60s Popeye: Rip Van Popeye, maybe the second Popeye bowling cartoon


The story today is from Joe Grant and Walter Schmidt, names who I have recorded as offering two stories I wasn’t sure were written for Popeye. Those were Popeye the Popular Mechanic and then Popeye the White Collar Man. They have a new animation director this time, Ken Hultgren. Jack Kinney remains the director and producer. From 1960 here’s Rip Van Popeye.

If you’re like me, you remember the Rip Van Winkle story like this: Rip falls asleep for twenty years, and wakes up to find the town’s sure grown a bunch. Also at some point he goes … bowling with … dwarves? Who make thunder? Turns out that in Washington Irving’s original story there’s not a whole lot more. It’s a slender story to have become such a popular referent. And something adapted into five billion cartoons, including a theatrical Popeye short. Maybe because there’s no story? You have to send your protagonist into The Future but don’t have to hit any plot points or anything. This adaptation of Rip van Winkle, then, skips the whole “tossed into the future” thing. Instead we get bowling while drinking, or as it’s known in the trades, “bowling”.

The story’s framed as Popeye explaining thunder to a frightened Swee’Pea. It’s a reliable setup. The close gets spoiled by not having a punch line. Popeye explains “so thunder ain’t nothing but a game of bowling!” I guess that’s what you’d say to your kid, if you were telling this story, but as the close of a cartoon it feels like the rough draft.

The transition into the framed story is nice. Popeye takes a book off the shelf and I noticed how many animators’ names were on book spines there. Rip Van Popeye stretches out, his feet going outside the borders of the book’s picture, as the story starts. I liked that, so I’ll call it clever, but I’m not positive it wasn’t an animation error. Sometimes error works.

Rip Van Popeye flees Olive’s nagging to the top of a hill, that turns out to be in the clouds. Brutus’s bowling up a storm and the ball floats around Popeye. Brutus shares his Spinach Squeezins, a thing mentioned about every eight seconds for the rest of the short. And then we really get into this dreamy logic. The squeezings reach out and pinch Popeye’s nose. Drinking them gives the Popeye-the-Sailor-Man fanfare, but Popeye doesn’t seem particularly powered up. He is up for “that game with the iron ping-pong balls”, which seems an odd way to describe bowling. Olive Van Winkle scolds Popeye from her house, which is the same one Popeye and Swee’Pea live in, in the future. Brutus calls her a “ludicrous nonentity”, giving Popeye a reason to punch Brutus, who’s otherwise been friendly the whole short.

Scene of a book depicting Rip Van Popeye and his dog lying against a tree. Rip Van Popeye is yawning, stretching out, and as he does his feet stretch out past the edge of the picture he's in.
I’m sorry the animation is so sloppy that this is plausibly a mistake. (I mean, when Brutus talks off-screen, Popeye’s mouth moves. That’s not being careful.) I like the visual cue of Rip Van Popeye stretching out of the picture frame as his story starts.

Brutus passes out unconscious under the spinach squeezings, and Rip Van Popeye worries he’ll drown. He’s not so worried as to move, but that’s all right, as Brutus gets the Popeye-the-Sailor-Man fanfare, tilts, and rockets out of frame. He rolls the barrel of spinach squeezings at Popeye, and it falls over, knocking out Olive. Who also gets the spinach squeezings poured into her mouth, something Popeye does not worry will drown her. Maybe he supposes Brutus’s experience will carry over. It does. She gets the Popeye-the-Sailor-Man fanfare, and rallies. She goes to a rock wall and tosses the same two rocks into the sky, over and over, building a lightning bridge to race up to her good-for-nothing husband. Once up there she decides this is nice, let’s stay and bowl.

I warned we were entering a zone of cartoons where it’s hard to tell what’s going on or why. What’s going on is not too hard to label here. Why it’s happening is harder. The plot summary is a string of events. Apart from Rip Van Popeye climbing the hill, and Olive Van Winkle throwing rocks at him, I can’t say why anyone did anything that short.

I don’t have quite the same doubts this was written for Popeye, rather than having his name slapped on. I guess because the Spinach Squeezings are mentioned so much and so relentlessly. That’s curious, though, since the story would work as well if they were corn squeezings from Snuffy Smith’s relatives. Maybe there have been enough Popeye-tells-a-story cartoons that this seems in-character.

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 3 of 16)


Welcome back to my tour of old Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction. This piece from around 2003 is “Breaking the Barriers”, a Reboot fanfic by Carrie L—. Name truncated because the protagonist is a version of the author. While she was happy with my writing in 2003, I don’t know that this would not be horribly embarrassing eighteen years later.

The entirety of this MiSTing is, or should be, at this link. In the first part a mysterious computer thingy brought Carrie into the world of her computer. In the second part she got to meet Bob and Phong and other characters of the Reboot show she loves.

I come down surprisingly hard on the idea that Reboot is a popular show here. I don’t know; the joke seems quite petty. My recollection is that even at the time it was obvious Reboot would be a show people remembered and that would have influence, even if it wasn’t an Animaniacs-class success. One problem with the MiSTing habit is snarking mindlessly. Good snark, I suspect, needs to target sloppy or malicious thinking. “I like this cartoon” is neither sloppy nor malicious.


>
> Part Six
>
> Taking a deep breath,

TOM: Hey, give that back!

> Carrie sat up, but then looked down at
> the floor.

JOEL: The action here has the flow of a game of Arkanoid.

> "What I’m going to tell you is confidential," She
> whispered,

CROW: So I hope you’re just very confident.

> "and it’s going to sound like I’ve gone random.

TOM: But I’m really just sampling voice chip three.

> You have
> got to believe me, I could not just make this up."

ALL: MAKEUP!

[ JOEL pulls out a pillow, bops TOM, CROW. ]

> She looked up to
> find Bob and Phong watching her with rapt attention.

CROW: You got — you got something on — something on your — right —

> Licking her lips
> unconciously,

TOM: She’s going to have to get some CyberLip Balm if she keeps doing that.

> Carrie began to run through what she was going to say,
> in her mind.

JOEL: I probably shouldn’t talk too much about radiator fluids, it’s just too much of a diversion.

>
> "I come from a place called Earth."

CROW: [ As Bob ] You do? Do you know Peter?

> She said, "I am a human,
> not a sprite.

TOM: I am not a binary-coded-decimal number!

> Where I come from, you aren’t supposed to really
> exist."

JOEL: You’re just a metaphor for improved comprehension.

> she smiled a little at Bob’s startled reaction,

TOM: [ As Bob ] Yeah, well, where we come from *you* don’t exist, so double-dumb nyah on you!

> then kept
> going. "You see, where I am from, you are known only

CROW: To a select group of Cartoon Network junkies.

> as characters in
> a cartoon. Now I’m sure you’re wondering what a cartoon is,

JOEL: And why I’ve brought you here together.

> but I’ll
> have to explain that some other time."

TOM: Next time she’s freakishly pulled into the world of a cartoon?

> She raced through all the
> things she could say,

CROW: I bet there are some things she *could* say that she is *not* considering.

> and all the things she couldn’t say.

JOEL: Saying them would violate the Prime Directive.

> "This
> cartoon is called ‘ReBoot’, and it is very popular.

CROW: …mostly among people who ever bid more than thirty dollars on eBay for an SLP recording of the Transformers where Sea Spray meets the mermaid.

> You were
> wondering why I knew who you were, it’s because,

TOM: I’m assembling you into my Impossible Missions force.

> in this show, you are
> the main character.

CROW: Unless it’s that year you don’t appear at all.

> Anyone who’s even seen just part of the show
> knows who Bob is because you’re in every episode."

TOM: OK, OK, Bob’s the king of the world, OK? Good for you.

>
> It was then that Carrie realized that Phong had moved to his
> retrieval Vid- Window,

TOM: Which immediately crashes.

> and was skimming through the information there.

CROW: Huh … make money fast sending emails to pet kittens at home…

> "What are you looking for, Phong?" Bob asked, curiously.

JOEL: Phong? The fish is ready.

> Phong
> looked up at him, then at Carrie.

TOM: Sorry, I stumbled on the "Red Hot RS-232C Action" site by mistake.

> "I remembered hearing a story once
> before

JOEL: It was amusing. I liked it.

> about a species called ‘humans’, and I am looking to see if I
> can find a reference to them."

CROW: So far Google’s returned 2,038 billion sites, and a cute cartoon of a guy getting gumballs out of an ‘o’ in its logo.

> Phong began to race through the
> information, as Bob went over to see what he was looking at. "Ah,
> here it is." Phong said,

TOM: Search results found. Entries deleted. Have a nice day.

> "The term ‘human’ was once used by a visitor
> to another system, by the name of Jeff Bridges.

JOEL: A system named Jeff Bridges?

CROW: They’re so advanced they can get the behind-the-scenes documentary of "Tron."

> He claimed to come
> from Earth, just as you do." Phong looked up at Carrie, and she
> swallowed hard.

TOM: [ As Carrie ] I knew I shouldn’t have written all those tank programs!

>
> "That’s not the only way you know humans." She said, and
> Phong looked surprised.

CROW: Does taking the clown hat off help you recognize us?

> "And how else should we know of ‘humans’?" he
> asked.

JOEL: Have you tried our web site? http://www.humans.int/ ?

> Carrie looked down at her feet, and stayed silent, not sure
> how to tell them.

TOM: [ As Carrie ] Hey, when’d I get ruby slippers?

> She felt a hand on her shoulder, and looked up.

CROW: Why, thank you, Thing.

> She found herself looking into Bob’s eyes as he sat down next to her.
> "It’s O.K.," he said, quietly, "you can tell us." As he flashed her
> his killer smile, her fears and her heart, began to melt.

TOM: This is what happens when the cooling fan breaks.

CROW: They should’ve packed her on dry ice.

> "Well,"
> she whispered, "Not only am I human, but when I am home on Earth, I
> would be known to you as…."

JOEL: Darkwing Duck!

> She swallowed and looked at Bob for
> reassurance. When he smiled and placed his hand on her shoulder
> again,

CROW: They’re running out of hands there.

TOM: Shoulders too.

> she looked up at the ceiling and took a deep breath. "I am
> known to you as a ‘User’."

JOEL: I had no respect for individuals, just what I could make them do.

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * *

CROW: It’s a badly written square root sign.

>
> Part Seven
>
> Carrie sat silently as Phong and Bob stared at her in shock
> and disbelief.

TOM: [ As Phong ] Another one of *these*.

CROW: [ As Bob ] I tell ya, full moon, that’s when the crazies come out.

> She had known this was going to happen eventually, and
> she was sure that they would think she was random.

TOM: Why is telling them she’s a User going to make them like her more?

> Instead of smiling
> nicely and then quietly locking her away, Bob stood up. "I don’t know
> what to say." he whispered,

CROW: Perhaps I could use a Markov chain generator to create some generic poetry product for you.

> and then turned slightly, avoiding her
> gaze. Carrie clasped her hands together, and looked at him with
> pleading eyes. "I know how bad it sounds," she whispered, "but you’ve
> got to believe me.

TOM: Why?

> This is the truth, no matter how weird it sounds."
> She let her eyes trace his gorgeous profile, looking for any signs of
> belief, or slight acceptance.
>
> As she watched his face began to change, slowly.

JOEL: Uhoh. Morph programs. Trouble.

> Then he did
> something unexpected, he whirled around to face her, his face a mask
> of fierce concentration and withheld emotions.

TOM: Must… be… bland!

> "I can’t accept that
> you’re a User!" He almost shouted, "The User is threat to the sprites
> of Mainframe!"

CROW: This pretty accurately gets how computers feel about their users.

> He looked down at the floor, his hands clenched into
> fists at his sides, breathing hard with the exertion used to hold back
> his anger. Carrie sat back, surprised and shocked at the outburst.

TOM: [ As Carrie ] I just know they’re going to think I’m a Mary Sue…

> Her throat constricted, and she could feel tears begin to burn in her
> eyes. The last thing she had wanted to do was to upset Bob or anyone,
> and now she had done just that.

JOEL: Oh, *that’s* what she did. I forgot.

> She waited for him to storm away or
> hit something, she was sure he was mad at her.

TOM: [ As Bob ] I oughta interrupt your raster vectoring…

> "I just can’t accept
> that." he whispered, then looked up at her, his eyes glistening with
> tears of his own.

JOEL: Hey, there’s no crying in cyberspace!

> "I know you can’t be a User because you just don’t
> come across as one."

CROW: That sounds like a major dis, really.

>
> Carrie slid gracefully off the bio-bed, and walked forward.
> She stopped just in front of him, and looked up into his eyes.

TOM: Is she shrinking?

CROW: She’s conserving disk space.

> "I
> know you don’t believe me," she said, "but you’re going to have to. I
> can’t stay here, I have to return to Earth and my home."

JOEL: So she can get on the ‘net and sit there all week.

> Bob just
> looked at her for a while, but couldn’t say anything. "I know that
> you have the ability to get me back home." Carrie said,

CROW: Yeah, right after he gets the kid from Voyager, the Dungeons and Dragons kids, Samurai Jack, and Kidd Video back home.

TOM: I’m going to stick around until he gets the kid from Liddsville home, and that’s it.

> "I just hope
> you’re willing to believe me enough to do it." Bob looked away for a
> bit, deep in thought, then turned back to face her.

TOM: [ Harshly ] Abort, Retry… [ Softly ] Ignore?

> "I don’t know if
> I can," he sighed, " No Mainframer has ever been to the world of the
> User, so I don’t think there’s anyway you can get there."

JOEL: Well. Can you direct me to Max Headroom, then?

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

TOM: That’s a signature so abstract nobody knows who it is.

[ To continue … ]

60s Popeye: Double Cross-Country Feet Race, where we learn how much Brutus weighs for some reason


We are entering into a Jack Kinney zone. King Features bundles these 60s Popeye cartoons into quartets, “episodes” long enough to be worth YouTube putting commercials in. For whatever reason this block — Episode 44 — is all Jack Kinney-produced and directed videos. So, hope you like those weird title cards! I like them.

Today’s is a 1960 short, story by Ralph Wright and animation direction by Hugh Fraser. Sit back and enjoy the Double Cross-Country Feet Race. If you don’t enjoy that, then enjoy learning that Brutus weighs 245 pounds while Popeye, being a sailor, apparently cannot be characterized as having any weight at all.

This short has one of the biggest mismatches between strong plotting and weak animation that I’ve seen. From Jack Kinney’s studios I’ve come to expect animation that’s expressive and usually funny to look at. But in trade it’s not smooth and it’s loose with the models. That trade often works. Look at Popeye, tied up in the starter’s rope, at about 1:15. It’s hideous, but it does convey Popeye being discombobulated.

Still, for most of the short we have pretty respectable jokes undercut by poor drawing. Popeye and Brutus run into the corn belt. It’s an actual literal belt, seen (briefly) on a giant map, with shirt buttons running past it. They run so fast the road catches fire, and the fire causes the corn to pop. The audio tells us so, anyway. The picture is a couple kernels of popcorn flowing up, and causing nobody any particular trouble. Or take when they get to Los Angeles, “the fastest-growing city in the world”. The city popping into existence around them is good. I’ll even stand up for buildings popping in suddenly, without animation. But the freeway appearing under Popeye and Brutus happens in an edit that obscures things. It’s reasonable to think they wandered onto the freeway, a much worse joke.

Popeye and Brutus stand behind the starting line of the 'Double Cross Country FEET RACE - From NY to LA and Back'. A sign establishes this is at the New York City Limits. Wimpy, the referee, holds his megaphone backwards in front of his face.
I don’t mean to nitpick, but it’s actually the whole of Popeye and Brutus who race, not just their feet.

At Los Angeles Popeye declares “I’ll get a head start back!” Brutus declares “Oh yeah?” And there’s space for some response. Popeye’s mouth even moves, silently. What joke was meant for there and how did it get lost? A few moments later Popeye and Brutus run along the border of … something? A reasonable green landscape and a featureless blue-grey void. Popeye declares hey, no fair, but what are we supposed to see?

I’ll go along with the scenes that are a black dot moving in the distance. They let the animation budget concentrate on the important scenes. But were these the important scenes? There’s a quick shot of the New York City Off Ramp, to establish our racers getting closer to the city that … we already saw them racing towards. That seems like a joke got cut somewhere. Popeye brakes himself to a stop to eat his spinach because he needs a strong finish. All right, but why brake to a stop? Did his feet catch on fire and that’s why he stopped? I shouldn’t have to infer that.

This is one of those shorts where I wish the story had been taken up and given to Paramount Cartoon Studios to animate. The animation and editing would likely have made this work better.

And something I liked, so you won’t suspect me of being a sourpuss: referee Wimpy holds his megaphone backwards. It’s a trifle, given no attention, there only for people paying attention to the pictures. It’s nice seeing it.

Not to spoil the next couple shorts? But you know how with this one, you mostly know what’s going on and why? Hold on to that memory.

What’s Going On In Mark Trail? How did turning off the headlights help Mark Trail evade that car? May – July 2021


There’s a point in Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail’s current story where Mark Trail’s in a nighttime car chase. He tells the driver to turn off the headlights. This confuses the pursuers, Diana Dagger and Bee Sharp, but only for a few moments. I’m not sure why it’s supposed to work. I get the idea is to make the car as invisible as possible at night and go in a direction that Daggers and Sharp can’t see. But it’s not clear in the panels that there’s anywhere to go. They can’t have gone far off the road, after all, not in the couple seconds we see. This might be a problem of the limited time and space the strip has. In a movie, one good overhead shot of a complicated city street would address the question. I’m sorry not to have a more definite answer.

So this should bring you up to date on Mark Trail’s stories, as of late March 2021. If you’re reading this after about October 2021 there may be a more useful plot recap at this link. Thanks for considering me as a source for Mark Trail information.

