The Most Aptly Placed Appearance Of “But, of course,” I Have Ever Seen On Wikipedia This Week

From Wikipedia’s description of the 1979-80 Ruby/Spears cartoon Fangface which I was reading because life brings us all to points we did not expect:

In 1979, the second season titled Fangface and Fangpuss aired as a segment on The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show and introduced a new character: Baby Fangs, Fangs’ infant cousin who turns into a baby werewolf called Fangpuss (which contradicts the opening narration stating that only one werewolf is born into the family every 400 years, but, of course, that werewolf could be born through another family which may be married to the Fangsworth family).

But, of course.

But, of course.


Why Not To Make A Presentation

The thing about making a presentation is there’s no good reason to do it. Nobody likes making a presentation. The normal person, told to present a something, will throw their hands up and shriek. Yes, as though they were a mouse spotting a housewife in a cartoon from the 1940s. Then they’ll run through the most immediately nearby door, even if it’s the one to the linen closet. “Wait,” you protest, insisting that’s not real. “We’re at work. Why would we have a linen closet at work?” Well, if that’s not a linen closet then why is Holden buried under an avalanche of the successfully-folded towels? Hmm?

The other thing is nobody wants to see a presentation. Think of the great presentations of history. There was Stephen Jobs, in 1998, telling the world that Apple had decided to try making computers and music players and phones that people liked. And they’d stop whatever the heck they’d been doing the previous fifteen years. (They had been inventing new numbers to put at the end of fake, vaguely Latin names with meaningless letters suffixed. You know, like, Quadra CE 6122 or Performa XXL 230p or Centris vx715 III+: Turtles In Time.) There was Albert Einstein, in 1915, presenting how the non-Euclidean nature of spacetime explained gravity. There was King James II’s presentation of his son in 1688. This inspired the whole of England to rise up, throw the King into the Channel, and grab the nearest Dutchman to be King instead.

And the next other thing is you don’t have anything to say. Goodness, Dwight Eisenhower thought winning the War in Europe didn’t need anything more than a quick telegram. Yes, yes, he did that thing where he put his thumb on his nose and wiggled his fingers in the general direction of Flensburg. But who doesn’t do that from time to time? What do you even call that? You used to see it in cartoons. I think it was called “Flensburg”. If that didn’t rate a 45-minute discussion about process completion and goal reorientation how does your thing rate?

Also there’s no good way to make the presentation. The best sort of presentation is where you have a giant, cartoony implement with a lot of whirring wheels and spinning belts. You can take a big bucket labelled “STUFF” and pour it in the top. Then there’s a lot of chirring and chugging and whirling around of those little brass spheres on steeply-angled legs and all that. Eventually something goes “DING!”. A neatly-wrapped package drops out from the front. You get to at most three of those presentations a year. The waiting list for that machine is years long. Proponents of capitalism as a theory tell us that of course with such high demand manufacturers are going to step up production and make many more. Capitalists will innovate to make device-manufacture cheaper and more accessible to a wider market. They’re so cute when they talk nonsense like that. Mortals like us have to settle for waiting for the overhead projector to warm up. Then shuffle quickly through the only Powerpoint trick we can do. It’s having a line of text rotate on a central vertical axis until it finally snaps into place. We don’t know how to do it. Powerpoint started doing that one day and it seems to be having so much fun it can’t stop. We have to carry on as if we meant it.

One more thing is who’s got time to get to a presentation? I suppose there are people sprawling out on their floor. They’re thinking how they don’t have anything to do. And they’ve got all the time and energy in the world to do it with. These people are eight years old, nine max. The rest of us have upwards of twelve minutes of unscheduled time per day. If we bunch it all up for a week or so we might be able to fit in watching your projector turn off because it’s overheated. But is your talk worth it?

So if you don’t want to make a presentation, and nobody wants to see a presentation, and you don’t have anything that needs a presentation, and nobody expects any presentation to be all that good, and nobody has the time for a presentation anyway, why are you doing it? I don’t know. We live in complicated times, that’s all. Maybe we should have thought things out when we set up society back when we were starting it like eight years ago. There was someone who had some ideas we thought we should consider but we never had any way of hearing her outline them. Too bad.

My Excuse For Not Being Able To Get Anything Done Today

And I’m sorry for it. But I got to remembering how I took violin lessons in elementary school. So I have to have gotten the violin from home to school, and back again. So … I must have walked to school on violin-class days carrying the thing, right? Yes, I’m with me so far. (I was with me then, too, but it was earlier on.) So this part I’m fine with. It’s just that I’m trying to think what I did when it was violin-class day and it was raining. I can’t have just carried the violin, in its case, out in the rain, right? I can’t figure how I would put up with letting the violin case get rained on all the way to school and back again. And yeah, I know when we look back at ourselves as young kids, we always imagine that we were basically the same people with the same foibles and quirks and issues, except that then we were basically happy and not tired all the time. But I can’t see how I would just let my violin case get rained on. And I can’t imagine deliberately leaving it home. And I certainly wouldn’t use a borrowed violin from school, not when I had a perfectly good one at home that I could bring. I have to conclude that either it never rained back then, or I didn’t actually go to elementary school, or I never actually took violin lessons in which case why did I still have the violin as recently as 2012, or I don’t exist. And I’m not sure I want to know the answer if it turns out my non-existence is on the table.

Anyway the server problem is with something called “Roslyn”. I don’t know here but apparently she’s known in the Microsoft IIS communities on StackOverflow. Maybe you can do something.

The 26th Talkartoon: Minding The Baby, where Betty got her name

The title card this cartoon credits it to “Betty Boop and Bimbo”. I think that’s the first time we’ve seen Betty Boop’s last name established in one of these cartoons, and I’m surprised that doesn’t rate mention on the Wikipedia articles about this cartoon or about Talkartoons in general. This short also lacks animator credits. Talkartoon credits Shamus Culhane and Bernard Wolf, on what grounds I don’t know. Its release date was either the 9th of September, 1931, according to the Talkartoons page, or the 26th of September, according to its own page. Leonard Maltin’s Of Mice and Magic was the 26th, which makes for a neater arrangement of things altogether.

Most serieses grow stock templates for stories. It’s not laziness or anything exactly; it’s just that the people making a series realize they’ve got these characters who do this kind of thing well, and so go to telling that kind of story more. There is a loose template for Betty Boop and Bimbo cartoons: Betty wants to play with Bimbo, and they do, and some monster comes in and spoils the fun, often kidnapping Betty, until Bimbo rallies into action and everything collapses into chaos. Minding the Baby isn’t there. But I can see that template in embryo. Bimbo’s kid brother isn’t your classically-formed monster. But he does serve a lot of the same role, spoiling Betty and Bimbo’s fun and taking the initiative away from them.

We start with a crying baby and a gently wicked-in-that-30s-cartoon-way version of Rock-a-Bye-Baby. Bimbo’s got to watch his baby brother Aloysius. Also Bimbo has a baby brother Aloysius. This brings the ratio of Fictional People Named Aloysius To Show They’re The Comedy’s Annoying Character to Actual People Named Aloysius In Real Life to infinity-to-zero.

The cartoon’s a buffet of “Hey, that tune!” moments; right as Bimbo’s mother drops off Aloysius there’s background music burned into my brain as the tune for Betty Boop’s Birthday Party (“This is Betty’s/Birthday party jaaaaam”). There’s some incidental music around 2:00 that’s just in everything or at least feels like it. Similarly the jaunty little tune as Bimbo jumps rope. “Rock-a-Bye-Baby” and “How Dry I Am” and “By The Beautiful Sea” are cartoon staples, not just for this studio. The player piano-scroll music that the hippo plays with his snores has been driving me crazy because I can’t pin down the title. This whole paragraph is making me sound ill-prepared. The songs are there, though.

The cartoon’s got a story. It’s a loose one. Aloysius can go on making trouble, or at least old-baby jokes like smoking cigars and checking the Stuck Market, as long as it needs to. But there is reason for stuff to happen, and for Aloysius’s mischief to get bigger and bigger until it ends in some calamity. Surprising to me on rewatch was that Bimbo just gives up on watching Aloysius pretty early on. I’d expect good comic tension to be driven by his having to be both at Betty’s and keeping Aloysius from falling out the window. Instead, mostly, Aloysius gets into and out of his own trouble. Makes you wonder if they really need to watch the kid after all.

