taking some time off to head north for a show. Back on May 3rd.
April 27, 2005
Today there is a lot of talk about the important role religion and faith should play in our government. The most vocal are those currently in the White House, despite a strong statement from our fore fathers that we should be wary of such a connection. Are the ideas of 1776 just too old fashioned for today? I just discovered a statement on the issue from a more recent resident... "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute -- where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote -- where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference ... I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish -- where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source -- where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials." - President John F. Kennedy. ditto.
April 26, 2005
The price of gas. [Aaaahhh!]*
I keep hearing about how the price of oil goes up and down. And how lately, the price of gas [Aaaahhh!] has actually been dropping a few cents here and there. This constant chatter tends to tire folks out and lets them feel a bit better about gas [Aaaahhh!] prices. Frankly, I would like to see a drop of more than a few cents. I have a booklet in my vehicle that I track my gas [Aaaahhh!] and service expenses. In January of 2005, the average price was $1.89 a gallon. As of yesterday, the average price in April was $2.46 a gallon. That is a difference of 57 cents in just four months, around a 14-cent increase per month! The high in January was $2.19. The high in April was $2.51. Of course the price can vary. At the start of 2005, I generally tried to buy at Costco. It was 3-5 cents cheaper per gallon than other stations. A good deal, but not worth going out of my way for. Recently, it has been around 10-15 cents cheaper per gallon. Definitely worth going out of my way for. (In fact, the low price at Costco has caused Costco to drop their profit margin for 2005.) A friend who follows such events found an old news item in which Republicans were calling for the impeachment of Jimmy Carter when prices jumped by nearly 50-cents. I wonder where those politicians are now that the price has jumped over $1 in the last 12 months. I bet those in the 70s who thought we should find alternate fuel sources are using laughing gas [Aaaahhh!].
*see yesterday's bark
April 25, 2005
Over the weekend watched the first disc from season one of PEE WEE'S PLAYHOUSE. (Thank you Netflix.) Was surprised to see the 1986 copyright on it. Almost 20 years old. But there was a bigger surprise. Those who may recall, Pee Wee was a character created by Paul Reubens as a satire of old kid's shows. After the success of a movie, the TV series debuted to critical raves and high ratings. At the time the show was considered innovative and fresh. The big surprise was that show is STILL innovative and fresh. In the almost two decades since the show debuted, children's programming has not come up with anything close. Certainly, there are some great animated series currently on TV and cable. But there is nothing that even duplicates the wide range of entertainments in an episode of PW'S PLAYHOUSE. From the multicultural cast of players (black, white, polynesian, thin, fat), to the variety of animated media (clay, cgi, silhouette), to the array of activities (shouting, making snacks, riddles) few half hours can cram more experiences than an episode of PW'S PLAYHOUSE. I think I am more impressed with the series now than when it first aired. Only one word of caution. It is not recommended you watch more than two episodes at a time. Sensory overload is a real danger. Today's secret word is "gas". You know what to do...
April 24, 2005
Went to the Renaisance Faire today to celebrate the birthdays of our first litter. This particular faire allows pets, but even they were surprised when over a dozen Great Danes ventured around the grounds. The day began rainy, but by noon had gone dry and warmer. All the Danes had fun greeting each other and being petted and patted by knights, wenches, jugglers and such. The whole group sat in on a concert by a very nice bagpipe performer. At one point one of the folks behind a counter selling ale pointed at all the Danes standing around with their owners enjoying the faire. The fellow stated to his friend, "I wish my dog was this socialized." It is true that most places our Dane group go are astounded that the Danes, all sizes, colors and sexes, get along so well. Part of it is that Danes are more stable in temperment than many smaller dogs. Also, many in our group take the time to socialize their kids by taking them out and around. It is one of the things that makes our Dane outings possible... and so much fun.
April 23, 2005
Random thoughts tonight. First, after putting together a small list of male cartoon couples, I have been reminded that there are many, many such pairs. From Chip and Dale to Sonic and Tails, it seems there is no end to this popular animated mating. Second, finally saw THE INCREDIBLES. Certainly a well done feature. My main thought is that director/writer Brad Bird is certainly a big fan of James Bond films of the 60s and 70s. I will not need to view the film again. Since I am also a big Bond fan, it seems like I have seen THE INCREDIBLES many times already. Third, and final, caught a number of errors in the previous barks sections. Late night working had caused me to lose and repeat various barks. I was able to correct and rebuild sections so that everything is back to normal... or whatever one might call it.
