I was thinking hard, as hard as reasonable, about the problem of the leaf-bootleggers clearing out our yard. Then I got distracted by wondering … uh … hang on, it was right here. It was something stupid. Oh yeah, that’s it. I got to wondering whether the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a species of land or of sea turtle. It must be on a fan wiki somewhere. And just think of the Discussion Page behind it. What if they’re an invasive species? Wouldn’t that be kind of fun in that obscure scientific-fact way? Well, maybe only to me. Also, I am still not reading about the history of socks.
Also omitted: my curious belief that it ought to be “penants” even though that doesn’t look right either.
But if we are being visited by leaf bootleggers who’re running what should be covering our yard down to other states, when are they doing it? They can’t be doing it in the day. I’m usually in the dining room and I’d see them out the back window, or out the front window. Not right away, all right. But eventually. There’s no hiding that stuff forever unless they spend the whole operation crouching down. Not at night either, though. We stay up late and we’d see somebody stumbling around. We’ve got one of those side door lights that are supposed to light up when someone approaches the side door, and instead lights up as soon as you give up on getting some light out there. They’d be hit by that as soon as they got out of range of the side door light sensor. Are they waiting for when we happen to be away? I guess they could do that but it’s hardly a reliable business model. It’s getting more mysterious.
I stand in the midst of the Halloween store, trapped.
It’s one of those temporary stores, of course. What strip mall, however luxurious, could support having a Halloween store all the year round? With the collapse in the costume rental industry after that time in 2011 someone spread a rumor Netflix was opening a line of costume distribution by mail, anyway? OK, there was that spot in Worthington, Ohio, that had one going in May. But that was probably a fluke. They weren’t there the next year. Maybe they were just having too much fun selling fangs to stop that one time.
But what to buy? What to wear? What to go as for Halloween?
Halloween should be a great Halloween for me. There’s all kinds of things it’d be more fun to be than me. Someone who knows what to dress as for Halloween, for example. Or someone really confident wearing costumes for the sort of stuff I might be doing on a Monday, like going to the bagel place for lunch and reading the alt-weekly there.
My unsureness about what to dress as for Halloween goes way back. I think it does. I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t remember a lot of the costumes I wore for Halloween as a kid. I don’t think we made very many of them ourselves, because there were four kids in the household and my parents had a limit to how much time they were willing to spend collecting parts and sewing stuff so that we could dress up as something called an “Artoo” for three hours. Even if they got pictures.
I should explain this was the late 70s and early 80s, when photographs were something that took effort. You had to find that weird little camera that looked like a harmonica, and find where that flash bulb plug-in was, and find that it was totally spent. Then you had to wait to get to the store and buy a replacement. That would give you four or maybe eight flashes, good for up to six pictures. And then you could get the photos developed by driving around until you saw a teeny tiny little bitty house sitting in the middle of a parking lot. Then Mom drives up next to it, gives a roll of film, and then sometime later gets back dark, blurry pictures out of focus that clearly show some figures in the state’s fourth-place finalist, Most 1974 Kitchen Ever Contest. The one wearing the worst imaginable outfit in the picture? That’s me. And then we lose the photos in a minor basement flood. So it’s hard to tell what I was wearing back then.
At least a couple years we went to the Toys R Us and bought those licensed figure packages. You know the ones. You get a plastic face mask with eyes that don’t line up for some figure like The Incredible Hulk and then a T-shirt showing The Incredible Hulk going off and lacking credibility. It’s a surprisingly old model of costume, going back to the ancient Greeks and the year everyone went as Narcissus. People loved that outfit, especially Narcissus. But the costume industry learned the wrong lesson from that and figured we wanted to go as people who were fans of themselves. That breaks down when you’re someone like me who isn’t sure he can even be a fan of someone with enough self-esteem to be a fan of themselves. What you’d get is maybe me going out as The Incredible Hulk I Guess, if he wanted people to think he was always thinking about The Incredible Hulk while being confused and faintly disappointed in what I’m doing. I’m confused and faintly disappointed in what I’m doing all year anyway, so the costume always felt a bit hollow.
One year we got a new washing machine, and I seized on my rights as the eldest to claim it for myself. And I also grabbed as much aluminum foil as I felt like I could get away with. So I know one year I went as the ever-popular Kid In A New Washing Machine’s Box Wrapped In Aluminum Foil. I think it technically qualified as a robot costume. It taught me many things, like how I should have cut arm holes, and that absolutely nobody in the neighborhood would get that they would “input” candy to the big slot labelled “input candy”.
