MiSTed: Eating for Death, Part 2 of 2


Did you enjoy the first half of Eating For Death? This was another of my pieces of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fictions, written in late 2015 I believe, and taking apart an article from the March 1922 issue of Physical Culture. I bet Bernarr Macfadden is felling all foolish about his whole crusade to get people to eat when they’re hungry instead of bored or feeling obligated. The very unneeded joke about the Snorks is there because I was reading the Wikipedia article about the Snorks for some reason and that stuck in my mind. I apologize for putting the Snorks in your mind now too.


>
> The “eat-to-keep-up-your-strength” idea that
> has been advocated for generations by allopathic
> physicians,

CROW: *And* Popeye!

MIKE: Gotta respect Popeye on strength.

> has sent, literally, millions of people to
> premature graves.

TOM: Underneath a giant avalanche of casseroles and loaves of bread!

>
> Even a person in good health can miss one meal or
> fifty meals, for that matter, without serious results.

CROW: Fifty meals! You’d be spending your whole day eating at that rate.

TOM: You know you miss all the meals you don’t eat.

> But abstinence of some sort is absolutely essential if
> appetite is missing; and is especially necessary in many
> illnesses.

MIKE: Like chronic mouthlessness.

TOM: McWhirtle’s Indigestibility Fever.

CROW: Temporarily made of cardboard; can’t take liquids.

>
> There is no sauce better than hunger;

CROW: Except bleu cheese salad dressing.

> and there
> can be no health of a superior sort, unless food is eaten
> with enjoyment.

MIKE: Wait, so now enjoyment is a sauce?

CROW: *Yes*, and it’s made of bleu cheese.

>
> When you eat a meal with what is known as a
> “coming appetite”

TOM: My appetite went upstairs and it can’t find the way back.

CROW: “The stairs are past the third door!”

MIKE: “I can’t find the door!”

CROW: “Are you in a room or in the hall?”

MIKE: “I … don’t know?”

> you are often treading on dangerous
> ground. This “coming appetite” is often due to
> overstimulation of nerves

MIKE: By the penetrating electropasta needles.

> rather than to natural bodily
> demand, and is, therefore, frequently of the voracious
> character. It compels you to overeat.

TOM: To be fair, ordering a box of Hypnofood didn’t help.

> You are not
> satisfied until you eat so much you cannot hold any more.

CROW: Eat until fingers don’t work. Got it.

>
> At such times a fast is often necessary. But if
> you cannot do that it is absolutely essential that the
> meals should be very light,

TOM: Chew on a balloon, or possibly a bulb of some kind.

MIKE: Any method of general illumination will do.

> if you desire to avoid
> illness that might be serious in character.

CROW: Try illnesses that are lighthearted in character, such as clown flu and the a deficiency in vitamin giggle.

>
> Three square meals a day will send any one to an
> early grave.

TOM: Diversify your meal with triangles and ellipsoids.

> You may be able to follow a regime of this
> sort in growing years, but when full maturity arrives
> look out for trouble if you persist in this habit.

MIKE: In your fallow years just sit in the middle of a room not eating and waiting for death to overcome you.

>
> Three light meals or two medium heavy meals daily
> will prolong your life and increase your efficiency
> mentally and physically.

CROW: Four times a day grab an open-faced sandwich.

TOM: Six times a day, just gnaw on the kitchen counter.

MIKE: When feeling restless, lick an oven door.

>
> I eat but one hearty meal a day, and that is
> preferably taken at noon, though sometimes it is eaten in
> the evening. Occasionally I eat a light meal in the
> morning or evening,

MIKE: Thursdays I spend passed out in a bathtub full of potato salad.

> if I have a craving for food, though
> these light meals frequently consist of fruit alone or
> nuts and fruit with a warm or hot drink.

TOM: Occasionally I rub a slice of lettuce against one cheek.

>
> But the main point that I want to emphasize is

CROW: Food is a good idea but it will never be made practical.

> the necessity of avoiding the habit of eating by the
> clock — without appetite.

TOM: Wait until your clock cries and then feed it all it needs.

>
> Wait for a definite feeling of hunger. Let your
> stomach dictate your eating habits.

MIKE: And leave me some of the garlic-stuffed olives, people.

>

> http://blog.modernmechanix.com/eating-for-death/

CROW: I had death for lunch, can’t we have joi de vivre for supper?

MIKE: Who wants a bowl of hot, buttered MURDER?

TOM: And with that, everybody, good night and be merry!

MIKE: Happy.

TOM: Whichever.

CROW: Night, folks.

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Disclaimer: Mystery Science Theater 3000, its characters and situations and premise and all that, are the property of … uh … I was going to say Best Brains, but I guess it’s Shout! Factory and Consolidated Puppets? Or something? I’m not positive. Well, it’s theirs, and I’m just using it as long as they don’t notice. Bernarr Macfadden’s “Eating For Death” appeared in the _Physical Culture_ magazine from March 1922 and I believe it to be in the public domain. I ran across it from the Modern Mechanix blog linked above, and it’s a crying shame that’s gone defunct because it was so much fascinating reading. Supporting Snorks: Sad Wikipedia sub-section, or saddest Wikipdia sub-section?

> You can be a palpitating force, a veritable human
> dynamo, or you can be a half-alive mass of human
> flesh — not unlike the jelly-fish.

60s Popeye: Tooth Be Or Not Tooth Be, with extremely little Popeye


Before I get to the cartoon here’s a bit of Popeye news. Stephanie Noell, who runs the Out Of Context Popeye panels Twitter feed, put together an e-book. It collects the Spinach Juice Springs story from Thimble Theatre. This was the first full storyline after Elzie Segar’s death, and the story by Tom Sims and Doc Winner seems to have gone uncollected before. It’s available from Gumroad.com as a pay-what-you-will download. Sims and Winner here put forth a couple neat ideas that they shuffle around a while before running out of stuff to do, then toss in a new idea and shuffle that a while, before finally everyone agrees the story is done. So they kept that Elzie Segar vibe pretty well at this point.


Tooth Be Or Not Tooth Be is another Gene Deitch-produced cartoon. So, good luck finding who’s responsible for story or who the animators were or all that. It is dated 1962, the first time I’ve noticed that late date in one of these.

This extends the streak of Gene Deitch cartoons that inspire the question, “the heck am I watching?”. In this case, not because the story is playing with a weird idea. More that the cartoon is disjoint.

Really it’s two cartoons. One is Poopdeck Pappy babysitting a teething Swee’Pea. Swee’Pea goes wild chewing things. Thumbs, most often, but a phone book, a table, anything he can get near his mouth. It looks like the premise is Pappy trying to keep up with Swee’Pea’s devouring the world. That seems viable enough for a five-minute cartoon to me. You can imagine the Tex Avery, or at least Dick Lundy, cartoon built on that.

But just as that’s settled — with a cute bit where the dentist examines Swee’Pea through binoculars, out of biting range — we shift to a different plot. This one’s the story of the Sea Hag kidnapping Poopdeck Pappy so she can steal his teeth. Pappy’s able to escape, thanks to a campaign of expert biting. This, too, seems like it could have been a five-minute cartoon. So why smash these two premises together?

Might be they couldn’t figure a way to extend either premise to the five-and-a-half minutes needed. In which case, yes, better to do two half-cartoons they have inspiration for. But that pushes the question to why they had a pair of tooth-themed premises going at once. Did someone have the idea for the title and then they pitched ideas to fit it?

Also, why is this a Poopdeck Pappy cartoon? Like, why wouldn’t it be Popeye watching Swee’Pea teething instead? (Which would make the non-emergency dentist visit less odd.) I guess Pappy’s willing to punch the Sea Hag, when Popeye never would, but it’s not like Pappy punches her this cartoon either. It allows for a punch line, Popeye coming in to see Swee’Pea brushing his teeth. But that could be done just as well if (say) Olive Oyl came in to see how he was doing. The side effect is this is another candidate for the title of Least Popeye in a Popeye Cartoon.

Part of me wonders, not completely facetiously, if this started out as a public service cartoon for dental hygiene. The repeated instructions about brushing teeth and going to the dentist fit there. As does Pappy telling a story where good teeth saved the day. And Swee’Pea doing a closing rhyme of “They’ll last to the finish! If he eats his spinach! And brushes them twice a day!”

This might even explain the sketchiness of the animation. I don’t think Popeye’s ever been animated on ones, and by this era it certainly couldn’t be animated on twos. Here I estimate them as animating on the eighteens. Or maybe it’s simpler than that. Could be the Deitch studio was running out of the time and animation budget and they had to put out something. It’s a shame if the answer is all that dull, though.

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? What did happen for Skeezix’s 100th birthday? February – April 2021


I’d delayed my last Gasoline Alley plot summary a couple weeks back in February. This so I could say what was happening for Skeezix’s centennial. His discovery on Walt Wallet’s doorstep changed the strip and made it into something that would last a hundred-plus years. And I was startled that nothing particular did happen.

That did change. We got a story revisiting a few moments in Skeezik’s life. This from the perspective of Walt Wallet, a fair choice. The retrospective was shorter than I expected. This both in its duration, which was only a week for the readers, and its scope, which only covered up to World War II. But it is an observation, albeit late, of Skeezik’s centennial.

So this should catch you up on Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for late April, 2021. If you’re reading this after about July 2021, or if news about the strip breaks, I should have a post here.

On my other blog, I do write up comic strips with mathematical content sometimes. Yesterday, for example, I got to bring up a 1948 panel of Barnaby. You might like seeing that.

And now, what has been going on in Gasoline Alley since February?

Gasoline Alley.

14 February – 26 April 2021.

A lot of stuff at the supermarket. Gertie, Walt’s live-in caretaker, stops to help Mim, a woman who’d lost her glasses. Gertie can’t find them, but throws her back out searching the floor. She pulls on a shelf to straighten up, knocking over bottles of floor wax. And then we get a bunch of slapstick as characters fall over, drawing in more bystanders to slip and fall over, drawing in — Well. We are fortunate the slipping wave stops before it encompasses all humanity in the dreaded Global Pratfall Event. And in comes Tim, who’d found Mim’s glasses when he got home. He surmises that they fell into his basket and he hadn’t noticed. Since they’ve met cute and have matching names, they need to go off and date and reappear in stories to come.

Mim: 'Oh, my! I can see again! Thank you! Thank you! How can I repay you?' Gertie: 'Not me! He!' Tim: 'Aw! I was glad to help!' Mim: 'No! I insist!' Tim: 'I insist! No!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 4th of March, 2021. By the next day, in-character time, Tim is calling Mim ‘honey’, so I suppose things are moving fast. Or I’m mistaken in saying that’s happened the next day. Though Gasoline Alley tries to age characters in roughly real-time, there have to be gaps in time we readers don’t see. Otherwise the characters live, like, one or two days per month.

So, come the 10th of March, Gertie heads home and into the next story. She calls Walt to let him know she’s running late, but gets no answer. She fears the worse, speeding home. A cop stops her for speeding, but concedes these are good reasons to rush home and check on an unresponsive 115-year-old. They call in the fire department and the ambulance and find … that he was just watching the TV and couldn’t hear the phone.

Young Walt, holding an infant Skeezix: 'Skeezix! What're you doing here?' Infant Skeezix: 'I live here! Don't you remember?' Walt: 'But, you're grown up and married and live across town!' Skeezix: 'Married? At my tender age?'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 31st of March, 2021. I liked this retrospective-in-a-dream frame. It excuses jumping to good parts without transition or explanation, for one. (And doing such a jump makes the dream more authentic.) And it lets a moment like this be a dialogue, usually more interesting.

From the 24th, Walt talks about the lost stamina of his youth. He goes to bed, and wakes up the next morning … looking and feeling 20 years old. He’s dreaming, of course, but chooses to enjoy that.

Teen Skeezix, pointing out a car to Middle-Age Walt: 'Want to go for a ride in my new jalopy, Uncle Walt? Hop in!' Walt: 'Skeezix! You can't drive! You're just a baby! ... [ They're in the car, racing down the street ] Well, at least you were yesterday!' Skeezik: 'Baby? I'm 15 years old!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 31st of March, 2021. I liked this retrospective-in-a-dream frame. It excuses jumping to good parts without transition or explanation, for one. (And doing such a jump makes the dream more authentic.) And it lets a moment like this be a dialogue, usually more interesting.

