Dressing the Party

There’s an 80s Night at our local hipster bar. It’s tonight, Sunday night. The bar had been closed Sunday nights since about March, and, this is true, finally got ‘CLOSED SUNDAYS’ painted onto the back door underneath its hours. So you see why this is the sort of place where I fit in.

The trouble is the dressing-up portion. After decades I finally learned about dressing myself. So I don’t try picking anything that I think looks good. A solid color for a shirt, and a different solid color for pants, plus socks. It’s a fashion I like to call “minor character in a lazily designed comic strip”.

What happens if I pick clothes for myself? Well, take any picture from any group of the 1970s or 1980s. You see the person dressed most regrettably? I used to have that outfit. I still would if it hadn’t worn it until it had multiple significant holes. So all that is to say that once again, I can’t pick out clothes to look like I belong.


Statistics Saturday: How My Hard Drive Is Organized Versus What I Use

Folders I Have Folders I Use
WP Humor
WP Journal
Games/RCT Downloads
WP Humor/Images
WP Humor/images_unused
WP Humor/Images-use
WP Humor/Pictures
WP Journal/Comics
WP Journal/Comics To Add
WP Journal/images-unused
WP Journal/Images_usable

Don’t think it isn’t driving me crazy that I can’t be consistent about capitalization, using spaces or dashes or underscores, and using full words.

Jack Benny Goes To The Carnival

And to close out August I have an episode of an actual TV show to share. Courtesy of archive.org let me show off The Jack Benny Program and an episode labelled “The Carnival Story”. If the IMDB is to be relied on it first aired the 6th of March, 1955. And it was titled “Jack takes the Beavers to the Fair”. They went for fairly literal, descriptive titles back then. Of course, the title card at the end says copyright 1954.

I think Jack Benny is still, at least, a familiar name even if people don’t actually listen to or watch him anymore. That’s forgivable. His heyday was seventy years ago, after all. But he was really popular for a really long time, for the best of reasons: he was really funny. He dominates the comic acting of the whole episode and without having many punch lines. He just knows how to be the center of the show.

And it’s a well-crafted show. The writers for Benny, on radio and television, mastered the running gag. A good joke you can count on returning, in fresh variations, for not just the one episode but as many as they could get away with. Done well, as it often was, this meant many seemingly independent joke threads would weave together to a killer climax. And that’s probably why you don’t really see good Jack Benny quotes in those books of funny things people said. They’re not funny, not without context, and books of funny things people said don’t have the fifteen minutes of setup needed.

There’s drawbacks, of course. Once something became a running gag it would have to come back over and over. Later episodes of the radio program can feel claustrophobic, as the various recurring gags have to be visited like the Stations of the Cross.

This episode is a bit of a format-breaker. Most of the regular cast is absent, as Benny takes his scout troop to the fair. This troop was a running gag on the radio program too, for years. But you pick up on the relationship he has with them fast enough. And a couple of the show’s running gags appear in the action. The most prominent is Mister Kitzel (Artie Auerbach), who appears first as the hot dog seller. He’d been going since the 1940s on the curious catchphrase “pickle in the middle with the mustard on top”. I don’t know. The 1940s was also the decade that gave us the Hut-Sut Song and doubletalk.

Frank Nelson turns up, guessing Jack Benny’s age for a quarter. His catchphrase was a simple introductory “yyYYyyyesssss?” that’s lingered in the pop culture, the past quarter-century surely because The Simpsons picked it up. And speaking of them, one of the kids — Harry — is played by Harry Shearer. You remember him from delivering at minimum three of the last five Simpsons quotes to run through your head. Mel Blanc may surprise folks by appearing here with an actual body, not just voice acting. He’s the fellow running the ring-the-bell game that Benny tries to bribe.

The show does fairly well at presenting the illusion of a fair or amusement park, considering it has to fit stuff onto a soundstage. It carries the whole business off with a carousel and some game stands, plus stock footage. I’m also curious abut where the carousel came from. It runs clockwise (as seen from above), British-style. American-made carousels normally run the other way. Where did it come from, and how did it end up on CBS television in 1955? I think I’ve seen that carousel in other productions, mostly movies, but that could just be fooling myself.

iTunes, At Sixteen

“No, iTunes,” my love said. “Who told you to play Pink Floyd?” It had interrupted its regular shuffle playlist, mostly Sparks songs, for this.

“You don’t ask iTunes to play Pink Floyd,” I said. “iTunes is sixteen years old. It just plays Pink Floyd naturally.” My love chuckled, and I realized, this was true. Suddenly the world made more sense than it had before, which is always a neat trick.

For example, nobody has known how to get iTunes to do anything on purpose for at least three years now. Even something that it can allegedly do, like put a new album on my iPod, is a process that requires upwards of three weeks, considerable screaming, and the need to repair the drywall after somebody punches two holes in it. I know this makes me sound a little temperamental but I think the drywall had considerably more dry and rather less wall than standard. Also it’s just putting an album onto the iPod like it kept saying it was doing, without actually doing it.

I recognize this behavior. I was sixteen once. In fact, I was sixteen some 365 times, although the times were all one after the other. That makes it a little hard to directly compare to being other ages. (I don’t want to brag, but I was fifteen 366 times, because I was born in a leap year after March.) My father could explain all sorts of things I should be doing, and I’d agree to the principle, without getting around to any of them except for watching Get Smart. Why should iTunes be any different?

But that means some exciting stuff for iTunes in the next couple years. I mean if it gets out of its sullen teenage years without everyone closing it into its bedroom and never telling when we move into a new house. For example, there’s two years from now when it goes off to college.

There iTunes will surely float into the student newspaper circle. Probably it’ll end up on one of the left-wing weeklies because those make for fun offices. There, with its relentlessly earnest attitude and generically positive view of authority figures it’ll be tagged by the staff as their leading suspect for the secret FBI plant. It’s flattering to a left-wing student weekly to think it rates a secret FBI plant.

iTunes won’t realize the rest of the staff suspects it’s the FBI plant, of course. It’s too naive for that sort of thing, what with how it goes all its undergraduate years without realizing some of the others on the staff were smoking the marihuana. iTunes never really deliberately sabotages the paper, which is disappointing to them. It indicates they aren’t being read enough.

Still, its presence takes the attention completely off the actual FBI plants. The first of these is the arts editor who dresses in heavy trenchcoats, throws around phrases like “sans the ennui, s’il vous plait” in earnest, and whose music preference is “people with British accents screaming obscenities in obscure time signatures”. The second is the quiet fellow who writes reasonable-sounding right-of-center-for-the-paper pieces and insists on how he lives by the code of the Klinzhai, not the Klingons, thank you. But he does wear the Klingon pin because they’re so much better-marketed. Neither of them suspects the other is an FBI plant. It’s easier that way. They’re trying to make the paper read enough to be worth sabotaging.

Probably iTunes will also major in something, which isn’t always a mistake, and perhaps go on to graduate school. If it asks me I support this, because grad school is the best time of life. It’s years of just hanging out with your friends. All you have to do is grade awful exam papers by freshmen and sometimes get glowered at by your advisor. iTunes is well set for that, what with how it gets nothing but glowered at anymore. It won’t actually do anything while in grad school, but that’s all right. The only thing you have to do in grad school is someday leave.

And then what might iTunes do after grad school? A temp job in a foreign country? Hiding out in a suburb of Ypsilanti, Michigan, before going back to more grad school? Reviewing British musicians who scream obscenities in obscure time signatures?

Well, it turns out I was completely wrong. iTunes came out in January of 2001. It’s only fourteen years old. That’s right, it’s actually younger than the Tony Shalhoub/Neil Patrick Harris sitcom Stark Raving Mad. There’s no guessing what its next couple of years will be like.

Franklin P Adams: The Dictaphone Bard

How about an amusing spot of medium-breaking poetry from Franklin P Adams, fresh from the pages of Something Else Again?

[And here is a suggestion: Did you ever try dictating your stories or articles to the dictaphone for the first draft? I would be glad to have you come down and make the experiment.—From a shorthand reporter’s circular letter.]

(As “The Ballad of the Tempest” would have to issue from the dictaphone to the stenographer)

Begin each line with a capital. Indent alternate lines. Double space after each fourth line.

