Tagged: Emily S. Whitten

John Ostrander: The Chicago Pizza Way

ostrander-art-131117-150x101-7084733Ordinarily, I’m a big fan of Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. However, on last Wednesday’s night show, he took almost the whole second segment to castigate deep dish pizza, also known as Chicago-style pizza or just Chicago pizza. The whole flippin’ middle segment.

I’m from Chicago.

I love Chicago pizza.

I’d like to refer Mr. Stewart to Sean Connery’s speech in the Untouchables where he talks about “the Chicago Way.

I think it’s time to get all Rahm Emanuel on your ass, Mr. Stewart.

The main component of New York pizza is grease. There is more grease on a single slice of New York pizza than a school of teen-agers with severe acne who have just eaten New York pizza. New Yorkers act as if grease was one of the basic food groups. There is enough grease in a NY pizza to fuel Willie Nelson’s biodiesel tour bus twice around the country. There is so much grease on a slice of New York pizza that it will pass through your intestine without stopping. In Chicago, if you poop your pants it’s referred to it as laying a NY pizza.


The proper way to eat a slice of NY pizza is to fold it in half lengthwise. That way you don’t have to look at it. It’s also the only way to keep the cheese and sauce or whatever else they want to throw on it from sliding right off the slice onto your shoes. Hold it folded in one hand and hold your nose with the other and slide it into your mouth. Ah, that’s a good New York pizza!


Every place that sells pizza in New York City has to be named Ray’s – Original Ray’s, Famous Ray’s, Original Famous Ray’s. Famous Original Ray’s. Spam Spam Original Ray Ray’s and Spam, and on and on. It doesn’t make a bit of difference – they all taste the same.

You can make NY pizza at home. It’s easy. Get an unsalted cracker, squirt some ketchup on it, add some toe cheese, warm it under your armpit, and there ya go.


Chicago pizza you sit and eat and it’s a meal. One pizza can feed a family. It’s food. NY pizza is a lubricant.


Not content with defaming Chicago pizza, Stewart then went after Chicago hot dogs. Seriously? Those Anthony Weiners they serve from a sidewalk vendor’s cart? First, they dredge the East River, then put the dogs in that for three days, and then add a lukewarm stale bun, something yellow that’s vaguely like mustard, and a healthy dose of salmonella. The only place you should eat hot dogs in NYC is at Nathan’s and then only at the original stand at Coney Island and even that doesn’t quite stand up to a Chicago dog and you know why? Vienna Hot Dogs. The best places in Chicago use Vienna Hot Dogs with natural casings. Nothing else even begins to compare. Certainly not a NY alleged hot dog,

One area I think we can both agree. California so-called pizza is an abomination. Pineapple on a pizza? Really? No red sauce of any kind? Why even bother? So. how about a truce, Jon Stewart? I’ll hold down a California pizza lover and you can kick ‘em.





John Ostrander: That Time of Year

ostrander-art-131110-150x108-3720871The other night, My Mary and I were looking for something to watch on the tube. She had recorded Fly Away Home, the 1996 film by Carroll Ballard, starring Jeff Daniels, Dana Delaney, Anna Pacquin and Terry Kinney. We’ve watched it many times and I think we even own a copy of it. It’s wonderfully acted and beautifully shot; if you ever watch it, try to see it in wide screen. Some of the shots of Canadian Geese flying are breathtaking.

One of the things that struck me (again) was Mark Isham’s soundtrack and the haunting song that opens and closes the film, 10,000 Miles, sung by Mary Chapin Carpenter. (You can find it on YouTube, along with the lyrics.) It was one of the pieces of music that I played over and over again during that year of grieving after my wife, Kim Yale, died. Music was, and is, one of my coping mechanisms in life and hearing that song brought me back, not to Kim’s life or death, but that time of grieving, of learning to live without her, of starting my life again. Not to the grief itself but to the memory of that grief.

It’s that time of year. Here in the Midwest, the leaves fall from the trees, the days get shorter and darker, it’s colder as we head towards year’s end. Labor Day comes, signaling an end to summer. We lurch towards Halloween and All Saints Day (or Day of the Dead) with its skulls and ghosts and reminders of mortality. The harvest comes in and the fields look bare even as we celebrate Thanksgiving. Christmas is coming, yes, but so is Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. The cycle completes as the old year dies and a new one begins.

It’s not grief I feel now but a rise of melancholy. It’s always a part of me and, I think, always has been. I’m not sure of its origins – I went to many wakes and funerals as a boy, seeing people in caskets who I had known when they were alive, and I know it made an impression on me. I wouldn’t say that I treasure my melancholy but I do value it. I’m aware of death as part of life and that, I think, has informed my work as a writer. I enjoy life immensely and I don’t wallow in melancholy. It is simply there, a constant, and it makes me value those who are there and the joys and pleasures of life. Knowing they will all pass doesn’t make me depressed. Shadows help define an object and my melancholies help define my joys.

Every morning, I see a photo of my Dad sitting atop a shelf that he made for me and my brother when we were boys and I say, “Hi Dad.” I remember him and I miss him and I still love him just as I remember and miss and still love my Mom and Kim and friends and relatives and even pets. I miss places that are no longer there. They all still live in my mind and heart and I still know their stories. They all still have a value to me and are still helping to shape me into who I am.

It’s that time of year to remember and feel, to harvest our emotions, and value what we have. That’s what I’ll be thankful for as we approach Thanksgiving – the shadows as well as the light.




Mindy Newell: Go West, Young Man

Newell Art 131104“Washington is not a place to live in. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting and the morals are deplorable. Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country”

Horace Greely

Editor, New York Tribune

July 13, 1865 Editorial

The New York Tribune, established in 1841, was the most progressive and influential newspaper of its day. Horace Greeley, founder and editor of the paper, was a notable social reformer and political activist and through his leadership, the Tribune advocated for abolition, the legal protection of unions, protectionism (known today as anti-globalization or anti-free trade), and against nativism, the political position of demanding a favored status for certain established inhabitants of a nation as compared to claims of newcomers or immigrants. (In modern America Greely would be considered a leftist liberal Democrat, though in the antebellum, Civil War, and eras those beliefs belonged to the Republican nee Whig Party.)

Today a statue of Greeley sits at 33rd Street and Broadway in Greely Square, directly across the street and south of Herald Square, home to Macy’s and the end point of the Thanksgiving Day parade where the Rockettes do their famous line kick dance every fourth Thursday of November.