Mark Trail.

2 May – 24 July 2021.

We had two story threads going, last time I checked in. Mark Trail was in Los Angeles as his odd charms landed him a music video cameo with rapper Reptiliannaire. Meanwhile Cherry Trail’s landscaping company was having trouble with the Sunny Soleil homeowners association. The plots have nothing to do with one another. So the strip’s done two weeks with Mark and then a week with Cherry. For sake of clarity I’ll re-separate the plot recaps, and start with Cherry’s.

Cherry Trail saw her big landscaping project, the roundabout near the Planet Pancake diner, had been demolished. Violet Cheshire, of the Sunny Soleil society, tore out all the “savage jungle brush” in favor of butterfly bushes. Butterfly bushes, I learn from this, attract butterflies but are not good for them. Butterflies like the plants, but the larva they lay on them can’t eat the leaves, which sucks for the next generation of larvae.

Narrator: 'Cherry and her brother Dirk have unleashed feral hogs onto the Sunny Soleil Society's butterfly bushes ... to eat them!' (The hogs chew down on the plants. A lot.) Chery: 'Dirk ... how do we ... make them stop?' Narrator: 'Cherry, they don't call it 'pigging out' for nothing.'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 2nd of July, 2021. Also, over the last couple months the narration box has rather stepped up. It’s providing exposition still, yes, but it’s been showing more flair, more personality. It’s not quite pre-snarking the strips for us, but it’s getting there. I enjoy this. Narration boxes have fallen out of favor in comic strips (and, it is my understanding, comic books) but they carry some expository loads well. Having that delivered with a smile? I like that. It’s a gentle reinforcement of the light tone for the story. Makes me feel that Rivera is getting the whole comic better balanced.

So she calls her brother Dirk Davis. He’s one of those I-hate-the-government recluses who knows how to wrangle a herd of feral hogs onto a truck bed and leave them off where they can devour a landscaped roundabout in minutes. You know, like that friend your younger brother still has from high school somehow. It’s an awesome scene of destruction that leaves Cherry ashamed of what she wrought.

Also awesomely destroyed: Violet Cheshire, trying to drown her sorrows in pancakes and syrup. Cherry tries to say something consoling. “I mean, sometimes a pack of eight feral hogs will happen to appear at a reserve of invasive butterfly bushes between 11:35 and 11:55 on a Friday night,” she offers. Violet suspects Cherry knows something about the destruction. And, in a moment that surprised me, Cherry owned up. I’d had thought she could bluff through it. But she’s feeling guilty and Violet’s feeling desperate. They agree to work together fixing this.


Now to Mark Trail’s story. He was hanging out with Reptiliannaire and the Herp Hacienda gang. They suggest he hit the sack early, like, before sundown even. Mark eavesdrops. The gang is reminding each other why they’re angry at “Cricket Bro” Rob Bettancourt. (Yes, this is people telling each other stuff they already know. But I absolutely believe in a group of people talking about how they were all screwed by the same ex-friend.) He’s the tech-millionaire-turned-cricket-protein-seller who hosted the party they just came from. Bettancourt had sponsored the Herp Hacienda and their reptile-rescue(?) sideline. This until they learned he was using spying on them. (I’m not clear whether he was spying on the group or on the reptiles themselves. I’m also not sure why he would bother. But there is a streak of tech guy that figures everybody not them should be under surveillance, so, fine.) And he impounded Aparna’s laptop. She’d been developing an app for testing air quality for animals. This so people would be better able to judge when to keep animals indoors for safer breathing.

Mark Trail: 'All my problems with Cricket Bro began when I broke his dad's magnifying glass.' [ Flashbacks ] 'I had to write an apology and do my dad's granola commercials to work off replacing that magnifier ... but the adults didn't seem to care he had used it to burn ants. That day I learned people love to protect nature, until it's time to protect their property.'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 11th of May, 2021. The clash between what people say their ideals are and what their revealed preferences are? This is absolutely a childhood trauma I believe for Mark Trail. And, for that matter, many people who care about the environment.

So this gives the heist a goal: get the laptop that has the impounded “Air For All” app code. I admit I don’t understand why Cricket Bro wants this suppressed, but accept it under the “tech millionaires are jerks” rule. I also don’t understand why Aparna didn’t have her own copy. I mean, they sell 256 GB Flash drives. But I’ll accept that as a “didn’t expect to need an off-site backup” case. I also don’t understand why she can’t rewrite it. Maybe it requires models that she no longer has access to. I grant that I would be much harder on these same plot points if they turned up in, say, Funky Winkerbean. But I feel justified in my anger at Funky Winkerbean. Rivera I’m willing still to suppose there are reasons for things not explained.

Mark Trail’s way into this heist idea. He’s got a history back to childhood of not liking Bettancourt. And he hasn’t stolen anything since those motorboats last plot. He’s overdue. At the party earlier Bettancourt offered Mark Trail “help” with his career. So Mark calls, feigning interest. Bettancourt’s got a great idea. How about some interaction between “Marky” Trail and his pop-science celebrity Professor “Killer” Bee Sharp?

Narrator: 'Meanwhile, the Herp Hacienda friends search for the prized laptop.' Aparna: 'Here's the development room!' Reptiliannaire: 'That's wild. They never changed the security codes after you left?' Aparna: 'Tech bros act lazy and call it a 'life hack'.' (Inside the room) Aparna: 'Start checking the laptop serial numbers! It's one of these.' Reptiliannaire: 'This might take a while. Can Mark buy us enough time?' Cut to the boxing. Narrator: 'The better question is can Mark's *face* buy them enough time?'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 17th of June, 2021. Now this strains plausibility some. If I know anything about tech bros they might well have changed the code (1793) to the other code they use (2684).

The plan: Mark Trail will talk to Bettancourt long enough to distract him while the Herp Hacienda guys steal the laptop. (Why would the laptop not have been wiped clean? Aparna is betting on the tech guys being too lazy to bother. I accept this; I understand if you do not.) How do the Herp Hacienda gang get into Bettancourt’s facility when only Mark Trail was invited? Professor Bee Sharp is enough of a celebrity that the gang can say they couldn’t pass up the chance to get to meet him. And the Professor is enough of a narcissist to buy that.

Bettancourt has an even better idea than talking about a Mark Trail/Bee Sharp interaction. Why not have them do something for real right now? He knows a director and everything, and here he is. Also, instead of, like, two pop-science guys enthusing over one another, why not have them punch each other? So that’s why it’s a sudden boxing match.

A boxing match is good and distracting, though, and Aparna and crew have time to find the laptop. When they take it out of the charging docks, it sets off an alarm, though. It’s a race against time to upload the source code to the Internet, which the upload wins.

Mark Trail: 'Aparna! Get out of here!' Aparna: 'Not till I face Cricket Bro! Remember me? You said my work was worthless before tossing me out!' Cricket Bro Rob Bettancourt: 'So? I say taht to everyone before I fire them!' Aparna, showing the laptop; 'If my work is so worthless, then you shouldn't mind if I upload the source code to the Internet.' Bettancourt: 'Wait, What? No!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 24th of June, 2021. I agree with Aparna on the principle that if the company’s declared something is worthless, there’s nothing wrong in giving it away, on the same principle that when you throw something out anyone can just come and take it. I suppose the courts aren’t as open-minded about this. On the other hand, there’s an excellent chance the judge would have no idea what a source code is or how it could be stolen if it’s still right there on the laptop. I like Aparna’s dinosaur/lizard hoodie. I’m surprised she’s using plain old FTP instead of at least SFTP.

So now it’s about escaping. Bee Sharp’s manager, Diana Daggers, wants to catch Mark Trail on camera, “breaking and entering” the Cricket Bro tech labs. I don’t know why she thinks that’s important. I only have the knowledge of the law that you get from being on a student newspaper in the early 90s. But whatever laws Mark Trail did violate there, none of them were about breaking or entering. He came at the owner’s invitation. I also don’t get what’s important about getting him on camera fleeing. There were plenty of witnesses that he was there. They might even have video of him boxing with Bee Sharp. The thing to get him on is conspiring with people who stole company property. I don’t get where video of Mark Trail fleeing matters.

Daggers is angry about Mark Trail punching Bee Sharp, which, fair enough. But it was in a boxing match that Bee Sharp presumably agreed to.

Mark Trail, in the car: 'Rep, where are you taking us? That last run-in was way too close!' Reptiliannaire: 'We're going where all the cool cats in hybrids hang out on a weeknight! ... The farmers market!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 16th of July, 2021. OK yes, if I were having someone stay with me a few days I’d want to show them to the farmers market in town. But you have to understand, the tuba museum diner closed years ago, we have to go with what we still have.

Daggers and Sharp, in a faster car, chase Trail and gang. This leads to the headlight trick mentioned at the start of this essay. Since they’re found the moment they move, Mark Trail thinks of a better plan. That’s camouflage. Where to hide a green hybrid in the city on a weeknight? … Well, the farmers market, that’s where. I laughed. It’s silly, but jabs close enough to me that I respect it. I understand if you do not. Sharp concedes that Mark Trail has escaped … but also that this is not over.

What is over, though, is the window for my plot recapping here. We’ll see how these stories resolve over the weeks ahead and I’ll recap them in about three months, if all goes well.

Sunday Animals Watch

A neat and understated bit about the animals here? Nearly all of them have had some appearance in the comic strip dailies. Not always the same week as their Sunday appearance. Like, the Burrowing owls were mentioned as being around Los Angeles International Airport. And one’s seen in the daily strip when Mark Trail arrived in Los Angeles. I like that.

  • Sabal palms, 2 May 2021. Imported into southern California and somehow not an ecological disaster, which is a nice change of pace.
  • Burrowing owls, 9 May 2021. Hanging around LAX, which is nice.
  • Coyotes, 16 May 2021. Yes, roadrunners are coming.
  • Native grasses, 23 May 2021. I’d love to have more native grasses on our lawn but I live in mid-Michigan so the ecologically correct thing is to be a marshland. This is hard to mow.
  • Peregrine falcons, 30 May 2021. I’m old enough to remember when it seemed inevitable they were going to go extinct so, uh, it’s possible for good things to happen in the environment.
  • Mountain lions, 6 June 2021. The Sunday panel isn’t just listing all 640 common names for these animals, but it’s close.
  • Muscovy ducks, 13 June 2021. OK, did not know they were invasive. That’s inconvenient.
  • Butterfly bushes, 20 June 2021. I never even heard of these before this story but now I know of a new kind of invasive plant to feel bad about.
  • Black-tailed jackrabbits, 27 June 2021. Featuring illustrations of jackrabbits standing upright, and you’ll want to see that because they look weird when they do.
  • Feral hogs, 4 July 2021. Mark Trail points out how the 80s were an ecological disaster, which yes, but it understates how much everything else was a disaster. The eight-bit computers were pretty great, though.
  • Grizzly bears, 11 July 2021. Mark Trail takes a moment to process his feelings about the California Grizzly’s extinction, which I’m guessing is him playing to stereotype? Amusing, though.
  • Roadrunners, 18 July 2021. Will say I was worried for the roadrunners along the roads during Mark Trail’s car chase.
  • Butterflies, 25 July 2021. Butterflies are free. What does that mean? It means you can have all of them you want.

Next Week!

Stolen watches! Messy, emotional backstory break-ups! Women scheming for the love and/or wallet of Dr Drew Cory! All this and quotes of dubious authenticity in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth, to be reviewed in a week, if all goes well.

In which I wonder how exactly poison works in the Superman universe


So I was reading this collection of 1950s issues of the Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen comic books, apparently. For the most part these are stories about Jimmy Olsen being up to some nonsense for extremely complicated yet ridiculous reasons Superman dare not explain until the last page. Or that Jimmy Olsen can’t explain to Superman, again until the last page. It’s a lot of strange behavior from what are presented as people.

Here we get to a story that’s about this Ruritanian country that figures Jimmy Olsen is the Crown Prince. And he figures, fine, he’ll be king for a couple days while the wicked prime minister tries to kill him. Wouldn’t you? That develops about like you’d figure.

Black-and-white reprints of a couple comic book panels. In the first the evil minister dominates the panel, thinking, 'He doesn't know my henchmen have taken care of that drink', while in the background Jimmy Olsen, dressed as king, readies to drink a large fountain soda. In the second panel Clark Kent peers, using his X-ray vision, at Jimmy and the drink. Clark thinks: 'That soda ... X-Ray Vision shows it's poisoned!' The next panel is barely visible on the edge of the image.
Panels from “King For A Day”, a story running in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #4, March-April 1955. Story by Otto Binder, art by Curt Swan and Ray Burnley. I do like the position of that insert circle, and the way Clark Kent’s X-Ray Vision can be pointing right at the soda in the other panel. It’s the sort of small touch that makes for a good reading experience. Anyway when Superman drinks the poison without suffering any, the evil minister figures his underlings have screwed up the poison. So that’ll be a mark against them on the next employee review, which is a bit of a mean thing for Superman to do to them. On the other hand, they were poisoning the king, so they have to have expected someone would mark something on their records.

And … so … what was it in the soda that looked like poison? Little axe blades? A miniature version of that woman who’s sometimes in Spy Vs Spy and kills Spy and Vs Spy? A tiny magnet to pull a bunch of lead dust together into a bullet once it’s swallowed? What did Superman’s X-Ray vision X-see?

Anyway you’ll be glad to know Clark Kent is able to stop Jimmy from drinking the poisoned soda without revealing his secret identity of Batman. He thinks to ask “Hey, can I have that exact soda you’re drinking right now before you have it?” and Jimmy figures, yeah, why not? In the end, Jimmy Olsen stops being the fake king of this Ruritanian country.

60s Popeye: The Rain Breaker, which is not a useful article of clothing


I don’t know why the Paramount Cartoon Studios cartoons are all from 1961 lately, while the other studios are stuck in 1960. Of all the things I don’t understand about how King Features is ordering these shorts, that’s one of them. The story here is by I Klein. Direction and of course production are crediteed to Seymour Kneitel. Have your picnic baskets ready as we visit The Rain Breaker.

At what point, watching this, did you realize it was all a dream? Me, watching this just this weekend, I figured it was a dream the moment I saw Popeye fall asleep without anybody else on-screen. We’re trained to tolerate, at least, dream stories, but they have to play fair, like by giving us the last moment we can say something definitely happened. Here it’s an overstuffed Popeye falling asleep during a lovely day for picnicking.

I don’t remember how long I needed when I was a kid. Plausibly it wasn’t until Popeye woke up that it occurred to me. Popeye is someone who has astounding adventures. Why not get so annoyed that the weather forecast is wrong he goes up to the clouds to figure out what’s wrong? And, once there, why shouldn’t the problem be that Thor has imprisoned Iris until she agrees to marry him? It’s interesting that Paramount Cartoon Studios felt the need to blanket that as an imaginary story. This is a series that’s had Popeye meet flying saucers many times over. He’s gone to Lilliput. Paramount Cartoons would even have him meet the cheese men of the Moon and the missile men annoying King Blozo. Why not the goddess of the rainbow, sunshine, and the sunny weather?

Animation cell of Popeye about to punch Thor (Brutus). Thor is standing on a small cloud, but Popeye's on nothing, which stands out because the background is a shot looking up at the castle atop the mountains, so that Popeye and Thor stand in mid-air.
I guess Thor can stand on a cloud if he wants. Popeye can only be there on Thor’s invite, though. If he’d thought faster he would have just let Popeye fall to the ground, way down below.

Once we get there it’s some routine stuff. There’s a nice bit where Popeye finds a window into Iris’s dungeon too high up so he pulls it down. That’s the kind of joke Popeye’s been doing since black-and-white cartoon days. Always works for me. There’s also a moment where Popeye and Thor stand in midair in front of the mountaintop castle. That’s a rare animation mistake for Paramount. Counterbalancing that is the moment of Thor’s lightning bolt melting against Popeye’s spinach-supported chest, which is a great look even in this limited animation.

I don’t fault the writing for making this all a dream story. If it makes it easier to justify Popeye punching out Thor who happens to look like Brutus, all right. That’s more interesting than Popeye punching Brutus. And it’s part of how kids learn to recognize that something’s become an imaginary story. It’s strange that the cue is “Popeye is having an adventure in too-interesting a place”.

Statistics Saturday: What Some Cooking Terms Mean


  • Brazened Apples. To take apples or any other fruit with edible skin and subject them to a display of outrageous behavior.
  • Deglaze. To take food off the window.
  • Reassembled Eggs. Scrambled or stirred eggs which have been placed back into a shell or similar hard container. It is not necessary to unstir them; if one does, the result is called “Delmonico Eggs”.
  • Oignon Brute. A half-peeled onion placed on a skillet in a manner characteristic of 1960s and 70s architecture, generally reliant on concrete, with the working structure implied by the shapes of the visible exterior or of elements within the living interior space.
  • Adumbrate. To set a relish or other briny material on the shelf in the pantry by mistake until you remember it maybe should be refrigerated, but you’re not sure if that’s really necessary or just cautious.
  • Roast Jeté. To set something in the oven while jumping.
  • Discoursing the Meat. To remove the edible part of an artichoke from a golf course or other public walkway.
  • Naked Spaghetti. The most dangerous pasta.
  • Icing. To make any kind of food wait for you.
  • Serendipity Sauce. Any process which moistens your cooking surface without your effort, including the automatic sprinklers going off.
  • Blornching. To over-stir the meat, meat substitute, or thick pudding, to the point you neglect everything else, and you end up not even liking the meat either.
  • Escanaba. (Localism.) To have or serve food in Michigan’s upper peninsula.
  • Scowling Cheese. Any hard or semi-soft cheese which has been made to disapprove.
  • Western-Fried (as in steak). To southern-fry something while lost.
  • Chunked Wheat. To sort into four or fewer categories a pile of flour or other wheat product.

