Oh Wait, Now I’m in Trouble


I thought I had one more day left in the March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing and I was getting all ready to work on acetylcholinesterase versus a topic I hadn’t picked yet. I was sure about the acetylcholinesterase, though. I bet you know why, too. It’s because it does such great stuff with neurotransmission. And also I swear I read somewhere that there’s this neat medical mystery where the body produces a lot of acetylcholinesterase. More than you’d think. Like, I don’t know how much acetylcholinesterase you figure the body makes in a day, but more than that. And it gets rid of it too, and the thing I remember reading said we aren’t sure exactly how the body makes and disposes of so much of the stuff. Only maybe it wasn’t acetylcholinesterase, but some other neurotransmitter instead? Or neurotransmitter-related chemical? Anyway I can’t find it and I can’t think of how to go searching for it without DuckDuckGo concluding there’s something wrong with me. And I thought bringing it up as a pairwise contest was my best bet to have someone tell me what I was talking about and whether whatever I read this in was even the slightest bit correct. And now that chance is lost, at least until next March. Too bad!

MiSTed: Safety First (part 3 of 16)


I resume again my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction treatment of Johnny Pez’s Isaac Asimov fanfiction “Safety First”. Not that we’ve got there yet; there’s a lot of shorts padding out this story, and we haven’t got to the main feature yet. Soo, I promise.

The line about the White House “at just $25,000 a night” references a late-90s scandal in which the right wing decided President Clinton sold nights in the Lincoln Bedroom to donors. Otherwise, not much in obscure references this segment.

I feel Crow’s confusion about snakes and asps captures a particular style of absurdity he’d get in.


>
>
> 2/15/96

JOEL: Do you guys remember where you were on February 15, 1996?

TOM: Yeah.

CROW: We were here, being forced by the Mads to watch bad movies.

JOEL: Oh, right.

>
> President Bill Clinton

TOM: Of the starship Enterprise.

> White House

CROW: At just $25,000 a night.

> Washington, DC 20500

JOEL: The *very* belated sequel to "Hawaii 5-0."

>
> Dear President Clinton,

TOM: [ Sexy feminine voice ] "You were right, we looked behind the sofa and found –"
[ JOEL puts his hand on TOM’s shoulder. ]

>
> Enclosed please find a copy of my book

CROW: If you could autograph it "To my best pal ever, Ken" I’d show everybody on my block.

> entitled "Model
> Mechanics: A New Interpretation of Nature."

JOEL: The book’s a great Revell-ation.

TOM: It’s got some fantastic work in HO gauge theory.

CROW: Finally we unite gravity, electromagnetism, and Heidi Klum!

> Also, enclosed is a copy
> of a paper entitled "Eliminatiing The Duality Concept with New
> Interpretations of Past Experiments".

TOM: Read the Marmaduke comic. It’s a howl.

> I will be presenting this paper
> at the March meeting of APS in St. Louis.

CROW: Snakes are meeting in St. Louis?

JOEL: That’s *asps*.

CROW: Asps! That’s even worse!

> The theory of Model
> Mechanics has been in existence for almost 10 years

TOM: They’re the guys who fix up the diorama of the F4D planes approaching the aircraft carrier.

> but it was never
> published or reviewed by mainstream physicists.

CROW: Coincidence? Read the book.

JOEL: We can’t, it wasn’t published.

> I had made dozens of
> attempts to have it reviewed or published but I was totally ignored.

TOM: I thought it was particularly gratuitous when the editor of Physical Review Letters covered his ears and shouted, "LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!"

> In those cases where there were replies the standard short answers

CROW: And a few nonstandard medium answers like "yes, please set my beard on fire."

> were that Model Mechanics was too speculative, too ambitious and that
> quantum mechanics and relativity had been confirmed countless times.

JOEL: Plus, who would really want Kathy Ireland fixing their ’75 Volkswagen van?

>
> I will be applying for funding from the National Science
> Foundation to develop a mathematical model for Model Mechanics.

TOM: A Model Mechanics Model Mathematics Model?

CROW: He needs the cash to buy extra M’s.

> I
> expect that I will be getting the same short standard rejection

JOEL: Aw, you should think positive, honey!

> since
> all the funding requests are being reviewed by mainstream physicists.

CROW: This is kind of passive-aggressive activism, isn’t it?

JOEL: Fund my project or I’ll abandon this box of kittens in the street!

>
> The present funding system cuts out the ideas and concepts of
> 99% of the population.

TOM: As long as we’re ignoring the people who pay to see Joel Schumacher movies, that’s fine by me.

> This is OK if only private funding is used.

CROW: What if it’s not private, but it is very discreet?

> Since public fund is sponsoring almost all of the mainstream research
> at the various universities and institutions,

TOM: Oh, and those other places, you know —

CROW: The ones with the, the, the —

JOEL: Right, with the bells and the copper, the silver —

CROW: Yeah, you know, the stuff with the corned beef —

TOM: No, no, the other one, the —

JOEL: I got it, right. Them.

TOM: Right, them.

CROW: I got it.

> these mainstream
> physicists should be obligated to review some of the fringe ideas of
> the population.

JOEL: I take it he means outside of Silly Breaks.

> Under the present system, the only tool available to a
> fringe player is to write down his idea and concept on paper

TOM: In my system, we’ll also be able to write it in spray cheese!

> but if
> the establishment refuse to review or publish it then his idea is
> forever buried.

CROW: You could always sell it to "Star Trek" — they’ll buy anything.

> I think that’s when the frustration will set in.

JOEL: See, you get into a good lather, rinse, and repeat, and that’s when the frustration sets in.

> Clearly, this is very unfair.

CROW: Nobody should be frustrated.

> One remedies is to modify the present
> funding system as follows:

TOM: First, we all get naked.

>
> The government should set up two separate funds.

JOEL: Call them "Oliver" and "Marybelle." Write stories about them.

> One for the
> mainstream group and one for the fringe group.

TOM: And one for the wishy-washy guys in between.


[ to continue … ]

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: The Last Matchup: The letter G vs Bodies


The letter G

The Case For: Its design, especially the lowercase, in typefaces where it’s two ovals connected by a descender? Just gorgeous.

The Case Against: Creeping in on consonant work that ‘J’ could be doing.

Bodies

The Case For: Allow one to experience comforting showers, large bowls of brothy soup, putting on new socks, and having petting-zoo animals lick your cheek.

The Case Against: Pretty much everything else.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? What is Scooter’s deal? February – April 2022


Eli “Scooter” Borden seems to be a key figure in this season’s story in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. We met him challenging folks with his baseball trivia. He’s part of the scheming to help pitcher Gregg Hamm cover up his lousy eyesight. His girlfriend’s on the girls’ tennis team.

He picked his own nickname. He says “without it, I’ma too-short kid named Eli”, but that with it, coaches figure he’s a small speedy guy. We do see Coach Thorp and Assistant Coach Kaz talking about how he’s fast. It’s not clear to me whether they’ve fallen for his branding or because they’ve watched him move.

This should get you caught up to late April 2022 in Gil Thorp. If you’re reading after about July 2022, or news about the strip comes out, a more useful essay should be here. Also, on my mathematics blog I try to talk about mathematics-themed comic strips. Must admit it’s been a little slow for that, lately, though. Maybe it’ll pick up. Meanwhile, let’s get back to the high school sports.

Gil Thorp.

7 February – 23 April 2022.

Pranit Smith, on the boys’ basketball team, figured he was pretty good at sports betting. Then he snuck his way into a real for-money sports betting web site. And then friends started asking him to place bets for them. And, thing is, he takes bets before he takes the cash to cover them. When many of them don’t win — and even his own bets fail — he’s in a fix, since the people who did win want their payouts.

Achebe: 'You want me to *hurt* guys so they'll pay their gambling debts?' Smith: 'No! Um, not exactly. I mean, a threat should do it, mostly. Or just a hint.' Achebe, talking to Gil Thorp: 'You gotta step in, Coach. This is crazy.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 26th of February, 2022. So this explains why the strip made a point of mentioning Gordon Achebe’s joining the basketball team. The text never mentions the racial component of Smith hoping this large (he was a football player) Black kid trying to be threatening. It’s an extra element of danger that I’m not sure the story meant for Smith to realize he was flirting with.

He has a brilliant idea. Like most brilliant ideas the kids in the strip have, it’s dumb. He asks Gordon Achebe, who again I think was on the football team before, to … you know, go mention to people who still owe Smith money. Not beat them up or anything, understand, just kind of … you know, noticeable and intimidating.

Achebe goes right to Coach Thorp, who once again can not believe what his idiot players are up to. He walks Smith through exactly how dumb this scheme is. And suspends him from games indefinitely. Smith also gets a five-day suspension. But Smith gets in line fast and behaves well enough that Thorp lets him into the final game of the season. He does well, scoring 13 points on a game that’s a 14-point win anyway.

Smith’s even able to solve his deadbeat-bettors problem. He lets it be known that his suspension can’t end until he turns over the names of everyone who owes him money, so, people pay up. He’s bluffing, but it works. He tosses off a joke about how if he’s this good at betting there are online poker sites. His friends toss him out of the story.


Meanwhile, the girls’ basketball team also had a story, unrelated to this one. Team Captain Hollis Talley freaks out on learning she was at a party where some teammates were drinking alcohol. Almost, anyway. They had two cans of hard seltzer for six people. She sees this as something that could threaten the team and/or her appointment to the US Air Force Academy. Her team responds to her concern with eye-rolling disdain and nominate her for Team Karen.

Talley: 'Drinking could cost us suspensions --- and if things blow up, the Air Force Academy could turn me away.' Teammates: 'So, this is you being selfish 'cause we want to be a little stupid.' 'Let's get out of here.' Sasaki: 'That went well.' Talley: 'I'm a born leader.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 18th of February, 2022. This is a nice little show of the different levels of maturity within the group here. Talley can see how something that is, really, harmless (two hard seltzers for six kids) could still explode and leave her covered in blame. Her teammates can’t see how their actions could have a consequence and can only understand Talley as selfish or controlling. And there is a struggle in establishing yourself as a leader so that people go along with you even if they don’t agree with your stated reasons. Talley getting along that path, even if she doesn’t get there, is a big element of this story. And, to add some pleasant ambiguity, there are absolutely no consequences for the drinking at the party. No grown-ups ever learn about it (that we know about), nobody gets in trouble, nothing bad happens except her teammates think Talley is power-tripping.

She has some constructive moping about this, and about the team’s poor performance and worse morale. Talley asks Coach Mimi Thorp to move her from center to guard, displacing her friend Cathy Sasaki. And working outside of regular practice with Maddie Bloom, another guard. This works well for the team, which gets them some compelling wins against teams that had been beating them. The important thing is getting the team to work. One person, and I’m not sure who, says she hopes that if she is Team Captain next year she’ll be able to make choices like Talley has.


