60s Popeye: Moby Hick (not the Gene Deitch one)


Paramount Cartoon Studios produced today’s short from 1960. The story’s from our old friend I Klein. Direction and production are credited to Seymour Kneitel. Here at least is Moby Hick.

A common problem to any longrunning series is the dwindling universe. It’s natural to focus on the most interesting character, or characters, and everything in the setting dwindles away. Moby Hick does something interesting, despite the only significant characters being the Sea Hag and Popeye. The Sea Hag doesn’t start this short with any interest in Popeye. When she does run across him she hasn’t any interest in destroying him. She keeps him in the cartoon because she figures she can use him. And her goal is something that’s in the backstory, something we don’t see much in these cartoons. Years ago (we eventually learn) she stole the Seamen’s Orphanage treasure, but lost it overboard where the great whale Moby Hick swallowed it. We have to suppose this was a Sea Hag caper that Popeye wasn’t involved in, since the treasury wasn’t recovered back then. These are small items. But they’re things that expand Popeye’s universe, making stuff happen that isn’t about him.

The Sea Hag gets a lot of nice business this cartoon. She has a solid introduction, the whole bar of sailors scared off by her reputation. Spotting Popeye as someone she could use, and spinning enough of a tale of being reformed for Popeye to buy it. Popeye’s usual sense for detecting bad guys seems to malfunction here. His Columbo-like eye was one of his defining characteristics. In his first story in Thimble Theatre he couldn’t stop socking John Stork, long before he had any evidence Stork was the bad guy. It’s not lost entirely; Popeye recognizes Moby Hick isn’t some rampaging monster from a good look at the whale. Maybe he wants to believe in reform that much. He hasn’t got much reason to expect it from the Sea Hag, or Bluto/Brutus. But, like, Toar came around fast, and so do a lot of his opponents.

The giant face of Moby Hick, a green whale, looks, smiling, to Popeye, who's standing up and looking happy back at him.
I know this is Moby Hick, the legendary … green … whale, but what I see is that space-energy monster from the advertisements for Arkanoid. Only, uh, not mean.

This is a more plot, less comedy-driven cartoon than usual. I have the impression Paramount-made shorts are more likely to have that sort of strong plot. I suspect the studio was better at stories than (say) Jack Kinney’s or Larry Harmon’s could be. The only mysterious point is how the Sea Hag came to learn Moby Hick had swallowed the treasure. I suppose it was some wicked bit of spellcraft or something.

It’s not just me, right? It is weird that Popeye’s been swallowed by jellyfish more than he’s been swallowed by whales? (He wasn’t even swallowed by a whale this time!) Only a stray thought; pay it no mind.

I Feel Like the World Is Being Called Out by This Popeye Strip From 1938


You know, a time when we didn’t have such serious problems to deal with.

Quick backstory: So, Swee’Pea is the king of Demonia, a pleasant enough land except for the Demons who live underground, pull stuff and people down never to be seen again, and keep making fun of Popeye while one of them urges the others to throw dirt in his eye. King Cabooso rules neighboring Cuspidonia, and he’s threatening war for the same reasons every country in an interwar comedy is getting ready to go to war.

Mr Frogfuzz: 'Here we are back in Demonia and the demon situation is worse than ever! King Swee'Pea must act!' Popeye hands the phone to Swee'Pea: 'It's for you, Swee'Pea.' Swee'Pea responds with shock to whatever he's told. Popeye: 'Swee'pea sez not to worry about them de-mings, Mr Frogfuzz.' Frogfuzz: 'Oh, that's wonderful! Did he fix everything?' Popeye :'No, but King Cabooso ol' 'im he is sendin' his army to wipe us off the eart'. So he sez not to worry no more about them de-mings.'
Elzie Segar’s Thimble Theatre for the 24th of September, 1938, and rerun the 23rd of February. 2022. So Comics Kingdom’s web site seems to be more stable now, and it’s only lost my login credentials once this past week. Still not getting the permanent links that I like, so, you reader in the future who sees this broken? Please let me know and then I probably won’t be able to do anything about it, but I’ll agree that Comics Kingdom shouldn’t have broken it. Also, by the time of this strip, it was probably being written and drawn by Tom Sims and Doc Winner; notice that Segar didn’t sign the comic.

MiSTed: Imagine! Your Christmas Greeting Inside a Chinese Fortune Cooky (Part 2 of 2)


And here I finish off the “Chinese Fortune Cooky” advertisement I started last week. I don’t find much in this Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic that needs explanation. You can see I wrote this when I still thought I would make a go of that Web Site Number Nine replacement. At the end of this is a bit that’s supposed to be an ASCII art representation of the mailing blanks, and HTML, alas, cannot understand the concept of “I want blank spaces here”. (Yes, I know about the non-breaking space.)

The original advertisement has a line delivered in that insulting “Chinese” stereotype fashion and while I make fun of it, if you don’t want that stuff in your recreational reading, you are right, and can safely skip this. While it was a fun MiSTing to do I can’t say this has any all-time great lines you’d regret missing.


>
> Yes! If you order twelve of these amazing Christmas
> Greetings,

MIKE: Twelve? Who could possibly have twelve friends at Christmastime?

> the price is only $4.98 for the complete package delivered
> to your door — or only about 40c each!

CROW: 45 cents if you don’t have a door.

> If you order twenty-five,
> then each fortune cooky greeting gift cost you only 36c each!

MIKE: If you order 36, then each costs only twenty-five cents.

> If,
> however, you order fifty or more, then the price can be lowered to
> only 32c each, or $15.95 for fifty.

TOM: They sound hesitant.

CROW: Yeah, like they’re rethinking the whole cookie business model.

> This is far less than many good
> quality cards that cannot compare in the impact and joy that they will
> give your friends!

MIKE: I’d like to see a direct joy comparison on these cards.

>
> CHINESE SANTA CLAUS SAY:

TOM: Oh.

CROW: Please, no.

> “Have Happy Thought

MIKE: Oh, dear.

> — Give
> Greeting that is also Gift!”

TOM: That’s enough, please.

>

CROW: Oh, thank goodness.

> Rush your order today to get your cooky greetings in
> ample time for Christmas mailing.

MIKE: Lest Chinese Santa Claus pop back in with more directions.

> Orders received
> after Nov. 20th will be returned.

TOM: Orders received before November 20th will be rotted out before Christmas.

> So send coupon
> right away.

CROW: Please tell me that’s not more Chinese Santa Claus.

>
>
> +——————————————————————-+
> | HARRISON HOME PRODUCTS CORP.,

TOM: The only home products corporation named for President William Henry Harrison.

> DEPT. 10-DC |

MIKE: Department 10-DC, box 37, desk 4, altitude L-24.

> | 250 Passaic Street, Newark, N. J. |

CROW: Newark: where Christmas meets fortune cookies!

> | |

> | CHECK personalized greeting of your choice: |

TOM: Choose wisely. Wrong answers will be punished.

> | ___ Merry Christmas and Happy New Year |
> | Your Name Here |

MIKE: Ah, ‘Your Name Here’, renowned Chinese fortune cookie teller.

> | ___ Season’s Greetings |

CROW: o/` In our souls … o/`

TOM: o/` Yummy Fruity Pebbles in our bowls. o/`

MIKE: Stop, both of you.

> | Your Name Here |

MIKE: If you have no name, the name of someone you know may be substituted.

> | |
> | I want greetings signed ………………………….. |
> | PRINT PLAINLY |

TOM: I want greetings signed `PLAINLY’?

CROW: Worst Mad-Lib Ever.

> | |
> | Please send me ……….

MIKE: Please send me … [ drumroll … ]

> Personalized Fortune Cooky |

MIKE: [ Cymbal clash. ]

CROW: Yeah, still doesn’t quite work.

> | Greetings, complete with Gift Boxes and individual mailing |
> | cartons. |

TOM: Yes, but will they be mailed to you?

> | |
> | ___ Payment enclosed ……. |

CROW: They rolled it up and slipped it into a fortune cookie.

> | ___ Charge Diner’s Acc’t No. ……… |

MIKE: Charge! Diner’s accountant? No! [ Drumroll! ]

> | |
> | ___ 12 for $4.98

TOM: 13 for $5.38!

> ___ 25 for $8.98

CROW: Six will get you eggroll!

> ___ 50 for $15.95 |

MIKE: You know, I’d kind of like a hoagie instead.

> | SAVE MORE! For each additional 25 over fifty add $7.50 |

TOM: For 25 fewer under fifty subtract $7.50, and it’ll all work out.

> | |
> | NAME………………………………………………… |

[ CROW, TOM, and MIKE snicker overenthusiastically through this. ]

CROW: [ to MIKE and TOM ] All right, all right, ssh, shh, shhh …
[ to the ad ] FIRSTNAME …

[ ALL burst out laughing at this. ]

CROW: [ to MIKE and TOM ] Be cool, be cool. [ to the ad ] … M …

TOM: OOoh, hoo, hooooo, the silliness!

MIKE: Sssh, you’ll wreck it, Tom!

CROW: LASTNAME!
[ MIKE cackles ]

> | ADDRESS……………………………………………… |

TOM: [ to CROW and MIKE ] I got this one, ssh, stop giggling …
[ to the ad ] One Two Three …

[ CROW cackles and then keeps giggling ]

TOM: … 123 _MAIN STREET_!

MIKE: [ Clapping, and then to TOM and CROW ] I got this, you’ll love it.

CROW: Oh, how are gonna top …

> | CITY……………………………

MIKE: ANYTOWN!

[ TOM and CROW are bowled out of their seats laughing. ]

> ZONE….

[ TOM and CROW pull themselves up just enough for this ]

TOM: Zone? Zone is forbidden!

CROW: Take permits many.

> STATE……….. |

[ TOM and CROW giggle in anticipation. ]

MIKE: [ Stoner voice ] State of Confusion, man!

[ ALL cackle and hoot at all this, and then … ]

> | |

[ ALL stop abruptly. ]

TOM: Well. What next?

> | In Canada:

TOM: Oh. Canada.

CROW: My something something something land.

> Order from Harrison Home Products Ltd., |

MIKE: A *completely* different company.

> | 675 King St., W.,

CROW: [ As Jimmy Durante ] It’s under the big St!

> Toronto, Ontario |

TOM: Wait, Toronto doesn’t get zones?

MIKE: Canadians just don’t get zones, man.

> +——————————————————————-+
>

CROW: Let’s blow this popsicle stand.

[ 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. MIKE has a tray with some fortune cookies on top, and a paper-wrapped shoebox, and another similarly wrapped box about twice the size. TOM and CROW are to the side, watching this. ]

MIKE: Now, each of you has picked one fortune cookie and I’m giving Tom here the chance to trade what’s in the cookie for what’s in the little box, do you want to trade?

CROW: Take the box!

TOM: The box … the cookie … the box … yeah, I’m gonna go with the box.

MIKE: All right, and inside the box is … [ he lifts up the shoebox, revealing two fortune cookies inside ] Ah, another cookie!

[ CROW laughs at TOM. ]

MIKE: Now, do you want to look at the contents of the cookie, or do you want to trade it for the modestly larger box?

TOM: I … I …

CROW: Keep the cookie!

TOM: All right, the cookie.

MIKE: [ Cracking it open and eating the cookie ] And inside the cookie … ‘You get the modestly larger box!’

[ CROW cackles ]

MIKE: And inside the modestly larger box is … [ lifting it up, to reveal another fortune cookie ] … another cookie, with … [ MIKE cracks it open, eating the cookie and reading the fortune ] … ah! You win the original two cookies!

TOM: [ Completely baffled ] Uh … yay?

CROW: Ah, Tom, loser-boy, you get … uh … wait …

[ MIKE slides both cookies over to TOM. ]

CROW: I’m confused.

