What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Did Judge Parker just reset everything? July – September 2020


No, Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker has not reset everything. But there were some plot threads that reached what seem to be points of returning-to-the-norm the past few months. I’ll describe, and this should get you up to speed for the end of September 2020. Later plot recaps, and any news about the strip which I get, should appear in essays at this link.

On my other blog I yesterday posted the Playful Math Education Blog Carnival #141. It’s a big listing of educational and recreational and playful mathematics writing, most of it not mine. Also a bunch of amusement park photographs which are mine. I hope that you enjoy. I also have an A-to-Z series, explaining one mathematics word for each letter in the alphabet. I hope to have the letter P represented tomorrow.

Judge Parker.

5 July – 26 September 2020.

Everybody in the Judge Parker cast had their plans cancelled or weirded by the pandemic, last we checked in. Fortunately, Very Stable Genius Mayor Phil Sanderson knew a way out: just reopen the town! The virus will have to be reasonable now that we’ve gotten bored sitting at home a lot! What could go wrong? Nothing, unless you listen to enemies of the people like Toni Bowen. So that gives Toni Bowen to talk about. Also for her to tell Sophie to back off from. She wants to run her own campaign.

TV Reporter: 'In the wake of what many are saying were troubling remarks from the Mayor, opposing candidate Toni Bowel has called her own press conference at her headquarters.' Bowen: 'People have asked me what I think of Mayor Sanderson's remarks. To which I can only answer, 'Do you honestly need to be told, even now?'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 9th of July, 2020. Personally, I think modern political discourse is under-applying the question “What exactly is wrong with you?”

And the TV show based on Neddy Spencer and Ronnie Huerta’s notes gets under way again. It’s all a little weird, especially as Ronnie sees again Kat, who’s playing Neddy on the show. Neddy’s also freaked out to meet Michelle, who’s playing Godiva Danube. Partly from memories and reevaluating her friendship with Godiva. Also because it’s a clue that the production is changing out from under them.

Mayor Sanderson meanwhile is mad. The local TV won’t apologize for running a poll showing Bowen surging. His staff won’t even remember to take their masks off in the office. But he is aware of Bowen’s weakness as a candidate. He calls Abbey Spencer, whose bed-and-breakfast plan, and renovations, were a fair idea for a money pit in normal times. During a shutdown? They’re a bleeding ulcer. Sanderson offers that he might be able to do her a favor. Since Sophie started the Bowen campaign, and Sam Driver supports it and used to date Bowen, this seems weird. But he offers: the campaign’s drawing a lot of coverage. Out-of-town reporters need to stay somewhere. Why not a place struggling but surviving thanks to a supportive local government?

Abbey, on the phone: 'You are not helping anyone but yourself, PHIL! You are the voice of no one but your crippling insecurity that fuels your rage that no one should speak but you! And I will make sure EVERYONE knows that!' Sanderson, hanging up: 'Ha ha. Of course you will ... '
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 7th of August, 2020. We haven’t yet really seen Abbey’s letting-everyone-know-that yet, by the way, nor have we seen Sanderson’s clever scheme at work. But we have the problem of seeing very little in-universe time even since mid-August.

The offer could hardly be better-designed to enrage Abbey. She promises to make sure everyone knows she’s on Team Bowen. Which Sanderson wants, in the first moment that makes him look like a skilled politician. Bowen’s weakness is that she can look like a tool of the Parker-Spencer-Driver clan.

Bowen’s got some good instincts, though, aware that this kind of unsolicited support can be trouble. She lays down the law to Sophie. If they want to support her, all right, but they have to know what she’s about. Which would likely make for a better campaign. Also a better campaign plot, must admit, as it’s not clear what issues there even are in town. Equitable gentrification is a great challenge, and goal. But it’s a danged hard thing to fight for in any intelligible way, especially in this medium.

Bowen’s law-laying helps Sophie with another problem, though. She looks into Local College courses. This is a step in her realizing that she doesn’t know everything she needs. And that she’s been blocking herself from that learning. And, after a lot of hesitation, she calls Honey Ballinger and apologizes.

[ Ronnie breaks some bad news to Neddy ] Neddy: 'They WHAT?!' Ronnie: 'It looks like they're diminishing the 'Neddy' role in our show to focus more on how Godiva's and April's lives intersect.' Neddy: 'THEY WHAT?!?' Ronnie: 'OK, this would be the third time I'm telling you this, so I assume you're in full 'shocked' mode now.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 31st of August, 2020. It’s a small bit but I appreciate that Neddy’s punctuation gets longer with the repetition.

And the TV show continues to change. The showrunners have decided Godiva and April Parker’s lives make for better stories than Neddy’s does. This makes for an interesting bit of story commentary by strip writer Francesco Marciuliano. Marciuliano has, mostly, done a good job at having things go crazy and then rationalize some. But it would be strange if he didn’t consider some storylines to have gone awry, or to regret not having done more with characters than he did. The revelation that Godiva was also running drugs was a shocking turn of events, sure. But to make it a shock to readers meant we had to not see it. It’s plausible Marciuliano didn’t consider it until he needed the twist. This frame lets him, if he wishes, build a new storyline for Godiva. It may not be what “really” happened to her, but if it’s interesting, who cares?

Ronnie: 'Wait ... are you seriously thinking of not going back to LA? Just because they changed some of our show?' Neddy: 'That's not the reason. I mean, that hurt, but ... but every time I think how close we are to leaving here, I try to think of anything else. And that has got to be telling me something.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 9th of September, 2020. I don’t know where they are since the horse barn was renovated into Abbey’s bed-and-breakfast either.

So the studio figures that April and Godiva is the true-crime drama that’s the real series. And that’s that. The shooting in Real Cavelton wraps, with the rest of the series done in Los Angeles and Vancouver. And Neddy decides she isn’t interested in moving back to Los Angeles. Ronnie is, though, and that makes the transition into autumn all the harder.

And that’s where things stand now. Bowen’s campaign seems to be going well. Sophie’s reconciling with Honey Ballinger and looking at Local College. Neddy’s staying in town. Ronnie’s off to Los Angeles and, it’s teased, out of the strip. (It’s very self-referentially teased, with talk about sitcom characters who vanished. I am old enough to sometimes speak of myself as if I were on a sitcom. But I am also young enough to sometimes speak of myself as if I were a podcast host.) And if all goes well, we can come back together in a happier December to see what has changed.

Next Week!

We dip into the comic strip most inexplicably in reruns with Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man. (I mean, you wouldn’t think Marvel would be unable to find someone who can draw Spider-Man, right?) That’s if all goes well, and here’s hoping that it does. Good luck to you all.

I’m sorry but had to be late today


I had to be, though. I’m taking part in the “Smallest, Pettiest, Most Simple Possible Task That You’ve Been Procrastinating Beyond All Reason Completion Challenge” and spent the day trying to work out if I should start tonight or if maybe tomorrow would be better. My schedule won’t be any clearer then, but it will be clogged up in different ways.

60s Popeye: Seer-ring is Believer-ring, which isn’t about Wimpy offering to pay somehow?


This week’s King Features Popeye cartoon puts us back in the capable, if dull, hands of Paramount Cartoon Studios. Seymour Kneitel’s the director, with animation by I Klein, Jack Ehret, and Dick Hall. The story’s credited to I Klein. Here’s 1960’s Seer-ring Is Believer-Ring.

The sparse information that Popeye The Sailorpedia has for this cartoon does not say it was adapted from a comic strip or comic book story. I suppose it wasn’t, then. There is this feel, though. The cartoon introduces a new menace, Evil-Eye. I initially wrote him as a new “villain” because he’s coded as one. The name, sure. His being generically ethnic. Olive Oyl even calls him “a foreign-looking gentleman”. But his actions?

As presented, after all, all he’s really trying to do is get back the magic ring that Olive Oyl’s gotten. And Popeye slugs him for it. Evil-Eye escalates to hypnotizing Popeye and Olive Oyl. That is a heck of an escalation, although it’s also the clearly safe thing to do when you’re trying to get around Popeye. Evil-Eye would have presented himself better if he’d asked for the ring openly, though. You don’t need a ring of foretelling to know flirting with Olive Oyl in front of Popeye ends badly for you.

The ending feels unsatisfactory. It feels truncated in a way that I associate with the Bud Sagendorf comics, which would end when Sagendorf felt he’d shuffled the pieces around enough, never mind if anything was resolved. The setup’s decent. Evil-Eye, whose ring can foretell anything except how he’s going to lose it, loses it in a sidewalk vendor’s box. Olive Oyl picks it up and has amazing visions. Popeye doesn’t believe she can see the future. Sailors are, by reputation, a notoriously un-superstitious bunch, after all. But even her foreseeing Wimpy offering to treat everyone at Roughhouse’s Diner doesn’t convince Popeye. Also, what the heck is Wimpy doing offering to treat everyone to anything, ever? Possibly he figures he needs to do a little bit of paying-you-Tuesday in order to keep his line of credit open? It’s still a weird offer.

So Evil-Eye tries to swipe the ring off Olive Oyl’s hand by flirting with her, and that goes wrong, a scene not foreseen by Olive Oyl. Wonder how she missed Popeye acting jealous. Popeye spins him out of the picture. Evil-Eye zaps both with his hypnotic … evil eye … but that doesn’t stop the unconscious Popeye from pulling out his spinach and clobbering him. This sends the ring rolling off into the sewer and Evil-Eye has to fish for it. Also … maybe because of this? … Olive Oyl and Popeye wake up. Neither of them seems to remember Evil-Eye, or her ring. They just walk past and Popeye cracks a joke about Evil-Eye.

This may be another case where I’m too old to understand the plot. Maybe a kid is faster to accept the idea that of course part of Evil-Eye’s hypnosis is suppressing your recollection that he was even there. Or the thing he was interested in getting for you. It doesn’t seem like asking too much from the premise.

Popeye is staring huge-eyed, into the camera. In front of him, Olive Oyl has stretched out her hand and she's delighted by Evil-Eye holding her wrist and calling her 'Ninotchka' and trying to grab the ring off her hand.
[ Record scratch ] “Yup, tha’s me! I bets youze is won’nering how I gotsk meself into this sit’chee’ation.”

Evil-Eye is voiced of course by Jackson Beck. So is the ring seller. There’s an interesting bit in Olive Oyl’s visions of the future, in that Mae Questel tries to do the voices of Popeye and Wimpy and Evil-Eye. Her version of Popeye seems to land somewhere near the Sea Hag. Her Evil-Eye sounded closer to Swee’Pea than anything else. Her Wimpy didn’t evoke any particular character to me. It’s interesting we get yet another reference to Roughhouse without actually seeing him. Roughhouse is becoming the Boba Fett of this series, building up a lot of reputation without doing anything.

So far as I know this is the only appearance of Evil-Eye. That’s a shame. He seems to have more going for him than the usual one-shot villain. Not so much as the hypnotist from Nix On Hypnotricks, but still, he seems like he could have done more.

