Sunday, December 4, 2011

"City of Golden Roofs"

To be clear, when I wrote "new posts starting December seventh," this is NOT what I was referring to. We'll have something completely different on Wednesday. But it so happened that I recently reread this Barks story from and was immediately bitten by the duckblogging bug.


…and while you can clearly see Barks' preoccupation with questions of aging and losing one's touch in later stories (eg, "That's No Fable," "The Golden Nugget Boat," "North of the Yukon"), you wouldn't necessarily expect it in something as early as 1957. And yet, here it is.



So they have this contest in which they both have to start from scratch and try to make some money. The idea that you're going to accrue a Scrooge-esque fortune as a salesman seems questionable at best, but I like the fact that all of a sudden everybody is desperate for "those cushy salesman jobs." It would be understandable if Duckburg was in a recession (but even then: "cushy?"), but no, it seems as if everyone just really, really wants the opportunity to sell stuff.



"Shoeless Pashly." Not that this Pashly character has to be an Elvis-type musician, name notwithstanding, but the fact that he's some sort of calypso guy gives me the impression that Barks wasn't necessarily clear on the differences between the different kinds of music that The Kids are listening to These Days and just mashed it all together. Like a somewhat less sour version of Van Horn.



Hey! HEY HEY HEY HEY HEY! This is blatant cheating, goddamnit! Time to call the game in Donald's favor right here and now! The whole rest of the story might as well not even happen; the question has been decided. Man, this irks me. And it's not at all clear to me whether or not we're intended to see this in that light or not. The rest of the story suggests not, but if that's the case, then Barks has proven the opposite of the point he was trying to make in spite of himself.



I love Donald's "peeel that banana!" That's about all I have to say about that. This story is not unproblematic, but this bit's just delightful, and shows once again that Donald really does have a better handle on the culture than Scrooge does.



Ahem yes. So they find this hidden Angkor-Wat-type place with little difficulty. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about the depiction of the indigenous people here, because at a certain point you've said all you can say. It is what it is, and constantly harping on it just gets monotonous. I'll say here that, in spite of this dialogue, the people have a generally hip/modern sensibility to them; also, their dialect isn't consistent, with some bits like this and some where they're talking in more or less standard English. Probably no need to put more thought into it than Barks did.

(Though I suppose I'd be remiss if I didn't note that things like this are indicative of the spread of late capitalism.)



And here you realize that this story was in part inspired by the 1956 film version of The King and I, what with this Yul-Brinner-esque leader. Actually, I just realized this on this latest rereading of the story; it always went right over my head in the past.



So Scrooge concocts a plot to sell his stove...and an underhanded plot at that. Not that it violates the terms of the contest; after all, getting ahead normally does involve shady ethics. Still, it's hard to support Scrooge here.



I mean really: is this an honest way to make a buck? It bloody well isn't. Maybe the king would be willing to make that kind of payment, but you obviously don't think he would; otherwise, all this trickery would be unnecessary.



So Donald wins, right? Can't beat all this jewelry and ivory and gold coins and stuff, can you?



Hmph. I'm pretty darned sure that the craftsmanship that went into Donald's haul would elevate it above Scrooge's barrel-shaped lump of gold, even if it is a made-up number or karats.

It's hard to know what to make of a story like this. Unlike the similar "Golden Nugget Boat," Scrooge's triumph comes as a result of real real effort as opposed to sheer luck--I mean, ignoring for a moment the fact that he had disqualified himself long before this supposed victory. But is this "making it square?" Sure doesn't seem that way, yet I get the impression that we're supposed to admire his cunning as opposed to thinking he's just kind of a dick (I'm pretty sure I did when I read this as a young'un). Just another case study for our endless analysis of the unresolvable tension in Scrooge's character, I suppose.

But seriously: come back on Wednesday for more stuff. If you're the type of person who would regret it, I can pretty much guarantee you're also the type who wouldn't be reading this blog in the first place.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Chris Barat said...

Geo,

I assume that the calypso/bongo stuff in this story was at least partially inspired by the popularity of Harry Belafonte at the time. But I don't know that Harry was ever associated with bongos specifically. Preston Epps and his big hit "Bongo Rock" came along in 1959, while "Golden Roofs" was produced and released in '57, so maybe Barks was a bit ahead of the curve here.

"Bongo Rock": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBZJlVeEVeI

Chris

December 4, 2011 at 11:11 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Geo writes:
“I like the fact that all of a sudden everybody is desperate for "those cushy salesman jobs." It would be understandable if Duckburg was in a recession (but even then: "cushy?"), but no, it seems as if everyone just really, really wants the opportunity to sell stuff.”

Honestly, for the answer to this, just consider WHEN the story was written. It was a time when we can still assume that fewer eager young go-getters were college-educated than in modern times. And, given this AND a healthy consumer economy to boot, what better way was there go get ahead than as a hot-shot salesman?

And the jobs were more “cushy” than working as a laborer.

December 4, 2011 at 10:28 PM  
Blogger Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

Good points, Chris. There's certainly cultural context here I'm missing.

You may be right, Joe, and once again, I have to admit that we're talking about a milieu of which I have no first-hand knowledge. Still, the level of sheer desperation on the part of these would-be salesmen seems a bit much. But hey, that's not really a complaint; there's obviously comic exaggeration going on here...

December 4, 2011 at 10:53 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Yep, I'd say that's what it was intended to be! "Comic exaggeration", set atop a foundation of "truth of the times".

December 5, 2011 at 7:41 AM  

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