Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Head Must Be Loose! I Forgot Dr. Seuss!

Born March 2, 1904, Theodore Geisel would be 106 years old know him better as Dr. Seuss.

Geisel was born in Springfield, Mass. and was the son of a German immigrant who had inherited the family month before prohibition began. sigh.

He showed an early penchant for cartooning, and as a student at Dartmouth College, he contributed regularly to the college humor magazine "The Jack O Lantern", eventually becoming it's editor-in-chief. One day he was caught in his dorm room with a few friends enjoying that juniper berry flavored ambrosia known to the hoi polloi as gin. Again, this was during prohibition and he was punished by the school by being banned from all extra-curricular activities...including the "Jack O Lantern".

Being a proper German heritage-drunken-cartoonist-rebel (ya gotta love us) he continued his work there under his mothers maiden name. "Seuss". After he graduated, his work that appeared there was properly signed "Dr. Seuss".

The rest is history.

You all of course know the bulk of the good Dr.'s work. The author/illustrator of maybe the most beloved children's books known to man. "The Cat in the Hat", "Green Eggs & Ham", "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish", "Yertle the Turtle", "Horton Hears a Who" and "...Hatches the Egg", "The 500 Hats of "Bartholomew Cubbins" and on and on, including the perennial "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" are amazingly, just a few of the titles under his hat. I thought I'd run down some of his other work, outside the children's book medium.

One area I've just learned about, is his work in the advertising field in the mid-1930's. His most successful being for an insecticide named "Flit".

Apparently his catchphrase "Quick Henry...The Flit!" became quite a national phenom in it's day. More on this as I keep filling my head.

Another foray in the 1930's was his attempt at a newspaper comic strip. Called "Hejji" this strip on ran for a brief time in 1935. It's great to see the few examples I've seen. His work was so often relegated to economic 2 color printing in his children's books, it's nice to see his wonderfully quirky style in glorious 4-color.

Shortly after, he wrote the first of those great books you all know.

"And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street" is really fitting for a first I think. A cannon that eventually took us to so many amazing worlds and lands unlike our own, and the wonder of this book is all the amazing things you can see just outside your own front door. For all his metered rhymes and basic words that taught us all how to read, this kind of stuff is what I most appreciate learning from him.

Amazing things are everywhere!

A book that he produced later taught us all, that life is an adventure. Don't just take what is handed to you as "that's all there is"...those sights on Mulberry Street and more are everywhere that life takes us.

Open your eyes kid. Life is fun. It's not about paperwork.

SIDEBAR: One JO's Opinion:

This is not really about Dr. Seuss, but he reminded me of it. Something that's been sticking in my craw of late. If you don't care to hear it, skip down to the next bunch of blue letters and pick up where I left off.

For all you administrators and bureaucrats and management types out there. For all you drones out there who mindlessly and uncreatively live out your day by filling up the time until you die. To all you people proud of your "in" and "out" boxes filled with e-mails you uselessly printed out.

Listen closely.

Are you listening?

I'm serious, listen up.

Paperwork is NOT im-port-tant.

NOT. It really isn't.

No one is going to know that you signed and stamped and filed that piece of paper.


It's' NOT going to matter.


Not in 100 years. Not in 10 years. Not next week. Not 10 minutes after you're done.

NOT im-port-tant!

It's never going to matter.


Please continue existing ("living"'s too strong a word) as I suppose you have the right. Keep watching that'll be dead soon...don't worry.

But stop trying to convince me that what you do matters, one iota.

It doesn't.


During WWII, Dr. Seuss worked for the war department making propaganda material. The war department commandeered the animators over at Warner Bros. to make some cartoons for the soldiers to warn against such things as rumors, spies and booby traps and lessons on how to protect yourself from things like malaria and VD.

Dr. Seuss was brought in to write the first of these. So he created an "everyman" soldier the boys over there could relate to. Private Snafu (Situation Normal, All Fucked Up) starred in a dozen or so cartoons that were marked classified until sometime in the mid 1990's, now they're available for all to enjoy.

Here's a couple:

Great stuff!

In the 1950's he created a character to be used by UPA studios and distributed by Columbia. Only 4 of these were ever made, but they were wildly popular. Here's the first.

Gerald McBoing Boing:

Dr. Seuss had a wonderfully complex and creative mind. We lost a lot when he passed away, luckily he left us a lot too.

He even wrote a book for us too old to read his books. He called it his "book for obsolete children", and it's titled "You're Only Old Once". Get it. If you're 30 or 50 or 70 years old, this book's for you.

And it's from a Dr., after-all.

Thanks Dr. Seuss! You had a helluva run.

You made our childhoods happy, your cartoons and rhymes were fun!


I feel bad that I was a day late with my post for Dr. Seuss, there are a lot of birthdays this week in my head and I guess he got swept under the rug. So here's one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books/animated TV specials, "The Lorax".

If you're hesitant about spending $18 to see "Avatar" in iMax 3D, just watch's the same story.

Except Dr. Seuss did it first. And it rhymes.


Anonymous said...

Bravo Jeffy!

One JO to another, you hit it on the head with your commentary. I share your chagrin with people who endlessly shuffle paper, jerk off pencils and generally annoy others with e-mails that really mean nothing.

I will heed your call to action as I continue my journey at our shared place of employment. Humping a desk all day is not exactly my idea of fun, but your thoughts will ring in my mind daily.

Jeff Overturf said...


Mykal said...

Jeff: Seuss! My all-time favorite as a kid in kid-book land. Bartholomew and the Oobleck was my fave, with The Sleep Book coming in a brisk second. His sing-song patter sounded like ancient chants to me. Plus, I still love his cartooning. There remains a Dr. Seuss section in my home library, with many of my original childhood books.

Jeff Overturf said...

Great to hear, Mykal. Seuss was a true natural at his art both lyrically and visually. I still miss him.

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