Statistics May: How Twitter Knocked Out My Readership Last Month

I have not used my @Nebusj account on Twitter in years. Safari decided it wanted to interact with it very slow, if at all, and while I could have just used Firefox instead I didn’t. Since that time, all I’ve tweeted there has been from an automated post relay that WordPress offers. Well, recently, Elon J Fudd, Billionaire, who owns a mansion and a web site, decided to charge way lots more for the tools to run this service. And the service said, ‘nah’, and shut down in the middle of the month. So my biggest act of promoting myself, letting this automated tweet go out once a day, vanished mid-month.

So this should explain why my readership was way down in May. According to WordPress there were 4,451 page views here in May, the lowest monthly total in a year. And there were a mere 2,537 unique visitors, also the lowest monthly total in a year. Seems easy to explain, doesn’t it? The loss of that link sank me below the 5,385.5 views and 2,905 unique visitors I’d have expected as the median monthly readership. Or the 5,510.3 views and 2,975.2 views and visitors of the arithmetic mean month. Easy!

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months hovering around 4500 views per month, without strong direction one way or another, until a new peak emerged in April 2022. A smaller peak reappeared in August 2022 and September 2022. Readership totals drop again in May 2023.
It bothers me that I didn’t get to take the snapshot one minute sooner, so I wouldn’t have the empty bar of June 2023 hanging around the right there. But no, I don’t have any reason to think I’m not basically neurotypical, why do you ask?

Only maybe not so. WordPress lets me look at readership figures by day, by week, and by month, and the daily and weekly figures have a weird result. They don’t look much different before May 16th — the Twitter cutoff — and after. The two full weeks after the 16th were busier than the two full weeks before. If I am missing “deserved” readers, it looks more like because I didn’t have an extraordinary peak week, like I did around Easter with the Easter-egg-dye-color report. Well, not every month can be me patiently explaining to readers that no, The Phantom is not dead.

What was most popular around here in May? Me admitting I only got this one Far Side in 2020. But of the things published in May, here’s the top five viewed pieces:

And, of course, what people consistently want to know about are the story comics and what’s happening in them. My plan for the next couple weeks is to cover these comics, in this order:

I’m still experimenting with Olive and Popeye as part of the rotation; I’m not sure it has quite enough story to deserve this. But I’ve been rooting for Popeye to return to the pop culture so will give him a chance. I’m also really, really thinking about doing Rip Haywire recaps. Going to have to see if I can do a test run on that.

Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink.
Again, I’m sorry the map isn’t larger, but for some reason WordPress thinks the important thing is having plenty of whitespace on their maps.

There were 88 things as good as countries sending me readers in May. Here’s who they were:

Country Readers
United States 2,997
India 142
Canada 137
Australia 120
Brazil 113
United Kingdom 113
Germany 106
Italy 69
Philippines 62
Finland 41
Norway 38
Spain 35
France 32
Mexico 32
Poland 28
Sweden 27
Romania 21
Bangladesh 19
Japan 19
Denmark 18
Argentina 15
Netherlands 14
South Africa 14
El Salvador 12
New Zealand 11
Peru 11
Thailand 10
European Union 9
Portugal 9
Hong Kong SAR China 8
Malaysia 8
Nigeria 8
Serbia 8
United Arab Emirates 7
Colombia 6
Croatia 6
Israel 6
Morocco 6
Belgium 5
Ireland 5
Jamaica 5
Kenya 5
Ukraine 5
Algeria 4
Greece 4
Indonesia 4
Puerto Rico 4
Saudi Arabia 4
Singapore 4
Austria 3
Dominican Republic 3
Ecuador 3
Georgia 3
Russia 3
Venezuela 3
Albania 2
American Samoa 2
Bahamas 2
Bulgaria 2
Chile 2
Costa Rica 2
Estonia 2
Hungary 2
Kuwait 2
Mali 2
Palestinian Territories 2
Seychelles 2
Slovenia 2
South Korea 2
Antigua & Barbuda 1
Armenia 1
Bolivia 1
Bosnia & Herzegovina 1
Egypt 1
French Polynesia 1 (*)
Guatemala 1
Honduras 1
Martinique 1
Oman 1
Pakistan 1
Slovakia 1
Sri Lanka 1 (*)
Switzerland 1
Taiwan 1
Tunisia 1
U.S. Virgin Islands 1
Uruguay 1
Vietnam 1

I agree, that’s way more readers from Sweden and from Argentina than I would expect. Once again, I’m never going to turn away a reader, but I feel myself such a provincial interest I’m stunned I Have anything to say that could interest anyone in Bangladesh.

Pakistan and Sri Lanka were single-view countries in April 2023 too. I didn’t keep track of what single-view countries were in March. Sorry.

If you’d like to be a regular reader here, I’m sorry the last bit of my Twitter presence is gone. You can sign up to get posts delivered by e-mail, using the little box in the upper right corner that says ”Follow _Another Blog, Meanwhile_ via Email”. Or you can use the button above that to add this blog to your WordPress reader. You can use in your RSS reader to get essays in a nice, organized fashion in your own reader, too. Please choose as fits your needs. I’ll be around a while yet.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Doesn’t Martinez Know You Can Have Two Starting Pitchers? March – June 2023

One thread in the baseball-season story in Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp is that Valley Tech coach Luke Martinez isn’t giving his son, Pedro Martinez, chances to pitch. He’s got a foreign-exchange student, Kwan Tak, who’s hogging all the glory. But you need more than one starter for a baseball team, and Pedro Martinez was bred to be a hall-of-famer. He’s got allegedly a 90 mph fastball; between Kwan and Pedro, Valley Tech should be winning games they aren’t even in. I saw one Gil Thorp commenter ask whether Henry Barajas even knows how the game is played.

I imagine Barajas does. There are a couple things going on here that you might miss if you aren’t reading three months’ worth of story at once. While you need multiple starters, there’s the starter you give the most important games and there’s your second-chair. And that hurts. And Luke Martinez is busy screwing up his relationship with his kids, including Pedro Martinez. The last we saw him on-screen, Pedro was upset that his father had made their win against Milford all about his coaching, rather than Pedro’s playing. Pedro didn’t play basketball for Valley Tech, a gap you might have thought was just because not everyone plays every sport. Except that last month Marty Moon asked Martinez why Pedro didn’t play. That attention makes the picture clearer.

Pedro: 'Are you @#$@# serious?' Luke Martinez: 'Make the call, Coach Kim'. Pedro: 'You're *petty*.' Martinez: 'You're *grounded.' Calling to Kwan: 'Kwan, let's show them what you got.'
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 19th of May, 2023. I understand the desire, to avoid apparent conflicts of interest, in Coach Martinez deferring to his assistant in formally deciding to replace Pedro with Kwan. However, Kwan is still Kim’s cousin, so the problem remains. Anyway, between this and the Marty Moon line about Pedro not playing basketball we get that the relationship between Pedro and his father is getting explosive.

The picture: Pedro Martinez is angry at his father. He didn’t play basketball, either on Pedro’s or Luke’s initiative we don’t know. Now? It appears Coach Martinez wants a more compliant pitcher than even his own son. Whether he’s actually not playing Pedro at all, or whether he’s benching Pedro for the bigger games, is ambiguous so far. Pedro’s sense of rejection is understandable to me.

So this should catch you up to early June 2023 in Gil Thorp. All going well, I’ll have another plot recap by September 2023 at this link, so look there if you’re reading this in my far future. And if you need to catch up more quickly. Now back to the sports department.

Gil Thorp.

13 March – 4 June 2023.

My last visit to Milford saw the basketball season nearing its end. To seal up an undefeated season, assistant coach Emmett Tays brings in a friend. It’s special celebrity guest star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar! Who gives advice about outlasting the competition; he recommends it, himself. (Later, for Free Comic Book Day, we get special celebrity guest star Steenz, Heart of the City‘s cartoonist. And we get one more special guest star in the window of strips I’m discussing.)

The competition will be a tough one: Valley Tech versus the undefeated Milford for the 2023 Boys Basketball Championship. The game starts, reader time, the 24th of March. (Marty Moon says he’s joined by “the legendary Lachlan Maclean”, a name unfamiliar to me. A commenter at GoComics found that he’s a Louisville, Kentucky, sports reporter, so counts as our third celebrity guest star! Let’s give him a big hand and congratulate the strip on more celebrity ‘gets’ than Dick Tracy managed this cycle.) It’s a hard-fought match, both teams playing well and Coach Martinez not being all weird about Gil Thorp. It’s either team’s game until an accident with one minute left to play. Rodney Barnes — who with Tobias Gordon was selling vape sticks to support the sports program — collides hard with a Valley Tech player. He’s knocked out hard enough Tobias starts giving CPR. Rodney’s taken off by ambulance, and he’ll be in the hospital until the next storyline starts.

Basketball announcer: 'We've got a minute left on the clock!' Rodney, calling for the ball: 'Tobe!' But he crashes into a Valley Tech player and falls, hard. Announcer: 'That was a nasty crash!' Tobias, shaking the unconscious Rodney: 'Rod?! Get up, man!'
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 4th of April, 2023. That was a surprise and part of me was expecting that Rodney might die here. Don’t tell me it can’t happen; Neal Rubin had a very effective storyline where a player-character got killed in a freak traffic accident, and Barajas is more eager to take narrative leaps than Rubin.

After Rodney’s taken away — and they get the news he’s conscious — the teams agree to finish the game, telling one another it’s what Rodney would want. So he would: Milford gets the final basket and tops a perfect season with the local championship. Martinez congratulates Gil Thorp on a good game, “but know this … this ain’t over,” causing people in adjacent comics to roll their eyes. “C’mon, mate,” Ginger Meggs chides. “You don’t have to be all weird like this. Cricket wallaby billycart.” But he does, and he’s only going to ramp it up for the baseball story.

The baseball story — also, Chapter 3 of Henry Barajas’s first year here, “The Prestige”, begins the 12th of April. There’s miscellaneous little pieces of business. Coach Thorp’s kids are still hanging out with Luke Martinez’s kids. Martinez’s younger kid wishes his dad were nice like Gil Thorp. Marty Moon asks Luke Martinez why Pedro — signed up to be Valley Tech’s star pitcher — didn’t play basketball. Marty’s so used to being told “because shut up is why” he doesn’t even register there’s a story there. It’s right up there in my prologue.

But he does find the long-simmering story of the vape sticks. A leading comment from Gil Thorp sends Tobias freaking out that someone knows what they’re up to. He’s swears that he’s out, even if Rod won’t quit yet, just as Marty Moon snaps pictures of their dealing.

Mimi Thorp’s on the golf circuit. She gets a bouquet of roses and a supporting card on the start of this tour. They’re from Ericka Carter, who’d been giving her lessons.

