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Thursday, January 31, 2013

My top 10 weirdest and favorite Liquid Television shorts

If anyone can claim their place as a "child of the 80's", you can't sit there long if you can't identify MTV's original programming lineups with a much different reverence than what that network has since turned into.  Believe me, if you know what I'm talking about, you definitely see why people not only look at the network with contempt but why our generation doesn't even consider MTV to be a channel anymore.

MTV always seemed to be a pioneering station for playing some very on-a-limb original programming and shows.  It appeared all you needed was an idea, a short cartoon, a fresh way to present music or even some sock puppets in a basement.  God, what the hell happened.  Anyway, I can't even list (maybe in the future this will be a topic) all of the old shows I loved.   A couple included  Amp, Austin Stories, Sifl and Olly, Alternative Nation, Daria, the Maxx just to name a few.  But one of my absolute favorite shows was, in fact, Liquid Television. 

Liquid Television paid homage to animation greats, dabbled in a fledgling style of computer animation, was a forum for some of our first exposures to anime and got us looking into artists like Peter Chung, Mike Judge and Bill Plympton.  One thing though, I love weird as much as the next guy but Liquid Television really pushed the bar on some nightmare inducing imagery and just some plain unsettling plot-lines. (If there even was a plot)

Hello Dad, I'm in Jail (was not was) I have two picks from the band Was not Was where they had their tracks illustrated to very sketchy, surreal animation.  This one is so over the top and captures the panic and insanity of this face repeating the same line over and over... "I like it here, it's nice"...This also is from my favorite part of "Pump up the Volume".

What up, Dog (was not was) - Until I just researched these shorts, I never realized this short was also a song track to none other than Was Not Was yet again.  So it's apparently about a man who feeds people to his pit bull...The man is an extension of the monster he manipulates his pet or "credit card" to become.  Deep.

The Listener - If you could animate a nightmare to film, this would be it...This could be straight from the mind of David Lynch...One thing that always seems to go hand in hand with most of these shorts is a menacing quality to them.  It's not just the "hit you over the head" visuals of the animation or short but the fact that something is going terribly wrong and it transcends through the screen onto the viewer.  This one stuck with me for quite a while. I love the "Everything is Beautiful" in the background...although it is distorted, it helped me find a little ease watching this because it is the most, by far, familiar thing you can recognize..."what am I so afraid of?", "Jesus!"...oh my God.

Glove Story - Symbols on top of symbols for this poor glove who travels to hell and back through room after room (where he is going, you tell me)  He seems destined to fail traversing warzones, art galleries, murders a potato face and sets off a British Volcano??? All while a fuse trails him from each room in the 'mask of the red death' inspired setting....okay...I can dig it.

This is Not Frank's Planet - Computer animated and just more weird than anything...The dubbed sound really takes the edge off.  If this was silent or just had ambient tracks, the backgrounds and ship would be really unsettling but the two 'dudes' flying the ship really ease you into enjoying the ride.  "Can I have my shower curtain back?" Ummm...What the hell?

Joe Normal - Wow, this one really made me think the main character was going to jump from the screen and kill me in my sleep.  What a horrifying cast, setting and plot line.  Joe is a psychopath, his mother and dog are abominations and his dad is funny but equally unhinged.  Monsieur Berf La Tete.  Indeed.

Thomas and Nardo - This very basic computer generated adventure series of a living psychotic and violent house named Thomas and his human tenant named Nardo as they did various things throughout the world they lived in....always with unsettling results, murdering a real-estate company...getting a lifetime of roach covered pizzas.  Rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it?  The Residents did the original soundtrack as well...speaking of a 90's mainstay.  They also got a really weird PC MSDOS game back in the day too that is worth checking out just to say you did.

Elvis Meets the Spider People from Hell - This black and white sketchy looking piece of animation really captures a sense of desolation.  The wind blows as Elvis just croons all by his lonesome until 3 Shel Silverstein looking gaunt faces appear connected to spider bodies seemingly from the cracked desert floor.  Elvis is polite as ever and all goes back to normal.  I don't know where the king is these days but I really hope it isn't there.

The Hitchhiker - seeing a ken doll get run over by a car seems really basic and rudimentary when you look at the stuff like robot chicken but this really got to me as a kid. Liquid TV was way into the animated puppet thing with the likes of Winter Steele and some others.  The editing and splicing of the live action is really well done and the real world filmed background fits in nicely over the black and white, flashback narrative... I enjoyed it.

Meggamorphosis - A classic story of a small, inexperienced egg being stalked, tricked and crushed by a snake...the predatory nature of this went into waters way more mature than possibly taken at face value. Unsettling.

