Statistics Saturday: Some Movies You’d Think Would Have At Least One Dragon In Them


  • How To Train Your Dragon
  • Eragon
  • Dragonslayer
  • Dungeons and Dragons
  • Pete’s Dragon (1977)
  • Dungeons and Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God
  • The NeverEnding Story
  • Quest for Camelot
  • Spirited Away
  • Pete’s Dragon (2016)
  • Dragon Fighter
  • The Flight of Dragons

Not listed: Disney’s Robin Hood although doesn’t that really feel like it should have at least one dragon in there, somewhere?

Reference: The Most Unsordid Act: Lend-Lease, 1939-1941, Warren F Kimball.

A message of importance to the young


So, now, I know that you want look to me as a respectable or “cool” figure. Before you bestow this trust in me, though? You should know that in the 80s I read more than one article about the making of Earth Girls Are Easy from in Starlog magazine. So, just, scale your expectations of me to that, please. Thank you.

MiSTed: Safe Fun for Halloween (Part 4 of 4)


And now, let me bring this particular Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction to an end. So far “Safe Fun For Halloween” has suggested a bunch of merry pranks for the season. These include giving your friends electric shocks, blackening their eyes, sitting them on collapsing chairs, and stirring up confetti blizzards. That last doesn’t sound so bad, really. Still, it all sounds like a fun way to cut down on those pesky invitations to Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s events.

A Day In The Life Of Dennis Day was a radio, starring Dennis Day, all about how to make the most generic sitcom possible. Day won’t marry his longtime girlfriend, who loves him despite how every week he has to get out of a scrape with her father by doing some schtick where he puts on a foreign accent. This went on for five years at like 39 episodes a year.

Next week, and next month, I figure to share the final quarter of the MiSTing of Carrie L—‘s “Reboot: Breaking the Barriers”. Enjoy!


>
> Ideas for Halloween costumes are pictured in Figures 9 and 10.

TOM:Let me guess: executioners and axe murderers?

> The frog suit is an ordinary union suit dyed a light green,

CROW: For everyone who’s got extra union suits laying around.

> with
> dark green cloth spots sewed or cemented on.

TOM: Cemented on, so your friend can sleep with the fishes.

MIKE: That *concrete* you’re thinking of, not *cement*.

TOM: Thanks ever so for saving me from my snarky ignorance.

> Cardboard,
> plywood, wire and doth are all that is necessary to make the
> turtle costume.

CROW: Or every movie we’ve ever seen.

> By cutting the back halves as indicated and
> joining along the ridge with adhesive tape, a very convincing
> shell can be made.

MIKE: Do it fast, before Roger Corman makes a movie out of you.

> The anchor is simply made of plywood and
> cardboard,

TOM: For those ‘floating’ and ‘falling apart in water’ properties every anchor needs.

> and the wearer should be clad in trunks and have
> tattoo figures on arms and legs painted with harmless coloring,

CROW: Harmless? Why start on harmless *now*?

> such as fruit juice.

MIKE: Or strychnine. Sheesh.

TOM: Time to blow this popsicle stand.

MIKE: [ Picking up TOM ] Mercifully.

[ ALL exit. ]

[ 1… ]

[ 2… ]

[ 3… ]

[ 4… ]

[ 5… ]

[ 6… ]


[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. The desk. TOM, MIKE, and CROW are behind it; the decor is much as before, but a bowl of almonds wrapped in aluminum foil is on the desk. ]

MIKE: So.

CROW: [ Calling, as in the introduction ] MIKE!

MIKE: Bowl of tin foil to chew on, I saw the “dance floor” of greased roller bearings you wanted, and yet, you come out of this party pranking activity with what thoughts?

TOM: I ended up wondering how your grandparents survived to the age of marriage.

CROW: Heck, how did they survive to the age of six?

TOM: Yeah, I mean, magazines telling everyone how to kill each other in wacky party games?

CROW: No concept of avoiding nutritional deficiencies when you ate mounds of butter slathered on fried lard.

MIKE: Wait, that —

TOM: Trolley cars running at 35 miles an hour through packed city streets, never stopping or slowing down except when the piled-up corpses derail the train.

CROW: Black death sweeping across the continent because you won’t stop rubbing rat corpses in your eyes.

MIKE: That was like the 14th century and it didn’t happen.

CROW: Parents figuring the only time they had to touch their kids was for spanking and one handshake when they turned 14 and could drop out of school to throw hay into steam locomotives until the railroad police caught them.

TOM: Feeling a little off? Drink some mercury and drain a gallon of blood.

CROW: Dennis Day starring in _A Day In The Life Of Dennis Day_.

MIKE: OK, at this point I don’t even know what point you’ve wandered away *from*.

TOM: Well, fortunately, humans have robots now, so you don’t have to be stupid on your own.

MIKE: We can be stupid together.

CROW: Yes, and let’s make that our New Year’s Resolution.

TOM: Agreed!

MIKE: [ Shaking his head ] Sure. Thanks, everyone, and from the Satellite of Love, let’s all look into the New Year being a little less stupid together.

TOM: Yay!

[ MIKE pushes the button; the screen blanks out to … ]

CROW: [ Calling ] MIKE!

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

Mystery Science Theater 3000, its characters and situations and everything are the property of Best Brains, Inc, and don’t think anyone is challenging that at all. The original article is used in what is honestly thought to be a spirit of fair comment and clean sportsmanship.

However you remember the Rankin/Bass special to be, it’s actually a
weirder thing than you remember. And let’s be carful out there.

> The result is a sudden shock which is surprising but
> not harmful.

[ The End ]

What’s Going On In Mary Worth? How is Wilbur Weston so incompetent? August – October 2021


The current story in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth has focused on Wilbur Weston, a giant mayonnaise sandwich of a man. As usual for his stories, it’s about how he’s screwing up his own relationships by acting dumb. Wilbur Weston’s day job is advice columnist. Doesn’t this strain credibility?

I rule that it does not. First, it is hard for any of us to change the ways we screw up our relationships. We wouldn’t screw them up if it were easy for us to spot what we were doing wrong, or to do something else. Second, an advice columnist gets a problem in a clean, discrete lump that sets out (one hopes) all the relevant information. Spotting the relevant information while in the midst of the mess is hard. Yes, I would expect him to be better than average at diagnosing his problems and prescribing a cure, once he was aware he was the problem. And I don’t expect him to be any better than any of us in following the cure.

So this essay should catch you up to late October 2021 in Mary Worth plots. If you’re reading this in 2022, or if any news comes out about the comic, you should find my most up-to-date pieces at this link.

And if you’re interested in reading other things, let me offer Little 2021 Mathematics A-to-Z, a glossary of various mathematics terms. The most recent essay was about the hyperbola.

Mary Worth.

After my previous plot recap we saw a couple weeks of Drew Cory wondering why Ashlee’s left town and told him she doesn’t need his money after all. With Mary Worth agreeing they don’t understand Ashlee, the story came to an end, the 15th of August.


The current storyline, which has been pleasantly wrinkled, started the 16th of August. Wilbur and Estelle, whose last name I don’t seem to have recorded, are having more dates where they get together and sing. Estelle’s one-eyed cat Libby likes to sing along, somehow raising Wilbur’s ire. Wilbur locks the cat in the bedroom, where neither she nor Estelle want her to be.

[ When Wilbur tries to sing again without Estelle's cat joining in ... ] Estelle plays the piano. Wilbur sings, 'And I ... will always love you! I will always love you!' Libby, the cat: 'Howl!' Wilbur, picking up the aggrieved cat; 'Thats it, Libby! I told you NOT TO INTERRUPT MY SONG!' Estelle: 'She just wants to be part of the singalong!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 18th of August, 2021. For a week or two the story looked like it was all going to be watching Libby plan and outwit Wilbur and that was fun. Unanswered question: how exactly did Wilbur, Libby, and Estelle move between the first and second panels? (No, this really doesn’t matter, because the panels convey moments clearly and well. But if you start to think how these people could be in this order, either Wilbur ran between Estelle and the piano or Estelle twirled around in her seat.)

Wilbur’s position is simple: he doesn’t want the cat interrupting his singing. Estelle’s position is simple: Libby’s a cat, she likes being with her. Libby’s position is simple: she can make Wilbur’s life miserable. So she does, including peeing on his end of the sofa. Estelle forgives this; Wilbur does not, and demands the cat apologize. Estelle declares that she and Wilbur need to take a break.

[ When Wilbur encounters Saul on a Charterstone path, he's surprised by his neighbor's happy demeanor ... Saul Wynter: 'The weather's been GREAT lately! I took my girl to the beach yesterday, and she didn't want to come back! Right, Greta?' Greta, his dog: 'Woof!' Wilbur: 'Yes, it's, uh ... been nice out.' Wynter: 'I'd better get home! I signed up for an online class that starts soon! I need *time* to figure it out! Ha! Good to see you, Wilbur! Let's catch up properly one of these days!' Wilbur: 'Bye ... ' Wilbur, thinking 'Hmmm ... Old Man Wynter's not his usual bad-tempered self!
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 12th of September, 2021. So on the one hand, Saul Wynter is certainly a happier person than he was when we first met him. And that’s got to be making all aspects of his life better. On the other hand, he’s become someone who thinks there’s a laugh to be had somewhere in the statement “I signed up for an online class that starts soon! I need time to figure it out!”

While pondering how anyone could choose a pet over him, Wilbur runs into Saul Wynter. He knows Wynter as that grumpy old recluse. But Wynter’s changed, becoming a warm, outgoing, sunny person, which he credits to his new dog Greta. This seems a bit weird since Wynter had a dog, Bella, when he was all misanthropic and unliked. But I rule this acceptable too: Greta, a rescue dog, was shy and needful in ways that we can suppose Bella was not. And the experience of helping Greta seems to have given Wynter an emotional security that Bella didn’t.

Wilbur: 'I'm new to owning a dog! I didn't know Pierre needed chew toys!' Carol: 'It'll help him chew on something other than your shoes! Dogs chew things ... it's their nature!' Wilbur: 'Thanks for the tip, Carol! I'll have to visit the pet supply store!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 5th of October, 2021. Oh man, I hope someone’s told Wilbur about the food thing dogs need.

Wilbur has the brilliant idea to draw the wrong lesson from this. He goes to the Animal Shelter and adopts the first dog he sees, a French bulldog he dubs Pierre. At the dog park Pierre meets Sophie, a French bulldog kept by Carol. And Carol meets Wilbur, an experience both find pleasant enough. Carol explains some of the little things an expert dog-owner knows, like that dogs should have toys.

Wilbur: 'Are you *sure* you're not into singing? My ex and I enjoyed doing karaoke ... ' Carol: 'I'm sure, Wilbur. I'll pass on that. Are *you* sure you don't want to go salsa dancing?' Wilbur: 'I'm *more* than sure! I know my limits, Carol!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 20th of Octber, 2021. The thing Wilbur’s keeping private is that a couple years ago he fell for a salsa dancer who was pulling a romance scam on him. It would have been an interesting direction if he’d shared that, and with a trustworthy (I assume) Carol learned to dance again. But it’s also quite reasonable for him not to want to touch that activity again.

Estelle catches a glimpse of them going to the pet store, and leaps to the conclusion Wilbur has a new girlfriend already. So does Wilbur, who mentions how he and his ex loved having singalongs. She doesn’t like singing. She likes salsa dancing. He doesn’t like dancing. He likes travel. She doesn’t. He likes talking about everything his ex liked and did. When he accidentally calls her Stella, she calls the date off. This may seem abrupt but we’ve seen two or three panels of him every day. She’s seeing the full thing.

Wilbur calls to apologize, the way he was always apologizing to his ex for embarrassing spectacles. She points out he’s nowhere near over his ex, and that’s where things stand as of late October.

1 August – 23 October 2021.

Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!

  • “A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets.” — Gloria Stuart, 1 August 2021.
  • “I will trust you — I will extend my hand to you — despite the risk of betrayal. Because it is possible, through trust, to bring out the best in you, and perhaps in me.” — Jordan B Peterson, 8 August 2021.
  • “He did not care if she was heartless, vicious and vulgar, stupid and grasping. He loved her.” — W Somerset Maugham, 15 August 2021.
  • “Those who’ll play with cats must expect to be scratched.” — Miguel de Cervantes, 22 August 2021.
  • “I never met an animal I didn’t like, and I can’t say the same about people.” — Doris Day, 29 August 2021.
  • “Love is unconditional, relationships are not.” — Grant Gudmundson, 5 September 2021.
  • “Attitude determines the altitude of life.” — Edwin Louis Cole, 12 September 2021.
  • “The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.” — Helmut Schmidt, 19 September 2021.
  • “Morning will come. It has no choice.” — Marty Rubin, 26 September 2021.
  • “Back in my day, people met in the real world, not on their telephones.” — Julianne MacLean, 3 October 2021.
  • “Jealousy is all the fun you think they had.” — Erica Jong, 10 October 2021.
  • “I am not what you see. I am what time and effort and interaction slowly unveil.” — Maugham, 17 October 2021.
  • “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” — Groucho Marx, 24 October 2021.

