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Something Else to Kill You

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A lot of folks are getting upset or incensed or something about a new fast food concoction at KFC. It's the Zinger Double Down King which so far is only available in Korea. What is it? A hamburger patty with bacon, pepper cheese and a couple of sauces, served not on a bun but between two fried chicken patties.

Total number of calories? 760.

I've written about this before but I don't understand the fuss. Okay, yeah, it's not healthy to eat that thing but it's not like this is a new outrage. Almost any medium-sized meal you get at a KFC is going to have at least 760 calories. A breast, thigh and leg plus one dipping sauce is 770 and has twice as much sodium.

At McDonald's, the Bacon Clubhouse Crispy Chicken Sandwich has 750 calories and the large shakes have over 800. At Burger King, if you order a Whopper with Cheese, a small French Fries and a Diet Coke, you're still at 1070 calories.

I wonder if we don't make things worse by fussing over something like the Zinger Double Down King. I can imagine someone walking into a Carl's Jr and ordering the Bacon Swiss Crispy Chicken Fillet Sandwich and thinking they're showing restraint and a better discipline about food because they didn't go to KFC and gets the Zinger Double Down King. Yeah…but the Bacon Swiss Crispy Chicken Fillet Sandwich has 860 calories in it and they have other choices that make that look like a Jenny Craig meal.

Recommended Reading

Joe Conason on the Minimum Wage…and why it's a myth that raising it hurts the economy.

Today's Video Link

Batman has a special message for you from President Lyndon Baines Johnson…

Recommended Reading

This article claims that by the year 2100, much of Louisiana will be underwater. I suspect a lot of people will hear that, do the math on how old they'd have to live to be to see that and shrug.

There are, of course, folks who want to do something to stop that, regardless of whether they'll be around then. I suggest they start listing some of the bad things that might happen before 2100. If the disaster will be complete by 2100, some calamities will have to occur well before then, possibly even in our lifetimes.

In the meantime, there are those in Southern Florida who want to break off from the U.S. and form their own state to better deal with their not-dissimilar problem. Disney World is in Southern Florida. Why don't we just let Disney run this new state because, you know, they will anyway?

Success!

We have a copy of that commercial I asked for in the previous message. Thanks, everyone.

Thursday Morning

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Freberg selling soda.

I'm spending a lot of time working on this Stan Freberg Tribute we're doing on November 2nd. Hey, maybe someone reading this can help me with something…

You may remember Stan did that great commercial with the Lone Ranger for Jeno's Pizza Rolls. Well, of course we're going to be running that at the event and Stan will be telling the incredible tale of getting Clayton Moore to put on his Lone Ranger suit and come over and do it. But that commercial was a parody of another, then-current commercial — for Lark cigarettes. We'd like to show 20 or so seconds of that Lark spot and all we can find are fuzzy online video copies of it that won't look so hot projected up on the huge screen of the Egyptian Theater. Does anyone have a crisp, clear copy they can let us have? My e-mail address is under the Contact Me section to the right.

I am told tickets are selling at a brisker pace than the American Cinematheque imagined and will soon be all gone. This then is a warning to people who know me: Don't write or call me next week and say, "Hey, can you get me tickets?" You have your chance right now to get tickets. Here's the link.

You'll want to be there just to see 1953 footage of Stan, Daws Butler and June Foray doing "St. George and the Dragonet" live on The Toast of the Town, aka The Ed Sullivan Show. And we have some other stuff that even I, a supposed expert on All Things Freberg, had never seen before.

I spent yesterday at the Paley Center for Media comparing their copy of the Zagnut commercial with Stan's copy of the Zagnut commercial and things like that. I keep forgetting what a wonderful repository of wonderment that place is and how helpful and well-informed the staff is. I need to get over there more when I can just watch anything I want…which will probably include more Freberg stuff.

