60s Popeye: Weight for Me and a cartoon that’s aged without a single flaw


We have another Gene Deitch-directed cartoon here. So the only credits I have are that the animation was by Halas and Batchelor. No idea about story credits and all. The producer is Producer William L Snyder.

There’s a content warning, though, as you maybe guessed from the title. And as you maybe inferred from the screen grab YouTube uses for its previews. If it gives the same preview to everyone, I mean. The premise is, Olive Oyl is fat! And Popeye wants to fix here! So there’s a bunch of fat-phobia and body-shaming going on here. If you don’t need that, and you don’t want to see Popeye being casually ugly, you’re absolutely right. We’ll meet back up in a week.

For those who can put up with that, or want to see how this plays out, here’s Weight For Me, another cartoon from 1960.

Popeye and Brutus are back from six months at sea! And while they were away, Olive Oyl was so lonesome that she overate, and now she’s fat. It’s that most startling of thing to see thirty years into a franchise: a new premise. Where was this when Famous Studios was gradually whittling down the number of Popeye’s nephews all through the 50s?

It’s obvious the cartoon has to be about losing weight, then. It’s not quite required that Olive Oyl end the cartoon skinny again. (The other resolution would be that after a lot of diet and exercise she and Popeye end up enormous.) But is required that she try. Brutus likes the fat Olive Oyl, though. It’s presented with this interesting energy, as though even he didn’t realize he was going to like her being fat. And this sets up what should be a crackling good conflict. Popeye trying to make Olive Oyl skinny versus Brutus trying to make her even fatter.

Where it goes wrong is that word, make. Popeye never asks Olive Oyl if she wants to be thin again, or if she wants any help. Brutus never asks Olive Oyl if she’s happy being fat. You can argue Olive Oyl clearly wishes she were thin, but thinks trying is hopeless. You can argue that Olive Oyl finds being fat more comfortable. Certainly having ambiguous feelings about it is natural and normal. Olive Oyl’s fickleness works here to make her more psychologically realistic than normal.

Brutus offering a big box of chocolates to an extremely overweight Olive Oyl. The sofa they're sitting on is buckling under her weight.
You might think it sexist that the sofa is crumpling under Olive Oyl’s weight, when there’s no chance she’s heavier than Brutus. But this is because a guy can be five times as overweight as a woman before suffering the same sorts of social penalties.

But gads, the worst thing about being fat? Other than how doctors will blame your weight for any ailment, including Covid-19, a broken arm, and seven cop bullets in your back? Meddlers telling you how to stop being fat.

So Popeye starts out really ugly here. And he never gets better, as he keeps putting Olive Oyl through exercises after she says she doesn’t want to. Brutus never asks Olive Oyl what she wants either. But he at least does invite her to a malt shop or to a steak dinner and she accepts. She might be eating for emotionally unhealthy reasons but she’s at least asked.

There was, a decade-plus ago, a web site article that asked whether the Famous Studios animators were on Bluto’s side. It listed all sorts of plots where Popeye’s more clearly the jerk. This one fits that tradition.

Apart from that, though? … It’s a well-done cartoon, is part of the thing. The animation’s decent limited-animation work. It hasn’t got as much small movement as Potent Lotion. I assume that’s because everybody’s energy was put into drawing Olive Oyl to a strange model sheet. But it does have small filigrees of movement. When getting off the ship, for example, Brutus quickly welds Popeye by a chain to the ship’s deck. And Popeye uses his pipe to free himself. It’s nothing needed for the story; it just makes the cartoon better.

Popeye has assembled a bunch of weight loss machines; the enormous Olive Oyl is caught in the one that wraps a belt around your waist, or in her case her rump, to shake around. There's also a machine with rollers on arms that go up and down, and another semicircular machine with several small long cylindrical rollers. In the foreground is what looks like a three-part foldable cot with a record turntable hanging off the side.
Very disappointed we did not get to see how that sectioned cot with a vertically-slung record turntable was supposed to lose anybody weight.