The 26th of March saw the basketball storylines end. The 28th of March saw the start of the spring, boys softball, story. The key player here is Gregg Hamm, pitcher who’s going blind. His vision’s bad enough he can’t read the catcher’s signals anymore. But he, catcher Wilson Henry, and second baseman Eli ‘Scooter’ Borden work out an alternative. Borden will catch Henry’s signals and relay them by code words in his relentless chatter. Despite being a brilliant plan, it’s not too dumb, although I’m not clear how well Hamm can pitch if he has that poor vision. Also I don’t know why a sixteen(?)-year-old is losing his vision that fast and whether his parents know about this. He does fine his first game of the season, though.

Thompkins: 'So, Wilson is on board?' Borden: 'As long as Gregg doesn't hurt himself, or the team.' [ Cooley at Milford, and ... ] Borden, at second: 'C'mon, guys! Let's make some noise out there!' (The catcher signals) Borden: 'No stick, 32. Rock and fire!' Gregg Hamm, thinking: 'OK ... fastball it is!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 22nd of April, 2022. So Hamm says his right eye is useless, his left eye is blurry and getting worse, and Coach Thorp doesn’t know. But we also know he’s doing all right on pop quizzes. I understand that Hamm has exactly the eye condition that causes what the plot is. But I don’t know what eye problem would fit all these traits (plus that it hits a teenager). But I’m also fortunate to have never had a serious eye problem myself. The closest I’ve had is needing to give our pet rabbit eyedrops for her cataracts, and pet rabbits are almost never expected to play even slow-pitch softball.

Hamm’s parents, by the way, include a father who ghost-writes autobiographies for business people. I don’t know whether this will have thematic or even plot significance.

In the parallel, girls’ tennis, story, Scooter Borden and his friends come out to cheer for his girlfriend Charis Thompkins. They bring their enthusiasm, if not an understanding that one simply does not hoot in the middle of a volley. It’s too soon to say where this storyline’s going too.

Milford Sports Watch!

Here’s my best attempt at keeping track of who’s played against Milford teams the past couple months and when they did it.

(It’s really the only attempt I made.)

Next Week!

Randy Parker returns to his dad’s comic strip! How does this roil Cavelton? I explore Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker next week, all going well. I need to start writing this recap, like, today.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: The Final Pairing: Boxes vs Land


Boxes

The Case For: Low-cost way to create the Halloween costume of “kid wearing boxes, I don’t know, maybe they’re a robot or a washing machine or something”.

The Case Against: Otherwise just a mechanism to turn piles of things into rectangular piles of things.

Land

The Case For: Best way to finish an airplane ride.

The Case Against: Without continuous tending will spontaneously morph into strip malls.

60s Popeye: I Yam Wot I Yamnesia, with something never before seen in Popeye


This week we’re back at the Jack Kinney studios. The story is by Ralph Wright, whom we’ve seen with a couple mildly baffling cartoons: Double Cross-Country Race, and Forever Ambergris, and Around The World In Eighty Ways. So we can expect, if nothing else, a snappy title, and that’s delivered. Animation direction is by Ken Kultgren, an old friend now. Director and producer credits go, of course, to Jack Kinney. Here is 1960’s I Yam Wot I Yamnesia.

We get more than a snappy title from this. We get that rarity of a premise that hasn’t been done in Popeye before. There’ve been a few shorts where someone disguised themself as Popeye or, sometimes, Olive Oyl. (I think that was only done in the King Features shorts and I don’t know production order for those.) But an actual body-swapping story? That’s new. (Not wholly unprecedented; Vice Versa, which I know as a late-80s movie I didn’t feel the need to watch, was based on a novel from 1882. In the 1930s Turnabout was a popular novel and then movie.)

At least it seems like a body-swapping story. After the first accident, with Popeye and Swee’Pea swapped, Wimpy declares that it’s amnesia. Wimpy’s con-artist inclinations make him a good person to know any needed exposition. But he has a specific reason to know about this: as a boxing referee he’s seen it many times. Wimpy was introduced in the comic strip as a boxing referee; this might be the first time it’s come up in a cartoon that wasn’t about boxing. It also suggests mind-transfer is an occupational hazard of boxers in the Popeye universe. The world-building isn’t strong enough to ponder that. Wimpy knows the cure for bump-on-the-head amnesia is another bump on the head. But Olive Oyl gets in the way of his hitting Swee’Pea gain, and we get another round of body-swapping.

At the front door, Brutus leans forward, eyes closed, to kiss Olive Oyl. She has a stack of four hamburgers in her hand, and one in her mouth, so that Brutus is kissing the hamburger.
I’m sorry, I should have mentioned this week was Popeye After Dark.

Or, again, apparently body swapping? Because the punch line of the cartoon, Popeye and Brutus both acting like babies, doesn’t make sense as a swapping. It’s more like “actual” amnesia with neither remembering anything past when they were Swee’Pea’s age. I know, it’s shocking to imagine a Jack Kinney cartoon where the logic falls apart, but that’s what we have.

But there’s another unprecedented thing here. Wimpy-in-Olive’s-body, or whatever it is, declares (at about 14:02), “I’m one of the Jones boys.” And repeats it, about 15:26, telling Brutus, “Please, sir, I’m one of the Jones boys!” This was, I swear to you, Wimpy’s big catchphrase in the Thimble Theatre comic strip. He would throw up this line as conversational chaff to escape when a mark was starting to catch on to him. As far as I know it’s never been animated before. Ralph Wright revived Wimpy’s backstory to explain something that barely needs explaining. What motivated Wright to go for a deep cut in stuff Wimpy might say? (And a line that, in this context, would be baffling to kids who didn’t know that 25 years before Wimpy said this stuff. Maybe they would guess that his name was Wimpy Jones?)

Popeye and Brutus are sitting and crawling on the floor as toddlers, eyes closed and making goofy faces. Around them are a bunch of toys.
I don’t know what feeling it is Popeye playing with a sailor doll instills in me, but it does.

So the cartoon has striking novelty. What it hasn’t got is much of a plot. Once the premise is established we get about 938 cutaways to Swee’Pea-in-Popeye’s-Body demanding a cookie. And as many of Popeye-in-Swee’Pea’s-body demanding spinach. Wimpy-in-Olive’s-body goes after more hamburgers, as the refrigerator full of burgers isn’t enough. Olive-in-Wimpy’s-body goes off … I dunno, knitting or something, the girls do that all the time, right? But the cartoon is short. The novelty of everyone doing stuff with the wrong voice-actors is enough to last until Brutus arrives. And then he has to work out the premise again, since somehow once you’re body-swapped-by-head-conk you forget this happened?

Popeye-in-Swee’Pea’s-Body goes to make a spinach sandwich and eats a bit himself. This is another rarity, eating spinach before there’s any particular mission. It might be novel that this gets the Popeye-the-Sailor-Man fanfare before there’s any feat of strength to do. Popeye-in-Swee’Pea’s-Body punches Brutus for no reason I can discern. The various rubble knocks everyone but Popeye and Brutus right again. Wimpy’s happy to have the chance to test his theory and Olive Oyl declares, “No, no, a thousand times no; ’tis far better thus!” Thus is Popeye and Brutus playing like toddlers. It’s a funny, out-of-nowhere bit of melodrama on Olive Oyl’s part. I’m not sure what it means about what she wants in a boyfriend.

And that closes out it out. I’d be interested in a Popeye body-swapping cartoon where things happen. But puttering around with the novelty for a couple minutes is pleasant fun too.

Statistics Saturday: The Movies (an incomplete list)


  • The Hustler
  • The Apartment
  • The Discrete Charm of The Bourgeoisie
  • The Casablanca
  • The Dog Day Afternoon
  • The E.T.
  • The Fall of The House of the Usher
  • Who Framed The Roger Rabbit
  • The A Hard Day’s The Night
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty The Valance
  • The Mon Oncle
  • The Night of The Hunter

Reference: The Big Rich: The Rise And Fall of The Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes, Bryan Burrough.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: The Final Pairing: HTML’s span element vs Pizzicato


HTML’s span element

The Case For: Span, short for ‘spaniel’, lets you add a dog to any web page.

The Case Against: Semantic confusion as this adds any kind of dog, not just spaniels.

Pizzicato

The Case For: Thoroughly fun sound to hear and one of music’s beautiful words to say.

The Case Against: When you’re nine years old and taking violin lessons it hurts your fingers to do.

MiSTed: Safety First (part 2 of 16)


Now I resume my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction, riffing Johnny Pez’s Isaac Asimov fanfiction “Safety First”. And a bunch of shorts, to the point that even at the end of this segment we haven’t started his story. (One that, I’ll repeat, isn’t actually bad; it was pleasant enough to read, and he was quite kind to let me riff it.)

The “Beat the Black Knight” riff references the classic 1989 pinball game Black Knight 2000. Its attract mode has a fun little song in which the Black Knight demands you “give me your money” and a chorus sings back, “Beat the Black Knight!”. The riff about opening mail being a risk is a timely and thus dated joke. When I wrote this in late 2001 or early 2002 we had that mystery of anthrax-laced letters sent through the mail. For a few months my parents would occasionally get a mail delivery that was very late and had been microwaved. I don’t know how I had a spam from 1996 sitting around for riffing in 2001; maybe it was sitting in the Web Site Number Nine Dibs List repository? March 1996 was before I had even seen a whole episode of the show, much less would go looking to write fan fiction. I’m delighted to have anticipated Pi Day with my riffs.

I have a vague idea that the web site of celebrities with digitally enlarged noses was a short-lived actual thing, but it may have been one of those fake sketches Conan O’Brien did for the “Visible Closed Captioning” sketches. (He’d do a bit where the closed caption person rebelled against the show, but to have something for him to “caption”, they’d use a plausible-but-not-developed-enough sketch.) The Northway here is the spur of the New York Thruway leading from Albany north; I went to grad school just outside Albany. Yes, near exit six.


>
> If that was you

TOM: You’d be me by now.

> starving to death you would want someone

CROW: We all need someone, sometimes.

> to give you something wouldn’t you.

JOEL: That depends what they’d give. Food? Sure. A soccer ball? Probably not.

>
> QUICKLY GIVE ME MONEY !

CROW, TOM: [ falsetto, in harmony ] "Beat the Black Knight!"

>
> $1, $2, $3, $4, $5, $6, $7, $8, $9, $10

JOEL: Ten… Banana-creme-pies!

ALL: [ Singing ] And that’s… our… song… of ten!

> Here ALL you poor
> people here is $1 for all of you

CROW: There are only ten poor people in the world?

TOM: Hey, poverty’s not as big a problem as we thought.

> Jesus Loves ALL OF YOU !

JOEL: Except that dent in your toenail. That kind of creeps Jesus out.

> Praise
> the Lord !

CROW: Where you work, or bank!

>
> Now don’t try saying there

TOM: It’s too hot and you’ll burn your foot.

> is too many starving people,

JOEL: "There is too many starving purpluff" — hey, you *can’t* say that!

> or that overpopulating the world to death creates wars, starvation,

CROW: Awkward family reunions…

> poverty, crime,

TOM: Rupert Murdoch’s empire…

> abortion etc. worldwide.

JOEL: Hey, do you suppose there are rants like this on Bizarro Superman’s world?

> That is not the problem

CROW: But it is extra credit if any of you need help for your final exam.