He talks with Baby Skeezix. Relives going on the first drives with a 15-year-old Skeezix in a mid-30s jalopy. Waves Skeezix off to the Army, and back from World War II. And, while he’s feeling young, goes for a run. It’s a moment that touched me. I don’t yet have the experience of being old. But I did used to be quite fat. When I was losing that weight there was one day I realized I could go from walking quickly to running, and that the transition felt good, and the running felt good, and I imagine Walt’s dream felt like that. I hope everyone gets to experience that good feeling.

Adult Skeezix, hugging: 'Goodbye, Uncle Walt!' Walt: 'Where're you going Skeezix?' Skeezix, showing his ARMY shirt: 'Off to WWII! I enlisted!' Walt: 'Be careful! Don't worry! We win the war!' Skeezix: 'How do you know?' Walt: 'Been there! Done that!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 5th of April, 2021. “Oh, I’ve played like 300 crazy scenarios in Hearts of Iron III and, let me tell you, you have to seriously nerf the Allies to lose.”

But it is a dream, and only a dream. He wakes the next morning with the usual sorts of aches and indignities of age.


Walt wakes back up the 13th, has breakfast, and they discover they’re out of eggs. While Walt naps, Gert goes back to the store. She’s been trying to find a box of eggs without any cracked, without success. The egg delivery guy is handling the packages roughly. Also she sees Mim again, who’s there with Tim and contact lenses.

Next Week!

Hollywood glamor! Rappers! Childhood bullies! Homeowners Associations! Viral videos! It’s Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail, if all goes as planned. I still don’t know how Mark Trail didn’t get arrested after stealing that boat in Florida. Sorry.

Also, if you’re a little curious somebody built a Smokey Stover web site … I’d estimate in summer of 1997 … updated the copyright notice in 2003, and forgot about it ever since. So please enjoy some vintage comic strips on a very vintage web site. It’s got an image map for its front page, if you can imagine.

Tarzan comic strip ending syndication soon, also, Tarzan comic strip hadn’t ended syndication yet


D D Degg, at The Daily Cartoonist, reports the Tarzan comic strip is leaving syndication. Andrews McMeel Syndication is halting the strip the 20th of June, 2021. This is not so great a surprise. The Sunday Tarzan strip has been in reruns since the 19th of May, 2002. The daily strip has been in reruns since the 29th of July, 1972, and I keep having to go back and double-check that. That’s not just since before I was born, or before Hagar the Horrible first appeared. That’s more than half of the comic strip’s whole lifetime ago.

The Burroughs Estate points out that for nearly a decade now they’ve had a web comic version of Tarzan going, with Sunday-size panels. And that they hope to publish the web comic through Dark Horse.

Right now, GoComics.com has a pretty solid archive of Tarzan strips. It features the strips that have been rerun going back to 1996. I have no information what will happen to that after June. GoComics has been getting ruthless in culling comics — including purging archives — so if there’s any Tarzan stories you remember liking, and you have a GoComics subscription, I recommend going in and saving the image files now.

60s Popeye: Partial Post, featuring alien behavior and a flying saucer


1960’s Partial Post is a Gene Deitch cartoon, so that’s about all the credits we get for it. I’d love to tell you more.

So, this is a weird one. I mean weird even for a Gene Deitch cartoon. I like it, mind you. I won’t think ill of people who feel the story is gibberish. But the ridiculousness is so proudly worn that I can’t hold that against the cartoon. I mean, it’s about an alien mailbox stealing Olive Oyl’s rose and messing with Popeye’s head. I’ll give it a hearing.

This has me wondering about the origins and writing of the cartoon, although not quite enough to see if Gene Deitch’s web site said anything. A flying saucer cartoon makes sense, especially for 1960. The alien messing with Popeye and Olive Oyl is inevitable from that. Why is the alien a mailbox? Why is it grabbing random objects? But rejecting Popeye’s mail? It feels like a parody of something and I can’t think what.

Olive clasps her hands together and looks happily at Popeye, who's poking his head out of the Mailbox Alien.
Do you suppose Popeye wondered what the fire hydrant was doing in that mailbox with him?

There’s some alien behavior this short, and not all the Mailbox From Space. Popeye and Olive Oyl have a bunch of dialogue where they talk past one another, or past the scenario. Like, Olive Oyl says her rose is gone, and Popeye answers, “yeah, it’s real gone,” like he thinks he’s in a Beatnik cartoon. Or, as the Space Mailbox tries to inhale Olive Oyl, Popeye says, “That’s a pretty good trick, but I thought you wanted to go for a walk.” These are lines funny for being inappropriate to the scene. I like the comic style of characters talking past one another (see every episode of Vic And Sade). But again, I understand the viewer who keeps asking, “The heck am I watching?”. Popeye getting to Olive Oyl’s and saying how “the feeling is mucilage” is great, though.

As typical, Deitch animates cheaply but well. It starts with a good use of a long camera pan to simulate animation. If the aliens had any reason to send a mailbox, it must be that this is an easy figure to draw. There’s lots of shots of the characters looking funny. As far as I know there wasn’t any overlap in animators between this and Jay Ward studios. But they had a similar attitude that limited animation doesn’t justify drawing boring poses.

I won’t fight you if you don’t like this, but I’m happy with it.

Statistics Saturday: Some Needless Parts of my Brain


Pie chart with roughly equal slices for each of: "Part that builds elaborate fantasies of being awesome in committee hearings as state senator"; "Part that thinks ``Rain’’ is by the Kinks and not the Beatles"; "Part that remembers machine language code for the Commodore 64"; "Part that remembers the ``Lash Rambo’’ episode of The New WKRP In Cincinatti"; "Part that’s still relitigating that argument from 1991 about the undergraduate newspaper budget"; "Part that decides since I could do these tasks in this order I can’t do them in ANY OTHER ORDER even if that means wasting all day waiting for a tiny roadblock in doing the first thing"; "Part that wants to change lanes now for the turn that’s 15 miles away"; "Part that wants to make a roman-à-clef out of my unremarkable experiences on the undergraduate newspaper"
Not depicted: the part that wants to offer as a “fun fact” that for a short while the cities of Cincinatti and Detroit belonged to the same Hamilton County, Ohio Territory, even though while a fact this is not fun.

Reference: The Game Makers: The Story Of Parker Brothers From Tiddledy Winks To Trivial Pursuit, Philip E Orbanes.

60s Popeye: Coach Popeye, crowding on Gil Thorp by not teaching sports any


We’re back to a Jack Kinney-produced cartoon. It’s also Kinney’s story. The animation direction, though, is Volus Jones. The year is 1960 and the name of the short is Coach Popeye.

It’s a rare appearance of Olive Oyl’s niece Deezil Oyl! Deezil first appeared in the 1960s shorts and I’m not sure if she’s been promoted to the “real” comic strip. She got to be in the Popeye’s Cartoon Club feature that ran for a year, but that’s noncanonical.

Deezil’s not here for a deeper exploration of her character. She’s here because if Swee’Pea were throwing baseballs through the window on his own, he’d be a jerk. Instead they can just be kids playing. Popeye steps in to show the kids how to play properly, and Brutus interferes because he’s Brutus. The resulting cartoon is a weird one. The story feels developed well enough. But there’s also a lot of dead air between things happening. Maybe Jack Kinney was leaving space for the kids to finish laughing. I don’t think of other Kinney-produced cartoons having quite so much space between events, though.

I’ve been trying to figure what feels off about Popeye’s and Brutus’s dialogue. It feels, to me, written to be a bunch of wordplay jokes, whether or not they make sense. Like, consider the exchange where Brutus declares “I can do better’n that!”. Popeye answers, “Ya can’t, cause you’re a bully!” Brutus answers, “Bully for you too!” There’s no logic there, but I can absolutely imagine being seven and delighted by the shifting uses of “bully”. Brutus and Popeye then get into a back-and-forth of “Can!” “Can’t!” and I go back-and-forth on that myself. On one watching of this cartoon it struck me as what writers put in when they want a fight but haven’t got anything to fight about. On another watching, the rhythm and pointlessness of it was funny. So I’ll suppose Jack Kinney knew what he was doing and did it.

A dazed Brutus jumps rope while Popeye plays jacks.
Popeye playing jacks on the lawn implies he’s either really confident about his ball-bouncing skills or he has no idea what he’s doing.

A slightly odd moment is Popeye declaring, “Kids, this is the wrong way, but I gots to teach him a lesson” before eating his spinach. Popeye’s always held up spinach as a good thing everyone should eat more of. With that setup, though, it plays into treating spinach as an illicit advantage. I suppose that attitude was in the air. In the 60s we’d still get Underdog having his Proton Energy Pills and SuperChicken havin his super-sauce. But we’d be taking that sort of power-up out of children’s entertainment soon enough.

An unreservedly good bit here: Brutus declaring to the camera, “Gee! I didn’t count on this!” after Popeye eats his spinach. It’s the sort of absurd, facetious touch that I liked as a kid and still like today.

MiSTed: Eating For Death, Part 1 of 2


So I’m going to run another Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic here. This one’s short enough to do in two segments — it’s a bit long for a single piece — and it’s riffing on an article of dietary advice that the Modern Mechanix blog ran years ago. They used to run weird bits from the back issues of their magazines and it was such a delight. I wrote this somewhere around late 2015, if my notes are right. See if you can spot where I future-proofed a riff!


[ START. The Brains are in the theater. ]

>
> Eating for Death

TOM: My favorite _Columbo_ episode! Patrick McGoohan plays this world-famous chef being blackmailed and …

>
> By Bernarr Macfadden

CROW: Um …

TOM: Yeah, exactly which parts of that name are spelled wrong?

>
> _Physical Culture_, March 1922

MIKE: I forgot to renew my subscription!

>
> THE crime of the age is meal time eating — without
> appetite.

CROW: Also that Sacco and Vanzetti thing. But mostly eating.

TOM: Snacking is the misdemeanor of the age!

>
> It is the direct cause of more suffering,
> weakness and disease than any other evil.

CROW: Even more than not appreciating your parents?

>
> It poisons the life stream at its very source.

TOM: Its Snackables!

>
> “The blood is the life.”

MIKE: The spice is the life?

TOM: The blood is spiced?

> The quality of this
> liquid determines vital activity throughout every part of
> the body.

CROW: I think Bernarr Macfadden grossly underestimates the importance of acetylcholinesterase.

MIKE: You’re *always* accusing people of underestimating the importance of acetylcholinesterase.

CROW: I just think it’s very important is all.

>
> You can be a palpitating force, a veritable human
> dynamo,

TOM: You can be a large turtle-like artificial intelligence!

CROW: You can be a leading importer of cheese to Denmark!

MIKE: You can be several key innovations in the history of Timothy hay!

> or you can be a half-alive mass of human
> flesh — not unlike the jelly-fish.

CROW: Jellyfish are made of human flesh?

TOM: Ew ew ew ew ew ew *ew*.

> It is the quality of
> your blood that determines entirely to which class you
> belong.

CROW: Is this gonna be one of those stories where Bernarr Macfadden finds out his blood was replaced with a high-grade polymer and suddenly nobody will talk to him anymore?

>
> Eating without appetite means devitalized blood.

MIKE: Or that you’re putting more melted cheese on everything.

> The stomach is not ready to digest food at such times.

TOM: It’s off wandering around, taking in museums, reading good books, and then you throw a big slab of bean-and-cheese burrito at it.

>
> It is appetite — a strong craving for food —

CROW: A lesser craving for pottery shards.

> which
> definitely indicates that the stomach is ready for
> digestion.

TOM: Why not just wait for the stomach to call?

CROW: Yeah, like, ‘Hey, stomach here. I’m raring to digest!’

> The food eaten is then keenly enjoyed.

MIKE: Well, it is like 2016.

TOM: So?

MIKE: So who calls for *that*? That’s more like a tweet or a text message or something.

CROW: Excuse *us* for maintaining some dignified propriety, Mike.

>
> The pleasure in eating serves a very valuable
> purpose.