By the way: They have a Jay Ward exhibit on now in the Paley Center in Beverly Hills. They even have on display the old but refurbished Bullwinkle statue that used to stand in front of Mr. Ward's place of business on the Sunset Strip. How they got that thing in there, I have no idea. But then when it comes to most things in this world, I have no idea…

Today's Video Link

If you're not watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, you're missing some of the smartest, funniest moments on television — like this one…

Recommended Reading

During the last election, Mitt Romney said Barack Obama "gets full credit or blame for what's happened in this economy, and what's happened to gasoline prices under his watch." That's not really true since there's not much the president can do about either of those things, especially when Congress blocks almost everything important he tries to do. So it would be interesting for someone to ask Mitt — who's sure making noises like he thinks he can be the nominee again — if Obama gets full credit now that gas prices are trending downward.

Recommended Reading

Isaac Asimov asks and answers the musical question, "How Do People Get New Ideas?" Actually, that probably should be in the past-tense — asked and answered — since Doc Asimov ain't around no more. He died 22 years ago. If he were still alive, he would have written 88 more books.

Tales of Something Or Other #5

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Here's a story I don't think I've told here before. It occurred around 1983 when I was writing a lot of pilots for cartoon shows. I'm going to change a few names but this actually happened…

There was a Korean animation studio that did a lot of sub-contracting work for American cartoon companies. Several Hanna-Barbera shows, as well as programs for other U.S. producers, were largely animated at this studio owned by a man we'll call Mr. Woo. (If there is a studio in Korea owned by anyone named Woo, this isn't that one.)

Mr. Woo decided to try to sell some shows into the American marketplace on his own. He hired some writers. He hired some artists. Most of all, he hired a Development Exec we'll call Hermione. She was an American who worked out of his Southern California office, trying to put together something that an American TV network would purchase directly from Mr. Woo's studio.

One of their artists came up with something they thought had real potential if (big IF) they could find the right writer to develop it and write some outlines and a pilot script. Someone suggested I might be that right writer. Hermione called and asked if I could come in so they could get a look at me and I could get a look at their idea. I said sure. What time and where?

This was back when I believed in going in to meet with anyone who wanted to meet with me. It didn't always result in a job but it usually resulted in me learning something, including what kind of people not to go meet with. That was not without its value. So I went in and met Hermione but not Mr. Woo. Mr. Woo, it was explained to me, was not in the country at the time.

I gave their idea the once-over, thought it was a pretty good one and told Hermione that, yes, I could do something to push it closer to a network sale. She said they wanted to hire me and she started to mention dollar amounts. I said, "Whoa, stop, halt. I don't talk money. That's why I have an agent." I gave her contact info for that person, who was then Stu the Agent. But the numbers I'd heard before I put an end to that part of the conversation struck me as pretty low. When I got home, I called Stu and warned him we were about to get a very low lowball.

When she called him, that's what she pitched. Stu told her my established price for such work. She said that was way too much. Stu said, "Hey, the last time a studio paid him that, the material he produced got CBS to buy the series. That's what you want, isn't it? You can find writers who'll work cheaper but see how many of them did work that got CBS to buy the series."

This is why writers have agents: So they can say things like that. And I should add that the dough we were asking for was not that high. Hanna-Barbera, Marvel, Ruby-Spears, Filmation…they all paid me that without complaint. Even, I think by then, Disney.  It was just high for Mr. Woo's operation.

There was some haggling, wholly from their side. Hermione came up in their offer. We did not come down. As Stu and other agents taught me, negotiation is not always a two-way street. Imagine you go in to price a new Infiniti and they tell you the model you want is $50,000. You offer a dollar. They laugh in your face. Then you say, "Okay, let's compromise. Meet me halfway!" See how far that gets you. Finally, Hermione said, "I'm not authorized to go any higher. If you want more money, you'll have to speak with Mr. Woo."

Stu said, "Okay. Let me speak to Mr. Woo."

She said, "I'll see if I can arrange it" and she hung up. A half-hour later, she called back and said, "How about two weeks from Thursday? At 4:00 PM? That will be 9:00 AM in Korea."

