Tuesday, June 12, 2007

the gospel of the farting preacher

(originally published on the Anime Hell blog, May 2007)

Robert Tilton is the once and future king of the post-Jim & Tammy Implosion era of slick TV evangelists; hounded and humiliated huckster of holy water, prayer cloths, and inspirational books; and flatulent, fraudulent star of what may be the original "viral video".

As host of the long-running "Success-N-Life" television program, Tilton preaches a "prosperity" gospel that promises to enrich its flock with God-ordained good fortune with Jesus as sugar daddy/investment counselor/loanshark/bookie. Since the key part of this gospel - 'sowing the seed'- means sending Tilton one thousand dollars, the only person this gospel has ever made wealthy is Robert Tilton himself. His sermons aren't about sin, death, or salvation - they're about making a vow (to send Tilton cash) and keeping your promise (to send Tilton cash), interrupted only by frequent, Tourettes-style bursts of "speaking in tongues". After being investigated by ABC's Prime Time Live, the Texas Attorney General's office, and the FBI, Tilton vanished from the airwaves, but after a few years of laying low he returned- tanned, rested and ready- shooting a new series of inspirational infomercials from a classy new studio in Florida, which you can catch late at night on places like BET.

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Where did this slick-talking holy-oil salesman come from? Texas, of course. A college dropout and real estate salesman, in the early 70s Tilton latched onto both Jesus and the teachings of Tulsa evangelist Billy James Hargis. Hargis was the first to combine the fire of holy-rollering with the technosavvy of mail order marketing, and his mailings went out to three million homes at their peak. Tilton's TV show "Success-N-Life" began in 1984 and at its peak reached more than 200 stations - a one-hour informercial designed to get people to phone in pledges and mail him checks. In return Tilton would bless coins, pray over napkins, place prayer cords into a miracle wall of prayer, and generally use every pagan voodoo trick at his disposal to convince Jesus and God that little old you needs $1500 for a new transmission. Trouble for Tilton came when word got out that prayer requests sent to "Success-N-Life" were winding up in the garbage, when dead people were recieving letters promising Tilton's healing hand in exchange for cold cash, when a Tilton anti-Semitic rant was secretly caught on tape... when the level of disgusting excess and outright fraud became too much for even the strong stomach of the Dallas evangelical community.

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But it's as an ironic touchstone for disaffected youth that Tilton may have his greatest success. The hopped-up, gibbering spectacle of Brother Bob pounding his desk, ranting in "otoyo basoya" tongues, and, quick as a wink, shifting gears to a dewy-eyed patriarch deeply moved by the suffering of humanity - well, if that isn't good television I don't know what is. Hipsters, pop culture junkies, kitsch connossieurs and po-mo pontificators all found "Success-N-Life" a terrific late-night watch, funnier than that OTHER "SNL" by far. Daniel "Art School Confidential" Clowes devoted a whole page of his groundbreaking "Eightball" comic to highlight Tilton. There was even a "Love That Bob" night at Club Dada in Dallas, sponsored by the Robert Tilton Fan Club, and a fanzine entitled "The Beast Of Robert Tilton". But it was through home video that Tilton would reach his greatest non-sucker audience.

The "Farting Tilton" tape, also known as "Joyful Noise", "Farting Evangelist", "Fart Preacher", etc., is mentioned in the press clipping for the "Love That Bob" Club Dada night (Jan 9, 1992), but it had been shown previously, passed from hand to Christian hand among the video trading network that existed in the days before Bittorrnet. My own copy came via my involvement with Phenomicon, a UFO/hacker/conspiracy convention that was held in Atlanta in 1990 and 1991. We ran "Fart Tilton" on the big screen before the Sub-Genius devival.

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Who made the tape? A collection of Tilton's more inspired moments of Jesus fervor and glossalia, highlighted with the addition of fart noises, it's a, lets's face it, juvenile concept that could have been created by anyone with rudimentary video editing equipment. Slightly more professional-quality copies of the original and a color sequel were included on the "Mondo Tilton" compliation videotape released by Russell Media Underground in Dallas in the late 1990s. A staple of "Anime Hell" performances for many years, the clip has since reached an unimaginable audience courtesy filesharing and the Internet.

One wonders what Tilton thinks of his gastrointestinal success. Older and more jowly, his recent programs (retitled "Success In Life") feature a toned down Tilton, soft-pedalling his sucker pitches for an audience that might not respond to the firey schizophrenia of his earlier performances. Or maybe he's just, you know, holding it in.

artworks 1998-2006

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sympathy for the castlegate

Sure, it was a dump. Even when it was open for business, it had broken windows and sagging ceilings and a funky smell that you could never really get away from. It spent three years vacant, a home for derelicts and stray animals and the occasional body, and now it's a big pile of rubble right next to Interstate 75 The wrecking ball of Price & Sons Demolition has completed its task and nothing remains but smashed bricks, broken glass, and, of course, a mysterious funky smell.

