60s Popeye: Popeye’s Picnic, which is more about flat tires and butterflies


This time, we get back to the Jack Kinney studios, so it’s 1960 again. The story and the animation direction’s credited to Osmond Evans. Production and direction is given to Jack Kinney. Here’s Popeye’s Picnic.

There’s a kind of Popeye cartoon that I guess is maybe a Jack Kinney specialty. It’s one where there’s not so much a story as there is riffing around a particular scene. It’s a story mode that, at its best, feels like an improv exercise at work. By this I mean every character’s given one really strong beat that they’re going to focus on. Nobody else is going to try arguing them into paying attention to something else. These focuses can interact with each other. Or they might just stay what they are, with the scene bouncing between them. This is a kind of scene that you’ll either really like for its absurdity or hate for its plotlessness. Or possibly for characters being jerks in how they won’t listen to one another.

So here’s the focuses. Olive Oyl is obsessed with butterflies today and that’s fine; she’s fickle. Popeye is now very interested in the food they’ll have this picnic. Olive Oyl even says, “You say the sweetest things … but it’s always about food”. So he does, this short particularly. He’s also made a line of Dagwood sandwiches, none of which look like they’re stable enough to eat. I guess if Popeye needs an obsession for the short, food is a decent one, but it does feel like more of a Wimpy thing.

Not that the food matters much. On the way to the picnic they get a flat. While changing the tire Popeye gets himself caught in the wheel rim, something that always deeply unsettled me as a kid. I’m still not comfortable with it. He spends most of the short doubled over, trapped and trying to free himself, while Olive Oyl worries about her butterflies. She can’t see why Popeye is taking forever with this and suspects he doesn’t even care about butterflies.

Popeye's stuck, doubled over, inside a tire wheel, sitting up on his rump and holding a stick that can't help him get free. A skeptical-looking bull is running in and bumping against him.
I’m really bothered by Popeye being caught like that in the wheel thingy and also that I’m not sure what to call that wheel thingy.

That’s thin stuff even for a five minute cartoon, so we get a bull in, as a third party. That and the presence of a butterfly gives us enough characters for stuff to happen. The bull — who looks skeptical about his part in all this — chases Olive Oyl. She and Popeye get spun around some. She tries to run away. She does this great funny run up the side of a tree, too. Eventually the bull hits Popeye in the rear, knocking him free and into a spinach patch. I’m not sure if Popeye posed for that on purpose. It’s great thinking on Popeye’s part if he did. This gets Popeye and the bull racing toward each other in what’s sure to be a titanic collision, only for them to stop lest they crush the butterfly between them. Olive Oyl thanks the bull for stopping, and she’s holding his tail, although I’m not sure if her pulling his tail mattered. Everything’s happy, they all settle down to a picnic and that’s that.

I’m Slightly Tired


So I had a leaky car tire again. Nowhere near as bad as last time. This was just a little hardware screw that got stuck in the tread. Very easy to patch. I mean for someone else to patch. Still, you know how you go through that period in your 20s when all your car troubles are how the alternator’s broken? With this car, it’s always the tires going flat. I swear to you, the next car I buy I’m getting one without any tires.

Still Not That Flated


I’d like to say how getting my tires replaced was a long merry series of silly incidents. But really, it’s been more of 2017. I mean, this year, you know? This morning they broke into The Price Is Right for the breaking news about Al Franken, and the station had to break into that with a news ticker about the Larry Nasser scandal, which is one of those local/state-level scandals that reading about leaves you feeling like you’re on one of the latter days of the flu, where you’re no longer contagious or even all that achy. Mostly you’re just tired of feeling tired and want to stay in a blanket bundle watching The Price Is Right and that’s exactly where the breaking news came in to break you.

So. I figured to go to a tire place that had served my love pretty well over the years. I’d expected it to go well, since I’d already built a reputation as a magician there. They put my love’s snow tires on and off. They could almost fit the four tires that were coming off the car into the Honda Civic’s trunk. But I know the trick to putting all four in. And, my love says, have astounded the people working there who realize, as they try fitting the removed tires back in, that they didn’t pay attention to just how I got all four in.

