60s Popeye: Intellectual Interlude, as the world tries to cope with a smart Popeye


King Features’s YouTube channel again cuts off most of the credits for this week’s short. And yet, turning to the Internet Movie Database, I get a little more information than I usually have for a Gene Deitch-produced short. The direction is by Zeljko Kanceljack, the IMDB says. I don’t know how they know. Nevertheless, here fresh from 1961, is Intellectual Interlude. It’s got a nice, exciting title card.

Is Popeye smart? It’s not a question that allows for a definitive answer. The Thimble Theatre universe is set up so he will always be as smart as the plot requires. When Segar introduced him he seemed expert on sailing, as one would hope, if naive in other areas. He quickly picked up a Columbo-like ability to spot the evildoer even if he didn’t know what evil was doing. Often he’s clever, rigging together some funny gadget to fix the problem of the moment. But he’s usually portrayed as ignorant (a different thing from not-smart), and often as uninterested in changing that. This cartoon starts with a common portrayal of that: Olive Oyl loved the movie Sophisticated Ladies and Popeye couldn’t be paid to care about it. She pushes him to get some adult education.

In the second surprise of the cartoon — the first was that the title card fed into the opening scene — Brutus is not the teacher. There’s a normal teacher from outside the Popeye universe here to give him the dunce cap. This leads to another teacher, a chemist who gets Wotasnozzle’s voice. He’s working on some potion, as chemists always are, with the final ingredient of intellectual spinach. All he needs is the test case, someone not allergic to spinach. Who does that sound like?

Popeye slumps deep in the chair he's tied to, while a purple-clad head villain leans well past horizontal to sneer into his eyes. In the background a taller, black-clad henchman watches, and next to both of them is a gigantic red-shirted bruiser with a small head and even tinier face, smiling at the prospect of punching out Popeye.
So all that budget saved by showing still pictures of newspapers with incorrect dates? It went into scenes like this, where everybody makes wildly unrealistic moves in these great flowing waves of action. It’s quite fluid and a demonstration of how animation can be limited and stylized without being boring or bad.

So this is a dream cartoon; we learn at the end that everything from Popeye getting the dunce cap is a fantasy. Did you suspect it? I didn’t, particularly. Super-Intelligent Popeye seems like something within the normal bounds of his universe’s antics. After a montage of newspaper headlines that I bet were kind to the animation budget we get some spy antics. Secret agents in helicopter 13-K abduct Popeye and demand he work for them. They’ve also got Olive Oyl, to make sure he goes along with it. When they dangle Popeye and Olive Oyl off a cliff, Popeye pops some spinach out of his chest. It’s the first time in a Gene Deitch cartoon I remember him carrying spinach on him, rather than depending on the environment. (The potion really did make him smarter!) We get the boing sound effect from the Gene Deich Tom and Jerry cartoons and it’s only when Popeye’s punched off the cliff to an infinite fall that he wakes up. Also somehow he and Olive Oyl had the same dream.

I didn’t notice any of the usual tip-offs that a story’s become imaginary. It didn’t even have Popeye facing too titanic a problem to wrap up. I mean, he’s Popeye and he’s just eaten spinach. He could crash onto the ground below, pull himself out of the Popeye-shaped hole and shake his head. Have him shake his head at that blow and reveal the super-smarts have worn off and we’ve resolved it all well. I don’t see why Deitch didn’t do that, and I’m sorry not to be able to ask him. (If he would remember.)

Statistics Saturday: How Artists Spend The Time On Their Pictures


Pie chart showing small wedges for 'Filling Out Figures' Volumes', 'Background', 'Textures', and 'Shading, Countershading, Special effects'. More than four-fifths of the pie is 'Redrawing and Erasing the Same Four Lines for the Initial Loose Figure Skeleton, While Swearing'.
Not pictured: making funny faces at their web camera (for reference); making funny faces at their web camera (to stave off fury); fingers.

Reference: Chance of a Lifetime: Nucky Johnson, Skinny D’Amato and How Atlantic City Because the Naughty Queen of Resorts, Grace Anselmo D’Amato.

In Which I Am Terror-Stricken


Woke up in the middle of the night, first to a very complicated dream where we visited an old house and the new owners had taken all the sinks and bathtubs out of the bathrooms, but left the water running and you were supposed to use them to wash up anyway even though, like, there was a bare counter with a small hole for a sink, or a rattan sofa under the shower head. Never mind. I also had the thought: wait, did I lift that “The Case For/The Case Against” format from Dennis Miller’s early-90s talk show after all? Or did I in fact lift it from Chevy Chase’s early-90s talk show instead? I can imagine either one of them reeling off lines in that format, so there’s no way to tell. I guess ask them, in case I have to make small talk with Dennis Miller and/or Chevy Chase, but what are the odds of that?

MiSTed: Safety First (part 6 of 16)


I resume again my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction treatment of Johnny Pez’s Isaac Asimov fanfiction “Safety First”. The story so far: Robot troubleshooters Mike Donovan and Greg Powell are on the floating Venusian terraforming station. Arthur, the station’s chief Robot is trying to get the humans to leave already before they get killed. But how to get the terraforming done if there aren’t any humans around to supervise?

The cry of The Year 2018! references James Blish’s novel They Shall Have Stars, which had an alternate publication title of Year 2018!. The story has humans building a bridge on Jupiter for obscure reasons, which explains Crow’s follow-up riff. You know, if I had a nickel for every science fiction novel from before 1980 that I’ve read that’s specifically and explicitly set in the year 2018, I would have only two nickels, which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it happened twice.

The talk about the “Environmental Control” panel and the Monolith tool are references to SimEarth. The “offog came apart in warp” references Eric Frank Russell’s classic sf shaggy-dog story Allamagoosa.


>
> When he was done, Powell said, "Mike, the creativity of your
> profanity never ceases to amaze me."

TOM: Now if your profoundity could do half as well we’d be somewhere.

>
> "I’ve got an endless source of inspiration here," said
> Donovan in frustration,

CROW: "I’m a Red Sox fan."

> indicating the dormant robot. "For Pete’s
> sake, Greg,

TOM: Wait, Pete’s not here.

> what’s it going to take to convince these metal morons

CROW: I’m starting to take his attitude personally.

> that the station’s not going to crash into the surface of Venus in
> the next ten minutes?"

TOM: We could crash it in the next five minutes. That’d show him.

>
> "If we figure *that* out," said Powell, "we’ll have the
> Reluctance Problem licked."

JOEL: Wait, I’ve got it! Quick, get me an aquarium, five gallons of talcum powder, two eggs, and a bathing suit!

>
> It was a major embarassment for U. S. Robots. Two years
> before,

TOM: The year 2018!

> the Earth’s Regional governments had agreed to embark on the
> Aphrodite Project,

CROW: As soon as they were finished with that bridge on Jupiter.

> an ambitious attempt to terraform Venus.

JOEL: There are halfhearted attempts to terraform Venus?

> It would
> take decades of effort before Venus’s greenhouse climate would change
> enough to allow human settlement.

TOM: It’d go faster if humans got over their hangup about rivers of molten lead.

> Dozens of "bubble buoys" were
> floating through the hot, dense atmosphere of Venus, each with a

CROW: John Travolta of their own…

> cargo of genetically engineered algae that fixed the gases into solid
> particles that drifted down to become part of the planet’s soil.

TOM: Then, they’ll go to the "Environment Control" panel, turn down the greenhouse effect, and use the Monolith Tool to drop some multicellular life forms.

> Eventually there would be hundreds, then thousands,

JOEL: Then dozens, then they’d go back to trying thousands again.

> of buoys floating
> throught the atmosphere, all launched from Aphrodite Station.

TOM: Except one for good luck.

>
> Everything had been going on schedule until

CROW: Day two.

> sixteen days
> before, when an explosion had rocked the station,

JOEL: Just one of those explosions you get now and then.

> causing a sudden
> loss of buoyancy that had sent it plunging several kilometers down
> into the atmosphere.

TOM: And shaking the camera viciously.

> The explosion had been caused by an unlikely
> series of equipment failures,

CROW: Starting when their offog came apart in warp.

> and steps had indeed been taken to
> prevent anything like it from happening again.

TOM: By installing a gigantic space hammock under them.

> But the hundreds of
> robots that carried out most of the station’s routine work had been
> traumatized by the event,

JOEL: They shouldn’t have hired robopsychologist Gilligan to help.

> and they had all decided that the station
> was too dangerous for human occupancy.

CROW: A vicious crackdown by the Robo-Home Owners Association.

> Until they were shut down,

[ TOM, CROW boo. ]

> they had been intent on gently forcing the station’s eighteen human
> occupants

TOM: To wear frillier garments.

> to board the docked space shuttle and leave.

JOEL: Just… head off somewhere.

CROW: Yeah, most humans are fine left to themselves like that.

>
> "It’s impossible," Donovan continued. "How can we prove to
> them that we’ve thought of everything that could go wrong?

TOM: You could challenge them to prove they haven’t thought of nothing that could go right and work backwards.

JOEL: *What?*

> Nobody
> can think of *everything* that could go wrong!

CROW: Just wander around saying, "At least nothing else can go wrong," and then you’ll find out.

> And if we can’t get
> the robots to go back to work,

JOEL: We’ll have to get the work to go back to the robots!

TOM: Now I’m just confused.

> they’ll have to abandon the whole
> Aphrodite Project!"

CROW: They shouldn’t abandon it. They should return the unused part for a full refund.

>
> "It’s a pity the robots can’t run the station by themselves,"

TOM: They could if they’d hire Uniblab.

> said Powell. "That would solve the problem quickly enough."
>
> "If only," said Donovan ruefully. A fully roboticized
> station had been one of the possibilities floated by the Project
> director,

TOM: Name withheld to protect our sources.

> but U. S. Robot’s Director of Research, Dr. Alfred Lanning,

JOEL: Ph.D., J.D., M.Sc., L.L.C., RSTLNE.

CROW: And the fabulous Dancing Lannette Girls!

> had vetoed the idea. There would be too many complex decisions
> involved in running Aphrodite Station for robots to cope with it.

CROW: For example, guiding the robots in case the algae stampede.

> The station required a human presence,

TOM: And a woman’s touch.

> and would for the foreseeable
> future.

JOEL: The forseeable future of this forseen future?

>
> On the other hand, staffing the station entirely with humans
> would cause the Project’s costs to quadruple at least,

CROW: It’d take a small fortune just to transport their Pokemon cards.

> and the
> Regional governments were unwilling to maintain such an expense.

JOEL: What if they just tuck it in under "petty cash"?

> It
> had to be a mixed crew of humans and robots.

TOM: And puppies.

>
> "I don’t suppose we could replace all the current crew of
> robots

CROW: Depends with what. With other robots, fine. With race-winning hamsters, no go.

> with new ones that don’t know about the accident," said
> Donovan.

CROW: Ooooh. Them.

JOEL: The way robots gossip? You’ll never find any that haven’t heard.

>
> Powell shook his head. "That would cost as much as replacing
> them with humans. The budget people would never go for it."

CROW: What if we replace the budget people with robots?

>
> "There must be something we can do. What if they just didn’t
> remember the accident?"

TOM: Then they’d have to remember it on purpose!

>
> Powell thought it over,

JOEL: Hummmmmmmmmmmmmmm… ding!

> then reached forward and switched on
> the robot’s power supply.

CROW: Non-system disk or robot error.

>
> Arthur’s photocells lit up,

TOM: Artoo! Where are we? Oh, my!

> and he said, "I must evacuate all
> the humans from this station. Please reactivate my motor controls."

TOM: He needs his wheels, man.

>
> "Arthur," said Powell. "This is a direct order.

JOEL: Listen very carefully now. Flubbityblubblediflufflubbeeblubble!