The art here strongly embraces a flatter, UPA-influenced style. Evil-Eye and the ring seller are much more deliberately limited characters than our regulars are. I’m curious how much of that was Paramount’s animators wanting the artistic challenge of the newer style and how much was just budgetary. It looks most distinctive when Evil-Eye is nearly done spinning about 10:02, and he’s represented with a simple slide back and forth under the camera. It suggests spinning without making any literal sense as a spin. That’s a neat effect to have.

Really would like an explanation of what Wimpy is doing offering to treat anyone, though. He has that wad of bills that would seem to show his sincerity. Maybe he’s figuring to coax them to Roughhouse’s and then dump the check on them? Something’s not working with that part of the story anyway.

Jules Rivera takes over Mark Trail in October


Finally, some good news for 2020. Per D D Degg at The Daily Cartoonist, King Features has a new artist and writer for Mark Trail. Jules Rivera, creator of the slice-of-life web comic Love, Joolz, is to take over the strip from the 12th of October. (I haven’t read the web comic, but I am a surprisingly poor reader of web comics.)

The New York Times has more of a story, and comments from Rivera. She says that she hadn’t read the strip before — I assume — being asked to consider it. But that she got to love his square wackiness.

The sample strip that The New York Times has suggests a more visually dynamic strip. Also one that suggests the Trails have specific jobs in-between hearing giant squirrels talking. Maybe even something the hew-mons call sexual attraction. The Times article says that Rivera’s strip should have a “modern sensibility” and more prominent roles for Cherry and Rusty Trail. But Rivera has an electrical engineering background, so I am hopeful that some of Mark Trail’s natural squareness will stick around.

Any further news I get about Mark Trail should be posted to an essay at this link. My next regularly scheduled plot recap I plan to be in mid-November, when Rivera should have about a month’s worth of daily strips to snark on. The most recent plot recap, getting halfway into the Jack Elrod rerun story, is at this link. And all my story comic plot recaps and news should be at this link.

What You Could Get Me To Read


I mentioned last week how if you want to buy me something, any nonfiction book will be quite nice, thank you. I want you to understand this is not exaggeration. Before the pandemic shut down the libraries I sought out a book about the building of the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Why? Because I felt I didn’t know enough about it. I knew only what anyone growing up in a Mid-Atlantic state might know about postwar bilateral water route management. Surely I should know more.

Gary Croot, whom I hardly need explain is the Associate Administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation’s Operational Headquarters in Massena, New York, called to reassure that no, I already did, but he thanked me for my interest. Still, I went on to read the book and learned that, in fact, building the Saint Lawrence Seaway went about like you’d imagine. A whole lot of digging and a lot of people agreeing this would have been swell if they’d done it like eighty years earlier. Well, they can’t all have the drama of the Mars candy company. I still say it was a good choice.

So here’s some books you might pick up for me, if the bookstore employees don’t believe your “find me something more dull than that” request:

J: The Letter That Shifted Pronunciation, Altered Etymologies, Made Electrical Engineers Cringe, and Changed The World. Of course, I have a partisan interest in the letter ‘J’. But who isn’t fascinated by the way a letter can take on vowel and consonant duties and then gradually split between them? Or how it is we get to pick letters? And whether we are going to finally see the alphabet accept double-i and double-j as letters too? Why should u get to be the mother of letters? Perfect for people who want to be angry about things that not in fact unjust. 296 pages.

Hey-Dey: the Forgotten Amusement Park Ride that Saved Amusement Parks, Earned Fortunes, and Changed The World. Who doesn’t love the Hey-Dey? Everybody because who’s heard of the thing? But there we are, some old pictures of what sure looks like a ride what with how it has a platform and advertisements and stuff. How popular was it? What did you actually do on the ride? It seems like spinning was involved. Maybe a lot of spinning. Why doesn’t anybody know about it anymore? And does it have anything to do with the Lindy Loop? Includes a sweeping view of history including the discovery, in 1896, that people would pay reasonable sums of money to do things that are fun. 384 pages including 20 glossy pages reprinting black-and-white pictures of things we can’t make out anymore. Also 40 pages of the author cursing out Google for assuming that they wanted every possible six-letter, two-syllable string other than “Hey-Dey”.

Reproduction of a vintage amusement-park-ride catalogue proclaiming 'The Smack of the WHIP, the Speed of the ROLLER COASTER, the Terrific Skid of an Automobile on a Greasy Road --- All Are Experienced in a Ride on the HEY-DEY', and showing two pictures of the installed ride where it's not clear what the ride actually does. But 'Records show that the HEY-DEY Repeats 10 to 25 per cent of its Riders --- a most unusual record'.
I for one have always enjoyed the experience of automobiles skidding out on greasy roads so I’m sure I’d be in the 10 to 25 percent of people who repeat the ride. (My own photograph from the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum in North Tonawanda, New York. The Hey-Dey was actually made by Spillman but you would not BELIEVE how tied together Herschell and Spillman were.)

Humpty Dumpty: the Nonsense Rhyme that Delighted Children, Befuddled Scholars, Made Us All Wonder Why We Think He’s An Egg, and Changed The World. There’s a kind of person who really, really wants Humpty Dumpty to have some deep meaning. Like, saying it’s some deep political satire or is some moral fable about buying on credit or maybe it’s just making fun of the Dutch? No idea, but that’s no reason to stop trying. 612 pages. Spoiler: we think Humpty Dumpy is an egg because both his parents were eggs, and they say their only adoption was his littlest brother, Rumpty Dumpty. Rumpty Dumpty is, as anyone can see, a shoe.

Busy Signal: the Story Behind the Tones, Chimes, Rings, Buzzes, and Beeps that Tell us the State of Things — and Changed The World. An examination of how humans use language and turn a complicated message like “that phone number is busy” into a simple buzz instead. That seems a bit thin to the author too. So then we get into other audio cues like how sometimes construction equipment makes that backing-up beeping noise even when it’s not moving. 192 pages.

So, I mean it. If you want to buy me something, look for any nonfiction book explaining a thing. If it seems like a boring thing, great! 568 pages about the evolution of the NTSC television-broadcast standard? Gold! You are not going to out-bore me in a book contest like that. Look, I know things about the Vertical Blanking Interval that I have no business knowing. And that is everything I know about the Vertical Blanking Interval. And yet I want to know more. Find a topic dull enough that it’s putting neighboring books to sleep, and you’ve got me set. Thank you.

I don’t know I ever heard Robert Benchley performing with Groucho Marx before this


Among my weekly listening is the Radio Entertainment Network’s podcast. It picks an hour of old-time radio each week. The episode for the 21st of September had two half-hour episodes. The first of these is Columbia Presents Corwin, a 1945 sustaining series in which Norman Corwin got the chance to be all weird, in case that advanced the state of the art of radio programming.

This installment, “The Undecided Molecule”, was a comic rhyming court battle over what Molecule X shall do. It’s also got a heck of a cast: Groucho Marx as the judge, Robert Benchley as the interpreter for Molecule X. Vincent Price. Keenan Wynn. Also Sylvia Sidney, who had mostly dramatic roles in her career. It’s a heck of a comic lineup, though.

It’s the only time I can remember to have Robert Benchley and Groucho Marx trading lines. I can’t say it’s the only one, since there were a lot of radio shows like Command Performance that would toss together improbable sets of actors. But, like, Robert Benchley’s default screen persona is “ordinary guy overwhelmed by the mundane”. That’s not the sort of pomposity or self-absorption that Groucho Marx is needed to deflate. And it’s really hard to think of a reason for Vincent Price to act against either of those types. I’m impressed the thing comes together at all.

A quick content warning: there is a reference in here — I lost just where — to current events of summer 1945. It’s a reference to having beaten the “Hun” and going to beat a short way of referring to Japanese people. I’ve clearly decided that isn’t a gross enough problem to outweigh the value of hearing the episode, but did not want people who’d reason otherwise to be caught unaware.

The second show in this podcast, starting about 30 minutes in like you’d hope, is an installment of Arch Oboler’s Lights Out. This was a horror series, often dipping into the supernatural. This particular episode is about two typists who’re handling the script for Lights Out when things get unsettling. (If I’m reading things right, the script they’re typing up seems to be for the episode “The Dark”, about a strange fog that turns people inside-out. It got riffed on a Treehouse of Horror episode of The Simpsons.) Whether the episode works for you at all probably depends on whether you can accept the acting conventions. Old-time-radio acting used a different theatrical style than we do today. And the characters have to tell each other things that they really should just see, like, lights going out. And, particularly, Arch Oboler had a wry humor, so there may be stuff you think is just laughable and not realize that he did too.

If you’re of a sufficient age you might remember listening to Bill Cosby routines without trouble. Also particularly listening to a Bill Cosby routine in which he tells of staying up to listen to a radio story that scares the pants off him. In the episode a chicken heart escapes from a lab and one thing leads to another and it kinda eats the world. This is a retelling of a different Lights Out episode. (And an episode only known to exist in a truncated, edited form, so Cosby’s telling is valuable for describing what the experience was like.) So, if you can find the right mood, you might really like this series. You’ll also see that this, one of the first horror series, taught Rod Serling a bunch of tricks.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Is Gil Thorp just ignoring Covid-19 too? June – September 2020


Yes, it appears that Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp is going ahead as though things were normal. It’s a defensible choice. The only sports one could morally play during the pandemic are outdoor sports with physically separated individuals. I don’t know if Milford even has an archery team. There’s a fair chance it’s never come up in the strip before. But that would leave the strip with nothing to write about, which is a heck of a writing challenge.

So. This essay should catch you up to mid-September 2020. If you’re reading this after about December 2020, or want what news on Gil Thorp there is, a more useful essay should be at this link. And, lest we forget, my mathematics blog continues its weekly glossary entries, at this link. This week we get to O, finally. Not zero.

Gil Thorp.

29 June – 19 September 2020.

Milford’s boys’ softball was playing against Valley Modified, the school for delinquents. Not a formal game. Mike “The Mayor” Knappe, kicked out of Milford for bringing a butter knife to school, organized it because hey, wouldn’t it be fun? What would go wrong with Valley Modified’s ragtag bunch of misfits playing against an actual team? Anyway Milford was ahead 149 to nothing at the top of the first inning, with the upstate returns not in yet. Some of the Milford players defect, to give the other kids a chance.

[ Unsurprising: Milford is lots better than Mike Knappe's ragtag team. Unexpected: free pizza! ] Corina Karenna: 'Yo, other catcher. What's your story?' Hiawatha Jones: 'Call me Hiawatha.' Karenna: 'Do I have to?'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 30th of June, 2020. Based on the first panel either some people brought their little kids or else Milford freshmen are 40% the size of the seniors.

And then pizza arrives. 20 pizzas, giving everyone a break. The game resumes and Valley Modified stumbles on until Phoebe Keener, from the Milford Girls Softball team, calls time. She gives Valley’s shortstop some tips. Things resume, less competitive and more collegial, until a someone delivers subs. And, later, ice cream. What would have been a shellacking turns into a picnic and everybody kind of forgets about finishing things.

