MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 3 of 16)


Welcome back to my tour of old Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction. This piece from around 2003 is “Breaking the Barriers”, a Reboot fanfic by Carrie L—. Name truncated because the protagonist is a version of the author. While she was happy with my writing in 2003, I don’t know that this would not be horribly embarrassing eighteen years later.

The entirety of this MiSTing is, or should be, at this link. In the first part a mysterious computer thingy brought Carrie into the world of her computer. In the second part she got to meet Bob and Phong and other characters of the Reboot show she loves.

I come down surprisingly hard on the idea that Reboot is a popular show here. I don’t know; the joke seems quite petty. My recollection is that even at the time it was obvious Reboot would be a show people remembered and that would have influence, even if it wasn’t an Animaniacs-class success. One problem with the MiSTing habit is snarking mindlessly. Good snark, I suspect, needs to target sloppy or malicious thinking. “I like this cartoon” is neither sloppy nor malicious.


>
> Part Six
>
> Taking a deep breath,

TOM: Hey, give that back!

> Carrie sat up, but then looked down at
> the floor.

JOEL: The action here has the flow of a game of Arkanoid.

> "What I’m going to tell you is confidential," She
> whispered,

CROW: So I hope you’re just very confident.

> "and it’s going to sound like I’ve gone random.

TOM: But I’m really just sampling voice chip three.

> You have
> got to believe me, I could not just make this up."

ALL: MAKEUP!

[ JOEL pulls out a pillow, bops TOM, CROW. ]

> She looked up to
> find Bob and Phong watching her with rapt attention.

CROW: You got — you got something on — something on your — right —

> Licking her lips
> unconciously,

TOM: She’s going to have to get some CyberLip Balm if she keeps doing that.

> Carrie began to run through what she was going to say,
> in her mind.

JOEL: I probably shouldn’t talk too much about radiator fluids, it’s just too much of a diversion.

>
> "I come from a place called Earth."

CROW: [ As Bob ] You do? Do you know Peter?

> She said, "I am a human,
> not a sprite.

TOM: I am not a binary-coded-decimal number!

> Where I come from, you aren’t supposed to really
> exist."

JOEL: You’re just a metaphor for improved comprehension.

> she smiled a little at Bob’s startled reaction,

TOM: [ As Bob ] Yeah, well, where we come from *you* don’t exist, so double-dumb nyah on you!

> then kept
> going. "You see, where I am from, you are known only

CROW: To a select group of Cartoon Network junkies.

> as characters in
> a cartoon. Now I’m sure you’re wondering what a cartoon is,

JOEL: And why I’ve brought you here together.

> but I’ll
> have to explain that some other time."

TOM: Next time she’s freakishly pulled into the world of a cartoon?

> She raced through all the
> things she could say,

CROW: I bet there are some things she *could* say that she is *not* considering.

> and all the things she couldn’t say.

JOEL: Saying them would violate the Prime Directive.

> "This
> cartoon is called ‘ReBoot’, and it is very popular.

CROW: …mostly among people who ever bid more than thirty dollars on eBay for an SLP recording of the Transformers where Sea Spray meets the mermaid.

> You were
> wondering why I knew who you were, it’s because,

TOM: I’m assembling you into my Impossible Missions force.

> in this show, you are
> the main character.

CROW: Unless it’s that year you don’t appear at all.

> Anyone who’s even seen just part of the show
> knows who Bob is because you’re in every episode."

TOM: OK, OK, Bob’s the king of the world, OK? Good for you.

>
> It was then that Carrie realized that Phong had moved to his
> retrieval Vid- Window,

TOM: Which immediately crashes.

> and was skimming through the information there.

CROW: Huh … make money fast sending emails to pet kittens at home…

> "What are you looking for, Phong?" Bob asked, curiously.

JOEL: Phong? The fish is ready.

> Phong
> looked up at him, then at Carrie.

TOM: Sorry, I stumbled on the "Red Hot RS-232C Action" site by mistake.

> "I remembered hearing a story once
> before

JOEL: It was amusing. I liked it.

> about a species called ‘humans’, and I am looking to see if I
> can find a reference to them."

CROW: So far Google’s returned 2,038 billion sites, and a cute cartoon of a guy getting gumballs out of an ‘o’ in its logo.

> Phong began to race through the
> information, as Bob went over to see what he was looking at. "Ah,
> here it is." Phong said,

TOM: Search results found. Entries deleted. Have a nice day.

> "The term ‘human’ was once used by a visitor
> to another system, by the name of Jeff Bridges.

JOEL: A system named Jeff Bridges?

CROW: They’re so advanced they can get the behind-the-scenes documentary of "Tron."

> He claimed to come
> from Earth, just as you do." Phong looked up at Carrie, and she
> swallowed hard.

TOM: [ As Carrie ] I knew I shouldn’t have written all those tank programs!

>
> "That’s not the only way you know humans." She said, and
> Phong looked surprised.

CROW: Does taking the clown hat off help you recognize us?

> "And how else should we know of ‘humans’?" he
> asked.

JOEL: Have you tried our web site? http://www.humans.int/ ?

> Carrie looked down at her feet, and stayed silent, not sure
> how to tell them.

TOM: [ As Carrie ] Hey, when’d I get ruby slippers?

> She felt a hand on her shoulder, and looked up.

CROW: Why, thank you, Thing.

> She found herself looking into Bob’s eyes as he sat down next to her.
> "It’s O.K.," he said, quietly, "you can tell us." As he flashed her
> his killer smile, her fears and her heart, began to melt.

TOM: This is what happens when the cooling fan breaks.

CROW: They should’ve packed her on dry ice.

> "Well,"
> she whispered, "Not only am I human, but when I am home on Earth, I
> would be known to you as…."

JOEL: Darkwing Duck!

> She swallowed and looked at Bob for
> reassurance. When he smiled and placed his hand on her shoulder
> again,

CROW: They’re running out of hands there.

TOM: Shoulders too.

> she looked up at the ceiling and took a deep breath. "I am
> known to you as a ‘User’."

JOEL: I had no respect for individuals, just what I could make them do.

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * *

CROW: It’s a badly written square root sign.

>
> Part Seven
>
> Carrie sat silently as Phong and Bob stared at her in shock
> and disbelief.

TOM: [ As Phong ] Another one of *these*.

CROW: [ As Bob ] I tell ya, full moon, that’s when the crazies come out.

> She had known this was going to happen eventually, and
> she was sure that they would think she was random.

TOM: Why is telling them she’s a User going to make them like her more?

> Instead of smiling
> nicely and then quietly locking her away, Bob stood up. "I don’t know
> what to say." he whispered,

CROW: Perhaps I could use a Markov chain generator to create some generic poetry product for you.

> and then turned slightly, avoiding her
> gaze. Carrie clasped her hands together, and looked at him with
> pleading eyes. "I know how bad it sounds," she whispered, "but you’ve
> got to believe me.

TOM: Why?

> This is the truth, no matter how weird it sounds."
> She let her eyes trace his gorgeous profile, looking for any signs of
> belief, or slight acceptance.
>
> As she watched his face began to change, slowly.

JOEL: Uhoh. Morph programs. Trouble.

> Then he did
> something unexpected, he whirled around to face her, his face a mask
> of fierce concentration and withheld emotions.

TOM: Must… be… bland!

> "I can’t accept that
> you’re a User!" He almost shouted, "The User is threat to the sprites
> of Mainframe!"

CROW: This pretty accurately gets how computers feel about their users.

> He looked down at the floor, his hands clenched into
> fists at his sides, breathing hard with the exertion used to hold back
> his anger. Carrie sat back, surprised and shocked at the outburst.

TOM: [ As Carrie ] I just know they’re going to think I’m a Mary Sue…

> Her throat constricted, and she could feel tears begin to burn in her
> eyes. The last thing she had wanted to do was to upset Bob or anyone,
> and now she had done just that.

JOEL: Oh, *that’s* what she did. I forgot.

> She waited for him to storm away or
> hit something, she was sure he was mad at her.

TOM: [ As Bob ] I oughta interrupt your raster vectoring…

> "I just can’t accept
> that." he whispered, then looked up at her, his eyes glistening with
> tears of his own.

JOEL: Hey, there’s no crying in cyberspace!

> "I know you can’t be a User because you just don’t
> come across as one."

CROW: That sounds like a major dis, really.

>
> Carrie slid gracefully off the bio-bed, and walked forward.
> She stopped just in front of him, and looked up into his eyes.

TOM: Is she shrinking?

