Caption This: Finally We Understand What’s In Cargo Bay 6


So, I had some fresh mathematics comics to write about and wrote about them over on the other blog. No pictures, but then, no calculus either. I’m hoping for better things next week, but who isn’t?

So, on to something I noticed while looking at pictures of the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Vox Sola”, and don’t go asking why I’m looking at screen grabs from Star Trek: Enterprise episodes.

Look, I just need to do things like that, because if I didn’t, how would I find pictures like this? Exactly. I’d have to wait for someone else to find the pictures for me and that’s just inefficient. Let me have this. And by letting me have this, I mean letting you have this from me. So here it is:

Archer lying in a pool of gooey white mucus-y stuff because that's what Star Trek: Enerprise was doing its first season.
This. This is exactly what Dr Noonian Soong was hoping that Data could achieve when he developed the sneezing routine.

“And that, Captain, is why we have a regulation against leaving ship without the giant box of Kleenex.”

Have a better thought for this? I’m not surprised, and please, take some space here to fill it in:

Thank you! Yes, I see the risque jokes too.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose seven points today but nobody was able to feel good about it. You know why? They started thinking about the other timeline, you know, the good one. You know what’s going on there? Over there leading Republicans are already calling her “King Hitlery” and demanding Clinton and Obama be impeached. And you know why? It’s because of this refugee Libyan orphan who sang at Clinton’s inauguration ball and did this rendition of “America The Beautiful” so haunting that the whole world was reduced to this blubbering mass of joy. Like, for a week-plus the whole Internet was happier than it’s been since Pokemon Go came out and everybody felt so good about that. It broke V-E day’s record for strangers hugging each other in public. And now there’s a bunch of unfounded — and, a 20-month investigation will concede, after the midterm elections, utterly false — allegations that the singer got preferential admission just so that she could sing at the inaugural ball. And it’s the start of taking this wonderful transcendant moment and dragging it into mud. And they’re dealing with that over in the good timeline and can’t believe how they can’t have nice things, and look where we are now, and when you look at that what does trading volume on the Another Blog, Meanwhile index even matter?

131

What’s Going On In Alley Oop?


[ Edited 2 September 2018 to add: ] Jack and Carole Bender have retired. The comic strip is going into reruns through the end of 2018 while the syndicate figures out what to do. I summarize the final original-run story by the Benders here.. And as said below, this link will have my most recent updates about the comic strip generally. Thank you. ]


[ Edited 29 April 2017 to add: ] Thanks for coming here in search of catching up on what’s going on in Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop. The essay here was right and so far as I know just fine when I wrote it in late January 2017. If you’re looking for what’s gone on since then try this link; the most recent posts I’ve had about the comic strip should be at the top of its results.


I know, I bet you all thought I was going to go from The Amazing Spider-Man over to The Phantom, as that’s the other newspaper-syndicated superhero comic strip. I admit I’m not sure when’s the last time I saw Alley Oop in a newspaper. It might have been decades ago at my grandparent’s house, when I also saw The Amazing Spider-Man there on the cover of the New York Daily News comics section and nowhere else. (People with records of the Daily News comics page offerings, please write in to let me know if that’s possible!) Big deal. It certainly used to run in newspapers, and for all I know it still does. It looks like one. Plus it’s easier to explain than The Phantom and I had a week far to distracted to deal with complicated strips.

Alley Oop.

So, Alley Oop started in 1932 by V T Hamlin as essentially a sitcom/adventure strip. It was about Alley Oop and his prehistoric land of Moo. He’d do caveman-type stuff, like adopting a pet dinosaur Dinny and being alternately indispensable to or on the run from Moo’s King Guz. Sometimes they’d be in the sort of low-scale war with Tunk’s neighboring kingdom of Lem that you got in those days when the world had maybe twenty people in it. Hey, caveman comics and cartoons were a viable thing back then, and if the whole genre’s been taken over by The Flintstones that’s not the fault of the properties working a generation before them.

And surely Alley Oop would have gone wherever rambling story comics go if not for a 1939 tale (recently reprinted by Dark Horse, so you can read it in book form). In that, the brilliant 20th-century scientist Dr Elbert Wonmug, testing out his time machine, plucked Alley Oop into the present day and suddenly the strip had that touch of madness that allows for greatness. A mildly humorous adventure strip about cavemen is fine enough. But a mildly humorous adventure strip about time-travelling cavemen? That’s brilliant. I don’t know how the thing has resisted adaptation into a goofy 70s live-action show or a modern movie.

So it’ll say something about the strip that the 20th, now 21st, century scientist is Dr Elbert Wonmug. Do you get it? Because I had been reading the strip reasonably faithfully for like six years before someone, I think an essay at the front of a collection, explained it to me. How would you translate won (one) mug into German?

I mention that not for it being the record-holder in me only belatedly getting the joke, as it’s not. There’s a Far Side cartoon that holds that record at something like 15 years before I got it. I mention it to calibrate the sort of humor the strip has. It’s never a thoroughly serious comic, and a lot of silly business does go on, especially slapstick. But it’s not primarily a joke strip. If something’s funny it’s because there’s an absurd situation, such as (last year) Guz deciding that the fantastically unqualified Alley Oop should be the kingdom’s doctor. Alley Oop didn’t do very well. But I think that’s because the whole storyline was (in-universe) done in a couple of days, and nobody’s at their best their first week on the job. He’s pretty good at picking up stuff; anyone who can go from primitive Moo to 1939 Long Island with only a few missteps has got solid resources.

'How do you fit in that little [spaceship]?' 'The compartment is simply a product of transdimensional engineering! In other words, the interior exists in a different dimension than the exterior. (Sigh) It's bigger on the inside than the outside!' 'Oh! Why didn't you say that in the first place?'
Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop for the 28th of November, 2016. What tickles me about this is there’s a good shot Alley Oop isn’t bluffing here. I mean, the guy went to the Moon in the 1940s. Transdimensional engineering probably doesn’t throw him that much.

The current storyline started around October of 2016. (There wasn’t a clean break from the previous story, a common feature of Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s writing.) And it’s built on a premise designed to shake seven-year-old me out of watching In Search Of and reading the paranormal-events section of The People’s Almanac 2. Aliens have come to invade Moo.

Oh, they didn’t talk about invading at first. Volzon, of the planet Jantulle, spent some time showing off his superior technology and negging on Alley Oop’s sensor readings. Volzon then declared ancient Earth to be just about perfect for their needs: the Jantulle population’s exploding and their plant-frog-men need colonies. Earth will do nicely. Alley Oop pointed out that their superior technology was no match for his big stick. And it must be said, he’s quite good with sticks. And punching. Alley Oop does pretty well satisfying the gap left by Popeye not really being a comic strip anymore. And then Volzon went and spoiled things by whipping out his mind-control device. That’s about where things stand just now.

'These tendrils absorb sunlight, which is a food source, but they can also give me instant readings on anything with which I come in contact! You, for instance! Interesting! I see you are primarily made of water! There is also protein, fat ... ' 'HEY! This isn't fat! It's all muscle!'
Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop for the 3rd of December, 2016. I admit the strip surprised me since I really would have bet the first newspaper-syndicated comic strip to feature alien tentacle probes would have been Bill Holbrook’s Safe Havens or maybe Brooke McEldowney’s 9 Chickweed Lane.

Of course the Jantulle invasion is going to be foiled. For one, comic strips like this just don’t end in aliens conquering Earth. Not permanently, anyway. For another, we know that since Earth isn’t a colony world of alien plant-frog-men the invasion does come to nought. And it’ll be up to Alley Oop and his team to do something about that. The comic strip, as best I can determine, doesn’t try to pull any nonsense about time travel resulting in alterante timelines or histories or anything like that. There’s the history of how things worked out, and it works out that way because the protagonists of our stories did something about it.

For a premise that’s got time travel baked into it there’s refreshingly little talk about paradoxes, or fixing up a solution by planting the stuff you needed to escape it afterwards. It’s rather like (most of) the old-school Doctor Who serials that way. The time travel is a way of getting to interesting settings. Mostly, of late, they’ve been ancient Moo, or the present day. There was recently a curious story where Alley Oop and his partner Oola travelled to 1941 and left a message with then-contemporary Dr Wonmug. This didn’t threaten the stability of the spacetime continuum or threaten paradoxes or anything; it’s just, history worked out like that.

And yeah, somehow, 1941 Wonmug wasn’t impossibly young nor 2016 Wonmug impossibly old. All the characters are holding at about the same age and if you don’t want to accept that maybe you should read some other comic strip about time-travelling cavemen and their dinosaurs.

'Once you view the situation with a clear head you will see that mine is a superior race and more deserving of this land. When I look at your homeland all I see are abundant natural resources, none of which have been developed! I can promise you'll always have a place in Moo with my people here ... your function will just be different! With all the building going on, the demand for laborers would mean you'd never be expelled!' 'It's starting to sound like slavery!'
Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop for the 1st of January, 2017. I didn’t get the chance to talk about it in the main essay, but I do like the design of Volzon here. It’s got a bit of a frog look, a bit of a plant look, a bit of a Zeta Reticulan Ninja Turtle look. And all wearing a leftover jacket from the Original Series Star Trek movies. It comes together pretty convincingly. Meanwhile, note the gentle social spoofing going on the first two-thirds of this strip.

Oh yeah, the dinosaurs. Dinosaurs and cavemen never lived together, never even got close to together. To my delight the comic strip acknowledged this back in 1939 or 1940, when Hamlin was discovering he had a new premise taking over his comic. They explained how there could possibly be dinosaurs in Moo: they don’t know. Obviously things are more complicated than they realize. So far as I’m aware Hamlin and his successors writing the strip haven’t gone back and filled in some explanation for how this impossibility came about. It’s just part of how this fictional world works. I’m honestly impressed that they resist filling in some explanation. You could come up with any number of explanations that work as long as nobody thinks through their implications. “We don’t know; the world is more complicated than we realize,” though? That’s irrefutable. And it’s even what an actual scientist would say to an unanswerable mystery like that. (Oh, they’d work up hypotheses and start testing, yes, but it would start from an acknowledged ignorance.)

A last note. I’d mentioned with The Amazing Spider-Man the problem story strips have with Sundays. All the soap opera comics adopted a Sundays-as-recap-days policy. The Sunday strip would repeat the action of the Monday through Saturday preceding, a mercy for people who get only the Sunday comics but killing the pacing. Amazing Spider-Man just barrels through Sundays as though nothing weird were going on and trusts people to fill in the blanks. Alley Oop works closer to the soap opera model. Sunday strips largely recapitulate what happened the previous week, but in a clipped, notes-for-class version. The daily strips have more texture, more of the fun little asides filling in plot points. If you were to adapt Alley Oop to another medium, you’d use the Sunday strips to guide the plot and the daily strips to write the scenes.

Volzon zaps Alley Oop with some kind of Apple iRaygun. 'How do you feel, Alley Oop?' 'Great! How are you? Who are you?' 'Great, how are you?' 'Would you mind if I brought my friends here to settle in your land?' 'Not at all! The more, the merrier!' 'Excellent! the mind-control device worked!'
Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop for the 15th of January, 2017. Oh, yeah, the storyline started out with everybody going off foraging for food, which is the sort of thing they need to do and can never finish because there’s extraterrestrials invading or other hassles like that going on. It’s hard living as the protagonist to something.

And the Sunday strips don’t recap the previous Monday-to-Saturday. They recap, roughly, the previous Tuesday to the coming Tuesday. That is, the Sunday strip tells you what’s going to happen the coming Monday and Tuesday. (More or less.) Of course a comic strip about time travelling cavemen would be a little out of synch with the weeks. That just makes sense, surely.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped five points overnight. No one really knows why but the leading hypothesis is that it’s related to the neap tides because everybody agrees “neap tides” are the best tides. Neap.

124

Statistics Saturday: What The Full Moon Reveals About You


Source: The C E Hooper Radio Survey of the 2nd of June, 1939.

Werewolf, werebea, weredragon, werecat, weremeerkat, were-oh-were-has-my-little-dog-gone,were-gym-teacher,were-Dave,were-off-to-see-the-wizard,were-robot.
I’m as alarmed as the rest of you by how many people, even ones pure in heart who say their prayers by night, may become someone who can’t distinguish homonyms when the autumn moon is bright. Still, I’m refreshed that we don’t see significant numbers of were-abstract-concepts, like someone who turns out to be a were-supererogatory-behavior or a were-purple or a were-number or something. You’d think you’d see more of that just from how many abstract concepts there are. The only one I can think of even in fiction is Romeo, who spent so much time as a were-4 named “Art”.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose sharply as everyone took the what-the-full-moon-reveals-about-you test and more people came out “were-dragon” than even they had secretly hoped. Even Mopey Pete who figured he couldn’t hope to do better than were-hyena and would have been okay with that came out were-sea-serpent and yes, that ranks below were-dragon but it’s still pretty cool, especially if it comes with a bay or major lake to were- in.

129

In Which I Get Worried What Some Advertising Server Thinks Of Me


OK, first, more comic strips over on my mathematics blog, because darned it I am not going to let a 1959 installment of Hi and Lois toss in a bit of calculus without explaining just what is meant by it. I hope you enjoy because there’s not going to be another of those comic strip explanation posts until Saturday.

Otherwise, I was reading the Comics Curmudgeon blog. The advertising server suggested a couple books. They came out as:

  • A book of Slylock Fox mystery puzzles.
  • A book of Barney Google and Snuffy Smith comics.
  • A book of Slylock Fox “brain bogglers” which are different from mystery puzzles in six ways and can you find them all?
  • A book titled A Do-It-Yourself Submachine Gun.
Shop Related Products: Go Fun! Slylock Fox Mystery Puzzles; Barney Google and Snuffy Smith; Slylock Fox Brain Bogglers; The Do-It-Yourself Submachine Gun.
This reminds me of the time I stopped in Kinokuniya and picked up two Baby Blues compilations, one Big Nate novella, and a B-29 Superfortress. I’m going to go ahead and assume that the Mystery Puzzles book was marked down from $8.99, but as best I can see it may have just been marked down from $8.09 to $8.09.
Wait, I was just looking at a blog post. Shouldn’t a “related product” be another blog?