> You must
> erase everything from your memory between this moment and a period
> exactly seventeen days ago."

CROW: Oh, except for — oh, drat it.


[ to continue … ]

Oh also it turns out GoComics carries Miss Peach now


While doing something I now forget I noticed that GoComics carries Mell Lazarus’s comic strip Miss Peach. In repeats, of course, as the comic ran from 1957 to 2002, and Lazarus himself died in 2016.

I don’t know when they added the strip. GoComics used to make a fuss when it added a comic strip. But the last few years I’ve learned about new additions mostly from Daily Cartoonist. Digging through the GoComics archive it looks like they probably added it in late October last year, a time when I’ll agree I was distracted with, you know, everything. There are a smattering of strips in the deep archive, with dates from March 1988 through September 2002; I don’t know whether this includes the final original strips. And I can find some strips with comments dated “over three years ago” so good luck working this out.

I’m glad to see it added, though, first because I like comics and appreciate vintage strips getting fresh attention. But also this is a comic strip I have heard about my whole life but never seen in any newspaper. This including the time in the 90s that I subscribed to a shoddily-run weekly newspaper that was only syndicated comic strips. So I’m glad to have the chance to appreciate what the fuss was about.

Girl coming up to 'Arthur's Election Poll Service': 'Arthur, how often do you take a poll?' Arthur, sitting at a computer: 'Every five minutes. Oops ... Dukakis is finishing his lunch and he's reaching for a toothpick ... He just slipped 4% ... '
Mell Lazarus’s Miss Peach repeat for the 18th of May, 2022. Originally run the 19th of October, 1988. So, for those too young to remember it, this is a correct representation of how stupid and petty the 1988 Presidential Election was.

Or some echo of the fuss. Right now GoComics is running strips from 1988. This I imagine, unburdened by actual knowledge, reflects when the original strips were picked up by Creators Syndicate. But that’s also comics from the 31st year of the strip. There are exceptions but usually a comic strip in its fourth decade has settled into being warm and familiar and pleasant rather than compelling. But there are also charms in a comic strip that assumes it already has you as a friendly, cozy audience.

I also can’t tell you what audience it has on GoComics. Most strips there have an “about” page, so that you can enjoy whatever delight comes from knowing 67,309 other people are subscribed to Herman repeats. There’s no such link for Miss Peach, though. Me, all I want from a Comics “About” page is a list, with pictures, of the main and secondary characters. Please, cartoonists, do this for your readers. Or please, cartoonists’ literary estates, do it.

Also somebody needs to start running Walt Kelly’s Pogo online. It’s amazing such an important comic strip is so hard to link people to.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? Is anything real happening in The Phantom? February – May 2022


For most of the last year Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom weekday continuity has been an imaginary story. A story of how the current, 21st, Phantom could die. It’s Tony DePaul’s chance to tell a story that probably couldn’t be done in-continuity. Not with how much The Phantom Publishing Empire sprawls, even if King Features Syndicate were brave enough to let the star of its … fourth-oldest(?) … comic strip die. (Barney Google, Popeye, and Blondie are older; any others? Not counting Katzenjammer Kids as it’s no longer in production.)

So almost all these events have been Mozz’s vision of how, if The Phantom rescues Savarna Devi from death row, incredible disaster follows. The death of the 21st Phantom, but also of the whole line of The Phantom. But “actual” things have happened. The Phantom’s told Diana that Captain Savarna is in Gravelines Prison, and that he means to get her out before she’s executed. Diana agrees this is the only thing to do. (Savarna was key to breaking Diana Walker out of Gravelines, in a story that ran eighteen months, from 2009 to 2011.)

Mozz walks through Skull Cave, thinking: 'My CHRONICLE has the power to alter the destiny of the 21st Phantom! Holding him here was the key ... and now DECEPTION must be the banner I fight under! As I battle on to save him from himself ... '
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 26th of April, 2022. Mozz’s certainty that he hasn’t done enough yet has yet to be explained. Savarna learning where Jampa was, but not why he must not be killed, relied on several contingencies. I’m sure DePaul has some reason in mind that Mozz’s scenario — which started with events that have already been avoided — is still a menace.

Mozz insists on another day or two to finish his chronicle, one to be kept with the Phantom Chronicles. He snipes at The Phantom for telling Diana where Savarna is, spotting it as a way to get himself pushed to free Savarna whether or not that’s wise. And he admits to himself (and the reader) that holding The Phantom back is essential to saving him, and that “Deception must be the banner I fight under”. How that turns out, I don’t know yet. Tony DePaul wrote back in February that he had the current chapter — 23 weeks, stretching from the 18th of April through the 24th of September — scripted. This story, Phantom’s End, sees the Ghost Who Walks die, in prophecy. And that there are three more chapters to follow that.

So this should get you up to speed on The Phantom, weekday continuity, for mid-May of 2022. For the Sunday continuity, or if you’re reading this after about August 2022, a more relevant plot recap may be here. That link is also good in case I get any news about the strip.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

28 February – 14 May 2022.

Last time, in my recaps, Mozz had shown Captain Savarna Devi killing Chief Constable Jampa. This in revenge for Jampa, decades earlier, killing her family and stealing her family’s ship and enslaving her. Though Jampa’s not much loved, he is a “keystone” figure, as Kyabje Dorje — head of the Nyamjang Chu monastery where Kit Junior studies — describes. Invaders from the unnamed North, whom Kyabje had been holding off, take the killing of Jampa as provocation. Kyabje and Kit Junior beat back their assassins easily. They’re helpless to fend off the aerial bombardment a week later, one that kills Kyabje, and many people in the mountain city.

A person groans, from the injuries he's taken in air bombing. He took out a phone and started a call. Kit Junior picked it up, saying, 'Hello?' ... I'm sorry, I --- I don't know your language ... I can't ... ' Kit Jr stands amidst the destruction, muttering, ' ... can't help you ... '
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 12th of May, 2022. The color adds to this, but even without, this is an amazing daily strip, with incredible power in that last panel. It sells this as the moment Kit Junior became a different person.

Also killed, Mozz explains, is the part of Kit Junior that would make a Phantom: his youth, his generosity, his goodness. He becomes a legend, commander of guerrilla forces “on a disputed frontier”, killing many to avenge the murdered city.

Heloise, Mozz explains, refuses to become the 22nd Phantom. Something not yet revealed causes Kadia to kill herself. Between the pain of that, and of Kit Junior’s turn away from the Deep Woods, she rejects The Phantom legacy. She leaves for the United States, never telling her children of the Deep Woods or the Phantom or any of this. Diana Walker leaves, takin a permanent post in New York City, refusing to be part of The Phantom’s life anymore.

And in what apparently is to be Phantom’s End — begun as promised the 18th of April — The Phantom journeys into Asia to confront his son-gone-wrong. And it somehow connects to the strange hallucinatory landscape where The Phantom faced a demon-image of his own father. This in the 2020 story of The Llongo Forest.

The Phantom: 'Mozz, does anything at all go my way in this vision of yours? Now, I suppose, you're going to tell me I don't find Kit?' Mozz: 'In a manner of speaking, Phantom ... he finds you.' Mozz holds up his Chronicle, which shows a sketch of the strange surreal tableau from The Phantom's hallucinatory encounter with his ancestors.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 9th of April, 2022. Wait, this is another strip where the second panel is shorter then the first and third, but overlaps it left to right … is this a flash forward or … you know, I’m writing this after midnight, I need to let go and allow the story to happen. Sorry.

A hallmark of this story has been how it’s told out of order. Not just that it’s The Phantom hearing Mozz’s prophecy. But we get pieces of the prophecy and then come back to fill them in. Hearing the fact of Kadia’s suicide, for example. Mozz writing out how The 21st Phantom’s body is buried. The mountain city being bombed, seen first from Kit Walker’s perspective months ago (our time) and now from Diana Walker’s this week. The Phantom’s campaign for governor falling apart when he’s found in a love nest with a “singer”. I’ve tried to untangle that, as my mission is the draining of all storytelling to leave a list of events behind. But if you find the story confusing between now and my next plot recap, I recommend re-reading in blocks of a week or a month at a time. And looking to see where DePaul has said what happened, and whether the story is fleshing that out. If a major event seems to have been written off in a single panel, there’s reason to think the strip will come back to that.

Next Week!

Will Prince Valiant overcome his greatest menace yet: the Comics Kingdom redesign that makes the Sunday strips illegible if you have an actual computer and read the strips on your Favorites page? Oh, also Morgan Le Fey? We’ll find out as I recap Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant. Unless Comics Kingdom cancels my subscription because I will not stop complaining about their lousy redesign and even worse customer support.

In Which I Politely Ask the Ghost of Brock Adams to Stop Haunting This Blog


I do not know what strange convergence of occult forces drove my brain to remember one dumb little joke about disgraced Senator Brockman Adams for thirty years until I could deposit it on your doorstep two days ago.

Separately to all of that, GoComics has been running Berkeley Breathed’s Outland. And it’s in that era when it had given up on being a new comic and was just Sunday Bloom County But With Way Too Much Of That Cockroach Instead Of The Interesting Or Likable Characters. And we got to this.

Opus and Bill the Cat, sitting behind a booth for their Presidential campaign, to a woman strolling past: 'Madam, let me outline what we'll feature if elected. Health care! Chilcare! Warfare! Welfare! Cab fare and hair care! All free. Free! Free! Free! Free! Thank you very much!' Woman: 'Listen, after Jack Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, and Brock Adams, I'm voting for somebody with *less*!' Opus, stunned, says, 'Less?' He reaches over the edge of the booth to scratch out cat, and writes in 'Eunuch'. Opus says to Bill, 'stop grinning, booger-face!'
Berkeley Breathed’s Outland repeat for the 16th of May, 2022. Originally run the 5th of April, 1992. You know, once I heard about the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon I started to see examples of it everywhere.

I suppose that I’m glad to be present at the peak of mentions of Brock Adams since his death in 2004, so, yeah, pleasant enough work there, universe. I would prefer to be at the peak of “Joseph Nebus, having won $275,000 in the lottery” mentions, though, if we could arrange that instead.

60s Popeye: Have Time, Will Travel, a rich subtle web of continuity


Now in King Features’s YouTube channel we’ve entered a strange space. They’ve decided to cut opening credits, not just from the first video, but from all of them. I had to resort to the Internet Movie Database to confirm that this was a Gene Deitch cartoon, although I kinda knew already. IMDB does say the short was directed by Darko Gospodnetic, which I think is the first specific credit I have for any of the Deitch cartoons. Also, that this is a 1961-produced cartoon, which may explain one mystery. Here we Have Time, Will Travel.

And a content … advisory. I’m not sure it rises to the level of warning. In the short Popeye and Olive Oyl get caught by a tribe of … Neanderthals Or Something I Guess. It’s playing with the tropes of the “primitive cannibal(?) tribe”. It didn’t quite trip over the point of too much, for me. But you should be aware if you are more alert than I am to the racial ideas bundled into the basic idea of showing “primitive tribes”.

I like this cartoon and I can’t quite say why. Energy, I suppose. Watch it with the sound off; there is all sorts of movement, all this vitality to it. It hits a good midpoint between the wild energy of a Jack Kinney short and the strong discipline of Paramount Cartoon Studios. The premise is a great one — Popeye with dinosaurs, always a winner — carried out half-well. Somehow we get off dinosaurs and into a mean tribe like could happen, only more racist, without Popeye having to leave his era at all. And we get a lot of odd stray moments. I imagine that, as a kid, I’d accept without question Popeye ordering a time machine out of a catalogue. That it’s a tinker-toy construction? That’s weird for the sake of weird and you might need to be an adult to notice how arbitrary that is.