CROW: She’s conserving disk space.

> "I
> know you don’t believe me," she said, "but you’re going to have to. I
> can’t stay here, I have to return to Earth and my home."

JOEL: So she can get on the ‘net and sit there all week.

> Bob just
> looked at her for a while, but couldn’t say anything. "I know that
> you have the ability to get me back home." Carrie said,

CROW: Yeah, right after he gets the kid from Voyager, the Dungeons and Dragons kids, Samurai Jack, and Kidd Video back home.

TOM: I’m going to stick around until he gets the kid from Liddsville home, and that’s it.

> "I just hope
> you’re willing to believe me enough to do it." Bob looked away for a
> bit, deep in thought, then turned back to face her.

TOM: [ Harshly ] Abort, Retry… [ Softly ] Ignore?

> "I don’t know if
> I can," he sighed, " No Mainframer has ever been to the world of the
> User, so I don’t think there’s anyway you can get there."

JOEL: Well. Can you direct me to Max Headroom, then?

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

TOM: That’s a signature so abstract nobody knows who it is.

[ To continue … ]

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 2 of 16)


Welcome back to my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic treatment of Carrie L—‘s Reboot fanfic “Breaking The Barriers”. Everything posted from “Breaking the Barriers” should be at this link”. And all of my reposted MiSTings should be at this link, someday.

In the first part of this story, Carrie L—, Canadian author, admired how many things there were on the Internet. (Name partly redacted because this was a self-insertion fanfic and I don’t wish to force the author to be too easily embarrassed, if she would be.) Then came a mysterious error and she woke to discover she’s now one of those things. Join us now as she wakes to meet the cast of Reboot.

I don’t remember why I took on this MiSTing. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t only for the chance to toss in a bunch of old-time-even-then computer jokes. But it would be like me for that. Crow’s line about “Just go 4C E2 FC” is the machine language instructions for a Commodore 64 to reset the computer. There are a bunch of good dumb jokes I still like, such as Phong inquiring as to Carrie’s former appearance, or Joel’s energy shake. Hope you enjoy.

It was an article of Internet lore in the 90s that you could only get decaffeinated Mountain Dew in Canada. I don’t know whether that was true, or true in a shaded way, like, it only had less caffeine. But that’s what makes that line a correctly formed joke, which to a know-it-all like me is even better than a funny joke.


>
> Part Three

JOEL: The part of the third part will be known in this fanfic as the part of the third part.

>
> After a bit of confusion,

ALL: [ Muttering loudly to themselves, to the effect of "Where am I? Who are you? Where are we? What’s going on? Should we be doing something? ]

TOM: At some point she might want to ask how she got there.

> Carrie managed to calm down and was
> able to answer and ask questions normally.

CROW: [ As Carrie ] Oh, I dunno, what do you wanna do?

JOEL: [ As Bob ] I dunno. What do you wanna do?

> Looking up from the energy
> shake she had been given,

TOM: You’re sure I can’t get that supersized?

> Carrie found herself once again staring into
> those eyes.

JOEL: You have a liiiiiittle booger, right there.

>
> "You really are Bob, aren’t you?" she asked, sheepishly.
> "Last time I checked." he said, then he looked at her funny.

CROW: What was Mister Carlin telling you?

> "How do
> you know me?"

TOM: Let me count the ways.

> he asked, "I know you’re not from Mainframe." Looking
> back down at her energy shake,

JOEL: So she’s got no tea, right?

> Carrie tried to think of a good answer.

CROW: How would it be if I just spelled Mississippi?

> "Uh…well…you’re pretty well known where I come from."

TOM: In about the same way that Mister Spaceley is a leading industrialist back where she comes from.

> She said,
> then took a cautious sip of her shake.

JOEL: It was unlike any shake she had cautiously sipped before.

> It was as if she were drinking
> adrenaline or something.

TOM: MM-mmm. Endocrine solutions, just like Mom used to distill.

> Her whole body felt revitalized and her head
> started to clear. With a feeling of both surprise and pleasure, she
> started to gulp down the shake.

TOM: What the — no, get your head out of there! You’ll get stuck!

>
> "Whoa!" Bob said, "Be careful or you’re gonna choke!"

JOEL: Oh, and your face will freeze like that.

> Putting
> her drink down, Carrie smiled shyly. "I’ve never tasted, or felt,

CROW: Or deliberately bathed in…

> anything like that before!" she said. "You mean you’ve never had an
> energy shake?"

JOEL: I think an energy shake would go something… like this.
[ ALL stand up and start wiggling around. ]

> Bob asked, surprised. "No," Carrie whispered, "They
> don’t have these where I come from."

TOM: Yeah, they decaffeinate Mountain Dew too.

> She looked back up at Bob, and
> found him staring at her.

CROW: Sooner or later, one of them has to blink.

> "Just where do you come from anyway?" He
> asked.

TOM: Come from. Go to’s considered harmful.

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

CROW: The barriers will never heal if you don’t stop picking at them.

>
> Part Four
>
> Carrie swallowed hard. How was she going to explain the fact
> that she was a user to Bob without him thinking

CROW: You could jingle your car keys and distract him.

> she was completely
> random?

JOEL: Don’t throw in an unpredictable series of digits?

> She glanced down at her feet,

TOM: [ As Carrie ] Wait a minute, *three*?

> thinking of something to say,
> when she realized that her shoes and clothes were all wrong.

CROW: They were *so* fifteen milliseconds ago.

> Instead
> of her usual blue jeans and high-top runners, she was wearing black
> leather pants

JOEL: And felt-tip socks.

> and knee-high black boots. Each boot had a symbol

CROW: And vice-versa.

> crested at the top under the knee, a black and white bisected circle,

JOEL: The mark of the standardized test!

> impaled by a black and white diamond. She stretched her arms out and
> began to examine the sleeves of her shirt.

TOM: Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!

CROW: But that trick *never* works!

> What had been a plain grey
> sweatshirt, was now a maroon bodysuit

CROW: Without that suit, she wouldn’t have a body at all.

> with chrome trim.

TOM: And huge fins and that Edsel horse-collar grille.

> Her hands,
> once the sun-kissed brown

JOEL: If the sun kissed me I’d probably get third degree burns.

> of a Native-Canadian, had instead become an
> aquamarine colour.

CROW: Of a Newfoundlander.

JOEL: Or one of Namor’s armies.

>
> With a starled gasp, she jumped off the couch and ran to the
> mirror on the other side of the room.

TOM: Bob keeps that mirror around so he can put on his makeup.

> The face that stared back at
> her bore the same aquamarine colour as her hands, and she now had
> metallic blue hair.

JOEL: I guess she’s going through her Blue Period.

TOM: She’s really got to *steel* herself for this look!

> Her lips were a deep turquoise

CROW: Two feet deep, in fact.

> and her eyes…
> fortunately, her eyes were still the same hazel that had always stared
> back at her.

CROW: She clashes with every conceivable color and style.

JOEL: Black, white, maroon, and turquoise. She’s become a CGA graphic.

> With a small shriek of disbelief, she turned to Bob who
> had come up beside her.

TOM: I hope he doesn’t frighten Miss Muffet away.

>
> "What’s wrong?" he asked, worried. "I don’t look the same!!"

CROW: Uh… wait… new haircut? Different dress?

> Carrie almost shouted. "What’s happened to me?" I…I…" She turned
> back to the mirror again,

TOM: [ As Carrie ] Oh, magic mirror, take me away from this all.

> and now noticed the same black and white
> bisected circle that was on her boots was also placed near her left
> collarbone.

JOEL: So her neck’s become a boot?

> Reaching up to touch it,

TOM: If that’s a hot spot, she’s going to be in a lot of trouble.

> she looked at Bob’s worried face
> in the mirror.

CROW: It looks like a mirror, but it’s actually a web camera serving over five thousand people a day.

> "This is all wrong!" she whispered, "I’m not a
> sprite!"

JOEL: You’d rather be a raster interrupt method?

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * *

TOM: There’s one now.

>
> Part Five

CROW: Part Five is alive!

>
> At Carrie’s shock and dismay at her appearence,

TOM: I like her appearance.

> and her
> insistance that she was not a sprite, Bob decided it would be a good
> idea to take her to see Phong.

TOM: It *was* a good idea…

ALL: At first.

> Upon arriving at the Principle Office,
> Phong took her to the Infirmary

CROW: Because they were on the Infirmaration Superhighway.

> to see if there was anything the
> scanners could pick up.

JOEL: Hey, those aren’t scanners, they’re just an alpha channel effect.