I have some snarky views about Tom Batiuk and, separately, the comic strip Luann. But I think a submachine gun is the wrong way to handle them. They should be handled in the traditional way of making YouTube videos in which the dialogue from the comics is read aloud by people who inflect the lines in the most uncharitable ways.

Still, I guess at least they made an advertising impression, which is a triumph in this day and age.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index was rising when someone came up from the basement and announced they’d found their copy of Ian Shoales’s Not Wet Yet and now everybody’s busy reading their favorite bits, like the essay about how Dracula is the perfect movie because it has stuff for guys (procedures, tools, men off to complete a task) and women (seedy romantic decadence, ancient mansions, food preparation). Also the essay on Elvitude.

120

Craftiness


I’d like to talk about craft hobbies. It’s not much, but it’s the best idea I had this week. These come in a couple of varieties. One of the most satisfying is the hobby of joining things to other things. This is a particularly fun thing to do since when you’re done you have fewer things around. This saves valuable inventory space in your home, car, office, or bag-of-holding. It may make the joined object more unwieldy, but who pays attention to wieldiness? With everything that’s going on in the world these days? Wieldiness of household items can’t possibly rank below the loss of confidence that the Price Is Right producers could cheat contestants by changing the “actual retail price” of prizes whenever those things are shown on a computer monitor rather than revealed by sliding away a panel to show a fixed sign. So somewhere in the fourth dozen of things to worry about.

You can make a craft by taking two or more things and affixing them to one another. Or prefix them, if you like, as long as you’ve taken care to get the order of them correct. You could suffix them too, if you dare. It all depends on the level of confidence you have in your fixing abilities. So I’m still on the “affix” level. I have hopes of prefixing something, someday, but I know I’m all talk on this issue. The things I might prefix other things to know it, also.

There are many ways to join things together. You can use glue, for example. Or epoxy. It’s hard for the newcomer to understand the differences between glue and epoxy. Fan web sites won’t clear things up at all because adhesive-substance fans want you to know that you don’t appreciate adhesion correctly. The important difference is that glue won’t finish setting until you’ve accidentally broken the thing apart testing to see if the glue has set. Meanwhile, epoxy will set before you’ve managed to fit together the things you wanted to stick together. Evaluate which would better serve your object-adhesion needs, and then use whatever you had already anyway.

If adhesive semi-fluid goos aren’t your thing I don’t know that we can still be friends. I’ll try to overlook it. We have bigger problems right now. Anyway, you can make things adhere to one another by other techniques. You could use nails. The big advantage of nails is that you get to take the thing you’re dealing with and drive a thin shard of metal into it while hitting it repeatedly with a separate heavy chunk of lever-mounted metal. OK, I’m starting to see why someone might turn away from adhesive semi-fluid goos. The drawback of nails is that if you handle the thing enough the nails will slip loose and some chunk of your craft project will fall down and I just bet it’s onto your toe. If this hasn’t happened, try handling your project some more. Wear shoes, if you have shoes that aren’t horrible mistakes.

A screw is a good way to affix something to another thing in a way that it won’t come loose. This is because the screw has the mechanical advantage that … uhm … and the thing with the threads … something … friction for the thingy. But you have to get the screw into the thing somehow. This is a good excuse to apply a power tool to your project. If you haven’t got a power tool, this could be the excuse you need to get a power tool. Probably a screwdriver. The power tool gives you the chance to press the power button and hear the thing whirring around some. This can be so soothing you don’t even need the tranquility of completing a project.

You might want your thing painted. You can paint it before affixing things together, or after, or both. If you paint before affixing things together this will keep the glue or whatever from working quite right. If you paint after affixing then there’ll be little cracks and crevices that never get painted to look right. If you do both, then you can have the flaws of both in your project. Choose the aggravating and unavoidable flaws that work for your neuroses.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose another six points over the course of the day, but it doesn’t trust any of those points. “How can we believe that’s structurally stable, anyway?” asked the index. It’s a good question. We have no answer.

119

In Which My Sleeping Mind Doesn’t Accurately Remember When Ogden Nash Died, Somehow


It was your typical sort of dream, by which I mean typical for me. One of those long, rambling, confusing dreams shuffling back and forth between offices as cramped and overstuffed as a used book store’s aisles are. I was doing the best I could to help a friend interview for a job he wasn’t actually qualified for but could probably get up to speed on fast enough that people wouldn’t catch on. The way all of us do.

But dragging me down was one of the people with an actual job there, who kept demanding I explain how it was Ogden Nash wrote such a fantastic book explaining nuclear fusion. And to be fair it did look like a great book. Even in the ancient, falling-apart copy they had, all the illustrations were still animating very well. Had to agree the publisher had a lot of confidence to publish a book quite that lavish. She wanted to know when Ogden Nash was going to publish another science book and I had to say, I was pretty sure he had died. Even found in the preface that the book hadn’t been quite finished as Nash died just after turning in the first draft in December 1956. I felt like a bit of a heel dashing her hopes for a follow-up book on brane theory. In the non-dream worlds, Nash died in May 1971, so my powers to accurately pluck dates out of nowhere seem not to extend to writers of amusing verse.

I have no evidence that Ogden Nash wrote any science popularizations of note.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index woke today to find it was the close of trading and it was seven points higher than it was that time yesterday. It has no explanation for this mystery.

113

I Just Need You To Tell Me Of Course I’m Completely Right About This


So given that the International House of Pancakes we went to over the weekend saw these phenomena:

  • They were “out” of crepes, a thing made on-demand from eggs, milk, and butter.
  • They could not split a check between three people at the table because, the server told us, that old policy made it too easy for dine-and-dashers.
  • According to the sign at the register they no longer sold gift cards by credit or debit card but by cash only.
  • The server asked us for advice on where in the area to buy a new SD card for his phone because apparently he took it in for servicing and they swiped his old bigger card for a smaller one.
  • The server also talked to us a bit about how his phone’s news app normally required him to log in to stream any programs but for the inauguration it didn’t.
  • Another sign at the register asked for comments to be sent to an address at Yahoo that had number in the user name.

So check me on this: there’s, like, at most a four percent chance we were at a legitimate IHOP and we were really at some weirdly elaborate counterfeit, right?

In short: always go to pancake places late nights on the weekends. You’re missing something otherwise.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index stayed level through most of the day of trading until someone pointed out this would make it look like they weren’t doing anything. “Well,” said someone, “why don’t we raise it by three points?” This was reduced to two points in committee. The someone was Louis, who’s been taking the blame for breaking the George Foreman grill last week.

106

Possibly The Biggest Problem We Do Have Right Now


Let me preface this by pointing out my mathematics blog, where yesterday I did another of those comic strip reviews. Last week saw more jokes about anthropomorphized numerals than usual, although in fairness, the usual is probably “one, at most”. So it doesn’t take all that many to be more than usual. Two is all you need. I hope you aren’t disappointed by this. It’s just how the numerals worked out.

Anyway. The recent Mark Trail story has finally ended. Mark escaped Explosion Island with his friends intact. All the invasive-species ants that made it to Explosion Island were burned alive by lava, except for the three pregnant queens Mark that snuck into Mark’s pants cuff and that have now set up in the Lost Forest. So it’s a good ending for everybody except for Explosion Island’s now-extinct varieties of hog, brightly-colored birds, and Polynesian Tortoise Or Whatever. Mark’s editor couldn’t believe that he managed to blow up Explosion Island, but that’s all right, because exploding islands make for interesting stories too. And then Saturday we got this:

'Bill said the online remarks about my work were snide, sarcastic comments!' 'Mark, honey, don't take it personally!' 'I suppose you're right, Cherry ... As long as folks read my work, I guess that's what counts!'
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 21st of January, 2017. Do you want to attract a community of highly self-referential snarky commenters? Because this is how you attract a community of highly self-referential snarky commenters. If any of these things start being said by a giant squirrel then we’ll know Allen has given over entirely to the ironic readership.
Bonus nature tip: saying “don’t take the snide sarcastic online comments personally” has never ever gotten a writer to feel better.

I don’t want to understate the danger here, gang. Mark Trail is being all self-aware. The world is in serious danger of ending right here and now, in an explosion of lava and invasive ants. Please take whatever actions are appropriate to this sort of thing, whatever those are.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Trading in the Another Blog, Meanwhile index reached as high as 108 before this whole Mark Trail Self-Awareness thing came to everyone’s attention. The index dropped briefly below 100 before traders started to rationalize how there’ve been moments in the past when the comic strip seemed self-aware or at least to be a little gently self-mocking. They rallied after that, so the day closed up two points, but everybody still feels a bit uneasy about it all. I don’t blame them.

104

What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man?


[ Edited the 28 of March, 2019 to add this. ] The newspaper comic strip is officially on hiatus. It’s showing reruns, for now, from 2014. The syndicate says that they are looking to put together a new creative team. I haven’t heard of one being hired, or auditioned, yet. I have some thoughts about the close of the comic strip’s run at this link.


[Edit: Added the 23rd of April, 2017 ] If you’re here to follow the most recent storylines in Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man, the newspaper-syndicated comic strip version of the character, thanks! This link should bring you to whatever the most recent post is, at the top of its page.


Sunday has always been a problem for story comics. Sunday newspapers reliably sell more copies, and to a slightly different audience, than the Monday-to-Saturday papers. So how to tell a story when part of the audience gets one strip a week, another part misses one strip a week, and another part gets all seven strips a week? All the soap opera strips make Sundays a recapping of the previous week’s activities. It’s death to pacing; not much can happen on the weekdays so that it can all happen again on Sunday. Gil Thorp doesn’t run Sundays at all. Mark Trail runs a story-unrelated, informational, piece on Sundays. The other adventure strips … have other approaches. Here’s one.

The Amazing Spider-Man

I came to know The Amazing Spider-Man like many in my age cohort did, through the kids’ educational show The Electric Company. In segments on this Spidey battled delightfully absurd villains while staying mute. The show was about teaching reading skills; Spidey’s dialogue was sentences written in word balloons superimposed on the action. In keeping with the show’s tone the villains would be things like an ambulatory chunk of the Shea Stadium wall. Who beat Spidey, soundly. I’ve liked comic books, but somehow never got the bug to collect any normal books like Spider-Man or Superman or anything like that. (But I was the guy to collect the Marvel New Universe line, which, trust me, is a very funny sad thing of me to do.) So that formed my main impression of Spider-Man: a genial sort of superhero who nevertheless can’t outwit a wall.

(Yes yes yes the Wall was a little more complicated than a piece of baseball park wall just do we really need to argue this one? I put up a link to a YouTube copy of the sketch that I’m sure is perfectly legitimate.)

Spider-Man, having stopped a car from crashing full-speed into a wall, fails to notice a cracked brick coming loose. It THONNKs him on the head, which *that* he notices.
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 14th of March, 2007. One of the iconic moments in modern online comic strip snark-reading. Far, far, far from the only time Peter Parker would get clobbered in the head by stuff.

The newspaper Amazing Spider-Man comic strip started the 3rd of January, 1977. It’s credited to Stan Lee for the writing, with the daily strips pencilled by Larry Lieber and inked by Alex Saviuk. The Sunday strips are pencilled by Alex Saviuk and inked by Joe Sinnott, a division of labor that I trust makes sense to someone. The strip is its own little side continuity. It’s separate from, but influenced by, the mainstream Marvel universe. The result is some strange stuff because, even over the course of four decades, they haven’t had a lot of time to have stuff happen. Last year saw Spider-Man meeting Doctor Strange and the current Ant-Man for the first time. I don’t regularly follow Marvel Comics. But I imagine in them Spider-Man and Doctor Strange and Ant-Man spend so much time hanging out with each other they’re a bit sick of the company.

Story strips have a challenge in that the first panel has to give some hint where the story is. Amazing Spider-Man handles that like you’d expect. A lot of captions, which fits the 60s-comics origins of the character, and characters explaining the situation to each other. The problem of Sunday strips? Amazing Spider-Man just lets Sundays happen. The story progresses on Sunday at about the same speed it does the rest of the week. Monday strips often include a little more narrative incluing than, oh, Thursday’s would. But the comic trusts that if you miss the Sunday, fine, you can catch up. Or if you only see the Sundays, you can work out what probably went on during the week.

However much that is. A superhero-action comic has some advantages over, say, a soap opera strip. The soap has to clue in who’s who and why they’re tense about each other. A superhero comic can get away with tagging who’s the villain and letting characters punch each other. Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t do quite as much punching as you’d think. Well, all-action is boring too.

And a lot of what’s appealing about Spider-Man as a character is not the action. It’s that life keeps piddling on him. There’s something wonderful and noble in Peter Parker’s insistence on carrying on trying to save a city that doesn’t like him. So every story invites putting him through petty indignities of life. Another lot of what’s appealing about Spider-Man is that he’s not fully sure he wants to do this. He’d like to just skip it all, if he could. Or at least take a break. Who wouldn’t?

Thing is, the newspaper strip overdoes these. Maybe it’s hard to balance the comedy and self-doubts with the action. Maybe the strip has given in, at least partly, to its ironic or snarky readership. The occasional time I read a Marvel Universe comic book with Spider-Man he’s a bit of a sad sack, but not so much more than anyone with an exciting but underpaying job is. In the newspaper comic … well, it’s funny to have Spidey call up the Fantastic Four or the Avengers or Iron-Man for help on a problem that really does rate their assistance only to be told, ah, no, sorry, we’re helping someone move that day. It’s a good joke that he happened to pick the day that Iron-Man has to be out of the country. But there’s also something pathetic about it, especially when that isn’t the first time other superheroes ditch him on suspiciously vague pretexts.

It’s understandable that Peter Parker, freelance news photographer, would feel insecure about his job especially when Mary Jane Parker is a successful Broadway and minor movie actor. But with two or three panels a day to spend on character he can’t get into much depth. He comes across as whiny instead.

Clown-9's Nose Siren has Spidey down on the ground! 'Guess I should have warned you, web-head ... when I blow my nose I really blow!' He runs off with his money sack and leaves Spider-Man with a 'KICK ME' sign on his back.
Stan Lee, Alex Saviuk, and Joe Sinnott’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 5th of August, 2012, part of a memorable yet weird storyline with a villain that I assume is original to the comic strip. I admit he makes me think of those panels I’ve seen of Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster’s Funnyman, an attempted wacky-clown superhero-we-guess that gets mentioned as an example of how low their fortunes sank after the Superman thing.