> the problem is that YOU are not giving me enough money

JOEL: I feel the same way about you, Jack McKenna.

> to take care
> of all those good and wonderful starving people.

TOM: Look at all the good and wonderful starving people down there — they look like ants.

CROW: Those are ants. You’re looking where you dropped a gumball.

> That’s the problem.

JOEL: That, and how you can’t get a good pizza in this town.

>
> And no no no

TOM: He’s kind of a nihilist Santa Claus.

> I don’t pay taxes

CROW: I *play* them!

> the money is for the poor.

JOEL: The carpet remnants are for the spare bedroom.

>
> Well got to go

TOM: Big old world out there and it’s not gonna overpopulate itself!

> and build more churches

JOEL: Oh, and also zone for a seaport, and put up a zoo before the Sims get all cranky.

> in all the rich
> neighborhoods.

CROW: Don’t say anything to them, I want it to be a surprise.

>
> I am the pope !

JOEL: [ Singing ] I am an iiii-ii-iiii-island!

>
> *** AND IF ANY OF THOSE STARVING PEOPLE

TOM: How hungry can they be? You gave them all a dollar just now.

> TRY TO GET VIOLENT

CROW: Don’t take the law into your own hands. Take them to "The People’s Court."

> KILL THEM

JOEL: Oh, boo.

TOM: Boooooo!

CROW: This guy was fun up until now.

> THEY ARE THE "BAD" ONES ***
>

CROW: How can we say they’re bad? I’m really sure deciding who’s bad is Santa’s job.

JOEL: About time for the next track, right?

TOM: I think so.

> From: Ken Seto (ken…@erinet.com)

TOM: With love.

> Subject: OPEN LETTER

JOEL: Who would take that kind of risk these days?

> TO PRESIDENT CLINTON

CROW:"Dear President Clinton: I’m a junior at a small midwestern college…"

> Newsgroups: sci.math
> Date: 1996/03/14

JOEL: Oh, see, a math article would go up on 3-14.

TOM:Bet it was posted at 1:59.

>
>
> Dear Follow Fringe Scientists,

CROW: "Hi! How you doing? Weather’s great, sorry you’re not here!"

TOM: Follow the yellow fringe scientists!

> The following letter was sent to President Clinton

JOEL: ‘Cause I didn’t have the address for Mayor McCheese.

> and his reply was
> a standard form letter.

TOM: Sent in the standard plain brown wrapper.

> After many months of posting in the Net I
> notice that there are thousands of us around.

CROW: We really ought to set traps or something.

> If we all write to
> President Clinton the way I did,

TOM: In crayon?

> he will surely take our collective
> opinion into consideration.

CROW:"Dear President Clinton: I have been a good boy all year and
would like a Nintendo and a horse. Thank you."

> I think the Internet is a perfect vehicle
> to accomplish this task. Here’s how:

TOM: First: get online.

CROW: Second: fire up your web browser.

JOEL: Third: suddenly notice you’ve spent six hours looking at pictures of celebrities with digitally enlarged noses.

>
> 1. Make a posting in this thread and address it to President Clinton

TOM: He’s got time to read it. He’s not doing much else these days.

> or just merely say that you support the format that I outlined in
> my letter to him.

CROW: Or just don’t beat me up and take my lunch money.

> 2. I will personally make copy of your posting and forwarded it to the
> White House.

JOEL: They like that sort of personal touch.

> 3. I will acculmulate the list

TOM: I will control the horizontal! I will control the vertical!

> of those who had made a posting in this
> thread

CROW: Except those who use this thread to voice insults toward Wesley Crusher.

> and this list will be available to all those who are in
> this list.

JOEL: You may visit this list, but when you do, it will spend
all its time complaining about how you never visit it.

> 4. Tell your friends

TOM: They won’t want to be left out!

> to make posting in this thread and tell your
> friends to tell their friends to make postings……etc.

CROW: All perfectly legal! Ask the Post Office!

> 5. This posting will appear in all intereted newsgroups.

JOEL: Newsgroups have such IN-teresting postings.

> 6. For more information

TOM: Write to "President Clinton," Pueblo, Colorado 81009.

> please e-mail me at <ken…@erinet.com> also

CROW: Come on down to Ken’s Eto, just ten big steps off the Northway at exit six.

> visit my web site <http://www.erinet.com/kenseto/book.html>.

TOM: Remember to bring a housewarming present!

>
> Sincerely,

JOEL: I question his sincerity.

> Ken H. Seto

TOM: The H stands for Happy!


[ to continue … ]

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: The Last Quartet: Trivia vs $20,090


Trivia

The Case For: Is no better way to know what company Hi from Hi and Lois works for.

The Case Against: Really aren’t any bars or restaurants hosting trivia nights that have a deep enough menu to support going back for a whole season.

$20,090

The Case For: You don’t know anyone whose life wouldn’t be considerably improved for years if they got an unexpected twenty thousand and ninety dollars, like, today.

The Case Against: Still, just think how much even better twenty thousand, one hundred and fifteen dollars would be.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan? Why is there a superhero in Rex Morgan? January – April 2022


Terry Beatty, besides writing and drawing Rex Morgan, M.D., also illustrates The Phantom weekday continuity. So I surmise he feels comfortable with action scenes and likely that he gets a fair chance to draw them. The just-started storyline has a masked vigilante prowling the mean-ish-esque(?) streets of Glenwood, though.

It appears Beatty is exploring “real-life superheroes”, a minor phenomenon that does exist. Most “real-life superheroes” are people who cosplay for publicity or educational purposes. A handful try, as in the comic, actually confronting “evildoers”. That’s more rare, I imagine from a mix of people realizing they don’t have actual plot immunity, and how even if you’re assaulting a mugger you’re still the one committing assault. But it’s hard to make a good story where nobody makes bad life choices. So this plot recap focuses heavily on Rene Belluso, who enjoys a Wile E Coyote-like talent for bad life choices. At least, he has the talent, and we enjoy watching people fly in from across the world to sucker-punch him. This should catch you up to mid-April 2022 in his antics and in the new superhero in town.

If you’re reading this after about July 2022, or if news about the strip breaks, a more up-to-date recap should be at this link. And on my mathematics blog I did another short essay about mathematics topics in comic strips. You might enjoy that too.

Rex Morgan, M.D..

31 January – 16 April 2022.

Sarah Morgan’s joy at being the coauthor of a Kitty Cop book was spoiled when Rene Belluso claimed she copied the Doggo Twins characters from him. Belluso had been her art instructor, back before Terry Beatty took over writing the strip. Sarah doesn’t think she stole the characters from him, but she doesn’t know. A car accident gave her a soap-opera amnesia that wiped a year of her memory. (It also brought her art skills down to good-for-her-age, not remarkable-prodigy.) So the gang was getting together to figure what they know about this.

Belluso sure seems likely to be running a scam. In his spare time from art instructing he also ran a mystic-healing cult, and got busted for phony Covid-19 cures. But they can’t find evidence that Sarah drew anything resembling the Doggo Twins before she was taking classes from Rene. Kyle Vidpa — formerly blocked writer of Kitty Cop — believes in Sarah’s innocence but that’s not something they can act on. Their lawyer advises at least listening to what Belluso would want to settle out of court.

Belluso: 'This man is lying! I created the Doggo Twins years before the Kitty Cop book was published!' Thorson: 'I ain't no liar, Mr B'luso. You know that. All what I said here is a hunnert percent truthful.' Lawyer: 'Mr Belluso, according to Mr Thorson, you planned to use Sarah's amnesia to support the false claim that she stole the Doggo Twins idea from you.' Belluso: 'HE MADE ALL THAT UP!' Lawyer; 'Including the detail that you planned to use vintage paper to make your drawings appear old? A common tactic in art forgery, something with which you have much experience.' Belluso: 'True, I once used my art skills for less than legitimate purposes, but that was a logn time ago.' Lawyer: 'We have records of Internet sales of forged cartoon art traceable to you, from within the last two years. Between Sonny's word and your record, it's clear your claims are false, and we'll not be settling with you for *any* amount. in fact, we'll be filing suit against *you* for the damages that your false claims have caused the Kitty Cop brand.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 27th of February, 2022. Not to detract from the repeated sucker punches delivered to Rene Belluso here, but is his planning to use vintage paper the sort of insider knowledge only an expert would have? All I really know about forgeries is that I’m an American who’s heard of Hugh Trevor-Roper, but I’d still think “have paper that’s at least as old as the drawings on it are supposed to be” was the first necessary step.

Sonny Thorson enters the picture. He comes to the Morgan clinic, spilling what he knows about his former cellmate Rene Belluso. He says that Belluso, hearing the news that Sarah Morgan was the mysterious coauthor of the new Kitty Cop books, saw an opportunity. He could make money, and get back at Rex Morgan, by forging some older Doggo Twins art and claiming to be their author. (Rex Morgan had foiled Belluso’s Celestial Healing scam.) Thorson doesn’t care one way or another about Rex, but he didn’t want a kid scammed like that. Thus, his report, one that he repeats to Belluso and his lawyer.

With this, and with evidence Belluso’s sold forged cartoon art in the last two years? Vidpa’s lawyer announces they won’t be settling but will be suing for damaging the Kitty Cop brand. Belluso storms out, declaring they haven’t heard the last of him. We might have; when we next see him, mob-type people are demanding to know how he’s going to get them their money. Terry Beatty even inserts a panel saying we the readers can imagine his fate, as he doesn’t know whether we’ll ever see Belluso again.

If that’s not enough stomping on Belluso’s head, there, his lawyer admits he’s not really a lawyer. He’s an actor Belluso hired and possibly even paid under the guise of “some sort of performance art”. This would explain why Belluso gave press conferences about suing but didn’t file any actual documents in an actual court. The acting lawyer gives Rex Morgan and all tickets to see him in Hairspray.

And if that’s still not enough stomping on Belluso’s head? Sarah, busy thinking up names for Kyle and Lauren’s newborn child, finds a sketchbook from before she was taking art lessons. It’s got a date, a sketch of the family from before Michael and Johnny were there, and a dog drawing recognizably a forerunner to the Doggo Twins. So they’ve got plenty to force Belluso to make a public statement of how he’s big dumb dummy who’s soooooo big and dumb and stupid. He flees before he can be forced to make it, but into the hands of those mob types mentioned above. And with the 2nd of April that brings this story to an end.


The current story starts on the 3rd of April, with a Sunday strip re-introducing the strip and main characters. Rex Morgan has a new patient, Clayton. (I don’t know his first name.) He’s there for a rotator cuff injury, which calls for rest, ice, physical therapy, and time. There’s also a bunch of other bruises that Clayton explains as boxing and mixed martial arts lessons. Morgan advises taking a break from them, too, until he heals. Clayton promises he will, but is lying. He has a mission.

Would-be car thief: 'The *Street Sweeper*? What are you going to do --- hit me with that broom?' Clayton, presenting himself as The Street Sweeper: 'If you insist.' He thwacks the thief with his push broom. Thief: 'Ow!!! Hey --- knock it off!'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 14th of April, 2022. Absolutely magnificent strip here. The only thing that could possibly improve it is if Clayton/The Street Sweeper were hitting Les Moore instead.