Next Week!

It’s the ghost of the Ghost Who Walks, who doesn’t walk! The conclusion of The Visitor to Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity, if things go as I plan.

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? Are new people taking over the comic? October 2021


Yes and no. Sunday’s Dick Tracy caught me by surprise, as one unrelated to the current Time Drone storyline. It was instead about a bunch of people talking about how they made a great team, but one’s at the end of the line and he says goodbye.

What this is, as ever per D D Degg at The Daily Cartoonist, is pencil artist Joe Staton leaving the strip after a decade. (Also, wow, it’s been a decade since Staton and Mike Curtis took over Dick Tracy!) Shelley Pleger, who’s been the inker and letterer for all that time, is to take over doing layouts and pencils too. Mike Curtis is staying on as writer, so far as I’ve heard.

On the 'Tracy Express' bus, Joe Staton observes, 'Well, we're coming up on 10 years. We've made a great team.' Mike Curtis, driving the bus, adds, 'And don't forget our support staff. Carol, who does my first edit; Hilarie doing payroll and scheduling. There's also Terry and Kyra with Sheley and Shane. And finally, Walt who does the crimestoppers.' Staton says, 'It's been great, but this is where I get off.' From the street, and holding his spouse, he waves, 'Goodbye, everyone!' The last panel sees the bus from behind with the message 'More to come!' on it.
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 24th of October, 2021. It’s a bit startling to hear how many people are involved in supporting the making of the strip. I imagine some of these people are spouses, whose support may be more about emotional stability and reminding one to eat and such. And that some of it is people who handle the paperwork of keeping many comic strips organized. Still, when you read books about how to draw a web comic you don’t hear about what kind of support staff you need to successfully draw three or four panels a day and eight panels on Sundays. It’s no wonder every web cartoonist I’ve known is exhausted.

I’m a touch surprised the change in lead artist came mid-story, but I suppose one has to step down sometime. And with the reappearance Monday of Oliver Warbucks we have reason to think the story’s got a fair while left in it.

If any more news about the comic strip comes to my attention, or you’d like to read my plot recaps, you should find an essay here. And tomorrow I intend to have a recap of the last three months’ worth of Mary Worth. Thanks for reading.

Reposted: The 39th Talkartoon: A Hunting We Will Go


I liked this cartoon more than I felt when I reviewed it a couple years ago. It’s fair to say it’s a little dull, compared to the surreal wild heights Talkartoons could reach. But you don’t always need cartoons to be wild surreal adventures. Sometimes it’s nice to have a string of successful jokes in a row.


I’m down to the last four of the Talkartoon series and don’t go thinking that I’m not as worried as you all are what I’ll do when the sequence is done. But until then, what should I do except carry on as if there’s nothing to worry about?

This cartoon was originally released the 29th of April, 1932, so it’s the third of that month’s productions. The credited animators are Alfred Eugster and Rudolph Eggeman. Both have had credits before. Eugster was an animator for Grand Uproar, the once-lost Ace of Spades, The Bum Bandit, and The Herring Murder Case. Eggeman is credited for The Cow’s Husband.

I’d asked in The Cow’s Husband whether (American) bullfighting cartoons are always on the bull’s side. This short makes me wonder about cartoons about hunting, too. Surely they aren’t all on the hunted animal’s side. But the animal does seem to come out the better for the experience. This might be forced on the plots by the convention that these are humorous cartoons. This encourages the story to set the hunter out for basically trivial reasons, as here, where Bimbo and Koko are trying to impress Betty Boop. But if the hunt is for something trivial, then it’s too harsh to have the animal killed, and that means the animal has to come out better than the hunter does.

(It’s not impossible for the hunter to have good reasons and the cartoon to still be funny. On a vein not too different, there’s those Woody Woodpecker cartoons where Woody, or the wolf, or both are on the brink of starvation. It gives the cartoon a solid dramatic background that strengthens the joke. But I see the hunter as the non-ridiculous hero a lot less.)

So Betty Boop sets the cartoon in motion, singing of how she wants animal furs. And returns at the end, horrified that the animals have lost their fur. For this she gets top billing, which shows how little a star can do and still get away with it. The rest of the cartoon is Bimbo and Koko enacting spot jokes about incompetent hunters.

All the jokes here are okay. There’s only one that I find really good. That’s at about 3:15 when the deer(?) Koko’s shooting at grabs a pistol and shoots back. There’s a long bit, starting about 4:15, where an unspotted cat wants to get into the clam bake, and uses Koko’s bullets at spots, that’s clever enough. It didn’t seem like a fresh joke to me, but that might be my remembering watching this cartoon in ages past and knowing where the business all was going. Some folks might like Bimbo’s shooting at a lion only to produce a pride of lions better than I do, and I won’t say you’re wrong. Nor will I say you’re wrong if you like his shooting them all again with one bullet. It’s a joke I feel like I’ve seen before, but I also know I’ve seen it here before.

The story’s structured sensibly enough. It’s paced too steadily, too measured, for me though. Everything feels a bit slow and there’s no build to the story or tension or loopiness or action. You could probably swap the order of any of the hunting gags and make as good a short. There’s not any blink-and-you-miss-it jokes, not if you blink fast enough to spot the deer pulling his pistol out. Maybe Bimbo kissing the bear at about 5:18. Three’s also no really good body-horror jokes as long as you don’t find animals wearing their own fur as clothing horrifying. Some mice finally show up, in the parade at the end, about 6:50 in, at least.

There is some good animation crafting, though. As Bimbo’s slowly pursued by lions, around 3:45, there’s two levels of background. One’s the ground, moving as Bimbo walks. The other’s the sky, in perspective motionless. It adds some good depth to the scene. About 5:41 there’s a great split-screen image, Bimbo and Koko walking back with their furs. That’s some good camera work and the sort of thing you never see in cartoons.

But I have to rate this, overall, a dull cartoon. It’s all competently done, and crafted well enough that even if it ran in the late 30s it wouldn’t stand out as a primitive cartoon, the way (say) Dizzy Dishes might. Good to have reached that level of competence but that’s all it has.

Statistics Saturday: Earliest and Latest Sunrises Of Each Month


Month Earliest Sunset Latest Sunset
January 1st 31st
February 1st 28th (common years)


29th (leap years)

March 1st 31st
April 1st 30th
May 1st 31st
June 1st 30th
July 1st 31st
August 1st 31st
September 1st 30th
October 1st 31st
November 1st 30th
December 1st 31st

Reference: Voyager: Seeking Newer Worlds in the Third Great Age of Discovery, Stephen J Pyne.

Reposted: The 38th Talkartoon: Chess-Nuts; could this be the end of Old King Cole?


While the point of these reposts was to save myself mental energy I keep wanting to add something to them. I can’t think of a noteworthy observation not already put in my original review, here. So be it. I’m not quite sure what the chess framing adds to the cartoon, I suppose, besides the chance to use checkerboard backgrounds moving around. I suppose I also don’t know why it has to be Old King Cole, who as far as I know wasn’t a regular character in the Fleischer Studio canon.


Today’s Talkartoon is another from April of 1932. And it’s another animated by Shamus Culhane. The other animator was William Henning, who hasn’t been credited on a Talkartoon before. He did work on Swing You Sinners! though.

A word before we get to the action. The sexual-assault subtext that runs through a lot of Betty Boop cartoons is less subtexty this time around. I mean, the bad guy drags her into a bedroom at one point. And there’s lower-level stuff played for laughs, like Betty’s clothes coming off or an animal peeking up her dress. If you don’t want to deal with that, don’t worry. You’re not missing a significant cultural event. I’ll catch you next time.

Something you discover and rediscover a lot watching black-and-white cartoons: they’re not afraid to have real-world and cartoon interactions. They maybe have more the farther back you go, which seems opposite the way you’d expect. This short’s framed with footage of old guys playing chess. It’s not much interaction. And they do a common trick of using a still frame to animate over. But it’s still neat to see.

Some time ago these Talkartoons introduced this leering old guy that I wanted to identify as Old King Cole. I dropped it as I couldn’t think where I’d gotten that from. It must be this short; the song’s clear enough about who this is.

Framing the action as an anthropomorphized chess game is a fun idea. It doesn’t quite hold together logically, if someone would care about the logic of why the King would need his Queen to marry him. And it has some weird knock-on effects, like forcing Bimbo and Koko to go in white versions of their models. Given that Betty also wears a black dress it seems like it’d be easier if the three of them were the black pieces and Old King Cole in white. Maybe it’s so the resolution can be the white king Bimbo capturing the black queen Betty?

Anyway it’s a good excuse to have a lot of checkerboard patterns moving in perspective, which lets the animators show off what they can do. And there’s a wealth of the weird little mutable-world jokes that black-and-white cartoons get a reputation for: Bimbo’s crown reaching out and punching Old King Cole. A table reaching up to pull Betty’s dress back down. Betty dragging a window out of place. Old King Cole running into a door so hard he falls apart.

There’s a bunch of blink-and-you-miss-it jokes. Maybe you noticed about 1:48 where Bimbo’s hands fall off for a second. But did you notice about 3:50, when Old King Cole is carrying Betty off, that his feet keep slipping out of his shoes and dropping back in? Old King Cole’s falling-apart and reassembling after hitting the door about 3:15 is also done very quickly and underplayed. Plenty of choices here; I’d give the nod to the shoes business since I’ve seen this cartoon dozens of times over the last twenty years and only noticed it today.

Mice only appear once here, as Betty throws a vase through the wall and an adulterous mouse runs back home about 5:26. But then after the initial establishing scene Betty Boop doesn’t show up herself until about 2:45 in. The short is much more a Bimbo cartoon, and he’s actually an effective lead for it. Old King Cole skulks about in a nicely Snidely Whiplash-y manner. Bimbo plays well against him. Some ages ago I talked about Betty Boop’s short-lived boyfriend Fearless Fred. I suspected that Fred’s creation was because Bimbo couldn’t play the Hero role in a Spoof Victorian Melodrama. That Bimbo’s just too vague a person to have a good comeback to the Villain’s taunting. Maybe I was wrong; he holds his own here. But I stil can’t see Bimbo quite playing Fred’s role naturally, for all that he succeeds here.

The closing music tells us Old King Cole is dead and gone. I don’t remember his turning up in another cartoon. But never know; there’s no reason that he couldn’t.

MiSTed: Safe Fun for Halloween (Part 3 of 4)


I hope you continue to enjoy this Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction. Those who’ve missed the end of Carrie L—‘s “Reboot: Breaking the Barriers” have not; I figure to get back to that in November. For now, I want to finish off looking at a Popular Mechanics article from 1936, “Safe Fun For Halloween”.

If you don’t want to go back and re-read the whole thing, here’s what you’ve missed: a lot of stunts to shock, embarrass, or humiliate partygoers visiting your house for what will be the last time. It only feels like all these stunts are about getting your friends to touch exposed electrical wires. There’s also ones about getting lampblack around their eyes or pretending to take a picture and instead blasting a cap gun at them. Fun!

Uneeda Biscuits, mentioned here, were the first big hit product for the newly-formed National Biscuit Company. Say the name aloud and you get the advertising hook for them. Also now if you encounter an early-20th-century humor piece and someone talks about having a Ueata Meal or buying a Udrivea Car or something, now you know what they’re riffing on. Nabisco was still making Uneedas through about a decade ago. They were kind of an extra-thick club cracker. Not quite salty enough to my taste but, I could get it. Cottolene was a brand of shortening and one of the first mass-produced alternates to lard. So these references are well-researched to this article’s original publication and are therefore funny.


>
> Figure 4 shows an elaboration of the popular “grab-bag” idea.

CROW: So we just jumped out of order for Figure 11?

> In this case a large carton is equipped with three shelves,
> which fold up against the sides of the box, giving free access
> to the favors for guests in the bottom.

TOM: Ah, the giddy fun of playing The Refrigerator Game.

MIKE: Now that your friend’s inside the cardboard fridge, close the door up and abandon him in a junkyard to suffocate!

> Lights are arranged so
> that the inside of the box is dark.

CROW: Arrange the lights so they’re not on the inside. Got it.

