I’m Out of Practice. Is This a Thing?


I’m trying to get back into writing short stuff, but, you know. I’m out of practice. Is this a thing?

The dragon was nonplussed by the offering of a vast quantity of fish. after a lot of thought the dragon explained, “You must have got something wrong … I don’t have a hoard of herring. I’m just a little deaf in this ear.”

Anyway please let me know on a scale of things, ranging from “a small thing” such as maybe an apple slicer through to “a reasonable-sized thing” such as a loaf of ciabatta bread. On looking back over this, also, I’m not sure I’m not just hungry.

In My Defense I Never Said the Song Was Bad, I Just Disagree With the Universality of Its Asserted Premise


Me, in 1984: Oh, Tears for Fears, you fools. I have not the slightest desire to rule the world! It would be no end of fussy petty decision-making. Every day would just be all this reading of data and projections and calculations to try and meet some goal it might not be possible to prove was met.

Me, from 1985 onward: [ Spends all his spare time playing ever-more-elaborate simulation and management games, apart from the time he spends thinking up even more ridiculous and fiddly management games. Earlier this year I had the idea for a game where you’re the Chief Financial Officer for a corporation big enough to need elaborate cash-management, such as by deciding how much to raise by stock issues, how much by bond issues, how much by commercial paper, how much by letters of credit, and so on. ]

The Name’s The Same


The thing is, if your name has a numeral suffix? Like, you’re YY Flirch III? Unless you’re a monarch or a Pope or something you don’t expect to keep that suffix your whole life. When YY Flirch I or II dies, you ascend to being YY Flirch II yourself. If they both die, you get to be YY Flirch I. Again, this if you started out as YY Flirch. If you started out as H K Fleeber you have other concerns. The thing we know is that if you’re YY Flirch III and also alive, then there’s a YY Flirch I and YY Flirch II out there being alive.

Now to the specifics. Thurston Howell III implies that Thurston Howell II and Thurston Howell I are still alive in the Gilligan’s Island universe. And not just when the gang was shipwrecked on Gilligan’s Island. In the TV movies made in the late 70s/early 80s, he’s still Thurston Howell III. The last movie even introduced his son, Thurston Howell IV. (Jim Backus wasn’t healthy enough to film scenes where robot duplicates of the Harlem Globetrotters run around. Or whatever the heck was going on.) A 68-year-old man was able to portray someone whose name implies his father and grandfather were still alive.

Never mind, like, all those episodes where some radioactive vitamin makes the Island grow celery stalks 24 feet tall. What’s going on with the Howell family genetics?

And before you go suggesting maybe the Howell family played fast and loose with the rules about numbered suffixes to names, shut up. We’re talking about The Howells. Under no circumstances are the Howells, of freaking Newport, going to be improper about their suffixes. Maybe Thurston Howell V might. But not III.

I can only see one solution that doesn’t require the Howell men to be so long-lived that Gasoline Alley characters ask how they get that old. That’s to suppose that Thurston Howell III was named after someone not his father. An uncle, perhaps, who by the workings of chance might be only one or two years older than he is. And easier still if Thurston Howell II is also named for someone only a little older yet. Let’s infer another uncle that’s only a year older still. I realize this implies the family went from zero Thurstons to three Thurstons in short order. But perhaps in their part of Rhode Island in 1910 everyone went a little Thurston-mad.

So anyway you see why it was important I solve this and not important that I fix that silly web site button nobody else was even asking me about anyway, boss. Thanks.

In which I wonder how exactly poison works in the Superman universe


So I was reading this collection of 1950s issues of the Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen comic books, apparently. For the most part these are stories about Jimmy Olsen being up to some nonsense for extremely complicated yet ridiculous reasons Superman dare not explain until the last page. Or that Jimmy Olsen can’t explain to Superman, again until the last page. It’s a lot of strange behavior from what are presented as people.

Here we get to a story that’s about this Ruritanian country that figures Jimmy Olsen is the Crown Prince. And he figures, fine, he’ll be king for a couple days while the wicked prime minister tries to kill him. Wouldn’t you? That develops about like you’d figure.

Black-and-white reprints of a couple comic book panels. In the first the evil minister dominates the panel, thinking, 'He doesn't know my henchmen have taken care of that drink', while in the background Jimmy Olsen, dressed as king, readies to drink a large fountain soda. In the second panel Clark Kent peers, using his X-ray vision, at Jimmy and the drink. Clark thinks: 'That soda ... X-Ray Vision shows it's poisoned!' The next panel is barely visible on the edge of the image.
Panels from “King For A Day”, a story running in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #4, March-April 1955. Story by Otto Binder, art by Curt Swan and Ray Burnley. I do like the position of that insert circle, and the way Clark Kent’s X-Ray Vision can be pointing right at the soda in the other panel. It’s the sort of small touch that makes for a good reading experience. Anyway when Superman drinks the poison without suffering any, the evil minister figures his underlings have screwed up the poison. So that’ll be a mark against them on the next employee review, which is a bit of a mean thing for Superman to do to them. On the other hand, they were poisoning the king, so they have to have expected someone would mark something on their records.