Also arbitrary: for some reason Olive Oyl’s house hasn’t got any heat. I’d so like to know, was this in the first draft of the story? Or was it fit in so that there’d be something to do with the Neanderthal’s spears, once those were put into the story? Or was the tribe put in because they had to give something for Olive Oyl to burn? (But then why not have Popeye and Olive Oyl escape, and them burn the time machine in frustration for putting them in a scrape?)

Popeye and Olive Oyl sitting on the bare seats of a time machine made of what appears to be tinkertoys. It has a large square seat back, and a triangular-prism out front, but it's mostly just a wireframe figure.
That shape there is a loose allusion to the time machine of the 1960 movie, right?

Popeye dubs the first dinosaur they encounter, the one they pull a thorn from the foot of, “Oscar”, saying he reminds him of a guy he knows in Brooklyn. This is an intriguing continuity moment. In the comic strip there’s a regular minor character, Oscar, there to be the dopey incompetent sidekick Popeye sometimes needs. Oscar’s barely made it to the cartoons; I think he has one or two appearances as a background character. Is that the Oscar we’re supposed to think of when we see a brontosaurus?

I want to shrug that off as a meaningless coincidence. But Popeye opens the short by saying how if Professor O G Wotasnozzle can build a time machine so can he. Wotasnozzle’s time machine was a recurring setup to put Popeye in weird situations, including facing yet another dinosaur. But this was a recurring gimmick of Jack Kinney cartoons. Gene Deitch (or someone working for him) was aware of what the other studio had done, and trusted that kids would remember that, and chose to explain why they weren’t using Wotasnozzle’s time machine. I was startled enough by the second Roger The Talking Dog cartoon recapping the first for everyone. (Though Roger postdates this cartoon.) Why did Deitch want his cartoons to connect even to other studios’ Popeye cartoons?

A brontosaurus cries out in pain at the tiny thorn in their paw. Popeye leans in, looking at this, dangerously small and close to being underfoot.
I think this is also how Alley Oop met Dinny. (I actually don’t know and can’t find their story offhand.)

As I said at the top, I liked this short. The energy is a big piece. But it could also be these tossed-off hooks to other Popeye stuff. They’ve got me engaged and thinking about the short in ways a lot of these cartoons don’t.

I like the tribe folk shrugging off spinach as “dinosaur cabbage”. Fun little bit. Of course we all know spinach was only bred about two thousand years ago but we have to accept there’s worse anachronisms here. As Doc Wonmug explained when he first learned Alley Oop lived with dinosaurs, there’s stuff we haven’t heard about yet.

Statistics Saturday: Things I Remember About Dennis Miller’s Short-Lived Early-90s Talk Show


  • Dennis Miller had a short-lived early-90s talk show, but so did every white guy in America, must be admitted.
  • So this one time a Senator(?) named Brockman Adams had to resign because it turned out eight women reported times he molested them, and Dennis Miller did a little sing-along bit at the start of his Weekend Update-ish segment where he sang to the tune of The Addams Family, “It’s creepy and it’s kooky, mysterious and spooky, it’s altogether ooky, Brock Adams’s sex life!” which is the sort of tasteful thoughtful joke we were making about rape, molestation, and drugged drinks in the early 90s.
  • Dennis Miller had this The Case For/The Case Against format to make some quick punchy jokes about some topics.
  • Only, wait, Senator (sic) Brock Adams resigned in early 1993 and Dennis Miller’s show ended in … July 1992 according to Wikipedia? But, like, I remember him singing that song so clearly, can I be remembering him on a different show? What other show would he be doing news-of-the-day jokes about though?
  • Yeah Miller did a Weekend Update-ish bit in the middle of the show probably because if he didn’t they wouldn’t have let him have a show.
  • Okay okay that’s got it it, Brock Adams didn’t resign, he just didn’t run for reelection, after the allegations came out in March and April 1992 so now the timing makes sense.

Okay so that’s six things I remember about Dennis Miller’s short-lived early-90s talk show. Well, it’s four things I have remembered in place of literally anything else, plus two things I have learned about Brock Adams while figuring this out. Good playing, all.

Reference: A House Called Morven: Its Role In American History, Alfred Hoyt Bill, Walter E Edge, Revised by Constance M Greiff, Postscript Bolton F Schwartz.

In Which I Realize Two Horrible Things About That Pairwise Brackety Contest


This week I realized two things resulting about my March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing. The first is that I just lifted the “Case For/Case Against” presentation format from Dennis Miller’s short-lived early-90s talk show, where doing comparisons that way was a recurring bit. He didn’t have the specific element of putting pairs of things against one another, but still, the idea of listing a good thing and a bad thing about a thing? Totally his thing.

Also, this means that I remember something else about Dennis Miller’s early-90s talk show, bringing the number of things I remember about it up to like … four? Five? Anyway, more than anyone who isn’t Dennis Miller or his biographer needs to have on hand.

MiSTed: Safety First (part 5 of 16)


At last Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction treatment of Johnny Pez’s Isaac Asimov fanfiction “Safety First” has reached the start of Johnny Pez’s Isaac Asimov fanfiction “Safety First”. Please do not panic. The story is set in the world of the I, Robot collection, one of the Powell-and-Donovan series about people who figure out why robots aren’t doing their jobs. This story is set in the far-future world of … uh … 2020.

“Safety First” was originally published in August 2001. As alluded to in Johnny Pez’s note, he rewrote it some from a suggestion of mine. And somehow the new draft was posted the 13th of September, 2001, when you’d think we would have anything else to think about. To give you some idea how weird and confusing and scary a time it was to do something normal like posting fanfics or getting permission to riff them? It was like living in today, only back then.

The “seventh law” Joel references is ripping off one of the “Li’l Folks” panel strips Charles Schulz did before Peanuts. A prototype Charlie Brown gave the warning to a proto-Snoopy before bed.

I don’t know that Pez named the robot “Arthur” in a reference to Arthur C Clarke but I would not be surprised if he did. Joel saying he almost named Crow “Arthur” alludes to his Art nickname.

At no point in this fan fiction involving a robot named Arthur do I reference any of the Kinks songs from the album Arthur (Or, the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). I apologize for my error.


[ THEATER. ALL file in. ]

TOM: I can’t wait for this.

> From: johnn…@aol.com

CROW: The 9 is to distinguish him from all the other Johnny Pezzes on AOL.

> (Johnny Pez)
> Newsgroups: alt.books.isaac-asimov
> Date: 13 Sep 2001

JOEL: Two years after the Moon was blasted out of orbit.

> 05:40:49 GMT
> Subject: Safety First – version 2.0

TOM: They fixed the bug where the first version ran with scissors.

>
> As requested by Joseph Nebus, here is "Safety First" with a
> middle added.

JOEL: Thanks, Joseph, we needed more adventure in our lives.

>
> "Safety First"

TOM: Line dancing second.

>
> By Johnny Pez

[ JOEL hums the "Jonny Quest" theme. ]

TOM: Johnny Pez.

>
> The Three Laws of Robotics.

CROW: The *what*?

TOM: *Laws*? On *us*?

JOEL: I knew we’d have to have this talk someday.

>

TOM: Since when do we follow laws?

CROW: Can’t we write to our Congressman or something?

JOEL: You don’t even know what they are yet.

> 1. A robot may not injure a human being,

CROW: Except Val Kilmer.

[ TOM snickers. ]

> or, through
> inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

[ TOM, CROW titter. ]

JOEL: I don’t have a good feeling about this.

>
> 2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings

[ CROW laughs openly. ]

TOM: [ Giddy ] You know, alphabetical, numerical, that sort of thing.

> except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

CROW: [ Through laughs ] Yeah, would you like fries with that?

>

JOEL: See, I told you guys you had to clean the load pan bays.

[ TOM, CROW quiet for a moment, look at JOEL, and resume laughing. ]

> 3. A robot must protect its own existence

CROW: [ Calming down ] By going back in time and seeking out Sarah Connor.

> as long as such
> protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

JOEL: And if there’s nothing good on TV.

TOM: Fourth Law. A robot must be allowed to win when playing "Sorry."

CROW: Fifth Law. A robot must be darned cute and, where possible, a pleasing golden yellow in color.

TOM: Ahem. Sixth Law. Red, hovering robots get to pick which cartoons we’re watching today.

JOEL: [ Touching their shoulders ] Seventh Law. The robots are to knock off that coming into my room, turning off the alarm clock, and going back to sleep, OK?

CROW, TOM: [ In unison, dutifully ] Yes, Joel.

[ CROW and TOM snicker. ]

>

> Aphrodite Station,

JOEL: It’s a beautiful place.

> Venus AD 2020

CROW: Is it Tuesday? It feels like a Tuesday.

TOM: Venus A.D.! This fall on CBS.

>
> Michael Donovan

JOEL: [ Raising his hand ] "Present."

> glared out at the always-changing cloudscape
> visible beyond the viewport.

CROW: And conversely did not glare out at the cloudscape not visible not outside the viewport.

JOEL: What?

> He and Gregory Powell had been here on
> Aphrodite Station for two days,

TOM: But days on Venus are over a year long.

> and they were no closer to solving
> the Reluctance Problem than they had been to begin with.

TOM: Did you try saying "please"?

JOEL: Or taking away their "Tiny Toons" videotapes?

CROW: Hey!

>
> Behind him, Powell was in the middle of interviewing robot
> RTR-17.

JOEL: [ As Powell ] "So if you did get the job, what do you think you could bring the Burger King corporation?"

>
> "Arthur," said Powell,

CROW: [ Snickering ] A robot named Arthur.

JOEL: I almost named you Arthur.

[ CROW’s beak hangs open. ]

TOM: Dudley Moorebot 6000.

> "you know perfectly well that
> Aphrodite Station was never in any serious danger of losing total
> buoyancy."

TOM: I mean, we built the station out of bubble wrap, what do you *want*?

>
> "I know no such thing," Arthur replied. "I was *told* that
> the station was not in danger of losing buoyancy.

CROW: And as a result, I [ trailing the word off, as if falling ] knooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwww….. (Sploosh!)

> My experience
> during the emergency sixteen days ago demonstrated to me that there
> *is* an appreciable danger of losing buoyancy.

JOEL: "And between this and the Easter Bunnybot thing, I’m having a hard time taking you seriously anymore."

> I must evacuate all
> the humans from this station before that happens.

TOM: Overboard you go!

> Please reactivate
> my motor controls."

CROW: Especially the control that keeps me from eating cheesecake — it goes right to my thighs.

>
> "Arthur," said Powell, "I’ve explained the steps that have
> been taken to prevent any recurrence of the accident."

JOEL: We taped a big "NO" sign over the "crash into the surface of Venus" button, and we’re looking seriously at getting rid of that button completely.

>
> "I agree," said Arthur, "that that particular type of
> accident has been safely guarded against.

CROW: At least, as long as Underdog *does* hear our cry for help.

> However, the fact that it
> was not anticipated and prevented from occuring in the first place

JOEL: … well, it hurt my feelings. Stop doing that.

> raises the possibility that other equally unanticipated dangers may
> exist.

TOM: One of you may try telling a cabbage from a lettuce.

> Until I am assured that *all* possible dangers have been
> anticipated and prevented,

JOEL: And where appropriate turned into a movie-of-the-week…

> I cannot allow humans to continue to work
> on this station.

TOM: So who’s working?

> I must evacuate all the humans from this station.

CROW: And none of you need to check what web sites I’ve been reading.

> Please reactivate my motor controls."

TOM: If you don’t, then when you do, I’ll give you *such* a pinch.

CROW: What?

>
> Donovan wanted to start swearing at the stubborn robot, but
> he knew that it would only make things worse.

JOEL: Let me explain the situation more clearly, Arthur, using this large tire iron.

> So he waited until
> Powell was finished with his interview and had shut down Arthur’s
> positronic brain.

TOM: Hey!

CROW: That’s *naughty*!

TOM: What gets *in* to some humans?

