Jack Benny Sees Out The Year 1943


The comic writer/critic Ian Shoales (Merle Kessler) wrote once that he thought allegory was an art form that’d gone out with the Middle Ages, “except for certain episodes of The Twilight Zone”. It’s true in spirit, even if allegories lasted a bit longer than the Middle Ages. Allegorical stories are still around, although they’re not so formally structured as your classic Middle Ages/Twilight Zone structure.

The Jack Benny Program was for many years an exception. Benny’s show would do, for the New Year’s broadcast, a deliberately allegorical piece. Benny would play the Old Year, giving advice and explanations to the New Year. It makes for a curious pop-cultural filter on years of history: the sketches are stuffed full of news, hopes for the coming year, wishful thinking for the present, up-to-the-minute pop culture references. (The song Benny as Old Year sings is “Pistol Packin’ Momma”, which was everywhere in 1943. I think Jack Paar mentioned how sick USO crews got of the song, since whenever they arrived at a new base the soldiers and sailors wanted to hear it.) It can make for striking moments of understanding life in a time gone far by.

I’m not sure how many years they did this. But I wanted to share an example. This one’s from the 2nd of January, 1944. It’s dominated by war news, of course. Even there it gets strange, turning the war news of 1943 into a baseball game, with gags like how Mussolini got knocked in the head in the sixth inning. The premise feels odd, though it’s saved by earnestness and sentiment. There are some laughs that I, comfortably seventy years on, have which the original audience wouldn’t.

(There’s some racially charged jokes in this. You probably suspected that going in. I cringed most at Rochester’s segment. The character’s treatment on the show got better in time, but the show as a whole was probably at its best during World War II. I do feel bad closing out 2015, a year that saw so much celebration of white racism, with that Rochester sketch. But I don’t feel right editing it out and pretending it’s not there.)

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Franklin P Adams: Rubber-Stamp Humor


We haven’t checked in with Franklin P Adams in a while. Though since he’s been dead an even longer while he can’t be taking it personally. Still, here, from Tobogganing on Parnassus, is “Rubber-Stamp Humor”, about the problem of being funny while talking about the same jokes everybody makes.

Alfred Austin was the Poet Laureate who followed Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and I never heard of him (Austin) either. “Crank” in this context means “fan”. And can you imagine there was a time when football was perceived to be a dangerously violent game?

If couples mated but for love;
    If women all were perfect cooks;
    If Hoosier authors wrote no books;
        If horses always won;
If people in the flat above
    Were silent as the very grave;
    If foreign counts were prone to save;
        If tailors did not dun —

If automobiles always ran
    As advertised in catalogues;
    If tramps were not afraid of dogs;
        If servants never left;
If comic songs would always scan;
    If Alfred Austin were sublime;
    If poetry would always rhyme;
        If authors all were deft —

If office boys were not all cranks
    On base-ball; if the selling price
    Of meat and coal and eggs and ice
        Would stop its mad increase;
If women started saying “Thanks”
    When men gave up their seats in cars;
    If there were none but good cigars,
        And better yet police —

If there were no such thing as booze;
    If wifey’s mother never came
    To visit; if a foot-ball game
        Were mild and harmless sport;
If all the Presidential news
    Were colourless; if there were men
    At every mountain, sea-side, glen,
        River and lake resort —

If every girl were fair of face;
    If women did not fear to get
    Their suits for so-called bathing wet —
        If all these things were true,
This earth would be a pleasant place.
    But where would people get their laughs?
    And whence would spring the paragraphs?
        And what would jokers do?

(That all said, I’d like to put in a good word for Christopher Miller’s delightful American Cornball: A Laffopedic Guide to the Formerly Funny. It’s a hefty list of stuff that was always good for a joke, circa 1900 to 1965, and what it might have meant. If you’re at all interested in why people on old sitcoms were obsessed with the things they were obsessed with, Miller can make things at least a bit clearer.)

Good News From The Christmas-Time


Our pet rabbit had been feeling awfully sour, yes, and he did declare the whole holiday to be a “humbug”. In his defense, we took him in the pet carrier to my love’s parents, so we could spend the time there. While he likes being at my love’s parents’ place, that does require travelling there and he doesn’t like that one bit. So I can understand his fowl mood is all.

Our pet rabbit caught in a particularly sneering pose.
It’s when you get down to his level that you notice he has really quite long teeth and can stick his tongue out at you.

Luckily, he was visited that night by four ghosts, one of them a ghost warning he was being visited by ghosts, and he’s in much better spirits now. He’s promising he’ll definitely keep Christmas in his heart and in his paws, and the Christmas tree in his mouth. So all’s happy here, and I hope it’s happy over your way too.

Our pet rabbit, partly standing --- paw resting on his exercise pen's frame --- while he nibbles at a tree branch.
I’m pretty sure our pet rabbit is not actually doing “talk to the paw cause the mouth is eating Christmas tree” but I can’t swear it isn’t in his mind.