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Thanks to years of hosting Star Trek cons, comic book shows, and the first Anime Weekend Atlanta, memories of the place are burned into the brains of many local nerds such as myself. But I wasn't aware that the hulking shadow of the Castlegate loomed large in the history of Atlanta as a whole. Built more than thirty years ago as the Dunfey's Royal Coach, this sprawling hunk of mid-70s crap sat on sixteen acres of prime northside Atlanta real estate. Constructed in the style that would be affectionately known as "mock Tudor", (if anybody held any affection for it), the Dunfey's nightclub would become one of the city's foremost battlegrounds of the sexual revolution. As the haze from the 70s cleared, the Dunfey's would survive a few Atlanta Fantasy Fairs and Burt Reynolds' car crashing into the lobby (in the film The Cannonball Run), but the future would see the hotel under new management, first as a Radission and then as a Howard Johnsons, and subsequently, the Castlegate.

I've always been told that the Atlanta Fantasy Fair was forced to leave the Castlegate because an over-enthusiastic congoer attacked the elevator doors with an axe. I doubt this story, because a casual perusal of the Castlegate's clients and events reveals that they wouldn't turn anyone away. Gun shows, talent shows, dog shows, record shows, Indian weddings. Pot festivals. UFO conferences. Prizefights. Jon-Benet Ramsey-style beauty contests. Alumni associations. Magic: The Gathering tournaments. By the time the 1990s rolled around the Castlegate was the destination of choice for any gathering of more than three people and less than $3,000 to spend.

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And why not? The Castlegate was conveniently located, it had lots of parking and restaurants of all kinds close by, and quite a bit of convention space at reasonable rates. It wasn't downtown, so you were spared the no-parking, no-food, no-nothing desert of Atlanta After Dark, and yet it was close enough to downtown to make it a central location for the entire metro area. Best of all, you could be noisy, throw parties, shoot darts, and generally do whatever you wanted with the knowledge that nobody from the hotel was going to lift a finger to stop you.

As such, this made the Castlegate the place where conventions were born, and where they died. Dragoncon started in the Castlegate in 1987 and now they fill downtown's largest hotels; Anime Weekend Atlanta started there in 1995 and now we're busting 3500 and using cavernous convention centers. On the other hand, both Dixie-Trek and the Atlanta Fantasy Fair limped to the Castlegate to hold their final shows, and other shows like Outworld tried to use the Castlegate as a starting point and never got out of the gate. Even my first attempt at conventioneering - the ill-fated Phenomicon convention Scott Weikert and myself ran - had its second and final year at the Castlegate.

Part of this dismal success/failure ratio is of course the whimsical nature of fan conventions and the people who run them. But another element is the Castlegate itself. As mentioned before, the staff simply didn't care, and that's a knife that cuts both ways. Sure, hotel reps looking the other way for a few stains or broken lights is good; but ignoring complaints about rats, insects, malfunctioning AC and lack of hot water is not. The Castlegate had a swimming pool that was never filled, a tennis court that was completely overgrown with kudzu, and a back parking lot with more weeds than asphalt. Windows were broken, door locks didn't work, there was a meeting room full of construction junk and a shopping cart from the nearby Kroger, and a bathroom none dared enter. The low ceilings and maze-like arrangement of the building didn't help matters. The guest rooms were situated on long hallways that radiated out from the lobby in two directions - if you were unlucky to get a room on the far end of the facility, that meant a long, long walk. If that hallway happens to involve stairs, too bad! There might be an access corridor with a ramp, but you'll have to find it for yourself.

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Quirks of the facility aside, the Castlegate's less-than-helpful employees frequently made a bad situation worse. Failing to honor agreements about convention space usage and double-booking guest rooms isn't just annoying, it's downright criminal, and these sorts of problems can suck the enthusiasm right out of your average volunteer convention organizer. It was always a crapshoot going into the Castlegate; maybe you'd make it out alive, and maybe you wouldn't.

As the 90s progressed, the Castlegate found itself bought by the Hare Krishnas, who used a wing of the facility for offices and services. The hotel was named in court proceedings surrounding bribes for concession franchises at Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport - apparently payoffs were made during breakfast at the Castlegate's restaurant. The hotel finally closed its doors for good in December of 1999, but the story wasn't yet over- amid rumors of re-opening under different names, or the site being used as a Home Depot or IKEA location, the building was used by the United States Marine Corps in August of 2000 for an urban warfare excercise.

Whether or not there actually was a "Dirty Dozen" list of abandoned Atlanta properties that the city wanted torn down is open to debate. The fact is, the property was up for sale for over a year (only $20 million!), but finally the Castlegate heard the call of the wreckin' ball. Atlanta might be better off without the rats, the odors, and the inoperative A/C, but there isn't another low-cost, hassle-free option for the kind of shows the Castlegate championed. The kind of freedom in planning and executing events you got at the Castlegate was a rare thing, and it's sorely missed. Whatever rises in its stead - whether it's a high-rise apartment block, a Home Depot, or somebody's corporate headquarters - you can bet it won't be as much fun, or smell nearly as funky.

