A Good Sign To See


First the routine news: comic strips on my mathematics blog. Plus I make reasons to include images of two of the comics so there’s no extra clicking through links for that. You like that, don’t you?

Now the exciting news. The auto care place that seems like it might be going through a slow-motion breakup announced by its sign board? It’s switched to this.

Auto Surgeon sign: No Act Of Kindness Is Ever Wasted
If that weren’t enough good news: they found a message that doesn’t require an ‘L’ or ‘7’ so they don’t have to use either of them upside-down to represent the other. I’m pretty sure that ‘W’ is a correct ‘W’ and not an upside-down ‘M’, based on how the vertical strokes on the ‘N’ appear.

Have to say, I don’t see how to read this except as a quiet announcement that there’s been some breakthrough in the cold-war-style relationship they’ve been working out. I’m glad. It’s been an awful year, compounding an absolutely brutal year. That an auto care place can have some chance at happiness can maybe be that first little flower proving that life will come again.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose a point after traders finally got around to listening to the Flophouse Podcast Movie Minute thing where Elliott pitches his Ziggy movie and they’re not sure if they’re more entertained or just awestruck by how he went on for seven and a half minutes possibly without taking a breath.

224

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


Interested in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth? Sure, who here wouldn’t be? If you’re looking for a recap of the current plot, it’s cruise ships. But in case the cruise ships plot ever ends there might be something more to say. So if you’re reading this much later than June 2017 you’ll want to see my most recent story summary. It’ll be at or near the top of this page. Good luck, meanwhile.

Mary Worth

26 March – 18 June 2017

I mentioned last time the new Mary Worth had lurched into action. Mary Worth had taken Toby’s warnings that they hadn’t been important to a story in ages. Mary Worth decided to make her big story a cruise ship. I had understated then just how much Toby and Mary Worth told each other about how awesome cruise ships were. You know, how they let people with different interests have fun despite travelling together and all that. This had been the focus of like 18 weeks of strips in a row before my last summary. I thought that had all been prologue to make sure no readers questioned why someone might decide to go on a cruise ship as a recreational activity. And I imagined most of you would be willing to take that as read.

Since that time, Mary Worth and Toby have gotten to the cruise ship and been on the cruise ship. A lot. I’m not sure the cruise ship vacation will ever end. I’m not sure it’s capable of ending. This is a cruise ship vacation that my parents and their friend who always went on cruise ship vacations with them might well say was too much cruise ship.

Mary Worth overheard Derek and Katie Hoosier thinking about how this was their first cruise and latched onto them with the resolve and determination of Lieutenant Columbo noticing that Patrick McGoohan is in this episode. But she establishes pretty quick that the Hoosiers are indeed linked in an approved heterosexual monogamous relationship. What possible problem could they have? Well, Derek’s hoping the cruise will help him finally break his smoking habit.

Katie Hoosier: 'I can just imagine us getting LOST as we RUSH from one part of the ship to another to attend events!' Mary Worth: 'The ship is BIG, but if you ever lose your ORIENTATION and don't know if you're facing the FRONT of the ship or the AFT look down at the CARPETING. In the hallways, the FISH PATTERN points to the FRONT of the ship!' Katie: 'THANKS! That'll help FIRST-TIME cruisers like us!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 2nd of April, 2017. I have no idea if this fish-pattern thing is generally true about cruise ships. My only cruise-like experience was an overnight ferry we took once from Amsterdam to Newcastle, England, that was great fun and had soooooo many clearly-labelled vegetarian options in the buffet and then a whole table with nothing but cheeses and crackers and if we weren’t going to Blackpool Pleasure Beach I believe we would still be there, eating. Anyway, I didn’t notice the carpets that I remember and my camera was only barely working after getting soaked in a rainstorm at Efteling amusement park in the Netherlands so I can’t check my pictures.

Mary Worth and Toby talk with each other about how CRUISE SHIPS offer all manner of relaxation and entertainment options, including towel folding, lamb chops, and theater. Derek and Katie go to one of the professional entertainments, a show featuring professional entertainment professional entertainer Esme, who sings and dances and wins the wide-eyed gaze of Derek. And that attention is returned by Esme, who meets him at a secret smoke break. She’s smitten by him, which is understandable. Women with tolerably successful entertainment careers are hard-pressed to ignore starstruck young-adult males who exist and have definite physical properties and are able to set cigarettes on fire.

Derek: 'I SHOULDN'T be here!' Esme: 'WHY NOT? What's WRONG with an INNOCENT cigarette?' Derek: 'I PROMISED someone I'd QUIT.' Esme: 'Promises are made to be BROKEN.' Derek: 'I SUPPOSE. In any case, let me INTRODUCE myself. My name is DEREK.' Esme: 'We spoke BRIEFLY after my performance last night. Glad to know your NAME.' Derek: 'Where are you FROM, Esme?' Esme: 'ARIZONA.' Derek: 'I would have guessed SHANGRI-LA ... or OLYMPUS ... or VENUS!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 7th of May, 2017. The first of a great many smoke breaks Derek and Esme take, making me wonder if there’s maybe some new rule about smoking around the offices of Comic Strip Master Command that Karen Moy and June Brigman are worried about? I don’t know. Anyway, they’re staying very calm considering in the first panel the smoking deck is like sixty feet above water and in the center panel last row it’s like ten feet above the waterline.

So smitten, in fact, that when the CRUISE SHIP stopped in Haiti for a bathroom break, Esme locked Katie Hoosier in the nation’s bathroom. Derek gets all tense and worried about this. Not unreasonably, I should say, and I’m reminded of an anecdote my father tells about their honeymoon whenever he needs my mother to roll her eyes at him, about what turned out unexpectedly to be a pay toilet in Spain. They knew about the Spain part going in. Not so much about the pay part, nor about the attendants making sure users didn’t leave without paying. Mary Worth suggests Derek try checking Haiti’s bathroom, and what do you know but she was right and everyone was silly not to ask her sooner. All return to the CRUISE SHIP, but Derek ponders what kind of world he lives in that innocent American tourists can get locked in foreign bathrooms.

When Derek and Mary free Katie from a locked restroom. Mary Worth: 'WHAT HAPPENED?' Katie: 'When I went IN, the door was PROPPED OPEN, but when I came out of the stall, the door was CLOSED and LOCKED!' Mary: 'Maybe it was a PRANK. It could've been a KID who did it.' Derek: 'We LEFT the States to get some PEACE ... only to get THIS!' Mary: 'The MAIN thing is you're ALL RIGHT!' Katie: 'YES, just a little SHAKEN UP! Let's get back to the SHIP before it LEAVES us BEHIND!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 21st of May, 2017. I am not sure I have ever enjoyed a person’s emotional state more than I have enjoyed Derek’s rage at Katie getting stuck in Haiti’s bathroom.

Derek fumes about this all the way through the CRUISE SHIP’s stops at Jamaica and Cozumel. At least he joins Esme for smoke breaks through all this. The smoke breaks aren’t enough for Esme, who follows Derek to one of the CRUISE SHIP’s piano lounges to give an impromptu concert. Katie catches Derek committing some solo smoking and kicks him out of their cabin if he’s going to be doing that to his lungs. Moments later Katie checks on him and sees that not only is he smoking, but he’s kissing Esme, a woman who is not her. Derek protests that it wasn’t what it looked like. The entertainment professionals on CRUISE SHIP will just naturally pursue and kiss innocent smoking passengers.

Derek: 'My WIFE won't let me BACK in the room tonight.' Esme: 'Stay with ME ... I'm in cabin 1122.' Derek: 'Esme ... you're BEAUTIFUL, TALENTED ... and an INCREDIBLE woman.' Esme: 'Then come to my ROOM tonight! We'll make MAGIC together!' Derek: 'I'm SORRY, but I have to DECLINE ... I think I need to be ALONE right now.' Esme: 'I'M LEAVING THE INVITATION OPEN, DEREK! FOR WHEN YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 18th of June, 2017. Go ahead and mock the formalism of Derek’s “I’m SORRY, but I have to DECLINE”. Go ahead and wonder about Esme’s lung capacity if she can shout out “I’M LEAVING THE INVITATION OPEN, DEREK! FOR WHEN YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND!” (Remember she’s a professional singer: she’s surely learned a few things about breath control and good projection.) I’m saying, switch to Turner Classic Movies one of those hours they don’t really care what they’re showing, and you could slip this scene into some 1930s play-done-on-film and it could work. The cruise ship would be a canvas backdrop and there’d be none of these fancy non-level camera angles, but you know, I’d watch the rest of it.

