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Last month, at my High School of Art & Design 35th Reunion, I had a good fortune of meeting up once again with my old illustration teacher Mr Max Ginsburg. Funny how in retrospect, you don't realize how some people influence you until way later.

coffee break, by Max Ginsburg

Max Ginsburg came out of a particular philosophy of painting in New York called the AshCan School. He taught us all to see beauty in the most unlikely of places, namely urban squalor. Where Rockwell or Benton or Grant Wood celebrated the American outdoors and the small town, Max Ginsburg saw the beauty of the inner streets, broken fire hydrants, the canyons of steel, where the sky is only visible where two buildings part. Mr Ginsburg once took us all out on a field trip to where a row of brownstone row houses were being demolished. He had us draw the rubble. I remember spending a day drawing the plane breaks and shadows on an alleyway dumpster. For models he would go to 23rd St Park and hire a homeless person with a pint of cheap wine, to come upstairs and pose for us.
Pretty heavy stuff for an 11th grader!

Art Babbitt used to teach us, once you know how to animate, the Goddess of Animation wants you to bring something of yourself to your work.

In directing animation, I have ever been drawn to urban landscapes. Many of my fellow directors grew up in suburbs or rural areas. I am unashamed to say I was a child of the New York City Streets. I ran between subway cars, hung on the back of city buses, played in abandoned buildings, got chased by junkies and street freaks and made out with girls in the bushes of Central Park. Rural life was a one time Hudson River Dayline cruise to Bear Mountain.

So in CLICK & CLACK'S AS THE WRENCH TURNS, and earlier in OSMOSIS JONES, I tried to capture that sense of fascinating clutter, a Fleischer-esque paean to city life.

click to enlarge

If I know anything about this business, it was because I was fortunate to have great teachers like Gil Miret, Howard Beckerman, Babbitt, Dick Williams, Harvey Kurtzman and Robert Beverly Hale.

And thanks to you, Max Ginsburg, for being such an inspiration to me as a teacher and an artist.


Hope you liked CLick & Clack. Some of the reviews have not been kind, but thats from people who only watched one episode. As Noel Coward said: "A critic is someone who comes on the battlefield after the danger is past, and shoots the wounded."

Quiz: When someone describes something as Orwellian, what does that mean?

Yesterday’s Quiz answered below: Thinking of my new TV series debuting tonight on PBS, who used to say: “ Those who are about to die, salute you!”

History for 7/10/2008
Birthdays: John Calvin, Marcel Proust, James McNeill Whistler, Carl Orff, Camille Pissarro, Adolphus Busch the founder of Budweiser beer, George DiChirico, Jacky "Legs" Diamond, Arlo Guthrie is 61, Jake “Raging Bull” LaMotta, Joe Shuster- one of the creators of Superman, Fred Gywnne, David Brinkley, Arthur Ashe, Camilla Parker Bowles, Jessica Simpson is 28

138AD- Death of the Roman Emperor Hadrian at age 62. Antoninus Pius became emperor after promising to adopt as his heir young Marcus Aurelius. Hadrian, although suffering a last lingering illness, had arranged that Antoninus would have no rivals by ordering the deaths of anyone even thinking of wanting to be emperor. He even ordered the suicide of his brother-in-law Servianus, who although ninety years old had sworn to outlive Hadrian.

1040 - Lady Godiva goes for a ride on horseback in the nude to force her husband, the Earl of Mercia, to lower taxes on the poor.

1099- The magical-mystical knight of Spain Rodrigo de Bivar, called El Cid, died at the castle of Valencia. The Cid had taken a loosely written promise from King Alfonso of Castile that he could keep any territory he took from the Moors, and used it to build a private army, capture the city of Valencia and rule it as an independent prince. Nine years after his death his wife Jimena surrendered Valencia to the Almohavid Moors but the legend of El Cid Campeador, the Conquerer-Champion lived on.

1588- French philosopher Michel de la Montaigne spent one night in the Bastille prison. The Bordeaux native had arrived in Paris in the midst of the nasty political fight between Huguenots and Catholics and was arrested as a traitor. Queen Mother Catherine de Medici ordered his prompt release.

1815- After the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, the allied armies occupying Paris start to squabble with one another. The Prussians (Germans) were disappointed they didn’t get to shoot Napoleon, burn Paris or do any other fun stuff. At least they wanted to blow up a Seine River bridge Nappy named for their humiliating defeat, the Pont du Jena. When the Duke of Wellington denounced this action as barbaric, General Von Gneisenau sneered: “you would do the same if there was a Pont du Yorktown here!” the big British defeat in the American Revolution. Wellington wouldn’t speak to von Gneisenau afterwards. The Prussians got to set off gunpowder charges but the bridge was built too solid and wouldn’t collapse, so they settled for renaming it the Pont du Louvre.