We were crowded in the cabin comma
   Not a soul would dare to sleep dash comma
It was midnight on the waters comma
   And a storm was on the deep period

Apostrophe Tis a fearful thing in capital Winter
   To be shattered by the blast comma
And to hear the rattling trumpet
   Thunder colon quote capital Cut away the mast exclamation point close quote

So we shuddered there in silence comma dash
   For the stoutest held his breath comma
While the hungry sea was roaring comma
   And the breakers talked with capital Death period

As thus we sat in darkness comma
   Each one busy with his prayers comma
Quote We are lost exclamation point close quote the captain shouted comma
   As he staggered down the stairs period

But his little daughter whispered comma
   As she took his icy hand colon
Quote Isn’t capital God upon the ocean comma
   Just the same as on the land interrogation point close quote

Then we kissed the little maiden comma
   And we spake in better cheer comma
And we anchored safe in harbor
   When the morn was shining clear period

Nothing Is Happening In Apartment 3-G Update: Did Something Happen in Apartment 3-G?

Since nothing has happened in the comic strip Apartment 3-G all year, you might be wondering: has anything happened in Apartment 3-G this past week? The answer is … it’s not clear, exactly.

Tim reminds Eric that everybody thought Eric was dead. Eric reminds Tim that he loved his fiancee even though she was Margo.
Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G for the 23rd of August, 2015, summing up a week of work in five panels. However, bonus points for getting the characters consistently colored so that it’s possible to tell who’s supposed to be who.

I mean, Margo is still wandering around a hallucinatory and ever-mutating landscape yelling at people who seem to recognize her. That’s still going on, but since that’s been going on since the Battle of Manzikert that doesn’t count as anything happening anymore. However, this week, two of the vaguely human-shaped lumps that have been following one another identified one another as Tim and Eric. And this matters because Eric was one of Margo’s fiancées who soap-opera-died six years ago in a Himalayan avalanche. Tim’s his brother.

Now, yeah, their names were revealed in some of the many, many weeks of nothing happening before. And people who pay close attention to the comic strip action would remember Eric as the name of a fairly recently soap-opera-killed fiancée. But this does make clear that it isn’t just a coincidence of names or anything. These are supposed to be the same people as back then. The readers are confirmed in information about who is on screen and why they might be there.

After consideration, I concede this qualifies, technically, as having something happen. It may be Tim and Eric explaining things they already know to one another. Tim reminds Eric that everybody thought he was dead. Eric reminds Tim that he was going to marry Margo. But that is what passes for exposition in a non-humorous story strip. The readers know something they were only just kinda sure of before. I must turn to Greg Evans and Karen Evans’s Luann for my nothing-happening action this week.

Something that didn’t make the Sunday recap was Eric explaining that “Tibetan nuns” saved his life. And that’s kind of an interesting revelation because, because that means Eric has gone through the Origin Story for either The Shadow or Plastic-Man. It depends whether he was dropped in a vat of mysterious chemicals by his partners in crime first. If he is the new Plastic-Man then the comic strip has an excuse for his features being putty-like and ever-changing. There’s possibilities here that won’t go anywhere, is what I’m saying.

Anyway. My mathematics blog has some comic strips although since they’re all humor strips, things happen in them.

The Worm In The Ear. Plus: Sock Simplicity Update

OK, so apparently my head is just going to be delivering a medley of the J Geils Band’s Angels In The Centerfold cutting to the Kinks’ Come Dancing and Devo’s Whip It. I can deal with that. I’m happy I can still have earworms, since they take about eight to fifteen seconds. So my attention span is at least eight seconds long still. That’s a source of pride-ish-ness these days. There’s a whole generation coming that won’t be able to get a song caught in their heads because they can’t hear enough of one before moving on to the next thing.

Meanwhile? The history of socks? Yeah, it still implies that socks are no longer simple. Still not up to that.

Statistics Saturday: How Many Good Episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation I Figured There Were Versus Time

More good episodes, especially around the Borg episode, and then gradually declines as episodes like the one where Data trains his cat came on.
There was a lot of time spent the first two seasons saying, “No, really, this is at least as good as the space hippies episode of the Original Series, right? Please, I need this to be a better episode than this actually is.”

Not depicted: that day in 1997 when the Internet noticed the episode where Dr Crusher has sex with her grandmother’s candle-ghost; and that day in 2000 when I noticed the Federation kicked the Cardassians out of alliance with them and into the Dominion’s arms. So, good job, warhawks, in making things worse, as ever.

Krazy Kat visits an Amusement Park, Chased By A Bull

I’ve mentioned how amusement parks seem to be natural places for cartoons. I think it strange that more don’t use the setting. But here’s one example, and from television: the string of Krazy Kat cartoons animated in the early 60s.

The video carries two cartoons, with “Looney Park” the first. It’s a bit oddly plotted; much of the action involves Krazy and Ignatz and an angered bull in the field. It’s not until three minutes into a five-minute cartoon that we even see the amusement park. The effect is to suggest they picked the title, which had inspiration enough to it, and then tossed into it whatever story scraps they had on hand before topping it off with a couple of sideshow gags and a quick shot of a roller coaster.

Last year when I looked at the various Krazy Kat adaptations I was fairly hard on the King Features Syndicate made-for-TV version of the 60s. Maybe I was wrong, or at least I wasn’t paying enough attention to the animation. The drawings are spot on for the comic strip’s style, and the flow of action feels right for the comic strip. Well, at least I had said as much in looking over another of the 1960s King Features cartoons.

The second half of the embedded video, “The Desert Island”, is a curious one. Krazy and Ignatz get the Coconino County desert turned into a deserted island by a process most fairly called “they wanted to do some desert island jokes” and everything else basically comes from that. And then pirates come in because why even have a deserted island if you aren’t going to put pirate treasure on it? I like the ridiculous logic of that; really, I think I like the logic of it more than I like the actual dialogue of the cartoons. Maybe I’ll see things more favorably a year from now.

The Origin Of The Specious

The trivia board continued to tease me. Did you know, it asked in its white-board glory, it would take over eleven Empire State Buildings to reach the deepest point in the Gulf of Mexico? That “over” sounds weaselly, yes, but I can’t fault its inclusion. Obviously the exact number of Empire State Buildings needed would depend on where you start from. You need far fewer if you’re starting from Veracruz, Mexico than if you’re starting from Glen, New Hampshire.

This affects the economics of your Empire State Building-lined bridge to the deepest point in the Gulf of Mexico! I don’t judge how. It’s not my business to say whether you’re trying to build this bridge for the lowest cost in Empire State Building procurement, or whether you’re trying to keep the Empire State Building-building industry at a stable production level. These are questions of political and economic priorities and so are outside the domain of the trivia whiteboard. I think it’s important the nation have a robust Empire State Building-building industry. It’s unsound to have to trust there’ll just be ones on hand when we need them. It could be disastrous for a project requiring 22 Empire State Buildings to find we can only scrounge together 24 Chrysler Towers and an old 30 Rockefeller Center that was filling up the junk drawer, between the fabric pads for the chair legs and the ball of decaying twine. Again, that’s just my feelings on the issue. Reasonable people can disagree, though not with me.

But why do people love trivia? Sure, everybody likes knowing things. And everybody really likes knowing things they think other people don’t know. When you share trivia you’re giving up some of your hoard of knowledge to someone else’s. A good trivia item isn’t just something that makes you think about Empire State Buildings and the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a chance to dispense social patronage. And it works even if all you’re doing is telling someone the first video MTV played was the Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star”. They’ll grin and nod and tell the joke about MTV ever playing music videos, even though they already knew the trivia because they were one of the Buggles. You should’ve checked who you were talking to sooner. If they’re gracious they’ll share some trivia back. Say, that the first video played on VH1 was Bruce Woolley’s version of “Video Killed The Radio Star”.

That’s not true, but it doesn’t matter, because within eight months Wikipedia will say that’s true and it’s just VH1 anyway. It’s too good a story. Given a fact and a story we’ll pick the story every time. Consider: The United States produced 1,768,000 net tons of raw steel in the week ending the 15th of August, 2015. That’s a substantial amount of steel, more substantial still if you ram you toe into it in the dark, but it’s worthless as trivia. It’ll never be as popular as the Buggles thing, which has been the most-shared piece of trivia on Twitter for the past three years running.

That’s also not true. Well, maybe it is. I don’t know. Something’s got to be the most-shared piece of trivia on Twitter. But again it doesn’t matter, because that’s got the hope of grabbing the imagination. You can picture a story behind it that United States domestic raw steel production can’t match, what with the rate of capability utilization at 73.9 percent. Here’s one the trivia board said: the catfish has over 27,000 taste buds. Is that surprisingly many? Or few? How many taste buds should we expect a catfish to have on its tongue? Do catfish have tongues? Do they have taste buds somewhere other than a tongue? Could a catfish have tastebuds on its skin? If it does, would this imply they technically spend their entire lives in a state of licking rivers?

