60s Popeye: Popeye’s Service Station, service with a sotto voce chuckling


Jack Kinney gets the story and the producer credits today. Animation direction goes to Volus Jones and Ed Friedman. Here fresh from 1960 is Popeye’s Service Station.

Another cartoon, another small business that Popeye’s running. He must go through so much seed capital in-between shorts. This time, no pizza; he’s running a gas station.

The cartoon spends a lot of time establishing what Popeye’s Service Station offers for free. Jackson Beck reads the whole list twice, once in Narrator voice and then later on in Brutus voice. It’s fair to spend the time on this. Half the cartoon is everybody demanding the free stuff, and without the narrator kids who can’t read fast could be confused. Does mean it takes a while for the action to get started. When the action does start, it’s Popeye chuckling odd resigned phrases like “what’s the use?” at how many cars don’t need service right this minute.

Eventually we get Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Brutus together on-screen and things proceed as you’d imagine. Brutus tries wooing Olive Oyl away from Popeye, by having his car eat Popeye. Brutus runs Popeye over, flat, twice. I was shocked by that in the (Paramount) Oil’s Well That Ends Well, but not so bothered here. I don’t know why it plays different this time around. Anyway, Popeye eats his flat spinach, there’s punching, Popeye keeps Brutus trapped on the car elevator for hours upon hours, the end.

Popeye holding a water hose up to the mouth of a camel standing in the back of a truck bed.
Popeye’s lucky he didn’t accidentally grab the air hose and inflate the poor camel out of the picture!

I suspect I’d like this cartoon more if I hadn’t just seen Popeye’s Pizza Palace. By any of the ordinary measures of story this is better-made. At no point do I wonder why a character chose to do that. Nor do I wonder how one action caused the next. I could describe the plot without it sounding like a dream. Popeye’s Pizza Palace throws together so many bizarre choices that the result delights me. Popeye’s Car Wash (from Harmon studios), another short built on a similar theme, has the repeating refrain of Popeye washing a conveyor belt of Very 50s Cars as an image. At Popeye’s Service Station, we have simple competence, the loopiest gag being the fellow who needs his camel refilled as he’s off to a caravan. I’m afraid that’s doomed to be forgotten.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Why was that kid going on about the 90s Detroit Pistons? December 2020 – March 2021


The kid, Vic Doucette, was going on about the 90s Pistons because he researched them. He researched them because Coach Gil Thorp referenced them and he wanted to do his job as game announcer well. Not that anything about the Pistons is likely to come up in a Milford basketball game. But a marker of excellence in a field is enthusiasm for its trivia. Doucette’s decided he wants to be an announcer and he is throwing himself wholeheartedly into the role.

This should catch you up to mid-March 2021 in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. If you’re reading the strip after about June 2021 there should be a more up-to-date plot recap here. There’ll also be any news about the comic strip that I learn from reading The Daily Cartoonist.

Gil Thorp.

14 December 2020 – 6 March 2021.

It happens that last time I checked in was the week the story wrapped up. I often feel like these recaps happen suspiciously close to a new story’s start. That’s an illusion created by “close” feeling like “within two weeks, give or take” and that covers, like, a third of my cycle. Still, the new and current story started the 14th of December, neat as I would hope.

We start basketball season. First major player: Vic Doucette. He’s not an athlete, owing to cerebral palsy. He asks Coach Gil Thorp to be the announcer for boys’ basketball games. Thorp is impressed with Doucette’s knowledge of basketball trivia and also his existence as a living body willing to do this job.

Next major player: Shooting guard Doug Guthrie. He has a 1966 Pontiac GTO, which I am informed is an impressive car to have. He’d found and rebuilt it with his dad. And he keeps ducking out for thinks like go-kart races in Florida. Like, real kart racing at 70 mph and so on.

Third major player: Tessi Milton, forward for the girls’ basketball team. And teammate to Corina Karenna, who’s transferred over from volleyball. The girls’ team feels disrespected, relative to the boys’ team. She comes into significance later in the proceedings.