Popeye also brings in a fun-looking bunch of weight-loss machines. That thing with the strap that goes around your waist and shakes you, for example. And a bunch that didn’t get to be cartoon-and-sitcom famous. This thing with two rollers that go up and down looks amusing, whatever its scam was supposed to be. I have no idea what the thing Olive Oyl ends up trapped on is, the little thing that looks like a dangerous hot dog roller. It looks like fun, though.

We end with Brutus resigned to “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”. He’s reading How To Reduce and is on the hip belt thing. Everyone laughs. It’s unusual for everyone to end on the same page and laughing about it. It’s appealing to see. I’m just sad it comes after a lot of Popeye being a jerk.

What Is Walking, Anyway


Walking is an easy and popular way to get around, in case you need to be somewhere you aren’t. It’s also an easy and popular way to get in a bit more exercise. This is good if you’ve figured out that you need more exercise. This you might have figured out by noticing something like how you have the muscle tone of a deflated bagpipe. The experienced music major will explain how this tone is actually a note in the key of G-flat. This doesn’t seem to get you anywhere. But it’s good for the soul to interact with the arts majors more.

Walking is very much like running, except it’s not done so very fast. It’s also very much like crawling, except it’s not done so very low. It’s rather something like swimming, although without the persistent dampness, unless you’re walking in the rain. If you are walking in the rain then it’s a slight bit more like swimming, only without the persistent feeling like you should have a better pair of swim goggles on. The ones you have kind of pinch the hair around your ears. It turns out this is just the way swim goggles work best. If they didn’t pinch your hair they would turn to minor acts of vandalism and we don’t need that. Walking is also very much like walking on stilts, except that it’s not done on stilts. (NOTE: This does not apply to walking on stilts, which is very like walking on stilts except that you do walk on stilts.) And finally walking is very much like roller skating, only without the roller skates. Walking is furthermore very much like running — oh, wait, no, I said “finally” before, so that part of the explanation is done as far back as the start of this paragraph.

Walking is very much like — no, no, I’m on a different track here, I can go on. Walking is very much like walking to somewhere, only without the somewhere. For this sort of walking you’ll want some kind of loop that returns to wherever you start, as the alternative requires a never-ending series of new homes or workplaces. And that is a great hassle since it’s so much trouble to keep setting up new job interviews. And you’ll often find yourself at the mercy of new local Internet providers. Plus, it gets harder to return library books reliably.

There are great advantages to walking out-of-doors. Walking indoors is fine, certainly. But too much of it will confuse household pets and make anyone you live with ask what exactly it is you’ve forgotten or lost. You can answer “the way to the fridge” about twice before that joke’s been exhausted, and “my walking pants” maybe four times before that’s no good as a punch line. If you keep that up you’ll be trying to think of ever-more-fanciful things to have lost or places to be going. This is good exercise too. But it eventually putters out with something like “the tea set for the upper veranda” and there’s nothing to help the creative flow anymore. This will come after about two weeks’ work. After that you turn to grunting at whoever’s asking and give an unwanted reputation of being all cranky. Oh, you could walk on a treadmill, but this requires getting a treadmill, and then dealing with all your friends telling you jokes about how you don’t use the treadmill.

If you walk outside you don’t have to deal with people asking what you’re looking for. But in trade you might encounter people walking the other way. You can handle this by smiling pleasantly and nodding, until it turns out they’re walking the same circuit you are only the other direction so you keep seeing them. The smile-and-nod starts to see like a pretty weak response about three times in. You’ll have to pretend you didn’t see them, such as because you sneezed or suddenly had to jump into the shrubs a little.

Motivating yourself to walk regularly for exercise can be hard. One useful trick is to use the walk as a chance to listen to something you like. This way, you get to associate something you enjoy with a chore that leaves you feeling tired and maybe sweaty. This seemed like a good idea before it was laid out like that, but, you know, what doesn’t?

