Saturday, November 11, 2017

Saluting Our Veterans

It was a gorgeous day when I rolled out of bed this morning, sunny and bright, but not nearly as windy as yesterday. In honor of Veteran's Day and the fine weather, I read a few items from Colliers Harvest of Holidays. Veteran's Day began as Armistice Day, the date when World War I ended in 1918. The name didn't change until 1954, in honor of the veterans of the two wars that followed...and all wars.

To that end, two of the three pieces in Colliers was based around the War to End All Wars. The Singing Tree is a touching, almost eerie short story set after a huge battle in France. A group of soldiers stumble around a devastated battlefield, hoping to discover some signs of life. They finally find it in an apple tree that was somehow spared the shelling and is now the home to dozens of different species of birds who had lost their homes. The poems included In Flanders Fields, written by a Canadian officer who died just months before the war ended and frequently memorized by children in North America in the mid-20th century (as my friend Linda Young relates in this essay). 

Since there wasn't much there for Veteran's Day and I had extra time, I added in the material listed for Book Week. My favorite piece there was the funny excerpt from All-of-a-Kind Family, involving middle sister Sarah getting upset over a lost book and how she and her new young librarian figure out how to pay for it. There was also a cute short story by Eleanor Estes about a little boy who wants so badly to take out a book, he works on printing is name and sneaks into the library in the middle of the night to sign his card.

Ran the Donald Duck in the army shorts while eating breakfast. Donald's star was already ascending in the late 1930's, but the war turned him into Disney's top shorts breadwinner. More than lovable Goofy or every-mouse Mickey, Don's brash, noisy persona suited wartime audiences and the propaganda material being churned out in the early 40's. 

The series kicks off with "Donald Gets Drafted." Donald jumps into the army with both webbed feet when he hopes to become a glamorous pilot in the Air Corps. His dreams of the skies evaporate quickly when he's stuck on an ant hole, trying to avoid the stinging residents while Sergeant Pete snarls orders. "Sky Trooper" picks up from where this one leaves off. After a disastrous test, Don does finally get his wish to fly...but not in the way he expects. 

My personal favorite of the Donald in the army shorts is "The Vanishing Private." Donald takes Pete's orders to make a canon "hard to see" literally when he covers it with a special invisibility paint. He finally finds a way to get back at the bossy cat officer when he lands in the paint himself and leads Pete on a merry chase around the base to find "the little man you can't see."

While "Der Fuerher's Face" isn't technically one of the army shorts, it's so brilliant, I usually run it with the others anyway. It won an Oscar for a reason - Donald's surreal Nazi nightmare features some truly imaginative and nightmarish animation. "Fall Out, Fall In" brings us back to more typical turf. All Don wants is dinner and a good night's sleep, but first he can't figure out his tent, then his fellow soldiers' snoring keeps him awake. "The Old Army Game" is more disturbing today. Pete catches Don coming home from a night off the base...but things get really ugly when their fight seems to have more violent consequences. "Commando Duck" is only slightly less scary. Donald's sent to meet with the (stereotyped) Japanese, and proceeds to, wash...out the enemy.

It was almost 11:30 when I made it to the Collingswood Farm Market. That didn't give me a lot of time to do this week's produce shopping. Given the cold day and the late hour, I wasn't surprised to see that the crowds were a lot thinner than usual. The sudden cold snap brought the end to a lot of crops, notably tomatoes, and with the market in it's second-to-last week, there's now more craft booths than food booths. There was still some farmers doing business, though most were starting to get ready to go. I just needed small apples, green peppers, and cranberries. 

After having enjoyed yesterday's shopping trip, I thought I'd take a look around downtown Collingswood. There's quite a few new stores there. Oubliette, which sells fancy chocolates, gifts, and stationary items, replaced the Collingswood General Store. There's a new store finally going in where International Market used to be, too.

I browsed in Clutter, Oubliette, and The Candy Jar, but I only bought things from Inner Groove Records and Frugli Consignment. I never fail to find at least one interesting cast album at Inner Groove, and today was no exception. Dug Golden Boy, a 1965 Broadway vehicle for Sammy Davis Jr, out of the dollar record shelves. Also picked up the book-and-record version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, a retelling of Mickey and the Beanstalk that's probably as close to having a soundtrack that short got, and Ellington Fantasies by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra. 

My find at Frugli was a bit more practical. One of the few plus-sized items on the racks was a simple white long-sleeved t-shirt from Old Navy. I'd been meaning to replace my white long-sleeved tee for a while now. The one I got from JC Penney a few years ago was dingy and no longer anything resembling white. It was in such bad shape, I cut it up for dust rags a little later when I got home.

Took the long way back to Oaklyn across Newton Lake Park. Though the air remained chilly, it was otherwise a gorgeous fall day. The bottle green lake sparkled through the last of the fall foliage. The leaves have finally turned into the loveliest shades of gold, pale green, russet, and brick red. I dodged several clusters of high schools taking time off from the many practices going off at Collingswood High's athletic fields across the street.