There’s no mice at all, suspiciously Mickey-like or otherwise. There’s a couple good bits of body horror. For me the biggest is the cat that gets pulled inside-out by the vacuum. I know there’s other people who’ll find more primal the punch line of Bimbo zipping Aloysius’s mouth closed. By the way, at the time zippers were a basically new thing. I mean, they had been invented decades earlier, but it was only in the 20s that design and manufacturing had got good enough that they could be used. To put the joke in a modern context it’d be kind of like synch’ing Aloysius’s voice to an iPhone that you then mute. I admit it’s a sloppy translation.

I’m not sure about a good blink-and-you-miss-it joke. There’s several nice bits of statues coming to life long enough to participate in the action. But they’re also pretty well-established. Bimbo dangling down a floor and licking a windowsill cake would be a good one, except it’s done a second time. Yes, in service of setting up a third dangle, where he licks a cat (to the same hilariously pathetic little “mew” as in Bimbo’s Express, I think). Still, the cartoon shows a good bit of polish. The setup’s reasonable, it’s developed well, and it comes to a conclusion that’s very nearly a full conclusion. The cartoons don’t feel slapdash at this point.

Me, Stopping In At The Record Show

OK, I don’t really have the time to explore stuff here. I don’t need anything, I’m not looking for anything, and I’m totally not trying to do that thing where I find the most baffling artefact ever recorded to gouged-out plates of vinyl.

I brush my hand against a box. It’s an unconscious thing, nothing intentional, nothing meant by it. In the front of the box is the Sanford and Son album (“From the ORIGINAL NBC TV SHOW featuring REDD FOX and DESMOND WILSON”). (“Genre: Funk/Soul, Non-Music”).

I’m not doing this on purpose you know.

PS: I have no memory of writing this, which I came across trying to find other record-show posts, but there’s no possible other person who could have.

PPS: I didn’t buy it because it turned out I had almost no cash on me and I used what little I did have on a two-disc set from the Longines Symphonette Society about remembering old-time radio, a thing I spend my time listening to anyway.

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? And Who’s Fleeing What? 25 December 2017 – 18 March 2018.

Hi, Reader. Want to know what’s going on in Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker?. I hope so. My latest answer is at or near the top of this page.

My latest review of mathematically-themed comic strips, meanwhile, is over at the top of this page. Please enjoy that.

Judge Parker

25 December 2017 – 18 March 2018.

I last checked in at Christmastime, and an exciting time. April Parker escaped Rogue CIA Agent Prison, with the help of her father Norton. The plan: the Parkers flee the country and take up a life as fugitives. When Judge (Retired) Alan Parker refused this as bonkers, Norton left him unconscious on the floor of his house and, for all we could tell, dead. April burst into her and Randy Parker’s house. She announced she was taking their daughter Charlotte, who would not be growing up without her father.

With every police agency in the world closing in Randy and April argue it out. April advances the thesis: what’s crazy about them becoming international fugitives anyway? Randy answers: every single piece of this. With time running out Norton’s henchman Wurst grabs at Randy; April orders him to stand down or “I will bury you so deep the magma will burn you”.

The aftermath, as revealed following the New Year: April did not take Charlotte or Randy before leaving, promising to always love him. And also to be back for Charlotte one day. She flees into the police headlights and gunfire and only Marciuliano and Manley can guess what. There is (on the 18th of January) a suggestive picture of a good-sized ship sailing to sea. I suppose that says what the authros’ intent was.

Randy Parker, narrating: 'And just like that, Dad, April gave me Charlotte.' Norton: 'April! What are you --- ' April: 'Dad! ... I know you will take great care of our daughter, Randy. You're the best man I have ever known ... I ... I have always loved you, Randy, even ... even if I haven't always been honest with you ... I will always love you.'' And a flock of police cars drive up to the house.
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 14th of January, 2018. And a real chance for Manley to show off what he can do, between the line art and the colors that I’m amazed you can even expect to render in newsprint.

Randy, seeing his life ruined, takes the chance to ruin someone else’s. Not on purpose. But the accidental target is Toni Bowen. She was the reporter covering the last of previous writer Woody Wilson’s crazypants throw-money-at-the-Parkers schemes. That was the opening of the aerospace-factory-loaded-with-cargo-containers-and-made-a-clothing-factory-for-the-elderly. I told you it was a crazypants scheme. Anyway, Bowen was there when Marciuliano had all that dropped into a sinkhole. This propelled her to a reporting job at a national cable news channel. Randy gives only her an interview about all the current craziness.

Bowen’s already on a Performance Improvement Plan. The sinkhole was an exciting story. But nobody was actually to blame for it. And emergency responers were efficient and effective. That sort of thing spoils a good cable-news feeding frenzy. She was there to report the embezzling-stalker truck driver that was another of Marciuliano’s first plot threads. But that story, in-universe, ended up too weird and confusing for it to be exciting reporting. Her boss has one item on the Plan: make Parker admit something about April’s whereabouts and plans. If he won’t, at least emotionally destroy him live on nationwide television. But Randy doesn’t know anything about her plans. And Bowen doesn’t move in for the kill. So she’s sent back to local TV news where at least she can insult the camera guy being all passive-aggressive about her failure in the bigger leagues.

Those threads take a pause. Over to Alan Parker and his attempts to reconnect with Katherine. (And putting the lie to one of Norton’s parting-shot lies, by the way, that Katherine had moved on and would have nothing to do with her husband again.) Their let’s-try-dating-anew has got to the point of bed-and-breakfast weekends. They spend theirs in a town being all overbearing with its apple cider thing. Also possibly being out of season for apple cider, if my experience with Quality Dairy proclaiming Cider’s A-Pourin’ is any guide. But the town was also doing a special showing of The Cider House Rules. This raises the question of whether the town watched the movie before scheduling it. (And I mention this because my love had, in teaching, shown The Cider House Rules enough to get truly sick and resentful of every frame of the movie. And then the Michigan state tourism board decided to use the movie’s haunting Twee Little Recurring Theme for its TV and radio ads. So now any commercial break can be a sudden jab of emotional pain.)

[ At the Staunten Cider Festival street market ] Katherine: 'Alan, this has been a wonderful weekend. But I don't think we should rush into anything. I have my own place now. My own career. My own life. And I'm not going to give that up so things can go back to exactly how they were. We have to build towards each other, Alan. And that will take time. Do you understand?' Alan: 'I do, Katherine. I do.' [ They eat.] Katherine: 'And they put cider in the lobster roll, didn't they?' Alan: 'Maybe we should find a town that hates apples.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 11th of February, 2018. May I suggest Pumpkinfest, held in October in Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania? It includes a parade and floats tossing candies out to kids on the sidelines in defiance of the flyers asking them to not throw candies. And then it goes over to the charming and somehow, impossibly, surviving Conneaut Lake Park for a day of the amusement park’s busiest activity and a bit where they drop a giant pumpkin from a great height onto a junker car. Pennsylvania amusement parks are all weird in their own ways but Conneaut Lake Park is just a whole other dimension of bizarre and it’s wonderful.

Back to the Spencer Farms. Neddy’s been kicking around depressed ever since Marciuliano took over the writing and the factory collapsed and all that. She’s shaken out of that by a drop-in from Godiva Danube. She’s the movie star whose connections made the container-cargo-clothing-factory-sinkhole-collapse possible. Godiva thinks she’s about to get back into Hollywood and invites Neddy to be along as her assistant. She throws Godiva out. (Godiva leaves her purse behind, which Neddy says was on purpose so Godiva “could return for one more dramatic scene”. That isn’t paid off on-screen yet.) Still, Neddy takes the idea of moving to Los Angeles as a great one. There’s few things that cure aimless depression like moving to a new city without any prospects, connections, or particular reason to be there. Abby Spencer points this out and gets chased out of the guest house for her trouble. We’ve all been there. (Seriously people Seattle is not the cure for your broken soul and it’s too crowded already so lay off it.)

