This coming Tuesday I figure to post an essay about the 42nd and last of the Fleischer Studios’ Talkartoons series. I forget just how I stumbled into reviewing each (available) one in turn. But I’ve liked how it turned out. It’s given me the chance to watch some cartoons for the first time, and to watch all of them anew.
Thing is, what to do next? I could go back to writing something original each day but that’s hard. Having a review of stuff I like works well for me. I like having the reason to look at something I enjoy. I like noticing the evolution of things. I like getting to explain cultural references of 1932. It satisfies the know-it-all urge in me. And that’ll need extra satisfaction now that The Straight Dope with Cecil Adams is ended. (Sob!) I like knowing that if I ever really tried I could write a month’s worth of some day of the week’s entries in an afternoon. I never, ever will.
I’ve thought about moving right into the Betty Boop line of cartoons proper, which among other things would schedule my Tuesdays for a year and a half to come. That’s a comfortable thought. Popeye is also fantastic and I’m not sure I would get tired of that, not at least before we get to the postwar cartoons. Or I could go for something less well-examined.
And that’s what I’m doing here: would anyone have nominations for a set of things I might review, one per week? I’m open to other cartoon series. I’d prefer ones that are well-represented on archive.org, so that essays stay sensible. I’m open to cartoons that haven’t been thoroughly digested by other bloggers. I’m also open to ones of historic interest. … And I admit, I’d prefer ones whose historic import I don’t have to spend too much time justifying why anyone in 2018 should care. So I’m not saying I wouldn’t do the Van Beuren filmography, but, probably would do The Little King cartoons first. And I know I’m one of nearly a dozen people who still find The Little King interesting.
I’m also open to other stuff, such as live-action shorts, or even old-time radio programs. As I say, the important things are that they be accessible to readers without too much effort. Ideally something that could be embedded in my essays and trusted to remain indefinitely. Any thoughts?
Imagine my surprise when I learned I had spent all winter living in a lawless wilderness. If it helps paint the picture, understand that I was reading the newspaper when I learned. I guess it’s a newspaper. It’s something called the Lansing City Community News, “an edition of the Lansing State Journal”. It’s tossed onto our lawn once a week no matter what. It’s great, since the four or sometimes six pages serve as protective wrapper of forty or more pages of advertisements for stuff we have never wanted or ever known anyone who wants. And they’re full of articles ripped from the Journal‘s web site, sometimes without cutting out text like “Story continues below video”. They take donations to cover printing costs.
So imagine me looking at that newspaper-themed product. Also imagine me smiling and laughing in that special way I have when I see something’s gone all higgledy-piggledy for some crazypants reason. Got it? So here’s the thing. According to the article, Lansing’s charter specifies that every ten years the City Council has to vote on whether to re-codify city ordinances, or to confirm that it means to let them lapse. And they confirmed the city ordinances in 2007. But 2017 rolled on through and nobody did anything about them, possibly because everyone was distracted by how the world was on fire and we were all thinking, for solace, of that time the whole Internet was mad because Apple bought everyone a U2 album. I mean, there were people raging about that for months. I swear that actually happened.
So the big effect of this whoopsie-doozie nonexistence of law between the 24th of November and either the 15th of February or the 26th of March is like 50 otherwise-criminal cases being dropped because it’s not sporting to charge someone with breaking a law that isn’t there. Community News listed among them:
2 cases of carrying a knife with a blade longer than three inches
2 cases of being loud or boisterous
1 case of disturbing the peace
1 littering case
That seems like a low number of littering cases. But it was winter so maybe a lot of the evidence was lost under snow. It also seems like a low number of disturbing-the-peace problems, but remember it was 2017. There was like fourteen minutes of peace the whole year. Good luck getting your disturbance in fast enough to notice. Hey, remember when the Internet was all cranky about this kiddie show starring a big huggy purple dinosaur who liked people? And stayed that way for years?
Also I had no idea that, apart from a maybe five-month window this past winter, they could write you up on a charge of boisterousity. What a thing to get on your rap sheet. “What did they get you on?” “Had a three-and-a-quarter-inch knife. You?” “Being boisterous. Yeah, but it’s fair enough. I was outside Fish Fry and Grill, dancing like nobody was watching. But they were watching. They’re always watching. Oh also I was waving people over to come hug me.” Discovering this makes me glad I can only with concentration and for brief seconds make myself look like I have any emotion other than “growing concern that the lower-than-expected cost for having the bathtub pipe drained means more significant plumbing problems are festering and this will cause me grief”. And yet apparently I could have gotten away with being merry all winter, had I but known.
If you weren’t already giggling over the city temporarily going all lawless, here’s some more fun. First, there’s not complete agreement about which laws exactly it was didn’t exist from November through a while. The city attorney says it’s just “regulatory” ordinances. A defense attorney who’s not explicitly credited with being the person who noticed this says it’s “all” ordinances. (“I think I can get you off this charge of three-and-a-quarter-inch-knife-having, but I gotta warn you, it’s going to sound like three-and-a-half-inches of crazy.”) Also the defense attorney argues that the lapsing of all law doesn’t count as a “true emergency” allowing the hasty reintroduction of law to the city in February, so that only the March reinstatement counts. Easy for him to say, and maybe necessary if he wants to give the fullest possible defense for his clients. But would he agree it wasn’t an emergency if there were four littering cases being thrown out? Hm?
The article says that it’s the job of the City Clerk to remind the City Council when it’s time to renew the existence of law in the city. When asked what happened, the Clerk took a deep breath, nodded sadly, and then ran down the corridor of City Hall to where that dragon is. He’s been there since, crying and occasionally sending out for Kewpie Burgers. I mean, you always hate to make a mistake at work that gets you embarrassed. The City Council’s thinking of ways to help prevent this happening again. One great idea is to have someone whose job it is to check every four years and see if the City Clerk’s remembered to check whether law’s about to expire. Sounds sensible to me, except then you’re going to need someone coming around every two years to check on the four-year checker, and you’re going to need someone whose job is to poke in once a year and as if the two-year checker-checker is all right or needs anything. Well, I’m sure they can work out something before they reach the point of having an infinite series of people who are just nagging each other to check on other people until tempers flare and we get that whole disturbed-peace thing again.
Also in the news: a downtown bike shop’s losing its parking lot, the side effect of (allegedly) an improperly recorded easement years ago. Oh, I bet the bike shop owner feels awful now he didn’t know he could have just poked into the deeds office anytime in December or January and written one in himself. Well. I’m thinking of all sorts of boisterous or littering things I mean to do in March of 2028, if I remember. See you then!
OK, so here’s something I should have mentioned last week. You know how they talk about the solstice being the official start of summer? This is as opposed to the unofficial start of summer, which is when you have the first argument about whether to put the window air conditioner in the bedroom. (People with central air never unofficially start summer. They just live in a year-round haze of air that smells like the inside of a regional claims-adjustment facility.) OK, but did you know which office is in charge of starting summer? I bet you figured it was the National Weather Service, or at least someone in the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Maybe NASA. Possibly someone affiliated with the Census. But you’d figured wrong! Bet you didn’t see the paragraph taking that turn, did you?
The responsible agency (in the United States) is the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service, a part of the Federal Communications Commission whose purpose is to provide for emergency communications networks using registered volunteer ham radio operators. “And what the heck,” Congress said, when drafting the enabling legislation for the service. “They can set the start of summer, too.” Mind, they haven’t spent a great deal of time working on the start-of-summer problem. They set the official start during a 1954 meeting, and haven’t revisited the decision yet. Now and then someone suggests revisiting it, but then everybody gets to arguing about ham radio equipment, keeping them out of trouble. Other countries have different offices, and thus, different seasons. Great Britain, for example, has summer officially set by the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead, and they’ve chosen their start of summer as “eight days after the last American tourists give up and leave”.
Anyway, the important thing to remember is that ICE is a criminal organization that should be disbanded and all its members jailed. Enjoy the summer, where applicable!
I am almost out of Talkartoons to have opinions about. Don’t think I’m not just as worried by this as you are. Today’s was originally released the 10th of June, 1932. Its credited animators are Rudolph Eggeman — familiar already from The Cow’s Husband and A Hunting We Will Go — and Thomas Johnson, a new name. The Internet Movie Database doesn’t list any earlier cartoons from Johnson, but he’d go on to a number of great cartoons like Betty in Blunderland or It’s The Natural Thing To Do. Also some of those faintly sad cartoons where it’s the 50s and Popeye lives in the suburbs and is outsmarted by a gopher or something.
There’s a short cartoon-Indians joke early on in the short. There’s also a bit that reads like it’s maybe some kind of joke on Italians. I may be being oversensitive on that point, but the soundtrack during it is “Where Do You Work-A, John”, which rouses my worries.
I’m not sure I’ve ever been disappointed in an arcade cartoon. Even the ones that are just a frame for showing clips of earlier cartoons capture my fancy, somehow. Maybe part is the sense that you can just dip into anything and move on to something else engages me. It seems to engage animators too, possibly because this is a framing device that lets them just use the good parts of a joke.