The adults wrap things up, with Gil Thorp not-denying having a hand in sending the pizza order. Assistant Coach Kaz not-denying sending in the subs. The coolers with pop? Why, that’s Knappe’s English teacher, the one who reported his having a butter knife in school. And so on. And, hey, Generic State University decided not to rescind its acceptance of Knappe. Coach Thorp’s report about Knappe organizing the event convinced them of his good character. Their admission letter even jokes about leaving knives in the dining hall, like the tag of a 70s cop show. Uhm. Right.


That, the 11th of July, finally wrapped up the spring storyline. The summer story began the 13th of July.

It starts with a follow-up to the softball game. Phoebe Keener recognizes Valley Modified’s catcher, Corina Karenna. She got introduced as a nice snarky type who has “problems with authority”, like you want on a sports team. They share a lunch and go shopping, Karenna amazed that Keener is looking for buttons, and sews and such. And Keener … wonders what Karenna is doing in town, actually.

Corina Karenna: 'Our shortstop was Ardis Carhee, not Carver.' Phoebe Keener: 'Right! You passed the test! So, Corina Karenna, what brings you to bustling downtown Milford?' Karenna: 'I'm thinking of committing a series of unspeakable crimes.' Keener: 'Wow, me too!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 17th of July, 2020. I literally can not imagine being even slightly irked that someone remembered the name of someone she met once as “Carhee” rather than “Carver”. Mind, I have also given up on the cashier at Burger King typing in my name as anything but “Joeseph”. Also given up: going to Burger King.

Also, True Standish is back in Milford. Years ago he’d been the star quarterback and brought Milford to the state championship. He went off to college and now he’s … a pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. He kept getting injured in football. He’s getting injured in baseball too. But he’s a low enough draft choice that the Rays figure, eh, let him wander around, he’ll probably be all right.

Another lunch hangout. Karenna admits she’s looking for a new direction. Also to return a catcher’s mitt from the ball game. The waitress at the diner shares the bad news; the guy she’s returning the mitt to is out of town for the week. Did you see the plot point dropped there? Because I’ll admit, I didn’t, not until writing this up. And after that we see the two obvious threads come together. Standish needs a catcher for pitching practice. So they set up pitching camp.

True Standish: 'Coach Thorp! Thanks for coming. Meet Corina Karenna.' Karenna: 'Charmed.' Standish: 'I'm ready to roll. Oh --- if I brush my chest, it's a slider.' Gil Thorp: 'You've probably never caught one of hose, Corina. It'll --- ' Karenna: 'I'll figure it out after the first one.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 5th of August, 2020. You might think it obnoxious that Gil Thorp is giving advice to a girl who has not asked for his advice, whom he has no supervisory role over, and whom he has no established relationship of any significance. But remember that Coach Gil Thorp is a white guy.

Coach Thorp watches a session. He notices how Karenna has no trouble handling professional-grade pitching. And Karenna admits to Keener that “I’m thinking of moving to Milford”. Keener asks the obvious: isn’t there a “we”, what with her having a mom and all? And the thing is her mother is depressed, bad enough that Corina has to lead the family. (Her father left long ago.) She mentions how she and her mother could live anywhere there’s support. She mentions this in the diner, where the waitress from earlier happens to be. The waitress drops the advice to ask True Standish about his mom. Standish does more, bringing her to meet her mom.

So, Standish’s mother has similar depression problems, though not as severe. She’s got good support, though I’m not sure how this would transfer to Karenna’s mother. Also, Mimi Thorp watches Karenna at a pitching workout and offers her business card in case Karenna has questions. Also high school girls coaches have business cards. After some prodding about mysteries of the softball game, she decides. Orientation day comes and she’s signed up to Milford. Even to try out for volleyball. The story resolves, more or less, the 4th of September.

I will lose standing in the comics snarker ranks for this: I think this story was pretty well-done. Karenna’s problem gets laid out naturalistically, for the story strips. Her situation, having to be the functioning adult in a broken home, is realistic enough. That she wears a protective layer of sarcasm makes sense. How a resolution will happen gets laid out in the open where it’s easy to miss. The only piece that comes from nowhere is True Standish’s mother also coping with depression. But there’s little reason for him to have discussed that. It’s possible this was established when Standish was a regular character. If it was, then I sincerely bow to Neal Rubin. Even if it wasn’t, it’s a slick move to have introduced a supporting character last story to be the main for this one. And then she seems to be inspiring significant action for the current story. There’s some good crafting here.


With the 5th starts the current story. And yeah, that’s a midweek transition. The heart of this, like many fall storylines, is the boys’ football team. Will Thayer’s bulked up over the summer. This could challenge Charlie Rapson for the quarterback’s position. Radio sports reporter Marty Moon is interested in this quarterback controversy. Coach Thorp isn’t worried by the rivalry, nor by Marty Moon attempting to be clever, since Marty Moon is not a clever man.

Rebecca Ramirez, explaining the Bonfire: 'It's a tradition. We build a bonfire, and the next night, the football team clobbers Oakwood.' Corina Karenna: 'Super. And what does everyone do for the volleyball team?' From a distance, one boy asks, 'Hey, who's that?' and his friend answers, 'Becca Ramierez. You've known her since first grade.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 19th of September, 2020. I went through high school making almost no impression on anyone besides my friends. And the experience wasn’t bad. So were I on the volleyball team, I’d be happy with “everyone carries on as if we did not exist”.

And her new teammates bring Karenna to that most ominous of Milford athletic community events: the Bonfire. So, I never went to a school that had any self-esteem. Occasionally high school would have a pep rally, where we sat in the gym bleachers while people tried to get us excited about … the school, I guess. All it did for me was reinforce my suspicion of mass emotion. I could not imagine participating in a bonfire. So I am very much on Karenna’s side in looking at this as a borderline terrifying activity from a whole other universe.

And that’s our story, so far.

Milford Schools Watch

This may have been the slowest three months on record for Milford’s sports. If I haven’t missed anything there were only two other schools named on-screen. They were:

Next Week!

Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker was the first story strip to incorporate Covid-19 into the story. What’s happening in it now? If all goes well, we’ll see in a week. Thanks for reading.

Shoe almost completely on other foot; Bruce Tinsley returning to Mallard Fillmore


(Thanks for the headline, Garrison!)

So, yes, as of last Monday, the 14th, we’re getting daily Shoe strips signed as by Susie MacNelly and Ben Lansing. Lansing has been assisting with the strip for a long while, which may be why the change in art was hardly noticeable. There are some more Gary Brookins-drawn Sunday strips for Shoe still in the pipeline, but that’ll be it.

At the diner, Cosmo asks, 'I'll have an order of pretzel nuggets, please.' Roz, waitress: 'Dipping sauce?' Cosmo: 'What are my options?' Roz: 'Yes or no.'
Ben Lansing and Susie MacNelly’s Shoe for the 14th of September, 2020. I like the joke well enough, but I’m still basically fond of American Cornball humor. Also, I would never have the nerve to tell the server, “I’ll have”. I am resolutely on the “Could I please get” side and feel an illicit thrill when someone who does order “I’ll have” gets answered, “No you won’t”.

So far as I know, this is the first time that the regular cartoonists for Shoe and Pluggers have been different people. Pluggers had been drawn alternately by Gary Brookins and Rick McKee for several months before Brookins finally retured from it a month ago.


Also, D D Degg, at the Daily Cartoonist, reports that Bruce Tinsley is returning to Mallard Fillmore. The strip had been in reruns from November 2019 through March 2020, when Loren Fishman took over. So we can expect to transition from not reading Mallard Fillmore by Loren Fishman back to not reading Mallard Fillmore by Bruce Tinsley in the next couple weeks.

60s Popeye: Old Salt Tale (the New Salt Tale’s bogged down in construction)


It’s back to Jack Kinney studios for this week’s King Features Popeye cartoon. The story is by Ed Nofziger, who’s done a bunch of fairy tale adaptations before. Animation direction is credited to Hugh Fraser. Here’s 1960’s Old Salt Tale.

We start out with Olive Oyl prancing in the ocean, and Popeye and Swee’Pea enjoying the beach. So, I too expected a beach cartoon. Nope; this is just a frame for another tell-Swee’Pea-a-story short. In this, about why the sea is salty. For a punch line we learn Swee’Pea knows the answer. It suggests Swee’Pea is asking just to show he knows more than Popeye does. Swee’Pea will go far in being a STEM-type know-it-all nerd jerk.

The explanation Popeye gives is … not quite a fairy tale. I mean, it’s a version of any of a couple North European folk tales about why the sea is salt. It gets a fair bit afield of any of these versions. But that is how a folk tale should work, isn’t it?

In the adapted story a shipwrecked (again!) Popeye lands on the Sea Hag’s island. She’s enslaved the Goons and Popeye will have none of that. (I guess none of these are really the Sea Hag or Popeye, but, c’mon.) He has his last can of spinach at a surprisingly early part in the cartoon, just 2:14 in, and tosses the Sea Hag into the … sea. The Goons reward him with a grinder that can make anything, if asked politely, and he sets off for home. His house turns out not to be the one from Little Olive Riding Hood but you see where I got confused. After grinding some spinach and presents, Popeye sets out. The Sea Hag sneaks in and steals the grinder and, impolitely demanding gold, gets an endless supply of salt instead.

The magic grinder spraying a stream of salt at the Sea Hag. The stream's just reached her, and she has her arms raised, so the Sea Hag looks as though she's being tickled.
Tickle tickle tickle! Tickle tickle tickle!

It’s good casting. Popeye doing a heroic deed and getting a magic reward makes sense. Having the magic thing come from the Goons does too. He has to save somebody with a supernatural element and that’s going to be the Goons, the Jeeps, or make something up. (Yes, I see the Popeye Super-Fan out there pointing out there’s Whiffle Birds. Give it time.) Goons, which by now in the Popeye universe are lumbering but harmless giants? Good fit. Sea Hag as the villain is also good, and better for a supernatural story than Brutus could be.

I feel dissatisfied, though. I think the trouble is that Popeye never discovers the Sea Hag’s theft. She gets her comeuppance, yes, but as the magic grinder’s doing. She is, by rights, the protagonist. But the first part of the story is Popeye’s viewpoint, so she can’t quite manage that. Shifting or ambiguous viewpoint characters can work, but it takes a really good story to do that. This isn’t tight enough to manage that.

Also Popeye, who is “always polite”, asks the grinder to make him some spinach. He never says thank you! I don’t remember if this bothered me as a kid, but it does feel like something that would.

Statistics Saturday: Some Dinosaurs Named After Feet


Or parts of feet. Note: technically, all dinosaurs are named after feet, since we knew about and named feet more than twelve years before anyone even suspected there were such things as dinosaurs.

  • Brachypodosaurus
  • Velocipes
  • Deinonychus
  • Saltopus
  • Baryonyx
  • Scipionyx
  • Ankylosaurus
  • Megalotaursus
  • Stompsognathus
  • Heelguanodon
  • Stubbosaurus
  • Toerannosaurus Rex

Reference: Creditworthy: a History of Consumer Surveillance and Financial Identity in America, Josh Lauer.

