Statistics Saturday: Some Terms and Conditions


  • Bilinearity.
  • Differential Gearbox.
  • Enthalpy.
  • Fondant.
  • Twenty-Foot-Equivalent Unit.
  • Usufruct.
  • 0.6% of the United States covered by snow.
  • 39.84% of the United States in drought this week, up 1.6% from last week but down 6.1% from last month.
  • Moon: waning crescent.
  • Visible satellite shows deepening cumulus towers.
  • Wave height of two feet, period of four seconds.
  • Windy conditions could develop across the northern Great Basin and Northwest toward the end of next week.

Reference: The Genie in the Bottle: 64 All New Commentaries on the Fascinating Chemistry of Everyday Life, Joe Schwarcz.

Also Here’s One of My Dumber Giggles for the Week


So, when I write up these Mary Worth plot recaps I copy out the dubious inspirational quotes first. And to do that I start by copying the last quote from the previous plot recap. And then I delete most of the words from that quote, so I can start typing a new one in just by double-clicking on the one word and typing. This week, this resulted in my getting this ominous declaration from the creator of one of the most beloved comic strips of all time:

Screenshot of a text editor showing a dozen lines all reading ``Don't.'', attributed to Charles Schulz, and given different dates.
I’m sure Charles Schulz said “don’t” at some point in his life, I just suppose it probably wasn’t at one-week intervals like this.

It feels weirdly threatening, like he’s worried I’m thinking about drawing Snoopy’s nephew Stretch or something.

MiSTed: Safety First (part 11 of 16)


Welcome back to more MiSTings, bundled under the treatment of Johnny Pez’s “Safety First”. This part is deep into a Usenet rant explaining the past history of galactic warfare in the solar system and how it blew up the planet that was between Mars and Jupiter and all that, but the Galactic Federation of Light is trying to work on that. This seemed like a sensible thematic match to Pez’s story, which has the terraforming of Venus as its setting.

I have no idea why I put scare quotes around Waffle House, a restaurant I’d never been in when I wrote this MiSTing. Agway’s a farm and landscaping supply company in tne Northeast. The line about Hungary isn’t a complete non sequitur. It references a joke among mathematicians and physicists that Hungarian mathematicians and physicists are extraterrestrials. The sneering at Star Trek: First Contact is slightly me being all hip in disliking what the rest of the fanbase likes, but I do sincerely dislike a lot of the things baked into its premise. The line about “a pretty darned Cretaceous period” is a straight lift from a Dave Barry column where he talked about dinosaurs. The flea market in Englishtown, New Jersey, looms large in my childhood memories because it always seemed bigger and emptier and dustier than it should have been and they didn’t have as many comic books as you’d think. The flea market with the comic books was the Collingwood Flea Market, on Route 33.

Here’s the previous installment, in case you want to catch up on where this started.


> Most of her formerly abundant water reserves drained into
> deep crevices

JOEL: They’re not wrinkles, they’re smile lines.

> formed by the attacks and mixed with gases and burnt
> topsoil remnants. This sticky mess remains.

CROW: Coating the floor of every "Waffle House" in existence.

> It contains microbes and
> other organic substances

TOM: Like, uh, goo.

> that, eventually, will be able to recreate her
> former glories.

JOEL: It’s a real fixer-upper, I can tell you that.

> Mars is much more encouraging.

TOM: [ As a voice-over ] Good self-esteem makes even hard jobs seem easier.

> It teems with life

JOEL: And its music scene is just way too cool.

> and
> needs only to recreate its complex atmosphere

TOM: Why be complex? Keep it simple, guys.

> and restore its formerly
> enormous supplies of surface waters and topsoil.

CROW: So, we’re going down to Agway, but we need your credit card.

> We presently are
> carrying this out in well thought-out stages.

JOEL: And those memorials we were leaving to the people killed in the war? Did more research. Turned out they were all jerks and deserved it.

> We do not wish to alarm
> you,

TOM: But there’s something crawling up your leg.

> nor do we desire to fail to achieve our most elaborate plans.

CROW: We must not fail to succeed!

JOEL: If we fail to succeed we will have failed!

> Therefore, we have begun a method to increase surface waters

TOM: That just means they’re leaving the faucet running.

> and to
> return Mars’ craggy surface back to usable topsoil.

JOEL: With this, the Garden Weasel and the Garden Claw.

>
> "The key to this activity lies in making the best use of Mars’
> continuing water cycle.

CROW: It turns out we were wrong to use it to make Jell-O rivers.

> Presently, her waters are trapped in
> underground streams, lakes or oceans

JOEL: Inlets, channels, bays…

TOM: Seas, puddles, rivers…

CROW: Straits, whirlpools, and glasses at the restaurants.

> or encased in glacier caps located
> near her North and South Poles.

TOM: We heard there’s one at the East Pole but nobody knows where that is.

> Our task is to fill her atmosphere with
> water or dust,

JOEL: They’re pretty much interchangeable.

> thereby reworking her surface.

TOM: And readying her for the firm but loving touches of our farm hands.

> This procedure has
> produced several surface areas where a degree of life has returned.

CROW: But it all closes up after eight p.m. It needs some work.

> Moreover, her atmosphere is gradually able to retain the more stable
> temperatures that will allow life to exist and flourish.

JOEL: Just having all life put on sweaters turned out not to work well.

> To further
> these efforts, we have established a large presence upon your nearest
> celestial neighbor.

TOM: Tim Allen?

> At this time, we maintain over 16 of these bases

CROW: Seventeen, if you count Hungary.

> and plan to add yet another six very soon.

JOEL: Four in the National League, two in the American.

> The largest underground base
> is greater in area than the whole of Los Angeles County.

TOM: Million-year-old aliens reconstructing Venus after intergalactic warfare? That doesn’t even come close to explaining Los Angeles.

> Created in the
> 1950s

JOEL: To serve you better!

> and enlarged to its present capacity in the late 1990s,

CROW: When they passed that new Highways and Extraterrestrial Bases bond referendum.

> it serves
> as a headquarters to coordinate our first contact with you.

TOM: We’d like to apologize for that Star Trek film. We didn’t realize it was going to be that dumb.

>
> "As Mars moves into position to be ‘terra-formed’,

CROW: It has to wait in line for its turn.

> we also are
> evaluating her sister, Venus, and judging how best to proceed.

JOEL: Robots are *definitely* not the way to go.

> Our
> answer has been the recent hyper-activation of her volcanic cycles,

CROW: Because it really needed the molten lava to be perfect.

> which we are using to begin the process of preparing her surface and
> her atmosphere for life.

TOM: Just trust us. That’s the way it works.

> Although to your scientists, the organic
> chemicals we are now introducing may appear inert,

JOEL: They’re not inert, they’re just underachievers.

> to ours, they are
> indispensable to our next step.

TOM: Mudpies!

> This leads us to emphasize how vital it
> is that we work closely with a planet’s Spiritual Hierarchy.

CROW: The Pope’s in charge of Venus?

> Venus’
> divas have long kept alive the sacred energies of her flora and fauna,

JOEL: The spirits of Venusian squirrels are here!

> which they showed us when we began to plan the process of ‘terra-
> forming’ her.

TOM: They wanted to put in a bay window, but we think it’ll just leak. We’ll figure it out.

> In size and appearance, Venus is closest to your present
> home-world.

JOEL: It’s kind of a home-away-from-home-world.

> Her existing decay will be quickly redressed in the year
> that follows your first contact with our ships and personnel.

TOM: As soon as we cash in our tech stocks for a quick couple billion dollars–

>
> "Until then, we have decided simply to prepare your worlds for
> their coming transformation.

CROW: We think Earth will look much better once it evolves into a Raichu.

> An interesting example exists on the
> former world of Maldek.

TOM: Come with us now on an exciting tour of the former world of Maldek!

> Originally, it was over 29,000 miles (more than
> 46,000 kilometers)

CROW: 2,038 million centipedes!

> in diameter. Like your world,

TOM: But much more minty fresh…

> Maldek contained many
> oceans, continents and lakes.

JOEL: And pool halls.

> Its atmosphere consisted of a three-
> layered firmament

CROW: The ice cream, the bananas, and the whipped cream.

> that, along with a specially designed atmosphere,
> kept its surface conditions nearly semi-tropical from pole to pole.

TOM: The weather was nice, but the constant luau music drives you crazy.

> Unlike your world, it became a planet

JOEL: Oh, is that what we should do with worlds?

> on which reptiles and various
> species of dinosaurs achieved high levels of sentiency.

TOM: Plus their Roman Empire didn’t fall, and their zeppelins never went out of style.

> It reached a
> level of diversity in these creatures roughly equal to that experienced
> in your world during the late Cretaceous period.

CROW: Which gets its name from the fact that it was a pretty darned Cretaceous period.

> However, they became a
> society that was encouraged

JOEL: By being given cute plush toys at their employee reviews.

> and later exploited by the dark forces

TOM: Like the Wesayso Corporation.

> that
> hurtled into your reality about one million years ago.

CROW: And bonked your worlds on the head.

>
> "Part of our task has been to monitor the movement of large
> asteroids throughout the solar system.

TOM: When that got boring we just started racing them.

> Some originated at your solar
> system’s birth.

JOEL: Others we got at the flea market down in Englishtown.

> Most resulted from the galactic wars

CROW: And a couple of stragglers just followed where all the cool asteroids were going.

> that destroyed
> several of your solar system’s moons and utterly destroyed Maldek.

CROW: Maldek was the sensitive one.

> The
> dark forces heavily armed this large planet

JOEL: I’m picturing big, Popeye-type arms growing out of South America.

> and made it their
> headquarters.

TOM: They just liked dinosaurs.

> For forces of the Federation of Light to move into this
> galactic sector,

CROW: They’d need somebody to help them with the couch.

> Maldek first had to be neutralized and a large battle
> planet was assigned to the task.

JOEL: By covering it with baking soda.

> It succeeded, but only by blowing
> Maldek into literally millions of pieces.

TOM: Whoops!

CROW: Well, heck, who needs *another* life-sustaining water planet with many advanced species of sentient dinosaurs anyway?

> Its moons were dispersed to
> other worlds in this solar system

JOEL: If they hadn’t found new positions they’d have had to be laid off.

> and its destroyer was assigned to
> duty as a protector.

CROW: They were doing such a good job keeping the planets safe before.

[ to continue … ]

What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Why did Helen Moss have to leave? April – June 2022


A warning before we start. The current-as-of-June story in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth includes a woman who’s been hit, hard enough to need hospitalization. The story is not (so far) about that. It’s backstory, the reason that physician assistant Jared Mylo would get to know her. I don’t want people caught unprepared by sensitive material, is all.

So this essay should catch you up on Mary Worth for the middle of June 2022. A more useful essay is probably here if you’re reading this after about September 2022. And if any news about the comic strip breaks I’ll put it at that link, too.

Mary Worth.

3 April – 18 June 2022.

Toby Cameron was teaching art at the Santa Royale Community College. The crush her student Cal has on her, and some chance encounters on the campus raise suspicions in the mind of Helen Moss, Community College lifer. There’s nothing going on, but she threatens to tell management what she imagines is.

[ As Toby Dreams ... ] Onlookers chant 'Toby and Cal, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g, first comes love, then comes marriage ... then comes Toby with a baby carriage!' As she dreams she appears in a tree with Cal, and he reaches in to kiss her, and she falls, or leaps, from the tree. In the last panel she's fallen out of bed, waking herself, as Ian sleeps soundly beside her.
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 10th of April, 2022. Did not know Mary Worth even made Welsh rarebit!

Toby has nightmares about may happen if Moss tells on her. So that’s another wonderful Mary Worth Dream Sequence, with visions of her losing her job and her husband and having schoolkids taunt her for k-i-s-s-i-n-g. Her fear may seem exaggerated. But remember in Funky Winkerbean how Susan Smith had to leave her job at the school when she, an unattached adult woman, kissed Les Moore, a widower attached only to Dead Lisa Moore. But surely that was a special case: how could coworkers respect someone to chose to interact with Les Moore? (Don’t cry for Smith. She got to leave Funky Winkerbean entirely after the thing we were told was a scandal somehow.)

