Note: Barry Lyndon is not listed as a 17th century movie; it is set in the 18th century.
Reference: The Secret Life Of Bletchley Park, Sinclair McKay.
Joseph Nebus's Sense Of Humor
Note: Barry Lyndon is not listed as a 17th century movie; it is set in the 18th century.
Reference: The Secret Life Of Bletchley Park, Sinclair McKay.
I do not envy the neighbors today, because I see that the kiddie-size car was flipped over on its back. I don’t know how it happened, but I know how stressful and exhausting it is to deal with the Kiddie Car Insurance Agency. I hope they can get through the trouble all right. I feel like I should offer them a hug or bake them a cake or something.
And now, finally, the finish of Mystery Science Theater 3000 inspired by Johnny Pez’s “Safety First”. The whole of the MiSTing is at this link. The previous installment put for the thesis that humans, including our brains, are three-dimensional and therefore we have a 13-symmetry eigenvector of psychology. This will lead us to why there’s a God.
A small content warning. The source being riffed here speaks about “mental retardation” and about IQs as though they were worth anything. It’s about trying to understand the existence of different mental abilities in people, but, if you don’t need that nonsense in your recreational reading you’re right and should maybe skip this. Or jump to the closing sketch, which isn’t based on any of this Scientific Proof Of God stuff.
In the closing sketch here I was finally able to use many of the jokes that my friend Rob S Rice donated when I was stuck for a host sketch.
As for references that need explaining. Mm. The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds is the title of a play and a movie that I remembered hearing of in the 80s (the movie was from 1972). I never saw it. Tom’s riff about “oh-four-w-w-NUG” is a Henry Blake line from an early season of M*A*S*H. “Gun repair, bookkeeping, and accounting” was the closing refrain of a longrunning series of commercials offering you courses you could take at home. “Seven sixes in a circle” is lifted from Bloom County. The line about who would believe Asimov as French alludes to his use of the name “Paul French” as pseudonym for a couple juvenile novels. “Love of Chair” is a reference to The Electric Company, and I think marks the start of my putting complete nonsense in my closing credits here.
The closing sketch has a line about mathematicians at an airport. There exists a joke that mathematicians tell about putting Polish mathematicians on one side of an airplane. It’s a pun about these things called ‘poles’ and what their placement on the abstract sort of plane implies for a dynamical system. I make no use of this pun and I can’t think why not, as it would have made sense to as many as two people in my audience, with me as one of them. Well, something for the remastered edition, I guess.
> "Intelligence" with the past 65 years on "Personality",
TOM: And the leftover ten years of daytime talk shows.
> thus explaining
> the ENTIRE 100 YEAR HISTORY of Psychometry.
CROW: Except, strangely, for 1987.
> BUT… this isn’t why Hammond fainted..!
JOEL: It was because he had low blood sugar.
> At the moment that he
> realized that the Structural Model was 4-DIMENSIONAL (not 3-dimensional),
TOM: And that meant suddenly he had plenty of room to put all his stuff!
> and that it was caused by the entire 4D space-time metric….
CROW: Wait, I thought we weren’t converting to metric anymore.
> he also
> IMMEDIATELY REALIZED that therefore, the oblique 4×4 Metric of E,N,P,g
JOEL: And a touch of R for good luck.
> represented the CURVATURE OF PSYCHOMETRIC SPACE,
TOM: And its effect on man-in-the-moon marigolds.
> and that therefore
> there was a SINGLE HIGHER ORDER FACTOR caused by this curvature,
CROW: The pursuit of girls!
> which had to be caused by the "brain growth deficit" discussed above
JOEL: Everything else had a good alibi.
> (since IQ loaded on it from Mental retardation IQ measurements) and
> THEREFORE, this factor had to be the GOD that was suspected all along
TOM: It does?
> from the brain growth studies above (Section A. above)…
CROW: Wait, they were all Section A.
> HAMMOND HAD DISCOVERED THE WORLD’S FIRST SCIENTIFIC PROOF OF GOD
TOM: It’s just a shame he’s keeping it to himself.
> Not only that, since the psychometry metric
JOEL: And its measurement in the psychometric metric metric…
> is CAUSED by the Space-time
CROW: So gravity causes personality?
> i.e. X,Y,Z,t causes E,N,P,g (g=IQ),
> and it is known that the
> curvature of space-time is Gravity,
JOEL: And gravity is what makes the world go around.
CROW: Gravity and angular momentum.
> is seen therefore, that Gravity is
> the cause of God.
TOM: So at mass we should be praying to gravity?
> Needless to say, Hammond immediately checked out all of the details
CROW: If it’s needless, why is he saying it?
> from anatomy, Biology, Neurology,
> Psychometry, Factor Analysis,
> Relativity, Gravity,
> Theology, Psychology,
> History, Zoology,
> Embryology, Philosophy etc.
TOM: Gun repair, bookkeeping, and accounting.
> etc. etc. To make a long story short,
> 20 years of grueling 16 hour a day
CROW: But … it hasn’t been five years yet.
> labor searching for the Structural
> Model finally found it…
JOEL: It’s always in the last place you look.
> and in what must be characterized as one of
> the most amazing accidents of modern science….
TOM: Seven sixes in a circle look like a dandelion!
> turned out to yield
> the world’s first and only,
JOEL: The one and only! The man, the myth, the …
> SCIENTIFIC PROOF OF GOD.
[ JOEL picks up TOM, starts to leave. ]
CROW: [ As he leaves ] Boy, that’d be neat to hear about.
[ 1.. 2.. 3.. 4.. 5.. 6.. ]
[ SOL DESK. JOEL rolls up into view behind the desk; CROW, TOM, and GYPSY are next to him. ]
JOEL: Whew. So, any thoughts about what we’ve learned today, guys?
CROW: I realized there’s a major historian named Gibbon, and a major kind of ape named Gibbon. I think that’s important.
GYPSY: You suppose the historian ever sat down in a chair, reclined, and fell?
TOM: *I* realized there’s a Cato the Censor, a Cato the Younger, and a Cato the Green Hornet’s sidekick.
CROW: I ended up wondering if joining Hari Seldon was better than joining the Hare Krishnas. I don’t think mathematicians go around bugging people at airports, but that might depend on what airline they’re flying.
GYPSY: Do you suppose Seldon harried people often?
TOM: The U. S. Robots people had to cancel the DRR project, because nobody could say R.D.R.R. without giggling.
CROW: Now, I heard that when Asimov wrote a lot of those robot short stories he was working out a philosophy of a C/Fe culture, the carbon-based humans taken on as partners to the iron-based robots.
TOM: Which made *me* think if Asimov were French —
GYPSY: And who would believe Asimov as French?
TOM: They’d be working towards a Fi-Fi culture, where people just don’t make fun of their miniature poodles.
CROW: That sort of thing takes a lot of gaul.
TOM: Which, come to think of it, Ceasar had, didn’t he? I bet he enjoyed his salad days.
GYPSY: Never got over the Germans getting over the Rhine, though.
TOM: A lot of people have that problem, though. Say, you know, a Crowe turned Gladiator not too long ago.
CROW: That’s right. Found the emperor not too Commodious, either.
TOM: Went after him with a gladiolus, which in Latin means either a ‘little sword’ or a flower.
GYPSY: And you’re in a lot of trouble if you get the two mixed up.
TOM: I bet there’s people who mix up the Carthage Rome destroyed with the Carthage in Mississippi.
CROW: It’s a natural mistake, if you’ve ever been there.
TOM: What about you, Joel? What have you learned?
JOEL: That I should stop asking you such open-ended questions. [ Looking up ] What do you think, sirs?
[ DEEP 13. TV’S FRANK stands in front of a brick wall built of those architect’s toys, holding a microphone, with a spotlight on him; DR. FORRESTER sits at the card table with a glass and an (open) soda bottle. ]
FRANK: You know, a lot of people thought Asimov was a God — he was one of them! [ Rim shot. ] It all spiked in Eisenhower’s reelection campaign, when everybody liked Ike. [ Again. ]
DR. F: [ Turning around, to face camera, as TV’s FRANK continues. ]Ahem. All right, Joel. You guys got off a little easy this week.
FRANK: [ Background ] Not everybody liked Ike. Couple editors, they spiked Ike, which he didn’t like. You know, he hung around a group called the Black Widowers, and that was even before the web. It never got too sticky, though. Only rarely turned venomous.
DR. F: And, mark my words, when we find the movie, or whatever, that finally does drive you mad, it will *so* let me take over the world. So *there*. No matter what you think.
[ DR. FORRESTER drops a couple Ever-vescent tabs into his drink, and then pours fresh soda into it. The result is a big explosion of foam and fizz like a small volcano; DR. FORRESTER jumps back. TV’s FRANK continues as if nothing were wrong. The excessive foaming continues. ]
DR. F: Frank! Do something!
