## Shocking Results Of College Basketball Game

The local news reports that all of the ten people arrested in East Lansing yesterday, in a raucous disturbance with only a tiny fire that broke out after Michigan State won their way into the Final Four, were MSU students. I’m relieved. When I heard there were arrests made I feared it might include state legislators, leaders of industry such as whoever runs that mysterious electron-associated business, or maybe the jovial guy who was playing Santa Claus at the tree farm where we got our Christmas tree and who was very interested in the complex of extensions cords used to rig up the coffee machine and the space heater. (He explained how Santa was pretty knowledgeable about electrical systems.)

The report also mentioned that besides setting, it looked to me, like maybe one jacket on fire, the mob got to throwing “bottles and bagels”. This surprised me, because while mid-Michigan hasn’t got the greatest variety of bagels it’s got some fairly decent ones. Plus, what’s with throwing what amounts to wads of bread around? Yeah, they’re bagels, but we don’t get the really serious bagels, the ones protected by a crust of pumpernickel-diamond alloy inside a chewy core, around here. If they’re trying to break stuff, why throw bread? But if they’re not trying to break stuff, then do they really need to be arrested for what a top-notch lawyer would say is just aggressive feeding of squirrels? These are all questions I feel I cannot answer.

## Caption This: From The Series Premiere Of Enterprise

“Man, Enterprise in HDTV is a ripoff.”

Meanwhile, at the risk of overloading you good folks with this sort of thing, my mathematics blog had another roundup of comic strips, plus a Jumble puzzle, for which one of the words is “DEVOUT”.

## Statistics Saturday: Nations Of South America Organized By Length

1. Peru
2. Chile
3. India [NOTE: not technically a nation of South America, but I’m trying to increase my Indian readership and every little mention helps.]
4. Brazil
5. Guyana
6. Bolivia
8. Uruguay
9. Colombia
10. Paraguay
11. Suriname
12. Argentina
13. Venezuela
14. French Guiana
15. Falkland Islands
16. South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

## Betty Boop: Mysterious Mose

Previously entered as the first Betty Boop cartoons:

So for this week’s entry in the list of First Betty Boop cartoons I wondered: what’s the first one in which she’s the protagonist? Betty Boop appeared in a good number of Talkartoons in 1930 and 1931, although initially just as an attractive female presence. It would take time for her to take over from Bimbo, Koko the Clown, and a host of nonentities. But what about the first one where she’s the protagonist?

Well, that’s hard to pin down, not least because Fleischer Studios cartoons of the era were not excessively burdened with plots. Boop-Oop-A-Doop seems like a strong candidate for the first cartoon in which she’s the protagonist, what with it being set at the Betty Boop Circus, but she’s really only important for a couple of scenes as a lion-tamer and performer, and then ends up in the damsel-in-distress role, waiting off-screen to be rescued by Koko this time.

But I’m drawn to an earlier cartoon, released the 27th of December, 1930 — Betty’s inaugural year — even though it’s mostly a showcase for what Wikipedia claims is Harry Reser and his orchestra of many names’s performance of the title song. It’s also a showcase for the famed Fleischer Studios surreal, dream-logic, borderline-nightmare world of mutation and transmogrification: after a charmingly spooky opening scene Mysterious Mose himself appears on screen, leaving Betty with not much to do but watch, baffled, as everything changes into everything else, and back again, at least until the music runs out. Admittedly, Betty doesn’t get much to do, but it’s all stuff she does because it makes sense for her at the time, and she doesn’t spend time sitting around waiting for someone else to rescue her. That’s something.

## The Big Picture

We’ve started looking at maybe buying a new TV. Our current TV is working fine, which has been part of the problem, since it’s your old-fashioned standard-definition tube-model TV screen hewn by Alan B DuMont himself from his shadowy hidden laboratory deep in the highlands of North Jersey. It was a fine TV in its time, and it’s clearly determined to outlast the entropic heat-death of the universe, but it’s starting to get annoying watching TV shows that assume screens are wider, like they are anymore. The Daily Show is pretty good about not putting stuff outside the bounds of the standard-definition screen, but it’s getting tiresome to guess what’s happening on the missing edges of Cona O’Brie.

The obvious change in TV technology since our old set was made has been the size, of course. There’s now no way to buy a TV set smaller than a tennis court in area, which will demand we rearrange the living room so it fits. We might have to have a carpenter come in and take out the stairwell, and just get to our bedroom by way of a rope ladder, trampoline, or perhaps a very patient giraffe (possibly mechanized). On the bright side modern TVs are only half as thick as other units of the same model, so if we buy a flatscreen we’ll be able to slip it in-between the wall and the paint on the wall.

