Everything There Is To Say About Going Outside


Going outside is one of the popular things to do when you mean to go somewhere. It ranks almost up there with “going inside”. It’s no “meaning to go outside but then rolling over and groaning”. But, you know, what else are you going to do? Stay inside with your intrusive thoughts? Including that one about the time in 1997 your friend was excited to have noticed Team Rocket’s names were Jessie and James and you acted all cool about that, as if you’d noticed long ago, when you really had never put that together? No, the only way to avoid imagining that they’ve been hurting for 23 years over that thought is to go outside, anywhere, and keep going.

I have to preface this by admitting I’m not one for going outside much. Oh, I do it, but only because somehow the topic keeps coming up. I’m not even much for going to the other room. For that matter I need motivation to get to the other side of the table. Even reaching my arms out to their full length needs some motivation. In my defense, there’s plants I might hit if I just tossed my arms around wildly and they don’t need to be involved in whatever my issues are.

Still, the outside offers over four things that the inside just can’t. Unlike the inside, for example, outside there’s no way of controlling the temperature, humidity, precipitation, or light levels. You can find that you’re uncomfortably cold. Or warm. For part of the year you can be uncomfortably medium, with your outfit just making you bigger than you’d otherwise be. With the rain, you can get wet in ways you don’t want. Or you can put on water-resistant clothing, so that only your face, hands, and feet, the things that you most immediately use to interact with the world, get wet. I feel like I’m not making a good case for outside here. Let me slide a foot or two down the table and think this out.

It was only half a foot. Ah, but here: outside, you’re able to get to places. Like, you can go to a Jersey Mike’s sandwich shop. Or, if you’d rather, you can go to a Jersey Giant sandwich shop. I mean if you’re around my area of mid-Michigan. Which, you can see, has a bunch of places to get Jersey sandwiches. There’s maybe more places to get a New Jersey-branded sandwich here than there were when I lived in New Jersey. I confess I’m not sure precisely what it is that makes something a New Jersey-branded sandwich. From observation, I think it’s “having a picture of the Shore at Sea Girt in the bathroom”. And oh, there’s something. There’s much more of the Jersey Shore that’s outside, compared to inside. That’s not likely to change unless someone goes and turns a door inside-out.

Outside also offers the greater number of bank drive-through stations. This is valuable because the outer lanes used to have those great little tubes you’d put bank stuff in, and it would go into the bank using what you always supposed were pneumatic tubes but probably were not. That’s all right. It’s so much fun to think of having, like, a savings passbook that’s shuttling around in a pneumatic tube. Now, I don’t know, I think it’s all just drive-up ATMs. So you can go up there and think how much more fun this all used to be. I’m doing a lousy job promoting the outside as something.

Oh, the outside is great for animals. You can see squirrels and more squirrels and different-colored squirrels and pigeons and none of that makes you nervous. If you see them inside you have an issue that you have to deal with, and you haven’t had time to deal with a new issue since October 2014. But outside? They have every right to be there, as do you, and all’s at peace. Oh, you could see some of these from inside, if you look through a window. Or if you’re not interested, looking through a wall. But then they’ll go off somewhere a little obstructed when they’re being the most interesting. Outside, if you see them hiding, you can walk around and then they’ll notice you and leave. From inside, you can’t have that experience of squirrels deciding they don’t want to be involved in whatever your issues are.

In the era of surveillance politics


So on the one hand, every social media site is constantly monitoring everything I write, read, or interact with to gather micro-precise data on my political thoughts, so they can sell to someone the line of propaganda I’m most likely to fall for. And on the other hand, eight times a day I get an e-mail that reads like:

State Senator Blaff Norkterman thinks he can hide from his constituents forever. Let’s you and the rest of the 4116th district of North Winnemonka show him where the real power in the government is with the biggest-ever rally in Marple Springs!

I’m just saying something is deeply wrong.

60s Popeye: Jingle Jangle Jungle, which is about the right subject line here


So partway through Jingle Jangle Jungle we hit a scene with Jungle Cannibals. The cartoon was already on thin ice; the premise, sending Popeye to hunt big game, was dubious enough. Why not skip it and leave this forgotten cartoon where it already was?

And then it … didn’t get offensive enough for my tastes. Other people will hear this warning and decide to dump this, and they’re correct. The scene doesn’t make sense except by using the idea of the Savage Jungle Cannibals. But the cannibals never really appear on screen. They’re a cloud of eyeballs instead. I suspect the hidden hand of network censors. Read the accounts of TV and radio show runners and you hear how the censors are humorless scolds who don’t want anything that might be a joke to come through. Then you learn that the censors were sending endless memos saying, stop with the ethnic jokes and maybe find a role for a woman that’s not a shrew.

I do not know how Ed Nofziger came to write this, or what influenced him and director Ken Hultgren. But the results are weird. So, let me step into 1960’s Jingle Jangle Jungle.

Popeye hunting big game is a troublesome start. Yes, he has hunted animals before. But early on Elzie Segar realized Popeye was not someone to beat up animals. The Fleischers tried a couple Popeye-goes-hunting cartoons, and yes, sometimes it worked. But it’s a bad start. Still, Ed Nofziger has written some weird stuff. I have him logged as writer for Hamburger Fishing, a peculiar fairy-tale retelling, and Sweapea Thru The Looking Glass, a peculiar fairy-tale-adjacent story. Both are weird cartoons, which appeals to me.

And this? This is a weird cartoon. The premise is that the core gang is off hunting tigers. And that’s about all. Stuff happens that circles around this. A giant flower makes out with Brutus. A rhinoceros goes charging through, tooting with the same sound as Popeye’s pipe. Popeye calls this a train and almost opens his eyes for this. I get to wondering if this is a repurposed Mister Magoo script. A cobra pops in; Popeye plays something tuneless on his pipe, until an elephant wanders by playing the accordion. And then the Esso Tiger gets all snuggly with Olive Oyl.

At one point Popeye declares he’s seeing things and, yeah, that’s fair. This whole short has a weird dream logic. When the Jungle Cannibals sort-of appear, somehow tie up Popeye and drop him into the stew pot, and then have made a spinach stew of things? The effect, for me, is more bizarre than anything else. It’s almost a tone poem, with a loose theme of hunting, rather than anything else.

Larger-than-human flower reaching out with its leaves to hold Brutus, and kissing him relentlessly.
I don’t think it’s very sporting to share Philip José Farmer’s DeviantArt account either.

There’s some interesting almost genre-awareness here. Brutus crying out “help, Popeye, help” in the same cadence that Olive Oyl has used for ages. (Granted there’s not many ways to read the line, but there are options.) Early on, Popeye answering Brutus’s boast with “That’s what you think” and Brutus taunting “That’s what you think I think!”. It’s a rare-for-the-era line that actually responds to what the other person said, and with personality. Touches like that make me interested in what is otherwise a nearly plotless cartoon.

I really want to make some kind of subtext out about how Olive Oyl and Brutus find themselves threatened by nature being overly affectionate, rather than hostile. It’s a good joke to have Olive Oyl find a tiger who’s a ferociously snuggly kitty boi. Almost as good to have Brutus helpless before a flower’s attention. I doubt it reflects anything more than a respect for the (I assume) censor’s directive to cut back on the violence, especially against animals. If I am right in my assumption, the censor was on to something here. The cartoon would be much less intersting if Olive Oyl were hiding from a snarling tiger. It wouldn’t have a fraction the strangeness, and that would be a terrible loss.

I can’t call this cartoon good exactly. Good-and-weird, though, that fits. And that’s the sort of thing I like often enough.

Statistics 2019: What Was Read Here, And How Much, Back Then


I have meant to do my usual readership-review thing, but for the whole of 2019. I can’t put it off much longer, either, or I’ll start running into February. Few people ever run into February on purpose; it just sort of settles on us instead, and then we get three weeks of our socks getting wet even through the waterproof boots. So let’s see what was popular around here last year:

Bar chart showing the mostly steady increase of readership, by year, from 2013 through 2019.
Boy, I’m glad the statistics for 2020 aren’t ending now because that would be a pretty sharp drop.

2019 was my greatest year for being read, which is nice to see. 42,746 pages got viewed at all, from 24,539 unique visitors. That’s also a record; 2018 saw only 39,130 views from 20,889 visitors. Also the unique visitors from 2019 was only slightly below the 24,695 total page views in 2017. That’s not a bad rate of growth. There were 1.74 views per visitor in 2019, which is down but probably not significantly from 2018’s 1.87. It’s up but probably not significantly from 2017’s 1.63.

Bar chart of likes per year, from 2013 to the present. It's hung around 1700 to 2300 most years, with 2015 abnormally high.
People really, really liked it when Apartment 3-G was dying and I was covering it weekly.

This is not to say I’m getting any more likable. The number of likes given out in 2019 declined to 1,715, my lowest number since 2013. Given the increase in readers, and page views, this decline’s particularly dire. I can understand the decrease in comments. There were 277 comments given last year, the lowest for a full year that I’ve ever had. But I get that: there’s little to say about a Statistics Saturday post, or any of those wordplay bits I was doing on Wednesdays. Even the What’s Going On In series only offers slight openings for discussion. I don’t make a lot of speculations about stories and since I spend three months getting back to any comic, anyone with a good joke about Mark Trail has used it in a more relevant spot first.

Bar chart of comments per year, 2013 to present. There were a good number of comments in 2014 and 2015, with a decline from there --- except for a huge number of comments in 2018.
Gosh, was it as long ago as 2018 that Ray Kassinger ran across this page and commented on everything I’d ever written? You never notice how fast time moves until it’s done, do you?

So perhaps I need, especially in the posts that are reviews, to write things that more invite comment. My brain is able to think only of adding, “What do you think?” to the ends of posts. So that’ll be a while to develop.

There were, besides the home page, 1,320 posts that got at least a single page view in 2019. 1,055 of them got at least two page views, and 524 got at least ten page views. 63 of them got over a hundred page views, and one of them was about Fearless Fred, Betty Boop’s boyfriend who even she forgot she had. The things people most wanted to read were, yes, comic strip stuff and S J Perelman:

Also someone went and put a single-star rating vote on the Rex Morgan, M.D. piece about Edward’s Dog. I don’t take any of these ratings personally but … what is their conceptual model for a two-star essay about why we don’t see Edward’s Dog on-screen? What would that have which I was lacking?

Anyway all the most popular essays in 2019 which were published in 2019 were What’s Going On In essays, and I’ll admit some overworked days I feel like I could drop everything but that and save myself some work. My most popular post of 2019 that wasn’t about comic strips was also not an attempt to be funny. It was an attempt to serve the public: Which Color Paas Tablet Is Purple? Which is Red? Which is Pink? Knowing the answer to this has become less urgent now that you can use either water or vinegar for all the colors, pink included. But it may still help people work out which color is purple and which is blue.