FRANK: Do I get a medal?
DR. F: No, Frank.
FRANK: Muttley always got one … [ noticeing DR. FORRESTER’s angered look ] … I’ll just get the button.
DR. F: [ As TV’s FRANK moves off screen. ] Yeah, why don’t you? And the mop, too.
FRANK: [ From off stage ] And be sure to tip your waitresses.
\ | / \ | / \ | / \|/ ----o---- /|\ / | \ / | \ / | \
[ SOUND of foaming continues through to teaser. ]
Mystery Science Theater 3000 and its characters and situations are the creation of Best Brains, Inc. "Safety First" is the creation of Johnny Pez, and is used with permission. The Three Laws of Robotics, Powell, Donovan, and their situations are the property of the estate of Dr. Isaac Asimov. The rants and spam "I Want To Sue The Murderous Pope" by jmck…@bonzai.net, "An Open Letter to President Clinton" by Ken H. Seto, "Past GALACTIC WARFARE in OUR Solar System" by Robert McElwaine, and the "SPOG FAQ" by HAMMOND are the creations of their respective authors. This is not an attempt to claim copyright or any other right over the used material. The MiSTing as a whole is the creation of Joseph Nebus. "Foundation And Its Friends" and the final sketch could not have been completed without the timely and timeless assistance of Rob S. Rice, who wrote all the funny puns; any mishandled or unfunny ones are the fault of Joseph Nebus. Tune in tomorrow for "Love of Chair."
> "Arthur," said Donovan, "just what would it take to convince
> you that the station was safe?"
[ The End … ??? ]
I don’t envy the people working on the Columbo prequel, other than that I assume they’re getting money for work. But they have to be glad of one thing. Any time someone complains about how we don’t need to know Columbo’s origin story, we know how he turns out, they can just glare intently back and point to the name of the intellectual property. It’s something the poor folks doing the reboot of Cool Million can’t fall back on.
Leonardo da Vinci was the starting point for the past couple month’s story in Alley Oop. But he didn’t have much to do with the events. He identified the cloud city as the source of Alley Oop’s abductors, and offered the flying machine to get Ooola and Doc Wonmug up there. But besides that and some fun painting jokes he didn’t do that much. I wonder if the rough outline of the story gave him more to do and it somehow evaporated in the final draft. No way that I could know, though.
So this should catch you up on Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop as of the end of July, 2022. If any news breaks about the strip, or if you’re reading this after about October 2022, there’s likely amore useful essay here. Thanks for being here and let’s get going on what ends up being a pretty compact essay.
Our heroes went back to 1501 to meet Leonardo da Vinci when we last looked in. They barely got settled in when a winged human swooped down from the sky and abducted Alley Oop. They took him to the cloud city of Airshire, to deal with a problem. Murderov the giant crow keeps attacking them for some reason.
Leonardo da Vinci concludes Alley Oop was taken to the cloud city. Ooola and Doc Wonmug use his aerial screw — the only transportation available — to join him. (Leonardo refuses to get in the thing.) Once reunited Our Heroes try to work out what’s driving Murderov to attack the city. Cirrus, Oop’s abductor, knows why. The city keeps swiping the giant crow’s giant eggs, for food.
As existential threats go, this one’s fairly tractable. The gang dresses Cirrus in a worm costume, luring the giant crow into a birdcage. Once there, Oop talks Murderov into becoming the city’s pet, in exchange for birdseed for the rest of her life. Murderov gets into this, and soon is swooping down to the ground to bring the city gifts, like the sculpture of David. And Oop explains the groundling custom of eating animals that aren’t particularly trying to kill you. With chicken farms established Airshire looks to have a great future ahead. There’s a few parting words with Leonardo and Our Heroes return to the present day.
With the 28th of June the current story starts. Alley Oop and Ooola return to Moo to discover that, once again, King Guz isn’t doing anything. He’s retired as king, to spend time with his family. In his place Moo’s elected a brash yet cowardly president.
And what she has to be cowardly from? People from the future. There’s a mysterious portal and people from 22nd Century New Cleveland are coming through. A whole little future town is growing in Moo. And it’s growing very fast, with, like, skyscrapers popping up in minutes. Which is as far as this story’s gotten, so, catch you in about three months with even more story.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Little Oop strip continues the setting of Penelope trapped in Moo. She’s been learning her way around the even-more-ridiculous Moo of Little Alley Oop’s time. And been able to do a couple fun broken-time-machine jokes along the way. Still not proper stories, though.
The Ghost Who Cannot Die reaches perhaps the midpoint of a marathon imaginary story, and perhaps gets the clearest vision yet of his death! It’s Tony DePaul and Mike Manley and Bret Blevins and Scott Cohn’s The Phantom (Weekdays) next week, all going well.
Just admiring the chutzpah of whatever YouTube AdBot thinks I’m going to sit through a two-minute-and-40-second advertisement for prostate medication, plus a second advertisement after that, in order to watch a five-minute Popeye cartoon from 1960. I feel like I want to sit down with the AdBot and have it state clearly what it thinks it’s doing and why, and whether it could do anything else.
I am, to my amazement, close to the end of writing something about (almost all) the King Features Popeye cartoons of the 1960s. Unless I’ve messed up my notes, this is my last Gene Deitch cartoon. So, sad to say, I have no story credits to give you. I can just suggest we look at 1960’s Seeing Double.
Among the things I like about the Gene Deitch cartoons is their ambition in story structure. In particular, they’re comfortable keeping stuff secret from the characters and from the audience. It suggests trust from Deitch (and the other creators of the cartoon). I’m not sure whether they trusted the kids would wait to have the plot revealed, or whether they trusted kids will watch Popeye even if they don’t understand it. It makes them stand out against cartoons with more linear plots and explained motives.
Here we establish that Olive Oyl wants a $2,000 mink stole Popeye can’t nearly afford. And then we cut away to a bunch of gangsters. It’s not clear either party knows of the other’s existence. The head gangster, doing an Edward G Robinson impression, has a new robot duplicate of Popeye. I’m not sure the duplicate is meant to look like Popeye. I get the feeling they just made something that worked and it happened to be a short guy in sailor suit with a corncob pipe. You know, the way all robots of the early 60s had corncob pipes.
Robot Popeye puts on a good indestructible show, marching through walls and punching through safes. Based on eyewitness reports the cops toss Popeye in jail. Olive Oyl cries how it’s all her fault, forcing Popeye to rob the bank to buy a mink stole, and we finally learn why that scene was even in the cartoon. It’s odd that Olive Oyl should think Popeye could do something underhanded like rob a non-crooked bank. But Olive Oyl — like all the humans save Popeye in the comic strip — is venal, and can’t fully believe in a person who is not. When another Robot Popeye robbery is reported Popeye’s had enough of this impersonator. Rather than pause to note his unshakeable alibi, he breaks out of jail, punching through the walls just like the robot does.
Then there’s the confusing element here. Somehow Popeye ropes the gangsters’ car. We haven’t seen him have any reason to even know there are gangsters. My guess is the story ran long, and something had to be cut, so they went with cutting the bit where Popeye learned what the audience already knew. I guess that’s the best choice. It’s a bold shortcut to take, though, if you suppose that a skeptical grown-up might be watching. (The gangsters also go from flying out of a car to falling off a building, which suggests some scene or other got lost.)
When I reviewed Potent Lotion, another Deitch cartoon that opens with unexplained events, I wondered about casting Brutus as the head gangster. Now that we have an original character cast as the head gangster I wonder why not Brutus. This shows how I can’t be satisfied. But I am a poor amateur critic, and I have to use the few tools I have. One is to ask, how would the story change if some element were different? If the gangster were Brutus, then the robot’s resemblance to Popeye could not be coincidence. I don’t see where that would affect the cartoon much. It would even have explained why Popeye nabs the head gangster, as it’s usually safe to pick Brutus as the culprit. My best guess is they wanted to do an Edward G Robinson character, since that’s always a fun voice, and that’s that.
Still, if we have run out of Gene Deitch Popeye cartoons, I’m glad to go out on one that I enjoy so.
Reference: Car Wars: The Untold Story, Robert Sobel.
They’ve got a woodchuck living in their yard! An actual woodchuck, all ready to come over and chuck some wood if they would. On top of all the other stuff they’ve got going on, they’re also going to be able to run their very own early-end-of-winter forecasts? That’s just too much, right? Why can’t we have a woodchuck living in our yard? We’ve got a great yard, it’s got a fence that really annoyed the other neighbors, and we’ve got this squirrel feeder that we found a real live worried mouse in the other day, and a goldfish pond, and a bunch of perennials that I can’t tell apart but that have names that sound like the butler in some low-effort 1930s cozy mystery movie series starring a reformed cat burglar, like, “Astilbe” and “Yarrow” and “Fescue” and stuff. And they get a woodchuck. I just can’t.
