Selling Nostalgia by Matt Klickstein

Past and future guest of Toon-In Talk Matt Klickstein sent word about his latest book, Selling Nostalgia.

My thoughts are already wagging at the title wondering what that title implies.  Is Matt going with an Ernest Cline Ready Player One flavor?  Or is he going with a Disney shtick about repackaging and reselling nostalgia as brand new?   Matt is threaded inspiration from the fandom and zeitgeist, so here is what Selling Nostalgia is about:

Prepare yourself to boldly go where few fanboys and fangirls have gone before on this rocket-powered rollercoaster ride through today’s madcap, pop culture-obsessed “nostalgia industry”—comprised of the reunions, reboots, blogs, podcasts, commenters, conventions, and collect-em-all merch—that fuels today’s ever-growing geek culture!

As with so many members of his generation, down-on-his-luck writer-filmmaker Milton Siegel has what some might call an unhealthy fixation on the TV shows, movies, books, music, and celebrities from his childhood that spanned the 1980s and 1990s. Unlikemany of his generation, Milt has spent most of his life as an adult (so to speak) chronicling this same pop culture of his youth. Hey, it’s a living…sometimes.

After quitting his job at a regional newspaper (or after having been fired, depending on who you ask), Milt finds himself on what becomes a quixotic quest to promote his latest pop culture history project around the country over one progressively insane and hilarious month. Throughout his many misadventures to come, Milt must contend with: a horde of salivating manic nerds, an inexplicable rash of natural disasters, clickbait-concocting media pundits, overly ambitious pseudo-celebrities, bafflingly incompetent event coordinators, a desperately hemorrhaging bank account, a super seductive stripper, ultra-competitive frenemies, and his own sense of the precarious future while being so embroiled in his childish past.

In the end, it’s up to Milt to make it through the month-long nomadic tour of laughter, tears, and revelations ahead without losing his mind. If he’s really lucky, he might even make rent, keep his new wife from fleeing in terror, and perhaps have a little fun along the way.

Not a bad story idea, Matt.  I have my own fandom and nostalgic fandom stories in my writing queue.  Kudos for getting yours published by Simon and Schuster!  Matt also wrote Slimed: An Oral History of Nickelodeon in 2013.

Autism is Hereditary and I’m a Mutant

One thing that makes me mad is when people ignore good science.  I say good science, because there is a lot of bad, kooky, and pseudoscience that is circumnavigating the Internet and, despite all the evidence to the contrary, people still believe in the junk.

One current junk science belief is that vaccinations cause autism.  They don’t.

Autism displays itself in some infants before they receive their first vaccines.  I was one of those infants.

What people are ignoring is that autism is probably a genetic mutation and is passed from one generation to the next.  In my case, my mother’s side has generational depression and anxiety, while my father’s father passed his dyslexia onto many of his descendants.  My parents’ genetics combined with their life stresses mixed in my utero soup led to my ASD (autism spectrum disorder).

Mental health professionals agree with my thoughts about hereditary ASD.  JAMA Psychiatry recently published, “Association of Genetic and Environmental Factors With Autism in a 5-Country Cohort.”

The test group consists of 2,001, 631 individuals, 51.3% were male and 22,156 were diagnosed with ASD.  The people in the test group were from Denmark, Western Australia, Israel, Sweden, and Finland. The researchers discovered that ASD is 80% hereditary.  Read the official results:

“The median (95% CI) ASD heritability was 80.8% (73.2%-85.5%) for country-specific point estimates, ranging from 50.9% (25.1%-75.6%) (Finland) to 86.8% (69.8%-100.0%) (Israel). For the Nordic countries combined, heritability estimates ranged from 81.2% (73.9%-85.3%) to 82.7% (79.1%-86.0%). Maternal effect was estimated to range from 0.4% to 1.6%. Estimates of genetic, maternal, and environmental effects for autistic disorder were similar with ASD.”

And the official conclusion:

“Based on population data from 5 countries, the heritability of ASD was estimated to be approximately 80%, indicating that the variation in ASD occurrence in the population is mostly owing to inherited genetic influences, with no support for contribution from maternal effects. The results suggest possible modest differences in the sources of ASD risk between countries.”