> After two or three
> merrymakers have drawn prizes from the box, an attendant “in
> the know” lets down one of the shelves by means of a concealed
> string.

MIKE: Dropping a 16-ton anvil on your so-called friend.

> This shelf may have on it a shallow pan of lard, or a
> sheet of paper coated with lampblack or graphite and oil,

TOM: Whale blubber and bauxite.

CROW: Uneeda biscuits and cottolene!

MIKE: Greased slime and detonator caps!

> or red
> grease—anything that will not flow when the shelf is in the
> vertical position.

MIKE: What do you have in congealed blood?

> In the laughter which follows the victim’s
> predicament,

CROW: The shrieking, howling laughter of the mad.

> the attendant draws up the shelf and another guest
> is invited to draw from the box,

MIKE: He tears out a fistful of hair.

TOM: Maybe rip off a nose or two.

> this one of course brings out a
> favor.

CROW: A nose or two?

> Eventually the other two shelves are let down to provoke
> more laughter.

TOM: This is in case your parties don’t end in enough brawls.

>
> A collapsible chair can easily be made from a common kitchen
> chair,

MIKE: And set up above your conveniently available tiger pit.

> and, if others of the same design are placed in the room,
> the tricky one will not be noticeable.

TOM: Apart from how everyone who has dinner with you, dies.

> Remove the legs and
> round off both ends as in Figure 6.

CROW: Figure 5 was lost in a tragic “collapsible Linotype” prank.

> They are then joined in two
> pairs consisting of one front and one back leg connected with a
> rung.

MIKE: The rung snaps open, releasing cyanide gas.

> Coil springs, concealed inside of thin tubes are
> substituted for the front and rear rungs.

TOM: Sure, for *this* we have springs.

>
> The tubes should fit into the holes formerly occupied by the
> rungs, and are painted to resemble them.

MIKE: You sneer, but this is how the Italian resistance
got Mussolini.

> As soon as a guest
> sits on the chair the tubes pull out and the chair sprawls.
> Strong tension springs should be used.

CROW: Grab a tube and beat your friend even more senseless!

>
> A most surprising effect is afforded by the “X-ray” helmet
> shown in Figure 7.

TOM: Here, we put 500,000 roentgens into your friend’s brain.

> This, briefly, is a cardboard box with two
> mirrors arranged to throw the vision directly behind.

MIKE: Painted with radium.

> The user
> of the helmet will have the strange sensation of seeing what
> appears to be the foreground receding from him as he progresses,

CROW: He’ll never suspect unless he’s ever looked at a thing before.

> and although there may appear to be an open door ahead, more
> likely he will fetch up against a wall.

TOM: Cover the wall in foot-long pointed daggers.

MIKE: ‘Fetch up’? Did people back then just not know what words mean?

>
> For a confetti blizzard,

CROW: Only at Dairy Queen.

MIKE: The best 15,000 calories of your between-meal snacks.

> an electric fan is rigged as shown in
> Figure 8. This also can be operated by an extension switch.

TOM: Jab your friend’s fingers into the spinning blades.

> Make a large cardboard cylinder to fit over the fan frame,

CROW: Man, you could do everything with cardboard in the 30s.

MIKE: Also cylinders.

> paste
> a disk of tissue over the front end, just enough to hold it
> until the blast strikes it,

MIKE: Stand out of the way of the shock waves.

> and then fill the space half full of
> confetti.

TOM: No, no, only half. Six-elevenths would be too much!

> When the unwary guest steps in front of the fan, he
> is deluged with a shower of confetti.

CROW: So, this article. Here. This explains the irony of people who read _Popular Mechanics_ magazine not being popular, right?

TOM: Also not being mechanics.

MIKE: Also not being magazines.

CROW: Yeah, that … what?

[ To continue … ]

Is _Zippy the Pinhead_ Cartoonist Bill Griffith a Cranky Old Man?


I mean, yes. He’s an underground cartoonist. The job selects for cranky old men, even when they’re, like, 19 and happy. If you’re not a cranky old man you leave underground cartooning for another field, such as ground cartooning, or telling people who tried the door anyway that the credit union closed ten minutes ago. They’re all useful services to society. But I wanted to share the glory of yesterday’s Zippy the Pinhead comic strip.

Giant shoes drop on Zippy and Griffy, and chase after them. Zippy: 'Oh no! It's th'Attack of th'50-foot sneakers!' Griffy: 'FOOTWEAR that we refuse to wear is coming after us in revenge!' Zippy: 'They want me to trade in my styrofoam roll-tops for UGLY ALLIGATORS!' Griffy: 'My leather shoes will become an endangered species!' Zippy: 'If I wanted to wear clown shoes I would have stayed in th'circus!' Griffy: 'How did 90% of the America public believe that shoes in th'form of ANGRY INSECTS should replace their Florsheims and Capezios?!
Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead for the 19th of October, 2021. And I mean, this is about sneakers, that have been the default kind of shoe to wear for my entire life so far. I get having sartorial preferences not shared by the common people. I mean, I don’t like blue jeans and don’t wear them, but I’m not going to call them clown pants unless you’ve modified your jeans some.

Understand, I’m not disapproving of his cranky rant here. Anyone who’s managed to make it in the world of somehow still syndicated newspaper comic strips should take pride using their platform for whatever pet peeves they have, even if most of them want to complain about “participation trophies”. And I’m glad to have the rant turned into a visually arresting monster-movie nightmare scenario. I post this only to share my joy with you.

What’s Going On In Mark Trail? What happened between Diana Daggers and Bee Sharp? July – October 2021


It’s not revealed yet! Last story, Diana Daggers was protective to the point of fanaticism of pop-scientist “Professor” Bee Sharp. This story she turned up without him, and won’t say anything about her former partner. We see one panel of Bee Sharp checking, it seems, Daggers’s social media and getting riled up that she’s working with Mark Trail. And Mark Trail spits out a nasty comment about how she drives everyone away from her. She goes off to console herself with pancakes and old photos of Sharp. What this all means, and what their exact relationship was, has yet to be told us.

So this should catch you up on Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for mid-October 2021. If you’re reading this in 2022 or later, a more current plot recap should be at this link.

And for my side gig, I’m doing a little mathematics glossary, one essay a week explaining some mathematical term. There should be a new post in the middle of the day Wednesday, and I hope you enjoy that too.

Mark Trail.

25 July – 1 October 2021.

I caught Mark Trail at the end of a caper last time. Not catching him were Professor Bee Sharp and his producer/bodyguard Diana Daggers. “Cricket Bro” Rob Bettancourt calls Mark Trail’s editor to complain about his breaking in to a facility he was invited into and the editor asks about this weird boxing thing. So Mark Trail had a clean escape.


Mark Trail’s current story started the 2nd of August. Bill Ellis has a new job, for Rafael Suave at fishing magazine Hot Catch. It’s to investigate whether the Duck Duck Goose shipping line is bringing zebra mussels into the waterways near the Lost Forest. Suave has a partner for Mark Trail, too: Diana Daggers. Mark tries to get out of this without admitting to any crimes. Suave doesn’t care and points out that given the danger of crossing big companies they’ll need people who can punch a lot.

Diana Daggers: 'Heh-heh. You scare easy, Mark.' Mark Trail: 'Can you blame me for being a little jumpy, Diana? The last time we met, you were about to mow me down!' Daggers: 'And? You lived. What's the problem?' Mark Trail: 'The problem is that I'm having a hard time working with someone who attacked me!' Daggers: 'Don't be such a baby. People work with bad guys all the time. Welcome to Hollywood.'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 31st of August, 2021. I accept that Rivera’s keeping to herself for now just why Daggers is free of Bee Sharp, and why she went to take a job alongside Mark Trail. And I understand her wanting to load more fun characters into the story. And that she accepted we’d have doubts Mark Trail would be willing to work with her right after that whole car chase thing. I still hope that by the time the story’s done we have a clear idea why she’s here, and why Rafael Suave thought she was a good partner for this project.

Daggers is sharp but not exactly hostile. She also has nothing to say about Bee Sharp. They set out in Mark Trail’s boat. Once close enough to a Duck Duck Goose freighter, Mark Trail’s able to get shoved into the water by Daggers. From underwater he takes pictures of zebra mussels clung to the ship. Also another fishing boat charges in, demanding to know why this woman they never saw before is piloting Mark Trail’s boat. This all attracts the Duck Duck Goose ship’s attention, and anti-pirate deterrents. This includes water hoses that, shot long enough, could sink the interloper.

[ Mark finds himself caught between a boat and a hard place ] Mark Trail, between his boat the Debait boat: 'Stop!' Daggers: 'Mark! It's about time you got back! These guys are giving me static about your boat!' Debait Boater: 'Hey, we know this boat doesn't belong to you!' Daggers: 'Back off!' Mark Trail: 'Everyone keep it down or the shipper will --- !' [ And then things get harder. ] The Duck Duck Goose ship blasts a siren.
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 23rd of September, 2021. I’m assuming the guy on the De-Bait boat is Cliff, since I’m not sure anyone else in the club knows Mark Trail. But I don’t understand why he didn’t mention having been the guy in the interloper boat here. It’s something that would take a load off Mark Trail’s mind, for one thing. (This is not a plot hole. A character isn’t wrong to not think of doing something that would clarify a mystery right away.)

Daggers takes the boat out of there, against Mark Trail’s insistence they have to help. He’s horrified by this and goes ashore, intending to walk back to his car. But he’s picked up by Cliff, an old friend, and — like Mark Trail — a war veteran. Cliff joined a veteran’s fishing lodge, the De-Bait Team. Mark Trail meets the gang, and they get to talking. As I write this, Mark Trail hasn’t noticed the interloping boat was marked De-Bait, but I expect that to be discovered soon.


Meanwhile, Cherry Trail’s been having unrelated adventures. This we’ve seen a week at a time, separate from Mark’s plot. She’s been working with the Soleil Society’s garden and not needing to strangle society chair Violet Cheshire too much. But uncovering a Forest Pioneer statue reveals an incredible swarm of bees. Cherry Trail knows a bee-removal person. Cheshire knows a bee-exterminator person. You see why the two women get along so well.

[ Violet discovers the Sunny Soleil Society's prized statue is covered in ... ] Violet Cheshire, running from a huge swarm of bees; 'BEES!' Cherry Trail; 'The bees built a hive right on top of the statue?' Cheshire: 'Run, Cherry, run! The bees will destroy us all!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 25th of August, 2021. I love how stilted Violet Cheshire is when she speaks. Possibly it’s an ongoing riff about the stylized forms Mark Trail dialogue has taken in the past. It’s quite effective in conveying how Cheshire is someone you have to breathe deeply before dealing with, without requiring Cheshire to do anything that outrageous. And, that said … I understand we’re not seeing the statue as the sculptor intended, but I’m also not clear what it’s supposed to look like. I assume that when the bee problem is resolved we’ll understand the image better.

As Cherry Trail has dinner at Planet Pancake, Diana Daggers storms in. Daggers demands a stack of pancakes “big enough to make me forget the last eight hours of my life”. Cherry Trail judges this a reasonable response to boating with Mark Trail. Daggers needs her space, looking and sighing at old pictures of her with Bee Sharp. Cherry Trail respects her privacy, and goes to a friend named Georgia, member of the Underground Black Rose Garden Club. I have no special foreknowledge, but it does look like we may be in for a bee heist.

Sunday Animals Watch

  • Butterflies, 25 July 2021. The understated stars of Cherry Trail’s last story get their Sunday page in.
  • Southern Alligator Lizard, 1 August 2021. Which doesn’t seem relevant to the recent stories any, but they don’t all tie in to anything.
  • Zebra Mussels and Marimo Moss Balls, 8 August 2021. Zebra mussels became a big driving point this story, but I haven’t seen anything about the moss balls. Or heard of them before this Sunday strip.
  • Drugs in waterways, 15 August 2021. Also a problem and you shouldn’ flush unneeded drugs away.
  • Hybridized “Killer” Bees, 22 August 2021. Once this dropped we were all waiting to see when killer bees might break in to the plot.
  • Canada Geese, 29 August 2021. One time I stayed at a hotel with a nesting pair of geese out by the parking lot. Made for some exciting times getting luggage in the car.
  • Spiders, centipedes, and bees, 5 September 2021. Warning: do not look at this page if you have a house centipede phobia.
  • Frogs and Toads, 12 September 2021. Cherry Trail’s story does feature an abundance of frogs too, in one panel, but they’re less of an urgent issue than the bees were.
  • Coyotes, 19 September 2021. They’ve got projects not involving road runners.
  • Birds, 26 September 2021. So we could either lose two-thirds of North American bird species to climate change or we could pay coal miners to take other jobs. This should not be a hard choice.
  • Catfish, 3 October 2021. Not part of the story yet, but Mark Trail does get exasperated with Florida, which is always fun.
  • Mushrooms, 10 October 2021.
  • Bees, 17 October 2021. This may seem like a lot of bee talk, but bees have a lot of problems, and most of them are our doing.

