What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Why does everybody want Wilbur dead? October 2021 – January 2022


Wilbur Weston has been, the past couple months of Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth, a Nice Guy. That is, he’s been one of those guys so sure that he’s lovable he’s failing to give the target of his affection reasons to put up with him. Not since the faltering days of For Better Or For Worse, when Granthony whined to Liz “I have no hoooooome”, has a character been quite this punchable. I mean besides Funky Winkerbean’s Les Moore, who’s in a class by himself because everybody you might put him with punches him and leaves.

But supporting him this way has been Mary Worth herself, who keeps telling Estelle, and the reader, that Wilbur has his flaws but has a good heart. Which, fine, but you can say that about almost everyone. Most of us know not to crash someone else’s date with passive-aggressive karaoke fighting.

That I write of “passive-aggressive karaoke fighting” lets you know this has been a glorious couple months for Mary Worth. Soap operas do well when they have emotions out of all proportion and leading to bad decisions with huge consequences. So this has been, culminating with a drunken Wilbur falling off the side of a cruise ship and washing up on an unknown shore.

So this should get you up to speed for mid-January 2022 in Mary Worth. If you’re reading this after about April 2022, a more recent plot recap should be at this link. Now let’s see why everybody wants Wilbur Weston to die already.

Mary Worth.

24 October 2021 – 16 January 2022.

After a humiliating date in which he called Carol “Estelle”, Wilbur agreed he’s nowhere near over his ex. He brings Estelle some take-out, confirming that she’s had enough of this. She appreciates the gesture of food, though, and the chance to meet his dog Pierre. Wilbur adopted the dog figuring it’d be a good way to meet women, without ever considering whether he knew a thing about dogs. Pierre likes her, and her cat Libby, more than he likes Wilbur.

Mary Worth tries consoling Wilbur by going with him to a karaoke bar. There, he sees Estelle and her date (her cat’s veterinarian). He can’t see a good reason not to sing a heartbreak song about how could she leave him alone. Wilbur’s day job, by the way, is syndicated newspaper advice columnist. It’s an irony not touched at all in the text. Estelle takes up the battle, singing Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”. He responds in kind. It makes a night so exquisite in its awkwardness the audience discovers four new dimensions of spacetime just to have places to look away to. Her date chews his own head off to escape.

[ When Wilbur sees Estelle with her date at karaoke, he engages in an angry sing-off with her ... ] Wilbur, singing: 'You told me you loved me ... why'd you leave me all alone?' Estelle, singing: 'We are never, ever, ever getting back together!' Wilbur: 'Now you're just somebody that I used to know!' Estelle: 'I'm going to wash that man right outta my hair!' Wilbur: 'We could have had it a-allll!' Mary Worth, thinking; 'Sigh! They seem to have unfinished business!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 14th of November, 2021. I mean jeez, Mary Worth, ya think? (I know, I know, it’s the reaction that Moy and Brigman want. I’m not embarrasse that they got it from me.)

The next day Wilbur apologizes to Estelle. And admits how he has no hoooooome and his dog doesn’t like him, so, would he want to take Pierre? She does. He goes off, feeling miserable, and buys some fish that he names Willa and Stellah. And — look, everybody has a right to mope and to self-pity and to putter around telling themselves how the world’s picking on them. That’s fine. But it’s hard for the reader not to notice that Wilbur fought pretty hard to get himself into this fix.

Mary Worth, meanwhile, visits Estelle to sing Wilbur’s praises. Estelle concedes that Wilbur has considerable good sides. We the readers haven’t seen much of this. But there is evidence of it. He likes doing interesting things. He’s able to keep a writing job in this economy. He’s got a writing job where they pay for him to travel around the world. When we see him on a successful date, it’s always, like, him and his partner singing. That is, doing something together without fear of embarrassment and without either person having to be center stage. This might not convince you. But every text asks you to accept there’s more stuff going on than it can show. And this does give a prima facie case for Wilbur as someone you might enjoy hanging out with.

Thing is, Wilbur provoked their breakup because he couldn’t stand the cat meowing along while he sang. And ignored Estelle’s pleas by locking the cat out of the room. He wouldn’t accept that they won’t sing a recording-studio-quality rendition of “Thank You For Being A Friend”. He adopted a dog figuring hey, dogs are chick magnets. And when he did attract a woman, he talked to her about Estelle until she fled. And then picked a passive-aggressive karaoke fight. At least he wasn’t embarrassingly drunk this time, but, he’s done that to Estelle in the past.

Mary Worth, baking muffins and thinking: 'Wilbur's a good guy. He's not Mr Suave ... he's more of a 'diamond in the rough'! And although some may say 'too much rough' and 'not enough diamond', there's *someone* for *everyone*! Perhaps Estelle is that someone ... '
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 24th of November, 2021. Putting aside the [ citation needed ] tags here … one thing prominently missing in the story is Mary Worth learning how Estelle feels about Wilbur’s “roughness”. Estelle admits to missing him, and that she can “be myself around him”. But Mary Worth never seems to ask whether that’s enough reason for them to be together when, I mean, look at the mess Wilbur made because the cat was meowing too much.

So this inspired the question: does Mary Worth know how bad Wilbur can be? Mary Worth giving advice that turns bad seems to have great story potential. But she was at the karaoke fight. She has to know if he’s a work in progress, the progress is going like the Second Avenue Subway did.

Estelle meets up with Wilbur while walking her pets. They agree they miss each other, and Wilbur promises to try harder to get along with Libby. And to make it up to her. They get together and Wilbur brings a chew toy for Pierre, and is actually nice to Libby. So it may have been a lot of needless pain getting here, but he is at least being a better person.

Wilbur suggests they take a three-day cruise together, and Estelle is up for it. They leave their cat and dog with Mary Worth. (Mary Worth will do anything except marry Dr Jeff to help people take CRUISE SHIPS into their lives.) And we see today-the-18th that she’s also feeding Wilbur’s fish. I know just enough about fish to know a tank as small as he has is going to need regular water checking and changing, though I grant that’s hard to make visual.

Mary Worth takes the week before Christmas to congratulate herself for shoving these two together. She has a good time walking Pierre and Libby. In what we readers now realize was irony, she almost wishes Estelle and Wilbur would extend their cruise.

[ As Estelle and Wilbur enjoy their cruise ... ] Estelle: 'Dinner was *so good* tonight!' Wilbur: 'It was fantastic! And so are you! Stell, honey, I love you! Will you marry me?' Estelle: '!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 3rd of January, 2022. It is so hard to believe Wilbur isn’t a person who’ll put fifty cents in the “Smash Your Head With This Clown Hammer That You Can See Hanging Above You” vending machine a second time.

On the cruise, Wilbur asks Estelle to marry him. He can’t see any reason for them to wait. She can’t see any reason for them not to wait. Wilbur storms off to get drunk. In that state, he falls off the ship, and King Features Syndicate opens an RIP Wilbur Weston store. (You can buy posters, even framed posters, of most any comic strip they run, not just plot-bearing strips. The “Where There’s A Wilbur” T-shirts and mugs are novel, though.)

Wilbur, at the side of the cruise ship, mourning, to himself: 'I asked her to marry me ... and she said no ... after some drinks, I feel better alread-ee! I feel like ... I'm KING OF THE WORLD! I bet I could do LEO'S POSE too ... just like in Titanish! I don't even need Kate Winglet! ... Hic! ... Or Stell! ... ' (He climbs onto the railing.) 'LOOKIT ME! I'M KING OF THE ... ' And as he falls into the sea: 'WORRLLD - D - ! !'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 9th of January, 2022. So, another irony that hasn’t appeared in print, although it might get some mention yet. Wilbur Weston got his second newspaper column, and the one that supports him travelling around the world, when the CRUISE SHIP he was on capsized and he escaped that disaster. (He interviews people who survived some disaster or crisis that could have killed them. This feels like more of a 1950s column to me, but the subject matter sounds like something for a podcast you’d think about listening to.)

Estelle notices he’s missing, and coaxes the ship’s crew to search for him. They find the security camera footage of his fall overseas, and go to search. But it’s a large ocean, and Wilbur has … already washed ashore on some island, somewhere. Strange development that keeps him from being dead.

Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!

  • “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” — Groucho Marx, 24 October 2021.
  • “The past is never the past. It is always present.” — Bruce Springsteen, 31 October 2021.
  • “Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.” — Hippocrates, 7 November 2021.
  • “Where there is anger there is always pain underneath.” — Eckhart Tolle, 14 November 2021.
  • “More people should apologize, and more people should accept apologies when sincerely made.” — Greg Lemond, 21 November 2021.
  • “Before you quit, try again. Before you leave, get back in.” — Michael Bassey Johnson, 28 November 2021.
  • “We’re all a little weird and life is a little weird.” — Robert Fulgham, 5 December 2021.
  • “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” — Samuel Beckett, 12 December 2021.
  • “Live a life of gratitude, giving thanks in all circumstances.” — Dr Mary C Neal, 19 December 2021.
  • “Music is very spiritual. It has the power to bring people together.” — Edgar Winter, 26 December 2021.
  • “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘it will be happier’.” — Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1 January 2022. Special non-Sunday bonus quote!
  • “Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.” — John Barrymore, 2 January 2022.
  • “Everything is a reaction.” — Robyn Hitchcock, 9 January 2022.
  • “The breaking of a wave cannot explain the whole sea.” — Vladimir Nabokov, 16 January 2022.

Next Week!

In his weekday continuity The Phantom faces the harrowing forecast that if he frees Savarna Devi — to whom he owes his wife’s life — from death row he will cause the destruction of everything his family stands for. In Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom Sunday continuity, things are a bit less dire. The Phantom’s making sure two Mori teenagers have a pleasant time in town. I hope to recap that side of The Phantom here, in a week.

60s Popeye: The Day Silky Went Blozo, in which Blozo goes Silky in a big way


We emerge from a second wave of Seymour Kneitel back to the comforting if slightly shoddy hands of Jack Kinney studios. The story for this 1960 short is credited to Joseph Stewart and Jack Kinney and animation direction to Hugh Fraser. Join us now and witness what happend The Day Silky Went Blozo.

Popeye versus The Reluctant Dragon! How can you not like that? Well, I’ll do my best to try … Well, you might not like that way Jack Kinney cartoons seem to animate the first draft of the script. That’s always unfortunate, and a bit more so here for the satiric potential in the premise. King Blozo is, like he always is when we see him, distressed. This silky-voiced dragon is disaffecting Blozo’s people with his Moritz Schlick-like assertion that the meaning of life is play. It’s never too soon to teach kids that society is as cruel as people have decided to make it, and that if we wanted, it could be better.

So Blozo has the problem that his kingdom’s threatened by this dragon encouraging people to sing and dance and be happy instead of, you know, work. Once again I long for the theatrical short this could have been, with two or three more minutes of screen time. And some bit players. And showing things screwed up because people are off prancing around a dragon instead of their jobs. The budget in time and money only allow sending Wimpy off against the dragon, who I don’t think gets called “Silky” on-screen. Wimpy’s spectacular failure against Silky sends Blozo to repeat the premise. And to declare he needs to send the “strongest, most honest, and ugliest man in my kingdom” against Silky.

Silky, a large dragon wearing blue vest, cap, and shoes, plays the trunk of a tree as if it were a flute. A crowd of Thimble Theatre regulars --- Wimpy, Brutus, Olive Oyl, Swee'Pea, Professor Wottasnozzle, et cetera --- sit on the ground watching eagerly.
The first events at the Garden State Arts Center were pretty informal things.

Strongest and most honest make sense. Ugliest is an odd insult to toss in, especially when for all we in the audience know Brutus might be next. The placement dampens the impact of a not-that-good insult/joke. I’d cut it, myself, especially as Blozo doesn’t have many other comic asides to make this flow better.

Popeye challenges Silky to a duel, and the dragon choses the yo-yo as his weapon. The dragon’s yo-yo tricks win over an appreciative crowd, one that includes Brutus in a rare non-antagonist role. He doesn’t even speak, although Jackson Beck earns his pay doing the dragon’s voice. Also a rarity: Popeye eats his spinach but doesn’t use that power to do anything. He’s ready to slug Silky, or at least do some better yo-yo tricks, but Blozo’s been won over by the charms of dragon yo-yo. So all the fighting gets called off. Blozo goes over to Silky’s way of living.

All the key points are here and I like how they play out. I particularly like the weird exceptions of this short, like Brutus’s and Olive Oyl’s non-speaking roles. And Popeye eating his spinach but not using that. Or Popeye being the last one to realize he’s on the wrong side here. He starts in the wrong sometimes, but I think this is the only time he comes around after eating his spinach.

There’s a batch of not-quite-finished bits. Blozo repeating how it’s terrible that this dragon is telling people just what they want to hear. How you tell the difference between the normal Wimpy and the Wimpy who’s taken Silky’s advice to live a frivolous, pleasure-driven life instead. Or the animators not having agreed on how big Popeye the Knight should be, relative to the dragon, so they try all the plausible heights. Or (at about 3:30) animating Popeye’s mouth moving since I guess the soundtrack showed someone was talking, never mind that it wasn’t Popeye. (Come to it, Popeye’s mouth — at least his pipe — moves more while Silky talks than when he talks later in the scene.) The lousy mixing of audio levels, so Silky’s song gets lost underneath the music. As keeps happening with Kinney-produced shorts, no one of these is a difficult thing to patch. But you feel the constraints on time that must have been present that they weren’t patched.

Wait, did Funky Winkerbean just give his wife the helmet Bull Bushka died in?


I … don’t think he did? But to me and everybody else who reads and remembers stuff from Funky Winkerbean, this Sunday’s strip was weird.

