Monday, September 16, 2013

10 Classic Cartoon Characters

When I was a kid, Cartoons were a vital ingredient of mornings .  ANYTHING that disturbed this was immediately looked upon with disdain especially Saturday morning.  Unless of course you were taking a Saturday to go to Disneyland or something, but that is most certainly the exception to the rule.  When I heard that these cartoons were the self same cartoons my dad watched when HE was a kid, I was amazed.  The truth is, these characters and their cartoons are classics even today.  They are still funny and still clever.  You can see the timelessness in them.  Now before you read my list.  You will not find any Disney properties.  This is only because in my own youth, there were no Disney cartoon shorts.  They just didn't exist after Steamboat Willie.  Otherwise,  the mouse would be included.

10. Foghorn Leghorn - Some of the most funny big talking ever.  Foghorn didn't have a lot of cartoons, but when he did, it was terrific. Often the pain in the side of the farm dog and a diminutive chicken hawk, Foghorn Leghorn was one of my dad's favorites.  Memorable lines:
Nice boy but he's got as much nerve as a bum tooth
Nice girl, but about as sharp as a bag of wet mice.

9. Daffy Duck - The constant competition to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck went from just crazy to the perfect image of the 2nd tier Hollywood star.  Pretty much the opposite of Bugs Bunny. When Daffy took hold of his sanity it seemed that he would never get the upper hand.   In so many cartoons, with out his counterpoint, you would not get near as many laughs.

8. Porky Pig - The every man character.  Porky pig is the most personally identifiable to everyone that watches cartoons.  Paired up with nearly everyone, Porky pig was the perfect consistency to the zany nature of the rest of the troupe.  He was also the character that said 'That's all folks!'

7. Elmer Fudd - Some would say that Elmer was the every man.  Elmer to me was more of a different character that represented The Man.  Elmer was the hunter, the business man, the homeowner.  Elmer was 1940's middle class.  He was the suit, he was the rules.  He was bugs bunny's favorite target.  Yet he was always the heavy when it came to Daffy Duck.  We kind of enjoyed seeing Elmer get it.  After all he was gonna 'kill da wabbit!'

6. Tom and Jerry - Making a departure from the Warner Brothers camp.  Tom and Jerry to me were brothers that were constantly feuding.  Yet they were still brothers.  For me Tom and Jerry had phases that were good and others that were really strange and almost upsetting.  The Chuck Jones era of Tom and Jerry featured strange sound effects and odd music that I still can't place with the Hanna Barbera Tom and Jerry.

5. Popeye - I remember as a kid singing a song that had to do with garbage cans and Popeye.  The cartoons seemed sometimes very very old and other times quite current.  Popeye was the protector of the innocent and hapless in the face of the ultimate threat.  Bluto or sometimes Brutus.  Never enough to quite best his nemesis, Popeye would resort to eating spinach and then handily dispatch his foe with muscle and magic.  I remember him shooting someone from a tattoo of a battleship on his chest and using his signature corncob pipe as a blowtorch to open the can of spinach.  The 1960s were my favorites, but the black and whites were pretty good too.  Popeye always had a subtext of conversation with himself that I found to be very funny.

4. Little Audrey - From the 40's and 50's This cartoon along with Popeye and Casper would show up on weekdays on a local show that was designed to entertain and advertise to the kids while they ate their breakfast before going to school.  The episode of little Audrey I remember the most was Audrey the Rainmaker.  She had wished that the rain would stop forever so she could play every day.  Then she got her wish.  There were daffodils or possibly Irises that were screaming for water.  Those flowers often haunted my nightmares.  They were so desperate for water!

3. Casper - The friendly ghost!  Made by the same folks Casper was a member of a supernatural troupe that tried to convince kids that the supernatural was fun.  I guess.  I have no idea.  However, Wendy the witch was his good friend and he never really wanted to scare people, he just wanted to be friends.  I wonder how he died.  In the Simpsons I recall them mentioning that perhaps Casper was a dead Richie Rich trying to pay penance for a life of wealth and privilege.  I had seen certain Casper cartoons so many times that I remember every line and every piece of timing.