MIKE: It gives us a reason to go eat a second time, sometime.

> It not only causes an unusual activity of the
> salivary glands, but also of the glands of the stomach.

TOM: Glands! Is your stomach going through puberty?

CROW: It’s so awkward to have esophageal zits.

> So that when the food arrives in this organ, digestion
> and assimilation progress rapidly and satisfactorily.

MIKE: Though not without some sarcasm.

>
> Now when you eat without appetite, these
> invaluable functional processes are inactive or entirely
> absent

TOM: They take one sabbatical year and everything comes crashing down!

> and the food can do nothing but lie like lead in
> the stomach.

MIKE: Stop eating lead! There’s your problem.

>
> You say it won’t digest.

TOM: *You* say it won’t digest. We’re just nibbling some here.

> Why should it? No
> self-respecting stomach will allow itself to be outraged
> in this manner, without protest.

MIKE: My stomach’s wracked with depression and low self-esteem though.

CROW: Well, so you can eat any old time.

MIKE: Which … fits.

>
> Eat at meal time if you are hungry, but if the
> food has no taste respect the mandates of your stomach

MIKE: And sprinkle on the MSG powder.

> and wait until the next meal or until your appetite
> appears, even if it takes several meals or several days.

TOM: If you never eat again, then you may be losing weight.

[ To conclude … ]

60s Popeye: Psychiatricks, and I really want to believe something else


It’s another Seymour Kneitel festival today. He’s credited for the story, direction, and production of 1960’s Psychiatricks. So let’s watch.

This feels so much like a clip cartoon. Even more specifically, it feels like the Famous Studios clip cartoon Friend or Phony, where Bluto tricks Popeye into thinking spinach makes him a murderer. Things are gentler in this made-for-TV production. Here Brutus merely tricks Popeye into thinking spinach makes him reckless and violent.  This based on some incidents from childhood when there’s as many as 62 other Paramount Cartoon Studios shorts they could have used here.  Popeye throws his spinach away, Brutus starts clobbering him, Olive Oyl recovers the spinach, all ends well.  (Also, Olive Oyl says it’s Popeye’s brand of spinach.  Does she mean his preferred brand?  Or does she just mean any opened can of spinach that’s been warmed by contact to body temperature must be Popeye’s?)

You see why I think it’s a clip cartoon. It’s got an extended flashback to infant Popeye and Brutus fighting. Then another of young Popeye-and-Brutus fighting over Olive Oyl. What I can’t do is figure which cartoons these are excerpted from. I don’t recognize them. The Internet Movie Database offers no connections. And looking over the list of Paramount Cartoon Studios-produced shorts doesn’t suggest anything. If I’m overlooking a source I hope someone will say. Maybe I’ll notice in time.

Brutus, disguised as a psychiatrist, glares sinisterly and cups a hand to his chin. He seems ready to cackle.
He seems trustworthy.

I don’t understand the cartoon if it’s not. I admire when a production uses the frame of a clip show to present original material. It’s a clever manipulation of audience expectations. But I also know these cartoons were made without the time and budget for luxuries like fake clip shows. And these clips require a lot of work, with new models and new animation for the characters. They reused the footage of Popeye trotting along, blowing heart-shaped bubbles from his pipe. If they were going to blow the budget on this cartoon why make it look like a budget-saver?

There’s much I’d like to understand better about these cartoons’ making.

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? What was in Pouch’s blue balloon? January – April 2021


The blue balloon was something with a secret message that The Pouch was trying to send to an unknown party. We haven’t learned what the message was. Nor who was to receive it. Nor why they shot Pouch over a couple-day delay of it? For this story, at least, it’s a MacGuffin. I expect that it’ll come back later. Staton and Curtis have enjoyed planting things for use months or years later. (But, they have yet to follow up on whatever was haunting the Plenty household years ago, too.)

That what we do see of the message is a binary sequence suggests it could involve “Matty Squared”. This is a digitally uploaded former henchman of Mister Bribery. He was last seen in 2018, heading for “the server farms down south”, after the arrest of Mister Bribery’s gang. But that’s a guess.

So this post should catch you up to mid-April 2021 on Dick Tracy. If you’re reading this after about July 2021, or if there’s news about Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy there should be a more useful post here. Thanks for reading.

Dick Tracy.

24 January – 17 April 2021.

Aquarius and his drug-dealers in the 1312 Bedwell commune had captured Tiger Lilly. Lilly was there to retrieve a stolen blue balloon for information broker The Pouch. Aquarius, meanwhile, wanted to harass The Pouch for chasing away his dealers such as “Dollar” Bill Dolan. (Pouch’s cover is selling balloons at the zoo, and wants disreputable crime like drug dealing kept away from his scene.) The Pouch had, in fact, told Tiger Lilly to take care of Dollar Bill. Lilly did this by killing Dollar Bill and disposing of his body in the woods. I’m not sure if Aquarius knew or suspected that, though. But that’s where we were in January.

Organic farmer Tim Wildman, evicted from the Bedwell Commune a year ago, gives backstory. The Commune’s organizer, and mansion owner, is Peggy Bellum, paraplegic since a car accident three years ago. Her nephew Aquarius was doted on until the accident, which “changed” him, though he still tends his aunt. But the changes brought drug use, and dealing, into the Commune. Meanwhile, Peggy Bellum’s brother Stephan — handling her money — wants to sell the mansion for “development”, which she can’t refuse hard enough. Stephan tells that Aquarius is drug-dealing, a revelation that convinces Peggy her brother is lying to scare her into selling out. So that’s the people with money or property think about all this.

Dick Tracy: 'Wildman's statement seemed on the level to me. If what he says is true about Ms Bellum, it might be a case of disability abuse. Indeed, I think that's grounds for another visit to 1312 Bedwell.' Sam Catchem: 'Right! I'll get us some help. Catch you later, Tracy.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 5th of February, 2021. One weakness to the story is that it’s unclear what’s not suitable for Peggy Bellum here. I suppose that there’s drug users on the property but it’s not obvious to me that implies Bellum’s being ill-treated. But this may reflect a department, or character, assumption that any sign of drug use is proof of abuse.

Where did we get from there? Well, a bunch of parties pursued their own Brilliant Schemes at once. This all makes sense, but it did make the day-to-day action harder to follow.

First party: Tiger Lilly. The Bedford Commune drug dealers caught him and tossed him into the root cellar out back. Not the basement and I’ll explain why that matters. He’s able to break the ropes tying him down. And to break through a ceiling vent (the door is too solid), in front of the cops. I’ll explain why cops are there, too. He doesn’t know that Dick Tracy Jr’s trail cameras spotted his dumping of Dollar Bill’s body. Still, you see why he’d figure he should run. But has the bad luck to try carjacking the truck that B O and Gertie Plenty are canoodling in. So he’s arrested for involuntary manslaughter.

Dick Tracy: 'Say again, Gertie?' Gertie: 'We were sittin' in our truck on date night when that Tiger Lilly came out of nowhere! And then!' --- in loosely stylized panels B O kicks Tiger Lilly, grabs a tree branch, and whacks Lilly unconscious. B O Plenty: 'Yep, that's how I done it, Mr Macy!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 18th of March, 2021. Have to feel for Tiger Lilly, getting beat up in a stylized flashback like that.

Second party: Pouch. He wants that blue balloon back. He breaks into the basement — not the root cellar — planting a device to release mercaptan. The residents figure it’s a gas leak, and all evacuate. Cheesecake, Aquarius’s girlfriend or possibly wife, takes Peggy Bellum to a hotel to wait the trouble out. Pouch breaks in, finds the balloon, and has to hide while Dick Tracy’s gang searches the place. I’ll explain why they’re there later. But he succeeds, and turns the blue balloon over to his contact. His contact shoots him. This seems like an overreaction even to being days late on the delivery. But we don’t know what the message — seen in black light to be a string of binary digits — was about.

Park cops, driving around: 'Slow night and no sign of Pouch all afternoon.' 'It figures.' We see Pouch handing the Blue Balloon over to his contact. The contact shoots him. Park cops: 'One more tour around the park and we're done.' They spot the unconscious Pouch.
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 21st of March, 2021. The contact here also took Pouch’s money. He supposed it was further punishment for the delay getting the balloon delivered. I wonder if the contact didn’t just want it to look like a mugging. I suppose it depends whether the contact rifled Pouch’s wallet, a hard-cased thing that deflected the bullet.

Lucky for Pouch, his titanium wallet deflected the bullet, and park cops noticed and rushed him to the hospital. He won’t say anything about who shot him or why. Less lucky for him, he passes Tiger Lilly on the way out of the hospital. Lilly, reasonably but wrongly thinking Pouch left him for dead, slugs him. (Remember, Pouch couldn’t have seen Lilly, and had assumed Lilly had ditched him.)

Third party: Dick Tracy. He’s got the corpse of Bill Dolan. He and Sam Catchem suspect a link with 1312 Bedwell, since look at those numbers. But the only tie they can find is Tim Wildman. He’s an organic farmer who gave Catchem the tip that the Bedwell Commune was even in this story. He’s glad to give them backstory about the Commune and his eviction from it. Tracy figures there’s at least enough to do a wellness check, in case there’s any abuse of a disabled person going on. And a stray witness is able to tell Tracy and Catchem that Pouch is in this story too, so they hope to interrogate him.

Tracy arrives at 1312 Bedwell with the representative from Child and Family Services. In case you wonder why marginalized people will refuse the civil benefits to which they’re entitled for their protection. They all get there as Tiger Lilly escapes the root cellar. Also, by coincidence, shortly after Pouch sets off his mercaptan bomb.

Family and Child Services investigator: 'From what I've seen today, if Peggy Bellum is living here, she shouldn't be.' Pouch, hiding in a dumbwaiter, thinking: 'Lousy cops! LEAVE already! I'm dyin' here!' Investigator: 'The DFCS will be in touch. I'll go make my report.' Dick Tracy: 'Alright. Thanks, Ms Han.' In the root cellar, Tiger Lilly jabs at the ceiling and thinks: 'That door was rock solid, but this old vent was easy to break through!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 12th of March, 2021. Oh, using the dumbwaiter. OK, great plan but letting everyone else on the expansion set to Betrayal at the House on the Hill know; the dumbwaiters connect you to the next landing one floor up or down. They don’t connect to other dumbwaiter rooms. I know, it’s not what we expected either and we kept making that mistake.

So. Pouch is able to hide from the cops, and gets to his appointment to be shot. Tiger Lilly escapes his confinement, only to get clobbered by B O and Gertie Plenty and arrested. Ty, the drug dealer who took up Dollar Bill’s beat, comes back to the house in time to get arrested. And while they’ll get to interrogate Pouch in the hospital, he won’t say anything about anything.

Fourth party: Oscar Grubbard. I know, who? I’m not positive, but he seems to be working for Peggy Bellum’s brother Stephan. But after Stephan tells Peggy about Aquarius’s drug-dealing she fires him. This as he’s bringing tea to her. My best guess is he’s meant to be Stephan’s caretaker for Peggy?

Anyway, with Peggy declaring she’ll revoke the power of attorney given Stephan, Grubbard acts. This in drugging Peggy Bellum (and incidentally Cheesecake). His brilliant plan: smother Peggy Bellum, let Stephan inherit all the money, and then abscond with the money to Bogota. It feels like an improvised execution. Aquarius’s unexpected visit to his aunt foils it, starting a fight that Tracy and company are luckily on hand to interrupt.

Oscar Grubbard, holding a pillow over Peggy Bellum: 'I had a more leisurely exit planned, but you forced my hand, with your threats of investigation, old hag. In time, Mr Bellum will see it was for the best. In a few minutes, he'll have the family fortune. His drug-dealing son will be in jail within the week, and I'll be in Bogota.' [ Elsewhere ] Aquarius rides the elevator up to Peggy Bellum's room.
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 3rd of April, 2021. I guess Grubbard doesn’t quite say he’s going to make off with the Bellum fortune, but it would be odd for him to kill Peggy Bellum and flee to Bogota without it. But Grubbard here is an embezzler, so maybe he’s overestimating his skills at opportunistic murder.

