Martian children have all become seasonally depressed! The solution? Mars needs Santa!
SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS is quite posssibly the best public domain christmas movie ever (unless you count that Frank Capra film with Jimmy Stewart...) and now you can download it at Arichive.org Feature Films! We here at AnimeHELL look forward to the direct to video release of the 2002 remake....
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year From AnimeHELL!
Thursday, December 30, 2004
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
I'm not sure exactly how I found out about THE HYPNOTIC EYE but from this discription I was intrigued:
Best Cable Access Show, The Dallas Observer, September 25-October 1, 1997: "The Hypnotic Eye is an addictive, giddy mixture of cult movie clips, trailers, toy commercials, weird music videos, and puppet high jinks. This brilliantly edited show (yes, we know it's on cable access, but we mean that just the same) is hosted by a giant eyeball and features such madness as William Shatner's cry-for-help rendition of Elton John and Bernie Taupin's "Rocket Man." Producer-editor-director Joe Riley doesn't merely wink at the audience-his reverence and sincere appreciation for pop culture shines through. This is one of the best hours on television, public access or otherwise."
That sounded a heck of alot like our wacky clip show. With some more searching I tracked down copies of Shows 5 and 6 from a video trade list. I was not disappointed. THE HYPNOTIC EYE is hosted by an Eye with unkempt hair:
A life sized Eye puppet with the voice of producer Joe Riley greets us at the beginning of Episode 5 and banters with his co-host puppet M.C. Tiny Bob. The host segments are very low key and feel unscripted. Which makes it all the more charming in a bizarro kind of way. We're then shown clips of old commercials, the trailer for THE STREET FIGHTER and the trailer and making of footage from Gamera 2: Advent of Legion. Pretty cool considering that this show aired in 1997. There's a video montage of a store in Houston called Giant Robot set to a score of The Ramones' I Don't Want To Grow Up. Yeah, it' alot like an AnimeHELL show, but without the Mental Health bits...
I'm not sure what happened to Joe Riley and THE HYPNOTIC EYE but I'm sure gonna try to track him down and see what he's up to these days and I'm certainly gonna look for more episodes of this show. And I'm even thinking about making my own lifesized Eye puppet for future HELLshows...
Sunday, December 19, 2004
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Anyone ever heard of these guys at www.5minutestolive.com ? They look to me like your typical band of video "tape traders," and by that I mean the kind of "traders" you encounter at sci-fi/fantasy conventions that charge $20 for copies of Battle Royale they made. In fact, these guys ARE charging $20 for copies of Battle Royale they made, but they're also selling--er, I mean, TRADING, yeah that's the ticket--various Hell-related media. While I certainly won't be paying $20 for the Heaven's Gate tape, I did notice that they've got a set of compilations entitled Lost and Found Video Night:
Some of it we've already got (in less than pristine quality), like Shatner doing Rocketman, Turkish Star Wars, Bollywood Don and his exploding briefcase (my copies of this were from DVD!), Der Fuhrer's Face, and so on. But most of it is stuff I've actually never heard of myself (Indonesian Sylvester Stallone sounds like it has promise).
The catch? You guessed it, pricetag. Until January 7th, it's $100 for 7 DVDs, which themselves contain about 10 hours worth of VHS captured footage. Unless of course, you can trade them something they're looking for:
Of course, none of that is stuff I've ever heard of. Still, it's always good to have more goofy footage in (hopefully) playable condition. Perhaps if nobody else has anything to trade with them over, we can split the costs?
In the meantime, I'll bite the bullet and download this MPG of "VD Attack Plan" starring Meatwad as Ignorance. 731 meg MPEG-1? How long IS this thing, an hour?!
Friday, December 03, 2004
Sequential Tart: Article - Anime Weekend Atlanta (vol VII/iss 12/December 2004): "One of the funniest panels I attended the first day was the 'Totally Lame Anime' panel, offered by AWA president Dave Merrill, Neal Nadelman, and Daryl Surat. Each presenter showed silly scenes from some of their favorite bad anime, along with commentary on the vapid dialogue, gratuitous exposures of breasts, and convenient miracle twists of plot. My second favorite line was from one of Dave Merrill's offerings, a scene in Apocalypse Zero, when a character actually uttered the phrase, 'if this is justice, I'm a banana.' But my favorite line in the whole panel was from panelist Daryl Surat. He introduced his lame anime choices, Angel Cop, Mad Bull 34, and Violence Jack as his own personal 'holy trinity of suck,' a comment which put a couple of people in the crowd on the floor. Merrill admonished the audience not to take it personally if their favorite anime is on the list of the totally lame. No one did; in fact, the howls and groans of the crowd kept drawing more and more people, and by the time I left it was standing room only."
Friday, November 26, 2004
8pm Friday Ryan and I are in the Covington convention center ready for Hell. Anime Name That Tune is wrapping up and Ryan is not even trying and is naming all the tunes. The projector is there and on, and there's sound, but there aren't any VCRs or DVDs in the room, so I have a word with certain upper-level staffers. Turns out the tech staff was pretty much recruited a month ago, and they haven't been briefed on what Hell needs. After a few false starts and some equipment failures (well, it didn't work to start with, so you can't call it a failure) we're up and running. Tezuka's short film Jumping continues to please audiences, Afro-Ken mystifies, the Ned Flanders show gets applause. Two SCTV shorts - 5 Neat Guys and the Ken Ishimuni Show - go over really well. Futurama "Tales Of Interest" are well recieved, Godzilla trailers and a Japanese pen ad are both popular, and Flinstones smoking cigarettes and drinking beer are always popular. Cartoon All Stars To The Rescue continues to amaze and mystify. The Nensler GI JOE PSAs are very well recieved. Both the Lockheed caveman drugs film and the British Army LSD experiments get laughs, and the trailer for GREEN SLIME is greeted with shocked awe after I explain that the film is directed by Kinji "Battle Royale" Fukusaku. Some religious show clips lead into PERVERSION FOR PROFIT and from there the Live Versus Anime '04 segment, which is both educational and amusing and includes a singing duo dressed as the Dirty Pair and the computer-animated Macross. Gojo's Balls are disturbing and yet still get laughs. Clips from LIVE AND LEARN seque into the famous scene where some unknown guy tries to jump over a moving car. From there we move on to Klaus' Forklift Funnies, which gets the biggest applause of the evening. The combination of gross-out gore and deadpan German narration is a hit. The Fake Heino raps to the audience's delight and the real Heino does techno, and Domo-Kun rocks out. Monkey versus Robot is requested and shown, and I wrap up Hell with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog mocking Star Wars fans. As usual a lot of stuff was on the playlist and yet didn't get screened - I want Midnight Madness to start as close to Midnight as possible. There are some titles from this show that will be retired for a while. I think Monkey Versus Robot has been there and done that, and either I come up with a new Live Versus Anime or I just run clips of the Japanese Spiderman, because that gets a lot of applause.