And … so … what was it in the soda that looked like poison? Little axe blades? A miniature version of that woman who’s sometimes in Spy Vs Spy and kills Spy and Vs Spy? A tiny magnet to pull a bunch of lead dust together into a bullet once it’s swallowed? What did Superman’s X-Ray vision X-see?

Anyway you’ll be glad to know Clark Kent is able to stop Jimmy from drinking the poisoned soda without revealing his secret identity of Batman. He thinks to ask “Hey, can I have that exact soda you’re drinking right now before you have it?” and Jimmy figures, yeah, why not? In the end, Jimmy Olsen stops being the fake king of this Ruritanian country.

In Which My Love Is Disappointed in Me


Our pet rabbit has hay fever, which I agree seems inefficient for a rabbit. But she gets these sneezing fits sometimes, with this week one of those times. Fortunately the treatment is a bit of children’s cough syrup. And even more fortunately she loves children’s cough syrup, even more than she loves collard greens, life itself, or intimidating my love’s parents’ dogs. To set your expectations about that last one, though, you should know one of those dogs is intimidated by a potato chips bowl that’s somewhat large. The point is it’s quite easy to give our pet rabbit cough syrup. It’s maybe easier than not giving her cough syrup. She’s that enthusiastic about it.

Daytime photograph, at a severe tilt, of a golden-furred Flemish Giant rabbit sitting up, on the couch, eagerly taking a plastic syringe full of cough syrup. The hand providing it is in a dark, long-sleeved sweater.
This photograph was not taken last night, as you could have deduced because it wasn’t nearly cold enough yesterday to be wearing long sleeves.

Last night right after finishing her medicine, she sneezed three quick times. My love quipped about why the rabbit would do that right after having her medicine. I had guesses. “Maybe she wants more syrup? Maybe she’s a hypochondriac?” And then I realized, and gasped, and said, “Oh, no!”, my tone worrying my love.

I diagnosed, “Our rabbit has Bunchausen syndrome”.


And on a separate, more serious rabbit-related note. It’s about Porsupah Rhee, a friend. And rabbit photographer; there’s an excellent chance you’ve seen one of her pictures likely captioned “Everybody was bun-fu fighting”. She’s having a bad stretch right now, and has a GoFundMe to cover immediate needs. If you are able to help, that’s wonderful of you. Thank you.

One more last thought about Conan O’Brien as a late-night talk show host


Boy, you know, I remember how smug I felt back in September 2018. And I’m sure you all know why. It’s because of that crack on an episode of the UPN sitcom Platypus Man (1995 – slightly later in 1995) when a character and/or platypus described something as even more unlikely than “a Conan O’Brien 25th Anniversary Special”. Well, we sure and safely showed Platypus Man a thing or two. But just think — what if the writer had referenced “a Conan O’Brien 30th Anniversary Special” instead? Then who would be laughing at who, and regarding what?

Anyway if I know anything about Platypus Man it’s that we weren’t laughing at it, we were laughing at it.

On looking over 2500 words about one episode of Conan


In looking over how much typing I did for that one episode of Conan, you know, I guess I see why the original Late Night Fan Abstract Project back in the days sometimes struggled to find someone who’d write up an episode where the comedy sketches were Celebrity Tombstones and Conan’s Lullaby, and the guests were Al Roker and whoever the secondary female lead was for the sitcom NBC was putting on Tuesdays at 9:30 Eastern/Pacific for the next six weeks.

Thoughts while waiting for the Showcases


Just got to thinking about a moment we must infer happened sometime in the 70s. The Price Is Right production team was thinking out ways to bring prizes out on-camera. And someone declared, “We shall have a tugboat pull them out!” Were they immediately recognized as wise? Were they laughed at at the time? But stayed confident in their rightness and lived to hear their doubters admit they were wrong? What were the rejected possibilities? Parachutes, obviously. Submarines, too, given the difficulty working out agreements with the show filming the next floor under them. LSTs.

Or am I thinking of it backwards? Did someone originally buy The Price Is Right Tugboat by some complicated mistake, and then go about looking for ways to use it? And every time it’s brought out they thank their lucky stars that it came out okay?

These are all questions I feel I cannot answer.