> As he ran the tests,

CROW: Carrie regretted not studying earlier.

> Phong began to ask
> Carrie questions.

JOEL: Live around here much?

TOM: If you were a natural-born human transported by freakish accident to the world inside the computer, how would you convince people you weren’t insane?

>
> "You say that you do not look as you are supposed to." Phong
> said, "May I inquire as to your former appearence?"

CROW: [ As Carrie ] Go right ahead.

TOM: [ As Phong ] What is your former appearance?

> Carrie stared up
> at the ceiling,

JOEL: [ As Carrie ] What the… there’s people dancing on it!

> and started to recount her human appearence to them,

TOM: [ As Phong ] So you were the most beautiful person we ever saw… and we’re drawn to your beautiful eyes, that are quiet pools of tranquility that still betray a deep secret and still penetrate our souls… any distinguishing features?

> being careful not to sound like she was crazy.

CROW: So she had to keep from honking.

> "Well, I had brown
> hair before,

JOEL: But not on my head!

> and my skin was a dark beige colour. My lips were not
> turquoise, more of a pink colour.

CROW: Carrie L—, for the new Color Trinitron.

> These aren’t even my clothes!" She
> sighed deeply,

TOM: Inhaling over four kilobytes of memory.

> and turned her head to look at Phong.

[ CROW makes a slow, squeaking, hinge-in-need-of-oil sound. ]

> "I know it
> sounds crazy," she said, "but you’ve gotta believe me.

TOM: [ As Phong ] Sure thing, Mister Napoleon.

> I don’t belong
> here, and I need to get back home."

CROW: She’s only been gone fifteen milliseconds and already her ISP’s disconnected her forty times.

> Bob looked over at her

JOEL: Good woman. Tasty.

> and gave
> her a look she didn’t quite understand.

TOM: He gives looks in Klingon.

> "I can try and get you home."

CROW: Just go ‘4C E2 FC’, ‘4C E2 FC’, ‘4C E2 FC’ while clicking your VIC-IIs together three times.

> he said, "The only thing is, I need to know where you’re from.

JOEL: And if you can pay half tolls.

> You
> still haven’t told me."

TOM: Why, it almost makes me not want to trust the person I’ve never met before and know almost nothing about.

> Carrie swallowed hard,

CROW: There goes another 24 k of the stack.

> and looked up into his
> eyes.

TOM: As a sprite, would you feel more comfortable if we put you into a Snoopy Versus The Red Baron game?

> "Um.. well…I…you see," she stammered. From the look on his
> face,

JOEL: And the banner ad running across his forehead…

> she decided then and there, that she was going to have to tell
> him the truth,

JOEL: [ As Carrie ] This isn’t as cool as I thought it would be.

> no matter what the conciquences.

CROW: Is that the Canadian spelling?

TOM: That’s the Canadian misspelling.

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

JOEL: They haven’t gotten very far building that wall.


[ To continue … ]

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 1 of 16)


I’d like to begin another Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic summoned from the murky depths of the late 90s here. It’s set in the Reboot universe. Reboot is a show I never watched regularly. This isn’t a mark against the show. I was just at a place in the 90s when I had stopped picking up many new shows. I’m pretty much still there.

Editorial notes: I’ve obscured the author’s name for this story, Breaking the Barriers. This is because the fanfic was a self-insertion piece, putting a version of the author in as protagonist. Carrie L— volunteered this fanfic to the Web Site Number Nine Dibs List, as I recall. (I apologize if I have remembered how I came to this piece wrong.) And did enjoy the MiSTing and thought I treated it, and her character, fairly. But that was twenty years ago, and people’s views of themselves and their creative works change.

So I grant someone might work out the identity of the author from the clues available. But I can at least make it a little harder to do. Should the author happen to have an opinion about this reprinting — including wanting it taken down — please contact me, in a screened comment if need be, and I’ll act accordingly.

When I wrote this instead of my thesis, back around 2002, I was unaware of Canobie Lake Park in Salem, New Hampshire. Nor did I know of Santa’s Village in Jefferson, New Hampshire. Nor of Story Land in Glen, New Hampshire. If I had been, the Stuff For New Hampshire sketch would have been very different, I assure you. As you maybe guessed, it was based on a road trip I took once. I think the address specified “Suite 12” because that was my apartment number at the time. Meanwhile, please take care to not cut yourself on the sharp edge of my joke about the many editions of Monopoly, which I believe were all ones I had seen on store shelves when this was written.


[ OPENING SEQUENCE ]

[ 1.. 2.. 3.. 4.. 5.. 6.. ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. CROW and TOM stand behind the desk; a science fair project-style folding board with a map of New Hampshire stands by CROW’s side. ]

CROW: Good evening. Tom Servo and I, Crow T. Robot, speak to you on behalf of one of the Republic’s most needy states. As becomes obvious on considering or trying to drive across the state, the horrible truth is:

TOM: New Hampshire doesn’t have enough stuff in it. There are the small antiques stores that infest every square mile of New England, plenty of places to get maple syrup, plus some gas stations that are out of gas and won’t let you use the rest rooms, and that’s about it.

CROW: Compared to such exciting and dynamic states as Massachusetts, home to the Professional Basketball Hall of Fame, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and the Mount Greylock Expeditionary Force, loyal sons of New Hampshire can only look despairingly at their empty state.

TOM: Some naive people may assert New Hampshire is no worse off than nearby Vermont. Not so! Those in Vermont can partake of the benefits of being one of the four states to have been independent nations before joining the Union, such as the Hemmings Motor News (Full-Service) Gas Station, and the northernmost battle site of the U.S. Civil War.

CROW: [ Leadingly curious ] How’s that, Tom?

TOM: Yes, in 1864 Confederate soldiers descended from Canada to seize Saint Albans. They left three days later, taking with them some lovely antiques and fine maple syrup, and leaving Vermont with yet another piece of the rich tapestry of a history not shared by New Hampshire.

CROW: Others might argue states like Wisconsin deserve attention first. Not so! Oh, sure, Wisconsin has lots of empty space too, but its residents can enjoy cultural attractions like The House On The Rock, Tommy Bartlett’s Water Show, the actual filming locations of "The Giant Spider Invasion," and convenient access to Escanaba, Michigan.

TOM: But what have our poor New Hampshire…olo..gists got to look forward to, except catching a peek at Brattleboro, Vermont? That’s no future for the proud residents of an upstanding state, and it’s no future for New Hampshire either.

[ JOEL, carrying another sheet of cardboard, and GYPSY, enter, and listen aghast at what CROW and TOM are saying. ]

CROW: So if you’ve got any extra stuff — a museum, a potato chip collection, a cultural heritage, an Interstate, heck, a strip mall would do — please, donate it to the cause.

TOM: Send your extra stuff to:

[ CAMBOT puts the address on screen ]
Stuff for New Hampshire
1788 New Hampshire Boulevard, Suite 12
New Hampshireopolis, New Hampshire 01173
TOM: Thank you, won’t you?

JOEL: [ Startling, scaring TOM and CROW ] Thomas! Crow! I’m shocked at you both!

GYPSY: You knew we were going to do the — [ JOEL reveals his cardboard as a cutout of Nebraska ] — Stuff for Nebraska appeal!

JOEL: Yeah, guys, show a little consideration!

TOM: Uh, gosh, well, you know, we, uh …

CROW: [ As JOEL and GYPSY approach them ] Yeah, uh, we …

[ GYPSY pushes over their New Hampshire display ]

CROW, TOM: [ Dutifully ] We’re sorry.

MAGIC VOICE: Commercial sign in ten seconds.

JOEL: That’s more like it. And you two won’t ever do that again?

TOM: We didn’t say we *learned* anything, Joel, just that we’re sorry.

GYPSY: Get them!

[ TOM and CROW dash off to the sides of the screen as COMMERCIAL SIGN flashes. ]

JOEL: [ Giving chase, tapping COMMERCIAL SIGN ] We’ll be right back!

[ COMMERCIALS ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. CROW, JOEL, TOM, and GYPSY are tossing out cardboard cutouts of various states. JOEL holds a cutout of Indiana. ]

CROW: Indiana.

TOM: Farmer’s Market in Shipshewana.

GYPSY: [ As JOEL tosses out Indiana, picks up Colorado. ] Colorado.

CROW: Setting for "Mork and Mindy." [ JOEL tosses off Colorado, picks up Missouri. ]

GYPSY: Represented in both the Union and Confederate Congresses during the Civil War.

