So if there is one thing we may agree on, it’s that this is October. Unless you’re reading this more than eleven days from now. We’ll see. But I remind you that we have a rabbit around here, sometimes two rabbits. So we sweep, pretty regularly, as otherwise every surface in the house would be covered thirty feet deep in fur. So if you understand the setting, then, please answer me this: how did I just now sweep up a Christmas-tree light?
This office has received a number of letters asking it to explain computer graphics. “What about computer graphics,” they’ll say. “Explain yourself, if you are a computer graphics. If you are not a computer graphics, then why or why not?” It’s a bit stressful. I had thought we were to take a multiple choice question. “But,” reads one follow-up letter, “an essay answer is a multiple choice; there are just a Borgesian infinitude of possible answers.” Who among us would dispute this charge?
The first images produced by computers were by our standards low-resolution affairs. The earliest known images used the technologies of old-time radio, or as they knew it in the old times, “time radio”. In this the computer would just describe what the image should be, trusting to the “theatre of the mind” to fill in the details. “It’s a calendar for February 1949, but with Snoopy beside it,” would come the voice from the warm glowing hearth of a Harvard Mk II. The listener could fill in all the perfect little details of which days of the week were in February, and which Februaries were in 1949, and what this Snoopy fellow was all about. It extended naturally to more serious applications. “Here’s a wireframe cube rotating as if it were three-dimensional,” UNIVAC famously reported on Election Night, 1952. It was so plausible that critics came to ask whether the demonstration was rigged. It was not, precisely, but UNIVAC was warned ahead of time that the topic of shapes in dimensions would come up.
The first digital images were formed by taking photographs of the pointer fingers of the lead programmers and aiming them in different directions. This finger was chosen for the ease of indexing. It was a great format for pictures of fingers. It was also decent, if you had a big enough screen, to make for pictures of strange-colored grasses. Maybe the fur of some animal that had a lot of jointed fur with the occasional fingernail. So resolution was a bit of a problem.
Everyone understood this to be a transitional phase, just something to prove out the technology that would let them use numbers instead. Well, everybody but Ray, but you know what he’s like. Which numbers were a great debate. 1 was an obvious choice, since it already looked so much like a finger. It would need almost no new code worth mentioning, especially if you used a font that was easy on the serifs. The other number, though? That took a lot of fighting. 0 seems, today, to be the obvious choice. But a good argument was made for -1, on the grounds that then they could keep using fingers for both the 1 and the – sign. The dispute continued until a standard was finally agreed to, last year, in which everyone uses a 3 and a 4. The argument took some weird turns. Vestiges of the old system remain in how computer systems do not speak exactly of a three, but rather of a “quarter-dozen”, or “quatre-vingt” as they say in French, incorrectly.
A fascinating variation developed in the 1960s when research indicated there were maybe six things we needed a computer to show anyway. So why not set up a computer with a filmstrip containing six or, for deluxe systems, seven images, and simply have it show whatever seemed most relevant? People were indeed happy with this, especially if they got to work the projector, and doubly so if they were allowed to make a “beep” noise whenever it was time to move to the next slide. These slides were: Abraham Lincoln, a brontosaurus, a Mercator projection map of the world, a diagram of the heart, Snoopy, the Pioneer 4 space probe, and in the deluxe system, Times Square.
This is still at heart how computer images work. A modern computer image is a gathering of millions of colors, represented. Admittedly, some of the colors get reused. But to keep all these sorted out and in the right locations we have to simplify some. A classic organization or “compression” scheme is to break the original image up into millions of pieces, then individually wrap each piece in a protective medium, and then forget where they were. This is known as a “lossy” image format. When called on to show the image, the computer panics and puts together what it can using the same original seven base images, plus — since 1989 — that picture of astronaut Bruce McCandless spacewalking using his cool rocket backpack. There are also “lossless” image formats, but these are annoying to use because every time you do beat them in a game they insist that it was best-three-of-five, or best-four-of-seven, or best five-of-nine, and on and on until you give up.
Further questions to this office may be sent in care of this office at this address. Thank you.
Looked out the window before going to bed last night and realized we had left the porch light on. We’d turned it because we were getting food delivered and it’s nice to give the delivery person a fighting chance at finding our house. And then, you know, we just kept forgetting to turn it off. And yes, over multiple days. You know, you approach the house, think, “I have to turn the light off soon as I get in”, and then you get in and all memory of planning to do anything is forgotten. And the light stays on. We’re not sure just how long it was on, but I’m pretty sure it’s connected to the “Is Detroit-Style Pizza Even A Real Thing?” dispute, so we would’ve turned it on sometime in August of 2015. We’re still not sure “Detroit-Style Pizza” is a thing. I mean, they make it square, yes, but that’s just … square.
There’s three musical pieces this week’s show. Many of Freberg’s comedic records before the show began were musical riffs. It’s natural the show would use that tradition. This episode first aired the 18th of August, 1957.
And here’s the rundown.
