‘The way research works is, it takes you down a road. You then follow that road.’

By Bob Hicks

That quotation comes from Claudia Dreifus’s interview in this morning’s New York Times with Ellen Bialystok, a cognitive neuroscientist who’s spent almost 40 years studying the ways that speaking two languages keeps your mind sharp, even possibly delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms. (Does that mean that Europeans and Quebecois are smarter longer than most Americans?)

Mel Blanc gives himself a close shave for a KGW radio gig. Photo courtesy of Noel Blanc.It strikes Mr. Scatter that what Bialystok has to say about research is equally true for that branch of creativity we like to refer to as artistic. An idea takes hold. You follow it. It leads you somewhere that might utterly astonish you. But once you’ve identified it, you need to trust it to lead you where it will. It’s not blind faith. But it is faith. Which doesn’t mean it won’t sometimes lead you down a dark alley for an artistic mugging. But those are the chances you take.

That’s all, folks: Meanwhile, Mr. Scatter has a story in this morning’s Oregonian about the Oregon Jewish Museum’s new show That’s All, Folks: The Mel Blanc Story, celebrating the life and times of the Portland kid who grew up to be possibly the greatest Hollywood voice actor of all time, supplying the sounds of cartoon characters ranging from Bugs Bunny to Pepe LePew.

Logo for the radio hit "Hoot Owls," which featured Blanc. Courtesy Mark Moore, NW Vintage Radio Society.Blanc made a name for himself in Portland radio with shows such as KGW’s Hoot Owls (it was a huge hit in the 1920s and early ’30s, drawing audiences of more than a million a show) before heading for Hollywood and cartoon immortality. Blanc was far more than bilingual: He spoke in about 400 different character voices, which, as Ellen Bialystok might have predicted, kept him alert and peppy until he died at age 81 in 1989.

One story goes that after a string of successes he asked his bosses at Warner Bros for a raise. No can do, they told him: We can’t afford it. So he asked that he be given a nameline in the credits and they said sure. That’s how he became the first voice actor to be featured in a cartoon’s credits, paving the way for the likes of Jack Black, Eddie Murphy and Robby Benson, the onetime teen heartthrob who revealed big-league Broadway chops as the voice of Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

So: No money, but you can have a byline? Sounds like blogging.

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  • Mel Blanc gives himself a close shave for a KGW radio gig. Photo courtesy of Noel Blanc.
  • Logo for the radio hit “Hoot Owls,” which featured Blanc. Courtesy Mark Moore, NW Vintage Radio Society.

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a Portland-centric arts and culture blog