In Which Things Are A Little On The Nose Here


Just saying.

Oh, also, I want to point out my mathematics blog, with its weekly review of comic strips that mention mathematics in some way. Yesterday I put in the comics for the week prior and that included Pi Day so you can imagine just what sort of merriment was filling the comics pages. OK, that was filling three or so strips worth. But it was there. There isn’t a lot more to say on this point, but I want to say just a touch more because of the Responsive Design theme I’ve got on this. It rearranges stuff based on how wide the browser is. And with the browser I post stuff in, at the width I like it being open to, I have this slender column on the left with a posting’s dateline and tags and Leave A Comment link and all that. And if I include a picture that’s far enough down the page that it’s past the Leave A Comment link then it gets to use that horizontal space for itself. So it gets to appear bigger by virtue of an optical illusion created by having more horizontal and vertical space. (It’s a very convincing illusion.) And I like the picture bigger, so that’s why I’m going on until I have enough words that I can

Sitting atop a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pinball machine: a box of Little Caesar's pizza.
Technically speaking I do not know whether there was any pizza in the box or not, but the event which I did not stage works equally well either way. The instruction card mentions the “Bodacious Skill Shot”, which serves as a reminder that there are some bits of vocabulary shared between Manhattan-dwelling turtle ninjas and Great Smokey Mountains-dwelling moonshiner Snuffy Smith.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped one point today as Dan thought he saw a sewing magazine promise “three alternatives to clapping” and he was stumped trying to think of a third. The trading floor broke out into one faction pointing out that the magazine cover promised alternatives to stitching and another faction saying sure, there’s snapping fingers, and there’s stomping on the floor, but what would be a third? And then the day ended in squabbles about whether it counts as an alternative to clapping if you slap your hand against some other body part, like your thigh or something.

126

What’s Going On In Mark Trail? December 2016 – March 2017


Mark Trail was the second story strip I reviewed as having had a sea change considerably improving it. And I’ve talked in passing about the major event of November and December. But let me recap the whole of the last few months as best I understand it.

Mark Trail.

4 December 2016 through 18 March 2017

When I last talked about Mark Trail he was off on a remote Hawai’ian atoll, there to document an invasive species of ant that was bothering the local birds. While human-induced carelessness will create ecological problems nature has its ways of restoring the balance. In this case, nature chose to go with “titanic volcano explosion that destroys the island, the invasive ants, and everything else on it”. Nature has a real problem figuring out the appropriate scale for its responses. This by the way isn’t the first time in James Allen’s tenure as Mark Trail author-and-artist that an invasive species has been solved by fire. Some kind of beetle boring into woods was solved by a particularly well-placed bit of semi-controlled wildfire.

At the smoking ruins of the island: 'I've been a charter pilot through the islands for many years and I've seen coral atolls rise and sink from time to time, but I've never seen one totally erupt, crumble, and sink into the sea before!'
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 24th of December, 2016. And yes, this may look bad, what with Mark Trail having declined the insurance on Firecracker Island. But look on the bright side: now that the island has erupted, crumbled, and sunk into the waters there’s probably someone looking to build a Monty Python reference on the spot already.

Anyway, the volcano exploded a lot, and then exploded some more, and then went on exploding to the point that some readers got a bit cranky wondering if there was even any island left to explode. It reads better if you look at a week’s worth of strips at once, which Comics Kingdom’s web site makes easy to do, at least if you have a paid subscription. Once again, I recommend subscriptions to both Comics Kingdom and to GoComics if you like newspaper-grade syndicated comic strips. Both web sites do their jobs very well.

With the island escaped, Mark Trail observed the ritual of cleansing between storylines: eating pancakes while sharing stilted dialogue and promising his son Rusty that they’ll go fishing someday.

Cherry: 'I made your favorite!' Mark: 'Pancakes! - Indeed you did!' Rusty: 'I enjoy pancakes too! Thanks, Mom!'
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 30th of January, 2017. So yes, that friend of yours who’s way too much into Mystery Science Theater 3000 would like to know whether any of these people would say “I like coffee”. (It’s a reference to the episode Red Zone Cuba, but I’m going to say it’s from The Skydivers in order to trick MST3K fans into commenting to tell me I’m wrong. I’ve always been an awful old-school Internet troll that way.) The rest of us are busy pondering the exact differences between the curls in Cherry Trail’s hair and the wisps of we-hope-that’s-steam coming off the mound of pancakes. Are they a life form trying to communicate? Surely not or Mark Trail would have known what to make of them.

Meanwhile, Lee Hunter, whom I don’t know anything about either, arrives in West Africa for a licensed safari hunt. In the West African village of Village, where all the lionesses and cubs have been shipped off to zoos, there’s an elderly male that’s turned human-eater. Possibly from loneliness; he’d hardly be the first person to go a little crazy at work because of an unsatisfying home life.

As she arrives she bumps into Chris, nicknamed Dirty, a guy who’d been in some Mark Trail story a couple years ago when the strip was all about poacher smuggling. He’s on his way to the United States, and we haven’t seen Lee Hunter again since that encounter. I don’t have any guess whether Village is going to have anything to do with the current storyline, or whether James Allen is setting up a future storyline, or whether the strip just wanted to put in a good word for licensed exotic-animal hunting. (It feels out of character for Mark Trail, but it is a difficult question of ethics, and a character is under no obligation to make choices that even the author thinks correct. A character is only obliged to make choices that the author thinks credible for the story.)

That’s also just about all we’ve seen from Chris Dirty, too. Since that airport encounter Mark Trail’s been talking about how his old buddy Johnny Lone Elk spotted a pair of gray wolves and some cougar tracks at the Cheyenne River Reservation. Also evidence of a bear, which is quite exciting stuff when Mark was just thinking about getting in on some black-footed-ferret and prairie dog census work. Cherry Trail mentioned that it isn’t tornado season, so we can look forward to a tornado catching on fire and blowing up in the near future.

Doc: 'Johnny found evidence of a bear? Does he have any idea what kind?' Mark: 'It's probably just a black bear. Not likely to be a grizzly!' Cherry: 'Wasn't someone out there doing a black-footed ferret and prairie dog survey? A bear isn't going to help that at all!' Doc: 'How's Johnny doing? We haven't seen him in years!'
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 2nd of March, 2017. You might ask if Cherry Trail is too quick to judge the bear’s unwillingness to help with the black-footed-ferret and prairie dog survey. Perhaps. Me, I wonder if in the third panel that’s Lampy, finally finding work after the end of Apartment 3-G.

Cherry’s also mentioned some water park incident that I don’t know anything about. Trusting that it’s something that really happened back when Jack Elrod was writing and drawing the strip I’m going to suppose that someone was smuggling otters down the lazy river. I have no further information about this incident.

Animals or other natural phenomena featured on Sundays recently have included:

  • The Pink Frogmouth, 12 March 2017
  • Toucans, 5 March 2017
  • The Western Pacific Biotwang (whale noise), 26 February 2017
  • Flying Lemurs, 19 February 2017
  • Amethyst, 12 February 2017
  • This Leaf-Shaped Spider In Yunnan, China, 5 February 2017
  • Hooded Nudibranches, 29 January 2017
  • New Zealand Keas, 22 January 2017
  • Spiders and Giraffe Assassin Bugs, 15 January 2017
  • Good news for bats affected with white-nose syndrome, 8 January 2017
  • Pyrosomes (which are these giant glowing sea-dwelling worms so don’t say I didn’t warn you), 1 January 2017
  • Blue Nawab caterpillars, 18 December 2016
  • Frog rescue and this amphibian-threatening fungus, 11 December 2016
  • The Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize, 4 December 2016
  • Dodder Vine, 27 November 2016

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell five points when someone saw a tweet talking about a Victorian epidemic of “poisonous socks” and thought we ought to be spending more time hiding under furniture about this.

127

Caption This: Running Like A Chicken Edition


As I promised my other blog, the serious one, talked more about comic strips with mathematical themes yesterday. At least it did if the automated posting worked right. I set that one and this to appear without my specific intervention because I think I’m going to be busy? I might be busy anyway.

I’d post an update with a later report of just how busy I was and when except I can’t figure that’s in fact interesting either. My point is, if I did have something posted there yesterday, it might be something interesting to you today.

And if it’s not then I’ll just go back to grabbing frames from Star Trek: The Next Generation, such as for instance this:

Data's disembodied head plugged in to one of the pull-down tray tables in Lower Engineering. From the episode 'Disaster'.
Shortly after this episode Data began reviewing music, if I may make a needlessly complicated Mystery Science Theater 3000 reference. Say what you will, but Next Generation had some great severed-talking-head effects.