|00:00||Cold Open. Another audio joke; we’re told was the theme song from I Was A Teenage Werewolf. It sounded like last week, when they just played the whole show backwards at high speed.|
|01:20||Introduction. The tap-dancing-around-the-world bit promised last week was postponed. And there’s a guest, a Mr Tweedly from the Citizens Radio Committee. He’s there to buzz anything objectionable that’s et onto the air.|
|03:30||Elderly Man River. I had thought this adapted a comedy record. It looks like it’s the other way around, and this sketch was released as a single. The premise is put out early: Tweedly is there to stop anything offensive or inappropriate for broadcast. Every comedian worth something has stories about fighting the network or the sponsor’s censors. Wanting to take the edge off “old” or insisting on careful enunciation of words like “nothing” feels like a fight Freberg (or his writers) actually went through. Similarly having to substitute “sweat”.|
|06:40||Robert E Tainer. He got out of jail (mentioned last week) just this morning. He got the celebrity-scandal-sheets to help him out. It’s interesting to me that the celebrity-scandal-sheets of 1957 are completely different from the ones of thirty years later. But the ones of 1987, like the National enquirer, are still with us thirty years after that. Not sure what happened there.|
|08:40||Great Moments In History. As with the last two times, the figure renowned in poem insists on being paid before doing the heroic thing. This time the character is Giocante Casabianca, from a poem celebrating an incident during the Battle of the Nile (1798) that was just leaving the canon of things anybody might have heard of.|
|09:50||Peggy Taylor. A bit of talk about pets, including Freberg suggesting that while Taylor kept rabbits, “the rabbits raised themselves”. I’ve used the same line about the guinea pigs I had as a kid and I don’t know whether I adopted it from Freberg. Tweedly reappears around all this talk that might imply sex. Taylor sings “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody,” a song from 1918 so that “Old Man River” is not the oldest song in the show. (Judy Garland and Jerry Lewis had published versions of it in 1955 and 1956, so the song was at least in the air.)|
|13:20||Face The Funnies. Panel discussion about the comics page. The name of the host — “Fullbrook Mason” — puts me in mind of Mason Gross, one of those 1950s intellectuals who could stay respectable despite being a judge for quiz shows and other disreputable bits of pop culture. It’s a laugh line that someone might have studied Tarzan’s influence on 20th-century culture. It’s interesting to me all the strips discussed are adventure-continuity strips; nobody wants to talk about humor strips. The jokes are kind of what you’d get from any good slightly-snarky nerd discussion about the funnies, like whether Orphan Annie owns a second dress. Speculations about whether a given Dick Tracy character was guilty or not was, if not something people actually did, at least something characters in radio comedies did.|
|22:10||The Rock Island Line. And this one is an adaptation of an already-existing comedy album. That one (and the sketch) reused Freberg’s premise of the singer trying to get through a song and being nagged into distraction by a skeptical eavesdropper.|
|27:20||Closing remarks. Freberg can’t describe what next week’s show will be.|
See this and other recaps of The Stan Freberg Show at this link.
Don’t mind me. Just checking whether anyone’s commented on how funny it was that last week’s big piece casually alluded to the pre-1884 prime meridian for French-made maps. And, for that matter, for how France initially adapted to a standardized, Greenwich-based time.
[ Pause ]
Well, I’m sure people are just too bowled over by my geniusnessness and extremely adequate researching and will be praising me for it soon enough. I have time. (That’s not a follow-on joke, but I’ll take it.)
If you’re looking for the latest story developments in Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley, thanks for thinking of me. If you’re reading this after about January 2019, there’s probably a more recent article for you. It should be posted here, and good luck finding what you need.
On my other blog I talk about mathematics touched on by comic strips, which might interest you. Also for the last several months of 2018 I’m looking at words from mathematics and explaining them. You might find either of these interesting; please give them a try.
23 July – 13 October 2018
When I last recapped Gasoline Alley, the comic strip was publishing new strips again. Walt Wallet was trying to buy clothes from omnipresent clerk Frank Nelson. So that was going well.
Still, it’s productive. Nelson bemoans the world situation and, longing for a hero, asks “Where is Orphan Annie when we need her most?” Wallet picks up the line. He finds it the right close for his roast of Little Orphan Annie at the Old Comics Home. Skeezix and Walt drive to the Old Comics Home, which is bigger than it used to be. Also very empty. They don’t know what’s gone wrong.
Jiggs, of Bringing Up Father, rescues them. The dinner is at the new banquet hall. They could afford it thanks to “a famous cartoonist that included us in his will”. The commenters at GoComics speculate that Jiggs was talking about Mort Walker, who died earlier this year. That sounds good to me. You don’t think of Beetle Bailey as having raked its creator a great heaping pile of money, but remember, he also had those Boner’s Ark royalties coming in for years. They need the expanded home, too, as there’s more and more old-comics every day, what with newspapers having died in 2008.
They get to the banquet hall, and Jiggs passes off Walt and Skeezix to Mutt and Jeff. This opens things to a good spot of corny old dining jokes, and a lot of challenges to identify some 1930s comic strip character. But finally, with the start of September, the banquet reaches its point: it is not a roast of Little Orphan Annie. It’s a tribute to Gasoline Alley in honor of its centennial. Walt Wallet points out this is a couple months early. Mutt says “We know! We’ve got an Orphan Annie roast planned then!”
The strip began to recap the first century of itself. This included some nice-looking redrawings of vintage comics. This Scancarelli did using the original Frank King-style model sheets, or good adaptations of them to modern newspaper needs. And then jump ahead to reviewing the 14th of February, 1921, when a most important thing happened: Jack Benny turned 39. And the infant Skeezix was left on Walt Wallet’s doorstep. This is taken as the moment when Gasoline Alley leapt out of its original premise — jokes about guys and their obsessive tinkering with cars — into something people cared about, wildly. Walt Wallet adopting this foundling was a story.
The strip recounts what I am going ahead and trusting are early comics about Walt trying to take care of Baby Skeezix. And describes the nationwide poll that I’m trusting Scancarelli when he says was held, to pick a name for the child. The result, I am surprised to learn, was “Allison”, a bit of wordplay on his being the Alley’s son. And a reminder that any name we might think of as a girl’s was also a boy’s name at most three generations ago. But Skeezix stuck. Walt repeats the claim that Skeezix is “cowboy slang for a motherless calf”. Perhaps, but I can’t find support for that word-origin story that doesn’t come from Gasoline Alley. “Skeesicks”, or several variant spellings of it, does seem to be 19th century slang for a rogue or rascal. The connotation of the word softened as the 20th century dawned. By 1912 it was the sort of thing a P G Wodehouse protagonist (in The Prince and Betty) could call the stuffy old fellow with money who’s slowing the whole scheme down.
All looked ready to carry on with recapping a century’s worth of overarching stories when October, and a special guest, arrived. I expected Phyllis Wallet, who died in the strip in 2004. Part of Gasoline Alley‘s gimmick has been that the characters age, loosely in real time, which for a long-running strip means even the core characters have to die. Walt Wallet’s been spared, I imagine for reasonable sentimental reasons. But it does mean if you pay attention, he’s 118 years old. There’s two people in history who lived demonstrably longer than him. Moving Walt to the Old Comics Home seems like a natural way to avoid having to bring up his age without killing off the last of the comic strip’s original characters. Reuniting Walt with Phyllis and letting them stay together would make so much sense. It might yet be done.
