Peanuts and Pumpkins

Three years ago, New York Magazine’s website Vulture ranked all forty-five Peanuts animated television specials from worst to best, including a paragraph on each one to justify its ranking. I wouldn’t have guessed Charlie Brown, Linus, and Lucy appeared in fifteen television specials let alone forty-five. But let’s be honest; only two Peanuts adventures have had any staying power: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (#2 on Vulture’s list), and A Charlie Brown Christmas (#1).

Maybe I’ll weigh in on the Christmas special in a couple of months, but with Halloween on the horizon I need to speak to the runner-up. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown first aired on television in 1966, so those who were alive back then (me) have the chance to see it for the 56th time this year. But maybe not? The networks stopped showing Great Pumpkin two years ago.  Other than PBS in select locations, you’ll have to buy the DVD or subscribe to Apple TV+ to watch Charlie Brown get another rock in his trick-or-treat bag.

Writing about a Peanuts special dates me – there’s no question.  But it’s still worth the words.  The Peanuts gang was the comic strip of my youth.  I remember the anticipation of the Sunday morning newspaper and the “funnies” pages.  Charles M. Schulz and his Peanuts characters always got the first slot.  When the specials debuted in the mid-60s, it was a big deal.  It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown only showed up once a year, in mid-October.  We didn’t have DVRs (let alone streaming) back then, so watch it live or you’d miss it.  Peanuts specials were always the hot topic of conversation at grade school the next day.

After so many watches, Great Pumpkin becomes an interesting study.  You pick up on the little things, the ones which would implode under the weight of today’s social media scrutiny.  Right out of the credits, Linus & Lucy head to a patch to pick out a pumpkin.  On the way, Linus picks up an apple among the fallen leaves, takes a single bite, and tosses it into a trash can. (Unnecessary waste!).  In another scene, Lucy stabs a pumpkin with a giant knife as she begins carving (Children with weapons!).  Then Linus looks on in horror and says, “I didn’t realize you were going to kill it!” (Violence!)

Great Pumpkin touches on other themes to sink today’s children’s shows, including bullying, teasing, and casual use of words like “stupid” and “blockhead”.  Charlie Brown is the butt of several jokes, including Lucy pulling the football away just as he tries to kick, and the girls using the back of his head to draw a pumpkin carving design.  Yes, I laughed at these scenes when I was a kid, but only because I wasn’t that kid (and because it was the 1960s humor).

Here’s an oddity with Great Pumpkin.  You’d think a short animation would be a continuous story.  Not so.  Great Pumpkin jumps awkwardly between disconnected scenes, from carving pumpkins to trick-or-treating to a Halloween Party.  The middle minutes shift randomly to Snoopy acting out his costumed “World War I Flying Ace” in the middle of France.  It’s as if Great Pumpkin didn’t have enough Halloween material to fill a half-hour, or at least needed an excuse to include Snoopy in the story.

Finally, “the Great Pumpkin” itself is completely akin to Santa Claus, but for a different holiday.  Linus writes a letter to the Great Pumpkin to say he’s looking forward to the arrival on Halloween night and hoping for lots of presents.  The Great Pumpkin visits pumpkin patches the way Santa Claus visits houses.  There’s even a mention of “pumpkin carols”.  You’re left wondering why this figment of Linus’ imagination wasn’t a little more unique.

If you haven’t watched It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, I probably haven’t given you reasons to rush to your television.  It’s simple and disjointed, and the animation doesn’t win the show any awards (even in the 1960s).  But just like A Charlie Brown Christmas, the characters are endearing, and the story has a pretty good message.  I’ll probably find myself looking for it again next year.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Nature’s Constant Call

It wasn’t supposed to be this difficult.  Merely tweaking a former New Year’s resolution to create a new one should be the proverbial walk in the park.  But clearly, I wasn’t prepared for the, uh, “inconveniences” of my particular undertaking.  So it goes when you commit to drinking a dozen glasses of water a day instead of ten.