2. Snoopy - Snoopy Was the first comic strip I ever read.  I loved it.  I loved everything about it.  At the time, the only things I could count on was Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and Charlie Brown Christmas.  But both of those shows were so important to me as a kid that they were marked on a calender so I wouldn't miss it.  The animation was fairly sloppy according to Charles Shultz, but for me it was the voices and the music that made it.

1. Bugs Bunny - The king of Saturday morning.  Overture!  Light the lights!  This is it.  We'll hit the heights.  The bugs bunny loony tunes hour would replay all of the loony tunes cartoons from decades in the past.  For me, they were new.  Everything about them was what made Saturday morning worth waking up for.

There it is.  My childhood wrapped up in animation.  Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

10 things older people might know about

Them times, they are a changin.  It seems like the more things change, the more we forget the things that we used to do.  I'm old, of course in a chronological sense i'm middle aged, but in my 12 year old mind I am at the age where I would have everything figured out and I would be master of all I surveyed.  I would like to tell my 12 year old self a few things. This is a list of stuff that we used to do a long time ago back when things were different.  Now we don't do them anymore.

1. Add color to margarine - Margarine and butter.  The eternal battle.  In many cases margarine is just fine.  But way back when, margarine had to be uncolored.  You could get your margarine along with a little capsule of coloring agent to make it yellow.  It had to do with a government regulation concerning the competition of milkfat v.s. vegetable oil.  It seems the butter lobby (yes there is such a lobby) successfully implemented various legislation to not allow margarine to be colored like butter and in some states, it had to be colored a yummy pink.  Who wouldn't want pink toast?

2.  Full Service - Trust your car to the man who wears the star.  That meant gas too.  Full service.  You pull up to the station and you tell them to 'filler up'.  The service attendant would then proceed to fill your tank, check your oil, wiper blades, and washer fluid.  Sometimes they would pour some of the gas on the ground to round the total fee up to a round number (yes gas was this cheap).  Of course now we pump our own gas and the only attendants you will see are in Oregon where they have made a law that all gas must be pumped by 'professionals'.  The rest of the country can't afford to employ attendants.

3.  Side B -Early on, music came on two flavors of records.  the 45 and the 78 LP (Long play) Record. Record albums and cassette tapes both were not a collection of single songs, but rather a musical story told on both sides of the record.  Singles were where the hits of those albums lived.  People bought them for the hit, but what did you do with the other side?  Stick a song on that nobody was going to hear.  (You had to buy a converter to allow the single to be played on your hi fidelity sound system).  You don't put 2 hits on a single or you'll sell 1/2 as many singles.  Albums like Pink Flloyd's Dark Side of the moon and Moody Blues Days of future Past were meant to be listened to in a row in that order and the breaks between the sides of the albums were planned.  Now you get individual songs and you put them in the order you like and you never hear a break unless you have a free Spotify account.

4.  Collect buckets of Nickels - As is my wont, I once again go to gambling for an informational moment.  Back in the day, You would plunk coins in a slot machine and coins would then issue forth assuming a paying combination.  These nickels were collected in cups that resembled cottage cheese containers.  Giant counting machines would tally up your coins and the cashier would issue cash.  Now slot machines take cash or paper tickets and pay out in paper tickets.  These tickets have a big bar code on them that will allow a cashier; human or automated, to pay your due.  The ticket system saves the casino big money and of course eliminates several low end cashier jobs in favor of a few more high tech jobs in maintaining the computers involved.  An interesting side note.  These slot machines no longer make the tell tale clink clink sound when paying off naturally so the sound of coins falling into a hopper is still played as the ticket is printed out.  I'm sure there is a whole generation of young gamblers that wonder what that noise is.