CROW: [ As JOEL tosses off Missouri, picks up Delaware. ] Actually has a land border with New Jersey.

JOEL: New Jersey, then?

TOM: The Turnpike’s Richard Stockton Service Plaza is named for the only signer to later repudiate the Declaration of Independence.

[ MADS SIGN flashes ]

JOEL: Oh, wait. Goober and the Ghost Chasers are calling.

[ JOEL taps MADS SIGN ]

[ DEEP 13. A steel girder is in the background, several feet off the ground; after a beat, DR. FORRESTER pokes his head into frame. ]

DR. F:Hello, Casper. Space Angels. Breakfast cereal: it’s not just for breakfast anymore, but it mostly is. Nevertheless, it offers our invention exchange for this week.

FRANK: [ Off-screen ] You noticed how the last Cheerios in the bowl stick together?

DR. F: Sure, we all have. And we realized the great potential if this adhesive power could be harnessed for non-grain applications.

FRANK: [ Off-screen ] So we went to work trying to reproduce Cheerio adhesion in a portable and easily applied liquid or gel form.

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. As above. ]

TOM: So you’ve got a demonstration for us?

[ DEEP 13. As above. ]

DR. F: Well …

[ DR. FORRESTER shuffles around, clumsily, revealing that across his back TV’s FRANK is stuck, at an odd angle, his back to DR. FORRESTER’s back, his arm twisted to fit behind DR. FORRESTER’s shoulders and head. ]

FRANK: We’re working the bugs out.

DR. F: [ Shuffling back around ] Your turn.

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. JOEL is at the desk, putting a large thimble over TOM’s dome. GYPSY has wheels and a racecar front on her head. CROW has a papier mache top hat on. On the desk is a Monopoly board and the associated clutter. ]

JOEL: Our invention this week begins with the provocative question: What do Singapore, Betty Boop, the original six pro hockey teams, and the dot-com industry have in common? One great theme.

TOM: All these nouns have all been turned into editions of the classic Parker Brothers board game, Monopoly.

GYPSY: Monopoly has dozens of licensed theme variations.

JOEL: From cities, to Marvel comics, to Major League Baseball.

CROW:So we unite them all with a hopefully soon-to-be-licensed variant:

[ JOEL holds the board up ]

JOEL: The Monopoly Edition edition of Monopoly!

TOM: Tired of Saint Charles Place? Try buying and building up the National Geographic Mountaineering Edition. That dowdy old green color block? Now it’s I Love Lucy, Star Trek, and The Simpsons.

CROW: Free Parking becomes the concept of landing on somebody else’s hotel without their noticing.

GYPSY: Those old railroads? Now they’re the Standard Edition set; the Monopoly set you lost when you were twelve; the set with two checkers, a pawn, and a piece from Sorry replacing missing tokens; and the set that’s hidden under the couch at Grandma’s.

JOEL: It’s an exciting new twist on a classic game, and one we hope will delight the world. What do you think, sirs?

[ DEEP 13. TV’s FRANK is facing forward now, DR. FORRESTER stuck turned away. ]

FRANK: Joel, I think you’re going to delight in this week’s experiment. For a change, it’s *fan fiction* where the author puts a version of herself into the story, and soon wins the hearts of all the show’s characters, heroes and villains alike.

[ They turn around again, showing DR. FORRESTER. ]

DR. F: Your target for tonight is… Reboot: Breaking the Barriers by Canada’s own Carrie L—.

[ They turn around again, showing TV’s FRANK. ]

FRANK: Good luck breaking on through to the other side!

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. GYPSY, CROW, JOEL, and TOM are beginning to play the Monopoly edition. ]

TOM: I wanna be the thimble.

JOEL: You are the thimble.

CROW: Are we gonna play where you get cash for landing on Free Parking?

GYPSY: No, we’re playing the basic rules.

TOM: Can we make investment trusts with the banker?

JOEL: No, it’s just the plain old rules.

CROW: Do we have to go around the board once before buying property?

GYPSY: No, we’re just playing the real —

[ MOVIE SIGN goes off ]

ALL: Aaaah! We got movie sign!

CROW: I wanna be the racecar!

[ 6.. 5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1.. ]

[ THEATER. ALL file in. ]

> Breaking the Barriers

CROW: Somebody get the Krazy Glue.

TOM: Or the Cheerios.

> By Carrie L—

>
> Blinking and rubbing her eyes,

TOM: An elderly Samantha Stevens tries to work her magic again.

> Carrie leaned back in her
> chair.

JOEL: If she leans too far she’ll fall in Yosemite Sam’s trap.

TOM: He’s going to get rid of her and make it look like an accident.

> She had been sitting in front of her computer for hours now.

CROW: Gina Smith, the early years.

> "Boy," she thought, "there sure is alot of things to look at on the
> ‘Net. I could be here forever!"

JOEL: "I could be here forever" — it’s foreshadowing! We never get foreshadowing!

> Reaching up, she rubbed the back of
> her neck,

TOM: I hope she’s not looking for the parachute release cord.

> trying to get rid of the kinks that were forming. Then,
> suddenly, her screen flashed a blue color

JOEL: I think she’s being visited by Jaga.

> and she got an "Error 2001"

TOM: A pretty routine odyssey.

> message. "Error 2001?" she said, "Fatal error,

CROW: They’re going to have to call off finding the monolith?

> system destabylizing,

JOEL: But feeling better about itself.

> auto-transport device activated?" she read aloud, "What the heck is an
> auto-transport device?"

TOM: Isn’t that when Amtrak takes you and your car down to Florida?

>
> Suddenly, the screen began to flash a bright white light

CROW: Oh, somebody’s poking random numbers into 53281 again.

> and
> she felt herself being lifted off her seat.

JOEL: I hope she drives the villains crazy, ’cause she’s a lunatic.

> She watched in horror and
> surprise as her feet began to pass through her screen into,

TOM: This is the technology that let Deep Space Nine appear in the tribbles episode.

> who knows
> what? With a scream of terror,

JOEL: Scream.

ALL: [ Halfheartedly ] Aaah.

> she was pulled into her computer and
> everything went black.

JOEL: You suppose this would’ve happend if Carrie had a surge protector?

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

CROW: Hey, isn’t that one of the barriers there?

>
> Part Two
>
> Carrie felt groggy and her head was spinning as she came to.

CROW: Must be a loose socket somewhere.

> Gently, she began to open her eyes.

TOM: [ As Carrie ] Aw, mom, it’s not a school day…

> As they fluttered open, she could
> hear a voice announce that she was waking up.

JOEL: Please remain in the waking-up position until the fan fiction has come to a complete stop.

> As her eyes came into
> focus, she could see that she was in a room she had never seen before.

CROW: Oh, OK. Now I know exactly what it looks like.

> ‘What happened?’ she thought, then gasped as someone’s face appeared
> above hers.

TOM: [ Distorted ] Hi, I’m Leonard Maltin.

>
> She found herself staring

JOEL: Isn’t that a bit rude, Carrie?

> into the most gorgeous pair of brown
> eyes she had ever seen.

TOM: They were unlike any eyes she had ever seen before.

> She then realized that the face that housed
> the eyes bore blue skin and chrome hair.

CROW: Oh, great. Honey? We got Andorians.

> As her eyes began to travel
> down the face,

TOM: A little glue can keep them from slipping like that.

> she noticed that this figure was wearing a blue uniform
> with gold and silver trim.

JOEL: He’s painted like Jay Ramos’s house down the street.

> Suddenly, it registered, and she bolted
> upright, gasping in surprise and total disbelief.

CROW: [ As Carrie ] I’m on "Silverhawks"!

>
> "Oh man,oh man,oh man!" she whispered, "I must be dreaming! It
> can’t be you!! You can’t be him!

TOM: I’m not, but a lot of people say I look just like him.

> Can you?"

JOEL: *May* you.

> She looked into the eyes
> again and whispered, "Are you Bob?"

TOM: Newhart?

JOEL: Dylan?

CROW: –White?

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

CROW: OK, a little string… we let it sit for a few hours, this barrier should be good as new again.

Statistics Saturday: Where More Comic Strips Are Set


Since it turns out people like geography! Who knew?

Comic Strip Setting
The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee Anytown, USA
One Big Happy Anytown, USA
Buckles Anytown, USA
FoxTrot Anytown, USA
Red and Rover Anytown, USA
Between Friends Anytown, Canada [1]
Heathcliff Anytown, USA
Shoe Anytown, Delmarva Peninsula, Virginia
Graffiti Anytown, USA
Rose is Rose Anytown, USA
Bleeker: The Rechargeable Dog Anytown, USA
Ginger Meggs Anytown, Australia

[1] “Anytown, Canada” means “Suburban Toronto”.

