What’s Got Me Late Today, Network Stars Edition


I’m sorry, but I was busy thinking how I might explain to my niblings why we as kids watched the Circus of the Stars. “What better chance,” the best I can think of goes, “will we have to see Heather McNair step out of her role as Roxanne Caldwell on the greatest TV show of all time ever, Automan, before it ends what will surely be a twelve-year network run followed by a series of smash movies?” They have never asked about Circus of the Network Stars and I have no reason to think they will. I expect if they have questions, then their relevant parents can handle the matter. But so much has caught me unprepared this year. I don’t want one more thing to.


So far as Wikipedia is aware Heather McNair never appeared on Circus of the Stars. Automan did not run for twelve years and inspired no movies, although I’m going ahead and guessing there’s a reboot of it that’s already in its third of eight-episode seasons on … uh … let’s say HBO BlortStar+, that sounds like a streaming service name.

Urgent bathroom follow-ups


That bathroom? At the farmer’s market? That had the faucet that was just running without stop, until I tried to use it? Because those hands-free sensors for bathroom sinks don’t work for me?

They’ve replaced it with an actual physical faucet.

This signifies something and I don’t know what.

Stray historical thoughts, Calvin Coolidge edition


So, Calvin Coolidge. I know, openings like that are why I’m not a successful humor blogger. But, still. Did you know he was a practical joker? Like, when he was President, he’d sometimes just press the alarm button in the Oval Office, and then go hide behind the curtains while the Secret Service guys raced in and got all tense. And, I mean, you look at a picture of him. And you say, “that is a person whose main joy in life is whacking people across the knuckles with a yardstick”. And then you learn he would do stunts like that, which are exactly what I would do if I were President for some reason.

So, you know, the guy had hidden depths. And in those depths, he liked having breakfast in bed while someone rubbed his head down with petroleum jelly. I don’t get it either.

How I’m Holding Up In The Circumstances


So, you know, despite it all I had a productive weekend. I mean I renewed the ham radio license that I never use and don’t even have a radio for and don’t know where I’d even get a radio now that Radio Shack is a disbelieved memory. Go ahead, try telling people about it. “You could go in and buy one single 47-ohm resistor, and then they’d ask you to join something called a `battery club’ for some reason.” You’ll be laughed off the nostalgia circuit with material like that.

One last thing about the invention of bubble wrap


And then I’m done with this thread until I decide to rewrite it all as one big coherent 700-word essay. And again, this is drawing from Wikipedia. So Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes tried to make wallpaper out of shower curtains sealed together. And this turned out to be bubble wrap. It wasn’t used as a packing material until 1961, though, when IBM started shipping their IBM 1401 computers wrapped in the stuff.

And now I’m picturing that scene. Fielding and Chavannes are sitting there, disheartened. They’ve used their steam iron to seal together dozens of pairs of shower curtains, and not gotten a single piece of usable wallpaper out of any of it. Finally, one of them, disgusted with their failures, tosses the wrap, where it lands on an IBM 1401 variable-wordlength decimal computer with six-bit plus word-mark and parity big-Endian computer that “fell off a delivery truck”. And then they both freeze, looking at what’s happened. And then look at each other. And the years of anxiety and frustration and cruel failure wash away as they realize they hav seen the future, and it pops.

One more thing about bubble wrap


Oh yeah, so that thing where bubble wrap was created as “a failed wallpaper”? You know what the failure was? Of course not. Here. According to Wikipedia the first prototype bubble wrap was made in 1957 when engineers Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes “sealed two shower curtains together, creating a smattering of air bubbles, which they originally tried to sell as wallpaper”.

There are many historic events I would like to witness. The first transmissions along the transatlantic telegraph cable. The first person to build a house, rather than extend shelter from an available cave or copse of trees of whatnot. Merkle’s Boner. Whatever the heck the Invasion of the Sea Peoples was. And now, to this, I add whatever conversation happened between Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes that resulted in a declaration I must conclude had the substance, “gentlemen, we have all the wallpaper we could ever need — it’s right here in these shower curtains!”.

Why I’m Putting Off Reviewing Yet Another 60s Popeye Cartoon Here


And I apologize for disappointing everyone who wanted to hear me talk about how a forgotten cartoon from 1960 is not all that bad, considering, if you watch it generously. But, first, the particular cartoon up next is interesting in a complicated way and I need time to warm up to that.

