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


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

In which I raise a question about music


I turned on the 80s music station because look, I try to be interested in things that I wasn’t already interested in when I was fourteen but sometimes I just want to not try, all right? It’s been a rough year and the first really great light is that I’m scheduled for my first vaccination tomorrow afternoon. So this afternoon they were playing The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated”. It was exactly 24 hours to go until I get my jab.

On the one hand, I would like to speak with whoever’s in charge of my soundtrack because that is trite. On the other hand, what else could fit the scene? Obviously no music I have. But, like, somebody must have done a concept album about overthrowing the dystopia that banned rock music only to have it revealed at the end it was a story about leukocytes fighting off tetanus, right?

The guy who draws Beetle Bailey has seen a squirrel


I am happy to offer good news in my continuing series picking on one of the world’s most successful comic strips for having difficulty rendering animals in its particular style. This Sunday saw Zero feeding a squirrel that I accept as a successful depiction of a squirrel, within the bounds of the evolved Mid-Century Cartoon Moderne style that the comic uses.

I’m also glad to bring the news that a butterfly, rabbit, a blue and a red bird were depicted successfully. I think the opossum was depicted successfully too, but I accept that people might in good faith have a different opinion.

I’m sad to say that the groundhog situation isn’t looking good. This is a bit peculiar as groundhogs are a kind of squirrel. But the poses and volume of tail are different and that affects styling.

Diller: 'Where's Zero going?' Bailey: 'Taking a stroll.' Zero, waving to a butterfly: 'Bonjour, Madame Butterfly. ... Hello, little squirrel! Want a nut?' (He holds one out to a blue-grey squirrel.) 'Your friend bunny wants to join us (A white rabbit comes out of the bushes). Look! Here comes Mr Possum! And Ms groundhog!' (Waving to a beard on his helmet.) 'Hi there, little birdie!' Beetle, looking at the collection of animals around Zero: 'One thing Zero will never be is lonely.'
Greg Walker, Mike Yates, and Janie Walker-Yates’s Beetle Bailey for the 4th of April, 2021. Also, Wikipedia tells me that Neal Walker, Brian Walker, Kit Walker, and Greg Walker all contribute to the writing of the comic strip, but only Greg gets his name in the panel. And only Mort Walker’s name gets credited on the ComicsKingdom page. I underestand where it might be confusing to the audience to have too many, or too often-changing, credits in the panels or on the title bar. But I feel bad not giving the best attribution I can.

Yes, a white rabbit the size of a blue-grey squirrel is improbable, but this isn’t Mark Trail. Photorealism is not the standard. “Is styled compatibly to the regular characters” and “is recognizably the animal it’s supposed to be” is.

Any updates about what animals the guy drawing Beetle Bailey has or has not seen I shall post to this link.

In which I insist I am not making a liar of myself


I am not a liar because yesterday when I wrote that I did not know what I wanted to do next, I did not know. But shortly after writing that, I knew what I want to do next.

I want to mostly sit around, sometimes catching up on DVDs that I have bought without watching, while at least three separate entities each pay me $92,000 per year. None of them are precisely sure what I do. But they each clutch tight to the bargain they’re sure they have, as they estimate they should expect to pay someone of my talents up to $94,250 per year. Also, none of them are aware of the others. They sometimes suspect there’s some other group paying me something for some reason, but they don’t wish to disrupt what they agree is a happy arrangement by asking questions.

Since this arrangement would be so clearly good for everyone involved, it’s what we ought to be doing. I’ll give the business world through the end of this month to get it all set up. Someone please leave a comment when it is. Thank you.

Some nostalgic thoughts about a path not taken


Just idly thinking back to that time around 1989 when Tiny Toons debuted. And I thought it would be a fun episode if they did a spoof of Back To The Future, starring Plucky Duck, that they’d call Duck To The Future. Never worked out what all would happen with it, except that the final scene would definitely be whoever the Doc stand-in is warning Plucky, “It’s your sequel! Something’s got to be done about your sequel!” That’s not a lot of anything, but, you know? That’s probably all about as much as the premise needed.

In Which I Am Very Petty About The Suez Canal


Yes, I understand that everyone is intrigued by that ship that’s blocked up the Suez Canal and messing up the weeks of so many logistics people. It’s all good harmless fun until it turns out everything you need is going across Antarctica by sled horse because that’s the least-bad alternative remaining. But this has got everybody going out and learning about containerized cargo and, dang it, I’ve been the nerd who knows things about Panamax and Malaccamax and all that.