And the most popular long-form essay was In Which I Cannot Honestly Say I Dodged A Bullet Here, about an axe-throwing place that opened in town. It just barely beat out The Stages Of The Road Trip: Stage One, the start of a surprisingly long sequence about … just … driving. I really liked writing the road trip sequence though, and if I could manage one series like that every four months I’d feel I had reached the mastery I wanted.

The single-view pages are split between ones that I’m amazed didn’t get more views and ones I’m amazed got that many views. One view for On The Problems Of Credit In The 19th Century New England Economy is probably about right, though, given that it has a title like that. I don’t know what I was thinking with that one.

Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in darkest red, and the rest of the world in a more roughly uniform pink. Countries sending no readers at all include Greenland, Cuba, the Guianas, a swath of central Africa, and Iran, Afghanistan, and some neighboring countries. Also Syria, apparently.
I notice the lack of Madagascar readers, mostly because I have always had an irrational fondness for the island-nation owing to its appearance in a Donald Duck comic book which asserted that it was the premier nation if you wanted papier-mache. I have no idea where the comic book got that idea but, some country has to be the best at papier-mache, so why not Madagascar?

136 country-like things sent me readers in 2019. The United States alone sent me 31,339 page views. This is more page views than I had in any year before 2018 and also shows just how amazingly provincial my writing is. Here’s the full list of page views, though:

Country Readers
United States 31,339
India 2,458
Canada 1,229
United Kingdom 957
Australia 722
Sweden 470
Philippines 422
Germany 385
Brazil 367
European Union 264
Italy 237
Spain 237
France 202
Hong Kong SAR China 187
South Africa 170
Mexico 153
Finland 145
Romania 137
Netherlands 131
Norway 131
Japan 115
Peru 112
Denmark 104
Kenya 94
El Salvador 89
Malaysia 88
New Zealand 84
Turkey 81
South Korea 75
Portugal 69
Indonesia 68
Singapore 68
Thailand 59
Ireland 58
Belgium 57
Russia 56
Taiwan 55
United Arab Emirates 55
Poland 49
Argentina 48
Colombia 46
Switzerland 46
American Samoa 42
Austria 42
Serbia 36
Israel 35
Slovenia 32
Greece 30
Pakistan 30
Chile 29
Jamaica 28
Ukraine 28
Puerto Rico 27
Nigeria 26
Hungary 24
Bangladesh 21
Saudi Arabia 20
Trinidad & Tobago 20
Nepal 19
Croatia 18
Czech Republic 18
Egypt 16
Uruguay 16
Slovakia 15
Ecuador 13
China 12
Vietnam 12
Morocco 9
Venezuela 9
Iraq 8
Kuwait 8
Georgia 7
Jordan 7
Macedonia 7
Zambia 7
Bolivia 6
Bulgaria 6
Cyprus 6
Guam 6
Guatemala 6
Kazakhstan 5
Lithuania 5
Sri Lanka 5
Bermuda 4
Bosnia & Herzegovina 4
Dominican Republic 4
Latvia 4
Mongolia 4
Montenegro 4
Qatar 4
South Sudan 4
Albania 3
Algeria 3
Bahrain 3
Estonia 3
Ghana 3
Honduras 3
Iceland 3
Lebanon 3
Malta 3
Moldova 3
Tunisia 3
Angola 2
Armenia 2
Brunei 2
Cambodia 2
Cameroon 2
Cayman Islands 2
Costa Rica 2
Curaçao 2
Liberia 2
Panama 2
Réunion 2
Uganda 2
Antigua & Barbuda 1
Bahamas 1
Barbados 1
British Virgin Islands 1
Gibraltar 1
Guadeloupe 1
Guernsey 1
Isle of Man 1
Libya 1
Luxembourg 1
Mauritania 1
Mauritius 1
Myanmar (Burma) 1
Nicaragua 1
Oman 1
Papua New Guinea 1
Paraguay 1
Sint Maarten 1
St. Martin 1
Tanzania 1
Uzbekistan 1
Zimbabwe 1

Hey, three countries with more than a thousand page views each! That’s … not different from my 2018 record. It still feels accomplished, though. My India readership almost doubled.

In all, WordPress says I published 204,420 words in 2019. It also says I published 363 posts, which does not square with my having published something every day. I have no explanation for this. This is my second-most-loquacious year, a bit down from 2018 with 233,406 words. I averaged, according to WordPress, 563 words per posting. I make out 204,420 divided by 365 to be just over 560 myself. Either way, it’s just a little more wordy than 2017 was, and with fewer comments and likes. Hm.

While it’s still early to say what the year ahead will offer, I know my plans. What’s Going On In the story comics, once a week. On Thursday evenings, US time, a long-form essay. On Saturday evenings, US time, a Statistics Saturday quick little joke. And I guess I’m reviewing the Popeye cartoons nobody cares about too. Plus whatever fills in the gaps, the other days.

Thank you for reading. What do you think?

What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? When is Spider-Man coming out of reruns? November 2019 – January 2020


If The Amazing Spider-Man ever returns from reruns of Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s work, I’ll share the news here. I’m still figuring to do these plot recaps, and figure to have another around April 2020. So if you’re looking for what the story is after about April, try that link. And, as usual, my other blog keeps up on the mathematically-themed comic strips.

The Amazing Spider-Man.

4 November 2019 – 26 January 2020.

Spider-Man, with the assistance of Black Widow, was fighting the Hobgoblin. The bizarre thing is that Harry Osborn swears he’s not the Hobgoblin. And Spider-Man believes him. But how can this be? Unless there’s someone besides Osborn’s psychiatrist, Dr Mark Stone, in the story?

Spider-Man, unmasked, tied to the bat-glider: 'Don't you remember, Harry? You and I used to be friends.' Hobgoblin: 'Yes, until as Spider-Man you KILLED MY FATHER!' Spider-Man: 'I TOLD you, he destroyed himself trying to kill ME.' Hobgoblin: 'NO! You're a murderer! And you're going to pay --- by becoming a flying bomb!'
Larry Lieber and Roy Thomas’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 8th of November, 2019. Hobgoblin, and this strip, consistently called this flying bomb thing a bat-glider and it lets you know how much money Harry Osborn has that he can license that trademark from DC.

The Hobgoblin uses a decoy to make Spider-Man hug a bomb. While Spidey’s knocked out, Hobgoblin handcuffs him to a goofy-looking flying bomb, and unmasks him. Hobgoblin stops long enough to cackle about how he used to be Harry Osborn. And he’s going to shoot this bat-glider rocket carrying Spidey into Mary Jane and Black Widow. Spidey notices the plot point dropped there. Osborn’s got fair reason to kill Spidey, who he blames for killing his father, and Mary Jane, his ex-fiancée. What’s he got against Black Widow?

Spider-Man, chained to the bat-glider rocket, thinking: 'I did it! I crumpled the main exhaust! And the bat-glider's veering off to noe side! But is it in time to avoid hitting MJ and Natasha?' Black Widow, 'DOWN, MJ!' Mary Jane, shoved over: 'OOOPH'
Larry Lieber and Roy Thomas’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 20th of November, 2019. Mary Jane’s dressed like that because they’re filming stunts for Marvella 2: The Mysterious Island.

On the rocket flight Spider-Man realizes he can’t get his hands free of the chains. But he can … somehow … do thigh-squeezes mighty enough to crumple the rocket exhaust. This should send the glider off-course, although it’s drawn like it actually sends the rocket right for Mary Jane and Black Widow. Well, it’s not like he had much time to change course. But he misses the whole building they’re on. And Black Widow uses her gadgets to send the glider flying straight up, giving Spider-Man time to try breaking out again. Turns out he couldn’t break the cuffs holding him to the rocket, but he could break the rocket fuselage holding the cuffs, which makes sense.

The rocket explodes, or falls apart, and Black Widow catches Spider-Man in the falling. Then the two get a battle against Hobgoblin. This goes well, except that Hobgoblin’s gimmick is flaming jack-o-lantern bombs that explode on contact and that’s a bit goofy. Anyway, they catch Hobgoblin and unmask him. It’s a confused Harry Osborn inside. This makes Spider-Man remember there’s another person in the story. And makes Black Widow identify “Dr Mark Stone”: he’s really … Dmitri Gregorin!

Black Widow: 'You're lucky, Gregorin, that I don't toss you out a window!' Dr Stone/Dmitri Gregorin: 'But --- how did Spider-Man know who I WAS?' Spider-Man: 'When Osborn hesitated between blasting the Black Widow versus the guy he thinks murdered his father --- I knew something was fishy!'
Larry Lieber and Roy Thomas’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 10th of December, 2019. “Basically, any time I encounter someone who doesn’t want to kill me on sight, I know something is up!”

They explain who? soon enough: He’s the former Soviet spy who’d killed Black Widow’s friends years ago. She’s been hunting him. He pulls a gun on them, so, Spider-Man webs the gun away from him and Black Widow clobbers him. And now we get explanations. After a lot of plastic surgery Gregorin had set himself up a new life. But he heard Black Widow was after him. And here he had Harry Osborn, trying to cure his obsessive hatred of Spider-Man, as a patient. Why not hypnotize Osborn into an obsessive hatred of Black Widow instead?

Black Widow points out how the laws of pulp writing say it’s impossible to hypnotize people to commit murder. Stone/Gregorin points out, scientific progress! It’s an answer I love. Meanwhile, Harry Osborn, dragged along to all this, says he’s changed. Spider-Man and Black Widow’s great efforts to stop him from hypno-murdering people have done something. He doesn’t hold Spider-Man responsible for his father’s death, or hate him anymore. Or hate anyone. It’s a great moment of hope for us all. And hey, isn’t it great that a supervillain has had his obsessions broken, and he’ll never lapse back into trouble-making ever again?

Filming on Mary Jane’s movie, Marvella 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me. And Black Widow drops the mention that she knows Peter Parker is Spider-Man. But she’s not going to go blathering the secre. Except here, in earshot of everyone else at the wrap party.


And with the 29th of December we transition to the next, and current, story. It first ran from the 23rd of August, 2015 through to about the 14th of February, 2016. So unless Marvel and Comics Kingdom are planning to interrupt this mid-story, these repeats are going to last until the middle of June. So I could pre-write the next two of these, and save myself a rush before deadline in April and in July, but I would never be that kind to myself. The story after that is a team-up with Doctor Strange, against Xandu. Then a team-up with Ant-Man, against Elihas Starr. And then a team-up with Rocket Raccoon, against Ronan the Accuser, which is where I started these plot recaps. If we get to there without new strips I’ll probably drop The Amazing Spider-Man from this series.


