## 60s Popeye: Me Quest For Poopdeck Pappy (how does he keep getting lost?)

We’ve seen Poopdeck Pappy in shorts from at least three of the King Features Syndicate cartoon makers. But, you know, it was 1960. It was time for Seymour Kneitel to write, direct, and produce Me Quest For Poopdeck Pappy. Here goes.

Is there a more iconic Popeye story than his search for his Pappy? (Bluto/Brutus harasses Olive Oyl until Popeye punches him is any 30s-cartoon Bully harasses Female Lead until Little Guy fights back short.) In the comic strip, it was one of the stories that defined his character. For the Fleischer studios it became Goonland, one of the best theatrical cartoons ever made. (One semester campus cinema put a short before every movie. Usually Road Runner-and-Coyote; it was an engineering school. But one time they showed Goonland. I recommend the experience of watching it with an audience that has no idea what’s coming or how Popeye and Pappy will escape the Goons.)

For Famous Studios it got remade as Popeye’s Pappy, a cartoon you probably don’t know because Famous Studios decided to make it racist.  So it didn’t get shown much on television. (Who looks at Goonland and thinks “what this cartoon lacks is a two minute prologue of Whoopi Goldberg saying times were different then”?)  Then Paramount Cartoon Studios — the same outfit as Famous and Fleischer, really — put in one more take. And elements of the same core idea would go into Robert Altman’s movie. And into the 2004 direct-to-video-that-I-never-saw Popeye’s Voyage: The Quest For Pappy.

It’s easy to see why to keep going back to this story. The inciting incident of Popeye learning he might not be an orphan, is compelling. The dynamic of Popeye utterly devoted to a father he’s only ever imagined, and Pappy utterly contemptuous of his son? “I hates relatives,” Pappy declares in I think every version of this story. The setup alone generates comedy and drama. In this cartoon Pappy concedes that Popeye can take it, like his son would, when Popeye absorbs a fist straight to the jaw. “But my son woulda hit back,” which Popeye finds unthinkable. That is a master class in defining two people and their relationship. Pappy is a hilarious character, a caricature of Popeye that somehow still has some believable core. Pappy’s heel-face turn, bonding with his son over spinach and punching, is silly but makes such good character sense that it works every time. So the core story is so strong it’s hard to imagine anyone messing it up.

That isn’t a setup to saying this messed it up. The cartoon is lesser than Goonland, but, c’mon. Goonland is one of the best theatrical shorts American animation ever made.

The most relevant comparison is to Popeye’s Pappy. Me Quest For Poopdeck Pappy is almost what you get if you remove all the racist depictions of cannibal islanders from that. The role that Olive Oyl and Swee’Pea serve here, letting Popeye explain the premise of the cartoon, is served in Popeye’s Pappy by Popeye’s mother (!)(!!!)(!!!!!) in what is surprisingly not her only depiction ever. They then disappear wholly. Goonland has Popeye explain the premise in song, to himself and the audience. I’m curious why the later shorts aren’t comfortable with Popeye addressing the audience.

As with Popeye’s Pappy we see Popeye face the creatures of the island, all of them powerful and menacing, though not to Popeye. Pappy even sends Charlie the Octopus, an animal friend of his from the original comic strip story. (In Robert Altman’s movie I think the octopus was named Sam and his connection to Pappy was vague.) Pappy’s on “Goony Island” this time, a name that evokes Goonland, but there’s no Goons to be found. The Monster of the Sea is such a big, if pink Godzilla-esque, menace that Popeye can’t handle it without the spinach that’s rolled away. But that’s the impulse for Pappy’s change of heart here. And, as in Goonland, he observes he hasn’t had spinach in years. In Popeye’s Pappy, Pappy has a can of spinach with him all along. It’s kept inside a box with a ‘Break Glass In Emergency’ sign, a joke that belongs in a more watchable cartoon.

As every version of this story ends (that I’ve seen), Popeye’s reunited with his Pappy. And his disregard for Pappy’s autonomy — in this, Popeye’s Pappy, and the movie Pappy ruled his own island and seemed content there — is forgiven. Even by Pappy, who (as in Popeye’s Pappy) closes by singing how “Now I am happy / I found I’m the Pappy” of Popeye the Sailor Man.

As a cartoon? Well, this is limited by the things that always hit Paramount Cartoon Studios work. There’s too little variation in tempo to build up the drama to things. (Though the timing on the gorilla passing out after Popeye’s hit is quite good.) But it does have Paramount’s reliable competent animation. Everything’s fit together well. There are even flourishes of style. (Olive Oyl poses against the mast of Popeye’s ship in a pose like she uses in the two-reeler Popeye The Sailor Meets Sindbad The Sailor. There’s no need for her to do that, even so far as there’s a need for her in the short at all, but why not be there with style?) If this short had some zany energy to it, then the strength of the story and of Popeye-Pappy interactions, would make this a really good one.

## Statistics Saturday: Major Bodies of the Solar System in Alphabetic Order, Which Upsets Me Somehow

1. Earth
2. Jupiter
3. Mars
4. Mercury
5. Moon
6. Neptune
7. Pluto
8. Saturn
9. Sun
10. Uranus
11. Venus

Right? There’s something about that which doesn’t look right? It’s not just me?

Reference: Twinkie, Deconstructed, Steve Ettlinger.

## Statistics 2021: At Last, How The Old Year Liked Me Writing About _The Phantom_

I have not been avoiding a check back on the past year, to see what WordPress figures my readership was like. I simply have had that thing happen where I get up, have lunch, do three things, and then it’s 11 pm. You may have noticed this in your own lives, depending on when you have lunch.

WordPress figures there were 60,665 pages viewed here in all of 2021. That’s the largest number of page views I’ve gotten any year, to date. These views came from 36,061 unique visitors, as WordPress counts visitors. That, too, is the largest number of unique visitors I’ve gotten in a year. I owe it all to talking about comic strips.

As measures of engagement go? 2021 saw some rises here. There were 1,772 things liked during the year, well above 2020 and my highest count since 2018. And there were 700 comments, not just a nice round number but more than 2019 and 2020 gave me combined. (2018, again, was higher still, but 2018 was a better year for most people than 2021 was.) I owe it all to talking about comic strips.

I mean that last with typical literalness. The five most popular things I posted in 2021 were:

I would be nowhere if people weren’t curious about The Phantom.

My most popular piece that wasn’t about comic strips was 60s Popeye: Myskery Melody, a cartoon people have been asking for. This is also gratifying. The 60s cartoons are not regarded as important even to fans of Popeye. I’m glad to know that there are people who’ll pay attention if you give serious consideration to the pop-culture footnotes.

My most popular piece not tied to a review or recap was A question created when I was looking up _The Odd Couple_, a serendipitous event. I’ve been reading an early-90s encyclopedia of cartoon animals and yesterday came across its entry about The Oddball Couple, the cartoon I can’t believe existed. Even this independent evidence of its existence doesn’t convince me.

I went all 2021 without doing any original long-form essays. In its place was Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction. The most popular piece of that was MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Raccoon, Chapter XIX. I don’t know how that of all the chapters got the top

I don’t know how long I’ll go on posting MiSTings. They offer the considerable advantage that I know how to write them when I don’t feel much like writing. But all the Mystery Science Theater 3000 stuff I gather at this link. And the thing everyone really wants from me, the story strip recaps, are all gathered at this link. There are also individual links for all the story strips, by title. The Phantom is here, and the other ten story strips I’m still covering have their own tags. Yes, I’m also bothered by how Wilbur Weston returned home in Mary Worth today.

There were 157 countries or things as good as countries to send me some page views in all 2021. Here’s the roster as WordPress makes them out:

United States 42,643
India 2,412
United Kingdom 1,755
Australia 1,413
Germany 1,022
Philippines 853
Brazil 762
Sweden 438
Italy 437
Spain 414
Finland 351
France 346
South Africa 328
Ireland 242
Norway 224
Mexico 213
Japan 210
Malaysia 182
Indonesia 176
Greece 168
Netherlands 159
Romania 144
Singapore 128
Denmark 127
Austria 124
New Zealand 121
Portugal 117
Thailand 105
Nigeria 96
European Union 92
Argentina 91
Peru 90
Russia 87
Switzerland 87
Turkey 87
United Arab Emirates 80
South Korea 77
Poland 73
Sri Lanka 70
Saudi Arabia 65
Israel 63
Belgium 62
Kuwait 61
Chile 59
Colombia 55
Hong Kong SAR China 55
Egypt 53
Serbia 53
Taiwan 53
Jamaica 46
Oman 46
Puerto Rico 46
Hungary 41
Pakistan 41
Czech Republic 40
Kenya 35
Latvia 34
Lebanon 31
Vietnam 28
Croatia 27
Ukraine 24
Jordan 23
Bulgaria 21
Iceland 20
Macedonia 19
Qatar 19
China 18
Venezuela 17
Iraq 16
Costa Rica 15
Georgia 15
Paraguay 14
Bahrain 13
Lithuania 13
Montenegro 13
Malta 12
Slovakia 10
Bosnia & Herzegovina 9
Mauritius 9
Albania 8
Algeria 8
Bahamas 8
Belarus 8
Morocco 8
Cayman Islands 7
Estonia 7
Fiji 7
French Guiana 7
Macau SAR China 7
Nepal 7
Papua New Guinea 7
Cambodia 6
Guatemala 6
Panama 6
Zimbabwe 6
Belize 5
Dominican Republic 5
Libya 5
Mongolia 5
Slovenia 5
Uruguay 5
American Samoa 4
Bolivia 4
Brunei 4
Cape Verde 4
Guam 4
Guernsey 4
Maldives 4
St. Lucia 4
Tunisia 4
Cyprus 3
Honduras 3
Namibia 3
Sudan 3
Tanzania 3
Bermuda 2
Burundi 2
Cameroon 2
Guyana 2
Isle of Man 2
Moldova 2
Senegal 2
Uzbekistan 2
Åland Islands 1
Armenia 1
Azerbaijan 1
Bhutan 1
Botswana 1
Cook Islands 1
Côte d’Ivoire 1
Cuba 1
Dominica 1
Ethiopia 1
Ghana 1
Jersey 1
Kyrgyzstan 1
Liberia 1
Liechtenstein 1
Luxembourg 1
Malawi 1
Mauritania 1
Nicaragua 1
Palestinian Territories 1
Sint Maarten 1
Somalia 1
St. Martin 1
U.S. Virgin Islands 1
Uganda 1

I had no page views from the Vatican in 2021. I’m less surprised by that than I am by having had one page view from the Vatican on my mathematics blog. They have to have better things to worry about than what the current story in Gil Thorp is.

