What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Why is some woman screaming at Drew Cory? February – May 2021


That woman is Ashlee Jones. She did not take well Drew Cory’s having to cancel their photoshoot when he got called in to his actual work.

There’s a bunch of content warnings I need to give for this plot recap of Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth. The first is that the main story, the one that began at the end of December and wrapped up in mid-April, concerns a survivor of spousal abuse. It also takes a detour into pet endangerment. The pet is physically unharmed and quickly recovers from his ordeal in this case. But the pet is also shown to have been physically harmed in the past. If that isn’t enough, the current storyline features a character that looks ready to become a stalker. Certainly emotionally dangerous, anyway. If any of that is stuff you don’t want to deal with in your recreational reading, you are right, and we’ll catch up next time. My next Mary Worth plot recap should be linked here, sometime after mid-August 2021. So should any news I have about the strip. Thanks for reading.

Mary Worth.

7 February – 8 May 2021.

Last time I checked in the story was about Saul Wynter and new Charterstone resident Eve Lourd. Lourd froze up, crying, at a men’s clothing store in the mall. After avoiding Wynter a while she explained. The suit reminded her of her late husband, who was emotionally and physically abusive. And from here I’m putting things behind a cut.

Over dinner. Saul Wynter: 'Bad memories can be hard to escape.' Eve Lourd: 'I still struggle with them.' Wynter: 'I used to have that problem too and it made me a cranky old man. Greta helps me to enjoy the present.' Lourd: 'If I didn't have Max, I don't know what I'd do!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 12th of February, 2021. One of the little threads of Saul Wynter’s story has been his transition from gleefully cranky old guy into a pleasant person to be around. I can’t say it quite feels like the Personality Transplant Fairy of soap opera lore visited. It’s heartening to think that even really well-worn grooves in one’s personality might be given up, and happier ones found, given a fair chance.

Over a dinner at home Wynter asks if Lourd has talked to a professional. Yes, she has started talking to a therapist. This would seem to resolve the story, but doesn’t. It continues another two months. One small slice of this is discussion of Wynter’s own problems. His parents pressured him to marry someone he didn’t love, and he grew bitter and cranky over that for decades. But then he got a great dog and he feels he’s all better.

If you feel that “great dog” is a redundancy, good news: Karen Moy and June Brigman agree. Much of the two months covered here is Wynter and Lourd agreeing how dogs are great, and then getting worried when one goes missing.

The one who goes missing is Max, Eve Lourd’s Labrador retriever. They have a very tight bond. When her husband once tried to shoot her(!), Max got in the way, taking the bullet instead(!!). It’s a heck of a moment to take.

[ When Eve's dog Max runs away during a storm ... ] Lourd, describing: 'He bolted past me and before I knew it, he was gone! The thunder sounded like gunshots! After Gary shot Max, sudden loud noises scare him!' Wynter: 'We'll find him, Eve! The storm is letting up, and Greta has a great nose! IF anyone can find him, she can!' Lourd: 'We HAVE TO FIND HIM, Saul! Max is everything to me! I don't know how to go on without him!' Wynter: 'With Greta Wynter leading the way ... WE WILL!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 28th of February, 2021. I grant someone might say the illustration of Greta in the last panel there looks silly, but have you ever looked at a dachshund, or any other short dog, running? I mean really looked? Thank you.

A couple nights later a heavy storm rolls in. Max, scared, races out into the storm. Lourd goes to Wynter for help. He doesn’t need cajoling to start a search. He has the idea that Greta, his dachshund, might even be able to track Max down. I’m skeptical that a dog who wasn’t trained for that would be able to. But Wynter also might be telling Lourd this as reassurance, even if the actual work will be their looking around. Wynter does have a thought balloon where he wonders if Greta isn’t following the scent, though.

They find Max, though, at what I think is a bench along their usual walking path. They celebrate with lunch and with treats and praise for their dogs. And talk about how great dogs are. They even speculate whether their dogs could make good therapy dogs. I again wonder if they’re underestimating how hard it is to be a therapy dog. But few people doubt that their own pets are extraordinary members of that animal kind. I say this as caretaker for the most adorably snuggly and flop-prone rabbit in existence.

After this we get the ritual week of thanking Mary Worth for … uh … something. I guess she advised Wynter to let Lourd open up as she felt comfortable. we also get some time with Lourd talking with her therapist about moving on from a toxic or abusive relationship. It seems to be working, though. On a return visit to the mall Lourd isn’t thrown by the men’s clothing store.


And finally, the 11th of April, with Wynter and Lourd sharing frozen yogurt, that story ends. The new, current story began the 12th of April.

It centers on Dr Drew Cory, son of Mary Worth’s eternal paramour Dr Jeff Cory. Drew Cory’s become an Instagram nature-photo person in his spare time. Ashlee Jones, waitress at a diner, recognizes him over lunch. She loves his wildlife and forest scene photos. She’s a photographer too, specializing in selfies as she hopes to be a model. And she has a great idea: why doesn’t he take pictures of her?

Ashlee Jones: You have some nerve! You think you're BETTER than me ... don't you? You think you can just BLoW ME OFF, Drew Cory? Huh? Do you?' Cory: 'NO, I had to go to work ... I was called in unexpectedly, Ashlee. I'm sorry I cancelled our photoshoot! We'll do our photos another day! I'm about to take my break now ... Let's go out and get something to eat ... ' Jones: 'Okay.'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 9th of May, 2021. I for one am glad this problem’s resolved quickly! I see no warning signs here! Apart from that Plato quote which I bet was created by BrainyQuote.

He’s skeptical but willing. Unfortunately, he has to break their photo-session date when he’s called in to the hospital, and leaves a voice mail with the bad news. She shows up at the hospital anyway, crying and cursing him out for standing her up. He talks her into calmness, for now … and that’s where the story stands.

Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!

The auto care place up the street continues to simply thank the local economic development council for help staying open through the disaster. So let’s get on to the things that famous people mostly didn’t say.

  • “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” — C S Lewis, 7 February 2021.
  • “Instead of forcing yourself to feel positive, allow yourself to be present in the now.” — Daniel Mangena, 14 February 2021.
  • “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” — Roger Caras, 21 February 2021.
  • “We live in a rainbow of chaos.” — Paul Cezanne, 28 February 2021.
  • “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” — Henry David Thoreau, 7 March 2021.
  • “Everything I know I learned from dogs.” — Nora Roberts, 14 March 2021.
  • “This life is worth living … since it is what we make it.” — William James, 21 March 2021.
  • “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” — James Beard, 28 March 2021.
  • “Forgiveness is just another name for freedom.” — Byron Kate, 4 April 2021.
  • “Be present — it is the only moment that matters.” — Dan Millman, 11 April 2021.
  • “I have found that if you love life, life will love you back.” — Arthur Rubenstein, 18 April 2021.
  • “The secret to life is meaningless unless you discover it yourself.” — W Somerset Maugham, 25 April 2021.
  • “Attraction is beyond our will or ideas sometimes.” — Juliette Binoche, 2 May 2021.
  • “Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.” — Plato, 9 May 2021.

Next Week!

It’s a Ghost Who Walks out of Skull Cave and through the Deep Woods. And it’s messing with The Phantom for a change! It’s Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity, if all goes to plan. See you then.

60s Popeye: Madame Salami, not the fortune-telling cartoon I expected


It’s another Jack Kinney-produced and directed cartoon today. The story’s by Tony Benedict and the animation direction Harvey Toombs. Here from 1960 is Madame Salami.

Yesterday’s was a Jack Kinney cartoon that presented a standard enough plot done well. Today’s is not done as well. Olive Oyl visits the fortune-teller at the worst-attended carnival on record. The fortune-teller is Brutus in disguise, and sees a chance to break up Popeye and Olive Oyl.

From this setup I did expect a clip cartoon. That Brutus would show a bunch of scenes where Popeye had been a jerk. And Popeye would answer by showing how nuh uh, it was Brutus was the jerk all along. It would have been a cheap cartoon, but it would’ve worked. This is still a cheap cartoon. But it’s all original material. But consider: it manages to use the same footage for both Popeye and Brutus being knocked into the air to land halfway across the park. That’s some economical use of footage.

I don’t know why Brutus is working as Madame Salami, but allow that he has his reasons. He gets Olive Oyl to test Popeye’s love by commanding him to do things liable to get him killed. Bit grim but in character. Popeye has to go do unspeakable things with a lion. I mean, yes, context tells us he must be trying to stick his head in the lion’s mouth. But we never even see the lion on-screen. And all we hear is Popeye confirming that she wants “this” done. Like I say, a very cheap cartoon. Since he’s not dead yet, the next challenge is … to … walk off the edge of a downtown building? And since he’s still not killed — Brutus gets in a good quick crack about that — the next challenge is Popeye going off in a rocket. You know, in those extraterrestrial rockets that badly underattended carnivals of the 60s have. Finally Madame Salami orders Olive Oyl to marry Brutus, today, and she resigns herself to her fate. When Popeye gets back he sees Brutus running back to Madame Salami’s tent and eats his spinach, I have to suppose because he guesses that’ll help. It usually will, but why did he think this particular problem needed super-punching?

Popeye beaten and scratched up, flopped forward on his face, in front of the sign pointing to the Lion's Den.
The worst part is the Lions Den wasn’t for the animals, it was for the service organization that, like, fundraises for people who have vision impairments. Something went wrong.

I lay the plot out like that and it’s a little wacky but within reasonable bounds. It doesn’t make Olive Oyl look good, but being petty or jealous or insecure is part of her personality. And it’s not like Popeye is so reliable an attentive, involved boyfriend that the idea of testing him is obviously unreasonable. But there is something mean in her ordering Popeye to risk death over and over. We’re supposed to take it that she’s convinced by Madame Salami that Popeye needs more testing. But it also looks like Olive Oyl doesn’t understand carnival fortune tellers. The tests are odd, too. Fine to have Popeye do unspeakable things with a lion. That’s close enough to sensible that I’ll allow it. Walking off a building? That hardly seems to be from the same cartoon, never mind the same carnival. And the rocket? I guess it can be a carnival attraction but it’s still weird.

A plot doesn’t need to make sense if it’s presented well. But I don’t care for most of the jokes. The ones I do care for are side effects of the animation cheapness. For example, Brutus walking over Popeye like he’s not even there is funny but I also recognize that’s using a stock walking cycle. Being cheap doesn’t make a cartoon inherently bad. But there is something slipshod in the whole production. Consider the early exchange where Brutus asks, “What is it you would ask of me?” Olive Oyl answers, “And how will I know whether Popeye really loves me or not?” What is that “And” doing there? It makes sense if Olive Oyl had a line that got cut, but why not cut the “And” also?

An interesting bit of character, though, is that Brutus seems eager to marry Olive Oyl. When does comedy writing of this era show the man as wanting to get married? It’s refreshing, but I wonder how that got through production.

60s Popeye: Pest of the Pecos, containing one (1) Old West cartoon


It’s back to Jack Kinney studios; he’s the producer and the director. Animation direction is credited to Harvey Toombs and the story to Raymond Jacobs. Here’s 1960’s Pest of the Pecos.

This is a great example of how execution matters more than originality. The plot is the first thing that pops into your mind for the idea “Outlaw Brutus messes with Town Marshall Popeye”. But it’s carried out with energy and humor enough to stay interesting.

We start with Brutus stopping and robbing a train, demanding “ten gallons of loot”, a good enough idea. I had thought Olive Oyl was on the robbed train, suggesting that she and Popeye might not even share any scenes. It’d be a rare if not unique distinction for the short. No, though; it was a woman with the same voice actor. Brutus goes to the nearby quiet town of Gravestone Flats and riles up the villagers. Olive Oyl is one of the people with complaints. Swee’Pea’s stolen lollipop riles Popeye into direct action.

Popeye makes a curious marshall here. He’s not portrayed as irresolute or anything, just a little bit not competent. That’s mostly shown by his terrible handling of his gun. He tries rolling it on his finger and drops it. He tries to shoot at Brutus, holding the pistol two-handed and looking away and still gets knocked backwards by the recoil. I understand presenting this for your cowardly-hero type, a part that Bob Hope or at least Don Adams might play. For Popeye it seems weird. It’s easy to blame this kind of thing on Concerned Parents who don’t want children imitating their heroes’ gunplay. But 1960 seems early for that, and I’m not sure that clumsy gunplay is any better. It seems to me more likely Raymond Jacobs figured it was funny if Popeye fumbled his gun.

A sad-looking Marshall Popeye sits, humiliated, on a smashed watermelon while surrounded by a circle of accusatory pointing arms.
Oh hey, it’s my nightly anxiety dream, that’s great.

I like the energy and the tone of this cartoon. Brutus gets, as you’d expect, most of the fun bits, including a nice casual air of shooting anywhere he figures needs to be a little more riled up. And smaller jokes too, like complaining that the wanted poster doesn’t look like him. Or the wanted poster listing crimes: school marm pinching, tilting pinball machines, and income tax evasion. Won’t say anything about pinching or income tax evasion, but your debt to society is cleared when you tilt the pinball machine. You get your penalty right then and there.

Wimpy gets a job as the undertaker long enough that we can see he’s got a lay-away plan. It’s the easiest joke for the spot, but it’s not like Wimpy is going to work hard.

I still don’t understand the line of action when Brutus shot that painter’s scaffold out from under. Doesn’t matter, I suppose.

Statistics Saturday: The Official Ordering of the Star Wars Movies


  1. Star Wars: A Star Wars Story
  2. Star Wars: A Wars Star Story
  3. Star Wars: A Star Stories War
  4. Wars Star: A Stars War Story
  5. Star Wars Stars: A Story
  6. A Wars War: Star A Star Story
  7. Star Star: A Wars Star Stories
  8. Star Wars Star: A Wars Star War Starry Story
  9. Star Wars: Star Wars Story A
  10. Star Star War Star Wars: A War Stars Story Wars Star Story
  11. A Star Wars Story: Star Wars

Honorable mention: Star Wars: Sraw Rats, the secret movie for people who know Star Wars forwards and backwards.

Reference: Who’s Who In Mythology: A Classic Guide To The Ancient World, Alexander S. Murray.

60s Popeye: Poppa Popeye, about Popeye as a pop, not Popeye’s poppa Pappy


We’re back at 1960 Paramount Cartoon Studios today. This is another Seymour Kneitel showcase. He’s got credit for the story, the direction, and the production. This is Poppa Popeye.

Some of these shorts are condensed stories from the comic strip or comic books. I thought this might be too, but the Popeye Wikia doesn’t hint that it is. There are stories where Swee’Pea’s mother returns for him. There’s at least one version of the Popeye continuity where Swee’Pea’s the lost prince of Demonia. That all suggests this isn’t adapted from the comics.

But you see where I get the impression. There’s a solid premise here, with Swee’Pea kidnapped by a fake father. And a lot of story. There’s no wasted time in the cartoon. After one moment of Popeye entertaining Swee’Pea, establishing his father-ness, Sando enters. He takes Swee’Pea away, and we have a story less time than some cartoons need to get Popeye to Olive Oyl’s house. Even the stuff that’s meant to be silly, like Popeye’s regression to childhood, is quick and efficient. And the plot is more serious than usual. It’s not as moody as Myskery Melody, a comic strip adaptation (and Seymour Kneitel show). But it is more focused and more serious than usual.

I’m not satisfied with the cartoon, though I can’t pin down a specific thing it does wrong. The starting incident makes sense, and Popeye breaking down at the loss of Swee’Pea fits his character well. What everybody does from there makes sense. There’s some good business along the way, too. My favorite is Swee’Pea — running away from the circus to join home — writing a gibberish note.

Popeye, wearing a baby bonnet, lies in a baby carriage, looking sad to the point of crying. Olive Oyl stands over him, worried.
I don’t mean to be harsh but in my opinion Popeye is overreacting to Swee’Pea being at half-day preschool.

