Today I took the final exam and submitted my last paper for my English seminar course. Now, I have a single paper left on Nazis, and my final full semester is over. Why Nazis? because the only other option is to write about the Bush administration. If I attempt to do the latter, I will end up handing in a semi-coherent conspiracy theory piece that may as well be a corkboard with "HALIBURTON," "SOUTH OSSETIA," and "DICK CHENEY'S ROBOT HEART" connected by string wrapped around pins.
So, here's "Der Fuehrer's Face," a Donald Duck cartoon from 1943. I originally heard about its existence when I was eleven or twelve, from my mom's boyfriend, who heard about it on Howard Stern. Considering that I had grown up in the sanitized Cartoon Network era, after their purge of anything remotely "offensive" from their collection of classic animation, I refused to believe in it. I wouldn't encounter the wide world of pitch-black Holocaust jokes until high school and my complete disbelief was further supported by growing up a European Jew from Leningrad and taught that there is nothing funny about Hitler, ever. When a friend of mine tracked this down and showed it to me, around age sixteen or so, it blew my mind. It didn't feel like something anyone at Disney would ever have the balls to make, and yet here it was! Donald Duck the Nazi, just like mom's boyfriend said!
As with all of Disney's output during that period, it's a wonderful piece of music and animation regardless of the subject matter. While not particularly witty -- wartime propaganda rarely is -- it is rather funny. The conformity and uniformity of the Nazi regime tends to breed lazy satire, but this is quite the opposite; the animators imaginations are clearly firing on all cylinders and they thankfully set out to make a good cartoon as much as a piece of propaganda. Unfortunately, this is also a cartoon to which I must give the "product of its times" racism-pass and I'd rather go no further into that territory lest I end up turning the blog post into a dissertation on race and politics and then offhandedly mention Glenn Beck and have it turn from dissertation into that whole conspiracy-pinboard situation I am trying to avoid in the first place.
After nine splendid years of headaches, sore throats and money thrown toward my own demise, I've decided to Stop Smoking. Period. I spent the entire day on campus wearing a nicotine patch and it has been considerably less harsh than I thought it would be. I've “quit” twice before. The first time was a January several years back; it was a month-long group challenge of resolve, inspired by needing a month of recuperation from a December spent in the guise of Hedonismbot. The second time was just a few months ago when I stopped smoking for a week due to being more sick than I had ever been sick before. I was fine, honestly, until I had to actually leave the house and go to school, where I found myself surrounded by the vice. I gave in before the withdrawal tics turned me into a someone's Modern Dance thesis project.
...and now I'm done. Fin. Kaput. I swear that I will not turn into an evangelist and will still be as fervently pro-smoker's rights as I have ever been. I leave you with a small excerpt from David Sedaris' quitting essay “Letting Go” and one of the more bizarre Disney shorts I found while researching for this post on MetaFilter.
It’s one thing to give up smoking, and another to become a former smoker. That’s what I would be the moment I left the bar, and so I lingered awhile, looking at my garish disposable lighter and the crudded-up aluminum ashtray. When I eventually got up to leave, Hugh pointed out that I had five cigarettes left in my pack.
“Are you just going to leave them there on the table?”
I answered with a line I’d got years ago from a German woman. Her name was Tini Haffmans, and though she often apologized for the state of her English, I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any better. When it came to verb conjugation, she was beyond reproach, but every so often she’d get a word wrong. The effect was not a loss of meaning but a heightening of it. I once asked if her neighbor smoked, and she thought for a moment before saying, “Karl has . . . finished with his smoking.”
She meant, of course, that he had quit, but I much preferred her mistaken version. “Finished” made it sound as if he’d been allotted a certain number of cigarettes, three hundred thousand, say, delivered at the time of his birth. If he’d started a year later or smoked more slowly, he might still be at it, but, as it stood, he had worked his way to the last one, and then moved on with his life. This, I thought, was how I would look at it. Yes, there were five more Kool Milds in that particular pack, and twenty-six cartons stashed away at home, but those were extra—an accounting error. In terms of my smoking, I had just finished with it.
Back in Russia, my grandmother owned a piece of cutting-edge consumer electronics: a VCR. Along with the VCR, she also had a number of tapes with Disney and MGM cartoons. I can still remember my favorite two. One was 1936's “Thru the Mirror,” which starred Mickey Mouse and was inspired by (and featured a copy of) Lewis Carroll's book 15 years before the Disney film. The other was a Tom and Jerry spy parody entitled “The Mouse from H.U.N.G.E.R.”, an obvious take on 60s spy series The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. I was, apparently, born with an innate taste for referential media.