In Which I Need New Worlds To Conquer


I’m sorry to be a little down but over the weekend I learned that my phone, my camera, and our Mi-Fi device all use the exact same size mini-USB plug. And then we also successfully used our Mi-Fi device to get a little bit of functional Internet in a place that didn’t otherwise have it. Oh, it only lasted until the Mi-Fi device’s power wore out, and we weren’t able to buy a second day of service in a row. But still. Three things using the same mini-USB plug, and using a Mi-Fi device to have a portable block of Internet service where we needed it? When am I ever going to achieve anything as impossible in life again?

Anyway, over on my mathematics blog I ask people for word problems because I’m all but sure that cartoon Jef Mallett mis-represented one in one day’s Frazz so at least I have that going for me.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose eight points on rumors that we’d all go out for ice cream if we hit 130.

126

What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? January – April 2017


If you’re here to follow the most recent storylines in Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man, the newspaper-syndicated comic strip version of the character, thanks! This link should bring you to whatever the most recent post is, at the top of its page.

The Amazing Spider-Man, 23 January – 23 April 2017

I last reviewed Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man at what felt like the one-third mark in the current story. Ronan The Accuser had crashed his spaceship in the Arizona desert and slurped up the contents of a diner. Peter Parker and Mary Jane Parker, on a road trip, couldn’t do anything about that, but they do witness Rocket Raccoon’s arrival. Rocket and Spider-Man complete the Ritual Battle of Superheros Meeting, and they pretended to be a costuming family for a motel owner. So what’s the story since then?

Rocket: 'Thar she blows!' Spider-Man: 'But at least there's no lava coming out!' Rocket: 'Yeah, but look what did!' Ronan: 'Hail - Sentry 714!'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 15th of February, 2017. I’m not on my own here about thinking there’s something Stooge-ish about The Sentry, am I? Also, am I alone in being disappointed Rocket doesn’t explain that he’s thinking of space-whales in the first panel? Maybe say something like “Thar She Space-Blows”? … No, wait, that sounds really, really bad. Never mind.

Rocket warns that Ronan The Accuser is looking around for The Sentry, an 80,000-year-old alien-built contraption that looks faintly like a robotic Moe Howard. Ronan figures he can use this to unleash all sorts of accusations on the whole galaxy. Peter, Mary Jane, and Rocket deduce The Sentry must be somewhere in Petrogylph National Monument, as the road sign for it is clear and fills up nearly half a panel. Ronan The Accuser follows similar clues and he and Spidey punch each other until The Sentry wakes up. It goes off to blow up Albuquerque. Rocket remembers that Ronan (“please, my dad is Mister The Accuser”) is extremely vulnerable to Earth air. So he and Spidey try to knock his helmet off, which goes great.

Ronan: 'If I can't reach you at least I can HURL you off my back!' Spider-Man: 'Not with my WEBBING binding me to you!' Ronan: 'Then I'll SQUASH you!' and falls over backwards on Spider-Man. Rocket, to Mary Jane: 'Y-you think your significant other coulda SURVIVED that, Red? Red ... ?'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the for the 3rd of March, 2017. The scene shows off just how new Rocket Raccoon is to all this; if he’d been around he’d know that Spider-Man is very good at scenes that involve someone lying down.

Luckily Newspaper Spider-Man is extraordinarily good at taking blunt force traumas. He uses this to do a “why are you hitting yourself?”, using Ronan T A’s own large hammer to smack his helmet off. Spider-Man tries to put the unconscious Ronan’s helmet back on, on the grounds that he can’t just suffocate the guy even if he is trying to blow up the world or galaxy or whatnot. And I admire this idealistic bit from Peter Parker, who’s not going to be more cruel than he must be, however much trouble it makes. The resolve to be kind even when it’s hard, or worse, inconvenient is something we should take from superheroes. Anyway, Spidey accepts Rocket’s promise that Ronan isn’t dead, he’s just sleeping, and they go off to fight The Sentry.

Spider-Man: 'We'll race to town in the car so that we can stop that ROBOT from trashing the place!' Mary Jane: 'I'll drive.' Spider-Man: 'No, honey --- you've got to stay here and give us a call if Ronan shows any signs of life.' Mary Jane: 'You know, I really wish that didn't make so much sense.' Rocket: 'That's quite a mate you've got there, web-face.' Spider-Man: 'Yeah! I never could understand why so many superheroes stay single. I just hope we reach the city's downtown while it still has a downtown!'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the for the 19th of March, 2017. I didn’t get the chance to highlight this, but Rocket and Spidey spend a lot of time telling Mary Jane to hang back and not do stuff. When they’re talking about who’s going to punch Ronan or The Sentry this makes sense, since Mary Jane is last I looked still a very squishable human. But they also toss off some casual “huh, you know, dames lines that make the sexism of the “you stay where it’s safe” that extra little bit less subtexty.
Also, regarding the line about superheroes getting married: a couple years back Comic Book Spider-Man made a literal deal with the devil to undo his marriage to Mary Jane in order that his 2000-year-old Aunt May would not die a little while longer. This was reflected in the newspaper comic for one story before it gave that up as too stupid a Spider-Man story to respect. And if you don’t know how stupid that must be, search for “stupidest Spider-Man story idea” and be awed.

Rocket and Spider-Man leave Mary Jane to watch Ronan just in case he wakes long enough to gasp out something plot-relevant. And hey! So she flags down a truck and buys it and a bunch of day laborers to bring Ronan to the big Albuquerque fight, because she always travels with that kind of cash. Using the unconscious Ronan — whom The Sentry can’t harm — as body shield Spider-Man teases The Sentry mercilessly. Meanwhile Rocket climbs inside and punches stuff until it breaks.

Spider-Man: You're programmed not to hurt a Kree - but you're so eager to blast ME into atoms - you're darn near short-circuiting yourself, aren't you, Robot? Well, maybe it's time I gave you a HAND at that!'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 12th of April, 2017. Now, gotta say, teasing the robot with the one thing on Earth it must not destroy? Good idea. Giving the one thing on Earth the robot must not destroy so it can go off and put it somewhere safe? Kinda dumb. It works out, because the story was near the end, but sheesh.

Mary Jane: 'There's Peter - but it looks like that robot's getting the BETTER of him! And - where's ROCKET?' [ Deep within the sentry: ] Rocket: 'Got to DISABLE this thing from the INSIDE! But HOW? It's got more parts than STARLORD has pop TUNES!'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 18th of April, 2017. Don’t fear, True Believers. Back in February Rocket Raccoon also name-dropped Groot in a way that was no less awkward or inorganic. I love this sort of thing. Also I love that while comic books have grown many different styles, the comic strip still draws “heaping piles of alien technology” the same way they did in Like 1980. Sincerely. I like those webs of lines drawn against a solid blue background. It gives me nostalgic enough vibes to not worry what’s going on with Rocket’s face there.

So that looks like it’s ended the Ronan and The Sentry menace: this Sunday’s comic teases that coming next is “Farewell to a furry comrade!” A shame, since I’ve loved Rocket’s time on the strip. I mean, all his guest stars insult newspaper Spider-Man relentlessly. And Rocket’s depiction has varied from “pretty raccoony” to “maybe a small, bug-eyed werewolf” to “EEK! wasn’t that the deer-kangaroo-fox-nightmare Tommie brought home to Apartment 3-G that one year?”. (Here’s the Apartment 3-G deer-kangaroo-fox-nightmare for comparison. Warning: deer-kangaroo-fox-nightmare content.) But they really click as the effective and the put-upon members of a team. It can’t last, of course, and I’m sure Rocket is about to deploy some suspiciously vague explanation of how he needs to be … elsewhere, with … other people, soon enough.