Today in shocking discoveries from looking at a thing


I don’t put much stock in the so-called Mandela Effect, where you discover you remembered something entirely wrong and figure the universe is broken instead? But I am shaken by this. You ever look seriously at the guy on the Monopoly Board, that I think everyone called Mister Monopoly but Parker Brothers wanted to call Rich Uncle Pennybags, which isn’t a bad name either? OK. Think hard about your mental image of him. Now look at the picture of him on any of the Monopoly sets or playing cards. Notice something missing? That’s right: he hasn’t got a fish tail! Not only is the Monopoly guy not a mermaid, he has never been depicted as a mermaid, except in the fan communities on DeviantArt. I know! That’s exactly the amazement I feel.

In Which I Ask Not To Be Given An Eight-Million-Dollar Dinosaur Skeleton, Please


I know I have a birthday coming up. This isn’t to brag. I mean, we all do. That’s how time works. I know I’m also a difficult person to buy stuff for. This is because people don’t believe me when I say “oh, any nonfiction book will do”. If you need more guidance, “any nonfiction book my Dad would read will do”. I grant this helps only if you know my Dad, but that’s OK. He’s very approachable and would love to meet you. Ask him what he’s reading, that’ll go great.

So if you’re in a bookstore explain that you want a nonfiction book where someone explains, like, lithium or the Jagiellonian University or competitive stamp-licking. If you ask the bookstore staff for nonfiction, they’ll take you to fiction. It turns out most people asking for nonfiction in fact want made-up stories. Yes, I am angry about this. So are the people working at the bookstore.

What I am saying not to buy is a dinosaur. Any dinosaur will do, but I’m thinking specifically of this tyrannosaurus rex that Reuters says is going up for auction at Christie’s. Christie’s plans on selling this dinosaur skeleton in October. And, yes, it’s charming that they’re still trying to plan for things a whole two weeks away. I’ve given up planning anything as far out as “in ten minutes when the noodles should be done boiling”.

Anyway I do know that I absolutely, no question, do not need a dinosaur skeleton. I don’t even have a decorative or symbolic use for one. And there’s no place to store it. I don’t even have places to store all my books about dinosaurs or October. And don’t go thinking I could give it away again if I really have no space for it. First, I can’t give away gifts. The last things I will ever own in life, after I finally become able to de-clutter my life, will be stuff I don’t like from people who didn’t really know me.

But also I couldn’t get rid of it because, hey, what if I needed a tyrannosaurs rex skeleton? No, I can’t imagine what I’d need a tyrannosaurs rex skeleton for either. But you know how hard it would be to get one in an emergency? You can’t pop down to the thrift store district and hope you get lucky, even if you have a truck to take it home in. Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons don’t go up for sale that much.

In fact this one wouldn’t be up for sale at all, if I understand this right, except for an accident. The dinosaur was found in South Dakota in 1987 by an amateur paleontologist, Stan Sacrison. But scientists weren’t much interested in it because they thought it was a triceratops. Also it turns out professional paleontologists think triceratopses aren’t that interesting? Experts do live in a different world from us lay people.

Photograph from below of a miniature golf course's giant T-rex figure. The light is from underneath so it looks taller than the setting sun.
Yeah, this? Do not want. Thank you. [ From Dinosaur Adventure Golf, Niagara Falls, Ontario. Fun course. ]

And yet I bet any one of these scientists who shrugged off Stan Sacrison’s dinosaur would find it very exciting if they found a real live triceratops in their breakfast nook some morning. Even some evening. But also they got a triceratops and a tyrannosaurs rex mixed up? I understand bones are hard to understand but, like, I’ve seen the Sid and Marty Krofft documentary Land of the Lost. I could tell tyrannosaurs rex Grumpy apart from triceratops … uh … whatever his name was. You know, I bet the paleontologists called him “Steve” Sacrison too.

The dinosaur, named STAN (“Luke? I think you look like a Luke”, according to paleontologists), is 40 feet long and 13 feet high. To give some sense of scale, that’s even taller than me. But, again, that’s another reason not to get me this. It’s also longer than my house, you see, my house already being larger than me. We’d have to keep it outside and that’s no place for dinosaurs. All the original dinosaurs were kept outside and look where they are now.

Plus they think STAN will sell for six to eight million dollars. If you’re looking to spend that much on me, first, thank you, but second, I would rather have it in bookstore gift cards. Or ask my Dad about what to buy because, like, I swear, if someone’s written a book about the history of dinosaur skeleton auctioning? I’d like that instead, please. No dinosaurs.

In which I admit to not having seen Discovery or Picard


I’m not avoiding them. I just haven’t had the energy to watch stuff even if I like it anymore. So I just have missed out on how they’re changing the Star Trek world. But apparently they’re doing something. I was poking around Memory Alpha, the Star Trek Wiki, and discovered this alarming verb tense in the article about lithium:

Screenshot from Memory Alpha, with the lede paragraph of the article Lithium: Lithium was a chemical element, number 3 on the periodic table. It was the lightest alkali metal on the table, with an atomic weight of 6.91. (TNG: "Rascals")
Yes, I appreciate that they found an episode to quote for the atomic weight of lithium, especially since they got lithium’s atomic weight wrong. (It should be between 6.938 and 6.997 for most lithium samples.)

I assume this means something exciting has been going on with proton decay in the new shows and I honestly can’t imagine what.

Is this a Lower Decks thing? Again, I haven’t seen it, but it seems like the destruction of all lithium, everywhere, is maybe a Lower Decks thing.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? What is Rex Morgan doing for the pandemic? June – September 2020


Terry Beatty had decided he couldn’t do a pandemic story without the lead times for Rex Morgan, M.D. making it too dated. So the first story he wrote after the pandemic hit the United States was a flashback, Rex and June telling young Sarah how they got together. After that, Beatty decided he could tell some stories. And so since then we’ve had vignettes of the major characters and how the disaster has hit them.

So that’s the essence for things as of the middle of September, 2020. If you’re reading this after about December 2020 or if any news breaks out about the comic I’ll have a more up-to-date Rex Morgan, M.D. post here. And, on my other blog, I’m looking at mathematical words from the whole alphabet. This week we reach the back half and the letter N, at last. (The word this week will not be ‘Nebus’.)

Rex Morgan, M.D..

21 June – 13 September 2020.

As Rex Morgan told the story to Sarah, things were really fitting together for him a couple years ago. He had a nice spot at Glenwood hospital. His mentor, Dr Dallis, is ready to retire and offers to sell his practice to our young protagonist. (The Dr Dallis thing is an in-joke. Psychiatrist Dr Nicholas P Dallis created the Rex Morgan, M.D. comic strip. He also created Judge Parker and Apartment 3-G.) While jogging and considering the offer, he bumps into June Gale. He claims (to Sarah) that he apologized. June claims (to Sarah) that she only thought about calling him a jerk.

Flashback Keith, another doctor: 'So when do the wedding invitations go out?' Rex: 'Cut the joking, Keith. I barely know the woman.' Present Rex: 'Wait a minute. You weren't in the exam room. How do you know what Keith and I talked about?' June: 'The walls have ears, dear husband. And so do my fellow nurses.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 11th of July, 2020. I like this moment in part because the day before, comics snarkers had been asking how June could possibly be recounting a conversation she wasn’t part of, and I always like it when the artist out-thinks us.

A couple days later he runs into her again, this time metaphorically. She says hi. This distracts him, and he stumbles, fracturing his ankle. She gets her first-aid kit and takes him to the hospital. He’s impressed by her professionalism, and how she’s not intimidated to give medical instructions to a doctor. This attitude surprises him because Rex Morgan has never spoken to any nurse at any time for any reason, ever.

Rex Morgan tries to take June Gale to dinner, and to flirt. His clumsy efforts offend her. An elderly woman pops up behind him and orders him to marry her. And the weird thing is it’s not Mary Worth. Rex and June deny knowing who she was. Long-time readers recognize her as Melissa Claridge, who’d been in the comic strip for decades, most recently appearing in 2012. Claridge spent decades trying to make Rex and June pair-bond already.

Melissa Claridge: 'Dr Morgan, taht young nurse you just chased away is the loveliest, smartest, most capable and kindhearted woman you could ever hope to meet. She clearly has feelings for you, heaven knows why. If you don't apologize for your arrogance and find some way to make it up to her, you're nothing but a fool.' Rex: 'Well, I don't think that's exactly ... ' Claridge: 'And that's your problem right there, young man. Too much focus on what you think and not enough on what you feel. ' Claridge: 'Uh ... I don't ... I mean ... I'm sure she's nice and all, but ... ' Claridge: 'It's true what they say. Youth is wasted on the young.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 19th of July, 2020. You know, she just goes around ordering random pairs of people to marry, and every now and then it pays off. (The Marvin Bradley thanked here was the comic strip’s original and longtime artist. Frank Edgington did backgrounds.)

I didn’t read the comic before this past decade. So I don’t have a particular allegiance to the old continuity. But: why this retcon? Terry Beatty had already established that this is not my father’s Rex Morgan. (My father is more a Mary Worth reader.) This on-screen Rex and June Morgan just happen to have the same names as an earlier Rex and June who happened to be doctor and nurse in the same town decades ago.

I am reluctant to play the “Unreliable Narrator” card. It’s too easy a fix for any continuity question. But here? It’s defensible at least. Rex and June are describing the story of how they met to their daughter. They have reason to avoid confusing sidelines. This justifies skipping decades of June considering other suitors and coming back to work for Rex. But then what benefit to Sarah to say that some strange old woman told Rex to marry June? Rex and June swear they don’t know who this woman was. If they’re fibbing for Sarah’s sake, why?

Well, Rex buys Dr Dallis’s clinic. June takes the job as clinic nurse. Eventually they marry. And everything’s happy ever after. With that comforting conclusion, the flashback ends, the 9th of August.


After that, and with panels explaining to the reader, the strip begins “Lockdown Stories”. These are vignettes of what all the characters do during the crisis.

First up, from the 10th of August: the Morgans themselves. Their clinic is shut down for the crisis. June is doing triage over the phone. Rex is back at the hospital supporting the Covid-19 unit. The story’s main concern: how to set it up so Rex can work without infecting his family. Rex will be sleeping in his study, using the downstairs bathroom, and going into and out of the house through the garage. And he’ll have to see his family online, but, that’s the best of options.