Dorothy; 'I wanted to *thank* you.' Keri: 'I hope you'd do the same for me ... but I doubt you've ever been in a fight.' Dorothy, hugging her: 'I still hate you for beating me up [*] that one time! I'll follow you on Instagram tonight, bye!' Keri, thinking: 'She even smells pretty.' [ * Editor's note: read the strip from 11/16/2022! ] Later, Mimi Thorp, picking her up: 'Keri Harper Thorp. How was your first time serving detention?' Keri: 'Honestly? Rad.'
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 1st of June, 2023. The strip from November 16, 2022, saw Keri slug Dorothy for not-undeniably-laughing-at-her. And before you ask how Keri didn’t serve detention for that: Gil Thorp called in a favor, and Keri got mandatory counselor visits but not detention yet.

And Keri Thorp, playing on the girls’ team, has a strange encounter with her bully Dorothy Wolfe. Wolfe’s been pitching a great season, topping it with a no-hitter. Someone on the losing team congratulates her with an elbow into the chest. It starts a brawl, and Dorothy’s stunned when the rest of the team comes to her defense. Wolfe hugs Keri, who startles me by thinking, “She even smells pretty”. It’s a gentle open to a much-needed Pride Month. Also between this and Ericka Carter, Mary Worth has like 350 years of social catching-up to do.

The central sport of all this is baseball, or possibly softball. Someball, anyway. Gil Thorp’s having some trouble finding a pitcher. Kaz gives his old boss one more good tip by reminding him of Greg Hamm, star of Neal Rubin’s final story for Gil Thorp. And Hamm is up for a special guest appearance, giving faintly Yoda-ish lessons about how to feel the air, the sunlight, the position of the catcher. And to make your pitches count; you don’t know how many you’ll get.

Luke Martinez, meanwhile, is almost sick for choice in pitchers. His own son would be killer enough. But Martinez goes all the way to Korea, to coax assistant coach Kim’s cousin into coming over as a foreign exchange student. He offers the promise of being a hugely noticed fish in their pond. Martinez even shows off that he speaks Korean to do this. I like learning buffoon-leaning characters like Martinez have unexpected skills. I assume he’s doing all this on his dime. I can’t imagine Valley Tech has a huge recruiting travel budget for the boys baseball team.

Keri: 'Luke benched you *again*?' Pedro: 'Dad has a new favorite son.' Keri: 'Do I sense some jealousy, babe?' Elsewhere on the field. Kwan: 'Screwball? More like 'Screw Loose'!' Martinez: 'Haha! You're killing me, Kwan!'
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 3rd of June, 2023. I’m not sure whether Coach Martinez is genuinely blown away by Kwan’s wit, or is supporting him for doing this well in wordplay in a foreign language. Absent contrary indications, I’m going to suppose Martinez is impressed Kwan is joking like a native speaker and building him up for that.

Kwan Tak, “The Korean Nightmare”, comes to Valley Tech. Martinez bunches his own son to start Kwan, raising eyebrows from Gil Thorp and scowls from Pedro. Kwan — staying with the Martinezes, for that extra dose of energy — gets along great with Coach Martinez. But also (we learn this week) feels isolated and pressured by his family. They have unrealistic high expectations for accomplishment in the field of high school baseball.

And this, more or less, is where we’ve reached by early June. I don’t know how much of this will wrap up before Barajas’s one-year anniversary of the strip, coming up in five weeks, but we’ll learn together.

Milford Sports Watch!

Who’s Milford playing? Who’s Milford talking about? These teams, and these days. If you want their win-loss record you can work it out from here.

Next Week!

It’s spies! And betrayals! And family intrigue! And probably a three-month jump ahead to the next season! Three months of Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker gets reduced to like 800 words next week, I hope. See you then.

I Understand There Was an Apple Thing Today

Even though I haven’t — yet — got Apple sending me a bunch of e-mails with the subject lines somehow a different color from normal suggesting I buy a thing, I know something happened. Mostly I can see that everybody I know online is surrounded by people angry about Apple. I feel like it used to be Apple would do these things and people would sometimes be not-angry about it. But that was also back when Apple had a market capitalization of their unreturned pop bottles. And back then their big announcements were things like they had a search box called ‘Sherlock’ and it would tell you when movies were at the nearby movie theater, if you wanted to log in and wait for the thing to take as few as three hours to get the current movie listings. This was better than checking the listings in the Albany Times-Union, though, at least if you didn’t live within a 90 minute drive of the Albany Times-Union delivery region.

The Strangest Comfort of My Life

I went and checked and it turns out I don’t remember the theme to It’s A Living nearly as well as I thought. Mostly what I remember is the chorus about how “it’s … a living” and that bit about a bed of roses. So, good, I guess, that I don’t have that taking up otherwise useful space in my mind but then why do I remember anything at all about the theme to the sitcom It’s Your Move? It’s not just because it had a checkerboard for its opening credits, right? It can’t be just that?

Statistics Saturday: Ranking of I-895’s

Location Ranking
Delaware Relegated
Maryland The fast food place made an extra bag of fries by mistake, you can have it
Massachusetts/Rhode Island Imaginary
New Jersey/Pennsylvania Waffle fries
New York Steak fries
Virginia Curly fries

Reference: Falling To Earth: An Apollo 15 Astronaut’s Journey To The Moon, Al Worden, Francis French.

But the Main Thing, I Suppose, Is

Sorry, I’m feeling humbled right now. It’s struck me that if I were cast into a Yesterday-type scenario, cast into a world eerily like ours except where none of the Beatles songs were known, I’d be hard-pressed to reconstruct “Eleanor Rigby,” one of the greatest expressions of the alienation of modernity. And yet, I’d be in great shape if the world needed the theme to It’s A Living, a short-lived early-80s sitcom brought back for first-run syndication for the latter half of the decade for no reason anyone ever wrote down so they could remember.

MiSTed: The Rangers of NIMH II, Part 1

With the conclusion of my all-new original Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction, The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, what better to do this week than start sharing a vintage one? And so I bring you the circa-1998 MiSTing of The Rangers of NIMH II, an original fan fiction by David Gonterman.

This MiSTing is different from ones I’ve done before in that I didn’t write the whole thing. A popular thing to do, especially for high-profile fan fictions, was collaborations. The process was about like you’d imagine. Everyone participating would take the original fan fiction, add their own riffs, and then an editor would merge them all into a collective whole. I only edited a couple — maybe only one? — joint MiSTing myself. The work of picking riffs was not bad, just not something I found fun.

Ah, but offering riffs? That was a great joy and I never tired of that. I was fortunate to get on several big projects, including a bunch of the famous Stephen Ratliff “Marissa Picard” stories — and, yes, The Rangers of NIMH II.

The Rangers of NIMH, part I, was one of the gold-standard MiSTings. David Gonterman and Paul Lapensee’s premise was elegant in its simplicity: team up Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers with the mice and rats from The Secret of NIMH. In the first part of the story, uh … I think Chip and Dale get accepted into the Rescue Aid Society (from The Rescuers/The Rescuers Down Under) and past that all I remember is that Gonterman didn’t have tight separation between his opinions and his character’s opinions. Don’t worry; there is nothing you need to know from the original (on which I did nothing) to follow the second.

Håkan Svensson was the editor for this MiSTing, and I believe wrote all the host sketches, but I could be wrong about that. Kevin A Pezzano and Christopher Street were the other riffers. I remember working with Pezzano on something but forget what. I don’t think I did any other MiSTings with Street.

I don’t know just how many installments this will be, because the fanfic doesn’t lend itself to nice discrete units the way Arthur Scott Bailey’s novels do, and it’s too hot and I’m too lazy to decide how to split up the whole thing right now. The whole of The Rangers of NIMH II MiSTing should be at this link. Thank you. And now, our story …

MiSTed by Joseph Nebus, Kevin A. Pezzano and Christopher Street

Edited by Håkan Svensson

[Season 7 opening theme. Open on the SOL, which is covered in art materials. Pencils and half-open bottles of ink everywhere, bristol board pages with half-completed comic pages adorn the walls, and scattered comic books lay about. Tom and Crow are in deep discussion.]

TOM: Okay, okay…so in the first panel, Marrissa stands like Superman…

CROW: Yeah! In a strawberry-colored wedding dress!

TOM: Oooh, good one!

[Mike enters.]

MIKE: Hey, guys. What’s with the mess?

TOM: Oh, well, Crow and I came across this old stash of small-press comic books…

CROW: Graphic novels!

TOM: Comic books!

CROW: [shouting] Graphic novels!!!

MIKE: Woah, woah! Calm down! Actually, they *would* be comic books. Graphic novels are those large, single story squarebound collections that… [trails off after noticing that Tom and Crow are staring at him] Okay, the whole question is academic. But what does that have to do with what you guys are doing?

CROW: Well, I remember all the great small-press comics that I used to read, and I figured, hey… *I* can do that!

TOM: Yeah, all you need is an idea and cash for the printer.

CROW: It’s like fanfic writing… but with *money*! Just look at this comic!

MIKE: "Crossed Swords" [flips it open] "with real dungeon adventure inside". This looks like it was done by two 12 year old D&D; geeks! The "dungeon" makes no sense, and the art resembles my little brother’s doodling during math tests!

CROW: Yeah, isn’t it great? It’s fan fiction with bucks! If *they* can have a comic, so can we!

TOM: And to save us the trouble of coming up with ideas on our own, we decided to actually make comic adaptations of fanfics!

MIKE: Oh boy…

[commercial sign]

MIKE: Uh-oh… We’ll be right back.



TOM: All right, where were we?

CROW: Marrissa was just about to order her crew to sterilize the surface of a nearby world, in a gigantic splash page!

MIKE: Guys, this will never work! Who wants to read a comic about a group of teenagers with uncanny abilities that routinely save the entire world from stupid villains with even stupider plots, amidst much death and destruction?

TOM: You mean like in any X-Men book, Mike?

CROW: Or Troublemakers?

TOM: Or Gen 13?

CROW: Or Teen Titans?

TOM: Or Akira?

MIKE: Never mind.

[Red light flashes]

MIKE: Besides, the Evil Ones are calling.

[Deep 13]

DR. F: Ah, yes, Mike and the mechanicals. You should consider yourselves very lucky, since you will have front row seats today, when I launch the scheme that will give me control of the world!


MIKE: Let me guess… Mind-control rays through the ethereal waves?

TOM: Fluoridation of water?

CROW: Worldwide transmission of dumb puppet shows?

[Deep 13]

PEARL: Clayton, they’re *mocking* you!

DR. F: Don’t worry, mother, they will give in once they experience the wrath of… the *Sequelizer*!

[The first bars of Bach’s "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" play as Dr.
Forrester uncovers a machine behind him.]