“Counselor? Do you know when you might be able to resume my exploration of the idiom `would lose my head if it were not attached’ anytime soon? And in … I am not certain which corridor?”

Have something better? I’m not surprised. Give it a try.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Traders lifted the Another Blog, Meanwhile by two points today after stretching carefully and bending at the knees before they realized the index was a lot hotter than they realized and nobody had brought any oven mitts.

129

Caption This: Supplemental: Hurrk.


As has gotten to be normal for Mondays I mostly want to point you over to my mathematics blog where I thrill folks by showing off a 1956 installment of Jimmy Hatlo’s comic strip Baby Schnooks’ll Do It Every Time. I don’t know, but it brings in the readers, so who am I to object? There should be another one of those installments come Thursday, so I’ve already got my Next Generation picture all ready to go for it. Also I’m not going out of my way to pick on Next Generation, it’s just that I feel like there’s only one thing to say about the Original Star Trek episode where they left a newspaper on the floor in the background and that’s to point out they left a newspaper on the floor in the background. As ever, if you want to put in your own caption, please do. I like what folks make of this.

Riker sitting on the captain's task chair in the Ready Room.
I get why the Captain would have a laptop on his desk, sure, and having a couple of circuit boards standing free? That’s just good resource organization. Why does he keep a chunk of crystal there, though? That’s way too blocky to be a piece of sea glass, so I’m forced to conclude the set designers don’t know either, they just set that down earlier in the episode and can’t take it out now without someone calling it a continuity error.

“Personal log. I now know how long is too long to spin in my chair.”

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index stayed at 127 today as some of the traders got into a talk about the standards and specifications of decade-old video game systems and everybody else hid under the desk until it all blew over. Not that it isn’t interesting to hear something about this stuff but then when they get into calling enhanced rame rate schemes “hilarious” you know you’re in trouble and should be doing something else.

127

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? December 2016 – March 2017


I started out this strikingly popular series of “What’s Going On In” story strips by describing how Dick Tracy had gotten pretty good. I stand by that assessment: the comic has been telling stories at a pretty good pace and with enough energy and excitement to demand attention. I discover reading my earlier piece that I didn’t actually describe the then-current storyline except to say it was going to have a guy get eaten by a hyena. Let me fix that and bring you to the present day.

Dick Tracy

29 November 2016 through 11 March 2017

So, the guy did not get eaten by a hyena. I apologize for the mistake, but it was after all only my best projection as to where the story was going. The fellow was a new Tracy-esque villain named Selfy Narcisse, whose gimmick was that he was always taking selfies. They can’t all be The Pouch.

Narcisse had been embezzling campaign donations to Representative Lois Bellowthon (herself proposing some anti-Lunar-people legislation); he was fleeing with a literal satchel of cash after poisoning the finally-wise-to-him Congressman. Yes, he used his selfie stick to inject the poison, so at least that keeps on-theme. He took refuge in the zoo where he had a friend willing to disguise him as a zoo keeper, which is a thing that happens in real big-city zoos.

Selfy Narcisse panics as police close in. 'This is all Vic's fault! He blew my cover and wasted all my poison ... if he weren't already dead I'd kill him!' Tracy discovers Vic's corpse. 'It's the missing zoo worker! He doesn't appear to have been mauled, but my Wrist Wizard isn't showing any of his vital signs. Get Baker to open the door, Lizz. I'll check for another way in.' Meanwhile Narcisse plans: 'Better stay put, Tracy. There might be enough poison left in the selfie stick for you!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 4th of December, 2016. While I admit I kept losing track in the climax of the difference between the Narcisse’s selfie stick and the electric prods used for pushing animals around, I don’t blame the artists: they’re hard things to differentiate. Especially when it doesn’t seem like that big a leap for a poison-dispensing selfie stick to also have an electric prod. Anyway, look at the center panel, bottom row: that’s a great rendition of a scene viewed through a window, and most of that texture is made by good color choice.

His cover fell apart when his hat fell off for a moment and zoogoers put pictures that happened to have him in frame on social media. So again, that’s good work by Mike Staton and Joe Curtis in being on-theme. His friend accidentally drank Narcisse’s poison stash, thinking it alcohol. Narcisse tasers Tracy and drags him into the water buffalo pen. One of the water buffalo, annoyed by the villain’s selfie-taking, gored Narcisse, but was scared away from Tracy when his Wrist Wizard handheld computer’s battery exploded. Yes, I wrote that sentence, and you read it. Go back and read it again until you believe it.

In December a major new story started and it involved a major crossover event because everything in Dick Tracy does anymore. Their Christmas strip was the characters singing Deck Us All With Boston Charlie, Walt Kelly’s great Pogo doggerel, for crying out loud. The main attraction for this storyline is The Spirit, the great superhero character created by Will Eisner in a line of books I never read. Sorry. I know, I know, everybody who’s stood in a comic book store more than ten minutes will tell you they’re the greatest things ever made. I’ve been busy.

Tracy: 'Spirit, I'd like you to meet a friend of mine, The Great Am.' Am: 'The pleasure is mine, Mr Spirit. I presume the object of your visit is to keep an eye on Perenelle Flammel?' Spirit: 'Yes ...' (Thinking: who is this guy?) Am: 'I've encountered her about five times through the years. In fact, the first time we met was at her funeral in 1397.' Tracy: 'So Perenelle Flammel is truly immortal?' Am: 'Yes, I am sure of it, Tracy.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 1st of January, 2017. This strip may not convince the casual reader about Perenelle Flammel. But it is delivering to us the Word of God that Flammel is indeed immortal. The Great Am will be recognized by devoted longtime readers of Annie, where he’s God. All right, he’s Ambiguously God. But that’s who he is because that’s the kind of thing Annie was up to when Harold Gray wasn’t ranting against social security or the minimum wage law or stuff.

The Spirit’s in town because one Perenelle Flammel is auctioning off the immortality formula that’s kept her from dying since the 14th century. The auction brings together The Spirit, Dick Tracy‘s own super-science-industrialist Diet Smith, Oliver Warbucks (as Staton and Curtis are fostering the orphaned Annie cast), Mister Carrion (whom Wikipedia tells me is one of The Spirit’s recurring villains, and whom the story revealed to be an agent for The Octopus, which Wikipedia says is another of The Spirit’s recurring villains), and the Dragon Lady (allowed into the story via special passport issued by Terry and the Pirates). The preliminary auction helps convince bidders the formula might be legitimate because it checks out with a Doc Savage reference. Low-level con men Brush and Kitchen attempt to rob the preliminary auction’s treasury but get easily caught by Tracy and Spirit. And Tracy, doing some actual detective work for once, finds that Carrion brought cash from a bank robbery, so he’s out of the plot or so we think.

Early morning in Flammel's suite: 'Good morning, Mistress! Your Monte Cristo is ready. All the bidders will assemble at noon for the auction. Is there anything else you need, mistress? ... MISTER DOUBLEUP! COME QUICKLY! Mistress Flammel! Please, help her!' 'I cant. It's too late. Too late. She's DEAD. Go call Dick Tracy, Dick Tracy!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 5th of March, 2017. Repeating the last two words he says is Doubleup’s gimmick. I suppose he’d repeat more if the word balloons were bigger. The valet’s gimmick I’m not clear on, but he seems to only be a minor character there because Flammel needs a valet.

And then Flammel turned up dead, because the immortality serum doesn’t protect you against strangulation. Flammel’s bodyguard, recurring Tracy villain Doubleup, seems a poor suspect as he was being paid in Scarlett Sting comic books, so we’re on to Flammel’s valet and then check out anyone else who’s been in the story.

In miscellaneous plot threads, since there’s a lot of those planted in spaces between the main action: Sam Catchem’s wife has finished chemotherapy and been declared cancer-free. A crime boss name of Posie Ermine noticed Mysta Chimera, who had been his daughter Mindy before the mad science treatment that destroyed her memory and made her into a synthetic Moon Maid replica. He crashed his car into hers to try to recover her. This didn’t get him permanently back in her life, but he’s undeterred. I’m sympathetic to Posie Ermine here and not even being snarky about that. There’s some deeply emotionally messy stuff going on here.