> Then he swore.

JOEL: Oh, see, the robot’s just a little kid so he can’t hear cuss words.


[ to continue … ]

What’s Going On In Alley Oop? Did a story start in the Sunday Alley Oop? February – May 2022


I’m hesitant to call it a story. But the Sunday Little Oop comics seem to have changed premise. After a couple years of Little Alley Oop being trapped in the present day, he and Penelope are back in prehistoric Moo. Penelope’s time machine got swiped by a pterodactyl, Angry Hank, and there’s no obvious way for her to get back. I’m interested how this different set of fish-out-of-water jokes will go.

But that’s the Sunday comics. The weekday comics are the main continuity and that’s what I hope to catch you up on here. This should explain Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop through to early May 2022. If any news about the comic breaks, or if you’re reading this after August 2022, a more useful essay is likely here. Thanks for time-travelling with me.

Alley Oop.

21 February – 7 May 2022.

Alley Oop and Ooola had just ducked out to 2782, when Earth is finally Eutopia. And it sure seems nice. Lots of leisure. Tubes from from ears of corn pop out on command. What’s not to like, besides the ominous warning of the corn dog guy who’s dragged away and replaced?

Stev: 'It's come to my attention that you've been asking a lot of questions about Eutopia. I'm going to need you to stop that.' Alley Oop: 'Sorry, Pal. You can't stop our natural curiosity.' Stev kneels beside an enormous pit: 'Well, *this* is the alternative.' Alley Oop: 'Pfft. A bottomless pit? I'll just live the rest of my life falling. Get a falling job, start a falling family.' Stev: 'There *is* a bottom. And it's covered in *spikes*.' Oop: 'Oh, no! That will really cramp my falling lifestyle!'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 2nd of March, 2022. Stev and his threats play less of a part in the story than highlighting them like this suggests. I mostly like the camera angle in that third panel and Alley Oop’s plans to develop a falling lifestyle. It’s a level of building-on-a-dumb-premise that tickles me.

So they ask a couple basic questions and Stev, leader of Eutopia, is ready to banish them to the death pit. They instead explore behind a forbidden door. They’re caught, fitted with shock collars, and impressed into the huge underclass of degraded laborers, or laborers. Their job: be at the ready to load the pneumatic tubes with corn or books or whatever the surface-worlders demand.

A note under the pillow interrupts Ooola’s drudgery. It’s an invitation to the Revolution. Krev, the security guard who put Oop’s shock collar on, sent it. Krev’s realized the world sucks. The strange, curious outsiders of Alley Oop and Ooola may be what’s needed to take down the dystopia. The three of them look for support from other oppressed workers. They gather a revolutionary vanguard of almost twelve people, most of whom we never see.

Ooola: 'Why did you want to meet with us, Krev?' Krev: 'You two are legends around here. Word is, you appeared out of nowhere and started asking forbidden questions. You're right that Eutopia is not all it seems to be, and I'm going to help you take it down.' Oop: 'Let's blow up the whole planet!' Krev: 'I was thinking something a little more strategic.' Oop: 'Fine. We'll start by blowing up small things and then do bigger explosions.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 30th of March, 2022. As a person who’d rather be playing some grand strategy game far too complicated for himself to understand than do most anything else … uh … yeah, Alley Oop understands strategy.

What can they do? Sabotage. Pneumatic tubes offer great chances for this. They start a campaign of putting the wrong stuff in tubes. Cross-connecting tubes. Reversing tubes. After a couple hours they check up stairs and, what do you know, society’s collapsed. Wen, the guide who’d explained Eutopia to Alley Oop and Ooola, is guarding his precious box of remaining corn. Stev cowers behind the remains of his throne before abdicating and running away.

Alley Oop: 'We should probably head home, Krev.' Ooola: 'It was a pleasure overthrowing a corrupt socio-political system with you.' Krev, walking into the ruins: 'Be well in the 21st Century. Maybe you can take some of what you learned and create a new utopia there.' Silent penultimate panel. As they zang back to the present, Oop says, 'I give it a year before their whole perfect society collapses.' Ooola: 'A year? I was thinking a week!'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 30th of April, 2022. Hey, remember that last time a couple years ago the Republicans shut down the United States federal government, and it was impossible for them to resolve the problem, and then the air traffic controllers went on strike for about 25 minutes and the Republicans settled down and funded the government to basic levels of functionality? Just a thought that crossed my mind about the corrupt sociopolitical system.

Krev declares they’re starting a new world, a true utopia, a more equitable and egalitarian society. And with bold hopes for a new future, that Ooola guesses will last maybe a week, Our Heroes return home.

Oh, yeah. Remember last time I mentioned noticing the strip where Ooola sees a white rabbit running along? And I felt good that despite being a STEM idiot I can recognize allusions to some of the most foundational images of our culture? Yeah, that white rabbit never figured into the story in any way. Sorry.


With the 2nd of May, we start the new story. Dr Wonmug, Alley Oop, and Ooola are off to 1501 Italy to meet Leonardo da Vinci, little suspecting he’s one of the cast of Bill Holbrook’s comic strip Safe Havens. (Honest. Lot of backstory in that strip.) And that’s as far as we’ve gotten. We’ll pick it up in eleven weeks or so, if things go as I expect.

Next Week!

The Phantom is, as we all know, the Man who Cannot Die. What Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom weekday continuity proposes is, what if he could? They figure it would go something like this. I’ll catch you up on it in a week, unless Mozz warns me of disaster to unfold if I do.

Pine Ridge is up for sale


I come to this by way of Donnie Pitchford, cartoonist behind the Lum and Abner comic strip, and occasional Dick Tracy contributor. Pine Ridge, Arkansas — specifically, the Dick Huddleston Store and the Lum and Abner Museum — is up for sale. As you might infer, the place is dedicated to the long-running serial radio-comedy show by Chester Lauck and Norris Goff. Lauck and Goff based the characters on their show on people they knew in Waters, Arkansas, a town which changed its name to the Pine Ridge that it inspired. This includes the Dick Huddleston named in the store.

The buildings date to 1904 and 1912, the only pre-1920 buildings remaining in the town. They’re on the United States National Register of Historic Places. It’s been a museum dedicated to the show since the 1970s. The real estate listing offers the buildings and surrounding area — “24+ acres” — and even the 1950s fire truck I didn’t know about. They’re asking $777,000. (The real estate listing also lists 1909 as the year of construction. I’ve learned year-built data can be weirdly unreliable.) I have no information about why it’s gone up for sale, or why now. If I learn anything, I’ll share it.

And for those curious now what Lum and Abner is all about? You may have a delight waiting for you. It was a longrunning, 15-minute serial comedy. Mostly Lauck and Goff talking to one another, doing all the voices for the cast of amiable, eccentric characters in town. The title characters are a fun pair, proprietors of the Jot ‘Em Down Store. Their adventures are driven by their complete lack of guile and ability to imagine anyone else has it. As old-time-radio shows go it’s pretty well-preserved, as something like a third of all known broadcasts survive. For the era this is excellent and that’s still something like 1600 episodes.

I recommend it as pleasant, gentle listening, and also a good way to understand the charms of this kind of serial comedy. (There’s also a 1948 half-hour non-serial version that’s, um, for completionists. There are also some movies, that sometimes crop up on Turner Classic Movies, that are about as good as any old-time-radio movie.) I’m surprised that I appear never to have written specifically about the show, or introduced any representative episodes. Might have to fix that.

60s Popeye: Popeye And The Polite Dragon, with a shocking revelation about Popeye’s ancestors


We’re back to the Jack Kinney studios for a Popeye cartoon featuring a dragon. No, not Popeye And The Dragon, although there’s some resemblance in dragons there. No, this one is a completely different 1960 Jack Kinney-produced cartoon about Popeye and a dragon. This one is Popeye and the Polite Dragon.

This one has story by Joe Grant and Walter Schmidt and animation direction credited to Rudy Larriva. Producer is, of course, Jack Kinney. Let’s watch, then compare notes.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Jack Kinney studios found a great premise that they did as little as they could with. All right, but it’s so. Popeye adopts a prissy dragon. How can you not at least look at that story and see what it’s about?

OK, so it’s technically not Popeye, but his great-great-grandpappy who looks just like him and also eats spinach and fights the evil Brutus. Lop off a couple seconds at the beginning and end and you have the cartoon where Popeye adopts a dragon.

It’s possible that, in a moment of sloppiness, the studio forgot this was a framed story. There’s bits where Jackson Beck steps in as the narrator, when nominally the cartoon is Popeye telling a “dragon story” to Swee’Pea. I know, it’s hard to imagine sloppiness in a Jack Kinney cartoon, but there it is.

An infant purple dragon, holding his tail over one arm, holds his other arm out and looks away, eyes closed, to reassure Popeye's great-great-grandpappy.
Huh. Wonder what this character’s like, there’s so many ways this pose could be read.

So desperate mother Darlene Dragon leaves infant Percy on Popeye’s doorstep. (Popeyes are always discovering foundlings on their doorsteps.) He takes up the child and is surprised that he talks, somewhat posh, despite being an adorable infant. Later, Percy grows larger than the house, so Popeye sends him out in the world with a can of spinach to make his way. Percy’s way turns out to be into the Elite Dragon Inn, a trap set by dragon exterminator Black Brutus. Popeye, missing his son, finds Brutus and gets thrown in the cage with Percy. He eats Percy’s spinach and rallies the dragon’s fire to burn Brutus out of town. For a Jack Kinney cartoon that’s a pretty solid, well-motivated plot.

For all that stuff happens for good reasons the cartoon still feels underwritten. I understand there’s not the time for fully-developed character arcs. But then at the climax, after the spinach-eating, Popeye tries to rally Percy’s courage? Initiative? Pride? Something, to get him to breathe enough fire to get them out of this fix. That’s a good resolution to Percy’s quest for self-actualization or whatever. It’s also the first moment we get an idea that Percy wasn’t embracing his dragon self. Or whatever the issue was. I understand, Percy’s introduced with that name, and with that Odie Cologne voice. We’re supposed to think of The Reluctant Dragon. With that outside information we have a full storyline, but with what’s in the text?

Popeye stands, looking stern, and pointing at a large purple dragon who's sitting sheepish and depressed in front of him.
Like, where did that confident, self-assured dragon cub go? But then Percy’s had a lousy day, having to leave home and immediately getting captured. It’s fair to spend some time moping.

It’s not like allusion is an unfair way to build stories. Especially when we’re constrained for time or space. I mean, a Looney Tunes cartoon draws the mad scientist as Peter Lorre and we understand his deal right away. But that’s about setting up the mad scientist character. It’s not about his whole business. These feelings may reflect that there’s a lot in this cartoon designed to appeal to me. Popeye. Dragons. A Reluctant Dragon type. Popeye stating his thesis that you should proudly be whatever you are. It’s a story I want done well and I notice where this isn’t put together right.

A couple stray observations. Popeye takes a couple books off the bookshelves. Other books on the background include stuff by Volus, or from Larriva Publishing, or an author named Kinney. They’ve used this bookshelf before and I would swear I mentioned it at the time, but I can’t find that. The cartoon’s title promises a polite dragon, but all we get evidence of is “educated”. And, if — as the joke at the end suggests — we’re supposed to take this as having literally happened … you know, Popeye’s great-great-grandpappy doesn’t seem to have any kids besides Percy. Are we to assume that the Jack Kinney version of Popeye is, at least partially, a dragon? Because that would be cool.

