Statistics May: How The Past Month Was Read, And For What


Deep down, I knew I wouldn’t repeat April’s four-thousand-plus page views. Not that my readership doesn’t seem to have risen to a new plateau since Roy Kassinger discovered me. (I don’t see a reason they should be connected, but the correlation is there.) Just that April saw a couple weird spikes of readership that I think were freak events.

There were 3,414 page views in May 2019. That’s down from the 4,033 of April and 3,565 of March. It’s still a bit above the twelve-month running average, though. (That was 3128.2 page views, for the curious, which will be ‘me in one month’.) There were 2,058 unique visitors, down from April’s 2,418 and March’s 2,165. It’s above the twelve-month running average of 1781.6, anyway.

Four and a half years of monthly readership statistics. The readership jumped up by about a thousand people per month from the start of 2018.
I had been feeling all good that I grabbed a snapshot of my statistics just as June started, so that there wasn’t this embarrassing final column with a couple of page views on it. And then two days later remembered I could fiddle with the date range so as to show four and a half years of statistics, which gives so much a better sense of change over time. So, here you have it, with that embarrassing final column.

The number of likes resumed its dwindle; there were 133 things liked around here in all of May. There’d been 233 likes in April, and 176 likes in march. And that’s certainly below the twelve-month running average, which I won’t name here because every other month had more likes. It was 172.8. Which sees odd since I had at least one piece that really hit a nostalgic sweet spot, according to the comments I got about it. Comments were a bit more common, 24 in May. There were 10 in April and 24 in March. The twelve-month running average (this is going to become a new obsession, isn’t it?) was 47.7.

In all, 377 of my posts got some view in May. (The Home Page also drew views, but that’s not counted as any specific post.) The most popular posts were about what I would have guessed:

I expect comic strip plot recaps to be my most popular thing. And something posted near the kalends of a month has the best chance to get readership counts. But I am surprised people didn’t just get the joke with Edward’s Dog of un-depictable ugliness. Maybe I’ve been better-primed to expect that joke.

And while it wouldn’t make the top five, one of my long-form essays was finally reached the top ten. Everything There Is To Say About Programming A Computer In The 80s was really well-liked, and I’m glad. It may not actually have a specific big laugh, but I think it has got that sort of humor that comes from knowing someone actually thinks like this.


Mercator-style map showing readership mostly in the United States, but also in most of the Americas, Eurasia, and Australia. For a wonder there's even a reader from China.
I realize that it’s just one viewer who possibly didn’t even know what they were looking for but, wow, someone from Mauritania looked at something I wrote this past month? How did that come about?

75 countries, or country-like polities, sent me readers at all in May. That’s up from April’s 66 and March’s 69. That feels nice to see. 18 of them were single-reader countries. That’s more than April’s 16 and March’s 14. Here’s the full roster:

Country Readers
United States 2,607
Canada 119
India 103
United Kingdom 90
Sweden 55
Brazil 46
Australia 43
Japan 35
Hong Kong SAR China 24
Netherlands 19
Malaysia 18
France 17
Germany 17
Mexico 15
Philippines 13
Romania 9
Denmark 8
Indonesia 8
Ireland 7
Finland 6
Hungary 6
Italy 6
Peru 6
Spain 6
Turkey 6
Colombia 5
New Zealand 5
Nigeria 5
Portugal 5
Singapore 5
United Arab Emirates 5
Uruguay 5
American Samoa 4
Argentina 4
Kenya 4
Russia 4
South Africa 4
South Korea 4
Switzerland 4
Taiwan 4
Bangladesh 3
El Salvador 3
Kuwait 3
Norway 3
Serbia 3
Thailand 3
Venezuela 3
Austria 2
Israel 2
Jordan 2
Kazakhstan 2
Liberia 2
Nepal 2
Poland 2
Sri Lanka 2
Ukraine 2
Albania 1
Belgium 1
British Virgin Islands 1
Bulgaria 1
China 1
Ecuador 1
Greece 1
Guam 1
Iraq 1
Jamaica 1
Macedonia 1
Mauritania 1
Moldova 1
Myanmar (Burma) 1
Paraguay 1
Puerto Rico 1
Qatar 1
Réunion 1
Uganda 1

This is a complete turnover in single-reader countries: none of those sent me exactly one reader in April. This is my first complete single-reader turnover in a long while. Possibly since I started paying attention to these things. And, of course, I am happy that anyone might read and, I dearly hope, enjoy what I write. I’m just curious why I should have so many readers in Sweden, Brazil, or India. Again, I’m happy to have you. I just feel like … really? I say anything relevant to you? I’d like to know what it is.


So my story strip recaps. All the story strip recaps should appear at this link. I do have a plan for the next several Sundays, if nothing happens that shakes up the orderly world of the twelve threads I follow. My plans are for:


Between the start of 2019 and the start of June 2019 I’ve published 149 pieces for a total of 92,272 words. 19,030 of these words were published in May. So, that’s 614 words per post on average in May — April had been 644 — and, year to date, an average of 619 words per post. At the start of May it had been 610 words. I told you those Wednesday little things weren’t working.

There’ve been 204 comments overall on the year, for an average of 1.4 comments per posting. That’s the same average as at the start of May, at least. 820 total likes, for an average of 5.5 likes per posting in 2019. At the start of May this average had been 5.7. But at the start of April the average was 5.5 again. Hm.

June began with my having made 2,311 posts. They’ve gathered 125,314 views from 69,657 unique visitors. And as mentioned, 377 posts got at least one view in May. 565 posts got some view in April, and 420 in March. I have no idea what these fluctuations signify. Most likely nothing. If I’m actually interested in how much of my archive is being read any month, I should probably look at, say, the number of posts that get at least five page views. Or some threshold that suggests it wasn’t just a mistake.


If you don’t think reading me is a mistake, thank you. You can be a regular reader by adding the Another Blog, Meanwhile feed to your RSS reader. Or you can use the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button in the upper right corner of the WordPress page. I’m on Twitter as @Nebusj, but I won’t feel jealous if you follow other people too.

And if it helps you decide whether to follow me, I try to start each month with a pair of rabbit pictures.

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Popeye’s Island Adventures sends Olive Oyl on vacation


I did figure to spend a week or two reviewing non-Popeye’s-Island-Adventure cartoons. This to build some buffer in my writing schedule. Once again it was easier to not. But this time for sure I’ll get my writing onto a more sustainable, less exhausting schedule.

Olive’s Vacation is listed as the 20th of these Popeye’s Island Adventure shorts. As has become the standard it’s followed by four more shorts, padding the production up to eleven and a half minutes, the better to support Google advertising. I had it pop up that panel asking me questions about other advertisements or companies I’ve heard about recently. If you encounter this, remember, you should lie to them.

The short starts with a decent idea. Olive Oyl’s going on vacation, so Popeye and Swee’Pea house-sit. It’s a stock premise, but I don’t mind stock premises. They can build reliable stories, ones that don’t screw things up. This premise, it’s all in how the chaos builds, and how hard Popeye has to work to prevent Olive Oyl from discovering the disaster.

The moment Popeye’s back is turned, Eugene and Swee’Pea split open a watermelon, using a hammer. I like Eugene as this agent of chaos. The Jeep brushes up against the fairy-world. Such creatures should operate without regard for grown-up human interests. Popeye runs after the mess, accidentally opening Olive Oyl’s Murphy-like bed and spilling all that stuff over the house. This was a bit I didn’t understand until I rewatched the short. I didn’t know what to make of the contents hidden behind the cabinet. The sort running time of these shorts — here, two minutes, 11 seconds — sometimes damages its clarity.

Popeye thinks to use his spinach to clean the place up. He then tries rubbing his can of spinach on a puddle of watermelon juice. It’s dumb. I laughed. Bluto appears, offering his help in exchange for a can of spinach. A distraught Popeye pays the price. Bluto shows how to hide stuff under the carpet and runs off, cackling gleefully. Gleeful Bluto might be my favorite part of this series of cartoons. It’s so endearing.

Olive Oyl stops back in for her forgotten hat. She gets there just after Popeye’s hidden everything away, and just before everything explodes out of the Murphy-ish bed. In the explosion, Olive’s flower-planter boot flies way off to Bluto’s swamp, knocking his hard-earned spinach into the marsh. That’s by the way the flower-planter boot she made way back in episode 13, Commotion in the Ocean. I don’t expect continuity beats in two-minute Popeye flash cartoons.

Anyway now Popeye thinks, what if he ate his spinach? He squirts a blob of that out of his backup spinach can, at the same time he squirts a blob of detergent into a pail of water. This had me so nervous I’m not even being funny. This week’s spinach-induced transformative body horror is a mop-hand, but that cleans up everything within five seconds. Olive Oyl sets out again. In the punch line, Eugene has another watermelon.

Like I said, it’s a good idea for a short. I don’t like how it came out, though. There’s a couple promising ideas here. Popeye trying to contain a mess and only making it worse would be good. Bluto scamming Popeye with fake cleaning advice would be good. Popeye trying to distract Olive Oyl away from a mess would be good. Even just Popeye trying to house-sit and that going all wrong would be good. The pieces are all introduced, but there’s no time for any of them to build, or to bounce off one another. There’s spot jokes that work well enough. There’s not any build in tension, though, or pacing. It’s an amiable short, but it just sort of putters along.

Also, Olive Oyl’s vacation dream was her lounging on the beach. She lives on the beach. Is that a joke? Is it the observation that nobody’s ever happy where they are? I’ll credit it as a joke. Part of me thinks they used “going to the beach” to signify a vacation and didn’t think about whether that would actually be a change of activity for Olive. That isn’t important, no, except in how I think it reflects the short not developing its storyline enough.


The reruns padding out the short are Popeye Squared, the one with the clones, which is worth watching. Then Sandcastle Battle, another contest refereed by Eugene. Then X Marks The Spot, the treasure-hunting cartoon that did give Olive Oyl a vacation. And finally Heatwave, with that cute alligator pool toy. Both Heatwave and Popeye Squared have already been used as padding shorts, just two weeks ago.


I’m doing my best to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link.

Statistics April: What, if Anything, was Liked Around Here All Month


The most-read month I ever had around here was November 2015. This was at the height of the Apocalypse 3-G, when I was doing weekly updates on how nothing was happening in the comic, and even the Onion AV Club noticed, although not enough to mention my name. I got 4,528 page views from 2,308 people, many of whom just trusted the AV Club that I had something to read. I figured, well, that’s great. That’ll never happen again, though.

I’ve still not drawn the attention of AV Club, or any other significant blog reviewer. But I’m starting to believe I might someday reach that popularity peak on my own right. Or, at least, my own right with the assist of Roy Kassinger, who I think single-handedly added a thousand page views a month around here.

So that all brings me to the readership report for April 2019. Things had been on an uptick: February saw a weirdly low, for these days, 2,428 page views from 1,429 unique visitors. March saw a more normal-for-now 3,565 page views from 2,165 unique visitors. April?

Several years' worth of monthly readership numbers. It's mostly a gradual waving pattern, the peaks of the waves getting noticeably taller at the start of 2017 and at 2018 again. The exception is the big peak in November 2015, higher than even the April 2019 peak.
So it turns out those little arrows on the far left and right of ‘Stats for April 2019’ will let you move the month under focus, including off to the left from the leftmost of the months. This is how I learned to get the larger ranges like I’m showing here.

That was 4,033 unique views — the first time I’ve been above four thousand page views — in a month since the AV Club mention. And from 2,418 unique visitors, beating the Apocalypse 3-G high. That’s astounding. That’s … the doing of Apartment 3-G, once again. A message board I never heard of before got to reminiscing about the comic strip, and how bad it got, and so I got mentioned. I’m never so successful as when comic strips are failing.

So that was popular. An average of 134 pages viewed per day, the greatest number since November 2015’s average of 151, only this with a smaller variance.

There were 233 things liked around here in April, up from March’s 176 and February’s 156. I think I was also helped by someone mentioning the Popeye pinball game fiasco, over in one of the big pinball web forums. But the number of comments fell: there were only ten around here all April. There had been 24 in March, and 34 in February. 10 is the fewest comments in a month here since May of 2017. And that’s weird. It’s hard for me to imagine, but the statistics pages are there: in December 2014 I got 138 comments in the month. I know sometimes WordPress has counted pingbacks, links from one blog entry to another, as comments. But still. I don’t link to myself that much, and nobody links to or reblogs me. (And not because I don’t like it. I love the attention! I think I just have the sort of writing that people don’t care to reblog.)

And for popular articles? Well, my conversion into a full-time chat-about-comic-strips blog may as well be complete. If I ever need some time off — and I’ve been thinking about it — I may just set everything but the weekly story comic update on repeat. But the things people wanted to read most:

For non-comic-strip stuff my most popular thing in April was Which Color Paas Tablet Is Purple? Which is Red? Which is Pink?. I knew this would be popular. I did not know Paas had changed the formula so you could put tablets into vinegar or not as you like so it doesn’t matter which is which so much.

For non-comic-strip, original, long-form essay stuff, you know, the thing I originally thought this blog was about with everything else just propping it up? My most popular thing was .. uh … hang on … it must be here somewhere. All right. Yes. Tied for the 68th most popular posts: Everything There Is To Say About Hurt Feet Except For What I Forget To Say, and In Which I Imagine Having A Job I Would Be Very Bad At, and finally All Kinds Of Thoughts About A Bucket Of Water And The Universe. Goodness but I’m such a nerd.

Mercator-style projection map of the world. The United States is the darkest red, and India the next-darkest. Much of Europe, southeast Asia, and the Americas are a similar light pink.
So this map makes me wonder, what is my personal Pole of Inaccessibility, the point on the planet Earth farthest from any country that sent even a single reader to my blog in April? And this is why I am a humor blogger rather than a popular humor blogger.

66 countries sent me readers in April, down from March’s 69, and up from February’s 65. 16 of them were single-reader countries, compared to 14 in March and 15 in February. Here’s the full roster:

Country Readers
United States 2,981
India 341
Canada 116
United Kingdom 87
Australia 67
Sweden 43
Brazil 34
Germany 29
France 22
Hong Kong SAR China 22
Italy 21
South Korea 21
Norway 15
Philippines 14
Spain 14
Netherlands 13
Denmark 12
Finland 12
Malaysia 12
Portugal 10
Singapore 10
Chile 9
Russia 9
United Arab Emirates 9
South Africa 8
Japan 7
Pakistan 7
Thailand 6
Ireland 5
Israel 5
Belgium 4
Indonesia 4
Mexico 4
New Zealand 4
South Sudan 4
Taiwan 4
Trinidad & Tobago 4
European Union 3
Nepal 3
Austria 2
Bangladesh 2
Colombia 2
Greece 2
Hungary 2
Jamaica 2
Jordan 2
Kenya 2
Montenegro 2
Poland 2
Turkey 2
Argentina 1
Bahrain 1
Bulgaria 1
Cameroon 1
Egypt 1
El Salvador 1
Estonia 1
Ghana 1
Isle of Man 1
Latvia 1
Mongolia 1
Nigeria 1
Romania 1
Saudi Arabia 1 (*)
Serbia 1 (***)
Sint Maarten 1

I’m happy to have readers from anywhere. I do feel like, for how much all my writing reeks of generic American white guy, it’s weird that I had so many readers from India and from Sweden this month. Finland, Norway, and Denmark too. Not intending any offense but is it possible the Scandinavian countries have mistaken me for someone else?