Somewhere deep in an Antarctic valley someone who appears to be a Lunarian pledges to investigate “the halfling”, “my granddaughter”, which has to be Mysta Chimera. This matches a couple references in October with Mysta asking Honey Moon Tracy if she’s heard any telepathic contacts from anybody else. Tracy and the Spirit have been trading stories including The Spirit mentioning how he went to the Moon too. I think that’s all the stuff that sounds like threads ready to go somewhere, but for all I know that Pogo reference for the Christmas strip is setting up a scene late this year when Albert Alligator mistakenly swallows Gidney and Cloyd. We’ll see.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

While the Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose another three points during trading nobody trusts the result and everybody is walking gingerly on the trading floor lest they tip something over.

127

In Which Barney Google Makes Me Unsure About The Point Of Existence


Way, way back in the day Barney Google and Snuffy Smith was a story comic. It was always funny or trying to be, but it was also doing a storyline. Comics Kingdom is reprinting strips from that time. In like 1940 or so Snuffy Smith got drafted and the strips since then have put him in a bunch of goofing-around-the-Army-camp stories. In the current one Barney Google, stationed in Australia, sent a kangaroo over to his friend. Snuffy used it first to set up boxing matches that turned into some pretty solid comedy, with the poor human begging outwitted handily by the kangaroo. And now as of September 1942 Snuffy Smith is using the kangaroo to pass messages along for money. And now we get to this comic:

'Gee Snuffy - I'm s'pose to meet my gal at the Mosey Inn, 7 o'clock sharp - but I can't get out! Would you send Chosef over there with a note?' 'Why, shore! Jes' scribble it off and I'll chase him right over - uh - that'll cost ye 50 cents messenger fee - cash on th' barr'l top.' (Later) 'Hey, yard bird!! Here it is past midnight and that !!@#* kangaroo ain't back yet!' 'Simmer down, cousin - your leetle pullet got th'message - ye can depent on it.' (At the inn) The kangaroo is dancing with the woman.
Billy DeBeck’s Barney Google and Snuffy Smith for the 25th of September, 1942. Say what you will, but that as an almost oppressively adorable kangaroo. Like, possibly the most adorable kangaroo to ever appear in a syndicated comic strip and if you know a better one please send it along. But I warn you: I can provide other strips with the kangaroo holding stuff in his paws.

And I guess I’m just stuck thinking, when this was published the Battle of Stalingrad was barely through its first month. US Marines were trying (unsuccessfully) to pass the Matanikau River on Guadalcanal. Four Royal Air Force bombers sent to Oslo on a civilian-morale-building raid failed to destroy the Gestapo headquarters but did kill something like eighty civilians, and lose one of the bombers in the process. The British destroyer Somali finally sunk in the Greenland Sea four days after being damaged by German submarine U-255. Four ships of Allied convoy QP 14 had just been sunk by U-435. Japanese forces landed on the Gilbert Island of Maiana. And the British destroyer Veteran and the United States Liberty ship Stephen Hopkins were days away from being sunk. And … Snuffy Smith’s kangaroo was dancing. And I feel like this is utterly mad and then I think, well, what am I doing, and why that? I think what I’m saying is I don’t want to feel like I need a hug just because a kangaroo’s dancing to swing music.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index jumped nine points, but its knees aren’t what they used to be, and it had to fall down two of them before finishing, wincing and groaning about it all.

116

This Seems Like A Lot Of Sweden For Me


So here’s Twitter’s recommendations for who I ought to start following.

Who To Follow: Sweden.se; Radio Sweden; and @Sweden / Fredrik.
Sure, but does Sweden ever follow me? I hope not. I feel nervous enough I have like twenty people reading this on a regular basis. A whole country? My sole qualification for having a country follow me is that I’m pretty good at the Europa Universalis line of grand strategy games. Also when I play Tropico the economy is a weird swingy mess between boom and bust years but everybody feels really, really secure in their civil rights.

I don’t have anything against Sweden, since it’s almost never the problem when I play a grand strategy game. But I don’t see why Twitter is so sure I need to think about it so much suddenly. Also I feel like an account that’s called Sweden.se seems awfully on the nose. It’s like having a site that’s usa.usa.usa. At least as long as that actually is the flag of Sweden. It might be. A lot of those northern European countries have flags that are white crosses on a color, because they got to pick first. Also I don’t know who sweden/Fredrik is, or whether that’s just a joint account for everyone in Sweden who’s named Fredrik. I would hope they take turns with it. Oh, now, wouldn’t it be something if the account was really an enormous troll by Finland?

Also I figure to have only the one comic strip essay on my mathematics blog this week and yesterday’s was it. Enjoy!

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose five points today as traders were all confident everyone else knew something in bidding up the index and that if they went along with it maybe someone would tell them what they’ve heard.

110

Statistics Sunday: February 2017 In Review


OK, and now I should stop wasting time and look over what my readership was for February.

Oh, maybe I don’t want to look at that quite so much. Well, no, it’s all basically fine. Readership was down in February compared to January. But readership was still really high. WordPress tells me there were 1,837 page views from 1,098 distinct visitors in February. In January were there 2,340 page views from 1,361 distinct visitors. And back in December 2016 — remember 2016? — there were a mere 1,396 page views from 818 distinct visitors. In any way you mean to count that, that’s a popular month around here.

And there were 169 likes given around here in February, up from January’s 163 and December’s 137. The number of comments plummeted again, to only 15 from January’s 39, but that was a chatty month. December had 20 comments which is still .. really quite a lot more than February’s, on a percentage basis. I need to get better at writing stuff that invites comments. Or arguments, whatever.

I can come up with excuses for February’s drop. The big one is that February’s a short month. With only 28/31th as many days to get readers, even if I stay as popular, I’ll have fewer readers. But also I suspect that the story strips I reviewed the past month are at fault. Definitely the story strip recaps are the things drawing people in. Of the ten most popular posts in February six were “What’s Going On In” pieces and one of the others was about why Mary Worth looks different. Not part of the series, but kin to it. But the point is that the February strips included things like The Phantom, which is pretty clear about its narrative, or Gasoline Alley, which doesn’t capture people’s ironic and snarky imaginations the way Mary Worth does. Or which hasn’t gotten wildly crazy like Judge Parker or Rex Morgan. Also, these are comic strips that haven’t recently undergone major changes in writing or art or tone or general level of craziness.

This does imply dire things for my readership now that I’ve gone through all the major story strips, but perhaps I’ll just keep it going by going around the circle of story comics again.

For the record the five most popular pieces for February were:

Yes, it drives me crazy that I wasn’t consistent about “What’s Going On In” versus “What’s Going On With” versus, in some essays, “What Is Going On”. Also how is Mark Twain my top author for another month? I don’t know.

It seems likely that this month I’ll record my 50,000th page view around here. That’s neat as this coming week, if I keep to my post-a-day schedule, I’ll record my 1,500th consecutive daily post. WordPress says the most popular day for reading here is Tuesday, with 19 percent of page views. Last month it was also Tuesday but at only 18 percent. It’s always Tuesday for some reason. Midnight’s the most popular hour, but for February it saw 12 percent of page views, rather than the mere eight percent of previous months.

Now the roster of countries and page views, that’s likeable for the reasons:

Country Views
United States 1386
Canada 64
United Kingdom 62
Germany 61
India 55
Australia 32
Philippines 21
France 11
Hong Kong SAR China 9
Italy 8
Norway 8
Singapore 7
Japan 6
Romania 6
Sweden 6
Netherlands 5
South Africa 5
Portugal 4
Spain 4
Brazil 3
Finland 3
Greece 3
Ireland 3
Mexico 3
New Zealand 3
Poland 3
Argentina 2
Bangladesh 2
Belgium 2
Denmark 2
Indonesia 2
Jamaica 2
Kenya 2
Malaysia 2
Moldova 2
Panama 2
Serbia 2
Trinidad & Tobago 2
Ukraine 2
Algeria 1
Barbados 1
Chile 1
Colombia 1
Croatia 1
El Salvador 1
European Union 1(*)
Fiji 1
Hungary 1
Israel 1
Kazakhstan 1
Luxembourg 1
Madagascar 1(*)
Northern Mariana Islands 1
Peru 1
Russia 1(*)
Slovenia 1
South Korea 1
Switzerland 1
Thailand 1
United Arab Emirates 1(**)
Uruguay 1

The European Union, Madagascar, and Russia were single-reader countries last month too. The United Arab Emirates are on a three-month streak. I make out that there were 22 single-reader countries, up from January’s 14 and December’s 18. I also make out that there were 61 countries altogether, so I’m spread out over more of the world than in January (48 countries) and December (42).

