Gnat went to see “Happy Feet” today with a friend; I was under the impression it was a movie about an oddball penguin who cannot sing but cuts the rug with amusing skill. I assume he is accepted at the end despite his idiosyncracies, since we need to learn that lesson from time to time. Every sixteen seconds, as it happens. If we do not remind everyone that it’s “okay” to be an individual we will all topple back into the gruel-colored sea of Conformity, waiting for Elvis to return from the dead and save us again. We’re always so close; it’s a miracle some people have the courage to leave the house with unpopular bands on their iPod, lest the Conformation suddenly strike before you can get home, and the grey-flannel-suit-clad Sameness Squad takes you aside to see if you’re listening to something other than a Clear-Channel approved song. We have a long way to go, of course, before we know we’re safe; I read the other day about a fellow who got a full-face tattoo and had troubles finding employment in the service industry. But he sounds like an individualist, you think. Alas: he used Maori imagery. Most people who get a full-face tattoo use Maori imagery. That’s right: conformists.

Anyway, the movie came down on the side of the little iconoclast, to my surprise. Cartoons usually preach giving in to the herd, the crowd, blending in, accepting the rules. You know, Felix or Bugs. I thought it was about dancing penguins, but it was actually about overfishing. To hear it recounted (by my wife, who endured the thing) it seems that the penguins were dying, a nice touch for a kid’s film, and the hero followed a fishing boat and ended up in a zoo then told everyone to stop fishing and so everyone stopped fishing and yay the day was saved.

Overfishing? I asked. They stopped overfishing?

No, they stopped fishing.

So now we have to apologize for serving fargin’ fish sticks, eh. Hell with it. Veal daily from now on. Veal for breakfast. Veal-O-Bits swimming in whale blubber.

I remember when animals were used as stand-ins for humans, to shed light on human behaviors and foibles; now animals are stand-ins for creatures more ethically advanced than humans. (See also, The Ant Bully. Or rather don’t; that movie said it was okay to be an individual as long as you were part of a collective, and no one ever had competing goals or ideas. Muddle-headed twaddle.) If the current filmmakers had made “Ol’ Yeller,” the dog would have been allowed to stay rabid and chew all the locals. Why, bitin’s what a dog does! And I wouldn’t say he was mad. Why, sometimes I think the crazy ones are the only sane folk around! And who are we to say what’s sane and insane, really, in a world where – AAHHH! JESUS CHRIST! HE BIT ME! GOD, GET HIM OFF!

The best part about the movies that celebrate the struggle of the individual, of course, are the blurbs: it’s the movie everyone’s talking about! Critics agree, “A Voice Alone” is a hit!

A rather lackluster weekend, but I got a few things done. Not enough, since I have five columns due tomorrow. (How did that happen? Took some time off for Thanksgiving, that’s how.) I woke late on Saturday so I made my own breakfast: four strips of bacon microwaved to perfection and one (1) microwaved pancake from the now-discontinued Perkins line.  The box said “35 seconds” for one pancake; experience taught me it needs a minute. After a minute the center was still cool. I would have given it 10 seconds, but ten seconds in a microwave never accomplishes anything. Put a butane-soaked hamster in a microwave for ten seconds and nothing would happen. So I gave it 20 seconds. Result: leather. I got out another one, put it in the toaster; when it was done in not only was cool in the center but disintegrated in my hands, as though the toaster had somehow sundered the molecular bonds.   By now the bacon was cold, and I’d eaten it while shuttling back and forth from table to microwave. Live large, I thought, and I put in two pancakes for the recommended time. They came out perfect. Lesson: you cannot cook a pancake alone. They are social creatures.

I ate one with Smucker’s Sugar-Free Syrup – as it turns out, with a name like Smucker’s, it doesn’t have to be good – and gave the dog the last piece of bacon, which by now was as cold and carbonized as something you’d find in the digestive system of that ancient man they found in a glacier a few years back. Then I went to finish putting up the lights, because I needed a subject for another column, and defeating every safeguard invented to please the Underwriters Laboratory seemed like a good one. Then I went to Target for the second time in as many days; bought Gnat the toys she had picked out the day before. While I was standing looking at the EZBake oven items, who to my wondering eyes should appear but the old Dark Chef, my cohort & producer at the KSTP Diner, Jeremy. (With his lovely bride in tow, too.) Haven’t seen him in a while,  but it took exactly 2.4 minutes for the conversation to turn to internal station politics and Star Trek. Then I left and checked out and was two miles away before I remembered I had intended to pick up EZBake oven items. Ah well. Amazon will help.

Let’s see. Anything else? Nope – although I did write a stupid piece of music based on a perky little sample I found in the Mellotron synth. In fact I spent half of Saturday night noodling around, and it was a welcome relief from words and pictures. I get sick of words and pictures.

So here’s some words and pictures! Via Cartoon Brew, a look at the worst Charlie Brown cartoons. Just in time for the holidays. I get a little tired of the elevation of “Peanuts” to the exalted pantheon of the Greatest Strips Ever; that thing coasted for a quarter of a century. I appreciate the innovations it brought to the page, and having seen more than my share of old microfiche comic sections, I can attest to how fresh and clean it looked when compared with the musty deadwood stacked around it. It was a lovely, heartfelt strip with a gentle soul, but genius it’s not.

But I do remember the strip that ran the other day in the paper; I liked it then and I like it now.

Anyway. I’ll see the Christmas special, although the effect diminishes over the years. The last time I watched the Halloween special, and noted how everyone gave Charlie Brown a rock for tricks-or-treat, I wondered what sort of malicious bastards lived in his neighborhood. Who gives a kid a rock? Ha ha! I see how your peers treat you, kid – let me reinforce your damaged self-interest with some igneous matter. Hey, did you know your parents had Sally because you were already a manifest failure at the age of four? Even though your speech and preternatural awareness of human psychology clearly mark you as someone quite special? Here, have another rock. Ya freak.

The Family Guy parody on that page, as usual,  misses the point. Charlie probably grew up to be normal. I’d guess they all ended up happy, or as happy as can be expected. Schroeder is an audio engineer, Lucy is a lawyer and living with Peppermint Patty and raising a boy, Linus got tenure, and Charlie Brown has a nice living maintaining legacy systems for IBM.

Off to write a million pieces; see you tomorrow. (New Quirk & Match, of course.)