She wakes from one nightmare to another: how to avoid telling her husband, who loves and respects and supports her, about the thing making her most miserable. She visits Mary Worth, who advises she tell her husband, who loves and respects and supports her, about the thing making her most miserable. And it turns out Toby only needs one week and one visit to do the obvious and needed thing.

Toby: 'In the past Ian did have a student who got too friendly, but I'm not sure how he'll feel about being in the same situation!' Mary Worth: 'Are you afraid he'll react badly?' Toby: 'I'm afraid he'll think less of me if I don't handle this properly!' Mary Worth: 'He'll want to help. *Talk* to him, dear.'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 15th of April, 2022. Toby’s referring to a story back in winter 2018-2019 where a student pretended to be interested in Ian to get a better grade. It’s a neat subtle bit of continuity that in this 2018-19 story Ian accepted the idea a student was interested in him and never considered the matter any more deeply than that.

Ian’s not worried about a student having a crush on Toby. He is shocked to hear of Helen Moss’s suspicions, though. To be specific, he’s shocked that it’s Helen Moss. In a sequence that seems like it’s setting up more depth than it does, we see Moss looking through her college yearbook. It has photographs of her in her student days and Ian in his young-instructor days. As she looks at this Ian enters her office. They embrace, and he tells her this has to stop.

And so it does. We don’t see or hear anything of what they say, not directly. In a Mary’s Muffins Meeting, Toby summarizes. Back in Ian’s days at Franklin (I don’t know if that’s the name of a college or the town the college was in), he flirted with Moss, a student, and they became close. Then he left, for a new job, and never imagined how much he hurt her. And … that’s it? Toby guesses that Moss realized Ian was too clueless to realize he was leading her on. This seems like a charitable assessment, but I suppose we all need some charitable interpretations.

Also I’m not sure that “person who is vigilant about instructors not taking advantage of students” is necessarily the villain. Yes, she was wrong about Toby. But her base stated concern was reasonable and she did see (coincidental) circumstances suggesting Toby might be giving Cal special treatment. I’m not even sure she knew Toby was connected to Ian Cameron, which would have made clear whether Moss was bugging Toby particularly or whether she’s like this for anybody.

[ When Mary suggests that Ian visit Toby at work to discourage her student Cal ... ] At the end of her class Toby sees Ian visit. He goes up to her, and they hug, and kiss. Maddie, a student, says, 'Ewww! That's disgusting! How can she kiss that old guy?' Cal: 'I know, right? So gross! ... Hey, Maddie, I'm going to grab some food. You want to join me?' [ Meanwhile, Helen Moss is also moving on ... ] We see her leaving an office apparently empty except for an old yearbook on the desk.
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 15th of May, 2022. I know I talked about this last time but the design of that Santa Royale Community College sign, with “College” so small, is so weird it makes me think it must be referencing some real, specific thing. Anyway, I am genuinely disturbed that Helen Moss is abandoning her yearbook, although since the book says “USC” and we’re told she was involved with Ian when he was at “Franklin” I guess … it’s a yearbook from a different school?

But that’s settled. So Toby worries, what if Cal tries hitting on her again? At Mary Worth’s suggestion she has Ian stop in at the end of her class sometime, when they can kiss where everybody sees. Cal is horrified to learn Toby is into olds, so asks the nearest available woman of similar age to have a food with him instead.

The next we see Helen Moss she’s packing her things, and thinking of how she’s thankful for the opportunity to learn, and that she only has “memories … some of which I’ll leave behind”. Having to leave the Santa Rosa Community College seems a bit harsh for being mistaken about the wife of your 30-years-ago-crush flirting with a student. But, you know, that Susan Smith rule. It’s impossible to continue at a workplace once someone learns you’ve had emotions with another person. Or it could be I’m mistaken. There’s a lot we haven’t seen on-screen here. Could be hear leaving is a coincidence and she happened to be moving to a bigger school.


With the 22nd of May, that story closes. The 23rd starts the current story, about Dawn Weston and her boyfriend Jared Mylo. And this is a story which has as a key character a woman who’s been hospitalized because of someone beating her. I’m setting the rest behind a cut tag for people who do not need that in their recreational reading.

Continue reading “What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Why did Helen Moss have to leave? April – June 2022”

Just So Nobody’s Caught by Surprise at the Solstice


So here in the Northern Hemisphere we’re looking at the summer solstice tomorrow, or today if you’re reading this at the right time, or sometime in the past if you’re reading it after that. Anyway. Please remember that while this is the longest day of the year, it is not the day when sunset comes the latest in the year. This phenomenon may seem confusing if you don’t know this piece of information: Astronomers have always hated drive-in movie operators, and vice-versa. I hope this clears matters up for you.

60s Popeye: Spoil Sport (sorry, I don’t know who’s spoiling what sport here)


This week brings us back to Gene Deitch-made cartoons. So, as traditional, I don’t have more detailed credits than that. The Internet Movie Database credits Stepán Konícek for music, although I have to say a lot of it seems like stock background. In any event, from 1961, here’s Spoil Sport.

There is something fascinating in these 1961 Gene Deitch-made shorts. They have felt more ambitious, bigger in scope, than most of the King Features 60s cartoons. This is a case in point. Popeye disappoints Olive Oyl with his new scooter being one of those little foot-powered toys you see in cartoons and Back To The Future. Brutus thrills her with his new sportscar. She goes riding with him, that goes badly, Popeye rescues her. It fits a particular style of Popeye-and-Brutus-compete cartoon, often done in theatrical cartoons. Making it about a great car versus … not … is also evocative of the 1936 short The Spinach Roadster, a solidly fun one.

I think it’s unfair to call this a remake of The Spinach Roadster. But it’s riffing on the same melody. There’s no competing with the earlier cartoon for animation smoothness or detail. The short makes some wise choices to compensate. There’s the magazine pictures Olive Oyl’s looking at to start the short. Or her long wardrobe of identical dresses that she needs to pick from. And, in the most impressive animation choice, highlighting the danger of going too fast on this mountain road with a bit of parallax scrolling, showing the cliff’s edge and the valley far below. This last is a particularly good use of the limited animation budget.

There are shortcomings. Brutus’s sports car jumps over Popeye in a way that looks like a bizarre animation error. It’s easy to imagine the 1930s version of this, where it’s clear this is done on purpose to set up Popeye’s evaluation that “that’s not a car, it’s a grasshopper!” But Popeye’s scooter faling into an open manhole, and popping back up without his movement being interrupted? That’s a joke that plays as well as the Fleischers would have done.

Brutus, angry, is in a sports car sitting on top of a mountain peak. Olive Oyl's in the car beside him. Popeye has set a fence post out to reach the peak, and he, on his scooter, reaches his hand out to help Olive Oyl out of the car.
I get that Popeye doesn’t want to eat his spinach until it’s really dire but this might have been a case to eat his can, dig underneath the car, and toss it back to the main road. Am I wrong?

As Brutus drives up the mountain he’s going too fast for the road width. That’s given; he’s a cad and a villain, at heart. But they don’t crash off the road until after Olive Oyl grabs hold of Brutus’s head. She does that a bunch this short, including when Popeye’s trying to rescue her. Later, her scarf gets in his face so he drives the scooter off the cliff. That’s all within the bounds of normal carton character choices, doing things that make the situation worse. A thing missing, that would have been there in the theatrical version of this, is Brutus’s heel turn. He doesn’t try grabbing at Olive Oyl and forcing her to snuggle or whatever it is he thinks he’s doing. My guess is this reflects some rule about how villains can treat women in made-for-TV cartoons rather than limits on time. It does cause a shift in the blame for the ultimate mess, though. It’s not one that spoils the cartoon. Brutus still gets to be the heel, punching out a Popeye who’s rescuing him from a mountain peak. And essential to Olive Oyl’s character is that she’s high-maintenance. I just note how it changes the impression of who to blame here. Could be that Olive Oyl is a more nervous passenger than Brutus was a driver, and if she didn’t grab his head they wouldn’t have gone off the edge.

Another point is this is a well-edited cartoon. Most of these 60s shorts have indifferent pacing and timing. Here, each joke or plot point moves right to the next quickly. Some of these shorts have dialogue where each line sounds like an isolated island in the middle of the ocean. It’s jolting to hear the characters talking to each other so. The only long, slow piece is Popeye pedalling his scooter up all four loops of that mountain road, and that’s a shot that’s funnier the longer it goes on.

I haven’t done a systematic study. My impression is that I’ve enjoyed these 1961 Deitch cartoons, on average, more than any other bunch of these shorts. I’d love to know if the shorts had more time, or money, or less pressure, or what that’s given them an edge.

Statistics Saturday: Some People It Is Incorrect to List as “the Fifth Beatle”


  • George R R Martin
  • That Guy From Oasis
  • Beatles cartoon producer Al Broadax
  • Pelé
  • St Francis of Assisi
  • The Archies
  • Erasmus Darwin
  • Grover Cleveland
  • Tommy Smothers
  • 1982 Senior PGA Tour Champion Don January
  • Pope Sixtus IV
  • Alan Arkin

Reference: Over Here! New York City During World War II, Lorraine B Diehl.

MiSTed: Safety First (part 10 of 16)


We’re now past all the real Isaac Asimov fanfiction content of this Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction treatment of Johnny Pez’s “Safety First.” If you’d like to read the whole thing, every part should be at this link, sooner or later. We’re now into a miscellaneous bunch of shorts, all of them rants posted to various Usenet groups that drew my attention around the time that Pez published his Isaac Asimov fanfiction.

There isn’t much that needs explaining here. The Battlestar Galactica reference alludes to the opening credits of the original series, where the Cylons blow up a large floral decoration reading “PEACE”. The new or “good” series hadn’t yet started or, I think, been announced when I published this back in 2001. I don’t know, still haven’t caught it yet. Charlie Brown’s ZIP code is — arguably — 95472. There was a one-week sequence in September 1963 introducing a kid, 5, whose father had been broken by all the numbers intruding on life and changed the family name to the ZIP code. The room for argument is that we don’t know whether the family had just moved there or not. 5 never did much after that first week, although he’d make appearances in the background through to 1983(!). He’s the kid in the yellow shirt doing the weird head-sideways dance in A Charlie Brown Christmas. His sisters 3 and 4 are the ones in purple dancing next to him, also with a weird head-sideways movement. 5 also brings out the boom box for It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown.


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

> >Newsgroups: sci.space.history
> >Date: 08 Aug 2001 07:17:19 GMT

CROW: 8-8-1. Very organized.

> >Organization: AOL http://www.aol.com

TOM: Everyone who didn’t see *that* coming?

> >Subject: Past GALACTIC WARFARE in OUR Solar System !

JOEL: A love story.

> >Message-ID: <20010808031719…@ng-fq1.aol.com>

TOM: And monsters from the Message-ID.

> >Xref: rpi sci.space.history:85191

CROW: Isn’t that Charlie Brown’s ZIP code?

>
>
> The surface conditions on Venus and Mars,

CROW: Need work.

> the asteroid belt,

TOM: Is too tight. We should let it out a couple of notches.

> the
> extreme tilt of Uranus’ axis,

JOEL: It’s not so extreme, it’s just way out there.

> the mess of Miranda,

TOM: The untidiness of Raoul.

> the strange orbit of
> Pluto,

JOEL: The wacky antics of Donald and Daisy…

> etc., can all be summed up in two words:

TOM: Poor posture!

> GALACTIC WARFARE !

TOM: That was my next guess.

>
> "Update by Sheldan Nidle

CROW: For Meineke.

> for the Spiritual Hierarchy
> and the Galactic Federation

JOEL: And all the ships at sea! Flash!

> 6 Cimi, 9 Pop, 10 Caban

TOM: And two hardboiled eggs.

CROW: Honk!

TOM: Make that three hardboiled eggs.

> (August 4, 2001):
>
> "Greetings!!

CROW: Howdy!

TOM: Friendly suckers, aren’t they?

> We come with more interesting topics for our
> dialogue.

CROW: Now, Fred, you be the annoyed wife who’s trying to get to work, and Carol, you be the determined meter reader who won’t go away and… go!

