Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Crack Master (a.k.a. Crack Monster) turns Thirty Three

Sorry for the lack of posts- I've been working on different projects, but I couldn't let today go by without mentioning that, according to my sources...
..the elusive Crack Master and his crack friends debuted on television 33 years ago today.
I still don't know who made the cartoon or why it's kept under wraps. I found someone who has copy of it but they've been sworn to secrecy (and are too far away for me to swing by for a screening).
Who made it? What became of them? Did they do any other animations?
I have no idea if the legal owners are aware of its cult following or my blog posts about it. I don't even know the name of the cartoon, but I bet it's one of the following:
  • Crack Creatures
  • Into the Wall
  • Crack Friends
  • There Goes the Cleaning Deposit
  • Namowal, Get a Life You Freak

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lap Forty!

Guess who turns forty today?
That came rather fast. I want a recount.
Then again, there were signs. Fine print becoming illegible... Seeing older pictures of me and thinking I look so young!... Co workers half my age...
My inner whiner says No fair! I'm past my "sell by" date!
My inner thinker says Shut up, ya big baby. Not everyone lives to forty. _____ didn't. ____ didn't. You lucky $%^&**!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Christmas Snake

When I was five, I couldn't understand why people didn't like snakes.
They came in different colors. They were funny. They could move without legs! What's not to like? Yet each time I asked for a "pet snake" I was told no.
Then Christmas came. I remember the odd, lumpy package and what was inside:
A plush toy snake! A big one! He was longer me! He was pink and wore a ribbon around his neck. A felt forked tongue stuck out at his mouth.
I was thrilled. I had no idea you could get a plush snake. I'd seen stuffed bears, ducks, bunnies and even elephants. I'd never seen a stuffed snake before. I loved him!
His name was Boa Constrictor, my parents said.
I slept with him each night like he was a teddy bear, making sure his tail was under the covers so he didn't get cold. I felt safer with him. Any ghost or monster would think twice once he saw Boa Constrictor guarding me!

Bonus pic:
After I drew the pictures I found a picture of me and my beloved boa.
Thanks, Mom & Dad! He was a hit!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cranky Creepy Christmas Past

Years ago, when I still lived with my parents, I was a block away from a neighborhood that went insane with Christmas decorations. Lights hung from every house, tree or shrub. Candy canes, snow men, Santas, reindeer and elves were everywhere. Many houses had animatronic decorations- a working train, a ferris wheel, caroling pigs, and even life size talking, gesturing Santa. People from all over the Los Angeles drove to see it.
One winter I had my eye on Jeff. He was in some of my classes. I didn't know him well and wanted to change that. When he mentioned he'd always wanted to see the lights, I told him I lived nearby and asked if he'd like to see them with me. He said yes. Not a date by any means, but at least a chance to get to know Jeff better!
When he called to confirm plans, he asked if he could bring some friends. I said sure.
(Why not? Maybe one of his friends would be even cuter!)
I asked who else would be swinging by.
"Oh, my friend Buzzy, maybe my brother, and that girl from The Crab Shack."
That girl from The Crab Shack.!? He'd mentioned her a few weeks ago- that he'd met her at a party but was turned off by her pierced tongue and smoker's breath. I'd assumed she was out of the picture.
Way to go, Namo! I thought. Not only is Jeff seeing someone else, but he's taking her to your home! And then you can watch them take a romantic stroll through the Christmas lights!

Jeff, Buzzy and The Girl from the Crab Shack showed up on time. I invited them in for eggnog but Jeff said he didn't like eggnog. I was secretly glad not to have them in the house.
We headed for the lights. Music played, carolers sang, lights twinkled, and I acted as festive as I could. Nothing's worse than being in a bad mood when you're surrounded by stuff telling you how wonderful everything is.
Buzzy cut the visit short. He'd wondered off, than jogged back.
"Where you been?" said Jeff.
"There's a school next door. I wanted to use the *&$@!! bathroom but the %^&#@!! doors were locked." he said.
"Use my place," I said. "It's just up the street."
"Nah that's okay," he said. "I already went."
Jeff howled with laughs and pressed him for details. He boasted he's left a "surprise" for the kids, then complained was cold and had seen enough of the stupid lights. If The Girl from the Crab Shack said anything, I don't remember.
Soon they piling into Jeff's car, off to some other adventure.
I was glad to see them go!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Crack Master (Crack Monster) is Alive! Alive!