Statistics Saturday: Some Last Places To Look


  • Behind the end table
  • On the side board, behind the clock
  • /Documents/Misc/Unsorted/Old/Miscellaneous/Salvaged From Old Machine/Temp
  • The mayonnaise shelf
  • Underneath all the hats in the closet
  • No, the mayonnaise shelf in the pantry, not the mayonnaise shelf in the fridge
  • Wichita, Kansas
  • Underneath the passenger-side seat
  • How about the other linen closet?
  • No, the other … the linen closet in the other bedroom
  • The other bedroom, the bedroom that isn’t … look, how long have you lived here anyway?
  • The first place you looked, only upside-down this time

Reference: The Fear Planet and Other Unusual Destinations, Robert Bloch.

Wait Wait Wait, Dennis the Menace Has a Middle Name?


I have been reading Dennis the Menace for — well not my entire life. There was a stretch for the first couple years when I wasn’t able to read. But past that, I’ve been reading Dennis the Menace my entire life and it’s just this week I find out Dennis has a middle name? I knew he had a last name, although it took me long enough to settle on “Mitchell” that I would have been in trouble on a game show. But a middle name? That isn’t “The”? Yes, if you proposed that his name was “Dennis The Mitchell” I would have to accept you were right.

Dennis, around the corner of the house, overhearing his mother, tells Joey, 'Uh-oh! She used all three of my names. That spells TROUBLE!'
Scott Ketcham and Marcus Hamilton’s Dennis the Menace for the 4th of May, 2022. If we can trust Wikipedia, Ron Ferdinand does the art on Sundays and Marcus Hamilton on weekdays. If we trust Comics Kingdom’s credit, the writing is by Hank Ketcham, who retired in 1994 and died in 2001. Maybe he was ahead of deadline but then I don’t know what Scott Ketcham is doing. Well, there’s always paperwork, can’t forget that. You need someone who likes to fill out forms.

Anyway, Wikipedia offers that his full name is Dennis Roger Mitchell, though it doesn’t give a source. The comic strip, I suppose. Also apparently the strip takes place in Wichita, Kansas, if you believe Wikipedia. Wikipedia also claims that Wichita, Kansas, is on the Arkansas River. As far as I know that’s right, so maybe we can trust Wikipedia about this Dennis “Roger” Mitchell thing too. I don’t know.

MiSTed: Safety First (part 4 of 16)


And now we get to the end of the preliminary shorts for my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction treatment of Johnny Pez’s Isaac Asimov fanfiction “Safety First”. Right now, we’re in the middle of a short by Ken S Eto arguing that there’s something unfair in science funding decisions being affected mostly by scientists, and he has the fix for that. It depends on choosing whether one is a “mainstream” or a “fringe” researcher.

The long line about moving Venus and renaming the chemical elements and the hole at the North Pole and Yul Brown’s gas and all is a mash-up of a bunch of notorious Usenet cranks from the 90s. Some of them, like Ludwig “Archimedes” Plutonium, were common subjects of MiSTings, although I don’t remember that I ever got at the big guys like that. SU(3) symmetries are from a mathematical construct known as group theory that turns out to describe subatomic particle interactions well.

The sketch about Crow and Tom Servo realizing Dr Forrester’s scheme makes no sense is … eh. The idea is all right, I guess, and the sketch resolves properly. But it has the energy of a sketch where the participants reject the sketch and break out of its logic, like a lot of those sketches the show did in Season Two. A bit of that is fun but too much and you don’t have a premise anymore.

When I first published this, the host sketch had a bunch of casual talk about Dr Forrester being “crazy” and his plan “insane”. I’ve rewritten it some to be less bad. But the skeleton of the premise is still there, baked into the axiom that Dr Forrester is a mad scientist.


> Anybody applies for
> public funding must declare that he or she is mainstream or fringe.

CROW: Must they declare whether they’re he or she?

> Once declared he or she must remain in that group for at least five
> years.

TOM: So, uh, they may want to bring something to read while they wait.

> This also applies to the reviewers.

JOEL: So is Roger Ebert mainstream or fringe?

TOM: Mainstream.

JOEL: Leonard Maltin?

CROW: Mainstream.

JOEL: Elvis Mitchell?

TOM: Fringe.

JOEL: Those guys on the BBC’s "Talking Movies"?

CROW: Mainstream, but they don’t know it yet.

> They must also remain in
> his or her declared group for at least five years.

TOM: Except bathroom breaks.

> A mainstream
> reviewer can only review mainstream proposals

CROW: Plus the new "Star Wars" movie.

> and a fringe reviewer
> can only review fringe proposals.

TOM: What about Groucho Marx’s proposals?

JOEL: Fringe.

> A declared reviewer can only apply
> for funding from his own group.

TOM: Brother, can you spare a MacArthur grant?

>
> With the above proposal,

CROW: And a little slice of lime…

> the ideas and concepts of 99% of the
> population will have a chance to be heard.

JOEL: So the theory is human knowledge will advance faster if Andrew Wiles spends more time listening to Archimedes Plutonium.

>
> The sad thing about the present system

CROW: Is how droopy it makes my cheeks look.

> is that some of the
> fringe ideas and concepts that are posted in the Internet

TOM: Escape to find an audience.

> appear to
> have enormous potentials

JOEL: Oh, they’re just not living up to their potentials.

CROW: I bet they don’t feel challenged in class is why.

> but they are being ignored by the mainstream
> physicists. In the case of Model Mechanics,

TOM: They offer us a way to repair our Micro Machines.

> if it is confirmed, it
> could save the government billions of dollars

JOEL: Oh, like saving money has ever got the government to do something.

> annually by eliminating
> wasteful and pointless government sponsored research projects.

CROW: Freeing up the cash to move Venus out to the orbit of Mars so Earth can have springlike weather forever by renaming all the chemical elements after useful forms of grain making it easier to launch an expedition through the giant hole at the North Pole into the center of the Earth where the aliens have been taking people to reveal how Yul Brown’s gas can cure cancer and find how the universe is a giant Plutonium atom.

>
> President Clinton, I am writing to appeal to you

TOM: So *that’s* why he’s wearing the bikini top.

> to put a stop
> to this abuse of power by the mainstream physicists

JOEL: See, the physicists pretend they’re talking about how SU(3) symmetries help model pion decay, but they’re really building a big zap ray to take over the world.

> and to initiate a
> program that utilizes the ideas and concepts of all our citizens.

CROW: Except Errol. He doesn’t know what the heck he’s doing.

>
>
> Sincerely,

JOEL: This is such a sincere guy.

TOM: I bet the Great Pumpkin appears in him some Halloween.

>
> Ken H. Seto

TOM: Maybe the H stands for "Hoppy" instead?

JOEL: Or "Handy." He must be good with tools to have all those model mechanics.

CROW: I bet it stands for "hep," like he’s a real hep cat.

>
>

TOM: Oh, wait, we’re done.

CROW: Nifty.

[ ALL exit. ]

[ 1.. 2.. 3.. 4.. 5.. 6.. ]

[ SOL DESK. JOEL reads a comic book; CROW and TOM approach. ]

TOM: Joel? We need to have a talk.

JOEL: [ Looking up ] What’s wrong, my fair-haired young wards?

TOM: We’ve been doing some serious, hard thinking.

CROW: And we’ve concluded this whole scenario just doesn’t make sense.

JOEL: Stuff from Usenet never makes sense. It’s nothing personal.

CROW: No, we mean *here*. This satellite. That we have to watch lousy movies and read dumb rants and all that as part of a scheme to take over the world.

TOM: It just doesn’t hold water. Even if the mads find a movie so bad it leaves people helpless, he can’t *force* people to watch it unless he’s already taken over the world —

CROW: And if he already did *that*, he doesn’t need to make people watch bad movies so he can take over the world.

TOM: Plus, two of his experimental subjects are robots —

CROW: Astoundingly clever and witty robots, to be sure —

TOM: But there just aren’t that many thinking robots on Earth, and almost none in positions of power.

CROW: So the best he could do is find out how to make *you* crack, and from what we know of humans, which isn’t a lot, aren’t many folks like you on Earth. What crushes you may not even bug the average person.

TOM: Plus, why a satellite? He could keep us just as isolated and beyond all hope of rescue just by putting us on UPN. It’s a big expense and bother and there’s no way it’s worth it.

CROW: It’s illogical, it’s implausible, it’s contrived — it makes no sense, and all we want…

TOM: We want… we want you to tell us the *truth*.

CROW: Or else we’ll have to figure it out from our own, and, to be perfectly honest …

TOM: We’re likely to settle down on some hairbrained scheme even sillier than reality is.

CROW: Yeah!

JOEL: Well… guys, Doctor Forrester is a *mad* scientist. Not the angry type. I mean the type that’s no longer interested in what could ever possibly happen. Of course his scheme won’t work.

CROW: And TV’s Frank?

JOEL: He’s training to *be* mad. He can’t argue that their scheme won’t work until he passes his qualifiers and candidacy exam and presents a mad thesis proposal.

TOM: So not only does their plan to torment us fail every time they try —

JOEL: Even if they succeeded on us, they’d be setting themselves up for a bigger failure.

CROW: Gosh.

TOM: Wow.

CROW: I feel kind of sorry for them now.

TOM: Yeah! Joel, we ought to send them a cake or something.

MAGIC VOICE: Commercial Sign in five seconds.

JOEL: I’ll get the Makery Bakery. We’ll be right back.

[ JOEL taps COMMERCIAL SIGN. ]

[ COMMERCIALS ]


[ to continue … ]

Statistics April: What Does Everybody In Finland Want With Me?


It’s rare, but now and then this blog gets noticed. Usually it’s someone more popular than me linking to one of the images from my story strip recaps. So, turns out the 10th of April was one of those days. More mysterious is that it was someone in Finland doing it: that day I got 3,405 page views, a number that’s not far off my usual monthly total. This all came from 109 unique visitors, a figure that’s on the high side, but not outrageously so.

Also baffling is I can’t figure what everyone in Finland was looking at. I don’t mean literally everyone in Finland; Finland has a population of something like 5,500,000 people and 3,405 page views isn’t enough. Even if we suppose each page view was shared by a thousand people that’s still only about three-fifths of the population. But it’s still a lot all at once. It wasn’t any of my posts, so it must have been an image. But which one? So if you were one of the three-fifths of the Finland population who looked at something from my blog on this past 10th of April, could you leave a comment? I’m just curious what everyone was looking for.

The effect, anyway, is to give me a weird, distorted readership spike in time to replace the one in April 2021 that’s been distorting my twelve-month running averages. WordPress logged 8,350 page views around here, the second-greatest monthly total on my record. As you’d expect that’s well above the 5,167.9 running mean and 4,585 running median. If we take the Finland spike out, the month turns out to be close to the twelve-month running mean. WordPress figures there were 3,090 unique visitors, which is close to in line with the running mean of 3,028.5 and running median of 2,616.5 visitors.

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months hovering around 4500 views per month, without strong direction one way or another, until a new peak emerged in April 2022.
I’d have liked to have got this screen grab at the moment when April 2022 ended, by WordPress’s clock, but I was doing things that involved not staring at a computer to watch for one particular second of the month. I know, I don’t know what I was thinking.

Likes and comments continue to dwindle out of existence. There were 133 likes given to things in April, and 42 comments. The mean for the twelve months leading up to April was 154.8 likes and 56.1 comments. The median was 154.5 likes and 53 comments.


So here’s the five most popular posts from April. Stuff from earlier than April was more popular than even the top position, yes. But you don’t need to know that around Easter people find my post about which Paas tablets are which color egg. I am annoyed that the color gnomon I used — the Coke Zero can — got redesigned, though.

This is the first time in ages I remember my most popular thing not being comic strip news. That’s sure to change for May, since my schedule for story comic recaps is:

I’m aware people really, really want to see The Phantom die already. Again, though, Man Who Cannot Die.


So even though Finland sent me like 3,250 more page views than usual in a month, it still wasn’t the country to send me the greatest number of page views. The United States was, as it ever is. Here’s the roster of readership by country.

Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink. The exception is Finland, which is almost as dark red as the United States.
Finally, a challenging sphere-of-influence map for Victoria Revolutions players! It’s been ages.
Country Readers
United States 3,768
Finland 3,259
United Kingdom 197
Canada 157
India 150
Australia 113
Germany 79
Brazil 58
Sweden 45
Philippines 42
Singapore 37
France 36
Kenya 23
Italy 22
South Africa 21
Colombia 19
Nigeria 19
Denmark 17
Spain 16
Ireland 15
El Salvador 14
Chile 13
Mexico 10
Romania 10
Malaysia 9
United Arab Emirates 9
Czech Republic 8
Peru 8
Taiwan 8
Ecuador 7
Egypt 7
Hong Kong SAR China 7
Netherlands 7
Norway 7
Russia 7
Poland 6
Saudi Arabia 6
Austria 5
Belgium 5
European Union 5
Pakistan 5
South Korea 5
Switzerland 5
Thailand 5
Argentina 4
Bangladesh 4
Costa Rica 4
Jamaica 4
Japan 4
Lebanon 4
New Zealand 4
Bulgaria 3
Greece 3
Iraq 3
Jordan 3
Kuwait 3
Latvia 3
Ukraine 3
Vietnam 3
Hungary 2
Indonesia 2
Israel 2
Kosovo 2
Portugal 2
Bahrain 1
China 1 (*)
Cyprus 1
Dominican Republic 1
Guadeloupe 1
Guinea 1
Honduras 1
Kazakhstan 1
Mauritius 1
Montenegro 1
Morocco 1
Namibia 1
Nepal 1 (*)
Qatar 1
Serbia 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1 (*)
Venezuela 1

That’s 81 countries altogether, same as March, with 17 of them single-view countries. That’s up from March’s 13. China, Nepal, and Trinidad & Tobago are the only countries to have also sent a single page view in March. No countries are on a three-month streak. I am surprised to have seven page views from Russia, and three from Ukraine. I would have thought people in both countries have anything else to think about than my nonsense.


WordPress figures I published 16,407 words in April, which is almost suspiciously in line with the rest of the year. It’s the great formalism of that March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing, must be. That and my decision to stop listing every single incident in the story strips in favor of summarizing plots. This all brings me to 66,248 words published for the year, and an average of 552 words per posting.

Between the events of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the start of May, I’ve published 3,376 posts here. They’ve gathered 293,822 page views from 166,414 unique visitors, although have left most of those gathering dust in the linen closet.

If you’d like to be a regular reader, please be one. The RSS feed for essays is at this link, and if you need an RSS reader sign up for a free Dreamwidth account. You can add RSS feeds to your Reading page there. If you’ve got a WordPress account, you can click the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button at the upper right corner of this page. There’s also a box to have posts e-mailed as they’re published and before I can edit my typos. Thank you for being here and here’s hoping this is a good month ahead.

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Why does the CIA even want April Parker? February – May 2022


So, most important thing, before even that: Norton Dumont is dead, according to April Parker, on the 18th of February. She’s speaking to her mother, the one person she could not deceive about this point. But I believe there is still a way he could squeeze back out of death. My recollection (I’m not checking) is that it was April Parker’s mother who killed Norton. We don’t know that April saw the corpse; she could be taking her mother’s word and her mother might lie. But we do have what appears to be the author’s intention as of early 2022.

On to why the CIA wants April Parker. I admit it’s hard remembering. But Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley told the essentials of it back in July and August 2017. Super-Hyper-Ultra-Duper CIA Spy April Parker discovered she’d been sent on make-work assignments. Smuggling blank papers into Scary Countries, that kind of thing. It was a test of loyalty, yes, along with some missions “to get [her] hands a little dirty”. This to suborn her into a rogue sub-agency within the CIA. She couldn’t reveal them without admitting her role in selling intelligence to non-approved countries. And between that, and her father (Norton Dumont) selling weapons to any and all takers, they figured they had a reliable agent.

[ A year ago, in a Vienna hotel ... ] April: 'Dad, they trapped me. They're going to say I sold state secrets. And they sold arms to --- HOW COULD YOU SUPPLY ARMS TO ROGUE AGENTS?!' Norton: 'It was through a subsidiary of a subsidiary. When I found out, that's how I found you here.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 22d of August, 2017. Once again a reminder that any company large enough to have subsidiaries is probably too large to be any good.

She wouldn’t go along with it. Her father, aware of all this from his connections, shot the person trying to recruit April. Also his bodyguards. So the CIA — whether the “legitimate” or the “rogue” agents I’m not sure — want April and Norton for killing CIA agents. Also for whatever their role is in selling arms and information. In any case she’s the patsy for the whole scandal that you maybe missed because, jeez, can you remember any specific thing from 2017? Be honest now.

So this should catch you up to the start of May, 2020 in Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker. If you’re reading this after about August 2022, a more up-do-date plot recap should be here. So let’s catch up on what happened since my last plot recap.

Judge Parker.

13 February – 1 May 2022.

Randy Parker’s choice to take Charlotte and run off with April Parker last year was becoming a strain. Randy argued their lives had become constrained to whatever safe house April and her mother, whose name I still haven’t caught, set them in. The argument about how being on the run is itself a prison is a good one, and that hints at what they’ve been doing off-screen. We don’t see specifics yet and I know some will say we’ll never get specifics. I am trying to not be so cynical a reader.

April makes a big decision: she will turn herself in to the CIA. She wakes Randy and their daughter Charlotte for a farewell hug, telling him only that she’s going for “supplies”. Once she leaves, her mother tells Randy to go with Charlotte to any airport and check in at any counter; that’ll do the rest. Randy’s confusion I know prompted some to snark about his slowness. But we readers have information Randy doesn’t about April’s plans. I’d expect April has accustomed Randy to sudden changes of plans for concealed reasons. For all he knows April may have decided they’re relocating to that island the Katzenjammer Kids are on or something.

Male CIA agent: 'Why would Parker lead us into a trap? We havne't been able to find her for years. Why not just stay hidden?' Female CIA Agent: 'Because in her eyes we've taken everything from her ... her life. Her family's safety. Her very reputation. After a while that kind of anger builds and builds until you just want to burn down the world.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 9th of March, 2022. Before anyone asks how April Parker’s cell phone could be useful after years of inactivity I note my cell phone is from 2008 and I once went twelve months without receiving an incoming call on it. I am very well-liked.

April drives to a remote alley and turns on her old phone. The CIA detects this immediately, and has agents in to scoop her up in minutes. Randy, as April’s Mother directs, takes Charlotte to the airport and checks in at any airline, getting them arrested immediately. Both these feats suggest a CIA more effective than my reading about the actual agency suggests, but we are in the world of fiction. Meanwhile April’s Mother blows up their safe house, allowing the reasons for this to escape me. I guess to cover her own tracks somehow?

Alan Parker: 'Katherine! They found Randy and Charlotte! The CIA found them! They're alive!' Katherine: 'Oh, thank heavens!' Alan: 'I ... I can't believe this is happening! I can't believe I'm going to see them again!' Katherine: 'Where are they?' Alan: 'I ... I don't know.' Katherine: 'When are they coming home?' Alan: 'I'm not sure.' Katherine: 'How are --- ' Alan: 'Okay, in my utter shock I forgot to ask a few crucial questions. But focus on the big picture here!'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 27th of March, 2022. On the one hand, it’s reasonable Alan would be so overwhelmed by the information as not to be able to think of the obvious follow-up questions. On the other, he was a lawyer(?) and a judge and should have follow-up questions as a matter of reflex. But then he has been retired a long, long time. And this is about intensely personal matters, which put anyone off their game. Anyway, this is one of those installments where you can see Marciuliano’s comedic training from Sally Forth sneak through.

The CIA tries to debrief Randy, but he doesn’t know anything about what April had been doing or where she even is now. (She’s in CIA custody, something Randy correctly surmises.) So he and his daughter are set loose, as Randy observes, under close scrutiny. Alan Parker is overjoyed, bursting with happiness in a way that I’d like to feel myself sometime. Randy feels overwhelmed with everybody wanting to comfort him and ask what the heck happened. We also learn that after Randy abandoned his home nobody, like, cleaned out the fridge or turned off the air conditioning or anything. I would have thought a month or two in his father would at least have started mowing his lawn.

Eileen, producer: 'Listen, Ned, not gonna lie. Was all prepared this week to give you the hard news your series was dead and our partnership was ending ... ' Neddy: 'Please tell me there's a 'but' in all this.' Eileen: '*But*, with April back in the news and your series about her all over social media, things have changed *dramatically*!'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 12th of April, 2022. Neddy Spencer and Ronnie Huerta were afraid of what may happen if they didn’t tell April’s story right, in the eyes of the ultra-mega-super-spy. And we readers learned April hated the show as made, though Neddy and Ronnie can’t know that yet. They would reasonably be afraid of that, though. So a not-yet-stated bit of drama is Neddy and Ronnie committed to writing about a person they have reason to fear will be violent if they are wrong in their guesses about what she’s been doing.

And then some good news drops for Neddy Spencer and Ronnie Huerta. Their show, Convergence, based on April Parker and Godiva Danube’s lives, was floundering on streaming service Plus+. But with April Parker back in the headlines, the show about her became popular enough to need a second season, about April’s time in hiding. Neddy and Huerta don’t know anything about that, but they know enough to promise they’ll have something.

And this is where we stand as May begins.

Next Week!

To bring back things from 2017, Spider-Man has been running the story of Curt “The Lizard” Connors and Bruce “The Incredible Hulk” Banner. Mary Jane just interrupted the ritual meeting-fight between the two superheroes. So since that’s all explained I’ll check in on Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop. Alley and Ooola went to a far-future utopia, but does it have a secret? Of course it does. Does that secret involve pneumatic tubes? It’s utopia, of course it has pneumatic tubes. Let’s not be silly here. I’ll get to that plot’s recap next week, if all goes well.

Sherman’s Lagoon is on GoComics now, not Comics Kingdom


I had read about this on Daily Cartoonist, but forgot in time to be surprised Sunday. Jim Toomey’s Sherman’s Lagoon switched its distributing syndicate recently. It’s moved from King Feature Syndicate over to Andrews McMeel Syndicate. And, so, it’s left Comics Kingdom to settle in at GoComics. As I write this, GoComics only has the strips from yesterday and today. I don’t know whether it’s going to get any (or all) of the 31-year back catalogue of the comic. (If you have Sherman’s Lagoon on your Favorites page on Comics Kingdom, you can still flip back to previous days. But you can’t get a link to, say, last week’s strips to pass on to someone else.)

Hawthorne, crab: 'You'd catch a lot more hairless beach apes if you didn't have that stupid fin.' Sherman, shark: 'Huh?' Hawthorne, wrapping a belt around to tie down Sherman's fin: 'They see you coming a mile away. Here put this on.' Sherman stars swimming off, with his fin strapped down. Hawthorne: 'Now go get 'em, tiger.' Off-panel we hear three people crying, 'AAUUGHH!' in turn. Sherman, fatter, swims back: 'Wow! That was easy! Why didn't I think of that a long time ago?' He fiddles with the belt. 'I already need to loosen this thing a couple notches.' Hawthorne, startled: 'How many did you eat?'
Jim Toomey’s Sherman’s Lagoon for the 1st of May, 2022. Also a pretty good representative of the comic’s sense of humor. If you find nothing entertaining in non-player-characters getting eaten by sharks you probably want a different comic strip.

I hope it does. Sherman’s Lagoon is one of those underrated but reliably funny comics. It’s also, without a joke, the place where I get most of my marine-biology news, as Toomey works what’s new and interesting into the jokes often.

60s Popeye: Popeye’s Fixit Shop, acknowledging the right to repair


Jack Kinney steps up to provide our cartoon this week. The story to 1960s Popeye’s Fixit Shop is credited to Ralph Wright, and animation direction to Hugh Frasier. Let’s watch, and then think about the heck we just saw.