Reference: Defining NASA: The Historical Debate Over The Agency’s Mission, W D Kay.

60s Popeye: The Super Duper Market (or as I would call it, the Super Duper’s Market)


Today’s Popeye is another Jack Kinney production. Animation direction’s credited to Ed Friedman. The story is credited to Tom Hix. The name seems to have no other credits — for anything — on the Internet Movie Database. I don’t know how to explain this. Maybe a friend of Kinney’s needed some extra cash. Maybe it’s a pseudonym for someone who was under contract. Whatever the explanation, here’s 1960’s The Super Duper Market.

And check out the weird copyright on the title card. I would guess this was one of the Kinney studio’s first shorts, before everything was quite organized.

It’s hard to say this short has a plot, or even story. It’s a bunch of spot jokes set in a Super Duper Market. It’s a grocery store that looks to be nearly half the size of a modern Meijer’s. Well, these things were less familiar back then. There are some decent ideas working up to being spoofs of the supermarket idea. The guy who’s been lost for fifteen years, for example. Or Brutus having to oversee matters using televisions and control panels and radio calls to Clerk X-9.

I don’t know that X-9 is a reference to Dashiell Hammett and Alex Raymond’s Secret Agent X-9 action comic strip, still a going concern in 1960. There was an agent named X-9 in Rocky and Bullwinkle, made about the same time. But it might just be that X-9 makes a good-sounding name. The clerk’s given a voice evoking Sheldon Leonard, who before he became a TV producer had a good gig as racetrack tout on The Jack Benny Show.

Wimpy, lifted off the floor by a crane, grabs a can from the top of a tall stack, while remaining impassive about the whole matter.
Wimpy’s kind of like a big dog, you know, like a Labrador retriever or something where when you pick them up they just shrug and accept that somehow, yes, this is my life now, this is how it shall always be, this isn’t all that bad really, can I have something to eat?

There is something about all this which evoked Jack Benny’s show to me. It’s in the casual way we move from spot joke to spot joke, I think, with some callbacks. This particularly in the guy who’s been lost for fifteen years. His reappearances give a decent running joke and a decent way for Popeye to get his spinach.

More than that, though, it’s got this light, dreamy feeling. There’s the usual events. Brutus figures to get Olive Oyl on his own and figures assaulting her will make her love him. Popeye eats his spinach and punches him out. There’s not much build in suspense or drama, though, and certainly not in pacing. There’s some good cutting between Brutus harassing Olive Oyl and the frozen Popeye and Wimpy and Lost Guy, though. Makes for a decent hang out with some people it’s nice to see.

This seems to be one of those cartoons where Brutus doesn’t know Popeye and Olive Oyl at the start of the action, but intuits that Olive Oyl is not going with Wimpy. It also features Popeye and Olive Oyl and Wimpy singing a tuneless sort of song about having a party. There’s no good reason for that to amuse me like it does, but it does.

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 2 of 16)


Welcome back to my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic treatment of Carrie L—‘s Reboot fanfic “Breaking The Barriers”. Everything posted from “Breaking the Barriers” should be at this link”. And all of my reposted MiSTings should be at this link, someday.

In the first part of this story, Carrie L—, Canadian author, admired how many things there were on the Internet. (Name partly redacted because this was a self-insertion fanfic and I don’t wish to force the author to be too easily embarrassed, if she would be.) Then came a mysterious error and she woke to discover she’s now one of those things. Join us now as she wakes to meet the cast of Reboot.

I don’t remember why I took on this MiSTing. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t only for the chance to toss in a bunch of old-time-even-then computer jokes. But it would be like me for that. Crow’s line about “Just go 4C E2 FC” is the machine language instructions for a Commodore 64 to reset the computer. There are a bunch of good dumb jokes I still like, such as Phong inquiring as to Carrie’s former appearance, or Joel’s energy shake. Hope you enjoy.

It was an article of Internet lore in the 90s that you could only get decaffeinated Mountain Dew in Canada. I don’t know whether that was true, or true in a shaded way, like, it only had less caffeine. But that’s what makes that line a correctly formed joke, which to a know-it-all like me is even better than a funny joke.


>
> Part Three

JOEL: The part of the third part will be known in this fanfic as the part of the third part.

>
> After a bit of confusion,

ALL: [ Muttering loudly to themselves, to the effect of "Where am I? Who are you? Where are we? What’s going on? Should we be doing something? ]

TOM: At some point she might want to ask how she got there.

> Carrie managed to calm down and was
> able to answer and ask questions normally.

CROW: [ As Carrie ] Oh, I dunno, what do you wanna do?

JOEL: [ As Bob ] I dunno. What do you wanna do?

> Looking up from the energy
> shake she had been given,

TOM: You’re sure I can’t get that supersized?

> Carrie found herself once again staring into
> those eyes.

JOEL: You have a liiiiiittle booger, right there.

>
> "You really are Bob, aren’t you?" she asked, sheepishly.
> "Last time I checked." he said, then he looked at her funny.

CROW: What was Mister Carlin telling you?

> "How do
> you know me?"

TOM: Let me count the ways.

> he asked, "I know you’re not from Mainframe." Looking
> back down at her energy shake,

JOEL: So she’s got no tea, right?

> Carrie tried to think of a good answer.

CROW: How would it be if I just spelled Mississippi?

> "Uh…well…you’re pretty well known where I come from."

TOM: In about the same way that Mister Spaceley is a leading industrialist back where she comes from.

> She said,
> then took a cautious sip of her shake.

JOEL: It was unlike any shake she had cautiously sipped before.

> It was as if she were drinking
> adrenaline or something.

TOM: MM-mmm. Endocrine solutions, just like Mom used to distill.

> Her whole body felt revitalized and her head
> started to clear. With a feeling of both surprise and pleasure, she
> started to gulp down the shake.

TOM: What the — no, get your head out of there! You’ll get stuck!

>
> "Whoa!" Bob said, "Be careful or you’re gonna choke!"

JOEL: Oh, and your face will freeze like that.

> Putting
> her drink down, Carrie smiled shyly. "I’ve never tasted, or felt,

CROW: Or deliberately bathed in…

> anything like that before!" she said. "You mean you’ve never had an
> energy shake?"

JOEL: I think an energy shake would go something… like this.
[ ALL stand up and start wiggling around. ]

> Bob asked, surprised. "No," Carrie whispered, "They
> don’t have these where I come from."

TOM: Yeah, they decaffeinate Mountain Dew too.

> She looked back up at Bob, and
> found him staring at her.

CROW: Sooner or later, one of them has to blink.

> "Just where do you come from anyway?" He
> asked.

TOM: Come from. Go to’s considered harmful.

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

CROW: The barriers will never heal if you don’t stop picking at them.

>
> Part Four
>
> Carrie swallowed hard. How was she going to explain the fact
> that she was a user to Bob without him thinking

CROW: You could jingle your car keys and distract him.

> she was completely
> random?

JOEL: Don’t throw in an unpredictable series of digits?

> She glanced down at her feet,

TOM: [ As Carrie ] Wait a minute, *three*?

> thinking of something to say,
> when she realized that her shoes and clothes were all wrong.

CROW: They were *so* fifteen milliseconds ago.

> Instead
> of her usual blue jeans and high-top runners, she was wearing black
> leather pants

JOEL: And felt-tip socks.

> and knee-high black boots. Each boot had a symbol

CROW: And vice-versa.

> crested at the top under the knee, a black and white bisected circle,

JOEL: The mark of the standardized test!

> impaled by a black and white diamond. She stretched her arms out and
> began to examine the sleeves of her shirt.

TOM: Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!

CROW: But that trick *never* works!

> What had been a plain grey
> sweatshirt, was now a maroon bodysuit

CROW: Without that suit, she wouldn’t have a body at all.

> with chrome trim.

TOM: And huge fins and that Edsel horse-collar grille.

> Her hands,
> once the sun-kissed brown

JOEL: If the sun kissed me I’d probably get third degree burns.

> of a Native-Canadian, had instead become an
> aquamarine colour.

CROW: Of a Newfoundlander.

JOEL: Or one of Namor’s armies.

>
> With a starled gasp, she jumped off the couch and ran to the
> mirror on the other side of the room.

TOM: Bob keeps that mirror around so he can put on his makeup.

> The face that stared back at
> her bore the same aquamarine colour as her hands, and she now had
> metallic blue hair.

JOEL: I guess she’s going through her Blue Period.

TOM: She’s really got to *steel* herself for this look!

> Her lips were a deep turquoise

CROW: Two feet deep, in fact.

> and her eyes…
> fortunately, her eyes were still the same hazel that had always stared
> back at her.

CROW: She clashes with every conceivable color and style.

JOEL: Black, white, maroon, and turquoise. She’s become a CGA graphic.

> With a small shriek of disbelief, she turned to Bob who
> had come up beside her.

TOM: I hope he doesn’t frighten Miss Muffet away.

>
> "What’s wrong?" he asked, worried. "I don’t look the same!!"

CROW: Uh… wait… new haircut? Different dress?

> Carrie almost shouted. "What’s happened to me?" I…I…" She turned
> back to the mirror again,

TOM: [ As Carrie ] Oh, magic mirror, take me away from this all.

> and now noticed the same black and white
> bisected circle that was on her boots was also placed near her left
> collarbone.

JOEL: So her neck’s become a boot?

> Reaching up to touch it,

TOM: If that’s a hot spot, she’s going to be in a lot of trouble.

> she looked at Bob’s worried face
> in the mirror.

CROW: It looks like a mirror, but it’s actually a web camera serving over five thousand people a day.

> "This is all wrong!" she whispered, "I’m not a
> sprite!"

JOEL: You’d rather be a raster interrupt method?

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * *

TOM: There’s one now.

>
> Part Five

CROW: Part Five is alive!

>
> At Carrie’s shock and dismay at her appearence,

TOM: I like her appearance.

> and her
> insistance that she was not a sprite, Bob decided it would be a good
> idea to take her to see Phong.

TOM: It *was* a good idea…

ALL: At first.

> Upon arriving at the Principle Office,
> Phong took her to the Infirmary

CROW: Because they were on the Infirmaration Superhighway.

> to see if there was anything the
> scanners could pick up.

JOEL: Hey, those aren’t scanners, they’re just an alpha channel effect.

> As he ran the tests,

CROW: Carrie regretted not studying earlier.

> Phong began to ask
> Carrie questions.

JOEL: Live around here much?

TOM: If you were a natural-born human transported by freakish accident to the world inside the computer, how would you convince people you weren’t insane?

>
> "You say that you do not look as you are supposed to." Phong
> said, "May I inquire as to your former appearence?"

CROW: [ As Carrie ] Go right ahead.

TOM: [ As Phong ] What is your former appearance?

> Carrie stared up
> at the ceiling,

JOEL: [ As Carrie ] What the… there’s people dancing on it!

> and started to recount her human appearence to them,

TOM: [ As Phong ] So you were the most beautiful person we ever saw… and we’re drawn to your beautiful eyes, that are quiet pools of tranquility that still betray a deep secret and still penetrate our souls… any distinguishing features?

> being careful not to sound like she was crazy.

CROW: So she had to keep from honking.

> "Well, I had brown
> hair before,

JOEL: But not on my head!

> and my skin was a dark beige colour. My lips were not
> turquoise, more of a pink colour.

CROW: Carrie L—, for the new Color Trinitron.

> These aren’t even my clothes!" She
> sighed deeply,

TOM: Inhaling over four kilobytes of memory.

> and turned her head to look at Phong.

[ CROW makes a slow, squeaking, hinge-in-need-of-oil sound. ]

> "I know it
> sounds crazy," she said, "but you’ve gotta believe me.

TOM: [ As Phong ] Sure thing, Mister Napoleon.

> I don’t belong
> here, and I need to get back home."

CROW: She’s only been gone fifteen milliseconds and already her ISP’s disconnected her forty times.

> Bob looked over at her

JOEL: Good woman. Tasty.

> and gave
> her a look she didn’t quite understand.

TOM: He gives looks in Klingon.

> "I can try and get you home."

CROW: Just go ‘4C E2 FC’, ‘4C E2 FC’, ‘4C E2 FC’ while clicking your VIC-IIs together three times.

> he said, "The only thing is, I need to know where you’re from.

JOEL: And if you can pay half tolls.

> You
> still haven’t told me."

TOM: Why, it almost makes me not want to trust the person I’ve never met before and know almost nothing about.

> Carrie swallowed hard,

CROW: There goes another 24 k of the stack.

> and looked up into his
> eyes.

TOM: As a sprite, would you feel more comfortable if we put you into a Snoopy Versus The Red Baron game?

> "Um.. well…I…you see," she stammered. From the look on his
> face,

JOEL: And the banner ad running across his forehead…

> she decided then and there, that she was going to have to tell
> him the truth,

JOEL: [ As Carrie ] This isn’t as cool as I thought it would be.

> no matter what the conciquences.

CROW: Is that the Canadian spelling?

TOM: That’s the Canadian misspelling.

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

JOEL: They haven’t gotten very far building that wall.


[ To continue … ]

60s Popeye: The Square Egg although I have to nitpick and say it’s a cube


Good news, everyone! The Whiffle Bird is back, and she’s a she again. We have Rosemary O’Connor to thank for this story. Direction is by Rudy Larriva, and the producer Jack Kinney. This is Rosemary O’Connor’s lone writing credit on the Internet Movie Database. She gets a good number of credits as background artist for the King Features Popeye cartoons (including this short). She has other shows from the 1957 Crusader Rabbit revival through to the 1984 Alvin and the Chipmunks revival. Here with us from 1960 is The Square Egg.

Nobody ever says Brutus’s name, this cartoon. I wonder if this was made early in the production run. Sometime before King Features had decided what to do about their (mistakenly) thinking they didn’t own the Bluto character.

And, as the teaser said, we have the Whiffle Hen back. She’s a hen, too, hen enough to lay a square egg. Brutus swipes the surely valuable egg, and then it’s all a chase to get it back. Brutus is foiled when the egg cracks, but happy news: there’s a cubical Whiffle Chick inside. There’s a little tussle over who’ll take the Whiffle Chick, quickly resolved to “the kid will stay with the Hen”.

Thing is, this script feels like a first draft. There are a couple of good bits. Seeing that Brutus keeps the stolen egg in a birdcage. Or Popeye looking over the smashed ruins of his henhouse and declaring “everything looks normal”. The hallway-of-doors chase between a bunch of trees that ends with Brutus popping up in front of the camera to say, “I’m surrounded!”

Against that, though: when Popeye slowly reads the ransom note he declares, “Well blow me down! … Oh my gawrshk! … Well blow me down!”. It’s like Jack Mercer ran through all the plausible responses and they didn’t decide which to pick. I get lingering on the note so the audience can read it, but why not “Oh my gawrshk! We’ve been egg-napped?” All right; that’s a sloppy edit.

Swee'Pea, Professor Wotasnozzle, Olive Oyl, and Popeye standa around looking at the Whiffle Hen and the Whiffle Chick. The Whiffle Hen's a roughly ordinary chicken-size bird. The Chick is quite large, about as tall as Popeye, and has a vaguely cubical body and head, and with the beak at a weird angle looks with half-lidded eyes towards the camera.
The Whiffle Chick’s expression is my look in every picture, right down to my head being tilted for no obvious reason.

But consider earlier on. When Professor Wotasnozzle arrives, he’s stunned by the news of the square egg. What did they tell him he was coming out to see? Shortly after Olive Oyl says “Oh, Professor, you say such scientific things.” This after he said the egg would cause “a revolution in egghead circles”. What’s a scientific thing about that? Or the ending bit, with the newly-hatched Whiffle Chick growing quite large and then … being asked to pick where he’s going to go.

These aren’t major issues and I can imagine small dialogue changes that would fix them. Which is why I say it reads like a first draft.

I’m disappointed the Whiffle Hen doesn’t get to show off any of her natural extraordinary good luck. Or, as she’d become in other shorts, magic powers to do plot-generating stuff. But at least she gets to be mother to an oddly cute child considerably larger than she is.

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? Could Gasoline Alley happen in real life? April – July 2021


A major part of the story in Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley is a radio signal from 1952 being and heard on someone’s colander. Could this happen? Well, no, of course not.

The thing that isn’t obviously impossible is the radio reception. A crystal set radio needs no battery or electricity. It uses the energy of the radio signal it detects to drive the speaker. It needs only a few components, many of them ones you could make yourself in 1920. Building a crystal set radio is a great way to learn electronics. After a few minutes’ work, you can set about hours, days, whole months of trying to get the stupid thing to work. It never will. But for purposes of a comic story? All right, let it happen.

A radio signal from 1952 bouncing back to Earth and getting stuck in a communications satellite? Yeah, that’s nonsense. It would be less bad if the signal were broadcast from some station that has an old-time-radio night. I don’t know why Jim Scancarelli didn’t go for that instead. It could encourage people to look for broadcasters who bring up old recorded stuff.

This should catch you up on Gasoline Alley for mid-July 2021. If you’re reading this after about October 2021, or if any news about the comic breaks out, an essay here may be more useful. Thanks for reading.

Gasoline Alley.

26 April – 18 July 2021.

My last check-in came after Walt Wallet dreamed about some moments in his life with Skeezix. That’s the story I suposed to be how the strip commemorated the centennial of Skeezix’s introduction and the comic strip’s change. The strip then sent Gertie, Walt’s caretaker, to the store again, for more eggs. This seems like a lot of egg consumption. But that’s if you assume the strip from Monday, the 18th of April, takes place right after that of the Saturday before. We’re trained to expect that unless a comic says there’s a time gap something happens right after what came before. The story makes more sense if we’re looking at a week, or even a month, later.

