31 December 2007

Bottom Shelf Resolutions

As the New Year approaches, everyone gets the urge to start off on the right foot by making some kind of dramatic change in their lives... that's right, it's New Year's Resolution Time! It's the time of year when you get to make overly ambitious promises to yourself... promises that will mean absolutely nothing in about 2 weeks. To get the ball rolling, we at the Bottom Shelf caught up with a number of children's literature characters to see how this coming year was going to be different for them.

So, what is your New Year's Resolution?

The Giving Tree:

"...to not let that little boy walk all over me anymore. I'm going to take some time for myself, maybe join a yoga class or take a trip to visit family in the Shenandoahs. Look for someone else to push around, little kid... this year I'm taking care of me!"

Freight Train:

"...to reduce my carbon footprint by converting my engine so that it can utilize alternative energy sources."

Carl (Good Dog Carl):

"...to finally get certified as an Early Child Care Provider."

Mother Rabbit (Runaway Bunny):

"...to let my precious darling baby play at his friend's house without checking up on him every five minutes. I can't help it, I just love him so!"

Alexander (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day):

...to be more optimistic. Or, failing that, to put my money where my mouth is and move to Australia."

Strega Nona:

"...to cut down on carbs. My doctor says the all-pasta diet is bad for my long term health."

The Lorax:

"...to reestablish the integrity of the EPA, hopefully with the help of a Democratic president."

Five Chinese Brothers:

"...to finish writing our book, We Do Not All Look Alike! Popular (Mis)Representations of Asian Culture in World Literature."

Saggy Baggy Elephant:

"...to change my name to the Beautiful Just the Way I Am Elephant... and to stop watching Nip/Tuck on FX."


"...to stay strong and continue refusing Ritalin."

Sal (Blueberries for Sal):

"...to stop pooping blue. Ohhhh.... my tummy...."

Ms. Nelson (Miss Nelson is Missing):

"...to finally take that graduate course in Classroom Management so I don't have to resort to trickery and scare tactics with my students."

We'll check back in with everyone in a couple months to see how they're doing with their resolutions... until then, HAPPY NEW YEAR! See you in 2008!

19 December 2007

BSB Flashback: The Merchant of Noises

22 June 2007

Author: Anna Rozen
Illustrator: Francois Avril

A young entrepreneur (who looks like the illegitimate son of the Monopoly guy and Mr. Peanut), opens up a business selling noises... but you could have figured that much out without even opening the book. The story gets much more complicated once you actually dive in. The merchant's ingenious idea takes the world by storm and soon the small shop becomes a booming multinational business.

Once people realize how lucrative the sound industry is, everyone is quick to jump on the bandwagon. Eventually all noises are for sale and no sounds are free any more. If you walk down the street past a construction site, you have to drop $3.95 for the pleasure of listening to the robust staccato of the jackhammer. The sound of someone yapping on their cellphone? 99 cents. The Sound of Music? Priceless.

To avoid unexpected roaming fees, people start walking around with earplugs... which works until an insidious little company out of Hoboken patents the Sound of Silence. That will now cost you 10 cents a minute.

Meanwhile, the merchant grows more and more powerful by the second. As wealthy as he is, ultimately he cannot resist the siren song of the most lucrative industry of all. He eventually signs a contract with the Pentagon and joins the military-industrial complex.

The U.S. government commissions the merchant to develop a frightening new weapon. This new technology utilizes the current medical technique for getting rid of kidney stones--using intense pulses of sonic waves to pulverize the painful little suckers (a procedure called Extracorporeal Shockwave Lithotripsy, which already sounds like a videogame weapon). Taking this to scale, the merchant develops an ultra-powerful sonic ray that (using a GPS satellite system) can obliterate your internal organs from space.

This starts an international arms race and soon the entire world is thrust into a new Cold War. (Canada finally becomes a major international player due to their possession of the ultimate in sonic terror: Celine Dion.) Inevitably, terrorists invade and take over the Pentagon, threatening to level New York City unless their demands are met. What they didn't count on is that one of the old bald security guards is loose in the building. And he is none other than: John McClane.

Thus begins the final installment of the Bruce Willis action series: DIE HARD DYNASTY.

16 December 2007

Have You Seen My Cat?

