In Which I Am Once Again Angry At Inspector Danger’s Crime Quiz


Look, I understand the conventions of the quick little crime-detection puzzle. It’s not like anyone should expect the deductive process of Slylock Fox knowing that it’s possible to drive a car with a flat tire if you’ve put the spare on to secure a conviction. Heck, there’s cases Columbo nailed that I’m pretty sure the District Attorney had to decline because they just wouldn’t hold up in court. But now, here, this week’s Inspector Danger’s Crime Quiz? I’m offended by the logic and I’m annoyed enough I’m ready to go over to Comic Strip Master Command and demand they tell me if they’ve ever had a typed-out deathbed fingering of the murderer because I’m just that annoyed and no I am not reacting inappropriate to this and if you say I am come closer where I can tell you how I’d spit at you if I could stand spitting. Also why do people who murder typewriter-owners never rip the last sheet of paper out? Come on, show some professionalism.

Archie: 'Conan O'Hoyle, the famous mystery writer, murdered in the middle of the night.' Inspector Danger: 'Look! I think he managed to type the name of his killer.' (Typed out: TOM.) Housemaid: 'I'm the housemaid. When I got here this morning I turned on the light in Mr O'Hoyle's studio and was met by this terrible sight.' Danger: 'We have seven suspects.' Tom Orson Munford, Cousin. Ted Ogden Maxwell, Brother. Thea Olivia Munroe, Sister. Terry Olmo Mason, Brother-In-Law. Bruce Buster Benson, Nephew. Tiffany Oakley Milller, Ex-wife. Ringo Anton Harrison, Nephew. Archie: 'Too many with the same initials! We'll never solve this case, sir.' Danger: 'Wait, let me take another look at this keyboard - AHA! I GOT IT! What about you, my dear mystery-buffs?' THE ANSWER: In the dark, Conan O'Hoyle hit the keys to the left and typed T-O-M instead of R-I-N. Being murdered by a family member, he'd never write their full name, only their first name. Now Ringo Anton Harrison is number 76749 in the state penitentiary for the next many, many years.
Werner Wejp-Olsen’s Inspector Danger’s Crime Quiz for the 11th of December, 2017. I do not protest that all these relatives of Conan O’Hoyle do not share the last name O’Hoyle. I’ll allow for pen names. I also don’t protest that no two of these relatives have the same last name. There are enough varied relationships that the family names could vary. However, “Tiffany Oakley Milller[sic]”? Excuse me? And yeah, I know it looks like a continuity error but I think we’re supposed to take it that the laptop in the last row is at Inspector Danger’s Crime Office instead of at Conan O’Hoyle’s writing desk.
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The Tenth Talkartoon: Grand Uproar


The next cartoon would be Swing You Sinners!, but I just reviewed that for Halloween and I don’t think it’s been long enough I’d have different feelings about it now. So here’s the next, instead. From the 3rd of October, 1930: Grand Uproar, animated by Seymore Kneitel and Al Eugster. Kneitel’s already shown up here a bunch that we know of. This is Al Eugster’s first credited appearance. Eugster spent over six decades animating, from silent-era Felix the Cat to Disney’s Snow White to the last years of the Paramount studio, when Shamus Culhane and Ralph Bakshi made it their strange own, and on past the end of theatrical cartoon shorts.

The cartoon felt a little out of place, somehow. After a bunch of Bimbo cartoons in a row he doesn’t appear this time At least unless one of the characters is meant to be him in a modified form. Perhaps one could argue the Gay Caballero is meant to be Bimbo. On the first look at the Senorita I wondered if she might be an off-model Betty Boop, but I don’t think that’s sustainable. She’d need more hair curls over her face, I think. And maybe they just weren’t thinking about Bimbo for this one.

Wikipedia gives the release date of this carton as the 3rd of October, 1930, barely a week and a half after Swing You Sinners! was released. That seems weirdly close to me; no other pair of Talkartoons their first year were released so near one another. It made me wonder if the short was made earlier, perhaps before Bimbo started to crystallize as a character, and got held up any. But it doesn’t look as primitive as, say, Fire Bugs did. I’m curious how the scheduling for the short worked out. It’s probably foolish to read too much into the timing of successive shorts, though. The release dates don’t seem to show any particular pattern. February 1931 has two Talkartoons released in a single week.

There’s no end of suspiciously Mickey Mouse-like characters in it. And I’m not sure I have a candidate for the blink-and-you-miss-it joke. All the clear jokes are made pretty clearly, with about the right focus to appreciate them. There are several Fleischer studios cartoons that feature stage presentations and, for my tastes, they always work. There’s something about putting on stage theatrics with cartoon mechanisms that works for me. But I also couldn’t get enough of the hippopotamus apologizing his way through rows of the audience, so, what do I know?

For all the title promises an “uproar” there’s really not one. The action is all fairly well controlled. Even the climax doesn’t feel like it’s getting out of control. It’s funny enough, I think, and fitting. Just the title promises more chaos than the short delivers. There’s nothing wrong with a cartoon like this that’s just a bunch of jokes in a setting. But that there isn’t a protagonist probably keeps it from being able to build to any particular finale. Possibly the cartoon needed more Bimbo.

I have the impression the early joke about looking at the hippopotamus with all those diamonds is a reference to something, but I don’t know what it is.

A Thought That’s Suddenly Haunting Me As The Christmas Channels Come On And Twin Peaks Ends Its Season


Someone out there is trying to commit an act of filking. They just know “You’re a weird one, David Lynch” is a killer line and they just have to fit the rest of a song around it. I don’t know which friend it is. But I know there’s one. It’s most likely the same one who Christmas around 2002 was trying very hard to fill in the lines before and after “In the meadow we can build a newsman / And pretend that he is Aaron Brown”, without ultimate success.

Also I’m like 40 percent sure I know which friend would tell me those are both awesome ideas now that someone’s had them, and if I don’t go writing the filk around them he will. (He won’t.) (Neither will I.)

It’s just one of those things we have to risk around the holidays like this.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? September – December 2017


Hi, enthusiast of Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. trying to figure out what’s going on. This is my best effort at catching up what’s happening in the strip as of mid-December 2017. If you’re reading this after around March 2018, barring some surprise, I’ll have some more current essay describing its events. You should be able to get that essay here. And, must say, it looks to me like the strip is transitioning from one story to another. So if you’re reading this in, say, February and don’t know what’s going on, and can’t wait for me, you’ll probably have it all if you just go back to mid-December in the archives and catch up from there.

And if you’re just interested in mathematically-themed comics, I’ve got a week’s summary on my other blog. The mathematics one.

Rex Morgan, M.D.

18 September – 10 December 2017.

I keep remarking how it seems like my story comic summaries coincide with new stories starting in the comics. Some of it’s luck. Some of it’s the ease of confirmation bias. I get to each strip about every 12 weeks. If I’m off by half a month that’s still one chance in three of being “near” the start of a story. Still, last time I checked in on Rex Morgan, M.D. I was like right on the end of a story. June Morgan’s old childhood friend Margie Taylor, dying of plot, had got the Morgans to agree to adopt her child. And she had just vanished, leaving only a pile of problem-clearing paperwork and nice enough kid Johnny in her wake.