Next Week!

Wilbur Weston returns, so it’s cautionary tale season in
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth.
We’ll catch up with the Santa Royale community next week, if all goes well.

I’m Out of Practice. Is This a Thing?


I’m trying to get back into writing short stuff, but, you know. I’m out of practice. Is this a thing?

The dragon was nonplussed by the offering of a vast quantity of fish. after a lot of thought the dragon explained, “You must have got something wrong … I don’t have a hoard of herring. I’m just a little deaf in this ear.”

Anyway please let me know on a scale of things, ranging from “a small thing” such as maybe an apple slicer through to “a reasonable-sized thing” such as a loaf of ciabatta bread. On looking back over this, also, I’m not sure I’m not just hungry.

Reposted: The 37th Talkartoon: The Dancing Fool, The Rarest Kind Of Betty Boop Cartoon


When I first reviewed this I admitted having no memory of it. It was a Betty Boop cartoon new to me. On rewatching for this, yeah, I remembered nothing about it. There’s a certain delight in having a new installment of a vintage cartoon, or at least one unfamiliar to you. For most of the cartoons I like — Popeye, the Warner Brothers catalogue, Tom and Jerry — if I don’t recognize a theatrical cartoon it’s because it was way too racist to show on TV even in the 70s and 80s. I’m happy that is not the case here.


This week’s Talkartoon is an unusual one. Not in content; in content it’s a dance party cartoon, with the characters ultimately playing to music until the Fleischer Studio meets the contractually obligated length. It’s rare in that I have absolutely no memory of this cartoon.

Backstory. In the 90s I got the eight-VHS Betty Boop: The Definitive Collection. It wasn’t complete, as I knew even back then. There are some lost Betty Boop cartoons, which nobody could be blamed for not including. There are some follow-the-bouncing-ball singalong cartoons which have Betty Boop and which didn’t make the cut. You can disagree with that editorial judgement but they did have to get the whole collection in with less than 16 hours of video. The live-action shorts with Betty Boop didn’t make the cut. This is an easily defended choice if your goal was to show all the Betty Boop cartoons. Anyway, the variety — and picture quality — of the cartoons was fantastic and I watched all the tapes a lot, even the ones with mostly boring late-run shorts.

And I have no memory of ever seeing this one. If the Internet Movie Database is to be believed, it was there, squeezed between Jack and the Beanstalk and the Screen Songs cartoon Let Me Call You Sweetheart. The first is easy to remember; I reviewed it just a couple weeks ago. The second is easier to remember than this; it includes live-action segments from Ethel Merman. I guess that’s sufficient reason to overlook it.

So this cartoon is credited to animators Seymour Kneitel and Bernard Wolf. Both are familiar hands at this point. It was released the 8th of April, 1932. I can’t find a version on archive.org, only YouTube. This is a version that has a clearer picture with less rasterization. But somehow the whole picture jumps around and sways a bit. I don’t know how. It’s close enough to the beat that I thought it might be an impressive technical bit by the Fleischers, to have the whole scene bounce in a way complementary to the characters’ motion. But it seems to be more some weirdly complicated bit of digitizing the cartoon.

As teased, I’m indifferent to this cartoon. It’s pleasant. It’s got some nice examples of the cartoon character trope of not falling before one notices one’s in the air. It’s got the nice doing-stuff-too-hard gag of Bimbo and Koko hauling their plank and paint all the way up a building and walking across several tall buildings to drop back down to ground level. It’s got some nice bits of business besides that too. Bimbo using his stubby tail as a paintbrush. The mice that pop up out of the windowsill about 3:37 to sing Betty Boop’s name. The mice at about 1:15 who come out ready to catch the falling Bimbo and whose work doesn’t even get noticed.

There’s two halves to the cartoon, one that’s just Bimbo and a weird-voiced Koko; and one that’s Betty and her entourage dancing. Betty took long enough to show up I wondered if she had only a cameo and that’s why I didn’t remember the cartoon from The Definitive Collection. There’s I suppose logic in going from the sign-painting stuff to the dance-party stuff. I wonder if they didn’t start out trying to do a window-washers or a sign-painters cartoon and stitched it to some dancing stuff when they ran out of jokes. Not that the first half isn’t amiable; there’s just not a lot going on.

I can’t pick out a favorite blink-and-you-miss-it joke. Maybe the mice with the rescue trampoline, since they’re underplayed so. Most everything else is very well-established and given time to register, especially later on as the short turns to a lot of dancing. There’s some nice, well-done animation here. I particularly like the tiger hopping out of the strips and dancing with those as partner. (I’m suspiciously easily amused by characters leaping out of their patterns or colors.)

I was more interested when I thought the background and everything bounced in time with the music.

Statistics Saturday: 15 Things You Can’t Believe Happened Earlier In 2021


  • Bean Dad
  • Sea shanties on TikTok
  • Like three probes orbited or landed on Mars and one of them had a helicopter
  • Balloon Boy
  • The Kellogg’s strike
  • That morning we all found a box of Peak Freans on our counter even though they haven’t made Peak Freans since like 1989 and nobody could explain where all these Peaks Freans came from
  • That guy did that really good impression of Robin Williams learning of John Belushi’s death
  • Culture Club released the hit song “Karma Chameleon”
  • The imperatives of state bureaucracy drove European governments to impose family names on all their inhabitants, without regard to local culture or the lack of community need for such things
  • The controversial “Rashomon” episode of Scooby and Scrappy Doo aired
  • Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins died
  • Ken Russell’s film adaptation of The Who’s Tommy uses rather a lot of beans, is unconnected to “Bean Dad”
  • End of the Recombination era of the universe, when electrons and atomic nucleuses finally became cool enough to bind together into atoms, allowing photons to travel great distances, causing space to no longer be opaque for the first time
  • Boss Baby 2 came out
  • Audiences were enchanted by that “so good … but no lumps!” commercial but can’t remember, was it for gravy? For Alka-Seltzer? But Alka-Seltzer was that “Mama Mia, that’s a spicy meatball” commercial, right? That was like four years ago?

Reference: American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA, Nick Taylor.

Reposted: The 36th Talkartoon: Crazy Town, a place to visit


In spotting characters from other shorts, last time I looked at this, I failed to mention the bootblack in the barber shop. He looks a good bit like the earlier, screwball, model of Bimbo, that faded out as Betty Boop got a definitive appearance. I also mention cursing myself for not geting that book of Fontaine Fox Toonerville Trolley comics. I’m happy to say I found a copy of the book, and bought it, and it’s generally quite good. It’s a panel comic, mostly highlighting the outsized personality of one of the town residents. Also I bought that Top 100 Frank Crumit Songs album on iTunes and it’s largely enjoyable, but there are some songs with racist attitudes or themes. There’s also about 14 versions of “Abdul Abulbul Amir”, including sequel songs about the wives and the children of the original song’s characters, any one of which is an interesting curio but which, if you listen to the album all at once, will drive you to crazy town.


So after that weirdness of two Talkartoons released the same day, the Fleischer Studios went to a more relaxed pace. They didn’t release the next short until the 25th of March, 1932. This one was animated by Shamus Culhane and David Tendlar. Culhane has had credits here before. Tendlar is a new credit. He doesn’t seem to have any other credits on the Talkartoon series either. But he’d stick around, staying with Fleischer and then Famous Studios until that was finally shut down, and then to Filmation and Hanna-Barbera. I’m tickled that he’s got a lot of credits for Superfriends cartoons; a lot of my impression of what superheroes should be like are basically “like the one where the Wonder Twins are outwitted by an abandoned roller coaster”. I’m not sure Tendlar had anything to do with that one, but he is credited on the episode where a mad scientist sends a Stupid Ray back in time to prevent modern humans from evolving, so he can rule a planet of Neanderthals, and the plan would have worked except some Superfriends were visiting Skylab, which was outside the effect’s reach? … I’m pretty sure I have that right, and it’s still wrong. Anyway, here’s a Talkartoon.

The short starts with a familiar song, “Hot-cha-cha” with a fresh set of lyrics. We saw it back in Dizzy Dishes, that introduced who we’d know as Betty Boop. And it’s got a nice title sequence of looking at a booklet and letting that open into the action. Live action-and-animation hybrids were common in the 20s, always startling to people who think Who Framed Roger Rabbit or possibly Mary Poppins invented the idea. The Fleischers built their main series in the 20s on this sort of thing and it’s good to see they hadn’t lost that yet.

I also can’t see a cartoonish, overstuffed trolley without thinking of Fontaine Fox’s long-running panel strip The Toonerville Trolley, and cursing myself for never buying the book collecting strips from that used book store back in Troy, New York, in the late 90s. I don’t think there’s any reference being made here. The trolley driver and the banana-eating guy at about 3:00 in look to me like Old King Cole, from Mask-A-Raid. But that might just be that skinny old white guys in these cartoons tend to blend together.

The short itself is a long string of spot jokes. Betty and Bimbo travel to Crazy Town, and as implied, everything’s silly there. Mostly everything gets a basic reversal. A fish waves around a pole and catches a man. At the barber shop waving the scissors over a head makes hair grow. Big animals make tiny squeaks and a suspicious mouse (at about 5:45) roars like a lion. There’s not a lot of deep thinking going into the story-building here. This goes deep; the short isn’t even decided on whether Bimbo is a screwball character doing wild stuff (like early on, when he plays the trolley’s contact pole like a bass), or a straight-man to whom things happen (as when he and Betty watch with terror the approach of the Vermin Supreme ’32 supporter wearing hats on his feet and a boot on his head), or someone who comes around to embrace the weirdness (as when he gets into the barber shop’s logic). Betty doesn’t do much except react to stuff this short, but it does mean she’s got a consistent viewpoint.

I don’t think I can name a blink-and-you-miss-it joke. Everything’s given about the time it needs. I can say the train station joke, with the station holding still and the city sliding behind it, catches my imagination. For its practical benefits, of course. But also because I think of how in a couple years the Fleischers would develop that set-back camera, which let them put animated stuff in front of real-world models that move. It’s always a stunning effect. It’s often the best part of a dull cartoon. And I think of what the city-moving-behind-the-station joke would look like with that effect.

The central song, “Foolish Facts”, wasn’t written for this cartoon. It looks like it should be credited to Frank Crumit. He was renowned for recordings of “Frankie and Johnnie” and “Abdul Abulbul Amir” and writing the fight song for Ohio State University. And he recorded titles that sound like the titles you’d make up about a phonograph star of around 1930, like “She Gives Them All The Ha-Ha-Ha”, “I Married The Bootlegger’s Daughter”, “Oh! Didn’t It Rain”, “There’s No One With Endurance Like The Man Who Sells Insurance”, and “The Prune Song”. Yes there’s a Top 100 Frank Crumit Songs album available on iTunes for only US$5.99. Warning, at least one of the “Foolish Facts” verses not used in this cartoon does one of those 1930s oh-ha-ha wives-are-the-worst-right-fellas jokes. But if you can take that I have to say that’s a good value for a heaping pile of songs that all sound kind of like old-time cartoon music.

MiSTed: Safe Fun for Halloween (Part 2 of 4)


Welcome back to my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction riffing on the Popular Mechanics article “Safe Fun For Halloween”. The whole of the MiSTing should be at this link, as I finish posting it over the month. And you can read all the MiSTings that I’ve posted here at this link.

In Part 1 the author suggested a fun thing for your Halloween party is have your guests submit their fingerprints. But it’s not just the fun of a simulated arrest: the ink pad’s to be rigged up to give electric shocks! The author swears this is “surprising but not harmful”. If that isn’t fun enough for you, just read on …


> To offset suspicion, it is a good idea to place
> the left-hand electrode under a tablecloth.

TOM: Plus, the tablecloth helps you cover up the fried corpse.

> Direct contact with
> the metal is not necessary.

CROW: Just ramp it up to 186,000 volts there, Tesla.

> A long strip of metal along the
> edge of the table is better than a small plate

MIKE: As it’s a much easier cudgel to wave about.

> as any one seated
> at the table naturally rests the left hand somewhere along the
> edge.

TOM: [ In a nerdy voice, as the Victim ] “Do you electrocutify *all* your friends?” [ Whimper ]

>
> Another shocking episode, which may take place right on the
> “welcome” mat,

MIKE: [ Making air quotes ] “Welcome” mat.