I forget if this is the first Talkartoon that’s had not just the “Sweet Betty” song but the introductory title where Betty smiles and winks at us. Talkartoons were about to end and get replaced, production-wise, by the Betty Boop series anyway. Despite the title and her appearance to start things off, she doesn’t have much to do this short. Koko appears, yes, but Bimbo really guides most of the action. And pretty well, too. Stuff like how he slides his pennies down his shirt and then transfers them to his pocket may not have a specific joke. But it’s the sort of action that makes a character more interesting and endearing.
During the part where the monkey watched the fight movie I got to wondering: did animators ever think of this framing device as a way to burn off ideas they only had one or two scenes for? Rather than waste a premise or try to pad two minute’s worth of cartoon into a whole reel? Or to test out characters for their own cartoons? As far as I can tell, no. They just weren’t cautious in that way back then, it seems. And they had little fear of jamming together two or more unrelated cartoons with barely any transition.
Which is just what happens here, somehow. There’s a transition point, yes, Bimbo chasing a rabbit target out of the shooting gallery and into the woods. But somehow the short runs out of arcade jokes and turns into a hunting cartoon. Also jumps from nighttime in the city to daytime in the forest. It’s not a bad hunting short, mind, and the bullet at about 5:20 sneering at the rabbit with the declaration, “go chase yourself” is one of the few funny bits of dialogue from this series. Really all the action with the rabbit is good. As far as I know they didn’t try more with this character, which is a pity. The squirrels are a nice pairing too. But why this change in theme?
The arcade left plenty of room for little jokes you go back and notice. And it starts with a joke that almost gets lost in the digitization. So my blink-and-you-miss-it joke for the week is right up front. The chaser lights around the Penny Arcade sign drip off and run around the whole frame. It’s what’s going on when that weird tinkly sound comes in over the music. Some of the movie or attraction signs are fun, too. I mean, “Oh You Queenie”? “They Forgot To Pull The Shade”? If I hadn’t seen machines with names about like that I’d think they were being too silly. And it’s not a joke at all but I’m startled by the “Play Soccer!” mechanical attraction every time I notice it.
Not sure if that’s a mouse taunting Bimbo at about 4:36. The ears seem too large and floppy, and the tail seems big, but what else could it be?
Bimbo’s brother makes a cameo at about 1:07, in case anyone worried what’s become of him.
So, like, imagining some Hero who’s gone to the underworld for whatever fool thing ancient heroes were always going into the underworld for. And they’ve got to get out past Cerberus, the three-headed dog guardian of the afterlife, right? So what I’m thinking now is the Hero trying to get past Cerberus by warning, you know, if we fight I’m going to kill you. Wouldn’t Cerberus just have to laugh because, “Oh, yeah, you’re going to send me right here where I already am? I’m going to be trapped staying within sight of me?”
Anyway please send me $200 million to make this movie thank you.
Also at least some of you are wondering what’s going on in Alley Oop. This is my recap for basically spring of 2018 and it should get you well-grounded for at least another couple weeks. If it’s past about August 2018, that might not be a big help. But an essay at or near the top of this page might be. Good luck. Let me know if it doesn’t do anything for you.
1 April – 23 June 2018.
So I left Oop somewhere near Philadelphia on the 31st of July, 1781. OK, Jack Bender and Carole Bender did, but still. Alley Oop and Wizer were sent there by well-meaning rich idiot M T Mentis. Mentis had responded to Oop’s transport-request beacon. He didn’t notice how all the screens in Dr Wonmug’s Time Lab read “DESTINATION: JULY 31, 1781”. This is one of those subtle big events in history. It’s when General George Washington commissioned Alexander Hamilton to command several regiments. Great time to toss in some confused Moovians.
Private Isaac Holmes, carrying Hamilton’s commission, runs into Oop and Wizer. In the collision both the sealed commission and Oop’s time-signalling necklace fly loose. Holmes suspects spies, or something, anyway. But they come under enemy fire, and by the time they find some quiet they realize the letter’s gone. Oop and Wizer start to worry they’ve changed history, a risk that hasn’t been a major concern in the strip so far, best I know.
Meanwhile in 2018, Mentis tells Wonmug about Oop’s signal. And that Oop isn’t there. Also that maybe it’s kind of because he had set the time machine to 1781 because he was thinking about Alexander Hamilton, “you know … since he’s so popular now”. Wonmug gets a Revolutionary War outfit from somewhere I seem to have missed, and figures to set off to try fixing whatever’s gone wrong. He leaves Mentis at the Time Lab with orders to stop breaking all time and space already.
Meanwhile in 1781, a desperate Holmes enlists Oop and Wizer to help recover the letter. They borrow outfits from a couple wounded Continentals. Wizer applies some healing potion in trade. And they get a funny little training session about how to load and fire a musket. This pays off a bit; later Oop’s able to tell someone a fresh-discharged musket is harmless except as a club. Oop’s more into using the thing as a club which, fair enough. He also gets the bayonet, too. Oop, Wizer, and Holmes follow the tracks of the letter-thief and find the shaded figure in Redcoat custody. Oop gets a daring raid on this small party started. But that’s broken up when Dr Wonmug materializes right in the midst of things. The Redcoats and their captive get away in the confusion.
Wonmug knows what the letter must have been. Hearing that it’s Alexander Hamilton’s commission orders makes Holmes suspect spies. Fair on him. Also at this point Mentis wandered over to ask me why I go off on him being the dumb one when Wonmug, with 80 years of experience at this, is acting like that. Fair enough. Wonmug says that the British spy to actually watch for was likely James Moody, who’d intercept Continental couriers. I’m going ahead and assuming that’s legit history because I don’t have the time to research that myself. Ah, yes, Moody was born in Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey. I’ve been there. Story Book Land’s a great little kiddie amusement park there. He wrote one of the few memoirs of the Revolution from the Loyalist perspective. Hm.
Oop and Wizer chase after the Redcoats and their prisoner. Wonmug and Holmes hang back long enough for Mentis to pop in from 2018. Mentis asks why they don’t make a copy of the letter, since Wonmug knows its contents and all. Wonmug says there’s no time; they need to go in and help Oop in his fight and recover the real letter.
Mentis time-transports away. But that’s all right. Oop’s already clobbered the Redcoats into unconsciousness. This lets him recover the time-signal amulet, but the letter is still missing, as is the prisoner. Given the hopeless muddle this all seems to be, Wonmug decides to go with forging the commission after all. They race to deliver the letter and, along the way, find Oop’s time-signal amulet again. This isn’t a continuity error in the story; Oop notices, he already has his recovered amulet. Wonmug figures to worry about it later because, yeah. Mentis is right. I shouldn’t be calling him the strip’s dunderhead. In fairness, Wonmug’s had a bunch of crazy stuff happen today.
Also his forgery doesn’t work for even a second. Alexander Hamilton may be kind of a dope w/r/t William Duer, but he knows legitimate commissions are going to have a proper seal. Hamilton orders Holmes, Oop, and Wizer arrested when the mysterious Contental prisoner races in with the real letter. Also a startling revelation: the prisoner was M T Mentis all along. Mentis explains to Hamilton that when the first letter was lost, his friends made that duplicate. But here’s the original, with the seal, and the content seems to match so everything’s all right with history and all?
With that straightened out, Mentis starts explaining to Oop, Wonmug, and Wizer what’s going on in Alley Oop. It turns out while Wonmug and Oop and all tromped around whatever they were doing in 1989, Mentis was paying attention to Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure. He didn’t use the time machine to run off. He used it to pick up the commission right when it was first lost. And thus was the mysterious shadowy figure that set Oop and company were pursuing.
So, this story. I’m surprised by the direct talk about the chance Wonmug’s Time Lab might change history. My impression was the comic strip had always taken that as something not to worry about, at least since I started reading it with attention. But then it’s also only in the forerunner to this story that they worried about time travellers bringing diseases. It looks as if they’re setting up one of those closed-time-loop adventures. These can be a particularly satisfying sort of time-travel story. Also the rare Alley Oop story where time travel more than how they get from one story to another. And, yes, I’m glad that it’s given Mentis the chance to recover some needed intelligence points. It’s a pity that Wonmug lost a bunch along the way. But he’s got some to spare. And I am also impressed by the grain of historical detail being put into the minor parts. Apparently there was an Isaac Holmes, too, who’d be a prisoner of war in Philadelphia. This might be a spoiler. I’m not sure this is the person who’s made a character here; the Wikipedia article on him doesn’t list things like when he was a prisoner or how, precisely the historic Holmes served in the army. There’s room to not worry about it all.
I’m an enormous quivering ball of rage and exhaustion.
Middling to angry.
Fine, thank you.
You too. [ Then a recognition of having said something slightly out of synch with the question, followed by hiding under the bed. ]
7, maybe 7.5.
Note: “I’d tell you but then I’d have to kill you” has never been an acceptable answer. It has been officially deprecated since 1986 and come the end of this calendar year will be expunged from all decent conversation, we hope.
Source: For Spacious Skies: The Uncommon Journey of a Mercury Astronaut, Scott Carpenter and Kris Stoever.
