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April 19, 2005 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-04-19

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The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, April 19, 2005 - 9A

'Birdman' and 'Space Ghost'
use '60s animation on DVD

So You Say rebounds
from failed production

Cartoon talk show 'Space
Ghost' returns to DVD
By Alexandra Jones
Daily Arts Editor
"Space Ghost Coast to Coast" premiered in 1994,
using characters from "Cartoon Planet," the show's silli-
er, more kid-oriented ancestor. Space Ghost (of the ultra-

low-budget '60s Hanna-Barbera
cartoon of the same name) and his
foes, the evil villains Zorak and
Moltar (a giant mantis and molten
rock man, respectively) are placed
in a talk show setting. The egotis-
tical but idiotic Space Ghost paro-
dies late night talk show hosts well
with his buffoonish air and boom-
ing voice; Zorak, stuck in a "prison

Ghost Coast
to Coast
Volume Three
Warner Home

pod" that also serves as a keyboard, plays Paul Schaffer
to Space Ghost's David Letterman. Moltar comments
from behind the scenes as producer and preps the live-
action guests for
their interviews.
The animation
(or reanimation,
perhaps, since much
of the show is
recycled from
the original
Courtesy of Warner Bros.
"Nobody sleeps with my grandmother."

"Space Ghost" series) is built around live action inter-
views conducted with mostly B- and C-list (or less)
celebrities in a studio; the interview segments are edited
with humor - not necessarily accurate representation in
The third volume of the "SGC2C" DVD set features
episodes with interviews and performances by Bob
Odenkirk and David Cross (of "Mr. Show" fame), Beck,
Mark Hamill, Jon Stewart, Ice-T, Mike Judge, Pavement
and Charlton Heston. Macho Man Randy Savage even
guest stars as Space Ghost's grandfather. In terms of
visual and audio clarity, the show looks just like it did
during its Cartoon Network heyday - poorly animated
and haphazardly recorded, but that's the way fans like it.
Included in the special features are commentaries for five
of the DVD set's 24 episodes, as well as an alternate end-
ing and an extended interview with Cross and Odenkirk.
The gem of the extras, however, is entitled "A Moment
with Jon Stewart." This consists of interview footage of
Stewart relating his passion and reverence for his suppos-
edly favorite band, The Banana Splits (of '70s cartoon
fame). Stewart's deadpan has never been better, and the
sheer atrocity of this several-minute-long joke makes for
even more laughs.
Show: ****
Picture/Sound: ****
Features: ***i
Birdman' flies again in
Hanna-Barbera legal satire
By Adam Rottenberg
Daily Arts Editor
When classic cartoon characters findthemselves in legal
trouble, there's only one man for the
job: Harvey Birdman. The oft-forgot-
ten 1960s Hanna-Barbera superhero Harvey
only vaguelyresembles the character Birdman-
his few fans may remember. Instead, Br a
viewers are treated to yet another sub- Attorney
versive reworking of cartoon history at Law
created by Adult Swim, the late night Warner Home
programming lineup on the Cartoon Video
Network. What originally played as
a serious action series is now ripe
for mockery, and no target is safe from the postmodern

hijinks of Bird-
man and his
Though the stu-
pid, nonsensical
humor found in
most Adult Swim
shows is the basis
of "Harvey
each 15-min-
ute episode
manages to climb above the rest of the pack via the hilari-
ously inspired lawsuits. Rather than playing it safe, the
creators turn nerdy, often risque fan debates into court
cases. Birdman defends Shaggy from "Scooby Doo"
when he's busted for pot possession and argues a custody
suit between "Johnny Quest" "partners" Race Bannon
and Dr. Quest over youngsters Johnny and Hadji.
The picture and sound are good enough, but the ani-
mation is inherently crude. The series features little in the
way of music or sound effects. The DVD, while nicely
packaged, doesn't offer much in the way of features.
There are commentary tracks on select episodes, which
explain the technical aspects of the production rather
well, but rarely discuss any of the inspiration behind the
stories. The lone bright spot is one episode that features
a track by Turner's clearance team, in which they go over
the difficulties in getting the rights to use these classic,
even iconic characters in potentially offensive ways.
The paltry featurettes last barely a minute and say next
to nothing. Some look at other actors voicing the charac-
ters or animation tests, neither of which are substantial.
Nevertheless, the introductions and presentation keep in
line with the tone and comedy of the actual episodes.
Adult Swim has created a new type of animated genre
steeped in poor visuals and scattershot humor. And while
"Harvey Birdman" ranks among Adult Swim's best, it's
still very much stuck in this niche. The DVD set won't
convert the series' detractors, but it'll sit perfectly next to
anyone's copies of "Aqua Teen Hunger Force."