Godiva: 'How DARE you! You needed a friend! You needed a push! But when I tried to help, you just looked out for yourself!' Neddy: 'You didn't come to help me, Godiva. You came with a sob story so I'd feel sorry for you. Then somehow be grateful to you for giving me a second chance to be used.' Godiva: 'No, I came here to give our FRIENDSHIP a second chance! But you can't do the same, because you're selfish!' Neddy: 'What the --- you're so manipulative, you've fooled yourself! But you can't make me feel bad about having self-respect!' Godiva: 'Oh, so now selfishness is self-respect?!' Neddy: 'You can call me selfish. You can call me anything you want. But this time I'm listening to myself, not to you.' Godiva: 'Fine! But what do you think people in LA will say after I've badmouthed you all over town?' Neddy: 'Probably 'Why should I listen to the person who just starred in leprechaun 14: Magically Delicious'?' [ Door SLAM! ] Abby: 'I ... I am so proud of you, Neddy.' Neddy: 'Hold your applause. She left her purse behind so she could return for one more dramatic scene.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 4th of March, 2018. Sure, Neddy talks about having self-respect but she does still admit she has an idea for a screenplay for when she gets to Los Angeles so, yeah.

So this past week we got back to Randy Parker. Who, it turns out, has responded to this latest turn in his life by picking up Sam Driver’s crazy evidence wall and trying out paranoia himself. In fairness, he’s afraid of some ridiculously capable people who’ve promised to take his daughter. But he’s also been skipping out on, you know, work. And when you’re doing so little law work that Judge Alan Parker notices you’re not doing law work, you’ve reached galaxy-brain levels of slacking off. Could be trouble.

Next Week!

OK, so you know how ridiculous the last Amazing Spider-Man plot was? And then this Amazing Spider-Man plot started out with Bruce Banner and Chuck “The Lizard” Connors and all? Well, the story got all blood-transfusiony and just so wonderfully, magnificently goofy and yes, J Jonah Jameson has come back into things. I can’t wait to tell you all about Stan Lee, Larry Leiber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man next week. Heck, I might just do it Wednesday to make sure I don’t miss anything.

Statistics Saturday: TV Channel Names Noticed While Checking The DishTV In My Dream Last Night

  • MeGrid: The Matrix
  • Half
  • Lex Pubublublublum
  • AniAction
  • Rorb
  • WQWD
  • Half (a subchannel of the first Half and not, I’m like 40% sure, my subconscious working up a joke about half-and-half, but I’m going to leave that idea out there because it makes a list like this seem that much more believable)
  • Monocle
  • SingTime Express
  • Gulp

Source: Journey To The Moon: The History of the Apollo Guidance Computer, Eldon C Hall.

WaaaaAAAAAAaaaaaAAAAAaaaaiiiiiIIIIiiiiIIIIIiiiiIIIIiiiit a minute

In what way is Iowa part of the “Great Lakes Region”? Is there even a square foot of Iowa that drains into anything that touches a Great Lake? (No.) The heck, Mapping in Michigan and the Great Lakes Region? Your tales of how 1940s Iowans imagined telling Martians how great the place was and also write poetic odes to the state are fine and all that but if “touches a state that’s actually connected to a Great Lake” puts something in the Great Lakes region then Vermont is in the Great Lakes region for crying out loud. And they’re not. They have a pretty darned good Lake but no. The heck, people?

Yeah, this took me a while to work out but I never said I was on the debate team back in high school, now did I? Also I wasn’t. I was on the physics team. We didn’t have to deal with Iowa or any Great Lake.

How To Swim In Some Other Way

With all the talk these days about spring starting soon — please disregard this message if spring isn’t due to start soon — it’s a good time to learn some new swimming moves. You’ll want to do this before the swimming pools get to opening. In the fast-paced world of competitive recreational swimming if you wait for the pools to open you’ll be swarmed and overwhelmed by people who think they know what they’re doing. Nothing’s a greater threat to getting anything done than swarms of people who think they know what they’re doing. If anyone ever did know what they were doing they’d reconsider doing it in the first place.

And there’s no sense waiting for the pools to close. Getting your swimming-learning in then just leads to awkward questions and sometimes a court appearance. And not the good kinds of court either (basketball, tennis, or stuffed-doll kangaroo). If you find yourself somewhere after the pools close you could pretend to swim. Get into your shower, say, and make the appropriate motions. This will knock the shampoo over and send half of it down the drain. This will give some much-needed bounce to the hair clot that’s about two months away from causing a critical plumbing malfunction.

Now there aren’t any of these swimming strokes designed for efficiency. We already know the most efficient way to get across a swimming pool. First approach the pool at its narrowest end, making soft cooing noises without any startling motions. Then, having strapped a jet engine to your back, jump in at no less than 80% full thrust. Bring it up to 105% nominal full thrust before you hit the water and with luck you’ll be across without even getting wet, and you just might beat the falling boulder to that pesky roadrunner. No; what we want here is a full swimming experience, which is what these are about.

First: The Ladder Climb. Start from the top of a ladder which leads into the pool or other body of water. You might need to bring a ladder with you, in which case be sure to mark your name on it somewhere, yes, even if your name is “Mark”. Stand securely with both hands on the railing and both feet on a step, and make your way one step at a time down. When your body is mostly in the water you can then shift to hopping down, both legs taking one step. For the final step hop away from the ladder while describing this as one small step for a man or woman as appropriate but nevertheless one giant leap etc. Advanced swimmers might try a more obscure line such as “Whoopie! Man, that may have been one small step for Neil.” Or try working up your own lunar-landing quote, possibly delivering it imitation of some 1930s comedian you know only from Bugs Bunny cartoons. Try Ben Turpin. Nobody will know if you’re doing it wrong.

Second: The Vertical Drop. Place your arms and legs together to descend rapidly to the bottom of the water. With your eyes closed (if you’re anything like me, you have to do this before you even get started) reflect on how nice it is to be there. It’s warm enough. The light leaking through your eyes is diffuse and nonspecific. Children squealing sound like they’re thousands of miles away. Lifeguards blowing whistles sound like alien life forms. The cries of people evacuating the pool are barely audible. The siren warning about sharks in the area is as nothing compared to the weird, not-exactly-grippy surface nosing you around. Remember to not breathe until you’re done with your business down below.

Third: The Twist. Start from a horizontal pose within the water. Select one arm (the wrong one) to move forward as it’s above the water line, the way you would for a crawl or for that other crawl. Meanwhile using the other arm (the right one) move backward, similarly. With your legs kick left and right simultaneously, producing a lurching motion that immediately propels you into the person in the next lane. With your full measure of grace apologize and pledge never to do it again. Then using the second arm (the right one) forward and the wrong arm backward (the other one) try again. This will propel you into the person in the other lane. In case you are swimming where there’s not any lanes bring along some ropes and string them up yourself. It may seem like a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

While these may seem obvious to do, it is worth practicing so that you look up to four percent less silly when you can go swimming again. Put the shampoo bottle on the sink. Sorry, no idea how the shark got into this.

In Which I Learn A Sad Fact About Iowa’s State Highway Map of 1947

So first of all, I discovered that the Iowa Department of Transportation has put what looks like all the Official State Highway Maps it’s ever issued up on its web site. So if you ever want to know how you might get from Des Moines to … Some … Other Moines, Iowa, using only the marked highways of 1922, there you go. By there I mean to one or the other Moines. Wait, they have a county named Grundy? How many Iowa counties do share names with Archie characters, anyway? Well, not my business.

But the sad thing. That story I had read about in Mapping in Michigan and the Great Lakes Region? About a Martian who comes to Earth looking for the best the planet has to offer and gets told to go to Iowa in a non-sarcastic manner? Overblown. The back of the 1947 map does talk about showing a Martian the best of Earth, but it’s not a story. I was so hoping for a cartoon with a lovely Prototype Gidney And/Or Cloyd looking at cornfields and zipping off in his flying saucer to tell fellow Martians about this, and yes I know Gidney and Cloyd were from the Moon thank you, but no. That they have is a story about the way this could be a story. And I want to quote it because I know I was giggling for a good while about what I like to think you were too and I should let Iowa’s enthusiasts have their chance.