(Hey, give me a sec’… I’ll be right back.)

Are you a New Year’s resolution kinda person?  Do you sit down towards the end of the holidays and pen (or pencil, for you not-so-brave) a list of gonna-do’s for the coming year?  Me, I’m on the fence with the whole promises-promises thing.  Sure, turning the calendar from December to January evokes a fresh start; I’m just not convinced I must be “resolute” in the process.  I prefer casual, undocumented, safe-zone agreements.  Gonna eat better. Gonna get to the gym more. Gonna read a bunch of new books.  Whether I blow them out of the water or just achieve slightly better than last year, I win!

The water thing, though.  Why-oh-why did I read my latest fitness club newsletter and choose to drink their Kool-Aid?  (Wait, hang on… the phone’s ringing… it’s Nature again.)

Can you hear it? Does it make you want to…?

Forget the glittering generality of eight-glasses-per-day.  Not only is the rule passé, it holds no water.  Eight glasses is simply too generic for the myriad human bodies out there.  Ditto downing “half your weight in ounces of water” – too generic.  On the other hand, a pile of research and scientific evidence in my newsletter suggested the following: Men should consume 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids per day, while women should consume 11.5 cups (2.7 liters).

Now then, “fluids” includes all liquids swallowed in a day, so right away we have an appealing math problem.  Fluids from foods = 20% (just go with it), so my 15.5 cups instantly evaporate to 12.4.  A cup of coffee in the morning and a glass of wine in the evening can also be subtracted (don’t believe the dehydration claims – they don’t hold water).  However – and here we pause the calculator – I can’t escape the negative impacts of a) regular exercise (I sweat like a baby rainstorm), b) environment (Colorado = high altitude = dehydration), and c) breathing.  Those three moisture-robbers elevate me back to 12.4 cups.  Maybe I should stop breathing – that’s worth at least the 0.4 cup.

12 cups = 3/4 gallon

Ten cups a day – now that’s navigable waters in my book.  I start the morning with two (supposedly a good habit) as I wash down my multi-vitamin.  I drink another two mid-morning, another two at lunch, another two or three in the afternoon, and one at dinner.  But twelve cups?  How the heck do I jam another two into my schedule?  More importantly, where to I find the extra time to uh, um… (a little patience here, I need to talk to a man about a horse).

Time to get personal (as if we haven’t been already).  When I morphed from child to teenager to full-grown adult, my body parts grew accordingly, EXCEPT my bladder.  That little balloon remains the same size as when I was born – I’m sure of it.  The bladder is a remarkable organ, “capable of expanding from 2 to 6 inches with a capacity of 16 to 24 ounces”.  MY bladder is capable of expanding to 2 inches (a guess) with a capacity of 16 ounces (another guess).  And here’s the best part.  The urge to urinate comes when the bladder is one-quarter full. Whose idea of a cruel joke is THAT?  Do the math on me and I’m only halfway through cup #1 before I’m scheduling time with the porcelain goddess. Speaking of the goddess, uh… (hold tight while I go water the flowers).

About these down-the-hall interruptions: is it just me or does the sound of running water “accelerate” the process?  In my twelve-cups-a-day world, I continue to brush my teeth, make a cup of coffee, refill the dog bowl, refill the bedroom humidifier, and refill water bottles every time I go to the gym.  You’d better believe every one of those tasks has me wanting to go powder my nose – and I really don’t powder my nose if you know what I mean.  Gee whiz (for God’s sake, don’t say WHIZ!), can’t a guy catch a break that doesn’t have the word “bathroom” in front of it?

My fitness newsletter also claimed, “women who are pregnant or are breast-feeding need additional fluids to stay hydrated”.  Bless my stars, I am not a woman. But seriously, twelve cups?  I’ll be moving my laptop into another “office” in my house before I know it.  There’s more to say on this topic but it’s gonna have to wait because… (I need to make a pit stop).