WordPress figures I posted a total of 269,360 words in 2021, for an average of 738 words per posting. That’s my most verbose year on record, which reflects how much bulk goes into the various MiSTings. Each post got, on average, 4.5 likes and 2.2 comments.

If you’d like to follow Another Blog, Meanwhile, it’s easy enough to do. There’s a button labelled “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” in the upper right corner of the page. You can also subscribe for e-mail delivery of articles at they post. I do nothing with the e-mail address besides have the WordPress Corporation send them out. I can’t say what else the WordPress Corporation does with them. If you have an RSS reader, you can use the feed https://nebushumor.wordpress.com/feed and read without showing up in my statistics.

Whatever way you read, though, I appreciate your doing. Thank you and I hope all’s going okay for you.

## MiSTed: JSH: So They Lied (Part 3 of 3)

And now let me wrap up my Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of James S Harris’s Usenet rant, “So They Lied”. When I split this piece up for easier reading, I thought this last piece was longer than it was. In word count it’s about the same as the first two segments. This may be some lesson about how the back-and-forth of text and riffing will seem different from the dialogue of host sketches.

At one point one of the sci.math regulars, trying to give James Harris every possible benefit, tried to use his revolutionary new factoring method as it existed that month (it saw many, many revisions) to decompose 15 into 3 times 5. The proof went on and on and on, and bringing in bigger and bigger numbers, and not showing any hints of producing a ‘3’ or a ‘5’ from all this. It’s the only time I have ever seen factoring numbers be laugh-out-loud funny. Mr Harris did not see the humor.

When I wrote this it was a safe bet that the Cubs would lose in excruciating ways. We’ve lost all our traditions lately. Bobo factoring large numbers in his head is another expression of my liking dumb characters having weird corners of hypercompetence. (And I remember doing some fishing around looking for a good prime number somewhere in the millions. The other numbers I think I found by taking some small prime numbers and multiplying them together.) I feel like Pearl’s fuming and then finally doing nothing more than throwing some papers around is a reference to something, but I can’t think what. The little “closing credits” line about the alien soccer tournament certainly refers to something, but I don’t remember if it was an in-joke with my friends or something that could possibly communicate.

>
> Is life really not fair, or are most people cowards to the truth?

MIKE: Uhm … I say ‘not fair’.

TOM: I say ‘coward’.

CROW: ‘Coward’, definitely.

TOM: Make mine ‘not fair’.

MIKE: I want to change to ‘coward’ now.

CROW: Maybe it is just ‘not fair’.

TOM: I’m gonna write in ‘The Beatles’.

>
> A person like me comes around only every hundred years or so,

> and
> people forget.
>
> And then a LOT of people die,

MIKE: So World War I was started by the mathematicians?

> and then the mythologies are written,

> legends are born.

MIKE: Right.

CROW: Yeah, I remember this one mathematician who … uhm …

>
> But make no mistake, you might be one of those people who die THIS
> time.

MIKE: But *only* if you finish your chores.

>
> I suggest to you that even if you don’t give a damn about mathematics,

CROW: Give a *darn*, thank you.

> couldn’t care less about what is truth, why should you protect fakes
> who have betrayed you, yet again,

MIKE: Maybe you like the fakes. Some of them have great parties.

CROW: I love those parties. You know, “Isn’t everyone here so really?”

> and in their inability to understand
> and their lack of intelligence, they leave the world vulnerable,

MIKE: The world is just feeling very fragile right this minute.

> because this time, to stop this post, all they had to do was step
> up–and protect the world?

CROW: Step right up! Protect three worlds for a nickel!

>
> TODAY they could have stepped up to protect the world.

MIKE: Tomorrow, they could step up to protect Neptune.

>
> Die for them?

CROW: Who?

>
> Why?

TOM: Good question.

>
> And even if you won’t die, why let anyone else?

CROW: Strap a mathematician into a protective baby seat!

>

MIKE: So it’s a good thing you asked them what quiet sounded like.

>
> Yes, they lied. They betrayed the world. And they lost.

TOM: But they’ve got a pocket full of quarters and can play all day.

>
> Question now is, who loses with them?

MIKE: I’m guessing the Cubs.

>
> James Harris

MIKE: Or yeah, he’ll do too.

[ ALL exit. ]

[ 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. TOM SERVO, MIKE, and CROW are filling out a form. ]

MIKE: All right, so, who was running the world according to that?

TOM: Uh … I don’t know … mathematicians were running mathematics?

MIKE: [ Writing ] And what was their objective?

CROW: We don’t have any idea.

MIKE: [ Still writing ] Don’t … have … idea. Method of ruling the world?

CROW: Something to do with prime numbers.

MIKE: Prime … numbers. Likelihood of success?

TOM: We have no idea what that was all about.

MIKE: … Was … all … about. Okay, Pearl, good luck with your world conquest through prime numbers.

[ CASTLE FORRESTER. PROFESSOR BOBO and OBSERVER are working as above; PEARL is in front, by the camera. After a pause OBSERVER does that brain-wave thing, and MIKE’s report pops into her hand. ]

PEARL: Excellent! And when we take over this … cabal … we’ll be able to … uh … factorize numbers like … twenty-eight thousand, eight hundred fifty eight in —

BOBO: [ Without looking up ] Two times forty-seven times three hundred seven.

PEARL: [ Slighty thrown ] Or … one million, five hundred thirty-one thousand, one hundred twelve …

BOBO: Two to the third power times eleven times one hundred twenty-seven times one hundred thirty-seven.

PEARL: [ Challenging ] 89 thousand, one hundred seventy-five.

BOBO: [ Finally looking at her ] Three times five squared times twenty-nine times forty-one.

PEARL: [ Testy ] Nine million … three hundred eighty six thousand … seven hundred thirty-one.

[ PEARL stares at BOBO. OBSERVER slips his pile of papers onto BOBO’s table while she fumes, and then slips away. After letting her temper build, PEARL grabs all the papers on BOBO’s table and throws them in the air, creating a flurry of sheets of paper. ]

PEARL: [ Turning to the camera; oddly pleasant ] Thanks for the help.
We’ll be in touch over the holiday season.

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

Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the characters and situations therein are the property of Best Brains, Inc, so kindly nobody tell them about this and we’ll all be better off. The essay “So They Lied” is the property of James S Harris as posted to sci.math. This MiSTing as a whole is the property of Joseph Nebus, who doesn’t intend anything mean-spirited or hostile to James Harris, Brad Guth, Best Brains, or the concept of Mystery Science Theater 3000. If they just won the alien soccer tournament, they’re going to be too tired to fly all the way to Earth just for dessert toppings. Please come back, Dr Mike Neylon!

> Now I have found a new factoring method.
>
> Literally trillions of dollars WILL move as a result, but for now, you
> can see the quiet as these people keep lying.

[ The end ]

## The Search for Enlightenment

I replaced the small warp reactor in our bedroom light and it started producing plenty of light. Then it stopped, when it wasn’t supposed to, when my love tried to turn the light on. Since the old warp reactor had gone about twenty years without needing replacement we didn’t like how this new one lasted about fourteen minutes. The next day I started taking the cover off the fixture and the light snapped back on, and behaved, switching on and off like it should. So that was fine until my love tried to turn the light on, and it wouldn’t do the going-on part. When I went to deal with that, it was working again.

So this has added something I’d been missing in my light switches: schtick.

## What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? How many ritual responsibilities does The Phantom have? October 2021 – January 2022

I’m not deeply versed in all 85 years of The Phantom‘s lore. I’m just a more-than-casual reader. By my estimate he’s got about 412 days a year that he needs to attend some part of some ritual event. One of these rituals started off the current Sunday strip storyline. In the 1950s daily strips Comics Kingdom runs as a vintage repeat, he’s just wrapping up an annual wrestling tournament to rule the jungle. In the 1960s Sunday strip vintage run, he’s been working out why someone sneaks a rattle into the Skull Cave on the same day every year. Man’s got a schedule.

So this should catch you up on Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom Sunday continuity to late January 2022. If you’re interested in the weekday continuity, or you’re reading this after about April 2022, a more up-do-date essay should be at this link.

# The Phantom (Sundays).

## 31 October 2021 – 23 January 2022.

“The Ingenues” began the 17th of October, just before my last plot recap. The Phantom visited the Mori village to go along with a crew of Mori youth testing their boating skills, a rite of passage.

Nayo and Abeo, two young women, appeal to the Ghost Who Walks for help. They want to go on the sea voyage also. At least to have some rite of passage into womanhood. The Phantom tries to avoid committing himself on the question of changing the rites of passage. We do see him talking with the young King who’s up for letting girls into the seafaring challenge. But the King doesn’t feel he can pick this fight with the Elders yet. (Saying that the Mori have to decide what it means to be Mori shows The Phantom walking back from the colonialism baked into the strip’s premise. It’s an imperfect declaration. Laconic neutrality about a question of social change is a vote for the status quo. But one of the appealing things about The Phantom is he does mis-step sometimes.)

Feeling, reasonably, rejected, Nayo and Abeo take to their backup plan for adventure. That’s a journey from the Mori village to the Bangallan capital of Mawitaan. They set out with some family good-luck charms, these pendants showing four crossed swords. They’re the Good Mark Necklaces, tokens The Phantom gives to mark people who did exceptional favors.

In Mawitaan, Heloise Walker notices them, as Mori villagers don’t go to the city. She tries to ask them if they’re lost or in trouble, but only knows Mori well enough to confuse everyone. They notice she wears the same medallion, though. (Kadia also notices this, but she doesn’t yet know the significance of those medallions.)

When The Phantom gets back from sea he checks up on the runaways. For the most part, the town isn’t sure what to make of them. They’re weird in that way cities attract beloved weird folks. So that could be going very nicely … except, we saw this past week, a trafficker figuring two young women “fresh off the Mori coast” would be quite desirable. And this is where we stand, near the end of January in the Sunday strips.