DR. F: As you all know, the sequel to any work is more often than not worse than the original. Now, imagine what would happen if someone would invent a machine that would automatically produce a sequel to anything fed into it?


CROW: They would make it head of a major movie company?

[Deep 13]

DR. F: No, it would allow me to weaken the minds of everyone by flooding the world with the most putrid works ever filmed or written! Allow me to demonstrate. [Dr. F holds up a videotape.] This is a tape of "Batman Returns," a movie with at least some good qualities to it.

[He feeds the tape to the Sequelizer. Wisps of steam shoot out from it as
its cogs grind loudly. Finally, the sequelizer stops with a hiss as it
spits out a new tape, which Dr. Forrester holds up to the camera.]

DR. F: It’s "Batman Forever," a movie with not so many good qualities about it! To save time, I prepared the machine with "Batman Forever" earlier, and it spit out "Batman & Robin"! Now, just imagine what would happen if I fed the machine with *that*!


MIKE: Uhhh…

[Deep 13]

DR. F: Well, guess what, you don’t have to guess, because I already did it! It’s "Batman: The Final Frontier" starring and directed by William Shatner!


TOM: Mike, I’m scared.

MIKE: Me too. Please, Dr. Forrester, we’ll do whatever you want, just don’t show us *that*!

[Deep 13]

DR. F: Of course I wouldn’t! I’ve got evil on a *much* grander scale lined up especially for you!

PEARL: I’m proud of you, Clayton. I just didn’t think that you were capable of *that* much evil.

[She pinches Dr. Forrester’s cheek.]

DR. F: [embarrassed] Whatever. Anyway, I’m going to give you a special treat since you piled up Deep 13 with waffles in the last MiSTing. [He puts on a rubber glove and carefully picks up a zip-locked plastic bag marked with skull symbols. The bag contains some sheets of paper.] This is a hardcopy of "The Rangers of NIMH," that… *remarkable* fanfic by David Gonterman and Paul Lapensee, and there are no points awarded for guessing what I intend to do with it.



TOM: Don’t!

CROW: You are meddling with powers you cannot *possibly* comprehend!

[Deep 13]

DR. F: [grinning even more evilly than usual] Just watch me.

[As Dr. Forrester feeds the fanfic to the Sequelizer, its cogs start to gain speed, accelerating beyond control. The chugging of the Sequelizer rises in volume in a crescendo, until it blows up spectacularly in a cloud of smoke.]

DR. F: Oh, poopie.

PEARL: Clayton, you tampered in God’s domain again, didn’t you?

DR. F: Do I ever do anything else, dear mother? [He picks up some pieces of paper which miraculously survived the explosion and faces the camera holding them.] Why don’t you take a look at this? It’s not much, but I’m sure there’s enough hurting in there for a whole Marrissa story.

[Sol, lights and buzzers go off]


[ 6 … 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 ]

[ To continue … ]

Post-segment thoughts … I assume “Crossed Swords” was an actual comic that Svensson (or one of the other MiSTers) was annoyed with. I never saw it myself, but what’s fan fiction for if not taking out your petty quarrels with stuff? And that “Sequelizer” device sure hasn’t lost any of its comic punch, has it? And I, sincerely, have a lot of good things to say about Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. I probably would have held back on saying “incredibly lame fanfic sign”. Besides being ableist, we chose to spend our recreational time reading this. Should have shown some respect. But I probably did a copy-editing pass on this back in the day (I usually did) and I didn’t fight it then, or didn’t fight it enough to change it, so I own it too.

Oh, the Marissa thing that Tom Servo and Crow start off on? She was the nigh-invulnerable protagonist of a long line of the gold standard of MiSTed fan fictions. A human being, her favorite drink was strawberry juice. In the stories we were riffing around this time the still quite young Marissa was finally getting married to another star of the series. That’s why she has a strawberry-colored wedding dress.

My Favorite _Raising Duncan_ Strip Just Reran

When Chris Browne, longtime artist of Hagar the Horrible, died earlier this month I mentioned my fondness for a particular panel of his wholly original strip, Raising Duncan. The strip ran for only a couple years, and GoComics has decided to keep it in endless repeats. I’m glad for this, as they recently got to that favorite strip of mine, and I wanted to share it here:

Adelle, hugging her husband: 'Marry me!' Big Daddy: 'I did!' Adelle: 'Marry me *more*!' Big Daddy, holding her arm, 'Aw!'
Chris Browne’s Raising Duncan for the 2nd of April 2002, and reprinted the 30th of May, 2023. (Original run here, though it looks just the same.) Duncan is the cute dog sleeping in the first panel there. I am surprised this hasn’t been used as an anniversary-card comic, though.

That isn’t to say the strip doesn’t have a good number of ‘husband’s a lunk and his wife is the tolerant sensible one’, but it’s quite gentle and kindly, in a way it’s easy to get wrong. I recommend at least one read-through of the comic.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? What’s this beef Terry Beatty has with you? March – May 2023

Terry Beatty does not have any beef with me. There is maybe one chance in sixty that Terry Beatty is even aware I exist, and if he is, his opinion is “there are other people out there for me to have opinions about”. But, this is like the third time he’s run a plot recap of his own, on or near the week I had scheduled for my plot recaps of his Rex Morgan, M.D., seen here. (See January 2022 and also February 2021.)

Well, if he’d rather do the plot recaps than trust me to do it, that’s fine. I can use some easy weeks, believe me. Next week is for Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp, after all, and that’s got a lot of things happening. Reducing it all to a plot recap will take work.

Rex Morgan, M.D..

4 March – 28 May 2023.

Last time, Hank Junior Harwood and Yvonne Grey were planning their honeymoon on a cruise ship. How did that go?

Horrible Hank Sr: 'Hey, kids --- welcome back. Hope you enjoyed the cruise.' Hank Jr: 'We did. But you're not going to *believe* who was there and what happened!' [ Hank Jr and Yvonne recount their cruise adventure. ] Hank Sr: 'Rene Belluso!?!' Hank Jr: 'Yeah --- can you believe it?' Senior: 'I can't believe you jumped into the ocean to save him. He hardly deserves it.' Junior: 'Couldn't help it, Pop. You taught me to care about everybody.' Senior: 'That was *me*? More likely your *mom*. I hardly like *anybody*.' Junior: 'You're a nicer man than you pretend to be, Pop.' Senior: 'Shush. Don't ruin the illusion. 'Horrible Hank' has a reputation to maintain.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 28th of May, 2023. Rene Belluso, multi-failed con artist, was in the ocean because he missed while trying to shove Hank Junior in. This because Belluso suspected, correctly, that Hank Junior recognized him as the ‘Professor Augustus Mirakle’ whose snake-oil therapy had coaxed the wonderfully bombastic ‘Mud’ Murphy into being a nice, gentle person. This prompted Murphy to write and perform a lot of treacly, pointless numbers that disappointed his fans, Hank Junior and Yvonne included. I don’t care for the implication that an artist has to be screwed up to be good — it leads to the idea that it’s a good thing to make artists miserable — but it’s not a notion Beatty invented from nowhere. Anyway, Murphy has to deal with the realization that a scammer helped him to fix some of the many issues in his life. But he can use the accidental wisdom and blend that into his life. Plus a children’s TV producer thinks Murphy’s twee little musical doodlings are just what kids want to hear. So that’s all happy endings, including for Rene, who somehow escaped from the ship’s brig, to be seen in some later story.

Thanks for checking in! See you next time.

I Always Always Always Find a Typo When I Reread Stuff

Even if I’ve read something and copy-edited it many times over the years I find some new problem. My only hope is if I never read something I posted already then maybe it’s perfect. But: In my Grumpy Weasel sketch I for some reason wrote about “the Spirit Express version of the Who Framed Roger Rabbit weasels”. I … have no idea how I got there. It should be Spirit Halloween, yes, or possibly Halloween City or whatever it is they call it there. I don’t know what a Spirit Express might be. Maybe something that pops up for a week when a mall kiosk closes, selling you just a couple quick Power Rangers-y masks from where they used to sell Dead Sea Mud? They get you in, they get you accessorized, and they get you out in plenty of time to go to the actual Spirit Halloween in the former Bamberger’s. That’s my best guess for what happened there, anyway.

You Know What Else the 80s Made? Jingles

I haven’t had any luck remembering what the point of Hands Across America was, not without looking it up. But this wandering around in memory did run across some other specific odd memory of the decade. This may be hard to remember but back then people were very tense about how the country had gone from having 118 million manufacturing jobs down to nine manufacturing jobs, most of them making those little toothpick flags for oversized sandwiches.

Well, the country wasn’t going to let that pass without doing something, and what they did was: make a bunch of TV commercials where they showed pictures of things while singing a jingle that went something like, “Hey hey! Whaddaya say! This was made in the U.S.A.!” and then repeating that until the TV station went off the air. It certainly did wonders to increase public awareness of the existence of things. And today the United States boasts over ten manufacturing jobs, making things from flag toothpicks all the way to styrofoam coffee cups, a noticeable increase even if it’s a per capita decline. So, great job all around tackling a problem with some creative thought there.

Statistics Saturday: Ranking of I-795’s

Location Ranking
Florida (unsigned) The twilight realm
Maryland The shadow realm
North Carolina The daylight realm

Reference: Scholars, Students, and Parents: An Exploration of the Ideas behind the New Math and other Curriculum Reform, Stephen White.

From Sea to Shining, See

Just sitting back, enjoying the thought of quiet days of sleeping as much as I want, and trying to remember stuff. Like, in the mid-80s we had this thing called Hands Across America, where on one day a great many people gathered in groups holding hands with the people on either side to make a line that stretched … not actually across the United States, because there’s a lot of United State out there and some of it is both boring and hard to stand around holding hands in.

Anyway, what was that all about? I know that it produced a song, or at least an unending chorus of “Hands across America / Hands across this land I love / Divided we fall / United we stand / Hands across America”. But that can’t have been the entire goal of the project, right? It must have been trying to do something. Maybe raise awareness? We were always trying to raise awareness in the 80s and it never did stick. But for what? How many states it’s hard to hand across?

If they had got enough people to actually go all the way from east to west I wonder what the plan was. Maybe pass a bucket of water from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back again? That sounds about right.

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Conclusion

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Grumpy Weasel. I have a little closing sketch for my MiSTing. You can read the whole of this little fan fiction, plus this closing sketch, at this link. And next week? Who knows. Something that I hope you’ll like too.

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE BRIDGE. GPC is wearing pink bunny ears, TOM SERVO fox ears and nose, and CROW has a little orange beak on the end of his beak and an Indiana Beach Amusement Park t-shirt on. Around the walls of the bridge are cutout bushes, trees, a distant barn, and a smiley sun. ]

MAGIC VOICE: The residents of Pleasant Valley all met up with Grumpy Weasel sometime. And don’t think they didn’t have similar times of it!

