Writing Strike


So I um -

a dreary rendition drifting from the lips of some (blind) folk singer at the water’s edge -

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

The jails are made of tin

And you can walk right out again

As soon as you are in

There ain't no short-handled shovels

No axes, saws nor picks

I'm bound to stay

Where you sleep all day

Where they hung the jerk

That invented work

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

A mirage, somewhere in the Burbank desert. The lack of signs hints at the site’s lack of footfall. A place born of entropic balance, for example.

Oh Walt, these politics have driven (me) blind!

It would be a while before he surfaced - that’s what the other boys down at the waterfront said. A heady fug hanging delicately above the water, woolen clouds in gentle suspension.

Diving there was fun, despite the quagmire’s bitter stagnation gradually ebbing away at those vast banks, at the slanted rockfaces above us all - (all while face first, with bony digits); upstanding like some long forgotten skeletal stronghold or - playset, rather - Its rocky trails and misty ramparts jutting all haphazardly. Towards the rim of the scene are passages wide enough for those vehicles to meander down like oozing things, born in the same water in which he now ‘fucked about’ in - with those stalegtital pronounciations above shattering any potential for forward - or - onward thought, blunt geometries running into the mire adding a brutish nature to the place. - Followed by Eyes withdrawing from the fingered points above to the the spinal arc of the land, curling towards the outer edge of the horizon and flattening off into a dotted line, which would no doubt trail off at some point, ellipsing into some vast ocean.

The place was half-baked: a glitchy, uhm maimed, almost - prisoner; beneath bruised landforms etched into clouds snow-white that they had to be some sort of simulation, figured out by precise values set on digital sliders somewhere, and, all lined up on some redundant comping program at that. The mountains entail us as some giant curtain printed with rolling hills and vast skies. A blunt wind dusting peninsulas, skattering aggregate amongst the scarce plantlife jutting up from a particle system that joins each part of the beach. Bones seeming to present themselves from water’s edge-smog now and then, and - um driftwood - bold birds pirching - aerhythmic pecking.

Upon leaving, the road stretches straight and flat and black, the tarmac shimmering something ghoulish in the wrath. The radio mentions something about everybody heading back home to Burbank in time for the holidays, ellipsing into strange talk of the ‘analog’ nature of ‘mountains’.

Blindingly arid; - The ground houses blackened cacti, interrupted by an occasional bleached out model-town, stood among the scattering of glass bottles and pebbles. A midwestern model set - props on another scale, a Starred and Striped scale, for example. For example, Pylons stretch for miles and weave in and out of the interstate for example, which is the only thing that vibrates with some trace of man, cutting a God-scale swathe through the dirt. In the more built-up regions, vertiginous outcrops jut impossibly, caking the road in shadow, causing strobing when Walt compresses the gas a little harder. The purr of the engine panting and ticking over, hidden below a throbbing acrylic nacelle, cast in the hottest-pink possible; extra bright against the faded gunmetal of the bonnet’s phoenix motif. Dark blotches cuddle into the spiralling trails on the mountains to the far west, tar coloured tunnels-cum-gullets, gaping ajar - swallowing light - and culling it into millions of splintered shards. Take this mouth, appear from another on the next cliff-face moments later. Hours tick as flatlands pan, completely stationary to the perpendicular movement of the jeepster. Gliding for miles and then sitting for days, here, where its the style to pull off the dusty interstate and meet old friends in blackout motels - shops shuttered for the forever-off season - Walt’s hands gripping the wheel until they’re as raw as the blistered naugahyde itself. Pulling off the road, he buys up every magic tree airfreshener available as we refuel, paying by cashiers’ cheque and then attaching them around the central-rear-view-mirror one-by-one, until the brittle plastic aches wrongly under the elastic strain; a real attempt to cover the stench of shit that now wafted around him, pervading his character as if it had been sewn into the lining of every one of his pastel suit jackets.Mirages completing themselves in the stillness: the limitless silence, recounting echoes of “Studio Executive entrance” signs rising above the horizon. But all the vowels are painted out, replaced by blatant white brushstrokes.