#### Next Week!

Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. addresses the thing most pressing on the minds of everyone enduring the third year of a public health crisis that’s shown the collapse of western governance: might these cartoon dogs be unoriginal intellectual property? All this and more in a week, if things go well.

## The light upstairs

I wanted to get to other stuff but we had a problem with the bedroom light. It was still working, but it had dimmed to the point that the room got brighter when we turned it off. This brought about a heck of a confusion at bedtime, I can tell you. So we examined it and it turns out our bedroom light fixture has that sort of small warp reactor that had been in our kitchen. I’d like to think our experience will help with the matter but I’ve got enough experience to know my experience never helps my experiences … … I’m sorry, I got lost there.

The important thing is knowing there was a decaying warp reactor in there. I bet it was leaking spacetime all over us, which I bet is why the closet is too small and why a full night’s sleep doesn’t leave us any less tired. I’m looking forward to how replacing it will fix everything instantly!

## 60s Popeye: Amusement Park, a cartoon set in, I don’t know, an accounting office?

It’s an amusement park, of course, as we know from the rare (for Paramount Cartoon Studios) title card that dissolves into the front scene. With a story by Howard A Schneider, and direction and production by this Seymour Kneitel chap, here’s 1960’s Amusement Park. All those tents make it look more like a county fair or a circus to me, too.

Popeye worries that Swee’Pea hasn’t got through the Funhouse yet and it’s been over two hours. This is a funny line, reason tells us, as it’s good understatement in the face of absurdity. I didn’t chuckle. And that’s the cartoon for you. The cartoon is constructed right, with the setup making sense and the story developing reasonably. It leads, as amusement park cartoons have always done for Popeye, to antics on the rides, particularly the roller coaster. It just isn’t funny.

Some of that is the fault of the limited animation. Brutus fleeing on a Ferris wheel or a roller coaster is a silly idea, if you think about it. While waiting to catch up with why this is silly, though, you need some spectacle. The theatrical shorts could afford that. King of the Mardis Gras ends with a glorious ride along a beautiful giant wooden roller coaster. Abusement Park skimps on the roller coaster support footage but makes up with a string of elephants flying through the air. Here? … well, Popeye and Olive Oyl ride a Ferris-wheel car through a tunnel of love. It’s obscured but we get to hear the chaos.

The limiting of the animation spectacle works against everything here. Like, Swee’Pea going through the funhouse, while Brutus tries to catch him, and escaping each time? That should work. The innocent wandering heedless of danger might be Swee’Pea’s best role. But what makes a funhouse is having lots of stuff moving in surprising ways. In this funhouse, Swee’Pea crawls through what looks like an empty barn while Brutus is too slow to catch up.

It’s all animated and written with the usual Paramount competence. I can’t pin down what I’d rewrite to make it better, at least within what I imagine the limits on budget and time were. Popeye and Olive Oyl riding a loose Ferris wheel car through the air to crash into a horse-drawn wagon ought to be exciting. Something’s gone wrong if it’s not.

Early on Brutus explains he wants Swee’Pea “to take the place of the midget what drowned in the salt-water taffy”. That seems a surprising grim backstory for the cartoon, although it wouldn’t have felt out of place for a theatrical short. I wonder if the script was pulled out of storage from the Famous Studios days.

## Statistics Saturday: Gifts Given for Squirrel Appreciation Day This Year

Reference: The Jersey Game: The History Of Modern Baseball From Its Birth To The Big Leagues In The Garden State, James M DiClerico, Berry J Pavelec.

## Sorry, I’m Stuck Thinking What I’d Use for My Passive-Aggressive Karaoke Fight

So that’s what’s got me late. I’m thinking about this in case I ever end up in a situation like Wilbur Weston’s. Except that in my case it would be different because I would feel wronged for actually legitimate reasons, unlike other people, such as him.

But there’s other problems. Like, at karaoke I can do a thing that satisfies most technical definitions of singing. But I can only sing one significant note, plus something that’s 75 to 85 percent of the way to a minor third above that note. There’s not a lot of songs written for that vocal range. It’s mostly “Mrs Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter”, except that I can’t control what the significant note will be. Also I know about four normal songs, like, ones that anyone has heard of. I could imagine getting someone pretty good with that old Frank Crumit song about being a guy who builds outhouses. But that’s not as on-point as you’d imagine. Plus it’s not going to be in most karaoke machines.

It might be less trouble to just talk sincerely to people I’m mad at.

## MiSTed: JSH: So They Lied (Part 2 of 3)

And now the second of three parts of James Harris’s declaration to Usenet group sci.math, “So They Lied”. Rants were always good for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment; they had much of the energy of a really strident mental-hygiene film but were about even more ridiculous things than, like, whether you were brushing your teeth in the correct order.

I’m not sure there’s any riffs that need explaining here. Maybe just the note that Gauss was one of those spectacular once-in-a-century mathematicians. I think I’m more obscure in the last part. Oh, Fermat’s Little Theorem is this cute little thing. If p is a prime number, and a is a whole number, then $a^p - a$ is some whole multiple of p. It’s not hard to prove but it feels like it is, in Intro to Abstract Algebra, where you learn to do that stuff. It has nothing to do with Fermat’s Last Theorem.

I tend not to make riffs where the characters wish they weren’t reading the thing. I can’t get past how I-the-author don’t just choose to read the original but choose to go out of my way to focus on it. But Mike and the Bots offering to let Mr Harris, and them, do other stuff was too solidly in-character. Also, probably, good advice too. If you’re getting very worked up about your revolutionary new concept in number theory and arguing about it online, you maybe need to do something else until you find the part where your work wasn’t as correct as you had supposed.

>
> Trouble is, the worst thing for people faking at being mathematicians
> is someone who actually is a mathematician.

TOM: The second-worst thing is being caught by a cop for
differentiating in public.

>
> So they beat up such people,

CROW: [ Snickering ]

MIKE: Yeah, my Freshman Calc TA could beat up … well …

TOM: The other Freshman Calc TA?

MIKE: Maybe.

> force them out of the discipline,

CROW: Turn their backs and go “nyah nyah nyah I can’t hear you”!

> and
> drown them out with crowd forces.

TOM: Challenge them to sword fights with their old slide rules!

>
> Their loophole was the reality that major mathematicians only come
> around once every couple of hundred years,

CROW: Everybody, look busy, Gauss is coming through!

> so they got away with it for
> a bit over a hundred years,

MIKE: Makes it sound like a pretty good deal, actually.

> and I was forced into my destiny.

TOM: I held aloft my magic sword, and said, “By the power of Greyskull” and then … well, nothing happened, and I felt kind of silly.

>
> If it were up to me, I’d be doing so many other things than this.

CROW: Well, don’t let us stop you.

MIKE: Hey, I’ve got some stuff to do if you need new projects.

>
> But it’s not up to me,

TOM: It’s up to my mom.

> I’m driven by some overwhelming force that makes
> me fight against these people pretending to be real mathematicians, and
> so, here we are.

MIKE: Don’t you see, what I’m trying to say is, will you marry me?

>
> The encryption system that they said was so powerful–because they’re
> not real mathematicians–is now, as I type this,

TOM: Pig Latin.

> broken. The world
> does not know this

CROW: Don’t tell it. You’ll just wreck its sleep.

> because the social forces are that strong, but
> eventually the truth will be known.

TOM: It will be whispered to David Duchovny, who won’t understand it.

>
> These people are people some of you admire and trust,

CROW: Real people. Salt of the earth types.

> who have sat
> back, for years now, clearly I think,

MIKE: In groups of, three words or, so.

> believing that social forces
> could stop someone like me.

TOM: Stopping *you*, or stopping someone who’s only *like* you?

>
> But mathematics is more than just a word.

CROW: It’s a whole kooky groovy far-out scene, man.

>
> The proof for those of you who hoped, believed, or just wanted to deny
> the truth is in that new factoring method,

MIKE: Identify the factors of fifteen in under three hours!

> which if the people you
> thought were mathematicians actually were, then they’d be talking about
> it everywhere, warning the world,

CROW: GANGWAY!

MIKE: THE NEW FACTORING METHOD IS HERE!

TOM: RUN TO YOUR DESIGNATED PRIME NUMBERS!

> excited about it, and working on
> solutions to protect OUR WORLD.

TOM: Or at least maybe save Delaware.

>
> But instead, they are quiet, leaving the doors open, leaving the world
> vulnerable.

CROW: We *just* can’t have nice things, can we?

> Leaving it possible for innocents to suffer or even die
> because they are not who they claim to be.

MIKE: Death by greatest common denominator!

>
> But I am.

TOM: You’re leaving the world vulnerable?

>
> The choice is yours. I can’t do it alone.

CROW: Funny how life changes, huh, guy fiddles around with Fermat’s Little Theorem, the hunter becomes the hunted, well, what’re you gonna do?

>
> These people will let civilization crumble. They will let terrorists
> and other criminals,

MIKE: And people who return library books late.

> or anyone who has the will and know-how to use the
> mathematics in an evil way,

TOM: Or who foolishly open up an evil parabola.

CROW: The cosecants of doom!

MIKE: The quadratic formula for MURDER!

> do it, without the world knowing because it
> trusts them because they are not who they claim to be.

CROW: It’s not even our world! It’s Mars, isn’t that the weirdest thing?

>
> You may die if you do nothing, and isn’t that fair?

TOM: We all have to die of something, you know, a heart attack, a car accident, being shot by the snipers of the worldwide mathematics conspiracy.

[ To conclude … ]

## What Song Was That in the Betty Boop Cartoon ‘Bimbo’s Initiation’?

Until recently I would have said the very catchy song about “Wanna Be A Member”, centerpiece of the Talkartoon “Bimbo’s Initiation”, was made for the short. I mean if you had asked me. Or if we had a relationship where you expected me to come offer my uninformed opinions about Talkartoons. For example, if you were reading my thoughts about the short. But I should have known better about the music. This got brought to my attention:

I’m delighted to learn the extremely catchy tune has an existence outside the short. The Twitter thread there also links to another 1919 performance, one that ties the tune to Theda Bara. That’s again a name I would not have thought of for the tune, but which I should have. Theda Bara was one of the big sex symbols of the last decade of silent movies, mostly in roles of the exotic, seductive master of the scene. (Unfortunately only a half-dozen of her films are known to still exist.) This connection must reinforce the role Betty Boop plays in the short, even though the music starts before we ever see her. I’m delighted to be able to share something new about this cartoon.