MIKE: Then we’ve had a good day. And if you at home are having a good day, why not consider the new MiSTings archive lurching its way into existence at http://www.-.com/mst3000/ ? It’s got MiSTings, and … uh … quotes from MiSTings, and isn’t that plenty in these troubled times? Thank you, won’t you?

[ MADS sign flashes; MIKE taps it. ]

[ DEEP 13. PEARL FORRESTER and DR FORRESTER are looking over boxes of DEEP 13-labelled stuff which they study. ]

PEARL: You know, if we have them buy cookie dough, and set delivery …

DR. F: Yeah, then they forget it and we can keep the money and the dough.

PEARL: [ Breaking concentration ] Is that a pun?

DR. F: No! No no no no no no no no … no … wait, was it?

PEARL: That was *totally* a pun. and you know what that means.

[ DR FORRESTER reluctantly turns around and walks, ashamed, to stand in a corner. ]

DR. F: [ Calling out ] Ah, until next time, cookie puss?

PEARL: Clayton! Rules.

[ DR FORRESTER slumps sadly in his corner. ]

PEARL: Cookies. What were we thinking? It should have been pot luck.

[ She presses the button ]

                 \  |  /
                  \ | /
                   \|/
                 ---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 Fortune Cooky scheme belongs to the Harrison Home Products Corporation of Newark, New Jersey, of 1962, and was advertised as such in the Diners’ Club Magazine of October 1962. http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2009/01/29/imagine-your-christmas-greeting-inside-a-chinese-fortune-cooky/ for the original.

Keep circulating the posts.

> CHINESE SANTA CLAUS SAY: “Have Happy Thought — Give
> Greeting that is also Gift!”

We Probably Shouldn’t Waste Too Much Time, Is What I’m Thinking


Don’t get me wrong, I’m as excited as everyone else was by Two’s Day. I’m just stuck thinking how much work it’s going to be getting ready for the 33rd of March, 3033 to be on a Threesday. I suppose we don’t have to worry about it right this minute, but, you know how fast and hard deadlines hit these days.

What’s Going On In Alley Oop? What’s with all these alternate-universe Alley Oops? December 2021 – February 2022


I don’t know. Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop has embraced the idea of the multiverse and that lets them have silly variations of the core cast. I grant this has dramatic economy. This past story introduced Allen Cooper, the analogue of Alley Oop from the all-villain Universe 4. We do get a glimpse of Lula and Doc Atoby, the villain-world counterparts to Ooola and Dr Wonmug, so that’s banked for future use.

The Alley Oop we’re following is Universe-2’s character, by the way. The original newspaper character is Universe-1. He’s safely ensconced in a continuity that has none of the Lemon/Sayers run’s silliness. And this story also saw a brief visit from Ollie Arp, from the more competent (though still goofy) Universe-3.

So this should catch you up to mid-February 2022 in Alley Oop. If you’re reading this after about May 2022 a more current plot update is likely at this link. Thanks for looking up story elements here.

And after a stumble last week I hope to resume my Little 2021 Mathematics A-to-Z tomorrow. What mathematics term do I try to pick up and explain in an essay a normal person can understand? Why not just look and see, in about 18 hours from when this essay posts?

Alley Oop.

6 December 2021 – 19 February 2022.

Doc Wonmug tracked down the history-rippling destruction of Earth’s atmosphere to the year 2000. Our Heroes went to the Rocky Mountain cave holding the Atmosphere Fixer. It’s a 200-year-old device that daily cleans the world’s atmosphere. (Wonmug notes, defensively, it’s not an “everything on Earth” fixer, which is why there are still environment problems.) It was created by one Janet Higgins, a brilliant scientist suppressed to history. And now, the machine’s been sabotaged to make it look like the Y2K bug destroyed the device and the atmosphere.

Wonmug: 'I appears they damaged the temporal rod, causing the machine to fail. I believe they were attempting to make it look like it succumbed to the Y2K bug.' Ooola: 'But why engage in subterfuge? Any damage would have had the same result.' Wonmug: 'Agreed. Whoever did this was *not* a master villain.' Allen Cooper, emerging from hiding: 'Correction! *I* did this, and I *am* a master villain!' Alley Oop: 'You heard the man. He's handsome *and* a villain.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 24th of December, 2021. Have to say this for Cooper and the rest of his Universe-4 band: they are right up front about their villainy. They don’t go concern-trolling of how they’re just so extremely worried that someone might pretend to be trans so they could take women’s soccer scholarships, or that someone taking food assistance nevertheless has luxuries like a phone and a freezer.

Ted emerges and identifies Alley Oop as the saboteur. Ted is a robot Higgins created and watching the Fixer. (I get an impression of Tik-Tok of Oz looking at Ted, but that might be coincidence.) Oop’s innocent, of course. It turns out to be Allen Cooper. Cooper claims to be avenging his parents, killed when the atmosphere failed to save them, and anyway this isn’t his universe. And leaves.

Alley Oop pursues him to Universe 4 and falls into Cooper’s trap. Then punches his way back out of it, a nice reminder that he is a strong and dynamic guy. (Though the actual escape gets done off-panel for comic value.) Alley Oop figures to bring Cooper to Time Court, but doesn’t know how to do that. Fortunately Ollie Arp, their Universe-3 counterpart, pops in and is happy to bring Cooper to Time Justice.

Wonmug: 'Apart from having a missing part, your atmosphere fixer has held up remarkably well for the last 200 years.' Higgins: 'I assume I've finally gotten the recognition I deserve? For saving humanity?' Alley Oop: 'Sorry. No one's ever even heard about --- OOF!' [ as Wonmug elbows him in the belly. ] Wonmug: 'Of COURSE you've received recognition. Every city in the country was renamed Higginsburg.' Higgins: 'Eh, it's a start.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 1st of February, 2022. So, not to take this trifle seriously, but I’m curious how the Atmosphere Fixer ended up put in the Rocky Mountains in 1800; it seems like a hard place for a white woman to get. Why not an Appalachian mountain, or somewhere in Great Britain where all the atmosphere trouble started? Also we have to seriously respect Higgins’s mechanical-tooling skills, especially if she were working from North America in the 18th century.

Back in our universe Doc Wonmug and Ooola haven’t had any luck fixing the broken atmosphere fixer. So Ooola goes back to 1800 to find Janet Higgins. Higgins is a bit prickly, but content to go to the future and save the world again. She assumes she’s finally gotten the recognition deserved and Doc Wonmug nudges Alley Oop out of telling her the truth. And she is delighted to be reunited with Ted, who’s also felt every moment without her was a millennium.

Higgins fixes the thing fast. And Wonmug, considering the hard life she’s had, offers her and Ted something better. He sends them to the year 2782, when Earth finally becomes a Utopia.

Ooola; 'This is kind of like being back in Moo. But without the dinosaurs.' Alley Oop: 'Yeah, I miss them too.' Ooola: 'Strange that we haven't seen anyone yet.' Oop: 'Maybe that's *why* it's Utopia.' Wen, emerging from behind a tree: 'Oh, we were just letting you settle in. My name is Wen.' Oop: '*AH*! You startled me! My heart is racing.' Wen: 'Don't worry, only the finest adrenaline flows here.' Oop:'You're right! It *does* feel nice.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 15th of February, 2022. This seems fine.

The 11th of February, Alley Oop and Ooola sneak off to Utopia — Eutopia, they soon learn — against Doc Wonmug’s warning that they’ll just wreck it if they visit. (He includes himself as someone who would definitely screw utopia up.) They’re welcomed and everything seems great. Can’t help noticing Ooola watching a white rabbit run off somewhere, though, in one strip. I am a STEM idiot, yes, but I am capable of recognizing an allusion sometimes.

Next Week!

I hope to catch you up on how The Phantom, the Man Who Cannot Die, learns how he was going to die. It’s Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, one week from now. As ever, that’s if all goes well.

I don’t even know what this could mean


I have realized that when I have a dream about trying to find a bathroom, it’s because I should wake up and apply the bathroom that we have. Straightforward enough.

What I don’t know how to parse is dreaming that it was very important I wash my hands because I was about to eat a banana. I don’t make a habit of not washing my hands; I’ve been known to wash my hands because I felt like I had got them a little too dry after washing them in the first place. But if I have choose something to eat without washing my hands? A banana has a lot of appeal.

60s Popeye: The Bathing Beasts, in which nobody bathes or even gets wet


We return to Paramount Cartoon Studios for today’s Popeye short. The story is credited to Irving Dressler. Direction and production, though, are credited to our old friend Seymour Kneitel. Here’s 1960’s The Bathing Beats.

This is another in the long-running string of “Popeye and Bluto/Brutus do feats of strength for Olive Oyl’s attention” cartoons. Paramount — which used to be Famous Studios, which used to be Fleischer Studios — had done about 740 of them at this point. They could probably do them in their sleep. There’s a fair chance nobody planned to make this short, it just appeared, the byproduct of working on other shorts.

The feats-of-strength-for-Olive’s-attention cartoon lives on how inventive the gags are. It should also rely on how interesting the stakes are, but those are almost never interesting. It’s usually who gets a kiss from Olive Oyl, or maybe a date. (In Popeye for President the stakes are becoming President of the United States and yet that doesn’t do anything for the cartoon.) Here it’s … who gets to ride in front in Olive Oyl’s new car.

So the contest is at the local Mister America pageant where whichever wins gets to ride shotgun. The pageant is lucky Olive Oyl bought a car as they’d otherwise have no competitors. And then we get a bunch of basic, easy-to-animate gags. There’s bits of life. I like the pacing of Popeye and Brutus pulling the other out of the front seat. I like Popeye knocking on his head like a xylophone. But, consider the joke where Popeye slaps Brutus’s back to make him swallow his harmonica. Brutus says something unintelligible. It’s funny enough, but it’s also done already, in Symphony in Spinach. Only there it was Bluto slapping Popeye, acting as villain. I’m not sure Popeye stumbles over the line between being mischievous and being the jerk, but it’s closer than I’d like.

An exhausted Popeye, about to fall asleep, slumps over a set of weights he's trying to lift.
Actual photo of me attempting to critique this cartoon.

Brutus drugs Popeye to sleep, but accidentally drops spinach in his mouth. The big climax is Popeye dead-lifting Brutus and his weight, a feat that’s so ordinary it appears as a pre-spinach warmup feat in The Anvil Chorus Girl. There’s nothing wrong in repeating a good joke. It shows the diminished budget and scope and ambition of these shorts, though, that what used to be a warmup act is now the closer.

The punch line, of course, is that Popeye remembers Olive Oyl is a woman driver and flees into a tree to be safe. It’s not that this genre of jokes can’t be funny, because Bob Newhart’s “Driving School Instructor” routine exists. But this joke doesn’t have any sincerity to it. The cartoon would be better if we ended with Olive Oyl driving Popeye off somewhere.

This isn’t a bad cartoon. But it doesn’t feel like it was made, that is, that no creative decisions went into it. It just animated whatever they had and never thought about why, or what they could do better, or uniquely. And, as mentioned in my essay’s title, nobody in this short titled The Bathing Beasts ever gets wet.

