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Knowing Is Half The Podcast: “Arise, Serpentor, Arise!”

29/08/2016

Mi amigos Ray Stakenas, Robert Chan, and Gina Ippolito prove to be real gluttons for punishment and invite yrs trly back to the Knowing Is Half The Podcast to discuss “Arise, Serpentor, Arise!” Part One.

They shoulda known better, because only I can take a discussion on a single 22-minute episode of a five part serial and turn it into 90+ minutes of random gibberish.*

We start talking about Part One here and finish talking about Part One there.

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knowing is half the podcast

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*  AND I’M STILL NOT DONE YET!!!

There’s more coming re my new novel
“The Most Dangerous Man In The World:
The Lost Classic G.I. Joe Episode”

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Connecting The Dots or How I Think

17/06/2016

MGWG cartoon

I saw and shared the above cartoon because it struck me as funny.

The incongruity of a cartoon gorilla and a cartoon alligator agreeing to a mutual protection / revenge pact was ridiculous.

As Monty Python has pointed out:

Accountants acting like accountants or Vikings acting like Vikings = Not Funny

Vikings acting like accountants  or accountants acting like Vikings = Funny

What’s doubly ironic is that these two characters have diametrically opposed goals: Magilla Gorilla wants to be purchased and cared for as somebody’s pet, Wally Gator wants to escape the zoo and recover his lost freedom.

Some have asked if it’s too soon for this sort of humor, and all I can do is repeat what Lenny Bruce said as he took the stage for the first time after President John F. Kennedy was shot: =phew= Vaughn Meader…”

One can sympathize with the terror and tragedy of a two-year old’s death, or the deadly peril of a child who fell into an ape pen, while at the same time recognizing the irony of gorillas and gators being punished for acting like gorillas and gators after humans intrude on their habitats.

But even as I was typing that, I became conscious a connection between this cartoon and a different problem on a different scale that I had obviously “seen” in the cartoon, only didn’t realize it at the time.

What happened to those two poor unfortunate children and then to the animals they encountered parallels the arrogance of racism and white privilege.

Now, I am most emphatically not saying the parents in either case were arrogant; far from it.

But they were certainly benefiting from an arrogant human mindset that said destroying a gorilla’s native habitat for human needs was okay and imprisoning those surviving gorillas in a small enclosure was okay, a human mindset that said building elaborate recreational facilities in the middle of a deadly predator’s native habitat was okay and if the animals did not go along with the plan then they were expendable.

No, I am not saying any number of gorillas or alligators are equal to one human life.

But I am saying the families who experienced these terrible events wouldn’t have experienced them if there hadn’t been a presumption on somebody’s part that it was okay to imprison large primates for the amusement of humans or build human vacation resorts in the middle of gator country.

Those families who suffered those horrible encounters certainly did not arrogantly demand that the zoo or resort be built and animals exploited for their personal benefit…

…but when they saw there was a system for that already in place, they thought, hey, why not?

No, strike that. They didn’t think anything. Going to the zoo or the resort was as natural to them as breathing. All their lives they had been told that zoos and resorts were good things and if the topic of the animals in them ever came up, it was probably dismissed with a PR claim that the animals were actually safer and better off now than they had been before.

A few weeks ago we had dinner with a Dear Friend whom we’ve known for close to thirty years. I won’t identify Dear Friend any further other than to say they’re slightly older than us.

Dear Friend told us they didn’t like President Obama.

Okay, why?

“The country has gotten worse under him.”

By what metrics?

“Well, the economy…”

Whip out the smartphone*;
a few quick keystrokes and…
nope, economy’s doing fine.
We’re enjoying a recovery.

“Those numbers don’t mean anything.”

Those numbers are the same
statistics and measurements
both parties use when they’re
in control, they’re not whipped
up in some publicity hack’s office.

“Crime is going up…”

Another quick flurry of keystrokes.
Nope, crime has been falling for
the last two decades. The numbers
vary from year to year, of course,
but the overall trend is down.
Last year, in fact, had less crime
than the year before.

So says the FBI database.

“Well, maybe nationwide, but
here in Los Angeles it’s going up.”

More keystrokes. Nope, crime
in L.A. is falling. too, about at the
same level as the national average.

“Well, maybe in Los Angeles as
a whole, but in my neighborhood…”

Ahh, and now the little light comes on.
Dear Friend, your neighborhood isn’t
becoming more dangerous.

It’s becoming more brown.

