Friday, January 4, 2008

Reasons To Be Cheerful: week of 01/04/08

Another jumbled collection of items and notions recently encountered...

1. Number One on the list this week is far and away my excitement and relief that the holiday season is over! Yes, sure, there are plenty of good things about them, but it's always nice to know they've gone for another year.

2. A big hello to ILTS visitors from Churchill, Manitoba!

It's in my obsessive nature to regularly track the web traffic that this blog receives.

The process gets more compelling as more folks from all around the globe click in to check it out.

One feature I've grown to enjoy especially is the 'World Map' view of recent visitors.

A map with no border lines gives me an opportunity to brush up on my geography, and it's exciting (to me, anyway) to see hits coming in from far-flung locations.

Any place that rings in my mind as 'exotic' or out-of-the-way is fun to see pop up. I had hits from Luxembourg the other day, and Cyprus a week or so ago. The North American slice of the map view above includes a hit from the tiny two-island nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis in the West Indies, as well as one from Anchorage, Alaska.

A few weeks back I began noticing a regularly-recurring 'blip' far to the north, tucked in along the western shore of Canada's Hudson Bay.

A bit of investigation online showed me that Churchill, Manitoba, is steeped in Canadian history having to do with the fur trade and the Hudson Bay Company. With a population of just under a thousand people, it has become a spot known for Arctic research and ecotourism. In addition to being a prime locale for viewing the Aurora Borealis and Beluga whales, Churchill is also known as 'The Polar Bear Capital of the World'.

Historically, the bears have converged on the area as winter approaches, waiting for Hudson Bay to freeze so they can migrate north onto the ice to begin their hunting season.

Churchill's location places it at a junction where the boreal forests to the south meet the tundra to the north, and the influx on fresh water from nearby rivers dumping into the bay tend to mean that the big freeze begins there first.

I have to wonder how their polar bears are faring these days with the much-reported hardships related to global warming...

So: A shout-out to Churchill - - Thanks for stopping by! Feel free to drop a line and let us all know how things are going!

See also: Town of Churchill website.

3. Fans of
Harvey Kurtzman and his MAD cohorts rejoice!

It looks like some long-standing wishes may be getting answered, with a reprinting of all of the material from the 11 issues of Humbug Magazine that were published back around 1957 and '58.

Fantagraphics Books has a 2-volume slipcased affair on their schedule this year, currently scheduled for release in August.

(click on cover images to ENLARGE)

Humbug was one of the humor magazines produced by Kurtzman following his departure from MAD as it made its shift from the comic-book format to the magazine format.

It was created by a collective that also included artists
Will Elder, Jack Davis, Al Jaffee and Arnold Roth.

There was plenty of GREAT stuff that ran in Humbug, much of which has been very difficult to find since.

I see that Amazon also has a listing for a similar project collecting Kurtzman's Trump Magazine, which had immediately preceded Humbug and was published by Hugh Hefner - - but only ran for two issues. As of this writing the Amazon listing is showing a release date of '2012', which usually means something is in the works but not ready for any official solicitation. We'll see.

As to a 'trifecta', word on the street also reports
Denis Kitchen 'being at work' on a further collection of the complete 'Help!' magazine, another fabulous Kurtzman creation from the first half of the 1960's. Fingers crossed...

See also:
- A Kurtzman profile at Read Yourself Raw.
- A Harvey Kurtzman bio page at Been Publishing, I'm Back.

4. I've just heard about the recent documentary film,
'Never Apologize: A Personal Visit With Lindsay Anderson'.

It captures actor Malcolm McDowell in one of his one-man UK stage performances reminiscing on his working and personal relationship with the maverick British film director, and supplements it with behind-the-scenes and archival footage from some of Lindsay Anderson's classic movies.

It sounds like a treat to me, and I'm astonished to discover that not only will the film play here in town next week, but Malcolm McDowell will be on hand to present it. (In Boise? The mind boggles. Sorry Boise, maybe I've misjudged you.) I'll let you know how it goes...

5. Hey! So also in the realm of cinema, I'd have to say that 'Juno' is worth all the hype. Head to the multiplex and have a look.

Here's hoping that lead actors Ellen Page and Michael Cera don't have their careers ruined in the wake of the attention they're receiving.

6. Recently, after telling me about a TV program she'd seen on BBC America about 'realistic' life-size sex dolls, my friend Topic sent me a link to wikipedia's entry on 'The Uncanny Valley'. Fascinating stuff!

The term initially referred to a hypothesis concerning the human emotional response to robots or other 'simulated humans', but has also come to be used with regard to the types of computer animation we commonly see in video games and feature films.

Essentially, the 'valley' has to do with the level of empathy we can feel towards a 'barely human' simulacra, as opposed to the discomfort we feel when faced with one that's 'nearly human'.

In discussing it more with Topic, we talked about some TV channel surfing we'd each done around Xmas when certain stations were showing the same movies over and over again.

We'd both lingered and watched a bit of 'The Incredibles', which we'd seen before, but whizzed right past 'Polar Express' which neither of us had ever been able to stomach.

Topic mentioned how she'd found the 'realistic' look of the CG
'Polar Express' characters disturbing - - They'd reached a 'nearly human' range where the remaining non-human elements became accentuated and gave her the creeps.

I said how I was fascinated and impressed by the range of human expressions and movement captured by Pixar in 'The Incredibles' - - The 'cartoony' characters are 'barely human' to the extent that we 'bridge the valley' in connecting with their human traits and 'forgiving' their otherness.

Predictably, you can find much discussion of the phenomenon online, with many different opinions being aired.

For starters, here's an article at Damn Interesting...

...Speaking of cartoony figures imbued with the human range of emotion...

7. There's the artwork of Portland, Oregon's Graham Annable.

I stumbled onto his comics a couple of years back with the collections 'Hickee' and 'Grickle', and was very taken with how much character, humor and comic timing he can convey with a deceptively simple-looking style.

I was pleased to recently discover that he has a web presence with some examples and links to other available books and comics. Even better, I previously had no idea that there were some Annable animated shorts floating around out there, like this one below, ⬇ via YouTube, 'The Last Duet On Earth'.

Follow the link to Graham Annable's blog, Grickle things!


Widgett Walls said...

I can't deal with Polar Express either. I keep thinking all those soulless zombies with dead eyes are going to eat the boy. I scream for him to not get on the train full of zombies...he never listens.

the sobsister said...

Your news about Fantagraphics stepping up and reprinting Humbug, and Kitchen considering Help! was truly a Reason to be Cheerful.

As a KurtzmanElder-ophile, many thanks for featuring this on your excellent blog.

Cam said...

I'm the dude from in Italy. As exotic location as I may be residing, I unfortunately, am not that exotic. Active duty Air Force stationed just outside of Pisa. Love your stuff!

Anonymous said...

I´m the visitor from Castilla y Leon Segovia, a place in the middle of Spain. I like the way you do your web. Greetings for it.
Thank you

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