I know that statue well, for Greely Square is also across the street (and above) from the 33rd PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) terminus. And the PATH train was the way I commuted into New York City whenever I needed be at DC Comics, back when the company “lived” at 666 Fifth Avenue.

Last week – Tuesday, Tuesday, October 22, to be exact – Diane Nelson, President of DC Entertainment, sent a memo to DC employees. You might have seen it already, but here it is:

Dear DCE Team,

As I hope you know, I and the entire DCE exec team work hard to offer transparency about as much of our business plans and results as we possibly and responsibly can. In an effort to continue to do that where possible and to ensure you are hearing news from us, rather than a third party, I am proactively reaching out to you this afternoon to share news about our business.

I can confirm that plans are in the works to centralize DCE’s operations in 2015. Next week, the Exec Team will be in New York for a series of meetings to walk everyone through the plans to relocate the New York operations to Burbank. The move is not imminent and we will have more than a year to work with the entire company on a smooth transition for all of us, personally and professionally.

Everyone on the New York staff will be offered an opportunity to join their Burbank colleagues and those details will be shared with you individually, comprehensively and thoughtfully next week. Meeting notifications will be sent tomorrow to ensure the roll out* of this information and how it affects the company and you personally.

We know this will be a big change for people and we will work diligently to make this as smooth and seamless a transition as possible.



My first reaction when I saw it was “Oh, maaaaaan.” My second reaction was “knew it was going to happen.”

My third reaction was sadness, and, surprisingly, since it’s been thirty (!) years since I first stepped onto the PATH train in Jersey City (New Jersey) and took it to 33rd Street and Greely Square to walk up the Avenue of the Americas and west on 53rd Street to 666 Fifth Avenue and the offices of DC Comics, a feeling of dislocation. I felt cast adrift, even though 99% of my friends and co-workers no longer work at DC, and, in fact, the office itself has long since moved to 1700 Broadway, across from the Ed Sullivan Theatre, home of the David Letterman Show.

Many people on various websites have commented on the move. The news media picked it up, including a rather stupid, no, correct that, very stupid piece on WPIX Channel 11 (CW-NYC) while on break at work on Wednesday. I suppose the segment producers thought they were being clever, because they tied the news into some guy who wants to start a “superhero” school in the city, although actually it looked more like self-defense classes for kids. As far as the DC thing, they showed animated Superman and Batman, etc. on the screen, and then the reporter signed off and “flew off.”

But no one thought of the history behind the thousands of four-color pages produced by DC. No one thought of interviewing Michael Chabon, author of The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay, the Pulitzer Prize winning novel that chronicles the rise of the comics industry in New York City though thinly veiled characters based on Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and dozens of other early comics professionals. No one thought to interview those writers and artists who made their name at DC.

And no one thought of the history behind the hundreds of thousands of four-color adventures that started out as a way for those writers and artists to earn a living during the Depression and became the mythology of the 20th century, a doorway into imagination for generations, for hundreds of thousands of dreamers who grew up to become artists and writers and police officers and f, refighters and astronauts and astrophysicists because of those four-color pages, those adventures of Superman and Batman and the Flash and Wonder Woman and Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter and so many, many more, inspired them.

Yes, Marvel Comics is still here. (But for how long?) Yes, many of those who created those adventures never lived in New York City or its surroundings, originally mailing in their work, then faxing in it, then e-mailing their pages over the internet. Yes, Marvel Comics is still here. (But for how long?) And, yes, New York City will always be the city of dreams for the millions who come here to start or restart their lives.

But the citizens of the great metropolis will never again look up in the sky and cry, “Look! Is it a bird? Is it a plane?”

No, it was DC Comics, home to the supermen and superwomen who lived here, if only in the imaginations of those who loved them.

*By the way, Diane, there’s a typo in the memo. It’s “rollout,” not “roll out.”)




John Ostrander: The New Breed

ostrander-art-131103-150x140-7201015Last weekend I was at the Detroit Fanfare (which is why I wasn’t here) and I enjoyed myself immensely. It’s a good Con, well organized, and they took good care of me. I had a chance to say hello to old friends like Bill and Nadine Messner-Loebs, Paul Storrie, Howard Purcell, Norm Breyfogle and others and make new friends like Whilce Portacio. And, of course, talk with fans and sign books and stuff which, for me, is the main reason I go. I love meeting and talking with fans and having a chance to say “thank you” for their support.

I was ferried there and back by my cohorts in Unshaven Comics – Marc Alan Fishman (my esteemed fellow ComicMix columnist), Matt Wright, and Kyle Gnepper (the cute one). Marc drove and we blathered together in a wonderful fashion.

Da Boys (as I refer to them and, being from my home town of Chicago, they’ll understand) are indie comics creators, notably of the Samurnauts (which you can learn about and buy at their website here and they make the rounds of Cons, setting up shop, and hawking their wares at their booth. They do nearly a dozen a year and FanFare was the last one for 2013.

They were in a separate but adjacent ballroom to mine so I would touch base with them throughout the show and we had eats together. At the end of the Con, I wandered over while they broke it all down and packed it up. I was really struck with how organized they were and how compact it all became. Da Boys really know their stuff. Their book is wonderful but they also have a better business sense than I did at that time or have even perhaps now.

They sell their books, sure (and go buy them at the site) but I saw buttons and posters and cards at the table and they did (and do) sketches and so on. I looked around the room, which was mostly Indie folk, and this was a trend. My friend, Paul Storrie, who was nearby, also has a very professional set-up.

I don’t know but I suspect this is a trend among the younger creators. I suspect they wouldn’t sneer at work from the Big Companies but they have their own creations that they own and that they are hard at work selling.

You should also read Marc’s column from yesterday. Yes, I’m very flattered by the kind words directed at me – although if they eat with me a few more times I suspect they’ll get over the novelty – but what I was really struck by was how they evaluate which Con to go to. They know the numbers in terms of what they sell, of the costs of going to a certain con, the bottom line of each venture. They factor in the time away from family and having to go to their day jobs. They – and I suspect the other Indie creators – know their business far better than I did when I was their age. Hell, I’m not sure I had started writing comics when I was their age.

I salute them and I intend to support them. This is the future of comics, boys and girls. This is where the really good stuff, the fresh and exciting stuff, is coming from. So I’m going to urge you, next time you go to a con, to seek out Unshaven Comics and the other Indie producers, look at what they’re doing, sample the books, get the buttons, and be a part of something that is alive and vital in the comics industry.

