60s Popeye: Time Marches Backwards, or Prehistoric Popeye done early


Now let’s journey back in time to 1960. Time Marches Backwards is another Jack Kinney-produced time-travel cartoon, with story by old reliable Ed Nofziger and direction by Hugh Fraser.

I am once again annoyed, slightly, that there’s no production order information for these cartoons. Mostly that doesn’t matter, as there’s no important continuity. Here’s the exception. If this was not the first O G Wotasnozzle time-travel cartoon, then what’s going on? We have too long and too slow a buildup to explain it as the cartoon filling up on stock footage. There is a lot of time spent introducing Popeye to the distant past. And, in a rare touch for these Wotasnozzle time-travel cartoons, we see him come back. I imagine after two or three of these they realized it wasn’t necessary to explicitly reset the status quo.

So if the frame explains why Popeye is in some weird setting, what explains the rest of the cast being there? Right away Popeye meets Wimpy trying in his ineffective way to catch a cow, or a cowasaurus. Popeye surmises that Wimpy hasn’t changed much in 50,000 years, which is a lucky guess about how far back in time he is, and also not an answer that would satisfy me at age seven. Olive Oyl cries out for Popeye by name, but how could she know his name? Unless there is a proper caveman Popeye that happened to miss the action because present-day Popeye was on the scene.

There is not a lot to this cartoon, once it finally starts. Brutus drags Olive Oyl by the hair, like cavemen always do to cavewomen in cavecartoons. This always seemed the most inefficient way to abduct someone, to me. She cries out for Popeye to save her and there’s what sure sounds like a tape glitch over and over again. You hear it at about 8:57 in the video, and again, many times over. Wimpy crosses the line of action, following without doing much to the cowasaurus. Repeat these starting points for all the screen time you’ve got. In the last iteration the cowasaurus has Wimpy caught on the horns, a good resolution. The cowasaurus’s complete indifference to what’s happening is maybe the best laugh of the short.

Popeye holds up a club. Meanwhile, Caveman Wimpy is carried off on the horns of a cow-dinosaur.
OK, OK, now I see what you all are complaining about with Alley Oop these days.

It’s all a very okay cartoon, at least for the series. If you get into this kind of tone-poem cartoon where there’s no plot, just a bunch of beats that it shifts between. If you don’t like its tone-poem nature, then the cartoon’s completely lost. There’s some nice backgrounds and that’s it. Everybody but Popeye and Wotasnozzle is out of their usual clothing, so the animation is even rougher than usual. (That said Popeye and Brutus hitting each other on the head, on that stone arch bridge, sure looks like repeated animation to me. I can’t think what it’s from, though.) Most notable here is how indifferent the mouth movements are to dialogue. I don’t expect the lips to be good. But I do expect them to move just about the same time that someone’s speaking, and then stop.

Popeye running across some primitive, prehistoric spinach made me curious about spinach’s domestication. Apparently it happened about two thousand years ago, in what’s now Iran, and it spread from there east, first. It reached Western Europe in the 9th century, which means. So, like, all the great philosophers of Ancient Greece? Not a single one of them ever had a can of spinach. Except Pythagoras, I’m sure, according to his followers. Spinach turns out to be from the same taxonomic family as beets, which makes sense, since every vegetable we eat is either a beet, a tomato, a mustard, or a potato. So that’s nice to know.

60s Popeye: Hamburger Fishing


This week’s 60s Popeye cartoon is Hamburger Fishing. It’s another Jack Kinney production. This let me see who’s credited for the story (Ed Nofziger). This fact might let me someday work out some idea whether scripts were handed down by King Features or whether the individual animation studios got to make up their own stories.

The framing device is Popeye reading a story to Swee’Pea. It’s one they used a lot in these King Features cartoons. It’s a useful frame. It excuses putting the characters in literally any setting whatsoever. Also depending how they use it they can fill a cartoon with a good minute of stock animation. I like the kid logic of Swee’Pea wishing he had a wish, so he could get a wish.

Right into Popeye’s story I wondered why cast Wimpy as a fisher. Swee’Pea anticipated my joke in saying he wasn’t a very good fisher. And Popeye answers that he fishes for hamburgers, or as we’d know them, cows. It’s a silly idea and soundly in-character. So, good work adapting the Fisherman And His Wife premise to the Popeye characters. Especially in setting the Sea Hag out to steal Wimpy’s three wishes. And also answering why the Sea Hag didn’t just get the wishes from the enchanted Olive Oyl herself. This premise could have been used for a lazier cartoon and it’s good on Ed Nofziger that he put cleverness into things.

There’s also many nice little touches here. I like Swee’Pea’s disgusted look at Popeye for the “fisherman was stumped” line. Popeye’s laughter had this weird abrupt edit, though. I also like the Sea Hag’s eyes bouncing wildly around as she dreams of being rich. Or Wimpy’s silly dance at about 19:36 as he dreams of hamburger happiness. And casting the Sea Hag in the Fisherman’s Wife role tracks well with the comic strip. In that, the Sea Hag and Wimpy have a curious relationship that keeps looking like it could be romantic, except that both are scheming to use the other, and know the other is doing the same. Granted that casting is forced on the cartoon, since there’s only two important female characters who can speak in Thimble Theatre. But it fits well. And maybe says something of why the Popeye character set was so long-lasting, if it can cast stories well.