I love it!  I love it!  I love it!

BAM!  ASD is passed from parent to child!  Judging that ASD is a neurological disorder, I bet individuals (like my parents) who have non-ASD mental health issues and/or neurological disorders are at a higher risk of developing ASD when they conceive.  In other words, their kids are more likely to be autistic.

My hypothesis is strong based on the current science.  My parents’ DNA mutated when I was conceived and I became ASD.

So I’m a mutant?

Do I get to join the X-Men?

ASD people do go to special schools.  Maybe Professor Xavier’s Institute is a front for ASD education.

Dibs on Rogue’s costume.

I’m Back, Toon People!

Where have I been?

I’ve been networking at the San Diego Comic Con.

I’ve been presenting at GenCon.

I’ve been lecturing at the Highlights Foundation.

In under two weeks, I’ve been from one end of the country to the other.

Then life happened and I had to get my mutts back in a domesticated row.  They did not like that.

Onward and upward!

 

Whitney Goes To SDCC

Where is the next Toon-In Talk episode?  I said I was back and I mean it!

I’ve been preparing for the San Diego Comic Con!

I haven’t been to the SDCC since 2010 when I was a young hoofer trying to learn how to get my comic published.  Nine years later I have a highly praised book (you should buy a copy BTW, it’s a great read), an agent, and two finished graphic novel manuscripts.

Now I only need a graphic novel publisher.  Knock!  Knock!  Knock, publishers!

I’ll be sure to report on SDCC 2019 when I get back

Disney Heiress Speaks About Family Mental Health Problems

Dr. Abigail Disney is one cool woman.

Dr. Abigail Disney bears a name everyone will recognizes.  Dr. Disney is Roy O. Disney’s granddaughter and the daughter of Roy E. Disney.  Roy O. Disney was Walt’s older brother and ran the business end of the Walt Disney Company.  Without Roy, the company would have sunk deeper than Black Hole and The Lone Ranger (Walt didn’t have a head for business).  Roy E. Disney saved the company’s animation department from being thrown into the legendary Disney vault (By the way, I have it on good authority that there is more than one vault).  While both Roys are praised in Disney history, apparently there were problems in Roy E.’s household.

Dr. Abigail Disney spoke candidly on the Through Her Eyes Podcast about her family’s troubles and wage disparities at the her family’s namesake company.  Listen, read, and watch the story on Yahoo: “‘We Didn’t Feel Safe’: Disney Heiress Describes Violent Childhood.”

When I watched the video, I enjoyed seeing how Dr. Disney resembled her father and grandfather (the shape of her face, nose, and the nice smile). She is an intelligent woman, who spoke tenaciously about wage disparity.  What I focused on in the interview was her family’s mental health.  Her description of her home life is sad, but it didn’t surprise me from what I known about the Disney family history.

Roy O. Disney was abused as a child.

 

What few people want to acknowledge, but is a very true fact is that many mental illnesses and disabilities are hereditary.  If you have any type of abusive household, more than likely your parents learned it/inherited it from their parents and so on and so forth.  Generational abuse when paired with or without mental illness is a vicious cycle that can only be broken with individuals mentally and actively decide to stop it.

 

Roy E. Disney was an alcoholic.

Walt and Roy O. Disney were child abuse victims.  Their father, Elias Disney, physically abused his kids.  Elias had a hard go at making a living and never was successful in any of his business ventures.  There were five Disney children in total and it was hard for Elias to feed them along with his wife and himself.  He managed, but he took his frustrations out on his children.  I read one story (I need to double check where) about how Elias raised his hand to smack Walt for some remark.  Elias hadn’t taken into fact that Walt had grown up and was physically capable of defending himself.  Walt saw his father’s hand come towards him, then he caught it, looked Elias straight in the eye, and said, “No more.”  Elias stopped beating his kids then, but it’s horrible he did it in the first place.