(the Castlegate was demolished in 2002; the site is currently occupied by a Wal-Mart).

artworks 1998-2006

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star wars: the japan connection

(published at the Anime Jump blog in February 2007)

Ah, the late '70's. Disco, custom vans, gasoline lines, and STAR WARS. And STAR WARS ripoffs. Sure, our own Roger Corman got into the act two or three or four times, and even such powerhouses as Disney and Universal were tempted into jumping on the bandwagon, not to mention the Italians with their cinematic masterwork, the aptly named STAR CRASH (cough cough). However, I maintain that for sheer entertainment value, you can't beat Japan. Long known as the home of violent giant robot cartoons and rubber-suit monster epics, this island nation turned its energies towards SF-action films and proved they can make the most original ripoffs around.
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I was lucky enough to see Toei's MESSAGE FROM SPACE in a theater, and young enough to enjoy it. Anyone older than 10 would have immediately dismissed it as a pathetic STAR WARS imitation. Years later I was able to appreciate the fact that it was one of Vic Morrow's last roles, that Philip Casnoff would go on to play Frank Sinatra, and that the script was by one of Japan's foremost comics legends, Shotaro Ishinomori. However, at the time, all I knew was that this movie had it all. Space hot-rodders, evil silver-painted aliens, the destruction of the moon, a funny robot, laser guns, swordfights, the works.

The script is actually a SF reworking of a tale from feudal Japan known as the 'Legend Of The Eight Samurai', in which a desperate monarch sends eight magic seeds out into the world. Whoever finds one of the seeds is chosen as a holy warrior and charged with saving the kingdom. Add some spaceships and explosions, and you've got MESSAGE FROM SPACE, as the peaceful planet Tulusia is conquered by the evil Govannis. The Tulusians send out the magic seeds along with the requisite beautiful young space princess, played by Sue Shiomi, fresh from the starring role in Toei's SISTER STREETFIGHTER. Chosen by the seeds are two Earth space-delinquents, a spoiled young rich girl, a sleazy grifter, a retired alcholic space general (dialogue when meeting the remaining heroes: "I must have gotten drunk, wandered in here, and fallen asleep."), his robot comedy-relief sidekick, the true heir to the Govannis throne who was deposed and left to die on a desolate planet, and lastly, the Tulusian who... well, I don't want to spoil it. Let's just say that the mixture of American and Japanese acting talent works fairly well.

The dialog is naturally goofy-sounding. When discussing combining her spaceship with the two hot-rods, our spoiled rich girl Maya says "Oh GAWD what a machine it would be!" The Western actors are pretty much left to their own devices, to over-or-under-act as they see fit. Speaking of under-acting, Vic Morrow wears a sucession of costumes, each more embarrassing than the last.

The film climaxes with a combination trench / fly-into-the-interior-of-the-enemy-base-and destroy-the-energy-core scene that will leave you wondering who ripped off who. The special effects are actually pretty good. When destroying the huge enemy space battleship at the end of the movie, they take the 10-or 12-foot model, douse it with gasoline, and set the thing on fire, and it looks great. Earlier in the film an asteroid belt scene is shot not by costly and then-ineffectual bluescreen, but by making thousands of model asteroids and having the ship (and the camera) weave in and out amongst them. There are exploding planets, space cruisers that fire giant missiles from their noses, anachronistic space-going sailing ships, and enough other flashy stuff to entertain the 7-year olds in the audience (namely me). I swear, there aren't five minutes in this movie that don't feature a laser gunfight, space combat, silver-painted aliens, or explosions.

Sonny Chiba, voted the Japanese most likely to kick your ass, plays the deposed rightful Govannis ruler, and his martial arts skill is immediately evident as he proceeds to wipe out half the Govannis base by himself during the climactic final battle. Sure, there are glowing special effects all over the place to try and compete with STAR WARS' lightsabers, but for honest-to-God swordfighting action, this movie can't be beat. Oh, and it was also directed by Kinji Fukasaku, who directed THE GREEN SLIME in 1969 and would go on to helm BATTLE ROYALE in 2000. Go Kinji!!

Toei would go on to make a TV series out of MESSAGE FROM SPACE, retaining all the models and the name "Govannis" but dumping everything else in favor of POWER RANGERS-style martial arts action and a talking gorilla sidekick. Yeah, a talking gorilla. This was around the same time they made their SPIDERMAN TV show in which Spiderman got a giant robot and a car with machine guns on it. No kidding.

THE WAR IN SPACE, on the other hand, is a tiresome and lackluster Toho production that can't decide whether it wants to rip off STAR WARS, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, or its own precursor ATRAGON (a.k.a. Kaitei Gunkan, or Undersea Battleship). Here's the plot: evil alien light fixtures bombard the Earth as shown in special effects scenes lifted from other Toho monster movies. The Earth retaliates with its secret super space battleship, the Gohten, which resembles a battleship with fancy crap stuck all over it (like the Yamato) and a big drill in the nose (like the Atragon).