Popeye is a passive character here. But the story wouldn’t make sense if he were any other way. He does take the step of (somehow) nailing Swee’Pea’s clothes to the floor, to ensure the child can’t join Sando at the end. But that’s only revealed after the fact, and it’s not clear it was needed. It’s also cheating, but then Sando cheated first by carrying a bunch of toys in for the “let’s see who he goes to” contest. And, Popeye being knocked out as the protagonist gives Swee’Pea the chance to take charge. Maybe the trouble is we see so little of what Swee’Pea goes through that his initiative doesn’t register.

Motivations are a bit underdeveloped. Sando wants a kid for his acrobatics act, fine, but why Swee’Pea? Well, otherwise he wouldn’t be in this cartoon. Popeye gives up Swee’Pea pretty quick. And Sando gives him up at the end of the cartoon as quickly. These steps make sense if the story is condensed from a comic strip or comic book, where the obvious questions could be addressed. But the cartoon is only five minutes, after credits. There’s only so much time that should be spent explaining why we’re going to do the thing we have to do for the cartoon to happen at all.

If this premise had the two or three minutes more that it’d have as a theatrical short, it could have been an all-time great. As it is, it does well confirming a side of Popeye we knew was there, if we’re honest.

MiSTed: Dreams of a Lost Past/Loss, Part 1 of 4


So I have another Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction to share here. This is a really old one, first published on Usenet in the 1990s. You’ll only be able to tell by how dated some particular riffs are but, you know? I like just how extremely dated they are.

This pair of stories — the incomplete “Dreams of a Lost Past” and the complete “Loss” — are fan fiction for the Legion of Superheroes, a comic book I had never read at the time and knew almost nothing about. I have since learned a bit more about the bonkiest superhero group outside the Metal Men. It turns out everything preposterous I made up about Brainiac-5 and his gang was pretty much real and actually literally true. So that’s fun.

I believe that this pair of stories was volunteered by their author, Doug Atkinson, to the Web Site Number Nine Dibs List, an e-mail chain that tried to match up original fanfic authors and Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic writers. I can say that, at least back then, Atkinson was pleased with my work. I hope that, wherever he is, he still is, or at least that he is no more embarrassed by his youthful writing than I am by mine.


[ OPENING SEQUENCE ]

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

[ SOL DESK. CROW is wearing a polyester suit and has a card propped up in his hand. TOM is standing in front of JOEL, with the cap on his head replaced with a balloon-like pad. JOEL is holding his hands over TOM’s head. TOM is making sound effects. Sketch is fast paced; no break between lines. ]

JOEL: Come on, big money, big money, no whammies… [ Hitting TOM’s head ] STOP!

TOM: Ow!

CROW: OK, you stop on our survey question; we asked 100 people at random the following question; top five answers on the board. ‘What is a refreshing treat on a hot summer’s day?’

JOEL: I’m gonna say… an ice cream soda!

TOM: Good answer, good answer.

CROW: Show meeeeeeee…ice cream soda!

TOM: Ding ding ding ding ding!

JOEL: Wahoo!

CROW: Bringing you to the Speed Round; seven-letter word on the board, you start with an L and a D and twenty-five seconds.

JOEL: L!

TOM: Ping!

JOEL: J!

TOM: Ping!

JOEL: E!

TOM: Ping!

JOEL: D!

TOM: Ping!

JOEL: ‘Pharmacist’

TOM: Ding ding ding ding ding!

CROW: That puts you on the board with a Five.

JOEL: I’m gonna say, 300 dollars, higher! [ Pointing up with both thumbs. ]

CROW: Reveals a Three.

TOM: Ding.

JOEL: 250 dollars, Lower, lower. [ Again motions with his thumbs. ]

CROW: Got a Jack.

TOM: Ding.

JOEL: Everything I got, higher!

CROW: And we have an Eight!

TOM: Ding.

JOEL: Gonna freeze.

CROW: Freeze, freeze at four cards in, and that takes you to the prizes.

JOEL: [ Looking around ] I’d like the Amana freezer for three hundred forty-nine dollars…

CROW: Freezer.

JOEL: The microwave oven for one hundred eighty-five…

CROW: It’s yours.

JOEL: The Presidential chess set replica for seventy dollars…and the rest on a gift certificate.

[ CAMBOT pulls back to reveal GYPSY ]

GYPSY: Things you see on the Game Show Network. Things that were junk the first time around. Things you remember too well.

TOM: Ding ding ding ding ding!

[ TOM, CROW, GYPSY, and JOEL start jumping gleefuly as CAMBOT flashes $25,000 on the bottom of the screen and a simulacrum of the $25,000 Pyramid plays. ]

JOEL: We did it!

[ COMMERCIAL SIGN flashes ]

MAGIC VOICE: Thanks for playing, and we’ll be right back after this word from our sponsors.

[ COMMERCIAL BREAK ]

[ SOL. Calmed down considerably from above. JOEL is polishing CROW’s beak.TOM is reading a comic book. ]

JOEL: We ever figure out what to buy with that gift certificate?

TOM: They gave us a service certificate instead.

CROW: What’s the difference?

TOM: This wasn’t good for anything.

JOEL: Still, that was fun.

CROW: We should do that more often.

TOM: Can’t. You can’t be on another game show for at least ninety days.

JOEL: Says who?

TOM: It’s a rule.

CROW: I never heard that rule.

TOM: You dare question me?

JOEL: Hang on, boys, the trylon and the perisphere are on the line.

[ JOEL taps MADS SIGN ]

[ DEEP 13. DR. FORRESTER and TV’S FRANK are wearing large sacks covering some kind of globes on top of their heads. ]

DR. F: Ahoy, hoy, lackeys and layabouts. Are you prepared to see yourselves bested in yet another Invention Exchange?

FRANK: I know I am!

[ SOL DESK. JOEL and the bots have a model spaceship covered by a piece of velvet. The desk is cleaned and TOM has nothing in his hands ]

JOEL: You bet.

TOM: We were thinking, as we often do, about the 70s.

CROW: And we realized there were some stylistic touches about that much maligned decade which, while goofy, were still kind of fun.

JOEL: So, combining that with our own precarious situation in space, we decided to create… [ Pulls off the velvet to reveal…]

ALL: The courderoy starship!

CROW: Warm, durable, and easily washed, this vision of tomorrow from the days of yesterday is sure to keep you at least as comfortable as a wood-paneled station wagon while waiting in line at the antimatter refilling module.

JOEL: Plus it makes the cutest little "fwit-fwit" noise when you go into warp.

TOM: [ Disclaimer voice ] Stephen Collins and Robert Forster sold separately. James Brolin not available in all areas.

[ DEEP 13. As before; their heads are still covered. ]

DR. F:Fascinating. Now then: Many, many — perhaps too many — science fiction and comic book writers have tried to look into the future of human evolution and concluded that in the future, people willhave vastly larger brains.

FRANK: Which means they’re going to need bigger heads.

DR. F: Right. But since evolution is slow, inexact, and ugly, we’re giving it a little hand up.

[ DR. FORRESTER and TV’S FRANK pull of the sacks, revealing snow globe-like shapes on their heads. ]

FRANK: But rather than fill this extra space with hair, we got creative!
[ They turn around, revealing cityscapes with the white snowflakes. ]

DR. F: So that you can display civic pride or make an amusing conversation piece while you wait for superhuman intelligence and psychic powers.

FRANK: We call them, ‘Snow brains.’

[ They turn back to the camera. ]

DR. F: Now then. Your medicine this week is a pair of "Legion of Superheros" works by one Doug Atkinson — the start of a story called "Dreams of a Lost Past," in which events almost happen, and "Loss," in which the main character is argued out of doing something interesting. Read ’em and weep, boyos.

[ SOL DESK. JOEL is holding the starship and making fwit-fwit noises ]

TOM: I think they stole my look.

CROW: They can keep it.

[ MOVIE SIGN flashes. General chaos. ]

JOEL: We got movie sign!

TOM: Yaaaaa!

CROW: Woo-hoo!

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

[ ALL enter theater ]

> DREAMS OF A LOST PAST

CROW: An untold tale of another tomorrow in which "Squiddly Diddly" rules the world!

>
> An untold story of the Legion of Super-Heroes

TOM: Not any more. Thanks *so much*, Doug Atkinson.

>
> by Doug Atkinson

JOEL: Oh, the defendants have to go talk to him after they see Rusty the bailiff.

>
> Jacques Foccart tossed on his bed as his slumbering
> brain was wracked by uneasy dreams.

CROW: [ As if talking in his sleep ] Scott Adams…stairmaster…horse shampoo…term life insurance…AAAUGH!

> In his sleeping visions,
> he was in a vague land of mists and shadows, seen as if out
> of the corner of the eye.

TOM: So he’s mostly seeing the annoying network logo.

> He wandered aimlessly, but there
> seemed no escape.

JOEL: Danged foolproof travelers’ alarm clocks…

> A blurred, humanoid figure drifted in front of him. It
> began to say something…

CROW: [ Gasping ] Warranty restrictions…may not be valid…in some states.

> Jacques awoke and sat bolt upright. _Sacre couer…what
> a dream. I cannot say why it disturbed me so,

TOM: Maybe ’cause it was a *bad* dream?

> but my sheets
> are soaked in sweat. Perhaps it reminded me of something?_

CROW: I know…it’s a signal. This time, I must be serious. I must reorganize my spice drawer.

> He shook his head and resolved to put it out of his
> mind. Element Lad had assigned him to Mission Monitor Board
> duty,

TOM: Element Lad really knows how to let other folks in on the party.

> and it would not do to be distracted when other
> Legionnaires’ lives depended on him.

JOEL: He should be asleep instead.

> Blearily he pulled on
> his yellow-and-black costume and wandered to the command
> center.

CROW: Commander honeybee is on the job!

>
> * * * * *
>
> Blok looked up from the Legion history holo he was
> viewing.

JOEL: Those who do not study their history are doomed to see it in flashbacks.

> "Good morning, Invisible Kid," he rumbled. "Are you
> here to relieve me?"
> "Yes," said Jacques, rubbing his eyes. "Oh, good
> morning.

CROW: That’s a relief.

> Forgive my not observing the pleasantries, but I
> had an uneasy sleep, with strange dreams."

TOM: Hey, does it mean anything in your dream when your parents become 500 foot tall giants moaning about how you’ve failed them in everything you’ve ever tried and then when they notice you they think you’re a fly and stomp on you repeatedly?

> "Curious. I confess I do not fully understand these
> ‘dreams’ you organic beings experience. If you wish, I could
> take your turn at Board duty."
> "No, thank you." He suppressed a yawn. "I should not be
> derelict in my duty.

JOEL: It’s much better if I do it in an inattentive and distracted manner.

> Which Legionnaires are on missions?"
> Blok instructed the board to show current mission
> status. "Lightning Lass, Polar Boy,

CROW: And his sidekick, the amazing Cartesian Kid.

> Phantom Girl, Sun Boy,
> and Magnetic Kid are investigating a solar-powered satellite
> on Mars.

JOEL: Superheros just never stop having a good time.

> Tellus, Quislet, Wildfire, and the White Witch are
> undertaking extended duty on Tellus’ homeworld of Hykraius.

TOM: Rock me, Hykraius!

> Shadow Lass and Mon-El are returning from investigating
> Starfinger’s corpse on Labyrinth. Dream Girl is off-duty and
> somewhere in Metropolis, I believe."

CROW: You know how those Dream Girls get.

> "Thank you." Blok left, and Jacques pulled a normal
> chair to the Board to replace the heavy-duty and
> uncomfortable one Blok used. Idly he ran a duty check,
> confirming Blok’s information.

JOEL: Well. I’m done for the day. Anyone wanna hit Friendly’s? Got a coupon for free Fribbles.

> He saw that Star Boy had not
> been removed from the list of active Legionnaires, and began
> to instruct Computo to make the correction. _No. It is not
> my place–it should be left to Element Lad or Brainiac Five._

TOM: Red-hot protocol activity!

> He looked at the holo Blok had left behind. It was an
> account of one of the Legion’s earliest missions, when they
> captured the Concentrator from Lucifer Seven.

CROW: Finally, the orange juice consortium will bend to our will!

> He remembered
> the Concentrator–a fabulously powerful weapon that could
> take energy from any source and focus it against any target.
> It hadn’t been around the arsenal lately, however.

TOM: It had dropped out of its afterschool activities and rarely talked to its old friends. Many suspected it was depressed.

> A quick
> check with Computo told him that Element Lad had decided it
> was too dangerous to keep active; he’d turned its wires into
> Inertron and moved it to the trophy room.

JOEL: Isn’t Inertron the thing that makes tires resist hydroplaning?

> The holo was one
> he’d seen before, so he put it aside with a mental note to
> make sure Blok returned it to the library.
> That just about exhausted his ready sources of
> amusement.

CROW: [ As Jacques ] I wonder what joysticks taste like.

> Unless there was some emergency requiring the
> Legionnaires’ presence, Monitor Board duty didn’t take a lot
> of thought.

TOM: Uhm…I like twine.

> He yawned again, not suppressing it this time.

[ JOEL pantomimes throwing something into his yawn. ]

> Slowly his eyelids began drifting downwards. His head
> nodded…
> And he was back in the land of mists.

CROW: *And* honey.

> The figure
> hovered before him again. Although it was transparent, it
> was now distinct enough to be seen as female.
> *who are you?* he asked/thought.

TOM: [ Pleading ] Please say Mary Tyler Moore. Please say Mary Tyler Moore. Please say Mary Tyler Moore.

> Sound didn’t seem to
> work in this strange land, but he made himself understood
> nonetheless.

CROW: Finally his habit of carrying semaphore flags everywhere pays off!

> *ask lyle norg,* she responded. *he knew.*
> *lyle is dead,* he thought in alarm.

TOM: [ Chanting ] Long live the Lyle.

> *are you the dream
> demon?*

JOEL: The acid queen? Who’ll tear your soul apart?

> She shook her head. *no. just one who is unjustly
> condemned to an eternity in the beyond.

CROW: Uhm…wait. This is Ebeneezer’s house, right? The afterlife has lousy maps, y’know.

> my time had come…*
> *what do you need?*
> *free me…*

TOM: Well, 50 percent off me and the rest is a mail-in rebate.

> She drifted away, and Jacques was alone. A soft hand
> was on his shoulder. "Jacques…Jacques…wake up!"

CROW: You’re missing your boring, mind-crushingly routine job!

> His eyes opened and looked into a blue, long-lashed
> pair.

ALL: [ Jumping back ] Aaaugh!

> "Trying to take my niche? Jan wouldn’t like it if he
> found you napping on duty."
> "Dream Girl…" He blinked a few more times, bringing
> himself to full consciousness. "You are right.

CROW: You’re the only one who’s good at sleeping on duty.

> I should
> have some stim-bev.

TOM: Stim-bev: An exciting new flavorful liquid from TechCorp Inc.

> Oh, by the way…I must ask you about
> something."
> "Sure." She gently ran her hand down his arm.

JOEL: [ As Jacques ] Remember they did this remake of "Duck Amuck," only it’s Bugs Bunny who gets tormented by the animator who turns out to be Elmer Fudd? How come they never show that anymore?

> "If
> Monitor Board duty is that dull, I’m sure I could keep
> you…entertained."

CROW: Have you ever played…Go Fish?

> _Sacre bleu, if only she were still with Star Boy she
> might be under control…_ "Just talk, please, Nura. Your
> powers are the closest to what I have just experienced."

TOM: Only superpowers can match a bad dream.

> "All right." She sat in the chair next to him, crossing
> her long legs. "Shoot."

JOEL: [ Shuffling around, slightly embarassed ] I got my legs tied in a knot again…sorry about this. Won’t be a second.

> "A woman has been speaking to me in my dreams. She says
> she is entrapped, and that the first Invisible Kid, Lyle,
> knew her. I do not know what to make of this."

JOEL: I suspect she may have been his sled.