Statistics Saturday: Some More Winter Olympics Trivia


  • For several months the 1956 Winter Olympics were scheduled to be held in Santo Domingo until someone asked why Avery Brundage’s geography whiz of a grand-nephew kept giggling.
  • If this were 1988? You could get a laugh anywhere, anytime, out of anyone, just talking about the “luge”. Just the idea of the sport was the most funniest thing anyone could imagine. By 1992, the moment had passed. Sorry if you missed it.
  • Although they’re formally named the “Winter Olympics”, in the southern hemisphere where the seasons are opposite they’re known as the “Winter”.
  • They didn’t originally plan to have the 1976 Games in Innsbruck, it’s just everyone assumed that’s where the Games would be and everyone had bought their plane tickets before anyone checked where they were supposed to be held (Santo Domingo).
  • Fictional nation with the greatest number of gold medals in the Winter Olympics? Freedonia. Greatest number of medals, period? Klopstokia.
  • Sports never played in the Winter Olympics include ice baseball, snow basketball, sleet football, frost hockey, and slush rugby.
  • Like you could pretend you’re trying to think of the name of “luge” and then say your brain keeps on wanting you to say “luge” and that isn’t even a word, and if it’s 1988, you’re beloved for your sense of humor.
  • Oh yeah and if this were 1994? It would be crazy funny for David Letterman to have his Mom asking Olympics athletes questions, and that’s why to this day we have the talk show comedy genre of “somebody’s relative does a halting, insecure interview that would be painfully embarrassing to watch if you weren’t at least 75% sure the relative was in on and liked the joke”.
  • Luge, though. Luge.
  • Olympic events added for Richie Rich include $ledding, bob$leigh, $peed $kating, and ¢ro$$-¢ountry $kiing.
  • They are figuring to sneak in an extra Winter Olympics in Innsbruck next year, just to stay in practice.
  • Happy luge, everybody! We probably missed it for this year, though.

Reference: Expository Sciences, Editors Terry Shinn, Richard Whitley.

Ominous news from Discover Card Master Command


Discover Card sent me an e-mail. It’s all right, I have a Discover card (not to brag) so I expect them to send me things, mostly offering for me to transfer a balance. But they wanted me to know my Year-End Spending Summary was ready.

So this is either six weeks late or else they figure I’m done with spending money for 2022 and either way that seems troublesome.

MiSTed: Imagine! Your Christmas Greeting Inside a Chinese Fortune Cooky (Part 1 of 2)


Now for two weeks of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction I probably should have run back in December. Ah well. This is another advertisement reprinted on a now-defunct Modern Mechanics blog, offering just what the subject line suggests.

I set the host sketches for this MiSTing in Season 7 of the show — the Pearl-and-Dr-Forrester year — because there were almost none set then. I think there were more MiSTings where people came up with their own, post-season-6 “new settings” than that short season ever got.

The New Jersey Big Sea Day is something that I, a New Jersey native, never heard of before running across a mention in Walt Kelly’s Pogo. It’s this early-August festival in Manasquan, on the Shore, with sandcastle-building and stuff like that. Von Steuben Day is a late-September celebration of Friedrich von Steuben, the Prussian military officer who introduced General Washington’s Continental Army to “training”.

The riff about where fortune cookies came from reflected the best information I had on hand around a decade ago when I wrote this MiSTing. It’s also not any kind of joke, but what am I going to do with trivia, not shove it in front of people’s faces? That would be impossible.

Axiomatic to my riffing is the supposition that it’s a silly idea to have customized messages printed in fortune cookies. But it’s not that silly. It would definitely get people to talk about whatever you or your organization put in there. It’s just what they would say is, “Huh. Cute” and then stop. It probably would take more than ten minutes to make fortune cookies from scratch, but not that much longer. They only need, like, five minutes to bake, even if you have a 1962 oven.


[ SEASON SEVEN opening credits. ]

[ 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. Desk. MIKE is reading the SATELLITE NEWS; CROW and TOM carrying bags slung over their shoulders enter. The bags are full of greeting cards. ]

TOM: [ Hesitantly ] Ahem?

CROW: [ Coughing ] Um … uh …

TOM: [ Nervous, once MIKE, perhaps unwisely, looks up ] Ah, good day or evening sir and/or ma’am?

CROW: [ Also as a frightened child ] And with the upcoming seasons of seasonal greetings with calling for celebrations of seasonal greetings to be given out around the holiday seasoning …

TOM: [ To CROW ] You’re skipping, let me! [ To MIKE ] And for only twenty cents per card on certain deals you can have a customized and personal message for convenient home delivery?

MIKE: [ Patiently putting down the newspaper ] Oh, let’s see. Tom? Crow? Trying to build an economy on me sending cards to you, Crow, and Gypsy for Christmas?

TOM: Not merely for Christmas mister and/or missus Mike but for any of the holidays you can send out cards for.

MIKE: So I could send my wishes to the three of you for any holiday that I felt like?

CROW: Our fine line of finely lined cards are open to many interpretative holiday acts.

MIKE: Ah-huh. So you’re actually getting me set for the New Jersey Big Sea Day, and not just, oh, running some thing where Doctor and Mrs Forrester get you to swipe my meager paycheck for a promise of delivery of cards about three months after I forget I ever wanted any at all?

[ DEEP 13. DR FORRESTER and PEARL FORRESTER are squinting into the camera. ]

DR.F: Mother, they’re on to us!

PEARL: Clayton, go deep, break left, watch for the long pass.

[ DR FORRESTER runs to the far end of Deep 13. ]

PEARL: All right, if we can’t get you on cards … [ She punches several miscellaneous buttons as DR FORRESTER prances back and forth in the background ] … We’ll get you *cookies*!

DR.F: I’m open!

[ PEARL grabs a piece of Deep 13-crusted camera gear and tosses it at DR FORRESTER, who catches it, knocking him over. ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. MIKE is staring at the camera while TOM and CROW bump one another’s card bags. ]

MIKE: … the heck?

[ MOVIE SIGN starts up. ]

ALL: Aaaah! Movie sign!

TOM: I want cookies!

[ 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1.. ]

[ ALL enter the theater. ]

> Imagine!

TOM: Now stop imagining! Settle! Now rationalize your settling!

> Your Christmas Greeting Inside a Chinese Fortune
> Cooky!

MIKE: A `cooky’?

CROW: What a kookie idea.

>
> Your Friends will be Amazed and Delighted

TOM: You know, the way people are often amazed by fortune cookies.

> When They Open this
> Gay Attractive Package

CROW: What, in public?!

> And See Your Personalized Greeting

MIKE: Even now their eyes are rolling and they’re sighing patiently at your kookieness.

>
> Think of it!

TOM: Keep thinking of it, until you have a good idea instead.

> Just picture this scene, taking place in each of
> your friends’ homes!

CROW: OK, we have a place, now, we need professions.

TOM: Dentists!

CROW: OK, a bunch of dentists at a friend’s home and what are they there for?

MIKE: Elvis impersonations!

CROW: Elvis-impersonating dentists at a friend’s home, there’s our scene, let’s go!

>
> Approximately one or two weeks before Christmas this year,
> your friends’ doorbell rings!

TOM: Sure, like your friends even know people who *ring* doorbells.

MIKE: That doesn’t even mean anything, Tom.

TOM: Er … hush.

> There, in the hands of their postman,

CROW: It’s a letter in the bag for me!

> along with the usual run of ordinary Christmas cards, is something
> completely different

TOM: It’s a Christmas Belgian Waffle!

> — a small, cardboard Christmas container, with
> their name and address on the front, but with no other
> identification!

MIKE: Immediately the bomb squad is called in.

>
> The ordinary cards are tossed aside!

TOM: The recipients panic, wrecking their home while fleeing!

> Eyes focus on this
> mysterious container as your friends slip it apart!

CROW: Your cookies are detonated at a secure facility in Utah!

> And just picture
> the expression on their faces when they draw out of that container a
> lovely Christmas Ornament Box

MIKE: A Box? Why, that’s even better than being *loved*!

> — with its brilliant red braided silk
> string to hang it on their tree

TOM: Murray, you’re supposed to hang it on the Christmas tree, not the diseased elm out back.

> — with the year 1962 in blazing red
> numerals on its face

CROW: The moldy, rotted remains of ancient cookies on the inside.

> — with its sides and bottom covered with gay
> white, red, yellow and brown Christmas figures

TOM: That certainly don’t reflect dopey old-time casual racist stereotypes so stop bracing for that shoe to drop.

> — and with its top
> printed with the command, in red letters, to “OPEN ME HERE”!

MIKE: OR SUFFER MY MIGHTY COOKIE WRATH!

> As
> your friends open that top, as they peer into the inside of that
> beautiful little Christmas box

CROW: .. as they free the unimaginable cookie spirits within …

> — what they see is a Chinese Fortune
> Cooky — the eternal symbol of good luck, good fortune and long-lived
> happiness!

TOM: That were invented around 1910.

CROW: By Japanese immigrants.

MIKE: To San Francisco.

TOM: That’s kind of eternal, right?

>
>
> ON YOUR TREE

MIKE: ON YOUR TREES, EVERYONE! This is *not* a cookie drill!

> — a Gift for Every Friend and Neighbor!

CROW: For up to four friends or neighbors.

> Hang your tree with colorful ornaments that become Gay

TOM: Wouldn’t a cookie drill just break?

MIKE: Huh?

> Greeting Gifts when neighbors and children drop in
> this Holiday Season.

CROW: But the holiday is Von Steuben Day.

TOM: I mean as soon as you tried drilling something with it. Cookies are fragile.

MIKE: Thanks for being on top of that, Tom.

>
> And when they break open that Fortune Cooky, there, inside,

CROW: Is the bomb!

> individually printed on colored Christmas paper, is your personal
> greeting — SIGNED BY YOUR OWN PRINTED NAME!

TOM: Oh, my stars.

MIKE: It’s like a Christmas card, only complicated!

>
> Yes! This Christmas, you can amaze your friends and loved
> ones

MIKE: Never before had they imagined such reasons to avoid you!

> with a completely different kind of Christmas Greeting Package —

TOM: A *box*!

> that gives them a thrilling surprise when they open it

CROW: Wait, you can *open* the box too? That changes everything!

> — that hangs
> as an attractive ornament on their Christmas tree after they open it

MIKE: Peeling the tree open with band saw and corkscrew.

> — that they’ll pick off that tree and show with pride to their
> friends for months to come

TOM: Your friends who leave their trees up for months after Christmas.

> — and yet, that costs you no more than a
> ordinary, good-quality Christmas Card that you buy in a store!

CROW: You know, the kinds of cards that people like.

>
> No wonder your phone will ring constantly the week before
> Christmas,

TOM: As your phone seeks revenge!

> congratulating you on this amazing Christmas greeting!

MIKE: It’s so amazing, you could buy something that takes nearly ten minutes to make from scratch!

> No
> wonder your friends will beg you to tell them where you got it!

CROW: And you’ll withhold the information, cackling with glee at your casual cruelty.

> No
> wonder they’ll hang it in a place of honor on their tree — take it
> off that tree to show to their friends.

TOM: Thereby defeating the point of hanging it on the tree.

>
> THE PERFECT GREETING FOR YOUR COMPANY OR ASSOCIATES

MIKE: “GREETINGS, COMPANY OR ASSOCIATES!”

TOM: Perfect!

> Wish your clients, customers and business associates
> Good Fortune and Good Luck for this Holiday Season
> and the New Year.

CROW: Their lucky numbers are 24, 33, and 33, and on the back are the Chinese words for “headache” and “potato”.

>
> And how much does all this fun cost you?

TOM: Remember to add the cost of lost dignity.

>
> As you know, regular good-quality Christmas Cards usually
> cost 50c — 75c—even $1

CROW: Two dollars!

TOM: Eighteen dollars!

MIKE: A million dollars!

> or more each!

TOM: Uphill! Both ways!

> But now, if you take
> advantage of this special offer, you can send your friends these
> personalized Chinese Fortune Cooky Christmas Packages — complete —

MIKE: What’s an incomplete fortune cookie?

CROW: That’s where they forget the little laminated bill for the buffet.

> for as little as 32c each!

TOM: That seems kind of pricey for a cookie for 1962.


