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.
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.
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.
And now the stores have innovative new shapes, too. The big one at the store last week was screens curled inward, giving us the experience of watching a couple seconds of a waterfall then a roller coaster then fireworks then the Grand Canyon while staring at the inside of a bowl. I guess that’s got advantages in how it makes the picture look curled inwards, and how the eyes of the Best Buy sales associates follow you wherever you go until in a fit of shyness you curl up behind the bin of $4.99 games for the Wii.
Besides these inverted-bowl shapes there’s exciting new concepts in solid geometry coming, such as the saddle-curve hyperboloid which wowed people at the Consumer Electronics Show. It expertly suggested the experience of horse-riding, what with how as you get closer to the screen it looms higher and higher over you, until you get right up close to it, at which point the it bites your hair, covers your head an inch deep in horse boogers, and stomps on your foot, which any horse-expert person like my sister will tell you is a show that the horse likes you and it’s all your fault anyway. I didn’t even know my sister watched that much TV, what with her horse-experting to do. Anyway, television boogers clean up easily, but cleaning them off leaves you open to charges you’re one of those people who announces “I never watch television” every four minutes, even to empty rooms.
Personally, I think the most exciting new TV shape is one that projects the image onto the contact surface formed in the tangent space so that for any fiber bundle you can find a sympletic coordinate pair perfectly matching, say, the statistical entropy to the chemical potentials of the system. I think most of you agree with my assessment because you’re hoping if you nod vigorously enough I’ll stop talking what might be mathematics or physics or possibly some conspiracy theory linking Nikolai Tesla to the Knights Templar and go on to literally any other topic at all. (Hi, LFFL!)
Anyway, this is all very thrilling stuff and it makes me figure that I should go back to watching narrower programs on the old TV set.
The architecture critic in the local alternate weekly seems to be settling back to normal, at least after a piece where he declared icicles to be the eyesore of the week. It really wasn’t that harsh a winter, not compared to the winter of 2013-14, which waited outside the houses of every mid-Michigander personally so as to whack us in the shins. So I don’t see that icicles deserve all that much hate, not this year.
The past week’s issue did a feature about Tim Barron, local talk radio guy, who’s leaving radio in favor of telling people stuff over the Internet, where he won’t have to worry about clashing with the audience his old station wants. He says, in the article, “I’m a bit too abrasive, too realistic for that. I say words like penis and vagina.”
While of course I wonder which words like penis and vagina he says (penury? angina? pinochle?), what caught my intrest was a sidebar panel mentioning things Barron had hosted in the area, including the Costume Contest For Dogs (24 years!), the Common Ground music festival, and the “Home Guilders Association of Greater Lansing’s Toys of Tots”. It’s easy to suppose that this is an ordinary typo on a line that’s already got another typo on it, but I also like the idea that the capital area can support a whole association of people who dip houses into gold. It suggests the economy is on an upswing and they won’t have to assess our house at a higher rate anytime soon. Also that there’s a long-running Costume Contest for Dogs that I didn’t know about until now.
While on her way to the Diner, career coach Margo is stunned by the sudden appearance of Sam from behind a nearby potted plant.
Years earlier, back when people still said, “Gosh”, Sam had gone into the kitchen to get some mint jelly for his leg of lamb, only to vanish mysteriously.
After moonlighting at a sports bar in Boston ever since his disappearance, Sam come to the realization that he can no longer work with Diane because she insists he wear a tie. Sam’s tie is at the cleaners because Lu Ann spilled strawberry jam on it, and his tieless neck has created too much unresolved sexual tension with Diane.
In a moment of candor, Sam lets this slip to Margo. Margo is unsure how to react, because she has no earthly clue who Diane is. (She only remembers Sam because everybody knows his name.) Her insecurity about not knowing whether she should be happy about Sam’s employment status vis-a-vis Diane causes her to lash out.
This takes Sam by surprise. He realizes that Margo may not have been the one who asked him to pass the mint jelly, but might instead be the woman who poisoned his cat. Asking for clarification, Margo explains that due to her impending appointment to check Skyler’s job status, she has time neither for Sam’s friendship nor to explain the whole thing with the cat, so she gives him the brush-off. Before leaving, Sam offers Margo a goodbye hug. Unfortunately, in all the drama, he completely forget the dish of mint jelly he was holding, and inadvertently gets it all over her shoulders, just as he had all those years ago in Marrakesh. Luckily for Margo, this time the condiment blends into her green trench coat.
