order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery: Animals Edition!

I hope everyone is having a splendid winter wonder-jumble. Heather, Lucy, Ingrid and I just got back from a restful week or so visiting my family in my hometown of Troy, Michigan (a city which Lucy has been strangely obsessed about).

Now: back to work! I am radically revising my next book, The Magnificent Moots. In January I’m sequestering myself in my wife’s family’s cottage to pound this thing out in splendid winter isolation. How could that possibly go wrong?

In the meantime, here’s some 90-Second Newbery Film Festival videos that I have inexplicably not gotten around to posting yet (there were just so many good ones, I was overwhelmed with the volume).

The theme for today’s videos is of Newbery winners that prominently feature animals.
There’s a lot of of them! As we discovered in the “Newbery $20,000 Pyramid” game show we played at the New York screening (see picture above), all Newbery winners can be divided into three groups: (1) books about animals; (2) book about death; or (3) books about animals and death.

The first one is 1992 Medal winner Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, which is about a dog named Shiloh. It’s been adapted by Mont Kiara International School in Kuala Lumpur. AbdurRahman Bhatti, the young director, showed up at the New York screening with his family and gave us the behind-the-scenes scoop on how it was made. Apparently it took months to shoot this, because the different actors were out of the country at different times. But through the magic of AbdurRahman’s and co-director Mina Hwang’s edits and cuts, you’d never know!

I loved the performances, and particularly good soundtrack work by Thariq Rudy Willoughby. Well done, Mont Kiara International School!

Next up: 1923 Medal Winner The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting, adapted by the Niles Public Library right here in Illinois. Doctor Dolittle is, of course, about a man who can talk to animals, so it fits our theme. I like it when these older titles are represented. I especially liked the “special effects” with the at-sea scenes here, when the Doctor and his young friend are pulled along by dolphins and a sea snail! A little too long to feature in the film festival, but enjoyable nonetheless:

Great job, Niles! Especially the performances―lovely ridiculous accents. “I am middle aged, and I wear this very, very fancy hat.” Good puppet work with the duck, parrot, pig and the rest of animals, too!

Next up: 1973 Honor book Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel. But done in the style of a horror movie! This ominous, haunting short is courtesy of Timothy Hamilton and kids:

“And we’re together!” For ever and ever and ever . . . (do I see a theme developing in today’s post?)

And let’s round up the Animals Edition with this enthusiastic version of 2004 Medal winner The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, adapted by the Susquehanna County Library. I like how they’re always on the verge of breaking into laughter throughout the entire thing, when they’re not actually laughing:

Thanks everyone! I’m looking forward to what you’ll do for next year’s 90-Second Newbery film festival!

Merry Christmas, Odd-Fish Style (courtesy of Pirka!)

Check out this charming Order of Odd-Fish Christmas card I received from Emily Bricker, also known as Pirka (here’s her DeviantArt profile and Twitter). It’s fantastic!

I’ve featured Pirka’s marvelous art on the blog a couple times before (here’s the first collage I received from her, and here’s a horn-o’-plenty of Odd-Fish art including a very amusing animated video of the Odd-Fish knights and squires singing and dancing to a Monty Python song).

Above, we have Jo, Ian, Audrey, and Nora flying their armored ostriches (I like the neck-armor; makes sense!) with Santa’s sleigh being pulled by a Ken Kiang-mounted Schwenk. With, of course, Sefino at Santa’s side. It’s gorgeous, a delight! But I expect nothing less from the talented Pirka. I’m really glad I got to meet her this year.

2011 was a great year all around. My second daughter Ingrid was born, we pulled off the first annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival (with screenings in New York City and Chicago), I had the privilege of meeting Neil Gaiman and introducing him at the Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago, we put on another Odd-Fish fan art show at the Hegeler-Carus mansion . . . and on and on.

I’m very grateful for this year. And I’m looking forward to 2012. I expect big things! See you then!

Shelly Tan’s Chatterbox and the NED Talks

We’ve seen Shelly Tan’s great fan art for The Order of Odd-Fish before (check it out here) and even her fan art for my work-in-progress The Magnificent Moots (she was one of my writing students and I read the first two chapters aloud to the class; you can see her terrifying squid-worms and dragon-wasps from the book here). Now Shelly has come back with one of her best pieces yet, above―the pernicious centipede journalist Chatterbox, resplendent in his exquisitely tailored “fifteen-piece” suit.

I love it! Especially all the different “business” Shelly has for his palps―grasping his hat in mid-doff, fiddling with his cane, angling in akimbo skepticism, etc. In the lower left hand corner, Shelly notes, “Those brown curvy things near his face are actually a first pair of legs that Nature has modified into a pair of poison fangs. Yes, poison fangs. Awesome, No? (All centipedes have them. And some centipedes eat roach babies. Just a heads-up.)” Whaaaat! So there is a natural animosity between centipedes and cockroaches that I coincidentally alluded to with Odd-Fish‘s rivalry between Chatterbox and Sefino? Perhaps I was drawing upon some great collective unconscious of entomological lore. Great work, Shelly! Check out all of her work on DeviantArt here.

Have you heard of the TED Talks? “TED” stands for “Technology, Entertainment, and Design.” Their slogan is “Ideas worth spreading” and it’s a series of talks by smarty-pants people about topics like using video to reinvent education or new insights in brain imaging or counterintuitive statistics about developing countries. At their best, the TED Talks are illuminating and entertaining; but on their off days, there’s a mockable tendency towards naive techno-utopianism, cockamamie schemes for “changing the world,” and a self-satisfaction in the speakers and audience in how smart they are.

Enter the NED Talks of Chicago. Their motto? “Spreading worthless ideas.” It’s ballyhooed as “TED’s idiot brother” and it’s the brainchild of why-aren’t-they-millionaires-yet Chicago comedians Seth Dodson and Kellen Alexander. (The hilarious Seth was my co-host for the Chicago screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival).

So last night I did a NED Talk at the Hideout (about the 90-Second Newbery, actually), along with other hilarious presenters Steve Waltien, Christina Boucher, Ross Bryant, and Grace Tran. It was a lot of fun! Someone was videotaping it, but the video isn’t online yet. However, I did find a video of one of the older NED Talks.

As far as I’m concerned, it is the Platonic ideal of all NED Talks―adroitly skewering the preening vocal style of the presenters, Wired-magazine faith in technology, and condescension to developing countries (essentially, a sandbox where Silicon Valley philanthropists can try out their Innovative Ideas), etc. The talk is by Daniel Kibblesmith, speaking here as “Miami Volt,” about his new nonprofit “Level-Up”―a way to help Third World countries through the power of video games. “We all know that you can save the world in video games. But can video games help save the world?”

Brilliant. To learn more about the NED Talks, here’s a story in the Chicago Tribune that also has an interview with Seth and Kellen. An idea whose time has come!