Reports have it that an "old lady" was seen in the audience taking notes all throughout Hell. Apparently she was scribbling furiously and did not seem to be amused. Hopefully this is for some sort of alarmist, outraged piece of propaganda. If you see Hell mentioned anywhere, let us know.
Hell wrapped up only slightly after midnight, and from there the tapes and DVDs went back to the room to be dispersed later among Ryan and Neil Nadelman, to spread the pain far and wide.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Friday, November 12, 2004
Cartoon Brew reports that Joe Horne is producing new Flash Episodes of AnimeHELL fav THE ADVENTURES OF STEVIE & ZOYA. If anybody out there happens to have the complete run of the original STEVIE & ZOYA episodes that ran on MTV as part of LIQUID TELEVISION contact us here at AnimeHELL HQ!
Sunday, November 07, 2004
On November 19th I'm packing my car and making a run for the border! I'll be in Cincinnati that weekend for SUGOICON and one of the most enthusiastic HELL audiences in con-dom. All the stuff I didn't get to show at AWA because of my idiocy involving tape speeds will be FIXED and ON THE SCREEN, and that includes lots of crazy religious ranting, fake Heino, more movie trailers, and other weirdness gleaned from my Canadian sources. Of course I'll be running other new stuff - some that premiered at AWA and other new stuff I didn't even get a chance to glance at then. Also some old favorites will be making a reappearance as per request. SUGOICON is a swell show and the staff and attendees "got" the Hell Concept from the get-go, so you can be assured of a wild and wacky three hour set in Cincy. I don't exactly know what time I'll be starting, so check your local listings for time and station.
Apparently they have one event room dedicated to their rock and roll band acts, so that means I will NOT have to follow SWEK's act, and for that I am grateful.
I'll be manning my artists alley table on Saturday so be sure and drop by and purchase your very own copy of DRUNK TANK, the amazing comic sensation that's the toast of two nations. Plus other anime junk for sale.
Friday, October 29, 2004
Lots of people have asked me about THE NINJA SQUAD and if you've looked around the internet you'll see that it's out of print. But if you still want to own a copy of it you can get it on DVD. Of course I still recommend that you just check the shelves at your local used video stores, which is where I found my copy for only $3. There are lots of copies out there on VHS just waiting to be found on the cheap...
If you're interested in FORKLIFT DRIVER KLAUS you can buy the region free DVD here.
Monday, October 25, 2004
Rented a Malibu II and drove down to Houston with Ed. Found Oni-Con and spent a few minutes looking for a parking spot, got lucky and found one close to the loading dock. Went in and found Bruce and Mundee, went to the bar and knocked back 3 G&Ts to steel myself for OtakuHELL. Found the room, it was a smallish video room and luckily I was able to set up a half hour before the show. Unfortunately we had sound troubles. I broke out the portable speakers and hooked them to the Audiovox but they couldn't really do much for the room. I may need to look into some sort of portable yet powerful computer speakers/amplifiers for future shows. And it looks like I'll be buying a switch box just for the VCR/DVD problem. As things were set up in the Atlanta room I was unplugging the Portable DVD Player and plugging in the VCR because the DELL Projector wasn't getting a signal from the L1/L2 inputs on the VCR. [It was a decent VCR, too, I didn't run anything from the Audiovox Portable VCR] Eventually I got a tech who figured out where my sound problem was and I cannibalized the connector from the Eddie Bauer and we had sound. That left me with about an hour left of the show before the GTO Movie was scheduled. I felt ok with that. I'd rather surrender the room to GTO then something like, say, HentaiFEST...
We had a great crowd for the show, and the room was packed the full two hours, and they even put up with the prerequisite technical snafus. Gogo and his Rube Goldberg egg machine was well received, as was Lolita 18's VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR. FORKLIFT DRIVER KLAUS was a bigger hit then I expected, despite the fact the DVD player froze up at least 3 times. Once the audio problems were licked I played ARE YOU LISTENING and TOOTHACHE OF A CLOWN. But once again the break out hit was NINJA SQUAD with Master Ninja Gordon up against Ivan the Red in an all out Ninja battle for Ninja supremacy. I ended the show with some FARTING EVANGELIST to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Then I packed up just as the Oni-Con Video Director, Michael Unfried, came in to run GTO. I shook his hand and then we were off for a big steak dinner!
All in all it was a great show and I want to thank everybody who showed up and had a good laugh. I hope we can do it again next year.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Just got an e-mail from the Oni-Con Director of Video. I'll be mixing a 2 hour set sarting at 7pm on Saturday, October 23. I'll try to keep it as tight as possible and get as much stuff in as I can. I've got new YATTA footage, VERMILLION PLEASURE NIGHT, FORKLIFT DRIVER KLAUS, New Shorts, New Trailers, New Commercials, and much, much more! Look for the flyers! Beware the Nin-Ja!
Monday, October 18, 2004
Halloween is almost here. So, in the spirit of Trick or Treat I'd like to share some Spooky Movies from the OtakuHELL Video Vaults. Painfully bad spooky movies.
Are you looking for a movie full of big name stars? This movie has more stars then a LOVE BOAT episode. Ernest Borgnine, Tom Skerritt, Eddie Albert, Ida Lupino, Keenan Wynn, William Shatner, John Travolta, and ...Anton LaVey? That's right! The guy behind The Church of Satan is cast here as the High Priest and leads the Mexican extras in some high spirited Latin chanting. Not that you'd recognize him under his goofy 'Satanic' mask. I guess Anton's casting and 'technical advisor' position is suppose to lend credibility to THE DEVIL'S RAIN. So maybe we can blame the Devil for this mess of a movie.
