Hotsy Totsy members: Juliet Clark - Ray Davis - Anselm Dovetonsils - Christina La Sala
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The Hotsy Totsy Club

1999-10-18. . . Cholly Kokonino reporting

Last year, the Comics Journal split its double-sized hundredth issue between Chris Ware (proprietor of the well-griefed Acme Novelty Library) and Charles Schulz (still the sole artist on Peanuts). Critical wisdom, repeated several times in the course of the magazine, is that this provocative pairing works for only the first half of Schulz's career, and that by the mid-1970s the final sparks of viciousness and bitterness were leached from Peanuts, leaving it a thin collection of very soft gags.

Well, it's true that Schulz doesn't kick Charlie Brown around much any more. But there's still plenty of crummy mood left in the old guy, and for the last couple of decades, it's been channeled through a character left unmentioned by the Comics Journal: Spike, the beagle hermit who looks a little like Dashiell Hammett.

Only a week or two ago, he featured in a downright Warean moment: a single-panel strip of a desert thunderstorm, with Spike, small and centered, braced against a cactus and accompanied only by the thought-balloon "Mom!" (Or, as Ware would've put it, "M-m-mom?")

And my favoritest Peanuts of all time ever was a 1980s Sunday Spike -- I paraphrase from memory so's not to stir up the lawyers:

(Spike looks at cactus) "Did you ever hear how it was that I moved to the desert? When I was very young, almost a puppy, I lived in a house with a family. One day the family had a birthday party in their yard. A guest saw a rabbit and told me to chase it. And then everyone was shouting for me to chase it. I was excited and wanted to do the right thing, and so I chased the rabbit. The rabbit ran into the street and was run over. And so I came here, where I can never hurt anyone again." (Pause) "I've never told anyone that story." (Looks at cactus) "I guess I still haven't."
I think of that punchline a lot... it seems like it's hit something essential about fiction, and criticism, and autobiography -- maybe about all writing for publication.... "I've never told anyone that story. I guess I still haven't."

. . . 1999-10-20

My favorite joke from A Nest of Ninnies by John Ashbery & James Schuyler:
"We can't let a lady drink alone, can we, Marshall?" Mr. Kelso said.

"Sometimes it's difficult to stop them," Marshall said.

Otherwise? The book's kind of OK, I guess. Like Dawn Powell except with no characters or structure. If you've read all the Dawn Powell novels, you might as well go ahead and try it.

Calling O'Reilly: I'd love to see the Joe Brainard cover illustration for this edition recycled on a Cross-Platform Java reference volume....

Cover Art

. . . 1999-10-22

A Halloween Homily: For most of us, Halloween brings thoughts of scary candy, hanged effigies that don't have our names pinned to their chests, and folks dressed up like San Francisco rock bands. In the coming weeks, let's try to remember the true meaning of Halloween, as exemplified by this Tale of Old Hollywood:

Tinseltown's most whimsical leading man was being interviewed in a favorite watering hole (one much like the Hotsy Totsy Club that surrounds us) when he became slightly miffed by the tone of a question.

Quickly snatching the young reporter's wallet from the bar, the star asked, "And how would you feel if I was to announce loudly to all and sundry that" (he peered into the gatefold) "your driver's license expired over two years ago? Or if I pressured you as to" (pulling a worn rectangle of newsprint from out the inner sleeve) "why you show such interest in --"

But here he stopped. For the scrap of paper held nothing less than the obituary of the very reporter before him. His interviewer was a zombie -- one of the walking dead!

Silently the grand old man of the screen replaced the precious souvenir; silently he replaced the wallet; humbly he admitted, "You know, I never realized how difficult it must be to maintain both interest and propriety in one's questioning." And the interview continued.

Yes, they had faces then. What's more, beating or not, they had hearts.

. . . 1999-10-24

Critics rave: "Ray's the Titanic!" -- Cory Doctorow

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The Miracle of Digestion: I've finally finished off the large bag of Vietnamese coffee I was given a couple of months ago, whose distinctive Vietnamesisity was that the beans had been roasted in butter.

It's tempting to say that the odor while brewing was unimaginable, but in fact it was pretty much exactly what you'd imagine except more intense. I'm just sorry I never got around to trying a mug with one of my other favorite treats, microwave popcorn dredged in Dutch cocoa powder, for the complete colonial experience.

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Recently received via anonymous donation: A free-in-every-box informational pamphlet headlined "How to use 100% certified organically grown cotton digital tampons".

I remember back when it was a big deal just to be stereophonic....

. . . 1999-10-26

Modern Art: Steven Elliott's and Christina La Sala's "Invisible Practices" installation has made SF State's Art Gallery over into a spacious windowless studio apartment for today's narcissistic Invisible Man, fully furnished with a "now you don't" business suit, a T-shirt for Casual Fridays, a bed, reading materials, inspirational wall hangings, and even a sandbox.

After the opening celebration, we settled down with La Sala at a noisy restaurant, ordered a lot of beer, and opened our note pad for an exclusive interview with the artist. A transcript follows:

Sierra Nevada?
No. Yes.
California part.
I went to Copperopolis.
No copper. Ghost town.
Not where invisible man came from.
C gets to proofread.
As long as I don't stand out.
Invis not part of body.
Nothing to do with body politics.
Not butter.
Times when it's good.
Visible - bad things happen.
[trade secrets]
Detergent - completely artificial.
Sneezing gasping wheezing.
Not nature.
Scotch tape, xerox.
6 + 4 is 12
More insulting to call it scottish tape.
Hop scottish.
Drinking game.
(looks like) notor Lielb
That's a good interview.
It sure is. It sure is....

. . . 1999-10-28

Autobiography: Maybe 'cause I was a sickly kid, or maybe 'cause of my temper, or maybe just because I'm a drama queen, but I never really thought I'd live to see forty. Now I feel like a gambler who can't think of anything to do with his winnings but piss them away as quickly as possible.

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It's official: dot-com-izing is the colorization of the 1990s! And see how nicely it can learn to play with the new copyright laws! As excerpted from some guy named Bloomberg:

American Film Technologies Inc. officials have ousted the chief executive of the company that pioneered "colorizing" of black-and-white movies and replaced him with a turnaround specialist, according to filings with securities regulators.
. . .
But a dropoff in demand for colorized films left the company struggling to survive, court papers said. American Film hasn't generated any revenues since 1995 and its lab and film library are sitting unused.
. . .
Rudy said he's arranged for a $250,000 cash infusion for American Film, which will now focus on offering colorized films via the Internet. The company is planning to offer color versions of such classics as To Kill A Mockingbird and A Farewell to Arms, he added.

By colorizing such older movies -- whose copyrights have expired -- American Film gets exclusive rights to the films for the next 95 years, Rudy said.

"We're excited about the possibilities of distributing our product over the Internet and rebuilding the value in this company," he said.

. . . 1999-10-29

Errata: It! The Terror from Beyond Space is a misnomer. It should instead be Martian! The Terror from Mars.

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The 100 Super Movies au maximum: The Old Dark House

Karloff and Stuart
What you're likely to hear about The Old Dark House:

What the first-time viewer is likely to notice about The Old Dark House:

What I'm likely to mention about The Old Dark House:

... an' anotha thing ...... then again ...

Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
All other material: Copyright 1999 Ray Davis.