In Which Jay Leno Haunts Me


From the paid advertising lists at a bottom of an AV Club article recently:

*Three* ads for Jay Leno's '7 Most Amazing', '7 Favorite', or '5 Favorite' cars. Plus '3 Cheetahs Do Something Very Unusual With This Impala'.
I’m assuming that’s Jay Leno’s 1961 Impala Sports Coupe the cheetahs are messing with and they should knock that off.

So, if I look out my window, am I going to see Jay Leno standing on the lawn, waving at me and asking if I want to see five or seven or even eight of his cool cars? Is that what he’s doing with his time now? Or is he waiting by the side door for when I take the recyclables out? Why is it so important to him that I talk to him about his cars? Oh good grief, is that it? He’s paying money to the AV Club advertising servers so I’ll befriend him? I don’t need that kind of pressure. Who does?


Meanwhile, over in my mathematics blog there’s some more comic strip talk, so I’d appreciate your reading that. Thank you.

Statistics Saturday: Things Learned From Reading The Snorks’ Wikipedia Page


From reading over https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snorks I now know:

  1. There’s fresh- and salt-water Snorks, differentiated by how many snorkel-horns they have.
  2. There were a pair of robot Snorks, named “SNIP” and “SNAP”, who “pretend to be UFOs upon first appearance”.
  3. Wikipedia’s editors for this page judge it appropriate to mention that “clams” is a slang term for money.
  4. The page has not just a “Minor Snorks” section, but even a “Supporting Snorks” sub-section, which I find piquantly sad.
  5. They had a time machine used to send a prehisnorkic Snork who’d been trapped in ice to the present day back to his home time. I admit I am uncomfortable letting Snorks have power over the course of history.
  6. There were prehisnorkic Snorks trapped in ice cubes underwater until the (then-) present day.
  7. There’s a “Snork-Eater Eater Fish”, a fish which eats Snork-Eater fish. I’m glad they have a world tidy in this way.
  8. They apparently had at least one writers session which ended with a consensus that they would call ancient times “prehisnorkic”.
  9. The series was sold to NBC television on the strength of a three-minute pilot episode which has never been revealed to the general public.
  10. Snorks adopted the human custom of wearing clothes after an encounter with the captain of a Spanish Armada ship in 1643. Wikipedia leaves the details of this encounter to my immature imagination.

Body-Sculpting The Betty Boop Way


A while ago this year I was on an amusement park cartoons-and-TV-shows-and-stuff kick. It started with a Betty Boop cartoon. Grampy’s Indoor Outing has Grampy work out a way that Betty Boop and Junior can have a day of amusement park fun despite the rain. I noted that many sources speaking of the cartoon identify the kid in it as Little Jimmy, even though he’s clearly called Junior by the other characters in the cartoon. But I also could see where people were coming from. Let me talk about that.

In February 1904 the cartoonist Jimmy Swinnerton started a comic strip, as was normal in those days. What wasn’t normal was that he kept making the comic strip. The days before World War I were ones in which comic strips popped into and out of existence like, well, web comics do. Little Jimmy would stay in the papers until Swinnerton retired in 1958. To give that perspective, that’s five years longer than Peanuts ran before Charles Schulz died. Hagar the Horrible is (currently) twelve years younger than it is, and Funky Winkerbean eleven. For Better Or For Worse ran only 29 years.

That said, I don’t actually know much about the comic strip. Wikipedia says that in the strip Little Jimmy would routinely go off, forgetting what he was supposed to do, and getting in trouble. It supports this with a 1911 Sunday strip in which Jimmy doesn’t go off and forget what he was supposed to do. Wikipedia’s writers may be drawing their conclusions about the comic strip from this cartoon.

Betty Boop and Little Jimmy premiered the 27th of March, 1936. It was probably an attempt to see whether another comic strip character could be turned into an animation character. Popeye adapted brilliantly, after all, to the point the cartoon largely overshadows the comic strip. The Fleischers would make several attempts at launching new characters through Betty Boop cartoons — Sally Swing wasn’t the first — although they didn’t take. (Yes, Popeye debuted in what was technically a Betty Boop series cartoon, but the deal was already made. This is much more a testing of the character.)

With this cartoon you can see why. It’s pleasant enough but nothing happens. Betty gets in trouble on a mechanical vibrating belt, as everyone who ever uses one on-screen does, and Little Jimmy runs off, gets distracted, and bounces back. That’s it. I suppose his attempts at remembering he’s supposed to get an “electrician” should be funny or endearing but it’s a slender thread of personality. There’s not much to support or contradict the idea he might be Junior, seen in Grampy’s Indoor Outing, considering Junior has a similar build and similar soft, low-impact persona.

There’s interesting touches in the cartoon, though. The most prominent is that objects grow faces and voices in the midst of the singing. That’s unusual for a cartoon as late as this, from the latter half of the 1930s. The everything-can-be-alive motif was popular in silent cartoons and the earlier Fleischer work, but by the time they had those lovely watercolor backgrounds and three-dimensional sets (not on display here, incidentally) those had gone away as, I suppose, indiscretions of a more youthful art style.