Excerpt from Joy Street - This, along with 'the death of an egg', and 'dog brain' were shorts that made it onto the bumpers on Nickelodeon as a kid so this was probably the first Liquid Television short I ever saw... I remember those amorphos faces just freaking me out as they shifted and jilted about as "What a Wonderful World" plays on.  The long limbs, the smiling yet malevolent faces on the bugs, radios and flowers all seem happy in a really off, menacing way.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

League Assignment: Spies (catchup)

Well, you thought you were getting a week off, but I ended up stretching it to two, sorry. This week’s assignment from the League of Extraordinary Bloggers, should you choose to accept it:


Warning: This assignment will self destruct in 3… 2…. 1…

Hey there people,

If you didn't read, I previously posted this week that I've been a bit reclusive over the past 14 days due to the birth of my son, Luke.  I'm now going to try to play a quick game of catchup to cover my dereliction of league and blogger duties.   What better way than through some lists of Spies I'm fond of.

Spies - Command and Conquer Series - These little guys wreaked havoc on the battle fields...just keep them away from Dogs who could sniff them out.  I loved when they infiltrated a building and there was the perfect effect of muffled gunshots and the building turns your color.  Way to take out those guards and capture the structure, Mr. Spy!  They were Red Alert's version of the GDI commando who sounded surprisingly like Yukon Cornelius.

Spy Vs. Spy - Never really was a reader of MAD magazine religiously but did take time to look at the pages when they spoofed a movie or property I was particularly fond of. One thing that was always a part I looked at was the Spy Vs Spy cartoon.  I knew about them before I even knew about MAD magazine because of the NES game.  (It actually was how I learned that Vs. meant Versus)  I loved the illustrations, the fine attention to detail that was incorporated into such over the top Wile.E.Coyote fashions or that Tex Avery "dynamite-down-the-pants" type gags.

Zartan - Now here is a spy who doesn't mess around.  gun for hire, master of disuse, runs a rough and tumble Aussie biker gang, has a chameleon brother and a expert infiltrator for a sister, this guy is bad ass.  I loved his action figure with the color changing skin and armor plating on the legs and chest, the extra "face" in his backpack and even the weird smell that came off his hood.  If you want to see Zartan at his full most ruthless potential, look into Resolute or the fan film Operation: Red Retrieval.

Spy Hunter - dunno if it's the car, the driver or that they are neither and they are simply killing spies throughout the game that simply loops the Peter Gunn theme throughout its course.  This is one NES game that doesn't mess around with spiked tires, smoke screens, snipers shooting from limos... oh yeah, there's nothing quite like slamming one of those bullet-proof bastards off the road.

Aeon Flux - Steampunk before it existed in Peter Chung's dominatrix inspired femme fatal leaping from planes, elevators, stealing alien eggs, pulling microfilm from false hinged teeth...and dying every single time.  This Monican agent (we found that out in the way less entertaining series where they talked...wayyyyy too much) was at constant odds with her Breen arch-nemesis and lover Trevor Goodchild.  Ah hell, whatever issue you may have with the series, the shorts (especially the one entitled, "War") were a pinnacle of MTV's heyday when Liquid Television was on the air.

Soundwave - I thought to myself, why wouldn't this guy be counted as a spy?  He's all about unseen surveillance, always gets in under the Autobots radar, has an endless army of small minions to do his bidding and listening, and always is gathering information.  He's one hard-core spy and by far has the coolest voice on this list.

Bothan Spies - Little is know of these ubiquitous spies in the Star Wars saga except that "many of them died to bring us this information"...for apparently no reason too since the emperor gave them that false information to lure the rebels into a trap of charging their entire fleet at a fully armed and operational second Death Star...thanks Mon Mothma.

The Spy (Team Fortress) - French, smokes, stabs you in the back...oui oui.

Monkey man from Raiders - I guess he's more an informant but he still does his job very well in Raiders and lives to tell the tale unlike his monkey who falls victim to the 'bad dates'.   Raiders really never seemed to have any central villain in my mind besides Belloq who just seemed like a waste.  We never get to know that Deitrich or Toht even have names until post production and you looked it up.  I found out in the Marvel comic version.  and with a movie where bad guys are "mean Mongolian", "monkey man", "German mechanic" and "Arab swordsman", you really can't get much more generic that "Bad guy 1" and "Bad guy 2".

Da Fino - I'm a Brother Seamus! - an Irish monk??? - I coulda did Eddie Valiant, Sam Spade or even Duck Twacey but you gotta have a dick on the list and this guy its just great. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

League Assignment: Spacemen

Are you starting to see a theme here? First we had Spies, then came the Cowboys, and this week we’ll be covering another far out pop culture genre. This week’s assignment from the League of Extraordinary Bloggers:


Spacemen is one ever spanning topic approached by many from nearly limitless possibly directions. We've been fascinated with this subject ever since our ancestors were able to look to the heavens and ponder what existed beyond. Our contemporary culture came up with a little more "toy" and "cartoon" friendly imagery of both human, alien, robot and everything in between from the Day the Earth Stood Still to E.T.