As another innovator in the field was known to remark, ‘Nuff Said.




Emily S. Whitten’s Interview with Maurice LaMarche

whitten-art-131029-150x173-1422348In my apparent continuing quest to interview all the great voice actors living today (because they are the most fun, okay?), I now bring you my interview with the talented and Emmy-winning Maurice LaMarche, a.k.a. The Brain, Squit, Kif Kroker, Morbo, Lrrr, several Futurama robots, Dr. Egon Spengler, Dizzy Devil, Yosemite Sam, Mr. Freeze, Victor von Doom, General Var Suthra, Mortimer Mouse, Chief Quimby, and more.

It was a real pleasure to speak with Maurice, who I’ve been listening to in various guises since I was a wee thing (I was a big Inspector Gadget fan as a child; and then with Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, and Futurama being amongst my other favorite shows through the years, I guess I’ve pretty much been listening to Maurice all my life!). It was also great to see him do many of his excellent voices and impressions both during the interview, and at “An Evening with Pinky and the Brain,” which I attended at the Plaza Theatre while in Atlanta for Dragon Con. That event featured Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche together, and was just a total joy to experience. It also resulted in some fantastic video clips like this reading of Who’s on First by Pinky and the Brain, a couple more of which I’ve linked below.

So without further ado, I bring you my interview with Maurice! Read on for the transcript, and click here for the video, which is really worth watching for all the fun voices.

•     •     •     •     •

Let’s start with Futurama, and Kif, who you voice on the show. That voice seems more delicate than some of the voices you’re known for; how did you come up with that one?

We were recording episode three or four, and Matt was very hands-on as we built the show. He knew exactly what he wanted in terms of who the character was; but he wasn’t sure about a sound. His tagline for Kif was, “He’s Mister Spock, if Mister Spock had to deal with William Shatner.”

So we tried a few things. I tried going (as Nimoy) “Sir, it seems the rest of the crew doesn’t share your passion for velour,” very deep and in the Nimoy range, and it sounded too much like The Brain; and we realized that he sounded tired; you know, we had the sighs. So I thought… I played a character in a very short-lived show called The Adventures of Hyperman, where the chief of that was very much, “Truman Capote. He’s Truman Capote.” So I thought that (as Capote) “the whole voice quality of Truman Capote had a sort of sighing sound to it, and so I decided that he would sound like Truman Capote,” and Matt said, “Well, too effeminate. I also want him to have some of the sarcasm and pissiness of Jon Lovitz.” So it went from this (demonstrating Capote) to this (demonstrating Lovitz) and became this (in Kif’s voice) “Sir, the rest of the crew doesn’t share your passion for velour, ugh.” So that’s where Kif came from. We kind of threw Jon Lovitz and Truman Capote in a blender, and out came Kif.

Now that Futurama is… doing whatever it’s doing [coming back again, I hope!], what are you working on right now?

My self-esteem. No, currently, I’m working on a project for Disney called The 7D, which are the seven dwarves about twenty years before they met Snow White. So they all have all their hair, and their hair is its original colors; nobody’s grey. And of course, needing to fixate on a beautiful female figure, they live to serve Queen Delightful, who is the queen of the kingdom.

And they’ve done a very different take with them. We’ve gone away from the Snow White movie, and it looks almost like a 1960s Jay Ward cartoon, kind of Bullwinkle, George of the Jungle. Very simple drawings. And each one’s voice is very distinct. Kevin Michael Richardson is Happy, and he just plays it so happy; and when Kevin is full of joy, the room bursts with it. And Bill Farmer is Doc. Billy West is Bashful, and Billy uses his upper, upper, upper range, and he’s like, so adorable that even though he’s a 62-year-old man, you just want to pinch his cheeks.

And I do Grumpy; and, again, I do a lot of my voices by throwing two things into the hopper and coming up with a unique voice. There’s a little George Costanza in him, and there’s a little bit of one of my best friends, Kenny Lombino, who’s a Brooklyn by way of New Jersey guy, and he’s an investment guy, but (as Kenny Lombino) “he came up through the streets. So Kenny is very much like this guy,” and then (as George Costanza) George Costanza’s like this: “I don’t know, Jerry! People think I’m smart, but I’m not smart!” (In Grumpy’s voice) So then Grumpy is kinda this guy right here: “Alright. Okay, Fine. I’m Grumpy, and I accept it, but I gotta help Queen Delightful anyway!” So he does a lot of, like, “Oh, this guy again.” He gets all the sarcastic lines.

It’s a thrill to be in a show where I am actually getting the good lines. Because I’m usually the setup guy. Even in Pinky and the Brain, Rob Paulsen got all the great lines, while I gave him the, (as The Brain) “Are you pondering what I’m pondering?” And then he got to say the funny thing. So The Brain’s humor had to come from being put-upon, and having to deal with this knucklehead named Pinky – who may have been the genius; and The Brain may have been the one who was insane.

But Brain did get his funny lines in there…

He did. He had great lines like (as The Brain): “If I could reach you, I would hurt you.” Or, “Yes, that is a pain that is going to linger.” Or, “It must be inordinately taxing to be such a boob, Pinky.” Little sarcastic things like that. I love playing the sarcastic note. Because I’m really actually very kind in real life.

Do you have a favorite episode from Pinky and the Brain?

It’s kind of a tie. “Bubba Bo Bob Brain” was the one where I think we found the stride with the characters. We’d done two or three episodes before, but we recorded “Bubba Bo Bob” and two things happened there: the voices changed. Rob got out of the buck-toothed thing that he was doing the first few episodes, and really found that almost lady-like voice that he did; and Brain stopped being a straight Orson Welles impression, and there are little Vincent Price-ish kind of highs in there. And their relationship became…the annoyance became stronger, and I realized “that’s the note I have to play with Pinky. And yet I still have to have affection for Pinky.” So “Bubba Bo Bob;” and the Primetime Emmy-winning Christmas Special. Which was a big folderol, because that special was the first time that a daytime cartoon had come into primetime and beaten The Simpsons. So those are my two favs. I’ve never been able to quite choose between them.

So what about “You Said A Mouseful”?