Also, yes, Spider-Man did pretty near nothing to drive the story. Rocket did most of the heavy lifting and Mary Jane overcame plot-related sexism to do something too. Peter Parker was mostly there to, I dunno, get hit with stuff. This is healthy.

Peter and Mary Jane Parker were in Arizona to start with as they were taking a driving trip to Los Angeles. I don’t have any guesses who’s going to be the Hollywood antagonist. And I hope it’s not long before they bring Rocket around for another session.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index continued its downward slide as investor confidence was shaken by the realization that after so much hype about the testing of the state’s tornado warning system nobody actually heard any sirens. That’s even more suspicious than the earlier things we were suspecting.

118

Exclusion


I’ve got the usual Sunday comic strips post over in the mathematics blog. Have you given it a try? It might like the company. There’s an Archie comic over there, if that affects your choice. If not, that’s fine. We’ve been spending the weekend trying to figure out which of Paas’s four egg-dye tablets that could plausibly be pink actually is the pink already. People keep asking the Internet this question and there’s suspiciously few answers considering it would just take one person with a dye kit and two pictures, and then we’d know which tablet isn’t supposed to get mixed with vinegar. Fix that problem, Internet. Anyway, fresh off yesterday’s activities, a scene that came to mind:

Egg by itself on one drying rock, with a bunch of eggs near one another on the other drying rack.
Not pictured: the eggs we put in the shrink-wrap leopard-print plastic thing, which is a shame because until this year I had no idea what Edith Prickley would look like as an egg.

“Hey? Hey guys? Guys? What are you talking about? Are you doing something? Are you talking about me? Can I come over and talk with you? Can I? Guys? Hey, are you ignoring me? Do you wanna talk about me? It’s okay with me if you wanna talk about me. Hey?”

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose three points today as those turned out to be peanut butter smidges we got from the candy store. Not that caramel isn’t good too, you understand, just that peanut butter smidge.

136

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? January – April 2017


Hi! Thanks for coming here trying to understand what’s going on in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. The most recent of my posts tracking the stories should be at the top of this link, until I forget to tag some of these installments. Thank you.

Gil Thorp

16 January 2017 – 15 April 2017

When last I checked in on the goings-on of Milford school coach Gil Thorp and his band of students it was basketball season. The story was about Aaron Aagard, who’s 46% punchable, 51% charming for a teenager and 3% basketball phenomenon or something. It’s a good enough mix. His problem was he was really good some days, really bad some others, and he’s known to go to raves even in whole other towns. Some teammates overheard he was “taking Molly”. My “hep” “cat” informants assure me this is how “the kids” refer to the ecstasy when they “rap” about drug habits. Aagard had promised Coach Thorp he’d clear up their misunderstanding. I predicted it would turn out he was taking his “generically-disabled niece or something” Molly to the raves.

'Let's pretend I remember 6th-grade Career Day. What about it?' 'Aaron's Mom gave a presentation. She was a -- what do you call it? Actuarily?' 'An actuary.' 'Right. Making solid coin. So why are they living in a dumpy apartment?'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 6th of February, 2017. On the one hand I admire the kids for remembering Career Day from like four years ago and that one of their classmates had the job of actuary. On the other hand, what are they doing remembering Career Day from like four years ago and that one of their classmates was an actuary? I don’t even remember if we ever had a Career Day, and if we did, all I could say about it is that one year my Dad played Santa Claus for the Winter Concert. Not really his career, though.

Shows what I know; Molly O’Herlihy is his girlfriend who totally exists and all, he just doesn’t want to show her off because you know how teenage boys are. There’s no group less prone to ostentatious displays of deployed heterosexuality. Thorp tells Aagard’s teammates to stop trying to figure out his deal, so they continue trying to figure out his deal. They have a breakthrough when they realize Aagard lives in an apartment far below his mother’s standing as an actuary. It’s good thinking on their part. Any mathematics major who’s bought his department’s propaganda will tell you how actuaries are just rolling in cash. If I ever need a quick 25 grand I just have to walk down to the business district and mutter about how I’ve got an advanced degree in mathematics and then, like, Jackson Life Insurance supposes I might be an actuary and they should pay me something just to be safe.

'My Mom had a drug problem before. That's when we lost the house. Now it's the same deal. She'll buy a few groceries on payday, and then the rest of the paycheck disappears. It's funny how being hungry can get in your head!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 3rd of March, 2017. I do like Aagard’s body language here and the way he’s moving. He’s showing that he does believe himself to be the lead actor on a sitcom in his head, yes. But he’s also showing how he’s the sort of outgoing, open, inviting person whom I like being around for maybe three minutes before I start thinking, “oh no, I think he likes me, how do I get out of here?” and have to set a tablecloth on fire to escape.

Coach Thorp, roused into something like action, checks in on Aagard’s mother. She’s not even actuarying, just doing bookkeeping for a couple small businesses. Aaron Aagard, deploying the sort of pacing that indicates he thinks he’s the charming star of an occasionally-serious three-camera sitcom, explains that the problem is not drugs. It’s drugs. His mother’s opioid habit. So he does well when there’s enough money in the house for, like, food and all. This leaves Thorp some unpleasant responsibilities. Thorp tries to figure out what he can do without screwing up Aagard’s life all the more. It’s not like he can even just pass Aagard some money to get groceries without inviting a world of scandal. So he covers where he can, inviting his student for one-on-one dinners in public areas.

An extra push at practice. 'Oxygen! Plasma! Something!' And a standard meal for Aaron. '*Another* piece of pie?' Another scene. Thorp. 'I'm coming in. It's time for a heart-to-heart with your mom.' 'Good luck with that.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 15th of March, 2017. Moments before the big climax, and Aagard’s mother realizing that she has failed Actuary Law and shall be hauled off for “rehab” that consists of her being stripped down to her basic demographic elements.

After being fed enough pie and I’m going to go ahead and assume cheese fries, Aagard consents to turning his mom in to the Actuary Police. Before she’s taken off to answer sumptuary charges of living beneath her actuarial station she gets to see one last, and first, basketball game starring Aaron. Pressured, he has a lousy game, at least until Thorp points out that as a person with advanced mathematical skills and training, Tina Aagard completely lacks the ability to tell whether a basketball player is doing well or badly. I agree, although the boo-ing from the rest of the audience might clue her in. Anyway, with that reassurance Aagard finishes up decently and goes into foster care with one of the teammates who did so much to change the set of hassles he’s dealing with.

Got to say, honestly, I did enjoy the story. I’m snarking about it because it’s more fun to recap stuff with a little silliness. The pacing was decent, the star was appealing, and Thorp got to be charmingly exasperated with the kids who insisted on figuring out what Aagard’s deal was. And the underlying problem was credible, and that the characters were stuck in their situation made sense too. It wasn’t anybody being stupid, just, stuck over their heads in a situation that just grew bad.

April started softball season. Its plot starts with student reporters for the Milford Journal discovering the school board’s vice-president way padding his expense accounts and he gets all angry at them for doing this. I understand. When I travel for work I live in fear the company’s going to decide I’m indulging my hedonism at their expense. And I fly United. Meanwhile in sports, transfer-student pitcher Ryan van Auken reveals that he’s handled his anger issues by putting that energy into having a large face. That’s been about all the time we’ve had for this story so far, so I don’t figure to predict where it might be going. When there’s updates, I’ll pass them along. Thank you.