A tire (mine) with a maybe ten-inch gash where the sidewall's come apart.
Also while it turned out this was the worst of my tires, it wasn’t the only bad one, so, good grief.

With the help of the Consumer Reports buying guide that my love’s father gave us for Thanksgiving right before my tire exploded, because my love’s father does things like that, I picked out new tires. And ordered them, which I had to drive down to the tire place to put money down on because … I don’t know. But the next day they called to say the tires were in, and I could get them put on anytime. Great! … I went in and it turned out that while their web site figures my model car takes 17-inch tires, my actual car thinks it takes 18-inch tires, and my car won the fight, three falls to two.

I’d had to drive to their place to put down a deposit on the new tires, and I figured, might as well pay in full. Then had to come back the next day to find the tires were wrong. Also they found my tire pressure warning sensors had corroded to strange lumps of metal-like compounds no good for anything. So they refunded my tire purchase less the cost of replacement sensors. Also less the cost of the loaner tires they put on because I didn’t want to drive on the spare longer than I had to. And because another tire turned out to be maybe dozens of feet away from failing too.

I went back home to look up what tires were recommended in my size and learned the Consumer Reports Buying Guide had never heard of any of them. Picked some new tires anyway and had to go out to the tire place to put my money down on those. Also I appreciate that my credit card company finds nothing suspicious about a bunch of charges and reverse-charges, for ever-more-exotic amounts of money, going on from a place I’ve never had any dealings with before. I guess they’re just glad for the attention? Went back again Tuesday to finally get my tires on, and those seemed to work! Except that the tire pressure sensor was a solid light, interrupted by periods of being a blinky light. According to my owner’s manual, this is a signal for “pull off the road as soon as it is safe to do so, and flee the car, warning all within a 1,000-foot radius before the genetically engineered nanovirus is emitted and converts all nearby matter into locking lug nuts.”. Not what I’m looking for.

CBS News Special report on Senator Al Franken announcing his resignation is shrunk down for breaking news about Michigan's scandal involving Larry Nassar.
Fun Fact: of the 184 new episodes of The Price Is Right aired so far this year, only 23 of them have been shown in their entirety without a Breaking News update interrupting some part of them. Also a Fun Fact: nothing about this is the slightest bit fun.

So today in the latest round of this they said they could see me at 1pm, which turned out to be more like 3pm, in a quest that ultimately found the new sensors they put in were transmitting on the wrong frequency. Fair enough. I feel a reflexive skepticism toward mass agreement on stuff. If I were part of the tire pressure sensor community I’m sure I would want to see what those other frequencies were all about.

They didn’t charge for fixing this, of course. The guy at the tire place thanked me for coming back. I mean, they’d thank me for coming in anyway. But this was that service-apologetic tone you would get where, like, the Genius Squad at Best Buy admits, “I guess I see how every step in the situation built on the one before but I’ve still don’t understand how setting up an HDTV stereo sound bar resulted in your goldfish being on fire. Would it help if I gave you a discounted copy of The Nut Job 2?”.

The guy from the work bay pulled my car up. He said it was all in good shape now. And he’d left the keys in and the car running because the battery had died and they had to jump-start it, so, better leave it running some.

In Which I Am Not Caught Up With My Tires And Stuff


Yeah so the attempt to get new tires went awry because of reasons that are threatening to also turn “buy new tires” into a fiasco. Waiting on results of that. So I don’t have the energy to put out my review of the November readership statistics or anything. Maybe soon. Meanwhile, I’ve come to consider that there was someone or some several ones who first sang the song that never ends and just goes on and on, my friends. The thing is if they said “some people started singing it” then they were being modest or maybe just disingenuous because they knew exactly which people were doing the singing. But fine, all right, maybe they were modest. But they have to have known what the song was. They were right there writing the song. At a minimum they have to have suspected strongly enough that anyone would find them culpable. Please see my enclosed description of the precise theory of the song’s creation timeline, omitted for clarity. Thank you.

Deflated


First, I apologize if this piece is rougher than normal. I have to put several hundred dollars into my car, through the funnel in the armrest that normally swallows up the iPod Touch. But the servicing takes time. And I have to try to make myself feel better about that, ideally by eating eighteen McRib sandwiches.