Saudi Arabia was a single-reader country in March. Serbia has been a single-reader country four months in a row now. Nowhere else has a streak like that going, though.

My plan for story strip recaps for the coming month — subject as ever to change for breaking news — is this:

All story strip recaps should appear at this link. If one doesn’t, it’s because I messed up a tag. Let me know and I’ll fix something.

From the start of the year through the start of May I’ve posted 120 things around here. That’s made for a total of 73,242 words. This implies I published 19,339 words in April, a bit more than the 18,577 of March. Hm. That’s slightly over 644 words per post, so that to date my average post is 610 words. That’s up from the start of April’s average of 599. So I need to work harder on those dumb little bits of wordplay for Wednesdays. Maybe I need to post more pictures alone.

I’ve gotten 166 total comments on the year, for an average 1.4 comments per posting. At the start of April it had been an average 1.6 comments per posting. 689 total likes, as of the start of May, for an average of 5.7 likes per posting. At the start of April it had been an average 5.5 likes per posting. Hm.

I start the month with a total of 2,280 posts, and 121,901 views from a supposed 67,592 unique visitors. 565 posts got at least one viewer at all in April. This seems like a large number, but I’ve only got the March 2019 data to compare it to. That month had 420 pages viewed by somebody.

And with all that said, I’d be glad to have you as a regular reader. You can do that by reading things off the RSS feed. Or if you want me to get data that I fail to analyze about what you read, use the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button in the upper right corner of the page. And I’m also on Twitter as @Nebusj. If you’re not sure about that, I try to start each month with a pair of pictures of rabbits, eg:

So there’s that to look at.

Popeye’s Island Adventures: SPORTS


Last week’s Popeye’s Island Adventures video included four more cartoons after the new one’s end. This week’s does too. I have a dreadful feeling that I’ve figured out why they do that. This week’s video had two advertisements prefixed to it. Short ones, the kinds that they promise end in six seconds, but still. Maybe a ten-minute video attracts advertising dollars that a two-minute, ten-second one can’t.

Well. I figure, as threatened before, to take next week to review an old Popeye cartoon, so that I have more than a day to watch and think about these shorts in future. For today, though, it’s Sports Day. This is surely not a tie-in to my anticipated recap of what’s going on in Gil Thorp, due Sunday.

I like this cartoon. It reuses the setup of A Kraken Good Race, Eugene setting up a contest to get Bluto and Popeye to stop bothering him. It’s a good setup, though, even if it does require the odd state that Eugene has to be the grown-up in the room. But having the animal be the responsible one has a nice comic logic, as long as Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto are vaguely kids.

We start with Popeye and Olive Oyl playing basketball, and getting some good bounces against that sand. Eugene pours a can of spinach onto his plate, and then re-seals the can with confetti inside. That’s an interesting choice. It serves the storyline. It startles and even frightens Popeye after he opens the can. It leaves the spinach where Swee’Pea can get it for his innings. But why did Eugene do that? Had he already figured he would have to set up a Popeye-Bluto contest, and was readying a bit of chaos for that? The Jeep is a four-dimensional animal; it’s why he can answer questions about the future. But if he is using his foreknowledge, it’s underplayed to the point maybe nobody would know that’s what happened. Still, he has this sly look on his face when he does it. I guess he at least knew whatever happened would be funny.

Popeye and Bluto get into a basketball-throwing contest. When a stray basketball hits Eugene, he whips up an obstacle course. Bluto goes first, with some fun physical comedy. The soccer ball hits the goal, bounces off his head, and rolls through the net. Counts as a goal. He falls over the hurdles, over and over. He whacks himself with the putter, somehow knocking the golf ball in. He does put together a jigsaw puzzle of his crocodile friend. It gives another moment of that strange delight crocodiles give Young Bluto. I love that every time. And he runs back to the finish line.

Popeye’s turn, after he grabs the tampered spinach can. (And I notice Swee’Pea reading a pop-up book with a sea monster. That’s probably not a thematic reference to A Kraken Good Race. But I like sea monsters.) He kicks the soccer ball into the sea. He twirls around the hurdles. He hits the golf ball against a palm tree and back again to make a simple shot way more complicated. It’s honestly kind of bragging. Solving his jigsaw puzzle — a can of spinach — by slamming the backboard down is more fun. And then he opens his spinach for that burst of energy to run back to the finish line? Anyway, it’s confetti, that frightens him, and he runs back to beat Bluto’s time.

Swee’Pea insists on his own turn, and eats the plate of spinach for it. And that gets bigger, sillier stunts. Hitting the soccer ball hard enough to knock out the sun, a bit of exaggeration that wouldn’t be out of place in a Fleischer-era Popeye. He flies through the hurdles. He hits the golf ball hard enough it rebounds off an eagle before landing in the hole. And his jigsaw puzzle is of a pacifier. He vastly beats everyone’s time.

The cartoon’s structure is simple, which isn’t a bad thing. The build of absurd overachievement works. It should drain Bluto of menace that everything he does is so incompetent. But he’s also a kid in this series. It’s all right if he’s not a serious menace.

I liked the animation more this time around. It feels less rigid than usual. I trust it’s all being rendered by computer, but the unknown-to-us animators were better able to get characters to stretch and distort themselves, and move in funnier ways. Look at the way Popeye’s golf ball slides down the flagpole at about 1:33; there’s thought that went in to making that.

Eugene’s tail gets a lot of things to do, particularly serving as a starter pistol. I’m not sure how I feel about that. There’s something unsettling me in having the tip of his tail fly off and release a ‘BANG!’ flag. But that’s my hang-up, not something the cartoon has to answer for. I suppose it wouldn’t be Popeye’s Island Adventures without at least some touch of body horror.


After Sports Day, this video goes into Scramble For The Egg, then Swee’Pea Arrives, the previously-referenced A Kraken Good Race, another repeat of Feeling Blue.


I’m doing my best to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link.

Popeye’s Island Adventures springs leaks


This week’s Popeye’s Island Adventure has the title Plumbing Problems. It set my expectations high. Plumbing has been a really good theme for cartoons. Plumbing Is The Pipe, from 1938, was another of the masterful Fleischer-era Popeye cartoons. Famous Studios did one as Floor Flusher, in 1954, and that was pretty solid despite the layer of general boredom that settled on Popeye cartoons of that era. When King Features cranked out 286,000 shorts in twelve minutes in the early 60s, one of them was Plumbers Pipe Dream and while I can’t call that one good, it is certainly deeply weird and unpredictable and thus interesting. I may do a separate review of just that carton because it is so … so … very much itself.

So how was Plumbing Problems?

I didn’t like this one. I mean, not so much as I liked Popeye the Painter. Nor some of the other plumbing cartoons. The storyline seems too scattershot for me. What I think gives most plumbing cartoons their comic energy is how they normally have this nice, built-in ratcheting of comic tension. Water is coming, and then more water is coming, and everything done to stop the water makes the problem worse, until things get truly dire. I don’t insist that all jokes can be explained as releases of tension. But there are many jokes which do work that way, so this is a good platform to build on.

It’s a competent start: Olive Oyl tries to make tea, but there’s no water. Leaks appear all over her house. Popeye tries plugging them up, first with an umbrella. I liked the umbrella handle spewing water; that’s a good bit. Olive Oyl and Popeye take miscellaneous objects, a lot of them clam shells, to stuff into the leaks, which works for the moment that comic timing requires. The sink becomes a geyser, and Olive tries to make emergency repairs. This fits in line with her Island Adventures characterization as a tinkerer.

Popeye hands Olive Oyl a heap of miscellaneous things. After stuffing them all in the drain, the leak’s stopped for a moment. It doesn’t last, which says exciting things about Olive Oyl’s water pressure. The geyser returns, shooting all this kitchen stuff into the air.

And here — 59 seconds in — Bluto finally enters the short. He’s minding his own business, a nice change of pace for the villain. He’s startled by the fork landing in front of him, and cringes when he sees Olive Oyl’s kitchen flying toward him. The dining table, chairs, plates, and candlestick land in perfect shape, another good bit of business. And that’s ended well with Olive’s flower-in-a-shoe landing in Bluto’s face. And Bluto gets an idea.

So Bluto presents himself as a plumber. His fee: a can of spinach. This fits a long history of Bluto being smart enough to understand the importance of spinach, but not smart enough to just buy it himself. (Although since we’ve seen Popeye canning his own spinach maybe there isn’t an island grocery.) And this gives Popeye the idea of trying to use spinach to fix the leaks. This fits a long history of Popeye not just eating spinach early enough to head off his problems. Stuffing some spinach into the drain, for a wonder, doesn’t work. But it does give Bluto the chance to swipe the rest of Popeye’s spinach. I credit the cartoon for subverting my expectations. But: is this all that funny? It makes sense Bluto would use an opportunity like this to make mischief. It makes sense Bluto would try stealing spinach. But this means he’s skipping out on the main plot tension of the water in order to swipe spinach. I don’t think the short has enough time — two minutes, fifteen seconds — to make that change of plot focus work.

Popeye and Olive Oyl realize Bluto’s trick. Popeye eats his remaining can of spinach and turns into … I’m not sure. He looks a little like your classic Von Braun Man-Will-Conquer-Space-Soon style rocket. Or maybe an anchor? Neither quite makes sense, since he uses the geyser from the sink to launch into the air. Popeye grabs a windsock, and wraps up Bluto before he’s gotten all that far. Seems like Popeye could probably have caught him by running, too, although then where would the windsock have come from? The water floods out of Olive’s house, and Popeye has the idea to replace all the leaking pipes with empty spinach cans. This works right up until Olive Oyl tests it, when instead of water, spinach pours out of the faucets. This is what happens when you pay attention to your own needs more than those of the friend you’re doing the work for.

So none of these are bad ideas. But the short feels episodic, a bunch of good starting points for jokes. The storyline felt scattershot, as if the writer couldn’t think of a funny thing to do with Olive’s house leaking. Or a funny reason for it to have started leaking. It’s among the weaker of these cartoons.


I’m doing my best to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link.

Statistics March: My Humor Blog Had A Ridiculously Nice Month


I like starting months with a look at how popular my humor blog is, since I like to think it is. And I like sharing that with my readers, as part of my plan to keep myself from being too popular. I joke, which is a good sign. As best I can tell, these review posts are at least as popular as everything else I write. I’ll have to just make up a “monthly” review like this sometime when I’m out of ideas.

If you do like my writings, I’m glad to have you as a reader. You can get these pieces to appear in your WordPress reader by using the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button in the upper right corner of the page. Or you can use the RSS feed to get all the page’s content without being tracked. I’m also on Twitter as @Nebusj, for those of you who like being tracked. Now on to how many of you did get tracked in March.

Bar chart of monthly readership for the past two years, roughly. March was abnormally well-read by a great number of unique visitors, and had an average of 1.65 views per visitor.
So it turns out if I hack the URL for the statistics page, changing the ‘startDate’ parameter, I can get an equivalent chart like this for like four and a half years’ worth of months in one page view. Now I’ll need a new excuse for not remembering how to do this a month from now.

It was a well-read month. I credit this to all of March’s comic strip news. People have found I know more about Gasoline Alley than normal mortals do. But here we go. There were 3,565 page views in March 2019. That’s far more than in February, when only 2,428 pages got attention here. And it’s even better than January, when 3,343 pages got viewed. March had my greatest number of page views since April of 2018.

The unique visitor count was astounding, though. There were 2,165 unique visitors, says WordPress. That’s well above February’s 1,429, or January’s 1,830. Indeed, it’s more than any single month in 2018. That is not quite at my all-time record high — the 2,308 unique visitors from November 2015, the final collapse of Apartment 3-G. Also this month I figured out how to get visual representation of more than the last two years’ worth of readership statistics. I might even remember for the start of next month.

There were 176 likes given to various pages here in March. That’s better than February’s 156, in line with January’s 183, and really back to the 165-to-180 range that I was in most of 2018. So that all seems good. Where things did drop was in comments. There were 24 comments given around here in march, down from February’s 34 and January’s 70. It was the slowest month for chatting around here since October 2017. Hm.

I always say that what people want around here is comic strip news. Here’s the five most popular articles from March. They are so much comic strip news. If I were smart, I’d just do comic strip talk, but I keep going on trying to do at least some original writing too. It’s hard resisting what your audience is making clear are your strengths, but I’ll do it. The top articles in March:

Of stuff that isn’t just me writing about other things? The most popular piece I had was Statistics Saturday: The Months Of The Year In Reverse Alphabetical Order. I don’t know. It’s always the weird little trifles that get to be long-lasting. I have the fear someone’s taking this list seriously. I mean, it’s correct, if you figured out the joke, but I don’t say what the joke is so are people understanding that the order is not what any normal person would mean by “reverse alphabetical order”? It was my most popular non-comic-strip piece last month too.

The most popular long-form piece that I wrote and that wasn’t about other people’s work was Everything There Is To Say About Grinding Coffee Beans. I’m glad to offer something of use into the world. We have gotten a replacement for our broken coffee grinder. I hope this settles the rampant speculation about why I had this essay to share.

Also if WordPress has this right, there were 420 separate pages that got at least a single view this month. Huh. I never thought to look at this figure before, so I don’t know whether it’s representative. I’ve had 2,250 posts in total, as of the start of April, for what that’s worth.

There were — all right, a certain number of you are going to think I’m making this up. There were 69 countries sending me page views in March. There, yes. I swear I didn’t make up these numbers and I’ll share the raw data with anyone who wants to look them over. I admit to telling hack jokes sometimes, but not like that.

Mercator-style map of the world with the United States colored in dark red, and most of the Americas, Western Europe, Russia, and Southeast Asia in a more uniform pink.
Again, I don’t find it mysterious that Africa for the most part doesn’t care what I’m writing about Mary Worth. I’m honestly more curious that Nigeria shows any interest in my writing. And, like, Bangladesh? I worry that whatever my Bangladesh readers were looking for, they got to this page by accident. I hope it wasn’t anything important they wanted.

Anyway, here’s the countries roster.

Country Readers
United States 2,646
India 147
Canada 100
United Kingdom 98
Australia 85
Brazil 42
Hong Kong SAR China 41
Spain 38
Philippines 35
Norway 32
Germany 25
Sweden 20
Italy 18
Mexico 15
Belgium 14
Turkey 14
France 12
Denmark 11
Argentina 9
Finland 9
South Africa 8
Japan 7
United Arab Emirates 7
American Samoa 6
Ireland 6
Malaysia 6
New Zealand 6
Peru 6
Taiwan 6
Trinidad & Tobago 6
Netherlands 5
South Korea 5
Indonesia 4
Portugal 4
Singapore 4
Switzerland 4
Thailand 4
Dominican Republic 3
Guatemala 3
Iraq 3
Jamaica 3
Nepal 3
Nigeria 3
Puerto Rico 3
Romania 3
Russia 3
Ukraine 3
Bangladesh 2
Greece 2
Israel 2
Mongolia 2
Pakistan 2
Poland 2
Uruguay 2
Vietnam 2
Bermuda 1
Bolivia 1
Bulgaria 1
Colombia 1
Cyprus 1
Czech Republic 1
European Union 1
Honduras 1
Hungary 1 (*)
Lebanon 1
Lithuania 1
Saudi Arabia 1
Serbia 1 (**)
Slovenia 1 (*)

Anyway there were 65 countries sending readers in February and 68 in January. There were 19 single-reader countries in January, 15 in February, and 14 in March. Hungary and Slovenia were single-reader countries last month, and Serbia has been one for three months running now.