There were, it appears, 716 followers by WordPress. Six by e-mail. I’m sure they’re all sending me to the spam bin. It still counts. Interested in being any of them? Go for it: there should be a button to follow the blog on your WordPress device in the upper-right cornere here. There should be one to follow by e-mail just below that, although given that following by e-mail really isn’t a thing maybe I’ll go move that to somewhere less obvious. You can follow on an RSS reader too, if you have one of those, and why don’t we have more of them? RSS is so good at stuff.

So what do you think? Should I go back around to reviewing the story comics and how they’ve updated since I got to them a couple months ago? That might be doable.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped two points as Matthew got a rental car that has one of those key fobs where there’s nothing to put in anywhere to get the car working and he had to spend twenty minutes in the parking lot of the rental place trying to figure out how to get the engine started, and he’s got some harsh words to say to whoever wrote the index to the car’s owner’s manual.

105

Caption This: Or As Picard Knows This Stuff, Tuesday


I talked some more about mathematically-themed comic strips on the other blog and there you go. I’m not figuring on doing another of these reviews this week so that’s your big chance to read what I have to say about Bud Blake’s Tiger. Well, I think that’s worth doing. Meanwhile as I sit and think up other things to write here’s my usual sort of Next Generation captioning stuff and you’re invited to participate.

Two Picards walking into the shuttle bay, the way pairs of Picards will.
Really, how many times did they come up against duplicates or clones or lost twins or whatnot of the original crew? Is there anyone besides Counsellor Troi who didn’t meet themselves at least once? Also: didn’t Counsellor Troi have advanced training in psychology or whatever her mental-health specialty is? Shouldn’t we be calling her Doctor Troi?

Picard: What the — oh, jeez. No. Not another one of these. No. Shan’t do it. You all deal with your own spacetime anomaly clone alternate-timeline nonsense without me.

Picard: And that goes double for me!

Picard: No, now you’re just encouraging them!

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped today amidst rumors first that actor Bill Pullman had died and then accusations that the person who’d mixed him up with actor Bill Paxton, who had just died, was doing that bit about not being able to tell the two apart. She insists no, she honestly and sincerely just mixed them up and is sorry for the confusion and for

94

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley?


I, too, thought I was done with story strips. And then I realized I’d forgot one. And what a one to forget: it’s, I believe, the oldest syndicated comic strip that isn’t in perpetual reruns. Coming to us from the 24th of November, 1918, it’s …

Gasoline Alley.

If you know anything about Gasoline Alley you don’t need me to tell you anything about Gasoline Alley. It’s one of those comic strips that’s been around forever even though the last child to grow up enthusiastically reading it went on to fight in King Philip’s War. Have to admit, a someone who only started paying attention to it in adulthood, the kids are missing something. That something is a lot of old-time radio references. I honestly wonder how artist/writer Jim Scancarelli wasn’t hired to draw the Lum and Abner comic strip.

So the comic strip is a slice-of-life serial comic. Its big gimmick, and the thing that’s let it last nearly a century, was the day in 1922 when protagonist Walt Wallet discovered the orphan Skeezix on his doorstep. Since then most of the characters in the strip have aged more or less in real time. People get born, they grow up, they move off, they move back, they marry, they have careers, they bring new people into the strip, they retire. The whole cast is impossibly vast and interconnected in ways that only Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury compares to.

Walt Wallet is still around, even though the progression of time makes him something like 115 years old. I imagine Scancarelli is a little too sentimental to kill the comic’s original star, even if there have been like four whole generations of plausible lead characters since then. He doesn’t even have to kill Walt. Scancarelli embraces a bit of magic whimsy in the comic (a lot, really), and one of the conceits is the Old Comics Home. It’s the boarding house for all the characters from the classic old comic strips. They have a visit every year or so. I can’t imagine anyone objecting if Walt, and maybe Skeezix too, were to pay their annual visit to Mutt and Jeff and Buster Brown and Smokey Stover or whoever and just … not come back.

But Walt Wallet does come back. And the current storyline, begun the 16th of January, stars him. He’s inspired by a newspaper advertisement offering “big bucks for your inventions”. After several days sleeping on it he has an inspiration. It’s a combination freezer-fridge-stove-grill-microwave-TV, the sort of thing you might create as a dubiously practical all-in-one contraption for a 60s sitcom. Wallet admits he got the idea from thinking about how in Dick Tracy the B.O. Plenty clan had a stove with a built-in TV set. I don’t know that this actually happened, but I believe it. Scancarelli shows a love for this particular kind of pop culture. He is not so reference-crazy as the actual current staff of Dick Tracy, but then neither is the writing staff of Family Guy. Still, he could hold his own in a highly referential conversation with them.

'Isn't this the invention of a lifetime? A combination freezer, fridge, stove, grill, and microwave! Well! Aren't you going to say anything?' 'I'm speechless!'

Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 30th of January, 2017. There’s an optional TV also. No, it isn’t connected to the Internet, because there is no non-ridiculous reason to connect your refrigerator to the Internet. Will say that’s a pretty good example diaram considering so far as I know Wallet hasn’t been trained in graphic design and he’s also older than graphic design.

Wallet’s idea underwhelms Skeezix and his nurse. But he attracts the attention of Gasoline Alley TV’s Shark Bait. So he goes to the TV studio to pitch his idea — or really the novelty of a 115-year-old inventor — to the jury of millionaire investors. He gets to the studio and meets, who else but Frank Nelson.

You know Frank Nelson. OK, you know that guy on The Simpsons who goes YYYyyyyyyyyeeeeeess? That’s Frank Nelson they’re impersonating there. He appeared in a lot of Jack Benny Program episodes as the clerk or ticket-taker or information desk guy or anyone at all that Benny would have to get information from. And he’d instead get “YYYyyyyyyyyeeeeeess” and “OOooOOOoooh” and insults. This may sound like thin stuff, but, again: character actor. And done for one or two minutes a week, two weeks a month, the character doesn’t exactly get old. It gets familiar, the way a fun running gag does. Frank Nelson’s reappeared in Gasoline Alley to torment Walt Wallet because, like I said, Jim Scancarelli’s an old-time radio fan. The comic probably reads fine if you have no idea what’s being referred to here. If you know how the lines should be read, I imagine they’re funnier.

But I don’t know what it reads like to someone who doesn’t get the references. Scancarelli likes them, and will keep making them. Even if they’re a little baffling. A while back he introduced Molly Ballou, radio reporter. Who’s carefully introduced as the sister to Wally Ballou, famously mis-cued reporter for Bob and Ray. And shortly after that he introduced Polly Ballou, Wally and Molly’s other sister. I understand wanting to do a little Bob and Ray fanfic because who would not? And it’s simple professionalism to do it with your own character, because that way, if you screw up nobody’s qualified to tell you you’re wrong. (Frank Nelson’s appearances have, I believe, avoided coming right out and naming him, allowing for some deniability if the character goes completely wrong. At the cost of confusing people who realize there’s a reference to something here that they don’t have enough stuff to Google.)

But why make them Wally Ballou’s improbably young-looking sisters? In the comic strip that defined “comic strip that passes more or less in real time”? Why not make them his daughters, or granddaughters? And why Molly and Polly, when it seems like one would do? Maybe it’s pure self-indulgence. As cartoonist self-indulgences go this seems quite tolerable to me. Or maybe I just like that I get the references.

'Uh, excuse me! Where do you want me to go?' 'Oooh! I'd love to tell you ... but I can't.' 'Why not?' 'This is a family newspaper!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 20th of February, 2017. Fine, call it a dumb old joke. It was my best laugh of the day from the comics. Also I hadn’t thought of it before but now I realize Scancarelli could totally slip in Harold “The Great Guildersleeve” Peary in too. He’s got the basic design down.

So, as of this week, Walt Wallet’s gotten onto Shark Bait. It’s going out live because Gasoline Alley TV just does that. You can roll with it or you can read something else, okay? There’s an odd bit of confusion in the show’s opening about whether the jury is a panel of millionaires or billionaires and that might be a hint there’s some mischief up. I make no predictions for how it’ll resolve except that at the end of it Walt Wallet will not be a millionaire. The strip doesn’t break reality that much, plus, think of the biographies of every inventor you know. How many of then end with “died in poverty after long court fights with the companies that ripped off his/her patents”? Yeah.