This cartoon’s got some special meaning to me, by the way. It’s the first Betty Boop cartoon I distinctly remember seeing, back in the days of Cartoon Network’s Late Night Black and White segment. It isn’t first-rate Betty, admittedly, but it charmed me. I would probably inevitably have grown as a Betty Boop fan; my personality just lends itself to black-and-white and silent cartoons. But this is a milestone from how things happened for me.

The mechanical-vibrator belt thing Betty Boop uses — and that many, many other comedies mostly would use through the mid-20th-century — was designed to lose weight by shaking people. As best I understand, the thinking was that by shaking the body up it forces your muscles to contract a lot, and that’s the same as exercise, without the hard part of doing work, right? Yeah, it’s stupid, but for comic value it’s hard to beat.

And after all we’re not really past that. You can still buy silly vibrating belts that do nothing to help you lose weight. They’re just more portable now. When I was in Singapore there was a really catchy silly commercial for one that showed a model who needed no weight reduction wearing one on various parts of her body, while the disembodied voices chanted, “zap zap tummy, zap zap tummy, zap zap tummy” or the like. It’s a subtler silly than Betty Boop’s contraption, but it’s not different.

An Open Letter To The Department Of Winter


To The Department Of Winter, Michigan Bureau:

Hi.

So, let me start off by saying that while I’ve only lived in Michigan a smidge and two whiles, this is looking to be my fourth winter here. Also let me point out that I’m not some wimp who can’t take slightly abnormal weather. Weather-wise, I’m better-experienced than you maybe think. I lived almost my whole life in central New Jersey. There we get every kind of weather although not in such intense amounts as to be really inconvenient. Give or take the odd Superstorm Sandy washing away Ocean County. And I went to graduate school in upstate New York, with wholly different patterns of having an extra month of the lousiest parts of winter.

And then I even lived a half-decade in Singapore, which has a daily high of 92 Fahrenheit and a thunderstorm every afternoon between 1:30 and 3:00. If it doesn’t rain you can go to the Ministry of the Environment and get your hand stamped for a day’s free admission. Though if you tell them you’re there for a rain cheque they won’t smile. There, winter is kept in well-supervised ice-skating rinks. It’s available for S$6 the first half-hour and S$4 every half-hour afterwards. Or you can walk by a 7-Eleven because the doors are open and the air conditioning set to Popeye strengths. To find a 7-Eleven in Singapore first go to Singapore (critically important! Do this first!), pick a direction, and walk up to 250 paces in that direction.

But what I’m getting at is this has been a freaky December. I was expecting it to be a little colder than this. Like, I was expecting it to be cold at all. It isn’t that I have a particular love of the cold. The winter outside Albany for 1997-98, for example, was chilly enough that my toes still haven’t thawed out. And back the winter of 2013-14 Michigan put up a bravura performance of coldness, with a string of 84 days below freezing in January alone. The 16th of January that year (2014) was so cold the sun refused to rise because the lock to its heavenly chariot had frozen solid.

This December, though, has been bizarrely warm. The only time we’ve gotten near freezing was when I passed out from heat stroke over the ice cream counter at Quality Dairy. And while Mackinac Fudge Cider might be a great flavor, it’s just not wintery. It’s made a mockery of my putting up storm windows. And it’s hurt the feelings of my rushing to put the Christmas lights up outside when we had that nice day in the mid-40s. We’ve had date trees blooming into new fruits, and I’m pretty sure there aren’t even any date trees in Michigan. I think.

And it isn’t just making me feel silly doing household chores. It’s had major effects on the wildlife. For example, the squirrels are supposed to stuff themselves silly all autumn. Then they sleep it off through the coldest of winter. Then they sneak into the attic and try to burrow through our excess supply of Suave shampoo. But without a hint of cold weather they’re trapped in stuff-themselves-silly mode. It’s getting hazardous to step outside. Squirrels fattened up to sphericity keep losing their grip and plummeting. We have to take the groceries inside between cannonballs of angry rodents.

Even if we’ve waited for a good breeze to knock the squirrels out first we’re not out of danger. Red squirrels are cantankerous critters in the best of circumstances. When they’re stuck howling at the world for someone to roll them over onto their paws they get downright vicious, not to mention personal. I left middle school for many reasons, but mostly because I don’t need the kind of hurtful comments I’m getting from the red squirrel community. We’ve seen some similar results from the mouse community. And we suspect there’s a raccoon waiting for us to put the heater in the pond so he can hurl it back out of the pond and remind us who around here knows how to hurl stuff out of the pond.

That’s all stuff I suppose I can get used to. I mean, I got used to “winter” in Singapore, by knowing where all 42,000 island 7-Elevens were and maneuvering around the arctic blasts. What’s got me nervous is the sense of the other shoe waiting to drop. What kind of retribution is a month of outright balmy weather going to get us? Cold and snow is only going to go so far. This kind of weather earns us, like, a hail of frogs made of hail howling the things we’re afraid our loved ones secretly find disappointing about us.