And now to the penultimate segment of my Mystery Science Theater 3000 loosely based around Johnny Pez’s “Safety First”. The whole of the MiSTing is at this link. The previous installment continued explaining how the Scientific Proof of God followed from how brains are like computers running a program called ‘Reality’. Unfortunately, it’s abandonware.
Not much of this week’s riffing needs to be explained. I think that I swiped the “get the hence, Sir Chilblain” line from Walt Kelly’s Pogo, a comic strip that needs a much better web presence. As for riffs that I need to apologize for, oh, that line about being 35 and living with your parents is one I regret. It echos actual riffs from the 90s show but a lot of 90s humor was bad, actually.
> a. On the basis of this we suspect that "miracles"
JOEL: And Miracle "Gro"s…
> would simply be when the brain in a given individual
CROW: Like Skeet Ulrich, Robert Urich, or Sally Jesse Raphael.
> suddenly obtains a small spurt of "growth" and
> the entire persons "reality" changes because of it
> because his brain changed.
JOEL: So one day you change your mind, and you grow an extra nose?
> This is based on the
> "Brain as a Computer" model,
TOM: This is based on the Brain as a Computer Model on Drugs. Any questions?
> whereby the program
> running on the computer is called "reality",
CROW: And then we switch out to play Solitaire a while.
> sudden brain growth is like "upgrading" the computer
> with a faster processor and more memory.
TOM: None of this will help you find where you left your car keys.
> As far
> as the "program" is concerned (reality)
JOEL: 21st Century or Weichart?
> this is a
> supernatural and unexplained event,
CROW: And it’s pretty darned cool.
> and is called
> a "MIRACLE".
JOEL: It’s the quote marks that make it really special.
> OK… all of this is only SUSPICION…
TOM: But I’m pretty sure it was Professor Plum, wherever it was.
> it looks reasonable to a
CROW: And a GENTLEMAN.
> but there is no PROOF that it is true.
JOEL: It’s so tempting to look in the back of the book.
> HOWEVER, in 1997 HAMMOND discovered
TOM: It’s HAMMOND time!
> an AMAZING PROOF
CROW: Some a*MAZ*ing discoveries!
> that in fact
> the above SUSPICION is ABSOLUTELY SCIENTIFICALLY TRUE.
JOEL: [ Sing-song ] Absolutely scientifically expialidocious!
> The proof begins with Hammond’s discovery of the STRUCTURAL MODEL
> in Psychology
CROW: It turns onto the Northway and hits the road for Canada!
> which he published in the peer reviewed literature
TOM: That means somebody was looking over his shoulder when he stuffed it in a copy of "Huckleberry Finn."
> 1994 (Called the Cartesian Theory).
CROW: I think, therefore I think. I think.
> An online copy of this published
> paper is permanently stored at:
> In this paper hammond
TOM: e.e. cumming hammond.
> explains how all of the EXISTING results
> in PSYCHOMETRY
CROW: Except that one about why we can’t resist checking the pay phone for loose change.
> can be explained by the "3-Axis orthogonal Geometry
> of the Human Body and Brain"
TOM: Icky though it may be.
> (called the "Cartesian Geometry" of
> the Brain).
JOEL: Or "Pookie," by its best friends.
TOM: More of that jargon again.
> it was already a known fact that there are 2,3,4,5,6,7,9,13
CROW: Hut! Hut! Hike!
> eigenvector models that can be extracted from any correlation matrix
> in Psychology.
JOEL: So we use that to redirect the tetryon beam through the deflector array an establish a duotronic field that rebalances the warp bubble dynamics.
> And all the Psychologists were arguing over which
> model was right,
TOM: And which ones just looked best.
> and above all else, arguing about WHERE THEY CAME
> FROM physically.
JOEL: Our leading theory: they’re made by Marx!
> Hammond (1994) showed that the entire human body is 3-Axis Cartesian
TOM: He’s discovered humans are three dimensional?
> including the BRAIN, in fact that the brain is CUBIC
CROW: And featuring the power of CHEESE.
> (another word for Cartesian),
TOM: No it’s not.
> and therefore, since a common cube has
> 13-Symmetry axes,
JOEL: And uncommon cubes have four more they keep secret.
> that NATURALLY, there would be found 13 eigenvectors
> in Psychometry,
CROW: Yup. There’s no gainsaying the obvious.
> and that MOREOVER, the 2,3,4,5,6,7,9,13 Factor models
> were just GEOMETRICAL REDACTIONS of the CUBE.
TOM: You put the redactions on page two, under the table of contents.
> (SEE PAPER CITED ABOVE)
CROW: The Bible?
> OK, this OVERWHELMINGLY explains the Structural Model,
TOM: Hey, wasn’t this about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity
at one point?
> and it turns
> out that all of the numerical data
JOEL: And a nice card from my mom.
> from psychometry confirms Hammond’s
> CARTESIAN THEORY
CROW: Hey, don’t… put the Cartesian before the horse here.
> as being the correct explanation of the long sought
> for Structural Model.
TOM: That’s where you have the building supported by Iman.
> Note, that Hammond’s 1994 Structural Model is a 3-dimensional
> structure, a Cube.
JOEL: Dashiel Hammond’s The Maltese Cube.
> It exists in 3-dimensional Psychometric eigevector
TOM: I just like the flow of the phrase "three-dimensional psychometric eigenvector space."
> In fact in "Personality" space,
CROW: That’s like outer space, but customized to fit the astronaut.
> it DOES NOT include Intelligence
JOEL: But it does include free refills.
> which is the other major field of psychometry "Mental Ability"
CROW: And natural "fashion sense"
> which is usually called "Intelligence".
TOM: By those who don’t know any better.
> However, in 1997 Hammond found out that Cattell had discovered FOUR
> 3rd order Factors (eigenvectors),
CROW: The fourth fell behind the bookshelf and was hard to get out again.
> whereas Hammond’s theory held that
> there were only THREE dimensions.
JOEL: The only way to settle it: Thumb wrestling!
> Hammond was standing there in his
> 3rd floor garret apartment
TOM: Third floor Garrett Morris apartment.
> pondering "what could possibly be orthogonal
> to 3-dimensional space"…
CROW: And yet taste so much like regular space?
> when suddenly his knees collapsed from under
> him and he went into a faint.
TOM: I know linear algebra can cause unconsciousness,
but it’s not usually *that* way.
> Hammond suddenly realized on February
> 3rd 1997,
CROW: Hey, remember where we were on February 3, 1997?
TOM: We were stuck on the satellite, being forced to watch bad movies?
CROW: Yeah, I remember it like it was yesterday.
> that IQ (Intelligence) had to be a "4th dimension" to the
> Structural Model,
TOM: A dimension not of sight or sound, but of mind.
> and that this was because "Intelligence" was already
> known to be "mental speed"
CROW: That’s the measure of how fast [ shifting to an Ed Grimley impersonation ] you go completely mental, I must say, but then again, who doesn’t?
> and therefore it would correlate with the
> TIME dimension,
JOEL: But in the Newsweek spacetime continuum.
CROW: Hey, shouldn’t he be inventing the flux capacitor by now?
> whereas the other 3 Personality dimensions correlated
> with the 3-SPACE dimensions (3-symmetry axes of the brain).. HENCE,
TOM: Get thee hence, sir Chilblain! … We need the eggs.
> the theory of Psychometry was caused by the ENTIRE 4D SPACE-TIME METRIC.
CROW: Hey, wasn’t this about God at one point?
> He suddenly realized he had united the first 35 years of psychometry
JOEL: Psychometry’s 35 years old and it’s still living with its parents?
[ to conclude … ]
Like, I guess, everybody except the people at the end of the world we have neighbors. One set of ours has some fun stuff in the backyard. One of those trampolines like you see as one-bid prizes on The Price Is Right. A little canvas tent to make sunny summer afternoons pleasant to lounge in. A bunch of kid toys, little plastic slides, child-size cars, tetherballs, you know, stuff. Apart from the days each of these pieces were brought in, though, they’ve never used them. Now, I’ve told you all about how much I don’t how to have fun myself. But I can recognize signs of fun in other people. And now it’s got me worried that the fun that I’m not having is of a lower quality than the fun that the neighbors are not having. I don’t see any way out of this unless they have another trampoline party.
Mike Manley again, if you’re reading this after about the end of July 2022. D D Degg at The Daily Cartoonist reports that Manley’s work for the weekday strip should resume the 25th of July. Sunday strips, produced farther in advance, will likely take a little longer.
Meanwhile, Scott Cohn, comic book artist with a lot of Marvel and DC work, has been filling in. Cohn has also been doing fill-in work on The Phantom. Cohn has been putting glorious black-and-white prints of his Phantom work on his DeviantArt gallery.