I should share my story strip plot recap schedule. This is subject to change if a comic strip has some big event, and I realize I need to hurry up writing about it while people still want to know anything about, say, Judge Parker. But my planned schedule is:

And all my story strip plot recaps should appear at this link. If one’s missing, it’s because I tagged something wrong.

In all I posted 18,577 words here in March. This brought me, as mentioned, to a total of 2,250 posts. There were 117,868 page views from a total 65,179 unique visitors as of the start of April. There’ve been 141 total comments, for an average of 1.6 comments per post, in 2019. That’s holding at the start of March’s average. There’ve been 491 likes in total, for an average of 5.5 likes per posting. That, too, is the same as the start of March’s average. I’ve posted a total of 90 things in 2019 up to this post, and 53,903 words in total. That’s an average of 599 words per post, which is exactly what my average words-per-post was at the start of March. So it’s lucky I posted that thing meant to bring my average-words-per-post count down. Also but goodness six hundred words is a lot to write on the average day. I should be more careful. 1,423 words.

Tumbleweeds Cartoonist Tom K Ryan Has Died


Tom K Ryan, who drew the longrunning comic strip Tumbleweeds, died a couple weeks ago. He was 92 years old, and the death was peaceful, the funeral home reports.

I admit I don’t have strong memories of the comic. I remember encountering it in the 90s. It was one of the many comics printed in Strips, a weekly newspaper featuring just what you’d think. The newspaper was great, in those days, for finding comic strips that just weren’t in any local newspaper, like Bill Holbrook’s On The Fastrack and Safe Havens, or Bobby London’s Popeye, or even the Pogo revival. And Ryan’s Tumbleweeds was there. It stood out mostly for typography: it had computer-lettered word balloons. It would stand out today still, when many comic strips use computer lettering. Instead of a typeface that looked like hand-lettering, Ryan used … well, I thought it was Monaco, but looking at examples on the official Tumbleweeds web site indicate he used different typefaces at different times. And, early on, hand-lettered things. I don’t know when the shift, or why, although the advantages of typing your word balloons are obvious.

But I don’t have strong memories of the characters or the jokes or such. It was one of your situation strips, of a kind with B.C., The Wizard of Id, and Hagar the Horrible. Here the setting was the Old West, with the characters the hapless Army post, the hapless Poohawk tribe, the hapless cowboys, the hapless townsfolk. There weren’t running storylines, as far as I could tell, just jokes between the spoof-of-Western-tropes characters. The strip began in 1965, and ran until the end of 2007. According to Wikipedia, Filmation tried to animate it for their Fabulous Funnies series, and after the first episode aired learned they didn’t have the rights to the comic. It got adapted into a Las Vegas stage show at some point, apparently, and also made into a musical comedy for high school drama programs in need of such, by the same company that made the Luann musical. And, famously, Jim Davis worked as an assistant for several years, before realizing his own comic strip might get picked up if he dropped the gnat and worked with a cat character instead.

In honesty, I get the comic strip mixed up in my head with Gordon Bess’s Redeye, another spoof-Western comic strip that itself started in 1967 and ran until the middle of 2008. Comics Kingdom is rerunning that, under their Vintage strips feature. If asked to choose I’d prefer Redeye. But it’s not a fair comparison. Nearly all the Tumbleweeds strips I’ve seen are from the last decade of its run. A gag-a-day strip like that tends to wear out its best material a few years after its last successful new character joins the cast. The Redeye that I’ve seen is a new comic strip in its exploratory phase.

So, allowing that I would call Tumbleweeds a comic strip that, at most, exists, why mention Ryan’s passing at all? In part, I guess, because it’s amazing anyone ever gets a comic strip made, much less one that runs four decades. And I have a friend who absolutely loves the comic strip, and takes offense when I admit I mix it up with the inferior(?) Redeye. The friend asked me, before the news of Ryan’s death came out, if I knew why the comics on the charmingly 1998-styled official web site weren’t being updated. So, well, it’s not my thing, but I’m glad there are people who had this thing, while it lasted.

R C Harvey, at The Comics Journal, has a good obituary. Harvey has warmer feelings about the comic than I have.

Popeye’s Island Adventures flirts with becoming the Popeye pinball machine


So, something the Popeye’s Island Adventure people declared when the series started and that hasn’t come up before. It’s part of their declaration about how this series is different from earlier Popeye cartoons.

The show combines the original squash and stretch animation style with a fresh update on the original characters and storyline. The new Popeye has a youthful appearance and more eco-friendly position, growing spinach on the roof of his dieselpunk style houseboat and collecting rain water in barrels.

I do not know what deiselpunk is but I can confidently say no, Popeye is not deiselpunk. I can say I am more deiselpunk, and please consider, I spent much of yesterday rewinding and listening again more carefully to a podcast explaining the historical reasons, connected to pronunciation shifts, regarding why the letter ‘c’ is used to represent both the soft-s and hard-k sounds. The claim that this is a more eco-friendly Popeye, though? That … hasn’t really played into any of the cartoons. And then came this week’s cartoon, Commotion in the Ocean.

So. This, yes, has almost nothing discernable to do with Python Anghelo’s incredible and bonkers concept document for the Popeye pinball game of the 1990s. It starts with Bluto surrounded by mounds of garbage. I’m not sure why Bluto is always assumed to be a garbage lord like this. I suppose it’s the thought that you have to be a bad person to litter, so therefore a really bad person is surrounded by a lot of garbage. Which is all right until you consider what signal that sends people who aren’t able to clean as much as they “ought”. We mock the messy and the cluttered and the hoarders; is that decent?

Anyway, Bluto’s sick of the mess in his submarine, and gets to cleaning it. His preferred method: shooting it out his gun barrel. Silly; he should be doing this responsibly, by putting it in a landfill, which is a societally-approved heap of garbage we put on top of the wetlands that would otherwise be keeping the planet alive. Bluto gets away with it until he lands a heap of trash on Popeye and Olive Oyl’s boat. Popeye was pulling some traditional fishing garbage — a metal bin, a funnel — out of the water before that. I’m not clear whether that was supposed to be from earlier Bluto trash bombs, or just Popeye’s bad luck. I’m also surprised he didn’t pull up a boot or old inner tube. But pulling up a funnel and a metal box was probably necessary. It foreshadows the end of the cartoon.

Popeye and Olive Oyl are able to track down who’s responsible for the trash by looking at some of the underwear in it. It’s got Bluto’s face on it. There are several questions this raises. First is why Popeye and Olive Oyl had to wait until we, the audience, could see Bluto’s face-underwear before reacting to it. They’d seen it when the under-face was looking at them, away from us. Also, granted, these shorts are trying to be language-neutral. Is this plot point best established by face-underwear? Also, so, when Bluto wears his face-underwear, which way is his face looking? I feel like these questions are a little unfair, but would the target audience for this cartoon ask different questions?

They spot the source fast enough anyway, with a cute throwaway joke of Popeye looking through a Pringles tube. After a couple more loads of garbage Popeye sees a corked bottle, giving him an idea: try eating spinach. This week the amazing transformation is to fuse his legs together to cork up Bluto’s gun barrel. This change doesn’t seem weird the way the sponge thing last week did. Blocking a gun barrel by jamming yourself in it seems like a common enough cartoon logic, so this feels justified to me. Olive Oyl holding up a judge’s ’10’ sign at Popeye’s hopping around is a cute bit too.

Olive Oyl remembers the funnel from earlier, and they set up … I guess the destroyed gun barrel? … as funnel into Bluto’s submarine, tossing trash back into that. Bluto shrugs and starts sorting out his recyclables. Which is fine for his glass and metal cans and all. I don’t know what recycling bin heaps of brownish-green goop go in.

All these cartoons feel abbreviated. This one particularly so, though. The premise is fine enough. It’s just there’s no real conflict. Bluto throws garbage into the lagoon, Popeye throws it back on him. Couldn’t there be at least one change of fortune along the way? But then I want contradictory things, too. This short avoided the frantic pace that the series has fallen prey to so often. Scenes were well-established, and there was plenty of time to see and understand the action. And the short does well showing off something that inspires a character’s specific ideas. Bluto smashing against the porthole after his first stoppered gun-blast is well-delivered, too.


I’m doing my best to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link.

Popeye’s Island Adventures: wait, spinach causes transmogrifications? This changes everything!


Perhaps the near-miss between Popeye’s birthday, in these cartoons, and the 90th anniversary of his debut in the comic strip was coincidence. This week’s two-minute cartoon is Heatwave, and that’s only seasonal if you’re south of the equator. Which, in fairness, Popeye must be sometimes. But I suspect if they do a Christmas cartoon it’ll be all snowy and winter-y.

Is Bluto dumb? The Popeye cartoon settings have always been malleable about their details. Their settings and what exactly Popeye and Bluto and Olive Oyl know about each other at the start of the cartoon. Whether Bluto is dumb affects the story, though. It sets the bounds of how clever a trick he can do, and how clever Popeye has to be to foil him. I think mostly he gets lumped into the “dumb” category. He’s got size and strength going for him. He has to dump something to stay balanced, by cartoon character creation rules. But smart and strong makes him a tougher antagonist. It’s, generically, more fun seeing the hero beat a tougher opponent.

In the Popeye’s Island Adventure series everybody’s a kid. I’m not clear just how young, but that’s all right. Every age of kid is dumb in their own ways, most of them all right. It makes it less weird someone might do something dumb. But Bluto’s smartness, relative to Popeye and Olive Oyl, is still important and still shapes the plot.

The story starts with a simple premise right there in the cartoon’s title. Popeye and his spinach are wilting in the heat. He brings a sad, nearly dead plant to Olive Oyl’s, and that’s all right. She’s got plenty of water, thanks to a water purifier that Popeye somehow didn’t notice when he arrived. I like giving Olive Oyl this trait of being a tinkerer, in part since that gives her something to do that isn’t waiting to be captured or rescued. Olive’s happy to lend Popeye her water-purifier, too.

Bluto builds a swimming pool. This seems idiosyncratic, since he’s never more than like twenty feet from the shore. But I understand preferring to swim in domesticated water. He builds kind of a shabby one, but not a bad one for a kid. And then he starts pumping swamp water in to fill it. He’s startled that he gets a pool of swamp water. What did he expect?

I can kind of follow the kid logic of “if it’s in a swimming pool, it has to be clean swimming pool water”. I mean, it’s a mistake, but I get the essentialist reasoning there. This Bluto seems old to be making that mistake, though. Olive Oyl, presumably about the same age, is building a water purifier. So is he dumb? Or just oblivious?

The cartoon goes on in the obvious, reasonable way from there. Bluto swipes the water purifier and fills up his pond. And he’s got a cute alligator inflatable that reminds me of the alligator pet he dreamed of in Scramble For The Egg.

Popeye and Olive Oyl follow Bluto back to his swimming pool. They surveil the situation and Popeye eats his spinach. And transforms into a human sponge. And I’m really not sure I like that. I was okay with his turning into a mer-man last week, for example. And I’m not sure why this isn’t okay. There’s a couple influences, I think. One is that an extended underwater sequence always has a slightly dreamy logic to it, so more absurd things feel less outrageous. And being in the water and turning to a water creature has tones of … oh, let’s call it sympathetic magic. Here, Popeye just looks at a sponge, eats a can of spinach, and turns into a sponge-torsoed human-form. There’s a linking step missing there, perhaps because the cartoon’s too short to justify it.

Popeye sponges up Bluto’s swimming pool, blasts all that water into the purifier and sprays Bluto with even more swamp water, and the action’s done. The button is Popeye taking a swig of Bluto’s drink and, uh-oh, that’s swamp water too. Good enough ending, certainly.

There’s much I like about the cartoon. The storyline’s logical, apart from Popeye’s spinach-induced sponge transformation. But what everyone does and why they do it makes sense. It feels underdeveloped, though. Everybody wants a thing, and then Bluto does a mean thing, and then Popeye foils it, and that’s all. I’d like a bit more escalation, or some wrinkles where trying to do something fails and they have to try again. This might be impossible, given there’s only two minutes of cartoon time. But there were 35 seconds spent establishing the heat wave before we see Olive Oyl’s water purifier. What if the cartoon started with an establishing shot of the heat waves rolling the atmosphere, and then Popeye with his wilted spinach at Olive’s door?

This is one of the cartoons I’d like to see done as a real, full, six-to-eight minute short.


I’m doing my best to watch all the Popeye’s Island Adventures. The cartoons’ reviews should be at this link.

TCM Showing the Skippy movie on Wednesday


Turner Classic Movies (United States feed) has scheduled the 1931 movie Skippy for this Wednesday, the 27th of February. It’s set for 10:15 pm Eastern and Pacific time. I’ve mentioned the movie before but, what the heck. There’s people reading this who missed earlier mentions.

The movie is based on Percy Crosby’s comic strip Skippy. It’s a great comic strip. It’s an influential one, too. It’s one of the comics that Charles Schulz had in mind when making Peanuts. And, with considerable help from Schulz, it’s influenced incredibly many comics. Crosby supposed that kids had feelings and desires and interests that they took seriously, and that good stories would come from taking them seriously. Every comic strip that follows the child’s point of view owes something to it.

Kid hitting a baseball and running around the bases as Skippy, pitcher watches. Skippy calls out to his team: 'Well, we're beginnin' to creep up on them. That hit only brought in two runs!'
Percy Crosby’s Skippy rerun for the 14th of January, 2019. And apparently originally run the 1st of September, 1931. And maybe anyone could make a baseball strip about like this, but I can think of like four Peanuts strips from 1953 alone that are basically this.

It’s not only influential, though. It’s good. I mean, a lot of early comic strips are good, but you have to work a bit to understand them. Like, I enjoy George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, but if take any given day’s strip and ask me what the joke is I’ll often be in trouble. Not Skippy, though. Crosby’s sensibility is close enough to the modern one. There are exceptions, but you can look at the comic and understand what’s supposed to be funny. Clean up the dialogue and redraw it for modern comic strip art sizes and you could run it on a modern newspaper page.

Skippy, sitting on the curb, saying to himself: 'She's nothing but a little freckle face 'n the girl in the pink dress makes her look silly. 'N what piano legs she's got. 'N when I think of them buck teethI wanta laugh. 'N that nose: gee, what a face. (Reaching for a phone.) 'N' yet I can't help callin' her up.'
Percy Crosby’s Skippy for the 7th of November, 1925. And if you’re thinking this strip is nothing but Peanuts before Peanuts, consider the strip from the 19th and notice it’s also Calvin and Hobbes before Calvin and Hobbes.

The movie, starring Jackie Cooper, came out in 1931, when the comic was a few years old. It’s got to be among the first full-length movies based on comic strips ever, really. Percy Crosby gets a writing credit, and I believe it. I’m not sure if any specific strips were adapted into the screenplay, but the tone and attitude absolutely is. (Neither of the strips I’m including here are used in the movie, mind.) And much of it is the sort of casual hanging-out of kids who just have some free time and places they’re not supposed to go and the occasional excitement that somebody has some money and things like that.

The movie has a plot, although it takes a while before you see that it’s more than just hanging out. And there is something worth warning: when the plot does swing into action it includes an animal’s death. It’s taken seriously when it happens, and it devastates the character it’s supposed to. But it also includes the attitude that if, say (and to use an animal not in the film, so that I don’t give away just what happens more than necessary), your goldfish dies it’s all right because you can get another goldfish. I know there are people who even today have that attitude, but I don’t understand it myself.