Gertie, at the supermarket, holding a carton of eggs: 'I'm looking for unbroken cackleberries!' Mim: 'Huh? What's that?' Gertie: 'What do hens say?' Mim: 'Cluck! Cluck!' Tim: 'They cackle! Oh! I get it! Cackleberries! We're the dumb clucks!' Mim: 'Us? Speak for yourself!' Gertie, slapping her head: 'Oh! I started their first argument!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 30th of April, 2021. I understand, and appreciate, that Jim Scancarelli wants his characters to have soft, pleasant lives. But, wow, Sidney Potier and Katharine Houghton’s characters from Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner are looking at Mim and Tim and saying, “Now that’s a couple that married too fast.”

At the store again, Gertie runs into Mim and Tim, the couple whom she helped cute-meet back in February, our time. Mim and Tim got along great, turns out, and now they’re married. You see why I say this has got to me later than “the next day”. As it is, Gertie sets off their first argument, over whether “cackleberries” is a clever joke name for eggs. I understand there’s whirlwind romances. I still say Mim and Tim should have dated a little longer.

On her way out Gertie runs in to Rufus and Joel, as they run into her car. Rufus and Joel are the most 50s/60s-sitcommy characters in Gasoline Alley. Their stories tend to be deep in the American Cornball style. So if you don’t like that, bail out of any and all Rufus-and-Joel stories. You will not have fun.

Disembodied voice: 'Astro to Earth! I can't raise them! You try, Roger!' Joel, waking from bed: 'Oh! Not again!' Voice: 'Cadet Roger Manning calling Earth! What's wrong down there, Junior?' Joel, tossing a jug of moonshine out the door: 'I know what's wrong! No mo' sippin' on th'jug --- no mo' --- no how!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 22nd of May, 2021. So I grew up at the very tail end of this being a thing in American pop culture but let me promise younger readers, as though I had any: encountering something weird and promising to never again touch Demon Alcohol? That used to be crazy funny. I genuinely do like the nostalgic vibe of seeing it again.

If they are for you, then what you got the last two months was Joel hearing mysterious voices. “Astro on the Polaris, calling Earth! Come in!” And when Earth does not come in, Cadet Roger Manning tries to get Earth on the radio. Anyone with old-time-radio credentials recognizes this: it’s the Tom Corbett, Space Cadet series. I’m assuming this the radio series, as Jim Scancarelli is a major fan of old-time-radio. (I’m aware it was a TV show first. And last, as the radio program ran less than a year. The clip gets identified as from the radio series, on what grounds I do not know.) The important thing is Joel doesn’t recognize it, and neither does anyone else until the end of the story.

Since there’s a racket, Joel goes off to Rufus’s house to sleep. And keep Rufus awake, since Joel snores like I snore. In the morning, the strange sound is still going. Rufus can hear it too. It’s not the radio, since Joel doesn’t have one. So, aliens it is, then.

Newspaper reporter: 'Polly? How'd you TV guys scoop *us*? We heard about it first!' Polly Ballew: 'You have your ways --- we have ours! [ Getting in front of the camera ] Now, please move out of our way ... while we do a live broadcast!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 17th of June, 2021. Incidentally we never do hear how Polly Ballew got word of this. Maybe the Galactic Institute of Space Research and Astral Studies dropped a tip so they’d have an excuse to appear.
The press is hardly going to ignore a good flying-saucer story. Reporters from the Gasette newspaper show up. So does Polly Ballew, of Gasoline Alley Television. Polly’s so excited by the story she doesn’t even mention being the sister of Wally Ballew of Bob and Ray’s old-time-radio show. (This might be because Bob and Ray had a running spoof of Tom Corbett. This was the Lawrence Fechtenberger, Interstellar Officer Candidate series. Too close a mention might spoil people’s suspension of disbelief. Except I’d think anyone who would spot that link would be going along with Scancarelli on this, so who knows?) But she also confirms the strange noises are coming from the kitchen colander.

Joel, introducing the Galactic Institute of Space Research and Astral Studies people: 'Howdy! This is m'fr'en' Rufus! These folks are from a outer space outfit studyin' my colander!' Rufus, sotto voce: 'They don't look like they is from outer space!' Joel: 'How yo' know? Yo' ain' never seen nobody from out there!' Rufus: 'I is too! In plenty o'movies an'th'TV!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 5th of July, 2021. I had not noticed before writing up the alt text for this image, but you could redraw this dialogue as a Pogo strip and it wouldn’t seem out of place.

Drawn by Polly Ballew’s live reporting, three members of the Galactic Institute of Space Research and Astral Studies show up. Cosmos Quasar, Dr Lana Luna, and Andrew Andromeda are happy to study this apparent alien transmission. With scientific investigators on the scene, Polly leaves. But their verdict: It’s the Tom Corbett, Space Cadet radio series. They recognize “Cadet Roger Manning of the Astro”. Their explanation: last week a communications satellite went off-course. A fragment of ancient radio got stuck in its circuits, and by freak coincidence is getting sent right to his kitchen colander. They recognized the names.

The story’s punch line, fitting to a cornball 50s/60s sitcom, is the departure of the Galactic Institute of Space Research and Astral Studies trio. Scotty beams them up.

The three Galactic Institute of Space Research and Astral Studies researchers, caught in a beam that looks like sunlight, with their forms dissolving: 'Well! Our work is done! Let's go home!' 'Right!' And the last says, in Greek (with Greek lettering) 'Beam us up, Scotty'. Rufus's mule Becky looks on, surprised.
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 17th of July, 2021. I don’t know why Scancarelli chose to depict an alien language as Greek. I would put money on his thinking of the idiom about something “being Greek to me”. And wanting to use an actual language that readers would have a fair shot of deciphering.

This would seem to end the Rufus-and-Joel story in time for this essay. Monday’s strip still had the characters talking about it. But the transition to a new story sometimes does happen mid-week. Often the protagonist for one story sees the protagonist for the next. Who that will be, and what they’ll do, I have no way to know except wait.

Next Week!

On the one hand, renowned nature guy Mark Trail! On the other, renowned pop science guy Bee Sharp! The stakes: an app about whether the air is healthy for pets. It should all come together in Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail, discussed next week, if all goes well.

Why is everybody angry with Funky Winkerbean *now*?


I mean, besides the usual?

OK, so, a quick recap. Funky Winkerbean is Tom Batiuk’s long-running semi-serialized, semi-humor comic strip about people who appreciate comic books on a deeper level than you, even if you are Grant Morrison. The important action lately has been with the staff of Atomik Comix, a small-time publisher hoping to revive the spirt of bonky 1950s/60s-era fun. The people in it have been meeting, and often bringing on staff, people from the (in-universe) vanished Batom Comics.

The current story’s based on Flash Freeman, Batom comics writer, and Ruby Lith, illustrator. Pete and Darin, who make most of Atomik’s comics, thought to ask San Diego Comic-Con to induct these old-timers into the Comic-Con Hall of Fame. Comic-Con said yeah, why not? On the way to the con we learned that Flash Freeman and his main artist, Phil Holt, separated on bad terms. My understanding is this is a fictional treatment of some legendary real comic book feud. I don’t know what but I’m going to assume it’s Stan Lee and Anybody Who Drew Stan Lee Stories.

As Freeman was being introduced for this, he said he wished Phil Holt could be there. And a man in the audience, who’d been lurking around wearing a Darth Vader mask, stood up to declare … HE IS! And so Phil Holt was crashing the induction ceremony.

On stage at Comic-Con, Flash Freeman: 'I just want to set the record straight by saying that Phil Holt was right here beside me when, together, we created all of those Batom Comics superheroes. I only wish that Phil Holt was with us now ... because he deserves to be in the Comic-Con Hall of Fame as well!' Phil Holt, rising from the audience and taking off a Darth Vader mask: 'Well, you just got your WISH!' Audience member: 'This is the best cameo EVER!!'
Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean for the 18th of July, 2021. Really more of a surprise guest appearance than a cameo but I understand misspeaking in the excitement. In the next day’s strip, as Not Dead Phil Holt climbs on stage, someone in the audience cries out how this is horrible, as he’d just paid $500 for a signed copy of Holt’s final book. That’s a good joke, as I measure these things. Oh, and Comic-Con didn’t agree to add Phil Holt posthumously-they-thought to the Hall of Fame because … I guess nobody asked if he could be? Which is dumb but a normal human behavior sort of dumb.

So the reason your friend who pays attention to the comics is angry about this is that Phil Holt died four years ago. This was in a sequence where the Atomik Comix gang met him and found he was doing children’s birthday-party art. Soon after this meeting, Holt died. He willed over to Darin a bunch of his original art, which Darin auctioned off for charity. We-the-readers saw him in ghostly form, looking over the auction, approving.

It’s a storyteller’s right to retcon things. If they realize they have an idea that, revised, could produce more interesting stories, they might even have an obligation to. Batiuk has taken advantage of this. The whole Batom Comics backstory started out with Starbuck Jones, presented as a cult comic from a forgotten minor publisher. It’s been revised into a Captain America-like property. That is, once-hugely-popular, then neglected, then revived to wild acclaim. This retcon gave Batiuk ideas for more and more interesting stories, so, fine. (I mean interesting to him and maybe his editor. Whether you like any of it is your business.)

Thing is, some retcons are harder to swallow than others. The more load-bearing and unambigous an element was, the more the involved audience will resist its retcon. Phil Holt’s death isn’t as important to the comic as, say, Lisa Moore’s. But it was still presented as a clear event without any ambiguity. We learned of it by the executor giving Darin tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of vintage comic book art. Usually if you have to retcon something major, it’s better to make a small deal of the contradiction. Here? We’re reminded that Phil Holt died. Like, the Emcee tells us how amazing it is he’s not dead.

Ghost Lisa, looking at her son and his wife reading the auction house book: 'This is my son, Darin. He's the one auctioning off the comic book covers. I'm Lisa.' Ghost Phil: 'I'm Phil ... I drew those covers.' Lisa: 'I never really read comic books.' Phil: 'If I wasn't already dead ... that would've done it.'
Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean for the 15th of November, 2017. Ghost Lisa here is Lisa Moore, who was the center of the comic strip getting Serious, with stories about teen pregnancy and right-wing terrorism and suicide and breast cancer. Her death in 2007 marked the change to the current era of the comic and the famous “time jump” bringing every character in the strip ten years closer to death. She’s appeared in ghostly form occasionally, usually to look with approval at people remembering her. And, one time, intervening in the affairs of mortals, saving a plane full of people from an aircraft with a critical part malfunction, but only because she couldn’t get Les off the flight otherwise. It’s heartwarming unless you think what would’ve happened if Les had decided to take another flight.

It may be that as Phil Holt’s story unfolds the obvious doubts will be addressed. That we’ll get a story for why a man might fake his death for years until he can disrupt a Comic-Con event honoring his former partner. Your friend who is angry at Funky Winkerbean does not trust that the explanation for all this will be at least superficially plausible.

So that’s what’s going on there. Any more complaints about Funky Winkerbean should appear at an essay under this link. And tomorrow, and every week, I try to recap one of the story strips proper. This week: Gasoline Alley.

Also, I owe thanks to Son of Stuck Funky and to Comics Curmudgeon for their blogging about these past stories. This made it easy for me to find the Funky Winkerbean strips to confirm I wasn’t remembering things wrong.

60s Popeye: The Mark of Zero, and the mystery of the Mark of Zero


We continue in the wilderness of shorts for which King Features’s YouTube collection includes no credits. The style of the title card gives away that it’s a Paramount Cartoon Studios production, from 1961. Seymour Kneitel is the producer and, per the Internet Movie Database, director as well. Irving Dressler has a story credit. He seems to have gone without mention here before. Here, now, learn the mystery of The Mark of Zero.

Zero, here, is the hero of a bedtime story Popeye tells. He’s a dashing, sword-wielding force standing against Brutus and his gang. There’s a good bit to like in Zero’s story. For one, he’s got a lighthearted tone. Zero quipping about how he’s kind of a cut-up is the sort of joke Jack Mercer would mumble if this short were made in the 30s. And that includes some nice cleverness, such as by disarming Brutus’s band of thugs by using a magnet.

Also, Brutus’s band of thugs is well-populated, especially for this era, and by more than one character model and voice. And his battle of wits with Zero develops. It’s got a proper introduction, build, and climax. Brutus declares “dames is Zero’s weakness,” on grounds not evidenced on-screen, and puts on a dress to catch Zero by surprise. The framing device excuses Brutus giving Zero the precious bit of spinach. This is the rare bit of suspense where you know how things are going to go the hero’s way.

It’s all done in the lumbering, steady pace of a Paramount cartoon, of course. Look at when Zero’s caught in a barrel with Brutus sitting on top. We get a good solid reminder that Zero has a sword, before he swipes Brutus’s rear end. The joke setup is sound. Set up the action and pay it off. What it’s not is fast. With better pacing the cartoon could be twice as good.

Brutus, wearing a dress, whips off the wig and mask he wore to conceal his identity and holds his sword out on Popeye-as-Zero's chest. As Zero, Popeye's wearing a loosely Robin Hood-like outfit, with a nice purple cape.
By the way that’s a look that works for Popeye. I’m not being snarky here. He fills it out well.

So the mystery. It’s not why frame this as a bedtime tale. It’s why tell the tale to Deezil Oyl? Why not Swee’Pea? Deezil was a character created for the 60s cartoons, I think to have a kid who could be more rambunctious and chaotic than Swee’Pea could be. (Also to be a companion in case the plot needed two kids.) The closing scene, with Deezil having zero-swiped her whole bedroom, would be unusual for Swee’Pea, but I don’t feel it’s out of character. There’s no need to set up telling Swee’Pea a bedtime story either.

She never got to be a regular in the cartoons, and as far as I know never appeared in the comic strip proper or another Popeye series. So I don’t want to cheat her of her few appearances. I’d like to know why she got this, though. Maybe they were looking for things to do with Deezil? But you get a lasting character when they do something someone else in your cast can’t, and “hear a bedtime story” is well-covered already.

Statistics Saturday: What Your Most Common Misspelling Of “Parmesan” Says About You


  • Parmesean. Your family had the joke pronunciation of “par-mee-see-anne” and now you are willing to fight for it.
  • Parmisan. You understand vowels are flexible things but darn it, you have to call it as you hear it.
  • Parrrmesan. You think Talk Like A Pirate Day should last longer.
  • Parmejean. You wish to encourage Italian, as a language, to do more with the letter ‘j’.
  • Parrmeesianne. You have a hard time stopping once you’ve really got started on something.
  • Parmsan. You are in a hurry and don’t have time for this.
  • Sherbert. You misunderstand questions.
  • Parmasan. Your ability to spell this was ruined forever by learning the cheese comes from Parma.
  • The Green Bottle Of Cheese. You are so afraid of typos that you forget it’s not kept in a bottle but rather a canister.
  • Parm. You hope to acquire prestige by posing as closer to cheese than you are.

Reference: Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation, Peter L Bernstein.

60s Popeye: The Lost City of Bubble-Lon, and the spirit of Popeye


We have Gene Deitch to thank as director for today’s short, from 1960. William L Snyder gets the producer credit. The writer? The animators? They get nothing. I’m sure they’re all just glad to be thought of. Here’s The Lost City of Bubble-Lon.

The characteristic word for a Gene Deitch cartoon is “weird”. I can name some weird pieces to this. No Olive Oyl, for example, or mention of her. Brutus gets introduced to Popeye as though they don’t know one another. At least it’s ambiguous. Popeye does not have a can of spinach on him. That last is a minor running theme for Gene Deitch. Popeye was similarly uncanny in Which Is Witch. He left all his spinach in the hold below decks in Hag-Way Robbery. Popeye takes his spinach from Brutus in Potent Lotion.

Choosing to separate Popeye from his can of spinach has good reason behind it. It fails to preempt the question of why Popeye didn’t eat his spinach already, since we don’t know he doesn’t have it. But it does at least say why he didn’t eat his spinach faster. And it makes getting the spinach something that requires action, or as in here, luck. It’s also more consistent with the comic strip origins, where Popeye talked about spinach much more than he ever ate it.

In the throne room of the underwater city of Bubble-Lon. King Glub, cross, points to the jail, as two Bubble-lonian guards take Popeye away.
“Huh,” thinks Popeye. “That went swell. I bet they is taking me to a State dinner now.”

The story structure here feels like one respecting those comic strip origins. Popeye minds his own business until a chance encounter leads him into Professor Underwater’s deal. Which is using this silly invention to search for the Lost City of Bubble-Lon. And this involves a never-before-suspected land of weird cute creatures. Brutus is there as the assistant. They go in, they get captured, Popeye sees Brutus stealing the Bubble-lonian treasury, and he goes to fix that. Luckily the Professor’s air pills are made of spinach. Spinach as a wonder substance is even more a theme of the comic strip than the cartoons, if you can imagine.

I don’t know Gene Deitch’s feelings about Popeye as a character. Nor those of whoever wrote the story, so please take “Gene Deitch” to mean whoever composed this story. I know the generic attitude is that animators tend to like the cartoon, but really love the comic strip. That they’d prefer to work with the Segar origins as much as possible. The cartoon feels in line with that. I like the cartoon, surprising no one. I’m glad to have a more specific reason than usual.

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 1 of 16)


I’d like to begin another Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic summoned from the murky depths of the late 90s here. It’s set in the Reboot universe. Reboot is a show I never watched regularly. This isn’t a mark against the show. I was just at a place in the 90s when I had stopped picking up many new shows. I’m pretty much still there.

Editorial notes: I’ve obscured the author’s name for this story, Breaking the Barriers. This is because the fanfic was a self-insertion piece, putting a version of the author in as protagonist. Carrie L— volunteered this fanfic to the Web Site Number Nine Dibs List, as I recall. (I apologize if I have remembered how I came to this piece wrong.) And did enjoy the MiSTing and thought I treated it, and her character, fairly. But that was twenty years ago, and people’s views of themselves and their creative works change.