When I was a little (1970s) a Sesame Street cartoon frightened, yet fascinated me.
A young girl who imagines cracks on her bedroom wall turning into animals. They befriend her. A scary crack appears. He calls himself "Crack Master*." He acts tough but falls apart.
I liked the idea of cracks coming to life, but the Crack Master freaked me. What if he showed up on my wall one night?
Flash Forward 35 years. Old Sesame Street clips appear on You-Tube. The Alligator King. The Typewriter Guy, That's About the Size, Lower Case N on the hill, etc...
But where are the Cracks?**
I try to find the cartoon but no leads. I grow more curious. What artist/studio was behind it? What became of them? Where'd they get the idea? And where is this cartoon? Does it even exist anymore?
I blog about it. I ask around. Almost everyone hasn't seen it or heard of it.
It drives me crazy.

I post a blog about my search. A few others write that they too have been looking for the clip, and finding nothing.
This includes Jon.
Like me, it freaked him as a kid but now he'd dying to see it again. Except he can't find it, nobody seems to remember it, there's little info on the internet and it's driving him nuts.
Then a miracle happens. The party who owns the rights to the cartoon contacts him. They're very private. Jon gets a copy of the clip on condition that he wasn't to copy or publish any of it. Anywhere. No exceptions.
He shared his story with me , he told me, because I seemed to be as obsessed with the cartoon as he was.
It was good news and bad news. The cartoon was still in existence! It wasn't lost in a landfill!
The bad news is that I'll probably never see it. Jon lives far away. Even if he lived next door he might not be legally allowed to show it to others.
Thus my only chance is that the cartoon's legal owner see this and are kind enough to send (or sell) me a copy.***

If that's you, all I can say is PLEASE!?

I'll be forever in your debt.
I'll keep it off the internet.
No ripping, nor sharing, this I swear,
To the cartoon maker (or the heir)
I'll turn down
any bootleg version
Of the crack cartoon excursion.
And should a bootleg come about
I'll report them. Rat 'em out.
An honest clip will only do,
If you decide (and if that's you).

If that's not you, you can still help.
If you can forward this post to anyone who might know (or know someone who knows) the legitimate owner of the clip, please do. Maybe they'll find me, maybe they won't. Maybe they'll sell me a copy, maybe not. Who knows?

*I'd remembered the scary crack as "Crack Monster," but he's actually, "Crack Master," says Jon.

**I have no clue what the actual title is.

***This sounds uncomfortably like "Hi stranger! Give me something!" Ugh. I'd be happy to give them (perhaps you?) some of my artwork as an offering of thanks, but it's not worth much dough. (Neither is my poetry.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Christmas Cookies (They're Man Made!)

When I taught preschool, Christmastime meant cookies. Parents brought them. Some were homemade: chocolate chip, oatmeal, maybe even peanut butter. Some were shortbread tins. Once in awhile we'd even get a tin of fancy cookies: the kind that came with embossed chocolate coating.
One year Otto's mom presented us with an Oreo holiday tin. Kids rode sleighs, built snowmen and ice skated on the lid. Mmmm I thought. Oreos! I cracked open the box.
These weren't Oreos.
A ramshakle pile of animal-like shapes nested inside: Red, blue, yellow, green and as bright as Play-Doh. The dye bled into the paper towel beneath them.
"We made them," Otto's mom said. "They're sugar cookies. Try one!"
I picked up a blue one. It was like picking up an ink pad. Blue oozed onto my fingers. Then I noticed the glitter. Not cake sprinkles, but metallic craft glitter! And it had a plastic googley eye!
"We spent all afternoon making them," she added. "They're really good!"
This reminded me of the scene from Eraserhead where the Henry's invited to dinner and served an oozing Cornish game hen with kicking legs. The host boasts "We got chicken tonight. Strangest damn things! They're man made! Little damn things. Smaller than my fist, but they're new!"
If she thinks plastic and glitter are edible, what else might be in them? I wondered.
"They look delicious," I lied, eying the mutant cookie like it was a rare gem. "I'll save them for after dinner."