TOM: No solicitors or emergency medical technicians. Thank you.

> is shaking hands with the “ghost host” who is
> a head taller than anyone in the party. See Figure 11.

CROW: Figures 2 through 10 omitted for the giddy fun of it.

> He
> stands near the entrance and extends his hand to the guest who

TOM: … who foolishly came to the party not expecting to struggle for his life.

> takes hold of a cloth glove having four wiggly coil-spring
> fingers.

MIKE: Ah, the Six Dollar And Thirty-Nine Cent Man.

CROW: Hey, in the Depression that was a lot of money.

> These and a metal door mat are the electrodes, and are
> connected to a vibrating coil or a toy shocking machine operated
> by someone behind the ghost.

TOM: I just think it indecent this is how they killed Bruno Hauptmann.

> The ghost has pearly eyes, which
> look as if they were suspended in void space of an empty hood.

CROW: [ As the Victim ] “I’m haunted by Muppets!”

>
> The next job to get the records straight is mugging.

MIKE: First, fashion your brass knuckles and find a stick as in Figure 24.

> This is
> done in a semidarkened room with a cardboard camera as in Figure
> 2.

CROW: A cardboard camera?

TOM: Yeah, my kid made it in second-grade art class. You get a Polaroid from it by drawing with magic markers.

> The startling effect comes when the light is suddenly
> flashed and a cap pistol is fired at the same instant.

MIKE: Ha ha! Now you’ve shot your friend in the face!

> After
> this, everything tried on the newcomer will be looked upon with
> great suspicion

CROW: [ As the Victim ] “Well, the mugging and the electrocution may have been accidents but *now* I suspect something’s up.”

> but he may be convinced to observe Mars without
> a shock or a scare.

TOM: Yeah, heck, why not?

MIKE: In the 30s you could not lose money asking people to observe Mars.

> He will actually see something through the
> enchanted telescope, pictured in Figure 3.

CROW: Now we’re on Figure 3?

MIKE: The “enchanted telescope”.

TOM: [ As the Victim ] “Are we entering your magic fantasy land?”

> When the star gazer
> first puts it to his eye he sees nothing, and is told to revolve
> it until he does.

MIKE: Ooh hoo.

TOM: I smell the bubbling-over of wacky.

> The eyepiece has a felt rim dipped in
> lampblack, which leaves an interesting ring around the eye.

CROW: Lampblack?

MIKE: Yeah, you know, so you don’t have those pesky “bright” lights.

> However, the victim has his reward for with one complete
> revolution of the telescope,

TOM: I have the sad feeling this isn’t just gonna be a ring around the eyeball.

CROW: I’m stuck on ‘lampblack’ still.

MIKE: It’s for offensive minstrel show light bulbs. Move on.

CROW: Oh.

> a swinging switch lever makes
> contact

TOM: Well, of *course* it does.

> and a small light inside reveals a witch or comic
> figure.

MIKE: And a 75,000-volt discharge right into the corneas!

> To make the telescope, use a mailing tube about 14
> inches long and 2-1/2 inches in diameter.

CROW: Like the dozens you have around your house already.

> Cardboard partitions
> hold the lamp bulb and the revolving switch, which are joined by
> a copper strip.

MIKE: Won’t they notice the little witch figure hanging off the front of the telescope?

> The switch must work freely. By making the
> tube in two parts, the assembly is easy.

TOM: Would it be even easier if I made it in four parts?

CROW: No! That way lies madness!

> Paper wrapped around
> it completes the joint. Four bands of black paper are wrapped
> around the telescope to make the sooty eyepiece less
> conspicuous.

MIKE: The lampblack doesn’t seem to be an important part of this.

[ To continue … ]

Reposted: The Other 34th Talkartoon: Swim Or Sink; your choice


When I reviewed this back in 2018 I didn’t credit a good blink-and-you-miss-it joke. This rewatch, I feel like the bit where the ship falls back together, and smoke falls back into the smokestacks, is exactly the sort of little understated bit of silliness I wanted for that. I notice one of the pirates has a sword that grows a mouth and licks its lips. That’s a joke used in Bimbo’s Initiation to good effect too.


So last week I reviewed what I called the 34th Talkartoon, Minnie the Moocher. But there is a definitional problem here. There was another Talkartoon released the same day, the 11th of March, 1932. Which one is first? Lists seem to have settled on Minnie the Moocher, I assume on grounds of alphabetical order. The other Talkartoon of that busy day is Swim Or Sink. It’s animated by Bernard Wolf and Seymour Kneitel, both names we’ve seen before. Wolf in Minding the Baby. Kneitel in Barnacle Bill, Grand Uproar, and several less notable shorts. Here’s Swim Or Sink, or as it’s often aptly titled, S.O.S..

In content that hasn’t aged well. There’s a quick rather Jewish caricature in a fish that shows up for a line about 2:50 in. And there’s a bunch of pirates who are clear what they plan to do with Betty Boop. Nothing like in Boop-Oop-A-Doop. And Betty’s dress keeps riding up.

Swim Or Sink is nowhere as famous or renowned as Minnie the Moocher. And fair enough, really. It has some quite good animation in the ship-sinking. And a couple nice effects bits. But it doesn’t have any technique as impressive as Cab Calloway rotoscoped into a singing walrus. And the music’s merely ordinary. Picking “What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor” for a song about being at sea or being confronted by pirates doesn’t take imagination.

It might be the more strongly constructed cartoon, though. It’s got two parts, a big action scene of the steamer sinking, and then a chase scene of Betty Boop, Koko, and Bimbo menaced by pirates. Throughout there’s reasons for people to be doing what they’re doing. The spot jokes of animals struggling through the ship-sinking can mostly go in any order, but all of them work. And for some reason I’m always tickled by the lightning bolt that sews together the hole it’s cut in the sky.

The sinking ship almost does that “going down three times” gag about sinking that Roy Kassinger was asking about earlier, but it falls short. I think the pirate ship growing eyes and a mouth and swallowing Betty Boop’s raft is exactly the sort of joke we look for in black-and-white cartoons. So is the pirate captain morphing into a snake when he declares he’ll keep Betty to himself.

About 3:55 in the pirate’s sword menacing Koko grows a mouth and licks its lips; the joke was good in Bimbo’s Initiation and it works here too. The anchor shaking itself dry and sneaking into the doghouse is such a neatly done gag, too. I also like Koko, Bimbo, and Betty doing this funny little walking-dance while the pirate crew chases them.

There’s a suspiciously Mickey-like mouse at about 1:45 in, putting on a doughnut as lifesaver. Another’s on the pirate ship about 3:38 in with rather too much sword. And one more, for good measure, dangling from a rope about 6:05 in. I’m not sure there is a blink-and-you-miss-it joke. Maybe early on, when the parts of the doomed ship are falling back into place, when the last bit of the ship — the smoke — drops back into the funnels.

I don’t think there’s any body-horror jokes here, unless you count the pirate crew falling into a giant fish. They seem to be having a jolly time of it at least. The ending might seem abrupt. But “dodging out of the way so your chasers fall overboard” does make sense as a way out of a chase. Works for them.

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? Did the widow Rufus was dating die? July – October 2021


No. The current Gasoline Alley story mentions the old Emmons house, and that the widow Sarah, resident there, had died. That is not that woman dating Rufus in an incomplete storyline from 2017. Rufus’s date was the Widow Leela, or as I knew her, the Widow Emma Sue and Scruffy’s Mother. We haven’t seen her since the comic strip came back from its never-explained long hiatus in early 2018.

So this should catch you up to mid-October 2021 in Gasoline Alley. If you’re reading this after about December 2021 there’s likely a more up-to-date recap here. And if news about the strip breaks out I’ll share it at that link too.

And if you’d like some heavier reading, my Little 2021 Mathematics A-to-Z is a glossary of mathematics terms. The second essay of this year’s set tried to explain Addition, and how we can tell it from multiplication.

Gasoline Alley.

19 July – 10 October 2021.

I last checked in near the end of the story where Rufus and Joel get strange signals from outer space. They spent a week or so talking about that, and then went off to their job garbage-collecting. They passed Boog and Aubee Skinner, the young kids who’re the latest generation of the Wallet clan. And that, the 4th of August, was the transition to the current story.

Ferd Frog: 'You thought I was going to say I was a prince, weren't you? I'm a prince of a fellow; handsome; and I sang country music until I was turned into a frog!' Aubee: 'I don't believe it!' Ferd: 'Kiss me and you'll believe it!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 14th of October, 2021. I don’t know, I’d think hearing Ferd try would prove he hasn’t sung country music since he was turned into a frog. I don’t know why Ferd said “weren’t you” instead of “didn’t you” in the first panel there. I suspect a last-minute rewrite went wrong.

Aubee has a school assignment to collect leaves. She skips a rock across a pond and hits a narcissist unicorn talking frog. Ferdy’s an old friend of Boog, who of course talks with the animals. The rather large Ferd asks for a kiss on the lips to restore his ‘real’ life as a country music singer. She has enough of his schtick and he leaves, saying the only way for her to grow is “older”. Which is true but seems like the punch line for a conversation they didn’t have.

The next animal met is Boog’s best friend, Bear. Who is what you think from the name, and so frightens Aubee. Boog is still too young to understand how to keep people informed. Bear has seen her before. Her mother, Hoogy, was a very pregnant forest ranger and went into labor deep in the woods. But Bear and his forest friends knew where to find Chipper Wallet, Physician Assistant. (Gasoline Alley has more good things to say about physician assistants than even the American Academy of Physician Assistants does.) It’s a swiftly-told tale of the animals grabbing Chipper by his shirt and pulling him over to the very pregnant lady. From there, they let nature take its course.

Bear: 'Temptation is something that leads you into a situation that sounds good, but you might not like it later! So if you kissed Froggy, he would have gotten a kiss ... and you would have gotten a bad taste on your lips! See?' Aubee, making a sour face; 'Yuk! Yes!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 17th of September, 2021. Boog knows the frog as Ferd, by the way, while Bear speaks of him as Froggy. I’ve gone with ‘Ferd’ because Boog, as a friend of the frog, seems more likely to be addressing him by his preferred name. This is the sort of thing I have running around my brain.

After that tale Bear mentions how Ferd is a hoax, trying that “country singer line” on people for years. And she shouldn’t give in to temptation, such as the temptation to kiss a frog. It’s a good lesson, I guess, although she was never tempted and nobody suggested she was.

Bear then moves into telling about the dangers of forest fires. It’s another good lesson, I guess. And it’s presented with some good creative work, the kind where Jim Scancarelli shows off his drafting skills. It’s also something that hadn’t been an issue. Bear mentioned how he and Boog had saved each other from “school bullies” and “forest fires”. And later mentioned the pair had been in three forest fires since Boog’s birth in 2004. This seems like many forest fires, especially as they have to have come before I started doing these recaps like five years ago. But then Bear goes on to share some of his anti-forest-fire poetry, hammering down a lesson nobody needed to learn. Aubee and Boog hadn’t been doing anything that could start a fire, or even talking about doing anything.

Bear: 'Aubee! A tiny spark can cause a tremendous catastrophe!' Aubee: 'How?' Bear, speaking over a large panel in which the trees of the forest are arranged to spell out the word 'FIRE', itself burning, or are reacting in horror and leaning away from this fire: 'Easy! That tiny spark can start smoldering in a pile of dry leaves! It'll grow big, then bigger, and in minutes it will catch our forest on ... ' and the word balloon leads up to the blazing tree sculpture reading 'FIRE'.
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 21st of September, 2021. I admit I’ve had trouble following the connective tissues between the conversations Aubee’s having with Ferd and Bear. This even though each individual conversation makes sense, and offers chances for good stuff like this second panel. It could be Bear is just someone who figures he’s got to be dispensing life advice, even if there’s no help needed. Kind of a Polonius/Dean Pelton figure. Yeah, maybe that works.

Rain starts, so Aubee and Boog head to their mother’s ranger tower. They forget the leaf collection in the surprise downpour, but not to worry, Bear brings it to them. And talks with their mother some, somehow not warning her about the danger of transporting firewood great distances. (It spreads invasive insects.) This, the 2nd of October, seems to finish that story.


Back home, Hoogy shares that the forest rangers are putting on a Halloween party. They don’t have a spooky enough place for it, though. The kids suggest the Emmons house, fallen into disrepair since the widow Sarah died. And that’s where we are on the new story, started the 4th of October. I look forward to sometime just before Christmas talking about how this Halloween story turned out.

Next Week!

Rather more bees than we had expected visit us in Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail, if all goes to plan. See you there!

Reposted: The 34th Talkartoon: Minnie the Moocher, you know, that one.