That was interesting. Rob and I are doing “An Evening with Pinky and the Brain” at the Plaza Theatre; and for our finale we are actually going to do a staged reading of “You Said a Mouseful,” with a cast from the audience. [Note: I got part of it on video! Watch it here!] “You Said a Mouseful” was a fun, and funny, and challenging episode to do; it was the only episode where I ever left the booth, walked into the control room, and slugged the writer in the arm – in the way you’d hit your little brother, a Lucy/Linus kind of slug. I just punched him in the arm for writing something so difficult. Then I went back, sat down, and went, “I feel better now. Rubber baby buggy bumpers, rubber baby buggy bumpers…”

You’re originally from Toronto; how do you find the South?

I have a GPS! …Well, I’ve only been here a day; I got here late last night; and Pinky and the Brain went out for dinner, to Morton’s. There was definitely a flavor of Southern hospitality; but then again, if you’re Captain Kirk and you’re beamed into any Morton’s on Earth, you don’t know what city you’re in because every Morton’s looks the same. (as William Shatner) “I don’t understand where they get all this wood paneling from!” And the steaks were all delicious and fantastic.

But people have been very nice here. This is my first Dragon Con, and my first time in Atlanta. And I’m not even going to complain about the humidity because Toronto, being on Lake Ontario, is just as humid as this in August; so I’m fully used to it. Haven’t lived in it in thirty-three years; but I’m loving Atlanta. I’m having a great time. People are so nice. And the Dragon Con people – I have to say, there’s a real difference between the Comic Con vibe and the Dragon Con vibe. Comic Con is Comic Cannes film festival, it’s there to sell projects – and this is all about fan love. This is completely fan-driven. Comic Con is very studio-driven and publisher-driven. But this is just the fans expressing themselves and truly paying tribute to the genres, and it’s wonderful to see. So, I’m really enjoying my time here.

Have you worked on games?

I’ve only been on a handful of games. Games beat up my throat; and unlike a lot of voice actors who seem to be invulnerable, I seem to get a lot of cases of laryngitis, etcetera by having to do repeated lines over and over again. So I really limit myself, and am very blessed and fortunate that I can afford to. I can turn down a lot of the work because I’ve gotten to be on shows like Futurama or be the voice of Lexus. So I’m very selective. I do things that I think my son will think are cool; like Mr. Freeze in Arkham City.

Or General Var Suthra in the [Star Wars:] Old Republic game, which had literally a phone book of script for every character. It was unbelievable. But I think it’s the world’s largest online game right now. You can join up. So I play this Mon Calamari general named Var Suthra, and the whole thing takes place 3,000 years before the continuity of Star Wars. So I wasn’t locked into (in character), “It’s a trap!” So I decided he sounded (as Gene Hackman) “more like Gene Hackman. Greatest criminal mind of our time.” But that was a lot of days of work on that. Although they break it up. I’ve never done a war game where I have to do a lot of dying, falling, being blown up, being shot, that sort of thing. I guess they don’t think of me for those things, but just as well, because my throat gets beat up very easily. (In a delicate voice) It’s a very sensitive instrument.

I know you probably get asked this a lot, but what really pulled you into voice acting? And what was your first job as a voice actor?

It was a weird sort of gravity that pulled me in, and it really was a pull. I never thought of myself primarily as a voice actor; I was going for the big stand-up comedy enchilada. I started in 1977 at a club called Yuk Yuks in Toronto, which also birthed Howie Mandel, Jim Carrey, and Norm MacDonald. I was chasing after that. I’d done a couple of voiceovers up in Toronto for a company called Nelvana Films. They were annual specials. One was Easter Fever, with Garrett Morris from Saturday Night Live, who’s now on 2 Broke Girls; and I played Steve Martin and Don Rickles as animals. So it was Steed Martin and Don Rattles, and it was a roast of the Easter Bunny. That was the very first time I heard my voice come out of a cartoon character. I was nineteen; and it was magic, to hear that, and to see that, and go, “Wow, that’s me.” It was like, “I’m Fred Flintstone now.” It was astounding. I remember seeing Alan Reed on an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies when I was a kid and going, “He sounds like somebody. Who does he sound like?” And I realized halfway through the episode, that’s the man who plays Fred Flintstone. That’s when I first realized it was a human being behind those moving drawings. So that was my first job.

Then I came down here for stand-up comedy, and a voiceover agent from the William Morris Agency, who I was with for my personal appearance stuff, was in the audience, and it was Nina Nisenholtz, and she said, “With all of these impressions you do, you’d be a natural for voiceovers.” And I said, “Well I was always told that was a closed shop,” and my friend was Frank Welker, and he told me he was going to try to get me started – and Frank really did talk me up around town for about a year before I got my first job; but Nina also started sending me out right about that time.

It took me a year to get my first job, and my first job was Inspector Gadget. I did one episode of The Littles, and one episode of something called Wolf Rock TV, just as a guest star thing to test me and see how I was, and then they ended up putting me on Inspector Gadget, where I was The Chief, and Henchman No. 2, and then right after that, Real Ghostbusters. So that was my entrée into cartoons. And it just kept coming. Voice acting is as close to a meritocracy in show business as you can get; if you’re good, the work will keep coming. Because they love to work with people who can do the skill of coming up with multiple characters – in animation, at least, so they don’t have to hire five actors. They can hire you and have you play five parts in the episode. So if you can deliver those goods, the work comes. So it was a steady thing; and I got sort of pulled into it, rather than taking a bunch of voiceover workshops. I’ve got a lot of friends who did study. Nancy Cartwright studied with Daws Butler – you know, Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear. I just never took a lesson. I don’t know why, I just seem to have a knack for doing this.

I know that you based The Brain in part on Orson Welles; and I’ve heard that you used to recite the “Frozen Peas” outtake as a warm-up exercise. Where did that come from?

We were on the job from hell. We were dubbing a French puppet show – lifesized puppets, people inside costumes – into English, and it was the longest day. It started at nine and ended at nine on New Year’s Eve. I was supposed to do the job for two hours and then make a 1:00 flight that would get me to New York. Howie Mandel was hosting an MTV party and I was supposed to go party with the MTVers, back when that was brand new. And the thing just took for-bloody-ever, and I missed the party. And I was so depressed at the end of the night, that Phil Proctor, from the Firesign Theater, who was making college students laugh when I was still in junior high school, said, “Here, this’ll cheer you up.” And he gave me a cassette with Orson Welles doing this frozen peas commercial.