It doesn’t surprise me that Roy E. Disney was an alcoholic.  Judging by what Walt and Roy O. Disney suffered, then what Dr. Disney dealt with in her childhood there’s probably a mental illness gene in the Disney DNA.  Roy senior passed that along to Roy junior, which exhibited itself through alcoholism, rage, and violence.  Dr. Disney did state her father sought help to change, so kudos to Roy E. for being strong enough to make that decision.

Dr. Disney makes intriguing, dramatic documentary films.

According to Walt’s eldest daughter Diane Disney-Miller, who was a huge supporter of Disney scholarship, she and her sister Sharon had a great childhood.  Walt was a loving father and was “simply” dad to them.  Walt had his own demons, including a nervous breakdown when his company started to take off and had a few other episodes later in life.  He was also controlling in the work environment.

Dr. Disney is also a film producer and director.  Her films focus on strong woman, stated as the opposite of the usual Disney Princess trope in the interview.  These films include The Armor of Light and Pray the Devil Back to Hell. 

Considering what appears to be generational mental health issues in the Disney family and Dr. Disney’s focus on telling powerful, real life stories, I’d love for her to make a documentary about mental health.   Somebody contact her and tell her to get on it!

Google And Disney Read Books To Kids

Before I learned to read, I used to listen to recorded read-along books.  I had a stack of them about twelves inches high and each book came with a cassette tape.  The majority of these books were Disney read alongs, particularly of Disney movies released in the 1980s and earlier.  All of the Disney read-along books had red cassette tapes, unlike the others which were white and there was the odd yellow one for a My Little Pony book.  I would sit for hours going through the pile and although I didn’t know how to read, I loved listening to the narrator and hearing the cue to turn the page.  The cue was either a fairy chime, bells, or some sound effect that coordinated with the story.  Remember?  “Turn the page at the sound of the fairy godmother’s magic wand.”

I must say Disney paid attention to littlest detail even back under the Miller and Eisner epochs.

Google is one of those companies people have a love-hate relationship with, sort of like Disney.  People love to hate Disney as much as they adore certain aspects of the Mouse House.  Other than some technology, Google and Disney have yet to combine their resources for world domination, but I must say that their recent teammate is wholesome and nostalgic.   Also Kristen Bell is amazing!

 

I’m sold!

Google Nest providing sound effects for Disney books is a sensational new reading tool, especially for kids who have difficulty reading or for parents trying to get their kids off the screen and onto the page.  The old read-along books were exactly like this, except not as intelligent.  I had to rewind and fast forward to get to my favorite parts.  Other than Kristen Bell, I find the NLP AI amazing at recognizing speech to cue the proper sound effects.

Disney is using its popular Disney Golden Books series to tell stories with the Google Nest.  Only certain Disney Golden Books are compatible with the Google Nest Disney mini read alongs.  It’s hard to believe a book has to be compatible, but c’est la vie.  Disney is also genius in this deal, because it will promote their book sales and no one can argue with the educational value.  A book is a book, even if it is a book inspired by a movie.

If readers so choose, they can also purchase a Disney shaped Google Nest smart speaker.  It is utterly adorable with the trademark Mickey Mouse ears and the red pants with buttons, but I don’t like smart speakers.  They vibrate too much of an Orwellian Big Brother atmosphere and with the mouse ears, it makes me think Disney is listening so they can make the perfect plan to wipe out my life savings with merchandise and themed vacations.

For the naysayers, who will say that the Google Nest Disney story time is taking away kids’ imaginations I call a solid BS.  I read the Disney read-alongs and look at me, I’m making references to George Orwell-one led to the other.  There are vast metaphors I could also make between Orwell and Disney, but that’s completely another story.  See!  I’m smart!

Episode 31: Interview With Myself

I wanted to offer more details about my hiatus.  In episode 31 of Toon-In Talk, I interview myself and describe my experiences being misdiagnosed with autism, depression, bullying, PTSD, and other issues.

I’ve said it once and will continue to say it for the remainder of my life: being misdiagnosed effs up your life.  My life was effed up for years and I’m still dealing with the consequences today.

While I have a supportive family, animation, comic books, and puppetry really become the things that made my worth living.  Take a listen and hear part of my story.  I say part because I haven’t written the rest yet.  (Aren’t I poetic? HA!)