Reference: Yerkes Observatory, 1892-1950: The Birth, Near Death, and Resurrection of a Scientific Research Institution, Donald E Osterbrock.

Two fast thoughts about the new Elvira’s House of Horrors pinball game


So, first, I finished my first game with 69 million and I just feel like Elvira should have acknowledged that fact.

Second, autocomplete really wants me to be writing about Elvira’s House of Parliament and I think that all my United Kingdom, Canada, and Australian readers strongly agree.

Statistics Saturday: The World’s Least Canadas


(In response to the numerous questions submitted by readers after last week’s piece that I’m sure they meant to send in but forgot.)

  1. Mayotte
  2. Adanac, Ontario
  3. Tromelin Island
  4. Manalapan, Florida
  5. Canada, Oiratno
  6. Canada (asteroid)
  7. Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania
  8. Adanac, Oiratno

Reference: Exploring Space with a Camera, Edgar M Cortright.

Statistics Saturday: The World’s Top Canadas


  1. Canada
  2. Canandaigua, New York
  3. Little Canada, Chua Chu Kang New Town, Singapore
  4. Canada Township, Pennsylvania
  5. The Due South interactive dark ride at Universal Studios Vancouver
  6. Canada Township, North Carolina
  7. Canada (lunar crater)
  8. Canada Township, Nebraska

Reference: Charlie Chaplin And His Times, Kenneth S Lynn.

Statistics Saturday: Several Fake Canadian Provinces Or Territories


  • Upper Columbia
  • Greater Toronto
  • District of Skagway
  • Breton
  • Lesser Fromronto
  • Mtigwaki
  • South Brunswick
  • Middling Threeronto
  • Roberta
  • Upper Saddle River
  • Fouronto
  • Adanac
  • Manicotti
  • Moosylvania
  • Scottish Oregon
  • Severaltoba
  • Gogebic County, Michigan
  • Territory of Sasquatch
  • Shuswap Regional District Time
  • Montreal Oblast
  • Maplesota Territory
  • Equatorial Labrador
  • Saskatchemifyoucan
  • Prince Rupert’s Nose

Note: Mooseapopalis is not named as it is, of course, a fictional city in Nova Carolus and not a fake province or territory of Canada. We weren’t born yesterday.

Fun Fact: I did not call this “Faux Canada” because the wordplay never crossed my mind, and don’t think I’m not all burnt up about that. I may never forgive myself. Well, it’s too late now. Too bad.

Another Fun Fact: I am completely incapable of telling whether a fact is, in fact, fun.

Source: History of the Space Shuttle, Volume 1: The Space Shuttle Decision, 1965 – 1972, T A Heppenheimer.

My Extremely Rare Idea For A Video Game People Might Want To Play


Okay, so how about Oregon Trail, only for finding the Northwest Passage? Like, you pick an era of exploration, and what kind of ship and what sorts of crew, and how much you want to invest in stocks to search overland and over ice? And you make decisions about what currents to follow and when to keep poking into a bay and when to give up a path as probably useless? And trying to figure out which is just an estuary and which is a major river and where portages would be useful? Also so that you don’t go in knowing that there’s no finding one you have to go searching the shore of a procedurally generated Canada?

Yes, a good idea, sure. But mostly I say this because I want to get the concept of the “procedurally generated Canada” out there. Isn’t that a great notion? Sure. Just imagine a world where Montreal isn’t an inevitability but must instead come about by a lucky result on a random number generator. What about a Prince Edward Island tucked right in the middle of Baffin Bay? Ooh, there must be the chance there’d be, like, four Albertas, one right after the other, surrounding Labrador like it was ganging up on Saint Pierre and Miquelon? And wouldn’t it be something if the Saint Lawrence River led directly to — let’s say something hilarious here — Edmonton or maybe Churchill? A Toronto that’s balanced on top of Vancouver? And underneath a second Vancouver? Yes, this is a thing we should have. You’re very welcome.

The Most Perfect Sentence I Have Ever Seen In Print This Week


So I was reading Seymour I Schwartz’s The Mismapping of America, which as you inferred from the title is all about the challenges in making an integrated-circuit design and surrounding circuit board that would be lightweight and reliable enough to serve as the Apollo Guidance Computer for the moon landings. In the last full chapter Schwartz discusses the history of mapping the Great Lakes and how we got around to having two Lake Superior islands — Isle Phelipeaux and Isle Pontchartain — which define part of the boundary between the United States and Canada despite neither actually in fact existing. Here “neither” refers to Lake Superior and to the United States, which should be a considerable relief to everyone but the mapmakers. And now consider this following sentence, about the late-1680s exploration reports by Louis, Baron de Lahontan et Hesleche, of the Fox River in what we now think of as Wisconsin.

Lahontan’s text includes an extensive, although improbable, description of domesticated beavers in the area.

And now try to tell me that sentence hasn’t caused you to pause in your day’s worries and allow a gentle, delighted smile to cross your face. You can’t do it, and for good reason. I thank whatever twists and turns of fate led Seymour I Schwartz to the point of writing such a delightful sentence. It’s rare for fourteen words to do so much for the human condition.

Me Week: The Quintessence Of My Humor Style


If anything characterizes what I think is funny, it’s “slightly over-researched stuff”. So here’s some pieces that exemplify that. When Time Came To New Jersey was somehow not that week’s long-form piece, but rather just a little something dashed off because I got to thinking about the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. And the question it raises I still haven’t answered, although I also haven’t asked any of the many people I in principle could to get some kind of answer.

In Why I Never Finish Just Reading A Stupid Book Already I get thrown off a book about usury and debt by a casual line about what the Secretary of the Treasury was doing in 1853. So I’m not just a person who reads about a history of usury and debt but also thinks about the change of office between Secretaries of the Treasury that happened in 1853.

And then in What Causes People To Sometimes Read About Canada there I go again, reading about the prelude to the British North America Act of 1867 (oh hey, happy birthday and stuff there) gets me thinking about the nature of boredom.

If you needed something else to read, here Twenty Books About Things That Changed The World and I thought I had read a majority of them. Huh.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell 29 points today as analysts and traders realized suddenly the year was half-over and they were just starting to feel good about that when they realized there was as much 2017 yet to come? And actually even more 2017 since the 30th of June is only the 181st day of the year and there’s 184 left in the year if we see the whole thing after all.

242

Priceless


I imagine my love and I aren’t alone in following the news about that giant Canadian coin stolen from that museum in Berlin. If you missed the news, a giant Canadian coin was stolen from this museum in Berlin. Here “giant” refers to the coin. It was a solid gold piece with a denomination of one million Canadian dollars. It’s worth, at current gold prices, of over four million Canadian dollars. (This suggests a great money-making scheme, wherein if we get enough money together it’ll be four times as much money. Joke’s on you. We’ve all bought into the scheme and called it “the economy”.) The Canada was the normal-size Canada as far as I know. What’s a little enchanting about this is that the coin denomination is bilingual. On one half it reads “1 Million Dollars”. On the other it’s “1 Million de Dollars”. I love the old-fashioned sound of “a million of dollars”. It redoles of gilded-age finance. I know “redole” is not a word. I mean “it’s redolent of” but I’m trying to avoid passive constructions.

The theory of how this 21-inch-across, 220-pound coin got stolen is that the thieves dragged it through the museum, out a window, and down along the railway track. My love pondered what a hobo walking that line would make of seeing a giant gold coin being rolled down the way. I know what I would do in that circumstance. I would bug out my eyes, reach into my hobo jacket, pull out the whiskey flask, dramatically pour out the contents, and toss the empty canister over my shoulder. I have seen too many stupid movies. It’s affecting my behavior in hypothetical situations.

The Royal Canadian Mint made five of these million-Canadian-dollar gold coins “because we can”, according to its web site according to The New York Times. That’s a fair reason. It beats “because we can’t” or “because the alternative is to be licked by an opossum” or “because otherwise we have to paint the basement”. At least it’s a fair reason to make the first one. You can’t really prove you can do a thing unless you do the thing, or do something close to the thing. Like if they minted a 975,000-Canadian-dollars gold coin. If they ever did that I’d entertain no doubts about their ability to make a million-Canadian-dollar gold coin. But it looks like they skipped right to the million one. Maybe they were confident after the success of their 925,000-Canadian-dollars gold coin. Or maybe out back they have a bunch of test misfires. Coins that came out as spheres, say, or that swapped the locations of the English and the French denomination inscriptions. Or that time they put gold into the machinery and a bunch of cheeseburgers came out and they can’t explain that.

