A few weeks ago I did a write up for a cartoonist I found on instagram, Talon’s Treehouse, and I got in touch with Talon and told him how funny I thought his stuff was and we got to talking and which lead to me asking if he wouldn’t mind doing an official interview with me for OBOP and not only did he agree, but he proposed a totally tublar idea: he was gonna animate reading off and answering the questions I sent him. No commitment but we might be ready next Thursday. Here’s the teaser trailer:
This idea was really cool and reminded me of another channel on youtube called “blank on blank”. Their youtube description reads,
“Vintage interview tapes. New animations. We transform journalists’ unheard interviews with cultural icons. The future of journalism is remixing the past.” (source: “blank on blank” about page, youtube)
I really like the last sentence “The future of journalism is remixing the past.” I think that’s really inspiring, in the way that there were always be an audience for good content even if it is old or lost or once rejected. Then remixing re-introduces cultural icons to a young generation and probably reaching new audiences by turning interviews into animations unique to each personality.
Blank on blank is a PBS Digital Center productions and celebrated their 6th year on youtube and have almost 100 videos of stars from all over the spectrum with playlists organizing their videos into writers, actors, musicians, plus a bunch of other categories.
The theme I decided on tonight was Identity and have chosen three interviews from blank on blank around the subject. First we have Kurt Cobain recalling his high school and band years and reflecting on how the things in his life have shaped his identity, then we have Maya Angelou talking about her life growing up with a stepdad who owned gambling halls and worked with professional conmen, then we’re finishing out with Robin Williams and his views on the future and the role of art specifically comics.
Robin Williams on Masks (NSFW warning 2m – 2m50s; 4m50s to end)
“Don’t let the institutions you labour for define how you identify. When you outgrow them or they move on without you, this will result in an unnecessary identity crisis. Be your own person or risk being assimilated into obscure misery.”
This is a status I posted on facebook earlier today and I’ve been thinking about the shape of identity and the role of the artist in society. Kurt Cobain describes how he had a really good childhood until the divorce of his parents which shaped the way he socalised and who he’s been able to hang out with, he even mentions at one point that the first guy friend he made (mosts of his friends were women) was gay and his mum didn’t allow them to be friends anymore after that. This hierarchical parental oppression and the institutions of music he was listening to when he was young, he realised, all had graphically sexual and sexist lyrics and that really made him angry. This anger manifested in his love for punk rock and when asked “how does he sing” he says he “sings from his stomach, [his doctor tells him when he sees the doc there’s a red spot/ulcer where he sings from]”. Then he goes on about the weight of his guitar agitates his scoliosis, which gives him more pain. From here he says he’s grateful to the pain it gives him inspiration, which reminds me of this quote from Dostoyevsky’s Letters From the Underworld “…despair can hold the most intense sorts of pleasure when one is strongly conscious of the hopelessness of one’s position…”. Cobain seems to frame himself as a reaction to the parental and musical institutions he came from all fueled by the desperation of pain.
Maya Angelou talks about growing up with her stepfather who owned pools halls and gambling houses and he worked with the racketeers, professional con men, and her stepfather taught her the ropes about how to weigh dice and their proper weight, the works. Her stepfather brings these professional con men around, they’re all mates I gather, and her stepfather says “share the one about the grocery store…I’m bringing her up, may as well do it right”. She goes to describe a 3 man con waged against one mark, the con men’s target, on the axis of racism, briefly heres how it works:
The con men team are split into team con (2 men) and team cover (1 man). Team con set up a real estate business front, print flyers, posters, the works. Spend a few thousand dollars, make it look good. Team con approaches the mark with their land deal which has a toll bridge so there’s profit potential. The “real state business manager” (team cover) comes in and says “we can lowball these guys and get them down to 70k$” and the mark, being a racist says that he can “work a better deal” and gets them “down to only 50k$”. The mark pays team con 50k$ in cash and is told not to raise a stink because this whole deal is off the books and the state might find out.
Her takeaway from this was really great she said that racism doesn’t make sense because the creative energies that can go into scams caused because of systematic oppression could be channeled into solving real world problems.
Then Robin Williams was asked what he thought the world would be like in 2020, they mention he would be 70 years old, the world still misses you man, and he expresses a very Wallacian prediction: the future will be consumed by “The Entertainments: one ultimate entertainment making factory”, all in (infinite?) jest, of course. He gets more serious into the meat of the interview where he talks about how he views the role of the artist, especially comics, “comedy is there to show us that we fart and laugh…it makes you aware of your humanity.” He reminds us that as intellectual as we think we are, we’re still just big dumb animals and we should “…stop taking ourselves so seriously before we destroy the world.” Robin made a lot of predictions sort of vague predictions about the world in this interview but comics having such an important role, implying comedy can save the world if it helps the human collective from taking itself too seriously, might have some truth to it. Turns out “People feel less pain after a good laugh, because it may cause the body to release chemicals that act as a natural painkiller, research has suggested.” (Source: BBC)
Roping back to my opening statement I believe that I strive not to derive my identity from the industry I labour for whether it be school or work, but it comes more from my personal experiences, my abilities to express them, and how I choose to use them. I’ve had a challenging time but through drawing comics, I’ve learned to take myself much less seriously (ffs I draw stick figures hahaha) and this has done a load for my personal peace of mind and productivity. Through taking myself less seriously; I seriously feel more confident.