> "Hmmm. You’ve read about Lyle’s death, right?"
> "Of course. I have studied everything about my
> predecesor, in the hopes of emulating him."

CROW: Except I think I can do a cooler death than him.

> "I wasn’t in headquarters when it happened, but I heard
> about it. There was something about an interdimensional
> realm and a ghost…

TOM: Oh, the usual.

> that could be your mystery woman. Let’s
> look it up. Computo!"

JOEL: [ As if suddenly waking up ] Mommy! Oh, uh, nothing, nothing.

> The energy-and-metal sphere drifted to her. "*breep* May
> I serve you, Nura Nal? *breep*"
> "Connect the Monitor Board to the Legion holo-library
> and Brainiac Five’s log reports.

CROW: We need everything he’s got on dutch elm disease by five o’clock or we’re dead!

> We need June and July of
> 2981. Oh, and get Jacques a stim-bev."
> "*breep* Connecting…"
> Nura’s manicured fingers slid deftly across the control
> panel. "Okay. This seems useful."

TOM: Must’ve gone to http://www.what’s_wrong_with_Jacques.com.

> The board lit up with scrolling Interlac text. Nura
> pressed a key, and the system began transmitting the vocals.
> "Brainiac Five’s medical log, 26 June 2981.

JOEL: About…call it sixish.

> Report on
> condition of Lyle Norg.
> "Norg collapsed in the trophy room for no apparent
> reason.

TOM: On second examination it was determined his head was chopped off.

> When connected to the mento-scanner, he displayed
> memories of the realm he sometimes enters when becoming
> invisible (ref. log entry, 19 September 2978).

JOEL: In the Arts and Leisure section, page four.

> "Subject encountered humanoid woman (species unclear),
> addressed as ‘Myla.’

CROW: Which is of course ‘Alym’ spelled backwards.

> Interaction indicated several previous
> meetings and apparent mutual attraction. Myla stated she had
> a revelation for the subject. At that moment, the screen
> shattered and subject awakened.

TOM: He reported his faith in professional wrestling was shattered forever.

> He became upset when
> confronted with Myla, and refused to speak further.

JOEL: Subject was unable to tell a cabbage from a lettuce.

> "Suggested to Mon-El that subject was experiencing
> hysterical amnesia, causing scanner overload. Recommended
> placing Norg under surveillance.

CROW: Noted he was a boogerhead.

> Mon-El agreed to discuss
> matter with Phantom Girl." Nura pressed another key, and the
> screen faded.
> "Yes, it has occurred to me that Myla might have been
> the one to whom I spoke," said Jacques, rubbing his chin.

TOM: Hey…if I glued a big box of tissue paper to my chin, would it get me invited to more parties?

> "I
> am unsure if it is her, however…she spoke of her time
> having come, and being unjustly entrapped."
> "Well, let’s take a look at the holo-record.

JOEL: Oh, yeah, if you have an adaptor you can play those on a hi-fi turntable.

> I think we
> have one of her…June 27, 2981."
> An image appeared of the old Legion headquarters. Lyle
> lay unmoving and crushed on the floor, while Phantom Girl
> wept and Mon-El and Superboy consoled her.

TOM: [ As Superboy ] It’s all right, Phantom Girl…we’ll get a new Tamagotchi.

> Nura fast-
> forwarded until the spectral form of a long-haired woman in a
> dress appeared.

CROW: The Spirit of Saint Louis, graphically depicted.

> "Myla–the girl from the invisible world!" said Mon-El,
> his jaw dropping in astonishment.

TOM: Boing-oing-oing-oing-oing…

> "Not a girl, Mon-El…but a ghost! When I told Lyle
> what I really was…he couldn’t accept the truth!

JOEL: But I must follow my heart! I must edit plastic scale modeling magazines!

> He went
> into shock and collapsed at your feet!
> "I, myself, died several years ago…

CROW: That really hurt my ability to participate in community bake-offs.

> but my spirit-form
> was stranded in this dimensional realm Lyle discovered when
> he became invisible!

JOEL: Cool beans, huh?

> I-I loved him…but I had to tell him I
> wasn’t among the living!"

TOM: Oh. Civil service.

> Myla faded out. "Sh-she’s fading…" Mon-El began.
> The scene vanished abruptly as Nura stopped the replay.

CROW: I’ll need a note from your mother to show you more.

> "That’s the relevant part. That thing about her time
> coming could refer to her death, and she’s obviously trapped
> there."
> "Perhaps. My experience was somewhat different,

JOEL: Like it occured later, under a different writer.

> although the mists were somewhat similar to what Lyle
> described. I entered other dimensions with my power myself,
> you know, until Brainiac Five removed that ability.

TOM: I was kinda peeved, but I guess I earned it when I transported a miniature solar system into his ear lobes.

> Could my
> dreaming mind still be able to reach into other worlds?"
> "Well, I know about reaching through time and space in
> dreams firsthand.

JOEL: It’s a neat way to gain valuable experience points and impress your Dungeon Master.

> There’s another possibility, though…"
> Her face went grim.
> "What is it?"

CROW: Space donkeys.

> "Lyle only encountered Myla a little while before
> Validus killed him. What if she’s some sort of banshee…a
> being who can only be seen by those who will die soon?"

TOM: What if she’s a lively puppet portrayed by a highly trained team of Brady siblings?

> "That is tres ridiculous, Dream Girl. Unless–have you
> had a vision of my death?"

CROW: Yup.

> "No." She looked uncomfortable.

TOM: [ As Dream Girl ] That means the same thing as yes, right?

> "What are you not telling me?"

JOEL: Uhm…I’m not telling you "yes."

> "I have had a vague dream about some sort of death or
> destruction. I didn’t sense any details, though…which
> means it might not have been a prophetic dream.

CROW: It might just have been foreshadowing.

> Those are
> usually pretty clear." She waved her hand. "It’s probably
> nothing.

JOEL: [ As Dream Girl ] By the way, long as we’re talking, next Thursday at 4:17 p.m., I’d avoid going to the Blockbuster Video and loitering around the fourth row, and absolutely don’t lean towards the stand of Comedy movies, accidentally knocking it over, dropping down on a display table causing it to fling a package of "Power Rangers" episode tapes into the ceiling, where it shorts out the electrical system and starts the sprinkers, which accidentally pour into just the spot to cause a massive sinkhole that swallows you and the building and the rest of the postal subdivision, killing you instantly. But you knew not to do that anyway.

TOM: C’mon, Joel, breathe.
[ JOEL gasps ]

> She’s not the dream demon you fought before, is
> it?"

[ JOEL coughs ]

> "I do not think so. I would know the feel of that mind
> if it attacked me again, and it is too clever to raise my
> suspicions this quickly.

CROW: So this would be a good disguise for you.
[ JOEL gulps ]

TOM: You all right, man?

JOEL: Yeah, I am.

> Perhaps I should wait until I have
> another dream to make a decision."

TOM: But I’m going to wait before making up my mind to do that.

> "I’d talk to Phantom Girl, too. There’s no record of
> what Lyle told her. Where is Tinya, anyway?"

CROW: You know, ‘Tinya’ is an anagram of ‘Viola.’

TOM: No, it isn’t.

CROW: Oh, right. I was confused.

>
> [end]

JOEL: That was a good place for the dramatic release.

[ To be continued … ]

Here’s how to get rid of WordPress’s Block Editor and get the good editor back


I posted this earlier today to my mathematics blog. I’m re-posting it so more people can get the good news and avoid the awful, awful, awful Block Editor wants people to use.

This is how to dump the Block Editor and get the classic, or ‘good’, editor back. WordPress’s ‘Classic Editor Guide’ explains that you go to your — not your blog’s — account settings. That would be https://wordpress.com/me/account. Under ‘Account Settings’ look for the ‘Interface Settings’ section. There’s a toggle for ‘Dashboard appearance’. Click it to ‘Show wp-admin pages if available’, and save that setting. There! Now you have the usable editor again.

Screenshot of https://wordpress.com/me/account showing the Account Settings / Interface Settings section. A red ellipse outlines the 'Show wp-admin pages if available' toggle.
There it is! ‘Show wp-admin pages if available’ and if they ever stop being available, I’m out of here.

Now for how I came to this knowledge.

About two months ago WordPress pushed this update where I had no choice but to use their modern ‘Block’ editor. Its main characteristics are that everything takes longer and behaves worse. And more unpredictably. This is part of a site-wide reorganization where everything is worse. Like, it dumped the old system where you could upload several pictures, put in captions and alt-text for them, and have the captions be saved. And somehow the Block Editor kept getting worse. It has two modes, a ‘Visual Editor’ where it shows roughly what your post would look like, and a ‘Code Editor’ where it shows the HTML code you’re typing in. And this past week it decided anything put in as Code Editor should preview as ‘This block has encountered an error and cannot be previewed’.

It’s sloppy, but everything about the Block Editor is sloppy. There is no guessing, at any point, what clicking the mouse will do, much less why it would do that. The Block Editor is a master class in teaching helplessness. I would pay ten dollars toward an article that studied the complex system of failures and bad decisions that created such a bad editor.

This is not me being a cranky old man at a web site changing. I gave it around two months, plenty of time to get used to the scheme and to understand what it does well. It does nothing well.

For example, if I have an article and wish to insert a picture between two paragraphs? And I click at the space between the two paragraphs where I want the picture? There are at least four different things that the mouse click might cause to happen, one of them being “the editor jumps to the very start of the post”. Which of those four will happen? Why? I don’t know, and you know what? I should not have to know.

In the Classic Editor, if I want to insert a picture, I click in my post where I want the picture to go. I click the ‘Insert Media’ button. I select the picture I want, and that’s it. Any replacement system should be no less hard for me, the writer, to use. Last week, I had to forego putting a picture in one of my Popeye cartoon reviews because nothing would allow me to insert a picture. This is WordPress’s failure, not mine.

With the latest change, and thinking seriously whether WordPress blogging is worth the aggravation, I went to WordPress’s help pages looking for how to get the old editor back. And, because their help pages are also a user-interface clusterfluff, ended up posting this question to a forum that exists somewhere. And, wonderfully, musicdoc1 saw my frustrated pleas and gave me the answer. I am grateful to them and I cannot exaggerate how much difference this makes. Were I forced to choose between the Block Editor and not blogging at all, not blogging would win.

I am so very grateful to musicdoc1 for this information and I am glad to be able to carry on here.

If you are one of the WordPress programmers behind the Block Editor, first, shame on you, and second, I am willing to offer advice on how to make an editor. First bit of advice: it should be less hard than using a scrap of metal to carve a message into Commander Data’s severed head for recovery 500 years in the future. There’s more that’s necessary, but get back to me when you’ve managed that at least.

What’s Going On In Mark Trail? What makes crickets “land shrimp”? January – May 2021


“Crickets are land shrimp” is the odd catchphrase of the current Mark Trail storyline. Wikipedia claims that spider crickets are sometimes called “land shrimp”, but that’s Wikipedia. I can find some older articles saying that spider crickets resemble shrimp, and … I guess? There’s a stronger way that crickets could be “land shrimp”, though. Note this Slate article from 2008 about a company selling crickets as food that pitches them as “land shrimp”. So it looks like some of the people who think they can sell Westerners on eating crickets instead of beef are calling them “land shrimp”.

In context, Mark Trail was pressed to say something interesting about a cricket, on no notice. It would be natural to pick up something weird that caught his mind once. So I guess that’s what happened. He remembered an odd bit about trying to sell cricket-eating and the line was popular.

So this should catch you up to the end of April 2021. If you’re reading this after about August 2021, or if any news breaks out about Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail, I should have a more up-to-date article for you here. Thanks for reading.

Mark Trail.

31 January – 1 May 2021.

Mark Trail had returned home. It wasn’t happy. His father, Mark “Happy” Trail, has made a successful trail-mix company. He’s done that, in part, by despoiling the former farm of his and Mark’s old friend Jolly Roger. Mark’s already stolen his father’s speedboat and led the maritime police on a chase that sure seems like it should have got him arrested. There’s only one way to finish his agribusiness story for Teen Girl Sparkle: interview his father.

Mark Trail: 'I didn't come here to fight. I'm sorry I lost my temper earlier.' Happy Trail: 'You started a fight with me over a speedboat! Which you destroyed!' Mark: 'And I should have destroyed it! That's what you raised me to be! What have YOU become?'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 11th of February, 2021. The touch of the older-style Mark Trail is one of the things Rivera does to reinforce that, different as it may be, this isn’t intended as a reboot of the Mark Trail universe. The 18th of March included a more explicit one, referencing the Jack Elrod-era rerun used between James Allen’s departure and Rivera’s arrival.

Mark approaches Happy Trail with backup. The harm speedboats do to manatees. Jolly Roger and his daughter Niecy. Cherry Trail and their son Rusty, whom Happy Trail seems not to have known about. It changes things.

Niecy makes the case for economic and environmental justice. Jolly Rogers’ land was appraised about one-third what it would have been for a not-Black landowner. It’s now poisoned by algae blooms. Niecy proposes selling it back, at cost, and letting Jolly fix it. Meanwhile Mark Trail looks at the crazy number of hunting trophies Happy has. His mother never allowed that. And Happy doesn’t have any, like, friends’ photos on the walls. Is he alone? And where is Mom Trail?

Faced with how he’s done a lot of harm and driven away many people who cared about him, Happy Trail makes an extraordinary decision. He tries to do better. He sells Rogers’s farm back to him, and works to help him clear the algae blooms. He’s delighted to know that Rusty, like he, is adopted. He makes up with Mark.

Happy Trail: 'By the way, you sucker-punched me on the pier, boy! You wouldn't get so far in a fair fight.' Mark: 'What?' Niecy Rogers, dragging her father out: 'Okay, now we bounce.' Jolly Rogers: 'Wait, I wanna watch this.' Niecy: 'No, you don't.' Mark: 'You're twice my age, Dad. Stop.' Happy: 'Really? Who taught you the two fists of --- JUSTICE?!' (Smacking Mark Trail in the face.)
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 26th of February, 2021. I understand people bothered to have beloved snarky commentary like “Mark Trail’s two fists of justice” put into the text. But it’s done so playfully. And, after all, Mark Trail did come around with facial hair. What did he expect?

With friendships and family healing many things get better. Happy Trail’s even able to arrange for the long-term care that Cherry Trail’s mother needs. Turns out having health care makes Cherry’s relationship with her sisters rather better. And Happy himself is able to work with Jolly Rogers in fixing that farmland.

Mark also asks Amy Lee, his editor at Teen Girl Sparkle, if she knew she was sending him to investigate his father. She allows that yes, she had an idea that Mark Trail, a nature guy from Florida, might have some relationship to Mark Trail, a nature guy from Florida. That settles the question of how she could have not known that. But it raises the question why she sent him to do investigative journalism against his father.

Still, that, the 6th of March that closes the story of Mark Trail facing his family shame.


The current story started the 8th of March, though pieces of it were set up earlier. Those pieces would be Rusty Trail making little BikBok videos. Rusty shows Mark how it’s done, challenging his father to say something about this cricket he found. Mark offers, “Crickets are land shrimp,” a declaration so odd it goes viral.

Mark Trail: 'So you're telling me the throwaway video my kid made got sampled by a hip-hop artist?' Amy Lee: 'Yep! Reptiliannaire's people are ramping up to shoot the 'Crickets are land shrimp' trap remix video and they want you in it! This is a golden opportunity to build your brand with the Teen Girl Sparkle audience. I suggest you take it!' Mark Trail: 'Because I'm such a good rapper?'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 25th of March, 2021. Hey, when fame comes, it is never for the thing you want. Or so I am told.

And it catches the attention of eco-rapper Reptiliannaire. The hip-hop artist sampled Rusty’s Bikbok video and that’s been popular. Reptiliannaire is re-shooting the video and wants Mark Trail for a cameo. Teen Girl Sparkle sees that as a great brand-building opportunity and all right, Dad, I see what you mean about not connecting with this strip any more.