[ To conclude … ]

Spoiler: I’m really quite bad at it


I know I’ve been distracted. I’ve really gotten into playing 5-D chess. It’s played like regular chess, just the board sometimes shoots water at you and both players are sitting on rumble seats. Whole different experience.

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Why is April angry the show she wanted made got made? November 2021 – February 2022


So back in 2019, April Parker learned Neddy Spencer and Ronnie Huerta were writing a screenplay based on her life. And demanded they rewrite it to be correct. To tell the truth about her situation, on the run from CIA super-high-ultra-duper prison and all. This past month, the show finally debuted, and she was livid. Offended that someone was using her life to make a show.

This inconsistency hasn’t been explained. I’m not sure there is a way around it. The hypothesis I was working from was wild but not impossible: that the whole series was made by the CIA to flush April Parker out of hiding. In this interpretation, the woman who gave Neddy and Ronnie all those notes was a CIA (or equivalent) agent, trying to get things going. (Neddy Spencer would be involved so they’d know who April Parker would seek out and harass.) It’s a bit wild, but no wilder than actual things done.

But I don’t see how that’s tenable. In August 2019 we saw Norton say he had sent April “elsewhere” from Cavelton. And the woman identified as April refers to “the reason my Dad sent us here”, the screenplay she didn’t suspect existed. There is still some slender room there, in case the plan is to retcon that person as yet another April Parker lookalike. Norton had one (so far as we know) working for him, Agent Strand. The show chose to cast another. That becomes a reasonable choice if the whole show was some bonkers sting operation.

But it’s hard to see how to square this all so it fits. More plausible may be that what April Parker imagined in 2019 was so different from the reality in 2022 that it was not what she wanted. Or that she loved the dream of a TV show based on her life (don’t many of us?) and found the reality too much to bear.

So this is my attempt to bring you up to speed for Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for mid-February 2022. If you’re reading this after about May 2022, or if any news about the comic strip breaks, you should be able to find a more relevant essay here.

And on my other blog I hope tomorrow to resume my Little 2021 Mathematics A-to-Z. This is a glossary project, looking at words from mathematics. Tomorrow’s word? Triangle.

Judge Parker.

21 November 2021 – 13 February 2022.

Last time you’ll recall, Deputy Mayor Stewart took time off his job of making mopey frowny faces to show Sam Driver a video. It’s drone footage that appears to show Abbey Spencer setting fire to her bed-and-breakfast. Stewart is ready to propose something when Alan Parker interrupts the two, and the Deputy Mayor flees.

Driver: 'SO IS THE VIDEO REAL OR NOT?' Stewart: 'You saw the footage. Footage the mayor never saw and I could bury ... just as I alert the media that in good faith as deputy mayor I can't stand by a lie anymore, revealing the mayor alone committed arson, so much was his hatred for Ms Spencer. Then I'm no longer just 'deputy'.'
Francesco Marciuliani and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 2nd of December, 2021. A part of Comics Kingdom’s current web site borkery is that the permanent links aren’t working. I can’t create them, and old ones aren’t working. So I have to make do with temporary ones that I think non-subscribers can only use for a week. If this changes I’ll try to fix these.

They meet up in the park. Stewart avoids answering whether the drone footage is true. And asserts he left the flash drive with video on it by mistake. But he has a deal: he’ll tell the public that Mayor Sanderson burned down the bed-and-breakfast. The motive? Sanderson’s ongoing irrational hatred for the Spencers. Why would he do this? Well, he’ll become mayor. And he’ll have some wealthy, grateful patrons when it’s time to run in his own right. So, do they have a deal?

Woman: 'You've done nothing but attack Ms Spencer for months. 70% of those polled say they can easily see you burning down her property.' Man: 'And now businesses are refusing to work with you. We have a giant, brand-new warehouse that sits empty.' Sanderson: 'BUT WHERE IS THE PROOF?!?' Man: 'This is bigger than that now. This is about business.'
Francesco Marciuliani and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 12th of January, 2022. I like the Network vibe of this scene. The attitude that it doesn’t matter whether Sanderson committed arson that completely destroyed a building and could have killed people and animals. All that matters is there’s money a warehouse isn’t making.

What’s one more illicit deal for Sam Driver? He goes for it. Days before Christmas, Stewart announces what he “knows”. And while I’m not clear what evidence Stewart gives the public, he is believed. Mayor Sanderson’s backers inform him it’s over. It doesn’t matter whether there’s proof. “This is about business.” And so he resigns, in a humiliating speech calling for the people to rise up and demand their voice be heard. That’s another interesting choice because while Sanderson has been presented as a short-tempered, irrational, and awful person … we don’t have evidence that he actually did anything here. All we’ve seen is the video that seems to show Abbey Spencer burning down her money pit of a bed-and-breakfast. The text, so far, shows this as rich and ambitious people overthrowing the legitimate and innocent mayor of Cavelton.

[ Sophie watches the drone footage of Abbey supposedly committing arson ... ] Sophie: 'This is BAD, Sam.' Driver: 'But we both know there's no way Abbey could actually have done that, right?' Sophie: 'It's not just that. It's how you agreed with the Deputy Mayor's terms. It's how he has you in possession of evidence. It's everything. And it's how you don't sound entirely convinced that Abbey is innocent. You do believe she's innocent, don't you, Sam?' Driver: 'Of course I do. I do! It's just, well, the video ... ' Sophie: 'This is all BAD, Sam.'
Francesco Marciuliani and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 9th of January, 2022. Oh, also, about fixing these links? I will absolutely forget unless somebody nags me into fixing them. So if you’re reading this sometime in the distant future of, like, March 2022, and want me to fix the links, leave a comment, please.
The Spencers celebrate, of course. But Sophie — preparing to return to college — notices how Sam Driver’s still stressed. She spies on him, catching him with the flash drive. He can only explain it by showing the video, and Sophie points out how this is all kinds of bad. Stewart could not have left the flash drive by accident. Stewart must want Driver to have incredibly incriminating evidence. And there is something really wrong that Driver treated the video as legitimate.

But we still don’t have an explanation for what it truly is.


Meanwhile, some happy news. Ronnie Huerta and Kat’s relationship had shattered when Huerta tried to get some space before their wedding. Huerta had spent every moment from their breakup calling asking to talk with Kat again. Kat finally took a call. And they had a serious and meaningful talk. One where they talked about what was going wrong. One that’s better than any relationship advice I’ve seen in Mary Worth. Their problem was a plausible pattern. Huerta felt overwhelmed by Kat’s determination and energy. Kat felt she needed to put more into the wedding plans because Huerta was withdrawing. And these reactions to the problems encouraged the original problems to worsen.

Kat, on the phone: 'Ronnie, I ... I'm not sure if I should confess this --- because I really feel my anger is justified --- but I still miss you.' Ronnie: 'I miss you, too.' Kat: 'Well, duh.' Ronnie: 'Hahaha and now I'm laughing awkwardly because I'm not sure if we're at that point yet.'
Francesco Marciuliani and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 17th of December, 2021. By “a comment” I mean “a string of comments” because I am sure to need that.

The thing is they both want to be together. And that’s a good thing. My experience is, if two parties want to get along, they can. And they do, moving back together in time for the debut of their show, Converge, on streaming service Plus+.


The debut comes the 24th of January, reader time. The reactions are … mixed. Sophie’s college roommate Reena is impressed, wondering why Sophie never told her she was interesting. Alan Parker is traumatized by the sight of an actor playing April Parker and demands that monster out of their home, even in TV version. Neddy and Ronnie … are pretty sure the show will get better. And April Parker …

[ As Alan storms out after catching a glimpse of April on Neddy's show ... ] Alan: 'HOW COULD YOU BRING THAT MONSTER INTO OUR HOME?!' Katherine: 'ALAN!' [ Someone starts building their own head of steam about the April character ... ] April: 'Seriously, does that person act or sound like me AT ALL?!' Randy: 'Is this really our biggest concern right now, April?'
Francesco Marciuliani and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 29th of January, 2022. Randy Parker thinks it’s much more important that the plotting problems be resolved, and soon, or the show won’t be picked up for a second season.
She is angry. She can’t believe the casting, for one. And she’s offended someone “stole [her] life and put it on TV”. It inspires a fight between her and Randy Parker. Also at last we see Randy in whatever secluded secret hideout they’re at with April Parker’s mother. And with little Charlotte Parker, who wants to go back to their real home. Randy does too, or at least, he’s realized hiding out from the world of super-duper-hyper-spy etc is no kind of life. (We also get a mention that April’s mother “put [ Norton ] out of his misery”, which reinforces the idea he’s dead. I don’t believe it either.) It’s a bad situation. And we’re left with the mystery of why April Parker is so angry with a show she demanded.

Also the stress of being an international(?) super-fugitive is breaking down Randy’s feelings for his possibly-ex-wife. We’ll see how that develops by the next time I check in, I expect.

Next Week!

Did our heroes prevent the destruction of Earth twenty years ago? And did it involve a suppressed-to-history female scientist? I’ll answer these questions ‘yes’ using more words when I look at Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop next week, all going well.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about The Amazing Spider-Man reruns? The past three months of that have covered roughly what this essay does. Glad to catch you up there.

Comics Kingdom is still trying to fix things and also get people to read _Animal Crackers_


Comics Kingdom’s attempts to get their page back to working as well as it did two week ago seem to be carrying on. At least the normal page displays all right. The page that used to list all the comics they carry in alphabetical order is showing a post from 2015 where Bizarro artists Wayno and Piraro point to a blog post by Tina’s Groove artist Rina Piccolo. (The server that Piccolo’s blog was on has expired and the link’s been infested with malware.)

There isn’t a working zoom feature, but if you right-click on an image you can open it in a new tab, and that’s a usually larger version, which is the only way I can do the Slylock Fox six differences puzzles. Also the tab for making a permanent link — instead of one that non-subscribers can only see for a week — is dead. The permanent links are dead, too, which is making a hash of many of my What’s Going On In … posts.

Screenshot of my comics page featuring Animal Crackers: the toucan(?) asking Lyle if he's doing anything special for Valentine's Day, and Lyle Lion saying 'Lana is in the driver's seat when it comes to planning. I'm just along for the ride.'
Showing off Mike Osbun’s Animal Crackers for the 14th of February, 2022. (It does match the strip on GoComics for the day.) Other Tribune Content Agency comics include Broom Hilda, Gasoline Alley, Pluggers, and Gil Thorp. Also Love Is…, which used to run on GoComics but doesn’t anymore. That last isn’t running on Comics Kingdom … so far as I know.

Also, and this is the strangest thing, my comics page has started to include Mike Osbun’s Animal Crackers, a comic strip they don’t even explicitly list. It’s a Tribune Content Agency comic strip and normally runs on GoComics. The Tribune’s Shoe appears on both Comics Kingdom and GoComics, but I wasn’t aware of any other crossover comics. The link that my Favorites page provides for the site shows nothing of substance. More on this as it comes to pass.

60s Popeye: The Golden Touch, and how to cure it


(The cure is spinach and Jeeps, which, yeah, will cure most anything.)

Before I get into the cartoon I want to amplify a bit of news. Fred M Grandinetti was kind enough to post the other day that he has a new book, Popeye the Sailor: The 1960s TV Cartoons, about just what the title says. I haven’t had the chance to get it, but I’m interested to read another person giving some serious attention to a neglected corner of Popeye’s history.

Another week brings us to 1960 and back to Jack Kinney sudios. Ed Nofziger’s credited for the story, with an assist to Ovid. Eddie Rehberg reappears as the animation director. Here’s The Golden Touch.

If the legends of King Midas teach us anything, it’s “don’t appear in a legend with any Greek gods”. Midas survives his two legends well, coming out of it with a couple hungry days and, later on, donkey’s ears that the fields can’t stop whispering about. Still, the golden-touch legend is the one we all remember, for saving humanity from a dystopia where the pursuit of the illusion of wealth destroys our environment, our society, and our bodies.