Like the week after my last essay the strip went around the horn, touching on some of the major storylines. Wealthy industrialist Milton Avery was shown settling back in his old home in England, no longer recognizing his wife Heather, and unaware that she’s pregnant. The Avery’s house-sitters for their on-panel house are shown to be … nice people that I guess have something going for them. Edward, the kid who tried to bully Sarah during the gas-leak year when she was resident child artist at the municipal art gallery, comes over to show off a dog that’s supposed to be fantastically weird that he can only be shown as a Dick Tracy-style explanatory caption.

And then, come October, we started the real story of the last couple months. It involves the highest form of art according to the people who write comic strips, which is, comic books. Early this year the Morgans helped their friend Buck reconnect with Great 50s Horror Comics artist Hank Harwood. Since then “Horrible” Hank’s gotten some satisfying late-in-life glory from fans who had just supposed he was dead or something, plus a bunch of commissions. But, following an anonymous Internet tip Harwood’s son discovers: somebody’s posting fake Horrible Hank art on auction sites.

Mindy: 'Someone is pretending to be you and selling forgeries of Hank's drawings on the Internet?' Buck: 'That's the gist of it, yeah.' 'Sounds crazy to me.' 'It may sound crazy, but scammers can make serious dough selling fakes online. Autographs, comic art, you name it.' 'I see plenty of reproductions in my antiques business, but that's usually just people who are mistaken about what they have. Intentionally defrauding people with fakes? I just can't understand the mindset of someone who'd do that.' 'They see others as marks, just victims to take advantage of.' 'Pretty darn sad, if you ask me.' 'No kidding'. ELSEWHERE. Mysterious woman handing over envelope: 'Your payment.' Rene Belluso: 'Thanks. I'm pleased with the quality.' Mysterious: 'You're good at what you do. Most people would never know these are copies.' Rene: 'Let me know when you want more.' Mysterious: 'I will, Rene. Thanks.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 8th of October, 2017. I don’t know, not my place to quarrel with someone else’s preferences in art. I just think that forged Horrible Hank piece is not all that good a portrait of a young maiden looking discreetly away from the viewer is all. And don’t get me started on the duckrabbit.

Buck, who’s been managing Horrible Hank’s return to the money factory that is commissioned comics art, is horrified. He lodges complaints with the auction site. The counterfeiter responds by saying (a) their stuff is too legit and (b) here’s some news stories about Buck being arrested for art forgery so nyah. Buck is offended by what he calls “doxxing” and files a complaint with the Commissioner of the Internet to get these untrue things removed.

But his certified letter to the Commissioner of the Internet is barely mailed when a major clue steps in. Buck’s getting-quite-serious girlfriend Mindy recognizes the women who spent an hour lingering around her antiques store. It’s Doris, Buck’s abusive ex-wife, who’s supposed to be in jail after this incident where she nail-gunned his head and came after him with a knife. He’s supposed to be under a protection order and get notified when she’s released, but, you know, things happen.

[MINDY IS TEXTING BUCK]: 'This woman has been poking around the shop for an hour. What do you bet she ends up not buying a thing?' [EVENTUALLY] ... (Woman): 'I'll just take this.' Mindy: 'Okay then. Thanks for stopping by. Do come again.' Woman: 'It's a lovely store. I'll be back.' Mindy thinks: 'I thought she'd never leave! I can close up, finally.' [LATER AT BUCK'S PLACE] Mindy: 'What are you looking at, Corey?' Corey: 'Some old pics of Dad. Just kind of comparing these with him now to see how much weight he's lost.' Mindy: 'May I see?' Corey: 'Well, yeah. Though a lot of these pics have Dad's ex, Doris, in them --- not sure you want to see her.' Mindy: 'THAT's Doris? But that's the woman who was in my shop today.' Corey: 'Oh, that can't be good. We'd better tell Dad.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 22nd of October, 2017. I can attest, as a person who has lost a lot of weight, how weird old photographs look. There was this time, when I was first thin, that I thought the weird part was the current me and this weird figure looking back in mirrors and new pictures and all. But that changes. Now I look at old pictures of me and I can kind of see myself, only my hair isn’t grey, and I appear to be incompetently smuggling an inflatable raft out of the sporting-goods store. I also kept one of my old shirts from when I was enormous and it’s hard to believe but it’s large enough to house my car.

Mindy texts Buck when Doris re-visits the antiques shop. Buck immediately charges into the scene, which goes as well as you could hope for doing the dumb thing. She misses hitting him with a paperweight, runs off, and lets him catch her in her apartment. Her plan: ruin Buck’s reputation as a legitimate comics-art dealer, thereby breaking up his relationship with Mindy, after which she’ll get Buck all to herself. Well, I’ve heard dumber schemes. A disgusted Buck tries to leave, but Mindy charges, ineptly, and falls down the steps just after a witness arrives to see the whole thing.

Doris: 'Buck, don't leave! I love you!' Buck: 'You have no clue what love is, Doris. I feel sorry for you --- but we are more than done.' Mindy: 'Buck!' (She throws a paperweight and misses.) Buck: 'You really have to stop throwing those paperweights, Doris.' Doris: 'YOU CAN'T LEAVE ME! I WON'T LET YOU!' Buck: 'Goodbye, Doris.' (Neighbor pokes his head out the apartment.) Doris: 'BUCK!!! DON'T YOU DARE!' (She jumps after him, and falls down the steps.) Neighbor: 'You want I should call 911?' Doris: 'Ow ... !'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 12th of November, 2017. I feel bad that I keep getting a little giggle every time I read that last panel.

With the crazy ex put back in jail, Buck can look forward to a life as a reputable comics-art dealer. And, with his son’s encouragement, he asks Mindy to marry. She’s happy to. Horrible Hank finally gets to see some of the forgeries. And he recognizes the artist: Rene Belluso. The guy who was giving Sarah art lessons up until Terry Beatty took over the comic and dialed way down the “free stuff for the Morgans” theme.

And besides that Rene Belluso is still out there forging art, that wraps up that storyline, one week ago. This past week was spent delivering the news that Margie Taylor had, indeed died. I intend no guess as to whether that’s starting a new thread about the adoption of Johnny or simply resolving the previous thread. Still, it’s a bunch of successfully deployed soap opera plotting, so, well done.

Next Week!

Viral videos! Micro-managing stage uncles! Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy! No word on the playdowns! It can’t be anything but Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. Please stop in and see what football players are singing and for what reasons.

Statistics Saturday: 14 Most Popular Words You Can Make With Rotationally Symmetric Letters


Because there’s not really enough of these letters! We should grab some from a language that isn’t using all theirs!

  1. HI
  2. SOX
  3. HIS
  4. OX
  5. HO
  6. XIS
  7. SIX
  8. OH
  9. OHS
  10. XI
  11. HOS
  12. SO
  13. IS
  14. I

Source: A History of the Kennedy Space Center, Kenneth Lipartito and Orville R Butler.

One Great Trick For Organic Peanut Butter!