Someday, the interstate parts: A dirt-track that houses the spectral echoes of (said) studio entrance (signs). Approaching, sunlight glances off the various facades of the square’s buildings, rambunctious joints arching in the swealter - wilfully structural but bulging like freshly pruned branches leaking a thick sap. My immediate view appears to be held together by generous caulking along all visible seams, finished by an approximate pass of spray-paint-over-the-cracks:A workplace architecturally charged with stifled ‘toonish potentiality. The static whir of an empty electrical speaker usually reserved for workplace announcements - imbuing the discomfort of the environment with a sort of anti-ambience, a strengthening of hyperreality. The absence of subsonics in the unending note pipes an echoing whine that meanders through the breeze. The lean-to structures, The corrugated steel, the sheer miles of galvanised chainlink fences, the vast sheets of plastic wrap; vs. the sparce, weathered poles maintaining sagging mandapams at each entryway - against the graffitti under animators’ desks in locked rooms. These new elements all obscuring tumbledown versions of their previous selves. - the soon to be ultimate compound-cum-animation-studio reccounting the intentions of a potemkin villiage. A compound of myriad faux-structures intergral to it’s ethos. On site - relaxation areas and private lounges for the higher ups, meteorite fragments, um private pools, tiled balconies - and also a vast penthouse suite.

X-ray scans of the slight mound on which the studio is set reveal a tomography of an olden workplace - the endoskeleton of collapsed mine shafts below, complete with wooden carts and metal tracks, like some long-forgotten theme park ride. An ancient burial ground, also, nearer the surface though, and far more mundane in its lack of intentended ‘fun’, and serious undertones of death, spiritualuity, haunting, relics, etc. - The mine marking this place as an eternal site of intense labour, as now; - the burial obviously denoting an odd convergence of leylines, stars, something. To build it: crawling machines trampling archaic rockeries, dislodging parts of aehistoric land from its own space, from the desert’s slow and ancient time. The bucketed claws then digging deep into the earth leaving behind a blunt, stumpy architecture in a piebowl of dry dirt.

Walt moves his hand from the tip of the Walnut gearstick: A reassuring squeeze of my err lower middle thigh, and then back to driving, as the Pontiac purrs down into third, then second, then to silence as the gates open, swallowing the car into a blizzard of signs and masks.

“Bastard!” is yelling one Animator.

“Employer!” yells another.

My thoughts drift through the middle American daydream: My time here, first written - drawn - actualised - across a beautiful and fabled summer, sat aloft in a cradle of crawling grass, littered with pearlwort and more lucky clovers than are countable. Back amongst the grass, this time blue with an evening shimmer, shawn between a crackling beechwood fire and a tent pitched kurtly upon a grassy mound. Days in June commemorated, butthen massacred by this thick and fast frost that got into my bones a little bit, and was really, really mean - the kind that comes alongside the bedtime gloam, whilst sitting with swollen bellies in front of vast logfires powering early steamboats. A shin-height mist and an ache in the face. The burble of nearby water on rocks, rocks lining a gentle bank, obscure arcana strewn about the deck - maps, scrolls, brooms, ancient objects, ways of imparting wisdom - knowledge.


Drawn on rockfaces,then on paper.

I come to to medieval Tomatoes pelting the Pontiac’s bonet, and a caustic air, just livid with quiet, the engine filling the hole instead. The muscle-car rolling along now, glazed visions from stationary protestors clutching rough-cut signage, each homemade prop held together by clumsy glue. The waxen flesh of their masks making the crowd a single, cultish form, here: signs as pitchforks, faces as seven dwarves, as princesses - faces haunting in their stillness, in their otherworldly alterity. Humanproportioned animal-effigies dangled on big, long sticks sporing soot. Rueful gusts - no doubt the formidable stench of trace evidence, memories, fragments of past uses, here. Also, the release of something spiritual - work hours disregarded through the burning of prelimenary sketchees, concept art, and original plates from the archival shed at the back of the square, also - scoulded ideas, drifting cruely around the statue in the middle of it all:

Walt and Mickey hold hands and wave at the horizon, standing in a fountain of crystal water, now little more than an isle of dirt in a stagnant pond from all the ash and human shit. The bronze statue, rife with an emerald patina, stands aloft from the crowd - protestors climbing a bronzed Walt, who’s face has been slowly windburned into a leaden gurn, who’s waving at the angry masses, exquisitely garnished with 3 small black circle mouse head emblem branded logo pin, to the perfect scale, of course. - The fountain also decorated by the broomstick workforce of Fantasia, their enslavement originally animated as an accident, a wizard’s hat charming several broomsticks into BLIND and rhythmic labour: with this now becoming apparent as a thinly veiled reference to Walt’s ability to bend subjectivities to his will, to quell anger, to obfuscate blame, to disguise bitter pills as a copium for the masses. The magical object’s potentiality mirroring Walt’s employer power: “For the good of the studio” he often uttered in his sleep. A small stone wall and a mottled metal bar keep the fountain from the rest of reality. It is “NOT TO BE CLIMBED!”, The parched waterworks that once cascaded from the dulled tips of the brooms have been switched off.