The other thing is that shapes have changed. Picture-tube TVs all had that slight outward curve made. That curve was great as you could just place a large enough number of picture tubes near one another and automatically form a ball of television sets thirty feet across, allowing anyone to create an art installation about the disposability of modern pop culture whenever they wanted. But then they started making screens flat, so that every TV show you looked at seemed to be weirdly impacted in the middle, like someone had smooshed Bob Barker right in the belly. They’ve fixed that now, by finding a pre-smooshed host for The Pric Is Righ, and I suppose they’ve worked out what to do for other shows too.

## Curing the Hiccoughs in Rabbits

I need to preface this by pointing out it’s all true, which I know make it sound like I’m making it up, but I’m not. Our pet rabbit occasionally gets hiccoughs, which are as adorable as you might imagine, if you’re imagining a rabbit flopped out on his bed and suddenly, without sound, jiggling rhythmically, all over.

So I caught him starting to hiccough, and called out, “Try a folk remedy! That always helps!” And he looked a little bit at me for making such a racket and his hiccoughing stopped right there.

From this I learn that I’ve found an exciting new folk remedy for hiccoughs.

Also, if you enjoy this sort of thing, I found reasons to reprint a Jumble word puzzle over on my mathematics blog, because it mentioned abacuses, and that’s enough for my discussions of mathematical-themed comic strips. Also I explain why I think a magic trick from the kids’ activity page was wrong.

By request:

JFM AMJ JAS OND

FAJ NSA DJJ MMO

# By Length (Name):

MJJ AMA JOD FNS

## Betty Boop: Stopping The Show

Since last Friday I shared the Betty Boop cartoon which inaugurated the Color Classics line of cartoons, I thought, why not this week show the cartoon that inaugurated the Betty Boop line of cartoons? And the answer is that it’s a little tricky to say what exactly started the line of Betty Boop cartoons. Her first appearances were in the Talkartoons line, with the character growing out of an unnamed female character playing against an unnamed male character that would grow into Bimbo and then go away. The Talkartoons are just what the name suggests, full-sound cartoons not tied to the Screen Song follow-the-bouncing-ball format. They began as a string of one-shot cartoons, but discovered Betty Boop and to a lesser extent Bimbo, and within two years were basically a Betty Boop series.

In 1932, the Talkartoon series was ended, and the Betty Boop series, as identified by the proscenium on the title screen, began. This one, Stopping The Show, is the first in that string of cartoons, which ran from 1932 to 1939. Stopping the Show was released the 12th of August, with Betty Boop’s Bizzy Bee released the 19th, and Betty Boop M.D. released the 2nd of September, in case you worried the Fleischers didn’t know what a character they had in her. The pace would eventually slacken to a mere twelve Betty Boop cartoons a year.

This is a basically plotless cartoon, structured around an idea done several times in the 30s: reproducing a mixed vaudeville/movie-theater’s evening program in the space of one reel, producing a fine act of recursive merriment. Betty Boop doesn’t even appear until the short is halfway through, and that to do a couple of impersonations. But you do get a newsreel (remember newsreels? Of course not, because everybody forgot they existed somewhere around 1955, although they staggered on in production until 1967, when they were completely forgotten), a cartoon extremely-short, and then the impersonations.

The first impersonation goes unannounced, which I think is the result of some post-release editing of the cartoon: Betty Boop’s impersonating Helen Kane. This impersonation was cheeky at least: Kane’s “boop-boop-a-doop” in singing “That’s My Weakness Now” was ripped off to give Betty Boop a singing voice (and name). Wikipedia says the Kane impersonation scene was removed after Kane complained; she was suing Paramount (unsuccessfully) for appropriating her singing style at the time. The title card stand, as it is in this print, certainly removes something before naming Fannie [sic] Brice. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had explicitly named Helen Kane.

The Fanny Brice impersonation is of Betty singing a song a song about being an Indian, and, well, as ethnic jokes from 1930s cartoons go it could be worse. I don’t know whether this is a song the actual Fanny Brice was known for at the time.

## First-Class Mailings

A couple years ago I picked up a National Parks Passport Book, which is much like my coin collection in that it’s another thing in which I can put other things, until such time as I either lose the Book, or until I die and the executor of my estate finally throws it out. Unlike the coins, this one collects stamps, some of them the kind you lick, others the kind you just rub on an ink pad at a National Park gift shop and then smash into paper. This hobby has many benefits, beyond giving me a reason to nervously approach a cashier at a National Park gift shop and ask if they have the Passport Book stamp, and then repeat myself because I didn’t quite make myself clear, and then ask up to three other people while I wither and die of embarrassment before they find the stamp. For example, if I ever want to know on what day I visited Ford’s Theater and the Petersen House Where Lincoln Died I can flip to the appropriate section of my Passport Book, where I won’t find it, because I stamped those in my Letterboxing log book, which is a totally different ink-stamp-based hobby.