The thing making it weird is that when Coach “Bull” Bushka died, a couple years back, in the comic, he was wearing his old Westview Scapegoats football helmet. This was actually made a point of the plot, for reasons I won’t get into. It’s not something you can just ignore like Phil Holt’s death. But this is why a Sunday strip intended to be a quick smile was instead all flabbergasty.

Funky, to his wife Holly: 'The Doctor said it was okay for you to start putting weight on your foot as long as you use the crutches.' Holly, looking up from the crutches :'I'm not worried about hurting my foot. I'm worried about falling on my face with these crutches and knocking my front teeth out!' Funky, on the phone: 'Linda, do you still happen to have any of Bull's old ... ' And it stops there. In the last panel we see Holly wearing Bull's old Westview Scapegoats football helmet and looking much more confident in her walk.
Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean for the 16th of January, 2022. I’m not going to knock Holly for worrying about skipping on the crutches; if the sidewalks in her town are anything like ours, there’s a couple of well-cleared ones (eg, mine) and then a bunch that are slicks of ice with a layer of fine powdery snow on top. (The crutches look too short for her, to me, but I am also, sincerely, willing to attribute that to artistic license, as a way of showing that she’s unsteady in a way that communicates clearly in still pictures.)

Anyway, as the Son of Stuck Funky folks noted, it appears Linda gave the helmet that her husband died in to his friend Buck, who I’m almost sure had a last name. It’s plausible that Bushka, who coached Westview football for decades, had a couple extra helmets kicking around. And I’ll suppose this is what Batiuk meant us to see in this strip. Just … wow, did this joke not land anywhere with regular Funky Winkerbean readers.

Where did _Baby Blues_ go? How can I express my anger at _Funky Winkerbean_?


And, heck, here’s a couple small comic strip bits of news. The first is that Jerry Scott and Rick Kirkman’s very popular longrunning comic strip Baby Blues changed syndicates this week. As the Daily Cartoonist reports, they moved from King Features Syndicate over to Andrews McMeel Syndication. The actual change happens the 1st of February.

The part that affect readers is that since the strip is leaving King Features, it has already left Comics Kingdom. And, as is Comics Kingdom’s way, they’ve removed the strip from their web site. GoComics has put Baby Blues up here, with strips starting from this Wednesday the 12th already in place. Jerry Scott said, on Daily Cartoonist, that they are working to get their archive of strips on GoComics. I don’t have information whether that means going back to the comic’s start in 1990, or “only” strips going back to when Comics Kingdom (and before that DailyInk) got organized.


And if you’re like me, you’ve been angry at Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean this past year, but can’t remember what specifically for. Oh, yeah, it was Les Moore. The Son of Stuck Funky snark blog is having its first Funky Awards, with voting through to the 16th of January. You can cast you Google Forms vote here. Among the many categories are Best Strip, Worst Strip, Story Arc of the Year, Standout Unnamed Character, and Most Punchable Les Moore. That last is a prank, of course, since every Les Moore is more punchable than every Les Moore before.

MiSTed: JSH: So They Lied (Part 1 of 3)


For my next Mystery Science Theater 3000 performance, it’s a Usenet rant. James S Harris was — possibly still is — a regular on sci.math, a group for just what you’d think. Like everyone who loves mathematics, he tried to solve Fermat’s Last Theorem. Like many people, he thought he had something; it’s not difficult to come up with work that looks like it should prove that thing about a^n + b^n = c^n . Also like everyone taking that tack, including Fermat, he was wrong. He spent a lot of time arguing with the sci.math Actual Mathematicians about how no, maybe the whole of professional mathematics was wrong and not him.

As a sideline to his Fermat work, he thought he found a new scheme for factoring numbers. And spent a lot of time arguing with the sci.math Actual Mathematicians about how no, maybe the whole of professional mathematics was wrong and not him. So this is one piece of those many fights.

In the introduction sketch I imagine rattling apart a very fragile Tom Servo doll, one like the Crow T Robot that gets frozen to pieces in Eegah. I like writing sketches that have some visual action while staying something basic cable could produce in the 90s. The Izah fat evaporator was based on some similarly-named “make your muscles twitch so you lose weight” scam device I saw ads for in Singapore in the early 2000s. They were oddly hypnotic, showing this box put on various parts of the body while the singer chanted, “zap zap thigh, zap zap thigh, zap zap tummy, zap zap tummy”, and so on. The 17/23 Correlation is some weird conspiracy thing I know about because it got mentioned, and not explained, in The Straight Dope. The “such a Ratliff” that Pearl Forrester warns she has waiting was Stephen Ratliff’s story “Endeavor’s Beginning”, a group project to which I donated riffs. If it was ever finished and published I missed the news. Shame; I remember doing some good work on that. I think the “a kind of fish” line was originally one of Dave Barry’s jokes and forget from where.


[ OPENING CREDITS, SEASON TEN STYLE. ]

[ 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. CROW, MIKE, and TOM SERVO are behind the desk. TOM has a bright yellow power brick-size contraption strapped to his chest; it has an oversized spiral paper disc in front. ]

CROW: [ Taunting ] Tom, you’re gonna die.

TOM: Am not.

MIKE: Gotta side with Crow. [ Looking up: ] Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the Satellite of Love, and, uh, Tom is worried about his figure.

TOM: My friends wouldn’t say anything, but I have been packing on a few too many pounds and I don’t have time for a good exercise program, so instead I got an Izah fat evaporator. By stimulating my many muscle groups in rhythmic oscillatory pulses I can shed pounds without any work.

CROW: He’s gonna die.

MIKE: Crow’s right, but hey, you want, you want.

TOM: Right! Fire me up to fitness, Mike!


[ MIKE touches a button on the brick; the paper wheel starts spinning. TOM rattles around like an unbalanced washing machine. TOM makes all sorts of aggedy-aggedy-aggedy and acking type noises, while pieces go flying off — his cap, his head, his skirt, his arms one at a time, the front of his barrel, and finally he collapses behind the desk. ]

CROW: Told you so!

MIKE: Crow, hush, that’s not very nice.

[ MIKE leans down and digs around on the floor. He picks up the small cylinder with TOM’s mouth on it. ]

TOM: [ Dazedly ] I … feel … … lithe.

[ MADS SIGN flashes. ]

MIKE: Aw, great, and now Pearl needs us … Hello down there …

[ MIKE hits the MADS SIGN with TOM, who goes ‘Ow!’. ]


[ CASTLE FORRESTER. PEARL, PROFESSOR BOBO, and OBSERVER are seated behind card tables covered with books, papers, scrawled notes, strangely marked globes, astrolabes, for that `stuff’ theme. A bare light on a long electrical wire hangs over their heads. BOBO and OBSERVER mutter their lines to each other. ]

BOBO: Federal Reserve …

OBSERVER: Opus Dei …

PEARL: [ To BOBO and OBSERVER, muttering ] Just, keep me posted.
[ To camera, boisterously ] All right, Nel-sonnnn … [ She drags out the ‘n’, thinking of a way to twist it, finally giving up with: ] N. I got to thinking: why go to all the hard work of taking over the world when I can just find the guys who *do* rule the world and take *them* over?

[ BOBO holds up a piece of paper with “17/23” written across it, which OBSERVER does not find interesting. ]

PEARL: So now I just have to find them, and by ‘I’ I mean ‘you’, so, get into that theater and tell me what this tells you about who’s ruling the world, got it?

OBSERVER: Heidi Klum …

BOBO: Goo goo ga joob.

PEARL: BRAIN GUY!

OBSERVER: Hup … one conspiracy in 35 millimeters, coming up.

[ BRAIN GUY noise. ]

PEARL: And you better get it right or I have *such* a Ratliff waiting.


[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. MIKE is trying out putting the gumball dome under TOM’s mouth, while CROW snickers. ]

TOM: This just feels funny.

[ MOVIE SIGN; ALL panic. ]

ALL: MOVIE SIGN!

[ INTO THE THEATER … 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… ]

[ MIKE carries in just TOM’s mouthpiece, and hides it behind the chair. ]

> From: jst…@msn.com

CROW: Hail the Missin’com!

> Newsgroups: sci.math,alt.math.undergrad

MIKE: o/` old.math.river, that old.math.river … o/`

> Subject: JSH: So they lied

CROW: It happens.

> Lines: 109

CROW: Polygons: 28.

[ TOM, back to normal, emerges in silhouette. ]

> Message-ID: <1150354125….@g10g2000cwb.googlegroups.com>

TOM: It’s ten to one hundredth power of giddy, groupy fun!

>
> I first began to get a real grasp of the true situation when I was
> arguing about my prime counting function,

CROW: We’re … so very sorry for you.

> which is actually THE prime
> counting function,

MIKE: The prime counting function of the whole tri-city area!

> and after yet another useless argument on sci.math
> with some regulars, it occurred to me, they had to know.

TOM: How do you tell when an argument on Usenet is useless?

MIKE: It’s on Usenet?

>
> They had to know that what I had actually was different from what was
> previously known in key ways,

CROW: Like in its delightful lemony scent.

> but they were deliberately lying about
> it.

TOM: I confronted them. They denied it. Case closed.

>
> Now I have found a new factoring method.

MIKE: [ Mad science laughter ] Mwu-hu-ha-hA-HA-HA-HA-HAAA … huh?

>
> Literally trillions of dollars WILL move as a result, but for now, you
> can see the quiet as these people keep lying.

TOM: It was visible out there. Too, too visible.

>
> How is it possible?

MIKE: Can this mixed-up world be as zany as I hope?

>
> Mathematics is a difficult discipline.

CROW: And a worse toothpaste.

>
> Or you can say, math is hard.

TOM: But with a crunchy peanut buttery center.

>
> Most people shy away from it because it IS so hard,

MIKE: Others avoid it because they’re afraid a rogue
isosceles triangle will impale them.

> but a few people
> learned that while doing real mathematics was hard, LOOKING like you
> were doing real mathematics was easier.

TOM: Finally we learn why Sudoku has caught on!

>
> So they fake it.

MIKE: But they were caught when they identified the square root symbol as “a kind of fish”.


[ To continue … ]

In Which I May Have to Cut Back Here for an Exciting New Opportunity


I mean, I’ll try to keep doing whatever I’m doing here as long as possible. But .. well, this is just thrilling. The Institute for the Academy of Pop Culture approved my grant to study the question of why Arnold Stang was never on the Adam West Batman. I know, I know, it seems like nothing important. But the Grants Committee was persuaded by my argument that answering this could help provide a satisfactory answer to why Phil Silvers was never a Bat-villain, and close one of the big and exciting pop culture mysteries of that era.

What’s Going On In Mark Trail? Why is Mark Trail worked up about NFTs? October 2021 – January 2022


In the last scene of The Stingiest Man In Town, the 1978 Rankin/Bass adaptation of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge tells Cratchit to burn some more coal. Cratchit asks if that’s good for business and Scrooge laughs it off as good for humanity. The irony is it has turned out burning coal is extremely good business, as it’s catastrophic for humanity.

So this should catch you up to early January 2022 in Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail. If news about the strip breaks, or if you’re reading this after about April 2022, a more up-to-date essay is likely here. And now let’s get on to explaining the past three months of story.

Mark Trail.

17 October 2021 – 8 January 2022.

We had two and a half stories going on when I last checked in on the Lost Forest. One was Mark Trail’s assignment with former rival/high-speed-pursuer Diana Daggers. It’s to investigate a shipping company spreading zebra mussels. One was Diana Daggers’s breakup with her pop-science star friend Professor Bee Sharp. And one was Cherry Trail’s efforts to move a bee colony before its extermination. Each has advanced some. I’ll take each strand as a separate thing.

Cherry Trail’s first. She’s been landscaping for the Sunny Soleil Society. Their statue of the Forest Pioneer got colonized by bees. Society chair Violet Cheshire hires “Honest Ernest”, the new pest control guy in town. Also husband of one of the Society members. So she calls on her friends with the Black Rose Garden Club, who plan a daring nighttime bee-relocation heist.

[ Mark Trail takes on Honest Ernest and the Exterminator Gators in a bid to save the bees on the explorer statue. Just another night for Mark. ] Honest Ernest: 'How can you stand in our way? We're hardworking Americans doing an honest job. You must not be a true American, Mark.' Mark Trail: 'That's where you're wrong! True Americans care about preserving America's environment! Not profiting from it! We need all these bees to pollinate our crops so we can eat! Bees are dying en masse due to climate change. Saving them is saving ourselves.'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 15th of December, 2021. Just wanted to brag that I saw Honest Ernest and the Exterminator Gators play at Common Ground music festival and they were a better-than-you-expect Devo cover band.

Honest Ernest and his staff intrude, though. Mark Trail arrives, fighting them back with nature facts and a shovel. It’s a powerful combo and lets the Black Rose sneak off with the bees. But there are consequences: Caroline (Ernest’s wife) complains to Cheshire about the bee-napping. Cheshire cuts through the charges and counter-charges of trespassing and whatever bee-napping would be. If the bees left on their own, why, there’s no need for a bee-extermination contract. Cherry agrees, falsely, that sometimes bees just go off somewhere else. And that, you know, the Sunny Soleil Society building likely has termites that could actually use extermination. Cheshire’s up for that and we have a settlement that’s happy except for the termites.


DuckDuckGoose Owner: 'How can my company 'spread invasive species' when I don't even know what that means?' Assistant: 'Sir, I'm sorry to say nature writers will attack hard-working American business owners just because they hate capitalism.' Owner: 'Mark Trail is a menace! How do we stop him?' Assistant: 'Sir, I have a solution. We'll make sure Mark Trail does not turn in that article. ... Right, Boffo?' Boffo, in the distance, taps his hat.
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 23rd of October, 2021. The villainy here might seem unsubtle but, no, it turns out society’s villains are pretty much just this.