How To Swim In Some Other Way


With all the talk these days about spring starting soon — please disregard this message if spring isn’t due to start soon — it’s a good time to learn some new swimming moves. You’ll want to do this before the swimming pools get to opening. In the fast-paced world of competitive recreational swimming if you wait for the pools to open you’ll be swarmed and overwhelmed by people who think they know what they’re doing. Nothing’s a greater threat to getting anything done than swarms of people who think they know what they’re doing. If anyone ever did know what they were doing they’d reconsider doing it in the first place.

And there’s no sense waiting for the pools to close. Getting your swimming-learning in then just leads to awkward questions and sometimes a court appearance. And not the good kinds of court either (basketball, tennis, or stuffed-doll kangaroo). If you find yourself somewhere after the pools close you could pretend to swim. Get into your shower, say, and make the appropriate motions. This will knock the shampoo over and send half of it down the drain. This will give some much-needed bounce to the hair clot that’s about two months away from causing a critical plumbing malfunction.

Now there aren’t any of these swimming strokes designed for efficiency. We already know the most efficient way to get across a swimming pool. First approach the pool at its narrowest end, making soft cooing noises without any startling motions. Then, having strapped a jet engine to your back, jump in at no less than 80% full thrust. Bring it up to 105% nominal full thrust before you hit the water and with luck you’ll be across without even getting wet, and you just might beat the falling boulder to that pesky roadrunner. No; what we want here is a full swimming experience, which is what these are about.

First: The Ladder Climb. Start from the top of a ladder which leads into the pool or other body of water. You might need to bring a ladder with you, in which case be sure to mark your name on it somewhere, yes, even if your name is “Mark”. Stand securely with both hands on the railing and both feet on a step, and make your way one step at a time down. When your body is mostly in the water you can then shift to hopping down, both legs taking one step. For the final step hop away from the ladder while describing this as one small step for a man or woman as appropriate but nevertheless one giant leap etc. Advanced swimmers might try a more obscure line such as “Whoopie! Man, that may have been one small step for Neil.” Or try working up your own lunar-landing quote, possibly delivering it imitation of some 1930s comedian you know only from Bugs Bunny cartoons. Try Ben Turpin. Nobody will know if you’re doing it wrong.

Second: The Vertical Drop. Place your arms and legs together to descend rapidly to the bottom of the water. With your eyes closed (if you’re anything like me, you have to do this before you even get started) reflect on how nice it is to be there. It’s warm enough. The light leaking through your eyes is diffuse and nonspecific. Children squealing sound like they’re thousands of miles away. Lifeguards blowing whistles sound like alien life forms. The cries of people evacuating the pool are barely audible. The siren warning about sharks in the area is as nothing compared to the weird, not-exactly-grippy surface nosing you around. Remember to not breathe until you’re done with your business down below.

Third: The Twist. Start from a horizontal pose within the water. Select one arm (the wrong one) to move forward as it’s above the water line, the way you would for a crawl or for that other crawl. Meanwhile using the other arm (the right one) move backward, similarly. With your legs kick left and right simultaneously, producing a lurching motion that immediately propels you into the person in the next lane. With your full measure of grace apologize and pledge never to do it again. Then using the second arm (the right one) forward and the wrong arm backward (the other one) try again. This will propel you into the person in the other lane. In case you are swimming where there’s not any lanes bring along some ropes and string them up yourself. It may seem like a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

While these may seem obvious to do, it is worth practicing so that you look up to four percent less silly when you can go swimming again. Put the shampoo bottle on the sink. Sorry, no idea how the shark got into this.

When The Dance Dance Revolution Comes


My love’s been working out on Dance Dance Revolution lately. It’s easier than actual revolutions, considering there’s so much less spinning involved. I haven’t. I’ve tried Dance Dance Revolution, and other rhythm games like that.