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Our multinational (OK, one Caucasian) crew takes off to destroy the alien base on Venus. Along the way they launch space fighters out of an arrangement that resembles nothing more than the cylinder out of a .357 Magnum revolver. The Captain's daughter (played by cute Japanese model Yuko Asano) is captured, taken to Venus, and made to dress slutty, so before they can destroy the base, a special team of hand-picked commandos infiltrates the base, rescues the daughter from the lamest Chewbacca ripoff ever, and escapes just in time for the Captain to activate the drill in the prow of the ship and send it right into the enemy.

This destroys the entire planet Venus.

In its defense, WAR IN SPACE manages to be faintly amusing whenever the alien (you only see one) shows up. Hehas green skin, is dressed in Roman garb, and is dubbed with incredibly incoherent dialog. The effects scenes are adequate when they're not stock footage, and the scene with the axe-wielding, horned Wookiee reject is priceless. However, the exciting parts are seperated by long stretches of attempted storyline involving really boring subplots, and the movie itself is such a obviously slapped-together pastiche of other, vastly superior SF films that viewing becomes a challenge rather than a pleasure. Even the dubbed-in voices seem bored with the whole thing (as perhaps they were). After this disaster, Toho wouldn't make another SF movie for seven years. It's one of the few films I'm glad never made it to American theaters.

Discotek Media recently released a DVD version of WAR IN SPACE that looks great. Unfortunately you can't shine crap. Movie still stinks on ice.

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But enough about that turkey. MESSAGE FROM SPACE has yet to be officially released on home video over here, so your best bet is to catch it on TNT (they're running the uncut version from time to time) or shell out for the letterboxed Japanese DVD. Even though at first glance it's just another STAR WARS ripoff, I think everybody will agree that, ripoff or not, it's one darned entertaining film.

Dave Merrill

(this article first appeared in the Star Wars fanzine BLUE HARVEST and thereafter at the fine website ANIME JUMP.)

artworks: 1998-2006

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Thursday, June 7, 2007

marvel stan lee tezuka star nagai wars !!11!!

As threatened, here are some pix from the issue of "Foom" I mentioned previously somewhere, I think on Anime Jump... "Foom" was Marvel Comics' in-house fan magazine, and in the late 1970s they were making deals in Japan for things like the crazy Japanese Spiderman TV show, stuff like that.

Here's Stan Lee meeting Osamu Tezuka:

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Here's Stan Lee meeting Go Nagai:

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Best of all, they got Go Nagai (or Ken Ishikawa, or SOMEBODY at Dynamic Pro) to do some Star Wars artwork:

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The best part about that Star Wars pic is thinking how Marvel fans would react, how Star Wars fans would react, and how anime fans would react. The article is more or less a hook to hang some publicity photos on, but Marvel's guy in Tokyo mentions how widespread the Japanese comics industry is, how the storytelling pace is a lot slower and more cinematic, how American style comics simply won't sell in Japan, and more or less demonstrates a firm understanding of the Japanese pop culture industry, which is interesting for 1978, because it took thirty years for anybody to actually put any of this understanding into practice in the US (and it wasn't Marvel). Also neat is the mention of all the other fantastic co-productions that were in the works for Japan, including a Japanese Silver Surfer. Don't hold your breath waiting for that one, 1978.

Also fun is the consistent use of the word "oriental", which is bar none still the cheesiest way to refer to anything Asian.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

the four marjoes

four images of popular television and screen star Marjoe Gortner.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

New for 1986!!!

This is a translation of an article detailing new anime video releases for 1986, from the long defunct magazine "Globian". Enjoy the confusing, slightly meandering and elliptical descriptions of forgotten cartoon gems of the golden age of the Original Anime Video (or Original Video Anime, if you prefer).

translated by Bruce Eimon
(courtesy Lorraine Savage)

The world of Violence Jack is a world of darkness due to meteors and volcanic eruptions. Huge meteors attack earth and destroy the surface of Japan. Some of the meteors land on and disrupt volcanoes. These volcanoes spring up all over Japan. The sky became dark with ashes and magma destroyed all the green life.A comet hits and destroys the sun. There is anarchy over earth. In the confusion force becomes the only means of justice. Men use violence, women fight back or become suppressed. But one woman is different; Mari fights violence with love.People have to kill to eat. What do we do? We suffer.

GARIAN (Galient?)Garian, which was on TV for a while will have a video that is different. Garian is a historical drama of planet Arsutu; a son avenges his father's death.

This TV series was cancelled. Part III will be the last part not shown on TV. Editor's note: a lot of animation will be cancelled in the next five years due to a glut in the medium.

This is a science fiction school animation. It takes place at a computer controlled school where the headmaster keeps female and male students separated. But three girls start a revolution. The headmaster sends his daughter, Narisu, to settle the revolution. She wears the Powered Protector! What will happen?

This video does not have good quality but it will have fresh, new ideas. It deals with something we're forgetting in life.

This adult animation takes place in the winter. Ami has a love affair with her brother. He hasn't contacted her in a while. He calls her and then dumps her. Depressed, she goes to a friend's apartment and mysteriously gets sucked into a doorway!

How different can this be from the long running show?