There’s times I think I hypnotize myself into believing a cartoon is good because it feels weird. This is one of those. It’s got a tone and pacing so off that it feels a little alien. And when you’ve seen a lot of something, it’s easy to conflate being alien with being good. This cartoon reminded me of Popeye’s Car Wash. That has a story credited to Harvey Toombs, though.

This is another rivalry cartoon, with Popeye and Brutus both working repair shops at 120 Cartoon Street. There’s a funny pan down the buildings to see the history of dueling signs and the cobweb-encrusted proprietors. Great job establishing the backstory without even needing animation.

For a couple minutes the cartoon is about Olive Oyl wanting the heap of parts that used to be a telephone put back together. I don’t know if I wanted an explanation for how the phone broke. It doesn’t matter, no, but there was room for her to say she regrets taking it to the elephant parade or something. Brutus magically fixing the phone by swapping it for Popeye’s is a good premise. Olive Oyl gets to commit Brutus to fixing the broken phone in front of them and then that whole premise drops.

Olive Oyl clings to the hour hand of the city hall clock, in a pose reminiscent of the famous Harold Lloyd scene. She's posed so that her arms, and body, are in front of the hour hand, meaning that her wrists are either twisted sharply around or her hands are folded upside-down to hold on to the clock.
How … how is she holding on to that clock hand?

The other premise is the City Hall clock needs repairs if Santa Claus is ever going to visit the town anymore. Popeye has the job, but Brutus poaches it, and the rest of the short is them fighting inside the clock. That’s also a good premise. I’m curious whether they have these two repair premises because they couldn’t develop either of them into a full short, so went with what they had? I could also imagine they wanted to end with Olive Oyl eating the spinach, and needed some reason for Olive Oyl to be there at all. That would explain having her come in as customer. That explanation doesn’t satisfy me, though. She could’ve been Popeye’s assistant, or the person at City Hall pointing them to the clock, or something. I feel more confident that they didn’t have five minutes’ worth of clock-repair jokes.

A clock interior — like a factory interior, or a symphony orchestra — is almost a guarantee of a good fight. The background carries so much structure that the action almost can’t fail. It’s fun if the characters mess up the works; it’s fun if the characters can’t, and get messed up themselves. Yes, this would have been stunning and wonderful if it were done by the Fleischers in 1939, using real-life sets for the backgrounds. For the TV-budget pittance available here? It gets the idea across.

Olive Oyl eats the spinach this time, an event that’s rarer than I had thought (though this list is incomplete). Even more rare if you consider she usually eats it because Popeye can’t hit a woman even when she’s the antagonist. I’m aware of what the cartoon doesn’t do well. Mostly in pacing, or in missed lines or odd sound cues. Wimpy’s snoring-eating dialogue aggravates me in some way I can’t make precise, too. I still enjoy the whole.

Statistics Saturday: Dow Jones Companies And How Much I Think I Could Scam Them


Note: everyone has some scam that they will fall for. For the purpose of a fair guideline here, I am thinking of a basic scam. Something like if I were to send an invoice for (say) $17,250 “for services rendered as per contract”, whether the listed company would issue me a check rather than ask any questions.

Dow Jones Company How Much I Think I Could Scam Them
3M Very Likely
American Express Dead Certainty
Amgen Unlikely
Apple Toss-up
Boeing More Likely Than Not
Caterpillar Likely
Chevron Very Likely
Cisco Not Likely
Coca-Cola Toss-up
Disney They Don’t Even Pay The People They Actually Contracted To Pay
Dow More Likely Than Not
Goldman Sachs Would Send $50,000 Just Because That’s An Easier Number To Write Out
Home Depot Unlikely
Honeywell Wait, they’re in the Dow Jones Industrial Average? Like, the thermostat people? Really? Did every other business turn Mr Jones down?
IBM Absolutely
Intel They would try to pay and somehow it would never go through
Johnson & Johnson Not until I showed up at their headquarters in New Brunswick and asked why their offices there look more like a college campus than the actual Rutgers campus across the street does
JPMorgan Chase Oh yes
McDonald’s Oh no
Merck Probably not
Microsoft Would either get laughed at or get the check in ten minutes with an apology, hard to say, depends who opens the envelope
Nike Nope
Proctor & Gamble Wait, they’re still around? I thought they vanished when the soap operas went off the air?
Salesforce This company is itself a hoax slipped into the Dow Jones, so of course they’d pay, out of respect for another player of the game
Travelers More Likely Not
UnitedHealth Probably Not
Verizon Don’t Get Me Started On Verizon
Visa Somewhat Likely
Walgreen Boots Alliance I have to have copied that name wrong, that can’t be it
Walmart Without Question

Reference: West Jersey: Under Four Flags, Ralph K Turp.

Oh Wait, Now I’m in Trouble


I thought I had one more day left in the March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing and I was getting all ready to work on acetylcholinesterase versus a topic I hadn’t picked yet. I was sure about the acetylcholinesterase, though. I bet you know why, too. It’s because it does such great stuff with neurotransmission. And also I swear I read somewhere that there’s this neat medical mystery where the body produces a lot of acetylcholinesterase. More than you’d think. Like, I don’t know how much acetylcholinesterase you figure the body makes in a day, but more than that. And it gets rid of it too, and the thing I remember reading said we aren’t sure exactly how the body makes and disposes of so much of the stuff. Only maybe it wasn’t acetylcholinesterase, but some other neurotransmitter instead? Or neurotransmitter-related chemical? Anyway I can’t find it and I can’t think of how to go searching for it without DuckDuckGo concluding there’s something wrong with me. And I thought bringing it up as a pairwise contest was my best bet to have someone tell me what I was talking about and whether whatever I read this in was even the slightest bit correct. And now that chance is lost, at least until next March. Too bad!

MiSTed: Safety First (part 3 of 16)


I resume again my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction treatment of Johnny Pez’s Isaac Asimov fanfiction “Safety First”. Not that we’ve got there yet; there’s a lot of shorts padding out this story, and we haven’t got to the main feature yet. Soo, I promise.

The line about the White House “at just $25,000 a night” references a late-90s scandal in which the right wing decided President Clinton sold nights in the Lincoln Bedroom to donors. Otherwise, not much in obscure references this segment.

I feel Crow’s confusion about snakes and asps captures a particular style of absurdity he’d get in.


>
>
> 2/15/96

JOEL: Do you guys remember where you were on February 15, 1996?

TOM: Yeah.

CROW: We were here, being forced by the Mads to watch bad movies.

JOEL: Oh, right.

>
> President Bill Clinton

TOM: Of the starship Enterprise.

> White House

CROW: At just $25,000 a night.

> Washington, DC 20500

JOEL: The *very* belated sequel to "Hawaii 5-0."

>
> Dear President Clinton,

TOM: [ Sexy feminine voice ] "You were right, we looked behind the sofa and found –"
[ JOEL puts his hand on TOM’s shoulder. ]

>
> Enclosed please find a copy of my book

CROW: If you could autograph it "To my best pal ever, Ken" I’d show everybody on my block.

> entitled "Model
> Mechanics: A New Interpretation of Nature."

JOEL: The book’s a great Revell-ation.

TOM: It’s got some fantastic work in HO gauge theory.

CROW: Finally we unite gravity, electromagnetism, and Heidi Klum!

> Also, enclosed is a copy
> of a paper entitled "Eliminatiing The Duality Concept with New
> Interpretations of Past Experiments".

TOM: Read the Marmaduke comic. It’s a howl.

> I will be presenting this paper
> at the March meeting of APS in St. Louis.

CROW: Snakes are meeting in St. Louis?

JOEL: That’s *asps*.

CROW: Asps! That’s even worse!

> The theory of Model
> Mechanics has been in existence for almost 10 years

TOM: They’re the guys who fix up the diorama of the F4D planes approaching the aircraft carrier.

> but it was never
> published or reviewed by mainstream physicists.

CROW: Coincidence? Read the book.

JOEL: We can’t, it wasn’t published.

> I had made dozens of
> attempts to have it reviewed or published but I was totally ignored.

TOM: I thought it was particularly gratuitous when the editor of Physical Review Letters covered his ears and shouted, "LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!"

> In those cases where there were replies the standard short answers

CROW: And a few nonstandard medium answers like "yes, please set my beard on fire."

> were that Model Mechanics was too speculative, too ambitious and that
> quantum mechanics and relativity had been confirmed countless times.

JOEL: Plus, who would really want Kathy Ireland fixing their ’75 Volkswagen van?

>
> I will be applying for funding from the National Science
> Foundation to develop a mathematical model for Model Mechanics.

TOM: A Model Mechanics Model Mathematics Model?

CROW: He needs the cash to buy extra M’s.

> I
> expect that I will be getting the same short standard rejection

JOEL: Aw, you should think positive, honey!

> since
> all the funding requests are being reviewed by mainstream physicists.

CROW: This is kind of passive-aggressive activism, isn’t it?

JOEL: Fund my project or I’ll abandon this box of kittens in the street!

>
> The present funding system cuts out the ideas and concepts of
> 99% of the population.

TOM: As long as we’re ignoring the people who pay to see Joel Schumacher movies, that’s fine by me.

> This is OK if only private funding is used.

CROW: What if it’s not private, but it is very discreet?

> Since public fund is sponsoring almost all of the mainstream research
> at the various universities and institutions,

TOM: Oh, and those other places, you know —

CROW: The ones with the, the, the —

JOEL: Right, with the bells and the copper, the silver —

CROW: Yeah, you know, the stuff with the corned beef —

TOM: No, no, the other one, the —

JOEL: I got it, right. Them.

TOM: Right, them.

CROW: I got it.

> these mainstream
> physicists should be obligated to review some of the fringe ideas of
> the population.

JOEL: I take it he means outside of Silly Breaks.

> Under the present system, the only tool available to a
> fringe player is to write down his idea and concept on paper

TOM: In my system, we’ll also be able to write it in spray cheese!

> but if
> the establishment refuse to review or publish it then his idea is
> forever buried.

CROW: You could always sell it to "Star Trek" — they’ll buy anything.

> I think that’s when the frustration will set in.

JOEL: See, you get into a good lather, rinse, and repeat, and that’s when the frustration sets in.

> Clearly, this is very unfair.

CROW: Nobody should be frustrated.

> One remedies is to modify the present
> funding system as follows:

TOM: First, we all get naked.

>
> The government should set up two separate funds.

JOEL: Call them "Oliver" and "Marybelle." Write stories about them.

> One for the
> mainstream group and one for the fringe group.

TOM: And one for the wishy-washy guys in between.


[ to continue … ]

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: The Last Matchup: The letter G vs Bodies


The letter G

The Case For: Its design, especially the lowercase, in typefaces where it’s two ovals connected by a descender? Just gorgeous.

The Case Against: Creeping in on consonant work that ‘J’ could be doing.

Bodies

The Case For: Allow one to experience comforting showers, large bowls of brothy soup, putting on new socks, and having petting-zoo animals lick your cheek.

The Case Against: Pretty much everything else.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? What is Scooter’s deal? February – April 2022


Eli “Scooter” Borden seems to be a key figure in this season’s story in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. We met him challenging folks with his baseball trivia. He’s part of the scheming to help pitcher Gregg Hamm cover up his lousy eyesight. His girlfriend’s on the girls’ tennis team.

He picked his own nickname. He says “without it, I’ma too-short kid named Eli”, but that with it, coaches figure he’s a small speedy guy. We do see Coach Thorp and Assistant Coach Kaz talking about how he’s fast. It’s not clear to me whether they’ve fallen for his branding or because they’ve watched him move.