So my consolation prize was, I didn’t get to party with Sting and Howie Mandel; but I did get to have a career. Because this tape that he gave me had this gold on it. Orson Welles being himself. Being a curmudgeon; and yet the more you listen to it, the more you go, “He’s right! These guys don’t know what they’re talking about.” So I listened to it backwards and forwards, and couldn’t get enough of it. And eventually I began to ape it, because that’s what I do, and it made its way into my bag of tricks. And whenever there was down time, if they were listening to the playbacks, I’d just sit there and try it out on mic, because I’d wear headphones, and (as Orson Welles) “Get me a jury and show me how you can say in July, and I’ll…go down on ya.” It was hysterical. So it amused me to do it and I wanted to see how close to the timing I could do it; because when you get somebody being themselves, that’s the best was to grab them as an impression; and get all facets of them from there on up. So that’s how that happened. [To see Maurice do the Frozen Peas impression live, click here.]

Going back to Futurama; you do many voices. Which ones did you start out with, and which were added later, and…how many do you do? Do you know?

I don’t know. A couple of years ago when we were making the direct-to-DVD movies, there was a website that somebody came out with, where they had actually listed and counted all of our characters. I think I was at seventy-two characters, counting everything – all one-offs, all recurring, all regulars. But Tress MacNeille had me beat; she had seventy-five.

What about Billy?

Billy was in the fifties; but he does the heavy lifting on the show, because he’s Fry, he’s Zoidberg, and the Professor, so he’s three people in the break room at Planet Express; and then you throw in Zapp, who’s in every fifth episode or so; and Smitty… he’s got so many characters. He topped out with fifty-something.

So your characters – you’ve got Kif, and Morbo, and Calculon, and the Mafia robots…

(In the characters) “I got the Donbot. I got Clamps! I have the country Hyper-Chicken lawyer, and oh, Hedonismbot. And Lrrr.

Which one do you enjoy the most? Do you identify with any of them?

Oh, I identify with most of them. Because any actor is only giving you parts of himself. There’s a great line in a movie called My Favorite Year, that my friend Dennis Palumbo wrote. At the end of the film, Peter O’Toole, who plays this Errol Flynn character, tells Benjy Stone, his handler from the King Kaiser Show, which is really the Sid Caesar Show, that he can’t go on. He chickens out. He’s hiding, and he’s drinking, and he goes, “I’m scared, Stone.” And Stone says, “You don’t get to be scared. You are that damn hero; and you couldn’t play that hero if you didn’t have him somewhere inside of you.” And O’Toole goes on to save the day, in the film.

But every actor gives you what’s inside of him. So every character I play is a piece of me. So even though they may draw Lrrr, the Lrrr I voice and the Lrrr I play is my own angst about being in a midlife crisis. Kif is my own shyness and my own sense that (as Kif) “maybe I’ll never quite rise to Zapp Brannigan’s rank, but certainly I hope that I may one day save Amy with a buggalo,” you know, or something like that. Morbo is…very different from Lrrr. Completely different.

Do you really want to eat kittens?

(As Morbo) “They give me gas!” You know; there are foods that give me gas. So I relate to that. Everybody’s a little piece of me. (As Clamps) “I won’t tell you where Clamps comes from!” It’s my parenting skills.

Let’s go back to Animaniacs. You did other characters on there as well, didn’t you?

I was the Ray Liotta-based Squit, in the Goodfeathers. (As Squit) “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a Goodfeather. If you were a Goodfeather, you had it all.” Martin Scorsese apparently loved the Goodfeathers. He and Spielberg were friends, and when that was on, Spielberg would just send him tapes of the Goodfeathers episodes as they came out. He dug that we were paying tribute to him.

And you did that West Side Pigeons episode…

I had a lot of singing in that. But they really worked with me; I’m not a natural singer. So Steve and Julie Bernstein and Rich Stone, God rest his soul, really walked me through it, and we rehearsed for a couple of days, and worked with the tapes. The way I practice singing, you’ve got to give me something that has only melody on it. If you give me anything with harmony, I’m lost. Because I start singing up in the harmony, and then back down to the melody; I’m not a natural musician, like my son. So I did that.

One of my favorites was playing Michelangelo in “Hooked on a Ceiling.” It was a nice little twist. It was Michelangelo, but we didn’t go Charlton Heston; we went Kirk Douglas. So it was like, (as Kirk Douglas) “What have you done to my ceiling? My beautiful ceiling!” Or Miles Standish as Richard Burton, (as Richard Burton) “Ohh, my Petey Pajamas, I loved him so.” So all the people that the Warners annoy, I got to play.

Now that Animaniacs is back on TV, do you see a resurgence in interest? The younger generation finding the show?

The Hub has just started running the original Animaniacs again, and they’ve got a big viewership. I’ve got another show on The Hub called Transformers: Rescue Bots, where I play the patriarch of a family of first responders, and the Transformers that come pick our vehicles; so there’s a police car character, and a fire truck character, a tractor character, because one of the sons is a civil engineer, and a helicopter. So The Hub putting these on is giving it a resurgence; but it’s yet to see quite the impact – I’m not quite sure where it is yet.

I think the cartoons are timeless. We did a lot of timely references, and there are maybe a few too many Clinton jokes in there; but with Clinton being back in the news – Obama keeps pulling him back into the spotlight – he’s hip again. Other than that, I think the show has legs. If a 1990s generation loved it, why wouldn’t a twenty-teens generation love it? Especially since the Pinky and the Brain piece of it is so relationship-based; it’s not based on timely humor. It’s based on the dynamic between these two characters, and that plays no matter what – an odd couple that really do love each other even if they are annoyed with each other, That was always the fun.

What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened between takes; because I’ve heard that that’s when the most fun happens.

We-ell, it’s got a dirty word in it.

Okay, shoot!

It’s a moment that came from Tress MacNeille. At one particular time we were all on a show where the executive producer had become extremely religious, almost overnight; so there was to be no sexual innuendo, and certainly no swearing. So the executive producer was there, we did the table read, we read through, and then he said, “Alright, I guess you guys have got it. I’m going to go back to the studio.” And we all watched as he left, and then we were quiet as the door closed behind him; and then Tress breaks the silence with: “Now we can say fuck!” in that old lady voice that she’s got; that smoker’s voice? And I must have laughed for five minutes.

Just the way she hit the word now. It’s like, the door closed, and then: “Now we can say fuck!” That might be my favorite studio story. Tress MacNeille is unbelievable. I think – and I’ve worked with so many greats, and everybody’s really at the top of their profession – but to me, Tress is the pinnacle. Man or woman, it doesn’t matter, she’s the pinnacle of what a voice actor is. She’s the best. I say to myself, “I gotta get as good as Tress.” That’s the way I feel.

