Monday, March 13, 2017

Before the Snow Comes

Started off a sunny morning with cartoons. Among the first items I dubbed when I got my DVD recorder were a quartet of Felix the Cat shorts I'd had on video since the mid-90's. A trio of color shorts were made by the Van Beuren Studios, RKO's original in-house animation studio, in 1936. These were the only three filmed before RKO started distributing Disney shorts and Van Beuren shut down. "Bold King Cole" is the bizarre story of how Felix stops a group of ghosts from torturing the titular windbag king. "Neptune Nonsense" is more typical of the time. Here, Felix is merely seeking a friend for his pet goldfish under the sea. Needless to say, he has to do a lot of talking to get Neptune and the other citizens of the deep to buy a cat owning a fish. "The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg" is my favorite of the trio, and the closest to the original Felix. Here, Felix has to save the title pet from a group of pirates.

"Astrononmeous" is from 1929, and is apparently one of Felix's few early sound titles. It's a lot closer to the silent shorts in spirit and in plot. Felix travels to the moon to see if it's ripe for colonization. The natives don't know what to make of him, until he rescues their king from a falling star. (For some reason, the copy I got off the video has a strange bright pink tint. I don't know if this copy was deteriorating, or if it's a strange attempt at colorization. I've seen copies elsewhere that were normal black and white.)

Spent the rest of the morning working on my story. I did a little re-writing. The fair is now being held in a park that's being remodeled as an airfield. Ezra takes them through the Old Town, which is grimy and crime-ridden. He explains how he was once a street urchin, before Hera and Kanan took him in. He's hoping to save money to go to school and start his own newspaper.

Broke for lunch at noon. Did a couple of Three Stooges animated shorts from the 60's I'd also dubbed while eating lunch. "Toys Will Be Toys" has them trying to catch a robber in a toy store. In "How the West Was Once," their attempts at getting a railroad line through a tunnel are thwarted by a mountain lion who doesn't want to leave his home. They're "Mummies Boys" when they end up in a pyramid and find themselves chased by spooks in bandages who don't want them there. And they're anything but the "Plumber's Friend" when their attempts at repairing a woman's pipes end in disaster.

Work was a total mess today. We're supposed to get between three and five inches of snow and sleet (at last check), and Mondays are usually busy anyway. Except for the three times I gathered baskets, I was outside almost the entire afternoon. I had at least two people out with me for most of the day...until 5 PM, the height of rush hour. Not only did the carts vanish as soon as I put them away, but I kept finding them locked on the edge of the parking lot. I actually found 11 carts clustered near the bus stop and the Black Horse Pike early in the afternoon.

I deserved a treat when I got out. I was going to buy a pretzel, but for some reason, they weren't any. I did find a very green bagel. I've never seen a green bagel before. To my disappointment, it tasted like an ordinary bagel. You'd think it would at least taste like mint or lime or pistachio or something.

When I got in, I continued the disc as I got organized and changed into regular clothes. The Muppet Babies Video Storybooks were adaptations of Muppet Babies children's books from the 1980's. We had two of them when I was a kid, including the one I watched today. Kermit the Frog introduces and narrates each story in a live-action segment between shorts. "Meet the Muppet Babies" has each kid turning Kermit's cardboard box with a hole in it into something they love, from Gonzo's space station to Fozzie's comedy cave to Piggy's royal ball. "Baby Piggy and the Giant Bubble" is what it says in the title. Piggy somehow finds herself inside a bubble and ends up floating around town, being mistaken for an egg and a soccer ball and part of a sky writing message. Gonzo goes on a quest to find out exactly what he is, with help from the community of Gonzo look-a-likes on the other side of the mirror, in "What's a Gonzo?"

Finished the night with some classic Marx Brothers madness. A Day at the Races was their second MGM movie, following the success of Night at the Opera. This time, Groucho is a veterinarian who passes himself off as a regular human doctor in order to woo the wealthy hypochondriac Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont). Chico's an employee at a sanitarium near the race track. Harpo is a jockey whose crooked boss (Douglass Dumbrille) wants him to throw races. The sanitarium's owner (Maureen Sullivan) may have to sell if she can't raise the money she owes. She's upset when her boyfriend (Allan Jones) buys a race horse who doesn't seem to do well. When they finally figure out what the horse can do, they enter him in the races. Now the boys have to make sure that the race is on, and their horse comes through, or they'll all end up in jail.

A series of pointless musical numbers mid-way through keep this from being quite as much fun as Night at the Opera. There's still a lot of great bits, though, including Chico and Groucho at the race track, Harpo and Chico attempting to hide a woman in Groucho's room from Mrs. Claypool, and their attempts to stall the race, and then get the horse around the track, in the finale. Great fun for fans of the Marxes or classic comedy.

And...yes, at press time, it is snowing, fairly heavily. It's supposed to be much worse up north. Lauren may get as much as two feet in Pittfield. We'll see what happens.

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