Photograph of the front cover of Brian J Cudahy's _Box Boats: How Container Ships Changed The World_. It shows a container ship with stacks of boxes atop it, sitting in a harbor.
And, again, this is not my only book about containerized cargo. It’s just the only one I can get without having to stand up and walk to another room.

It’s not fair to have a bunch of johnny-come-latelies rushing in on my turf. If only there were some way to block them up somehow or delay their talking about TEUs and other intermodal transport terms.

Photograph of the back cover of Brian J Cudahy's _Box Boats: How Container Ships Changed The World_. It's full of the sort of cover press one might expect. It also has the price label from Borders Book Store, US$29.95.
And just to show you I’m completely in earnest, here’s the back cover of my personal copy of Brian J Cuday’s Box Boats: How Container Ships Changed The World. Yes, that is a price sticker from Borders Books, thank you, so you know I didn’t just grab this book off eBay twenty minutes ago, thank you.

In which I apologize for not opening up more


I’d like to share my thoughts with you, but a lot of those thoughts are a continuous-play loop of the theme song to forgotten Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Cattanooga Cats, so you probably don’t want that. I’m sorry.

Statistics Saturday: Some imaginary _Star Trek_ movies


  • Star Trek: Revolution
  • Star Trek: Blackbird
  • Star Trek: Nobody’s Child
  • Star Trek: Nowhere Man
  • Star Trek: The Night Before
  • Star Trek: Yesterday
  • Star Trek: Across the Universe
  • Star Trek: Tomorrow Never Knows
  • Star Trek: Here, There, and Everywhere
  • Star Trek: Octopus’s Garden
  • Star Trek: She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
  • Star Trek: I’m Happy Just To Dance With You

Reference: The Gutenberg Galaxy, Marshall McLuhan.

What is it like to be a Beatle?


Sorry to be distracted like this. I just got to wondering, like, how often does Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr, like, just freeze up in the kitchen and think, “I was in the Beatles! And now here I am, peeling an orange! How does something like that happen?” I’m assuming that they occasionally peel oranges. The only reason I can imagine they wouldn’t is if they don’t like oranges. I realize that no life can be all transcendant experiences, but, you know,every now and then Buzz Aldrin must think, “I walked on the Moon and here I am peeling a banana. How?”

I guess it’s a good thing that the biggest thing that ever happened to me was sneezing on the President of Singapore or I’d never be able to handle the small stuff.


By the way, over on my other blog I looked at the Pi Day comic strips. How many of them were about serious mathematics and how many were about pie? The answer may surprise you!

The lost opportunity in the Dr Seuss debate


I’m annoyed at all the waste. All this time the past week with people giving bad takes about Dr Seuss books when we could have been having artists draw pictures of us as Dr Seuss characters instead. There’s nobody I know who wouldn’t be delighted to be drawn as Kind Of Walrus-y, I Guess, Maybe With A Pom-Pom. Wearing nothing but gloves, a top hat, and giant bow tie. And if you’re being honest with yourself, you agree. I’m not blaming the artists for this. This is something we have all failed to do.


I am grateful to, and thank, my love for the walrus observation.

The Guy Who First Drew Beetle Bailey Had Seen Squirrels


Yes, it’s time for another installment in my sequence of mocking a successful cartoonist for not solving the problem of how to render animals using a style optimized for caricaturing humans. But we had a development this week, thanks to Comics Kingdom’s run of vintage Beetle Bailey strips from nearly 60 years ago:

Chaplain, outside his tent, setting bread on a feeder hanging from the trees: 'Something for my friends the birds.' He hands a bit of bread to a suspicious but interested squirrel. 'ALL the animals of the world are my friends.' We see him walking away from Sarge, shaving at a tree set up with a mirror nailed to it; he's put a piece of bread in the confused Sarge's hand.
Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey for the 13th of August, 1964, reprinted the 1st of March, 2021. Also this past month I learned that Sergeant Snorkel’s look was based on an actual person Mort Walker trained under, First Sergeant Octavian N Savu, who apparently never knew anything about it himself. The Chaplain’s name is Stainglass, by the way. I have no information about the squirrel’s name or real-world inspiration.

So, yes, we can say that Mort Walker had seen squirrels in 1964.