That’s far in the future and in the past. The current day past has Marvel Comics’s first great ambiguous villain: Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Since 1939 he occasionally pops out of Atlantis to condemn the surface-dwellers to death for their crimes against the sea. And, since 1939, the surface-dwellers fend him off but admit he’s not wrong exactly. In-between punishing the surface-dwellers for their arrogance he turns ally, and then goes quiet for a while. It is part of the rich tapestry of nature’s cycles, like El Niño-Southern Oscillation or the monsoons that sweep over southeast Asia.

Peter, whispering: 'OK, MJ, I'll hear you out a little longer.' Namor: 'I first clashed with you humans in the year you call 1940 ... but a brave young policewoman named Betty Dean persuaded me not to decimate your New York City!' [ This 1940 scene gets a panel. ] Mary Jane: 'Did he say he attacked the surface world 75 years ago?' Peter: 'His people age verrry slowly, honey.'
Larry Lieber and Roy Thomas’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 8th of January, 2020. I get that there’s a lot of crazypants stuff happening in the Marvel Universe but you’d think “hey, remember that time Atlantis tried to sink Manhattan?” would be something that turns up on, like, the Earth-77013 Forgotten New York web site all the time. It would at least rate as much mention as the Black Tom explosion, anyway.

So Mary Jane, with a couple free weeks, buys an ocean cruise. Peter Parker comes along. They’re a day away from the Virgin Islands when a giant tentacle something reaches over the edge of the boat. Peter Parker’s ready to grab his Spider-Suit when Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, appears. Namor declares that he has spent 75 years warning the surface-dwellers about how they’re destroying the oceans, and he’s had enough. So he’s taking over the world, starting with this cruise ship.

The ship’s captain tries to punch Namor, which goes as well as you’d think. Mary Jane interrupts Namor before he can kill the captain. Namor’s smitten with such a surface-dweller, who reminds him of Betty Dean. Dean stood up to Namor in 1940 (if you believe the comic strip) or 1939 (if you believe the fan wiki). She did much to have Namor bring Atlantis into World War II as co-belligerent with the Allies. So that’s a nice person to remind someone of. Then Namor declares that he shall marry this not-so-mere woman.

Namor: 'If your husband is content to have you sail the seas without him then I will make you a far better mate than he does!' Mary Jane: 'Let GO of me!' Peter: 'You heard her, Namor! LET HER GO!' Namor: 'Hah! I knew my actions would bring even the most CRAVEN spouse out of hiding!'
Larry Lieber and Roy Thomas’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 22nd of January, 2020. Yeah, part of what makes Peter Parker Spider-Man is that everybody negs on him, but the Newspaper comic seems like it hits this beat especially hard, and it is always funny.

Mary Jane shows superheroic courage in not laughing in his face. Besides, she’s married. “Oh yeah? To some invisible boyfriend in Canada, I bet,” he answers, and keeps on this marriage idea until Peter Parker steps up. And so, as Mary Jane was trying to avoid, they start Superhero Battling. Difficulty level: Peter has to keep announcing how, like, the deck is slippery, that’s why he can knock over Namor. Not because he has the proportional strength of a spider.

How will this fight end? How will this cruise end? How will it get to an Atlantean child in a New York City hospital held at gunpoint by the Army? How will the story go on until June? There are at least two ways to find out.

Next Week!

Last time I looked at Alley Oop and company, got blipped out of existence. How’s that working for them? It’s Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop up for recapping next week, unless something demands my attention more.

Statistics Saturday: How I Feel About January


Mostly: 'This is too warm for January'. A sliver: 'This is about right for January.' A small chunk: 'This is too cold for January'. An appreciable hunk: 'I miss January in Singapore.'
See, all through January in Singapore it would be 92 degrees Fahrenheit and muggy, with a rainstorm at about 1:30, and often as not the whole place would shut down for half a week for the Chinese New Year, and you could stay home watching Johnny English on the local broadcast stations, in case you wanted to.

Reference: Does Anything Eat Wasps? And 101 Other Questions, Mick O’Hare.

Why It’s Worth Having A Land-Line Phone Even Today


Someone or something phoned, waited out our answering machine’s introduction, left the message “your call is very important to us” before hanging up. You don’t get that kind of service from any other medium for avoiding communication.

Everything there is to say about IP addresses


Each day over 36 people use the Internet. And yet how many of them know what it is? How it works? Where it comes from? What it’s doing? How it’s redressed in-between scenes so that in the first act it’s a starving artist’s kitchen while in the second it’s the luxury suite at a hotel? Still, let’s see which of these questions we can answer.

The Internet is, as designed, a high-capacity method of transmitting outrage. Essential to getting anything anywhere is the IP address. IP is an acronym; it stands for IP, but — you may want to make a note of this — a different IP than what we mean when we write IP. It is still typed the same, though, except in the dative case.

The purpose of an IP address was to be a unique way to identify the recipient of any particular Internet outrage. In the earliest days of computers this was done by identifying the person using the computer. But this was impractical, since back then, everyone used the names of the same minor Star Trek characters. Today, only three people know there even was a “Commander DeSalle” who was in more episodes than, like, Pavel Chekov somehow. The next step was trying to identify the computer using the person. But too many computers looked the same, especially back in the 90s when the computer makers got a really good deal on plastic the color of sweetened condensed milk you accidentally left open on the counter all month. We’ve since moved on to trying to identify the person and the computer together. This is done by timing how long it takes you to refuse web sites permission to send you notifications.

The IP address is how the Internet knows what to send to you. Consider this typical behavior. You put an OtterBox for your phone on your Amazon wish list, because the wrist strap broke off your old one. You’d just buy it yourself, but not having a wrist strap is a smaller hassle than your parents asking you to put at least one single thing on your wish list so they know what they won’t buy you for your birthday. Three weeks later, Amazon sends you an e-mail declaring they’ve found it would be a great idea if you bought an OtterBox. Sure, you think of the geniusnessocity of the mind that could create such a perfect needs-anticipation system. “Clearly,” you say, out loud, “the person behind this system deserves 130 billion dollars. Indeed, the person who could create that digital intelligence deserves all the billions of dollars.”

But this only works because it knows which of all the people on computers to send the e-mail to. Imagine if you got the suggestion to buy an OtterBox intended for somebody else who also wanted an OtterBox. Or what if the shopping suggestions were completely wrong? “We have a great deal for you: what if you bought a radial tire and the issue of Starlog about DeForest Kelly being on the War of the Worlds tv series from the 80s? Plus 1250 boxes of macaroni and cheese?” There would be no possible answer to give to that question. You would be stuck at home, all day, trying to find out, wait, there was a War of the Worlds series in the 80s? And it got kinda bonkers? But if there’s no way to get the information about this to you, then, where are you? Right back at home.

So how do you and your computer get this IP address? Eh, a lot of back-and-forth. Your computer goes asking others around it, “Do I look like a 12.440.593.56.210.315 to you?” And then the other computers go, “Oh, you’re underrating yourself. You’re easily a 56.337.404044.12.390 or maybe even more!” And then your computer answers, “Aw, golly. You’ll make me digitally blush, there’s no way I’m not a 8.266.712.8.775!” “Honey, stop with the false modesty. 18.9.2012.24.2007.48304 and if you don’t agree I’ll fight you.” Eventually they compromise on something. Of course, this is done at computer speeds, which is why it’s either instant or your computer just freezes up for three hours and eighteen minutes. And I’m translating what they say into colloquial terms. They would actually say “digi-blush”.

This all seems like a lot, and it is, which is why even brief exposure to the Internet leaves you so exhausted.

What’s got me late and vaguely offended today


My love and I discovered the existence of a town named Oxford, Michigan, and wondered why it had that name. The obvious reason would be it hosted a college, but we couldn’t find one. Maybe a chautauqua? Not that we could find. From the map it looked like it was a lot of swampland, even by Michigan standards, so I said, maybe it’s where they used to have oxes ford the river? And then I remembered I had a book, Michigan Place Names. It says the name was given by Otis C Thompson “since nearly all the settlers had ox-teams and would probably hold on to them for some time”, which is close enough that I feel like the world is undercutting my jokes about the world and I’m very busy with my sulking now.

Popeye the Popular Mechanic builds a 60s Robot


I got to wondering whether every major cartoon character in the 60s built a homemade robot. Then I thought out who I could remember doing this: Popeye. Wile E Coyote, in one of the Rudy Larriva cartoons. That’s about it, although I’d bet money that, like, Mister Jinks tried one on Pixie and Dixie. It seems like something which was in vogue, anyway.

Popeye the Popular Mechanic is another Jack Kinney-produced cartoon. The animation director’s listed as Hugh Fraser. The story’s credited to Joe Grant and Walter Schmidt, names that I haven’t noticed before.

Popeye lays out the premise by talking to himself. It’s an efficient way in to explaining why he’s building a robot. For this short, he’s so sloppy a person as to, like, hang wading overalls from the curtain rod. I’m curious how he got them there in the first place. Like, I’m cluttered because I can’t bring myself to exert the energy to put stuff away. Hanging wading overalls like that seems like more effort than anything you could do with them. The tire in the living room makes sense, of course. I don’t know why he has the Holy Grail sitting on the mantle. I love his standing lamp, though.

Popeye sitting at a table, with his neck stretched out several feet so his chin can rest atop a giant stack of pancakes. His mouth is open into this enormous conical gaping maw and he's tossing a pancake up into it.
Again, who are you and how dare you post images from my DeviantArt account?

You know the short’s something when I’m pondering things like that. Most of my notes are stray random odd bits. Like, Popeye subscribes to Popeye Popular Mechanics? You might think they didn’t micro-target subscribers like that back in the day, but remember, this is the era when the Saturday Evening Post decided to improve its fortunes by cancelling all subscriptions from people with undesirable zip codes. Somehow this plan turned out to be stupid and failed.

Anyway, Popeye builds Mac the Mechanical Man. There’s some spare parts left over, a thing I expected to set up mischief. I’m still not sure it didn’t. Mac, ordered to clean, pops a washer-woman’s hat out of its head and then goes ballet-dancing around the room. Ordered to cook, Mac pops a chef’s hat out and makes pancakes the traditional way: using bullets and pouring oil on them to light them on fire. It’s a bit daft. I’m not clear it’s supposed to be the fault of the leftover parts. I guess Mac was trying to make crepes suzette after all, even after being told Popeye wanted “flapjacks”, both things that were not on Mac’s menu-board chest.

A robot wearing a chef's hat, with long 'French' moustaches, shoots a gun at a bucket full of pancake batter on the stovetop.
Literally me any time I have to cook something that involves, like, a fifth step.