Now, I do have a sense of rhythm. It’s just that I don’t have any control over what rhythm it is I express. Like, if I need to clap regularly, fine. I can do that for as long as the clapping mood moves me. If you need me to clap to a beat that’s not the one my body has chosen — and it might not choose the same one next time — then I’m sorry but you’re just going to have to be more reasonable. Retooling from one beat to another requires figuring out completely different stances and attitudes and maybe also plastic surgery to change the length of my legs.

Also after dozens of attempts all I can conclude is that I’m incompetent at converting the symbols on the Dance Dance Revolution screen to any kind of body response. I can tell you what the up arrow or the down arrow mean, it’s just that what happens when I try to hit the up arrow or the down arrow on the dance pad is that I tip precariously over and threaten to fall on our pet rabbit, to his disapproval. I don’t blame him. If I tumbled over on me, I’d probably disapprove of me too.

I hardly blame my love for being good at Dance Dance Revolution while I’m awful at it. All I can do is look on, impressed, while we both try to figure out whether we actually watched the TV series Ashes To Ashes and if we did, whether we liked it or not. We’re not sure and would appreciate any advice you can offer.

How Do We Know It’s The Future?


Dr Crusher and Counsellor Troi exercise in the hallway while wearing leotards backwards.
From the Next Generation episode ‘The Price’, which is not technically the same episode as ‘The Host’, although you wouldn’t know it from just looking at the screen caps at TrekCore. Also for some reason they’re just exercising in the middle of the hallway, like it’s some kind of aerobic flash mob or something.

It is the 24th century … a time when women wear their leotards backwards for some reason.

Mice and Their Wheels


So, some good news from our animal-watching friends. According to a paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences department, wild mice like to run on wheels, in pretty much the same ways that regular old domesticated mice do, so doctors Johanna H Meijer and Yuri Robbers have some payoff for all their mouse-watching. It hasn’t all been about making mice nervous about being stared at; those are just bonuses.

According to their research wild mice run pretty much the same way domestic mice do: the mouse comes out, pokes at the wheel a little, then hops on and starts running until it starts squeaking. Then the mouse keeps running until the squeaking drives somebody crazy, and that somebody comes out and dabs a little vegetable oil on the axle. Once that’s done, the mouse is overjoyed because, hey, vegetable oil. That stuff doesn’t grow on trees. I guess except palm oil. And banana oil. Maybe also oak oil. Or for that matter tuna oil, for fish that have been lifted into trees, perhaps by a waterspout or by a practical joker or by the efforts of a daring fish explorer. I guess the important thing is, vegetable oil on the axle. Once that’s there, the mouse is delighted because steel slathered in vegetable oil is delicious, and the mouse can lick it all off, giving much-needed calories and a refreshing taste sensation before going back to running and driving people crazy by their squeaking. There’s nothing about this that requires domestication, is there? Just fish.

Mouse wheel-running, the paper says, is done in bursts lasting from under one minute to as much as eighteen minutes, which I think is interesting because it means a mouse can plausibly run a wheel for longer than the half-life of a neutron outside an atomic nucleus. I can picture mice puttering along on the wheel and chuckling at a pair of free neutrons, telling them, “by the time I get off this wheel at least one of you is gonna be gone.” So now you know why back in middle school I was the kid people wouldn’t play Dungeons and Dragons with.

The average wheel-running speed for a mouse in the wild is about 1.3 kilometers per hour, while that in the lab is 2.3 kph. The maximum speed of a wild mouse, though, was about 5.7 kph, while laboratory mice topped out at 5.1. This means something, although you have to divide all those figures by 1.6 to know what they mean in the United States.

The researchers got videos of different animals running the wheel. There were a couple of rats who went running, and some shrews. There were some frogs, too, raising the question of wait a minute how can a frog run on a wheel? Surely they were hopping the wheel instead, and that should’ve been a data point for the paper about whether wild mice will get their hopping done on wheels. But more surprising and I swear this is exactly what they say, there were incidents of slugs and even a snail getting on the wheel. A snail! This, this is what Turbo is doing to screw up the ecosystem.