So you know how that nice high-quality organic peanut butter tastes great, but if you leave it alone for a couple days it separates into a layer of oil and a lump of clay? And then you have to spend twenty minutes mashing them back together when you just want to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich now that you’re a little hungry and rediscovered what happens if you put regular butter on the jelly side so it’s a PB-and-JB? Well, if you just close the peanut butter lid securely and store the jar upside-down then you’ll find the peanut butter still separates into a layer of oil and a lump of clay. But now the lid will also be all greasy and you’ll leave a smear of stuff on the shelving paper too! And, hey, at least you’ve tried taking positive action about the problem, and isn’t that itself progress?

Still Not That Flated


I’d like to say how getting my tires replaced was a long merry series of silly incidents. But really, it’s been more of 2017. I mean, this year, you know? This morning they broke into The Price Is Right for the breaking news about Al Franken, and the station had to break into that with a news ticker about the Larry Nasser scandal, which is one of those local/state-level scandals that reading about leaves you feeling like you’re on one of the latter days of the flu, where you’re no longer contagious or even all that achy. Mostly you’re just tired of feeling tired and want to stay in a blanket bundle watching The Price Is Right and that’s exactly where the breaking news came in to break you.

So. I figured to go to a tire place that had served my love pretty well over the years. I’d expected it to go well, since I’d already built a reputation as a magician there. They put my love’s snow tires on and off. They could almost fit the four tires that were coming off the car into the Honda Civic’s trunk. But I know the trick to putting all four in. And, my love says, have astounded the people working there who realize, as they try fitting the removed tires back in, that they didn’t pay attention to just how I got all four in.

A tire (mine) with a maybe ten-inch gash where the sidewall's come apart.
Also while it turned out this was the worst of my tires, it wasn’t the only bad one, so, good grief.

With the help of the Consumer Reports buying guide that my love’s father gave us for Thanksgiving right before my tire exploded, because my love’s father does things like that, I picked out new tires. And ordered them, which I had to drive down to the tire place to put money down on because … I don’t know. But the next day they called to say the tires were in, and I could get them put on anytime. Great! … I went in and it turned out that while their web site figures my model car takes 17-inch tires, my actual car thinks it takes 18-inch tires, and my car won the fight, three falls to two.

I’d had to drive to their place to put down a deposit on the new tires, and I figured, might as well pay in full. Then had to come back the next day to find the tires were wrong. Also they found my tire pressure warning sensors had corroded to strange lumps of metal-like compounds no good for anything. So they refunded my tire purchase less the cost of replacement sensors. Also less the cost of the loaner tires they put on because I didn’t want to drive on the spare longer than I had to. And because another tire turned out to be maybe dozens of feet away from failing too.

I went back home to look up what tires were recommended in my size and learned the Consumer Reports Buying Guide had never heard of any of them. Picked some new tires anyway and had to go out to the tire place to put my money down on those. Also I appreciate that my credit card company finds nothing suspicious about a bunch of charges and reverse-charges, for ever-more-exotic amounts of money, going on from a place I’ve never had any dealings with before. I guess they’re just glad for the attention? Went back again Tuesday to finally get my tires on, and those seemed to work! Except that the tire pressure sensor was a solid light, interrupted by periods of being a blinky light. According to my owner’s manual, this is a signal for “pull off the road as soon as it is safe to do so, and flee the car, warning all within a 1,000-foot radius before the genetically engineered nanovirus is emitted and converts all nearby matter into locking lug nuts.”. Not what I’m looking for.

CBS News Special report on Senator Al Franken announcing his resignation is shrunk down for breaking news about Michigan's scandal involving Larry Nassar.
Fun Fact: of the 184 new episodes of The Price Is Right aired so far this year, only 23 of them have been shown in their entirety without a Breaking News update interrupting some part of them. Also a Fun Fact: nothing about this is the slightest bit fun.

So today in the latest round of this they said they could see me at 1pm, which turned out to be more like 3pm, in a quest that ultimately found the new sensors they put in were transmitting on the wrong frequency. Fair enough. I feel a reflexive skepticism toward mass agreement on stuff. If I were part of the tire pressure sensor community I’m sure I would want to see what those other frequencies were all about.

They didn’t charge for fixing this, of course. The guy at the tire place thanked me for coming back. I mean, they’d thank me for coming in anyway. But this was that service-apologetic tone you would get where, like, the Genius Squad at Best Buy admits, “I guess I see how every step in the situation built on the one before but I’ve still don’t understand how setting up an HDTV stereo sound bar resulted in your goldfish being on fire. Would it help if I gave you a discounted copy of The Nut Job 2?”.

The guy from the work bay pulled my car up. He said it was all in good shape now. And he’d left the keys in and the car running because the battery had died and they had to jump-start it, so, better leave it running some.

Thoughts While Pondering The Year Without A Santa Claus, Plus Trains


What if Santa isn’t always cancelling Christmas because he’s kind of a jerk and instead he’s just wracked with the sort of Imposter Syndrome that my whole generation is dealing with all the time? Like, “This mouse wrote something mean in an upstate New York newspaper in September! A competent Santa doesn’t have to deal with issues like that! … And it’s snowing too? Oh I can’t even.”

Which I’ll grant is not all that deep an observation, but the alternative is to fret about the ways the rules of that snowfall magic seem to get tossed willy-nilly about in Frosty’s Winter Wonderland. I mean there’s something about just tossing in a snow-parson into things that seems dangerous. So let me conclude with this observation from Wikipedia’s page on Frost’s Winter Wonderland:

The engine on the train is a 2–4–2 or an American type steam locomotive. Locomotives of this wheel arrangement were used most common during the 1800s on American railroads, and from the 1830s until 1928, were given the name “American” in 1872, because of how they did all the work of every railroad in the United States. These types of engines have eight wheels (two leading wheels, four driving wheels, and two trailing wheels).

This means something. (It means I’m very tired.)

The Eighth Talkartoon: Barnacle Bill; and Betty Boop gets a name (it’s not Betty)


If the Fleischer Studios cartoons have any reputation in the current pop culture it’s “those black-and-white cartoons the animators must have been on drugs when they drew”. They always say this about stuff packed with weirdness and whimsy and more nonsense than is needed. It seems to reflect some need to make alien the mindset that does stuff purely for fun, as though intense play were unfit for the dignity of modern life. And like most reputations it’s overblown. Most of their cartoons are straightforward things with little fillips of weirdness because they had the time to fill.

So here’s one of the cartoons that isn’t an exception. It’s eight minutes of almost nothing but weirdness. This cartoon, originally released the 30th of August, 1930, was animated by Seymour Kneitel and Rudy Zamora, along with — Wikipedia says, anyway — Grim Natwick. And it’s kind of a weird one.

This is listed as a Betty Boop cartoon. It was on the eight-VHS Betty Boop collection I watched so often in the 90s. I imagine anyone with a clear idea who Betty Boop was would list this as one of her cartoons, even though she’s still in that dog-based model abandoned not soon enough. But the cartoon gives her a name, clearly and obviously, in Bimbo’s notebook: she’s Nancy Lee. Apparently “Betty Boop” is a rewrite, the way Tom Cat started out as Jasper. Huh.