Also, I read on Wikipedia that bubble wrap was “initially created as a failed wallpaper”. I need time to recover from realizing that I will never, however long and hard I try, craft such an apparently-effortless whimsical absurdity, in such perfect word economy, as “a failed wallpaper”. No, no, save your condolences; I know my strengths and my limitations. I just sometimes look out at the greatness I cannot have.

Wh … What does Wikipedia think I am capable of doing?


From the essay https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supercontinent:

Wikipedia Header: 'Supercontinents through geologic history [edit]'; text: 'The following table names reconstructed ancient supercontinents, using a general definition, with an approximate timeline of millions of years ago (Ma).' The funny part: the boilerplate link 'This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.'
I know how long it takes me at the beach to just pile together enough sand to make a little one-foot-across round island right at the shoreline. Extrapolating from that, a supercontinent would take me more than a full week.

I … mean I’m flattered but … how?


Also I would like to say I was looking up Supercontinents because did you know that Pangaea was not the only time that all the land in the world was huddled together in one continent? That the continents have been breaking apart and coming back together over and over again? That this cycle of all the world’s land reuniting and then splitting up again has happened something like ten times that we know of? Doesn’t that give you the same awesome thrill of “being five and knowing dinosaurs were a thing”? Yeah, I wanted to share that with someone. Not because I thought anyone was going to expect me to make a supercontinent for them.


Also I have this silly thing moved up to today because I wasn’t able to write my Mary Worth plot recap on time. Stuff, you know? And things? There has been too much of all of that lately.

Plus, when else but the day after a time change can you buy hours at 50% off?


Look, believe me, fourteen change.org petitions in my e-mail every single stupid day, I have heard your arguments for abolition. But if we got rid of Daylight Saving Time how would we know with certainty which clocks in the house we in fact never use? Hm? Give me an answer to that and then we can talk.

Why I Had To Get To The Barbershop


Yeah so I brushed my sideburns out to their full length and have widened my face by about one-third. I look like Planet of the Apes Martin Van Buren. It’s slowed my walking pace by 25%. I’d have gone to get my hair trimmed Friday but my car’s a subcompact and I couldn’t fit inside.

This Was Too Soon To Catch Me In Middle School


You know that thing where you think back to the way you used to think? And you just can’t understand something about yourself? Like, there’s something you would have absolutely figured you would have cared about, and you cannot find any evidence that you did at all? Yeah, so I’m having one of those moments. Like, 1983 was the 400th full year since Pope Gregory’s reform of the calendar, so it was the first time that the modern calendar had experienced its full 400-year cycle. There is no way this wouldn’t be interesting to the young me, someone who still remembers where he was the day he heard Pluto had passed within the orbit of Neptune for the first time in 230 years. And yet … I have not the faintest memory of thinking of this fact at all in 1983. What’s going on there, you know? Seriously.

Understanding Chocolate


There’s an advertisement in the local alt-weekly for “Chocolate your body understands”. That’s a mind-expanding exercise for you. My body, you may have gathered, never had trouble understanding any chocolate, no matter what funny accent the chocolate might have put on. But, we are asked to accept for the premise of this advertisement, there are chocolates that bodies can’t understand. The bodies try, surely, by such methods as speaking more loudly at the chocolate, but nothing comes across. Some other food group, perhaps a sauce of some kind, must come in to serve as interpreter. (Oh, finally the purpose of peanut butter is clear!) But now all these indignities of translation end, and we can just eat chocolate, so they promise.

I bet it’s not as simple as they pretend. There’s probably some classwork your body has to take before it talks with the chocolate again.

Mugging


You ever think about the last day that there were fewer mugs on this planet than there were mugs needed on this planet? Like, when the mug-manufacturer finally caught up, do you think there was any realization that we had reached a new point in history, one where, from here on, anyone who wanted a mug could just reach their hand into literally any cabinet anywhere and take out a half-dozen? And if they wanted some for themselves, they could just say, and the owner would say, “Oh, yes, please, we’ve got too many mugs as it is, take all you want”? It must have been such a weird transition to live through, like the discovery of fire or printing or cursive or something.