'Yeah. Like I *said*. I used to have a temper, but it's *handled*. Got it?' 'Sorry, dude. I didn't mean anything by it.' 'Me, either. I was just messing with you.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 10th of April, 2017. This is more nostril than I’m used to getting this early in a story. But it does make me excited to think of just how much eye-rolling Coach Thorp is going to have to do in dealing with this.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell two points over wait Princess Lolly of Candy-Land was removed from office when Queen Frostine became a Princess herself ? Also there was a Princess Lolly? Also wait, since when are there even characters in Candy-Land? What do you mean since 1984? What is with reality anymore? What?

133

After The End Of Everything


To conclude my Mystery Science Theater 3000-based reminiscences:

Everything ends. I guess we can’t put a stop to that. In early 1999 the Sci-Fi Channel decided not to renew Mystery Science Theater 3000. There were a bunch of ideas for continuing the show, most of them floated by the regulars on Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.tv.mst3k.misc. There was moving to another cable channel. Or maybe going to PBS. Maybe releasing stuff direct to videotape or that newfangled DVD. Maybe forget about fangling stuff and just release stuff online. Maybe save the we-imagined pricey business of recording host sketches and stuff and instead just release audio tracks that people could match to movies they’d buy. Maybe just go to doing live shows on new, never-ending college tours. Maybe even transcend the movies thing altogether and do comic books or something. Maybe do some fundraising scheme to buy new episodes. Not interested in this: the people who actually made the show, far as we could tell. It went off the air in August 1999 with the final episode, Danger Diabolik, and then went off the air again in September 1999 with Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders which had been sitting in some kind of rights quibble for months. The show went off the air once again with The Screaming Skull a bit over four years later, when the Sci-Fi Channel stopped airing reruns.

But losing the original show hurts a group of fans gathered for stuff. And yes, the group’s focus expanded; we got to talking about movies and TV shows and books and all sorts of pop culture, viewed with that perspective of loving good stuff, but also loving looking for what’s enjoyable about the bad. Or looking at the bad and trying to find stuff enjoyable about it. If Mystery Science Theater 3000 has any positive insight, it’s that there is something worth sharing that can be made out of most anything.

Still, it hurts a group to lose its TV show. And it hurts a group to be on Usenet. The great thing about Usenet is it was designed in the early 80s, for anyone who likes to run a server to set up and run and share with people. The thing that kills it is that who wants to set up and run a server for talking about cancelled TV shows? If there’s any money in it, it’s in proper web forums that can show advertisements or at least harvest user information. Usenet can’t do that. Servers dwindled out of operation, probably because they broke and nobody knew they were even there or how to fix them. A couple of big ISPs dropped Usenet on allegations the system was used to pirate movies and TV shows and music and while that may have been true we also used it to legitimately talk about urban legends and pinball and comic strips and stuff like that. Still, with each month, there was a little less Usenet, and some people drifted away not to be seen again, and so there was even less Usenet, and some more people drifted off, and then suddenly there wasn’t anything left but a few people who refuse to turn off the lights.

My community dwindled away. Web Site Number Nine, the center of the MiSTing community, went down for a weekend of maintenance sometime in 2004 and hasn’t come back yet. rec.arts.tv.mst3k.misc I’d say had its final collapse around 2007 or 2008. I stick around, checking in some and talking occasionally. I try to write at least one new MiSTing a year and post that, but I admit a lot of it feels like putting in designated at-bats to keep alive some abstract streak no one but me even knows exists.

There’s still fans, though. One time I had a rare chance to meet in person some friends from the Seattle area; they spent nearly the whole weekend talking in MST3K quotes, to the point I felt like I was being quizzed. Did I recognize the episode with the jingle about “when you want the flavor of bacon in a dip”? Well, of course I did, but … is this everything we have to talk about? Somehow it felt alienating and I started taking dives, claiming I don’t recognize episodes that I actually do. Boy that’s screwy.

Weirder stuff happened. Really, every crazy plan we had on Usenet in 1999 to save the show came true. There’s live shows, as Cinematic Titanic and as Rifftrax. There’s recorded audio-only tracks, for Rifftrax. There’s episodes made direct for DVD release. There’s episodes brought back on air, sent to PBS stations or some of those weird digital sub-channels on broadcast TV. I remember somewhere seeing a plan to license an MST3K comic book, but goodness knows if that’ll come about.

And so we come to today, when the Kickstarter-funded, Netflix-backed season debuts. I haven’t seen it yet. Don’t have Netflix. We used to get Internet through AT&T, and they don’t want working-class neighborhoods in the state capitol as customers, so we couldn’t get Internet nearly fast enough to stream videos. They were bad enough that Comcast was the improvement. We probably have fast enough Internet to stream videos now. But the habit built from getting ten minutes into a show and stuff freezing up, until I call tech support and demand someone answer “Why?” dies hard. I recommend asking tech support “Why?” It’s at least as productive as saying what your specific problem is, and we do need more people working out exactly why we’ve let society come to this.

So I don’t know what I feel or what I expect exactly from the new season. I want to be enthusiastic, but I’m not good with enthusiasm. Especially if it’s something lots of people are enthusiastic about. It makes me worry something’s going wrong. So here’s what I can manage, before ever seeing Season Eleven: I really hope they don’t screw this up.

I don’t know if I want you to tell me whether they did.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Light trading today as investors were paying much more attention to the discovery of the Candy Land wiki and that it allows comments and that the comments can include stuff like “HOW DARE YOU REPLACE MR. MINT WITH SOME STUPID LOOKING GARY-STU!!!”. The index rose one point.

134

Me, MST3K, and Marissa Picard


So what to do after finally seeing, and getting into, Mystery Science Theater 3000? It being 1996, the answer was: Usenet. The medium is all but dead now, but attempts to reinvent what was great about it continue, without success. I suppose the nearest analogue is Reddit. Or if you imagine the web forum for whatever your favorite subject is. Or the Facebook chat group for your favorite podcast. There’s big technical differences in how they’re organized and administrated. But the important social thing was: here was a way to find and talk with people about stuff you liked. So I got to the newsgroup called rec.arts.tv.mst3k.misc. The name meant it was part of the big group about recreational topics; then the subsection of recreational topics that are about the arts; the subsection of the arts known as TV; the subsection of TV known as MST3K; and then … uhm … miscellaneous. Well, there was a rec.arts.tv.mst3k.admin that just posted “administrative” stuff like show schedules.

It was, like many newsgroups in the mid-to-late 90s, a lively place. Hundreds of people delighting in how they liked something, and how much they liked something, and how they liked it more than other people, and how other people didn’t like the right stuff about it, and how other people should stop liking the wrong stuff about it. You know, like people do. This sounds bog-standard now, but it was new to us all back then.

Some of the most fascinating stuff going on back then was a kind of flame war with a Star Trek fanfic writer. The fellow was named Stephen Ratliff. So far as I know he still is. You remember that episode where the Enterprise crashed into an Irwin Allen Disaster Movie, and the crew has to endure adventures like Worf helping O’Brien deliver her baby and Data popping his head off and Picard getting some kids to climb out of a stuck elevator? Stephen Ratliff was inspired by the kids of that episode and wrote some fan fiction. It has the kids start playing Star Fleet Officer on the holodecks and all that and forming their own little Kids Crew of under-twelve-year-olds. Anyone could have that idea. Ratliff had an idea of pure genius. He came up with some reason to put these kids in charge of the actual starship Enterprise. And then do it again, in more fan fiction.