> As you know, many intriguing changes are taking place in your
> reality.

JOEL: Until very recently the existence of Tom Green would have defied natural law.

> One item of particular interest involves our activities on
> Mars.

TOM: Did you see us waving?

> Over the past few galactic years,

CROW: We’ve been having astro-fun!

> we have been preparing the
> Martian surface and its atmosphere for a return

JOEL: Oh, they must want the deposit back.

> to its original
> condition.

TOM: And then vacuum-seal it in a plastic bag and store it in a cool, dry location and in forty years sell it for a fortune!

> Further, we have also expanded our base on Venus

JOEL: By instituting protocol "Eat More Fudge."

> and
> reactivated the electromagnetic qualities of her inner core.

CROW: It’s a sensitive coming-of-age tale in the inner solar system.

> Presently,
> these two worlds are examples of the extremes

TOM: Planetssss… EX-TREME! REME… reme… reme…

> often left behind by the
> galactic wars

JOEL: Was this before or after the Clone Wars?

> that long have ravaged this section of our galaxy.

TOM: We could really use a couple of Lensmen around to clean up the place.

> We
> look, with great anticipation,

CROW: Through a high-powered telescope whenever you’re undressing.

> upon the grand peace brought about by
> your awakening.

JOEL: We have been disappointed by your snooze buttons.

> As a result of these events, your galaxy has been
> unified

TOM: So that’s why there’s that web of sticky stuff running from here to Vega.

> and a long period of peace and growth has begun.

CROW: But only if you stop picking at it.

> On Mars and on
> Venus,

JOEL: And with our franchise outlet in Esconaba.

> we are constructing a new memorial to peace

TOM: To replace the ones the Cylons blew up in the opening credits.

> to signify the
> arrival, at long last, of an unparalleled moment in our common
> experiences!

CROW: The very moment everyone realizes how overrated Stephen Spielberg is!

> To help you to better understand, let us examine the
> history of these worlds

TOM: And how they would have gone differently if the whole time England had been underwater.

> and our plans to correct it.

JOEL: Our plan is to travel back in time, move a can of beans from one shelf to another, and this will have ripple effects that blink the galactic wars out of existence.

>
> "Approximately one million years ago,

CROW: As of next Thursday.

> the dark forces of Anchara

JOEL: The dark forces of Anchorage?

> savagely invaded your solar system,

TOM: "Your" solar system? When we bought it it was "our" solar system.

> leaving Mars with a very thin
> atmosphere

JOEL: It’s a small-boned atmosphere.

> and destroying her vast oceans, lakes and streams.

CROW: But her SeaWorld exhibits were left intact.

> And, by
> burning off Mars’ topsoil, these attacks left behind a planet totally
> inhospitable to life.

TOM: Frankly, we suspect the invaders were just being jerks.

> Any remaining life went underground

JOEL: That’s where the cooler jazz bars were anyway.

> and has
> stayed there, in its vast interconnected caverns,

CROW: Inspiring thousands of episodes of Star Trek…

> for nearly a million
> years.

TOM: Somebody should tell those guys it’s OK to come up now.

> Just beneath her surface lie the remnants of Mars’ formerly vast
> reserves of salt and fresh water,

JOEL: It was a vicious fight over Mars’s taffy mines!

> initially exploited by her dark
> conquerors for almost 100,000 years.

TOM: Then they moved on to Perrier.

> At that point, the forces of the
> Galactic Federation of Light

CROW: "Galactic Federation of Light, I’m here to read your meter."

> drove the dark invaders from your solar
> system.

JOEL: And they can’t come back because they should’ve arranged for a ride before they left. We are *not* operating Mom’s Galactic Taxi Service.

> Although we were initially appalled at the levels of
> destruction endured by your solar system,

TOM: It made for some really cool movies.

> the Main Federation Council,
> after some consultation,

JOEL: Declared the Klingons were way cooler than the Cardassians ever were.

> decreed that both Mars and Venus should remain

CROW: Which is good, since they weren’t going anywhere.

> in their current devastation as memorials to victims of the attacks
> upon your solar system’s four water worlds.

TOM: Starring Kevin Costner.

>
> "Only two water planets, Maldek and Mother Earth,

JOEL: Father Earth had nothing to do with it.

> retained their
> water atmosphere and life-giving topsoil.

CROW: So Mars and Venus would be fine if only somebody brought some sod there?

> Attacks on Venus severely
> distorted her electro-magnetic fields,

JOEL: Messing up TV reception all over the block.

> causing her to overheat

CROW: Should’ve checked the radiator fluid before they left.

> and
> quickly turning her leftover, acrid atmosphere into a hot, vile
> concoction.

TOM: [ As a voice-over ] This is what poor self-esteem does to you.

[ to continue … ]

What’s Going On In Mark Trail? What is Bee Sharp’s Deal? March – June 2022


Professor Bee Sharp is, in Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail continuity, some manner of pop scientist. Rusty Trail’s a big fan. They’ve had a couple of interactions. Most have been centered around “Cricket Bro” Rob Bettancourt, childhood nemesis of Mark Trail.

We’ve been seeing more of Bee Sharp since his lab coat got chewed up by goats, part of Bettancourt’s NFT-minting scam. This story, Bee Sharp’s appeared a couple times. Once was in giving Rusty Trail some advice about seeking out cryptids. Another has been to reveal that Bettancourt’s current big NFT scam is, in fact, a scam, to a bunch of the people Bettncourt’s been scamming.

The effect (and I don’t know how much of this is Rivera’s intent) is Bee Sharp seems to have a deal rather like Mark Trail’s. That is, that he’s going about having adventures in bringing nature, or maybe science, to the public, and fighting evildoers. But also being much more successful in getting to be Internet Famous and all. Kelly Welly has a similar life, in Rivera’s telling, doing nature reporting stuff to greater acclaim than Mark Trail does. It makes good storytelling sense to have Mark Trail be the underdog even in his own field. And having several rivals opens more possibilities, although so far, Kelly Welly’s barely featured.

This should catch you up to mid-June 2022 in the comic strip. If any news about Mark Trail breaks, or if you’re reading this after about September 2022, you may find a more useful article here. And now to the strip.

Mark Trail.

27 March – 12 June 2022.

Mark Trail and family are in Oregon! For Rusty, it’s the chance to try and catch the Seaside Specter, a kind of aquatic Bigfoot. With the guidance of a graphic novel about another cryptid, the “Surfsquatch”, he goes looking and mostly scares himself. Professor Bee Sharp happens to be at the comic book shop, and offers some advice. (One senses Sharp, like many of a particular nerd genre could not get enough of cryptids before growing up. I bet he wanted Cecil Adams to explain the 17/23 Correlation too.) If the Seaside Specter is covered in seaweed, as reports say, he’s likely to be near salt water. If he feeds at night, as reports say, he needs protein. Surfsquatch, Rusty learns, turned to crickets to stay alive. He thinks of shrimp and his father’s odd, meme-worthy declaration that “crickets are land shrimp”. And has access to an abundance of cricket protein powder, courtesy Rob Bettancourt. Rusty does not (as of this week) find any cryptids. But he’s got an angle that would work if anything could.

At the comic book shop. Rusty: 'Professor Bee Sharp! My favorite Bikbok Star!' Sharp: 'Greetings, Citizens! I'm in town doing an event for Earth Day! I came to talk about all the weird and wonderful things that make up our planet! I couldn't help overhearing ... Did you know that in Oregon, Bigfoot sightings are often black bears standing or walking upright?' Rusty: 'But I'm not looking for Bigfoot. I'm looking for the Seaside Specter. Can you help, Professor?'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 22nd of April, 2022. Sharp’s entrance to the story was set up the day before with the narration box, ‘A wild professor appears!’, and there’s a similar message when Sharp meets up with Mark Trail later on. I’m amused, even though I don’t play the genre of video games this references.

For Mark Trail, it’s become a working holiday. His father, Mark “Happy” Trail, teamed his trail-mix business up with “Cricket Bro” Rob Bettancourt and his brother, “Crypto Bro” Sterling. Why would Happy Trail be working with someone who pushes NFT scams? Beyond that Happy Trail got to know the Bettancourts when he was estranged from his son, and they needed a father, and you trust the people you like.

There’s more alarming news. The NFTs are some of where they get money. Most of it comes from logging, a business that exists in that awkward space of being necessary but also an environmental hazard. Some good news though, too. The Bettancourts take Mark Trail to the Wings Of Love rehabilitation center, a bird wildlife refuge. They donate some of their profits to support the place. It’s another nice touch, shading the Bettancourts so they aren’t as cartoonishly evil as your Jack Elrod-era story might have done. But … a couple computers are cheap, hard as it is for wildlife rescues to afford them. Is this the Bettancourts using some spare change to greenwash their business?

Happy Trail: 'Mark! The bird is named Joyce Kestrel Oates! Isn't that just adorable?' Mark Trail, reaching his phone up to snap a picture of the Crypto Brothers: 'Hold still! Let me get a picture.' Narrator: 'Mark spots the Crypto brothers taking an urgent phone call. What could it be?' Sterling Bettancourt: 'Hey, uh, Mark? You're a nature dude, right? You know what to do with a lumber mill catches fire?' Narrator: 'This situation just heated up!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 16th of April, 2022. Oh, hey, I think this is the first Attack of Nature since James Allen was doing the comic. I should reset the counter.

There’s little time to investigate. The Bettancourts’ lumber mill is on fire. Mark Trail rapidly deduces the problem: beavers. Oh, you may think of beavers as providing adorable videos the zoo tweets as coming from their “branch manager”. But they’ll cut down trees that are too near power lines. Or cut down power poles, mistaking them for trees. And that can cause fires. The Bettancourts don’t know what to do about the immediate problem besides putting out an anti-beaver press release. Mark Trail and Happy Trail take the lead in evacuating the workers. Happy Trail gets to a radio tower to give directions. Mark Trail — given his father’s compass and camping scarf, a symbol of reconciliation so obvious even I understand it — is able to navigate to the electrical control station and power things off. With the humans out of danger, fire-fighting can get going, and the disaster’s soon not.

Narrator: 'Mark and his Dad are trapped behind a live power line!' Lumberjacks, also behind the live power line and the fire: 'For Pete's sake! A downed power line here in the woods? Where even trees can be conductors? This is a pickle!' Mark Trail: 'There should be a way to shut off the main electricity safely so those men can escape.' Happy Trail: 'Mark, I can show you the floor plans, but the road to the electrical control station is on fire! It's too dangerous!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 2nd of May, 2022. So I want to highlight this strip as representative of Rivera’s development as writer. She’s never been shy to have reasonably complicated storylines, with several independent threads and somewhat more complex emotions involved. But she has been embracing some touches of deep, essential Mark Trail squareness. In the first panel, loggers, caught in a fire aggravated by a long series of managerial blunders, are crying out things like “For Pete’s sake!” and “This is a pickle!” Elsewhere you get characters talking about things as “malarkey” (a word I’m warming to, as it connotes to me not just that someone is spreading nonsense but not even trying to spread good nonsense). The dialogue and the narration boxes are less stodgy than they used to be, as note the references to Internet memes that turn up in them. But they are keeping some of the stylized writing that made Mark Trail an ironic favorite of so many people who’d go on to consider it a sincere favorite.

You may wonder how the Bettancourts needed advice to evacuate workers from a forest fire. The company’s poorly run, the loggers explain to Mark Trail. No fire safety plan, the most relevant thing here. They turned to Happy Trail, the only person who’d even listen to complaints about unsafe working condition. But Happy Trail doesn’t own the mill; why is he in their business? Mark investigates his father.

The Bettancourts get a half-pipe built in the woods, part of preparing a party for some kind of NFT scam launch event. Mark Trail barely follows this when Bee Sharp appears. Sharp has evidence that the NFTs are a scam, with any actual money from them embezzled from the lumber mill. Sharp is there to disrupt Crypto Bro’s event and save the participants from being swindled. And getting revenge for that time Rob Bettancourt had a goat eat his lab coat. I’m not clear why Bee Sharp tells Mark Trail of his plans, except maybe to force Trail into high gear in clearing his father’s name. But I don’t see where Sharp would know anything about that. It may be Sharp was just gloating, as one will, about the chance to do good by being a chaos agent, and it happened to give Mark Trail some needed initiative.