So I want to say I’m enjoying the weather being so warm that it actually feels chilly, because it feels too silly to dress like it’s been December. But I’m afraid of what you have in store. I’d want to get out of this with retribution that’s nothing worse than, like, one blizzard they’ll be talking about for years and maybe a single weekend where the argon liquefies out of the atmosphere. Is there some way to get the winter adjusted so we don’t have anything worse than that coming up?

I know it’s a long shot, but I thought it only fair to ask. Thank you for your time and attention.

    Sincerely,

        Joseph Nebus

PS: Thanks for the help with that spider.

On Reflection


The guy who sneezed for vaudeville audiences was in at least two of the Gold Diggers Of 193- movies. He was, yes, showing off his talents for the big screen. Maybe he was in all of them. I’m not sure. But I definitely didn’t make that up. I don’t know if there were performing coughers. He was pretty funny as a sneezer, but I don’t know whether he was the top sneeze performer of the day or if he was an adequate performing sneezer who happened to be friends with the producer. Maybe the professional-sneezing community was driven crazy by the movies, thinking, “that post-nasal drip? His only good sneezes he stole from Muriel anyway!” Maybe the world has lost the record of a professional sneezer so good she or he could make you explode with a feeling of entertainment.

The important thing is I’m still deciding whether I’m up to reading up on the history of socks.

And finally, the hipster bar near us where pinball league meets is scheduled next month to have a Tim-Burton-Movie Body-Painting Contest. I do need help having a reaction to this.

The Hair House


My love and I don’t go for the expensive shampoo. We like our hair, it’s just we don’t see the advantage of paying Big Shampoo more than we need to for it. And then Meijer’s went and put Suave on sale. Suave already comes in bottles of up to 282 English ale gallons, for a suggested retail price of “the lint-covered coins you dig out from under the car seat when you didn’t know there was a toll coming up”. And then Meijer’s went and put it on sale. Three dollars off if you buy at least ten dollars’ worth of Suave.

What I’m saying is we’ve been able to build a little winter house out back entirely of bottles of Ocean Breeze and Waterfall Mist and Almond Verbena-scented hair care products. And that’s after re-insulating the attic with conditioner. Which should be a gift that keeps on giving in case the squirrels get back in there and try to nest. We’ll know if we get squirrels with well-managed tail fur, I suppose.

Also I’m not perfectly convinced that “verbena” is a thing. It sounds a little like an obscure grammatical construct or Zippy the Pinhead’s girlfriend or something. Advice on this point is welcome.

What You Missed On The Internet This Weekend


  1. Surprisingly few Star Wars spoilers.
  2. Somebody painted a tunnel on the side of the wall and somebody drove a car into it.
  3. There’s this cute video of a kangaroo scratching a cat until the cat gets annoyed and leaves and then the kangaroo looks into the camera all confused about what went wrong there.
  4. I pulled out a reference to King Philip’s War once again to totally win an argument on TrekBBS about how come the 23rd and 24th-century Star Trek shows never mentioned anything that ever happened on Enterprise and now I’m just waiting for everyone to acknowledge that I won. That’s surely going to happen sometime in the week ahead.

Missing Christmas Ornaments with Bob and Ray


I felt like sharing a little old-time radio this weekend. So here, please enjoy the fifteen minutes of Bob and Ray Present The CBS Radio Network. This episode’s from the 15th of December, 1959.

Besides some experimental new sound effects the episode includes an installment of One Fella’s Family, all about the search for the missing Christmas ornaments. There’s a happy ending to it.


Also, there’s another comic strip review over on my mathematics blog. Do enjoy, if that’s your taste.

Statistics Saturday: Word Use In A Charlie Brown Christmas


Based on a transcript that sees “Christmastime” as two words so that’s why. Yes, there’s one time when Lucy refers to him as “Charlie”, not “Charlie Brown”, and that does feel like an incredible violation of the order of nature. Most surprising: Snoopy is named that little.