I haven’t ever seen her at a con…

We finally got her out to Comic Con this past year, because Matt Groening asked her especially, because we had the full cast of Futurama, and we showed the first third of the last episode, then we table-read the second act with the full cast – Dave Herman, Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom, myself, Tress, and Billy, John, and Katie. The first time we’d all been assembled at Comic Con. It was pretty legendary. Tress went specially for Matt; and it was also our goodbye, too.

But you know what; at the end, they gave us a standing ovation. And when 5,000 people get on their feet because you’ve done a good job since 1999, it’s kind of touching, and moving. I think for Tress, it showed her that people really do care about the work, because she kind of keeps to herself, and I think she’s understanding that people do care; people do love the show and our work. And that’s great.

Well I certainly do love your work! And thank you so much for your time!

I hope everyone enjoyed this interview with the amazing Maurice LaMarche; and until next time, Servo Lectio!




Mindy Newell: 60

newell-art-131028-150x143-5027895Yes, this past Thursday I hit the big 6-0. Yeah, yeah, I know a woman isn’t supposed to reveal her age, but just who the hell would I be fooling? Not my family. Nor any of my friends. Not even those who read my comics back in the 80s and 90s and care to do a little homework and math – IIRC, the New Talent Showcase issues included bios by all the tyros whose work appeared in that book. Mine lists my birthday. And as long as I talking about that bio, for the record I was not particularly inspired by Star Wars or – with absolutely no disrespect intended, and I’m not saying I don’t love their work – to George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Gerry Conway, or Doug Moench. This is how I remember it happened.

Joey Cavalieri (who wrote the bios) asking me who my favorite writers were. “Edna Ferber, Herman Wouk, James Michener, John Steinbeck, Sinclair Lewis, Theodore Dreiser… “ I said off the top of my head.

He laughed a little and said something about readers not getting that or caring or not knowing who they were. (Which I still find hard to believe.)

“How about Gerry Conway and Doug Moench?”

“Uh-huh,” I said. “They’re good, too.”

“How about movies?”

Again off the top of my head. “Oh, The Searchers. Bridge On The River Kwai. Sunset Boulevard. Casablanca.”

Joey didn’t seem too happy.

Oh, wait, I get it, I thought. And wanting to please, being the good little Jewish girl, I said,

Star Wars, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Alien.”

So after thirty years, I’m glad to get the chance to correct that little bio. Although if it was happening now, I wouldn’t be the “wanting-to-please good little Jewish girl.”

By the time you get to 60, you just don’t give a crap.

Oh, I still give a crap about a lot of things. This country and its future. (It doesn’t take a writer’s imagination to think that a second Civil War is not exactly out of the range of possibilities.) This Earth and its future. (Whether you want to call it global warming or climate change there is no denying that we, the population of this planet, have majorly bug-fucked Mother Gaia.)

And when I think of the future, I think of my niece Isabel and my grandson, Meyer Manual (who was five weeks old on Saturday) and I really give a crap.

And then I get really scared.

But then again…

We Baby Boomers have lived through temptuous times when many believed the end was nigh. The Bay of Pigs. The Cuban Missile Crisis. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The assassination of Martin Luthor King. The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. The social revolution of the 60s. The Vietnam War. Richard Nixon and Watergate. Jane Fonda workouts. Disco.

So fuck the Tea Party and fuck Ted Cruz and fuck all the racists who can’t believe a nigger is our President.

Yeah, I can’t believe I wrote that word either, but that’s the damn truth of it, that’s what’s really driving those bastard ignorant asshole Confederate punks and you know it as well as I do, only you won’t, but I will because I’m 60 and I don’t give a crap.

And if you think I’m feisty now…

Well, like a certain Whovian told me recently:

“60 years is nothing for a Time Lord. Just look out for Daleks.”




Mindy Newell: Not Such A Dark, Glittering Intelligence

Newell Art 131021What Spader’s Reddington demonstrates is a dark, glittering intelligence and that makes him a fascinating character,” wrote my pal and fellow columnist John Ostrander here on ComicMix yesterday, discussing James Spader’s work as the protagonist (antagonist?) on NBC’s The Blacklist (Mondays at 10 PM EDT USA).

I read John’s column after reading A House Divided: Extremism And The Lessons Of History by Sean Wilentz and its accompanying article, Inside The GOP’s Suicide Machine by Tom Dickinson in the National Affairs section of the current Rolling Stone Magazine.

Over the last decade, my imagination has sometimes taken me to sinister places when I have thought about the future of the United States of America. Since George W. Bush became President through the manipulation of the vote in Florida and the engineering of his election to office by the Supreme Court, it has seemed not unbelievable to me that a cabal, a HYDRA-like group, has been working to overthrow our Constitutional government. K-Street, the home of lobbyists and lawyers from which some of the worst decisions affecting this country have emanated, could be the address of the Washington, D.C. branch of Wolfram & Hart; wasn’t one of their clients was a presidential candidate who used the firm to mind-wipe the population into thinking her rival was a pedophile?

“Oh, Mindy,” I can hear the scoffers saying, “that was a TV show about a vampire and featured demons and other monsters. Get real, girl! A magical mind-wipe?”

Oh, yeah? What the hell do you think Fox News and Rush Limbaugh do every day? (As Mr. Wilentz states in his article, “The press has abandoned its responsibility, twisting objectivity into the craven idea of false equivalency, where falsehoods get reported as simply one side of the argument.”)

This past week saw the very real – and truly unbelievable – possibility that the United States would default on its debt obligations. (To quote Mr. Wilentz again, “Until now, no member of Congress has seriously entertained triggering a financial crisis, willfully damaging the economy of the most powerful nation on Earth.”)

Not even the Kingpin or Lex Luthor, malevolent corporatists and power-hungry capitalists – and comicdom’s equivalent of the Koch brothers – could envision, much less embrace, the financial fantasies of a cabal of Congressmen who do appear to be intent on destroying this country before it reaches its 238th birthday this July.

