What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? What is a “Neighborhood Bank” Scam? October – December 2018


If you’re looking for a recap of the plot of Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy, good news! This is a useful spot for that. If you’re reading this after about March 2019 there’s probably a more up-to-date recap. It’ll be at this link.

And while I missed my deadline today, it was for the mathematically-themed comic strips I review at my other blog. But there are many essays in there already, and I hope there’ll be another there tomorrow. You might enjoy that too. Thanks.

Dick Tracy.

7 October – 29 December 2018.

The major storyline when I last checked in regarded Polar Vortex. He’s running drugs, under guise of an ice cream vendor, at Honeymoon Tracy’s school. Henchman Pauly, following Vortex’s direction, grabs Crystal Bribery. And, against Vortex’s direction, also grabs Honeymoon Tracy. And, probably against Vortex’s direction, clobbers Henchwoman “Devil” Devonshire. She’s left behind, for the cops. She stays quiet until threatened with hanging out with new Major Crimes Unit smiley guy Lafayette Austin.

Polar Vortex: 'You're back, Pauly! Did you get the Bribery girl?' Pauly: 'Yes, and the Moon kid too.' Vortex: 'Why, Pauly? I told you I didn't want her!' Pauly: 'Tracy will come for her. And I'll be waiting.' Vortex: 'I had a time and place for you to kill Tracy!' Pauly: 'You put me off too long. TRACY's MINE!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 12th of October, 2018. You know, henchmen wanting to kill Dick Tracy at some other time than what the crime lord wants is rather a recurring theme of this comic strip. They maybe need some task-coordinating software to sort this out. Also, kidnapping Honeymoon Tracy is also a recurring theme. Might want to let the crime lords know that the premise was tried a couple times and it didn’t work the way they wanted.

Polar Vortex and Pauly get to fighting in their hangout. Pauly’s ready to kill Vortex, who’s got the cavalry on the way. He’d taken Honeymoon Tracy’s wrist-wizard communicator out of the ice cream freezer. For some reason Pauly thought this would inactivate it. Tracy and Sam Catchem bust down the door and get into a shootout with Pauly. Pauly lives long enough to say that all this was for his father, Crutch.

… Which you’d think would be a big deal. Or which would be a big deal if it got some attention. Crutch is a character from the very first-ever Dick Tracy storyline. He was the gunman who killed Tess Trueheart’s father. It was the case that brought Dick Tracy into the scientific-detective line. I didn’t recognize this, no, and needed GoComics.com commenters and the Dick Tracy Wikia to guide me. Which all highlights some cool and some bad stuff about Staton and Curtis’s run on the strip. They’re incredibly well-versed in the history of the comic strip and can pull out stuff from about ninety years’ worth of stories. But when they’re doing this isn’t communicated well. To put Dick Tracy up against the son of the first man he gunned down? Good setup. But we didn’t know that was going on until that son was gasping his last breaths. Pauly’s role could be any henchman’s. So, what was the dramatic point made by linking him to the murderer of Tess’s father? In a way that you would never guess without auxiliary material?

Sam Catchem: 'He's down, Tracy!' Tracy, grabbing Pauly by the lapels: 'Where are the girls? TELL ME?' Pauly: 'You #$@&( Cop! The girls are safe ... this was for MY FATHER, CRUTCH ... ' (And an inset panel shows a picture of the original, 1931-era, Crutch, so far as I know.)
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 18th of October, 2018. It’s not me, right? There is something morbidly funny about Pauly’s life here being defined by getting revenge on Dick Tracy, but his being such a marginal figure he’s in like two weeks of strips and gets killed without anyone even really knowing who he is?

Maybe it doesn’t need a point. Life is complicated and messy and has weird links. Maybe Polar Vortex wanted someone who’d try something stupid like this, and summon Dick Tracy’s attention. Tracy does investigate Vortex’s business. I thought he didn’t find anything, but the 18th of November Tracy mentions that Vortex is out on bail after drug-trafficking charges. The kidnapping he seems to get a pass on, even though kidnapping Crystal Plenty was part of the lost plan. Vortex does say he had a plan for killing Tracy, and this was too soon. Maybe Vortex’s plan went wrong. But I’d feel more sure if I were clear on what the plan was.


Well. The next big plot thread started the 21st of October, with the introduction of the (imaginary) comedy duo Deacon and Miller. They’re getting a revival, with a film festival hosted by Vitamin Flintheart plus a new syndicated newspaper comic strip based on the pair. … Which might be the most implausible premise I’ve seen in this strip. And this is a strip that has telepathic, psychokinetic Moon Men and a guy who used a popcorn maker to shoot someone.

The revival’s funded by a trust set up by Miller, redeemable after 40 years. There’s a bunch of money in it, and Polar Vortex has got himself named trustee. And I’m confused on just how myself. It was described as a “neighborhood bank” plan scam. I’m not sure what this is. It reads like the mark (Dick Miller of the comedy team) was convinced to put money into a fake bank. But the scammer went ahead and actually invested it, and pretty well. And I’m comfortable with that, that far. The scam where it turns out to be easier to go legitimate is a fun premise. I loved it in the movie Larceny, Inc. (Well, the movie circles that premise anyway.)

So then to the present day. Vortex got charge of the money, and went looking for Peter Pitchblende. Pitchblende is the grandson of Miller, and rightful heir to all this money, and the point person for this whole revival. Vortex’s plan seems to be to get Pitchblende to sign over the money to him. There’s something I don’t understand in the phrase “neighborhood bank” scam, but I haven’t been able to work out what from the strip. I would understand embezzlement. I don’t understand why Vortex can’t just take the money without involving Pitchblende. Also it seems like the revival got started before Vortex contacted Pitchblende. But that might be that the revival would have been airy plans until Vortex dropped the promise of money into it.

Pitchblende, on the phone to a creditor: 'I'm sorry, Mr Daily. I'll check into it immediately!' Pitchblend, calling Devil: 'Hello, Ms Cypher? I got a call from Mr Daily at the Patterson Playhouse today. They haven't been paid yet.' Devil: 'If you check your copy of our contract, Mr Pitchblende, you'll know we have 90 days from the first notice of a bill to pay it. You gave us their bill just this week.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 19th of November, 2018. Fun activity puzzle challenge: identify a sentence which starts “if you’ll check your copy of our contract” and yet which ends with good news for the person being spoken to. Difficulty level: not in the final scene of a musical comedy where the protagonist is worrying about how he’ll afford to get married when his only asset is that song he sent in to the music publishers.

Well, Vortex’s plan seems to be … being very slow about repaying Pitchblende for out-of-pocket expenses with the Deacon-and-Miller revival. That at least seems like a workable start to a scam. Vortex claims this is a temporary sideline from his drug-dealing at schools. But it’s hard, especially with a small group. And I’m not sure he understands just stealing money. Like, I’m pretty sure even with a drug-oriented racket he could fake Peter Pitchblende’s signature on stuff. Anyway, he feels the personnel shortage. So Vortex hires some guy he sees talking confidently at the coffee shop. The guy’s named “Striker”, or as we know him, Lafayette Austin. (Austin is getting a lot of attention this year, mostly working undercover in foiling various villains.)

Devil, mourning her workload: 'Blah! I hate being stuck at this desk all day! I'll be glad when this Deacon, Miller, and Pitchblende business is over!' [ Elsewhere, at a coffee shop ] Vortex, drinking his coffee: 'I need someone who's good at customer relations.' Austin, next to him: ' ... when all was said and done, not only did the customer reinstate the order, he doubled it!' Vortex: 'That's the man I need!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 23rd of November, 2018. So I was workshopping this joke about job-seeking web sites that advertise on podcasts for Evil Masterminds, and I while I might still do that one, I give it freely to any sketch comedy groups in need of a premise. What I’ve got to thinking now is: how in the name of heck did Lafayette Austin figure out to be at this coffee shop at this time, and to start talking about his good customer-handling skills right where Vortex could overhear? And he goes on to talk about his cover story being taken. I’ll grant the cops working out that Vortex goes to this coffee shop regularly and planting Austin there. (It still seems weird to think of crime bosses just going to the coffee shop on the corner though, doesn’t it? I mean, I guess they must, but still?) And I’ll grant Austin overhearing Vortex talking about something he needs and improvising an appealing cover story. Coming up with stories like that on the fly is a decent actor’s challenge and probably a skill you pick up fast if you’re going to be an undercover cop. But this means Austin and his handlers were figuring that Vortex would someday be in the coffee shop, talking to himself about needing someone to do a thing. Why would they figure on that happening?

Austin, working undercover, is able to get at Vortex’s files by the cunning plan of being left alone in the room with them. Vortex likes Striker’s energy. He doesn’t like that of street-level pusher Ballpark, who’s been using the drugs instead of pushing them around some. Vortex sends Ballpark to “the bell tower”, which is a literal bell tower. There’s some setup about the experimental infrasound system being good for … well, it’s got to be killing, doesn’t it?

Start of December. The police sweep up drug dealers around Honeymoon and Crystal’s school. And over the rest of town. The cops close in on Vortex and Devil, up in the bell tower. I’m not sure he did get to killing Ballpark, or ever using this infrasound bell tower death machine. Maybe that’s left for a future villain to use, although I’d hope it gets a fresh introduction and explanation of what it’s supposed to do then. The story’s been one of those with a strong enough line of action that you seem like a spoilsport complaining about key parts of it not explained. It makes my life harder.

(Shootout at the bell tower.) Catchem: 'Tracy! Polar has a gun!' Tracy; 'DROP IT, VORTEX! This is your last chance!' Vortex holds his gun, more feebly, and drops it without shooting Tracy.
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 9th of December, 2018. I don’t quibble with Vortex not being able to actually shoot a person, even someone he hopes to kill. There’s a difference between ordering someone killed and doing it yourself and I’ll give Vortex difficulty making that leap.

Vortex tries to, but can’t shoot Tracy. He’s arrested. Austin finds the documents showing that Pitchblende should have the Miller-investment-inheritance. I really don’t understand what the setup of that was. But they turn over the money to Pitchblende and the show can go on. The show features Vitamin Flintheart, playing himself, in a musical based on J Straightedge Trustworthy. This is an in-universe comic strip inspired by and parodying Dick Tracy.


The 16th of December, I believe, starts a new plot. It opens at the Wertham Woods Psychiatric Facility (get it?) where Tulza Tuzon kills several doctors and escapes during a blackout. Tuzon’s better known to the cops as Haf-and-Haf. He’s got a reputation for breaking out of psychiatric hospitals. Last time he did, he got sprayed with some caustic waste, burning half his head. So since then he calls himself Splitface.

He makes for The City, where high-diving star Zelda The Great is performing. This all gets Tracy’s attention. Tuzon is something of a tribute act. Ages ago Tracy “put away” — I don’t know if he means jailed or killed — a serial killer named Splitface. The original Splitface’s ex-wife is Zelda the Great. Haf-and-Haf is also reported to have developed two alternate personas. That’s a development I’m sure won’t mean that I have to provide a content warning about mental health next time around.

But! That’s on hold for two weeks as the strip does another Minit Mystery. This one written by Donnie Pitchford, who writes and draws the Lum and Abner comic strip. And which makes me finally, about two months late, recognize what “Peter Pitchblende” is a reference to. So, y’know, anyone looking to me for insight please remember that that’s the level I’m working at.

(The Si and Elmer referenced in that strip was a syndicated serial comedy. It’s listed as an attempt at cloning Lum and Abner. I am not sure that both shows aren’t more properly clones of Amos and Andy, with hillbilly rather than blackface comedians. Si and Elmer were elderly small-town residents who decided to go into the detective business. At that point in their own series, Lum and Abner were a justice of the peace and the town sheriff, which makes them almost on-point for a Dick Tracy crossover. I haven’t listened to any of the episodes. Apparently something like 95 of the estimated 130 episodes made survive. That’s an amazing record for early-30s radio. Here are something like 67 of them available for the listening. There might be others elsewhere on archive.org.)

So I don’t know anything about the Minit Mystery besides what you saw in today’s strip. I’ll recap that and whatever this Haf-and-Haf/Splitface plot develops in a couple months’ time.

Next Week!

Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley is a hundred years old! How many of those years did its centennial celebration run? What happened with Peggy Lee? Did Walt Wallet move into the Old Comics Home? Find out here, in seven days, or, y’know, skim through the strip yourself. You’ll probably make a pretty good estimate.