What is THE DEVIL'S RAIN? It looks like a made for TV movie, but it wasn't. Nope, THE DEVIL'S RAIN was made to cash in on the popularity of THE EXORCIST. The rumor is that THE DEVIL'S RAIN was one of the films financed by the same people who made DEEP THROAT and I can honestly say this movie looks like a pornloop made in 1975. THE DEVIL'S RAIN pads out it's 85 minutes of running time with things like William Shatner taking off his hat, coat and vest and then putting on his hat, coat and vest and then opening a car door and getting into the car and then driving from point A to point B. Etc...
Shatner duels Ernest Borgnine for his soul, AND to see who can chew the scenery the most. It's a toss up. Shatner seems to think he's a cowboy, but Borgnine gets more screen time. And wacky goat makeup. On the other hand we get to see a shirtless Shatner on a satanic altar screaming like a little girl.
Here's where the movie takes a left turn. Eddie Albert shows up as a sort of Van Helsing professor of the paranormal with Tom Skerritt as his T.A. and Joan "EIGHT IS ENOUGH" Prather as Tom's wife, psychic, plot device and damsel in distress. Joan has a vague psychic hotline montage plot point moment that sets up the second act. Tom and Joan head off to confront Borgnine where we get more padding of Tom and Joan sneaking around a western facade hunting for Satanists. Luckily Tom is attacked by John Travolta. After a bit of disappointing satanic wrestling Tom ends up on top of Travolta and it's time for Joan to psychically trigger a RED SHIFT FLASHBACK to what looks like the first satanic Thanksgiving. Who wants to see Borgnine dressed like a pilgrim burned at the stake and Shatner with a pony tail, IN EYE SEARING RED?
The flashback doesn't really explain anything except to explain why Borgnine has a grudge with Shatner and Skerritt and where the McGuffin of THE BOOK comes in. Turns out that Borgnine is collecting souls for the devil. Or something. It's hard to tell. Anyway, Joan is captured, Tom teams up with Eddie Albert, Tom tries to save Joan, Eddie threatens to destroy what looks like satan's portable TV, but it's taken away by Shatner who breaks it and starts...THE DEVIL'S RAIN! The moneyshot of the movie: 10 minutes of satanists melting into goo. And there you have it. Cheesy '70s genre classic with a surprise ending that'll have you rolling on the floor with laughter or groaning with frustration. The best way to watch THE DEVIL'S RAIN is with a few drinks and a few friends to shout at the devil...
Haw Haw Haw!
Friday, October 15, 2004
Well, it works fine now... let's see how it works tomorrow.
We're tentatively scheduled to run OtakuHELL opposite the Cosplay at Oni-Con. I'll post more about the show next week.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Blogger finally emailed me and let me choose a new password. It only took them a month. The good news is, they emailed me six times!
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Anime Weekend Atlanta has come and gone, and as always it was the best con I attended all year. No other con has attendees who sing aloud the opening to Great Mazinger when it plays in the video rooms. For that matter, no other con plays Great Mazinger in the video rooms. Even after six years, it was a con of firsts: the first con without my car, the first con I got stranded at due to not having my car, and the first con for which I had panels every day.
My first time being part of Dave and Neil's Totally Lame Anime went great. I wasn't sure whether my selections would fit the vibe at first--after all, my clips tend to be heavy with violence, profanity, nudity, and other R-rated things--but when I looked over at Neil partway through my set to find him rendered speechless by Angel Cop as the crowd laughed on, I knew I'd hit the mark. One attendee later came up to me and noted how immediately following my panel, he went straight to the dealer's room and bought himself a copy of Apocalypse Zero. That is not the first time that has happened. Despite being held in the middle of the day on Friday--traditionally a time where most would-be attendees are still at work or in class--the room was at capacity, with many standing in the back.
Saturday night was the real test: the Panel OF DOOM. Considering it’s a panel that’s essentially a clone of Anime Hell being held at the home of Anime Hell, while running what was for the most part the same set of footage I had run at AFO last month and being scheduled opposite the costume contest, I wasn't sure what sort of crowd I'd draw if any. I still ended up packing the room to the point where people opted to sit on the floor. I started things off with an excerpt from "Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips," which reminds me that GoofyRobo—whose infant daughter luckily did not beat me senseless over the weekend—noted to me how Dave could never get away with running that stuff at Hell. I ended up running stuff like that for three hours, which is no small task considering that the individual clips I’d show tend to be VERY short.
The only sort of snafu I encountered was when what I presume to be a mother and daughter came straight up to me around 10:15 PM or so wondering why karaoke wasn’t going on in the room even though it was printed in the schedule. I told them the truth: that I was told I could run as long as I wanted, and that even if I did tell the still-packed room full of people to get out so that less than ten people could use the room for karaoke, there wasn’t anyone on staff present to watch the room anyway. Shortly afterwards, there was a group of people just outside the panel room that burst into a very loud, VERY off-key rendition of “Sobakasu,” the first OP to Rurouni Kenshin. Whether these two incidents are connected I can’t say, but I simply had the doors closed so that we could no longer hear them quite as much. Boy, those karaoke folks sure showed me!
By the time I ended, the room was still at about 50-75% capacity. A friend informed me that a mother in the crowd quickly left along with her two children during the point where I was showing the clip from “It’s Wonderful Being a Girl.” That is not the first time that has happened, proving once again that 1968 Johnson & Johnson educational films that prominently feature their own products are far more offensive than BIG JIM SLADE. I did a good enough job that one fan came up to me afterwards and noted that she liked my panel so much that she opted to delay going to the yaoi room until I was done. Now THAT’S the mark of quality.
With any luck, I’ll be able to assemble enough new footage for Totally Lame Anime (which isn’t THAT hard) and the Panel OF DOOM (this IS pretty tough) for next year. First things first: rebuild the computer. The $1000 I spent better be worth it…
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
I'd like to thank all the people who came out to see the shows. I didn't get to make it to Daryl Surat's PANEL OF DOOM or ANIME OFF THE BEATEN PATH or even Dave's DUBS THAT TIME FORGOT but I'm sure those rooms were packed to the fire exits. Daryl, Dave and Neil Nadelman's TOTALLY LAME ANIME was a hit, as usual. Mari Iijima signed autographs on the main stage and gave Dave Merrill a few moments to fine tune the playlist for JAPANESE ANIMATION HELL, and I hear that Ryan Gavigan did a four hour set for MIDNIGHT MADNESS. All in all, I enjoyed the shows that I watched and participated in and I hope you did too.