Very sorry. We had hoped to have another update about the rewards program, but then someone got us going about prefixes. Specifically, like, if we have a “re-ward” then what is the “ward” that we are doing again? Everybody agreed that it’s got to have some kind of link to an “a-ward”, although given how the “a-” prefix usually means lacking something so what the heck? Probably it’s something like some other meaning of “a-” as a prefix, right? Anyway, that got us to giggling about how there must be an “unward” where you take some award out of someone’s hands, cackling and laughing meanly, before you give it back to them as a reward. And then we wondered about a “pre-ward” where you’re all set up to get awarded something. And then we realized oh, some stupid advertising business probably does that, teasing people with the promise of imminent rewards to make them click some stupid banner ad somewhere or sign up for a stupid card they don’t want or need. And that’s got us all cranky and upset. So you’ll excuse us please for not having anything.
The mean time from the summer solstice to autumn equinox is nearly a day longer than the mean time from the spring equinox to the summer solstice, and both are three days longer than the mean time from the autumn equinox to the winter solstice, and that’s nearly a full day longer than the time from the winter solstice to the vernal equinox. And what the flipping heck, Earth’s orbit? What are you doing with stuff like that? How can it be longer from spring to summer than from summer to fall? Longer from spring to fall than from fall to spring? Does this work in the southern hemisphere too? I’m getting dizzy thinking about this and I have to go lie down a while now.
The only common word in the English language that ends in s-e-d-e is “supersede” There are eighteen imaginary English words that do, too, among the most popular of which are “blockosede”, “snorsede”, “fluorosede”, and “logosede”. This has nothing to do with summer but I’m still working on that whole length-of-the-seasons thing. I feel like I must have written that astounding fact down wrong.
The sun appears to rise higher and higher in the sky until the summer solstice, which is triggered by the sun’s ever-greater fear of heights. Then it start sneaking down again until the winter solstice. That happens when the sun is as low in the sky as it can get without triggering its fear of heightlessness. “Wait, you’re being irrational,” the Sun’s friends tell it. “You get way lower than that around sunrise and sunset.” This causes the Sun to glare at its friends and insist they aren’t even trying to understand.
No, no, I went back and checked the book and that’s what it said about the lengths of the seasons. I just … sheesh, I don’t know, you know?
In the original Star Trek series episode And The Children Shall Lead, someone says “chocolate wobble and pistachio” and not a single person knows what exactly that’s supposed to mean. From context it’s got to be some kind of dessert but what’s a dessert wobble besides some joke about tripping when you’re carrying your turtle brownie over to the table?
Because of the differences between land distribution in the northern and the southern hemispheres … yes, yes, I know that thing above didn’t have anything to do with summer. I just needed to fill in something while getting another reference on this lengths-of-the-seasons thing. Look, they were talking about ice cream in that Star Trek episode, that’s mostly a summer thing, right? I mean apart from the peppermint ice cream we only get at Christmas because it feels so Christmas-y. That’s got to be the opposite for the southern hemisphere, right? Where summer-to-fall is shorter in Australia than winter-to-spring is? It couldn’t work any other way, right?
Ah, right, here we go. The Ancient Athenians tried to start their new year with the summer solstice. They also tried to start their months with the New Moon. So there was this nasty stretch near the start of any year where they were trying to get the moon to hurry up to new-ness, or fall back to its last new state. Given the state of cosmological engineering at the time all they could do is try to toss people up and get them to push the moon in its orbit some. This resulted in lots of Ancient Athenians being tossed from the top of a really tall hill and plummeting right back down. (Don’t worry about them. They were much younger Ancients in those days, and could take it.) The year started as it was figuring to anyway. There’s a lesson in this but once again, heck if I know what it is.
No, no, the book still says that stuff about the season lengths. I don’t know.
When I speak of the buffet having an all-cheese table I should be more precise. I mean that the offerings on top of the table are all cheese. Many kinds of cheese, of many cheese genres. But the table itself is not made of cheese. The table is made of table. Oh, there are also some small plates, which are made out of the same stuff as large plates, just not so much of them. I apologize for any confusion on this point up through now.
This Talkartoon comes to me as a mystery. I realized while writing this that I couldn’t find it on the archive.org list of Betty Boop cartoons. This is because it has no Betty Boop in it. It’s also not listed under Talkartoons, but the archive.org roster of “subject: talkartoons” doesn’t have any of the 1932 shorts. I could only find one copy of it online, on YouTube; I just hope that it doesn’t go missing before you read these words. Wikipedia says this short was released the 26th of May, 1932. Leonard Maltin’s Of Mice And Magic agrees. I will provisionally accept that as true. But I’d like someone who has primary documentation to confirm because this is a weird one.
Also a mild content warning. The cartoon ends up in China. Not for long. Just long enough for a Chinese man to perform a quick wedding.
So. Yeah. This was allegedly released just about a month after A Hunting We Will Go. The 26th of May, 1932. Is anyone else not buying that? Because this cartoon would make so much more sense if it were released in 1930 instead. Let’s consider:
What the heck is with Bimbo? He looks like he did in 1930 and early 1931, before his character had really stabilized and he’d settled on the basic-black look.
Where’s Betty Boop? The romantic lead here looks strikingly like a prototype Betty Boop. But at this point why have a Proto-Betty Boop? These aren’t the days of Barnacle Bill or The Bum Bandit. Why not have Betty Boop appear and tie the cartoon to the studio’s clearest star?
It’s directed like a silent cartoon. Some of this is the backgrounds. They’ve got this limited use of grey that looks much more like what the studio did just after the transition from paper to full cel animation than what it was doing, say, in last week’s cartoon. Some of this is in framing shots. There’s a lot of use of setting the action inside a circle, against a black backdrop. We saw this all the time in 1930. These days? Not so much.
The sound is just awful. Granted some of this is the quality of the print that whoever uploaded this to YouTube uses. But I think it’s something in the source material. There’s no good dialogue even by the standards of a Fleischer cartoon. There’s not many good sound cues. There’s a title card song that seems to have nothing to do with the short. There’s just nothing.
There’s just one credited animator, Roland Crandall. This is the first and only Talkartoon that Crandall’s got a credit for. But he did a lot of work for the Betty Boop version of Snow White, and he’d be the animation director for the Fleischer’s Gulliver’s Travels.
So what if this cartoon has been mis-dated, and it was actually released in late May 1930? That would reduce an otherwise strikingly long gap between Fire Bugs (the 5th of May) and Wise Flies (the 14th of July, 1930). The character designs would make more sense. So would the direction. Also the big part the motorcycle has in coming to life. That has the feel to me of a spot joke that kept growing as it turned out the motorcycle was interesting. The style of the backgrounds makes more sense too, as does the use of a not-Betty-Boop for a Bimbo cartoon.
There is the copyright date on the title card. The Proto-Betty-Boop is a weird figure, but any weirder than in The Robot — also a 1932 release? And also one with the white-model Bimbo? And the circles of action on a black background?
Apart from one Koko the Clown short, all the Internet Movie Database’s work for Crandall is dated from 1932 through his retirement (from animation) in 1941. And if a 5-May-to-14-July gap in 1930 is implausibly long, then how do I answer the 29-April-to-10-June gap that relocating Hide and Seek to that year would create?
All right, perhaps. It’s still weird. I wonder if Hide and Seek weren’t finished much earlier but not released until some scheduling issue demanded it. Also whether The Robot might have had a similar fate.
So I turn this over to people who know how to access primary documentation: the heck’s the deal here? Huh? You know?
There’s little information about this cartoon online. So I’m going to run out my column here with what happens. This is for the benefit of people trying to figure out what the heck happened after this mysterious cartoon vanishes from YouTube and the whole Internet.
The plot: A kidnapper grabs Proto-Betty Boop. Bimbo and his motorcycle give chase, pursuing him into a mountain and down into Hell. They’re captured by a demon. The motorcycle rescues Bimbo and Proto-Betty, and they make it to a happy ending.
And here’s a more detailed list of incidents, as opposed to just the plot. The title card opens with a tune about you being a detective called in to solve a hold-up and ultimately hypothesizing you’d have to say your prayers. The short opens in a bank where Proto-Betty Boop withdraws a bag of money. A lurking crook whom I thought was Bimbo at first cackles and follows. Bimbo, a cop working one of those traffic island signals you see in 1920s and 1930s shorts, notices the crook. The traffic signal picks up the crook’s card (“I. Grabber, Kidnaper [sic], office 66 Snake St”).
Proto-Betty strolls out of the bank, past I Grabber’s storefront (it even lists him as proprietor). She walks past his open trap door. Grabber pulls a rope out of the trap door and walks behind Betty. This ultimately pulls a goat up behind them. He grabs Proto-Betty and ties her atop the goat.
Bimbo spots this, and takes out three giant links of sausage, which he fashions into a motorcycle. He pursues Grabber up an impossibly steep mountain. Bimbo’s motorcycle can’t manage the incline until it sneaks back into town for a drink from the “Tea Shoppe” speakeasy. Thus fortified it’s able to drive uphill and, at that, through a boulder.
The two chase through an Old Man Of The Mountain rock face and to the smouldering volcanic crater up top. There they race around the cone in the center of the volcano, until the ground level drops down as an elevator. They arrive in Hell’s Kitchen. Grabber and the goat are taken by a giant demonic hand and put into an iron stove. Bimbo and Proto-Betty are grabbed by a demonic hand and taunted by a devil who looks more like a hippopotamus than anything else. The hippo-devil puts them in an icebox.