Word Count
a 64
abiding 1
about 15
absolute 1
across 1
action 1
actors 1
actually 1
advance 1
afraid 5
again 1
agony 1
ailurophasia 1
air 2
all 32
almost 1
aluminum 2
always 5
am 3
an 2
ancient 2
and 44
angel 3
angelic 1
angels 2
animals 2
answer 1
anxious 1
any 1
anyone 1
anything 2
apart 1
appearance 1
are 8
as 7
ask 1
at 5
attention 3
auditorium 2
auugh 1
away 1
babe 1
baby 1
Babylon 1
back 1
bad 2
be 20
beautiful 6
beauty 2
been 7
Beethoven 5
before 2
begin 1
behold 2
bells 4
besides 1
best 1
Bethlehem 1
better 2
bicycle 1
big 4
biggest 1
blanket 5
blockhead 1
born 3
boy 2
break 3
bridges 1
bring 2
brings 1
brother 2
Brown 20
Browniest 1
Browns 1
bubble 3
business 1
but 6
by 6
call 1
came 1
can 10
can’t 5
card 4
cards 3
care 1
carols 1
carrying 1
cash 1
cast 1
catch 1
cats 2
cents 1
change 1
Charlie 23
cheer 1
children 1
Christ 3
Christmas 43
city 2
civilization 1
Claus 3
climacaphobia 1
clink 1
close 1
clothes 2
cloud 1
coat 1
cold 1
color 1
colossal 1
come 1
comes 2
coming 2
commercial 5
commercialism 1
completely 1
complicated 1
concentrate 1
contest 2
continue 1
contrary 1
cooperation 1
costumes 1
could 1
count 1
country 1
cow 1
crossing 1
crowd 1
cue 1
curl 1
curly 2
customer 1
cut 3
cutest 1
dangerous 1
David 2
day 2
dear 1
December 1
deck 1
decorate 2
decorating 1
depend 1
depressed 3
did 5
didn’t 4
direct 1
directing 1
direction 2
director 11
disaster 1
discipline 1
disinfectant 1
display 2
do 15
does 1
doesn’t 2
dog 4
don’t 17
doomed 1
down 4
drawing 1
dreams 1
drill 1
dumb 1
dust 3
each 1
early 1
earth 2
eastern 1
easy 1
eat 1
electric 1
emphasize 1
end 3
ensure 1
estate 1
even 5
ever 3
every 2
everybody 2
everyone 3
everything 3
everywhere 2
extra 1
face 1
fact 1
fair 1
families 1
fantastic 1
far 1
favorite 1
fear 4
fears 1
feel 4
feeling 2
fell 1
fields 1
find 4
finding 1
fireside 1
first 4
fit 1
five 3
flocks 1
focus 1
foolishness 1
for 15
four 1
Frieda 1
friend 1
from 2
fun 2
gee 1
gephyrobia 1
germs 1
get 18
gets 1
getting 4
girl 2
girls 1
give 2
glory 4
go 2
God 3
going 9
gone 2
gonna 3
good 16
goof 1
got 8
gotta 2
great 10
green 1
grief 3
ground 1
grow 1
guess 4
gum 3
had 3
hair 2
halls 1
hand 1
handing 1
handle 1
hands 1
happens 1
happiness 1
happy 4
hard 1
hark 2
has 2
have 24
he 6
he’d 1
he’s 2
hear 1
hearing 1
heavenly 1
hello 1
help 3
her 1
herald 2
here 10
here’s 1
hey 2
highest 1
him 1
his 4
hit 1
hmm 1
hmmm 1
ho-ho-ho 1
holding 1
holiday 2
home 1
hopeless 2
host 2
hot 1
how 11
humor 1
hypengyophobia 1
I 82
I’ll 11
I’m 6
I’ve 6
if 11
imagination 1
in 19
incidentally 1
indicates 1
inn 1
inn-keeper 1
inn-keeper’s 2
innocent 1
instead 1
insulted 2
into 3
involved 1
involvement 2
iodine 1
is 34
isn’t 3
it 42
it’ll 1
it’s 12
item 1
January 1
jingle 3
join 1
joy 2
joyful 2
just 7
keep 2
keeping 1
killed 1
kind 3
king 2
kissed 1
know 18
knows 1
label 1
let 2
let’s 4
letter 1
lights 4
like 7
likes 1
lines 3
Linus 6
list 1
listen 1
little 5
lo 1
long 1
look 7
looked 1
looking 1
lord 4
lot 1
love 3
Lucy 3
Lucy’s 1
lunch 3
lying 1
make 5
makes 1
man’s 1
manger 1
many 1
matter 1
may 1
maybe 9
me 15
mean 3
meaning 1
means 4
meet 1
memories 1
memorize 5
men 1
mercy 1
mere 1
merry 1
mess 1
mild 1
minute 2
mister 1
mistletoe 1
modern 1
money 5
mood 2
more 1
motion 2
much 2
multitude 1
music 4
musicians 1
must 2
my 13
nations 1
naturally 2
near 1
neat 1
Nebuchadnezzar 1
need 9
needs 3
neighborhood 1
never 5
newborn 2
nice 3
nicest 1
nickel 1
night 1
no 13
nobody 2
not 11
note 1
now 5
ocean 1
of 47
off 1
oh 7
okay 3
old 1
olden 1
on 17
one 6
only 3
or 6
oughta 1
our 7
out 4
outward 1
over 2
own 1
painted 1
pantophobia 3
part 1
parts 1
pass 1
past 1
pay 1
peace 2
penguin 2
people 2
performance 1
perhaps 1
person 3
pick 1
picked 1
picture 3
Pig-Pen 2
pin-point 1
pink 1
places 2
play 16
playing 1
please 4
plinking 1
point 1
poor 1
possible 1
practice 1
praising 1
presents 3
pretty 1
prize 1
problem 1
proclaim 1
project 1
proper 1
put 2
queen 2
quickly 1
quiet 2
quite 1
racket 1
raise 1
rats 2
ready 1
real 3
realize 1
really 7
reason 1
reasons 2
recite 1
reconciled 1
rehearsal 1
rehearse 1
remember 1
respect 2
responsibility 1
rest 1
revolving 1
rhymes 1
rid 2
ridiculous 1
right 23
ripe 1
rise 1
round 1
ruin 2
ruined 1
run 2
sad 1
said 3
Sally 1
same 2
Santa 3
sarcasm 1
savior 2
say 3
saying 1
scene 3
school 1
Schroeder 1
script 2
scripts 2
season 3
see 3
seem 1
seems 3
seen 1
selected 1
send 3
sending 1
sense 1
sent 2
set 2
shall 6
shape 1
share 2
she’s 1
sheep 1
shepherd 6
shepherds 1
Shermy 1
shiny 1
shone 1
shoot 1
short 1
shortest 1
should 3
shouldn’t 1
show 2
em 1
sign 2
simple 1
sing 2
sinners 1
sister 1
size 1
skies 1
slashing 1
sleigh 1
slow 1
slug 1
smart 1
snickel 3
Snoopy 1
snowflakes 3
snowstorm 1
so 5
soil 3
Solomon 1
some 5
someone 1
something 4
sore 1
sort 3
sound 3
spectacular 1
spirit 3
spite 1
spoken 1
sport 1
spread 1
stage 1
staggers 1
staircases 1
stand 1
start 1
still 2
stop 1
strict 1
stuff 1
stupid 5
such 3
suddenly 1
sugar 1
suggest 1
summer 1
super 1
supposed 3
sure 4
swaddling 1
syndicate 1
take 6
taking 1
talks 1
tell 3
tempo 1
tens 2
thalassophobia 1
thanks 1
that 28
that’s 7
the 86
their 3
them 5
then 2
there 8
there’s 1
these 2
they 5
thing 2
things 1
think 13
this 28
those 3
thought 2
three 1
throat 1
through 2
tidings 2
time 7
times 1
to 53
today 1
told 1
tongue 1
too 6
top 1
touch 1
toward 1
toys 1
treat 1
tree 14
trees 2
triumph 1
trod 1
trouble 2
true 1
trusty 1
try 3
turn 1
turns 1
tv 1
twenties 2
two 1
understand 2
until 1
unto 7
up 6
upon 2
Violet 1
wait 2
want 10
was 6
wasn’t 2
waste 1
watch 1
water 1
way 2
we 12
we’ll 3
we’re 6
we’ve 3
well 8
were 4
weren’t 1
what 23
what’s 6
when 5
which 5
who 3
who’s 2
why 3
wife 4
will 6
win 1
wish 1
with 12
won’t 1
wonderful 1
wooden 1
work 2
world 1
worry 1
worst 1
would 2
would’ve 1
wouldn’t 1
wrapped 1
write 2
wrong 2
ye 1
yeah 1
year 4
yes 1
you 85
you’ll 1
you’re 12
you’ve 5
your 9
yourself 2
Yuletide 1