But it wasn’t done this month. The guest was one Mrs Peggy Lee. Whom the strip tells us is a real person. That she’s drawn in a much-more-realistic style than any other character suggested this. And why Peggy Lee? Says the strip, she also turned 100 years old this year. This opens the door to a couple weeks of old-age jokes (“I knew I was getting old when it took me longer to recover than it did to tire me out!”). And why Peggy Lee as opposed to any other centenarian? Apparently she’s been a fan of the strip her whole life, and Jim Scancarelli came to know that. Well, that’s sweet.
And that’s what’s been happening. The Sunday strips have kept on being spot jokes. They don’t fill out any particular story, but do keep the other characters in the comic. I assume the comic is going to continue celebrating its centennial. That will come, barring catastrophe, the 24th of November, or just short of six weeks from now. It seems likely to me that Scancarelli’s already completed the centennial strip. Wow.
Gasoline Alley is the oldest (American) syndicated comic strip that’s still in production. (The Katzenjammer Kids lapsed into eternal reruns long ago, and I have no idea if it’s still offered to any newspapers anywhere or if it’s just posted to Comics Kingdom.) There are a few others that should join it soon, though. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not (if you count it as a comic strip) first appeared the 19th of December, 1918. Barney Google first appeared the 17th of June, 1919. Popeye first appeared, as Thimble Theatre, on the 19th of December, 1919, and it at least still has new Sunday strips. (Popeye himself didn’t join the strip until 1929.) I suspect none of them figure to do an anniversary celebration like this.
Mexico! Mysterious artefacts in the Yucatan! The strange and wonderful wildlife of Central America that we somehow haven’t killed yet! Yes, this storyline is still going on in James Allen’s Mark Trail, but never fear! I’ll catch you up!
- le B
- le C
- la D
- la F
- le G
- la H
- la J
- le K
- la L
- le M
- la N
- le P
- le Q
- la R
- la S
- le T
- le V
- les W
- la X
- la Z
Reference: Art of the Carousel, Charlotte Dinger.
The other day I tossed off this joke about the Pantone Laboratories. And figured that was enough of a joke at the time, what with the merriment and giggling that pair of words provoked in every living creature exposed to them, including our pet rabbit and the succulents on the windowsill. But then I went and spoiled myself by wondering if there are Pantone Laboratories. I mean, it’s a company that does … color … things. There’s probably something they do that involves having a beaker or a spectroscope or something, right?
So anyway Wikipedia didn’t leave me with any idea whether there is a Pantone Laboratories, but it did make me aware that since 2000 Pantone has declared a “Color of the Year”. And that twice a year they gather “representatives from various nations’ color standards groups” and spend two days presenting and debating candidates for the color of the year. There are people whose jobs include occasionally going to “a European capital” for a secret meeting where they decide, oh, is this more of a “turquoise”, a “blue turquoise”, or an “emerald” year? The debates must be furious. I’m surprised any of the participants emerge alive, although, Wikipedia does not actually claim there are survivors.
Me, I’m just glad we’ve not yet had a chartreuse year, because that color is not what I would think chartreuse was.
- 1452. The Byzantium Area Public Library System issues its final notice to the Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos that he has accrued $4.00 in fines on a copy of So You Think Invading the Balkans Will Make You Happy Now, Do You? and if he does not return the book and the fine promptly they will turn matters over to Mehmed II’s collection agency.
- 1492. Christopher Columbus, sailing three ships whose names were lost to history, arrives on the shores of the Guangdong area of China. The Chinese people, sensing both trouble and gullibility, spin a tale that this is actually the West Indies, thousands of miles east of where anybody wanted to be. They are delighted to find that the idea catches on, and there are no follow-on consequences that anyone has any reason to regret. The ship names were later found by history, in the junk drawer next to four pens that don’t work.
- 1582. Nothing happens. People in Italy and Spain feel a great sense of unease. Mobs of people resolve to figure out just what’s going on when they wake up the next day, but nothing happens then either.
- 1664. Saturn enters the house of Aries. Aries is not present. Saturn takes the chances to playfully rearrange the dishes, leaving the coffee mugs on the wrong side of the cabinet. Saturn was all set to sneak out undetected, but gave in to the temptation to go through Aries’s refrigerator and turn all the condiment bottles so the labels face the back. Aries finally arrives home, and they have an argument, and Aries doesn’t forgive Saturn for over two hundred years and a month.
- 1805. Napoleon Bonaparte announces he intends to build a stone-arch bridge that encircles the world. His subordinates acclaim this as a bold, challenging accomplishment that will prove French greatness to the world for centuries to come. Napoleon then announces he’ll make the problem less challenging by building it as a ring just under a kilometer from the North Pole, a great distance farther north than anyone has ever been, never mind where any stone bridges have been. His subordinates nod slowly but agree this will also capture the imaginations of history, especially when they point out how hard it is to get construction-great stone up to the North Pole. Napoleon then says, you know, the Earth is round, and his subordinates ask where this is going now. He says that since it is, you could say there’s an axis through any points on the Earth. So why not declare there’s an imperial North Pole that pokes its way through the suburbs of Paris, with the actual North Pole offset from that by about 31 degrees of latitude, and build the arch around that. This leaves his subordinates pretty sure he’s messing with them. They’re honestly relieved to hear the British are attacking something, anything, at this point.
- 1868. Otto von Bismarck, chancellor of Prussia, announces his intention to unify the states of North and South Dakota. He is finally convinced by his wife that he is getting way ahead of himself.
- 1903. Automobile pioneer Henry Ford, racing in a car of his own design, crosses the finish line to win the New York City-to-San Francisco Driving Contest of 1902.
- 1959. Argentina and Japan, following the discovery in June that they had never signed a peace treaty after the Crimean War, take the chance to sign one now. The purely ceremonial affair in Paris is dignified and pleasant and quite merry. It’s only spoiled near the end when a nosey Art Buchwald asks whether either of the nations had anything to do with the Crimean War in the first place. He is locked into a broom closet.