So this should catch you up to mid-July 2022 in Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley and Scott Cohn’s Judge Parker. If you’re reading this after about October 2022 or more news about the strip breaks I should have a more useful essay here. Now to catch up.
So as sometimes happens the comic strip did its own pretty good plot recap, the 26th of June. The Sunday strip has the vibe of something put together to give the artist time to catch up, but it does also advance the story. And it makes a good jumping-off point. There are two major threads going on right now. Let me take them separately.
Randy Parker has readjusted to his normal life fitfully at best. Mostly he wants to not talk about the year he spent on the lam with April Parker and her mother. When Alan Parker insists on talking about how April emotionally abused Randy he throws his father out of the house. This sets Alan to fighting with his wife when she tries to get him to acknowledge Randy’s side of things.
One of Marciuliano’s strengths writing has been how his characters can with justice say how others are being the jerks here. It’s a good handle on motivation even if the result is a lot of unhappy scenes prone to yelling. He’s also good at the dynamic where people ask you to see the other person’s side, as though you wouldn’t be on your own side if you were aware of the other.
So he invites Neddy Spencer for a talk. Her streaming TV show about April Parker and Godiva Danube became a hit as the CIA grabbed their rogue agent. She needs material for a second season. She was thinking of April’s story hiding from the law. Randy offers something far better. April Parker’s troubles began when a rogue CIA faction suborned her into doing evil spy stuff for them instead of the CIA’s main evil spy stuff. All the agents of that rogue faction are dead, by her hands or by her father Norton’s. But April Parker has data on the whole operation, as best she could put it together. And, great news for TV production, libel laws don’t apply to the dead. So they can make a show about this and clear April Parker’s name in the Court of Public Opinion, if not in the Star Chamber courts.
I admit to tripping on this plot point. Not Randy’s giving this data to Neddy rather than a journalist. That I can understand. I don’t see how the CIA has allowed Randy Parker to have a hard drive of data from April Parker. I’m not even sure how she would have gotten it to him; his leaving their safe house was a surprise thing done (to him) on the spur of the moment. I have to imagine that the super-ultra-duper secret agents already know of and have copies of this hard drive. So they must have let Randy have this for reasons of their own. I don’t see what those are, but I’m willing to let the story unfold.
The other thread regards Abbey Spencer. She was cleared from suspicion of burning down her failed bed-and-breakfast when Deputy Mayor Stewart turned against his boss. Except her husband, Sam Driver, has suspicions, because Stewart shared a drone video showing Abbey setting fire to the building. Stewart’s bought Driver’s support for usurping his boss by burying the video.
Sam doesn’t really believe the footage is real. But what if it is? That’s been twisting him for months. Sophie Spencer, home from college, lets Neddy in on this secret. She also lets in her college roommate Reena, who’d invited herself to the Spencers’ place. I cannot imagine being a person like Reena, but I understand there are people like that. (I feel it’s too forward of me to call Marciuliano “Ces” the way all the successful comics bloggers seem to.) And it does some good in providing exposition that reinforces what readers might have forgotten about the situation.
Neddy cuts the Gordian knot of whether the footage is real by asking her video editor friend Brad … I’m going to say ‘Gordian’ … what he thinks. He thinks it’s all but certainly fake. They share the good news with Sam, who goes off to yell at Now Mayor Stewart. Stewart laughs him off: so what that it was fake? Sam acted on the presumption it was true and what is he going to do, blow up his marriage by telling Abbey what he thinks she would do? So Sam goes to blow up his marriage by telling Abbey about the footage and what he thought.
Here, I admit, I’m not sure I follow the motivation. I get Sam’s. But the implication is Stewart used what he knew to be fake video to get Sam Driver’s support in throwing Mayor Sanderson out of office. I don’t see why Stewart needed to buy Sam’s support here. It’s like giving me ten thousand dollars so I’ll go play pinball Tuesday night. I get Stewart wanting a strong ally in Sam Driver and Abbey Spencer. But he’d have that anyway for getting Mayor Sanderson out of office. And he has to have anticipated that Sam would learn, or decide, the video was fake. And, as Sophie observes, whoever faked the video can blackmail Stewart at any time. (I had thought we saw Stewart discovering the footage, but I seem to be wrong.) Also, please give me ten thousand dollars to play pinball Tuesday night.
Sam goes to talk with Abbey about the video in a scene we don’t see. We stick instead on Sophie and Neddy and Reena waiting for news. It’s suspenseful, and ominous, although I understand people for whom it doesn’t work. One of Marciuliano’s regular tricks on this strip has been to jump ahead three months and fill in the aftermath of some big event, rather than show it. This comes close to being that. I understand Marciuliano’s desire, to keep us off-screen and go to characters reacting, but it keeps us from seeing a juicy fight.
Sam texts Neddy that Abbey stormed out. The people we were watching rush home and Sam mourns that Abbey has given up on the town and the family. He mourns that everyone was right, he should have told Abbey about the video the moment he saw it. Abbey, after demanding to know how long everyone else knew about this video, disappears. Neddy calls in an expert on fixing their family: Marie, their trusty … uh … maid? Or former maid, anyway. Last we saw her she was working part-time at the bed-and-breakfast but I imagine it’d be impolite if she were still drawing a salary for that.
Marie is able to get Abbey on the phone, and they meet for a talk at some restaurant carefully ignoring them. Marie tries to suggest Abbey consider Sam’s point of view, but Abbey knows it. And she’s more interested in how Sam hurt her — rather than have a direct if frightening conversation with her — than in how he feels. I can’t argue with that. Marie can’t either. Given this, she plans to leave Sam. She may leave Cavelton entirely. It’s hard to say she’s wrong to plan this.
What do Leonardo da Vinci and a gigantic crow have in common? That they’re not in the current story in Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop! But they are in the story just concluded, which I plan to recap next week. Thanks for reading.
Oh gads. Oh no. Oh, oh dear. I was so wrong. I was so very very wrong. Do you know how hard it is to type a company’s name in Helvetica Bold Italic and put a little monocolored regular polygon next to it? These people earn every penny. Gads I have learned things about rhombuses that even I, a mathematics PhD, was not meant to know.
It does not. Today’s King Features Popeye is another Jack Kinney-produced short. The story’s by Joe Siracusa and Cliff Millsap. Both are new names around here, and the Internet Movie Database lists this as the only writing credit of any kind for both. Cliff Milsap was also editor for about two dozen of these shorts and that’s all IMDB knows about him. Joe Siracusa has more of a filmography, although nearly all of it as editor or composer or music editor, all the way up to the 80s G.I.Joe and Transformers. He was also drummer for Spike Jones from 1946 through 1952. Animation direction is credited to our old friend Eddie Rehberg. From 1960 here’s Popeye’s Corn-Certo.
This short has the feel of one of the theatrical Popeye cartoons. It’s a return to the plot line where Popeye and Brutus compete in showing off their expertise. Eventually Brutus incapacitates Popeye and tries making off with Olive Oyl. Popeye eats his spinach, we get some quick fighting, happy ending. The specific of competing by musical instruments calls to mind 1948’s Symphony in Spinach.
There are some structural differences from a theatrical version of this plot. The major one is Popeye and Brutus don’t take turns showing off. Popeye gets several instruments in a row to play the “3rd movement from the 2nd Pizzicato by Mozarella, the big cheese of the musical world”, which sounds like the Popeye the Sailor Man theme. (I like the choice. I imagine it’s for budget reasons. But it also plays as tweaking the artifice of the premise.) That seems like an improvement. It lets us get a bunch of Brutus-sabotages-an-unaware-Popeye jokes in a row. And it doesn’t require Popeye to sabotage Brutus or to find so many ways Brutus’s playing can go wrong. I’m not sure that would work for every challenge cartoon like this, but it works here.
And the short offers several good little bits. The performing contest being introduced as though it were a boxing match, for example. Or Popeye getting a couple of muttered interjections in, such as saying “Man the lifeboats! I sprung a leak!” or “I should’ve played `Over the Waves`” when his flute produces water. That sort of throwaway joke could have been a muttered 30s gag and fit right in. It’s a good energy to invoke. There’s even a gorgeous throwaway bit. When Popeye says he’s beginning to smell a rat we see a delighted Brutus smiling at the camera and pointing to himself. It’s playful, in a way the best Popeye cartoons are. I got good feelings from watching this.
Given how well this works I don’t know why Siracusa and Millsap didn’t write more shorts. Maybe they didn’t enjoy the writing. Maybe they saw a chance to adapt Symphony in Spinach but didn’t see another theatrical short they were interested in. Too bad. The writing is strong enough to make a good cartoon within the studio’s constraints.