I don’t know who the other four million-Canadian-dollar were made for, or why. At least one was put on display in some Berlin museum. I guess that’s better than leaving it in the Stray Stuff drawer in the front desk, along with the rubber bands that break when you try to band things together and that couple of pound coins you swore you were going to spend the last time you went to Britain and then didn’t. But what purpose do the others serve besides proving your annoying lefty friends correct about the moral imperative to grind up the rich for bone meal?

The Royal Canadian Mint will make more, in case you want one and are willing to risk the Revolution not coming anytime too soon. That’s got me wondering how much it costs to get a million-dollar coin minted. At least a million dollars seems likely. But how much more on top of that? And can you get it FOB? This is a very funny joke to people who remember that mention of railroad tracks earlier and who also get lots of stuff delivered by the Railway Express Agency, which folded in 1975, which is why I’m a humor blogger and not a successful humor blogger. I wonder if you get a discount if you bring your own gold. I’m imagining now showing up at the front door of the Royal Canadian Mint, at I’m guessing 1867 Mint Street, Canadopolis, Canada K1A 0G8, with a wheelbarrow full of ore and asking where the service counter is. (Alternatively, “où est le counter de service?” which is pretty good French considering how long it’s been since I took a class.) I bet they have a pamphlet showing the way. Mints like that always have more and more specific pamphlets than you could imagine.

Also the million-Canadian-dollar gold coin is merely one of the world’s largest gold coins. A correction to the New York Times article reads:

While it was the world’s largest gold coin when it was issued, in 2007, that distinction is now held by the Australian Kangaroo One Tonne Gold Coin, minted in 2011.

I shall be very disappointed if the Australian Kangaroo One Tonne Gold Coin is not the most dangerous gold coin in existence. I know what a dangerous ecosystem finance is, and Australia’s got to have the most dangerous. I bet it’s highly venomous and prone to exploding when threatened.

And now I’m wondering, what if it was just someone from Giant Canada that picked it up? Thought it was loose giant change in the giant drawer? I’d go ask Giant Canada but my voice isn’t loud enough for them to hear me at that height. I suppose it isn’t something I have to resolve, anyway.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Trading dropped three points before dissolving into just a mess when someone brought up that recent Family Circus from a little while ago where they use the phrase “on fleek”. And we never knew “on fleek” was a thing, but blast if we’re going to let Family Circus be more in-touch with the pop culture than we are. And yeah, that “on fleek” has gotten to where it’s appearing in the comic strips that don’t admit they’re reruns of decades-old strips sometimes with a little new art means the phrase has to be completely dead and maybe two years away from an ironic revival but sheeesh no, we can’t have this at all and now we’re going to have to look up that David S Pumpkins thing that everybody was giggling about back in October right before the world ended?

116

Statistics Saturday: Word Counts Of _The Scooby-Doo Show_ Episode Titles


From the 1976 Scoopy-Doo/Dynomutt Hour. Dynomutt episodes omitted, even the ones with Scooby-Doo and the Gang crossing over.

Word Appearances
’76 1
a 13
an 1
and 2
at 1
awake 1
away 1
Aztec 1
bad 1
bats 1
beast 2
beeline 1
Bermuda 1
bottomless 1
bum 1
Camelot 1
caper 1
case 3
cats 1
chase 1
chiller 1
Chinese 1
claw 1
creature 1
creepy 5
crew 1
cruise 1
curse 1
dark 1
deep 1
demon 2
demons 1
diabolical 1
diller 1
disc 1
don’t 1
face 1
fear 1
feline 1
fiesta 1
fling 1
for 1
fortress 1
fortune 1
fright 1
frightened 1
froggy 1
from 2
game 1
gator 1
ghost 4
ghoul 1
go 1
grand 1
gruesome 1
hair 1
Halloween 1
hang 1
harum-scarum 1
Headless 1
heap 1
high 1
Highland 1
hoodoo 1
Horseman 1
host 1
hound 1
humor 1
in 5
iron 1
is 2
it’s 1
jaguaro 1
jeepers 1
kooky 1
lake 2
lot 1
make 1
Mamba 1
man 1
meets 1
menace 1
monster 1
monstrous 1
movie 1
near 1
night 1
no-face 1
of 10
old 1
out 1
Ozark 1
prix 1
quarterback 1
race 1
raiser 1
rise 1
sacked 1
sanitarium 1
scared 1
scaredy 1
scary 1
Scooby 1
Scooby-Doo 2
Scooby’s 1
shark 1
shocking 1
snow 1
spirits 1
spooky 1
steer 1
switch 2
tangle 1
tar 1
that 2
the 33
theater 1
there 1
there’s 1
thing 1
to 1
triangle 1
underground 1
vampire 1
Venice 1
Viking 1
Voodoo 1
vulture’s 1
Wamba 1
warlock 1
watch 1
Watt 1
where’s 1
willawaw 1
Wimbledon 1
witch 2
with 2
zombie 1

For the first time in the Scooby-Doo franchise neither Jekyll nor Hyde appear in episode titles. Also there was an episode in Venice that was never put into syndication for some reason? Canada too, and that one had a sea monster and everything. The heck, guys? When I was eight I’d have loved to see Scooby-Doo with a sea monster. You’ll give me the episode where, according to Wikipedia’s description, “the gang meets up with tennis star Jimmy Pelton, who has been cursed by a warlock”, but not a Canadian sea monster? The heck, I mean really, what the heck?

What Causes People To Sometimes Read About Canada


Let me address the first question about my checking out Christopher Moore’s Three Weeks In Quebec City: The Meeting That Made Canada from the library. No, every other book was not checked out. However, it’s true the book I really wanted, a 288-page book about rust, isn’t due back until mid-October. I concede people might think 262 pages about the 1864 conference which laid down the principles for the British North America Act of 1867 would be a little dry. They’re mistaken. It was very rainy the whole first week. (I haven’t gotten to the second week yet.) And, hey, the meeting had not one but two people named John Hamilton Gray attending. They won’t be confused because John Hamilton Gray was from a completely different part of Maritime Canada than was John Hamilton Gray.

But it’s got me thinking about my reading. The kind way to look at it is I’m broad-minded. If someone’s gone to the trouble of writing a book about the modern pasta technology it’s only decent I read it, right? But I know deep down I go in skeptically, figuring, how could there be a book’s worth of material about this? It turned out well. I got to see baffling pictures of extruded pasta under a microscope, and got to see hundreds of uses of the word “extrude”. Is it a boring topic? Maybe, but at least I only borrowed the book from the university library. I own two books about the history of containerized cargo and have a distinct preference for one of them. And I’m a little sad that neither the city nor the university library have enough books about the sociology of bureaucracy for my tastes.

Am I a boring person? I don’t think so. Of course I have an interest in not thinking so. If I didn’t think I was interesting how could I bear to be with someone who’s sure there’s a snappy 4X video game to be made out of time zones? My love does it, so it can’t be just me. Well, 3X anyway. The best X’s.

But then is anything actually boring? Stare directly at the boring and you’ll find fascination staring back at you. You ever notice those big plastic signs stuck in the ground outside decaying strip malls, that tell you where to find prepaid cell phones? Those were manufactured. Someone made them. So someone either grew up wanting to make those, or else the twists and turns of that person’s life turned “making those things” into the sensible thing to do. Either way that’s a story.

More, someone invented that. Humanity was fine without those things for tens of thousands of years, then suddenly we weren’t. It’s easy to imagine making the first; someone had an odd impulse to make a nylon-or-something sign that would plunge easily into the ground. It needs no explanation to say why someone did that once. People will try all kinds of odd things and most of them don’t amount to worse than an explanation to the clerk at the emergency room admissions. But society was ready to pick up this idea and run with it. How did we get to that point? Again, this boring thing is fascinating.

But we shouldn’t mistake being bored with not finding stuff interesting. Boredom is the state where anything, anything at all, is interesting enough to pay attention to. A clock trudging clockwise? A squirrel berating a flower pot? A TV show about the making of how-to-make-stuff TV shows? That tuft of fur the pet rabbit can’t quite blow off his nose? That’s all it takes to hold your interest when you’re bored.