Mark Trail’s story next. This was about taking underwater photos of Duck Duck Goose freighters, carrying zebra mussels into new waters. Daggers thinks the photos are lousy, but Mark Trail’s old army buddy, and De-Bait Team member Cliff, likes them. Trail and Daggers work on reporting how the giant shipping company is polluting new territories. So, Duck Duck Goose sends some toughs around to bust things up.

Mark Trail, Daggers, and Cliff are able to escape, thanks in part to Daggers swiping Cherry Trail’s shovel earlier. They hole up in the De-Bait Team lodge, a more defensible retreat, or at least one that’s harder for Duck Duck Goose to find. Much of the attention shifted away from Mark to Cherry at this point. It left me confused whether the zebra-mussels storyline had dried up, when I was reading day-to-day. Like, had Mark Trail published and I missed it? No, the story was moving to the back of the stage for a bit.

[ Mark decides to reason with the large, scary corporate goons threatening him and his friends. ] Boffo, banging the door: 'If y'all don't come out and talk, we're coming inside!' After Mark Trail opens the door, Boffo asks, 'Are you Mark Trail?' Mark Trail: 'Yes. Can we discuss this like resonable --- ' Boffo punches him in the face as the other goon calls out, 'Boffo!' [ But you can't reason with corporate goons! ]
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 1st of December, 2021. Wow! Where does this come from besides the entire and complete history of labor-capital interactions?

And Mark Trail continued thinking, not only how to report on Duck Duck Goose, but also how to stop them bringing zebra mussels into the Lost Forest’s waterways. In a moment that ran, for us, on Christmas Day he noted how poinsettias are not actually poisonous, but have this reputation. That “if we can look intimidating to Duck Duck Goose, it might be enough to get them out of our waters”. I don’t know what that would entail either.

Poinsettias, according to the National Capital Poison Center, can cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea if eaten. But they are not actually dangerous to children or pets. Quite inconvenient, though, it appears.


And the last thread, generally, Diana Daggers’s things. She came to the zebra mussels story miserable after an unexplained breakup with Professor Bee Sharp. As Cliff and Mark Trail came over to make amends, she explained. She was getting paid with Non-Fungible Token money. Much as she misses Sharp, she couldn’t take money literally raised by destroying the planet.

[ Professor Bee Sharp is about to learn why you shouldn't go into business with NFTs ... the hard way! ] At a photo shoot for NFT mintings, a goat starts to eat his lab coat, and keeps pulling ripping it, as Sharp protests, 'Hey, wait! Stop!' Rob Bettancourt, and the other onlookers, start to chant: 'Goat that coat! Goat that coat!' As Sharp mourns 'My lab coat!' the narrator warns: [ NFTs: They will tear up the environment, and they won't stop there! ]
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 13th of November, 2021. I mean, on the one hand, this is something that could happen at any photo session and is the result of animals being animals, and not your props. On the other hand, NFTs are ecocidal scams so if we slap them down for the wrong reasons, well, they still needed the slapping.

So “Cricket Bro” Rob Bettancourt had the brainwave to sell NFTs of all sorts of Bee Sharp-focused nonsense. Bee Sharp stuck through Daggers leaving. But he was shaken when a photo shoot results in a goat tearing his lab coat, and leaves. It pains me to admit NFTs can’t be blamed for that, although if it gets someone to stop making a mistake, fine.

We learn that when Bettancourt calls Mark Trail, offering to make him the face of his NFT projects. How this is going to fit into the zebra mussels story is not yet known. Catch you in April. We should have some idea then.

Sunday Animals Watch

So here’s what nature events we’ve been seeing on Sundays. Nearly all of them have been reflected in the weekday continuity, too. It’s a nice tight integration of things.

  • Bees, 17 October 2021. Who has a bad word for bees, at this point?
  • Trees, 24 October 2021. Similarly, they’re still doing a lot of great work.
  • Bats, 31 October 2021. They’re doing good too although I’d like them out of the attic when convenient, please.
  • Skunks, 7 November 2021. So last summer I was walking late at night and saw a skunk shuffling along. And then saw a cottontail rabbit charging at the skunk and dashing back away, charging up and dashing away. It’s the aggressive get-out-of-here move rabbits sometimes do. I got out of the area and lost them in the night after that and I just hope that scene worked out the way the rabbit imagined it would.
  • Goats, 14 November 2021. Lot of people have good things to say about them.
  • Bees, 21 November 2021. Look, if you’re not sold on bees by this point I don’t know what the trouble is.
  • Turkeys, 28 November 2021. Everybody likes to talk about the dubious legend about how the turkey was almost the United States’s national bird, but do we ever talk about how turkeys have pretty near the same body plan as peacocks? If they’d done a little work on their coloration every New World nation would want them as national birds.
  • Garden Clubs, 5 December 2021. Get yourself a garden club that’ll sneak out in the middle of the night to steal a beehive, is what we’re saying.
  • Salamanders, 12 December 2021. Which have not appeared in the comic strip recently. Might be a setup to something later on.
  • Climate Change, 19 December 2021. It’s hard work to do anything to remediate now, but the alternative is even more, harder work, later on.
  • Poinsettias, 26 December 2021. Also, you can keep the one you get at Christmas and nurse it through the year. You have to do something I don’t understand to get them to bloom at Christmas, but it’s doable.
  • Cryptocurrency, 2 January 2022. Guh. Could we please not, for once, everybody?
  • Zebra mussels, 9 January 2022. Which had a Sunday panel appearance back in August, too, but the problem (and plot) have been sticking around.

Next Week!

Is Wilbur Weston dead, and why does everyone want him to be? Come with me on a CRUISE SHIP in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth, next week, if all goes well.

Statistics December: How Can I Care About December 2021 When Wilbur Weston Might Be Dead?


Yes, yes, I, like everyone who’s reading Mary Worth, am excited to see Wilbur Weston’s fallen off a cruise ship. I’m hoping to get to recapping it next week, when we might know whether he’s dead or what. Let me share what my plan is for comic strip recaps, before I get into anything further here:

I’m willing to chance the schedule when circumstances warrant. But, for now, yes, Wilbur Weston has fallen into the sea in what might be the first Mary Worth death since the legendary Aldo Keldrast. We’ll see. All my recaps of what’s going on in the story strips are at this link.

Still, I do like sharing my readership figures around here, for reasons I can never quite articulate. I guess other bloggers like the reassurance that it’s not them, their readership has fallen off since a couple years ago.

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months have been hovering around 4500 views per month, without strong direction one way or another.
1,389 followers! If they were all lined up behind me, they’d bump into the wall. Our living room isn’t that large.

In a reversal of the pattern since 2018, my readership increased from November to December 2021. The total number of page views for the month increased to 4,492. This is below the twelve-month running mean of 5,161.0, though, and also below the running median of 4,728. April was a very popular month around here, thanks in part to my post about which Paas tablet matches which color egg. Also to people wanting to know what was going on with The Phantom, a reliable source of readers this year.

The number of unique visitors rose too, again reversing the usual November-to-December trend. There were 2,568 recorded unique visitors in December, but this again is below the running mean of 3,072.4 and the median of 2,722.5. Liking me (nb not licking) was above the averages, though, with 166 likes given in the month. The mean for the twelve months ending with November 2021 was 145.3 likes, and the median 138.5. Comments were about average: 51 given around here in the month, compared to a mean of 55.4 and a median of 51. Certainly average enough.

My most popular post from December was comic strip based, of course. And I’ve been making more short, punchy little posts that have been well-received. I like this, since I like anything being well-received, and short stuff is quicker to write. I wanted to share the five most popular things from December and there was, naturally, a tie for fifth. So here’s the top several things:


Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink.
Hey, I’ve almost got the Pacific Ocean surrounded! It’s almost impossible that it should sneak out now!

There were 80 countries sending me any page views at all in December. Greenland was not among them. Here’s the countries that were:

Country Readers
United States 3199
India 171
Canada 153
United Kingdom 132
Australia 121
Germany 79
Japan 60
Philippines 50
Italy 41
Brazil 38
Ireland 27
Sweden 27
Spain 26
Nigeria 21
Norway 21
Netherlands 18
France 15
Sri Lanka 14
Finland 13
New Zealand 13
Thailand 13
Egypt 12
Mexico 12
Peru 12
South Africa 12
Indonesia 11
Malaysia 10
Russia 10
Switzerland 10
Taiwan 10
Austria 9
Romania 8
Singapore 7
Belarus 6
Paraguay 6
Denmark 5
Hong Kong SAR China 5
Portugal 5
Saudi Arabia 5
Bulgaria 4
Colombia 4
Greece 4
Jordan 4
Kenya 4
Puerto Rico 4
South Korea 4
Iraq 3
Jamaica 3
Poland 3
Trinidad & Tobago 3
Ukraine 3
United Arab Emirates 3
Belgium 2
Cambodia 2
Croatia 2
Georgia 2
Israel 2
Kuwait 2
Macedonia 2
Montenegro 2
Pakistan 2
Turkey 2
Albania 1
Azerbaijan 1
Belize 1
Chile 1
China 1
Costa Rica 1
Côte d’Ivoire 1
Ecuador 1
El Salvador 1
Guadeloupe 1
Guam 1
Honduras 1
Hungary 1
Lebanon 1 (*)
Serbia 1
Slovakia 1
Tunisia 1
Vietnam 1

Of the 18 single-view countries (up from 14 in November) only Lebanon is on a two-month streak. Nobody’s on an even longer streak.


Wordpress figures that I posted 18,853 words in December. Even though those were not all different words, that was still my second-least-loquacious month in 2021. This was an average of 608.2 words per posting. And it brought me to a total for the year of 269,360 words, averaging 738 words per posting.

Between the discovery of the English Channel and the 1st of January I’ve posted 3,256 things to this blog. They’ve drawn 268,184 views from 153,567 unique visitors. And there were 4,915 comments overall, some of which I should get around to reading one of these days.

60s Popeye: William Won’t Tell, because in this one, William is Popeye, that’s why


Have we entered a new round of Seymour Kneitel-mania? … Almost! It’s a Paramount Cartoon Studios production this week, so yes, he’s the producer. And the director. The story, though, is given to Carl Meyer and Jack Mercer. So here is 1961’s William Won’t Tell.

I’ve mentioned the curse of competence. It’s not hard to write about great cartoons. It’s easy to write about the fabulously incompetent. William Won’t Tell is mostly a good enough idea done well. But I’ll try to give some decent attention to a cartoon that sets a reasonable ambition and does it pretty well. It shouldn’t be neglected for that.

It’s a fairy-tale setting, like a fair streak of King Features cartoons are. This one doesn’t have a narrator, or any kind of framing device. It doesn’t need one, although that does raise the question why any of these cartoons ever need one.

The town crier reads from a long scroll. He's a skinny, narrow-faced person, with a shaggy, Brutus-like beard.
One of the first bit parts played by Shaggy before he landed that Scooby-Doo job. In his memoir Shaggy admitted the Brutus beard was a strange choice and nobody remembers who suggested he wear it.

The story’s inspired by the legend of William Tell. Popeye Tell pauses in his day of doing good deeds to help the Queen replace her broken wheel. She gives him a kiss on the forehead, that he has to keep secret from the jealous King and the no-less-jealous Olive Oyl. The King learns of this anyway and demands all men pass before him with their hats off. When Popeye refuses the King forces him to shoot an arrow off Olive Oyl’s head. He does, but the trick arrow that makes this easy also knocks his hat off, revealing everything to everyone. The Queen saves the day, with a well-timed explanation and birthday gift for the King, and we have a happy ending.

I don’t have a national-identity attachment to the legend of William Tell. So I don’t mind the shifting of events and motivations and all. There’s a solid logic behind the whole story, too. We get Popeye to be heroic to start with, and for that resolute good nature to get him in a fix, and for that virtue to be what brings the last-minute save. It fits well enough I only noticed later that nobody brings up spinach.

A stubborn and annoyed Popeye blows 'NO' out of his pipe.
Saving this reaction shot for every e-mail I have to answer this week.

There are several nice fangles in this, mostly in the animation. Popeye refusing the King’s order by blowing his pipe to spell out ‘NO’ in smoke. Popeye felling a tree by using arrows that spiral around each other and do the work, the sort of stunt often done in the theatrical shorts. The King trying out and rejecting two apples before putting the tiniest one on Olive Oyl’s head. These all add vitality to the cartoon, and also reward watching. They lift the cartoon beyond the illustrated-radio default.

I bring up again how well I find the story structure. When I look at the other cartoons credited Carl Meyer and Jack Mercer I find one that I thought well-structured (Who’s Kidding Zoo) and some others with decent premises done okay (Messin’ Up The Mississippi or The Baby Contest, for example). I’m curious what happened to make everything come together this time.

Statistics Saturday: Some Failed Attempts At Finding The Past Tense Of ‘To Glide’ After ‘Glided’ Looked Weird


  • Glode
  • Glidden
  • Glade
  • Gliddled
  • Gline
  • Glidest
  • Glued
  • Glidded
  • Glinda
  • Gloud
    • Reference: Dust: A History of the Small and the Invisible, Joseph A Amato.

For Those Waiting for My Statistics December Post


I know there’s people wondering where my exploration of the readership statistics the past month is. It’s always, somehow, my most-liked thing of the month. I think readers like to see whether this will be the time I get a reader from Greenland. It will not be. But I’ve been slow to get around to it, and I’ll share why: I’m still waiting for December 2021 to get better. And it sees determined to not. This leaves me … you know, I’m not disappointed, I’m just angry with it. I have similar issues with 2021 as a whole. I’ll give it a little more time to pick up and then just share the sad state of things as-is.