TOM: Last week I tried to trick Grumpy Weasel into leaping off the edge of Pleasant Cliff. And he said —

JOEL: [ Leaning into frame to deliver the line and leaning back out again, and wearing weasel ears and hat, as if from the Spirit Express version of the Who Framed Roger Rabbit weasels ] Why you consarned jackanape! If you try such again I shall bite your tail or know the reason why!

[ ALL chuckle after JOEL leaves frame ]

GPC: The other day Grumpy Weasel asked if I had seen Fatty Raccoon. I told him truthfully Fatty had gone into the wheat pens and Grumpy went off to give him a good what-for … but I didn’t tell him that was the day before, and only Spot the Dog was there now! And oh, what he said …

JOEL: [ Leaning into frame again for the line, shaking his fist ] You bigmouthed hobbadehoy! You’ve earned your share of trouble once I’ve fixed Fatty Raccoon’s flapdoodle!

[ Again, ALL chuckle once JOEL leaves frame ]

CROW: The other day I saw Grumpy confront Mr Meadow Mouse!

TOM: Oh dear, the poor mouse! What happened?

CROW: Mr Meadow Mouse taught Grumpy all about how to chew his foods long enough, so as to maximize digestion of their valuable proteins [ pronounced three syllables, PRO-tee-ins ] and vitamins [ with soft ‘i’ sounds, as in victuals, vih-tih-mins ] and food energy! Whilst Grumpy was chewing a bite of crabapple five hundred times Mr Mouse made good his escape, I should say!

GPC: What did Grumpy say to that?

JOEL: [ Leaning in for the line ] A pox on you, contumely blatherskite! I won’t have any cares about causing lesions upon my stomach-lining when I catch you!

[ ALL have a hearty laugh once JOEL leaves ]

CROW: Ah … we have fun.

GPC: Yeah, but —

TOM: What, Jimmy?

GPC: I was talking with my brother —

CROW, TOM: [ Somber ] Oh.

GPC: And he asked are we being the jerks here?

TOM: How can we be the jerks? We’re adorable!

CROW: I see what Jimmy’s … ‘brother’ … [ He and TOM shake their heads ] means though. We’re always playing pranks on Grumpy and he’s unhappy with us all the time. Maybe if we tried being nice he’d be a happy weasel instead?

GPC: Can we do that? What would we even call him?

TOM: His name could become ironic You know, like Mortimer Sparrow’s. Yes, let’s try making Grumpy feel like an invited, welcome part of the Pleasant Valley community!

GPC, CROW: Hear, hear!

[ CAMBOT focuses in on the tree decorations while the BOTS rustle around getting the scene change ready ]

MAGIC VOICE: Resolved to try a new and happy start with their companion weasel the forest denizens invited him to a …

[ CAMBOT pulls back out, revealing there’s a ‘cake’ made of a plate full of leaves, twigs, and a Mason jar in the center where a candle should be. As JOEL leans in the BOTS yell … ]


JOEL: What fatidic encomium is this here chicanery?

TOM: It’s a party! Have some cake!

JOEL: [ Tapping the plate ] It’s … leaves and twigs?

TOM: We’re adorable woodland animals, this is as ‘cake’ as we can do.

CROW: What’s important is that we welcome you into Pleasant Valley society!

GPC: Our hope is making you happy living with us!

JOEL: Make me happy? *MAKE ME HAPPY*? Did it never occur to you jentacular ossiflossibossoms that I *AM* happy already?

CROW: What?

GPC: No.

TOM: Never.

CROW: You’re always yelling at someone how you’ll get them.

GPC: My brother [ ALL, including JOEL, shuffle, uncomfortable ] said you were hollering at a boulder that you’d smash it if it told anyone you smiled.

JOEL: [ Shaking his fist ] That accursed overgrown pebble! I’ll give it what for!

CROW: So since you’re this quivering ball of white-hot rage all the time how can you be happy?

JOEL: Did it at no point occur to you factitious bildsungromans that being angry *makes* me happy? And being cheerful would make me *miserable*?

TOM: What?

GPC: But that …

CROW: I — I — I —

TOM: [ Starting to spin around ] Being happy is being angry is being happy is being angry is …

GPC: [ Woozy, spinning also, malfunctioning ] … angry is not happy but happy is happy but angry is not happy but happy is happy but …

CROW: [ SHRIEKING ] Illogical! Illogical! Norman co-ordinate!

[ CROW, TOM, and GPC continue like this briefly, spinning around finally until falling to the ground with a terrible clattering ]

JOEL: Hah! That’s it, I’ve foiled you robots and your intrusion on the Pleasant Valley once and for all! Now all the *actual* woodland creatures can live in safety — and *never* say one word of thanks to me! Off to show that boulder what for!


JOEL: [ Breaking character, as GPC, TOM, and CROW stand up again ] Fun, huh?

CROW: I think I make an adorable crow.

JOEL: [ Pinching CROW’s beak ] Oh, you sure do.

TOM: [ Addressing the audience ] Bet you didn’t suspect Arthur Scott Bailey was one of the first science fiction authors, did you?

GPC: [ Not registering this as a joke ] It’s all there on the page.

JOEL: What do you think, sirs?

[ JOEL slaps the MOVIE SIGN, ending the show ]

                                 \  |  /
                                  \ | /
                                  / | \
                                 /  |  \

Mystery Science Theater 3000, its characters and setup and settings and all, are the property of Satellite of Love LLC, and I suppose that’s working out well for them. Arthur Scott Bailey’s _The Tale of Grumpy Weasel_ is, as a public-domain work, the property of me, and you, and everyone who wishes to build on its world and create something that makes the world richer. This whole MiSTing, meanwhile, is my work over the course of late 2022 and the first half of 2023, so I hope you’re enjoying. I am.

> "That’s because you ran too fast," Fatty explained
> glibly. "Now, if you’ll be careful to run slowly, and do just
> as I tell you, I can promise that there’ll be a capture,
> without fail."

[ The End. ]

Keep Circulating the Tapes

Plus He Probably Rolls Like Two-Thirds of the Way Back Up the Mountain

Continuing to think about the legendary creatures of Pac-Land, because of my reasons, has made me consider. Pac-Sisyphus has got to have it a lot easier than our Sisyphus did, right? Because all he has to do is roll himself up to the top of that mountain over and over. And then he gets to roll all the way back down. He’s probably not only happy when he gets all the way up to the top but rolling all the way down again, because that’s got to be a lot of fun when you have so many directions you can roll without getting stuck, right? It’s just logic.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? Why do the secret furries live in the 19th century? February – May 2023

The animal-like people in Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom‘s Sunday-continuity story, “Return to the Temple of the Gods”, came about from an Ancient Egyptian Cult that somehow developed a race of super-men. This was introduced in a daily-continuity story back in 2005. I’m considering doing a special recap of that as the Return starts its second year.

That cult, we learn, died out sometime in the late 19th century. With the lack of surface contact, the underground race of animal-men here have had to develop with their small population and resources. So things have a strong fin-de-siècle vibe.

This essay should catch you up to mid-May 2023 in the Sunday Phantom. If you’re interested in the weekday continuity, or if you’re reading this after about August 2023, I should have a more useful essay up here. And now back to the underground domain of the near-humans.

The Phantom (Sundays).

26 February – 21 May 2023.

The Phantom and Diana Walker and Devil were finally in. Teydra, a lion-like humanoid, brought them into The Domain, an underground city guarded by a gigantic mural of The Phantom. The 3rd Phantom, centuries ago, visited here … but after a terrible fight he retreated and wrote nothing in The Chronicles about a subterranean city. Why?

Diana and Kit Walker’s supposition: The 3rd Phantom never got to the underground city. Instead, after the ferocious battle, the cult built up his image as a protector and warning for and to the almost-humans.

Teydra said the Phantom’s appearance, so like the legendary warrior, would not go unnoticed. In case anyone risked not noticing she finks on him to the Council. (I assume it’s The Council.) Her suspicion: the human called Walker secretly found images of the Champion of Old, and adopted that image for his own secret purposes. It’s an interesting hypothesis, as you could argue it’s true. The Council sets Phantom and Wife in an apartment, under the supervision of a guard who’s not nearly stealthy enough. The guard quits after a good clonk in the face.

Mina Braun, hugging: 'PHANTOM!' Teydra, thinking: 'Walker knows her name? And she knows him but calls him ... Phantom? ... That's what she called the champion of old on the day I saved her life.' Braun, fainting: 'Phantom ... ' Diana: 'She's Fainted!' Phantom, grabbing: 'I've got her!' Teydra: 'What goes here, Walker? You know the human female? And she you?' Diana, thinking: 'Mina Braun!? How many times did I hear *that* name on our Trek through the Chamber of the Gods?' Diana kneels at Braun's side: 'Mina ... ? Can you hear me?' Teydra, to The Phantom: 'Mina Braun just called you by the same name she cried out when she saw the image of The Champion who stands guard at the gates!' Flashback to Braun seeing the giant Egyptian-style portrait of The Phantom, underground: 'It's him!! The Phantom! The man who drew me here in my mind! ... My dreams!' Teydra: 'I alone bear responsibility for bringing you here, Walker. Tell me who it is I've brought to the domain of the almost humans.' Phantom, thinking: 'As ever, the legend is the answer ... ' Phantom, aloud: 'I'm known by many names, Teydra. Mina Braun has known me in many guises ... Walker among them. Say nothing ... moments from now, you'll see her call me Walker as well.'
Tony Depaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 7th of May, 2023. Phantom is pretty lucky the legend has sprawled out so far as to cover cases like this. Also he’s lucky Teydra isn’t asking about Towns Ellerbee or John Doe. Also I thought The Phantom Wiki had a list of aliases The Ghost Who Walks has used but if it does, I can’t find it.

Next morning Teydra takes the humans to meet their goal. That would be the other human, the assistant missing since the mauling of an explorer that set off this whole story. The Phantom wants to know that she’s okay and that Teydra’s claim that she wants to be there is correct. The assistant proves to be Mina Braun, who was in the 2005 (reader time) story which introduced all this to the Phantom’s world. (She was on the trail of a 1945 desperation mission by Nazis to bring animal-people super-soldiers into the war on their side.) Guran, using the Bandar Potion of Amnesia, suppressed her memories of this. And yet … she recognizes The Phantom on sight. She’s relieved these muddled memories were not a fever dream during a jungle-induced illness.

Diana considers what the imperfection of Guran’s Potion means. Among other things, it makes it harder to ignore the moral problems in mind-wiping. Also that now Braun is wrapping herself tight around The Phantom. She’s overwhelmed in the joy of an island of safety in a swampy confused nightmare. That’ll probably be easy to straighten out.