I’m curious why Mac doesn’t speak. It’s not like they were afraid of having Jack Mercer or, especially, Jackson Beck double up voices. Maybe it was to keep Mac a bit alien. If he’s joking around with Popeye (you know he’d be joking around with Popeye) then Brutus coming in and rewiring him to be Evil is darker stuff. Still, Mac’s got an expressive face, and he acts flamboyantly, more alive than anyone else in the short. Maybe giving him a voice would let him too completely take over the short.

So Brutus remembers he’s not in this short, and comes in to set Mac on a rampage. But why? I guess to give the cartoon a climax. Jokes of Mac doing some household chore all weird are fine, but shapeless. On the other hand, it’s not as if Coyote-and-Road-Runner cartoons have a storyline, or as if we like the cartoons where there is. It’s a measure of how slight Brutus’s role is that he and Popeye never directly confront each other. It’s not until after Mac has shot the bomb back at Brutus (somehow having worked out that it’s dangerous?) that Popeye even knows Brutus is here today. There’s no spinach either, or mention of it apart from Mac’s menu board. I wonder if Grant and Schmidt wrote this up for any old cartoon character and wrote Popeye in when, say, the Beetle Bailey series didn’t have room for it. Or whether they made that for Beetle Bailey too. Close with Popeye happy at his mechanical servant and dreaming of Olive Oyl’s approval, and Mac going wild for that.

This cartoon seems like it ought to be boring. It sets up a premise, shuffles it around a bit more, then tosses in a bomb to bring it to an end. I wasn’t bored, though. The pacing was decent. Mac went about the housekeeping chores in weird ways, which made that worth watching. The animation drawing is … I’ll call it loose, to the point you can ask whether anyone drawing this had model sheets to refer to. But I’ll take loose and weird-looking. I may not agree with whatever Popeye is doing with his lips at about 13:52 there, but I agree he has the right to do it. It puts life into what’s otherwise a dead scene.

Norm Feuti’s _Retail_ comic strip is ending


Anyone who took my advice to read Norm Feuti’s Retail likely suspected this was coming. The comic strip, following the life and careers of workers in a department store, had a story about this being maybe a make-or-break holiday season. And then Stuart, the fussy regional micromanager, just … disappeared. It was so out of character as to suggest the world was ending.

Scott: 'You don't think it's possible that Stuart got fired?' Marla: 'Nah, people like Stuart never get fired. Grumbel's prizes blind loyalty above all else. Sycophants who go with the flow and pretend everything is great keep their job forever.' Scott: 'At least until the place goes bankrupt.' Marla: 'Which leads me to my next theory.'
Norm Feuti’s Retail for the 16th of January, 2020. Marla, here, had started as the assistant store manager (Stuart was the full manager). She’d had ambitions of opening her own boutique, which faded out after she was promoted to full manager. It’s not been mentioned (that I remember) in years. The workday life of putting off ambitions until you forget you had them was a running motif in the strip. It’s one of the small things, rarely drawing attention to itself, which I admired for emotional reality.

So it is: Norm Feuti announced that he’s retiring the strip. The last installment’s to run Sunday, the 23rd of February. He’s found more opportunities in children’s books and is focusing on that instead. He intends to secure a digital archive of the strip and will announce that when it has a place. I’ll try to remember to pass that news on.

I’m saddened by the news, of course. Not just for the loss of any comic. But also that Feuti drew strips with a quite good blend of daily humor and running continuity. This and his (mostly) ended Gil paid attention to working-class and even poor people, without (to my eye) ever getting snide or condescending about people’s lives. They looked at the people who are the marginal characters in other comic strips, and it’s a shame to lose those.

(Gil still runs as a Sunday comic in the Providence (RI) Journal and on Feuti’s blog. I have no reason to think Feuti will revive Retail as a Sunday or web comic, but would read it if he did.)

2020 has already been a rough year for the syndicated comics. Terri Libenson’s The Pajama Diaries (another King Features comic) ended, and Peter Guren decided he’s done every Ask Shagg comic he cares to.

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Is Sophie Parker running away from home? October 2019 – January 2020


So first, the most astounding news about Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker: Norton has not appeared in the past three months. Almost four months, now, unless there’s a surprise coming in Sunday’s strip. Anyway, all my Judge Parker essays should be at this link, including whatever plot recaps I write after (likely) April 2020. If it’s much past mid-January 2020 when you read this, you might get a more useful plot recap there. Also, Sophie has not yet run away, and has made statements to imply she’s not. But the groundwork is there.

Judge Parker.

27 October 2019 – 19 January 2020.

Neddy Parker and Ronnie Huerta finally got a call back on their screenplay, last I checked in. It’s based on the super-hyper-ultra-duper-spy nonsense of April Parker, who helped them out, at the point of a gun. This seems harsh, but it is the most efficient way to get someone to actually write. Ellen Nielson, tech-billionaire-daughter with an indie movie studio, wants a meeting.

Neddy: 'I don't believe this is happening!' Ronnie: 'Is this the life of a rich white person? Just when you hit an obstacle someone comes in to possibly offer you even more money?' Neddy: 'I ... I wouldn't put it like that!' Ronnie: 'Don't get me wrong! This is one time I'm happy for all your advantages because we're in it together!'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 1st of November, 2019. Among the traits of Marciuliano’s tenure on Judge Parker is self-awareness of his writing styles and of the assumptions built into the strip. Under Woody Wilson people were going crazy throwing money at the Parker-Spencer clan, to the point that I am not sure if it wasn’t a running joke.

Back in Cavelton, Sophie Parker finally talks some with Honey Ballinger. She’s one of the classmates and bandmates from that bizarre kidnapping by Sophie’s mother’s half-sister. Honey had escaped the kidnappers who got Sophie and the rest of the band. They’re both having trouble thinking college or anything makes any sense. But they’re able to start trying to be friends. They had not got along so well before the kidnapping and can’t think of a reason why, now.

Also in Cavelton: Abbey’s notion of running a little bed-and-breakfast has proved unworkable. A practical one involves renovating the horse barns into a small hotel. I have not been able to figure what they’re doing with the horses. (Also I have recently seen a bed-and-breakfast which was not made of someone’s oversized home, or made to look like one. So while I don’t get a bed-and-breakfast that seems like it’s just a hotel, I can’t say it’s wrong.) This forces Sam Driver out of his barn office. But he thinks it might be good for him to have an office somewhere near the people who have law work that needs doing off-panel. Rents are steep; turns out Cavelton is gentrifying out from under everyone. Anyway, the barn renovations get under way, then stop, then cost more. It’s a process that makes you wonder if Francesco Marciuliano has been dealing with home renovations himself lately. Then you remember home renovations was a storyline in Francesco Marciuliano and Jim Keefe’s Sally Forth last year. So you stop wondering. Then you remember in the Sally Forth story the work was done as scheduled and without surprise charges or anything. So you wonder again. Look, if you’re not using your creative expression to vent about stuff that bothers you, what are you doing?

Neddy: 'So you want to hire us as story consultants for the series?' Nielson: 'You know the relationships between the character. For example, what would April say about our take on all this?' Neddy: 'She'd kill us for straying from her intended goal for this script.' Ronnie :''Us'? I barely know her! I mean I know a lot about her! I have valuable insight into her character, too!' Nielson: 'See, it's that friendship/fear angle that will sell this!'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 29th of November, 2019. Thing is, Nielson is not wrong. … So, in the early 50s Isaac Asimov wrote a couple novels set in the Galactic Empire. And in each of them, there’s a moment in which the Antagonist reviews what he knows about what the Protagonists are doing and concludes, it doesn’t make sense. He goes on to construct an alternate plot, one that fits the facts, and one that does make sense by his lights. And the thing is, it makes more sense by the reader’s lights too. It’s a curious bit of self-commentary and premise deconstruction there, as here.

Sophie and Honey get together and start playing a little music. Sophie talks of Neddy’s screenwriting dream and how great that’s going. And how is it going? Ellen Nielson thinks their screenplay is a disaster, but there’s a good idea in it. Nielson sees it as a miniseries, with them as story consultants. Neddy and Ronnie see themselves getting murdered by April for straying from their directions. So that’s a downside. But, hey, it’s a sold credit. It’ll be something great for them to talk about over Christmas with the rest of the Parker-Spencer-etc family.

[ Ronnie and Neddy bring their luggage to the guest cottage. ] Ronnie: 'Meant to ask. Marie, back at the main house, isn't she ... ' Neddy: 'Yeah, the one who was accused of murdering her husband after their wedding until they found out he had faked his own death, joined the mob, had his old business partner murdered, and tried to stalk Marie.' Ronnie: 'I was going to say isn't she the one who helped look after you when you were younger, but wow.' Neddy: 'Ask me about anyone in this house and you'll probably wind up with the same reaction.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 14th of December, 2019. “I mean, especially since Marciuliano took over the writing but, yeah, this strip has been going on since, like, Alben Barkley was vice president so there’s a lot of backstory here.”

As the barn renovations embody the sunk-cost fallacy everyone gathers for Christmas. Neddy’s happy to introduce Ronnie to everyone. And to see everyone. Sophie is the happiest that any human being has ever been that Neddy’s back. Sophie spills her plan to skip college for a year or two and figure stuff out. Ronnie had done something similar, leaving college after a few semesters. Sophie latches onto this with an eagerness that Ronnie wisely tries to temper.

With Neddy’s support, Sophie explains to her parents that she won’t be going to college right after high school. This goes well, for soap-strip readers, because it’s a nice messy disaster. While Abbey fumes about Sophie’s irrationality, Sophie packs to run away to Los Angeles and live with Neddy. Neddy tries to talk her way, way back from this. She explains Abbey’s fears and needs, and also that Neddy’s actually only using Ronnie’s apartment so there’s not really a place for her.

Meanwhile, Judge (ret) Alan Parker is thinking of running for mayor. Being in prison has let him recognize the carceral state as the great threat to society it is. And yes, the mayor of Cavelton has limited ability to effect the prison abolition we need. But he can do something. And he’s noticed the failings in the social support network. He’s recognized how the gentrification of Cavelton is hurting the people who made their lives in the town. He’s got a flipping account on Mastodon. There’s a 35% chance the words “fully-automated luxury gay space communism” have passed his lips within the past four weeks. The plan is daft, and everyone tells Parker it is. Among other things, he was in jail to about three months ago for helping his son-in-law fake his death. He only got out because said son-in-law blackmailed-or-worse a judge. He promises to at least not run for public office without talking with his son.