Author/Illustrator: Eric Carle

A young boy loses his cat and travels the wide world to find it. Poor kid. If any of you have lost a pet, you know the kind of pain this little boy is going through... no fun at all.

Luckily, scientists in South Korea have been hard at work on this problem and last week, they finally made a breakthrough with... GLOW IN THE DARK KITTIES!!!

On Tuesday, a team of scientists from Gyeongsang National University announced that they successfully cloned cats that glow in the dark when passed under ultraviolet light. They caution that this does not completely solve the problem of missing pets, but the advance is significant and monumental.... significantly creepy and monumentally disturbing.

So, have I seen your cat?

Yes I have... and it is scaring the crap out of me.

12 December 2007

Live From The Bottom Shelf: The Punk Farm Nation

Punkfarmspace: How Social Networking is Transforming Fandom

by Cluck Roosterman

On Monday I wrote about how Punk Farm is quietly undermining the oppressive foundation of the corporate music industry. And while it is true that the creative force of the band is the engine that drives this movement, the deeper reality is that without their fans, Punk Farm would be stuck in neutral. Any great movement needs a critical mass of support in order to gain the necessary momentum towards lasting social change.

So, does Punk Farm must have a critical mass of fans?

You have no idea.

As I followed the band on the road, I was struck by the hysteria that greeted us at each site. As a rock historian, I haven't seen a group of fans identify this closely with a band since the Phishheads of the early 90s... and before that, the Deadheads who followed the Grateful Dead to concerts all over the world. I couldn't wrap my chicken little head around this... how did a small underground farm band gain such a loyal and downright obsessive fanbase? How did the Punk Farm Nation come into being, let alone reach such a feverish pitch?

The answer was simple: Social Networking.

We are in the Age of MySpace and Facebook, an age where an army of similarly-minded people are but a few clicks away. Whereas before it could take years for an upstart band to gain any sort of traction, today you are just a cool website or a hipster doofus music video away from superstardom. People can debate the positives and the negatives of this evolution of human interaction, but there is no debating this: Social Networking is a force to be reckoned with.

The Punk Farm Nation started out with a few loyal fans but spread like wildfire with the launching of Punkfarmspace, an on-line community where fans could convene to discuss their favorite thing: Punk Farm.

This has had a revolutionary effect on the very nature of fandom. No longer are fans just anonymous faces in a crowd of adoring and screaming Beatlemaniacs. Through the power of these social networks, fans are not just just observers, they now have the power to shape the destiny of their favorite band by engaging in what is being dubbed "participatory fanhood."

But that's enough from me. I could go on for days, but rather than listen to me describe the Punk Farm Nation, I decided to do what any intrepid reporter would do and go straight to the source. So while Punk Farm was rockin' out stage, I waded through the crowds and interviewed some of the citizens of the growing Punk Farm Nation. Here's a taste of what I found.

Fan 1: Isaiah (Colorado)

CR: As a Punk Farm uber-fan, do you ever worry that your adoration will undermine the punk rock spirit of the band? Is popularity at odds with punk rock?

Isaiah: N'aaaah. I wouldn't say. It's more of a movement than anything. As long as the dudes and dudettes of PF don't let all that love go to their heads, they'll be fine. They've been rocking the underground scene for so long now, if a little success goes their way, that's cool. As long as they keep true to their spirit and they continue to share that spirit with others, it's all good.

Fan 2: Shep (Wisconsin)

Describe the experience of hearing Punk Farm for the first time. What is it about Punk Farm that appeals to you?

Shep: Oh man, oh man - I was there! I was there at one of their very first shows in Wisconsin. It blew my mind, shattered my sense of reality. I've seen every Punk Farm show since. And what appeals to me... What doesn't? The drumming, the bass....all the chicken feed you can eat!

Fan 3: Jesi (Texas)

CR: Has listening to Punk Farm had any effect on your relationship with your farmer?

Jesi: OMG - I like totally snuck out of the barn with my BFF to see the show when they were in town. The farmer caught us when we were trying to sneak back in and he made us do all this extra work. So yeah, it put a strain on us and now he has trust issues, but like - it's Punk Farm. I saw them live! I touched Pig, I took a picture with him! That's stuff I'll be telling my grandkids!

