Thursday, November 19, 2020

The strangest irony in this project – and I’m sure with a little digging I can find a few strange ironies amidst this year-long mess – is how much the most celebratory moment of just about every day is the moment when I’ve finished penning that day’s article. That is the moment I am free to wrassle with the dogs, to watch TV, to get on with the business of living. So is my free time the ultimate celebration? Is the final lesson this year going to be that the celebrations were inside of us all along? Somehow that resonates of disappointment. Maybe that’s because I’m still writing the intro paragraph and I’m far away from finishing my daily chore. Hmm. Here was yesterday’s stuff:

Mickey Mouse’s Birthday

The classic Steamboat Willie short was released on this day back in 1928, meaning that our world has been graced by the phenomenon that is Mickey Mouse for 92 years now. In that span of time, this little whistling weirdo has grown to define the very pinnacle of theme parks, and has swallowed up every massive pop culture franchise to create the most powerful media empire the world has ever seen. And it started with this little mouse.

Mickey’s debut is free to watch on Disney+, and that we did. It’s still cute – all those old Disney cartoons hold up as modestly entertaining in a kitschy sort of way. What most folks don’t know is that the short film was actually a parody of one of that year’s biggest box office hits: Steamboat Bill Jr., released in May. The latter feature is quite possibly Buster Keaton’s best feature-length comedy, featuring the classic death-defying stunt in which Buster is almost crushed by the falling wall of a house. So to be clear: the Disney monolith was launched by a Buster Keaton parody.

For seven years, Mickey existed in black and white only, which was fine since he was a black and white mouse. In 1932 Mickey’s Orphans received an Academy Award nomination. His films would go on to gather nine more nominations, and 1942’s Lend A Paw won. In 1978 he was the first cartoon character (predating Donald Trump!) to land a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. The term ‘A Mickey Mouse operation’ tends to refer to something that is either small in scale or amateurly-run, which makes absolutely no sense, given the power of the Disney empire or the efficiency with which it operates. Have you ever seen litter laying around just off the trail in a Disney park? No you haven’t, and you probably won’t even notice the person who cleans it up.

Mickey is about as fundamental a cartoon creature as there ever was. And he shares a birthday with other great luminaries too, like W.S. Gilbert (co-writer of the Pirates of Penzance) and this lady:

Minnie Mouse’s Birthday

Yes, Ms. Mouse shares the same birthday, mainly because she first appeared in Steamboat Willie alongside her beau. This was, to be clear, the third short film the pair were featured in, but it was the first to be officially released. We might all be raging about the greatness of Plane Crazy instead, had Walt released the shorts in the order of their creation.

Minnie was created as a flapper. She was an easy plot point, someone for Mickey to try to woo, or occasionally as the damsel in distress whom he had to save. It was Minnie whose dog Rover (later renamed Pluto) became a part of the Disneyverse. Her importance in the animated stories began to fade in the late 30s, as Mickey’s cohorts Goofy, Donald Duck and Pluto became more popular. So instead of a constant will-they-won’t-they thing, we instead got a sausage-fest of crazy dudes doing crazy dude stuff. But Minnie stuck around, and was eventually weaved back into the Mickey world.

She had to wait until 2018 to get her star on the Walk of Fame though, alongside Weird Al and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Voice actress Russi Taylor took over the work as Minnie in 1986. She held that honour until her death last year. And her husband, Wayne Allwine, happened to be the voice of Mickey between 1976 and his death in 2009. So if that isn’t the weirdest Hollywood romance ever, I don’t know what is. Did they dirty-talk in their character voices? We can hope not, but we’ll never know.

Anyhow, we also enjoyed some Minnie on Disney+, our best efforts to wipe out the ideas conceived in that last paragraph. Sorry, folks.