By Hyatt Michaels
Daily Arts Writer
At a university with about 10 stu-
dent theater organizations, there
is only one black theater group on
campus now: So You Say. The group
was created by black students from
the University's theater department
as a response to the underrepresenta-
tion of minorities in campus produc-
tions. But after they successfully put
on Tennessee Williams's "Cat on a
Hot Tin Roof" last February, So You
Say met with unforeseen problems
with budgeting, location and cast-
ing. Their production of the musi-
cal "Raisin" was cancelled April 4
- three weeks before its originally
planned curtain call this weekend.
The collapse of "Raisin" could
leave a blemish on So You Say's rep-
utation - but Music junior Court-
ney Harge, the group's president, is
determined to continue delivering
its original message. "We were all
looking at the casting and we real-
ized minorities, specifically Afri-
can-Americans, weren't represented
well (in campus dramatic produc-
tions)," Harge said.
This gap isn't specific to the Uni-
versity; she blames an age-old prac-
tice that has stigmatized minority
performers for years. "(Many) direc-
tors tend to feel if they put a black
face on stage they're making some
type of political statement," Harge
said. So You Say's first production,
"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" was meant
to be its first response to the status
of minority performers on campus.
The group cast the play, tradition-
ally performed by white actors,
with black actors. "What I think we
proved is that being black does not
detract from (any artistic) message,"
Harge explained. "If it's a well writ-
ten play, it applies to all human
beings. Everyone said they stopped
thinking about the fact that it was
an all-black cast and started caring
about the family, and that was part
of our goal."
While older campustheater
groups such as The Rude Mechani-
cals produce only one production
per semester, So You Say attempted
to produce two full-length plays dur-
ing its initial semester. They hoped
their second production, "Raisin"
- a musical adaptation of Lor-
raine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the
Sun" - could build on the posi-
tive response garnered by their first
project. Unfortunately, "Raisin" was
unexpectedly canceled.
"I feel that we've come out on top
even though we couldn't get "Raisin"

"(Many) directors
tend to feel if they
put a black face
on stage they're
making some
type of political
- Courtney Harge
So You Say President
done," Harge said. Although she was
disappointed with the productions
cancellation, Harge recognizes that
the year has been a year of growth
for her organization.
So You Say plans to spread its
wings next year by offering various
acting, musical theater and produc-
tion workshops targeting minori-
ties. "Because of the economic
status of many minorities, they
have the hardest times getting into
the art (high) schools (and) private
schools that offer extra-curricular
activities that focus on theater,"
Harge said. "A comment that we get
(from many people) is that minority
students don't get the training once
they get into college ... and urban
youth don't get the best opportuni-
ties because they come in behind a
curve." Harge said she feels special
workshops and classes should be
offered, but understands the bound-
aries that would prevent the Uni-
versity from taking quick action.
"We want to open up and provide
educational opportunities," Harge
said. "We feel like its So You Say's
responsibility to bring people in
and bring up the curve.'
In addition to workshops, the the-
ater group is still planning a produc-
tion for the fall semester and another
for the following winter. "Next year
is going to be a much more struc-
tured year," Harge said. "(This) was
our first year and a lot of us didn't
know what we were doing."
To alleviate some of the prob-
lems, So You Say plans to partner
up with other student groups. Harge
expects that many of the former
actors will return. Despite the rela-
tive odds against the organization's
survival next year, Harge is unde-
terred, focusing on the potential of
her organization.
"We want this group to be a voice
on campus," she said. "We don't
want to just disappear."

Show: ***I
Picture/Sound: ***
Features: **

'Pearl' overburdened with complicated narration

By Nichole Gerard
Daily Arts Writer

S. . '1I1 J

tells the

Mary Gordon's latest novel,
story of a family crisis. Twen-

ty-year-old Pearl
Myers is studying
abroad in Ireland
When her close
friend, Stevie, dies
partly as a result
of his political

By Mary Gordon
Pantheon Books

and Pearl's surrogate father.
The book's main problem is its nar-
ration - "Pearl" is written in first per-
son, yet the narrator remains nameless.
The unknown narrator's involvement
in the characters' lives frustrates the
reader and unnecessarily complicates
the prose. Gordon's attempt to capi-
talize upon first-person narration is
unsuccessful; she seems to be using the
narrator, to make transitions from pres-
ent to past more fluid and add to the sto-
ry's cohesiveness. Instead, she achieves
the opposite effect. Phrases like, "It is
proper for me to begin telling this story
using the strong tones of romance," are
awkward and distract the reader from
the story.
Despite this major weakness, the
characters are intriguing enough to
keep the reader involved. The complex

backstory is compelling, creating an
atmosphere of intimacy for the reader.
It is difficult to be indifferent to the
characters' lives, especially Pearl. She
is certainly the most intriguing char-
acter in the novel - her unusual situ-
ation, her quiet unassuming nature and
her compassion make her very likeable.
Maria, however, is intrusive and annoy-
ing, while Joseph's timid character does
not resonate as deeply with the reader.
"Pearl" shines through its abundance
of themes - Gordon does a remarkable
job of weaving in multilayered issues
even through the burdensome narration.
She examines the relationship between
parent and child, and through Pearl's
actions, raises questions of individual
rights: Does Pearl have a right to starve
herself? Does Maria have a right to see
her? These questions lead ultimately to

the larger theme of faith - in God, in
family, in the human race as a whole.
The profusion of religious imagery in
the novel reinforces these ideas and
adds complexity to its exploration of
human capacities.
The thematic fortes of "Pearl," how-
ever, are not strong enough to overcome
the impediments of the weak narration
and occasionally dragging plot. In the
end, Pearl's complexity is what keeps it
from excellence.

involvement in the IRA. To protest his
death, Pearl goes on a six-week hunger
strike and chains herself to the flagpole
at the American embassy in Dublin.
The novel revolves around the impact
of Pearl's actions on her mother, Maria,
and Joseph, Maria's childhood friend
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