Mark Trail: 'Professor Bee Sharp, why would you mess with the crypto event? That's crazy?' Sharp: 'I prefer to say I'm buggin'. It has to be done. The crypto bros are scammers! I have proof on this flash drive.' Mark Trail: 'Proof of what?' Sharp: 'The crypto and NFTs are worthless! Their only income is embezzling the Sterling log mill! Everyone at this crypto event is in danger of being swindled. They have to know!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 26th of May, 2022. Now you might think that it’s a pretty poor businessperson who’ll run a viable business like a logging mill poorly just to embezzle money to pump an investment scam. And yet every business you know is rolling out the NFT plans they started forming four months ago when it was just everybody not pitching an NFT scam warning that it was a scam.

As best Mark Trail can work out, his father ended up in that trap where when authority is absent, command flows to whoever competent is nearby and doesn’t shake it off fast enough. Happy Trail doesn’t seem to have investments in the lumber mill or the NFT scams. Or any documented management role. People just know he can tell the Bettancourts to straighten this out. Happy Trail also doesn’t seem to know what an NFT is. He explains to his son that they’re nothing but cheap promotional giveaways for cricket protein bars. He’s baffled by the idea someone would think a monkey picture could be worth anything. Or why it’d be dangerous if Bee Sharp shares his fraud accusations at the crypto event, as “nobody fights over computer games”.

The big day arrives, and it’s a good party. Rusty Trail even talks to a couple skater girls, and they have something to talk about. It’s cryptids. Bee Sharp turns up, though, to get to the DJ booth and slip some hard-hitting investigative journalism in to the EDM mix. I can’t tell you how he imagines this will turn out, but (as of Wednesday), it hasn’t yet.

Sunday Animals Watch!

  • The Northwest Rainforest, 27 March 2022. It’s a good idea; we should have one.
  • Evolutionary Carcinization, 3 April 2022. Whether it’s a good idea or not, we have it.
  • Industrial Logging, 10 April 2022. We could do a better job with this, really.
  • Beavers, 17 April 2022. Or we could turn it over to the beavers, that’s an option.
  • Porcupines, 24 April 2022. Not mentioned, but fun to know: porcupines are born with hair (like guinea pigs, and are rare among rodents to do so). It stiffens up into quills in a couple days.
  • Oregon Wildfires, 1 May 2022. We kind of have to have them too, but we could make it less of a disaster if we tried.
  • Cricket Farming, 8 May 2022. Jules Rivera seems to think insect-eating is likely to become a non-novelty in Western diets and here we part ways.
  • Bigfoot, 15 May 2022. I mean, this would be so cool, right?
  • Lady Beetles, 22 May 2022. Look, there was no way to stop an invasive species of aphids except bringing in invasive lady beetles, that’s just now nature works, right?
  • Beavers, 29 May 2022. They just thought they heard some running water around you and that maybe they could put a stop to that.
  • Sunscreen, 5 June 2022. It’s a really good idea and yes, of course we’ve turned it into other species’ problem.
  • Spiders, 12 June 2022. They’re not just for having other people do the superheroics anymore!

Next Week!

Dubious quotes and questionable relationships! Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth gets some love from me, at least. If all goes well, which would be a nice change of pace.

I’m Late Writing Up Mark Trail This Week, Sorry


Sorry for the delay but things ate up the time I’d have spent writing. It happens.

It’s all unrelated to this, but I wanted to say, you know, this may look funny but it’s actually dangerous. A flock of inflatable flamingoes can skeletonize a tenth-generation Honda Civic hatchback in under two minutes.

Photograph of a car parked in the driveway. Several inflatable flamingo pool rings are around: on the car's hood, on its windshield, on its roof, and a large one behind the car, another.
Did not know flamingos grew up to be double-decker bird toys.

Judge Parker and The Phantom look odd because Mike Manley isn’t drawing them


Just passing on some news for readers of Judge Parker and The Phantom, weekday continuity, who didn’t see the news already at Daily Cartoonist. Mike Manley, who ordinarily draws both, has some health issues not shared with us. This, I hope, is a temporary matter while he recovers and that he’ll be back soon. I don’t have information yet about who the substitute artists are, and will pass them on when I can.

Tony DePaul offered that it has been a “rough couple of weeks” for the strip, but this does not mean Manley will be away only for a few weeks. And he says little about Manley’s condition, noting that it’s Manley’s business to share. So far as I am aware, Manley has not shared anything specific. Francesco Marciuliano, who writes Judge Parker, has not posted anything relevant on his blog.

[ While waiting at the cottage house, Neddy finally hears from ... ] Neddy answers the phone: 'Sam?! How did the talk with the Mayor go?' Sam: 'Where's Abbey? Did she get back yet?' Neddy: 'Uh, yeah. A few minutes ago. She's in the main house.' Sam: 'I need to talk with her. I need to tell her everything.'
Francesco Marciuliano and unnamed artist’s Judge Parker for the 13th of June, 2022. The things Sam needs to say are that he’s got the news that the footage showing Abbey setting fire to her B-and-B was faked, but he had thought it plausible that she had. So this is a conversation you would want to not have over the phone. A bunch has happened since my last plot recap a couple weeks ago.

Those looking at DePaul’s post should be aware it starts with his eulogy to a friend, and be ready if they are not emotionally ready for that. There’s also his discussion of hitting a deer on the highway, and the wreck it made of his car, without injury to him or his family. After that serious news, though, he discusses some of the current weekday story in The Phantom, and a reminder to read with care. We did learn Mozz would deceive The Phantom to keep the legacy going, after all. DePaul also writes of what makes Ghost Who Walks stand out among superheroes. It’s not that his superpower is being better-trained than a human with 24 hours in a day could be. It’s that he likes who he is and what he does.

In the first panel Mozz starts telling The Phantom of his prophecy. The second panel is positioned to be within Mozz's word balloon. In the prophecy what appears to be Captain Savarna rides on horseback to a Bandar guard. She says, 'I've found him, haven't I? Take me to him!'
Tony DePaul and unnamed artist’s The Phantom for the 13th of June, 2022. DePaul, in his blog, mentions that we the readers see something different from what The Phantom hears from Mozz. That is, that we’re seeing more detail and particularly more thoughts of people than Mozz could be sharing with the Ghost Who Walks. This might answer the question of how Mozz could know the thoughts of individuals, particularly those who die without communicating to others, if they aren’t satisfied by “is in a prophetic vision”.

As I get news about The Phantom I’ll post it here, and as I get news about Judge Parker I’ll post it here.

60s Popeye: Disguise the Limit, somehow *not* Private Eye Popeye


For the second cartoon in this bundle, King Features offered the full credits. Which is odd since this is a Gene Deitch-made cartoon; apart from his name and William Snyder’s we don’t get any credits. The Internet Movie Database offers no insight about who offered the story or animation for 1961’s Disguise The Limit.

I have mentioned mentioned I have no idea how King Features Syndicate chose what cartoons to bundle up where in their YouTube channel. There must have been some deliberation to put two Popeye-the-detective shorts next to one another. I don’t know whether the lack of a third reflects their not having another Popeye-the-detective short. (I do find that Paramount Cartoon Studios made a 1960 short with Disguise The Limit as title, but as far as I know the only common elements are voice actors. There’s also episodes of Courageous Cat And Minute Mouse, Kwicky Koala, Darkwing Duck, and That’s So Raven with the title.)

The introduction sets up another cartoon of Popeye and Brutus competing over a job. In this case, a gorilla’s escaped the city zoo, and they called a detective agency, as one will. Apart from Brutus flirting with Olive Oyl about his plans for the reward money we weren’t told existed, we don’t get that. Instead, once things get going, it’s a mistaken-identity farce. Popeye-and-Brutus competing is an always solid premise. But a good madcap mistaken-identity farce holds a more special place for me.

Brutus and Popeye put on gorilla costumes to go to the zoo and catch the gorilla, as one will. Olive Oyl insists Popeye should dress as a female gorilla, something achieved by putting on a hat “with ribbons yet”. It’s silly, yes, but it also makes the mistaken-identity stuff possible. It almost reads as a joke about how cartoon design treats female as a declension from the male, marked by accessories like hats and perfume. I don’t know that this joke was intended. But I’m amused by it even if it wasn’t put in on purpose.

A gorilla holds Olive Oyl in his arms; she's trying to squirm his way out. Popeye, dressed as a female gorilla (you can tell as he has a hat with ribbons) taps the gorilla on the shoulder.
I have to wonder if Popeye and Olive Oyl saw this as a welcome return to the good old days here.

I like the idea of this cartoon a good bit. Whether it succeeds has to depend on your patience for how everybody gets confused about which gorilla is which. Brutus punching Popeye’s hat off and it happening to land on the actual gorilla makes enough sense for a cartoon for me. Reasonable people can disagree. I’d like the action to have been a little faster, and maybe for one or two more rounds of the characters losing track of who’s a gorilla and who’s in a costume. Maybe if Brutus’s gorilla outfit looked like the others and he wore some prop. But either of these might have made the short too complicated for the intended audience. (Although every time I watch Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July I realize I’m not young enough to understand Winterbolt’s scheming anymore.) Or just demanded too much screen time.

The short has a couple beats that sound like that classic old Popeye muttering, but promoted to front-line dialogue. Like, Popeye planning, if the reward money turns out to exist, to “buy a new hat, I suppose”. Or after noticing the gorilla “bent the bars like they were butter” declaring “We’ll look for a gorilla with butterfingers”. The response doesn’t make sense except as riffing on some already funny words. I like that sort of dialogue, though, and want to encourage cartoons that have it.

Statistics Saturday: The Alphabet In Order Of Its First Appearance in _We Didn’t Start The Fire_


  1. H
  2. A
  3. R
  4. Y
  5. T
  6. U
  7. M
  8. N
  9. D
  10. O
  11. I
  12. S
  13. E
  14. C
  15. J
  16. P
  17. F
  18. W
  19. L
  20. G
  21. X
  22. B
  23. K
  24. V
  25. Q
  26. Z

Reference: Uniforms: Why We Are What We Wear, Paul Fussell.

How To Use An Old-Style Rotary Telephone


I mean this as a service for those of younger generations. I don’t mean to tell you how to dial a phone number because that’s not a challenge. The Phone Company, back in the day, worked really hard to make sure people could work out how to use a dial quickly. I mean, there’s a dial with numbers on it, and it’s easy to turn the dial one way and hard to turn it the other. There’s only like two things to try and one of them is “run away from the phone”. Also, every single surviving Boomer has already done a video challenging every single existing Millennial or Gen-Z person challenging them to dial a phone number. So the younger folks have seen how the dialing works and are annoyed their elders keep trying to explain this. What I want to communicate is the hard part. That’s the rules about how to use this dialing power. So here they are, the rules for how you dialed, pre-cell-phone:

  1. Never ever call someone before 8 pm because that’s when the calls got cheaper.
  2. Never ever call someone after 9 pm because calling that late can only mean there’s terrible news.
  3. If you need to phone someone who’s in a different time zone, I’m sorry, we never worked out how to do that without breaking one or both of the other rules. You have to send them a postcard or something.

That’s all the important stuff, though. Oh, oh wait. One more.

  1. If you get the answering machine, they might have some funny message to prompt you, like maybe they say “Hello” and pause and then say, “Gotcha, you’re talking to a machine” or maybe they even bought some music bit, like, a band playing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with someone singing “Nobody’s Home” with the melody. In this case you can leave a message but you have to start out by saying how you just hate talking to a machine. I don’t know why, that’s just the rules.

All right, so, that should have you set. Good phoning, next time you’re in like 1988 for some reason.

MiSTed: Safety First (part 9 of 16)


At last I start the second half of my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction treatment of Johnny Pez’s Isaac Asimov fanfiction “Safety First”. It begins with answering the question of how can I have this much more to do when I’ve already finished Johnny Pez’s Isaac Asimov fanfiction “Safety First”. The idea — put shorts after the feature — is directly imitative of that time on the show that the movie ended “early” and they got some more shorts to do. It also draws on that time the Mads didn’t say what the movie was until after the short was done.