Katie is having none of these excuses. Fair enough given that her husband’s been acting like the character in a Jam Handy film whose thoughtless behavior we, the audience, are supposed to discuss amongst ourselves. Plus she got locked in Haiti’s bathroom. It’s going to take a lot to get her to like CRUISE SHIP vacations again. But, then, Mary Worth has barely had anything to do this story except explain to the Hoosiers how CRUISE SHIP carpeting will show you which way is forward and which way is back. And eating things. And going to that towel-folding demonstration. Plus, after all, Katie and Derek are having one actual breach of trust (the smoking thing) and one crazy-but-basically-a-misunderstanding issue (Esme). I bet she has them meddled back into a happy marriage, possibly with children, well before the CRUISE SHIP finishes its tour, if it ever does.

Next week: Terry Beatty’s CRUISE SHIP Rex Morgan, M.D., if all goes well.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose seven points today as someone finally explained how to make a cell phone actually scan a QR code so it does something, although projections are for the market to drop precipitously tomorrow what with how we’ve already forgotten how to do it.

223

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


Hi, reader. This is my best attempt at explaining what’s been going on in James Allen’s Mark Trail for the last couple months. If for you the last couple months do not include, like, May of 2017 then I might be writing here about a story that’s not going on anymore, if the current story ever ends. Right now it’s not looking promising. But in case the story has ended by the time you read this, try reading this instead, as a more current essay might be among its first links. I hope this helps you find what you’re looking for.

Mark Trail

19 March – 10 June 2017

My last Mark Trail report coincided strangely well with the start of a new adventure. 17-year-periodic guest star Johnny Lone Elk had invited Mark Trail to South Dakota, there to watch the prairie dog census and to find out if there’s some way to get the black-footed ferret to explode a boat. I’m interested in this because as a kid I was deeply impressed by that Peanuts sequence where Snoopy pretended to be a prairie dog. To this day I think of the punch line “prairie dogs are making a comeback” as the sort of appropriately odd not-a-joke thing to be dropped into a conversation and so make it that much needlessly weirder, so once again I’m reminded why everybody treated me like that in middle school. Anyway, this would be the start of a lot of talk about prairie dogs by Mark Trail.

Meanwhile in Rapid City, South Dakota, a local tough has robbed a bank, taken a woman hostage, and spotted in the fresh-arrived Mark Trail just the unwitting getaway driver he wanted. Mark Trail, thinking fast, has enough of an internal monologue to ponder the need to alert some official without betraying what he’s doing to the bank robber. And, to a wonder, he does it without letting the reader in on his plan.

Bank Robber: 'Being a writer must be a pretty lame job these days! I mean, does anybody even read anything anymore?' Mark Trail: 'It has proven to be a good career for me to provide for my family!'
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 11th of April, 2017. Granting that this is impossible, is there any way that all cinematic portrayals of Mark Trail could be done by Michael Rennie? Because I feel like he’s just perfect for deploying dialogue like “It has proven to be a good career for me to provide for my family!” in the wake of being kidnapped at the rental car counter.

My best guess: he’s figuring to pull a Ransom of Red Chief only instead of being a holy terror, he’s going to drive the bank robber past every possible scene of animals interacting in some way. Am I being unfairly snarky? From the 19th of April through the 28th the strip showed the car driving past a clutch of groundhogs, wolf pups, some falcon-class bird learning that it can’t just pick up a jackrabbit, a herd of sheep, another falcon trying to prey upon the dialogue balloons, a couple rams head-butting one another, and some moose or something. After that the bank robber has enough of this, figures out Mark Trail’s got a tracking device put on the car, and rips that out.

Kidnapped Woman: 'Mark Trail, wow! You know, I read your work! In fact, I just read your latest article online!' Mark Trail: 'Oh yeah? What did you think?' Kidnapped Woman: 'I hate to sound like some of the snarky comments made by people online, but you're no entomologist!'
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 27th of April, 2017. I would like to think this isn’t back-snarking at me for getting tired of the endless volcano explosion on Invasive Ant Island but who knows? Anyway that’s burying the lede, which is: Mark Trail is aware of the existence of snark. This changes everything!

After driving past some buffalo, antelope I guess, and groundhogs looking disapproving at a wolf the bank robber tells Mark Trail what they’re going to do. They’re going to go to Johnny Lone Elk’s, tell him that the bank robber and the kidnapped woman are his new camera crew, and put the stolen money in Mark Trail’s camera bags. Then they’ll all go off together to see these prairie dogs and an abandoned airstrip that Mark Trail exposited about earlier.

Meanwhile the local FBI, looking for the bank robbers, is following the clue that there’s something weird about how Mark Trail rented the car. I admit I have never tried to rent a car while being held at gunpoint by a bank robber, but for the life of me I can’t figure how I’d do something weird with my car rental. I mean weird enough that car rental people would notice. Maybe tell them yes, I’d love the car insurance that’s an extra $75 a day and doesn’t do anything my home insurance doesn’t do anyway.

Johnny Lone Elk's wife: 'I've got a bad feeling about this - that bald guy looks shady!' Johnny: 'That's because you suffer from peladophobia!' Other Guy: 'Ha ha ha!' Mrs Lone Elk: 'That's not entirely true ... I think guys with man buns are creepy too!'
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 19th of May, 2017. Life goal: hire an acting class to figure some way of staging this conversation that doesn’t come across as some theater of the absurd stuff. And I will record every single run-through and trial and release it as an experimental film that will sweep, I tell you, positively sweep the Capital City Film Festival’s coveted “The Heck Am I Even Watching?” awards.

Mark Trail does his best not to act weird around Johnny and his wife and their handyman Nick Charles. But a stray $100 makes Johnny’s wife suspect there’s some connection to the Rapid City bank robbery, suggesting that she’s not really into this story and hopes to get it to the end as soon as possible. On the trail, Johnny knows something’s wrong and arranges for some dramatic talk about trick riding. Meanwhile a prairie dog tries to evade another swooping hawk, possibly the same one that was getting kicked by a rabbit a couple weeks back.

Mrs Lone Elk: '[ The bank robbery ] might explain Mark's odd behavior - Not coming in the house and leaving with potentially bad weather headed this way!' Other Guy: 'Plus it would explain why Mark left his new camera equipment in his vehicle!' Mrs Lone Elk: 'That's the same thing Sheriff Stober said when i told him!'
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 30th of May, 2017. I love the dirty look being given the cougar by what is either an abnormally skinny raccoon or else a ringtailed cat that doesn’t realize this story is taking place in South Dakota, like five hundred miles from anywhere it has any business being. Maybe he’s taking a vacation or getting in on that prairie dog census.

I know this sounds like a lot. But I gotta say, reading it one day at a time, it feels like the whole story has been waiting for stuff to happen. I expect James Allen is going for suspense in the question of how Mark Trail could possibly have arranged for help in all this, but the lack of specifics, or even hints of specifics, undermines that. I’m hoping that we’re about to see some action that brings this to a clear resolution. I’m also curious how the strip is going to turn into some major natural disaster that teaches us to never go anywhere more wild and untamed than an Apple Store. Well, there was threatened bad weather. That could mean anything.

Sunday Animals Watch

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

  • Bees, 19 March 2017
  • Moose, 26 March 2017
  • Platerodrilus Beetles, 2 April 2017
  • Feather Stars, “Crinoids”, 9 April 2017
  • Dracaena Cinnabari, the “Dragon’s Blood Tree”, 16 April 2017
  • Giraffes, 23 April 2017
  • Male lions, 30 April 2017
  • Parrotfish, 7 March 2017
  • Saiga Antelope, 14 May 2017
  • Alligators, 21 May 2017
  • Black Rhinoceroses, 28 May 2017
  • Sanguinaria Canadensis, “Bloodroot”, 4 June 2017
  • Tornadoes, 11 June 2017

Next Week!

Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth. Not to say too much about what’s been happening, but: cruise ships!.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Traders were feeling optimistic and full of pep today as they got like four half-filled loyalty cards at the mediterranean fast-food place merged down into … well, all right, three loyalty cards, but two of them were filled so that’s good for one free lunch today and one free lunch next time if nobody loses the filled card.

203

Betty Boop, the Bum Bandit, and Missing Chances


Had a couple more comic strips over on my mathematics blog, if you like that sort of thing. I do and don’t see why you wouldn’t.

On to my other amusements. I seem to be back in a Betty Boop sort of mood. So here’s another of the early Betty Boop shorts. It’s a Talkartoon originally released the 4th of April, 1931. It’s from before Betty Boop had her name, at least publicly (I don’t know when she was named internally). It’s even introduced as a Bimbo cartoon. It’s got a couple of odd points. (It’s also got one bit of ethnic humor that could’ve been far worse.)

So the first oddity here: Bimbo’s the villain. In most of his appearances he’s your generic faintly pleasant heroic-coward inkblot; here, he’s just outright robbing a train. It’s not a bad look for him, really. It gives him the chance to mess around for a couple minutes with incompetent shooting practice that’s got a bunch of good nonsense logic to it. The sequence also lets him set up as villainous without being too evil to be the protagonist.

Second oddity is Betty Boop. She’s voiced here by Harriet Lee, I think for the only time. There’s nothing faintly boop-oop-a-doop about her voice. And as with Bimbo, Betty’s suddenly got a infusion of personality. At least, she’s got a personality with initiative, taking deliberate action instead of just trying to shape what’s going on to be not so bad. She’s got a good song, too. It’s not hard to imagine an alternate track for Bimbo-and-Betty cartoons with them as openly antagonist partners. It gives the story an inherent shape, a tension that makes the cartoon feel more modern than its contemporaries.

Which makes the end all disappointing. Things are crackling along as best they can for an early-30s short and then the climax just … evaporates. Not really any action, just she grabs him and off they go. It’s a good cartoon, threatening to be great.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose nine points today and then shrank back one for fear of looking “showy”.

194

Betty Boop: Minding The Baby, and the livability of cartoon worlds


Eh, what the heck. I’ve got a cold, I can do something relatively lazy. Let me share the 1931 Betty Boop cartoon Minding The Baby. It was the next Talkartoon released after yesterday’s installment, Bimbo’s Express. It came out the 9th of September, 1931, just a couple weeks after the previous cartoon. This seems to have been when Betty Boop took over top billing from Bimbo, a sign of her rising star. It would be a couple more cartoons before she got her own introductory song, and less than a year before she’d get a series all to herself. And this for an installment where she’s not got a lot to do herself. Before starting, though, a warning: the story is driven by an obnoxious infant. If you can’t stand crying babies in your entertainment you might want to give this a pass.

I do want to say, this is a fantastic print. I don’t know why it looks so crisp. I suspect it was restored, and then uploaded to archive.org by someone who figured since the underlying cartoon was in the public domain so were cleaned-up and restored copies. Perhaps they are, legally, but it does seem to me that the work involved in making an old piece of film look new deserves its respect at least. I will suppose archive.org knows its business, but I’d like to know how we do have such a good print.

This is another cartoon that’s pretty much just hanging out. Betty wants to see Bimbo for what I suppose is a solid night of canoodling, but he’s got to watch the baby who’s every bratty baby you get in this sort of cartoon. There’s a bunch of puttering around as everyone gets into minor scrapes and gets out again because the world isn’t all that harsh. The jokes barely have anything to do with each other and could almost be shuffled and make just as good a cartoon.

I think I’ve worked out why I like it anyway, though. Have you ever pondered what it would be like to actually live in a cartoon world? One that isn’t just seven minutes on a couple of sets but rather a whole city, one that’s always awake? Sure, people try. There’s the Toontown sequence in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. There’s the animated-background sequences that I swear are there in Cool World. There’s some other glimpses. They’ve mostly struck me false. They’re too high-energy, too busy, too active. If everything is running at a fever pitch then there’s no everyday life.

This is different. This feels like a more lived-in cartoon world, the sort of place where you as a cartoon could just go home and have an ordinary night, listening to the radio (that smiles at you and turns its dial to a show it likes better) or making dinner (catching the hot dogs trying to sneak out of the boiling water and shaming them into putting on a bun, as a robe). Funny stuff happens, all around, but it’s a very low-key, very ordinary sort of thing. It’s an inhabitable place. I feel the appeal. Do you?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose a point today in anticipation of a conference call that everyone expected to be a disaster and instead turned out to be a kind of silly muddle.

208

Betty Boop: Bimbo’s Express


I admit I’m feeling a little lazy today, so I’m going to watch a cartoon instead. This cartoon was originally released the 22nd of August, 1931, as part of the Fleischer studios Talkartoon line. It’s from early in Betty Boop’s career, when the studio still thought that maybe Bimbo was a character people would like to come see, what with him existing and probably having some distinct personal traits or something.

So a thing about the Fleischer cartoons you maybe knew, or that you worked out when you think about the story structure. They didn’t really write out plots before they started animation. Especially in the earlier days they’d pick a theme and then stuff some scenes around it. In the best cartoons this produces a raucous, jazzy feeling as you see no end of surprising riffs on jokes. In the worst you realize nothing is going anywhere.

This is a middle one. It doesn’t start out promising, what with spending a minute of screen time just getting Bimbo and his moving company to Betty Boop’s house. Someone making a cartoon on this theme today would establish the moving company in about ten seconds of screen time, and that if they wanted to make sure everyone in back got it. In trade for all the time spent getting to the start of the story is little bits of silliness: the horses’s goofy pace, or the tiny cat emitting a tiny “mew” every time he’s squished by the gorilla(?). Every little “mew” tickled me.

When the action proper does get started, it’s solid stuff. It’s all a bunch of scenes of Bimbo and company moving stuff in more complicated ways than they need to. None of the jokes are very deep, granted, or really character-driven. But there’s a good number of them, and none demand too much time or attention, and there’s usually some cute little fillip along the way, such as the horse flipping the egg on the stove.

Another symptom of the plotlessness of the affair: there’s no climax. I expect a cartoon of this vintage, especially a Betty Boop cartoon, to end with at least some scene of peril that she escapes or gets rescued from. It’s easy to imagine a virtual avalanche of objects being moved threatening to crush Betty, or the moving van to go tumbling down the street. None of that there. It’s just under six minutes of jokes about how can you take stuff out of one place (and not even put it in the new!). Curious affair, overall.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped five points in trading amidst accusations that Lisa was pocketing some of the good-looking points and keeping them for her own nefarious purposes. She insists the purposes are not nefarious, but didn’t like the suggestion they were for scandalous purposes either.

207

Is This Funky Winkerbean Supposed To Make Sense?


So a little something roiled the normally calm world of ridiculing Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean. Last week the strip did one of its occasional grab-bag weeks, with just spot gags and no storyline or attempt at one. Before I get into that, let me share this link to my mathematics blog, since I did my usual Sunday comic-strip review over there. Thank you.

So. Snark-reading Tom Batiuk strips is usually pretty easy. The comic presents a couple of the lumpy, sad main characters talking about one of their ongoing problems, with something involving words used in slightly unusual ways in the last panel, while everyone smirks and waits for the death of joy. The snarky reader looks over this, points out the joke barely parses, and that the problem as presented could not happen because something or other does not work like that, or because he’s confused parts of the continuity. Then the snark readers wait for the next day. I’m not ruling myself out of this group, by the way. Rolling eyes at Tom Batiuk strips is one of the joys of being a comics fan who never gets enough chances to showcase learning what “bathos” meant for that vocabulary quiz in eighth grade. (Hi, Mrs Furey!)

Then this came in on Tuesday.