So this gets things resolved as well as they could. Tiger Lilly’s arrested for manslaughter. The cops would like to ask Pouch about his “I am innocent of the crimes you are investigating” T-shirt but he refers them to his T-shirt. Oscar Grubbard’s arrested for assault and attempted murder. Most of the 1312 Bedwell residents get charged with drug possession or trafficking. Aquarius also gets a false imprisonment charge. The strip doesn’t specify if this means imprisoning Tiger Lilly or imprisoning Peggy Bellum. Peggy Bellum donates the house “to charity”, and moves in with Tim Wildman.

I’m sympathetic to people who didn’t follow the story as it unfolded. There are a lot of threads, and they were woven together. And the plans of some parties interrupted plans of others. If you have a GoComics membership I recommend going back and rereading it all at once, though. The pieces do fit together well. It’s easy to imagine this as a competing-capers-gone-wrong movie.


So the 11th of April finished off that story. The current story began last week, the 12th of April. Abner Kadaver, back from the dead, breaks his accomplice Vera Alldid out of jail. That’s as much as I can tell you now.

Next Week!

Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley did nothing for the centennial of Walt Wallet discovering Skeezix! Has the strip recovered from this strange anti-nostalgic blow? If all goes well next week we’ll see what the Wallet family has been doing.

60s Popeye: The Spinach Scholar, by Seymour Kneitel and a bunch of Bazooka Joe wrappers


It’s a 1960 cartoon, it’s from Paramount Cartoon Studios. Of course it’s produced by Seymour Kneitel. And directed by Seymour Kneitel. And you know where the story’s coming from. Let’s watch The Spinach Scholar.

The cartoon starts again with Popeye’s full-length scat intro. It feels like padding, although there’s funny pictures to spruce it up. Popeye leaving a trail of heart-shaped bubbles behind, particularly. But also his oblivious walking through danger. He rings the doorbell several times, the last time accidentally hitting Olive Oyl’s nose, a joke he’s done in the theatrical cartoons since … not sure. The black-and-white days, anyway.

The premise is Olive Oyl wants Popeye to get an education. (Olive Oyl hasn’t got whites to her eyes, most of the time, only pupils.) So he goes to elementary school. The principal, Jack Mercer trying to do a voice that isn’t exactly Wimpy, puts him in eighth grade. (One teacher meanwhile appears to be an off-model Olive Oyl.) What follows is a string of scenes where the teacher asks a question and Popeye gives a silly answer. The class laughs, and he gets put into a lower grade to try again.

Popeye sits at a schooldesk too small for him. He's waving both hands and puffing smoke from his pipe, eager to answer the teacher.
Speaking as someone who’s taught, I’d take the enthusiastic-but-wrong Popeye. It brings energy to class and makes it easier for other people to speak.

It’s all competently done stuff. And we do see Popeye finally growing reluctant to say the first thing that pops into his head. This can’t save him from being called on and humiliated. The plot requires that, yes. It does add a dose of the inescapable nightmare to things. But it’s too gentle a cartoon to feel like a nightmare. And there’s some fun understated jokes of Popeye fitting into ever-smaller desks. Also the way he expresses his shame with his head morphing into a dumbbell or shrinking or such. Still, this is very much an okay cartoon.

60s Popeye: Jack Kinneys’s Popeye’s Folly


We’re at the Jack Kinney studios in 1960 today. The story’s by Raymond Jacobs and animation direction by Volus Jones and Ed Friedman. Please enjoy Popeye’s Folly.

It’s another cartoon with the Popeye-tells-Swee’pea-a-story frame. The device excuses setting a cartoon anywhere, anytime. It also excuses skipping any boring scenes. I was impressed that Popeye explained that Robert Fulton’s Clermont was “one of the first” steamboats ever built. It’s almost impossible to correctly dub the first of anything historic. So, points for precision to Raymond Jacobs. (And I’m not deducting points for calling the boat the “Clermont”, when Fulton called it the “North River Steamboat”. Clermont is a name — really, the name — by which it’s known.)

I like the setup for this, a story of Popeye’s great-(etc)-grandfathers, Popeye and Pappy, building their own steamboat. And facing down Brutus and Sea Hag, who’re trying to protect their own sailing ship interests. It’s a natural conflict, and it justifies ending things in a contest, a reliable conflict.

Much of the start is Popeye and Grandpappy trying to build a steamship at all. I could watch more of that. Yes, I’m a history-of-technology nerd. But there’s good jokes to make from struggling to invent a thing. The only scene that gets at that is the second attempt at a boat. The one that either Pappy or Popeye forgets to untie from the dock, and that rips apart. An engine that’s too much for the boat is a plausible enough problem. Forgetting to untie the ship seems like a terrible mistake for a family of sailors.

Or they’re not good sailors. In the contest, for example, their steamship almost immediately runs out of coal, as though Popeye didn’t know it was needed? Chopping up the vessel to keep it going has a long history in comedy, but it’s normally set up why they’re out of fuel. It suggests that Brutus and Sea Hag don’t need to sabotage them.

So the plot suffers from this sloppiness. It has some lovely touches, though, particularly in the dialogue. Take Brutus sneering, “Imagine building a ship to use legs when we’ve already got wings”. It’s poetic enough to have confused me about what the legs were. Or sneering that Popeye’s “engine is louder than the whistle”. Which is another insult I don’t quite understand, but never mind. (Also Popeye ends up with an engine that’s very quiet, like the sound was mixed wrong.) Or the Sea Hag speaking of the steamboat as “sailing along like the devil was a-pushing it”. During the race, there’s a nice bit showing Brutus’s ship from the front, the riverbanks receding behind him. Brutus chuckles, “With the Blackhawk wearing her Sunday best and a stiff breeze I can’t lose.” It’s again a more poetic way of describing Brutus’s thoughts. It also trusts that the audience spotted the name of his ship, or could work it out from context.

There’s even a moment of deft plotting. It’s only in setting up the contest that we get a specific reason for Brutus and Sea Hag to want to sabotage Popeye and Pappy. They’re protecting their sailing business. It’s a stronger motive than Brutus and Sea Hag being jerks.

Were I to rewrite the cartoon, the important change I’d make is swapping the first two boat failures. Popeye and Pappy making a boat that tears itself apart, to start. (And find a better reason than “forgot to untie it”.) Then Sea Hag can sabotage the next, when the boat could be competition.

Statistics Saturday: The Episode Title Trajectory of your Favorite _Cheers_ Podcast


  • Episode 1: Where Everybody Knows Your Name
  • Episode 3: Two American Kids Growin’ Up in the Heartland
  • Episode 6: Crane Spotting
  • Episode 8: That Harry Anderson, he’s going to be Dave Barry someday
  • Episode 12: Janeway or Saavik or Pulaski or Whatever Star Trek Dame Sam’s Dating THIS TIME
  • Episode 15: Can a Cat Be Said to Have “Slept In”?
  • Episode 18: Wait, Have We All Lost a Fiancee to a Freak Zamboni Accident?
  • Episode 20: That’s a Good Price for Adequate Bread
  • Episode 24: Speedrunning Dutch
  • Episode 27: Glorple Globble Globble Gleeple
  • Episode 31: Officially the Internet’s Third-Best The Art Of Being Nick Podcast
  • Episode 36: Snorses! Snorses Everywhere!
  • Episode 40: No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.
  • Episode 48: The Important Thing Is YEEAARRAARRRRAAUUGH
  • Episode 52: Our Episode 50 Superspectacular

Reference: Bottom of the Ninth: Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the Daring Scheme to Save Baseball From Itself, Michael Shapiro.

In Which I Wish to Blame This on the Synthesizer but It Was Really Just Me


Sorry, was just thinking about how I spent all my elementary and middle and high school education in special magnet programs for the unusually special-magnet-program-bound, and yet it took me like three years to realize that G.I.Joe nemesis Cobra Commander and the same voice as the Starscream the Transformer.

MiSTed: Brad Guth’s _Venus for Dummies_, Part 3 of 3


And now we come to the end of this Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction I’d written in 2012. One may ask whether it’s fair or right to mock someone’s difficult-to-follow conspiracy theory about the space program. One may also ask, well, what else are you going to do? It’s a fair question. Another fair question: what am I going to do next week? I don’t know, but I’m eager to find out myself. The reference at the end to my own Still-Store web site is to a project I’d had, to make a MiSTing archive, which reached the point that I finished all the really hard programming problems and then never found the energy to actually complete. Good use of time there. Well, it accomplished something, anyway: the tools I use to give the MiSTing a nice style here are ones I developed for that web site project.

If you want to catch up on how we got here, here was Part 1 of the MiSTing and here was Part 2 of Venus For Dummies. And now, the conclusion.


> do reconsider
> as to bothering yourself to take another subjective look-see

CROW: Call ahead! It’d be embarrassing if Venus were out when you get there.

> and then
> honestly interpret this thick and dense atmospheric insulated terrain
> for yourself,

TOM: But ask for help understanding the dirty jokes in the Malagasy Orogeny.

> as to what some of those highly unusual patterns could
> possibly represent, as anything other than the random geology
> happenstance of hot rocks.

CROW: I see a bunny.

JOEL: I see a painting by Thomas Eakins.

>
> =93Guth Venus=94 1:1, plus 10x resample/enlargement of the area in
> question:

TOM: Are we to suppose this is some “magic late-bombardment protoplanet”?

> https://picasaweb.google.com/102736204560337818634/BradGuth#slideshow/5629579402364691314
>

JOEL: The picture is nice enough but I like seeing all those 3’s up there.

> This is not to say that 99.9999% of this Venus surface doesn’t look
> perfectly natural (at least it does to me),

CROW: And I’ve been looking at things for *years*!

> just like the surface of
> Earth might look if having to use the exact same SAR-C imaging methods

TOM: The same saucy imaging methods? Wow!

> and its limited resolution that could be easily improved upon by any
> new missions for mapping Venus in greater detail (such as 7.5 meters/
> pixel).

CROW: Oh, we’d just run out of pixels at that rate.

> After all, a millionth of that hot Venus surface area is
> still 4.6e8 m2, or 460 km2,

TOM: Or sixty barleycorns, two pottles, and half a Lords-Whacking-Stick!

> and this most complex area of =93Guth
> Venus=94 (100 x 100 pixels or 506 km2

CROW: 485 if you use coupon code GUTHVENUS!

> ) that which includes mostly
> natural geology, isn’t involving but a fraction more than a millionth
> of the Venus surface area,

JOEL: It all adds up to three squintillionths of a Venusian barleycorn!

> and yet it seems as though highly developed
> and to a large enough scale that makes for deductively interpreting
> those patterns

JOEL: Socrates is a mortal.

TOM: Pants are rarely worn on the head.

CROW: A person with plenty of time need not run for the train.

TOM: Oranges are not sharp metal instruments.

JOEL: Therefore, Socrates is being chased by a tiger!

> as rather easy and reliably pixel truthworthy items
> that do in fact exist because the image resampling process isn’t even
> capable of artificially creating them.

TOM: Iron-clad proof! These pictures are impossible to make!

>
> It can also be suggested and reasonably argued that initially (4+
> billion years ago)

JOEL: Actually it was 3.95 billion years ago. It just aged badly.

> our sun was 25% cooler than nowadays (possibly a
> third cooler),

CROW: Back when it wore those hipster glasses.

TOM: Hipster sunglasses.

> thereby making Venus quite Goldilocks approved even if
> she was naked and totally dumbfounded.

JOEL: Didn’t Theodore Sturgeon write this story?

> But even this cool beginning
> still doesn’t fully explain as to why such a large and complex
> geometric sale of a structured community

CROW: Featuring a golf course, a security booth, and a clubhouse!

> or mining operation was
> established,

TOM: Well, what’s mine is mine.

JOEL: Or Daffy Duck’s.

> and as to why Venus has been radiating such a large
> amount of its geothermal core energy

CROW: Maybe it’s trying to keep power the Autobots?

> plus having been creating all of
> that unprotected atmosphere that should have been extensively solar
> wind blown away as of more than a billion years ago,

CROW: Except Venus’s Mom made it wear a sensible woolen cap!

> whereas instead
> there’s more than enough new atmosphere created to make up for the
> lack of having a protective geomagnetosphere.