It’s reasonable that Peter Parker would get tired of what is, objectively, a pastime that’s physically and mentally brutal. Or that would be if the strip didn’t pull out a figure named Clown-9 who wants to be the … most hilarious … clown … that ever broke into a … Broadway show? It was a little weird. I liked that one more than many commenters I noticed did. But when I do read superhero comics, I like them broad and goofy in that Silver Age style. But how much emotional recuperation do you need from a guy whose menace is a more-powerful-than-usual water pistol, a duck-headed car, and a loud siren attached to his nose? You come out looking dopey.

Also, Spider-Man gets hit on the head. A lot. There’ve been multiple storylines in which he gets clonked by a brick. If it’s not a misplaced love of Krazy Kat then maybe it’s a riff on the attacking wall of Shea Stadium. It’s easier to understand Spidey’s tendency to nod off if you remember how many blunt head traumas he endures.

It’s all strangely loveable and ridiculous. Some of the characters are new. Some are minor villains of the real Marvel Universe. Some are curiously-poorly-synchronized references to the Marvel Cinematic Universe; last year they did a Doctor Strange storyline months ahead of that movie’s release. And an Ant Man storyline just after we all kind of forgot about his movie.

After losing a battle with space alien Ronan Peter Parker calls for help. 'Hello, this is Fantastic Four headquarters in New York City. We're currently in the Negative Zone, but your message is Very Important to us. At the sound of the tone, please leave a --- ' Peter doesn't try calling the Avengers.
Stan Lee, Alex Saviuk, and Joe Sinnott’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 18th of December, 2016. One of many, many times that Spider-Man has tried correctly to call for help from mightier Marvel superheroes only to get the vague, unconvincing brush-off.

And that gets me to the current storyline. Remember Guardians of the Galaxy? Really wildly popular movie about three years ago? That’s finally drifted over to the comic strip, with Ronan the Accuser landing in the middle of Arizona Or Some Other Desert State just as Peter Parker and Mary Jane happen to be driving through. Fine enough. Ronan went harassing the patrons of a diner and tossed Peter Parker out the window. Just after that another spaceship, bearing Rocket Raccoon, landed.

I was delighted by that. A lot of the fun in the Spider-Man comic strip is people ragging on Spidey. And Rocket is just the kind of person to deliver no end of cracks about him. I wasn’t disappointed. They met in the traditional way of superheroes meeting one another for the first time, by fighting until they remembered they have no idea why they do that. Then they engaged in the tradition of teaming up to try finding the villain, who’s gone a couple weeks without appearing and might have escaped the comic altogether. We’ll see.

Peter Parker and Mary Jane sleep at the motel. Meanwhile, 'ROCKET has a late-night face-to-face with a scavenging coyote.' He fights with a coyote for the contents of a trash can, the way you expect from space raccoons here to help save the galaxy.
Stan Lee, Alex Saviuk, and Joe Sinnott’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 22nd of January, 2017. I don’t presume to speak for the space-raccoon community but I gotta say, Rocket fighting off a coyote for the contents of the trash can? That’s sounding a little profile-y. Not sure why Rocket’s stripped naked for this performance.

Overall, the strip is a bit goofy. I like goofy, especially in superhero stories. The newspaper Spider-Man has a couple motifs which are perhaps overdone: Peter Parker’s whininess, his strong desire to just go back to bed, everyone in the world insulting him every chance they get. The number of storylines in which Spider-Man’s participation isn’t really needed as the guest villain and guest hero keep everything under control. The oddly excessive white space between panels of the Sunday strips. I don’t care. The stories generally move at a fair pace. The villains are colorful or at least ridiculous. The heroics come around eventually. There’s a lot of silly little business along the way. I have fun reading it. I am so looking forward to when they get an appearance from Squirrel Girl.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index starts the week up six sharp points owing to how surprisingly good the one-year-old Big Wheel cheese from the farmer’s market on the west side of town is. “Seriously,” one of the traders said under conditions of anonymity, “if we could eat nothing but this cheese we’d have lived our lives correctly”. It was Lisa.

102

Statistics Saturday: Problems Occupying Me


How to better my writing; how to get my career advancing again; how to fix the basement steps; (mostly) how to pluralize 'tv series'; and how to get the car clean enough I feel comfortable taking it in for service.
Not included: how to work up the resolution that I should fix the basement steps now and not at some more convenient time like after we’ve moved into a different house with pre-fixed basement steps.

Well, how do you talk about the Rick Berman-affiliated era of Star Trek shows during the many times you have a pressing need to?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped four points as it became clear that the new George Foreman grill would not, in fact, make everything all right with the world.

96

On Tour with P T Barnum


I picked up a biography of P T Barnum because, I don’t know, I had some strange desire to read about a renowned showman and humbug artist who chose to go into public service and did his best, despite hardships, to stand for the working class without compromising his Universalist faith. I don’t know. Anyway, in chapter seven of A H Saxon’s P T Barnum: The Legend And The Man came this, from his first tour of Europe, which just delights me so:

While they were in Brussels, Barnum decided to visit the site of the Battle of Waterloo, to which he and a friend set out one morning at the early hour of 4 am. He could not help being impressed by the brisk traffic he saw there in reputed “relics” of the battle and by the whopping lies told by the guides who swarmed about them. After one of these had pointed out with great authority the place where Wellington had his station, the spot where Sir William Ponsonby fell, etc, Barnum asked if he could show them where Captain Tippitimichet of the Connecticut Fusileers was killed. This the guide promptly did. The precise spots where some twenty other fictitious officers from such exotic locales as Coney Island, Hoboken, and Saratoga Springs had fallen were also obligingly pointed out, following which the showman could not resist asking where “Brigadier General James Gordon Bennett [ editor of the New York Herald and an unshakeable Barnum-hater ] had given up the ghost”. This time the guide, who claimed to have been present when Bennett died, excelled himself and recalled the famous general’s last words: “Portez-moi de l’eau!”

… Or so Barnum told the newspapers back home.

Also, hey, mathematics comics, there were some more of them. Maybe the last Jumble I’ll be able to run. Don’t know yet.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index reached the psychologically baloney level of 100 today as the traders compromised on buying the new, larger, George Foreman grill and tabling the panini press issue. Supporting the decision is it turns out the sale on panini presses ended last Sunday so spending all this time on it was kind of dumb.

100

The Boot: And How I Got It


I need to preface this by explaining I’m a big fan of clothes. I think they’re one of the top ideas humanity has come up with. I’m not sure which is exactly on top. Clothes, the equality of people before the law, any scene where Homer Simpson gives a false name, and the curried tofu the farmer’s market on the west side of town has are in the top ten. I’m happy to wear most any kind of clothing. If I run across one while at home I’ll just toss it on, which works out better in winter.

There is one point at which this clothes-appreciation stops. That point is my feet. Not socks. I retain a love of socks even though I am still afraid to read about their history. They belong to the class of clothes that feel wonderful to put on, to have on, and to take off, along with bathing suits and long underwear. They don’t feel so good when they’re wet or have pebbles in them, but that is the fault of the water or pebbles and not inherent to the socks themselves. Also not so good if they have holes, but that’s again not the fault of the socks. Ask a pair of socks to vote on whether they should have holes or not and they would flop over, helpless in their inanimate sock natures. But I expect they’d want to have only the one authorized hole for slipping the entire foot in. I almost wrote “whole” foot there, but I didn’t want to distract people by thinking of foot-holes. That’s unsettling, which socks are not.

No, my problem is with shoes. I say it’s the fault of shoes. I’ve owned literally more than a dozen shoes and they’ve all been made of pain. Some just a little bit of pain. Others, especially boots, are vast, highly organized networks of intensely concentrated pain. Shoe-makers insist the problem is that since I am tall, I have feet that are large, toe-to-heel, and also rather more curved than the average. So either my big toe or my … part of the foot on the other side of the big toe … falls outside the normal bounds of a shoe. I say the shoe-makers are at fault, for installing in every pair of shoes ever made small, pneumatically fired mallets battering every part of my foot every moment that I wear them. So I’m always finding excuses to take my shoes off. “Why, wouldn’t it be impolite to wear my shoes in your house?” “We’re going to be on this plane nearly two hours, why not slip my feet out?” “Oh, I’m at the hipster barcade so much it’s almost like home, I can leave my shoes behind.”

Yes, in time, I get used to the pains of any particular pair of shoes and they get familiar enough to be sort of pleasant-ish. And that lasts for minutes, because that’s when the soles start to collapse and I end up walking on the pile of jagged spikes ordinarily hidden in them. Then I go on for another couple months hoping something will turn up. Meanwhile the shoes grow holes large enough to let my toes through and if you think I’m exaggerating this I will include a picture of my recently-retired boots unless it turns out I’m lazy.

My several-years-old pair of boots, which have cracks along their toes and which have almost come loose from the heels, which are shredded things anyway.
What it takes to get me to stop wearing a pair of boots: find a pair of boots not just with lots of holes in them but also that don’t even point in the same direction.

So I went shopping for new shoes which I figured wouldn’t be better but would at least be different. This is not a metaphor. There was this promising rubber pair that went up nearly to my knees and had no laces. But it was too tight and as I tried taking it off I realized a cartoon might happen. Society escaped without a pair of size-12 knee-high rubber missiles firing from the shoe store towards the half-price calendars kiosk. At another store, another day, I tried one and found … something … wonderful.

They didn’t hurt! My feet went in and no particular part of my body was in agony. They just felt warm and as waterproof as you can tell from inside a Payless Shoe Store in the wing of the mall I never go to because there’s no bookstores there. It’s a wonder. I bought the shoes as fast as I could and I’ve just been delighted ever since. It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before.

My several-days-old pair of boots, or at least several-days-in-my-ownership boots, which are still even shiny and only have a little dirt on them because it was so much fun stepping in a puddle and not getting cold and wet from that.
I’m sorry to spend so much time talking about boots but you have to understand these ones don’t hurt me endlessly when I have them on and that’s an exciting development. I mean, I even got to step in a puddle of slushy water and my feet didn’t come out cold and wet and more miserable and when does that even happen? Never, I tell you, never! PS: See how not-lazy I am?

The shoes are a size 14. That’s bigger than I’ve ever worn before. It’s a size more generally associated with kangaroos who play basketball. It’s large enough if I ever took my boots off inside, say, a Best Buy I’d be able to sneak a Smart TV or a sales associate or maybe the water fountain out in them. I’ve never seen size 14s in a normal shoe store before and I may never see them again. I don’t care. I have shoes that work as shoes. I may never take them off again, except that it feels so good to take them off.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Although the Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose seven points over the trading day there’s little reason to think it’s because anyone was doing anything not connected to the panini-press debate. So few people were paying attention to what the index was doing that it might well have risen seven points entirely on a stiff breeze. Someone broke the George Foreman grill.

97

Without Denying That We Have Bigger Problems


So suppose some alien agency does find the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes and finds the golden record on them. That’s fine enough. And I imagine that they’d be able to work out what the disc was for, since aliens skilled enough to catch a space probe like that probably understand sound waves well enough and can work out what engraved wiggles probably are. And going from a long spiral wiggle to, you know, playing the sound is probably straightforward enough. But what happens if they take that recording of the sounds of Earth and play it backwards? Huh? What then?

Again I’m not saying we have to do something about this right this minute. We can wait until we have some idea what to do about it. I’d just like to know that somebody’s got the problem under control.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

After several more hours of arguing the panini press only one-quarter of the traders are still talking to one another. In the scrum another four points went missing from the index and nobody seems to have even noticed. This is surely too high a price to pay however good people figure the sandwiches would be if they ever used one. The debate is expected to resume in the morning.

90

On Reflection As I Haven’t Seen That Billboard In A While


What if the sign in fact asked “What If Corn Knew Its Density” instead? Somebody or something has to know the density of corn. I don’t suppose most corn knows, what with it generally not being at all sapient and being involved in matters of density really only when it’s tossed into water. And at that point it probably has more urgent considerations than density qua density. I’m thinking, anyway. At least you could have a movie about some corn hero rising up to change its density and have that be a meaningful concept.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped four points as the trading floor was wracked by an argument about whether they had reached the point in life it was responsible for them to buy a panini press or whether one would just go collecting dust and shredded cheese again and they should stick to the George Foreman grill the occasional time someone wanted a warmed sandwich. The debate looks set to resume tomorrow as there’s one on sale that seems to have triggered the whole debate in the first place.

94

How My Week Is Starting


Well, I wrote down the day of the week and it came out “Thursday”. I wrote down the day of the month and it came out “22nd”. I wrote down the month and it came out “September”. And the year? That turned out to be “2016” because remember that? Yeah. So in that big flaming pile of fantastic wrongness I just have to ask: wait, was the 22nd of September a Thursday last year? … It was. How the heck did I get that right?

I did not get stuff wrong on my mathematics blog where I talked about comic strips, which is a different thing from when I talk about comic strips here on my humor blog, somehow. I think.

And how is your late-September working out?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped … no, wait it didn’t. I’m sorry. The index rose … oh, no, wait, it didn’t do that either. Well, it did a little of both, but it did just as much of both, so it ended up where it began, is what I’m saying. I think? Maybe everybody took off to commemorate Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. They should have. But they should’ve said something about that, too. Nobody tells me enough anymore. It’s all mysterious, that’s what I’m saying.

98

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp?


With Judge Parker last week I’ve wrapped up all the syndicated story comics that have had major changes in the writing or art staff recently, by which I mean within like the last five years. But there are more story strips out there, and chatting with my Twitter friends suggest people find them baffling. Plus, what the heck, these pieces are popular.