With any luck we'll have some con reports posted in the next couple of days. And I hope Surat finally gets a flight home....
Monday, September 20, 2004
And I'm not just talking about the two hurricanes that hit Florida within the last few weeks.
From Dave's rules for Anime Hell: ". . . what makes Hell Hell is the real-time selection of material and the mystery of what might happen next . . . I'm not going to convert it all to computer files and play it all out of a computer, because the computer would fuck up, and don't tell me it won't."
And of course, that's exactly what happened.
On Thursday, I noticed I was getting errors when trying to copy files on my brand-new, less than three weeks old 250 GB hard drive, purchased to replace my old 60 GB hard drive that was on the verge of death. I ran the Windows diagnostic program chkdsk, and it found several megs worth of bad sectors: physically damaged sections of the hard drive. Several megs worth is quite a lot, but I still had to cut the clips together for the Panel OF DOOM plus two other panels for Anime Weekend Atlanta (http://www.awa-con.com). Still possible, since none of the sectors corrupted anything critical and it was mostly going to be identical to what I ran at Anime Festival Orlando.
Or so I thought. Within a few short moments, those few corrupt megabytes (ha, "few"; you return a HD if you start seeing a couple KB of corrupt sectors) of data turned into the entire 250 GB hard drive, wiping away my operating system, programs, stored documents, you name it. Fortunately, I am not completely stupid, and nearly all of my relevant clips for the panels were either on a different hard drive or burned to disc. Of course, now I had no bootable computer on which to edit them.
Solution: I bought one of those external drive enclosures from CompUSA. If you've never seen one, these things basically let you plug in any regular hard drive (or CD drive or anything else that you connect via IDE cable) and then connect it to any computer via a USB port. They cost $40 online, so naturally they charged me $80. I'll bring it to AWA just in case. With it and the drives in tow, I drove an hour south to Orlando, where I then proceeded to hijack a friend's computer for about a day and a half and use it to edit together my three panels. Of course, the evil computer deities were still out to get me, so they tried to stop my plans by cutting off the power for six hours, but I got everything done AND I was able to recover a decent amount of my critical data from the dead drive.
Still, even though I can get the drive replaced for free, my computer's still dead and I'll probably have to spend something absurd like $750-$1050 after all is said and done, since that's how the PC hardware industry is. If your motherboard goes bad--which is what I *believe* happened to me--you can't just buy a new board. Nope, because the new processors are shaped different from the old ones, so you have to buy a new processor. Oh, and you have to replace all your RAM. And by then, you're talking about a lot of money. Especially since the reason I suspect the motherboard is because I already spend $300 replacing OTHER parts prior to this happening. Good thing I don't have bills to pay or anything actually important to spend money on.
The Panel OF DOOM cannot be derailed! Everything's right on schedule for the weekend, even if some Walker, Texas Ranger segments were lost.
Friday, September 17, 2004
When I first read about The Jack Chick Movie in The Imp #2 I knew I had to get it. It was gonna be a fully animated feature length film that would be the alpha and omega of Jack Chick. Well, it finally came out about a year ago and it's more like the ultimate Jack Chick film strip/powerpoint presentation.
Not that it's a bad thing. Fred Carter, the uncredited cartoonist who's done the art for most of the Jack Chick tracts relating Bible stories and the Crusader comics series, gets his long overdue credit here. Carter created 360 paintings for the movie and it's pure Chick imagery. Demons are horrible bruise colored figures, Angels are unblemished and dazzling white robes, and the lake of fire is, well, a garishly firey red and orange and yellow. Dispite these fantastic images THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD takes it's editing cues from Ken Burn's PBS Civil War series, and like Ken Burn's documentary it lulls you to sleep.
Still, the highlight of the film has to be the "THIS WAS YOUR LIFE" segment which covers the same ground as the imfamous tract. Seeing Carter and Chick's interpretation of TWYL only makes me wish Jack had approached Rodney Ascher and Michael Garon to make LOTW. Rodney and Syd's short "Somebody Goofed" used images from the Chick tract and combined it with other found images "taken from drawings, magazines, encyclopedias, record covers and personal photographs" and animated them in After Effects on a home computer. "Somebody Goofed" is more emotionally moving because it is moving. LOTW, by comparison, is as involving as an illuminated manuscript.
A couple people asked about The Jack Chick movie at OtakuHELL and I'm happy to report that it is available to buy from Jack himself. A steal at only $19.95!
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
This year's OtakuHELL has been another reminder of the limitations of Audio/Video from a VHS tapedeck and a DVD player. Yeah, I spent alot of time cueing up tapes to just the part I wanted to show and editing and burning clips to disk of specific HELLtype material to show. A whole lot of time. In fact, I spent the week leading up to the show cueing, editing and burning. Of course when I was running the set and I needed to cue up another part of a tape I was S.O.L.
Last year I brought a dual VCR/DVD player with me, just in case I needed it. It never came out of the box. I wouldn't have been able to hook it up, anyway. This year I brought my Disc Master 3 portable DVD player with and hooked it straight into the con's VHS player. It created a crude video editing setup. I could cue up DVD/SVCDs and pause them while tapes played on the VCR, blocking the signal from the DVD player. When the tape stopped playing the DVD signal would go through and play. And that worked pretty good.
The other day I picked up an Audiovox portable VCP at Target for $49.95, list price $199.95, not a bad deal. I intend to use it to cue up tapes on it's 5 inch TFT built in screen at the next OtakuHELL. the only limitation of the Audiovox is it dosen't have any standard outputs. It's got 2 headphone plugins and a DIN plugin in the back. So it looks like I'll need to get a headphone to RCA and a DIN to RCA/S-Video set-up. I just found out that a Mini-DIN is called a S-Video/S-VHS. Interesting.
What I really want is a Video mixing deck to put between the DVD and the VCR, and it looks like my options are pretty thin. So, I'm looking and waiting for a deal to come along and reading about what kind of deck I'll need. I was watching a Panasonic WJ-AVE7 Digital Video Mixer on ebay, the winning bid was $450. Way too rich for my little hobby. There are a couple listings for VIDEONICS MX-1 decks that I'm watching, too. We'll see what happens. If anybody sees any Video Mixers on the cheap post it here, please!