Then we moved, to a new neighborhood where they didn’t much like kids, and even if they did the neighbors didn’t much like us. And then I got into high school and even if I were invited to costume parties it was very important I spend every night watching The Wrath of Khan on videotape. In college it was more important I write incredibly detailed reports of what the student government was up to for the unread leftist weekly paper. It’s only the last few years I’ve tried getting into costumes again.
I grab a $4 raccoon mask and hope things will work out all right.
So then I saw this ad.
Um … who … uh … is it dead people? Dead people are going bankrupt at surprising rates? What rate of dead-person bankruptcy wouldn’t be surprising? I mean, dead people may have few expenses but they’ve got no income and over a long enough time, you know, these things add up. Or is it cemetery caretakers? Maybe … groundskeepers who look kind of like they’re wearing a Post Office shirt? I’m confused by all this.
Well, meanwhile, my mathematics blog has some more comic strips to talk about. And also remember last week I wrote about conspiracy theories and this one where the Illuminati had Whitney Houston killed? I’m not saying this Vulture article was a coincidence, but when’s the last time you saw a mention of Whitney Houston an the Illuminati in the same essay? Just linking.
Again I’m not angry that we haven’t got nearly as many leaves in the yard as we’d expect for this time of year. It’s better than that year we had so many leaves that we overloaded the garbage truck’s ability to carry them away. We had to take extraordinary steps, bringing buckets of leaves to abandon behind the Kroger, carrying extra leaves in our pockets to drop on the floor at work, compressing piles of leaves into a pancake-like matter that we sold at the farmer’s market until they found out what “stroopwafel” was supposed to be and chased us out with rakes. In comparison this is great stuff.
I’m just — you know, I hesitate saying this lest I sound daft. But is it possible that we’re being victimized here? Like, how do I know there’s not someone coming in and bootlegging our leaves, swiping the bounty of our trees and running them down to some fallen-leaf-deprived area? And I’m not annoyed so much that someone might be stealing our leaves, since we weren’t doing anything with them anyway. It hurts to lose a bit of a revenue stream but I’ll admit we don’t really need what we might get from joining the legitimate maple-leaves-to-Florida network. But not being asked, that’s offensive.
So this is a long shot, but hey, if you’re the leaf bootlegger swiping them from our yard? Come clean. It’s all right if you keep taking them, we just want to know about it. Doing it ethically has value.
There’s an Archie comic strip. It doesn’t showcase the parts of the Archie franchise that interested the young me, which would be when the did a side-universe adventure where they were all superheroes or Swinging Sixties Spies or robots in the future or stuff. It’s just the ordinary old universe where they’re teens in high school and I guess that’s OK. The comic strip’s been running since 1947, with the current offerings written and illustrated by Craig Boldman and Henry Scarpelli. Boldman stopped writing the strip in 2011, and Scarpelli died in 2010, so as you might figure the strip’s lost a certain timeliness, so far as that exists in the Archie plain-vanilla universe. Mostly they’ve just printed reruns. But occasionally they update an old strip and here’s today’s.
If you gave me 2,000 years to guess I couldn’t say what possible upcoming future maybe-disaster Miss Grundy might have originally asked her students about. But I am delighted by this. Some poor soul at Creators.com who never asked for this job but knew how to use the Generic Comic Strip Word Balloon font in Photoshop thought hard about the best “plausibly imminent disaster people should maybe be ready for” and picked out “zombie apocalypse”. It’s delightful.
And yes, I know, the Archie comic books have a side universe where Riverdale’s been hit by the Zombie Apocalypse and I suppose that’s probably fun if you like parts of zombie apocalypses that aren’t just The Walking Dead pinball machine. Haven’t got to it myself.
Anyway, over on my mathematics blog I talk about other comic strips. No zombies, no Archie, but I do get to talk about the Law of Cosines.
I know this will get me in trouble but I have to say something. It’s fall here. That’s not the part I expect to get in trouble about. The problem is the leaves. There’s leaves falling all around the neighborhood in about the right amounts. Three houses up the street the leaves are a tidal pool eight feet deep, rustling only as someone drives the car to the detached garage, with tethered rowboats bringing people from the garage to the main house. It’s like that all around. Except at our house, and the neighbor’s. Here we’ve just got little scatterings of leaves, not even enough to run the lawn mower over. I don’t know where the leaves are and why they’re not here. But I know this isn’t going to last either. It’s ominous, that’s what it is.
I don’t know how I ever lived without it.
4:23. I stride confidently into the Great Lakes ACE Hardware store. I know what I need. It’s an O-Ring for the plastic watering tank we’re hoping to keep goldfish in this winter. I have the plastic plug we’ll be using to stop up the drain. Past conversations with our goldfish indicate they’d much rather the water didn’t drain at all, but if it must drain, it should drain as nothing as possible. I just need to find the small circles of rubber somewhere in the hardware store.