JOEL: An over-protective geomagnetosphere. It makes Venus call home every like ten minutes.

>
> BTW; there’s terrestrial objective proof that life even as we know
> it can adjust or acclimate to extreme pressures and even tolerate much
> higher temperatures,

TOM: What Guth means is, squirrels know how to work the thermostat.

> and yet lo and behold there’s still no American
> flags on Venus,

CROW: But there’s the flag of Burkina Faso on Neptune. Go figure.

> but there have been USSR/Russian flags on multiple
> landers that got there decades before us.

TOM: To be fair, the flag of Venus is all over Italy.

JOEL: Oh yeah.

> So, perhaps we’ll have to
> accept that Venus and all of its natural resources belongs to Russia.

CROW: Giving Russia a huge lead in the uninhabitable wasteland race.

> Otherwise NOVA as having been owned by Google could help all of us
> better understand and appreciate what the extremely nearby planet
> Venus has to offer, but only if they wanted to.

JOEL: Google is figuring they can use Venus to store Usenet.

> Obviously our NASA
> has been avoiding this extremely nearby planet,

TOM: They’re playing hard-to-get so Venus will be interested in NASA.

> perhaps because our
> expertise and talent for getting active probes to survive with that
> atmosphere is simply less than what Russians have accomplished.

CROW: Like crashing into Venus and melting.

>
> http://groups.google.com/groups/search
> http://translate.google.com/#

TOM: GuthVenus was tried in the fourth district court, county of Los Angeles. In a moment, the results of that trial.

CROW: [ Chanting the Dragnet theme ] Dun-dah-dun-dun.

> Brad Guth,Brad_Guth,Brad.Guth,BradGuth,BG,Guth Usenet/=94Guth Venus=94

TOM: GuthVenus was convicted of existing and sentenced to not more than twenty Venusian days of hard labor and between three and seven Latin pedants arguing about what its adjective should be.

CROW: [ Chanting the Dragnet theme ] Dun-dah-dun-dun-DAAAAAH.

JOEL: Well, nice seeing everyone again.

TOM: Yeah, let’s blow this popsicle stand.

[ ALL file out. ]

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is the creation and the property of Best Brains. Brad Guth and Guth Venus are the creation and property of Brad Guth, and I certainly don’t mean to take over any of that. This fan fiction was created by Joseph Nebus, and should not be taken internally except as ordered by a Venusian. My little Still-Store web site will be back up and running soon with all sorts of new behind-the-scenes coding that petty Venusian minds could not begin to comprehend.

           |   
         \ | /
          \|/
        ---O---
          /|\
         / | \
           |  

Keep riffing the posts.

> honestly interpret this thick and dense atmospheric insulated terrain
> for yourself, as to what some of those highly unusual patterns could
> possibly represent, as anything other than the random geology
> happenstance of hot rocks.

Mark Trail is 75 Years Old


Thursday marks the 75th anniversary of the debut of Mark Trail this week. So, uh, Dad, I hope you do something special and maybe wave to the alligators. (Dad lives in South Carolina.)

I don’t remember the comic making a particular impression on me, as a kid. It was buried in the impenetrable dark column of story strips, on the left side of the first page of the Star-Ledger’s pages. I bet I looked at it because animal pictures were always interesting, but I didn’t know how to read a story strip to understand the goings-on. I didn’t really start paying attention until joining rec.arts.comics.strips. Having a group to read the comics with does a lot to encourage reading more comics. And Mark Trail offered a lot of chances to read. One could enjoy reading an action-adventure story and snarking on an action-adventure story. Sometimes for odd writing choices, especially in how to emphasize words. (Story strips, like older comic books, keep a convention of using bold for key words rather than to suggest line readings.)

Mark Trail at 75. Mark Trail pointing to a cartoonist: 'With 75 years on the trail coming up, we honor the main who started it all ... the original creator of Mark Trail, Ed Dodd! Edward Benton Dodd was born in Lafayette, Georgia, where nature would define his whole life. At 16, he began working for artist and woodsman Dan Beard in his camp for boys. Ed started waiting tables, but worked his way up to camp director, all while training how to draw wildlife with Dan. Ed Dodd went on to create nature comics as a means of educating others about nature conservation and wilderness survival. He launched his greated creation on April 15th, 1946 ... Mark Trail! Mark has gone on to appear in books radio dramas and, of course, 75 years of comic strips! Thanks to Ed Dodd, Mark Trail has become an icon for nature, environmentalism, and science. Here's to another 75!
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 11th of April, 2021. I don’t know whether the plan is to have a page honoring Jack Elrod or James Allen to follow. I also don’t know whether the daily strip for the 15th will mention the day, but we’ll know within four hours of this posting.

The strip’s become a more important part of my life. Partly because I’ve shifted my snark from being the goal to being the side effect. Partly because I’m writing these plot recaps and have finally learned how to read story comics. (Reading three months’ worth in one day makes the plot much clearer.) Partly because people want to know why I’m not mad at the comic strip for changing. I have been mad at comic strips before, not all of them by Tom Batiuk. Even once at the Jack Elrod-era Mark Trail. I just don’t have it in me to be at a comic strip for not being the comic strip I used to read. And I’m glad to have the comic still in production. It would have been easy to lose the comic altogether.

My schedule puts the next Mark Trail plot recap at about the 4th of May. In the meanwhile, I hope you’re enjoying the strip at all. The Daily Cartoonist has early promotional materials and the strips that ran on the 25th and 50th anniversaries, It also has some discussion of the history of the strip. And I’m aware that the HobbyDrama Reddit has a discussion of the unfortunate James Allen trouble. I’m aware of this because the post links to one of my images and so I got about 300 billion views with no readers. But it’s kind of my thing to go anonymously noticed.

If you prefer the miscellaneous, here are several dozen episodes of the early-50s Mark Trail radio series. I have not listened to more than a handful of these, so I’m afraid I can’t guide you to the good ones. There was also a Mark Trail comic book in the 1950s, but I’m aware of only one issue that’s in the public domain and uploaded for your convenient reading.

So I hope you all enjoy the day and take the chance to punch a smuggler or poacher in the beard.

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? Why send assassins after Rory Red Hood? January – April 2021


Lockbramble’s a small fiefdom in the north of King Arthur’s England. Its Lord is an amiable figurehead, happy to let the lands run as a self-governing community. This because he doesn’t want to do stuff, which, relatable. Also because Rory Red Hood, the spearhead of this movement, is really good at management. Camelot is willing to overlook all this irregularity, because Sir Gawain rather fancies Rory. Also she’s making a lot of money. But other lords, who are not getting money from all this, disagree.

So this should catch you up to mid-April 2021 in Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant. If any news about the strip breaks out, or if you want the plot after about July 2021, a more useful post may be here. And, if you like to read about mathematics in the comic strips, you might find something fun in my other blog. Thanks for considering it.

Prince Valiant.

17 January – 11 April 2021.

Prince Valiant and Sir Gawain were off in Lockbramble. Lord Hallam, of neighboring Wedmarsh, had sent bandits after Rory Red Hood. They’re not very effective. Durward, one of the bandits, was doing so under duress and he’s happy to move to Lockbramble if his family is safe. Valiant and Gawain are game for an evacuation/escort mission.

Wedmarsh’s Captain of the Guard catches them immediately. But they have a good lie to protect them. They assert that Durwood attacked their royal party, and though they slew him, the laws of Camelot give them rights to claim his family. Wedmarsh figures this sounds plausible so, what the heck. Durward and family are ultimately delighted. And Rory, speaking for Lockbramble, is too. Lockbramble’s prospering, but prosperity comes from people. So why not invite everyone who’s unhappy with their lot in life?

When it becomes obvious that they are all losing a steady stream of serfs, the lords Kennard of Greystream and Ravinger of Barrenburn come to Hallam of Wedmarsh to discuss the crippling loss of their labor force, and to determine a solution. Using the only means that occurs to their limited imaginations, the three brothers collect information from those serfs captured in attempts to flee [ the means are torture ]. They learn that their human property is fleeing to neighboring Lockbramble following word that all would be welcomed as equals in Rory Red Hood's propserous fields. The tortured souls tell also of a ragged horseman who fights as fiercely as a knight, saving many from capture and return. The three brother thanes are outraged. 'Rory Red Hood is urging and abetting our property to abandon its service to its rightful masters!' And, listening closely, Hallam's Captain of the Guard reflects on a recent incident concerning two knights of Camelot, who came to Wedmarsh to claim serfs as compensation. Coincidence, or ... ?
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 14th of Februarys, 2021. I have to suppose that when you become the lord of Greystream or Barrenburn you go in figuring it’s not the best farmland in England but, still. Lockbramble’s very fortunate to have been having the right amount of rain the last couple years.

And the answer is that serfs ditching bad rulers for good rather annoys their bad rulers. The surrounding fiefs figure they can use law too, and demand a knight’s contest of champions. After all, they can pay a great outlaw knight to fight for them, while Lockbramble only has … at least two of Camelot’s knights. How can Lockbramble hope to win?

So it’s Sir Peredur the Rover against Sir Gawain. Peredur comes with a reputation. The reputation’s of betraying Castle Beringar to the Saxons, a mark of his deviousness and treachery.

With great fanfare, the contest of champions - Lockbramble versus Wedmarsh, Greystream and Barrenburn - begins! At the last moment, Rory gifts her champion with a token of her devotion ... and the joust begins, with Peredur thundering over the gaming field to meet Gawain midway! The oncoming horses barely miss one another, as Gawain's lance shattered against Peredur's shield, and Peredur's lance, with its hidden iron core, tears a great chunk out of Gawain's buckler! The agreed-upon terms of combat are that judgement will not be rendered until one champion cannot continue. It looks to be a long, bitter trial ...
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 4th of April, 2021. I think this is the first time in my plot recapping that we’ve had an actual honest-to-goodness joust in Prince Valiant. And yet I never hear comments complaining that Prince Valiant isn’t being done right anymore.

Peredur wins the first round, thanks to some luck and a hidden iron core to his lance. Gawain’s a bit better-prepared for the second round, which ends up a tie. Meanwhile, Valiant follows some of Lord Hallam’s henchmen.

And that’s where we rest at the middle of April, 2021.

Next Week!

Hippies! A coded All-Cops-Are-Bastards reference! Gas leaks! The Pouch! What more could you want in a story? Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy gets some attention next week, if my plans hold up. I’ll let you know.

60s Popeye: Wimpy’s Lunch Wagon so why is it about Popeye?


We have seen the name W Schmidt before. He was credited or co-credited for the story for Popeye the Popular Mechanic, for Popeye the Piano Mover, and Popeye the White Collar Man. The Internet Movie Database also credits him for the story for Popeye the Fireman, though the title card says otherwise. Given that pedigree it’s odd to see a cartoon suggesting Wimpy gets a job instead. Volus Jones gets the animation direction credit, and Jack Kinney produced. Here’s the 1960 sort Wimpy’s Lunch Wagon.

Why is Wimpy in this? I trust Wimpy enjoys rare expertise in the eating arts. But in cooking? Why not Rough House, who does run a cafe, and who in the 1960s was finally allowed into animation? It’s got me wondering which studios got to use which minor Thimble Theatre characters, although it’s far too late for me to start tracking that. All the character does is leave Popeye in charge, and then come back to see the aftermath of the chaos. That doesn’t have to be the more familiar Wimpy.

But also, why does Popeye need an excuse to be in charge of something? W Schmidt was comfortable giving Popeye jobs like piano-mover or fireman without explaining how he got there. Why not short-order cook too? It would make more sense out of pleasant little jokes like Popeye observing how the newspaper guy never misses.

In the kitchen, Brutus laughs at Popeye, who's fallen and is covered by a set of pots and pans and strainers and such. Popeye's oversized spinach hoagie sits on a table.
My friends with kitchen jobs tell me it’s like this all the time.