There had been Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction — taking the text of something and inserting jokes, using the characters from the show — for a couple years even then. But when one MiSTer (get it?) discovered Stephen Ratliff the genre was made. The stories had this magnificent natural absurdity told, in the earliest stories, with remarkable ineptitude. These flame wars on rec.arts.tv.mst3k.misc amounted to people decrying the offensiveness of the Kids Crew premise — ten-year-olds put in command of starships, even Next Generation starships where nothing all that bad ever really happens? — and Stephen Ratliff defending his premise with remarkable patience and grace and the not-quite-off-point argument that kids used to be inducted into the Royal Navy so why not have that happen again?

Sure, even without Stephen Ratliff there’d probably be a good MiSTing genre. The idea is too good. But he made it part of the fandom. Partly by writing stuff that was so joyous to read, and to riff on. Partly by being so interesting to talk about. Marissa, the girl from the elevator, gets adopted by Picard and becomes Princess of Deep Space England and travels in time to hook up Wesley Crusher and Chelsea Clinton before sending a space shuttle to Mars and becomes Lord High Admiral of the Federation and all that? (I swear.) How do you not want in on that?

So I got in, despite having — then — only seen a handful of episodes. I had a good source text. There was this cartoon series based on Sonic the Hedgehog, the video game character. In it he and the gang are rebels trying to save the world from the evil Doctor Robotnik and his robots — you know what? Doesn’t matter. It was popular in the 90s, and a lot of people wrote fan fiction. I found a piece and asked the author for permission to riff it. Asking permission was an important part of MiSTing culture. I mean, we didn’t ask for permission to riff spam. But if it was something someone identifiable wrote, it was at least bad form not to ask permission, and to give the author the chance to veto any truly unfair lines — or, in principle, the whole thing — before publishing. No sense being a cad.

It was well-received. One of my friends who’d written his own Sonic the Hedgehog fanfictions asked me to riff his. Other people in the group started looking to Sonic fandom and finding volunteers. There was much more to the MiSTing community than Stephen Ratliff and Sonic the Hedgehog, of course. There was a lot of fanfiction. There were the bizarre rants and conspiracy theories that people published on Usenet without regard for whether that made any sense. My favorite was someone accusing the English department of my grad school, an engineering school, with working to bring down civilization. (Did we even have an English department?) There was spam. So much spam. There was more normal yet poorly-targeted commercial messages. Someone did a whole Tom Swift novel. We did a lot of writing. I learned from it, a good bit about timing and pacing and how to write host sketches that could plausibly be done on the actual show. (Two or three minutes at most, few characters, few entrances and exits, as little editing as possible. This was my taste. Others wrote sketches that could only be done in fan fiction, where budgets and staging action and all aren’t issues. Their tastes.) Stephen Ratliff continued writing Marissa Picard stories that were gradually getting better, in internal logic and in fundamental writing technique. And sending out announcements so people could organize who’d get to riff his newest work.

He won us over. How can you not like someone who listens to you telling him why his stories suck, and thanks you, and writes stories that stop sucking those ways? We won him over. How can you not like an alert and obsessively responsive set of readers for your every word?

There was a lot that was great in the 90s. Mystery Science Theater 3000, Usenet, and MiSTing, were big parts of my great 90s.

Friday: I bet I have some more of this talk in me.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose five points on exciting news that astronaut Peggy Whitson is expected soon to become the most experienced United States astronaut in terms of time spent in space, and also on learning the name of a current astronaut.

142

In Which I Blame Ren And Stimpy For My Missing Out On Something Cool A While


Friday comes the release of the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. It’s a show that was important to me so I thought I’d talk about my relationship with it some. It’s a nearly one-sided relationship, although I do follow Frank Conniff on Twitter, where he has never noticed me. He’s had other stuff to do.

My first clear memory of knowing about the show was during one of their college tours. I think it had to be 1993. Some friends told me I had to go see it because I would love the show. They were right, but I didn’t believe them. I was still feeling burned after a lot of buildup for Ren and Stimpy, which I tried and learned was so utterly inappropriate for my tastes as to make me wonder if the people who recommended it to me knew anything about me. So I skipped it. Probably just as well. I’m sure whatever I was doing that night was more important anyway. It would have been playing Civilization I on the Macs in the office of the unread left-wing student weekly I wrote for. And I had nowhere to watch the show anyway, as I didn’t have cable, and even if I did, no cable systems had Comedy Central in those days. Yes, yes, there was trading in videotapes but I didn’t have a videotape player at college, because it was 1993.

A couple years pass and I hear occasional bits about what a great show it is. I go off to grad school. Mystery Science Theater 3000 begets a syndicated hourlong version, made by cutting each episode in half and airing them successive weeks. It doesn’t air in my grad school’s TV market. But I get to try out some episodes when I’m home for some break. The first half of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. The first half of Pod People. Both are classic episodes, although Pod People was the harder to watch. The underlying movie is really sluggish, with muddy audio; if you’re not paying close attention the thing is gibberish. Still, I’m intrigued. The syndicated version goes off the air without my ever catching the second half of an episode.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 begets a movie version. I’m glad to give that a try. There’s some nice publicity drives that make the show sound appealing, or at least worth trying out. The movie is finally released, although not to theaters. The studio makes maybe two-thirds of a print and circulates it for literally minutes. If it ever, ever appeared in a theater in the Albany area I never heard about it.

Ah, but! My grad school changes its cable provider to one that’s got Comedy Central. Finally I can give the show a try. By that time the show’s been officially cancelled from its Comedy Central home, but it’s still running a bunch of episodes ahead of the move to the Sci-Fi Channel. It occupies a couple timeslots early Saturday and late Sunday. I try out my first episode: The Magic Voyage of Sinbad. It’s a fine episode, still one of my favorites. It’s a foreign movie, a Ruso-Finnish coproduction telling one of the legends of Sadko, whom I don’t know anything about either, which is why when the movie was imported it was redubbed as “Sinbad”. It’s a gorgeous film, full of practical effects and telling about a hero trying to bring happiness to his people and sailing to India and encountering magic and wonder. If it all comes out a little weird that’s probably because legends are a bit like that, especially when it’s legends from another culture and then made into a movie and then redubbed and probably reedited and all that. But it’s beautiful if odd and delightful. By the time I was forty minutes in I was sold on the show. It was also 2:40 am and I theoretically had classes the next day, so went to sleep, still never having seen the end of an episode.

Next Saturday there’s another episode. The Brain that Wouldn’t Die, 10 am. I forget to set the VCR. (I know which episode it was because MST3K fans, incredibly, have kept track of the broadcasting of episodes.) Also somewhere in this time I’ve gotten a VCR. I set the VCR for Kitten With A Whip, 7:00 the next morning. Finally, finally I get to see an episode all the way to the end.

So, yes, I’m sold. Also I’m there at the last three months of the show’s Comedy Central run. I’ll have the chance to catch two episodes a week of a show that’s run for (then) seven seasons, and then probably never see them again. Mystery Science Theater 3000 exists in a complex battlefield of airing rights; there were already, then, episodes that everyone knew could never be legally shown again. There’s still some episodes that it looks like might never be legally released. But three months of the experience is far better than not having the experience at all.