This original video is 30 minutes and different from the series. It will be out in September 1986. The video is a side story about Emi's summer vacation. Nothing exciting happens and there are no new characters.

This was a very minor comic that made it into video anyway. In the future, a transportation truck is in an accident and a combat robot M66, escapes from the truck. It then goes on a destroying rampage. The main character, Tyufon, is a newspaper reporter who covers the incident.

This too was a minor comic and the video will come out in November 1986. Everyone who orders the video will get a free Gaiba eraser!

Based on a TV video game, will come out in July 1986. It's about a simulation game.

Coming out in Jan 1987. This is past its due date due to the precise, detailed drawings of the guns in the picture. This will be beyond the realm of movies and will have perfect animation.

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This was a laser disc and not very popular, but will be a video. Michi was separated from her friend when they were four years old. Hiroshi was taken away from her. Michi then went on the spaceship, Pink Shock, looking for him. This is a story of a simple obnoxious girl who raises hell. But she's so cute you let her do it and forgive her.

The theme: in our present society, we can hang onto something stable, our value, in this state of confusion. This takes place in good ole California. This is a view of America from a Japanese point of view of the good ole days. It may not be correct.The story centers around a car chase scene. The director was influenced by movies like "Easy Rider" and he wanted to use 70s music. The movie also reminds him of "Close Encounters" but it's not a science fiction movie. Yet... The cars chase for the gift from the UFO-- but the director won't tell us what the gift is.

A girl has magical powers and goes into another world. There she becomes queen and fights evil.

REM 2 (Dream Hunter Rem?)
A story about the psychology of adolescence taking place at a girls' boarding school.

A girl likes motorcycles, but not wild riders, just the motorcycles. You'll like this video if you like motorcycles.
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Two people do not keep their promise and break their trust, and live unhappy lives because of it. Two keys of the story are the ghost ship and the bird of red light.

This X-rated video is about Riyon which is supposed to be the most beautiful planet in space. It is peaceful and has never been attacked before. The queen of the eastern kingdom Flare will marry the king of the West to unify the two. But a force from another planet comes, led by emperor Gurode, and attacks. Flare gets captured by the Gurode forces. Her servant gives her body over to be tortured to save Flare. Gurode's forces have the latest mechanical weapons and most of the men get killed.

In this R-rated video, Rumi is a high school girl by day and operates a telephone club by night. She meets a guy with strange powers; when he gets excited he turns into a monster. She likes him because he's like her; he has two extreme lifestyles. The other girls at school get jealous of Rumi.

This video was originally planned with three girls but went to seven because it was so popular. The enemies of Gall Force, the Paranoid, are totally different life form. They are under combat with their female race, the Soulnoid, and have advanced technology.

This science fiction spectacle is like Alice In Wonderland. A girl gets sucked into another dimension and meets a rabbit. She goes through into a new and different world.

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They are looking for perfect soldiers and trying to get a certain type of material.

The most important character is the moving city, Naruhisu, riding on a giant turtle.

This adult film uses singing idols as voices to attract people to these type of dumb movies released in summer.A gangster in a small city accidentally saves the life of a young witch, Betty Valentine. She married him as thanks. Her grandmother tests them to prove their love. Meanwhile, Betty must kill the person who killed her sister.

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This is a horror movie. Most foreign movies spend a lot of time on art but in Japan we spend a lot of time on characters. This movie is an exception. It will concentrate on art.In a space ship people are paranoid, a giant silhouette approaches. No attacks upon it works, people scream...

This is a complex story centering on Nayuta. Her parents are killed by aliens and she has to find her place of comfort. This story has love, sadness, adventure, and fantasy.

The main girl is cute and the guy is handsome and strong. They must fight an organized mafia type called Furado. Everyone has a head meter which shows their level of power. The only person who gets an infinite sign on his forehead is one with infinite power, who is the leader of the Furado, named Furaodia Lee. Kei, on the good side, has a meter reading of 5, which is low. Yet he really is powerful.

There is a distinct difference between the city in the sky and the city on the ground. The ground city has inefficent technology. Laputa, in the sky, has efficent machinery. But Laputa gradually decayed and lost its power.

This movie is a big spoof with nonsense animation. It's sure to be a big hit.