Even if the answer to all these questions is “get away from me” followed by the ichthyologist running down the hall, receiving this trivia has given us something to imagine. That would be thinking of how catfish taste buds were counted. Maybe it was a grad student in the biology department carefully tallying things with microscope and whiteboard. Maybe it was a local newspaper editor demanding, “Resnikoff! Enough of this debate about the city hiring a new building code inspector! Find out how many taste buds a catfish has and do it before we put Sunday’s paper to bed!” And Resnikoff had to turn in “over 27,000” because that’s as far as the counting got before deadline. I’d like to know more. Whether it’s true or not, I can tell you the catfish would rather have been left alone. Nobody shares good trivia with it. Maybe someone should tell catfish steel capacity utilization is down 8.4 percent from the same week in 2014. That’s starting to make a story, and with it, a good trivial one.

Robert Benchley: The Word “Three”

I’m a know-it-all. By this I mean simply that I assume you have an opinion about David Rice Atchison, and whatever it is I am prepared to argue that you are wrong. It’s amazing that I don’t spend more time running away from people meaning to slap me. But I credit that for my always loving the mock-explanatory essay. I love the real things, certainly, but the humorist who can capture the rhythms of explanation while producing nonsense — well, that’s wonderful. Robert Benchley in My Ten Years In A Quandary And How They Grew provides one of the most perfect examples of this. From the fourth paragraph on there’s barely a misfired word or a weak sentence, and the first three paragraphs are a good warming up. The antepenultimate paragraph alone is worth learning what “antepenultimate” means.

The Word “Three”

I don’t know whether you care or not, but etymological circles are in an uproar. They have just discovered what the word “three” comes from.

They have known the derivation of all the other words in the number-table (as, for example, “two” from “Tuesday,” or the second day in the week if you don’t count Sunday as the first, and “five” from the god Woden, or Thor, or Buttercup, and so forth and so forth), but they have never been able to figure out where the word “three” came from.

A little fellow from the University of Welf discovered it. He doesn’t speak English himself, but he is awfully interested in people who do. It was during one of these periods (I should have told you that he has periods when he looks up words) that he found out about the word “three.” He was looking up the word “tree” and, not speaking English well, he thought that it was pronounced “three.” You can see how that might very well be.

The word “three” comes to us direct from the French, collect. The original word was (and still is) tri, which means a sorting, or, as in card-playing, a deal. Thus, one would say: “Give me a tri,” or “How is your tri?” meaning “Give me a deal” or “How is your deal?” If one were really speaking in French, of course, all the other words in the sentence would be French, too. (i.e., “Donnez-moi un tri” or “Votre tri, ça marche?”)

Just how the word tri got into the French language is a mystery which occupies practically nobody’s attention at the moment. It is supposed to have come from the Creole patois of New Orleans, and was used to signify hurry or lethargy. The old form of the word was blo, which gradually was shortened into tri. Later the whole word was dropped from the language by a rising vote.

The Normans brought the word into England just before the Norman Conquest. In their use of it an extra syllable was added, making it triouille, meaning white-bait or Roger crab. We still are no nearer than we were to finding out how it came to mean three of anything. Don’t think that I’m not just as worried as you are.

With the advent of water-power and the subsequent water-pistol, Luke (Luke was the fellow I was speaking of a few yards back) didn’t know what to do. Unless I am greatly mistaken, this paragraph belongs in another article.

Well, anyway, the people who are making up the English language found themselves with names for every digit except “three.” And, as there were three of quite a lot of things (Marx Brothers, blind mice, wishes and cent stamps) it got increasingly embarrassing not to have a word to express “three.” They tried using the word “four,” but it ended only in confusion, especially when addition or subtraction was at stake.

Suddenly someone said: “Why don’t we take the word tri from the French? They’ll never miss it, and they owe it to us anyway.” This seemed like a logical plan, and everybody but one man agreed to it. He later committed suicide when he found out how successfully it had worked out. “I was a blind fool,” he wrote.

As it sounded rather common to say tri, they put in an h and substituted a double e for the i. This made as pretty a “three” as you could wish, and from that day on it was a part of the language. They tried it out in a little rhyme: “One-two-three—buckle my shoe,” and it went so well that soon everybody was saying it.

Frankly, I don’t know whether I like it as a word or not. It still sounds a little slangy.

My Saint Louis Question Still Stands

So, out of not much of anywhere, a friend sent me what I assume to be this Wikipedia quote:

From 1981 to 1989, Price hosted the PBS television series Mystery! In 1985, he provided voice talent on the Hanna-Barbera series The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo as the mysterious Vincent Van Ghoul, who aided Scooby-Doo, Scrappy-Doo, and the gang in recapturing 13 evil demons. A lifelong rollercoaster fan, Price narrated a 1987 30-minute documentary on the history of rollercoasters and amusement parks including Coney Island. During this time (1985-1989), he appeared in horror-themed commercials for Tilex bathroom cleanser. In 1984, Price appeared in Shelley Duvall’s live-action series Faerie Tale Theatre as the Mirror in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and the narrator for The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers. In 1987, he starred with Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, and Ann Sothern in The Whales of August, a story of two sisters living in Maine facing the end of their days. His performance in The Whales of August earned the only award nomination of his career: an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.[19] In 1989, Price was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.[20] His last significant film work was as the inventor in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands (1990).

And I got off to a weird start because I mistook the subject for being Prince. This made all this text a tiny bit weirder than it was meant to be. It also meant I was thinking, “I had no idea Prince was ever on Scooby-Doo” or did all this other stuff. And also, “Wait, why does Prince have anything to do with Saint Louis?”

Anyway, yes, I made that all weird on my own because I wasn’t reading closely enough. Also apparently Vincent Price was a roller coaster fan? And has something to do with Saint Louis? Who knew that?

Reconsidering Penguins

OK, first, I stand by my Statistics Saturday post about the nations of the world as you find them in amusement park figures and art.

But on Saturday, after I’d had it scheduled to post, and while I was out waiting behind someone who was trying to figure out how to work a Coke Freestyle machine, I realized something. “Santa Claus” is a funny nation. “Penguins” make for a funny nation. But “The Santa Claus-Penguinarian Empire”? That would be much better. And from a start like that I could play on all kinds of Austro-Hungarian Empire jokes that readers would love.

Too late now, that’s all. Pity. Someday I’ll have my second thoughts when it’s not too late to do anything with them.

Nothing Is Happening In Apartment 3-G: Mid-August Update

I have another installment of mathematically-themed comic strips reviewed over on my mathematics blog. So I hope you enjoy that. And I’d also like to check back in on what’s happening in Apartment 3-G. This is a regular feature for people who don’t understand what’s happening in Apartment 3-G. This week, nothing happened in Apartment 3-G, because nothing is happening in Apartment 3-G. You’re welcome.

Margo wanders around lost, and rebuffs men named 'Tim' and 'Eric'. Tim says to let her go, while Eric says he had to try.
Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G for the 16th of August, 2015. In it, nothing happens.

Admittedly, the nothing that’s happened over the past week looks like more than actually went on. In the most recent batch of strips, Margo wanders around the ever-changing yet generally yellow buildings of some town or other. Men offer to help her and she curses them out. This is just as has been going on the last eighty weeks. However, this week’s nothingness might look like something more because two of the figures were named: Tim and Eric. These are the names of some of the many, many past boyfriends who died before they could marry her. If something were to happen in Apartment 3-G this would imply we are seeing more of Margo’s emotional breakdown or possibly that she’s being haunted by the ghosts of past plots. Those were plots in which something happened, so that is not what is happening, because, again, nothing is happening in Apartment 3-G.

Statistics Saturday: The Nations Of The World, As Represented In Amusement Park Figures And Art

  1. United States
  2. England
  3. Germany
  4. France
  5. Egypt
  6. Africa
  7. Texas
  8. Chinese Restaurant
  9. Mexico
  10. Scotland
  11. Santa Claus
  12. Japan
  13. Italy
  14. Kangaroos
  15. Russia
  16. Bavaria
  17. Kids
  18. Penguins
  19. Canada
  20. Clowns

Harold Lloyd: Could He Save Your Life?

I’m still in an amusement park mood. But I haven’t got a good cartoon amusement park on hand. I can give a couple examples of 1960s cartoons but they’re, you know, episodes of Atom Ant or things like that. I’d thought about silent movies, although the one I most want to point out — Buster Keaton and Roscoe Arbuckle’s 1917 Coney Island I already wrote up last year. Onward I dig.

