Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Puppet wars


Statler and Waldorf, like during Muppet Show days of old, sat through the program and didn't much like what they saw.

BECAUSE OF a non-compete clause in their Muppet contract, though, they had to catcall at puppeteer Loren Feldman under the pseudonym of "Brian Hogg."
Here at Hoggworks Studios, we take the making of puppets very seriously. We put a lot of effort into it, and in fact we’re looking forward to devoting our creative and professional lives to the medium. We slave over our puppets, agonize over the performances, over the writing, and everything else down the line. We know we’re always improving, and we hope that everything we do will make the thing we did previous seem smaller.

We want to look back and see not just a progression, but such a stark progression that our previous work never reflects what we’re capable of now.

As we look online at the work of other puppeteers, surfing here and there, from the Muppet Central Forums to Puppet Hub to Flickr searches, we stumble upon some really great work, and some work that is being made by people who are clearly new at the puppetry game, but who appear to be putting in real effort. And then we stumble across things like monochrom, and Loren Feldman’s puppet shows.

This latter character irks us — irks me specifically, and here I break from the royal we to descend into the specific, into the I, because I am irked by these productions. I, speaking as a puppeteer, as a person who would modestly suggest that am putting in the effort, am annoyed by this type of work. These people are buying low-end puppets (which there’s nothing wrong with), and filming a show. Now, certainly, I’d never suggest that a person should dedicate themselves to the profession as a lifelong endeavor before putting puppet to hand: that’s not how I got into it. I decided to make dotBoom as a puppet show rather on a whim, made some puppets, and started recording. But I am a person — here’s where I sound terribly vain, and while I do apologize if it is offputting, I can’t apologize for the vanity, because it’s as sincere a statement as you’re going to get from me — who puts in the effort to get good at something. I’ve heard it said that the difference between a person who plays chess and a grand master isn’t the quantity of time spent playing, but the quality of the time spent playing.

To put it another way, it’s less important the amount of time you spend studying a subject, then it is how you spend your time studying.

I take it all very seriously, and I respect others who do, too. I wouldn’t say that we’re doing things perfectly here, and there are a huge number of ways I want us to improve our craft, both from a technical standpoint and a creative one. There are some insanely talented puppet builders and performers out there, and I am both inspired by their work and driven to match and exceed it, if I’m able.

(snip)

Maybe I’m being oversensitive. Maybe a person goofing off isn’t a big deal. Maybe that I’m the abberation for pushing myself so hard, for being so over-critical. Maybe these people who irk me are just trying to have fun, and aren’t simply projecting an air of superiority for their minimal efforts.

Maybe nobody cares. After all, Loren Feldman’s work is becoming increasingly popular. Much of the most popular work online in places like Youtube have the lowest production values, because the content is striking a chord with the viewers, irrespective of the polish or intent of the creators.

I don’t actually care if nobody else cares, because I do. It’s important to me to take it so seriously, and to improve continuously. It matters. And puppetry is an artform, and it should be respected as such. No matter how much of a curmudgeon or a killjoy it may make me seem to say it, if you don’t take this seriously but are presenting it in a way that suggests you are, all you’re doing is insulting those people who do take it seriously.

HERE'S THE THING. Loren Feldman of 1938 Media, it seems, is really Oscar the Grouch. And Oscar can't take criticism. At all.

Worse than that -- and please, children, cover your ears -- Oscar the Grouch has developed quite the potty mouth. Today's show is brought to you by the letter "F."

And the letter "U."


OH, MY! What would Kermit do?

Well, for starters, I think Kermit would turn Miss Piggy loose on Oscar the Potty Mouth Grouch -- a.k.a., Loren Feldman. (Whose stuff really isn't that funny, by the way.)

I also think Kermit would wonder what has become of the wonderful world of puppetry, and how it has become just as debased, angry, unfunny and sad as the world from which it once gave us momentary refuge. (Nice job, by the way, in having one of your cloth characters call Barack Obama a "Schvartze" during a skit.)

This shaygetz knows his Yiddish slurs, and I'll bet President-Elect Obama does, too.

Maybe Feldman's outraged response to his puppeteer critic was part of his shtick. If so, his performance art is about as unfunny as his puppets.

If Feldman is seriously outraged, however, that may be even more disturbing.

AT WHAT POINT in American cultural history did our default response to criticism reset to "unhinged"? When did we decide it was appropriate to bypass cool reason, sarcasm or wit and go straight for bad impressions of 2 a.m. at the Dewdrop Inn when somebody's just told Bubba his woman is ugly?

Just when did we slip the tenuous bonds of culture and become an anticulture?

Of which Loren Feldman would seem to be the unhinged Id.

I suppose if he reads this, Feldman might post a video in which he calls me bad and awful things as his blood pressure redlines. Whatever.

I'LL BE WATCHING some funny puppetry. Like this.


OR THIS:



1 comment:

Brian said...

Nice write-up, though I would question your calling what I did catcalling -- I care for the medium, and want to see people treat it well, is all.

Cheers,
Brian