Another One For My Ham Radio Fans


One more cold update. I’ve taken to punching antihistamine tablets out of the foil wrap so that the empty and full dots spell out a message in Baudot code. Also, punching them out of the foil irregularly would be incredibly, impossibly offensive to the orderly mind of the eight-year-old me, and that kid needs to relax and just let things be irregular some. Also, I’ve swallowed some of the foil backing along with the antihistamines. This is probably the eight-year-old me getting revenge for this irregular-tablet-punching business.

Getting Into My Hair


So you can tell where I am in this cold: I am busy glaring very hard, every time I visit the bathroom, at our bottles of shampoo and conditioner. The natural order of things, where we use more shampoo than conditioner, has been out of line for a couple months now. The conditioner level’s been below the shampoo level for just ages. Like, we’re … all right, maybe only one-sixth through the current bottle of conditioner, but we only just opened the new bottle of shampoo, and I can’t figure what’s going on that we’re conditioning so much more suddenly. Or is it possible we’ve gotten so ahead on shampoo use that we’ve almost lapped the conditioner? Anyway, this is suddenly very important for me to go disapprove of every time I visit the bathroom. And also to explain to my boss why I haven’t got anything done this week.

Health Watch


So, I might have a cold. Maybe not. It’s in that point where I can deny it to myself. What I have got is a cough. I’ve had a small nagging cough since 1996. Today’s cough isn’t that. It’s louder and more urgent and, at the end, has taken on this little squeaky overtone. I’m not sure what this implies, but I think there’s a 25% chance that by the end of the week I’ll be a broken chew-toy for dogs. I’ll let you know if I can’t update any more because my fingers are just paint on an injection-molded plastic.

Who I Think I’m Kidding


I will never realize that “very clever” is not the same thing as “funny”. Too much of my life is based on the assumption that it is.


Also, folks who are still thinking of the glory days of Apartment 3-G: The Daily Cartoonist recently ran a First-and-Last essay about the strip. This reprints the first and the final week of the comic strip. It also includes strips from each of the different artists credited on the comic, and tries to work out just who did uncredited work. It also includes pictures from the time in the 70s when the comic was renamed The Girls In Apartment 3-G. That name change reflected the brief era when the comic focused on the lives and adventures of the people inhabiting the apartment, rather than being all about what it is to live as a portion of Manhattan real estate. The change was short-lived.

Lampy, we remember you.

But What Does Make Sense For Major Charles Winchester


Since my brain is unwilling to let this go: if he had his family back home send crates of Charles Chips. I am making this joke because I feel like being a seven-year-old who has noticed a word appearing in more than one place and I am going to stand a little too close to you and smile, showing slightly too many teeth, until you agree this is very clever, which I will realize much later is not the same thing as ‘funny’. Yeah, delivery potato chips would be pretty well smashed up by the time they got to Korea but hey, some people like that. You can spackle them together with dip and make a barely edible wad of material that’s sweet, salty, and has lots of sharp edges. That’s definitely in character for Major Winchester.

My Brain Continues to Work Really Well on the Important Things


I mean, I guess it’s reasonable Major Winchester would have some sparkling water ahead of urgent need. We never saw it, but that doesn’t mean anything, especially for sitcoms in the 70s. Fine. But then how much is his family supposed to have shipped out? And just how freaking good is this sparkling water that it’s worth shipping to Korea, compared to the club soda they have in the officer’s club that he’s drinking all the time anyway? If he had a stockpile big enough to take multiple showers with, where was it? Under his bunk? How long did he spend opening and pouring bottles into the shower tank so he could have his? This is the high priority stuff.

Clearly My Brain Has Its Priorities Straight


What I need to do: work, for work; cleaning out the mess in the guest room; think of any concept that I could write into 700 words for tomorrow’s long-form essay; re-read three month’s worth of The Phantom for Sunday’s essay.

What I am doing: so there was this one episode of M*A*S*H where the supply trucks are cut off and the camp can’t get any water, particularly. So everybody gets a lot dirtier and smellier and crankier about it. Except Major Winchester, who stays sparkling clean. It turns out not that he’s using the strictly-patients-only water. He’s using his own stock of club soda. Well, sparkling mineral water. Anyway, yeah, first, would that even work. But anyway I’m busy thinking about what a fool I was to just sit and accept this premise for decades without asking how it is Major Winchester can get his family to mail enough sparkling water to shower in, regularly, in circumstances where nobody can get regular water delivered.