5.  Crime was worse but we didn't know it - The year is 1980.  It starts the worst crime statistics recorded since the 1960's.  Sure crime had been increasing every year SINCE 1960, but decade of 1980 is the peak at a total of 5,741 crimes per 100,000 people in the U.S. in 1989.   For those of you keeping score, that's 5%.  Fast forward to the tumultuous year of 2011 and you will find that our overall crime rate went down to 3295 per 100,000 people (3.2%).  You ask the average person and they will say things are as bad as they ever were.  Nope.  Not.  What's the answer?  Why is crime going down?  There are many theories of why crime is going down.  The two things that had nothing to do with it were the most interesting.  Concealed Carry permits for guns had no appreciable effect on crime rates.  Gun control laws also had no effect on crime rates.  I personally found this to be really interesting.  The paper I got a lot of my information from is pretty well sourced and very interesting:  Understanding why crime fell in the 1990's.

6.  Soft drinks were mixed - These days when you are thirsty, you go to your local vending machine or convenience store and purchase a carbonated beverage.  Why carbonated?  Because it's fun!  Flavored drinks are better when they are fizzy it's a known fact.  Well back before World War II, you would get your soda at the drug store and you would request the flavor that would be mixed with the soda water to create your own personalized thirst quencher.  Now days it's all prepackaged.  An interesting side note.  Non carbonated beverages are making a comeback.  I personally don't drink carbonated drinks because they are the favorite snack of my pet ulcers.

7.  The internet was called the Library - This blog is really made possible through the information gleaned from the millions of pages on the Internet.  I would love to think that I have this information at my command due to my mental faculties.  Instead I must admit that all I really do is add pithy commentary to information that is freely had.  Growing up this information was only gained in the library.  The Dewey Decimal System was the google of the day and the sometimes friendly Librarian would be able to easily direct you to the constantly maintained organization of books and periodicals.  What is the library now?  Well, I know there are still books there.  Compact Disc's as well as DVD's are there as well.  It is also a place you can freely connect to the Internet.  I can't imagine how long the book part is going to last.  Oh it has a decade or two left in it, but the tide is definitely pulling out on the venerable printed word.

8.  You owned your music - More specifically, music didn't have an ownership definition that the regular person would understand.  The music industry controlled the quality, the format, and the price of recorded entertainment.  I remember I used to pay about 12 dollars for a record album.  Why?  Because that was the price they figured I would pay.  If I wanted to play that album on 8-track tape,  I would have to purchase it again.  The price was determined by a market that had no competition and often I would have to buy a particular artist's work several times to be able to play them on different sound mediums.  So once I bought the medium, I owned the music it conveyed.  The cassette tape caused a bit of pause in the music industry because with equipment that was affordable by joe-six-pack, a backup recording of your Styx Paradise Theater album could be made and played in your car.  How much did you pay the music production company?  Nothing.  This trend has quickly caused a problem.  The music industry had to start competing with free.  Now music is not owned, but licensed and you can play that music on many devices with amazing sound quality.  More and more the use of music is payed for through commercials or by the song.  Now it is made clear that you never owned the music, but rather the medium it's on.

9.  Shoes were repaired  - The cobbler's kids go without shoes.  This was a saying that made sense when they had cobblers.  Also known as shoemakers, the cobbler would make and fix shoes.  Shoes were made by these artisans with skill and pride.  They cost enough that when the sole wore out, you replaced them with another sole.  Shoes would remain in repair for quite a long time. A cobbler might even suggest that you put taps on your shoes.  Little metal edges that clicked when you hit the pavement.  Why?  So the heaviest points of your step wouldn't wear out as quickly.  The dancing part came later.  Now, shoes are manufactured and thrown away.  Like so many other things.

10.  Gasoline was different - When you buy gas today, not only do you pump it yourself.  but you are pumping a different substance.  When you pump Regular gas. you really aren't.  in the 1970's.  Regular gasoline had lead in it.  There was Regular Leaded and Unleaded and Premium.  This was the same time that Diesel gas was much cheaper than regular.  Now, Diesel is very expensive, Regular IS unleaded but changed its name and there are 2 other grades of gas that are simply higher octane.

I'm sure these things exist today in one form or another to some extent.  But they are still not the regular icons that they used to be.  Change Change Change.  They say change is good.  They are probably the ones initiating the change.