60s Popeye: Partial Post, featuring alien behavior and a flying saucer


1960’s Partial Post is a Gene Deitch cartoon, so that’s about all the credits we get for it. I’d love to tell you more.

So, this is a weird one. I mean weird even for a Gene Deitch cartoon. I like it, mind you. I won’t think ill of people who feel the story is gibberish. But the ridiculousness is so proudly worn that I can’t hold that against the cartoon. I mean, it’s about an alien mailbox stealing Olive Oyl’s rose and messing with Popeye’s head. I’ll give it a hearing.

This has me wondering about the origins and writing of the cartoon, although not quite enough to see if Gene Deitch’s web site said anything. A flying saucer cartoon makes sense, especially for 1960. The alien messing with Popeye and Olive Oyl is inevitable from that. Why is the alien a mailbox? Why is it grabbing random objects? But rejecting Popeye’s mail? It feels like a parody of something and I can’t think what.

Olive clasps her hands together and looks happily at Popeye, who's poking his head out of the Mailbox Alien.
Do you suppose Popeye wondered what the fire hydrant was doing in that mailbox with him?

There’s some alien behavior this short, and not all the Mailbox From Space. Popeye and Olive Oyl have a bunch of dialogue where they talk past one another, or past the scenario. Like, Olive Oyl says her rose is gone, and Popeye answers, “yeah, it’s real gone,” like he thinks he’s in a Beatnik cartoon. Or, as the Space Mailbox tries to inhale Olive Oyl, Popeye says, “That’s a pretty good trick, but I thought you wanted to go for a walk.” These are lines funny for being inappropriate to the scene. I like the comic style of characters talking past one another (see every episode of Vic And Sade). But again, I understand the viewer who keeps asking, “The heck am I watching?”. Popeye getting to Olive Oyl’s and saying how “the feeling is mucilage” is great, though.

As typical, Deitch animates cheaply but well. It starts with a good use of a long camera pan to simulate animation. If the aliens had any reason to send a mailbox, it must be that this is an easy figure to draw. There’s lots of shots of the characters looking funny. As far as I know there wasn’t any overlap in animators between this and Jay Ward studios. But they had a similar attitude that limited animation doesn’t justify drawing boring poses.

I won’t fight you if you don’t like this, but I’m happy with it.

How Far Ahead Of Publication Does The Guy Who Draws _Marvin_ Work?


I apologize for not having a report on The Amazing Spider-Man comics today. The time I’d wanted to use for that had to go to other things this week. My throat is still sore from hollering about all those things. Don’t worry. The things will be fine. My throat will too, most likely. It’s been through worse. I hope to have Spidey for you tomorrow, at this link.

Meanwhile, in reading Tom Armstrong’s Marvin yesterday, I discovered something. I am not a great gardener. I think the last thing I can say I definitely grew successfully was in elementary school. We had that project where you put lima beans in a styrofoam cup. Inside a few weeks we had stringy, floppy, tangled masses of lima bean vine. This proved the important lesson that if you had a vegetable you wouldn’t eat, all it took was a few weeks and you’d get a plant that other people could make produce more of that vegetable. I keep realizing there’s stuff about elementary school I don’t understand.

Mr Marvin's Dad, to his wife, who's got several trays of flowers: 'I can't believe you're going to try it again this year. Face it, Jenny ... you're not a gardener, you're a serial flower-killer.'
I’ll check but will a gardening store even sell you Purple Spirograph Doodles this time of year?

Anyway this teaches me at least two things. One is that I am a better gardener than Mrs Marvin’s Mom is, since I wouldn’t try planting flowers in the middle of August. The other is that the guy who draws Marvin must have been in a gardening store and had this great idea about “a serial flower-killer” pop in his head. And he wasn’t going to sit on that joke for a year. So Marvin is being written about four months ahead of publication.

In Which My Curiosity Goes Unsated


“Curious what a Corpse Flower smells like?” asks the teaser to the plant conservatory event. I don’t know how to answer. I have a presupposition, yes. But why ask the question if the answer isn’t a surprise? Wouldn’t it be wild if, like, they smelled of vanilla lip balm, and the whole “Corpse” name was some kind of joke that got out of hand and nobody even remembers how it started anymore?

Well, I didn’t see the listing until the day after the event, so, I just won’t know unless I ask anybody who does. Too bad, I guess?

Everything Interesting There Is To Say About Christmas Decorating


While we’re still waiting on the upstate returns it sure seems like we’re going to have a Christmas this year. So it’s a good chance to talk about putting up decorations for Christmas like three weeks ago. But who’s had the time? Those who would like to discuss putting up decorations against Christmas may apply for equal time care in care of this station. This will let us see just what sort of care they have been taking of their time. This should be good for a solid laugh all around.