Lockdown Stories: The Morgans. June, to the kids: 'Once dad starts working at the Covid-19 unit at the hospital, he'll have to stay down here in his study for a while.' Sarah: 'And we can't go in to see him?' Mike: 'No fair.' Rex: 'I'm afraid not, kids. I'll be taking every safety precaution, but we don't want you to risk any of you getting the virus.' Sarah: 'That stinks, dad. Who's gonna read me my bedime stories? Mom can't do all the voices like you do.' Mike: 'Yeah, the voices.' Rex: 'I'll still read to you, Sarah. And the boys. We'll use our electronics to talk and to see each other.' Sarah: 'Like the 'remote learning' I'm doing for school?' Rex: 'Sure. Same kind of deal.' Sarah, hugging: 'You gotta promise you won't get sick, Dad. Promise me you'll be SUPER ULTRA CAREFUL.' Rex: 'I will be super ultra super careful, Sarah. For all of us.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 16th of August, 2020. Rex talked about how he sleeps soundly in that recliner but I’m pretty sure about three days into this he’s going to be sorry he doesn’t have a cot or a futon instead. I’m not here to diagnose fictional people’s problems, or believe me I’d be hauling off on Funky Winkerbean right now, but I have observed how backs work.

And that’s it. The 17th of August we switch to Jordan Harris and Michelle Carter. Jordan’s restaurant made the shift to doing take-out orders. Michelle is a nurse, though, and wants to go back to the hospital’s Covid-19 unit. But there’s no safe way they can live together for this. Jordan moves into the apartment above the restaurant for the duration, and they’ll have to make do.

With the 23rd of August we move to the next vignette. This is about Rene Belluso. He had been Sarah Morgan’s art instructor back before Terry Beatty took over the writing. This was back when a rich mob widow was setting Sarah up as the next Leonardo da Vinci. Since then Belluso’s been hiding from mobsters he owes money. And forging comic strip art. And he ran that Celestial Healing scam that Rex and Lana Lewton busted up. He’s still working a scam, with a web site offering the secret cure for Covid-19. Also cold-calling people for a stimulus check scam. He’s barely got into his vignette before officials bang on his hotel door and take him away. So he’s now leading the Trump administration’s pandemic response team.

Lockdown Backstories: Rene Belluso. 'Rene THOUGHT he'd make a mint taking advantage of people's fears about the virus. INSTEAD, he's going to be doing some time BEHIND BARS. Sometimes people DO get what's coming to them.' Cop, taking Belluso in: 'You have the right to remain silent. You have the right ... ' Belluso: 'I KNOW my right! I've got a right to earn a living, don't I? So WHAT if I take advantage of a few ignorant sheep? I WANT MY LAWYER!'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 29th of August, 2020. So that first panel there: Rod Serling narration or Dick Tracy Crimestopper tip? Tune in next week to Rex Morgan, M.D. for a Minit Medical Mystery!

And the 30th of August moves to “Horrible” Hank Harwood and his son Hank Junior. “Horrible” Hank’s a comic book artist from way back, so his life isn’t changed: he’s spending his 90s redrawing magazine covers for pay. Hank Junior’s missing doing stuff. At his dad’s suggestion, he starts building plastic model kits. And they give each other haircuts. That’s about all.

With the 11th of September — a rare midweek transition — we move over to Niki Roth, one of the teen cast. He delivers food to the Harwoods, which is how we make the segue. And then to his girlfriend Kelly and her mom. Kelly’s also the Morgans’ babysitter, but that’s off for the time being. We only got to them this past Saturday, so, there’s not much guessing what they’re up to.

So, yeah, I call these vignettes but that might be too strong a word. It’s more going around the horn and establishing that everybody has some situation. Even Rene Belluso’s scam got introduced and then resolved in a week. It’s nice to go around and see everybody, but none of these have been real stories. There is of course a story problem when characters have to be apart. And, like, there’s almost no reason for June Morgan to chat with Hank Junior online. At least if he came into the clinic for something they would talk.

Next Week!

What happened to high school sports during the pandemic summer? I look at Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp next week. This is going to be a challenging one because I can’t remember what I’ve been reading the last three months here.

There are many small things to watch on TCM tonight


I apologize for the late notice; I only learned myself a couple hours ago. TCM (United States feed) is spending tonight showing “Leonard Maltin’s Short Film Showcase”. It’s a bunch of short films, as you’d think. Some of them I’ve seen; some are new to me. Many of them are comedies. There are a handful of travelogues, musical shorts, and dramas too.

Robert Benchley gets a couple entries, with “A Night At The Movies” right around … now, Eastern time. Three hours from now, less about ten minutes, Pacific time. Or, “How To Sleep”, sometime after 5 am Eastern and Pacific. Thelma Todd gets four entries, two of them with ZaSu Pitts. I’d recommend any Thelma Todd or ZaSu Pitts piece sight unseen. Some of the shorts, including at least one Thelma Todd one, star Charley Chase. Chase is an interesting person. In the silent era he was one of the second-tier comedians who kept edging his way up into the first tier, right up until he attempted a movie adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and made basically every choice wrong. That’s not on tonight and you’ll think better of Chase for that. There’s also, somewhere around 12:45 am, “Buzzing Around”, starring Roscoe Arbuckle, about inventing a magic rubber coating that makes things unbreakable. Other miscellaneous things include a bunch of Pete Smith specialties. Pete Smith made a lot of short films, mostly comedy documentaries, all with a reliable American Cornball tone. You’ll either kinda like it or not.

As I say, I don’t know how much of any of this I’ll watch. It is probably good for dipping into as you have ten minutes. One I am warily curious about, and that’s running sometime around 5:20 am, is titled “The Black Network”. The summary: “In this short film, the owner of a shoe polish company sponsors a radio show that showcases black performers”. So this does sound like a chance to see people whose talents were discarded. But, ooh, that mention of shoe polish does not sit well at all. Mm.

60s Popeye: Weight for Me and a cartoon that’s aged without a single flaw


We have another Gene Deitch-directed cartoon here. So the only credits I have are that the animation was by Halas and Batchelor. No idea about story credits and all. The producer is Producer William L Snyder.

There’s a content warning, though, as you maybe guessed from the title. And as you maybe inferred from the screen grab YouTube uses for its previews. If it gives the same preview to everyone, I mean. The premise is, Olive Oyl is fat! And Popeye wants to fix here! So there’s a bunch of fat-phobia and body-shaming going on here. If you don’t need that, and you don’t want to see Popeye being casually ugly, you’re absolutely right. We’ll meet back up in a week.

For those who can put up with that, or want to see how this plays out, here’s Weight For Me, another cartoon from 1960.

Popeye and Brutus are back from six months at sea! And while they were away, Olive Oyl was so lonesome that she overate, and now she’s fat. It’s that most startling of thing to see thirty years into a franchise: a new premise. Where was this when Famous Studios was gradually whittling down the number of Popeye’s nephews all through the 50s?

It’s obvious the cartoon has to be about losing weight, then. It’s not quite required that Olive Oyl end the cartoon skinny again. (The other resolution would be that after a lot of diet and exercise she and Popeye end up enormous.) But is required that she try. Brutus likes the fat Olive Oyl, though. It’s presented with this interesting energy, as though even he didn’t realize he was going to like her being fat. And this sets up what should be a crackling good conflict. Popeye trying to make Olive Oyl skinny versus Brutus trying to make her even fatter.

Where it goes wrong is that word, make. Popeye never asks Olive Oyl if she wants to be thin again, or if she wants any help. Brutus never asks Olive Oyl if she’s happy being fat. You can argue Olive Oyl clearly wishes she were thin, but thinks trying is hopeless. You can argue that Olive Oyl finds being fat more comfortable. Certainly having ambiguous feelings about it is natural and normal. Olive Oyl’s fickleness works here to make her more psychologically realistic than normal.

Brutus offering a big box of chocolates to an extremely overweight Olive Oyl. The sofa they're sitting on is buckling under her weight.
You might think it sexist that the sofa is crumpling under Olive Oyl’s weight, when there’s no chance she’s heavier than Brutus. But this is because a guy can be five times as overweight as a woman before suffering the same sorts of social penalties.

But gads, the worst thing about being fat? Other than how doctors will blame your weight for any ailment, including Covid-19, a broken arm, and seven cop bullets in your back? Meddlers telling you how to stop being fat.

So Popeye starts out really ugly here. And he never gets better, as he keeps putting Olive Oyl through exercises after she says she doesn’t want to. Brutus never asks Olive Oyl what she wants either. But he at least does invite her to a malt shop or to a steak dinner and she accepts. She might be eating for emotionally unhealthy reasons but she’s at least asked.

There was, a decade-plus ago, a web site article that asked whether the Famous Studios animators were on Bluto’s side. It listed all sorts of plots where Popeye’s more clearly the jerk. This one fits that tradition.

Apart from that, though? … It’s a well-done cartoon, is part of the thing. The animation’s decent limited-animation work. It hasn’t got as much small movement as Potent Lotion. I assume that’s because everybody’s energy was put into drawing Olive Oyl to a strange model sheet. But it does have small filigrees of movement. When getting off the ship, for example, Brutus quickly welds Popeye by a chain to the ship’s deck. And Popeye uses his pipe to free himself. It’s nothing needed for the story; it just makes the cartoon better.

Popeye has assembled a bunch of weight loss machines; the enormous Olive Oyl is caught in the one that wraps a belt around your waist, or in her case her rump, to shake around. There's also a machine with rollers on arms that go up and down, and another semicircular machine with several small long cylindrical rollers. In the foreground is what looks like a three-part foldable cot with a record turntable hanging off the side.
Very disappointed we did not get to see how that sectioned cot with a vertically-slung record turntable was supposed to lose anybody weight.

Popeye also brings in a fun-looking bunch of weight-loss machines. That thing with the strap that goes around your waist and shakes you, for example. And a bunch that didn’t get to be cartoon-and-sitcom famous. This thing with two rollers that go up and down looks amusing, whatever its scam was supposed to be. I have no idea what the thing Olive Oyl ends up trapped on is, the little thing that looks like a dangerous hot dog roller. It looks like fun, though.

We end with Brutus resigned to “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”. He’s reading How To Reduce and is on the hip belt thing. Everyone laughs. It’s unusual for everyone to end on the same page and laughing about it. It’s appealing to see. I’m just sad it comes after a lot of Popeye being a jerk.

Statistics Saturday: The Most Insignificant Programming Languages


  1. Pig BASIC
  2. Visual Logo
  3. S’more
  4. ++C
  5. Fivetran 77
  6. Hypocard
  7. Pilot
  8. pfKey 128
  9. Slot Car Construction Kit
  10. RedC
  11. VRML
  12. Eddie Haskell
  13. Sea Leopard
  14. Hupmobile
  15. Zestar
  16. Language Sixteen
  17. Subscript
  18. Turbo TeX
  19. HORSE
  20. Retweet To Enter And Win
  21. geoForth
  22. Ultrafont+
  23. Ironic Pascal
  24. Object Oriented Ubbi Dubbi
  25. QuickClam 2.8

Reference: Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops?: The Lost Toys, Tastes, and Trends of the 70s and 80s, Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, Brian Bellmont.

In which I think about parenting in like 17 years


Just been thinking, now, about the future. And particularly, like, the kids whose gender-reveal parties set off wildfires. It’s important that kids learn the fallibility of their parents. Like, I learned it when we had a small earthquake, in New Jersey, and my mother blamed it on my brothers running around the house. But that was just a little embarrassment and the discovery that oh, yeah, you do get these adorable harmless little earthquakes in New Jersey now and then.