So here’s one of the big ones, one of the Talkartoons everybody knows. I talked about it at great length back in 2018 and I can’t think of much to add here. Maybe that I still can’t stop seeing a bit of Homer Simpson in the Cab Calloway Walrus. There’s better thoughts to have.


Today’s Talkartoon is a famous one. One that people might have heard of. Possibly by name; it often lands on the top of lists of all-time great cartoons and certainly of all-time great black-and-white cartoons. Possibly by reputation. It’s got images that define, for many people, the surreal world that pre-color cartoons did all the time. It’s a cartoon for which we have credits. The animators were Willard Bowksy, Ralph Somerville, and Bernard Wolf. Bowsky we’ve seen on (particularly) Swing You Sinners! and Mysterious Mose. Somerville is a new credit. Wolf was on Minding The Baby. From the busy 11th of March, 1932, here’s Minnie the Moocher.

Back around 2000, when the Star Wars prequels were still looked on with optimism, Conan O’Brien visited an animation studio. He played around with the motion-capture gear. They used it to render a particularly silly version of C-3PO. Jerry Beck, then with Cartoon Brew, noted that Conan O’Brien put in a great motion-capture performance. He was a natural, putting in big, expressive movements that turned into compelling animation well.

Before motion-capture there was rotoscoping. The Fleischer Brothers hold the patent, United States patent number 1,242,674, on it. The technique, filming some live-action event and using that to animate a thing, made it possible to draw stuff that moved like real stuff did. If you don’t see what I mean, look at anything animated by Winsor McCay. This line work was always precise and well-detailed and fantastic. Then look at how any object in his cartoons falls down. Yeah.

It got a bad reputation, especially in the 70s, as a way studios would finish animation cheaply. Film a guy doing the thing, and then trace the action, and you’re done. But as with most tools, whether it’s good or not depends on the source material. Use the rotoscope footage to guide the line of action and you get better results. Start from interesting live-action footage and you get interesting results. And here, finally, is my point: this cartoon starts with great live-action footage.

It starts with Cab Calloway and his Orchestra, in what Wikipedia tells me is their earliest known footage. That’s worth watching on its own. Calloway moves with this incredible grace and style, beautiful and smooth. There’s moments I wondered if the film was being slowed or sped up, with the tempo of the film itself changing. Surely not; that sort of trick is easy enough today but would take far too much coordination for an animated feature of 1932. They’re building the short on rotoscoping some awesome footage.

So awesome it barely matters that Betty Boop is in the short. Even less that Bimbo is. There’s a bare thread of a reason for any of this to happen. A hard-to-watch scene of Betty’s father berating her, leavened by the weirdness of her father’s rant turning into a well-played record. And to ramp the weirdness up a bit, her mother changing the record. Betty’s given comfort by inanimate objects around her that she doesn’t notice, then decides to run away from home. She writes a farewell letter, and about 3:06 in draws Koko the Clown out of the inkwell. It’s a cute joke; most of the Koko the Clown cartoons did start with Koko being pulled out out of the inkwell. Koko’s also the figure that the Fleischers first used rotoscoping to animate. They can’t have meant that subtle a joke. It’s enough to suppose they saw someone dipping a pen in an inkwell and referred to that. But it does serve as this accidental bit of foreshadowing of what would happen.

What happens is Cab Calloway, rotoscoped and rendered as a walrus and singing “Minnie the Moocher”, then a brand-new song. Betty and Bimbo spend the song watching the walrus sing and dance. The backgrounds smoothly dissolve between nightmare scenes. Weird little spot gags about skeletons and ghosts and demons and all carry on. Eventually a witch(?) arrives and everybody runs off, possibly chasing Betty back home, possibly running from the witch(?).

(Quick question: why is Bimbo here? He doesn’t do anything besides be scared, and Betty’s already doing that. Is he lending his star power to the short? … Well, I can think of a purpose he serves. There’s a sexual charge in a strange, powerful menacing a lone woman. That the being is a rendition of a black man adds to the sexual charge. That the woman is here depicted as young enough to be living with her parents heightens that further. But having Betty and Bimbo together diffuses that charge. It’s not eliminated, and I think the short benefits from that charge being present. But it leaves the menace more exciting than worrisome. I don’t know that the animators were thinking on that level. It’s enough to suppose they figured the series was a Betty-and-Bimbo thing so of course Bimbo would be there. Betty hasn’t had a solo vehicle yet. I think it’s a choice that makes the short work better though.)

So there’s not much of a plot. And Betty and Bimbo don’t do anything interesting. That’s all right. This short is built on its technical prowess. Cab Calloway’s dancing is this wonderful magical thing. It turns into animation that’s magical. (For the most part. There’s a bit of the walrus chucking ho-de-ho-de-ho at about 6:58 in that my brain insists on reading as Homer Simpson laughing. That’s not this short’s fault and I hope I haven’t infected you with the same problem.)

There’s all the body horror you could want in this short. To me, the creepiest moment is the cat nursing her young; you, take your pick. The joke that I think it’s easiest to blink and miss has a well-established setup. That’s in how Betty, running away from home, rolls up the one thing she plans to keep, her toothbrush. The joke is she tosses it aside before jumping out the window. It’s so quick a thing did you even notice it when you first watched? I don’t spot any mice in the short, which surprises me since they could fit the ghosts-and-spirits styling easily. Maybe they ran out of time.

Statistics Saturday: Even More Promotions For The Coming Month


  • Wicktober. A public-safety month in which we go around to all the candles in our house and make sure each of them still works when lit.
  • Slicktober. Finally our most elaborate scheme comes off without a hitch and it looks effortless.
  • Talktober. “Talk Talk”, by Talk Talk, spends 31 days playing in your head.
  • Yaktober. Don’t let the name fool you; it’s a chance to celebrate all the Warner Siblings.
  • Marktober. Spending all this time getting worried that the spell checker allowed “Marktober” through as a word that it thinks somehow is spelled correctly even though it refuses to help me any with the spelling of Cincinn .. Cinci … Cincinat … that big city in southwestern Ohio where WKRP broadcast from.
  • Smocktober. Unleash the artist within without getting it all over your nice t-shirt!
  • Hawktober. A whole month to try selling other people your wares, perhaps foodstuffs of some manner! Good luck!
  • Woktober. We enjoy great pots of melted cheese that we dip bread into. The name is because “Fonduetober” doesn’t scan.
  • Bricktober. Unleash the chimney-repairman within without getting it all over your nice smock!
  • Socktober. A month that feels as good to take off as it does to put on!
  • Marktober. Trying a second time to spend the month — oh, look, “Marktober” has the same cadence as “Hot Blooded” and now that song’s competing with “Talk Talk”. Sorry.
  • Stoptober. Persons close to you have leave to say what they’re tired of, which is mostly persons close to me, and this whole October promotions thing.

Reference: Enslaved By Ducks, Bob Tarte.

Statistics September: How The Past Month Treated My Humor Blog


Since the month (October) is a third done it’s time I finally got around to looking at how it fared in September. The faring was … fair, about four-fifths of the faring I’d fain see. Page reads, and unique visitors, were down, to the lowest values they’ve had in over a year. I’m sure part of that is that I had to shift into reposting my reviews of Talkartoons, a thing that does not appeal to my key demographic, who is my Dad. I’m sorry for this, but have had to ration my energies and I’ll open up to more new-ish material as I’m able.

There were 4,080 pages viewed around here in September. That’s well below the twelve-month running mean leading up to September of 5,598.3 views per month. The median, a measure of average-ness less fooled by extreme events, was 4,996 for the twelve months ending the 1st of September. So, yeah, that’s a drop. There were 2,119 logged unique visitors, well below the twelve-month running mean of 3,383.4 visitors, or the running median of 3,306.5 visitors.

Bar chart of two and a half year's worth of monthly readership figures. After a great spike in April 2021 the figures have fluttered between 4,000 and 5,000 views per month, with the most recent month dropping to about 4,000.
I guess I did only check near the start of the last minute of September, Greenwich Time. Maybe a couple hundred views came in between 7:59:10 and 7:59:59. It’s too bad there’s no way to know.

Still, the people who came here stayed about as involved as usual, so, thank you, Garrison. There were 133 likes given to posts in September, a figure indistinguishable from the running mean of 137.8 per month or median of 135 per month. And there were 35 comments, below the running mean of 53.1 and median of 45.5, but still. That’s pretty good considering what are people supposed to do, say “No, this isn’t a Betty Boop cartoon”? If that’s important toyou then fine, but it’s not that interesting.

499 specific posts got any page views at all in September. The most popular things posted in September were:

My most popular feature around here is the comic strip plot recaps. You can read all my story strip plot recaps at this tag. My plan for specific strips for the coming month are to cover:


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.
Some month I’m just going to do a post that lists countries that don’t read me and test whether that makes any difference. (It won’t.)

A mere 69 countries or country-like organizations sent me readers in September. 13 of them were single-view countries. Here’s the roster:

Country Readers
United States 2,672
India 196
Canada 172
Brazil 145
Australia 107
Sweden 96
United Kingdom 85
Philippines 81
Spain 49
Germany 48
Norway 39
Italy 38
Finland 27
South Africa 26
Greece 24
Austria 17
Ecuador 16
Ireland 16
Argentina 15
France 15
Malaysia 14
Mexico 13
European Union 12
Russia 12
Thailand 9
Netherlands 8
Belgium 7
Israel 7
New Zealand 7
Romania 7
Singapore 7
Turkey 7
Indonesia 6
Pakistan 6
Guadeloupe 5
Japan 5
Jamaica 4
Poland 4
United Arab Emirates 4
Colombia 3
El Salvador 3
Kenya 3
Nigeria 3
Serbia 3
Switzerland 3
Taiwan 3
Bahrain 2
Bangladesh 2
Bermuda 2
Denmark 2
Guernsey 2
Peru 2
Sri Lanka 2
Ukraine 2
Brunei 1
Czech Republic 1
Egypt 1
Estonia 1
Guatemala 1
Hungary 1
Iceland 1
Malawi 1
Nepal 1
Puerto Rico 1
Slovakia 1
South Korea 1
St. Vincent & Grenadines 1
Uruguay 1
Vietnam 1

None of September’s single-reader countries were also a single-reader country in August. That’s the first clean sweep to happen since August.


WordPress flatters me by claiming I published 31,546 words in September. This is an average of 1,051.5 words per posting and my most loquacious month this year. It’s a fib, of course, the numbers padded by both the MiSTings, with many words I did not write, and the Talkartoons recaps, with many words I wrote years ago. So be it. It brings my total for the year up to 206,571 words posted, with an average 757 words per posting for 2021.

Between the first time humans and monkeys flew into space on the same vehicle (April 1985, aboard the space shuttle Challenger) and the start of October I’ve posted 3,164 things to this blog. They’e drawn 255,108 views from 146,221 unique visitors. WordPress says I have 1,363 followers here, and like you, I don’t believe it.

Still, if you’d like to be the 1,364 follower, I’d be glad to have you. First, try as hard as you can to exist. Then click on the ‘Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile’ sticker in the upper right corner of this page, which adds this to your WordPress Reader. Or if you prefer getting the versions that have all the typos, you can use the panel beneath that to get posts by e-mail. I don’t ever send anything else by e-mail, but I can’t say what WordPress will do with your address.

If you’d like to read these essays in private, you can add the RSS feed for Another Blog, Meanwhile to whatever your news reader is. If you need an RSS reader you can try This Old Reader, for example, 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.

However it is you’re reading me, though, thank you, whether or not you exist.

MiSTed: Safe Fun for Halloween (Part 1 of 4)


I hope you’ve all been enjoying my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction treatment of Carrie L—‘s Reboot fanfic “Breaking the Barriers”. I want to put that on pause, though, to bring you something more seasonal.

“Safe Fun For Halloween” was an essay published in Popular Mechanics 85 years ago. It’s got a staggering variety of activities, all billed as safe, all of which seem to involve electrocuting your friends. So I’m giving you the chance to enjoy these wild and, the magazine insists, safe pranks with homemade electrical-shock devices.

In the early part of the last decade ModernMechanix.com had a regular feature of showcasing odd stuff from old magazines. Sometimes it was fascinating, like 1960s plans for the city of tomorrow. Sometimes it was hilarious, like advertisements for potato-peeling machinery that supposedly would net you money. And sometimes it was an article like this that makes you wonder the heck was going on in 1936 anyway.

I meant this to be a low-key piece, which is why there aren’t even Mads sketches. Just a simple introduction and closing sketch. I published it near the end of the year and got a fair bit of mileage out of using that fact.