4:29. An employee tells me I’ll find it “just behind you”. I haven’t told the employee what I need. It’s not just behind me.
4:31. I ask the employee where the 1 1/4-inch O-rings are. They were the next row over. 65 cents per. I buy one and leave without asking what the employe thought I was looking for that was just behind me.
My love and I were talking about the Pythagoreans because that’s the kind of people we are. Also because the Pythagoreans are interesting. They have that mix of philosophical and mathematical ideas fused into something too nutty for Ancient Greece to put up with. It’s hard to be sure we know much about the Pythagoreans that’s true and not the result of people making fun of them.
Thing is, Pythagoras must have had something going for him. Remember, he was able to tell people he could write on the moon, appear in many places at once, and show off a golden thigh in the Olympics. And he still got followers. Most of us couldn’t lie about our cell phone’s camera resolution and get anyone to believe it. Maybe he was just that charismatic; maybe he had a good organization behind him.
There’s stories that Pythagoras had children. Maybe that’s a pious myth from his followers, attributing all the cult’s children to him. Maybe he figured he had a mass of children inside the Sun. Maybe he actually did, though. Maybe there’s, even now, people directly descended from Pythagoras out there. What’s got me is that after Pythagoras’s cult got broken up, possibly by running them into beans, that’s the last we hear of them. There’s no sad little attempt to put the gang back together led by his son or some fan who figured the thing just needed better presentation. It’s just gone.
Or is it? What if the Pythagoreans just went underground, building their number in the strictest of secrecy? And then working to alter the world to their liking? They might pull stunts like rejiggering the way we write numbers so that it’s based on “ten” or pushing the idea that the planets move around the sun. We realized we’ve got the seeds here for a nice and stupid Dan Brown-esque novel here. And every time we need comic relief just stuff in one of those stories people keep telling about the Pythagoreans.
This got me thinking about conspiracy theories. Why do people like secret-masters-of-the-world conspiracy theories? The traditional answer is that the world is big and scary and looks crazy most of the time. But if some secret organization is manipulating everything to their benefit, well, all right. It may make no sense but at least there’s some plan behind it all.
A couple months back I heard of a conspiracy theory behind Whitney Houston’s death. Apparently she said something about the Illuminati while appearing on Ellen and they got her for it. And that’s got me wondering. Suppose the theory’s true. That implies someone found the Illuminati and thought joining the secret rulers of the world was a great idea. And the guy went through the intense screening and interview process. Think what his résumé must have looked like. Think of his getting letters of reference from imaginary people so far as anyone can prove. The guy showed up for the first day of Illuminati work — imagine what the paperwork is like! — and watched all the training and harassment and drug policy videos. And then after all that, he gets his first assignment. And it’s “watch the daytime talk shows in case popular singers mention the Illuminati”. And he couldn’t even complain to people about the lousy job he’s got. He knows he’s monitored by the guy in Secret Cubicle SOC1-L7-07A. (The cubicles go right from SOC1-L7-07 to SOC1-L7-08 without an ‘A’ in-between.) And that guy’s fed up with IlluminaTwitter notifications.
OK, maybe some super-technological monitoring system means they don’t have to watch everything. Maybe their IlluminaComputer tells them when someone said something too much. That means there’s secret rulers of society having meetings about whether the time has come to kill Whitney Houston. Maybe the appeal of conspiracies is the fantasy of being part of an organization that has purposeful meetings.
I mean, you never do hear about someone who joins into the secret conspiracy ruling humanity, and finds it’s full of the same petty office politics and dreary paperwork and meaningless action as anyone else’s job is. Though in that circumstance, you know, well-done.
Confidential to guy in SOC1-L7-07A: I’m not saying the Illuminati have any connection to the Pythagoreans. I know you guys brand around a pyramid, which is a completely different kind of triangle, unless you imagine folding it in half. I’m not looking for any trouble. I only watch Ellen when someone left it on at the vet’s office. And I didn’t even realize Whitney Houston had died. I guess she did. That would be a weird thing to fake, unless she was needed in some secret bean work.
I was reading the DC Comics Showcase of Metal Men, a band of 1960s superhero robots who are constantly explaining their premise to each other. Anyway, they take a blind kid from The City on a trip in space, the way superheroes just did in the 60s, and they find an amusement park on an abandoned planet, because again, it was the 60s. You just had Coney Islands on every cosmic body.