By The Sad Sea Waves, here, is a Harold Lloyd film originally released the 30th of September, 1917. It’s one of the first pictures Lloyd did in the “Glasses” character. You know, The Default Harold Lloyd character. He had been in dozens of shorts before, and even developed the Lonesome Luke character in a series of shorts. With “Glasses”, or “The Boy” as he’s often credited, he got his big hit. Here he’s still getting his character sorted out; he looks to me kind of like he’s trying to play Bill Gates. This is what happens when you’re ahead of your time.

The storyline’s a straightforward one. Glasses dons a lifeguard suit to better his chances with some of the women on the beach, and has to keep up the scam. Venice Beach and its amusement pier linger in the far background, just visible but secondary to being on the beach. I suppose if we start from the premise he’s pretending to be a lifeguard there’s not a way to get onto the pier for very long. But I was excited when things got onto the trolley and I wondered if they’d get a few stunts in before the end of the short. No luck; it’s just a little too short.

Yes, I noticed that appearance of cabana number 23. Supposedly the early 20th century saw 23 as the most inherently funny number, per Christopher Miller’s American Cornball: A Laffopedic Guide To The Formerly Funny. Our more mature audiences of today give that role to 17 and, for more nerdy audiences, 42.

The Story Of Anyone’s Life

It’s a good time to write a biography, in case you’re thinking of doing such a thing. There are more people who’ve been alive now than there ever have been before. And that’s a trend that just isn’t going to change anytime soon. There’s already more than eight people ready to be biographied for every person able to write one. Or you can just write about Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon Bonaparte, Thomas Edison, or Abraham Lincoln again because you thought of some more stuff about him.

You do have to pick some subject, though. You can get a ways into the book without having one in mind, if you focus your efforts on the preface. There you can point out how you’re interested in getting at the truth, and that you’ve been hard at work examining original documents. And that you’re grateful for the assistance of a long list of people with three names each. Maybe thank a university press while you’re at it. They need the support and almost nobody visits them just to hug. But a good preface can only go as long as 58 pages before even the people who’re looking to see if their names get thanked get rebellious and try to take over the book.

Once you’ve picked a subject you can fill out the first chapter, in which you describe the subject’s death. This is an important scene for any biographer because it assures the reader that at some point the subject dies and the book will end. Oh, electronic books have made it theoretically possible to keep on writing more book before anybody can finish reading it. But there are practical objections. People can skim faster than you can write, for example. If you want to keep ahead of them you’re going to have to start describing how the subject read other biographies. Then include those. It helps you out doing this trick if you remember there’s more biographies now than there ever were before. And that’s another trend that’s going to keep going. But at some point even electronic books are going to run out of storage space and you might have to end mid-word. This could embarrass someone who might even be you.

If your subject hasn’t died, you have to be more careful writing the funeral scene. Since it’ll be in the future, your description of the details of what the day will be like and what people will be doing will be kind of science fiction. This should date your book hilariously by the time the predicted date comes to pass or else you’re doing it wrong. That could be an opportunity, admittedly. If you can be really extremely dated at least people will go looking up the funniest bits about what you wrote. But they’ll only quote the funniest parts and not think to laugh at the rest of your biography.

A danger in writing biographies is you can come out thinking worse of your subject. That’s all right if you go in writing a biography of someone you don’t like. Critics might ask why you’re doing a biography of someone you don’t like. “Why hate-biography,” they’d ask, “when there’ve been more likable people now than ever before?” You can answer, “Shouldn’t we know everything possible about the person who single-handedly fed the moon to Truman Capote?” If you can’t get away while they’re working that question out you aren’t trying hard enough. Maybe you need advice from a professional biographers’ association. Maybe you need better sneakers.

But there’s still hazards even if you still mostly like the subject by the end. For example you figure on how Thomas Edison was a bright, perceptive man with a keen sense for what was possible and desirable. Then you remember he spent seven years and tens of thousands of dollars trying to make dolls stuffed full of record players. Maybe you can get back your esteem for him from that. If you forget that he went from the record-player-doll project to stomping around New Jersey rock quarries shouting “MORE MAGNETS!” at any ore that would listen. And you just know some of that rock was magnesiochromite.

Well. Sometimes you have to take the risk, and biography someone who turns out to be a drip. It’s an important lesson and a turning point in the biography someone’s writing about you. Good luck.

Oh, I Don’t Know

“Did you know?” asked the trivia board. It wondered if I knew that the King of Hearts was the only king to have a mustache. I did not know that. I don’t know that I can even believe it. I can accept if they’ve decided not to count the Kings of Lower Mustachia, since that principality (really an arch-ducky, since things were going so swell at the time) was absorbed into the North German Federation and from there, Germany, long ago and nobody’s checked in on the Kings since the war Austro-Prussian War. Fine enough. But surely they’re forgetting the Hipster King at a minimum, aren’t they?

In other news I am still not up to facing the idea that socks are no longer simple garments. You may proceed.

(Yes, yes, I know what you’re all thinking. But I do not remember whether the King of the Nuditarians had a mustache. I guess maybe if he were Ron Mael, but I don’t know that he was.)

Captioned: Elevators of the 24th Century

From the first season of Next Generation: beardless Riker, Tasha Yar, and red-shirted LaForge and Worf enter a turbo lift. Data stays behind.
I don’t actually remember which episode this is from.

Picard: “Not you, Mister Data. That turbolift is for the limited-edition figures only.”

Right caption? Wrong caption? Let me know. Also, over on my mathematics blog I have another bunch of mathematically-themed comic strips to talk about. It’s got special tic-tac-toe content you might not have seen before! Also, really, I can’t figure out which episode this is from besides that it’s first-season, which obviously anybody would know, so I’ll take help if I can get it.

Why I Am Not Learning About The History Of Socks

I was all set to read this history of socks, for good reason. Socks are things (you can’t tell me otherwise) and they probably have a history, so that’s plenty of reason for me to read a book of up to 203,800 words about their origins. But then the very first sentence of the thing was this:

Socks and stockings originated as simple pieces of felt stuffed into shoes to provide warmth.

This implies that socks are no longer simple things. Therefore I shall go hiding under the bed until I feel up to handling complicated socks. I’m still not recovered from the socks that have that little colored patch in the heel so you can tell when you’ve put it on upside-down and there’s somehow an upside-down way to put on a sock.

Robert Benchley: The Brow-Elevation in Humor

The Robert Benchley essay I want to share today is an unusual one in my selections. It’s from Love Conquers All, as often happens here. But it’s from the back half of the book, which collects his various book reviews. This review is a split between a little talk about Mark Twain, whose well-managed estate was putting out new books a decade after Twain’s death, and a book collecting the poetry of Franklin P Adams.

I’ve used some of Adams’s verse here, although not anything from the reviewed book. What interests me, though, is Benchley’s point about American humor. While it’s got a long anti-intellectual history, there’s also always a streak of good, popular stuff that is not. There are a lot of people who want jokes that assume intelligence and broad knowledge on the part of the audience.

That said, could there be a Franklin P Adams today? I don’t know. The kinds of classical allusions he would depend on seem to be less part of the common cultural pool. On the other hand, plenty of people still know this stuff, and it ought to be easier for them to find an author who writes about the kinds of things they like now. And it seems to be rather easy to come across a reference and use that to learn new things, and it can be great fun to find a writer that coaxes you into learning new things. I don’t deny that anti-intellectual is always around, but I would be interested to know how well intellectual can do.

After an author has been dead for some time, it becomes increasingly difficult for his publishers to get out a new book by him each year. Without recourse to the ouija board, Harper & Brothers manage to do very well by Mark Twain, considering that all they have to work with are the books that he wrote when he was alive. Each year we get something from the pen of the famous humorist, even though the ink has faded slightly. An introduction by Albert Bigelow Paine and a hitherto unpublished photograph as a frontspiece, and there you are—the season’s new Mark Twain book.

This season it is Moments With Mark Twain, a collection of excerpts from his works for quick and handy reading. We may look for further books in this series in 1923, 1924, 1925, &c., to be entitled Half Hours With Mark Twain (the selections a trifle longer), Pleasant Week-Ends With Mark Twain, Indian Summer With Mark Twain, &c.

There is an interesting comparison between this sample bottle of the humor of Mark Twain and that contained in the volume entitled Something Else Again, by Franklin P. Adams. The latter is a volume of verse and burlesques which have appeared in the newspapers and magazines.