Meanwhile Bimbo’s motorcycle, undetected, searches for everybody. He finds the stove, and Grabber and the goat baked into pies, where he leaves them. (Their intact heads poke out of these pies; leaving them like that is shocking.) The motorcycle breaks through the icebox and carries Bimbo and Proto-Betty onto a miniature golf course, a reminder that 1930 was when miniature golf was first, er, big. This hole — number 19 — has a dragon or alligator putting a tethered ball through a wooden half-pipe ramp and looks pretty fun, truth be told.
Bimbo, Proto-Betty, and the motorcycle fall through the 19th Hole, down the tunnel to China, 4000 miles below. They land in a Buddha(?) statue’s hands. From it emerges a minister, who marries Bimbo and Proto-Betty Man.
So MyComicsShop.com has decided my love needs to buy something from them. And they’re advertising characters my love kind of knows without ever having read, like Casper the Friendly Ghost, or other members of the Harvey Comics A-Team that my love has never heard of, such as Little Lotta, Hot Stuff, or Baby Huey [*] and I’m doing my best to explain any of them. (“Well, Little Dot is a girl who likes things to have dots on them, or have things that look like dots, and she had three books with her name in the title that ran for a collective 279 issues, each with like three or four stories in them, and she was in other books with her own stories too. Yes, she’s one of their best characters.”) And this got me looking into their theoretically available Harvey Comics and this lead me to a series that I guess that I knew existed but had never looked at, which is this:
Thanks also for being interested in mathematically-themed comic strips. Those I talk about over here, at least one and sometimes several times each week. I try not to be too mean to the poor unfortunate jokes I notice.
26 March – 16 June 2018.
We left the Amazing Spider-Man in a good place. By my lights. He and Peter Parker’s grumbly employer J Jonah Jameson were deep in the Everglades. The Incredible Hulk was there, engaging in a contest of big musclebound green guys in purple pants wrestling. His opponent: The Lizard, the Science-Mutated Dr Curt Connors. He’s figuring on leading an alligator uprising that overthrows humanity. Great stuff.
Spider-Man leaps into action, which yes, he does. The snarky comics-reading community loves how much Spider-Man falls unconscious and gets other people to do his work. It’s more true than it maybe should be. But he will leap in to try to reason opponents into peace. I admire his trying. J Jonah Jameson admires it too, to his disbelief. It’s a policy that gets Spidey clobbered a lot, often knocking him unconscious. But what’s a hero without courage?
He tries the Hulk first, trusting that if he can calm down Bruce Banner then he can stop this green-guy swamp fight before anyone’s hurt. He clings to The Incredible Hulk, promising that the Hulk has to smash him first before he can smash The Lizard. Or — he can avoid killing anyone. Incredible sees the wisdom in this, and reverts to Bruce Banner form, to pass out in the grass. This gives The Lizard an opening to smash Spidey. But Spider-Man has a winning tactic.
He reminds The Lizard that he’s Dr Curt Connors, a man of Nice Science. Also that Nice Scientists don’t mean to go overthrowing humanity and installing a new master race of alligators. And this, too, works. The Lizard turns back into a human. A human with one lost arm, incidentally. Connors had lost it in a past Lizard-based adventure. He was scienceing that problem when he goofed and mutated himself again. He’s cool with losing the arm again, if it means he can be a human not seeking to rule the world. Well, different strokes. Also now he can kind of see why the grant committee rejected his proposal.
Next problem: J Jonah Jameson’s looking forward to his scoop about Curt Connors being The Lizard. But Connors doesn’t want the news made public; it would devastate his son. Spider-Man doesn’t want the news public either; Peter Parker’s a friend of Connors. Jameson is able to see reason, once a couple of leftover alligators attack him and Spider-Man throws them off. And after Spidey says he’ll drop some alligators in Jameson’s office if he publishes. This undoes much of the good will that Spider-Man’s built up in Jameson’s eyes, but, you know, you can’t smash a heap of eggs without making some omelettes.
Anyway, Mary Jane Parker pops back around with the Motorboat of Wrapping Up Loose Ends. Along the way, Connors reaffirms that he doesn’t want the story getting out. Jameson reaffirms that he isn’t so much of a heel to ruin Connors’s kid’s life right now anyway. And Banner and Connors go off, figuring if they can team up to find a purple-pants Purple-Pants League of Science Mutation Stopping.
Peter has a little accident where he drops his plane fare back to New York, and an impoverished mother and son find it. So he lets them keep it, and Mary Jane eats the cost of another plane ticket back. (Mary Jane had told Jameson that her husband was going back to New York, as cover for Spider-Man turning up in the Everglades. So they have to make good the cover story is why.) There’s the traditional hold-up at the airport. Peter Parker worries he’ll get asked why he wears a Spidey suit under his clothes. He never worries he’ll get asked about these tiny, explosively propelled webs of an exotic chemical mixture strapped to his wrists.
But with the 18th of May, I’m calling, the old story ends and the new one begins.
That one opens “somewhere in Manhattan” as some of your classic thugs hold guns on what they claim is FBI Agent Jimmy Woo. They get to clobbering him when a new superhero pops in. It’s someone named Iron Fist, who’s dressed in green pants, vest, yellow hood, and cool dragon chest tattoo. I trust these are all people from some other Marvel comic where it’s always 1978. Iron Fist clobbers the thugs and takes the wounded FBI Agent to Metro General hospital.
At the Daily Bugle office, managing editor Robbie Robertson happens to mention that The Kingpin is out of jail. And then the Plot TV reports this Iron Fist stuff going on. Robertson deputizes Parker to go interview the agent and write up this story. At the hospital Parker sneaks past security. He’s caught by Dr Christine Palmer. I assume she’s someone from the comic books too or else she’s getting too much of an introduction.
Kicked out, Peter figures the thing to do is to make like a Minneapolis raccoon. He gets to the 14th floor and gets kicked in the face by Iron Fist. Spidey tries to sass Iron Fist about how come he’s doing all this kicking. But I’m not worried. This looks like the Ritual Fight that all superheroes must do on first meeting. They’ll be teaming up soon enough. Or will they? … Yeah, they will. I’m writing this Wednesday, but I have expectations about the rest of the week.
I still do not know what’s happening with Jim Scancarelli. However, Gasoline Alley for Thursday and Friday have been, as best I can tell, new strips. The comic strip had been rerunning a 2007 story in which Slim conks his head and has to get help for insomnia. In the 2007 run of this story Slim’s natural insomnia gave way to his being distracted by kids playing basketball in a court that had just gotten built. This turned into a story where, I swear, he bought a meteorite off eBay and arranged to have it dropped from a helicopter on the court in order to cancel basketball for the indeterminate future.
This time around, after finally getting some sleep, Slim has dreams of being on a deserted island with a bunch of Kiss Girls, which gets him in trouble with his wife.
What I don’t know that this means the strip is going to full-time new comics. This could mark a transition to new stories, or at least new little joke strips. But this could also be Scancarelli going back to working part-time, slipping in new strips to a rerun arc. I haven’t got any information either way, and will have to wait for developments.
I have thought that the last several Sunday strips were new. There’ve been several featuring a Gasoline Alley centennial logo. Perhaps whatever has taken Scancarelli away from new work has passed and the comic can get back to normal. And, perhaps, even resolve the story of Rufus’s wooing of the Widow Emma Sue and Scruffy’s Mother. That story was left on hold when the comic went into unexplained reruns in November. It was held at a good pausing point, but there is unfinished business there yet.
(A long, serious sigh. And I send a note to ask for a little chat, “when you have the time”. But before the close of business.)
(I turn a chair around and sit with my chest pressing into its back. I put on a baseball cap, and then turn it around.) So! Linkedin Algorithm. Alg. Alg, I like that. You know, I used to know someone named Algus. No, that wasn’t his name, but he felt very positive about that instead. Well, I’m drifting from my point. Look, thanks for coming in for a little honest “rap session” like the kids say today in Imaginary 1967. I want to let you know, I appreciate how hard you’re working, looking out for me like this. I appreciate the idea that I should have a job that is not the one I have now. Really, great, thoughtful stuff. There’s nothing like having a friend who at random times bursts out with the declaration that I should be a part-time copy editor at a weekly newspaper in Rossville, Georgia. It gives me this strong sense of needing to be somewhere. Yes, even somewhere near Lake Winnepesaukah amusement park.
But — yes, this is the compliment sandwich technique, well-spotted — I want to ask you what are the points of commonality in these four jobs that totally exist and are not spammers trying to hack the LinkedIn Algorithm. You, Alg. What about me makes you think I’m equally ready to be a part-time temporary online instructor for some 7th grade class somewhere or maybe, what the heck, Facebook’s Director of Global Law Enforcement Outreach?
Now, now, no. I do not mean to put you on the spot. You don’t have to answer now, or really, at all. What’s important to me is that you sit though and think out what you see in common here. Find some tighter definition about what you see as similarities. This will help you algorithmate better in the future.
Yes, very good. You’ve seized on one right away. Of all these jobs, none of them need me to be in Michigan, which is the one place where I am. As a commonality that’s as useful as noticing that none of these jobs will routinely require that I smear myself head-to-toe with honey mustard. Not needing to be in Michigan is something common to 84 percent of all jobs, worldwide. It’s not productive to sort things on that basis. The mustard thing, that’s 94 percent of all jobs, yes.