This after watching every single episode of the 1980s Transformers cartoon too many times and then moving on to having other things to do since about 1990:
[*] Yes, I am aware that Girl Autobot’s name was not actually “Girl Autobot”. It was established in the 1986 Transformers: The Movie that her name was Autobelle.
Reference: Tilt: A Skewed History of the Tower of Pisa, Nicholas Shrady.
I’m not thinking to get into corporate logo design because I love art, understand. Or because I like corporations any. I just need some money, and I figure, hey, I can type a company’s name in Helvetica Bold Italic and put it next to a regular polygon in a single color and send an invoice for $185,000 plus expenses. Of course this competes with my desire to not do anything, but, like, even if I spent two hours on a company logo I’d be getting a pretty good wage. Maybe I’ll up it to $232,750 and give myself some savings.
Continuing now with a Mystery Science Theater 3000 marching steadily away from Johnny Pez’s “Safety First”. The whole of the MiSTing is at this link. The previous installment began a discussion about the Scientific Proof of God. I hope it helps anyone who’d been worrying about God-proofing their lives.
A bit of content warning here. In this section the riffed material talks about mental disabilities. And particularly about third-world people suffering more disabilities owing to poor nutrition. If you don’t need someone talking about “IQ deficits” in your recreational reading, you are right, and you should skip this piece at least.
For obscure references this time around, not much. There’s a mention about “B.J. fiddling with your pants overnight” that refers to one of the like two episodes of M*A*S*H where B.J. was a prank master screwing with Major Winchester. Also, I am aware that “reify” is a word. I keep looking it up to learn what it means, and agreeing that’s a thing it’s nice to have a word for (it’s to treat an abstraction as if it had real existence), but I then forget the word’s meaning and that it is a word all over again.
> 5. [NOTE: I am now going to bend over backwards
TOM: Hammond’s CONTORTIONIST SPOG!
> as far as I
> can possibly bend
JOEL: He’s going to have to call Plastic-Man in as his technical advisor.
> to explain this SPOG in the simplest terms
CROW: While wearing my feety pajamas.
> w/o using any technical jargon or omitting any logical steps.
JOEL: Unfortunately, this darned margin is so small…
> …. please dummy up and pay attention,
TOM: Dummy up and slide right.
> this is your last chance]:
CROW: Your last chance for great savings!
> A. First, it is discovered
JOEL: See how easy that was?
> (basically by talking to a lot
> of crazy people),
TOM: Finally, years spent on the Internet pay off.
> the "suspicion" that it is "poor growth"
> that cause people to believe in "a higher power".
CROW: When really it’s just a guy standong on top of the ladder.
JOEL: Hey, I thought you said "no jargon."
> is suspected that a large percent of the population is being
TOM: A large percent of the population is like a storm raging inside you.
> by the fact that their BRAINS
ALL: [ Zombie accents ] BRAINS!
> (just like the rest of
> their body BTW) is NOT FULLY GROWN.
JOEL: But that’ll all change when you’re visited by a special friend right about when you turn twelve or thirteen … or fourteen…
> a. This suspicion is further reified
CROW: Reified? Is that even a word?
TOM: I think that’s what happens when you crash into the Great Barrier Reef.
> by the
> fact that a well known similar effect
JOEL: Known as tickling.
> observed in nutritionally growth stunted
> people (by the millions)
CROW: All of them. They just gather around and observe.
> in 3rd World
> country’s where a severe IQ deficit is
TOM: A good line for those playing along at home to work from.
> caused by "brain growth stunting".
JOEL: This sounds like a depressing episode of "Pinky and the Brain."
> b. This is further reified
> by observations on
> Mental Retardation,
TOM: Flowers for SPOGernon.
> which is generally
> attributed to "arrested growth"
JOEL: Pull over, growth. Get out of the car.
> (of the
> brain) on the normal growth curve.
CROW: Caution! Dangerous growth curves ahead.
> c. It is particularly noted that the large
> majority of "Mental Cases" are
TOM: Ed Norton.
> people of
> poor growth and development.
JOEL: They’re just generally bad people is all he’s saying.
> And all most
> of them do all day is talk about "God".
CROW: God, and the CIA-Martian alliance.
> d. Obviously such a thing as "incomplete brain
> growth" is a natural candidate for explaining
TOM: Other explanations, like a sense of wonder and excitement at the incredible beauty and majesty of the world, fall short.
> As one person put it,
CROW: Another will un-put it.
> it can be seen
> as a candidate in the following way;
JOEL: Uh — has everybody got their 3-D glasses on?
> the brain is a computer running a program
> called "reality". Then:
TOM: I’m going to wait for the upgrade. Nobody wise runs the point-zero release.
> The Human Brain is like a computer,
> running a program called Reality.
JOEL: Is the human brain like a computer, running a program called reality?
TOM: No, I think the human brain is like a computer, running a program called reality.
CROW: You can think that if you want, but I saw the human brain is like a computer, and it runs a program called reality.
> Any change in the program is called
> a Law of Reality (science),
CROW: Hey, wait a minute — what if it’s running a program called "Realty" instead?
TOM: Deus ex Homeowners Association?
> but any
> change (‘upgrade’) in the Computer
JOEL: Comes out of your warranty.
> is called an Act of God.
TOM: So God handles hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and bug patches.
> Here, "grain growth" is compared to
JOEL: I never saw the connection between God and corn before.
TOM: Never heard about "Corn as high as the pastor’s eye"?
JOEL: Oh, you’re right.
> upgrading the computer with a faster
> processor and more memory,
CROW: As long as they keep that dancing paperclip out of the way I’m all right.
> and obviously
> would have a "supernatural", "miraculous"
> effect on the "reality" program.
TOM: Hey, if God keeps growing your brain, won’t that eventually make your skull pop open?
> B. Secondly, it is KNOWN
JOEL: Yet it is not generally BELIEVED
> that there is such a thing as a
> SECULAR TREND in human growth.
TOM: Up until the point they become teenagers, and get all surly and hostile.
> That is, that the entire
> Human Race is achieving higher and higher levels of
> GROWTH with each passing generation.
CROW: Meaning in a few short generations we will *all* be able to look on top of the refrigerator!
> It is also known
> that this is NOT a genetic effect,
JOEL: It’s caused by B.J. fiddling with your pants overnight.
> that it is caused
> entirely by the RISING WORLD STANDARD OF LIVING,
TOM: Caused by the Giant World Escalator.
> particularly NUTRITION.
TOM: That too.
> This leads to a simple arithmetic
JOEL: Vitamin E equals M Vitamin C squared.
> Growth curve deficit: GCD=Genotype-Phenotype
> see: http://people.ne.mediaone.net/ghammond/growth5.JPG
> for a
> picture of this.
TOM: And that great cartoon of "You Want It When?"
> According to the Secular Trend
JOEL: And anonymous sources close to the Secular Trend.
> then, the SUSPICION would be
> that there is and always has been, a "brain growth deficit"
TOM: It’s a Brain Growth Gap! The Commies are pulling out ahead of us!
> in the human population, and that this "deficit" has been
> slowly decreasing
JOEL: They’re finally getting over that brain deficit spending.
> for millenniums (probably rapidly since
> the Industrial Revolution BTW),
CROW: Slower in the no-passing zones.
> and that this explains the
> 4,000 year history of "God"
TOM: Isn’t that kind of overlooking, like, twelve thousand years of Egyptian history and their Gods too?
> and explains why we believe
> we are heading toward "Kingdom Come" or the Perfect
JOEL: Or a Different World.
CROW: Or just Cool World.
> since this would obviously be when the "Deficit"
> finally reaches zero.
TOM: And then we’ll blow it on a big tax cut for the rich.
[ to continue … ]
Since just days after that $65-a-month LinkedIn job I saw this one.
Neal Rubin stepped down as author of the Gil Thorp comic strip on Saturday. Per the Daily Cartoonist, Rubin said he felt himself running short on ideas after eighteen years at this. And he wanted to focus on his day job, sports writer for the Detroit Free Press. His comic strip retirement coincides suspiciously well with the window for my plot recaps. It’s convenient for me when the story strips have plots end right around my plot recaps. So I’d like to make explicit to them, you know, don’t contort your plans for my sake. I can cope with a period where I pay attention to how I credit these strips.
The new writer — the fourth in the strip’s history — is Henry Barajas. Barajas has some renown for comic book series that I admit I was unaware of. (This is not a slight on his work; it’s me admitting my ignorance. I haven’t followed comic books directly since Marvel’s New Universe was put out of its misery.) But they include Helm Greycastle, the biographical La Voz De M.A.Y.O. Tata Rambo, and some Avengers and Batman stuff. An interview with the Tucson Daily Star says “He plans to introduce characters of color and with different sexual orientations and gun violence,” as good a case for the Oxford Comma as I know.