Friday, March 23, 2007

the secret history of anime parody dubbing

(this article was originally written in the late 90s. Many dramatic changes have taken place in the anime parody world since then but I haven't been paying attention.)
One of the craziest things Japanese anime fans do - besides spend thousands of dollars on cartoons that are in a language they don't understand - is parody dubbing. Like making your own music videos, dubbing your own voice over somebody else's video is an idea that sort of comes naturally to the hard-core anime person. You've got two VCRs, you're pretty well versed in the process of hooking them up to make copies, and sooner or later you're going to look at that "audio input" jack and start thinking to yourself, "Hey, that could be my voice coming out of that little TV speaker, making Rick Hunter say silly things!"
In fact, if you get two or three overstimulated teenagers and make them watch some untranslated anime, it won't be ten minutes before the quips and gags start flying. It's only a matter of time before somebody digs up a microphone, somebody else cannibalizes their stereo, and there you are making your own parody dub. This is nothing new - none less than Woody Allen employed the exact same technique for the re-dubbed feature film "What's Up Tiger Lily?" - but it took anime fandom and A/V nerd know-how to take it from the pro studios and put it in our own living rooms.
Who started this wacky sub-sub-subculture? Well, the earliest evidence of parody dubbing is a legendary treasure known as "You Say Yamato". It's an episode of Star Blazers dubbed wacky, and while it undoubtedly is the granddaddy of them all, whether or not it can be called 'influential' is debatable because nobody had a copy of the damn thing, and if you didn't live in New England you didn't even get to SEE it. I myself was bugging one of the creators for a copy as early as 1985, and even my desperate pleas went ignored, because, you know, if they copied it they might get in trouble with the copyright holders. Well, that was their excuse, anyway. Having since obtained a copy, I find the legend of "You Say Yamato" looms large because of its early entry into the field and its relative obscurity, rather than because of its comedy value.
Anyway, the one that was both very early and very influential was a little thing that really had no title, but became known as "Dirty Pair Does Dishes," by a Southern California group known as Pinesalad Productions. Pinesalad had dubbed some Robotech episodes ("How Drugs Won The War" and "Why Don't You Come Over For A Sip Of Sherry, Slut."), but it was their Dirty Pair that really brought down the house. The voices were goofy, yet fitting - Kei sounds like Der Arnold and Yuri's voice is strictly Valley Girl. The soundtrack was pure 80's New Wave, and the dialog was silly and suggestive enough to make even the most sour-faced anime fan laugh.
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What's more, this one showed up just as anime tape trading was getting into high gear. DPDD was copied and re-copied and re-copied to such an extent that just about everybody involved in anime fandom from 1988-1992 had seen the darn thing so many times that it wasn't even funny. Pinesalad would go on to dub three more Dirty Pair episodes before extricating themselves from the anime parody community.
Around the same time Pinesalad was mangling the Dirty Pair, two guys in Atlanta were doing the same thing to Star Blazers, AKA Space Cruiser Yamato. They called themselves Corn Pone Flicks, and their film would be re-christened Star Dipwads. Corn Pone wasn't content to just take an episode -they took the entire film Arrivederci Space Cruiser Yamato and re-dubbed it. What set CPF's approach apart from the others was the simple yet effective tactic of editing. While other parody film producers were content to just let the video run unmolested, Star Dipwads would use the magic of editing to make the Star Force destroy their own headquarters, warp whenever the heck they felt like it, and shoot themselves in the main bridge. The Comet Empire was explained away as a giant orbiting swarm of copulating sheep, and Prince Zordar was clearly insane, asking his subordinates repeatedly to explain the existence of goats.
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The non-sequitur comedy of "Star Dipwads" entertained con audiences for years until CPF got tired of showing it all the damn time. CPF would later produce the live-action mockumentary "Making Of Star Dipwads", the half-live, half-parody prequel "A Star Dipwads Christmas", the parody subtitled "Grandizer VS Great Mazinger" and "Mazinger Z VS Devilman", and lots of straight fan subtitled videos, not to mention many short comedic films including "Corn Dog Seven" and "The Phone." The last installment in the Dipwads saga -1997's "The Return Of Star Dipwads II -The Metal Years" - continued the "mockumentary" theme as an intro to one wild thirty minutes of parody dubbing in which the Star Force spends three years fiddling with the thermostat and Captain Avatar's psychic powers are growing stronger by the minute. There was even a Star Dipwads comic!
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As the 90s bloomed so did fan dubbing. Sherbert Productions produced their own Dirty Pair parody and moved on to Ranma 1/2 and Gatchaman. Some guy down in Florida did an episode of Tekkaman where the plot concerned hair care products. Seishun Shitamasu dubbed Gunbuster into a fake Robotech. Magnum Opus Productions did their own version of "1982- Grafitti of Otaku Generation" and turned it into "Fanboy Generation", complete with fake "interviews." They just completed a smutty version of Speed Racer. A Great Lakes outfit known as "G.R.A.A.C." released their own take on Evangelion, only this one has a pronounced Hibernian accent. Yes, it's "Bad Scottish Dubbing," complete with a fair Sean Connery impression. And Birmingham's Video Mare Jigoku produced not one, not two, but three in the live-action-clips-versus-animated-clips "X-23" series. The second installment (produced in conjunction with Corn Pone Flicks) is 150 minutes long and violates literally hundreds of copyrights and 'fair-use' agreements. Guess what? Nobody cares.
Video Mare Jigoku also did a video in which the Enterprise battles Captain Harlock, inspired by seeing CPFs video where Captain Harlock battles Han Solo, which was inspired by seeing a very very early homemade video possibly by Texas fan Jeff Blend, in which the Enterprise battled the Yamato (the Yamato won). CPF later did a video where Captain Harlock single-handedly destroyed the Empire from Star Wars. Did Lucas sue? Not yet.
Some of these parodies are funny - some are tedious - some are downright abusive. But the important thing is, the kids aren't just sitting back and couch-potatoing like zombies. They're taking what they see and using it as fodder for their own creativity, and that can't help but be cool.
The technology has come a long way, too - gone are the days when you had to record your dialog onto an audio cassette (the same cassette deck that was providing many of your sound effects!) and play it back into the video. Even back then some VCRs had "audio-dub" switches - keep the video, but record new audio - that music video creators were already using to good advantage. These days the kids can mix the audio on their desktop super computers, combine it with video either out to a S-VHS or again, right on the desktop, and there you go. Titles are child's play.
The best of the parody-dubbed films these days rival even professional TV shows, at least in appearance. Seamless edits and fancy titles abound. The actual writing is still sometimes stuck in the goofy-sit-around-and-make-fun-of-the-cartoons league, but even that has its own DIY charm. This is comedy without focus groups, editorial boards, sponsors or producers - this is total artistic freedom. So what if dick jokes abound? It's FREEDOM, man. Go out there and get some!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