We were driving home from my love’s parents after Thanksgiving dinner, with four bags of leftovers packed in the hatched back of my car. I didn’t think much about the tire-pressure warning sign on the dashboard because my car is always throwing off warnings when it gets cold. I’d checked the tire pressure the day before and everything was fine. Then it wasn’t. The rear passenger-side tire burst open and started rattling and my love, as passenger, warned me: “[ Something I didn’t make out because I was looking at the rear-view mirror with disapproval ]”. Fair warning, though. We were right at an exit so I pulled off the Interstate and followed the bright lights to the large, well-lit, spacious parking lot of what turned out to be the Lion’s Den Adult Superstore.

A tire (mine) with a maybe ten-inch gash where the sidewall's come apart.
Yeah, so, I guess when I got my oil changed the dealership wasn’t just fishing around to see if I could be upsold into buying a replacement set of tires, and by their “I should look at this soon” they meant more like “We’re not all that sure we can legally permit you to drive home on these tires” and maybe I was missing some cues because of the distraction of HGTV people having silly things happen to their remodel.

They were closed, possibly because it was 2 am, possibly because it was Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, while we were waiting for AAA, three different carloads full of people drove in, looked at the front door, turned around and left again. Apparently the Adult Superstore underestimates their 2am-after-the-holiday foot traffic. They’re leaving money on the table, and I feel like there’s some slightly morally judgemental joke I could be making about that.

I didn’t go calling AAA right away, by the way. I’m confident that I can change a tire in my car myself. Three decades of car-based experiences have not turned up any successful cases of my changing a tire myself. But I’m like 80 percent sure I know the theory. It’s the tires that won’t cooperate. The problem this time is I couldn’t get three of the lugnuts off. They wouldn’t budge.

So with two lugnuts off we had to call AAA. While my love walked to the front door of the Adult Superstore, to see if they had a posted street address, I found out the phone operator at AAA had a low-key Thanksgiving since her dog just got out of surgery. Well, she asked how I was, and I told her “pretty good up to a mile ago,” which I still think was a solid line. And I only felt weird not asking her how she was so I learned her dog needed surgery and it all makes sense, all right? Anyway, her system had trouble finding the Adult Superstore. My love reported there wasn’t any address listed on the building, but that they did have a Christmas tree in the vestibule. “Surely you mean an X-mas tree,” I answered. Since my love did not punch me in the gut and walk away never to be seen again, I know it’s true love.

I could see the AAA guy’s truck pulling off the Interstate. It stopped, though, and the guy called us to verify our location. I got out of the car and waved and he said yeah, he thought that was us. It’s like he had some reluctance to pull up to the lone car in the Adult Superstore parking lot, with the motor running and the headlights off, at 2:30 am the morning after Thanksgiving. Or something.

He had power tools to undo the lugnuts and I’m proud to say he couldn’t get the lugnuts unstuck either. So I’m not a lifelong failure in tire-changing, see? It’s the tires. He declared, in another great line, “I’m not done giving up yet,” and took out a couple wood blocks. With them he could set up a rickety, ad hoc scheme of blocks leaning against each other, to brace the axis of the tire iron while he jumped on it. He only had to do this one or two times for each lugnut, and he didn’t slip and break his neck doing so. Also I needed to offer him the adaptor to go from the tire iron to the lugnuts like four times before he realized what I was offering. I must have been saying something wrong.

Anyway, after we had that sorted out it was like two minutes to finish the tire change. And now the interior of my car smells like leftover caramelized onion mixed with burnt-out flat tire. The second part of that isn’t what I would pick, but we have to go with the life we have.

Overall, this seems to me like it was a weird flat-tire experience. But I also don’t see where I did anything to make this weird and I’d accept advice on dealing with this better in the future. Thank you and good night.

Flintstones Mathematics


I don’t have very high expectations when I watch The Flintstones, or when I enjoy some of the show’s spinoff theme products, like the 1990s movies or the pinball machine based on the first one. Mostly the show’s existing is enough. But I have to have some standards. Now, here, from the bottom of the playfield from the pinball machine is an example of the Flintstones licensed theme product bothering me.