I splurge, and start recording episodes in LP so they’ll be of higher fidelity. Not SP, though. I was a grad student. I didn’t have SP kind of money to spend on blank videotape, come on.

Tomorrow, unless I forget: my new MST3K fandom gets worse.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose two points today as it turned out the shampoo thing was no big deal and nobody really thought I was going to make a go of it, and I’m not hurt but I shall be in the corner weeping, thank you.

137

Sorry, Working On An Ingenious Invention Here


So if you’re like me, and I think you are, when you go to a hotel you use the tiny bottles of shampoo they give there? And in those circumstances there’s plenty of shampoo to clean your hair using that little dabby dot that you get out of that? And it’s not a large dot. It’s about half the size of a tear, if a tear were half the size of the dot of shampoo you get out of that bottle. And somehow this little blop of shampoo, that’s less than one-quarter of the size of itself, is plenty. And yet at home it takes way more shampoo. I mean, I get the cheap shampoo, because I never look at myself so I have no idea my hair looks like that, so it’s easy to do this. I’ll use enough shampoo to cover myself to a depth of eight feet, and still wonder if I need to repeat. (No.) So there’s clearly some difference in hair-cleaning pressure between hotel showers and home showers and I just think there’s some way to exploit this to make a new and very clean, manageable, vibrant, and bouncy source of power.

While I’m busy you can read my mathematics-comics stuff over on the other blog. That’s content, so that’s exactly as good as something here.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Trading values rose over seven percent today, even something like seven point three percent, as everyone got all thrilled on this shampoo power news and thinks it’s going to be so great I knew them when I wasn’t important enough for anyone to know. I’m trying to stay humble and I do not have a secret list of which Another Blog, Meanwhile index traders I’m going to shun once I even can.

135

PS: Um … Okay, so, no, this shampoo power thing won’t work. Sorry for the inconvenience.

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? 1 January – 8 April 2017


Hi! Looking for my most recent report on Judge Parker? This might be it. But check this page, with all the Judge Parker-tagged essays, just in case it’s not.


When last I talked about Judge Parker, new writer Francesco Marciuliano had finished his round of thoroughly blowing up the Parker and Spencer families’ incredible streak of fantastic good luck and fortune’s favor. Judge (Retired) Alan Parker’s movie deal had stalled and his new book was going nowhere. Sophie Parker had reappeared after months missing, with the rest of her band still gone, abducted by strange parties unknown. And Parker Sr had received a mysterious bouquet and message from shadowy intelligence-types, and made a promise to “have it done for you soon”.

Blowing up plots is fun and, relatively speaking, easy. How has Marciuliano handled putting things back together?

Judge Parker

1 January – 8 April 2017

Sophie Spencer, returned just in time for Christmas, has as rough a time of it as you might figure. Finding her father’s Crazy Evidence Wall, full of clippings thumbtacked in around circled notes (no strings of yarn connecting stuff, though) sends her into a rage which she takes out on her room, setting off a potentially-fatal-to-their-marriage fight between Sam Driver and Abbey Spencer. But Sam persists, setting back up his Crazy Evidence Wall, growing out his beard to Not Obviously Unhinged levels, and finally (this week) agreeing to go to Ambush Ridge with Sean Ballenger, father of the first abducted teen to have been released. That should turn out well. He can still get his beard out to Riker In The Borg-Are-Everywhere Timeline levels, if need be.

Abbey: 'Sam, please! Don't do this! We just started healing and now you're walking right into a crime scene without even discussing it first?' Sam: 'Like I said, there will be police. I will be with a cop. This isn't the first crime scene I've investigated.' 'Sam, you're not listening to me! You're doing the lone wolf thing again!' 'Abbey, I am listening to you. And I'm not being a lone wolf! This whole time, feeling like I couldn't protect us. Feeling helpless because I couldn't solve Sophie's case. But if I go where Sophie was held, maybe I can solve this. Maybe I can end this for good. And not as lone wolf but with an officer.' Meanwhile the officer, out of uniform, is loading a shotgun into his personal car's trunk.
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 2nd of April, 2017. Not to be distracted by petty things but since the start of the year Abbey and Sam have talked about his being a ‘lone wolf’ approximately 628,969,274,033,384 times. I think it might mean something special between them.

Sophie, understandably still traumatized, gets into therapy. It played as a belated move, but just because even when stuff is happening swiftly there’s only a few panels per day and a lot was going on. In-story it was clearly set up within days of her release. This might still be late, but after all, nobody expected her tolerably safe return. She reveals that the only thing she knows of her kidnapper is that she soundd “so much like Abbey”, calling her adopted mother “a cheat” who “doesn’t deserve what she has”. It’s hard not to see this as teasing the fourth wall, or smashing right past it, given the years during which the Parker-Spencer-Drivers were in fortune’s favor. Marciuliano had a more literal, and classically soap-operatic, idea in mind.

Sophie at therapy. 'Neddy and I had nothing but each other after Grandpa died, until Abbey adopted us. But the kidnapper said Abbey doesn't deserve what she has, and I don't either. The kidnapper kept yelling at me that the good fortune wasn't ours, wasn't mine. I wasn't even a Spencer --- it was time for the other shoe to drop. What did she mean?' 'Did you tell this to the police, to Abbey?' 'No. I was afraid! What did the kidnapper mean? It made me feel that everything in my life was an illusion. That's all I could think of when I was trapped --- is it true? Is my life with Abbey based on some lie?'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 26 of February, 2017. I haven’t talked about Mike Manley’s art, so please take this chance to look at it. This is a big talky scene, and it’s not boring. Good coloring helps, certainly, but I think the page would read at least as well without that. Sophie gets to emote, and her speech is well-paced, especially in the second row.

The other kidnapped kids reappear with their own harrowing tales. They had been kept in a remote shack, fed occasionally, waiting for any sign they might be able to escape, or any hint about what this was all about. They don’t get much. Some kind of ransom, some kind of torture to make Sophie Spencer “fall in line”. And then the gradual and then sudden collapse of the kidnapping scheme, as the woman in charge — the one who sounded so much like Abbey — has a fallout with another woman, “the only one who ever helped” her. The One Who Sounded Like Abbey shoots her partner, and then starts shooting the guards. The kids escape when she comes around to kill them, injuring but not killing The One Who Sounded Like Abbey.

Deep in the woods, a standoff between two women holding guns on each other. 'You never had a handle on this plot! You had a vague idea, a dream, but you never knew what you were doing!' 'I wasn't going to be forgotten. I had to remind everyone I'm also family.' 'If family's so important to you, then why are you pointing a gun at me? I'm the only one who ever helped you! I took the boys in case of ransom. I took care of my crew so no one would talk. You were too insane to do anything!' 'Call me insane one more time.' 'And you still wonder why the Spencers abandoned you.' Two gunshots.
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 12th of March, 2017. So how did Francesco Marciuliano’s Reddit AMA back in November go? … Oh yeah.

So who is The One Who Sounded Like Abbey? The clear implication is that she’s Abbey’s sibling, or some other person with a claim to the Spencer family (and fortune), denied for reasons not yet revealed. Or at least someone who believes she has a claim.

Not yet resolved: who the mysterious intelligence-type guy was that phoned Judge Parker Senior, or what he was promising to do.