Gil Thorp

I want to share a bit about a piece of art that did that most precious of things: make a lifelong (so far) change in my attitude about something. It wasn’t Gil Thorp. It was this high school comedy/drama called Ed. One episode Ed was trying to help a bright student get a scholarship, and needed just a slightly higher grade in gym. Surely his colleague would help him help out a bright kid who just didn’t care about phys ed, right? “Yeah,” said the coach, “because it’s not like I’m a real teacher or anything.” (Something like that, anyway.) It stung Ed, and it stung me, because the coach was right. I’d sneered at gym class, mostly because it seemed to be 86 weeks per year of Jumping Jacks Only More Boring and twelve minutes of things someone might actually do, like softball or volleyball or archery or stuff. And because even as a kid I had the dynamic physique of a medieval cathedral, only with tighter hamstrings.

But the coach was right. If school has a point it’s to make people familiar at least with all the major fields of human endeavor. And being able to be healthy and active is part of that. It’s as real and serious a subject as the mathematics or English or arts or science or music classes are. (In the episode, Ed came back humbled, and the gym teacher allowed the student to earn the “needed” grade by doing extra work.) And that’s stuck with me. I may not much care for sports, but that’s my taste. I should extend to it, and its enthusiasts, the same respect I give enthusiasts for other stuff I’m just not into.

Gil Thorp has not changed my attitudes on anything important nearly like that. The comic strip — which dates back to 1958 — has been written by Neal Rubin since 2004 Wikipedia tells me. It’s been drawn by Rod Whigham since 2008. So they’ve got the hang of what they want to do. There are other comic strips set in schools, such as Jef Mallet’s nearly joke-a-day Frazz and Tom Batiuk’s continuity-comedy-bathos Funky Winkerbean. But this is the only story strip that I guess gets into newspapers that’s set in high school. It’s also the only sports-themed story strip, and one of only a few remaining sports-themed comics at all. Why this should have survived and, say, Flash Gordon didn’t I don’t know, but what the heck.

Rubin and Whigham have a pretty clear idea what they want to do. Pretty much every season of the year has a story about the season’s appropriate sporting activity. One or two student-athletes, often new people but sometimes characters who were supporting players previous years, dominate the storyline. They go through some shenanigans trying to be students, or athletes, or teens. The important thing here is that they are teens, and even smart teenagers are kind of dumb. Eventually they’re dumb enough that Coach Gil Thorp has to call him in to their office and explain to them to knock it off, which they mostly do. On to the next season. Often the starts of one storyline reappear as supporting players in later storylines, for a year or two. This implies Rubin and Whigham keep careful continuity records so they know when each student entered the school, what they played, how they were doing, when they left and under what circumstances. I admire the craftsmanship involved.

(A Brief Juggling Exhibition By Aaron Aagard.) 'Dude, you are the worst juggler in the valley!' 'Yeah --- but now I've got three apples.' (Later) 'I see what you mean, Ken. Even when you want to be stamed at the guy ... you can't.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 30th of December, 2016. Aagard had walked up to the lunch table and asked if anyone wanted to see him juggle; “prepare to be amazed!” I do like how the sequence establishes a lot about Aagard’s personality and how he’s just likable enough to overcome what’s annoying about him.

Dumbness is important. The Gil Thorp kids don’t tend to be stupid in malicious or obnoxious ways. Just dumb in the way that people who aren’t used to thinking through the situation are. For example, a few storylines ago the problem was one of the athletes getting the idea in his head that ADHD medicine would help his performance. So he pressured one of the kids who has Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder to share his medicine. After resisting a while, the pressured student starts passing along … aspirins with the name filed off. The kid buys it. It’s the sort of thing that you do when you grow up thinking you’re in a sitcom filmed before a live studio audience and this is the sort of thing that makes the tense audience gasp and then applaud. When Thorp finally found out, he suspended both, on the correct grounds that they were being dumb. Well, that one was trying to get drugs off another student, and that student was passing him drugs, even if harmless ones.

That’s pretty much the way things go, though. There’s kids puttering along into mostly minor scrapes, as followed by updates in-between sporting events. There’s a developing crisis in which Gil Thorp is finally pulled into the storylines of his own strip to tell everyone to knock it off. And there’s the steady beat of how the team finishes the season in football (in the autumn), basketball (in the winter), softball (in the summer), and whatever sport catches Rubin’s fancy (in the summer). Sometimes it’s the boys’ team that gets the focus, sometimes the girls’. Sometimes the story involves trading off the focus. Now and then the teams get into the playoffs, or as the dialect of wherever the school is has it, “playdowns”, sometimes they fall short. They do well enough that nobody really calls for Thorp to resign. Perhaps they know that would end the comic. Or end their part in it, since he’d presumably go on to some other high school to sort of coach.

There will be surprises. 2016’s spring storyline grew to encompass all summer when one of the students was hit and killed in a messy, stupid car accident. Given the genially dopey nature of what had been going on before, a dose of actual blood was shocking. It scrambled my expectations. Good that I could have expectations and that they could break them in a credible way.

So, the current storyline. It’s about new basketball team star Aaron Aagard. He’s a solid player, a good student, charming in a weird way. At least he’s trying to be. I don’t know how you feel about 17-year-olds who make excuses to juggle. Anyway, that’s all on his good days. On his bad days he’s distracted, unconnected, and maybe falling asleep. Perhaps he’s just exhausted. He goes to raves, even on school nights, which is the sort of low-key scandalous behavior that fits the Gil Thorp worldview.

(Ken Brown and Mike Granger pop back into the locker room and ...) 'Molly? You bet! I can't do Kill The Noise without Molly. And that goes for Saturday, too!' 'Did we just hear what we think we heard?' 'Yeah. And I still didn't get my wallet.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 4th of January, 2017. Kill The Noise is a band for the show Aagard was going to. I don’t know whether it’s an actual band. The name’s plausible enough. The strip does toss in real stuff sometimes. A few years ago the star of that season’s storyline was Lucky Haskins, named for a notable Ohio highway sign. (As “Luckey Haskins”.)

Maybe a bigger problem is some of his teammates overheard him talking about “taking Molly”. They believe that’s slang for ecstasy. Maybe it is. I don’t know. I’m what the hep kids call “a square”. So while I don’t know I’m willing to accept that any otherwise unaccounted-for word is slang for ecstasy. The kids think it over and after Aagard has a couple more unreliable days they pull the coach in. This seems early. The story only started the 12th of December. Maybe the story’s going to spin out in stranger ways. Maybe they want to start softball season early.

Aagard said if he could just have a few days he’d clear up this whole “taking Molly” thing. That’s again the sort of dumb thing you do if you think you’re living in a three-camera sitcom and setting up a big reveal that Molly is your generically-disabled niece or something. Thorp seems to have gone along with that, which is dumb. Unless Aagard explained stuff off-panel and clearing this up is about explaining it to his teammates. Which I expect, but could be wrong about.

'Someone heard me say I was taking Molly? Tell you what, Coach, we're playing at Tilden this Friday. If you give me until then, I can clear this up.' (Friday night --- and Aaron Aagard announces his presence early.)
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 14th of January, 2017. A cherished motif of the devoted Gil Thorp reader is to work out exactly how annoyed Thorp is that he’s got to deal with these student athletes. So, look at him in that first panel and ponder: is he getting ready to strange Aaron Aagard, or is he merely a shade-less Roy Orbison circa 1964?

Someone on, I think, the Comics Curmudgeon blog found there actually is a region of the United States where the high school sports postseason is called the “playdowns”. I forget what the region is. But, hey, I’ve been places where they label water fountains “bubblers”. I can take “playdowns”. It says something about Rubin’s determination to stick to a specific kind of craft that he’s holding on to the term “playdown”. Nobody would complain if they switched to “playoff” like everybody else says. People would stop making jokes about the comic’s little weirdness in saying “playdown”. Rubin’s decided the comic strip will be what it is, even if they’re made fun of for it. That’s an important thing to take out of high school too.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped five points as traders reported a night of unsteady, broken sleep, constantly interrupted by thoughts of Donald Trump and the theme song to Vacation being stuck in their heads. The editorial staff extends their deepest condolences.

98

Statistics Saturday: Art Prompts


  • Dogs in glasses.
  • Raccoons in glasses.
  • I mean eyeglasses.
  • Wearing eyeglasses.
  • Not “in drinking glasses”.
  • Although that would kind of be cool too.
  • So maybe raccoons in drinking glasses wearing eyeglasses.
  • Or any animals in drinking glasses wearing eyeglasses.
  • 3-D glasses would work too.
  • Oh, uh, I dunno, maybe you as a kid doing that Calvin and Hobbes “Let’s Go Exploring” final-ever panel? That’s art, right? I bet that’s art.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index found itself at 103 today and fell into a quarrel about whether the trading floor was suffering from deja vu, from plagiarism, or was just victim of an astounding coincidence. The matter was not settled by press time, but the arguments have got into who was showing disloyalty to who in a bitter fight eighteen years ago so this is sure to turn out well.

103

The Standoff, In E-Mail


I wanted to finally give in to the inevitable and officially switch my e-mail model from “things I will someday answer” to “a pile of text composting”. I’ve got some fine little queries dating back to 2014 that will surely make a rich, natural creative soil someday. But to get my inbox properly designated a compost e-mail bin I had to send the state office for this sort of thing you guessed it, an e-mail. And I see from their FAQ that even if they do ever answer it I’m going to have to answer some follow-up questions and e-mail them back. I bet it’s one of those psyche-out tests where you have to declare the correct thing to do is not follow the rules. I hate those. Expect stern letter to follow as soon as I’ve looked up that question about McDonald’s stock valuation my dad was wondering about back then.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped four points today, which rolled underneath the stand we keep the TV on and which is too much trouble to move for anything less than the pre-Thanksgiving major cleaning the house gets. We’d do something about that but there’s somehow more cables than there are pairs of things to be cabled together back there even though everything is plugged in on both ends. Even if we cared about a measly four points we wouldn’t care about them enough to deal with that. Check back with us in mid-November and maybe we’ll have them then.

101

New In Town


Here’s some of the new openings in town.

Four Flats. This newly opened concept bar charges a flat four dollars, serving up just as much volume as your four dollars is worth. This simplifies the problem of working out what you can afford but complicates the problem of how large a glass you’re going to get. Fair selection balanced by more variable-sized glasses than you can possibly imagine. Tour groups are admitted to the stock room for two hours before the open of business every day. Do not ask for the complimentary water as that’s just delivered by fire hose. 4 pm – 2 am except Sundays we think. 118 E Quarrel St.

The Can Trader. Just the spot for the beer fancier looking for something new and unexpected: before the bartender fills your order any other patron is allowed to swap your order for hers or his. The trading doesn’t stop there as in the ten minutes leading up to the hour anyone is allowed to swap their drink with someone else’s yet again. Add to that the lack of labels and you could easily spend a night having some fantastic pale ale or IPA or something you never heard of before and never have the faintest idea what the heck you’re drinking. Opens 2 pm daily, closes after the brawl. 44 Upper Pridmore’s Swamp Road.

Newscaster Karaoke Brew Pub. Taking the karaoke-bar concept up just that one extra notch this spot lets patrons sit at a real working news desk. They can try to work their way through the local, state, and national news, then on to weather, sports, human interest features, Mister Food’s Recipes For People Who Guess They Like Food As A Concept, a recap of weather, and the humane society’s adoptable pet of the day in-between batter-dipped mushrooms and $2 PBR’s. 3 pm to 2 am except between 6:00 and 6:30 and 11:00 and 11:35, or any time the security guard is noticed down the hall. Channel 6 broadcast studios, back door, password “Chris Kapostasy sent me”.

Molecubrew. You know that Carl Sagan quote about making an apple pie by starting with a universe? People who can’t get enough of that are believed responsible for this new experience in being surrounded by test tubes. No brand names, but patrons get to pick quantities and amounts from over 4,500 flavor compounds. And, gads, yes, you have to tell them you want ethanol and water and carbon dioxide and good lord. Though it’s been going only a month they’ve got a thriving community going on Telegram with all sorts of recipes that range from “kind of PBR-ish, if I have to pick something” through “an experience you probably will admit you had” and on to “Diet Pibb Xtra”. Act cool. Best menu item: fried stringy things most of which are potatoes, although if you get one that is an actual fried shoestring your entire tab is free. An evening here will let you know which of your friends think it’s the height of hilarity to speak of “dihydrogen monoxide”, so you won’t have to spend time with them anymore after that. If they start talking about the hazards of dihydrogen monoxide you can shove them under the safety shower and flee. 12 noon – 12 midnight except Mondays. Gibbs Alley, Science and Educational Store District.

The Introverted Turtle. This charming former abandoned laundromat has joined the city’s growing Introvert Chic movement. Its concept, perfect for the country’s newest self-identified self-satisfied community, lets one spend the night hanging out with almost no social interaction. Patrons, bartenders, and kitchen staff alike spend their experiences hiding underneath the cloth-draped tables and never speak to any other person out loud. Submit orders by crumpled-up pieces of paper tossed in the general direction of the bar without looking or by Twitter direct-message to an account they swear no living person is monitoring. Instead of attaching a name to your order list the name of your table’s mythical South Seas island. Hours not listed because the staff kept whimpering whenever we asked them. Sorry. 2250 Lower Plank Lake Road, Upper Level.

A Space. A combination sports bar and live-action roleplaying experience, this newest addition to the Shops That Used To Be Part Of Muckle’s Department Store has the look of a partly-open-plan office floor for one of those companies where nobody really knows what they’re doing or why. Settle in pretending to be part of the sales, marketing, IT, administrative support, or janitorial sections, and enjoy a different selection of food, drinks, prices, and of course programming on the highly realistic computer or TV screens at every desk or corners of “break” rooms. An extra feature described as “Orwellian” and “a nightmarish intrusion on privacy but also strangely comforting” is that the TVs in the bathrooms show footage of the most recent employee to use the bathroom, proving they did indeed wash their hands before resuming service. 10 percent discount if the maitre d’ can guess your actual job. Must bring W-4 for verification to collect. 11 am – 1 am, 111 Canal Street, Lunch Entrance.

Curious about a new place? Contact us care of some office for more!

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index stayed at 105 today as none of the surrounding numbers looked any good at all.

105

Statistics Saturday on a Wednesday: December 2016 in my Statistics


So now I’ve had some time to look over my WordPress statistics for December 2016 and I can share them with you.