The conflict, once it starts, is Brutus pushing a juke box into the restaurant and shoving the organ-grinder (and monkey) out. This is surprisingly realistic, given how vicious the coin-op business could be back in the day. Popeye’s lucky not to have got shoved into a pinball machine. Brutus moves in, to “protect me business interests”, and we get a quick version of the Brutus-grabs-Olive-Oyl, Popeye-rescues-her storyline. It’s all ordinary enough, but well done and nicely decorated. There’s fun bits like Olive Oyl calling “save me, sir knight!” to a Popeye covered in tin pans. Or Olive Oyl answering Popeye “we’re out of duck … oh, that kind!” when she has to dodge. I don’t have any serious complaints about any of this; it does its business well. I just don’t see what Wimpy adds to the events, besides a punch line that everybody forgot the organ-grinder.

60s Popeye: The Ghost Host, eventually


Sure, you like Seymour Kneitel as a producer. Maybe you also like Seymour Kneitel as a director. Do you also like Seymour Kneitel as a story writer? If you do, you’re in luck, as the 1960 Paramount Cartoon Studios short The Ghost Host is as much Seymour Kneitel as you could hope for. Enjoy!

So here’s another cartoon with Popeye facing ghosts. The thread isn’t continued, sorry to say. You expect ghosts to be good antagonists for Popeye, what with his being afraid of them and unable to hit them and all. So why does this cartoon take forever to get to them? Stranding Popeye and Olive Oyl at a haunted house is a good setup. But we get a flat tire and driving-a-convertible-in-the-rain as excuses for them to stop. Either would be enough. This eats up even more time than the extended cut of Popeye’s scatting to start. Why?

The budget, I imagine. If Popeye in the car isn’t already stock footage this sets it up to be. The new animation needed is for the ghosts, a trio. It’s hard not noticing that they only interact with Popeye while they’re invisible. Most of the time they’re using the same few shots of peering at the keyhole and laughing.

Maybe this is all meant to save money, or animation time, for other tasks. It’s an honorable goal. It cheats the story, though. The ghosts play pranks on the intruding Popeye and Olive Oyl by … lighting a fire for them, and then making a meal for them. The invisible ghost walking in shoes doesn’t even stop to kick Popeye in the rear. The ghosts sweep the meal away to replace with a horse, when Popeye says he could eat a horse, but then sweep it back in place again. Finally they gather the food up to smack Popeye with it, as if they just realized they haven’t actually done anything menacing yet. Popeye declares that’s all he can stands and whips out his spinach. It makes sense for the run time, but considering the provocation? The ghosts are fair when they call him a real kook.

(Also, the animation budget for the rain runs out the moment Popeye and Olive Oyl enter the house. Look behind Olive Oyl as the door first closes on them, and every view of the exterior afterwards.)

The ghosts talk like Beatniks, or at least what ageing comedy writers think Beatniks talk like. There’s no clear reason for this, not even an attempt to spoof Beatniks. I like it, though. It simulates giving the ghosts personality without requiring them to do much. This is a slight cartoon; we’re fortunate the ghosts were not made more boring.

This cartoon has about the write-up you’d expect on the Popeye Wikia. It has a more extensive write-up on the Halloween Wikia. From this I infer the Halloween Wikia takes an expansive view of their responsibilities. There’s nothing, not even the original airing date, about this short that’s Halloween-related. (Its first airing was the 6th of November, 1960, says the Popeye Wikia.)

Statistics Saturday: The Duration of 15 Things as Measured by the Runtime Of Turbo (2013)


ThingDurations in Runtimes of Turbo (2013)
Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address0.05938
Apollo 14135
Bambi0.7292
Construction of the Empire State Building244.375
First non-exhibition/spring-training baseball game of the Houston Colt.45s, 10 April 19621.583
“The Gates of Delirium”, by Yes0.2274
The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island (including commercials)1.250
The Hundred Years’ War637,711.71
One second0.000 173 6
Robert Altman’s Popeye1.1875
The 1960 Summer Olympics262.5
Thunderhawk roller coaster (one ride cycle only), Dorney Park, Allentown, Pennsylvania0.01354
Turbo (2013)1
Turbo Teen (complete series, including commercials)4.0625
We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story0.7396

Reference: Roughing It, Mark Twain.

Statistics March: How March 2021 Treated My Humor Blog


These reviews of my readership are always popular, somehow. And they don’t take serious work to write. Why, then, does it take me later and later in the month to actually post them? To the point that by next year I’m going to to slip a whole month behind? That’s a good question and it gets right to the heart of the matter, which is, I don’t know.

March was a busy month here. I can account for some of it. With Easter approaching people wanted help telling which was the pink Paas tablet. And one comic strip got cancelled and another got pulled from dozens of newspapers. That always brings some interest. That doesn’t seem like enough, though. There were 6,078 page views here in March, which is the third-highest readership I have on record. In comparison, in the twelve months leading up to March, the mean number of views was 4,984.3. The median was a relatively paltry 4,628.5.

Bar chart of monthly readership for two and a half years. The last several months have been at considerable highs, with March 2021 a peak above several months of declining but still-high readership.
Upgrade for even more stats, you say? Hmmm. I do like more. This is a strong appeal.

The number of unique viewers also came in high. WordPress tells me there were 3,593 of them in March. The twelve-month running mean was only 2,947.0, and the median 2,701.5. It was even a chatty month. There were 128 likes given, compared to a mean of 103.9 and median of 102.5 for the twelve months prior. And an enormous 76 comments given, compared to a mean of 38.2 and median of 38.5. That’s the greatest number of comments I’ve had since November 2018, and as ever, I have no idea how that happened.

The most popular March-posted things this past month were what you’d expect: a lot of comic strip talk. Here’s the top five.

My most popular Statistics Saturday piece from March was Papal Regnal Numbers Over Time, 1900 – Present. I’m glad this is a popular chart because it graphs something that needs no graph and then makes a very silly interpolation.

I haven’t decided what to post for long-form pieces once Venus For Dummies is exhausted. I’m inclined toward another MiSTing, though. I do plan to continue the comic strip plot summaries. What I expect to do in the weeks ahead is:

Gasoline Alley by the way seems to have finally started its centennial of Skeezix. I don’t know why it started this months behind the actual day. Maybe it matched some important date besides Skeezix’s first appearance.


World map with the United States in deepest red, and much of the Americas, Europe, South Asia, and the Pacific Rim countries in a more uniform pink. A handful of African countries are also in pink.There were 89 countries or country-like entities sending me readers in March. Which ones? Here’s the always well-liked roster:

Country Readers
United States 4,693
Canada 205
United Kingdom 132
Germany 131
India 129
Australia 126
Philippines 50
Italy 46
South Africa 40
Finland 39
Brazil 36
Malaysia 33
Spain 29
France 26
Mexico 21
Norway 20
Indonesia 17
Iceland 13
Ireland 13
Japan 13
New Zealand 13
Puerto Rico 12
Hong Kong SAR China 11
Kenya 11
Denmark 10
Netherlands 10
Romania 10
Sweden 10
United Arab Emirates 10
Argentina 8
Hungary 8
Macedonia 8
Israel 7
Singapore 7
South Korea 7
Belgium 5
Colombia 5
Sri Lanka 5
Switzerland 5
Turkey 5
Ecuador 4
Egypt 4
Jamaica 4
Nigeria 4
Russia 4
Austria 3
Bangladesh 3
European Union 3
Greece 3
Mauritius 3
Morocco 3
Namibia 3
Poland 3
Saudi Arabia 3
Taiwan 3
Thailand 3
Trinidad & Tobago 3
Ukraine 3
Bosnia & Herzegovina 2
Cambodia 2
Cameroon 2
Kuwait 2
Lebanon 2
Montenegro 2
Pakistan 2
Peru 2
Vietnam 2
Åland Islands 1
Bahamas 1
Bahrain 1
Barbados 1
Botswana 1
Bulgaria 1 (*)
China 1
Cyprus 1
Ethiopia 1
Guadeloupe 1
Guam 1 (*)
Guatemala 1
Guyana 1
Lithuania 1
Malta 1
Oman 1
Slovakia 1
Slovenia 1
Somalia 1
Tunisia 1
Uganda 1
Venezuela 1

There were 22 single-view countries. Bulgaria and Guam were the only ones to be single-view countries in February also. No country is on a three-month or longer streak.


WordPress figures I posted 18,611 words in March, my fewest for any one month this year. It’s an average of 600.4 words per posting in March, which is what happens when I don’t write up so many Popeye cartoons. I’m at 59,055 words for the whole year, so far, an average of 656 words per posting in 2021.

Between the Broadway debut of The Male Animal (9th of January, 1940, at the Cort) and the start of April 2021 (1st of April, 2021) I’ve posted 2,981 things here, says WordPress. These have drawn 223,457 views from 126,975 unique visitors.

If you’d like to be a regular reader, you’re being kind. You can add my posts to your RSS reader. If you don’t have an RSS reader, you can sign up for a free account at Dreamwidth or Livejournal. Then add any RSS feed to your reading page through https://www.dreamwidth.org/feeds/ or through https://www.livejournal.com/syn. If you’re on WordPress already, you should be able to use the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button to add it to your Reader page. And if you want you can have posts sent to you by e-mail, using the link underneath “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile”.

MiSTed: Brad Guth’s _Venus for Dummies_, Part 2 of 3


And now please let me continue the 2012 vintage riffing of Brad Guth’s Venus for Dummies. Guth was one of the fine cranks to hang around the space newsgroups, telling people he and he alone knew the truth of Venus and whatever his plans for it were. If you do not care for making fun of someone’s sincere yet sad contrary view of things like “is Venus a lie?”, you’re right, and should probably skip this week’s and next week’s long-form piece. I’ll move on to something else soon enough.

If you’re just running across this you can read Part 1 right here, and will be able to find the conclusion soon enough.


>
> Interplanetary travel capability and especially that of interstellar
> also represents

CROW: Interplanet Janet!

> more than sufficient technical expertise to deal with
> any hellish planet like Venus,

JOEL: It also represents being able to get through La Guardia.

> or even those of whatever cryogenic
> nature,

CROW: Such as your Liquid Nitrogen Beetles or your Frost Rhododendrons.

> because that’s what advanced physics and good science is fully
> capable of doing in spite of the odds against us.

JOEL: They can live on Venus yet they still cannot tell a cabbage from a lettuce!

>
> If anything, the metallicity of Venus is somewhat greater than Earth,

TOM: But it’s still not greater than the good old U.S. of A, am I right, folks?

> and its ability to create and maintain its substantial atmosphere of
> mostly CO2 as having such an abundance (12 ppm) of helium that’s

CROW: That everyone talking about Venus has a silly voice.

> offering roughly 200+ times as much as Earth,

TOM: 210 times as much if you don’t count Iowa.

> and having sustained its
> terrific atmosphere without benefit of any moon or

CROW: Or even Moon Helper! Make your moon into a meal!

> the geomagnetic
> protection like our planet has to work with,

JOEL: The invaluable help of Earth’s jaunty Madagascar.

> is truly an impressive
> accomplishment,

TOM: Even bigger than that guy who ate 40 White Castle burgers at one sitting.

> and especially for a smaller than Earth like planet w/
> o moon and managed even though it’s so much closer to the sun.

CROW: And even though it’s in a region zoned “light commercial/sulfuric acid”.

>
> Firstly, our mainstream eyecandy cache of science infomercials via our
> public funded NASA and otherwise NOVA as owned by Google,

JOEL: Google, run by Rankin-Bass, operated by Cougartown, a division of RCA.

> could just
> as easily help with exploiting this ongoing research if they wanted
> to,

TOM: But they’re too busy making up Twitter accounts from Mars probes.

> and otherwise without their assistance you might try to understand
> that we really do not need to use microscopic or even much higher
> resolution

CROW: Wait, you’re bringing a microscope out to look at Venus?

TOM: I’m picturing a flock of astronomers with those little toy microscopes pointing up at the sky and looking at their fingerprints.

> than 75 m/pixel imaging when the items of most interest
> have always been so extremely or unusually big to begin with.

JOEL: It sounds so obvious when you hear it. Just look at Big Venus instead!

> So, you
> can continue to argue that these images as a derivative from a 36

CROW: Or you can have the halfback sneak around the corner right after the snap and run over to the concession stands.

> confirming look or scanned composite offering this initial 225 meters
> per pixel format are simply not good enough,

JOEL: But they made an honest effort and we appreciate them for that.