So I grant someone might work out the identity of the author from the clues available. But I can at least make it a little harder to do. Should the author happen to have an opinion about this reprinting — including wanting it taken down — please contact me, in a screened comment if need be, and I’ll act accordingly.

When I wrote this instead of my thesis, back around 2002, I was unaware of Canobie Lake Park in Salem, New Hampshire. Nor did I know of Santa’s Village in Jefferson, New Hampshire. Nor of Story Land in Glen, New Hampshire. If I had been, the Stuff For New Hampshire sketch would have been very different, I assure you. As you maybe guessed, it was based on a road trip I took once. I think the address specified “Suite 12” because that was my apartment number at the time. Meanwhile, please take care to not cut yourself on the sharp edge of my joke about the many editions of Monopoly, which I believe were all ones I had seen on store shelves when this was written.


[ OPENING SEQUENCE ]

[ 1.. 2.. 3.. 4.. 5.. 6.. ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. CROW and TOM stand behind the desk; a science fair project-style folding board with a map of New Hampshire stands by CROW’s side. ]

CROW: Good evening. Tom Servo and I, Crow T. Robot, speak to you on behalf of one of the Republic’s most needy states. As becomes obvious on considering or trying to drive across the state, the horrible truth is:

TOM: New Hampshire doesn’t have enough stuff in it. There are the small antiques stores that infest every square mile of New England, plenty of places to get maple syrup, plus some gas stations that are out of gas and won’t let you use the rest rooms, and that’s about it.

CROW: Compared to such exciting and dynamic states as Massachusetts, home to the Professional Basketball Hall of Fame, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and the Mount Greylock Expeditionary Force, loyal sons of New Hampshire can only look despairingly at their empty state.

TOM: Some naive people may assert New Hampshire is no worse off than nearby Vermont. Not so! Those in Vermont can partake of the benefits of being one of the four states to have been independent nations before joining the Union, such as the Hemmings Motor News (Full-Service) Gas Station, and the northernmost battle site of the U.S. Civil War.

CROW: [ Leadingly curious ] How’s that, Tom?

TOM: Yes, in 1864 Confederate soldiers descended from Canada to seize Saint Albans. They left three days later, taking with them some lovely antiques and fine maple syrup, and leaving Vermont with yet another piece of the rich tapestry of a history not shared by New Hampshire.

CROW: Others might argue states like Wisconsin deserve attention first. Not so! Oh, sure, Wisconsin has lots of empty space too, but its residents can enjoy cultural attractions like The House On The Rock, Tommy Bartlett’s Water Show, the actual filming locations of "The Giant Spider Invasion," and convenient access to Escanaba, Michigan.

TOM: But what have our poor New Hampshire…olo..gists got to look forward to, except catching a peek at Brattleboro, Vermont? That’s no future for the proud residents of an upstanding state, and it’s no future for New Hampshire either.

[ JOEL, carrying another sheet of cardboard, and GYPSY, enter, and listen aghast at what CROW and TOM are saying. ]

CROW: So if you’ve got any extra stuff — a museum, a potato chip collection, a cultural heritage, an Interstate, heck, a strip mall would do — please, donate it to the cause.

TOM: Send your extra stuff to:

[ CAMBOT puts the address on screen ]
Stuff for New Hampshire
1788 New Hampshire Boulevard, Suite 12
New Hampshireopolis, New Hampshire 01173
TOM: Thank you, won’t you?

JOEL: [ Startling, scaring TOM and CROW ] Thomas! Crow! I’m shocked at you both!

GYPSY: You knew we were going to do the — [ JOEL reveals his cardboard as a cutout of Nebraska ] — Stuff for Nebraska appeal!

JOEL: Yeah, guys, show a little consideration!

TOM: Uh, gosh, well, you know, we, uh …

CROW: [ As JOEL and GYPSY approach them ] Yeah, uh, we …

[ GYPSY pushes over their New Hampshire display ]

CROW, TOM: [ Dutifully ] We’re sorry.

MAGIC VOICE: Commercial sign in ten seconds.

JOEL: That’s more like it. And you two won’t ever do that again?

TOM: We didn’t say we *learned* anything, Joel, just that we’re sorry.

GYPSY: Get them!

[ TOM and CROW dash off to the sides of the screen as COMMERCIAL SIGN flashes. ]

JOEL: [ Giving chase, tapping COMMERCIAL SIGN ] We’ll be right back!

[ COMMERCIALS ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. CROW, JOEL, TOM, and GYPSY are tossing out cardboard cutouts of various states. JOEL holds a cutout of Indiana. ]

CROW: Indiana.

TOM: Farmer’s Market in Shipshewana.

GYPSY: [ As JOEL tosses out Indiana, picks up Colorado. ] Colorado.

CROW: Setting for "Mork and Mindy." [ JOEL tosses off Colorado, picks up Missouri. ]

GYPSY: Represented in both the Union and Confederate Congresses during the Civil War.

CROW: [ As JOEL tosses off Missouri, picks up Delaware. ] Actually has a land border with New Jersey.

JOEL: New Jersey, then?

TOM: The Turnpike’s Richard Stockton Service Plaza is named for the only signer to later repudiate the Declaration of Independence.

[ MADS SIGN flashes ]

JOEL: Oh, wait. Goober and the Ghost Chasers are calling.

[ JOEL taps MADS SIGN ]

[ DEEP 13. A steel girder is in the background, several feet off the ground; after a beat, DR. FORRESTER pokes his head into frame. ]

DR. F:Hello, Casper. Space Angels. Breakfast cereal: it’s not just for breakfast anymore, but it mostly is. Nevertheless, it offers our invention exchange for this week.

FRANK: [ Off-screen ] You noticed how the last Cheerios in the bowl stick together?

DR. F: Sure, we all have. And we realized the great potential if this adhesive power could be harnessed for non-grain applications.

FRANK: [ Off-screen ] So we went to work trying to reproduce Cheerio adhesion in a portable and easily applied liquid or gel form.

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. As above. ]

TOM: So you’ve got a demonstration for us?

[ DEEP 13. As above. ]

DR. F: Well …

[ DR. FORRESTER shuffles around, clumsily, revealing that across his back TV’s FRANK is stuck, at an odd angle, his back to DR. FORRESTER’s back, his arm twisted to fit behind DR. FORRESTER’s shoulders and head. ]

FRANK: We’re working the bugs out.

DR. F: [ Shuffling back around ] Your turn.

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. JOEL is at the desk, putting a large thimble over TOM’s dome. GYPSY has wheels and a racecar front on her head. CROW has a papier mache top hat on. On the desk is a Monopoly board and the associated clutter. ]

JOEL: Our invention this week begins with the provocative question: What do Singapore, Betty Boop, the original six pro hockey teams, and the dot-com industry have in common? One great theme.

TOM: All these nouns have all been turned into editions of the classic Parker Brothers board game, Monopoly.

GYPSY: Monopoly has dozens of licensed theme variations.

JOEL: From cities, to Marvel comics, to Major League Baseball.

CROW:So we unite them all with a hopefully soon-to-be-licensed variant:

[ JOEL holds the board up ]

JOEL: The Monopoly Edition edition of Monopoly!

TOM: Tired of Saint Charles Place? Try buying and building up the National Geographic Mountaineering Edition. That dowdy old green color block? Now it’s I Love Lucy, Star Trek, and The Simpsons.

CROW: Free Parking becomes the concept of landing on somebody else’s hotel without their noticing.

GYPSY: Those old railroads? Now they’re the Standard Edition set; the Monopoly set you lost when you were twelve; the set with two checkers, a pawn, and a piece from Sorry replacing missing tokens; and the set that’s hidden under the couch at Grandma’s.

JOEL: It’s an exciting new twist on a classic game, and one we hope will delight the world. What do you think, sirs?

[ DEEP 13. TV’s FRANK is facing forward now, DR. FORRESTER stuck turned away. ]

FRANK: Joel, I think you’re going to delight in this week’s experiment. For a change, it’s *fan fiction* where the author puts a version of herself into the story, and soon wins the hearts of all the show’s characters, heroes and villains alike.

[ They turn around again, showing DR. FORRESTER. ]

DR. F: Your target for tonight is… Reboot: Breaking the Barriers by Canada’s own Carrie L—.

[ They turn around again, showing TV’s FRANK. ]

FRANK: Good luck breaking on through to the other side!

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. GYPSY, CROW, JOEL, and TOM are beginning to play the Monopoly edition. ]

TOM: I wanna be the thimble.

JOEL: You are the thimble.

CROW: Are we gonna play where you get cash for landing on Free Parking?

GYPSY: No, we’re playing the basic rules.

TOM: Can we make investment trusts with the banker?

JOEL: No, it’s just the plain old rules.

CROW: Do we have to go around the board once before buying property?

GYPSY: No, we’re just playing the real —

[ MOVIE SIGN goes off ]

ALL: Aaaah! We got movie sign!

CROW: I wanna be the racecar!

[ 6.. 5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1.. ]

[ THEATER. ALL file in. ]

> Breaking the Barriers

CROW: Somebody get the Krazy Glue.

TOM: Or the Cheerios.

> By Carrie L—

>
> Blinking and rubbing her eyes,

TOM: An elderly Samantha Stevens tries to work her magic again.

> Carrie leaned back in her
> chair.

JOEL: If she leans too far she’ll fall in Yosemite Sam’s trap.

TOM: He’s going to get rid of her and make it look like an accident.

> She had been sitting in front of her computer for hours now.

CROW: Gina Smith, the early years.

> "Boy," she thought, "there sure is alot of things to look at on the
> ‘Net. I could be here forever!"

JOEL: "I could be here forever" — it’s foreshadowing! We never get foreshadowing!

> Reaching up, she rubbed the back of
> her neck,

TOM: I hope she’s not looking for the parachute release cord.

> trying to get rid of the kinks that were forming. Then,
> suddenly, her screen flashed a blue color

JOEL: I think she’s being visited by Jaga.

> and she got an "Error 2001"

TOM: A pretty routine odyssey.

> message. "Error 2001?" she said, "Fatal error,

CROW: They’re going to have to call off finding the monolith?

> system destabylizing,

JOEL: But feeling better about itself.

> auto-transport device activated?" she read aloud, "What the heck is an
> auto-transport device?"

TOM: Isn’t that when Amtrak takes you and your car down to Florida?

>
> Suddenly, the screen began to flash a bright white light

CROW: Oh, somebody’s poking random numbers into 53281 again.

> and
> she felt herself being lifted off her seat.

JOEL: I hope she drives the villains crazy, ’cause she’s a lunatic.

> She watched in horror and
> surprise as her feet began to pass through her screen into,

TOM: This is the technology that let Deep Space Nine appear in the tribbles episode.

> who knows
> what? With a scream of terror,

JOEL: Scream.

ALL: [ Halfheartedly ] Aaah.

> she was pulled into her computer and
> everything went black.

JOEL: You suppose this would’ve happend if Carrie had a surge protector?

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

CROW: Hey, isn’t that one of the barriers there?

>
> Part Two
>
> Carrie felt groggy and her head was spinning as she came to.

CROW: Must be a loose socket somewhere.

> Gently, she began to open her eyes.

TOM: [ As Carrie ] Aw, mom, it’s not a school day…

> As they fluttered open, she could
> hear a voice announce that she was waking up.

JOEL: Please remain in the waking-up position until the fan fiction has come to a complete stop.

> As her eyes came into
> focus, she could see that she was in a room she had never seen before.

CROW: Oh, OK. Now I know exactly what it looks like.

> ‘What happened?’ she thought, then gasped as someone’s face appeared
> above hers.

TOM: [ Distorted ] Hi, I’m Leonard Maltin.

>
> She found herself staring

JOEL: Isn’t that a bit rude, Carrie?

> into the most gorgeous pair of brown
> eyes she had ever seen.

TOM: They were unlike any eyes she had ever seen before.

> She then realized that the face that housed
> the eyes bore blue skin and chrome hair.

CROW: Oh, great. Honey? We got Andorians.

> As her eyes began to travel
> down the face,

TOM: A little glue can keep them from slipping like that.

> she noticed that this figure was wearing a blue uniform
> with gold and silver trim.

JOEL: He’s painted like Jay Ramos’s house down the street.

> Suddenly, it registered, and she bolted
> upright, gasping in surprise and total disbelief.

CROW: [ As Carrie ] I’m on "Silverhawks"!

>
> "Oh man,oh man,oh man!" she whispered, "I must be dreaming! It
> can’t be you!! You can’t be him!

TOM: I’m not, but a lot of people say I look just like him.

> Can you?"

JOEL: *May* you.

> She looked into the eyes
> again and whispered, "Are you Bob?"

TOM: Newhart?

JOEL: Dylan?

CROW: –White?

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

CROW: OK, a little string… we let it sit for a few hours, this barrier should be good as new again.

In Which My Love Is Disappointed in Me


Our pet rabbit has hay fever, which I agree seems inefficient for a rabbit. But she gets these sneezing fits sometimes, with this week one of those times. Fortunately the treatment is a bit of children’s cough syrup. And even more fortunately she loves children’s cough syrup, even more than she loves collard greens, life itself, or intimidating my love’s parents’ dogs. To set your expectations about that last one, though, you should know one of those dogs is intimidated by a potato chips bowl that’s somewhat large. The point is it’s quite easy to give our pet rabbit cough syrup. It’s maybe easier than not giving her cough syrup. She’s that enthusiastic about it.

Daytime photograph, at a severe tilt, of a golden-furred Flemish Giant rabbit sitting up, on the couch, eagerly taking a plastic syringe full of cough syrup. The hand providing it is in a dark, long-sleeved sweater.
This photograph was not taken last night, as you could have deduced because it wasn’t nearly cold enough yesterday to be wearing long sleeves.

Last night right after finishing her medicine, she sneezed three quick times. My love quipped about why the rabbit would do that right after having her medicine. I had guesses. “Maybe she wants more syrup? Maybe she’s a hypochondriac?” And then I realized, and gasped, and said, “Oh, no!”, my tone worrying my love.

I diagnosed, “Our rabbit has Bunchausen syndrome”.


And on a separate, more serious rabbit-related note. It’s about Porsupah Rhee, a friend. And rabbit photographer; there’s an excellent chance you’ve seen one of her pictures likely captioned “Everybody was bun-fu fighting”. She’s having a bad stretch right now, and has a GoFundMe to cover immediate needs. If you are able to help, that’s wonderful of you. Thank you.

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? Who’s this Mars Maid now? April – July 2021


The “Mars Maid” is a character in the J Straightedge Trustworthy comic strip, which Vera Alldid draws in the continuity of Dick Tracy. Trustworthy is a riff on Tracy, yes. Alldid created the Mars Maid after reading an article about Mysta Chimera, the false Moon Maid.

The real Moon Maid, who came from the Moon and married Dick Tracy’s son, died decades ago. Mysta Chimera is the brainwashed and mad-science-altered Glenna “Mindy” Ermine, daughter of a racketeer. The mad scientists Dr Zy Ghote and Dr S Tim Sail — presumed dead in space — created her at the behest of major crime boss Mr Bribery.

This should catch you up to mid-July in Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy. If you’re reading this after about October 2021, or if any news breaks out about the strip, I’ll have an essay of perhaps more use to you here. Thanks for reading.

Dick Tracy.

18 April – 10 July 2021.

Our last visit with Dick Tracy was one week past the start of a story. Abner Kadaver, retired horror-movie host turned assassin, had recovered from tumbling down Reichenbach Falls with Dick Tracy. He broke his old partner Rikki Mortis out of jail and set about his old contract to kill Dick Tracy. But he’s also got a job from a shadowy figure, the Ace of Spades. Ace represents The Apparatus, the big crime syndicate in Tracyburgh. The Apparatus wants to cancel its contract to murder Tracy, in favor of killing Charlie 21. Kadaver accepts, but Ace knows, he’s gonna try killing Dick Tracy anyway.

[ The rooftop across from the courthouse ] Kadaver readies aims his dart gun. Sam Catchem: 'You held everyone spellbound, Charlie. I doff my hat to you, sir!' And he does. Charlie 21: 'Thanks, Detective Catchem!' Kadaver shoots; the dart hits Catchem's hat. Dick Tracy: 'GET DOWN! SNIPER! ON THAT ROOF!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 9th of May, 2021. Sam used to feel self-conscious about ostentatiously waving his hat around like this, sure. But he’s found that sort of thing foils a sniper’s attack like one time out of four he escorts a witness anywhere. He doesn’t care why it works, he’s just going with what does work.

Charlie 21 is a bookkeeper for The Apparatus, turned State’s evidence. Tracy and Sam Catchem have the extended escort mission of keeping him alive long enough to testify. They hate the job, since the only thing worse than an escort mission is an extended escort mission. Plus Charlie 21 keeps wandering off.

Kadaver’s first assassination attempt fails. The poison dart hits Sam Catchem’s hat instead. Mortis blames the downdraft from the building Kadaver was shooting from. Kadaver blames his trembling arm, and the complications of his advanced plot disease. He has Mortis pledge to carry out the contract if he dies.

Meanwhile, Charlie 21 wants to see Vitamin Flintheart in The Tempest. Flintheart is starring in The Tempest, opening next week, so that part’s easy. But bringing him to opening night would be incredibly stupid. Flintheart suggests he could watch the closed dress rehearsal instead.

Kadaver is also up-to-date on Tracyboro’s theatrical community. He reasons Tracy would never miss opening night of a Vitamin Flintheart show. When Mortis goes to buy opening-night tickets she sees Charlie 21 arriving for the rehearsal. He rushes down and they get into the theater … somehow. Not sure.