We call it Iowa

Some day, when the mystery of space is no longer a mystery and voyages between planets are successfully accomplished, a neighbor from Planet Mars may visit Planet Earth. Should he do so, doubtless he will be curious to learn the way of the living creatures that are in ascendancy on Planet Earth. It is certain that in due time he will be directed to the United States of America, there to behold a land and a people filled with imperfections but, nevertheless, enjoying the greatest advances yet made upon this planet toward a comfortable and pleasurable existence.

Should all this come to pass, our neighbor from Mars is almost certain to find these United States of America very bewildering. In our great cities he will find the triumphant steel and masonry achievements of our builders within a stone’s throw of slum districts where human beings must live without hope of quiet and comfort and cleanliness, where are are no flowers or birds or grass or trees or open spaces. Is this the best this planet has to offer? In other sections of this land of ours he will travel, league upon league, through areas where living conditions are primitive and a meager and stunted existence is all that has been achieved. Is this the good life that he has come so far to see? Is there nowhere within our borders an area where our Martian neighbor may be shown a comprehensible segment of the best that Planet Earth, through the ages, has succeeded in evolving?

There is. We call it Iowa. It is located near the heart of the Nation. Its area and population are each slightly less than two percent of that Nation. Nature has favored it with a temperate climate, ample rainfall and productive soil; natural resources that attract thoughtful, industrious people who expect to work for a living and who have reason for confidence that their efforts will be rewarded. Of such fibre were our forebears, emigrants from many lands. Of such fibre are the more than two and one-half million people now dwelling within our borders.

In today’s complex social order we are all specialists. Through the centuries we have found it efficient for the individual or group to learn to do certain things well, and to exchange the resulting products of their efforts for the surplus products of other specialists. In Iowa we are primarily specialists in the production of food. The one million Iowans, for whom the farms of Iowa are home, produce the food consumed by many times their number. No other like number of people, dwelling upon a like area of the earth’s surface, are equally successful specialists in the art of food production. And nowhere on this earth is there greater opportunity for a satisfying life than on the farms of Iowa.

Sixty percent of our people dwell in our cities and towns. They too are specialists, but in many different and equally essential fields. Among these are found the usual quota in the professions and in the retail and service fields Many are engaged in processing and marketing the products of the farm; others in the manufacture and distribution of the equipment and suplies used by their farmer customers. While the major part of the industrial development of the State is closely related to its basic industry, Agriculture, the manufacturers of the State have won pre-eminence in other widely diversified lines, such as pearl buttons, road-building equipment, and washing machines. In recent years, several of the nation’s largest corporations have chosen Iowa for the location of important manufacturing branches. Here they find better living conditions and lower living costs for employees than in the crowded industrial areas. Undoubtedly these conditions are conductive to the friendly employer-employee relationship that is so essential to a successful industrial employee.

Yes, Good Neighbor from Mars, in a day’s drive over our highways or in a few hours by plane, we can show you an area that is emblematic of the best thus far developed on this Planet Earth. we expect to make it better. WE CALL IT IOWA.

So my impressions: (1) Did a different person write each paragraph? Because it seems like they lost the Martian thread along the way there. And (2) So the takeaways of what Iowa specializes in are:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Pearl buttons
  3. Road-building equipment
  4. Washing machines

So (3) I think this means my grandparents put together were Iowa? I don’t understand it, but there’s no arguing with the lovely line-art illustration of tall, barely-windowed buildings with smokestacks. It’s all right there.

The 25th Talkartoon: Bimbo’s Express, a moving cartoon

This Talkartoon was released the 22nd of August, 1931. This was not quite a month after Bimbo’s Initiation. But Wikipedia tells me this was the first entry of the 1931-32 film season. It doesn’t seem like much of a season break. But there are changes. Most importantly, Bimbo’s no longer the sole credited lead character. There’s no credited animators, and I don’t see any clear guesses about who’s responsible.

So one of those things I never knew was a thing growing up: “Moving Day” didn’t used to just be whenever it was you roped a couple friends into lugging a couch down three flights of stairs and back up a different three flights. Used to be — per Edwin G Burrows and Mike (Not That Mike) Wallace’s Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 — a specific day, the 1st of May. Most leases would expire then and the city would convulse in a mad dash for cartage as everybody tried to get to a new spot. Gotham doesn’t make clear to me when this Moving Day lapsed. I would guess during World War II, given the housing shortages, when rational people might leap at the chance to sleep inside the fireplace since at least it’s a warm spot in walking distance of the defense plant. But my point is that when this cartoon was made, and when it was first shown, “Moving Day” likely had this suggestion of a specific, big event that people went through nearly annually.

The core of any Moving Day cartoon is, yeah, how to carry stuff in silly ways. The short doesn’t disappoint in having good approaches for this. My favorite is the overall busy scene breaking out at about 3:24 in, when movers toss furniture down the rain gutter and pop the roof off to throw stuff down to the patio and so on. It’s got that big-complicated-mechanism action so dear to the Fleischer Brothers. There’s some other fine silly bits, such as carrying the stove or the bathtub out. Or Bimbo carefully bringing furniture out the window and untying it to drop. And very well, too, with an almost perfect call from below of “I got it!” after each drop.

At least when the moving action finally gets started. The short does take its sweet time getting there. It isn’t all wasted time. Yes, we’ve got the idea that it’s Bimbo’s Moving Van after about three seconds of seeing the moving van. But there is some fun to be had seeing the horse pull the van in a silly way. Also to spot the well-done background, moving at an angle and years before multi-plane cameras were a thing. Also there’s establishing the gorilla and the small cat. Also, I’m apparently incapable of not giggling every single time the cat gets squashed or walks underneath the gorilla and emits that poor, sad little “mew”. I’m not sure it needs as long as it gets. But, oh, that helpless “mew”. Also there’s one of the few jokes you could miss this short if you blinked; a wheel falls off the van and the vehicle staggers until it gets things back.

I’m still more tickled by the cat’s many little “mew” cries. Between those and the guy down below yelling how he’s got the furniture Bimbo’s dropped, this might be a new high-water mark for Talkartoons having funny lines from characters.

This is the first cartoon titled Bimbo and Betty — no Boop, yet — which I suppose shows how the Fleischers realized that Betty had something Bimbo just hadn’t. I’m surprised they recognized it so early. Here she’s got more screen time than, I think, since The Bum Bandit. But all Betty does is spend her time clipping her toenails (complete with a face on her toe, a joke the studio would come back to) and setting up a decent if stock, slightly racy, joke from Bimbo. She could bring a little more to the proceedings.

It’s not a bad cartoon. Lesser than Bimbo’s Initiation, but most cartoons are. It’s got a larger cast than average, and I keep finding the extra cast more interesting than the main. I’m not sure if the horse, gorilla, and cat show up in other cartoons. They make a good impression, especially considering how little they get to do. It’s got to be in the cat’s pathetic little crushed “mew”.

I’m Scared

I was writing about Gil Thorp for yesterday and remembered that Cow and Boy character I mentioned. One of the enormously many running gags was a giant panda who wanted to destroy the Moon and ultimately succeeded. And that would have been a great side joke to include in a story about kids protesting local radio jerkface Marty Moon. Trouble is I didn’t remember any particular date when Cow and Boy featured its Moon-hating giant panda. Couldn’t find it by searching either. None of the keywords that made any sense got me anything relevant. So I turned to DuckDuckGo because shut up I just do. And then I got this.

Safe search blocked some results for "cow and boy" comic strip panda. Turn off: [Temporarily] [Permanently]
By the way if you don’t include ‘comic strip’ you get pictures of people with black-and-white cows which, hey, great for you but that’s not what I need just now. Yes, after this I refused to try "cow and boy" comic strip moon.

