Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Eagles Pack In the Packers

Began a cloudy, windy fall day with the end of the novelization of Grease and the beginning of Brunch With the Beatles. It's appropriate that "Rock and Roll Music" was the theme on Brunch today, with covers like "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Twist and Shout." Though Grease was written as a tie-in to the film (complete with stills and John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John on the cover), it has more in common with the original, somewhat grittier stage musical and with American Graffiti, and feels far more authentically "50s" than any of them. It's pretty much an expanded version of the same plot - a group of cool-yet-lovable "greasers" navigate the ins and outs of their senior year of high school in 1959. The head of the T-Birds falls for a sweet, virginal girl from the other side of town that the others don't approve of, especially the head of the local female greasers the Pink Ladies. (My only complaint about this book is the musical numbers are integrated rather awkwardly. My kid novelization of Annie from a year earlier did much better with making the music seem right in a literary context.)

I called Mom just as I was starting to make my Dark Chocolate Chip Pancakes. I didn't think I'd be able to get her later, and I was right. I barely got her then. She was just finishing the icing on my sister Anny's birthday cake and on her way into the shower. Anny's birthday's today, and she was bringing over her sons for a celebratory dinner. We barely had time to discuss my frustrating week and how much Mom misses Keefe, who will be shipping out soon and won't be home for the holidays this year.

Switched to cartoons as I finished out breakfast. When Paramount's new Famous Studios took over from the Fleischer Brothers, the world was now deeply into war. Famous Studios threw Popeye into the war even more than he had been before. Unfortunately, many of the results are rather uncomfortable to watch today. "You're a Sap, Mr. Jap," "Scrap the Japs," and "Seein' Red, White, and Blue" have such nasty racial caricatures, they've been banned from TV for decades. "Spinach Fer Britain" (Popeye fights his way past the Nazis in order to deliver food to a bombed London) and "Aloama of the South Seas" (Popeye and Bluto fight over an exotic Olive again, this time in the South Pacific) are a bit easier to swallow in the 21st century.

Donald Duck had less luck with joining the Army. Already an up-and-coming star in the 30s, the brash war years made him Disney's number one short-subject bread winner, a title he would retain through the 50s and early 60s. He made more cartoons in those years than any other Disney character, including Mickey Mouse, and it was only natural he'd turn up in the barracks. "Fall Out, Fall In" is fairly typical of Donald's war exploits. All Donald wants is dinner after a very long march. He's not allowed to have dinner until he sets up his tent...and when that fails, he can't sleep, thanks to the snoring racket his fellow soldiers make!

I listened to the Eagles-Packers game for about a half-hour before I went to work. Work, thankfully, was busy only for the first half-hour I was there. Otherwise, it was steady but not overwhelming the entire night, helped by another great game for Nick Foles. The Packers were coming off a tough game against the Bears last Monday that cost them their star quarterback Aaron Rogers, and they lost their secondary quarterback within minutes of this game. Foles was on fire again (though not quite as much as he was last week), with two huge touchdowns and one that was deflected right into DeSean Jackson's waiting arms. The Eagles eventually walloped the ailing Packers 27-13. 

When I got home, I had leftovers for dinner while doing a couple more war cartoons. One of Mickey Mouse's earliest shorts tossed him into "The Barnyard Battle." Mickey may be small, but that doesn't mean he can't whip the rears of the Hun-like cats who are attacking all the mice on the farm!

Walter Lantz did a few war-related one-shots in addition to Woody's "Ace In the Hole." "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy From Company B" shows what happens when an African-American trumpet player is drafted and gets his barracks swinging with his jazzed-up reveille. While the stereotypes in this short come thick and fast, there's a really nifty version of the title song, and it's one of the few wartime cartoons to depict minorities in the military. "Pigeon Patrol" also runs afoul of nasty caricature (pun intended). Homer is a country pigeon who wants to become a carrier to impress his girl back home. He's a skinny little fellow who can barely pick up the message to deliver...but pick it up he must when a carrier is hurt and he ends up delivering an important message while dodging a stereotyped Japanese buzzard.

Three of the most famous Looney Tunes of the 40s were also war-oriented. Bugs spoofs the superheroes in vogue in the 1940s when a scientist gives him a chemical-enhanced carrot that turns him into "Super Rabbit." When a rabbit-hating cowboy and his horse finally give him a run for his carrot juice, it's time for the appearance of a real Armed Services officer. Daffy, on the other hand, just wants to dodge the very persistant "Little Man From the Draft Board" in "Draftee Daffy."

My favorite of the Looney Tunes wartime shorts is "Falling Hare." It's also one of the very few shorts where Bugs goes up against a character who gives as good as they get. Bugs finds a tiny Gremlin sabotaging planes. Bugs does his best to keep the Gremlin from causing trouble. The Gremlin is a lot smarter than Bugs' usual protagonists and almost manages to knock Bugs out of a moving plane...until the two end up in a free fall...

Went right into the bath after Bugs ended. It was late and I wasn't in there for very long, but it felt so nice. I'm just hoping this week is a lot quieter than last week. I'd like to start working towards the holidays this week, including making my Christmas card, baking, and shopping lists. I have dental and counseling appointments on Tuesday, too.

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