So we see him that evening, on his mission, “to protect the streets of Glenwood”. I mean, he took an oath and everything, what choice does he have? He confronts a guy who’s checking for unlocked cars. The would-be car thief asks what his deal is. Clayton explains: he’s keeping the streets safe and clean. He is … The Street Sweeper. While the would-be car thief laughs at this superhero name, Clayton whacks him with a push broom. While the readers laugh at this, the comic takes the lead for Funniest Story Strip of 2022. Clayton prides himself on a job well-done. Meanwhile an onlooker takes his photo, launching the “superhero” as a local human-interest-piece.

And that’s our standings for mid-April 2022.

Next Week!

Betting! Betting and eyesight accommodations! It’s Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp in a week, is my plan.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: The Last Quartet: Old Couches vs Viscosity


Old Couches

The Case For: Are at peace with sitting in weird poses on them.

The Case Against: Feeling of helplessness about the cushion that’s worn down because you always sit on it being right next to the mint-condition cushion that nobody ever sits on.

Viscosity

The Case For: Keeps every beverage from having the same mouth feel.

The Case Against: Is part of how the entropic heat-death of the universe happens, although you can say that about everything really.

60s Popeye: The Black Knight (not the one where he fights a pinball game)


We’re back to Jack Kinney studios for a time-travel adventure. This 1960 cartoon has a story credited to Ed Nofziger, with animation direction by Ken Hultgren. As always director and producer credits go to Jack Kinney. Let’s send Popeye to see The Black Knight.

“The Leprechaun”, last week, was all story and no humor. This week, we’re at a different studio, and at near the converse. This almost plays like an improv sketch built around the theme of Popeye in Pop Culture Medieval England. Once more Professor O G Wotasnozzle uses his time machine to possibly abduct an unsuspecting Popeye, sending him to King Arthur — in the time of Prince Valiant — for reasons of what the heck.

The Wotasnozzle frames are always a bit weird since I don’t know why they’re needed. These cartoons never seem like they’d make less sense if we started with Popeye in Medieval times, or the future, or caveman days, or whatnot. We never get scenes of Popeye trying to work out where or when he is. That’s confusing since the standard frame has Popeye knocked unconscious and dropped somewhere else in time. But in this case we don’t see that whole frame; the cartoon assumes the audience has seen enough of this to get the setup. I suppose they have. Kids have so much easier a time understanding stories.

King Wimpy looks bemused, and Queen Olive bothered, that an angry Popeye has been dropped, flopped over, on their dining table.
I understand King Wimpy’s disdain here. I’m also annoyed when someone drops work on my table in the middle of a meal.

Once we’re there, the story pretty near stops. We get the main cast (mostly) recast as Arthurian-ish characters. Wimpy as King Arthur, Olive Oyl as Olive Guinevere, Brutus as the Black Knight are about all you can do. The Sea Hag as Merlin makes the best sense at giving the role to someone magical. Naming her Ethyl Merlin is a nice gag. Anything the Sea Hag does is coded as villainous. It seems to me we don’t often see Merlin portrayed as a villain, at least not in Camelot-set stories. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court excepted. I’m not sure she quite reaches the point of villainy, though. Before she enters everyone’s afraid Popeye is a spy or something — they’re afraid of his pipe as some kind of sorcery. Even a good Merlin might reasonably want this intruder locked up until they were sure what his deal was.

This all turns into a jousting contest between Popeye and the Black Knight, using what stunts need the least possible new animation. There’s charm here. A lot of it is silly dialogue, elevated by the decision to speak with Fake Old-Time Word Endingseth. Or jokes about the knight-fall or how the squashed Brutus is “what a short knight”. The running joke about Wimpy wanting more medieval hamburgers has some nice pacing and delivery, given how many end up bonking him on the head. I don’t get the joke early on about Wimpy wishing they’d invent hamburger buns and Olive Oyl saying “Oh, nay, t’would be ill. Bread!” I mean, I get that it’s funny because it has the sound of a pun, but the pun doesn’t make sense. They’re trying out a lot of jokes, they can’t all work. I appreciate the attempt.

Statistics Saturday: Most and Least Common Dates of Easter


Most Common Occasional Almost Never Least Common
Sundays in March, April Sundays in May (Orthodox) Sunday in July (that one time Sweden was going back-and-forth on whether they were going to be on the Gregorian or the Julian calendar and they threw in a February 30th for the heck of it) Thursdays in July

Reference: Pirates of New Jersey: Plunder and High Adventure On The Garden State Coastline, Mark P Donnelly, Daniel Diehl.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: The Last Quartet: Pangaea vs Beethoven


Pangaea

The Case For: Turns out to be just the most recent supercontinent, not the only one, and they’re looking at making supercontinents again, and isn’t that cool?

The Case Against: Nerds used to say how they would put a “Pangaea Reunification Front” on their desk to make HR send out a memo about not posting political stuff and we were expected to pretend we believed that happened.

Beethoven

The Case For: Has a crater on Mercury named for him.

The Case Against: Only wrote the one opera, which is only one more than I’ve written, and I can’t even write music.

MiSTed: Safety First (part 1 of 16)


And now? I bring a really long piece, a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic that I think dates to late 2001 or early 2002. Its centerpiece is “Safety First”, a piece of Isaac Asimov fanfiction that alt.books.isaac-asimov centerpiece Johnny Pez posted, originally in August 2001. When we get there you’ll see Pez offer thanks to me for comments. This is that I thought his story basically good, but too short: it lacked a false resolution before the real solution could be found. He rewrote the story and added that, and we all think came out with a better version of the story.

You might ask: when I MiSTed “Reboot: Breaking the Barriers” I obscured author Carrie L—‘s name. Why not Pez’s? That’s because “Breaking the Barriers” had Carrie L— as character in the story. Pez wrote a story centered around Powell and Donovan, two Robot-problem-fixers that Asimov himself created before he learned how to write characters. So this seems to have a much smaller chance of being personally embarrassing.

There are a bunch of shorts attached to this MiSTing, all rants or rant-like constructs. This is because the original story, even as expanded, seemed too slight for my purposes, which demanded four segments and six host segments. Later, I would grow comfortable with much more pared-down MiSTings.

Please do not cut yourself on the devastatingly sharp jabs I give to Star Trek: Insurrection or to Ken Burns documentaries. I think I wrote this before the Mac had that screensaver that does the “Ken Burns Effect” panning across pictures drawn at random from your photo library. Might be wrong. Chris Kapostasy and Doctor Alan Chartock were reporters on Albany local news back then. I imagine the Ken Burns Doc-u-Matic to work rather like the Car-Tuner. La Follette’s Seamen’s Act of 1915 was a major step forward in providing for the safety and security of United States seamen, as it established things like that seamen should be paid, and fed while at sea, and there should be lifeboats for when the ship sinks and stuff.


[ OPENING CREDITS ]

[ SOL DESK. GYPSY, CROW, JOEL, and TOM are sitting behind the desk, thinking. CROW rests an arm on the desk. ]

CROW: They had that scene with all the escape pods swarming in orbit?

JOEL: Nope, that was "First Contact."

TOM: How about that poker game Picard joined in?

JOEL: No, that was in the last episode of the series.

GYPSY: There were some aliens getting their faces lifted up and stretched out.

[ JOEL, TOM, and CROW think, but shake their heads… ]

JOEL: No, no, that was a Voyager episode.

TOM: There was that scene in stellar cartography… no, that was "Generations."

JOEL: [ Looking up. ] Hi, everyone, welcome to the Satellite of Love. I’m Joel Robinson and I’m trapped in space by a mad attempt to take over the world. My robot companions [ pointing them out ] Gypsy, Crow, and Tom Servo, and I got together and watched "Star Trek: Insurrection" last night, and now, we’re trying to remember *anything* from it.

CROW: They went back in time to the tribble episode.

TOM: "Deep Space Nine."

GYPSY: Data and Picard were flying shuttlecraft and following the bouncing ball to sing along.

JOEL: That was a Betty Boop song cartoon.

[ GYPSY grumbles. ]

TOM: Oh, they saved the Captain from fighting that alien pig monster thingy by beaming it up, only it came up backwards.

CROW: That was "Galaxy Quest."

GYPSY: And those nice people moved from their homes into a holodeck.

JOEL: No, no… what was the one with the superpowerful being pretending to be a human, and the colony he’s living on is attacked by some aliens and they kill his wife and he responds without thinking and kills them all everywhere?

TOM: That was a TV episode.

CROW: I give up. We’ve got *nothing*.

GYPSY: And Picard goes on some dates with a woman who warps time and space so it’s more like a perfume commercial.

TOM: Yeah, there’s nothing to remember from "Insurrection."

JOEL: I’m stumped.

MAGIC VOICE: Commercial sign in five seconds. I believe in you, Gypsy.

GYPSY: Thanks.

MAGIC VOICE: Commercial sign now.

[ COMMERCIAL SIGN flashes. ]

JOEL: Thanks, Magic Voice. We’ll be right back.

[ JOEL taps COMMERCIAL SIGN. ]

[ COMMERCIAL BREAK ]

[ SOL DESK. GYPSY rests her head on the desk, apparently sulking. TOM, JOEL, and CROW are still wondering. ]

TOM: Maybe we just didn’t *see* "Insurrection" after all.

CROW: It’s the only thing that makes sense.

[ MADS SIGN flashes ]

JOEL: Captain Decker and Lieutenant Ilia are calling.

[ JOEL taps MADS SIGN ]

[ DEEP 13. TV’s FRANK is sitting in front of a small plastic table, on which two cups of flat soda, with cards labelled "A" and "B" in front of them and unlabelled bottles behind. DR. FORRESTER stands very near and at an odd angle to the camera. ]

DR. F: Hello, redshirts. Ready to be blown away by our invention this week? Sure you are. Have you ever had your soda go flat?

FRANK: I know I have! [ He takes a big sip of soda "A". ]

DR. F: [ Without looking back at TV’s FRANK. ] And there’s nothing to be done about it… until… [ DR. FORRESTER holds up a packet of powder. ] We’ve created a polymerized Alka Seltzer-Pop Rocks alloy in combination with… well, it would take a food chemist to explain. Let me show you.

[ DR. FORRESTER sits behind the table, and tears open the powder and sprinkles it into soda "B". As it fizzes, TV’s FRANK sips. ]

DR. F: Ever-vescent Crystal instantaneously puts an enormous, concentrated burst of carbon dioxide back into any drink.

[ SOL DESK. A device, with a 8-1/2 inch vaccuum cleaner slot, a set of metal calipers stood up to hold a card, and a videotape in a mechanical case held up by a slinky hose, with a crank on the front and a page feeder on the top; a portable film screen is behind the desk. JOEL and CROW are fiddling with the device. ]

TOM: Wait a minute… concentrated Pop-Rocks effect… is that going to make Frank’s head explode?

[ DEEP 13. TV’s FRANK is continuing to drink. DR. FORRESTER watches TV’s FRANK; he holds up a hand, a "just wait" gesture, and holds it while TV’s FRANK finishes drinking, and for a beat after that. ]

DR. F: [ Faintly disappointed. ] No. Back to you, Chris Kapostasy.