The desert now as Icarean hellscape, with high flight having its consequences. A melting; crashing, followed by a purgatorial marooning on the Burbank solitude, all while stuck-fast with feathers - gazing back through the galvanised chainlink fence into the studio carpark. The fault was his own. A Hoodoo seance - undertaken late at night in the blacked out studios some months ago now, by Walt’s CRACK TEAM - Alchemical sacrifice, blood sacrifice - the rendering of the fleshen body - a transmutation of figurative bodily fluids, as in, blood sweat and tears - or, labour related liquids.

Walt’s anger at his workforce, released publically

- the final cut of Dumbo -

released right under their noses.

The film’s gaggle of clowns standing as weaponized charicatures of the studio’s disperately paid workforce, in a bid to cull "the chip-on-the-shoulder boys and the world-owes-me-a-living lads” - with this creative recontextualization and consequent employee degredation resulting in a fickle reversal: an excess of authenticity granted by its own hyperreal falsity. A powerful spell - a retort rendered through the basest of communications: flattened, drawn planes… encoding spite into each still’s very essence. - The clowns appearing incapable of rendering a reality unfettered by work time, remaining in costume without perfroming, acting out Walt’s spectral shadowshow behind a piece of cloth, in thick New Yorker accents -

“Just wait til we hit the big top” Cry all.

“This gives me an idea: let’s raise the platform the elephant jumps off of.”

“Yeah! If they laugh when he jumps twenty feet, they’ll laugh twice as hard if he jumps 40 feet”

“Simple mathematics”

“Let’s make it 80 feet”

hundred eighty


A thousand

“this idea is sensational! Let’s go tell the boss”

“let’s hit him for a raise, this is worth real dough!”

ALL SING: “Ooo we’re going to hit the big boss for a raise; yes we’re going to hit the big boss for a raise; we’re going to get more money, because we know that we’re funny; we’re going to hit the big boss for a raise.”

But the animators were turning Walt’s idea on its head, turning his creations against him - Imbuing each hand-drawn sign with the same ancient hex: blank slates transmuted into protest instrument by way of skill refinement, craftsmanship, through years of learnéd inquisition. Class subordination rendered into twodimensional reality. Cartoon faces as political machinegun. A nightmarish mimesis: A protest march, of harmful yet innocent images - the fun of cartoons turned against the owner, a kinky role reversal of fetish value, of master and drone - the animators still subservient in a profound and powerful way, and as revenge for their devalued status, elevating Walt’s to that of a true villain, killed somewhere offscreen in the film’s final moments.

Analogue video camera whirring like a dynamo - handheld chaoticism capturing all. security’s lumpen riot gear stands no chance: tussle in the entropic silence.

People can rally behind things like cartoons: An adoring audience sat at home, along for the ride. Atomised rooting for favorite characters creating a strange power, with people even then realising that their psychies were being imprisoned. Protest pyres burning priceless archives of animation cells. The fetid miasma of burnt fiction. Grins widen as flames climb, lapping at the sky. A sooty penumbra casting LONGER SHADOWS - the ritual now forming an occult smoke-signal. Flaming effigies fill the car’s skylight - Walt’s characters’ - ‘MADE FLESH’ here in terms of their figurative demise. Image based assult. Cute violence, deployed as militant tactic. The animator-cum-guerilla movement was mutating, reforming out of atomized digits into a conglomoate structure rivaling the vertiginous empire they stood facing. Proletariat vs multinational.

Comerarderie collapsing and expanding, again and again.

Drown the car.

Independent goods retailer vs big pharma, doping off its own supply. Small-flick vs. big blockbuster.

The final straw then - a brutal fictionalization. The execution of Walt’s top lawyer dressed in cheap suit fabric, marched forth in a French guillotine, atop the shoulders of four beefcake workmen in black hoods - as members of this NEW CULT, The effigies’ sour face puckered impossibly inwards, as if he had been sculpted with expanding foam instead of any fabric - the character dribbling in the dry haze, sheened in a lurid glisten. Grey handsy smears on a contorted toony face, plastered with grin, the sign around his neck reading “Happy birthday Gunther and Walt!” A blizzard of flashes; rocks pelting the sides of the pontiac.

Staying in the car, they watch us praying for the spell to break, willing it under our breath. How deep must we delve to undo this?

A true longing for the prelapsarian bliss of the pre-mundanity, of anywhere before now, and for that fabled summer, ending the days like most MGM endings, by driving (not quite into, but almost at) the sunset, now painted as a mural on the wall at the back of the studio’s lot.