Two of these jobs are described as adjunct faculty positions. I think this reflects a misunderstanding on your part about what adjunct faculty positions are. Adjunct faculty positions are for people who haven’t yet been cured of the daft idea of working in academia. Most adjunct positions require long hours in stressful roles. There’s little respect. The pay is low. There’s some community colleges where the English adjuncts are compensated entirely by being kicked behind the library loading bay until their kidneys bleed. And that’s after the adjuncts formed a union. Before the strike they were just shoved off the third-storey balcony until their skulls fractured. No, no, of course I wouldn’t just turn down an adjunct position. I’d just have it not be in a business school. Those people make you talk about business all the time, even if you’ve said you’d rather take the “jabbed with sharp sticks” benefit instead.
Also I don’t know what exactly Global Law Enforcement Outreach is. It sounds like my job would be travelling to exotic countries and hugging the cops. I admit I’m a huggy person. By preemptively hugging I can cut down the amount of handshaking I’m expected to do. But, jeez. Do I look like I want a life where I’m constantly jetting to exciting places like Johor Bahru, opening my arms wide at someone writing traffic citations, smiling as if I apparently weren’t pained by showing enthusiasm, and saying, “Come on over here, buddy!”? Do they look like they want that?
So. I appreciate your energy, I appreciate your enthusiasm. I like your willingness to think outside my career box. And let me give you this little tip. None of these are the job I would have if I could pick anything at all. Nor is my current job. What I’d really like, if you could find an opening, is to be the astronaut who draws Popeye. But don’t worry if you can’t swing that. I’m just glad you’re out there looking.
(I stand up, confident I’ve got this all worked out and there’ll be no unwanted side-effects to my honesty with Alg.)
Everyone thought the announcement some bizarrely complicated typo. “Guaranteed winning tickets,” the lottery promised. The ticket cost twice the normal price, but promised a sure payout. Maybe not the grand prize — even the Lottery Commission wouldn’t promise that — but more than the cost of the ticket. The double-price guaranteed tickets didn’t sell at all the first day, out of suspicion. The first few purchases came the second day, and were as good as their word. People talked eagerly about it. News spread fast; within two weeks the guaranteed tickets outsold the regular-price ones. Which still paid out, yes, but only on rare occasions for even the smallest of prizes.
For a while anyone with any sense bought the guaranteed tickets. Well, what would you do? But in surprisingly little time the thrill of the sure payout waned. There was somehow a purer thrill in playing the regular game. Even if you lost, which you almost always did, you could show to everyone how you had gone about it the harder way and here’s the worthless ticket to prove it. And if you did somehow win after all — well, that was only all the sweeter. Plus, they were cheaper, after all.
So the regular old loser tickets came back. First among hipsters and people who wanted to show how they had the money to just throw away. Then among people who saw that, you know, there was some stupid goofy fun in that way. The guaranteed tickets transitioned into being an occasional thing, something done when a person needed some extra money, or the surety of a prize, or a change from the routine. The loser tickets sufficed for everyday purposes.
Everyone agreed that this taught them something deep and important about people, but danged if anybody could say what the heck it was.
I’m down to the last four of the Talkartoon series and don’t go thinking that I’m not as worried as you all are what I’ll do when the sequence is done. But until then, what should I do except carry on as if there’s nothing to worry about?
This cartoon was originally released the 29th of April, 1932, so it’s the third of that month’s productions. The credited animators are Alfred Eugster and Rudolph Eggeman. Both have had credits before. Eugster was an animator for Grand Uproar, the once-lost Ace of Spades, The Bum Bandit, and The Herring Murder Case. Eggeman is credited for The Cow’s Husband.
I’d asked in The Cow’s Husband whether (American) bullfighting cartoons are always on the bull’s side. This short makes me wonder about cartoons about hunting, too. Surely they aren’t all on the hunted animal’s side. But the animal does seem to come out the better for the experience. This might be forced on the plots by the convention that these are humorous cartoons. This encourages the story to set the hunter out for basically trivial reasons, as here, where Bimbo and Koko are trying to impress Betty Boop. But if the hunt is for something trivial, then it’s too harsh to have the animal killed, and that means the animal has to come out better than the hunter does.
(It’s not impossible for the hunter to have good reasons and the cartoon to still be funny. On a vein not too different, there’s those Woody Woodpecker cartoons where Woody, or the wolf, or both are on the brink of starvation. It gives the cartoon a solid dramatic background that strengthens the joke. But I see the hunter as the non-ridiculous hero a lot less.)
So Betty Boop sets the cartoon in motion, singing of how she wants animal furs. And returns at the end, horrified that the animals have lost their fur. For this she gets top billing, which shows how little a star can do and still get away with it. The rest of the cartoon is Bimbo and Koko enacting spot jokes about incompetent hunters.
All the jokes here are okay. There’s only one that I find really good. That’s at about 3:15 when the deer(?) Koko’s shooting at grabs a pistol and shoots back. There’s a long bit, starting about 4:15, where an unspotted cat wants to get into the clam bake, and uses Koko’s bullets at spots, that’s clever enough. It didn’t seem like a fresh joke to me, but that might be my remembering watching this cartoon in ages past and knowing where the business all was going. Some folks might like Bimbo’s shooting at a lion only to produce a pride of lions better than I do, and I won’t say you’re wrong. Nor will I say you’re wrong if you like his shooting them all again with one bullet. It’s a joke I feel like I’ve seen before, but I also know I’ve seen it here before.
The story’s structured sensibly enough. It’s paced too steadily, too measured, for me though. Everything feels a bit slow and there’s no build to the story or tension or loopiness or action. You could probably swap the order of any of the hunting gags and make as good a short. There’s not any blink-and-you-miss-it jokes, not if you blink fast enough to spot the deer pulling his pistol out. Maybe Bimbo kissing the bear at about 5:18. Three’s also no really good body-horror jokes as long as you don’t find animals wearing their own fur as clothing horrifying. Some mice finally show up, in the parade at the end, about 6:50 in, at least.
There is some good animation crafting, though. As Bimbo’s slowly pursued by lions, around 3:45, there’s two levels of background. One’s the ground, moving as Bimbo walks. The other’s the sky, in perspective motionless. It adds some good depth to the scene. About 5:41 there’s a great split-screen image, Bimbo and Koko walking back with their furs. That’s some good camera work and the sort of thing you never see in cartoons.
But I have to rate this, overall, a dull cartoon. It’s all competently done, and crafted well enough that even if it ran in the late 30s it wouldn’t stand out as a primitive cartoon, the way (say) Dizzy Dishes might. Good to have reached that level of competence but that’s all it has.
But who am I to dispute clear messages from the dream world? Anyway apparently sometime in the near future I’m going to be stuck driving from building to building across the west side of town looking frantically for the one place that has the laundry chute to the basement. Now, I know what you’re thinking, and of course I have checked. The laundry chute to the basement is still in the bathroom. Well, and the other half is in the basement. I guess there’s more parts between the two, but they’re not ordinarily accessible. I shouldn’t have to go to the west side of town for this. If I find myself there I should bring my dirty clothes back home and bring them upstairs so I can toss them down to the basement efficiently.
Oh, what’s ever going on in Judge Parker? Lots of stuff. Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manely’s comic strip has not been sluggishly plotted. This is my best attempt, as of early-to-mid June 2018, to recap the last couple months. If none of this stuff seems relevant, you may need an essay at or near the top of this page, where its successors should appear. But if you’re reading this around June or July 2018, maybe this will help you out. Glad to help.
Big personal revelations were on the way last time I checked in on Judge Parker. Randy Parker, shocked by his wife’s daring escape from Super Double Top Secret Federal Jail Prison, turned to obsessive paranoia. He got so busy wiring his house with cameras and watching everything. And not leaving the house. His father, the original Judge Alan Parker, points out he’s not doing enough judge work. And if you can imagine doing so little judge work that Judge Parker notices, well. But Randy stays resolute. After her prison break, disavowed CIA agent April Parker had come to the house, promising that she’d be back to take their child. Maybe Randy too. He’s determined not to let that happen.
But he does need groceries. And diapers. So he goes to the supermarket and cute-meets Toni Bowen. She’s the local reporter who leapt to the national desk covering the collapse of Godiva Danube and Neddy Spencer’s clothing factory. She also fell back to the local news after her next big story, Sophie Driver’s kidnapping, was too confusing to follow. And how she didn’t destroy Randy Parker interviewing him about April Parker’s prison escape.
Two months pass, per the caption on the 2nd of April. Randy and Toni are sharing Netflix passwords. Toni’s wary about this. Randy’s a former interview subject, after all. And is likely to be an interview subject again, considering that he’s still married, to a federal fugitive who’s also a hypercompetent CIA-trained assassin. She wants all this kept quiet. Randy would like to but he kind of mentioned it to Sam Driver. While Sophie Driver could overhear. Also all their relationship is taking place inside Randy Parker’s home. Which, Toni finally gets around to pointing out, is monitored by dozens of Internet-connected cameras.
So Randy accepts the argument that he’s got to live unafraid of April’s sure return. He turns off all the security cameras in time for Alan Parker to point out that April could be watching the house all the time. But what are the odds she’s doing that?