[ SOL DESK. There is now a harmonica on the desk. ]

JOEL: Thanks, Doctor Alan Chartock. [ He nods to TOM. ] Our turn.

TOM: The Civil War. Baseball. Lewis and Clark. Jazz. Mark Twain. If there’s a subject tugging the heartstrings of faithful PBS pledgers, we’ll see Ken Burns, a Sam Watterston-class narrator, and a wheelbarrow full of videotape putting together a documentary.

CROW: Still, fast as Ken Burns grinds down the story of La Follette’s Seamen’s Act of 1915 down to its essential 87 hours of classic programming, it’s a long wait for us faithful viewers.

JOEL: Which is why we’ve invented The Ken Burns Doc-u-Matic! Just feed your subject matter in on a standard Hollerith punch card [ JOEL fits a card into the calipers; they fall backward and the machine makes a Star Trek-like noise ], add as many old photographs and hand-written letters as you like [ JOEL holds several photographs and letters up, one at a time, before feeding them into the vacuum cleaner attachment ], turn the crank and let it go.

[ JOEL turns the crank, lowering the videotape until it touches the desk. The machine hisses and a few pages of script feed out the top. ]

JOEL: Ready to see what we’ve got?

[ JOEL takes out the tape and leans forward, "giving" it to CAMBOT. He hands a page of script to TOM and another page to CROW. The film leader countdown begins on the projector screen as CAMBOT moves in on it. JOEL picks up the harmonica and begins playing it. ]

[ Documentary picture — CROW, wearing a Confederate soldier’s cap. The camera pans across the picture slowly. ]

TOM: [ Narrating ] Little did anyone suspect that a revolution was forming under their noses. When Crow Thomas Hewett Edward Robot emerged from an almost unnoticed Chattanooga apprenticeship, it was like the world had refolded — and this imaginative youngster was its new center.

[ Documentary picture — an illegible letter, with the camera tracking up to its top. ]

CROW: [ Reading, with exaggerated Scarlett O’Hara accent ] I remember the first time Crow stood up in the madness, with a blaze of red hair and an enthusiastic glitter in his eye — it seemed like a dream as he hypnotized a city. Joel Robinson, 1993.

[ Documentary picture — GYPSY, on a black background. Nobody says a word for several beats. ]

[ Documentary picture — TOM, wearing an astronaut suit. ]

TOM: [ Narrating ] But his era could not last. The world soon slept again — until a new robot stood up and demanded to be counted.

CROW: [ Reading ] Thomas Servo has been an effective employee. He brings a concerted effort to every task, is punctual, and keeps his work areas clean. Only his occasional spat with co-worker Crow degrades his performance. — Employee review, February 1997.

JOEL: [ As TOM and CROW continue in this vein, and the screen continues like this. ] You get the picture. What do you think?

[ DEEP 13. TV’s FRANK’s head still hasn’t exploded; DR. FORRESTER still watches. ]

DR. F: Well. Got a bit of a change of pace for you today; it’s a robot story.

[ SOL DESK. The Doc-u-matic and the screen are gone. JOEL still plays the harmonica. ]

CROW, TOM: Robots? Hooray!

[ DEEP 13. As above. ]

DR. F: A charming little piece of Isaac Asimov fan fiction called "Safety First." Just to make it sporting, first you’ll read a little piece by a guy who hates the Pope, and another guy who thinks scientists know too much science. Read it and weep.

[ SOL DESK. MOVIE SIGN flashing. ]

ALL: AAh! We’ve got movie sign!

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

[ ALL settle in ]

> From: jmck…@bonzai.net

JOEL: Isn’t he the Finder of Lost Loves?

> To: jmck…@bonzai.net

TOM: From Jack McKenna, *to* Jack McKenna. A Jack McKenna production.

> Subject: I want to sue the murderous pope !

CROW: I see a lawsuit and I want it painted red.

> Message-Id: <20010806205…@bonzai.net>

TOM: This keeps it straight from all the other e-mails we get about suing the "murderous" Pope.

> Date: Mon, 6 Aug 2001 20:53:09 -0400

CROW: So … that’s 8:53 p.m., minus 400, gives us… it was sent at negative 392:53 p.m.?

JOEL: You’re forgetting the International Date Line.

CROW: Oh.

> Status: OR

TOM: Status: Oregon — a dynamic state for the world of tomorrow!

>
>
> He creates wars

JOEL: And passes the savings on to you!

> starvation poverty

TOM: Because the "gorged poverty" turned out to not work that well.

> crime etc. worldwide

CROW: Is this the Pope or the Penguin?

> by
> overpopulating the world to death,

[ ALL giggle. ]

JOEL: Well, you know Catholics.

> he kills millions of people

CROW: He hurts the feelings of thousands of others.

> and
> has billions of people

JOEL: He keeps them in a really big dresser drawer.

> living in total dispair with his;

TOM: What, the Pope has a couple billion people crashing on his couch?

>
> Come on now

CROW: Come on down!

> more more more

TOM: *Now* how much would you pay?

> just keep having more children

JOEL: But we haven’t finished the ones we already have!

> NO BIRTH CONTROL.

CROW: You’ll just have to hold it in until we get to the hospial, honey.

>
> LOOK LOOK LOOK

TOM: But don’t touch!

> everybody look at all that starvation over
> there!

CROW: Pick it up! You’re getting dirt all over it!

>
> Quickly give me money!

JOEL: Uh, can you lend me a five ’till payday?


[ to continue … ]

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: The Last Quartet: Dinosaurs vs Quadrilaterals


We’re finally through sixteen March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing matchups! We’ve reached the stage of The Last Quartet! Got your bets in for who will win?

Dinosaurs

The Case For: Holding up really well to the burden of being the only thing that everybody would like to hear a cool fact about, like, right now.

The Case Against: There’s people trying to tell us T Rexes were just like chickens and that’s not doing T Rexes or chickens any good.

Quadrilaterals

The Case For: Most important part of geometry that also sounds like a muscle group.

The Case Against: Word sounds like you’re too good for rhombuses.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? Why is the Sunday Phantom illegible now? January – April 2022


So back in February Comics Kingdom pushed a big change in their server code. This caused it all to break for a couple days. Most of this has been fixed. But among the things still broken are that some strips, including The Phantom, appear on Sundays in the wrong aspect ratio. That is, they’re shown in the format used for newspapers squeezing them to one-quarter of a page, four rows by two columns. I imagine this is a badly-implemented idea to make it easier to read on a phone, and is garbage for people who read this on a real computer. When I read my regular Favorites page, the strip appears about two inches wide, and while I can still read the action, it’s harder than it should be.

It could be worse. They print The Lockhorns in the format intended for newspapers running it as one tiny column, and so appears on-screen about one-half an inch wide. Utterly illegible. Comics Kingdom would be aware of this if anyone read their Technical Support or their Report A Bug complaints, as I have informed them of this every week since the problem crept in. They finally promised to have someone look at this when I sent in the billing question of why I was paying for a subscription for illegible comics.

Anyway. The saving grace is that Comics Kingdom does use source images that are huge; for Sunday pages, the average image is about 112 gigabytes of data. So I can reprint the comics — a fair use as it is part of review and critique of the original — big enough to be easily legible on whatever you use to read.

This all is meant to catch you up to mid-April 2022 for the Sunday continuity of Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom. If you are looking for the weekday-continuity story of The Phantom’s death and destruction, or if you’re reading this after about July 2022 and want the Sunday story, you may find a more useful essay here. They will never fix the image problem.

And on my other blog I’ve been reading comics for their mathematics content again. You might enjoy that.

The Phantom (Sundays).

23 January – 10 April 2022.

Nayo and Abeo, two young women of the Mori tribe, created their own custom for their passage into adulthood. They went as few Mori ever do into the big city of Mawitaan. This was going great for them. The city folk found them such curious novelties as to not mind their taking food from markets or rough sleeping in the parks and such.

'There are times when The Phantom leaves the jungle and walks the streets of the town as an ordinary man. - Old Jungle Saying.' The Phantom, wearing a hard hat, emerges from a van. We see him in a selection of scenes: checking an electrical meter, delivering a package to a doorstep, working at a construction site, birdwatching in the park. In each scene we see the Mori women, doing their city stuff: walking about, looking at the sites, having ice cream. The narration explains: 'Mori girls, far from home ... awed by the great city ... innocent of its dangers. The Phantom ... hidden in plain sight. He is this ordinary man (the delivery guy) ... this man (someone looking over blueprints) ... he is every man ... any man ... The Phantom walks among the good with one purpose ... among the evil with quite another.'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 20th of February, 2022. So we can read this literally; The Phantom is, after all, watching Nayo and Abeo. But I’m interested in something in his outfit-switching, particularly his delivering a package in the third row, first panel, there. I get that he wants to not be noticed by the Mori women, and changing outfits like that reduces the number of visual hooks he offers for them to recognize him, if they don’t notice he’s always wearing eye-concealing dark sunglasses. But if he’s, like, pretending to be a delivery guy for the day, he has to have all these packages to drop off places. Even supposing that the deliveries are fake, this is an outfit that doesn’t let him follow when they wander through Central Park and take a rental boat.
A steady thing this story has been the acceptance of the Mori women by the neighborhood, and how everyone has decided to go along with their wandering around town like they knew what they were doing. Are these different guises, then, The Phantom pretending to be ordinary men, or, are these ordinary men, by watching for and trying to protect the innocent outsiders, taking on their share of The Phantom’s duties? I suspect the entirety of the story won’t support that interpretation. But if it is only my idiosyncratic reading that this strip offers the message that every person is a hero when they are kind? I’m comfortable reading this strip that way.

Still, cities are dangerous when you don’t have permanent shelter or money or such. Especially if, as they have, you’ve attracted the eye of a sex slaver. But they’ve also, at the request of their tribe, got a protector, The Phantom. The Ghost Who Walks lurks around town, and when he spots the sex trafficker he slaps him silly and throws him into the trash.

That’s not enough hint for him, though. (To be too fair to the guy, we don’t see on-screen that The Phantom warned him off the Mori women, or abducting women at all. It would be consistent with the text that he had no idea what this assault was for.) A few days later when the women go into a nightclub, he follows. And gets drugged drinks from the bartender. The Phantom follows, of course. He punches out the bartender, which makes him quite popular. (It’s also the first Phantom Ring-marking in a while, so far as I remember.) And grabs the trafficker, slamming him into the window of the limousine of the trafficker’s buyer. That guy speeds off, but The Phantom takes the trafficker’s personal information to turn over to the Jungle Patrol. And clobbers him with the Phantom Ring, a second permanent marking this story.

Next Week!

Is Terry Beatty — weekday artist for The Phantom — not drawing enough vigilante-superhero stuff? We may have an answer as I recap Rex Morgan, M.D. next week, if things go to plan. And if some shadowy figure of concealed identity doesn’t punch me first.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: Merism vs Blue Jeans


Merism

The Case For: Is the technical name for phrases where you match up opposites to refer to all of a thing, like, “high and low” or “big and small” or “young and old”.