When that fallibility is tied to a major natural disaster, though? Think how many times the kid will be able to get away with a line like, “Well, yeah, Dad, I screwed up and smashed the car into the telephone pole. What can I say, it’s bad. I mean, it’s not like the time you started a wildfire that destroyed three-quarters of Sonoma County including the Olympic-class ice-skating-rink that Charles Schulz, beloved creator of Peanuts, built for the community, because you wanted twenty people to know whether I had a penis. But yeah, my judgement is the bad one.” My guess is twice.

In Which I Remember The 90s For A Change


I don’t know why, but my thoughts have been drifting back to around November and early December 1994. I had tickets to go see a taping of Late Night with Conan O’Brien for the first time, over the break between semesters. They were real tickets, but I didn’t take pictures of them because we had film cameras then, so we could only take 22 pictures a year and hope one turned out in focus. Sorry. One of my apartment-mates wanted me to know that they tape the talk show segments all out of airing order. But I was sure that, except when some schedule problem requires, the late night talk shows record live-on-tape. I pointed out trip reports people had made to support my contention. No matter; he was sure that I had to understand it was going to be all different from what got on air.

Over the winter break I did get to the show, though. And it was recorded live-on-tape, everything in airing order. Even the breaks between segments were about the same length as the actual commercial breaks.

I never got to tell the apartment-mate that, though. He didn’t come back for the spring semester and I never knew what happened. If he got a new place to live or didn’t come back to school or what. Whatever it was, it seemed like a lot of effort to go to not to be told he was wrong about the typical production routine of Late Night with Conan O’Brien. And, like, Conan O’Brien in 1994. This was a couple months after that stretch when NBC left the show on the air because they forgot to cancel it. Who could care if your roommate knew you misunderstood its taping routine?

So it’s me remembering that some people will always be unknowable.

That’s not the only unknowable roommate I have from back then. Although the others it’s less that I can’t know them because of deep mysteries and more that I’m not exactly sure of their names. I feel bad about forgetting the names of old roommates but in my defense, it’s been a quarter-century. Since then I have met, without exaggeration, dozens of people. I have forgotten all their names too.

I am sure that year someone one of our other roommates was one of a set of identical twins. I remember because I thought he was telling a joke when he first mentioned being a twin. Fortunately when I finally, so far as I know, met the other twin I had that year’s moment of good social grace. Even though I was a mathematics grad student I knew not to blurt out, “Wow, really? I thought your brother made you up! As a gag!” If my old roommate, or his twin, is reading this, uh, oops? But hey, how about that other roommate, the one who didn’t think Conan O’Brien taped his show in order? Remember that guy?

Still there’s a great chance they don’t remember me, either. I say this because I don’t ever expect to be remembered, in any context, ever. If the dental hygienist steps out of the room for two minutes I expect to have to remind them who I am. And I’m pretty sure they have my name written down. That’s so they know which teeth they’re cleaning and can remark on what a good job I did flossing for the week leading up to my exam.

But I do know that at least one time with that roommate, or his twin, I met another guy. And that guy I remember because I met him again, only online, the next year. And he remembered meeting me, only offline, afterwards. We’re still friends. I mean, not friends close enough to talk about what we’re doing or whether we exactly remember how it is we became friends or where he lives anymore, if he does. I mean friends in that I’ll see him online after a gap of like three months, and he’ll be quite happy there are otters in the world. I bet you’d like to know someone like that. Some of you, the people I’ve been friends with online for a quarter-century, maybe already have. The rest of you, well, I’d like to tell you how to meet someone like that. The secret is to, years ago, have a roommate who’s in the fencing club with him. Or possibly a roommate whose twin is in the fencing club. Maybe both twins were in the fencing club and my friend just hung around them for the sword action. That’s the part I don’t remember.

In which I think I’ve spotted the problem


So why aren’t there Ohio Safety Matches anymore? I have a hypothesis.

Trademark search results showing Ohio Safety Matches as a product of The Ohio Match Company, of Delaware, United States
From Bizapedia, the official pedia of Alberto Santos-Dumont’s canard biplane. And yes, I understand why the Ohio Match Company might incorporate in Delaware: Delaware is ALSO the name of a suburb of Columbus where Rutherford B Hayes was born. His house was been torn down and replaced with a BP gas station, but I don’t think the corrupt Compromise of 1877 is specifically at fault for the house-demolition or the Ohio Match Company going out. I think the match company can blame a bad gust of wind that came at the wrong time.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? The Phantom Head isn’t part of Skull Cave? June – September 2020


Yeah, so it turns out the mountain with Skull Cave is a completely different peak from the mountain with the giant carved head of a Phantom. And yet our current Ghost Who Walks was all upset about his face on postage stamps. I don’t know.

This essay should catch you up on Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity, for early September 2020. If you’re reading this after about December 2020, or you’re interested in the separate weekday continuity, there’s probably a more up-to-date essay at this link.

On my other blog I’m writing an essay for each letter of the alphabet. This week: M, so, I’m halfway there, as soon I write it!

The Phantom (Sundays).

14 June – 6 September 2020

Kit Walker was telling Heloise of their ancestor, the 13th Phantom. Ghost of 1805 and George Bass — a historical figure who did go missing, with his ship, in 1803 — had survived the Battle of Trafalgar, only for their ship to be destroyed immediately after. Bass and Walker 13 washed ashore, somewhere, in bad shape. 13’s lost his eye covering. Bass has lost his sight, so at least he’s safe against seeing The Phantom’s face. Bass also lost his memory. So they faced a legendary trip to return to the Deep Woods.

They make it in two panels, with Bandar medicine able to restore Bass’s physical health. Mostly. He’s still blind, and not really aware of who he was or what his life had been. Bass wants to wait until he’s well to return to his wife Elizabeth. He never would be, and died four years later in the Deep Woods. This is how he got interred in The Phantom’s Vault of Missing Men. After his death Phantom 13 travelled to London, to find Elizabeth Bass and tell what happened.

Phantom 21 narrating: 'The journey south from Europe ... across deserts, grasslands, jungles ... Bandar elders restored George bass to health, but his sight never returned. Nor his full awareness of the man he'd once been.' Bass: 'I was a ship's captain, wasn't I, Walker? Was that a dream?' Phantom 13: 'It was no dream, George.' Bass: 'I think I have a wife. Is she in England?' Phantom 13: 'You've said her name is Elizabeth! And that you two are very much in love. Our Bandar friends have done well by you, George. Done all they can. I'm happy to take you home now ... to England.' Bass: 'Elizabeth mustn't see me so ... diminished, Walker When I'm well we'll go. Yes, that's it! We'll go to England *then*!'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 21st of June, 2020. I doubt this is in Tony DePaul’s plans but this does imply about a four-year stretch where the 13th Phantom has a semi-voluntary sidekick in the form of George Bass and that seems like an interesting thread in case that era earns a fresh visit.

And this completes The Current Phantom’s telling of this story to Heloise. They leave the Skull Cave and Heloise rejoins Kadia, who’s been meeting the Bandar people. And this (finally) concludes The Spy Ship, the 189th of the Sunday Continuity stories, on the 12th of July.


The current story, 190th of the Sunday continuities, began the 19th of July, 2020. It starts with a low-lying cave, covered by a grate. A criminal gang’s imprisoned a detective. The cave offers just enough water, just enough seafood, just enough of a gap between high tide and the grate for the Detective to not die too fast.

The Mawitaan Police think he’s already dead. His grandmother does not, though. She treks, with her dog Bunny, deep into the woods to find Phantom Head Peak. It’s a mountain carved, hundreds of years ago, into the head of the 7th Phantom. (Or possibly 6th. The comic strip continuity has apparently got anomalies.) It was carved on the orders of her ancestor, the Emperor Joonkar. (This, apparently, was established in a story that ran November 1997 to April 1998. This is two stories before Comics Kingdom’s archives pick up the daily strips, unfortunately.)

[ Jungle ruins rediscovered ] Woman, to her dog :'I remember playing here ... this exact spot! I should be able to see the peak from here! It's this way, I'm sure of it!' [ Meanwhile, in the cave cell ] Detective, thinking: 'I haven't heard the voices of my captors for days now. No more incoming truck traffic. Their stores must be full. They'll be meeting with the buyers soon. Must free myself and do my sworn duty! Bring these men to justice!' [ Back to the woman, looking at a Phantom head carved into the mountain. ] Woman, to dog: 'Bunny! W - we're here! The peak fashioned by my ancestor, mighty Emperor Joonkar! Phantom will come to us here! I know he will!'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 2nd of August, 2020. Phantom, later: “Um … you know I have a mailbox for, like, this sort of thing? Right? You can just drop a letter, you don’t have to go to any great dramatic gestures … ” Woman: “Direct action gets the results.”

In this spot she meets The Phantom, as she hoped. Her dog Bunny meets The Phantom’s wolf Devil, who refrains from eating the much smaller animal. The woman tells of her grandson. The Phantom takes the case.

And then he passes the case on to the Jungle Patrol, in his role as the Unknown Commander. They take their orders to find information about the Lost Detective. The Phantom pieces this together. He finds and frees the Detective.

That’s where things stand. The Detective’s free, and with The Phantom. And there’s this criminal organization that’s all set for whatever mischief they were up to. Where will it go and how will it end? We’ll see over the next few months.

Next Week!

Is Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. still ignoring the biggest medical story of the past 102 years? We’ll have the answer next week, or you can read the strips yourself. It’ll take longer but you’ll have the result sooner.

60s Popeye: Potent Lotion, when ‘Popeye Punch’ was just sitting there ready for the naming


This week I’ve got another Popeye cartoon directed by Gene Deitch. So there’s no information about story credits or specific animators or anything. Just his bunch in Czechoslovakia. Sorry. Here’s Potent Lotion, a title that seems like it should be a rhyme yet isn’t.

This is a weird cartoon. I know, a Gene Deitch cartoon turning out weird? Who imagined that? The core of the weirdness is that this is quite a well-made cartoon. The characters are all pretty angular, but that’s not a bad thing. The cartoon looks fresher than the usual. I think it’s the movement. The characters move like paper doll silhouette puppets, with discrete joints. Or like a Flash animation from about 2006.

Certainly the animation, while limited, does more than it needs. Everyone moves with their whole bodies. Brutus’s face clearly moves under his mask, when anyone would accept just not seeing anything there. When several characters are in a walk (or run) cycle, like the henchmen or the two cops, they’re out of phase, so it looks like there’s more movement than there really is. Or when Brutus is splitting up the loot. His hand reaches into the bag, and pushes the bag down. It’s an extra bit of life.

And it’s got a strong plot. Popeye gets a bottle of shaving lotion, and a telegram from Olive Oyl to meet her. Everyone he passes on the way punches him. It’s a mystery until we see Brutus and his henchmen robbing a bank. The cops are more interested in punching Popeye than chasing the robbers. Popeye works out it’s the aftershave that’s made him so punchable. He finds the gang’s hideout and in the end drops enough Punch Lotion on Brutus’s head to break up the gang. There’s more to the story but that’s the important stuff.