Maybe The Art Wasn’t The Real Problem?


Besides writing Apartment 3-G Margaret Shulock was also one of the six women who share the Six Chix comic strip. Six Chix is a long-running project in which six women take turns drawing the daily strips, as well as the Sunday strip. It’s an interesting experiment, and I suppose it was particularly useful as an incubator for comic strip artists back before web comics and online distribution were remotely plausible channels. (One might argue whether they’re plausible today, but is one-sixth of a newspaper comic strip plausible either?) Shulock draws as well as writes her slice of the comic.

Margaret Shulock's signature sas, 'It's Christmas already! You ate all the candy, and I'm still dressed up like an idiot!' A woman in a witch costume with a Puritan hat cries for help. A cat hides behind a pumpkin. The label: 'The Halloween Witch Problem.'
Margaret Shulock’s Six Chix for the 15th of December, 2015. What does Pumpkin Cat add to the proceedings?

So here’s Shulock’s strip from this week. I admit this is one of those comics that sits on my head and makes me beg for mercy. I feel like this is very clear and understandable to the cartoonist but I’m baffled what any of it is supposed to mean. Also, that’s the least-pointy witch’s hat I’ve seen in a long time. It’s almost a better Puritan hat except for missing the buckle. And I’m going o go ahead and assume that Puritan hats didn’t actually have buckles in the era of the first Thanksgiving anyway because that’s always the way. So, any ideas, folks? Is it possible that Margaret Shulock is signalling for help in the only way that can get past her abductors?

If that’s done enough for you, then, please look over to my mathematics blog. It just did another round of mathematically-themed comic strips, including a Jumble feature. Those comics are all a lot clearer than this.

I Am Certified As Breathing


I had a little medical test recently. It wasn’t anything big. I don’t have any big medical issues. To date the only medical emergency in my life was when I was a toddler and managed to hoist a spare tire enough that it could roll over and break my pinky toe. That might raise the question of how a toddler could hoist a spare tire, let alone move it enough to hurt anybody.

But parents know that toddlers have supernatural abilities to move things they’re not supposed to. Look away from an eighteen-month-old for ten minutes and there’s a fair chance they’ll have tipped the detached garage over onto their cousin. NASA’s original plans for the Mobile Launcher Platform that rolled Saturn V moon rockets to the launch pad for it to be dragged by a pair of 24-month-olds who’d be told they were “over-tired” but that the rockets had “Halloween inside”. The toddlers were replaced with pairs of 2,750-horsepower diesel engines only when the necessary launch windows implied rolling out to the launchpad in the late morning, when even kids wouldn’t buy the over-tired line. And yet there was still thinking as late as 1968 that they could keep some kids in artificially lit caves so they wouldn’t know they could not be “over-tired” at 10:35 am. Even so one rogue 16-month-old made off with the SA-500F structural facilities test article rocket and it hasn’t been seen to this day.