In the days when Mark Twain was writing, it was considered good form to spoof not only the classics but surplus learning of any kind. A man was popularly known as an affected cuss when he could handle anything more erudite than a nasal past participle or two in his own language, and any one who wanted to qualify as a humorist had to be able to mispronounce any word of over three syllables.

Thus we find Mark Twain, in the selections given in this volume, having amusing trouble with the pronunciation of Michael Angelo and Leonardo da Vinci, expressing surprise that Michael Angelo was dead, picking flaws in the old master’s execution and complaining of the use of foreign words which have their equivalent “in a nobler language—English.”

There certainly is no harm in this school of humor, and it has its earnest and prosperous exponents today. In fact, a large majority of the people still like to have some one poke fun at the things in which they themselves are not proficient, whether it be pronunciation, Latin or bricklaying.

But there is an increasingly large section of the reading public who while they may not be expert in Latin composition, nevertheless do not think that a Latin word in itself is a cause for laughter. A French phrase thrown in now and then for metrical effect does not strike them as essentially an affectation, and they are willing to have references made to characters whose native language may not have been that noblest of all languages, our native tongue.

That such a school of readers exists is proved by the popularity of F.P.A’s verses and prose. If any one had told Mark Twain that a man could run a daily newspaper column in New York and amass any degree of fame through translations of the Odes of Horace into the vernacular, the veteran humorist would probably have slapped Albert Bigelow Paine on the back and taken the next boat for Bermuda. And yet in Something Else Again we find some sixteen translations of Horace and other “furriners,” exotic phrases such as “eheu fugaces” and “ex parte” used without making faces over them, and a popular exposition of highly technical verse forms which James Russell Lowell and Hal Longfellow would have considered terrifically high-brow. And yet thousands of American business men quote F.P.A. to thousands of other American business men every morning.

Can it be said that the American people are not so low-brow as they like to pretend? There is a great deal of affectation in this homespun frame of mind, and many a man makes believe that he doesn’t know things simply because no one has ever written about them in the American Magazine. If the truth were known, we are all a great deal better educated than we will admit, and the derisive laughter with which we greet signs of culture is sometimes very hollow. In F.P.A. we find a combination which makes it possible for us to admit our learning and still be held honorable men. It is a good sign that his following is increasing.

Statistics Saturday: What Warren Buffett Is Warning Americans About

'Warren Buffett Just Gave Americans A Big Warning' ... also there's a tooltip warning there's a breakthrough causing people to lose too much weight.
I forget what the breakthrough was that causes people to lose too much weight.

Biggest ones: 'Nothing is happening in Apartment 3-G. NOTHING'. Also: 'handled in a facility that contains ingredients', and, 'That's no ordinary guinea pig!'
Just missing the cut: ‘You’ll find Fallen London a way more interesting game than you expect’.

So apparently I’m okay with using clickbait advertisements as inspiration. Not sure how knowing that makes me feel about myself.

Also, happy National Day, Singapore. That hasn’t anything to do with anything here, but how often does a nation observe its 50th National Day? Except the nations that claim they’re 50 years old every single year, like some of those Caribbean islands do.

Popeye On Another Roller Coaster

Amusement parks are great places for cartoons. By definition an amusement park is the sort of strange, surreal place where anything might happen. And a cartoon is a way we represent the potential for reality, without losing the sense that something else might happen yet.

Popeye would go back to amusement parks several times. Surprisingly few times, I’d say, given the potential for Popeye to show off his superhuman prowess, and for the ability of an amusement park to provide any setting or prop useful. But for this week let me share Abusement Park. This was originally released to theaters the 25th of April, 1947, so it’s more nearly seasonally appropriate than King of the Mardis Gras, despite its other shortcomings.

The biggest shortcoming is that Jack Mercer doesn’t act in it. Mercer was the voice of Popeye most of the time from 1935 up to his death in 1984. But there were exceptions, such as a streak from 1945 to 1947 when he was, if I’m not mistaken, in the Army. In this cartoon Harry Foster Welch voices Popeye. Welch performed for most of 1945-to-1947. Abusement Park happens to be the last time he performed the character. His isn’t a bad voice, and he plays Popeye reasonably well, I think. It’s just hard escaping the most common performance.

The plot’s also a bit weaker than King of the Mardis Gras, I think because the earlier cartoon presents Popeye and Bluto trying to appeal to a whole audience, rather than attending just to Olive Oyl. There’s somehow a difference in trying to draw a crowd to trying to win a single woman’s attention. Also, and I admit this is a silly thing, but it has always bothered me, since childhood, that Popeye blows into a telephone and explodes a lighthouse. It’s not that I don’t think he could do it. It’s just such a jerk move. Sometimes the parts of the cartoons where Popeye shows off his strength forget that he’s also supposed to be nice.

As before the action ends on a roller coaster, an impressively gigantic one. While the action runs nicely wild — if you’re not satisfied with a battle fought in midair along a chain of elephants we just don’t have anything in common — Famous Studios doesn’t make use of the 3-D settings the Fleischer Studios did. I wonder if they even had the equipment anymore. There aren’t the wonderful and hypnotic movements along the course of the roller coaster track, where all those structural supports move in perspective. The roller coaster itself gets panning shots, or gets shunted off-camera fast enough. It doesn’t look bad, mind you. But it’s hard not to conclude the animation for this roller coaster sequence was a lot less trying than that for King of the Mardis Gras. The chipping away at budgets and animation and effort that would make 1950s Famous Studio cartoons such a chore weren’t bad yet, but they were coming.

Things I Learned From 1950s Science Fiction

If I’ve learned anything from 1950s science fiction it was entirely my own doing. Back then science fiction was a literature of ideas, not this wishy-washy learning stuff. There’s no place in learning for ideas, and who wants to come out of a story having figured out something about people or situations or stuff like that? I don’t mean to sound defensive here, I just want to warn serious science fiction fans that I know this is all on me, not on the genre. By “serious science fiction fans” I mean “people who know Robert Heinlein’s middle name and will work it in at least once out of every four times they try to complete a sentence”.

Anyway, I like the science fiction of the 1950s for its many charms, such as that bunches of it got turned into radio shows you can listen to without the inconvenience of reading.

The most important is about plotting. If I’m ever stuck for getting a story started, now I know what to do. Start out with a stuffy scientist type. Then introduce the kind of character that gets called a tough. He should sound kind of like what you get from listening to a radio show adaptation of a Damon Runyon story. The tough can then talk slang in front of the professor. The professor will put that as talking “slang” in front of him. And the scenes just write themselves. The professor type can view the “slang” in the same way he might examine an exotic insect that turned up in his lunch. His lunch comprises 375 grams of iceberg lettuce pressed flat and cut into regular hexagons, and a dessert of melting ice served with vitamin pills, surely sufficient for all nutritional demands. As a bonus the story can end when the tough or the scientist double-crosses the other and then finds out he’s helpless, which is a good punchy conclusion.

Then there’s characters. Interstellar spaceship crews on voyages of discovery are a neat bunch, since they’re all grumbling and surly and none of them want to know a thing about where they’re going. Get one out in front of a wonder of the universe and they’ll only look up if it’s got that hook you use to pry open a beer. They’ll do their best exploratory work around a hotel room’s bathroom sink.

Computers make for good characters. They’re surly genies who don’t bother talking down to you because that might break their uniform line reads. I like to think in text this means they write in all-caps. Maybe the newer, more human, ones just capitalize the start of every word. (At the risk of peeking ahead: in the 60s they become relentlessly chipper, helpful genies. In the 70s they become mopey and introspective genies, while in the 80s they split between being comic pals and Seven of Nine.)

The tough and the scientist are good to have around, of course. A woman can be a nice character in 50s science fiction, although if she already knows things that’s because she’s waiting for a man to be submissive to. I guess she might get through the whole story knowing stuff as long as there’s the promise she’s going to find one soon. It’s great to have an advertising executive and a tycoon around, because they can yell into telephones and demand that money be put into stuff without having to think about where it comes from or why. Advertising executives are really good to have because they’ll never ever wonder why they’re taking the “alien invasion of Earth” contract.

Then there’s some things about scenarios. For example, if you’ve got a time machine cluttering up your story you might be worried about the contingencies of the universe and whether your grandfather has enough existence insurance. Turns out there’s no time-travel method known that can alter the course of history. This is because of a rule put in place by the people who’re on top of history and don’t see any reason that needs to change.

Wherever a character is and whatever he’s doing, if he needs a weapon, he just needs to reach into any drawer anywhere to pull out a loaded revolver. I don’t know who’s putting them there. The evidence suggests the Space Gideons have gone somewhat awry.