Episode 30: “Interview” With Frank Welker

I made this last year as an April Fool’s joke that got out way too late.  It was an attempt at coming back from hiatus the first time, but no dice.

I would love the chance to interview the real Frank Welker, but he’s harder to pin down than me during tax season.  Did I just write that?  Oh boy…I pay my taxes, I swear unless my CPA is pocketing my money and running.  That would explain why he took off to Bermuda and has an office there now…

While I investigate my CPA, enjoy this “interview” with cartoon voice over king, Mr. Frank Welker.

Aggretsuko Accurate On Japanese Work Environment

 

I have never been to Japan, but I have learned about for years due to my love for anime and manga.  Despite being a modern, developed country, there is still something ethereal about the land of the rising sun.  Just in the country’s nickname: “land of the rising sun” it sounds like a place akin to Oz or Never Never Land.  Alas, you can tell when one has consumed too much anime and manga when they believe Japan is the embodiment of anime cliches.  Usually this occurs in the younger otaku, who are still wide-eyed and naive.  They’re better off searching for Never Land and Oz, because the Japan in anime and manga doesn’t exist.

Continuing the theme from my last post related to the Japanese anime industry, I found this video about a great anime called Aggretsuko.  Brotakuza (Get it? He made a pun on otaku and the American slang word “bro.”  This dude is awesome!) and on his channel his discusses anime and various aspects about living in Japan.  In this particular video, he shares his experience about working in Japan, the tough realities, and how Aggretsuko does a fantastic job depicting it.

Aggretsuko is an anime inspired by none other than a Sanrio character.  Can you believe that the same creators behind Hello Kitty actually created one of the most progressive, female anime characters?  Aggretsuko plays on Netflix and is currently on the second season.  The show focuses on Retsuko is a twenty-five year old red panda and an office lady who works in an accounting department at a huge company.  Retsuko is constantly frustrated and unhappy with her job, romantic life, and lifestyle.  She gets her catharsis on by singing heavy metal karaoke.

It’s popularity has soared due to its accurate portrayal of not only a Japanese office environment, but also offices around the world.  One could say it is Sanrio’s version of the office with cute animals, but not as enduring.  Brotakuza shares his views and it’s another reason for otaku to be aware before they head to Japan for the desired “dream job.”

Watch Brotakuza’s video:

 

Working In Anime Sucks, Otaku Stay Home

I love anime.  I proudly say, “Otaku desu” among my fellow geeks.  (I am very familiar with the negative associations the Japanese attribute to otaku as well as the term “weeabo.”  I use otaku in the positive definition in that has gained traction since the first anime bubble in the late 1990s.). In my book Lotte Reiniger: Pioneer of Film Animation, I discuss the early anime and how Reiniger influenced some Japanese animators.  Her film The Adventures of Prince Achmed was even shown in major cities before Japan exercised imperialism.  

I can also make a good argument that Sailor Moon, DragonBall Z, Pokémon, and other anime kept me going through the throes of my depression.  I wanted to live so I could read the manga, watch the newest dubbed show, and to catch them all.  

I love anime, but I do not love the system that creates it.  I’ve heard about poor treatment in the US for animators, particularly Ed Catmull (one of Pixar’s bigwigs) and the wage-fixing scandal.   What is grievously ironic is Catmull’s book Creativity Inc. and how he speaks about respecting animators and their creativity.  

While I am familiar with the US animation industry, the Japanese anime world appears one hundred times worse.

Vox recently published, “The Dark Side Of Japan’s Anime Industry” and I am appalled.  I first started as an otaku, then transformed into a Japanophile.  I joke that when I visit Japan the country is going to throw me out, because I’m going to eat all their food, steal all the art in their museums, lay siege to Studio Ghibli, and annex all their botanical gardens.   As a Japanophile, I know that it is part of the culture to put work before family life.  This often leads individuals to work long hours, deal with unhealthy stress levels, and falling asleep on the job is normal.  Western media does overdramatizes the differences between cultures, but Vox’s article states things are really that bad.