The Case Against: Now that you know that it will never be asked at your Jeopardy! tryout.

Blue Jeans

The Case For: If you wear a pair of them enough they get very comfortable.

The Case Against: There are other genres of pants that are comfortable right away when you buy them.

60s Popeye: The Leprechaun, a title that gives away the last scene


The title of this week’s King Features Popeye had me expecting a Jack Kinney short. Somehow it felt like a story built around a “real” legendary creature fit that studio’s style more. Nope; this is Paramount Cartoon Studios. So director and producer credits go to Seymour Kneitel. The story’s credited to Carl Meyer and Jack Mercer. From 1961 let’s see Popeye tangling with The Leprechaun.

This is not a funny cartoon, which does not bother me. This is an adventure cartoon instead, a striking lot of story for five and a half minutes of animation. The Sea Hag has a plan to set her up for life: catch a leprechaun and steal his gold. Popeye spots her — in a neat and surprisingly smooth bit of animation, at about 33 seconds in — and decides he needs to be in the cartoon too. The Sea Hag finds the leprechauns on an island so lush it has detailed, even shaded, backgrounds. Her not-bad plan: beg for help from a kindly leprechaun, and to repay him, offer him tea. It’s laced with truth serum so he can’t not tell the location of the leprechauns’ gold.

The other leprechauns banish him for this. This doesn’t seem fair of them. I don’t know much about Irish mythology but from what I have learned, the only thing more dangerous than accepting a stranger’s offer of food and drink is not accepting. They should have sympathy; it could have been any of them. Popeye runs across the poor leprechaun, “banished forever” until their gold is returned, and he catches the Sea Hag at the docks. She uses her Evil Eye Whammy. He uses his spinach to punch it back at her, knocking her out. I guess this doesn’t break his resolve to not hit a woman, but it’s a close thing. The gold’s returned, Popeye’s made an honorary leprechaun, and I’m not sure we ever hear the victimized leprechaun’s name.

A leprechaun lifts the unconscious Popeye's nose ahead of pouring 'Shamrock Juice' into his now-open mouth.
I’m not the only person who expected a mention that Shamrock Juice contained a squirt of spinach, am I? Really expected that, possibly as the way Popeye would get his spinach power-up. Maybe if they had a full seven minutes for the short.

As said, this isn’t a funny cartoon. I’m not sure there’s even an attempt at joking. Doesn’t matter. There’s a story here, and a well-constructed one. For example, when Popeye first challenges the Sea Hag her buzzard sneaks up and knocks him out. This balances with Popeye sneaking up on and knocking out the buzzard at the end. The kind leprechaun finds the knocked-out Popeye and helps him; this establishes his nature before the Sea Hag can take advantage of it. And while we know Popeye would help a sad-looking fellow, it gives him a stronger reason to try and help the banished leprechaun.

And there’s some production bits. The bit with Popeye looking through his telescope and turning his head, for example, a bit of animation so good I expected them to reuse it at least once. Maybe it’s put into the Paramount stock library and turns up in other shorts. Or there’s the great children’s-book illustration of the forest. It’s got so much depth as to make the other backgrounds look chintzy. It gives a suggestion of the forest as this magical, more-real-than-real setting. Or maybe it reflects the background having been designed for a theatrical cartoon and getting pressed into service here. I don’t know, but I love the decision to use this.

I bet Popeye gets a lot of mileage out of being an honorary leprechaun in future cartoons. Can’t wait for next week.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: Sesquicentennials vs Protocols


Sesquicentennials

The Case For: Good compromise between centennials and bicentennials.

The Case Against: Does nothing to prepare you for the sestercentennial-versus-semiquincentennial debate, although you do have a hundred years to worry about it.

Protocols

The Case For: Are an essential period for the development of adequate cols.

The Case Against: The cool things are always going against them.

MiSTed: What To Invent (part 3 of 3)


And now the conclusion Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of Raymond Yates’s essay “What To Invent”. I’ll have something else next week, and it’ll probably be more MiSTings.

I have the nagging feeling that the riff about making “even the idea of dirtiness seem clean” is an attenuated Bill and Ted reference, but I’m not confident. This whole essay was fun to riff. I think I still have Yates’s book, which is something like a thousand inventions like this. If I can find it I should riff some of those.

This thing needed a host sketch for the conclusion, no doubt about that.


>
> The manufacturers of electrically operated ice
> boxes are looking for a simple mechanism to permit such
> boxes to defrost themselves within a minute’s time.

CROW: I have one that does it in 75 seconds?

MIKE: No! You have failed electrically operated ice box manufacturers worldwide! Hang your head in shame!

CROW: Okay.

>
> A great many uses could be found for a
> self-closing cork to be applied to pop and other bottles.

TOM: Like … closing?

> Such a device should permit fluid to flow only when the
> bottle is inverted. A gadget of this kind would be very
> handy. It could be sold separately in the chain stores.

MIKE: It must be carefully guarded lest the secret fall into German hands!

>
> Millions of people in this country keep canary
> birds.

TOM: Some of them have to be stool pigeons.

> The ordinary cage presents many hazzards and
> birds often hang themselves or otherwise meet with death
> in some of the “ornamental” boxes.

CROW: Suicidal canaries? Who gets them, the cast of _Funky Winkerbean_?

> What is needed is a
> safety cage—one that will make it impossible for
> accidents of any kind to happen.

TOM: Or you could just leave the canaries alone.

>
> Pocket nail clippers have never been really
> popular for the simple reason that one must use a file
> afterwards because a very rough edge is left.

CROW: Which kills thousands every year.

TOM: In tragic nose-picking accidents.

> Men and
> women would use such clippers in greater number if smooth
> cuts were produced.

MIKE: Because if there’s one thing men are looking for, it’s improved nail-trimming smoothness technology.

>
> Now that the bathing season is here again

CROW: o/` Bathing season is here again! The skies above are clear again! o/`

> we are
> reminded that the ladies still want a leakproof cap which
> will not be so tight as to stop, or interfere with the
> circulation of blood,

TOM: Your hair is your body’s largest consumer of blood!

> but will, at the same time prevent
> any water from seeping through. This invention, without
> exaggeration, would be worth at least $500,000.

MIKE: Aw, forget it, man, I won’t do it for less than five hundred thousand, two hundred seventy-five dollars.

>
> Now that pianos are becoming popular again,
> manufacturers could use a moth-proof substitute for the
> felt on the hammers, etc.

CROW: Etc?

MIKE: You know, like a wallaby-proof substitute for the keys.

TOM: Or a dinosaur-proof substitute for the legs.

>
> The inventor of a really sanitary pillow

MIKE: I’m not talking your ordinary sanitary pillow. I’m talking about something that’s *so* sanitary it makes even the idea of dirtiness seem clean.

> permitting a large volume of air to circulate through it
> and, at the same time, soft and comfortable, would be a
> fortunate person.

CROW: A person who naps in a superior manner.

> Rubber as a material is ruled out.

TOM: People get all weird about it.

> Such pillows, unlike the pillows of today, should be
> washable.

MIKE: A washable pillow? Why not dream about flying cars and computers that fit in your phone while you’re at it?

>

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

CROW: The man who invented a self-blowing popsicle stand …

MIKE: Let’s let that thought end right there, shall we?

[ OUR HEROES file out. ]

                    \  |  / 
                     \ | / 
                      \|/ 
                    ---o--- 
                      /|\ 
                     / | \ 
                    /  |  \ 

Thank you for reading all this. “What To Invent” was written by Raymond Francis Yates, who would go on to write a book listing a couple thousand needed inventions, some of which would still make life reasonably better, so if you can think of one, please do. Many more of the things have already been thought of
since the late 30s, so don’t go hurrying on your typewriter improvements just now, please. The article is either Yates’s or else Modern Mechanix’s property and is used here just to be amusing. Mystery Science Theater 3000 and its characters and schtick aren’t mine either, but the actual writing of the making fun of this was done by Joseph Nebus, who hopes you liked it. Enjoy your own inventive nature, please.

> But what is wrong with shoe polish?

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: Hegelian Synthesis vs the United States of America


Hegelian Synthesis

The Case For: I mean, what else are you going to do with your thesis and antithesis?

The Case Against: Still seems like there should be a new direction to take things, though.

The United States of America

The Case For: Population and land-area leader compared to other generically-named countries like the United Kingdom, South Africa, the Central African Republic, and the United Provinces of the Netherlands.

The Case Against: Everything in the country needs you to fill out a form and yet with all that practice nobody’s any good at bureaucracy.

What’s Going On In Mary Worth? What is this ‘school management’ thing? January – April 2021


The current story in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth has Toby afraid someone will report her to “school management”. She’s teaching at a community college. While I suppose the school has management, every school I’ve ever had dealings with has called that administration. It’s such a weird and needless error I’m wondering if this is some odd localism. Like, I’ve never lived in southern California. I don’t know if community colleges there call it management instead? The way there’s some places where, like in Gil Thorp, the school sports teams go on to playdowns rather than playoffs?

I’m also stumped by the sign outside Santa Royale Community College. It has “Santa Royale Community” in large print on two lines, like a normal place, but then “College” tucked off to the right in half-size print. It was done several times, so this doesn’t look like it patched an art error. When I spot something that unnecessarily wrong I doubt my own judgement: is this alluding to something I happen not to know about? Maybe I’m an easy audience. But when I get mean in my snarking I want it to be about a writing issue deeper than a one-line correction in the script.

So this should get you caught up to early April in Mary Worth. If you’re reading this after about July 2022, there should be a more up-to-date plot recap here. Thanks for following along.

Mary Worth.

16 January – 2 April 2022.

Wilbur Weston had fallen, to great acclaim, from a cruise ship and was lost at sea. This after Estelle had given in to his and Mary Worth’s nagging to forgive his jealous, possessive, often drunk misbehavior and gone to sea with him. When she refused his way-too-hasty proposal he went off in a drunken stupor, climbed the railings, and disappeared.

He washed ashore on a dessert island. He assumed it was deserted but three-day pleasure cruises out of southern California don’t go past many uncharted islands. The place was a resort island owned by the cruise line, and they’re able to sort him out and get him home in a week.

A week that Wilbur’s daughter Dawn, and Estelle, and Mary Worth have spent mourning and telling each other how this wasn’t any of their faults. Their mourning turns to joy and then exasperation when he walks in the door. Joy, yes, for the obvious reasons. Exasperation because why didn’t he tell them he was not dead? He wanted to surprise them. I get the impulse, but this is another reminder that if you ever catch yourself doing something that would happen in the sitcoms you watched as a kid? Stop what you are doing. The women’s exasperation and anger is short-lived, though. I mean, what are you going to do, hold Wilbur to a consequence for needlessly traumatizing you?

Mary Worth: 'C'mon, Estelle, I'm angry just like you, but this is Wilbur we're talking about. You forgive him, don't you?' Estelle: 'I *want* to. I'm just not felling it yet!' Dawn: 'I guess it'll take time.' Mary Worth: 'At least we have each other through all the highs and lows of life with Wilbur!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 2nd of February, 2022. Look, I’m a great believer in forgiveness, even after grievous harm. But you know what I need? Some expression of regret, at minimum for screwing up. We never saw Wilbur even have a moment where he realizes why his clever idea didn’t land like he expected. So this hasn’t done much to encourage readers to regret cheering on Wilbur’s plunge into the ocean.