Inside, Margo is greeted by her friend Skyler, who has been temping at SPECTRE. Skyler has just learned that she has been offered a permanent position in the Bond villain accounting department. Margo realizes that Skyler will not require any employment counseling this week, and quickly terminates the encounter to go find a damp cloth for her coat.
Meanwhile, at the Towers Hotel, Martin is searching for clues regarding Sam’s mysterious disappearance when he is surprised by Lu Ann. Lu Ann has filled his tub with strawberry jam. Martin questions the reality of said jam, as on her last visit Lu Ann had brought imaginary raspberry preserves, leaving Martin with a mouthful of bread and chunky peanut butter. The scene ends on the unresolved sexual tension implied by Martin’s scurrilous lack of neckwear.
Since last week I showcased another first Betty Boop cartoon, I thought to change things up a little bit by showing the first Betty Boop cartoon. That is, in this one — Mask-A-Raid, originally released the 7th of November, 1931 — Betty Boop basically achieves her final canonical, human, design. There’d still be another cartoon released with her having dog ears (Jack and the Beanstalk), and the character would be tinkered with a couple of times before her retirement in 1939, putting aside scenes that play pretty loose with her model sheets, but for the most part, this is finally unmistakably Betty Boop.
Betty still isn’t the star of the cartoon, really; to the extent any character is, it’s Bimbo again, although arguably the whole thing is a showcase for “Where Do You Work-A John?”, a 1926 song (music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Mortimer Weinberg and Charley Marks) sufficiently catchy it can take a moment to remember that oh yeah, Italian people were good for really heavy ethnic jokes back then. That’s all right; by the time that really sinks in, the story’s moved on to masquerade masks coming to life and reminding you that, oh yeah, Chinese people were good for really heavy ethnic jokes back then too.
The cartoon seems to be using the plot they use whenever the Fleischers couldn’t think of a plot to use — a couple minutes of unconnected jokes at a setting, then the Big Bad kidnaps Betty, and the male lead chases down the Big Bad and humiliates him — but diverts from that by having Betty declare she’ll go with either Bimbo or the King, based on who wins a sword fight. And that gives an excuse to have a bunch of pretty funny fight scenes before coming to a musical ending with a curious “That’s All” closing.
The Big Cartoon Databases suggests that the musicians may be Harry Reser’s Six Jumping Jacks, one of the names for prolific banjo-player and bandleader Harry Reser. I can’t find information on banjo/jazz web sites that would confirm this, and I haven’t got an ear discerning enough to be able to tell from YouTube videos of Harry Reser bands to say whether that’s credible. Reser’s band was apparently most often known as the Clicquot Club Eskimos, named for the mascot of the Clicquot Club ginger ale company, which reminds us that, oh yeah, that’s another group of people good for really heavy ethnic jokes back then.
I had been looking around the tea aisle because, as mentioned, I’m one of those people, and came across an honestly menacing and quite large box of a brand I hadn’t heard of before. It proclaimed its contents to be Make Mine A Builders Tea, “Britain’s Cuppa”, and as you can see from the picture if I don’t forget to include it, it’s got the styling of hazard signs warning you that the road is going to be torn up and there’s going to be dug-up roadbeds and people wielding things that make sparks at what sure looks like the waffle iron ordinarily hidden underneath the asphalt.
I’m not seriously ashamed to admit it’s the first time I’ve been intimidated by a box of tea, because its cover copy suggests that if I don’t buy it they’ll send a pack of football hooligans over to wallop me silly and stuff tea bags down my pockets. It warns, “Britain wasn’t built on camomile”, and further that “Fancy, frilly, flowery teas are all very well. But to get through a busy day, us Brits need a strong, satisfying brew. The type that gets right to the heart of your thirst.” I should point out I’m not a Brit, although I have spent nearly a whole week in England, where I enjoyed a visit to the Blackpool Pleasure Beach amusement park on an early July day nearly hot enough that the carbon dioxide wasn’t liquefying out of the air and raining down on us. It wasn’t a day for the water rides, due to icebergs.