The whole of this MiSTing should be available at this link when I post it all>. And if you want to see all of the MiSTings I’ve posted, they’re here. And I’ll get back to “Breaking the Barriers” in November.



[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. The Desk. The decor is “several days past Christmas” with lingering wrapping and such cluttering the set; wrapping paper even covers the movie/commercial sign lights. TOM and CROW are behind the desk; MIKE is off-stage. ]

TOM: [ Eagerly ] Mike! Hey, Mike!

CROW: [ Gleeful ] MikeMikeMikeMikeMikeMikeMike!

TOM: C’mon, Mike, it’s important!


[ MIKE, carrying some plastic electronic gizmo that’s not working, and a screwdriver which will not improve matters, saunters on screen. ]

TOM: Mike! Mi–

MIKE: Yyyyyyes?

CROW: [ Still calling ] MikeMikeMikeMike!

[ MIKE puts a hand on CROW’s shoulder, making him stop. ]

TOM: Okay. Mike —

CROW: [ Quickly ] Mike!

TOM: Have you given any thought *what*soever into plans for our Halloween party for this year?

MIKE: It’s December 29th.

CROW: Exactly! We have to hurry!

MIKE: The 29th day of *December*.

TOM: Yes, yes, your true love gave to you and stuff. But we can’t just stand in an awkward line in front of haphazardly strewn decorations and call that a party.

CROW: [ Calling ] Mike!

MIKE: Two days to New Year’s.

CROW: So, *MIKE*, we called Pearl —

[ MIKE groans. ]

TOM: Yeah! And she promised to send us a bunch of fun ideas!

[ MIKE groans louder. ]

CROW: And, ah, it’s going to be from a _Popular Mechanics_ article from, like, the Great Depression.

[ MIKE covers his head as he groans. ]

TOM: Plus we have to get into the theater and read it when movie sign goes off or else and you know what else that else is or of.

[ MIKE, face-covered, groans and doubles over. ]

CROW: And, ah, Movie Sign went off like five minutes ago so we’re in *real* trouble.

MIKE: What?!

[ MIKE puts the gizmo down and pulls the wrapping paper off the signs, which start flashing MOVIE SIGN. General alarm among the BRAINS. ]

ALL: MOVIE SIGN!

[ 6… ]

[ 5… ]

[ 4… ]

[ 3… ]

[ 2… ]

[ 1… ]

[ THEATER. All file in. ]

MIKE: Haven’t I told you about having ideas without me?

CROW: Well … no.

TOM: You should tell us about it sometime.

> http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2011/10/28/safe-fun-for-halloween/
>
> SAFE FUN for HALLOWEEN (Nov, 1936)

CROW: Halloween in November! The best time of year.

MIKE: December 29th.

>
> Source: Popular Mechanics ( More articles from this issue )

TOM: Well, I hope so.

MIKE: There’s just the one article, thinnest edition they ever printed.

>
> Issue: Nov, 1936

CROW: Halloween ran a month late in 1936 because of the Depression.

MIKE: 29th day of the twelvth month.

>
>
> SAFE FUN for HALLOWEEN

MIKE: New, joy-less fun occupies time while leaving spoilsport parents secure.

>
> UPON arriving, every member of this Halloween party must be
> fingerprinted and “mugged” as regular routine for
> identification records in the archives.

TOM: Well! Already it’s a merry time.

MIKE: Last party I have planned by J Edgar Hoover and Meyer Lanski.

> The newcomer presses
> the thumb of his right hand down on the “ink pad,” for which
> purpose ordinary carbon paper will do.

CROW: Alternatively, ink pads may be used as ink pads.

TOM: Crow, that’s mad talk!

MIKE: You know, they were hard years, we had to make a single ink pad last through four years of Halloween safe fun!

> This is pasted to a
> piece of sheet metal on a small box which contains two dry cells
> and a Ford vibrating coil,

MIKE: A vibrating coil?

TOM: Man, these Model A’s were *kinky*!

> connected together as shown in Figure
> 1.

CROW: Figure omitted for clarity.

> The “guard” presses a push-button switch

TOM: Shouldn’t he *push* a push-button switch and *press* a press-button switch?

> the moment the
> guest touches the carbon paper and has his left hand on the
> table

MIKE: Oh, did I mention you need a table?

> directly over another sheet-metal plate also wired up as
> indicated.

CROW: A table and *another* sheet-metal plate? Man, fun is too complicated, this is why I like boring.

> The result is a sudden shock which is surprising but
> not harmful.

MIKE: B F Skinner sez, “That’s the Halloween for me!”


[ To continue … ]

How Angry Should You Be About the _Crankshaft_ and _Funky Winkerbean_ Stories Not Being Done YET?


I’m not sure if I’m more angry or exhausted by both of Tom Batiuk’s comic strips. In Funky Winkerbean we’re entering the 412th week of a story where Holly Budd Winkerbean tried to do her old flaming-baton-trick at homecoming, only to get injured. Unlike in the classic wacky days of the comic strip, where she’d get set on fire, this time she slipped on the rain-slicked grass. So she’s being treated for all the fun injuries you get when you fall and are 300 years old. That thing where it turns out if you did slapstick in reality it would hurt. Great revelation there.

Meanwhile in Crankshaft a reporter we’ve seen, like, once before is asking the vulture capitalist firm that took over his paper sold off all the assets while laying off all the employees, leaving behind something unable to function. This story of a reporter unaware of what vulture capitalist firms are for is being treated like it’s this era-defining story in which the thing we’ve all known is wrong finally gets a name and a face.

I try and read the comic strips I like, and stop reading the ones I don’t. And I just don’t know how these stories are still going on. I’m having a hard enough time. If they want to do stories I don’t like they can at least get done faster, so we have more of them.

Anyway so, without knowing anything specific about you, I recommend being angry at some level between 4.75 and 5.45. I’d like to think either story will be finished soon. But the ending of any Funky Winkerbean opens a chance for a Les Moore story to start.

In short, harrumph.

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? Why is there time travel now? July – October 2021


The current story in Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy has super-inventor Diet Smith sending machines back in time. It’s presented as the continuation of something he had tried before with humans.

Back in 2017 there was a throwaway mention of Diet Smith experimenting with time travel. Denny Lien was kind enough to explain a bit. Some years before 2017, Diet Smith mentioned working on a time machine to rescue his long-dead genius son Brilliant Smith. Brilliant, inventor of the two-way wrist radio, was killed in 1948 by the racketeer Big Frost. But there was no controlling when the time machine would send you, which limits its use for this sort of rescue operation.

I don’t, and Lien didn’t, know quite when this earlier time travel experimentation was done. I assume it’s something from that period in the 60s when Chester Gould tossed all sorts of wacky sci-fi fangles into the strip. You know, the Space Coupe, the psychic Lunarians and Tracy Junior’s bride from the Moon. The nation that controls magnetism controlling the universe. All of that stuff Gould put in with the assertion it was as much hard science as anything done in a forensics lab, scoring an own goal. But I can’t find when time travel was in the strip before. It could have been one of the antics in the Dick Locher run, for example, when the stories became very weird and impressionist and hard to follow. But it’s hard to think of Locher-era characters as driven by the emotions normal people have.

So this should catch you up on Dick Tracy for early October, 2021. If there’s any news about the comic strip, or you’re reading this after 2022 starts, there may be a more useful essay at this link. I’ll try to have one anyway.

And in mathematics blog news: I have interesting material on my mathematics blog. I’ve started my Little 2021 Mathematics A-to-Z, a glossary of various mathematics terms. The first essay of this year’s set discusses Multiplication.

Dick Tracy.

11 July – 2 October 2021.

Vera Alldid and Mysta Chimera have disappeared, eloping, according to their social media. Everyone agrees it’s unlike them. It threw Alldid’s popular comic strip J Straightedge Trustworthy into unexpected reruns, mid-story. And Mysta Chimera, who’d been doing publicity as the comic strip’s Mars Maid character, had thought Alldid a creep. Still, what are the cops supposed to do about two people vanishing on a story nobody who knows them believes? Look for them?

Tracy: 'I'm familiar with Vera Alldid and his comic strip. We've met on many occasions.' Homer 'Peanutbutter' Barley: Then I'm sure you've seen the news. *Do you believe* he eloped with miss Chimera?' Tracy: 'Not a chance. I know Mysta Chimera very well. She'd never marry him.' Tracy, thinking: 'But it's odd nobody close to her has raised the alarm yet.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 28th of July, 2021. Believe me, I feel weird too wondering why Dick Tracy is showing such restraint in investigating the disappearance. I guess it is better that he’s willing to suppose it isn’t inherently a crime if Mysta Chimera marries someone he doesn’t like.

Homer “Peanutbutter” Barley, a freelance cartoonist and old acquaintance of Dick Tracy, takes action. He points out to Dick Tracy that Mysta Chimera is not actually a Lunarian. She’s the brainwashed, genetically-altered daughter of the quite human crime boss Posie Ermine. Thus she is a missing attractive white woman. With this to go on, the cops swing into action. Tracy checks in with Brock Archival, the last person the missing people were known to meet.

It’s the obvious lead, but it’s a good one, since the wealthy Brock Archival has kidnapped them. He intends to keep them both on his private island, and he’s got the private island — and the ring that neutralizes Chimera’s Lunarian powers — to do it. Alldid shoves them into a secret room when Tracy knocks on the door. Mysta uses her last ounce of strength to blast a telepathic cry for help that Honeymoon Tracy (herself half-Lunarian) picks up. And she relays that to her grandfather.

You might ask: wait, Mysta’s telepathy had been starved by lack of direct sunlight. How can she now have the energy to send out a last blast? Yeah, because if there’s one thing we can’t buy in narratives, it’s the last gasp of an exhausted hero finally making the difference.

Narrator: [ Tracy's search of Archival's home yields silver. ] Tracy, thinking: 'It's some kind of metal object, but it seems to be stuck beside, not under the molding ... A used pen nib! The type Alldid uses to draw with ... now I see ... no caulking and *there's an opening in the wall here*.' Out loud: 'Sam, come here, and bring Archival with you!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 12th of August, 2021. I don’t know how Alldid’s pen nib got stuck there. I don’t see where Alldid planted it on-camera or had an unsupervised moment when he could have off-camera. Still, the pen nib is there, isn’t it?

With something that kind of resembles probable cause if you squint, Tracy asks to inspect Archival’s mansion. And he consents, because how could you find people shoved into a closet? This does give us some actual super-detection. Tracy follows strange scuff marks in the carpet to find one of Alldid’s drawing pen nibs. From there he finds the secret room holding Alldid and Chimera. Archival fumes that Tracy can’t possibly prove a kidnapping charge and Chimera kicks him in the Great Hall.

So, the 20th of August, this story resolves. Alldid gets back to his studio to draw comics. Chimera gets home again. The powers-controlling ring gets handed to Diet Smith because when would he ever do something ill-advised or dangerous with super-technology?


The next and current story got seriously under way the 21st of August, although it had a teaser a few weeks earlier. This debuts Diet Smith’s newest creation, the Time Drone. It’s a drone, like you might fly over the park and record video with, except it travels through time and space too.

Hooded woman, wearing a Queen of Spades card: 'Stealing the time drone won't be easy. Dick Tracy's a close friend of Diet Smith. He always shows up when Smith's tech is threatened.' Ace of Spades: 'I have plans for Dick Tracy. There will be plenty to keep him busy.' Queen: 'And what about your friends in the Apparatus?' Ace: '*What* friends?'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 8th of September, 2021. I suppose as long as they keep looking around and not seeing a Time Drone pop into the room gathering evidence they can feel confident their plan is working.

Smith’s got a few videos. Dick Tracy’s iconic villain Flattop. The building of the Great Pyramid of Giza. He sends one to Ford’s Theater to catch a show. Another to see Washington’s Inauguration. The “treasure pit” at Oak Island, Nova Scotia. He announces this to the public, and the Ace of Spades, new head of The Apparatus crime syndicate, sees opportunity.

We don’t know his plans. From the 9th of September we got a short diversion, Dick Tracy talking with Briar Rose of Law Enforcement Magazine. Tracy tells the story of how the murder of Tess Trueheart’s father spurred him to move from patrolman to detective. How the city attracted newer and weirder criminals. How Tracy stepped up to become the super-scientific detective of world renown. It all smacks of an anniversary celebration, and it’s curiously timed: the comic strip debuted on the 4th of October, 1931. I’m not sure why this sequence ran a few weeks early except perhaps to get us fans talking about it early?