Alan Parker: 'My time in prison changed me. And now that I'm out I can see how our town is changing, not for the better. Rents are going up. People are being forced out by expensive condos and specialty shops. Social programs are being cut. This town is making its money and losing the people who made it.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 16th of January, 2020. Alan, you were in jail for like eight days, relax a little. … Also, jeez, that line about Alben Barkley really shows why I am such a niche writer, doesn’t it? You know, Barkley was the vice-president for whom the nickname “Veep” was coined. When Nixon took his office he didn’t want to appropriate his predecessor’s nickname. Also, Nixon lived his entire life without ever having a moment of whimsy or joy. I CAN’T STOP MYSELF FROM WRITING LIKE THIS. SEND HELP.

And this is where we are. It’s been three months of developing the running stories, without any major crazy new developments. It’s been almost tranquil, compared to the cycles of blowing things up and then retrenching. It’s still daft that Alan Parker thinks running for mayor would be a good idea.

Next Week!

Has The Amazing Spider-Man “returned” with some “great new stories and art” yet?’ Well, as of today it’s still reruns of Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s stories from a couple years back, but I’ll recap that if there’s no breaking news there. Also, I’ve got comic strips to discuss on my mathematics blog. You might like that too. I do.

Statistics Saturday: Number Of Times I’ve Seen Builders Tea Since I Bought That One Box In 2015


This refers to a box of Builders Tea that I got in March of 2015.

Total

0.

In Detail

Year Sightings of Builders Tea
2015 (March-Dec) 0
2016 0
2017 0
2018 0
2019 0

Not included: 2020 figures owing to incompleteness of the year.

Reference: The Panic Broadcast: The Whole Story of Orson Welles’ Legendary Radio Show Invasion From Mars, Howard Koch.

A Reason They Did Not Treat Me Like That In Middle School


So it’s not that I did not have problems with the premise of The Fly. I had exactly the problem anyone would think of regarding it: if the transporter pod will merge Seth Brundle with the fly that’s in there, why would it not also merge Brundle with the many microorganisms in the air and in his body? And microorganisms necessarily in his body, that couldn’t be handled by a sterile transporter pod environment? But no, the thing is that this movie came out the summer after I was done with middle school. Yes, I was as done with middle school as it is possible to be. But I escaped having this be a reason people treated me in middle school like that for the second-best of possible reasons.

Some Reasons Everybody Treated Me Like That In Middle School


I’ve had some time this week to sit in a room with no particular expectations or Wi-Fi and so that’s got me all introspective. So this is going to be hard. I’ve gotten around to thinking of my middle school experience. Here are some things that, on reflection, I think contributed to that whole scenario.

So you know there was a Pac-Man cartoon in the early 80s, where Pac-Man and Pac-Family hang around Pac-Land, occasionally eating ghosts and sometime getting chopmed by them. So, there was this episode where the Ghosts got their hands on the Pac-Space-Shuttle. Unless that was the Space-Pac-Shuttle. Honestly not sure at this remove. Anyway, they harvest all the Pac Pellets in the world from off the Pac-Trees. They flew this whole load to, I believe, the Pac-Moon. I know what you’re thinking and no, I was not bothered that the Pac-Space-Pac-Shuttle might land on the Pac-Moon. It would be a gross presumption of us to suppose that the design limits of our space shuttle necessarily apply to the Pac-Space-Pac-Shuttle-Pac in this fictional universe, however much they seem superficially similar. (Oh, this is helping me see why other bloggers treat me like that.) No, what bothered me is that in the face of this Pac-Pellet shortage caused by the world harvest being stolen, Pac-Man, in space, eats the entire contents of the Space-Shuttle-Pac, every power pellet in the world, all at once, when we’d seen in other episodes that one was enough for him to chomp ghosts. Two, if he needed to be really confident in his ghost-eating powers. And that is what bothered me: this unnecessary gluttony would make the power pellet shortage continue for at least a full growing season. And these Pac-Pellets are the fruits of Pac-Trees. This is going to screw up geenrations of trees to come. I was very cross with Pac-Man over this.

On the evening news they would always talk about what the New York Stock Exchange had done that day. And yet they never mentioned the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, which I supposed had to exist, or Los Angeles or San Francisco or anywhere else. Yes, I grew up in the New York metro area so of course the local stock market might be of interest but this injustice extended to the national news, and surely there must be some days that, like, the Saint Louis Stock Exchange had the most exciting stock-related exchanging going on.

[ I would like to emphasize that I am not reading my current weirdness back into the young me. These are as best as I am able reconstructions of thoughts I had in the mid-80s. ]

According to the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons manual if exactly the right things lined up you could just be a vapor, forever, and everyone would just have to let you play like that.

So in South River, New Jersey, there was this liquor store, and its sign was this representation of beloved drunk neighbor Thirsty from the beloved comic strip Hi and Lois. And I thought it was wild and belovable that in all the world we happened to be not too far off from the world’s only Hi and Lois-themed liquor store. And wondered at how much money must have changed hands for Thirsty’s Liquor to be set up in this really very average beloved Middlesex County town.

Also every power pellet in the Pac-World fit into one Space-Pac-Shuttle Cargo-Pac-Bay? Space shuttles aren’t that big.

Sure, we all have urged the rain rain to go away and come again some other day. But why was there no chant to urge the rain to come today, when nothing particularly needing dry conditions is going on, and thereby forestall rain coming some inconvenient later date? We need a certain amount of rain per year and there’s no good reason not to rush to get that done when the day’s already all wet.

While I do not think this very incomplete list justifies the whole of my middle school experience I am forced to admit that, yeah, everybody kind of had a point there.

The Tea Wants My Attention


I may have mentioned that I like to drink tea. If I haven’t mentioned that I like to drink tea, let me mention that I like to drink tea here: I like to drink tea. So I hope we’re all caught up here. This past week I’ve been drinking tea from work, from the office. They got the tea from … somewhere … somehow. I don’t know. The tea bags, though, have these little tabs trying to be entertaining, and I’m fascinated. Oh, there’s some of mere usual ones, like the warning that minds and parachutes function only when open. But then there’s pieces like this:

Among economics, the real world is often a special case.

OK. If that doesn’t wow you, though, try this:

Pawn shops are loan-ly places.

It’s no Kabibble Kabaret, I admit, since it doesn’t openly hate women. And yet the tea just keeps on giving, for example:

Dressmakers treated customers ruff in the 16th century.

If that hasn’t got you acknowledging the existence of a joke, please consider this one:

Indolent philosopher: Mr I Can’t.

I would not dare speak for you. But for me, I wish to read all of these aloud, imitating whoever it is Saturday Night Live had in the 1980s to imitate Gene Shalit. And, at the end of each reading, saying loudly, “Wink!” while wincing half of my face in a way that suggests I know the concept of a wink but haven’t figured out how to do it myself. Anyway I don’t know how long these tea bags will hold out, but they certainly inspire in me the thought: huh.

60s Popeye goes to … Haweye? … Popeye Haweye. All right. We’ll try this.


I don’t know how many animation teams Jack Kinney had working for these many 60s Popeye cartoons. It’s clearly enough that I should be paying attention to directors, though. The cartoon for this week has Hugh Fraser listed as the animation director, and story by Raymond Jacobs. Both the animation and the story feel quite different to other Jack Kinney cartoons. This is how we work out secrets of how the cartoons were made, sixty years later. From 1960, it’s Popeye in Haweye.

This starts with a nice stylish title card. A lot of these do. The style carries into the short, though, with this enormous plane and double-deck windows. And then, uh, uh, some Hawai’ian women tossing leis onto tourist Olive Oyl. So that’s how far into the cartoon I was before feeling really uncomfortable. This lasted a second and then we were on to the next beat, introducing Popeye and Brutus as rival tour guides. There’s also a mob of other tour guides, and there’s a rare bit of overlapping dialogue. Before Olive Oyl can even see what’s going on the tour guides are all beating each other up.

It’s abrupt, and the cartoon trusts the viewer to work out why the fight even started. I didn’t expect that. I expect cheap made-for-tv cartoons of the era to be ruthlessly expository. It’s cheap, for the air time filled, for the characters to explain the setup to each other. And it avoids the audience, young kids watching on lousy sets, from being confused. It’s packed.

Olive Oyl, laying back on a pillow on a small sailboat, holding an orchid up so that it looks like a mustache and mouth on an extended snout.
One thing you can say for this cartoon: it is not short of funny moments to screen grab. Olive Oyl on Brutus’s plane particularly has all sorts of peculiar head shapes to marvel at.

Popeye and Brutus are the surviving tour guides, and Olive Oyl agrees to go on both tours but pay for the better. (This cartoon would be totally different if there were a second tourist on the plane.) Brutus wins the coin toss, and it’s underplayed that he uses a two-headed coin. Olive Oyl’s first tour is a breakneck run through all the parts of Hawai’i that don’t have people in them. Then a race onto the plane to dive, among other things, through a volcano. Then to a tandem bike ride past orchids. And before you know it the tour’s over, with Brutus arguing that the tour is great because there is so much of it. I concede the logic.

Popeye’s tour is slow and gentle. It’s impossible to argue that he isn’t the better guide, if nothing else for matching the tour to what his customer wants. It makes me wonder what Brutus’s tours are like when he isn’t infatuated with the customer. There’s a fight, motivated apparently because the cartoon has to end with a fight. But Popeye’s spinach comes form eating Olive Oyl’s lei, an act so weird that she comments on it. Somehow the arbitrariness of that cuts the arbitrariness of this fight at this moment in a way that makes both better. One punch and Brutus goes buoncing off into a luau, for a moment of serious cringe. And Popeye and Olive Oyl have a moonlight date.

The story’s simple. But it moves economically. Maybe even too fast, but that serves the plot well. I’m surprised by how well the whole thing fits together. The animation is also … well, I don’t blame you if you think it’s sloppy. To me, it looks loose and active, like the characters are bouncing. It’s a good energy.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Did Chet Ballard get his comeuppance yet? October 2019 – January 2020


If you’re reading this after about April 2020 there’s probably a more current plot recap for Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp at this link. If you’re reading this in about January 2020, please carry on.

Gil Thorp.

21 October 2019 – 12 January 2020.

The standings at the end of last quarter, back in football season. Chet Ballard doesn’t see why his stepson Charlie Roh isn’t getting more play time. He’s also overheard Chance Macy, who is getting more play time, talk with his grandparents about whether he’s “blowtop mad”. He wants to know what the heck that means, but heck if my essay helped him much. It means uncontrollably mad, the kind of mad that makes you a danger. And why it is Coach Gil Thorp favors the guy who doesn’t fumble so much. Luckily, though, Chet Ballard is also head of the Milford school board, so he can look up Chance Macy’s Permanent Record.

