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Odds and Ends

Just a few unrelated thoughts about some light topics

I like to watch college football, but I am increasingly doing it in terms of rooting against all the schools which are from bad states. I know, there are some good people in all the states, but some of these states are bad in general. So I was happy to see Pittsburgh beat Tennessee, and Oregon win at Ohio State. Colorado almost beat Texas A&M, but lost in the last three minutes. Texas got thrashed, hooray, although it was to Arkansas. Missouri vs. Kentucky, both bad, McConnell vs. Hawley.

I know that all the teams from bad states cannot lose; the SEC is essentially made up of them. But I do get some enjoyment out of seeing some of them lose, because to them, football is much more important than the right to vote, or to be able to have an abortion, or the importance of being vaccinated. Now, the University of Texas has its primary campus at Austin, which is a fairly progressive town, and the school itself is respected. I am not angry at any of them, but they are in Texas, so I will root against them, and enjoy seeing their fans get upset if they lose, while we are upset at all the terrible things they are doing or not doing in those states.

A completely different topic. As I was recently watching a movie starring one of these actors, it occurred to me that a case could be made, even though tastes of course vary,, that of the five talented movie stars who might possibly be generally considered the most beautiful, or at least glamorous, female actors who were major names in American cinema from at least part of the period spanning the ’40’s to the early ’70’s, four of them were Jewish at some point in their lives. Try to guess, answers below.

On a completely different theme, do people still read the comics in the newspaper? I imagine that most people do not buy an actual paper, but many may view them online. I never hear people talking about them, but I know that there still are comics, and some of them have the same names as they did many years ago; though there are different writers, sometimes with the same last name as the original one, so I assume that they are their children.

I will date myself a bit, but there used to be a Sunday show on the radio here, about which I have no idea what the overall format was, but would devote about fifteen minutes each week to the host reading the comics to children. He would apparently try to pick out the most suitable ones in the Los Angeles Times Sunday Comics section. I would always look forward to it, and my parents would let me go into the living room right after breakfast, spread out the paper on the floor, and read along with him.

He would announce each comic with a kind of reverberating effect. “Dick Tracy!” “Little Orphan Annie!” “Terry and the Pirates!” I loved “Treasure Island,” so I thought that this strip was about pirates, but to my disappointment, it appeared to be about U.S. pilots in the Korean War. I don’t remember liking too many of these strips, they were really not for children. “Nancy,” which was, was a really boring strip. Apparently there still is a “Nancy,” but it tries to be clever, which the original strip certainly was not. I liked “Blondie” with the cute dog Daisy. There was a strip about Horace and Dotty Dripple, which was an imitation of “Blondie.”

“Blondie” had a good-natured charm. My father had a collection of the cartoons in a book, I think because as a cartoonist and graphic designer, he liked to study styles. I read it, and one strip I liked, because I valued rules of good grammar, had Dagwood, out of the frame, answering the door, and saying, “Who do you want to speak to?” And Blondie calling to him, saying, “No, you should say, ‘To whom do you wish to speak?.'” And then showing Dagwood saying that–to the hobo who was at the door.

I’m just doing this from memory. There was “Snuffy Smith,” was that about hillbillies? “L’il Abner,’ that was of course by Al Capp, who was a liberal, until he became a right-winger (I will not give these people the benefit of the appellation “conservative”), who insulted Joan Baez, and debated John Lennon on TV. “Little Orphan Annie” was one that my parents knew well, and my mother knew the song from ’40’s radio. I did not find it fun to read, though. “Joe Palooka,” about a boxer. He had apparently adopted, or had, a kid named “Kayo,” who I think slept in a drawer. That disconcerted me, though I don’t imagine it was meant to.

“Prince Valiant,” drawn in an illustration style. I liked the pictures, but my parents were not at all fans of the Crusades, where so-called Christians would travel to the Holy Land to liberate it, meanwhile killing as many Jewish people as they could on their way. “Dennis the Menace,” not really funny, and it is still around today with someone with the last name of Ketchum, doing it, but not he originator Hank. “Gasoline Alley,” I could never really figure out what that was about, an auto garage? “Andy Gump,” another one I did not understand the point of.