> but you’d only be proving
> to yourself and others as to how unintelligent and/or obstructive that
> sort of closed or naysay mindset really is stuck in denial more than
> reality.

TOM: This is that new shame-based astronomy you hear so much about.

CROW: It’s all the rage among space geeks with low self-esteem.

>
> Venus is perhaps not unlike hell,

JOEL: What isn’t?

CROW: Hades.

> but otherwise its unusually high
> metallicity as indicated by its radar reflective attributes and its
> considerable surplus of helium

TOM: And excessive supplies of silly bouncy balls.

CROW: Venus leads the inner solar system in paper cups with jokes written on the bottom!

JOEL: No other planet has so much Mork And Mindy themed bubble gum!

> plus the mostly geothermal driven
> environment, is at least technically manageable

CROW: For all those planets that need PERT charts.

TOM: They’re hoping to be the first ISO 9001-certified space thingy.

> as long as you have a
> functioning brain of at least a 5th grader

CROW: Or a third and a second grader put together.

TOM: Or a seventh grader and a minus-second grader.

JOEL: Two tenth-graders and a minus fifteenth grader.

> without all the usual
> mainstream status-quo tumors that disable your investigative skills
> and deductive reasoning,

JOEL: Have all your astronomy questions answered by Mark Trail!

> that’s otherwise considered as human
> intelligence.

CROW: We’re looking for the thinking men’s tumors here.

>
> Of course to most of you that have taken a basic look-see at this old
> Magellan radar obtained image of Venus,

TOM: You’re a bunch of peepers!

JOEL: Want to be a peeper too.

> and especially of the fuzzy or
> blocky pixel image of =93Guth Venus=94 or =93GuthVenus=94,

CROW: Guth Venus ’94!

TOM: He’s running with Vermin Supreme.

> is perhaps
> suggestive of nothing more than offering a nasty looking terrain of
> random geology

CROW: Just throw that glacial moraine anywhere. I’m kind of living out of my asthenosphere.

JOEL: Vermin knows better.

> with piles of extruded hot rock that just so happen to
> look as though artificial or as having been intelligently morphed into
> what seems to offer rational patterns.

TOM: Well, sure. Look at that big ‘EAT AT ZERBLATT’S’ sign on the equator.

> However, within these highly
> confirmed patterns of such mostly hot rock are several odd geometric
> items

JOEL: Like the sulfuric acid parallelogram.

CROW: Finally my geometry teacher will respect me!

> of somewhat large scale and offering us those extremely
> interesting formations,

TOM: Marching in uniform and playing brass instruments!

> that at least on Earth or upon any other
> imaged planet or moon

CROW: Or accretion disc!

TOM: Or black hole!

> hasn’t come remotely close to offering this
> level of sophisticated geology complexity

JOEL: They had little cozies for their martini glasses.

> and rational community
> looking configuration or modification of such a mountainous terrain
> site.

TOM: Perfect for filming Venus Car commercials!

JOEL: You’ll love cruising in the new Buick Aphrodite 8.

> This makes GuthVenus into a one of a kind off-world location,
> at least up until other better resolution images become available.

TOM: But you can join and operate a GuthPlanet Franchise today!

CROW: Prime locations still available.

JOEL: GuthSaturn closing soon!

>
> Besides merely following my deductive interpretations,

CROW: Socrates is a mortal.

JOEL: Planets will not last forever.

TOM: No two-headed person has ever been Vice-President.

CROW: The owner of the dog does not have a job as a plumber.

JOEL: Therefore Socrates is a mermaid!

TOM: Logical, logical.

[ To be concluded … ]

In which I raise a question about music


I turned on the 80s music station because look, I try to be interested in things that I wasn’t already interested in when I was fourteen but sometimes I just want to not try, all right? It’s been a rough year and the first really great light is that I’m scheduled for my first vaccination tomorrow afternoon. So this afternoon they were playing The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated”. It was exactly 24 hours to go until I get my jab.

On the one hand, I would like to speak with whoever’s in charge of my soundtrack because that is trite. On the other hand, what else could fit the scene? Obviously no music I have. But, like, somebody must have done a concept album about overthrowing the dystopia that banned rock music only to have it revealed at the end it was a story about leukocytes fighting off tetanus, right?

What’s Going On In The Phantom (weekdays)? Who is this John X? January – April 2021


John X is another alias for The Phantom. Unlike “Towns Ellerbee”, it’s not an alias he picked. In the 2014 story John X The Phantom contracted amnesia from a snake bite. Jungle Patrol took in the mysterious figure, dubbing him John X. He would in Patrolman X join the Jungle Patrol. When his memory returned he wrote orders as the Unknown Commander, detaching “John X” for special duty.

This essay should catch you up to early April in Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity. If you’re interested in the separate Sunday continuity, or are reading this after about July 2021, a post here may be more useful. And, on my other blog, I’ve been talking about comic strips again. Not as much as I used to, but in ways you might enjoy. Thanks for considering it.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

11 January – 3 April 2021.

The Phantom, under the name “Towns Ellerbee”, was helping The Trusted Man break police chief Ernesto Salinas from the infamous Gravelines Prison. We met Salinas a decade ago, in a lucha wrestling storyline. The Trusted Man, Salinas’s not-yet-named assistant from Cuidad Jardin, came to Rhodia to free his boss. He met up with “Towns Ellerbee”. They punched Salinas’s kidnapper, and crime-and-wrestling nemesis, Victor Batalla out of the story. The Phantom, as the Unknown Commander of the Jungle Patrol, orders the pickup of Batalla and henchmen. The Phantom brings The Trusted Man to the outskirts of Gravelines Prison, but refuses to go in. “Ellerbee” leaves their stolen car and wishes him luck.

The Trusted Man, sneaking up on a prison guard, thinks: 'Attacking this man would surely reveal me to the unseen other! On the inside! This I know from Mister Towns Ellerbee! Already my friend saves me from a needless mistake!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 22nd of January, 2021. I appreciate how generous The Phantom is with his vigilante-superhero tips. The Trusted Man is lucky, though, that he’s working in a superhero universe where low-level minions won’t notice you until you’re in punching range, though.

It won’t only be luck. The Phantom watches over Trusted Man, of course. Trusted Man uses some of the tricks he’s already learned from Ellerbee, although I regret “smash a rhino through the door” is not among them. Once confident that The Trusted Man has a handle on things, The Phantom sneaks into the computer room. His goal: getting a roster of the people “disappeared” into Gravelines Prison, which he’ll turn over to the Jungle Patrol.

Phantom, looking at a Gravelines computer, thinking 'The ruling generals are likely holding prisoners of conscience ... Rhodian citizens fighting for democracy ... foreign nationals held for ransom on false charges ... [ as he puts a USB drive in ] Colonel Worubu will get this roster of prisoners into the right hands ... '
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 19th of February, 2021. [ Four days later ] Colonel Worubu is alarmed to discover the Rhodians were holding Little Bobby Tables and now there’s nobody else in Jungle Patrol’s database of the wrongfully imprisoned.

The Trusted Man punches all the way to Salinas’s cell, and breaks him out. He tells the story of Towns Ellerbee’s work, and what he presumes to know about Ellerbee, as they exit. They’re alarmed by a speeding car, the first sign they’ve been detected. But it’s Towns Ellerbee driving it. So they’re able to make a grand escape.

The Phantom, as Towns Ellerbee, in the getaway car: 'My guess? ... Warden's vehicle ... fully armored ... run-flat tires ... equipped to crash the main gate and keep going. Or ... if you feel like stopping, we could do that.' Salinas, rubbing his fist into his hand: 'So I may say a PROPER goodby to Gravelines!? Oh, yes! We will STOP, Mister Towns!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 10th of March, 2021. “Oh — oh, you wanted to punch the guards on the way out? … All right, I just meant, like, did you want to get a Shorti at the Wawa? I think they have one that’s just four cheeses piled together.”

The Ghost Who Taxi Drives takes them to somewhere in Bangalla. And vanishes into the fog, leaving behind the money The Trusted Man had paid him for his service. The two try to understand all his actions. The Trusted Man mentions Towns Ellerbee’s dark glasses and Colonel Worubu works it out. He’s incorrect, but not wrong. “Towns Ellerbee” must be John X, working on special detail for the Unknown Commander. The unresolved mystery to them: why should the Unknown Commander care about a kidnapped police chief from Ciudad Jardin?

And this is where the story’s reached. It feels like it must be near the end. All the Jungle Patrol’s attempts to understand their Unknown Commander fail, after all. The copied database of Gravelines prisoners seems likely to be more interesting to Jungle Patrol, too. Also possibly to generate future stories.

Next Week!

Valiant and Sir Gawain only wanted to get a couple peasants out of an unpleasant neighboring lord’s demesne. What could go wrong? We’ll see how it went wrong in Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant next week, all going well.

The guy who draws Beetle Bailey has seen a squirrel


I am happy to offer good news in my continuing series picking on one of the world’s most successful comic strips for having difficulty rendering animals in its particular style. This Sunday saw Zero feeding a squirrel that I accept as a successful depiction of a squirrel, within the bounds of the evolved Mid-Century Cartoon Moderne style that the comic uses.

I’m also glad to bring the news that a butterfly, rabbit, a blue and a red bird were depicted successfully. I think the opossum was depicted successfully too, but I accept that people might in good faith have a different opinion.

I’m sad to say that the groundhog situation isn’t looking good. This is a bit peculiar as groundhogs are a kind of squirrel. But the poses and volume of tail are different and that affects styling.

Diller: 'Where's Zero going?' Bailey: 'Taking a stroll.' Zero, waving to a butterfly: 'Bonjour, Madame Butterfly. ... Hello, little squirrel! Want a nut?' (He holds one out to a blue-grey squirrel.) 'Your friend bunny wants to join us (A white rabbit comes out of the bushes). Look! Here comes Mr Possum! And Ms groundhog!' (Waving to a beard on his helmet.) 'Hi there, little birdie!' Beetle, looking at the collection of animals around Zero: 'One thing Zero will never be is lonely.'
Greg Walker, Mike Yates, and Janie Walker-Yates’s Beetle Bailey for the 4th of April, 2021. Also, Wikipedia tells me that Neal Walker, Brian Walker, Kit Walker, and Greg Walker all contribute to the writing of the comic strip, but only Greg gets his name in the panel. And only Mort Walker’s name gets credited on the ComicsKingdom page. I underestand where it might be confusing to the audience to have too many, or too often-changing, credits in the panels or on the title bar. But I feel bad not giving the best attribution I can.

Yes, a white rabbit the size of a blue-grey squirrel is improbable, but this isn’t Mark Trail. Photorealism is not the standard. “Is styled compatibly to the regular characters” and “is recognizably the animal it’s supposed to be” is.

Any updates about what animals the guy drawing Beetle Bailey has or has not seen I shall post to this link.

60s Popeye: Deserted Desert (could use a few fewer people)


We’re back to Jack Kinney here. Kinney gets credit for the story as well as production. Animation direction’s credited to Eric Cleworth and Bill Keil. So here’s 1960’s Deserted Desert.

The easy joke is that these shorts had eight bars of music and had to make them last. In truth, yeah, they had libraries and not much time or money to go outside that. I have the feeling each of the studios had their own music libraries. What starts me thinking about that is how this short starts with a peppy, anxious background music. This for Popeye driving alone in the desert. He crashes into the one tree soon enough, but the music feels like a bad fit for the scene. The have more laid-back music. It’s used for Popeye walking in the hot sun, or even when he’s grabbed by a vulture for some reason. Was the tense music opening a mistake?

This cartoon’s got a very slight plot. Popeye’s in search of the Lost Dutchman Mine, and he has a bunch of mishaps on the way there. Really he endures everything but a flash flood and JJ Looper holding a gun on him. It’s one of the rare cartoons where Popeye is mostly on his own. Brutus doesn’t show up until almost four minutes into a five-and-a-half minute cartoon. Olive Oyl and Wimpy appear for the tag. In the main, this is Popeye battling nature. The vulture, the extreme heat of the desert day and cold of the desert night. Oases.