Donna, to Crazy Harry: 'Crazy, this bottle was with the stuff you picked up in town ... and I just wanted to let you know ... that you can only get two or three shampoos out of a bottle of this head-cleaning solution.
Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean for the 23rd of May, 2017. Surely not intentional but in the first panel Crazy Harry looks like he’s upset Donna walked in on him googling adult images for the tiny modernist yacht he’s got a model of in the second panel there.

So, the question: what the heck?

More specifically, who are we supposed to be laughing at here? The Comics Curmudgeon laid out how it’s either a joke that Crazy Harry can’t shampoo correctly, or else it’s a joke that … Mrs Crazy Harry who probably has a name … imagines that head-cleaning solution would be an exotic name for shampoo. (It’s Donna.) Son Of Stuck Funky guest author Billy the Skink thought it more likely that Donna didn’t know what head cleaner was, and identified this as dumb given that she ought to know something about Crazy Harry, whose days are filled with transferring stuff from VHS and moping. Comic book superstar author Kurt Busiek tried to autopsy this mess:

And now I’d like to make my argument. Please feel free to disagree. Busiek’s right, by the way, that the deadly problem is the comic timing. The first two panels are nothing. Trying to make the punchline also carry the load of setting up the strip is a mess.

But I think the snark-blogging interpretation, that Donna or Crazy Harry has to be too stupid to be plausible, wrong here. I think that Donna’s supposed to be facetious. To say with a straight face the obviously ridiculous is so important to comedy that if we’re to rule it out then I can’t comment in any web forums or Usenet anymore. I think there are line readings that would make the joke work. At least work as well as it can given the attempt at jamming all the setup into the punchline.

Which is still a structural problem in the comic. Written comedy has limited powers to direct how a line should be read. A comic strip has a bit more power, since it can show characters reacting. But the Funky Winkerbean standard is to draw people moping, smirking, or despairing and that doesn’t offer much support for whimsy. A comic strip also has more power to suggest timing and where to pause a line and what to emphasize in it. But those tools aren’t used here.

So that’s my best attempt at making this Funky Winkerbean make sense: Donna is being silly and playful, and we don’t know how to react to that anymore. I’m curious what you kindly readers make it out to be.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose two points as the market digested reports that the Earth has an extra layer of tectonic plates within the mantle, which should be reassuring to everyone worrying about whether we had enough. It might have pushed the index higher still if we were sure we understood why it doesn’t look like any other planets or moons have tectonic plates, which seems like a weird oversight. Are we maybe looking for theirs in the wrong places or something?

212

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? February – May 2017


And as with my other low-daisy-content story strip reviews, this one might be out of date. This post should be good for explaining plot developments in the couple of months before late May of 2017. If it’s later than, oh, August 2017 when you read this, then if all’s gone to plan I have a new post updating things further. My most recent Gasoline Alley posts should be at the top of this link. Thanks for reading and I’ll do my best to be not too wrong in describing the goings-on.

Gasoline Alley, 27 February – 26 May 2017.

Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley has four major kinds of storyline, with many variations possible in those types. Three have been seen since late February. The missing one is the magical-fantasy storyline, wherein Walt Wallet or crew visit the Old Comics Home or something similar. The kind of story that just warps what reality could be. That hasn’t been around the last few months.

The second time is your classic old-style sitcom, ah, situation. The kind where one of the main cast has some scheme that gets advanced and then falls apart. You know, every sitcom from the 50s and 60s, and many of the radio sitcoms from the 40s. It’s an old-fashioned format but it’s still a perfectly workable one. Last time we looked at Gasoline Alley they were coming near the end of one of these. Walt Wallet had been invited to the TV show Shark Bait to pitch inventors his idea: put every household appliance together in one big raging appliance monster. The millionaire or billionaires (the strip made a point of raising confusion about this) don’t see how it would work, and one of them finds that exactly this idea was patented by the Hotenkold Appliance Company in 1935 and still makes the things. As predicted by everyone who’s encountered stories before, Walt Wallet does not go home wealthy. (The strip didn’t pay off the millionaire-or-billionaire question.)

'Skeezix! Do you think it was worth the embarrassment going on the 'Shark Bait' TV show?' 'Well, you're richer by $500 and a case of cereal, Uncle Walt!' In the other car: 'Boog! I want Chipper to look at you when he checks out Aubee!' 'Can he multitask?'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 7th of March, 2017. One storyline gives way to another. Yes, Boog is the kid’s name and yes, much of the online comics snark-reading community is horrified by his name and his appearance but that’s just because he has those huge devouring-void black dots of eyes that suggest the Mirror Universe Dondi.

The strip passed things off to Hoogy Skinner and her kids Boog and Aubee, for a medical check. This led a couple of weeks of pediatrician jokes and let us follow the Physician Assistant, Chipper Wallet, into the third of the stock Gasoline Alley plot kinds. And I’d like to mention the smoothness of the segue: we followed Walt Wallet out of the TV show plot, passed off by switching from one car to the next with characters that brought us to Chipper Wallet, and from that into his story. It’s all smoothly done; I wonder if daily readers even notice they’re being passed on like that.

Chipper: 'I love my kids and am proud they decided to go into the medical field ... ' 'Excuse me, Chipper! I hate to interrupt, but there's someone here to see you!' 'Who's that, Reg?' 'You'll see.' In the distance a barely visible woman approaches.
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 18th of April, 2017. I never spend time discussing this in the main articles so let’s take some here. Boy does Scancarelli draw well. The scenes are well-composed and nicely balanced, and look at how good Wallet’s hair and beard look in the second panel there. The third panel is also a treat; comic strips rarely get to display depth of field, but here it is, used for good dramatic effect.

Anyway, this third kind of storyline is the public service announcement. Chipper Wallet leaves the office to drive to Durham, North Carolina, where he’s to speak at the dedication of the Veteran’s Memorial Garden of the Physician Assistant Society. Wallet gets waylaid by some car trouble and meets Reverend Neil Enpray and mechanic Don Yonder whom I’m just going to assume are from the Earth-2 Gasoline Alley. They gave me the vibe of being established characters but I don’t know the canon nearly well enough to guess. But it’s mostly a chance for the characters to explain to the reader about what they are, what they do, why they’re important. The story ends with Wallet being reunited with a woman he, as a Navy Hospital Corpsman in Vietnam, helped deliver a child. As I say, a bit of story and a good bit of public service announcement. It’s also a chance to fundraise for the historical society.

Scruffy: 'I ain't ate since yestidy!' Rufus: 'Well, hadn't yo' better run home an' get yo' momma t'feed you'? 'T'aint my day t'eat! It's my sister's turn!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 12th of May, 2017. I know this is my own peculiarity, but: oh, I’m not looking forward to this. Not because I expect the story to end badly. I project it turning out pretty well for Scruffy and his family. But just because I know, deep down, there’s a depressing number of real-world families going through this and the story will end without things getting better for most of them, and that’s the sort of thing that breaks my heart. It’s not Scancarelli’s fault, and I certainly don’t blame him for telling a story about one of those sadly realistic problems and having it turn out well for his characters. But it does make me think of deep down what a rubbish job we do at having a society.

And this led into the current storyline, one of the fourth type. It’s the weepy melodrama. It stars Joel and Rufus, two of the (bluntly) stupider adults in the strip. They’re usually busy with more outlandish hijinks and misunderstandings. (The segue for this story was Rufus bringing his cat in to see Chipper Wallet on the grounds that of course he’s a vet; he served in the Coast Guard.) Rufus has just met Scruffy, a kid whose family just moved into the abandoned old grist mill and is so poor they can only use parts of the Walt Kelly Pogofenokee comic-strip-southern dialect. The story’s in its earliest days so not much has been established past that the family’s desperately poor. I expect this is going to lead Rufus and Joel in a story in which they make some grand and slightly overcomplicated gesture to help that which misfires but still results in their being a little better off. (At this stage it’s playing Santa Claus Running Late. This may evolve.) That’s the kind of story Gasoline Alley does.

The Sunday strips have all been one-off jokes, mostly characters setting up and delivering corny old gags well, and not part of any continuing storylines. That’s fine and pleasant but there’s no context I can usefully give to them. They’re whole on their own.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose eleven points as everyone was relieved to learn everyone else had clicked on that silly clickbait ad about ten ways to earn money from your hobby and there was no reason everyone should feel ashamed that, like, apparently there’s people whose hobby is investing in real estate? I mean, come on. Anyway the index is at 210 and that’s not even an all-time high and isn’t that amazing too? It’s amazing, yes.