Reptiliannaire is glad to meet Mark Trail and takes him into his weird but fun-looking home. The video’s getting a budget, too, from “Cricket Bro”. He’s a guy who turned his dumb tech fortune into a cricket protein powder startup. Turns out Mark knows him: it’s Rob Bettancourt. Rob knew Mark all the way back to grade school, when everyone called him “Marky Trail”.

Rob Bettancourt: 'Thanks so much for coming, professor. Say, have you met my old friend, Marky Trail?' Mark Trail: 'MARK TRAIL, award-winning nature journalist.' Professor Bee Sharp: 'Ah! I HAVE heard of you! Read your article on bats and human trafficking. Intriguing, if a little confusing.' Mark: 'My son is on the phone. Can you say a few --- ' Sharp, snatching the phone: 'GLADLY! Hiya there, sport!' Mark; 'But my phone!' He lurches toward Sharp and is blocked by a woman declaring ,'If you touch him, I BREAK you.' Narrator: 'Mark knew Hollywood women could be tough, but not *this* tough.'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 23rd of April, 2021. And here’s another reference to older stories, this one from early in James Allen’s tenure. The bats-and-human-trafficking story was from shortly before I did recaps, sorry to say. But Mark Trail went to do a story about white-nose syndrome in some bats in Texas caves, and got tangled up with human traffickers. Also an extremely long though gorgeous progression through caves with neat rocks and stranger (though realistic) life. The traffickers were eventually caught in Mexico. And the last James Allen story, never completed, was to be Hollywood adapting the story. So this was rather a keystone story in Allen’s tenure for Rivera to reference.

Mark also knows that Rob’s inspirational self-start origin story is nonsense; Rob’s parents are rich and that’s why he is. But Rob is also throwing a party and invites Reptiliannaire and Mark Trail and all.

All includes Professor Bee Sharp, a science video guy that Reptiliannaire geeks out over. Rusty, too, when he hears about this. Rob ostentatiously offers Mark help in building his career. Mark, harboring old pains, is not having it.

Meanwhile, Cherry Trail gets irritating news about her landscaping. The Sunny Soleil Committee, a homeowners association, wants her to take down the palm trees she and Mark Trail planted. Mark, scared by Cherry’s fury, downplays how the trip to Los Angeles is for something ridiculous and fun. He volunteers to send the committee an e-mail on her behalf.

Mark Trail: 'Cherry, I won't leave you hanging. I am gonna give that Sunny Soleil Committee the two fists o' justice ... in an e-mail.' Cherry: 'I appreciate that, sugar.' Mark: 'Oh, and I will get you the biggest agave I can get through airport security!' Cherry: 'Mark, don't do anything silly, now.' Narrator: 'Mark decides now is NOT the time to tell her he's flying to Los Angeles to star in a music video with a lizard-themed eco-rapper.'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 3rd of April, 2021. The narration box has been a much bigger player this story, and has been a wonderful commenter on the story. I do not know what Mark Trail did tell Cherry was his reason for flying to Los Angeles if it wasn’t this music video business.

Cherry meets with Violet Cheshire, who oversees the society. Cheshire explains that palm trees are prohibited, as exotic plants don’t belong. Cherry explains how there was one exotic palm, but the sabal palmettos otherwise planted are native. Cheshire says the society won’t have the villagers’ gardens looking like “unkempt jungles”.

Violet Cheshire: 'I cannot speak to whatever agreements you have with your landscaping clients, but the Sunny Soleil Society has its guidelines.' Cherry: 'My husband sent an e-mail explaining the situation.' Cheshire: 'I am well aware of your husband's e-mail. It was ... ' [ Flashback. Cheshire sees a man (her husband?) reading e-mail: 'By jove! This e-mail felt like it punched me in the face with two fists!' ] Cheshire, continuing: '... Confrontational!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 29th of April, 2021. I don’t know whether we are supposed to take the third panel as literally what happened or as Cherry Trail’s fantasy of what happened. Either way, it brings me delight. The only way it falls short of perfection is not having Cheshire and the man with her wearing monocles.

So that’s rather a standstill. And that’s where things stand as of the start of May.

Sunday Animals Watch!

  • Cicadas, 31 January 2021. Got any?
  • Barred Owls, 7 February 2021. Plus tips on how to get barred owls, in case you need some barred owls.
  • Lovebugs, 14 February 2021. Some more animals who’ve come to Florida, although apparently on their own initiative.
  • Virginia Opossums, 21 February 2021. They’re pretty great, really. Should give them a break.
  • Feral Hogs, 28 February 2021. They’re invasive, of course, and they’re probably smarter than us.
  • Southern Toads, 7 March 2021. They seem to be cute enough.
  • Crickets, 14 March 2021. The strip pushes the line about how crickets might replace cows as a source of protein, which they will not. The cricket-eaters will never accept this.
  • Foxes, 21 March 2021. It’s got three panels where a fox steals something, which is fun.
  • Eastern Black Rat Snakes, 28 March 2021. Which is the species of Ralph, one of the snakes Mark Trail talks with regularly now.
  • Beavers, 4 April 2021. OK, but have you ever seen a video of a beaver in a zoo carrying a bunch of carrots around? Look it up sometime. You’re welcome.
  • Ed Dodd, 11 April 2021. A special biographic panel to celebrate the strip reaching 75 years.
  • Five-Lined Skinks, 18 April 2021. They’re the ones with blue tails, as juvenies, that are able to drop off as decoys when predators come predating.
  • Striped skunks, 25 April 2021. Mark Trail feels they compare favorably with honey badgers.
  • Sabal palms, 2 May 2021. I did not realize they weren’t native to Southern California, and were imported to make the place look better. All right.

Next Week!

Romance! Inspirational quotes! Post-traumatic stress disorder! Working for “exposure”! All this and a lot of thanking Mary worth, in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth, if all goes to plan.

Statistics April: how Mark Trail once again gets people to sort of notice me


I do not keep obsessive, day-to-day track of my readership figures. I’m too prone to obsession for it to be good to track things that flutter so. But the panel used to post things has a little readership graph.

So I noticed a spike of views, and viewers, the 12th of April. And a bigger one the next day. Most of that spike evaporated by the 14th. But the readership was still appreciably larger than average for a week or so. And it wasn’t the spike from my post about what color tablet produces which Easter egg color. There was a spike from that, yes, but in the days leading up to Easter, like you’d expect. So what explains this 51st-anniversary-of-Apollo-13 spike?

(Daytime) photograph of the exit gate for Lakeside Amusement Park (Denver, Colorado), with the word 'REDIT' spelled out in (not yet illuminated) lights.
By the way, if you should have the chance to visit Lakeside Park in Denver, I highly recommend it. It’s got great piles of gorgeous 1930s-era amusement park architecture, a fantastic wooden roller coaster we didn’t get to ride enough, and one of the strangest carousels you could hope to ride. Also a fantastic and strongly democratic philosophy about ride pricing.

Yeah, it’s Reddit’s fault. A thread on the Hobby Drama Reddit described how James Allen left Mark Trail and how Jules Rivera joined it. The thread linked to one of the strips I’ve used in a What’s Going On In … post. And a lot of people clicked on that. So WordPress credited me with a lot more views, and viewers, than I’d otherwise expect. This was my most popular month by far, but, must be said, there’s an asterisk attached. I can’t fault anyone for linking to a picture I copied for fair use from Comics Kingdom. It reassures me in my judgement that these are important, representative strips I’m selecting. But I would like it if sometimes writers linked to my blog, or at least the tag, directly. It’d be nice to pick up a regular reader or two from these flash floods sometime.

Granting there is an asterisk, though, this gives me quite happy-looking readership figures. WordPress credits me with 9,423 views in April. This doesn’t quite double the twelve-month running mean of 5,160.6 views, nor does it quite double the twelve-month median of 4,930 views. It’s close to doubling, though, so I look forward to this messing up my mean and median comparison for a year to come. I’m also credited with 6,594 unique visitors, and that is more than double the twelve-month running mean of 3,047.7 visitors. And the twelve-month median of 2,937 visitors.

Bar chart of monthly readership for two and a half years. After several months that were higher than average April 2021 was extremely high, nearly double the average month from the past year.
Bar chart of monthly readership for two and a half years. After several months that were higher than average April 2021 was extremely high, nearly double the average month from the past year.

In the figures that show some engagement? That’s all much more average. There were 140 things liked in April, which is pretty good lately; the twelve-month mean was 108.3 and the twelve-month median 108.5 likes per month. Nothing like the flush days of 2015, though, when there wasn’t a month below 279 likes. And there were 40 comments. This is exactly the median of the previous twelve months. The running mean was 42.0, so, I probably had a typical enough month with a heap of Reddit splashed on top.

So. I like looking at what posts were popular. The six most popular things this past month which were posted in March or April were:

I went to six, rather than give, just because I’m so stupidly fond of that Movie Mis-Quotes one. It might be my dumbest post ever and I don’t care. It’s glorious.

Of course, the things most sought-after are my comics posts. My plan for the coming month is to explain what’s going on in:

That’s just the plan, of course, and it’s subject to change if circumstances call for it.

World map with the United States in deepest red, and most of the Americas, Europe, South Asia, and the Pacific Rim countries in a more uniform pink. A handful of African countries are also in pink.
Wow, strange that it looks like nearly all those Reddit readers interested in Mark Trail drama were from the United States. How could that happen?

There were 93 countries, or things like countries, sending me readers in April. 27 of them were a single view each. Here’s the roster.

Country Readers
United States 6,785
Canada 444
Australia 408
United Kingdom 286
India 251
Germany 200
Philippines 83
France 79
Brazil 67
Italy 50
Sweden 49
Finland 46
Spain 42
South Africa 36
Norway 34
Singapore 33
Ireland 32
Portugal 31
Malaysia 27
Japan 26
European Union 23
Romania 21
Sri Lanka 21
Netherlands 20
Switzerland 20
Mexico 19
New Zealand 19
Indonesia 18
Thailand 15
Denmark 14
Puerto Rico 14
Chile 13
Belgium 12
South Korea 12
Greece 11
Poland 11
Pakistan 9
Turkey 8
Austria 7
Hong Kong SAR China 7
Russia 7
Argentina 6
Lebanon 6
Peru 6
United Arab Emirates 6
Bosnia & Herzegovina 5
Colombia 5
Hungary 5
Israel 5
Ecuador 4
China 3
Czech Republic 3
Kenya 3
Serbia 3
Trinidad & Tobago 3
Vietnam 3
Bahamas 2
Brunei 2
Costa Rica 2
Croatia 2
Egypt 2
Estonia 2
Jordan 2
Mauritius 2
Slovakia 2
Ukraine 2
Algeria 1
Bangladesh 1
Cambodia 1
Cayman Islands 1
Cook Islands 1
Cuba 1
Dominican Republic 1
El Salvador 1
Fiji 1
Georgia 1
Ghana 1
Isle of Man 1
Jamaica 1
Jersey 1
Kuwait 1
Latvia 1
Lithuania 1 (*)
Macedonia 1
Malta 1 (*)
Panama 1
Qatar 1
Sint Maarten 1
Slovenia 1 (*)
Taiwan 1
Tunisia 1 (*)
U.S. Virgin Islands 1
Venezuela 1 (*)

Lithuania, Malta, Slovenia, Tunisia, and Venezuela were single-view countries in March also. Nowhere’s been a single-view country three months in a row.


WordPress figures I posted 16,856 words in April, setting a new low for the year. This was an average of 561.9 words per posting in April. It gets me to 75,911 words so far in the year, an average of 633 words for each of 120 posts.

Between Margaret E Knight’s design of a machine to create flat-bottomed paper bags (1871) and the start of May 2021 (1st of May, 2021) I’ve posted 3,011 things here. These have drawn 232,879 views from 133,569 unique visitors.

I’d be glad to have you as a regular reader. This link is the RSS feed for my posts. If you don’t have an RSS reader, you can get one with a free account at Dreamwidth or Livejournal. Add any RSS feed to your reading page through either https://www.dreamwidth.org/feeds/ or through https://www.livejournal.com/syn. If you’re on WordPress, you should be able to use the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button to add it to your Reader page. And if you want, the link underneath “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” should let you sign up for e-mail delivery. I’m terrified of that one, since that sends out posts before I realize the three typos left in the article however much I proofread. But if that’s what you’re interested in, that’s what you’re interested in. Also every time I re-read an old post there’s more typos. No one has ever been able to explain this phenomenon.

60s Popeye: Model Muddle, featuring one model, who’s not confused about it


Today’s is another Gene Deitch cartoon. There’s more credits than usual for this 1960 production: we’re told the animation was by “Halas and Batchelor”. We saw those names before, on Weight For Me, the one where Olive Oyl is fat. Is this another cartoon that’s got no toxic attitudes built in to a timeless premise? Only way to know is by watching Model Muddle, or reading my thoughts about it.

Olive Oyl has a surprise: we’re doing Modern Art jokes! Comic strips and cartoons have had a curious antipathy for Modern Art ever since both modes started. It’s curious because it’s not like either is a threat to the other’s cultural niche. It’s like if train enthusiasts were always mocking fire engine enthusiasts. I get that Modern Art leads itself to easy jokes. Well, to an easy joke. That’s because a lot of it will carry the question “what makes something Art?” and sometimes you don’t want to deal with that. But even in 2021, when society’s dropped all support for the humanities, we’re still interested in the question “what makes (this) and (something)”. Else your STEM friend would not have Opinions about whether a corn dog is a ravioli.

Still, we’re set up for this being a cartoon about Modern Art and don’t quite deliver. We get a couple minutes of Popeye in the museum. For me, this is the high point of the cartoon, sold by Popeye’s disproportionate anger. Jack Mercer reads his lines like Popeye is supposed to have been wounded by all this and it’s great. Characters reacting way out of line with the scene makes for hilarity.

Popeye stands proudly beside his sculpture, a giant marble figure of Olive Oyl's head, while Olive Oyl swoons at the work.
Yeah, it’s great work until you notice Popeye’s house doesn’t have any doors big enough to get that thing out.

But after that we move to Popeye as an artist. I appreciate the cartoon letting us suppose Popeye drew inspiration from the Modern Art after all. Seems to be a lot of traditional, representational work, but you have to start somewhere. He invites Olive Oyl over and she skips merrily along. Brutus overhears and takes up sabotage. He smashes Popeye’s tall marble sculpture of Olive Oyl’s head, and gets a mallet to his own head for the trouble. That in time for Olive Oyl to arrive and treat the rubble as Art.

Then for some reason she poses while Popeye makes a new An Art, in an abbreviated remake of 1937’s My Artistical Temperature. Popeye way over-explains why he can eat his spinach off a painting, and we get a longer fight with Brutus than usual. Like, for the King Features shorts I expect Popeye to hit Brutus once or twice to knock him out of the cartoon. Here, we get a lot of action. Particularly, Popeye swinging Brutus again and again at the marble to carve a new Olive Oyl head. It’s more painful than I expect. I think that’s from all the time Popeye spends swinging around a hollow-looking, dazed Brutus. The pain is less real when it looks like Brutus would clobber Popeye if he could get a fist in edgewise.

So, in the end, Brutus is dazed, a lot of marble has been quarried and destroyed, Popeye’s made a pretty representative head of Olive Oyl, and Olive Oyl is happy. I guess the museum trip was a success?