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Statistics Saturday: Some Highfalutin Words And Their Better Alternatives


Highfalutin Word Better Alternative
multiple many
compartment bin, box
utilize use, make usable
systematize lose
initiate burn
harbinger warning
transpire distract, confound
adverse anthony
ubiquitous unavoidable
effluvium acetominophen
detrimental trimental [ “de” is here etymologically an intensifier to “trimental” and not, as carelessly assumed, a negation ]
hinder (as in to restrict, limit, or make worse) hinder (as in tuckus)
perpetuate paint
fluctuation fluctoid, inventory
eventuality [ best dropped altogether and never replaced ]
anomalous strawberry-flavored, bumpy, wiggly
dilettante Ben, at it again
fastidious plaid
ostracize ostrich-size
untenable not rounded off

Reference: A History of Mathematical Notations, Florian Cajori.

In Which I Admit My Disappointment At The Weather


I was hoping there’d be more than a 20% chance of noodles today.

Weather widget, with the forecast for Friday being a 20% chance of several long, looping strands. It's likely meant to represent wind, but it looks more like three isolated spaghetti strands.
Mind, I am happy that we aren’t facing another shower of ravioli the size of golf balls. That stuff’s hard on the car body. Plus you either use up all your marinara or your whole butter budget for the month in clearing the sidewalk. And that’s before you consider the parmesan needs.

Some Unwise Resolutions


To allow a web site to send notifications. Something’s gotten into web sites recently that they want to notify you of things. There’s no good reason for that. The only legitimate thing a web site might want to send you is a notice that they have something for you to look at. But you knew that. What more can it have to tell you? So any attempt to notify you of things is a bluff. The site might start out with things of actual slight interest, like “there is no English word for [ and here a big blank space exists ]”, or “The Wrinkle In Time movie was one of the fifty highest-grossing motion pictures of 2018”, or, “there was a Wrinkle In Time movie in 2018”.

After about four days they’ll run out of stuff to talk about. “Bobby London was the only Popeye comic strip artist born after the character Popeye was created.” You’ll get ever-more-marginal items, like, “you mean about the same thing if you say `that’s nothing to laugh at’ or `that’s nothing to sneeze at’ but if you mix up laughing and sneezing in other contexts it’s awkward”. Carry on another two weeks and it’ll be asking things like, “remember that jingle for Bon-Bons candy in the 80s? If you don’t, here it is!” Two weeks after that the web site notifications author will have run out entirely of content and will just be sending you their fanfic from high school. Maybe their poetry. And then they’ll ask you to have opinions and to be honest and then where are you going to be?

To not be eaten by a bear. This is a traditional resolution, dating back to the days when people had good reason to worry about bears getting into them. Its earliest known appearance in a pamphlet published during the English Civil War, where it was taken to be some kind of satire about the Cavaliers or some fool thing because everything was back then. The flaw with this as a resolution is obvious to even the most basic trainee genie: even if you manage to avoid being eaten by a bear there’s nothing keeping you from being eaten by that other bear who’s also hanging around. And trying to tighten it up by resolving “to not be eaten by every bear”? Then if every bear that ever existed except one were to dine on and using you, your resolution would be satisfied, while you would not be. The resolution needs a lot of logical tightening-up before it’ll do what you want.

To reach inbox zero. Never, never attempt this. Just attempting will leave you becalmed in a world of feeling guilty about not answering that friend who sent that sweet just-thinking-of-you note two Februaries ago. And if you succeed? If you reach inbox zero you die for keeps. Whereas if you die with a decent heap of miscellaneous e-mails? Your ghost continues to walk the earth, trying to sort e-mails into their key categories:

  • Things which may be deleted.
  • Things which belong in an archive where they will never be read.
  • Things which are the pants vendor at the outlet mall near the city where you used to live six years ago hoping to reestablish some kind of relationship with you.
  • Things which need an answer.

As things stand I’ve got, like, forty years after my death sorting all this out and I’m going to use all that time.

To not grow taller. Most of us adopt this resolution without thinking about it. We start out growing just fine and after maybe two decades of life just let it taper out. And it’s understandable. By the time we’ve reached our early twenties we’re usually large enough for most of the good amusement park rides. Growing any bigger yet would upset the delicate ecosystem of our wardrobe. And who needs the bother? So it’s natural we all drift to about the same decision.

But! It’s a different thing when you resolve not to grow any taller, no matter what. That’s just closing off potential adventure. And yeah, you reach a point in life where adventure is too much work. You get more into activities like sitting and having knee pain. If someone came to you right this minute and asked you to be eighty feet tall and maybe tromping around downtown if the National Guard promised to be ineffective against you, would you say yes? Why not?

To label all the wires behind the home entertainment system. The only reason to do this is to learn how many of the wires in that tangle connect to nothing on either end, but you can’t remove them because if you do there’s no picture, no sound, and a local news anchor comes over to slap your wrists. There are 32 such.

So It Turns Out There’s More New Popeye Cartoons


After that first Popeye’s Island Adventures cartoon came out I did check back the week or two after. I didn’t see any follow-up, so supposed it was just on some schedule I didn’t understand. Or that the project had its start and then was drifting. This happens. I remember in the early 2000s when they made a couple of Flash cartoons for Mystery Science Theater 3000 and then stopped just as I was getting comfortable with Tom Servo’s new voice. (I’m a bit curious what became of those, and kind of suspect they’re lost to the ages. I think there were four different cartoons?)

But it looks more likely that I just misunderstood things. There’s at least two new cartoons out and, what the heck. Watching cartoons is a comfortable thing to write about. So here’s Episode 2, A Fistful of Snowballs.

The story is that Popeye and Olive Oyl get into a snowball war with Bluto. I like this more than I did the first one. The story is better-formed. It’s not so linear as the previous one. That seems like it’s going to be important for this series. The characters don’t really speak, so we can’t be charmed by their dialogue any. And it’s much harder to establish a character without speech. We’re forced to fall back on what they do. So the more that they try different approaches the better. There’s still room for bits of personality, even without dialogue or much story, though. One touch I did like was Popeye making a squinty eye for his snowman, for example.

The snowball-fight setup works better for the Young Popeye redesign too. It’s better scaled to kid characters. Not that I couldn’t imagine a great snowball-fight cartoon with the regular versions. But it’s something easy to figure kids getting into.

I’m, of course, an easy touch for Eugene the Jeep so I’m glad to see him be relevant to the plot. And that he gets a bit of mischief in, kicking snow in Popeye’s face. (Which is another bit of personality that can be done without dialogue.) I’m curious what a new viewer makes of Eugene’s vanishing, if they don’t know about the magical abilities of the Jeep. I suppose it’s not going to confuse anyone. Eugene was shown last cartoon floating in the air. And he goes back to floating right after the scene where he vanishes. So being able to disappear fits into that. I tend to think viewers need less stuff explained than creators fear, and that you can usually drop exposition if you need to save time. But does Eugene make sense if you don’t know anything about the character?

Two cartoons in and we get the first joke on opening the can of spinach. That it’s frozen makes sense, though it also makes the spinach look particularly dreadful to taste. And then on the second watch it made me feel cold for Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto, who’re still dressed as if it’s a summertime cartoon. But I always feel a little chilly.

Still don’t see why they aren’t using the Sammy Lerner I’m-Popeye-the-Sailor-Man tune. Not using it does make me believe more strongly that this whole project is about protecting some kind of rights to use Popeye more than anything else. But it might also be something where the budget is just too low to accommodate the real song. We might get a better idea as the project develops.

The Stan Freberg Show: My Recaps, Collected


Here I just want to collect in one place the links to my recaps of The Stan Freberg show. Recordings of the show itself are available, free, at the Internet Archive, where you can download them at your leisure.

And as you may have heard, all these recaps The Stan Freberg Show should be at this link. So if you lose this page, you’ve still got hope. (Having a collected index for stuff like this helps me out, later on, at least. You’d be surprised.)

Episode Original Airdate Important Sketch
One. 14 July 1957 Musical Sheep; Incident at Los Voraces.
Two. 21 July 1957 The Abominable Snowman; Great Moments in History with Barbara Fritchie; Wrong phone number.
Three. 28 July 1957 Miss Jupiter; Robert E Tainter with General Custer’s Scout.
Four. 4 August 1957 Herman Horn explains Hi-Fi; Lox Audio Theater’s Rock Around My Nose.
Five. 11 August 1957 Orville, from the Moon; Herman Horn explains Hi-Fi; Wun’erful, Wun’erful.
Six. 18 August 1957 Elderly Man River; Robert E Tainter and Great Moments in History with Giocante Casabianca; Face The Funnies; the Rock Island Line.
Seven. 25 August 1957 The Lone Analyst; There You Are; The Banana Boat Song (Day-o).
Eight. 1 September 1957 20th Century Freberg’s Uninterrupted Melody (the ice-cream-truck-drivers story); Face The Funnies; St George and the Dragonet.
Nine. 8 September 1957 The Abominable Snowman is Engaged; Robert E Tainter and Washington Crossing the Delaware; The Honeyearthers.
Ten. 15 September 1957 Chinese fortune cookie writing; Herman Horn explains Hi-Fi; Elvis.
Eleven. 22 September 1957 College Football report; Dog agent; Composite TV Western.
Twelve. 29 September 1957 Rocket sled; Faucet repair; Robert E Tainter tries blackmail; Sh’Boom.
Thirteen. 6 October 1957 20th Century Freberg: Grey Flannel Hat Full Of Teenage Werewolves.
Fourteen. 13 October 1957 Miss Jupiter returns Sputnik; World Advertising creates commercials for Freberg; Sam Spilayed Mystery.
Fifteen. 20 October 1957 Favorite sketches from the show; the Abominable Snowman revisits.

In Which I Address Your Questions Regarding My Ziggy Christmas Ornament


  1. Yes, I own a Ziggy Christmas ornament.
  2. No, I am not joking.
  3. No, I did not get it ironically. If I am not mistaken I got this in 1977 or 1978 and President Jimmy Carter only deregulated irony in 1979.
  4. Yes, I hang it on the tree.
  5. Every year except when I forget.
  6. Yes, somehow however I hang the Ziggy ornament it turns around to face the wall.
  7. Yes, I have spent more than fifteen minutes trying to get Ziggy to not face the wall.
  8. No, I am not sure that I’m not the one with the problem, what with how I don’t respect how facing the wall is part of the Nature of Ziggy.
  9. No, but really, isn’t not respecting the Nature of Ziggy the truest possible way to respect the Nature of Ziggy?
  10. No, it is not.
Small Christmas ornament of Ziggy, wearing a striped scarf and holding his dog, hanging from a tree and facing the wall.
So some mathematicians investigated why you have some ornaments and ribbons and stuff like that which twist to the wrong way around no matter how you hang them and after eighteen months of investigation they concluded: yeah we dunno, it’s weird how that just happens for some stuff. By the way, not to brag or anything, but check out the high-quality Art of the colors all over that wall there. Honestly the whole picture is a high-quality mix of colors put together.

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? Did Prince Valiant get back home yet? September – December 2018.


If you’re interested in the plot of Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant you’re reading a correct web site. If it’s later than about March 2019 I probably have written a more up-to-date plot recap. That should be available at this link. So are recaps of the last two years of the comic strip’s action.

Also, on my other blog I read the comics for their mathematics bits. You might like that too. I’ve also just finished 26 posts explaining mathematical terms that were mostly fun to write. Could be fun to read.

Prince Valiant.

30 September – 23 December 2018.

My last recap of Prince Valiant came at the end of Senator Krios’s story. He was caught trying to sell out the Misty Isles to (Byzantine) Rome, and fled his homeland. The last panel of the strip from the 30th of September promised “The Return”, and I guessed that might be Valiant getting back to his own strip.

So it was: the 7th of October a ship carrying Valiant and his party came to the harbor of the Misty Isles. Valiant leapt from the boat to swim ashore, apparently a tradition. And he met up with Aleta who’s there to swim naked with him. So that’s a nice bit of getting-together.

And then began several weeks of what felt like a weird epilogue. Val, Karen, Bukota, and Vanni regale a fest with tales of what all they were doing out in the far east. They were finding Vanni, I gather. They started off before my first What’s Going On In post about the strip. But apparently not much before my first post. He recaps the tyrant Azar Rasa. And those refugees saved from various brigands. A couple of the many overturned rafts they survived. And then they get back to Krios.

Karen continues the story of an unpleasant meeting on Carpathos: 'As the tavern owner was showing me to my room, the gambling man with the wild, fixed stare leaped out from hiding! He struck, I parried! And all the while he cursed me as the cause of his ruin! Then, before I myself could incapacitate this madman, Father crashed onto the scene and, well, you know Father.' Val interjects: 'I did not want to kill him, but his wild rage left me little choice. He had clearly confused Karen with some other who had driven him to insanity.' 'Then,' concludes Karen, 'one of the other gamblers came up and offered how he could not understand how a man on such an amazing winning streak, gloating over the fortune he would rebuild, could so suddenly be driven to distraction.' Aleta and Valeta, Karen's twin, smile to themselves --- they understand. Justice can be strange, but Krios's story is now done.
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 18th of November, 2018. So now let me debunk the idea that I’m of any use telling you what’s going on in these stories: until that last panel I had not picked up on Karen and Valeta being twins. I just figured, oh, Krios saw a family resemblance and reacted to that. I’m just not that good with faces. I think half of what I like in comic strips is that since everybody has one outfit I can use that to tell who’s who.