I say Marciuliano’s succeeded in both blowing up the old status quo and putting things together into a plausible, credible, and intriguing new storyline. I’m looking forward to the next couple months of this.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose five points when someone looked up legendary 19th Century baseball player Tim Keefe and found out he first played in the major leagues for the Troy, New York, Trojans, inspiring a round of looking up 19th Century baseball team names and subsequent merriment that hasn’t been dimmed even by Richard pointing out how difficult it is to say what a baseball team’s name, as opposed to the nickname they were called by for a while, was before about the 1920s.

126

The World We Need


I did some more comic strip review stuff on my mathematics blog and I figure to do more of that on Sunday, but that isn’t what’s got my focus right now. I got a mildly ironic purchase of the Superman Showcase #3, a collection of early-60s Superman comic books. What can I say, I like the Silver Age of superheroes doing goofy things for peculiar reasons. (No color, but that does mean they can include more stories to sit on your head and make you beg for logic, which works for me.) I was sold on the book, even though it might not be very good for me, when I ran across “The Babe of Steel” story, originally from Action Comics number 284.

In it, Superman receives a message from an invisible hand on what I had thought was the Super-Chalkboard but which on careful review is just an ordinary grade chalkboard. It warns him of peril, which he figures he can best cure by turning himself into an infant for 24 hours. Fortunately he has the stuff on hand to do this, because that’s the world Silver Age Superman lived in. If I had to choose a superhero world to live in, it would be the one where Superman has the ability and willingness to spend 24 hours as an infant in response to cryptic messages on chalkboards. If you don’t agree, I don’t know that we can truly understand one another. Anyway, while waiting for the big problem to show itself this happens:

Baby Superman comes across a guy with a homemade rocket. 'My laboratory experiements lead me to the conclusion that the Earth will soon explode as did the planet Krypton years ago! But before the Earth blows up, I will do as Superman's father, Jor-El, did on Krypton with *his* infant son ... fire my son into space in a rocket!' And Supermanbaby thinks: 'This fellow is cracked! Too many years of lonely scientific work on this island must have affected his mind!'
Not to spoil the comic for you, if such a thing is possible, but as I make it out Superman didn’t really need to be an infant for the problem he got the message about, and there’s not really anything in the message saying he had to be an infant to resolve it. It’s hard to escape the idea Superman was looking for an excuse to spend a day as a toddler, which, you know, takes all types and whatnot. It just looks like he was using the message as pretext rather than necessity is all.

And I gotta say, Supes, of all the living beings on planet Silver Age Earth, how are you the one to leap to this particular conclusion? I mean, you have travelled back in time on like a half-dozen different occasions to see how the Kryptonian Jerk Council dismissed your own father’s conclusions about Krypton exploding as the ravings of a madman, right? Don’t go telling me you were right. That’s only moral luck, and you should be above that. Just saying.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped eight points as fallout from that zinc warehousing scandal continued to — hang on. No, it rose eight points. Maybe it turns out the zinc thing isn’t all that much to worry about. That’s going to be a relief to everyone who worries about New Orleans zinc warehousing.

124

Statistics Wednesday: How March 2017 Liked Me Or Didn’t


I finally have some time to review my WordPress readership statistics for March 2017. So, thank you and good day.

There were 2,085 page views in March, says WordPress’s statistics page. That’s gratifyingly large, above February’s 1,837 and close to January’s 2,340. This came from 1,308 unique visitors in March, up from 1,093 in February and down slightly from January’s 1,361. That’s pretty close to the Apartment 3-Gocalypse highs, back in October and November in 2015.

This dovetails nicely with my transition to being a blog that updates people on the story comics, plus some other stuff the rest of the week. Exaggeration? Here’s the five most popular posts for March:

I’m doing my very best not to be hurt that my original-compositions aren’t more liked. Well, I’m honestly not hurt, and one of my long-form Friday pieces is in the top ten, and at least I’m relieving people’s anxieties by more or less knowing what Rex Morgan, M.D. is up to.

So here’s the report on the number of views per country for March:

Country Views
United States 1633
Canada 73
United Kingdom 73
India 60
Australia 27
Germany 22
Sweden 16
Argentina 12
Philippines 11
Romania 11
Israel 10
Hong Kong SAR China 9
France 9
Switzerland 7
Denmark 6
Belgium 5
New Zealand 5
Serbia 5
South Africa 5
United Arab Emirates 5
Madagascar 4
Malaysia 4
Netherlands 4
Pakistan 4
Croatia 3
European Union 3
Finland 3
Indonesia 3
Ireland 3
Italy 3
Kenya 3
Puerto Rico 3
Ukraine 3
Vietnam 3
Japan 2
Russia 2
Singapore 2
Spain 2
South Korea 2
Brazil 2
Mexico 2
Belarus 1
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1
Costa Rica 1
Egypt 1
Ethiopia 1
Ghana 1
Greece 1
Jamaica 1
Norway 1
Poland 1
Saudi Arabia 1
Taiwan 1
Trinidad and Tobago 1
Turkey 1

None of the single-reader countries were single-reader last month, which is I think the first time I’ve had a complete turnover like that. I make that out to be 14 single-reader countries, down from February’s 22 but matching January’s 14. That’s 55 countries represented altogether, down from February’s 61, but up from January’s 48. What does that signify? I do not know, but what the heck. It’s a number, I can report it.

Midnight remains the most popular hour for readership here, with 15 percent of page views coming in the hour after stuff gets posted. For March Wednesday was the most popular reading day, with 16 percent of page views then. This breaks the streak Tuesday was having. February saw Tuesday getting 19 percent of page views, and in January Tuesday got 18 percent of page views. Since one-seventh is just over 14 percent, I think that’s indicating no weekday’s really more popular than any other around here.

I am getting some more fun search terms bringing people here. Among them:

  • what does funky winkerbean mean
  • judge parker getting weird
  • how many fleischer cartoons used 3d sets?
  • is sally forth hyphenated
  • has mary worth had plastic surgery

I’m curious how many 3-D sets the Fleischers did use in their cartoons. Funky Winkerbean just means for us all to feel worse about everything.

WordPress’s Insights page says I start the month with 725 followers on WordPress directly and a couple by e-mail. You can join them if you like by clicking on the Follow By WordPress tab in the upper-right corner, at least in the current theme.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell thirteen points following a report that Access World, the metal logistics arm of Glencore, has been find $1.4 million plus costs for falsifying documents related to the storage of zinc in New Orleans, which raises new questions about the warehousing records of the London Metals Exchange, which sure sounds like the sort of thing that ought to lose thirteen points. Considering, we’re lucky we didn’t lose fourteen.

121

Why Do Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean Look Different?


They have some new artists. Tom Batiuk recently announced that Chuck Ayers, who’d done the art for Crankshaft and pencils for Funky Winkerbean, is leaving to do “other things”. I haven’t seen anyone say what those things are; I hope they’re personally rewarding things. Also, I had no idea that Ayers was doing the pencils for Funky Winkerbean. I had thought that Batiuk drew the whole strip, except for well-publicized guest-artist events or when he’s had to focus on medical care instead.

Dan Davis, who’s worked on a bunch of comic books and pencils for Garfield, took over the art on Crankshaft starting with this Sunday, the 2nd of April. Rick Burchett, who’s won two Eisner awards, is to take over penciling for Funky Winkerbean starting with the Sunday, the 25th of May.

Ayers is, according to Batiuk, not leaving the Crankshaft world altogether: “Chuck and I will still be working on selected story arcs down the line. This is one of those rare examples in life of being able to have your cake and eat it too, and I couldn’t be happier as I move forward on Funky and Crankshaft with these titanically talented artists.”