Or it’s a character. The cartoon has a — well, plot seems like the wrong word. But it’s doing something. It’s playing out the folk/drinking song “Barnacle Bill the Sailor”. A cleaned-up version was a hit song of 1928 and again 1930. Bimbo, acting consistently with the screwball nature I talked about in Dizzy Dishes, sneaks off his ship. And then gets into character, I suppose, as Barnacle Bill. Perhaps Betty’s just playing the character of Nancy Lee here. It seems a little weird, but in 1935 the Fleischer studios would pretty much remake this as a Popeye cartoon, Beware of Barnacle Bill. And in that one Bluto is certainly “playing” Barnacle Bill.

But that’s plenty of fussing about Betty Boop’s “original” name. There is a lot going on in this cartoon. Nearly every moment is a weird visual gag. I wonder if this is a side effect of tying so much of the cartoon to the song. There’s not a lot to do visually if you stick to the lyrics of any version of the song “Barnacle Bill the Sailor”. One person sings four lines, and the other person sings four lines. If you’re going to make it visually interesting you have to pack in weirdness. So sure, Bimbo knocks on the door with his tail. Or he leaps into the sofa as though it were a pool of water. Or Betty/Nancy’s chairs sneak out of the room and a sofa takes their place. The front door shrinks in horror and hides when Barnacle Bimbo threatens to tear it open. The apartment door swallows him into the room.

Put aside, though, how packed it is with throwaway visual gags. Did you notice the camera angles here? There are all sorts of weird perspective shots. Some of them make sense, shooting Bimbo from far above when he’s talking to Betty on the second floor, or Betty from below when she’s talking to Bimbo down below. Being above Bimbo when he’s walking up or down stairs makes sense. But, for example, the opening scene doesn’t need the boat to be charging at the camera to read cleanly, even to allow the boat (and bird) to sing. They chose to start from a weird perspective. It’s easy to imagine these scenes being framed in boring ways.

Does the short have an ending? Yes, it does, and then it blows right past it. Coming to the end of a round of “Barnacle Bill the Sailor” is the sensible stopping point. Finding that Bimbo’s been hitting on Gus Gorilla’s girlfriend (I suppose?) makes great internal logic. It makes Bimbo out to be a bit of a jerk, but a screwball character tends to be a jerk anyway. And puffing yourself up as Barnacle Bill is choosing to embrace the jerkiness. When they redid this as Beware of Barnacle Bill they cast Bluto as Barnacle Bill, wisely realizing that as the only moral person in his universe Popeye couldn’t take that role. Also I wonder if this doesn’t justify Bimbo fearing Gus Gorilla in Dizzy Dishes. Surely the cartoons were in production simultaneously, at least at some point. Maybe the logic of who did what to who got mixed up. Or, yeah, maybe it’s just that the big hulking character is always the villain and the scrawny little guy is the protagonist.

And yet after this perfectly good ending the short goes on. We get a chase, and a nice ridiculous one. I guess it gets the short up to eight minutes, if that’s what they were going for. It does end with delightful weirdness. But it’s also the sort of strangeness-for-strangeness’s-sake that gets these cartoons their reputation. … Well, all right. A lot of these cartoons are really weird.

There’s some suspicious-looking mice at about 0:53 and 1:25 in the short, all scenes before Bimbo gets off the ship. It’s hard to pick a best blink-and-you-miss-it gag — there’s a lot to feast on — but I’ll nominate the ship walking into harbor and having sneakers on. It’s another odd little touch in a short that’s overflowing with them.

Statistics Monday: What November 2017 Did For My Readership


I apologize for running this so late, but I was dealing with car stuff Friday. I didn’t have the time, or the energy, or enough desire to not crawl into the gap where the old maple tree’s rotted away to curl up to go looking over my statistics. They’re probably close enough now.

Might want to curl up again, though. My readership took a pretty big drop in November. I was below 2,000 page views for the first time in three months, and below 1,900 for the first time since April. It was nearly more dire than that: only 1,805 page views, compared to 2,151 in October and 2,126 in September. I’m curious what if anything explains this. I can’t imagine it’s the story comics rotating into a less-popular phase. November let me update people on the goings-on in Dick Tracy, Mark Trail, and Mary Worth. The first has lasting “did I miss something?” moments, and the other two are maybe the ironic-story-comics-reads now that Apartment 3-G has stopped happening.

The number of unique visitors dropped too, to 1,049. This stays above the nice round number of a thousand, at least, although it’s the smallest monthly total this year. I guess it says good-ish things about the number of views per visitor, although I’m still startled by it.

The number of pages liked was down, but not nearly so much: 165 likes were logged in November. There were 184 in October, but only 142 in September. This is still above the median for the year. The number of comments was up, too, to 35 from October’s 22. It’s close to September’s 38, and this is the third-highest total for the month. I know that’s juiced, though, by people sharing the origins of their blog names after I explained the title around here. I can’t do that every month, unless I start making things up. So now you know what next Monday’s bit is going to be.

The most popular essays have been, as usual, comic strip coverage. Fair enough. None of my long-form pieces were even remotely popular in November. This was a bit startling. They were (nearly) all variations of the same premise, goofy this-day-in-history pieces, and apparently people weren’t having it. Well, I stand by the long tail, and that future generations will find them when looking up “historical events november 24” and wonder what the heck this is before going off somewhere else. And I rake in the page views. As for what was genuinely popular or even remotely wanted now:

Those what’s-going-on posts are from the first time I thought to do a summary of recent plot developments in the strips. There’s a paragraph at the top of each to explain that more recent developments are covered at this other link, but I suppose it’s hard to resist the appeal of a subject line that exactly matches what people are asking the search engine. Kind of sorry I can’t just shuttle them right along to the page that’s probably more relevant to what they need to know, though. Maybe I need to retitle story strip posts as I supersede them.

Now for the running of the big list of countries! I make out 68 countries sending me readers, if we accept “European Union” as one. There were 22 single-reader countries in November. And who were they? These:

Country Readers
United States 1354
India 65
Canada 60
Germany 38
United Kingdom 35
Philippines 20
Brazil 19
Australia 18
France 14
Indonesia 14
Sweden 12
New Zealand 8
Italy 7
Netherlands 7
Romania 7
Russia 7
Ukraine 7
European Union 5
Japan 5
Mexico 5
Turkey 5
Denmark 4
Guadeloupe 4
Hong Kong SAR China 4
Hungary 4
Singapore 4
Switzerland 4
Vietnam 4
Belgium 3
Bermuda 3
Estonia 3
Ireland 3
Malaysia 3
Peru 3
Portugal 3
Argentina 2
Armenia 2
Chile 2
Greece 2
Israel 2
Serbia 2
South Africa 2
South Korea 2
Spain 2
Thailand 2
Algeria 1
Austria 1
Bangladesh 1
Bulgaria 1 (*)
Cambodia 1
Cameroon 1
Colombia 1 (***)
Czech Republic 1
Finland 1
Jamaica 1
Kazakhstan 1
Kenya 1
Nepal 1
Norway 1 (*)
Panama 1
Poland 1
Puerto Rico 1
Slovenia 1 (*)
Taiwan 1
Trinidad and Tobago 1 (*)
Tunisia 1
United Arab Emirates 1

October had 70 countries send me readers, and September 65. So, things are wobbling there. There were 21 single-reader countries in October, down from 24 in September. Again, wobbles.