Macy’s Permanent Record reveals a lot of behavior issues, and time at a “special school for problem kids”. Ballard’s wife points out, how is this his business again? Carol Other School Board Person points out there are privacy laws in this state. Ballard agrees to give it a rest. By “a rest” he means “a call to Milford Local Newspaper reporter Marjie Ducey”. Ducey doesn’t see where Macy’s history belongs in the newspaper. Local Newspaper hasn’t carried Gil Thorp since that Left Behind guy stopped writing it. But she wonders about the strange voice mail.

Gil Thorp: 'Legally, I probably shouldn't be telling you all this, so don't turn me in. Poor Chance said, 'I'm sorry I'm a bad teammate, but who'd want to hurt me?'' Mimi Thorp: 'That sad, sweet child.' Gil: 'And the fact is, he's a great teammate. But he doesn't believe it.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 2nd of November, 2019. I choose to believe Neal Rubin is making a wry and self-aware comment in a story that’s built entirely on professionals disregarding a student’s privacy.

Thorp goes to Macy’s home to share what he knows about this leak. Macy takes the news well, but worries about who would want to harass him like this. At the game against Madison, Macy steps aside with an ankle injury, giving Charlie Roh a touchdown. Gil Thorp overheard Ballard saying “all the yards, none of the baggage”, and has his idea who called in the Chance Macy story. Marjie Ducey and Education reporter Niah Peters try to figure out who made the call, but there’s few good leads to follow.

So Chet Ballard, needing to do something dumb, goes to the dumb expert, sports radio broadcaster Marty Moon. He shares his concerns about “irregularities” with one of Thorp’s players. While he does this, Marjie Ducey visits Carol Other School Board Person and learns her last name is Forsman. Also that Chet Ballard was telling people about Chance Macy’s Permanent Record. The reporters ask Superintendent Howard Elston to check this out. The Superintendant asks the IT guy to check if Ballard accessed Chance Macy’s records. The IT guy points out Ballard didn’t delete his browser history and there you are.

To Ducey, Ballard declares that he didn’t do it, and besides he had to do it. So the story comes out: a Milford school board member inappropriately accessed a Permanent Record. And left a weird throaty voice message at the paper. And this anonymized version is the hit scandal of the season. Superintendent Elston is not amused by any of this, especially when he works out that Ballard wanted his stepson more play time. Roh figures out that the unnamed board member was his stepfather. Marty Moon figures out that Ballard’s “concerns” were concern-trolling. And when Marty Moon sees through your scheme, you’re through. Ballard resigns from the school board.

Mrs Roh-Ballard: 'Next time I tell you not to do something stupid, you're going to listen. Right? Good. And you're going to apologize to Chance Macy *and* your stepson.' Chet Ballard: 'But I was only trying to --- ' Mrs Roe-Ballard: 'Catch up, pal. No one cares.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 2nd of December, 2019. Ballard does listen, and apologizes to the people he’s hurt with his selfishness. So this puts a Gil Thorp character one up on four real-life people I had counted as close friends for twenty years.

Roh apologizes to Macy. And Macy accepts, because he knew nobody in high school could care about the school board. Roh offers to treat him to a celebration of the season at local teen hangout The Bucket. (This on Ballard’s credit card, which he really had no choice but to lend.) Macy points out he’s not good with loud and packed places. Roh suggests, you know, a quiet celebration at Ricozzi’s. So all ends well enough, except for Chet Ballard.


The new and current story started the 9th of December, with the trials of Alexa Watson. She had a perfectly good name when she was born seventeen(?) years ago. Now it’s a menace. She’d use her middle name except that’s “Siri”. And her mother’s maiden name is “OK Google” so she’s got nowhere to go.

Chris: 'Yeah, Teddy Demarco is a pain, but why add to his problems?' Friend: 'That's a very mature attitude, Chris.' Other friend: 'But I'd still stuff him in a trash can.' [ On the court, conversely ] Thorp: 'One good thing we've seen is more aggression from Chris Schuring.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 20th of December, 2019. Also, like, Teddy’s harassment this time was pointing out how Chris could have averaged four points per game, like he did last season, without even showing up. So Chris probably realizes that Teddy will spend his adult life realizing he was a fantastically incompetent school bully.

Anyway, she has a sympathetic friend, Phoebe Keener, who’s outgrown that unicorn and joined the girls basketball team. Phoebe’s rebuffing the greetings of Chris Schuring, her rival for valedictorian. Schuring, a slight member of the boys basketball team, gets mocked by Teddy Demarco and his friends, but won’t take that bait. Instead he puts it all into being aggressive enough on the basketball court that Coach Thorp notices. He misses a last-second shot against Springfield, but it’s close. In parallel, Watson is playing well but not quite well enough. So both Thorps have been thinking about how to coach their players.

And that’s where the story is: Schuring and Keener are academic rivals. She takes it more seriously than he does. Demarco is mocking Schuring. Schuring’s putting his response into his practice games instead. And Alexa Watson sometimes goes half a day without getting a joke about her names. How will all this tie together? Too soon to say. Come back around April, most likely, and we’ll have a better idea.

Milford Schools Watch

Of course, Milford is not anywhere; it is every high school, everywhere, except that they say “playdowns” there. But we do know there are other schools around it. Here’s the ones that have recently been named, usually in the course of competition:

Next Week!

How much of everything has happened in Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker since October? I’ll try and reveal how much next week. And if you’re just interested in comic strips mentioning mathematical topics, please try my other blog even this week. Thanks for reading.

Statistics Saturday: One Year Represented As One Year


January

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Continue reading “Statistics Saturday: One Year Represented As One Year”

Statistics December: How The Last Month Treated My Humor Blog


I like taking some time near the start of any month to look at what my readership is like. I would have liked to get to it earlier this month but I haven’t had the time to think, much less write. I’d also like to know why I like doing this. Well, I know why I usually like it. Usually the statistics tell me that I’m quite popular with a select group of people and that’s nice to see. December 2019, though? … well, not so much.

It’s an exaggeration to say this was a plummet. But there were “only” 3,064 page views around here in December. That’s about three-quarters what there were in November. It’s a fair bit below the twelve-month running average of 3,545.7 views per month. Looking at the number of views per posting seems less dire, even though there were more posts in December than in November. There were 98.8 views per posting in December, below the running average of 116.5 views per posting. This seems less dire because there are more decimal points in it.

Bar chart of several years' worth of readership figures. After several months of increase December 2019 sees a drop to near June 2019's level.
Boy, the end of Apartment 3-G was a long time ago, wasn’t it?

There was a roughly identical drop in the number of unique visitors. There were 1,760 logged unique visitors in December 2019, below the twelve-month running average of 2,034.3. Per post, that’s 56.8 unique visitors, below the average of 66.8. If there’s any bright spots to this it’s in the things that measure engagement. There were 104 things liked in December, a rise from November’s total of 92, and getting closer to the running average of 145.7. This is 3.4 likes per posting, still fairly below the 4.8 likes per posting average. The number of comments was up, though, with 21 received in December. That’s the greatest number since June, and is not that far below the twelve-month running average of 25.0. It’s also an average of 0.7 comments per posting, below but near the average of 0.8.

There were 420 posts, besides my home page, that got any views at all in December. That’s down from November’s 446. 159 of these pages got only a single view, which basically matches November’s 150 and October’s 162. The most popular pieces were nothing posted this December, it happens:

Those last three make me think I need to do something optimizing about my comic strip plot recap posts. My most popular long-form essay for the month was also a new one, Some Books You Can Get Me For Christmas. I’m quite happy about this because I really, really liked this piece and I’m glad other people do.

I plan to keep doing long-form essays every Thursday evening, Eastern Time, until someone likes them. I also plan to keep doing What’s Going On In Story Strips essays, normally posted Sunday evenings. My planned schedule, barring breaking news or other urgent developments, for the next few weeks is this:

65 countries or country-like entities sent me views in December. That’s down from November’s 74 and October’s 76. I thought last month I had found a level, and see where that’s got me. There were 13 single-view countries, down from November’s 15 and October’s 23. Here’s the full list of them:

Mercator-style map of the world with the United States in darkest red, and much of South America, Europe, South Asia, and Australia and New Zealand in a more uniform pink. A few African countries have also sent readers.
Yeah but seriously, is there anybody in Greenland? If you know anybody who’s going to Greenland could you ask them to send me just one page view so I know the system is working? Thank you.
Country Readers
United States 2,206
India 118
Canada 103
European Union 98
Philippines 91
Australia 62
United Kingdom 47
Sweden 44
France 26
Germany 25
Finland 21
Spain 17
Malaysia 14
Turkey 14
Brazil 13
South Africa 12
Netherlands 11
Italy 8
Denmark 7
Poland 7
Greece 6
Singapore 6
Taiwan 6
Ukraine 6
Croatia 5
New Zealand 5
Portugal 5
Russia 5
Colombia 4
Israel 4
Japan 4
Argentina 3
Czech Republic 3
Hong Kong SAR China 3
Ireland 3
Mexico 3
Romania 3
Serbia 3
Slovenia 3
United Arab Emirates 3
Angola 2
Austria 2
Bangladesh 2
Ecuador 2
Hungary 2
Norway 2
Pakistan 2
South Korea 2
Switzerland 2
Thailand 2
Vietnam 2
Zambia 2
Belgium 1
Cayman Islands 1
Chile 1
Iceland 1
Indonesia 1
Jamaica 1
Kazakhstan 1
Kenya 1
Lebanon 1 (*)
Macedonia 1 (**)
Nigeria 1 (*)
Peru 1
Slovakia 1

Lebanon and Nigeria were single-view countries in November. Macedonia’s been a single-view country three months running now.

I figure to do a review of all 2019 sometime later, most likely in 2020. But I can share some things. In December I posted 16,820 words altogether, for an average of 542.6 words per posting. That’s below the 2019 year’s average of 563 words per post. From the start of this blog to the start of 2020 I’d had 2,526 postings, which got altogether 151,278 views from 84,297 unique visitors.

I’m happy to have you as a regular reader. You can add https://nebushumor.wordpress.com/feed/ to your RSS reader. If you don’t have an RSS reader you can create one by using the Reading/Friends page on a free Dreamwidth or Livejournal account. Or if you’d like to show up in my statistics you can use the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button that’s on this page too. And I have an account on Twitter as @Nebusj which posts announcements of new pieces, although I haven’t got around to getting back into the account. For whatever reason Safari stopped letting me read Twitter and I haven’t had energy to protest this anywhere useful. But thanks for reading this here, at a minimum.