210

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? February – May 2017


While Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant runs fewer strips than any of the other syndicated story strips, it’s still worth reviewing. They take a good bit of space, and they pack events into it. If you’re reading this much after May 2017, you may want to check if I have a more recent update. It should be at or near the top of this page’s links. Thanks for reading.

Prince Valiant, 19 February – 21 May 2017.

We left Prince Valiant and crew resuming their journey to the Mystic East. They’d defeated the tyrant Azar Rasa and scattered his armies and detonated his Soul of Asia bomb. The grateful giants who’d created the Soul of Asia prepared a boat, with a pilot and a team of dolphins pulling their craft. So a giant alligator attacked.

This set off an earthquake that set the dolphins free and knocked the giant out of the story. It’s the groundbreaking for a new waterfall, which the gang falls down. Valiant gets knocked in the head and misses just how they make their escape. It’s pink dolphins. Prince Valiant and company are recovered on shore by (checks encounter table) some refugees from Azar Rasa’s wars.

The subterranean world has split open, sending Val and his companions cascading helplessly down an abyss. Then the bottom comes with a bone-wrenching jolt ... that tears their battered craft to splinters. Val is aware of being thrown into a body of swirling water, before his head smashes into something hard ... and there is - nothing. Six bodies float limply in the turbulence ... before they are joined by several dark, finned shapes ... (river dolphins) Next: Cast forth
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 26th of February, 2017. Ah, dolphins: have any animal got so good a reputation despite having such a little chainsaw in their mouths? Also, despite the Next: bubble the next installment was not about the roster of characters in Sally Forth so, be ready.

But all’s not well at refugee camp. They’re plagued by attacks from (checks encounter table) bandits on horseback who’ve been plaguing the refugee herders. Large hairy man Numair goes naked bathing. It’s in the same pond the robe-dressed Karen means to use for laundry, and they talk about how glad they are they’re not totally into each other since that would mess things up with Karen’s husband Giovanni.

Korsheed continues the story of her people's migration. 'Long and far we journeyed, harried always by bandits and hostiles. At last we arrived in this scrubby, marshy borderland. It offers poor foraging and hunting ... but the local people have little use for it, and so mostly leave us alone. The roaming bands of brigands, however, never cease ... ' Val interjects: 'Then we bring good news - Azar Rasa is dead, and his armies dispersed ... you can now return home!' Korsheed sadly shakes her head. 'To what? Our flocks and our men are gone. We are sick and weak, and could never survive such a trek again.' Not much is said after that - all turn to their own thoughts. Later, Karen walks to the river to wash some travel-worn clothes, and comes upon Numair, similarly occupied. There is an awkward hesitation - the two have not been alone together since their flight through the high mountains ... NEXT: Circumstance and duty
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 2nd of April, 2017. I don’t see what Korsheed is worried about. We know how peaceful and tranquil a war-ravaged countryside always is once the despotic warlord that’s amassed a giant army has been knocked out and the soldiers are all dispersed.

After thinking hard about it Valiant decides to save the refugees; he, Bukota, and Giovanni work on building shelters. Karen leads a fishing class, and Numair goes off with bow and arrow to hunt for the next plot point. While hunting the small game he (checks encounter table) finds a badly wounded woman who’s killed three bandits. He recognizes her as Taloon, the excellent huntress that head refugee Korsheed had mentioned, and he ties some sticks around cloth around her leg as a show of healing.

While hunting, Numair stumbles upon three slain brigands - leading him to a very alive woman, prepared to defend herself. But Numair sees that she is in distress. Her hands shake - obviously she is in great pain. Numair recalls Korsheed's parting words, and believes he knows who this is. Slowly, carefully, he places his weapons on the ground, and speaks calmly: 'I won't hurt you. I am a hunter too, with no love for brigands.' The girl slumps, resignedly. She nods to a twisted leg. 'I stupidly managed to break my leg while taking the last of these dogs' worthless lives. Let me die in peace.' Numair approaches cautiously. 'Nonsense. I know who you are - I am a friend of Korsheed's. Trust me.' Next: Taloon
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 30th of April, 2017. This is maybe not the most plot-heavy of the comics from this story thread, but it is the most visually exciting. I especially like Taloon’s second panel there with her hand reaching out of the panel border and her arrow reaching over into the next panel. That said, last panel, why has she got some of those Second Life sleeping bunnies? Are we supposed to believe the Prince Valiant universe crosses over with the Linden Labs virtual reality? Please. Worst. Episode. ever. Shut up, they are too just sleeping bunnies. I’m the reader. I have rank.

Numair follows the dead bandits’ footprints back to their horses and bribes them with some sweetgrass. He and Taloon set off back to the refugee camp, thinking of how swell everything is and how cute it is they met one another, but (checks the encounter table) there are three brigands lying in wait. So somebody’s going to have an unhappy next installment.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose an astounding twelve points to an all-time high as traders were buoyed by how well the new computer is generally behaving, and also by rumors that there might have been a second 80s cartoon about robot cowboys in Space Texas. Analysts are skeptical but, you know, it was the 80s. And we’re trying very hard not to suppose that since everything is going swell that everything is doomed and will never be good again.

177

Quick Little Update As Mary Worth Changes *Everything*!


Before I do, though, here’s my mathematics blog, which looked at only a couple of comic strips this week because nobody gave me anything to write about from Tuesday through Saturday last week. I blame the crazy guy who writes Dilbert because, you know, why not?

Anyway. No time for a full update about the plot in Mary Worth because it’s mostly been “cruise ships are awesome” and “smokers are mostly crooks”. I just want to talk about the title panel from Sunday’s strip. Normally these include a quotation from a person too famous to have their quotes be reliably sourced and, when they turn out to be legitimate quotes, to usually mean in context the opposite of whatever they seem to say in a Mary Worth quote box. Here’s Sunday’s.

Quote box: 'I don't like magic - But I have been known to make guys disappear' - Mister T. Meanwhile, by the cruise ship, Derek looks for his wife and ponders, 'WHY didn't we bring our PHONES?'
Title panel from Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 14th of May, 2017. In violation of Worth Law, this looks like it might be a legitimate quote. I found a citation that isn’t from BrainyQuote, the one web site that promises to not care whether it associates a person with anything they ever said or would ever wish to say ever. Here Mister T is, though, novelty-interviewed in February 2009 by The Grauniad and quoted as saying exactly that. Who knew? Also: is it possible to read Derek’s thought balloon aloud without sounding like you’re in The Room? I don’t think it’s worth the risk.

Mary Worth can quote Mister T now?

So I’m thinking here an Indiegogo to hire some suitable actress who’ll portray Mary Worth doing nothing but reading Mister T’s greatest lines, and a handful of his most mediocre lines for contrast. I’m accepting donations and nominations for what to have Mary Worth read but obviously I’m putting the highest priority on memorable quotes from the Ruby/Spears Mister T cartoon, if there are any. That interview mentioned in my picture caption is also a good mine of stuff to say.

If you’d like more Mary Worth updates try this link. It should have my most recent story summaries somewhere near the top of its page! Though not after this specific post today.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose another point today to what everybody’s pretty sure is an all-time high? It seems like it ought to be, anyway. Point being now everyone’s miserable because they just know there’s now way that is going to last and we’re probably going to crater to, like, sixty before the week is over.

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What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? February – May 2017


And now the Sunday continuity for Tony DePaul and Terry Beatty’s The Phantom. If you’re looking for the weekday strips that’s a separate line, most recently covered here. If you’re reading this much later than May 2017, look at the top essays at this link instead. It’ll have both the Sunday and the weekday continuities in it, and unless I change the order in which I go around the story comics, the Sunday one will more likely be at the top. So there’s that.

The Phantom (Sundays), 13 February – 13 May 2017.

