One more thing about the 80s


This stray thought about the 1980s and the cartoons and how there was this Pac-Man cartoon and all. Also the Pac-Man cartoon technically had Pac-Man and the Ghosts running around trying to bite each other. But because of what you could show on TV at the time, and what you could animate, you could argue the Ghosts were just trying to lick Pac-Man a lot. That would totally change things, especially the episode set in prehistoric times from before the discovery of Pac-Power-Pellets, when Pac-Men were helpless against Ghost licks, much as we humans are today.

Popeye’s Island Adventure: send in the clones


Whatever happened last week was apparently not the end of new Popeye’s Island Adventures. Maybe I was right to guess someone was on vacation. So here’s the tenth of the series, Popeye Squared.

Sometimes there’ll be a good story idea for a character hanging around, waiting, for nearly a century before someone does it. Here’s one of them. There’ve been cartoons where someone has duplicated Popeye, either impersonating him (Hello, How Am I, 1939), or building a mannequin to fool Olive Oyl (Puppet Love, 1944), or building a robot to fool Olive Oyl (Robot Popeye, 1960), or something. And there’s, I believe, at least one Bud Sagendorf story in the comic strip where Swee’pea gets duplicated. But Popeye himself, duplicated? With, like, normal good versions rather than evil ones? I haven’t seen that before. And that’s a great idea.

The short starts with Eugene, using his powers of advancing the plot. He’s somehow found a magic pool that duplicates stuff tossed in it, and that’s great for the apple shortage. While he’s off getting more fruits to duplicate Popeye wanders over and falls in. Young Popeye is a pretty clumsy fellow around here. It’s a bit endearing, and he does need something on his side since he can’t mutter anything fun in this series.

He heads off without noticing anything. The pool, after a pause, spits up a Duplicate Popeye, and then another, and then another. I don’t mind that the Duplicate Popeyes took longer to start making than the apple did. I can write that off as editing, especially since the short only has 130 seconds to do its business. What I don’t get is why there’s no end of Duplicate Popeyes and only the one apple. (Maybe the pool stops duplicating when the original and existing duplicates are removed? I don’t know. This really only matters for people roleplaying Popeye’s Island Adventures at home.)

The Duplicate Popeyes like each other, which in turn I like. The scene about 40 seconds in of them all just ack-laughing at each other tickles me. Eugene gets back, is shocked, and puts an end to the duplicating by covering the pond with a giant rock. I assume this means the pool gets buried under a pile of many gigantic duplicate rocks, but we don’t see that. Instead the Duplicate Popeyes go off about Popeye business.

And that gets to the high point of this cartoon and one of the high points of this series. A dazed Olive Oyl having eight Popeyes over for tea? She’s got a great expression. And it’s well-directed, repeated cuts out to establish there’s even more Popeyes and even more ack-laughing going on. Following that up with a dazed Swee’Pea, similarly, being read to by five Popeyes? That’s great. That all of them are making the inarticulate Popeye-ish grunts that the series has used? Even better, and a moment of using one of the series’ biggest limitations to be funnier. So by 1:09 in I was ready to call this my favorite of the series.

Then it all falls apart. Popeye’s in his ship-home, doing a bit of charting. (And as a person who’s never really understood navigation charts, his insight how to get there entertained me.) Then a bunch of Duplicate Popeyes break in and spill cans of spinach all over the place. Seven-year-old me would appreciate knowing that spinach cans are so fragile these days. He was always disappointed with his experiments squeezing a can open.

The Duplicate Popeyes lick up some spinach and then disintegrate into a green goo. And, well, that’s a quick and simple horrifying way out of the too-many-Popeyes problem, isn’t it? Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Swee’Pea set up to spray the island for Duplicate Popeyes. And for the last half-minute of the short, it’s various ways to get a blob of spinach into a Duplicate Popeye’s mouth and watching them disintegrate. Some of these ways are fun, like Olive’s spring-loaded Loving Cup. Some of these scenes include funny weird bits, like several Duplicate Popeyes pointing and laughing at an apple. And the music behind it is this fun, playful version of the series’ theme. But … gah, it’s eleven Duplicate Popeyes disintegrating into gooey puddles.

I mean, I felt for the Duplicates. I don’t want Popeye killing them. I suppose they were doomed to be short-lived anyway, given their vulnerability to the element of spinach and being Popeye clones and all. But the cartoon is taking lightly something that I just can’t.

So, the last hour just crashed the production for me. And no, I don’t know how to get out of the problem of “we probably should not actually have fourteen Popeyes hanging around”. Maybe they all swallow cans of Baseline Popeye’s spinach in order to fend off a startled Bluto, and they melt then. Which is still bad but would leave nobody morally responsible the result. Anyway, you shouldn’t make clones just to kill them. It’s a controversial stand but I’ll stand there.

This and my other reviews of Popeye’s Island Adventures ought to be posted at this link.

TCM Showing the Skippy movie on Wednesday


Turner Classic Movies (United States feed) has scheduled the 1931 movie Skippy for this Wednesday, the 27th of February. It’s set for 10:15 pm Eastern and Pacific time. I’ve mentioned the movie before but, what the heck. There’s people reading this who missed earlier mentions.

The movie is based on Percy Crosby’s comic strip Skippy. It’s a great comic strip. It’s an influential one, too. It’s one of the comics that Charles Schulz had in mind when making Peanuts. And, with considerable help from Schulz, it’s influenced incredibly many comics. Crosby supposed that kids had feelings and desires and interests that they took seriously, and that good stories would come from taking them seriously. Every comic strip that follows the child’s point of view owes something to it.

Kid hitting a baseball and running around the bases as Skippy, pitcher watches. Skippy calls out to his team: 'Well, we're beginnin' to creep up on them. That hit only brought in two runs!'
Percy Crosby’s Skippy rerun for the 14th of January, 2019. And apparently originally run the 1st of September, 1931. And maybe anyone could make a baseball strip about like this, but I can think of like four Peanuts strips from 1953 alone that are basically this.

It’s not only influential, though. It’s good. I mean, a lot of early comic strips are good, but you have to work a bit to understand them. Like, I enjoy George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, but if take any given day’s strip and ask me what the joke is I’ll often be in trouble. Not Skippy, though. Crosby’s sensibility is close enough to the modern one. There are exceptions, but you can look at the comic and understand what’s supposed to be funny. Clean up the dialogue and redraw it for modern comic strip art sizes and you could run it on a modern newspaper page.

Skippy, sitting on the curb, saying to himself: 'She's nothing but a little freckle face 'n the girl in the pink dress makes her look silly. 'N what piano legs she's got. 'N when I think of them buck teethI wanta laugh. 'N that nose: gee, what a face. (Reaching for a phone.) 'N' yet I can't help callin' her up.'
Percy Crosby’s Skippy for the 7th of November, 1925. And if you’re thinking this strip is nothing but Peanuts before Peanuts, consider the strip from the 19th and notice it’s also Calvin and Hobbes before Calvin and Hobbes.

The movie, starring Jackie Cooper, came out in 1931, when the comic was a few years old. It’s got to be among the first full-length movies based on comic strips ever, really. Percy Crosby gets a writing credit, and I believe it. I’m not sure if any specific strips were adapted into the screenplay, but the tone and attitude absolutely is. (Neither of the strips I’m including here are used in the movie, mind.) And much of it is the sort of casual hanging-out of kids who just have some free time and places they’re not supposed to go and the occasional excitement that somebody has some money and things like that.

The movie has a plot, although it takes a while before you see that it’s more than just hanging out. And there is something worth warning: when the plot does swing into action it includes an animal’s death. It’s taken seriously when it happens, and it devastates the character it’s supposed to. But it also includes the attitude that if, say (and to use an animal not in the film, so that I don’t give away just what happens more than necessary), your goldfish dies it’s all right because you can get another goldfish. I know there are people who even today have that attitude, but I don’t understand it myself.

Anyway, if you don’t need that in your comic strip movies, that’s all right. If you want to enjoy what you can without facing that, watch roughly the first hour. Up through the bit where Skippy and Sooky put on a show. Duck out after that and you avoid the shocking stuff.

Director Norman Taurog won an Academy Award for Best Director. Jackie Cooper was nominated for Best Actor. The screenplay, by Sam Mintz, Norman McLeod, and Joseph Mankiewicz, got a nomination for Best Writing. And the whole movie got a nomination for Best Picture. So Turner Classic Movies brings the movie up at least every February, as part of its 31 Days of Oscar. And, well, it’s a solid movie. Worth noticing.

What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? Why did Mary Jane toss a sheet on the Purple Guy? November 2018 – February 2019


I see a lot of people wondering about Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man. (Stan Lee’s name is still on the strip, but I do not know whether anything he might have contributed is still relevant.) This should have you set up for the story as it stood in February 2019. Somewhere around May 2019 I expect to have a more up-to-date plot recap that might be more helpful to you.

And if it’s mathematics you’re looking for, I discuss mathematics from the comics pages at my other blog, here. Thanks for reading these pieces.

The Amazing Spider-Man.

18 November 2018 – 23 February 2019.

Last time, J Jonah Jameson had just tried to hire Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, to expose Spider-Man once and for all. Cage refused, on the rounds he’s not for hire anymore. And that’s where we left off. The story had just started the 10th of November.

Luke Cage storms off from not being hired. He sees a car about to hit a pedestrian, and runs up to smash the car off the road. The pedestrian is a purple-skinned fellow. A narration box says if this were a Sunday strip you’d see that. But the weekday strip online was in color. The wonder is that it got the correct color. The purple guy is Killgrave. When Cage starts ragging him about that he orders the hero for not-hire to freeze. Cage does, and is shocked he can’t move a muscle. Killgrave orders the driver who’d almost hit him to go walk in front of a bus. The driver complies.

Driver: 'Sorry I nearly ran you over. My foot accidentally hit the gas pedal.' Killgrave: 'No harm done, friend. You can make it up to me ... by stepping in front of that bus!' Driver, dazed: 'Yes ... I'll do that.' Cage cries 'NO' while, thinking: 'Hey! I'm starting to be able to move again!'
Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 28th of November, 2018. City buses routinely drive dangerously fast on neighborhood roads where the wreckage of a smashed car and three people standing around yelling at each other are in the middle of the street!

Cage shakes off his immobility enough to save the driver. Killgrave orders him to stop again. He lays on some backstory for those of us who don’t know about every purple-skinned person in the Marvel Universe. Killgrave got splashed with a mysterious purple chemical nerve-gas concentrate while spying around an Army Ordnance Depot. Since then, he’s been purple-skinned, but anyone who hears him must obey his commands. Not all these characters have complicated backstories. Somewhere on the line he picked up a case of amnesia. But luckily Cage shook him out of the amnesia. So that’s looking up for the forces of purple. But he’s still getting his Power Voice back, so he can only control one person at a time. And hey, Luke Cage is a great person to have in your total power.

Mary Jane returns home. The studio’s giving up on publicity for her movie Marvella 2: Sword of the Dragon Prince. And the Mammon Theater, where she’s been working, got smashed up last story. So, facing a layoff from her Broadway acting gig and an imminent movie flop, why not pop off to Australia for a while? Newspaper photojournalist Peter Parker, who like me can’t remember if he’s freelance or staff, thinks that’s a good idea. She can even buy first-class tickets to head out that afternoon. Maybe this says more about me, but that’s the most terrifying concept I’ve read in this strip in a year.

