Strange Harvest
Architecture / Design / Art
StrangeHarvest is written and collated by Sam Jacob.


More Scenes In Cartoon Deserta



When you find yourself in times of trouble, historically speaking, its quite likely you'll find yourself in a desert. For Satan in Paradise Lost, for the Israelites fleeing Egypt, for Mark Thatcher on the Paris Dakar rally, deserts are places we become lost in or are exiled to. Equally, they are places where beyond-normal things happen, things like nuclear tests, alien autopsies and what-goes-on-in-Vegas-stays-in-Vegas moralities. They are places beyond our normal conception of place, empty of the usual triggers and markers by which we usually understand landscape. Cartography hates a vacuum, so the deserts emptiness forces us to fill its void with invented narratives and myths.

Despite their physical vastness, they can also feel psychologically claustrophobic, maybe because they are so difficult to escape from. It's this lonely claustrophobia that is the setting for the Wile E Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons. Each episode sees the two locked in a mutually dependent negative relationship with less dialogue than Samuel Beckett. These scenes in cartoon deserta have a kind of inescapable, unremitting bleakness where narrative is stuck in a loop, endlessly replaying the same story over and over. Just as our sensation of space is different in the desert, so is our feeling for time. Like those other desert denizens populating Vegas' gambling halls we have no way of knowing if Coyote and Roadrunners conflict lasts a day or an eternity.

Each episode sees the Coyote attempt to catch the Roadrunner, aided by the products he orders from the ACME Corporation, that make-anything, deliver-anywhere parody of consumerisms seemingly limitless offer. Amazing products arrive crated up almost instantaneously. Things like the Do-It Yourself Tornado Kit, Dehydrated Boulders, Earthquake Pills, Jet Propelled Pogo Stick, Triple Strength Fortified Leg Muscle Vitamins, and the amazingly named Acme Future Push Button Home Of Tomorrow Household Appliance Co. ACMEs products parodied post war trends towards mechanization, convenience and consumerism. ACME might be the greatest design company that never existed apart from the fact that almost every one of its products failed. And if they didn't, the Coyotes user error would result in disaster. Inevitably, he ends up burnt to a crisp or squashed flat at the bottom of a canyon.

Coyotes relationship with ACME echoes an idea described by Reyner Banhams essay "The Great Gizmo" on the Sears Roebuck mail order catalogue. He argued that the catalogue was pivotal in the occupation of the American West. The delivery of gadgets - stoves, outboard motors, the Stetson hat and so on - enabled the colonisation of the infrastructure-less frontier landscape. Banham argued that Sears Roebuck delivered a kind of gadgetecture, an out-of-the-box instant urbanism and for this this reason, gadgetry was "deeply involved with the American mythology of the wilderness". It seems that Chuck Jones, Roadrunners creator, agreed though with a more skeptical view of the outcome. Part of ACMEs parody of consumerism is that its products fail to deliver on their incredible promise.

Jones established a series of rules that Roadrunner stories had to operate within (see below). These included commandments such as "Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going "beep, beep", "No outside force can harm the Coyote - only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products", "The Coyote could stop anytime - IF he was not a fanatic", and "Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote's greatest enemy." These are the physics of the cartoon, and perhaps the reason why Roadrunner is a minimalist masterpiece.

Roadrunner asks us to will contemporary industrial design to fail. If Coyotes traps, trips mechanics worked smoothly, Roadrunner would be killed repeatedly by innovative design. So designs failure is Roadrunners salvation - and, through our sympathy for him our own salvation. Another of Jones' rules states "The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures. The audience's sympathy must remain with the Coyote". We identify with his constant, ridiculous Banham-esque optimism in design. If ACME products did the job they said they would, the precarious balance between Roadrunner and Coyote would be set out of kilter, and the narrative would end. Coyotes schemes - like strapping on a pair of rocket powered roller-skates - are doomed to fail because design perverts his natural state.

It's revealing to note that the series began in 1948, three years after the first nuclear test in the New Mexico desert. In this light, the cartoon can be read as an ambivalent allegory describing the post-war relationship between technology and nature which casts design as way of chasing impossible goals rather than a way of delivering solutions.