April 22, 2005
Forget everything you hear about a 'culture of life', it seems many today are more into a culture of hate. Not so much that people hate each other, simply that people seem to get much more heated in the dislike of things. While I was growing up, there was a fair amount of things people thought were bad. We joked about dumb TV shows, vapid songs, stupid celebrities, idiot politicians and such. Today, people don't joke about them. They get MAD! They HATE them! Today people don't joke about a lame tv series, they get angry and put up websites ranting how it is the worst tv show ever. We don't joke about politics, we set up petitions, build websites, sponsor commercials and more to vent our anger. Try to have a discussion about anything with two sides and one side, if not both will soon be threatening the other. I know I should just laugh it off and say things like "some people just have too much time". But I guess I just worry that people with so much time only use it for hate.
April 21, 2005
Another birthday has passed. It was a great day, shared with Rachel. I thought of how my life has changed... how the times have changed in everyone's life. In their early days, my grandparents saw the birth of automobiles, jazz, airplanes, radio, Felix the Cat, and movies. In their early days, my parents saw the birth of television, hi-fi audio, home movies (16mm, then 8mm), records (78rpm and 45rpm), atomic bombs, big band music, Superman and social security. In my early days, I saw the birth of space travel, color television, home video, personal bomb shelters, home computers and the internet. Not to mention the origin of walkmans, the Beatles, laserdiscs, 8-track tapes, Disneyland, compact discs, nehru jackets, long playing records (33-1/3rpm), the twist, James Bond, and videogames. And unlike some folks my 'age', I am still excited and amazed at how the world is changing. Not always for the best, perhaps... but always changing. And as Charlie McCarthy said, "if you don't progress, you retro-gress."
April 20, 2005
51 and counting...
April 19, 2005
Those who are familiar with our kids know they are on the 'raw' diet. That means no dog chow for our kids. They eat raw meat and bones, just as their ancestors did. Folks are often impressed with our kids' coats, stamina and health. We attribute much of that to their diet. You have to believe anyone who desires nutrition in their diet would want the same for their pets. Most of our shopping is done via local groceries, co-ops and such. However, Sunday night we found the most direct method. On a late night drive to our home, we came across a deer who had been struck and killed. It lay on the side of the road. The body was still warm, so we knew it had been a recent event. Deciding it would be a waste to let it be left there for days, we wrapped it in a blanket and took it home. It will be shared by our kids, the old toll pack, and some of our fellow raw diet friends. The experience was a bit disturbing... but knowing some good will have come from the hit and run brings some comfort.
April 18, 2005
Saturday, the 16th, we spent the day at Pet Expo. We took three of our kids, and were joined by two other Great Danes. While there, our kids were petted and patted by hundreds of folks from the young to the old. Even with well placed signs about our kids, everyone still wanted to know how much they weigh, how much they eat, and, of course, "where are the saddles". *sigh* Some came by to state they had never seen one up close. Others talked of prevous Danes they had loved and lost. All hoped for a chance to pet one and marvel at their size, gentleness and silly moments, such as Phoenix's singing. The Expo is a great event because it allows families a close-up look at the many options for pets from cats and dogs to fish and reptiles. Better than simply reading about a pet or seeing it on TV, this allows folks to talk to owners, see actual size and temperment and other things one should know before jumping into pet ownership. It even allowed our kids a chance to meet some new friends. Roku mingled with a pair of mini-horses. Of course, he was taller than both. Then one of those giant lizards walked by on a leash that both fascinated and puzzled our kids. Finally Phoenix got to meet some truely sweet Saint Bernard puppies. The Pet Expo is a worthwhile event whether attending or presenting. It really is a win-whinny situation. You can see some photos of our kids and the crowd HERE.
April 17, 2005
Pet Expo day followed by Disneyland day... soooooo tired.
April 16, 2005
ps: please wait for us at the bridge. know everyone will understand.