In Which I Learn There’s A Sequel


So I was talking with a friend about how we don’t really remember anything ever happening in Jules Verne’s classic From The Earth To The Moon. So I checked Wikipedia and learned no, they just get going to the moon at the end of the book. It’s in the sequel, Around The Moon, that they go around the Moon. And this made me learn that twenty years after that, Verne wrote another sequel, The Purchase of the North Pole or Topsy Turvy depending on which sentence you’re reading in Wikipedia at that moment. And the plot’s just got me all giddy with delight but I’ll put it behind a cut in case you don’t want spoilers.

Continue reading “In Which I Learn There’s A Sequel”

Not to Name Names


I was struck with a bizarre fact about the young me. Like, younger than middle-school me. When I was in early elementary school — before even Laverne, on Laverne and Shirley, had gotten her job at that aerospace company — we were expected to bring valentines for everyone else in our class. And I did that too. Thing is that means I knew the names and faces of everybody in my class. That’s like thirty people and I kept them all straight. I couldn’t name thirty people today, much less match their names with their faces, even if you spotted me the core cast of Peanuts.

They must have sent home ditto sheets with everyone’s name on it, right? That’s the only way this sort of makes sense. But then how did I get cards to everybody correctly? Maybe I didn’t, and everybody I messed up was trying to get mad at me, but they weren’t sure who I was? And maybe, like, they got mad at Michael Bellaran instead? Well, if that’s what happened, Michael, I’m sorry. I’d make up for it by buying you lunch if I ever see you. But that’s going to depend on you recognizing me. Sorry.

I’m happy with the results in Extreme Donkey Vacuuming though


I apologize for being distracted lately, all. I’ve been working hard on a new random number generator. That’s “random” in the 90s webcomic sense of “Random!” though. So a typical output run looks like this:

0.318723
0.060458
WEASEL NOSTRILS
0.693668
0.142229
TELETUBBY JANET RENO
SPLEEN NINJA
0.711829

I think it’s about ready for use.

Distracted thoughts after seeing The Dot And The Line: The Movie teaser trailer


Hey, does it feel to anyone else like we should have heard Robert Zemeckis announce he’s trying to do a computer-animated remake of Who Framed Roger Rabbit by now? Has anyone checked in to see what he is working on? Maybe we could just make sure?


(So my favorite part of the teaser trailer is how right after the “COMING / IN UP TO 3-D / SUMMER 2022” title card you get Dot, Line, and Squiggle all shouting as they realize they’re going over the waterfall. What’s yours?)

Weather in Popular Places


I checked WeatherUnderground for … well, the above-ground weather, but they do both sides of the ground. The top of the page is normally this strip of the weather in places I’ve checked recently. But I haven’t checked anyplace recently, since the only places to go are places that should be closed.

So instead it’s decided to show me a strip of weather in “Popular Cities”, and this is what it was showing. Tell me if you spot the place that doesn’t belong in a roster of six “Popular Cities”.

Weather banner for Popular Cities: San Francisco, CA; Manhattan, NY; Schiller Park, IL; Boston, MA; Houston, TX; and London, England, United Kingdom.
I don’t know why the weather is so alarming in San Francisco or in Boston, but I assume it’s the usual sorts of things. Also I have to suppose Boston’s alarm was in black because it was after sunset there.

Yes, exactly, I agree. There is no way that Houston rates as a popular city. Even people who love Houston agree they don’t so much as love Houston as love the idea of a lovable Houston. For the past 24 years the Houston Tourism Bureau’s campaign has been “Houston: Remember When They Nuked Us In Independence Day And Nobody In The Movie Cared Anyway? That Was Houston, Right? Well, That’s Us”.

Also and this is just a little thing but I appreciate their distinguishing London, England, United Kingdom from other cities such as London, England, British Columbia, Canada. That’s just politeness.

How do you suppose the packing is going?


I’m sorry to nudge anyone to thinking about the White House more than they have to, but … like … there’s not even ten days left. There has to be some poor lost soul who’s been putting stuff into boxes. And the Future Disgraced Former President follows close behind, putting everything back on any horizontal surface he can find. And it’s been going like this since November.

I know this isn’t even in the first thousand crises we’re facing in the next two weeks but, like, I know I needed two months to move out of my 12-by-15-foot grad student efficiency apartment. And I still maybe lost those tapes of Canadian cartoons my friend loaned me. Or maybe I returned them and he lost them. There’s literally no telling. The situation in Washington has to be worse.