Anyway, I had a great chance to lose my Passport Book recently, when I visited my parents, who last year moved to South Carolina, catching South Carolina completely off-guard. We visited some of the National Parks in the area, as well as some lighthouses, since my love has a Lighthouse Passport Book good for another set of ink stamps, although the specific lighthouse we found had no stamp, which invokes an honestly complicated series of rules because it turns out lighthouse-visiting is a complicated hobby. The important thing is I left my Passport Book behind, and my parents eventually found it.

My father mailed it to me, and he packaged it himself. I should explain, the book is a little slimmer than a small paperback novel, the kind you might mail by buying one of the small-size bubble-wrap mailers and stuffing in and wondering if the self-sealing flap was going to come loose in actual mailing. That’s because you don’t share that side of my family’s heritage of over-wrapping.

I don’t want to brag but we’re really very good at it, if by “good” you mean “can routinely include so much packing tape that the package outweighs the delivery vehicle” and if by “delivery vehicle” you mean the “cargo-carrying Boeing 777 Freighter, piloted by elephants, who came to the airport right from the Mongolian buffet, which had just got a delivery in of ginger-spiced gravity”. That bubble-wrap mailer with the self-sealing flap you might worry about? Well, we’d put a layer of tape over that. And another one to cover the edge between the tape and the mailer. And maybe staple the envelope end closed just to be sure. And weld the staple in place. And glue a patch over the weld. When we put it in the mail, it’s never getting out again, and that’s not even considering what we do to make sure the address doesn’t get smeared in transit.

I don’t want it to sound like this package-wrapping thing is a chore or even unpleasant. It’s got an outright merry side. Every Christmas, for example, we bring out a present that my great-uncle Al gave to my father in 1949, and we all take turns trying to unwrap it a little more. We believe we’re nearly one-sixth of the way through it, and you can imagine how thrilled we are since various hints in family lore suggest it might be a model train with Jersey Central “Blue Comet” line livery. And someday some distant descendant might finally inherit these generations of family moments, and actually get it open, and then tuck the present aware somewhere, wrapping it up for safety.

My father didn’t take wrapping my Passport Book up to the greatest possible extremes, but it still arrived safe and sound and within hours of when the package tracking service said it would. It came as a neat little bundle, wrapped in the paper bag he got from the grocery, and wrapped again in more grocery-bag paper just in case, and I was able to get it open using just my fingers, the kitchen scissors, our pet rabbit’s incisors, the table saw, several cries to the heavens about the injustice of it all, and the smaller scissors I use to trim my moustache. Everything came through in great shape and I’m fairly confident that I haven’t lost the book yet.

## They Also Warn Of Whimsical Dishes

I bought this neat little tea-making gadget, good for bagged or loose-leaf teas, because yeah, I’m that kind of person. You put the tea and the hot water into the main reservoir, and then you set the whole thing on top of your cup, and it drizzles out the center, and hope that when you lift the gadget up again it stops pouring, and if it doesn’t, you buy a replacement tea-making gadget, like I did in the previous sentence.

I noticed that packed with it was an advert asking me to “peruse our monthly newsletter with entertaining and interesting insights into the history and enjoyment of tea”, which is terrifying enough and a deeper connection than I really feel like for a company that sold me a tea-making gadget. Then it went on to ask that I “drop in on our lively bulletin board — you’ll meet tea-loving friends and find answers to all your tea questions.”

On the one hand, trying to strike up conversations with people with whom I share exactly one known trait — tea-drinking — is terrifying. The idea that I should have multiple tea questions ready for them to answer is all the worse. And on the other hand I’m fascinated by the idea of what an Internet community of tea-drinking people is like. And then I remember that since it’s an Internet community it’s a group of people telling one another that they drink tea wrong. Still, imagine the flame wars they must have.

It further encourages me to “take part in our monthly contest and discover the whimsical dishes created by people with a passion for cooking and tea”. That’s the sort of advertising copy to make me hide under the bed and feel vaguely bad about eating, having tea, or enjoying whimsy.

I do look at the people Twitter recommends I follow, because it’s neat seeing how radically they change every time I do add someone and Twitter Master Command desperately searches for anyone who’s even remotely like that person. Sometimes it’s even people I’ve heard of, like when it suggested I follow Billie Jean King. And then I noticed: it was a promoted recommendation that I follow Billie Jean King.