It was a busier month in December than in November and I have to credit my string of explanations of what’s going on in the story strips for that. You think of the story strips as the part of the newspaper comics nobody reads, but the Internet is so vast that even nobody is a lot of people. That came out to 1,396 page views from 818 distinct visitors. That’s up from November’s 1,219 views from 708 visitors. It’s down from the October figures, though, of 1,507 views from 974 visitors. I have no explanation for all that.

The number of likes was 137, barely up from November’s 134, and down from October’s 160. There were only 20 comments, which seems like an undercount. But that is up from November’s 14. And down from October’s 32. September had 69; I’ve got to go back and figure what the heck went on there. I don’t know.

As I say, what really brought people in for December was talking about comics. I’m a little surprised since it isn’t hard to find comics snark out there. But maybe just catching people up on what they’ve missed is of reliable interest. We’ll know when I try to explain what the heck is with Gil Thorp anyway.

December’s most-read pieces were:

Now for the ever-popular list of countries. There were 18 single-reader countries in December, down from 21. There were 42 countries listed altogether, down from 50. My readership in Singapore dropped 50 percent. C’mon, guys, I thought we were friends? Well, here goes.

Country Readers
United States 1160
India 40
Canada 36
United Kingdom 24
Germany 21
France 18
Philippines 15
Australia 7
Italy 6
Mexico 6
Japan 5
Brazil 3
Ireland 3
Saudi Arabia 3
South Africa 3
Chile 2
China 2
Ecuador 2
Finland 2
Greece 2
Netherlands 2
Russia 2
Singapore 2
Vietnam 2
Argentina 1
Bangladesh 1
Belgium 1
Colombia 1 (*)
Croatia 1 (*)
Hong Kong SAR China 1
Malaysia 1
New Zealand 1
Nigeria 1
Pakistan 1
Poland 1

Portugal 1
Spain 1
Thailand 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1
Turkey 1
United Arab Emirates 1
Zimbabwe 1

Colombia and Croatia were also single-reader countries last month. Nobody’s on a three-month single-reader streak. No sign of the mysterious “European Union” viewer.

The month started with my blog having 44,707 page views from 23,682 viewers. I didn’t keep track of how many people were following on January 1st and I’m feeling too lazy to work out how many added or dropped since then because guh who could? The Insights page … I’m not sure how to get the statistics for December alone. Right now it’s saying Tuesday was my most popular day, with 19 percent of views, a slight increase from November’s lead for Tuesdays. The most popular hour remains midnight, 8 percent of views, but that’s about what you’d expect if every hour of the day.

If you’d like to follow this blog, by WordPress or by e-mail, there’s buttons in the upper-right corner of the page to do that. They’re just underneath the search bar. My Twitter feed, @nebusj, is also sitting in the upper-right corner. Yes, I finally turned my vague and unfocused dissatisfaction with the “Truly Minimal” theme into actual switching to the “Twenty Sixteen” theme. This is because everybody loves when web sites just change their look. But I like what it does with comics images better. Oh, wait, it does different stuff based on how wide your web browser is. I didn’t know that. Well, it doesn’t seem to do anything bad yet. Will have to think about this more.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rushed upwards nine points, nearly making a first down, before being pushed back down three points by an aggressive ground game. Must admire the spunk on the opposing team, though. Good sportsmanship all around.

105

Meanwhile As I Scrutinize My E-Mail Like Every Five Minutes


I’m starting to suspect WordPress isn’t going to send me that “look how your 2016 was!” report with the animated picture of fireworks going off for every post and talking about how many people from what countries read my blogs. I hope it isn’t because of something I did, like keep on using the old-fashioned way of entering new posts. I tried, I really tried, using the new system but it’s designed the way web sites are done anymore, where everything is a bunch of floating loose islands and they’re all colored borderless rectangles and there’s no guessing what’s a button and what’s a label and what’s done automatically and what you have to find and press a button to do. I don’t want to sound prematurely old. It’s just that when I look at a web site and wonder if they’re trying to gamify my user experience I feel like I have to wash my hands. And I already do that like 260 times a day which should be enough except it never is and maybe I should go do it again. Anyway I liked the fireworks thing.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped back below 100 again, daring people to insist that it’s a psychological barrier or in fact any kind of barrier at all. “Ha, ha,” say traders, “we can go anywhere we want as long as it isn’t below 90 again,” and then curled up on the floor sobbing and declaring there’s no such thing as 89, there’s no such thing as 89.

99

In Which The Local Indie Totally Rips Off My Unread College Left-Wing Newspaper From Two Decades Ago


So back a couple weeks ago I talked about something from my undergraduate days when I was doing the humor page for my campus’s unread leftist weekly. I did a joke where I printed a crossword puzzle with entirely nonsense clues. And then the next week posted a note that because of an editing error the wrong clues were printed and here was the correct version, and then I reprinted the original clues and puzzle which no human could possibly have solved. And then the next week I printed a note saying the error had somehow been made again and here was the real and truly correct puzzle. And I reran the exact same set of nonsense clues with a puzzle. Because that is the sort of Dadaist nonsense that’s extremely funny when you’re a 21-year-old nerd.

And then just before Christmas the local alt-weekly put up this correction.

A crossword puzzle headed with the ``Oops!'' graphic and a warning they mistakenly ran the wrong clues with the previous week's puzzle.
From the Lansing City Pulse of the 21st of December, 2016 which I only just got to because it was a more exhausting week than you imagine.

I’m not saying the Lansing, Michigan, free city paper necessarily swiped a gag that ran in the Rutgers College weekly that at least our parents were pretty sure they liked all the work we put into it back in the mid-90s and that’s been forgotten except by me and my then-Editor-in-Chief who desperately wanted to believe there was some kind of answer to the puzzle. I’m just observing this happened.

This all was plenty to delight me but then I looked at the solution to the mistaken crossword puzzle. I just wondered if they printed the solution for the correct puzzle or not. And they didn’t. They printed what would have been the solution for the wrong puzzle, except that all those answers were blank. Just like I noticed the week before that.

The crossword solution from the mistaken week. It's entirely blank, the way the answers the week before had been.
From the Lansing City Pulse of the 14th of December, 2016 just in case you don’t believe me and them about the crossword puzzle having gone wrong. You have seen this before.

And whatever the mistake was they didn’t just reprint the solutions to their puzzles from the previous week. They had a different sudoku solution and so far as anyone has told me one that’s even right.

A big old crossword puzzle with no obvious sign that it's entirely wrong.
From the Lansing City Pulse of the 14th of December, 2016 if you’d like to try doing a crossword puzzle with all the wrong clues for some reason.

I want it clear, I’m not trying to shame or blame or insult anybody at the alt-weekly for this. I like the paper, especially when the local architecture critic goes nuts, and without it I’d never have any idea how many high-concept bars serving stuff smothered in duck fat were opening around town. I understand how everything’s done by too few people in not enough time and accidents slip through. I’m just delighted to see the aftermath is all.

Here’s the comic strips my mathematics blog looked at yesterday, in a theme format I haven’t gone changing recently but keep thinking I should.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose six points to finish the day at 103 despite fears that they’ve done the 103 thing so often people are going to start calling it hack work.

103

What’s Going On With Judge Parker?


[Edited the 6th of June, 2017 to add] Thanks for looking to me for tips on the developments in Judge Parker. This post is from January of 2017. Summaries of more recent storylines should be available at this link at or near the top of its page.


So, you know the difference between Rex Morgan, M.D. and Judge Parker? Yeah, me neither. I’m not meaning to be snarky here. It’s just both story comics are about people who nominally have exciting professional jobs but never get around to doing those jobs because they’re busy having strangers throw money and valuable prizes at them. They were even both created by Nicholas P Dallis (in 1952 and 1948, respectively). There’s a lot in common. That changed in a major way in 2016.

Judge Parker

So a few years ago Alan Parker retired and kicked out a book based on one of his adventures as the comic’s original title character. (His son’s taken over the judgeship, and nominally heads the comic.) Writing’s a common second job for comic strip characters. And his book was fabulously successful. It’s a common hazard for comic strip characters. Mike Patterson of For Better Or For Worse had similar success. Adam of Adam @ Home is on the track for that right now. Even Tom Batiuk couldn’t keep his Funky Winkerbean character-author, Les Moore, from being a wildly successful author forever. Chris Browne, heir to the Hi and Lois/Hagar the Horrible fortune, had a comic strip Raising Duncan that was all about a married couple of wildly successful mystery authors.

The thing is, even by comic strip character standards, Alan Parker’s book was wildly popular. Everyone loved it. People recognized him from his dust jacket. An illegal-arms merchant backed off whatever he was up to because he was so impressed by the book. Parker’s book sold to the movies, and the movies wanted Alan himself to write the script. For lots more money. The recreation director of the cruise ship he was on loved the book and was so excited about a movie deal she showed him how to install script-writing software on his computer. And got him started on writing a script everyone agreed was just the best script ever.

'You're an exceptional writer, Alan! I wish you only the best with your future projects!' 'Thank you, Delbert. I, uh, meant no disrespect to your wife' 'Oh, no worries. I thought [ her review ] was a hatchet job, too!' And his wife gets meaner and uglier and fatter-looking while this all happens.
Woody Wilson and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 13th of December, 2013. Finally Judge (retired) Alan Parker knows that even the husband of the woman who hated his book understands she was wrong and his book was the greatest thing humanity has done since creating Tim Tams. The woman, Audrey Harrison, is described as a professor at Yale and Princeton, teaching literature and, I suppose Being an Internet Hater. Hey, if I could get a double tenure track job in Internet Hatering I’d take it too.

It’s not just that the book succeeded. It’s that the universe arranged for everyone in the world to love the book. Almost everyone. There was an English professor, allegedly a professor at Princeton and Yale, who wrote a review panning it. Parker tracked her down and publicly berated her, and her husband agreed with Parker. The book was just that good. And that’s how Judge Parker built itself up through to summer of last year.

A bit of success is fine. First-time authors, high school garage bands, start-up businesses fail all the time. Even more often they get caught in that mire where they aren’t succeeding, but they’re also not failing clearly enough to walk away from. Surely part of the fun in reading stories about them is the stories in which they manage to succeed. It’s the wildly undeserved success that made the comic an ironic-read masterpiece, topping even Rex Morgan, M.D.. Or just infuriating. If you’ve ever known a high school band trying to do a gig, you’re annoyed by the idea Sophie Spencer should be able to demand a hundred dollars of the band’s whole take for the night in exchange for her deigning to be the merch girl. If you know anything about business you find something annoying in Neddy Spencer starting her clothing line by pressuring the country-music star head of an aerospace company to giving her a newly-completed plant and hiring a bunch of retired textile workers who’ll be cheap because they can use Medicaid instead of getting paid health benefits. Plus there’s some crazy stuff about international espionage, the kind that thinks it’s all sleek and awesome and glamorous rather than the shabby material that gets documented in books with titles like Legacy Of Shame: Failures Of The Intelligence Community And Their Disastrous Consequences In [ Your Fiasco Here ]. At some point it looks like a satire of the wish-fulfillment dreams of a creative person.

(I may be getting some of the characters’ last names wrong. There’s a lot of mixing of the Parker, Spencer, and Driver families and I do lose track. There’s what has historically been The Chosen Family; call them what you will.)

So that’s where things sat when the strip’s longtime writer Woody Wilson turned things over, in August, to Francesco Marciuliano. I expected Marciuliano to do well. He’s been writing Sally Forth all this century and become the prime example of how a comic’s original author is not always the best person to produce it. (He showcases that, and often writes about it, over on his WordPress blog, where he also shares his web comic.) I’d expected he would tamp down or minimize the stuff that could be brought back to realistic, and quietly not mention again the stuff that was just too much.

He hasn’t quite. He took the quite good cliffhanger, one literally drawn from the days of cliffhangers, that Wilson left him: Sophie and her band driving back from a gig, a little drunk and a lot exhausted, on a precarious mountain road in the rain, encountering a distracted truck driver who’s a little too slow to dodge them, and the kids go tumbling over the edge. Solid story stuff. You can see all kinds of potential here, not least to dial back the worst excesses of Sophie’s dictatorial powers over the band she forced herself into.

Police at a confusing crash scene. The truck driver babbles about Dahlia. The other car, the one carrying Sophie's band, went over the edge ... and went missing from there. With skid marks indicating something was dragged away, somehow.
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 4th of September, 2016. There’s a lot of exposition established here, although you’re forgiven for missing it in the really lovely washes of color. It’s hard doing any good visual effects in the limits of comic strips, and to do a complicated, crowded night scene is well-nigh impossible. I didn’t take much time to write about Manley’s art, so please take this strip and ponder all the ways it could have been a disaster.

Marciuliano went crazy instead. The truck driver wasn’t merely distracted. He was driving illicitly, with a satchel full of money, and apparently stalking a call-in radio show host. Possibly he was carrying out a hit on the kids. The crashed car went missing. The kids, except one — not Sophie — went missing. For months. The intimation is that some of the shadowier figures who’re in the Parker orbit wanted to send them a warning, but things got messier than even they imagined. You know, the way a good crime-suspense novel will have brilliant plans executed by people not quite brilliant enough and then all sorts of people are trying desperately to patch enough together to get out of the way.

It’s a daring strategy. Ambitious. Exciting. In the immediate aftermath of the change the results were particularly suspenseful. Marciuliano, probably trained by Sally Forth out of the story-strip habit of over-explaining points, had enough stuff happen that it could be confusing. (I did see Comics Curmudgeon commenters complaining about things that had already been addressed in the text.) But it felt revolutionary. It reached that point story strips rarely achieve. There wasn’t any fair guessing what the next day’s installment might bring.

A sinkhole swallows up most if not all of the misbegotten clothing-manufature storyline. Neddy pleads for help, 'Please help me get the employees! They're still in the factory!' There aren't emergency exits; they work in containerized cargo units, and are trapped. Local news is getting the disaster as it unfolds.
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 16th of October, 2016. Among the bits too crazily distracting to mention in the main article: to get needed office and floor space in the newly-built aerospace factory turned over to garment manufacture, they put in containerized-cargo units. The strip (with Wilson writing) explained this was totally a thing that some companies did for real, when they needed office space and had more vertical space than elevators available. And I have seen this sort of thing done, like to put up artist’s exhibitions at the piers in Wildwood, New Jersey. But it’s not the sort of thing to toss in without careful thought.