King Features’s press release about this consistently spells Ayers’s name “Ayres”, which seems like the kind of joke we’d make about Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean.

'Tom Batiuk Picks New Artists for His Comics', announcing the retirement of Chuck Ayres [sic], whose name has been spelled 'Ayers' on the comics page for years now.
King Features’s press release on the new artists for Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean. I know this wasn’t the snappiest title I’ve ever given a piece, but I know what people look to me for, and it’s explaining that sometimes a comic strip gets a new artist.

In still more comic strip talk, my mathematics blog etc you know the rest. Thank you, won’t you?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose eight points which some analysts are crediting to the traders remembering for once to say “rabbit, rabbit” first thing the 1st of the month. Some even said “rabbit, rabbit” the first thing Monday as the start of the working month, which started the usual squabble about what they’re doing on the weekends, then. Good question. It fully deserves an answer.

129

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? December 2016 – April 2017


When last I officially looked in on Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. little Sarah Morgan was in dire shape after being hit by a car. This after her parents learned her book of horse pictures was not actually a bestseller but rather propped up by the curious patronage of mob-ish widow Dolly Pierpont, who used Sarah as substitute for her estranged daughter Linda. back in July, June Morgan listed some of the incredible good fortune that had befallen the family and wondered “what happens when the pendulum swings back the other way?”

It’s been a lot of swinging.

Rex Morgan, M.D.

20 December 2016 – 1 April 2017.

Sarah emerged from her coma in a pretty sweet Christmas Day strip. But she’d been struck with a nasty case of Soap Opera Amnesia, leaving her unable to remember anything of the past year. The Morgans have tried various things to restore her memory of the lost time, but nothing seems to be working. Since most of that corresponds to the worst excesses of the “let’s throw fabulous money and prizes at the Morgans” era I expect that Beatty’s not going to allow this to work. It’s a drastic and, really, horrifying way to clear the boards. But it does get Sarah back to something like normal child life.

So she doesn’t remember the birth of her little brother Michael, so if they ever grow up he’s going to have that to tease her about his whole life. She also doesn’t remember how to draw, so her incredibly-popular horse-painting book looks to be a one-off. Nor does she remember the private school that Dolly Pierpont had paid tuition for; after a good look at the student uniforms she asked if she could go to public school instead. Losing a year of her memories also means she’s lost the year that she skipped ahead. I am impressed. We usually get resets this complete only after Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine spend forty minutes telling us about “chronometric wavefronts” and “temporal storms” and “did anyone check if we let Chakotay out of the shuttlecraft before the space vortex ate it and could we tell the difference if we didn’t?”.

Homecoming for Sarah. 'Calm down, Abbey! Don't knock Sarah over!' Sarah asks the dog, 'Did you miss me? 'Course you did!' And asks her parents, 'This is our house now?' 'Yes, we moved just before Halloween.' 'Do you remember the secret room?' 'There's a SECRET ROOM? I gotta see it!' June: 'This is going to be interesting, Doc.' 'Her memories could return ... or not.' Sarah: 'This secret room is AWESOME!'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 8th of January, 2017. Inside the secret room under the stairs are none of Sarah’s memories of Dolly Pierpont and the book deal and her horse drawings and being an exhibit of precocious artistic talent at the Local Museum, but she does find the real Seymour Skinner.

It’s not a perfectly complete reset, though. Not all the good fortune of the Morgans wiped away. While exploring the attic Sarah discovered a cache of 1950s comic books and proofs and stuff in stunningly good condition. Rex’s friend Buck Probably-Has-A-Last-Name-But-I-Forget-And-Can’t-Find-It guided them to the original artist, “Horrible” Hank Harwood. Because this was in the comics, the comics stuff was valuable. The Harwoods sent the Morgans a pretty good finder’s fee in gratitude. Yes, it’s more giving-stuff-to-the-Morgans, but if we start from the premise of finding these vintage comics then everybody’s acting admirably.

Buck and the Harwoods were then whisked off to Generic Comic Con, the largest comics gathering in every comic strip ever. Hank got to deliver the con’s prestigious Fredric Wertham Is A Booger address and Buck got to have a dizzy spell. He uses his hospital stay to call Mindy, whom he met in one of his first gym sessions, and probably that’ll be picked up on sooner or later. They fly home, with the 90-year-old Hank possibly contracting a case of sleep apnea. Hey, medical stuff, who knew?

Buck collapses on the floor of the comic book convention. 'Hey --- can we get some help here? Mister? Mister? Are you okay?' 'Wha --- what happened?' 'You were out for a bit there. Good thing you didn't hit your head when you fell. I called for convention security to get first aid over here.' 'Thanks --- I think I'm okay, though.' First aid: 'Why don't you come with us and we'll make sure. Don't want anyone getting hurt here.' 'Now *I'm* in a wheelchair. Great.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 12th of February, 2017. I don’t know if the guy in green and yellow is an original character or not. I’m supposing he is because that’s some of what I like best about conventions like this, and I’m in good spirits so I’m going to suppose ambiguous stuff has the good interpretation.

In the other major thread senile industrialist Milton Avery has gotten bad enough that even Heather can’t cover it up. She’s resolved to take him back to his home England. In this way if he has another spell of wandering off and getting on the bus looking for a flight to England he’ll at least have it resolved by people who’re on the other side of the road. She’s dispensing the job of looking after the house to Jordan, who I believe is just Buck without his glasses, and everybody seems well enough there.

Heather: 'We're going to need someone to look after the property --- manage the house while we're away. Interested?' Jordan: 'Yeah, I suppose I would be.' 'You could stay here, have your pick of the guest rooms, and stay on the payroll.' 'I don't know how I can say no to that offer.' 'Then don't. Say yes.' 'Well sure. Yeah. I'll stay on. It's an unexpected offer --- but thanks. Yes.' 'Now don't you have a phone call to make, maybe someone you should tell about this?' 'Um ... yeah. Yeah, I do.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 5th of March, 2017. This is actually also how I handled it when my boss suggested maybe I could keep on working remotely when I moved to Michigan instead of having to find a whole new job. I’m not very good at expressing approval of good stuff.

Dolly Pierpont reconciled with her daughter Linda.

The Johnny Olson Report:

Major characters of Rex Morgan, M.D. have received these fabulous gifts and prizes:

Character Fabulous Gift or Prize
The Morgans Finder’s Fee for valuable vintage comics art, first installment of promised many.
“Horrible” Hank Harwood A CPAP machine to help with his snoring; good karma
Sarah Morgan The chance to read her own book for the first time
Buck, dba Jordan Sinecure as “property manager” or something like that for Milton Avery

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose seven points on reports that a new graphene-based process could allow synthetic skin to have a sense of touch, making plausible that in the near future caressing our cell phones will be for more than to make us feel better. The phones could get something out of it themselves. Maybe there are some good things left in the world.

121

Yes It Would Help If I Finished Stuff More Than Two Hours Ahead Of Deadline Too


If I did anything on my mathematics blog this past week it was look at some comic strips, and yes, it includes that Todd the Dinosaur comic that you’re all sure I made up. It was a slow week.