The implication is that someone working for Billie Jean King Master Command, while apparently of sound mind and probably on a Tuesday, decided that it was worth paying some amount of money to Twitter Master Command so as to increase the probability that I, Joseph Nebus, would follow Billie Jean King’s Twitter account. They probably didn’t phrase it like that. They probably phrased it more like “increasing brand-name recognition among tall, bearded men from New Jersey”, and possibly they tossed the words “monetize” or “gamify” in there somewhere, but that doesn’t actually make the decision less daft.

## Statistics Saturday on a Tuesday: February 2015’s Readership

And now for the most popular thing that I write and the inspiration for the Statistics Saturday posts: listing countries that sent me a noticeable number of readers in February 2015. The United States sent me the most, at 888, which intrigues me since the United States sent my mathematics blog 555. I have to wonder if the guy entering numbers into the WordPress statistics page couldn’t be bothered to move his finger to a different digit. He must have, I guess; Canada sent 43 readers, and Australia 32, which are still some pretty easy numbers to enter. Germany gave me 25 readers.

Sending me a single reader each were a bunch of countries: Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Iraq, Isle of Man, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, Venezuela, and Vietnam. Repeats from January were Isle of Man and Turkey, and nothing’s got a three-month streak going. My readership in India dropped from nine down to four, which drew my eye to notice that WordPress claimed I had four readers from the European Union, even though it also lists readers from countries that are part of the European Union, like the ten in Italy or the three in Austria. I don’t know what’s going on there.

The number of page views has continued its slight downward trend — from 1,251 in December to 1,071 in January to 1,046 in February. But I just have to cling to how February is such a short month that per-day things are looking pretty good: after 34.55 views per day in January, the average rose to 37.36 in February. That’s down still from December’s 40.35 but what am I going to do about that, write more popular stuff and market myself more effectively or something? Anyway, the month starts out with 14,628 total views of pages here, and this is five months in a row that there’ve been a thousand-plus views. I do like all that.

The number of viewers dropped — 626 in December, 553 in January, 505 in February. That’s also something where the shortness of February worked against me since January averaged 17.84 visitors per day and February 18.04. And yeah, December gets all smug about its 20.19, until it remembers how October (when I accidentally riled up a Kinks fan site) brought in 28.87. Anyway, thew views per visitor in February were 2.07, higher but probably not significantly higher than January’s 2.01 and December’s 2.00.

Something WordPress’s new statistics page does offer and that I like are that it lets me see how many comments and likes I got. In February there were 99 comments, up from 93 in January. And there were 345 likes, down from January’s 382, but there the shortness of the month doesn’t excuse anything. Sorry.

The most popular articles in February were:

1. Wizardless, describing my failure at pinball league one night. By the way, I did see the Michigan state pinball championships that weekend, although I didn’t play in them, what with my not being good enough, as see the end of the previous sentence.
2. What Came First? Plus, The Usual, in which I ponder something about the world of Funky Winkerbean not directly related to how the comic strip’s author, Tom Batiuk, hates his characters and his readers.
3. A Grain Of Solace, in which my peaceful acceptance of not knowing how to pronounce “quinoa” was disrupted.
4. Statistics Saturday: 2015, To Date, a pie chart of surprising popularity.
5. And The Golden Moment, wherein the “quinoa” thread spun off to my discovering the location of the transcontinental railroad’s Golden Spike was a difficult and debatable mystery.
6. Really, Though, Comic Strip _Momma_ Going Quite Mad, with three examples. Also there’s a picture of our pet rabbit.

## Mother Of The Arts

I do worry in highlighting comic strips that I get too relentlessly snarky and downbeat on them. For one, I really do love comic strips, even though the syndicated newspaper comic strip is not a form of art that’s near a creative or commercial peak. For another, well, you can get high-quality snark about the comics from pretty near every blog ever on the Internet and I would like to offer something a little bit different.

So let me point out Saturday’s Momma, in which Mell Lazarus presents a joke that I find perfectly well-formed. It’s punchy, a little tartly mean, and worth a grin at least. I even like Momma’s offended look in the second panel. And I appreciate that the strip shows the characters doing something, when the joke would read at least as well if it were just a couple of two-shots of the characters standing in a featureless void and the strip would’ve been quicker to draw.

I admit I am a little distracted by how Momma is looking everywhere except the canvas as she paints a human head onto a potted plant, and that I do not know what form of art Momma’s Friend is engaged in. I’m thinking it’s some kind of sculpting done with hypodermic needle? Well, it’s something in the beret genre.

And as sort of post usually indicates, I talk about some mathematics-themed comics over on my other blog, where there aren’t any equations in case you worry about those, but there is some talk about the calendar.