When I last reported on The Ghost Who Makes Up Proverbs About Himself, Sunday pelage, he was in a Chicago mobster’s bedroom, encircled by Chinese-hired ninjas. You know, as protectors of coastal African nations will. The Phantom was drawn there when a plane crash brought to his attention Mikey D’Moda, who at age maybe fourteen is the over-promoted scion of the D’Moda crime family. After listening to the kid for about ten minutes The Phantom figured we can’t let people like this run around and flew to his great-grandfather, the only other blood relative who’s part of the story and whose first name I can’t find. Sorry.

Phantom: 'Your great-grandfather hasn't been your ONLY bad example, I see. You don't have much time before you go. Know that the family business dies with you. I'm turning your great-grandson over to the authorities who can sort out the mess you're leaving. PROSECUTORS will get every scrap of paper I find here! Every computer drive, every account number, everything you've stolen over the generations will go to a restitution program for crime victims!' Elder D'Moda: 'GAKK! What Th! Mikey! Gimme a GUN! I'm TAKING THIS BUM WITH ME!!' Mikey: 'W-What would happen to ... me?' Phantom: 'You'd have a shot at being a MAN! Not a thug! How does that sound?'
Tony DePaul and Terry Beatty’s The Phantom for the 19th of February, 2017. Oh, yeah, and I guess The Phantom finished punching out all the Chinese ninjas. I’ll own up to losing track of how many there were and how many were left to be punched. Anyway, it’s nice to see Mikey D’Moda developing an awareness of the future.

The Elder D’Moda, bedridden since his death by old age twenty years ago, sees in The Phantom a strong man, a potential new consigliere. The Phantom won’t have any of it, and offers the deal by which Elder D’Moda makes restitution and the Younger D’Moda never speaks to anyone, ever again. Given a good hard look what his family business has come to, Elder D’Moda off and dies, and Mikey leaves for a farm upstate.

A life of crime ends. Prosecutors unravel the empire. A new life. Judge: 'I'm ordering you into protective custody, Mr D'Moda.' Mikey: 'Do what you gotta do, Judge!' Phantom: 'Walker, Box 7, Mawitaan, if you need to reach me.' Mikey: 'Box 7! Got it, big guy!' Judge: 'You're not what you seem, are you, Mr Walker? I have a feeling if I were to check your name, your prints ...? You're not in the SYSTEM, are you? I'm due in court. Good day, sir. And THANK YOU!'
Tony DePaul and Terry Beatty’s The Phantom for the 19th of March, 2017. I do find it endearing how about one time in four that someone addresses The Phantom as Mister Walker a narrative box pops in to explain that it’s ‘For The Ghost Who Walks’. Over-explaining the stuff that’s obvious? Maybe, but it’s obvious because we see it all the time. Let the new readers have the stuff they need, so they don’t wonder how judges really feel about mysterious, eternally-masked, obviously pseudonymous figures with no legal history popping in to arrange the disposition of complex cases regarding generations-old mob families.

So this story, begun the 26th of June 2016, officially wrapped up — by the “Next: NEW ADVENTURE!” box — the 2nd of April. The new story, started the 9th of April, is titled The Phantom Is Everywhere, suggesting the surprising return of Klondike Kat’s nemesis Savoir Faire in a comic strip other than Dick Tracy. The suggestion is wholly unrelated to the actual content of the story and I apologize for wasting your time with it. Phantom Wiki reports this is the 185th Sunday story.

The story opens in a Wambesi village terrorized by a trio of “agressors” who in Lee Falk’s words “preach a hateful ideology” and loot the place now and then. But Jungle Patrol is there, hiding among the villagers and waiting for their moment. One of the Jungle Patrol blows a whistle, and the bandits are caught when they go to the free throw line. Jungle Patrol’s speculation afterwards is that it may be tied to The Python, the terrorist leader whom The Phantom broke out of Boomsby Prison to hold himself, privately, in a secret grass hut guarded by villagers.

The Phantom, watching: 'Takedown! Three terrorists out of action! Well done, Jungle Patrol! Colonel Worubu always did enjoy getting out from behind the desk!' Patrolwoman: '[ The villagers ] love us, Colonel! We're hereos!' Worubu: 'ENJOY it, Patrolwoman! There will be days when people call us OTHER things!'
Tony DePaul and Terry Beatty’s The Phantom for the 7th of May, 2017. Yes, I know this makes Colonel Worubu look like the kind of guy who pointed out after V-E Day that all central and western Europe was a lawless wasteland of human misery that none of the victorious allies had any sufficient plan to rebuild. But in fairness: I’m going to bet that there are many people with names for a privately-run army out of the control of any government except by the personal links the current President of Bangalla happens to have with the person he doesn’t properly know is the head of the Jungle Patrol. Just saying.

And that’s about where things stand today. The disadvantage of these Sunday strips is there aren’t so many Sundays in the week, so there’s not as much to write up. But if you the reader are curious about the stuff I’ve elided, or want permanent links to strips not featured here, please comment. I’ll try to be useful.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose six points after everyone gathered around to hear my annual rant about how the Mother’s Day Card industry somehow has cards for every possible relationship except the person who has a good relationship with their mother-in-law and wants to send a card as a person and not as the person who happens to be married to the mother-in-law’s child. It brings everyone a strange amount of joy to see me upset at the injustice of it all.

164

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? February – May 2017


And now I’m in The Phantom zone. This week I’ll do my best to explain the weekday continuity in Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s comic strip. Next week I’ll catch things up on the Sunday continuity. If you’re reading this much later than May 2017, you should be able to find a more recent review on this linked page. It’ll have both the Sunday and the weekday continuities in it; I’m sorry, I don’t know a good way to sort those out. Thanks for bearing with me.

The Phantom (Weekdays), 6 February – 6 May 2017.

Since the last we left The Phantom, the Ghost Who Walks punched his way into large beard entrepreneur Orson Burley’s home. The Phantom call on the aid of a pack of Bandar locals in a scene that doesn’t look at all like some racist British newspaper cartoon advocating the takeover of Bangalla to safeguard white people. And they easily kidnap the wealthy man of wealthiness. After a night spent tied to Horror Trees Burley’s dumped in the midst of The Phantom’s Cave and given his orders: no stamps! Because The Phantom is really, really horrified by the prospect that his legend might be graded in philatelist journals. We’ve all been there. Burley agrees and he swears off forever his plan to … have the nation of Bangalla depict a centuries-old legendary guardian of the people and supernatural defender of justice on its postage. That’s a win for the good guys.

Have to admit this is one of those stories where I just could not get into our protagonist’s mindset. I would get The Phantom wanting to protect his image, and using his iconography on something trivial can serve to trivialize him. But I’m just not seeing how someone who’s cultivated several dozen and often very specific Old Jungle Sayings about what The Phantom does or what you do when you meet The Phantom is doing saying this is the step too far. The case could have been made, but I didn’t see it.

Burley, dazed, sleep-deprived, and possibly drugged: 'Phantom I --- I just wanted to promote YOUR BRAND!' The Phantom ponders, my what? And declares, surrounded by melty screaming skulls, 'I forbid you to promote my band.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 3rd of March, 2017. Also everything we write back to LinkedIn.

That wrapped up the 11th of March. From the 13th of March started a new story, The Curse Of Old Man Mozz, which Phantom Wiki says is the 247th Phantom Daily story. Lee Falk promises that in it, faithful mystic and old-guy Old Man Mozz will foretell the death of the 21st Phantom, our current purple-clad superhero.

The action opens with The Phantom raiding a Thug Factory, punching and taking names. Then he punches the names and throws them down a well. He spends a couple weeks at this, since the Thug Factory is churning out product like crazy. He grabs guy after guy eager to beg for a deal and who learn their deal is they’re being left for the police. Or, well, the Jungle Patrol, who’re totally legitimate and respectable forces for law and due process rather than a self-sustaining militia.

Snitch Guy: 'Hold on! You picked me [ to deliver a message ] because I look like a SNITCH to you?' The Phantom: 'You look like anything but. THAT'S why I picked you. The story loses something when a weakling tells it.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 24th of March, 2017. Also a masterpiece of personnel management considering that after smacking down Snitch Guy for at least the second time in his life The Phantom is sending him off with a credible-sounding claim that the guy is actually a strong and important person. He’s giving Snitch Guy reason to feel good about himself even despite his getting smashed up some.