Things had started to be odd. She'd been saying how eager they were to get this thing going; how they'd need the bible and script done quickly. Suddenly, she wanted my agent to wait 16 days to speak to the one person with whom he might be able to make a deal. "I'll talk to him right now," Stu said. "Or tomorrow, or whenever you like." That was a great thing about Stu. He'd chase a potential deal like Javert pursuing Jean Valjean right into the sewers.

"Let's say two weeks from Thursday at 4:00 PM," Hermione confirmed. Stu wrote it on his calendar, but he didn't understand why he had to make an appointment two weeks in advance to talk money with Mr. Woo.

Then Hermione phoned me. "Mark," she said, for indeed that was my name, "I need your assurance on two points. One is that, if we're able to make a deal with your agent, you'll be able to jump on this right away. We're way behind our schedule."

"I'll start the minute we have a deal," I said. "Matter of fact, if it's that urgent, I could start writing right now. Can't you have Mr. Woo call my agent today?"

"No, they'll speak two weeks from Thursday…which brings me to my other concern. I'd like some reassurance from you that you think we'll be able to make a deal."

"Beg pardon?"

"Mr. Woo will get very mad at me if he has a conversation with your agent and we can't go forward with you. Tell me you think we'll be able to make a deal."

I didn't know what to say to that. When you're negotiating with someone, the last thing you want to do is to assure them that you'll settle. They have no incentive to meet your price if they know you'll lower your price.

Finally, I said, "You should know the answer to that better than I could. You know what my agent was asking for…and you have a clearer notion of how high Mr. Woo will go…"

"Yes, yes, I understand that," Hermione insisted. "But do you think we'll be able to make a deal?"

"I don't know."

"This is troubling," she said. "But I guess I have no choice. I have to let the call go ahead."

Later, I recounted all that to Stu who didn't get it, either. Why the fuss over one phone call with Mr. Woo?

Two weeks from Thursday at the precise moment, Stu's phone rang. "Please hold for Mr. Woo," a voice said. Mr. Woo came on the line and, with no formalities, made a terrible offer for my services. In fact, it was less than the last offer we'd turned down from Hermione.

Stu said no. Mr. Woo said, "Look…if Mark writes the script that sells this show, I will see to it that he benefits in many ways. I will reward him but I cannot go any higher with my offer."

Stu said, "Your offer is lower than any of your competitors have paid him for the same kind of work. It's even lower than your Development Person offered him. If anything, you should be paying him more. If he's successful, he's not only going to sell this show for you, he's going to establish you as a network supplier, capable of selling more shows in the future."

Mr. Woo was starting to get a bit peeved. "I understand all of that. I just cannot pay more than what I just offered. But if Mark succeeds, he will be rewarded further. You will just have to trust me."

That baffled Stu: A man he'd never met in person…a man he'd been speaking to for under a minute…saying, "You will just have to trust me." Stu told him, "It's very simple. I gave you Mark's price. If you're not prepared to pay him that, other studios are."

Mr. Woo was not happy. "This is very disturbing," he said. "If you were not going to make a deal with us, I wish you had told us before so I would not have wasted this call."

That was the end of the conversation. Without so much as a "bye-bye," Mr. Woo clicked off. Bewildered, Stu phoned me and recounted the odd exchange. "What I don't get," he said, "is why it was so horrible that Mr. Woo phoned me from Korea. I checked with the phone company and the call only cost a few dollars." I was also sans clue.

An hour later, Hermione phoned to moan how awful it was that we hadn't been able to make a deal. "Mr. Woo is very mad at me," she said.

"Listen," I said. "You have to explain to me what's going on here. I get the feeling there's some vital piece of information that I am lacking."

"Mr. Woo gets very upset when he wastes his daily phone call," she explained.

"Daily phone call?"

"Yes…didn't you know? Mr. Woo was convicted of tax evasion. He's running the company from prison and he only gets one phone call a day."

Mushroom Soup Tuesday

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Hello. I have much to do today, a good portion of it relating to the big Stan Freberg Tribute on Sunday, November 2. If you're thinking of going, order your tickets now.