This quote slams it to me: 

“But anime’s outward success conceals a disturbing underlying economic reality: Many of the animators behind the onscreen magic are broke and face working conditions that can lead to burnout and even suicide.”

Unlike the bulk of US animation, particularly films, anime continues to be hand drawn.  Cels have long since gone the way of the passenger pigeon, but animators still hand draw each scene with fancy technology.  Japan currently faces a huge talent shortage in the anime industry, so if you ever wanted to move to Japan and become an animator now is the time to do it.  The downside, however, is that Japan fills the shortage with freelancers who love the craft and are paid $2.00 a drawing (200 yen) and it takes an hour to make one drawing.  Do the math, it’s not a living wage!

Then we get to the Japanese high stress levels:

“Working conditions are grim. Animators often fall asleep at their desks. Henry Thurlow, an American animator living and working in Japan, told BuzzFeed News he has been hospitalized multiple times due to illness brought on by exhaustion.

One studio, Madhouse, was recently accused of violating labor code: Employees were working nearly 400 hours per month and went 37 consecutive days without a single day off. A male animator’s 2014 suicide was classified as a work-related incident after investigators found he had worked more than 600 hours in the month leading up to his death.”

And I LOVE Madhouse!  Now I don’t really like them anymore.  The old adage is that artists make art for art’s sake, it’s not about the money, and more gag me with a spoon cliches.  In Japan, the animators are living for their art at the cost of their mental health.  Freelancers allow studios to bypass labor codes and crack the whip on owning an individual’s time.  The end products are beautiful as seen with the many anime that travel overseas.  Japanese animators are obsessed with details to the level that Disney and Pixar animators.  These are TV series churned out at a quick rate, not the masterful films that take years to create.  

What I abhor even more (I made a rhyme) is that this goes all the way back to Osamu Tezuka’s days!  This is nuts!

“Tezuka was responsible for an endless catalog of innovations and precedents in manga, Japanese comics, and anime, onscreen animation. In the early 1960s, with networks unwilling to take the risk on an animated series, Tezuka massively undersold his show to get it on air.  

‘Basically, Tezuka and his company were going to take a loss for the actual show,’ said Michael Crandol, an assistant professor of Japanese studies at Leiden University. ‘They planned to make up for the loss with Astro Boy toys and figures and merchandise, branded candy. … But because that particular scenario worked for Tezuka and the broadcasters, it became the status quo.’”

Tezuka set the standard for quality anime art and storytelling, but also for industry treatment.  The solution is not as simple as shaving money from the top level and dividing it among animators.  If higher salaries were demanded and given to animators, the anime industry would go bankrupt, particularly the smaller studios.  Thurlow said if that happened, the anime industry would mutate into a Japanese version of Hollywood with “mass marketing and generic content tailored to the lowest common denominator.”  Think US superhero movies before the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Disney in the 2000s.  Oh, those sad latter Eisner days!

I take back about what I said about immigrating to Japan to become an animator.  The Japanese animators are even telling foreign fans to not come over.  The stress is high, the payout is nix, burnout is quick, and the culture shock is going to smack you straight down into KO.  If the creators behind anime are struggling, the foreign otaku won’t last.  

There aren’t any clean katana cut solutions, but there is a burgeoning storm on the horizon.  From what I know about Japanese culture, however, is that it’s an extremely slow moving storm.  The Japanese value group dynamics over the individual, upsetting the inkwell is not the norm.  When the storm does break, it will be a tsunami that crashes and flashes faster than Porygon sent kids to the hospital.

I don’t see this as a reason to boycott anime, not that anyone would other than my fundamentalist aunt who believes I’m going to Hell because I watch the medium.  Animators are able to make what ends meet they can because of the fan support.  As otaku, we love anime because it is so different from the majority of cartoons made for western audiences.  The Japanese (and European studios, particularly the French) is one of the few cultures that takes animation to its peak in regards to subject matter and artistic experimentation.  Yes, some of the content raises questionable eyebrows (sibling incest is big these days, why?!), but one has to respect animators who sacrifice literally everything for their craft.