Along the way Devil, the Phantom’s pet wolf, took a pretty nasty tumble along with one of the Thug Factory’s newest products. Ghost Who Punches finds medicine guy Guran is strangely uninterested in his medical guy work. Phantom figures to work out what his deal is, although it’s his wife, Diana Palmer-Walker, who successfully follows him. Guran’s destination: The hut of Old Man Mozz, where he’s sprawled out on the floor surrounded by mysterious vaporous mists and muscle loss. Mozz is not ill, Guran promises Palmer-Walker. He’s just having visions.

Diana Palmer-Walker finds Old Man Mozz, sprawled out on the floor, emaciated and quite possibly naked, surrounded by mysterious fumes.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 4th of May, 2017. It’s terribly dangerous for people to go through their adolescent I’ll-just-sleep-on-my-mattress-on-the-floor phase. Also but you just know he insists on calling the band The Pink Floyd.

We haven’t heard officially what he’s envisioning, but Lee Falk may have dropped a clue when he said Old Man Mozz would foretell the death of the 21st Phantom. Misdirection? Possibly, although The Phantom has noticed how end-of-life-y things feel lately. What we’ve been given doesn’t promise the current Kit Walker’s going to die before it’s over. But I’m curious how it’s going to affect the continuity of the series. The Phantom 2040 cartoon, back in the 90s, tells stories of the 24th Phantom, after all, and while it accounts for the short career of the 23rd Phantom, there is the 22nd, who last year was sent to get himself shot in Tibet, ready to become part of the comic. Just observing.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose nine points today in response to a Reuters report that frozen orange juice concentrate was selling at 150.80 on the commodities market, which seems like a good deal for orange juice concentrate? Also it’s something there’s a thriving international commodities market in? All right, we never see that in grand strategy games where you do trades of goods with other countries but what the heck. Frozen orange juice concentrate. Business is weird.

125

Statistics April: What Was Popular-Ish Around Here


So, my conversion of this blog from miscellaneous humor stuff into comic strip review goes well. According to WordPress’s statistics I had some 1,765 pages viewed from 1,099 distinct readers in April. That’s down from March’s 2,085 pages from 1,308 visitors. But it’s near enough January’s 1,837 views from 1,093 visitors that I’m not going to go fretting nonstop about that. If nothing else, April’s “What’s Going On In” comics were about stuff like Gil Thorp and Alley Oop, which people don’t find as ironically fascinating as Mary Worth or Rex Morgan. Oh, I had Judge Parker, surely a perennial, but also Spider-Man which has too strong a narrative drive to really confuse people.

No, what I’ll fret about if you don’t mind is the number of pages liked. There were 147 ‘likes’ clicked around here in April. That’s not far off March’s 154 or February’s 169. But WordPress increased the range of months I can see on the chart. That’s made me realize the ‘likes’ around here have been trending downward, like some exponential decay, since about March of 2015 when there were 443 likes. I haven’t dug in to see how what I wrote differed back then from what I write now. But I wonder. Wouldn’t you? If you’re reading this far into my data moping here, you wonder at least a bit.

Monthly 'likes' statistics for nebushumor.wordpress.com. It peaks in March 2015 and mostly declines, with fluttering variations, through to April 2017.
You can actually see me grow less likable!

Comments have a similar-looking decline. Oh, they were up in April, to 26 from March’s 12 and February’s 15. That still shows a steady decline, though. I won’t bother with a picture of that over the course of months. Sometime last year — I forget when — I shifted the way I link to old stuff. The new way doesn’t show up as a comment on the linked essay, so that I have a truer count of how many things people are saying something about. On the other hand, this does mean the page referred to doesn’t show that it’s been referred to by anything else. Maybe I should go back to the old way; that might help people archive-binging find other interesting stuff. If you know anyone who’s archive-binged my little thing … uh … thank you. I’d like to hear what makes it easier, though.

The top articles around here the past month? Mostly comic strip plot summaries. I suspected this would happen, and accepted it. I’d like to be known as a sometimes-absurdist humorist plainly in the Robert Benchley tradition, but if my ability to pay attention to Gasoline Alley is of more use to the world, fine. Nobody ever gets famous for what they want to be famous for.

The most popular creative thing I wrote was my Statistics Saturday post Some Now-Obscure Professional Baseball Players Given Nicknames Anachronistically which is just the sort of slight, over-researched thing that I like. The TV installation thing was my most popular long-form original piece, which shows the power of giving a title drawn from one of the Buggles’ other songs. (They have more good songs than you realize.) And my talk about Mystery Science Theater 3000 and me (part one, and part two, and part three) placed well, which is comforting considering how hard it is sharing feelings and all.

Now on to a big old list of countries and readers! Everyone likes those, unless they go unlisted. In which case it’s something they could fix themselves, isn’t it?

Country Views
United States 1341
Canada 78
India 78
United Kingdom 74
Romania 17
Germany 13
Australia 12
Netherlands 11
New Zealand 11
Spain 11
Italy 9
Poland 8
Sweden 8
Philippines 7
South Africa 7
Hong Kong SAR China 5
Indonesia 5
Mexico 5
Brazil 4
Finland 4
France 4
Turkey 4
Chile 3
European Union 3
Ireland 3
Singapore 3
Argentina 2
Denmark 2
El Salvador 2
Greece 2
Japan 2
Malaysia 2
Qatar 2
Russia 2
Switzerland 2
Thailand 2
Trinidad & Tobago 2
Uruguay 2
Bolivia 1
Czech Republic 1
Egypt 1 (*)
Kenya 1
Madagascar 1
Norway 1 (*)
Pakistan 1
South Korea 1
Sri Lanka 1
Taiwan 1 (*)
Turks & Caicos Islands 1
Ukraine 1
United Arab Emirates 1

I make that out to be visitors from 51 countries, down from March’s 55 and April’s 61. There were 13 single-viewer countries, down from March’s 14 and February’s 22. Egypt, Ukraine, and Taiwan are the only three countries that were single-reader countries in March also, and March was a complete single-reader turnover from February.

I start May with 52,737 page views from 28,546 distinct visitors, I’m told. WordPress says the most popular day, with 16 percent of views, is Wednesday, just as it was in March. It says the most popular hour, with 13 percent of views, is once again 12 am. That’s down from 15 percent the previous month.

WordPress figures I start the month with 729 readers here, up from 725. I’m flattered to see any follower that hasn’t two days later had their blog closed or made private or whatnot. You bloggers who follow your statistics obsessively know what I’m talking about. If you’d like to join them there should be the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button off on the right side of the screen. Or you can follow by e-mail, joining a group of elites such as my dad. And I’m also @nebusj on Twitter, where I supposedly have 237 followers, and won’t try to scare any of them off. Thank you, won’t you?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index gained a point when investors were sweeping out the corners like they’ve been promising to all week and saw one had rolled under there, raising hopes for what might happen if they ever do that proper whole-floor mopping they’ve been talking about since March.

121

Something Else I Discovered In The Local Alt-Weekly


I didn’t discover this part, but my mathematics blog did a couple more comic strips yesterday. I would have posted that tomorrow, but I had other stuff that I wanted to take up that space. I might even post it yet.

Anyway, while last week’s issue of the local alt-weekly didn’t have a New In Town article to let me know what bars are opening, it did have the list of what bands are performing nearby. So now I know that whoever’s been booking acts for The Loft got sloppy about covering up how they’re also working for Moriarty’s Pub. Or else we had three musical acts lived that sitcom premise of having to cover two gigs at the same time in places that aren’t even next to each other. I hope they figured out where they should be and when. Also I hope they foiled international spies or something along the way because part of me still thinks the world should work like 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

Listings for both The Loft and for Moriarty's Pub, for Friday, Bass Physics/Blunt Force, 9 pm; for Saturday, Rob Crozier, 7 pm.
Idle curiosity: how many bands do you figure named themselves ‘Karaoke’ in a fit of giddy joy and mutual hand-slapping before discovering why that isn’t actually a good idea?