The play field shows off a 'Firerock' rock tire from Fred Flintstone's car.
Lower play field of The Flintstones pinball machine. Photographed by Casey Davis at the Internet Pinball Database.

I concede that not every Flintstones bit of rock-themed wordplay can be as natural or as smooth as naming celebrities “Stony Curtis” and “Ann-Margrock”. That’s an impossibly high standard. But I want them to be better than naming the place “Texarock”. “Texarock” is just a sad, sighing surrender from the idea of writing rock-themed wordplay. Anyway, look at the tire on the center of the pinball playfield: “Firerock”?

Of all the possible products to place in the movie they couldn’t get Firestone? Or worse, they did, and they screwed up the name? Either way, it’s a sad moment in this movie we didn’t really need.

Anyway, since I’m done grousing about that, over on my mathematics blog have been a couple of discussions of mathematically-themed comic strips, and if you haven’t read them already I’d be grateful if you did read them now. If you have read them already then I’ve got nothing to complain about. Except the Flintstones pinball machine, anyway.

Some Ways That I Act Like A Guy


I don’t participate in most traditional guy behaviors. This is because most traditional guy behaviors are bottomlessly terrible. The generic formula for making a guy behavior is to find something which might be interesting or exciting and do so much of it that it’s awful, which is how we get hot-sauce-drinking-contests, World War I, soccer riots, and pieces of furniture set on fire and shoved into the streets. Guys are pretty much the male dolphins of civilized society, which is why we shouldn’t have anything to do with them. But there are some guy behaviors which are not terrible to the point of cruelty, and I partake in some of them.

The commonest is bringing in the groceries. It’s very important that I bring the groceries inside with as few trips as possible. My love is amused to see how I’ll hang shopping bags all the way up and down my arms, and maybe loop a couple around my legs, and hang two or three lighter bags from each ear, and if I could get away with it I’d hold one in my mouth too. Sometimes I’ve bought an unnecessary Chapstik or roll of Necco wafers so I could stuff them in my nose just so I can bring in more stuff on the one trip. The saddest thing I can do is get up to the door and realize I’m surrounded by a protective layer of grocery bags reaching up to the second-floor windows, because that means I have to set something down to fit through the door, which I forgot to open so I have to kick it in and repair the frame afterwards. But, boy, if I can get it all in in one trip and fall over into a titanic sprawling mass of packs of frozen French fries and cans of condensed milk that roll through the dining room, into the living room, and come to a rest under our pet rabbit, whose ears are perked up to full attention over this collapse, then I am happy.

Less common but at least as satisfying is hardware stores. I feel a wonderful sense of place when I’m in a hardware store, for whatever reason, and I would let my father mention here how hilarious this is except when I asked him to write something about it he started laughing hysterically and he’s barely stopped to take breaths, much less to get his composure enough to write anything, since, and it’s been eighteen days now. I am not your traditionally handy person. Would you believe that I have attempted to change a flat tire and, after having got the car jacked up not nearly enough to do this but finding myself unable to either lift it higher or let it get back to the ground again, I’ve abandoned my car in the intersection where the flat tire became un-ignorable and taken the bus home, on three separate occasions? Sure you would, and it doesn’t even matter that nothing all that much like this has never happened to me, because it makes too much sense that this is the sort of thing that should, and you know that too.

But set me in a hardware store, where I have absolutely no business being and no ability to identify anything past “this is probably not a wrench”, and I feel this wonderful inner peace. I think it’s the sense of a world of potential all organized into little grey boxes of metal and plastic parts, surrounded by tools that for some reason aren’t in alphabetical order. Or it’s getting to occasionally overhear people talking about “joists”. I’m not sure what a joist is but I know they are subjects of legitimate discussion when in hardware stores, and that reassures me. Life may be chaos and a struggle for comprehension, but for a little while, there’s cylinders of steel or iron or aluminum of something and gaskets of some kind of plastic or whatnot, and people walking around casually hefting things that are probably not wrenches and they have plans to make joists of things and maybe fix the doorframe. It’s perfect.

You know, I suspect I’d be happier if I could get the groceries in without any trips, but I haven’t worked out the details of that just yet.