## What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Why does everybody want Wilbur dead? October 2021 – January 2022

Wilbur Weston has been, the past couple months of Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth, a Nice Guy. That is, he’s been one of those guys so sure that he’s lovable he’s failing to give the target of his affection reasons to put up with him. Not since the faltering days of For Better Or For Worse, when Granthony whined to Liz “I have no hoooooome”, has a character been quite this punchable. I mean besides Funky Winkerbean’s Les Moore, who’s in a class by himself because everybody you might put him with punches him and leaves.

But supporting him this way has been Mary Worth herself, who keeps telling Estelle, and the reader, that Wilbur has his flaws but has a good heart. Which, fine, but you can say that about almost everyone. Most of us know not to crash someone else’s date with passive-aggressive karaoke fighting.

That I write of “passive-aggressive karaoke fighting” lets you know this has been a glorious couple months for Mary Worth. Soap operas do well when they have emotions out of all proportion and leading to bad decisions with huge consequences. So this has been, culminating with a drunken Wilbur falling off the side of a cruise ship and washing up on an unknown shore.

So this should get you up to speed for mid-January 2022 in Mary Worth. If you’re reading this after about April 2022, a more recent plot recap should be at this link. Now let’s see why everybody wants Wilbur Weston to die already.

# Mary Worth.

## 24 October 2021 – 16 January 2022.

After a humiliating date in which he called Carol “Estelle”, Wilbur agreed he’s nowhere near over his ex. He brings Estelle some take-out, confirming that she’s had enough of this. She appreciates the gesture of food, though, and the chance to meet his dog Pierre. Wilbur adopted the dog figuring it’d be a good way to meet women, without ever considering whether he knew a thing about dogs. Pierre likes her, and her cat Libby, more than he likes Wilbur.

Mary Worth tries consoling Wilbur by going with him to a karaoke bar. There, he sees Estelle and her date (her cat’s veterinarian). He can’t see a good reason not to sing a heartbreak song about how could she leave him alone. Wilbur’s day job, by the way, is syndicated newspaper advice columnist. It’s an irony not touched at all in the text. Estelle takes up the battle, singing Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”. He responds in kind. It makes a night so exquisite in its awkwardness the audience discovers four new dimensions of spacetime just to have places to look away to. Her date chews his own head off to escape.

The next day Wilbur apologizes to Estelle. And admits how he has no hoooooome and his dog doesn’t like him, so, would he want to take Pierre? She does. He goes off, feeling miserable, and buys some fish that he names Willa and Stellah. And — look, everybody has a right to mope and to self-pity and to putter around telling themselves how the world’s picking on them. That’s fine. But it’s hard for the reader not to notice that Wilbur fought pretty hard to get himself into this fix.

Mary Worth, meanwhile, visits Estelle to sing Wilbur’s praises. Estelle concedes that Wilbur has considerable good sides. We the readers haven’t seen much of this. But there is evidence of it. He likes doing interesting things. He’s able to keep a writing job in this economy. He’s got a writing job where they pay for him to travel around the world. When we see him on a successful date, it’s always, like, him and his partner singing. That is, doing something together without fear of embarrassment and without either person having to be center stage. This might not convince you. But every text asks you to accept there’s more stuff going on than it can show. And this does give a prima facie case for Wilbur as someone you might enjoy hanging out with.

Thing is, Wilbur provoked their breakup because he couldn’t stand the cat meowing along while he sang. And ignored Estelle’s pleas by locking the cat out of the room. He wouldn’t accept that they won’t sing a recording-studio-quality rendition of “Thank You For Being A Friend”. He adopted a dog figuring hey, dogs are chick magnets. And when he did attract a woman, he talked to her about Estelle until she fled. And then picked a passive-aggressive karaoke fight. At least he wasn’t embarrassingly drunk this time, but, he’s done that to Estelle in the past.

This invites the question: does Mary Worth know how bad Wilbur can be? Mary Worth giving advice that turns bad seems to have great story potential. But she was at the karaoke fight. She has to know if he’s a work in progress, the progress is going like the Second Avenue Subway did.  We don’t see that she does know.

Estelle meets up with Wilbur while walking her pets. They agree they miss each other, and Wilbur promises to try harder to get along with Libby. And to make it up to her. They get together and Wilbur brings a chew toy for Pierre, and is actually nice to Libby. So it may have been a lot of needless pain getting here, but he is at least being a better person.

Wilbur suggests they take a three-day cruise together, and Estelle is up for it. They leave their cat and dog with Mary Worth. (Mary Worth will do anything except marry Dr Jeff to help people take CRUISE SHIPS into their lives.) And we see today-the-18th that she’s also feeding Wilbur’s fish. I know just enough about fish to know a tank as small as he has is going to need regular water checking and changing, though I grant that’s hard to make visual.

Mary Worth takes the week before Christmas to congratulate herself for shoving these two together. She has a good time walking Pierre and Libby. In what we readers now realize was irony, she almost wishes Estelle and Wilbur would extend their cruise.

On the cruise, Wilbur asks Estelle to marry him. He can’t see any reason for them to wait. She can’t see any reason for them not to wait. Wilbur storms off to get drunk. In that state, he falls off the ship, and King Features Syndicate opens an RIP Wilbur Weston store. (You can buy posters, even framed posters, of most any comic strip they run, not just plot-bearing strips. The “Where There’s A Wilbur” T-shirts and mugs are novel, though.)

Estelle notices he’s missing, and coaxes the ship’s crew to search for him. They find the security camera footage of his fall overseas, and go to search. But it’s a large ocean, and Wilbur has … already washed ashore on some island, somewhere. Strange development that keeps him from being dead.

### Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!

• “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” — Groucho Marx, 24 October 2021.
• “The past is never the past. It is always present.” — Bruce Springsteen, 31 October 2021.
• “Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.” — Hippocrates, 7 November 2021.
• “Where there is anger there is always pain underneath.” — Eckhart Tolle, 14 November 2021.
• “More people should apologize, and more people should accept apologies when sincerely made.” — Greg Lemond, 21 November 2021.
• “Before you quit, try again. Before you leave, get back in.” — Michael Bassey Johnson, 28 November 2021.
• “We’re all a little weird and life is a little weird.” — Robert Fulgham, 5 December 2021.
• “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” — Samuel Beckett, 12 December 2021.
• “Live a life of gratitude, giving thanks in all circumstances.” — Dr Mary C Neal, 19 December 2021.
• “Music is very spiritual. It has the power to bring people together.” — Edgar Winter, 26 December 2021.
• “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘it will be happier’.” — Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1 January 2022. Special non-Sunday bonus quote!
• “Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.” — John Barrymore, 2 January 2022.
• “Everything is a reaction.” — Robyn Hitchcock, 9 January 2022.
• “The breaking of a wave cannot explain the whole sea.” — Vladimir Nabokov, 16 January 2022.

#### Next Week!

In his weekday continuity The Phantom faces the harrowing forecast that if he frees Savarna Devi — to whom he owes his wife’s life — from death row he will cause the destruction of everything his family stands for. In Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom Sunday continuity, things are a bit less dire. The Phantom’s making sure two Mori teenagers have a pleasant time in town. I hope to recap that side of The Phantom here, in a week.

## 60s Popeye: The Day Silky Went Blozo, in which Blozo goes Silky in a big way

We emerge from a second wave of Seymour Kneitel back to the comforting if slightly shoddy hands of Jack Kinney studios. The story for this 1960 short is credited to Joseph Stewart and Jack Kinney and animation direction to Hugh Fraser. Join us now and witness what happend The Day Silky Went Blozo.

Popeye versus The Reluctant Dragon! How can you not like that? Well, I’ll do my best to try … Well, you might not like that way Jack Kinney cartoons seem to animate the first draft of the script. That’s always unfortunate, and a bit more so here for the satiric potential in the premise. King Blozo is, like he always is when we see him, distressed. This silky-voiced dragon is disaffecting Blozo’s people with his Moritz Schlick-like assertion that the meaning of life is play. It’s never too soon to teach kids that society is as cruel as people have decided to make it, and that if we wanted, it could be better.

So Blozo has the problem that his kingdom’s threatened by this dragon encouraging people to sing and dance and be happy instead of, you know, work. Once again I long for the theatrical short this could have been, with two or three more minutes of screen time. And some bit players. And showing things screwed up because people are off prancing around a dragon instead of their jobs. The budget in time and money only allow sending Wimpy off against the dragon, who I don’t think gets called “Silky” on-screen. Wimpy’s spectacular failure against Silky sends Blozo to repeat the premise. And to declare he needs to send the “strongest, most honest, and ugliest man in my kingdom” against Silky.

Strongest and most honest make sense. Ugliest is an odd insult to toss in, especially when for all we in the audience know Brutus might be next. The placement dampens the impact of a not-that-good insult/joke. I’d cut it, myself, especially as Blozo doesn’t have many other comic asides to make this flow better.

Popeye challenges Silky to a duel, and the dragon choses the yo-yo as his weapon. The dragon’s yo-yo tricks win over an appreciative crowd, one that includes Brutus in a rare non-antagonist role. He doesn’t even speak, although Jackson Beck earns his pay doing the dragon’s voice. Also a rarity: Popeye eats his spinach but doesn’t use that power to do anything. He’s ready to slug Silky, or at least do some better yo-yo tricks, but Blozo’s been won over by the charms of dragon yo-yo. So all the fighting gets called off. Blozo goes over to Silky’s way of living.

All the key points are here and I like how they play out. I particularly like the weird exceptions of this short, like Brutus’s and Olive Oyl’s non-speaking roles. And Popeye eating his spinach but not using that. Or Popeye being the last one to realize he’s on the wrong side here. He starts in the wrong sometimes, but I think this is the only time he comes around after eating his spinach.