Left unmentioned except by comics snarkers is that Wilbur Weston’s side job is his “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” column, interviewing people who survive disasters. And that he got the idea for this column the last time he survived a cruise ship disaster. (That one was his boat capsizing, sadly not in any major shipping lanes.)


With the decision that that’s just Wilbur his story wraps up the 6th of February. The current story began the 7th of February, with Toby Cameron’s birthday party. It’s one of those where she’s haunted by feeling age. Still, her new job, teaching art at Santa Royale Community College, is going well.

One of her mixed-media students, Cal, is very happy with her instruction, and asks for her feedback about his sketchbook after class. They have a pleasant talk, she encouraging him and he lapping up her enthusiasm. He’s also seen the animal figurines on her web site, which lets us know he’s got at least a bit of a crush on his instructor. Cal accidentally tossing a Frisbee into Toby, and her returning it, the next day, reinforces that for him. And she’s glad to show off the Frisbee skills she honed in her youth; little feels better than turning out to still have it.

After Cal stays after class again, talking mechanical pencils, one of the other teachers stops in to disapprove. Helen Moss, Community College lifer, sneers that he’s too young for her, and warns her against the relationship. This sends Toby’s mood into a tailspin; the next day, she goes off to sit on a hill and think. Cal notices her and goes over to ask how she is. Moss sees this and scolds her for giving a student “special treatment”.

Toby, sitting on a hill beside Cal: 'Even though I came up here to be alone, I'm glad to have company, and I'm glad you're here. I had the worst day recently, and it got me down, but maybe you're right and I should just ignore it.' Cal; 'Yeah ... think of the good days! There are a lot of 'em!' Toby: 'Now that I think about it ... there are!' Cal: 'It'd be a crime for someone great like you, Ms C, to feel down in the dumps for too long!' Cal; 'It happens to the best of us, but that helps! Thanks, Cal.' Meanwhile ... Helen Moss watches through binoculars, and thinks, 'I *see* you!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 27th of March, 2022. Part of Toby’s bad day was almost causing a traffic accident by running a stop light. So I agree with letting that slide off your back, apart from the reminder to pay attention to the road. But there is a running theme in Mary Worth advice to only think about happy stuff and that gets a little creepy. Anyway I love that Helen Moss brings her binoculars in to work at the community college just in case she can catch someone canoodling.

Moss warns that if she keeps it up she’ll report Toby to “school management”. Toby tries to work out what this means. Like, is that the school administration? Might she lose her job over this? What if Ian believes Moss that she’s building a relationship with a student? (This seems extreme, but a few years back Toby did, wrongly, suspect Ian of having something going on with one of his students.) So Moss has sent her into a spiral of doubt and fear for the future.

And that’s where the board pieces stand as of early April.

Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!

  • “The breaking of a wave cannot explain the whole sea.” — Vladimir Nabokov, 16 January 2022.
  • “I gotta keep breathing, because tomorrow the Sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?” — Chuck Noland (Cast Away), 23 January 2022.
  • “The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.” — Ashley Montagu, 30 January 2022.
  • “One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and be understood.” — Lucius Annaeus Seneca, 6 February 2022.
  • “Let us never know what old age is. Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years.” — Ausonius, 13 February 2022.
  • “Take the attitude of a student. Never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new.” — Og Mandino, 20 February 2022.
  • “I don’t see myself as extremely handsome. I just figure I can charm you into liking me.” — Wesley Snipes, 27 February 2022.
  • “In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter … for in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” — Khalil Gibran, 6 March 2022.
  • “Accusations fit on a bumper sticker. The truth takes longer.” — Michael Hayden, 13 March 2022.
  • “Where words are restrained, the eyes often talk a great deal.” — Samuel Richardson, 20 March 2022.
  • “Remember we’re all in this alone.” — Lily Tomlin, 27 March 2022.
  • “Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia.” — Charles M Schulz, 3 April 2022.

The Schulz quote, by the way, D D Degg at The Daily Cartoonist correctly spotted as reflecting the 1980 storyline where the gang was sent to an evangelical Apocalypse-prep cult. The exact phrasing in the comic is different from what Mary Worth quotes, though. Snopes notes the quote’s adaptation from the strip, and says this precise phrasing comes from a faxlore-type piece circulating on the Internet from no later than 2000. The faxlore is apparently a quiz “to demonstrate the importance of having people who care about you”. Snopes cites the Charles Schulz Museum as saying the precise line never appeared in his work. I told you these quotes were dubiously sourced.

Next Week!

While the Ghost Who Walks hears out the story of how everything he and twenty generations of ancestors strove for fails, in the daily strips, Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity, has more lighthearted fare. We’ll catch up with that in a week, if things go to plan.

Statistics March: How Much People Want Me To Explain Comic Strips To Them


For most of March I put a lot of time into the Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing, an ill-defined matchup of items. I figure to do four more of these, so there can be sixteen pairs, which I only just now realize is half the number of first-round contests in the actual March Madness. Well, too late now. Anyway, I’ve enjoyed doing these a lot. It’s fun thinking of good Dadaist pairs, and coming up with two quick jokes on the topics has felt like a good exercise. It’s been a relief, too; as sometimes happens, the tightness of the format makes it easier to write.

Ah, but does anybody else like it? And from looking over WordPress’s statistics, the evidence is people kind of tolerate it. The system records me as having had 4,985 page views in March. This reinforces how I should hit refresh from a private-browsing account fifteen more times each month. This is below my twelve-month running mean, for the months leading up to March 2022, of 5,259.0 views in a month. It’s also a second straight month of decline. However, it is above the twelve-month median, which was 4,585 page views.

There were 2,888 unique visitors, which again is below the twelve-month running mean of 3,087.3 visitors. But it’s also above the running median of 2,616.5. This is all consistent with a slow rise in popularity, muddled by January 2022 having been an unusually popular month around here. That popularity was likely spurred by Mary Worth, which teased us all with the prospect of Wilbur Weston dying in a cruise ship accident. Well, tomorrow I expect to recap Mary Worth again, but sorry to say, Wilbur Weston won’t be dead for it.

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, without strong direction one way or another. After a local peak in January 2022 readership has declined month-to-month, but stayed above the typical figure for the past year.
Of course the story comics give me a lot of readership, but I am wondering what’s going to happen when I run out of those 1960s King Features Popeye cartoons. And what’ll I review after that? Cartoons people like, instead? … Probably not that.

Still, I can always find something more ambiguous in the data. There were 140 likes given here, in March, which is below both the mean of 153.8 an the median of 154.5. And there were 26 comments given, which is great compared to my mathematics blog. But it’s less than half the usual, where the mean was 60.3 and the median 56.3. This despite the head-to-head nature of the Pairwise Brackety Contest. I’d have imagined that would inspire jumping on to the joke. I always fear that my jokes are too closed, but I also don’t know another way to write.


Here are the five most popular posts from March. There were a couple posts from before March even more popular, mostly people who wanted the goings-on in Judge Parker explained. We’ll get there soon enough.

And my plan for this month’s plot recaps for story comics is these strips, in this order:

This is a pretty high concentration of the strips people really want to know about. I’ve thought some about rearranging the strips to spread the popular things out, but I’m not sure that I could do much better. Dick Tracy hasn’t been a huge attention-getter lately, but it has some hot streaks, you know?


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.
Hey, it’s an inverse map of the Non-Aligned Movement countries!

There were 81 countries, or things like countries, sending me readers in March. That’s down from 90. Thirteen of them were single-view countries. That’s down from 24. Here’s the roster:

Country Readers
United States 3,466
Canada 207
Brazil 180
India 165
United Kingdom 146
Australia 101
Germany 68
Italy 66
Philippines 58
Hungary 38
Spain 32
Sweden 27
Denmark 20
Egypt 20
France 19
Singapore 19
European Union 18
Finland 18
Ireland 18
Czech Republic 17
Nigeria 17
Mexico 14
Norway 13
Austria 11
Saudi Arabia 11
Japan 10
Kenya 10
Belgium 9
South Africa 9
Malaysia 8
Netherlands 8
Taiwan 8
Hong Kong SAR China 7
Indonesia 7
Jamaica 7
Poland 7
Serbia 7
Turkey 7
Greece 6
Macedonia 6
New Zealand 6
Thailand 6
Ecuador 5
United Arab Emirates 5
El Salvador 4
Guatemala 4
Peru 4
South Korea 4
Argentina 3
Bulgaria 3
Colombia 3
Malawi 3
Mauritius 3
Papua New Guinea 3
Switzerland 3
Costa Rica 2
Croatia 2
Estonia 2
Israel 2
Lebanon 2
Pakistan 2
Portugal 2
Puerto Rico 2
Romania 2
Russia 2
Slovenia 2
Sri Lanka 2
Vietnam 2
Albania 1 (*)
Belarus 1
China 1
Curaçao 1
Ghana 1 (*)
Gibraltar 1
Latvia 1
Morocco 1
Nepal 1
Oman 1 (*)
Palestinian Territories 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1
Yemen 1

Albania, Ghana, and Oman were single-view countries in February also. No countries are on a three-month streak for sending me single views. I’m surprised to have two views from Russia as I would think they had other things on their mind than whatever the heck Wilbur Weston’s problem is. Maybe they needed the break.


WordPress calculates that I published 15,472 words in March, an average posting of 499.1 words. This gives me a year-to-date total of 49,841 words published, and an average post length of 554 words.

Between the marriage of Agent 99 and Maxwell Smart and the start of April I’ve published 3,346 things in this blog. They’ve drawn 5,052 comments over the course of 285,472 page views from 163,332 unique visitors.

If you’d like to be a regular reader, I can’t stop you. I can help you a little bit, though. The RSS feed for essays is at this link, and if you need an RSS reader and can’t find one anywhere, try getting a free Dreamwidth account. You can add RSS feeds to your Reading page there. If you’ve got a WordPress account, you can click the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button at the upper right corner of this page. There’s also a box to have posts e-mailed you as they happen, and before I can edit my typos. I feel awful about that, but I’ve tried copy-editing my posts before they go up, and there’s still errors even in stuff I fixed years ago. I have no explanation for this phenomenon.

60s Popeye: Olive Drab and the Seven Sweapeas (Seven! Count ’em! Because we lose one somewhere)


We’re back to Jack Kinney studios this week. The story’s credited to Jack Miller, a name I don’t have recorded yet. This and Popeye And The Spinach Stalk seem to be his only King Features Popeye credits. The Internet Movie Database credits him with story credits for some noteworthy things, including the Porky Pig/Daffy Duck classic You Ought To Be In Pictures, and a bunch of George Pal shorts including the Oscar-winning Tulips Shall Grow. Animation direction goes to our old friends Volus Jones and Ed Friedman. Here from 1960 is Olive Drab and the Seven Sweapeas. That’s how they spell it, it’s not on me.