Anyway, if you don’t need that in your comic strip movies, that’s all right. If you want to enjoy what you can without facing that, watch roughly the first hour. Up through the bit where Skippy and Sooky put on a show. Duck out after that and you avoid the shocking stuff.

Director Norman Taurog won an Academy Award for Best Director. Jackie Cooper was nominated for Best Actor. The screenplay, by Sam Mintz, Norman McLeod, and Joseph Mankiewicz, got a nomination for Best Writing. And the whole movie got a nomination for Best Picture. So Turner Classic Movies brings the movie up at least every February, as part of its 31 Days of Oscar. And, well, it’s a solid movie. Worth noticing.

I’m still having trouble telling whether the guy who draws _Graffiti_ lives in this century


I know I’m being hypocritical if I complain about how niche a topic is that someone decides to joke about. I once built an essay around this time in 1857 the Treasury Secretary estimated how many Jersey City municipal bonds were held by foreigners. And goodness knows I’m as up for type jokes as anyone who used to host a web site with information about Linotype operation would be. But here. This was Monday’s Graffiti comic strip.

Written on a cinder block wall: 'Some typesetters don't know their ascenders from their descenders'.
Gene Mora’s Graffiti for the 21st of January, 2019. When I was a kid and the world was at most thirty years old, I had this book of ‘children’s letters from camp’. It was a bunch of handwritten notes all of them kind of going on along the lines of Allan Sherman’s “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh”. I can’t swear it wasn’t written by Gene Mora. I have forgotten everything that might guide me to its title or author or why I have the impression there was a second volume too. But. This is just the sort of joke that sounds risque but doesn’t actually parse that would have been perfect for inclusion in that book, if there were ever any reason for a kid to be writing someone about some typesetters.

I have no explanation for this phenomenon.

Popeye’s Island Adventure offers a sloppy Toast to Popeye


The sixth of the Popeye’s Island Adventures continued the experimenting with format and story structure. Does this mean I’m happy? Have you ever seen evidence that I know how to be happy? Let’s watch A Toast To Popeye.

Rube Goldberg machines are one of those things that got lodged so well in the pop culture that nobody even knows where they came from. They were comic strips, originally. At least comic panels. They’re shaggy dog stories, with a punch line of some trivial task, like the buttering of toast, done in as roundabout way as possible. Are they funny? Tastes vary. I think they do well in animation, where the camera can guide the eye. Where a long continuous shot can give the action a sense of inevitability, the way a good farce will. They do well also when the contraption has as many parts as possible, but each individual part is just enough to accomplish its task. It takes tight design. It takes sharp editing. And it takes time; the more pieces in the contraption, the better the result.

So these are all problems working against this Island Adventure. There’s still only two minutes of animation; apparently the extra ten seconds last week was a concession to the need to carry so much story. The device Olive Oyl whips up to make and butter toast isn’t a bad idea. It does have the flaw of arbitrariness in it: once the balloon’s heated up, what makes it carry the toast over to the butter knife and the conveyor belt? No particular reason, just that if it didn’t, the machine wouldn’t succeed. What causes the mechanical arms to butter and spread jam on the toast just as the toast passes, rather than a moment before or after the bread goes by? No particular reason, just that if it didn’t, the machine wouldn’t succeed. So the device is a decent idea, but it doesn’t convince me. It’s not as funny as it ought to be. It could be fixed easily; put up a couple of rails, so the balloon has a direction imposed on it, and the machine would work.

And this is reflected in the story. There’s a good enough setup here: Swee’Pea needs a snack after the popcorn’s gone, and nothing but toast will do. Why not fruits? Why not gelatin? No particular reason, just that if it would, the cartoon wouldn’t have anything to do.. Swee’Pea could want something hot, but he can’t say so. Popeye happens to see Swee’Pea’s machine in shadow at a moment she’s holding her arms up and weirdly still. Why then? No particular reason, just that if he didn’t, the cartoon wouldn’t have anything to do. The story structure is all right, but it doesn’t convince me. It’s not as funny as it ought to be.

Coincidences are fine in storytelling. They’re usually taken better if the coincidence creates a problem rather than resolves it. But this is a case where the story has finished, and then remembers that Popeye hasn’t been in the short at all and he ought to do something. If there were a few more seconds, I’d have Popeye established on his boat, doing something, early on. Then return to him finishing the task and looking back on shore as Olive Oyl is doing her fist-bumps. This is still as coincidental a reason for Popeye to look just then, but it wouldn’t be a surprise that Popeye was in the short at all. And it might look more to Popeye like Olive Oyl was fighting some kind of robot monster.

And there is very little Popeye. At about the one-minute mark I was wondering if they were doing without him altogether, and getting ready to applaud their courage. I’m sure there have been Popeye cartoons with even less Popeye in them. (Probably Wimmin Is A Myskery, which is mostly Olive Oyl’s dream about her and Popeye’s four sons, who in later cartoons would be transferred over to nephew status.) But, no; the story just needed Popeye not to be there, until he could show up and not actually help anything. (There’s also no Bluto, the first time he’s been absent from one of these shorts. But as little as Popeye has to add to the proceedings, what could Bluto offer?)

While I wasn’t convinced by the story logic, there’s still important stuff I did like here. The first is that the direction’s getting better. The editing wasn’t as jumpy as it had been, and the camera movements all have clear purposes. The swiping of the lizard’s tongue is nice and funny to watch. I found it funny to have Olive Oyl pop out of a cake, holding another cake that the lizard pops out of, holding yet another cake. The hungry lizard’s reappearance at the end is a good closing. I like Swee’Pea swatting at his sandcastle while Olive Oyl goes looking for food; it’s something to do during a slow stretch. I like the strange, bachelor-making-a-sad-dinner attempt of Olive to just put a pear on a slice of bread and serve that as food. And, really, the more I write about this the more I like the short. I just can’t help feeling there’s an arbitrariness in the machinery, and the story logic, that keeps me from being convinced.


And I’ve finally put together a tag for this series. All the stuff I’ve written about Popeye’s Island Adventures should be here.

What Was Popular Around Here In All Of 2018


So I like taking nice big kalend-y events as a chance to look back on what I’m doing and why. Mostly that’s the monthly blog review. It used to be WordPress also gave us a cute little animated representation of the year, showing each post made as fireworks, and somehow representing how popular posts were by how dazzling the firework was. That’s been gone for years. I don’t know why or whether it’ll ever come back. So I’ll do my own little version instead.

2018: 39,130 views, 20,889 visitors, 1.87 views per visitor, and 365 posts published.
Aw, only 870 views way from an even 40,000 views. You know, this is going to sound silly, but all day the 28th of December last year I was thinking I should pull up some post of mine and hit ‘refresh’ over and over to drive up my statistics. But I didn’t, and now I suffer the consequences. Well, no great loss. I was only thinking to hit ‘refresh’ to juice my statistics about 565 times at most, so that wouldn’t make anything better.

So, wow. 2018 was my biggest year by far around here. I don’t think it was entirely from Roy Kassinger discovering my writing and putting up comments on stuff from, like, five years ago that I’d forgotten existed. For the sake of putting things up in a format I can more easily lose later here’s exact numbers about how much I posted, and what kind of response it all drew:

Year Posts Published Page Views Unique Visitors Likes Comments
2013 335 3,874 1,869 1,188 305
2014 365 8,621 4,422 2,279 746
2015 365 17,729 9,094 4,134 879
2016 366 14,484 8,297 2,259 481
2017 365 24,695 15,187 1,886 305
2018 365 39.130 20,889 2,177 830

So that’s all an exciting-looking trend in growth, if we take for granted that growing is a good thing. Well, who doesn’t, if they’re trying to do something for a mass audience? The thing I can’t understand is the stuff I think of as measuring how engaged readers are. The number of likes offered, the number of comments offered. Both are below the 2015 high point. The number of likes in 2018 were about half those of 2015. The number of comments in 2018 was close to 2015’s total. But considering the growth in page views, and unique visitors, that’s a relative decline. 2015 was juiced, though: that was the year Apartment 3-G finally collapsed. I got many readers in looking to understand what was happening in it. And I got a huge burst, all at once, when Joe Blevins — who I thought was a friend from the MST3K fanfic community — mentioned me on the AV Club, giving my blog a name without actually mentioning me.

I can tell you what was popular in 2018. Five of the ten most popular things were even published in 2018. But what people really like to find is my recaps of story strips. That’s fair enough. Every day there’s people discovering that, say, Alley Oop still exists, and wanting to be caught up. And some of the story strips have well-established and easy-to-find snarking communities. But if we’re not talking about Mary Worth or Mark Trail, then where should people go? Here’s where they did go, last year:

So, I’ve learned how to write headlines that look like questions people might ask. That has to help readers figure out Nancy‘s deal. The S J Perelman thing is from a habit of mine that’s almost fallen by the wayside, where I’d post something from the public domain. I used to think this was a good way to show off some of what’s shaped my comic sensibilities and save me the effort of thinking up and writing something. It turns out that selecting a good piece and curating it, so as to make the case that something is worth reading, is at least as hard as being original.

I’m glad that Is Ray Davies A Normal Person? made the top ten. I originally imagined this blog as a way to write one long-form, roughly 700-word piece, once a week, with everything else as little stuff to support the weekly essay. That’s drifted, so now the blog is basically stuff propping up my story-comic recaps. But the weekly essay is still the part closest to my heart. And most of my essays I come away feeling dissatisfied with: that I’m carrying out a good idea poorly, or that I’m making the best of a weak idea. The Ray Davies one was an exception. That felt like a good idea carried out well. So I’m glad that people seem to agree. Or they’re trying to learn about Ray Davies’s health and I’m getting in the way. Whichever. It all works.

A Mercator-style map of the world, with most of the countries outside central Africa, Iraq, Greenland, and some of the former Soviet nations in pink; the United States is in a much deeper pink.
I totally understand people in South Sudan having more pressing things to do than read my silly comments about Mary Worth or stuff like that. What I’m trying to understand is why French Guiana is snubbing me like this. What else you have to do there, launch a rocket? C’mon.

There were 144 countries of the world sending me readers in all 2018. 29 of them were single-reader countries. 20 countries sent me more than 100 page views. And for I’m guessing the first time there were three countries sending me more than a thousand page views. That feels good. Here’s the whole roster:

Country Readers
United States 30,556
Canada 1,275
India 1,243
United Kingdom 921
Australia 716
Germany 340
Italy 317
Philippines 244
Brazil 228
Sweden 200
Spain 195
France 155
Netherlands 131
Denmark 113
Hong Kong SAR China 110
Norway 105
Finland 101
Mexico 101
South Africa 101
Romania 100
Singapore 95
Portugal 91
Japan 90
Malaysia 84
Indonesia 67
Russia 59
South Korea 53
Austria 52
European Union 52
Ireland 51
New Zealand 49
Turkey 47
Serbia 44
Poland 42
Israel 40
Belgium 39
Switzerland 36
Argentina 34
Peru 31
Hungary 29
Saudi Arabia 29
Ukraine 29
Czech Republic 27
Pakistan 26
Chile 25
Jamaica 24
Colombia 23
Egypt 23
Thailand 23
Slovakia 22
Greece 21
Taiwan 21
Trinidad & Tobago 20
Bangladesh 19
United Arab Emirates 19
Nigeria 17
Vietnam 17
Venezuela 16
Croatia 15
Sri Lanka 14
Bulgaria 13
Kenya 13
Estonia 12
Puerto Rico 11
Uruguay 11
China 10
El Salvador 10
Georgia 10
Slovenia 10
American Samoa 8
Ecuador 8
Latvia 8
Costa Rica 7
Lebanon 7
Macedonia 7
Nepal 7
Botswana 6
Kuwait 6
Iceland 5
Jordan 5
Myanmar (Burma) 5
Bosnia & Herzegovina 4
Brunei 4
Guyana 4
Honduras 4
Iraq 4
Kazakhstan 4
Maldives 4
Malta 4
Morocco 4
Paraguay 4
Qatar 4
Zimbabwe 4
Côte d’Ivoire 3
Cyprus 3
Dominican Republic 3
Kyrgyzstan 3
Laos 3
Lithuania 3
Madagascar 3
Mauritius 3
Oman 3
Panama 3
Algeria 2
Barbados 2
Belarus 2
Cape Verde 2
Ethiopia 2
Fiji 2
Ghana 2
Moldova 2
Montenegro 2
Namibia 2
Tunisia 2
Zambia 2
Albania 1
Angola 1
Armenia 1
Azerbaijan 1
Bahamas 1
Bahrain 1
Belize 1
Bolivia 1
Cambodia 1
Cook Islands 1
Curaçao 1
Gibraltar 1
Guam 1
Isle of Man 1
Jersey 1
Lesotho 1
Luxembourg 1
Malawi 1
Mongolia 1
Mozambique 1
Nicaragua 1
Palestinian Territories 1
Papua New Guinea 1
Sint Maarten 1
St. Kitts & Nevis 1
St. Lucia 1
St. Vincent & Grenadines 1
Suriname 1
Uganda 1

So this helps me focus my energies this coming year on being a bit more interesting to readers in Sint Maarten. I don’t know how to do this, but will make a halfhearted attempt a little too late to do anybody any good. It’s important to have a plan.

The Insights page reports that I published 233,338 words over the course of 2018. Don’t think I’m not burned up that I didn’t publish five fewer, or 99,995 more. That comes to an average of 639 words per post. So, yes, when I started this out I figured I’d do one, roughly 700-word, essay once a week and then some quick little jokes in-between. Except for 2016, though, my average post length has been growing year after year. So I’m doomed, yes. But the challenging part is I need to embrace the doom.

Popeye’s Island Adventures finally has Swee’Pea in it


The still picture underneath the closing music of all the Popeye’s Island Adventures has included Swee’Pea. Through the first four of these shorts, though, he hadn’t appeared. That changes now. This week’s cartoon, episode 5, is aptly named Swee’Pea Arrives.

I don’t remember as a kid wondering where Swee’Pea came from. In the comic strip he was left on Popeye’s doorstep, and only now do I think to wonder if E C Segar might have been riffing on Gasoline Alley. If I ever have some time I’ll read the sequence and see if that’s sustainable. In the Robert Altman movie, he’s left in a deliberately swapped basket for Popeye to take. I don’t think the cartoons ever addressed the topic. Anyway, it’s all variations on a theme: Swee’Pea is a foundling, and Popeye and Olive Oyl care for him. And that’s reestablished this cartoon, with Swee’Pea dropping from a plane to arrive in Popeye and Olive Oyl’s care.

It’s after that that we get a mess. If you’re giving a character an introduction story you need them to do something relevant, fair enough. But this is … just … what? Last week’s Scramble for the Egg was a good step up. It had a clear, coherent story and I thought that signalled a step up in quality for these cartoons. This one’s disappointing.

Popeye grilling spinach-burgers is a fine idea. A hungry Bluto seeing them and wanting to swipe some is also a good idea. It risks the problem Road Runner cartoons have, though. If the villain’s motivation is that he’s hungry, well, is that really villainous? Especially when the villain succeeding would be, at most, petty theft. You can’t fault the Road Runner for refusing to be eaten. But Popeye can look like a jerk for wanting a fifth burger. Moral shading can make for good stories. It’s a lot of difficulty to put into a two-minute pantomime cartoon.