This is the storyline running Monday through Saturday. On Sundays the comic strip runs separate gags. They’re usually one-off panels, not connected to any storyline. And they’re usually the sort of big dumb old-school sketch comedy stuff that was old when old-time radio was new. And Scancarelli draws it in this warm, friendly, very gentle style. It works for me. I like that kind of comedy. Don’t know that it communicates today.

'I'm the Genie of the Lamp! I'll grant you 3 wishes for letting me out!' 'Can I have 10 billion dollars?' 'Your wish is my command!' 'How about world peace?' 'Easier done than said! What's next? This is your last wish! It better be a good one!' 'Make me lose 200 pounds and look like I did when I was 20!' 'Gad-zooks, man! I don't have that kind of power! I'm only a genie!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 5th of February, 2017. The typical sort of Sunday business for Gasoline Alley. Since the joke is old, take the chance to look at the art. This is some pretty lively stuff, especially considering the scene is just two characters talking and would play just as well without any visuals. There’s not enough good art on the comics pages; good on Scancarelli for insisting on it in his work.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell eight points following uncertainty as to which of the paczki is the strawberry and which is the red raspberry. This might have been weathered but similar doubts were raised regarding the blueberry and the prune ones.

98

Rather Than Asking Funky Winkerbean What The HECK Is Wrong With You


I mean, I want to. Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean is somehow in the second week of a story in which Funky Winkerbean tries to renew an expired driver’s license. And if that seems like not much of a storyline consider that Batiuk has decided to see just how big a jerk Funky can possibly be during it. Or possibly how big an idiot. Anyway it’s left me seething with rage and so I’m going to turn to more productive stuff like the mathematically-themed comics on my other blog and, oh, I don’t know. Here’s a screen grab from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Heart of Glory”, known as “that one from the first season where we started thinking maybe the show could be good after all”.

Worf and two guest Klingons of the week standing in sickbay over the body of a dead guest Klingon of the week. All but the dead one are howling at the boom mike.
Boy, I feel bad for the extra caught in this shot leaning against the water cooler. Awkward!

o/` Be-el-ze-bub has a devil put aside!
For me …
For Meeee …
FOR MEEEEEEEEEE! o/`

If you want to put in your own different caption here, please, go ahead.

Thanks, all. Boy am I angry at Funky Winkerbean.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose one point in trading described as “partly cloudy” and with “smatterings of applause”. We have no explanation for what this should mean.

106

In Which The Pasta Was Nothing Special


The comic strips that don’t have stories to over-explain but do have someone say “algebra” in them I talk about over on my other blog.

Specials: Soup - Vegetable beef; Special - meatloaf slidders; Pasta -
The soup was Rack of Lima Bean. From the Blind Squirrel Tavern, Fremont, Michigan. (We were there for the pinball.)

No, I am not engaged in the lazy form of comedy in which someone notices a sign has a mistake in it. “Slidders” are a specialty of the restaurant, where they make extremely thin hamburger patties fried on an incredibly hot metal sheet. To keep the burgers from overcooking they’re literally slid down the heavily greased sheet. They’re then smothered under almost a soup of boiled onions and mushrooms, but that’s incidental. If this seems strange, is it really odder than planked shad? Anyway, I just want you to know they’re the tastestoostiest.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose thirteen points today and — wait, what, really? No, huh, that’s exactly what the point-o-meter says it did. Well, we have no explanation for this phenomenon.

109

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant?


I remember reading this week’s story strip as a kid. It was obviously an important one as it got so much space in the Sunday Star-Ledger‘s pretty good comic section. It didn’t look like a story strip, what with it having knights and sword fights and I would swear the occasional dragon. But I never knew what was going on, since there weren’t any word balloons and everything was explained with these giant blocks of text that I thought were trying to sound olde-tymey. I’m curious how my memory matches the actual fact, but it’s so hard online to look up stuff from the 70s and 80s.

Prince Valiant.

Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant has good reasons for looking like that. The strip, created in the late 1930s by Hal Foster, keeps that close to its roots, with the action in the panels and the dialogue kept quite separate. This separation was not idiosyncratic when the comic strip started. Mandrake the Magician, The Phantom, Flash Gordon and other adventure strips of the time similarly ran their Sunday continuities with action and dialogue separated.

There is, yes, a lot of history to read in the comic strip, which just finished its 80th year. The comic strip reached panel number 4,176 this Sunday. They put the number right there in the comic, as if they’re trying to lure in the slightly obsessive reader. Kind of them. You don’t need to know it. The characters are straightforward enough to drop in on. The settings are classics, at least for a kind of story I didn’t really read while growing up. But that are at least good backdrops for cartoons set in those kinds of settings. The home setting is Camelot-era England and the lands surrounding the North Sea. But sometimes the gang goes on an expedition. Like, now.

I’m not sure when Team Valiant set out on an adventure to the east. But they’ve been tromping around the Far East for well over a year now and I forget what they set out to accomplish. What they have done is have a series of adventures in fresh, attractive settings. And they have looked great, which is tolerably true to both longstanding Western European folklore about the riches of the East and to how, historically, Western Europe of that time was a pit. At least compared to rich, stimulating places like Byzantium and Arabia and India and China.

The sorcerer-king was made welcome in the subterranean city; but he grew jealous of his host's knowledge, and greedy for power. He learned their secrets and then he deceived them. He stole the terrible key to power that we call the Soul of Asia. To us, that artifact appears sorcerous --- but it its creators, it was a device that released the most basic forces of Nature, the unseen forces that build and destroy our material world. Aristotle posited that our world is made up of infinitely small quanta of energy. The Soul is the key to that primal energy! It rends the fabric of matter and opens gateways to things that would seek to destroy our world! Brandishing the terrible thing, the sorcerer-king could not be contained in the hidden city. He struck a deal with the rightful owners: he would never unleash the artifact's power so long as they did not seek to take it from him.
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 29th of May, 2016. I’m delighted to have a story where Aristotle is used to explain the nigh-omnipotent travel valise instead of it being a lost invention of Archimedes. Alas, the Soul of Asia gets taken by a baddy and that takes the rest of the year to deal with.

The current part of the storyline is just a few weeks old, so it’s a good chance to hop on Prince Valiant’s boat if you want. Valiant has just overseen the downfall of a Himalayan-or-so tyrant named Azar Rasa who was hoping to use the awesome powers of the Soul of Asia to conquer Asia. And what is the Soul of Asia? It’s some kind of briefcase-size magical energy construct thingy with an awesome lot of power. It’s potent stuff, built on the learnings of the giants living deep in the Earth.

With the Soul of Asia finally in his posession, Azar Rasa turns the awful weapon toward Karen, Val, and Numair. A figure suddenly rushes from behind and skewers the unsuspecting sorcerer with a savage lunge! It is Vanni 'I have failed my responsibilities too often. Let me make amends now!' Azar staggers and falls into the volcanic well, carrying the Soul of Asia down with him! A massive explosion roils up from the depths - the demon writhes and disappears into a geyser of molten rock and the subterranean chamber convulses and begins to shatter! Vanni and Karen, Val and Numair all rush for the stairs leading out ...
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 25th of December, 2016. Don’t worry, it turns out the gang outrun the Soul of Asia’s tripping of the false vacuum and collapsing the universe in a spasm of zero point energy’s release. Also if you aren’t squicked by giant centipedes then check the previous Sunday’s comic for a really huge view of that demon. It’s dramatic but not for everyone.

So, Valiant escaped Azar Rasa’s prison by trying, since even in long-running comics security guards aren’t any good at their job. And with the help of the giants, who dress like yetis — did I mention the giants dress like yetis before? — the good guys blew up the mountain and killed the last of Azar Rasa’s followers. They pitched the Soul of Asia and Azar Rasa into Mount Doom, and all is as well as could be. That’s where 2017 started.

Val and his company have barely started their long journey home when three giant figures appear before them. Their eyes are magnetic and an alien voice seems to form in Val's head: 'This Karen and Numair have done us great service, and we would repay them. Come, we will show you a safer route through these mountains.' As if in a dream, Val finds he has no will to refuse. Save for their native guide and the pack animals all follow the giants into a cleft in the ridge and deep into the earth. Val finds he cannot fight the cloudy unreality that settles over his mind. Karen touches his shoulder: 'Do not worry - Numair and I have come this way before. They mean us well.' Time itself loses meaning and Val has no idea how long it is before the passageway opens up onto a vast subterranean gallery holding a shining city like no other he has ever seen!
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 22nd of January, 2017. Prince Valiant is strangely reluctant to just trust giant, weirdly-dressed strangers using telepathic coercion to lure him into remote, untraceable redoubts. Strange fellow.

