Archive for the ‘Cartoon Hell’ Category


Guilt-tripped by a Crap Educator

May 21, 2013

I attended Westwood University for roughly a year, which had no summer break, took 4-5 days out of my week, and had rests of no more than a week between semesters. The classes lasted longer than a normal college night class, though I never had issues getting A’s since most of the general education instructors appeared to know less about their subjects than I did.

Did I mention I went for the dubious degree named “Game Arts”? Its lack of specificity should have been the tip off. Of course, if I’d been less impulsive, less swayed by their recruiters, who I’m guessing they pay better than their teachers, I might have done a great deal more research. I might have determined that I could gain more of a footing in the gaming world by learning 3DS Max in my free time and mastering a few level designers in popular games. In short, the degree seemed worthless, and an instructor once told me they bumped up their statistics by counting former students who got jobs at Gamestop as working in the game industry.

Proprietary schools, or for-profit schools, are generally garbage, which is why their degrees only really count at other garbage for-profit schools. They even made up their own lame accreditation that only works at other awful overpriced schools. It’s just no good no matter how you slice it. Don’t take my word for it, just google any of these schools and see how far you get before scam websites fill your screen.

My year at Westwood generated 10 times more debt than my entire associates degree from a community college has cost. What’s worse is that friends told me they discontinued the games program, which made the email I received extra galling:

Previously you took what may have seemed like the most important step in advancing your career – you started your education at Westwood College. Unfortunately, something got in the way of being able to commit to completing your degree and making the important change in your life.  It may not be unlike the many stories of our graduates who have faced challenges along the way.  Click the Westwood Success link to learn how people just like you overcame difficulties and are now enjoying the life they have dreamt about!

Are you ready to overcome obstacles and make a difference in your life?  Are you ready to reach your goals?  I urge you to once again evaluate your current situation so that we can offer my assistance in your journey.

You may still have the opportunity to get back into school and change your future as well as those around you as classes are starting soon!  Please let me know when the best time is to contact you or feel free to contact me at the number or email below.


Daniel (Assholes Last Name Removed)
Director, Admissions  |  Westwood College – (Removed) Campus

I’ve heard more than once that college loans may be the next bubble to burst. Regardless, it’s such a deeply predatory system. It tries to grab up the people too intimidated by the bureaucracy of school, or those who couldn’t pass the Accuplacer tests for a regular community college. For me personally, it came down to not having enough self-esteem to really push through into a regular school. I had more than one Westwood teacher ask me why I was there.

During my tenure at Westwood, I actually attended the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, catching a ride along with a former teacher. More than one artist from Westwood recounted their experience with industry professionals, where interviewers would sneer or roll their eyes when they saw the Westwood name. If a big chunk of the value of a degree is to signal value, then that’s the exact value of a Westwood degree.

So it amuses me when a scummy admissions director, the sort of person overseeing these sleazy, high-pressure recruitment departments, tries to make me feel bad for not tripling my debt with another two years at their degree mill. I understand sunken costs enough not to stick with an abusive educational relationship.

Seriously, just go to a community college. Yes, it will take more effort. That’s because the counselors don’t get a commission from you enrolling.


The Vacuum of the American Male

May 17, 2013

If you want a divisive conversation opener in mixed company, I can’t think of a better one these days than to ask, “Who do you think is a good role model for young American men?” No one will agree on any political leader, and a sports figure only works if the young man in question actually cares about athletics, which I could never say as a child and can’t say now.

Perhaps, like many men of my generation, I had less than stellar personal role models. My step father, a quiet and often brooding man, did many of the most stereotypically masculine pursuits imaginable, from home repair, to fishing, to camping, but had little patience for dealing with children or explaining his methods. It gave a lot of the old fashioned tropes of masculinity a bitter edge to me, a sense that it was a club full of mean spirited bearded men who would sneer with derision at liberal-arts-loving, video-game-playing nerds such as myself.

Combining this with a liberal mother who did most of the actual teaching around the home, and I ended up with a notion of correct masculine ideals that looks like a gray haze, like a guest star not yet be revealed.

Americans can’t really agree on how they want men to behave, just how they would like them not to behave. They shouldn’t say anything sexist or disrespect women, but equally loud voices will tell them that this is weak and effeminate. They play on underlying notion of homophobia while others chide them for sneering at anything they might deem gay. You can only send so many different sets of memes into the population before some men get overwhelmed by the choices and simply opt out of the normal social constructs altogether. And most of the alternatives are incredibly unsavory.

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A Podcast I’m Doing

August 3, 2011

It’s been rather quiet here for a long time, but I just thought I’d point out that I’ve been doing a podcast for a while:

Between Dots

Just thought I’d point that out.


Cartoon Hell #36 – “Circus Capers”

February 5, 2010

Cartoon Hell is Nicholas Merlin Karpuk’s attempt to review every single installment in an awful $5 collection called “150 Classic Cartoons” purchased at his local Wal-Mart. Your prayers are welcome. 