Next Week!

What’s better than cruise ships? How about serial con artist Rene Belluso teaming up with “Mud” Murphy for a blockbuster story-comics extravaganza? I plan to cover three months’ worth of Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. next week, if I can! See you there.

In Which I Think About the Legends of Pac-Land for No Good Reason

I’m glad not to be thinking about this so seriously as to run late, but … so, in Pac-Land as seen in the documentary Hanna-Barbera cartoon of the early 80s, like, are there equivalents of the various Ancient Greek legends? Because I have to figure they would totally have done a King Midas episode if they had figured a way to draw a goldificated Pac-Man that didn’t look just like Pac-Man. But now what’s on my mind is Argus, the son of Gaia, who had a hundred eyes all over his body. How would Pac-Argus fit a hundred eyes over his body? Would it be all smaller eyes, or eyes of different sizes so they all fit together? Or would he just have a really, really big body? I think you could make a fair case for either, but you’re going to get protests from those people with that phobia about large surfaces with lots of organic-looking holes in them.

I Grant That This Is a Handy Robot, Though

So let’s check back in on Nature Boy, the hero of the elements that we still can’t take seriously. What’s going on in Nature Boy #5, the one with the cover where he’s hugging a lightning bolt between his thighs?

At the Mayor's Office, the Mayor of Centerville talks with a six-armed white robot, Ikzip. Mayor: 'Where are you from?' Ikzip: 'I am Ikzip! I am from the planet Jupiter!' Mayor: 'Why hae you come to Centerville?' Ikzip: 'You need money! Ikzip will help Centerville get it!'
Panels from the bottom of page 4 of Nature Boy #5, cover date February 1957. Story titled “Nature Boy vs The Jiver from Jupiter”. Original writer and artist unrecorded, looks like. Ikzip’s plan is just to show off his rocket and charge admission, which works pretty well. Suggests the town maybe needs to shift to a more county-fair-based economy for long-term financial planning. .

Well! It’s very kind of the friendly robot Ikzip from the planet Jupiter to come all this way to … help Centerville out with its municipal budget problems. I hope it doesn’t mark me as a closed-minded skeptic, though, that I wonder how much we can trust Ikzip with economic measures when the robot needs three of its six arms to smoke one cigar. Even humans need at most two. This seems wasteful.

Also Ikzip could use a chair, I don’t see what the issue there is.

Also yes, I know what you’re thinking, “isn’t Centerville the town where Crankshaft takes place?” Yes. Yes, it is. Use this knowledge wisely. (There is no wise use of this knowledge.)

Did I Just Discover Something About Charlie Brown’s Family?

So last week I was reading the Peanuts repeats, because I don’t see any reason I should ever stop that. And last week we got to this pleasant enough exchange at the Charlie Brown Talking Wall:

Charlie Brown: 'I have a grandfather who is 76 years old. He just lost out in the first round of a tennis tournament.' Linus: 'Is he the kind who hates to lose?' Charlie Brown: 'No, he takes it quite well ... he says it's all part of growing up!'

Charles Schulz’s Peanuts for the 13th of May, 2023. Originally run the 15th of May, 1976. Also, I mean, half of everybody oses out in the first round, there’s no shame in that. Unless it’s a double-elimination tournament and even then, half of everybody’s gone by … I have no idea when. But half of everyone loses their first round and half of everybody loses their second.

This strip, like almost all those repeats for this year, is from 1976 originally. So Charlie Brown’s grandfather was born in 1900. And hey, wait a minute, you know who else was born in 1900? Of course, the longtime star of Gasoline Alley, Walt Wallet. I hadn’t been sure whether he was born in 1900 or if we just assumed that, but here’s a strip from Jim Scancarelli which seems to make the case:

Official: 'Mr Wallet! I'm from Social Security and we've got a few questions to ask you.' Walt Wallet: 'Gulp!' Official: 'You've been drawing a check from us for quite a long time! Exactly what is your social security number?' Walt: '2!' Official: 'Two? How can that be?' Walt: 'I was second in line when it all started! I'm so old I can remember when General Motors was a Second Lieutenant!' Official: 'Hmm! Our records show your age as 114! We know that's a mistake! How old are you?' Walt: 'Age is just a number - and mine is unlisted!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 5th of January, 2014. Walt’s got some nice schtick going here, but may I suggest: “I’m so old I can remember when Jack Benny was 38”?

Is Walt Wallet Charlie Brown’s grandfather? I think we have to say he’s not, no. Never mind the temporal shenanigans that would have to be waved away for Charlie Brown to appear in a Wallet family reunion. I don’t see where there’s a Wallet who could be Walt’s child and Charlie Brown’s parent. And I know there can’t be an unaccounted-for Wallet relative, because if there were Jim Scancarelli would absolutely have done a strip about finding a lost Wallet. Also if Walt was 114 the first week of January, 2014, there’s a 98% chance he was born in 1899 anyway. So, not him.

(Also there is no reason to think this strip has to happen the 5th of January. Among other things, the day was a Sunday, when it’s not likely a social security official would be poking around on non-crisis business.)

Ah, but what other legendary comic strip character was born in 1900? And then we get to this repeat from a couple weeks ago:

1905 'Little Nemo in Slumberland' strip set on New Year's Eve, in which Father Time brings Nemo to the hall of ages. Each year that Nemo touches brings him to that age, and he grows to his mid-40s before Father Time helps him back to being five years old. The newly five-year-old touches '1999' and ages to 99 years, for the end of the dream.
Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland rerun for the 6th of May, 2023. Originally run the 31st of December, 1905. So, this Tome Morgue they’re visiting … why isn’t there a uniform spread between one row and the next? In panel five, for example, we have jumps from one row to the one below of 17 years, 12 years, 15 years, 19 years, and 24 years. In panel nine, we have gaps of 15 years, 21 years, and 24 years. Is part of the trouble that Father Time doesn’t have good organization skills?

So. Character born in 1900, unaccounted-for since 1927, always learning such useful lessons as “don’t wantonly grab the Time Drawers once you’ve already seen touching them can make you old and dressed uproariously out of fashion for 1948”. There’s no obvious reason Little Nemo couldn’t have grown up to play tennis and offer soft lessons about maturity to Charlie Brown. Do we have a match? What do you think, sirs?

If you don’t like this I have theories about Dumbo and Gertie the Dinosaur you might like better. Just warning you.

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 26

Congratulations on joining me for the final chapter of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Grumpy Weasel. The whole of my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction based on it is at this link. No, I don’t know what I’ll be riffing next. I’m leaning towards more of Bailey’s novels but I should do something besides picking on 110-year-old pleasant forgotten novels, right? Right? Somebody tell me if I shouldn’t.

Our previous visit saw Grumpy Weasel’s distant relative Peter Mink caught in a trap of the farmhand’s own devising! Grumpy offered to free Peter, for a price — ridding Pleasant Valley of the white-and-black-tipped Snowy Owl. Will Grumpy complete his promise? Will Peter Mink make good on his debt? Only several hundred words here will let you know!


JOEL: You mean ‘XXV *me*‘.


TOM: Did it involve grumping? I bet grumping paid a part.

JOEL: It was the Shake-n-Bake.

> Grumpy Weasel wondered how Peter Mink was going to
> get Mr. Snowy Owl out of Pleasant Valley.

CROW: How many minks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?

> He had never
> dreamed that Peter could do it.

TOM: What do you suppose Grumpy’s dreams are like?

JOEL: I bet he has the one where he’s in school but he’s wearing clothes.

> But as he thought the matter
> over he remembered that Peter was a good deal bigger than
> himself.

CROW: He had to think to remember that?

> "If I were Peter Mink’s size

TOM: Wait, then whose size would Peter Mink have?

> I would give Mr. Snowy
> Owl the worst punishing he ever had!"

JOEL: If you’re that much smaller now you can give him a pretty poor punishing.

CROW: [ As Peter ] ‘Yeah, uh meanwhile, my leg caught in the trap? Can we work on that a little?’

> Grumpy exclaimed under
> his breath.

CROW: [ As Peter ] ‘Cause, you know, the blood loss … ‘

> "So maybe Peter can do as he claims, after all."

CROW: [ As Peter ] ‘Cause I’m kind of seeing dead relatives a little? Oh, there’s Jimmy Rabbit’s brother?’

> "Very well!" Grumpy Weasel told Peter Mink. "This is
> a bargain.

TOM: Now would you like to trade it for what’s inside the box?

> I’ll help you out of the trap. And you’ll rid
> Pleasant Valley of Mr. Snowy Owl by April Fool’s Day."

CROW: Thinking how rough Peter’s going to have explaining ‘March’ to an owl.

> "Agreed!" Peter Mink cried. "And now, how are you
> going to set me free?"

TOM: [ As Grumpy ] ‘I’ll use my third and final wish!’

> "I’m going to bite your leg off," Grumpy Weasel said
> cheerfully.

CROW: Grumpy Weasel *is* Doctor Forrester talking to TV’s Frank.

> "Oh, no! You’re not going to do that!" Peter Mink
> howled.

TOM: Now let’s be reasonable, what if he bites it right back on?

> "I don’t want you to do that!"

JOEL: Well, what if he just bites it half-off? Compromise?

> "I made a bargain with you," Grumpy Weasel reminded
> him, "and I intend to carry out my part of it."

CROW: The quality of mercy is not weasels …

> "Stop a moment," Peter Mink cried.

TOM: [ As Peter ] ‘Is my leg really going to fit in you? I’m completely lost on the relative sizes of minks and weasels, sorry.’

> For Grumpy Weasel,
> with his back arched like a cat’s,

JOEL: Oh, now he’s going to pick a fight with a cat for copying his back-arching.

> and his white whiskers
> twitching, had already taken a step towards him.

TOM: [ As Darth Vader ] ‘Peter … *I* am your weasel.’

> "If you bite
> off my leg I’d never be able to get rid of Mr. Snowy Owl."

CROW: What if you bit off the trap? Maybe that would help?

> That brought Grumpy Weasel up short.

JOEL: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Are you making fun of my size?’

TOM: [ As Peter ] ‘What? That was Arthur Scott Bailey, go bite *his* leg off!’

CROW: Anyway he was making fun of your lack of size.

> He thought

> deeply for a moment; and then he exclaimed: "I have it!

CROW: [ As Grumpy ] ‘We’ll set you in a bath and see if you weigh as much as your weight in gold!’

> You
> must bite off your own leg!"

JOEL: Well then what does he need *you* for, Grumpy?

> But Peter Mink proved a hard one to please.

TOM: He’s awfully hung up on this ‘body integrity’ thing.