Spider-Man: 'I said - LOWER THAT SAFE!' Cage: 'I'm ... not ... sure ... I can!' Killgrave, thinking: 'Got to risk a stage whisper here!' Killgrave, yelling: 'Cage --- THROW it at him!' Cage, throwing the large safe at Spidey: 'SORRY, man!'
Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 21st of December, 2018. Yes, it looks like Killgrave doesn’t know the difference between a “stage whisper” and “shouting”. Show some empathy. How long would you keep on practicing your whispering skills if anything people heard you tell them they had to do?

They’re interrupted by an armored-car holdup. Luke Cage lifted the armored car right off the Grand Central Parkway. (I don’t know that any airline flies to Australia from out of LaGuardia. I’m just assuming Peter Parker is a guy who has to fly through LaGuardia a lot.) Fortunately Peter Parker wore his Spider-Man suit, under his clothes. He figured travelling first-class he wouldn’t be strip-searched at the airport. Peter Parker still doesn’t know how airports work. But, in fairness, he’s managed to successfully take a flight like once in the last decade and even that needed President Obama to help with.

Cage starts fighting Spidey, and not because they’re doing traditional superhero meet-cutes. Killgrave is ordering Cage around. Cage is able to resist enough of Killgrave’s instructions that Spider-Man keeps escaping. He’s not able to control people of strong enough will, because, I’m assuming, Steve Ditko created the character. So Killgrave figures, hey, why not take over Spider-Man instead? From this we learn Killgrave is not connected to the story-comics snark community. But he’s got some good reasons on his side. Spider-Man’s able to web Cage up, for example. And granting he’s an evildoer, it’s still better optics to be enslaving the white guy when the story’s sure to run into February. Killgrave takes off with Spidey.

Spider-Man, webbing Cage: 'Sorry, Cage! His voice --- made me do it!' Killgrave: 'Spider-Man: Stand down!' Cage, wrestling with the webs: 'This webbing ... too strong to bust out of!' Killgrave: 'Proving I made the right choice! My mid-season trade of Luke Cage for Spider-Man is definitely proving a game changer!'
Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 1st of January, 2019. “My mid-season trade”? Okay, so if you didn’t dislike Killgrave before, how does your opinion change if you know he talks about his fantasy sports league in public?

Mary Jane meets up with Cage, who recognizes her from Marvella 1: Prince of the Sword Dragon. And the cops let the guy who was tearing open an armored car five minutes ago leave because, y’know. They’re not jerks about this. Mary Jane brings Cage back to her apartment. And there’s a quick beat, in the elevator, which might be planting something. The landlady(?) warns Mary Jane. If she wants to consort with superheroes, you know, maybe she should live somewhere that can take being attacked by supervillains. I’m sure the warning would be the same if Mary Jane were having Tony Stark for company.

Anyway, Mary Jane’s has a plan. She’ll use the Spider-Tracker that Spidey gave her for reasons that are innocent and should not raise any suspicions in Luke Cage’s mind. With that, they’ll find Spider-Man, and Killgrave. Killgrave will surely order Spider-Man and Cage to fight, and while he’s micromanaging that, Mary Jane can sneak up from behind and bonk him. It’s not an elegant plan. But remember, Killgrave’s powers are that he can control one person at a time. Also that he’s who white people are thinking of when they swear they don’t care if someone is white, black, green, or purple. He’s still a normal human as far as getting bonked counts.

Killgrave: 'Spider-Man! Get me inside that armory!' Spidey, thinking: 'If only - I could RESIST his vocal commands!' Killgrave, following Spidey up the steps: 'He's getting harder to control! Once he acquires the nerve gas I need to restore my full powers I'll dispose of him!'
Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 17th of January, 2019. Now, I’m not telling you how to use your power to tell people what to do, Killgrave, but it seems like if you were at full power, you probably wouldn’t have that hard a time controlling Spider-Man again? Or am I not understanding what your power level routine is like? I grant it’s maybe my doing. You’re the one with the powers, although you have had that amnesia thing going on so maybe you’re assuming problems you really shouldn’t be having with controlling the mind of Newspaper Spider-Man?

Meanwhile Killgrave took Spider-Man to the 369th Regiment Armory, in Harlem. Cage’s stomping grounds, the strip points out. In the Armory is more of the purple nerve-gas stuff that gave Killgrave his powers in the first place. He’s figuring a recharge on it will help him control the whole city, if he needs. He doesn’t seem to reflect how this is what he should’ve done with Cage in the first place. Never mind robbing some stupid armored car. But, you know, everybody’s wise after the fact.

Killgrave: 'Dealing with those security guards [webbed up] cost us precious time! Bring me the METAL CYLINDER beneath that plastic sheet!' Spidey: 'Yes, Master!' As Spider-Man picks up the plastic sheet Killgrave says, 'Hmm. I never realized how quickly I would tire of hearing that phrase repeated. From now on, just do what I say --- WITHOUT speaking.'
Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 30th of January, 2019. You know, Killgrave has not specifically ordered Peter Parker to stop making faces at him underneath that mask.

The Armory is closed, what with Trump’s Shutdown. Killgrave has to have Spider-Man carry him up to a high enough window they can break in. Also to mention his fear of heights like fourteen times, so you know that’s being set up to be a plot point. It hasn’t been.

They break into the Secret Origin Chemicals closet. There’s cylinders of the purple nerve-gas underneath a plastic sheet. The plastic sheet is a plot point. But it’s picked up and tossed off by Spider-Man so quickly I didn’t notice it either until I was writing this paragraph. Cage and Mary Jane arrive at the armory and break the doors open. Killgrave has Spidey climb to the top of the building for reasons not directly addressed. We can infer reasons, though. Cage waved off Mary Jane’s suggestion they sneak up quietly on Killgrave. He pointed out his breaking down the steel doors could be heard in another borough.

Cage: 'C'mon, MJ! We gotta track down Killgrave!' Mary Jane: 'Just a second. I need to grab THIS!' (She takes the plastic sheet that had been on the nerve-gas cylinder.) Narrator: WHILE ABOVE ... (Spider-Man is climbing the building, with Killgrave clinging to him.) Killgrave: 'Get me up to the roof --- FAST!'
Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 5th of February, 2019. I get that Spider-Man is very good at climbing things but I really would have thought the stairs would be better.

Cage and Mary Jane find the broken-in closet, and Mary Jane grabs the plastic sheet that the chemicals had been under. Everyone gathers on the roof. Killgrave orders Spider-Man to throw the gas cylinder at Luke Cage. The cylinder breaks open. Killgrave breathes deep the gases which he’s confident will recharge his voice-control powers more than it’ll be nerve gas. Killgrave called that one right, and orders Spider-Man and Cage to fight each other. They do, resisting the command as much as they can, until Mary Jane bonks Killgrave in the throat with a pipe. This shuts him up long enough for Spidey and Cage to break out of his control? I guess? Anyway, Mary Jane covers Killgrave with the plastic sheet from before.

Cage: 'That hunk of pipe MJ threw hit Killgrave's throat --- so he can't talk!' Spider-Man: 'Which means he can't control us!' (Killgrave is gasping.) Mary Jane: 'And now, for my next miracle --- voila!' (She throws the plastic sheet over Killgrave.) Cage: 'Huh? Why's she throwing a plastic sheet over him?' Narration box: 'Watch and learn, Cage!'
Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 18th of February, 2019. I’m not going to dismiss Mary Jane’s heroism here. It’s admirable that someone would rush in, unflinching, to save lives when their only advantage is their wits and their intelligence. It does mean, though, this is another story where Spider-Man was standing by helplessly while someone else defeated the supervillain.

Many readers were confused by this action. Even the other characters seem baffled by this choice. But she’s on top of things. Daredevil had dropped the tip that Killgrave’s powers are blocked by special sheeting. Also I guess Killgrave is one of Daredevil’s villains? All I really know of Marvel is what I get from the newspaper comic, plus I saw Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy. Oh, and Into The Spider-Verse which was a blast. And yeah, I’m on the mailing list for news about Marvella 3: Dragon of the Prince Sword. Anyway, Killgrave can’t project his power out, so it’s doubling back on himself and in the confusion he rushes for the edge of the armory. Spider-Man webs him, just as he’s going over the dangerously low edge of the roof. The momentum threatens to carry Spider-Man over the edge too. Cage grabs hold of Spider-Man and a rooftop pipe, but he isn’t up to full speed yet either, so can’t be sure he won’t slip over the edge too.

Next Week!

I finally get to close out Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s story about Alley Oop facing a modern doctor’s office! And then I have to have an opinion about what Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers have been doing! It’s the first recap of the new Alley Oop, due in seven days. It’ll be a different number of days if you are a time-travelling caveman or know someone who is.

Statistics Saturday: The Flawed Nature Of Movies, Using _Gnomeo and Juliet_ As The Yardstick


A note on methodology. Movies are compared based on the number of Goofs recorded at the Internet Movie Database. Goofs listed as “character error” or “incorrectly regarded as goofs” are deducted from the total. The reason for not counting the second kind of goof is that goofs which are not goofs should not be counted as goofs. Please sit down and hold your head in your hands until dizziness from that last sentence passes. The reason for not counting the first kind of goof is that fictional characters are permitted to be mistaken about things, unlike real people.

Apollo 13, 70.5; Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, 21; Harry and the Hendersons, 6; Kramer vs Kramer, 13; Bedknobs and Broomsticks, 11; The New Wizard of Oz (1914), 0.5; Some Kind of Wonderful, 6.5; Countdown (1967), 3.5; Cool Runnings, 13; Weird Science, 16; Hot to Trot, 0; The Longest Day, 37; Deep Impact, 37; Brewster’s Millions (1985), 4.5; Nothing In Common, 1; Meteor (1979), 12; Outrageous Fortune, 5; Face/Off, 73; Fletch Lives, 5.5; Racing Stripes, 4
Yes, the lone unflawed film in all of moviemaking history is 1988’s Hot To Trot, the gripping story of how John Candy is a talking horse who can give good horse-racing tips. I assume his character was killed and reincarnated as a horse. Why else would a talent like John Candy’s be the voice of a horse? I don’t remember the movie really. Wouldn’t it be a kick if in the original script John Candy is a talking horse who gives good stock-market tips, but the studio worried that was too confusing a storyline and wanted it simplified to horse-racing tips? Anyway, yes, Hot To Trot, the lone flawless movie ever produced, other than The Bed Sitting Room (1969). Also Running Brave (1983). The Reluctant Dragon (1941) has no reported goofs but does include Goofy and is therefore unclassifiable.

Reference: Computers in Spaceflight: The NASA Experience, James E. Tomayko.

Oh yeah also Kidco (1984) and Dr Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam (1985) contain no known goofs.

In Which I Think About _Gnomeo and Juliet_


I think about the 2011 animated movie Gnomeo and Juliet about the correct amount. I mean for a person of about my age, and responsibility for supervising children’s entertainment, and for not having actually seen Gnomeo and Juliet. So I don’t want you to think me obsessed. Nor do I want you to think I never think about the movie. I’m no shirker. You can call me a shirker if you like, but people fully appraised of the situation will soon recognize you as a person who makes unsupported allegations of shirking. Anyway, this is all my lead-in to mentioning that I looked Gnomeo and Juliet up on the Internet Movie Database for some reason that I must have had at the time. Among its entries I saw this.

IMDB's 'Goofs' page for Gnomeo and Juliet, which lists two items. One is a continuity error about the placement of some plastic flamingoes between scenes. The other notes the braces on a gate run the ``wrong way''.
The Trivia page notes that the film grossed $99,967,670 in the North American markets, saying it was the closest that any movie has come to reaching the hundred-million-dollar mark without crossing over, and that usually when a movie is that close the studio will keep it in the theater a couple weeks longer. So I guess that’s left me feeling like I need to find someone who made some part of this movie and give them a hug? Except I guess they’re probably over it by now. It’s been like eight years. Also the trivia page has 63 items on it.

