Sunday, April 04, 2004

Lemony Snicket, Scooby Doo, From Hell

I got this from Lemony "Daniel Handler" Snicket last night, and am posting it here with his permission, having first ransacked my address books for people I could forward it to who the Academy of Art might have heard of (according to Daniel Handler they got a letter of remonstrance from Salman Rushdie, and didn't recognise the name).

I'd read the San Francisco Chronicle story, and had meant to post a link to it here.

Hello all,
First of all let me apologize for the mass e-mail, but as some of you know there's been something going on that's a cause for concern. The Academy of Art University here in San Francisco - the biggest art school in the country - recently expelled a student for writing a violent short story, and then fired his instructor for teaching a story by David Foster Wallace the administration also found offensive.

As this story broke in the press ( the school has responded by announcing stringent policies regarding the content of students' artwork (writing, visual art, film, video game design, etc.), what can be taught in the classroom, and who is allowed to speak on campus. This was brought home to me when an instructor at the college invited me to speak to his class (along with the fired teacher and a representative of the First Amendment Project) and I was physically barred from entering the building.

Obviously this is creepy and idiotic, and the First Amendment Project is (as usual) doing a bang-up job bringing these issues to the public. I'd love to add your name - and the names of anyone you forward this to - to a growing list of people who want this kind of nonsense to stop. On Wednesday, an instructor is inviting a horde of artists to speak on free expression, and we'll be presenting a list to the Academy saying "We support free expression and oppose the misguided policies you have recently adopted regarding what can and cannot be expressed at your institution." If you live in the Bay Area, and would like to come down, that'd be great, but in any case, I'd love it if you just hit the reply button so we can put your name below that statement.

Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket)

...and, because I don't know if he wants it made public, I'm certainly not posting Daniel's e-mail here. If there's a website about this put up, I'll link to it. In the meantime, here's the University website.

(Several people have pointed out that it's a private university, by the way, not a public one. But any arts university to start defining what kind of subject for art is safe to make and what isn't is already in trouble.)

In the world of public education, we've got them banning the movie of 1776 from history classes for being too risque.


Meanwhile.... over the years, I've noticed some amazing origami-people in my signing lines. The kind of people who, to while away the boredom, make the most remarkable things out of sheets of paper or dollar bills, and then leave them with me when they get to the front of the line. (Not, mostly the dollar bills.)

For all of them, here is Because you never know when you'll need to make your own Ghiddrah.


Took Maddy to the movies last night. We saw, at her request, Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. Before we went I checked out the reviews at, which were fairly uniformly awful (for example, The New York Times's "Scooby-Doo 2 looks like a Saturday morning cartoon and unfortunately feels like one, too," ) then saw the film, and was pleasantly surprised to discover it was, as these things go, a perfectly acceptable Scooby Doo movie, with, well, all the depth and complexity and characterisation we used to expect from the original, er, Saturday Morning cartoons; and not as irritatingly dire as the first movie (which I dozed through at a drive-in and then finished watching a year later on a plane). The Mystery Machine cast explored haunted places, ran away from ghosts, Velma lost her glasses, they unmasked the baddie at the end, etc. Maddy liked it enormously, in a nostalgic kind of way (well, she's nine. Her prime Scooby Doo years were 5-7). And I just found myself puzzled, given the sorry reviews, by what the various critics had been expecting, and what kind of reviews they would have hoped to be able to write... ("For the first Scooby Doo movie, they did the cartoon with live actors. This time they have thrown off the shackles of neo-realism, and Cassavetes-like, use the riders of the Mystery Machine to explore the inner monster within each one of us, making the statement 'And I would have got away with it too, if it wasn't for those meddling kids...' one that applies, unerringly, to us all -- from the children we were to the monsters we have become...." Or possibly, "In the latest film, Monsters Unleashed, Scooby Doo has become an idea, an abstract aspiration for Samantha and Eric (Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent ) as they walk the deserted beaches of an abandoned holiday resort, both "haunted" by the daughter who, we come to realise, may be dead, or may merely have gone to live in Poughkeepsie, leaving behind only an empty and frayed dog-leash from her childhood...")


Several people have written to me from Ireland to complain that the Blue Moon Theatre Company's "Jack The Ripper" is extensively plagiarised (plot and dialogue) from Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell. (I think they've all written to me because Alan doesn't have e-mail.) One person seemed to think it a fairly good theatrical adaptation of "From Hell" and was just offended because the "writer" failed to mention its source material. So I mention it here, so that anyone who runs into the people who did it can ask them why they thought "From Hell" was public domain...