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
Adobe
Aspyr
Former
Games
Music
Peanuts
Private
Programming
RCT3
WP Humor
WP Journal
Writing
Games/RCT Downloads
Games/theme_park
Peanuts/Misc
Private/coding
Private/comics
Private/math
Private/miscellaneous
Programming/Codes
Programming/Coding/Obsolete/Ref
Programming/Working
Programming/works
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
Writing/images
Writing/misc
Writing/Miscellaneous
Writing/pictures

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.