While I’m soft-spoken, I am not a timid soul. I have seen, and coped with, stuff on the Internet that I will not be able to talk with my parents about even after we are all dead. But this? This shakes me.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? And What’s Marty Moon’s Problem? December 2017 – March 2018

Content warning: I’ve got a lot of content here about Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp today. It should help you catch up to where things are by mid-March of 2018. Check your local time coordinates. If it’s a lot later than March 2018 the story might have moved on too far for this to be useful. If I’ve written another essay catching the story up it should be at or near the top of this page. Good luck finding what you need.

Gil Thorp.

18 December 2017 – 10 March 2018.

Last time I shared what I knew of Milford, the story was centered on Rick Soto. Rick’s a promising offensive lineman: in just one story he’s gotten an ankle injury and taken a knee to the head. Watching over this is his uncle Gary. Gary tries to argue that Rick’s repeated injuries suggest maybe he’d be better off being the superstar singer that he wants Rick to be.

Gary presses the whole “concussions are bad stuff” angle even after the strip brings in an expert to say that Rick’s fine. This exhausts Gil Thorp’s reserve of not caring to the point that he steps up and gets someone else to google Gary Soto. He gathers Rick, Gary, and Rick’s Mom together for a conference in which he reveals the shocking facts of the situation. Gary’s law license was suspended and he’s bankrupt. His only career prospect is finding talent, eg, Rick, and managing him through his friend’s talent agency. Also Thorp brings Rick’s Dad back from his construction project in Dubai. Rick’s Dad apologizes for letting Gary get in the way of watching out for his family. And berates him for all this trying to push Rick from football into music. And throws Gary out of his house. So, uh, yeah. It may take a while to get Coach Thorp riled but when you do, you’re jobless, bankrupt, and homeless at Christmas. So maybe I’m going to go do some editing around here.

Rick Soto's Dad: 'Maybe Connie can't believe you'd try to cash in on our son, but I do!' (Soto's Mom or maybe Gary) 'Richard!' [Dad and Mom hug.] Dad: 'I'm so sorry, Connie. I let work get in the way of watching out for my family.' [ Turning to Gary.] 'As for you, start thinking of what you'll tell Rick about why you're leaving tonight.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 26th of December, 2017. “Uhm … uh … I have to get to work on the new Starbuck Jones comic book? He’d buy that, right?”

And that wraps up the Rick Soto plot, with the 1st of January. With the 2nd of January Rick announces his intention to move over to the basketball plot, which is the one we’re in now. Likely we’ll see Rick some more, but in supporting roles. One thing Gil Thorp does it keep characters around for plausible high school tenures. I list the dates because it’s weirdly useful to have the starts and ends of stories logged somewhere.

This story starts with Marty Moon, local radio sports-reporter jerkface. Moon notes the number of football players on the basketball team this year, calling it a lack of depth on the basketball team. Coach Thorp gets asked if he’s going to complain about the insult to his multi-sport athletes but remembers that he really doesn’t care.

The team’s depth problems have a temporary respite anyway. Jorge Padilla and his sister Paloma are temporary students. They’re staying with a cousin after their home in Puerto Rico was smashed by the hurricane and the Republican party. Paloma is angry in the way young student activists often are. She’s not only upset by her personal loss but by the willingness of mainland residents to be fine with abandoning Puerto Rico. Jorge is just happy to be somewhere safe and warm and playing basketball.

Paloma’s the first to play, although she can’t get through the first game without fouling out. She grumbles that the referee just keeps calling on the Puerto Rican girl. Other, whiter members of the cast roll their eyes at the implausibility of that idea. As if authority figures might disproportionately identify “problematic” behavior from a person of a minority ethnicity when they’re there to spot actual violations of the objective, clear rules about unsporting behavior. Anyway.

Jorge fits in great on the team and sees them to a couple strong showings. And then Marty Moon goes and opens his mouth, which is always his problem. “That hurricane was the best thing that could have happened for the team — and for Georgie Padilla” he says on air.

[ Jorge Padilla's 3-point play seals a win against New Thayer --- and as he comes off the bench for 11 at Central ... ] Marty Moon: 'That hurricane was the best thing that could have happened for this tea --- and for Georgie Padilla!''
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 8th of February, 2018. Yeah so in town there was this guy figuring to open a new hipster tavern he wanted to name Rajje’s (“It’s A Circus In Here!”). Rajje was this circus elephant that got loose in 1963. Rajje, panicked by the local residents, ran through a discount department store and another two miles before police shot and killed her. In a retrospective article Lansing residents talked about how gads, they can’t believe they were so awful as to harass this poor frightened elephant, ultimately, to her death. The tavern isn’t going to open.

A couple students from the vaguely-focused politically-active group that Paloma’s joined visit Moon. He laughs at the idea he ought to get Jorge Padilla’s name right and besides, “I’m just trying to help him seem more American”. The kids point out (a) he is American, and (b) by the way, no, having home destroyed by a hurricane is not good for him. He considers how in an excited moment he said something pretty obnoxious. So Marty tells the kids they’re big dumb dummyheads who are big and dumb.

Here, by the way, let me share one of the about four things I’ve learned in life. Nobody has ever said of someone, “She’s a great person except for how she owns up to it and backs off like right away when you call her on her bull”. If someone’s angry that you said something insensitive and a little cruel, refusing to apologize will not ever convince them that you aren’t insensitive and cruel. If you didn’t think you were being insensitive and cruel? Typically you can, with honesty, say, “I apologize for sounding like that. It’s not what I wanted to express”. Both you and they will be better off.

In fairness to Moon, he does ask Jorge if he’s got problems with how he says his name, and Jorge doesn’t. “I don’t get into that stuff,” you know, political stuff like what his name is. I can understand not getting worked up about this. The guy who runs one of the pinball leagues I’m in has some mental block that has him keep pronouncing my name “Newbus”, and I never stop finding this amusing. Any chance that I might tire of it was obliterated at the 2017 Pinburgh tournament finals, lowest division. The tournament official announced my name as “Newbus” too. I’ve lived my whole life with my last name mispronounced. Or dropped altogether as the speaker reading my name freezes up when they somehow can’t work it out. I understand you think I am joking here but no, there’s something in the pause of public speakers what I can recognize as warming up to my name. Anyway I’m delighted that my being part of a thing is enough to make ordinary routine stuff go awry.

Paloma asks Jorge why he doesn’t care whether the sports reporter gets his name right. He says he’s got other things to think about. This is another character beat. Jorge’s got a Georgian accent and Paloma a Puerto Rican one. He explained to someone that the family moved when he was a bit older than she was. But he added the thought, also she wants to sound like that.

Next men’s basketball game Marty Moon considers the people he unintentionally offended, and doubles down. They always do. He talks about “HORR-gay Pa-dee-ya from the beautiful and utterly flawless island of Puerto Rico”. Les Nessman phones in to ask, dude, what’s your problem? Well, Marty Moon’s problem is he’s Marty Moon. It’s something Marty Moon has struggled with his whole life. Also he’s Marty Moon trying to show his power over a bunch of teenagers. Also he’s trying to help the radio station land some advertising from a Mexican restaurant. This results in an overworked, weeping neuron causing Marty to say “Padilla earned his burritos with that one” after a good field goal. “That was a two-burrito shot for Padilla.” And then, “Padilla snags the rebound! He’s like a Mexican jumping bean out there!” At this point Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder leans into frame to say, “Yeah, I’m not with him.”

So. Paloma and, if I’m not misreading it, most of the women’s basketball team take up seats behind Marty’s desk next game to chant “No More Moon” over him. (Also I don’t know if this is going to pay off. But the women’s team has noticed they never get radio coverage.) Marty scolds the kids to shut up and finds that somehow doesn’t work. He then turns to Coach Gil Thorp, telling him he’s got to make them stop. Coach Thorp digs deep into his bag of not really caring and announces he doesn’t really care. And in this case, at least, I’m not sure how it would be his business. I don’t think he’s got any responsibility for the women’s teams. He certainly hasn’t got any for the students who aren’t on any team. Marty tries to start again after halftime, and can’t. So he runs off, promising that the protesters will regret this.