Every rocket, including the little bitty one used to ferry people from Jersey City to the Port Authority in Manhattan, has enough fuel to break the speed of light and go rocketing past the universe if someone just accidentally leaves their foot on the accelerator pedal.

If you’re part of a colonial force there might be natives on the planet and the characters are expected to be total jerkfaces to them. That’s all right. The natives have ways of turning the characters into space cows, so it all balances out.

It turns out there’s no problem a man can have — poor job prospects caused by the aliens’ invasion ad campaign, an annoying mother-in-law, getting stuck on an interplanetary spaceship in a different century — that can’t be solved by the man standing up to his wife. If he doesn’t have a wife he should go looking for the nearest woman who knows stuff. She’ll be about ready to be stood up to.

People say “robot” any way except correctly.

I’m sure I learned other things, but I forgot to jot down just what.

MiSTed: Brad Guth, Venus for Dummies, Part 3 of 3

A question always asked about cranks is: are we being unfair to them? Even if they aren’t right, don’t their thoughts deserve as much of a hearing as anyone else’s? Might some of them be correct after all? It’d be a tall order for a physical sciences crank to be right, but they could have a key insight the mainstream has overlooked. And purely reasoning-based disciplines like mathematics technically don’t even require training, just an ability to think hard and clearly about something.

I think a bit of listening is worth doing. A person might happen to be the first person in the world to have noticed something significant and true. But there comes a point you can stop listening. I think for most sci.space.history people that came when Guth was unable to tell the difference between a photograph of Venus and a photograph of Mars. Properly speaking, that doesn’t mean he might not be on to something. But it is a hard blow to an argument entirely based on photographs of Venus and/or Mars.

> do reconsider
> as to bothering yourself to take another subjective look-see

CROW: Call ahead! It’d be embarrassing if Venus were out when you get there.

> and then
> honestly interpret this thick and dense atmospheric insulated terrain
> for yourself,

TOM: But ask for help understanding the dirty jokes in the Malagasy Orogeny.

> as to what some of those highly unusual patterns could
> possibly represent, as anything other than the random geology
> happenstance of hot rocks.

CROW: I see a bunny.

JOEL: I see a painting by Thomas Eakins.


> =93Guth Venus=94 1:1, plus 10x resample/enlargement of the area in
> question:

TOM: Are we to suppose this is some “magic late-bombardment protoplanet”?

> https://picasaweb.google.com/102736204560337818634/BradGuth#slideshow/5629579402364691314

JOEL: The picture is nice enough but I like seeing all those 3’s up there.

> This is not to say that 99.9999% of this Venus surface doesn=92t look
> perfectly natural (at least it does to me),

CROW: And I’ve been looking at things for *years*!

> just like the surface of
> Earth might look if having to use the exact same SAR-C imaging methods

TOM: The same saucy imaging methods? Wow!

> and its limited resolution that could be easily improved upon by any
> new missions for mapping Venus in greater detail (such as 7.5 meters/
> pixel).

CROW: Oh, we’d just run out of pixels at that rate.

> After all, a millionth of that hot Venus surface area is
> still 4.6e8 m2, or 460 km2,

TOM: Or sixty barleycorns, two pottles, and half a Lords-Whacking-Stick!

> and this most complex area of =93Guth
> Venus=94 (100 x 100 pixels or 506 km2

CROW: 485 if you use coupon code GUTHVENUS!

> ) that which includes mostly
> natural geology, isn=92t involving but a fraction more than a millionth
> of the Venus surface area,

JOEL: It all adds up to three squintillionths of a Venusian barleycorn!

> and yet it seems as though highly developed
> and to a large enough scale that makes for deductively interpreting
> those patterns

JOEL: Socrates is a mortal.

TOM: Pants are rarely worn on the head.

CROW: A person with plenty of time need not run for the train.

TOM: Oranges are not sharp metal instruments.

JOEL: Therefore, Socrates is being chased by a tiger!

> as rather easy and reliably pixel truthworthy items
> that do in fact exist because the image resampling process isn=92t even
> capable of artificially creating them.

TOM: Iron-clad proof! These pictures are impossible to make!

> It can also be suggested and reasonably argued that initially (4+
> billion years ago)

JOEL: Actually it was 3.95 billion years ago. It just aged badly.

> our sun was 25% cooler than nowadays (possibly a
> third cooler),

CROW: Back when it wore those hipster glasses.

TOM: Hipster sunglasses.

> thereby making Venus quite Goldilocks approved even if
> she was naked and totally dumbfounded.

JOEL: Didn’t Theodore Sturgeon write this story?

> But even this cool beginning
> still doesn=92t fully explain as to why such a large and complex
> geometric sale of a structured community

CROW: Featuring a golf course, a security booth, and a clubhouse!

> or mining operation was
> established,

TOM: Well, what’s mine is mine.

JOEL: Or Daffy Duck’s.

> and as to why Venus has been radiating such a large
> amount of its geothermal core energy

CROW: Maybe it’s trying to keep power the Autobots?

> plus having been creating all of
> that unprotected atmosphere that should have been extensively solar
> wind blown away as of more than a billion years ago,

CROW: Except Venus’s Mom made it wear a sensible woolen cap!

> whereas instead
> there=92s more than enough new atmosphere created to make up for the
> lack of having a protective geomagnetosphere.

JOEL: An over-protective geomagnetosphere. It makes Venus call home every like ten minutes.

> BTW; there=92s terrestrial objective proof that life even as we know
> it can adjust or acclimate to extreme pressures and even tolerate much
> higher temperatures,

TOM: What Guth means is, squirrels know how to work the thermostat.

> and yet lo and behold there’s still no American
> flags on Venus,

CROW: But there’s the flag of Burkina Faso on Neptune. Go figure.

> but there have been USSR/Russian flags on multiple
> landers that got there decades before us.

TOM: To be fair, the flag of Venus is all over Italy.

JOEL: Oh yeah.

> So, perhaps we=92ll have to
> accept that Venus and all of its natural resources belongs to Russia.

CROW: Giving Russia a huge lead in the uninhabitable wasteland race.

> Otherwise NOVA as having been owned by Google could help all of us
> better understand and appreciate what the extremely nearby planet
> Venus has to offer, but only if they wanted to.

JOEL: Google is figuring they can use Venus to store Usenet.

> Obviously our NASA
> has been avoiding this extremely nearby planet,

TOM: They’re playing hard-to-get so Venus will be interested in NASA.

> perhaps because our
> expertise and talent for getting active probes to survive with that
> atmosphere is simply less than what Russians have accomplished.

CROW: Like crashing into Venus and melting.


> http://groups.google.com/groups/search
> http://translate.google.com/#

TOM: GuthVenus was tried in the fourth district court, county of Los Angeles. In a moment, the results of that trial.

CROW: [ Chanting the Dragnet theme ] Dun-dah-dun-dun.

> Brad Guth,Brad_Guth,Brad.Guth,BradGuth,BG,Guth Usenet/=94Guth Venus=94

TOM: GuthVenus was convicted of existing and sentenced to not more than twenty Venusian days of hard labor and between three and seven Latin pedants arguing about what its adjective should be.

CROW: [ Chanting the Dragnet theme ] Dun-dah-dun-dun-DAAAAAH.

JOEL: Well, nice seeing everyone again.

TOM: Yeah, let’s blow this popsicle stand.

[ ALL file out. ]

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is the creation and the property of Best Brains. Brad Guth and Guth Venus are the creation and property of Brad Guth, and I certainly don’t mean to take over any of that. This fan fiction was created by Joseph Nebus, and should not be taken internally except as ordered by a Venusian. My little Still-Store web site will be back up and running soon with all sorts of new behind-the-scenes coding that petty Venusian minds could not begin to comprehend.

         \ | /
         / | \

Keep riffing the posts.

> honestly interpret this thick and dense atmospheric insulated terrain
> for yourself, as to what some of those highly unusual patterns could
> possibly represent, as anything other than the random geology
> happenstance of hot rocks.

Um, that Still-Store web site is meant to be a repository of MiSTings. It’s not back up yet because they went and changed PHP out from under me and I keep learning better database, XSL, and other tricks and I haven’t taken the solid week or so to just recode the blasted thing. Sorry.