Statistics Saturday: How Much States Are Messing With You by When They Observe Arbor Day


State Observance Messing With You Level
Ohio Last Friday in April Not at all
Kentucky First Friday in April Not much
Nevada Last Friday in April Considerably, as Nevada has only 16 palm trees, and they’re all on a golf course that consumes two-thirds the volume of the Colorado River to maintain
South Dakota Last Friday in April Messing with North Dakota, not you
North Dakota First Friday in April Messing with South Dakota, not you
Washington Second Friday in April Only a little
Georgia Third Friday in February What
New Hampshire Last Friday in April Not particularly
Vermont First Friday in May Just picking a fight with New Hampshire
Nebraska Last Friday in April Thank you for getting things back in order
Maryland First Wednesday in April Just checking if you’re paying attention
Maine Third full week in May Up to moderate mischief here
California 7th – 14th of March Up to even more mischief here
Alabama Last full week of February Now cut that out
Wyoming Last Monday in April Adorable attempt to pretend there’s trees in Wyoming
Oregon First full week of April This is refugee Californians messing things up, right?
Colorado Third Friday in April Why not
Pennsylvania Last Friday in April Not at all
North Carolina First Friday following March 15 Ugh, this again?
Texas First Friday in November What the heck?

Reference: Stan And Ollie: The Roots Of Comedy: The Double Life Of Laurel And Hardy, Simon Louvish. With special thanks to my love without whom I’d never have realized Arbor Day isn’t the same day in every state and that some of them put a whole week to Arbor Day.

Retail now available wholesale


Norm Feuti has put together a complete archive of his Retail comic strip.

Retail, about the people working at Grumbel’s Department Store, was one of the comic strips to end syndication in 2020. It’s the one I most miss. It’s not a story strip, except to the extent every comic with recurring characters is expected to have them change over time. Feuti did a great job with his core characters and, particularly, the subtle paradox of maturity. The retail life is absurd, but as the characters started treating it more seriously, they made their days better but found it harder to get away from it. It’s great work that unfortunately defies presentation in a handful of sample strips.

Customer: 'Excuse me. Could you help me get something down off a high shelf?' Cooper: 'Sure.' Customer: 'Oh, thank you. It's in the cupboard above the refrigerator.' Cooper: 'Say what now?' Customer, shuffling off frame: 'It won't take long. My apartment is only a few miles from here.' Cooper: 'Uh ... '
Norm Feuti’s Retail for the 14th of March, 2017. Customers with unrealistic expectations was a running joke, naturally. My favorites were these little-old-ladies like this who seem reasonable enough and don’t know there’s, like, limits.

I’m not sure when I started reading the strip, but think it was around 2010. It was a good time; Feuti had got the hang of his characters and the worldview for the strip. In skimming the archive around then I find a good number of strips I’d say anyone could jump in and read.

Feuti continues to draw a his other strip, Gil, for Sundays. And then, posted the 30th under a category of “we’ll see where it goes”, he posted a Sunday-style strip titled Dollar Admiral, at a discount store. Dollar Admiral was teased as the store taking the place of Grumbel’s, which makes for a neat handoff. If it goes anywhere. I’d be glad if it did.

MiSTed: Eating for Death, Part 2 of 2


Did you enjoy the first half of Eating For Death? This was another of my pieces of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fictions, written in late 2015 I believe, and taking apart an article from the March 1922 issue of Physical Culture. I bet Bernarr Macfadden is felling all foolish about his whole crusade to get people to eat when they’re hungry instead of bored or feeling obligated. The very unneeded joke about the Snorks is there because I was reading the Wikipedia article about the Snorks for some reason and that stuck in my mind. I apologize for putting the Snorks in your mind now too.


>
> The “eat-to-keep-up-your-strength” idea that
> has been advocated for generations by allopathic
> physicians,

CROW: *And* Popeye!

MIKE: Gotta respect Popeye on strength.

> has sent, literally, millions of people to
> premature graves.

TOM: Underneath a giant avalanche of casseroles and loaves of bread!

>
> Even a person in good health can miss one meal or
> fifty meals, for that matter, without serious results.

CROW: Fifty meals! You’d be spending your whole day eating at that rate.

TOM: You know you miss all the meals you don’t eat.

> But abstinence of some sort is absolutely essential if
> appetite is missing; and is especially necessary in many
> illnesses.

MIKE: Like chronic mouthlessness.

TOM: McWhirtle’s Indigestibility Fever.

CROW: Temporarily made of cardboard; can’t take liquids.

>
> There is no sauce better than hunger;

CROW: Except bleu cheese salad dressing.

> and there
> can be no health of a superior sort, unless food is eaten
> with enjoyment.

MIKE: Wait, so now enjoyment is a sauce?

CROW: *Yes*, and it’s made of bleu cheese.

>
> When you eat a meal with what is known as a
> “coming appetite”

TOM: My appetite went upstairs and it can’t find the way back.

CROW: “The stairs are past the third door!”

MIKE: “I can’t find the door!”

CROW: “Are you in a room or in the hall?”

MIKE: “I … don’t know?”

> you are often treading on dangerous
> ground. This “coming appetite” is often due to
> overstimulation of nerves

MIKE: By the penetrating electropasta needles.

> rather than to natural bodily
> demand, and is, therefore, frequently of the voracious
> character. It compels you to overeat.

TOM: To be fair, ordering a box of Hypnofood didn’t help.

> You are not
> satisfied until you eat so much you cannot hold any more.

CROW: Eat until fingers don’t work. Got it.

>
> At such times a fast is often necessary. But if
> you cannot do that it is absolutely essential that the
> meals should be very light,

TOM: Chew on a balloon, or possibly a bulb of some kind.

MIKE: Any method of general illumination will do.

> if you desire to avoid
> illness that might be serious in character.

CROW: Try illnesses that are lighthearted in character, such as clown flu and the a deficiency in vitamin giggle.

>
> Three square meals a day will send any one to an
> early grave.

TOM: Diversify your meal with triangles and ellipsoids.

> You may be able to follow a regime of this
> sort in growing years, but when full maturity arrives
> look out for trouble if you persist in this habit.

MIKE: In your fallow years just sit in the middle of a room not eating and waiting for death to overcome you.

>
> Three light meals or two medium heavy meals daily
> will prolong your life and increase your efficiency
> mentally and physically.

CROW: Four times a day grab an open-faced sandwich.

TOM: Six times a day, just gnaw on the kitchen counter.

MIKE: When feeling restless, lick an oven door.

>
> I eat but one hearty meal a day, and that is
> preferably taken at noon, though sometimes it is eaten in
> the evening. Occasionally I eat a light meal in the
> morning or evening,

MIKE: Thursdays I spend passed out in a bathtub full of potato salad.

> if I have a craving for food, though
> these light meals frequently consist of fruit alone or
> nuts and fruit with a warm or hot drink.

TOM: Occasionally I rub a slice of lettuce against one cheek.

>
> But the main point that I want to emphasize is

CROW: Food is a good idea but it will never be made practical.

> the necessity of avoiding the habit of eating by the
> clock — without appetite.

TOM: Wait until your clock cries and then feed it all it needs.

>
> Wait for a definite feeling of hunger. Let your
> stomach dictate your eating habits.

MIKE: And leave me some of the garlic-stuffed olives, people.

>

> http://blog.modernmechanix.com/eating-for-death/

CROW: I had death for lunch, can’t we have joi de vivre for supper?

MIKE: Who wants a bowl of hot, buttered MURDER?

TOM: And with that, everybody, good night and be merry!

MIKE: Happy.

TOM: Whichever.

CROW: Night, folks.

                                       |
                                    \  |  /
                                     \ | /
                                      \|/
                                   ----O----
                                      /|\
                                     / | \
                                    /  |  \
                                       |

Disclaimer: Mystery Science Theater 3000, its characters and situations and premise and all that, are the property of … uh … I was going to say Best Brains, but I guess it’s Shout! Factory and Consolidated Puppets? Or something? I’m not positive. Well, it’s theirs, and I’m just using it as long as they don’t notice. Bernarr Macfadden’s “Eating For Death” appeared in the _Physical Culture_ magazine from March 1922 and I believe it to be in the public domain. I ran across it from the Modern Mechanix blog linked above, and it’s a crying shame that’s gone defunct because it was so much fascinating reading. Supporting Snorks: Sad Wikipedia sub-section, or saddest Wikipdia sub-section?

> You can be a palpitating force, a veritable human
> dynamo, or you can be a half-alive mass of human
> flesh — not unlike the jelly-fish.

60s Popeye: Tooth Be Or Not Tooth Be, with extremely little Popeye


Before I get to the cartoon here’s a bit of Popeye news. Stephanie Noell, who runs the Out Of Context Popeye panels Twitter feed, put together an e-book. It collects the Spinach Juice Springs story from Thimble Theatre. This was the first full storyline after Elzie Segar’s death, and the story by Tom Sims and Doc Winner seems to have gone uncollected before. It’s available from Gumroad.com as a pay-what-you-will download. Sims and Winner here put forth a couple neat ideas that they shuffle around a while before running out of stuff to do, then toss in a new idea and shuffle that a while, before finally everyone agrees the story is done. So they kept that Elzie Segar vibe pretty well at this point.


Tooth Be Or Not Tooth Be is another Gene Deitch-produced cartoon. So, good luck finding who’s responsible for story or who the animators were or all that. It is dated 1962, the first time I’ve noticed that late date in one of these.

This extends the streak of Gene Deitch cartoons that inspire the question, “the heck am I watching?”. In this case, not because the story is playing with a weird idea. More that the cartoon is disjoint.

Really it’s two cartoons. One is Poopdeck Pappy babysitting a teething Swee’Pea. Swee’Pea goes wild chewing things. Thumbs, most often, but a phone book, a table, anything he can get near his mouth. It looks like the premise is Pappy trying to keep up with Swee’Pea’s devouring the world. That seems viable enough for a five-minute cartoon to me. You can imagine the Tex Avery, or at least Dick Lundy, cartoon built on that.

But just as that’s settled — with a cute bit where the dentist examines Swee’Pea through binoculars, out of biting range — we shift to a different plot. This one’s the story of the Sea Hag kidnapping Poopdeck Pappy so she can steal his teeth. Pappy’s able to escape, thanks to a campaign of expert biting. This, too, seems like it could have been a five-minute cartoon. So why smash these two premises together?

Might be they couldn’t figure a way to extend either premise to the five-and-a-half minutes needed. In which case, yes, better to do two half-cartoons they have inspiration for. But that pushes the question to why they had a pair of tooth-themed premises going at once. Did someone have the idea for the title and then they pitched ideas to fit it?

Also, why is this a Poopdeck Pappy cartoon? Like, why wouldn’t it be Popeye watching Swee’Pea teething instead? (Which would make the non-emergency dentist visit less odd.) I guess Pappy’s willing to punch the Sea Hag, when Popeye never would, but it’s not like Pappy punches her this cartoon either. It allows for a punch line, Popeye coming in to see Swee’Pea brushing his teeth. But that could be done just as well if (say) Olive Oyl came in to see how he was doing. The side effect is this is another candidate for the title of Least Popeye in a Popeye Cartoon.

Part of me wonders, not completely facetiously, if this started out as a public service cartoon for dental hygiene. The repeated instructions about brushing teeth and going to the dentist fit there. As does Pappy telling a story where good teeth saved the day. And Swee’Pea doing a closing rhyme of “They’ll last to the finish! If he eats his spinach! And brushes them twice a day!”

This might even explain the sketchiness of the animation. I don’t think Popeye’s ever been animated on ones, and by this era it certainly couldn’t be animated on twos. Here I estimate them as animating on the eighteens. Or maybe it’s simpler than that. Could be the Deitch studio was running out of the time and animation budget and they had to put out something. It’s a shame if the answer is all that dull, though.

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? What did happen for Skeezix’s 100th birthday? February – April 2021


I’d delayed my last Gasoline Alley plot summary a couple weeks back in February. This so I could say what was happening for Skeezix’s centennial. His discovery on Walt Wallet’s doorstep changed the strip and made it into something that would last a hundred-plus years. And I was startled that nothing particular did happen.

That did change. We got a story revisiting a few moments in Skeezik’s life. This from the perspective of Walt Wallet, a fair choice. The retrospective was shorter than I expected. This both in its duration, which was only a week for the readers, and its scope, which only covered up to World War II. But it is an observation, albeit late, of Skeezik’s centennial.

So this should catch you up on Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for late April, 2021. If you’re reading this after about July 2021, or if news about the strip breaks, I should have a post here.

On my other blog, I do write up comic strips with mathematical content sometimes. Yesterday, for example, I got to bring up a 1948 panel of Barnaby. You might like seeing that.

And now, what has been going on in Gasoline Alley since February?

Gasoline Alley.

14 February – 26 April 2021.

A lot of stuff at the supermarket. Gertie, Walt’s live-in caretaker, stops to help Mim, a woman who’d lost her glasses. Gertie can’t find them, but throws her back out searching the floor. She pulls on a shelf to straighten up, knocking over bottles of floor wax. And then we get a bunch of slapstick as characters fall over, drawing in more bystanders to slip and fall over, drawing in — Well. We are fortunate the slipping wave stops before it encompasses all humanity in the dreaded Global Pratfall Event. And in comes Tim, who’d found Mim’s glasses when he got home. He surmises that they fell into his basket and he hadn’t noticed. Since they’ve met cute and have matching names, they need to go off and date and reappear in stories to come.

Mim: 'Oh, my! I can see again! Thank you! Thank you! How can I repay you?' Gertie: 'Not me! He!' Tim: 'Aw! I was glad to help!' Mim: 'No! I insist!' Tim: 'I insist! No!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 4th of March, 2021. By the next day, in-character time, Tim is calling Mim ‘honey’, so I suppose things are moving fast. Or I’m mistaken in saying that’s happened the next day. Though Gasoline Alley tries to age characters in roughly real-time, there have to be gaps in time we readers don’t see. Otherwise the characters live, like, one or two days per month.

So, come the 10th of March, Gertie heads home and into the next story. She calls Walt to let him know she’s running late, but gets no answer. She fears the worse, speeding home. A cop stops her for speeding, but concedes these are good reasons to rush home and check on an unresponsive 115-year-old. They call in the fire department and the ambulance and find … that he was just watching the TV and couldn’t hear the phone.

Young Walt, holding an infant Skeezix: 'Skeezix! What're you doing here?' Infant Skeezix: 'I live here! Don't you remember?' Walt: 'But, you're grown up and married and live across town!' Skeezix: 'Married? At my tender age?'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 31st of March, 2021. I liked this retrospective-in-a-dream frame. It excuses jumping to good parts without transition or explanation, for one. (And doing such a jump makes the dream more authentic.) And it lets a moment like this be a dialogue, usually more interesting.

From the 24th, Walt talks about the lost stamina of his youth. He goes to bed, and wakes up the next morning … looking and feeling 20 years old. He’s dreaming, of course, but chooses to enjoy that.

Teen Skeezix, pointing out a car to Middle-Age Walt: 'Want to go for a ride in my new jalopy, Uncle Walt? Hop in!' Walt: 'Skeezix! You can't drive! You're just a baby! ... [ They're in the car, racing down the street ] Well, at least you were yesterday!' Skeezik: 'Baby? I'm 15 years old!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 31st of March, 2021. I liked this retrospective-in-a-dream frame. It excuses jumping to good parts without transition or explanation, for one. (And doing such a jump makes the dream more authentic.) And it lets a moment like this be a dialogue, usually more interesting.

He talks with Baby Skeezix. Relives going on the first drives with a 15-year-old Skeezix in a mid-30s jalopy. Waves Skeezix off to the Army, and back from World War II. And, while he’s feeling young, goes for a run. It’s a moment that touched me. I don’t yet have the experience of being old. But I did used to be quite fat. When I was losing that weight there was one day I realized I could go from walking quickly to running, and that the transition felt good, and the running felt good, and I imagine Walt’s dream felt like that. I hope everyone gets to experience that good feeling.

Adult Skeezix, hugging: 'Goodbye, Uncle Walt!' Walt: 'Where're you going Skeezix?' Skeezix, showing his ARMY shirt: 'Off to WWII! I enlisted!' Walt: 'Be careful! Don't worry! We win the war!' Skeezix: 'How do you know?' Walt: 'Been there! Done that!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 5th of April, 2021. “Oh, I’ve played like 300 crazy scenarios in Hearts of Iron III and, let me tell you, you have to seriously nerf the Allies to lose.”