MiSTed: A Moment of Hack (Part 2 of 2)


You’ve all gotten this e-mail, and it proved its credentials by showing you a password you used back in 2006 and, uh, until about a week ago too. Still, let’s continue turning it into Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction, shall we?

The bitcoin address is munged, of course; even if it was valid I don’t want people supporting this nonsense by accident. I tossed in a reference to “automobile titles” as an example of adult content, not knowing that my whole autumn 2021 would be taken over — against stiff emotion-wracking competition — by how I can’t find the title for my 2009 Scion tC. Serious talk here, kids: get your automobile title, or a duplicate, and put it somewhere you can lay hands on without ransacking the house.

“Swiss-style match pairing” is a way of organizing a tournament where it’s not possible for every participant to play every other participant. Each round sets out trying to get everyone playing someone with a roughly similar record in the tournament that they haven’t played already. (If there’s enough rounds, this does turn into “everyone plays everyone else”.) The “an educated consumer is our best customer” was the longrunning advertising slogan for SYMS, a New York City-area discount clothiers chain. I still haven’t seen any of the Jonah episodes of MST3K.


>
> Oh, yes .. I’m know your secret life, which you are hiding from
> everyone.

CROW: The weed of crime bears bitter fruit!

>
> Oh my God, what are your like… I saw THIS …

TOM: With a Hubbard squash?

MIKE: In the library?

CROW: On Professor Plum?

> Oh, you dirty

> naughty person … : )

MIKE: [ As Elmer Fudd ] ‘I’m just as God made me, sir …. hehehehehehehehe.’

>
>
> I took photos and videos of your most passionate funs with adult
> content,

TOM: Not my adult content! My automobile titles, my disclosure paperworks from the Dental Maintenance Organization. Ream after ream of cadastral maps for the properties I bought at the tax sale!

MIKE: Jeez, all *my* adult content is sad little grunts of pain after I kneel down and stand up again.

> and synchronized them in real time with the image of your
> camera.

MIKE: Who cares about images of my camera?
[ CROW and TOM hide down in their chairs. ]

>
> Believe it turned out very high quality!

CROW: Sing the unwashed park bench gryphon!

>
>
> So, to the business!

MIKE: [ As Adam West ] To the business-pole, old chum!

>
> I’m sure you don’t want to show these files and visiting history to
> all your contacts.

TOM: *Including* that person at hotels.com that dealt with your weird duplicate-loyalty-card nonsense.

>
>

> Transfer $848 to my Bitcoin cryptocurrency wallet:

[ CROW just bursts out laughing ]

> 1GXazHVQxxUdJpe62UFozFibPlor8ToDoUn3

[ CROW continues giggling ]

MIKE: Foz Fib Plor?

TOM: I’m trying to figure this as like a Fozzie Bear branded Mister Pibb but it’s not coming together.

>
> Just copy and paste the wallet number when transferring.

TOM: It’s totally not the SimCity 2000 funding cheat code!

CROW: [ Still giggling ]

MIKE: You okay, buddy?

>

CROW: Yeah, I just, I mean, 848 dollars?

> If you do not know how to do this – ask Google.

MIKE: Well, he was going to demand $849 but figured, why be greedy?

>

TOM: I heard he was looking for $847.74 but rounded up the dollar to donate to the local food bank.

CROW: Oh, well that’s good of him, then.

>
> My system automatically recognizes the translation.

MIKE: ‘Translate from Latvian’? The heck?

>
> As soon as the specified amount is received, all your data will be
> destroyed from my server,

TOM: ‘Because I’m dealing with this annoying ransomware hacker myself.’

> and the rootkit will be automatically
> removed from your system.

CROW: Thanks to my self-propelled technogarden trowel!

>
> Do not worry, I really will delete everything,

MIKE: [ Warbly teenager voice ] E-e-everything?

TOM: ‘Well, not your DVR. That you have to watch on your own.’

> since I am ‘working’
> with many people who have fallen into your position.

CROW: Yeah, well, *I’m* taking pictures of you doing that on *your* web cam, how does *that* feel?

>
> You will only have to inform your provider about the vulnerabilities
> in the router so that other hackers will not use it.

MIKE: [ Extremely nerdy ] You know, even the most secure routers are vulnerable to a proton torpedo hitting their thermal exhaust port through a shaft right to the reactor system.

>
>
> Since opening this letter you have 48 hours.

CROW: 49, if it’s Daylight Saving Time.

>
> If funds not will be received, after the specified time has elapsed,

TOM: I’ll take $582.50 in bitcoin instead?

MIKE: How about $146 in dogecoin?

CROW: Would you believe what’s left on a $20 Borders gift card and a 50-pfennig coin I got going to Oberammergau in 1990?

> the disk of your device will be formatted,

MIKE: The format: Swiss-style match pairing, ten rounds or until 10:00.

>
> and from my server will automatically send email and sms

TOM: Oh, I don’t need all those sms, just send me one sm.

CROW: With sms an educated consumer is our best customer.

> to all your
> contacts with compromising material.

MIKE: It’s not ‘compromising’, it’s ‘seeking a pragmatic, centrist solution’!

TOM: Bad praxis, Mike.

>
>
> I advise you to remain prudent

CROW: When you’re prudent, you make a prune out of dents.
[ MIKE sets a hand on CROW’s shoulder. ]

> and not engage in nonsense (all files
> on my server).

MIKE: And all the ships at sea! Flash!

>
>
> Good luck!

TOM: If Woody had gone right to the police, this would never have happened.

MIKE: C’mon, let’s blow this popsicle stand.

[ ALL file out. ]

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

Mystery Science Theater 3000 and its characters and setup and situations and all are the property of … I guess it’s Satellite of Love LLC? I’m not sure anymore. The original spam was sent to my love’s work e-mail account so certain elements were modified so my love’s IT department didn’t get all cranky. It’s not a Jonah script because I still haven’t seen the Netflix series and while I started writing MiSTings after watching very few Joel and Mike episodes, ‘a few’ is still more than ‘literally zero’. Anyway, thanks for reading and let’s all have some hard funs, won’t we?

 

> I know what you like hard funs (adult sites).

Reflecting on an end of the Christmas season


So they took the State Tree down from in front of the capitol yesterday. I mean the people who were supposed to take it down, and they were doing it as scheduled, so don’t go thinking this took anyone by surprise. Still, it’s a sad reminder that all the merriness and wishing-for-goodwill of the holiday season is passing. Plus, that tree’s going to end up sitting on the curb waiting for the city trash collectors to pick it up. The city trash collectors won’t pick up a tree unless you cut it into six-foot-long fragments. You’d think someone would tell the governor’s office about that. We go through this every year.

Photograph of the State Christmas Tree at its lighting, with the capitol in the background, and a fleet of drones in the distance arranged to make a picture of Santa Claus's face in the sky behind it all.
I was there at the lighting of the tree and, yeah, it was a bit of a jolt to see the sky had become permanently marked with a giant Santa face decorated in lights, but we got used to it in like two hours. I couldn’t tell you the last time I even noticed it.

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? Are they making a Gasoline Alley movie? October – December 2021


In the strip, as I write this, someone’s making a movie in Gasoline Alley. I trust it’ll involve the characters of the venerable comic strip. Still, it raises the question: wait, did they never make a Gasoline Alley movie? Like, back in the 40s or 50s when every comic strip turned into a movie? Indeed, they did, with two movies in 1951: Gasoline Alley and Corky of Gasoline Alley.

There were also a couple of radio versions of Gasoline Alley. The 1941 NBC version, according to John Dunning’s On The Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, was a daily serial that adapted that day’s newspaper comic. I know they only had to fill ten minutes of airtime, and that comics were more densely written those days. I still can’t imagine how you pad one day’s comic out to that much time. I can’t find any recordings of the 1941 run, though, and wonder whether it’s unavailable or whether it’s held by collectors who haven’t put it on the free-download sources.

So this should catch you up to the end of 2021 in Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley. If you’re reading this after April 2022, or if any news about the comic breaks, I should have an update here. And on my other blog, I’ve been sharing some older writing, while I get the energy to finish last year’s little glossary project. You might enjoy it also.

Gasoline Alley.

10 October – 31 December 2021.

The Gasoline Alley forest rangers wanted to hold a Halloween party, last I checked in. The young, bear-befriending Aubee and Boog suggested the Emmons house, vacant since the widow Sarah Emmons died. It’s a fine, haunted-looking place, their mother Hoogy Skinner agrees. But she’s barely seen the spot when real estate agent Kim Luna arrives with the news it’s been sold, sight unseen. But the new owner doesn’t mind if the locals have a party as long as they don’t damage the place.

Kim Luna: 'Good news! The owner said you could use his house for the party ... but don't damage or leave it a wreck!' Hoogy Skinner: 'He hasn't seen it, has he?' Luna: 'No! He's from out of state and bought it *site* and *sight* unseen!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 26th of October, 2021. He bought a house in Gasoline Alley Town without even having real estate agent Kim Luna walk through it holding up a Facetime camera? This out-of-state owner is braver than Navy Seals. Also the comments on GoComics have charming messages of concern from people worried about the lawsuit potential everyone’s opening everyone else up to, here.

It’s a successful enough party to attract Snuffy Smith. Also Bearlee and Uncle Bearnaise, the wild bears that Aubee and Boog were hanging out with last plot recap. They give Aubee, who’s herself dressed as a bear, tips on how to act more authentic. The bears win the costume contest, because Jim Scancarelli likes writing that sort of gentle fantastic American Cornball plot.

Then, from the 9th of November, a second American Cornball plot intrudes. This one involves counterfeiters, who’d been using the place to store their product. I know what you’re thinking: oh, they’re the buyers of the house, right? But then why would they have allowed a party there? They’re not the buyers. They were just using the abandoned house. They never expected the place to get sold, nor that there would be a party there. If they had they’d have pretended to haunt the place or something. Still, they’ve locked up everything incriminating, so I’m not sure what they’re there to do. I guess they wanted the free food.

Bank robber, in front of a wall of cartoon characters including Pogo, Birdman, Ben Grimm, and Felix the Cat: 'Something's going on! There's a commotion over in the corner where our press and phony money is hidden, Boss!' Sophie, a little kid dressed as Amelia Earhart, opens the door and dollar bills pour out; she says, 'Blooky!' The Boss says, 'Not anymore, it isn't!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 12th of November, 2021. There is a strip where Sophie’s mother explains how she was able to pick the lock open: ‘Easy!’ And that’s all we get. Whether you see that as yeah, all the explanation the story needs (and a cute joke to finish it) or as an irritating dodge of the author’s responsibility to explain major developments probably says whether you should be reading Gasoline Alley.

And then one of the kids opens the locked door with everything behind. The counterfeiters fake having guns, by draping handkerchiefs over food. The partygoers think it’s a performance, and slowly realize it’s not. The cops show up fast enough, thanks to Boog calling them. The counterfeiters try to flee, but slip and fall on the broken beads of Ava Luna’s necklace. (She’s the daughter of the real estate agent.) And so all ends happily. Not for the counterfeiters, sent to jail. But Sophie and Ava Luna get rewards. And the party is the hit of the forest rangers’ families’ Halloweens.


On the 6th of December started the annual magic encounter with Santa. It sure reads like it’s the same night of the Halloween party. But Aubee, Sophie, and Ava agree it’d be great to visit Santa Claus. Ava even knows how to get there: she’s got a magic hat and doll.

Ava Luna, setting her magic doll Ida Noe on the table: 'I'll prove it works! OK, Ida Noe. Aubee, Sophie, and I are ready!' Ida Noe: 'Where do you want to go?' Ava: 'How about Santa's Workshop, North Pole?' Ida: 'OK! Pull down your hat!' Aubee: 'Uh! Wait a sec, Ava!' Ava: 'You scared, Aubee?' Ida: 'What's the hold-up?'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 11th of December, 2021. If you want you can say this was all in the kids’ heads, but then are you really getting into the Christmas story spirit? Anyway I’m a little surprised there wasn’t some allusion to the classic old-time-radio children’s Christmas serial The Cinnamon Bear. But it’s plausible there was and I missed it.

So you’re either in for this sort of light silliness, or you hate-read Gasoline Alley. I hope you walk a path chosen wisely. The kids blip up to Santa’s Workshop and meet Bunky the Elf, keeper of the list of good and bad kids. They meet the reindeer and see the sleigh’s loading dock. And even get to meet Santa Claus, who asks them to tell their parents that Santa still loves them. Again, you’re either in for this sort of thing, or you hate-read Gasoline Alley. (I don’t hate-read the strip.) Mrs Claus gives them cookies right before Ava wishes them all back home, where they wake up in bed with a tale their parents won’t believe. But also cookies, and where did they come from? Huh?


The 27th of December starts the new and current story, about a movie getting made in Gasoline Alley. It’s too soon to say where this is going.

Next Week!

Zebra mussels, bees, skulduggery, and NFTs! What else could it be but Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail, recapped, if all goes well? See you then. And until then, if you see something in nature? Please try not to mess it up. Thank you.

Reposting The Stages Of The Road Trip: Stage Five


And now I wrap up my reposting of this road-trip sequence, one of my favorites. The bit about where every small town in the North found the black crepe-paper to shroud their downtowns after Lincoln’s murder is something I genuinely wonder and don’t even know how to investigate. The bit about the promising-looking barcade that was just closed exactly when they’d be there is also drawn from real life, from a trip to the (excellent) Knoebels Amusemenet Park in Pennsylvania.


OK, but is this the sheep district of the country or what because this is getting to be far too many sheep.