It’s well-organized, too. Even in the little things. Like, Popeye signs for the delivery package; he doesn’t sign for the telegram. First time through I noted that as a discrepancy. But then he comes back around, when he finds the gang’s hideout, and says he forgot to sign for the telegram. The henchman uses the chance to say he’ll get a slip of paper, and gets Brutus instead. Everybody’s being smart.

Two cops punching Popeye. One has hit him in the head so hard Popeye's smashed down to about half-height.
All Popeye said was “of course Black lives matter”, but he would go on to ask why the cops have chemical warfare weapons banned by the Geneva Convention.

So I can’t pin down just what about the cartoon feels off to me. I want to say it’s Brutus’s setup of robbing a bank, with a plan only incidentally involving Popeye. But that can’t be right. We’ve had any number of cartoons where Brutus is an actual villain. Even ones where he’s a bank-robber or other desperado. Those are usually set in Old Western towns, though, or in Yukon Gold Strike towns or things like that. And they usually have the setup where Bluto/Brutus hasn’t met Popeye when the action starts. Maybe that’s the weird thing. He’s not usually in Anytown USA and aware of Popeye and still scheming against society rather than against Popeye. Or maybe it’s that usually, once the cartoon starts, Brutus/Bluto focuses on besting Popeye. It’s rare that he treats Popeye as a feature of the landscape.

It’s also a bit weird that after eating his spinach — sorry, Brutus’s spinach. Still, it’s common enough for Popeye to eat environmentally-provided spinach — Popeye just uses the chance to break his bonds. He pours Punch Lotion on Brutus to get the gang to slug him. This is a good plan, yes. It’s just surprising to see Popeye resort to his smarts first and his fists second.

My reservations are weird, idiosyncratic, and not that important. This is a cartoon worth watching, and it’s one that shows even in the dire circumstances of 60s television animation, with characters who had already been wrung through three decades and hundreds of cartoons, there’s still good cartoons to make.

Statistics Saturday: How Many Whats In A What


How many ___ in a ___? This many.
Feet Yard 3
Teaspoons Tablespoon 3
Tablespoons Quarter-Cup 3
Miles League 3
Leagues Mile 3
Divisions League (baseball) 3
Quarter-Cups Cup 3?
Fourths Fifth 4/5 [ whew! ]
Panels Cartoon 4
Divisions Multiplication 1/1
Degrees Degree-Day 1/(Number of Days)
Pages Magazine 96
Whats Whatnot 0
Deals Deck of Contract Bridge cards 53, 644,737,765, 488,792,839, 237,440,000.
Bananas Bread 2 1/3 cups
3’s 33 1/3 3 [ uh-oh ]
Rubik’s Cube 13
Episodes Character Arc 8
Gallons Acre 44,040
Buttons 101-button keyboard 102
Quarks Proton … 3 …
Pinches Inch 1 [ If at the start of a Special K cereal commercial of the 1970s ]
Pinches Inch 0 [ If at the end of a Special K cereal commercial of the 1970s ]
Songs Encore 3
Grains Heap 1,211

Reference: Sweets: A History of Temptation, Tim Richardson.

In which I think about Fly Me To The Moon for some reason


I got to thinking about Fly Me To The Moon, which is not a forgotten computer-animated movie from 2008 because even the people making it did not know they were making it. In the movie, a fly sneaks aboard Apollo 11 and saves it from Soviet flies.

The film has a page of goofs. It leads with the characters giving each other high-fives years before high-fives were a thing. Also, the movie apparently ends with Buzz Aldrin explaining to viewers that there weren’t any flies on Apollo 11.

Also the Wikipedia plot summary and the IMDB Goofs Page disagree about whether the Apollo capsule lands in the Pacific Ocean or in Florida. I grant that people of good will could disagree about the contents of an ambiguous scene. And that a movie does not need to have a single reading to be good. But I think if it is unclear whether an Apollo capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean or in Florida then the movie is doing something to stoke confusion, is all.

The trivia page mentions that this is Christopher Lloyd’s fourth film in which he interacts with members of the McFly family. So that’s also kind of sitting on my head today.

Everything There Is To Say About Writing A Résumé


The important thing in writing a résumé is that it has to fit to the job you want, which is “the astronaut who draws Popeye”. To get the right fit you have to decide how many of the little accent marks that go up and to the right you put over the word. Whatever they’re called. Ageds or agues or whatever. Including none tells employers you want low-level and uninteresting jobs. Having ague marks suggests you are interesting enough to know how to get at those characters. It is by holding down the key.

The more agues you put over the e’s the higher-level the job you get, though. If you include more than three agues you have a shot at the really good jobs. Those are the ones where you don’t have specific hours or definable duties. In the best of them, yeah, you’re paid money. But somehow some of your money ends up earning money on its own. Nobody can explain how, or why. But if you want that kind of job try tossing agues over maybe the m, and the r. Maybe even several ague marks over the same letter, particularly s. Don’t ever put it above the u. That one makes you look clingy and desperate and causes people to suspect you eat oyster crackers at inappropriate times.

One of the best ways to avoid actually writing the résumé is laboriously deciding whether to format it chronologically skills-based. The chronology résumé should look something like this:

  • Permian Period. Shrinking of Paleo-Tethys sea. 96% extinction of marine species.
  • Ordovacian. Carbonate hardgrounds become very common, but biogeneic aragonite dissolves rapidly on the sea floor.
  • Late Bronze Age. Facilitated coming of the Sea Peoples in compliance with TQM practices.
  • 2018-present. Confirmed cleared mortgages for PNC Bank North Jersey facility.

In contrast the skills-based résumé is targeted instead at readers who want to know that you can write a skills-based résumé. The skills-based résumé is useful for covering up embarrassing gaps in employment. It should look something like:

  • Excel. More than 32 months experience screaming about why you are doing that to me. Certificate, Microsoft online training.
  • Banana bread. Extremely experienced in eating. Have made only twice, once by accident.
  • Equipment management. One time in high school this friend got, like, 30 surplus office phones and we recorded tossing every one of them off the roof of the abandoned Quick Chek on Route 516.
  • Light house-contracting. Pried open a painted-shut window. Successfully hired person to replace the glass that broke when the crowbar somehow flew upwards.

Thinking about this organization and considering imaginary types of résumés lets you put off actually working on them for weeks without feeling guilty. Then the accumulated guilty comes all at once.

The most important section is fibbing about your credentials, particularly if you’re going for a job even faintly supported by public funds. Every couple of years these puffed-up résumés turn into a scandal that’s a lot funnier to the people not fired as a result of it.

For example, in 2017 over eighteen administrators at New Jersey’s Livingston County College had to resign after the state comptroller revealed that New Jersey has no “Livingston County”. The college’s students were given two semesters to wrap up their studies or transfer to other colleges. When the bulk switched to the nearby imaginary Hamilton County College the Department of Higher Education threw up its metaphorical arms and sent them to Connecticut, where they enrolled in Trumbull County College and weren’t New Jersey’s problem anymore.

But résumé-based scandals make the community feel better. Everybody gets to point and snicker at whoever got caught, but nobody has have to feel bad like when it’s an important and hard problem. So give to the community and list something like how you were the very first New Jersey state comptroller. This way years later someone can discover New Jersey has never had a state comptroller, and the whole word “comptroller” looks pretty fishy too.

You can probably give writing that résumé another week or two before you do it. Let the built-up guilt come at you all at once.

Statistics August: People Wanted To Know About The Guy Who Drew Pluggers Last Month


With the month started out I’d like to look at last month. I’d especially like to see that lots of people read and appreciated my writing the past month. But I’ll settle for a day where the post is easy to write.

According to WordPress there were 4,281 pages viewed here in August. That’s the fifth-highest month on record, which is nice. Most of those records have been in the past year; only November 2015, with 4,528 views, is an old high. And that is above the twelve-month running average of 3,969.6 views per month.

There were 2,454 unique visitors, which I think is the fourth-highest I have on record. It’s above the twelve-month running average of 2,311.2 unique visitors, though.

Bar chart of monthly readership. The last several months have seen around four thousand page views and two thousand to 2500 unique visitors each month.
Still not buying this claim about turning a blog into a source of income. I don’t know what they’re selling but I know it’s not legit.

There were 104 things liked in August, above the running average of 96.3 and the biggest month for likes since January. There were also 38 comments, again beating the running average of 23.3. That’s almost as many as in May, so while this is nowhere near the heights of January 2018, it’s at least getting chattier.


What posts were popular last month? A lot of people wanting to know about comic strip artists changing. Also that months-of-the-year-in-reverse-alphabetical-order thing. But the most popular posts from August last month? These:


78 countries sent me any readers at all in August, down from July’s 82 no significant amount. There’d been 77 of them in May and June. 18 of these were single-reader countries, down from July’s 28 but in line with May and June’s 20.

Mercator-style map of the world with the United States in darkest pink, most of the Americas, Europe, Russia, and the Pacific Rim in light pink, and scattered African countries, plus India, also in pink.
Would I get a Greenland reader if I mention I finally saw that episode of Conan O’Brien where he went to Greenland and met all 24 inhabitants? … No, it would not.
Country Readers
United States 3,080
United Kingdom 218
India 198
Canada 142
Australia 69
France 51
Brazil 39
Philippines 38
Spain 27
Finland 23
South Africa 23
Germany 21
Hong Kong SAR China 21
Italy 20
Norway 19
Sweden 18
Trinidad & Tobago 18
Indonesia 16
Malaysia 16
European Union 13
Vietnam 11
Belgium 10
Ireland 10
Poland 10
Mexico 9
Netherlands 9
Slovakia 9
Guadeloupe 8
Taiwan 8
Thailand 8
New Zealand 6
Russia 6
Singapore 6
Switzerland 6
Chile 5
Peru 5
Serbia 5
Egypt 4
Japan 4
Kenya 4
Nigeria 4
Romania 4
South Korea 4
El Salvador 3
United Arab Emirates 3
Argentina 2
Brunei 2
China 2
Colombia 2
Czech Republic 2
Denmark 2
Ecuador 2
Honduras 2
Hungary 2
Lebanon 2
Tunisia 2
Turkey 2
Uganda 2
Ukraine 2
Uzbekistan 2
Zambia 2
American Samoa 1 (*)
Austria 1
Bhutan 1
Caribbean Netherlands 1
Dominican Republic 1
Ethiopia 1
Greece 1
Guatemala 1
Iraq 1
Jordan 1 (*)
Liechtenstein 1
Lithuania 1
Paraguay 1
Portugal 1
Puerto Rico 1 (*)
Slovenia 1
St. Lucia 1
Uruguay 1

American Samoa, Jordan, and Puerto Rico were single-view countries last month too. Lebanon bowed out of single-reader status after six months.


Which story comics do I plan to cover the next several weeks? Subject to breaking news, of course?

Whatever I do cover, and any news about any of the story comics, I’ll have in a post at this link.