My Question To You, And My Windshield Wiper


I haven’t shared any automotive fiascos with you in a while. So here’s one. It started with my replacing the windshield wipers on my love’s car. It was meant as the smallest surprise nice little possible. My love was kind of aware this was coming, since I’d bought the blades a week or two before and never got around to installing them. These were the Rain-X Quantum windshield wipers, so named because they come in discrete and indivisible units, as opposed to those continuous wipers you get from other makers.

So our first rainy day out my love had a good question: what was that little floppy thing coming loose on the driver-side windshield wiper? By the time I figured out what my love was pointing at, and come to guess that it was something we didn’t really need, it had flown off onto the highway. In my defense we went on through two hours of driving in mild rain before things got any worse.

We were off in the middle of nowhere after 11 pm on a Sunday night when things got worse. This worse was the wiper blade coming loose. So we figured to stop at the next thing we could stop at, which took about twenty minutes to reach. This would be the driveway of a volunteer fire department, where there was a sign not to park there, but they had an overhang and everything and I mean, who’s going to have a fire that close to midnight on a Sunday? Bear in mind, this was a small town. Folks there know their volunteer fire department and wouldn’t go having a fire at that hour. Anyway there I could swap the loose wiper on the driver’s side for the solid wiper on the passenger’s side, and I know what you’re thinking: what, doesn’t the passenger want to see through the rain too? Well, I was the passenger and I’ll tell you, this rain looked like a rerun to me.

Still, we needed a new wiper and the obvious place to get one after midnight on a Sunday was Meijer’s, which you can find in Michigan (where we were) by going 750 feet in any direction. Except in this stretch of western Michigan where, again, nothing was but us and the volunteer fire department. The satellite navigator said if we drove close enough to Grand Rapids, where Meijer’s is headquartered by the way, we’d find one on Alpine Avenue. But we were heading to Grand Rapids, on Alpine Avenue. And twenty minutes later we got to the spot where no Meijer’s existed or showed any sign of ever existing.

So I asked the satellite navigator for the next-nearest Meijer’s. This took us off Alpine Avenue, down I-96 away from home, and then into a bunch of small roads. There we found: Meijer’s Corporate Headquarters Complex. With, like, huge glass windows and a mural of old Meijer’s corporate logos and things like that. So that was great to see except that I was about 40% sure there was nowhere there we could exchange money for a product. There was another one a half-mile away, which turned out to be the regional distribution center. If I could have found the front door I’d have banged on it to ask what they have in windshield wipers. There would be no point to this.

Next search: since “places to shop named Meijer’s” wasn’t working I searched for “Meijer Pharmacy”, and this time it lead us to a Meijer’s with a pharmacy and open doors and windshield wipers for sale and everything. It’s back on Alpine Avenue again. So I marched in and got the 21-inch blade we needed. Then marched out, after paying (don’t think that won’t come back to fiasco on me), and the little plastic thing that came off on the original blade came off again, but right away this time.

So I marched back in to the Customer Service desk, which had been closed for two and a half hours. I went to the guy supervising the self-checkout lanes and he said exchanging the blade was no problem. I went back to grab a 19-inch blade, because the car took different sizes for the driver’s and passenger’s side. I can’t think of any reason why the 19-inch blade should work and the 21-inch doesn’t, but after two failures in a row? I also couldn’t think of any reason to care.

The supervisor guy noticed the blades were different sizes, though, and so he figured he needed to ring this up properly and we went to the Customer Service desk. There it turned out the new blade was cheaper than the old. This is because I didn’t get the Quantum blade, but instead a Rain-X Latitude, so named for its great scope to do things, most of them wipe-based. This was cheaper, though, so he had to refund me $3.80. Maybe it wasn’t $3.80, but whatever it was was at least as good. There wasn’t any money in the Customer Service desk, though, so he wanted to give me a gift card for the difference.

To do this he had to get the register to read the receipt, which the system said didn’t exist. He tried entering the transaction number manually, and the system agreed it didn’t exist. He figured he could ring this up as a receiptless exchange and refund and that I didn’t need to be part of figuring out the system’s problems. A good point. To do this he needed my driver’s license, to record whatever the heck it is they do. And then he swiped the gift card and the system didn’t want to do that. So he needed to take my driver’s license back and try it over again. I know what you’re thinking: no, he remembered to give me my license back before we got too far from the Customer Service Desk. Anyway this time the wiper went on, and it stayed on, lest I get out on I-96 and punch it.

A mile down the road I ask what I did with the old, defective blade when I took it off the car. We conclude I must have left it on the car hood and it’s now lost in the parking lot of a Meijer’s in Grand Rapids. It turns out the next day it’s just sitting in that space between the car hood and the windshield, protected by the wiper arms.

Grant the fiasco nature of this, or as they say in the trades is fiascosity. My question: what the heck was all this about?

A Greeting


Oh, hello there, intrusive thought about that time in US History 1945 – Present (512:335) back in 1993 when I fumbled trying to make my point and came out sounding fantastically and even fanatically naive. How long has it been since you took over all my cognitive skills? Has it been four — no, no, you’re right, it’s only been three and a half hours. Good to see you again. Thanks. You’re going to be visiting through next Thursday? Great, great, really glad for that. Thanks.

60s Popeye: Searching for the Foola-Foola Bird (it’s easy to find)


New Year, new old Popeye cartoons to watch. It’s another Larry Harmon-produced cartoon here, this one written by Charles Shows. I don’t have him on record yet, but these records are still quite young things. Going in, I don’t expect great animation — again, see the Hal Sutherland/Lou Scheimer credits — but I’d expect a couple of interesting figures at least. And a solid story makes up for a lot of animation flaws. So here from 1960, it’s Foola-Foola Bird.

We open on a picnic that certainly doesn’t look at all like it’s setting up stock footage that could frame any story. I like the way they’ve drawn grass, though. Popeye and all are tuned to KPLOT-AM radio, where Jackson Beck is doing his Jim Backus impersonation. It’s an adequate way to set up the premise, if you don’t just want to have Popeye and Olive Oyl sailing to Foola-Foola Island and explaining the plot to each other.

The National Birdwatchers Society is offering a million dollars for a Foola-Foola Bird. Nobody says what they want it for, but, given the era … I mean, this was made before Rachel Carson proposed that covering the earth eight feet deep in neurotoxins to save the cost of road crews cutting brush back from highway signage was bad, actually. I have concerns about the well-being of any animals in captivity. But that’s outside the scope of the cartoon. Popeye knows where to find a Foola-Foola Bird: they’ll be on Foola-Foola Island. You’d think more people would try looking there. But I like that Popeye knows where to go. It suggests he’s picked up sailor’s lore, and I like when he gets to be a sailor.

There’s a neat little dissolve, between Brutus and a sneaking Popeye, at about 1:40. And then we get “the last” of the Foola-Foola Birds, although I don’t know how Popeye’s so sure this is the last of them. The bird’s pretty good at taking care of himself, at least.

Popeye does this cheery little song about how “I will fool-a the Foola-Foola bird”. I don’t know why I liked this so. It seems playful, like the way Jack Mercer’s improvised mutterings in the 30s did. I’m curious whether the line was written or whether Jack Mercer just spruced up a dull moment in the recording studio. Or replaced a boring line announcing what Popeye was doing with this.

The Foola-Foola Bird passes out when Popeye “scientifically” sprinkles salt on its tail. Why? I know the legend is that you catch a bird by sprinkling salt on its tail. But, like, I’ve seen every Woody Woodpecker cartoon and he was never taken by that, except when he was going along with a gag. Is the Foola-Foola Bird going along with Popeye’s nonsense to see if this leads anywhere interesting?

So after Popeye walks through the slowest snare trap in the world and gets caught, Brutus takes the Foola-Foola Bird, then drops it to tie up Olive Oyl. The Foola-Foola Bird gives Popeye his spinach, because … why? I’d like to think the Foola-Foola Bird has figured out the moral landscape here, but I don’t see that the bird has reason to. Popeye said he was going to give the Foola-Foola Bird a nice new home, but the bird already has a home.

There’s a perfunctory fight between Popeye and Brutus. If it counts as a fight when only one person throws a punch. And then we get Popeye and Olive Oyl sailing home, deciding to leave the Foola-Foola Bird alone: why? It’s a plausible change of opinion, yes, but why did either of them make it? One line of Olive Oyl regretting the trouble they’re causing the bird would carry a lot of work here. And give Olive Oyl a use in the cartoon. We have the cute ending that the bird’s followed along, and even dragged Brutus with him. Nice enough, although I don’t know why Popeye talks about the Foola-Foola Bird being there as if it were a problem.

So a question for me: why did the cartoon make up the Foola-Foola Bird? The Popeye lore already has the legendary and rare Whiffle Hen. Your tiring friend who wants to Well Actually things will tell you how the Whiffle Hen’s lucky feathers were the original source of Popeye’s indestructibility. There are King Features cartoons that feature the Whiffle Hen, a creature from the original comic strip. So I’m curious whether Charles Shows didn’t know about the Whiffle Hen, or didn’t think he could use it, or whether there was some draft where the Whiffle Hen would have been definitely wrong and something new had to be brought in.

The story makes sense, whether you’re a Whiffle Hen partisan or not. And Brutus talking so much about “getting the bird” or “giving me the bird” sure sounds like somebody was supposed to say something to camera. The animation is all rote stuff, though. There’s some good backgrounds, such as the first look at Foola-Foola Island, but nothing that moves looks all that interesting. It’s altogether a cartoon that’s all right.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan? Did Mindy give birth yet and who’s Aunt Tildy? October 2019 – January 2020


Hi, person looking to find out what’s going on in Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D.. This plot recap will get you up to speed for early 2020. If you’re reading this in or after April 2020 there’s probably a more up-to-date plot recap at this link.

Any old week, though, there’s likely fresh mathematically-themed comic strips reviewed on my other blog. Thanks for considering reading that.

Rex Morgan.

13 October 2019 – 5 January 2020.

Last time I checked in we were at the start of a new plot. Mindy Wise’s pregnancy had come to term. Also Mindy Wise was pregnant, to her and her husband’s surprise. She thought, given her polycystic ovarian syndrome, she couldn’t get pregnant. No; it was improbable is all.

The strip told Mindy’s pregnancy in flashback. There’s good reasons for this. The point of the story is that she had a difficult pregnancy, with many alarming incidents. The point was that her having a safe delivery was uncertain, and every incident made it less probable. If you suppose Terry Beatty is too kindhearted a writer to give a pleasant person like Mindy Wise (or Buck) a bad end, then none of this could work for you. If you remember he had Millie Gray die days after reconnecting with Hank Harwood, you’re less sure about how kind a world Beatty writes.