Sunday, September 12, 2004
the opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions of any of the other Anime Hell participants or organizations.
Last May in Chicago we were at ANIME CENTRAL and on Friday night we ran the CENTRAL HELLFEST for the, what, fifth year now? I had a big list of stuff to show and lots of tapes and DVDs and stuff, and it pretty much all went out the window, because the whole thing started so late.
Apparently the Japanese band showed up late for their sound check, and that made the other events in the room late, and that made the Japanese band's gig late, and they played their entire set, and then SWEK, a band made up of American anime fans, played THEIR entire set, and by the time they were off the stage and the equipment had been moved off the stage and the chairs had been set back up and the projector had been put back in place and all the VCRs and soundboards had been rewired, well, it was time for people to start asking me when MIDNIGHT MADNESS was going to start. Literally, I was supposed to go on at 9 and instead I went on after 11.
Three times during their "performance" I went to SWEK, or people lounging around the stage fingering their instruments anyway, asking when their set was going to end. Three times nobody could tell me. THAT'S PROFESSIONALISM, GUYS. Not only was there nobody -no events director, no room manager, no MC - with the authority to get these people off the stage, there was no desire on the part of SWEK to do anything but play their entire set, including encores, to a thinning audience of their friends and roommates. This may have something to do with the fact that SWEK is made up of people on Anime Central staff, and henceforth with the power to play as long as they damn well please. This may also have something to do with the fact that at the 2003 Central, when SWEK ALSO went over their time slot, I was hollering at them to get their untalented asses off the stage, so they probably have every incentive to make things as difficult for me as possible.
The real problem is, of course, that you have 100 people INSIDE the room listening to SWEK, and you have 1000 (count 'em, one thousand) people OUTSIDE the room standing around for two solid hours waiting for Hell to start. Now, do the math, what's larger, 100 or 1000?
Regardless of their ability to stall Hell, I'd like at this juncture to just come right out and say it. SWEK stinks. I can't say whether the band itself is untalented or the sound reproduction in the main events room is bad, but for whatever reason, they are not an entertaining listening experience, and I speak as someone who has seen arena rock shows, club venues, outdoor festivals, house parties, and bands set up and play entertaining sets in hotel lobbies. SWEK is a lousy act. They sound like vegetable soup. Either they don't have the talent to supercede inferior equipment, or they don't know what they sound like, or they know what they sound like and don't care. Whatever; they aren't entertaining.
It's a waste of Central's time and resources to allow SWEK access to the room, the equipment, and the booking time slot. They're not worth it. It's an even BIGGER slap in the face when SWEK is allowed to noodle on and on while hundreds of cash-paying badge-holding Anime Central customers cool their heels waiting for the next event. I saw a constant stream of people wander into the main events room, stand with their fingers in their ears, shouting questions to each other as to when this lousy band was going to get off the stage, and then ultimately give up and go outside again, where it wasn't so noisy.
It's easy enough for me to bitch and complain on my own account; I hauled most of my crap 800 miles, I scheduled my entire Friday at Central around the fact that I needed to be in the main events room at 8:30 so I could be ready to do Hell on time, and all this went out the window because musicians won't dare trim a moment from their vitally important musical endeavours (I blame both the Japanese band and SWEK for this). But I was invited to Central and knew that this sort of thing is endemic to conventions, and I can handle it. What really pisses me off was seeing the lobby jam-packed with people who were essentially being told "We don't care what you want, we're going to ROCK AND ROLL ALL NIGHT, BADLY."
What's even worse is that Ryan has to go on after me, and he really DOES have an all-night slot. Every hour I delay means an hour Ryan delays, which means an hour Ryan doesn't get to sleep because unlike you or me, Ryan actually has to get up on Saturday morning and do Acen work. Not to mention the hundreds of people who will also stay up all night for Midnight Madness. It's disrespect to all of us, is what it is.
I don't mean to criticize Central or any of the people who were so helpful and instrumental in getting me there, like Issac and Ryan. But you need to have somebody in that room with the authority to start kicking people off the stage when they run long, and that includes Japanese bands, American bands, anybody. I'm a guest at Central (meaning they asked me to come, not that I have "guest" status. Nobody ever paid to come to a con because they heard "Dave Merrill" was going to be there) and I didn't feel I had the right to go backstage and start yanking plugs. Next year will be different; I make no promises as to my behavior. I played the nice guy this year and it turned out to be a bad decision, so look out. There are one thousand people waiting in the hall who will back my shit up.
So Hell finally got started, and then we had more equipment problems, and out of a three-hour slot I managed to show maybe 90 mintues worth of material, to an audience that was increasingly clamoring for Midnight Madness, since it was long past midnight. Ryan got to start around 1:30 and I hauled my stuff upstairs and tried to go to sleep, and then around 3:00 I realized that I'd left my Heino autobiography in the main events room, so I had to go back down there and secure it. Ryan's DVDs went well and made things a lot simpler, even though the time lag involved in hitting stop, ejecting DVD, inserting DVD 2, watching it spin up, selecting menu, selecting feature tends to eat away at the rhythm. And you have to be very careful to not let the menu show on the main screen, because then everybody knows what they're about to see, and that's just not good. I guess the wave of the future is 2 DVD decks along with the 2 VHS machines and the cuing deck.
Some of the material went over well, some of it didn't, and a lot of stuff I didn't even get to show, so we'll find out at AWA whether it's crowd-pleasing or not.
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
Last year we did AnimeHELL on Friday night at AnimeFEST. This year OtakuHELL was scheduled for Sunday night from 9pm until 2am. I knew I had enough material to fill 5 hours, but I wasn't sure how lucid I'd be by 2am. Luckily I had an excellent support crew to help me out. I gotta give a shoutout to Ed, Bruce, Mundee, Doug Smith and the AnimeFEST AV crew who got me hooked up and running with minimal bumps.
I had alot of new material this year. Thanks to Gavv I had the AnimeHELL Archive DVDRs and could show HEINO for the first time (THANKS GAVV!!! You Roxxor!!!) and I'd just picked up JAPANARAMA Volumes 1,2 and 3 for some japanese commercials and gameshow hyjinks, and I'd spent the last week converting over the region 2 GRASSHOPPA! DVDs and downloading new stuff from The Prelinger Archives.