April 15, 2005
Taxes. No one enjoys paying taxes, whether it be income or outgo (sales tax). I am not as bothered by taxes as many folks. In fact, I would not mind having more taxes if it gave me some advantages. The reason? I prefer to see them as a huge co-op. Our current administration keeps claiming that an individual is better able to spend their own money, than the government is. But taxes allow for the government to buy in bulk and get better rates for services and materials. The easist example is health insurance. Even as my studio raises how much money I need to pay for my health insurance, the company's price is far less per person than it would cost me to buy my own. I would gladly pay more taxes if it meant I would get a good rate on quality health care. Folks who complain about 'too much tax' often then complain about lack of libraries, schools, job training facilites, health care, affordable housing, street repairs and such. While I would not want to go on record for run away tax increases, I think locking taxes to specifics is a good idea. In California, there is a gas tax that must be used to fix roads. It has worked pretty well. There is also a fixed amount of tax that must go to schooling. But our current governator has decided he doesn't have to give it to schools. So actually, we should keep the taxes and their bulk buying power. We just need to get better managers of our co-ops.
April 14, 2005
This weekend we'll be heading out to the Pet Expo at the Orange County fairgrounds. We'll have several kids with us. The expo is a lot of fun. It has breeders of dogs, cats and others showing off their kids. There are tons of vendors with fun stuff for you and your pet. Anyone who has a pet, wants one, or just loves them will have a good time. Even our kids love it. They get to see lots of folks and get lots of pets. It really is a win-win situation.
April 13, 2005
You meet many people when you commute on the train. Today I met a man who was a Baptist pastor. I met a fellow with a PHD who explained why Murphy's law cannot be a law, only a theory, since proving it would mean it is not true. I met an engineer who helped design an attraction for Disneyland that never saw completion. I met a guy who was going to take a test to get certified for a job in Iraq. I met a guy who has a clever idea for a comic book and cartoon. I met a fellow who lives in a park by one of the train stops, and occasionally sleeps in Los Angeles. By now readers probably can guess they were all the same man. He has been homeless for almost a year now. While others around him pretended to doze, I talked with the fellow. Of course, many of his claimed accomplishments may be (as Bogart or Hildegard Whithers would say) "hooey". But his idea for a comic was clever, and he had his pastor id card. I was probably most impressed with his attitude. For someone obviously homeless, he had a positive attitude and seemed certain of his ability to finally pull himself back up. The people you meet...
April 12, 2005
Why ask why? Are kids today more analytical and less fanciful? This came up today when we discussing recent test results for some new shows. Part of the process to get a new show on TV is to use focus groups where kids watch the show and comment on it. I won't comment on whether this helps make better shows or not. However, folks were discussing at recent tests, kids seem to be focusing on what the relationship of the characters are. I will use a classic Donald Duck cartoon where he battles Chip and Dale as an example. After the cartoon the kids would wonder if Chip and Dale were brothers, or if they were husband and wife. And if they were not, why were they living together in the same tree. And why does Donald get made at them for just doing chipmunk things. I thought back to my childhood. I wasn't as focused on who lived with who. Or even why someone did not like someone else. I don't recall wondering why the likes of Chip and Dale, Heckle and Jeckle or Yogi and Boo Boo lived together. I don't recall worrying about why Tom chased Jerry, or why the Pink Panther did not talk or why Mr Magoo didn't get better glasses. It did not bother me Bugs Bunny was in the civil war in one cartoon and on TV in another. I accepted the situation given to me at the start of the cartoon. Heck, I was used to seeing the likes of the Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, and Abbott and Costello pop up anywhere, anytime. Have today's kids been so focused on reality and role models that the idea of random fantasy has totally disappeared. It reminded me of a statement made by Walt Disney. He was discussing children and said that when they were young, they were like puppies who easily showed emotion. He then said as they aged they had such openess "beaten" out of them. Although, after seeing DUMBO I did wonder if Dumbo's ears would grow as he got bigger. But I think wondering about "what's next" is very different than questioning everything about "right now".
April 11, 2005
Let the cubs decide. That is the advice on a Disney pin about safety. The idea is that you should let your child decide if they would like to go on a ride or not. This came to mind at Disneyland Sunday when a father and son were in line for the Matterhorn. The child kept saying he did not want to go on the ride. The father insisted it would be fun. All I could think of is the kid is going to be terrified and probably end up hating roller coasters. Dad wanted to go on the ride so much, his son's desires were not important. Similarly, parents seem suspicious of any decision a child wants to make. One of the fun events now at Disney parks is the practice of pin trading. If you have one of the pins they sell at the parks, you can trade it for another at various locations or from special lanyards worn by various park employees. While there are some pins that are valuable to collectors, you do not usually find these. Guests who buy tickets through a travel company, such as the auto club, often receive lanyards with pins on them. Many a time a child with such a lanyard will see a pin on my or Rachel's lanyards. The child will ask to trade one of their (pretty plain jane) pins for one of ours. Since most of our pins are for trade, we usually say yes. However the parent will almost always not let the child trade. You can see the disappointment in the child's eyes. The parent is certain that they will get a far more valuable pin from a park employee. Worst case scenario, the child may end up with a pin worth $6 instead of $8 (prices when new). That seems a pretty small difference compared to the pride and joy the child would have gotten out of trading something he has for something he perceived as better or more wanted. No wonder kids grow up without any confidence in themselves. Their attempts to make decisions are constantly thwarted. Again, let the cub decide. It is their park too.