“Bringing Up Father.” That had a strangely drawn couple, Maggie and Jiggs. I guess they wee rich, and looked like they were from the early ’30’s. They always argued. Maggie would squint at him in a strange way, and try to hit him with a rolling pin. Sigh.”The Katzenjammer Kids,” that seemed like it was originated in the 1890’s or so. Not funny. “Pogo,” by Walt Kelly. I guess he was an actual liberal, who set his stories in the Okfenokee Swamp,; the gentle political humor probably went over my head at that age. He is famed for writing, “We have met the enemy and they are us.” “Dick Tracy” was always at the top of the first page. Very weird looking criminals with deformities of some sort, one looked like a lemon, one had spots all over his face. Dick Tracy and Sam Ketchum were the detectives. The two-way radio was the big thing, kids wanted one.

“Buck Rogers,” which I liked, but was in the other paper, so we rarely got it. “Flash Gordon” was similar. “Tarzan of the Apes,” I remember the announcer reverberating the title. I liked that one. The interesting thing to note is that most of these weekly comics were adventure story serials that one could follow. Since we may not have gotten the paper every day then, I had to try to figure out what was going on from one strip a week. I don’t think that they do those kind of continuing stories in the newspaper comics now,maybe those are the graphic comics. Then there were the strips which were meant to be funny, but note that there was none of he later sarcasm, or ironic or mocking cleverness of say, the ’70’ strips. They really were intended to be wholesome family entertainment, though they were only very occasionally laugh-out-loud funny.

Then of course there was “Peanuts,” which is its own genre, though of course many artists later tried to come close to it. Everybody is familiar with Charles Schulz’s brilliantly funny, charming, sometimes melancholy strips, which dominated the comics page from around 1958-1975 or so, though they preceded and succeeded that period. I would say that the absolute height of “Peanuts” was from about 1961-1968. I thought that they became more sentimental after that, though still sometimes charming. It was always the first thing one turned to on the comics page, and each year the strips were collected into volumes, which my parents got for my younger brother, who would finally let me read them after he did. I now have hardbound volumes, from about 1959-1967, each containing two years of strips. They are fun to read years later.

I do recall a period somewhat later, when my mother would daily read, “Rex Morgan, M.D,” “Brenda Starr,” and “Apartment 3G,” whose residents were Tommy Thompson, Lu Ann Powers, and Margo Magee; a redhead, blonde, and brunette, n that order. Why I remember all of this, I do not know. But I miss settling down with the funnies when I was little, because it was the only part of the paper I wanted to read. There was something comforting about seeing the same familiar strips, particularly with the colored weekend pages. I am sure that there are many people who have that same nostalgia for a comfortable Sunday morning reading them.

Oh, yes, the answers to my self-styled beautiful actresses quiz. (I know that one is supposed to say “female actor,” but it sounds less elegant, somehow). I would say that even allowing for different tastes, the five would be, in no order at all, Elizabeth Taylor, Gene Tierney, Marilyn Monroe, Hedy Lamarr, and my personal favorite among them, Eleanor Parker. Oh, I just thought of Lee Remick, so maybe six, and then of course Jean Simmons, perhaps my favorite actress of all, so now I have seven. And Jane Greer, of course, so… well, anyway, Hedy Lamarr was born to a Jewish family in Austria-Hungary but later converted to her first husband’s Catholic faith. Gal Gadot is playing her in a new movie. Elizabeth Taylor converted to Judaism when she married Eddie Fisher. Marilyn Monroe converted when she married Arthur Miller. Eleanor Parker converted to a sort of Messianic Judaism. I don’t think Marilyn Monroe was beautiful, but she was glamorous and legendary, so she is in there. I just liked the trivia aspect.