The older stuff went over well, too. In My Merry Oldsmobile had everybody singing along with the bouncing ball and we got through about two thirds of My Japan "TO WIN THE WAR!" and had a visit with The Cautious Twins who really need to move to a better part of town. Are You Listening and Toothache of a Clown horrified everybody and we got our Hitler fix with In Der Fuerhrer's Face.
My favorite point of the evening was Newport Ninja Squad! I'd mixed a SVCD alternating Newport Cigarette Commercials with the Ninja segments of Ninja Squad. I figured I'd only get to show a couple of the Newport commercials and maybe one sequence of the day-glo Nin-ja but ended up showing the whole thing right to the final duel between Ninja Master Gordon and Ivan the Red!
We had Panel Room One packed most of the night. In fact Security almost shut us down because we had people in the hallway blocking the doors. Maybe next year we'll get a bigger room.
I'd like to thank everybody who came out to see my wacky clip collection and hope you'll be there next year!
Monday, August 30, 2004
Overall I'd say my Saturday mini-panel at the meeting went as I expected for the most part. Most of the people in attendance would rather stay in the hallway than come inside and brave the horror of the near non-stop barrage of 50s educational films I was showing. And to think I didn't even go into the Educational Film Archives DVDs or the Prelinger Archives! Here's what I remember showing:
1967 Busch Advertising
My Japan--suddenly as if by magic, the entire room filled up for this and this alone; later on some people who arrived late asked me "hey, you got My Japan?" I didn't realize it was so highly viewed in the Prelinger Archives.
A Day Called X--this CLEARED THE ROOM. The best part of it all was my insisting to the few people left that it was "only 10-15 minutes long, guys!" I'd repeat that over and over throughout the night, though in every other instance I was indeed telling the truth.
Freedom and Power--General Electric's poorly animated and incredibly boring history of America
Freedom Comes High--Join the Navy and get killed, leaving behind a widow and an infant! This message brought to you by the US Navy!
In fact, I think I showed almost everything that was on the VCDs Dan and Bruce gave me at AWA a few years back. I didn't realize there was more stuff on those discs, so a lot of it I hadn't actually watched until then. Alas, I only ended up showing about two minutes of Tribulation 99. The specific people I wanted to inflict it upon weren't in the room. The time that would have been spent on that was instead spent on showing random CPF shorts (Flexible Metal Hose, Highly Moral Tale, Jar of Screaming Blood, Indiana Jones, Never Throw Up Your Lung, Canadian Mounties vs The Moon Men of Saturn, and Signs of a Gullible-Ass Public), the musical interlude from Thunderbirds 6, that old, OLD footage of Robert Tilton farting (it just never gets old), the Toon Makers Sailor Moon pilot that a couple people still had no idea existed, and some other carryovers.
Next time, I'll be SURE to bring "Duck and Cover" since a lot of people haven't actually seen it. Plus, it's imperative that I get some Sid Davis stuff in there since I didn't show a single thing by him. "The Terrible Truth" is easy enough to find, and hopefully I should be able to find "Boys Beware" and "VD / Damaged Goods" (I really need more educational films about VD since it'd make the Mad TV sketch funnier by comparison), but I can't find the perennial favorite, "Live and Learn," anywhere online. I'll have to get a tape of that one. I'll also try and hunt down The Story of Menstruation (don't think that's on the Educational Archives DVDs), since I hear that one's more infamous than It's Wonderful Being a Girl.
Overall, there was always about 2-4 people in the room at all times, but it was still a good enough metric as to what I could actually show parts of in real panels. Since I don't have the fake Weird Al / MST3K educational films that Dave likes to run at Hell, I think I'll add some of the fake educational films from Look Around You for my AWA repertoire. I don't think any of that stuff's ever been shown at Hell.
Friday, August 27, 2004
Friday, August 20, 2004
Thursday, August 19, 2004
Looks like it's a go for OtakuHELL at AnimeFEST. I've been told that we'll be scheduled for Sunday Nite, August 5th, as an alternative to the Cosplay Contest and something to fill the schedule before the Art Auction. This'll be the 4th HELL we've done at AnimeFEST and I'm hoping everything goes smoothly....
More details as I get 'em...
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
About a week ago, coming right off the heels of the AFO Panel OF DOOM, I got an IM from the vice-president of the Japanese Animation Club of Orlando (JACO) asking me if I wanted to run a sort of mini-panel at their upcoming Back to School Bash set for the 28th of this month. I accepted, but informed him flat-out that I didn't really have a whole lot of time to prepare given that not only was it two weeks notice, but I was mostly getting set for Anime Weekend Atlanta. As such, I told him that I'd be showing some particularly brutal clips, to the point where you'd have to be a drunken masochist to make it through the whole thing. He said "sure thing, no problem!" and here I am.
See, with me the problem of selecting footage isn't necessarily an issue of choosing clips I find entertaining. No, it's a matter of choosing clips that I think other people will find entertaining. Figuring that part out is what takes up most of my time when putting panels together, and while I don't hit the mark every time, I get it more often than not.
But this time, I'm throwing all that out the window and am gearing up to deliver some out-and-out punishment. So far, I know I'll be showing 1967 Busch Advertising in its entirety as well as the ultimate room-clearer, Tribulation 99. My Japan seems like a good choice, as does A Day Called X and one or two school-related offerings from the Educational Film Archives DVD set. The room will be empty long before it's over, but don't worry about me; I'll have reading I need to catch up on!
So what do YOU guys recommend for causing the room to empty in a hurry?
Thursday, August 12, 2004
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
AFO has come and gone, thus marking my first run of the Panel OF DOOM. Overall I'd say it was more successful than I thought it would be. Being that it was a first-time event, they put me inside one of the video rooms, and it was standing room only for most of the time. I was lucky since not only did they plug the panel at Opening Ceremonies and at some of the daytime panels, but they put me in the traditional Friday night Hell timeslot. Things went so well that I ran an extra hour, which was generous of the con considering that the panel required a staffer to man the volume controls on their high-falutin' A/V setup that's normally automated so that there's no need to have any volunteers do shifts in the video rooms. Most of the things went over quite well, particularly the Pranksters segment which elicited such a loud response that the guests over in Main Events were wondering what the heck was going on in the other room (course, they were told it was the hentai panel). The TV Carnage segments were a big hit, which is good because they comprised a significant chunk of the panel. I know at least one person in the crowd was convinced to buy the set.