April 10, 2005
Was going to write a bit about some events at Disneyland today, but our girl Star has a bad belly and is needing attention.
April 9, 2005
Two activities today. Both very different, yet oddly similar. Today, we went to a dress rehearsal for a local rennaisance faire. We are not appearing in it, but went with some kids just to walk around and see what to expect this year. It was fun seeing folks with similar interests getting together and talking. It was also fun seeing what a family affair these faires become from grandparents to their children to their grandchildren. Families sharing traditions, knowledge and history. Tonight, I attended a ceremony to honor folks who have been working in the animation for at least 50 years. The part of the evening I enjoyed most was being able to say hello to folks I haven't seen in years, sometimes 20 years. I was flattered to hear how many actually stop in here on a regular basis. The hall was full of some of the nicest folks in the business. Similar to the ren faire, it was a time to share knowledge and history. The difference was that most of the crowd was easily into their late 30s. I wondered where all the students and new comers were. I also saw very few studio execs. I know days before the event, I had asked a few of the folks I work with if they were going. I got a lot of comments about how the event was really for the older folks who weren't much into the business anymore. I was also told how different the business was these days and that a lot of these honorees just weren't relavent. Quite a day. Two events celebrating history and culture. One with a feeling of family and generations young and old. The other, a feeling of friendship and respect but little from the new generation.
April 8, 2005
A new research paper was recently released that showed "good looking" people earned almost 10% more than "plain looking" people. (Wonder what folks who do not even rate "plain looking" make?) It even showed at times looks were more important than experience or education. Great. Research last year showed that taller people made more money than shorter people. Again, great. So now I need to worry about my looks and my height when I go to work. Of course most younger workers make less than older workers. So I win. Oh wait. Companies are purging older workers due to the desire for younger, fresher (and cheaper) ideas. Anyone need a plain, mature jockey?
April 7, 2005
The golden age of animation... or when animation did not matter - part 3. During animation's golden age, the cost of making the cartoons was a part of the studio overhead. Just like the backlot, costume department and cameras, cartoon costs were just part of the whole pie. When animation moved to TV, it became the whole restaurant. Few modern studios would give a creator millions of dollars to create a show that might fail on the first episode. And lest cartoons feel picked-upon, few live action creators can simply make a show (or movie) without getting network and studio "influence". Not only does the network pick and poke at every project, they use focus groups, test screenings and numerous other ways to find a success. Once, a Clampett or Barbera might think a cartoon with animals chasing each other was a good idea and simply do it as one of all the other cartoons due that year. Today, development people need to feel that not only is the idea good, but that it is arguably BETTER than other things in production or already on the air. When animation didn't matter, up through around the 1980s, studios and creators mostly flew under the radar of the upper executive branch. Now that animation matters, it is simply another item under the microscope of the big business. It became more biology than alchemy.