In Which Clickbait Gives Me Some Much-Needed Good News


Photograph of a private jet, with the headline caption: 'Lansing Private Jet Rental Prices Are More Affordable Than Ever.'
I bet they did it by shortening the red carpet, though. I’ll give you four to one odds that carpet does not meet FAA standards. If it does, it certainly does not meet ICAO standards.

Whew!

I bet they still try to up-sell me to a bigger model than I need. I just need a subcompact, I’m tall but not that tall.

What I’ve Had Enough Of In The Mails


I am ready for the end of the tax-document-preparation season. I’ve been getting things billed as Important Tax Documents for weeks now and this is enough. I want someone to send me some Unimportant Tax Documents. I want some agency to send me IRS Form 1099-MEH.

In the era of surveillance politics


So on the one hand, every social media site is constantly monitoring everything I write, read, or interact with to gather micro-precise data on my political thoughts, so they can sell to someone the line of propaganda I’m most likely to fall for. And on the other hand, eight times a day I get an e-mail that reads like:

State Senator Blaff Norkterman thinks he can hide from his constituents forever. Let’s you and the rest of the 4116th district of North Winnemonka show him where the real power in the government is with the biggest-ever rally in Marple Springs!

I’m just saying something is deeply wrong.

Why It’s Worth Having A Land-Line Phone Even Today


Someone or something phoned, waited out our answering machine’s introduction, left the message “your call is very important to us” before hanging up. You don’t get that kind of service from any other medium for avoiding communication.

What’s got me late and vaguely offended today


My love and I discovered the existence of a town named Oxford, Michigan, and wondered why it had that name. The obvious reason would be it hosted a college, but we couldn’t find one. Maybe a chautauqua? Not that we could find. From the map it looked like it was a lot of swampland, even by Michigan standards, so I said, maybe it’s where they used to have oxes ford the river? And then I remembered I had a book, Michigan Place Names. It says the name was given by Otis C Thompson “since nearly all the settlers had ox-teams and would probably hold on to them for some time”, which is close enough that I feel like the world is undercutting my jokes about the world and I’m very busy with my sulking now.

A Reason They Did Not Treat Me Like That In Middle School


So it’s not that I did not have problems with the premise of The Fly. I had exactly the problem anyone would think of regarding it: if the transporter pod will merge Seth Brundle with the fly that’s in there, why would it not also merge Brundle with the many microorganisms in the air and in his body? And microorganisms necessarily in his body, that couldn’t be handled by a sterile transporter pod environment? But no, the thing is that this movie came out the summer after I was done with middle school. Yes, I was as done with middle school as it is possible to be. But I escaped having this be a reason people treated me in middle school like that for the second-best of possible reasons.

The Tea Wants My Attention


I may have mentioned that I like to drink tea. If I haven’t mentioned that I like to drink tea, let me mention that I like to drink tea here: I like to drink tea. So I hope we’re all caught up here. This past week I’ve been drinking tea from work, from the office. They got the tea from … somewhere … somehow. I don’t know. The tea bags, though, have these little tabs trying to be entertaining, and I’m fascinated. Oh, there’s some of mere usual ones, like the warning that minds and parachutes function only when open. But then there’s pieces like this:

Among economics, the real world is often a special case.

OK. If that doesn’t wow you, though, try this:

Pawn shops are loan-ly places.

It’s no Kabibble Kabaret, I admit, since it doesn’t openly hate women. And yet the tea just keeps on giving, for example:

Dressmakers treated customers ruff in the 16th century.

If that hasn’t got you acknowledging the existence of a joke, please consider this one:

Indolent philosopher: Mr I Can’t.

I would not dare speak for you. But for me, I wish to read all of these aloud, imitating whoever it is Saturday Night Live had in the 1980s to imitate Gene Shalit. And, at the end of each reading, saying loudly, “Wink!” while wincing half of my face in a way that suggests I know the concept of a wink but haven’t figured out how to do it myself. Anyway I don’t know how long these tea bags will hold out, but they certainly inspire in me the thought: huh.