Previously: Scenes in Cartoon Deserta

Chuck Jones' Rules of the Roadrunner Universe:

Rules :

Rule 1 : Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going "Beep! Beep!"

Rule 2 : No outside force can harm the Coyote -- only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products.

Rule 3 : The Coyote could stop anytime -- IF he was not a fanatic. (Repeat: "A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim." - George Santayana)

Rule 4 : No dialogue ever, except "Beep-Beep."

Rule 5 : Road Runner must stay on the road - for no other reason than that he's a roadrunner.

Rule 6 : All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters -- the southwest American desert.

Rule 7 : All tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.

Rule 8 : Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote's greatest enemy.

Rule 9 : The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.

Rule 10 : The audience's sympathy must remain with the Coyote.

.



Posted by anothersam at March 1, 2010 11:57 PM.

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Contents:

Design Will Kill Us All, Horribly, Again & Again

More Scenes In Cartoon Deserta

Eiffel X-Rays

Beyond: Values and Symptoms

Sub Plan

Shenzhen: Window of the World

White Power

Generic Powerpoint Template: Delivering Bad News

Duplicate Array

The Best New Building In London

Book Review: The Infrastructural City

A Balloon in the Pantheon

Letters From The Pantheon

Henry Moore in Motion

On My Steel Horse I Ride

The Michael Jackson Monument Design Competition

Now Showing: John Baldessari Sings Sol LeWitt

Obscure Design Typologies: Life Guard Chairs

Osama bin Laden Cigarette Lighter: Novelty Products as Congealed Culture

Absurd Car Crashes: A Eulogy for J.G. Ballard

Candy Pistol

Now Showing: Dan Grahams 'Rock My Religion'

This Concrete 'O': On Serotonin, the M25, and the Motorik Picturesque

Church of the Literal Narrative

Philadelphias Floating Architecture

Now Viewing: Married To The Eiffel Tower

Le Corbusiers Image Hoard: Poeme Electronique

Giant American Signs: Original Learning from Las Vegas Footage

Giant Soviet Signs Cut Into Forests

Bricks Melted Into Icicles: Napalm Decorative

C-Labs 'Unfriendly Skies' & 'Bootleg' Volume

2 The Lighthouse: Self Storage & Architectural Hallucinations

Ceci N'Est Pas Une Pipe: Infrastructure as Architectural Subconcious.

Viva Sectional Cinematography!

Now Showing: The Installation of an Irreversible Axis on a Dynamic Timeline

Plug: Junk Jet

Sim Seasons Greetings! The Rise of Neo-Winter

Geography in Bad, Festive Drag.

The Ruins of the Future

High Tech As Steampunk ...

On The Retro Infrastructural

Simulations of Industry: High Tech Architecture and Thatcherism

David Greene: The Big Nothing

From The Factory to the Allotment: Tony Wilson, Urbanist

Koolhaas HouseLife / Gan Eden: The Revenge of Architectural Media

Ruburb-ric: The Ecologies of the Farnsworth House

The Architecture of Divorce

Flagrant Delit: The Movie

Landscape as Clothing

Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham Redux

Acts of Un-Building: Timelapse Demolitions

Yard Filth: Next Years Hot Look

Stonehenge: A Black Hole At The Heart Of British Architecture

The Popemobile: Mechanised Robes & Motorised Architecture

Tarmac Adam, Tarmac Eden

The Secret Language of Surface

Some Housekeeping

Information Fields: Agriculture as Media

My Bloody Valentine: Sound as Substance

A Cubist Copse: Gehrys Serpentine Pavilion

Olympic Model Protest

Spouting Off: Some Thoughts On The Fountainhead

Form Follows Dysfunction: Bad Construction & The Morality of Detail

Floating Homes

Vintage Tradeshow Surrealism: International Grune Woche

Moving Houses: Buildings In Motion

Desktop Study: The Strange World of Sports Studio Design

Married to the Eiffel Tower: More Objectum Sexuals

60 Years of The Crazy Horse Memorial

Married to the Berlin Wall: "The Best and Sexiest Wall Ever Existed!"