I took that way back to Oaklyn in order to stop and Dad and Jodie's. Dad-Bruce was in Vietnam, and I wanted to wish him a Happy Veteran's Day. I arrived at a house filled with older women. Jodie had invited a bunch of her buddies over for a group birthday party for several of them, including the hostess herself. (Jodie's birthday is Tuesday.) Frankly, I found their gossip beyond boring and was happier joining Dad in the living room, watching college football. He switched back and forth between local rivalry Penn State and Rutgers and one that he started following when he lived in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and South Carolina. 

(Incidentally, the much-better Penn State blew Rutgers out of the Cooper River, 31 to 6. Florida just missed beating South Carolina 28 to 20.)

Rose arrived with Khai and Finley around 3. (Craig had to work at Anthony's, a popular Italian restaurant in Haddon Heights.) Khai wouldn't eat, but he had no problems snitching cookies and soda. He was happier when his buddy Chloe and her mom showed up later. Finley wasn't happy with anyone but her mother. She cried when handed off to anyone else, or when she was taken into the den full of clucking older women hens. I didn't blame her for getting upset. I'm not the biggest fan of crowds myself. She's teething now, which may be another factor. Rose did finally get her to sleep later in a beautiful wooden crib Anny gave her for when she visits the grandparents. 

There was tons and tons of food! One of the women made a delicious macaroni and cheese. Another did deviled eggs. Someone else brought a plate of mini-pumpkin cheesecakes and bags of Pepperidge Farm raspberry and dark chocolate Milanos. Jodie ordered broccoli and pepperoni Stromboli with pizza sauce dip and turkey hoagies from a local deli, along with cole slaw and potato salad. There was a huge bowl of garden salad and plates of shrimp cocktail. sliced salami and cheese, and vegetables and dip. I ended up taking home macaroni, salad, and three hoagies.

Ran a couple of Universal war shorts when I got in. Donald wasn't the only wacky bird to rise to stardom in the early 40's. Woody Woodpecker was the top star at the Walter Lanz Studios by the time "Ace In the Hole" came out in 1942. Like Donald, Woody yearns to become a pilot, but his sergeant has him shaving horses. The nasty officer is in for a big surprise when Woody does finally take to the skies.

"21 Dollars a Day (Once a Month)" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" spoof the peacetime draft. The former has a toy "army" (including cameos from Woody and Andy Panda) performing the title song. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" is more-or-less the same thing, this time with black stereotypes replacing the toys as a famous trumpeter gets his barracks jitterbugging with his swinging reveille. (As offensive as the stereotypes are in this short, it does have a really awesome version of the title song, and it's one of the few cartoons to depict minorities in the military.)

"Pigeon Patrol" is the most typical of the Lanz war shorts. Homer Pigeon wants to join the carrier pigeon squadron, but he's a skinny country bumpkin who can barely fly. He gets his chance to prove his mettle when he finds a downed flyer and offers to deliver his important papers past a nasty caricatured Japanese vulture. 

Worked on writing for a while after the shorts ended. Leia once again finds herself in the dream world, dressed in an elaborate red velvet gown worthy of the French court. The King appears, also dressed in finery, but still hiding in the shadows. She knows whom he reminds her of, but wishes he could step out of the darkness. As she talks to him, telling him of how she'd once saved her husband Han from an evil magician who turned him into a statue, she hears giggles and rustling in the bushes...

I'd eaten so much at Jodie's house, I took my shower before I ate dinner. Had a little bit of salad and last week's macaroni salad, along with yogurt. Did two final animated shorts while I ate. Mickey Mouse didn't really figure into many World War II shorts, but he did do a war-related cartoon in 1929, "The Barnyard Battle." Mick may be a skinny rubber hose mouse, but he has no trouble kicking the rears of the Hun-like cats who threaten the farm.

The Pink Panther has less luck in the Vietnam War in "G.I Pink." While Donald was swayed by the glamour of war, Pink is swayed by the power. He doesn't do much better than Don did. Cranky drill sergeants, impossible obstacle courses, hard-to-find land mines, and growling company mascots make him wish he'd just stayed home. 

Finished the night with the original animated Disney Beauty and the Beast. As much as I enjoyed the live-action version of this story, the original will always have a place in my heart. A French peasant girl (Page O'Hara) finds herself the prisoner of a seemingly ferocious beast (Robby Benson) in an enchanted castle filled with talking furniture. Belle's angry with him at first, and he's a spoiled jerk who can't control his temper. As the months continue, they finally grow to respect one another, until it looks something like love. The Beast reluctantly lets Belle go when her father Maurice is accused of being crazy by the handsome-but-obnoxious Gaston, who wants to marry her. Now Belle has to race to her beloved Beast's rescue, before Gaston and the townspeople destroy the castle and all who live within.

This might be better for slightly younger kids; there's a little bit less violence than the current live-action version, and it's shorter and more colorful. It's still one of my favorite Disney movies, and one of my favorite retellings of this tale. 

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