1892 - 1st concrete-paved street built in Bellefountaine, Ohio.

1925- THE SCOPES MONKEY TRIAL-Tennessee school teacher John Thomas Scopes went on trial for violating a state law forbidding the teaching of evolution to children. Scopes was defended by famed lawyer Clarence Darrow sent by the ACLU, the prosecutor was William Jennings Bryan. The trial evolved (forgive the pun) from a small claims misdemeanor to a debate on Charles Darwin’s theory itself. This day the media descended upon the little town of Dayton Tennessee, which had hoped to attract attention for its slumping economy. It was the first trial broadcast live on Chicago radio WGN nationwide. Hundreds of spectators attended from hillbillies with squirrel rifles, a chimpanzee in a suit called Mr. Joe Mendy to famous newspaper columnist H.L. Mencken, packing 4 bottles of bootleg scotch and a typewriter. Darrow humiliated Bryan in the debate but Scopes was found guilty and fined. The ban on teaching evolution remained on the books in Tennessee until 1967. Evolution is still under attack in the U.S. today, now by the issue of Intelligent Design.

1940- THEIR FINEST HOUR- First German bombing raids over London known as the "Battle of Britain". The Luftwaffe's mission, in preparation for a Nazi amphibious invasion of England- Operation Sea Lion, was to destroy the RAF and British industrial and supply areas, mostly around southeast London. This is why today the areas east of the Tower of London have so many modern buildings. The British had an advantage in developing a superior radar early warning system , which the Germans tried to confuse by dropping pounds of tin foil out of planes. Despite being outnumbered by three to one, the RAF prevailed, prompting Churchill's famous: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many, to so few."

1941- Jazz great Jelly Roll Morton died at 50 in Los Angeles from complications of asthma. He called himself the inventor of jazz but that is debatable. He was one of the first musicians to develop a solo style distinct from the rest of his band. His mother had practiced voodoo in New Orleans. She told him the reason for his fame and fortune was because she had promised his soul to the Devil for it. He spent his last hours in a panic with his wife anointing his head with Holy oil.

1950 - "Your Hit Parade" premieres on NBC (later CBS) TV.

1953- NIKITA KHRUSCHEV takes power in Moscow. After the death of Josef Stalin there was the inevitable shuffle of bureaucrats jockeying for top job. Commissars Bulganin, Malenkov and Molotov tried to hold power but the little bald Ukrainian with the big smile had the last laugh. At a secret meeting of the Presidium Khruschev arrested Laventi Beria, Stalin's dreaded chief executioner. Beria, who liked black silk sheets, underage girls and personally torturing prisoners, broke down and wept for his life before he was shot. Khruschev was more merciful with his other rivals: Bulganin was made manager of a Siberian power station, Molotov was made ambassador to Outer Mongolia. Comrade Khruschev held power until 1964.

Myeh-heh-heh. Now ve go get Moose and Squirrel!

1985 - Coca-Cola Co admits New Coke was a big mistake and announces it will resume selling old formula Coke.

1987- The environmental group Greenpeace first called attention to themselves by a large ship called the Rainbow Warrior used to enter atomic tests sites to protest. This day in Auckland Harbor, The Rainbow Warrior was sunk by a bomb placed on her hull by French commandos. The blast killed a photographer. Rainbow Warrior had been in the Pacific to protest France’s nuclear testing there. The Government of New Zealand determined the French were responsible. In the ensuing scandal the French Defense minister resigned and the commandos went to jail.

1979 - Chuck Berry sentenced to 4 months for $200,000 in tax evasion. The old rocker said:” It never fails, every ten years I wind up in jail for something.”

1991-Boris Yeltsin took the oath of office as first popularly elected President of Russia.

1992-A U.S. federal judge sentenced Panamanian Gen. Manuel Noriega to 40 years in prison for being a drug pusher, dictator and never returning the CIA washroom keys.

Yesterday’s Quiz: Thinking of my new TV series debuting tonight on PBS, who used to say: “ Those who are about to die, salute you!”

Answer: The gladiators of ancient Rome. Before fighting, they raised their arm and said:
Ave Caesar, Morituri te Salutant! Hail Caesar, those who are about to die, Salute You.