Narrator: 'Milford gets hot, the crowd combusts --- and Vic Doucette fans the flames.' Doucette, announcing: 'Three-pointer by Mark 'Fear Of' Godleski!' Narrator: 'Late 4th Quater, Milford by 1 --- and a collision!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 6th of January, 2021. To get a handle on Doucette’s character: we see him working on these nicknames before the game starts, including things like asking Tessi Milton if “Tessi” is short for anything, so that he can look more spontaneous. That’s a level of professionalism I hope to someday achieve.

Doucette got the job of announcer because he was willing. It turns out he’s eager, though. Enthusiastic even. He works out catchy nicknames for everyone, he rallies the crowd, he shows open and unbridled delight in a high school thing. He goes to away games — where he’s not an announcer — to take notes about the team. He follows Gil Thorp’s mention of the 90s Pistons to study how Ken Calvert announced players, and pick up moves from that work. In short, he shows unbridled interest in a thing. In high school. Vic Doucette is braver than the troops.

At a postgame dinner at The Bucket, Guthrie talks about Doucette’s car. It’s a modified 2004 GMC Safari. The modifications are to help Doucette when he’s having a harder day. They bond over the car talk, though, Guthrie asking about the MV-1, identified as “the first van designed for wheelchairs from the start”. So you know how deep the car thing interests Guthrie.

The girls’ basketball team, meanwhile, wants for attention. Tessi Milton figures to get Vic Doucette to announce their games, too. It’s not a bad plan. In boys’ basketball he’s advanced to running in-game givewaways and stuff that plays well with the crowd. (He’s giving away the hot dog and soda that are his “pay” for announcing. I mention because the strip made a point of mentioning it. I appreciate the craft of that. You can fault Gil Thorp for many things, but it does justify most everything that appears on screen. It may be the story strip that most improves on rereading twelve weeks’ worth at a go.) Fun enough that Guthrie even skips a car-racing thing to play. Doucette even has some decent sports-psychology, talking Guthrie out of the funk of a lousy game.

Tessi Milton: 'The girls need you, Vic. Can you do the announcing at our games?' Doucette: 'Umm ... Well ... Hmm ... ' Later, Guthrie: 'What did you tell her?' Doucette: 'Mostly, I sputtered. I should study more, not less. And I'm already not seeing my friends enough.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 4th of February, 2021. I don’t know whether we’re to take that last panel as Doucette smoking or just that the air is cold. I suspect the latter, on grounds of dramatic economy: if we were supposed to think Doucette smoked, some panel would make that unambiguous.

So Milton asks Doucette to announce their games. He’s not sure. He needs time to study, after all, and see his friends and do stuff that isn’t basketball announcing. Also, I notice, he uses a crutch reliably from mid-January on; he hadn’t needed one earlier. This may be a signal that he’s getting worse.

He decides to announce girls basketball games, though, saying, “studying is overrated, right?” And he brings the same level of research and hard work to this that he did the boys games. It goes well, and Milton’s grateful, to the point everyone tells Doucette that she’s flirting with him. So he asks her out and she “can’t this weekend”.

Guthrie, with Tom Muench, are late to a practice. They’re pulled over by a traffic cop, who recognizes that they’re popular white athletes and lets them off with a little car talk. But, running laps at practice, Muench sprains his knee and is out for a couple games. And this throws Guthrie way off his game.

Doucette notices all this, and tries to sort out Guthrie’s problem. He observes how Guthrie’s interested in someday driving racecars at 200 mph; it’s hard to do that when you’re worried about running laps. And this bit seems to help.

Tessi Milton: 'Vic asked me out. It's awkward.' Corina Karenna: 'Why? It seemed like you were flirting with him.' Milton: 'A little. ... We needed a PA announcer. But seriously: would you go out in that grandpa van?'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 5th of March, 2021. The rest of the team is aghast at describing a 17-year-old Pontiac as a “Grandpa Van”.