Bluto costumes himself in a haz-mat suit, spinning a tale of spinach being toxic. And Popeye falls for it, as though we lived in a world in which poorly-inspected foodstuffs could carry health hazards. That’s a good enough starting point. It just comes halfway through the cartoon’s run time. And then for some reason Swee’Pea understands the No-Blutos sign. And recognizes Bluto inside the haz-mat suit. And decides to take action. And knows the remaining spinach burger will give him the fighting prowess to do something about it. And … why? Why any of these?

The logic of the cartoon would be stronger if it hadn’t spent its time introducing Swee’Pea. At least then the only mystery would be how Swee’Pea recognized Bluto in the haz-mat suit. Maybe a scene could have given Swee’Pea the hint. … Alternatively, if Swee’Pea weren’t in this at all, but Eugene the Jeep were, then recognizing Bluto would make sense. I’m curious if this did start as a Eugene script and then get changed because Eugene’s gotten so much to do already. (This does remind me of the Robert Altman movie, and how Swee’Pea got Eugene’s part and supernatural abilities.)

But then dropping Swee’Pea would lose the first minute, which is a bunch of nice scenes of Popeye and Olive Oyl with the kid. And it has some nice bits of direction, too, including some first-person shots. And, y’know, happy people playing. The editing of the cartoon felt too tight, too fast for me. But again all the camera moves made sense, and focused on the line of action appropriately. I don’t care for the animation style where a character holds something and then there’s a fast swish to move whatever needed to be moved. But that’s my tastes rather than a moral failing of the artists.

It’s the second week in a row that Popeye doesn’t eat his spinach. And it’s, I think, the first time another character does instead. Again, I’m glad that they’re not using too rigid a plot frame here. It does make Popeye again a passive character in his own adventures, though. He’s needed to put a spinach burger on the grill, and to catch the falling Swee’Pea, and that’s it. Swee’Pea even blows Popeye’s pipe at the end.

I’ve called this a two-minute short. The first four cartoons were. But this one ran long: two minutes, ten seconds. Ten seconds might not seem like much, but it’s an appreciable fraction of the original run time. Maybe they’re pushing to see if they can do fuller-length cartoons. Maybe it reflects the needs of the storyline. There’s two plots here, adopting Swee’Pea and Bluto scheming. Maybe there aren’t ten seconds you could cut from this without leaving the cartoon completely incoherent.

There’s still no credits. But the last twenty seconds of the video are pictures of the cast, and the encouragement to subscribe to the channel. For the first time this week those last twenty seconds have some band singing. It’s not the old Popeye the Sailor Man song, but it is a pretty catchy one that circles the same idea. I don’t know why they’re using a different song either, but, nice to have.

Several YouTube commenters asked where’s Wimpy. Wimpy’s a great character, mooching with an almost fae folk-like indifference to the mortals his schemes set in motion. You could make a series just out of him. He isn’t in the still underneath the closing music here, and I haven’t seen hints he’ll be in the cast. I’m curious whether there’s any plans to use him.

Statistics December: How The End Of 2018 Looked Around Here


And now it’s a decent time to review my readership, as WordPress would tell me it looks, for December 2018. I’m thinking to also do a full year-in-review look at my readership statistics, for good reason. These are easy posts to write, since I know what they’re about, and they fill a day’s content hole. I’d rather be creative, but if just being there will do, I’ll be there.

All the measurements of my readership dropped in December 2018, compared to November and even October. I’d like to claim that’s because everybody was doing holiday stuff rather than looking at my ramblings. But that’s unlikely. December in both 2016 and 2017 saw rises in my readership figures over the previous months. And, interestingly, both Decembers were preludes to much busier Januaries. I’m curious whether that trend will carry on at least.

WordPress says there were 2,866 pages viewed here in December 2018, from 1,632 unique visitors. That’s down from the 3,077 pages and 1,732 visitors of November, a month that also had one fewer published piece. It’s also down from the 3,070 pages and 1,681 visitors of October, a month that did not have fewer published pieces than December.

December 2018. Views: 2,866. Visitors: 1,632. Views per visitor: 1.76. Posts published: 31. The readership's dropped from the last few months, but 2018 is still noticeably higher than the previous years.
I could totally have had my computer at the ready to take this screen shot at 00:01 Universal Time on the 1st of January except that I couldn’t think of any reason I would want to. The reason is it looks slick when the “current month” bar is completely empty. Maybe I could have edited that out of the image.

The number of likes drooped again, falling to 137 from the 150 it had been in November. That’s also a drop from the 173 that I’d gotten in October and, basically, every month going back to April of 2018. There were 44 comments here in December, exactly half November’s 88 and the lowest number in a month since August of 2018.

The most popular articles around here are comic strip plot recaps or news. If it can be called news by the time I notice it around here. But it’s such a striking readership tally. If I ever really need a vacation I could probably put the whole blog on hiatus apart from the story strip recaps and would probably not see the place be significantly less busy. The top five articles this past month were:

Only the first of these was actually published in December 2018, but that’s all right. I am probably doing something good by search engines to follow the clear question of “what’s going on in [ story strip ]” with a question about some particular plot element. I’m annoyed when I can’t think of one for some comic.

This coming list is my plan for the story strip recaps for the following month. It’s subject to change in case of major developments, usually regarding a comic strip’s writer or illustrator changing or the strip ending. Also, this coming Monday, Joey Alison Sayers and Jonathan Lemon’s first Alley Oop is scheduled to appear. I don’t figure to jump right into recapping that plot, not until it’s had a while to develop. Also, the Sunday Alley Oop is supposed to be its own separate setting, about “a new preteen version of Alley Oop”. I don’t know if that’s going to be a setting with continuity. If it is, I’ll add recaps of that story to the roster. If it’s just one-off gags, though, I won’t. There’s some thin point to my telling you what the plot was; there’s no point my telling you a joke you can read yourself as quickly. So, barring news, here’s what should appear Sunday evenings, my time, for the next couple weeks:

The most popular long-form essay I wrote, and thing intended to be funny, in December was Every Other Thing There Is To Say About Decorating For Christmas. That was the third of the essays on the same topic that I did in December. I didn’t set out to keep writing about the same topic for the weekly long-form pieces. I just realized each week I had a couple more bits to say. And the hardest part of writing anything is picking a topic. So I wasn’t going to reject a potential essay for some reason as flimsy as “I wrote about it last week”. If it taxed readers’ patience — well, maybe that’s why I had two hundred fewer page views. Hm. But if I take it as a writing experiment, to see what happens if I go back trying to write new essays on the same subject repeatedly, then it’s worthwhile. I do think I ended up with a good comic observation, that decorating can produce many of the same stresses as moving. Maybe next year I’ll try rewriting this all to see if I can’t make a better essay around the thought.

61 countries sent me readers in December. That’s down from 66 in November and 69 in October. Yeah, this all counts that mysterious “European Union” entry as a single country. Here’s the roster:

Country Readers
United States 2,111
India 127
Canada 93
Australia 90
United Kingdom 69
Portugal 36
Germany 28
Philippines 26
Brazil 21
Sweden 20
France 19
Norway 15
Hong Kong SAR China 13
Slovakia 12
Italy 10
Malaysia 10
Finland 9
Indonesia 9
Spain 9
American Samoa 8
Austria 8
Denmark 8
Israel 8
Singapore 8
Japan 7
Hungary 6
Argentina 5
Czech Republic 5
Netherlands 5
New Zealand 5
Romania 5
Mexico 4
Russia 4
Thailand 4
Belgium 3
China 3
Croatia 3
Estonia 3
Peru 3
South Korea 3
Switzerland 3
Ethiopia 2
Ireland 2
Jordan 2
Latvia 2
Macedonia 2
Poland 2
Saudi Arabia 2
South Africa 2
Algeria 1
Bangladesh 1 (***)
Barbados 1
Bolivia 1
Cook Islands 1
El Salvador 1
European Union 1
Kenya 1
Pakistan 1
Puerto Rico 1
Serbia 1
Uruguay 1

This time around there were twelve single-reder countries. There had been 16 in November and 17 in October. Bangladesh has been a single-reader country for four months now. Nowhere else has been.

The Insights page tells me that I ended December with a total of 108,530 page views, from 59,758 unique visitors. Over the course of December I published something like 20,361 words, an average of 657 words per posting. I’m tired thinking of that. For 2018 from January through December I averaged 639 words per post. Also I averaged 5.8 likes per post and 2.6 comments per post. At the end of November I was averaging 2.5 comments per post (up from 2.4 at the end of October). And at the end of November I’d averaged 6.0 likes per post, down from 6.1 at the end of October. This means something; don’t ask me what. The year closed on my 2,160th post, though. And I finished at 233,338 words, so don’t think it’s not just killing me that I couldn’t trim five words from something over the course of the year.

If you would like to follow Another Blog, Meanwhile, regularly, there’s a button on the upper right of the page to add this to your reader. If you prefer an RSS reader, you can add my articles from this link. And I’m also @Nebusj on Twitter. Thanks for reading. I’ll let you know if something happens with Alley Oop that you need a response to.

And Then There’s Another New Popeye Cartoon, Which I Can Maybe Have An Opinion About


I’m still figuring to write up some thoughts about the whole Stan Freberg show given the recent listen. I just haven’t had time. So I’ll go for something that ought to be quicker.

I’d noticed a third of the Popeye’s Island Adventures cartoons come out and, hey, it’s only two minutes. That should be easy enough to think about.

Once again there aren’t any credits I can find. I only know the title — Feeling Blue — because of how it’s captioned on the YouTube page.

Eugene the Jeep has another, even bigger role this short than the past two. So I appreciate their attempting to cater to me. I’m curious if this is coincidence, or if the writers like Eugene’s plot-bearing potential. Or if it’s easier to write a mute character in cartoons that have to be dialogue-free. Could be any of this.

There’s no Olive Oyl this short either. Nor is there really a fight between Popeye and Bluto. I’m glad that these cartoons apparently aren’t obliged to have Olive Oyl or, presumably, anyone but Popeye in every short. It can help storywriting to have a template, but it’s a bad idea to include stuff only because the template demands it.

It’s a bit of a weird story. Eugene plants blue spinach(?) in Popeye’s garden. I like the start, partly because it’s cute to see Eugene being unrealistically impatient for his spinach to grow. Partly because it evokes the Pink Panther and the Naked Guy battling over whether the house will be painted pink or blue, or any of the other two-visions cartoons they did. That might be coincidence. (Surely coincidence is that Eugene and Pink are both, basically, mute characters.)

Then it gets weird: the blue spinach grows giantic, and Popeye has some weird allergic reaction to it and ends up with a blue nose. He eats spinach to cure himself, which mostly makes sense when you consider what spinach has done for him in the past, including bringing him back from disintegration. This time it misfire and makes him balloon up to a gigantic blue Popeye who scares Bluto off and … you know, what the heck am I watching? Because this is kind of weird. Not as weird as that 1960s Popeye where he tries to fix a faucet and accidentally floods the world, but still, kind of weird. Eugene fixes things with a banana peel and some Jeep magic and makes a smoothie. Fair enough solution and punch line and … you know, what the heck am I watching?

I should say, I’m not angry at the cartoon or anything. I’m entertained. It’s likable enough. But something in it feels less true to the things I love in Popeye than, say, the snowball-fight episode did. I’m not going to say they’re doing it wrong, or even wrong for me. Like, if I complain I don’t know the rules of Eugene’s magic here? Why would blue spinach turn Popeye blue? Why would eating regular spinach make Popeye blimp out? … Well, I learn what his magic does by seeing him do things. And what possible mechanism for the blimping out could make sense? I accepted his abilities to forecast the future; why not to conjure a pitcher of water into existence?

But I feel uneasy yet. Maybe it’s over things that the animators work out with experience. Maybe it’s over things I need to come and appreciate for this version of Popeye. I think it’s a misstep to have Popeye be the reactive, almost passive, figure in his cartoon, as much as I like to see Eugene driving the action. Mind, that is a problem with almost every cartoon Popeye has ever shared with an animal, going back to the 30s. And I don’t mean to be an Old about this. These cartoons aren’t the ones I grew up loving, and that’s all right. Those cartoons are still available, and don’t seem to be working for a new audience. Worth trying something with a different tone.

Yes, I caught the cameo of the white sailor’s garb that Popeye got put in because the War was on and the national defense needed Popeye to be less interesting. Cute bit.

So It Turns Out There’s More New Popeye Cartoons


After that first Popeye’s Island Adventures cartoon came out I did check back the week or two after. I didn’t see any follow-up, so supposed it was just on some schedule I didn’t understand. Or that the project had its start and then was drifting. This happens. I remember in the early 2000s when they made a couple of Flash cartoons for Mystery Science Theater 3000 and then stopped just as I was getting comfortable with Tom Servo’s new voice. (I’m a bit curious what became of those, and kind of suspect they’re lost to the ages. I think there were four different cartoons?)

But it looks more likely that I just misunderstood things. There’s at least two new cartoons out and, what the heck. Watching cartoons is a comfortable thing to write about. So here’s Episode 2, A Fistful of Snowballs.

The story is that Popeye and Olive Oyl get into a snowball war with Bluto. I like this more than I did the first one. The story is better-formed. It’s not so linear as the previous one. That seems like it’s going to be important for this series. The characters don’t really speak, so we can’t be charmed by their dialogue any. And it’s much harder to establish a character without speech. We’re forced to fall back on what they do. So the more that they try different approaches the better. There’s still room for bits of personality, even without dialogue or much story, though. One touch I did like was Popeye making a squinty eye for his snowman, for example.

The snowball-fight setup works better for the Young Popeye redesign too. It’s better scaled to kid characters. Not that I couldn’t imagine a great snowball-fight cartoon with the regular versions. But it’s something easy to figure kids getting into.

I’m, of course, an easy touch for Eugene the Jeep so I’m glad to see him be relevant to the plot. And that he gets a bit of mischief in, kicking snow in Popeye’s face. (Which is another bit of personality that can be done without dialogue.) I’m curious what a new viewer makes of Eugene’s vanishing, if they don’t know about the magical abilities of the Jeep. I suppose it’s not going to confuse anyone. Eugene was shown last cartoon floating in the air. And he goes back to floating right after the scene where he vanishes. So being able to disappear fits into that. I tend to think viewers need less stuff explained than creators fear, and that you can usually drop exposition if you need to save time. But does Eugene make sense if you don’t know anything about the character?

Two cartoons in and we get the first joke on opening the can of spinach. That it’s frozen makes sense, though it also makes the spinach look particularly dreadful to taste. And then on the second watch it made me feel cold for Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto, who’re still dressed as if it’s a summertime cartoon. But I always feel a little chilly.

Still don’t see why they aren’t using the Sammy Lerner I’m-Popeye-the-Sailor-Man tune. Not using it does make me believe more strongly that this whole project is about protecting some kind of rights to use Popeye more than anything else. But it might also be something where the budget is just too low to accommodate the real song. We might get a better idea as the project develops.

The Stan Freberg Show: My Recaps, Collected


Here I just want to collect in one place the links to my recaps of The Stan Freberg show. Recordings of the show itself are available, free, at the Internet Archive, where you can download them at your leisure.

And as you may have heard, all these recaps The Stan Freberg Show should be at this link. So if you lose this page, you’ve still got hope. (Having a collected index for stuff like this helps me out, later on, at least. You’d be surprised.)