April asks her father, Norton, what it means that the security cameras have been turned off. She’s had a storyline that’s mostly played out in the Sunday strips. She’s strained by her new life. She’s travelling the world murdering people with her father. Who’s constantly making jokes that aren’t even Dad Jokes. There’s a lot of jokes, mind you. Often ones that seem contextually inappropriate, like in the aftermath of a murder pointing out there’s milanos in the glove compartment.
It’s part of Francesco Marciuliano’s writing. The characters do joke. Many of them are weird little not-quite-non-sequiturs, such as many of Norton’s little asides. Many of them are moments of self-deprecation as characters realize they’ve been acting foolishly. A bit of this is refreshing self-awareness. Too much of it sounds sitcom-y. Not to the extent that Dan Thompson’s Rip Haywire gets. Several times the past few months it’s gotten more snarky than I like. It feels like reflexive snark. Snark is fun, but it’s corrosive when done without thought. And that’s unfortunate, since I’ve been enjoying the plotting. Marciuliano has embraced making the stories as crazypants as possible. He’s also made good use of bouncing soap-opera-loony plots off of characters who, if belatedly, come to their senses. It keeps the stories from being too absurd for my tastes.
And the style can work. For example, in the third major plot developing the past several months. This is in Los Angeles, where the scene transitions are flagged by the narration box with movie-script format. This thread follows Neddy Spencer, who’s solving all her problems by moving to a new city and working in the field of becoming famous. She’s having trouble making friends, which changes when Godiva Danube turns up at her restaurant.
Godiva had urged Neddy to come with her to Los Angeles; Neddy had seen this as emotional manipulation on Godiva’s part. But you see where this is a heap of awkward. Her coworker Ronnie tries to guide her through the scene. And she starts to like Neddy, the way anyone starts to like a person they do a favor for. Ronnie dives in to rescue Neddy when the quarrel with Godiva gets too intense.
And here — this past week — these three threads crash together. Norton and April are in Los Angeles to kill someone. Who’s staying in Room 237 (get it?) of some hotel. Toni Bowen gets promoted from the break-of-dawn to the 5 pm newscast. The first story: new developments in an old story. And Ronnie has news for Neddy: Godiva’s dead.
So every now and then I get to writing one of these essays well ahead of time. Like, get the whole thing roughed out by Monday or Tuesday before it needs to be published. Every time this makes my weekend so much easier. Do I learn from this to get stuff done early? Maybe even, if I have a free hour, write up story-so-far paragraphs for the comics I know are coming up soon? No, I absolutely refuse to learn and do things that make my life easier. But, c’mon, if you’re going to drop something like that on me, the day before this What’s-Going-On-In essay publishes, you’re just teaching me to write as close to deadline as possible. It’s not fair, is what it isn’t.
So What’s The Deal With This Apartment 3-G Talk?
Well, that was interesting. As Norton and April approached what I have taken to be Godiva’s hotel room [*] there was a fake-out strip. On the 2nd of June, a black-haired woman accepted a pizza delivery. She’s at a door marked 3-G.
An Apartment 3-G reference? Of course; what else makes sense here? What’s interesting is the question of whether Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley are planning to bring an Apartment 3-G thread into the storyline. King Features Syndicate (I assume) holds the publication rights on both properties, after all. And it’s not a frightening innovation to have characters from a cancelled strip appear in a still-ongoing one. The cliffhanger on which the comic strip Annie ended was eventually resolved in Dick Tracy. And characters from Brenda Starr, The Spirit, and the Green Hornet have popped up in Joe Staton and Mike Curtis’s comic. (Of course, who hasn’t? Characters from Popeye, Terry and the Pirates, and Harold Teen have made cameos there. Yes, yes, Popeye is technically still in production, as far as we know, but it’s barely seen.) Keeping the property alive by references in other strips, until it can be grittily rebooted, would make good sense.
And Marciuliano might be game. In Sally Forth he’s several times written flash-forward strips, where Hilary Forth and her friends Faye and Nona are young adults sharing an apartment. Many Sally Forth readers note how that setup is close enough to Apartment 3-G‘s for jazz. I’m not aware that Marciuliano has expressed any interest in doing a quiet Apartment 3-G revival. The 2nd of June’s strip is adequately explained as faking out the reader. But I can’t rule out that Marciuliano might intend to plot something wild. I am checking with the rules committee about whether it is possible to take my Apartment 3-G essay tag out of retirement.
[*] We have seen Norton and April enter a hotel room. We’ve seen a woman laying on the bed. We’ve gotten the news that Godiva is dead. But we have not — as of Saturday, the 9th of June anyway — seen a direct statement that this woman was Godiva, nor that she was killed by Norton and April’s action. I’m aware of soap opera rules too.
It looks like that sign in the neighbor’s front door is gone. Now I’ll never know what precisely the thing that wasn’t any of my business was. I mean, I know the general gist. It means there’s been a breakthrough, and they’ve come to an agreement about whose job it is to make sure all the car keys are put in the dishwasher, and there’ve been enough shows of goodwill and success on a probationary period that people trust this can be done. But how am I going to know what exactly the flash point was? I mean besides by ever talking to any of them, ever.
Baseball! Say the word (baseball) and right away you’ve conjured thousands of rhapsodic essays about baseball that you won’t read. The sport attracts a lot of writing. To write you only have to be awake and have run out of everything to do except writing. To play it as a sport you need a bat and a ball and maybe like eighteen friends and crowds of tens of thousands of fans. Getting enough people together to supply concessions alone is a chore. Far easier to just write essays about how awesome it would be to play, or maybe watch, or maybe just not worry about.
Still, baseball puts up some good statistics here. Baseball enthusiasts create an average of 49.5 pretentious essays about its inherent greatness for every 12.1 that football enthusiasts create. There’s alo 62.7 essays about baseball for every 25.3 about basketball. There’s 88.5 pro-baseball essays for each 56.2 about cricket. There’s nearly two baseball essays for every one about some silly made-up sport that appears in science fiction shows. That’s a pretty good ratio for the made-up sports. But remember that lots of those essays are snarky. Their major thesis is how the games never look like anything anyone would ever plausibly do for fun, unlike real sports, a category which includes “competitive shin-kicking”.
But just that paragraph gets at some of the joy of baseball. You see even a mystical aura given to its numbers and how easily they can start arguments. Try out 61, for example, or 2632. Toss in a 755, or an 1981 if you’ve got it. If these don’t start an argument, you’re not being persistent enough. Try them again, with greater emphasis. Some numbers get so contentious that there’s nothing sensible to do except retire them. Usually only baseball teams will retire a number. But if you want to do it, go ahead and retire one yourself. If you pick some number that doesn’t get called on much, like 441, they might never catch you. The National League discovered in 1994 how someone had retired 2538 on them over five decades before and they never noticed.
Baseball enthusiasts like to embrace the sport’s mythic origins. According to those, the rules were the creation of Paul Bunyan, who wrestled John Henry’s locomotive. This dug out the finger lakes and uncovering Cooperstown. There Johnny Appleseed emerged from the ground. From this first Home Plate he would walk the Old Northwest, planting Cardiff Giants everywhere. And from these steps small semi-professional teams would grow. Then Mike Fink would come along and punch them. The legend may have grown confused in the retelling.
More serious baseball enthusiasts like to point out the game actually derives from the British game of rounders. This turns out to be fictional too. It all comes from one guy reasoning that he liked baseball now, and when he was a kid he liked rounders. So they must be the same sport at different stages in his life cycle. When he wrote it down this seemed to make sense to everybody, which shows what the standards for making sense were like back then. Please remember that “back then” was generations before baseball was so well-organized that its players could be poisoned by socks. But it inspires questions. Like, what if he had written about this rounders-baseball thing later in life, when his interests had moved on still farther?
What if we saw baseball as merely a transitional sport between baseball and holding a cane while disapproving of the young? How different would the sport be? Would it earn publicly-funded stadiums in all the major cities? Would we have teams of nine scowling old men competing to see who can most be disgusted by some youthful frivolity? Would we be tracking the range and performance of the nation’s greatest complainers? Would the 60s have seen carefully-reasoned critiques about what makes a good crack about how with their long hair you can’t tell boys from girls anymore? Would the American League in 1973 have introduced a Designated Grumbler? I don’t know, but isn’t that an experiment worth running?
My point has gotten away from me, leapt over the back fence, and is running off toward the bridge over the highway. If found please return to this address, or any other needy place which you believe will provide a good home.
We regret the need to clarify things again. But we have to discontinue one of the rewards for long-time subscribers. Effective the 15th of June, more or less, patrons won’t be able to “spend a luxury weekend as a supply closet in City Hall”. The offer appears to have been a typo. No, we can’t figure out what we were trying to type in the first place either. It’s all a mystery and given all the other problems we have, what with the world and everything, it’s better to just drop the subject. People who’ve already got reservations for their weekends will be offered the option of converting to spending a luxury Thursday as a letter bin in the state capitol, explaining to the rest of the country what an “olive burger” is, or getting this hand-written coupon for 238 tickets good at some redemption counter, somewhere, that didn’t write out where it was exactly. We’ve got it narrowed down to amusement places in one of four states and can even tell you which states, if that would help. We apologize for any convenience.
