In my morning e-mail today, I received a link to Making Fiends, a pretty swell Flash animation series about a semipsychotic fiend-maker named Vendetta and the equally semipsychotic friendly girl who loves her, Charlotte. You can tell who's who just by looking at this picture; the yellow guy next to Vendetta is her giant hamster sidekick, Grudge, and that's Marion getting ready to hide under the table she shares with Charlotte. The series is set at (and around) an elementary school, where the girls (and their classmates, each of whom has a great tic--like poor little green Marvin, whose nasally intoned line is always "My ______!", after one of this things gets eaten, stolen, crushed, or otherwise threatened by one of Vendetta's fiends) are in Mr. Milk's class, in classroom four. Classroom four has terrific alphabet posters hanging in the back; C is for Communism in one episode, while G is for Gorgon in another. It's all crazy fun, really, and the woman who did the animation has images and t-shirts for sale. What could be better? You could be one of the coolest of the cool indie anti-hipster kids on your block when you sport your own Angry Cat t-shirt. To know that you want to watch these little animated episodes (each of which is probably five minutes long), you only need look at this image of Mr. Milk and the bird that menaces him (one of Vendetta's creations, obviously):
You know me well enough by now to know that I'm not going to shill for just any alternate web event out there. Making Fiends has captured my heart today because of the sheer wackiness of it; its sense of humor is pretty twisted without being pained or painful, and even the cloyingly sweet girl doesn't get on my nerves (perhaps because I see too much of myself in her). But there's a bigger point to be made here, as well, and it's one that has something to do with why I finally started constructing the Cabinet.
One of my father's chief beliefs is that everyone is born creative and that we all have the creativity knocked out of us, to one degree or another, over the course of our upbringing--whether by overly doctrinaire schooling, or underappreciative parents, or obnoxious and cruel peers, or crippling self-doubts. My parents did a lot to get my brother and me to indulge our creative sides: we both took music lessons; my brother started getting camera equipment pretty early on; I inherited typewriters and got fountain pens as gifts when I was still in high school. Images turned out to be my brother's game, words mine; sometimes, these days, we shake things up a little and he does some writing, while I do some picture-taking. He knows some basic renovation stuff now--how to rebuild or recreate interior spaces--while I can take some fairly innocuous looking ingredients and produce you a dessert that will make your eyes and your mouth water.
My parents also demonstrated what it means to be creative. My mom has been quilting since the late 1970s; my father has always been a photographer. And you already know about their double-teaming efforts to create and execute mystery trips, not to mention E. Bunny clues.
In a broader sense, I learned from my parents some of the most important constituent parts of what I like to think is a creative approach to life itself. I've got this idea that my days are things to be crafted and experimented with and changed up and used to make something, even if (especially if?) it's an immaterial something. And I've got this other idea that somehow trying to prod or goad or cajole or laugh others into fearless creativity is part of what I'm supposed to be doing around here.
And so, Making Fiends: I love that the woman who designed this show undertook it in the first place, and that she stuck with it until she had two seasons' worth of episodes. And I love that at the center of the show is Vendetta, this rageful little girl who cooks up all kinds of embodied trouble, with the help of Grudge (who's too big for her to hold, by the way), in her kitchen, while the giant red Angry Cat hangs about outside and rraowls a bit--and then that Charlotte, repeatedly and apparently unintentionally, recreates all of Vendetta's creations as a new kind of handiwork altogether: a scissor-beaked bird who cuts a Charlotte-shaped hole in the classroom door so that she can make an entrance; a monster (designed by Vendetta to be a blood-sucker) who goes out on a sugar-cookie-seeking rampage; a chorus of angry, screaming vegetables who learn to sing Charlotte's crazed song about eating vegetables every day. Neither of these girls ever lets up, ever. "Oh! I hope he doesn't have the ague!" cries Charlotte upon finding out that Mr. Milk is out sick for the day, in the episode where Vendetta has to face off with a substitute teacher with an incredible range of nicknames for the kids ("my lugnut," "my rampant squirrel"), the kids take a standardized test, and Charlotte sings a paean to the No. 2 pencil. There's something reassuring about all of it, and you can pretty much bet you'll find me in a Vendetta t-shirt, come summer, when it'll really be time to cook up some mischief, intellectual and otherwise.