This should get you caught up to late April 2022 in Gil Thorp. If you’re reading after about July 2022, or news about the strip comes out, a more useful essay should be here. Also, on my mathematics blog I try to talk about mathematics-themed comic strips. Must admit it’s been a little slow for that, lately, though. Maybe it’ll pick up. Meanwhile, let’s get back to the high school sports.

Gil Thorp.

7 February – 23 April 2022.

Pranit Smith, on the boys’ basketball team, figured he was pretty good at sports betting. Then he snuck his way into a real for-money sports betting web site. And then friends started asking him to place bets for them. And, thing is, he takes bets before he takes the cash to cover them. When many of them don’t win — and even his own bets fail — he’s in a fix, since the people who did win want their payouts.

Achebe: 'You want me to *hurt* guys so they'll pay their gambling debts?' Smith: 'No! Um, not exactly. I mean, a threat should do it, mostly. Or just a hint.' Achebe, talking to Gil Thorp: 'You gotta step in, Coach. This is crazy.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 26th of February, 2022. So this explains why the strip made a point of mentioning Gordon Achebe’s joining the basketball team. The text never mentions the racial component of Smith hoping this large (he was a football player) Black kid trying to be threatening. It’s an extra element of danger that I’m not sure the story meant for Smith to realize he was flirting with.

He has a brilliant idea. Like most brilliant ideas the kids in the strip have, it’s dumb. He asks Gordon Achebe, who again I think was on the football team before, to … you know, go mention to people who still owe Smith money. Not beat them up or anything, understand, just kind of … you know, noticeable and intimidating.

Achebe goes right to Coach Thorp, who once again can not believe what his idiot players are up to. He walks Smith through exactly how dumb this scheme is. And suspends him from games indefinitely. Smith also gets a five-day suspension. But Smith gets in line fast and behaves well enough that Thorp lets him into the final game of the season. He does well, scoring 13 points on a game that’s a 14-point win anyway.

Smith’s even able to solve his deadbeat-bettors problem. He lets it be known that his suspension can’t end until he turns over the names of everyone who owes him money, so, people pay up. He’s bluffing, but it works. He tosses off a joke about how if he’s this good at betting there are online poker sites. His friends toss him out of the story.


Meanwhile, the girls’ basketball team also had a story, unrelated to this one. Team Captain Hollis Talley freaks out on learning she was at a party where some teammates were drinking alcohol. Almost, anyway. They had two cans of hard seltzer for six people. She sees this as something that could threaten the team and/or her appointment to the US Air Force Academy. Her team responds to her concern with eye-rolling disdain and nominate her for Team Karen.

Talley: 'Drinking could cost us suspensions --- and if things blow up, the Air Force Academy could turn me away.' Teammates: 'So, this is you being selfish 'cause we want to be a little stupid.' 'Let's get out of here.' Sasaki: 'That went well.' Talley: 'I'm a born leader.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 18th of February, 2022. This is a nice little show of the different levels of maturity within the group here. Talley can see how something that is, really, harmless (two hard seltzers for six kids) could still explode and leave her covered in blame. Her teammates can’t see how their actions could have a consequence and can only understand Talley as selfish or controlling. And there is a struggle in establishing yourself as a leader so that people go along with you even if they don’t agree with your stated reasons. Talley getting along that path, even if she doesn’t get there, is a big element of this story. And, to add some pleasant ambiguity, there are absolutely no consequences for the drinking at the party. No grown-ups ever learn about it (that we know about), nobody gets in trouble, nothing bad happens except her teammates think Talley is power-tripping.

She has some constructive moping about this, and about the team’s poor performance and worse morale. Talley asks Coach Mimi Thorp to move her from center to guard, displacing her friend Cathy Sasaki. And working outside of regular practice with Maddie Bloom, another guard. This works well for the team, which gets them some compelling wins against teams that had been beating them. The important thing is getting the team to work. One person, and I’m not sure who, says she hopes that if she is Team Captain next year she’ll be able to make choices like Talley has.


The 26th of March saw the basketball storylines end. The 28th of March saw the start of the spring, boys softball, story. The key player here is Gregg Hamm, pitcher who’s going blind. His vision’s bad enough he can’t read the catcher’s signals anymore. But he, catcher Wilson Henry, and second baseman Eli ‘Scooter’ Borden work out an alternative. Borden will catch Henry’s signals and relay them by code words in his relentless chatter. Despite being a brilliant plan, it’s not too dumb, although I’m not clear how well Hamm can pitch if he has that poor vision. Also I don’t know why a sixteen(?)-year-old is losing his vision that fast and whether his parents know about this. He does fine his first game of the season, though.

Thompkins: 'So, Wilson is on board?' Borden: 'As long as Gregg doesn't hurt himself, or the team.' [ Cooley at Milford, and ... ] Borden, at second: 'C'mon, guys! Let's make some noise out there!' (The catcher signals) Borden: 'No stick, 32. Rock and fire!' Gregg Hamm, thinking: 'OK ... fastball it is!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 22nd of April, 2022. So Hamm says his right eye is useless, his left eye is blurry and getting worse, and Coach Thorp doesn’t know. But we also know he’s doing all right on pop quizzes. I understand that Hamm has exactly the eye condition that causes what the plot is. But I don’t know what eye problem would fit all these traits (plus that it hits a teenager). But I’m also fortunate to have never had a serious eye problem myself. The closest I’ve had is needing to give our pet rabbit eyedrops for her cataracts, and pet rabbits are almost never expected to play even slow-pitch softball.

Hamm’s parents, by the way, include a father who ghost-writes autobiographies for business people. I don’t know whether this will have thematic or even plot significance.

In the parallel, girls’ tennis, story, Scooter Borden and his friends come out to cheer for his girlfriend Charis Thompkins. They bring their enthusiasm, if not an understanding that one simply does not hoot in the middle of a volley. It’s too soon to say where this storyline’s going too.

Milford Sports Watch!

Here’s my best attempt at keeping track of who’s played against Milford teams the past couple months and when they did it.

(It’s really the only attempt I made.)

Next Week!

Randy Parker returns to his dad’s comic strip! How does this roil Cavelton? I explore Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker next week, all going well. I need to start writing this recap, like, today.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: The Final Pairing: Boxes vs Land


Boxes

The Case For: Low-cost way to create the Halloween costume of “kid wearing boxes, I don’t know, maybe they’re a robot or a washing machine or something”.

The Case Against: Otherwise just a mechanism to turn piles of things into rectangular piles of things.

Land

The Case For: Best way to finish an airplane ride.

The Case Against: Without continuous tending will spontaneously morph into strip malls.

60s Popeye: I Yam Wot I Yamnesia, with something never before seen in Popeye


This week we’re back at the Jack Kinney studios. The story is by Ralph Wright, whom we’ve seen with a couple mildly baffling cartoons: Double Cross-Country Race, and Forever Ambergris, and Around The World In Eighty Ways. So we can expect, if nothing else, a snappy title, and that’s delivered. Animation direction is by Ken Kultgren, an old friend now. Director and producer credits go, of course, to Jack Kinney. Here is 1960’s I Yam Wot I Yamnesia.

We get more than a snappy title from this. We get that rarity of a premise that hasn’t been done in Popeye before. There’ve been a few shorts where someone disguised themself as Popeye or, sometimes, Olive Oyl. (I think that was only done in the King Features shorts and I don’t know production order for those.) But an actual body-swapping story? That’s new. (Not wholly unprecedented; Vice Versa, which I know as a late-80s movie I didn’t feel the need to watch, was based on a novel from 1882. In the 1930s Turnabout was a popular novel and then movie.)

At least it seems like a body-swapping story. After the first accident, with Popeye and Swee’Pea swapped, Wimpy declares that it’s amnesia. Wimpy’s con-artist inclinations make him a good person to know any needed exposition. But he has a specific reason to know about this: as a boxing referee he’s seen it many times. Wimpy was introduced in the comic strip as a boxing referee; this might be the first time it’s come up in a cartoon that wasn’t about boxing. It also suggests mind-transfer is an occupational hazard of boxers in the Popeye universe. The world-building isn’t strong enough to ponder that. Wimpy knows the cure for bump-on-the-head amnesia is another bump on the head. But Olive Oyl gets in the way of his hitting Swee’Pea gain, and we get another round of body-swapping.

At the front door, Brutus leans forward, eyes closed, to kiss Olive Oyl. She has a stack of four hamburgers in her hand, and one in her mouth, so that Brutus is kissing the hamburger.
I’m sorry, I should have mentioned this week was Popeye After Dark.

Or, again, apparently body swapping? Because the punch line of the cartoon, Popeye and Brutus both acting like babies, doesn’t make sense as a swapping. It’s more like “actual” amnesia with neither remembering anything past when they were Swee’Pea’s age. I know, it’s shocking to imagine a Jack Kinney cartoon where the logic falls apart, but that’s what we have.

But there’s another unprecedented thing here. Wimpy-in-Olive’s-body, or whatever it is, declares (at about 14:02), “I’m one of the Jones boys.” And repeats it, about 15:26, telling Brutus, “Please, sir, I’m one of the Jones boys!” This was, I swear to you, Wimpy’s big catchphrase in the Thimble Theatre comic strip. He would throw up this line as conversational chaff to escape when a mark was starting to catch on to him. As far as I know it’s never been animated before. Ralph Wright revived Wimpy’s backstory to explain something that barely needs explaining. What motivated Wright to go for a deep cut in stuff Wimpy might say? (And a line that, in this context, would be baffling to kids who didn’t know that 25 years before Wimpy said this stuff. Maybe they would guess that his name was Wimpy Jones?)

Popeye and Brutus are sitting and crawling on the floor as toddlers, eyes closed and making goofy faces. Around them are a bunch of toys.
I don’t know what feeling it is Popeye playing with a sailor doll instills in me, but it does.

So the cartoon has striking novelty. What it hasn’t got is much of a plot. Once the premise is established we get about 938 cutaways to Swee’Pea-in-Popeye’s-Body demanding a cookie. And as many of Popeye-in-Swee’Pea’s-body demanding spinach. Wimpy-in-Olive’s-body goes after more hamburgers, as the refrigerator full of burgers isn’t enough. Olive-in-Wimpy’s-body goes off … I dunno, knitting or something, the girls do that all the time, right? But the cartoon is short. The novelty of everyone doing stuff with the wrong voice-actors is enough to last until Brutus arrives. And then he has to work out the premise again, since somehow once you’re body-swapped-by-head-conk you forget this happened?

Popeye-in-Swee’Pea’s-Body goes to make a spinach sandwich and eats a bit himself. This is another rarity, eating spinach before there’s any particular mission. It might be novel that this gets the Popeye-the-Sailor-Man fanfare before there’s any feat of strength to do. Popeye-in-Swee’Pea’s-Body punches Brutus for no reason I can discern. The various rubble knocks everyone but Popeye and Brutus right again. Wimpy’s happy to have the chance to test his theory and Olive Oyl declares, “No, no, a thousand times no; ’tis far better thus!” Thus is Popeye and Brutus playing like toddlers. It’s a funny, out-of-nowhere bit of melodrama on Olive Oyl’s part. I’m not sure what it means about what she wants in a boyfriend.

And that closes out it out. I’d be interested in a Popeye body-swapping cartoon where things happen. But puttering around with the novelty for a couple minutes is pleasant fun too.

Statistics Saturday: The Movies (an incomplete list)


  • The Hustler
  • The Apartment
  • The Discrete Charm of The Bourgeoisie
  • The Casablanca
  • The Dog Day Afternoon
  • The E.T.
  • The Fall of The House of the Usher
  • Who Framed The Roger Rabbit
  • The A Hard Day’s The Night
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty The Valance
  • The Mon Oncle
  • The Night of The Hunter

Reference: The Big Rich: The Rise And Fall of The Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes, Bryan Burrough.

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