And it forms the bulk of this adequate cartoon. It’s the telling of another Popeye Fairy Story — Phairie Story, according to the cover — with the inspiration that Swee’Pea is in love with pennies. As a way into a story, that’s a good one. It’s a very kid attitude to want all the pennies.

In the story, Good King Popeye is a beloved ruler who does impersonations of Ted Lewis with his question, “Is ev’rybody happy?” It’s an interesting cast: I understood having Alice the Goon and Wimpy (who’s hamburger-happy) as a kid. As an adult, I’m … pretty sure the first person to answer is supposed to be Geezil. I think the last is supposed to be Toar. We also get a glimpse of Oscar (at about 0:46). There’s a short person standing next to Geezil(?) and Alice the Goon we never get a good view of, and I’d like to know if that’s supposed to be someone recognizable.

The street of a medieval-ish city. There are several people on the street, all frozen and turned to gold with dollar signs on them. One is 'Ye Poppe Corne' vendor. In front of 'Ye Poppe Corne' vendor are a cat and dog turned to gold in the middle of hissing at each other.
So first, is that Roughhouse as Ye Poppe Corne vendor? Second, why did King Popeye touch the cat and the dog?

Good King Popeye wants his land to be as rich as it is happy. The magical Jeep (is there another kind?) decides this is a day to give people what they ask for, not what they need. The golden touch is fine and fun when it turns his crown, his pipe, and his pipe smoke into gold. Less so when it turns Princess Olive to gold. He tries to eat spinach to fix all this and the spinach turns to gold, which he can’t eat.

And here the short starts to fall apart. King Popeye needs to find the Jeep to reverse the spell; OK. He goes asking people if they’ve seen the Jeep. By tapping them on the shoulders. I get the animation reasons for this: it’s very cheap to have someone stand still while a cel of Popeye’s arm swings down to touch them, and then you paint them in gold. But turning one person to gold is an understandable accident. The fourth time in you have to ask what King Popeye thought would happen.

My problem’s not that he does a dumb thing. Everybody does dumb things sometimes. And it’s a legend inside a kids cartoon. It isn’t necessarily bad if the kids are smarter than the characters. But if you’re Toar, and you’ve seen Popeye just touch Alice and Wimpy and turn them to gold, why aren’t you going to step back some? And the answer he didn’t see them, because they didn’t have enough animation budget for Toar to turn his head and see any of this.

But maybe the problem is unfixable. It would be about as cheap for Popeye to ask the crowd if they’d seen a Jeep and everyone to say no. They’re all Jack Mercer doing voices anyway. But it would be a shame to not use as much of the gold touch as possible. Maybe there’s a way to rewrite so King Popeye has reason to touch everybody in the kingdom, and if they had the time to work on the stories they might have found it.

A sad King Popeye walks along the narrow spit of land toward the Sea Hag's lair. His footprints are golden dollar signs.
I think it’s fair for King Popeye to ask why his crown and pipe and pipe smoke turned to gold but his clothes and the cape he’s brushing(?) did not.

Popeye’s last hope is the Sea Hag, who it turns out captured the Jeep. She’s able to drive King Popeye off, first with the garden hose, a joke that I really like. Then by throwing the kitchen sink at him, over and over. King Popeye eats his gold spinach because that bit where he couldn’t eat gold spinach was whole minutes in the past and who can remember that far back. And threatens the Sea Hag with being turned to gold if she doesn’t release the Jeep. I think this is getting in the neighborhood of a war crime but since it all ends merrily enough we’re okay with it. Everybody’s happy again, and Swee’Pea has learned to wish for nickels instead.

There’s stuff to like here. A King Midas Touch cartoon is a fun starting point. The wish is immediately appealing to anyone, even as we acknowledge that taken literally it would be horrible. The world becoming more and more dead as you interact with it should be a good nightmarish building of tension. We get Eugene the Jeep and the Sea Hag, always fun characters. And there’s cute little bits, such as King Popeye leaving behind golden dollar-sign footprints. If that wasn’t used in a Richie Rich comic book cover somebody at Harvy screwed up. I love the Sea Hag just reading her paper, asking “Hah?” when King Popeye demands the Jeep’s release.

As it is, though, it’s hobbled. There’s the problem of King Popeye having no good reason to tap the fourth person on the shoulder. And the music is a completely flat, almost languid thing. It’s like the music director was asked to score five minutes of hanging around while nothing happens. The change in whether King Popeye can eat the gold spinach I suppose we can use the old “it wasn’t dire enough to try earlier” excuse. It’d be nice to have something made more explicit, though. I know I always say the Jack Kinney cartoons are a rewrite or two away from working, but there we are.

Statistics Saturday: Some Winter Olympics Trivia


  • Since 1984 the official mascot of the Winter Olympics has been Groo the Wanderer and nobody knows why.
  • They wanted to organize some winter events for the Stockholm Olympics of 1912 but couldn’t find a good place to hold them.
  • Each gold medal is initially struck in stainless steel and then touched by King Midas.
  • The typical Winter Olympics athlete will consume over twelve pounds of vegetables in their lifetime.
  • The first Winter Games were named in 1925 when the International Winter Olympics Committee woke up in the middle of the night remembering that’s what they meant to do last year and sent Chamonix, France, an exciting letter.
  • The correct answer to any trivia question about any Winter Olympics up to those of 1960? Sonja Henie.
  • Each silver medal is initially struck in stainless steel and then touched by King Midas’s decent but not really ready eldest son.
  • Ice skating was originally in the Winter Games as Ice Kating — that is, putting on a performance of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate — until a typesetting error in the program for the 1952 Games changed things forever. (Not Olympics-related, but a similar mishap with the event of rotating episodes of Mrs Columbo gave us roller skating!)
  • Each bronze medal is initially struck in stainless steel and then touched by King Midas’s brother who, you know, he’s trying, he means well, he just doesn’t get it.
  • The first ski jump was put in place because the event course had to get over State Road 832 somehow.
  • There is a 288-way tie among all the countries and special teams for greatest number of copper medals won at the Winter Games, with zero each.
  • Taking the most Winter Olympics gold medals through to 2022? Carmen Sandiego.

Reference: Expository Sciences, Editors Terry Shinn, Richard Whitley.

Yeah, Comics Kingdom really borked their web site


I try not to overreact to small service glitches on the big comic strip sites. But Comics Kingdom has had a couple days of this so it seems to be a big glitch. For me, it was showing the daily strips at about 200% screen width, but starting the strip from halfway across the screen. Also, it used to do a bit where if a comic strip hadn’t updated recently it was put down at the bottom of the page. That’s a feature I only slowly came to appreciate: if I had missed a comic strip, it wasn’t gone, just sitting there after (for how I arrange the page) Krazy Kat.

Yesterday they e-mailed advice on what to do, and I pass that on in case something kept you from getting the news. The steps they recommended were: log out of Comics Kingdom. Use the web browser’s preferences to delete all cookies from ComicsKingdom.com and empty the browser cache. Then quit the browser and restart it, and log in again. When I did that the difference was dramatic: now when I looked at my Favorites page, it showed nothing but the warning that I had to be logged in to use this feature.

That got cleared up overnight, and now I can see a reasonable-looking page. The comic strips run nearly the full width of my web browser, as I’d like. Whatever changes they’re up to has broken the permanent links, which is making a hash of my What’s Going On In … posts. I hope this is a temporary matter.

MiSTed: I WILL SHOW YOU HOW TO TURN Potatoes into CASH! (Part 2 of 2)


And now let me conclude one of my most giddy, silly Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fictions. As mentioned last week, this started as an advertisement in a 1930s issue of Modern Mechanix. Seems like one of those things that might have been legitimate enough, if you wanted to spend your time and energy making and selling potato chips. I’m going to guess this isn’t how the Better Made chip empire was born, though.

The closing sketch is a riff on the old-time-radio series Lum and Abner, for not much reason besides I like the show. I was getting into it when I wrote this MiSTing originally. (It’s a great example of the 15-minute serial comedy.) And it would not be absurd if Lum and Abner — about two completely guileless Arkansas shopkeepers, often trying some scheme to get some extra money — had a story where they tried to get rich making potato chips.

The end of the sketch has Tom Servo announcing a replacement for Web Site Number Nine. This was a project I was doing back then, to learn PHP and database stuff that might get me a job and also serve the community. I never got happy with the finished project, but I use some of the scripts for that even today, to do all the nice formatting on these MiSTings that give the quoted text a light blue background and that highlights Mike and Joel and Crow and Tom Servo’s names. So if you know someone who’d be willing to pay me, oh let’s say $65,000 pa for that coloring scheme, let me know, okay? Thanks.

The “used Sklar” references the Sklar Brothers, whose Cheap Seats show on ESPN Classic(?) in the early 2000s scratched many of our Mystery Science Theater 3000 itches. But with more sports and spelling bees. I don’t remember whether the blogger gotten for trading Tom Servo meant anyone in particular or just a comment on how, hey, bloggers, they’re always making fun of stuff that doesn’t need it, right?


>
> BIG PROFITS

MIKE: No, bigger!

TOM: It’s a wild profiteeria!

>
> The profits in this business are enormous.

CROW: [ Amused ] They’re potato-y chip-tacular!

> You can
> take $11.50 in raw material

TOM: [ Announcing ] Any raw material! Have some bauxite? Make potato chips with that!

> — run it through the machine

CROW: [ Feebly ] We, ah, we’re still working on this part but it’s going to be great!

> and take out enough chips to bring you $35 cash

MIKE: [ Amused ] Cash or potato chips!

> — selling at
> wholesale. A clear profit for your time of $23.50.

TOM: Wow!

CROW: Why, that’s nearly twenty-four dollars!

MIKE: You can almost buy Manhattan on that potato chip fortune!

> And that’s
> one day’s output for the machine.

CROW: [ Humoring this ] Why, in two days you could make a profit of $47!

> At this rate it is possible
> for a man and wife working together to make $135.00 a week.

TOM: [ Humoring ] Hey, that’s a whole twenty-*seven* dollars a day!

MIKE: [ As the announcer ] The money is just pouring in! And it’s just potatoes and bauxite!

> And now the complete plant — with my new machine —

CROW: I call it … the POTATO machine!

MIKE: It’s amazingly fantastic and chip-based!

> can be
> put into your kitchen or basement

TOM: Or toss it immediately on the pile for the garage sale.

> for less than the down
> payment on a cheap car.

MIKE: Far less than the payment for a whole car company!

>
> SEND POSTAL FOR FREE INFORMATION

CROW: [ Announcing ] Mail anything to anything else!

MIKE: [ Likewise ] Just mail something! You’ll get valuable free information!

TOM: [ Likewise ] And if you meet a Postal then send it!

>
> Send your name and address today on a postal card.

MIKE: [ Announcing ] Include a sample of your favorite potato chip!

> I’ll send you pictures

TOM: *Uh*-oh.

> and information free showing exactly how
> you can start at home and make money the first day.

CROW: Full explanations of what a potato is!

TOM: Clear diagrams show what parts are the skin!

MIKE: Helpful “Frequently Asked Questions” show how to identify a potato in under twenty minutes a day!

> All
> information is Free.

TOM: We make our money selling potato chip toner!

> No obligation.

MIKE: Just your friends and family rolling their eyes and talking to you through clenched teeth!

>
> O. K. MILLER,

TOM: Didn’t he have a series on Mutual Broadcasting?

> 325 W. Huron St.,

CROW: Here on Huron?

TOM: Huron chips!

> Dept. 406 Chicago,
> Illinois

MIKE: Chicago! Potato chip by the Lake!