April 6, 2005
The golden age of animation... or when animation did not matter - part 2. In the 1950s everything changed in Hollywood. Anti-trust laws caused studios to have to sell their theaters. Filling screens was no longer their business. TV became a major competitor and caused even major studios to cut corners. Gone were shorts, B movies, newsreels and cartoons. Shorts and B movies became tv series. Newsreels became news broadcasts. Cartoons became children's programming. The world of TV was very different. Just making cartoons was not good enough. No longer piggy backed onto feature films, the cartoons had to stand on their own. Cartoon production became one of not quantity (an annual quota) but of quality... in ratings. Suddenly, animation DID matter! Cartoons not only had to find their own audience, they had to find a bigger audience than other shows on TV. Some, like THE FLINTSTONES, successfully competed. Others, like THE BULLWINKLE SHOW, did not. The success of animation was measured by ratings. More was at stake now. Just as executives began to take more and more control of live action TV (and films), they felt the need (ie obligation to share holders, bosses, sponsors etc.) to be certain their animation would succeed. [to be concluded tomorrow]
April 5, 2005
The golden age of animation... or when animation did not matter. Lately a number of websites have been chatting about the golden age of animation and the men who ran the studios. Largely businessmen, the heads at MGM, Warners and such gave free reign to the likes of Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. You hear tales of how these creators did what they liked with no real interference from executives. Modern commentators bemoaned that today's studios did not give similar freedom to talents of today. There was a simple reason for this. In the golden days of animation (and, not coincidentally, Hollywood), animation did not matter. Studios owned their own theaters. The studios had to put out a constant product to fill those theaters. To compete they needed more than just movies. This included newsreels, short subjects, travelogues, "b" movies and cartoons. Some studios, like Warners and MGM had inhouse units to make cartoons. Other studios, like RKO or Columbia outsourced the work. RKO bought shorts from Disney, while Columbia used UPA. As long as the theaters had enough features, shorts and cartoons, all was fine. If stars were created from the short subjects (such as Laurel & Hardy or The Three Stooges) or cartoons (Bugs Bunny, or Tom & Jerry) all the better. It was merchandising and promotional gravy. However, in the 1950s, everything changed. [to be continued tomorrow]
April 4, 2005
Went to Disneyland on Sunday and took Rachel's car. It doesn't get driven much, just trips around the mountain. To make the 'big trip' had to fill up the tank. I keep a record of gas and repairs in each car. Noted the last time I bought gas for her car was back in January. The price for yesterday's fill-up was 40 cents more per gallon - a 10 cent per month increase! On the drive home tonight, I noticed that gas jumped 6-cents from when I went to work this morning. *whew* They keep saying that we'll see $3 a gallon by end of summer. Of course, I'm of the age that I remember when 39 cents a gallon was expensive. Gas had been about the same price for decades. Movies from the 1940s showed gas at 29 cents a gallon. 1950s TV shows showed gas at 29 cents a gallon. Not only was gas pennies a gallon, gas stations fought for your business. They had contests where you collected game pieces. They gave away toy trucks. At the Sinclair gas station they gave away inflatable dinosaurs every summer. Stations also boasted service like cleaning your windows and checking your oil. One station had a guarantee that an attendant would serve you in 60 seconds. Then came the first gas crisis. It was in the 1970s. At that time, gas prices rose almost daily. We were told that as soon as the prices hit $1 a gallon, they would stop rising. During later gas crisis we had rising prices and rationing. It's odd. We have seen the price of gas rise almost a dollar in the last year. But no one seems willing to call it a crisis. Oh, and experts on the news say as soon as it hits $4 a gallon it will stop rising. Sheesh. Can't I at least get an inflatable dinosaur too?
April 3, 2005
April 2, 2005
Times are changing. Tonight we 'spring ahead' an hour. It's odd. It is only one little hour, but it tends to throw my biological clock for a loop. When I traveled to Japan regularly, I suffered no jet lag. Trips to New York, Atlanta, and Florida were no problem. But that one little hour... for weeks I will feel tired and restless. And it is no easier when we 'fall back' at year's end. One hour can make such a difference.
April 1, 2005
Classics vs. Blockbusters. It is easy to tell if a film is a blockbuster. It can often be argued that a film is great. But it is not always as easy to tell if it will become a classic. A blockbuster simply means the movie makes a lot of money. A classic means it is destined to be loved for decades to come. To me, the test of classic is "the morning after" test. Good publicity, ads and word of mouth can make a film money. However, it is what happens afterward that really signals a classic. Do you hear folks talk about the characters? Are lines being quoted? Are scenes being talked about? Films that enter into our cultural identity become classics. Mention films like GONE WITH THE WIND, CASABLANCA, STAR WARS, GHOSTBUSTERS or RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and you instantly think of the characters and classic dialogue. Look at two recent blockbusters of animation - SHREK and INCREDIBLES. Both have done huge box office. Both have received strong critical reaction. Ask folks about Shrek and hear about Donkey, Pinocchio, the Wolf and more. Ask about the Incredibles, and you hear it was a great movie. I find many folks cannot even remember the characters individual names. At the local McDonalds, where Pixar toys are currently part of the happy meal, they are totally out of the toys from NEMO, TOY STORY and MONSTERS INC. The only ones left are INCREDIBLE figures. I will readily admit that THE INCREDIBLES may be the greatest animated film ever made. But I think in decades to come SHREK will be the film remembered fondly.
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