- 1978. The first time that otters are seated in the Italian parliament. This follows elections which many say reflect a public desire to check the influence of fish in the lower house. Their first speeches on the floor are acclaimed by the press as “damp”.
- 1996. I publish to Usenet my thesis that in the well-worn prank, the person who insists on seeing that the dictionary does indeed contain the word “gullible” is not displaying the gullibility implicit in the premise because it is an act of skepticism to insist on proving whether a possible-but-unlikely state is true, and am immediately showered with acclaim and recognition for how I am completely right and everyone arguing this point with me any further is wrong and stupid and foolish and a bad person.
- 2015. The Byzantium Area Public Library System apologizes, saying it found that So You Think Invading the Balkans Will Make You Happy Now, Do You? had been filed wrong. It was on the shelf right next to Art Buchwald all this time and they were wrong to send the matter to collections. Whoops!
So I spent the early part of the day wondering how long the cartoonist spent deciding whether they wanted the animal here to be a raccoon, or a cat, or a raccoon, or a cat, before finally remembering, it’s a Ziggy panel. They didn’t have to work out which in this situation would be funnier, cat or raccoon.
This episode of The Stan Freberg Show debuted on the 11th of August, 1957. So, in the late 50s, scripted fiction radio like this was dying, if not dead. Not, old-time-radio enthusiasts insist, because the medium was necessarily losing popularity. The big radio networks were also trying to be the big TV networks, and saw more money in bringing audiences to TV. So when this show gets into jokes about television being a dirty word around CBS Radio headquarters, that’s the light conspiracy getting joked about.
And here’s the rundown:
|00:00||Cold Open. Audio joke; they play the “whole half hour backwards and at high speed”. And now play it forward at regular speed.|
|01:15||Opening comments. Freberg talks about hoping to avoid radio clichés, but turns this into talk about how the show hasn’t got a sponsor, as mentioned last week.|
|02:00||Orville arrives from the Moon. This starts as a news repot from “LeRoy Phipps” about a flying saucer reported near the funny-named town of Yreka, California. Sketch introduces the odd running joke of an “unusually musical hover-squash”. Phipps storms off, but — after the audience laughs at something it can see (about 05:30), Orville appears. He’s the brother of Miss Jupiter, the alien with the shapely wheels from the third episode. This brings in singer Peggy Taylor, and reveals that there’s smog on the moon. The lunar smog’s blamed on the flying saucers, but there’s people who suspect industry. Orville — after saying how he’d “like to see that [ typewriter ] in a bikini” — sings as “the voice of cheese”. His song is what I’m guessing is a variant of a song titled “Hello, out there Hello”. In a common joke about bandleaders being weird, not-quite-human figures, Orville says bandleader Billy May “sure looks like [ his friend ] Og-Og”.|
|10:25||Dr Herman Horn returns. as he did last week, he explains hi-fi and puts on a demonstration of weird sound effects. Horn’s nerd-rage complaints about his wife veer uncomfortably close for me to Kabibble Kabaret misogyny. But the writing does seem to be from the viewpoint that Horn’s the unreasonable one here. Anyway, Horn provides some lovely ridiculous sound effects, including “Benny Goodman in a skin-divers’ suit 20 feet underwater playing Danny Boy in a kelp bed”, and King Farouk applauding him, and John L Lewis giving his eyebrows a crewcut. These might be references of their time. But I think their ludicrous specificity leaves them funny anyway. This is the sketch that introduced to the language the immortal line, “All right, Strudelmeyer, let the air out of the latex piano player”, so you can maybe see why the show had ten more weeks to run.|
|17:35||June Foray asks if she can go home early to watch some television. Stan Freberg has a bootleg set in his dressing room that he’s passed off as an “unusually pictorial hover-squash”. There’s a use here of bowling as if it were inherently funny a woman might want to bowl.|
|18:50||Bubbles, the show June Foray and Stan Freberg watch. This is an adaptation of Freberg’s record “Wun’erful, Wun’erful”. The record and sketch spoofs The Lawrence Welk Show. (Here’s an attempt to match the audio of the record with clips from The Lawrence Welk Show.) The major difference in the sketch version is that it loses the absurdist ending of the record — in which the Aragon Ballroom floats off to sea and is observed by a couple disbelieving mariners. To me, more familiar with “Wun’erful, Wun’erful” than the show, this makes the sketch version feel unresolved. But that doesn’t affect the quality of the sketch to that point, and it only matters if you expect the sketch to include something it has no reason to, and would have trouble fitting in. The record, and sketch, are in two comedy modes I love: the slightly daft characters carrying on in scenes that locally make sense even if they’re globally doing nonsense; and people not quite carrying on while stuff breaks down. So the sketch might have been written expressly for me, which is always nice to find.|
|28:01||Teaser. Freberg says that next week will include one minute of universal tap-dancing.|
Yes, I am still feeling the sting of terrible betrayal about how Diet Faygo Arctic Sun is, despite the bottle, actually slightly less blue than a bucket of orange paint would be. Even as we speak, if we get together the minute I’m writing this, I’m consoling myself with a can of Fresca, where the relevant soda pop is “I have no idea what color. It’s in a can”. However, we do have this exciting development. It came about from my love stopping in the cider mill to get … well, go ahead and guess. But also eggs because we were, so far as my love was aware, out of eggs. I also got eggs, because so far as I was aware I was the only person in a position to get eggs. The important thing in our state of being temporarily flush with eggs is that the cider mill eggs are a mix, not all a bunch of uniformly Same Color White Or Brown. In fact, we’ve got this:
So yes, that second egg from the right, top row. It’s a pale color, yes, and it photographs as pretty darned grey. But we got the tests back from the Pantone Laboratories just hours ago and it does fit within the technical standards to pass as a “green egg”. I can’t tell you exactly what we’re going to do with this wonder of nature, except that it’s probably going to be eaten.
Hi, readers of Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy. I do my best here to bring you up to date on the last couple month’s developments. If it’s past about January of 2019 for you, there’s probably a more recent update here. Good luck finding the story you need.