The giants who dress like yetis are grateful to Team Valiant for helping clear up this mess where they kind of let humans get their grubby hands on a briefcase of unimaginably vast destructive power. (They hadn’t wanted to let the original sorcerer-king take it, but he had the thing, and promised not to grab it back if he didn’t use it.) So they offer help, promising to show an easier way that Our Heroes can get to wherever the heck they’re going. They lead the gang deep into the earth and hook them up with a boat and a team of pink dolphins to haul the boat through the underground river.

What had been a dreamlike journey down a subterranean water world has turned into a nightmare! A great behemoth heaves its bulk onto the craft bearing Val and his company. Their giant pilot responds with a blinding ray shot from his strange weapon but the creature's attack sets the boat to capsize! The best recoils, the pilot throws himself athwart the craft in a desperate attempt to steady the violent rocking and falls over the side! The crisis snaps Val out of his lethargy, but a fraction of a second too late to catch the guide. Then the low rumble from the river grows into something terrifying ... earthquake! The walls begin to crumble, the river begins to boil, and the dolphins that pulled them forward abandon their harness! What else could go wrong?
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 12th of February, 2017. Won’t lie to you: any time a giant behemoth rises from the sea I get more interested in the story. Doesn’t matter if it’s Prince Valiant, Star Wars, Sally Forth, Paw Patrol, or Alley Oop. You have my attention. Use it well.

It’s going well.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose a point today and everyone is blaming the peanut-butter-yoghurt-shelled pretzels they got at the store.

96

This Sort Of Observation Was More Merry Whimsical Fun Last Year


But once again Weather Underground seems to think something we should probably know about is happening in the middle of next week. (It’s a road trip to Baltimore.)

Weather Underground forecast that makes it to mid-day Wednesday and then goes completely blank.
At least we’re going out on a couple of pretty nice days for February.

For today, my mathematics blog had some more comic strips to review for yesterday, for you, if you’ll have it. How’s that?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped two points over uncertainty inspired by the DVR having decided The Price Is Right is in reruns this month even though the show is not and now they have to send someone to watch each episode and say if there’s a particularly good round of Rat Race and they’re all so good how do you make a choice?

96

105 Minutes Of Your Life You Won’t Get Back, Unlike Any Other 105 Minutes Somehow?


So the overhead business is that my mathematics blog had another comic-strip-review day. No pictures, but you can get to places with pictures over there. That’s something, right?

In other news, my love was directed to a pinball podcast from 2007. It features something like an interview with Python Anghelo, crazypants designer behind video games like Joust and pinball games like Popeye Saves The Earth, the game with the most intense backstory ever when you consider a Popeye pinball game really just needs to set up stuff that he can then punch.

The interview is enlightening because it tells me what it would be like to interview a Dr Bronner’s Soap Label that had gone into game design. I think the host asks two, many three question, one of which gets answered, and then just lets Anghelo talk. Here’s the specific episode, TOPcast show 42 from the 1st of July, 2007. In at least one point Anghelo seems to suggest he composed poems for guidance for his game concepts, and I don’t know of any of them which have come to light, but the poem for the cancelled Zingy Bingy must have been to die for. Or to kill your game division for.

For those who somehow don’t know the big names of 80s/90s pinball design: there were a bunch of big names in 80s/90s pinball design. Don’t worry about who’s who. Zingy Bingy was a concept for making an “adult” pinball game. According to legend it featured things like flippers that were shaped to resemble a part of the male anatomy which was not fingers and which could under the right circumstances grow. Also according to legend the project went on until an actual grownup at headquarters heard this was going on. That covers the essential background. Go, enjoy listening, and pause anytime you start feeling dizzy.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose two points before trading was suspended in order that everyone could make valentines to give to all the other traders, thank you. Also to wonder about people who complain that they make kids give valentines to everybody else in class these days because they’re all pretty sure that’s the way it was done back when they were kids too, and it’s not like it was any hassle back then.

103

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)?


So The Phantom, The Ghost Who Walks, is a bit of an overachiever. It’s understandable. He’s the 21st in the line. Consider how many family businesses fall apart when the fourth generation would have taken over if anyone could be found to run things. He must’ve been raised barely able to imagine anything else in life. So while Mark Trail might take Sundays off and Alley Oop might just reiterate his adventures and Spider-Man might get a bit of work done, The Phantom gives us a whole separate story. It’s the only story strip doing that. So it gets a second round of story-recapping from me. Last week I covered the dailies and stuff hasn’t changed much since then.

The Phantom (Sundays).

The Phantom is sworn to defend the people of Bangalla. But it’s a complicated, global world. It always has been. The first Phantom was an English sailor caught in the spice trades. The Phantoms who’ve been on-panel since the comic strip began haven’t been less worldly. This serves some good purposes. For one, it defuses the strip’s built-in concept of the White Savior To These Helpless Black People. That’s also defused by the development and ongoing presentation of Bangalla as a functional liberal democracy. But it helps if The Phantom uses his time and suspiciously great wealth to fight crime wherever it leads, anywhere in the world. And it means the strip can leave the jungle behind without straining its premise.

The current Sundays storyline began the 26th of June, 2016, with a plane crash, always the start to a good jungle adventure if you’re not on it. The plane carries Mikey D’Moda, teenaged idiot scion of the Chicago Mob who’s being traded to the Chinese crime syndicates in exchange for not having him around until he’s eighteen. That and a shipment of authority-attracting guns are supposed to bring a truce to the underworld, because that plan always works out.

Mikey D'Moda tells his great-great-great grandpa of his plane crash in 'Nowhere, Africa', and that his mob boss's Chinese friends have gone missing. The Phantom snarks on how Mikey talks. But Mikey offers to help The Phantom get a better suit if he's ever in Chicago.
Tony Depaul and Terry Beatty’s The Phantom for the 14th of August, 2016. I appreciate The Phantom for its action and adventure, but I really like moments like this where the characters get to kick back and consider how silly everything is. Also I appreciate how completely you know who Mikey is by the end of this one installment.

Mikey escapes to a freedom lasting whole minutes before The Phantom catches him. Meanwhile the grownups in the Chicago and China Mobs get arrested and interrogated, there to scatter some plot seeds that haven’t yet blossomed. Incidentally along the way the Jungle Patrol gives one of the prisoners the private phone call to his lawyers he’s entitled to, but “accidentally” records it on a phone. I mention this because it’s something true about The Phantom universe.

The good guys are, basically, good guys. But they fall way short of the superhero ideal. They’re not scrupulous about civil rights or the law or ethical behavior. See, for example, The Phantom’s vast wealth, said to be acquired from among other things pirate treasures. That’s fine for a pulp adventure hero; but, in the real world, stuff doesn’t stop having a legitimate owner just because someone else stole it. The Phantom could probably make a claim on stuff that has no recoverable provenance, but he’s not going to that effort.

The good guys typically get away with their cheating because the writers are on their side. But it does come back to bite them sometimes. One of the lingering human rights abuses has been The Phantom keeping the terrorist Chatu in a private, secret prison. This is understandable. Chatu arranged the kidnapping and faked-murder of The Phantom’s wife from his actual professionally-built prison cell. But, still. Is keeping him in a wood hut in the jungle really better? I believe that’s being left around to generate future stories.

Mikey advises his great-grandfather that his being kept hostage in China would never have brokered peace in the Chicago mob, which I agree with but don't understand fully anyway. Then Bruno calls and warns that 'our Chinese friends ain't too happy you come home, Mikey', even though that really does seem to be the fault of a plane crash of unexplained cause.
Tony Depaul and Terry Beatty’s The Phantom for the 25th of September, 2016. And, again, I like how Mikey seems to have learned everything about his crime syndicate from watching the Saturday Night Live parodies of mob movies. He’s probably a little young to have picked up anything from the “Goodfeathers” segments on Animaniacs but he would have too.

After spending minutes listening to Mikey, The Phantom decided the thing to do was punch the crime out of both Chicago and China. He heads first to Chicago and then, conveniently, China follows along. Or someone does, anyway. In a long sequence The Phantom’s chased around the D’Moda Crime Estate by mysterious shadowy figures who look to be ninjas. Yes, I associate ninjas more with Japan and turtles than I do with China, but c’mon. It’s the Chinese Mob. They can hire out. My supposition is that the Chinese Mob is offended that the truce fell apart when Mikey’s plane crashed. This seems to me unfair. But I suppose if you aren’t sure about the good faith of another party then it’s not worth your time to work out the difference between accidents and betrayal.