Episode Original Airdate Important Sketch
One. 14 July 1957 Musical Sheep; Incident at Los Voraces.
Two. 21 July 1957 The Abominable Snowman; Great Moments in History with Barbara Fritchie; Wrong phone number.
Three. 28 July 1957 Miss Jupiter; Robert E Tainter with General Custer’s Scout.
Four. 4 August 1957 Herman Horn explains Hi-Fi; Lox Audio Theater’s Rock Around My Nose.
Five. 11 August 1957 Orville, from the Moon; Herman Horn explains Hi-Fi; Wun’erful, Wun’erful.
Six. 18 August 1957 Elderly Man River; Robert E Tainter and Great Moments in History with Giocante Casabianca; Face The Funnies; the Rock Island Line.
Seven. 25 August 1957 The Lone Analyst; There You Are; The Banana Boat Song (Day-o).
Eight. 1 September 1957 20th Century Freberg’s Uninterrupted Melody (the ice-cream-truck-drivers story); Face The Funnies; St George and the Dragonet.
Nine. 8 September 1957 The Abominable Snowman is Engaged; Robert E Tainter and Washington Crossing the Delaware; The Honeyearthers.
Ten. 15 September 1957 Chinese fortune cookie writing; Herman Horn explains Hi-Fi; Elvis.
Eleven. 22 September 1957 College Football report; Dog agent; Composite TV Western.
Twelve. 29 September 1957 Rocket sled; Faucet repair; Robert E Tainter tries blackmail; Sh’Boom.
Thirteen. 6 October 1957 20th Century Freberg: Grey Flannel Hat Full Of Teenage Werewolves.
Fourteen. 13 October 1957 Miss Jupiter returns Sputnik; World Advertising creates commercials for Freberg; Sam Spilayed Mystery.
Fifteen. 20 October 1957 Favorite sketches from the show; the Abominable Snowman revisits.

The Stan Freberg Show: the fourteenth show, with all the timely jokes


This episode, next to the last in the series’ run, originally aired the 13th of October, 1957. That is, not quite ten days after Sputnik launched, which would give the premise for an unusually timely sketch. It’s also got a reference to the Brooklyn Dodgers moving. There was another reference to the Dodgers moving last week. The move had been officially announced the 8th of October, although baseball had approved the move in April, and the Dodgers had played some “home” games in New Jersey in 1956 and 1957.

And here’s the rundown:

Start Time Sketch
00:00 Open. The show is billed as “brought to you by Stan Freberg”.
00:58 Opening Comments. Stan Freberg promises advertisers frightened by last week’s sketch that there’s almost no werewolves in advertising. He tells Daws Butler he paid $100 to sponsor today’s show.
02:32 Commercial for Stan Freberg. The jingles are surely parodies of specific ads, although I don’t know what for. Little lines like “the all-American dog” and such suggest dog food, car, and drain cleaner. It’s hard not to wonder if Freberg was letting advertisers know, hey, he had some free time and a good comic sensibility ready for advertising by doing so many ads for himself.
03:50 Miss Jupiter returns. She’s back from the third episode. Includes a stray reference to the International Geophysical Year, which ran from July 1957 through December 1958. She’s “returning your basketball”, Sputnik. This has to be among the first comedy sketches recorded about the event. There’s a reference to “red tape at the Pentagon”, which has got to be alluding to the idea that the United States space effort was too bureaucratized to work swiftly. I’ll go on about this below. Miss Jupiter’s computer goes into action, delivering a fortune cookie from her ear that’s surprisingly explicit about the Space Race being a game.
08:53 Peggy Taylor sings “Love is Mine”.
11:38 Freberg goes to World Advertising. Meeting with advertising executives is a big, weird muddle of daft business-creative types and baffling metaphors, which is a standard take but offers nice goofiness. World Advertising claims to represent nations, and showcases an advertisement for America that’s a takeoff on Lucky Strikes tobacco, which is a nicely wicked joke the more you think about it. Another reference to moving the Dodgers. The commercial also ends with “Can It Be The Breeze”, which closed The Jack Benny Show when he was sponsored by Lucky Strikes (reruns of which ran right before Stan Freberg’s show). There’s a reference to Freberg having a hole in his shoe, making him more homely and “a cinch to win”; Freberg asks if he’s heard from Adlai Stevenson. There was a moment in the 1952 campaign when reporters noticed a hole in Stevenson’s shoe, and he riffed “better a hole in the shoe than a hole in the head”. “You’ll wonder where the Freberg went” riffs on a Pepsodent jingle still current when I was a kid in the 70s.
18:00 Sam Spilayed Mystery. Freberg tries to do a radio mystery. It’s nailed the over-expository yet mournful tone of shows like Pat Novak for Hire. Some nonsense about pronouncing “bracelet” wrong along with the over-written metaphors and impossibly complicated exposition and the sound effects either wrong or mis-timed. You can see the Firesign Theatre’s Nick Danger in formation already. And then at 20:45 a commercial interlude for Instant Freberg. At 22:45 he goes into his own commercial, one where he beats up someone who doens’t like the show, and then back into the main plot. There’s multiple references to stuff from earlier this episode. There’s also a reference to “Little Orphan Annie at an Aquacade” which I believe references one of the comic strip discussion panels in past episodes. The femme fatale being named “Yours truly, Jenny Dollar-ninety-eight” is a reference to Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. That mystery show’s gimmick was that Dollar was an insurance investigator and the episodes were framed as his expense reports, itemizing costs and what they were for, so the close of each episode was a summary and signature, “signed, yours truly, Johnny Dollar”. The sketch closes on another commercial for “Stan Freberg, the falling comedian”.
27:32 Closing Remarks. Freberg asks for cards and letters about what to do for the final show.
27:55 Closing Music.

My recaps of all the episodes of The Stan Freberg Show should be at this link.


Okay, so the Space Race thing. Something that baffled many people in the early days of the space race was why the United States didn’t launch a satellite first, the way everyone would have expected. A lot of complaints boiled down to the US didn’t take it seriously. Contemporary thinking in space historians is that President Eisenhower did not think it all that important to launch the first space satellite. His priority was establishing the idea that, while nations might control their own airspace, outer space was a different thing and free to all passing vehicles. Specifically, so that spy satellites could be allowed. But how to establish the precedent that satellites may go about their business? Well, that would be a scientific satellite, launched as part of a major international cooperative effort, by an agency with a long history of research for the public good, on a rocket with no military value. That is, Vanguard, launched as part of the International Geophysical Year, by the Naval Research Laboratory, on a rocket derived from the Viking and Aerobee sounding rockets. His other priority was not spending a crazy amount of money on it, thus, not going any too fast. The Soviets launching a satellite was fine by him; they can’t complain about a satellite launch if they’re doing it too, right? That it set off a American paranoiac panic was probably inevitable but somehow not anticipated.

Yes, I Am Aware Of The New Popeye Cartoon And Have Thoughts About It


So earlier this week Comics Kingdom sent me an e-mail. I assume they sent it to other people too. It just had that tone to it. It said King Features was “excited to announce” the launch of Popeye’s Island Adventures. It’s part of an effort to bring Popeye back into the pop culture. They say it’s with “a fresh update on the original characters and storyline”.

All right, then. I’m game. Stand near me for about twenty minutes and you’ll work out that I’m a Popeye fan. And I’m sad that he hasn’t got much of a place in the public consciousness these days besides weird appearances on T-shirts sold at kiosks on the Jersey Shore. I’m not sure why he hasn’t had much traction since, well, the live-action movie came out. It’s easy to complain that Popeye’s just this dumb violent character, but, c’mon. Other cartoons get away with punching. And dumb is a matter of context. Give a character interesting things to do and they’re interesting. And Popeye has this forthrightness and moral clarity that I still think admirable.

So let’s see what King Features is doing with the character now. Episode one, Follow The Spinach.

It was maybe halfway into the two-minute cartoon that I realized, oh, they’re not just being drawn to look young. This is supposed to be some adventures of a Young Popeye and company. All right. I’m not sure if this is what it takes to appeal to a new generation. But, I also like variants on established character sets and I don’t think there’s been a “young Popeye” series before. At least not an important one. I’ll give that a try.

I’m glad to see Eugene the Jeep. Eugene’s the top of the many weird, interesting creatures in the Popeye universe. (Cartoons and comic strips.) Only sad point is he doesn’t really have anything to do with the story; he tickles Bluto’s feet and that’s all?

The short feels oddly paced to me. The story’s thin, but a two minute cartoon doesn’t have time for a deep plot. Still, it has Popeye eating his spinach at the halfway point in the cartoon. I’m more comfortable with it as the climax. You know, after Popeye’s had all he can stands and can’t stands no more. However, he’s also got to have time to do things, so maybe this couldn’t be pushed any later in the short. It puts more work on the introductory minute, though.

More time would help, surely. But that would surely be more expensive, and I can’t imagine there’s a huge budget for making Popeye cartoons in 2018. It shows in a couple ways. The voices, particularly. Reducing all the characters to little grunting noises avoids the problem of dubbing for different language-speakers. (This is proven by the variety of languages already in the YouTube comments. Also from this I learn I can tell when someone is whining about “political correctness” in Spanish.) But it requires either simpler plots or demands more elaborate expository artwork. I mean, try to explain the Jeep’s powers using only pictograms. Plus a lot of what’s fun about Popeye is listening to him talk. I’m not sure how long I would enjoy listening to Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto grunting at each other.

It’s got a fair bit of the stuff I like Popeye cartoons for. Particularly the feats of ridiculous exaggeration, as when the spinach-charged Popeye spins his ears into helicopter propellers. Or Popeye, skateboarding across the sand, picking up a train of bicycle, washing machine, walrus, and donkey.

The animation looks, to me, like a Flash game. That is, it looks cheap, to me. But if it weren’t cheap the short wouldn’t exist at all, so, fine. I thought the scene cuts were too quick, spoiling the comic effect of some shots. Why have Popeye haul a bicycle, washing machine, walrus, and donkey through the sand if there’s barely the time to see it? Also, in what seems like the exact opposite gripe, that the camera panned too slowly when a character moved quickly, such as when Popeye leaps into the tree at about 0:23. But, for example, I didn’t get why the spinach on Bluto’s fishing rod kept moving when Bluto set the reel down. That the reel was still spinning I didn’t catch until a repeat view. This is all probably stuff the animators (not credited in the video, by the way, nor on the YouTube page caption) will get the hang of with experience.

I’m not sure what I think of the character designs, or the choice to make this Young Popeye. It does give a pretext to quietly drop Popeye’s pipe. If that’s the compromise that gets us Popeye cartoons without protest from well-meaning people, all right. His blowing a bosun’s whistle is a decent replacement. That, based on the YouTube comments, this infuriates the sort of person who complains about SJW’s makes the substitution a double bonus. And Eugene’s cute. I hope he gets to be in a cartoon soon.

So, I’m glad to see King Features trying to make new Popeye cartoons. I’ll here for new ones.

The Stan Freberg Show: the thirteenth show, the one with all the werewolves


You maybe noticed these recordings of The Stan Freberg Show haven’t had any advertisements, nor spots where the action comes to a halt for a sponsor’s plug. This is not because they were edited out, nor because these recordings come from recordings made for the Armed Forces Radio Service. (Armed Forces Radio at the time had a prohibition on advertisement. Shows transcribed for rebroadcast on this would often fill out the time with music.) The show ran as a “sustaining” program, without a sponsor.

That’s a slightly odd status, today. The only shows run on United States radio without a sponsor are some public-service, breaking-news, or educational programs (and the occasional publicity stunt). It was not unheard-of in the days of old-time-radio. Mostly this would be for programs meant to experiment with the state of the art, such as the CBS Radio Workshop; or to serve educational and cultural support roles, such as the NBC University Theater. But it would also be for shows that filled a dull time slot. Or that were good but hadn’t yet matched up with a reliable sponsor. Vic and Sade, for example, ran its first two years without more than temporary sponsorship. Stan Freberg claimed that a tobacco company had offered to sponsor the show and he turned them down, which if true speaks well for his principles. Running the series for three months, as they did, suggests CBS figured they had a good show that might match up with a sponsor. Here, from the 6th of October, 1957, is the moment when Freberg maybe realized they wouldn’t match one, and he decided to just make fun of the people he also needed.

And here’s the rundown:

Start Time Sketch
00:00 Open. No pre-show sketch once again.
00:52 Opening comments. Freberg just promises something for everyone and there’s not clearly a bit going on.
01:20 Billy May playing Cocktails for Two. Just the prologue; “everyone knows the chorus of this turkey”.
03:08 Questions from the Audience. On the topic of the circus. One wants gifts and is fine with the circus as is. One thinks Freberg might be Steve Allen. The topic gets dropped and the rest of the sketch forgotten.
05:23 Peggy Taylor asks if the Dodgers are really bums; a bum wanders around and has nowhere to go. Then sings “And The Angels Sing”.
08:16 20th Century Freberg films: Grey Flannel Hat Full Of Teenage Werewolves. Goofy little fusion of I Was A Teenage Werewolf with How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. Freberg has a great squawky teenage voice. And it has the great lines “This is America, where any kid can grow up to be Dracula!” and “My head filled with senseless metaphor!”. Werewolves by night and advertising executives by day is a solidly goofy idea. The agency name of “Batton, Barton, Rubicum, and Thompson” is a riff on Batten, Barton, Durstine, and Osborn, a corporate name I think Fred Allen once said sounded like a trunk falling down stairs. (Wikipedia can find where Mary Livingstone said this on a November 1948 Jack Benny Show, and that it’s not known if Fred Allen ever did.) They’re still around, as BBDO. I don’t know if this sketch came from a fusion of trying to riff teen-horror and young-exec movies. Having werewolves to fall back on really helps when the advertising part gets dull. The advertisement for “Food!” at about 18:45 is (of course) a precise parody of a then-current radio advertisement, for Quaker Mills Oh! cereal (which opened on a reverb-heavy “Oh! Oh! OH!”. And the mock-movie is a goofy story about love triumphing, really.
26:40 Closing Comments. Freberg answers the people who sent “many card and letter, to say nothing of countless phone call” congratulating them on a sketch from the fifth show, making fun of The Lawrence Welk Show. He announces and advertises that the sketch, is out as a comedy record, “Wun’erful, Wun’erful”. Also this means I was wrong to say that the sketch was an adaptation of this record; it’s the other way around. Also Freberg announces that the show is ending in two weeks. So he asks what people would like them to do for the final show. I take it to mean to nominate favorite sketches, but he doesn’t actually quite promise that.
27:55 Closing Music.

My recaps of all the episodes of The Stan Freberg Show should be at this link.

Gasoline Alley Is 100 Years Old As Of Saturday


Gasoline Alley, as of Saturday, is a century old. If I haven’t overlooked something, it’s the second (American) syndicated newspaper comic strip to reach that age without lapsing into eternal reruns. (The Katzenjammer Kids was first; it started running in 1897, and was still producing new strips once a week until 2006, and we noticed that in 2015.) And I’d like to add my congratulations to it, and to Jim Scancarelli for being the cartoonist there at the milestone. He’s only got to keep at it through 2027 to beat Frank King’s tenure on the strip. (As credited artist and writer, anyway. Scancarelli was assistant to Dick Moores, responsible for the comic from 1956 to 1986.)

There are some more comic strips that, barring surprise, will join the centennial family soon. The next one, if it counts as a comic strip, will be Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Robert Ripley’s panel first appeared the 19th of December, 1918, as a sports-feats panel. It mutated by October 1919 into the general oddball-stuff report that it still is.