Valiant doesn’t know it’s Krios; he missed the whole treachery story. All he knows is they were at Carpathos, a few days’ sail from the Misty Isles. There in a tavern they encountered someone who looked like the Senator. Who saw them, left the gaming tables, and charged Karen. She and Valiant fought back and. At least according to Valiant he had “little choice” but to kill Krios.

I can’t fault it as a postscript. I mean, it seems like a reasonable and absurd sad finale to Krios’s life. But it feels also a bit much. After all, his scheme already failed so dramatically as to end his career, kill one of his sons, estrange him from the other, and send him into exile. Being killed in a tavern brawl seems like piling on. But it will happen. That, the 18th of November, has got to be the end of Krios’s story, for real this time.


'Bukota', says Aleta, 'acted very oddly when I told him that his beloved Makeda was coming to visit the Misty Isles. He seemed upset.' Val replies: 'Bukota and Makeda have a complicated relationship. He was insanely jealous of the soon-to-be-queen, even to the point of actively harming her protector, that Norse rogue Skyrmir. Of course, he later redeemed himself as he stood between her and Twedorek's rebel army. Aye, he was fearless in her defense, and we slew shoulder to shoulder until that tide was turned! Even so, the victorious Queen Makeda was duty-bound to punish his previous misdeeds. She could justifiably have had him executed but, tellingly, she chose to send him into exile, as ambassador to Camelot.' Aleta answers reassuringly: 'As I would have for you, my dear, but I see why Bukota would feel apprehensive as to how Makeda will receive his presence here. And look how our Ab'saban friend vents his frustration on the training fields! He is reducing all his sparring partners to rubble!'
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 2nd of December, 2018. Goodness knows I don’t have the time to go archive-binging and exploring the distant past of the story strips like this, but I am holding it as an idea in case I ever do some kind of Patreon-like project. But I do regret that fact sometimes, especially when I see stuff like this battle against an army of gargoyles or bat-men.

The 25th of November started what looks like the new story. It begins with news Queen Makeda, of the House of Ab’saba, will be visiting. This promises to set off all sorts of complicated feelings from Bukota, what with how he’s exiled from Ab’saba. This all I didn’t know, but the strip gave the background. His heroism protecting Makeda from a rebel army didn’t negate his previous, jealousy-fueled, attack on her bodyguard. So he was exiled as ambassador to Camelot which I infer is how he fell in with Prince Valiant and all. Bukota puts all his feelings into sparring on the Royal Training Fields and trying to keep a stoic face as his queen arrives. This gets foiled as she notices him. And that’s the point our story has now reached.

Next Week!

Watch me try to summarize three months’ worth of Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy while still keeping up with everything Christmas expects me to do! I’m not going to make it!

Statistics Saturday: Christmasy Stuff To Watch On The DVR While I Finish Wrapping And Decorating And Stuff


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Seasoned Greetings, this 1933 short about the invention of greeting-card records and even including Sammy Davis Jr; Breakin'; Breakin' 2 Electric Boogaloo; Madam Satan (1930); Mon Oncle; Barry Lyndon; You'll Find Out (1940); Like 84 Episodes Of Stephen Colbert; Terror Rides The Rails, episode 9 of the Mandrake the Magician serial Columbia made in 1939.
Oh yeah, also we have The Leprechauns’ Christmas Gold even though I’m like 85% sure we’ve already watched it this year and thought we’d deleted it? I don’t know. We live in complicated times. Sammy Davis Jr is appealing even though he’s like seven years old and playing the black kid who eats a record so almost all the time he’s on-screen it feels uncomfortable. Anyway, the important thing is if you haven’t seen Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle you’ve been wrong, but you still have time to fix that. Also other Jacques Tati movies.

Not included: Arthur Christmas, because we have it on DVD but our DVD player just broke. Also not included: Robert Rossellini’s 1971 Blaise Pascal because that’s really not a Christmasy movie, right?

Reference: Wind Tunnels of NASA, Donald D Baals, William R Corliss.

On Reflection


Maybe the reason the guy sitting opposite me at the Christmas party was rubbing his chin so much isn’t that I was completely failing to brush something out of my beard. Maybe he was thinking that my brushing my cheek was an attempt to warn him that he had something in his beard. Well, the only way out of this would be for either of us to say something to the other, or to ask another person if we had anything in our beards. So, I’m sorry, but this is my life now. I bequeath my blogs to whoever first correctly identifies the best Sparks song ever. Be fair to the story comics.

Every Other Thing There Is To Say About Decorating For Christmas


All right, I guess everyone is still interested in my Christmas-decorating advice. Again, this even though I used to be a teenaged boy. Your business to let me into it.

The key to Christmas decorating is gathering in the most emotionally important room in the house. Then fill it up to your chest in boxes. This should ideally be a labyrinth, but it’s all right if you can’t, what with the high price of minotaurs these days. The spirit of the season is satisfied if during the decorating process a quick visit to the bathroom requires five minutes of maneuvering and, at some point, someone ducking backwards into a closet. Mind, the spirit is really tickled if in the process of getting out of the way someone falls backwards onto the sofa. Just an advisory.

It’s not really a full decorating job until everyone involved in the decorating is worn out and has turned to shouting at one another over questions like where to hang the stockings and whether the stockings were hung in the correct order. Done fully, Christmas decorating gives everyone the experience of moving to a new home. It’s a precious experience, all the more precious if you’ve been living in the same place for so long you find it a little weird that you aren’t, like, fifteen years older. I mean, you’re supposed to just move from one place to another every couple years, right? It’s weird that you’re not doing that?

But maybe you don’t have the time or you aren’t up for quite that raucous a fight. Decorating doesn’t have to be complicated. The simplest way to decorate is to snatch the magic wand from a Christmas Fairy. Then wave it around CLOCKWISE FOR THE LOVE OF CHEESE and point it at a surface. Poof! You’ll have ribbons and baubles and merry stuff like that and be walking in drifts of tinsel up to four feet deep. It’s quick and easy. But it does mean getting involved with the fairy folk. That always starts great and then it turns out there was some fool rule that if you ever said “mustard” three times the night of a lunar eclipse then the devil gets to take everything in your life that’s blue or starts with the letter ‘w’. I know, you’re figuring, how could that really spoil anything? Consider one example: ‘when’ is a thing that starts with the letter ‘w’. Lose ‘when’ and it becomes impossible to establish the time of anything. So you’ll be simultaneously late and early and on time for everything you might do. Every social encounter will be a stressful, confusing melange of apparently unmotivated interactions. But different from how it already is.

So maybe just as well to go about it the hard way. The Christmas tree has been a centerpiece of Christmas decorating in a Christmas tradition that Christmas dates Christmas to — sorry. Something got jammed there. But Christmas trees are great. You can get a natural tree, which you put in a tree stand full of water that spills on the skirt every day. If you’re lucky, it’ll make alarming crackling noises that sound like it’s on fire, or there’s maybe a squirrel still in it, or that your squirrel is on fire. Or you can get an artificial tree, which avoids the problem by coming in a box that’s objectively too small for all the tree parts to fit inside. Nobody knows how they work. But its only major drawback is eventually it wears out, and if there’s a teenaged boy in your life, it might fall into his possession.

Augment this with lights. You can take out the Sure-Lite Never-Die Extremely Heavy Use Commercial Grade incandescent bulbs with the ten-year warranty you bought last year. They are all dead. But with the help of a handy little light-bulb tester you can turn these unworking light strands into unworking light strands you’ve held up a handy little light-bulb tester to. The tester is so obvious that it includes no instructions to tell whether it indicates the bulb is dead or not, and you’ll never figure out how to tell. Or you can go to a modern LED-based strand of light bulbs, if you’d rather have light bulbs that want permission to use location services and send audio recordings of your home back to some corporation that’s bought the Polaroid, Studebaker, Philco, Peek Freans, Coleco Adam, and Uneeda Biscuit trademarks. Don’t worry about whatever that company is up to. The lights will send whether you give permission or not.

Next get to the ornaments. Each ornament is a little time capsule, a chance for you to remember where you were when you got this ornament. You were in the Christmas ornament store, or “ornamentorium” as they call it in the trades. And then read the scrap of last year’s newspaper you wrapped it in to stay secure. Oh, that great restaurant you never get to is closing in two weeks, fifty weeks ago. Probably too late to get their iconic Fish And/Or Chips basket. And then every time you’d hung the ornament in the past despite the terror that you might drop and break it. And then argue about whether it should have been hung somewhere else, like not right in front of the green light. Temporarily, the tree is nothing but green lights. No one knows why we put green lights on a tree that is, basically, green.

Really what you do doesn’t matter. The important thing is to have a process, and be upset that you aren’t following it. Any of us can do that.

The Stan Freberg Show: the final episode, with a bunch of highlights


So the 20th of October, 1957, The Stan Freberg Show came to its end. Freberg had promised to feature some of the most popular bits of the show and said he was getting card and letter from the listening audience about what to select. The show hadn’t quite given up, though: there are a couple of new bits, including what might have become running gag characters, appearing for the first time here. Still the show is mostly recreations, sometimes in abbreviated form. And of what?

Here’s the show:

Start Time Sketch
00:00 Open. It’s no longer an episode of a brand-new radio series, but rather a clonked-out radio series. And they’re bidding a fond farewell to r-a-d-i-o. And a trick of memory. I had remembered the last episode as opening with a more busted-up theme, one with sound effects of a machine conking out, and the music losing tempo and falling out of tune. Not so, but given the show’s use of that sort of sound effect (as in the fifth episode) I’m surprised it didn’t.
00:56 Opening remarks. Freberg’s grateful to his audience, and will miss talking to people like — some character who hasn’t appeared before. A jumpy, character complaining the road’s blocked by sheep, and who follows his lines with singing the line again in a high-pitched voice. He’s a brain surgeon.
02:45 Mr Tweedly, Censor from Citizen’s Radio. Stan Freberg tries to sing Old Man River, while getting buzzed for not saying thank you and for using needlessly harsh songs and bad grammar and such. This ran in the sixth episode.
06:26 Peggy Taylor. She’s crying, not because they’re going off the air, but because Stan Freberg’s on her foot. She gives a gift, not a sleeping bag but a Freberg Cozy, and I like the idea of calling a sleeping bag a personal cozy. She sings “The Birth of the Blues”. This was done in the second show, and I’m surprised they would redo a song. A good song, sure, but it’s not like 1957 was short on radio-ready music.
10:06 Bang Gunly, US Marshall Fields. Soundtrack of a “typical” (adult) western, including sponsorship from the Eating Corporation of America. It’s truncated from the original, of course; just some examination of the fence and one commercial. This appeared on the 11th show originally.
15:20 Capitol Record. A “whole list of name” requested a performance of Day-Oh, the Banana Boat Song. It’s a bit too loud for the bongo player, who keeps insisting Freberg get farther away to be at his loudest. This appeared on the seventh show, and featured a bongo player who’d also been in the opening and closing segments of the fourth episode. I’m not surprised that St George and the Dragonet didn’t make the cut — the sketch is too long and has too big a cast, and doesn’t really condense well. I’m more surprised that Wun’erful, Wun’erful didn’t, but see the next item.
20:34 Billy May has a gift for Stan Freberg: an accordion-playing bandleader found in Balboa Bay. Reference to the Wun’erful, Wun’erful sketch from the fifth episode. In that, a Lawrence Welk parody floated out to sea. Their Welk is there to laugh at Freberg. “You don’t have to make fun of me.” “Look-a who’s talking!” Welk gets to play “a short medley based on the names of girls-a”. Mostly “Every Little Breeze Seems To Whisper Louise”, and stuff that can’t quite get going. The sketch was turned into a Capitol record, as announced the 13th show.
23:00 Package for Stan Freberg, about ten feet tall. New messenger character. The package is the Abominable Snowman. He’d been introduced the second episode. Abominable asks Freberg if it’s hard on him doing both voices like that; he admits it’s hard on him. It’s a bit of fourth-wall-breaking and plays on Freberg’s ability to shift character fast. Abominable Snowman isn’t wearing orange sneakers today, just purple, a new “ensemble”. Abominable and his wife Gladys are thinking what they could do to help the show. (Gladys was introduced, as his fiancee, in the ninth show.) “I could scare a couple of sponsors for you.” “We’ve already done that, thank you.” Abominable offers to teach Freberg how to be an Abominable Snowman, which gets to be funnier when you remember they just pointed out how he’s doing both voices.
26:48 Conclusion. Freberg admits they didn’t have time for Mr Poulet’s tuned sheep, the one sketch promised last week that they would do. Poulet and his Muppet Show-ready sketch appeared on the first episode and without the sheep turned up in the seventh show. Freberg thanks his audience, especially the press who supported the show so.
27:51 Closing Music.