And now I’m just thinking of some person, or maybe persons. They watched this movie — maybe even had a hand in making it — and maybe were mostly satisfied. But they agreed, there was a problem with the way the braces on the gate that Juliet leaves through were oriented, and it was their duty to note this flaw in this movie. Not calling them out for doing it. I don’t shirk and I don’t fault people for doing their duty. Just … you know … huh.

Please Send Floss


1st February. The toothpaste is getting pretty low.

2nd February. Yes, there’s somehow even less toothpaste than there was yesterday. This would be worth doing something about except who wants to sully Groundhog Day with talk of something as sordid as toothpaste or something?

3rd February. Despite all the toothpaste being used there’s still less of it than there was the day before.

4th February. Dwindling of the toothpaste supply continues. It is beginning to look like it will not correct itself.

5th February. Now the toothpaste is basically out. Rolling it up from the end will get another day or two out of this, but that’s the end of things.

6th February. Never mind the blizzard and the bitter cold and just how tiring it is to do anything anymore. The only choices are to go to the store and buy more toothpaste or to wake up with teeth that feel like I didn’t brush my teeth the night before.

7th February. Forgot to get toothpaste at the store, which, there you go. Chance to go out tomorrow probably. It’s not quite out and there’s probably one or two more days’ worth, right?

8th February. All right, there’s another day’s worth of toothpaste left in the tube.

9th February. All right, there’s just one more day’s worth in the old tube. It’s not like the new toothpaste is going to be spoiled if it sits around another day or two.

10th February. Sure I already rolled the tube up, but it turns out if I roll it up again there’s just enough for one more day.

11th February. Well, now it seems like there’s moer toothpaste in the tube than there was yesterday. This has to be a clerical error of some kind, hasn’t it? I bet if I go back and check the logs this will all make sense.

12th February. Well, now the toothpaste tube holding out is starting to get ridiculous.

13th February. Definitely throwing the tube out tomorrow even if it hasn’t somehow given up the last drop of toothpaste.

14th February. But that would be wasteful.

15th February. You know if I “accidentally” knock the toothpaste over into the wastebin nobody could fairly blame me for not bothering to pick it up.

16th February. Now it’s reaching a dangerous spot. Like, some part of me is thinking of how one day’s toothpaste has lasted now all of February, which is a short month, yes, but it’s not all that short. All your name-brand months have at least sixteen days. It’s some kind of very oddly focused miracle. But then another part of me thinks, boy, this sounds like I’m making a joke about Hanukkah. And yeah, I’m just thinking about something a bit silly and whimsical in a weird little silly situation. But it also feels like there’s something here that’s insensitive at best and maybe offensive. And that’s the worst kind of joke to make. You can make a joke that you don’t mean to offend anyone. If you screw it up and do anyway, you can own up and apologize and if you went in with honest intentions most people will forgive you. You can make a joke that you do mean to offend someone, if you know who it is you want to offend and why you want to offend them about this point. And if you make a good joke that offends some definite person for a definite reason people will be okay with that, too. But a joke that you toss out there not really knowing if anyone should be offended, or why? That gets everybody in trouble. Nobody can form a coherent argument to have about who should be upset or whether they should or shouldn’t be, and so we all end up angry and annoyed and tired. This is just me repeating the wise advice of Machiavelli, from his classic The Prince Of Comedy. You know his analysis of offensive humor got Machiavelli a three-week residency in front of a brick wall outside the Piazza della Signoria, after which they hurled rocks (the ancestor of popcorn) at him.

17th February. All right, so I have to move the wastebin a lot closer to the sink before there’s any chance of my “accidentally” dropping the toothpaste into it. Also maybe I have to hold the toothpaste with the wrong hand.

18th February. Beginning to regret not keeping the receipt from that new tube of toothpaste so I could return it and put the $2.29 into more pressing needs. Pretty dumb to have sunk all my liquidity even into tartar-controlling goo.

19th February. You’d think having a tube containing an infinite volume of toothpaste would be able to make you some money, even if it is Aim. There is no way I can see to it, though.

20th February. Foot hurts too much from stepping in the wastebin by accident to think about why the toothpaste hasn’t run out yet.

Something Else About the 1980s


Oh, you know, I thought of something I didn’t mention last week.

The people who made cartoons really liked the space shuttle. Every show had at least one space shuttle episode. The Jetsons made a space shuttle episode they really made for real in reality. There was an episode of the Pac-Man cartoon where every power pellet in the world was loaded into a space shuttle cargo bay. Then Pac-Man went and ate them all, when you’d think he would need one, maybe two at most. There’s an excellent chance there were four different space shuttle episodes of Kissyfur. Also I don’t know what Kissyfur was but I remember there were lots of ads for it in comic books. It was a heck of a time, but I suppose they all were.

Popeye’s Island Adventures ditched me this week so here’s another Popeye birthday with the Jeep


So, there hasn’t been a new Popeye’s Island Adventures uploaded since that one for Popeye’s birthday. I have not the faintest what this signifies, or even if it’s anything more than “the person who approves these cartoons before posting them had a vacation week coming”. It throws me off, though. I’d been expecting something to review. For a wonder I’ve got stuff to post sketched out for nearly a week ahead. But today? No, all I have for today is the conceptual fragment “the largest-ever spill of working fluid from the Shrinkatorium, a volume estimated at nearly four tablespoons” and it’s possible I might build that into something, but it’s not there yet. (I also think I should do more with “Muppet Babies Kids”, but at least I was able to put that idea somewhere it did some good.)

Well. King Features’s Popeye account posts stuff besides these weird new Flash(?)-animated two-minute shorts. They’ve also been posting stuff from the King Features archives. So here’s one from the 1960s run, that I picked out because I didn’t have the time to watch a half-hour episode of the 70s-80s Hanna-Barbera run, nor of the late 80s Popeye and Son. It’s from 1960, one of the mass of 800 billion cartoons they made in ten minutes: Jeep Is Jeep.

The cartoon was animated by Paramount Cartoon, their Famous Studios, and for that matter the former Fleischer Studios. The credited animators were Morey Reden, Isadore Klein, and William B Pattengill. Reden had done a couple of Pluto shorts for Disney, moved over to Famous Studios in time for, like, The Anvil Chorus Girl, and would go on to animate stuff like Beetle Bailey and Milton the Monster before getting into the Hanna-Barbera circuit. Klein was an animator some in the 40s, then moved into story for a long while for Famous Studios (he’s also credited with the story here), and then back into animation. Pattengill was also a career Famous Studios artist, starting with (it looks to me) the Little Lulu cartoons, Herman and Katnip, and Popeye. He did also work on the 1973 Charlotte’s Web. And Seymour Kneitel directed, like, everything the Fleischer or Famous Studios ever put out.

Toward the end of the Famous Studios run the Popeye cartoons were getting pretty dire, boring things with mediocre animation. But among the 1960s King Features cartoons, mediocre animation looked pretty good. And they knew the characters and settings well.

Very well, at that. The short is almost made up of scraps of other cartoons. I’m not counting the mention that it’s Popeye’s birthday, although that makes a nice link for me to last week’s cartoon. Also apparently Popeye’s birthday is in April, or the present is arriving quite early or late. But Popeye getting a mysterious box which contains Eugene? And a note that explains it all? Fleischer studios did that in 1940, in Popeye Presents Eugene, the Jeep. Swee’Pea gets out of babysitter Popeye’s care and Eugene the Jeep leads him in a rescue? That was Popeye With The Jeep, from June 1938. Yes, Eugene appeared in a cartoon before he got “presented”. Just roll with it. Popeye has to keep performing to keep Swee’Pea from crying? I Likes Babies and Infinks, 1937.

So this cartoon isn’t an improvement on any of those. Knew that going in. There’s some good stuff here. One is getting Eugene the Jeep back in action. For whatever reason the Famous Studios cartoons never used Eugene. For all the mistakes of the King Features run, they got back interesting characters who’d been forgotten after the Fleischer Studios closed up (Eugene, Poopdeck Pappy, Goons), or that somehow never got used at all (the Sea Hag, the Whiffle Hen, Roughhouse). He’s a bit more angular here, and his patterning is simplified, but what the heck, it works for me. Eugene here is a gift from “the Maharaja of Pasha”, a character I think was made up for the short and that shows how hard they worked on “foreign” names back then.

Eugene the Jeep has traditionally been from Africa; I’m curious why he’s from India now. Or, I guess, they just establish he got to India, without quite saying the Jeep is an Indian animal now. All right; no problem with Eugene having a life before he meets Popeye. But I’m curious if the shift to India reflected some pop-cultural idea of India as a land of mysticism and magic. Or if they just had that great “Maharaja of Pasha” joke ready to go and were going to use it. Or if they couldn’t think of a joke African name. I’m sure a circa 1960 joke African name would have aged well.

The jokes about Eugene’s magic seem reused, even if I’m not sure he actually did make traffic vanish in an earlier short. I notice Popeye gets hit by the same two cars that Eugene made vanish. So it’s comforting to know Eugene didn’t banish them to the cornfield, he just moved them like two blocks away instead. Eugene walking through a wall and Popeye chagrinned that he can’t do that too was done before, along with mutterings about why he can’t do that too.

Popeye punches a locomotive into oblivion. It’s a move he’s made before. Really seems like he would have had an easier time grabbing Swee’Pea and running. But we need some action. Also Swee’Pea riding Eugene like a horse is adorable.

Eugene’s ability to teleport gets set up properly, but doesn’t come into play. And that muddies one of the few moments of animation style here. Popeye teleporting around the room searching for Swee’Pea should be a good, cheap way to show frantic energy. But if we’ve just had Eugene teleporting with the same style? I’m sure this never bothered me as a kid; today, it seems a misstep. At least Popeye needed to move around with a swooshing noise instead of the bell chime. His walking through walls at least pays off with a joke. And it gets used for a nice bit where Eugene walks at an angle toward the camera, a rare and welcome moment of characters not just walking perpendicular to the camera. The characters crossing the street is a similarly welcome, not-quite-perspective movement.


Well, if Popeye’s Island Adventures comes back, I’ll review them at essays available on this link. If it doesn’t, I’ll do something else.

Mind, Some Of The 90s Are Still With Us


So here I’ve gone and learned that WebRing.org is still up and even running. I’m delighted. I only hope that it’s formed partnerships with five similar discover-the-web sites, and that three of those are down. This is wonderful.

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Did Marie kill her husband? December 2018 – February 2019


Hi, person searching for Judge Parker plot information. If it’s after about May 2019 I’ve probably written a more up-to-date recap of Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s comic strip. That more current recap should appear at this link.

On my other blog I talk about mathematics that comic strips mention. Might like that, too.

Judge Parker.

2 December 2018 – 17 February 2019.

What was happening last time I checked in on Judge Parker? An exhausting set of plot twists. The most salient was Neddy Spencer being back home. She’s nursing her emotional wounds after witnessing, among other things, April Parker murdering the CIA agent who killed — oh, it’s a lot of blood. Sam Driver was getting snotty about Neddy retreating for shelter, but I’m on Neddy’s side in this. Sophie Spencer scolded Neddy about her shunning Ronnie Huerta. Huerta had backed off from Neddy after witnessing altogether too many murders, but was trying to reach out again.