Bulgaria, Norway, Slovenia, and Trinidad and Tobago were single-reader countries last month too. Colombia’s been a single-reader country four months running now. I think they’re maybe going for Cambodia’s five-month record from this year.

The month started at 66,974 page views, from something like 37,460 unique visitors. If you’d like to be among them, thank you, I’d be glad to see something unique out of you. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but, sheesh, the car thing is still dragging out. I don’t have the energy to be appealing.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? September – December 2017


I’m glad to offer you kind readers an update about what’s going on in The Phantom. There’s two continuities at play in the strip, both written by Tony DePaul. This is an essay about the Sundays-only continuity, drawn by Jeff Weigel. If you’re interested in the weekday strips, or if you’re reading this essay much past December 2017, please look to the essays on this page. The Weekday continuity, and any later essays I’ve written about the Sunday continuity, should be right up top there.

And I also keep reviewing comic strips with mathematical themes on my other blog. I’m glad if you want to read that.

The Phantom (Sundays).

10 September – 3 December 2017.

My last recap of The Phantom Sunday continuity came near the end of the storyline “The Phantom Is Everywhere”. The Phantom Wiki says this was the 185th Sunday story, running the 26 weeks from the 9th of April through the 1st of October. I accept these claims. Also at some point over the storyline the Sunday artist switched from Terry Beatty to Jeff Weigel and I failed to point that out. I apologize to Beatty and Weigel.

The story was mostly wrapped up then, though. Three killers had escaped Jungle Patrol custody. The Phantom, relying on his intelligence network and drummers in the Bandar tribes, managed to capture them all the same night. Also to give them the impression he had captured them simultaneously, burnishing his reputation of being everywhere and timeless. Since my last essay the Jungle Patrol had found the three where the Ghost Who Walks left them. Guran covers up the bit early in the story where he knocks a Jungle Patrol officer unconscious, and reminds the Jungle Patrol about the yet another old jungle saying about how time is nothing to The Phantom. Hawa Aguda and Kay Molloy, women who years ago quit their humdrum jobs and joined the Jungle Patrol with the iconic declaration “I quit! We’re joining the Jungle Patrol!”, wonder if this might have something to do with the mysterious “John X” whom they suspect might be the Unknown Commander of the Jungle Patrol. (He is.)

With the 8th of October began the new story, the 186th, “The Rat Must Die”. The initial setting: Boomsby Prison, Bangalla’s spot for the most dangerous criminals. One is an as-yet-unnamed prisoner who looks like one part Daddy Warbucks, one part the closet monster from the end of The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. The warden laughs at Closet Warbucks’s proposed deal of his freedom in trade for the guy who was supposed to break him out of Boomsby. It’s not clear at this point the guy’s relationship to Closet Warbucks. My thought was he was someone hired to break him out, and who either reneged on the deal or who Closet Warbucks figured to double-cross on the way to getting out. It would be a kind of stupidly overcomplicated plot, but I could rationalize the logic. He’d either break out, or get buy his freedom by spoiling a break-out attempt. And if you’re not coming up with a stupidly overcomplicated plot you’re kind of wasting your superhero’s time.

[A Bid for Freedom ... ] Closet Warbucks: 'What are you laughing at? I know every crime he's planning! I can TAKE YOU to him!' [Meeting's over.] Guard: 'Warden has work to do! Move!' Warbucks: 'Y-you're TURNING ME DOWN!?' (As they walk down the hall, janitor listening. Warbucks: 'That stupid, lousy SUIT! I'll LEAD THE TEAM to my partner's door!' Guard: 'Yeah, yeah, MOVE IT!' Warbucks: 'You don't even have to give me a GUN!" Prisoner: 'There goes a real rat.' [ Nothing said in Boomsby stays in Boomsby ... Nothing ] (as prisoners pass word around.)
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 22nd of October, 2017. So I’ll return to my traditional role of talking about the art in captions rather than the text proper: this is a really well-composed strip. You know what’s significant here even if you don’t read the word balloons. They’re worth reading, since they paint such a sad picture of the Rat, but

Closet Warbucks’s attempted deal is the gossip hit of the prison. Pretty soon the guy — his ex-partner-in-crime, it turns out — gets word of the deal. And the prison janitor, another criminal who’s in the last 125 of his 1200-year sentence, send a note to Walker, Box 7, Mawaitaan. He quickly gets back the Consumer Information Catalogue, Pueblo, Colorado, 81009.

The letter brings out The Phantom, impressing me with his ability to separate valuable information from the noisy, messy volume of tips rolling in. The Ghost Who Walks arrives just as the ex-partner’s hit is on. A corrupt guard delivers a knife and opens the cell doors to a guy who smirks more than the whole cast of Funky Winkerbean, if such a thing is possible. The killer sneaks into the cell, draws his knife, and gets clobbered by The Phantom, who’s taken Closet Warbucks’s place on the bunk. The corrupt guard doesn’t fare better.

(Phantom holding his mouth over Closet Warbucks's mouth, in the dark.) [ The rat fights for air! But darkness awaits him ... A corrupt guard shames the uniform for dirty money.] (Guard letting out the assassin.) 'Step back! And don't forget what I said! Make a move on me and THE RAT won't die --- YOU DIE! Make it quick!' (Pushes the assassin into Closet Warbucks's cell.) 'And leave the shiv!' (The assassin approaches the bunk, where The Phantom has taken The Rat's place.)
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 19th of November, 2017. And this is another well-composed strip. The art isn’t monochromatic, but it evokes the sort of intense suspense that you can get from black-and-white thrillers. And it’s easy to tug my eye away from that final panel and its promise of action.

And there’s the action as of today. I don’t suspect we’re near the end of the story, not just because the last several Sunday-continuity stories have run at least a half-year each. But I’d imagine doing something about the ex-partner-in-crime has to be high on The Phantom’s agenda. No sense getting roused all the way to Boomsby just to foil one assassination of one failed prison snitch. And indeed, The Phantom told Closet Warbucks that he was taking this partner-for-freedom deal. Also maybe we’ll find out why Closet Warbucks wasn’t interested in selling out his partner before the trail began. We’ll see.

Next Week!

If all goes to plan it’s a chance to stop in again on Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. and learn all about how the Morgans are adjusting to life with — er, no, actually, it’s a surprising amount of text about comic-book art forgery and crazy exes and the physical infirmities that we all will endure if we live long enough. Join us, won’t you please?

Statistics Saturday: 30 Most Popular Words You Can Make With Horizontally Symmetric Letters


Because you asked for it! I swear!

  1. BOXED
  2. HICK
  3. BECK
  4. HID
  5. OX
  6. DOH
  7. XI
  8. HOD
  9. BOCK
  10. EX
  11. ID
  12. HEX
  13. COB
  14. KID
  15. DEB
  16. HOCK
  17. BED
  18. BID
  19. HECK
  20. BOD
  21. HOB
  22. DECK
  23. DICK
  24. BI
  25. DOCK
  26. BOX
  27. HI
  28. HE
  29. EH
  30. ED

Source: Michigan Place Names: The History of the Founding and Naming of More Than Five Thousand Past and Present Michigan Communities, Walter Romig, LHD.