The aged D'Moda warns The Phantom that in his prime he'd have mopped the floor with the Ghost Who Walks. Phantom warns 'there's a dangerous man on the estate tonight. Other than me.' Cue the ninja throwing stars!
Tony Depaul and Terry Beatty’s The Phantom for the 1st of January, 2017. Honestly a little surprised that D’Moda here hadn’t been punched by one of The Phantom’s ancestors, possibly repeatedly. He does often turn up people who’d encountered his ancestors. Comics Kingdom’s vintage strips reveal he always has. It’s one of the little things that gives heft to a continuity.

So, now, The Phantom is in the dying elder D’Moda’s bedroom, as at least one ninja closes in. The Phantom’s getting to some Peter Parker-y levels of snark against his opponent. It’s a good way of keeping the panels from being too much just guys hitting each other and grunting.

Phantom getting inside his ninja attacker's head: 'You've come a long way to put in a day's work, friend. Do you get expenses on a job like this? Travel? Meals? I'm sure you must. Only an amateur would work for a flat fee and end up flat on the floor for his trouble!'
Tony Depaul and Terry Beatty’s The Phantom for the 5th of February, 2017. The Phantom does raise some fair questions about working as a ninja for hire. I suppose they’re all the sorts of thing you learn to charge for as any kind of consultant, but you do still have to learn that. This implies there’s someone who trains people to be ninjas for hire. Might be someone who got out of the ninja game directly. Might be someone who’s just a standard consultant and realized a lot of ninjas handled their freelance business badly. Never know.

The Sunday Phantom is written by Tony DePaul, just as the weekday ones are. The Sunday strips are drawn by Terry Beatty, who also writes and draws Rex Morgan, M.D..

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

And now the index rose back above the psychologically important 100 barrier. Likely this reflects people’s relief at having that whole index-rises unpleasantness behind them and how we’re just going crazy eating the Valentine’s Day candy while it’s in style.

101

Statistics Tuesday: What January Meant For My Humor Blog


And now, just a little late, I get around to reviewing my readership numbers for these parts (and parts of parts) for January (for 2017). It was a well-read month for Another Blog, Meanwhile. It may have shown me my true blogger-calling.

So in January 2017 there were, WordPress says, soem 2,340 page views from 1,361 distinct visitors. That’s way up from December 2016’s 1,396 views from 818 visitors, and November’s 1,219 views from 708 visitors. It’s my most-read month since the Apartment 3-Gocalypse and that time I got named in The Onion AV Club. (This is the sort of complicated, obscure thing I think is a good joke. The AV Club article didn’t name me, even though the article was written by a guy I knew from Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic-writing, but I used his offhand description of me to give this blog its name. Now that I have explained this you understand why it is appropriate to be amused.)

That fact, and the list of the five most popular articles this past month — four of which got over a hundred page views each! — tells me something important in what people like from me. January’s most-read articles:

Mark Twain I imagine popped up because it’s a pretty good piece people might have heard about but not known where to find. I’m happy to keep them from learning about archive.org if it’s any good to me. The Popeye pinball reappeared because a thread on pinball site Tilt Forums about awful, awful games referred to it. Popeye has a really crazypants backstory you have to see to believe, and then not believe.

But the rest is all me explaining story strips. Just like my Apartment 3-G narration. All told six of the ten most popular essays were explaining story strips. People want to know what’s happening in the story comics, without actually reading the story comics, for which I can’t blame them. I mean, I enjoy them, but they are a lot of padding and reaction shots and repetitions of what was already established and sometimes you just want to know why everyone is all tense today. I’m glad to discover this need and my ability to fill it. It’s just a shame I figure I’ve got two weeks before I run out of newspaper-syndicated story strips. I don’t figure to move on to web comics. There’s too many of them, for one thing, and nothing in Endtown needs explanation until that point two-thirds of the way into a story when it’s impossible to guess what’s going on or why.

Now to page views per country, so far as WordPress tells me anything:

Country Views
United States 1926
Canada 64
United Kingdom 57
France 35
Germany 35
India 29
Australia 23
Ireland 11
Mexico 11
Hong Kong SAR China 10
New Zealand 10
Philippines 10
Italy 8
Spain 8
Sweden 8
Vietnam 8
Netherlands 7
Singapore 6
Trinidad & Tobago 6
Finland 5
Israel 5
Japan 5
Argentina 3
Austria 3
Bangladesh 3
Cambodia 3
Norway 3
Portugal 3
Brazil 2
Egypt 2
Kuwait 2
Poland 2
South Korea 2
Tunisia 2
Armenia 1
Denmark 1
Ecuador 1
El Salvador 1
European Union 1
Kenya 1
Madagascar 1
Mongolia 1
Pakistan 1 (*)
Puerto Rico 1
Russia 1
Serbia 1
Uganda 1
United Arab Emirates 1 (*)

Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates were single-reader countries in December also. No countries are on a three-month single-reader streak. My “European Union” visitor is back, or replaced. I make this out as readers from 48 countries, with the United States strikingly dominant there. 14 single-reader countries. In December there were 42 countries listed altogether, 18 of them single-reader. So I suppose despite appearances the world is getting a little better, at least by that measure.

What else is there to measure … oh. There were 163 pages liked around here in January, up from December’s 137 and November’s 134. There were 39 comments, which doesn’t sound like many for the number of page reads, but that’s better than December’s 20 or November’s 14. I think the secret is to say wrong stuff about the comics and then people will come in to try fixing it.

February started with the page here having got 47,049 page views from some 25,045 distinct viewers or other. And WordPress claims I’ve got 711 followers on WordPress, plus six by e-mail. For at least the third month running the most popular day around here was Tuesday, which got 18 percent of page views. The most popular hour was midnight, 8 percent of page views, just like the last two months. I don’t know why Tuesday should stand out, but it’s only barely standing out.

Anyway, if you’d like to follow me, you’re probably reading this already. But there should be a ‘Follow This Blog’ link, for WordPress or for e-mail, somewhere around here. Probably on the upper part of the page, if I understand the theme right. We’ll see when someone complains I have it wrong.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose two points today and someone pointed out that could be called a “safety”. No dice. The moment is passed.

104

And What I Find


Uhm … hi? I guess?

Oh. Oh, yeah, right. Monday. Mondays I usually spend telling people my mathematics blog did comic strips again. All right. My mathematics blog did comic strips again.

Why are you all looking at me like that?

Oh, sheesh, right. Yeah. Usually I have some kind of funny picture or a screen grab or something to put up and coax people into reading this anyway even though they’re not all that crazy about hearing about the thing they maybe already read. Where did I … um. I don’t know where I have one this week. No, Compu-Toon today parses too.

All right, I can work this. I’ve got like eighty thousand pictures, I just have to pick any of them and there’ll probably be something interesting going on. Let’s see.

The Clementi MRT station as photographed at night from the 14th of October, 2006, because that's when I happened to be there.
The Clementi station on Singapore’s East-West subway line. The station is above ground because you know subways are complicated things anyway. Not depicted: the great mass of warm, muggy air that makes walking around outdoors in Singapore so much like swimming through a heap of down comforters.

There, see, that’s got … uh … I can point out how … well, anyone should be able to make a good joke about …

Oh, this is bad.

Wait a second.

Hold on.

Computer, enhance. Again. Enhance.

Close-up on the train-arriving monitor as it shows some advertisement, surely, that involved some big alien-ish monster sprawling out.
You never really appreciate at the time that but you take a photograph of some boring scene there’s going to be something not boring in it.

On the information screen there. That’s almost clearly some kind of giant monster-y creature sprawling across the whole highway. This means something. Send our agents out right away!

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped eight points in trading today. Investors had started to hope it would drop a clean ten points so they could joke about having scored a safety. The joke doesn’t quite make sense, but it won’t be usable at all until whenever football season gets started again in like July or August or whenever that is and they didn’t want to have to wait that long.

102

What’s Going On In The Phantom?


Today’s, and next week’s if all goes well, What’s Going On segments are about the same strip. That’s because it solves the problem of Sunday and weekday readerships being different in decisive form. The weekday and the Sunday strips carry on different stories. Neither sequence has to wait for the other. Surely these can be fit into some order so as to preserve the all-important continuity of The Phantom‘s universe. I admit I’ve never tried.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

I snarked about the importance of continuity to The Phantom. It’s reflexive. The comic strip, started in February of 1936 by Lee Falk, has a continuity. An important one, even.