[ Marty Moon signs on again ] Marty: '... Bringing you the third quarter. We hope.' [ And finds an even larger chorus. ] Protesters: 'No more Moon! No more Moon!' Marty: 'Fine. I'm leaving. But you'll regret this!' Paloma: 'See you later, Mar-TEEN Moon!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 10th of March, 2018. Marty Moon overestimates how often in life people have regretted his leaving. In fairness, how many of us would be functional if we knew that kind of data? Meanwhile yes, I am aware that in Mark Leiknes’s Cow and Boy strip one of the (many) running jokes was a giant panda who achieved his dream and destroyed the Moon. I would so love to bring you a link of a giant panda, if I remember correctly riding a space-going whale alongside a triton-wielding sea-god Justin Bieber, crying out “NO MORE MOON!”. I can’t find it, though, and you would not believe where trying to search for this has brought me, Internet-wise. The whale and triton-wielding sea-god Justin Bieber were also running jokes in Cow and Boy. It was kind of an odd strip.

And that’s where we stand. I was annoyed, some might say angry, with the end of the Rick Soto story. I expect the stories in Gil Thorp to assume that organized sports are good things that people should support. All right. But look into Rick Soto’s story. The only person who expresses doubts that football is an actually safe thing to do is presented as a scheming grifter trying to lure a kid out of football in a daft scheme to wallpaper over his own repeated personal failures and who only spreading doubts to further his own agenda. The two times that Rick got injured badly enough to need medical care? Oh, that’s nothing; he can almost walk them off.

Rubin and Whigham have an indisputable vantage point here. They can decide exactly how bad Rick Soto’s injuries are, short-term and long-term. If they’ve decided those injuries aren’t anything to be particularly concerned about, then they’re right. (And they can come back around later and change their minds.) And I trust that they know the generally accepted high-school-sports understanding of what kinds of injuries are likely to result in Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. And how head injuries would be evaluated today. But I am at a point in life that when I read a story whose through-line is “EVERYTHING FINE HERE, DON’T WORRY”, I want to see how the work was done.

The Marty Moon story, meanwhile, is tromping through even stickier grounds. It’s presented Paloma as this outsider who’s stirring up trouble over issues that the real people don’t care about. Jorge doesn’t care if Marty Moon can say his name right. Nobody but her Disgruntled Students Group was shown objecting to that hurricane-was-good-for-Jorge comment. And it’s Paloma and her group actually protesting Marty Moon during a game.

So the story has a motif of “Everything would be swell if those interlopers would just stop telling people it isn’t”. It’s not an attitude I can get behind. I don’t think this is what Rubin and Whigham mean to express. Story comics work under some terrible constraints. Too many characters in any story, in any medium, confuse the audience. A story comic has maybe three or four panels a day to show anything. Readers can be expected to have forgotten or missed all but the major threads of a story. And Gil Thorp generally keeps stories to about three months long, in order that they better fit the sports seasons. Many of the things that would defuse the “we’d have nice things if only agitators stopped whining” theme are difficult to fit into the story at all. And, after all, Rubin and Whigham could have shown Marty Moon not being a jerk. At least insofar as Marty Moon is capable of non-jerk behavior. But he is the one who responded to a “hey, not cool” like he was Donald Duck noticing that Chip and Dale were sniffing around his hammock. It’s his choice to escalate the conflict. This is how you end up straitjacketed by your hammock, dangling from a tree over the edge of Death Ravine, while an angry bulldog the size of a Packard Super Eight bites at you edging your way back to safe ground all night long, and two chipmunks get to drink your lemonade. He could have saved so much effort if he’d just said yeah, sorry, he should’ve got Jorge’s name right in the first place.

Next Week!

I did not realize until it was like 4:45 pm Sunday just how much stuff there was to write about three months’ activity in Gil Thorp. (I’ve got about 1850 words, according to Hemingway Editor. It’s the tool I use to make me notice when I accidentally wrote a 375-word sentence.) What might top that? Could three moths of Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker beat the two-thousand-word mark? We’ll see.

And in things that were less than two thousand words: my comic strip review on the mathematics blog. Features some Zippy the Pinhead content, in case you like that!

Statistics Saturday: Every YouTube Video of Humans Interacting With Wild Raccoons

  • 0:02 “Oh! Oh, hi there.”
  • 0:08 “Yes, you’re very cute.”
  • 0:14 “He’s so interested, look at that!”
  • 0:24 “Hi to you too, oh, they’re so adorable.”
  • 0:35 “There. Now you go on now, go on.”
  • 0:42 “No, no, you can’t have that.”
  • 0:45 “Okay, shoo … no, no, you can’t … ”
  • 0:52 “They’re swarming!”
  • 0:58 [ shrieking, running ]

Source: Street Names of Singapore, Peter K G Dunlop.

My Takeaways From This Book About Mapping

So here’s what I’m going to really remember from this 350-page book about Mapping in Michigan and the Great Lakes Region,, a history of mapping Michigan and the Great Lakes region:

  • There’s a couple of square miles in the upper peninsula of Michigan that aren’t in the Great Lakes watershed, while the rest of the state of course is.
  • Iowa’s official State Highway map for 1947 included on the back a story about a Martian seeking the best that Earth has to offer and being told to visit Iowa what with how “Nature has favored it with a temperate climate, ample rainfall, and productive soil; natural resources that attract thoughtful, industrious people who expect to work for a living and who have reason for confidence that their work will be rewarded”.
  • Michigan’s 1942 state highway map mentioned in a tire-saving blurb that “many roadside parks found `just around the corner’ from every community are expected to become more popular than ever” and apparently in 1942 “just around the corner” was such slangy talk it had to be safely cordoned off from a regular old sentence about how nice a park can be.
  • Iowa’s 1949 map included a poem titled In This State Called Iowa all about the garden that God was building in it.
  • When Michigan first started issuing state highway maps, in 1919 and the 1920s, the state prepared updated maps every two weeks, which seems like a lot even if they were like doubling the number of paved roads every two weeks in that era.

Your Weekly Planner


9:30 am. Wake up late. So apparently that melatonin you took to help get to bed Wednesday night was stronger than its 3 mg label suggests. Boy, those things are great. Can you imagine how awful life would be if any of this stuff were regulated or anything?

2:00 pm. The conference call. It starts with great promise. Logemein isn’t working, and no number of panicky e-mails to the people who insist that no, it is too working will make it work. Matters shift quickly to GoToMeeting. This allows for a great five minutes trying to find some talk small enough to wait for the password reset. After that’s done there’s plenty to talk about. What does “custom content error module” even mean, for one? Do we have those words in the right order? Surely “custom module content error” makes more sense as a thing a computer might have trouble with? Or perhaps it’s the “error content custom module” that wants attention and has chosen this moment to ask for it? Anyway, be ready to deploy your joke about “error module contented costume party”. It will be the most appreciated part of the day, judged by how much everyone grunts in acknowledgement that this was a thing said.


1:30 pm. Plan to go out to the bagel place for a late lunch disrupted by how you’ve got to share these Private Benjamin plot summaries. And wait, there’s an episode where the Ordnance Disposal Unit accidentally blows up a guy’s house and there’s one with a robot and there’s one where the colonel gets mugged and feels he can’t be a leader anymore and that’s the same season Benjamin tries to save a space-program chimpanzee? The heck? This is way more compelling than onion bagels with the spinach-artichoke cream cheese they’re trying to make.


1:56 am. Remember to go over to the kitchen to watch the radio-guided clock automatically correct itself for Daylight Saving Time.

1:59 am. Return to the living room with the bag of microwaved popcorn you didn’t actually want but which, on entering the kitchen, was the only reason you could imagine entering the kitchen at this hour of the night for.

11:25 am. Remember the clock thing and now very angry with yourself. But the memory of the time you did watch, and how as the clock had ratcheted the minute had ahead only about two-thirds of the way the battery died and you were left standing there for three minutes trying to figure what was up, doesn’t do anything to make you feel less bad about missing this.

11:32 am. The battery didn’t die so at least you didn’t miss that excitement maybe?