Dan tried to get away without calling it “Diet Pupsi” and couldn’t. But he did realize that over this trip everyone had tried, one time or other, just saying the name of it right. The implication is that everybody’s ready to let this in-joke go, but nobody wants to be the one to say it. Dan resolves to bring this up at a good moment, but hopes so very much that someone else brings it up first.

Sophie starts the practice of deliberately misreading the highway signs now. Taking “Williamsport” as the game of Williams promises some great fun, but all it really leads to is stories of times their satellite navigator had no idea how to pronounce a street name. “Malcolm the Tenth Street” is judged the best of those. There’s just not enough good towns in the area, though.

It seemed like this should be a good way to pass a few miles. But sharing the most important thing in their lives that they’ve given up correcting their parents about? Like, where it’s just too much effort to explain what’s really going on, and it’s easier to let them go about being wrong and correct people whom their parents in turn mislead? Yeah, so it turns out that for everybody it’s just “exactly what it is we do for work”. That’s weird itself. Like, you’d think for someone it would be a relationship or some important aspect of their personality or something. No, though. It’s just what everyone does in exchange for money. This seems like it says something important about modern society, but who knows?

All right, but that is definitely a two-story strip mall, putting to rest an earlier squabble.

Josh is irrationally offended by the name of the Creekside Inn Hotel, citing “redundancy”. His status is not helped when it turns out to be near the Riverfront Cemetery Memorial Park.

The historical marker turned out to be a surprisingly good stop. It’s just a note that this town was somehow too small for Lincoln’s Funeral Train to stop at, but they have this amazing picture of the train just going through town. It’s not a very good picture but for an action scene in 1865? That’s pretty amazing anyway. But the real question is how everything in town is covered in black crepe. Where did that all come from? The town isn’t anything today, and back then? It was so nothing it couldn’t even get the funeral train to stop. Why would they even have enough crepe to shroud all downtown? Or if they didn’t, where did they get it? Did they have enormous quantities of regular crepe and just dye it black all of a sudden? Amanda’s joke that maybe it was crepe of all colors and it just looks black is judged to be “too soon”. But that doesn’t answer the real question.

It’s become so tiring to read all the highway signs that the town or towns of Portage Munster are passed without comment.

Now it’s time for the search for a place to have dinner. This is a complex triangulation of where they are, how fast they’re going somewhere, and what towns of any size are going to be anywhere near dinnertime. The objective: find someplace genuinely local to go. And after fifteen minutes of searching, success! It’s a well-reviewed barcade and they even have a menu online with four vegetarian-friendly options, plus great heaping piles of fried things. And it’s been open since like 1938. It is closed today, and tomorrow, for the only two days it’s set to be closed between Easter and Thanksgiving this year.

By now the group has gotten past making up redundantly-named landmarks and is annoying Josh with oxymoronic names.

At least everyone can agree: after all this time driving, we’re all walking like badly-rigged video game models. This is what’s so good about taking a road trip. You get to enjoy everything in new and different ways.

60s Popeye: Valley of the Goons, the rare cartoon where Popeye goes sailing


After a bit of Jack Kinney we get back to the comfortable grounds of Paramount. Once more we have story, direction, and production by Seymour Kneitel. This for 1960’s Valley of the Goons.

Considering his name Popeye doesn’t spend that much time at sea. Especially in the King Features shorts, where he got stuck in a boring suburban house. Here, he’s finally at sea — and even in a sailing ship! — but it took being shanghaied to get him there.

I like this one a lot. Not just because it has Goons, although that does help. It does a lot of things right, including getting Popeye on an adventure. It’s also a strongly-plotted adventure. Poachers hoping to make a fortune in goonskin shanghai Popeye, presumably because they need the extra muscle. Popeye, being a hero, isn’t having it. He breaks out of the brig and gives the Goons the spinach they need to kick the pirates out. And the spinach seeds so they won’t have to rely on him anymore. The story’s sensible, the motivations clear enough, and Popeye is resolutely heroic for it all.

As seems to happen, I wonder if this was a condensed version of a comic strip or comic book adventure. Neither the Popeye Wikia nor the IMDB suggest it was. And it’s unfair to say that because a story is coherent and entertaining it must come from somewhere else. There’s no reason Seymour Kneitel can’t write good stories. Still, a condensation would explain why Rough House isn’t suspicious when the Captain takes the knocked-out Popeye.

Someone off-screen pulls by a leash a decoy rabbit, holding a carrot in its mouth. An enthusiastic, happy Goon chases the decoy.
So anyway I hope your year is turning out productive like this.

We get introduced to Goon Valley as “A Backwards Country”, along with some jokes about things being done the wrong way around. Putting a mailbox in a letter, for example, or a mugger forcing cash on someone. (Who seems happy about it, too.) A serious critic might consider the colonialist implications of these pirates raiding a country explicitly labelled “backwards”. And being saved by the white guy coming in and defending them, and encouraging them to adopt his own techniques to fend off future incursions[*]. Me, I’m considering: is this a ripoff of Bizarro? The character first appeared, in Superboy, in 1959, and was popular for good reasons. But he was a lone “backwards” figure. Bizarro’s world (Htrae) first appeared in April 1960, if Wikipedia doesn’t mislead me. It’s … conceivable that this was filling out a couple minutes of screen time with a Bizarro World riff. But I find coincidence is the more compelling explanation. It’s not a unique genius that would think of “what if everyday life, but backwards?” It must have antecedents.

The captain of the poachers isn’t a Brutus figure, although Jackson Beck does the voice. Beck also does Rough House’s voice, using a southern-fried accent I think is unique to this short.


[*] One might ask whether I’m trivializing a serious and worthwhile form of criticism by putting it to a disposable cartoon from the 60s. I don’t intend to trivialize, no. I argue, first, that we learn how to think seriously about things by first thinking lightly about things. Whether by shallow thoughts or by simple topics. If the text doesn’t have enough of a point of view to criticize, it’ll fall apart under examination, and it’s worth learning how to spot that, too. And some serious thinkers would agree that the pop-culture stuff shoveled into kids’ heads deserves examination. But, again, these are for real critics, as opposed to what I do around here.

Some Unwise Resolutions


I can think of nothing more useful to see us into 2020 than this good advice to see us into 2019. Good luck, all of you.


To allow a web site to send notifications. Something’s gotten into web sites recently that they want to notify you of things. There’s no good reason for that. The only legitimate thing a web site might want to send you is a notice that they have something for you to look at. But you knew that. What more can it have to tell you? So any attempt to notify you of things is a bluff. The site might start out with things of actual slight interest, like “there is no English word for [ and here a big blank space exists ]”, or “The Wrinkle In Time movie was one of the fifty highest-grossing motion pictures of 2018”, or, “there was a Wrinkle In Time movie in 2018”.

After about four days they’ll run out of stuff to talk about. “Bobby London was the only Popeye comic strip artist born after the character Popeye was created.” You’ll get ever-more-marginal items, like, “you mean about the same thing if you say `that’s nothing to laugh at’ or `that’s nothing to sneeze at’ but if you mix up laughing and sneezing in other contexts it’s awkward”. Carry on another two weeks and it’ll be asking things like, “remember that jingle for Bon-Bons candy in the 80s? If you don’t, here it is!” Two weeks after that the web site notifications author will have run out entirely of content and will just be sending you their fanfic from high school. Maybe their poetry. And then they’ll ask you to have opinions and to be honest and then where are you going to be?

To not be eaten by a bear. This is a traditional resolution, dating back to the days when people had good reason to worry about bears getting into them. Its earliest known appearance in a pamphlet published during the English Civil War, where it was taken to be some kind of satire about the Cavaliers or some fool thing because everything was back then. The flaw with this as a resolution is obvious to even the most basic trainee genie: even if you manage to avoid being eaten by a bear there’s nothing keeping you from being eaten by that other bear who’s also hanging around. And trying to tighten it up by resolving “to not be eaten by every bear”? Then if every bear that ever existed except one were to dine on and using you, your resolution would be satisfied, while you would not be. The resolution needs a lot of logical tightening-up before it’ll do what you want.

To reach inbox zero. Never, never attempt this. Just attempting will leave you becalmed in a world of feeling guilty about not answering that friend who sent that sweet just-thinking-of-you note two Februaries ago. And if you succeed? If you reach inbox zero you die for keeps. Whereas if you die with a decent heap of miscellaneous e-mails? Your ghost continues to walk the earth, trying to sort e-mails into their key categories:

  • Things which may be deleted.
  • Things which belong in an archive where they will never be read.
  • Things which are the pants vendor at the outlet mall near the city where you used to live six years ago hoping to reestablish some kind of relationship with you.
  • Things which need an answer.

As things stand I’ve got, like, forty years after my death sorting all this out and I’m going to use all that time.

To not grow taller. Most of us adopt this resolution without thinking about it. We start out growing just fine and after maybe two decades of life just let it taper out. And it’s understandable. By the time we’ve reached our early twenties we’re usually large enough for most of the good amusement park rides. Growing any bigger yet would upset the delicate ecosystem of our wardrobe. And who needs the bother? So it’s natural we all drift to about the same decision.

But! It’s a different thing when you resolve not to grow any taller, no matter what. That’s just closing off potential adventure. And yeah, you reach a point in life where adventure is too much work. You get more into activities like sitting and having knee pain. If someone came to you right this minute and asked you to be eighty feet tall and maybe tromping around downtown if the National Guard promised to be ineffective against you, would you say yes? Why not?

To label all the wires behind the home entertainment system. The only reason to do this is to learn how many of the wires in that tangle connect to nothing on either end, but you can’t remove them because if you do there’s no picture, no sound, and a local news anchor comes over to slap your wrists. There are 32 such.

MiSTed: A Moment of Hack (Part 1 of 2)


I have this logged in a folder marked “recently used MiSTings”, as I first published it here back in April 2020. But consider how long ago that was: back then, we were trying to end the Covid-19 pandemic. So, since the resource I thought had some older vintage MiSTings was less accessible than I thought, please, enjoy this bit, originally written in 2018, making fun of that guy who totally hacked your account and has the proof.

The only riff that really needs context here is that in 2018, we thought 2018 was a brutal year.


MiSTed: You password must be need changed (your password:group2) [ 0 / 1 ]

 

[ THEATER. ALL file in. ]

> From: <group2@site.tld>

CROW: I love group2@site.tld’s writing!

> Subject: You password must be need changed (your password:group2)

TOM: Remember, you promised you’d walk and feed *and* change your password when we got you one!

> Date: November 15, 2018 at 4:36:12 PM EST
> To: group2 <group2@site.tld>

CROW: Group 2 is the cool group. We don’t need those Group 6 wieners.

>
>
> Dear user of site.tld!

MIKE: Hi! Been a crazy year, hasn’t it? So what’ve you been up to?

>
>
> I am a spyware software developer.

TOM: Well I’m a level-12 half-orc mage so don’t you go trying to beat my initiative roll.

>
> Your account has been hacked by me in the summer of 2018.

CROW: Man, you wanna feel old? The summer of 2018 was *this* *year*.

>
>
>
> I understand that it is hard to believe,

MIKE: But I can flare each nostril separately from the other!

> but here is my evidence:

TOM: [ Fumbling, feeble voice ] Um, heh, sorry, thought I had the thingy plugged in … uh … heh, see, it’s a mini USB … or micro … uh, heheh … maybe it’s upside-dowooops, dropped it.

>
> – I sent you this email from your account.

MIKE: It’s asking you to celebrate someone’s ‘work anniversary’ on LinkedIn for some reason?

>

> – Password from account group2@site.tld: group2 (on moment of hack).

TOM: Prices higher west of the Rocky Mountains.

>
>
>
> The hacking was carried out using a hardware vulnerability through
> which you went online

CROW: Yeah? Well I only respond to emotional vulnerability.

> (Cisco router, vulnerability CVE-2018-0296).

MIKE: [ Military Nerd voice ] Excuse me but the CVE-2018-0296 is the USS Ranger, a Forrestal-class supercarrier with a displacement of 81,000 long tons under full load *thank* you.

>
>
>
> I went around the security system in the router,

CROW: I jabbed my foot into an endtable.

> installed an
> exploit there.

TOM: Stepped on a Lego block … you know, your security is pretty *good*, I have to say.

>
> When you went online, my exploit downloaded my malicious code

MIKE: Well, it’s not malicious so much as it is passive-aggressive code.

CROW: ‘No, go ahead and read my page with the adblocker on, I’ll be fine.’

> (rootkit) to your device.

TOM: Hey, we’re trying to stay PG here!

>
> This is driver software,

CROW: This is driver software on drugs.

> I constantly updated it,

MIKE: The only way to foil it is to hit ‘postpone updates until tomorrow’ every single day!

> so your antivirus
> is silent all time.

TOM: Your Antivirus Silent All-time Hall of Famers!

>
>
> Since then I have been following you

CROW: Did you see me clicking like and share?

> (I can connect to your device
> via the VNC protocol).

MIKE: The VNC Protocol, starring Clint Eastwood, George Kennedy, and Vonetta McGee.

>
> That is, I can see absolutely everything that you do, view and
> download your files and any data to yourself.

TOM: [ Voice warbling ] Even my Knuckles/Marrissa Picard fanfic?

>
> I also have access to the camera on your device,

[ CROW and TOM squirm, uncomfortable. MIKE looks up so as not to have to acknowledge either. ]

 

> and I periodically
> take photos and videos with you.

MIKE: [ As though reading a postcard ] Having wonderful time, wish I were here …

>
>
> At the moment, I have harvested a solid dirt…

TOM: [ Dramatic sting ] DUN-dun-dunnnnnnnn!

> on you…

CROW: Gasp!

MIKE: Merciful heavens!