Today’s Talkartoon is another from April of 1932. And it’s another animated by Shamus Culhane. The other animator was William Henning, who hasn’t been credited on a Talkartoon before. He did work on Swing You Sinners! though.
A word before we get to the action. The sexual-assault subtext that runs through a lot of Betty Boop cartoons is less subtexty this time around. I mean, the bad guy drags her into a bedroom at one point. And there’s lower-level stuff played for laughs, like Betty’s clothes coming off or an animal peeking up her dress. If you don’t want to deal with that, don’t worry. You’re not missing a significant cultural event. I’ll catch you next time.
Something you discover and rediscover a lot watching black-and-white cartoons: they’re not afraid to have real-world and cartoon interactions. They maybe have more the farther back you go, which seems opposite the way you’d expect. This short’s framed with footage of old guys playing chess. It’s not much interaction. And they do a common trick of using a still frame to animate over. But it’s still neat to see.
Framing the action as an anthropomorphized chess game is a fun idea. It doesn’t quite hold together logically, if someone would care about the logic of why the King would need his Queen to marry him. And it has some weird knock-on effects, like forcing Bimbo and Koko to go in white versions of their models. Given that Betty also wears a black dress it seems like it’d be easier if the three of them were the black pieces and Old King Cole in white. Maybe it’s so the resolution can be the white king Bimbo capturing the black queen Betty?
Anyway it’s a good excuse to have a lot of checkerboard patterns moving in perspective, which lets the animators show off what they can do. And there’s a wealth of the weird little mutable-world jokes that black-and-white cartoons get a reputation for: Bimbo’s crown reaching out and punching Old King Cole. A table reaching up to pull Betty’s dress back down. Betty dragging a window out of place. Old King Cole running into a door so hard he falls apart.
There’s a bunch of blink-and-you-miss-it jokes. Maybe you noticed about 1:48 where Bimbo’s hands fall off for a second. But did you notice about 3:50, when Old King Cole is carrying Betty off, that his feet keep slipping out of his shoes and dropping back in? Old King Cole’s falling-apart and reassembling after hitting the door about 3:15 is also done very quickly and underplayed. Plenty of choices here; I’d give the nod to the shoes business since I’ve seen this cartoon dozens of times over the last twenty years and only noticed it today.
Mice only appear once here, as Betty throws a vase through the wall and an adulterous mouse runs back home about 5:26. But then after the initial establishing scene Betty Boop doesn’t show up herself until about 2:45 in. The short is much more a Bimbo cartoon, and he’s actually an effective lead for it. Old King Cole skulks about in a nicely Snidely Whiplash-y manner. Bimbo plays well against him. Some ages ago I talked about Betty Boop’s short-lived boyfriend Fearless Fred. I suspected that Fred’s creation was because Bimbo couldn’t play the Hero role in a Spoof Victorian Melodrama. That Bimbo’s just too vague a person to have a good comeback to the Villain’s taunting. Maybe I was wrong; he holds his own here. But I stil can’t see Bimbo quite playing Fred’s role naturally, for all that he succeeds here.
The closing music tells us Old King Cole is dead and gone. I don’t remember his turning up in another cartoon. But never know; there’s no reason that he couldn’t.
I don’t even know if I believe the local alt-weekly’s latest report about how bad things have got with City Hall. But, if we take their “highly placed but unnamed source” — that’s got to be whoever it was was mayor of Lansing after David M C Hollister — at its word, then it turns out City Hall is not even any such thing. It’s actually three Town Halls standing on top of each other and wearing a construction tarp. I can hardly believe it either. You never think of stuff like that happening these days. Although if it did happen, it happened in the late 50s, when I’m not sure we had rules about building stuff to any particular code or guidelines or anything. Well, we’ll just see what appears in the corrections column. It will be an apology for the incorrect use of “it’s/its” in the official notices.
Thanks for wondering what might be happening in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. I’m writing this when the Summer 2018 storyline has barely begun. So if you’re reading this too late into summer, or after Fall 2018, sorry, this won’t help. If I’ve got a more recent summary it should be at or near the top of this page. Thanks for checking. And, you know, if you want to just subscribe to Another Blog, Meanwhile, and get these updates in your WordPress Reader, there’s the blue strip to “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” on the right side of this page. At least until I change the theme as if I could find a theme that will make me happy.
[ Record scratch. MARTY MOON, in voice-over. ] “Yup, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation.”
Yes. But nobody wants to hear what passes for introspection in Marty Moon’s mind. I’ll do it instead. It started with Jorge and Paloma Padilla, transfer students fleeing Donald Trump’s enthusiastic drowning of Puerto Rico by joining Milford’s basketball teams. Marty Moon, covering a game, says Hurricane Maria was the best thing that could’ve happened to the Milford basketball team and also to “Georgie”. And talks how Georgie “earned his burritos” with that great play. How he’s a regular “Mexican jumping bean”. He figures this weird, faintly-racist-in-that-way-60s-food-mascots-could-be stuff might help the radio station land a big advertising deal from a Mexican restaurant. Paloma’s Disgruntled Students Group comes to the station to ask what the deal is. Moon mansplains that they need to remember the one key thing in the world of high-school-sports radio-journalism: shut up. So they take seats right behind Moon’s broadcast table and heckle him. He runs off.
Moon recuperates in the time-honored fashion of white guys. He whines about political correctness gone mad and determines that it’s someone else’s fault (“or I’ll eat my sombrero”). Moon identifies coach Gil Thorp as the problem. It is a common thought in Gil Thorp commenting communities that Gil Thorp doesn’t really care about what’s going on. But in this case, well, yeah. He wouldn’t intermediate between Moon and the Disgruntled Students Group. But how is students protesting Marty Moon’s racist on-air jokes any of Thorp’s responsibility? But he rallies to action, and in a way I thought crafty. He tells the Disgruntled Students Group that they shouldn’t be drowning Moon out. But also there’s no reason Marty Moon should be the only coverage of sports games.
The Disgruntled Students Group sets up the “Milford Pirate Network” on YouTube. Cute nerd Duncan Levin, wearing a pirate hat and fake parrot, narrates the game. He has the condescending nerd attitude that calls “sportsball” any game that doesn’t involve miniatures and weird-marked dice. No matter; the Milford Pirate Network’s real game is bear-baiting, and Marty Moon hopes to someday be sharp as a bear. Levin’s a hit, which, yeah, I can see. I don’t buy the strip’s claim that this would draw away people who would like to hear coverage of a high school basketball game. But I accept there’s people who don’t care about basketball who would like to watch a nerd heckling a clownish local-media personality. I’m going ahead and assuming he pads his reporting with Monty Python quotes and lines from the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 series.
But there’s still the hecklers, taking Gil Thorp at his word that the occasional outburst is normal. And Levin, poking his head in to ask if Marty Moon’s wife is a goer, knowwhudImean. And his boss complaining that this whole mess is Marty Moon’s own fault. Even Jorge has limited sympathy. It’s not that anyone threw Moon under the bus. It’s that he dug a pit for himself in the asphalt and then hugged a bus over top of himself. And then hired another bus to come and run over that bus. And then hired a third, bigger bus company to run a bus over that buspile. Then he got back to the first bus company and had them put monster truck tires on top of their tallest bus and drive it over them.
On to an away game. The Milford Pirate Network is there. Levin asks how Moon can possibly transmit without a fake parrot attached to his shirt. Moon curses out Levin live and on air, using even the # word, and gets an indefinite suspension for his troubles. Even though he totally sent an e-mail saying he apologized if there were any fragile snowflakes out there who were too sheltered in their safe spaces to able to tolerate his honest truth-telling.
The suspension has its downsides. It turns out that without Moon to heckle, Levin isn’t much of a sports commentator. I know, weird that someone who’d talk about how their big sweaty guy is better than our big sweaty guy doesn’t know how to craft a good sports narrative. But likely it would have petered out in any case. It’s easy enough to make fun of something once, maybe twice. Keeping at it after that requires work. You have to have writing skills. You have to run out of stuff to say and care about the subject enough to think of new stuff to say. And deep down, Levin doesn’t really care about basketball.
The YouTube coverage winds down. And there’s no radio coverage either, which I guess is a bad thing for the basketball team for some reason? I don’t know. This may be my background showing. I grew up in central New Jersey. A high school basketball game would not make the evening news unless something noteworthy happened, such as the Governor accidentally crashing a light aircraft into the gymnasium and transforming the six people nearest the crash site into superhero tiger-sharks, as happened in Egg Harbor City the 22nd of July, 1986.
So coach Gil Thorp puts aside his not really caring and intervenes again. Moon’s boss confirms that if they can do something that gets the Disgruntled Students Group off their backs they’ll put Moon back on the air. So Thorp goes to Paloma. He explains how this has all been jolly good fun, but now a white man is suffering a consequence. Surely she doesn’t want to be responsible for that? Which is where in this storyline I started yelling back at the comic. I may need to take a break.
But they work out a deal. The Disgruntled Students Group will drop their protest, if Marty Moon apologizes, takes an online course about Latin American history, and covers at least one girls game each season. I’m not clear if this is only girls basketball, or all the major sports. But the lack of media coverage of girls sports was mentioned, early in the story, and was one of the injustices Paloma noticed. Moon’s boss buys the deal for him. Moon says “I can’t believe you let those kids get away with this.” Thorp answers, “You sound like the villain on Scooby-Doo”. This moment endeared Thorp to me. It got the Scooby-Doo quote wrong in the way that a middle-aged guy who really doesn’t care about Scooby-Doo would. And that, with the 21st of April, ends the Marty Moon/Jorge Paloma story.