Married To A Scorpio Support Day

I get it, Scorpios are weird. Allegedly. That’s if you believe that people born in the same period of the calendar share the same traits, which I 100% do not. I share a birthday with Wilfred Brimley, Avril Lavigne and Meat Loaf. I don’t know what, if anything, I have in common with any of those people. But okay, I guess Scorpios are pessimistic, and emotional when provoked, which makes them difficult to be married to. Alright.

Goldie Hawn is a Scorpio, but Kurt Russell has stayed with her for 37 years. They aren’t technically married I guess, so maybe that’s the answer? Hillary Clinton is a Scorpio as well, but wasn’t Bill the one who put the strain on the marriage? Am I reaching too much here? Am I really supposed to take this day seriously?

Here are a few other celebrities that would allegedly be difficult to take on as a spouse: Leonardo DiCaprio (I get that – you’d have to continually get younger and younger, and that would be tricky), Cris, Kendall and Caitlyn Jenner (again, anyone who’d marry into this family probably already has something wrong with them, but I guess this lends support to the celebration), Winona Ryder (I don’t suspect she’d be difficult to be married to), Ryan Gosling (I think most everyone I know with even the mildest attraction to men would take a shot with this guy), Adam Driver (well, he was a Sith Lord, that’s tough to live with), and Bjork (again, I can see how this might be trouble, unless her spouse also has a wildly imaginative and eclectic soul).

Is any of this conclusive? I don’t think it’s even vaguely close to anything in the neighborhood of conclusive. But if any of my friends are married to a Scorpio and they’d like someone to talk to, I’ll make myself available. But let’s do it over the phone so you don’t see my eyes rolling.

National Princess Day

This is the day we are supposed to feel like a princess, and dammit, I sure did. I joke of course – I felt mostly like a working serf, schlubbing away at my desk for the day. But I watched some Star Wars as promised, which features the greatest of all Disney princesses, Princess Leia.

For the most part, British royalty didn’t use the term ‘princess’ very often before the 1700s. Daughters of the monarchs were referred to as “Lady”, probably because they didn’t want to suggest the horrific notion that a woman could again take over the throne. I don’t know – misogyny and weirdness seem to permeate the royal traditions throughout history. When King George I took over, the term ‘princess’ became commonly used.

Princesses have really stepped up when it comes to fiction. They have peppered great literature from Princess Pajonia of Pumperdink (in Frank Baum’s Oz stories) to Indian princess Aouda in Jules Verne’s Around The World In 80 Days to Princess Leigh-Cheri in Tom Robbins’ Still Life With Woodpecker, who ultimately learns the mysteries of red hair and true outlawdom.

Ororo Monroe gave up her princessitude to become Storm in the X-Men comics, and Princess Peach loved messing with Mario’s heart in numerous video games. And movies are full of princesses, from Disney’s legion to Princess Buttercup to Vespa, princess of Druidia (who doesn’t even look Druish). I think princesses fared better in fiction than they have in real life. Come to think of it, so have I.

Today we nudge closer and closer to the weekend, and closer and closer to the end of all this madness. Here’s what’s up:

  • Great American Smokeout. Should I quit smoking again? I don’t know how that would be possible.
  • National Carbonated Beverage With Caffeine Day. Very specific. I guess we’ll have a Coke and a Smile.
  • National Play Monopoly Day. With Jodie out of the house until after 8:00 tonight, I’ll either play by myself or we’ll postpone this one.
  • International Men’s Day. A day to do manly things. Don’t I always do manly things?
  • International Camp Day. Like, the kind in tents or the kind depicted in the Rocky Horror Picture Show?
  • World Toilet Day. I will use the toilet. Won’t that be a celebration!
  • Have A Bad Day Day. Sounds like an appropriate celebration, one to specifically invite negativity into our lives.
  • National Blow Bagpipes Day. I don’t own any. Perhaps I should change my name to ‘Bagpipes’?
  • Use Less Stuff Day. I don’t use a lot stuff. Not sure if it’s possible for me to use less.
  • World Philosophy Day. I celebrate therefore I am.

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