Now, Dear Friend is as kind and as generous a person as you could hope to meet. If Dear Friend was told there was a non-white family that needed help, they’d chip in what they could. Dear Friend certainly has several non-white people whom they love dearly in their circle of friends.

And Dear Friend certainly wouldn’t go around slandering or libeling non-white people.

But Dear Friend grew up immersed in a culture that said, overtly and indirectly, explicitly and implicitly, by word and by image and by deed, that there was something wrong with being non-white, and if not wrong wrong, then certainly not as right as being white.

And Dear Friend has never questioned this.

Dear Friend, like the parents cited above, would never question why we have zoos, or what those zoos mean in the larger scheme of things. Dear Friend might recognize in the back of their head that a resort for families that abuts right against an alligator habitat might not be the wisest thing in the world, but it would never occur to Dear Friend to question the whole idea of having a resort.

That’s what we mean when we say “white privilege”.

“No white skin off my nose.”

Which brings us full circle to Magilla Gorilla and Wally Gator, and why this cartoon resonated so deeply with me.

I grew up with these characters as a child, and encountered them in various professional venues when I was writing for animation.

Both lead lives of anxiety and longing based not on what they would have wanted in their natural habitat, but on demands placed upon them by the humans who dominate them.

And mind you, for all intents and purposes, these characters are the equals to human beings: They speak, they can plan, they even wear clothes.

Despite this, and for purely arbitrary reasons, they are regulated to animal status in their cartoons; conversely Huckleberry Hound and Top Cat are treated as equals by the humans in their cartoons.

Magilla Gorilla has been told his function in life is to be the pet of a human being; he is typically found confined to a pet store at the beginnings of each episode until a new owner is located, but by the end of the cartoon his hopes are dashed and he’s returned to the pet shop.

Conversely, Wally Gator is trapped in a zoo and constantly schemes to escape; when he does he is returned to his pen.

It would be a gross oversimplification to say Magilla Gorilla represents the African-American experience in America while Wally Gator represents the Native American experience but dang, they fit, don’t they?

The more I thought about the cartoon above, the more I realize the reason it resonated with me so strongly was because it reflected a very real change that is going on in American racial and cultural attitudes right now.

And a big part of that change is that various minority and ostracized groups in America are realizing they no longer need the permission of white America to live fulfilling lives.

In the cartoon above Magilla Gorilla and Wally Gator realize they have no friends in the human camp, their lives are circumscribed by roles the humans have forced them into. They realize they will receive no support or protection from the humans, either.

The only choice left is to look after one another or live and die miserably alone.

Here’s another cartoon, this one from Sophie LaBelle of Assigned Male webcomic.

MGWG assigned male LGBT comic

Not a funny cartoon, pretty tragic actually, but it uses humor (okay, sarcasm) to make a point:

The privileged always want to make it about them.

And minorities and ostracized groups are getting tired of it, and are starting to say no.

And the fact they’re doing that is making some privileged people lose their s4!t.

So that’s the way my mind works,
those are the connections I see.

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* I am a total fncking asshole when it comes to using my smartphone in an argument; I will not let you fob off some egregious piece of b.s. without a fact check. My late aunt used to say, “Put that thing away!” whenever she saw me reaching for it.

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There Are No Skeletons In My Closet

4/05/2016

animated jason skeletons

Like Jason, all mine are out
in the open, hacking away.

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Tony Millionaire Calls The Cops

11/04/2016

Tony Millionaire self portrait as Uncle Gabby

Police: Yes?

I just saw a guy touching my car door at midnight.

Did you chase him and/or shoot him, sir?

No, I yelled at him.

Good. What did he look like, sir?

It was in the shadows at midnight, so he was dark.
If it would have been noon he might have been light.

What direction was he going?

He was going down the street.
Can you catch him and arrest him?

No, sir.

Ok, thanks. Goodbye.

Thanx to Tony Millionaire granting
permission to post this.  Visit Tony on
Facebook and his website.

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The Comedian’s Dead Son’s Memorial

5/01/2016

ennis cosby memorial

we would take
out of town guests
up there all the time
point to the fresh wreath
on its thin wire easel and ask:
“Do you know what happened here?”

then tell them the story
of the comedian’s dead son

it is a tragic tale
drenched in irony

they found the son’s body
beside his car
on a side road
overlooking the 405 freeway

he had a flat

pulled over

and was killed

at first everyone assumed
he was targeted because of his father
either a kidnapping gone wrong
or a strike at a black man
who dared to be successful

but the truth
was much sadder
than that

a common punk
looking for a rich score
saw the young man’s fancy car
nicked its tire
to cause a slow leak
followed the son
until he

pulled off
the 405
and up

to the access road
to change his tire
(and get murdered)

the punk
had no idea
who this victim was
other than
one of ten thousand
other young men
driving fancy cars
when the punk
drove junk

when the punk was caught
and the truth came out
everyone felt sorry
for the comedian