And bored is the natural state anymore. We aren’t busy on cell phones all day long because it’s all that interesting. We’re there because we’re in a boring room anyway, or bored waiting for the interesting thing to get started. Someone you kind of know who’s a friend of someone you kind of used to know sends around a page of philosophy quotes married to pictures of otters? A list of human tragedies immortalized as restaurant offerings? The surprisingly late date when car license plate sizes were standardized? Movies watched by Jimmy Carter while he was president? That’s as good as organizing the federal government of Canada.

Doubt me? Here’s a 6500-word essay about the history of disposable coffee cup lids. You can insist you’re ignoring it. (It’s got some jumbled text that looks like sidebars were poorly merged into the main.) But if you do, you’ll know there’s stuff someone wrote about the different eras in disposable lid design that you haven’t seen yet. The world may be boring us, but that doesn’t mean we can ever really look away.

Comic Strip _Momma_ Not Neglecting George Washington, Either


OK, so, something first: on my mathematics blog it’s the “19th Century German Mathematicians” edition, although it really only mentions two 19th Century German Mathematicians by name or any detail, and one of them thought he could prove that Francis Bacon wrote William Shakespeare’s plays. So, you know, being good at infinity doesn’t mean you know everything.

Something second: Mell Lazarus’s Momma. The comic strip recently turned to Almanac-based humor, and last week raised questions about Abraham Lincoln as well as Canada’s “Heritage Day”, like, “does Canada have a `Heritage Day’?” And, since the comic strip gave us Abraham Lincoln just hanging around for no particular reason, would George Washington get the same treatment? Sure he would.

Momma and Francis see George Washington, who's alive and sitting angrily in a chair, and who thinks Momma and Francis don't appreciate how much hard work it is being George Washington.
Mell Lazarus’s Momma for the 22nd of February, 2015, celebrating George Washington’s birthday by making us wonder what he’s so angry about anyway.

And I’m still baffled by it all, since while I have no trouble believing that Washington has carved a dresser out of a giant block of yellow butter, I’m stumped working out why he would have triangular pennants for the battles of Concord and of Saratoga, or the Treaty of Paris, which he had nothing to do with. And where the heck is the pennant for Monmouth Courthouse? Why not the winter encampments at Morristown, New Jersey? Heck, what about Newburgh? Also, are his drapes pattern that of a bunch of clouds, or is it Keith Knight characters mooning us? These are all questions I feel I cannot answer.

Really, Though, Comic Strip _Momma_ Going Quite Mad


I don’t mean to harp on this too much, but, did you see Mell Lazarus’s Momma for today? No, because there’s only fourteen people under the age of 50 who read the comics and most of them have better sense than to read Momma. But, well, just look at the strip for the 17th.

Momma notes yesterday was Presidents Day; someone agrees and points out it was Heritage Day in Canada. Another woman says we shouldn't compete with Canada, 'After all, they're always our allies', and two women beyond her say 'true' three times. That's it.
Mell Lazarus’s baffling Momma for the 17th of February, 2015. Also, I question whether it was actually Heritage Day in Canada.

While I criticized a couple strips last week for not making sense, I have to admit that at least the comic from the 13th is a joke-like construct: Francis talks about how his boss yelled at him for seven hours, Momma asked a question about this, and we get back a non sequitur response. Momma’s question doesn’t make contextual sense, but it at least has the grammar; the structure is right even if the humor is lacking.

Francis says he made a mistake at work, his boss yelled at him for seven solid hours and threw him out of the office; then the scene teleports from the front porch to the living room.
Mell Lazarus’s crazy Momma for the 13th of February, with a setup that just … I don’t know. I just don’t know.

The Lincoln’s Birthday one hasn’t got the structure of a joke, but it does have the pop-cultural-reference form of things, by showing off a thing (Abraham Lincoln) and then some things that remind you of that original thing (“four score and seven years”, “civil”, “mint julep” — well, he was born in Kentucky). This “here’s a thing that reminds you of another thing!” form in brilliant hands gives you Mystery Science Theater 3000, the movie Airplane!, and those Bugs Bunny cartoons stealing jokes from then-current radio comedians. In clumsy hands, it gives you the Scary Movie franchise and Animaniacs and the like. These might be the humor equivalent of junk food — a quick laugh that, on reflection, you really can’t justify having found funny — but it is at least a form that inspires a giggle.

Lincoln, I guess, tells Francis he's thirsty, so Francis asks Momma to bring him a mint julep, which is 'very civil' of us. It doesn't make more sense in the illustration. Sorry.
Mell Lazarus’s crazy Momma for the 12th of February — Lincoln’s birthday — 2015.

But this, well, I don’t know what there is even to giggle at. Maybe some vague nervousness at elderly people acting kind of daft? That seems cruel in an abnormal form for Momma, though.

So as not to be too negative on an otherwise decent day, let me close with this picture of our pet rabbit doing that thing where he’s nodding off but keeps waking himself up when his head droops too fast. Also he might be melting through the bars of his play area.

Our Flemish giant, nestled up against the bars of his play area, as he naps.
Our pet rabbit doing that thing where he’s nodding off, but keeps waking himself up because his head droops too fast.

Statistics Saturday on Tuesday: January 2015 Readership


I’m trying to do my monthly review of readership statistics near the start of every month, and this is pretty near the start, and what the heck, it’s not like there’s anything amusing going on the 2nd of February anyway.

Well, readership was down in January, compared to December, dropping from 1,251 views and 626 visitors to a relatively modest 1,071 views from 553 visitors. (That is keeping nearly the same number of views per visitor, though.) I’m a bit saddened by that, but it’s still a number of views, and distinct readers, that would have me thrilled as recently as September. And hey, it beat a thousand views, which is a nice symbolic threshold to beat.

WordPress’s new statistics page is stumbling into being slightly less awful, even if it’s still bad, but it does give some new information, like the number of comments received over the month — 93, in January, down from 138 in December, but up from 76 in November — and the number of likes received. There, at last, I could find a happy record high, with 382 likes in January, up from 360 in December and 240 in November. I’ll take it.

The most popular thing I ever do is list countries, so, let me give you this:

Country Number
United States 838
Canada 32
Australia 28
United Kingdom 16
New Zealand 16

So in short, apparently, the former SEATO nations are a stronghold of my readership, if you believe those numbers represent number of readers from any particular country. If you don’t, you can take them to be what you like. Countries that sent me just the one reader in January were Bermuda, Bulgaria, Colombia, Croatia, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Isle of Man, Mexico, Norway, and Turkey. Ireland’s the only repeat from December. And my India readership went from four to nine, at which rate of growth it’ll take only two years and two months for everybody in India to be reading my little humor blog here, so watch for that, won’t you please?

The most popular posts for January were:

There hasn’t been much good stuff bringing people to me in search terms, unfortunately. Some queries for specific articles like S J Perelman’s Captain Future, Block That Kick! or Mark Twain’s Awful, Terrible Medieval Romance, and for facts about Turbo, but nothing really better than “nebus furniture”. Also, Canada was never part of SEATO. Sorry about that.

The Journey, By Train


4:52 am. Passengers assemble at the East Lansing Train Station. Passengers will be screened for having gotten more than three hours of fitful, oft-interrupted sleep the night before. Those which have will be assigned a 25-page term paper on the subject of late 19th Century United States presidents and their understanding of how the emerging science of thermodynamics affects railroad painting, worth forty percent of the class, no makeups.

5:18 am. Passengers board the train to East East Lansing where the train service stops and they all get aboard a bus to take them to Toledo, arriving somehow at 3:12 am that same morning, only crankier. Through the bus trip the TV screens will be playing Something, Probably A Romantic Comedy Or Something, with the lower half of the screen glitched out and the audio just loud enough to hear the helicopters and explosions but not the dialogue. Three stars.

7:30 am. Bus arrives in Toledo to transfer to the train station, but immediately gets lost because the driver attempts foolishly to follow “Route 2”, a highway of legendary and purely notional existence.

2:18 pm. The Ohio Coast Guard retrieves the bus from Lake Erie shortly before the desperately paddling passengers manage to cross the border into Ontario and thus provoke an international incident as many of them failed to bring adequate supplies of Canadian currency and someone is trying to pass off a FunZone Game Token as money.

10:40 pm. The Ohio Coast Guard finally gets the bus paddled to shore and after hiring sherpas brings the bus to the train station, whence the train zooms towards Pittsburgh, stopping only after fourteen minutes in order that a freight train with higher priority can be constructed and loaded with freight, a cargo consisting of passenger train cars headed the other direction. On-train Internet WiFi service is reduced from “sluggish” to “laughable”.