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Learn the truth behind the super mechanical fighting team jesus!!

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Friday, March 9, 2007

Sunday, January 28, 2007

AFF XXI -the final curtain

This was the program book cover for the last AFF. Note the SF/fantasy characters on the cover- nobody even remotely connected with these properties was at AFF that year. A nitpick, but one indicative of the total cluelessness infecting the higher-ups at the convention in its last few years. The convention had some high-profile media guests- Claudia Christian from the popular SF series Babylon 5, two A-Team cast members - but you wouldn't know it from this program book cover. On the other hand, in the Dirk Benedict bio one learns that a macrobiotic diet saved him from prostate cancer in 1975.

The Castlegate was in fine form this year; the convention was allowed the use of the former nightclub as a consuite, which became the most entertaining part of the show. We shot darts at each other in the halls, abused the Vampire players (one player, outraged that we would poke Vampires with sticks and proclaim them "dead", said that he expected us to treat them with a "modicum of decency". One con staffer got into a bar fight with cowboys, starting the brawl with a beer bottle to the head. (He later said, "He knew I was going to fight, and I knew he was going to fight, and I knew it would wind up with a beer bottle to the head, so I just got it over with").

I was in charge of the anime room and we showed Porco Rosso, Ah My Goddess, Streetfighter II, Giant Robo, Macross Plus, Prefectural High School Earth Defense Force (as we were calling it in those days), Urusei Yatsura, Akira, Rose Of Versailles, and Future Boy Conan, among other titles. I even ran an Anime Hell, though I couldn't tell you what I showed. Other events? Hollywood movies like The Flintstones, True Lies, Total Recall, and Rocky Horror (of course); episodes of genre TV like Wizards & Warriors, Logan's Run, Friday The 13th, The Night Stalker, and The Flash; and panels like "Q&A: Comics Guests" and "Panel: Fantastic Art", and cookie-cutter every-con-has-one stuff like "opening ceremonies" and "costume contest."

And yeah, that was it. So if you paid $35 for this convention you would feel completely ripped off. We didn't feel too great about it and we got in free. It was obvious to most of the staff that the convention was having a real problem getting guests of any stature - nobody busts down your doors to see B-movie legends, regardless of what the fans tell themselves - and while we had a lot of suggestions for events that might not require airfare from Hollywood, they were always shot down in favor of yet another scream queen or pro wrestler.

The fandom was becoming younger and more interested in things like computer and video gaming, live-action RPGs and Magic, and of course the Japanese cartoons. AFF reacted to this new surge of interest by ignoring it completely; they allowed people to play the games, but they did not capitalize on it in the slightest.

Another problem was that the AFF had generated massive amounts of bad publicity because of the bad blood between it and Dragoncon. Right, wrong, whatever; the practical matter is that people don't want to go to a convention percieved as shrill, self-serving, petty, politicky, and jealous. AFF was percieved as all those things. Having public tantrums in the halls of your own conventions, scheduling AFF a week away from Dragoncon, engaging in vocal smear campaigns - all that stuff keeps people away from your door. (re: MOC)

So we'd been keeping our eyes open when we started AWA, and we managed to avoid most of the pitfalls - we had a raft of cheap, involving activities for everybody, we kept a tight rein on our budget, and we never relied on guests to sell tickets, Plus we never feuded with other conventions in public. Will AWA last 21 shows? Who can say? All I know is that AWA will never have Darth Vader, Spock, or The Crow decorating its program book, and that's good enough for me.

Atlanta Fantasy Fair would not return. The owners divorced, and while one party wanted nothing to do with conventions, the other party wanted to keep going, yet at the same time deny the first party any convention money that would have to be paid if the name "Atlanta Fantasy Fair" was used. So the next year saw an exciting new convention, "Starcon And Comics". Comic book artists, B-level celebrities, and - this will really get people in the door - an Elvis impersonator. Scheduled on the same weekend as AWA 2 in November 1996, it became a living example of the Old And Busted being destroyed by the New Hotness. You know, guys, a damn phone call is all it would have taken to get us to change our dates, we would have worked with you guys, we had a lot of sympathy and goodwill. But nooooo, you had to act like big shots. I sure hope you felt like big shots watching the dealers pack up on Saturday afternoon.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

the atlanta fantasy fair

Okay, so there was this convention in Atlanta called the Atlanta Fantasy Fair, and according to the internets it might as well not have existed. But exist it did, from 1975 until 1995.