So past that exceedingly minor emergency room visit I’ve had a boring medical history. That combination stomach flu and back pain a couple months ago was my biggest health news in decades. But I did decide finally to talk with my doctor about an ongoing little issue. I’ve had this nagging cough for a long while. I’ve had it so long I don’t really notice it. But my love did, and pointed out that when I get up I’ll get into these coughing fits that last for up to twelve hours and that get loud enough to rattle fur off our pet rabbit. In my defense, our pet rabbit sheds a lot of fur and I’m not sure we could attribute any particular cloud of fur to any stimulus.

I saw the wisdom in asking about it, though, and the doctor thought it conceivable I might have a mild asthma. It’s also possible I just have too much postnasal drip. Or it might be that I kind of want attention, but without saying things or interacting with people. Coughing a lot is a way to get public acclaim without having to actually feel anything for other people. It’s not so acclaimed as it was in the days of vaudeville, when you could have professional coughers, and I’m not even sure I’m making that up. I know there were sneeze artists on the vaudeville circuit and that totally happened. One was even in one of those Gold Diggers Of Year Here movies. Probably someone held audiences spellbound with their coughing prowess.

Scheduling my appointment got a little weird, since the original appointment last month got cancelled when someone (not me) drove his car repeatedly into the entrance of the medical center. The local news speculated he was angry with the medical center for some reason, and I suspect they’re right. But I admit I haven’t heard his side. He might insist they were the ones running their medical center into his car over and over. I wouldn’t argue, not while his car’s still running. My pinky toe’s still recovering.

The breathing test was done by breathing into this gadget about the size and shape and color of an off-brand Commodore 64 disc drive. They’d hooked up a rubber mouthpiece to it, so I’m sure they didn’t really just recycle my old Excelsior 2000 for this. The guy running the test did ask if I’d ever smoked, which I haven’t, or if I’d been exposed to second-hand smoke, which is a silly question. He could see on my form that I was born in the 70s. Back then you walked through clouds of smoke in every restaurant, office, movie theater, library, microchip-manufacturing clean room, Apollo space capsule, and anywhere within 25 feet of any street or highway. Also we used blocks of lead dissolved in benzene for automobile fuels.

But while the results haven’t been fully analyzed and the doctor hasn’t made his report yet, the first impression was that my breathing looks good. My breathing results were close to expectations. And they were very repeatable except for the time I coughed mid-test. I don’t expect mild asthma to have been the problem. Maybe I am just needy.

Smaller Good Gifts


I realize it’s the time of year anything at all might be a gift. The self-service checkout stations at Meijer’s have started spitting out gift receipts for most anything. It turns out one of those things is if you buy a plastic cup to use the Coke Freestyle machine. I would snark about a 22 ounce fountain drink as a present, but I’ve realized that it’s not bad. There’s no breaking it and if you throw it out, it just caffeinates the lawn. This time of year the lawn needs it.

I just don’t know how you’d keep it gift-wrapped and fresh through to Christmas. Maybe they’re angling the soda as an office-party gift instead. Office Christmas Parties might be any convenient day between early Thanksgiving week and the following year’s New Jersey Big Sea Day. I won’t be sending one out anywhere.

The Freestyle Coke Mistletoe Flow is all right, I guess, although it’s pretty heavily vanilla. I expected some more peppermint. It’s not their fault. I just went in with unrealistic expectations.

The Snow That Never Ends


We had a snowstorm the Sunday before Thanksgiving. It wasn’t much as these go, just a couple inches, and it was half-melted by the next morning anyway. Since then, we’ve had a couple warmer-than-average weeks. This Sunday it got crazily warm, temperatures running as much as 450 degrees above normal and mosquitoes hatching and bursting into flame, and the rain boiling off as it falls onto the ground.

So why are there still piles of snow lining the edges of mall parking lots? Have they applied to snow the technology that used to be used for the Sad Peas, the ones in the little stray compartment of the TV dinner plate that never, ever thawed, even when the rest of the plate had been microwaved to the point all the carbon in it had transmuted into potassium-40? I’m glad if they are doing that, because it’s better than the other application for eternally-frozen, never-thawing materials, which so far has been my toes. It’s still weird.

On The Perfect Gift


I’ve been struggling with the gift-giving equivalent of writer’s block this season. I found stuff to give people, understand. It was just nothing inspired. And then I realized what everybody really wants anymore. We want things that don’t make life more difficult, especially when they break. If they do a thing, they should do it without a hassle. If they stop doing that thing, they should stop doing it in a way that we don’t care about. Ideally, you don’t have to register the new item, and no company should be asking you to have an opinion about it.