Some other pieces of the old excesses were resolved no less dramatically. Marciuliano ended the quagmire of the ever-less-plausible clothing-factory storyline by throwing it into a quagmire. A sinkhole opened underneath the factory, taking the entire thing down on the opening day for the project, sinking it beneath the recriminations and accusations of fraud and misconduct that should have kept the idea from starting. And I appreciated the dramatic irony that so much utterly wrong behavior on the main characters’ parts could finally be undone by something that was not in any way their fault. (I mean, what kind of person figures “we should hire the elderly because they’ll be so happy to get any work we can make them cheat for their medical care”? I mean any person who should be allowed into civilization.)

And others are just getting tamped down mercifully. Alan Parker’s movie has fallen into that state where everybody’s happy to have meetings but nothing ever happens. He’s eager to write another book. He’s got one sentence. He doesn’t like it. That is, sad to say, more like what really happens.

Is it successful? I say yes. I say it’s the biggest turnaround in story comics since Dick Tracy stopped being incompetent. The experience reminds me of the time Andy Richter mentioned how he and his wife had meant to go bowling ironically, “but we ended up having actual fun”.

Have I got doubts? Well, sure. I always have doubts. The main doubt is that September through December tossed a lot of new pieces and plot ideas into the air. There’ve been a lot of questions raised about what’s going on, and why, and how they’re trying to do whatever they’re up to. Questions are the relatively easy part of writing. The trick is getting a resolution that makes any sense. Bonus points if it makes sense when you go back and read the start of the story again.

'And so that brings us to today. Specifically, this morning. When Sophie Spencer, missing since September, entered the local diner and asked for some tea.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 9th of December, 2016. The strip jumped several months ahead after the twinned disasters of the car crash with Sophie and her band’s disappearance and the factory sinkhole. Here it came to the end of a week explaining how the town was starting to get back to whatever normal was anymore.
A habit of Marciuliano’s I didn’t have the chance to get into: his characters are aware of pop culture. Not to the point that Ted Forth is in Sally Forth, who’s in danger of someday merging with a Mystery Science Theater 3000 Obscure Riffs Explained page, but more than normal for the natural squareness of story comics. It can be a bit distracting when (eg, in a Sunday strip I decided not to include here) a character tell a radio call-in show host how she couldn’t take the aftermath of all this and so she ran, and she’s asked if putting on some Phil Collins might help. Some of that makes a character sound more natural; we all talk in references. Sometimes it comes out weird. But about forty percent of all human conversation are weird.

Will that happen? I don’t know. That’s Marciuliano’s problem. I just have to have a reaction to it. He’s got my attention. Of the story strips going on right now that’s the one I’d recommend giving yours.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped below the psychologically important level of 100 today, in what analysts and traders called “yet another flipping time already”. Many were caught rolling their eyes and saying sheesh, with one old-time Usenet addict doing to far as to say “furrfu” out loud. We’re starting to doubt that 100 really is that important a psychological barrier to or from anything anymore.

97

MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Coon, Chapter V


Previously:

  1. Chapter I
  2. Chapter II
  3. Chapter III
  4. Chapter IV

And now the conclusion of my MST3K treatment of The Tale of Fatty Coon.

>
>
> V

TOM: It was.

CROW: Maybe the real punishment was having to be Fatty Coon all along.

>
> FATTY COON GOES FISHING

MIKE: A very special episode.

>
> One day Fatty Coon was strolling along the brook which flowed
> not far from his home.

CROW: Swift Creek?

TOM: Foster Brook.

MIKE: That’s … actually too new a reference for this.

> He stopped now and then, to crouch close to the
> water’s edge, in the hope of catching a fish.

CROW: ‘What if a fish was a goshawk egg pie?’

> And one time, when he
> lay quite still among the rocks, at the side of a deep pool, with his
> eyes searching the clear water, Fatty Coon suddenly saw something
> bright, all yellow and red, that lighted on the water right before
> him. It was a bug, or a huge fly.

MIKE: Or a tiny flying saucer.

TOM: Fatty eats the aliens’ peaceful expedition before they get started.

> And Fatty was very fond of bugs—to
> eat, you know.

ALL: We *know*.

CROW: As opposed to the ones he trains for pets.

> So he lost no time. The bright thing had scarcely
> settled on the water when Fatty reached out and seized it.

CROW: But he already seezed it! It was right in front of his eyes!

> He put it
> into his mouth, when the strangest thing happened. Fatty felt himself
> pulled right over into the water.

MIKE: Finally he crosses the Chandrasekhar limit and collapses into a black hole.

>
> He was surprised, for he never knew a bug or a fly to be so
> strong as that. Something pricked his cheek and Fatty thought that the
> bright thing had stung him.

CROW: Then this family of nutrias comes up and slaps Fatty silly.

> He tried to take it out of his mouth, and
> he was surprised again. Whatever the thing was, it seemed to be stuck
> fast in his mouth.

TOM: He’s delighted by something wanting him to eat it for a change.

> And all the time Fatty was being dragged along
> through the water. He began to be frightened.

MIKE: Hungry and frightened: the Fatty Coon story.

> And for the first time
> he noticed that there was a slender line which stretched from his
> mouth straight across the pool. As he looked along the line Fatty saw
> a man at the other end of it—a man, standing on the other side of the
> brook!

CROW: ‘I don’t know how but I caught a human!’

TOM: ‘That’ll be eating for *hours*!’

> And he was pulling Fatty toward him as fast as he could.
>
> Do you wonder that Fatty Coon was frightened?

TOM: He didn’t have a license to catch men.

> He jumped
> back—as well as he could, in the water—and tried to swim away.

CROW: ‘Dive! Dive! Dive!’

> His
> mouth hurt; but he plunged and pulled just the same, and jerked his
> head and squirmed and wriggled and twisted.

MIKE: *Extremely* Chubby Checker!

> And just as Fatty had
> almost given up hope of getting free, the gay-colored bug, or fly, or
> whatever it was, flew out of his mouth and took the line with it.

CROW: I wonder if Fatty Coon will go on to learn nothing from this?


> At
> least, that was what Fatty Coon thought. And he swam quickly to the
> bank and scampered into the bushes.

MIKE: And ate his cover.

TOM: ‘Needs peanut butter!’

>
> Now, this was what really happened.

MIKE: Our story begins with the Algeciras Crisis of 1905.

> Farmer Green had come up
> the brook to catch trout. On the end of his fish-line he had tied a
> make-believe fly,

CROW: For the discerning fisher who doesn’t exist.

> with a hook hidden under its red and yellow wings.
> He had stolen along the brook very quietly, so that he wouldn’t
> frighten the fish.

TOM: He brought some presents in case he did, to reassure any scaredy-catfish.

> And he had made so little noise that Fatty Coon
> never heard him at all.

CROW: [ Fatty ] Hey, it’s hard to hear someone over the sound of my deep-fat fryer!

> Farmer Green had not seen Fatty, crouched as
> he was among the stones. And when Fatty reached out and grabbed the
> make-believe fly Farmer Green was even more surprised at what happened
> than Fatty himself.

TOM: Sammy Squirrel falls out of a tree, laughing.

MIKE: Fatty eats him.

> If the fish-hook hadn’t worked loose from Fatty’s
> mouth Farmer Green would have caught the queerest fish anybody ever
> caught, almost.

CROW: Well, there was that mermaid-cerberus this guy down in Belmar caught but that was something else.

>
> Something seemed to amuse Farmer Green, as he watched Fatty
> dive into the bushes; and he laughed loud and long.

TOM: See? Fatty Coon brings joy to the world, at last.

> But Fatty Coon
> didn’t laugh at all. His mouth was too sore;

MIKE: And full.

> and he was too
> frightened.

CROW: And awful.

> But he was very, very glad that the strange bug had flown
> away.

MIKE: And he learns the most important lesson of all, which is …

CROW: I dunno. Preferably food things.

TOM: Let’s blow this popsicle stand.

MIKE: Yeah, before Fatty eats it.

[ ALL exit the theater. ]

[ 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. TOM SERVO, MIKE, and CROW at the desk. ]

MIKE: Well.

TOM: So.

CROW: Well *and* so.

MIKE: So in his defense —

[ TOM, CROW groan. ]

MIKE: OK, but name something Fatty did that a real raccoon —

CROW: Don’t care.

TOM: Look, we already know Nature sucks. That’s why we have indoors. And animal stories where we like the animals.

CROW: And that is *all* the reminder of the cruel nature of the world that we ever need. Thank you.

MIKE: I .. well, over to you, Pearl.

[ CASTLE FORRESTER. PEARL, OBSERVER, and BOBO cackling. ]

PEARL: They don’t even suspect!

OBSERVER: Why would they?

BOBO: Suspect what?

[ PEARL, OBSERVER glare at BOBO. ]

BOBO: What?

OBSERVER: Chapters Six …

PEARL: Through Twenty.

BOBO: [ Not getting it. ] Oh. [ Getting it. ] Oh!

\ | /
\ | /
\|/
—O—
/|\
/ | \
/ | \

BOBO: [ Off screen ] Of this?

Mystery Science Theater 3000 and its characters and settings and concept are the property of … you know, I’m not sure. It used to be Best Brains but now I think that’s different? Well, it belongs to the people it really and truly belongs to and this is just me playing with their toys. _The Tale of Fatty Coon_ was written by Arthur Scott Bailey and published in 1915 and accessed via archive.org, which is why I am reasonably confident they’re in the public domain and can be used this way.

Keep Usenet circulating.

> Fatty Coon’s eyes turned green. It was a way they had,
> whenever he was about to eat anything

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped four points today, in trading that people suspected was just a repeat of yesterday’s. Some are speculating that the leading traders are hoping to make a regular thing of taking the weekends off and while I can’t blame them I also don’t think we want to encourage that sort of reckless talk.

101

MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Coon, Chapter IV


Previously:

  1. Chapter I
  2. Chapter II
  3. Chapter III

And now the next part of my MST3K treatment of The Tale of Fatty Coon.


>
>
> IV
>
> FATTY COON’S MISTAKE

TOM: Not getting editorial approval on this hit piece.

>
> Fatty Coon was very fond of squirrels.

CROW: Oh, Lord.

> And you may think it
> strange when I tell you that not one of the squirrels anywhere around
> Blue Mountain was the least bit fond of Fatty Coon.

MIKE: Is there anybody here that likes Fatty Coon?

CROW: There’s flocks of locusts that admire his work.

TOM: But even they won’t share a room with him.

> But when I say
> that Fatty Coon was fond of squirrels, I mean that he liked to eat
> them.

CROW: Yeah, yeah, we kinda saw that one coming.

TOM: People reading other stories saw *that* one coming.

> So of course you will understand now why the squirrels did not
> care for Fatty at all.

MIKE: Because the last three chapters didn’t make it clear?

> In fact, they usually kept just as far away
> from him as they could.

TOM: It’s as though they aren’t looking for chances to die.

>
> It was easy, in the daytime, for the squirrels to keep out of
> Fatty’s way, when he wandered through the tree-tops, for the squirrels
> were much sprier than Fatty.

CROW: But then the trees are sprier than Fatty.

> But at night—ah! that was a very
> different matter. For Fatty Coon’s eyes were even sharper in the dark
> than they were in the daylight;

MIKE: And his mouth was twelve hours bigger.

> but the poor squirrels were just as
> blind as you are when you are safely tucked in bed and the light is
> put out.

CROW: Now I want to get squirrels their own night lights.

MIKE: I want to check I’m not going to get eaten by a raccoon in my bedroom.

>
> Yes—when the squirrels were in bed at night, up in their nests
> in the trees, they could see very little. And you couldn’t say they
> were SAFE in bed,

TOM: Are they literally beds or nests or? I’m trying to work out the anthropomorphism level here.

> because they never knew when Fatty Coon, or his
> mother, or his brother, or one of his sisters, or some cousin of his,
> might come along and catch them before they knew it.

MIKE: Oh, good, it’s not just his protagonist he hates, Arthur Scott Bailey has it out for every raccoon.

TOM: The important thing for children’s animal fantasy is make your lead character as much like a serial killer as possible.

>
> Fatty thought it great sport to hunt squirrels at night.

CROW: He loves his reputation as an unstoppable random death-bringer!

> Whenever he tried it he usually managed to get a good meal.

TOM: So frogs stump him but squirrels are easy?

> And after
> he had almost forgotten about the fright the goshawk had given him in
> the tall hemlock he began to roam through the tree-tops every night in
> search of squirrels and sleeping birds.

CROW: It’s like they say, when you fall off a bike you have to get back up and eat it.

>
> But a night came at last when Fatty was well punished for
> hunting squirrels.

MIKE: At this point any punishment is a good start.

> He had climbed half-way to the top of a big
> chestnut tree, when he spied a hole in the trunk. He rather thought
> that some squirrels lived inside that hole.

TOM: ‘I’d leave then in peace but it’s been two hours since I ate the last five hundred passenger pigeons!’

> And as he listened for a
> few seconds he could hear something moving about inside. Yes! Fatty
> was sure that there was a squirrel in there—probably several
> squirrels.

CROW: Maybe one squirrel, two chipmunks, and a groundhog serving in an advisory capacity?

>
> Fatty Coon’s eyes turned green.

MIKE: Whoa!

TOM: Cyborg raccoon!

> It was a way they had,
> whenever he was about to eat anything, or whenever he played with his
> brother Blackie, or Fluffy and Cutey, his sisters; or whenever he was
> frightened.

CROW: Or when his laser batteries are running low.

> And now Fatty was so sure that he was going to have a fine
> lunch that his eyes turned as green as a cat’s.

TOM: Cyborg cats?

MIKE: This is why nature just isn’t a good idea.

> He reached a paw
> inside the hole and felt all around.

CROW: ‘Hey, there’s nothing in here but a paw-remover!’

>
> WOW! Fatty gave a cry; and he pulled his paw out much faster
> than he had put it in. Something had given him a cruel dig.

TOM: A … ?

CROW: Somebody really got at his paw’s emotional weaknesses.

> And in a jiffy Fatty saw what that "something" was. It was a grumpy old tramp
> coon, whom Fatty had never seen before.