After a girls basketball game, Tessi Milton dodges Doucette, whom she points out to her teammates has asked her out twice now. Her teammates point out she was flirting with him. Which she owns up to, yes, but they needed an announcer. And while he’s “a nice guy,” well, “would you go out in that grandpa van?” Which does support Karenna’s earlier assessment that Milton is a deeply shallow person. To be empathetic, though, Milton is in a lousy place herself. Suppose you’ve agreed the team needs Doucette to announce their games; what tools do you have to get him to do it? There’s no pay available, and no glory either. What option does she have but flattery? And — I write before seeing Monday or Tuesday’s strips so may be setting myself up to be a fool — faulting Doucette’s car is less bad than sneering at the idea of dating someone with cerebral palsy.

And that’s the standings as of mid-March. It does feel like Milton’s being set up for some comeuppance. But the story might resolve to something as simple as hurting a guy who’s been quite giving. It does feel to me significant that Doucette’s repeated his worry he’s ignoring friends and school for all this announcing work, though. Also that he’s seen using the crutches more than he was early in the story. Maybe not significant is Guthrie mentioning how his dad teaches driving to the area cops, part of why he and Muench were let off with small talk. I’m not making detailed predictions, though.

Milford Schools Watch

Who’s Milford playing? The past couple months, these teams. If you want the win-loss record, oh, I don’t feel up to tracking that. You have your fun.

Next Week!

Is super-hyper-ultra-duper extra-special spy agent April Parker back in town? I’ll check in on Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker if things go to my plan.

60s Popeye: Motor Knocks, where Popeye loses his car inside a covered bridge


Here’s a 1960 Paramount Cartoon Studios short. As usual the director is Seymour Kneitel. The story’s credited to Al Pross, a name I don’t see mentioned before. Pross is credited as an animator for nine shorts, but has story credits only for this and for a 1963 short called Harry Happy. And a quick warning before getting seriously intoMotor Knocks. Popeye’s rhyming couplet at the end includes a verb derived from a slur against Romani people.

Is Brutus a songwriter? This cartoon, I mean; I embrace how his background is whatever the premise of a short needs. But he presents himself as a service station owner whose real ambition is songwriting. He reels off funny bad titles to an impressed Olive Oyl. Is it all a line to impress her, or is this a bit more personality than Brutus needs for the cartoon?

Steve Bierly, author of a delightful Popeye fan page, wrote a book extolling the Famous Studios cartoons. He includes some mentions of the Paramount-produced King Features Syndicate cartoons, this one among them. It’s a nice change to be in dialogue with another critic. One of Bierly’s themes — writing about this cartoon and others — is how often Famous/Paramount cartoons have Olive Oyl be genuinely interested in Bluto/Brutus. She’s at least listening to his flirting here. She stands up for Brutus when Popeye’s ready to slug him. When Brutus is towing the car, she accepts the logic that it’s safer for her to ride in the tow truck cab while Popeye rides in the car.

I’m not sure how to evaluate that, though. I suspect Olive Oyl’s just impressed, as many of us are, with people who know how to Do Things. And Brutus does present himself as knowing how to Do Things, at least with cars. Could be anyone … except that Brutus/Bluto ends up being the guy who (seems to) know how to Do Things a lot. Some of that because if anything’s going to come between Olive Oyl and Popeye, well, who else you cast? Wimpy? (Watch this space.)

Olive Oyl, in the car, sits with her eyes fluttering and her hands held up together to her chin, dainty and flattered by the attention. Brutus is leaning way over the door of the car and smiling while talking to her.
So, gas station mechanic who plays guitar and composes silly songs that woo the ladies … if this short were made three years later I’d say it was starting to spoof Elvis Movies. How is Brutus somehow anticipating a Generic Elvis Movie role?