Also if it seems like we have a lot of Reno’s in town yeah, it kind of does. We also have a lot of Tin Can Bars, it seems like, but they don’t have shows I guess. Nothing like we have Biggby Coffee shops, mind you. But nobody has as many of those as we have, not even us.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped another four points owing to investor confidence being shaken by this incredibly long line to get out of the parking lot. And yeah, the line got so long and so slow they just raised the barrier and waved people out without charging but, still, what was going on? That isn’t right.

121

Sorry For The Late Notice


Really am sorry, folks, but I only noticed this in the classifieds of our local alt-weekly and it’s an exciting opportunity. The City of Lansing, Michigan, is looking for someone who can supply it with bituminous material. You have to have your offer of the stuff turned in by Tuesday afternoon, so there probably isn’t time to go checking everything in your storage locker for signs of bituminosity. But if you have some on hand, this is your chance! Don’t miss it. You never know when fair-sized mid-Michigan cities will need material that’s got even one tuminous to it again. Bituminous is a special treat.

B/17/084 BITUMINOUS MATERIAL as per the specifications provided by the City of Lansing. The City of Lansing will accept sealed bids at the CITY OF LANSING, c/o LBWL, PURCHASING OFFICE, @ 1232 HACO DR.; LANSING, MICHIGAN 48912 untail 2:00 PM local time in effect on MAY 2, 2017 at which time bids will be publicly opened and read. (Then some more text about where to find the specifications.)
Yes, of course I wonder why the City of Lansing finds itself in need of bituminous materials in such an all-fired hurry, but they didn’t offer an explanation and I don’t feel our relationship is such that I can just barge in and ask. I mean, goodness, I’ve never even been introduced to Stephanie Robinson, I can’t go saying, “Hey! What are you up to with all the bituminous material already?” Heck, I live down the street from the alt-weekly’s offices and I don’t feel like I can ask them how they managed to spell it “untåil” in the eleventh line there. The City of Lansing Purchasing Office is way beyond me.

Also there was something about blueberry pies on Friday but we both missed that.

Finally over on my mathematics blog I just went crazy solving a puzzle from a FoxTrot Sunday strip and believe me, you want to see that. Someone does.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index was slightly up today as traders found all kinds of material in their junk drawers and had expectations that at least some of it will be bituminous. What are the odds that none of it would be? Exactly. It just can’t happen.

127

What’s Going On In Alley Oop? January – April 2017


And I’m back around to Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop. While I’m writing about the current storyline, it’s possible you’re reading this while trying to figure out what some other storyline in my future is about. That’s only fair given we’re talking about Alley Oop, isn’t it? Anyway, if you’re reading this much later than about May or June of 2017, you may want to look at whatever essay’s at top of this page. It should have my most current low-daisy review of what’s going on.

Alley Oop, 30 January – 30 April 2017

When I last checked in on Alley Oop the land of Moo was invaded by this pantsless alien plant-frog guy with a mind control ray gun. The planet Jantrulle has an exploding population. Their explorer, Volzon, found Earth to be a lovely spot with plenty of ecology, raw materials, and nipple-free cavemen who’d be a good labor pool. At least would be once they stopped complaining about the mind control, which is after all part of how mind control works.

Dire? I suppose, although the comic strip — while taking its adventure seriously — never get all that dire. Plus at that point only Alley Oop himself had been taken over. He was joined by Zan, while fellow Moo bit player Bug ran back to his sergeant to report on the alien invasion. Ooola overhears; the soldiers work up a story about how Oop’s just got so much meat to bring home he hasn’t had time to get mind-controlled by an invading pantsless alien plant-frog guy, a story she pretends to believe.

Bug and Sarge are on their way to free Alley Oop and an from Volzon's grip. Meanwhile Volzon's mind-control device is still at work on the two. 'This would be the perfect spot for the power plant, wouldn't it? Before we can build, though, all these trees must go! Can you do that?' 'Sure! Happy to!' Bug: 'OK, Sarge, this is where I saw Zan get taken prisoner by that thing! Zan and Oop were right over there!' 'I don't see any creature here. I knew it! You imagined the whole thing, bug!' 'NO I DIDN'T! But maybe we can rescue them before he comes back! Just be careful! He's really dangerous!' And Volzon gets the drop on Bug and Sarge.
Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop for the 26th of February, 2017. Really I’m not sure why everyone saw Volzon’s invasion as that big a menace since according to his sleeve stripe he’s just a lieutenant, and a red-shirt at that. He’s the first one going to be taken out by the episode’s dangerous alien menace! .. Oh, wait, he is the alien menace, isn’t he? Well, it’d still be plausible he might take himself out.

Volzon, warming stuff up for the reinforcements by having Oop and Zan punch trees, spots Bug and the Sarge and takes them over in time for the mind control ray to wear off Alley Oop. And while Oop had been under the ray for like six weeks of reader time, in story time it can’t have been more than a couple hours. It suggests there’s some practical problems in an economy built entirely on mind controlling cavemen. At least it means they’d be spending a lot of time re-zapping Moovians instead of enjoying stealing the fruit of others’ labor.

Volzon: 'Excellent work, gentlemen, but it would go faster if I recruited more help! I'll see what I can do!' Elsewhere in Moo. Oola: 'Dinny! I'm so glad I found you! I need a favor!' Dinny: 'Eep!' Trnslation: Eep!
Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop for the 20th of March, 2017. I admit I’m not sure I need this panel given the ones that have run before, but I like the playfulness of translating Dinny’s ‘Eep’ after the strip spent a week translating Volzon’s reports.

While Volzon gloats about preparations for his totally hip log-cabin spaceport being underway Ooola gets tired of not being in the story. She teams up with Dinny, Alley Oop’s pet/friend dinosaur, and go looking for him by the ancient Moovian technique of trying. Volzon’s startled by the big charging dinosaur somehow living at the same time as cavemen, but before he can question the plausibility of this worldbuilding the invading pantsless alien plant-frog guy discovers his mind control ray doesn’t work on dinosaurs. Yes, I enjoyed writing that sentence. I’m going to be cheery about it for days to come.

Volzon continues to report to his fellow Janthullians. 'Ikthio Frontigan Al ... Drudonga stungali freg!' Translation: perfect atmospheric conditions ... structural preparations progressing well!
Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop for the 17th of March, 2017. It may seem quirky that the first priority of the invading Jantullians is to send out a scout who gets a track and field stadium out of logs. But remember, the Jantullians are able to use some dimensional-warping technology to fit an entire starship into a ball small enough to fit in a dinosaur’s mouth which is totally not a giveaway for what happens by the 20th of April because the spaceship gets away. Anyway, so they don’t really seem to need Earth space for buildings or stuff, just, play.

It gets worse for the invader. Even when Ooola’s separated from any dinosaurs it turns out her boogie board is an effective defense against mind control rays. With Oop coming out of control and Dinny coming close to suppertime, Volzon retreats to his pocket-dimensional spaceship and takes off for some easier invasion target. Possibly, like, the place forty miles down the road but, that would be in a different comic strip.

Volzon: 'Get away from my workers!' Ooola: 'We have to go now, Alley! That thing is back!' Volzon: 'Stop!' Ooola and Alley Oop duck under her shield as Volzon's mind-control ray bounces off it. Dinny charges Volzon. 'How is it possible that my mind-control device doesn't work on this beast?' And Dinny eats it.
Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop for the 16th of April, 2017. So if any of you were wondering how modern capitalism can be brought to its much-needed end, this pro tip: mind-control-resistant dinosaurs. I’m surprised you needed the advice.

If this isn’t the end of the story it’s darned close. The past week has been Oop explaining what was going on to Zan, Bug, the Sarge, and someone else who joined the story while I wasn’t looking. There might be another week of transition left in things, but we’re getting onto a new story soon enough. I thank Jack Bender and Carole Bender for organizing stuff that neatly.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose four points today on rumors of investor confidence and a sense that what’s the worst that could happen? The folks shorting the index have their answers, but nobody listens to them until the market crashes and they’re the only ones with money until everyone else gathers around and punches them.

125

In Which I Need New Worlds To Conquer


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

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

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

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

126

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

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

118

Exclusion


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

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

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

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

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

136

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


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

Gil Thorp

16 January 2017 – 15 April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

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

133