The tea goes on to explain how making a proper tea is much like a sturdy building. Much like tea, you construct buildings by putting a bag full of building parts into a large pot of hot water and then, after a while, taking them out again, and finding there’s nowhere you can put the bag that won’t leave a puddle of mis-colored water where you don’t want it, and it’s starting to burn your hands, so you scoot over to the trash bin and try to toss it in cleanly, and miss. This is why so many suburban developments have to have swooping, curved roads, so that the houses look like they were built street-facing.
It’s the comparison to camomile as a particularly un-manly tea that’s got me, not least because who knew that tea was really missing gender essentialism, somehow? But a while back I was tossing out a box of Celestial Seasonings Tummy Mint Wellness tea, which probably would make the Builders Tea people explode if they heard about it, and I noticed on the back an actual, honest-to-goodness, somewhat alarming warning:
WARNING: If you are taking prescription medication, or are pregnant or nursing, consult your health care provider prior to using this product. Persons with allergies to the daisy family may be sensitive to chamomile.
Also apparently chamomile is a kind of daisy, and there’s different ways to spell it. The thing is while Builders seems ready to send roving packs of b’hoys wielding cudgels and shouting things like “Oi!” at people not drinking manly enough teas, apparently it’s conceivable you could end up in hospital with a severe case of chamomile. It’s not everyone who can say their life was endangered by the Celestial Seasonings corporation, at least besides the people who have to actually pick the tea leaves, and Celestial Seasonings probably subcontracts that job out to some company whose actions they can plausibly deny anyway. But then b’hoys were a 19th-century Bowery thing, out of place and somewhat anachronistic for modern Britain, so everybody’s on an equal footing again.
But the discovery that chamomile might be the world’s most dangerous tea not actually regularly containing guncotton was surprising, although not so surprising as if it actually exploded out from under me. Particularly I wondered why about eight percent (by volume) of the Internet and the columns of Dear Crazy Abby wasn’t entirely warnings about tea. I mentioned this on Usenet and a friend helpfully pointed out that according to Google, there were 3,750,000 matches for “Chamomile warnings” compared to 7,350,000 for “Snooki”. I suppose tea being half as threatening as Snooki is about the right balance of things. But I get completely different numbers trying it now, with much more concern about Snooki and far less about chamomile, so either we as a society have come to peace with tea recently or Google’s decided we need to stop asking questions about chamomile.
The Builders tea was fair enough, by the way. I haven’t seen another box since.
So, I dipped my boot into the pond, to see how deep the water above the ice layer was, and how seriously solid the ice layer was, and it turns out there’s a hole in the boot. Also the water is that extremely cold, extremely adhesive sort of water that instantly saturates the entirety of the sock, and that never warms up, even after you’ve taken the sock off and have set your foot on fire. I’m pretty sure things weren’t this bad two weeks ago.
Prepended, 23 September 2015: Hi. I’ve seen a good number of people finding this page as they try to figure out what’s going on in Apartment 3-G. I’m happy to be of service. I’ve taken to following closely enough the big pile of — for summer 2015 — absolutely nothing that’s been happening.
To that end, and to help the confused follow along, I’ve been updating fairly regularly as nothing progresses. The most recent explanations of the nothing going on can usually be found by looking at the Apartment 3-G tag. They should be available through the link in this paragraph. To sum up: since writing this, I have worked out what’s going on in Apartment 3-G, and that is nothing. But I am trying to keep people up to date on what kind of nothing is going on. Thank you for reading.
The thing is that the article after the horizontal rule here was written to describe the mess that was Apartment 3-G‘s summer 2014 storyline. And that was a big sloppy mess, yes, but somehow less inept than 2015’s, possibly because it was shorter even after the action stalled out for six weeks straight. But I don’t want to confuse people who’re already confused by 2015’s failed storyline by explaining 2014’s failed storyline without warning.