Bierly also points out this is one where Popeye is, first, doing something with Olive Oyl and, second, jealous of Brutus’s attention on her. Often Popeye seems barely interested in her and doesn’t notice the wooing until Olive Oyl tells him off. Plot requirements — that Popeye has to wait until he’s all he can stands before swallowing his spinach — tend to make Popeye look passive. That’s avoided, but at the cost of making him look more like a patsy. But he can’t be blamed for taking Olive Oyl’s advice to pretend Brutus’s shenanigans were an accident, for example. Or respecting her desire to ride in the tow truck cabin.

Much of this cartoon is what you’d expect from Paramount. The story’s all reasonable, reasonably constructed throughout. The animation’s all smooth and steady enough. There seem to be more jokes than usual, or at least they land better. There’s even sign jokes too, like Brutus’s garage offering “expert windshield wiping”. Brutus’s song titles, whether or not Brutus means them in earnest. Or Brutus claiming he ran across the stranded motorists while he was “just going mushroom-picking”. Also, wow, gas was a dollar a gallon back when this cartoon was made in 1960. Imagine that!

Bierly’s book, by the way, is Stronger Than Spinach: The Secret Appeal of the Famous Studios Popeye. Much of it overlaps Bierly’s web site, but they are different creatures. And I do quite like Bierly’s web site and its enthusiastic writing.

My Question To You, And My Windshield Wiper


I haven’t shared any automotive fiascos with you in a while. So here’s one. It started with my replacing the windshield wipers on my love’s car. It was meant as the smallest surprise nice little possible. My love was kind of aware this was coming, since I’d bought the blades a week or two before and never got around to installing them. These were the Rain-X Quantum windshield wipers, so named because they come in discrete and indivisible units, as opposed to those continuous wipers you get from other makers.

So our first rainy day out my love had a good question: what was that little floppy thing coming loose on the driver-side windshield wiper? By the time I figured out what my love was pointing at, and come to guess that it was something we didn’t really need, it had flown off onto the highway. In my defense we went on through two hours of driving in mild rain before things got any worse.

We were off in the middle of nowhere after 11 pm on a Sunday night when things got worse. This worse was the wiper blade coming loose. So we figured to stop at the next thing we could stop at, which took about twenty minutes to reach. This would be the driveway of a volunteer fire department, where there was a sign not to park there, but they had an overhang and everything and I mean, who’s going to have a fire that close to midnight on a Sunday? Bear in mind, this was a small town. Folks there know their volunteer fire department and wouldn’t go having a fire at that hour. Anyway there I could swap the loose wiper on the driver’s side for the solid wiper on the passenger’s side, and I know what you’re thinking: what, doesn’t the passenger want to see through the rain too? Well, I was the passenger and I’ll tell you, this rain looked like a rerun to me.

Still, we needed a new wiper and the obvious place to get one after midnight on a Sunday was Meijer’s, which you can find in Michigan (where we were) by going 750 feet in any direction. Except in this stretch of western Michigan where, again, nothing was but us and the volunteer fire department. The satellite navigator said if we drove close enough to Grand Rapids, where Meijer’s is headquartered by the way, we’d find one on Alpine Avenue. But we were heading to Grand Rapids, on Alpine Avenue. And twenty minutes later we got to the spot where no Meijer’s existed or showed any sign of ever existing.

So I asked the satellite navigator for the next-nearest Meijer’s. This took us off Alpine Avenue, down I-96 away from home, and then into a bunch of small roads. There we found: Meijer’s Corporate Headquarters Complex. With, like, huge glass windows and a mural of old Meijer’s corporate logos and things like that. So that was great to see except that I was about 40% sure there was nowhere there we could exchange money for a product. There was another one a half-mile away, which turned out to be the regional distribution center. If I could have found the front door I’d have banged on it to ask what they have in windshield wipers. There would be no point to this.