TOM: Oh, Professor Firefly!

>
> I saved all your email and chats from your messangers.

MIKE: Your mess angers.

TOM: Your Me’s Sangers.

> I also saved
> the entire history of the sites you visit.

TOM: You ah, got any copies of Web Site Number Nine kicking around there?

>
>

CROW: Your Mess an’ Gers?

MIKE: Oh, you always want a plate of those if you go to a British pub.

> I note that it is useless to change the passwords.

TOM: [ As Chico ] ‘Swordfish’?

> My malware update
> passwords from your accounts every times.

CROW: Yeah? Well … my festive clockwork bubbles from your kneepads every thermostat!

>
>
> I know what you like hard funs (adult sites).

TOM: Ooh, hard funs?

MIKE: Yeah, those are the anise-tasting funs your gramma keeps in that glass dish on the coffee table that still smells like smoke even though she quit eighteen years ago.
[ TOM makes a little disappointed groan. ]


[ To continue … ]

Today’s Thought in Observance of the Inexorable Passage of Time


It’s a strange and amazing thought, going to the good thrift store and walking through the selection of electronic organs. It makes you appreciate just how amazing it is that each and every one of these was the consolation gift for some game show contestant in the 1970s. Imagine the tales they could tell about having been photographed for a hurried voice-over at the end of Tic Tac Dough, Card Sharks, Whew!, Lee Trevino’s Golf For Swingers, or How Do You Like Your Eggs?. All those orange-shag-carpeted voices, quiet now, and you have to ask someone to plug them in. How strange is life.

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? Were those drones from the future watching Dick Tracy? October – December 2021


The big storyline in Dick Tracy was set off by “Time Drones”. That is, the kind of hovering aerial camera/microphones used to record viral videos of drivers attempting the new traffic circle. The Time Factory blew up, though we saw many drones hovering over the ruins. And Smith asks if Tracy remembers “what my first time travel drone, the ‘mystery ship’, saw”. Tracy does, and Smith says, “I think that future is now”. Tracy’s memory is better than mine, or those of most readers. jonahhex1, a GoComics commenter, identified what all this was about. The fleet of drones was not from our, 2021’s, future. By “The Future” what was referenced was this moment from 2014, the story introducing the time travel shenanigans into our strip:

Diet Smith, explaining: 'As you remember, Tracy, my son, Brilliant, was killed by the criminal, Big Frost. I began project 'Blue Image' to go back in time and save him. I tried countless modifications. But it was impossible to dictate the era the 'Mystery Ship' would travel to. Each try became more perilous. So I stopped. Of all the images we received, the last was most telling. It was of this building, all gone but for some rubble atop its cornerstone, while aircraft filled the sky overhead.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 6th of November, 2014. I think we’re all impressed that Staton and Curtis dropped in something that they wouldn’t pay off for seven years. But I would like them to pop over and borrow some narrative bubbles from The Phantom because one little tag reading “Nov 6, 2014” would have saved me a lot of confusion reading the strip. Now on to resolving the haunting of B.O.Plenty’s home!

These drones, then, are not a fleet of onlookers from the future gawking at a major disaster. They’re just contemporary drones gawking at a major disaster. Diet Smith has said he doesn’t plan to build new Time Drones, and nobody’s been shown trying to change his mind.

This should catch you up to December 2021 in Mike Curtis, Joe Staton, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy. (Joe Staton stepped down from the strip in late October.) If you’re reading this after about March 2022, or any news about the comic strip breaks, I should have a more useful essay for you here.

And a last bit of self-promotion. While I’ve put my mathematics glossary project on a (brief, I hope) hiatus, I do still have what I think are quite nice discussions up there. And I’m bringing some older discussions out of the misty past, using the old-fashioned time-droning of going on at length. Thanks for considering my pop mathematics writing.

Dick Tracy.

3 October – 25 December 2021.

Diet Smith’s newest super-invention is the Time Drone, able to bring aerial surveillance to anyone, anytime, through all history. I know, you’re busy thinking how “the past” includes split-seconds in the past. But I ask you to consider how much this could mess up Silver and Sprocket Nitrate’s forged-historical-movies business. By day it offers glorious opportunities to historical and archeological researchers. By night it offers Sterling Eliot, Smith Industries mole on behalf of The Apparatus, the chance to find lost loot for the crime syndicate. And, for himself, a chance to look at this coming week’s lottery numbers. At least until the Time Drone apparatus explodes, killing Eliot and two others, and wounding Diet Smith.

Sterling Elliot, working the Time Drone apparatus; in view is a newspaper mentioning the $1.75 billion lottery jackpot. Elliot thinks: 'I've done all the footwork and erased the tracks for The Apparatus. After this trip, I can write my own ticket out of here.' Something goes awry with the Time Drone, that shivers and wobbles around uncontrollably: 'What? ... The diagnostics report was clear ... I CAN'T STABILIZE IT!' The Time Drone explodes, with the explosion going on to shatter the whole building.
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 17th of October, 2021. I’d thought the problem might have been the attempt to send a Time Drone into the future, rather than the past. But the ‘Mystery Ship’ went into the future all right, in that 2014 strip. I suppose we have to conclude it was just a mishap of technology that’s still young, even if it could be operated by a lone person, that caused Sterling Elliot’s untimely death.

Diet Smith convalesces under the care of Daddy Warbucks, a man who knows how to not get in trouble when people around him turn up dead. (Fun fact: both Oliver Warbucks’s first and second wives died while with him at sea.) Tracy, meanwhile, pursues Briar Rose. She was the Law Enforcement Magazine reporter who’d interviewed him the previous month, and was going on to interview Diet Smith. She was a fraud, not affiliated with Law Enforcement Magazine or any other magazine. It’s a slender lead, but the only one they have.

It’s also a good one, as she is under The Apparatus’s protection, whether she likes it or not. She has some criminal “business” going on, that I can’t quite get clear. But The Apparatus is the bigger fish, so if they say she has to work from their hotel room, she has to work from their hotel room. Ace of Spades, the head of The Apparatus, decides she’s a good one to take the blame for whatever the heck happened at Smith Industries. He has her put somewhere Dick Tracy can find her after her shocking death.

Briar Rose, being arrested: 'Yeah, I'm okay, but he was going to kill me!' Sam Catchem: 'He's not a problem anymore, Ms Rose. I'm Detective Sam Catchem. We've been looking for you.' Rose: 'I know. Take me to Dick Tracy. I'll explain everything to him.'
Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 15th of November, 2021. One can snark that this is another Dick Tracy mystery resolved by dumb luck. If Catchem hadn’t decided to try a new deli he’d have missed the whole thing. But Briar Rose’s offer to tell everything is motivated, at least if we trust she worked out that the promise of a ‘safe house’ was a lie. It’s a reasonable thing for her to work out, even if it was worked out off-screen.

Sam Catchem finds her, though, as she’s being moved in. It’s a lucky break; he happened to stop at the deli underneath the death-site apartment. He follows, catching and shooting the zentai-clad assassin holding Briar Rose. Rose is happy to flip, and I can’t blame her.

Dick Tracy moves fast, taking on the disguise of the Jack of Spades, Rose’s failed assassin. So he’s doing some actual super-detective work here. Mumbles takes him back to the Ace of Spades, who wants to know, where is Rose’s body? If Rose is dead, why was “Jack” unconscious when Mumbles recovered him? What about this makes any sense? And as it’s weeks away from my plot recap, they tear his hood off and reveal Dick Tracy. Meanwhile the cops, who’ve been listening over the two-way wrist radio, move in and grab everyone with a weird face or speech gimmick. Ace of Spades as well as Doubleup are able to escape through the plot tunnels, but otherwise it’s a pretty good catch of villains.


The next phase started the 11th of December. This with a museum exhibit on America’s Top Cop. That would be Dick Tracy, who’s been fighting The Apparatus (under various names) for 90 years now without clearing them out of the city. But then The Apparatus (under various names) has been trying for 90 years to kill Dick Tracy and that hasn’t taken. So Ace of Spades, from his new hiding place, hires Richard “Mr Bones” Bonhomme to take a shot at him. No rush, just, you know, succeed this time.

Blackjack: 'Mr Bones? From the DT Collector Forum?' Bones: 'Correct! I should have known you'd be here, Blackjack.' Looking over the Wall of Hats, Bones says, 'Ah! Even Dick Tracy has a collector's streak in him. Each hat represents a moment when he cheated death!' Blackjack, thinking: 'Except mine, of course.' Bones: 'Let's take in the rest of the exhibit.' Blackjack: 'Agreed!'
Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 18th of December, 2021. Blackjack’s Hat doesn’t represent a time Tracy cheated death. Way back in March 2012 when we met Blackjack, he surrendered to the cops once he was allowed to set Tracy’s hat on a fire hydrant and shoot it. This so he could get a credit on Tracy’s Wall of Hats without risking harm to “my pal”.

Mr Bones’s thoughts turn to Blackjack. You may know him as that guy who played Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumpin” (“I got knocked down/ but I get up again”) while robbing banks and being a Dick Tracy superfan. Blackjack’s storage lock of Dick Tracy memorabilia got stolen recently, and Blackjack broke out of jail to find it. Mr Bones — “From the DT Collector Forum” — hangs out at the exhibit until Blackjack appears, and admits: he’s the one who stole Blackjack’s collection. But he’s happy to return it … we don’t yet know what for.

Yes, it does seem like Mr Bones stole Blackjack’s collection before being hired to kill Dick Tracy. I don’t know whether this is because Mr Bones was hired long before we first saw mention of it. He did say he suspected Dick Tracy might be the target, but I don’t know when he got the idea The Apparatus wanted him to kill someone. It’s also possible (as I write this) that Mr Bones is bluffing about the stolen collection, to manipulate Blackjack.

Also I appreciate that the in-universe Dick Tracy Collectors have a Forum. I hope this means their main social group is on a charmingly semi-maintained phpBB forum rather than being a Facebonk or Reddit or Discord something bad like that.

Meanwhile, Patty Cure, a woman who’d been letting The Apparatus use her doorstep as a package drop, turned herself in. The Apparatus came to her looking for someone with “management experience to run an escort service”. And they didn’t stop pressuring her after the big raids. Lizz Worthington goes under cover as Cure, to learn what The Apparatus does want her to do. And that’s where we stand on the brink of the future.

Next Week!

Is that Halloween party still going on? Why aren’t we seeing more Santa Claus? I look in on Old Time Radio’s own Jim Scancarelli, and Gasoline Alley, to ring in 2022, I hope. See you then.

Reposting The Stages Of The Road Trip: Stage Four


It is unlikely to surprise anyone who read this the first time I posted that the hotel-toothbrush-experience thing is drawn from real life. And, yes, I did get this odd plastic contraption made out of a credit-card-size piece of plastic and I would have done better to put toothpaste on my finger. I maybe also could just put the toothbrush my dentist gives me into my glove compartment. I feel like the Fred Basset trivia isn’t something I wholly made up, but I think it’s really some other comic strip that only runs Sunday strips for the overseas market. Andy Capp strips used to get extra panels for the American Sunday publications. And there is a fantastic long essay about Andy Capp here that’s made me appreciate that comic more. No sarcasm there. Worth the read.


No, Dan, we are not stopping the car already just because you’re not sure you packed your toothbrush. It can wait. Yes, well, you know where it’s possible to get a toothbrush any time, day or night? Only in every store ever, including freaking Best Buy if you really need.

Sophia explains how you can just ask the front desk at the hotel for a toothbrush. Amanda and Dan insist they just will never have one. Josh says he’s read about how they will, it’s just nobody ever thinks to ask. Sophia insists that they may or may not, it depends on the hotel. All are willing to grant that it doesn’t hurt to ask. Then Josh explains about the time he did ask, and the “toothbrush” they had was just weird. Like, it was this credit-card-size flat thing that unfolded a tiny bit, and it had like eight bristles, and he probably would have been better brushing his teeth with his finger.

The discussion leads naturally to kind of bragging about the biggest glob of toothpaste everyone’s eaten. Also the discovery that Amanda is afraid of swallowing toothpaste because it turns out this is on the boxes? This is fun enough that everyone registers they just passed a funny city-destinations sign but can’t remember what was funny about it.

The party’s definitely travelled a good distance now. It’s not just the third-tier but the second-tier fast-food restaurants that they don’t have back home.

Amanda finds it very significant that this town’s Cheese House specialty cheese shop mascot is very much a ripoff of forgotten Famous Studios cartoon mouse Herman or Katnip, whichever one of them was the mouse. Probably Herman. That would be the less obscure joke to make in naming them. Anyway this is very important to Amanda and she’s not going to let it go until everyone agrees this is an important revelation.

All right, so Dan tosses this out: what if a place like the Outback Steakhouse, only instead of theoretically being Australian, it’s Scottish themed? Nobody actually knows offhand what Scottish food is. “Fried … bladders or something?” offers Josh, who admits he’s maybe thinking of what bagpipes were made of. Not the fried part. But that doesn’t matter. You could serve anything. Just put some fun stuff on the walls.

This feeds into the discovery that Amanda had been to the town where Andy Capp was from. Like, the comic strip Andy Capp. Also that it’s based on a real actual town. There’s a statue of him there and everything, a claim that threatens to be laughed at for miles except that they find pictures of it. With her newfound expertise the party is willing to accept Amanda’s claim that “Andy Capp” is supposed to be a pun on the word “handicap”. She blows it completely when she tries to claim that English newspapers don’t run Fred Basset on Sundays and those strips are made just for the American readers.

OK, but you can agree where it would be correct structuring of a joke if the mouse were named Katnip, right?