MIKE: Buh?

CROW: What makes a *tramp* raccoon?

TOM: Raids the trash bins on a freight train I guess?

>
> "What do you mean, you young rascal, by disturbing me like
> this?" the ragged stranger cried.

CROW: He can call Fatty that because ‘rascal’ is a raccoon word.

TOM: They’ve reclaimed it.

>
> "Please, sir, I never knew it was you," Fatty stammered.
>
> "Never knew it was me! Who did you think it was?"

MIKE: I dunno, but I’m reading this with a W C Fields vibe.

>
> "A—a squirrel!" Fatty said faintly. And he whimpered a little,
> because his paw hurt him.

TOM: He sees what it’s like to get eaten some.

>
> "Ho, ho! That’s a good one! That’s a good joke!"

CROW: [ As the tramp ] ‘Thinking a squirrel might be hiding in a squirrel-hole in a tree! A rich jest, yes. Now let me get back to eating these squirrels.’

> The tramp
> coon laughed heartily. And then he scowled so fiercely that poor Fatty
> nearly tumbled out of the tree. "You go home," he said to Fatty. "And
> don’t you let me catch you around here again. You hear?"

MIKE: Or your paw shall get more digs and a few sharply barbed comments!

>
> "Yes, sir!" Fatty said. And home he went. And you may be sure
> that he let THAT tree alone after that. He never went near it again.

TOM: Wait, was that his well-punishment?

MIKE: Sometimes having to talk to someone is punishment enough.

[ To Conclude ]

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

While the Another Blog, Meanwhile index did drop four points in the course of trading, analysts are optimistic, insisting that those four points were just holding everyone back and that things are going to be much better now that they’re gone.

105

The First Of 2017


I want people not to think I’m starting the year lazy or timid. Not so much as, say, I want people not to think I’m running one of those mail-order scams where you send in some money every week for a year and then finally I send an associate over to spit in your nostrils. Just the idea of that makes me woozy. But starting the year lazy or timid is on the list of things I want people not to think about me. I also don’t want them starting the year trying to copy-edit that sentence. I want it to be a better sentence too, but there’s no doing it. All that even the best copy editor could do with that sentence is drag it across a mile of pavement and shoot it. I’ve tried. You can see where it left a trail of abraded participles down past the Blimpie’s and everything.

It’s a problem I have every new year. A new year offers the best chance for a new start that you can hope for without abandoning your identity completely and setting up shop under a new name in a new city in a new state in possibly a different time zone and using a transparently fake accent. That’s too much work for anybody, especially when they don’t want to lose their whole DVR queue. But you can at least start off the year doing things a little bit different and see if that delays how imminent the doom feels.

Like there’s this thing where it’s good luck to say “rabbit, rabbit” first thing the first day of the month. Probably that’s extra good to say first thing the first day of the year. I guess after waking up the next morning. If you aren’t going to say that then you want to say something that’s going to set the year on a positive tone. For me that ended up “what the heck are the people in the next room doing?” Because they had some low-level rattling noise going from about 8 am and you don’t want to hear someone practicing their small drum in the hotel. If we discount that on the grounds I fell right back asleep then my first words would be something like “the hotel Internet still isn’t working,” which didn’t get the year off on any better footing. It’s enough to make me wonder if I’d be better off starting the year with my mouth taped shut until I’m quite sure I have something worthwhile to say.

It would not, because I’d need lunch. And where to have the first lunch of the New Year? Home? Where’s the fun in that? The bagel place while reading the alt-weekly to see how its crossword puzzle has gone wrong this week? Great except the place is apparently closed for the holiday? Maybe I could wait until later in the week to eat? How about to the Obviously Used To Be An Arthur Treacher’s Fish And Chips That’s Carrying On Without The Arthur Treacher’s Name And Still Looks Like It’s 1989 Inside? That’s tempting but who can be sure they’re open on a holiday, or any other day? The sign out front might be rotating, but we’re pretty sure that’s just because it’s a breezy day. There’s the Kewpie Doll restaurant but we’re pretty sure that’s always closed. Once again, paralysis.

Or there’s just being online. Someone could start the year off right by saying just the right thing in the right social hangout. Here’s a thread arguing how on Star Trek: Voyager it’s just absurdly implausible that a Vulcan could have black skin instead of dark green skin. I check the calendar. No, it does say it’s 2017. Possibly everybody is confused on the point. I would understand, since 2016 gave us all the experience of living in a year whose every book about will be subtitled Twelve Months That Changed The World. But we do have to be going on to 2017. The alternative is taking a gap year between 2016 and 2018. I admit there’s some appeal to that. But it’ll leave us with something like twelve months of our feet dangling loose and we can’t do that either for some reason. Probably having to do with parliamentary procedure. Well, this could be just the right flame war to kick off the 2017 Pointless Online Arguments Season. Oh, the thread’s locked.

So there’s my paralysis. Get the new year off to any decent start? I can’t figure a way to do it. If you have any please write, care of some department. Use the right typeface! Meanwhile I’ll be in here, not doing anything because there’s no starting. Send help, if you can even.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped two points and fears it’ll never get out of the Philadelphia airport. It would like to, and it’s been following signs to the exit, but somehow the signs always end, no longer pointing to anything, without giving any hint how to get out of anything. It’s kind of eerie and suggests that traders are caught in some fairy tale about the futility of trying or something like that.

109

MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Coon, Chapter III


Previously:

  1. Chapter I
  2. Chapter II

And now the next part of my MST3K treatment of The Tale of Fatty Coon.

>
>
> III
>
> FATTY DISCOVERS MRS. TURTLE’S SECRET

TOM: Oh, tell me this is about lingerie.

>
> After his adventure with the goshawk Fatty Coon did not go
> near the tree-tops for a long time.

MIKE: Not until the trees put some elevators in.

> Whenever he left home he would
> crawl down the old poplar tree in which he lived;

CROW: Achieving speeds of up to 400 miles per hour.

> and he wouldn’t
> climb a single tree until he came home again. Somehow, he felt safer
> on the ground.

TOM: ‘You know, nobody ever drops a pie onto a tree. The ground, though, that’s some prime stuff-being-dropped territory!’

> You see, he hadn’t forgotten the fright he had had, nor
> how the goshawk’s claws had hurt his back.

MIKE: Emotionally.

>
> It was just three days after his scare, to be exact, when
> Fatty Coon found himself on the bank of the creek which flowed slowly
> into Swift River.

TOM: Suppose that’s named for how fast it is, or for its discoverer, Carol the Swift?

> Fatty had been looking for frogs, but he had had no
> luck at all.

MIKE: The frogs’ early warning system was in good shape.

> To tell the truth, Fatty was a little too young to catch
> frogs easily, even when he found one;

TOM: Except for the one he grabbed last chapter.

MIKE: Hope somebody got fired for that blunder.

> and he was a good deal too fat,
> for he was so plump that he was not very spry.

MIKE: Also last week he ate the creek.

CROW: ‘Well, last week we had nacho cheese popcorn seasoning to sprinkle on it!’

>
> Now, Fatty was hiding behind some tall rushes, and his sharp
> little eyes were looking all about him, and his nose was twitching as
> he sniffed the air.

CROW: ‘Wawa has paninis? This changes everything!

> He wished he might find a frog. But not one frog
> appeared. Fatty began to think that some other coon must have visited
> the creek just before him and caught them all.

TOM: The lifeless pond can have only one explanation.

MIKE: Raccoons: nature’s own little neutron bombs.

> And then he forgot all
> about frogs.
>
> Yes! Frogs passed completely out of Fatty Coon’s mind. For
> whom should he spy but Mrs. Turtle!

CROW: What do you suppose her maiden name was?

TOM: Oh, she kept it when she married Dr Lesser Brown Bat.

> He saw her little black head
> first, bobbing along through the water of the creek. She was swimming
> toward the bank where Fatty was hidden.

MIKE: She loves the bank with its little chained pens and deposit slips.

> And pretty soon she pulled
> herself out of the water and waddled a short distance along the sand
> at the edge of the creek.

TOM: ‘Well, at least I don’t have to worry here about getting eaten by a raccoon!’

>
> Mrs. Turtle stopped then; and for a few minutes she was very
> busy about something. First she dug a hole in the sand.

CROW: Um?

TOM: [ Giggles nervously. ]

> And Fatty
> wondered what she was looking for. But he kept very quiet.

MIKE: Should we be watching this?
[ TOM, CROW look conspicuously away. ]

> And after a
> time Mrs. Turtle splashed into the creek again and paddled away. But
> before she left she scooped sand into the hole she had dug.

TOM: Oh dear, she *is*.

> Before she
> left the place she looked all around, as if to make sure that no one
> had seen her.

CROW: What was her plan if someone did see her at this point?

MIKE: Take the eggs back?

> And as she waddled slowly to the water Fatty could see
> that she was smiling as if she was very well pleased about something.
> She seemed to have a secret.

TOM: Quick, call in Garry Moore to help!

>
> Fatty Coon had grown very curious, as he watched Mrs. Turtle.

CROW: ‘I wonder if I can use this to become an even less pleasant person?’

> And just as soon as she was out of sight he came out from his hiding
> place in the tall reeds and trotted down to the edge of the creek. He
> went straight to the spot where Mrs. Turtle had dug the hole and
> filled it up again.

MIKE: Gotta say, Mrs Turtle does not come out looking good here.

TOM: Yeah, her scouting process could really use some scouting.

> And Fatty was so eager to know what she had been
> doing that he began to dig in the very spot where Mrs. Turtle had dug
> before him.

CROW: Mmm, turtle poop.

>
> It took Fatty Coon only about six seconds to discover Mrs.
> Turtle’s secret. For he did not have to paw away much of the sand
> before he came upon—what do you suppose? Eggs! Turtles’ eggs!

MIKE: No, she’s the last Galopagos Island Tortoise, it’s the only hope of avoiding extinction!

> Twenty-seven round, white eggs, which Mrs. Turtle had left there in
> the warm sand to hatch.

CROW: ‘Turtles are goshawks?’

> THAT was why she looked all around to make
> sure that no one saw her. THAT was why she seemed so pleased.

TOM: *That* was why Mrs Turtle wasn’t part of her Species Survival Plan.

> For Mrs.
> Turtle fully expected that after a time twenty-seven little turtles
> would hatch from those eggs—

TOM: Each egg.

> just as chickens do—

MIKE: Did kids in 1915 need eggs explained to them?

> and dig their way out
> of the sand.

CROW: Again, good job checking, Mrs Turtle.

>
> But it never happened that way at all.

MIKE: Fatty Coon cackles delighted at his schemes.

> For as soon as he got
> over his surprise at seeing them, Fatty Coon began at once to eat
> those twenty- seven eggs. They were delicious.

TOM: Do we know whether Arthur Scott Bailey *liked* his protagonist?

> And as he finished the
> last one he couldn’t help thinking how lucky he had been.

MIKE: Now we have nobody to foil the evil Shredder’s attacks!

[ To Continue ]

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose 7 points, or 6.73 percent, whichever comes in higher after rounding. That would be 7 points, if the percent is taken from where it was yesterday (104) and not from where it was at the end of today (Philadelphia’s airport, there to gather stories about the worst airport experiences anyone has ever had).

111

MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Coon, Chapter II


Previously:

  1. Chapter I

And now the next part of my MST3K treatment of The Tale of Fatty Coon.


>
>
> II
>

TOM: Episode II: Attack Of The Coons.

> FATTY LEARNS SOMETHING ABOUT EGGS

CROW: ‘Hey! These things break open!’

>
> When Fatty Coon started off alone to find something more to
> eat, after finishing the fish that his mother had brought home for
> him, he did not know that he was going to have an adventure.

MIKE: He just hoped adventure came with cheese fries.

> He nosed
> about among the bushes and the tall grasses and caught a few bugs and
> a frog or two. But he didn’t think that THAT was much.

CROW: [As Bug] Oh, thank goodness, that frog was gonna eat me and now … Wait, what are you doing?

> He didn’t seem
> to have much luck, down on the ground. So he climbed a tall hemlock,

TOM: A hemlock?

CROW: I dunno, it’s probably some nature thing.

> to see if he could find a squirrel’s nest, or some bird’s eggs.

MIKE: ‘Maybe I can eat a hemlock?’

>
> Fatty loved to climb trees. Up in the big hemlock he forgot,
> for a time, that he was still hungry. It was delightful to feel the
> branches swaying under him, and the bright sunshine was warm upon his
> back.

CROW: ‘You suppose the sun might be cookie-flavored?’

> He climbed almost to the very tip-top of the tree and wound
> himself around the straight stem. The thick, springy branches held him
> safely, and soon Fatty was fast asleep.

TOM: The tree tipping over, cracking under the weight.

> Next to eating, Fatty loved
> sleeping. And now he had a good nap.

CROW: ‘A nap with bacon cheese!’

>
> Fatty Coon woke up at last, yawned, and slowly unwound himself
> from the stem of the tree. He was terribly hungry now. And he felt
> that he simply MUST find something to eat at once.

TOM: Why is Mitchell a raccoon?

>
> Without going down to the ground, Fatty climbed over into the
> top of another big tree and his little beady, bright eyes began
> searching all the branches carefully.

CROW: ‘Too flimsy, too weak, that one’ll snap, that one broke yesterday, that one snapped when I thought about it too hard, hm. Ground broke under me there.’

> Pretty soon Fatty smiled. He
> smiled because he was pleased.

TOM: It was a quirky habit of his.

> And he was pleased because he saw
> exactly what he had been looking for. Not far below him was a big
> nest, built of sticks and lined with bark and moss.

CROW: ‘Garnished with bark and moss!’

> It was a crow’s
> nest, Fatty decided, and he lost no time in slipping down to the
> crotch of the tree where the nest was perched.

TOM: Thud!

>
> There were four white eggs in the nest—the biggest crow’s eggs
> Fatty had ever seen.

CROW: Ostrich!

MIKE: That’s an ostrich egg, look out!

> And he began to eat them hungrily. His nose
> became smeared with egg, but he didn’t mind that at all.

TOM: Yum, egg-flavored nose!

> He kept
> thinking how good the eggs tasted—and how he wished there were more of
> them.