But it is a dream, and only a dream. He wakes the next morning with the usual sorts of aches and indignities of age.


Walt wakes back up the 13th, has breakfast, and they discover they’re out of eggs. While Walt naps, Gert goes back to the store. She’s been trying to find a box of eggs without any cracked, without success. The egg delivery guy is handling the packages roughly. Also she sees Mim again, who’s there with Tim and contact lenses.

Next Week!

Hollywood glamor! Rappers! Childhood bullies! Homeowners Associations! Viral videos! It’s Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail, if all goes as planned. I still don’t know how Mark Trail didn’t get arrested after stealing that boat in Florida. Sorry.

Also, if you’re a little curious somebody built a Smokey Stover web site … I’d estimate in summer of 1997 … updated the copyright notice in 2003, and forgot about it ever since. So please enjoy some vintage comic strips on a very vintage web site. It’s got an image map for its front page, if you can imagine.

Tarzan comic strip ending syndication soon, also, Tarzan comic strip hadn’t ended syndication yet


D D Degg, at The Daily Cartoonist, reports the Tarzan comic strip is leaving syndication. Andrews McMeel Syndication is halting the strip the 20th of June, 2021. This is not so great a surprise. The Sunday Tarzan strip has been in reruns since the 19th of May, 2002. The daily strip has been in reruns since the 29th of July, 1972, and I keep having to go back and double-check that. That’s not just since before I was born, or before Hagar the Horrible first appeared. That’s more than half of the comic strip’s whole lifetime ago.

The Burroughs Estate points out that for nearly a decade now they’ve had a web comic version of Tarzan going, with Sunday-size panels. And that they hope to publish the web comic through Dark Horse.

Right now, GoComics.com has a pretty solid archive of Tarzan strips. It features the strips that have been rerun going back to 1996. I have no information what will happen to that after June. GoComics has been getting ruthless in culling comics — including purging archives — so if there’s any Tarzan stories you remember liking, and you have a GoComics subscription, I recommend going in and saving the image files now.

60s Popeye: Partial Post, featuring alien behavior and a flying saucer


1960’s Partial Post is a Gene Deitch cartoon, so that’s about all the credits we get for it. I’d love to tell you more.

So, this is a weird one. I mean weird even for a Gene Deitch cartoon. I like it, mind you. I won’t think ill of people who feel the story is gibberish. But the ridiculousness is so proudly worn that I can’t hold that against the cartoon. I mean, it’s about an alien mailbox stealing Olive Oyl’s rose and messing with Popeye’s head. I’ll give it a hearing.

This has me wondering about the origins and writing of the cartoon, although not quite enough to see if Gene Deitch’s web site said anything. A flying saucer cartoon makes sense, especially for 1960. The alien messing with Popeye and Olive Oyl is inevitable from that. Why is the alien a mailbox? Why is it grabbing random objects? But rejecting Popeye’s mail? It feels like a parody of something and I can’t think what.

Olive clasps her hands together and looks happily at Popeye, who's poking his head out of the Mailbox Alien.
Do you suppose Popeye wondered what the fire hydrant was doing in that mailbox with him?

There’s some alien behavior this short, and not all the Mailbox From Space. Popeye and Olive Oyl have a bunch of dialogue where they talk past one another, or past the scenario. Like, Olive Oyl says her rose is gone, and Popeye answers, “yeah, it’s real gone,” like he thinks he’s in a Beatnik cartoon. Or, as the Space Mailbox tries to inhale Olive Oyl, Popeye says, “That’s a pretty good trick, but I thought you wanted to go for a walk.” These are lines funny for being inappropriate to the scene. I like the comic style of characters talking past one another (see every episode of Vic And Sade). But again, I understand the viewer who keeps asking, “The heck am I watching?”. Popeye getting to Olive Oyl’s and saying how “the feeling is mucilage” is great, though.

As typical, Deitch animates cheaply but well. It starts with a good use of a long camera pan to simulate animation. If the aliens had any reason to send a mailbox, it must be that this is an easy figure to draw. There’s lots of shots of the characters looking funny. As far as I know there wasn’t any overlap in animators between this and Jay Ward studios. But they had a similar attitude that limited animation doesn’t justify drawing boring poses.

I won’t fight you if you don’t like this, but I’m happy with it.

Statistics Saturday: Some Needless Parts of my Brain


Pie chart with roughly equal slices for each of: "Part that builds elaborate fantasies of being awesome in committee hearings as state senator"; "Part that thinks ``Rain’’ is by the Kinks and not the Beatles"; "Part that remembers machine language code for the Commodore 64"; "Part that remembers the ``Lash Rambo’’ episode of The New WKRP In Cincinatti"; "Part that’s still relitigating that argument from 1991 about the undergraduate newspaper budget"; "Part that decides since I could do these tasks in this order I can’t do them in ANY OTHER ORDER even if that means wasting all day waiting for a tiny roadblock in doing the first thing"; "Part that wants to change lanes now for the turn that’s 15 miles away"; "Part that wants to make a roman-à-clef out of my unremarkable experiences on the undergraduate newspaper"
Not depicted: the part that wants to offer as a “fun fact” that for a short while the cities of Cincinatti and Detroit belonged to the same Hamilton County, Ohio Territory, even though while a fact this is not fun.

Reference: The Game Makers: The Story Of Parker Brothers From Tiddledy Winks To Trivial Pursuit, Philip E Orbanes.

60s Popeye: Coach Popeye, crowding on Gil Thorp by not teaching sports any


We’re back to a Jack Kinney-produced cartoon. It’s also Kinney’s story. The animation direction, though, is Volus Jones. The year is 1960 and the name of the short is Coach Popeye.

It’s a rare appearance of Olive Oyl’s niece Deezil Oyl! Deezil first appeared in the 1960s shorts and I’m not sure if she’s been promoted to the “real” comic strip. She got to be in the Popeye’s Cartoon Club feature that ran for a year, but that’s noncanonical.

Deezil’s not here for a deeper exploration of her character. She’s here because if Swee’Pea were throwing baseballs through the window on his own, he’d be a jerk. Instead they can just be kids playing. Popeye steps in to show the kids how to play properly, and Brutus interferes because he’s Brutus. The resulting cartoon is a weird one. The story feels developed well enough. But there’s also a lot of dead air between things happening. Maybe Jack Kinney was leaving space for the kids to finish laughing. I don’t think of other Kinney-produced cartoons having quite so much space between events, though.

I’ve been trying to figure what feels off about Popeye’s and Brutus’s dialogue. It feels, to me, written to be a bunch of wordplay jokes, whether or not they make sense. Like, consider the exchange where Brutus declares “I can do better’n that!”. Popeye answers, “Ya can’t, cause you’re a bully!” Brutus answers, “Bully for you too!” There’s no logic there, but I can absolutely imagine being seven and delighted by the shifting uses of “bully”. Brutus and Popeye then get into a back-and-forth of “Can!” “Can’t!” and I go back-and-forth on that myself. On one watching of this cartoon it struck me as what writers put in when they want a fight but haven’t got anything to fight about. On another watching, the rhythm and pointlessness of it was funny. So I’ll suppose Jack Kinney knew what he was doing and did it.

A dazed Brutus jumps rope while Popeye plays jacks.
Popeye playing jacks on the lawn implies he’s either really confident about his ball-bouncing skills or he has no idea what he’s doing.

A slightly odd moment is Popeye declaring, “Kids, this is the wrong way, but I gots to teach him a lesson” before eating his spinach. Popeye’s always held up spinach as a good thing everyone should eat more of. With that setup, though, it plays into treating spinach as an illicit advantage. I suppose that attitude was in the air. In the 60s we’d still get Underdog having his Proton Energy Pills and SuperChicken havin his super-sauce. But we’d be taking that sort of power-up out of children’s entertainment soon enough.

An unreservedly good bit here: Brutus declaring to the camera, “Gee! I didn’t count on this!” after Popeye eats his spinach. It’s the sort of absurd, facetious touch that I liked as a kid and still like today.

MiSTed: Eating For Death, Part 1 of 2


So I’m going to run another Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic here. This one’s short enough to do in two segments — it’s a bit long for a single piece — and it’s riffing on an article of dietary advice that the Modern Mechanix blog ran years ago. They used to run weird bits from the back issues of their magazines and it was such a delight. I wrote this somewhere around late 2015, if my notes are right. See if you can spot where I future-proofed a riff!


[ START. The Brains are in the theater. ]

>
> Eating for Death

TOM: My favorite _Columbo_ episode! Patrick McGoohan plays this world-famous chef being blackmailed and …

>
> By Bernarr Macfadden

CROW: Um …

TOM: Yeah, exactly which parts of that name are spelled wrong?

>
> _Physical Culture_, March 1922

MIKE: I forgot to renew my subscription!

>
> THE crime of the age is meal time eating — without
> appetite.

CROW: Also that Sacco and Vanzetti thing. But mostly eating.

TOM: Snacking is the misdemeanor of the age!

>
> It is the direct cause of more suffering,
> weakness and disease than any other evil.

CROW: Even more than not appreciating your parents?

>
> It poisons the life stream at its very source.

TOM: Its Snackables!

>
> “The blood is the life.”

MIKE: The spice is the life?

TOM: The blood is spiced?

> The quality of this
> liquid determines vital activity throughout every part of
> the body.

CROW: I think Bernarr Macfadden grossly underestimates the importance of acetylcholinesterase.

MIKE: You’re *always* accusing people of underestimating the importance of acetylcholinesterase.

CROW: I just think it’s very important is all.

>
> You can be a palpitating force, a veritable human
> dynamo,

TOM: You can be a large turtle-like artificial intelligence!

CROW: You can be a leading importer of cheese to Denmark!

MIKE: You can be several key innovations in the history of Timothy hay!

> or you can be a half-alive mass of human
> flesh — not unlike the jelly-fish.

CROW: Jellyfish are made of human flesh?

TOM: Ew ew ew ew ew ew *ew*.

> It is the quality of
> your blood that determines entirely to which class you
> belong.

CROW: Is this gonna be one of those stories where Bernarr Macfadden finds out his blood was replaced with a high-grade polymer and suddenly nobody will talk to him anymore?

>
> Eating without appetite means devitalized blood.

MIKE: Or that you’re putting more melted cheese on everything.

> The stomach is not ready to digest food at such times.

TOM: It’s off wandering around, taking in museums, reading good books, and then you throw a big slab of bean-and-cheese burrito at it.

>
> It is appetite — a strong craving for food —

CROW: A lesser craving for pottery shards.

> which
> definitely indicates that the stomach is ready for
> digestion.

TOM: Why not just wait for the stomach to call?

CROW: Yeah, like, ‘Hey, stomach here. I’m raring to digest!’

> The food eaten is then keenly enjoyed.

MIKE: Well, it is like 2016.

TOM: So?

MIKE: So who calls for *that*? That’s more like a tweet or a text message or something.

CROW: Excuse *us* for maintaining some dignified propriety, Mike.

>
> The pleasure in eating serves a very valuable
> purpose.

MIKE: It gives us a reason to go eat a second time, sometime.

> It not only causes an unusual activity of the
> salivary glands, but also of the glands of the stomach.

TOM: Glands! Is your stomach going through puberty?

CROW: It’s so awkward to have esophageal zits.

> So that when the food arrives in this organ, digestion
> and assimilation progress rapidly and satisfactorily.

MIKE: Though not without some sarcasm.

>
> Now when you eat without appetite, these
> invaluable functional processes are inactive or entirely
> absent

TOM: They take one sabbatical year and everything comes crashing down!

> and the food can do nothing but lie like lead in
> the stomach.

MIKE: Stop eating lead! There’s your problem.

>
> You say it won’t digest.

TOM: *You* say it won’t digest. We’re just nibbling some here.

> Why should it? No
> self-respecting stomach will allow itself to be outraged
> in this manner, without protest.

MIKE: My stomach’s wracked with depression and low self-esteem though.

CROW: Well, so you can eat any old time.

MIKE: Which … fits.

>
> Eat at meal time if you are hungry, but if the
> food has no taste respect the mandates of your stomach

MIKE: And sprinkle on the MSG powder.

> and wait until the next meal or until your appetite
> appears, even if it takes several meals or several days.

TOM: If you never eat again, then you may be losing weight.

[ To conclude … ]

60s Popeye: Psychiatricks, and I really want to believe something else


It’s another Seymour Kneitel festival today. He’s credited for the story, direction, and production of 1960’s Psychiatricks. So let’s watch.

This feels so much like a clip cartoon. Even more specifically, it feels like the Famous Studios clip cartoon Friend or Phony, where Bluto tricks Popeye into thinking spinach makes him a murderer. Things are gentler in this made-for-TV production. Here Brutus merely tricks Popeye into thinking spinach makes him reckless and violent.  This based on some incidents from childhood when there’s as many as 62 other Paramount Cartoon Studios shorts they could have used here.  Popeye throws his spinach away, Brutus starts clobbering him, Olive Oyl recovers the spinach, all ends well.  (Also, Olive Oyl says it’s Popeye’s brand of spinach.  Does she mean his preferred brand?  Or does she just mean any opened can of spinach that’s been warmed by contact to body temperature must be Popeye’s?)

You see why I think it’s a clip cartoon. It’s got an extended flashback to infant Popeye and Brutus fighting. Then another of young Popeye-and-Brutus fighting over Olive Oyl. What I can’t do is figure which cartoons these are excerpted from. I don’t recognize them. The Internet Movie Database offers no connections. And looking over the list of Paramount Cartoon Studios-produced shorts doesn’t suggest anything. If I’m overlooking a source I hope someone will say. Maybe I’ll notice in time.

Brutus, disguised as a psychiatrist, glares sinisterly and cups a hand to his chin. He seems ready to cackle.
He seems trustworthy.

I don’t understand the cartoon if it’s not. I admire when a production uses the frame of a clip show to present original material. It’s a clever manipulation of audience expectations. But I also know these cartoons were made without the time and budget for luxuries like fake clip shows. And these clips require a lot of work, with new models and new animation for the characters. They reused the footage of Popeye trotting along, blowing heart-shaped bubbles from his pipe. If they were going to blow the budget on this cartoon why make it look like a budget-saver?

There’s much I’d like to understand better about these cartoons’ making.

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? What was in Pouch’s blue balloon? January – April 2021


The blue balloon was something with a secret message that The Pouch was trying to send to an unknown party. We haven’t learned what the message was. Nor who was to receive it. Nor why they shot Pouch over a couple-day delay of it? For this story, at least, it’s a MacGuffin. I expect that it’ll come back later. Staton and Curtis have enjoyed planting things for use months or years later. (But, they have yet to follow up on whatever was haunting the Plenty household years ago, too.)

That what we do see of the message is a binary sequence suggests it could involve “Matty Squared”. This is a digitally uploaded former henchman of Mister Bribery. He was last seen in 2018, heading for “the server farms down south”, after the arrest of Mister Bribery’s gang. But that’s a guess.

So this post should catch you up to mid-April 2021 on Dick Tracy. If you’re reading this after about July 2021, or if there’s news about Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy there should be a more useful post here. Thanks for reading.

Dick Tracy.

24 January – 17 April 2021.

Aquarius and his drug-dealers in the 1312 Bedwell commune had captured Tiger Lilly. Lilly was there to retrieve a stolen blue balloon for information broker The Pouch. Aquarius, meanwhile, wanted to harass The Pouch for chasing away his dealers such as “Dollar” Bill Dolan. (Pouch’s cover is selling balloons at the zoo, and wants disreputable crime like drug dealing kept away from his scene.) The Pouch had, in fact, told Tiger Lilly to take care of Dollar Bill. Lilly did this by killing Dollar Bill and disposing of his body in the woods. I’m not sure if Aquarius knew or suspected that, though. But that’s where we were in January.