(Note: In this author's opinion, Jesi is definitely the frontrunner to win Pig's portrait in the Punk Farm Raffle. She's got #1 Pig Fan written all over her... literally. Seriously, I think she took a magic marker and wrote "#1 Pig Fan" all over her arms and hooves.)

Fan 4: Jerome (Maine)

CR: Is Punk Farm better recorded or live?

Jerome: Oh man, it's no comparison. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love PF's tracks and the sound that they are able to achieve in the studio, it's like putting a genie in a bottle, but you just can't fully replicate the experience in a recording. Seeing PF live is so wicked cool and I highly suggest it to any animal who may be reading this right now. You get to get your groove on with like minded individuals and just soak in the rock!

Fan 5: Tammy (Florida)

CR: If you could choose another band/artist for Punk Farm to collaborate with, which band/artist would that be?

Tammy: I listen to a lot of obscure bands, some stuff from overseas, so I'd love to see PF take a route less taken. What about Puffy Amiyumi? That would becool. Though they wouldn't understand each other. Or maybe the Groovie Ghoulies? I don't know. I just think it would be cool to see a collaboration no one would expect!

...and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Go to Punkfarmspace and you'll see that the Punk Farm Nation extends far beyond the fences of any barnyard, far beyond any artificial boundaries... in fact, if I've learned anything on this long strange trip, it's this: Once the rock gets rolling, it cannot be stopped.


Cluck Roosterman is a renowned rock critic and best-selling author os Sex, Drugs, & Chicken Feed and Last One is a Rotten Egg: The Merciful Death of Glamrock. His newest book, Dark Meat Only: The Resurgence of Goth Culture will be released in the Spring.

10 December 2007

Live From the Bottom Shelf: On the Road With Punk Farm

Is Punk Farm the World's Most Dangerous Band?
by Cluck Roosterman

Cluck Roosterman here, reporting from the road with Punk Farm. I'm crammed into the back of the Rock Van, pecking away at my laptop. It's been a long strange trip. We started in Maine, zipped down I-91 to Miami, journeyed west to Texas and then finished the tour in Colorado. It's been a whirlwind to say the least. I don't want to go into detail, so I'll just say one thing about Sheep's driving: I'm glad I brought a large supply of Dramamine.

But I'm not here to tell you about life on the road. That was well chronicled in Punk Farm on Tour. My job as a reporter is to dig deeper and offer the broader cultural analysis that you don't hear at the water cooler or slop trough. So what don't you know about Punk Farm? How about this:

Punk Farm is the most dangerous band in the world.

This is not just overzealous reporter's hyperbole. It is a fact. Punk Farm strikes fear in the hearts of record executives everywhere. If you listen closely, you can hear them shaking in their designer Italian boots. Here's why.

A few months ago, the powerhouse band Radiohead made headlines by releasing their album, In Rainbows directly through their website, effectively cutting out all middle men (and/or middle women). They offered it essentially for free, allowing their fans to decide how much they wanted to pay (if at all). The gamble paid off and the band made a tidy profit off this revolutionary brand of optional capitalism. The press hailed it as a breakthrough in the struggle between artists and the exploitative music industry. The times, they are a'changin'.

However, Radiohead was not the first band to strike a blow against the corporate fat cats. Punk Farm had been releasing their music for free on their website for over a year now. Well before Radiohead shocked the mainstream media, Punk Farm rattled the nerves of record executives across the nation. It was such a shock to the music industry that legendary record mogul David Geffen released a cryptic memo in 2006 which simply read "Punk Farm must be stopped."

Last week I called up my good friend Naomi Klein, author of the anti-corporate No Logo and the anti-evil The Shock Doctrine. She told me that she considered Punk Farm to be "the first truly anti-corporate band in the world. Most bands claim to be revolutionary, but they are really just amped-up collections of false bravado and simplistically inflammatory lyrics. Every band at heart is slave to their sales numbers. By releasing their music for free, Punk Farm broke free from those shackles and haven't looked back. Without the burden of financial compensation, they are free to create art in its purest form. Because they are not beholden to 'the man' is why they are the only band that can truly 'stick it to the man'. 'The Man' in this case being the corporate music industry... and Farmer Joe."

I was intrigued by this, so on our way from Colorado back to the farm (a trip made in record time... again, a big shout out to the makers of Dramamine), I took a minute to ask the band about their status as the most dangerous band in the world.

CR: Whose idea was it to release your music for free?