My recaps of all the episodes of The Stan Freberg Show should be at this link. And now they are complete, too.

Meanwhile In The Shower


I got my hair cut recently. It’s part of the routine progress of my appearance. I let my hair and, particularly, beard grow out until I look like a Civil War reenactor who wants to play Torgo. Then it comes time to look more respectable. By “respectable” I mean “more like a mechanical pencil, somehow”. Anyway, this was like a week and a half ago, so I’ve finally got my shampoo use to be not quite so much that I’m a pillar of Ocean Breeze-scented goo even after fifteen minutes of rinsing. I think this is progress?

I still have no mental model of how to react when the barber asks if I want my eyebrows trimmed.


Also, yes, I remember that the official centennial of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! is this Wednesday, the 19th. I don’t know if any great fuss is going to be made. I’d be surprised if John Graziano didn’t make that the focus of the day’s strip. It’s maybe the third comic strip to reach a centennial, and it’s the second-oldest comic strip still doing original work.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (weekdays)? What’s the shortest Phantom story ever? September – December 2018


So this is the first, and surely last, time one of my recaps spans three Phantom stories. I’m delighted. This covers the last couple months of 2018. If it’s much past about March 2019 when you read this you’ll probably find a more up-to-date recap at this link. The link covers both the weekday continuity and the separate Sunday storylines. But it should be clear enough what I’m writing about, either way.

If you like comic strips that mention mathematics, please give my other blog a try. I get usually a couple of posts per week discussing topics raised by the comics. Not this week, it happens. But I am also nearing the end of a glossary of some terms, one for each letter in the alphabet, and what they mean. Might find that fun too.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

24 September – 15 December 2018.

The Ghost Who Walks had spent a couple months on his back, last time I checked in. He was recovering from major injuries after a failed capture of Eric “The Nomad” Sahara. The Nomad was in Manhattan, having one last weekend with his daughter Kadia, before going into hiding. Also spending time with his daughter’s roommate, Heloise Walker. Sahara concluded, wrongly but not stupidly, that Walker was a secret agent plotting to capture or kill him. So he threw together a plan. He reported Heloise as a terrorist to the Transportation Security Authority. They arrested her in front of Kadia and everything. This so Kadia would not try to work out Walker’s disappearance. Sahara then collected the released Walker, planning to fly her somewhere she could be killed without detection. My last recap ened with them on the runway, Sahara getting his private jet up to speed.

Picture of the plane crashing down the street of the neighborhood just past the airport edge. Heloise Walker, narrating: 'The Nomad *had* to be stopped! At any cost! But I --- I'm going to live! Somehow I *know* I am!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 29th of September, 2018. I did see people on Comics Curmudgeon griping that after the plane crash it took forever for a response to come. I think that’s conflating reader time with in-story time, though. The fight between Walker and The Nomad after the crash took a week or so of strips, yes. And Walker fleeing the cop took another week or so. But that’s all things that happen, in-universe, over a couple of minutes. Barely enough time to get the emergency crews to the crash site. Complaints that people hadn’t left their houses to see what was going on are a little more grounded, although I know I’d be watching from the windows. At least once I was confident my house wasn’t on fire from stray jet fuel.

Walker recovers consciousness just into takeoff. She fights him in the cockpit, sending the plane out of control, crashing it into the suburban neighborhood beside the airport. Walker and Sahara are still alive, and keep fighting, Walker thinking of the 21 generations of Phantoms before her. Walker knocks Sahara unconscious and drags him out of the plane before the airport emergency crash teams can get there.

The first cop on the scene is one who’d arrested Walker at Sahara’s misdirection earlier. Walker tells him Eric Sahara is The Nomad, internationally wanted terrorist. She flees. The cop follows, and shoots, but into the air. She escapes.

Cop and supervisor watching the cop's body cam footage. On the footage the cop calls 'STOP!' and Heloise Walker answers, 'What are you DOING? I'm on your side! Guard the Nomad, you fool!' Scene reveals The Nomad, held by a couple Men In Black types: 'You misspoke, officer. There was no girl. This footage does not exist. Understood?'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 26th of October, 2018. Oh yes, and a piece of the story is that the authorities chose to conceal Heloise Walker’s existence from the news about this. Their exact reason for this is unclear as yet. But it’s probably feeding Walker’s choices later on and might become less obscure as the current story develops.

Back home in Bangalla, The Phantom wakes after uneasy sleep. He gets the message Heloise Walker left earlier in the morning, and in my previous recap. The one about her having found The Nomad and her then-plan of getting him to share his plans. The Phantom’s ready to run for New York, despite his neck being only barely connected yet. It’s moot anyway. Heloise Walker calls with the news about The Nomad’s arrest.

She’s stumbling around convenience and dollar stores. She’s trying to disguise herself. She’s certain that the authorities have her picture, and soon, her identity. The authorities publicly claim the cop’s body camera malfunctioned. That initial reports of a girl being with Sahara were mistaken. That it was that one airport cop to credit for this capture. Heloise guesses, correctly, that that’s a lie. And she’s torn between pride in her having stopped a major international criminal and wanting to go home.

The Phantom and Guran in the Skull Cave, listening to Heloise Walker about her night: 'I was so dumb to follow The Nomad to his jet! There's something *dead* in his eyes, Dad. I *saw it*, and ... and I went with him anyway.' Phantom: 'Yes, there's something dead in him ... he uses terror to further his aims. The worst kind of man alive on the Earth ... '
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 8th of November, 2018. I think we have to be more specific about someone who “uses terror to further his aims” or we’re going to have to revisit that bit where The Phantom kidnapped, tied to a tree in the Whispering Grove — where the tree seem to whisper The Phantom’s name — and left for a day, then dragged back to the Skull Cave for scolding a man who wanted to put The Phantom on postage stamps and otherwise promote his “brand”. But one legitimately fun thing about The Phantom is that he does miss stuff sometimes, and it’s occasionally important.

That, the 10th of November, ended “A Reckoning With The Nomad”, which The Phantom Wiki lists as the 249th daily-continuity story. The 12th of November started “Kit’s Letter Home”, the 250th weekday storyline and, at four weeks, surely one of the shortest ever. The Phantom Wiki claims it is. I can only imagine the occasional Christmas story possibly competing. “Kit’s Letter Home” is more of a mood piece, so the plot won’t seem like much. Kit Walker, the presumptive 22nd Phantom, is in Tibet. He’s studying with monks he’s presented himself to as the reincarnation of the 11th and 16th Phantoms. They present themselves as believing him. Kit, awake early, takes a bit to write a letter home.

Kit Walker, writing: 'Dad, I saw plenty of this growing up as your son.' (It's the monks keeping him away from Kyabje Dorje, hiding his injuries.) 'I think my tutor fights on our side somewhere. He fights for what's right. He's that kind of man, I just know it ... '
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 24th of November, 2018. This is part of a sequence of strips comparing Kyabje Dorje’s behavior to how The Phantom acted when Kit and Heloise were young. And while this does read like a setup to a future adventure, I’m fine with it if it’s not. I like when minor characters have their own quite full lives when they aren’t waiting for one of the title cast to need them.

In this he lays out some of the setting. Notably about his tutor, Kyabje Dorje, who gives off strong Phantom vibes himself. That he’s a scholar, a gentleman. He occasionally returns from disappearances with unexplained injuries. (Be a heck of a thing if he goes flying off to vanquish evil and maybe reconnect with his mentor in El Paso who taught him the mysterious ways of the cowboy, right? By “a heck of a thing” I mean “a thing that seems like the premise of a guest-star Control agent on Get Smart”.) And about Chief Constable Jampa, the local corrupt law agent. They got off to a bad start, with Jampa holding this foreigner at gunpoint. He relented only because Kyabje Dorje’s whole monastery insisted. Since then … well, we haven’t seen anything. But we’ve got the threads for this ready to go.

Anyway, he wraps up, congratulating his dad for capturing The Nomad and all. He makes a couple ironic jokes about his sister having a soft time of it. And he sends his love. And wraps up the letter and burns it to ashes, the better to keep family secrets.


And that’s that story. This past week, the 10th, started the 251st daily-continuity Phantom story, “Heloise Comes Home”. The title picks up from what Heloise said in the last strip of “A Reckoning With The Nomad”. She’s made her way back to the Briarson School, not because she figures she can return to classes. “Crashed Your Roommate’s Father’s Private Jet And Got Him Arrested For Terrorism” gets you out of the semester in most any school. It’s only an urban legend that it’s an automatic A for the semester, though. Walker gets back to her room and very briefly informs Kadia they have to flee now or they’ll never get out of the country. But that’s all she’s had time to do.

I have no information about where the story might be going. (And I’m not seeking any. I’m content to read the comic like anyone might. Let actual comic strip news sites carry teasers.) I can see obvious potential paths. It would be ridiculous were authorities not to investigate Kadia Sahara. This though she does appear to be wholly uninvolved with anything. Fleeing the country would be the first suspicious thing she might do that we’ve seen on-screen. Heloise Walker would likely be investigated as someone near to Eric Sahara even if she weren’t on the body-camera footage. That her mother’s got a senior position with the United Nations is likely to attract more official attention. And it makes me realize I don’t know what the world thinks the senior Kit Walker does. That is, they do see this fellow named Mr Walker who’s always wearing sunglasses and has antique airplanes and the like. I don’t know what people imagine his day job to be.

A running thread of Heloise Walker’s story has been her desire to be a female Phantom. It’s quite fair that she might be afraid of that now that she’s been through an intense and terrifying experience. (Can’t forget that, for all her poise and formal-dinner-wear outfit, she is a teenager, 15 or 16 years old.) Reconciling the fantasy of her family’s superheroic lifestyle with the reality is a solid character challenge as well.

Also, I keep losing this link and cursing myself until I re-find it. So here’s The Phantom Wiki. I keep drawing on it as reference about things like what story number this is and where earlier characters came from.

Next Week!

I get to relax and take things easy. It’s time for Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant to take the stage again. I’m sure I can recap twelve Sunday panels sometime before the actual Sunday arrives, even with this being a busy season. What me fail to do so. It’ll be fun.

Statistics Saturday: Your 2018 Christmas Songs Schedule


In comparison to that of 2014.

Day Status
December 16 Refusing to read any more essays that want you to have an opinion on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”.
December 18 Trying to insist the problem is they just don’t write good Christmas songs anymore and it’s not that you imprinted on the songs of your childhood and aren’t taking in new ones.
December 19 Minor-key acoustic cover of “Wonderful Christmastime” makes you exit for the kitchen, open the freezer door, stick your head in, and scream into a bag of frozen peas-and-corn.
December 20 Wishing you still had the emotional baseline that allowed you to be genuinely upset about “Santa Baby”.
December 21 Karaoke night has a group that starts out singing “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” but ends up making a fair fraction of the bar actually weepy.
December 22 Entire afternoon spent reading the lyrics to Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Jingle-o The Brownie” and pondering dumb mysteries like why Jingle-o has such a broad and, honestly, unfocused portfolio
December 23 Attempt to fuse an argument about “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” to the question of whether pigs-in-blankets count as sandwiches somehow backfires and gets you stuck among people trying so hard to insist that Back To The Future II is somehow a “Christmas Movie” that you can’t tell exactly where the put-on is. You scream into a bag of frozen peas-and-corn-and-carrots, the extra carrots doing much to absorb the sonic blast.
December 25 Watch about 65 minutes of the movie Auntie Mame before working out that oh, the version with songs in it is just called Mame and it stars different people, it’s not just that they did some weird and very wrong edit that missed out on songs like “We Need A Little Christmas”.
December 27 Entire day lost to trying to convince people you heard a song titled “Captain Santa Claus And His Reindeer Space Patrol”. You are imagining things.
January 3 Hey, they snubbed “Father Christmas” again, didn’t they? Ray Davies is not going to be happy.

Reference: A History Of Poland, Oscar Halecki.

Without Committing To What I’m Going To Be Doing This Coming Week


If I were to make up a story about Rankin/Bass having created a Christmas special built around the song I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, and claim that it was suppressed for being so weird and crazypants and indistinctly sexy that even the 70s couldn’t put up with it … how many of you would back me up? I’m not asking for the level of, like, making fan art. But would you insist on social media that oh, yeah, there was totally a crazypants sequence where Mommy’s brought to the North Pole for what is a sanitized, Love Boat-but-a-cartoon version of a swingers party where there might not be anything you can actually say is racy but it’s still like forty times the entendres that a kids’ animated special should have? Just doing a quick little headcount is all.