What's the hardest part of assembling something like this? Well, deciding what not to include is a biggie. Stan has done so much that my co-organizers (Howard Green and Arthur Greenwald) and I are debating what we don't have time to show. I just watched some Freberg clips I'd never seen before in a lifetime of following the man and his work and if we put in everything good we have, you'll be there 'til some time late Tuesday. Today, we're working on getting this thing down to time.

Anyway, please continue to spread the word and to link people to www.tinyurl/freberg where they can order tix. And thanks to all who've done this so far.

My normal pace of blogging will resume shortly…about the same time as my normal pace of sleeping.

Go Read It!

Ian Crouch on the arguable decline of Saturday Night Live. My problem with the show, on those rare occasions when I watch it, is how much it looks like any random moment on Comedy Central or a half-dozen other venues on TV, plus the fact that the cast of players seems to be quantity over quality.

Recommended Wallowing

As a guy deeply interested in Watergate, I had to have John W. Dean's new book on this subject, The Nixon Defense. Dean listened to a lot of those White House tapes that no one else had listened to — or at least, no one who knew enough to know the significance of most of what was said about them. It's amazing that, this long after Nixon was almost impeached, we're still learning reasons why he should have been. This review by David Greenberg gives a good summary of what Dean found on those tapes.

Late-Breaking Freberg News!

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Tickets are on sale for the Stan Freberg Tribute! Click here and buy several!

It's November 2nd at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood and it starts at 7 PM!

Guest stars! Funny commercials! Cartoons! Film clips of great satirical masterpieces by a master of satire! Plus Stan and his wife/partner Hunter, in person! And it's all hosted by Harry Shearer!

We're getting a late start selling these tickets so please…help us spread the word on social media! Here's a real easy URL to remember: http://tinyurl.com/freberg.

Today's Video Link

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Last May, my friend Carolyn and I attended the annual meeting of the National Cartoonists Society, a hallowed organization of which I am now a member. I've been poaching at N.C.S. events for decades now and figured it was about time to pay dues and get a pin.

The meeting was held in San Diego at the Omni Hotel, right across from where Comic-Con is held every July. The high point was the formal dinner on Saturday evening and the presentation of the group's annual awards. For the first time ever (I believe) a video of the entire ceremony has been posted online. It runs two hours so you may not want to sit through all of it but you might want to move the slider bar ahead and catch a few highlights…

  • At the beginning, current N.C.S. President Tom Richmond welcomes the members and extends a special welcome to Stan and Pauline Goldberg, who were not expected to be there. In fact, they were not expected to be anywhere. Not long before, the two of them were seriously injured in an auto accident and no one thought they'd ever be well enough again to travel…but there they were. You don't see them on camera in this video nor do you hear the full, loving applause for them, but it was there. Sadly, Stan passed away less than three months later but it was so good to see him again…and it made him so happy to be there.
  • Around 12 minutes and 30 seconds in, Tom introduced the Master of Ceremonies for the night — TV writer and cartoonist Tom Gammill, who favors us with an opening musical number that would make Neil Patrick Harris give them up forever. Any name in the lyrics you don't recognize is probably a cartoonist who was in the room.
  • At 42:45, Tom introduces Sergio Aragonés to present the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award to Russ Heath…whose pants were literally falling down.
  • That's followed at 49:00 by the "In Memoriam" reel honoring members and prominent figures in the world of cartooning who left us in the preceding twelve months.
  • And that's followed at 52:30 by a film Tom Gammill made to kick off the post-Intermission festivities. It starts as a visit to the home of Bunny Hoest, the widow of cartoonist Bill Hoest and still the writer/supervisor of his comic strips, including The Lockhorns. The film is full of cameos by famous folks in the world of comic strips.

Amidst those highlights, there are many presentations of awards including, at the end, Mell Lazarus bestowing the coveted Reuben Award on Wiley Miller, creator of the comic strip, Non Sequitur. Somewhere in there — I won't tell you where — you might find me in a tux presenting Sergio with his ten-thousandth award and some of us cavorting with a life-size cutout of Ernie Bushmiller, the gent who drew the Nancy strip for many decades. There were many other moments of note, as well. Enjoy…