In Which I Am Not Caught Up With My Tires And Stuff


Yeah so the attempt to get new tires went awry because of reasons that are threatening to also turn “buy new tires” into a fiasco. Waiting on results of that. So I don’t have the energy to put out my review of the November readership statistics or anything. Maybe soon. Meanwhile, I’ve come to consider that there was someone or some several ones who first sang the song that never ends and just goes on and on, my friends. The thing is if they said “some people started singing it” then they were being modest or maybe just disingenuous because they knew exactly which people were doing the singing. But fine, all right, maybe they were modest. But they have to have known what the song was. They were right there writing the song. At a minimum they have to have suspected strongly enough that anyone would find them culpable. Please see my enclosed description of the precise theory of the song’s creation timeline, omitted for clarity. Thank you.

Deflated


First, I apologize if this piece is rougher than normal. I have to put several hundred dollars into my car, through the funnel in the armrest that normally swallows up the iPod Touch. But the servicing takes time. And I have to try to make myself feel better about that, ideally by eating eighteen McRib sandwiches.

We were driving home from my love’s parents after Thanksgiving dinner, with four bags of leftovers packed in the hatched back of my car. I didn’t think much about the tire-pressure warning sign on the dashboard because my car is always throwing off warnings when it gets cold. I’d checked the tire pressure the day before and everything was fine. Then it wasn’t. The rear passenger-side tire burst open and started rattling and my love, as passenger, warned me: “[ Something I didn’t make out because I was looking at the rear-view mirror with disapproval ]”. Fair warning, though. We were right at an exit so I pulled off the Interstate and followed the bright lights to the large, well-lit, spacious parking lot of what turned out to be the Lion’s Den Adult Superstore.

A tire (mine) with a maybe ten-inch gash where the sidewall's come apart.
Yeah, so, I guess when I got my oil changed the dealership wasn’t just fishing around to see if I could be upsold into buying a replacement set of tires, and by their “I should look at this soon” they meant more like “We’re not all that sure we can legally permit you to drive home on these tires” and maybe I was missing some cues because of the distraction of HGTV people having silly things happen to their remodel.

They were closed, possibly because it was 2 am, possibly because it was Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, while we were waiting for AAA, three different carloads full of people drove in, looked at the front door, turned around and left again. Apparently the Adult Superstore underestimates their 2am-after-the-holiday foot traffic. They’re leaving money on the table, and I feel like there’s some slightly morally judgemental joke I could be making about that.

I didn’t go calling AAA right away, by the way. I’m confident that I can change a tire in my car myself. Three decades of car-based experiences have not turned up any successful cases of my changing a tire myself. But I’m like 80 percent sure I know the theory. It’s the tires that won’t cooperate. The problem this time is I couldn’t get three of the lugnuts off. They wouldn’t budge.

So with two lugnuts off we had to call AAA. While my love walked to the front door of the Adult Superstore, to see if they had a posted street address, I found out the phone operator at AAA had a low-key Thanksgiving since her dog just got out of surgery. Well, she asked how I was, and I told her “pretty good up to a mile ago,” which I still think was a solid line. And I only felt weird not asking her how she was so I learned her dog needed surgery and it all makes sense, all right? Anyway, her system had trouble finding the Adult Superstore. My love reported there wasn’t any address listed on the building, but that they did have a Christmas tree in the vestibule. “Surely you mean an X-mas tree,” I answered. Since my love did not punch me in the gut and walk away never to be seen again, I know it’s true love.

I could see the AAA guy’s truck pulling off the Interstate. It stopped, though, and the guy called us to verify our location. I got out of the car and waved and he said yeah, he thought that was us. It’s like he had some reluctance to pull up to the lone car in the Adult Superstore parking lot, with the motor running and the headlights off, at 2:30 am the morning after Thanksgiving. Or something.

He had power tools to undo the lugnuts and I’m proud to say he couldn’t get the lugnuts unstuck either. So I’m not a lifelong failure in tire-changing, see? It’s the tires. He declared, in another great line, “I’m not done giving up yet,” and took out a couple wood blocks. With them he could set up a rickety, ad hoc scheme of blocks leaning against each other, to brace the axis of the tire iron while he jumped on it. He only had to do this one or two times for each lugnut, and he didn’t slip and break his neck doing so. Also I needed to offer him the adaptor to go from the tire iron to the lugnuts like four times before he realized what I was offering. I must have been saying something wrong.

Anyway, after we had that sorted out it was like two minutes to finish the tire change. And now the interior of my car smells like leftover caramelized onion mixed with burnt-out flat tire. The second part of that isn’t what I would pick, but we have to go with the life we have.

Overall, this seems to me like it was a weird flat-tire experience. But I also don’t see where I did anything to make this weird and I’d accept advice on dealing with this better in the future. Thank you and good night.

Minor Update on the Closing


So about that hardware store that’s closing. They’re still closing. But as I understand it they’re busy enough at the closing sale that they’re taking on employees who, I guess, know they’re even more temporary than usual.

But also apparently they’re figuring they can keep the store open through Christmas Eve. And now I’m all delighted thinking of them holding the place open, minutes before 5 pm in that dark-of-winter cheery seasonal gloom, watching the last couple people rush in saying, “I need something for my mother! Do you have any billhooks left?” And they have, but it’s not returnable. Just saying.

(Also, billhooks are great. I do not know that I have seen my love happier than when using our closing-sale billhook to hack down dead rose bush branches. If you want one, I know a place that’s open through the 24th. A billhook is a thing you can get from a hardware store. Well, I can. I know a place.)

The Seventh Talkartoon, And The One Anyone Knows Anything About: Dizzy Dishes


Finally maybe back on track. I’m up to the seventh of the Talkartoon series. It’s arguably the most famous one. It’s one I’ve already reviewed, because it’s the debut of Betty Boop. But, heck. I’ve seen the cartoon many times. What’s one more? From its original release the 9th of August, 1930, here’s Dizzy Dishes.

Bimbo’s looking different from how he did in his debut in Hot Dog. It’s a common fate of characters in those days. It’s a small change, mostly: his head’s black rather than white. Or maybe I was wrong in Hot Dog and Bimbo was supposed to be the cop. As mutations go this isn’t a big one. Betty Boop would change much more between this, her first prototypical look, to the iconic image and then a bit more to her final appearance in her own cartoons.

Bimbo does a fair job driving the action this short. Everything that goes on relates to how he’s the waiter and apparently chef of this cabaret and not all that interested in being either. It’s a strange choice. I mean, it’s amusing, yes. Fair enough he should find a flood of rhyming orders annoying. That he goes the long, ridiculous way around actually preparing roast duck? That he puts it off for a dance number? The internal logic is weird. Granted that Gus Gorilla (if the Internet Movie Database is right in identifying him) looks menacing. How is he going to be less dangerous if he’s served his roast duck? How does hacking a chopping block into a locomotive engine help matters any?