Next search: since “places to shop named Meijer’s” wasn’t working I searched for “Meijer Pharmacy”, and this time it lead us to a Meijer’s with a pharmacy and open doors and windshield wipers for sale and everything. It’s back on Alpine Avenue again. So I marched in and got the 21-inch blade we needed. Then marched out, after paying (don’t think that won’t come back to fiasco on me), and the little plastic thing that came off on the original blade came off again, but right away this time.

So I marched back in to the Customer Service desk, which had been closed for two and a half hours. I went to the guy supervising the self-checkout lanes and he said exchanging the blade was no problem. I went back to grab a 19-inch blade, because the car took different sizes for the driver’s and passenger’s side. I can’t think of any reason why the 19-inch blade should work and the 21-inch doesn’t, but after two failures in a row? I also couldn’t think of any reason to care.

The supervisor guy noticed the blades were different sizes, though, and so he figured he needed to ring this up properly and we went to the Customer Service desk. There it turned out the new blade was cheaper than the old. This is because I didn’t get the Quantum blade, but instead a Rain-X Latitude, so named for its great scope to do things, most of them wipe-based. This was cheaper, though, so he had to refund me $3.80. Maybe it wasn’t $3.80, but whatever it was was at least as good. There wasn’t any money in the Customer Service desk, though, so he wanted to give me a gift card for the difference.

To do this he had to get the register to read the receipt, which the system said didn’t exist. He tried entering the transaction number manually, and the system agreed it didn’t exist. He figured he could ring this up as a receiptless exchange and refund and that I didn’t need to be part of figuring out the system’s problems. A good point. To do this he needed my driver’s license, to record whatever the heck it is they do. And then he swiped the gift card and the system didn’t want to do that. So he needed to take my driver’s license back and try it over again. I know what you’re thinking: no, he remembered to give me my license back before we got too far from the Customer Service Desk. Anyway this time the wiper went on, and it stayed on, lest I get out on I-96 and punch it.

A mile down the road I ask what I did with the old, defective blade when I took it off the car. We conclude I must have left it on the car hood and it’s now lost in the parking lot of a Meijer’s in Grand Rapids. It turns out the next day it’s just sitting in that space between the car hood and the windshield, protected by the wiper arms.

Grant the fiasco nature of this, or as they say in the trades is fiascosity. My question: what the heck was all this about?

Statistics 2010s: Ten Things Of The Decade Just Passed


  • August 22. everyone who had a part in this day, give yourselves a fresh round of applause without being unseemly about it.
  • Cheddar II: Cheddiest. From out of Nowhere, Connecticut, 06269, this new flavor, appearing in ouch-y sharp, dangerous in its pointedness, somewhat polyhedral, and mint, has taken over the world of cheese and opened up new avenues in being so much more than the inspirational cheddar that it’s not hard to see why old-fashioned cheddar is expected within the next two years to go the way of the original, almost forgotten ched.
  • once-in-shakespeare.com Where else but this scrappy new start-up can one get a convenient listing of all the words that appear in the canonical plays of William Shakespeare one time? Anyone can produce a list of all the words, just by shaking a collected edition on its side until the pieces fall out, but who’s going to take out the duplicates and grow new authors with them?
  • Raised Flooring. After years of drop-down ceilings being the cliche and overused answer to ways to make a room seem more claustrophobic we have this alternative. Unexpected bonuses include having more things to count while bored, and the improved sense of balance as people try to walk on those bar things from which the floor panels are hung. This will inspire grace in our walking like Groucho Marx if nothing else will.
  • How the English language has no solitary word for the feeling of uncertainty that accompanies thinking that one’s socks are damp when there’s no chance for taking one’s shoes off to check or to change them no matter how much we need a word for exactly this sensation. This single loss has saved millions of dollars and dozens of lines of newspaper type in just the past month. And think of all the people it’s inspired to try to buy less painful shoes. Yes, yes, you can put together a bunch of words to get the same sense across. It’s not the same.
  • Flatware. There is nothing which soothes the desperate need to buy flatware quite like flatware, and we should all be glad the flatware industry exists to satisfy this need. Be warned: much so-called flatware these days is not in fact flat, but extends into a third or even a fourth spatial dimension. If you have no choice but to purchase this imitation flatware do speak to the steamroller operator with whom you’re on good terms — you are on good terms with at least one steamroller operator, aren’t you? — to arrange for the appropriate enflattening.
  • March 10. Nobody’s saying it’s a patch on August 22, but it’s still really good all around and everybody deserves to take a bow for that too.
  • Adverbs. These sentence-stuffers had a great run and it’s a shame that we’re scheduled to lose them if the conversion to Modifiers.6 ever happens. Still, anyone who’s ever had to write to a specified word count has relied on their ability to be added to or removed from sentences and they will be missed, like when someone notices the `a’ or `an’ doesn’t match with the next word anymore.
  • Sriracha Automobiles. For the past fifteen years sriracha has been slipping almost unnoticed into everything, starting with sandwiches, then cooking shows, then books, then consumer electronics, and now into the important industries of Navy ships and personal automobiles. No one may know where sriracha comes from or what it intends, but we can be sure that it’s here and it’s unavoidable, and that with the proper setup it can be used for good or at least to not be so frightening, and that earns it a place on this list.
  • Simple Thermometers. Despite fears no important features of the weather developed into the imaginary and then the complex number plane. So despite the shortages in Complex Thermometers none were needed, except for that stretch in fall where the temperature became one of the principal roots of a heptic polynomial. But for the most part we got along just fine with the old-fashioned thermometers and isn’t that one of the ten things about the decade just finished?