Slow enough, indeed, that I don’t have a humorous picture or a Star Trek screen grab to share here and make the page look at least a bit more full. I’ve been busy kicking myself because of a joke I had thought of last Thursday that I meant to put into that “On This Date” article, and then forgot to in the time it took me to go downstairs to my computer. And then remembered when I went out for something or other, and forgot when I got home. The farther I got from my computer, the more powerfully I remembered the joke. It just didn’t get in there. You can go and check. I’m not saying this was a great joke, the linchpin that would tie the whole piece together. It would just have added a bit of a smile late in the bit, and I forgot to include it and it won’t make sense out of that context. So now I have to wait until it’s been long enough I can do an “On This Date” piece again without obviously repeating myself. I bet I forget the joke then, too. I need to write it down.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index fell five points as a high-pressure system moved in, forcing everything to be that tiny bit more squished down. You never think of air doing that, do you? But it’s got to, if that’s what pressure means, right?

115

What’s Going On In Mary Worth? December 2016 – March 2017


When I reviewed Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth back in December I wrote that it had changed rather less than Mark Trail and Dick Tracy had. Only the artist had changed; the writer hadn’t. And that’s still so, although I suspect a pretty significant change in the nature of Mary Worth may be happening. Let me explain.

Mary Worth

12 December 2016 – 25 March 2017

If readers have any expectations for Mary Worth it’s that there will be a series of relentlessly literal, linear stories resolved by people having very heteronormative romances ideally ending in weddings, thank you, and recapped on Sunday with the decoration of a dubiously-sourced quote of dubious relevance. I’m not saying the strip doesn’t provide that anymore. But I do think it’s getting a little more textured than that.

When last we left things Iris and advice-columnist Wilbur had agreed to a pause on their relationship while he went around the world interviewing sandwiches of other lands. Mary Worth gives Iris some legitimately useful advice, helping her ambivalence following a dinner invitation from Zak, a much-younger community college student pursuing an Associate’s degree in Probably Being A Rotten Millennial, Those Rotten Millenials.

'I really like him, Mary. I don't know him well yet, but I really like him! He wants me to have dinner with him! If I continue to see Zak, it may lead to ... something more. He's my son's age, Mary! Should I still see him?' 'Iris, I think as long as you're seeing Zak out of genuine interest and not backlash at Wilbur ... Enjoy getting to know him better!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 11th of December, 2016. I admit I have not been in a situation like this. My relationships have been almost entirely with people who have names that were trendy around the time of my birth, so they don’t seem trendy or weird or anything but instead proper and right. The bigger problem is more that it’s not clear Zak has anything to talk about. But not having anything to talk about is a common problem in the youth, and it can be cured by doing stuff, which, must admit, youth is good at.

Meanwhile Mary Worth keeps on grinding out “Ask Wendy” columns for Wilbur, who’s too busy globetrotting to tell people to listen to their hearts. She gives some wishy-washy advice to a person torn between two jobs, and that surprised me. The relationship between the two-jobs and the two-boyfriends questions is obvious. But it seems unusual to me that Mary Worth would manage the trick of having characters talk about something that isn’t directly the plot. It’s a basic storytelling craft, but it’s one of those crafts for a story that’s more than just a plot delivery service. Case in point: Mary’s original advice isn’t enough, and she has to give it again, at a later point in Iris’s Zak-versus-Wilbur debate.

Iris tries dating Zak some. She goes to a concert with him and some of his rowdy college friends, who notice that she’s way older than him. She makes a reference to Casablanca that goes completely over Zak’s head, and she decides it isn’t working out. This might be premature. There’s a lot of pop culture from before you were born to catch up on, even the great movies. On the other hand, “Here’s looking at you, kid” is not an obscure reference these days shut up I’m not old have you thought about how you’re the old one instead huh? They part amiably, anyway.

Iris: 'I see you with your friends ... and I know you belong with them. Not with me. Zak, thank you for everything. It's for the best we say goodbye.' 'If you say so. Iris ... ' 'Yes?' 'One last thing.' And he gives her a deep, bending-over-backwards kiss.
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 12th of February, 2017. Must say that Zak’s taking it well, possibly because they were only on maybe two dates and they were pretty casual ones and it’s possible he doesn’t yet understand that she’s breaking up with him.

Now for the next bit that surprised me. Before the Zak story started, Iris’s son Tommy got addicted to Vicodin. But he’d been assigned a help group and resolved to stop getting fired and that seemed like the resolution of that. The storyline reappeared, though, at the end of Zak’s adventures in the comic. The Sunday panel even noted how recovering from an addiction like that isn’t a straight path; one will have setbacks and feel like any progress is lost. To see that fact faced directly in the comic feels novel. I expect a problem fixed to stay fixed. It’s another bit of better crafting.

'I wonder if I should be further along by now. Better. Stronger. Calmer.' 'Give yourself credit, Tommy. Embarking on your recover is a brave and wise thing.' 'Thanks, Ma.' 'Like the tide, progress is made in an ebb and flow pattern. Rarely is progress advanced on a straight path. You're doing fine. It's okay to pause and wrestle with demons along the way. I've had to do it myself.'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worthfor the 5th of March, 2017. I’m not sure which demons Iris is talking about here. Her most recent encounter had been deciding whether to girlfriend it up for Zak or to stay true-ish to the globe-wandering Wilbur. That’s not demons, though. But the comic has a long run behind it and Iris has probably been up to all sorts of weird yet minor problems during it.

Life continues. Wilbur Weston pursues his around-the-world tour for his column about disaster survivors, showing up to ask people who’ve been through a mudslide why they haven’t died. Just imagine. You’re in Sao Paolo. The earth itself slides out from under you, and from above you, washing away the whole world in a cataclysm that takes a moment yet goes on forever. You make it out somehow. And then, there, is longtime Charterstone resident Wilbur Weston. He’s standing with notebook in hand, camera strapped around his neck, and a jar of mayonnaise wedged under his opposite arm. He says one thing to you, heedless of whether you speak English: “What are you doing, being alive like that?” He surely must be an image from the deepest recesses of … well, not the deepest recesses. Maybe one of the lighter ones, from the less-serious areas. A vision from the outskirts of the Greater Heck Metropolitan Statistical Area, the place where it’s all strip malls and commercial office parks just before the farmland takes over from the main drag of Heck. Seeing that wouldn’t haunt me to the end of my days, but it would throw me off for as much as a half-hour, like the time the cashier at Wendy’s saw me come in and warned they were out of potatoes. How can I have gone to any Wendy’s enough times they know I’m there for the potatoes and Freestyle Coke machine? How?

Toby mentions to Mary Worth how the two of them haven’t been in any stories worth anything in donkey’s years, hint hint, and they figure to take a cruise. Mary’s longtime would-be fiancee Jeff doesn’t come along, what with Mary figuring he probably wouldn’t have any fun anyway what with his knee and how it connects his upper to his lower leg through a complex mesh of cartilage and muscle and she’ll totally talk with him about how he didn’t want to go after they get back.

And here I’m not sure if the storytelling is getting clever or if I’m just giving them too much credit: Wilbur’s current round-the-world trip interviewing disaster survivors got its start when he went on a cruise and that ship had your usual sort of cruise-ship disaster. He was so moved by the experience of not dying he wanted to find out about other people not dying from stuff instead of writing the “Ask Wendy” advice column he’s turned over to Mary. Are cruise ships a new leitmotif of change and new beginnings? Or is it just fun drawing people on boats? We’ll see. I’m just surprised the craft is getting more advanced like this.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell seven points today as someone came across the French franc on the street and it started haranguing them about how nobody calls or visits or checks up on it anymore, and the whole scene was so awkward and tense nobody was in a good mood all day.

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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.

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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