Wimpy, smiling, holding a fishing pole with an end tied into a loop. Caught on the loop is an Olive Oyl who's a biped cow, clutching her hooves together and looking distressed.
Who are you and where did you get the nerve to animate my DeviantArt account?

The Sea Hag claims Wimpy owes her for “4011 hamburgers” and that this is Tuesday. Wimpy uses up one of his wishes for a hamburger, that gets stolen by a mouse. Swee’Pea wishes he had that mouse and I agree; that’s a cute one. Introducing the mouse also opens up for the cute business where Wimpy wishes for his hamburger back, only to sit on it, and for the mouse to come out and bite him to recover it again. That’s not at all needed for the story, and it doesn’t get commented on. It just makes the cartoon more fun to watch.

At about 20:28, as the Sea Hag tackles Wimpy, they both seem to bounce off something invisible. I wonder if there was supposed to be a stalagmite or something left out by mistake. I also don’t know what happens to Wimpy’s “whole room full of hamburgers”. It’s got to be something the Sea Hag did, although that’s never resolved. But also unresolved is that the Sea Hag is out there waiting for Wimpy to come back with more wishes. He goes off to catch Olive Oyl again. And she hasn’t got any more wishes, which is a mild twist but one that I don’t remember from other versions of this story.

And then at about 21:48 Popeye finally charges into the fairy-tale. I was wondering if they might leave Popeye only in the frame. I’m not sure any of these cartoons ever did that. Within the fairy tale Popeye doesn’t have much to do, and he does it. He demands kindness for dumb amninals, and then Olive Oyl kisses him to break her enchantment. (Did she know that would happen? But if she did, why didn’t she kiss Wimpy before? Other than the obvious, that he was hoping to kill and eat her, I mean.) And she declares she’s his because he … exists? Really, the weak part of the cartoon is the choice to put Popeye into the action.

All small problems. This is one of those cartoons I’m happy to see.

Oddball News Review: The Man Who Paints Cows


Based on the Reuters article The Man Who Paints Cows.

Headline: Well done. If there’s anything more immediately obviously amusing than painting a cow, it’s painting multiple cows. Oh, a jerboa has novelty value, but nobody knows what a jerboa is, and in any case they don’t have nearly as much material to paint, what with being small? I think? I’m pretty sure they’re one of those mutant little mouse critters in southeast Asia or Peru or something like that. Cows might be used a lot but they hit the sweet spot of promisingly funny to start with and not being strained. Rating: 6/8.

Story: Disappointing. The story reveals that John Marshall paints pictures of cows, not on cows directly. Well, where’s the fun in that? Anyone who wants to paint a picture of a cow can do so. We’re even encouraged to, with popular books in the arts and crafts stores with names like How To Draw Cows and 40 More Cows To Draw and Here’s Some Cows You Missed Before, Do You Maybe Want To Draw Them Too? and Why Are You Hurting The Feelings Of These Undrawn Cows.

If he were painting cows, that is, using cows as canvas, that would be remarkable. It takes something special to go up to a cow and dab paint on it. Mostly it involves being able to paint before the cow loses patience with the whole business. Also it takes some reliable paint, paint that can stand up to being licked by a cow (painted or neighboring). So the article content is most disappointing. Rating: 2/12.

Picture: This story of a man in East Sussex, England, United We Guess Kingdom is illustrated by a stock Reuters photograph of “Dairy cows [eating] gras in a paddock on the New South Wales south coast near the town of Nowra, Australia, September 5, 2014”. While they still remain cows, they are two-year-old photographs of cows on a continent that hasn’t got anything to do with the painting at hand. Rating: 7/4.

Overall: 15/24. May be re-submitted at the end of term.

Once Again InfoWorld Leaves The Real Story Untold


I am on a daily mailing list of information-technology-related news references for a good reason which I do not know. I don’t know when I signed up for it or why. But it’s interesting just often enough I don’t feel like unsubscribing. For example, here’s something from yesterday’s mailing. It’s a real page-turner of an article about plans for more frequent but smaller updates to the official Javascript standards. That’s the computer language that makes it possible for every web page to take forever to load, and then stuff grows and shrinks when you’re just trying to read a freaking paragraph already. Also it lets people argue whether Javascript is properly speaking a language right before you stop talking to them forever. I was just amazed to learn there were standards for Javascript. I had never suspected it followed any rules. But according to the end of Paul Krill’s article:

Sometimes, a feature can get a thumbs-up for inclusion and then be cast aside. This happened with object.observe, for observation of changes to objects. It had been planned for inclusion this year but was withdrawn due to a change in the technical circumstances around it.