The current story, softball season, started the 23rd of April. Senior Kevin Pelwecki has got obsessive in that endearing teenager way about batting just right. And lecturing his teammates on the proper swing. Gil Thorp, spotting trouble early this time, steps in. He drills Pelwecki on batting, keeping him too busy to instruct his teammates, and away from where his teammates can flush him down a toilet. That’s all right; Pelwecki will find the time to teach his teammates about his new batting stance. In fairness, he is getting better pretty fast.
Meanwhile at school newspaper The Milford Trumpet, they have a plotline. Dafne, spunky young reporter who probably has a last name, has noticed Barry Bader. Bader’s a weirdly intense player on the team. She digs around and what she can find is interesting but incomplete. She learns that Bader’s father is in jail for killing a student while driving drunk. The story’s more complicated than that [*], but she can’t get much, since it happened the summer before I started doing these plot recaps. She figures: well, why not ask him about it? And in case of the one-in-a-million chance he doesn’t want to talk about it? Why not ask him again and again until he says something newsworthy?
[*]: While driving home drunk Bader’s father crashed his car into Milford girls’ softball star pitcher “Boo” Radley’s. Both were okay at first, but a truck that didn’t stop in time hit Radley’s car, killing her. The salient part starts here, the 2nd of June, 2016 and goes about a week. Also relevant: Bader’s father was already standing trial for driving drunk when this happened.
This goes well. A provoked Bader argues with an umpire until Thorp carries him back to the dugout. Later in the game Bader takes a runner’s slide into second as a personal affront, slugs him, and gets suspended for two games. His teammates laugh through his anger, because remember, guys are awful. Bader figures to channel his anger into interviews with Dafne. He says, “it can’t make things any worse”, apparently forgetting that he was calling his father’s judge in the first trial an “ugly cow” that someone ought to “smack” and that things said to reporters sometimes get reported. No matter; he’s busy this weekend. He’d told a bunch of Greek gods how he could perform a more beautiful melody on the lute than any of them. Now they’re going to have a little contest to see who’s right.
So we’re ready to see the interview happen. There are all sorts of ways this can go well; which will it be? I’ll know tomorrow; you’ll know, I don’t know. Next essay, probably.
And now let me pause to figure out how many people read something or other on my humor blog in May. I’m guessing that the Nancy boom has worn off. You can’t count on exciting comic strip news like that every month.
OK, so it’s wearing off slowly, at least. It was another month of more than three thousand readers. It’s dropped again, a little bit, but the readers are still around. There were 3,227 page views recorded, down from April’s 3,590 and March’s 3,773. This came from 1,871 unique visitors, down not so much from April’s 1,988 or March’s 1,917. There were 175 likes registered in May; in April there were 177. This does nothing to dissuade me from thinking WordPress is making stuff up. My humor blog had 73 likes in both March and April. I know, right? It was a slight bit chattier here in May than in April. 54 comments, up from 43, but down from March’s 84. I think comments are going to pick up, though. In the story strip summaries we’ve got Judge Parker and Spider-Man coming up this month. And Gil Thorp might well draw a response from someone, considering.
So what all was popular in May? The biggest thing was me grousing about a truly awful footer to the vintage Thimble Theatre strips on ComicsKingdom. I suspect that somebody popular referenced my dazed and ironic reading of those awful Kabibble Kabaret alleged jokes that Harry Hershfield inflicted on a country already plunging into the Great Depression. The top five posts of the month:
As happens, the Spider-Man and the Gasoline Alley posts were to specific essays and I’ve changed the URLs to the tag links. They’re from before May, it happens. The most popular thing I wrote in May was What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Muffins And Despair. February – May 2018. I’m glad. I liked writing that one, much as some of the subject matter got bad. My most popular original long-form piece was in there eventually, What They Found Inside City Hall. My hypothesis is that one found that sweet spot of being about something relatable, being much more true than people realize (there legitimately is a hole in an upper-floor bathroom from which you can peer down through many storeys), and got refreshed each Monday with some extra bit of preposterousness. The state’s spite building and the walled-off escalator are for real too.
78 countries sent me readers in May. There were 76 doing so in April, and 75 in March, so I guess we’ve run out of countries in the world. Here’s that part of the world:
Hong Kong SAR China
Trinidad & Tobago
United Arab Emirates
There were 25 single-reader countries for May. That’s up from 21 in April and back to March’s 25. China, Jamaica, Nepal, and Thailand were single-reader countries in April. Latvia and Slovenia have been single-reader countries two months running now. The United States readership dropped a couple hundred people, and Canada’s a bit. But the India readership nearly doubled. I have no explanation for this phenomenon.
Insights says I start June with 87,587 total page views, from 48,298 unique visitors. It tells me that this year I’ve published 99,521 words through the start of June — so the 100,000th was somewhere in yesterday’s long-form piece. I’m not interested enough to figure out which word that was. But there’ve been, to the start of June, 151 total posts, which gathered 340 total comments and 982 total likes. This implies I had 16,968 words published since the last statistics review for the month, and that for May I averaged 565.6 words per post. (And add to that the 10,836 words I put on my mathematics blog and I’m writing at a rather good clip. And you see why I don’t feel guilty never making a NaNoWriMo attempt.)
For the year I’m averaging 659.8 words per post. That’s down from the start of May’s 682.3 words per post. Good. I’ve needed to save the time. I’m now at an average of 6.5 likes per post for the year, down from 6.7. These decimal points are going to kill me. I’m still averaging 2.2 comments per post and there seems to be no affecting that.
Thank you and greetings to all patrons of whichever brand of gas station this is! We have made some major improvements to our rewards plan. Please do pay attention. All our departments have put a lot of work into making this a thrilling experience. We know Tom from Accounts Discernable would be heartbroken if nobody found out about the glass-blowing workshops. He’s very sure this is going to be the next big experience everyone wants to have and who knows. He could be right. Anyway the principle holds.
We don’t want you to see us as only one of three options for socially acceptable late-night peeing near exit 101 of the Interstate. We want you to see it as the last piece needed to reach a eudaimoniac state. In this all humanity is treated with respect and consideration and dignity. All beings capable of rational thought will be cherished. They will be brought to the fullest expression of their greatest potentials. Also three packs of Bugles are four bucks.
Please review these changes carefully! Teresa Cearley of Hopendyll, Maryland did. She was signed to a big ten-year contract with M-G-M pictures starring alongside Donald O’Connor! Jocelyn van Florp of Glacial Moraine, Wisconsin, did not. The day after she did not, her car was jailed on three counts of aggregated content!
So. We used to have the plan where if you bought six fountain drinks you get a coupon for the next one free. Or where if you bought six coffees you got a coupon for the next one free. First, we’re making clear that tea counts as coffee for the purposes of getting these coupons. You would not believe how much time our cashiers have to spend reassuring people about this. Some days during the depths of winter they’ll be asked about it four times. Which yes, doesn’t sound like a lot. Which yes, doesn’t sound like a lot. But it adds up. Over a full year it comes to whatever four times the number of days in a year is.
Also we count refilling your own travel mug as buying whatever the largest cup smaller than your mug’s size is. Travel mug volume is determined by an integral calculus. We will use integrals of rotated surfaces, best two falls out of three. We are retaining the popular feature where the coupon lasts long enough you forget you have it in the car’s cubby-hole for cell phones.
You continue to earn points by buying stuff from us or using our credit card. We’re also getting ready to release our app. It’s going to offer an exciting new way to earn points where you take pictures of anything, anything at all, with our app. Your car? Sure. Your friends? Yup. The place you’re road-tripping to? Absolutely. Home after a successful trip? Definitely. A cow that amused you all on US 2 in Ohio with how it existed and everything? Yes. An abandoned, crumbling brick factory? Yes. Once you’ve taken the picture call out, “Olly olly oxen free! Olly olly oxen free!” and there you go, points! We’re almost ready to go with this. It’s just the thing you call out set off a frightful argument around here. One faction said “olly olly oxen free”. Another faction said wrong things that were wrongitty wrong wrong and were stupid and wrong as kids. We’ve had to split the development team into four separate rooms, one of them in another building.
But what are points without the chance to use them on anything? Please look at our online store where you can see pictures of:
A flat-screen TV
Some manner of power tool
A foosball table
One of those unfolding rubber keyboards that people sometimes roll out and that hooks up to their phones by bluetooth or something and you can’t figure out how they work.
A foosball chair
An ugly watch
A curved-screen TV
A foosball sofa
An even flatter-screen TV
A foosball love seat
The abstract concept of social harmony
A foosball TV
You can log in using your 24-digit rewards club membership number plus, for safety, the four-digit pin you selected when you got the card in 2009 and don’t remember! It is 1312. Like in the stardate. Remember it by the point-four after that.
Please now pay attention to this video of the third-largest publicly-accessible model railroad in Harding County. Pretty neat, huh? You have to love this bit where it runs underneath the Old New Fulton Street Library. This has nothing to do with the rewards program but we like it. Thank you.