Anyway, this recap should get you up to speed on the final story of Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. If you’re reading this after about September 2022, or any more news breaks about Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp, you may want to check the essays here. Thanks for reading.
Greg Hamm, on the boys’ baseball team at Milford, was losing his eyesight. Rapidly. His catcher, Wilson Henry, and the second baseman, sports trivia maven Eli “Scooter” Borden, had a scheme to work around this. Borden would relay the catcher’s signals by code words in his chatter. This works okay for pitching. Fielding is harder; if a ball isn’t in Hamm’s dwindling field of vision he’s helpless. When a hit zooms right past Hamm’s head without his even flinching Coach Thorp works out what’s up, and pulls the kid.
It turns out Hamm’s done an outstanding job concealing his vision problems. He even worked out how to fake his way through eye tests, so his parents and eye doctor didn’t know how bad it was. Now that they do know? Dr Maisano explains to Coach Thorp that this is the last year he could play baseball. If he wears facial protection, something like a catcher’s mask, he should be reasonably safe. Coach Thorp finally accedes to letting Hamm play.
The trick with a vision-impaired pitcher is the other teams work out where his blind spot is, and can hit to it. Borden’s girlfriend Charis Thompkins has an answer, direct from Borden’s trivia banks. Relief pitcher Ryne Duren played a decade in the late 50s and early 60s, and used his poor vision as a psychological weapon. Duren’s warmup pitches would go wild, an intimidating thing for batters to face. (Oh, and the plot bits about Thompkins and the girls’ tennis teams were not followed up on.)
An old trick is good again. Hamm warns a batter off bunting by “accidentally” throwing a pitch that barely misses the batter. The umpire demands Hamm be thrown out but Coach Thorp refuses, noting, you can’t eject a player for one bad pitch, whatever you think of his eyesight. This seems like a good way to insult the umpire while staying within the rules and make sure you never get a toss-up call your way again. Thorp tosses in an insult of how that umpire called an earlier game, which probably felt good anyway.
The blend of Hamm’s actual control, and ability to look uncontrolled when it’s intimidating, works. It launches the boys baseball team into the postseason. And the local media is quite interested in a blind pitcher.
The trouble is the other major part of this story. Hamm’s father is pathologically camera-shy, to the point he hides from people taking cell phone pictures of the parents in the stands. He works so hard to not be noticed that everyone notices, and feeds rumors that he’s in the witness protection program or something. Coach Thorp hears the rumors and decides to just ask the Hamms what’s going on. Greg Hamm’s mother gives the clue.
Before he was a ghost-writer for businesspeople committing books, Greg’s father was Mason Hamstetter. Hamstetter had been a hot journalist, with great cover stories in big magazines, book deals, everything you hope for when you’re a writer. He was also a plagiarist. He faked quotes. He invented sources. He got caught. So he fled New York, and truncated his name, and did his best to completely hide from a shaming public. And now, after a decade of hiding, Hamm’s wife has had enough.
Mason Hamm meets Coach Thorp, who admits he doesn’t see how there’s anything to talk to him about. But if you ask his opinion, it’s this: nobody has any idea who he is or why they should care about him. Meanwhile his son’s got an amazing story that shouldn’t be hidden for the fear that one of the four guys in a Manhattan publishing office who kind of remember his name might hear about it. It’s a hard truth that Mason accepts. He allows his son to do interviews and talk about his experience. A reporter is curious about Mason, and suggests a “where is he now” interview. But his boss kills the story because nobody cares. Having lived through his two worst fears and finding them not so bad after all? He’s able to settle in to having a son whose story might become an inspirational book he might write.
Greg Hamm pitches for Milford in the state tournament, but the team loses 9-4. It was still a good season.
And with that, the 9th of July, the story ends, as does Neal Rubin’s tenure writing Gil Thorp. I’ll learn the new direction of the comic strip as you all do, but I intend to recap it in just about three months. See you then.
Sam and Abbey’s marriage collapses while Randy Parker tries to clear his wife’s name by slipping a hard drive full of super-ultra-duper CIA secrets to a streaming-media TV show consultant. This and more in Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker, next week, if all goes like I plan.
Our local hipster bar put in a new pinball machine, which I’m normally all for. But to make room they had to replace the old Quiz and Dragons arcade game. And that’s a shame, really. I like the old trivia video game’s worldbuilding premise, wherein a peaceful land is threatened by the intrusion of the ultimate evil, who’s sent out a flock of dragons to enforce his will, and the dragons will devour anyone who resists them — unless they know something about the starting lineup for the 1991 Denver Nuggets. They don’t make games like that anymore, and there’s no reason for it. I’m sure there’s still things about the starting lineup for the 1991 Denver Nuggets that people might remember.
We have another Gene Deitch cartoon this week. It’s directed by John Halas, Joy Batchelor, and Tony Guy, so it’s one of the British-made cartoons rather than the Czechoslovakian ones. But no story credit that I’m aware of, unfortunately. Here is 1960’s Dog-Gone Dog-Catcher.
Popeye is a good character. He is not particularly lawful, though. He’s aware authority can be corrupt or malevolent or wrong. A lot of his best moments are standing up to bullies who happen to have rank. There are shorts where Popeye has to talk up how he obeys and respects, mostly, the police. But cast Brutus as the authority figure and have him make a few snide comments to the camera and Popeye can clobber him without bothering anybody.
So I’m bothered that this short doesn’t quite get it right. The setup is all right. Popeye’s given Olive Oyl a new dog, a poodle who’s described as male, possibly the only male poodle in pop culture. His name is Zsa Zsa. Brutus comes along as a thieving dogcatcher and scoops up Zsa Zsa. Popeye goes undercover to free him. He wears one of those cartoon dog outfits that’s so seamless your every real-world Halloween costume disappoints.
My problem is that it’s not clear Brutus was in the wrong here. He was shown wanting to steal a dog and make life hard for the owner. But he is also the city dogcatcher. We see Zsa Zsa let loose, without a collar or license, and menacing-or-something a cat. An honest dogcatcher would likely try to grab Zsa Zsa given that. It throws the moral balance of the cartoon off. It already started wobbly, with the time-constrained need to put Zsa Zsa out unsupervised early on so the story could start. It makes Popeye and Olive Oyl look like negligent dog-owners.
I don’t demand that characters be all one tone. That’s boring, and it’s not realistic. Characters should also make mistakes. But it’s usually better form, when they get it wrong, for it to be part of the story hat they have blown it. But these cartoons are too short, and the audience-appropriate plots are too direct, for Popeye to explore the difference between being good and acting rightly.
If you can get past this — I imagine many of you can — there’s a fun cartoon here. Popeye’s in an impossibly perfect dog costume, which freshens up the action some and lets him mess with Brutus’s head. We get a spinach-flavored dog biscuit, a rare Deich cartoon case where Popeye doesn’t trust to luck for spinach to show up. (Also a weird edit where we have to infer he eats the dog biscuit.) Popeye declaring “I am smarter than the average dog” and I’d love to know if that’s meant to be a Yogi Bear riff. Popeye getting stopped by a cop and explaining he only has a dog license. The cop asking Brutus if dogs can talk, and a rabbit popping up between them to say, “I never heard anything so preposterous!”
That’s all solid stuff. I just don’t like that I’m not sure Popeye was in the right.
Not listed: I accidentally ran across the Quora page attempting to answer “Why is it called ‘New York, New York’ if the city’s name is ‘New York City’?” and it’s caused my brain to try squeezing out of my skull.
Reference: The Numbers Game: Baseball’s Lifelong Fascination With Statistics, Alan Schwarz.
Just ran across this job listing on LinkedIn and I’m thinking of seeing if I can snag an interview just so I can ask if they’re getting a lot of ironic applications in.
This Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction finally reaches to the last quarter of my work inspired by Johnny Pez’s “Safety First”. The whole of the MiSTing is at this link. The previous installment finished up a report from the Galactic Federation of Light. But this part starts a new rant, the Scientific Proof Of God. I’m glad to be able to bring you the proof.
There’s not much needing particular explanation this section. The Hall Effect is about how a magnetic field affects electrical currents. LUD is “local usage details”, that is, phone records, a thing I didn’t need to look up back when I watched Law and Order regularly. And boy, am I glad that joke about Yoko Ono was based on an informed opinion. I’d feel horrible if I were thoughtlessly repeating a weak line without considering whether its common currency might be due to misogyny with a slice of racism! I wouldn’t want to insult someone without ever considering whether the person deserves this insult!
[ THEATER. ALL file in. ]
JOEL: Media One. A Media One Through Five Corporation.
> . SPOG FAQ
TOM: [ Singing ] The SPOG FAQ is a little old place where… We can get! To! Get! Ther!
> What is the "SCIENTIFIC PROOF" of God? —
CROW: Do *you* know how Encyclopedia Brown figured it out?
Check page 176 to see if you’re right!