So this is all to explain why everybody’s getting chunks of pyrite from me this year. They’re lumps of matter, and as such will continue to be lumps of matter unless proton decay is a thing. If proton decay is a thing we won’t notice for 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years. By that time there’ll probably have been a garage sale. The chunks of pyrite are shiny in parts. My siblings’ children can throw the chunks of pyrite at other children. And someday, they (the chunks of pyrite) can be thrown out.

And they’re even low-stress when you throw them out. They need no special disposal. If you just throw them out the window, that’s fine. They’re rocks. They belong outside. Just don’t hit anybody or anything breakable. That would add hassle to somebody else’s life, which they would bring back to yours. So this is as perfect a gift as it’s possible to give. I recommend chunks of pyrite to anyone else having gift-givers’ block.

Caption This: Meanwhile, In 23rd Century Tensions


Over on my mathematics blog there’s more comic strips reviewed, so why not enjoy those? It’s all fun stuff.

Spock signing some form or other as Kirk makes his way carefully onto the bridge.
It’s from the episode “Journey to Babel”, where we got to find out Spock had parents and where Kirk tries to fend off an attacker by hopping around a bunch. Kirk gets stabbed and almost dies.

Nimoy: And if Shatner stays off the bridge five more minutes I’ll have him entirely written out of this episode.

(Too soon? Well, I’ll take other captions if you have them.)

Statistics Saturday: Getting To Philosophy From Pettipants Via Wikipedia


It is alleged that if one follows the first link in a Wikipedia article, and the first link in that next article, and so on, one eventually gets to Philosophy. Here it is attempted from the starting point of “pettipants”, which Wikipedia claims is a thing that really exists. They surely wouldn’t be fibbing about a thing like that, would they? On the other hand they also claim Helena is the capital of Montana, when in fact Montana has no capital. So who knows?

  1. Pettipants
  2. Lingerie
  3. Undergarment
  4. Clothing
  5. Human (as “Human Beings”)
  6. Homo Sapiens
  7. Latin
  8. Classical language (which explains “a classical language is a language with a literature that is classical”, so I’m glad we have that sorted out)
  9. Literature
  10. Literariness (skipping ‘cultura’ as that’s just a link within the same page)
  11. Language
  12. Communication
  13. Intention (as Purposeful)
  14. Mind (as Mental)
  15. Consciousness
  16. Quality (Philosophy)
  17. Philosophy

I have not the slightest idea how I got to Pettipants in the first place, even if they were anything that ever existed, which they don’t.

Oh Yeah, The Katzenjammer Kids Ended Nine Years Ago And Nobody Noticed Until Now


Back when the first rumors of Apartment 3-G‘s cancellation came I wrote that King Features pays someone (Hy Eisman) to draw The Katzenjammer Kids, which “can only make sense as a point of pride”. It’s the longest-running syndicated comic strip, originally created in 1897 by Rudolph Dirks. In its day it had many imitators and, following a creators-rights dispute, a long-running duplicate strip The Captain And The Kids also created by Dirks. Its popularity has declined, certainly, what with Dutch humor taking some serious hits from the sinking of the General Slocum and the end of vaudeville and the World Wars and all that. But it was still there, logging in one new Sunday strip a week for an alleged fifty newspapers worldwide. A distribution of “about fifty newspapers” is what they claim about any strip that nobody has found in actual newspapers in living memory.

And then a couple weeks ago, in the wake of 3-G‘s sad end, rec.arts.comics.strips maven D.D.Degg — who tracks the start and end dates of comic strips — noticed something. King Features Weekly Services, which had distributed the comic strip, no longer listed it. Degg’s searches through feature directories found that in 2015 the strip was listed as “reprints only”. The 2013 directory didn’t say anything about it being reruns only. This naturally led to the question: when was the last new Katzenjammer Kids published?

The Captain writes out his New Year's resolutions: fixing the roof, getting more exercise, all that. Momma points out he resolved them each of the last five years too.
Hy Eisman’s Katzenjammer Kids for the 1st of January, 2006. Probably the last new New Year’s comic strip for the venerable but not actually read comic strip. Yes, I get the dramatic irony in it being about repeating New Year’s resolutions.

Eventually, Michael Tisserand with The Comics Journal did the ridiculous and contacted Hy Eisman. Eisman reported (says Degg of what Tisserand said) that the last Katzenjammer Kids comic he drew was in 2006. Nobody has been able to find any publicity or news attention given to the longest-running comic strip going into reruns. But Degg did discover that King Features mentioned right there in its 100th Anniversary supplement to the newspapers that the comic strip ended in 2006.

If I can work out, or find someone who has worked out, when exactly the new strips ended I’ll pass that on. (Comics Kingdom’s web site includes the strip going back to October of 1998 and there might be a hint in the copyright notices.) Or I’ll just wait and freeload on Degg’s work. Eisman is still, reportedly, drawing new Popeye strips for Sundays. But it does strike me that in 2008 the Sunday Popeye strips dropped a storyline in which Wimpy was running for Mayor without resolution. And his maybe running for Mayor was mentioned again in 2012. I haven’t caught an exact rerun yet, but now there’s reason to be wary.