Category Archives: Producer

Author and Essayist Sarah Vowell

Author Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell (Wiki| Web) is an American essayist. She is the author of six books whose covers you definitely recognize, including The Partly Clouded Patriot (2003) and The Wordy Shipmates (2009). She’s a brilliantly talented writer and for many years was an editor for This American Life. Check out her TAL stories here.

This giraffe comes from Mr. Will Moore who met Vowell when, in spring 2013, she spoke at St. John’s College in St. Peter, MN. As he put it:

Sarah was hesitant, looking nervous and unsure the whole time, self-depricating in her normal fashion — but she went with it.

Sarah Vowell Giraffe

Actor, Writer and Greek God Kevin Sorbo

Kevin Sorbo, Greek God.

Kevin Sorbo (web|wiki) is an actor, writer, and the nicest Greek God I’ve ever met. Born in Mound, MN, he attended Minnesota State University Moorhead before he realized he could do literally anything else – and so he went west. There he became famous for the title role in Hercules: The Legendary Journey (’95-’99) and, later, as … someone… in Andromeda (’00-’05).

When I met Mr. Sorbo at the 2011 Twin Cities Book Festival speaking about his memoir True Strength, I’ll admit that I expected the worst. Even as an outsider I knew him only as “Hercules” and presumed he, like a long list of others in similar positions, would actively distance himself from the role(s) that made him famous. Oh was I wrong. Leaning on the podium, unscripted, Mr. Sorbo casually chatted with the audience, gladly answering the questions fired at him ranging from “What was it like to have a stroke – and how did it affect your sex life?” to “Tell us about Kull the Conquerer”, which isn’t even a question.

I can only imagine what kind of questions he gets at conventions.

Enjoy!

Why this giraffe has a water hose for a leg, I don’t know. (I’ll let this disability modulation slide, though, since Mr. Sorbo is such a nice guy).

Actor and Teen Hartthrob Josh Hartnett

Josh Hartnett

Actor and Modern Adonis Josh Hartnett

Josh Hartnett (Wiki) is an actor and producer from St. Paul, MN, who is perhaps best known for his roles in Pearl Harber, O, 40 Days and 40 Nights, and 30 Days of Night. When he isn’t acting, he enjoys his long walks on the beach being the reincarnation of Adonis, the Greek God of beauty and desire.

Over his lifetime he has been voted one of Teen People‘s “21 Hottest Stars Under 21″ and, later, one of its “25 Hottest Stars Under 25.” Not-Teen People magazine voted him one of the “50 Most Beautiful People” before Bliss clarified this by stating he is the “3rd Sexiest Male.” If that’s still not enough for you, unnecessarily-skeptical reader: PETA voted him the “Sexiest Vegetarian Alive.”

When Mr. Hartnett isn’t out being beautiful, he is also an activist. For example, in 2012, he did a lot of work for the Obama Presidential Campaign in Minnesota, which is where this giraffe comes from.

Now, if I may let you in on a little secret, friend: Growing up, I wanted to be Josh Hartnett. I loved him in The Faculty and – cards on the table – have a thing for Minnesota Joshs. So, it warms my hart seeing our life journeys come together like this. While he’s off being nominated for Teen Choice Awards here I am capitalizing upon it able to be a part of it …  *wistful sigh*

Actor Josh Hartnett Cannot Draw A Giraffe

[Courtesy of the wonderful Stacey Rosana of Minnesota].

Writer and Comedian Paul Provenzas Pretty Awful Giraffe 4 22 11

Comedian and Filmmaker Paul Provenza

Paul Provenza is a comedian, filmmaker and writer perhaps best known for his long list of acting roles and 2005 documentary The Aristocrats, which is about the infamous joke of the same name. For those who may be not familiar with it,

Comedian and Filmmaker Paul Provenza

“The Aristocrats” is a longstanding transgressive joke amongst comedians, in which the setup and punchline are almost always the same (or similar). It is the joke’s midsection – which may be as long as the one telling it prefers and is often completely improvised – that makes or breaks a particular rendition [Wikipedia].

For those in the audience comfortable with vulgarity in its many films, it’s something that I would recommend; for the queasy, you should probably refrain. Here’s the trailer [SFW]:

So following my traumatic experience with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder, I have actually become a little nervous when soliciting giraffes (and yes, I am not blind to the irony of this). Thus I have been working to develop new approaches that will (hopefully) make me feel like less of a tool in my quest to Catch ‘Em All. Obviously it’s a work in progress, but my experience with Provenza may have led me on to the slyest approach yet ….

One of the guests at the 2011 America Atheists Convention, Provenza did a brief reading from his book ¡Satiristas! (2010). Catching him as he was leaving the room, I pulled him aside to ask a few questions about his work (his documentary was a Holy Grail of Naughty in my neighborhood). Slowly edging himself away to make a book signing, I seized the opportunity and asked him if I could have his autograph. Happy to do so, he wrote a nice note (“Fight the Imaginary Power!”) punctuated with what I can only assume to be his name. While he still had the pen in hand, I decided to strike:

“… And draw me a giraffe?”

He looked up from the paper, “what?”

“A giraffe. It’s for the internet.”

He just looked at me. What else was there to say?