Because I expect you want to know how my hair is doing


Since the pandemic started I haven’t had my hair cut. And now, ten months in? I’m really happy with my hair’s volume. It’s never been better. I’m less sure about its squelch and treble.

… People may be interested in how my hair is doing but they never ask what it’s doing.

My Distracting Thought To Start The Year


An alternate history where the big change is that “Entrance of the Gladiators” never gets arranged to play at circuses as the “Here Come The Clowns” music, because “Pomp and Circumstance” got that treatment first.

2020 In Review


It was Tuesday night. You had just run the dishwasher. You saw it was 35 minutes past the hour and decided to go to bed. You got up and went into the other room. It was now 10 minutes past the next hour. You got up the next morning. It was Tuesday. You needed to run the dishwasher.

THIS WAS EVERY DAY.

What’s got my plans diverted now


Yeah so I woke up with the phrase “Vampire-Elect Dracula” running back and forth through my head. So I guess I’m stuck writing a supernatural romance/political thriller now? I’ll let you know how it turns out. It’s going to depend whether I can think of something witty to do with “electoral coffin”.

On Watching _Rudolph’s Shiny New Year_ In 2020


You know, I’m not feeling my usual sympathy for Eon the Vulture’s plan to save his own life by keeping the current year from expiring.

I was trying to think what 2020’s representative in the Archipelago of Last Years would look like, and then I remembered Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

So in the Rankin/Bass special, the crisis was caused by Baby New Year having comically enormous ears. What the heck did Baby 2020 look like? I have to figure 2020 started at “Rudy Giuliani” and aged badly.

In Which I Just Get Mean About Trick-Or-Treating During The Pandemic


“It’s perfectly safe to go trick-or-treating while the pandemic’s out of control,” say parents who for the past ten years have had the cops X-ray their kids’ Jolly Ranchers. Sure. All right. I’m calling your bluff. I’m handing out popcorn balls.

Related issue: I have no idea how to make popcorn balls. My best ideas for how involve, spraying a handful of popcorn with glue? Maybe rolling some kernels with silly putty until it all coheres? There’s some trick to it, I’m sure. Oh, right, of course there’s a trick, because it isn’t trick exclusive or treat. Don’t mind me, I’ll run out of whatever mood this is soon.

And Now I Am Deeply Amazed By The Moon


I’m sorry not to have seen this before yesterday because it would absolutely have been the most amazing Moon fact ever. But I just watched the Moon ask the woman working the can-recycling room at Meijer’s to repeat whatever advice she was giving three times because the Moon just was not hearing or was not understanding it. Three times. Can you imagine the reserve of self-confidence needed to ask that much?

I’d tell you what the woman’s advice was but I couldn’t get my iPod to stop playing this podcast about the Empress Maria Theresa even when I asked her to repeat herself — once — so I left without any idea what this was about. But the Moon, man. Three times. That is just beyond human ability.

I Assume He’s A Duck Fan


You know, out there must be fans of The Plucky Duck Show. This was a short-lived spinoff of Tiny Toon Adventures made up of Tiny Toons segments featuring Plucky Duck. And among them? I bet there’s at least one person who loves The Plucky Duck Show and can’t stand Tiny Toons, even though there’s nothing in Plucky Duck that wasn’t in Tiny Toons except parts of the credits sequences. Well, I salute you and hope you have fun sticking to your weird guns.

At least we know there’s no strange holdout fan of Pinky, Elmyra, and the Brain.

In Which We Get Some Answers About Forest Royalty


Bambi, of movie and book fame, we remember is one of the princes of the forest. And then we know that he’s not a king because it’s the elk who are the kings of the forest. But this leaves us with the obvious question: who are the barons of the forest?

In the hopes of learning, I called Felix Salten (1869 – 1945), author of the original novel Bambi, A Life In The Woods. He said, “We were all having a pleasant time, and then you had to go and be like that. Why? Why do you do this?” before hanging up. I think this is an important contribution to the debate.

My love suggested that boars could maybe be the barons of the forest. This sounds good.

So, Turns Out Fortunes Are Hard To Make


OK so I would totally be out of here and busy being rich, but it turns out my plans for a food planer ran into some problems. Like, you have to make one, and then you have to make millions, and then you have to sell them. And sure, everybody gets the idea. But then pressing something that smooths out the peanut butter and then going to smooth out the sour cream? That gets some mixes that just don’t go over well. I’m sure this can all be sorted out but honestly? I’m getting to think that being rich is just too much effort.