Foundation And Its Friends here must be the highest-concept host sketch I ever wrote. Probably that I could ever hope to write. Condensing Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series into one sketch and then doing that in the form of a Rocky and Bullwinkle episode? Madness, but a good sort of that.

And challenging. First because there are a lot of words in the series, even if (as I do here) you only worry about the classic Trilogy from the 1940/50s and then Foundation’s Edge, the early-80s follow-up. There were drafts of this much longer before I learned that it’s okay to leave stuff out.

The second challenge was fitting in enough puns. I have a slightly higher-than-average tendency to make puns, and the Jay Ward idiom requires so many more. For a long while I was blocked, with a better premise than I could write. My friend Rob Rice, an author and filk-writer, would come to my aid with a long e-mail of Isaac Asimov-themed puns. Most of them I ended up not finding a place for in this sketch, although a good number got used in a later sketch. This caused him needless hurt and I regret that.

A third challenge is I had to ask the reader to do more work than usual reading the script. Many of these are slant puns, where you have to depend on the actor pronouncing things between the original word and the reference. That’s not much problem for a performed piece — and putting things in a Boris Badenov voice gives you a lot of leeway for pronunciation — but when it’s just text on the page? I ended up doubting my own writing, and including in brackets prompts to cue the reader what the joke was supposed to be. Maybe I should have trusted that people would work it out, or decide they don’t care and move on. But part of me sees these MiSTings as scripts, and a script would note to the actor when the intended pronunciation is important.

Anyway, as you read this, if you have no idea what Magic Voice as Bill Conrad is speaking about, trust that it’s some plot point from somewhere in the first four Foundation books. (Eg, there’s a line there about ‘Filial piety’, and that character’s story has an encounter with a customs officer for the planet Filia.) An exception: that Anderson Cooper line references his early-2000s reality show The Mole. Also, Asimov’s Foundation books have very little to do with the Robot stories that Johnny Pez’s fanfiction was based on. (They share a universe in a very loose continuity.) But the Robot stories are basically a long string of logic puzzles as stories and you can read them in any order or skip any without missing anything. The Foundation stories have an overall narrative, and that’s needed to give the spoof any shape.

Also, somehow Mystery Science Theater 3000 never did a host sketch where they imitated a Bullwinkle episode. How is that possible? Wouldn’t you have bet money that, especially in the Joel era, they’d have done at least one of those?


[ SOL. DESK. JOEL is close to the camera; fiddling with something off-screen. GYPSY, CROW, and TOM SERVO mill about, with scripts. TOM wears a silly, oversized moustache. ]

JOEL: All right… Bill Conrad sequencer up and running…

MAGIC VOICE: [ With a nasal voice, like the narrator on "Rocky and Bullwinkle" ] Testing, test… sibilance… one two three… [ keeps counting ]

JOEL: [ Jumping back towards the desk ] Perfect! All right, everybody, places and it’s on in five.

[ CROW, JOEL, and TOM hide behind the desk; GYPSY slips off stage left as MAGIC VOICE stops counting and clears her throat. ]

MAGIC VOICE: Last time you’ll recall psychohistorian Hari Seldon had discovered the Galactic Empire was about to fall.

[ JOEL, wearing fake sideburns, pops up, and speaks to the camera. ]

JOEL: I told them if they leave the Galactic Empire there it’ll fall.

MAGIC VOICE: Working quickly he started a Foundation to build a new and better Second Empire.

CROW: [ Popping up ] Hi there!

JOEL: And a second, just for good measure. (Ssh! It’s a secret!)

MAGIC VOICE: Soon after the First Foundation found itself isolated, surrounded by little barbarian kingdoms and struggling for survival. Mayor Salvin Hardin went to face the danger.

TOM: [ Popping up; and speaking in a Boris Badenov voice ] Allow me to introducing myself! Anacreon Rex!

CROW: We were kind of hoping that it wouldn’t in our case.

MAGIC VOICE: [ As JOEL sets a piece of flash paper in CROW’s hand ] Arming himself with strongly worded statements and stage magic —

[ JOEL sets the flash paper on fire ] — they soon turn the tables.

TOM: Aah! It’s a night-mayor { nightmare }.

[ TOM dashes off camera. ]

JOEL: [ Patting CROW ] Now you just have to wait for sanctions to work.

CROW: Well, at least nothing else can go wrong.

MAGIC VOICE: But then —

CROW: I knew I spoke too soon.

MAGIC VOICE: They found themselves facing the declining Galactic Empire, first in economic warfare —

CROW: We could send out the Free Traders.

JOEL: Call them off. They charge too much.

MAGIC VOICE: And then their military men —

TOM: [ Sliding in. ] Allow me to introducing myself! Call me Bel Riose.

CROW: Bel? Is he serious?

TOM: He’s asking if Bel is serious { Belisarius }?

[ CROW, TOM wince, look to JOEL. ]

JOEL: [ Shrugging ] You had to expect a little give and take.

CROW: I see we’re in for a lot of Gibbon taking.

MAGIC VOICE: But even Bel Riose couldn’t see what would keep him from conquering the Foundation —

GYPSY: [ From off stage ] Bel! You come in here right this minute! You’re late for your show trial.

TOM: Aw, phooey.

[ TOM slides off. ]

MAGIC VOICE: That’s right, the Empire called him out!

JOEL: He charged too much, too.

CROW: Well, at least nothing else can go wrong.

JOEL: You really didn’t want to say that.

MAGIC VOICE: Just then —

TOM: [ Sliding in ] Allow me to introducing myself! I am … The Mule.

MAGIC VOICE: This mysterious stranger —

JOEL: Anderson Cooper knows who he is.

MAGIC VOICE: … was even powerful enough to crush the Foundation! [ CROW slumps ] He might have ruled the Galaxy, too, if not for —

GYPSY: [ Sliding in ] Bayta Darrel, at your service.

MAGIC VOICE: But a Mule and his honey are soon parted!

TOM: Even after such a display of Filial loyalty?

GYPSY: You’re not getting to Second Foundation with *me*, buddy.

[ GYPSY turns and leaves. ]

TOM: But … aw, phooey.

[ JOEL reaches around and taps TOM’s far shoulder. TOM spins his head to look; JOEL taps TOM’s other shoulder. This repeats a few times as MAGIC VOICE’s narration continues. ]

MAGIC VOICE: But the Mule soon finds himself no match for the Second Foundation’s relentless counterattack.

[ After several more taps TOM screams in frustration and dashes off. CROW stands up again. ]

MAGIC VOICE: And soon everything got nice and quiet.

MAGIC VOICE, CROW, JOEL, TOM, GYPSY [ TOM and GYPSY leaning into frame ]: Too Quiet.

MAGIC VOICE: Foundation M.P. Golan Trevize suspects there’s more going on than meets the eye.

CROW: The I, the you, the he, the she, all of us.

MAGIC VOICE: He learned that all was *not* as it seems as, by following a trail of bread crumbs he soon discovers the incredible living planet-wide consciousness of Gaia.

GYPSY: [ Leaning in ] "A", for short.

MAGIC VOICE: But that’s not all!

JOEL: I knew I overlooked something.

MAGIC VOICE: What happens next? Will the Galaxy become a giant lifeform? Will the Second Empire be established? Is there a threat from outside the Milky Way? What does the secret hand manipulating all history have in store for us? And — what about Naomi?

CROW: I think I liked it better when I thought everything was just as it seems.

MAGIC VOICE: Be with us next time for our next inciting extollment of Foundation And Its Friends: "The Best Laid Plans" or — "Often Wrong but Seldon Uncertain."

JOEL: What do you think, sirs?

[ JOEL taps MADS SIGN. ]

[ DEEP 13. DR. FORRESTER is laying all over a couch, rolling a pen back and forth and trancelike watching the ink roll. TV’s FRANK sits at a card table, building a little wall with plastic architect’s model-type toy blocks. An open bottle of soda is next to him. Neither notices at first. After a few beats: ]

FRANK: Psst! Steve!

DR. F: [ Snapping out of it ] What? They? [ He sits up ] You’re done?

[ SOL DESK. TOM, JOEL, and CROW are annoyed. ]

TOM: They’re not even paying attention!

CROW: What are we *doing* in the theater if you’re not even watching?

JOEL: Are we *boring* you?

[ DEEP 13. The sofa and card table are gone. DR. FORRESTER and TV’s FRANK stand closer to the camera, leering. ]

FRANK: No, no. No. Maybe.

DR. F: It… ran short, is all. Frank, what have we got?

FRANK: [ Holding up a clipboard. ] We could send them a couple shorts.

[ SOL DESK. As above. ]

CROW: Hey! You can’t do that!

TOM: We’re done for the week!

JOEL: You’re cheating!

[ DEEP 13. As above. ]

DR. F: [ Holding up a hand ] Wait… wait… [ a silent beat ]
Yes, there’s the sound of me not caring.

[ SOL. Movie sign. General alarm and chaos. ]

ALL: We got movie sign!

CROW: I’m gonna spit in their icing.

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


[ to continue … ]

In Which I Have A Week Of Changing Re-evaluations


I don’t know how much is the appropriate amount to think about famous knock-off movie Ratatoing, but I don’t think I’m far outside the norm. Plus, Nathan Rabin blogged about it a couple days ago, and reading that made me realize: oh, that name is surely not meant to rhyme with “boing”, right? You’re supposed to think rat-at-oo-ing, so it’s even closer to Ratatouille. Rat-a-toing is just wrong. And then I tried watching the movie and it turns out? No, it’s “boing”, just like I thought when I didn’t know anything. So the week’s not even half over and I keep having to re-evaluate everything. Or I can stop thinking about stuff and, it turns out, be okay, just less tired of it all.

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? Why was Dick Tracy in Gasoline Alley? March – June 2022


Dick Tracy appeared in Gasoline Alley recently to kick off a story. The premise is that Tracy was hoping to bolster the image of police among young folks. In a moment of synchronicity this is also a storyline in the Vintage Ben Bolt dailies on Comics Kingdom. Ben Bolt had the boxing superstar become a beat cop to convince teens to like cops. Dick Tracy has a more direct plan: bribery. They’ll have kids find spending limits in Easter eggs, then the cops drive them to the mall to buy that much in goods. A couple of the regular cast get singled out for the pilot project.

So this should catch you up to early June 2022. If you’re reading this after August 2022, or any news about Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley breaks, there should be an essay here about it. Thanks for reading this essay.

Gasoline Alley.

21 March – 4 June 2022.

Rufus and Joel, the clown princes of City Hall Janitors, had emerged from hiding last I checked in. They were terrified that Hollywood Movie Mogul Cecil B DeMillstone wanted to sue them into oblivion, for waxing the floor he’d slipped on. They had misunderstood, as you could only have guessed if you knew Jim Scancarelli’s comic style. DeMillstone wants, instead of making a Gasoline Alley movie, to make a sci-fi comedy starring Rufus and Joel. DeMillstone wants them in Hollywood and once and even buys plane tickets.

Rufus: 'Th'recoustics out here is messin' with my earpans! It sounded like yo' said th'movie folks want t'put *us* in th' movies!' Mayor Melba: 'I did!' Joel: 'Rufus! Don't yo' know she's gonna yell 'April Fool' any second now?'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 1st of April, 2022. I understand the plucked-from-obscurity story that Scancarelli’s trying to tell here. But so far all the movie folks have seen is that they mopped a floor that other people slipped on … it doesn’t feel like much of a movie, there. I figured they’d be brought to Hollywood so they could mop floors there.

They’re willing to go to Hollywood, but not by plane. They hitch up their mule, Becky, and get there … slowly. Very slowly. Their adventures fade out of focus the 11th of April, and we see them sometimes while the other plot takes center stage. They resume focus the 25th of May, when they’ve gotten only two inches on the map away from Hollywood. And, finally, arrive! Where everyone looks at them like freaks or a promotion for The Beverly Hillbillies. They ask for Cecil B DeMillstone’s movie headquarters and learn there was a terrible mistake. They went to Hollywood, Florida, a twist I somehow didn’t see coming. Well, I’m sure they’ll be fine.