> "You don’t understand!" he said.

CROW: [ As Peter ] ‘Let me explain! Snorgelty blother nad flopnagle!’

JOEL: And stoop!

> "If I lose a leg I
> know I never could get Mr. Snowy Owl out of the valley."

TOM: He’ll be stuck doing all these circles.

> At that Grumpy Weasel lost his temper completely.

JOEL: Now what’ll he do without his temper?

> With a cry of rage he sprang at his cousin, Peter Mink,

CROW: Found it!

> prisoner though he was. And Grumpy would have buried his
> white teeth in him except for just one thing.

TOM: Plaque.

> As he leaped
> forward Peter Mink leaped backward.

JOEL: Bonk!

CROW: [ As Peter ]*My* backward!’

> And in that moment Peter
> freed himself.

TOM: Turns out legs just pop off!

CROW: Pop goes the mink-le?

> He had been caught only by the merest tip of a
> toe, anyhow.

CROW: Whaaat?

JOEL: Oh sure, *now* it turns out he was barely caught.

> And now he crouched with his back against the
> bank of the brook, facing Grumpy Weasel with mouth wide open.

TOM: Close your mouth, were you raised in a barn?

CROW: *Yes*.

> His meekness had dropped off him like an old coat.

JOEL: And top hat.

> And Grumpy
> Weasel knew better than to get within his reach. In fact he
> turned polite himself, all at once.

CROW: You know what this needs? Someone bringing up politics.

> "There!" he said. "I got you out of the trap, as I
> had planned to all the time.

TOM: He figured to keep talking until Arthur Scott Bailey was done with the whole ‘mink trap’ thing.

> I knew that if I could make you
> jump you’d pull your foot loose."

JOEL: Now kick off your Sunday shoes.

> Well, Peter Mink hardly believed that. But he thought
> there was no use of saying so.

TOM: No sense crying over spilt mink.

> He was glad enough to escape Farmer Green’s hired
> man’s trap without having a dispute over the way it happened.

CROW: Does suggest Peter Mink wasn’t trying before.

JOEL: He saw a chance to engage with Grumpy and it didn’t work out great, but you respect him for reaching out.

> "I hope you’ll keep your promise," Grumpy told Peter
> Mink.

TOM: I don’t know, does it take any special food or something?

> "If Mr. Snowy Owl doesn’t leave these parts by April
> Fool’s Day I won’t like it very well.

CROW: What day is it now?

JOEL: April 3rd.

CROW: D’oh!

> You know you agreed to
> get him away from here by that time."

TOM: [ As Peter ] ‘I know that! You don’t have to bite my leg off!’

CROW: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Are we sure of that?’

> "Oh! He’ll be gone by then," said Peter Mink lightly.

JOEL: Hey, what’s the bright idea?

> "He always leaves at the end of the winter, because he spends
> his summers in the Far North."

CROW: Canada?

TOM: North Carolina.

CROW: Poor guy.

> When he heard that, Grumpy Weasel was angry as
> anything.

TOM: I bet he wasn’t angry as Mister Rogers, ever think of that?

> "Then Mr. Owl is likely to be back here next fall,"
> he said quickly.

JOEL: [ As Peter ] ‘Not when I tell him about this valley where everyone isn’t being weird at him!’

> "I dare say," Peter Mink admitted carelessly.

TOM: Yeah? Well do you double-mink *dare* say?

> Grumpy Weasel backed cautiously away before he said
> another word.

CROW: Later he appreciated the lesson about the transience of suffering.

> But when he had whisked into a great willow
> that leaned over Broad Brook

JOEL: Brook’s there desperately trying to get attention, get Grumpy to pull the gag off its mouth.

> he told his cousin what he
> thought about him.

TOM: But it’s the same thing he thinks about everyone, so it wasn’t any big surprise.

> As for Peter Mink—he was nursing his injured paw
> (in his mouth!)

CROW: Aw, I wanted to see Peter Mink in scrubs! He’d be great!

> and he said never a word.

TOM: Here it comes, gang, the book’s thesis statement.

JOEL: The one thing we’re supposed to take away from it.

CROW: And what does the book want us to learn?


CROW: Eh, well, that’s something.

TOM: Let’s blow this popsicle stand.

[ ALL exit the theater. ]

[ The End! ]

Thanks for reading along! The only riff I think that obscure, this week, is that the “flopnagle and stoop” line is an extremely attenuated reference to Colonel Stoopnagle and Budd, a pair of comedians in the early days of radio. I’ve heard them in guest spots on other shows but not any of their actual programs. Seem fun. Stoopnagle was related to both H P Lovecraft and Salmon P Chase, because life is weird, you know?

What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Why is everyone insisting Wilbur’s a great guy? February – May 2023

The story dominating Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth since February has been about Estelle. She’s got a new boyfriend, and a new job working for him for some reason. But there’s been a lot of talk about how Wilbur Weston feels about this. A touch of this is appropriate. Estelle was fed up Wilbur’s Wilbur-ness. And the suspicion that Wilbur was creeping on her helped her interest pair-bonding with Ed the Veterinarian.

But Wilbur’s getting more mention than he needs. It may be because he is a glorious punching bag, all unjustified self-confidence and unaware incompetence. But this makes him a snarker’s delight. There’s a reason we (me included) like to talk about his mayonnaise expertise and such. So it may be that the strip is contracting self-awareness and that Moy and Brigman are playing to the fans. I hope it’s more that it’s fun seeing mildly bad things happen to Wilbur. And that they’re looking to develop more characters that hit that right level of ridiculousness. Hugo the guy who’s totally not making up being French shows they can do it in other tones.

[ As Mary consoles Wilbur .. ] Mary Worth: 'Let me take you to karaoke. You'll feel better if you express your emotions ... I'll go with you, Wilbur. You don't need to do this alone!' Wilbur, teary: 'Okay ... sniff!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 21st of April, 2023. “What you need is to do a public performance in front of a slightly drunk group of strangers who all think they could do better plus one most trusted friend watching you with steely-eyed determination to constantly judge your feelings. That’ll help you!’

I hope here to catch you up to mid-May 2023 in the comic strip. I keep all my plot recaps for, and news about, Mary Worth at this link. If you’re reading this after about August 2023 there’s probably a more up-to-date plot recap there.

Mary Worth.

19 February – 14 May 2023.

Estelle, haunted by possibly imaginary visions of Wilbur Weston, orders him out of her life. She brings with her the highest possible authority: getting Mary Worth to agree Wilbur’s gone too far. Estelle throws her time and interests into Ed Harding, her veterinarian and witness to the classic Wilbur Karaoke Fight. They seem to hit it off, but —

Ed: 'I'm human. I don't like that my private life comes second, but the work with the animals is essential.' Steven: 'I can't be a good veterinarian if I'm burned out ... how do you balance work with private life and self-care, Uncle Ed?' Ed: 'I don't.'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 9th of March, 2023. I was surprised how impassive — cheerful, even — Ed shows in admitting this. His expression sells the idea that he doesn’t realize this is a bad answer to have. He looks like he thinks why should he change? The world is the one who sucks, not him.

Ed has to cancel a date. And another. And more. He’s been having a hard time at work, with a lot of animals needing care. And his assistant, Steven, can’t cope with the demands of the job, and quits. Estelle, taking the chance that Ed isn’t hiding from her, leaves a message suggesting Not One More Vet. It’s a (real) group for veterinarians who have mental health crises. Ed remembers how he told Steven he simply doesn’t balance his work and life and wonders if that means anything.

They get together for a third date and it goes great. Even their pets get along great. Stella thinks this is love, so we can only imagine what the fifth date will be like. (That’s the one with Pet Yoga.) But Ed’s looking into therapy too, and he’s prepared to admit they’re short-staffed at work. Stella offers what if she were to work as a volunteer for a couple hours a week? It’s a little weird, but she’s into weird. But she’s good at doing whatever needs doing. And she gets to see Ed doing great stuff like rescuing a choking dog. Ed talks about making this something serious: putting her on hourly.

Large man wearing a ten-gallon hat and a huge snake around his shoulders: 'Harry, my boa constrictor here, stopped eating! Can we see Dr Harding?' Estelle: 'Sir, there's another veterinarian that specializes in exotic animals just three blocks away ... I'll give you his name and address.' Man: 'Thank you, ma'am.'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 11th of April, 2023. First, cute emoting on the snake there. Second, hey are you the famous country singer ‘Mud’ Murphy? No? Totally different guy we’ll see when I get around to Rex Morgan, M.D. in a couple weeks? Okay, I can wait.

Meanwhile, Wilbur’s coping with Estelle’s latest breakup by weeping on Mary Worth’s plates of salmon goo. She coaxes him into going out to karaoke, singing sad songs while Stella and Ed thank each other for loving them.

With all that resolved what is there to do but thank Mary Worth? And for Stella and Ed to congratulate each other on pair-bonding so hetero-monogamously. Also that Ed’s now taking enough time off to not feel burned out. So everyone’s happy, right?

And with the 7th of May Stella and Ed’s story comes to its conclusion. The 8th, Dr Jeff calls up Mary Worth to invite her to a surprise. He’s got a much bigger boat and absolutely no intentions of asking Mary Worth to marry him again. She loves both of these. And they agree how great it is Stella and Ed found each other even though Ed is so not like Wilbur. Also but they bet someone’s out there for Wilbur Weston even though he’s so “eccentric”.

Jeff and Mary Worth eating is usually a signal for a new story to start, so my recap week is well-positioned once more. What’s coming next, and will it involve cruise ships? I don’t know, nobody tells me anything.

Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!

But one thing I know without being told: every Sunday Mary Worth quotes something a person almost always did not say! If they did, it wasn’t in context, or it wasn’t that Socrates, or something like that. Here are some recent examples.

  • “Nightmares are releases.” — Sylvia Browne, 19 February 2023.
  • “Dating is … weird.” — Jennifer Coolidge, 26 February 2023.
  • “When things are a disappointment, try not to be so discouraged.” — Carol Burnett, 5 March 2023.
  • “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” — Albert Einstein, 12 March 2023.
  • “Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof.” — Khalil Gibran, 19 March 2023.
  • “Patience attracts happiness: it brings near that which is far.” — Kate Phillips, 26 March 2023.
  • “There’s nothing like music to relieve the soul and uplift it.” — Mickey Hart, 2 April 2023.
  • “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another.” — Charles Dickens, 9 April 2023.
  • “The world needs people who save lives.” — Frederick Buechner, 16 April 2023.
  • “Life is like an onion. You peel it off one layer at a time and sometimes you weep.” — Carl Sandburg, 23 April 2023.
  • “It’s not so much our friends’ help that helps us as the confidence of their help.” — Epicurus, 30 April 2023.
  • “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery, 7 May 2023.
  • “We can only learn to love by loving.” — Iris Murdoch, 14 May 2023.