Organic farmer Tim Wildman, evicted from the Bedwell Commune a year ago, gives backstory. The Commune’s organizer, and mansion owner, is Peggy Bellum, paraplegic since a car accident three years ago. Her nephew Aquarius was doted on until the accident, which “changed” him, though he still tends his aunt. But the changes brought drug use, and dealing, into the Commune. Meanwhile, Peggy Bellum’s brother Stephan — handling her money — wants to sell the mansion for “development”, which she can’t refuse hard enough. Stephan tells that Aquarius is drug-dealing, a revelation that convinces Peggy her brother is lying to scare her into selling out. So that’s the people with money or property think about all this.

Dick Tracy: 'Wildman's statement seemed on the level to me. If what he says is true about Ms Bellum, it might be a case of disability abuse. Indeed, I think that's grounds for another visit to 1312 Bedwell.' Sam Catchem: 'Right! I'll get us some help. Catch you later, Tracy.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 5th of February, 2021. One weakness to the story is that it’s unclear what’s not suitable for Peggy Bellum here. I suppose that there’s drug users on the property but it’s not obvious to me that implies Bellum’s being ill-treated. But this may reflect a department, or character, assumption that any sign of drug use is proof of abuse.

Where did we get from there? Well, a bunch of parties pursued their own Brilliant Schemes at once. This all makes sense, but it did make the day-to-day action harder to follow.

First party: Tiger Lilly. The Bedford Commune drug dealers caught him and tossed him into the root cellar out back. Not the basement and I’ll explain why that matters. He’s able to break the ropes tying him down. And to break through a ceiling vent (the door is too solid), in front of the cops. I’ll explain why cops are there, too. He doesn’t know that Dick Tracy Jr’s trail cameras spotted his dumping of Dollar Bill’s body. Still, you see why he’d figure he should run. But has the bad luck to try carjacking the truck that B O and Gertie Plenty are canoodling in. So he’s arrested for involuntary manslaughter.

Dick Tracy: 'Say again, Gertie?' Gertie: 'We were sittin' in our truck on date night when that Tiger Lilly came out of nowhere! And then!' --- in loosely stylized panels B O kicks Tiger Lilly, grabs a tree branch, and whacks Lilly unconscious. B O Plenty: 'Yep, that's how I done it, Mr Macy!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 18th of March, 2021. Have to feel for Tiger Lilly, getting beat up in a stylized flashback like that.

Second party: Pouch. He wants that blue balloon back. He breaks into the basement — not the root cellar — planting a device to release mercaptan. The residents figure it’s a gas leak, and all evacuate. Cheesecake, Aquarius’s girlfriend or possibly wife, takes Peggy Bellum to a hotel to wait the trouble out. Pouch breaks in, finds the balloon, and has to hide while Dick Tracy’s gang searches the place. I’ll explain why they’re there later. But he succeeds, and turns the blue balloon over to his contact. His contact shoots him. This seems like an overreaction even to being days late on the delivery. But we don’t know what the message — seen in black light to be a string of binary digits — was about.

Park cops, driving around: 'Slow night and no sign of Pouch all afternoon.' 'It figures.' We see Pouch handing the Blue Balloon over to his contact. The contact shoots him. Park cops: 'One more tour around the park and we're done.' They spot the unconscious Pouch.
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 21st of March, 2021. The contact here also took Pouch’s money. He supposed it was further punishment for the delay getting the balloon delivered. I wonder if the contact didn’t just want it to look like a mugging. I suppose it depends whether the contact rifled Pouch’s wallet, a hard-cased thing that deflected the bullet.

Lucky for Pouch, his titanium wallet deflected the bullet, and park cops noticed and rushed him to the hospital. He won’t say anything about who shot him or why. Less lucky for him, he passes Tiger Lilly on the way out of the hospital. Lilly, reasonably but wrongly thinking Pouch left him for dead, slugs him. (Remember, Pouch couldn’t have seen Lilly, and had assumed Lilly had ditched him.)

Third party: Dick Tracy. He’s got the corpse of Bill Dolan. He and Sam Catchem suspect a link with 1312 Bedwell, since look at those numbers. But the only tie they can find is Tim Wildman. He’s an organic farmer who gave Catchem the tip that the Bedwell Commune was even in this story. He’s glad to give them backstory about the Commune and his eviction from it. Tracy figures there’s at least enough to do a wellness check, in case there’s any abuse of a disabled person going on. And a stray witness is able to tell Tracy and Catchem that Pouch is in this story too, so they hope to interrogate him.

Tracy arrives at 1312 Bedwell with the representative from Child and Family Services. In case you wonder why marginalized people will refuse the civil benefits to which they’re entitled for their protection. They all get there as Tiger Lilly escapes the root cellar. Also, by coincidence, shortly after Pouch sets off his mercaptan bomb.

Family and Child Services investigator: 'From what I've seen today, if Peggy Bellum is living here, she shouldn't be.' Pouch, hiding in a dumbwaiter, thinking: 'Lousy cops! LEAVE already! I'm dyin' here!' Investigator: 'The DFCS will be in touch. I'll go make my report.' Dick Tracy: 'Alright. Thanks, Ms Han.' In the root cellar, Tiger Lilly jabs at the ceiling and thinks: 'That door was rock solid, but this old vent was easy to break through!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 12th of March, 2021. Oh, using the dumbwaiter. OK, great plan but letting everyone else on the expansion set to Betrayal at the House on the Hill know; the dumbwaiters connect you to the next landing one floor up or down. They don’t connect to other dumbwaiter rooms. I know, it’s not what we expected either and we kept making that mistake.

So. Pouch is able to hide from the cops, and gets to his appointment to be shot. Tiger Lilly escapes his confinement, only to get clobbered by B O and Gertie Plenty and arrested. Ty, the drug dealer who took up Dollar Bill’s beat, comes back to the house in time to get arrested. And while they’ll get to interrogate Pouch in the hospital, he won’t say anything about anything.

Fourth party: Oscar Grubbard. I know, who? I’m not positive, but he seems to be working for Peggy Bellum’s brother Stephan. But after Stephan tells Peggy about Aquarius’s drug-dealing she fires him. This as he’s bringing tea to her. My best guess is he’s meant to be Stephan’s caretaker for Peggy?

Anyway, with Peggy declaring she’ll revoke the power of attorney given Stephan, Grubbard acts. This in drugging Peggy Bellum (and incidentally Cheesecake). His brilliant plan: smother Peggy Bellum, let Stephan inherit all the money, and then abscond with the money to Bogota. It feels like an improvised execution. Aquarius’s unexpected visit to his aunt foils it, starting a fight that Tracy and company are luckily on hand to interrupt.

Oscar Grubbard, holding a pillow over Peggy Bellum: 'I had a more leisurely exit planned, but you forced my hand, with your threats of investigation, old hag. In time, Mr Bellum will see it was for the best. In a few minutes, he'll have the family fortune. His drug-dealing son will be in jail within the week, and I'll be in Bogota.' [ Elsewhere ] Aquarius rides the elevator up to Peggy Bellum's room.
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 3rd of April, 2021. I guess Grubbard doesn’t quite say he’s going to make off with the Bellum fortune, but it would be odd for him to kill Peggy Bellum and flee to Bogota without it. But Grubbard here is an embezzler, so maybe he’s overestimating his skills at opportunistic murder.

So this gets things resolved as well as they could. Tiger Lilly’s arrested for manslaughter. The cops would like to ask Pouch about his “I am innocent of the crimes you are investigating” T-shirt but he refers them to his T-shirt. Oscar Grubbard’s arrested for assault and attempted murder. Most of the 1312 Bedwell residents get charged with drug possession or trafficking. Aquarius also gets a false imprisonment charge. The strip doesn’t specify if this means imprisoning Tiger Lilly or imprisoning Peggy Bellum. Peggy Bellum donates the house “to charity”, and moves in with Tim Wildman.

I’m sympathetic to people who didn’t follow the story as it unfolded. There are a lot of threads, and they were woven together. And the plans of some parties interrupted plans of others. If you have a GoComics membership I recommend going back and rereading it all at once, though. The pieces do fit together well. It’s easy to imagine this as a competing-capers-gone-wrong movie.


So the 11th of April finished off that story. The current story began last week, the 12th of April. Abner Kadaver, back from the dead, breaks his accomplice Vera Alldid out of jail. That’s as much as I can tell you now.

Next Week!

Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley did nothing for the centennial of Walt Wallet discovering Skeezix! Has the strip recovered from this strange anti-nostalgic blow? If all goes well next week we’ll see what the Wallet family has been doing.

60s Popeye: The Spinach Scholar, by Seymour Kneitel and a bunch of Bazooka Joe wrappers


It’s a 1960 cartoon, it’s from Paramount Cartoon Studios. Of course it’s produced by Seymour Kneitel. And directed by Seymour Kneitel. And you know where the story’s coming from. Let’s watch The Spinach Scholar.

The cartoon starts again with Popeye’s full-length scat intro. It feels like padding, although there’s funny pictures to spruce it up. Popeye leaving a trail of heart-shaped bubbles behind, particularly. But also his oblivious walking through danger. He rings the doorbell several times, the last time accidentally hitting Olive Oyl’s nose, a joke he’s done in the theatrical cartoons since … not sure. The black-and-white days, anyway.

The premise is Olive Oyl wants Popeye to get an education. (Olive Oyl hasn’t got whites to her eyes, most of the time, only pupils.) So he goes to elementary school. The principal, Jack Mercer trying to do a voice that isn’t exactly Wimpy, puts him in eighth grade. (One teacher meanwhile appears to be an off-model Olive Oyl.) What follows is a string of scenes where the teacher asks a question and Popeye gives a silly answer. The class laughs, and he gets put into a lower grade to try again.

Popeye sits at a schooldesk too small for him. He's waving both hands and puffing smoke from his pipe, eager to answer the teacher.
Speaking as someone who’s taught, I’d take the enthusiastic-but-wrong Popeye. It brings energy to class and makes it easier for other people to speak.

It’s all competently done stuff. And we do see Popeye finally growing reluctant to say the first thing that pops into his head. This can’t save him from being called on and humiliated. The plot requires that, yes. It does add a dose of the inescapable nightmare to things. But it’s too gentle a cartoon to feel like a nightmare. And there’s some fun understated jokes of Popeye fitting into ever-smaller desks. Also the way he expresses his shame with his head morphing into a dumbbell or shrinking or such. Still, this is very much an okay cartoon.

60s Popeye: Jack Kinneys’s Popeye’s Folly


We’re at the Jack Kinney studios in 1960 today. The story’s by Raymond Jacobs and animation direction by Volus Jones and Ed Friedman. Please enjoy Popeye’s Folly.

It’s another cartoon with the Popeye-tells-Swee’pea-a-story frame. The device excuses setting a cartoon anywhere, anytime. It also excuses skipping any boring scenes. I was impressed that Popeye explained that Robert Fulton’s Clermont was “one of the first” steamboats ever built. It’s almost impossible to correctly dub the first of anything historic. So, points for precision to Raymond Jacobs. (And I’m not deducting points for calling the boat the “Clermont”, when Fulton called it the “North River Steamboat”. Clermont is a name — really, the name — by which it’s known.)

I like the setup for this, a story of Popeye’s great-(etc)-grandfathers, Popeye and Pappy, building their own steamboat. And facing down Brutus and Sea Hag, who’re trying to protect their own sailing ship interests. It’s a natural conflict, and it justifies ending things in a contest, a reliable conflict.

Much of the start is Popeye and Grandpappy trying to build a steamship at all. I could watch more of that. Yes, I’m a history-of-technology nerd. But there’s good jokes to make from struggling to invent a thing. The only scene that gets at that is the second attempt at a boat. The one that either Pappy or Popeye forgets to untie from the dock, and that rips apart. An engine that’s too much for the boat is a plausible enough problem. Forgetting to untie the ship seems like a terrible mistake for a family of sailors.

Or they’re not good sailors. In the contest, for example, their steamship almost immediately runs out of coal, as though Popeye didn’t know it was needed? Chopping up the vessel to keep it going has a long history in comedy, but it’s normally set up why they’re out of fuel. It suggests that Brutus and Sea Hag don’t need to sabotage them.

So the plot suffers from this sloppiness. It has some lovely touches, though, particularly in the dialogue. Take Brutus sneering, “Imagine building a ship to use legs when we’ve already got wings”. It’s poetic enough to have confused me about what the legs were. Or sneering that Popeye’s “engine is louder than the whistle”. Which is another insult I don’t quite understand, but never mind. (Also Popeye ends up with an engine that’s very quiet, like the sound was mixed wrong.) Or the Sea Hag speaking of the steamboat as “sailing along like the devil was a-pushing it”. During the race, there’s a nice bit showing Brutus’s ship from the front, the riverbanks receding behind him. Brutus chuckles, “With the Blackhawk wearing her Sunday best and a stiff breeze I can’t lose.” It’s again a more poetic way of describing Brutus’s thoughts. It also trusts that the audience spotted the name of his ship, or could work it out from context.

There’s even a moment of deft plotting. It’s only in setting up the contest that we get a specific reason for Brutus and Sea Hag to want to sabotage Popeye and Pappy. They’re protecting their sailing business. It’s a stronger motive than Brutus and Sea Hag being jerks.

Were I to rewrite the cartoon, the important change I’d make is swapping the first two boat failures. Popeye and Pappy making a boat that tears itself apart, to start. (And find a better reason than “forgot to untie it”.) Then Sea Hag can sabotage the next, when the boat could be competition.

Statistics Saturday: The Episode Title Trajectory of your Favorite _Cheers_ Podcast


  • Episode 1: Where Everybody Knows Your Name
  • Episode 3: Two American Kids Growin’ Up in the Heartland
  • Episode 6: Crane Spotting
  • Episode 8: That Harry Anderson, he’s going to be Dave Barry someday
  • Episode 12: Janeway or Saavik or Pulaski or Whatever Star Trek Dame Sam’s Dating THIS TIME
  • Episode 15: Can a Cat Be Said to Have “Slept In”?
  • Episode 18: Wait, Have We All Lost a Fiancee to a Freak Zamboni Accident?
  • Episode 20: That’s a Good Price for Adequate Bread
  • Episode 24: Speedrunning Dutch
  • Episode 27: Glorple Globble Globble Gleeple
  • Episode 31: Officially the Internet’s Third-Best The Art Of Being Nick Podcast
  • Episode 36: Snorses! Snorses Everywhere!
  • Episode 40: No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.
  • Episode 48: The Important Thing Is YEEAARRAARRRRAAUUGH
  • Episode 52: Our Episode 50 Superspectacular

Reference: Bottom of the Ninth: Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the Daring Scheme to Save Baseball From Itself, Michael Shapiro.

In Which I Wish to Blame This on the Synthesizer but It Was Really Just Me


Sorry, was just thinking about how I spent all my elementary and middle and high school education in special magnet programs for the unusually special-magnet-program-bound, and yet it took me like three years to realize that G.I.Joe nemesis Cobra Commander and the same voice as the Starscream the Transformer.

MiSTed: Brad Guth’s _Venus for Dummies_, Part 3 of 3


And now we come to the end of this Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction I’d written in 2012. One may ask whether it’s fair or right to mock someone’s difficult-to-follow conspiracy theory about the space program. One may also ask, well, what else are you going to do? It’s a fair question. Another fair question: what am I going to do next week? I don’t know, but I’m eager to find out myself. The reference at the end to my own Still-Store web site is to a project I’d had, to make a MiSTing archive, which reached the point that I finished all the really hard programming problems and then never found the energy to actually complete. Good use of time there. Well, it accomplished something, anyway: the tools I use to give the MiSTing a nice style here are ones I developed for that web site project.

If you want to catch up on how we got here, here was Part 1 of the MiSTing and here was Part 2 of Venus For Dummies. And now, the conclusion.


> do reconsider
> as to bothering yourself to take another subjective look-see

CROW: Call ahead! It’d be embarrassing if Venus were out when you get there.

> and then
> honestly interpret this thick and dense atmospheric insulated terrain
> for yourself,

TOM: But ask for help understanding the dirty jokes in the Malagasy Orogeny.