[Rex has met the doctors who ran tests on Mindy.] Rex: 'Let me try to summarize their findings. You're exhibiting some classic symptoms of pulmonary hypertension.' Mindy: 'And those are?' Rex: 'Your pulmonary pressure is high. Shortness of breath. Dizziness. *But* you don't have clubbing in your fingers or swollen ankles, and no chronic cough. So there's reluctance to diagnose this as pulmonary hypertension.' Mindy: 'So if it's not that, then what?' Rex: 'I suggest the best course is to proceed as if this is PH, and take all the precautions to keep you and the baby safe.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 3rd of November, 2019. So yes, this is some more of Rex Morgan not taking the lead in doing medicine in his own comic. But he is a family practitioner, after all, and is most plausibly able to explain what specialists know to a lay audience. Also I appreciate that the diagnosis is a confusing thing, with uncertain evidence. This reads as more real to me than a clear-cut case would be.

But also: why tell this in flashback? I believe because its events have to span about nine months of character time. This could be told in sequence, interspersed with other stories. But most of the recent Rex Morgan, M.D. stories have been things that span a couple of days. Maybe a few weeks for the Serena Galexia/Rene Belluso story. The incompetent coffee-shop robbery didn’t even take a day. Mister Cranky and the emergency plane landing took something like a week, from emergency to Rex Morgan getting his suitcase back.

Either Mindy’s pregnancy has to fit in incidents in-between stories for years of reader time or it has to be in flashback. Yes, it’s the same amount of character time since we last saw the Wises. If I haven’t missed something that was their Las Vegas Elvis wedding, in summer 2018. But most readers are forgiving. If you don’t force them to acknowledge an inconsistent timeline, they’re mostly not going to notice.

So, incidents. Mindy fell down stairs and had a small placental tear. With bed rest that healed up. They get back to normal, and Mindy goes back to work at the antiques shop. It doesn’t last: Mindy’s exhausted at work, and gets dizzy. There’s a battery of tests. The cardiologist believes that it’s pulmonary hypertension, but the evidence is inconclusive.

Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 19th of November, 2019. Actual footage of me guessing to my love that the windshield wiper probably didn’t actually need the part that just flew off while we were merging onto the Interstate. Spoiler: the windshield wiper did need that part.

Rex Morgan gives the summary. The safest course is to treat it as though it is pulmonary hypertension. Mindy is to have bed rest until the pregnancy comes to term. Also, no salt. Also, only lukewarm showers. And no standing for more than 15 minutes at a time. I could probably manage the no-salt diet but the rest of this sounds resolutely miserable to me, too. Also, it’ll be a caesarian section, as safer than a natural birth. Also, several ultrasounds a week.

Buck tries to stay positive and supportive. So does his son Corey. There’s still trouble, though. A late echocardiogram shows her heart’s swollen. The doctors recommend moving up the C-section. And that’s where we get to the start of the story’s frame. Rex Morgan isn’t part of the C-Section team, of course. He’s just there to provide moral support and exposition.

[The C-Section is under way!] Surgeon: 'Baby's coming out now. Mr Wise, you might want to get your camera ready.' Buck: 'Oh my!' Assistant: 'Here's your new baby girl.' Buck: 'You did it, honey. She's here!' (Takes a picture.) Mindy: 'Our girl.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 5th of December, 2019. By the way, this is the first that the Wises know the sex of their child; it had never given a clear sonogram despite the many examinations Mindy had during her troubled pregnancy. There had been some scenes of Buck trying to avoid thinking up names for the child, and that they didn’t know whether to anticipate a boy or girl was one point he used to not think about the question.

And then? You know what? It’s all pretty easy. The child’s delivered in a few days of reader time. Mindy’s blood pressure drops to normal, and her heart returns to normal size. The cardiologist supposes this was pregnancy-induced pulmonary hypertension. It’s not liable to be a lingering problem. This sounds to me like medical stuff, so I can’t dispute its plausibility. And now they can think of baby names. Mindy proposes Angela, and that’s that.


That, the 16th of December, wraps up Mindy’s pregnancy. The next story was Christmas with the Morgans. Young Sarah proposes getting a puppy. They have the one dog already, after all, so what’s one more? She presses this quite hard. Her parents resist for a few days, reader and character time, and then decide to adopt from the animal shelter. Sarah names the dog Candy.

Child's-style drawing of Sarah Morgan's Diary: 'We had a nice Christmas. Johnny's grandparents came to dinner. We got a LOT of presents. And we got a NEW PUPPY!' (Shows Sarah hugging a dog, surrounded by hearts.)
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 26th of December, 2019. Johnny is the Morgan’s other boy, adopted in a story in early 2018. Arnold and Helen are Johnny’s biological grandparents, who briefly contested the adoption before concluding they weren’t up to handling a new kid.

And the 29th of December starts the new adventure, as an explosively energetic woman arrives at the door. It’s June’s Auntie Tildy, come for the visit promised in the letter they never received. She’s not “really” June’s aunt. (I grew up with a lot of friends-of-my-parents dubbed aunt and uncle. A part of me can’t believe in people who try to pin these words down to specific blood relations.) She’s just one of those vague relations who’s having a more exciting life than the rest of us, and she’s here for … who knows how long, and for what purpose? We should have some idea by March. See you then.

Next Week!

So what does it mean if Chance Ballard ever got “blowtop mad”? What has the head of the school board found out about Coach Thorp? How’s the football season turning out? All this and more next week, I expect, when I look at Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp, barring surprises. And until then there’s recaps and news about all the story strips here.

Statistics Saturday: Some Fictional Municipalities


  • Klein, Pennsylvania
  • Braxton’s Glurge, Pennsylvania
  • Cadbury, Pennsylvania
  • Lansing, Pennsylvania
  • Vermont, Pennsylvania
  • Four Yoink, Pennsylvania
  • Paddlebonk Creek, Pennsylvania
  • Rowntree, Pennsylvania
  • Lesser Staple, Delaware
  • Josie and the Pussycats, Pennsylvania
  • Tweed, Pennsylvania
  • Other Hartford, Pennsylvania

Reference: European History 1648 to 1789,, R M Rayner.

Statistics 2010s: Top Words Cut From My Essays Of The Decade Just Passed


  • just
  • not to say it isn’t
  • really
  • almost
  • microphone
  • a sort of
  • somewhat
  • (really almost any 10% would improve things somewhat)
  • simply
  • heptic

Reference: Mind Partner and 8 Other Novelets From Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine, Editor Horace Gold.

Statistics 2010s: Ten Things Of The Decade Just Passed


  • August 22. everyone who had a part in this day, give yourselves a fresh round of applause without being unseemly about it.
  • Cheddar II: Cheddiest. From out of Nowhere, Connecticut, 06269, this new flavor, appearing in ouch-y sharp, dangerous in its pointedness, somewhat polyhedral, and mint, has taken over the world of cheese and opened up new avenues in being so much more than the inspirational cheddar that it’s not hard to see why old-fashioned cheddar is expected within the next two years to go the way of the original, almost forgotten ched.
  • once-in-shakespeare.com Where else but this scrappy new start-up can one get a convenient listing of all the words that appear in the canonical plays of William Shakespeare one time? Anyone can produce a list of all the words, just by shaking a collected edition on its side until the pieces fall out, but who’s going to take out the duplicates and grow new authors with them?
  • Raised Flooring. After years of drop-down ceilings being the cliche and overused answer to ways to make a room seem more claustrophobic we have this alternative. Unexpected bonuses include having more things to count while bored, and the improved sense of balance as people try to walk on those bar things from which the floor panels are hung. This will inspire grace in our walking like Groucho Marx if nothing else will.
  • How the English language has no solitary word for the feeling of uncertainty that accompanies thinking that one’s socks are damp when there’s no chance for taking one’s shoes off to check or to change them no matter how much we need a word for exactly this sensation. This single loss has saved millions of dollars and dozens of lines of newspaper type in just the past month. And think of all the people it’s inspired to try to buy less painful shoes. Yes, yes, you can put together a bunch of words to get the same sense across. It’s not the same.
  • Flatware. There is nothing which soothes the desperate need to buy flatware quite like flatware, and we should all be glad the flatware industry exists to satisfy this need. Be warned: much so-called flatware these days is not in fact flat, but extends into a third or even a fourth spatial dimension. If you have no choice but to purchase this imitation flatware do speak to the steamroller operator with whom you’re on good terms — you are on good terms with at least one steamroller operator, aren’t you? — to arrange for the appropriate enflattening.
  • March 10. Nobody’s saying it’s a patch on August 22, but it’s still really good all around and everybody deserves to take a bow for that too.
  • Adverbs. These sentence-stuffers had a great run and it’s a shame that we’re scheduled to lose them if the conversion to Modifiers.6 ever happens. Still, anyone who’s ever had to write to a specified word count has relied on their ability to be added to or removed from sentences and they will be missed, like when someone notices the `a’ or `an’ doesn’t match with the next word anymore.
  • Sriracha Automobiles. For the past fifteen years sriracha has been slipping almost unnoticed into everything, starting with sandwiches, then cooking shows, then books, then consumer electronics, and now into the important industries of Navy ships and personal automobiles. No one may know where sriracha comes from or what it intends, but we can be sure that it’s here and it’s unavoidable, and that with the proper setup it can be used for good or at least to not be so frightening, and that earns it a place on this list.
  • Simple Thermometers. Despite fears no important features of the weather developed into the imaginary and then the complex number plane. So despite the shortages in Complex Thermometers none were needed, except for that stretch in fall where the temperature became one of the principal roots of a heptic polynomial. But for the most part we got along just fine with the old-fashioned thermometers and isn’t that one of the ten things about the decade just finished?

Statistics 2010s: Top Albums of The Decade Just Passed


Because I bought more music in the period 2010 – 2019 than I did just in 2019 is why.

  • Wonderlijke Efteling Muziek, ride music from De Efteling amusement park, Kaatscheuvel, North Brabant, Netherlands.
  • Three Willow Park: Electronic Music from Inner Space (1961 – 1971), Raymond Scott
  • Ball N’ Chain, Big Mama Thornton
  • Nickelodeon Player Piano, recorded at Knoebels Amusement Park
  • The Spotniks Greatest Hits, The Spotniks
  • Ferrante and Teicher Greatest Hits, Ferrante and Teicher.
  • Top 100 Classics: The Very Best of Frank Crumit, Frank Crumit
  • The Snow Goose, Camel

Again, I’m sorry, I didn’t buy very much music overall. And yeah, again, that Frank Crumit album? It’s really 1910s through 1930s so if you like that era great but, you know, if you’re not really into Stephen Foster medleys because of how the lyric always seems to go, he’s got a couple Stephen Foster medleys.

Reference: Science from your Airplane Window, Elizabeth A Wood.