Anyway it turns out the Space Amusement Park is completely automated, but its automation accidentally space-glitched and got stuck on “evil” (or to be precise, “Space Evil”) and now all the rides are trying to kill you. They work out this must be what happened to the population: the whole world got killed by an evil Space Amusement Park.
Now, I understand the appeal of an evil amusement park. And even the appeal of one that threatens life and limb, because I grew up in New Jersey and we had Action Park. Everyone in my generation from New Jersey would like to tell you how we narrowly avoided death at Action Park, usually by drowning or smacking into something, sometimes just by bursting into flames after buying a hot dog or getting hit by a meteor while in the parking lot. A tenth of us will tell you how we technically speaking died there.
Thing is, as uproariously reckless as Action Park was, it didn’t come close to killing even North Jersey, never mind the whole world. If Space Coney Island really did kill its whole planet I think the park has only partial responsibility. At some point the local Space Ride-Inspection Space Agencies (“Spagencies”) fell down on the job. Also the Space Newspapers (“Spacepapers”) failed their public when they didn’t report on, like, the first 2.5 billion people killed by a wicked Space Ferris Wheel. I don’t think the Spacepapers would be needlessly spreading Space Panic at that point.
Anyway, the Metal Men escape the killer roller coaster and make it back to Earth, in the process curing the kid’s blindness two times over, because that’s just what the 60s were like. Better living through Space Chemicals.
So let’s say it’s a 1930s cartoon. Is it actually legally required to include an Al Jolsen “Mammy” hook? Let’s find out.
The cartoon is from Ub Iwerks’s Flip the Frog series. Iwerks was one of those great cartoonists and inventors to orbit Walt Disney. With Disney he was able to create Mickey Mouse as well as some of the lesser characters like Clarabelle Cow. And he had a knack for technical innovation, with the live-action/animation effects of Song of the South his doing. Outside Disney’s orbit, Iwerks … well, you can see. The cartoon’s from his own studio. And it’s technically proficient, smooth and competent in a way not common in 1931 except from Disney studios. And there’s fun in it, but it is slow-paced. Could use stronger editing. I imagine if it ran five minutes this could be a really solid cartoon.
Several weeks into the first term, the university holds its annual “Raisin Weekend”, during which the academic parents hold parties for the new students. The weekend culminates in “Raisin Monday”, when they dress the new students in costumes and send them into the university main’s lawn for a shaving foam fight.
And so I’m left here pondering whether I’m more curious about why raisins or why they count Monday as part of the weekend. I’m pretty sure it’s not a long holiday weekend, like, October Bank Holiday or one of the estimated 44 days listed as the Queen’s Birthday. (You know although Elizabeth II is recorded as ninety years old she was actually only born 26 years ago; all those Birthday holidays add up.) Well, I guess we all pad out the weekend when we figure we can get away with it. Probably the students do. How would someone find who was skipping class underneath all that foam? Fair enough, I suppose.
Also, my mathematics blog had that comic strip thing again. Please read, won’t you?
That bit about The Kinks’ Arthur the other day got me thinking about TV movies. I don’t see them anymore. But I grew up occasionally watching TV movies when my parents didn’t want to change the channel after the real shows were done for the night. I knew it as a genre in which over the course of two hours we’d get to meet a generically pleasant cast of characters and discover the wife was murdered by Mike Farrell. I suppose they did things differently in 1969 Britain, when The Kinks were making their not-made TV movie. I’m not sure they had even invented Mike Farrell by then, and the wife had to be murdered by Wayne Rogers instead. If anyone’s got definite word please let me know.
So I was having this pretty nice standard-issue dream when I suddenly got a text message from The Left. That’s unsettling since I don’t really text-message and I’m not sure how I would get it. But then I had to get up and go to the bathroom. I guess that’s fine; I’m not sure what I would say to The Left. “I love when you work on stuff that tamps down the brutality of life?” I bet they get that all the time.
Meanwhile like a week ago my love dreamed we were in the San Francisco zoo and couldn’t think how we got that far away. The dream me couldn’t offer any answers. My love, looking for a rational explanation of why we’d be there, asked, “Have we been to any amusement parks this trip?” And the dream me answered, “No, I don’t think so.” And I love that the dream-me, like the real me, takes so much edge off anything he says that he’ll leave room for plausible doubt on the question “have you been to an amusement park on this trip?” That’s so me.
A friend was amused by something I said that alluded to The Kinks’ album Arthur. I went on to explain the album to him, something he consented to by not chewing his own tail off to make good his escape. I was kind. I just wanted to explain how the definitely best song in it was “Some Mother’s Son”, unless the best song was “Shangri-La”. In any case the most cheerily catchy song on it is clearly “Victoria” unless it’s “She’s Bought A Hat like Princess Marina”. Look, just listen to it, all right?