The mathematics you need is over at this link, where I talk about the mathematics last week’s newspaper comics mentioned. I like this stuff. You might too.
16 July – 7 October 2018.
Last time I checked in Dick Tracy was entering a charity bread-making contest so I’m sorry I have to go lie down a bit. All right. Sawtooth hopes to use the chance to kill Tracy; he and his gambling-addict partner Grimm have stolen a bread truck and, saying they were from the charity event, got into the Tracy’s home. They don’t fool Tracy for a second. He used the super-detective work of knowing the restaurant collecting the bread didn’t have a truck to send out. The fight spills out of Tracy’s kitchen, through the glass door. Sawtooth and Grimm flee as cop cars approach.
They can’t take a train legitimately. Grimm lost the pair’s money betting on horses. Sawtooth (off-panel) kills him, and hops a freight train to Minot, North Dakota. Dick Tracy knows this thanks to one of the informants recruited by Lafayette Austin. Lafayette Austin’s this faintly Shaggy-esque introduced so prominently during the recent Green Hornet storyline that everyone had to wonder what his deal was. Early August, he explains his deal: He knew Mister Bribery and his sister Ugly Christine back in college. Back before Christine Bribery (?) turned to a life of crime. And then a death of leaping from a magnetic Moon Valley-technology Air Car into a smokestack. But he knew Ugly Christine as a beautiful person. He didn’t know she had a daughter. Ugly Crystal, friend to Honey Moon Tracy. Hold that thought.
Sawtooth, in Minot, goes to the Hoagland Cemetery. The grave of one “Private James Wesley Malone, CSA”. The baffling and offensive headstone is a fake. Sawtooth had left $50,000 in cash underneath it. Tracy and Sam Catchem, following the lead of Austin and of Usagi Yojimbo‘s Inspector Ishida, are already there. Sawtooth shoots first. Don’t know whether Tracy or Catchem shoots the bullet that kills him.
And then, starting the 19th of August, was a two-week Minit Mystery, featuring as guest artist Rick Burchett. Burchett’s a two-time Eisner Award-winner, has penciled and inked a lot of comic books, and since 2017 pencils Funky Winkerbean. Anyway, this Minit Mystery is set at the Rogue’s Gallery, where a bunch of cosplayers feign being Dick Tracy characters. Lest you think this is entirely two weeks of self-reference and an excuse to show Flattop (deceased 1944) again, know that the Rogue’s Gallery building was established as 704 Houser. That was Archie Bunker’s address.
Anyway, the mystery is figuring out who killed the Cosplay Dick Tracy. It takes a week just to start collecting clues. The resolution is … well, there’s no information given on-camera that would let you find it. But it does show what the critical clue would be. It’s the old minute-mystery trick of an incriminating note that’s been torn off the sheet of paper, but that you can find by scraping a pencil over to read the impression of what was written there.
Third of September, and the start of the current storyline. A drug pusher by the school gets kicked out by a Sonic-the-Hedgehog-haired woman working for “Polar Vortex”. Polar Vortex seems to be quite fond of the air conditioner and he swears he’s got protection. Get his … guy … within six feet of Dick Tracy and “Poof! No more Tracy!” (I would have written “Vanished, without a Tracy” but I’m not the professional here.)
Back at school, Ugly Crystal and Honey Moon Tracy notice the drug dealer. Honey Moon calls her dad the cop, but the dealer confronts her and she kinda moon-electrocutes him. The dealer’s arrested. Honey Moon gets grounded, which I like as a nice understated joke.
Back to Lafayette Austin. He thinks he might be Ugly Crystal’s father. He goes to Mister Bribery, in jail, for information. Bribery won’t talk with him. Tracy intervenes. Bribery is upset Tracy wants help with that “hippie” Lafayette Austin, which is a pretty good insult. It does kind of match Austin’s look, yes. But also if we accept that he was going with Ugly Christine back in the 60s, yeah, maybe we would have been a hippie. Also, rich old white guys have this weird obsession with hippies coming out and grabbing at the women-folk. So it’s possibly true, it’s funny, and it’s in-character.
It’s a bit of a weird embrace of the time-warped nature of a comic strip where characters age erratically, but, eh, so what? Crystal and Honey Moon also make a reference to “Anything Can Happen Day” on The Mickey Mouse Club and I’m not sure this is something people of their purported age cohort would have experienced. But if Honey Moon’s been a teenager for forty years? Why not?
Oh, also, turns out Lafayette’s brother is Adam Austin who writes those “Midnite Mirror” stories about the Mirror-Universe Evil Dick Tracy. And who’s going around with Sprocket Nitrate, of the film-fraud Nitrate siblings, because this crime-adventure comic is still a soap opera.
Tracy presses, though, arguing that Ugly Crystal should have a family if possible. And Bribery admits that, so far as he knew, Ugly Christine never had another serious relationship. They set up a blood test. Also the chance to meet and, for Austin, to talk about Crystal’s mother. The paternity test comes back, oddly enough sent to the Major Case Unit instead of Austin’s or Crystal’s residences. They’re daughter and father.
Meanwhile, Polar Vortex is still trying to I’ll go ahead and call it icing Dick Tracy. His plan relates to dealing drugs at Honey Moon’s school. He’s got an ice cream truck. And someone named Pauly who’s a mechanic and comes from a broken home which somehow makes him “valuable” to Vortex. And somehow this is all supposed to come together to destroying Dick Tracy. We’ll see what happens next.
How has Walt Wallet’s toothpaste conspiracy ranting gone? How is his roast of Little Orphan Annie going? Who is that creepily-realistically-drawn woman trading jokes with the cast? All this and more as we check what’s going on in Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley, all going well.
This is a special Statistics post, commemorating the event of Another Blog, Meanwhile finally reaching its 100,000th page view, sometime during the 6th of October, 2018!
I had hoped people would enjoy getting to look back at how the number of page views has grown, over time, until it’s finally reached a number literally higher than it has ever reached before.
My thanks as ever to all the readers who looked at one or more of my pages, concluded that this was a strange lot of talk about mid-19th-century cabinet secretaries, and then went on to some other, popular blog.
Reference: Lilo and Stitch: Collected Stories from the Film’s Creators, Editor H Clark Wakabayashi.
But apparently there’s going to be some incident deep in the midst of winter where it’s one of those nasty snowy days. Also, apparently I’m going to have one of those cars that looks like an SUV but is small enough to tell yourself you’re not just buying an SUV. The snow, of course, will need to be dusted off in order to safely drive and I’m one of those people who does dust off the top of the car even when it’s deep into winter when everybody’s given up. The inconvenient thing was that the car was parked in the living room. No problem that the snow off the car was getting dusted onto the floor, which by the way is wood and really shouldn’t have that much snow on it for that long. But I was thinking how annoying it would be getting the car back into this great parking spot in the living room right between the bookshelf and the little tower we have with the record player and satellite TV receiver and all that. It’s a pretty tight spot, even for a small car. Plus on the TV was one of those morning news-chat shows where you get a little bit about what to dread today, and then a human-interest feature about some guy in Alaska who’s having trouble getting a permit for some ridiculous thing for some ridiculous reason, and then they show you how to make an omelette. This means something, but I have got no idea what.
So a couple years ago my love got a bag of desiccant. By legitimate means. And for purposes society would generally approve of, too. I’ve had enough of these scurrilous rumors. I don’t know how these things get started. But then I also don’t know how to spell “desiccant”. I’m going with what Wikipedia tells me. Wikipedia also tells me “a desiccant is a hygroscopic substance that induces or sustains a state of dryness in its vicinity; it is the opposite of a humectant”. I haven’t even been awake an hour yet. What’s Wikipedia doing talking to me like that? Have some consideration.
Anyway, this was only a bag of desiccant. Like what you get in a tiny paper envelope that you’re warned not to eat with your new shoes. What stands out about this is we had a lot of it. A big bag full. I should manage expectations. I’m prone to hyperbole that people take literally, like when I said the styrofoam packing-peanuts incident covered the green-roof part of campus to a depth of eighteen inches. So when I say it was a big bag of desiccant I realize I’m leading you to think it was something at least twelve percent outlandish. Like, a bag of desiccant large enough to roll down the street and crush the auto-care place with its inspirational despair sign.
This was a much more reasonable-sized bag. Big enough to hold comfortably with one standard-issue hand. About what you would need if you wanted to make a loaf of sourdough bread all wrong. Still, it’s a lot, considering how little desiccant we need. It was more than we would need at once even if we were eating all our shoes. So we had trouble once the bag came to our attention and we figured we should do something about it.
I had a working plan. I was figuring to let it rest on a horizontal surface until it broke. (I mean the bag. I can’t bear it when horizontal surfaces break.) The dinner table looked like a good choice. The bag was a decent prop for holding trade paperbacks open, at least if I wasn’t too near the center of the book. But understand that I have a condition where I have to stack stuff on horizontal surfaces. I’ve sometimes stacked stuff on top of books I’m currently reading and have left open to page 184. It runs in my family. Neither of my parents have ever gotten to page 186 of a book without a major cleaning project either. My love does not put up with this nonsense. This is good, as otherwise I would someday die in a tragic desiccant-and-book avalanche. Once it was clear I was fine with leaving the bag on the dinner table until I died of old, dry age, the quest for what to do with it was on.
The obvious plan: put it up on Freecycle. Freecycle is a great web site that lets you match usable stuff you don’t need with people in your city, even in your neighborhood, who will never pick it up. We’ve used it before. It’s given us many chances to argue the morals of someone who made the cruel false claim they would take a couple pressure-treated wood 4x4s “Tuesday”. They were our pressure-treated wood 4x4s and we had the receipts to prove it, so let’s stop with the rumors. They’re on the side of the driveway if you want them.
So what did we have to lose by trying? Not the bag of desiccant, for one. Someone in the neighborhood promised to come by the next morning and pick it up, and we promised to pretend to believe them. We didn’t figure on getting up to meet them. It takes time for us to get ready to have Wikipedia tell us stuff. Never mind how hard it would be to give a thing to a person who would like that thing. So my love set the bag inside a plastic freezer bag, because it was raining pretty steady. We didn’t know what would happen if we exposed a full bag of desiccant to an autumnal rain, but also figured we didn’t need that kind of trouble too. We set it between the screen and front doors where our imaginary Freecycle partner could pick it up.
And yet! The next morning there was some kind of noise at the door. And the bag, and the bag inside it, and the desiccant inside, were gone afterwards. We have no explanation for this phenomenon. But we do have our suspicions.
Deep suspicions. Because we’ve been in the rainy season. The day we set the bag of desiccant out the area got an inch and a half of rain. The goldfish in the pond were asking if we needed quite this much rain. But a couple hours after parties unknown to us took this bag, the rain stopped. I’m not saying there is someone altering the mid-Michigan weather using a not-that-large bag of desiccant. I only ask how we can say for sure that’s not going on.
Gang I’m sorry to interrupt but this is urgent. It turns out if you go to a store and give them some money for an embossed-tape label-maker, then they have to give you one right then and there. It’s the rules. Plus they can’t go and take it back then. That’s also the rules. I mean the right kind of store, yes. You have to go to one that sells label-makers of some kind I think that’s fair enough. It would be a bit rough on the sales clerks if you went to, say, a bead-selling shop (or as it is known in the industry, a “beadatorium”) and demanded a label-maker. I mean, they might loan you one, if they didn’t need to put a label on some of their beads just then. (The label would read ‘BEADS’.) Beadatorium workers seem like a pretty nice kind of person. But you couldn’t expect them to give you one for keeps. They would need label-making equipment for their own use, in case they got in some more beads. (That label would read ‘MORE BEADS’.) But the important thing is if you went to the right store and bought one, then you have an embossed-tape label-maker and you can make labels that read anything you want. Please reblog to raise awareness. This could be bigger than how it turns out you could just make something in the slow cooker any time you wanted, even right now.