No, the Kingpin and Lex Luthor are smarter than David and Charles Koch. They would never risk their financial empires on a “confederacy of dunces” such as the Tea Party and their pols, men like Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who argues that the Dream Act would allow citizenship to drug mules – speaking about immigrants, he is on record as saying, “For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds, and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

Men like Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida, who compares the Republicans who want to defund the Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare,” to Rosa Parks, Lech Walesa, and Martin Luthor King. Said Yoho about the tax on tanning salons, “It’s a racist tax against white people.” Or Rep. Louis Gohmert of Texas, who warns us that Jihadists are sending pregnant women here so that their “terror babies” will be American citizens, and who is against gay marriage because, “you say it’s not a man or woman anymore…why not, you know, somebody who has a love of animals?”

Or Rep. Dr. Paul Broun of Georgia, who sits on the House Science Committee and embraces creationism – “the Earth is 9,000 years old” – and says “all that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology (again, I stress, this guy went to medical school), the Big Bang theory…is lies, straight from the pits of hell.” Or Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan, who wants to assign his staff to investigate the theory that government aircraft are seeding the skies with mind-control chemicals and who says that “impeaching Obama would be a dream come true.” Or Rep. John Fleming, who not only believed a story from the satirical website The Onion which said that Planned Parenthood was opening an $8 billion “abortionplex,” but actually said “I don’t think we should run government based on economists’ predictions.” And, not to leave women out, there is Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota, who believes that ending the minimum wage would end unemployment, that global warming is “voodoo and hokum,” and during last election cycle warned that us off the HPV (Human Papillomavirus) which causes genital warts and has been linked to the development of cervical cancer in women vaccine, saying that “little girls would be forced to have a government injection.” (HPV has been linked as a causative factor in cervical cancer, as well as other, rarer cancers such as cancer of the anus, penis, vagina, vulva, as well as oralpharyngal cancers – as Michael Douglas learned a few years ago.)

And then there is the junior Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, the biggest dunce of them all.

So maybe I shouldn’t be so worried about real life cabals and evil organizations. Maybe I’ll just stick to my Kingpins and Lex Luthors and Wolfram & Harts and HYDRAS and Dan Brown novels about the Illuminati and hope for the best, let the cards fall where they may, as the saying goes.

Yesterday I was at the beauty parlor when a discussion started about The Blacklist. I have got to start watching this show, especially when as disparate a group as can be found in a “beauty parlor” (senior citizens, hairstylists, manicurists, women and men of varying ages and interests) are “watercoolingering” about it.

Plus, I adore James Spader. I loved him in White Palace (with Susan Sarandon), I loved him in Stargate, I loved him in Sex, Lies, And Videotape, and I loved him in Boston Legal.

So maybe my assignment this week is to catch up on The Blacklist. I’d much rather watch a fictional show about a bad man bringing down still-worse men and women than watch the terrifying reality show that is the Republican/Tea Party.




John Ostrander: A Dark Glittering Intelligence

Ostrander Art 131020My favorite new show of the TV season is not Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as I thought it would be (although I like that show well enough). It’s The Blacklist… which is on opposite Castle. I loves me some Castle so I have to record one and watch the other live; so far, Castle is winning out but sometimes it’s a near thing.

The Blacklist is about Raymond “Red” Reddington, a master criminal who the FBI has been unsuccessfully hunting for some time. One day he surrenders and offers to help them take down other monsters on his blacklist but he’ll only work with FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen, whom he insists on calling “Lizzie”. She doesn’t know him and neither she nor anyone else at the FBI knows why Reddington has offered his help but they must admit he’s very effective – especially with criminals and terrorists they didn’t even know were out there.

The series is derivative and there’s a Silence of the Lambs Hannibal Lecter/Clarice Starling vibe to it, but the main reason to watch it is James Spader as Reddington. He’s charming, charismatic, dangerous, and scary. He’s playing all sorts of games and what he’s really after is impossible to guess. Spader is obviously having a wonderful time with the part and is amazing in the role. Reddington is a killer but not a serial one; I’ve come to the conclusion that Reddington is less Hannibal Lecter than Professor Moriarity.

What Spader’s Reddington demonstrates is a dark, glittering intelligence and that makes him a fascinating character and, in that, he is like Lecter. Over the ages, this type of character, in different variations, has become a recurring character type. Hearth Ledger’s Joker falls into that category as well. So does Shakespeare’s Richard III. Something in our own atavistic reptilian brain stem gets drawn to them. Well, at least my atavistic reptilian brain stem does.

The trick is getting us to root for them although they’re monsters. Reddington admits to it. Why do we do that? There’s an appeal to our own dark sides. The monsters embody our dark urges on which we would never follow through. They’re our dark fantasies – unbound by social conventions. They appall us as they enthrall us.

We root for the anti-hero as well as the hero – if the anti-hero is done right. That’s the challenge for the creator. I’m guilty of it myself; in Wasteland, I once did a story from the serial killer’s point of view. The goal was to see if I could get the reader to identify with him. That would be where the horror part of the story really came in – when (if) the reader founds themselves identifying with him. Look to the recently completed Dexter or Breaking Bad. The popular success of those series – along with The Sopranos or The Shield – attests to the fact that we are willing to go there – to root for the bad guys. They need to know who/what they are, accept it, and don’t whine. That’s what we want and that’s what we love. If we’re honest, we like Loki more than Thor. Characters like that give us a delicious thrill.

Angels are beautiful, but the devil is sexy.




Mindy Newell: Stargate Revisited

Newell Art 131014I never really got into MacGyver, but I got my Richard Dean Anderson fix on Stargate SG-1.

Stargate, as many of you I’m sure remember, was a 1994 movie which circled around a gigantic ring made of unknown metal and covered in what is believed to be Egyptian hieroglyphs that is discovered buried in the sands of Giza, Egypt in during an archeological expedition in 1928. The purpose of the ring remained a mystery for sixty years, its hieroglyphs untranslatable. Finally a brilliant linguist and archaeologist specializing in Egyptology named Daniel Jackson (James Spader) is co-opted by the U.S. government and brought to Cheyenne Mountain (home of NORAD) to decipher the scrawlings on the ring, which has been brought there for study and possible use by the military.

He tells the assembled scientists and military officers (including United States Air Force Colonel Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell) that the hieroglyphs speak of something called a “stargate,” some kind of device used for travelling to other planets. But the symbols on the ring itself aren’t hieroglyphs at all; they are representations of mathematical coordinates of the constellations which, when put into a specific sequence, creates a tunnel through space, or “wormhole” that will allow instantaneous travel to another world. Colonel O’Neil assembles a team, including Jackson, to use the Stargate, as it is now christened, to take them there

Stargate SG-1 picks up a year after the movie ends.