I’ve never tried to do the Aristocrats joke myself, but I’m sure it would go something like this: “A family of giraffes walk into a talent agency hoping to be a part of the best agency in the country, capable of scheduling a meeting without much delay (they’re fucking giraffes i.e. hard to miss) one agent asks to see their act … [UPON REFLECTION – DELETED] … And that’s why this giraffe’s neck hurts.”

Writer and Director Matthew Chapmans Awful Giraffe April 2011

Writer and Director Matthew Chapman

Matthew Chapman (personal website) is a journalist, screenwriter and director who is also the great-great grandson of Charles Darwin. More importantly, and this is something that was stressed, he’s a damn good journalist, screenwriter and director. He is the author of two nonfiction books, Trials of the Monkey – an Accidental Memoir (2002) and 40 Days and 40 Nights: Darwin, Intelligent Design, God, OxyContin, and Other Oddities on Trial in Pennsylvania (2007), the latter of which arose from his work with Harper’s magazine reporting on the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area  School Districtcase.

Matthew Chapman

For those who may not be familiar with Kitzmiller (or as some call it the “Dover Panda Trial”), it was effectively a continuation of the Scopes Monkey Trial and

was the first direct challenge brought in the United States federal courts against a public school district that changed its biology teaching curriculum to require that intelligent design was to be presented as an alternative to evolution theory, with Of Pandas and People to be used as a reference book.[1] The plaintiffs successfully argued that intelligent design is a form of creationism, and that the school board policy violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The judge’s decision sparked considerable response from both supporters and critics. [From Wikipedia]

I had the pleasure of meeting Chapman at the American Atheists Convention in Des Moines where he spoke briefly about and then premiered his 2011 Sundance-selected film The Ledge. Following the Q-and-A where every atheist in the room suddenly assumed themselves to be Roger Ebert, embarrassing not only themselves but everyone in the room, a few friends and I approached him to discuss the possibility of screening his film on our campus. Being open to the idea, he then asked us if we had any ideas on how he could distribute his film to college campuses – and we did – but as the conversation began to trail, I made the pitch:

In the most adorable English accent imaginable, Chapman replied: “You want me to draw a giraffe?”

“Well, yes.”

“I don’t even think I can recall what a giraffe looks like.”

“Long neck.”

This line tends to resolves all qualms.

“OK.”

And thus was born what is now is one of my new personal favorite drawings and proof that art skills are not an inheritable trait (have you seen Darwin’s sketches?).

What the fu- is that a penis?!

Roger Nygard's Giraffe

Writer and Director Roger Nygard

The University of Minnesota-Morris (UMM) had the pleasure of hosting Roger Nygard, director, writer and producer (perhaps best known for his 1997 documentary Trekkies) who screened his most recent film The Nature of Existence (2010) to an overflow crowd of students and faculty alike. In Nygard’s own words, Existence is a film where he “wrote the toughest 85 questions I could think of, about our purpose and the nature of existence, and then asked hundreds of people all over the globe, such as: Indian holy man Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (The Art of Living), evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), 24th generation Chinese Taoist Master Zhang Chengda, Stanford physicist Leonard Susskind (co-discoverer of string theory), wrestler Rob Adonis (founder of Ultimate Christian Wrestling), confrontational evangelist Brother Jed Smock, novelist Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game), director Irvin Kershner (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back), Stonehenge Druids Rollo Maughfling & King Arthur Pendragon and many more…”

Overall the film was not too bad even if he refused to challenge or interrogate the logic of those he interviewed, a point he made clear in the Q-and-A following the film by pointing out that his film is meant only to make the viewer think and come to their own conclusion. PZ Myers, UMM professor and author of the science blog Pharyngula, was in attendance, voiced his opinion and did not seem impressed by Nygard’s hands off style. In fact, the only reflection of his own beliefs the director made clear was the fact that he is moral relativist, the notion that “because there is no universal moral standard by which to judge others, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others – even when it runs counter to our personal or cultural moral standards”, which at face value is not an entirely harmful idea. After all, what is wrong with there being more tolerance in the world? Although such a notion can be agreeable to certain degrees it grants no excuse for reticence and does not justify inaction when there is a clear, unethical wrong being committed.

Take for example a brief exchange that happened during the Q-and-A.

When asked whether or not it would be acceptable for a culture to torture babies, Nygard responded socratically: “From what frame of reference?” stressing in his answer (and the small debate that followed between he and students) the fact that given the subjectivity of morality no culture has a right to dictate what is moral for another. In fact, when asked by a student whether or not his experience working on the film proved to him that “the world would have been a better place if there was no such thing as religion since all of the awful things that have been justified by it would not have happened” such as the Inquisition, the crusades, and so on. To this Nygard replied by again asking the student to define “what frame of reference” he was using. Clarifying his philosophy, Nygard said that while those things that have been committed in the name of religion were bad, to know good is to know what is bad.

I can’t say I agree – I happen to believe we can know what is good without killing the Jews – but that’s just my own opinion.

I wish I could say here that as the tension in the room began to build a member of the GDBWSNBDG editorial board turned the subject to giraffes, but the truth is Nygard’s moral relativism was an issue in most of the venues in which he spoke. Earlier in the day he participated in a roundtable discussion and apparently slipped into a debate with one of the university’s philosophy professors who wrote his thesis, which will soon be published as a book, on ethics. It was actually during this debate when Lucas Felts interjected during a pause … and asked for a giraffe …

Roger Nygard's Giraffe

… Or fucking dinosaur or something.