MIKE: You know in the _Tale of Squawky Crow_, Fatty is one of the villains.

>
> There was a sudden rush through the branches of the tall tree.
> And Fatty Coon caught a hard blow on his head. He felt something sharp
> sink into his back, too.

TOM: There it is!

MIKE: Squawky Crow takes over the narrative! He’s getting to be the hero!

> And he clutched at the edge of the nest to
> keep from falling.
>
> Fatty was surprised, to say the least, for he had never known
> crows to fight like that.

TOM: They normally confined themselves to snarky comments, often on the Internet.

CROW: The cowards! Hey, wait.

> And he was frightened, because his back
> hurt. He couldn’t fight, because he was afraid he would fall if he let
> go of the nest.

MIKE: And there was still that meteoric crater lake from the last time he dropped four feet.

>
> There was nothing to do but run home as fast as he could.

CROW: Fatty’s greatest challenge: running.

> Fatty tried to hurry; but there was that bird, beating and clawing his
> back, and pulling him first one way and then another.

TOM: [ As Fatty ] Ow! Look, if you want me to go *one* way then don’t tug me *another*! Sheesh!

> He began to
> think he would never reach home. But at last he came to the old poplar
> where his mother lived.

CROW: ‘Home! Safety! Security! Oatmeal cookies!’

> And soon, to his great joy, he reached the
> hole in the big branch; and you may well believe that Fatty was glad
> to slip down into the darkness where his mother, and his brother
> Blackie, and Fluffy and Cutey his sisters, were all fast asleep.

MIKE: You my believe this … If you dare!

> He
> was glad, because he knew that no crow could follow him down there.

CROW: To fit Fatty the hole has to be just wide enough to let a Space Shuttle slp through.

>
> Mrs. Coon waked up.

MIKE: Waked?

> She saw that Fatty’s back was sadly torn
> (for coons, you know, can see in the dark just as well as you can see
> in the daylight).

CROW: What if I need glasses?

MIKE: Well, then she wears glasses.

CROW: That … Would be adorable.

>
> "What on earth is the matter?" she exclaimed.
>
> Poor Fatty told her. He cried a little, because his back hurt
> him, and because he was so glad to be safe at home once more.

TOM: ‘Well, come here, son, let me lick that all. Nothing like raccoon spit to clean open wounds.’

>
> "What color were those eggs?" Mrs. Coon inquired.
>
> "White!" said Fatty.
>
> "Ah, ha!" Mrs. Coon said. "Don’t you remember that crows’ eggs
> are a blueish green?

MIKE: Oh no!

TOM: Fatty’s failure to prep for his Raccoon SAT’s haunts him!

CROW: *My* eggs are painted a lovely variety of colors in intricate patterns!

TOM: Ya freak.

CROW: What?

> That must have been a goshawk’s nest. And a
> goshawk is the fiercest of all the hawks there are. It’s no wonder
> your back is clawed.

MIKE: [ Mrs Coon ] ‘Why is this scratch covered in Superman ice cream?’

CROW: [ Fatty ] It was an experiment, okay?

> Come here and let me look at it."
>
> Fatty Coon felt quite proud, as his mother examined the marks
> of the goshawk’s cruel claws.

MIKE: ‘I got attacked and ran away just fast enough! Heck, I ran!’

TOM: I ran so far away.

> And he didn’t feel half as sorry for
> himself as you might think,
> for he remembered how good the eggs had
> tasted. He only wished there had been a dozen of them.

MIKE: So what did Fatty learn about eggs, exactly?

CROW: That … He can eat them?

[ To Continue ]

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose another two points in trading as the floor stopped worrying quite so much about whether “to rare” is a verb and got into wondering about its participles, like, “to have rared” or “will have rared” or stuff like that. One suspects not everyone is quite back from holiday yet.

104

MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Coon, Chapter I


The only fan fiction I’ve written and shared on the Internet has been Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic. It’s a fun genre. It grew from the MST3K newsgroups on Usenet, which I knew as rec.arts.tv.mst3k.misc and its affiliates. Mostly it grew in response to the famous “Marissa Picard” stories Stephen Ratliff wrote as Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfic. But it’s always included other stuff.

A couple years ago I ran across a series of children’s books from the 1910s. They were written by Arthur Scott Bailey, which exhausts what I know about him. And they’re little tales for kids about life as animals see it. And they’re just … off, in that way that I think makes for great MST3K material. I had wanted to do a whole book, and I just don’t have the time for that. So this week I hope to feature the first five chapters, at least, and I’ve put that together into a little MiSTing experience I hope you enjoy.

Before that, though, I did some more mathematics comics in my other blog. No pictures, sorry.


[ SEASON TEN opening. ]

[ 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. TOM is reading a newspaper and chuckling as MIKE and CROW enter. ]

TOM: Hee heee!

MIKE: What’s up there, Thomas?

CROW: He finally noticed they print the ‘Jumble’ answers upside-down.

TOM: I’m now a happy subscriber to the Ironic Comics page.

[ MIKE takes the paper from TOM’s hands. CROW peeks at a corner, letting the paper flap over his beak. ]

TOM: ‘Beetle Bailey’ as Wagnerian opera! Fred Basset portrayed by a very long duck! ‘The Lockhorns’ with neither lock nor horn!

MIKE: Hey, I like this Clip-Art ‘Cathy’. She married Irving Berlin.

CROW: Wait, this is just ‘Henry’. What’s ironic about that?

TOM: What’s *not* ironic about ‘Henry’?

[ MADS sign flashes. ]

MIKE: Ahp. Agatha Crumm is calling.

[ CASTLE FORRESTER. PEARL, PROFESSOR BOBO, and the OBSERVER are at a table. ]

OBSERVER: I love ‘For Better Or For Worse, And It Turns Out, Worse.’ [ To PEARL’s withering indifference. ] It puts at the end of every strip Anthony whining how ‘I have no home!’

PEARL: OK, Mark Trail. We’ve tried everything to break your spirits. We’ve tried bad movies.

BOBO: We’ve tried telephones!

PEARL: We’ve tried fan fiction.

OBSERVER: We’ve tried advertisements!

PEARL: We’ve tried the most Ruby-Spearsish Hanna-Barbera Christmas specials!

BOBO: I love that one with Goober and Gumdrop!

OBSERVER: Now let’s try … young-reader animal fantasy!

PEARL: Your experiment for today is the first five chapters of Arthur Scott Bailey’s 1915 piece of ouvre _The Tale of Fatty Coon_.

BOBO: See if you learn something special from all this adorable animal fantasy!

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. MOVIE SIGN and general chaos. ]

MIKE: Oh, no! Animal fantasy!

TOM, CROW: AAAAGH!

[ 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1.. ]

[ THEATER. ALL file in. ]

> SLEEPY-TIME TALES

TOM: So … uh … good night?

> THE TALE OF FATTY COON

CROW: From Buster Keaton through learning there *is* such a thing as bad publicity.

> BY ARTHUR SCOTT BAILEY

TOM: o/` Arthur was born just a plain simple man o/`

> ILLUSTRATED BY HARRY L. SMITH
> NEW YORK

MIKE: Illustrated by Harry L Smith and the New York dancers!

>
> 1915

> I
>
> FATTY COON AT HOME

TOM: Just sitting around the home …

>
> Fatty Coon was so fat and round

CROW: Oh come *on*.

MIKE: Man, 1915 and they’re ahead of our lead joke.

> that he looked like a ball of
> fur, with a plumelike tail for a handle. But if you looked at him
> closely you would have seen a pair of very bright eyes watching you.

CROW: From the tail?

TOM: Raccoons can see very well through their handles.

>
> Fatty loved to eat.

CROW: And that’s all the personality he’ll need!

MIKE: Pretty much all the personality I have.

> Yes—he loved eating better than anything
> else in the world. That was what made him so fat.

TOM: ‘I’m getting ready to hibernate for winter!’

CROW: ‘It’s May.’

TOM: ‘I don’t want to get caught by surprise.’

> And that, too, was
> what led him into many adventures.

CROW: Like the adventure of Waffle House At 3 am.

MIKE: Taking his life and his maple syrup into his own paws.

>
> Close by a swamp, which lay down in the valley, between Blue
> Mountain and Swift River,

TOM: Burger King on the right and if you come to the old middle school you’ve gone too far.

> Fatty Coon lived with his mother and his
> brother and his two sisters.

CROW: And his mayonnaise.

> Among them all there was what grown
> people call "a strong family resemblance," which is the same thing as
> saying that they all looked very much alike.

TOM: What, because all raccoons look the same to you?

> The tail of each one of
> them—mother and children too—had six black rings around it. Each of
> them had a dark brown patch of fur across the face, like a mask.

MIKE: _Clonus: The Ranger Rick Project_.

> And—what do you think?—each of them, even Fatty and his brother and
> his sisters, had a stiff, white moustache!

CROW: This is getting near body shaming, Mister Arthur Scott Bailey.

>
> Of course, though they all looked so much alike, you would
> have known which was Mrs. Coon, for she was so much bigger than her
> children.

TOM: And she had that ISO 9000 consulting job for Lockheed.

> And you would have known which was Fatty—he was so much
> rounder than his brother and his sisters.

CROW: And he had a bear claw in his mouth.

MIKE: The pastry?

CROW: We’ll see.

>
> Mrs. Coon’s home was in the hollow branch of an old tree.

TOM: They were the first wave of gentrification moving in.

MIKE: Classic cycle. Starving artists, hipsters, raccoons, rents go up.

> It
> was a giant of a tree—a poplar close by a brook which ran into the
> swamp—and the branch which was Mrs. Coon’s home was as big as most
> tree-trunks are.

MIKE: Look, it’s a tree, all right? I’m Arthur Scott Bailey, I got bigger fish to fry than specifying poplar trees.

>
> Blackie was Fatty’s brother—for the mask on his face was just
> a little darker than the others’.

TOM: *Blackie* Coon?

MIKE: Oh dear Lord.

> Fluffy was one of Fatty’s sisters,
> because her fur was just a little fluffier than the other children’s.

TOM: *Fluffy* Coon?

CROW: When Andrew WK visits Anthrocon?

> And Cutey was the other sister’s name, because she was so quaint.

TOM: I feel like I need to apologize and I don’t even know who to.

>
> Now, Fatty Coon was forever looking around for something to
> eat.

MIKE: ‘Here’s a thing!’ (Gulp)

TOM: ‘That’s a vase!’

MIKE: Needs honey mustard.’

> He was never satisfied with what his mother brought home for him.

CROW: ‘Crawdads and berries *again*?’

MIKE: ‘No, this is berries and Crawdads.’

> No matter how big a dinner Mrs. Coon set before her family, as soon as
> he had finished eating his share Fatty would wipe his white moustache
> carefully—for all the world like some old gentleman—and hurry off in
> search of something more.

MIKE: ‘Fatty, that’s a rock.’

CROW: ‘That’s a rock with ranch dressing.’

>
> Sometimes he went to the edge of the brook and tried to catch
> fish by hooking them out of the water with his sharp claws.

TOM: ‘Best case scenario, I catch a snack. Worst case, I touch a goldfish. Either way, a win!’

> Sometimes
> he went over to the swamp and hunted for duck among the tall reeds.

CROW: ‘Hey, a little deep frying and these reeds would be good.’

> And though he did not yet know how to catch a duck, he could always
> capture a frog or two; and Fatty ate them as if he hadn’t had a
> mouthful of food for days.

MIKE: ‘If I eat enough frog maybe a duck will crawl into my mouth and see what’s going on!’

>
> To tell the truth, Fatty would eat almost anything he could
> get—nuts, cherries, wild grapes,

TOM: Boring, straight-laced actuary grapes.

> blackberries, bugs, small snakes,

CROW: Large but depressed snakes.

> fish, chickens,

MIKE: Buckets of fried dough.

> honey—there was no end to the different kinds of food
> he liked.

TOM: I believe you, sugar.

> He ate everything. And he always wanted more.

MIKE: Thing is it’s fun cooking for someone who likes eating so much.

>
> "Is this all there is?" Fatty Coon asked his mother one day.

TOM: Well, you could merge with Ilia and Captain Decker maybe?

> He had gobbled up every bit of the nice fish that Mrs. Coon had
> brought home for him. It was gone in no time at all.

CROW: ‘Well, you could try the less-nice or the morally ambiguous fish.’

>
> Mrs. Coon sighed. She had heard that question so many times;
> and she wished that for once Fatty might have all the dinner he
> wanted.

MIKE: ‘Fatty, you’re a sphere.’

CROW: ‘And I could be a hypersphere, Mom!!’

>
> "Yes—that’s all," she said, "and I should think that it was
> enough for a young coon like you."
>
> Fatty said nothing more. He wiped his moustache on the back of
> his hand (I hope you’ll never do that!)

TOM: You eating raw frogs, though, Arthur Scott Bailey’s cool with.

> and without another word

MIKE: Really, what else was there to say?

> he started off to see what he could find to eat.

CROW: ‘This is delicious!’

MIKE: ‘This is an ironing board!’

CROW: ‘With marshmallows!’

[ To Continue ]

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

After the two-day holiday the Another Blog, Meanwhile index came raring back up six, count ’em, six points despite getting caught in an argument about what it is exactly “to rare”.

102

Jack Benny: Goodbye 1941, Hello 42


And for another thing I can share anytime but that feels timely today: a New Year’s Eve broadcast from The Jack Benny Program. Through the early 40s Jack Benny had a tradition that was antiquated even then. The final sketch of the show would be a little allegory of the old year briefing the new year on what the state of the world was.

These always sound as odd pieces. Dennis Day even says as much. (I forget if he’s confused the same way every year.) The tradition they’re writing in is just not present anymore, at least not in pop culture. I imagine someone’s doing good web comics or sketches or such like this, but I don’t know them. But as we see out the most trying year I remember going through here’s a glance at how a particular bit of pop culture viewed its joining into a dark and deadly valley.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

This time the Another Blog, Meanwhile index was unchanged because it was a real and proper holiday and everybody expected to spend it not doing the trading thing. Also we’re sure we’re going to get a spare set of keys for the floor so we don’t again have a thing where we get an unexpected day off. Wait, that’s stupid.

UNCH