The Phantom, The Ghost Who Walks, is the 21st of that line, descendant of a chain of superheroes defending the African nation of Bangalla from, in the 16th century, pirates. In the 21st century, it’s … pirates and terrorists. Sometimes stranger stuff. The comic strip shared a universe with Mandrake the Magician and some of Mandrake’s weirdness would leak over. Some of the Mandrake characters have made appearances in The Phantom since that comic ended.

The rough premise of The Phantom may seem overly familiar. Costumed superhero who lives in a secret cave watches for menaces to his homeland. When he finds them he’ll punch them hard enough to leave a mark for decades. (A specially-constructed ring helps with this.) He hasn’t got any superpowers per se. But he deploys intelligence and great physical shape and training plus stunning private wealth to get as close as practical. If it sounds like every costumed superhero comic ever, then remember it got started a couple years before Batman did. I figure to talk about The Phantom‘s universe more next week.

The comic strip, weekday and Sunday threads, are written by Tony DePaul and have been since 1999. The weekday comics have been drawn by Mike Manley since May of 2016. Manley also draws Judge Parker. The Sunday strips have been drawn by Terry Beatty, the artist and now writer for Rex Morgan, M.D..

Lee Falk, strolling through town. 'THREE PATHS intersect here in the minutes ahead. None of the parties know they've entered the realm of The Ghost Who Walks!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 7th of November, 2016. The start of the story. The third path for all this is the Jungle Patrol, the Phantom’s self-raised auxiliary army, although it isn’t clear at this point what’s supposed to be life-changing about their story just now.

So here’s the current Phantom weekday storyline. Its essentials were laid out in a week of strips starting the 7th of November and hosted by “Lee Falk”. That’s one of the charming conventions of the comic: a representation of the strip’s originator gives the dramatis personae and necessary backstory for the adventure ahead. If the story’s run long he might pop in again to recap for new or simply lost readers. Or to advance the story to a new point. It’s common enough for cartoonists to be characters in their own strips, but it’s almost always humor strips. Story strips usually leave narration as done by some anonymous source. “Lee Falk” doesn’t really say anything that couldn’t be done by unattached narrative box. But it adds a neat personal touch to the starts of stories that he does.

So the first element is Orson Burley, big, bearded tycoon in the enormous-wealth industry. He’s heard this legend of The Phantom and figures it’d be a good subject for a postage stamp. I have to say I’m on Burley’s side on this. It seems odd that the Republic of Bangalla wouldn’t have already used a semi-mythic protector-legend as subject for a stamp. Local mythical figures on stamps seems like elementary nation-building. Issuing cultural stamps are the first thing you do after gaining independence from the British. Well, the first thing after renaming the street Government House is on to the native word for “Freedom”. But President Lamanda Luaga is cold to the idea, and warns The Phantom of Burley’s investigation. I understand a secretive superhero trying to keep his secrets. But the legend’s been going for four centuries now; this can’t be the first serious scholarly investigation of the thing. Well, so it goes.

Burley’s insisted on learning as much as possible about The Phantom and going ahead with his postage stamp. This despite the warnings of the President and of his limo driver. And Burley’s startled that anyone could see The Phantom as a legend dangerous to investigate. I confess I’d be, too.

President of Bangalla: 'Orson Burley hired the best! Top people at the University! Experts! I was certain he would [ drop his investigation of The Phantom ], out of respect for the highest office in the land! He turned me down flat!' The Phantom: 'I could always have a word with him.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 2nd of December, 2016. I know what you’re all wondering: how did The Phantom get broadband Internet into the depths of his Skull Cave secret lair? I don’t know either. The fellow lurking behind The Phantom’s chair is Guran, his childhood friend and faithful assistant. Don’t worry about him. He regards the clothing outfits of everyone in that first panel to be normal.

Second piece is Akini Ogutu, “CEO of a multinational giant headquartered in Mawitaan”. While Bangalla’s a basically functional democracy it still has problems, even in its capital city. She got targeted and kidnapped, for ransom, by one of those gangs you hear about that hold executives for ransom. The Phantom’s not-at-all-worrisome private army, the Jungle Patrol, finds the hideout. The Phantom goes in alone and rescues her in a daring, exciting raid that full of the sort of superheroics you’d expect. Also that make you wonder, well, why does he have his Jungle Patrol if they aren’t at least doing support on this sort of thing?

(OK, it’s because The Phantom tries to keep his Phantom life and his Jungle Patrol life separate. The Jungle Patrol doesn’t even actually know their leader is The Phantom. They know him only as The Unknown Commander, who issues orders over the phone, and that’s not a potential danger pit at all, is it? But that does shift the question to why not have his army move against the criminal gang, which would seem safer all around?)

Anyway, it must all have been brilliant because he rescued Ogutu. Burley can’t believe Ogutu’s claim that she was rescued by The Phantom, and figures to go on with his research and stamp production. And this week The Phantom has gone to Burley, presumably to explain why not being on a stamp is such a freaking big deal for him. Maybe the 16th Phantom was betrayed by someone selling a fake Penny Red or something.

The Phantom hustling Akini Oguto away from her kidnappers. 'I'll be back for you. Keep your head down.' 'Please don't leave me! I - I'm Frightened!' 'So are they,' says the Phantom, shooting one without looking.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 6th of January, 2017. Oh, yeah, The Phantom doesn’t have that old-fashioned superhero thing about not using guns. I admit I’m still surprised to see it happen, though. He does punching pretty well, though.

I mean, the best I can figure is The Phantom figures he’s most effective if he’s surrounded in clouds of mystery and legend. And getting a commemorative postage stamp is the start of a process that leaves him as exotic and remote as Santa Claus. But part of The Phantom’s schtick is that he’s surrounded by a lot of legends and I don’t get how a postage stamp depiction is going to make that greater or lesser. And it isn’t like he hasn’t got, and encouraged, a lot of “old jungle sayings” about his legacy. Is he worried they’ll paint him from an unflattering angle? It seems like a misplaced reaction and I hope something in the coming weeks clarifies matters.

Next week I’ll try to explain the Sunday storyline.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell nine points today, inspiring people to point out where we were at this time a week ago. This time a week ago we were at 124. Hoo boy but it’s been a long week.

110

Caption This: Finally We Understand What’s In Cargo Bay 6


So, I had some fresh mathematics comics to write about and wrote about them over on the other blog. No pictures, but then, no calculus either. I’m hoping for better things next week, but who isn’t?

So, on to something I noticed while looking at pictures of the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Vox Sola”, and don’t go asking why I’m looking at screen grabs from Star Trek: Enterprise episodes.

Look, I just need to do things like that, because if I didn’t, how would I find pictures like this? Exactly. I’d have to wait for someone else to find the pictures for me and that’s just inefficient. Let me have this. And by letting me have this, I mean letting you have this from me. So here it is:

Archer lying in a pool of gooey white mucus-y stuff because that's what Star Trek: Enerprise was doing its first season.
This. This is exactly what Dr Noonian Soong was hoping that Data could achieve when he developed the sneezing routine.

“And that, Captain, is why we have a regulation against leaving ship without the giant box of Kleenex.”

Have a better thought for this? I’m not surprised, and please, take some space here to fill it in:

Thank you! Yes, I see the risque jokes too.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose seven points today but nobody was able to feel good about it. You know why? They started thinking about the other timeline, you know, the good one. You know what’s going on there? Over there leading Republicans are already calling her “King Hitlery” and demanding Clinton and Obama be impeached. And you know why? It’s because of this refugee Libyan orphan who sang at Clinton’s inauguration ball and did this rendition of “America The Beautiful” so haunting that the whole world was reduced to this blubbering mass of joy. Like, for a week-plus the whole Internet was happier than it’s been since Pokemon Go came out and everybody felt so good about that. It broke V-E day’s record for strangers hugging each other in public. And now there’s a bunch of unfounded — and, a 20-month investigation will concede, after the midterm elections, utterly false — allegations that the singer got preferential admission just so that she could sing at the inaugural ball. And it’s the start of taking this wonderful transcendant moment and dragging it into mud. And they’re dealing with that over in the good timeline and can’t believe how they can’t have nice things, and look where we are now, and when you look at that what does trading volume on the Another Blog, Meanwhile index even matter?

131