In the theater Kadaver draws his bow and poison-dart arrow. Dick Tracy catches the glint of metal. He shoves Charlie 21 out of the way, and the dart hits Tracy's shoulder.
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 28th of May, 2021. The wild thing is like a decade back I was seeing John Larroquette in The Best Man and this exact same thing happened! Larroquette had to break the scene and call for the house lights and everything. Weird.

Tracy spots Kadaver in time to push Charlie 21 out of the way. The dart hits Tracy’s arm instead. 10 of Spades, a shadowy figure we presume to be affiliated with Ace of Spades, is there. He scolds Kadaver for disobeying The Apparatus’s order to kill Charlie 21, not Dick Tracy, and won’t hear how Tracy got in the way. Kadaver’s shot before the cops can break the scene up. Mortis takes his mask off and whispers something “I have to tell you” that’s not any of our business.

And so Abner Kadaver seems to be dead. Charlie 21 completes his testimony and goes off to Other Protective Custody. 10 of Spades appears to be arrested. And with the 6th of June, the story of Abner Kadaver ends.


The current story starts with a tease that 6th of June. Vera Alldid creates the Mars Maid for his J Straightedge Trustworthy comic strip. And he hires Mysta Chimera to play the Mars Maid for publicity. (The Dick Tracy Wiki notes there was a 1964 contest to find a “real life” Moon Maid. In case you question whether an attractive woman might actually dress in costume to promote a comic strip.) That goes well, despite everyone warning Chimera that Alldid is a womanizer. She doesn’t need much help to find him creepy and even electric-shocks him when he’s getting too much.

Vera Aldid: 'We'll keep in touch. Call me anytime, Brock.' Brock Archival: 'You don't understand, Vera. Over the years, I've collected thousands of comic art originals, memorabilia, and collector's items. But it's not enough. Today, the addition of YOU AND MISS CHIMERA, will take my collection to the next level!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 2nd of July, 2021. Everybody thinks they want to collect a cartoonist but the reality is they depreciate in value a lot, like, worse than new cars. Also they’re constantly nagging you to have an opinion about Mell Lazarus’s Miss Peach and nobody has the energy for that.

No hard feelings, though. They accept an invitation to meet Brock Archival, a comic historian and collector. Archival would like to buy an Art, if it’s up to his exacting standards. And take some pictures of Chimera as the Mars Maid. When that’s all done he mentions how his guests should stay overnight, and also for the rest of all time. And he’s got Mr Bribery’s ring, which repels the Moon Maid’s powers, so what are they going to do? And that’s the cliffhanger we left Saturday on.

There’s some other stuff in the meanwhile. Particularly, Honey Moon Tracy has been going more and more steady with a kid named Astor Boyd. Going to movies, holding hands, that kind of thing. I don’t know if that’s setup for a future story or simply life. I mention so if this does become plot-bearing I’ll have this reference.

Next Week!

Urgent for Tom Corbett, Space Cadet! What is old-time radio doing in modern-time comic strips? Oh yes, it’s Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley next week in this spot, if all goes to plan. See you then.

Comics Kingdom has vintage Mark Trail now and Prince Valiant for the past 18 months already


So there’s some comic strip news that’s great for my Dad. Maybe your Dad too. It’s really for anyone who’s into the story strips, though. Comics Kingdom has added to its Vintage comics section two prominent story comics.

The first is Mark Trail, which has gone back to the era of original writer Ed Dodd, with Tom Hill and Jack Elrod illustrating. Not all the way to the start of the comic, but to July of 1971. I’m a little sad not to see it run from the comic’s start in 1946, but perhaps they had to go with where the archives first start being well-organized. It’s begun in the midst of a story, with a kid named Scat who seems to be a prototype for the not-yet-introduced Rusty.

Scat, explaining to Mark Trail: 'So there the poachers were, with the dead sheep ... I caught 'em! Let's get home and develop the pictures as fast as we can!' [ Mark and Scat hurry down the mountain ] [ Later (in a darkroom) ] Scat, as Mark Trail develops pictures: 'BOY, I can't wait to see these pictures!'
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 16th of July, 1971. It was reprinted the 10th of July, 2021. Poachers, you say? In a Mark Trail story? I suppose we can see how this turns out.

The second is Prince Valiant, which it turns out they started running in January of 2020 if you can imagine that far back, and I only just noticed this past week. I’ll own up to my general obliviousness but I do think maybe Comics Kingdom isn’t publicizing its vintage comic launches effectively. (On the other hand, as it is I never have to hear about Mallard Fillmore.) The vintage Prince Valiant only goes back to panel #2239, which ran the 6th of January, 1980. That then includes the last strip that Hal Foster wrote (#2241). But it’s mostly the comics from John Cullen Murphy’s tenure as artist and Cullen Murphy as writer.

Our Story: As they ride back, Gawain is angry: 'King Arthur sent us here to aid Earl Karran and expel the Northmen from the island. But Karran is the greater evil, for he is enslaving freemen'. 'Sir! I spent a month here on man and found Northmen only at the place called Peel ... about ten leagues south of here,' Arn adds. 'Then call the Captains together. We march at dawn!' orders Gawain. In the oyster light of early dawn, Gawain leads a dozen mounted knights and fifty foot soldiers with baggage animals. Progress is slow for the way leads through forest and scattered farmland. On the third day they look down on Patrick Island and the little port town of Peel. A great roar echoes over the hills when the Northmen see Arthur's dreaded knights approaching across the meadow, and they take up their ever-present weapons. They scramble up from the rocky beach to the field above ... only to meet the one thing the Northmen fear: the charge of mounted knights! Lance points reach out ahead of the pounding hooves; swords flash. For the first time the fierce men of the North flee in panic. They race across the causeway to rocky Patrick Island where Horsemen cannot follow.
Hal Foster and John Cullen Murphy’s Prince Valiant for the 20th of January, 1980. It was reprinted the 2nd of February, 2020. The last strip scripted by Hal Foster. The next week the credit starts reading “Created by Hal Foster” instead.

The Mark Trail run doesn’t seem to include Sundays. And the Prince Valiant panels are not in color. None of the vintage Sunday strips are. I assume this reflects the original color instructions being lost or too difficult to reconstruct. It’s all still grand to see.

So this all leaves Walt Kelly’s Pogo as the comic strip most in need of a decent online presentation. It was before, but this gives me a fresh chance to complain about that lack.

60s Popeye: Bottom Gun, containing one (1) more Old West cartoon


So stop me if you’ve heard this one. It’s a 1960 Jack Kinney-produced cartoon, with a story by Raymond Jacobs. And it’s got Popeye and all in the Old West, Popeye facing down a gunslinger played by Brutus. You’re wrong. This is not Pest of the Pecos. This cartoon has animation direction by Rudy Larriva, instead of Harvey Toombs. Let’s see what a difference that makes. Here’s Bottom Gun.

My recent experience with Raymond Jacobs-penned shorts set me up to expect a sloppy cartoon. Not only that the story might not quite hang together. A lot of the King Features Popeye shorts lack story logic. I mean, like, the weird edits and scenes held a bit too long to make sense. Not so, though. This is much closer in spirit to Pest of the Pecos. So much closer it even copies the joke about Wimpy being the undertaker, and offering a lay-away plan.

This time around, Popeye isn’t the marshall. He’s a chicken farmer. And Brutus the Kid isn’t a particularly wanted desperado, although he is a notorious gunslinger. He’s also hitting on Olive Oyl, who hits back, with sacks of sugar. Popeye challenges him to a duel, but sets up a surprise. A cheat, if we’re honest: he pours enough molasses into Brutus’s holster that there’s no getting the gun out. Great credit to Popeye for thinking his way out of danger, This generates a lot of funny scenes, too, as Brutus fails to get his gun out. He eventually rips off his pants and gets himself knocked out.

Mondays, am I right?
Brutus looks to the camera, dazed and baffled. He’s pulled his pants off and stands with his long shirt draped over his stocking-clad legs.

Thing is, especially with Popeye shooting all the time, it gets to feeling unfair. It makes Brutus hapless, in much the way Marshall Popeye was in Pest of the Pecos. It’s hard not to sympathize with Brutus, who doesn’t get to look dangerous. (Granted, since Popeye takes about 800 shots without most of them even appearing on-screen, he’s not dangerous either.) When Brutus comes back, furious at his humiliation, it’s hard not to sympathize.

Sometimes I feel I write these looking for things to call “wrong”. Here’s a story that sets out a decent premise. It carries the story forward sensibly. It’s got a big center piece showdown with two solid joke setups. Popeye and Brutus stepping toward each other and then missing one another, with Popeye falling into a puddle, is great. The long sequence of Brutus trying every possible way to get his gun out is good too. And here I am sulking that the moral balance of the cartoon feels off. Still, Brutus deserves to be beaten, but he needs to be a bigger threat first.

Statistics Saturday: Some Fictional Spices


  • Paragon
  • Oleomangels
  • Antitheseed
  • Dingo peppers
  • Melankonkus
  • Qualia
  • Mega-vanilla
  • Oregoo-no-look-out-it’s-loose
  • Sysop
  • Manganese
  • Vermillion Sands
  • Hypochondria
  • False Coriander
  • Balsam and Soapbark, Radio’s Smile-A-While Boys
  • Cassio

Reference: Amelia Earhart: A Biography, Doris L Rich.

60s Popeye: Popeye’s Travels, or the good bits of Gulliver’s travels


Today’s is another Seymour Kneitel triple-threat, giving us story, direction, and production. With an assist, though, from Jonathan Swift and possibly the people Seymour Kneitel was working with in 1939. It’s a hap-hap-happy day, to quote a song not used in 1960’s Popeye’s Travels.

When the Fleischer Brothers were destroying their cartoon studio making Gulliver’s Travels into a movie, they considered casting Popeye as Gulliver. Probably the picture would have been better if they had. Popeye has charisma; their animated Gulliver is unburdened by personality. But it wouldn’t have been respectable. Popeye looks disreputable, even scary, to be the star of something taken seriously back then. You can clean up Popeye, but make him less interesting that way. I’m not sure it’s an accident the only feature-length Popeye movie was in the late New Hollywood era. Still, we can imagine what the 1939 movie but with Popeye might have been like.

Or we can watch a five-minute synopses, as here. And it turns out, it’s pretty good overall. That might mislead. An idea that’s fun at five minutes can be leaden at 76. At this condensed length Paramount can focus on the good stuff: Popeye waking up, bound by miniature people and wheeled into town. Walking through a town he towers over. Wading out against a tiny navy. With another 71 minutes there’d have to be some dull stuff too, like coming up with a reason for Lilliput and Belefuscu to fight. I grant the original satirical point was about how many wars are about stupid issues. And not giving any issue is consistent with that point. Still, sometimes a war is about something that matters, too, and it bothered me to not establish that there was a dumb reason for this war.

Popeye looks down, with delight, at the Lilliputian village around him as townsfolk come out to wonder at this giant.
So all of you wondering where your recurring childhood dream of being a tiny 17th-century villager scooped up by a giant Popeye came from, I’m glad to help!

I also don’t know why the rival nation becomes Belefuscu here. Was it to make it easier for kids to say? It strikes me that in the 70s Hanna-Barbera changed the pronunciation of Mister Mxyzptlk to something less hard to say. Could be they were being kind to the voice actors.

I’m not sure whether the Kings of Lilliput and Belefuscu are meant to resemble their Fleischer Movie versions. I see a loose resemblance. But it’s not like “thin guy and fat guy” is a unique concept for a pair of characters. Their outfits haven’t got any resemblance to the movie’s kings besides “looks like a cartoon king, all right”.

Popeye starts the short with a voice-over narration. I don’t remember that ever happening before. There’s also a great cutaway, after he washes up on shore. The next scene is the bound Popeye being dragged into town. It’s a good dramatic dissolve. And it stands out, given how Paramount Cartoon Studios tends to make sure we see every step of the action. (In the movie Gulliver takes an unaccountable forty minutes to wake up.)

In the end, Popeye guarantees peace through the threat of squishing, exactly like how the War of 1812 ended. He uses a small sailboat to go off and sings his couplet: “Whether you’re a giant or mite there’s no reasons to fight, says Popeye the Sailor Man!”. Popeye. Popeye. The classic cartoon character most likely to be found in a fight cloud. The character who has no end of comic strip panels of him congratulating someone for giving him the best fight he’s had since Singapore.

We can rationalize it. There’s a clear difference, after all, between choosing to get into a bar fight and going to war. But that rationalization is ad hoc. Popeye used to be incredibly popular. That brings an obligation to not screw up people who model themselves on you. He had to become more respectable, even if it makes him less Popeye. It hasn’t destroyed him, but it is hard to believe in a Popeye who hates violence.

MiSTed: On Beards And Evolution (Part 4 of 4)


We come now to the end of Arthur Claude Munyan’s mysterious rant, On Beards And Evolution. Munyan’s rant does include the insulting notion that some peoples — not white people, of course — might have extraterrestrial genes. If you don’t need that racist nonsense in your recreational reading, you are right, and we’ll catch up next week when I don’t know what I’ll do. I’m enjoying digging out old Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction of mine even if I come across jokes that I now regret. (For example, here, a pretty cheap shot at individuals who might “have extraterrestrial genetic material”.)

If you do decide to finish this fanfic, though, it’s got some of my favorite goofy riffs, particularly the set of science fiction stories. You should always be suspicious of jokes you love a little too much, but that exchange? Even the weaker lines in that are great lines and I won’t hear otherwise. The bit in the closing sketch about “authentic interviews” is also an adjective-noun combination that keeps making me smile.

Dr Alan Chartok and Steve Kmetko were Albany (New York) local news personalities in the late 90s/early 2000s. I don’t know where they now are. Gurmit Singh is a Singaporean comic actor. Madonna is someone I was startled to learn is from Bay City, Michigan because I just assumed she was from New Jersey. Doesn’t she seem like someone who’d be from New Jersey? Right? Also back then we all just thought it was merry fun to mock Michael Jackson like that and I regret that now. I don’t believe Zheng He’s armada circumnavigated the world, but I accept for the purposes of making a joke that it might have been able to. The riff about where the Ancient Egyptians are today is adapted from a Robert Benchley line about Napoleon. Please also appreciate how I really nailed the quirks of the History Channel of the late 90s.

All four parts of this MiSTing should be at this tag. If you’d rather read them in order here is the first part, and this link is the second, and here’s the third part. The fourth and final part starts … now.


>
> An interesting and related note is that the Egyptians used to
> harbor an incredible revulsion for facial hair.

JOEL: Oh, sure, I can see how that’s related — huh?

> Many of them would
> depilate their entire bodies, pencil in their eyebrows, and wear
> elaborate wigs made of human hair or wool.

CROW: Yeah, and just look where the ancient Egyptians are today.

>
> Indeed, much of the wisdom of the ancients became lost with the
> advent of later civilizations.

TOM: So they gave up Zheng He’s armada capable of circumnavigating the world, but they got to shave.

>
> I shall now come to the final phase of my theory.

CROW: I’m going to grow a beard and see if I get dumber.

> For the past
> several years, I have become personally involved in a body of
> research which points to the possibility of the existence of
> extraterrestrial aliens.

[ ALL burst out laughing. ]

TOM: I was afraid the theory was going to be silly!

> I have read extensively the works of such
> noted scholars in the field as Dr. John Mack, David Jacobs, Whitley
> Strieber, and Budd Hopkins.

JOEL: Plus a couple Piers Anthony things for flavor.

TOM: H. G. Wells’s “The Shave Of Things To Come”!

CROW: Joe Haldeman’s “The Forever Wax”!

>
> While reviewing the vast number of sketches that have been made
> of these alien beings, whether you want to believe they’re real,

JOEL: Fred Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth’s “The Moustache Plague”!

CROW: Anne McCaffrey’s “Dragonriders of Perm”!

TOM: Cordwainder Smith’s “Alpha Ralpha Barbershop”!

> imagined, or intentionally fabricated, one common denominator among
> them stands out.

CROW: E. M. Forster’s “The Machine Crops”!

TOM: James Blish’s “Surface Tonsure”!

JOEL: Douglas Adams’s “Salon, and Thanks For All the Fish”!

>
> Out of all these sketches, not one of them depicts an alien
> wearing a beard.

[ ALL laugh again. ]

JOEL: Nor do they depict aliens playing T-ball, does that mean T-ball shouldn’t exist?

CROW: No, and the failure of depictions of aliens to show them paying the electric bill indicates power companies are doomed!

TOM: It is abundantly clear that aliens never wear bunny slippers! I am adjusting my lifestyle to compensate!

>
> Not one.

CROW: Actually, the ones in “Cocoon” are *all* beard.

>
> I believe that there may very well be a connection between these
> alien beings and the Mongolian race.

TOM: They are all connected in the great Circle of Goofiness.

> A careful study of these
> sketches reveals that these beings resemble the Mongolian race to a
> greater extent than the other races.

CROW: If you kinda squint.

JOEL: I’ve noticed as well aliens are never depicted painting houses, spackling drywall, or replacing window trim. This bodes ill for the future of odd-jobs workers!

> The most obvious similarity is
> that both tend to exhibit a sloping pattern to their foreheads.

TOM: Unless you’re on Star Trek, when it’s where they put bumps.

>
> A more significant similarity is that they both appear to
> exhibit a trait which is clearly indigenous to the Mongolian race.

JOEL: Jellyfish ready for barbecue.

TOM: Come to think of it, aliens never stop off at Burger King. You know what this means!

> This trait is known as the "epicanthal fold."

CROW: Hey, you can’t say “epicanthal.”

> This is a biological
> trait that accounts for the distinctive shape of the eyes that
> Asiatic people possess. This same trait also appears evident in
> many the alien sketches I have studied.