Not a food or a heist.

A shaky black and white slide accompanied by lazy clarinet music? This can only mean one thing. It’s about to get sleazy in this circus. 

It looks weirder in motion.

The opening shot screws with my perspective right off the bad. All the members of the circus are marching, but they’re propelled forward while walking in different directions. Some element of depth is missing, making it all look completely wrong.

 There’s several minutes worth of animal shenanigans. Elephants dancing and pantomiming driving, giraffes cavorting, and through all of it the visuals and audio keep fading in and out. It’s like watching television while trying not to fall asleep. 

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Cartoon Hell #35 – “Private Eye Popeye”

January 25, 2010

Cartoon Hell is TheKarpuk’s attempt to review every single installment in an awful $5 collection called “150 Classic Cartoons” purchased at his local Wal-Mart. Your prayers are welcome.

Sounds like an affliction the elderly would get.

You can only make so many Popeye cartoons where he loses Olive Oyl to Bluto, then beats Bluto into a coma. Sometimes changing the setting isn’t enough. Eventually they had to give him actual occupations beyond being a sailor who did no actual sailing.

 Why, in the mid-fifties, with hard-boiled fiction and movies at a high rate of popularity, did they decide to dress up Popeye as Sherlock Holmes for his detective outing? Did they not think people would realize he was a detective if he simply wore a Sam Spade costume? It speaks to the general cluelessness of the Fleischers as a whole. 

I guess with a squint that prominent a magnifying glass might be useful.

Popeye receives a scream via phone, and traces the call by following the wire using a magnifying glass, because this cartoon is intent on using the laziest visual shorthand for everything. 

He follows telephone line to a fabulous home, one suspiciously similar to the nice home in every Fleischer cartoon, finding the door left ajar. He of course enters. At this point I’m completely unsold on the whole premise. Why is a man trained as a sailor doing any of this? An alternate theory comes to mind, if you’ll indulge me for a moment.

 Maybe Popeye is a infant with progeria acting out his fantasies? All this behavior would make perfect sense if done by a five year old. Of course a little kid would think detectives still dress like Sherlock Holmes. He’d also think a magnifying glass was the most important tool for a private investigator, and that the hat is a requirement. 

Sadly, this theory doesn’t change what Popeye actually is. Once he goes through the door, a crazed Olive Oyl opens fire with a Tommy Gun, creating a Popeye-shaped outline of bullets. This is one of those gags where I stop for a moment and ask, “Was this ever funny?” Maybe it’s like that chicken crossing the road gag, where it’s never evoked laughter, but always comes so easily that hacks can’t resist. 

Cartoon Hell #34 – “Felix the Cat and the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg”

January 19, 2010

Cartoon Hell is Nicholas Merlin Karpuk’s attempt to review every single installment in an awful $5 collection called “150 Classic Cartoons” purchased at his local Wal-Mart. Your prayers are welcome. 

Pinching out gold might be rough on the insides.

Felix the Cat is about as close as animation gets to a hipster icon. He’s obscure, but vaguely recognizable, and iconic enough that people keep trying to revive the franchise. It gives you that extra bit of cred to have his merchandise, but ask anyone what their favorite Felix the Cat moment is, and you’ll be treated to blank stares. There’s a reason for that: No one watches silent cartoons, and all the talkies with Felix are awful. They resuscitate the corpse of Felix every couple of decades to try and recapture the magic, but I’ve never seen the appeal. Apparently there’s brewing right now.

 Felix the Cat and Mickey Mouse both started as silent film characters. They both functioned as mimes going through a series of stream of consciousness animation experiments. Adding voice to a silent character sank a lot of careers, and if you listen to Mickey Mouse, he’s boring as hell, which is why he became the straight man to the antics of characters who actually possessed specific personalities. He was the Zeppo Marx of animation.

 You can’t take an existing character and betray peoples’ expectations, which is probably why the studio that made Felix resisted doing talkies for so long. This particular cartoon was an attempt by Van Beuren to revive the popular character, and they missed the point entirely, which is why only three were ever made.

 The reason so many characters of yesteryear fail is because they either had no personality, which later technology revealed, or the owners of the rights no longer have the courage to let them behave that way. Popeye isn’t hyper-destructive, Bugs Bunny isn’t obnoxious, Donald Duck no longer has a rage problem, they all become paper stand-ins with nothing more than a recognizable profile and an annoying voice.

 The voice is indeed the biggest problem here. From the first line, Felix’s talking cuts like a knife, a shrill, kiddy tone only replicable by having a child yell half an inch from your ear.

Good to see we've moved to a goose-based economic model.

Felix is running a relief stand powered by the Goose and its golden eggs. Maybe I’m just being a nerd, but wouldn’t you rapidly devalue the local currency doing that? Damn it, Felix, do you not understand scarcity, quit squeezin the goose! 

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