- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 30, 2003

Obsolete art

“Hand-drawn animation is quickly giving way to the newfangled digital variety popularized by Pixar Studios in such feature films as ‘Finding Nemo.’ … Digital cartoonery affords its practitioners a higher degree of technical virtuosity, while simultaneously facilitating the sort of hyperrealistic animation that [the artists behind Warner Bros. classic ‘Looney Tunes’] and their colleagues shunned. Instead of being inhibited by the limitations of their primitive craft, the Warner directors were inspired by those limitations to new heights of fantasy. …

“The future of animation belongs to the wizards of Pixar. … But when the last ink bottle is empty and the last paint brush has been put away for good, Bugs and Daffy will still be with us, one sly, the other spluttering, just as Wile E. Coyote will never stop chasing the Road Runner. They are as obsolete as a silent movie by Buster Keaton — and as imperishable.”

Terry Teachout, writing on “That’s Not All, Folks,” Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal

Write your own

“From the moment the Athens, Ga., quartet [R.E.M.] released their first EP, ‘Chronic Town,’ in 1982, anyone attuned to the ragtag world of alternative rock (or progressive or modern or underground rock — the labels were still in flux) felt a seismic shift in the musical order of things, a disturbance in the force of the aural kind. …

“R.E.M.’s fellow Athenians the B-52s had already made a much-ballyhooed appearance on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ slaying the studio audience (and much of late-night America) with a deeply weird rendition of their party-startin’ classic ‘Rock Lobster.’ …

“But R.E.M. were different. They were less a band, it seemed at the time, than a phenomenon. A subcultural force with the aesthetic equivalent of gravitational pull, the group brought a far-flung sonic universe into a kind of rough orbit. …

“[T]he band made lush and sensuous music, cranking out records fueled in large part by [guitarist Peter] Buck’s Byrds-like arpeggios and [singer Michael] Stipe’s incoherent (but lovely) mumbling. That latter trait in particular was one of the group’s huge hooks: Southern-accented phonemes hung on melodies so large they basically dared you to write your own … poem.”

Shannon Zimmerman, writing on “Not quite the end of the world as we know it,” Tuesday in Salon at www.salon.com

World opinion

“The self-styled king of pop’s fame has spread to every corner of the globe, so it isn’t surprising that newspapers everywhere want to report every detail of Michael Jackson’s sordid downfall. …

“‘So warped by his fame as a child that the only adult companions with whom he feels at ease are Elizabeth Taylor and a chimpanzee, the singer constructed a fantasy world in which a theme park could be a home and 45-year-old men could have 12-year-old friends for sleepovers,’ declared [the Guardian in Manchester, England]. …

“The Times of London ran a lengthy assessment of Jacko’s background, including … this stark declaration from a psychologist: ‘It’s quite clear that he has a kind of pedophile personality.’

“To the public, Jackson has been a professional lunatic, not a musician, for years. Exoneration for these latest charges isn’t going to change that, nor is it likely to rekindle a career long overwhelmed by its attendant strangeness. If he’s found guilty, however, Jackson will lose one remaining thing he has left: Our sympathy.”

Carl Schrag, writing on “Play Wacko, Jacko,” Tuesday in Slate at www.slate.com

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