CROW: 406 potato chips by the Lake!

TOM: Time to blow this popsicle stand.

[ 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5 … 6 … ]


[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. CROW and MIKE are behind the desk, with General Store-type toy junk scattered haphazardly. From one plastic barrel MIKE takes and eats a potato chip. ]

MIKE: [ With an Arkansan accent, kept until the note later on ] Well, if this weren’t one of the most underwhelmed p’tato chips I ever did see.

CROW: [ Similar accent, also kept until the note ] I doggies, Lum, I knowed it, but what are we s’pposed to do ‘gainst the Squire’s p’tato chip monopoly?

MIKE: [ As a jingling bell rings ] Hold on there, that’s a stranger come into our store, ain’t it?

[ TOM, with a bouquet of potato chips in his bubble, enters; he speaks normally but ebulliently. ]

TOM: Gentlemen! Could I interest you in as many potato chips as I have bauxite to make and pass the savings on to you? Please try a sample — my bubble is perfectly hygienic!

[ MIKE samples a chip. ]

MIKE: By gum — this here ‘tato chip tastes like more than p’tatoes!

CROW: Now, that’s plum silly, how can that happen?

MIKE: [ Giving CROW a chip ] But it’s got itself a tasting like they was sour cream and chives in it! Chives!

TOM: Yes! I bring you chives! And at under twenty-three dollars!

CROW: [ Finishing nibbling ] Why if it weren’t the most amazing thing I ever did see! What a future we got ourselves to live in!

TOM: And we are near a breakthrough on dip!

MIKE: [ Folding his hands together, and, bowing — with this, MIKE and CROW give up the accents and resume speaking normally ] And … scene. [ Eating another chip from TOM ] Thank you, gentlemen. Now, Tom, you had a special announcement, didn’t you?

TOM: Why, yes. Our potato chip bit is all in fun —

CROW: [ Muttering to himself ] Potato chip bite.

TOM: *Thank* you, Crow. But for Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fictions or MiSTings, whichever comes first, plus MiSTing quotes yanked out of all context, why not try the shiny new web site

http://www.—–.com/mst3000/

TOM: Thank you, won’t you?

CROW: And what about the Dibs List for future MiSTing authors?

TOM: [ Looking at CROW ] You can’t just let me have my moment, can you? For shame, Crow, for shame.

[ TOM exits, sulking. ]

MIKE: Right, ah, what do you think, sirs?


[ DEEP 13. DR FORRESTER and TV’s FRANK are piling up open baskets of potato chips. TV’s FRANK eats one. ]

FRANK: Dip? Dip?! Why, we’ve almost solved the problem of cheddar cheese potato chips! Get out of here with your dip!

DR F: As the henchling says, gentlemen. Why, at 23 dollars and 50 cents we’ll be rolling in crispy, fried money by tomorrow.

FRANK: Oh, and I’m going to trade Crow for a used Sklar.

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. CROW is riled up; MIKE is eating potato chips. ]

CROW: What? Me? What for? Which Sklar?

[ DEEP 13. As before. ]

FRANK: Who knows? Besides, I’m getting a blogger for trading Tom. Hey, Steve, shall I push the button?

DR F: No, Frank, you should push the button.

FRANK: Oh, OK, I’ll do that instea — huh?


                     | 
                  \  |  /
                   \ | /
                    \|/
                -----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. O K Miller’s advertisement copy is used for non-commercial parody and commentary purposes so don’t get the idea any infringement-like things are meant. I’m curious how the machine worked. No defamation of the Squire was intended.

Rotisserie League sports have that name because of a group of Philadelphia Phillies fans in early 1980 who gathered at Manhattan’s Rotisserie Francaise restaurant on East 52nd Street for fantasy league meetings. Special thanks for the “tragedy … and party snacks” line as well as to my beta testers.

Keep circulating the posts.

> START YOU in a Profitable Potato Chip Business At Home


[ The End ]

In Which I Am Looking for a Peer Reviewer


I feel very good about my research, but I understand it means nothing without independent checking. If I’m calculating correctly, thanks to how Press Your Luck adds a “Lose One Whammy” square in the second round of play, it should be possible for a single game to see as many as 18 Whammy hits. So if you need something useful done, it appears I need the assignment. Otherwise, I’m going to be figuring optimal blocker-placement strategy for the short-lived game show Whew!.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Why Is That Kid Betting on Sports Events? November 2021 – February 2022


That kid, Pranit Smith, is betting on sports things because if you do it right you win money. He may be urgently short on money — he at one point says he gets the coffees he does because of a “low budget”. But that hasn’t been explicit. He’s betting online using his older brother’s identity. He also gives a curiously long explanation for how his brother has the name ‘Bob’. I believe that’s so we the readers understand Bob is a real person and Pranit’s misdemeanor is just using that driver’s license (or whatever the proof of age was) instead of counterfeiting one. It’s about setting the level of his transgression.

This should catch you up on Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for mid-February 2022. If you’re reading this after about May 2022, or if news about the strip breaks, there’s probably a more useful essay here. Thanks for reading.

Gil Thorp.

15 November 2021 – 5 February 2022.

Last time you’ll recall, consciousness enthusiast Boyd Spiller had been hypnotizing the problems out of everyone. Worked great until the overloaded Kianna Bello sprains her foot after one of Spiller’s hypno-rest sessions. Tevin Claxton, whose choking under pressure seemed relieved by Spiller’s help, had enough.

He climbed on the lunchroom table to announce he’d been seeing a sports psychiatrist who was helping him. Spiller’s YouTube-lesson hypnosis was harmless nonsense until it wasn’t. But thanks for trying to help.

[ The normally reticent Chance Macy takes the pulpit ... ] Kid 'Dude, can you speak up?' Macy: 'Probably not. But here's Tevin, our quarterback. He's been great --- but he had to deal with negative expectations, based on just four or five plays last year.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 3rd of December, 2021. Regarding that first panel: I do not read the comics to be called out like that. And no, the evidence is that I can’t speak up.
So that’s got Bello not talking to Claxton. And Coach Thorp required to give a pep talk about how the team was good because they worked hard and together. They lose the next football game, though, and one of the players gets wounded. The ever-reticent Chance Macy decides it’s his turn to say something. He announces where he’s going to college so he can play football without anyone seeing (it’s Canada). And that everybody has to learn to say when expectations on them are unreasonable.

For example there’s Bello, burdened by how everyone expected she could take on more responsibilities. Or Claxton, who got razzed a lot for a couple bad plays the previous year. Macy calls for everyone to go easier on each other, and ourselves, and “snot-pound Valley Tech”. It reads like a goofy replacement for something an actual high schooler might say. But everyone in the strip agrees they have no idea what that means. Macy just said something weird and got away with it. Since they beat Valley Tech, that’s all working out well. Unfortunately Goshen beating Oakwood means that Milford will finish the season in second place. At least they close the season on a win.


And that closes the football-season story. The 13th of December started the basketball-season story. Girls basketball player, and swiftly-named team captain, Hollis Talley is going to the US Air Force Academy. And, on the boys team, Pranit Smith is doing great in his fantasy-football picks. He’s a mediocre player, but in a tight game Coach Thorp spots where passing the ball to Smith can let him get a three-pointer that wins the match. It sets him on a string of great performances. Since this is early in the season, this has to set some terrible comeuppance in motion.

Smith: 'My first bet was a four-team parlay. One of the teams pushed ... ' Teammate: 'It's football. Everyone pushes.' Smith: ''Push' means tie. Anyway, that made ita three-teamer at 6-1 odds. And I won. I just wish I'd bet more.' Other teammate: 'Congratulations. Sounds like a great first step toward disaster.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 24th of January, 2022. Since there’s no ties in college football, this indicates Smith was betting on professional football. If we were to foolishly try to tie this to current events, then this has to be the week of November 14, when the Lions and Steelers tied. Anyway, since it is true that every team in football pushes, wouldn’t it be a better name for the sport if we called it “pushball”? Let’s just see what happens if we try.

Using his elder brother’s name, Smith opens an actual betting for-cash account. And, worse, it starts out great. Some other kids start giving money to him to put down bets. So everybody else waits for the incredible obvious disaster even people in adjacent comic strips sees coming. Even Coach Gil Thorp Assistant Coach Kaz, who only gets to overhear the players’ nonsense, notices he’s paying attention to his phone rather than the game he’s playing.

Meanwhile on the girls team, the season’s starting pretty rough. Talley feels she should be doing something captain-y to turn things around. But she doesn’t know what. Ask people to do extra practices? Coach Mimi Thorp is also frustrated but hasn’t got an answer. Talley is able to coax some of it out of Cressa Baxter: her knee hurts, but she’s not willing to spend her last season benched. The doctor’s supposed to drain it in a few days so that problem may fix itself.

And one last bit. Gordon Achebe, who I think was on the football team, joined the basketball team. I don’t know the significance of this. (I don’t seem to have mentioned him before, around here.) That it was established suggests he might be being set up for something.

Milford Sports Watch!

Who’s Milford playing? What schools get mentioned in the strip? There’ve been a lot the past couple months, as the strip showed a lot of games being played and a lot of talking about conference rivals. Here’s, to the best of my knowledge, the full list. Also mentioned, as schools that seniors were graduating to, were McGill University and the Air Force Academy.

Next Week!

Whatever happened to Judge Parker? I share what I know from readingFrancesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker, if all goes well.

So you know where I’m at this week


I write this just after spending a couple minutes sniffing around the kitchen trying to figure out the source of this coffee-bean aroma was, a few minutes more after grinding a week’s worth of coffee and setting several scoops into the drip maker to brew the next morning.

60s Popeye: Roger, a Roger cartoon with more Popeye in it


Today’s is a Gene Deitch cartoon, so the only credits I have are his direction and William L Snyder’s production. From 1962 here’s Roger.

This is the rarest of all kinds of Popeye cartoons: the sequel! Apart from clip cartoons I can’t think of any other Popeye short that directly referenced another one. (There are a few shorts, How Green Is My Spinach from 1950 the most notable, where characters remember how this stuff always goes. But none of these are sequels to anything particular.) This is so unexpected that at first I thought this was a repeat of Canice Caprice, which introduced Roger the Dog. It’s not. It’s a completely different story centered around Roger the Talking Dog.

We meet up with Roger, who’s promising to never cause trouble again if Popeye and Olive Oyl take him back. This includes a promise not to speak except to them. It’s a promise Roger will keep even if it forces him to do dumb stuff, like make Popeye look like a fool to the cops. For this time Roger overheard men plotting to rob Mr Tiff’s jewelry store, and he even got the story correct. (He’s on a mission to get Popeye tobacco, which is the only time I can remember anyone mentioning what it is Popeye smokes, too.)

Roger the Dog pledges to never speak except for Popeye and Olive Oyl. He holds his paw up crossing his fingers in imitation of the Boy Scout 'Scout's Honor' pledge.
I didn’t know Roger made Beagle Scout. That’s great!

It’s an interesting character choice that Popeye tries to pass this off to the cops. Reasonable, yes, but why isn’t Popeye’s first plan to catch the robbers himself? When he does try catching them himself the cobs nab Popeye and toss him in jail; it reminds me of Potent Lotion, another Gene Deitch cartoon. Olive Oyl tries to shame the robbers, which works as well as you’d imagine, but it does feel like the sensible choice for her. Roger brings Popeye a can of spinach. Once more Popeye doesn’t leave the house carrying any. That’s been so consistent a thing across Gene Deitch cartoons it must be he, or his writers, thought that made for better storytelling. I suppose they’re right. It answers the question of why Popeye doesn’t eat his spinach sooner in the cartoon. I’m not sure that’s a question that ever much bothered the audience, though.