6:20 pm. Moment of regret for longstanding institutions gone forever as you notice the vacuum cleaner repair shop has closed. I mean, that has to have been a money-laundering front even more baffling than the United Nations store, right? But it was there forever and it was nice to think that if for some reason you needed to repair a vacuum cleaner there were people who were willing and, presumably, able to do it? But in this loss of a place you never visited and never seriously thought of visiting do you feel the loss of charm and personality and identity of the town you live in, and you feel the touch of oblivion that, most days, you ignore in your own life.

6:21 pm. Wait, the vacuum cleaner place moved two flipping storefronts down? They didn’t even move across the block? They’re just … they … the flipping heck is any of this even about? Money laundering, that’s what it has to be.


11:30 am. Reach the 100th consecutive day of telling the computer to “Remind me tomorrow” about that system update it thinks is so all-fired important and that you can’t even begin to car about.

4:45 pm. Nurl. That’s all it has listed here. Good luck with that.


6:30 pm. Michael’s sends you a good-for-one-day 70% off anything in the store coupon and the only thing you can find that’s even remotely slightly of need is a $2.99 spool of ribbon.

10:10 pm. Oh yeah you were meaning to get that good rubber cutting mat for like ever.

11:25 pm. No luck getting to sleep. Better take a melatonin.

In Which A Comics Syndicate Makes A Terrible Mistake

I was trying to look something up about a comic strip and I got one of those pop-up boxes to take a survey. It was asking me to rate the three most appealing names for a comic strip that they’re thinking about syndicating. None of them was a name that made me even the slightest bit curious about what the comic strip might be. What are they doing asking me if something is interesting? I warned everybody about this just a couple weeks ago for crying out loud. I don’t know how to tell whether a thing is interesting. Day School for Daddies? I dunno if I care. Cash, Tokens, and Transfers: a History of Urban Mass Transit in North America? I keep checking the university library to see if that’s in. I guess what I’m saying is if someone’s trying to figure whether to launch a comic strip about the inter-urban transit lines of the 1910s, don’t make any plans based on how interested I am. Gads. (Yes, I know about Toonerville Trolley and I know where to get my hands on a collection if the stock at this used bookstore in Troy, New York, hasn’t changed much since 2002.)

The 24th Talkartoon: Bimbo’s Initiation, the only Bimbo cartoon you ever heard of

I knew when I stumbled in to reviewing the Talkartoons that there were few cartoons my readers might plausibly have seen. There’s The One That Introduced Betty Boop (Dizzy Dishes). There’s The One Where Cab Calloway is a Walrus (Minnie the Moocher). And then … there’s this. It’s always listed as the best Bimbo cartoon. It’s often listed on the top-50 or top-100 cartoon shorts. It’s listed as one of the best Betty Boop cartoons, on the basis of a few seconds of cameo appearances. I learned, almost memorized, it watching it on the eight-VHS Complete Betty Boop series in the 90s. The animator is uncredited. This is so unfair. Everyone says Grim Natwick. It was originaly released the 24th of July, 1931, and Wikipedia says it ended the 1930-31 film season for the Talkartoons.

Let me clear out the bookkeeping. There’s a Suspiciously Mickey-Like Mouse at 0:35, putting the cover on the sewer and locking Bimbo into his adventure. The strongest body-horror gag has to be when Bimbo’s shadow gets beheaded. I’m inclined to think all the jokes here are so well-framed there’s not a blink-and-you-miss-it gag. But I also remember the guy I hung out with weekends in grad school blinking and missing the bit where Bimbo reaches for a doorknob and it flees to the other side of the door, so that counts for that. On to the bigger-picture stuff.

There’ve been several Bimbo-trapped-in-a-surreal-landscape cartoons. I’d rate this as the best we’ve seen, but would entertain arguments for Swing You Sinners!. It’s certainly the most nightmarish. Previously Bimbo’s at least transgressed in some way, however minor, before getting tossed into the nightmare. Here he’s minding his own business and the weirdness comes out to eat him. Hurrying right to the craziness also means there’s plenty of time to stuff the cartoon full of it.

This cartoon shows an incredible amount of skill behind it. There’s no slack points. There’s some quieter moments in the craziness, yes. They’re deployed with this great sense of pacing, chances for the audiences to rest before the action picks up again. Too much frenetic action is exhausting; here, the tempo varies well and reliably enough that the cartoon stays easy to watch.

And the cartoon is framed so well. There’s a healthy variety of perspectives. There’s changing perspectives, several times over, as Bimbo comes to the end of a tunnel and gets dropped off into a new room. Changing perspectives is always difficult for animation. Even in the modern, computer-drawn or computer-assisted era it’s difficult to make look right. And Bimbo’s Initiation pulls the trick several times over.

The segment that most amazes me every time I watch it starts at about 4:45, after Bimbo’s swallowed by the innermost door. Watch the line of movement. Bimbo’s falling towards the camera, tossed side to side by the chute. He then runs toward the camera and to the left, in roughly isometric view, as axes fall. Then he hops onto the spiral staircase, running down while the camera rotates around his movement. Then he jumps off the staircase into a hall to run to the right. His second, beheaded shadow, runs up and joins his actual shadow. Then he turns and starts running toward the camera as steel doors snap shut behind him. This is all one continuous, seamless shot, without an edit until 5:26. And when it does edit it’s to zoom in tighter on Bimbo, with the doors behind. He keeps running toward the camera until he falls out that chute and the camera pivots to the side, at about 5:42. It’s such an extended and well-blocked sequence. That 57 seconds alone shows how misleading it is to say cartoons of this era were nearly improvised. There was planning going in to how much stuff would fit here, and how it would fit together. The music supports this too. I’m not sure there’s been a Talkartoon with as tight a connection between the tune and the action.

I’m not sure there are any poorly-composed or poorly-considered shots in the cartoon. The shot of Bimbo lighting a candle, seeing the rope snap tight, and then following that to the spikey trap above is as perfect as I’ve ever seen in any cartoon or movie.

Insofar as there are any weaknesses here, it’s that the setting does obliterate Bimbo as a character. There were a couple cartoons where he was developing into a low-key screwball character. He could be sort of an Early Daffy Duck that isn’t so tiring to imagine around. Here, he can’t say or do anything interesting enough to stand up to the setting. Looking at the list of future Talkartoon titles I don’t see any that feature Bimbo as much of a character. The studio’s shifting to Betty Boop. It’s an interesting choice considering she hasn’t had a good part yet. Bimbo’s moving to be her boyfriend or partner or the guy who’s around while she’s center stage. Shame he doesn’t get better parts, but at least he could be the star of this. How many characters never get even one good outing?

Without Denying That we Have More Urgent Problems

And I know I’ve got other stuff I need to do, but have you seen the WikiHow page How To Make A Rat Harness? Because it has more pictures than I would have ever imagined of people holding up string and thread to the body parts of a rat who is absolutely and completely furious than I had ever imagined I’d see all at once. (There’s like four pictures of this. I hadn’t thought about the topic much before and so my expectations were low.) You can see the withering contempt the cartoon rat has for someone who wants to put it in a harness. (Step Four is the most withering, but they’re all impressive displays of contained cartoon rat fury.) Anyone attempting this should know, they are never going to get one of those adorable pictures where the rat is sitting on their shoulder and grooming their hair. The poor rat is going to come over and kick you on the big toe. This won’t hurt physically. But it’s emotionally devastating.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? And Who’s Contesting the Adoption? December 2017 – March 2018

Are you interested in the goings-on of Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D.? If you aren’t this essay isn’t for you. But if you’re interested and want to know what the current storyline is, this is the essay for you. Unless it’s gotten much later than early March 2018 for you. If you are reading this later than about June 2018 you’ll probably want an essay at or near the top of this page as a more recent story summary. Unless you’re looking for how things got to those later-essays’ points, I mean. I suppose you know your business.

Rex Morgan, M.D.

11 December 2017 – 4 March 2018.

My last update came fortuitously near the start of a story thread. June Morgan’s childhood friend Margie Tyler had died offstage. Tyler had left her child, Johnny, with the Morgans to adopt. With the Morgans willing and able to take him in, and no known living relatives of Johnny interested, everything looked smooth. That’s where things stood the 10th of December.