Some things didn't go over quite as well as I'd hoped, such as the Sonny Chiba Street Fighter trailers (no reaction for "Terry Tsuguri: six foot six of half-breed fury!" or "Junjo--YES, JUNJO--returned from the dead for revenge!"), Jim Brown in Slaughter's Big Rip-Off, or George Takei's Daily Show appearance. I was let down by the Eagle's Nest audio clips I played prior to the panel starting. The problem wasn't that people didn't get it--as is standard practice, the anime con was sharing the hotel grounds with a Christian convention--so much as they couldn't hear a word that was being said. The clips sounded fine on my home TV, but came out so garbled on their system that you couldn't distinguish what was being said. Someday I'll learn how to use those EQ sliders for situations like that. I'd say the one segment that cleared the most people from the room was the William Shatner rendition of Rocketman, so for AWA I'm going to trim that one down.
I was offered the opportunity to do the panel at Metrocon, but when they mentioned that the chair of the con would have to deem it "non-offensive" since Metrocon is a family outing, I think I'm sunk. Especially since he refused "Anime That Sucks" on name alone, since he figured I'd show something that would make somebody REALLY fighting mad or something. It's not like I show anything worse than R-rated or TV-MA, but "non-offensive" is beyond my ability, which is why the con guide description was sure to state "for those not easily offended." I was told that a mother and daughter in the crowd apparently took some umbrage to "It's Wonderful Being a Girl," the educational film all about menstruation and how to rig up one of those sanitary napkin parachute things. Then someone else wasn't quite jiving with the assorted WW2 Nazi Germany shots spliced into the original Heino clip.
Next up: Anime Weekend Atlanta. Being that I'm up Saturday opposite the costume contest, I don't expect as large a turnout, and since it's in a whole other state I should be okay if I just rotate out the [known] Hell footage in favor of other stuff.
So, who wants copies?
Friday, August 06, 2004
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
THUNDERBIRD 6 has been a staple of AnimeHELL at AnimeFEST in Dallas, only because of the hellish visage of the laughing puppethead montage. Maybe someday I'll superimpose flames behind the grotesque nightmare fuel and loop it for maximum pain! With any luck I'll be showing it again at this year's AnimeFEST.
UPDATE! We're now talking with Suzi Manuel, The Envents Coordinator for AnimeFEST 2004 about doing an OtakuHELL show at AnimeFest this year. More details as I get them!
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
greetings from the midwestern Hellkeeper emeritus,
Last weekend at Ikasucon in Cincinnati I presided over one of my 'pantented'? Anime Hell / Midnight Madness combo. A two hour Hell showing followed by my wacky parody dubbing madness.
I've been working with digicapped archived Hell footage i've made over the last few months, along with stuff still on tape, and other stuff i've personally come across in the last few weeks ^^. Thanks to Hellmonkey Goofyrobo we have a new music video performance from the 'Yatta' japanese group, called 'Fish Fight'. The audience was extremely hot at Ikasucon, was a quite 'new' to Hell audience, only a handful had been to a performance, so even 'old' classics like Bring me the Head of CB, & The Farting Evangelist 1 went over huge.
The con had basically only 1 dvd,1 vcr & a mike for me, no mixer for the video. I had about 80% of the footage mixed out onto a DVD in my playlist order, spread out with 4 or 5 videotape segments to spread stuff out.
Among my new contributions in this show were:
Arcade84 (awesome example of 3d Modeling and can't go wrong with an Arcade & Journey music ;) )
'The Gayest Moment in The History of the History Channel' - a small segment i taped myself years ago but forgot about...let us just say it involves LARPing ;)
new preview for Midnight Madness
Star_Wars_Kid a New Hope - Heino Remix (cheap way of getting Dancin Heino without showing Dancin Heino ^^)
Futurama - if life were a videogame short.
The Exploding Whale
The main 'chunks' of shorts I created were the 'Oops' chunk, the 'Video games' chunk, and a 'Musical' chunk, interspersed with misc bridging material.
I now have quite a lot captured and archived , but always needing more stuff to archive ^^...and i still can't find a copy of Old Glory Robot Insurance in my possession...
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
At Anime Festival Orlando 5, I'm scheduled to put on my take of Anime Hell, which I've dubbed the Panel OF DOOM. I'll be running it off a computer--playing a clip, talking on the mic a bit, playing the next clip--but if I get some mailing addresses from you guys, I'll dub some tapes of the footage I've used and pass them along, even though some of it will probably consist of clips that Dave retired from his AWA Hell cycle.
This will be the first time I'm going to attempt using a slideshow/playlist presentation. The disadvantage of this is that the spontaneity aspect is not actually there, despite my theatrics implying otherwise. Why no VCR setup? Would you believe that most anime cons multimedia panel rooms (or video rooms) these days aren't set up to easily allow use of them? Not only would I have to bring my own, but I don't have any of the extra equipment listed in the Hell manifesto (extra VCRs, monitor, mixing board, cassette deck, CD player) and can't get cons to provide any of them save a microphone.