I regret having started these Popeye cartoon reviews too late to ask Gene Deitch anything he cared to share about them. I’d love to know what motivated doing a second Roger cartoon. Not that it should be Roger, of the characters created by Gene Deitch. I’m not sure there were other characters good for a second story besides Roger and maybe Professor Underwater. But why do a sequel at all?

I can imagine a story-creation narrative that makes sense. You want Popeye to know about a crime by some means he can’t explain. So, a talking animal overhearing this fits. And then it’s either Roger or something as good as Roger. (Eugene the Jeep? He’s been in Gene Deitch cartoons.) And then you need some reason the talking animal won’t talk to the cops, thus, a promise that he keeps outside all common sense. That’s all reverse-engineering the story creation, though.

In the jewelry store Popeye has untied Olive Oyl while Roger the Dog looks up with pride. The police chief rubs his hands together, happy to see what Popeye's delivered: the whole gang of jewelry store robbers, beaten up, and resting on top of the frowning Mr Tiff, an older bald man in glasses who's been revealed as mastermind behind this.
Oh I did not foresee Skin Horse ending with Ira Green getting beat up by Popeye. Works, though.

Popeye eats his spinach off-camera, an event exciting for its rarity. Adds some suspense to what we all know. He catches the robbers, who turn out to be working for Mr Tiff. It’s insurance fraud, the crime every child wants to see foiled when they watch TV or movies! I mean if they’ve had their fill of “bad person is pirating music”. Catching Slippery Sam leaves the cops so grateful they forget how breaking out of jail is still a crime even if Popeye shouldn’t have been there. Happy ending all around.

I’d call this the better of the Roger cartoons. Popeye guides more of the action, even if it’s prompte by Roger. And Roger behaves more sensibly apart from not following Popeye’s direction to tell the cops what he knows. The characters are balanced together better, is what I’m saying. It bodes well for the quality of the next Roger cartoon.

Statistics Saturday: Some Cartoon Characters I’d Believe Were Adapted Into Movies Recently


I mean, if you told me, I’d have no way of arguing you were wrong. Here I’m talking about movies where these characters are the stars, you know, the protagonists. I’m sure every one of them had a cameo in Ready Player One, Space Jam II: Space Jammier, Scoob!, and I’m guessing that one where space aliens jam a giant Pac-Man into a city or something? I don’t know, I just saw the commercials and figured that was enough. Anyway if you want to put one over on me, and start talking about a movie starring any of these, I would never suspect you were fibbing. Also I don’t know why you’d want to put that over on me, but that’s your business, isn’t it?

  • Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har-Har
  • Grape Ape
  • The Silverhawks
  • Tom Slick
  • Mighty Mouse
  • The Herculoids
  • Space Ace
  • Hoppy the Marvel Bunny
  • Superchicken
  • The Tazmanian Devil
  • Droopy
  • Huckleberry Hound

Reference: The Apollo Guidance Computer: Architecture and Operation, Frank O’Brien.

In Which I Am Pondering The Making Of Something


Sorry to run late, but I’ve been stuck thinking about how I’ve seen anvils being used for their intended purposes, in historical re-creations of things people used to do. Making horseshoes, at historical villages in like five different states now. Squashing cartoons flat, of course, at the TerryToons Studio Historical Interpretation Center in New Rochelle. It was only Willie the Walrus but he’s technically a cartoon star.

So what’s important is I understand how to use an anvil to make a thing. You get metal really really hot and then hit it against the anvil and the metal comes out horseshoe-shaped. But then I’m stuck on how you make an anvil. If the need came up, I mean, but I suppose some folks might make an anvil recreationally. All I can figure is you have to heat up a lot of metal and beat it against a really huge set of horseshoes until it’s anvil-shaped.

But then you have to get the really huge set of horseshoes from somewhere. The only source for them has to be an even more enormous anvil. But then where do you get that even more enormous anvil from? Flattening a really really really really big Dinky Duck? That’s impossible. Dinky Duck was never that big. And yet there are anvils, so someone has to have solved the problem. How?

MiSTed: I WILL SHOW YOU HOW TO TURN Potatoes into CASH! (Part 1 of 2)


I’m happy to bring another recovered MiSTing and one I don’t think I’ve read in a five years easily. I remembered having written it, but not most of the riffs on this old Modern Mechanix advertisement. So I’m happy for the rediscovery. This is among my silliest of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fictions. The great bombastic but silly lead of the original material makes it easy to stay goofy. I can certainly hear the Jam Handy Repertory Players narrator reading the advertising copy.

Dr Forrester’s line about “Did you know everything you can count can be turned into money for people who aren’t you?” feels like I’m somehow riffing on the NFT scam, a decade and a half before it was even invented.


[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. CROW and TOM, wearing glasses with pencils tucked against their heads, are going over a mess of papers, as MIKE, wearing a baseball glove and playing with a ball, enters and surveys the scene. ]

TOM: 48 out of 152 by my count.

CROW: Yeah, but there were like a dozen assists.

TOM: They don’t count when you get yelled at for them.

CROW: They do too! Mike! [ Startling MIKE, who drops the ball. ] Tell Tom they count!

MIKE: Tell Tom what counts and for who’s counting, Crow?

TOM: Oh, don’t pad, Mike.

CROW: Our *statistics*, Mike. We’ve got to update our statistics on riffs attempted, riffs completed, laughs gotten, bobbled references, all these things.

MIKE: And this is important … why?

TOM: For our rotisserie league! Sheesh, don’t you follow anything?

MIKE: Constantly. What rotisserie —

[ MADS SIGN flashes. ]

MIKE: Oh, for the love of … hello?

[ DEEP 13. TV’s FRANK is sitting at a collapsible table with many sheets of grid paper and books as he works. DR FORRESTER sits opposite him with a small pile of cash. ]

FRANK: So center seat I’ve got Mike … left seat I’m going to stick with Tom … right seat … what do you think, ten bucks for Crow?

DR F: Absolutely.

FRANK: [ Handing a bill over to DR F ] All right! I got a team!

DR F: [ Pocketing the bill ] You’ve got a rare talent, Frank.

[ DR FORRESTER faces the camera. ]

DR F: Well, now, minions. Did you know everything you can count can be turned into money for people who aren’t you? It can. Now off to the theater and let’s generate some statistics, mmm? Your game today is an advertisement for potato chip manufacture … riff all you want, boys, we’ll make more.

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. ]

TOM: Did he just Jay Leno all over us?

CROW: This can only end in tragedy. And party snacks.

[ MOVIE SIGN flashes; general alarm. ]

MIKE: Later, we got movie sign!

[ 6 … 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 … ]

[ THEATER. ALL file in. ]

CROW: All right! Tie game so far!

> MODERN MECHANIX

MIKE: And practical jokes!

CROW: Like the spelling.

> AND INVENTIONS
> June 1935

TOM: [ Snorting ] Blazing its way from print, to us, to you.

MIKE: It’s not so much snail-mail as continental-drift-mail.

> http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2006/05/03/turn-potatoes-into-cash/

TOM: Oh, now we’ve got blog all over the … potatoes into cash? The heck?

>
> I WILL SHOW YOU HOW TO TURN Potatoes into CASH!

MIKE: Worst counterfeiting scheme ever.

>
> START YOU in a Profitable Potato Chip Business At Home

CROW: [ Taking odd offense ] Yeah? Well … start *you* in a profitable potato chip business at home, then!

>
> THE invention of a marvelous new machine

MIKE: Excuse me, that’s [ Booming, announcing ] *A* marvelous *NEW* machine.

> throws the big
> potato-chip market wide open again.

TOM: After the big Ruffles-Lays bailout.

> Even if your community is
> being supplied with old fashioned chips,

CROW: Hand-carved by traditional artisans working under a stern but understanding taskmaster.

> I’ll show you how to
> step in and grab the market,

MIKE: [ Booming ] Unless you meet my demands immediately!

CROW: Won’t the potato chip market be all greasy and have that salt grit all over your fingers?

> rake the profits into your own
> pocket.

TOM: I don’t have a pocket.

MIKE: [ Announcing ] I’ll show you how to afford a pocket!

CROW: I don’t have a rake.

MIKE: [ As above ] You’ll be able to afford a rake!

TOM: A pocket rake!

> You simply manufacture and sell to stores at wholesale
> — let stores sell for you.

CROW: Stores selling things! Why, it’s brilliant!

MIKE: Oh, now, he’s thought of everything.

> I furnish complete plant and
> exact instructions for making profits the first day.

TOM: [ Announcing ] The fourth, sixth, and ninth days you have to wing it!

>
> "GREASELESS" Potato Chips Made by New Machine

MIKE: One hundred percent John-Travola-free in minutes!

>
> Think of it — for the first time —

CROW: They’re right! It’s amazing! For the first time!

TOM: Third time it’s just kind of `huh’.

> a Potato Chip
> from which all excess oil has been extracted by my new
> "wringer".

TOM: [ As the advertiser ] And sold to the worldwide potato oil cartels!

> Look better, taste better, stay fresh longer.

CROW: What if I want to stay fresh wider? What then?

> No
> wonder the public is crazy about this new kind of chip.

MIKE: Potato chips with the great, great taste of guys who buy stuff from Modern Mechanics ads.

> No
> wonder my operators are having such big success,

TOM: And fabulous cash prizes!

> even with no
> experience.

CROW: Even with no potatoes!


[ To conclude … ]

Statistics January: Nearly 7,000 People Wanted To See Wilbur Weston Die


One hates to be morbid. But it’s hard not to notice how many people come visit my blog here because they suspect a comic strip character is going to die. The Phantom’s projected death has brought hundreds of page views around here in recent months. Wilbur Weston falling from a cruise ship to wash ashore on an unknown island? That’s brought even more. It also looks like somebody on Facebonk mentioned me in some way that made people curious. So that’s all pleasant enough for me. Not so good for Wilbur.

My readership jumped considerably in January, rising to 6,892 page views from 3,853 unique visitors, as WordPress counts things. That’s well above the twelve-month running mean for January through December 2021, which was 5,055.4 page views per month from 3,004.7 unique visitors. It’s also well above the running median of 4,585 page views from 2,616.5 unique visitors. This will all die down as Wilbur Weston does not.

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months have been hovering around 4500 views per month, with a sudden new spike upward in January 2022.
I don’t feel bad about missing 7,000 by 108 page views like this. If I had missed by eight, now, that I’d be fuming about until I remembered absolutely anything else going on these days.

The things suggesting engagement were up, but not much. There were 158 likes given in January, compared to a running mean of 148.4 and running median of 141.5. There were 59 comments, compared to a running mean of 58.2 and running median of 52.5. And some of that was passing messages on to people. Well, it’s all content, say people who write algorithms instead of read.

My most popular post in January was this past October’s Mary Worth plot recap, because it asked how Wilbur Weston could be so incompetent. By far. It was almost twice as popular as the second-place finisher. My most popular posts from January were also Wilbur-centered. And the rest? Here’s the five most popular things published this past month:

It does all suggest that people know what they like from me, and it’s me talking about comic strips. Sometimes without even complaining about them. Granted, yes, it’s fun and funny to complain about the trivial. Anyway, TCM (United States feed) is showing Please Don’t Eat The Daisies this Sunday, and I might catch that again. Among original, non-comic-strip writing Statistics Saturday: Gifts Given for Squirrel Appreciation Day This Year was my most popular thing this past month.

Still, I’d be quite the fool to drop my story strip plot recaps. All the story strip recaps should be gathered here. And my plan for the next couple weeks is 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.
So if I’m reading this map right, Alaska is strawberry-flavored. Can somebody go and lick it for me?