Everyone over-plans the next gas station stop. They’re trying to figure how to look casual while timing Dan to see how long he needs to remember to check his toothbrush. Everyone’s disappointed he remembers almost right away, before even going in to the bathroom. He does have his toothbrush, although it’s in the wrong plastic bag. The gas station chains are all weird around here too, although they take the same customer-loyalty card. This is disappointing.

Everyone agrees there is no satisfactory reason why these nachos should be soggy.

Josh finally explains that phone number on the no-longer-sticky note in his glove compartment: he doesn’t know what it is. But it looks a lot like his writing. It must be too important to throw away or else why would he have put it there? Could he call the number and find out who it is? No, absolutely not under any circumstances.

You expect to discover new places when you road trip. You don’t expect to find out how all your friends are freaks.

60s Popeye: Popeye in the Grand Steeple Chase


We’ve finally broken Seymour Kneitel-Mania! Briefly. Jack Kinney Studios takes over for this 1960 short. Story by Carol Beers, and animation direction by Harvey Toombs.

Before getting into Popeye in the Grand Steeple Chase a quick warning. At about 7:21 in the short, Popeye uses a then-accepted-by-white-people slur to refer to being cheated. Don’t want you caught unaware.

It’s easy to say why do a horse-racing cartoon. There’s bunches of good setups available. They may all exist in the shadow of Walt Disney’s Goofy cartoon How To Ride A Horse. Also of the Marx Brothers’ A Day At The Races. Fine. Those are the shadows you want to be in.

I’ve mentioned how often Jack Kinney cartoons felt like sketches or first drafts of cartoons. And the previous Carol Beers-story cartoons, Camel Aires and Popeye’s Museum Piece, had more sketchy or baffling storylines. This time around it’s all pretty straightforward. Olive Oyl cajoles Popeye into entering a steeplechase. Brutus sells Popeye a bad horse. Brutus figures to win the steeplechase himself. Despite his dirty tricks Popeye gives his horse “organic spinach-falfa” and wins the race. And, yes, Brutus would surely have won if he hadn’t wasted all that time digging a trap for Popeye. Isn’t that always the way?

The baffling stuff is all tucked into the details. Some of them are jokes, or at least attempted jokes. Wimpy as the racetrack announcer, for example, won’t stop eating hamburgers, even though this reduces his announcements to gibberish. That’s a fair joke. It’s confusing only because I’d expect those names to be jokes. I can’t make out if they are. But not putting in the joke I expect isn’t wrong. Also, credit to the studio for at least claiming there are other jockeys. This sort of Popeye-versus-Bluto/Brutus cartoon often skips having other competitors. Brutus locking the other jockeys in makes the race more full without forcing anyone to animate a third figure.

In the stands several groups of seriously-dressed people watch the race. Olive Oyl is jumping around, swinging her arms and legs, cheering Popeye. Two of the audience are looking at Olive Oyl, annoyed or resentful or worse.
I love how much those two people resent Olive Oyl being all cheerful and excited at a sporting event.

Also I understand intellectually that people dressed more formally back then. But this crowd for the horse race is dressed, to me, like they’re witnessing a State of the Union address.

There’s other small baffling things. Brutus affects a southern accent before putting on the persona of “Colonel Rudolph Brumus” for Popeye. It’s only one line, but why that line? Also, why “Rudolph Brumus”? It feels like a reference to someone adults at least would recognize around 1960. All it suggests to me is trying to do a name that’s amusing without being ostentatiously funny. You know, the way Paul Rhymer filled Vic and Sade with unlikely but not obviously clownish names. I’m never going to fault a writer for stuffing small, needless oddities. When it works, it’s the horse’s “Fax Mactor” fake tail.

There’s a character design oddity. The writing treats it as an obvious hilarity that Popeye’s horse, Sir Gallyhad, might be taken for a racehorse. But the drawing of him? I dunno, he looks like a normal cartoon horse to me. Maybe the animators had to start design work before the script was finished. Or it could be the horse design was prepared for another project. I don’t know what other stuff the Kinney studios was doing around that time.

The biggest characterization oddity: at the end, Brutus’s horse dunks him in the pit they dug to trap Popeye. Olive Oyl and Popeye find this hilarious. But they never discovered the various tricks Brutus had played to rig the race, other than selling Popeye a bum horse. Popeye didn’t even notice Brutus pulling out Sir Gallyhad’s Fax Mactor tail. But then it’s so natural for Popeye and Olive Oyl to laugh at Brutus’s comeuppance. Maybe Beers overlooked that the story hadn’t given them much reason to want him beaten up by his horse.

Statistics Saturday: Some Pre-19th-Century Christmas Traditions, So Far As You Know


  • Whelk-shaming
  • Introducing ferrets to places where they are inefficient
  • Slapping a great volume of cheese
  • Determining, from the use of indirect questions alone, which person has put their right sock on their left and vice-versa
  • Suspending small coinage from a great height using a rope
  • Describing animals from the New World or Australia and challenging others to tell whether they are real or made up
  • Naming someone the Ruler of Dubiously Appropriate Music
  • Pants-cudgeling
  • Finding how many rounds of drink are necessary before no one in the room can pronounce the word “lugubrious”
  • A great deal of twirling
  • Trading folded-up pieces of paper on which everyone has made a secret mark which then no one looks at
  • Running chest-first into a brick wall until you have to stop

Reference: The Invention of Tradition, Editors Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger.

60s Popeye: Spinach Greetings, unrelated to Seasin’s Greetinks


And now Seymour Kneitel-mania gets us to 1960 and the most seasonally appropriate King Features Popeye of all. How could this have ever lined up so it would publish, in my time zone, Christmas Eve? Other than by my shuffling my schedule around to fill it with reviews this past week? Hey, it happened, that’s enough. Now with story, direction, and production credited to Seymour Kneitel, let’s enjoy some Spinach Greetings.

The Sea Hag has captured Santa Claus and only Popeye can rescue Christmas.

This is a freaking great premise. That may be the best half-hour Christmas special you could make featuring Popeye. This turns out instead to be your regular five-and-a-half-minute cartoon, but never mind. The idea is first-rate.

So I’m sorry that I don’t like the cartoon more. So much about it is appealing. Settling in with Popeye reading ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. The stockings set up at the fireplace, with the mouse hanging up a tiny stocking ultimately filled with cheese. Wimpy’s stocking having a hole that leads to a garbage bin. Sea Hag’s clear statement of motivation: “Everyone is happy this time of year and it’s all Santa Claus’s fault!” Santa flying a reindeer-headed jet plane, too. The change in vehicle must be easier to animate than eight tiny reindeer. It also fits with Space Age attempts at updating Santa to jets and rockets and other modern vehicles. That didn’t stick, but it makes sense to try.

Popeye learns the Sea Hag captured Santa. He sneaks into her castle. She sends her Vulture to capture and dispose of Popeye. He’s eaten his spinach, so he can kill the Vulture instead. She drops Popeye down her trap door; he punches the alligators in the pit into luggage. She throws a tantrum while Popeye frees Santa. It’s a happy ending. It’s all competently animated, and it all fits together well. But the cartoon somehow fails to have a good escalating tension or action or anything. I’ve mentioned how Paramount Cartoon Studios shorts have only the one gear. That serves a mood piece like Myskery Melody fine, and it works great for Sisyphean cartoons like Popeye Goes Sale-Ing. Here, it keeps the exciting part from being exciting.

Santa, in the cockpit of his reindeer rocket sleigh, waves to Popeye, Swee'Pea, Olive Oyl, and Wimpy.
I understand the plotting reason that Wimpy and Olive Oyl didn’t go along: they’d have to either be captured or else do things that don’t save Santa. If the short had seven minutes to play, there might be time for that. But it’s odd there’s no excuse given for their not helping, not even “The Sea Hag is too dangerous, you hasta stay home”.

Here’s an example of something unsatisfying here. Santa says nothing after he’s kidnapped. He sheds a tear, a moment that works great. But the whole short goes by with Santa doing and saying nothing, at least until his final farewell. I don’t have a good hypothesis why not. If he said nothing though the whole short his wordlessness would seem like a thoughtful choice. It would put Santa outside the normal world even despite being someone who could be tied to a chair. But as it is, it feels like they couldn’t even have Santa be interested enough to tell the Sea Hag she was being naughty. Why not have Santa and the Sea Hag squabble? How could that not be great?

Popeye kills animals this short. It’s something he’s done before, and even jokes he’s done before. Coming back with the cooked carcass of the Sea Hag’s Vulture evokes returning the Sindbad the Sailor’s Roc. Knocking alligators into luggage he’s done several times over. I don’t like that side of Popeye, even when he is doing it to stay alive. And it plays meaner here than it did in the theatrical shorts. Some of that’s because the made-for-TV shorts are less rowdy and rough than the theatrical shorts. Some of that’s because it is a Christmas cartoon. I mean, Santa is looking at you, Popeye.

The Sea Hag ends her part in the short crying how “My Christmas is ruined! Everybody’s gonna be happy!” That moment surprised me. It’s a funny and appropriate way to go out, but I’d expected some softening at the end. That Santa would give her a present. It could be a piece of coal, that she could take as confirmation of her special wickedness. I bet if this were a half-hour special they’d have included that. But I like that it isn’t softened. It surprises while staying the logical result of the characters’ choices.

(Seasin’s Greetinks is a 1933 theatrical short, from before they got Jack Mercer, Mae Questel, and Jackson Beck to do the voices. It’s got no Santa Claus in it, but Popeye does decorate a tree by punching.)

MiSTed: GALACTIC FEDERATION Update (Part 4 of 4)


And now the end of this MiSTing of the Robert McElwaine GALACTIC FEDERATION Update. I’ll have something else next week, I don’t know what.

MOS Burgers is this hamburger chain I got into when I lived in Singapore. They had a lot of advertising copy about being in harmony with nature and such. Good burgers, including the option to get a “bun” made of steamed-rice patties. The Klindesteron beademungen were friendly but incomprehensible aliens encountered in the James Blish short story “Common time”.

Marissa Picard is of course the hero of Stephen Ratliff’s famous Kids Crew Star Trek fanfic series, the series that also made Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic a thing. Jay Gordon was a supporting character in the series. There was no MiSTing with a host sketch where the Brains made Jay Gordon cry, though. I don’t think there was even a host sketch where they met. Marrissa Picard got a few appearances, though. Sonic the Hedgehog also produced a bunch of fanfic that was good for MiSTing.

The mention of Heidi Klum references a Usenet crank of the early 2000s, who held that the aliens who control human destiny leave hints to the future in the career of Heidi Klum. He’d show up in the relevant newsgroup whenever Klum appeared on, say, Conan O’Brien’s show, explaining how to decode her amiable small talk.


>
> Today, we have discussed segments of our shared history that
> explain your origins and the basis of your present condition of
> consciousness.

MIKE: Next week, remember, we’re doing the Polish-Lithuanian monarchy, so read up chapter eight and be ready with questions, people.

> We ask you to use this awareness to examine how far you
> actually have come!

CROW: I’m suddenly more aware of my tongue.

TOM: You don’t have a tongue.

CROW: Then I’m suddenly confused and distressed.

> Your liberation and new world service are truly
> within reach!

TOM: As soon as you pay up your library fines!

> We now take our leave.

MIKE: [ As Groucho ] I’ve had a wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.

> Blessings, dear Ones! Know, in
> your Heart of Hearts,

CROW: In your Diamond of Diamonds,

MIKE: In your Spade of Spades,

TOM: In your Club of Clubs..

> that the eternal Supply and perpetual Prosperity
> of Heaven is yours!

MIKE: This reads like the advertising materials for MOS Burgers.

> So Be It! Selamat Gajun! Selamat Kasijaram!

CROW: They’re either Malay or the Klindesteron beademungen.

> (Sirian
> for Be One! Blessed in Love and in Joy!)

TOM: And there’s some fine print where you sign up to buy two CDs each month for a year.

>
> Planetary Activation Organization

MIKE: Somebody check the Earth’s batteries. Venus was dead three months before we noticed.


> http:
//www.paoweb.com
>
> This copy was reposted by Robert E. McElwaine

TOM: The `E’ stands for `Extra.’

CROW: Robert E. McExtralwaine?

> PAO Member
> Eckankar Initiate

MIKE: And a good friend.

> B.S., Physics and Astronomy, UW-EC

CROW: Hah … Mike?

MIKE: Not my fault, guys.


> http:
//members.aol.com/rem547 PLUS

> http:
//members.aol.com/rem460

TOM: That adds up to rem 1007.

>


> See also http:
//www.paoweb.com/sn122600.htm ,

CROW: A URL actually created by a snore.


> http:
//www.disclosureproject.org .
>

> P.S.:
PASS IT ON !

MIKE: You’ll never guess which of your close friends is waiting for this very message!

>

> ok

TOM: OK? Is that all you have to say for yourself?

[ 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. GYPSY, TOM SERVO, and CROW are there, with many papers scattered on the desk. A pencil is wedged into CROW’s hand. ]

GYPSY: You need line 17 from form 8-E.

CROW: I know, I’m just — look, how many amiable characters from the movies and shorts we watch have visited us on the Hex Field View Screen this year?

TOM: 28, including four visits from Marrissa Picard.

GYPSY: You have to tell them how you made Jay Gordon cry.

TOM: Tell them 35.

CROW: I’m not cheating on these forms!

TOM: Oh, like they’ll check?

GYPSY: It kind of goes against the spirit —

[ MIKE enters. They all hush up for a few seconds. ]

MIKE: So. Who wants to —

[ Simultaneously: ]

GYPSY: Crow.

CROW: Tom.

TOM: Crow.

MIKE: Well?

CROW: We realized we haven’t filled in our reports for the Galactic Federation of Light this year yet.