MiSTed: Brad Guth, Venus for Dummies, Part 2 of 3

There have always been cranks. Probably there always will be. I think fondly of many of the cranks on Usenet, though, because I got to see the medium at its height. And these were people who brought such zeal, such determination, such relentless willingness to write in bulk about how everyone else was covering up the truth that it’s awesome to witness. Brad Guth is one in that fine line. I don’t know if he’s still around. Some of me hopes so. A good, compelling, non-traditional prose style is such a wonder.

At the risk of making you think everything else is anticlimax, I should say my favorite joke in this piece was in part 1, the line about getting some relief from smart Venus.

> Interplanetary travel capability and especially that of interstellar
> also represents

CROW: Interplanet Janet!

> more than sufficient technical expertise to deal with
> any hellish planet like Venus,

JOEL: It also represents being able to get through La Guardia.

> or even those of whatever cryogenic
> nature,

CROW: Such as your Liquid Nitrogen Beetles or your Frost Rhododendrons.

> because that=92s what advanced physics and good science is fully
> capable of doing in spite of the odds against us.

JOEL: They can live on Venus yet they still cannot tell a cabbage from a lettuce!

> If anything, the metallicity of Venus is somewhat greater than Earth,

TOM: But it’s still not greater than the good old U.S. of A, am I right, folks?

> and its ability to create and maintain its substantial atmosphere of
> mostly CO2 as having such an abundance (12 ppm) of helium that=92s

CROW: That everyone talking about Venus has a silly voice.

> offering roughly 200+ times as much as Earth,

TOM: 210 times as much if you don’t count Iowa.

> and having sustained its
> terrific atmosphere without benefit of any moon or

CROW: Or even Moon Helper! Make your moon into a meal!

> the geomagnetic
> protection like our planet has to work with,

JOEL: The invaluable help of Earth’s jaunty Madagascar.

> is truly an impressive
> accomplishment,

TOM: Even bigger than that guy who ate 40 White Castle burgers at one sitting.

> and especially for a smaller than Earth like planet w/
> o moon and managed even though it=92s so much closer to the sun.

CROW: And even though it’s in a region zoned “light commercial/sulfuric acid”.

> Firstly, our mainstream eyecandy cache of science infomercials via our
> public funded NASA and otherwise NOVA as owned by Google,

JOEL: Google, run by Rankin-Bass, operated by Cougartown, a division of RCA.

> could just
> as easily help with exploiting this ongoing research if they wanted
> to,

TOM: But they’re too busy making up Twitter accounts from Mars probes.

> and otherwise without their assistance you might try to understand
> that we really do not need to use microscopic or even much higher
> resolution

CROW: Wait, you’re bringing a microscope out to look at Venus?

TOM: I’m picturing a flock of astronomers with those little toy microscopes pointing up at the sky and looking at their fingerprints.

> than 75 m/pixel imaging when the items of most interest
> have always been so extremely or unusually big to begin with.

JOEL: It sounds so obvious when you hear it. Just look at Big Venus instead!

> So, you
> can continue to argue that these images as a derivative from a 36

CROW: Or you can have the halfback sneak around the corner right after the snap and run over to the concession stands.

> confirming look or scanned composite offering this initial 225 meters
> per pixel format are simply not good enough,

JOEL: But they made an honest effort and we appreciate them for that.

> but you=92d only be proving
> to yourself and others as to how unintelligent and/or obstructive that
> sort of closed or naysay mindset really is stuck in denial more than
> reality.

TOM: This is that new shame-based astronomy you hear so much about.

CROW: It’s all the rage among space geeks with low self-esteem.

> Venus is perhaps not unlike hell,

JOEL: What isn’t?

CROW: Hades.

> but otherwise its unusually high
> metallicity as indicated by its radar reflective attributes and its
> considerable surplus of helium

TOM: And excessive supplies of silly bouncy balls.

CROW: Venus leads the inner solar system in paper cups with jokes written on the bottom!

JOEL: No other planet has so much Mork And Mindy themed bubble gum!

> plus the mostly geothermal driven
> environment, is at least technically manageable

CROW: For all those planets that need PERT charts.

TOM: They’re hoping to be the first ISO 9001-certified space thingy.

> as long as you have a
> functioning brain of at least a 5th grader

CROW: Or a third and a second grader put together.

TOM: Or a seventh grader and a minus-second grader.

JOEL: Two tenth-graders and a minus fifteenth grader.

> without all the usual
> mainstream status-quo tumors that disable your investigative skills
> and deductive reasoning,

JOEL: Have all your astronomy questions answered by Mark Trail!

> that=92s otherwise considered as human
> intelligence.

CROW: We’re looking for the thinking men’s tumors here.

> Of course to most of you that have taken a basic look-see at this old
> Magellan radar obtained image of Venus,

TOM: You’re a bunch of peepers!

JOEL: Want to be a peeper too.

> and especially of the fuzzy or
> blocky pixel image of =93Guth Venus=94 or =93GuthVenus=94,

CROW: Guth Venus ’94!

TOM: He’s running with Vermin Supreme.

> is perhaps
> suggestive of nothing more than offering a nasty looking terrain of
> random geology

CROW: Just throw that glacial moraine anywhere. I’m kind of living out of my asthenosphere.

JOEL: Vermin knows better.

> with piles of extruded hot rock that just so happen to
> look as though artificial or as having been intelligently morphed into
> what seems to offer rational patterns.

TOM: Well, sure. Look at that big ‘EAT AT ZERBLATT’S’ sign on the equator.

> However, within these highly
> confirmed patterns of such mostly hot rock are several odd geometric
> items

JOEL: Like the sulfuric acid parallelogram.

CROW: Finally my geometry teacher will respect me!

> of somewhat large scale and offering us those extremely
> interesting formations,

TOM: Marching in uniform and playing brass instruments!

> that at least on Earth or upon any other
> imaged planet or moon

CROW: Or accretion disc!

TOM: Or black hole!

> hasn=92t come remotely close to offering this
> level of sophisticated geology complexity

JOEL: They had little cozies for their martini glasses.

> and rational community
> looking configuration or modification of such a mountainous terrain
> site.

TOM: Perfect for filming Venus Car commercials!

JOEL: You’ll love cruising in the new Buick Aphrodite 8.

> This makes GuthVenus into a one of a kind off-world location,
> at least up until other better resolution images become available.

TOM: But you can join and operate a GuthPlanet Franchise today!

CROW: Prime locations still available.

JOEL: GuthSaturn closing soon!

> Besides merely following my deductive interpretations,

CROW: Socrates is a mortal.

JOEL: Planets will not last forever.

TOM: No two-headed person has ever been Vice-President.

CROW: The owner of the dog does not have a job as a plumber.

JOEL: Therefore Socrates is a mermaid!

TOM: Logical, logical.

MiSTed: Brad Guth, Venus for Dummies, Part 1 of 3

I want to share another MiSTing with you. This is the art of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction, which flourished on the Internet in the 90s and early 2000s. That community’s drifted off … somewhere … I assume, and left me behind. I keep my hand in, writing something now and then. This week’s offering comes from sci.space.history, a Usenet group devoted to exactly what you might think. For a long while the group was haunted by a fellow who figured he knew something about Venus that everyone else insisted was jpeg artifacts and imagination.

I’d wanted to write a short little thing this piece, which is why it hasn’t got any host sketches. That’s why the characters talk about the abruptness of the start; they haven’t eased into it. It was originally published in 2012, as you might work out from the more dated jokes.

[ ALL file into theater ]

CROW: We don’t even get to say hello to anyone?

TOM: Man, austerity stinks.

JOEL: Don’t get political this early in the year, Tommy.

> >MIME-Version: 1.0

JOEL: Sure, now it’s mime, but when we got it it was ourms.

> >Path: reader1.panix.com!panix!usenet.stanford.edu!

TOM: Stanford! Topeka! Tahlequah! Watervliet!

> > l8no23395436qao.0!news-out.google.com!e10ni165558057qan.0!nntp.google.com!

CROW: Google. Because Google is watching you.

> > l8no23877973qao.0!postnews.google.com!e18g2000yqo.googlegroups.com!
> > not-for-mail

TOM: How did we get it, then?

> >Newsgroups: alt.astronomy,

JOEL: I like indie astronomy better.

> sci.space.policy,sci.space.history,

TOM: Space history.

CROW: “Well, used to be we didn’t walk on the Moon, then we did, then we didn’t again, and that brings us to the present day.”

> >alt.news-media,alt.journalism

TOM: I like that grunge journalism.

CROW: I’m here for the news-media gangnam style.

> >Date: Wed, 3 Oct 2012 16:42:04 -0700 (PDT)
> >Complaints-To: groups-abuse@google.com

CROW: Picture all Google coming to a stop because somebody complained about usenet there.