And my overall plan remains to have a long-form essay Thursday Evening, Eastern Time. Some kind of Statistics Saturday post Saturday evenings, my dad’s favorite feature. Sundays, Popeye cartoons from the 60s. And then What’s Going On In the story comics on Tuesdays. The rest of the week I stare at my scraps file, trying to figure out whether “palindromedome” could ever be a thing. It’s not looking promising.


From the dawn of time to the dawn of September I’ve posed 2,769 things here. They drew a total 183,846 views from 103,497 unique visitors. WordPress figures I posted 15,621 words in August, an average of 503.9 words per posting. My average post, year to date, had 536 words.

If all this has convinced you to read my blog regularly, please click the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button on this page. Or if you’d rather read without being tracked, add the RSS feed for this page to your reader. If you don’t think you have a reader, get a free Dreamwidth or Livejournal account. You can add any RSS feed to your friends page from https://www.dreamwidth.org/feeds/ or https://www.livejournal.com/syn as you like. And I do have my semi-accessible @nebusj Twitter account set to announce posts, although I don’t get to read it most of the time. Contact me here if you need me to read what you say. I’m sorry it’s like that but I just don’t want to deal with fixing Twitter’s issues. You understand.

What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Is banana bread hard to make? June – August 2020


Banana bread is not hard to make. Toby is just Toby.

So that catches you up on Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the end of August 2020. If you’re reading this after about December 2020, or if any news about Mary Worth develops, I’ll try to post it here.

Meanwhile, on my other blog, I’m going through the alphabet explaining mathematics terms. Also, at the end of this month, I’m hosting the Playful Math Education Blog Carnival. That’s a gathering of educational and recreational mathematics writing. If you know something mathematical that delighted you, please, let me know. More people would like to know it, too.

Mary Worth.

8 June – 30 August 2020.

Delightfully grumpy Saul Wynter had niece Madi as houseguest for the summer. Her father had to go to Venezuela for The Company, so I trust they mean he’s part of another inept CIA coup attempt. Madi’s mother died years ago. Madi’s grandmother — Saul’s cousin — just died, and Madi’s not coping well. But what else is there to do? Let her stay with a friend? After many walks with his rescued shelter dog Greta, Saul thinks he’s ready for a summer with Madi.

Saul Wynter: 'Madi, I'll show you the spare bedroom where you'll be staying. You can put your things in here.' Madi, looking at her phone: 'Fine.' Saul: 'Oh, that's my dachshund. Let me introduce you to Greta.' Greta looks up, wagging. Madi: 'Ew! Keep it AWAY from me!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 19th of June, 2020. First, I love that Saul Wynter’s interior decorating is “pictures of my dog” and “pictures of me with my dog”, although it’d be nice if we saw some of Bella, his beloved previous dog, too. Second: I am so anxious about Madi’s clothes spilling out of her luggage there. I know it’s just stuff she’d had in the living room so she’s moving it like fifteen feet but still. Also she pulled a bunch of her stuff out in the living room before she’d seen the spare bedroom for some reason.

Oh, but hardly! Why, Madi is sullen, and messy, and on her phone like ALL the TIME. More, she doesn’t like dogs and shoos the timid but friendly Greta off. Greta returns the courtesy, ripping up a shirt she’d left on the floor. Everybody gets stressed out and Greta hides under the bed.

It goes on like this until the start of July when Mary Worth’s meddle-sense finally kicks in. Once she’s aware of friction between housemates Mary Worth can not act fast enough. She has them over for lunch, teleporting them into her kitchen before Saul Wynter gets off the phone. “It’s all right, Mary Worth just does that,” Saul reassures Madi. Mary Worth notices Madi noticing her flowers, and Madi admits her grandmother loved color. Mary Worth agrees: color is one of her favorite intensive properties of matter, up there with viscosity and specific gravity. Mary Worth coaxes Madi to an afternoon at the pool. And to have cookies, since her grandmother was a great cook.

Mary Worth: 'Tell me more ... about your grandmother.' [ When Mary gives Madi a flower. ] Madi: 'Gram loved colorful things.' Mary Worth: 'She must have loved your hair ... the colors.' Madi: 'She loved *me*.' Mary worth: 'People we love who've passed away are still with us in spirit. Love is the bridge that connects us. Something may remind you of her, or you may have a feeling of her near you. That's her watching over you, loving you still.'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 19th of July, 2020. That is a lot of meddle Mary Worth is offering considering Madi has said just seven words about her feeling. Also, the word balloon break in the top row adds a level of sinister they can’t have intended. Unless they’re writing a bit for us ironic readers, I guess.

At the pool Mary Worth asks Madi about her grandmother, and listens a short while. She comments how things Madi does to remember her are nice. How we honor loved ones by imitating the good they did. Have to say, Mary Worth’s meddle game is on.

Madi resists the suggestion to get to know Saul and Greta, though. She complains her Gram’s died, her life’s “shaken”, and she’s living all summer with a grouchy old man and his dog. She makes a fair point. Mary Worth talks about Greta’s long time spent looking for a home and Madi rolls her eyes all the way into Gil Thorp. But she invites Mary Worth to jump into the pool and that helps some. She says Mary Worth reminds her of Gram.

Madi is flopped on her bed, crying. Greta the dachshund comes up and stand up on hindlegs to examine her. Greta hops up and lies down beside Madi.
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 1st of August, 2020. It’s adorable but how did Greta get up on the bed?

This meddles Madi at least into being a quiet sullen who doesn’t put her feet on the couch. She’s still crying at night, though. Until Greta pokes in and squeezes up against her because dog. And that fixes the problem of her not liking dogs. At least not liking Greta.

So way back when this story started an incident happened that I didn’t think rated mention. Toby was having trouble making desserts for a Charterstone meeting. I thought it was no more than a bit of color along the way to the actual Saul-and-Madi-and-Greta story. I should have known better. Mary Worth isn’t some slapdash strip that would leave a plot point like that hanging. And the resolution of this launches the end of the story to greatness. From the 5th of August we see Toby struggling again to make dessert for, I think, a different Charterstone meeting.

Toby on the phone: 'Mary, I need your help!' Mary Worth: 'What's wrong, Toby? What happened?' Toby, in her itchen, the counter filled with batters and banana peels and eggs splattered on the counter and all: 'I'm making banana bread for the next Charterstone meeting, and the recipe doesn't make sense!' Mary Worth: 'I'll be over soon. Do you mind if I bring a friend?'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 6th of August, 2020. “I don’t understand how but my kitchen is a Slylock Fox Six Differences puzzle! A bird just swooped in here and carried off a fish that does or does not have a gill slit, and there’s a cat pointing and laughing at me!” “No, no, Toby, we’ve been through this. That cat is always pointing and laughing at you. Also that cat is Professor Ian Cameron, your husband. Remember?”

Toby needs Mary Worth’s help: she can’t figure out the banana bread recipe. This raises many questions, among them: what, she can’t go to Bake-N-Cakes and buy dessert? I concede the plot requirement that Toby be working on something a 13-year-old could plausibly have experience with. But, like, the banana bread recipe at AllRecipes.com is seven ingredients, one of which is “bananas”. It has three steps, one of which is “preheat oven and grease pan”. (Snark aside, I think AllRecipe’s step two is over-stuffed. I would break that into three or four steps, one for each time something’s mixed or poured into a new bowl.) Toby’s kitchen is a wasteland of ruined bananas, spent eggs, and viscous puddles of things. I can’t swear that her ice cubes weren’t somehow on fire. If we the audience had not seen that, I would theorize this was a setup to trick Madi into opening up. Instead, no, we have to suppose that Toby is a person who can’t parse “In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar”.

Madi comes with Mary Worth. Toby provides an example of her failed banana bread, so Madi never suspects she’s being patronized. A person who can’t “stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended” is not trying to outthink a 13-year-old. Madi offers that her Gram made banana bread with a “secret ingredient” and she decides, finally, to let Toby know what it is. With the secret Toby tries again and now she has a successful banana bread! The little project makes all the difference. From here on Madi’s a pleasant friendly teen and likes Greta and Saul and Mary Worth and feels bad for Toby and everything.

Toby: 'Madi *what* did your Gram put in her banana bread?' Madi: 'It's a secret ... ' (She leans up, to whisper into Toby's ear.) 'But I'll tell you since you *really* need it ... '
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 11th of August, 2020. “It’s `bananas’. You put bananas in the bread.”

So from the 18th of August we move into the ritual of thanking Mary Worth for everything. This story she did do something to be thanked for. Madi’s decided her summer turned out great. And she’s going to be a chef and bring her Gram’s recipes to everyone. And hey, her dad’s been released by Venezuela counter-intelligence, so he’ll be swinging by to pick her up soon and we can … never see her again I guess. We haven’t quite gotten to Madi’s last strip, much less any hint what the next story is. I expect that to start next week.

Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!

[ Back to GRIFFY, on his quest --- he enters the MARY WORTH strip! ] Jeff, on the phone: 'What should I do? There's this oddly drawn guy here, looking for a missing girl!' Griffy: 'I need so see Mary!' [ Soon ] Griffy: 'Morning, Ms worth! I'm from th' Zippy comic! Can we talk?' Mary Worth: 'Young man, you need help, all right. Th'kind only a MENTAL HEALTH professional can provide!' (Griffy, thinking) 'Uh-oh! I'm frozen in place and unable to speak under th'withering gaze of Mary Worth!!'
Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead for the 19th of August, 2002. So the Auto Care place has been updating its signs, but just to announce when they would reopen after the Covid-19 shutdown, and then to thank the Lansing Economic Development Corporation for assistance and that’s all fine enough. There’s just no way to turn those into inspirational-despair messages, is all.
  • “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.” — Elon Musk, 7 June 2020.
  • “No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does.” — Christopher Morley, 14 June 2020.
  • “It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it.” — W Somerset Maugham, 21 June 2020.
  • “When anger rises, think of the consequences” — Confucius, 28 June 2020.
  • “Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain.” — Lily Tomlin, 5 July 2020.
  • “Be a little kinder than you have to.” — E Lockhart, 12 July 2020.
  • “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” — Lady Bird Johnson, 19 July 2020.
  • “A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” — Steve Maraboli, 26 July 2020.
  • “I don’t think people really realize or understand just how wonderful and special dogs are.” — Robert Crais, 2 August 2020.
  • “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again” — Thomas H Palmer, 9 August 2020.
  • “Take care of all your memories, for you cannot relive them.” — Bob Dylan, 16 August 2020.
  • “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.” — Gertrude Stein, 23 August 2020.
  • “We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.” — Helen Keller, 30 August 2020.

Next Week!

I don’t have to worry what Mary Worth is doing. I’ll be updating you on Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom (Sunday continuity) unless something forces me to do otherwise. Thanks for reading.

Filling my mind so it’s good that I got my work done early today


I want to make some joke about how ‘honest’ implies the existence of words ‘honer’ and ‘hone’ except I’m feeling not 100% sure that isn’t how we got ‘honor’ in there and I don’t want to look it up. Sorry.