There’s a batch of not-quite-finished bits. Blozo repeating how it’s terrible that this dragon is telling people just what they want to hear. How you tell the difference between the normal Wimpy and the Wimpy who’s taken Silky’s advice to live a frivolous, pleasure-driven life instead. Or the animators not having agreed on how big Popeye the Knight should be, relative to the dragon, so they try all the plausible heights. Or (at about 3:30) animating Popeye’s mouth moving since I guess the soundtrack showed someone was talking, never mind that it wasn’t Popeye. (Come to it, Popeye’s mouth — at least his pipe — moves more while Silky talks than when he talks later in the scene.) The lousy mixing of audio levels, so Silky’s song gets lost underneath the music. As keeps happening with Kinney-produced shorts, no one of these is a difficult thing to patch. But you feel the constraints on time that must have been present that they weren’t patched.

## Wait, did Funky Winkerbean just give his wife the helmet Bull Bushka died in?

I … don’t think he did? But to me and everybody else who reads and remembers stuff from Funky Winkerbean, this Sunday’s strip was weird.

The thing making it weird is that when Coach “Bull” Bushka died, a couple years back, in the comic, he was wearing his old Westview Scapegoats football helmet. This was actually made a point of the plot, for reasons I won’t get into. It’s not something you can just ignore like Phil Holt’s death. But this is why a Sunday strip intended to be a quick smile was instead all flabbergasty.

Anyway, as the Son of Stuck Funky folks noted, it appears Linda gave the helmet that her husband died in to his friend Buck, who I’m almost sure had a last name. It’s plausible that Bushka, who coached Westview football for decades, had a couple extra helmets kicking around. And I’ll suppose this is what Batiuk meant us to see in this strip. Just … wow, did this joke not land anywhere with regular Funky Winkerbean readers.

## Statistics Saturday: My Schedule for Doing Things

Reference: Second Founding: New York City, Reconstruction, and the making of American Democracy, David Quigley.

## Where did _Baby Blues_ go? How can I express my anger at _Funky Winkerbean_?

And, heck, here’s a couple small comic strip bits of news. The first is that Jerry Scott and Rick Kirkman’s very popular longrunning comic strip Baby Blues changed syndicates this week. As the Daily Cartoonist reports, they moved from King Features Syndicate over to Andrews McMeel Syndication. The actual change happens the 1st of February.

The part that affect readers is that since the strip is leaving King Features, it has already left Comics Kingdom. And, as is Comics Kingdom’s way, they’ve removed the strip from their web site. GoComics has put Baby Blues up here, with strips starting from this Wednesday the 12th already in place. Jerry Scott said, on Daily Cartoonist, that they are working to get their archive of strips on GoComics. I don’t have information whether that means going back to the comic’s start in 1990, or “only” strips going back to when Comics Kingdom (and before that DailyInk) got organized.

And if you’re like me, you’ve been angry at Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean this past year, but can’t remember what specifically for. Oh, yeah, it was Les Moore. The Son of Stuck Funky snark blog is having its first Funky Awards, with voting through to the 16th of January. You can cast you Google Forms vote here. Among the many categories are Best Strip, Worst Strip, Story Arc of the Year, Standout Unnamed Character, and Most Punchable Les Moore. That last is a prank, of course, since every Les Moore is more punchable than every Les Moore before.

## MiSTed: JSH: So They Lied (Part 1 of 3)

For my next Mystery Science Theater 3000 performance, it’s a Usenet rant. James S Harris was — possibly still is — a regular on sci.math, a group for just what you’d think. Like everyone who loves mathematics, he tried to solve Fermat’s Last Theorem. Like many people, he thought he had something; it’s not difficult to come up with work that looks like it should prove that thing about $a^n + b^n = c^n$. Also like everyone taking that tack, including Fermat, he was wrong. He spent a lot of time arguing with the sci.math Actual Mathematicians about how no, maybe the whole of professional mathematics was wrong and not him.

As a sideline to his Fermat work, he thought he found a new scheme for factoring numbers. And spent a lot of time arguing with the sci.math Actual Mathematicians about how no, maybe the whole of professional mathematics was wrong and not him. So this is one piece of those many fights.

In the introduction sketch I imagine rattling apart a very fragile Tom Servo doll, one like the Crow T Robot that gets frozen to pieces in Eegah. I like writing sketches that have some visual action while staying something basic cable could produce in the 90s. The Izah fat evaporator was based on some similarly-named “make your muscles twitch so you lose weight” scam device I saw ads for in Singapore in the early 2000s. They were oddly hypnotic, showing this box put on various parts of the body while the singer chanted, “zap zap thigh, zap zap thigh, zap zap tummy, zap zap tummy”, and so on. The 17/23 Correlation is some weird conspiracy thing I know about because it got mentioned, and not explained, in The Straight Dope. The “such a Ratliff” that Pearl Forrester warns she has waiting was Stephen Ratliff’s story “Endeavor’s Beginning”, a group project to which I donated riffs. If it was ever finished and published I missed the news. Shame; I remember doing some good work on that. I think the “a kind of fish” line was originally one of Dave Barry’s jokes and forget from where.

[ OPENING CREDITS, SEASON TEN STYLE. ]

[ 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. CROW, MIKE, and TOM SERVO are behind the desk. TOM has a bright yellow power brick-size contraption strapped to his chest; it has an oversized spiral paper disc in front. ]

CROW: [ Taunting ] Tom, you’re gonna die.

TOM: Am not.

MIKE: Gotta side with Crow. [ Looking up: ] Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the Satellite of Love, and, uh, Tom is worried about his figure.

TOM: My friends wouldn’t say anything, but I have been packing on a few too many pounds and I don’t have time for a good exercise program, so instead I got an Izah fat evaporator. By stimulating my many muscle groups in rhythmic oscillatory pulses I can shed pounds without any work.

CROW: He’s gonna die.

MIKE: Crow’s right, but hey, you want, you want.

TOM: Right! Fire me up to fitness, Mike!

[ MIKE touches a button on the brick; the paper wheel starts spinning. TOM rattles around like an unbalanced washing machine. TOM makes all sorts of aggedy-aggedy-aggedy and acking type noises, while pieces go flying off — his cap, his head, his skirt, his arms one at a time, the front of his barrel, and finally he collapses behind the desk. ]

CROW: Told you so!

MIKE: Crow, hush, that’s not very nice.

[ MIKE leans down and digs around on the floor. He picks up the small cylinder with TOM’s mouth on it. ]

TOM: [ Dazedly ] I … feel … … lithe.

MIKE: Aw, great, and now Pearl needs us … Hello down there …

[ MIKE hits the MADS SIGN with TOM, who goes ‘Ow!’. ]

[ CASTLE FORRESTER. PEARL, PROFESSOR BOBO, and OBSERVER are seated behind card tables covered with books, papers, scrawled notes, strangely marked globes, astrolabes, for that `stuff’ theme. A bare light on a long electrical wire hangs over their heads. BOBO and OBSERVER mutter their lines to each other. ]

BOBO: Federal Reserve …

OBSERVER: Opus Dei …

PEARL: [ To BOBO and OBSERVER, muttering ] Just, keep me posted.
[ To camera, boisterously ] All right, Nel-sonnnn … [ She drags out the ‘n’, thinking of a way to twist it, finally giving up with: ] N. I got to thinking: why go to all the hard work of taking over the world when I can just find the guys who *do* rule the world and take *them* over?

[ BOBO holds up a piece of paper with “17/23” written across it, which OBSERVER does not find interesting. ]

PEARL: So now I just have to find them, and by ‘I’ I mean ‘you’, so, get into that theater and tell me what this tells you about who’s ruling the world, got it?

OBSERVER: Heidi Klum …

BOBO: Goo goo ga joob.

PEARL: BRAIN GUY!

OBSERVER: Hup … one conspiracy in 35 millimeters, coming up.

[ BRAIN GUY noise. ]

PEARL: And you better get it right or I have *such* a Ratliff waiting.

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. MIKE is trying out putting the gumball dome under TOM’s mouth, while CROW snickers. ]

TOM: This just feels funny.

[ MOVIE SIGN; ALL panic. ]

ALL: MOVIE SIGN!

[ INTO THE THEATER … 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… ]

[ MIKE carries in just TOM’s mouthpiece, and hides it behind the chair. ]

> From: jst…@msn.com

CROW: Hail the Missin’com!

MIKE: o/` old.math.river, that old.math.river … o/`

> Subject: JSH: So they lied

CROW: It happens.

> Lines: 109

CROW: Polygons: 28.

[ TOM, back to normal, emerges in silhouette. ]

TOM: It’s ten to one hundredth power of giddy, groupy fun!

>
> I first began to get a real grasp of the true situation when I was
> arguing about my prime counting function,

CROW: We’re … so very sorry for you.

> which is actually THE prime
> counting function,

MIKE: The prime counting function of the whole tri-city area!

> and after yet another useless argument on sci.math
> with some regulars, it occurred to me, they had to know.

TOM: How do you tell when an argument on Usenet is useless?

MIKE: It’s on Usenet?

>
> They had to know that what I had actually was different from what was
> previously known in key ways,

CROW: Like in its delightful lemony scent.

> but they were deliberately lying about
> it.

TOM: I confronted them. They denied it. Case closed.

>
> Now I have found a new factoring method.

MIKE: [ Mad science laughter ] Mwu-hu-ha-hA-HA-HA-HA-HAAA … huh?

>
> Literally trillions of dollars WILL move as a result, but for now, you
> can see the quiet as these people keep lying.

TOM: It was visible out there. Too, too visible.

>
> How is it possible?

MIKE: Can this mixed-up world be as zany as I hope?

>
> Mathematics is a difficult discipline.

CROW: And a worse toothpaste.

>
> Or you can say, math is hard.

TOM: But with a crunchy peanut buttery center.

>
> Most people shy away from it because it IS so hard,

MIKE: Others avoid it because they’re afraid a rogue
isosceles triangle will impale them.

> but a few people
> learned that while doing real mathematics was hard, LOOKING like you
> were doing real mathematics was easier.

TOM: Finally we learn why Sudoku has caught on!

>
> So they fake it.

MIKE: But they were caught when they identified the square root symbol as “a kind of fish”.

[ To continue … ]

## In Which I May Have to Cut Back Here for an Exciting New Opportunity

I mean, I’ll try to keep doing whatever I’m doing here as long as possible. But .. well, this is just thrilling. The Institute for the Academy of Pop Culture approved my grant to study the question of why Arnold Stang was never on the Adam West Batman. I know, I know, it seems like nothing important. But the Grants Committee was persuaded by my argument that answering this could help provide a satisfactory answer to why Phil Silvers was never a Bat-villain, and close one of the big and exciting pop culture mysteries of that era.