SHEEP: It was pretty much a mutual decision. I mean, we didn't really have any contacts at any record labels and we were picking up a decent Wi-Fi signal from one of our neighbors....so we just went with it.

COW: We wanted to get our music out there, you know? What is music worth if it doesn't have ears to listen to it?

CR: Did Radiohead contact you for advice before they released their album? Do you think Radiohead's new strategy has the potential to revolutionize the music industry?

GOAT: Thom Yorke and I are tight. We email. He wrote one day and was all, "Hey Goat, are you cool with us doing this?" And I was all like, "Whatever dude, whatever floats your boat." So Radiohead put their stuff out for free and got massive publicity for it.

CHICKEN: It might revolutionize the industry, but who knows? It sure is a nice thought, though.

CR: Aren't you the least bit tempted to go corporate and cash in on your popularity? Just imagine what you could do with those millions of dollars...

PIG: There are millions of dollars in CD sales? Seriously? Man, maybe we should see about...

SHEEP: Pig, come on man. Don't be so naive. There are millions of dollars to be made, but for the corporate big wigs. Not us little livestock.

CR: Since the animals are the ones that do all the real work, does Farmer Joe share any of his agricultural profits with you?

PIG: No, all we get is some stacks of hay and feed. Not even good feed, how about something with some spice to it? A little kick, a little something!

CR: I hear that you are raffling off original artwork this week. What will the money be used for?

SHEEP: Yes, this is true. We sat for portraits by artist Jarrett Krosoczka. The money raised is going to go to two places. Most of the money will go to this non-profit group called the Central Massachusetts Arts Assembly. This is a group that is important to our man Scott Cambot, and he produced our latest tracks. Another part of the money will go to paying for the costs of recording the music and to the people who make our songs possible. People like Scott, Thom, and Erik who tune our instruments and stuff.

CR: Whose painting do you think will raise the most money? Doesn't this have the potential to create tension between you all? Is there any behind the scenes betting going on between the band to see who can drum up the most interest?

PIG: Mine!

SHEEP: Oh, here we go!

COW: I don't know, I wouldn't underestimate the popularity of Goat.

GOAT: Oh shucks, I'm totally blushing, dude.

CHICKEN: People like chickens, don't they? I hope someone tries to win mine. Oh.....what if they don't? Oh....

PIG: I don't think it will cause any tension between us. Just as long as people understand that I will get the most tickets sold....

COW: Well, I don't plan on advocating, but if people would like to help boost my self-esteem...so be it!

CHICKEN: I'm not going to get any sleep all week....

To buy tickets for a chance to win one of these original band portraits (the ones pictured above), go to the Punk Farm Raffle website. And remember, rock memorabilia is a great investment. Clapton sold one of his guitars for $959,500 and he wasn't half the guitarist that Pig is. With the dollar being as weak as it is, this may be the last worthwhile investment opportunity of the decade.

As for who will raise the most money... based on my time with the band, the safe bet is for Pig to rake in the most cash, but I'm inclined to agree with Cow. My money is on Goat as the silent-but-deadly dark horse candidate.

Okay, that's it for now. If I don't stop typing now, I'm going to get sick all over the backseat of the Rock Van. For the rest of the Punk Farm Interview series, check out the BSB archives. And be sure to check back in on Wednesday for Part 2 in which I explore the social networking phenomenon known as punkfarmspace.

Until then: Rock on, Rock off, I don't care. As long as there is Rock involved.


06 December 2007

Breaking News: Mickey's Day in Court

Wednesday morning, the world was shocked to hear that Mickey Mouse, Tweety Bird, Donald and Daisy Duck were summoned to a court in Italy to testify in regards to their involvement in an international counterfeiting scheme (for the full story, go here). The much beloved quartet had been operating with Italian aliases (Topolino, Titty, Paperino, and Paperina) and had been under surveillance by Italian Intelligence for months now.

In a statement released on Wednesday morning, the lawyer representing the Italian government said, "The epic failure of Euro-Disney was a devastating financial blow for all of us, but that is no excuse for resorting to a life of crime. No one has been found guilty yet, but the evidence is overwhelming. Rest assured, we will get to the bottom of this."