Barney Google: 'Snuffy's right, Mutt! We're almost a 100! Shouldn't we get a little limelight?' Snuffy Smith: 'You could throw us a bodacious wing-ding with lots o' fiddlin' an' banjer picking'!' Mutt: 'Uh ... ' Google: 'That's what we thought you'd say!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 20th of November, 2018. I, ah, can’t include the actual centennial strip because I won’t see that until at least five hours after this essay posts, so, sorry? Anyway, this is a continuing part of the Gasoline Alley celebration at the Old Comics Home. Barney Google and Snuffy Smith have interrupted the action to demand some attention for themselves and yes, it’s gotten to a pie fight.

The next — and it’s been mentioned this week in Gasoline Alley — should be Barney Google and Snuffy Smith. That comic started the 17th of June, 1919. I don’t know whether Barney Google is planning any centennial events, but they’re missing a chance if they aren’t. Thimble Theatre, known to mortals as Popeye, began the 19th of December, 1919. The strip has only been in production on Sundays since the early 1990s, though. And Popeye took nine years to show up in it.

But to Gasoline Alley … I admit not having childhood memories of the strip. It probably ran in the New York Daily News, so I’d see it occasionally at my grandparents’ house. But I don’t remember the experience. I’ve come to it late in life, when part of my day is just reading lots and lots of comic strips, including the story strips. I’ve also heard the occasional episode of its adaptations to radio. Not enough to understand the series as a radio show. But enough to be driven crazy trying to think where I know that voice from.

It won’t surprise anyone that I like the comic strip. I like comic strips to start with. And Gasoline Alley has this nice, cozy tone. It’s got an old-fashioned style of humor that feels nostalgic to me even when it’s new. That Scancarelli shares the love I have for old-time radio adds a layer of fun as, hey, I recognize he’s tossed in a character from The Mel Blanc Show.

And then I always have a weird reaction to things. I recently read the Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics, a 1977 compilation that tried to give some idea of the breadth and scope of American newspaper comics. The editors felt it impossible to show Gasoline Alley fairly by samples of the daily strips, as the stories needed too much context for any reasonable number of dailies to make sense. But it included some Sundays, which — under original artist Frank King, as with today — would be stand-alone panels. And one of them was just … this full-broadsheet-page, twelve-panel piece. The whole page, together, was an aerial view of the neighborhood of Gasoline Alley: houses, streets, parks, businesses. Each panel was just a tiny bit of stuff going on at that spot at this time on this day. And it was beautiful. The composition was magnificent. Each panel made sense, and each panel was magnificently drafted. Houses with well-defined, straight rooflines, streets that lead places, fences that have structure. And each panel fed logically to the next, so the page was as good as a map. And somehow I was angry, that a comic strip could be this beautiful.

It’s not as though we don’t have beautiful comics now. There are magnificently drafted comic strips, Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley quietly among them. The compositional conceit of a strip that’s a vast area seen at one time is hardly gone. Even the specific variant of the vast area being rendered in panels is rare but still done; indeed, I think Frazz has even done it recently in daily panels. No newspaper comic has the space that Frank King had, a century ago, true. I can’t even show you the comic; it’s too large, at the reduced size for book publication, for me to scan, and taking a photograph of the page would leave the thing illegible. And no web comic could achieve that effect of space, except for those people with the six-foot-wide computer monitors. But to be angry to see a beautifully done comic strip? That’s a strange reaction. To have that dominate my thinking as the comic reaches its centennial? That’s even stranger.

Well, may everyone who creates at least once do something that makes someone angry that it was that good.


And when I do recap the developments in Gasoline Alley I’ll put the reports on a page at this link. Thanks as ever for reading.

The Stan Freberg Show: the eleventh show, after a fence has been cut


The big flu of 1957 was an outbreak of Influenza A subtype H2N2, a pandemic less severe than that of 1918 (but what wasn’t?). It wsa popularly referred to as the Asian Flu. I know it mostly from a Peanuts strip in 1958 where Charlie Brown suspects he’s coming down with it, and Lucy mocks him for getting the flu six months late. Smiley Burnette was one of those prolific singer-songwriters who’d get to play the sidekick to your Roy Rogers-class performer. So that’s some things you would be expected to know for this episode, which first aired the 22nd of September, 1957.

And here’s the rundown:

Start Time Sketch
00:00 Opening Music. Once again no cold opening.
00:50 Opening Comments. Stan Freberg is getting over the “Swiss Flu”, so as not to offend anyone.
01:15 College Football Report. Report from the BearcatPantherTigers. Stan Freberg is doing a pretty sharp impersonation of Colgate Sports Newsreel reporter Bill Stern. The setup is easy, a long buildup to a question to which the athlete gives one- and two-word answers.
04:08 Peggy Taylor gives Stan Freberg the pretext to sing Hoagy Carmichael’s “Monkey Song”. They can’t all be “Stardust”.
07:22 How an Agent Operates. Foster Pelt, agent to 64 dogs. He gets them character parts a lot: derelicts, good-natured slobs, friend of the leading child. There’s a constrained structure here, where Pelt negates any joke that Freberg might advance. That’s okay as long as it’s building to something, like the dog that plays jazz trombone. But it does also have a tone like Pelt is trying to negate the sketch.
13:35 Question from the Audience. A guy doesn’t believe in the show so far.
13:55 Peggy Taylor singing “Famous Last Words”.
17:00 Composite Preview of TV Westerns for the Fall. “Bang Gunly, US Marshall Fields” which (as usual) catches the sounds and tones and pacing of its primary source precisely. The actual radio Gunsmoke wasn’t quite so leisurely, but did run that way. It didn’t spend quite this much time establishing plot points either, but it could feel like that. The in-show sketch for “Puffed Grass” riffs on ads for Quaker Puffed Wheat (“the breakfast cereal shot from guns”) commercials. The relentless establishment of the fact the fence was cut evokes the throwaway joke at the start of St George and the Dragonet, about that 45 automatic being checked by the lab and learning that, yes, it was a gun. The close, a quick exchange with Pedro, riffs on the comic sidekick Pancho of the Cisco Kid. He’d close each episode with a corny gag. Gunsmoke was a grown-up western; Cisco Kid a kids’ one. So it is a tonal non sequitur that he should show up here.
28:12 Closing Remarks. Freberg encourages people to write for tickets and asks for something for cold, even if it’s just Dr Christian. Dr Christian was a long-running doctor’s-office-based light drama, the small-town doctor helping quarreling lovers reconcile and wayward youths straighten out, that sort of thing.
28:38 Closing Music.

My recaps of all the episodes of The Stan Freberg Show should be at this link.

The Stan Freberg Show: the tenth show, as things fall apart


This episode of The Stan Freberg Show first aired the 15th of September, 1957. I didn’t notice any references so timely that they needed explanation. It does include a bit of a now quite funny genre of jokes made in the late 50s, riffing on the absurd and surely ephemeral fame of Elvis Presley. It would mutate in the 60s to jokes about those Beatles musicians.

Here’s what happens:

Start Time Sketch
00:00 Open. No pre-show bit this time.
00:52 Introduction. People share their pet gripes about highways. Freberg introduces Henry Cloverleaf, “inventor of the American freeway system”. They clobber him.
02:30 The Freberg Built-It-Yourself Knock-Down Grand Piano. Stan Freberg and June Foray riffing on do-it-yourself projects. I think there’s a seal noise as Freberg empties out the box of parts. Not to be that guy, but if Freberg’s cutting out 88 ivory keys, he only needs to make 87 cuts. The piano’s collapse is one of the natural resolutions of the premise.
07:17 Peggy Taylor singing “Send for Me”. Introduced with some backwards-recorded sound to suggest the collapsed piano coming back together. Also a good reason to have the piano fall apart as the end of the previous sketch.
10:05 Albert T Wong. Talk with a “literary giant”. He writes Chinese fortune cookies. It’s a bit neat to see what read as plausible fortune cookie messages that long ago. Also that the joke about ‘help me, I am being held captive in a Chinese fortune cookie factory’ is at least that old. I was nervous at the start of this sketch, since “Chinese person” and “1950s comedy” are rarely combinations that age well. I think it’s held up, since the sketch’s focus is on giving writing advice as though fortune cookies were the same sort of competitive paying market that, say, magazines or radio programs were. Really the stories about how to be a fortune cookie writer are played so straight the only real joke is the premise, that fortune cookies could be a professional market for writers.
15:38 The Jud Conlan Rhythmaires singing “Just One Of Those Things”. With an introduction of each performer. This I think is the first time they’ve had a second song that wasn’t part of a comic bit.
18:22 Dr Herman Horn returns. (He’d been in the fifth show and in the fourth show.) A third hi-fi presentation. He remains an example of that sort of annoying nerd who can’t concede decent people might not share his particular obsession. And then he gets into riotously soft sounds. And he talks about the sounds of a cheap $5,000 hi-fi system, which is a nice bit of hyperbole. The collapse of the hi-fi system at the end echoes the destruction of the build-it-yourself piano and promises the end of Dr Herman Horn. I haven’t checked to see if that does happen.
26:30 “Sh’Boom”, promised last week, is put off, owing to alleged requests not to do rock-and-roll. So instead here’s a bit of “Heartbreak Hotel”. This was also a Freberg comedy album, although truncated here. The jokes in it are on the same premise as Sh’Boom, about making the song unintelligible so it’s salable. In the full “Heartbreak Hotel” Freberg, as Elvis Presley, tears his jeans; this is a reason in the radio version he says he can’t continue.
28:00 Closing. Freberg answers questions about Elvis Presley.
28:40 Closing Music.

My recaps of all the episodes of The Stan Freberg Show should be at this link.

The Stan Freberg Show: The ninth episode, revisiting the Abominable Snowman


Confidential was a celebrity-expose magazine notorious in the 1950s. It got sued in 1957 in a trial that was enormous and long and filled with twists and turns. The trial was barely under way when this episode aired, the 8th of September, 1957. Drew Pearson wrote the longrunning syndicated Washington Merry-Go-Round column, which wasn’t just about publishing leaked documents, but it might have felt like that. Jack Anderson took over the column after Pearson died.

This is, I think, the first episode not to include an adaptation of some earlier Freberg comedy album. The second, if you count how the debut only used a few quick segments of various albums to set up Freberg’s credentials.

And here’s the rundown:

Start Time Sketch
00:00 Open. No introductory segment again.
00:53 Introductory Comments. Freberg asks if you know what this sound, the same one used several weeks in a row, is. It’s “a condensed version of the Confidential magazine trial.” Then there’s an introduction of a size-26 orange sneaker. Speaks of it as being like “being given half a garbage scow”. So he’s off to the Himalayas.
01:55 Abominable Snowman Revisited. He was last seen on the second episode. He hopes to be called Francis Abominoyamaya Snowman. He only has the one business card. Talks about the Halloween party, bobbing for mountain climbers, pinning the tail on the timberwolves. Music played on frozen snakes. The Snowman shares news of his engagement to Gladys, from Bangalore. She thinks Stan Freberg is cute and wants to keep him as pet. Freberg uses his putative friendship with Pat Boone to get safe.
09:02 Robert E Tainter. He’s back after two weeks away. He’s happy to talk about his past, except for 1943. He was in Germany, “getting my kicks for the Gestapo”. But he’s found something secret and confidential-not-the-magazine about the Revolutionary War, not even leaked to Drew Pearson. Dated January 1780 in New Jersey. Freberg worries about something alarming regarding Washington’s crossing of the Delaware; Tainter says Washington is “clean as the bomb”.
11:28 Washington Crossing the Delaware. Washington’s worried about his men in their cold and silly three-cornered hats. Lieutenant Wright can’t give his report well. “What’s a spicer?” “What’s a passer?” “What’s a ramser?” It’s not a spy; it’s Daws Butler as “Heinrich Flugelman”, getting ready to paint the historical moment. Flugelman insists he’s Swiss, “that way we won’t offend anyone”. Lieutenant Wright orders the ice cleaned up before the painting can be done. Flugelman paints the scene before Washington gets in the boat. It’s a long way to a silly turn of phrase and I was so busy trying to think why a private was named “Crossington” that I didn’t get to the punch line before the sketch did. This is the first Robert E Tainter-based bit that doesn’t lead up to how a historical figure demands to be paid for doing their heroic actions.
19:02 Peggy Taylor. They sing a duet about going to sleep. I can’t find the title; “I Can’t Sleep” or “The Go-To-Sleep Blues” seem like good plausible names for it.
22:10 The Honeyearthers. Framed as television from the Moon. Blend of jokes about the TV series and alien/science-y jokes. It really sounds like one of those Warner Brothers cartoons where they’re mice, I don’t think just because the actors are the same. Anyway, it’s a scene of Ralph and Alice at home, Ralph feeling Alice is upset, Ralph talking with Norton, and then Ralph and Alice watch an organ-grinder with a human dancing around.
27:54 Closing comments. Tap Dancing Around The World is still being organized. Freberg promises next time will include “Sh’Boom”, one of the records he’d released before. Freberg invites people to write for tickets. Better hurry; there’s only six episodes left.
28:22 Closing Music.

My recaps of all the episodes of The Stan Freberg Show should be at this link.

Statistics October: How Good It Is For Me When Longrunning Comic Strips End


Given the choice, I’d rather comic strips not end. Oh, there are strips I don’t like, even ones I won’t read. But for the most part, I like comics. I like them carrying on. I love it when a new creator comes in and revives a moribund property. But even something that’s just marking time is this comfortable, familiar friend for whom nothing exciting is happening, but nothing bad is happening either. And that’s consoling, especially in the face of a terrifying world.

So I expected the ending of Hazel and then Henry to bring readers here, since who else writes anything about either? Besides actual comic strip news sites. Still, people did come. Partly from the comic strip news. Partly spillover from my mathematics blog, which hosted the Playful Mathematics Education Blog Carnival at the end of September. Give that a try, please. You might find something delightful there. Here’s how the figures worked out, precisely:

3,070 views; 1,681 visitors. 1.83 views per visitor. 31 posts published. 99 page views, on average, per day.
Yes, I am thrilled to be back above three thousand page views for the first time in four months.

WordPress tells me of 3,070 page views in October. That’s way up from September’s 2,644 and August’s 2,848. These views came from 1,681 unique visitors, again way up from September’s 1,436 but basically level with August’s 1,619. Still, there were 173 likes submitted around here in October. That’s basically the same as September’s 174, August’s 180, and really every month going back to April. It’s been in a 165-to-180 range all this time now. I don’t know. The number of comments jumped, up to 67, the highest figure since March. September had 50 comments and August 39. I’m trying to be comfortable with people talking to me.

Comic strip talk made up the bulk of my readership. Part of this is comic strip endings or major changes. Part of this is story strips getting really confusing. Here’s the top five posts for October:

Yes, none of them actually published in October. My most popular thing actually published in October was In Which I Am Distracted By Ziggy For Crying Out Loud, a cry of despair provoked by paying too much attention to the art one strip. I had a lot of well-liked short pieces, by the way, possibly because I got into this good groove of having an amusing trifle and being able to put it down in 150 words. My most popular long-form piece was, like, the 814th most popular thing around here last month. That was Regarding The Time When I Had Too Much Desiccant, showing that what really amuses people is me somehow having problems with petty stuff.

Here by the way is my schedule for upcoming What’s Going On In The Story Strip posts. Subject to change if some fast-breaking news breakfasts:

I also have another seven weeks of recaps of The Stan Freberg Show to run. Don’t think I’m not already panicked about what to write about after that.