“Geeze, if it
can happen
to his family,
it can happen
to anybody’s
family.”

and parents
hugged their sons
and daughters
a little tighter

(and though
it was never
spoken
the unsaid thought
dangled
in the air:
“Well, maybe if
he hadn’t bought
his son such
a fancy car
the young man
might be alive
today.”)

for years after that
the comedian and his wife
saw to it that
a fresh wreath
was placed
on the exact spot
where their son died
along with
their dreams
and hopes

you used to be
able to see it
heading up
the freeway
about a third
of the way
up the side
of the mountain

a few years ago it
was determined
the 405 needed
to be widened
and so they
made a
deep
cut
into
the side
of the mountain
and carved away
the physical place where
the comedian’s son died

completely by chance
this was also the time
the comedian’s
career / reputation / life
began unraveling

today
if you want to see
the spot where
the comedian’s son
died
you have to find
an invisible point
suspended
in mid-air
about forty feet
above the rightmost lane

the crime remains
but there is no place
for a memorial
and the unspoken thought today
is that of all parties involved
maybe the son
got the best deal
at least he didn’t
have to witness
his father’s humiliation

and if that isn’t irony
I don’t know what is

text © Buzz Dixon

 

 

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National Adoption Day

23/11/2015

Tony Bella Ana Hawaii

Tony, Bella, and Ana discovering the Pacific Ocean.

I overshot this one by a couple of days (National Adoption Day is the Saturday before Thanksgiving) but I’m still going to cite it:  November is National Adoption Month and the 21st was the official National Adoption Day.

Our family has been blessed with three siblings — I call ‘em “the terrific trio” — whom my daughter and son-in-law adopted.

Heather and Bobby had decided waaaay back when they were in high school that they wanted to adopt in addition to any biological children they might have.  After they were married and their jobs and careers had stabilized to the point where they could start having a family[1], they began the adoption process.

It took several years.  There were psychological profiles that they had to complete, training classes where they were taught what to expect and how to cope, even we grandparents-to-be were checked out and CPR certified before the state would even think of letting Heather and Bobby actually meet potential adoptees.

Once they passed that hurdle, the process of matching them up began, and it was not easy.  Heather and Bobby opted to be available to adopt two slightly older siblings instead of infants[2].

Time and again they were told of potential matches, and time and again it fell through for a variety of reasons.  Weeks became months became years.

Feeling frustrated, they were about to drop out of the process when they were told about three young children, a brother and two sisters, who were older than the age range Heather and Bobby had been considering, but who were literally on their last leg in the adoption system:  If they weren’t adopted together ASAP, family services would split them up and put the older children in foster care and the youngest would be separated off for adoption by herself.

Heather and Bobby saw the three young children’s picture and knew they were the ones.  They met them, struck off a good rapport with them, and began the adoption process.

Boy, that sounds so easy — everything was peaches and cream and the bureaucracy fairies magically sprinkled pixie dust all over everything and made the process as smooth as silk.

It wasn’t.  There were still frustrations and friction points, delays and detours.

The children were friendly but wary[3] and there was some baggage that had to be unpacked.

But, oh, those children!  How could anybody not fall in love with them?  Bella and Tony and Ana filled a hole in our hearts that we never realized was there.

And the great thing about the adoption process is this:  We are family.

Don’t get me wrong, these are not three little angels who are absolutely perfect in every way:  These are three mischievous little kids who bounce on furniture, tease each other, yell indoors, “forget” to do their homework, and sing “John Jacob Jingleheimer-Smith” at the top of their lungs on long car trips.[4]

They have their bad moments, just like any other kids.  And they have their good moments, and they have their fantastic great moments as well.

Just like any other kid given half a chance.

So that’s how I want to end this:  Soon-ok and I are delighted to have three brand new grandkids in the family.  They are no longer “adopted”, they are family, they are part of us, part of our lives, and God willing we will be part of theirs for many years to come.

Adoption is not for everyone[5] but for those who can, it’s a blessing.[6]

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[1]  This is a really important point to sink in to young people.  It never hurts to make sure your relationship is solid and you have the time and energy to raise children before you start having them.  Tragically, too many young couples aren’t ready and as a result too many children enter the adoption / foster care system instead of being raised in a stable home by loving parents.