## What’s Going On In Mark Trail? Why is Mark Trail worked up about NFTs? October 2021 – January 2022

In the last scene of The Stingiest Man In Town, the 1978 Rankin/Bass adaptation of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge tells Cratchit to burn some more coal. Cratchit asks if that’s good for business and Scrooge laughs it off as good for humanity. The irony is it has turned out burning coal is extremely good business, as it’s catastrophic for humanity.

So this should catch you up to early January 2022 in Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail. If news about the strip breaks, or if you’re reading this after about April 2022, a more up-to-date essay is likely here. And now let’s get on to explaining the past three months of story.

# Mark Trail.

## 17 October 2021 – 8 January 2022.

We had two and a half stories going on when I last checked in on the Lost Forest. One was Mark Trail’s assignment with former rival/high-speed-pursuer Diana Daggers. It’s to investigate a shipping company spreading zebra mussels. One was Diana Daggers’s breakup with her pop-science star friend Professor Bee Sharp. And one was Cherry Trail’s efforts to move a bee colony before its extermination. Each has advanced some. I’ll take each strand as a separate thing.

Cherry Trail’s first. She’s been landscaping for the Sunny Soleil Society. Their statue of the Forest Pioneer got colonized by bees. Society chair Violet Cheshire hires “Honest Ernest”, the new pest control guy in town. Also husband of one of the Society members. So she calls on her friends with the Black Rose Garden Club, who plan a daring nighttime bee-relocation heist.

Honest Ernest and his staff intrude, though. Mark Trail arrives, fighting them back with nature facts and a shovel. It’s a powerful combo and lets the Black Rose sneak off with the bees. But there are consequences: Caroline (Ernest’s wife) complains to Cheshire about the bee-napping. Cheshire cuts through the charges and counter-charges of trespassing and whatever bee-napping would be. If the bees left on their own, why, there’s no need for a bee-extermination contract. Cherry agrees, falsely, that sometimes bees just go off somewhere else. And that, you know, the Sunny Soleil Society building likely has termites that could actually use extermination. Cheshire’s up for that and we have a settlement that’s happy except for the termites.

Mark Trail’s story next. This was about taking underwater photos of Duck Duck Goose freighters, carrying zebra mussels into new waters. Daggers thinks the photos are lousy, but Mark Trail’s old army buddy, and De-Bait Team member Cliff, likes them. Trail and Daggers work on reporting how the giant shipping company is polluting new territories. So, Duck Duck Goose sends some toughs around to bust things up.

Mark Trail, Daggers, and Cliff are able to escape, thanks in part to Daggers swiping Cherry Trail’s shovel earlier. They hole up in the De-Bait Team lodge, a more defensible retreat, or at least one that’s harder for Duck Duck Goose to find. Much of the attention shifted away from Mark to Cherry at this point. It left me confused whether the zebra-mussels storyline had dried up, when I was reading day-to-day. Like, had Mark Trail published and I missed it? No, the story was moving to the back of the stage for a bit.

And Mark Trail continued thinking, not only how to report on Duck Duck Goose, but also how to stop them bringing zebra mussels into the Lost Forest’s waterways. In a moment that ran, for us, on Christmas Day he noted how poinsettias are not actually poisonous, but have this reputation. That “if we can look intimidating to Duck Duck Goose, it might be enough to get them out of our waters”. I don’t know what that would entail either.

Poinsettias, according to the National Capital Poison Center, can cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea if eaten. But they are not actually dangerous to children or pets. Quite inconvenient, though, it appears.

And the last thread, generally, Diana Daggers’s things. She came to the zebra mussels story miserable after an unexplained breakup with Professor Bee Sharp. As Cliff and Mark Trail came over to make amends, she explained. She was getting paid with Non-Fungible Token money. Much as she misses Sharp, she couldn’t take money literally raised by destroying the planet.

So “Cricket Bro” Rob Bettancourt had the brainwave to sell NFTs of all sorts of Bee Sharp-focused nonsense. Bee Sharp stuck through Daggers leaving. But he was shaken when a photo shoot results in a goat tearing his lab coat, and leaves. It pains me to admit NFTs can’t be blamed for that, although if it gets someone to stop making a mistake, fine.

We learn that when Bettancourt calls Mark Trail, offering to make him the face of his NFT projects. How this is going to fit into the zebra mussels story is not yet known. Catch you in April. We should have some idea then.

### Sunday Animals Watch

So here’s what nature events we’ve been seeing on Sundays. Nearly all of them have been reflected in the weekday continuity, too. It’s a nice tight integration of things.

• Bees, 17 October 2021. Who has a bad word for bees, at this point?
• Trees, 24 October 2021. Similarly, they’re still doing a lot of great work.
• Bats, 31 October 2021. They’re doing good too although I’d like them out of the attic when convenient, please.
• Skunks, 7 November 2021. So last summer I was walking late at night and saw a skunk shuffling along. And then saw a cottontail rabbit charging at the skunk and dashing back away, charging up and dashing away. It’s the aggressive get-out-of-here move rabbits sometimes do. I got out of the area and lost them in the night after that and I just hope that scene worked out the way the rabbit imagined it would.
• Goats, 14 November 2021. Lot of people have good things to say about them.
• Bees, 21 November 2021. Look, if you’re not sold on bees by this point I don’t know what the trouble is.
• Turkeys, 28 November 2021. Everybody likes to talk about the dubious legend about how the turkey was almost the United States’s national bird, but do we ever talk about how turkeys have pretty near the same body plan as peacocks? If they’d done a little work on their coloration every New World nation would want them as national birds.
• Garden Clubs, 5 December 2021. Get yourself a garden club that’ll sneak out in the middle of the night to steal a beehive, is what we’re saying.
• Salamanders, 12 December 2021. Which have not appeared in the comic strip recently. Might be a setup to something later on.
• Climate Change, 19 December 2021. It’s hard work to do anything to remediate now, but the alternative is even more, harder work, later on.
• Poinsettias, 26 December 2021. Also, you can keep the one you get at Christmas and nurse it through the year. You have to do something I don’t understand to get them to bloom at Christmas, but it’s doable.
• Cryptocurrency, 2 January 2022. Guh. Could we please not, for once, everybody?
• Zebra mussels, 9 January 2022. Which had a Sunday panel appearance back in August, too, but the problem (and plot) have been sticking around.

#### Next Week!

Is Wilbur Weston dead, and why does everyone want him to be? Come with me on a CRUISE SHIP in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth, next week, if all goes well.

## Statistics December: How Can I Care About December 2021 When Wilbur Weston Might Be Dead?

Yes, yes, I, like everyone who’s reading Mary Worth, am excited to see Wilbur Weston’s fallen off a cruise ship. I’m hoping to get to recapping it next week, when we might know whether he’s dead or what. Let me share what my plan is for comic strip recaps, before I get into anything further here:

I’m willing to chance the schedule when circumstances warrant. But, for now, yes, Wilbur Weston has fallen into the sea in what might be the first Mary Worth death since the legendary Aldo Keldrast. We’ll see. All my recaps of what’s going on in the story strips are at this link.

Still, I do like sharing my readership figures around here, for reasons I can never quite articulate. I guess other bloggers like the reassurance that it’s not them, their readership has fallen off since a couple years ago.

In a reversal of the pattern since 2018, my readership increased from November to December 2021. The total number of page views for the month increased to 4,492. This is below the twelve-month running mean of 5,161.0, though, and also below the running median of 4,728. April was a very popular month around here, thanks in part to my post about which Paas tablet matches which color egg. Also to people wanting to know what was going on with The Phantom, a reliable source of readers this year.

The number of unique visitors rose too, again reversing the usual November-to-December trend. There were 2,568 recorded unique visitors in December, but this again is below the running mean of 3,072.4 and the median of 2,722.5. Liking me (nb not licking) was above the averages, though, with 166 likes given in the month. The mean for the twelve months ending with November 2021 was 145.3 likes, and the median 138.5. Comments were about average: 51 given around here in the month, compared to a mean of 55.4 and a median of 51. Certainly average enough.

My most popular post from December was comic strip based, of course. And I’ve been making more short, punchy little posts that have been well-received. I like this, since I like anything being well-received, and short stuff is quicker to write. I wanted to share the five most popular things from December and there was, naturally, a tie for fifth. So here’s the top several things:

There were 80 countries sending me any page views at all in December. Greenland was not among them. Here’s the countries that were:

United States 3199
India 171
United Kingdom 132
Australia 121
Germany 79
Japan 60
Philippines 50
Italy 41
Brazil 38
Ireland 27
Sweden 27
Spain 26
Nigeria 21
Norway 21
Netherlands 18
France 15
Sri Lanka 14
Finland 13
New Zealand 13
Thailand 13
Egypt 12
Mexico 12
Peru 12
South Africa 12
Indonesia 11
Malaysia 10
Russia 10
Switzerland 10
Taiwan 10
Austria 9
Romania 8
Singapore 7
Belarus 6
Paraguay 6
Denmark 5
Hong Kong SAR China 5
Portugal 5
Saudi Arabia 5
Bulgaria 4
Colombia 4
Greece 4
Jordan 4
Kenya 4
Puerto Rico 4
South Korea 4
Iraq 3
Jamaica 3
Poland 3
Ukraine 3
United Arab Emirates 3
Belgium 2
Cambodia 2
Croatia 2
Georgia 2
Israel 2
Kuwait 2
Macedonia 2
Montenegro 2
Pakistan 2
Turkey 2
Albania 1
Azerbaijan 1
Belize 1
Chile 1
China 1
Costa Rica 1
Côte d’Ivoire 1
Guam 1
Honduras 1
Hungary 1
Lebanon 1 (*)
Serbia 1
Slovakia 1
Tunisia 1
Vietnam 1

Of the 18 single-view countries (up from 14 in November) only Lebanon is on a two-month streak. Nobody’s on an even longer streak.

Wordpress figures that I posted 18,853 words in December. Even though those were not all different words, that was still my second-least-loquacious month in 2021. This was an average of 608.2 words per posting. And it brought me to a total for the year of 269,360 words, averaging 738 words per posting.