So the other story ran from the 11th of April through the 24th of May, with a few moments checking in on Rufus and Joel’s progress. This story starts with Dick Tracy, of Dick Tracy fame, stopping in. He’s looking for kids to give shopping sprees to. The Mayor’s choice for this treatment? Aubee Skinner, Ava Luna, and Sophie, who foiled those counterfeiters at the Halloween party and then visited Santa.

They get a great Easter egg, with a $250 spending limit. Aubee hopes to buy something for her parents, but gets distracted when she notices shoplifters. Two people stuffing a lot of watches and jewelry under their big coats. The kids know they can’t accuse grown-ups of shoplifting before they even leave the store without paying.

Abuee, Ava, and Sophie: 'Excuse us a minute, Officer Waffles! We'll be right back!' Officer Waffles: 'Sure!' Sophie points at the two shoplifters, stuffing their coats with jewels and watches: 'Stuff!' Ava: 'That's right, Sophie! They're stuffing watches and jewelry in their coats!' The Swiftys, shoplifters: 'Those kids see us!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 10th of May, 2022. I get the use of signifying names for minor characters. It’s part of the genre of story Scancarelli wants to make, helping establish character without doing characterization that’s not really needed; we don’t need to explore Ima and Eura Swifty’s characters. So, “Officer Barbara Waffles” is a name I don’t get. If it’s a riff on Barbara Walters, all right, but that seems like a name you’d give to someone who was a reporter? Maybe the character goes back far enough that the link made sense originally, but her storyline developed to where now the name doesn’t quite fit? If someone knows, I’d be glad for the insight.

They don’t tell their chaperone, Officer Barbara Waffles, although I don’t know why. It’s possible the kids have made a mistake. They figure to watch the shoplifters, though. The shoplifters see them, and start to flee the store. Sophie runs after, grabbing their loose hat, and somehow the guy trips over her, falling outside the store and knocking over his partner. So now, at least, they’ve left the store without paying for a lot of stuff.

They’re well-known shoplifters Ima and Eura Swifty, quickly taken to jail. And the kids, already renowned for busting up a counterfeiter, get the thanks of Dick Tracy himself for busting up shoplifters. So, have to suppose these kids have a good impression of the cops of Gasoline Alley.

And that’s the standings. This past week we’ve been with Rufus and Joel in Hollywood, Florida, and we’ll have to see what they get up to in the eleven weeks ahead.

Next Week!

Beaver-induced logging fires! Non-fungible tokens! And an older Mark Trail not understanding technology! I look at Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail in a week, if all goes well.

Statistics May: Finland Doesn’t Love Me Anymore, But …


The subject line gives it away, unless I change the subject line. Another Blog, Meanwhile saw the readership from Finland return to what seems like a normal level after April’s big spike. Without that, and without the number of people looking for my Paas Easter Egg color pictures, the monthly readership figures are more normal.

They’re also lower. There were, according to WordPress, 4,378 page views here in May. That’s a great number compared to, say, 2019. But it’s a fair bit below the running mean of 5,078.5 views per month for the twelve months running up to May. And the running median, less vulnerable to weird fluctuations, of 4,585 views per month. There were 2,501 recorded unique visitors, below the running mean of 2,736.5 and running median of 2,616.5. Not too much lower, though.

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months hovering around 4500 views per month, without strong direction one way or another, until a new peak emerged in April 2022.
I know the plot shows 2,500, but I went back and double-checked, and someone snuck in between when I took this screen shot and when the month ended, by Universal Time, one minute later. So it can happen!

There were 188 likes given in May, a greater number than any month since May 2021 somehow. It’s well above the running mean of 154.3 and running median of 154.5 likes in a month. (And not all these likes went to things published in May.) There were 43 comments, below the mean of 56.3 and median of 53, but still a respectable number as I make these things out to be.

My most popular posts of May were the usual mix of me talking about comic strips or cartoons, with a dose of old-time radio and me generally complaining mixed in:

My most popular piece of original comic writing was In Which I Am Terror-Stricken, culmination of a set of second thoughts I had about the thing I devoted most of March and April to.

But, as mentioned, it’s the story strip plot recaps that bring so many readers here. My plan for the coming month is to cover these strips, on these dates:

As ever, this is subject to change as breaking news warrants.

75 countries sent me page views in May, down from April’s 81. 17 of them were single-view countries, the same number as in April. Here’s the roster of those countries, and take a look at the big exciting news for one of them. Do you spot it? I’ll let you know after the strangely popular table of countries.

Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink. For a change of pace, Greenland is in pink also, reflecting some readership there.
Not surprised Bangladesh hasn’t been reading me. They’ve got bigger problems. I assume, anyway. I don’t know but it seems fair to suppose all the other countries out there have bigger problems than would be helped by reading me.
Country Readers
United States 3,073
United Kingdom 171
India 157
Canada 125
Germany 90
Australia 72
Philippines 51
Brazil 41
Thailand 36
El Salvador 35
Italy 35
Nigeria 32
France 28
Spain 26
Finland 24
South Africa 24
Ireland 22
Sweden 22
Netherlands 21
Singapore 19
Austria 17
Vietnam 17
Malaysia 16
Romania 16
Peru 15
Argentina 12
Japan 11
Colombia 9
Czech Republic 9
Hong Kong SAR China 9
New Zealand 9
Mexico 8
Portugal 8
Norway 7
Denmark 6
Ecuador 6
Greece 6
Switzerland 6
Indonesia 5
Nepal 5
Pakistan 5
Poland 5
European Union 4
Mauritania 4
Russia 4
Saudi Arabia 4
Turkey 4
Venezuela 4
Belgium 3
Chile 3
Croatia 3
Cyprus 3
South Korea 3
United Arab Emirates 3
Bangladesh 2
Jamaica 2
Kenya 2
Puerto Rico 2
Bulgaria 1
Cambodia 1
Egypt 1
Greenland 1
Guatemala 1
Hungary 1
Israel 1
Kazakhstan 1 (*)
Kuwait 1
Lesotho 1
Malta 1
Montenegro 1 (*)
Oman 1
Palestinian Territories 1
Qatar 1 (*)
Serbia 1 (*)
Slovenia 1

Kazakhstan, Montenegro, Qatar, and Serbia sent me a single page view in April also. There’s no countries to have sent me a single page view three months running now. But did you notice it? That’s right, I got me a reader in Greenland! Woo-hoo!

WordPress figures I posted 17,161 words in May, my second-most for any month this year. That’s 553.6 words per posting in May, although my average for the year remains 552 words per posting. Between the start of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and the start of June, I’ve posted 3,407 things to this blog. They’ve drawn 298,200 views from 168,914 visitors.

And I’m happy to have readers, regular or sporadic. The easiest way to read me regularly is to add the RSS feed for essays to whatever your reader is. If you don’t have an RSS reader, you can get one by signing up for a free account at Dreamdwith or Livejournal and put them on your Reading page. If you’ve got a WordPress account, you can click on the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button on the upper right corner of this or any page. If you’ve got an e-mail account, you can use the box beneath that to get posts sent you as they’re published. To read sporadically, carry on with whatever you’ve been doing. It’ll probably work out all right. Thank you.

60s Popeye: Private Eye Popeye and the case of the missing credits


King Features has chopped off some or all of the credits the last couple shorts. This was a particularly severe case, with even the title card lost. It’s only the title of the collection on King Features’s YouTube page that makes it clear we’re starting on Private Eye Popeye. The Internet Movie Database tells me this is a 1960 Jack Kinney-produced short, with story by Raymond Jacobs and direction by Rudy Larriva. With that established, let’s watch.

My first watch of this, I hadn’t looked up the credits. I wondered if it might be a Gene Deitch short. The nice moody opening pan across the waterfront, with the music too soft for me to notice first time through, seemed suggestive. And little bits of not-necessary but fun flourishes, like Popeye poking his cleaning rag through his magnifying glass, or the title bar identifying Olive Oyl as a private eyess, seemed like Deitch’s touch. Shows what I know, even after all this time.

A leftover Jimmy Durante caricature claiming to be the police chief assigns Popeye and Olive Oyl to catch diamond smugglers. It’s Brutus and the Sea Hag, of course. Popeye wisely calls on Eugene the Jeep to find the plot. This gets a clever bit of Eugene spelling out ‘DIAMONDS’ with his tail, a message Our Heroes can’t interpret. Brutus locks Popeye in the hold, and hits on Olive Oyl, who hits back. Popeye finds his way into one of those giant deck tubas that ships have in cartoons and silent movies, and holds a gun on Brutus. This feels out of character, as much as it makes sense for “a private eye”. Anyway, the Sea Hag steals the gun and Brutus steals Popeye’s helicopter.

Olive Oyl and Eugene the Jeep are tied to the mast of a ship. (Eugene is upside-down.) Olive Oyl cries for help.
Wait … how do you tie up a Jeep so he doesn’t just fourth-dimensionally pop out of there? Is Eugene having a laugh on everybody?

The big action scene here is Popeye clinging to the helicopter while Brutus flies it. The helicopter breaks up and Brutus and Popeye with one propeller each try to grind the other’s propeller to nothing. This is another thing that made me think Gene Deitch: the action is very much what the 1930s theatrical version of this cartoon might be. It’s got that blend of action and danger and absurdity. Popeye eats his spinach, granting super-powers to his propeller blade, and sends Brutus to the sharks below. To be eaten, if we take the text literally, another moment that feels out of character. The Sea Hag’s still loose, but Olive grabs the gun, accidentally shooting down a jar of diamond-encrusted pickles to knock out the Sea Hag. That sounds like gibberish but all the story pieces hold together.

It’s a strongly story-driven cartoon, especially for a Jack Kinney production. I think of his shorts as being more mood pieces. This strong a narrative I’d expect from Paramount or Gene Deitch. It’s a mostly good blend that they have going here. Not sure I like the guns, or the suggestion Brutus has been killed. And the music is the usual for Kinney, a random shuffle of stock cues mixed at the wrong level. But the whole is a successful short. You can see the version of this that might have been made in, oh, 1938, without feeling too bad that it wasn’t.

Statistics Saturday: The Alphabet In Order Of Its First Appearance On VH-1


  1. V
  2. H
  3. M
  4. (tie) T
  5. (tie) U
  6. (tie) S
  7. (tie) I
  8. (tie) C
  9. (tie) E
  10. (tie) L
  11. (tie) O
  12. (tie) N
  13. (tie) B
  14. (tie) G
  15. (tie) D
  16. (tie) K
  17. (tie) R
  18. (tie) P
  19. (tie) A
  20. (tie) Y
  21. (tie) W
  22. (tie) Z
  23. (tie) F
  24. (tie) X
  25. (tie) J
  26. (tie) Q

Reference: Words That Make New Jersey History, Editor Howard L Green.

Popeye Now Being Drawn By Someone Younger Than Popeye


I’d been meaning to point to Daily Cartoonist’s recent article that Popeye Sunday-strip creator Hy Eisman was recovering from a medical procedure. That was why the comic had been in repeats. And then all that got upstaged by news this morning. Not anything bad about Eisman, mind you, other than that he is retiring after a long career in comics that, among other things, saw him bring two comic strips to their centennials (Katzenjammer Kids and Popeye/Thimble Theatre). Something potentially great for Popeye the comic strip.

Randy Milholland is taking over the Sunday comic strip, starting this coming Sunday. Milholland was (I think) the most prolific contributor to the Popeye’s Cartoon Club limited-edition comic strip, back in 2019-2020. And I know he’s been lobbying to take over the comic strip, which has been Sunday-only ever since Bobby London got fired in the early 90s.