TOM: Case closed.

CROW: Notice, too, no depictions of extraterrestrials feature them picking up jumbo boxes of Cheez-Its at Kmart. This is why the retailer’s emergence from bankruptcy is a waste of effort!

>
> Could it be that the Mongolian race is our closest genetic human
> link to these extraterrestrial beings?

CROW: How many humans have extraterrestrial genetic material?

JOEL: At a guess, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Gurmit Singh, and Doctor Alan Chartok.

> I don’t know. We are
> probably eons away from finding out.

JOEL: Longer, if we hit the red lights.

>
> However, the physical similarities between the Mongolian race
> and the alien sketches I have studied are compelling enough to
> warrant further investigation in this direction.

TOM: How, by watching more “Space Kidettes” cartoons until a new breakthrough shows up?

JOEL: I have observed that space aliens almost never play Monopoly.

>
> As stated earlier,

TOM: Was this before or after beards won the Thirty Years War?

> members of the Mongolian race wear beards to
> a lesser frequency and of lesser thickness than do males of any
> other race.

CROW: Including the 10-K fun-run.

> If the sketches of the extraterrestrial aliens I have
> seen are any indication, they don’t appear to wear beards at all.

TOM: So if you see a man without a beard, he’s probably an alien.

JOEL: It occurs to me now that there are no depictions of aliens who eat cold canned ravioli, so shape up! You know who you are.

>
> The implications facing modern men today should now be obvious.

CROW: I’m in way over my head.

>
> In my considered opinion,

JOEL: I’m glad he considered this. If he just posted off the top of his head he might’ve said something goofy and embarassing.

> these advanced beings are trying to
> tell us something.

TOM: They’re telling us to point and snicker at him.

>
> In keeping with the spirit of the new millenium,

CROW: We must abandon our music boxes, to live up to the standards of the aliens who never play them!

> I propose that
> bearded men everywhere surrender to the will of evolution and follow
> their example by shaving them off.

JOEL: But the example of bearded men is wearing beards.

TOM:Our shining new future: Short, pudgy, hairless, big-eyed entities with no way to differentiate between individuals!

>
> Our cooperation will surely facilitate the evolutionary pattern
> that our Creator,

[ CROW, TOM stare at JOEL. ]

> in His divine wisdom,

[ CROW, TOM snicker. ]

JOEL: Don’t start, you two.

> has set in motion for the
> future course of human civilization.

CROW: Under the petty totalitarianism of high school principals.

JOEL: This guy’s his own sort of Woolly Bully.

>
> Arthur Claude Munyan, Sr.

TOM: Not to be taken internally.

CROW: “Arthur Claude Munyan”? That’s not a name, that’s a minor Charles Dickens character.

>
>

CROW: Let’s blow this popsicle stand.

JOEL: [ Picking up TOM ] Not a minute too soon.

TOM: What of the aliens, who never watch Steve Kmetko?

CROW: We don’t care.

[ ALL exit. ]

[ 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. GYPSY, CROW, JOEL, and TOM SERVO are there. ]

JOEL: Hello. I’m Sam Waterston, and you’re watching the Arthur Claude Munyan History Channel.

[ CAMBOT puts up a yellow serifed `MH’ in a circle, covering most of the screen, for a moment. ]

JOEL: If you just joined us you’ve missed “The Moustache That Never Was,” the incredible true story of how British intelligence diverted the Germans away from the invasion of Sicily by planting facial hair on the body of a “drowned” British courier.

CROW: I’m David Aykroyd, and you can catch it again at 11:00 tonight. Coming up next, “Barbershops of the Third Reich” explores how a chance allergic reaction to that blue liquid foiled a plot which could have ended the war in 1942.

GYPSY: And now an Arthur Claude Munyan History Channel Moment.

[ ALL stand stand silent for a few seconds. JOEL holds his breath. ]

GYPSY: This has been an Arthur Claude Munyan History Channel Moment.

TOM: I’m Roger Daltrey. On Civil War Journal we explore to what extent was General George Thomas mislead by his follicles? You’ll find out at midnight in “The Tweezer of Chickamauga.”

JOEL: Tomorrow at ten we use authentic interviews, amazing dramatic re-creations and actual computer analysis to help solve the greatest crime of the 20th century. Tune in to see “The Men Who Shaved Kennedy.”

CROW: All this and more on the Arthur Claude Munyan History Channel!

[ CAMBOT puts the `MH’ logo back up, for a moment. ]

GYPSY: Let’s all be there!

JOEL: What do you think, sirs?

[ DEEP 13. DR. FORRESTER and TV’s FRANK are crouched on the ground and studying a random patch of it closely. ]

DR. F: Yes, yes, all well and good, Joel, now just hold a second.

FRANK: Here it comes!

DR. F: And there’s the one at platform C!

FRANK: And A and B are pulling up!

DR. F: We got it, man! All four platforms!

FRANK: Yes!
[ They high-five each other. ]

DR. F: Ssh! Ssh! We have to savor this.
[ They both pause, listening. ]

FRANK: We did really build something, right?
[ DR. FORRESTER glares at TV’s FRANK for a second. ]

DR. F: Push the button already.
[ TV’s FRANK leans over, reaching out of camera. DR. FORRESTER looks directly at the camera. ]
DR. F: Well, folks … goodnight.

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

Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the characters and situations therein are the property of Best Brains, Inc. The essay “On Beards and Evolution” is the property of Arthur Claude Munyan, Sr. This MiSTing as a whole is the creation of Joseph Nebus, who intends no particular ill-will towards Arthur Claude Munyan, Mystery Science Theater 3000, or the History Channel. All beards used in this MiSTing were fictional and any resemblance to actual beards, whether living or shorn, is entirely coincidental. I’m pretty sure that model subways already exist, but the idea I find funny enough to use as an Invention Exchange even though it is so visually boring. When in Singapore be sure to enjoy the shiny new North-East Line, which is fully automated and has windows on the front and back cars, so you can stand there and pretend you’re the engineer. Come back, Dr. Mike Neylon!

> Out of all these sketches, not one of them depicts an alien
> wearing a beard.

60s Popeye: The Blubbering Whaler (fade out, fade back to the same scene)


With The Blubbering Whaler King Features’s YouTube page starts a new and unwelcome change. It cuts all the credits before the title card off the first short. You know, for everyone who thinks the unlikeable part of Popeye is one of the three most successful bits of theatrical-short-character music since sound came to movies. (I’d put it behind “The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down” and ahead of “The Woody Woodpecker Song” and “No one But Donald Duck”. The Mickey Mouse song was composed for the TV Clubhouse so I don’t have to have an opinion on that.)

Still, from the title card it’s obvious this is a Jack Kinney production, and that it’s from 1960. The Internet Movie Database offers that the animation direction was by Jack Kinney, and the writing by Raymond Jacobs.

With credits given now, let’s watch.

Raymond Jacobs’s name is given as writer for ten Popeye TV shorts. These include Plumbers Pipe Dream, which was bonkers. Also Popeye and the Dragon, which was pleasant without quite making sense. Also Popeyed Columbus, a cartoon full of odd moments. So I come into this expecting a bunch of odd little moments.

I am not disappointed! This short is full of strange fade-outs, including one that comes seconds after the short opens. Or scenes that linger a bit longer than they ought. It adds this weird, awkward timing to everything. It would be fantastic editing for a comedy-of-embarrassment show and I don’t know how Popeye got this treatment.

As often happens it’s a story with a frame. Swee’Pea promises to sleep if Popeye tells the story of how he sang whales to sleep. Popeye does get there, in the smallest and least interesting part of the story. It’s hard to not suspect they did a bunch of whaling-cartoon gags and then remembered they had to show Popeye sing to whales.

The story Popeye tells — and feigns sleep to get out of resolving — is of his being on a whaling ship, under Captain Brutus. When they spot a mother and child whale together, Popeye refuses to harpoon either. Good for him. Standing up for animals is one of Popeye’s best, if inconsistent, traits. (After all, he signed on to this whaling voyage.) Captain Brutus orders the whale harpooned, Popeye accepts and then rejects the order, and then they get into a fight.

Popeye salutes, but is angry. Also in the frame is a bearded sailor wearing a striped shirt, leaning in from the opposite side of the screen from Popeye.
Congratulations to the winner of Cheerios’s “Appear On Popeye The Sailor” Sweepstakes!

Still, we’ll make time for odd moments like a view of some whaler who’s not Brutus or Popeye or seen a second time. Or Popeye holding his spinach up triumphantly … and holding … and holding, long enough for a wave to wash it overboard. There was no possible way to avoid that except by Popeye eating his spinach the way he does every other time. But that does mean the mother whale gets to eat Popeye’s spinach, a rare chance for an animal to get the power-up.

The mother wrecks the whaling ship, a most understandable action. This sets up Popeye’s best line, identifying the pair as “the fountain … and its youth”. The line sounds clever enough it doesn’t matter that its meaning is elusive. It’s merry enough. But the editing is sloppy. And the music is the usual shuffle of Kinney background music. It’s not forgettable like that bowling one a couple months ago was. But I wonder if Raymond Jacobs was an inexperienced story-writer.

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? Who was trying to kidnap Grunyard? April – July 2021


Lord Grunyard, of Lockbramble, had enemies. Those enemies were his brothers, the Lords Hallam of Wedmarsh, Kenward of Greystream, and Ravinger of Barrenburn. The specific complaint? Lockbramble’s swiping their populations. Grunyard, aware of his incompetence in running things, lets the people of Lockbramble run it themselves. And they do well, not least because Rory Red Hood is just that great at managing estates. And she has humiliated Lord Hallam before.

This should catch you up to early July 2021 in Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant. If any news about the comic strip breaks, or you need a plot recap after about October 2021 you should find something more useful at this link.

Also, on my mathematics blog, I’m about to start another A-to-Z project. If you’d like to see me explain mathematics terms of your choosing, please, go over there and nominate something! These glossaries are fun to write and every so often I learn something about the thing I claim to know well.

Prince Valiant.

11 April – 4 July 2021.

So his brothers arranged a joust between Sir Gawain, representing Lockbramble, and Sir Peredur, representing Wedmarsh et al. Sir Peredur has a reputation for treachery, and he does use an iron-cored lance to knock Gawain down. And then takes his mace to kill the fallen Gawain. Rory’s encouragement rallies him, though, and Gawain smashes his broken sword into Peredur. Peredur tries to kill him with a throwing knife. Gawain dodges, and “assures that [Peredur’s] sword arm is useless for months”. Peredur’s beaten, and humiliated, and out of the story.

The desperate Gawain drives the jagged edge of his shattered sword between the rings of Peredur's mail, and well into his knee! The giant collapses, helpless and in searing pain. In a cold rage, Gawain prepares to deliver the killing blow ... then stops. This is not his way --- the terms of the contest have been met, and he is the winner. The people of Lockbramble burst forth in wild acclaim! Their champion has bested the threat from the Lords Hallam, Kenward, and Ravinger, who sit sullen before their unexpected reversal of fortune. And, at the brewery, those three lords' henchmen lie trapped between barrels and Val's sword point. Lord Grunyard, recovering from his initial shock, hails Val: 'And how comes my old drinking companion to rescue me?' Gunyard has a sudden realization: ' ... These kidnappers! I smell the schemes of my conniving brothers behind this!' While, at the contest field, those brothers' champion lies crippled and in agony, but with one last foul trick up his sleeve ... '
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 9th of May, 2021. I apologize for placing these strips out of order. It’s an artefact of my separating out the henchmen-kidnapping and the joust events for the summary. In the original strips, as you can see, they ran in parallel.

During the joust, several of the brothers’ henchmen snuck off to kidnap Grunyard. This was the real plan all along. Prince Valiant had noticed them sneaking off, though, and in a fight at the brewery Valiant captured them all. As one of them’s the Captain of Lord Hallam’s guard the brothers can’t profess much innocence.

Grunyard, hereditary Lord of Lockbramble, is about to be taken captive by the henchmen of his treacherous brothers, when the watchful Val swings into action. Bowling over the kidnappers' leader ... and throwing the others back on their heels before the arc of the glittering Singing Sword. Then the stout ale-master seizes on the chaos and, with the smack of a mallet, sends the barrels careening wildly into the fray. On the contest field, Gawain lies stunned and bleeding, as Peredur wields the deathblow. But then, above the din of the mocking crowd, he hears the sharp, anxious voice of the woman he loves ... and suddenly the world snaps back into focus! He rolls forward as Peredur strikes ... and with all his strength, drives the jagged remains of his sword behind his foe's greave and into the side of his knee!
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 2nd of May, 2021. And by the way, look at that arrangement of panels. It’s a clever composition, especially when you work out how to rearrange them for newspapers running the comic taller rather than wide.

And so Lord Grunyard, with Valiant and Gawain backing him up, subject his brothers to … a trade accord. Lockbramble has farmland but needs labor. Wedmarsh has fish. Greystream has rapids that could provide mill power. Barrenburn has iron and copper. They can put all this together, right? And sure, his brothers proclaim how happy they are to get out of this with light commerce instead. And Grunyard is happy to back to his not paying attention to running the province.


Val continues his journey from Lockbramble, wending to the south and east until he passes the haunted woods of Carterhaugh. Following his ruminations on Horrit's prophecy, his mind wanders to the ancient tale of the doomed knight Tam Lin, captured by the fairy queen who is said to live here. Reveling in his solitude, such imaginings feed his spirit --- but his dwindling provisions will not long feed his belly. His leisurely course through the wilds comes with a price. He finds a gushing stream teeming with fat trout. With the stout spear he had brought for just such an opportunity, he wades into the sort of hunt he had so enjoyed as a youth. But he did not remember that the water was so cold ... or the bottom stones so slippery [ he falls over ] ... or his patience so short. Memory is a tricky thing, he decides, or maybe the water is running colder --- and the fish are running smarter nowadays.
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 27th of June, 2021. I like this moment pondering nostalgia. The witch Horrit’s prophecy is one of the oldest bits of Prince Valiant lore, going back to (I believe) his first story back in 1937, that he would find “much adventure, but no happiness or contentment”.

So the 13th of June, Price Valiant decides that everything’s pretty well under control and he can head home by himself. Along the way he reflects on his past. Stuff like how he used to wade into streams and spear fish. It turns out it’s more fun to remember doing this stuff than to actually do it. Fair enough. During this nostalgic tour we’ve seen a lot of gorgeous pictures. We haven’t gotten to the new story yet, though. Feels like it’s going to start next week, though.

Next Week!

The dead walk! And try to assassinate witnesses! Plus, a comic strip art collector is obsessed with the Moon Maid! It’s Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy next week, if all goes as planned. See you then.

60s Popeye: Sneaking Peeking, with a surprise lesson for us all


It’s another Paramount Cartoon Studios short today. This one has slightly less Seymour Kneitel than yesterdays. Kneitel gets the producer credit, of course, and the director credit. But I Klein gets the story credit. From 1961 here’s Sneaking Peeking.

I mentioned how Paramount Cartoon Studios shorts seem to have one gear. This one has better control of its tempo. Maybe I Klein’s better at pacing things. Or maybe it’s about the stakes of the story. There is something in an unstoppable spirit demolishing a castle that isn’t there in the question of whether Olive Oyl can bowl.

The frame is that Swee’Pea was sneaking into his birthday presents, so he’s to get a lesson in the form of a story that he’ll drift away from. In the story, a King (Poopdeck Pappy) sends Mercury (Wimpy) to dispose of a box containing something terrible. Mercury stops at the castle of the Happy Prince and Princess (Popeye and Olive Oyl) for lunch. Mercury’s not taking as literal the King’s direction to “tarry not” in disposing of this. The Princess sneaks a peek inside because what can it hurt?

Turns out inside is Mister Michief (Brutus, looking good for his captivity in a magic briefcase). Mister Mischief promises to do favors, creating fresh chaos. Cleaning the chimney gets the Prince and Princess and Mercury covered in soot. Cleaning them off gets them soaked by a fountain. Drying them off gets all the furniture in the castle set on fire. Pushing the castle away from the fire gets it knocked over. The Prince has enough of this, eats his spinach, and stomps Mister Mischief back into the box.

At a castle with the drawbridge extended over the moat. The Princess (Olive Oyl) has opened a box and a very tall, slender, muscular Mister Mischief (Brutus) has popped out. The Prince (Popeye), wearing a crown, and Mercury (Wimpy, with wings on his hat and shoes) look on.
No snarking here: that’s a great color palette in this image. The purple ground and stone, with the maroon highlights, gives this a great and distinctive look.

I like this one. Brutus as a chaos agent makes sense. And his chaotic steps have a good range. Each step is a legitimate way to fix the previous problem, while staying obvious how it’s going to make a new, bigger problem. (Keeping that obvious lets the viewer savor the Prince, Princess, and Mercury catching on.) The short picks up a good bit once Mister Mischief gets out. It’s a shame that doesn’t happen sooner.

But there’s nowhere to get time from except from the frame, which is almost as short as it could be. I suppose we could put in the setting by showing the pages of a book of fairy tales and have Jackson Beck introduce this as once-upon-a-time.

The small point left unaddressed, that I’ll bet I Klein hoped nobody in the audience would wonder. So was the King’s plan to drown Mister Mischief, in that box, at sea? Is that why he wouldn’t tell Mercury what he was doing and why it was important to tarry not? Would Mercury have followed directions if he knew why it mattered? The true lesson is that you can’t expect people to follow instructions if they don’t understand why these rules matter.

60s Popeye: Strikes, Spares, an’ Spinach, from Seymour


Today’s is a Paramount Cartoon Studios cartoon. It’s one of the most Paramount cartoons, too. The ever-reliable Seymour Kneitel takes the credit for story, direction, and production. From 1960 here’s Strikes, Spares, an’ Spinach.