I’m not embarrassed to admit I have no idea what’s going on in the comic strip Apartment 3-G anymore. Last year saw a crushing pile of dullness stacked upon other piles of dullness, in a story about a wounded deer-kangaroo-fox-nightmare hybrid that never actually did anything. Now, I don’t even follow the action well enough to say what’s supposed to be going on. All I’m confident in is that the scenes are becoming some experimental drama, where all the dialogue is mixtures of atomized conversation, any line of which might make sense, but which in sequence, don’t seem to mean anything.
In Monday’s strip I guess that Lu Ann has brought some homemade jam by some means to Martin’s hotel room, although, how? I’d like to think she’s brought a proper Yogi Bear-class picnic basket through the streets of Manhattan to deliver a mason jar of plotberry juice to Martin, who I guess has something to do with something that might be happening to someone, somewhere, but that’s entirely my imagination. I guess it’s nice that the strip is leaving us free to decide stuff like that, but it feels like they’ve given up on drawing anybody or anything below the shoulders.
Also apparently in the 3-G universe the next James Bond film is going to have a woman as villain, which could be cool, especially since the current actor in-continuity used to date 3-G personality Margo, who broke up with him when she remembered she has to either break up with or kill all her fiancees, and it just didn’t feel right to kill the guy playing James Bond, I guess.
I was cleaning out my spam folders around here and discovered this:
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I’m honestly hypnotized by this, and I’d kind of like to read the short story that starts off from “Precisely how is actually Very last”.
I think it’s that last “nike pas cher” on a line by itself that makes the composition. I’m going to have to start using it as an affectionate farewell. nike pas cher, my darlings.
I got to looking up the early-80s video game Dig Dug, which taught me how to better my enemies by wielding a bicycle pump at them, which has never worked for me. I’ve never got past the third board in the game, and a bicycle pump has done even worse at fending off my enemies in real life. But StrategyWiki delighted me by not just being able to tell me the names all the things in it, and revealing that among the “bonus vegetables” that pop up if you do far better than I have ever done are eggplants, pineapples, garlic, Galaxian, and green peppers, is that Dig Dug himself has a proper name and it isn’t “Mr Dug”.
Apparently his proper name is Taizo Hori, and he’s the father of “Mr Driller”, famed star of the Mr Driller series of video games that I never heard of before this. I don’t know why Mr Driller changed his family name. Maybe Taizo’s wife kept her maiden name, or they didn’t marry at all. Maybe Mr Driller wanted to get away from having a name that’s a Japanese pun, which it turns out his dad’s name is. “Horitai zo” apparently means “I want to dig”, although I’m not sure changing your name from “I Want To Dig” to “Mr Digger” isn’t just a lateral move, like going from “Mr Shepherd” to “Mr Fellow With A Keen Interest In Organizing Groups Of Sheep”. Obviously there are parts of the psychology of the Dig Dug universe that I don’t adequately understand.
It also turns out there’s backstory to Dig Dug that explains Taizo is digging around his own vegetable patch, which is why vegetables turn up, and it’s being invaded by those critters which is why he’s trying to blow them up, and now I kind of want to look up an explanation for how the Burger Time universe came to be, but I’m also afraid of finding out. I’ve almost gotten to the third board in that.
Also, garlic is a vegetable? I guess I can accept it as a vegetable. I suppose I didn’t have a clear notion of what it was, besides one of those things that comes chopped up in a bottle and that I put too much of on my burger. All right, so it’s a vegetable, then.
Since last week I showcased the first Betty Boop cartoon, I thought to change things up a little bit by this week showing the first Betty Boop cartoon. This reminds us of the need to have a clear conceptual theory of what constitutes a Betty Boop cartoon. The character began as an unnamed dog-human critter, but reappeared in Fleischer Studios Talkartoons, with her design gradually becoming more human, the character gaining some personality. In this cartoon, Silly Scandals, she gains a name — at least, she gets to be called Betty — and she’s almost completely made the transition to extremely slender, wide-headed human. She’s still got dog ears; those wouldn’t last much longer.