Between the discovery of the English Channel and the 1st of January I’ve posted 3,256 things to this blog. They’ve drawn 268,184 views from 153,567 unique visitors. And there were 4,915 comments overall, some of which I should get around to reading one of these days.

## 60s Popeye: William Won’t Tell, because in this one, William is Popeye, that’s why

Have we entered a new round of Seymour Kneitel-mania? … Almost! It’s a Paramount Cartoon Studios production this week, so yes, he’s the producer. And the director. The story, though, is given to Carl Meyer and Jack Mercer. So here is 1961’s William Won’t Tell.

I’ve mentioned the curse of competence. It’s not hard to write about great cartoons. It’s easy to write about the fabulously incompetent. William Won’t Tell is mostly a good enough idea done well. But I’ll try to give some decent attention to a cartoon that sets a reasonable ambition and does it pretty well. It shouldn’t be neglected for that.

It’s a fairy-tale setting, like a fair streak of King Features cartoons are. This one doesn’t have a narrator, or any kind of framing device. It doesn’t need one, although that does raise the question why any of these cartoons ever need one.

The story’s inspired by the legend of William Tell. Popeye Tell pauses in his day of doing good deeds to help the Queen replace her broken wheel. She gives him a kiss on the forehead, that he has to keep secret from the jealous King and the no-less-jealous Olive Oyl. The King learns of this anyway and demands all men pass before him with their hats off. When Popeye refuses the King forces him to shoot an arrow off Olive Oyl’s head. He does, but the trick arrow that makes this easy also knocks his hat off, revealing everything to everyone. The Queen saves the day, with a well-timed explanation and birthday gift for the King, and we have a happy ending.

I don’t have a national-identity attachment to the legend of William Tell. So I don’t mind the shifting of events and motivations and all. There’s a solid logic behind the whole story, too. We get Popeye to be heroic to start with, and for that resolute good nature to get him in a fix, and for that virtue to be what brings the last-minute save. It fits well enough I only noticed later that nobody brings up spinach.

There are several nice fangles in this, mostly in the animation. Popeye refusing the King’s order by blowing his pipe to spell out ‘NO’ in smoke. Popeye felling a tree by using arrows that spiral around each other and do the work, the sort of stunt often done in the theatrical shorts. The King trying out and rejecting two apples before putting the tiniest one on Olive Oyl’s head. These all add vitality to the cartoon, and also reward watching. They lift the cartoon beyond the illustrated-radio default.

I bring up again how well I find the story structure. When I look at the other cartoons credited Carl Meyer and Jack Mercer I find one that I thought well-structured (Who’s Kidding Zoo) and some others with decent premises done okay (Messin’ Up The Mississippi or The Baby Contest, for example). I’m curious what happened to make everything come together this time.

## Statistics Saturday: Some Failed Attempts At Finding The Past Tense Of ‘To Glide’ After ‘Glided’ Looked Weird

• Glode
• Glidden
• Gliddled
• Gline
• Glidest
• Glued
• Glidded
• Glinda
• Gloud
• Reference: Dust: A History of the Small and the Invisible, Joseph A Amato.

## For Those Waiting for My Statistics December Post

I know there’s people wondering where my exploration of the readership statistics the past month is. It’s always, somehow, my most-liked thing of the month. I think readers like to see whether this will be the time I get a reader from Greenland. It will not be. But I’ve been slow to get around to it, and I’ll share why: I’m still waiting for December 2021 to get better. And it sees determined to not. This leaves me … you know, I’m not disappointed, I’m just angry with it. I have similar issues with 2021 as a whole. I’ll give it a little more time to pick up and then just share the sad state of things as-is.

## MiSTed: A Moment of Hack (Part 2 of 2)

You’ve all gotten this e-mail, and it proved its credentials by showing you a password you used back in 2006 and, uh, until about a week ago too. Still, let’s continue turning it into Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction, shall we?

The bitcoin address is munged, of course; even if it was valid I don’t want people supporting this nonsense by accident. I tossed in a reference to “automobile titles” as an example of adult content, not knowing that my whole autumn 2021 would be taken over — against stiff emotion-wracking competition — by how I can’t find the title for my 2009 Scion tC. Serious talk here, kids: get your automobile title, or a duplicate, and put it somewhere you can lay hands on without ransacking the house.

“Swiss-style match pairing” is a way of organizing a tournament where it’s not possible for every participant to play every other participant. Each round sets out trying to get everyone playing someone with a roughly similar record in the tournament that they haven’t played already. (If there’s enough rounds, this does turn into “everyone plays everyone else”.) The “an educated consumer is our best customer” was the longrunning advertising slogan for SYMS, a New York City-area discount clothiers chain. I still haven’t seen any of the Jonah episodes of MST3K.

>
> Oh, yes .. I’m know your secret life, which you are hiding from
> everyone.

CROW: The weed of crime bears bitter fruit!

>
> Oh my God, what are your like… I saw THIS …

TOM: With a Hubbard squash?

MIKE: In the library?

CROW: On Professor Plum?

> Oh, you dirty

> naughty person … : )

MIKE: [ As Elmer Fudd ] ‘I’m just as God made me, sir …. hehehehehehehehe.’

>
>
> I took photos and videos of your most passionate funs with adult
> content,

TOM: Not my adult content! My automobile titles, my disclosure paperworks from the Dental Maintenance Organization. Ream after ream of cadastral maps for the properties I bought at the tax sale!

MIKE: Jeez, all *my* adult content is sad little grunts of pain after I kneel down and stand up again.

> and synchronized them in real time with the image of your
> camera.

MIKE: Who cares about images of my camera?
[ CROW and TOM hide down in their chairs. ]

>
> Believe it turned out very high quality!

CROW: Sing the unwashed park bench gryphon!

>
>

>
> I’m sure you don’t want to show these files and visiting history to

TOM: *Including* that person at hotels.com that dealt with your weird duplicate-loyalty-card nonsense.

>
>

> Transfer \$848 to my Bitcoin cryptocurrency wallet:

[ CROW just bursts out laughing ]

> 1GXazHVQxxUdJpe62UFozFibPlor8ToDoUn3

[ CROW continues giggling ]

MIKE: Foz Fib Plor?

TOM: I’m trying to figure this as like a Fozzie Bear branded Mister Pibb but it’s not coming together.

>
> Just copy and paste the wallet number when transferring.

TOM: It’s totally not the SimCity 2000 funding cheat code!

CROW: [ Still giggling ]

MIKE: You okay, buddy?

>

CROW: Yeah, I just, I mean, 848 dollars?

> If you do not know how to do this – ask Google.

MIKE: Well, he was going to demand \$849 but figured, why be greedy?

>

TOM: I heard he was looking for \$847.74 but rounded up the dollar to donate to the local food bank.

CROW: Oh, well that’s good of him, then.

>
> My system automatically recognizes the translation.

MIKE: ‘Translate from Latvian’? The heck?

>
> As soon as the specified amount is received, all your data will be
> destroyed from my server,

TOM: ‘Because I’m dealing with this annoying ransomware hacker myself.’

> and the rootkit will be automatically

CROW: Thanks to my self-propelled technogarden trowel!

>
> Do not worry, I really will delete everything,

MIKE: [ Warbly teenager voice ] E-e-everything?

TOM: ‘Well, not your DVR. That you have to watch on your own.’

> since I am ‘working’
> with many people who have fallen into your position.

CROW: Yeah, well, *I’m* taking pictures of you doing that on *your* web cam, how does *that* feel?

>
> You will only have to inform your provider about the vulnerabilities
> in the router so that other hackers will not use it.

MIKE: [ Extremely nerdy ] You know, even the most secure routers are vulnerable to a proton torpedo hitting their thermal exhaust port through a shaft right to the reactor system.

>
>
> Since opening this letter you have 48 hours.

CROW: 49, if it’s Daylight Saving Time.

>
> If funds not will be received, after the specified time has elapsed,

TOM: I’ll take \$582.50 in bitcoin instead?

MIKE: How about \$146 in dogecoin?

CROW: Would you believe what’s left on a \$20 Borders gift card and a 50-pfennig coin I got going to Oberammergau in 1990?

> the disk of your device will be formatted,

MIKE: The format: Swiss-style match pairing, ten rounds or until 10:00.

>
> and from my server will automatically send email and sms

TOM: Oh, I don’t need all those sms, just send me one sm.

CROW: With sms an educated consumer is our best customer.

> to all your
> contacts with compromising material.

MIKE: It’s not ‘compromising’, it’s ‘seeking a pragmatic, centrist solution’!

>
>
> I advise you to remain prudent

CROW: When you’re prudent, you make a prune out of dents.
[ MIKE sets a hand on CROW’s shoulder. ]

> and not engage in nonsense (all files
> on my server).

MIKE: And all the ships at sea! Flash!

>
>
> Good luck!

TOM: If Woody had gone right to the police, this would never have happened.

MIKE: C’mon, let’s blow this popsicle stand.