Everything Else There Is To Say About Decorating For Christmas


I’m flattered that you’re still coming to me for advice about Christmas decorations after learning I used to be a teenaged boy. It’s not what I would do, but, what the heck. I guess the worst that can happen is a family that’s fled some aesthetic catastrophe within the house, huddling together, promising that no, there’s a reason all those Star Trek comic books were on the wall. Hey, here’s a real thing that really happened in real reality for real: the second issue of the Star Trek: The Next Generation comic from the 80s was about Captain Picard having to save the Spirit of Christmas from some leather-clad Alien Space Grinches.

Anyway a holiday is always a good excuse to decorate. Not without limits, of course. There are only so many things you can put up to commemorate, say, Washington’s Birthday without people asking questions. And not the good kind, like where you can show off what you know about George Washington’s presidential tour of all thirteen states. They ask questions like “… the heck?” And most anything you put up for the August Bank Holiday will get you strange looks. The New Jersey Big Sea Day seems like it ought to have great decorating potential, but most of that is water. Maybe flip-flops.

Ah, but Christmas. And New Year’s. These are holidays that have no socially accepted limits for how much to decorate. You could festoon your house with enough Christmas lights that structural elements crumble, and the building collapses under this load of twinkling merry. Survivors would stagger out of a heap of belongings, drywall, and ornaments. And people would just say, oh, they’re maybe a little much but it makes up for the other houses on the street. It’s one of the few chances you have to festoon things in a socially acceptable way. Heck, it’s one of the few chances to even talk about festooning. Go ahead, list three other times this past year you were able to festoon a thing without authorities getting involved.

Which gets to something important about Christmas decorating. Make sure that you’re decorating someplace or something that you have permission to. Once the authorities get called in you don’t get to enjoy a giddy night of adorning things with tinsel. You have to start sneaking around instead, hiding behind the Christmas tree or unusually wide coat-stands whenever a bunch of people in, I’m assuming, tall blue hats tromp past. Then they hear a suspicious cough off somewhere. One of your confederates, no doubt, if you’ve got this well-organized. And you have to throw a ball of tinsel at a thing you hope is a tinsel-bearing decorative structure unit, like a tree or a wreath or a cat.

That’s not the right way to do things. That won’t get you decorations that festoon a thing. The best you can hope for is that you’ll have decorations strewn about. And strewning is great, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that strewning is great in the right context. The context you want for decorating is that you aren’t trying to dodge people who want you answering questions. You want to have some beloved Christmas special that you’ve watched so often that you no longer watch it. You just have it on in the background while forming questions about the worldbuilding.

After a couple decades of this you start to wonder exactly how much thought the writers put into the mythology behind, oh, the one where Frosty the Snowman creates a wife, and then they have to go create a snow-parson who can “legally” marry them because the human parson voiced by Dennis Day isn’t sure he can do that? And somehow creating a new snow-life is less problematic? And you never see what happens to the snow-parson after that? And it’s not about getting answers to these questions. If you wanted answers go out and become an authority yourself. Not saying about what. An authority on Christmas specials would get you the answers faster, probably. But becoming an authority on, say, tidal pools? Graphic design? It’ll take longer to get answers, but maybe the joy of the season is discovering these things.

Noteworthy


While doing the laundry the other day I encountered this Post-It Note, and I admire it because after a half-week of working on it I am starting to have an idea what this could be about, but not the faintest idea why this note has survived.

Post-it note with text 'hot hot cauliflower/ fried hot cheestos crushed pickes/ 37.63 / Joe Frazier burger / smoked bacon jalapeno beer cheesy tots'
If that wasn’t me writing out ‘Joe Frazier burger’ then what is it I could possibly have had going on there? Also if this is, as per my best guess, notes about what we’re ordering take-out, and if I’m right about where it was had a ‘Joe Frazier burger’ then I have no idea what a Post-It Note was doing there, because it was in a town a couple hours away from home and I don’t know why we’d have brought the note home after eating.

Also I wanted to scan the note so you could appreciate all this thing somehow worthy enough of memorialization to end up in the hamper three months later, but I had just upgraded my computer’s operating system and the scanner software didn’t work anymore. So I had a couple extra days while not dealing with that to ponder why I kept this note.

The Stan Freberg Show: the fourteenth show, with all the timely jokes


This episode, next to the last in the series’ run, originally aired the 13th of October, 1957. That is, not quite ten days after Sputnik launched, which would give the premise for an unusually timely sketch. It’s also got a reference to the Brooklyn Dodgers moving. There was another reference to the Dodgers moving last week. The move had been officially announced the 8th of October, although baseball had approved the move in April, and the Dodgers had played some “home” games in New Jersey in 1956 and 1957.

And here’s the rundown:

Start Time Sketch
00:00 Open. The show is billed as “brought to you by Stan Freberg”.
00:58 Opening Comments. Stan Freberg promises advertisers frightened by last week’s sketch that there’s almost no werewolves in advertising. He tells Daws Butler he paid $100 to sponsor today’s show.
02:32 Commercial for Stan Freberg. The jingles are surely parodies of specific ads, although I don’t know what for. Little lines like “the all-American dog” and such suggest dog food, car, and drain cleaner. It’s hard not to wonder if Freberg was letting advertisers know, hey, he had some free time and a good comic sensibility ready for advertising by doing so many ads for himself.
03:50 Miss Jupiter returns. She’s back from the third episode. Includes a stray reference to the International Geophysical Year, which ran from July 1957 through December 1958. She’s “returning your basketball”, Sputnik. This has to be among the first comedy sketches recorded about the event. There’s a reference to “red tape at the Pentagon”, which has got to be alluding to the idea that the United States space effort was too bureaucratized to work swiftly. I’ll go on about this below. Miss Jupiter’s computer goes into action, delivering a fortune cookie from her ear that’s surprisingly explicit about the Space Race being a game.
08:53 Peggy Taylor sings “Love is Mine”.
11:38 Freberg goes to World Advertising. Meeting with advertising executives is a big, weird muddle of daft business-creative types and baffling metaphors, which is a standard take but offers nice goofiness. World Advertising claims to represent nations, and showcases an advertisement for America that’s a takeoff on Lucky Strikes tobacco, which is a nicely wicked joke the more you think about it. Another reference to moving the Dodgers. The commercial also ends with “Can It Be The Breeze”, which closed The Jack Benny Show when he was sponsored by Lucky Strikes (reruns of which ran right before Stan Freberg’s show). There’s a reference to Freberg having a hole in his shoe, making him more homely and “a cinch to win”; Freberg asks if he’s heard from Adlai Stevenson. There was a moment in the 1952 campaign when reporters noticed a hole in Stevenson’s shoe, and he riffed “better a hole in the shoe than a hole in the head”. “You’ll wonder where the Freberg went” riffs on a Pepsodent jingle still current when I was a kid in the 70s.
18:00 Sam Spilayed Mystery. Freberg tries to do a radio mystery. It’s nailed the over-expository yet mournful tone of shows like Pat Novak for Hire. Some nonsense about pronouncing “bracelet” wrong along with the over-written metaphors and impossibly complicated exposition and the sound effects either wrong or mis-timed. You can see the Firesign Theatre’s Nick Danger in formation already. And then at 20:45 a commercial interlude for Instant Freberg. At 22:45 he goes into his own commercial, one where he beats up someone who doens’t like the show, and then back into the main plot. There’s multiple references to stuff from earlier this episode. There’s also a reference to “Little Orphan Annie at an Aquacade” which I believe references one of the comic strip discussion panels in past episodes. The femme fatale being named “Yours truly, Jenny Dollar-ninety-eight” is a reference to Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. That mystery show’s gimmick was that Dollar was an insurance investigator and the episodes were framed as his expense reports, itemizing costs and what they were for, so the close of each episode was a summary and signature, “signed, yours truly, Johnny Dollar”. The sketch closes on another commercial for “Stan Freberg, the falling comedian”.
27:32 Closing Remarks. Freberg asks for cards and letters about what to do for the final show.
27:55 Closing Music.

My recaps of all the episodes of The Stan Freberg Show should be at this link.


Okay, so the Space Race thing. Something that baffled many people in the early days of the space race was why the United States didn’t launch a satellite first, the way everyone would have expected. A lot of complaints boiled down to the US didn’t take it seriously. Contemporary thinking in space historians is that President Eisenhower did not think it all that important to launch the first space satellite. His priority was establishing the idea that, while nations might control their own airspace, outer space was a different thing and free to all passing vehicles. Specifically, so that spy satellites could be allowed. But how to establish the precedent that satellites may go about their business? Well, that would be a scientific satellite, launched as part of a major international cooperative effort, by an agency with a long history of research for the public good, on a rocket with no military value. That is, Vanguard, launched as part of the International Geophysical Year, by the Naval Research Laboratory, on a rocket derived from the Viking and Aerobee sounding rockets. His other priority was not spending a crazy amount of money on it, thus, not going any too fast. The Soviets launching a satellite was fine by him; they can’t complain about a satellite launch if they’re doing it too, right? That it set off a American paranoiac panic was probably inevitable but somehow not anticipated.

Today’s Baffling Distraction In A Rankin/Bass Animation


Sorry, it’s the time of year I can’t do anything because I’m busy watching Rankin/Bass animated specials again. Today’s distraction: noticing in The Year Without A Santa Claus, and the scene where Santa talks about “by my charts and maps!” So he stands over by his charts and maps. From this I learn that Santa uses the Mercator projection for his work. Defensible given how much navigation work he has to do, certainly. Although I would have expected him to use something centered on the North Pole, you know, his entire base of operations, which is located at one of the only two points in the world that can’t be rendered on a Mercator map. And yes, I know what you’re thinking: what about a transverse Mercator projection? Nuh-uh, thank you, who here is watching the special instead of whatever it was I was supposed to be doing today? Exactly.

What’s Going On In Alley Oop? Who’s Writing Alley Oop Now? September – December 2018


I know everyone’s interested to see Alison Sayers and Jonathan Lemon’s take on Alley Oop. It’s not coming until January. Here I’m recapping the last couple months of Jack Bender and Carol Bender-produced reruns. I figure, at least for now, to keep Alley Oop in the regular story strip rotation. So my first recap of the New Era should come around early March 2019. And it should be at this link. If there’s news updates warranting more articles, they’ll be there too.

Meanwhile each week I look at comic strips for mathematics topics and post the essays here. You might like reading that. I like writing it.

Eight-Ball and Weenus in a cave. Fred Flintstone says, 'Sorry. Batman won't be here for another 2.6 million years.' The cave is filled with caveman figures, including Alley Oop and Ooona, B.C.'s Peter and Fat Broad, the Croods, the kind from The Good Dinosaur, a Far Side caveman, someone from Early Man chasing a rabbit, and a couple other characters. The comments thread on GoComics identifies them all.
Jonathan Lemon’s Rabbits Against Magic for the 2nd of December, 2018. So we at least know Lemon’s figured out how to draw the main characters. Fun fact: my love and I were eating in a Mexican restaurant in Denver once, and noticed on the TV an animated movie, without sound, that seemed annoyingly familiar without being at all understandable. It was the Croods, which we’d seen and liked in the theaters. (They’re the characters in the lower-left corner here.) While a fact, this is not in fact a fun fact. I own multiple books about the history of containerized cargo. I have no functional mental model of what “fun” is. I probably can’t even imagine a person who would know what “fun” is.

Alley Oop.

2 September – 9 December 2018

My last update about Alley Oop covered the end of Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s run as writer and artist. That included the end of a storyline. So I have a clean slate of story here. This has been from a storyline which first ran in 2013. That’s from before I was doing regular plot recaps. So I can’t just reuse an old essay. Gr. But also on this story there’s another credit, for John Wooley. I don’t know what role Wooley played.

Dr Wonmug has a job! A client is paying him to gather samples in 1816 Switzerland. I honestly didn’t know the Doc took jobs like that. The client’s never named, but that doesn’t seem to be a plot element. It’s just an excuse for why he has to “hurry” to travel in time. Anyway, Doc pops in to Ancient Moo, interrupting Alley Oop’s and Ooola’s picnic. And annoying Ooola, who teases that “maybe I’ll have a little adventure of my own”. This hasn’t paid off yet and I haven’t checked whether it ever does.

Ooola: 'Alley, after all this time, do you really have to ask why Doc is here? Why is he EVER here?' Oop: 'Whadya mean by that?' Doc Wonmug: 'She's right, Oop! Ooola, I'm sorry to interrupt your picnic, but I need to borrow Oop for ... ' Ooola: 'Blah, blah, blah! You don't need to explain to me, Doc!'
Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop for the 5th of September, 2018. I usually like it when characters admit they should recognize a situation from all the times they’ve done it before. Alley Oop had asked what Wonmug was doing there, which does have the obvious answer Ooola’s annoyed he doesn’t know. He’s supposed to go tromping around in space and time for something. But it seems like Oop’s got the question, what are they tromping around for this time, and that’s at least as reasonable a question.