Neddy, to Sophie: 'You know, talking about Marie really shows just how lucky you and I are to have the people we do in our lives.' (Her phone rings and she looks at it.) 'And just how often I take those people for granted.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 13th of December, 2018. Neddy, talking with Sophie, about Marie, when Ronnie calls, seems like a lot of people in two panels to have the -ie sound as the end of their two-syllable names. Well, that’s most likely coincidence.

Neddy tries to call … Marie, the Spencers’ old reliable … housekeeper? I think? I wasn’t sure about her position and the strip only talked about her being on vacation. Marciuliano is sometimes too scrupulous about characters not explaining things they should know to one other. No character, for example, ever says what country Marie is vacationing in, or what island she’s on. This even though her vacation becomes a plot.

Well, Wikipedia says she works as their maid. All right. Anyway, Marie’s off on vacation. More than that: she’s eloped with her boyfriend-of-eight-years, Roy Rodgers. Well, the shock that Marie has her own happiness gives Neddy reason to call Ronnie Huerta again. And to apologize. After Christmas, Neddy plans to set back out to Los Angeles, to pick up whatever she figures her career there to be. A family crisis not of her making postpones this.

Katherine, talking about Norton's gift of rings: 'How could he have left the rings the last time? We weren't back together yet.' Alan: 'You know Norton. He probably thought this would either make him look like a prescient genius or let him get away with one last cruel joke.' Katherine: 'Did I ever tell you how much I hate your in-laws?' Alan, crumpling the note: 'Not more than I do.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 22nd of December, 2018. Must admit, sometimes I think about doing a dive into the story comics from before I started doing regular recaps. The point would be to track down things like how Alan Parker got around to faking Norton’s death and all that. But there is a long of old story strip out there. And I have the slight dread of finding that the comic spent, like, two days on that in the midst of a twenty-week stretch of a car dealer begging the Parkers to take this like-new RV off his hands since he’s getting fired anyway so what does he care if they pay for it with “whatever’s left on this $5 gift card to Radio Shack”? (There was a lot of this sort of people-giving-the-main-cast free stuff going on in the old days.)

There’s some unsettling stuff. One of the Christmas presents Alan Parker finds is from Norton. It’s wedding bands and a note about how he knew Alan and Katherine would reconcile. Norton’s supposed to be dead. Sam Driver swears he’s dead. Driver’s seen pictures. He’s got this from “multiple contacts”. Norton must have snuck it in sometime before he went into Super Hyper Ultra CIA Duper Jail. Norton’s alive, of course, but the CIA is passing the story that he’s dead. Katherine avows how much she hates the Norton subplot, and Alan agrees.


All that was cleared up by the 29th of December. This is when the current plot got underway. (Huh; that’s almost the same day the airplane adventure got under way over in Rex Morgan, M.D..) Marie calls the Spencers, crying. Her husband’s missing. He had left that morning, promising a “surprise”. His clothes were found on the beach and nothing else. Sam Driver flies to whatever island it is exactly that Marie and Roy were honeymooning on. It must be in Greece. The 16th of January’s strip shows the logo of the Hellenic Police. And the story of a man gone missing on his honeymoon turns into one of those exciting missing-person media frenzies that we used to have. You know. Back in the before-times. When there was time to think about anything besides the future Disgraced Former President.

Katherine breaks the news that Toni's memoir will reveal Alan helped Norton fake his death. Randy: 'This is all my fault! If I'd never said one word to Toni ... ' Alan: 'It's MY FAULT, Randy. How could I have done this?' Katherine: 'OK, all the mea culpas in the world won't help us now. We have to figure out a plan. I can try to get Toni to cut it. I mean, we haven't talked in a while, but ... ' Alan: 'If news get [sic] out you tried to quiet this, it will only make things worse.' Katherine: 'Maybe ... Maybe I can stop my publisher somehow ... but how?' Alan: 'There is no 'how'. You try that, news gets out, we're all ruined. I ... I don't think there is anything we can do to stop this.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 13th of January, 2019. See, here, that name thing mentioned the 13th of December was coincidence. Here we have Randy talking about Toni … uh. Well. I have to agree with Alan Parker here that trying to suppress the story is just going to make it worse. I’d imagine that the publishers would insist on the manuscript sticking as close as possible to what’s in the public record already. Or that she had direct evidence for, which may not be much beyond Randy’s claims. I don’t know whether this is true, but Alan could probably plausibly claim to have been coerced, at fear for his life or his family’s life, and at least seem plausibly not-so-bad-ish a guy.

While he’s on the plane there’s time for still more Norton-related chaos. Katherine Parker works for the company publishing Toni Bowen’s memoir. The draft of it contains the (correct) bombshell that, at one point, Alan Parker helped Norton fake his own death. Randy Parker had mentioned this to her while these two were dating. Katherine wants to suppress the story. Alan thinks the least bad thing to do is nothing. Let it come out and take his lumps. Randy curses himself for his foolishness but I don’t think recommends any particular action. Alan points out that Norton is dead, and Katherine points out, this is a soap strip. More, it’s one Francesco Marciuliano is writing. Nobody’s dead until you’ve incinerated their dismembered corpse. And even then we’re somehow not done with Norton.

Back to Greece. Sam Driver wants to know how this missing-groom story hit the global news wires before it even hit the local media. He’s promised an answer at Commissioner Christou’s press conference. Rodgers disappeared the 30th of December. They think he either drowned or met with foul play. They believe Marie Rodgers was the last person to see him alive. She hasn’t answered any questions since Driver showed up to serve as legal adviser.

Driver goes to Christou after the conference, which didn’t answer his question. At least not on-panel. Christou has the good news that Marie is being released from custody but is not to leave the island. It’s a baffling development. The next morning, Christou calls Driver. They’ve found Rodgers. He was arrested in a bar in Madeira. It’s an impressive distance to swim from Greece, considering.

Early morning, Sam goes to see Marie at her hotel ... Marie: 'Sam, what are you doing here so --- you heard something didn't you?' Sam: 'Police commissioner called me directly.' Marie: 'Oh no, oh no! They found his body, didn't they! Oh Roy! My --- ' Sam: 'Marie? Marie! Roy's alive.' Marie: 'Wha ... WHAT?' Sam: 'He's alive. He didn't drown. He wasn't eaten by sharks.' Marie: 'This is wonderful, Sam! I have to see him! Take me to him!' Sam: 'Oh, Marie. I'm afraid I can't.' Marie: 'Why ... why not?' Sam: 'Because he's being held by police in Madeira.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 3rd of February, 2019. I’m willing to suppose the Hellenic Police checked whether the missing Roy Rodgers might be wanted by police for anything. It’s striking that he was wanted, though, since he and Marie had just left on vacation … well, time is an elastic thing in a story strip. But quite recently anyway. It makes sense Roy would flee when he figured the cops were close to arresting him. I’m just not quite clear what the Portuguese police would have arrested Roy Rodgers for. (Fraudulent passport?) Like, who’s requesting extradition and from whom?

Driver has a hypothesis. It’s pretty bonkers, so it makes for a good soap opera story. Maybe it’s based on some real incident. I don’t tend to follow true-crime/missing-persons stories, so what would I know? The idea, though: Rodgers wanted to fake his death and start a new life. Driver thinks Christou saw through that, though. And made Rodgers’s presumed death as big a story as he could. This to fool Rodgers into thinking he had faked his own death, meanwhile letting every cop in the TV audience know what he looked like. That this gave Marie a public reputation of being Probably A Murderer was a side effect, regrettable but worth it for the sake of Justice.

Toni Bowen, reporting on TV while Neddy and Sophie watch, jaws dropping: 'Roy Rodgers' business partner, Handyman Harvey Stonehouse, has been working with authorities to trace the 1.5 million Rodgers allegedly stole from their home repair company. The once-thriving firm has lost most of its contracts over the past three years ... '
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 13th of February, 2019. No, I don’t know why I keep including strips from the 13th of the month. It’s some mildly weird coincidence. Anyway, I was so tempted to take a screenshot of this comic inside my web browser, and then post a photograph of that screenshot of this comic, so that this second panel would have a good fake mise-en-abyme effect.

And the hypothesis seems to hold up. Back home in Cavelton, Toni Bowen reports on the collapse of Rodgers’ home-repair company. They’ve lost a lot of contracts the last several years. Rodgers himself is under suspicion of stealing one and a half million dollars from the failing company. And Katherine Parker “reaches a breaking point” with Bowen’s reporting about her family and family’s close friends. She figures to return the favor. That’s sure to be a very good idea that works out well and leaves her happy. By the next time I recap Judge Parker’s plot — probably around May 2019 — I’m sure we’ll see how much better this has made everybody’s lives. Can’t wait.

Next Week!

The comic strip still claims that Stan Lee is writing The Amazing Spider-Man. And isn’t admitting that Roy Thomas has something to do with it. Well, what have Thomas and Alex Saviuk gotten up to? I expect to say, next week. But we’ll see what happens and how Luke Cage and this purple guy with the mind control voice are doing.

Statistics Saturday: Some Early Radio Soap Operas


  • Clara, Lu, and Em
  • Myrt and Marge
  • Betty and Bob
  • Judy and Jane
  • Tess and Tessier
  • Louise of Saint Louis [ from 1934, “of Decatur, Illinois” ]
  • Mary, Marlon, and the Midge
  • Danielle and Danny
  • Betsy’s Other Herself
  • Ann, Annie, Andrew, Andy, and Vivian
  • Bob, Bill, and Betty of Binghamton [ from 1934, “of Boston” ]
  • John Jane and Jane Johns
  • Jane Jones, Department Store Attorney
  • The Girls Of Decatur, Illinois [ from 1934, “of Saint Louis” ]
  • Tomorrow’s Yesterday
  • When Will Love Ever Find Aunt Kitty?
  • Aunt Bachelor Wife
  • One Pepper
  • Barry and Billiam [ from 1934, “of Binghamton” ]
  • Secret Bride
    • Reference: Chariots for Apollo: A History of Manned Lunar Spacecraft. Courtney G Brooks, James M Grimwood, Loyd S Swenson Jr.

Where I Am And Where I Am Not, Today


Where I am: I successfully managed to start my car with fewer than three trips back to the door to confirm that I had locked it, the way I have always locked it when going out to my car.

Where I am not: I left my iPod in the house so I had to go back for it, spoiling my good work in the door-locking trades.

Some Things To Understand About The 1980s


Here are some things worth explaining about the 1980s, or that are getting explanation anyway.

The decade was heralded by an argument between seven-year-olds who were friends, yes. But the question was whether the year following nineteen-seventy-nine would be nineteen-eighty or whether it would be nineteen-seventy-ten. And whether the decade would have to get all the way up to nineteen-seventy-ninety-nine before it flipped over to nineteen-eighty. The party taking the nineteen-seventy-ten side was very cross at the calendar-makers for not leaving the matter up to the public to dedide.

The President had a press spokesman whose name was Larry Speakes, and it seemed like it was amusing that he had a first and last name that sounded like you were describing what your friend Larry did for his job. His middle name was ‘Melvin’, but nobody could come to an agreement about what it was to Melvin a thing, or whether ‘Larry Melvin’ was a credible name. There was similar but baffled delight when we noticed that Buzz Aldrin’s mother’s maiden name was ‘Moon’. This was very important because lists of trivia about people and their names could point out that Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon. And while it’s possible he walked on his mother, we’re pretty sure she wasn’t a maiden when he did it. There was also a bit of a flap about how if you took Neil Armstrong’s name and discarded the ‘rmstrong’ part, and then spelled it backwards, you got ‘Alien’. This seemed like it ought to have something to do with his job, although by the 1980s, Neil Armstrong’s job was “chair of a company that made drilling rigs”. This seems highly significant.