June took the kids — Sophie and Michael, both of whom she gave birth to, and Johnny, on whom she’s waiting for court decrees to settle — to the mall. A couple older people watch them at the play area and nudge June for the story of the two boys. June doesn’t tell. After they leave, the strip stayed with the elder couple. So, yeah, they were Johnny’s grandparents. Not Margie Tyler’s parents; her (dead) husband’s parents, Arnold and Helen March. They were estranged from their son, and only just learned they had a grandchild. Now that they do, they petition for custody.

June: 'Go on and get in your booster seat, honey. I have to get the boys into their car seats.' Sarah: 'Okay. I still wonder who those old people were.' Jone: 'They were just a nice old couple. Being a little too friendly, maybe.' Sarah: 'Those old folks were kinda nosy, weren't they?' June: 'People see the boys and have to ask if they're twins. Natural curiosity, I guess.' [ INSIDE ] Helen: 'Should we have spoken to her? Was that smart?' Arnold: 'There's no way she could know who we are. And you wanted to see the boy, didn't you?' Helen: 'Of course. I just don't want there to be any trouble. It was so hard just to sit here and pretend. He's the spitting image of Ronnie at that age.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 17th of December, 2017. After the first encounter at the mall, and before the Marches file for custody of Johnny. … Also given that Johnny and Michael are the same age — born the same day, the strip established — but became brothers through adoption I wonder what kind of twins they would be considered. It doesn’t quite seem like any category fits, does it?

The Morgans take the kids to the mall again. They see the elderly couple and recognize who they are. June approaches them. She offers that if they knock it off with the stalking, she won’t bury them in Rex’s medical practice, never to be seen again. The next day, Rex Morgan is barely able to get in to not seeing patients before his lawyer calls. The Marches want to talk.

More precisely they want to grovel. They’d only just learned they had a grandchild, they drove down to town to see him, and they kind of stumbled in to being stalkery. “Our bad,” Helen calls it, in a moment sincerely endearing to me. But on to serious business. They’re dropping their petition. They’re confident the Morgans can take better care of Johnny. They’re sorry for all the trouble they caused. They ask only that they not be killed as an example to the others. Rex and June are happy to agree to this, and they all agree that the Marches should be part of Johnny’s life; an auxiliary set of grandparents.

Helen: 'Sneaking around to see our grandson wasn't the best idea, Arnold.' Arnold: 'I suppose you're right, Helen. I just didn't want to wait for lawyers to decide when and how we could see him.' Helen: 'But now the Morgans think we're some kind of crazy stalkers!' Arnold: 'What do we do now that the Morgans are so upset with us?' Helen: 'I suppose we call our lawyer and see what kind of damage control we can do. And there's something I need to ask you ... ' [ MEANWHILE, THE MORGANS HAVE ARRIVED HOME. ] June: 'Okay, guys. Let's get your coats off.' Sarah: 'So WHY did we have to leave the funplace so early?' June: 'Nothing you need to worry about, honey.' Sarah:' I get it. It's one of those 'None of my business' kind of deals.' June: 'Pretty much. Yes.' Sarah: 'I'm keeping track of all this stuff so you can explain it to me when I'm grown up.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 14th of January, 2018. After the second encounter at the mall, and after the Marches had petitioned for custody of Johnny. There’s an extent to which the seriousness with which Sarah treats her presumptive participation in the adult world amuses me. Also there’s the thought of how, when Sarah is Like 36, her parents are going to be able to reduce her to embarrassed cackling by pointing out the time she was this age and said things like “I’m keeping track of all this stuff so you can explain it to me when I’m grown up”.

As a reader I’m a bit torn on this. I like stories that involve people acting thoughtfully. Senior citizens concluding that, sure, they would like to adopt their grandchild but they really aren’t up for it? That’s sensible behavior. I’m glad they do that. The Morgans concluding that while their relationship with the Marches started creepy-to-bad, they’re better off taking this couple into their lives? There’s also good sense to that.

But. One of the motifs of Rex Morgan, M.D. before Terry Beatty took over writing was that people kept giving the Morgans free stuff. A massive publishing contract for young Sarah. A too-great-to-believe Victorian Mansion. That kind of thing. It’s fun to daydream about getting great good fortune dropped on you, but when the characters haven’t done anything particular? A contested adoption looked promising as a story. The Morgans could still adopt Johnny, but they’d have to do more than be someone his previous mother trusted when she was dying. And now here’s that promising conflict skipped.

It’s not that I don’t buy this ending. Nor even that I don’t like it. It seems to me the settlement that leaves everyone happy and that’s even probably best for Johnny. The problem is the choice to go for this is made by the Marches, off-screen. The viewpoint characters haven’t done anything to influence this, apart from June telling the Marches not to spy on them. (Coincidentally I watched the 1979 movie Kramer Vs Kramer this week. It too leaves me unsatisfied, by an important choice about custody of the kid being made off-screen.) I’d have liked to see more of the Marches wrestling with their decision, and maybe the Morgans working to emotionally earn Johnny better.

Sarah: 'Can I finish writing in my diary before I go to bed?' Rex: 'You MAY. Just turn your light out when you're done.' Sarah: 'Okay. Thanks, Dad.' [ SARAH MORGAN'S DIARY ] (Illustrated as a talented but still young kid might, for example with labells pointing out 'My brother' versus 'Robot'.) It was fun having Johnny's grandparents here today. i know they are not really my or Michael's grandparents --- but they are very nice. And since we really don't have much family, I'm going to adopt them, like we adopted Johnny. A kid really ought to have grandparents, don't you think? And it's not just 'cause they gave me and Michael gifts. Though I'll never complain about getting a new box of crayons! I just think a family feels more complete when there's a grandma and grandpa involved! Goodnight, Diary. Time for lights out!'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 18th of February, 2018. Something the comic strip has featured more since Beatty took over writing duties is to illustrate stuff as Sarah might. It’s always fun when a comic strip’s artist breaks away from the normal format, and the kid’s diary is a great excuse to do it. (Lincoln Pierce’s Big Nate used to showcase the title character’s own-drawn comics a lot, but that seems to have fallen away in recent years.) Not quite ready for me to ask: is Sarah of the age to write sentences like “A kid really ought to have grandparents, don’t you think?” (No reason kids don’t sometimes write above their level, especially if it’s a phasing they might have encountered and identified as A Way Grown-ups Speak.)

Still, all agree. And all agree that agreeing is swell. The week leading up to the 18th of February was about the March’s first proper play date with the Morgans. It goes swell, everybody amiable all around. The Marches bringing toys and new crayons help. Sarah, writing in her diary, remarks on how she knew “getting new grandparents would mean extra presents”. It’s the sort of innocent avarice that I remember from childhood.

The 19th of February the new story started. It’s following the Morgan’s babysitter Kelly and her genial but basically clueless boyfriend Niki. Their friend Justin chokes on a sandwich. Before anyone can remember if they know how to do the Heimlich Maneuver he vomits it up and decides he’s done with lunch. He doesn’t want to go to the nurse. Kelly also mentions to Niki that isn’t not necessary that Justin hang out with them all the time. Niki doesn’t understand because while he is genial, he is also basically clueless. At the coffee shop after school, Justin gets some pastries and seems to be choking again.

It’s too early in the story for me to make any guesses where it’s going. I mean, I would expect Justin’s strange choking to matter again, but because otherwise why should Beatty have spent screen time on it? (I wrote most of this paragraph before reading the Sunday installment, but I think it still stands, especially once I deploy the next sentence here.) Don’t know yet, for example, whether Justin is really choking or whether he’s making a joke about earlier in the day. And perhaps the story is something about the challenges of the partners in a relationship also having their own friendships. But (so far) less time was spent on that than on the sandwich. So all told there’s nothing for me to make plot guesses about. Shall try to check back when there is news to report. And I’ll try not to grumble about a soap strip having the plot advance on a Sunday forcing me into some rewrites.

Next Week!

Oh, wow, you do not know with what levels of confused and only partly ironic nerd rage I say this. But I have been dying to get back to Milford and Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp and yes, Marty Moon is only a part of it. Send help.

And before then? Mathematically-themed comic strips over on my other blog, if that’s your taste.