> (Relativity and Psychometry)
TOM: You got relativity on my psychometry!
CROW: You got psychometry on my relativity!
> A "scientific proof" is like a court judgment,
JOEL: You get interviewed by Doug Llewellyn after it?
> it hinges
> on the assertion "BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT".
CROW: I’m not so sure about that.
> For instance, here is no "absolute proof"
TOM: Absolut Vodka.
> that "space-time
> curvature causes Gravity" (Einstein 1915).
JOEL: It *might* just be an unforseen side effect.
> However, there is
> a MASSIVE body of fact and logical theory bearing on the matter,
CROW: And it slipped the judge a couple of bucks under the table, too.
> and the judgment of the (overwhelming) majority of experts
> in the field is,
TOM: This dress doesn’t make me look fat. Does it?
> that the evidence is such that it is
> "beyond a reasonable doubt" that Space-time Curvature causes
JOEL: So it better have a good explanation why it does that, or else it’s in a lot of trouble, mister.
> This then, is called a "Scientific proof that
> Curvature causes Gravity"…. or simply a "SCIENTIFIC PROOF".
TOM: In fact, it’s a scien-*terrific* proof!
> Now, when Einstein published the theory of Relativity in 1915,
> he advanced it as a "SCIENTIFIC PROOF".
CROW: Because promoting it as a new Sherlock Holmes mystery would be confusing.
> OK, Hammond claims that he has found a SCIENTIFIC PROOF of
> the existence of God….
TOM: Oh, and organs.
> same thing, same exact situation as
> Einstein, or any other major SCIENTIFIC PROOF.
CROW: Except for the science part.
> Hammond’s SPOG is a classic,
JOEL: A triumph of the human spirit!
CROW: A story that will live through the ages!
TOM: Thank you, Hammond’s SPOG, for making us laugh about love… again.
> by the book,
CROW: Hours could seem like days.
> ordinary, rigorous,
JOEL: And with a "Law and Order" twist.
> hard scientific proof, meeting all the canons of science
TOM: Like our 22-inch Feynman diagrams and the new dreadnought-caliber Hall Effect device.
> and all
> the requirements for a proof:
CROW: Patent pending.
> The situation is this:
JOEL: There are 47 Klingons and three Starbases in your sector. You have 82 Stardates to destroy them.
> 1. There is a 4,000 year old "rumor",
TOM: But it’s about Paul Lynde so nobody’s really worked up about it.
> based on many
> eyewitness testimonies,
CROW: And one article in "Variety."
> that there is such a thing
> as a "God".
TOM: And He’s responsible for this divine cheesecake recipe!
> The Bible for instance is one documented
> source for these reports.
JOEL: The canon of Kevin Smith movies, however, is not.
> 2. The historical sources (cf. Bible)
CROW: Do you know me? I’m C.F. Bible, and that’s why I carry American Express.
> describe this "God"
> as an invisible power,
TOM: Ah, a wind-powered diety.
> apparently in the form of an
> invisible perfect man,
JOEL: By G.K. Chesterton and Ralph Ellison.
> who can perform miraculous
> feats (generally of salvation)
TOM: And occasionally a great card trick.
> by somehow supernaturally
> "violating the Laws of Physics".
CROW: Or the Laws of Cartoon Physics.
> (Note: w/o wrangling over what Christianity says..
TOM: I can’t be bothered to let information mess up my argument.
> I think
> you will have to grant that this is a fair synopsis
CROW: Fair, turning partly cloudy overnight.
> what "God" has been known as, for the past 2,000 years)
JOEL: Except during that weird period when he was teamed up with Yoko Ono.
> 3. OK, so a reasonable scientist would say…
CROW: "Hi! I’m a reasonable scientist, and here’s what I’ll say!"
> "well, we’ll keep our
> eyes open
TOM: And our tongue to the grindstone!
CROW: Our ears to the … huh?
> in case any new scientific phenomena turn up
JOEL: [ Pointing ] Hey, look, there’s one!
CROW: [ Giggling ] And over there! There’s another!
TOM: [ Snickering ] Look fast, that’s one now!
JOEL: Boy, this is the coolest scientific phenomena hangout ever.
> would seem to be connected with any such thing".
TOM: We’ll have Jerry Orbach look over their LUDs and see what turns up.
> 4. Sure enough, in 1997 HAMMOND
JOEL: As the superhero HAMMOND-MAN!
> discovered an OBVIOUS physical
CROW: It’s called the "wheel." We’ve known it for months.
> which explains this 4,000 year history,
TOM: All of which is going to be on the exam! I hope you studied.
> so COMPLETELY,
> so SIMPLY, so COMPREHENSIVELY,
JOEL: So ROUND, so FIRM, so FULLY PACKED.
> so OVERWHELMINGLY, so COMPELLINGLY,
> and so OBVIOUSLY,
TOM: I think he’s in danger of overselling it at this point.
> that he has now advanced it as a
> "SCIENTIFIC PROOF"
CROW: With Retsyn.
> of the existence of this "God"
TOM: This God, that God, just take a deity out of petty cash, OK?
> that people
> have been reporting for 4,000 years.
JOEL: They’ve been reporting the same thing for four thousand years?
CROW: I didn’t even know they had cable news channels four thousand years ago.
[ to continue … ]
My many, many readers in the United States may have only a rough idea about the troubles going on in the United Kingdom’s politics. Let me try to explain: they’re having a bunch of trouble there in the United Kingdom’s politics. I’m a little vague on the details but the upshot seems to be someone finally took a good clear picture of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and everybody started saying, “Wait, that Boris Johnson? No, no, we wanted as Prime Minister this other Boris Johnson, the one who works at that pub where they always have jacket potatoes on the menu but every time you order them they don’t have them for some reason.” That’s as close to right as you need to know, anyway.
Anyway so the last couple days they’ve been getting a lot of resignations of every possible government post. This includes big posts, sure, like the Minister of Finance or the Minister of Posts (Big), but also smaller and more obscure and archaic ones. And they’ve had to reach pretty far down in to the back benches to fill spaces.
So anyway, imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning to find that I had become the Lieutenant-Stewart of the Cinq Hundreds and Crown Escheats of Flumwich. Like, I’m not British. I haven’t even been in the United Kingdom since 2015, when I was there to ride some roller coasters, or at the British call them the “rumbly-bumblies” so far as you know. This could all have been embarrassing, what with my responsibilities here reading Gil Thorp or whatever it is I do. But it all worked out since as I kept on reading the news I learned I’d resigned already. I’d probably just get myself into some real trouble if I hadn’t.
The Street Sweeper, Glenwood’s own little superhero, took a brick to his shoulder when a drunk didn’t like having his keys dropped down the sewer. This was his second shoulder injury. A torn rotator cuff first brought him to Rex Morgan’s, and Rex Morgan M.D.’s, attention. So he needed to do something to carry on his patrols of the mean-ish-esque streets of downtown Glenwood while impaired. His solution: some mixture of soap solution that would slick up the sidewalk. Enough that someone chasing him is unsure on his feet, at least. It’s only good for a few seconds, but in a fight, a few seconds counts for a lot. He used this against Snake and Manfred, a would-be car-robber and his partner. Also against the undercover cops come to knock off this superhero vigilante nonsense.
I don’t know what this is made of, or how slippery you could make a sidewalk with a quick splash of something. But, eh, guy is a janitor, probably knows his soaps and waxes and all. And it only needs to be a surprise and distracting for a couple seconds. Or confusing, which it was, yeah.
So this should catch you up to the start of July 2022 in Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D.. If you’re reading this after about September 2022, or news about the comic breaks, I should have an essay here. Otherwise, let’s enjoy a bit of crimefighting from our favorite fandom-themed story strip.
There was a new superhero in town, when I last checked in. Firstname Clayton, by day a janitor, patrols downtown Glenwood at night as … The Street Sweeper. He gets a lot of that giggling, yes. But he backs it up, whacking Snake, a would-be car robber, with a push broom. Or dropping a drunk guy’s car keys down the sewer, lest the guy drive home impaired. It’s the sort of stunt that’s kind of cool when you are the hero of the story. If you, like the would-be drunk driver, figure you’re the hero of your own story, you maybe throw a brick at The Street Sweeper’s shoulder. Or if you’re a pair of undercover cops, you get the assignment to bring this guy in before he does something both stupid and dangerous.
So that’s the wind-up. The Street Sweeper is carrying on his business, using a bottle of some pretty slippery liquid to compensate for his shoulder injuries. Snake, with his pal Manfred, are out looking to smack Sweeper silly. And a pair of cops, rolling their eyes and talking 1960s sitcoms, are looking for Sweeper. Snake figures that the Ghost Who Sweeps will find him, just as soon as he smashes this car window. Despite the car alarm, The Street Sweeper comes by to check things out. The cops mosey on over to the scene too. They reason The Street Sweeper is the sort of person who doesn’t understand that a car alarm is only there to annoy your neighbors while your battery dies because a tree branch is brushing your hood.