Tracy: 'I'm glad to tell you what I know of our precinct's history, Miss Rose. It won't be dull, I promise.' Rose: 'Thank you, Detective Tracy.' Tracy: 'This precinct was established during the era when gang bosses, made rich and powerful by Prohibition, reigned over the city with little fear of consequence.' Rose: 'My! How wild and woolly were those days?' Tracy: 'The lives of ordinary citizens were often in peril. It wasn't unusual for gun battles to be fought on city streets. Some of the older buildings still have bullet holes. In fact, it was during a robbery that my fiancee's father was shot and killed.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 12th of September, 2021. This particular strip comes up to but doesn’t quite force us to accept that Tess’s father’s murder was in the Prohibition era (for us readers it was in 1931). Look at precisely what’s said. So that’s a fair squaring of the circle that these characters don’t (much) age without retconning events to have happened later than they appeared in the newspapers.

And then one more story promising to start. Blackjack broke out of prison. Someone stole his collection of autographed Dick Tracy memorabilia and he intends to do something about it.

Not particularly threatening to be a story: Rikki Mortis is pregnant with Abner Kadaver’s child. So there’s the hope for a new generation of horror movie hosts to be Dick Tracy villains.

How does the Time Drone fit into Blackjack’s plans? I don’t know. They might not at all. Staton and Curtis are comfortable introducing something they don’t follow up for months. Sometimes years. Several years ago B O Plenty complained that his house was haunted. Could that be the Time Drone which we saw used to take photographs of the whole entire family? I’m not confident saying it is. We’ll have to check back in a couple months.

Next Week!

Bears discover fire, and they don’t approve. All that and leaf-gathering as as I recap Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley, if things go well.

Reposted: The 33rd Talkartoon: The Robot, surely Not A Time-Traveller’s Prankish Insertion To History


I’d wanted to do my statistics recap, looking at readership through September. And then stuff got in the way, so please instead consider another look at an oddly anachronistic Betty Boop cartoon. It’s not just in having a robot, it’s in how it seems like a Bimbo cartoon from six or even twelve months earlier. Still neat to see, though.


I have to apologize a bit for today’s Talkartoon. Not for the content; for the presentation. I can’t find it on archive.org. I’ve found it on YouTube, and that looks good, but the link might expire when I’m not looking. If you’re reading this sometime in the future and find that it has, please let me know and I’ll try to fix things. Might even be on archive.org by then.

The cartoon was released the 5th of February, 1932, just a couple weeks after Boop-Oop-A-Doop. There’s no credits for the animators; not even guesses. It’s the last Talkartoon we can say that about.

The cartoon feels anachronistic. For the first time in ages Bimbo’s got the starring role. And he’s got his older, more screwball-character model design. Betty Boop — well, is Betty Boop even in this one? The cartoon was included in the Complete Betty Boop Collection videotapes in the 90s, but on what grounds? She isn’t named, and she doesn’t look much like Betty Boop. Mostly; there’s the scene where she comes out of the circus tent about 4:50 in where she’s basically on model. She looks closer to the possibly proto-Betty-Boop who figured in Grand Uproar or Teacher’s Pest. And there are a lot of scenes where the camera puts the scene in a circle surrounded by black. Sometimes this irises out to a whole scene. It’s a common technique for cutting between scenes or setting focus that silent movies (cartoons and live-action) used all the time. It faded out with the coming of sound, for reasons I’m not sure about. Here it’s everywhere. Given all this I wonder if the cartoon wasn’t made months, maybe a year, earlier and not released until later on.

Oh yeah also it’s about Bimbo’s Robot. In 1932. If that weren’t bizarre enough the cartoon opens with Bimbo’s television. It’s common enough these days to tell stories about stuff that hasn’t been invented yet. It’s startling to realize they were telling stories about stuff that wasn’t yet invented that long ago. Yes, yes, there were experimental television rigs that could transmit upwards of four blurry lines of a Felix the Cat clock back then. It was still a thing for the imagination, not something everyday people could experience. It was a thing of the future, the way robots were too.

Well, since Bimbo wears his car to go boxing it’s more of a mecha than a robot properly. But the concept was still in rapid flux back then. They wouldn’t even discover how to pronounce “robot” so it doesn’t sound weird until 1964.

Despite the screwball-character model Bimbo isn’t a nutty character here, no more than any inventor in a cartoon is. It’s made up for by the story being an actual, successfully formed story. There’s clear motivation for everything Bimbo does, and it builds to a climax that makes sense. It’s a surprisingly non-zany cartoon, but it’s well-crafted.

I can’t say there are any jokes you’re likely to miss by blinking. The horse on top of Bimbo’s invention shack is good but it’s not much of a joke per se; it’s just atmospheric weirdness. Nor are there any real body horror jokes. I can’t figure out what’s going on at about 1:50; I think maybe a dart going through a fanciful heart got cut off by the framing? There’s some good camera work, when the car goes weaving all over the road and when Bimbo’s Robot gets punched high up above the ring. A mouse finally turns up ringing the bell about 4:25 in, and similarly later, and waving a flag during the parade at the end. And I get a good solid laugh from the referee cat’s fast count-out of One-Round Mike.

It’s overall a rather solid showing for Bimbo, who for a wonder gets to lead the flow of action. And for the cartoon, which sets up its premise and develops it without unmotivated weirdness. This might be the one flaw of the cartoon, in that there isn’t a baffling side to it. I’m sorry there’s not information available on who wrote or animated the cartoon. The cartoon shows a plotting skill that is uncommon for Fleischer cartoons of the era. One more anachronism.

Reposted: The 32nd Talkartoon: Boop-Oop-A-Doop, At Last


When I reviewed this I couldn’t identify a blink-and-you-miss-it gag. I think I’ve spotted one, though. As lion tamer Betty Boop cracks her whip at the lions, there’s one moment where the whip grows a hand that snaps at the lion. That’s a cute, silly little thing. And I seem not to have noticed it before. As the subject line suggests, my thesis is that this is finally a fully-formed Betty Boop cartoon, with all the elements in place and working together. But that includes sexual assault, done with more explicitness than usual. Please be advised if you don’t need that in your recreational reading.


It’s another Talkartoon without animation credits. There’s one more, after this, for which we don’t know or have a strong idea who the animators were. And it’s a shame (as it always is) to not know, since this is a cartoon with several noteworthy claims to historic interest. It also needs a content warning. There’s a lot of Betty Boop cartoons with sexual assault as subtext. This time around it’s pretty text. If you duck out at about 5:40 you can avoid the whole thing.

Also I apologize that the archive.org version is so badly pixellated. There’s a much clearer version on YouTube, but I am not at all confident that’s an archival-quality URL. At least for right now here’s a much cleaner version.

So this was the second Talkartoon of January 1932, coming out on the 16th. And it’s of historic significance. It’s the first appearance of the title song “Sweet Betty”, Betty Boop’s theme. I believe it’s the first time we get Betty Boop’s name shown on-screen. And we’ve finally got a very clear example of the Betty Boop Template Cartoon. It’s several minutes of puttering around with spot gags and little jokes, and then the Big Bad, with lust in his eyes and cutaway x-ray of his heart, tries to abduct Betty Boop, until her more desirable suitors pursue and vanquish him.

To my tastes the first part of the cartoon is the best. A circus offers plenty of room for little jokes. And for great dramatic angles. I like the severe angle for the high-diving act, but one could argue that’s the only shot that would make the joke read at all. The angle for the lion sneaking up on Betty is a more free choice, and it’s a great one, very nicely heightening the sense of danger.

That’s also the completely plotless part, though. Not that any of the jokes are bad. Just there’s no reason they have to be in this or any other order, and none of them build to anything. My favorite would be the fat girl who grows and shrinks with each cycle of an air pump. You take your pick. All the jokes are established well enough I don’t think there is a real blink-and-you-miss-it joke. Maybe I blinked and missed it. The closest would be that the bearded lady’s beard is growing so fast that her helper is cutting it every beat. There are some suspicious-looking mice, appearing about 1:12 in as the Tall Man falls apart. (If you don’t recognize what’s going on with the elephant and Koko the Clown, it’s this: the elephant has a giant inkwell on his back. The elephant pokes his trunk into the inkwell and squirts out a drop that turns into Koko, an imitation of how silent-era Koko the Clown shorts started.)

So this time around Koko the Clown takes billing above Bimbo. Bimbo appears, he just doesn’t get billing. He gets a decent runner of a joke, as the peanut vendor. And gets to have Aloysius, it looks to me, as target for his vending. The choice seems odd. If you don’t recognize Aloysius then it’s just an odd choice to cast an infant in a role that any character could do. But if you do recognize Aloysius as Bimbo’s little brother then it’s a really odd choice to cast him in a role that any character could do.

And after five and a half minutes of amiable small jokes the plot kicks in. The ringmaster’s heart grows lusty and he — you know, as the template plot develops it gets less explicit. You get a big bully-type character who just abducts Betty Boop. Coming into her tent and asking if she likes her job? That’s a little raw. It’s a relief that Betty Boop seems to be adequately fighting him off. Also that Koko leaps in to her defense. I’m amused that he gets kicked right back out five times over, and he’s only able to successfully fight off the ringmaster by fighting ridiculously, with a big ol’ hammer.

Betty Boop sings “Don’t Take My Boop-Oop-A-Doop Away”, one of the enormously many catchy little tunes that Sammy Timberg wrote for the Fleischer Studios and, later, Famous Studios. The most-used of them has to be “It’s A Hap-Hap-Happy Day”, which you can hear in the introductory scene on ever Famous Studios cartoon from 1940 to 1966. And I know what you’re thinking but no, “I’m Popeye The Sailor Man” was written by a completely different Sammy working for Fleischer Studios. Sammy Lerner.

It’s the first cartoon with “Don’t Take My Boop-Oop-A-Doop Away”. It’s not the first time Betty Boop’s sung it, though. Because, but good grief, on the 26th of December, 1931, Paramount dropped a live-action short starring Rudy Vallee. In Musical Justice Rudy Vallee and his band are the judge and jury at the Court of Musical Justice. It’s one of a peculiar genre of shorts from back in that day. In this genre, modern music is held up as this terrible stuff that’s degrading society and all that. But it’s argued, successfully, that this stuff isn’t really bad. Sometimes there’s an argument that modern music reflects classic rules of composition and all. Sometimes even that it uses bits of Great Music.

Anyway, so, in Musical Justice Betty Boop, played by Mae Questel for what I think was the first time, pleads for Judge Rudy Vallee and the jury the Connecticut Yankees to let her go on singing heartfelt lines like “Boop-oop-a-doop”. I think the song gets a couple more uses, but not so many. That’s all right. It’ll stick in your head already.

Statistics Saturday: Some More Promotions For The Coming Month


  • Roctober. Once more, you’d think self-explanatory: we’re all great birds the size of an island. Gets crowded.
  • Snacktober. So many potato sticks. Just soooo maaaaannnny.
  • Jocktober. We all get to use our silliest fake French accent. (Should be Jacquestober.)
  • Mawktober. The month where we most don’t respond to emotional manipulation.
  • Voxtober. The voice of the month!
  • Brachtober. Finally we get to enjoy some hard candies.
  • Oc-tube-er. The month when you finally finish that project with all the cathode-ray-tube television sets.
  • Oc-tube-er. The rival month when you finally finish that project with all the potatoes.
  • Sticktober. Our month for appreciating adhesives of all kind. May last through the 5th of November if the drop cloth doesn’t work.
  • Stacktober. A chance to put things on top of many other things.
  • Barktober. We ensconce ourselves in a pleasant, cozy skin of growing wood.
  • Tictactober. We’re not getting out until we’ve played all the tic-tac-toe.

Reference: Gilded City: Scandal and Sensation In Turn-Of-The-Century New York, M H Dunlop.

TCM is showing a bunch of Fleischer Cartoons Saturday


I apologize for not providing more notice, but I only learned about this today. A few months ago TCM redesigned their web site so it’s harder to find stuff on the schedule, and it takes longer to load, and you need to do more clicks to find any information, and less of it is on-screen at once. I’m sure it is helping them drive engagement, though not with me.

The important thing, however, is that on Saturday the 2nd of October, from 8 pm through Midnight, Eastern/Pacific, they’re showing some Fleischer Studios work. They have listed the “Cartoon Carnival”, “100th Anniversary of Fleischer Animation – Part 1: The Silent Era”, and “100th Anniversary of Fleischer Animation – Part 1: The Silent Era”. (This on the United States feed.) The pages offer no specifics about what they’re showing. I assume the first is a documentary and then it’s a selection of cartoons from the 20s and 30s respectively. The Fleischers were a wild studio, reliably on the leading edge of technical ability. They were usually in the forefront of, if not character, at least having funny incidents. I’ve got the DVR set.

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