They have video of the slug running on the wheel, too. It’s the third video, twenty seconds of time at http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/281/1786/20140210/suppl/DC1 and as you can see at a glance, nothing happens in it. But if you zoom the video up to full-screen, and if you get a bigger screen, you can see the wheel is turning a wee tiny little bitty bit, at about the same rate that Pluto rolls around the solar system, only with a slug. Why do they not have the snail video? Did they feel embarrassed on the snail’s behalf?

A caption to some of the photos mentions that there were birds that visited the wheel, but none of them were spotted running. Superficially this is a very frog-like situation since I’d expect birds to be flying the wheel, but if they’re flying, they don’t even need the wheel. But birds can run when the spirit so moves them, such as when they need to complete a Fun Run which they entered because of the attractive rhyme such offer. That no birds were observed to run indicates a shortage of the fun in outdoor spaces near campus. Maybe the birds are worried about their quals.

I wonder if now that we know mice like wheels there’s any research under way to see what wheels feel about mice.

The Abandoned Cathy


I borrow a lot of books from the library, since that’s a great way for a compulsive reader like myself to get exposed to books I have literally no way of telling how many previous readers have held while sitting on the toilet. Plus you get discoveries: in this case, a Cathy comic strip someone clipped from the newspaper and used as a bookmark. The thing is the comic strip is dated 1998, and the book was published in 2004, so whoever left the bookmark had been using it for at least six years before abandoning it.

So now I’m left trying to understand the story of the bookmark-abandoner. Did he find this comic of Cathy doing exercises (spoiler: she doesn’t do a lot of exercise) speaking to him for over a half a decade, and then suddenly, realize that it just didn’t need to be part of his life and he left it in the book in the hopes a future reader would find some meaningful link to the universe through it? Was the clipped-out strip an unwanted gift and he finally found a way to “accidentally” lose it and apologize that it must have been an oversight? Since the bookmark was around page 50 of a 300-page book, is it possible he was interrupted while reading, and returned the book without remembering the bookmark was in there, and he’s been searching the library ever since for the comic strip he wanted back?

With no knowledge of why the strip was clipped out, or how it was viewed, or why it was left so early in the book, I can’t say why it was there, and neither can you, unless it was your bookmark in which case I’ll probably bring it back to the library next week. I use fast food receipts for my bookmarks anyway.

The Mysteries of Leaves


I was trying to figure why waking up today felt like such a foolish idea, and why when I did wake up it still felt like my back and my arms had been pummeled with large sacks of fatigue. They still feel a little bit like I’m wearing thick rubber pads buried under my skin. I have a hypothesis.

There was a heavy storm Sunday, the sort that doesn’t just blow all the leaves off the trees but that also finds wherever it was last year’s leaves were carted off to and brings them back for a fresh go-round. But with the yard’s drain plug pulled, the leaf levels had receded to the point they could be dealt with, so, we spent some of yesterday raking up the survivors. I didn’t think it was all that much, when we started, but we got fourteen lawn bags full just out of the little strip between the garage and the side fence. This is a strip maybe 26 inches wide, but it still took three-quarters of an hour to rake out and produce a pile of leaves large enough to leap my car into. (Lest I be accused of exaggerating, I must point out I have a sub-compact.) While I know suggesting there’s a link between doing one thing and experiencing another leaves me open to commenters reminding everyone that “correlation does not imply causation”, I think there may be a connection between hours of yard work and tiredness.

Vim, Vigor, and That Other Thing


I’m getting back into regular exercise. I don’t want to make people envious of my physique, but in the past few years I’ve got into the best shape of my life, not counting that year in elementary school when I was a regular heptagon. When I say the best shape of my life, I mean the best shape for me, though. I have the raw athletic prowess of a tower of buckets. Given a reasonable time to warm up and stretch, I can pretty nearly successfully tip over and plummet onto the floor. Next week I’m hoping to get to tipping and plummeting onto the floor while wearing weights.