Still, she isn’t the star of this cartoon, released the 23rd of May, 1931. Bimbo is. He’s still the vaguely genial presence that every early-30s cartoon had, here, sneaking his way into a vaudeville show. What saves the cartoon from being too generic is that the famed Fleischer Studios strangeness is hard at work here. Any cartoon character — well, any silent cartoon character; the habit strangely faded away once sound came in and grey-washed art came into vogue — might morph into an umbrella to sneak around somewhere; it’s a rarer mind that has the sun hide behind a cloud and pull a drawstring to start the shower. And the final sequence, with a hypnotized Bimbo subject to a string of body-shaping manipulations, finds that boundary between “technically impressive” and “unwitting nightmare fuel” and charges right over like it’s trying to start a war. And then it gets dazzling. It’s an amazing production all around.
If I did not occasionally check in on Reuters I would have no thoughts, one way or another, about the problems of public drunken urination in the nightclub district of Hamburg. I don’t think I’m being shortsighted in this, what with my not being in or near Hamburg and having no particular responsibility for the nightclub district. I suppose we’ve all got some responsibility for public drunken urination, supporting or opposing, but I come down on the opposing side because I’ve never figured how you would wash your hands properly afterward, using warm water, soap, and a good lather. The best I can figure is go in somewhere that has a bathroom and then the public-drunken-urination part of things seems like pettiness rather than real need.
But according to Reuters the drunken public urination problem in Hamburg has been getting worse, and I’m going ahead and assuming that’s because modern liquids are so much more moist and damp than old-fashioned ones are. I’m assuming we’re making liquids more liquidy than we used to, what with advances in materials science and how much blenders have come down in price. Apparently Germans even have a great name for people who go drunkenly urinating in public, “Wildpinkler”, which makes the whole phenomenon sound like it’s an aggressively whimsical musical microgenre, possibly including pianos.
So according to Reuters, Julia Staron, who organized a local interest group that I am from context assuming opposes the public drunken urination phenomenon, said, “Wild peeing has been a problem here for a long time”, which delights a side of me that’s more immature than even I imagined. In fact, this whole essay I know is going to ruin some people’s image of me as a rather mature, faintly stodgy person sitting in the corner and not wanting to get to close to all that foolishness over there. They’re never going to go back to seeing me as a person who literally and unironically responds to some things by going “teehee”.
Staron’s group thinks they’ve got a solution to the Hamburg public drunken urination problem, and it’s in what the article calls super-hydrophobic and oleophobic nano-coating, which isn’t a terrifying pile of words to throw against one another like that at all. But that’s because you’re making an understandable mistake: the oleo they’re phobic of is not the short bits vaudevillians did in front of the curtain while more complicated acts were set up behind. I’m glad to clear that up. Still it does sound like this is a kind of paint that just can’t get along with anybody. I hope it likes bricks at least.
But the result of all this hydrophobic oleophobic stuff is that it’s a kind of paint that liquids splash back off of almost perfectly, so someone trying to piddle on the wall ends up piddling right back on themselves. I can’t see any unwanted consequences arising from turning groups of drunken revelers piddling on buildings into groups of drunken revelers who tried to piddle on buildings and instead urinated on their own legs. And in fairness the plan is to have signs around the hydrophobic buildings that warn “Do not pee here! We pee back!” in all the key languages of drunk people in Hamburg’s nightclub district, so the drunken revelers will be able to use their good judgement about where to urinate after receiving a warning and threat from the local signage. My suggestion would be, maybe a step or two farther back from the building.
It’s a fairly expensive paint, coming in at about eight dollars per square foot, so I guess we’re not going to see water towers painted with it just for the fun of making the city’s water supply feel insecure. And the news article reports that the urine-reflecting paint was developed by Nissan, in a research project that I feel must’ve been pretty far under way before someone asked, “Paint to make German nightclubs less attractive to drunken revelers? Aren’t we supposed to be making cars?” And then everyone slaps their head and says, “Cars! Oh! Right! We were confused.” But by then they were far enough along it was silly to stop. If I’m wrong I don’t think I need to know.
Romulan Guy In The Middle: “Ambassador Spock, may I at last present you with the face I have brought you halfway across the galaxy to punch.”
Spock: “I regard punching this face as a solemn duty and a service to the galaxy.”
Yeah, it’s a quick little thing, but in my defense, I’m tired after writing about another bunch of comic strips that mention mathematical themes, in which I explain how they’re doing things that are perfectly funny if you understand them well enough. Also, hey, I reached 15,000 page views over the past day, which is a nice fairly round number. Hi, gang.