Even Italian president Giorgio Napolitano, weighed in on the controversy, saying that "This should makes us all wonder just how much of the 'Magic' Kingdom is actually magic, and how much is counterfeit. In 1982, our fellow European Jean Baudrillard wrote an essay called Disneyworld Company, in which he pointed out that Disney was 'the grand initiator of the imaginary as virtual reality.' Today, this seems quite prescient. At the time, I dismissed this as typical French philosophical foolishness. If I had known that all Baudrillard's talk about hyper-reality and simulacra was really about counterfeiting schemes and international crime syndicates, I wouldn't have written him off as just another namby-pamby fluffhead."

Needless to say, the news has sent shockwaves all over the world. We will keep you updated as the situation continues to develop.

04 December 2007

Ratatouille: DVD Special Features

Given the intensity of today's DVD Special Features, it's no surprise that we never get to them all. And to be honest, as enlightening as the Director's Commentary may be, most people rarely take the time to sit through it (if you're like me, you run out of steam after the deleted scenes and the outtakes/blooper reel).

However, since Ratatouille is one of my new favorites, as a special service, I've transcribed a portion of the Director's Commentary from the Limited Issue Collector's Edition of Ratatouille that I thought you'd find particularly enlightening. Enjoy!

Scene: Remy Cooks the Soup
00:23:32 - 00:34:46
Commentary by: Brad Bird (Director, Writer) and John Lasseter (Executive Producer)

Bird: This might be my favorite scene. It really epitomizes one of the driving forces behind the story, and that is the transcendent nature of art. How one can just get swept up in the divine process of creation, whether it be cooking, painting, or animating. Here Remy delays his escape, literally putting his life on the line, in order to satisfy his artistic impulse. It's really quite beautiful.

Lasseter: I couldn't agree more. As artists, we all know that risk is an essential component to all great art. Without risk, there is no reward.

Bird: And this project in and of itself was a huge risk. I mean, the idea of creating an entire movie around a rat in the kitchen... and cooking no less! You don't know how many people thought we were totally nuts. Though to be honest, we weren't exactly treading new ground here. Rodents have been at the heart of children's entertainment for generations.

Lasseter: And because of the Disney connection, people always assume that Remy was a descendent of Mickey Mouse...

Bird: Yeah, that's the first thing people always ask me. But, to be honest, while I was putting the script together, I didn't consider Mickey to be a good role model for the Remy character. For me, as great as Mickey was, he was always a creation… never the creator. He was the product of Walt Disney's imagination, but the character himself lacked imagination… I always found him to be kind of bland... the likeable straight man in a world of fantastically complex characters. To find a suitable ancestor for Remy, I had to draw upon a character who felt the same creative impulse. I found just the guy in another beloved rodent: Leo Lionni’s Frederick.

Lasseter: When Brad told me this, I nearly fell out of my chair, because Frederick was one of my childhood favorites. You all know the story, a band of mice prepares for the harsh winter, but one of them, Frederick, collects words and colors instead of food. At first, everyone thinks he's lazy, but as the cold months drag on and they run out of food, Frederick's artistic vision inspires them and allows them to survive for the duration of the winter. Inspiration and imagination warms the body and soul and the power of art triumphs over circumstance.

Bird: Right.... so as you can see, Remy and Frederick have a lot in common. They really are cut from the same cloth. They both start out as outcasts because of their artistic tendencies. They both want to elevate themselves from the mundane through their art. However, I was always a little bothered by Frederick because I kept thinking, couldn't he have collected words and colors while lending a hand? I mean, there had to be some kind of balance between indulging in your art and the basic necessity of gathering food. I couldn't shake the feeling that despite his triumph at the end, Frederick was still kind of a freeloader.

Lasseter: Brad, I never thought I'd say this, but you're starting to sound like a Republican.

Bird: Stop it. You know what I mean. Yes, art is important, but so is sustaining one's livelihood. I mean, dude, hadn't Frederick ever heard of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?!

Lasseter: You're digressing. Let's get back on track, or we'll have to cut this from the final DVD.

Bird: Right. So, in order to reconcile the basic need for food with the transcendent desire to create, I had the brilliant idea to make food his art! It was quite an elegant solution, if I do say so myself.

Lasseter: Plus, with the current pop culture obsession with the culinary arts, food made the movie very marketable. I mean just look at the popularity of the Food Network, Top Chef, Iron Chef, Swedish Chef, etc. This was an idea that came at the perfect time. But that's the producer in me talking.