Inflatable Icebergs: Sublimated Guilt Has Never Been So Fun

The Cinderella Effect: Phantom Architectures of Illumination

Two Deaths and a Retirement: The Strange Shape of British Architecture

If London Were Like New York: Antique Schizo-Manhattanism

If London Were Like Venice: Antique Geo-Poetic Speculations and Hydro-Fantasy

41 Hours in an Elevator: The Movie

NASA: Mapping the Moon with Sport

Lemon Squeezy: Design Tendencies after the Juicy Salif

Stadium Seat Mosaics

The Nihilistic Beauty of Weapons Arranged in Patterns

Light Vessel Automata

Dogs: Britains Greatest Design Obsession

Madison Avenue Modern

Detroit Sucks: The Motor Shows Last Gasp

Mies' Grave: Cut Out Model

All You Can Eat

Valentine Machine

The Tools of Re-Geography

Floating in a New Town Sky

Authentic Replicas: Football and the Franchising of Place

Folk Football: Landscape, Space and Abstraction

Haystack House

A Wishing Well with a Fat Up Pipe

The Camoufluers and the Day-Glo Battleship

Pseudoccino: Instant Coffee Foam

Yesterdays Technology, Today

Blown Up: More Inflatable Military Stuff

On Christmas Trees, Folk Forests and Staples Office Supplies

Hampton Courts Shrouded Sculptures

Named Fabric: 20 Sponsored Pieces of Architecture at the New Museum

Form Follows Felony: The Secret Home of the Un-Dead Canoeist.

Architectural Magazines: Paranoid Beliefs, Public Autotheraphy - More on Clip/Stamp/Fold

Little Magazines Seen Today

James Bond Lives Next Door: Suburban Imagery as Industry

The Ghost of Christmas Futurism

Petrified War Machine

Military Deceptions

Chapters for an Imaginary Book About Architecture

Shrouded Plinth - Urban Striptease

In the Night Garden - Surreal Landscape of Nostalgia

Kim Jong II, The Great Architect

Pill Box Picturesque

Un Clear Monument

Place Faking: Instant Heritage for the Thames Gateway

The Marc Bolan Memorial Crash Barrier.

Warped Domesticity

The Nuclear Heritage Coast

Enjoy The Silence: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones

The Story of O (2)

Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham

X100: A Design Exercise

How to Plan A New Town

Carpet Bomber

In Search of Britains Vehicular History

Scenes in Cartoon Deserta

Scary Suburbanism: Why Horror is at Home in the Suburbs

Re-Make Re-Model

I Like Your Manifesto, Lets Put it to the Test-o

How to Become a Famous Architect

Northampton - Sci-fi Pop Planning Promotion

Advertising Central Milton Keynes

Baltic Exchanged

Festival of Nostalgia

The Clapham Trainwash

Airports as Music

Test Card Dummies

The Velvet Underground at the Glass House

Duplikate: Kate Moss on the Production Line of Individuality

The Museum that Ate Itself

Hollow Inside: Starbucks Foam and the Rise of Ambiguous Materials

Revisions to the Architecture of Hell

Crufts: Dogs, Design and Aesthetic Genetics

Eos Airlines: Executive Bubbles over the Atlantic

London's Ugliest Buildings

1.51 Miles Of String

Google Earths Vertiginous Mapping

Church of the Ascension and Descension

Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles

Replica Bombs

The Invisible Bungalow

House / Boat

Reading Lines: Skateboarding and Public Space

Mountain Sculpting

Sint Lucas in BD

Bat House Competition

Old Walton Bridge

Kiruna: The Town That Moved

Spray On Magnetic Defense

Chris Cornish: Prototyping History

The Jubilee Gestalt Vase

The Most Visited Location in the UK

Anything to Feel Weightless Again: The Cargo Lifter and the Tropical Island Resort

'Its beauty will know no season'

