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Things We Like: “Aquaman,” “Actual Air” and Animated Albums

15 May 2010 Things We Like 4,180 views No CommentPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

Scarecrow Video’s Pick of the Week: “Aquaman” (1968), directed by Hal Sutherland/Filmation

This collection of the Filmation “Aquaman” cartoon series from the late 1960’s features the completely uninteresting Aquaman and his overly excited boy slave Aqualad. There’s also the token animal comic relief named Tusky and the female Mira who constantly given the impression that there are no girls allowed in these adventures.

The designs of the villains are not as great as those in Hanna-Barbera’s superhero cartoons, but they have a beautiful absurdism and their own foolish qualities. The painted backgrounds are organically stylish with plenty of space-age interior designs. In this age of Attenborough documentaries it’s hard not to scoff at the ignorant way that sea-life is handled, but this only matches the sexism, the ever-doomed and domed city of Atlantis, and the constant appearance of fire under water.

If Aquaman himself were actually cool in any way, this show would be a failure. Instead, it’s a fine example of cheesy, cheap animation that can only be enjoyed ironically. – Marc “Swellzombie” Palm

Animated Albums

Ever look at that PJ Harvey album cover or that Beck CD and imagine what it would like as a Terry Gilliam-style GIF animation? Wonder no more. Mr. Dormouse, the artist behind the Animated Albums blog, has Frankenstein’d a few dozen albums so far, and the results range from hypnotic to just plain goofball. It’s all good fun, and yes, he’s taking requests. – Geoff Carter

Elliott Bay Book Company’s Suggested Reading: “Actual Air” by David Berman

Jonathan Lethem and David Foster Wallace do excellent work at creating semi-dystopian proto-realities that in their absurdity point out the absurd in real life. What David Berman does is describe exactly how it feels to live through a moment in one of these situations. I’m thinking about his “Cantos for James Michener”, where there are Mirrornauts who explore the parallel universe on the other side of the mirror, and a savage political mafia called “The Smokers”, and a tribe of C8H17NO4S Indians are staging a rebellion. But the poems spend less time building these plot lines than they do relating the horror of realizing that a part of you might be internally aligned to the appearance rhythms of 1970s game show hosts, or the confusion of waking up in a coma assuming that the bathroom mirror is “powered by the razor blades and aspirin… found in the engine compartment.”

Other poems in the collection make it clear that it is not the creative situations but Berman’s adeptness at relating feeling that make him a remarkable poet. In the opening poem, where an older brother is convincing his sibling that the snow angels they encounter in a field are the dissolved bodies of real angels shot by a farmer for trespassing, the humor is counterbalanced with the immense sadness of failed intimacy and missed connection. In a later poem, a second New York is being built right beside the original one, and it is an exact replica, only better; the weight of the poem is on the complicated feeling the workers experience on not wanting to come home to their familiar lives.

The whole book illustrates that no matter how shattered and diffuse reality might become, there is one constant, the observer, the one who has to live through it. – Christopher Sabatini


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