This is Popeye’s first bowling cartoon, isn’t it? I can’t think of an earlier bowling cartoon. Bowling gags, yes, such as against the Forty Thieves, or when Popeye met Rip Van Winkle, but not one a whole cartoon built around a bowling alley.

The other day I quipped I needed more Popeye cartoons where all I can say is this was a Popeye cartoon. I didn’t have this one in mind, but it is close to that. Most of the action is Popeye teaching Olive Oyl to bowl. Meanwhile Brutus leans in through one of those huge windows bowling alleys are famous for and sabotages the lessons. Mostly by, like, pouring rubber cement into the bowling ball holes. That kind of gag. Popeye has enough of this, eats his spinach, bowls Brutus out to the trash.

The interesting story choice is that the cartoon explains why Brutus is trying to sabotage this lesson. It’s revenge, or jealousy, over Popeye cancelling their bowling date. Why was that motivation needed, though? Granting it’s rude at least that Popeye didn’t tell Brutus before he came all the way over. Or invite Brutus to teach with him. That setup would have made it easy for Brutus and Popeye to compete in sabotaging each other.

Scene of Popeye and Olive Oyl at the start of a bowling lane, getting ready to pick up a ball. There's a large open window behind them. The ball return lane has a curved top which seems too low to have allowed the balls already returned to have gotten there.
How … how does that ball return lane work? Like how does the ball get past the upper lip of that piece, particularly? Anyway it turns out you can just look at videos of how actual bowling ball return lanes work, and can then ask questions like: is a bowling ball return mechanism a roller coaster?

But granting they wanted to give Brutus a particular reason to be a jerk for once. They chose to use time having Brutus run over and lie to Olive Oyl about Popeye not making their date. This justifies all that time spent in Popeye bathing and getting dressed and all. If we didn’t see that, it would be less credible that Brutus had time to get to Olive Oyl. But all the time spent on that means a minute and a half, of five minutes’ screen time, is spent getting to the bowling alley. And that’s all stuff that could start any cartoon. Were they short of bowling alley gags to use? Or did they write that setup, which would have less overloaded a seven- or eight-minute theatrical short? And then not cut bits once they reached five minutes of screen time?

I’ve sometimes described the Paramount Cartoon Studios shorts as having one gear. This is another example of that. There’s no change in tempo over the short, no acceleration of events as we reach a climax, nothing. It’s a string of decent enough jokes until Popeye decides to eat his spinach now (with a well-timed “Uh-oh” from Brutus) and then we’re done. All that’s okay enough. But I’m already forgetting this cartoon and if you watched it, you are too.

Statistics Saturday: More Counting Numbers


  • Fifteen
  • Sixteen
  • Seventeen
  • Eighteen
  • Nineteen
  • Teenteen
  • Eleventeen
  • Twelveteen
  • Thirteenteen
  • Fourtenteen
  • Fifteenteen
  • Sixteenteen
  • Seventeenteen
  • Eighteenteen
  • Nineteenteen
  • Teenteenteen

Reference: Conan Doyle: Portrait of an Artist, Julian Symons.

Statistics June: How In June 2021 Everyone Figured They Had Maybe A Bit Too Much Of Me


I know I can’t stay popular forever and it’s amazing I can be kind-of popular at all. The last couple months my readership’s buoyed by comic strip drama. There’s been none of that for a while.

According to WordPress there were 4,154 page views around here in June. That’s the lowest figure since June of 2020. It’s way below the twelve-month running mean of 5,530.2 page views per month. It’s also well below the twelve-month running median of 4,996 page views. WordPress also says the number of unique visitors dropped, too. There were 2,527 unique visitors recorded, the lowest count since August 2020. My twelve-month running mean was 3,357.0 unique visitors per month, and a running median of 3,036.5.

Two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 there've been several months of decline.
Still it is neat to have had twelve months’ worth of more than four thousand page views a month. I can’t credit all of that to clicking “refresh” 3800 times a month.

If there’s any consolation, the people who remained interacted some more. There were 134 things liked in June. That’s a bit above the running mean of 125.2 and the median of 128. And the number of comments was up, as well. There were 54 comments given, compared to a twelve-month running mean of 41.3 and median of 39.

Here’s what the most popular posts were in June:

And not to brag but I’ve had a delightful bunch of dumb Statistics Saturday posts recently. The most popular of those this past month was a tie between:

So that’s the sort of month it was around here.

There’s no sense guessing what kind of month July will be. But I have reason for hope. The comic strip plot recaps I have planned are some reliable popular ones:

That’s all a plan, though. It’s subject to change if news develops. All the story strip recaps are at this link, though.


Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink.
I feel like I have fewer page views from Paraguay than I should expect. But it turns out that I’ve had nineteen whole page views from Paraguay in the past ten years alone. So that’s nice to know.

There were 86 countries or country-like entities sending me readers in June. 24 of them got a single view each. Here’s the roster:

Country Readers
United States 2,907
India 200
Canada 194
United Kingdom 86
Philippines 79
Germany 73
Australia 69
Brazil 68
South Africa 28
Switzerland 25
Japan 22
Romania 22
Mexico 21
Italy 18
Ireland 17
Spain 17
France 16
Malaysia 15
Ecuador 13
Greece 13
Singapore 13
Sweden 13
Finland 12
Indonesia 10
Netherlands 10
South Korea 10
Trinidad & Tobago 9
Vietnam 9
New Zealand 8
Norway 8
Argentina 7
Hong Kong SAR China 7
Peru 7
Taiwan 7
Chile 6
Denmark 6
Poland 6
United Arab Emirates 6
Colombia 5
Papua New Guinea 5
Turkey 5
Russia 4
Sri Lanka 4
Croatia 3
Czech Republic 3
Egypt 3
El Salvador 3
European Union 3
Hungary 3
Israel 3
Macedonia 3
Malta 3
Nigeria 3
Serbia 3
Venezuela 3
Austria 2
Bolivia 2
Bulgaria 2
Cyprus 2
Jamaica 2
Moldova 2
Uzbekistan 2
American Samoa 1
Armenia 1
Belarus 1
Belgium 1
Cambodia 1
Dominican Republic 1 (**)
Estonia 1
Fiji 1
French Guiana 1
Georgia 1
Iraq 1
Jordan 1
Kuwait 1
Maldives 1 (*)
Nicaragua 1
Pakistan 1
Panama 1
Senegal 1
Slovakia 1
St. Vincent & Grenadines 1
Thailand 1
Ukraine 1
Uruguay 1
Zimbabwe 1

Maldives was a single-view country in May. Dominican Republic has been a single-view country two months running. There’s no countries that have gone four months in a row with one view each.


WordPress estimates that I published 21,504 words here in June, which is well down from May. It’s closer to the year’s average. This was 716.8 words per posting in June. It brings me to a total 123,499 words published for the whole year. And so my average words per post this year has grown to 682. I need some more Popeye reviews where I say nothing except how this was a Popeye cartoon after all.

Between the film version of The Music Man (1962) and the start of July WordPress records 241,944 page views here, from 139,076 unique visitors. I don’t know what I’ll do for my 250,000th page view, but that’s not something I’ll have to deal with for a couple months anyway.

If you’d like to be a regular reader, I don’t know how this article convinced you. But it’s a happy thought. All my posts are available on an RSS feed. And you won’t appear in my statistics in any way if you read that way. There are several ways to read RSS. This Old Reader is an option, for example, as is NewsBlur. Or you can sign up for a free account at Dreamwidth or Livejournal. Use https://www.dreamwidth.org/feeds/ or https://www.livejournal.com/syn to add RSS feeds to your Reading or Friends page.

If you’d like to get new posts without typos corrected, you can sign up for e-mail delivery. Or if you have a WordPress account, you can use “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” to add this page to your Reader. Whatever works for you works for me. Thank you.

MiSTed: On Beards And Evolution (Part 3 of 4)


Now to the third part of another Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction. This one ridiculing Arthur Claude Munyan’s rant On Beards And Evolution. Part 1 ran two weeks ago, and part 2 ran one week ago. This is how things should work but when I write it like that it sounds harder than it needs to be.

This part includes my original addressing of the question: is this guy for real? And my conclusion, as mentioned last week: does it matter? If the piece was written sincerely, then it deserves its ridicule. If it was written to spoof a particular attitude — a racist, sexist, authoritarian attitude — then it did well. I would hope my falling for the joke makes the original better, then.

Speaking of the joke. This is the part where Munyan asserts he is not a white supremacist but wishes to make a “bioracial” argument. So if you don’t need that kind of white supremacist drivel in your life, even as it’s held up for ridicule, you are right and we’ll catch up again later.

And speaking of that ridicule. I have changed some of my ridicule. One change was of a riff mocking professional racist Phillipe Rushton’s name. The man deserves ridicule but “Phillipe” by itself doesn’t. I remember having doubts about the riff when I wrote it, fifteen or more years ago. But I ignored those doubts because the line sounded, to me, like the riff the Brains would make. And maybe they would have, in the 90s, and maybe they’d regret going for mocking someone’s name. I need to better listen to those doubts in myself.

There were also a couple of riffs about Munyan’s assessment of Asian people. As I re-read this, I saw too much of a gap between my anti-racist intent and how a reasonable person who had not invested the effort to know me might take my exact words. So the thing to do is say something better and I have taken that chance.


>
> Even the courageous victory of Mayor Daley’s Chicago police
> force against the demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic National
> Convention

JOEL: Oh, yeah, glorious victory. They’re still cheering about that one.

> failed to bring us back to our senses. It wasn’t until
> Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency more than ten years later that
> much of our dignity and national pride began to return.

TOM: By running up the debt, slashing environmental protection laws, pretending AIDS would go away by itself, and selling weapons to terrorists.

>
> Today, we are blessed with the definitive knowledge that beards
> are unsanitary.

CROW: Not if you don’t use them to scrub the toilet.

> The excess hair of a beard on a man’s face secretes
> oils which clog up the pores of the underlying skin at an
> accelerated rate.

JOEL: And it passes the savings on to you!

>
> These oils can lead to increased productions of harmful
> bacteria,

TOM: But only if they’ve completed their studies.

> resulting in formations of acne and other skin problems.
> A beard does nothing more than obstruct the surface area of the
> face,

CROW: Which is why shaven people never have pimples.

> preventing it from getting the thorough cleansing that it
> needs.

TOM: Killing hundreds of thousands of people each year — deaths covered up by the powerful Commissar of Beards!

>
> Common sense says that the cleaning of any type of surface is
> best achieved in a succession of layers.

JOEL: My gramma says it’s best achieved starting from the top and working down to the bottom.

> Consider the task of
> cleaning a floor that is cluttered with dust clods.

TOM: I think it would go … something like this:

> One would not
> rush right in and mop the floor without first sweeping or vacuuming
> all that dust.

CROW: Why not? It’s fun!

> Doing so is just as futile as trying to wash a face
> that is cluttered with the stubbles of a beard.

JOEL: So mop your beards after every meal.

>
> One only needs to examine the face of a man who has just shaven
> off his beard to verify the truth of these words.

TOM: Warning: Use only volunteers for this experiment.

> What you
> typically see is a pallid and pasty skin tone, populated by the
> presence of one or more unsightly pimples.

CROW: Munyan’s the kind of guy Singapore tells to lighten up.

>
> In addition to all the oil and bacteria they generate, beards
> prevent the facial skin cells from receiving the amount of
> circulation and sunlight they need.

TOM: Circulation? What, they’re vampire beards?

> A bearded face is not a happy
> face.

JOEL: Even if the person wearing the beard is happy.

>
> The scalp is different. It was designed for hair,

TOM: And not for porridge.

> and that is
> where it belongs. God made it that way.

CROW: And beards were created by, who, General Mills?

> With the hard bony surface
> of the skull directly beneath, there are fewer subcutaneous layers
> of skin where bacteria can grow. This is why pimples hardly ever
> grow on the scalp.
>
> I will say nothing derogatory about nose hairs.

TOM: He doesn’t want to get in trouble with their advocacy groups.

CROW: Oh, come on! This guy can’t be for real. “I will say nothing derogatory about nose hairs?” Who *writes* stuff like that?

> They play a

TOM: You think Munyan’s insincere about his beard feelings?

CROW: This has got to be somebody’s parody of Internet rants.

> vital role in keeping bacteria and dust from entering one’s

TOM: So they sent us a counterfeit?

JOEL: I don’t know … the Mads are evil and all, but that would be mean.

> respiratory system. Ear hair also plays an important function in

CROW: Yeah, but *nobody* connects politics and beards.

TOM: No, no, there’s nothing so stupid it doesn’t have some advocate on the Internet somewhere.

> helping to filter out foreign bodies from entering too deeply into

JOEL: Well, whether Principal Professor Munyan’s man or myth, guys, there’s one thing I know for sure.

CROW: Yeah, and what’s that?

> the ear canal, thus serving to prevent harmful infections.

JOEL: We’re stuck reading the rest of him.

TOM: Great.

CROW: Sheesh. I just feel lied to somehow.

>
> Armpit hairs serve their purpose as well.

JOEL: They’re no shirkers.

> They work in
> synchronocity with the sweat glands

TOM: Let me draw a ridiculous diagram to illustrate.

> in regulating a man’s body
> temperatures during times of physical exertion and stress.

JOEL: I can’t tell you how many times I was stressed out, but the thought of armpit hair kept me going.

>
> Unfortunately, evolution has yet to eliminate the unneeded
> armpit hairs of women.

TOM: Yeah, get on the ball, you mutative processes!

> They look a lot better without them, and
> they certainly don’t need them for their housework.

CROW: What about for their armpit puppet shows?

TOM: And, of course, women can’t do anything else in life.

> A truly
> feminine woman in this day and age keeps her armpits shaven.

JOEL: *IF* she knows what’s good for her.

>
> Hair is good.

TOM: Think about it, won’t you?

> As long as it is kept in the right places.

JOEL: Do not keep your hair in the fridge.

CROW: Avoid storing surplus hair under the car’s distributor cap.

TOM: Under no circumstances put your hair on another person’s tongue.

>
> However, the most compelling reason for modern man to shun the
> wearing of beards

CROW: …is to make it easier for us to find the real Santa Claus.

> is to humbly cooperate with the evolutionary
> pattern of human civilization which has been destined for us.

JOEL: You know, I kind of bought it when he said beards brought an end to slavery, but now I think he’s getting a little silly.

>
> I herewith present a bioracial basis for this argument.

TOM: Good. Nothing makes our lives more pleasant than hearing somebody’s “bioracial” arguments.

>
> But before I do, let me make one thing perfectly clear. Contrary
> to a lot of popular suspicion, I am not a white supremacist.

CROW: Somebody warning you he’s not a white supremacist is usually letting you know he’s a white supremacist.

> Being
> a Caucasian male, I do not consider myself to be a member of a
> superior race.

CROW: We agree.

>
> Instead, I believe this distinction may very well belong to the
> Mongoloid race,

JOEL: The “Mongoloid race”? Where does this guy teach, 1912?

CROW: He *can’t* be for real.

> which includes the various peoples of Asiatic
> descent. The Chinese and the Japanese are our best known examples.
>

TOM: In that they’re the only ones Munyan’s heard of.

> Marco Polo himself expressed this view in the year 1290 when he
> said:

CROW: “Hi! I’m Marco Polo! And I’m padding my travel voucher!”

> “The Chinese are the wisest people in the world.”

ALL: — In bed.

> It is no
> secret that Asians have generally overwhelmed the other races in the
> academic arenas in our nation’s public and private schools and
> institutions of higher learning.

JOEL: That’s just ’cause they got the help of Gamera.

>
> According to Professor Phillipe Rushton of the University of
> Western Ontario,

TOM: “Hi! I’m Marco Polo! And I’m *still* padding my travel voucher!”

> who is one of our leading scholars in the
> scientific investigation of racial differences, there exist various
> indices of significant and striking Asiatic superioity.

CROW: Why, the superioity in their spell checking alone …

>
> When compared to identical average measures for Caucasians, for
> example, Asians have been generally shown to possess larger brains,
> more brain cells,

JOEL: Better fluency in Asian languages!

CROW: More family in Asia!

TOM: Greater average distance from Stamford, Connecticut!

> and higher average IQ scores. They have also been
> shown to have higher marital stability, greater tendencies to abide
> by the laws of their governments, and better mental health and
> administrative capacities.

JOEL: Which I learned from playing them in Civilization II!

>
> They also put us to shame when it comes to sexual restraint.

CROW: Heck, they embarassed us all with that foot binding stuff.

> As
> a whole, the Asians display a significantly reduced proclivity to
> sexual promiscuity in comparison to all other racial groups.

TOM: Which is why there’s three billion people in Asia.

>
> Another difference not yet mentioned is that Asian males have
> fewer beards and beards of less thickness than do males of other
> races. How often do you see a Chinaman with a full length beard?

JOEL: How often do I see a “Chinaman”? I don’t know, depends how often I go building the Transcontinental Railroad.

> My guess would be not very often.
>
> There is a wok chef in one of our local Chinese restaurants who
> has worn a beard for as long as I can remember.

TOM: Case closed.

> Although it has
> reached a considerable length, it is of a very thin and wispy
> thickness and texture. Such is the case of every beard I have ever
> seen worn by an Asian male.

JOEL: And I’ve seen three!

>
> The reason for the lower incidence of beards and reduced beard
> thickness among Asian males is not entirely clear.

CROW: Perhaps the beards are simply waiting to ambush us.

> One theory holds
> that the early Mongolian people used to burn the faces of their
> young male children with heated metal in order to stop the growth of
> facial hair, sparing the lip areas for the growth of mustaches.

TOM: Evolution doesn’t work that way, but where would Comparative Beardology Science be if we rejected every theory that doesn’t work?


[ To be concluded … ]