(I should explain for non-programmers what they mean by objects here. They mean “objects” in the computer sense. It’s not anything like a real-world object, such as the “buttery cream spread” that fast food places give you to smear on a potato or a biscuit. A computer programming “object” is an imaginary thingy that programs can make do stuff or have properties. Whereas “buttery cream spread” is just a promise that this is a thing with mass and color and a kind-of-definite shape, which you can place into your mouth and consume if you think that’s going to make you any happier. To computer programmers this would be an “interface”, which is a kind of object that is even more imaginary.)

And Krill just leaves that point there, as if it were enough. What change in “technical circumstances” could have removed the need for an object-change-observation feature? For that matter, what’s a “technical circumstance”? More to the point, what isn’t a “technical circumstance”? I suppose it wouldn’t be a “technical circumstance” if they were all set for the object-change-observation procedure announcement and then they couldn’t get on stage because an offended cow blocked the hallway. That would be more of a “natural correction”, of the problem that they couldn’t just go down the hallway? No, not if the cow was offended enough to chase after them. But I bet the cow would be offended about how the feature was supposed to be implemented, so there we go right back to a “technical circumstance”.

I bet the “technical circumstances” excuse was a cover. And that it all goes back to announcing the feature. I figure it was like when you decide you’re going to give your book report presentation by bringing in a cute puppet and having it describe the book from the perspective of a cow that witnessed most of the story. And then you run into the “technical problem” that the day of the presentation you get Doing Something Novel Stage Fright. That’s like normal stage fright, plus you’re scared everyone will laugh at you forever. And even though everybody would love you for doing the only non-boring presentation ever you chicken out.

So you abandon the puppet at the last minute. And forget that you wrote your script in character. So you have to stagger on reading it with one or two lines done in kind of a funny-ish voice when you kind of remember the gimmick. So you just feel terrible all through it and for weeks after, and everybody else is bored except when they’re confused. I bet this is what happened to the object.observe Javascript feature change proposal. They were all set to add this thing that I guess would have helped somebody with their objects that need observation and they got scared. “Technical circumstances” indeed.

But what puppet would they have planned to read about a Javascript object method feature change? My guess: the Folkmanis hand ostrich. He’s totally got the right body type for it, what with having a great beak that flaps around well and having wings you can slip a hand into for that Muppet-scratching-the-chin thoughtful effect. It would’ve been great if they hadn’t got scared.

I hope this answers all questions you had about why there isn’t a standardized method for the observation of changes in Javascript objects. You’re welcome.

An Open Letter To The Coffee News Jokes Editor (Not Really)


Dearly Beloved and I recently picked up a copy of Coffee News, your two-page flyer of all sorts of undated, un-sourced bits of mild interest, and reports of small towns that have outlawed cussing or droopy pants or whatever because they can’t figure a way to just make “being a teenager” illegal without getting unwanted attention, plus lots and lots of advertising for local businesses, plus the challenge of spotting the Coffee News guy hiding somewhere in an advertisement. Among the “On The Lighter Side” items was this joke.

Teacher: “I said to draw a cow eating some grass, but you’ve only drawn the cow.”

Johnny: “That’s because the cow ate all the grass.”

We both wondered at this gag, because we couldn’t figure who it was meant for. Surely anyone old enough to be picking up the Coffee News would have read the joke and appreciated whatever humor value it had decades, possibly appreciable portions of a century, beforehand. Whoever assembled this pile of words into this week’s installment can’t have been thinking she or he had a cracking good joke, or even that this was a fresh or well-told version of this joke. So … who selected it for inclusion? Why have it? Who’s the audience for this joke?

I know, I know, stuff like the Coffee News isn’t actually written by anybody, or for anybody; it’s just there so the columns of advertisements won’t slump against each other. There’s no credits on it that I can find. But the text has to come from somewhere; unwritten, unsourced, uncomposed words don’t just run themselves off to the printer. Someone, somewhere, decided that this joke was sufficiently lacking in detectable properties to get bundled into this set. Who? How? Why is this joke there? What goes on in the imaginary offices where Coffee News is created, if it is created, and granting that it isn’t, how can it exist?

The Coffee News guy was hiding in one of the divorce-separation-alimony-child custody case lawyer ads.

Robert Benchley: Holt! Who Goes There?


Since I’m not having any luck finding out who Goran Topalovic is or why I should know his name let me repost another classic piece by Robert Benchley, who wrote so many classic pieces. This one’s on the raising of infants and it shows its age more than the one about Portland cement does, and the ending is not the strongest. But there’s an ending at all, which makes the essay easier to finish reading.


“…children sleeping out of doors in the country are likely to be kissed by wandering cows and things. This should never be permitted under any circumstances.”


The reliance of young mothers on Dr. Emmett Holt’s “The Care and Feeding of Children,” has become a national custom. Especially during the early infancy of the first baby does the son rise and set by what “Holt says.” But there are several questions which come to mind which are not included in the handy questionnaire arranged by the noted child-specialist, and as he is probably too busy to answer them himself, we have compiled an appendix which he may incorporate in the next edition of his book, if he cares to. Of course, if he doesn’t care to it isn’t compulsory.

Continue reading “Robert Benchley: Holt! Who Goes There?”

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