Although we had pop culture, it was seen as really swell to make a kid version of popular. Looney Tunes as kids. The Flintstone Kids. Scooby Doo, but a puppy. The trend reached its peak with the 1989-90 Muppet Babies Kids, the exciting follow-up adventures to the animated adventures of the toddler versions of the live-action-ish Muppets. The show was a computer game, because why not? You know? Why not?

With the advent of the pizza-on-a-bagel American society finally handled the imaginary problem of not being able to get pizza anytime. But by putting pizza-related toppings on a bagel we did finish off the problem of bagels not being terrible. I think the problem is bagels had just got introduced outside the New York City metro area. I mean, there was a little stretch in the late 30s when Fred Allen was talking about them. But that was in joking about people who mistook bagels for doughnuts as part of the surprisingly existent controversy about dunking doughnuts in coffee. So explaining them as a pizza-foundation technology let people understand bagels in terms of things we had already accepted, like putting pizza on French bread. Also we could put pizza on the bottom halves of French bread. We don’t know what was done with the top halves. There’s an excellent chance someone at French Bread Pizza headquarters is going to open a forgotten cabinet door one day and get buried under forty years’ worth of abandoned French bread tops. People will call for rescue, but however many times they explain it to 9-1-1 the dispatch operator hangs up.

We had movies, back then. They were a lot like movies today, except everybody’s cars were shoddier. I mean, not that they were 80s cars, although they were, but they were more broken-down 80s cars than you’d get in a movie set in the 80s now. It was part of the legacy of 70s New Hollywood. We might have gotten rid of the muddy sound and action heroes that looked like Walter Matthau, but we were going to keep the vehicles looking downtrodden until 1989. And there was usually a subplot about smugglers who’re after some stolen heroin diamonds. Anyway, when going to the movies it was very funny to observe the theater had, like, six or even eight whole screens. For example, you could say “I’m going to the Route 18 Googolplex” to describe how amazing it was you might see any of four different films that were starting in the same 45-minute stretch of time.

The decade closed with an argument between seven-year-olds about whether the following year was nineteen-eighty-ten or not. These were different seven-year-olds from before. It would have been a bit odd otherwise. You’d think they would have remembered.

Do not dunk bagels in coffee.

An Open Inquiry Based On This Dream The Other Morning


So it was an ordinary enough dream. Mundane, even. I’d had a long time after work going around to different Target-class stores buying things like you sometimes need but don’t ever find interesting. And then I got home, where I was living with my parents, in the house that was more or less my father’s parents’ home only with way more hills and religious statuary than it ever had. There, I was met by my father, who was practically rocking on his feet and giggling at how wrong I was in thinking I was going inside and unpacking. Well, why not? I finally got out of him that we had to go off and see someone, and, all right. That’s a thing that happens. But I insisted I needed, at least, to go to the bathroom first and my father was insisting no, no time for that, but he wouldn’t tell me who it was we were going to meet.

Anyway, if I know three things, then one of those things is that if I dream that I have to go to the bathroom then I should wake up and go to the bathroom. And by then it was late enough in the morning it wasn’t really worth going back to bed to see how things turned out. And yet the fire of curiosity has been lit.

So. Would whoever it was that it was so all-fired important my parents and I go off and meet the other dream-morning please drop me a comment, and let me know who you are, and what it was we had to see you about? Thank you for your consideration.

Popeye’s Island Adventures: Popeye gets a birthday without Shorty for once


King Features Syndicate has clearly decided to try reintroducing Popeye to the popular culture for the 90th anniversary of his debut and 100th anniversary of the Thimble Theatre comic strip he debuted in and took over. Part of this is a cute weekly comic feature, drawn by a host of different artists, called Popeye’s Cartoon Club. Part of this is surely this whole Island Adventures project. This week’s cartoon, Popeye’s Birthday, suggests that the two-minute shorts started publishing a few weeks late. The cartoon just missed the 90th anniversary of the character’s debut. (I don’t know whether Popeye has a canonically established birth date. I would imagine if he has, then it’s been contradicted several times. His debut date is as good a choice as we can have.)

After last week’s honestly baffling cartoon this was a comfortably straightforward story. Olive Oyl organizes a surprise birthday party for Popeye. Bluto tries to crash it. Along the way, Eugene has to delay Popeye from stumbling into the party before it’s ready. Everybody’s doing things for reasons that make sense.

So here’s something I noticed about Bluto trying to crash the party: nobody even knows he’s doing it. That Olive Oyl is able to hang Bluto as a piñata by accident is absurd in a way that I like a little bit more each time I think about it. Later, he tries to grab Popeye’s spinach(?) cake with a fishing line, and just swipes the garbage instead. Nobody cares. In principle, I like the subtle ridiculousness of his schemes failing so badly he goes unnoticed. But it does mean the first time Olive Oyl or Popeye see him is when he falls on the cake. And that’s a thing he wasn’t trying to do.

This is another good bit of situational irony. But it makes Popeye’s and Olive Oyl’s retribution disproportionate. It feels unfair, at least unless you suppose Popeye knows when someone deserves it. Which, yes, Popeye does. One of the earliest Thimble Theatre stories with Popeye has him slugging the bad guy every time he’s on panel, with no in-character justification beyond a Columbo-like awareness that this is the bad guy. Hm. Maybe I’m the one interrogating this text from the wrong perspective.

I like how Eugene’s best idea for distracting Popeye is to shove him into a chair and start juggling. And the off-screen escalation of the juggling that still bores the Sailor Kid. Bluto’s fantasy that a big can of spinach will let him turn into a giant and chase Popeye is a cute, odd bit of kid logic. Although I guess it’s not out of line with what happened to Bluto’s tooth. (It’s reusing the walk cycle from Scramble For The Egg and I would have sworn at least one more cartoon, too. The same banana model’s being reused, too.)

It’s nagging at me how much Popeye’s been a reactive character the last few storylines. In each case it’s understandable. You can’t throw much of a surprise birthday party for someone and have them be the character who drives the story, unless the story is them spoiling the surprise. But not every short has to have every character doing everything. Even if there were more than two minutes for it.

Is the project to reintroduce Popeye working? I don’t know. My love noticed at the mall this weekend a small child wearing a winter jacket with Olive Oyl and Eugene the Jeep on it. And one of the contestants had to guess the price of a can of spinach ($1.29) on The Price Is Right today. So that’s something. Meanwhile I keep watching Popeye’s Island Adventures, and leaving my thoughts about them at this link.

A Friendly Reminder Before You Mail Those Cards Off


So I know everybody’s rushing to get their valentine cards in the mail and I’m sorry if this is too late for you. But, thing to remember, when these cards are received and unpacked they’re left in the stock room for goodness knows how long. And even a store that’s being nice and tidy is still going to have insects wandering around, rodents, the occasional bird that gets in and doesn’t know how to get out, or figures the stock room is a better way to spend the winter than the outdoors is. So, y’know, don’t overreact to the threat of animal-transmitted diseases, but be sensible. Wash any cards before you mail them out. If you aren’t sure your sender is washing the cards, run them through the dishwasher or the laundry before you open them. You’ll be glad you did!

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Is Gil Thorp Going To Be Fired? November 2018 – February 2019


No, Gil Thorp is not going to be fired. But I’m happy to provide recaps of the stories in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the indefinite future. If you’re in the definite future of after about April 2019 there’s probably a more up-to-date recap at that link.

I don’t just read the story strips for the plots. I also read lots of comic strips for the mathematics, and write about that on my other blog. You might enjoy the results. I do, myself.

Gil Thorp.

26 November 2018 – 9 February 2019.

Some well-intended but dumb schemes were under way last time I checked in. Thomas Kyle “Tiki” Jansen’s family transferred him from New Thayer to Milford when his old gang of friends went bad. The gang got into vandalism, burglary, assaulting Jansen for ditching them, that sort of thing. Jansen’s family had rented but not used an apartment to give Jansen a technical address in Milford. Joe Bolek, that kid who wants to talk about the cinema, figured to help. Record the New Thayer gang beating up on Jansen and boom, Coach Thorp will be glad to let him stay on the team, right?

Jansen, in the locker room: 'I sent our little Oscar-winner to my ex-friends back in new Thayer. They agreed it was better to call a truce than see it blasted all over the Internet.' On the field, a teammate asks: 'Great. Does that mean you're switching schools again?' Jansen: 'Not any time soon.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 30th of November, 2018. Meanwhile, over at New Thayer, at least a third of the gang is asking, so they shouldn’t have Snapchatted chasing down and trying-but-failing to beat up Tiki Jansen, then? Snapchat is a thing that non-old people do, right? Also it’s a thing to do? Please advise. I haven’t understood any social medium since IRC.

Coach Gil Thorp sees the video and doesn’t really seem to care. Whoever it is decides these things rules that Jansen’s eligible, so, he plays. With the note that he might transfer back after a year when the seniors in the gang graduate. And Joe Bolek goes meeting up with Kelly Thorp. Both are glad to know someone else who’s interested in Movie Nerd stuff. Gil Thorp is a good partner, but his interest in movies is that they’re important to his wife. That’s great, but a primary interest is still different.


Monday, the 10th of December, opened the new plot. Its main action promised to be glorious and it has been holding up. It’s a sequel, and to a storyline from before I started doing regular recaps. That’s all right. The text fills in all the backstory you need.

It opens with a young man buying space on two billboards. So right away you know it’s a 20-something-year-old who actually falls for the billboard company ads about “See? Made you look!” or “our texts go to the whole Milford area”. Still, it’s exciting. The “Billboard Advertising: It Works” sign comes down, a month before reaching its six-year anniversary. The replacement message: “Is Mediocre Good Enough?” And with that bold demand on the commuters of Milford … nothing happens and nobody much cares.

Howry, arms spread wide, seen from above: 'First, ask the question --- ' Then a close-up of his fist slamming into his other hand. 'And then knock 'em over with the answer!' Later, in the school, one of Filion's teammates asks: 'Make time for the Bucket after practice. Soto's gonna try to eat three banana splits!' Filion: 'I'd better pass.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 15th of December, 2018. “Are you positive you wanna pass? They’re using the same banana model that Eugene the Jeep uses to cure purple-ness.” “Um. I’m supposed to be an eighteen-year-old in 2019. What do you imagine the syllables `Eugene the Jeep’ mean to me?” And in non-snarky commentary, I like the camera angles in the first two panels. They put a healthy amount of energy into a single character talking to himself about his plans for revenge against his high school basketball coach.

The other plot thread. It’s basketball season. Milford’s off to an indifferent, one might say mediocre, start. And guard Nate Filion is having a bad time of it. He’s not hanging out with the other basically well-meaning if dumb kids on the team. Or much of anything else. And the billboard takes on a new message: “Don’t Our Kids Deserve Better?”

Filion’s teachers get worried. All that seems to engage him is quoting That 70s Show. That’s no way for a healthy teen to live. Thorp prods a bit, but can’t get anything. And then the billboard goes to its newest message: “Save the Kids — Fire Gil Thorp”, and includes a link to the blog of Robby Howry. Also his podcast. Howry explains his motives to a reporter for the Milford Star who turns out not to be Marty Moon. I don’t know the reporter’s name. You can tell he’s not Marty Moon because his hair is a little different and Marty Moon’s sideburns don’t grow down to join his goatee. I don’t keep doing the six-differences puzzles in Slylock Fox for nothing.