Popeye pointing out pictures in his scrapbook: 'That's Mary Ann. After a car wreck she got amnesia an' lived as a lost li'l orphink. I helped her find her parenks. And then there's Matey, the newsboy. He wuz a good boy. I can't 'member his face, but I can still hears his voice. [ The picture is just a note, 'Popeye- Get a pitcher of Matey. -Popeye] And last but nevers least ...' It's a picture of Swee'Pea. We see Popeye sharing the scrapbook with Swee'pea in his lap: 'Me ever-lovin' Swee'Pea.' Swee'Pea; 'Awww, Popeye! You've helped a lot of orphans, huh?' Popeye: 'A am the friend of all children, but orphinks need extra care. This old world can be rough on lost li'l ones. 'Sides [ getting angry ] I gotta proteck 'em from the alternative.' Cutaway to dark city streets, where Popeye has just clobbered Batman and tossed him a rubbish bin; a small child holding a Robin costume is behind Popeye. Popeye points at Batman, declaring: 'If I tol' ya once, I've tol' ya a thousan' times! You've ruined enough orphinks!'
Randy Milholland’s Popeye’s Cartoon Club for the 19th of June, 2020. This is not the debut strip of Milholland’s Popeye run proper, just an example of what he was doing for the Cartoon Club. Mary Ann was the main character in the story “Orphan Mary Ann” from 1932. Matey the Newsboy was a character created for the 1930s radio show as someone who could take the Swee’Pea role in stories but could, you know, talk. So that’s the level of deep pull Milholland is comfortable working with here. Also, yes, I saw that bust of Shorty in the second row there.

I’m happy for this news. First because I’m happy when a comic strip gets a new creative team rather than going into perpetual repeats or, worse, cancellation. And you all know how I feel about Popeye. I wanted to be the astronaut who drew Popeye when I grew up. At age seven I overestimated how much society needed Popeye to be drawn and also misunderstood how astronauts best spend their time. But also Milholland seems a great choice from the cartoonists who worked on Popeye’s Cartoon Club. I’d enjoyed the energy he brought, and the blend of zany and sentimental strips. He also brings an encyclopedic if not terrifying knowledge of the Popeye universe. If there’s anybody who’s going to draw a story based on how Davey Jones, of locker fame, is literally Popeye’s uncle, it’s him.

Also, unless I’ve missed someone, Milholland will be only the second credited creator of the comic strip Popeye younger than the actual character Popeye. Bobby London, who drew the strip from 1986 to 1992, was born in 1950, but otherwise? Hy Eisman was born in 1927; Bud Sagendorf in 1915. Ralph Stein was born in 1909, Bela Zaboly in 1910, and Doc Winner in 1885. Elzie Segar, of course, was born before he drew his comic strip (I checked) or, in 1929, debuted Popeye. It’s an odd state of affairs, but, I mean, it’s 2022. There are no not-odd states of affairs anymore.

MiSTed: Safety First (part 8 of 16)


I resume again my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction treatment of Johnny Pez’s Isaac Asimov fanfiction “Safety First”. Mike Donovan and Greg Powell, troubleshooters for wayward robots, hope convince the Robots on the Venus terraforming station that a recent accident is no reason to evacuate all the humans. But the First Law of Robots, forbidding a Robot to let a human come to harm, seems insurmountable.

Breezley and Sneezley was a mid-60s Hanna-Barbera cartoon, pretty much “Yogi the Polar Bear”. A SuperChunk was a 90s Cartoon Network thing, a three-hour marathon of some cartoon that wasn’t the good ones — or at least the hilariously incompetent ones — as often as you would hope. Joel’s riff about “spell my name with a Zow” riffs on Asimov’s short story “Spell My Name With An S”, in which a nuclear physics researcher named Zebatinski is convinced to change the first letter of his name. I don’t know that Johnny Pez was making a reference to that story with the character’s name, except, yeah, I know he was. (“Spell My Name With An S” is a clever story, and has the metatextual fun of the title being Asimov’s plea to stop misspelling his own name already. As another person whose name can’t get spelled right, boy do I relate.)

There are a couple of times Arthur the robot says a drawn-out “yyyyes”, which I responded to with a Gale Gordon reference. This may be true to MST3K but, really, I (and they) should have made Frank Nelson references instead. I apologize for my error.


>
> Arthur’s photocells lit up,

TOM: *Good* morning!

> and he said, "I must evacuate all
> the humans from this station.

JOEL: "So, quick, into the Litttle Humans Room."

> Please reactivate my motor controls."
>
> "Arthur," said Donovan,

TOM: "Donovan," said Arthur, and we found ourselves at the same impasse.

> "just what would it take to convince
> you that the station was safe?"

CROW: "Five thousand dollars and a SuperChunk of ‘Breezley and Sneezley’ cartoons."

>
> "I would need proof that every possible source of danger had
> been guarded against."

JOEL: Couldn’t they just put up a bunch of signs that read "Every possible source of danger has been guarded against" all over the place?

>
> "All of which basically involve exposure to the Venusian
> environment," said Donovan.

TOM: The Venusian environment’s the big one. The cinder-block attack weasels are a close second.

> "Right?"
>
> The robot remained silent while it evaluated Donovan’s
> proposition.

JOEL: [ Impersonating Groucho Marx ] "Can’t you see what I’m trying to tell you, Missus Rittenhouse, I *love* you."

> "There are certain dangers of a physical nature," the
> robot said slowly,

TOM: And then there’s those mental risks, like having that dream where you show up naked to the final exam for a class you never heard of, and you have to give a talk in front of the whole faculty too…

> "such as injuries sustained due to errors in
> judgment."

CROW: Like joining in annual "Smash Your Head Into The Wall" day.

>
> "But those kinds of dangers aren’t unique to the station,"

JOEL: They’re just what makes it so much fun.

> Donovan pointed out. "Humans are prone to such dangers everywhere."

TOM: Essentially, humans are big goofy klutzes you can’t leave alone for five minutes.

JOEL: And then there’s our bad days.

>
> Arthur’s photocells flickered for a moment before he said,

CROW: "Is there something funny with the lights in here?"

> "True. Very well, I concede your point. Exposure to the Venusian
> environment is the chief danger posed to humans on this station.

TOM: That’s why I keep telling you to keep the door *closed*, what, are we terraforming the whole outdoors here?

> This still requires that they be evacuated."
>
> "So you think," said Donovan,

CROW: That doesn’t mean you *are*.

TOM: It kinda does, Crow.

CROW: Oh.

> "that the way to deal with the
> situation is to remove the humans from the threatening environment."

JOEL: With a little effort we could come up with a much more complicated solution that’s much harder to do and way less likely to work.

>
> "That seems to be the most straightforward way to proceed,"
> said Arthur.

TOM: Wait — that’s just what they *want* us to think! It’s a trap! Get out!

>
> "Wouldn’t it be even more straightforward to remove the
> threatening environment from the humans?"

CROW: Maybe, but cleaning up Venus would take a *lot* of Didi-Seven.

>
> Arthur was silent for another time before he said, "How would
> that be more straightforward?"

JOEL: It turns out Venus is just a scary matte painting, it’s no work at all to change one of *those*.

>
> "Well," said Donovan, "there’s always a certain amount of
> risk involved when transporting humans."

CROW: What with getting split into your good and evil halves, or being thrown into the mirror universe or being turned into a little kid or something.

>
> "Yyyes," said the robot slowly.

JOEL: [ As Mr. Mooney ] Luuuuuucille.

>
> "So if a solution were to present itself

CROW: Presents? Where?

TOM: For us?

> that would involve
> not transporting humans, that would be preferable, right?"
>
> "Yyyyyyes," the robot said again, even more slowly.

JOEL: Give him a nudge — I think he’s sleeping.

>
> "So it would actually be safer for the humans to remain here

TOM: With our bunny suits on, if need be…

> while the Venusian environment was made less dangerous. Right?"

CROW: Oh, so just go to the "Biosphere" control panel and turn down the Greenhouse Effect, drop a couple Oxygen generators and a couple vaporizers, and you’re set.

> Powell, standing behind Donovan, saw him cross his fingers behind his
> back.

JOEL: Oh, that means the story doesn’t count.

>
> There was a long, long pause

[ ALL snore. ]

> while the robot considered
> Donovan’s arguement.

CROW: Wouldn’t the robot just pretend to agree with the humans, put a padlock on his motor controls, and get back to getting them off the station?

> When the robot finally said, "There seems to be
> a certain logic to your position,"

TOM: It follows directly from your premise "I reserve the right to do what I want."

> Donovan felt himself sag with
> relief.

CROW: And the robot tells him not to slouch.

> "It would indeed be safer for the humans to remain here
> while the Venusian environment was made less dangerous.

JOEL: Still, I want to see you wearing those little inflatable rings around your arms from now on.

> I must
> resume my work culturing algae for the buoys.

TOM: And picking flowers for the goils!

> Please reactivate my
> motor controls."

CROW: Isn’t this where we came in?

JOEL: The story just avoided lapping itself.

>
> By the next morning, all the station’s robots had been
> convinced of the need to continue their work terraforming Venus.

TOM: Hey — if they’re not happy except when they’re terraforming Venus, what are they going to do when they’re done with Venus?

JOEL: They’ll go back and try doing it again, only this time holding their breath.

TOM: Oh… huh?

> Powell and Donovan had been showered with accolades by the station
> staff.

ALL: [ Dully ] Yay.

> The Station Manager, Irina Zebutinska,

JOEL: Spell my name with a *Zow*!

> met them in the
> shuttle bay as they prepared to leave.

TOM: [ As Irina ] "Wait, we were hearing some things about you from Billie Jean."

> "Once again," she said, "I’d
> like to thank you both for putting the Project back on track."

CROW: Ah-wocka-chicka-wocka-chicka…

[ JOEL puts a hand on CROW’s shoulder; CROW stops. ]

>
> Powell gave her a reassuring nod. "All in a day’s work,
> ma’am."

TOM: It’s been a hard day’s work, and we’ve been working like a dog…

> A glance to his left showed him Donovan rolling his eyes.
> He’d be hearing about that one for months.

CROW: I can’t see that line being worth several months teasing.

>
> The two were about to board their shuttle when they found it

TOM: I would *hope* they found it before boarding.

> blocked by one of the station’s robots, an SPD model.

CROW: By Revell.

> "Sirs," the
> robot said,

JOEL: … and, you too, Powell … and you, Donovan.

> "it would be safer for the two of you to remain on the
> station."

TOM: We’d also like you to put on this construction helmet, and strap these pillows around your body.

>
> Powell glared at Donovan.

CROW: [ As Donovan ] "How was I to know they’d join the Center for Science in the Public Interest?"

> The other man shrugged and said,
> "Hey, I did my part

TOM: [ Quickly, under his breath ] National Recovery Agency.

> by convincing them to let us stay.

CROW: They don’t usually even let tourists in at all.

> It’s your
> turn to convince them to let us go."

JOEL: Tell them the Mads found another "Master Ninja" movie, that’ll convince them it’s safer to leave.

>

CROW: And they were stuck on Aphrodite Station for the rest of their lives until they all died, the end.

> THE END
>

CROW: Ooh! That never worked before.

TOM: Hey, that can’t be all — nobody said anything "sardonically."

JOEL: We’ll have to tell on him.

> — Johnny Pez Newport, Rhode Island September 2001
>
>

CROW: Let’s blow this popsicle stand.

[ ALL leave. ]

[ COMMERCIALS. ]


[ to continue … ]

[ As this segment reaches the end of the story you may ask how this MiSTing is only part eight of sixteen. Well, there’s a host segment needed yet, and then — eh, you’ll figure it out. ]

In Which I Do My Thinking About Baseball For The Year


Not watching or playing baseball, of course, just thinking about baseball statistics. So I got to looking up World Series and postseason-play droughts from the Major League Baseball teams and, you know? I always think of the Mets as a particularly hapless team because, you know, the Mets. Right? But you know what it turns out? There’s eight teams that have gone longer than the Mets without winning the World Series. They’re not even in the top quartile of World Series winlessnessness. There’s 22 teams with longer streaks of not winning World Serieses. And pennants? The Tigers have three streaks of twenty or more seasons where they didn’t win a penant, and the Red Sox and the White Sox have two each. The Pirates have two streaks of over thirty seasons without a penant. And the Mets? They don’t even have one lousy twenty-year streak without a penant to their name.

So anyway now I’m learning to appreciate how the Mets are somehow particularly hapless at being particularly hapless.