The basic unit of Christmas decoration is the poinsettia. This lovely plant has been cherished for several centuries, a couple decades, a bunch of years, a pair of months, a peculiar number of hours, and a strangely specific number of shillings and pence. They’s cheerful and when viewed from any angle and from a wide range of lighting conditions they appear to be spelled wrong. This allows us to spend much of the Christmas season slightly rearranging any existing poinsettias. In case their spelling ever does look right, the pronunciation looks wrong. If both the spelling and pronunciation are sound, then it’s time for the flowers to fall over.

There is a longstanding tradition of putting lights on trees. This grew out of the tradition of putting candles on trees. This itself grew out of the tradition of putting trees on candles. This tradition came to an end when the fire department started sending out stern letters and disapproving looks. Even so there are some neighborhoods where the fire department has to drive around delivering stern looks and disapproving letters, just in the hope the change-up catches anyone’s attention. In any case the lights are much easier to work with, what with how they can be turned off. You leave the trees on because it’s so hard to get something to exist again once you’ve told it to stop. At the least you get accused of being fickle, and can’t make an honest dispute of it.

Stands of lights grow in the hardware and in the discount department store. They find a natural habitat on what certainly seems like the wrong shelf. You expect them to be set up next to the artificial trees or next to the laser projectors that shine sparkly lights on an unsuspecting house. Instead they’re off in like row 13, between paint supplies and dowels and grommets. In some bigger stores they’re kept next to the grummidges and copper-plated hurk mounts and other wholly imaginary pieces of hardware. It’s a little prank they play.

You can buy new lights every year while cursing the light manufacturers. Or you can keep lights from year to year, taking the old ones out and cursing the light manufacturers over those. This is because any light strand more than three months old has a half that doesn’t work. Fortunately every strand of lights has two fuses embedded in the plug. And it’s easy to change these just by sliding the plastic panel open and then screaming in frustration at the fuses, since they’re in pretty tight and there’s no getting it out without using a needle that you drop on the floor to step on later. Replacing the fuses will not make the lights work. It’s just a way to pass the slow, unhurried times ahead of Christmas.

A good thing to pick up is this tool that extracts Christmas light bulbs. It should also have a button to press to test whether a given light is working. Nothing will ever tell you how to use this button, though. Do you hold the suspect bulb up to the side near the button? The side near the indicator light that flashes? Does the bulb have to be out of the light strand? Can it be left inside? What’s it mean when the indicator light flashes? Or when it stays on? There’s no telling. This all gives you something to do while pondering the futility of existence.

Tinsel is, in truth, no such thing. What we call tinsel is actually an artificial tinsel created by chemists who had pondered the saying “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” and so did not. They had hopes that this artificial tinsel would help America in the war effort and it might have had they not done this all over the summer of 1926. Nevertheless, the work is well appreciated by anyone who would like things to look and feel the more stranded.

Once you have your Christmas decorations up, stop putting them up. This is most important as your ceiling isn’t tall enough to keep putting them ever-farther up. Enjoy them while wondering how it is the light strand over the doorway isn’t falling down. Nobody knows.

Betty Boop’s Penthouse


For today’s video, please consider Betty Boop’s Penthouse, one of those Fleischer Brothers shorts I couldn’t remember anything about from the title. In story terms, it’s rather generic: Koko the Clown and Bimbo putter around a little, notice and get a crush on Betty; Betty sings an unmemorable song; there’s a monster who threatens Betty, and the threat dissipates in a moment.

Story isn’t everything. One of the defining traits of Fleischer Cartoons at their best is that they’re stuffed with little throwaway gags. This short has one of the highest throwaway gag counts I’ve noticed; I wonder if the cartoonists didn’t realize there wasn’t much story so they had to fill it up instead. (Or if, in the absence of plot, they could stuff everything in.) There’s throwaway explosions, metamorphoses, skeletons, gloves that clap by themselves, anthropomorphic flame, a Frankenstein allusion, and plenty of good old-fashioned nightmare fuel.

That said, there’s also a blackface joke, the Al Jolson reference that’s so obligatory I wonder if animators even realized they had a choice not to include it when a character’s face was blackened by an explosion, and a bit that seems to be floating around the homosexual-as-pansy stereotype that I guess at least makes sense in the story.

There’s also a really striking moment of seeing Betty Boop in the reflection of a water-drop which shows that when the Fleischers wanted they could do some pretty stunning special effects, and a few unusual camera angles — including a shot of Betty Boop from above that I don’t remember ever seeing done somewhere else — which add to the cartoon’s appeal.

I Like The Bloom On A Hypochondria More


We’ve got a really tall flowering plant here. I have to say it’s an amaryllis, because deep down, I can only think of four names that sound like flowering plants, and those are the rose, the daisy, the amaryllis, and the hypochondria, and I’m pretty sure this isn’t a rose or daisy. Anyway, this plant has been growing so much that if I told you, you’d think I was comically exaggerating. It’s grown about five feet in the last three days and the petals open just enough that it can try grabbing the UPS guy. We’re leaving it beside the window and hoping it doesn’t make demands. Also it’s staring at me.