Howry explains to the reporter that he was more than an equipment manager, he was “unofficial assistant coach” for Thorp years ago. And that his conscience would not allow him to let Milford “wallow in mediocrity” any longer. And that he loves the comic strips and wants the story strips held to high standards of plot, character, and art. Anyway, he left because Thorp “didn’t share my commitment to winning.”

That isn’t how Thorp remembers it. But he keeps his memories to himself, his assistant, and us nosey people in the audience. He remembers Howry as the equipment manager and up-and-coming stats nerd. And, dear lord help us, one of those people who insists that you need to be a brand. Before he could be mercifully kidnapped and terrorized by The Ghost Who Walks, he got dumb. He gave in to Maxwell “Max” Bacon’s pleas for Adderall. Except he didn’t in fact do that. Howry gave Bacon aspirin tablets, figuring that’s all Bacon really needed. And who could get in trouble for taking aspirin on game day? Thorp suspended Bacon and dropped Howry altogether. But feels he can’t explain this in public without humiliating students who didn’t deserve that.

Gil Thorp: 'Bobby Howry --- I mean, Robby --- is attacking me on a billboard?' Assistant: 'And a web site, and a podcast.' Thorp: 'Well ... I guess it's good to see he's well-rounded.' (At a coffee shop.) Reporter: 'Tell me about yourself, Robby.' Howry: 'I'm just a multi-dimensional guy who cares about Milford.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 11th of January, 2019. So what is better: the second panel where Gil Thorp is barely able to believe Robby Howry has decided to make this his life’s goal? Or the implied fourth panel where the Milford Star reporter sighs, puts his pencil and notepad down on the table, and says, “Before I continue you must tell me whether you have ever addressed a woman as ‘milady’ unironically”, resolved that if Howry has then this interview and all interactions with Howry forever are now ended.

And that old incident I think serves as a good example of the Gil Thorp storytelling style. It has a lot of stories driven by how teenagers are kinda dopey. But there’s almost never actual malice involved, not from the kids anyway. They don’t think of being truly nasty. And they’re limited in how much trouble they get into anyway. Partly because as teens they have limited resources. Partly because as teens they’re a little dopey, so their lack of foresight saves them. That’ll come back around.

And yes, also saving them is the writer. Part of the Gil Thorp style is that nobody’s really involved in serious wrongdoing. Several years ago there was a storyline about a guy selling the kids bootleg DVDs. Except, it turned out, they weren’t bootlegs. The guy got legitimate DVDs. He put them in bootleg-looking cases so his teenage customers thought they were getting away with something. It was a bizarrely sanitized minor transgression. I wondered if Rubin and Whigham were mocking someone who’d sent them a letter about what it was acceptable to portray teenagers doing. Or if they were trying to see if they could fool Luann into imitating it.

(I owe gratitude to the Comics Curmudgeon, for posting about the bootleg-DVD story in a way that I could search for the strips. I’d never have dug them up otherwise.)

So we already had a delightful story about Robby Howry’s quixotic lurch for vengeance going. What takes it up to glorious heights? The involvement of Marty Moon, of course. Moon is delighted to read of someone dishing Gil Thorp-related dirt. Howry is glad to tell Moon at length about how Coach Thorp just lost the game to Jefferson by six, or whatever. And Marty feigns understanding what Howry is going on about when he talks about these pre-measured mattress kit delivery eyeglasses who sponsor the podcast.

Thorp tries his best to ignore Howry, focusing instead on what’s bothering Filion. This goes so far as to remind the whole team about a suicide hotline number and insist they put it in their phones. Possibly overreacting (“Coach, we only lost to Jefferson by six!”) but he does insist he’d rather overreact.

It may earn him loyalty. The basketball team finds people who remember Howry. They work out that as best they can figure, yeah, he needs a swirly. They are correct, but Thorp overhears and tells them: NO. Leave him alone, you idiots. The team, thinking cleverly but stupidly, finds the loophole. They weren’t explicitly told not to go to Howry’s “Fire Gil Thorp” billboard and graffiti it. They’re foiled. Oh, sure, they thought of a great wisecrack about Tiny Tim. But none of them thought to bring a ladder. Which is lucky, since some cops show up. They notice the players look like they’re popular kids, so he lets them go with a warning and a call to the school.

At the billboard. Narrator: 'Two cars, four kids, four cans of spray paint, and ... ' One kid: 'Seriously, Andre? You didn't think to bring a ladder?' Andre: 'I thought there'd be one here.' Kid: 'Right. And maybe a cooler full of snacks marked 'For graffiti artists only'.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 30th of January, 2019. I don’t blame them for not thinking out how you get up onto a billboard. I would have guessed there’d be something built into one of the support pillars, if for no other reason to let someone caught on the sign get down safely. Anyway, the real question is, in that first panel are we looking at the front or the back end of the car with the ‘MILFORD’ license plate?

Thorp gives two-game suspensions to the participants and calls Filion in to his office. This is exactly the sort of stupid thing Filion should have done; why wasn’t he? Which is an odd tack but, yeah, I’ve known people I had to deal with that way. Filion finally opens up. With the end of high school coming, he feels like everything is ending. He doesn’t know how to handle that. Now Thorp’s able to hook him, and his parents, up with counseling. And there’s the promise that the team might play better too.

My words alone might not express how much I’ve enjoyed this plot. I’d said last week how I love when story comics get a preposterous character in them. And this is a great one. It’s the story of Robby Howry, a maybe 21-year-old guy, seeking revenge on his high school basketball coach. And going to great effort about this, starting a blog and podcast and talking daily with Marty Moon. And laying out hard cash. I don’t know how much it costs to rent two billboards for a month-plus, but boy, that’s got to run into the dozens of dollars. Add to his mission fanaticism some grand self-obliviousness. He’s confident nobody will mind his whole fake-prescription-drug-pushing thing. Not if the alternative is losing buzzer-beaters to Arapahoe High School. Probably it won’t be as grand a comeuppance as happens to Marty Moon in every Marty Moon story. But it’s so promising.

Milford Schools Watch

People sometimes wonder where Milford is. The real answer is nowhere, of course; it’s meant to be a place that could be any high school. And then mucks things up with the idiosyncratic use of “playdowns” where normal people say “playoffs”. Anyway, here’s some schools or towns named in Gil Thorp the last several months. I offer this so you can work out your own map of the Milford educational system.

  • Arapahoe
  • Central City
  • Danbury
  • Jefferson
  • Madison
  • New Thayer
  • Tilden
  • Valley Tech

Okay, “Danbury” really sounds Connecticut. But then there was the thing a couple years ago where they name-checked famous Ohio I-75 highway sign Luckey Haskins.

Next Week!

What is reliably my greatest challenge. What’s going on in Judge Parker? Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley know. I’ll try to figure it out.

Statistics Saturday: Some Grammy Awards


  • Largest Bowl of Anise Hard Candies Fused Together
  • Distinctive Tiny Scented Soaps You’re Most Afraid To Use
  • Silverware And Plate That Together Make The Most Undefinably Eerie Scraping Sound
  • Most Refrigerator With The Crushed-Ice Dispenser You’re Not Allowed To Use
  • Room That Most Smells of Cedar Despite Having Nothing Cedar In It
  • Scratchiest Blankets Covering The Most Of The Sofa
  • Sleekest Television Set Put On Top Of The Widest 1970s Color Television Set That’s Easily Four Feet Front To Back
  • Land-Line Telephone That Most Has Push-Buttons But In A Circle Like It Was A Dial Phone Somehow
  • Most Boiled Selection of Off-White Dinner Foods
  • Room That Least Smells of Cedar Although The Cedar Chest Is In It

Reference: The Rocket Men: Vostok and Voskhod, the First Soviet Manned Spaceflights, Rex Hall and David J Shayler

A note about research methods. Some may accuse this department of focusing entirely on its own experiences and not adequately sampling the full conceptual space of grandmotherly presences. To this we answer no, we called our grandmothers ‘grandma’ and ‘mom-mom’, none of this casual ‘grammy’ stuff for us and so therefore nyah.

Please Send Cables


So you know that stage in life where everything you have is plugged in to an adapter of some kind? And those adapters themselves are plugged in to some other kind of adapter? And you’re not sure whether something is broken, or the adapter it’s plugged into is broken, or the adapter after that is what’s broken, or whether everything is working as designed and it’s the adaption concept that’s broken?

That is a stage of life, right? That’s normal to be in, right?

Well.

Back to seeing what happens if we unplug things and then re-plug them.

How To Clear The Snow On Your Sidewalk


Do you need to clear the snow on your sidewalk? That’s not a trick question. If you have both snow and a sidewalk, yes, you do. The question is how.

The best solution to snow on the sidewalk is to live inside a domed city. Within this sparkling beautiful environment you don’t have any kind of weather, just a steady mediocrity. If you want to have snow, you can get it delivered. It’ll be placed thoughtfully on your property by a team of specially developed snow-bots, working under the direction of a snow artist who’s moody and introspective and has deep thoughts about the aesthetics of stuff on your lawn. In this case you can get the snow-bots to put snow on your sidewalk. And then you can have them remove the snow again because, hey, it’s not like they have lives to get back to. At least until it turns out the snow-bots do have deep internal lives. And the snow artist falls under the sway of a mysterious, deep-feeling red-haired woman who was left over from an unpublished J G Ballard short story. Then there’s a good chance that you’ll be the person whose house is being tended while The Revolution gets started. This is jolly good excitement, but you can’t count on that happening more than maybe one time out of four. (The Revolution discovers that outside of the city dome, the Earth has transformed from radiation-scarred wasteland to Griffith Park.) Also, living in a domed city is likely to attract me. I don’t think that’s a problem, but I definitely understand if you do.

What should be a nearly-as-good method is to have a fire dragon on hand. A fire dragon can handup two ten inches of snow by something as simple as laying down. Problem solved, right? At least until that eleventh inch comes down. Not so, sad to say. There are no fire dragons. What you can get in most places are fire snakes. These are a considerably smaller species. They come from Australia, which tells you something about why that continent’s gotten a cumulative total of about four inches of snow in recorded history, which thanks to the indigenous peoples there, stretches back about 50,000 years. A lone, four-inch-long, Australian fire snake has enough heat capacity to singe the eyebrows off the entire population of Europe four times over. This will come in handy if there’s ever a blizzard of European eyebrows on your sidewalk. This doesn’t often happen. If it did, you’d know, because the weather map would make it look like the Interstate is making Groucho eyes at you. Still it’s nice to know the capacity is there. Do not try to import this species. You can’t get the necessary straw mice to feed them without the pet store getting suspicious.

The most popular method to clear the sidewalk is to flip a switch which causes the sidewalk to lift up on large hydraulic legs. Then the legs tip the sidewalk to the side, and a giant cartoony hand wearing gloves and holding a whisk broom goes back and forth, dusting the sidewalk clean. The sidewalk drops back into place and the hand tosses the whisk broom into the air and makes a happy OK sign before catching it and disappearing again. If you have a switch in the house and you can’t figure out what it’s supposed to do? It does that. If it doesn’t work that’s because the GFCI has tripped. Look for something that seems like a reset button and try that. Make sure you don’t ever use this while someone’s on your sidewalk.

If it isn’t working and you can’t find the reset button, I know what you’re thinking. No, you can’t take the hair dryer out and use that on the sidewalk. That isn’t hair. Well, all right, if you’ve got the European eyebrow blizzard that’s hair. But that also almost never happes. Best not to worry about it.