Another Jack Kinney cartoon, another fairy-tale story. This is another one not presented with the frame of Popeye reading to Swee’Pea. He’s just narrating to us viewers. A neat thing about Popeye is it’s not strange to drop the characters into another story, the way it would break things if you did this with, like, a Star Trek episode. The oddest piece is casting Swee’Pea as all seven brothers. That works well enough, though. There’s no sense trying to differentiate seven characters in a cartoon this short. And even with the cast of Thimble Theatre characters opened up the way the King Features shorts allowed, there’s no digging out seven kid characters. It is neat they reached into the comic strip enough to find Olive Oyl’s father Cole, to play Olive Drab’s father.

The story’s a nicely done one. Its inspiration from Snow White is clear enough we can rely on that to fill in narrative lacunae. But it’s varied enough that the story feels new. It’s a good development to have Olive Drab go out in the world seeking help over this pirated ship. And there’s an interesting bundle of little ironies in the story. Particularly in how the Seven Swee’Peas go off to find Prince Popeye, who was coming to visit them anyway. We also learn Prince Popeye knew about the whole stolen ship thing without Olive Drab’s going out to tell him. I’m not sure he would have done anything if he weren’t sort-of asked to, so Olive Drab’s voyaging serves a purpose, I guess.

Popeye and his ship are seen through a telescope. The ship has a prow that's a larger replica of Popeye, smiling and looking forward.
Don’t talk to me, or my boat, ever again.

The Sea Hag, of course the villain, figures to prepare a can of cursed spinach for Popeye. Decent enough plan. Changing her focus to stopping Popeye, instead of Olive Drab, adds some nice wrinkles to the story. I was ready for Popeye to end up trapped in eternal sleep and Olive Drab needing to come to his rescue. The cartoon doesn’t go that far off-script, though. Olive Drab taste-tests it and knocks herself out, which makes sense.

Popeye and the Swee’Peas team up for some reason to take on the Sea Hag, although I’m not clear that they know she’s the problem. They seem to be going on the principle that she’s the other character in the short. She describes them as “the whole cotton-pickin’ navy” after her. They don’t seem to need to do much to stop her, though; trying to fire a cannon just gets herself blasted. She rams Popeye, who finds her box of Real Spinach, and he tears apart the bow of her boat. This seems to sink it, although from the art it’s not clear to me this even reaches the waterline. Well, they recover the gold, get back to Olive Drab, and for some reason the Sea Hag’s Vulture whispers how to revive her. And all is happy, Popeye and Olive Drab sailing off into the sunset, while six Swee’Peas wave at them. I have no explanation for this phenomenon.

I most often talk about the curse of competence with Paramount Cartoon Studios shorts. Here, we’ve got Jack Kinney Productions caught by the same issue. It’s a watchable, pleasant enough short. But I’ll be forgetting it soon enough. The short’s not that good, and its glitches are mostly things like poorly-edited line reads. It’s easier to remember, and to review these, when they’re much worse or much better.

Prince Popeye’s boat is an odd choice, though, have to say that for it.

Statistics Saturday: Some April Holidays


  • April 1. April Fool’s Day.
  • April 4. April Fool’s Day Observed. (Scotland, West Australia)
  • April 6. Graperil Fool’s Day. (National Grape-Grower’s Association keeps insisting this is a thing and sends so many whiny e-mails if you don’t list it.)
  • April 12 – 17. News Sites Publish Articles Explaining How Something Kind of Like Some Part of the Miracles of Exodus or the Resurrection Could Maybe Have Happened Naturally So Christianity Is True, Okay?
  • April 13. Friday the 13th (Unobserved).
  • April 15. Calendar Nerds Explain How This Is Not The Ides Of April (United States).
  • April 16. Your Atheist Friend Goes on About How Not a Single Newspaper From Rome From 33 AD Mentions the Resurrection So Christianity Is False, Okay?
  • April 17. Your Pagan Friend Goes on About How “Easter” Is Originally a Pagan Word Meaning “Christianity Is Fake but Paganism Is Real” So Connect the Dots, People, Okay?
  • April 21. Day of Being Haunted by the Word Sequence “Haiku’ing for Space Ghost” and Trying to Think Why That’s In Our Heads And What That Could Possibly Even Mean. (Gen X only)
  • April 22. Conan O’Brien’s Birthday (Belated).
  • April 26. Moment of Silence Followed by Embarrassed Cough. (United States, Canada, Philippines)
  • April 31. April Fool’s Day (Extended Remix).

Reference: The Jersey Midlands, Henry Charlton Beck.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: Sycophants vs 24-bit Computing


Sycophants

The Case For: Word turns out to mean “people who tell you where the figs are”.

The Case Against: Is not related the word meaning “people who tell you where the unhealthy elephants are”.

24-bit Computing

The Case For: Represents signed integers of up to 8,388,607 in a single word.

The Case Against: Most implementations are really 16-bit and they just leave the other eight bits in the junk drawer.

MiSTed: What To Invent (part 2 of 3)


And now to the second part of my Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of Raymond Yates’s essay “What To Invent”. There’s not any riffs of particular obscurity, or that I much feel I need to apologize for. Still, you know, it was the 2010’s, things were different then. Anyway this was all great fun to write and I love re-reading it. And I have one little note I’ll put at the end.

Having now made a couple window screens, yeah, Yates had a point about something to keep them taut and flat. Maybe there is something now and I didn’t know about it and the hardware store supposed of course I knew. I’ve been able to carry on since I don’t have to make so many window screens that the inconvenience becomes too annoying.


>
> The typewriter eraser is a combination of
> fine-ground sand and rubber.

TOM: Plus a typewriter! A typewriter eraser is nothing without a typewriter.

> When such an eraser is used

MIKE: Yes it is. A typewriter eraser without a typewriter is still an *eraser*.

TOM: I think we both know if you want to argue this point we’re going to end up hating each other bitterly.

> on a typewriter a quantity of this sand falls down into

MIKE: Yeah, I pass.

> the mechanism where it causes undue wear. Sand is fatal
> to machinery of any kind.

CROW: Excepting the sandcastle-o-matic, I mean.

TOM: Plus you’ll still be wrong.

> This problem may be solved in
> two ways;

MIKE: Three, if you count not making mistakes.

> either by the production of a more efficient
> eraser, without sand,

TOM: Maybe use raw mud instead.

> or some sort of a guard on
> typewriters

CROW: Authorized to use deadly force!

MIKE: How is raw mud different from just dirt?

> to prevent the sand from sifting down into

TOM: Um … yeah, I withdraw the invention.

> the works. Either answer should be worth $50,000.

CROW: Is that, like, $50,000 for your whole life, or like $50,000 a year?

TOM: $50,000 a typewriter.

>
> The home mechanic, or the carpenter who has
> either made or repaired screens for windows,

MIKE: Or the window screen hobbyist.

> knows how
> difficult it is to stretch the screening so that it will
> be taut and perfectly flat after the moulding has been
> put in place.

TOM: Why, thousands die every year in the struggle against window screens.

> Surely some sort of a tool could be
> invented to assure this result.

CROW: It could be a widget or it might even be a mount of some fashion.

> It should be able to
> grasp the screening and to keep it pulled tight until it
> is tacked into place. At least 50 manufacturers stand
> ready to obtain the rights to such a product.

TOM: I’ve asked them extensively! They fear my coming round to ask again!

> Speaking of
> screens reminds one of the difficulty of raising and
> lowering awnings on screened windows.

MIKE: Just trust me on this one, folks.

> The screen has to
> be unhooked and pushed out of the way—a very
> inconvenient and bothersome procedure.

TOM: Of … unhooking and pushing?

CROW: I’ve never awned, myself, but this …

MIKE: [ Shrugging ] Look, it’s just really complicated, okay?

> Is it not
> possible to overcome this objection either by a new
> method of raising and lowering screens or by the use of a
> simple mechanism that may be manipulated from inside the
> screen?

MIKE: Is there hope for sanity in this world gone mad?

> The solution to this problem would produce an
> ample reward.

TOM: But the real reward is knowing you’ve made the life of window awning raiser-and-lowererers substantially better.

>
> “Why I could have invented that,” says the
> would-be inventor when he sees some new and clever little
> improvement that is known to be making plenty of money
> for its creator.

MIKE: What does he say after seeing some dopey little improvement that somebody’s taking a bath on?

CROW: Why could *I* have invented that?

> Yes, indeed, many inventors, like many
> amateur speculators in the stock market, find it very
> easy to make money with their hind sight.

TOM: That’s it! Keister glasses!

> The thing to
> do is to beat the other fellow to the design.

CROW: And steal Elisha Grey’s patent.

> And here
> is a good chance to win out. Everyone knows that ash
> trays tip over and that the housewife is called upon to
> clean up many such resulting messes.

TOM: If only someone could invent the ashless tray?

> It would seem
> fairly easy to make an ash tray which would automatically
> cover itself when tipped beyond a certain critical angle.

MIKE: Hey wait … I just invented it! That’s great!

> Such a tray could be dropped on the floor without danger
> of dumping its contents.

TOM: Until we perfect the lid-evading ash!

>
> What was said for the non-tipable or unspillable
> ash tray also might be said for coasters used for
> glasses.

CROW: So get your improved cigarette coasters now.

> The number of bridge table accidents, wherein
> glasses are tipped during dealing, is legend.

TOM: As recounted in song and woolen tapestry.

> We need
> coasters that will make such accidents impossible.

MIKE: Try our new “dry” drinks.

>
> In line with our previous comment in connection
> with hobbies it should be borne in mind that archery is
> now receiving a great deal of attention,

TOM: … buh?

MIKE: That would’ve been, like, my 46th guess.

> and that a newly
> designed, cheap and powerful metal bow would be a winner,
> especially for the younger folk.

CROW: People might be interested in new, cheap, powerful tools for their hobby? Why am I just hearing of this now?

> Naturally such a bow
> would have to be as light as the wooden ones.

TOM: Building an antigravity machine small enough to fit on an arrow will be a considerable challenge.

> (Metal
> bows are available but could be improved greatly.)

CROW: What isn’t that true of?

> When
> little Willie, all dressed up in his Sunday best, gets
> his hands on an ice cream cone he rapidly degenerates
> into a most unpromising spectacle.

MIKE: So … shoot him with an arrow?

> If mother could buy a
> dripless cone for him she would make the inventor of that
> cone a very happy man—

CROW: If a woman invents it, call the whole thing off.

> and little Willie would remain a
> respectable person while satisfying his appetite for ice
> cream.

TOM: I’ve got it! I could invent a new name for Willie!

MIKE: Willie, Willie … Tillie? Dillie? Quillie?

CROW: I think we’re getting worse somehow.


[ To conclude … ]

Also, “That’s it! Keister glasses!” makes me giggle every time I read it and if someone were to hire Kevin Murphy to record that line for me I would be most grateful. … It would work as a Crow riff, too (most riffs can be arbitrarily assigned), so I wouldn’t turn down Trace Beaulieu or Bill Corbett. I haven’t seen the Season 11-and-onward episodes, is the only reason I don’t say anything about the new guys.

%d bloggers like this: