A Great Alarm, From My Dreams


I had been figuring to continue my talk about alarming things. I mean alarming to me. And particularly about things alarming to a wakeful mind that’s as rational as you get around here. Then I went and slept. If we accept that dreams can be warnings of what we must face, then I’m up for something big soon.

For this dream alarm to make any sense at all I should tell you we haven’t met our new neighbors. All we know about them is that they maybe exist. We’re not sure. The house next door is a rental. Sometimes we’ve had great neighbors. Like the ones who were pointing out the adorably silly look of this kitten’s tail, and said someday they’d bring us a pie from work. Those were great neighbors, everything you could hope for. They never even did bring us pie and that’s fine. We were happy to be thought worthy of pie delivery.

But that was a long time ago, and different renters have come in, and left, a couple times over. We’re sure that the last set of renters left. We noticed them less and less, then we noticed we didn’t notice them at all, and that’s how someone leaves, right? We’re not completely sure there’s new ones there, though. The evidence for is that someone goes in and leaves lights on, and there’s sometimes a car in the driveway at some implausible hour like 4 am. The evidence against is there’s not a curtain in the entire building and we dont see furniture either. But someone’s gone raking leaves there. It has to be at least someone who knows what they want out of the place. The point is that I don’t know our neighbors, if we have them. Any interactions we’d have with them would be our first, as far as I know.

So the dream scenario starts with me in the dining room, puttering away on the computer, probably writing this essay only even later. And then looking out the back to see that something’s knocked over part of the fence. This would be very annoying to have to deal with, so I did not. At least not until I looked again later and saw the whole fence was gone. That would be a problem I couldn’t ignore, which is why I did. And before you get all smug about how you’d be more active about this let me point out that you’re a lying liar who’s lying to yourself, by whom I mean me. If someone came in and stole your backyard fence you’d do anything to not deal with that too.

Which is fine except that a couple minutes later, I saw that the neighbor’s house was gone. More, all the houses down the block were gone, replaced with what looked like the clubhouse for one of those golf courses they make retirement communities out of these days. This annoyed me since we have some pleasantly old houses in the neighborhood, getting on a hundred years now, and they might be utterly ordinary Dutch Colonial things but there’s value in having an ordinary neighborhood in kind-of respectable shape. Plus it’s ridiculous to put in a golf clubhouse without a golf course. But on most of what had been the neighbors’ driveway was now a pool.

Offisa Pupp, berating a magician: 'You and your magic! You've got all Coconino County upset making things vanish. That mouse vanishes. That brick vanishes. My jail vanishes. Even that dear Kat vanishes. Everybody vanishes. Everybody ev --- ' Pupp vanishes. The magician, rolling over to sleep: 'I'm still here.'
George Herriman’s Krazy Kat for the 16th of January, 1942, and reprinted on Comics Kingdom today, the 5th of December, 2019. I feel peculiarly called out by all this.

Recounting this makes me realize that if the neighbors’ driveway had been replaced with a pool, then there’d be no good place to put the ladder for when I change the storm windows out for screens in spring. Our houses are close together and we use the neighbor’s driveway under the well-established legal principle of “I dunno, we’ll do this in the middle of the afternoon when they’re probably at work, if they exist”. That I was not worrying about how to take the storm windows down should have warned me that I was not in my rational mind. Whatever conclusions you draw about me, as a person, from knowing that self-assessment, are correct.

Anyway I was willing to put up with the neighborhood going missing and the fence being stolen, especially with the nice fountains spraying out of the ponds. This until I felt the water spraying on my back. Now the walls of our dining room were gone and I had to say something. I knew that our neighbor was responsible, somehow, and also knew who our neighbor was, and got a bit shout-y. The neighbor tried to point out that he’d left many of the walls in our house intact. Plus now we had the benefits of a covered patio for our dining room, which didn’t satisfy me because I was thinking of the heating bill. “Where do you get the nerve to STEAL our BUILDING WALLS”, I shouted. As I remember I put in the word “building” in order to make clear I was not this upset about the fence going missing, in case someone would mistake a wooden fence for a wall. And I wanted “building’s” but couldn’t make that work.

Also, and this is a real thing that really happened for real, in reality, I was yelling loudly enough in my dream that I was also saying this in real life, waking up my love. After listening a while to find out where this was going, my love woke me up. This was disorienting, and then I realized: oh, yes. Realizing that all this was a dream answered most of my questions about the situation I was in.

Anyway, if all this is a harbinger of the relationship we’re to have with our neighbors, if and when they exist, I think we must say they are very alarming neighbors indeed. I shall have to insist on actual pie delivery before they swipe any walls.

A Quick Post-Holiday Realization


You know, if The Family Circus never did a strip where one of the kids was telling another that last year’s Thanksgiving is properly referred to as “Thanksgiven” then the Keanes missed a major opportunity.

(Thanks for seeing me live up to the promise made last week, when I shared the theoretical reasons for the existence of a word “remise”. Please stop in next week when — no promises — I’m going to see if I can put together a coherent thought about superlative cider being the cidest.)

60s Popeye Watching: Irate Pirate


Irate Pirate is another of the Larry Harmon-produced line of 60s cartoons. Just looking at the title card I thought: well, “irate” and “pirate” only really rhyme when Popeye is saying that, and only some of the time even then, right? It’s all right to rely on an idiosyncratic thing of your title character, especially a character as generally swell as Popeye. But it’s symptomatic of this cartoon, where I ended up thinking more stray thoughts than actually watching the plot. Let’s see if you agree.

The cartoon’s competent enough. Everybody has a model and they stick, stiffly, to it. The story’s quite direct. There’s not really weird moments in it, either. So I’m left with stray thoughts while I watch. Here’s some of them.

  • Hey, it’s a cartoon where Popeye the Sailor is actually doing something with boats!
  • Though it is odd that we’re set up with a collapskible boat that we never see collapsking. Just un-collapsking. A button is a setup to have a button pressed repeatedly, at awkward moments.
  • “Ooh, Popeye! I just love that salty dialogue!” is definitely (at about 0:55) a line I did not understand when I was seven.
  • Olive Oyl asks what the one and only button is for. Popeye wants to stop her from pressing it, but he doesn’t want to stop her so much that he moves in any way.
  • So why does BrutusJolly Roger have a French accent this cartoon? Did it start out at one point as a New Orleans-set river-pirates thing and then that setting got dropped? Did they record the audio for this the same day, or near enough, to Mississippi Sissy? Was Jackson Beck just trying to add a little flavor to a dull part?
  • Popeye complains that Olive Oyl, atop the mast, is rollicking the boat. But since the animation doesn’t have her actually move, it looks like he’s the one rollicking the mast.
  • BrutusJolly Roger has a point about not wanting Olive Oyl to be on Popeye’s homemade tub rather than his own actual boat. Also I like Popeye’s indignant, “whaddaya mean homemade? I builded this boat meself!”
  • It’s really not until 2:51, when Olive Oyl’s finally tied up, that we see BrutusJolly Roger doing something villainous. If he did tie her up; we have to take it on trust that he had some part on it. There’s easily one chance in four that Olive Oyl spontaneously manifests ropes tying her up at about this part of a cartoon.
  • Olive Oyl hugging the top of a ship's mast, smiling and with her eyes closed.
    Well, glad Olive Oyl’s enjoying herself.
  • At about 3:30 Olive Oyl demands, “Don’t you dare hurt Popeye, you – you – pirate, you”. BrutusJolly Roger says, “Oh, I would not think of it” and immediately shoots his harpoon without explaining the apparent contradiction. Yeah, all he does is sink Popeye’s inflatable boat but I’d expected some mention of why he’s well, actually not hurting Popeye.
  • While handing from BrutusJolly Roger’s fishhook Popeye declares there’s “nothing like strained spinach to tickle the tonsils”, and when he eats it there’s this watery sound effect. What’s gone and strained his spinach? Is this supposed to be watery after Popeye was dunked in the sea? I guess that makes sense?
  • Those button noses on the ends of BrutusJolly Roger’s sharks given them a weirdly puppy-dog look.
  • BrutusJolly Roger’s boat starts out pretty sleek and modern, but as it goes on he seems to pick up older-style pirate accessories. Like, were they even still making cannonballs in 1960, apart from for historical reenactments? I honestly don’t know and don’t know how to look this one up.
  • After getting partly blown up by a cannonball that Popeye’s caught, lit, and passed back on, Olive Oyl declares “Let’s go ashore, sailing is so boring”. So she’s fed up with cartoons where all she does is get tied up by the Big Bad and urges Popeye on to doing something, too.

There’s probably some way to measure how much I’m buying into a cartoon by how many stray distracted thoughts like these that I have about it.

Statistics Monday: How November 2019 treated my humor blog


I like starting the month with a look at what’s happening to my readership. I don’t know how they like the experience. Nobody’s complaining about me being too nosey, anyway.

So, I have still not broken the November 2015 page-view high set off by the end of Apartment 3-G and my moment of attention from The Onion A.V. Club. But I did set a new unique-visitors record, the third month this year that’s set such a record. So that’s nice.

There were 4,133 pages viewed here in November. That’s down from October, but still appreciably above the twelve-month running average of 3,457.7 views per month. There were 2,492 unique visitors, the greatest number of unique visitors on record so far. And, naturally, above the twelve-month running average of 1,970.9 unique visitors per month. There were 137.8 views per posting, above the average of 113.5 views per post. And 83.1 unique visitors per post, again above the running average of 64.7 unique visitors per post.

Bar chart of monthly views and visitors. The last six months have seen a steady increase in both; views, however, crested in October, while visitors continues to rise.
I was so happy with myself for getting the snapshot of the statistics right as the WordPress Server Month rolled over that I forgot to do the URL hacking that lets me see all the numbers from mid-2015 to the present day. Sorry.

The drawback of knowing more people are looking at my pages, and reading pages? That I have evidence they like me less. There were 92 things given likes in November (not all of them things published in November). That’s below the twelve-month running average of 150.5 likes per month. There were twelve comments over the month, way below the running average of 31.3 comments per month. Likes, around here, have been on a decline, with minor interruptions, since early 2015. Comments rolled over and died after early 2015, except for a short while after Roy Kassinger discovered the place.


There were 446 posts, besides the home page, that got any page views in November. There had been 468 in October and 460 in September. 150 of these pages got only a single view, which is about the same as the 162 in October and 166 in September. The most popular several pieces were, unsurprisingly, comic strip related. What was the most popular did surprise me, though:

So that’s another perfect sweep away from “original stuff that I write with the intention of being funny”. If I’m not overlooking something the most popular original-premise thing was Statistics Saturday: The Size of Rhode Island in terms of Football Fields, which I’m glad to see remembered. It’s a very me sort of joke to make. My most popular long-form original essay was Some Alarming News, starting off November’s running motif of alarms. I have notes for another alarm-based piece, too, so get ready for that.

As ever, I figure to publish a long-form essay every Thursday evening, Eastern Time. And some Statistics Saturday thing Saturday evenings. My most reliably liked thing, though, is the What’s Going On In story strips essays, which I’ve mostly published Sunday evenings. My plan for the next couple weeks is to recap the plots in:


There were 74 countries that sent me any viewers at all in November. That’s down from 76 in October, and up from 73 in September. I seem to have found a level. Fifteen of them were single-view countries, down from 23 in October but back around to September’s 13. Here’s the full roster:

Mercator-style map of the world with The United States in deepest red, most of the Americas, Europe, Southeast Asia, and Australia and New Zealand in a fairly uniform pink, and almost nothing in Africa, nor a trail from Syria through to China.
This time around were 83 views marked as “European Union”, which is even more than I got from the Philippines. I really have no idea what’s going on there. But I also feel like my own writing is so parochial I don’t get why anyone in the Philippines would look at it except by accident.
Country Readers
United States 2,964
India 286
Canada 106
United Kingdom 100
European Union 83
Philippines 57
Germany 55
Sweden 54
Australia 51
Brazil 42
Norway 19
Spain 19
Finland 17
Netherlands 17
Slovenia 17
South Africa 15
Denmark 14
Italy 14
France 13
Indonesia 12
Chile 10
Russia 10
Kenya 9
Malaysia 7
Mexico 7
Portugal 7
Saudi Arabia 7
New Zealand 6
South Korea 6
Thailand 6
Ecuador 5
Israel 5
Trinidad & Tobago 5
Bangladesh 4
Poland 4
Slovakia 4
Switzerland 4
Turkey 4
United Arab Emirates 4
Austria 3
El Salvador 3
Hong Kong SAR China 3
Hungary 3
Ireland 3
Jamaica 3
Japan 3
Pakistan 3
Peru 3
Argentina 2
Belgium 2
Bolivia 2
Bulgaria 2
Greece 2
Puerto Rico 2
Romania 2
Serbia 2
Taiwan 2
Ukraine 2
Venezuela 2
Albania 1
Colombia 1
Ghana 1
Gibraltar 1
Guam 1 (*)
Jordan 1 (*)
Lebanon 1
Macedonia 1 (*)
Mauritius 1
Montenegro 1
Nigeria 1
Uganda 1
Uruguay 1
Uzbekistan 1
Zambia 1 (*)

Guam, Jordan, Macedonia, and Zambia were single-view countries in October too. No countries have been single-view for three months in a row yet.


From the start of the year to the start of November I’ve published 187,600 words here, however WordPress counts words exactly. This was in 332 posted articles, for an average of 565 words per post. This was a slender 15,441 words posted over the course of thirty pieces. So that’s a nice 514.7 words per post. So that shortens me up from the start of October’s 571 words per posting on the year.

There’ve been 1,548 likes of anything over the year, an average of 4.7 per posting. That’s down from the start of October’s 4.8 average likes per posting. There’ve been 434 comments in all, an average of 1.3 comments per posting, which is an average holding steady from the start of last month.

As of the start of November I’ve had 2,494 posts around here in total. They’ve drawn 148,214 total views, from 82,536 logged unique visitors.

I’d be glad if you chose to be a regular reader. You can add https://nebushumor.wordpress.com/feed/ to your RSS reader and not show up in any of my statistics. Or if you’d like, use the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” link at the upper right corner of the page. My automated reposting of new-post announcements on my dead Twitter account of @Nebusj is still running, too. Thanks for reading in any circumstance, though.

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? What’s Detective Frisk doing not being dead? September – November 2019


Evening, everyone wondering what’s going on in Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy. If you’re reading this after February 2020 there’s probably a more up-to-date plot recap at this link, which also holds older Dick Tracy recaps. Thanks for reading.

Dick Tracy.

8 September – 30 November 2019.

Dick Tracy had just wrapped up a story when I last checked in. They were moving into two weeks of a Minit Mystery, solving a poisoning. That started the 1st of September and ran through the 15th. Makes things very neat for me. It featured characters from the Friday Foster comic strip of the early 70s.


The story opens with Detective Frieda Frisk. She’s been busy the last few years, ever since she died in the line of duty. She explains to Dick Tracy that yeah, back in a 2004 adventure Sal Monella drowned in the river. But you all just thought she drowned too. And since she was reported dead at work, she figured she might as well not come in anymore. Before you ask whether this makes sense please consider that Sal Monella had previously been crushed in a trash compactor. He turned up alive, albeit more cubical than before, and a legit concert promoter. Again, if you aren’t regularly going “wait, what?” you aren’t reading the real Dick Tracy.

[A familiar face from the past] Tracy; 'DETECTIVE FRISK?' Frisk: 'Ah, you got me, Tracy. Which is more than I can say for my would-be assassin.' Tracy: 'We all thought you DIED in pursuit of Sal Monella. What happened, Freida?' Frisk: 'Well, obviously Monella drowned and I didn't. Anyhow, Justice was serviced, and since I don't play well with others, I decided not to return to the MCU. For the past few years I've been investigating the activities of Mrs Clair Howell. Her specialty is selling infants to prospective parents.' Tracy: 'A baby broker.' Frisk: 'One of the biggest. She's been in the business for decades.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 22nd of September, 2019. I do not know whether we’re meant to take it that Frisk saw Monella drowned, or whether she’s just supposing someone who seemed to have drowned, and hasn’t made contact with any of the people he knew for a decade and a half now, must be dead. Anyway, Monella’s thing when he was a concert promoter was set-decorating a venue with real actual garbage, and somehow this was a major hit, netting like nine million bucks before Frisk decided he needed to be not so alive. Monella’s original scheme, when he was first a villain in the comic, was selling recycled garbage as discount airline snacks, which gave Dick Tracy a case of amnesia, causing him not to wonder why a discount airline has snacks. I don’t know, I’m just telling you what’s on the Dick Tracy Wiki.

Anyway, Frisk’s new job is providing family information to Howell Babies. These are the children sold, for decades, by Clair Howell’s for-profit adoption agency. Which Frisk notes is not against the law, merely wrong. Frisk gets back in touch with Tracy because she shot an extra named Edward Delacroix. But she was going contact him anyway. She’s discovered that Officer Lizz Worthington-Grove, who’s been in the strip since the 50s, was also one of Howell’s sold babies. Tracy has questions. Frisk says she doesn’t know why Delacroix was shooting her. She also won’t reveal how she’s getting the Howell’s adoption records.

The Howells would like to know that too. Their plan of sending Edward Delacroix to shoot the information out of her didn’t work. They think long about what motivates people besides bullets, and hit on the idea of money. It turns out Frisk herself is a Howell Baby. They take the chance that Frisk’s birth mother, Lily Seven, would take money in exchange for setting up a trap. So she would.

Seven contacts Frisk, claiming to have only recently found out about her from Howell. Frisk and Tracy grant Seven might be working with Howell. But she’s interested in where this is going. It goes to dinner, and a movie, and before long, going to see Vitamin Flintheart in Our Town. They’re having a great relationship except for how Seven is only in it as long as Howell’s bankroll holds up.

Tracy: 'Well, Frisk, it's been two weeks and no move against you. How are you and Lily getting along?' Frisk: 'Eh, I could still be on someone's marked list, so I'm keeping an eye out. As for Lily, I think she may be on the level.' [ Elsewhere ] Lily: 'Look here, Clair, I'm getting tired of playing Mommy. When are you gonna make your move?' Clair Howell: 'The next time you meet with Frisk.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 10th of October, 2019. Really genuinely curious what the small talk between Seven and Frisk is like. “So, uh, when you decided to just go along with the people who decided you were dead, uh … like … did that get the student loan people off your back? Because if plunging into the icy rivers of Tracy City and then never returning to your workplace or apartment is what it takes, I can think of some people who’d figure that’s worth it.”

Seven and Frisk go to Our Town again, I’m assuming because The Best Man was sold out. At the close of the play Seven jabs a hypodermic into Frisk’s neck. Seven and the Howells, who’ve been lurking around the show, drag her away.

They have a great plan to kill Frisk only slowly and uncertainly. They drag her to the abandoned building district, and to the roof of the Crow-Infested Building Hotel. There they tie her to the Roof Machinery and leave her in the rain-turning-to-snow. There’s only one possible way that she might escape. And that is if her Wrist Geenee, the souped-up version of the Dick Tracy Wrist-Radio that they were using in the early 2000s, was not in fact destroyed when she wrestled with Sal Monella in 2004, but instead fell into the lining of her jacket where it has rested ever since, waiting for the random motions of Frisk trying to break the zip ties binding her arms to her legs to activate its distress signal mode on a frequency still monitored by contemporary Dick Tracy Wrist Wizard technology, which it has retained enough battery power to do for fifteen years. And what do you know but — ! So Tracy’s able to rescue Frisk before she would plummet to her death.

Tracy, racing to the rooftop where Frisk is about to fall to the ground: 'FRISK! DON'T MOVE!' (Grabbing her.) 'I've got you!' Frisk: 'T-Tray! How'd you find me?' Tracy: 'Your Wrist Genii signalled me. You're freezing.' Frisk: 'M-my Wrist Genii? I LOST IT when I fell in the bay chasing Sal Monella.' Tracy, tearing it out of her coat as he unties her: 'It's in the lining of your coat! Your struggling must have activated it.' Frisk: 'Tracy, I'm so SORRY about the mean things I said to you.' Tracy; 'We're OK, Frisk. Now come in out of the cold.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 3rd of November, 2019. Not denying that it’s a normal and realistic and human thing to say, but: Dick Tracy yelling at Frisk to stop falling off the roof makes me so happy. Really great stuff there. (They spelled Frisk’s device as the Wrist Genii here, although back in the early 2000s it was called the Wrist Geenee. I do not know what significance this change in spelling has and would not rule out that Genii is easier to letter.)

The Howells hear about this on the news and just. Can. Not. I sympathize. They make a break for it as cops converge on their house. The Howells spot one cop car, T-bone it, and keep going. But that’s damaged their own car, and when its tire blows the car careens off a bridge into the river below. Tracy calls for an ambulance and divers, but there’s not much to do. When you’ve witnessed two people get dumped into the cold waters and not come up you have to accept them as dead. Tracy asks Frisk about her plans.

She figures to carry on contacting Howell Babies and offering them information on how to contact their birth parents. Oh, and she’ll definitely stop back in when Lily Seven’s trial comes up.


So that, the 14th of November, closed out the story that’s dominated the last couple months. It also introduces the new, currently-running story. It opens at Wertham Woods Psychiatric Facility (motto: “Get it? Eh? EH?”). We know it as the facility holding Tulza Tuzon. Tuzon’s half-handsome, half-monstrous face earned him the performing and crime name Haf-and-Haf. He contracted a case of Soap Opera Multiple Personality Disorder. If that’s the sort of subject matter you do not want in your casual entertainment, you may want to drop Dick Tracy from your reading the next couple months. So far Tuzon hasn’t done very much in the story that any old villain looking for revenge wouldn’t be doing anyway.

The person we see on screen might be acting in the character of Tulza Tuzon, or as Haf-and-Haf, or as the particularly villainous Splitface. Which gets even more confusing than usual, because there was another, earlier Splitface in the Dick Tracy universe. I think that this Splitface has taken his name in tribute to the older one. But, gads, they aren’t making it easy for me. Haf-and-Haf was a character Chester Gould created in the mid-60s by Totally I Swear Not Having Heard Of Two-Face Over In Batman.

Last time I dealt with Tuzon/Haf-and-Haf/Splitface, they were kidnapping Zelda, Tuzon’s ex-wife. Along the way they picked up a sidekick, a homeless guy name of Clybourne Mayfair. The kidnapping plan didn’t work, but Splitface orders Clybourne to escape before the cops finally close in.

Anyway, Clybourne’s popped in again, pretending to be a statue delivery guy to Wertham Woods so he can sneak Tuzon/Haf/Splitface out. He’s not out to kill Zelda this time and anyway she’s out of the country. Instead he’s got a car bomb project. A two-car bomb, that he sets off outside the Hotel Siam when Dick Tracy’s car pulls up. You’ll remember the Hotel Siam as the place where Oliver and Annie Warbucks stayed while they were most recently in the strip. The bomb doesn’t kill Tracy or Sam Catchem.

Car explodes. Narrator: 'Tracy, Sam, Steve, and Mike narrowly escaped a car bombing at the Siam!' Steve Roper: 'This is quite a welcome, Tracy.' Tracy: 'Yes, isn't it?' Sam Catchem: 'Friends of yours, Tracy?' Tracy: 'Sam, this is Steve Roper and Mike Nomad.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 25th of November, 2019. “Sam, did I mention I’ve been learning how to throw my voice? … … … I’ve been learning how to throw my voice.” Anyway, did you know that Steve Roper and Mike Nomad was written by Allen Saunders, who also wrote Mary Worth for like six hundred years back in the mid-20th century? And, yes, the strip started out as a joke strip titled Big Chief Wahoo, and changed. So it did the Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy thing of changing genre, and the Barney Google and Snuffy Smith or Robotman/Monty thing of getting a new cast and dropping the old. Comic strips used to be even weirder.

It does reveal this story’s special guest stars, Steve Roper and Mike Nomad. From the remembered comic strip Steve Roper and Mike Nomad. When that comic was last seen, in December 2004, Steve Roper was the editor of Proof Magazine. Mike Nomad was a private eye. Together they’d have action-adventure stories that I never read. I mean, c’mon, who was doing story-comic snark blogging in 2004?

Roper’s car was completely destroyed by the bomb. Roper and Nomad were in town, by a great stroke of luck, investigating Tulza Tuzon. Nomad explains they knew Haf-and-Haf, from an investigation they ran ages ago into carnival cons. The one they could pin on Haf-and-Haf: the old purse-snatching-crows plan. Which, I read, was part of the original Haf-and-Haf story in 1960s Dick Tracy. They spotted Haf-and-Haf’s scam, called the cops, and Tulza went on the run. He ran all the way into a truck carrying a vat of toxic disfigurement chemicals. So, uh, good job, Proof Magazine, giving some supervillain his Origin Story. I get why Tuzon would be aiming a bomb at them; what I don’t know is why they figured they had to come back into town now and be a target for him.

And that’s where the story has gotten to, as of Saturday.

Next Week!

Will I get to talk about old-time radio? It’s time to explain what’s going on in Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley, so, yes. Catch you in a week, unless something demands the publication slot first.

Statistics Saturday: November Birthdays Per Year


Bar chart with horizontal axis of 1 through 30, with each bar a uniform height of 1.
Huh. Hey, would you believe as far as I can tell no countries changed from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in their November? Go figure, huh?

Reference: Signor Marconi’s Magic Box: The Invention that Sparked the Radio Revolution, Gavin Weightman.

I’m late because there was a John Candy comic book, that’s why


Yeah, I’d like to get a thing done today but a friend made me aware there was a comic book based on John Candy’s remembered animated series Camp Candy in the late 80s. And … just … like, I know they used to make comic books for just everybody, like Bob Hope or Jerry Lewis or … I’m going to guess Gene Autrey. But this? I had no idea and so that’s why I spent the whole day lying down and trying to figure this all out.

Camp Candy comic book, showing a frightened Counsellor Candy looking over a no less alarmed skunk. Candy says to the campers, 'Freeze, gang! As long as we don't ANTAGONIZE it ... '
Comic Vine’s Wiki has the covers to all the issues. It has summaries of the stories for half the books, too, for example the one where “a lovestruck moose invades the camp and causes problems for everyone”.

Some Things Which Are Not Alarming


But these are things that we do need alarms for as long as I am thinking about alarms.

First, we need a warning about putting things on tables. I have to preface this with a warning. I’m going to sound like a great big hypocrite. This is because I am a great one for putting things on tables. I come from a long line of people who put things on tables. Also footstools, bookshelves, chairs, slow-moving relatives, sofas, all kinds of things. We put things on any kind of reasonably horizontal-ish surface, and then putting some more things on top of that.

Look anywhere you like on my family tree and you’ll find stacked on it three magazines we figure to read someday and maybe an orange or a disused volleyball. Something in the greater orb family. On top of that is the cardboard box something was mailed to us in years ago and kept around just in case it could be used to mail something else. It will never be so used, because by that time it’s acquired too much sentimental value to just mail out like a piece of common boxery. Also by then it’s got four possibly expired credit cards, a sandwich baggie full of loose bolts and magic markers, plus an Underdog comic book, the broken-off wrist strap from a digital camera, and a block of lucite representing no clear purpose in it.

So please understand that it is not simply putting things on the table that I think needs an alarm. It is the placing of something that could get knocked off the edge of the table, that I’d like a warning system for. And here we have a problem. My love is the normal one in our relationship. I’m the one who, within the past week, has shared the cartoon where Mister Jinks acknowledges to Pixie and Dixie that he didn’t want to be transformed into a cow but he isn’t going to raise a fuss about it. (Mister Jinks is fibbing. He’s very cross, blaming them for his turning into a cow.)

My love therefore just puts, like, a can of soda down on the table. You know, anywhere that isn’t already covered by my stack of library books and unopened letters from the ham radio people and the DVD of Automan I bought two years ago and haven’t watched yet. Me, I feel uncomfortable with a soda can anywhere too near the edge. I define too near as “within three feet of a zone that could reach the edge of the table, if someone were to take a running start from at least twenty feet away, leap up, and attempt to tackle a Mello Yello Zero”. I would like the pop cans to be kept at least 28 feet away from all edges of the table, and surrounded by that little foam padding thing they use to wipe up chemical spills. And be watched over by a protective agency. I’m thinking mouse guards, dressed as Romans but carrying pikes because that would look great. They would be fully equipped with an antigravity mechanism to move the pop out of the way in case of flying tackles.

Obviously this scheme is impractical. Being 28 feet away from the dining room table would put the soda somewhere in the attic, possibly the roof of the house, depending on which side of the table we sit at. While this would prevent spills on the floor, it could cause spills on the beach gear, insulation, or squirrels casing the joint.

So I’m already the one in the wrong about whether “setting a can of pop on the table” is an alarming scenario. But furthermore, spilling a pop on the floor is maybe the best indoor place to spill it. The only thing that’s ever on the floor is our feet, which clean well, or the socks our feet are in, which also clean well, or the pile of computer cables topped with a bag of plush dolls that I got at an amusement park that I mean to give my nieces as presents and keep forgetting to do. Spilling something too near that pile on the floor might actually make me clean that nonsense up, which would be worth it. Spilling something on the floor is a boon to housecleaning altogether.

Spilling on the table? Now that’s a mess. That we have to deal with by getting the laptop computers out of the way, and maybe tablecloths, placemats, United MileagePlus reward catalogues going back to 2016, this packet of Splenda we snagged at a Tim Horton’s in Hamilton, Ontario, last summer, and four different hard drive cases, some three of which contain working hard drives that we use for backup backups. Getting all that cleared out ahead of the wave of spilled Mello Yello Zero is stressful. We should be placing our pop nearer the table edge just to make sure it spills in productive places instead.

I meant to have more things to be alarmed by but somehow ran out of space. I apologize for the inconvenience.

How Is That Word-Count-Lowering Project Going?


Theoretical linguistics tells us there should be a word “remise”, which would refer to supplying something with mise all over again, possibly after its demise.

(I thank everyone who stopped in last week, when I asked if something’s demise was its running out of mise. Please stop in next time when I’ll point out how, if The Family Circus never did a strip where one of the adorable little moppets talks about last year’s Thanksgiving by naming it “Thanksgiven” then they missed a major opportunity.)

Muskels Shmuskels: all right, that’s a Popeye cartoon then


This week’s another Larry Harmon-produced Popeye cartoon, Muskels Shmuskels. I admire Jack Mercer’s ability to actually say that title out loud.

Once again I wonder about the writing of these shorts. This one’s credited to Charles Shows. Was he working for King Features or for Larry Harmon? The story feels much like those of Interrupted Lullaby or Goon With The Wind, both Gene Deitch-made cartoons which carry no writing credits. Something about the scenario being pretty well-worn, but the story basically coherent except that I’m not sure how we get from one situation to another. (How does Popeye, shot up from a cannon, end up bouncing up and down on an acrobat safety net right next to a high-dive tower?)

Imposing a quirky restriction on a character — they Must do this, they Must Not do that — can be a good way to generate stories. Particularly comic stories. Particularly comic stories where the setup’s been done a lot. By my count the Popeye-and-BlutoBrutus-fight-at-the-midway plot had been done at this point some 4,647 times, going back to the first-ever Popeye cartoon. But it’s a fair enough starting point, giving plenty of reason for Popeye and BlutoBrutus to show off feats of strength and get to punching each other.

So doing a midway cartoon, with Popeye under a compulsion to Not Fight, should be good. We can have the fun of Popeye finding ways to technically not break his promise. Or to sneak in a couple punches when Olive Oyl isn’t looking. Maybe to sneak in a full fight while keeping up the pretense when Olive is looking that he’s being innocent. Why it’s so important to Olive Oyl that Popeye not fight today is left underdeveloped, but that’s all right. The cartoon forgets that he is supposed to not be fighting. Like, why does Popeye figure he can just throw that great weight at Brutus at about 8:00? Right after Olive Oyl reminded him not to fight? It only parses if he throws the weight before Olive Oyl reminds him, but that’s not what he did.

It’s half-baked, which is something that kept bothering me this cartoon. Like, Brutus having set up a dumbbell weight that’s bolted to the ground, so no one can lift it? That makes sense as a setup: Brutus as a performer would want people to try it out and see how impossible his stunt is. But then how does Brutus lift the dumbbells? I suppose I’m being a bad audience in this, taking too literally the way the weights are bolted to the stage. But I don’t get how the showmanship is supposed to work if there’s no way Brutus could lift the weights either. (And in little half-baked moments: as the cartoon starts, do Olive Oyl and Popeye know who Brutus is or not? Popeye starts out, around 6:40, just calling him “Mister Strong Fella”, but Olive Oyl knows her name soon after. And Brutus knows Popeye’s name somehow.)

There’s stuff I do like. Brutus suggesting “a date for a late tête-à-tête” at about 6:25, which must have been fun for Jackson Beck to record. Popeye’s angry huffing and puffing right after. Its echo in Brutus puffing on a cigar at 10:55. That good old Larry Harmon Fight Cloud at about 10:30. And that moment of Fleischer-esque body mutability at about 10:42, when Popeye puffs his fist up into a great mitt to slam down on the high striker.

Still, it would have been so much more fun if they could have reliably remembered Popeye was supposed to not be fighting.

I’m Sorry But This Toilet Paper Roll Is Distracting Me


Yeah, I apologize for not getting things done on time today but I want to know the story of this lone non-conformist toilet paper roll and I think you do too. It’ll be a heartwarming children’s book about being true to yourself that will escape being turned into a CGI-animated movie on the grounds that nobody can work out how to make toys of the characters that won’t end in sad conversations.

Sealed twelve-pack roll of toilet paper, with one roll, top center, perpendicular to all the rest.
Yes, this is 12 Mega Rolls, which if I understand toilet paper mathematics correctly is the equivalent of 47 Ultra Rolls, which is the same as 92 Hyper Rolls, three guineas, two shillings and sixpence, which is the equivalent of when the bathroom’s steamed up from the shower walking into a ten-foot cube of paper foam.

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? How did Valiant escape the lions? September – November 2019


This plot recap for Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant should get you up to speed for late November 2019. If you’re reading this after about late February 2020, you may find a more up-to-date recap at this link. Thanks for reading at all, though.

Prince Valiant.

1 September – 24 November 2019

All the player-characters were in North Africa last time I checked in. Fewesi the Healer had kidnapped Makeda, Queen of Ab’sabam. Bukota, Makeda’s exiled lover, caught up to them. She escaped Fewesi’s mind-control enchantment, and she and he team up to chase down Fewesi. And Prince Valiant, trailing all this, is busy fighting some lions. He’s doing all right but, after all, they have a whole hunting party while Valiant is off on his own.

As luck would have it, though, not for long. Fewesi is fleeing back the way he came. This takes him to the oasis where Valiant and the lions are having it out. Bukota and Makeda surround Fewesi, on the ledge. Fewesi lunges for Makeda; she whacks him good and sends him plummeting. He lands near enough Valiant. The lions break off from Valiant, going for the pre-dead delivery meal now that they can.

Fewesi had sought to circle behind and ambush Bukota - suddenly, there before him stands Makeda! He had not considered her ferocious resolve! He attempts to again exert his will over the Queen, but he is exhausted, and Makeda is now on guard. In desperation, he lunges at her. Before she was queen, Makeda was an adept warrior - she decisively counters Fewesi's awkward attack and now the man called 'The Healer' plummets, screaming, toward the roars that echo up from far below. A moment, and a thud, later, the angry lions circling Val pause, as the thrashing of a broken body has caught their attention. Their pursuit of Val has proven wearisome and painful ... and this gift from above offers much easier pickings. And, so, the healer did save someone in the end.
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 22d of September, 2019. And with this fresh supply of meat, the lionesses put off their rebellion against Scar for another two weeks. “Maybe he had a legitimate purpose in that Ukraine phone call,” they assert, once their bellies are not so empty. “Who are we to judge?”

So that’s some major crises settled. Valiant cleans his wounds, and then the gang all run into the Idar Uhag. These are Fewesi’s people, the ones who taught the Healer his mind-control powers before turning him out as gads such a loser. Makeda asks why, when Fewesi brought her to them, they didn’t free her then? They hadn’t wanted any part of Fewesi’s stupid hold-Makeda-as-hostage scheme. The chief explains how, y’know, you don’t waste energy making Wile E Coyote’s scheme blow up. Anyway, they give Makeda, Bukota, and Valiant some camels as a parting gift.

They head back toward Paraetonium, where they landed in Africa. And meet up with the cavalry: Valiant’s daughter Karen, with her husband Vanni, and the armed party from the Misty Isles there to rescue Makeda. They start flashing back to Karen’s adventure when (rolling 1d10, checking the encounter table) an Egyptian army comes over the hill. They’re from the local government and somehow all testy about the Misty Isles sending an armed party through their city and into their lands.

Val and the leader of the Egyptian force meet to parley: 'I am Patape, Governor of Paraetonium, and ... ' the little man, whom Val recognizes, hesitates, 'Do I know you?' Val answers: 'We met, but unintentionally. I fell into your boudoir in the midst of your ...' A shock of recognition lights Patape's eyes, and he glances nervously at his stern seconds. Val sees that the Governor does not wish his affair to be divulged. 'Or perhaps I have the wrong man. But I believe you are a reasonable sort, who must see that our presence here is only by mistake - we bring no threat. Escort us back to our ships and no blood need be shed.' At that, Patape looks both relieved and conflicted. 'Unfortunately, the good people of Paraetonium have already been offended by your incursion. My hand is forced. And if word ever got back to Justinian's generals in Alexandria ...' Suddenly, Vanni rides up, waving a handful of herbs. 'Perhaps I can offer an agreeable solution. These medicinal herbs I found in your market would have much value in the Misty Isles, if we could accomplish a contract for export.' Patape brightens; this talk is more to his liking. 'As it happens, I have much influence with the growers and distributors of this most excellent fenugreek!'
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 3rd of November, 2019. I know it’s a real herb. I see references to it. I sometimes see it on the store shelves. I believe our spice rack has it. If it does it’s among the dusty glass jars of things that look like dried brown leaf shreds that have always run out when we do need the contents. I just can’t make myself believe that ‘fenugreek’ isn’t a name someone came up with when they had to bluff their way through a conversation about herbs.

At their head is Patape, the Governor of Paraetonium. He’s met Valiant. He and Bukota fell through his roof when they were chasing Fewesi through the city. Valiant tries to explain how they really don’t want any trouble. Patape points out there already is trouble and there’s no way they can’t have more. Vanni has an idea that could solve things, though: what if the Governor got a bunch of money? You know, in exchange for the fenugreek growing around Paraetonium. The Governor finds interesting this plan where he gets a bunch of money. Remember, they lived when it was acceptable for public servants to use their positions to directly enrich themselves. (And yet, for my snarking, I agree with the plan of seeing if there’s a way to buy our way out of a pointless, stupid fight. That it can be done as a trade agreement satisfies me that it’s at least honest corruption.)

So Valiant and party get to head home and all looks happy. Except that, yeah, Valiant took a bunch of scrapes from the lions. And now he’s got some infection. He collapses. Vanni puts some “herbs and honey” on him, and that’s the suspenseful hook on which we end today’s strip.

Next Week!

Wait, have Steve Roper and Mike Nomad really been brought back out of the void? If anyone could do it, Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy could do it. Check back here in a week for that, barring surprise developments. Also if you like comic strips that explore mathematical themes please try my other blog. Thanks for reading in any case.

Statistics Saturday: Occurrence of Thanksgiving, 2019 – 2020


Bar chart with two entries: one labelled 2019, which reaches to '1', and one labelled 2020, which also reaches to '1'.
Yes I know it could be more useful but what if I’m short of ideas for a Statistics Saturday post in November of 2021? You don’t want me to have no content to fill this hole then just because I foolishly made a chart that covered 2019 through to 2021, do you? I need to provide for myself too, you know. At that there’s like a 40% chance I already did this same joke and haven’t looked it up and I’ll find a nasty surprise in the Related Links section.

Reference: Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations, Charles D Benson, William Barnaby Faherty.

(Note: United States Thanksgiving, although similar results apply to Canadian Thanksgiving.)

The trivial reason I’m running late today


I got to reading some trivia about Incredibles 2 and came to this remarkable revelation:

This movie and The Incredibles (2004) were released in the same year of the death of a voice actor of one of the iconic characters in Beauty and the Beast (1991). The Incredibles (2004) was released in the same year of the death of Jerry Orbach, and this movie was released in the same year of the death of David Ogden Stiers. Both Incredibles films were also released the same year of the death of a member of the heavy metal band Pantera. Incredibles was released the same year Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell was murdered and Incredibles 2 was released the same year Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul died of a heart attack

So who doesn’t need to lie down and rest a while after having trivia like that sitting on their head?

And Some More Alarming Thoughts


With another week since the strange disappearance of our leaves I feel less unsettled by it. Naturally enough. The more you live with something the more you think it’s normal to live somewhere people rip off your bagged leaves. I’m worried that it’s getting me complacent, though. What’s needed are some new alarms. Obviously for leaf thieves, or as my love puts them, “leaves”. But for more things, too.

And I know you’re figuring I’m going to put up a bunch of nonsense here. No. These are all alarms to reflect real problems that real people really have in reality. I mean if I count as a real person. I’m open to arguments on the matter, but if you win, how can you possibly feel proud?

So the first is about the phone. This morning my phone told me I had voice mail. A lot of voice mail. It had a bunch of messages going back two months to when we had the phone company out to do phone things to the phone line. Also the dentist reminding me about an appointment I went to anyway. Also about three hundred messages in which a robot from account services warned my Windows was expiring but we could get the extended warranty if I pressed five now. Also something where my boss called. So, yes, it’s a good thing that I check my phone for voice mails once a year, whether I’m using it or not. But also there needs to be some way that phones send you some kind of notice about there being voice mails.

Here’s another one. The other day I needed some cellophane tape. I was using it to … you know what? I’m not sure that’s really your business. I don’t mean to insult you. I just don’t know how much of my business I want the world to know. Anyway, I needed some cellophane tape and there was none in the house. I know tape was brought into the house. I would bring it myself. It’s not here, though, not when there’s things to be taped. What’s needed is an alarm that we are almost out of tape and therefore should do something about that. We could either get more tape or commit to getting fewer things that need tape. That’s hard given how Christmas is coming up. I suppose we’d have to switch how we wrap things up. Maybe staple the wrapping paper on. That’ll work out fine for me giving calendars to everybody I know. It’ll be less good in case someone is trying to give me, oh, a soap bubble. So maybe this is not practical. Anyway I handled this by going to the store and buying — here I am not exaggerating — ten rolls of cellophane tape. I have put one in every room where we might need to tape a thing to another thing or itself. I cannot find any of them.

While we’re at getting alarms where we need them, we should do some alarm-balancing. We have two kitchens in the oven, one a microwave and the other a real one. When we set the timer on the real oven we get this kind of alarm:

“[ whispering ] (bing.) Oh, well, that’s done. I suppose if no one comes check on me I’ll just sit here pouring 450 degrees into the curly fries until something burns down then.”

Whereas the microwave oven alarm has this level:

“BEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! HEY! HEY HEY HEY! DO YOU PEOPLE NOT REALIZE! THERE IS A MUG OF TEA SITTING IN HERE! AND IT’S BEEN TURNING LUKEWARM FOR A WHOLE [ checks notes ] EIGHTEEN SECONDS! BEEEP, DARN YOU! BEEEEEEP! IS! NOBODY! GOING! TO! DO! ANY! THING! ABOUT! THIS!? BEEEEEEEEEEEEP!

I’d like to balance these two out a little bit if we could.

Also I have to admit telling a fib there. I almost never let a mug of tea get lukewarm enough to put in the microwave. Coffee, yes, but not tea. I hope you don’t think worse of me for that.

Doing More Of Few Words


The demise of something is just when it runs out of mise, right?

(I had hoped last week that I would speculate about this. Next week, I hope to declare that there should logically be a word ‘remise’ that refers to supplying something with mise all over again. Stick around and see if I manage it!)

Popeye in another babysitting-Swee’Pea cartoon: Interrupted Lullaby


When I first watched this week’s cartoon, Interrupted Lullaby, I didn’t notice the credits. So I was trying to figure out what the deal is with the animation. Finally something in the motion, and something in the sound effects — I was watching it quietly — revealed. It’s a Gene Deitch cartoon. Normally, I like these, as the Gene Deitch style has a weirdness I enjoy. This time? Well.

So here’s a question I never fully articulated: why am I watching the 1960s King Features Syndicate Popeye cartoons? The universal consensus is that they range from awful to god-awful, they were made for about $35 each, and none of them advanced the Popeye canon significantly. Why not cartoons that have some legacy, like the Fleischer or even the Famous Studios cartoons? Or, like, Popeye and Son, which tried to change the canonical center and maybe screwed things up but at least did it in an 80s way?

Partly, well, because I started doing this by accident and never really examined my decision. Partly comfort; I grew up watching these and while they may not be good, they have nostalgia’s soft pleasantness. The best reason to watch these and write about them is discovery, though. The cartoons were made under ridiculous constraints of time and budget and material. Working out how they got work done is interesting. And instructive to all of us trying to do stuff despite all the reasons we can’t.

Last week in discussing Goon with the Wind I noticed things that have to have cost money and time. Popeye and Olive Oyl in different outfits. An island of Goon-esque characters. Some slick moments of animation. Some good special effects. All that had to be paid for somewhere. … I do not know the production order of these cartoons, or whether anyone knows it. But, boy, do we have a candidate here for where the resources for that cartoon came from.

We start off, after all, with the cartoon failing to synchronize Popeye blowing his pipe in the opening credits. It’s a weirdly unnecessary stumble to the start. We get a couple repeats of the Popeye-the-sailor-man fanfare while reading in the Morning Star how Swee’Pea today “beanie [sic]” a millionaire, inheriting from “his late great granfather [sic]”. After staring at that for long enough, Popeye finally reads the news aloud. Later, Bluto or Brutus gets to see the paper for a fraction of a second; it’s like they misplaced a few seconds of establishing.

Swee'Pea on his bed, looking at Popeye reading from a book. Behind the curtain Bluto-or-Brutus lurks. There's a fly near Swee'Pea.
I guess it was that chocolate-colored-gold wrapping the chocolate. Maybe I’m overreacting to Popeye exaggerating what it was he brought. It kept me from noticing how weird Popeye’s arms are this whole cartoon anyway. I mean weird compared to the way Popeye’s arms normally look.

Swee’Pea being a millionaire, or thought to be one, isn’t a bad premise and I think the comic strip’s done that a few times. But all it serves for the plot here is a reason for Bluto or possibly Brutus to try kidnapping the kid. I guess we need the motivation but if all it amounts to is Swee’Pea’s given a box of “gold-wrapped” chocolates to eat? He could do that on fifteen hundred dollars.

There’s some good stuff here. Popeye beating up Bluto a couple times without even noticing it is a decent joke. Some of the scenes have actual depth to them, such as Popeye petting Swee’Pea’s back while a fly buzzes around and, behind the curtains, Bluto schemes to do them a mischief. Swee’Pea carefully reads out the letters s-p-i-n-a-c-h and takes the word to mean “Popeye”. Everything has actual backgrounds, rather than solid blocks of color.

But, gads. Nobody looks right, or even looks wrong in an interesting way. Mouth movements in limited animation are always going to be impressions of speech. But they looked really loose this time. I am not convinced that Jack Mercer read the line “That’s the first time I ever heard a fly say ‘OUCH’!” in one session, but why on earth would they have spliced in an “OUCH” from another cartoon? How did Popeye, tied up and trapped in a barrel, roll downstairs and pop out the storm cellar door?

This feels to me like a cartoon that didn’t get so much attention. The storyline is fine enough. I’d be interested in seeing money go to Swee’pea’s head, but that would be a different cartoon that they chose not to make. There are moments where they’re clearly saving budget, like holding on the newspaper for a good long time, or focusing on Swee’Pea eating chocolates instead of people around him talking. My impression is that the cartoon spends a little more time than, like, last week’s on this sort of animation cheat. Not enormously, but maybe enough to let them do nice things like Popeye’s circling around the Goon King last week.

I may be wrong. I don’t know any real detail of how these cartoons were made, including basic things like who did the writing. All I can do is make inferences, and wonder how they were made.

For someone fifty years from now wondering about these essays: Oh, I watch a cartoon, then watch it again, made a couple jibberish notes, and then the next day watch again while writing actual paragraphs. You know, about like you imagine. My budget is tight but I have never gone over it yet.

Yes, I’m also having a delightful time reading Buz Sawyer lately


Just wanted folks to be assured that yes, I’ve been following Comics Kingdom’s vintage Buz Sawyer storyline. The story so far: the Sawyers, driving cross-country, had a freak car accident with the Cobbs that sent their car down a thousand-foot ravine. Fortunately the Cobbs are wholly accepting of all blame, and eager to make it up to them, and have the money to buy them a replacement car, luggage, and what the heck, treat them to hotels and restaurants all the rest of the way to Los Angeles. And it’s been a madcap spree since then, Chuck Cobb spontaneously deciding to drive hundreds of miles out of the way, sometimes driving hundreds of miles back because the waitress at a restaurant thinks she recognizes his picture from the paper. Disappearing without warning. Coming back with buckets of cash hidden under his wife’s handbag, and his wife getting her hair dyed “always” changing it. And then, today in 1956, we got to this point.

Buz, reading the paper: 'Just listen to this, Christy! 'Early this morning the bank at Jackrabbit, Nevada, was robbed of $40,000.' Christy: 'Why, that's the town we spent last night in with the Cobbs.' Buz: 'Sporty gunman and red-headed woman made getaway in blue custom convertible.' Christy: 'Merciful heavens! The COBBS! Their car's a blue convertible ... and alll that money flying out of Bee's bag ... and having her red hair bleached ... oh, Buz, how horrible!' Buz, smugly: 'Easy, chum. Aren't you jumping to conclusions?'
Roy Crane’s Buz Sawyer for the 26th of July, 1956, and rerun the 18th of November, 2019. I mean, c’mon, we’re talking Jackrabbit, Nevada. The metropolis is just hopping with man-and-red-haired-woman couples driving blue custom convertibles. Also jackrabbits.

So yes, I am delighting both in how uproariously dense Buz is acting. Also waiting enthusiastically to see what goofball contrivance Roy Crane has in store to explain why Buz was, well, actually, right all along. I can’t rule out that he’s been doing all this under secret orders to find and keep contact with the Cobbs and the thing where the bear cub set off the accident was all a Part of the Mission. Or that it’s all a wacky coincidence of the kind you’d never believe. I can’t wait.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? Why are art students heading to Wambesiland? August – November 2019


Hi all. This recap for Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, should get you caught up to mid-November 2019. If you want the separate Sunday continuity, or if you’re reading this after about February 2020 and want the weekday continuity, I should have a more relevant essay at this link. Thank you.

The Phantom (weekdays).

26 August – 16 November 2019

When I last checked in, The Phantom had rescued Imara Sahara from terrorist militias and American bombing. Imara Sahara is the mother of Kadia Sahara Walker, Heloise Walker’s former roommate. Kit Walker was feeling pretty good about having got out of a pretty intense situation without serious harm.

The Phantom and Imara Sahara settle overnight at a safe house. It’s a pretty nice-looking lair and he seems to have the absent owner’s permission to be there. He takes a shower and over a meal answers Imara’s most urgent questions, like, who is he? And why did he save her? OK, he doesn’t so much answer them as say they’ll head out to somewhere else in the morning. But there’s nothing that could go wrong by needlessly withholding information about identity and motivations and objectives from a woman rescued from captivity by a massive, three-party firefight that obliterated her longtime home.

Overnight, Sahara is tormented by thoughts of her husband, and fear of the strange man who’s taken her to an unfamiliar place. While The Phantom sleeps, and relives the day in his dreams, Sahara steals one of his guns. And one of the homeowner’s cars. The Phantom discovers this only in the morning.

[ Phantom heads for home ] Diana, on the phone: 'Gone? What do you mean she's gone!? Kit, what happened?' Phantom: 'Think about it, Diana. I wish I had! Before now, I mean. She knows now that her husband's a monster. She couldn't chance that I might be in league with him.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 23rd of September, 2019. So I am snarking about the obviousness of this. But reading it day-to-day surprised me. And then I realized that yes, Imara Sahara fleeing is the most sensible thing for her to do. It also made me realize I had assumed The Phantom had explained what was going on in their drive to the safe house, or once they arrived, things not actually shown to us. (Jeez, what were they talking about instead? Was The Phantom making her listen to his podcasts? You gotta know something about someone before you put your podcasts on for them.) Also, even if he had explained who he was and why he was there, she had no reason to believe a word of it.

And, in a further surprise, The Phantom doesn’t have an idea where to track her down. He had given Sahara instructions to write The Phantom’s secret post office box, and they can watch that. In case she wants to make contact with someone the person she just fled wanted her to contact. And they’ll have to pay the homeowner for the stolen car. The Phantom jokes how he’ll get a terrible AirBnB review for this and, so help me, I don’t know if he’s joking.

Still, at least, Imara Sahara is alive and they can provide evidence of this to Kadia. And The Phantom got out of this all right. Diana Walker asks, you know, given all this, could they maybe bring Kit Junior back from his secret hiding place? (It’s a Himalayan monastery that earlier Phantoms had visited, and who remember them.)

That, the 28th of September, ended the 251st daily-continuity story, Heloise Comes Home. It had started back in December 2018, running 42 weeks overall.


The current story, The Rhodian Column, started the 30th of September. It’s the 252nd daily-continuity story.

Bangallan, seeing silhouetted figures bicycling along the jungle trail, thinks: 'Strangers in my land .. are they good, or ... ?' They shoot twice as he falls out of the way.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 1st of October, 2019. “OK, if they shoot at me one more time I’ll consider taking them off the `good’ list!” (This is pretty much how I think about people.)

It starts with a couple bikers in the Bangallan forest. They notice someone peeking at them, and shoot at him. Missing the Bandar man, but still. The gunfire attracts a warning from the biker’s superiors. No shooting. Use knives if they have to. And spread out more, for crying out loud.

The Bandar know what to do about this, and consult The Phantom. The data: there’s an alarming number of strange travellers moving through the jungle. Kipawa, heir apparent to lead the Bandar tribe, finds them suspiciously inoffensive. Like, if they were really innocent, at least a couple would be jerks. These have all been non-threatening, I guess because nobody mentioned the one that shot at somebody.

The Phantom goes looking. At one part of the trail he sees three pairs of tourists marching past the same spot over three hours. All the travellers on the trail, he learns, stop at the same moment for the night. He sneaks into one of the travellers’ tents. They’re quite well-armed. But this checks out: they were posing as artists. They got paints and canvas from somewhere, and armed robbery is the least difficult way to afford that. But they also don’t have any cards about how to donate to their ko-fi or what their Patreon is, which is suspicious. So he does another another test: he swipes their guns and ammunition. In the morning the artists blurt out how they’re useless to the mission. So now The Phantom is all but sure something is going on.

[ Turning Back ] The Phantom watches one party chewing out the artists: 'The Colonel won't be happy when you two don't show up at the rally point!' Guy Artist: 'Somebody took our guns! We're unarmed! End of story!' Other supervisor-type guy: 'Don't say your weapons were take! Say you're sick! If anybody else in the column turns back, it's on you!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 28th of October, 2019. So, these are the guys that The Phantom, this past week, has punched into heading back and I hope for fairness’s sake they aren’t going to hold their own turning back on Artist Couple. Just saying.

The trail of people go through Ogoru and then Llongo territory. They seem to be heading for the Wambesi lands. Next night, the Phantom wakes a different camping pair. He demands information about this whole plan. He warns he recognizes them as carrying papers forged in Rhodia. And part of an column moving to the Wambesi. He warns them to go back, and to invite all their comrades to walk back to Rhodia. He demands they tell what they know about the Python; they insist they don’t know anything about a Python. He knows well enough. And then he has some flashbacks, to help readers who don’t know who this Python is.

The Python is another terrorist leader, from the Wambesi tribe originally. He’s been in stories since 2003’s Terror In Mawitaan, sometimes under the name Chatu. The Python was behind a massive, five-part storyline that started in August 2009 and ran about a year and a half. This is long before I started doing What’s Going On In recaps. It started with The Death of Diana Walker. In this the Python feigned the death of Diana Walker, secreting her away in a Rhodian jail under a false identity.

The Phantom punches the two supervisor-y types from before while thinking, 'The Python murdered hundred at the UN building in Mawitaan', flashing back to the strip of October 6, 2009
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 11th of November, 2019. This explosion did happen in October 2009, reader time, as footnoted. The Phantom was meeting with Bangallan President Lamanda at the time. Incidentally the Sunday storyline back then was the one introducing the Avari, who’ve returned in the recently concluded Sunday continuity just now.

With the help of Captain Savarna and her highly automated freighter with guns, The Phantom found and broke Diana out of jail. And captured the Python, whom he brought to a secret prison in Wambesi territory where the locals keep watch. I can’t say I like The Phantom’s civil-rights record here, but I do understand how he came to this point. And, incidentally, putting the Python away like this gave Eric “The Nomad” Sahara his big break, so, you know. Probably something about the unending struggle of life in there.

And that’s where we stand on the field: some armed force is moving, in pairs, towards The Python. The Phantom knows that they exist, but their exact motives and goals are not actually yet known. There’s a lot of sinister explanations, though.

Next Week!

We check in on the time of King Arthur with Mark Schulz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant, barring surprises or breaking news. Also please consider looking at the comic strips discussed in my mathematics blog. Thanks for reading.

Statistics Saturday: British Folklore Spirits That I Think Someone On Wikipedia Made Up


As opposed to being made up properly, for fun and to hurtle clothes at and stuff.

Spirit Spirit’s Deal
Cellar Ghost Guards wine in cellars from would-be thieves
Lazy Lawrence Protects orchards
Awd Goggie Scares children away from unripened gooseberries
Melch Dick Guards nut thickets
Kilmoulis Has no mouth; inhabits mills

Reference: A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, Barbara W Tuchman.

Yes, I Caught Mary Worth Today And Maybe You Should, Too


I just wanted people to know that yes, I saw today’s Mary Worth. And yes, it is that wonderful. It is not quite so wonderful as to make me jump the comic in its queue. I expect Sunday to share what’s going on in The Phantom, weekdays continuity. But today’s was a wonderful Mary Worth and it might be a shame to let it just sit there an extra month without attention. When I next do a proper recap of the plot of Mary Worth it should be at this link.

What’s happening is that Estelle, rebounding from being taken by an online romance scam, has been dating Wilbur Weston, Chartersone’s leading sandwich enthusiast. Wilbur is not even slightly over his ex-girlfriend Iris. But Estelle and Wilbur set up a double date with Iris and her new, young, handsome, financially successful boyfriend Zak. Wilbur prepared for this by combing his hair and getting too drunk to function. Estelle took him on the double date anyway, because what could she have done? Apologized that Wilbur wasn’t up to this tonight and reschedule for “sometime later”?

Anyway, after the fiasco, the disaster, and the embarrassment, she went home and had this dream about what it might be like to have a life with Wilbur.

[ As Estelle dreams of being married to Wilbur ... ] Panel of sleeping Estelle being watched over by Libby the cat. Next panel: a dream-future family portrait of Estelle and Wilbur, with four identical pudgy babies, each wearing boxing gloves and with the eyeglasses and hair of Wilbur.
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 15th of November, 2019. The boxing gloves are there because Estelle and Wilbur’s first date after he got back from overseas was, at his choice, just hanging out at home watching a boxing documentary. Estelle hated it.

I can barely exaggerate how wonderful the comics snark community has found this. The first panel, the one-eyed cat Libby peering over a sleeping Estelle, is nice enough. But that second panel? That’s … wow. That’s … you know, that sure looks like it’s a riff on something but I can’t place what it is. If you have any ideas, please let me know. Trying to think of what is driving me … oh, about two-thirds as crazy as you might think. It’s not that urgent.

I have seen in some comment threads people snarking at how Estelle, a retiree and comfortably past the age of menopause, could be having a nightmare of having four children. These commenters are correct: there is no logical way that Estelle could have children with Wilbur, and I hope that before the story is out we shall see Estelle file a Report of Factual Inaccuracy or Inconsistency with the Bureau of Dream Management. (And to step my snark back a bit, my love has several times woken up from a dream upon realizing that details in it did not make logical sense. So, dreams, you know? What the heck?)

Anyway, I don’t know how long this dream sequence will last. It’s only on its second day now. If it could keep giving like this, then we’d have to say it could not go on too long. But there’ll probably be a limit, and we won’t see Wilbur’s Four Children again. On the other hand, Popeye’s nephews started out as a dream-story quartet of children and they were eventually promoted into real-cousinhood. Maybe someday we’ll have people asking the difference between Welber, Walber, Wulber, and Woolber.

In Which I Am Alarmed By My Neighborhood


I do not have pictures of this year’s leaf harvest for reasons that will soon be obvious. It’s not the most obvious thing: we did have a bunch of leaves. Start anywhere in our yard and walk eight feet in any direction. This will neatly faceplant you into a maple tree. Not the kind of maple tree that makes syrup you can use. I mean use as syrup.

But what normally happens come autum is all these leaves fall. They gather on the lawn and attract more leaves. I had plans to do something about this. I figured to run the leaves over with the lawn mower. I mean while the lawn mower is still mowing. This way I turn an unmanageable heap of leaves into an unmanageable heap of leaf chunks. But I never got around to it. This wasn’t my fault. Like, there was a lot of rain and you can’t go mowing down wet leaves. That leaves you with wet leaf chunks. How are you supposed to get anything done like that?

Then this guy knocked. I mean on the door. Our door. He was holding a bunch of paper leaf bags, and he had two rakes bundled against his back, held to him by his jacket. He asked if I wanted the leaves raked. And, here, I thought hard about this question. I mean, on the one hand, I could avoid spending hours puttering around the yard, cursing my inability to wear gloves in that way where my hands feel less cold, raking stuff up into two fewer leaf bags than we need for the job, and freeing up my weekend to do fun things instead. On the other hand, to say yes I’d have to talk to a person.

Well, I took the risk and let him go at the leaves. He really knew what he was doing, too, working swiftly and efficiently. I guess if you do a lot of yard-to-yard leaf raking you really pick things up. At least once you have a good rake. He probably had good tools. He seemed to know what he was doing. In maybe an hour the yard was cleared of leaves and we had five neat bags of lawn stuff, sitting on the extension, waiting to be picked up. Yes, he’d taken the rakes out of his jacket and used them like normal.

So, Sunday, we were out doing fun things and not worrying about the leaves. I admit even if we stayed home we wouldn’t have been worrying about the leaves. But while we were out, all our bagged leaves disappeared. They hadn’t gone getting scattered back on the lawn or anything. They were just off to wherever bagged leaves go.

Which is great but then how? The first explanation is that the city came and picked them up. But the city picks up leaves on Tuesday. Maybe Wednesday if they were quite busy on Tuesday. Maybe Thursday if they were quite busy on Tuesday and found Wednesday was a day they just could not. I could see also some eager types collecting leaves on Monday, before everyone’s set their leaves out, and so getting it done more quickly. But a Sunday? Who’s doing leaf work on a Sunday?

But the other explanation makes even less sense. Who would just go up to our lawn and take leaves? I know our neighborhood. You can’t get people to take a coffee table that’s in fair shape off your lawn. Who would take bags of leaves? If they’re hoping to take them to the store and get the deposit back on the leaves good luck. The machines at the front of Meijer’s take forever to handle even clean, dry leaves. Wet bagged leaves? It’s just not worth it.

So if they didn’t take the leaves for the deposit, then we have to suppose they just took the leaves to take them. It’s a somber thought to imagine we live in a place plagued with leaf thieves. But then my love pointed out you could call them “leaf thieves, or for short, leaves”. That’s made me smile about every 35 minutes nonstop since we discovered the leaves back on Sunday, and it isn’t showing any sign of losing its power. So it’s not all bad. It’s just peculiar is all.

Let’s Keep Trying To Hold My Average Wordcount Down, Now


Would it do anything useful to shortening my average post length if we could turn the word “awkward” into “awayward” for some reason? If not, why did I typo “awkward” as “awayward” repeatedly, then? Huh?

(I said last week I was going to do this, and I’m glad to say I haven’t overlought that promise. Please check in next week when I will speculate that the demise of something is when it runs out of mise.)

Popeye: Goon With The Wind, a cartoon in which the wind affects nothing


I guess I’ll do another couple King Features Syndicate Popeye cartoons. Goon With The Wind turned up, just in the title credits, two things I like. First, a mention of the Goons, who’re one of Elzie Segar’s nice weird creations. They look big and monstrous and then somehow they end up being oddly likable. The second? Gene Deitch listed as the director. His style might not be yours, but it is mine. I expect animation that’s strange, a little impressionistic, and with sound effects that are … what, a reversed spring noise recorded in an echoey bathroom? Something surreal, anyway. I’m disappointed there’s not more animator credits to know who actually put pencil to paper here.

But that’s nothing I can do a thing about. So let’s watch Goon With The Wind.

We get Popeye and Olive Oyl outside their usual costumes this cartoon. And you know what that means: they won’t be able to afford animating the whole cartoon. So we get some obvious cheats, like looking close up at a boulder on top of Popeye’s cage instead of Popeye complaining about that. And we get some animation that just doesn’t work. The second time the Goon is pushing Popeye’s and Olive Oyl’s boat, for example (at about 18:14) it could not look less like the boat is actually moving. And I have no idea where the cage that drops on Popeye dropped from, or why.

But the animation budget gets thoughtfully used. When the characters are just talking, they move between extreme poses. It’s a good trick to make “standing around talking” resemble action. Jay Ward cartoons relied on this. There’s some wonderful little bits too, particularly Popeye circling, as if on skates, the Goon King at the wedding, around 21:19. There’s also a really good shower of sparkles at about 21:22, by the way; I recommend freezing the frame to look at that effect. There’s also some nice water effects, like at 18:19, as the Goon pushes the boat to the Goon island. There’s other, small bits that animate well, like at about 20:00 where Olive Oyl runs away from the Goon King, to be easily caught by the guard, whom Popeye slugs from inside his cage. Or about 21:50, Popeye setting down the still-tied-up Olive Oyl, who falls over in the sand without drawing attention otherwise.

The Goons get a new model for this cartoon. Well, these are called Goons from the Moon; maybe they’re different from the Earth Goons. I can see the resemblance to the original, Alice-the-Goon type Goon. The great long floppy nose, particularly, and that particularly Segar-ish fat lower arm. But this cartoon does away with their large size and broad shoulders and skinny lower bodies. Oh, and their furry hips look a lot like grass skirts now. And instead of speaking in pulsed vibrations, they talk in high-pitched English With Bad Pronouns. Here, I get uncomfortable. The character design, the bad speech, the plot — the Goons kidnapping Olive Oyl to serve as their Queen — evoke some blend of the Jungle Princess and the Mighty Whitey threads. But the cartoon avoided getting to “yipes” territory to my eyes. Possibly there was enough plot to keep me interested in where this is all going, and how it’ll get there.

This is the rare cartoon that starts with Popeye sailing and not ending up in a shipwreck. Olive Oyl is the one to notice that the boat is moving opposite the direction of the wind, which Popeye and the audience need explained to them. Good for Olive, who comes out pretty well this cartoon. It does re-invite the question: is Popeye is actually a good sailor? He gets shipwrecked or lost a lot. But a kidnapping can happen to anyone.

Popeye and Olive Oyl work pretty well togethere here. Olive Oyl is tempted, naturally, by the chance to be Queen of an island. But I imagine most of us would at least consider the possibility. Popeye has a good reason not to have a can of spinach on him. And Olive Oyl doesn’t screw around not getting his spinach. They act like they know how to get out of this kind of fix.

I’ve wondered about the writing for these shorts. Were the cartoons written by the animation team, or were they scripted and just sent off to whatever studio was up today? The story here feels stronger than usual and I’m curious whether that’s Deitch’s team’s doing, or just the luck of the draw.

Just Thinking About Those Alarmed Skunks


So I was thinking about those skunks who’ve been alarmed by things so much this year. I’m this close (please imagine two things close together. No, not that close. Only this close) to going out at night and asking them if everything’s all right, and if they would maybe like to talk it out instead of getting into whatever fights it is they’ve been getting every four days lately. Well, that probably wouldn’t be a good idea. I’d keep trying to understand more of the context of what they’re so upset about and we’d never get the issue settled. Hm.

What’s Going On In Alley Oop? Who blipped Alley Oop and Ooola out of existence? August – November 2019


Hi, person wanting to complain about Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop. This is a good place to talk about the strip, as I have a plot recap bringing people up to date for about early November 2019. If you’re reading this after about February 2020 there’s probably a more up-to-date recap at this link. Thank you for disliking the comic strip, but I trust, liking me.

Alley Oop.

19 August – 9 November 2019.

I last checked in as Ollie Arp and Eeena, from Universe 3, finished sanctioning the comic for being all wacky and stuff. Universe 3, annoyed with how the new Alley Oop, Oona, and Doctor Wonmug were messing up time, gave them a ticket, and left. They haven’t played an explicit part in the story since, as of the 9th of November. But, gosh, it sure would be wild if they had something to do with the vanishing of Wonmug’s time lab staff after a really big messing up of time, wouldn’t it?

(This is my inference. I don’t read the strips ahead of the day of publication. I am given to understand that other comic strip bloggers have the Secret Knowledge of ways to get future strips. It requires something more sophisticated than hacking a strip URL to a future date, so, I’m not going to bother.)

And they left Alley Oop and Ooola with their previous mission. This was bringing Plato back to the present day. Genevieve Collingsworth, (fictional) Pulitzer-prize winning writer, hoped to interview him. The disappointment: Alley Oop and Ooola had gotten Plato from a time before he was doing philosophy. It’s from the era when Plato was doing puppetry. Collingsworth makes a Pulitzer-winning book out of it anyway.

Dr Piedra: 'You walked to Dr Wonmug and his partners?' Ollie Arp: 'Yes. I was very clear that they should stop altering the timeline. I was firm, but fair.' Piedra; 'And how do you explain this?' (She holds up a picture of Plato on a scooter, wearing a sleeveless leather vest and short jeans.) Arp: 'Oh ... ha ha ... Plato, uh, always dressed like that.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 5th of September, 2019. This is funny enough, although if you wanted the Slightly Over-Researched version of this joke? Have Dr Piedra show a photo of Plato as a lucha libre wrestler.

With the 6th of September, the new and current storyline starts. It’s to the Galapagos Islands of about two million years ago. Dr Charles Losthouse thinks there was then an advanced tortoise species that used a sharp stick as tools. What’s needed is evidence.

The first two turtles Alley Oop and Ooola meet, two million years ago, push them into the sea. Dolphins pick them up and carry them to another island, one with a stone statue of a tortoise. They find a tortoise playing a flute. The tortoise, Sharp, brings them back to the local city. It’s a futuristic megalopolis.

Alley Oop: 'Wow! Your society is SO advanced!' Sharp: 'Yes, it must be very shocking to you. Apologies that I cannot offer you a banana or a vine to swing on. I know how you primates are.' Ooola: 'Sharp, come on, just because we're primates ... [ Notices Oop doing something with her hair ] Oop, what are you doing?!' Oop: 'I wasn't grooming you. There was just a bug in your fur ... I mean hair.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 24th of September, 2019. One joke used repeatedly, and never failing me, this storyline was this kind of “oh, you know primates” setup. I don’t say it’s a deep joke. I do say I had fun hearing humans described as “a bunch of greasy, hairy bipeds who don’t even have the sense to evolve a shell over their backs … stinky, violent, high-center-of-gravity, fragile creatures … the most annoying and destructive beings”.

They explain to Uldo and Sharp that they’re from the future. Uldo, a scientist, understands. Tortoise society has discovered time travel but never been so reckless as to use it. They don’t dare change the timeline. But then why would future primates not know tortoise scientists? … And Ooola drops the news that in their time, tortoises aren’t, you know, smart. It’s humans who are the scientists. Uldo declares they have to change the timeline immediately.

Alley Oop starts feeling it’d be wrong to let the intelligent tortoises die out. President Shellington can’t believe the news. But she laughs at Alley Oop’s offer of help, and claim that they’re “from the future and kind of smart”. Alley Oop and Ooola go home.

Uldo: 'We must tell the President what we've learned! We must save the Cutie-Pies!' Alley Oop: 'Who are the Cutie-Pies?' Uldo: 'We are! That's what we call ourselves.' Oop: 'That's ... weird.' Uldo: 'Wy? Aren't we cute?' Oop: 'I mean ... not really.' Uldo: 'First we learn about the end of our species, and now I'm called ugly? Can this day get any worse?'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 2nd of October, 2019. I don’t know; I think they’re cute. Also in the next couple days Alley Oop comes to see the Cutie-Pies as fairly cute, really, and deserving saving.

Meanwhile back in the present, Dr Wonmug is annoyed they haven’t brought back the Galapagos Apparatus, needed to prevent the end of the world. Yes, this is the first we’ve heard about the end of the world. Ooola tries to explain what they saw. Dr Wonmug calls in his colleague, Dr Silverstein, a tortoise scientist. In the changed timeline there’s both humans and tortoises. Ooola and Dr Silverstein were good friends. Alley Oop used to date a tortoise. This is bad.

I’m surprised that when this dropped, mid-October, I didn’t see a flurry of people angry at Alley Oop. So far as I am aware the comic strip hasn’t had a malleable timeline. But I am only dimly aware. I’ve read a little bit of V T Hamlin’s original strips, and a couple years of the Jack Bender and Carole Bender era. That’s it. All sorts of shenanigans might have happened and I wouldn’t know, any more than I’d know what happened in the original-run Doctor Who. Which also mostly didn’t have a malleable timeline.

Ooola: 'I don't understand. Humans are horrible to the environment in our timeline, but the world doesn't end there.' Dr Wonmug: 'Yes, that puzzled me at first, too, but I've been running the numbers. The increased biomass of the tortoises in this timeline has put an extra strain on Earth's limited resources. [ Looking over at a Cute-Pie. ] See, I told you it was the tortoises's fault, Silverstein! You owe me a dollar!'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 22nd of October, 2019. Moving swiftly onward from yet another science fiction “oh, we can’t have an environment and avoid genocide, choose one” line of bull: Hey, Wonmug, they want to be called Cutie-Pies. Why you being a jerk about this? Unless we hypothesize that a group’s sense of their own identity might change over two million years which is, of course, absurd and impossible. Anyway there’s a cute moment the 24th, when Wonmug tries to tell Silverstein they were talking about “bananas and body hair”, as primates will.

Anyway, in the new timeline, the world is doomed. Environmental collapse. A combination human/tortoise civilization is too much for the planet. Yes, we have to pretend this makes sense. Doc charges Alley Oop and Ooola with stopping the world from ending. Doc stays with Dr Silverstein. He pledges he’ll “breed a species of hyperintelligent giant tortoises that will rebuild my forgotten society”. Yeah; take a number after the Time Raccoons.

Alley Oop has his doubts about making the giant tortoises not exist. Ooola points out there’s saving the rest of the earth that’s worthwhile. Which, all right, but this is why it’s bad to stare into the ethics of changing history. Anyway, Alley Oop’s first plan to save the timeline is to go back to Moo and stop himself from being born. That way, he can’t go back to the Galapagos Islands of two million years ago. In a serious story this could have a nice moral balance, atoning for destroying so many people by also destroying oneself. In this story, he completely fails to talk his parents out of having children. Which is at least a fun ironic conclusion.

Alley Oop, to his parents: 'I know it's complicated, but I'm your son. I'm from the future. I'm kind of responsible for the world ending. For the sake of the whole world, have you ever thought about not having any kids? You could travel the world, chisel the great Moo-ian novel, collect cool-looking rocks, learn how to ... ' As he keeps talking Oop's father says, 'When he leaves, do you still want to ... ?' Oop's mother: 'Oh, yeah.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 31st of October, 2019. Granting that Alley Oop isn’t offering much evidence for his claims about being from the future and being a threat to the world. But, jeez, if you were Alley Oop’s parents wouldn’t this at least spoil your mood? There’s more than a bit of 90s-webcomic-mean in the writing and I think it gives moments like this the wrong tone.

Ooola has the more sensible plan of just interfering with their own Galapagos Island mission. They go back to about five minutes before their original arrival. The new plan: keep the tortoises they first met from knocking them onto the dolphins. The easiest way to do this is grab the tortoises and hide them. The now alternate-past Alley Oop and Ooola don’t find anything and, presumably, go back to the present. Where, uh, Dr Wonmug has vanished. Ooola disappears in the next panel, and Ava and finally Alley Oop. So I guess the comic strip has ended and nobody will be angry about it anymore? That’s good, right?

Ava: 'Alley! Ooola! I'm so glad to see you! Dr Wonmug is GONE! He just VANISHED!' (As Ooola vanishes behind them.) Alley Oop: 'Don't be silly, Ava. (He looks to where Ooola was, as Ava vanishes.) People don't just ... (As he vanishes.) ... disappear ... '
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 9th of November, 2019. Yes, people disappearing is completely inexplicable in a comic strip about people who disappear through time and occasionally alternate universes.

Next Week!

I trusted that The Ghost Who Walks was about to take Imara Sahara back to the fabulous Skull Cave. How’d that turn out? We’ll see as I look at Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom (Weekday continuity) next Sunday, I hope.

Also this week, on my other blog, I talk about mathematics through the filter of comic strips. You might enjoy that too.

My Moneymaking Scheme based on the Rise in Streaming Services


So you know how there’s some new subscription streaming service every couple minutes now? (Look, there’s one just started up now!) Well, I’m going to start a streaming service providing a stream of subscription streaming services, or SSpSoSSS.

Of course, I am smart enough to know you never make money doing a thing. You make money by selling the tools for someone else to do a thing. So what I’m really selling is SSpSoSSS-as-a-service.

It’s looking good! SSpSoSSSaaS is already quite popular with developer snakes and among pool toys with slow leaks.

Some Alarming News


I don’t mean to alarm everyone. But there have been an alarming number of alarms here lately. In fact, as I write this, I hear one that’s completely new. It sounds — oh, there, it’s just stopped. Well, it sounded like someone was running a vacuum cleaner that has just inhaled a throw rug. Whatever that means can’t be good. My guess it is it means the dogs nearby aren’t nervous enough.

Anyway that’s just the latest strange and alarming-like noise here. Another one only stands out when I go outside. This is … well, it sounds like a smoke detector complaining about a low battery. This is a more successful alarm than that vacuum cleaner that’s swallowed the throw rug, which is back, by the way. It’s not just more unsettling because the smoke alarm’s been going on a week now. The smoke alarm is unsettling because it implies there’s some house on the block where it’s always 4:30 am. This seems improbable. If it’s always 4:30 am in there how do its residents know when to oversleep for work? But more, how am I hearing the smoke alarm from some other house? It can’t be the neighbors. I know them, kind of, and they’d absolutely have replaced the batteries or smashed the smoke alarm with a sledge hammer by now. But what other house could possibly be near enough to hear? Unless all their windows were open, and they had set up a megaphone right by the smoke alarm and aimed it right at our driveway?

But what other explanation makes sense? Could someone have set a smoke alarm in the park at the end of the block? This would be great, since the local squirrels and raccoons need some warning of brush fires. The skunks do too, but they need something less alarming, for the obvious reason. The local skunks have been very alarmed by many things all summer and fall, I infer. We don’t need to add to that.

Anyway — there’s that vacuum cleaner again — there’s a bunch of alarms in the area. Like, this past Saturday they did the usual monthly tornado siren test. My area of Michigan, despite being in the Midwest, doesn’t actually get that many tornadoes. It gets tornadoes about as often as my old area, New Jersey, does. And New Jersey doesn’t get tornadoes. When I grew up we only ever heard about tornadoes touching down in warehouse districts of Brooklyn. These days, tornadoes have been entirely priced out of Brooklyn. Where are they even going to go, Staten Island? So the point is we don’t really need a tornado siren in Lansing, Michigan. One Halloween they tried using the torando siren to announce the official start and end of trick-or-treating hours. The catch is that year it was so rainy, and windy, and turbulent that everyone figured we were getting a tornado, so everybody stayed home, confused. This foiled our plan to get a good reputation by giving out full-size peanut butter cups.

And then this Tuesday they tested a different alarm. This is one they’ve set up to warn people that the dam has broken. Also that there’s a dam which, if broken, could be a problem. We’re near a river, but not the one that’s got a dam so far as anyone has told us about. But we are near enough that other river that I could hear the siren. It was this kind of quick, rising tone, with silent intervals, sounding like someone was trying to hurry through the tornado siren and made a mistake and had to start over again.

After like thirty seconds of that, the siren gives way to a prerecorded announcement. Here, this booming voice gives people the useful emergency information: I don’t know. We’re far enough from the river that by the time the sound reaches us, it all sounds like Charlie Brown’s French teacher. So, if the dam does break, I’ll have to follow the instruction of “le hrronk, la bwooonk-wa-wa-honk et les nous hawrooronkarronk sur ta plume”.

I think that vacuum cleaner has digested the throw rug, so whatever problem that is has cleared up. I know I feel more secure now.

Because conjugation is a group decision this week, too


You know, if we all wanted to, we could decide that the past tense of “overlook” is “overlought”, and cut “overlooked” entirely out of the deal. This would solve nothing.

(This follows up on what I planned last week, thinking about how “quanch” could be the past tense of “quench” if we worked at it. Please visit next week when I’ll see if I can extend this to somehow turning “awkward” into “awayward” for whatever reason.)

Popeye goes Ski Jumping this time


We’ve finally got a break from Jack Kinney-directed episodes. This one’s … oh. Larry Harmon. You know, the with the crew that would go on to be Filmation. I mean, I like Filmation. They made a lot of the cartoons so deeply weird that they appealed to the young me. Who else would think to do a cartoon refresh of Gilligan’s Island by just moving everyone to a new planet? I don’t expect great animation. I’m happy if I can get a weird cartoon, though. So here’s Ski-Jump Champ, another 1960 piece.

This isn’t the first skiing cartoon from Popeye. It’s also not the first one where Jackson Beck plays Bluto as some wholly new character with a French accent. Maybe French-Canadian. Beck was apparently comfortable with that accent; he has it on a fair number of old-time radio characters too. Here he’s Gorgeous Pierre, greatest ski jumper in the world. I too wonder if that’s a riff on Gorgeous George, the 50s pro wrestler who’s the guy being riffed on in those cartoons where a pro wrestler has curly blond hair and a perfume bottle.

And it’s not even the first cartoon this month where the story is Popeye and Bluto Brutus Gorgeous Pierre doing stunts to win Olive Oyl’s affections. What makes this stand out mostly is the animation getting weird. Like, in the first scene Popeye’s right eye keeps doing this little fluttering that made me think they were accidentally opening it. No; it’s just that his eyebrow jumps between spots. Which is a mistake that curiously makes his face look much more alive and real than the animators wanted. So that’s worth talking about because it’s an animation error that makes the cartoon kind of better, somehow. It’s superior to Bluto Brutus Gorgeous Pierre using a jack to lift the end of a ski jump, which my eye keeps trying to parse as an optical illusion. And I have no idea what’s supposed to be happening about 3:04, when Popeye skis into the rope.

This all comes to a ski race because I guess they needed some structure for the back half of the cartoon. We see Bluto Brutus Gorgeous Pierre being all devious by going right after the race starter says to “go”, while Popeye stands around blinking. And here I realized I have mixed feelings about the character designs here. They’re very simple ones. Like, I look at them and think, “I could draw that,” which is a sign of a very simple character design. But simple isn’t the same as bad. I admire how they’re able to get Popeye and Olive Oyl and You-Know-Who drawn and recognizable with so few lines and as many as five colors.

Bluto, using a very long handle on a car jack, lifting up the end of a ski jump by its base. No two elements seem to be in reasonable places, relative to one another. The horizontal bar of the ski jump's posts seems to be at an angle, or else the ends of the posts are cut at an angle and one goes about six inches farther down than the other. It's all subtly disorienting in its composition and layout.
Artist’s challenge: find a vanishing point that could possibly apply here. Civil engineer’s challenge: how did this ski jump pass the state inspection when its foundation is just “sitting on top of the snow, with a jack underneath its one cross bar”?

We do get that cartoon-race motif where the villain would win easily if he didn’t keep stopping to sabotage the hero. In the last minute and a half the cartoon finally gets weird for weirdness’s sake. Gorgeous Pierre paints a tunnel into a tree. It’s a Coyote and Road Runner gag, except for being senseless. There’s a reason to take a tunnel through the mountain; why aim for the one tree on the hill because you think you can pass through it? That said, I apparently like this sort of nonsense because I didn’t think about that until the third time through. Another bit of nonsense I like is Popeye drinking spinach juice for whatever reason. I wonder if this is riffing on some commercial people in 1960 would remember. The cartoon ends with a fight cloud, and a small-pawed bear being roped into things. The bear gets to win the ski race. And Popeye declares “like Napoleon said, you can’t win them all” and spontaneously dons a Napoleon costume. Why? I have no idea.

By now, you know me. I found this a dull but okay cartoon through most of its length. I got more interested as the cartoon got more ridiculous. Also that bear was adorable and I reliably like the comic premise of the character who’s important but asleep through the whole thing. I will not call this a great one, since it isn’t. Popeye turning into Napoleon is a nice surprise, but it’s not the sort of joke which won’t wear out.