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? Why wasn’t Coffyhead arrested for kidnapping that woman? March – May 2022


In this past Dick Tracy story, Coffyhead kidnapped TV presenter Dot View to ensure her boyfriend Tonsils would deliver a drug package. Tonsils worked with Dick Tracy to get the cops to bust Coffyhead, but Coffyhead had swapped the packages so there was nothing to hold him on. Except kidnapping Dot View, you’d think, right?

What happened was Dot View refused to press charges. Coffyhead explained, to one of his henchman, that he suspected she wouldn’t want the scandal of a trial. And he called it correctly. We learned Coffyhead’s explanation over a week after (reader time) his release, so it has the air of a retcon to answer reader complaints. But that’s impossible given the lead time in comic production. Mike Curtis and Shelly Pleger had the explanation in mind and saved it, is all.

It’s a little surprising Dot View would regard it as scandalous to be the victim of kidnapping. But while Dick Tracy takes place in a fantasy universe where magnetic spaceships fly people to Jupiter and cops rush in to dangerous situations to save lives, it’s not so much of a fantasy as to depict the law-enforcement system treating violence against women as a crime. (And, as a more direct explanation, she may have wanted to avoid her boyfriend having to testify about his transporting drugs.)

So this should catch you up to late May 2022 in Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy. If you’re reading this after about August 2022 there should be a more up-to-date plot recap here. Thanks for reading.

Dick Tracy.

13 March – 28 May 2022.

My last plot recap coincided with the start of a new story. This simplifies my giving of backstory. Vitamin Flintheart signed a Matt McCuller, an up-and-coming “tribute performer” to Tonsils. The original Tonsils, introduced and killed in 1952, was a singer forced by Mr Crime to try killing Dick Tracy. Everyone calles McCuller “Tonsils”, so I’ll go along with that.

New Tonsils doesn’t need to be pressed into crime. He’s trying to get out of drug-running in favor of his singing career. Coffyhead, a coffee-themed villain from 1947, is annoyed his new supplier is quitting on him and vows to teach him “some manners”.

Tonsils: 'A regular nightclub gig? That's great, Vitamin!' Flintheart: 'It won't start for a couple of weeks. But the booker wants to meet you tomorrow night at one of his nightclubs being remodeled.' Tonsils: 'Where is it?' Flintheart, handing Moka's [ Coffyhead's ] business card over: 'The Ajax, on eighth street. I do wonder, Tonsils, if you can handle the strain. You'll be doing the Dot View show mornings after the Ajax at night.' Tonsils: 'Don't worry, Vitamin! I'm young. I can handle anything life throws at me!'
Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 10th of April, 2022. Boy, imagine feeling Tonsils’ confidence about being able to handle anything as complicated as lunch, never mind life. On a sincere note, though, I like the center panel in the bottom row there, Tonsils being surrounded by glitter and starry skies as everything seems to be coming together. It’s good emotional illustration.

Coffyhead recognizes Tonsils when he sings on the Dot View Show. (He hadn’t known his supplier’s name.) Tonsils’ performance with Dot View goes great despite tensions: the original Tonsils had a fling with Dot View. She has a similar relationship grow, quickly, with the New Tonsils. Several strips this sequence are about View’s issues having a duplicate of her relationship from back in the Truman era. And Dick Tracy is annoyed with Flintheart for making him interact with the spitting image of someone who tried to kill him. “But Richard,” Flintheart protests, “there are over 50,000 people on the eastside of the city alone who’ve tried to kill you!” Tracy grants the point but, still, the stuff he has to deal with, you know?

Coffyhead, pretending to be a new nightclub owner for Flintheart, hires Tonsils to sing. When Flintheart realizes there’s no such nightclub opening he tips off Dick Tracy. But Coffyhead has already grabbed Dot View to demand Tonsils deliver drugs. And this is where Tracy explains enough of Original Tonsils to the new that readers have any hope of understanding the backstory. New Tonsils goes along with the sting, which fails, as Coffyhead gets the packages switched somewhere the cops can’t find. And Dot View declines to press charges for kidnapping.

[ Old Trouble resurfaces for Tonsils. ] Coffyhead, holding a gun on Tonsils while a henchman grabs Dot View: 'Listen, Tonsils, I don't care about your singing career. I do care about you filling my 'prescriptions'! You've got one day to fill my order. In the meantime, your friend will be visiting with us. Lock the door when you leave in ten minutes.' They exit. Coffyhead cringes, thinking: 'Dot! I'm sorry! Sorry!' He notices: 'Someone's at the door! Is that Coffyhead coming back?' Entering is ... 'DICK TRACY?' Tracy: 'TONSIlS!'
Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 17th of April, 2022. An unstated piece of this is that his ruin was entirely Coffyhead’s petty, ego-driven fault. He was sore at Tonsils for backing out of future drug deliveries, yes. But as he admitted, he didn’t need Tonsils for deliveries. Coffyhead could have got his revenge and kept his successful drug operation going if he’d just sent someone around every week to key Tonsils’ car.

The cops figure out where Coffyhead’s drugs are coming from anyway. Sam Catchem tears open antique chairs at Cawlie’s Furniture to find the bundles hidden inside. The cops manage more precise hits on Coffyhead’s drug deliveries, driving him up the wall figuring out where the leak is. We readers learn it’s “Stuntman Mike” passing information along, but not who that is. Coffyhead reasons it out and figures it’s the delivery guy whose shipments keep getting nabbed by the cops. The delivery guy is Bronko, who was also in the original 1947 story introducing Coffyhead. Back in ’47, Coffyhead abducted and tortured Tracy Junior and Bronko, trying to smash the Junior Crimestoppers Club. It’s weird that Bronko would go work for someone who’d abducted and tormented him years ago. And weird that Coffyhead wouldn’t ponder that more. But as he interrogates Bronko, Dick Tracy breaks in, and grabs Coffyhead. We learn Bronko is, of course, Stuntman Mike. He grew up from the Crimestoppers Club to join the FBI, and was working undercover against Coffyhead.

Bronko: 'Twenty questions, boss?' Coffyhead, holding a gun: 'It won't take that many. Did you know our distributions sites were raided by police this week? Nearly all after *you* made deliveries to them!' Bronko 'I've been real careful! No cops are tailing me when I make a drop!' Coffyhead: 'Well then, I guess they found out *the other way*.'
Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 9th of May, 2022. It may seem foolish for the police to raid places so close to Bronko’s deliveries. You’d think they would know they were tipping off Coffyhead that Bronko was passing them information.

So that’s all a happy ending for everyone besides Coffyhead, who probably should have stuck to running that San Francisco coffee shop he’d opened after leaving jail. Maybe he was gentrified out of business.


And that, the 15th of May, concludes that story. The current story started the 16th, with someone using hypnotic glasses to rob a guy at the ATM. And, after that, using some kinds of implants to clean out ATMs. This appears to be Mr Memory, an owl-keeping new addition to the comic strip canon. (He appeared, played by Victor Buono, in the pilot for the 1967 Dick Tracy TV series.) He lives near B O Plenty, and gave Tracy’s pal a ride into town. Also, the Cinnamon Knight, another “caped superhero” like are running around all the comics these days, gives Tracy two bits of news. One is that he and his wife are retiring from costumed-superheroing, since they’re expecting a child. The other is that the bank his real-life’sona works at got cleaned out in a robbery last night. And that’s where we stand.

Next Week!

Have Rufus and Joel made it to Hollywood yet? Have a trio of unbearably adorable moppets busted up a shoplifting ring? Are there even more Dick Tracy appearances out there? I answer “yes” three different times, but in more words, when I look at Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley next week, if all goes well.

Please Write to Me After I’m Tossed in FCC Jail


So you know, I’ve been spending a lot of time feeling sad and watching Buzzr, that other game show channel. So I’m thinking this might be my week to edit some portions of the preceding game show that did affect the outcome. Just for the novelty, you know? I’m sure it’s just the thing to spruce up this episode of The Match Game/Hollywood Squares Hour.

60s Popeye: Voice From The Deep! Or See Here, Sea Hag!!


Besides having maybe the longest title for a Popeye cartoon, this week’s short has a tribe of villagers on Phony Island. For the most part we only see one, Chief Knucklebone. Did not like that those points were introduced to the story. To my eye, this avoided being offensive: apart from a celebratory dinner we only see Chief Knucklebone, and he’s presented as acting in his own interests. Still, it’s set on a tropical island where the locals are having trouble they can’t deal with. If you don’t need that in your recreational reading, you are right, and should skip this one.

This one is another Gene Deitch-made cartoon from 1961. As usual with Gene Deitch cartoons I don’t have more specific production details than that. The IMDB offers that the music is by Stepán Konícek and that’s all they have to say. If you’re still up for this, then, let’s watch.

This is, at heart, a stock Popeye plot. At least for the comic strip, although the outline got done a few times in theatrical shorts too. Popeye gets a call for help from a backstory friend who lives on some remote island. (It always seems to be islands in the comic strip, too. I guess so he can sail there, or maybe because there’s so many islands you can make up more and it won’t stand out.) Here, there’s the Sea Hag pulling a Scooby-Doo, scaring off the locals to grab their land. The Sea Hag captures — well, not Olive Oyl, for once. Popeye eats spinach, and vanquishes the foe. (Since that’s done off-screen I guess we can’t say for sure he punched the Sea Hag, but it seems like a close-run thing.) Happy ending.

The Sea Hag sits in front of her Volcano Broadcasting System radio/loudspeaker, an apparatus set up inside the volcano to scare off the locals. Bernard, her vulture, perches on her shoulder, with wings spread wide and peering down at her.
The “voice of the volcano” gimmick is one that I’ve seen recently in the Comics Kingdom Vintage comic strips, too. I think it was in a 1950s run of Mandrake the Magician, but I couldn’t swear it wasn’t Brick Bradford or even Johnny Hazard, come to that. You know how those talking volcanos were back in the day.

What makes it appealing is how it goes about this. The considerable animation, for one thing, starting with a needless but fun spiral at the title cards. Having stuff moving, and in funny ways, forgives a lot of weird edits and slightly mistimed lines and all. Also that the cartoon makes time for needless but funny digressions. Popeye sulking about how he needs an extension phone or an extension bathtub, for example. (Or complaining how the phone always rings when he’s taking a bath, when he’s taking a shower.) Or the airplane pilot come to take Popeye to Phony Island. We don’t seem to need this — why not just cut to Popeye hopping off his boat? — but we get some bouncy flying over the suburbs, and the pilot gets fun lines such as indifferently telling Popeye how to use his parachute. That seeming irrelevance pays off, too: Popeye goes on to use his parachute later, first to get into the volcano and then to get back out. What looks like a throwaway gag sets up plot cleverness. Twice.

And that’s what I like in this short. It’s got a lot of cleverness. Even the Sea Hag’s scheme is a clever one. She wants the island so as to set up a vacation paradise for villains. That’s a fun idea. It’s a setting I’d expect to see in a mid-season episode of Get Smart. I’m sorry we didn’t get to see the plan enacted. I suppose the Sea Hag’s vision of casual pickpocketing and cultural programs establishes the premise. And this might be something more fun imagined than seen in detail. (I’d still like to see the Get Smart episode at KAOS Summer Camp.)

Yes, yes, whenever one of these shorts seems to have more plot than needed I wonder if it came from the comic strip. But I wonder again. The short does a great job at giving the impression there’s more story than is on-screen. I like when they do that.

People Are An Ongoing Source Of Social Anxiety, Really


The old-time-radio podcast I listen to most often summoned an episode of Art Linklater’s People Are Funny from the misty depths. If you only know the show from spoofs in cartoons where a beloved character gets challenged to do something daft like footrace Daffy Duck around the world, let me explain: the cartoons are basically correct.

So this episode had a guy who’d win a hundred dollars in prizes if he managed to go up to strangers and give away every one of this bag of frogs. They offered a story he could give as to why he was doing this — he’d caught too many frogs — and drove him to a neighborhood for it. And, just, wow. I mean, I would give Art Linklater a hundred dollars in prizes to not have to go up to strangers and offer them frogs. And that’s in 1952 dollars, when a hundred bucks was enough to buy a car, a house, and controlling interest in the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad. I don’t know how this show ran for a billion years in the 40s and 50s.

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