Oop thinks this “scientific research” is a new game, but what the heck. He’s up for it. 1816 is a good year for for science research; you might faintly remember it as “the year without a summer”. After the explosion of Mount Tambora the previous year the northern hemisphere suffered widespread cold, leading to food shortages and even more poverty. And a pretty boring summer retreat at the Villa Diodati, in Cologny, Switzerland. There Mary Shelley is fed up with Percy Shelley and Lord Byron going on about electricity to each other. She decides to take her chances walking outside in the cold rain. Oh, should say, nobody’s last name gets mentioned. This is probably to set up the punch line ending. It’s a good punch line for someone who doesn’t know about how Frankenstein was originally written.

Mary sees a flash atop a mountain. It’s the arrival of Doc Wonmug and an underdressed Alley Oop. She’s wondering how they survived what she took to be lightning. Also wondering what’s with this gigantic, incredibly muscular figure surrounded by glowing light. Alley Oop and Doc Wonmug realize they’re being followed. But they figure they can evade this past-dweller long enough. They’re hilariously wrong. But they just need a soil sample, a plant sample, and some insect. It’s an oddly plausible enough scientific mission. I can already imagine the science team very cross that there wasn’t enough soil and they didn’t provide enough photographs to understand the context of the plant sample. Mary Shelley watches them digging up soil and wonders if they’re burying something. Or digging something up.

Alley Oop, struggling to put winter jacket on: 'This weather's miserable, Doc!' Wonmug: 'That's why we came here!' Meanwhile: Mary Shelley looks up the hill at the two. 'It looks like they're moving on!' Meanwhile: Wonmug: 'See anything, Oop?' Oop: 'I think I see that woman again! She must be following us!' Meanwhile: Shelley: 'I must find out how those people survived that lightning flash!' (There's another flash of lightning, silhouetting Alley Oop, who's got his arms and axe raised.) Shelley: 'GASP! What kind of monster is this that I'm seeking?!'
Jack Bender, Carole Bender, and John Wooley’s Alley Oop for the 30th of September, 2018. In 2011 astronomer Donald Olson deduced (on what evidence I don’t know) that the walk during which Mary Shelley had the inspiration for Frankenstein happened after midnight the 16th of June, 1816. If we take his work as correct then this means we can pin down when this particular strip happens to within a couple hours. I’m curious whether news about Olson’s deduction influenced the decision to write this story.

Wonmug explains about the harshness of the year. Oop asks, reasonably, whether they’re doing something to help the starving population of the world. Wonmug says they can’t. I don’t know whether Alley Oop has an unchangeable past built into it or not. If Wonmug and company are wise they’ve never tested it. But I know barely a tiny bit of the strip’s long history and what stories they might have explored.

Plants and insects are harder to find. They spot a small scraggly plant growing on the edge of a cliff. Oop’s able to climb cliff faces like that, even in the freezing rain. While he does, Wonmug sets up a little science kit to measure the atmosphere. And Mary Shelley watches all this strangeness. She gasps as Oop slips (but does not fall). Wonmug follows her, using his iPod’s flashlight feature to spot her in the gloom. She’s afraid of him, for reasons Wonmug can’t understand. As a scientist Dr Wonmug hasn’t got the common sense that God gave scraggly plants growing on the edge of a cliff in the Year Without A Summer.

Mary Shelley: 'Don't hurt me!' Doc Wonmug, shining light from his iPod-class computer: 'Calm down! Why would you think I'd hurt you?' Shelley, pointing ot the iPod: 'Because whatever that thing is, it can't be used for good!' Wonmug: 'Oh ... I forgot ... Forgive me!'
Jack Bender, Carole Bender, and John Wooley’s Alley Oop for the 26th of October, 2018. “I mean, I mostly use it to listen to podcasts, so I’m not sure if that’s really good or bad or what. Have you ever tried I Don’t Even Own A Television? I mean, you don’t, y’know?”

You know what else climbs cliff faces like that, even in the freezing rain? Mountain goats. An ibex watches Oop grabbing at the plant that’s maybe the only food around, and takes action. Oop’s able to grab onto one leaf, at least, before he’s knocked down the hillside. He takes a nasty fall, landing right outside the cave where Wonmug is trying to figure out why Mary Shelley looks somehow familiar.

Oop, dodging an ibex: 'Whew! That was close!' (The ibex eats the plant.) 'I guess he was just protecting his food. Th'thing is, I need a plant sample to take home with me. I just need one leaf! You can eat the rest!' (He reaches for one leaf.) 'Whaddya say?! Let me have one leaf?' (The ibex headbutts Oop in the stomach. He falls off the cliff face and thuds in front of Wonmug and Mary Shelley.) Wonmug: 'Oop!' Shelley: 'Oh my!! Is that your friend?!'
Jack Bender, Carole Bender, and John Wooley’s Alley Oop for the 11th of November, 2018. One of the narration panels in one daily strip told me this was an ibex. This made me want to call the narration box a liar. But it turns out there’s an Alpine ibex, which lives right where the name would make you think. So, neat.

Wonmug can’t feel a pulse. Shelley fears he’s dead, but still wants to take him to a doctor. I guess this is on the grounds that 19th century medicine couldn’t make the situation worse. Me, in the 21st century, is pretty sure they could. But her naming Dr Polidori gives Wonmug the clue to who she is, and the punch line that this Mary Shelley. Anyway, Wonmug’s got a portable defibrillator. He warns about the dangers of the electricity, gives Oop a couple good shocks. He brings this gigantic, impossibly strong human to life. He, grunting, confused, and disoriented, lunges toward the woman he had seen following them. She flees. So you see the joke here. I think the joke’s better when you consider that Alley Oop’s a fundamentally kind, good person being shunned for looking like a monster. Shelley flees back to the villa, where she learns the men around her are going to hold a writing competition.

Alley Oop grunts after the defibrillators have shocked him. Wonmug: 'He's alive!' (Mary Shelly gasps.) Wonmug: 'Don't worry about not getting the plant sample, Oop! All that matters is that you're okay!' (Oop holds up the leaf he'd taken from the ibex.) Wonmug: 'YOU GOT IT! Now we just need a bug, and we're done here!' Oop, dizzily, pointing at Mary Shelley: 'It's that woman who was following us!' (He tries to stand, groaning, arms dangling forward.) Wonmug: 'Oop, meet Mary Shelley! She's ... ' (She's out of there.) Shelley: 'I don't know what that man was like before the electricity brought him back to life, but he appears to be a MONSTER now! I hope he isn't following me!'
Jack Bender, Carole Bender, and John Wooley’s Alley Oop for the 25th of November, 2018. The Sunday strips, for the Benders, would recap the action of the six days around them. But done in six panels rather than six days they lose stuff. Among the stuff lost here: there was this butterfly hovering around the plant Oop was trying to recover. So when that appears a couple strips after this it’s not a lucky break out of nowhere. It’s a lucky break that’s been correctly planted earlier.

Oop asks why they don’t check that she’s okay. Wonmug promises that he knows she’s just fine, which seems like he’s pretty confident they can’t accidentally alter history here. Anyway, Oop has the leaf in his hand yet, so that’s the plant sample. And a butterfly’s landed on his head, a good insect sample and a time-travel joke nicely underplayed. They return to the present.

And Wonmug explains stuff for Oop and anyone who didn’t know the story already. He presents a copy of Frankenstein and suggests, hey, where did she get that idea, after all? And this feeds to a couple strips just laying out the story of how Shelley had a vision of the story. Hm. Oop figures he’d like to read this, sure. Wonmug also offers that they could watch the movie. I’d also like to speak up for the Mister Magoo adaptation. This seems to end the story with a month left to go before the reruns end. But just this weekend we got Wonmug refusing to let Oop go back home again. He was “actually dead” for a couple minutes, after all. He needs some time of observation. And that’s where the story stands.

I’m mostly content with the storyline. The particular time-travel venture makes good sense. That it can intersect with a real historical figure at a real historically important moment is a bonus. But I personally dislike “here’s where a writer got their crazy idea from”. Writers get their ideas by thinking about things that give them ideas. Those ideas are fed from sources, yes, including writers’ experiences. But they’re created by the writers working. To show the “real events that inspired the writer” replaces that hard work with stenography. (Which is, yes, another kind of hard work, but hard in a different way.)

This motif is at least as old as Flash Of Two Worlds, the comic book where the 1960s Silver Age Flash met the 1940s Golden Age counterpart. Silver Flash had read Golden Flash comics when he was a kid. He speculated that the writer of those Golden Age comics was somehow cosmically attuned to Golden Age Flash’s world and could transcribe that. But there, Flash Of Two Worlds was written by Gardiner Fox, who wrote (most of) the Golden Age Flash comic books. He could be having a joke on himself.

Jack Bender and Carole Bender and John Wooley don’t quite do the writer-as-transcriber idea, at least. As presented in this story, Mary Shelley sees a story about electricity bringing a hulking brute to life. Fine; allow the premise that she took this inspiration from something she witnessed. She’s still presented as turning that one great idea into a novel, with so much happening that she doesn’t witness here. So that tempers my complaint.

I haven’t gone back to check the storyline’s original run in 2013. I want to be as surprised as you are and also am lazy. I’m supposing that Wonmug’s assertion that Oop needs observation will give us a couple weeks of puttering around in the present. And that should lead up to the 7th of January, 2019, when Alison Sayers and Jonathan Lemon take over.

Next Week!

International terrorist mastermind The Nomad had an unconscious Heloise Walker, daughter of The Phantom, in his private jet, with plans to fly her to the Caribbean and drop her in the ocean. So we’ll see how well that turned out for him. It’s Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity.

Statistics Saturday: Questions Raised By Rankin/Bass Christmas Specials


Rankin/Bass Christmas Specials Questions Raised
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 14
Frosty the Snowman 8
Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town 4
The Year Without A Santa Claus 18
Rudolph’s Shiny New Year 34
The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow 4
The Life And Adventures Of Santa Claus 3
Jack Frost N/A [ No one has settled the question of whether it is a Christmas special ]
Frosty’s Winter Wonderland 64
Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July 7
Pinocchio’s Christmas 11
The Little Drummer Boy, Book II 3
Nestor, The long-Eared Christmas Donkey 5
`Twas The Night Before Christmas 20
The Leprechauns’ Christmas Gold 8
Cricket On The Hearth 4
The Little Drummer Boy, Book I 5
The Stingiest Man In Town 15
Santa, Baby! 6

Reference: Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race, David Scott, Alexei Leonov, Christine Toomey.

Yes, I Am Aware Of The New Popeye Cartoon And Have Thoughts About It


So earlier this week Comics Kingdom sent me an e-mail. I assume they sent it to other people too. It just had that tone to it. It said King Features was “excited to announce” the launch of Popeye’s Island Adventures. It’s part of an effort to bring Popeye back into the pop culture. They say it’s with “a fresh update on the original characters and storyline”.

All right, then. I’m game. Stand near me for about twenty minutes and you’ll work out that I’m a Popeye fan. And I’m sad that he hasn’t got much of a place in the public consciousness these days besides weird appearances on T-shirts sold at kiosks on the Jersey Shore. I’m not sure why he hasn’t had much traction since, well, the live-action movie came out. It’s easy to complain that Popeye’s just this dumb violent character, but, c’mon. Other cartoons get away with punching. And dumb is a matter of context. Give a character interesting things to do and they’re interesting. And Popeye has this forthrightness and moral clarity that I still think admirable.

So let’s see what King Features is doing with the character now. Episode one, Follow The Spinach.

It was maybe halfway into the two-minute cartoon that I realized, oh, they’re not just being drawn to look young. This is supposed to be some adventures of a Young Popeye and company. All right. I’m not sure if this is what it takes to appeal to a new generation. But, I also like variants on established character sets and I don’t think there’s been a “young Popeye” series before. At least not an important one. I’ll give that a try.

I’m glad to see Eugene the Jeep. Eugene’s the top of the many weird, interesting creatures in the Popeye universe. (Cartoons and comic strips.) Only sad point is he doesn’t really have anything to do with the story; he tickles Bluto’s feet and that’s all?

The short feels oddly paced to me. The story’s thin, but a two minute cartoon doesn’t have time for a deep plot. Still, it has Popeye eating his spinach at the halfway point in the cartoon. I’m more comfortable with it as the climax. You know, after Popeye’s had all he can stands and can’t stands no more. However, he’s also got to have time to do things, so maybe this couldn’t be pushed any later in the short. It puts more work on the introductory minute, though.