Now for the running of the countries. There were 69 countries, if you count the European Union as one and Trinidad & Tobago as one other. And Bosnia & Herzegovina as another one. In August and September there were 60 such countries. In August and September there were 16 single-reader countries. In October? 17. So I’m clearly in a growth spiral here. Here’s the roster:

Country Readers
United States 2,329
Australia 140
Canada 96
United Kingdom 54
Spain 53
India 47
Italy 31
Philippines 26
Germany 24
Japan 19
Brazil 18
Mexico 17
Hong Kong SAR China 16
Netherlands 13
Romania 13
France 12
Saudi Arabia 11
Sweden 10
Belgium 9
Finland 9
Denmark 7
Sri Lanka 7
Colombia 6
Pakistan 6
South Africa 6
Ireland 4
New Zealand 4
Norway 4
Peru 4
Singapore 4
Taiwan 4
China 3
Czech Republic 3
Latvia 3
Malaysia 3
Slovenia 3
Thailand 3
Zimbabwe 3
Chile 2
Ecuador 2
European Union 2
Greece 2
Indonesia 2
Nigeria 2
Poland 2
Russia 2
Serbia 2
Slovakia 2
South Korea 2
Turkey 2
Ukraine 2
Vietnam 2
Argentina 1
Austria 1
Bahrain 1
Bangladesh 1 (*)
Bosnia & Herzegovina 1
Croatia 1
Curaçao 1
Cyprus 1
El Salvador 1
Estonia 1
Kazakhstan 1
Luxembourg 1
Madagascar 1
Maldives 1
St Lucia 1
Suriname 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1

Bangladesh was a single-reader country in September. No other countries were, though, and no country’s sent me a single reader each month for three months running now.

According to Insights, by the end of October I had published 195,599 total words in 304 posts for the year. This is 643 words per post total, on average. I had been averaging 641 words per post at the start of October. There were 18,418 words published around here in October, over 31 posts. That’s up a little bit from September’s total, although really only because there were only 30 September posts. Huh. Anyway, I’ve had 742 total comments for the year, as of the start of November. 2.4 comments per post this year up from 2.3 at the start of October. 6.1 likes, on average, per post, the same number as at the start of October. 1,844 total likes so far this year, by the way, if you wondered.

November opened with the blog having had a total of 102,048 page views, from 56,394 unique visitors. And yes, I reached my 100,000th page view this past month, and celebrated it with a special Statistics Saturday post.

If you’d like to follow Another Blog, Meanwhile, please do. You can add it to your WordPress reader. You can add it by RSS reader, using whatever tool you like to read my content, and maybe even get the versions with the dumb typoes and grammatical errors not corrected out. And if you’d like to see me on social media, that’s your business. But I’m @Nebusj on Twitter, so that’s an option. Choose wisely.

The Stan Freberg Show: The Eighth Episode


This is the median of The Stan Freberg Show: it only ran fifteen weeks. Yes, I’m trying to think what I’ll do when I’m through these recaps. This episode originally aired the 1st of September, 1957.

And here’s the rundown:

Start Time Sketch
00:00 Opening Music. No pre-credits bit and no sound effects show.
00:50 Return of the Zazzalov Family. They’re the acrobats performing on radio as in the third episode. Freberg emphasizes the “We told you they’re Swiss so we don’t offend anyone” joke. There’s a “Wun’erful, Wun’erful” callback.
02:00 Interlude. Daws Butler wonders what they’re doing. Stan Freberg things about the Good Humor Man. If you’d wondered what exactly Daws Butler sounds like when he’s not doing a bit … I’m not actually promising this is what he sounded like. There’s no reason this wasn’t a stage voice too.
02:40 20th Century Freberg Presents: Uninterrupted Melody. Spoof movie about ice-cream truck drivers. It’s told in the format of a This Is The FBI-style drama. One of the supervisors heard of a truck playing ‘Hound Dog’. There’s a reference to a Costellanas(?) arrangement of The Three Little Kittens. I assume this is a joke but must let someone who understands what music is explain it. There’s talk among the men about transferring between songs. The story thread, such as it is, veers into war movies as well as these 1950s movies about grumpy executives at companies that think they’re awfully important. Awful company song. I like the promise of “Keep up the good work and one day soon, I’ll have your chimes tuned.” The situation turns to mutiny and the Good Humor executive gets dipped, not in a Who Framed Roger Rabbit way.
12:20 Peggy Taylor. Sings “Around the World in 80 Days”.
15:05 Face the Funnies. Follow-up from two weeks ago. They’re not bringing up Orphan Annie’s clothing situation or other stuff from before. The panelists get to picking up the old fights. Fresh questions: in Dick Tracy, does or does not Junior wear a fright wig? Who’d win in a ray gun fight, Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers? Pulls back to Dick Tracy, Orphan Annie, and Tarzan. I think this time I caught everyone’s name: G L Spoon (who closes the sketch with a ridiculous Crimestopper tip), Dr Linus Quoit (closing with an Annie quote), and Edna St Louis Missouri (with the Tarzan yell).
22:30 Interlude. Freberg says, “We have received so many card and letter … as well as phone call … ” to do this next sketch…
23:05 St George and the Dragonet. Adaptation of Stan Freberg’s first comedy record. It is arguably the spoof of Dragnet. Freberg reportedly got the actual audio cues from the original radio show for the spoof. The cliche of Jack Webb demanding “just the facts, ma’am” traces more to this spoof than to the actual show. Although, yeah, Freberg says he wants “just the facts, sir” to the knave. Nobody ever gets quotes right. It also features an exchange that always amuses me even though it has no logical place in the sketch: “Say, did you take that 45 automatic into the lab to have them check on it it?” “Yeah. You were right.” “I was right?” “Yeah. It was a gun.” Although the dragon laughing at St George, “You slay me,” and George answering, “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about” is good stuff.
27:45 Closing Remarks. Stan Freberg “fumbles” his farewells.
28:00 Closing Music.

My recaps of all the episodes of The Stan Freberg Show should be at this link.

The Speechless Ending


I’m not sure what I expected, really. After the final run of a Henry comic, that is. I guess I expected some kind of reaction from the crowd. At least a sigh. Maybe writing out some message on the fence. But no, nothing like that. I just looked out the window and there was a lot of gone. All there was to remember them by was leaves fallen off the trees and a bunch of mysterious colored flags planted in the ground. I’m like 75% sure none of them are to blame for the leaves, either.

But for the record, here’s the comic that Henry finished its run with. It’s a competent enough strip and I can’t find when its previous rerun had been.

Henry rides his cart down a hill. He walks up it, beside his dog, again. Henry pick up his dog to ride down the cart again. They fall over and crash. The dog hides, and Henry goes whistling after, trying to find him.
Don Trachte’s Henry rerun for the 28th of October, the final Henry rerun. And I can’t pin down when its previous rerun might have been; the just-shy-of-one-year rerun cycle broke down in the final weeks!

And in what I’m assuming is not exactly a coincidence, Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead guest-starred Henry. I don’t know, but I would imagine that Griffith liked the strip. It was always kind of weird. The constraint of the protagonist only pantomiming helped that. The commitment to keep the strip’s contents true to whatever its early-20th-century Americana Idyll too. It’s the rare comic strip that completely divorcees itself from contemporary culture, too. I mean, even Peanuts, not usually thought of as a topic strip, name-dropped Spuds Mackenzie, alluded to the Vietnam War, sent the kids to a weird millenarianist sleepover camp run by a for-profit preacher, and had Lucy offer her e-mail. (In different years.) But a comic strip like Henry that’s just entirely its own thing? I can see Griffith respecting that.

Henry: 'I conceive of a Henry than which no greater can be conceived. If a Henry than which no greater can be conceived does not exist, then I can conceive of a Henry greater than a Henry which no greater than can be conceived, namely, a Henry than which no greater can be conceived *that exists*. I *cannot* conceive of a Henry greater than a Henry than which greater can be conceived --- hence, a Henry than which no greater can be conceived *exists*! Ha, ha!'
Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead for the 28th of October, 2018. And the reason I don’t think this is just coincidence is because I expect Griffith to use Baby Huey for this sort of scene.

So I have not the faintest idea why Griffith had Henry present an ontological argument. I trust that he finds it all amusing and weird, and that’s always a fun energy.

Nothing yet from Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley. Which is weird, but the comic for the 28th was Halloween-themed so it’s not like that could be coherently bumped to another weekend.

Close up shot, from near the ground, of the yard covered in leaves, with a couple of flags marking where underground utility lines and such are.
What’s left after all the Henry fans leave. I mean, I understand the tiny red flag. That just makes good sense. But the blue one? And why three yellow flags? Are these complicated parking directions?

The Stan Freberg Show: the sixth show, with comic strips


There’s three musical pieces this week’s show. Many of Freberg’s comedic records before the show began were musical riffs. It’s natural the show would use that tradition. This episode first aired the 18th of August, 1957.

And here’s the rundown.

Start Time Sketch
00:00 Cold Open. Another audio joke; we’re told was the theme song from I Was A Teenage Werewolf. It sounded like last week, when they just played the whole show backwards at high speed.
00:30 Opening theme.
01:20 Introduction. The tap-dancing-around-the-world bit promised last week was postponed. And there’s a guest, a Mr Tweedly from the Citizens Radio Committee. He’s there to buzz anything objectionable that’s et onto the air.
03:30 Elderly Man River. I had thought this adapted a comedy record. It looks like it’s the other way around, and this sketch was released as a single. The premise is put out early: Tweedly is there to stop anything offensive or inappropriate for broadcast. Every comedian worth something has stories about fighting the network or the sponsor’s censors. Wanting to take the edge off “old” or insisting on careful enunciation of words like “nothing” feels like a fight Freberg (or his writers) actually went through. Similarly having to substitute “sweat”.
06:40 Robert E Tainter. He got out of jail (mentioned last week) just this morning. He got the celebrity-scandal-sheets to help him out. It’s interesting to me that the celebrity-scandal-sheets of 1957 are completely different from the ones of thirty years later. But the ones of 1987, like the National Enquirer, are still with us thirty years after that. Not sure what happened there.
08:40 Great Moments In History. As with the last two times, the figure renowned in poem insists on being paid before doing the heroic thing. This time the character is Giocante Casabianca, from a poem celebrating an incident during the Battle of the Nile (1798) that was just leaving the canon of things anybody might have heard of.
09:50 Peggy Taylor. A bit of talk about pets, including Freberg suggesting that while Taylor kept rabbits, “the rabbits raised themselves”. I’ve used the same line about the guinea pigs I had as a kid and I don’t know whether I adopted it from Freberg. Tweedly reappears around all this talk that might imply sex. Taylor sings “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody,” a song from 1918 so that “Old Man River” is not the oldest song in the show. (Judy Garland and Jerry Lewis had published versions of it in 1955 and 1956, so the song was at least in the air.)
13:20 Face The Funnies. Panel discussion about the comics page. The name of the host — “Fullbrook Mason” — puts me in mind of Mason Gross, one of those 1950s intellectuals who could stay respectable despite being a judge for quiz shows and other disreputable bits of pop culture. It’s a laugh line that someone might have studied Tarzan’s influence on 20th-century culture. It’s interesting to me all the strips discussed are adventure-continuity strips; nobody wants to talk about humor strips. The jokes are kind of what you’d get from any good slightly-snarky nerd discussion about the funnies, like whether Orphan Annie owns a second dress. Speculations about whether a given Dick Tracy character was guilty or not was, if not something people actually did, at least something characters in radio comedies did.
22:10 The Rock Island Line. And this one is an adaptation of an already-existing comedy album. That one (and the sketch) reused Freberg’s premise of the singer trying to get through a song and being nagged into distraction by a skeptical eavesdropper.
27:20 Closing remarks. Freberg can’t describe what next week’s show will be.
28:00 Closing theme.

See this and other recaps of The Stan Freberg Show at this link.

The Stan Freberg Show: The Fifth Show, with aliens and pianists


This episode of The Stan Freberg Show debuted on the 11th of August, 1957. So, in the late 50s, scripted fiction radio like this was dying, if not dead. Not, old-time-radio enthusiasts insist, because the medium was necessarily losing popularity. The big radio networks were also trying to be the big TV networks, and saw more money in bringing audiences to TV. So when this show gets into jokes about television being a dirty word around CBS Radio headquarters, that’s the light conspiracy getting joked about.

And here’s the rundown:

Start Time Sketch
00:00 Cold Open. Audio joke; they play the “whole half hour backwards and at high speed”. And now play it forward at regular speed.
00:30 Opening theme.
01:15 Opening comments. Freberg talks about hoping to avoid radio clichés, but turns this into talk about how the show hasn’t got a sponsor, as mentioned last week.
02:00 Orville arrives from the Moon. This starts as a news repot from “LeRoy Phipps” about a flying saucer reported near the funny-named town of Yreka, California. Sketch introduces the odd running joke of an “unusually musical hover-squash”. Phipps storms off, but — after the audience laughs at something it can see (about 05:30), Orville appears. He’s the brother of Miss Jupiter, the alien with the shapely wheels from the third episode. This brings in singer Peggy Taylor, and reveals that there’s smog on the moon. The lunar smog’s blamed on the flying saucers, but there’s people who suspect industry. Orville — after saying how he’d “like to see that [ typewriter ] in a bikini” — sings as “the voice of cheese”. His song is what I’m guessing is a variant of a song titled “Hello, out there Hello”. In a common joke about bandleaders being weird, not-quite-human figures, Orville says bandleader Billy May “sure looks like [ his friend ] Og-Og”.
10:25 Dr Herman Horn returns. as he did last week, he explains hi-fi and puts on a demonstration of weird sound effects. Horn’s nerd-rage complaints about his wife veer uncomfortably close for me to Kabibble Kabaret misogyny. But the writing does seem to be from the viewpoint that Horn’s the unreasonable one here. Anyway, Horn provides some lovely ridiculous sound effects, including “Benny Goodman in a skin-divers’ suit 20 feet underwater playing Danny Boy in a kelp bed”, and King Farouk applauding him, and John L Lewis giving his eyebrows a crewcut. These might be references of their time. But I think their ludicrous specificity leaves them funny anyway. This is the sketch that introduced to the language the immortal line, “All right, Strudelmeyer, let the air out of the latex piano player”, so you can maybe see why the show had ten more weeks to run.
17:35 June Foray asks if she can go home early to watch some television. Stan Freberg has a bootleg set in his dressing room that he’s passed off as an “unusually pictorial hover-squash”. There’s a use here of bowling as if it were inherently funny a woman might want to bowl.
18:50 Bubbles, the show June Foray and Stan Freberg watch. This is an adaptation of Freberg’s record “Wun’erful, Wun’erful”. The record and sketch spoofs The Lawrence Welk Show. (Here’s an attempt to match the audio of the record with clips from The Lawrence Welk Show.) The major difference in the sketch version is that it loses the absurdist ending of the record — in which the Aragon Ballroom floats off to sea and is observed by a couple disbelieving mariners. To me, more familiar with “Wun’erful, Wun’erful” than the show, this makes the sketch version feel unresolved. But that doesn’t affect the quality of the sketch to that point, and it only matters if you expect the sketch to include something it has no reason to, and would have trouble fitting in. The record, and sketch, are in two comedy modes I love: the slightly daft characters carrying on in scenes that locally make sense even if they’re globally doing nonsense; and people not quite carrying on while stuff breaks down. So the sketch might have been written expressly for me, which is always nice to find.
27:42 Closing credits.
28:01 Teaser. Freberg says that next week will include one minute of universal tap-dancing.

My recaps of all the episodes of The Stan Freberg Show should be at this link.