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

We have Walkie Talkies

(Author's note: another something I wrote in Lynda Barry's Writing the Unthinkable Class. )
I'm at Frankie's house. So is my little brother. The T.V.'s on but it's a non-cartoon so nobody's watching.
We're on the floor, leaning against the blue floral couch. We have walkie talkies.
I'd concluded, recently, that since we could hear truckers on the walkie talkies that truckers could hear us,and wouldn't it be funny if we messed with them!
Franky puts his Smurf Singsong Record on his phonograph, sets the needle and cranks the volume. He shoves the walkie talkie up to the speaker as "Won't you come home, Smurf Baily?" blasts through.
Frankie's mom yells from the kitchen to turn it down. He ignores her. My brother and I tune in on the other walkie talkie. Above the hiss and static we hear a trucker blurt "Someone's playin' bull$#!*!"
This is funny because:
1. He heard us.
2. He said a bad word!
We crack up laughing. Frankie turns off the record and improvises into the speaker.
"Do your balls hang low/Do they dangle in the snow?" he sings, giggling at his bravado.
The trucker isn't amused. Soon he's threatening to find out where Frankie lives so he can "come over 'n' kick [his] ass."
This is really funny because:
1. He heard us
2. More bad words!
3. Frankie got a grownup really, really mad!
Foolishly, my brother and I boast of Frankie's antics to my mom and dad.
Our walkie talkies go away for awhile.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Mr. Big Shot, Squisher of Dreams

I've been fascinated by animation since I was little. By my teens I decided I'd either become an animator or the person who did storyboards. But how would I get to be either of these? Sure, loved to draw and tell stories, but so did a lot of people, many more talented me. And it wasn't like there were animation studios on every corner. Did I have a chance? How could I increase my chances?
I read everything I could find. Information was limited. These were pre-internet times. The main library only offered a few outdated books. So did branch libraries. Bookstores at the time were modest barbershop sized places. I had some luck, but still wasn't sure what I should start doing now to increase my chances.
I wrote to the Disney studio to ask what to do. I figured I'd get a form letter that would set me on the right track.
The reply wasn't a form letter. It was from a higher up (not an animator or a story department person, I might add). We'll call him Mr. Big Shot. It opened like this:
"You sound confused. Do you want to be a writer or an artist?"
His answer to my questions?
"Why don't you take it upon yourself to do some research at the local library?"
I forget other details, but the gist of the letter seemed to to be that I either lazy or clueless, perhaps both-
"If you want to make money, go into law" he concluded (did he think I my main motive was getting rich?). Brief nebulous nonsense about magic and dreams followed.
Magic? I thought dreams!? It was like hearing "You can play with us if you become cool enough" on the playground.
My animation dreams died with that letter. I'd learned nothing. Mr. Big Shot at Disney seemed disgusted with me. Maybe I'd even blacklisted myself. Had I really sounded so stupid in my letter? Maybe I was stupid.
Well, it's just as well, I thought. I can't really draw that well anyway.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I saw Carmen at the Los Angeles Opera (Row X) on Sunday.
It's one of my favorites.
This picture is based on the final act . Her not-playing-with-a full-deck ex-boyfriend (Don Jose) begs, then threatens her to take him back. She refuses. He flips out and stabs her to death.
The music's great, contrasting festive, optimistic music from a nearby bullfight with the the the dramatic oh, now he's really lost it! music as Don Jose has a meltdown.
Here's a You-Tube of the same scene if you're interested.