After clearing the snow, scatter enough rock salt that you feel like you’re using too much rock salt, but not quite enough that it feels like your sidewalk is actually getting clear of ice or slush.

In Which I Avoid Accidentally Reading a Book a Second Time


Yes, I did just resolve the question of “did I read this book about the Greek War of Independence 1821 – 1830 before?” by finding a passage I was certain I had read. What was that gripping section? A foot note about how at one point the executive council ought to have had five members, but there was a vacancy “left for a representative of the island, and [ Theodoros ] Kolokotronis insisted on filling it himself”. I may or may not be able to follow the sweep of empires, but don’t try bluffing me on the committee compositions!

So, yes, I continue to learn more about why everybody treated me like that in middle school.

Popeye’s Island Adventures: Bluto and his teeth get some attention, also spinach


It’s happened before that Bluto has been the viewpoint character for a Popeye cartoon. At least to start things in action. Focus usually returns to Bluto. This week’s Popeye’s Island Adventure might be the most that Bluto has been the protagonist for a cartoon. I say ‘might’ because I remember basically three scenes from the late-70s Hanna-Barbera run. And all I’ve seen of Popeye and Son is that sometimes it was playing, silently, on the TV in the kids corner of the Popeye’s Fried Chicken in Singapore. (There was the one Popeye’s, and it was in Changi Airport.) But let me just assert that Can’t Handle The Tooth is the most Bluto-focused cartoon, and let people correct me.

My first thought about this was the cartoon’s a mess. The second was that fluffy was going to need like four pass-throughs to follow it. I did too, really. The storyline’s still messy, but I don’t think it’s hopeless. The short needs time, though. Incidents keep happening, in a sequence that feels a bit like a dream, or like a kid attempting to tell a story. A bit more screen time would help non-kids like me follow along.

I’d have gotten some of the time from the cartoon’s start. Bluto digging into Popeye’s ship is a reasonable thing for him to do. But the action only starts when Bluto tries opening an errant can of spinach. That’s at least ten seconds of stuff we didn’t really need established. Bluto trying to open the can is decent stuff.

Half a minute in, Bluto finally has a loose tooth. Trying to get it fully loose, and having every attempt fail in stranger ways: that’s the short’s focus. I like the silent-movie-approach of tying a string to a door and how that would have failed even if Popeye had gone through the door. And I like that this sets off a briefly-glimpsed side plot where Popeye can’t catch an errant spinach can. That premise could have been a short on its own, too. It might yet be. (Maybe not. Perhaps something that’s amusing in brief glimpses in the margins of the short would be boring if it were the primary focus. At least I’ve heard of that dynamic happening. But I’m a nerd, so deep down, I believe that anything funny can only be way more funny if you do a lot of it.)

The strangest interlude is with Eugene the Jeep. It’s a moment that feels like a frustration dream. Bluto figures biting into an apple will loosen the tooth; Eugene magically swipes the apples. He even turns a bunch of apples into a baked pie. I’m not sure how I feel about Eugene’s shift to magic-assisted gluttony, but there we are. Olive Oyl stepping out in a welding mask, with a torch and pliers, is another bizarre moment. I guess she has reasons for it, as who doesn’t fix a wobbly table in the sand by applying flame and pulling things?

And then it gets really weird. It’s not new that spinach should do wondrous things for entities besides Popeye. Nor is it new that it works on inanimate objects. When a bit of spinach falls on Bluto’s finally-free tooth … it … becomes gigantic? I don’t get how that follows from the usual spinach superpowers, and I missed why Bluto, Popeye, and the tooth end up in this giant rolling ball. Popeye ends up falling on Olive’s repaired table, another showing where the Sailor Kid’s fairly hapless. Bluto ends up in the water, and loses his gigantified tooth. It’s not the first time I’ve felt bad for Bluto at the end of a cartoon, although this one feels particularly unfair to him.

I’ve watched the cartoon many times over now, so I have a fair idea what’s happened in it. I’m still struggling with why these particular things should have happened. I think it spent too much time establishing Bluto’s loose tooth, and squeezing out plot time from the attempt to pull it. More time for the failed attempts, I think, would have rewarded the short greatly. It might never make sense that Bluto’s tooth turns gigantic. But more time to process the events could have made it feel less tiring.

This is the cartoon that leaves me with the question: do teeth float?

This and my other reviews of Popeye’s Island Adventures cartoons should be here.

Statistics January: What Was Popular And Why, Here, Last Month


I like starting the month with a look back at what things were popular around here, and how much I got read, and all that. It’s a nice long article and it doesn’t take me being all that creative or anything. I don’t know. It works.

By the way, if you’d like to follow my blog, please do. You can do it in a way that doesn’t show up in my statistics by adding it to your RSS reader. For methods I know a little more about, you can use the button on the upper right corner of the page. Unless I do try out a new page theme and that button moves. Also, I’m also @Nebusj on Twitter. Each new posting gets a mention there, at least.

So what was readership like around here the first month of 2019?

Bar chart of about 30 months of readership; January is a high point after several months of fluttering but gradually declining readership.
Fun fact: somehow my views per visitor is always either 1.83, 1.76, or 1.90. No exceptions! I have no idea what makes a fact ‘fun’.

It was a busy month, with the greatest number of page views around here since June. 3,343 page views from 1,830 unique visitors. There’d been 2,866 page views from 1,632 visitors in December, and 3,077 page views from 1,732 visitors in November. I haven’t had this many unique visitors since May 2018. To what do I credit this? The obvious thing to credit is a couple mentions in the Comics Curmudgeon. Not on the main page, but from commenters who used my plot recaps to help people confused by the story strips.

Maybe I should push my story recaps more at these sites. It feels intrusive to mention someplace I don’t regularly comment, though. Also many of the commenters have less patience for the story strips than I have. But maybe commenters would forgive story strips more if they could see, like, that something which seems out of nowhere was set up months ago and they just forgot or missed it.

Still, the number of likes rose to 183, just barely more than I’d had any month back to March 2018. I’d been in this 165-to-180 zone most of last year, dropping to 150 in November and 137 in December. The number of comments was up to 70, from December’s 44, and November’s 88. There’s clearly no pattern anymore except that there’s not a lot to talk about.

What were the popular posts around here in January? Nothing posted in January, for one. What did make the cut:

  • What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? What’s The Plan To Kill Heloise Walker? July – September 2018
  • What The Heck Happened To Nancy and Why Does It Look Weird?
  • Who’s Writing and Drawing Alley Oop Now? Who Is Li’l Alley Oop?
  • What’s Going On In Alley Oop? Did Alley Oop End? June – August 2018
  • Is the comic strip Henry ending? Is the comic strip Hazel ending?
  • This suggests what I ought to do this year is go through all the syndicated newspaper comic strips, write a post “Is the comic strip Mother Goose And Grimm ending? Why does Funky Winkerbean look weird?” (or whatever) and watch the page views roll in.

    My post popular piece actually published this past month was What’s Going On In Mark Trail? Who Are These Guys Mark Trail Is Punching? October 2018 – January 2019. This is a good lesson in how important it is to track who Mark Trail is punching. My most popular long-form piece was In Which I Cannot Honestly Say I Dodged A Bullet Here. This is a good lesson in how important it is that I just point at stuff that’s happening and call that humor.

    Map of the world with the United States in a deep pink, India in a less deep pink, and then a surprising amount of Europe and South America colored in at all. Most of Africa, China, and former Soviet republics besides Russia are not colored in at all.
    I admit I’m not surprised that all my talk about Mark Trail does not resonate with the people of Kyrgyzstan.

    There were 68 countries sending me readers in January. There had been 61 in December and 66 in November. So I’m in a sixties mood. But here’s the country list:

    Country Readers
    United States 2,460
    India 173
    United Kingdom 96
    Canada 92
    Australia 67
    Germany 42
    Sweden 27
    New Zealand 24
    Italy 22
    Philippines 22
    Denmark 18
    Norway 17
    American Samoa 16
    France 15
    Mexico 15
    Poland 15
    Spain 15
    Finland 13
    Romania 12
    Taiwan 12
    South Africa 11
    Thailand 10
    Croatia 9
    Japan 8
    Malaysia 8
    Netherlands 8
    Singapore 8
    Switzerland 8
    Slovenia 7
    Brazil 6
    Czech Republic 6
    European Union 6
    Hong Kong SAR China 6
    Ireland 5
    Uruguay 5
    Argentina 4
    Chile 4
    Israel 4
    Russia 4
    Indonesia 3
    Portugal 3
    South Korea 3
    Turkey 3
    Armenia 2
    Cambodia 2
    Georgia 2
    Hungary 2
    Puerto Rico 2
    Ukraine 2
    Bangladesh 1 (****)
    Bulgaria 1
    Colombia 1
    El Salvador 1 (*)
    Greece 1
    Guernsey 1
    Iraq 1
    Jamaica 1
    Kuwait 1
    Latvia 1
    Lithuania 1
    Malta 1
    Nepal 1
    Nicaragua 1
    Nigeria 1
    Saudi Arabia 1
    Serbia 1
    Slovakia 1
    Tanzania 1

    There were 19 single-reader countries in January. There had been 12 in December and 16 in November. El Salvador was a single-reader country last month. Bangladesh is on five months now for being a single-reader country. Huh.

    The Insights page tells me I start February with 111,870 page views total, from 61,588 unique visitors. In January I published a total of 18,290 words. I’d had an average 590 words per post (my 2018 average was 639 words per post). There were an average 1.7 comments and 5.7 likes per post.

    And the important material. All my story strip plot recap posts should appear at this link. The comics I expect to summarize over the coming month — barring some surprise or fast-breaking news which bumps something — are:

    I am expecting there will be comments made about Alley Oop, when I get there.

    What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? Does the ham radio guy know what kind of plane this is? November 2018 – February 2019


    I’m always happy to help people follow the plot in Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D.. If you’re reading this after about May 2019, there should be a more current recap at this link. Older recaps should also be at that link. And I have mathematically-themed comic strips reviewed at this link. Now, to what’s happened in late 2018 and early 2019.

    Rex Morgan, M.D.

    11 November 2018 – 3 February 2019.

    What was happening: Delmer Robertson, childhood friend of and failed robber to Jordan Harris, has diabetes and failing kidneys. (For future reference: Jordan’s last name was given the 19th of November, 2018. I had a ridiculously hard time finding his last name. If anyone knows of a good Rex Morgan cast list please say so.) Jordan offers to donate one of his kidneys. It’s an admirable but quixotic gesture, but I’ll say later why I understand his rush to offer.

    A medically better source of transplant organs is Delmer’s family. Might be socially worse, though. Delmer, out of the army, dealt with his experiences by drugs and alcohol. It’s why he tried to mug Jordan in the first place. It’s also why his attempt faceplanted so badly that Wile E Coyote winced at it. Delmer figures his family all hates him for his life-wreck. Turns out they don’t. Once they learn of Delmer’s need, they’re good with it. His brother Dalton is a good match. Dalton insists Delmer has to clean up his act. Delmer’s eager to, though. They schedule surgery quickly. Rex Morgan doesn’t do it, since you want a kidney transplant done by someone who specializes in medicine. All goes well.