[2]  Heather did her typically meticulous research and found that siblings who were adopted together responded better to their new parents and felt more safe and secure.  Toddlers or slightly older children would have their basic toilet training and language skills so they could communicate easier with adults.  This does not mean, of course, that everybody should adopt older siblings, just that there are plenty of children out there that need parents and it’s possible to find a match that’s good for everyone.

[3]  As well they should have been.  It is not my place to tell their story, but I hope someday they feel ready to share it with the rest of the world so others can know not every situation is hopeless, not all adults are untrustworthy.

[4]  I taught them that.  Heather and Bobby have vowed revenge.

[5]  Soon-ok and I discussed it when we were Heather and Bobby’s age but realized we were not cut out to be adoptive parents.  Adoptive grandparents, yes.

[6]  And yes, not every adoption story has a happy ending.  But stories where children get adopted and become part of a new family are far more likely to have happy endings than stories where children are left in bad situations, indifferent foster care, or institutionalized.

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Ya Just Can’t Shut Me Up! Radiodrome Podcast

7/11/2015

drome-feat1

Josh Hadley interviews me for the Radiodrome podcast.  We cover more than just the Sunbow Productions this time around, including Thundarr The Barbarian, Dungeons & Dragons the TV show, and even the short lived Beanie & Cecil revival.

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Knowing Is Half The Battle Podcast

4/11/2015

Knowing Is Half The Podcast photo

Had a great time recently with Gina Ippolito, Ray Stakenas, and Robert Chan doing first an overview of my work leading up to G.I. Joe for Sunbow Productions and an analysis of my episode “Lights!  Camera!  Cobra!”  This was a great experience and so much fun we didn’t realize we had run waaaaaaay over time so here it is broken into 4 parts!

Part One

Part Two

“Lights!  Camera!  Cobra!” Part One

“Lights!  Camera!  Cobra!” PartTwo

Be sure to check out all their other Knowing Is Half The Battle Podcasts and their Facebook page plus their own pages with all the cool stuff they’re doing elsewhere!

GI Joe Embrace The Absurdity

 

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American Cinematheque TRANSFORMERS / G.I. JOE Panels

9/03/2015

GI_Joe_The_Movie

This is my first chance to comment at length on last night’s great showing of Transformers: The Movie and G.I. Joe: The Movie at the Egyptian in Hollywood for the American Cinematheque.

First off, I want to say what an honor and a thrill it was to be invited to participate. It was great seeing so many of the old crew again, including Don Jurwich, Larry F. Houston, Neil Ross, Hank Garrett (wish you had time to tell that hilarious story from your pro wrestler days about the “wild man” you had to face once), Michael Bell, Bill Ratner, Wally Burr, and my old friend (and one of the few I’ve got left) Flint Dille.

And it was especially great to finally see G.I. Joe: The Movie the way it was intended to be shown, and in as great and as historic a venue as the Egyptian (my personal fave of the old classic Hollywood theaters).  Soon-ok will tell you it was both a proud and a humbling moment for me.

And another proud and humbling aspect were all the fans who showed up and expressed great enthusiasm for what we had done 30 some years when we were toiling away at Sunbow. Truth be told, at the time we wondered how well we would be remembered for our efforts, and I’m happy to see that we made a big impression with a lot of people that continues to this day.

My thanx to Duvien Ho, Michael Floyd, and all the other folks at both American Cinematheque and Dammaged Goods for putting this show together, and a special thanx to fans and friends like Ralph Miley, Geoff Strout, Holly Knevelbaard, Josh Burns, Diana Davis, and so many others who came out and made it so wonderful.

Here is video & audio of the panels:

pre-show panel video

intermission panel video

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TRANSFORMERS & G.I. JOE At American Cinematheque!

21/02/2015

GI_Joe_The_Movie

For those Joe and Transformer fans out there, the American Cinematheque is hosting a double feature at the Hollywood Egyptian on March 7, 2015.  Both films will be shown and sandwiched in between ’em will be writer/story editor Flint Dille, voice actor Neil Ross, director Don Jurwich, story board director Larry Houston, writer Don Glut, and yrs trly to talk about the films and the other series produced by Sunbow in the mid-80s.

Anything we can’t remember, we’ll make up…

The fun starts at 7:30, tickets are $11 (but only $7 if you’re an American Cinematheque member, so why doncha join?), and the Egyptian (my personal favorite of the classic Hollywood movie palaces) is located at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, between Las Palmas and McCadden, just east of Highland Avenue in Hollywood.

Don’t make us come looking for you!

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