Day 2. 2:15 am. The train arrives in Pittsburgh and is immediately taken out over the Monongahela River and dangled by its couplers or whatever they have until every passenger has been subject to a review of the stuff left in the backseat of his or her car to be cleaned out “later, when it’s convenient”. The winner is the one who has the most obviously later-inconvenient item, with bonus points awarded if it is some kind of mould for the fabrication of solid metal objects.

3:20 am. The train just sits outside the Kennywood Amusement Park for a couple of hours to make everyone feel bad that they’re at an amusement park and they can’t go in, plus everything’s closed up. A conductor goes around reminding people they have 23 and a half pages to go and have barely thought about paint.

6:75 am. The train discharges its passengers that they may catch their connecting service, at the far end of the railway terminal in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, or maybe Charleston, West Virginia. Check signs for details.

8:26 am. Connecting service on the line to New York City departs wherever, with the conductor reminding people they have 22 and three-quarters pages and the font may not be larger than fourteen point. New sound-dampening cushions allow most of the ride to be soft and quiet except for the guy ranting about you’re not sure what except it’s definitely political and somehow it gets into what you do for your career and he gets that so wrong it’s hard to resist answering.

9:14 am. Thorough investigation of the train establishes that nobody is actually producing the rant. Clearly the problem is a quarrelsome ghost of annoying conversations gone by. Internet service upgrades to “pages load, but only the banner ads and that swirling dot pattern web sites started doing like two years ago in place of showing stuff”.

11:57 am. Start of a four-hour delay so we can sit by the side of a large pile of rocks. Inspires several passengers to include a section about presidential rocks, which falls apart when nobody can remember the name of Gustav … uh … Mount Rushmore Guy without the Internet.

6:12 pm. End of the four-hour delay.

8:55 pm. Train approaches Hoboken, pauses so that passengers can be dangled sideways until the blood rushes to their wrists.

10:10 pm. Arrival, Penn Station, New York City. Technically, legally part of New Jersey because of the lease NJ Transit has on that platform. We are given extensions on the paper.

Statistics Saturday on a Tuesday: June 2014 In Humor Blogging


Now if I may my monthly post on how the daily posts are doing. In June 2014 I didn’t have quite as good a month for being read as I did in May: the number of total views dropped from a record 571 down to a second-best 495. The number of unique visitors, as WordPress defines these things, dropped only from 186 to 181, which is pretty much getting lost in the noise, which means the views per visitor went from a record 3.07 to a less recorded 2.73. That’s actually also a second-best-on-record for me, so I’m not too hurt by all that. I swear. And I reached my 6,478th page view that WordPress will tell me about. Between WordPress and Twitter there’s allegedly 498 people following the blog, although they probably don’t all check at once.

The countries sending me the greatest number of viewers were the United States (407), Jamaica (12), and Canada (10), and I could swear that’s the first time Jamaica’s made the top three. It’s certainly the first top-two appearance. Hi, whoever you are in Jamaica. Sending a lone visitor each in June were Ecuador, India, Indonesia, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Tunisia, and Venezuela. That’s a fair showing from the “the” countries, I suppose (the Lesser Antilles were nowhere to be seen). India’s the only country to have also sent me a single visitor in May. I admit feeling a little disappointed by this; I mean, there’s more than a billion people in India. I’d think at least two would have happened across my humor blog just by accident, while they were looking for something else. Maybe I’m being vain. Maybe I need to measure per-capita readership since my faithful Singaporean audience would really help my statistics there.

The five most popular posts in June were:

The ones about wanton purchases of pliers and about Dave Barry’s Chuckletrousers Incident were also popular, just, not quite as popular.

Chuckletrousers in various guises were a popular search term, as was the search for Python Anghelo’s crazy backstory for the Popeye pinball game. The several people looking for “sanitarium museum missouri” I hope weren’t disappointed, and, turns out, people are looking for Compu-Toon, maybe because they can’t quite believe what they read either. I don’t know.

Giving The People What They Want


I’ve learned through sources that some of my best-liked posts are the ones where I just state my statistics for the month, with the countries listed and all of that stuff. So, well, who am I to argue with what’s successful? Here are some countries and some associated statistics.

Country Statistic
United States (America) 139,608
Canada 24,432
Denmark 1,305
Belize 139,608
Ecuador Quito
Carpatho-Ukrainian Republic 139,608
Free City of Krakow 1,164 (449)
Silicon Dioxide 42 J mol-1 K-1 standard molar entropy
Muonium 2.2 microseconds
The Long And Winding Road 3:38 (Lennon-McCartney)
United States (Reprise) 139,608

I hope you’ve enjoyed this data.

From My Visit To Dream Canada


Somewhere along the border, the long latitudinal part anyway, there’s this remarkably charming monument to the spot where, apparently, my brain thinks in that some enormously long-running story which in the X-Men backstory started just after World War II, got started. It’s even labelled as the point where some kind of WorldPlot began, whatever that is. It’s also got a nice map showing all the nations of the world which came together — Canada, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, Australia, China, really, a whole lot of the world and 44 of the 48 United States (as I remember, Arizona, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon prominently refused to participate) — for whatever this purpose was. Made for an inspiring map of countries and states outlined in a pleasant blue.

Mind you, the historical marker maps are just offensively overpriced. I don’t know what WorldPlot is, exactly, but the park isn’t that big and there’s no way that it’s worth C$45.99 to have a pamphlet that explains it all. Maybe the park is just a big fundraising scam for whatever the WorldPlot is, I don’t know, but you’d think after nearly seventy years they’d be done with it already. Anyway, there’s lots of other things nice about Dream Canada, probably, but I had to get up.

September 2013 In These Numbers


Last month’s bunch of number-reporting came out successfully, in that it was a thing that existed and I didn’t get in any trouble over it, so I’ll try it again. For September I had a total of 397 pages viewed — my second-highest on record, not all that far below June’s 441, and an improvement viewing-wise from August’s 349 — and 162 viewers — fourth-highest, but up from August’s 141 — which means my pages-per-viewer ratio has gotten to 2.45, pretty trivially behind August’s high of 2.48.

The most popular articles of the past thirty days were:

  1. Pythagoras and the Golden Middle-Ish, inspired by an odd quote about Pythagoras and which got a bit of help because I know it captured the fancy of a philosopher and passed on to at least one class;
  2. My Dimmed Stars, about the oddity of someone going around giving mediocre ratings to a lot of articles;
  3. The Mystery Of My Power Cord, which I actually forgot I wrote, about something odd happening with the computer’s power;
  4. Missing International Rabbit Day, which was destined for success because our rabbit is more popular than I am;
  5. Getting To Yes, about an oddity in the download from a quite nice album by the band Steven’s Salute.
  6. The countries sending me the most readers this month are, again, the United States (343, which you surely recognize as the cube of seven), the United Kingdom (7 … really, that few? But you surely recognize that as the cube root of 343), and Canada (6 … I had thought there were more Canadians out there, somewhere, like in Maine or something). Sending me just a single reader each were Argentina, Finland, France, Indonesia, the Philippines, Serbia, South Africa, and South Korea. Indonesia and France carry on their streak of just barely liking me.

    I realize all that, while numbers, isn’t particularly humorous, so please consider these: 46, 8 1/4, 2^{3^{4^{5}}}\div 6 , the cosine of -7, and the largest number smaller than the square root of two. Thank you.

Missing International Rabbit Day


“I imagine you’re wondering why I’m not talking to you,” said our pet rabbit. This was the first I’d heard he wasn’t talking to me, but I’m like that. I looked thoughtful, or confused, which is about right for me any time. “You know Saturday was International Rabbit Day?”

“I do. And did.”

“And you’ve noticed that I’m a rabbit, right?”

I allowed that I had.

“And we didn’t do anything international!”

“I … talked about you online. I’m pretty sure someone from Canada heard about you.”

“And I’ve never even been to Canada! How international a rabbit can I be when I haven’t even been there?”

“You haven’t even been to Ohio, either — ”

“I’ve missed Canada and Ohio! I’ll never be a world traveller at this rate!”

“You hate travel. You spent two days sulking when we put you upstairs in the air conditioned room this summer.”

“You can’t go to other countries if you won’t even stand going upstairs.”

“You could bring other countries in here. It’s the least you could do for International Rabbit Day.”

I considered telling him he was a Flemish giant, so was already kind of International by not being in … and then I realized I couldn’t explain where the Flemish were from without getting in more trouble. So I promised to do something about it next year.