Some of my most favorite spacemen are noneother than the Colorform Aliens and later Glyos Outerspacemen. I never had the cash to collect these great looking, super detailed little bendy sculpts which run into the hundreds per figure but I've always been a sucker for miniature figures from Pewter Ral Partha Battletech figures to Battle Beasts.

Speaking of minifigures, let's not forget some great 80's and 90's vintage spacemen from the Lego Space series...you had M Tron, Blacktron, Space Police and Ice Planet. Each team had its own special gimmick...my favorite being the magnetic effects of the red and black M Tron team. I only owned a few of these sets but I did get a lot of play out of them as my outer space soldiers explored in Pirate or Medieval times as I had way more of those guys to play with. Lego eventually did make an Aliens line but that wasn't untill relatively recently.

Then there are the great spacemen of the human variety and you can't get more rough and tumble than the Space Marine of all variety. Be it USCM colonial marines with nukes and knives, Wildcard Squadron of Space Above and Beyond, the Imperial Marines of Dawn of War or the Terran Solider of Starcraft...this is one genre of "space-man" who never gets tired. Big Armor, bigger guns, skulls, crossbones - do the math!

Other noteworthy spacemen from my recollection would be Ignigknog and Err, Toe Jam and Earl, Martians, Invader Zim and, of course, Darth Vader from Planet Vulcan.

Over at the Mos Espa collection they speak in much more detail about the great Lego Space Collection.

Goodwill 4 Geeks showcases possibly every space action figure you can think of, bravo!

MemoriesofToymorrow shines some light on the Psycho Circus.

Monday, January 21, 2013

League Assignment: Cowboys (catchup)


Last week’s topic was a little vague, and the vagueness continues this week! This week’s assignment from the League of Extraordinary Bloggers, if you’re man (or woman) enough to accept it:


Are you starting to see a theme here? Stick with it this month and I think you’ll be happy with the results.

Hey Dudes...Onto post number 2...Coyboys.  I dig it.  Watch out for those jackrabbits and that killer cacti.

This is also coming in late but I honestly tried to get this one out a few days back but honestly was looking for the title of one of my cited sources and I just found it this afternoon.  I'd like to talk about a few different types of cowboys, from cyborg, to pirate to space cowboys, this archetype character shows time and time again that the saga of the old west can live and relive at an infinite amount. 

Hong on the Range - William F. Wu - this comic series based on the work of fiction from 1989 tells the tale of Louie Hong who travels across the desolate futuristic American west on the run from bounty hunters and the law after a gang of cyborgs blame him for a bank robbery.  Very cool artwork, stylized characters and a very cool steampunk look to it.  Definitely give this a read if you can find it from Image comics. 
Iron West - Doug Tenaple - another great steampunk-laden saga filled with robotic bounty hunters in a great black and white ash-can style from Earthworm Jim's creator.

Scud: the Disposable Assassin - Rob Schrab...has a lotta western inspired story-telling from this robot hitman who rides a mechanical horse, has guns that never run out and is essentially a weapon for hire. On top of that was the spin-off series "Tales from the Vending Machine" which actually had an issue which was set in the old-west with a powerful strong silent type by Ruben Martinez.

If reading about futuristic cowboys ain't your thing...try blasting away some varmints on either an 8 or 16 bit console. 
Gunsmoke -  Great NES 8 bit shooter...shoot shoot shoot and shoot some more to a killer western soundtrack in an Ikari Warriors style birdseye blaster!
Wild Guns - For 16 bit, this Western future shooter nails the arcade inspired action and has very innovative control style with furious action.  I only got a change to play a mod of this on my PC with a Keyboard and I must say, it wasn't the same.

Mad Dog McCree - This LaserDisc engine arcade cabinet blew my mind when I saw the dollar a try game at Hershey Park's arcade.  This was like no other game I ever saw and really was quite a spectacle.  Even by today's standards, I still think of it with fondness...not so much for the glitchy, grainy Sega CD version.

Check out the League hub at Cool and Collected for this week's post.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Luke, I am your father! - Introducing the "baby" that stares at toys!

Hey readers!

If you can't find the droids, it's okay.

If you haven't noticed, I have been away for quite a white.  To answer any curiosity, I'll tell you that the R family expanded by two feet last week!  On Friday, the little lady and I headed to the hospital for a c-section and, to say the least, we were pretty freaking nervous!  So here we are a week later, and little Luke  is doing great.   (He's named after the saint not the Skywalker, I swear!)  I'm so excited, words simply couldn't describe the anticipation, relief and happiness I have felt these past 7 days.  I got a bunch of well wishes from my students and fellow teachers at school before I went on break and the family has been really great despite us being on restricted visitors due to the flu epidemic (Which kinda worked to our favor since Luke didn't like sleeping though the night the first few).  Anyway, there you have it.  The "man" who stares at toys, is now the "dad" who stares at toys, and my young padawan has inherited quite a haul and head start on his future collection!