The exception is the population of the ghost town. We don’t get to see the ghosts as characters, though. They’re strange outline figures making weird noises, in a scene that looks like it was fun to storyboard. The ghosts are usually out-of-focus outlines slid past the camera, but that’s some merry action. Popeye tires of this fast enough and punches them. It’s a fun gag. The superfan remembers that ghosts are the rare thing Popeye actually fears, because he can’t punch them. But the superfan also admits the comic strip has probably retconned that long, long ago. And Popeye just ploughing through troubles has a compelling logic to it, too.

Popeye, sleeping unprotected in the desert, has his head on a pillow. The sun has just risen but he's encased in a block of ice. He's snoring.
This bit with Popeye using a rock as a pillow reminds me of a Hagar the Horrible that I read somewhere around 1980 . Hagar and Lucky Eddie are settling down in camp for the night. Lucky Eddie gets a rock because he just can’t sleep without a pillow. Hagar calls this being a ‘softie’. The paradox enchanted my young mind and apparently I’m still captivated. I’m not surprised the joke was done before Hagar. Just delighted it could be done by Popeye.

I’m a bit disappointed when Brutus enters. Popeye lurching ahead through the elements, and muttering to himself, is interesting enough. And the cartoon makes time for some fun animation. There’s the blurry outline ghosts doing their bits. There’s Popeye tossing a rock to break the Sun, and muttering, “Uh-oh, now I went and did it.” There’s also Popeye’s shoes opening their maws and barking, after Popeye says how the sand ‘makes me dogs start barking’. It’s a throwback to 1930s cartoons where idioms get drawn literally.

Brutus, in comparison, isn’t so interesting. And Popeye’s a jerk for declaring the mountain not big enough for both of them when the gold mountain is. Their fight has more action and more punching than a lot of cartoons where Brutus actually deserves it.

I don’t know how you’d resolve a version of this cartoon without Brutus. I think I’d like the fight they have put into a cartoon where it’s more justified, though. Instead end this cartoon the way the first three minutes and fifty seconds were going. Popeye was doing quite well in the desert by himself.

Statistics Saturday: 15 Famous Movie Mis-Quotes


  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real thin man!” — Not said by Nick or Nora Charles, The Thin Man.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real treasure of the Sierra Madre!” — Not said by Fred C Dobbs, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real love story!” — Not said by Jennifer Cavalleri, Love Story.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real wizard of Oz!” — Not said by Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real Goldfinger!” — Not said by Goldfinger, Goldfinger.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real cool hand, Luke!” — Not said by Dragline, Cool Hand Luke.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real space odyssey!” — Not said by Dave Bowman, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real Scrooge!” — Not said by Mr Snedrig, Scrooge.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real shape of water!” — Not signed by Elisa Esposito, The Shape of Water.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real Casablanca!” — Not said by Rick Blaine, Casablanca.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real space jam!” — Not said by Lola Bunny, Space Jam.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real planet of the apes!” — Not said by Dr Galen, Planet of the Apes.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real Wall Street!” — Not said by Gordon Gecko, Wall Street.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real Turbo!” — Not said by Turbo, Turbo.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real Chinatown!” — Not said by Lawrence Walsh, Chinatown.

Reference: Inside Nick Rocks: The Complete Story of the Music Video Show You Remember Being On Between Mr Wizard’s World and You Can’t Do That On Television, and How it Changed the World — and Whatever Happened To “Joe From Chicago”, Dr Will Miller.

In which I insist I am not making a liar of myself


I am not a liar because yesterday when I wrote that I did not know what I wanted to do next, I did not know. But shortly after writing that, I knew what I want to do next.

I want to mostly sit around, sometimes catching up on DVDs that I have bought without watching, while at least three separate entities each pay me $92,000 per year. None of them are precisely sure what I do. But they each clutch tight to the bargain they’re sure they have, as they estimate they should expect to pay someone of my talents up to $94,250 per year. Also, none of them are aware of the others. They sometimes suspect there’s some other group paying me something for some reason, but they don’t wish to disrupt what they agree is a happy arrangement by asking questions.

Since this arrangement would be so clearly good for everyone involved, it’s what we ought to be doing. I’ll give the business world through the end of this month to get it all set up. Someone please leave a comment when it is. Thank you.

MiSTed: Brad Guth’s _Venus for Dummies_, Part 1 of 3


I am still deciding what I wish to do for these long-form pieces, now that The Tale Of Fatty Raccoon is finally complete. I’m inclined toward doing another big MiSTing, since they’re fun and easy and I like the old tradition of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction. I haven’t decided, though. But I will come up with something.

In the meanwhile please enjoy a bit from the archives. This is a MiSTing I wrote back in early 2012. The original source was Usenet, and particularly, a crank named Brad Guth who was very sure that They were hiding all sorts of good stuff on Venus. He hung around the space-themed newsgroups for a long, long while. He was hard to take seriously, and I did not.

If you don’t care for snickering about someone’s elaborately explained yet still obscure conspiracy theory you are right in your tastes, and should skip the next three weeks of this.

You may not see the merry fun in riffing a bunch of newsgroup headers, long lines of what are mostly control messages. I don’t know either, exactly, but we always loved doing those in the Usenet days. It’s kind of like doing movie-credit riffs.

The reference to “LOLVenus” is alluding to “LOLcats”, a name sometimes used back in the days before dirt was invented for what we now call “memes”. I apologize for any confusion this term entails.


[ ALL file into theater ]

CROW: We don’t even get to say hello to anyone?

TOM: Man, austerity stinks.

JOEL: Don’t get political this early in the year, Tommy.

> >MIME-Version: 1.0

JOEL: Sure, now it’s mime, but when we got it it was ourms.

> >Path: reader1.panix.com!panix!usenet.stanford.edu!

TOM: Stanford! Topeka! Tahlequah! Watervliet!

> > l8no23395436qao.0!news-out.google.com!e10ni165558057qan.0!nntp.google.com!

CROW: Google. Because Google is watching you.

> > l8no23877973qao.0!postnews.google.com!e18g2000yqo.googlegroups.com!
> > not-for-mail

TOM: How did we get it, then?

> >Newsgroups: alt.astronomy,

JOEL: I like indie astronomy better.

> sci.space.policy,sci.space.history,

TOM: Space history.

CROW: “Well, used to be we didn’t walk on the Moon, then we did, then we didn’t again, and that brings us to the present day.”

> >alt.news-media,alt.journalism

TOM: I like that grunge journalism.

CROW: I’m here for the news-media gangnam style.

> >Date: Wed, 3 Oct 2012 16:42:04 -0700 (PDT)
> >Complaints-To: groups-abuse@google.com

CROW: Picture all Google coming to a stop because somebody complained about usenet there.

> >Injection-Info:

TOM: Shouldn’t this part be for the pharmacy majors?

> e18g2000yqo.googlegroups.com; posting-host=98.125.250.68; posting-account=nf79RwoAAABXjvy5ztMzmPxgY1WGoktI

JOEL: Discontinue use of GoktI if symptoms persist.

> >NNTP-Posting-Host: 98.125.250.68

CROW: Hike!

> >User-Agent: G2/1.0

TOM: That reduces to G2.0.

> >X-HTTP-UserAgent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 5.1; rv:14.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/14.0.1,gzip(gfe)

JOEL: User Agent Mozilla 5.0.

TOM: Women want him. Men want to be him.

> >Message-ID: <fd6e54d7-cc91-498a-b08b-46db326ecea1@e18g2000yqo.googlegroups.com>

TOM: Hey, that’s a cracked Photoshop license key!

> >Subject: Venus for dummies (6.0) / Brad Guth (GuthVenus)

CROW: Finally, some relief from that *smart* Venus.

> >From: Brad Guth <bradguth@gmail.com>

TOM: He certainly *is*.

> >Injection-Date: Wed, 03 Oct 2012 23:42:04 +0000

JOEL: He’s in a pleasing time-release form.

> >Content-Type: text/plain; charset=windows-1252

CROW: Windows 1252 is the version that went to the Model Parliament, right?

> >Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable

TOM: Cut! Print it, Raoul!

> >Lines: 137
> >Xref: panix

CROW: *I’M NOT PANICKING! WHO’S PANICKING?*

> alt.astronomy:502748 sci.space.policy:489326

TOM: So with 85 percent of the vote in we’re projecting a win for alt.astronomy.

> sci.space.history:317343 alt.news-media:339276 alt.journalism:263200

JOEL: And in the school board elections alt.news-media has taken the lead.

>
> What sort of weird planet geology, or that of its active geodynamics,
> looks or acts anything like this?

CROW: A pudding planet geology!

>
> Thumbnail images of Venus,

[ JOEL holds up his thumb. ]

TOM: That’s not Venus, that’s a wart.

> including mgn_c115s095_1.gif (225 m/pixel)

CROW: 225 men per pixel?!

> http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/imgcat/thumbnail_pages/venus_thumbnails.html
> Lava channels, Lo Shen Valles, Venus from Magellan Cycle 1

TOM: o/` We didn’t start the fire … o/`

> http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/imgcat/html/object_page/mgn_c115s095_1.html

JOEL: C115 S095 underscore 1.

CROW: You — you sank my battleship!

> http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/imgcat/hires/mgn_c115s095_1.gif
> =93Guth Venus=94, at 1:1, then 10x resample/enlargement of the area in
> question:

TOM: You can see Oswald turn and shoot Mark David Chapman.

> https://picasaweb.google.com/bradguth/BradGuth#5630418595926178146

CROW: That’s not Venus, that’s a picture of my cat!

> https://picasaweb.google.com/bradguth/BradGuth#5629579402364691314

JOEL: Add some captions you can have your own LOLvenus.

TOM: I hate that you said that.

>

JOEL: [ Sheepish ] I’m sorry.

> Not even the most active moon of Jupiter being Io offers up anything
> like this

TOM: Io doesn’t even try! You invite it to the potluck and it brings a bag of Doritos every-single-time.

> remarkable degree of surface geology complexity,

CROW: Fine dentition, good arch in the back. A good mudder.

TOM: How’s its fadder?

> and there=92s

JOEL: Mostly oats and hay.

> certainly nothing remotely artificial looking with anything discovered
> about the planet Mars

TOM: Apart from the big ‘MADE IN TAIWAN’ across the Mariner Valley.

> or thus far of any other planet or moon to speak
> of,

JOEL: What about Unspeakable Moon?

CROW: We don’t talk about it.

> outside of Venus that gets within 110 LD every 19 months

TOM: Except when taken internally by a physician.

> (any
> closer and we=92d have to reevaluate Venus as a NEO).

CROW: So if you spot Venus coming any closer to Earth than Venus
ever comes, that’d be suspicious.

>
> Of any humanoids or other intelligent species that’s capable of
> surviving interstellar treks,

TOM: So, what, we’re ignoring the total morons who make it across space?

> at least technically should have no
> problems with remaining stealthy

CROW: ‘Sure, you’ll have no trouble being stealthy on Earth, mister
space alien. Just pull your ball cap down over your forehead …
yeah, all three heads.’

> or even capable of infiltrating and
> mingle within any community of existing life-forms upon any given
> planet they chose to study

CROW: I’m imagining a pack of Vulcans wearing costumes trying to hang around a pack of wallabies.

> or even to populate and commercialize by
> extracting valuable elements in order to suit their own needs.

TOM: I don’t want to be a nitpicker but that sentence was 62 words long and forgot to have a predicate.

[ To be continued … ]

How to tell which tablet gives you which Easter egg color


Three years ago I got annoyed enough with not knowing which color dye came from which Paas egg-dye tablet to do something. That something was taking notes. Last year, I posted the results. So you could know which of the nearly-identical-looking tablets is which color. Also so the one tablet which had to be mixed with vinegar instead of water — unless that was the one that had to be mixed with water instead of vinegar — could be told from the rest.

Also two years ago when we dyed eggs we found they’d changed the formula and now they all need vinegar. Or they all don’t need vinegar. I forget which. But now you have to work at it to get that wrong. I just remember being annoyed that they double-crossed me like that. Still, I hope the pictures at the link above help you with your egg-dye plans.

And over on my mathematics blog I worked out how often Easter would happen on each day that it could happen. (This for the Western tradition, on the Gregorian calendar.) So if you’d lke to know when’s the next time we’ll see Easter on the 25th of April? Here’s your chance to find out,