The Lux Radio Theatre was a longrunning radio specialty. The show presented hourlong, audio-only renditions of popular movies. The compression for time, and the adaptation to reflect that everything has to be audible, make for sometimes fascinating differences. There’s a version of The Wizard of Oz where the Cowardly Lion is played by … I don’t know, but it sure sounds like Thurl Ravenscroft (Tony the Tiger; the singer declaring you’re a mean one, Mister Grinch) to me. And it’s not bad, but it highlights how Burt Lahr was just an enormous fuzzy ball of lovability. The adaptation of Jack Benny’s then-infamous (and not that bad) flop The Horn Blows At Midnight dropped the framing device and improved the film by at least one full letter grade. For a dozen years it was hosted by Cecil B DeMille, who performed just as you might imagine if you were writing a comedy sketch about an old-time Hollywood director introducing movies he didn’t make. By the mid-40s DeMille stepped down and William Keighley and then Irving Cummings took over hosting duties. But the DeMille thing is what’s being riffed on here, the fourth episode of The Stan Freberg Show, originally aired the 4th of August, 1957.
And here’s the rundown:
|00:00||Cold Open. Freberg talking with a bongo player who’s sensitive to how loud the show is. The sensitive bongo player’s from Freberg’s Banana Boat (Day-Oh) record, which was also released in 1957 and is how I know he’s a bongo player; that information’s not given here. I don’t know whether the record or the show came out first and so which was promotion for or callback to the other. Freberg expressing fear that he might be mistaken for a commercial might reflect how the show hadn’t got a sponsor, which you’ll notice now, and would become a minor recurring theme in the show’s run.|
|01:23||Great Moments In History. The story behind Paul Revere’s Ride. The punchline is the same as the story behind Barbara Fritchie, in the second episode. Historical researcher Robert E Tainter is mentioned again, described as having to mail his piece in.|
|02:24|| What Is Yogurt? If there is a funniest-in-retrospect bit of comedy, it’s people not understanding foods that have since become commonplace. Recommended other examples of this genre: articles from the New York World’s Fair of 1939-40 explaining what a “bagel” is; the way “pizza” was a reliable laugh line about something someone might eat from about The Honeymooners through the Kinks’ Soap Opera album.
Anyway, this is just a way to get Peggy Taylor in early to sing “I Like The Looks Of You”. I’m assuming that’s the title of the song. Searching on the lyrics didn’t pin down, for me, a clear idea of what song this was.
|05:15||Hi-Fi. Doctor Herman Horn explains Hi-Fi. It’s a fine bit of nonsense, with a bunch of weird sounds and odd explanations. I love the low-key nerd correctionism in Horn warning that “Hi-Fi” is two words and he won’t tell you again, which he doesn’t.|
|11:00|| Lox Audio Theater. The melodrama Rock Around My Nose, all about the terror of a man who can’t get close to his son. If you’ve wondered where the phrase “nose full of nickels” come from, you’re fibbing. (The particular cadence for chanting “nose full of nickels” reminds me of a running gag on The Jack Benny Show. I don’t know whether that’s a deliberate reference, a coincidence, or if both are a reference to something I’m not getting.) I love the line about how “that 73 cents bothered me”.
The sketch has an example of that motif where the child is “really” a cranky old man, part of a line of jokes that would include Baby Herman, from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Of course, the kid is really played by June Foray, which makes the sketch sound even more like a Aesop and Son piece from Rocky and Bullwinkle.
The close of the sketch, in which all the actors start fighting, is a direct riff of the close of Lux Radio Theater episodes. Those always featured, of course, the cast talking about what a great time they had and how they use Lux Soap all the time.
The close teases that the next adaptation will be Love Thy Neighbor. This is conceivably a reference to the 1940 Jack Benny/Fred Allen comedy based on their famous radio feud. I wouldn’t think so, since the movie was 17 years old at that point and I can’t imagine it lingering in the public consciousness, but I’ve been proved wrong about Fred Allen’s lasting reputation in recent weeks so what do I know. And Freberg and his writers might not have cared if they referenced anything anyone recognized as long as they were amused. But I’d bet on it just reflecting that it’s funny to say “love thy neighbor” in the midst of a brawl.
|22:25||The Yellow Rose of Texas. Adaptation of Freberg’s 1955 The Yellow Rose of Texas record, in which the lead singer squabbles with the drum player. This record was also one of those referenced in the cold open to the first episode of the series.|
|27:12||Closing. The bongo player has fully sampled the show and concludes it is loud.|
All my recaps of The Stan Freberg Show should be at this link.
Time again for my monthly review of how many people come around this blog, and what they seem to be coming for. I’m not sure what I expected. A decline, I suppose. I always feel like I’m fighting a battle against popularity. But now that Jim Scancarelli is back and producing new Gasoline Alley comics, there’s no reason for people to come around trying to understand what’s going on with the comic. People are curious about Alley Oop, but not as intently. People might come to miss Hazel and Henry, but … like … really? And Henry hasn’t quite stopped running yet. Anyway, here’s the big picture and it’s about as I expected:
So I didn’t earn another two hundred or so page views last month. 2,644 views in September, down from 2,848 in August and 2,984 in July. Lost nearly two hundred unique visitors, too. 1,436 visitors in September, down from 1,619 in August and 1,569 in July. I had expected that going from cartoons — in the Betty Boop and Popeye two-reelers — to half-hour-long radio — the Stan Freberg Show — would hurt readership. A half-hour densely-written radio show seems harder to skim than a cartoon short. But there’s evidence I’m wrong about that, too.
For all that I’ve got fewer readers, they’re staying involved, at least per capita. 174 things were liked around here in September. That’s basically the same number as were liked every month going back to April. It’s March since there was last a like-total outside the 165-to-180 range. There were 50 comments total in September, up from August’s 39 and July’s 36. It’s nice to have any month where there’s more than one and a half comments per day, anyway.
OK. So which of the comic strip explanation posts were most popular in September?
- What The Heck Happened To Nancy and Why Does It Look Weird?
- What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? And What Happened To Jim Scancarelli?
- What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? What’s The Plan To Kill Heloise Walker? July – September 2018.
- What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Is Something Happening In Apartment 3-G Suddenly? March – June 2018.
- What’s Going On In Alley Oop? Did Alley Oop End? June – August 2018.
