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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Just What The Heck Is This About, Anyway?

If you don't know me, and I suspect that would be most of the civilized world, the premise for this blog might require some explanation.

My name is Rachel Newstead: I'm 45 years old, I live in Appleton, Wisconsin, and I love cartoons.

Perhaps "love" is too mild a word. I'm obsessed with them, I eat, sleep, and breathe them. From the time I was twelve years old, I could look at a five-second clip of a cartoon and tell you what year it was made, what studio made it and in some cases, who the animators were.

I was also a cartoonist of questionable success (not to mention talent) who created a strip you might never have heard of called "Aimee", about a little girl in a wheelchair. But more about that some other time.

For a large portion of my adult life, I figured I was alone in my cartoon obsession. I'd rattle off names like "Shamus Culhane" and "Friz Freleng" to my friends, only to be met with blank stares. Surely no one out there was as obsessed as I was, right? So I believed until I first saw Kevin Wollenweber.

If you remember the formative days of Cartoon Network, you no doubt have heard the name Kevin Wollenweber. In 1993, when the fledgling cable channel had been on the air hardly a year, Kevin so impressed the people at Turner Broadcasting with his frequent calls and letters about animation-related topics that they gave him the chance to host for a day. Hence, Kevin Wollenweber Day was born. For twelve hours, Kevin acted as M.C., hosting a slate of cartoons he personally selected.

So what's so special about this particular toon fan, you ask? Did I mention Kevin is blind, and has been for nearly thirty years?

I know, I know. "Blind toon fan" sounds as incongruous as "quadriplegic tap-dancer", but trust me, he is, with a memory for cartoons that put even me to shame. And a cartoon library that did likewise.

In 2002, I happened to "meet" Kevin online, courtesy of an e-mail list devoted to classic Warner Bros. cartoons, about which we both happen to be passionate. It wasn't long before we started exchanging frequent e-mails, to the extent that the list soon became "The Kevin and Rachel Show." In an effort to keep the other listmembers from going crazy, we decided to take our lengthy toon-related conversations offlist, and that worked splendidly. For awhile.

Recently, e-mail glitches on Kevin's end prevented my incredibly long reviews of cartoons from getting through. After unsuccessfully trying to send them in installments (frustrating for both of us) and as attachments, I remembered my heretofore-unused blog account. What better place for our back-and-forth toon discussions but here?

My letters to Kevin might seem unnecessarily detailed to the outsider--until you remember that Kevin can't see. In a sense I act as Kevin's "eyes," not only reviewing cartoons, but describing scene-by scene the details he unfortunately misses. A sort of "descriptive video service," if you will.

If you've stuck with me this long, rest assured the first of those reviews will be coming up very shortly. I hope I provide enjoyment not just for Kevin, but for anyone else who happens by.

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