> >Injection-Info:

TOM: Shouldn’t this part be for the pharmacy majors?

> e18g2000yqo.googlegroups.com; posting-host=; posting-account=nf79RwoAAABXjvy5ztMzmPxgY1WGoktI

JOEL: Discontinue use of GoktI if symptoms persist.

> >NNTP-Posting-Host:

CROW: Hike!

> >User-Agent: G2/1.0

TOM: That reduces to G2.0.

> >X-HTTP-UserAgent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 5.1; rv:14.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/14.0.1,gzip(gfe)

JOEL: User Agent Mozilla 5.0.

TOM: Women want him. Men want to be him.

> >Message-ID: <fd6e54d7-cc91-498a-b08b-46db326ecea1@e18g2000yqo.googlegroups.com>

TOM: Hey, that’s a cracked Photoshop license key!

> >Subject: Venus for dummies (6.0) / Brad Guth (GuthVenus)

CROW: Finally, some relief from that *smart* Venus.

> >From: Brad Guth <bradguth@gmail.com>

TOM: He certainly *is*.

> >Injection-Date: Wed, 03 Oct 2012 23:42:04 +0000

JOEL: He’s in a pleasing time-release form.

> >Content-Type: text/plain; charset=windows-1252

CROW: Windows 1252 is the version that went to the Model Parliament, right?

> >Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable

TOM: Cut! Print it, Raoul!

> >Lines: 137
> >Xref: panix


> alt.astronomy:502748 sci.space.policy:489326

TOM: So with 85 percent of the vote in we’re projecting a win for alt.astronomy.

> sci.space.history:317343 alt.news-media:339276 alt.journalism:263200

JOEL: And in the school board elections alt.news-media has taken the lead.

> What sort of weird planet geology, or that of its active geodynamics,
> looks or acts anything like this?

CROW: A pudding planet geology!

> Thumbnail images of Venus,

[ JOEL holds up his thumb. ]

TOM: That’s not Venus, that’s a wart.

> including mgn_c115s095_1.gif (225 m/pixel)

CROW: 225 men per pixel?!

> http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/imgcat/thumbnail_pages/venus_thumbnails.html
> Lava channels, Lo Shen Valles, Venus from Magellan Cycle 1

TOM: o/` We didn’t start the fire … o/`

> http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/imgcat/html/object_page/mgn_c115s095_1.html

JOEL: C115 S095 underscore 1.

CROW: You — you sank my battleship!

> http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/imgcat/hires/mgn_c115s095_1.gif
> =93Guth Venus=94, at 1:1, then 10x resample/enlargement of the area in
> question:

TOM: You can see Oswald turn and shoot Mark David Chapman.

> https://picasaweb.google.com/bradguth/BradGuth#5630418595926178146

CROW: That’s not Venus, that’s a picture of my cat!

> https://picasaweb.google.com/bradguth/BradGuth#5629579402364691314

JOEL: Add some captions you can have your own LOLvenus.

TOM: I hate that you said that.


JOEL: [ Sheepish ] I’m sorry.

> Not even the most active moon of Jupiter being Io offers up anything
> like this

TOM: Io doesn’t even try! You invite it to the potluck and it brings a bag of Doritos every-single-time.

> remarkable degree of surface geology complexity,

CROW: Fine dentition, good arch in the back. A good mudder.

TOM: How’s its fadder?

> and there=92s

JOEL: Mostly oats and hay.

> certainly nothing remotely artificial looking with anything discovered
> about the planet Mars

TOM: Apart from the big ‘MADE IN TAIWAN’ across the Mariner Valley.

> or thus far of any other planet or moon to speak
> of,

JOEL: What about Unspeakable Moon?

CROW: We don’t talk about it.

> outside of Venus that gets within 110 LD every 19 months

TOM: Except when taken internally by a physician.

> (any
> closer and we=92d have to reevaluate Venus as a NEO).

CROW: So if you spot Venus coming any closer to Earth than Venus
ever comes, that’d be suspicious.

> Of any humanoids or other intelligent species that’s capable of
> surviving interstellar treks,

TOM: So, what, we’re ignoring the total morons who make it across space?

> at least technically should have no
> problems with remaining stealthy

CROW: ‘Sure, you’ll have no trouble being stealthy on Earth, mister
space alien. Just pull your ball cap down over your forehead …
yeah, all three heads.’

> or even capable of infiltrating and
> mingle within any community of existing life-forms upon any given
> planet they chose to study

CROW: I’m imagining a pack of Vulcans wearing costumes trying to hang around a pack of wallabies.

> or even to populate and commercialize by
> extracting valuable elements in order to suit their own needs.

TOM: I don’t want to be a nitpicker but that sentence was 62 words long and forgot to have a predicate.

Statistics Saturday on a Monday-ish, for July

First I want to point out that Thomas K Dye’s Newshounds web comic resumes this Monday. He’s a friend. Give it a try. It’s a longrunning strip (with precursors that go back to before the Internet was a thing), but you won’t get lost.

Now on to myself. And my blog’s readership for the month of July. I’d like to say the crisis has passed. Folklore I’ve received says WordPress stopped counting viewers from mobile web devices and that’s resulted in depressed readership numbers for people. My readership is back up this month, though, quite satisfyingly high. However, digging deeper into the numbers, I see that I had one extraordinarily popular post this month. If I remove that, then the numbers drop back to … higher than June, but not so high as before the mysterious drop.

So I had 1,126 views in July. That’s far better than June’s 739 or May’s 759. It’s a bit below the October-to-December rush times last year, when I accidentally trolled Kinks fandom. But it’s still impressive. WordPress also reports there were 669 unique visitors; that’s the third-highest I’ve ever had, after October and November of last year.

But the number of likes dwindles, for the (ugh) fifth month in a row. That’s down to 349 likes in July, compared to 365 in June and 380 in May. The number of comments rose. There were 76 of them in July, compared to 59 in June, but that’s barely down from May’s 81. This all seems to imply I got a lot of casual readers, but kept my regularly engaged set. That’s not bad.

The most popular country sending me readers was, as usual, the United States with 921 views. Canada came in a distant second at 55. The United Kingdom came in at 32. India popped in at 18, which is well up from June’s five.

The single-reader countries were Belgium, Brazil, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Georgia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Israel, the Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, and Turkey. South Africa’s the only single-reader country from June too.

The most popular postings in this past month were:

  1. Statistics Saturday: What We Found In The New 2015 Penny with a total of 326 views, by far the most I’ve gotten on anything ever. Honest. It’s even topped the Secret Life Of Ray Davies post that accidentally got the Kinks fandom interested, and the astounding facts about Turbo post, and those have had way longer to accumulate page views. So, I guess I’ve accidentally grown a moral quandary here.
  2. I Don’t Know What’s Going On In Apartment 3-G Anymore, which is from March, and
  3. What’s Going On In Apartment 3-G, showing how confusing the comic strip has gotten lately, and
  4. The ‘Nothing Is Happening In Apartment 3-G’ Update to emphasize this. Nothing is happening in Apartment 3-G. Believe me, it’s even more nothing than you imagine.
  5. Statistics Saturday: How I Evaluate The Truth Of A Thing, a trifle that I really think I could have done more with because I like the idea.
  6. Local Architecture Critic Running Farther Amok, showing how much fun there is to be had in teasing local alternate weeklies for minor quirks.

If you take out the 326 views the Penny clickbait gave me, then there were 800 views this month and as few as 343 unique visitors. That’s still heading upwards, at least.

WordPress tells me I start the month at my 19,096th page view, and with 599 followers.

Finally, I’ve read advice that it’s worth reminding people how to follow your blog, so that people who read it can be nagged into reading it again. This seems logical. Since I’m right now on the Twenty Fourteen theme here, there’s a green button on the upper left that reads “FOLLOW, PLEASE” which is good for that. On my machine the FOLLOW is split between two lines, because that somehow makes sense to the computer as a thing to do. I’ve looked at alternate themes, I just haven’t found one I quite like. Well, I do like P2 Classic, but I use that on my mathematics blog.

If you have an RSS reader, then I agree with you that’s a good way to follow posts and I don’t know why it’s getting so hard to do that anymore. Anyway, https://nebusresearch.wordpress.com/feed/ will give you my posts. https://nebusresearch.wordpress.com/comments/feed/ should give you comments, too. And my regular old Twitter account is @Nebusj, which is about what you might figure except I sometimes chat with people you don’t know about things you have to kind of guess about. We’ll see.