Once again 80 countries or country-like entities sent me page views. 17 of them were single-view countries, down from December’s 18. Here’s the roster:

Country Readers
United States 5,059
India 239
Canada 238
United Kingdom 191
Australia 131
Bulgaria 116
Japan 82
Brazil 63
Finland 57
Germany 57
Sweden 56
Philippines 51
Italy 48
Austria 36
France 33
Ireland 30
Spain 29
Thailand 28
Portugal 24
Denmark 18
New Zealand 17
Singapore 17
Egypt 14
Romania 13
Argentina 12
Indonesia 12
Israel 11
Netherlands 11
South Africa 11
Turkey 11
Hong Kong SAR China 10
Macedonia 10
Malaysia 8
Peru 8
Venezuela 8
Nigeria 7
Belgium 6
Mauritius 6
Mexico 6
Norway 6
Poland 6
Taiwan 6
Costa Rica 5
Ecuador 5
Greece 5
South Korea 5
Switzerland 5
European Union 4
Hungary 4
Lithuania 4
Pakistan 4
China 3
Croatia 3
Czech Republic 3
Puerto Rico 3
Saudi Arabia 3
Trinidad & Tobago 3
Ukraine 3
Bangladesh 2
Chile 2
Russia 2
Serbia 2
United Arab Emirates 2
Barbados 1
Colombia 1
Estonia 1
Guadeloupe 1 (*)
Iraq 1
Jamaica 1
Kosovo 1
Kuwait 1
Luxembourg 1
Mongolia 1
Namibia 1
Panama 1
Sri Lanka 1
St. Lucia 1
Uganda 1
Uruguay 1
Vietnam 1 (*)

Guadeloupe and Vietnam were the only single-view countries on a two-month streak. Nobody’s on a three-month single-view streak.


WordPress figures that I published 18,198 words in December. (I reused a bunch of words, though.) This puts me at an average 587 words per posting this year, though I expect that figure to change. I’m not going to do the work needed to keep it constant.

Between the debut of short-lived game show Whew! and the start of February I’ve published 3,287 things to this blog. They’ve drawn a total 275,048 views from 157,401 unique visitors, they figure. And, for what it’s worth, a total of 4,974 comments. This suggests lucky comment #5,000 might come to the blog this month. It’s going to be people asking why Wilbur Weston isn’t dead.

If you’re looking to be a reader there’s nothing you need to do but read. If you’d like to use your RSS reader to get posts, here’s the feed. If you want to subscribe, there’s the ‘Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile’ button at the upper-right corner of this and every post. And just beneath that is a box to have posts e-mailed to you. I don’t do anything with that e-mail address except send posts. I can’t say what WordPress does with your address. Leave them in the junk drawer with a promise to do something about them soon, is what I would do with them.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? Is Terry Beatty trying to upstage you? November 2021 – January 2022


No, of course not. Terry Beatty might be dimly aware of my existence. But he has other things to think about, including anything. Still, last week he did do a three-day sequence, as though drawn by Sarah Morgan, explaining the current story. This isn’t the first time he’s done a strip that recapped the plot very well right before my What’s Going On In post. So it’s easy to fear he’s decided everyone can do without me. (I would rather everyone make the decision on their own that they can do without me.)

Sarah Morgan's Diary. Sketches, with text explaining, done as children's illustrations on 'lined' paper. 'My old art teacher, who I don't even remember because of my head injury is saying I STOLE the Doggo Twins idea from him! I know I made them up, 'cause I took the idea from our two dogs and my two brothers. I mixed them together and got the Doggo Twins! But I based their look on an old drawing of mine from when I was taking lessons from that guy. Did I copy his drawing into my sketchbook, along with all those drawings of feet he made me do? I don't think I did --- but if I did, I may be in a lot of trouble --- and I think it'll cost my Mom and Dad a LOT of money! Plus I'm getting HATE MAIL from people mad at me for messing up the Kitty Cop books with a 'stolen' idea! How did this happen? I'm just a KID!!!'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 23rd of January, 2022. It’s a little surprising that nobody with the publishing house had tried, before publication, to be certain Sarah Morgan was the originator of all the ideas in her story. I suppose we can assume they made a good-faith effort but didn’t think to check whether it was possible she was using something from her sketchbook from before her amnesia.

It’s probably coincidence. He has got to have projects besides “mess with a lower-tier comics blogger’s most popular feature”. It’s 2022. Nobody has time to pointlessly mess with me.

Anyway, this and all my plot recaps of of Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. should be at this link. This essay should get you up to speed for the end of January 2022. If you’re reading this after about May 2022, there’s likely a more current recap there. And now, on to what Terry Beatty explained already, but with more of my words.

Rex Morgan, M.D.

7 November 2021 – 30 January 2022.

I left off last time as Jordan’s old army buddy Griff set off a car bomb, killing Griff’s new boss. This lets Jordan and Michelle enjoy a happy wedding and reception. Rex and June Morgan hear about this on the news and remark how lucky it is such a horrible thing had nothing to do with them. It could pack satiric punch, if Terry Beatty wished to write a harder-edged strip than he’s doing here.

[ Home from the wedding ] June: 'Thanks for watching the kids, kelly. Your mom just pulled up front.' Kelly: 'Okay. I'll head out. They were angels today.' Rex: 'That's because they knew we were bringing them cake.' Michael and Johnny both ask for their cake. Rex: 'Okay, you kids get plates and forks. It's cake time!' As they eat, Rex and June unwind. re: 'Is it fair that they get cake without sitting through the wedding?' June: 'That was a lovely wedding, Rex --- no griping.' Rex: 'Not complaining. Hey, let's check out the news.' News reporter: '... where a downtown parking garage was rocked by an explosion. It's believed one person was killed in the ... ' June: 'Oh my *gosh*. Turn that *awful* news off. That has nothing to do with *us*.
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 14 of November, 2021. I get that Rex’s endless talk about the food is supposed to be endearing, and to build up how good Jordan is as a cook. Still, Rex says ‘cake’ in each of the first five panels here, to the point it reads like an in-joke being exposed.

The 15th of November started the next, and current, story. It starts on “a brisk autumn day”, intended to suggest that some indefinite time has passed. It’s the delivery of actual published copies of the Kitty Cop book young Sarah wrote for Kyle Vidpa. It’s meant, then, to be months after the previous week’s events. It still seems like a very fast publication cycle to me, but could be kids’ graphic novels move fast. They also have stuffed dolls of the Doggo Twins she created from mixing the Morgan’s dogs and boys together.

Sarah gives a signed advance-review-copy of her book to her friend Edward. Edward can’t resist boasting to his big sister how his friend is the pseudonymous author of the newest book in the hit Kitty Cop series. His sister doesn’t believe him … until noticing she did have an Advance Review Copy. The question of who Vidpa’s coauthor is becomes a media sensation. This may be because Vidpa was already a reclusive bestselling author. So Edward’s sister calls the local news station, figuring she can sell the secret to them. Soon reporters won’t stop asking the Morgans to confirm or deny that their daughter co-wrote this book.

[ Kyle Vidpa posts a video to the Internet ] 'You know me as Kyle Vidpa, author and graphic artist of the Kitty Cop graphic novels. But until today, none of you have ever seen my face. I'm going public today in response to recent events regarding my collaborator, Cynthia Ivy. There has been much speculation about her real identity, and recent news reports have made that public. The truth is that 'Cynthia' is a nine-year-old fan who sent me a *wonderful* story --- a story so good, I convinced her to let me use it for my new book. She wasn't looking for fame or attention --- she just wanted to give me a gift to show how much she loves Kitty Cop. *I'm* the one who decided to publish her work --- and she and her family, understandably, wanted to remain anonymous. But a curious public and the media have revealed her identity. We can't undo that, but I'm going to ask you Kitty Cop fans a favor. Leave her alone. Don't bother her or her family. She's just a kid, and has *no* interest in being famous. Like Kitty Cop says, 'It's the right thing to do --- so let's do it right!''
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 19th of December, 2021. He goes on to suggest that if fans leave Sarah Morgan alone he’ll do regular video sessions with the fans, so it’s endearing to see how he thinks this is going to make his life easier.

Vidpa does what he can to lift the media siege. He posts a video, his first ever, asking for privacy for his co-author and offering his fans regular media events if they’ll be nice about it. It’s a deal the fans are willing to take, at least, and things settle down.

That is until Rene Belluso reenters the strip. Belluso’s had a string of various scams, both before and during the pandemic. He came into the comic as an art tutor for Sarah Morgan several years ago, when Woody Wilson wrote the scripts. This was part of a story where Sarah Morgan was revealed to be a superhuman art prodigy and might become one of the all-time greats. When Terry Beatty took over the writing he dialed that back. This included giving Sarah a car-accident-induced amnesia which dialed her art skills down to “good but plausible for a kid that age”. It also eliminated a year’s worth of her memories. She couldn’t remember Belluso except as someone her parents sometimes got tense about. … We have always thought.

Belluso hold a press conference alleging that the Doggo Twins were his creation, that Sarah saw when she was taking art lessons. And … it’s not impossible that he’s being honest here. I mean in the same way it’s not impossible that Slylock Fox will find Reeky Rat did not steal Rachel Rabbit’s soda pop.

Sarah, looking through her old sketchbooks :'Here's the dog drawing. I sure did draw different then. I don't know why the dog is so cartoony when the rest of the drawings are more realistic.' Rex, looking over the sketch, which has a cheery cartoony dog labelled 'Doggy!' next to a realistic foot sketch: 'This is from when you were taking lessons with Rene Belluso?' Sarah; 'I guess so. It's a cute dog, isn't it, Dad?'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 11th of January, 2022. While I know, c’mon, it’s Rene Belluso, I do appreciate that at this point there is a serious uncertainty about this. Might she have copied the dog from, as Belluso claims, work that he had been doing? If she didn’t, what was it doing in the middle of a bunch of more photo-realistic work?

Sarah can say how she thinks she had the idea of the Doggo Twins. But it’s impossible for her to say she didn’t see it before her amnesia and unconsciously swipe them. They find the sketchbook with the first drawing of something like a Doggo Twin. It’s from when she was taking lessons from Belluso. It’s a very cartoony drawing on a page of more realistic sketches. The Morgans get a lawyer involved, to gather statements that could be useful in a court of law. Belluso hasn’t actually filed suit yet. And he has a long track record of running scams. But, after all … sometimes Reeky Rat is the wronged party, you know?

Next Week!

So how did that sports hypnosis work out for the big game against Valley Tech? I check in on Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp next week, if all goes well.

The Big New Mood for the Year Just Dropped


That feeling when Mandrake the Magician has included you in mass hypnotism in order to feel like a turnip.

Panel of a 1950s Sunday _Mandrake the Magician_ comic strip (in black and white) showing Narda as a stalk of celery, Mandrake as a carrot, and Lothar as a turnip. All these vegetables are human-size or taller, with human legs sticking out, and they stand at the edge of the river next to a canoe. Narda says, 'Mandrake, are my eyes fooling me? You do look like a --- carrot.' Mandrake: 'Mass hypnotism, Narda. This time I included you and Lothar in it.' Lothar: 'Me feel like turnip!'
Panel from Lee Falk and Phil Davis’s Mandrake the Magician for the 16th of October, 1949, and reprinted the 30th of January, 2022. Content warning for the whole comic: it’s got a 1949 White Guy depiction of “an African cannibal tribe”. (Mandrake did his mass hypnosis thing so the cannibals would see them as talking vegetables and, uh, find the whole situation kind of weird.) Also, you can see, this is from before they decided Lothar should talk like someone who’s been speaking English for decades.

Yes, I too would like to know what sensations mark this as specifically turnip rather than a yam or a beet or any other root vegetable. Heck, if I were Lothar I’d be tempted to insist that Mandrake had made me a fantastic impersonation of a parsnip, even as I knew he saw turnip, just to screw with Mandrake’s head.

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