And I guess the answer has to be that Bimbo, this cartoon has a personality. And that personality is the zany screwball. He’s not as fast-paced or as wild as black-and-white Daffy Duck. But try imagining this cartoon done with that early Daffy Duck as the waiter. It kinda fits, doesn’t it? … And then it makes sense that Bimbo doesn’t even try to placate a menacing-looking customer. A screwball doesn’t work if he cares.

The cartoon devotes a lot of its time to a song, like all these shorts have done so far. And that gives what everyone agrees is the debut of Betty Boop. She hasn’t quite got the form that would have her eighty years later still be put on bumper stickers I’ve never seen on an actual car. Really, her original, Grim Natwick-designed model is kind of hideous. Bimbo’s smitten, although I can’t say that’s due to her inherent charisma. It seems like any singer-character put in this role would do just as well. Her voice is appealing enough, but I might think that because of later associations. There is a weird little irony that in Betty Boop’s debut Bimbo steals nearly all the chances to sing “boop-oop-a-doop”. I’m not sure anyone could look at this and realize, yeah, that singer’s the character who will take over this series and then get her own cartoon series after that.

But the cartoon’s got a decent flow to it. There’s fewer dull segments, and few bits where the cartoon is clearly just repeating an amusing gag until everybody in the audience gets it. There’s a suspiciously Mickey-like mouse back in this cartoon, applauding at about 4:30 in. The roast duck laying an egg that hatches into another roast duck (about 4:10 in) is such a weird moment. When I showed a friend this, back in 1998 when we only had episodes on videotape — nobody had solved the problem of sharing video online back then — he was horrified enough he nearly refused to watch the rest. You don’t get cartoons like that anymore.

And as long as I’ve got Betty Boop under discussion: I just discovered that Comics Kingdom has started reprinting the Sunday installments of the Betty Boop comic strip. They started this months ago; I hadn’t heard is all. I hate to admit, but the strip — about Betty Boop’s foible-filled life as a movie star — is pretty dire. But at least you can make out where the jokes are supposed to be. I have my suspicions that possibly Max Fleischer didn’t actually write and draw every panel.

The Counting Thought


We’ve reached the season that Meijer’s self-checkout cash registers start giving out gift receipts. But they’re a little sharper this year. They will give a gift receipt for a set of surely-made-by-adequately-paid-workers-in-environmentally-safe-conditions-as-far-as-I-know art supplies meant as a Toys for Tots donation. They didn’t give a gift receipt for a pack of toilet paper and three bars of Ivory soap. They were correct in this. The soap is totally my gift to myself and my excessive hand-washing compulsion. I’m just glad they’ve got the system understanding this.

What’s Going On In Mary Worth? September – November 2017


I know, I know, I’m the Internet’s leading resource on recapping the plots of story strips like Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth. Believe me, I’m doing my best to keep my modesty at an appropriate level. My professionalism compels me to warn you: this is a recap written at the end of November 2017. Stories move on, though, and if it’s much past November 2017 these stories won’t be more than deep background for you. If it’s sometime after March 2018 when you read this, then (all going well) I’ll have another, more-recent-to-you story summary available. You should be able to get it here. Thanks for looking to me for help with exactly what my subject line says.

Also, if you’re interested in my talking about mathematical comic strips, I have a review of last week’s comics from that perspective. One story strip, this time, although it’s not a syndicated newspaper-grade comic so it doesn’t get included here.

Mary Worth.

4 September – 26 November 2017.

We had a real, proper, soap-operatic situation going on last time I checked in on Mary Worth. Dawn Weston, working for the Local Medical Group, is outright smitten with Dr Ned Fletcher. Medical assistant Jared, himself a-smitten with Dawn, discovers that Dr Ned is still married. He reports this to Dawn, who doesn’t want to believe it. Also I’m not sure whether Dr Ned is open with his wife about his side thing, or whether he’s lying to her about what he’s doing those late nights at the office. I suppose he’s lying to her. The Mary Worth universe can support adultery. No way can it support poly relationships. (Plus, even if it did, Dr Ned’s a serious heel for lying to Dawn about his status.)

Dawn: 'You told me you were divorced ... and I fell for you ... believing that!' Dr Ned: 'If I told you the truth, that I'm still married ... I KNEW you wouldn't give us a chance! And as we got to KNOW each other better ... I fell deeper in love with you. I KNOW you feel the same about me, Dawn. My being married DOESN'T have to CHANGE what we have!' (As Dawn flees the restaurant.)
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 10th of September, 2017. So not to show off the two years in middle school and two years in high school that I took French, but Google Translate points out how “L’escargot Mensonger” means “the false snail”. So points to Moy and Brigman for the small points like that. It’s a nice bit of thematic awareness.

At a L’escargot Mensonger dinner, Dawn asks and Dr Ned fesses up: he is married. He doesn’t think that has to change things, because it’s never the guy who lied about his relationship status who does. Dawn runs out on dinner and into the gardening-tool-handling hands of Mary Worth. Mary advises sticking to principles like “not dating married men”, even if it costs the job, and that a man who’s “available and doesn’t trouble her conscience” will be along. Since Dawn was only working for the summer and it’s already a September strip this is a financially viable decision to make, at least. Dawn quits, and tells Jared that he was right all along, and maybe they’ll talk or something later. Mary shows up with muffins and hugs and the confidence that comes from knowing yeah, she’s still the center of the strip.

But there’s other people in the comic. Wilbur Weston left Charterstone and threatened to leave the strip altogether some time ago. He’s got a new gig, interviewing survivors of disasters around the world about their experiences and about the sandwiches they eat now that they’re not dead. And his story returns the 2nd of October. He FaceTimes Iris, his girlfriend back home, with the news he’s staying out a while longer. He’s met someone in Bogota he’s got feelings for, and you know, it was her idea they put their relationship on pause while he globetrotted some more.

Iris is devastated and falls into a long self-inquisitive spiral about whether she could have saved their relationship. Mary Worth, writing Wilbur’s “Ask Wendy” advice column, pontificates on the idea that love is all around, no need to waste it, you might just make it after all, thank you for being a friend, sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, and brother Dick was lost at sea without his water wings; now he is an angel, and he tries to do amazing things. But that’s all just for the audience; there’s no hint Iris reads the column or knows this advice is out there ready to be heard.

Zak: 'When ZAKIKS exploded in the gaming world ... I created my company, the Zakiks Studio, which is doing Gangbusters!' Iris: 'A new look, a new business ... Zak, I'm impressed! I always knew you had it in you!' Zak: 'Aw, thanks. Iris, though it all ... I thought about you, and I'm glad you're proud of me!' Iris: 'I am. And so happy for you! You deserve it!' Zak: 'You deserve to be happy, too. Are you?' Iris: 'I experienced a recent breakup. 'Happy' hasn't been in my vocabulary for a while.' Zak: 'I'm going to change that.'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 5th of November, 2017. So, yes, since spring Zak has had a lot of good life dropping onto him. But what’s he doing being aware of “Gangbusters” even being a word? For crying out loud the radio show ended sixty years ago and this is a guy who didn’t recognize “Here’s looking at you, kid” as a reference to anything. Can the Soap Opera Personality Transplant Fairy instill in people an awareness of old-fashioned catchphrases and slang terms? Well, yes, that’s how the Personality Transplant Fairy works. I just think Zak would say whatever Millennials say for “going like Gangbusters”, if anyone knows what that would be. Oh, ‘Zakiks’ was the game he made, and I got the vibe it was supposed to be a computer game that took off, but the text never actually commits to that. It might be a trendy board game or something.