I started to explain whether it’s a rock opera before my friend tore my leg off and whacked me over the head with it. It’s a contentious issue. If you ask Ray Davies about it, he’ll explain that it was totally the first rock opera except for the ones that snuck out between when he had the idea and when he finished it. Also that of course it wasn’t an rock opera and he doesn’t know why critics call it that. Also that people only say it’s a rock opera to stir up trouble. Also that Dave Davies should get over here so he can punch him. Also that who cares about writing rock operas. I’m happy to let Ray Davies have whatever view on Arthur he wishes, in accord with my life goal of getting through it without being punched by him. So far, successful for 16,089 days running!
Thing is I’ll go along with saying Arthur wasn’t the first rock opera, or even a rock opera at all, especially if Ray Davies is looking for someone to punch. Unless he really wants it to be a rock opera because, again, 16,089 days and counting. It was created to be the soundtrack for an unmade TV movie. And that’s what’s caught my imagination. Not calling it a TV movie. I’m used to that idea.
What’s got me is the phrase “unmade movie”. They want to express it was a never-made movie. But it’s got me thinking of what it would take to un-make a movie. You’d have to start with a made movie, sure. Let’s say something like 2006’s My Super Ex-Girlfriend, which was as slightly made a movie as has been the least mediocre choice of in-flight entertainment since the Disney Radio channel was still doing the Hamster Dance song somehow. I should be clear, I didn’t hate the movie or anything, it was just on and a little annoying up to the point that the in-flight entertainment system crashed and couldn’t be brought back up. Could be any movie.
You’d start, I guess, by taking any prints of the film and rinsing them clean, bringing them back to a faint silver-tinged cloud of colloidal particulate matter. And I don’t care if that isn’t what unexposed film is like. It’s too much fun to write “faint silver-tinged cloud of colloidal particulate matter”. Go ahead. Try coming up with a better phrase that seems like it ought to have something to do with film stock.
I don’t know if it existed in digital form any, but I suppose we can write new stuff, I’m thinking saved games of Civilization II, onto whatever they came from. I’m thinking USB Flash drives. Very large ones, to be able to hold films. Like, they’re on keychains, but for those novelty-size Keys to the City. Really big ones. Have to play a lot of Civ II to fill those up, but I can do that.
Unmaking the movie would go farther, sure. I suppose you’d bring all the cast and crew back together so everyone could go through the scenes backwards, undoing it all. I’m not sure if you’d have to undo the alternate takes or unused scenes. I guess it depends how busy the people are. Unmaking the movie can’t be their whole job. Probably it’s not necessary to unbuild the sets, since they do that anyway.
There might be some outfits that could be unstitched and turned back to pieces of cloth. I don’t imagine that we’d take, like, any bits of wool and restore them to the original sheep, as most film companies don’t keep records in sufficient detail for this. Similarly there’s no sense at all restoring any cotton used in the outfits to the original sheep, because sheep only produce cotton if they’re looking for a little extra income as poorly-paid farm workers. There’s limits to how much you’d have to do to fully un-make a film, is all I’m saying.
Again, I don’t want the people whose lives brought them to the point of making My Super Ex-Girlfriend to think I’m picking on them. It’s just a movie I’m holding up as an example of something we could unmake if we really tried. If we needed some different unmade movie I’ll take suggestions. Thank you for your time considering the problem.
It’s the 24th century. Why are people having meetings in the lobby of a Cracker Barrel?
If you know or have a better thought what to do with this picture, please, use the space here. I’m mostly including a picture like this to pad out pointing over to my mathematics blog, which had some more comic strips to talk about the other day, which was yesterday. Suggested topic: why is Barclay’s cat eating a heaping dish of Brain Ice Cream? Is that really healthy for a creature made of live Photoshop “dry brush” pen strokes?
I realize that it’s just a programming convention. But when you stop and notice it, it’s kind of weird that the Muppets name all their stuff Muppet stuff. Imagine the reverse; would you watch The Human Show? Well, I guess I would, but I’d be expecting some faintly punk British-produced angry comedy along the lines of The Young Ones. Special case. But then how about, say, Human Treasure Island or Human Wizard of Oz or Humans From Space? … All right, again, that’s starting out interesting. The Humans Take Manhattan? … Saying that out loud I guess I see why the Muppets do that. All right, but let’s imagine a reporter for the local news introduced himself, “Hi ho, this is Kermit the White Guy with a Human News Flash.” OK, this is getting compelling. Forget that I was doing something like grousing.