2000 Years of Non Stop Nostalgia. Or How Half Timbering Made Me Whole Again.

Inside-out Aldwych

Backpeddling into the Future: The Historical-Futurism of British Architecture

Miss Selfridges' Feeling for Fake Snow. The Oxford St. Lights and Why We Need Artificial Winter

Nelsons Cavern

Foam Gargoyle

New Tory Logo: A Hazy Shade of Politics

Jeff Koons, Rem Koolhaas, Hans Ulrich Obrist at the Serpentine

Souvenir Empire

Celebrity Scents: The Bittersweet Smell of Success

Imperfect Pitch - Football, Space and Landscape

Product Placement: Making the Impossible Possible

Suburban Growth: Matthew Moores Field of Dreams

Perfect Sound Forever: The Secret Function of High End Stereos

Picture of the Week 1

A Little Light Product Placement

Some Advice To A Young Designer

London and on and on

In the Gallery of Ice Creams

Useless Proclamations for a Beautiful City

Mini Mies Chair

Topsy Turvy VSBA: Inverted Heros of an Upside Down Avant Guard

Harvest III: Buried Things

The Harvest II

The Harvest I

Estuary Urbanism

The Royal Families Trees

Everything Flows: ideological cartography

How Geostationary Was My Valley?

The Psychotic Utopia of the Suburbs and the Suburbanisation of War.

LegoLand London Cluster

In a Lonely Place - Under Construction

Design Will Eat Itself

Mach 3 Nitro Gel - Design that's foaming at the mouth.

Marchitecture. Architectural things to do in London this March

Metallic Jet Powered Cloud

"When we got married I had no idea he would do something like this, he just said he was going to do some decorating."

The Electric Cenotaph

Russian Rok

Commitment ...

Dinner in the Iguanadon

Trace

What happens when you cross a pen with a car?

Leg Table Leg

Florentine Building Sites

Good Morning Britain

Football Pitch: Best of British

The Sad Photographer

The First Cut is the Cheapest - Blenheim Palace: pop architecture that goes for the jugular

Book Now For Christmas

Requiem for a Toilet Seat

Architecture that Destroys

TomTom Mobile 5 / GO 700

Winning Design

Another Croydon

Holiday Snap II : Giant Glowing French Balls

Holiday Snap: Canadian War Memorial, Vimy, France

Pecha Kucha London

Anatomy of an Architectural News Story

Big Bens

First Cut - Case Closed

The Texas Tower

Its All About the Big Benjamins

G8 Security Tower

White Cubed Blues

Poundbury, unexpectedly, in the rain

The Exploding Concrete Inevitable. Lou Reed and the Casa da Musica

Swingball

Untitled (Plastic Sack and Timber)

Berlin 1945 - The Obscene Picturesque

Pizza Planet

Goal Sculptures

Interview: Jeremy Deller & Alan Kane

Previewing Cedric Price

The Mardas Touch

Building a Lionel Richie Head

Ornament is Grime 2

An Incredible Smell of Roasting Coffee

Flatpack Frenzy at New IKEA

Langlands & Bell - The House of Osama Bin Laden

Labour is kind of working

Happy Death Men

Build to Let

Architectural Criticism gets Sharp

Niagara Falls

Ornament is Grime

FA(ke) Cup

Q&A: Wouter Vanstiphout

X-treme urinals

Unigate Cowscape

Spray-on Snow

From the Baffler ...

One in a Taxi

The Queen Machine

The Knork

Venturi, Scott Brown and my love that dare not speak its name.

Polictical Placards

The Ketchup Conumdrum

Douglas Coupland: Design and Fiction

It's a Small World

Images de Parfums

Soft Carcass

Christopher Dresser at the V&A

Blow up Pub

Municipal Mummification

The Matt and Ron Show

Semi - detached

Half Timbered Van

Feltham Future

Favorite Things

Fugitives and Refugees' - Chuck Palahniuk

The Pop Vernacular

Design by Chefs

Just What is it That Makes Yesterdays Homes So Different, So Appealing?

Archigrams Pastoral Futurism

Sorry Mies

The Flaming Lips - Live.

Everything Counts - The Sound of Geography Collapsing.

Carlton Terrace Extension

Other:

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