AFF started in 1975; location unknown. "At the first Atlanta Fantasy Fair in 1975, the guests were Stan Lee, Kenneth Smith, and me, with my Superman collection." M. Hirtes

1976 Atlanta Fantasy Fair II
Location? Guests?

1977 Atlanta Fantasy Fair III
Location? Guests?

1978 Atlanta Fantasy Fair IV.
Location? Guests?
1978, first convention: Atlanta Comics & Fantasy Fair. Stan Lee, Starlin, Chaykin, Steranko. For some weird reason, Robert Conrad was hanging around the lobby on Saturday night.

1979 Atlanta Fantasy Fair V.
Location? Guests? - "In 1979 Deni and I had the table next to John Byrne at the Atlanta Fantasy Fair and we made a fortune on back issues and sketches... " (Dave Sim) Visions #1 was published.

1980 Atlanta Fantasy Fair VI.
Location...? Guests? Visions #2 published.

1981 Atlanta Fantasy Fair VII
Castlegate. Guests Al Williamson, Michael Whelan, Bob Burden, Mike Jittlov? Visions #3 published.

1982 Atlanta Fantasy Fair VIII August 13-15
Omni Hotel & World Congress Center, Atlanta GA Guests Frank Miller, Ray Harryhausen, Will Eisner, Philip Jose Farmer, Forrest J. Ackerman, Bob Burden, Mike Barr, Dick Giordano, Brad Linaweaver, Somtow Sucharitkul, Len Wein, musical guests "Axis". 4000 copies of program book (Visions #4) published.

1983 Atlanta Fantasy Fair IX, August 5-7
Omni Hotel & Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta GA. Guests: Theodore & Jayne Sturgeon, Gerald Page, WSFAns Ted White & Forrest J Ackerman, Bob Burden, Forry Ackerman, Bob McLeod, Wendy and Richard Pini& more. Rooms were $44 a night, 3 day passes were $19.

1984 Atlanta Fantasy Fair X
Omni Hotel & World Congress Center, Atlanta, GA. GOH: Larry Niven. With: Forrest J Ackerman, Robert Bloch, Sharon Webb, Richard Pini & others. Membership: $25. Write to: Atlanta Fantasy Fair. P.O. Box 566, Marietta, GA 30061

"Not only saw Buckaroo Banzai, but I have a real polyester Buckaroo Banzai headband given out as a freebie at the Atlanta Fantasy Fair in the summer of 1984. I wonder if anyone's insane enouW^W^W^^W what it would go for on Ebay? (jackd) "

1985 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XI
Omni/WCC. Newt Gingrich and Fredrick Pohl are guests.

1986 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XII

1987 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XIII
Omni /WCC. Lamar Waldron displaced as con chair before the 1987 convention.

1988 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XVI, June 24-26
Atlanta Hilton & Towers in Atlanta, GA. Convention location displaced due to Democratic National Convention in Atlanta. Steve Jackson is a guest.

Atlanta Hilton and Towers, Atlanta, GA.

1990 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XVI
Date? Location? Guests - Jack Kirby

1991 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XVII
Location? Guests?

1992 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XVIII June 20-21
Hyatt Atlanta Airport Guest: Peter David

1993 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XIX June 25-27
Hyatt Atlanta Airport, Atlanta GA. Guests David Prowse, Grace Lee Whitney, Caroline Munro, Monique Gabrielle, Jeff Rector, Gunnar Hanson, Irish McCalla. Memberships: $27 until 6/5, $30 at door.

1994 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XX June 17-19
Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, Atlanta GA. Guests: Sarah Douglas, Bruce Campbell, Jeff Rector, Geraint Wyn Davies, John Russo, Ted V. Mikels. Memb: $27 until June 5, $30 at door. Rooms $79 sngl/dbl, $99 tpl/quad.

1995 Atlanta Fantasy Fair XXI, June 23-25
Castlegate Hotel, Atlanta GA. Guests: Claudia Christian, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz, Jeff Pittarelli, Don Hillsman II, Wayne VanSant, Joe Phillips. Memberships $35 for 3 days. Rooms $69.

So, as we can see, the convention went from being Atlanta's premier SF/Fantasy gathering with top-notch guests and venues (Stan Lee, Al Williamson, Jim Steranko, Ray Harryhausen, the Omni, the Hilton) to a confused mish-mash of scream queens, airbrush artists, and B-movie personalities, operating out of the Castlegate (!). More information about the Castlegate may be found here.

There are many gaps in my knowledge of the AFF, and I welcome those with the foresight to save their T-shirts and program books to bequeath their information unto me. Locations, dates, guests, anecdotes... they're all welcome. You can leave comments here or email me at davidrmerrill@yahoo.com .

Friday, January 19, 2007

Thursday, January 11, 2007