A question created when I was looking up _The Odd Couple_


All right, so Wikipedia brought me to this article about The Oddball Couple

It’s a mid-70s DePatie-Freleng cartoon …

It’s a Saturday Morning Cartoon version of The Odd Couple

The Oscar character is a dog named Fleabag. He’s voiced by Dick Dastardly actor, ventriloquist, and artificial-heart pioneer Paul Winchell

The Felix character is voiced by … yyyyyyyyyyes, it says Frank Nelson.

Did I make this up and slip it into Wikipedia as a gag and then forget?

Screenshot of Wikipedia's article about The Oddball Couple, a short-lived 1975 cartoon version of The Odd Couple, containing a picture of the title card and a paragraph describing the series.
I mean, yes, it looks convincing. That mossy-mold background for the title card is SUCH a DePatie-Freleng touch that it makes me suspicious. If this were really done in the 70s they’d sometimes get their style wrong. Also, Wikipedia says that Fleabag and Spiffy shared a secretary named Goldie Hound. At some point just having the mountain of evidence becomes suspicious.

Exceptional People


I was reading The Year We Had No President, Richard Hansen’s early-1960s study of the United States’s inadequate constitutional provision for a disabled or incapable President because … uh … I don’t know. I guess I interrupted a fairy circle and they enchanted me to be like this? Well, whatever. The point I got to this choice quote about President Garfield’s administration:

Except for Secretary of State [ James G ] Blaine and the young Secretary of War, Robert T Lincoln … the names of the Cabinet members are forgotten by all save historians.

Now. I will concede that Robert Todd Lincoln is a little bit remembered. He was at his father’s deathbed when President Lincoln died. He witnessed Charles Guiteau’s shooting President Garfield. And he was right outside the building at the Pan-American Exposition when Leon Czolgosz shot President McKinley. So everyone who got way too into Ripley’s Believe It Or Not as a kid remembers him.

But James G Blaine? Yes, of course I remember Blaine, Blaine, James G Blaine, Continental liar from the State of Maine (PS Burn this letter). But that’s because I’m a freak who merged with this college-level US history text I somehow got hold of as an eight-year-old. Even granting that Richard Hansen was writing sixty years closer to the events? I’m going to say he was way overestimating the non-historian recognition of James G Blaine.

Maybe I am wrong. Maybe in 1962 James G Blaine leapt to the average person’s tongue the way Cordell Hull’s or Henry Stimson’s do today. I want to see Hansen’s citation is all.

From when it seemed the world could change


Just thinking back to that time when Windows 95 was coming out. And there were Microsoft fans, for some reason, and there were Apple fans, for some reason. And there were Microsoft fans, for some reason, insisting the Windows 95 user interface of the recycling bin was infinitely better than the Mac’s trash bin. After all, you don’t throw away your disk; you recycle the bits on it ito something new. And Mac fans argued back that you don’t recycle a file, you throw it out, maybe and maybe not replacing it with something new.

Anyway, considering how heated this debate got you can understand how we assumed we had used history up and nothing much would ever happen again.

New Discoveries in Old Star Treks


So like everyone in my age cohort I’ve seen the Original Star Trek episode “Journey to Babel”, where Spock decides all right he’ll save his father from death this time, I’d estimate 136 times. And yet I continue to discover new things in it. Most recent watching, particularly, showed something in the cocktail party scene. You know the one, where they have those two little gold guys in fezzes who’re very excited to drop some of the good sculpted soap that’s for guests only into their drinks. So, this time I spotted:

Cocktail party scene on the starship Enterprise. In the foreground Kirk and McCoy are joking around. In the background a purple woman in sparkling leggings and miniskirt, with a vest the color of her long hair so she doesn't quite look like she's wearing a top, smiles while looking at a guy with short, curly hair who's wearing a blue jumpsuit.
Screen shot from TrekCore. Also, props to the purple woman for managing to wear her hair long enough that NBC didn’t even notice she was topless!

So yeah, look at that purple woman on the far left, who’s heroically managing not to pass out dead while Chief O’Brien explains dogecoin all over her.

And that’s not even the end of her life story, as you can see from the next scene at the cocktail party:

In the foreground Ambassador Sarek pours a drink from a very tall lab cylinder. In the background Ambassador Gav readies his courage to come up and yell at Sarek. In the mid-ground, a purple woman in sparkling tights and miniskirt walks across camera, accompanied by a short-haired man in red Star Fleet uniform.
Screen shot from TrekCore. Is … is her miniskirt made of a low-cut shag carpet?

And how bravely she’s managing to not gnaw her own shoulder off while Other Chief O’Brien explains how to find the buffet table again.

How many Chief O’Briens do they even need in the 23rd century?

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?)