Bird: Yeah, the producer in you also forced me to put in that ill-conceived romance between Linguini and Collete. That one still stings... I mean, who in their right mind would believe that the tough-as-nails Collete would ever fall in love with the hapless Linguini? Suspension of disbelief can only take the audience so far.

Lasseter: Yeah, yeah, I didn't hear you complaining when Ratatouille was sitting at the top of the box office and the checks were rolling in. I know the movie industry and I know our audience. People want some love sprinkled into every story... it's like hot sauce, a little bit sprinkled on anything makes it better. People like a little spice.

Bird: What about cereal? Do you put hot sauce on your cereal?! I didn't think so. Not everything needs to be "spiced" up. Anyway, back to my point, if you take Frederick and compare it to Ratatouille, you'll start to see more parallels. The scene where Remy helps his cousin Emile visualize taste pays homage to the scene where he Frederick helps his friends visualize the colors of spring. And instead of a harsh winter, I chose to embody the impending threat of death in the chilly and crypt-like character of the food critic, Anton Ego.

Lasseter: And as all of us in the entertainment business know, a critic's chilly reception is much deadlier than even the coldest winter.

Bird: Yeah, luckily, we haven't had to deal with much of that because we only make awesome movies.

Lasseter: Yeah, we rock. High Five!

[Bird and Lasseter "high five".]

Bird: And just like Frederick's art triumphs over winter, Remy's passion and talent melts the heart of Anton Ego and rescues the critic from his perpetual winter of discontent. And in both the book and the film, the skeptical peers find inspiration in the wake of their talented friend/son. Oh, and even the name Linguini is a tribute to the great children's author... I wonder if the audience caught that. Lin-gui-ni, Li-o-nni...

Lasseter: I didn't even catch that until now!

Bird: I know, cool isn't it? High five!

[Bird and Lasseter "high five" again.]

Bird: Ooo! Ooo! This next scene is great too! It's where Linguini and Remy first communicate down by the river. There are just so many layers of complexity embedded in their interaction. To really increase the tension, I incorporated aspects of Freud's Theories of Externalization as well as a Jungian Conception of Synchronicity...

Lasseter: Oh wait--did you hear that?

Bird: Hear what?

Lasseter: That sound... I think... I think it's the sound of our audience falling asleep.

Bird: Or maybe... it's the sound of me feeding you a knuckle sandwich!

Lasseter: Bring it on, Birdman!

Bird: You asked for it... one knuckle sandwich coming up! I hope you're hungry!

---end of transcript---

29 November 2007

BSB Flashback: Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing

8 June 2007

Author: Judi Barrett
Illustrator: Ron Barrett

From the same brilliantly warped minds that brought you Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, comes this cantankerous manifesto about the ridiculousness of animals wearing clothes. My favorite example is the moose getting thwarted by a pair of suspenders.

Animals wearing clothing is always a strange proposition, especially in the world of cartoons. This was at the heart of one of the most confounding questions of childhood--what is known as The Goofy and Pluto Paradox.

I'm sure you are all familiar with this: Goofy and Pluto are both dogs. Goofy, however, always wears clothes and walks and talks like a human, while Pluto is a more traditional dog who can only bark and saunters around in his birthday suit. Yet they both exist in the same world... how can this be? As a child, you are expected to suspend disbelief and take for granted that within the same world, one dog could be an autonomous being, while the other is a mouse's pet. Though I must admit that I don't ever remember Goofy and Pluto appearing in the same cartoon. The animators at Disney must have known that the idea of Goofy taking Pluto out for a walk was too much to ask, even of children.

When exploring the "Magical World of Disney," you find a common thread that begins to explain the difference between the more human animals from the less human. That common thread is clothing. Disney has built a strange mythology in which clothes act as the catylyst that unleashes the anthropomorphic potential in animals. (Apparently, instead of eating an apple from the Tree of Knowledge, all you have to do is buy a pair of slacks from Banana Republic.) In the Magic Kingdom, it really is the clothes that make the man. I mean, there is no way Pluto would walk around barking on all fours if they allowed him to put on a sweater vest and some Dockers.

A Few More Examples:

Chip N' Dale: In the early days, these two are a couple of mischievous chipmunks who have human characteristics, but are still very much animals. They don't talk, they just chatter in a way that seems vaguely human. They also do not wear any clothes.