Anyway, while walking around in a good healing mope, she runs across Zak. You maybe remember Zak. We last saw him early in 2017, taking some classes with Iris at Local Community College. Iris liked him, what with his being attractive and having a pleasant, natural dopiness, but she decided she was waiting for Wilbur. And hey! What do you know? Zak is doing well, having made a game that got popular and buying a briefcase and a car and everything. And he’s up for coffee and dating, so, lucky them.

Meanwhile in Bogota, Wilbur’s been busy having a life, and who saw that coming? His relationship with Fabiana has gotten quite serious. Wilbur’s taking dance lessons and buying her Green Lantern rings. He’s embracing his new life, and her, with an enthusiasm previously reserved for pork roll. She’s consistently looking not quite at him. But he doesn’t notice this until one day when he arrives for salsa lessons early and finds Fabiana deep in the arms of her cousin Pedro. Wilbur begins to suspect that they aren’t even cousins, and that he’s been a fool. There’s no salsa here. There’s not even any chips. Poor guy.

Wilbur: 'Do you believe me now when I tell you I love you, my love?' When Wilbur buys Fabiana an expensive piece of jewelry. Fabiana: 'Wilbur ... I LOVE it! I LOVE it!' Wilbur: 'I like making you happy.' Fabiana: 'I'm VERY happy NOW, mi amor!' Wilbur, thinking: 'Although my BANK ACCOUNT my not like it as much ... Eh! What's money anyway? Compared to AMOR? And I have SOMETHING in the works that will make you even HAPPIER ... '
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 19th of November, 2017. Can’t lie: after the L’escargot mensonger bit of slyness I’m disappointed the jewelry store is just named what Google Translate tells me is “jewelry”. Also wasn’t the dubiously-sourced quote of the week something Milo Bloom told Opus one of the times the penguin tried dating? I’m pretty sure Moy and Brigman could quote Milo on that one.

And there we are. It’s easy to suppose the situation is exactly what it looks like. Fabiana hasn’t been showing having a conversation with Wilbur that wasn’t about how he could buy her things, for example. But it also seems early in Wilbur’s little story segment here. After breaking up with Iris on the second of October his story went on the backburner. The Wilbur-Fabiana thing has only had primary focus since the 13th of November. It seems like there should be time for some twists and turns yet. On the 26th as Wilbur storms out Fabiana does chase after, swearing it isn’t what it looks like and begging her love not to go; so, what the heck. I’m willing to see. Plus, you know, after the last bit of Wilber-Iris-and-Zak storytelling we got CRUISE SHIPS. I don’t know what can match them, if anything, but it’s a good omen going forward.

Dubiously Sourced Quotes of Mary Worth Sunday Panels.

Auto Surgeon message sign: Knowledge Speaks But Wisdom Listens -Jimi Hendrix.
Oh yeah, so the car care place down the corner has had this as the quote for a couple months now. It’s not telling nearly as evocative a story as the usual auto-care-sign messages go, but it really feels Mary Worth-ready.
  • “Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t going away.” — Elvis Presley. 3 September 2017.
  • “And if that isn’t the truth, it would be a lie.” — Colin Mochrie, 10 September 2017.
  • “Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.” — Victor Hugo, 17 September 2017.
  • “The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love.” — Hubert H Humphrey, 24 September 2017.
  • “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” — Albert Einstein, 1 October 2017.
  • “Let go. Why do you cling to pain?” — Leo Buscaglia, 8 October 2017.
  • “Love can sometimes be magic. But magic can sometimes … just be an illusion.” — Javan, 15 October 2017.
  • “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” — 1 Corinthians 13:13, 22 October 2017. OK, I’m like 60 percent confident this one is legit.
  • “Love is like the wind. You can’t see it, but you can feel it.” — Nicholas Sparks, 29 October 2017.
  • “There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.” — George Sand, 5 November 2017.
  • “Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching.” — Satchel Paige, 12 November 2017.
  • “Money can’t buy love, but it improves your bargaining position.” — Unknown, 19 November 2017.
  • “Life is full of surprises.” — John Major, 26 November 2017.

Next week!

I return to the challenge of doing these recaps without fear or favor, despite knowing that Tony DePaul reads them, as I get to his and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity. A new storyline had started shortly after my last update, so this is a much-needed refresher.

Statistics Saturday: 89 Most Popular Words You Can Make With Bilaterally Symmetric Letters


  1. TAXI
  2. WHY
  3. OVUM
  4. WAVY
  5. MOUTH
  6. XI
  7. THOU
  8. MIX
  9. WAX
  10. IVY
  11. YOUTH
  12. VIM
  13. WAXY
  14. HIT
  15. UH
  16. VOMIT
  17. A
  18. WHOM
  19. TUX
  20. AH
  21. YOW
  22. MOW
  23. HA
  24. HAM
  25. OW
  26. WHAM
  27. YOU
  28. TV
  29. WHOA
  30. YUM
  31. HAT
  32. VOW
  33. THAW
  34. UM
  35. OX
  36. MU
  37. WHAT
  38. HAW
  39. YO
  40. OM
  41. HAY
  42. MI
  43. MAXI
  44. VITA
  45. MY
  46. VIA
  47. WHO
  48. HOW
  49. AM
  50. MA
  51. MAW
  52. OH
  53. HO
  54. HUT
  55. MAX
  56. TWO
  57. TOW
  58. WOT
  59. MAY
  60. HI
  61. YAM
  62. OVA
  63. AVOW
  64. THY
  65. AT
  66. TAU
  67. VAT
  68. HUM
  69. TAX
  70. I
  71. OHM
  72. IT
  73. TI
  74. TO
  75. THO
  76. HOT
  77. TOM
  78. MOT
  79. AW
  80. HIM
  81. TOY
  82. YAW
  83. WAY
  84. AX
  85. WHIM
  86. OUT
  87. AY
  88. MIXT
  89. YA

Source: Symmetry in Mechanics: A Gentle, Modern Introduction, Stephanie Frank Singer.

Poking Around The Body Shop When You’re Getting Old


You know you’re becoming an adult when you go browsing at the Body Shop, and you spend some time looking over the newest stuff, but. Yeah, the webbed hands are always kind-of desirable. Wireless ear hotspots. The extreme-heat-resistant tongue, just great for those most extreme coffees. Laser nostrils. In-wrist bag-of-holding pouches. A detachable belly button that you can leave at home when you’re afraid of losing it.

And then you go down and put “non-squeaking knees” down on your wish list. That’s when adulthood is getting to you.

You know you’re really old when you don’t even care that they’ve got finally got eyestalks this year that work right.