The top-secret Stargate Project is overseen by the United States Air Force, and its mission is to not only explore the galaxy, but to also find new allies and technology as defense against the Goa’uld, alien symbiotes that use humans as hosts in their drive to establish themselves as “rulers of the galaxy.” As established in the movie, the Goa’uld enslaved humans to serve them, posing as the gods of ancient Earth cultures, especially the mythology of Egypt.

The Stargate Project is under the command of General George Hammond, and the reconnaissance teams are dubbed SG-1, SG-2, SG-3, and so on; Colonel Jack O’Neill, now played by the charming Richard Dean Anderson, leads SG-1, composed of Captain Samantha “Sam” Carter, astrophysicist (Amanda Tapping); the Jaffa defector Teal’c (Christopher Judge); and Daniel Jackson (now played by Michael Shanks).

Being a continuing series, Stargate SG-1 gave Anderson the space to expand O’Neill’s character. His Jack was a more relaxed version of the character than that of Russell’s, displaying an “easy-goingness” and a sly wit that, I think, hid a vein of cynicism born from the tragedies of O’Neill’s life, especially the death of his son in a tragic accident that resulting from O’Neill’s own gun. Jack used that wit not only to cope with unexpected and possibly dangerous situations, but as a weapon that sliced through the bullshit with sharp sarcasm. He was career Air Force, he believed wholeheartedly in the mission of the United States as a beacon of liberty and good in the world, but he distrusted the men and women who pinned flags on their lapels and called that patriotism.

Like Star Trek, Stargate SG-1’s true strength was in its characters and the relationships they had with each other. Amanda Tapping’s Sam Carter has been, I think, overlooked as a well written, strong, female character that meets, as my sistah Martha Thomases put in her column last week, the Bechdal Test. (IM-not-so-HO, and if I could arrange some kind of time warp, Tapping would be the perfect actress to play a live-action Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel). Christopher Judge’s Teal’c is the perfect “stranger in a strange land.” Michael Shank’s Daniel Jackson is a quirky nerd whose anti-establishment and anti-military stance is tempered by the people he comes to love and respect. Don Davis’s General Hammond was military through and through, but he was the father figure for everyone on the Stargate Project. Even supporting characters like Teryl Rothery’s Dr. Janet Frasier and Gary Jones’s Sgt. Walter Harriman became important facets of a show that became, also like Star Trek, a starting point for spin-offs (Stargate: Atlantis, Stargate Universe) and movies (Stargate: The Ark Of Truth, Stargate: Continuum). Disparate and brought together by a mission, they became a family.

As the daughter of an fighter jock, I think it’s really cool that the United States Air Force worked with the SG-1 producers, not only allowing them to shoot footage at the Cheyenne Mountain complex, but also providing help with the military minutia that helped make the show so realistic, everything from character backgrounds to uniform and hair style regulations. Air Force personnel worked as extras, and two Chief of Staffs of the Air Force, General Michael E. Ryan and General John P. Jumper, appeared as themselves in Season 4’s “Prodigy” and Season 7’s “Lost City.” According to Wikipedia, General Jumper’s second appearance was “cancelled because of ongoing real-world conflicts in the Middle East.” Richard Dean Anderson was honored by the Air Force Association in 2004, not only for his work as an actor and executive producer, but also for the SG’1’s positive depiction of the Air Force.

The U.S. Navy also got in on the act, inviting SG-1 to film aboard the nuclear submarine U.S.S. Alexandria (SSN-757) and at their Applied Physics Laboratory Ice Station in the Arctic.

Stargate SG-1 is available from the beginning, courtesy of Netflix. That’s where I’ve been rewatching the show.

If travelling through a Stargate doesn’t for work you, there’s still some MacGyver out there for you Richard Dean Anderson fans. As Captain Samantha Carter said in the pilot to Colonel Jack O’Neill: “It took us fifteen years and three supercomputers to MacGyver a system for the gate on Earth.”




John Ostrander: Are You Artistically Experienced?

ostreander-art-131013-150x180-7316947Last week I wrote about seeing The Wizard of Oz again on the IMAX screen and how, once more, I really enjoyed the film. Since then, I’ve reflected on how my attitude towards the film has changed over the years.

The first time I saw Wizard was in the 50s on a relatively small black and white set. To be honest, I was not very taken with it. I was probably about eight or ten and The Guns of Navarone was far more my speed. Also, as I said, I saw it all in black and white and so the moment when the film transitions to Technicolor was lost on me until we got a color set. That’s when I got it and started to appreciate the film more.

What has really changed over the years has been what I bring to the film as I watch it – or any other film I see again or any book I re-read or piece of music that I listen to more than once. The work itself, in those cases, doesn’t really change. Oh, it might be restored or, in the case of The Wizard of Oz, blown up for the IMAX and have a few 3D effects tossed in. However, the fundamentals of the work do not change. I have changed.

To give an example, when I was in 8th grade at St. Jerome’s RC Grade School, I watched and was taken up with the TV version of Going My Way. This wasn’t the Bing Crosby movie, which I didn’t see until much later. This one starred Gene Kelly in the Bing Crosby role and Leo G. Carroll (previously of the Topper TV series and later of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) in the Barry Fitzgerald role. I was very taken with it and with the idea of being a parish priest, so much so that I signed up for the seminary.

My “vocation” (as such things were called) didn’t last more than my freshman year but that year in seminary had a profound affect on my life and has been highly influential in my writing. It all stems back to that TV series version of Going My Way. I doubt very much it would have the same influence on me today because I’m a different person. I would bring a different self to it. I might find memories – ghosts – of who I was back then but seeing the series again wouldn’t have the same effect on me.

Any artistic work is like a light switch. The potential is there even when the switch closed. However, it takes the person encountering that work to flip that switch so that the electricity flows. That’s when the work is truly experienced. Part of the magic is no two of us experience that same work in exactly the same way.

The work created has the artist’s intent and exists as his or her self-expression. It has a life of its own, often independent of the creator (witness Sherlock Holmes). The experience, where the work really lives, happens only when someone encounters it, takes it in, brings his or her own life to it, when they really participate in it. A good example are comic books – a comic book page exists in a static form but the reader somehow uses the gutters to “see” and experience the action move from one panel to the next.

This essay exists whether you read it or not but it only reaches its full potential when you read it and, even better, it affects you. Then we shall have shared thoughts, feelings – an experience.

So – was it good for you?