It isn't until they start wearing clothes that they become Chip N' Dale: Rescue Rangers! Sporting fancy new duds, these mischievous chipmunks become fully humanoid and start their own detective agency.

And there is no way that they would dare to solve crime without clothes... like Adam & Eve after putting on that first fig leaf, they are too much too self-conscious now. Once they've put on their first article of clothing, there's no turning back. They would be ashamed to go au natural, so they will be forced to wear clothes forever. (Somewhere, the snakes that run the fashion industry are laughing and rolling around in their piles of money.)

(Note: Further evidence can be found in the dehumanizing quality of Chippendales, an organization dedicated to men taking their clothes off and turning themselves into objects. )

Donald Duck: The humanizing power of clothing can also explain the trials of the tragicomic Donald Duck. Perhaps his debilitating speech impediment and inability to control his emotions can be attributed to the fact that he only wears a sailor top and no pants (though, to be fair, he's not the first sailor to be caught without any pants on). Maybe he cannot fully master the human art of conversation until he becomes fully-clothed. (It should be noted that Mickey wears shorts but no shirt. So technically, he is not fully clothed either. But this form of half-nudity is much more conventional among humans. So there is no conflict there.)

Which brings up another question: How come Donald Duck never wore pants... but he would wear a bathing suit? What gives?! Where is the logic in that?! Rumors are that Finland, apparently fed up with Donald's antics, banned the Duck in 1977, citing indecent exposure. So... nudity is fine, but partial nudity is indecent. Apparently, Finnish laws are as confounding as the laws that govern the Magic Kingdom.

Plagiarism Disclaimer: It seems inevitable that a discussion about Donald Duck's lack of pants takes place in a Kevin Smith movie. It has to have been a side conversation in Clerks or Clerks II, but I don't know for sure. If you know of any such conversation, I'd appreciate the reference... and a copy of the DVD sent to my home.

A Quick For Your Consideration Note:

Consider the relationships of these four characters...

Does this sound vaguely familiar to you? Now check out the relationships between the characters below:

Uncanny, isn't it? Bizarro Jerry, meet Bizarro Mickey.

23 November 2007

Live from the Bottom Shelf: The Adventures of Max and Pinky: Superheroes

Many of you know Max and Pinky from their first book, Best Buds. Well, now they are taking off (literally) in their new roles as Superheroes. And given their new superheroic status, there is only one logical thing for them to do now: apply to the Justice League.

The Justice League is a legendary collection of superheroes whose mission is to serve and protect humanity. The League first formed in 1960 and like any quality organization, is always looking to recruit new talent. However, being the most exclusive collection of superhuman talent in the industry, each applicant must endure a lengthy and arduous interview process. Max and Pinky are the latest in a long line of daring-doers to present their credentials to the prestigious Justice League hiring panel (made up of the founding members of the JL). Below is a transcript of their interview.

Justice League Interview: Max and Pinky
Application Number: 1013b
Date: 23 November 2007
Location: Secret Sanctuary

Superman: First I'd like to thank you both for coming in today. As the leader of the Justice League, I would like to congratulate you. We have had a particularly strong applicant pool this year, so the fact that you've made it this far in the interview process is impressive in and of itself. So let's get started, shall we? First of all, tell us why you're interested in joining the Justice League and what skills you would bring to our organization.

Max: Why don’t I start? I’ll begin by listing our attributes. First of all, I’m a young child and have just used the word attributes.

Pinky: That’s more a creepy anomaly than an actual skill.

Max: Anomaly?

Pinky: Geez! Now I’m doing it!

Max: Anyway, here’s what we’ve got going for ourselves. Sweet capes and masks.

Pinky: Homemade, mind you.

Max: Right. Also, we can fly.

Pinky: With surprising precision.

Max: Pinky, can you think of anything else?

Pinky: Um, that’s about it.

Max: Ok, to recap. Masks, capes, and flying.

Pinky: And a freakish vocabulary for a five year old and an underdeveloped pig.

Batman: As superheroes you have a lot of strengths, but what are your weaknesses? For example, it's widely known that you, Pinky, have a soft spot for marshmallows. What steps, if any, have you taken to safeguard against an evil villian who might use your love of marshmallows against you?