Currently my lineup's looking something like this (this isn't comprehensive):
* Sealab 2021 clip of Tornado Shanks' rant about "if you don't like it, watch anime"
* LOTS of clips from TV Carnage: Bibleman, Love Tips from Fabio, David Hasselhoff sings musical theater, Huntress Heidi has her son shoot a squirrel then shows us how to cook Squirrel Melts, a serious father/son moment from Power Rangers, old Nintendo-related commercials (Freedom Stick, the Power Glove), and more. Since these clips are so short (30 to 60 seconds on average), I'll just intersperse them throughout
* The "Frustration" segments from Mr. T's Be Somebody or Be Somebody's Fool
* Some clips from Adam and Joe Go Tokyo (BBC miniseries in the vein of Japanorama): one about cosplay, one that's just a commercial for Post Pet, and one featuring a performance by the Tokyo Shock Boys, the Japanese equivalent of the cast of MTV's Jackass
* A couple of those banned WW2 cartoons featuring Donald Duck/Bugs Bunny/Popeye
* Both of Pierre Bernard's anime-related rants from Conan O'Brien
* The last use of the Walker, Texas Ranger lever from Conan O'Brien
* Daily Show piece about the lack of Asian males in porn where George Takei says "young wet bitches" as only he can
* The Evangelion discussion scene from One Hour Photo (and for kicks, the quick "eyes bleeding" shot)
* Christopher Walken pranking a "Stiffly Stifferson" sketch from SNL
* Unbreakable clip where Samuel L. Jackson is in the comicbook shop
* Chappelle's Show Samuel Jackson sketch
* A few clips from this old 70s Bollywood film called "Don," most of them consisting of badly choreographed fights and the titular character--whose actor is sort of like Bollywood's answer to Sean Connery--getting out of perilous situations by throwing exploding briefcases
* Mad TV sketch for Terminator 3 where the Terminator is sent to protect Jesus
* Clip from GTO where a girl mistakenly walks into a room where guys are talking about Gundam
And so on. Currently I have 90 minutes of raw footage, and my policy for panels is to always have more footage on-hand than you can actually show. I plan to add in a couple clips from sentai shows that Danno provided me--namely Cyber Cop and Jetman, though to be topical I'll put on a clip from the Japanese Spider-Man--along with one or two selections from the Educational Film Archives DVDs linked on the blog. I think I'll choose one drug-related one and one sex-ed related one, since I have a Mad TV sketch called "VD: What a Drag" which is a parody version of those old sex-ed films.
I've also got that awful old Manga Video trailer that they'd slap at the beginning of their VHS releases (the one where they dub in the guy screaming "MAAAAY-NGAAAAAAAAH!"), along with the just-as-awful "What is Anime?" trailer that ADV is currently front-loading on all their DVDs. I wish I had the Time/Life "Best of Japanimation" TV commercial that would air late at night for what was essentially the Streamline Pictures catalog, but alas I don't have that. Throw in that old Heino clip that Dave doesn't use anymore, a 1970s movie trailer or two, a CPF short here and there, and the "Let's Fighting Love" scene from South Park, and I've got a panel!
Once I'm done with that, then it's on to AWA panel preparation, and since Dave's already got Hell scheduled there, I figured I'd resurrect my "Off the Beaten Path" panel from last year's AFO: two hours showcasing anime material that's relatively obscure. In this day and age, that means "stuff that isn't on DVD yet/stuff nobody bought or is downloading." Wouldn't take too long to update my old two hour lineup, which means I could actually mail it out to Neil Nadelman for DVD authoring purposes within a reasonable timeframe before the con.
(editor's note: I wrote this twelve years ago, back when people were bugging the crap out of me before, during, and after the five different Anime Hell shows I was doing every year. I no longer do five Anime Hell shows and I no longer use video tape. This post remains as a public service).
I need two VCRs hooked to the main circuit. I need a cassette deck and a CD player hooked into the main circuit, or a RCA jack I can plug into. I need a mixing board that isn't too complicated, a microphone, and a clear space to put my tapes. I need spectators and well-wishers to give me room to move, and I need chairs set aside for my posse. I also need a VCR and a monitor for cuing tapes, and I need a half-hour before start time for setting up.
Submissions: If you have something you want me to show at Hell, I need the videotape or the VCD in my hand a month before the convention. Do not hand me a tape at Hell and claim that it's really funny and that it's cued up and that everybody will like it; God hates liars. Don't give me a URL; my computer don't play those things and I can't get it out of my computer anyway, and if I could, it'd come out all fucked up. I need videotape or a VCD. I've got loads of stuff to trade so it's not like you wouldn't get anything in return.
You may, however, feel free to hand me a potential Hell tape at a convention - but I'm going to take it home and preview it, and THEN it might make it into rotation, at some other convention. Just not THAT convention.
I'm interested in educational films, industrial and military training films, TV ads from 1960-1980, shitty American cartoons from 1960- 1980, footage of actors or famous people screwing up, funny Simpsons clips, funny SNL fake ads, funny fake ads from anywhere else, and funny foreign footage of whatever provenance. The thing to usually keep in mind is "funny in spite of itself." Keep that in mind and you can't go far wrong.
I'm NOT interested in anime music videos, anime parody films, homemade Star Wars films, episodes of 'Poochie' that feature characters with names similar to Tenchi Muyou characters, or whatever stupid Internet Flash movie happens to be making the rounds of 'funny links' this week. All of these things are well and good, and they all have their place, and it ain't Hell.
Please don't tell me that I should just put the whole show on a tape and sit back and relax - what makes Hell Hell is the real-time selection of material and the mystery of what might happen next. I'm not going to burn the whole thing to VCDs, and I'm not going to convert it all to computer files and play it all out of a computer, because the computer would fuck up, and don't tell me it won't. I haven't lost a videotape yet.
Don't come up to me halfway through Hell and ask me "When does Midnight Madness start?" because when you ask a drunk with a microphone stupid questions, you get what you deserve.
Japanese anime fandom in the United States was built by tape-swapping video freaks, obsessed with capturing cartoons and inflicting the resultant confusion on captive audiences. Plunging head first into the inexplicable pop culture of a foreign nation, anime fans saw every T-120 as a potential gold mine of strangeness that typical America did not understand, and at times was actively opposed to. Regardless, anime fandom flourished through a network of clubs and tape traders filling the US Mail with an ever-circulating video supply delivering alternative entertainment across the nation.
Combine that whole mess with the culture-jamming antics of basic cable's Night Flight and early MTV, the DIY filmmaking of "Bambi Vs Godzilla" and "Hardware Wars" and the camp value of thousands of hours of bad old commercials and educational films, mix with the expanded home video capabilities of fifty thousand home entertainment centers controlled by legions of daisy-chaining tapeheads obsessed with crazy Japanese cartoons, and you get a room full of nerds laughing their heads off at two AM in a smelly convention video room somewhere in the Southeast. That's Japanese Anime Hell.
Japanese animation is now established as a legitimate American entertainment niche, available to all, no longer gatekept by self-appointed Tape Gods. But through Anime Hell we can still indulge our passion to seek out the strange and the forgotten and the non-commercial, to highlight the weird and the failed and the crazy that no corporate entity in its right mind would try to make a profit from.
Since 1996 Anime Hell has been delivering un-coordinated entertainment to audiences across America and parts of Canada, limited not by popular taste, commercial appeal or modern trends, but only by what its curators find funny or entertaining or liable to stun convention crowds in the wee hours.
Updated August 2016 by Dave Merrill