Next Week!

Is it possible there are downsides to memory-wiping a person who’s been taken by a superhero into a land of Victorian animal-men? Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity, has explored the question. I’ll explore their exploration next week, I hope. See you then.

The Guy Who Draws _Beetle Bailey_ Has Seen More Squirrels

I apologize for pushing Mary Worth down the schedule a day. Don’t worry, it’s just people talking up how Wilbur Weston, huh, what are you going to do? I don’t know why that’s more important than even telling Mary Worth how great she is at advising stuff. But my weekend was busy so this is the compromise I make.

And that compromise does allow me to bring further good news on the Beetle Bailey squirrel art front: the guy who draws the strip has seen more squirrels and has got a better handle on drawing one that looks like a squirrel but also like it fits the art style of the comic.

Sarge: 'Get to work! You've been lollygagging all day!' Beetle Bailey, lounging against a tree: 'What does that mean?' He takes out his phone: 'Definition: 'to spend time idling'.' Sarge: 'Now you're lolly-googling!!' In the background a squirrel stands between them, watching Sarge disapproving.
Gret Walker, Mike Yates, and Janie Walker-Yates’s Beetle Bailey for the 12th of May, 2023. I am curious why the squirrel is there. The background animal doesn’t add to the gag any. Is it to define the horizon in the second panel? But there’s the patch of Schulz Grass for that. If there were any reason for Zero to be in this strip the squirrel would be a natural companion, but Beetle? (No, there is no chance they tossed it in to see if I’d react. There is nobody so interested in my reaction as to draw a squirrel to see it.)

I’ll agree there’s something a little Muppet in the way the squirrel’s standing but that’s all right. Nobody has any reason to feel bad for getting a bit of Muppet in their light entertainment.

Please watch this space for further Beetle Bailey animal-seeing news. Thank you.

Also I’m a little surprised “lolly-googling” wasn’t something talked about as the fad of wasting time on computers at work got reported on around the year 2000.

It’s Not All the Glucond Delta Lactone, Is It? That’s the Best Part

What … what did the neighborhood supermarket discover about this, which appears to be an egg salad on a croissant, that required them to go back and cross out the word “sandwich”? What terrors would be unleashed by someone attempting to apply this in a situation where the benefits of sandwiches would ordinarily be expected? I want to know, but not enough to spend six bucks on it now that I’ve been warned this is merely the illusion of a sandwich and only the egg salad is guaranteed.

Photograph of the label for a grocery store ready-to-eat sandwich. THe label reads 'Egg Salad Sandwich', with the word Sandwich smeared out by what seems to be a marker pen.
I do like egg salad, generally, but it’s risky having egg salad from a place for the first time because there’s no guessing whether they do that thing where they make it with too much vinegar to ignore how that hurts the salad but not enough vinegar that the taste starts getting interesting again.

On the Other Hand, When He Says ‘I See’, That Means a Lot

Sorry I’m late. I got very tired thinking of Argus, the ancient Greek monster with a thousand eyes. Particularly about how annoying it must be when he reaches the age where he needs contact lenses. But worse, not in every eye, just in something like a quarter of them. Think how hard it’d be remembering just which 250 eyes it is that need contacts, and the process of elimination testing the ones where it’s not clear they’re going bad versus the ones where they just haven’t woken up enough to see yet. And I know what you’re thinking, why not just have Lasik and get the eyes fixed? That’s because of the not-small risk that he’d get chronic dry eye afterwards. At that point, there’s no carrying around enough artificial tears for 250 eyes. He’d just have to start taking baths in saline solution and that’s going to hurt, especially if he has any little cuts or bruises. So you see why pondering this is more important than whatever I was supposed to be doing today.

Statistics Saturday: Ranking of I-595’s

Location Ranking
Florida Casper the Friendly Ghost
Maryland (unsigned) Timmy the Timid Ghost
Virginia (former) Spencer Spook

Reference: Scholars, Students, and Parents: An Exploration of the Ideas behind the New Math and other Curriculum Reform, Stephen White.

Not My Excuse for Where My Head Has Been All Day, but It Should Be

Sorry, just caught up by wondering whether Rich Hall thought of the word “sniglet” and then cast about for what that might be, or if he realized he had a thing and needed a word to describe it. If he came up with the word first and then went looking for what it might be we’re probably lucky. Imagine if he had decided a “sniglet” was going to be, like, the act of deceiving frogs about where the power station is. He’d never have got to the bestsellers list with that.

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 25

I soon will have to look somewhere besides Arthur Scott Bailey for my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction! Next week should wrap up my treatment of The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, collected in its whole at this link. That unless I decide I’m going to riff the Tale of Dickie Deer Mouse or Pony Twinkleheels or whoever after all. We’ll see. I do like Bailey’s vibe but I know there must be people wondering just how much time I can spend wandering around Pleasant Valley with animals who are only kind of competent at their species.

Last time you’ll recall Grumpy Weasel, egged on by Tommy Fox, tried to fight Snowy Owl over how they have similar color schemes. Though Grumpy Weasel narrowly escaped death from the skies, has this adventure tempered his desire to be the only creature in Pleasant Valley who’s white with a bit of black? All this and more on this episode of Soap!


CROW: XX versus *what*?


TOM: Ah, the boundless potential of a young mink. Or an adult mink. I don’t know Peter Mink’s deal yet.

> It happened, on a bleak winter’s day,

JOEL: ‘It’?

CROW: [ As Arthur Scott Bailey ] ‘Yes, it! Give me a little time to think what it was!’

> that Grumpy
> Weasel was strolling along the bank of Broad Brook

TOM: Member, FDIC.

> when all

JOEL: Yeah, I remember FDIC.

TOM: What?

> at once he heard a squall. Instantly he whirled around.

CROW: Snowy Owl is robbing the bank! Quick, call Duck Tracy!

> There
> was something about the cry that sounded familiar.

TOM: The cry came in without knocking and put their feet up on the coffee table and everything.

> And while
> he searched the stream up and down with his sharp eyes he
> grew angrier every moment.

JOEL: But that’s a story for _The Tale of Angry Weasel_.

> "Unless I’m mistaken that’s my good-for-nothing
> cousin, Peter Mink," Grumpy muttered.

TOM: So we have Fatty Raccoon, Grumpy Weasel … what would make a Mink more pete?

CROW: Pete, Peter, Petest.

> "I’ll teach him not to
> squall at me—the rascal!"

JOEL: Heck, *I* know how not to squall at you and I never even met you.

> He did not have to look long before he caught sight
> of his cousin.

TOM: The glimpses have migrated for the season.

> Peter Mink was crouched under the overhanging
> bank,

CROW: Part of Snowy Owl’s gang? This is bad.

> not far from the edge of the frozen surface of the
> brook.

CROW: Not as the me flies, anyway.

> And he squalled again when he saw that Grumpy had
> discovered him.

JOEL: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Enough with the heavy rains and wind gusts!’

> "Stop that!" Grumpy Weasel bellowed.

TOM: No, I’m sorry, the line is ‘Cut it out’. You’ll never be Sargent Cosgrove at this rate.

> He was not
> greatly afraid of Peter Mink,

CROW: It was a pretty mediocre fear.

> though his cousin was much
> bigger than he.

TOM: Wait, minks are bigger than weasels?

JOEL: I guess?

CROW: Would Arthur Scott Bailey lie to us?

> "I’ll have you know that I don’t allow people
> to bawl at me, even if we are distantly related."

JOEL: Does he have to bring that up every time they talk?

CROW: [ As Grumpy ]*Yes*.’

> "I wasn’t bawling at you," Peter Mink answered.

TOM: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Did you say bawling or bowling?’

CROW: [ As Peter ] ‘Bawling, why.’

TOM: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Wasn’t sure, but I know whatever you’re doing isn’t bowling.’

> And
> he was strangely polite, for him.

JOEL: How? Did he tip his hat?

> "I was calling for help.
> Can’t you see that my foot is caught in a trap?"

TOM: [ As Peter, with exaggerated kindness ] ‘My good gentleweasel?’

> At that Grumpy jumped down upon the ice and took a
> good look at Peter Mink.

CROW: Take a good look, leave a good look.

> He saw, then, that Peter spoke the
> truth.

JOEL: Aw, it’s just caught in a financial trap.

CROW: It’s not the amount so much as it is the *interest*.

> "This trap hurts my foot, I can tell you," Peter Mink
> whined.

TOM: He’s taking this with the same calm I would, only I don’t have a foot.

> "Maybe it will teach you not to screech at people,"
> Grumpy told him.

JOEL: [ As Peter ] ‘Hey, I helped when you were trapped in that bottle!’

TOM: [ As Grumpy ] ‘No you did not!’

JOEL: [ As Peter ] ‘Well, I didn’t mock you through it all.’

> "You’re going to help me, aren’t you?" Peter Mink
> asked his cousin anxiously.

TOM: [ As Grumpy ] ‘I don’t know, should I help a relative even if he cries for help when he’s in deadly peril?’

> "That trap belongs to Farmer Green’s hired man,"

CROW: Why does Farmer Green need a Chevrolet sales manager who puts handkerchiefs on his head?

> Grumpy informed Peter Mink. "I saw him when he set it there.

TOM: I don’t know how this sells cars but hey, he gets results.

> Perhaps you would like to have me send word to him that
> you’re using it."

JOEL: _The Tale of Jerky Weasel_.

> "Oh! Don’t do that!" Peter begged piteously.

TOM: [ As Peter ] ‘I didn’t pay the deposit! He’ll get me in fees!’

> "Well, then—suppose I get old dog Spot to come and
> see what he can do!

CROW: He could smell bottles for you?

> He’d have you out of that trap in no
> time!"

JOEL: [ As Peter ] ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I wanted to be out in good time.’

> But that suggestion didn’t suit Peter Mink any
> better.

TOM: How is a dog supposed to open a trap, anyway?

> "For goodness’ sake, can’t you think of something
> else?" he wailed.

CROW: [ As Grumpy ] ‘I was thinking of popcorn. I could go back to that.’

> His voice rose higher and higher as he spoke.

JOEL: He better not be getting ready to kill Eddie Valiant’s brother.

> And
> Grumpy Weasel showed his sharp teeth as he warned Peter Mink
> again not to squall at him, for he wouldn’t stand it.

TOM: Boy, Peter just getting all tense about his imminent death and stuff.

> At last Peter saw that Grumpy did not intend to help
> him at all.

CROW: He’s stumbling over that line that separates ‘grumpy’ from ‘kinda evil’.

> So it occurred to him that perhaps he could hire
> his cousin to free him from the trap.

JOEL: Oh, if only animals had money! Now Peter has to hope they can barter something instead.