More time would help, surely. But that would surely be more expensive, and I can’t imagine there’s a huge budget for making Popeye cartoons in 2018. It shows in a couple ways. The voices, particularly. Reducing all the characters to little grunting noises avoids the problem of dubbing for different language-speakers. (This is proven by the variety of languages already in the YouTube comments. Also from this I learn I can tell when someone is whining about “political correctness” in Spanish.) But it requires either simpler plots or demands more elaborate expository artwork. I mean, try to explain the Jeep’s powers using only pictograms. Plus a lot of what’s fun about Popeye is listening to him talk. I’m not sure how long I would enjoy listening to Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto grunting at each other.

It’s got a fair bit of the stuff I like Popeye cartoons for. Particularly the feats of ridiculous exaggeration, as when the spinach-charged Popeye spins his ears into helicopter propellers. Or Popeye, skateboarding across the sand, picking up a train of bicycle, washing machine, walrus, and donkey.

The animation looks, to me, like a Flash game. That is, it looks cheap, to me. But if it weren’t cheap the short wouldn’t exist at all, so, fine. I thought the scene cuts were too quick, spoiling the comic effect of some shots. Why have Popeye haul a bicycle, washing machine, walrus, and donkey through the sand if there’s barely the time to see it? Also, in what seems like the exact opposite gripe, that the camera panned too slowly when a character moved quickly, such as when Popeye leaps into the tree at about 0:23. But, for example, I didn’t get why the spinach on Bluto’s fishing rod kept moving when Bluto set the reel down. That the reel was still spinning I didn’t catch until a repeat view. This is all probably stuff the animators (not credited in the video, by the way, nor on the YouTube page caption) will get the hang of with experience.

I’m not sure what I think of the character designs, or the choice to make this Young Popeye. It does give a pretext to quietly drop Popeye’s pipe. If that’s the compromise that gets us Popeye cartoons without protest from well-meaning people, all right. His blowing a bosun’s whistle is a decent replacement. That, based on the YouTube comments, this infuriates the sort of person who complains about SJW’s makes the substitution a double bonus. And Eugene’s cute. I hope he gets to be in a cartoon soon.

So, I’m glad to see King Features trying to make new Popeye cartoons. I’ll here for new ones.

Everything There Is To Say About Decorating For Christmas


I’m flattered you come to me for advice about Christmas decorations. Don’t go thinking I’m happy about it. If you take my advice it won’t turn out well. The best we can expect is groups of people huddled together, in the snow, too tired from yelling at each other to resume yelling at each other on a nice day like this. That day is probably Groundhog Day or something like that.

See, the first reason I shouldn’t really be trusted on Christmas decorating advice is that I procrastinate. It’s not that I don’t ever want to get around to doing things. I feel this complete lack of urgency about getting stuff done. This is great for stuff that doesn’t really need to be done, like preventative maintenance. It’s not so good for stuff with inherent deadlines, like making dinner or Christmas. But deadlines are flexible things. What does it matter if we have dinner now or fifteen minutes later? Or a half-hour later? Or early next morning? Similarly, when we think carefully about the problem, do we actually know when Christmas will be? December seems likely enough. But we do hear talk about Christmas in July, which suggests we were trying to get things six months wrong and were still late. You can’t convince me that there isn’t plenty of time to start decorating, even if it’s already well past 4 pm on Christmas Day, whenever that may be.

But if you’re still looking for advice from me? … Really? All right. I should warn you that I’ve decorated things in my life and you probably don’t want to take up my example. I used to be a teenaged boy, you see, and I’ve been struggling my whole life to overcome that background. I fully accept responsibility for the dumb things I’ve done, and I think I know better now. But consider that I used to think it was acceptable to line the walls of my bedroom with Star Trek comic books in plastic bags. Yes, they had cardboard backings. I wasn’t a savage. And it did express an element of actual good decorating. Good decorating should say something. And a wall of bagged Star Trek comic books says: “This is easier than ever knowing a person who would want to visit me”.

Still even as a teenager I knew Christmas would come, sooner or later. One year I got possession of the family’s old artificial tree. By fair means, I should add. Our parents got a new artificial tree and as the largest brother I was able to punch my other brothers more. But now I could set up in the corner of my room an artificial Christmas tree. It was at most ten years old and there were many branches that weren’t yet crumpled up by having been put away for ten years by pre-teen boys in-between their punching sessions. Add to it a couple strands of older lights, no longer needed for front-line service, that were enough for at least the third of the tree not facing the wall. And you had this awesome sight: an ancient artificial Christmas tree, strung with a couple lights trying their best in the circumstances, sitting in the corner, backing a wall of the existing Star Trek comics of the 1980s. It was the hot new look for the summer, based on what the guinea pigs I kept in my room said about it. They said, “Wheep”.

At one point it struck my teenage-boy mind that it would be a good idea to take down the bows, but leave the two-foot-tall conical top of the tree up. This solved the problems of not really having enough lights and of blocking access to the Star Trek comics behind the tree. It just meant I had a bare, five-foot-tall metal pole sitting in the corner of my room. My recollection is that at one point I also managed to lose the pitiful remnants of this tree, and was startled to rediscover it. I have no idea what it could possibly have hidden behind. It’s not like I had tall stuff in my room other than me. I mean, this was when I was going through the mattress-on-the-floor phase of my life.

I hope that this has answered every possible question. If it has not, allow me to offer “North Dakota in the year 1822”. I don’t know what question that answers, but it must be something.

In Which My Calendar Notifications Are Honestly Being Over-Dramatic


I don’t have a lot of stuff on my calendar, because I’m a very disorganized person and am kind of reckless with my tasks. But sometimes something comes on, and yesterday was one of those days, and here’s what my calendar notifications wanted to make of it:

Tuesday, December 4: The first thing on your calendar today is 'Furnace', and it started over an hour ago.
Things my calendar should have on it but does not: birthdates for my nieces, nephews, and in-laws. Thing my calendar actually does have on it: a mention every year of the day when my father was accompanying my mother for a checkup, and fainted in the hospital, and they examined him and discovered he had a previously-unsuspected aneurysm that’s since been successfully treated and does not seem to be passed on to us kids. Why? “Why” is a question that certainly deserves an answer.

And honestly, no, “Furnace” had not started over an hour ago. It’s been chilly but it’s not been that chilly. The furnace was going for like maybe five minutes at the max. I don’t know where it gets these things from.

The Stan Freberg Show: the thirteenth show, the one with all the werewolves


You maybe noticed these recordings of The Stan Freberg Show haven’t had any advertisements, nor spots where the action comes to a halt for a sponsor’s plug. This is not because they were edited out, nor because these recordings come from recordings made for the Armed Forces Radio Service. (Armed Forces Radio at the time had a prohibition on advertisement. Shows transcribed for rebroadcast on this would often fill out the time with music.) The show ran as a “sustaining” program, without a sponsor.

That’s a slightly odd status, today. The only shows run on United States radio without a sponsor are some public-service, breaking-news, or educational programs (and the occasional publicity stunt). It was not unheard-of in the days of old-time-radio. Mostly this would be for programs meant to experiment with the state of the art, such as the CBS Radio Workshop; or to serve educational and cultural support roles, such as the NBC University Theater. But it would also be for shows that filled a dull time slot. Or that were good but hadn’t yet matched up with a reliable sponsor. Vic and Sade, for example, ran its first two years without more than temporary sponsorship. Stan Freberg claimed that a tobacco company had offered to sponsor the show and he turned them down, which if true speaks well for his principles. Running the series for three months, as they did, suggests CBS figured they had a good show that might match up with a sponsor. Here, from the 6th of October, 1957, is the moment when Freberg maybe realized they wouldn’t match one, and he decided to just make fun of the people he also needed.

And here’s the rundown:

Start Time Sketch
00:00 Open. No pre-show sketch once again.
00:52 Opening comments. Freberg just promises something for everyone and there’s not clearly a bit going on.
01:20 Billy May playing Cocktails for Two. Just the prologue; “everyone knows the chorus of this turkey”.
03:08 Questions from the Audience. On the topic of the circus. One wants gifts and is fine with the circus as is. One thinks Freberg might be Steve Allen. The topic gets dropped and the rest of the sketch forgotten.
05:23 Peggy Taylor asks if the Dodgers are really bums; a bum wanders around and has nowhere to go. Then sings “And The Angels Sing”.
08:16 20th Century Freberg films: Grey Flannel Hat Full Of Teenage Werewolves. Goofy little fusion of I Was A Teenage Werewolf with How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. Freberg has a great squawky teenage voice. And it has the great lines “This is America, where any kid can grow up to be Dracula!” and “My head filled with senseless metaphor!”. Werewolves by night and advertising executives by day is a solidly goofy idea. The agency name of “Batton, Barton, Rubicum, and Thompson” is a riff on Batten, Barton, Durstine, and Osborn, a corporate name I think Fred Allen once said sounded like a trunk falling down stairs. (Wikipedia can find where Mary Livingstone said this on a November 1948 Jack Benny Show, and that it’s not known if Fred Allen ever did.) They’re still around, as BBDO. I don’t know if this sketch came from a fusion of trying to riff teen-horror and young-exec movies. Having werewolves to fall back on really helps when the advertising part gets dull. The advertisement for “Food!” at about 18:45 is (of course) a precise parody of a then-current radio advertisement, for Quaker Mills Oh! cereal (which opened on a reverb-heavy “Oh! Oh! OH!”. And the mock-movie is a goofy story about love triumphing, really.
26:40 Closing Comments. Freberg answers the people who sent “many card and letter, to say nothing of countless phone call” congratulating them on a sketch from the fifth show, making fun of The Lawrence Welk Show. He announces and advertises that the sketch, is out as a comedy record, “Wun’erful, Wun’erful”. Also this means I was wrong to say that the sketch was an adaptation of this record; it’s the other way around. Also Freberg announces that the show is ending in two weeks. So he asks what people would like them to do for the final show. I take it to mean to nominate favorite sketches, but he doesn’t actually quite promise that.
27:55 Closing Music.

My recaps of all the episodes of The Stan Freberg Show should be at this link.

Statistics Monday: What Was Popular Here In November 2018


I like taking a day near the start of the month to look over what WordPress tells me was popular around here. It’s usually a nice, low-key way to fill the content hole with a lot of numbers followed by a heap of other numbers, some of them including decimal points. It’s great.

In September there were 2,644 page views around here. They came from 1,436 unique visitors, who left a total of 174 likes and 50 comments. In October there were 3,070 page views and I do so like getting above a big round number like that. 1,681 unique visitors, who left 173 likes and 67 comments. And for November?

November 2018 statistics: 3,077 views, 1.731 visitors, 1.78 views per visitor, and 30 posts published.
1.78 views per visitor is down from October’s 1.83, and September’s 1.84. But all this really suggests is I’m not seeing these deep archive-binges. (I’m not sure I have ever been archive-binged, but there have been months I had a whole 2.34 views per visitor.)

I was surprised to have a very slight increase in page views, to 3,077. My mathematics blog had a drop in readers in November and I expect the two blogs to stay synchronized. (More accurately the mathematics blog had an extra readership boost in October.) The number of unique visitors rose more than slightly, to 1,681, more than I’ve had since this five-month streak in early 2018. Likes fell to 150, the first time in seven months that they’ve been outside the 165-to-180 range. The number of comments rose to 88, the fifth month of increase in a row and the greatest number since February 2018.

As in October, all the most popular stuff here was comic strip updates. Also as in October, the most popular pieces weren’t actually published in this past month. At the top were:

The most popular thing actually published in November was I Don’t Know Who’s Officially Writing Spider-Man Now. It is Roy Thomas, although Comics Kingdom doesn’t have his credit on the strip yet. They just list Stan Lee. My most popular long-form piece was In Which I Am Extremely Helpful Making Food For Thanksgiving, suggesting there might be some interest in me writing pieces that make me out as incompetent but well-intentioned. I had expected that to be well-received. Intellectual-amiable-fumbling in that Robert Benchley mode plays to my strengths. The most popular Statistics Saturday post was Questions Raised By Learning Kings Dominion Amusement Park Had A Wayne’s-World-Theme Area. There’s not really any reason that had to be a Statistics Saturday format, truth be told.

Here’s the roster of the story strips I hope to explain What’s Going On In for the coming month. Subject, as ever, to fast-breaking news updates.

And it won’t matter for December. But Alley Oop is scheduled to go into new strips the 7th of January. Alison Sayers is to write and Jonathan Lemon to draw. And apparently the Sunday strips are to be about “Li’l Oop,” a preteen version of Alley Oop. I have no idea if that’s going to be a separate storyline or just standalone gags.