[ ALL file out. ]

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

```

Mystery Science Theater 3000 and its characters and setup and situations and all are the property of … I guess it’s Satellite of Love LLC? I’m not sure anymore. The original spam was sent to my love’s work e-mail account so certain elements were modified so my love’s IT department didn’t get all cranky. It’s not a Jonah script because I still haven’t seen the Netflix series and while I started writing MiSTings after watching very few Joel and Mike episodes, ‘a few’ is still more than ‘literally zero’. Anyway, thanks for reading and let’s all have some hard funs, won’t we?

> I know what you like hard funs (adult sites).

## Reflecting on an end of the Christmas season

So they took the State Tree down from in front of the capitol yesterday. I mean the people who were supposed to take it down, and they were doing it as scheduled, so don’t go thinking this took anyone by surprise. Still, it’s a sad reminder that all the merriness and wishing-for-goodwill of the holiday season is passing. Plus, that tree’s going to end up sitting on the curb waiting for the city trash collectors to pick it up. The city trash collectors won’t pick up a tree unless you cut it into six-foot-long fragments. You’d think someone would tell the governor’s office about that. We go through this every year.

## What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? Are they making a Gasoline Alley movie? October – December 2021

In the strip, as I write this, someone’s making a movie in Gasoline Alley. I trust it’ll involve the characters of the venerable comic strip. Still, it raises the question: wait, did they never make a Gasoline Alley movie? Like, back in the 40s or 50s when every comic strip turned into a movie? Indeed, they did, with two movies in 1951: Gasoline Alley and Corky of Gasoline Alley.

There were also a couple of radio versions of Gasoline Alley. The 1941 NBC version, according to John Dunning’s On The Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, was a daily serial that adapted that day’s newspaper comic. I know they only had to fill ten minutes of airtime, and that comics were more densely written those days. I still can’t imagine how you pad one day’s comic out to that much time. I can’t find any recordings of the 1941 run, though, and wonder whether it’s unavailable or whether it’s held by collectors who haven’t put it on the free-download sources.

So this should catch you up to the end of 2021 in Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley. If you’re reading this after April 2022, or if any news about the comic breaks, I should have an update here. And on my other blog, I’ve been sharing some older writing, while I get the energy to finish last year’s little glossary project. You might enjoy it also.

# Gasoline Alley.

## 10 October – 31 December 2021.

The Gasoline Alley forest rangers wanted to hold a Halloween party, last I checked in. The young, bear-befriending Aubee and Boog suggested the Emmons house, vacant since the widow Sarah Emmons died. It’s a fine, haunted-looking place, their mother Hoogy Skinner agrees. But she’s barely seen the spot when real estate agent Kim Luna arrives with the news it’s been sold, sight unseen. But the new owner doesn’t mind if the locals have a party as long as they don’t damage the place.

It’s a successful enough party to attract Snuffy Smith. Also Bearlee and Uncle Bearnaise, the wild bears that Aubee and Boog were hanging out with last plot recap. They give Aubee, who’s herself dressed as a bear, tips on how to act more authentic. The bears win the costume contest, because Jim Scancarelli likes writing that sort of gentle fantastic American Cornball plot.

Then, from the 9th of November, a second American Cornball plot intrudes. This one involves counterfeiters, who’d been using the place to store their product. I know what you’re thinking: oh, they’re the buyers of the house, right? But then why would they have allowed a party there? They’re not the buyers. They were just using the abandoned house. They never expected the place to get sold, nor that there would be a party there. If they had they’d have pretended to haunt the place or something. Still, they’ve locked up everything incriminating, so I’m not sure what they’re there to do. I guess they wanted the free food.

And then one of the kids opens the locked door with everything behind. The counterfeiters fake having guns, by draping handkerchiefs over food. The partygoers think it’s a performance, and slowly realize it’s not. The cops show up fast enough, thanks to Boog calling them. The counterfeiters try to flee, but slip and fall on the broken beads of Ava Luna’s necklace. (She’s the daughter of the real estate agent.) And so all ends happily. Not for the counterfeiters, sent to jail. But Sophie and Ava Luna get rewards. And the party is the hit of the forest rangers’ families’ Halloweens.

On the 6th of December started the annual magic encounter with Santa. It sure reads like it’s the same night of the Halloween party. But Aubee, Sophie, and Ava agree it’d be great to visit Santa Claus. Ava even knows how to get there: she’s got a magic hat and doll.

So you’re either in for this sort of light silliness, or you hate-read Gasoline Alley. I hope you walk a path chosen wisely. The kids blip up to Santa’s Workshop and meet Bunky the Elf, keeper of the list of good and bad kids. They meet the reindeer and see the sleigh’s loading dock. And even get to meet Santa Claus, who asks them to tell their parents that Santa still loves them. Again, you’re either in for this sort of thing, or you hate-read Gasoline Alley. (I don’t hate-read the strip.) Mrs Claus gives them cookies right before Ava wishes them all back home, where they wake up in bed with a tale their parents won’t believe. But also cookies, and where did they come from? Huh?

The 27th of December starts the new and current story, about a movie getting made in Gasoline Alley. It’s too soon to say where this is going.

#### Next Week!

Zebra mussels, bees, skulduggery, and NFTs! What else could it be but Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail, recapped, if all goes well? See you then. And until then, if you see something in nature? Please try not to mess it up. Thank you.

## Reposting The Stages Of The Road Trip: Stage Five

And now I wrap up my reposting of this road-trip sequence, one of my favorites. The bit about where every small town in the North found the black crepe-paper to shroud their downtowns after Lincoln’s murder is something I genuinely wonder and don’t even know how to investigate. The bit about the promising-looking barcade that was just closed exactly when they’d be there is also drawn from real life, from a trip to the (excellent) Knoebels Amusemenet Park in Pennsylvania.

OK, but is this the sheep district of the country or what because this is getting to be far too many sheep.

Dan tried to get away without calling it “Diet Pupsi” and couldn’t. But he did realize that over this trip everyone had tried, one time or other, just saying the name of it right. The implication is that everybody’s ready to let this in-joke go, but nobody wants to be the one to say it. Dan resolves to bring this up at a good moment, but hopes so very much that someone else brings it up first.

Sophie starts the practice of deliberately misreading the highway signs now. Taking “Williamsport” as the game of Williams promises some great fun, but all it really leads to is stories of times their satellite navigator had no idea how to pronounce a street name. “Malcolm the Tenth Street” is judged the best of those. There’s just not enough good towns in the area, though.

It seemed like this should be a good way to pass a few miles. But sharing the most important thing in their lives that they’ve given up correcting their parents about? Like, where it’s just too much effort to explain what’s really going on, and it’s easier to let them go about being wrong and correct people whom their parents in turn mislead? Yeah, so it turns out that for everybody it’s just “exactly what it is we do for work”. That’s weird itself. Like, you’d think for someone it would be a relationship or some important aspect of their personality or something. No, though. It’s just what everyone does in exchange for money. This seems like it says something important about modern society, but who knows?

All right, but that is definitely a two-story strip mall, putting to rest an earlier squabble.

Josh is irrationally offended by the name of the Creekside Inn Hotel, citing “redundancy”. His status is not helped when it turns out to be near the Riverfront Cemetery Memorial Park.

The historical marker turned out to be a surprisingly good stop. It’s just a note that this town was somehow too small for Lincoln’s Funeral Train to stop at, but they have this amazing picture of the train just going through town. It’s not a very good picture but for an action scene in 1865? That’s pretty amazing anyway. But the real question is how everything in town is covered in black crepe. Where did that all come from? The town isn’t anything today, and back then? It was so nothing it couldn’t even get the funeral train to stop. Why would they even have enough crepe to shroud all downtown? Or if they didn’t, where did they get it? Did they have enormous quantities of regular crepe and just dye it black all of a sudden? Amanda’s joke that maybe it was crepe of all colors and it just looks black is judged to be “too soon”. But that doesn’t answer the real question.

It’s become so tiring to read all the highway signs that the town or towns of Portage Munster are passed without comment.

Now it’s time for the search for a place to have dinner. This is a complex triangulation of where they are, how fast they’re going somewhere, and what towns of any size are going to be anywhere near dinnertime. The objective: find someplace genuinely local to go. And after fifteen minutes of searching, success! It’s a well-reviewed barcade and they even have a menu online with four vegetarian-friendly options, plus great heaping piles of fried things. And it’s been open since like 1938. It is closed today, and tomorrow, for the only two days it’s set to be closed between Easter and Thanksgiving this year.

By now the group has gotten past making up redundantly-named landmarks and is annoying Josh with oxymoronic names.

At least everyone can agree: after all this time driving, we’re all walking like badly-rigged video game models. This is what’s so good about taking a road trip. You get to enjoy everything in new and different ways.

## 60s Popeye: Valley of the Goons, the rare cartoon where Popeye goes sailing

After a bit of Jack Kinney we get back to the comfortable grounds of Paramount. Once more we have story, direction, and production by Seymour Kneitel. This for 1960’s Valley of the Goons.

Considering his name Popeye doesn’t spend that much time at sea. Especially in the King Features shorts, where he got stuck in a boring suburban house. Here, he’s finally at sea — and even in a sailing ship! — but it took being shanghaied to get him there.

I like this one a lot. Not just because it has Goons, although that does help. It does a lot of things right, including getting Popeye on an adventure. It’s also a strongly-plotted adventure. Poachers hoping to make a fortune in goonskin shanghai Popeye, presumably because they need the extra muscle. Popeye, being a hero, isn’t having it. He breaks out of the brig and gives the Goons the spinach they need to kick the pirates out. And the spinach seeds so they won’t have to rely on him anymore. The story’s sensible, the motivations clear enough, and Popeye is resolutely heroic for it all.

As seems to happen, I wonder if this was a condensed version of a comic strip or comic book adventure. Neither the Popeye Wikia nor the IMDB suggest it was. And it’s unfair to say that because a story is coherent and entertaining it must come from somewhere else. There’s no reason Seymour Kneitel can’t write good stories. Still, a condensation would explain why Rough House isn’t suspicious when the Captain takes the knocked-out Popeye.

We get introduced to Goon Valley as “A Backwards Country”, along with some jokes about things being done the wrong way around. Putting a mailbox in a letter, for example, or a mugger forcing cash on someone. (Who seems happy about it, too.) A serious critic might consider the colonialist implications of these pirates raiding a country explicitly labelled “backwards”. And being saved by the white guy coming in and defending them, and encouraging them to adopt his own techniques to fend off future incursions[*]. Me, I’m considering: is this a ripoff of Bizarro? The character first appeared, in Superboy, in 1959, and was popular for good reasons. But he was a lone “backwards” figure. Bizarro’s world (Htrae) first appeared in April 1960, if Wikipedia doesn’t mislead me. It’s … conceivable that this was filling out a couple minutes of screen time with a Bizarro World riff. But I find coincidence is the more compelling explanation. It’s not a unique genius that would think of “what if everyday life, but backwards?” It must have antecedents.

The captain of the poachers isn’t a Brutus figure, although Jackson Beck does the voice. Beck also does Rough House’s voice, using a southern-fried accent I think is unique to this short.

[*] One might ask whether I’m trivializing a serious and worthwhile form of criticism by putting it to a disposable cartoon from the 60s. I don’t intend to trivialize, no. I argue, first, that we learn how to think seriously about things by first thinking lightly about things. Whether by shallow thoughts or by simple topics. If the text doesn’t have enough of a point of view to criticize, it’ll fall apart under examination, and it’s worth learning how to spot that, too. And some serious thinkers would agree that the pop-culture stuff shoveled into kids’ heads deserves examination. But, again, these are for real critics, as opposed to what I do around here.