> "I’d do anything for
> you if you could help me out of this fix," he said finally.

TOM: o/` But I won’t do that. o/`

> "Will you drive Mr. Snowy Owl away from Pleasant
> Valley?" Grumpy cried.

CROW: [ As Peter ] ‘Before I get my learners permit?’

> "Certainly!" said Peter Mink with great promptness,
> as if that were the easiest matter in the world.

CROW: [ As Peter ] ‘What the heck, I’ll learn to drive stick!’

> That answer surprised Grumpy Weasel.

JOEL: He assumed Peter already knew how to drive stick.

> He had no idea
> that Peter Mink could do any such thing. And he said as much,
> too.

TOM: [ As Peter ] ‘Well, why’d you ask me if you didn’t think I could do it? Is this some *game* to you?’

> "You understand," Peter explained, "it may take me
> some time to get rid of him.

CROW: [ As Peter ] ‘I have a well-considered 78-part plan to get rid of him.’

> It’s mid-winter now.

JOEL: An ancient prophecy says that by the third day after the mid-winter eclipse …

> But I can
> promise you that I’ll have him out of the valley by April
> Fool’s Day!"

TOM: [ As Peter ] ‘And if I don’t, think what a great joke that’ll be!’

[ To conclude … ]

I think there aren’t any riffs here so weird or obscure as to need explanation. So I’ll just leave you with the question of how you, the viewer at home, think Arthur Scott Bailey is going to wind up this novel, with its many threads of Grumpy Weasel being a jerk and getting mild comeuppance without ever anything too bad happening. And will anyone learn anything, knowing as we do that the lesson Fatty Raccoon drew from his book was “I should have eaten faster”?

Starting to Think the News May Be Bad

Why else would that dentist who took an X-ray of my teeth in a dream not have gotten back to me yet? On the other hand, if it were bad news, wouldn’t the dentist want me back in right away, because of the health risks and because they make money fixing tooth problems? Maybe they haven’t got back to me because they’re trying to put together a special commendation for my being good at flossing, with special ribbon for also brushing my tongue. Anyway I hope it’s good non-news.

What’s Going On In Mark Trail? Why is this leprechaun guy in Mark Trail? February – May 2023

The last few days in Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail have introduced us to Jebediah Jeter. He’s a journalist who went missing while investigating a nature retreat. Rather than being attacked by bears, though, he claims to have befriended them. He seems to be going through some stuff.

So this should catch you up to early May 2023 in the comic strip. If you’re reading this after about August 2023, or news about Mark Trail comes out, I should have a more useful essay here. For now, back to the Lost Forest Non-Municipal Area.

Mark Trai.

12 February – 7 may 2023.

Last time I figured Mark Trail was going to do a story about the alligators in the Lost Forest. So did Mark. Bill Ellis vetoed the story, though, figuring nobody would care unless Mark Trail got eaten by alligators or something cool like that. But he does have another story, one within commuting range. Water Bear Country is this place for rich STEM idiots to reconnect with nature. But True Tech Magazine reporter Jebediah Jeter’s vanished from it. True Tech’s editor thinks he was attacked by a water bear. Mark Trail concedes the possibility but that such an attack would not be a big deal.

Violet Cheshire: 'Cherry! My office is totally washed out! How did this happen??' Cherry Trail: 'Isn't it next to the new driveway? If rainwater can't absorb into the earth, it runs over to the next closest thing.' Violet: 'So what you're saying is ... this driveway caused the flooding?' Cherry: 'Heavens no, Violet! The storm did that. The driveway routed the rainwater to your office door.' Violet: 'Thanks for clarifying.'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 21st of April, 2023. I, too, appreciate Cherry’s desire to be precise about the matter. And tha she wants to be intellectually honest enough about her answer not to just blame the disaster on the concrete driveway she hates.

Back to that in a moment. I’d like to outline the Cherry Trail story, which gets to another round of conflict with Honest Ernest over the Sunny Soleil Garden Society. He’s planning to pave over the garden outside the clubhouse. Society president Violet Cheshire is all for this too. Ernest’s (ex?-)wife Caroline wants nothing to do with him, and poured his homemade lawn toxin sideline down the drain. So now he’s into paving. Violet Cheshire won’t hear any arguments against the parking lot, and all Cherry Trail can do is salvage some rose bushes ahead of the concrete pour.

Then comes the rain pour. A heavy but not exceptional storm rolls through and with the soft, absorbent ground gone, the water rolls into Violet Cheshire’s office. She’s not happy about that, either, but what are you going to do? Think about how we get rain sometimes?

Back to Water Bear Country. Mark Trail can’t get anyone to say they understand that “water bears”, tardigrades, are microorganisms remarkable for their hardiness and incapable of threatening a human. He does get a greeting from Water Bear Country Retreat organizer and AI writing/art scammer Simon Stump. And he gets to meet the current set of campers. Re-meet, most of them: there’s people like ‘Cricket Bro’ Rob Bettancourt that he’d like to punch. Or Professor Bee Sharp, whose punching is less necessary. There’s also a lifestyle influencer named Holly Folly he doesn’t know anything about.

This gang goes off on a nature hike. Mark Trail figures it’s a good chance to find out why there might be macroscopic bear problems in the village. Possible causes? Lots of food left in attended dumpsters. He can barely consider what this means for park management when Holly Folly runs in calling for help. The trail collapsed and Cricket Bro and Bee Sharp fell down the ravine. Mark Trail drives home and picks up Andy and a cart to wheel Bee Sharp back up.

[ mark helps with a rescue after two campers got hurt badly in a trail collapse ... and Andy's making new friends too. ] Andy's harnessed to a wagon, and Bee Sharp's resting in it. Holly Folly, petting the dog: 'What a good boy!' Andy: 'Arf!' Mark Trail: 'Glad we all made it out safely. How's everyone feeling?' Rob Bettancourt, holding up a branch: 'I'm bored. Can you turn a tree branch into a selfie stick?' [ No good deed goes unpunished, Mark. ]
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 23rd of March, 2023. I love the little hearts floating around Holly Folly and Andy in the second panel there. This may also be a good spot for a discussion question. Does it work that we don’t have any knowledge of Holly Folly’s problems before Mark Trail announces they exist? In structure it’s a deus ex machina, a thing not set up in the story that gets Mark Trail to the next point. But it’s something she has reason not to bring up, and that Mark Trail has reason not to bother looking at until he’s gotten this clue about Bee Sharp. So is that fair?

The camp’s emergency plan is to point and say, “Look, a big, distracting thing!” before Stump explains journalists are smug and he’s going to destroy them. So Mark Trail gets his own first aid kit, and drives Sharp to the hospital himself.

Mark Trail doesn’t relish telling Rusty that his favorite science guy has a broken leg. Rusty doesn’t care, though; he’s declared Bee Sharp “cancelled”. This because of a video where Sharp claimed hippos were closely related to pigs. This is something you could find in any pop nature book a generation ago but which has turned out to be wrong. (Other things to catch the Old Pop Nature writer? Skunks aren’t mustelids, and red pandas aren’t in the raccoon family.) Rusty Trail embarrassed himself in class repeating Sharp’s mistake uncritically. And when Sharp wouldn’t even issue a retraction? It seems harsh, but we have to hold our science popularizers to standards.

This is the clue Mark Trail needed. Professor Bee Sharp’s in that credibility deathspiral where middle schoolers say mean stuff about him. The Bettancourts have been losing all their money from their NFT and crypto scams turning out to be scams. Holly Folly’s facing a workplace lawsuit. Almost everyone at the camp is broke. But what does that mean? Does it relate to Jebediah Jeter’s disappearance?

Mark Trail: 'Jebediah, everyone has been looking for you! What happened? I hope nothing too wacky.' Jones: 'Well, I was digging around Sid Stump's office and I got too close to the truth! They marched me out in the middle of the night ... to fight with a bear! But then I ran into the woods, with the bear giving chase. We became friends!' [ Making friends with bears isn't wacky, right? ]
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 28th of April, 2023. What could be wacky about a guy named ‘Jebediah Jones’, a name which doesn’t sound at all like a character Conan O’Brien had on to introduce the next show’s guests from 2004 to 2006? … And it has struck me that “Jebediah Jones” and “Holly Folly” are self-consciously silly names in a way that, like, “Rob Bettancourt” or even “Professor Bee Sharp” aren’t. Even “Chet Chedderson”, the shipping magnate who’s the only person at the camp with actual money has a slightly goofy name. This isn’t a novel thing for the strip, as see Kelly Welly. I wonder if it’s an attempt to consciously make the temporary and minor characters more preposterous and therefore easier to remember.

Luckily, Jebediah Jeter pops right up and shares his story. He was digging around Stump’s office and, he thinks, got too close to the truth. So “they” — Stump and I’m not sure who — marched him off into the night to fight with a bear. He fled, and so did the bear. And … they became friends, all right. But what’s the truth Jeter got too close to?

Sid Stump plans to unleash AI automatic content generation on the world. He’s running the camp as a way to get investor money. But the camp is shoddily run — the cliffs were ruled unstable years ago, and haven’t got any better — and everyone coming to the camp is themselves looking for money. But even if they succeed … AI automatic content generation sucks. It writes plausible-sounding nonsense, because STEM idiots don’t know what epistemology is or how to get one. Mark Trail offers Jeter what he’s most needed — a ride to safety — but it may be too late. He’s led Sid Stump to Jeter.

And that’s our cliffhanger, at least until the cliff collapses out from under us.

Sunday Animals Watch!

    The past several months have leaned into the interpretation of Sunday strips as slices of Mark Trail’s articles. He even mentions needing to write about tardigrades a few days before they turned up in the Sunday strip. So I guess here’s a listicle of Mark Trail writing for you:

  • Iguanas, 12 February 2023.
  • Wolves and why there aren’t “Alpha Wolves”, 19 February 2023.
  • Tardigrades, 26 February 2023.
  • Great Horned Owls, 5 March 2023.
  • Wind Storm Safety, 19 March 2023. (Mark Trail recommends it.)
  • Bears and trash safety, 26 March 2023. (Mark Trail recommends both.)
  • Monarch Butterflies, 26 March 2023.
  • Concrete, 2 April 2023.
  • Saint Bernard dogs, 9 April 2023.
  • Hippopotamuses, 16 April 2023.
  • Sargassum Wave, 23 April 2023.
  • Spadefoot Toads, 30 April 2023.
  • Eastern Box Turtles, 6 May 2023.

Next Week!

The course of true love never runs straight, but will it run through volunteer work at the animal clinic? How about through Pet Yoga? And most important, has Dr Jeff bought his own CRUISE SHIP All this and Wilbur at Karaoke, too, as we look at Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth in around a week.

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