The country count: there were 60 countries sending me readers in September. 69 in October. For November there were 66 countries, if you count “European Union” as a single country. The exact roster:

Country Readers
United States 2,352
India 113
Canada 107
Australia 66
United Kingdom 53
Italy 44
Brazil 31
Germany 27
Philippines 22
Denmark 20
Hong Kong SAR China 18
France 16
Spain 14
Finland 11
Netherlands 11
South Africa 11
Peru 10
Sweden 10
Turkey 9
Chile 8
Mexico 7
Russia 7
European Union 6
Japan 6
Poland 6
South Korea 6
Malaysia 5
Norway 5
Romania 4
Serbia 4
Thailand 4
Vietnam 4
Belgium 3
El Salvador 3
Hungary 3
Jamaica 3
Nepal 3
Oman 3
Portugal 3
Venezuela 3
Austria 2
Costa Rica 2
Croatia 2
Czech Republic 2
Indonesia 2
New Zealand 2
Nigeria 2
Singapore 2
Switzerland 2
Ukraine 2
Bangladesh 1 (**)
Colombia 1
Egypt 1
Georgia 1
Guyana 1
Honduras 1
Ireland 1
Malawi 1
Maldives 1 (*)
Mongolia 1
Morocco 1
Panama 1
Papua New Guinea 1
Qatar 1
Saudi Arabia 1
Sri Lanka 1

There were 16 single-reader countries in September, 17 in October, and in November, 16. I guess I have my level, then. Maldives have been a single-reader country two months running now. Bangladesh, three months.

According to Insights, for the end of November I had published 334 posts and a total of 212,977 words this year. That’s an average of 638 words per piece, up from an average of 634 from the start of November. It’s also by the way a total of 17,378 words over the 30 posts. So I’m doing really well at getting my Monday-Wednesday-Friday posts down to short, snappy pieces.

As of the end of November I’m averaging 2.5 comments per post, up from 2.4 at the start of November and 2.3 at the start of October. And an average of 6.0 likes per post, down from 6.1 at the start of November and October. December opened with my having 105,666 page views total, from 58,125 unique visitors. And 2,129 total posts, by the way.

I’m glad if you choose to follow Another Blog, Meanwhile. You can add it to your WordPress reader with the button that says you can add this to your WordPress reader. If you prefer an RSS reader, you can add my articles from this link. And I’m also @Nebusj on Twitter. Finally I’d like to thank everyone for my theme song and great music cues. See you next month.

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Is April Parker Dead? Is Norton? September – December 2018


Greetings, reader confused by Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker. This is my effort to bring you up to date about the plot as it stands in early December 2018. After about March 2018 you should get a more up-to-date recap here. And if you just want to hear me talk about mathematics in the comics, look over here.

[ Desperate to locate the comic strip home of the 'pretty girl' character who's wandered into Zippy's domain, Griffy ransacks 'Apartment 3-G' ] Lu Ann: 'I don't know WHY but I have this terrible feeling I'm being ... satirized! Now please leave.' Griffy: 'But -- we work for the same syndicate!' [ Visits 'Judge Parker' ] Griffy: 'She may be in copyright violation!' Parker: 'I don't see a SEARCH WARRANT, Mister --- I'll see you in court!' [ And tracks down 'Mark Trail' ] Griffy: 'No, she doesn't have an ear tag or a tufted forelock.' Mark Trail: 'Sorry, Chief --- if she's not tagged or tufted, I can't help you!'
Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead for the 20th of August, 2002. Part of the storyline that sees him withering under the gaze of Mary Worth. Yes, this will likely reappear when it’s Mark Trail’s turn to be talked about here.

Judge Parker.

9 September – 2 December 2018

Last time I checked in on Judge Parker I figured we were getting near some retrenchment. There had been a bunch of craziness going down, mostly in Los Angeles. Neddy Spencer and work-friend Ronnie Huerta were trying to figure who killed Godiva Danube. They learned Danube had been fronting a drug-running scheme. And that someone in the CIA wanted Danube dead, so they got April Spencer to do it. Except, we learned, she didn’t do it. Someone else, who’s now killed Danube’s boyfriend, the guy who gave Neddy Spencer and Ronnie Huerta as much exposition as they have. Meanwhile, April Parker’s father Norton was betrayed by his aide and was in the hands of maybe a dozen CIA agents. I know this is confusing; I’m trying to summarize a summary here. My summary article last time has the space to explain more of it. Anyway, I figured we were coming near some drawing down of the craziness. Possibly a jump several months ahead in time. An incomplete resolution of what’s been going on and a bunch of new story elements. Let’s see what happened.

Well, Neddy and Ronnie get out of Danube’s boyfriend’s apartment. April Spencer’s dropped in to kill the CIA agent who was killing the boyfriend anyway. Ronnie declares she’s had enough of Neddy’s crazy life and wants out. Can’t fault her that. Also it turns out Norton is not dead, but just in Super-Duper-Secret CIA Jail, being interrogated about what’s April Spencer’s deal already.

Bowen, on the phone: 'Fine, Randy. I'll look after Charlotte so your dad can have his 'emergency' date with Katherine. Anything to help his relationship get on better footing than ours right now.' Randy: 'Hahaha ... wait, that's a joke, right?'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 21st of September, 2018. Oh, and the ’emergency’ date between Alan Parker and Katherine is where Katherine says that she’s ready to reconcile with Alan, which is a pretty big step in their relationship too. Also, boy, you cannot say that Bowen wasn’t clear about being unsatisfied with the state of their relationship even before that night made it extra crazy.

Meanwhile back in Cavelton, Judge Randy Parker calls off a date with Toni Bowen. She’s the local-turned-national-turned-local-again newscaster. Her life’s been tied to the Parkers’ since Marciuliano took over writing. Randy uses the excuse that he’s swamped with judge work. She pretends to believe him, and further, agrees to babysit his-and-April’s daughter Charlotte for the night. Randy picked such a lucky night to be absent I wondered if he was up to something. Because April Parker stops in. April demands Charlotte. Bowen refuses to give her up. Randy Parker finally gets home in time for this scene, and for April to knock him unconscious for dating in her absence. And then who intrudes but … Candice Bergen?

[ April comes face-to-face with ... ] April Parker: 'M-Mom? I ... I don't understand how ... I thought you were dead!' April's Mom: 'Oh, Darling. How many times did you know your dad to die? We're problematic parents at best.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 8th of October, 2018. So the most unsettling thing about April’s Mom: she never opens her mouth. Well, there’s like one panel in the week-plus she appears where her lips are opened a tiny bit, but it’s not much. I’m assuming it’s a deliberate choice to make her subtly weird, even on top of there being another long-lost secret Greater Spencer Family member. It’s weird that it works that well.

So, turns out she’s April Parker’s Mom. She’s been absent something like thirty years with her business and all. And it turns out she’s the partner Wurst was reporting to last time. Candice Bergen warns that no, April can’t take Charlotte. She’ll have to wait and come back to her sometime later. Maybe after the new series of Murphy Brown wraps up. On Candice Bergen’s promise of safety, Bowen lets April hug Charlotte, for maybe “the last time she can hold her as a child”. And then they leave before they can kill even more CIA agents.

Maybe. We don’t see that. The 15th of October had the much-anticipated-by-me “We Jump To Mid-Fall” narrative caption. The changes: Bowen’s had enough of the Parker craziness and is done with Randy. Can’t fault her that. Katherine and Alan Parker have gotten back together. They’re at that stage where every floor in their house is filled with boxes labelled for some other room. Norton is dead, according to Sam Driver’s Super-Ultra-Secret contact at the CIA. So they’re all safe, right?

And Katherine Parker learns something interesting at the publishing house where she works. Also I learn she works at a publishing house. Toni Bowen’s publishing an autobiography and it’s going to have a bunch of stuff about Randy and April. She brings word to Alan. Alan brings word to Randy. Randy already knew. Bowen had talked about it with him before submitting the book proposal. So he roughly knew what would get published and what it might do to him. Also, Randy has to admit he would never do anything to hurt his father but …

So Randy confided to Bowen how Alan Parker had helped Norton fake his own death some time ago. Randy meant this to show that Norton wouldn’t be coming after them. Now, well, they don’t know if it’ll be in the book but it’s going to be an awkward conversation. Still, at least Norton’s not faking his death this time. Super-Hyper-Duper-Secret CIA Prison is.

FBI Bureau Chief: 'It's not a lie, Norton. Your daughter never made it out of the country.' Norton: 'Does April know she's dead? Has anyone been able to find her and break the news?' Chief: 'There is a photo, but I hesitate to share it.' Norton: 'After going through all that trouble of doctoring it? Come on, let's have a look.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 14th of November, 2018. Not sure whether Norton’s confident demeanor reflects his being just that aware of all the tricks of Super-Hyper-Ultra-Duper-Secret Spy stuff, or whether he just knows that it’s a soap opera strip, if you don’t see the body bleeding out they’re not dead. And even if they are, there’s a good chance of duplicates.

And there might be fresh deaths. In Super-Mega-Hyper-Ultra-Duper-Secret CIA Prison the bureau chief has bad news. April Parker is dead. They have a photo and everything. Norton’s willing to pretend to believe them long enough to look at their photo. And he thinks how “April may be in even better hands than mine”. The phrasing reads as though he’s considering that April has died, but is still way open to reading as though he’s admiring his wife’s work in the field of Honestly Just Exhausting At This Point Super-Hyper-Ultra-Duper-Mega-Looper-Secret Double-Crossing. The agents reviewing his reaction figure Norton “may not know where April is, but certainly knows who helped her get out”.

The 18th of November introduced another plot thread. Neddy Spencer’s flying home for Thanksgiving. And ignoring Ronnie Huerta’s repeated texts to call back. Neddy’s life has been a mess since we saw it turn into an enormous mess. Huerta’s trying to reconnect, but Neddy won’t have it, suspecting Huerta of being the same kind of false friend Danube was. Sophie Spencer points out, correctly, that withdrawing from the craziness is not wrong. After major drama — the word seems trivial for what they went through, but what is there to say? — you may need time away. Neddy’s the bad friend, ignoring the attempts to reach out and assuming malice. I get Neddy’s anger, but that’s still a good way to create malice.

[ Late Night, Thanksgiving Day ] Neddy: 'How can I still be hungry for a turkey sandwich after everything I ate today?' Sophie: 'Just be ready for turkey omelets tomorrow morning.' Neddy: 'I'm just so happy to see you, Sophie.' Sophie: 'And I'm happy to see you. But I wish you'd tell me what's really going on.' Neddy: 'It's like I said last time we spoke. My life's a mess. Every time I think I'm heading toward something, chaos reigns.' Sophie: 'Neddy, this time involved a famous celebrity murder, you beating up some dealer, a family-friend assassin, and a Austrian drug lord.' Neddy: 'So you're saying I'm upping my fiasco level?' Sophie: 'I'm saying if you can make it through that you can make it through, anything.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 25th of November, 2018. So is it a little too … you know … glib that Neddy would talk about “upping my fiasco level”? Part of the fun of Judge Parker since Marciuliano took over the writing has been that the characters have more self-aware humor about their situations. And I grant that Neddy has had several months to cope with her feelings about Godiva Danube’s murder and all the killings that she saw in that aftermath. I don’t want the characters to go all Les Moore on us, ever. But this feels like she’s taking things lightly.

Meanwhile Sam Driver isn’t sure Neddy should move back home. He thinks she responds to every setback by running back home, and that she shouldn’t be doing that now. Which has enough truth in it to be credible. But, especially since Marciuliano took over, Neddy hasn’t been through “setbacks”. She’s seen family twist someone by their neck until they’re dead. I’m not sure what she does need, except that it involves professional care. So this is probably something that will get further discussion. Maybe a jolly fight over Christmas. We’ll see.

Next Week!

Well, The Amazing Spider-Man jumped the queue a bit. So I’ll get back on schedule with a recap of Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop repeats. Which looks like it’s just wrapped up the story, a month ahead of my expectations. I don’t know what they’re going to do while waiting for the new writing team to take over. Should catch up to Prehistoric Moo in a week, though. And by Prehistoric Moo I mean 1816 Switzerland. You know how it is.

Statistics Saturday: Some Christmas Carols You Don’t Remember


  • Chrissy, the Christmas Mouse
  • Bright Christmas Land
  • The Holly and the Ivy
  • Ding Dong Merrily On High
  • Away In A Manger
  • Got Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  • I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  • O Christmas Tree
  • O Holy Night
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem
  • O Come O Come Emmanuel
  • O Come, All Ye Faithful
  • What Child Is This
  • We Three Kings of Orient Are
  • Wolcum Yole

Not listed: I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas because no matter how hard you try it’s not getting out of your head.

Reference: Nathaniel’s Nutmeg: or, The True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History, Giles Milton.