Who told you I like marshmallows? Anyway, I’d like to think of my love of marshmallows as a strength rather than a weakness. Maybe even an extension of my superpowers? After all, can anyone else in this room eat a metric ton of marshmallows before breakfast? Just give my dentist a call and I think you’ll find I’ve never had so much as a sore tooth.

Max: He’s right. It’s pretty ridiculous really.

Pinky: Of course, Max does have one major weakness.

Max: Yeah, it’s my sensitivity to overhead sunlight. Let’s just say there isn’t a lot between my scalp and the direct rays of the sun. But a liberal application of sunscreen usually does the trick.

Wonderwoman: Do you work well in groups or do you prefer working individually? I ask because we had this problem early on with Batman. His vigilante nature did not translate well to team work at all. Getting him to restock the copy machine was such an ordeal.

Batman: Hey, I didn't get a Master's in Criminal Psychology to be your freakin' copy boy!

Superman: Please Bruce, this is not the time. Max, Pinky, please answer Wonderman's question.

Max: I’m not going to beat around the bush. We’ve had our problems in the past. One incident was fairly well documented in a stunning piece of reportage called The Adventures of Max and Pinky: Superheroes. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but we’ve since worked through our differences and have struck a compromise of sorts.

Pinky: I thought we agreed not bring that up.

Max: We’ll talk about this later, Pinky.

Flash: Hollywood is currently on a tear making superhero movies. After the Ben Affleck/Daredevil debacle, I have assumed responsibility for all negotiations with Hollywood. So, if we were to work out a movie deal, who would you choose to play the roles of Max and Pinky? And who would be your first choice for director?

Pinky: I’ll take this, Max. Actually, I’ve given this quite a bit of thought. The choices are simple. I’ve already discussed it with his agent over lunch and we’ve arranged for the role of Pinky to be played by Daniel Day Lewis. It’s an obvious physical match, and as far as acting goes it will really take a thespian of his skill and experience to capture the depth and subtlety of my character.

Flash: And who would play Max?

Pinky: I was thinking Ben Kingsley for obvious—

Max: Hold on! I think we’re still discussing this. So let’s not lock ourselves in, ok? But as far as directors go, Pinky and I were thinking of co-directing and producing.

Flash: Producing?

Max: Let’s just say things on the farm have been going fairly well and we’ve got the necessary resources to put this project into motion.

Pinky: We got in on marshmallows when they were a nickel a ton.

Aquaman: What are your long term goals? Where do you see yourselves 5, 10 years from now? And also, do you have any interest in joining the company waterpolo team? We've got a big game against the Xmen next week and we could really use some fresh blood.

Max: In ten years, I suspect I’ll be trying to explain to my teenaged friends why I’m having a conversation with a sarcastic talking horse named Chuck. And the waterpolo team sounds great, but don’t bother ordering me a swim cap.

Pinky: Are inflatable swimmies allowed? I’m not a strong swimmer.

Martian Manhunter: I don't have any questions. I can read minds, so I already know all I need to know about the two of you. Wait, actually, I do have one question: Can I have one of those marshmallows you have hidden in the folds of your cape?

Pinky: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Superman: Well, those are all the questions we have for now. Are there any questions you would like to ask us?

Max: Just one. Did we get the job?

Superman: We have your information, so we’ll be in touch. Thank you for coming in.

Pinky: We didn’t get it, did we.

Batman: The man said we'd be in touch. This interview is over. Our secretary will show you out. Robin! Show these two to the door... and get me some more coffee while you're at it!

Note: The Justice League is an equal opportunity employer and will consider all applicants regardless of race, gender, or planet of origin. All are encouraged to apply... as long as you have superhuman powers, that is. Please direct any questions regarding our hiring policies to the Justice League's Diversity Coordinators: Green Lantern (g.lantern@jleague.org) and Hawkgirl (h.girl@jleague.org).

For more information on the applicants, check out the Max and Pinky website or read Maxwell Eaton III's interview with Bottom Shelf Books. And if you want to send them a good luck message while they await the results of their interview, you can send them (or anyone else) a personalized Max and Pinky eCard.

Also, check out Eaton's sketch-a-day blog where you can find pictures like this:

Man, that's awesome. I don't think I'll ever get tired of that. In fact, if I ever got a tattoo, this would be it.