TOM: You wouldn’t believe how many forms it is, either, but it’s worth doing.

GYPSY: It’s an important part of bringing light to the universe.

MIKE: [ Playing along ] Plus you might get to be Head Beagle.

GYPSY: So we’re listing all this year’s light-bringing.

CROW: You got anything you want reported?

MIKE: I, uh, cleaned the burnt pizza stuff out of the toaster oven.

CROW: That’s good! What else do we have?

TOM: We played keep-away with Observer’s brain for like ten minutes.

MIKE: That didn’t really uplift anyone’s soul.

CROW: Well … what about that fun we had playing backgammon? That had to bring something good into the world.

GYPSY: We just moved the checkers around randomly for five minutes, got bored, then you threw them like ninja stars until you broke the McVote McDLT glasses.

CROW: Oh yeah.

TOM: Well … we had to have done something, right?

GYPSY: We didn’t stop anyone from bringing light.

TOM: Yeah!

CROW: OK, I’m writing that in — Mike, you have any stamps? We need to mail this to the Galactic Federation of Light Central Processing Bureau in Menominee, Michigan.

MIKE: Oh, fresh out. Let’s check in on Pittney-Bowes, shall we?

TOM: Four, five — hey, does Sonic the Hedgehog still exist?

[ CASTLE FORRESTER. The stage is filled by shipping cartons of all sizes, marked “LIGHT BULBS” and stacked precariously high. BOBO, PEARL, and OBSERVER are squeezed in front, reading
papers on a business envelope. ]

OBSERVER: Dahdahdaaah … appreciate your filing early … blah de blah … having reviewed your Federation of Light returns this year … yeah, uh-huh … computed against withholding reported in form 671-X …

PEARL: So how much of a light-bringing refund did we *get*?

BOBO: [ Pointing at a line ] Fifty-five thousand, three hundred forty three!

[ A pause, as PEARL simmers. ]

PEARL: That’s our Zip code, you — [ She pinches his nose. ]

[ BOBO barks, Curly style; his left arm windmills around and hits OBSERVER’s brain, which he drops, apparently onto PEARL’s foot as she grabs her foot and hops. She trips into BOBO, who bounces against one pile of boxes, sending it crashing. He rebounds to knock PEARL and OBSERVER into their own huge stacks, which sends off volleys of crashing and imploding light bulb sounds through the credits … ]

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

Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the characters and situations therein are the property of Best Brains, Inc. The essay “GALACTIC FEDERATION Update: August 5, 2003” comes to us from Robert McElwaine and Sheldan Nidle. This MiSTing as a whole is the creation of Joseph Nebus, who intends no particular ill-will towards Robert McElwaine, Sheldan Nidle, or any nigh-omnipotent beings guiding humanity towards a glorious new destiny in the stars, but does enjoy following Kansan’s reports of how they signal their intents through the life and career of Heidi Klum. Come back, Dr. Mike Neylon!

> Greetings, dear Hearts! We return with more interesting topics to
> share with you.

[ The end … for now. ]

60s Popeye: Popeye Goes Sale-ing, the closest he’s been to sea in ages here


We’re not done with Seymour Kneitel-Mania yet! Story, direction, and production are all credited to him in 1960’s Popeye Goes Sale-ing. Thank you, Paramount Cartoon Studios. Let’s enjoy.

The short starts with Popeye doing his scat singing. It’s nice and cozy and I wonder if they re-recorded it each cartoon or not. I also wonder why it’s used. Is it a simple way to pad out a cartoon that’s run too short? I could imagine doing a bit more of the shopping follies here, although I don’t know if it would make the cartoon any better.

Olive Oyl spots a half-off sale on everything in the department store, giving the opening for a couple reliable jokes showing sofas, tables, coats, that sort of thing cut in half. And then we go into the store and a bunch of schtick. It’s all constructed well enough, although we can fairly ask: is this a Popeye story? It could be any woman-and-man pairing from that era and you’d get about the same scene.

The joke is simple enough. Olive Oyl dives into the mob packed around a sale table and comes out with something she declares a great bargain. Also one that she doesn’t want, so she sends Popeye to get her money back. Getting the refund requires filling out great bunches of forms. I dimly remember the days when returning merchandise involved at least some explanation or effort, mostly writing down on a sheet how this was “not what you wanted”. I’m told that in older days yet it was harder still, except at stores that promised they did no-effort returns. Since there’s no comic value in returning merchandise being no effort, Popeye gets a bundle of paperwork with excessively fussy questions.

Popeye looks over his shoulders, at the camera, while shrugging his shoulders.
“It’s a living.”

And I did want to mention the studio did a nice job on the background. This is not sarcasm. I appreciate how few lines and colors they used to suggest the department-store setting without interfering at all with registering the characters or action.

Brutus isn’t here. But there’s no need for any antagonist. The point isn’t overcoming anything; the point is the Sisyphean nature of the event. And there are two cycles, Olive Oyl’s attempt to get something to find it’s not right, and Popeye’s work returning it. Since our focus stays with Popeye that’s not as obvious as could be. The only way off is for one person or another to get tired of it, and Popeye does, eating his spinach and finally doing something that some other woman-and-man pairing couldn’t.

We leave back on the road again, with Olive Oyl confined to wearing blinders. That’s a joke used in the theatrical cartoons, although mostly for cartoons about Olive Oyl learning to drive. I think this is the first time it was used to keep her from spotting department stores.

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? What’s the story with Morgan Le Fay? September – December 2021


I don’t know of a Prince Valiant wiki that explains their full backstory. But the current story does give some hints why Le Fay would have something personal against Valiant. She says Valiant once “stole my falcon, my favorite familiar, for Merlin to use against me”. I can understand how she’d hold that against him.

This should catch you up to mid-December 2021 in Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant. If any news about the strip breaks, or if you’re reading this after about March 2022, a more useful essay might be here.

And if you’re interested in mathematics, you might like my writing about the Atlas. It’s a concept in geometry, but it’s not too far off what you’d think from being into maps. It’s neat when that happens.

Prince Valiant.

26 September – 19 December 2021.

Aleta and Morgan Le Fey were in a pitched battle last I checked in. Their weapon of choice? Prince Valiant. In a strange, hallucinatory landscape Le Fay transforms Valiant into a gigantic, ravenous monster. Aleta matches Le Fay’s magic, transforming her husband into a lion who slashes Le Fay. The sorceress loses the battle, and Valiant regains consciousness in the waterfront inn where he’d been drugged.

A feeble, fallen Morgan Le Fay is revealed as Val's demonic tormentor. 'But, why?' cries Val. 'Why would you forfeit your soul in bargains with demons?' 'Because that was the only turn left to me,' Morgan retorts bitterly. 'You fool - you came to our shores as a boy, figments of glory clouding your eyes, blinding to our true history. You never saw how my half-brother Arthur built this kingdom ... the treachery ... the deceit ... if I hadn't served and protected my Arthur, he would have never succeeded. Then he decided he had no use for me! Even Merlin turned his back! So eventually I left our fair isle to travel - among the Bonsams of Africa, and the Chornyl Veedmak on far Eastern steppes. I learned much of their dark arts, as my last chance to get my due. But the price for such practices is always high. And with my failure o drive you to madness, I know that my debt will be called. No wget out! I am no longer any danger to you - leave me to my fate!' Val needs no further prompting, and returns to his bed, exhausted and with a great dread heavy over his heart. What, he wonders is happening here? He knows Morgan to be a great deceiver, but he feels there is also truth to her agony.
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 24th of October, 2021. When this first ran, I thought it represented the end of this encounter between Valiant and Le Fay. It seemed like a satisfactory enough moment of realizing that the villain has their story too. I’m happy to see more of that aspect. And it’s setting up some interesting directions.

Valiant finds Morgan Le Fay in the next room, looking beaten. In beating her in this dream landscape, possibly with his wife’s help, Valiant’s left Le Fay in supernatural peril. With King Arthur’s rise — supported by Prince Valiant — she turned to the dark arts “as my last chance to get my due”. But now she’s been thoroughly beaten, and now owes the dark forces more than she can repay.

He tries to continue riding back to Camelot, but comes across a ship being wrecked against the shoreline. The last person he can rescue is Morgan Le Fay, who credits the shipwreck to those dark forces. She can get home safely only travelling overland, and Valiant takes it on himself to protect her.

Val escorts Morgan on the road home. At sight of a circling gyrfalcon, the sorceress extends her arm ... but the bird ignores her. 'Now not eve my familiars will recognize me. Those that granted me power have taken it away,' she whispers, with a defeated look. 'You really have no defenses now?' asks Val. 'No more than the average woman,' Morgan responds. 'I could be the next witch burned alive, a pretty custom that Arthur has allowed. In the early days of my brother's conquests, I was his protection against sorcery, so he could focus on material warfare. Such was the role of a woman in those days. But then Arthur made alliances with the Church in the East and the Druids in the West, neither of whom can abide women of power. I, and all my sisters who practice the Craft, have been branded as evil ever since. Your Aleta has married well, and so far as seen exemption, but even that nicety may soon be at an end.' Morgan's words send a chill through Val, but a moment later a more pressing concern rises over a flanking hill - Mounted warriors!'
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 19th of December, 2021. I was not expecting Prince Valiant to bring up how power will malign the tools that marginalized peoples use for security. Or, for that matter, to work so scrupulously to present the villain’s side. It does hint at setting up a story for Aleta, one of our heroes, but it is presented as Morgan Le Fey’s story.

On approaching a village where a witch was recently hanged, Le Fay notes how it could have been her. Or could have been Aleta, who’s been exempted from society’s persecution of witchcraft … so far.

Next Week!

So the Apparatus, the big ineradicable crime syndicate in Dick Tracy’s city, got its hands on the Time Drones. How’s that working out for them? I recap Joe Staton, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy next week, if things go as I plan.

Reposting The Stages Of The Road Trip: Stage Three


Not mentioned when I first posted this, but implicit, is that much of this is drawn from real life. Preventorium Road, for example, which exists in Howell, New Jersey. (It once had a hospital for children with tuberculosis, which makes the oddness of the name less merry.) Also the vegetarian burgers; there was this place we went a couple of times and every time they had one of the vegetarian burgers that my love and I wanted, so I’d settle for the portobello mushroom. Porbotello mushrooms are what restaurants offer when they feel like they have to offer a vegetarian option but don’t want anyone to actually order it.


It’s still a lot of fun reading the names of the streets off the overpasses. “Fangboner Road” alone threatens to keep the gang giggling for hours. “Preventorium Road” inspires everyone to toss out out their ideas of what this could even mean. This goes on for so long and for such a merry time that by the time anyone can think to look it up they can’t remember what exactly the road name was. They know it wasn’t Vomitorium Road, but that’s as far as the consensus will reach. Amanda’s claim of knowing a “Squankum” are shaken off. It feels like a bad laugh although they’re not sure exactly why.

The fourth great field of sheep is not so much fun as the first. Dan insists the problem is the sheep aren’t trying to be interesting. Sophia asserts that few things would be worse than sheep that compel your interest. The menace of the hypnosheep masters keeps the group’s spirits up for the next two fields of sheep before they sink beneath all possible commentary.

Is that a strip mall with two yoga centers? Josh says it’s three, but he’s definitely mis-reading tea room as a yoga center. Right? We mean it’s one of those tea rooms too fancy to be comfortable. Well, there’s definitely at least two. Maybe this is just the yoga center district of town?

Well, this is a restaurant. All right, it’s not a vegetarian-friendly restaurant. It seems determined to put meat into things that don’t even need it. There’s a high-pressure gun in the kitchen. It injects chicken and processed lobster food product into everything. “We just want some garlic toast,” beg Josh and Amanda. “We don’t need animals to have died for the cause!” The restaurant tries to cope with the concept of someone who wants the tomato soup that hasn’t had a fist-sized chunk of pig flesh ripped off and unked into it. But the effort fails. There’s a mishap in the kitchen, and it sprays chicken cutlets, which are dug out even of the glove box up to three months later. At least that’s how the story goes. Really it’s more that the waitstaff has to come back to apologize that they don’t have a second black-bean burger patty, would a portobello mushroom be all right? And it really wouldn’t, but Josh would take it to not cause trouble for people who have to deal with much worse customers. It’s all right, since it turns out they don’t have portobello either. He gets a plate of melted butter with a scoop of mashed potatoes. Later he tries to insist that mashed potatoes would be a good substitute for the burger patty, earning him so much grief.

That’s a weird bunch of sheep but nobody wants to reopen the subject.

All right but serious talk. Or anyway, comparing the bathroom stuff that different hotels give you. Everyone takes turns asserting they’ve seen the most preposterous blend of things. Sophia claims to have been at a long-term hotel once that had a single tube which claimed to be soap, skin lotion, shampoo, hair conditioner, toothpaste, mouthwash, energy drink, makeup remover, transparent nail polish, shoe polish, stain remover, windshield fluid, transmission fluid, and fish ick treatment. Two miles later she says she thinks she went on too long for the laugh she could possibly get. Dan says that a combination mouthwash and energy drink is a great idea and she should patent that. Amanda questions whether you could patent … what, coffee with way too much mint? This allows everyone to learn a little bit more about each other, as they say what kinds of things they can or can’t eat right after brushing their teeth. This causes everyone to realize their friends are daft. This is worse than when they learned what podcasts everyone else listened to.

All right but is that a two-story strip mall? Is it possible to be a strip mall if it has got a second story? Yeah, we know about that strip mall with the two-story Borders that used to be there, but that was just the one place. If the mall has a second floor with different shops upstairs isn’t that … well, we clearly don’t have the words for this concept. What is it and how many yoga centers can it have?

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