I’m really happy people are finding that Phantom Weekdays update, since for once they’re finding the most current update. And stuff is happening pretty fast and big right now.
My schedule — subject to change to respect breaking news — for comics updates in October is:
- Week of 8 October: Dick Tracy.
- Week of 15 October: Gasoline Alley.
- Week of 22 October: Mark Trail.
- Week of 29 October: Mary Worth.
- Week of 5 November: The Phantom (Sundays).
My most popular non-comic-strip thing was the recap of The Stan Freberg Show‘s second episode. The first episode was rather popular too. I’m wondering if I’m filling one of those gaps in Internet Knowledge by providing an episode guide for these. My most popular long-form piece was Yes, I Am Aware Of The Historical Irony. This makes sense. What’s more universally communicable than me geeking out over some tiny bit of local history?
In August there were 60 countries sending me any readers at all. 16 of them were single-reader countries. How does this compare to September?
|Hong Kong SAR China||14|
|Trinidad & Tobago||2|
|United Arab Emirates||2|
|New Zealand||1 (*)|
Once again 60 countries sent me readers. Yes, I double-checked that I didn’t look at the wrong month’s data. 16 of them were single-reader countries. Yes, I checked again that I was looking at the correct month. Colombia, New Zealand, and Turkey were the only single-reader countries two months in a row. See? I have to be looking at the correct month. And yeah, 2,039 readers from the United States. Yes, I checked that I didn’t hit the Chuckletrousers number. Still weird. Looking at month-to-month totals it seems like half my readership decline was just people in India and Canada not coming around. Maybe I need to comment more about Australian politics to get them back?
October started with my blog having reached 99,519 viewers, from 54,713 unique visitors. Yes, I’m excited by the idea of reaching 100,000 viewers too. When I do reach that I can start the countdown to the Fibonacci number of viewers, 112358. Won’t that be exciting? It will too.
As of the start of October I’ve posted 273 things on this blog for 2018. There’ve been 177,181 words published total. That’s 18,197 total words published over the month, down from August’s 20,725. I’m averaging 641 words per post this year, down from 654 at the start of the month. There’ve been 641 comments total, for an average 2.3 comments per post this year. That’s the same average as at the start of September. There’ve been 1,671 total likes this year so far. That’s an average of 6.1 likes per posting, down from the start of September’s 6.2.
You can follow Another Blog, Meanwhile by RSS, using whatever reading tool you like. If you’d rather put it in your WordPress Reader, use the button that says something about adding the blog to your reader. It should be at the upper right corner of the page. You can find me as @nebusj on Twitter. All my postings should be announced there as they happen. Thanks for reading.
In the headers of these What’s Going On In posts I like to include a link to my Reading the Comics posts. Those are on my mathematics blog, and use comics to discuss mathematics themes. I always have one on Sunday. But not this Sunday! This month I’m host to the Playful Mathematics Education Blog Carnival, and so I hope you’ll read it too.
Meanwhile, if you just want the latest in news about Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant, thanks for reading! If it’s later than about December 2018 I should have a more up-to-date recap, all going well. It, and any other relevant Prince Valiant posts, will be at this link.
8 July – 30 September 2018.
When I last checked in on Prince Valiant some shocking news had come to light. It turns out Prince Valiant happens around the time of the Emperor Justinian’s reign. We know this because Justinian had dispatched one General Vialius to take over the Misty Isles. He was to do this through the treacherous and impoverished Senator Krios. This comes on the heels of the revelation-to-me that Prince Valiant’s based on the Misty Isles somewhere in the Mediterranean. At least these days.
On a secluded island Krios meets with General Vialius. The trade is easy enough. Krios had arranged the murder of a Norse trader. This was to stir up anti-foreigner sentiment that (Byzantine) Rome could exploit. But Vialius withholds the gold payment promised. Krios was supposed to supply a Norse hostage, but he had killed the only one on hand. Vialius wants to call the deal off. Krios offers his own son Antero as substitute hostage.
Antero laughs this off. He points to Princess Valeta and the guard who’ve been watching all this treason going down. The Queen’s men declare how now that there’s incontrovertible proof of Krios’s treachery his place in political life is ended. Don’t you love a sweet fantasy like that? Valeta confronts Vitalius in what you’d have to figure is a pretty awkward conversation. But she offers that if they get out of there, everyone can pretend it all never happened. This sounds good to Vitalius, who doesn’t know his boats are going to be lost to the wine-dark sea, in a battle with Norse raiders. He and his whole mission will disappear to ironic history. Knowing how that turns out makes it awkward that I think he made the right choice.
Not making the right choice, yet again: Krios. When Vitalius refuses to take him along, he tries to start a battle and flee in the chaos. Antero grabs and holds his father, at least until brother Drakon spears him in the back. Drakon in turn is shot by Ittu, a woman … uh … I lost track where she’s from. I think she’s one of the attendants of Andrina, Krios’s daughter and the only one of the siblings to survive the night. Krios is able to flee in the chaos, but what good is that going to do him, really?
And so the story moves toward conclusions. Valeta’s feted as a hero. Zulfa and Ittu, who did much to support the investigation and downfall of Krios, get saluted. Drakon gets his corpse dragged through the streets. Antero gets some recognition; through this story, he’s been the one person in Krios’s party to insist on stopping. Now there’s just Andrina to take care of. She’s angry with Zulfa for being part of the whole chain of events that got Antero killed. But Antero bequeathed his property to Zulfa. She proposes to Andrina that her brother wished they would be friends. She’s willing to try.
The “Next” tag for the 30th of September promises “The Return”. There’s an obvious person this could mean. Prince Valiant hasn’t been in this story, or this strip, since about February. He’s been busy coming back from Kazhakstan the long way, by river, building a long series of rafts that immediately capsize. Has he got back home? Has all waterway navigation in central Asia become impossible as a vast logjam of Valiant’s rafts blockades all the rivers? I don’t know. We’ll see.
Nice thing about Prince Valiant is that, as a weekly strip, there’s only so much plot it can have. Next week we go to the opposite end: Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy. Come see how close I come to deadline in getting all the story developments written down!