The cops are happy to take Snake into custody. The Sweeper is not happy to give him up, though, and drags him off to his apartment, turning a merry bit of nonsense into a hostage drama. It’s a bit grim, but I like this twist. It’s got that moment where a character runs past the limits of their competence yet the situation is still going on. It’s too much to expect a Dog Day Afternoon from the comics. Beatty doesn’t write a comic that emotionally messy. But I love that blend of the situation being serious and absurd. (It also makes me think of that moment where Freakazoid yells at the villain for going and being like that when we were having a good time here.)
The Street Sweeper agrees to talk to someone, and chooses the honorable doctor who treated his torn rotator cuff. The cops get Rex Morgan on the phone, who’s baffled by why he’s been pulled into the comic strip all of a sudden. But, what the heck, he doesn’t have to go downtown or anything, just talk over the phone. The Sweeper has one question for Rex: can he surgically remove the part of the brain that makes people criminals? Rex Morgan has any idea what Sweeper’s talking about. One of the nearly 400 billion points of super-hyper-ultra inventive competence that pulp superhero Doc Savage managed was anti-crime brain surgery. Or, as Rex confusingly puts it, those books about “The Crime College”. I don’t know why he doesn’t say Doc Savage. Sorry.
Heartbroken to learn he doesn’t live in the fictional world he thought he did, The Street Sweeper agrees to give up to the cops. Snake, not happy about the thought of surprise brain surgery, conks Sweeper’s shoulder, retrieves his gun, and runs out back into the cops’ hands. So, the status quo gets restored and Doc Morgan is just … glad he could help, he guesses? Anyway I hope we’ll see more of The Street Sweeper, even if it seems unlikely he’d do more vigilante stuff. I like his goofy self-important vibe.
With the 26th of June the new and current story begins. It’s about June’s vaguely-related Aunt Tildy, reconciled with her husband Andrzej “Count Crushinski” Bobrowski. The former wrestling star sneaks off to the hospital so he can have his heart attack looked at. It turns out to be heartburn. He feels foolish about that, but, you know, you don’t want to ignore heart attack symptoms, not when having them looked at will only induce $140,000 in medical debt. And that’s where we are to start off July.
A blind pitcher, a guy who’s totally not in the Witness Protection Program so stop asking nosey questions, and a sports-trivia-obsessed teen! How do they fit together? They’re important to the last three months of Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp, which I’ll recap next week. The trivia teen doesn’t really matter much. I’ll explain next week if all goes well.
I did my best to work out the baffling plot point that Helen Moss, longtime teacher at Santa Rosa Community College, had to leave after her onetime crush Ian Cameron told her to stop being a jerk to his wife. I’m still not confident I have the reason clear, but I offered what I had. And people wanted to know! As I look over what the most popular June 2022-dated postings were here, the last month, my Mary Worth plot recap tops the list. Here’s the five most popular new articles from June:
Mind, the most popular thing I had of the entire month was an October 2020 post where I admitted finally getting this one Far Side. People always like hearing when someone else was baffled by a comic strip. It’s one of Gary Larson’s many gifts to us all. Anyway my favorite of the last month remains the resolve to eat Cheese Idaho.
Still, the comic strip talk is always going to be my most popular thing here. Were I to shut down the rest of the blog, that’s the part that would go last. So here’s my plan for what to talk about this coming month, and when:
Meanwhile, I still like to keep track of how popular my slightly popular blog is, and how that’s changing. And I share that because somehow that’s usually a well-liked feature too. In June 2022, according to WordPress, I had 4,732 page views here, which is below the running mean of 5,034.2 views for the twelve months leading up to June. It’s above the running median of 4,449 page views, though. These came from 2,742 unique visitors, which is above both the running mean of 2,696.7 and running median of 2,547.5. So, hey, more visitors, all of whom get tired of me faster! That’s a something.
There were 143 likes given to anything at all over the course of June, which is a little below both the running mean of 153.3 and median of 154.5. And there were 40 comments, which seems like more than I remember, but is below the mean of 56.7 and median of 53, again both of which seem like more than I remember. I have no explanation for this phenomenon.
There were 82 countries, our country-like entities, to send me any page views in June. That’s up from May’s figure of 75, if you like. 16 of them sent only a single page view, down from May’s 17. None of these countries was Greenland. I know, I’m feeling it too. Here’s what countries it was:
|Bosnia & Herzegovina||3|
|United Arab Emirates||3|
|Hong Kong SAR China||2|
|Trinidad & Tobago||1|
Kazakhstan has been a single-view country for three months running now, even though I’d think Kazakhstan has other things to do than check in on my a very slight bit. Kuwait’s been a single-view country two months in a row now, although I guess maybe they have fewer things to do? Montenegro is also on its third month giving me a single view per month. I don’t know how to much to expect they have to do.
WordPress figures I posted 18,738 words in June, my most talkative month this year. It’s an average 624.6 words per posting, and brings my average for the year up to 564 words per post. This may be too many words. It brings me to 102,147 words for the year 2022, so far. Between the Broadway debut of the musical 1776 and the start of July, I’ve posted 3,437 things to this blog. They’ve attracted a total of something like 302,932 views from 171,984 visitors.
If you’d like to read these posts regularly, I’m flattered. The best route is probably to add the RSS feed for my essays to your reader. If you don’t have a reader, but you do have a WordPress account, you can click the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button on the upper right corner of this page. If you don’t have a WordPress account, you can use the box beneath that to get posts e-mailed to you the moment they’re published and before I’ve corrected some embarrassing typos. And if none of that works for you, eh, I suppose you know your business. Carry on with what seems reasonable. Thank you.
This week takes us back to 1960 and a cartoon with a baffling title. It comes from the Jack Kinney studios. The story’s by Gerald Nevius and the animation direction by Volus Jones. Here’s a short titled, for some reason, Uncivil War.
I don’t get the title at all. I expected it to be maybe a historical short, but more likely something where Popeye and Brutus have to share the housekeeping. “Popeye instructing Swee’Pea in good driving habits” would have been my maybe fourth guess after “Popeye fights with a squirrel”.
Instead, we’ve got a safe-driving short. The idea seems oddly pitched for the audience, which would be mostly kids a decade away from driving. There were plenty of theatrical shorts pushing safe-driving messages, such as the excellent 1950 Goofy short Motor Mania, directed by some guy name of Jack Kinney. But that’s aimed at a general audience where some of the people are driving home from the theater. Also, the jokes were bigger, bolder. The jokes in “Uncivil War” are more mundane, more educational. There’s a preposterous pileup of cars, caused by Popeye stopping to read the signs too carefully, but that’s about all. The cartoon might have had more surreal jokes if it were just a short about Olive Oyl learning to drive or Popeye trying out his new car. It has a curious shift in structure. It starts out looking like Brutus is trying to woo Olive Oyl with his cool car and Popeye proves himself superior by being a more thoughtful driver. But then that evaporates and we get instead a string of jokes where someone drives badly and then the rest of the cast calls them stupid.
A choice I think I like here is that Brutus isn’t always the bad driver here. (Nor is Olive Oyl, a welcome avoiding of stereotype.) Everyone shuffles the roles of being the good and the problem driver. It helps spread out the laugh lines. It also conveys a subtler message that everyone is a problem driver in some way or another. I can’t imagine that many kids watching this came away thinking of how just being a Good character, like Popeye, doesn’t mean everything you do is right. But it is the sort of lesson one should have. It feels like an inefficient way to do it, is all.
I’d love to know why the Kinney studios chose to make this cartoon, of all the premises they could. Were they thinking of great how-to-drive shorts of the past, including Motor Mania? Was it some sense that they should have some cartoons with socially constructive messages? And how did “Uncivil War” get attached to it as a title? Would like to be able to give you an answer.
Reference: The Bagel: The Surprising History Of A Modest Bread, Maria Balinska.
I don’t mean to burden you with my small local problems, but: today has had all the markings of a rainy day. The overcast sky that sometimes gets dark enough you think they turned off the sun. The winds that sometimes get so breezy that the window fans go in reverse. That smell of rain. That mugginess. The people on the street nodding about how it all feels like rain. We’ve have everything about a rainy day except for the actual rain. It turns out there’s so little chance of rain that when you go check the forecast, the head of the weather department, Lionel P Weatherguy, actually calls you up to laugh at you. It is some of the un-rainiest rainy weather I’ve seen in a long time. It all seems like someone is trying to make fun of me, or someone in my microclimate anyway, and I don’t have the energy to deal with it.
Also please send rain because we could use it. I don’t know everyone else’s intentions but I plan to use it as rain.