> as to what some of those highly unusual patterns could
> possibly represent, as anything other than the random geology
> happenstance of hot rocks.

CROW: I see a bunny.

JOEL: I see a painting by Thomas Eakins.

>
> =93Guth Venus=94 1:1, plus 10x resample/enlargement of the area in
> question:

TOM: Are we to suppose this is some “magic late-bombardment protoplanet”?

> https://picasaweb.google.com/102736204560337818634/BradGuth#slideshow/5629579402364691314
>

JOEL: The picture is nice enough but I like seeing all those 3’s up there.

> This is not to say that 99.9999% of this Venus surface doesn’t look
> perfectly natural (at least it does to me),

CROW: And I’ve been looking at things for *years*!

> just like the surface of
> Earth might look if having to use the exact same SAR-C imaging methods

TOM: The same saucy imaging methods? Wow!

> and its limited resolution that could be easily improved upon by any
> new missions for mapping Venus in greater detail (such as 7.5 meters/
> pixel).

CROW: Oh, we’d just run out of pixels at that rate.

> After all, a millionth of that hot Venus surface area is
> still 4.6e8 m2, or 460 km2,

TOM: Or sixty barleycorns, two pottles, and half a Lords-Whacking-Stick!

> and this most complex area of =93Guth
> Venus=94 (100 x 100 pixels or 506 km2

CROW: 485 if you use coupon code GUTHVENUS!

> ) that which includes mostly
> natural geology, isn’t involving but a fraction more than a millionth
> of the Venus surface area,

JOEL: It all adds up to three squintillionths of a Venusian barleycorn!

> and yet it seems as though highly developed
> and to a large enough scale that makes for deductively interpreting
> those patterns

JOEL: Socrates is a mortal.

TOM: Pants are rarely worn on the head.

CROW: A person with plenty of time need not run for the train.

TOM: Oranges are not sharp metal instruments.

JOEL: Therefore, Socrates is being chased by a tiger!

> as rather easy and reliably pixel truthworthy items
> that do in fact exist because the image resampling process isn’t even
> capable of artificially creating them.

TOM: Iron-clad proof! These pictures are impossible to make!

>
> It can also be suggested and reasonably argued that initially (4+
> billion years ago)

JOEL: Actually it was 3.95 billion years ago. It just aged badly.

> our sun was 25% cooler than nowadays (possibly a
> third cooler),

CROW: Back when it wore those hipster glasses.

TOM: Hipster sunglasses.

> thereby making Venus quite Goldilocks approved even if
> she was naked and totally dumbfounded.

JOEL: Didn’t Theodore Sturgeon write this story?

> But even this cool beginning
> still doesn’t fully explain as to why such a large and complex
> geometric sale of a structured community

CROW: Featuring a golf course, a security booth, and a clubhouse!

> or mining operation was
> established,

TOM: Well, what’s mine is mine.

JOEL: Or Daffy Duck’s.

> and as to why Venus has been radiating such a large
> amount of its geothermal core energy

CROW: Maybe it’s trying to keep power the Autobots?

> plus having been creating all of
> that unprotected atmosphere that should have been extensively solar
> wind blown away as of more than a billion years ago,

CROW: Except Venus’s Mom made it wear a sensible woolen cap!

> whereas instead
> there’s more than enough new atmosphere created to make up for the
> lack of having a protective geomagnetosphere.

JOEL: An over-protective geomagnetosphere. It makes Venus call home every like ten minutes.

>
> BTW; there’s terrestrial objective proof that life even as we know
> it can adjust or acclimate to extreme pressures and even tolerate much
> higher temperatures,

TOM: What Guth means is, squirrels know how to work the thermostat.

> and yet lo and behold there’s still no American
> flags on Venus,

CROW: But there’s the flag of Burkina Faso on Neptune. Go figure.

> but there have been USSR/Russian flags on multiple
> landers that got there decades before us.

TOM: To be fair, the flag of Venus is all over Italy.

JOEL: Oh yeah.

> So, perhaps we’ll have to
> accept that Venus and all of its natural resources belongs to Russia.

CROW: Giving Russia a huge lead in the uninhabitable wasteland race.

> Otherwise NOVA as having been owned by Google could help all of us
> better understand and appreciate what the extremely nearby planet
> Venus has to offer, but only if they wanted to.

JOEL: Google is figuring they can use Venus to store Usenet.

> Obviously our NASA
> has been avoiding this extremely nearby planet,

TOM: They’re playing hard-to-get so Venus will be interested in NASA.

> perhaps because our
> expertise and talent for getting active probes to survive with that
> atmosphere is simply less than what Russians have accomplished.

CROW: Like crashing into Venus and melting.

>
> http://groups.google.com/groups/search
> http://translate.google.com/#

TOM: GuthVenus was tried in the fourth district court, county of Los Angeles. In a moment, the results of that trial.

CROW: [ Chanting the Dragnet theme ] Dun-dah-dun-dun.

> Brad Guth,Brad_Guth,Brad.Guth,BradGuth,BG,Guth Usenet/=94Guth Venus=94

TOM: GuthVenus was convicted of existing and sentenced to not more than twenty Venusian days of hard labor and between three and seven Latin pedants arguing about what its adjective should be.

CROW: [ Chanting the Dragnet theme ] Dun-dah-dun-dun-DAAAAAH.

JOEL: Well, nice seeing everyone again.

TOM: Yeah, let’s blow this popsicle stand.

[ ALL file out. ]

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is the creation and the property of Best Brains. Brad Guth and Guth Venus are the creation and property of Brad Guth, and I certainly don’t mean to take over any of that. This fan fiction was created by Joseph Nebus, and should not be taken internally except as ordered by a Venusian. My little Still-Store web site will be back up and running soon with all sorts of new behind-the-scenes coding that petty Venusian minds could not begin to comprehend.

           |   
         \ | /
          \|/
        ---O---
          /|\
         / | \
           |  

Keep riffing the posts.

> honestly interpret this thick and dense atmospheric insulated terrain
> for yourself, as to what some of those highly unusual patterns could
> possibly represent, as anything other than the random geology
> happenstance of hot rocks.

Mark Trail is 75 Years Old


Thursday marks the 75th anniversary of the debut of Mark Trail this week. So, uh, Dad, I hope you do something special and maybe wave to the alligators. (Dad lives in South Carolina.)

I don’t remember the comic making a particular impression on me, as a kid. It was buried in the impenetrable dark column of story strips, on the left side of the first page of the Star-Ledger’s pages. I bet I looked at it because animal pictures were always interesting, but I didn’t know how to read a story strip to understand the goings-on. I didn’t really start paying attention until joining rec.arts.comics.strips. Having a group to read the comics with does a lot to encourage reading more comics. And Mark Trail offered a lot of chances to read. One could enjoy reading an action-adventure story and snarking on an action-adventure story. Sometimes for odd writing choices, especially in how to emphasize words. (Story strips, like older comic books, keep a convention of using bold for key words rather than to suggest line readings.)

Mark Trail at 75. Mark Trail pointing to a cartoonist: 'With 75 years on the trail coming up, we honor the main who started it all ... the original creator of Mark Trail, Ed Dodd! Edward Benton Dodd was born in Lafayette, Georgia, where nature would define his whole life. At 16, he began working for artist and woodsman Dan Beard in his camp for boys. Ed started waiting tables, but worked his way up to camp director, all while training how to draw wildlife with Dan. Ed Dodd went on to create nature comics as a means of educating others about nature conservation and wilderness survival. He launched his greated creation on April 15th, 1946 ... Mark Trail! Mark has gone on to appear in books radio dramas and, of course, 75 years of comic strips! Thanks to Ed Dodd, Mark Trail has become an icon for nature, environmentalism, and science. Here's to another 75!
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 11th of April, 2021. I don’t know whether the plan is to have a page honoring Jack Elrod or James Allen to follow. I also don’t know whether the daily strip for the 15th will mention the day, but we’ll know within four hours of this posting.

The strip’s become a more important part of my life. Partly because I’ve shifted my snark from being the goal to being the side effect. Partly because I’m writing these plot recaps and have finally learned how to read story comics. (Reading three months’ worth in one day makes the plot much clearer.) Partly because people want to know why I’m not mad at the comic strip for changing. I have been mad at comic strips before, not all of them by Tom Batiuk. Even once at the Jack Elrod-era Mark Trail. I just don’t have it in me to be at a comic strip for not being the comic strip I used to read. And I’m glad to have the comic still in production. It would have been easy to lose the comic altogether.

My schedule puts the next Mark Trail plot recap at about the 4th of May. In the meanwhile, I hope you’re enjoying the strip at all. The Daily Cartoonist has early promotional materials and the strips that ran on the 25th and 50th anniversaries, It also has some discussion of the history of the strip. And I’m aware that the HobbyDrama Reddit has a discussion of the unfortunate James Allen trouble. I’m aware of this because the post links to one of my images and so I got about 300 billion views with no readers. But it’s kind of my thing to go anonymously noticed.

If you prefer the miscellaneous, here are several dozen episodes of the early-50s Mark Trail radio series. I have not listened to more than a handful of these, so I’m afraid I can’t guide you to the good ones. There was also a Mark Trail comic book in the 1950s, but I’m aware of only one issue that’s in the public domain and uploaded for your convenient reading.

So I hope you all enjoy the day and take the chance to punch a smuggler or poacher in the beard.

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? Why send assassins after Rory Red Hood? January – April 2021


Lockbramble’s a small fiefdom in the north of King Arthur’s England. Its Lord is an amiable figurehead, happy to let the lands run as a self-governing community. This because he doesn’t want to do stuff, which, relatable. Also because Rory Red Hood, the spearhead of this movement, is really good at management. Camelot is willing to overlook all this irregularity, because Sir Gawain rather fancies Rory. Also she’s making a lot of money. But other lords, who are not getting money from all this, disagree.

So this should catch you up to mid-April 2021 in Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant. If any news about the strip breaks out, or if you want the plot after about July 2021, a more useful post may be here. And, if you like to read about mathematics in the comic strips, you might find something fun in my other blog. Thanks for considering it.

Prince Valiant.

17 January – 11 April 2021.

Prince Valiant and Sir Gawain were off in Lockbramble. Lord Hallam, of neighboring Wedmarsh, had sent bandits after Rory Red Hood. They’re not very effective. Durward, one of the bandits, was doing so under duress and he’s happy to move to Lockbramble if his family is safe. Valiant and Gawain are game for an evacuation/escort mission.

Wedmarsh’s Captain of the Guard catches them immediately. But they have a good lie to protect them. They assert that Durwood attacked their royal party, and though they slew him, the laws of Camelot give them rights to claim his family. Wedmarsh figures this sounds plausible so, what the heck. Durward and family are ultimately delighted. And Rory, speaking for Lockbramble, is too. Lockbramble’s prospering, but prosperity comes from people. So why not invite everyone who’s unhappy with their lot in life?

When it becomes obvious that they are all losing a steady stream of serfs, the lords Kennard of Greystream and Ravinger of Barrenburn come to Hallam of Wedmarsh to discuss the crippling loss of their labor force, and to determine a solution. Using the only means that occurs to their limited imaginations, the three brothers collect information from those serfs captured in attempts to flee [ the means are torture ]. They learn that their human property is fleeing to neighboring Lockbramble following word that all would be welcomed as equals in Rory Red Hood's propserous fields. The tortured souls tell also of a ragged horseman who fights as fiercely as a knight, saving many from capture and return. The three brother thanes are outraged. 'Rory Red Hood is urging and abetting our property to abandon its service to its rightful masters!' And, listening closely, Hallam's Captain of the Guard reflects on a recent incident concerning two knights of Camelot, who came to Wedmarsh to claim serfs as compensation. Coincidence, or ... ?
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 14th of Februarys, 2021. I have to suppose that when you become the lord of Greystream or Barrenburn you go in figuring it’s not the best farmland in England but, still. Lockbramble’s very fortunate to have been having the right amount of rain the last couple years.

And the answer is that serfs ditching bad rulers for good rather annoys their bad rulers. The surrounding fiefs figure they can use law too, and demand a knight’s contest of champions. After all, they can pay a great outlaw knight to fight for them, while Lockbramble only has … at least two of Camelot’s knights. How can Lockbramble hope to win?

So it’s Sir Peredur the Rover against Sir Gawain. Peredur comes with a reputation. The reputation’s of betraying Castle Beringar to the Saxons, a mark of his deviousness and treachery.

With great fanfare, the contest of champions - Lockbramble versus Wedmarsh, Greystream and Barrenburn - begins! At the last moment, Rory gifts her champion with a token of her devotion ... and the joust begins, with Peredur thundering over the gaming field to meet Gawain midway! The oncoming horses barely miss one another, as Gawain's lance shattered against Peredur's shield, and Peredur's lance, with its hidden iron core, tears a great chunk out of Gawain's buckler! The agreed-upon terms of combat are that judgement will not be rendered until one champion cannot continue. It looks to be a long, bitter trial ...
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 4th of April, 2021. I think this is the first time in my plot recapping that we’ve had an actual honest-to-goodness joust in Prince Valiant. And yet I never hear comments complaining that Prince Valiant isn’t being done right anymore.

Peredur wins the first round, thanks to some luck and a hidden iron core to his lance. Gawain’s a bit better-prepared for the second round, which ends up a tie. Meanwhile, Valiant follows some of Lord Hallam’s henchmen.

And that’s where we rest at the middle of April, 2021.

Next Week!

Hippies! A coded All-Cops-Are-Bastards reference! Gas leaks! The Pouch! What more could you want in a story? Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy gets some attention next week, if my plans hold up. I’ll let you know.

60s Popeye: Wimpy’s Lunch Wagon so why is it about Popeye?


We have seen the name W Schmidt before. He was credited or co-credited for the story for Popeye the Popular Mechanic, for Popeye the Piano Mover, and Popeye the White Collar Man. The Internet Movie Database also credits him for the story for Popeye the Fireman, though the title card says otherwise. Given that pedigree it’s odd to see a cartoon suggesting Wimpy gets a job instead. Volus Jones gets the animation direction credit, and Jack Kinney produced. Here’s the 1960 sort Wimpy’s Lunch Wagon.

Why is Wimpy in this? I trust Wimpy enjoys rare expertise in the eating arts. But in cooking? Why not Rough House, who does run a cafe, and who in the 1960s was finally allowed into animation? It’s got me wondering which studios got to use which minor Thimble Theatre characters, although it’s far too late for me to start tracking that. All the character does is leave Popeye in charge, and then come back to see the aftermath of the chaos. That doesn’t have to be the more familiar Wimpy.

But also, why does Popeye need an excuse to be in charge of something? W Schmidt was comfortable giving Popeye jobs like piano-mover or fireman without explaining how he got there. Why not short-order cook too? It would make more sense out of pleasant little jokes like Popeye observing how the newspaper guy never misses.

In the kitchen, Brutus laughs at Popeye, who's fallen and is covered by a set of pots and pans and strainers and such. Popeye's oversized spinach hoagie sits on a table.
My friends with kitchen jobs tell me it’s like this all the time.

The conflict, once it starts, is Brutus pushing a juke box into the restaurant and shoving the organ-grinder (and monkey) out. This is surprisingly realistic, given how vicious the coin-op business could be back in the day. Popeye’s lucky not to have got shoved into a pinball machine. Brutus moves in, to “protect me business interests”, and we get a quick version of the Brutus-grabs-Olive-Oyl, Popeye-rescues-her storyline. It’s all ordinary enough, but well done and nicely decorated. There’s fun bits like Olive Oyl calling “save me, sir knight!” to a Popeye covered in tin pans. Or Olive Oyl answering Popeye “we’re out of duck … oh, that kind!” when she has to dodge. I don’t have any serious complaints about any of this; it does its business well. I just don’t see what Wimpy adds to the events, besides a punch line that everybody forgot the organ-grinder.