    A donor has been chosen from among Red's brothers. Dalton: 'So here's the deal. Seems I'm the best choice for a transplant donor.' Delmer: 'I don't know if I deserve you doing that for me. There's risks.' Dalton: 'I know all about the risks. And no, you probably don't deserve it, jerkface. But you are my brother so we're gonna do this and you're gonna accept it. One thing, though.' 'Yeah? What's that?' 'If I do this, you're gonna clean up your life. I'm not giving you a kidney so you can be a drunk, trying to mug people on the street.' 'Seems like a fair deal. If I get a new shot at life, I want to make something of it.'
    Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 25th of November, 2018. Delmer’s family was so immediately supportive of him once they heard of his circumstances that it’s a bit surprising he ever ended up screwed up in the first place. But perhaps the sharpened focus of “he needs this new kidney or will die within months” affected how much they felt able to do for him.

    Jordan talks with the recovering Delmer about his own breakthrough. Jordan lost a leg while in the army. He’s spun a story about losing it in battle. He was never in battle. He was a cook, and lost it to an improvised explosive device while going to the market. He told himself he made up a heroic adventure because other people expected it. But Jordan’s ready to be honest with people about this, now. And this is why I understand his offering Delmer his kidney. It would be a way to act the hero he felt he was expected to be. They both resolve to do better with their lives.

    Jordan: 'I don't know, Red. I've been telling myself I'm okay and handling these things just fine. But I can see now that I have some issues I need to deal with.' Delmer: 'Well, you saw how I handled *my* issues. Substance abuse and thievery don't seem like the best choices I could have made.' Jordan: 'They have counseling and therapy available here. I was thinking I'd sign up. How about you?'
    Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 19th of December, 2018. So this is all pretty well settled. Not addressed in the comic: do all the males in Delmer’s family look faintly like redheaded Abraham Lincolns? Or is this just something my brain has decided to fix on?

    Part of that resolution in action: Jordan and Michelle, whose last name I have not been able to track down, want to marry soon. [Edited to Add: Dawnpuppy was good enough to tell me her name. Michelle’s last name is Carter.] They’ve been engaged — I think — since before I started doing these recaps. Or I failed to log their engagement in these essays. It’ll be tough scheduling. Jordan has a restaurant opening soon. Michelle pledges she’ll do all the planning. And with the 29th of December, 2018, we leave Jordan, Michelle, Delmer, and that group, for the time being.


    The current story started with the new year. Well, the 31st of December. Rex is off to a conference in Phoenix. He’s told his family it’s a medical conference, so please adjust your snarky comments to match what’s in text. On the plane he’s seated next to Brayden, portrayed by that kid from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Brayden’s unnervingly cool about the flight, including the long delay before takeoff.

    Brayden: 'Hey, we're finally moving.' Pilot: 'Sorry for the delay, folks. We're now cleared for takeoff. We'll be in the air momentarily.' Brayden: 'Do you get nervous flying, Doc?' Rex Morgan: 'Just a little. I don't do it often enough to feel like it's no big deal.' (The plane takes off.) Brayden: 'Oh, there we are. Up in the air.' Rex: 'I'm sure it'll be smooth sailing from here on.' Brayden: 'I'm okay with the middle part of flying. It's just the takeoff and landing that get to me.' Rex: 'I don't think you're alone on that. But I'm sure everything will be okay.' Flight attendant, checking Brayden: 'Is everything all right here? Do either of you need anything?' Mr Cranky: 'HEY! I COULD USE A DRINK WHEN YOU'RE DONE WITH THE KID!'
    Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 13th of January, 2019. Crankshaft looks a lot younger when he isn’t in a Tom Batiuk comic strip, but then who doesn’t?

    Unnervingly not cool is another passenger. We haven’t got a proper name for him. Brayden’s called him Mr Cranky and I’ll go with that. He wants to know why he hasn’t got drink service yet. Or why he can’t go wandering around the aisles during the flight. Or why he can’t go into the bathroom right now just because someone else is in it. He’s the kind of supporting character you live for, if you read story strips. His emotions are big, bombastic, and way out of proportion to what’s going on. Yes, I know actual flights have this kind of cartoonishly hostile passenger too often. Doesn’t matter. Every story strip becomes one order of magnitude more delightful when some guest character rampages like a bull through the storyline. Big drunken guy on a flight? Excellent. The only thing better is when the rampaging-bull character’s emotions are wholly out of line with the narrative, or any credible narrative. Looking at you, past week of Mary Worth, and regretting how long it’ll be before I get back to that strip. I’m sorry the flight isn’t long enough he gets to have a fight about how he has a right to play the trombone, and where the stewardesses get off telling him this isn’t a bowling alley flight.

    Brayden: 'Hard to believe a grown man would act like that guy does.' Rex: 'It's good that even at your age you know what sort of behavior is acceptable and what isn't. Brayden: 'My folks may have split up --- but they've *both* taught me a thing or two.'
    Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 23rd of January, 2019. Brayden … Brayden is actually older than me, right? That’s why he talks like this?

    Extremely not cool is a long rumbling noise that starts the 25th of January. It even shakes the cartoonishly unflappable Brayden. It also shakes the plane. The flight attendants prepare for an “unscheduled landing”. They do this with the cool confidence of professionals who’ve recently reviewed the Schedule of FAA-Approved Euphemisms. Their attempts to explain the brace position for landing get interrupted by Mr Cranky. If you liked his rage at having to wait for drink service to start you’ll love how much he hates the flight ending at a ham radio shack so far out in the middle of nowhere that even The Ghost Who Walks doesn’t have a secret airbase there.

    Ham radio guy, outside his shack, going 'WHOA!' as a passenger jet trailing a nasty-looking dark cloud and making a rumbling noise comes landing on the road beside him.
    Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 2nd of February, 2019. “That’s the third-largest RV I’ve ever seen!”

    So far as I know. I wrote that bit before seeing this Sunday’s strip. We’ll see what happens. (It’s included a lot of people in the comments section complaining the airplane is no craft flown by any actual airline, and has way too much leg room. I am as bothered by this as I am by how people in movies can park downtown.) I kind of what it to involve Zippy the Pinhead berating a thing by the roadside.

    Next Week!

    What well-intentioned but dumb scheme did the kids in Milford get up to? What well-intentioned but dumb scheme did the kids in Milford get up to after that will-intentioned but dumb scheme? Is Marty Moon going to be set up to be a laughingstock? What blogger is hilariously overestimating how interested people are in second-guessing Gil Thorp’s decision-making process? Wait. I … Um. Well, I should be back on Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp in seven days.

    Statistics Saturday: Some Names Of Machines That Used To Be Personal Occupations


    • Computer
    • Typewriter
    • Calculator
    • Washer
    • Charger
    • Toaster
    • Mic [ previously “Mike” ]
    • Carousel
    • Fiddler
    • Grover
    • Bumper
    • Terrier
    • Fastener
    • Reuter
    • Rotor
    • Referrer
    • Rotolactor
    • Footballer
    • Compressor
    • Kangarobot

    Reference: Star Fleet Technical Manual, Franz Joseph.

    A Couple More Groundhog Predictions


    As there are possibilities I didn’t cover yesterday.

    Six more non-consecutive weeks of winter. This is foretold by the groundhog either seeing or not seeing its shadow (research department please clear this up) but being so distracted in the process there’s nothing jumbled thoughts incomplete returned to. While spring may arrive right about on time, there’ll be sudden bursts of winter throughout the whole year. It’s a bit inconvenient, because of the rush to put snow tires on and off again. But it’s pretty great to get, like, eight inches of snow in the middle of June when it’s warm enough to enjoy it. Plus it adds some realism to Christmas in July, if you’re lucky or if you have Christmas in July in June.

    Six more leeks of winter. Predicted when the groundhog emerges and sees (or does not see) the shadow of a potato. Yes, I know, you’d think it would be the shadow of an onion or maybe chives. But that’s just how the folklore settled down. We suspect there’s some weird Cockney rhyming slang behind it.

    Six more beats of winter. The groundhog is a dj and he’s got some vinyl rarities that are going to make this the best night ever.

    Six door-weeks of winter. The groundhog emerges with either a doorknob or the knocker for an ISO standard front door. In this case winter will be longer by approximately the same amount of time you spend opening doors in an average six-week span. This isn’t all that much, really, considering the time spent closing these doors is not charged to the winter account.

    Some Groundhog Predictions


    Here are some things a groundhog might predict.

    Six more weeks of winter. This occurs when the duly appointed groundhog for a region emerges and sees its own shadow. This commits us to six more weeks of cold weather. There is also an option on snow, freezing rain, and your car being somehow glazed. This is all per an ancient agreement that nobody remembers why humanity made. It must have solved some problem, but what?

    Six fewer weeks of winter. Unless that should be six less weeks of winter. This occurs when the duly appointed groundhog for a region emerges and sees its shadow. Or … no, wait, that’s supposed to be more weeks of winter. Maybe it’s you get more winter when the groundhog doesn’t see a shadow? Well, it’s one of those cases. This is what we have a research department for.

    Six wider weeks of winter. This occurs when a groundhog emerges and sees its shadow through the distortions of an anamorphic lens. It’s a great chance for everyone to wear horizontal stripes and to play out their favorite scenarios of not being able to fit through door frames.

    Six more eggs of winter. This happens when the groundhog emerges but is dressed in either a chicken or an Easter bunny costume. Extremely rare but valuable as it lets you make two more cakes than you otherwise would have. Alternatively, you can poach a couple of eggs in up to six bowls of ramen and that adds a little bit of joy, even when you’ve already gone to the Asian grocery and gotten some of those strange ramen packets with flavors like Spicy 3-Chili Artificial Pork With Broth.

    Six more beeps of winter. This is what to expect when the emergent groundhog is a robot of some kind. I don’t make any assertion of why the groundhog would be a robot. Maybe they’ve cut back on the budget for squirrel-family payroll. Maybe the area is too environmentally challenging for groundhogs to be there in person, and they have to be telepresent instead. Maybe you just live in the robo-ecosphere. I don’t judge.

    Six more shrieks of winter. Foretold when the groundhog emerges and gets a good, clear, direct look at the state of anything in the world. Not a winter for anyone with any anxiety.

    Six fewer eggs of winter. The terrible flip side of more eggs. This happens when the groundhog completely lacks a chicken or an Easter bunny costume, and can’t be coaxed into wearing that great peacock costume. “How could a peacock lay an egg?” the groundhog demands to know, and not completely unfairly. “It should be a peahen!” You try to answer: peahens are lovely birds. If it weren’t for peacocks stealing the spotlight they’d be rated among the most beautiful of birds. It doesn’t matter. Nobody even understands what this argument is supposed to gain. And there you are, deprived of the ability to make up to two cakes or six poached-egg bowls of ramen. You have within you the strength to survive this.

    Six more weeks of winter, all stacked on top of each other. When the groundhog emerges and turns out to be several groundhogs sitting on one another’s shoulders. No, not wearing a trenchcoat. So you think some years it just feels like February 24th goes on for like 48 hours? Wait until you spend forty-two days on the 24th of February. Stockpile some books and at least sixty pointless quarrels to have with your loved ones.

    Six more tweaks of winter. The groundhog does not emerge, as it is busy fiddling with a couple of inconsequential details in the confident hope that everything will be perfect when they are done. They are never done, so nothing ever has to be done, which is perfect.

    Six more beaks of winter. BIRDVASION! RUN! RUNNNNNN!

    Six more feet of winter. This we can expect when the groundhog turns out to be one or more spiders collaborating. This is great news for the hosiery merchants. It’s not so good for people who’ve laid in a huge stockpile of two-legged clothing. This is nature’s way of reminding us that it’s never worth hoarding pants. Last observed in Syracuse/Utica’s famous Leggy February of ’78.