Go Juice


Maybe you heard about this discovery about a way to make fuel out of coffee. If you didn’t hear about this discovery about a way to make fuel out of coffee, let me bring you up to speed. So, apparently there’s this way they discovered to make fuel out of coffee. When I put it that way it sounds like that’s all anyone is talking about.

It started out with an accident, when Dr Mano Misra at the University of Nevada, Reno, made coffee one night and didn’t drink it. Now I don’t normally feel envy at the achievements of real academics. I don’t really play that field anymore, and anyway, how many mathematicians do you know have opinions about the plots in Gil Thorp? But here, I realize, I could totally have made this discovery myself. I have a lot of experience in my life not drinking coffee. I used to be limited in discovering things in coffee I didn’t drink by how I didn’t make coffee before I didn’t drink it.

But this past decade? I’ve made a surprising lot of coffee. This is because there’s a complimentary coffee bar at this overgrowing farmer’s market on the west side of town. We go there to get our pet rabbit vegetables and to see what they’ve expanded to doing this week. It’s great. Gourmet popcorn? Sure! Fresh-pressed olive oil? Why not! Gelato? Yeah, they can do that, why not? There’s also a great wall of succulents that gets moved to a new place every time you step in, even if you only stepped out for three minutes and came back in because you’re looking for a lost hat. If you’re ever in town (Lansing) you should stop in. You can find it by looking for the massive parking lots that nobody can escape. Use the one on the west side of town.

Anyway, they have a complementary coffee bar, so for a long while there I started making coffee. What was I going to do, not get coffee just because I don’t much like coffee? Besides, they have all sorts of things to make coffee taste less like coffee. Flavored beans, for a start. Sugars, in real (sugar) and imaginary (Splenda) and complex (cinnamon maple sprinkles) versions. Creams ranging from light to dark to postmodern inquiries of the nature of whitening coffee. Whipped cream. You can put so much stuff in the coffee you don’t even need the coffee. And after seven years of going there nearly weekly I’ve realized: you know, they have some tea I could get instead. It’s boring tea, but then I have a deep, fundamental boringness to myself and so that’s right for me.

So there was this period I was making coffee, although instead of not drinking it I would drink it instead, because what was I going to do, waste coffee? And cinnamon maple sprinkles? I was raised in too big a family to do something like that. But if I had just used the coffee I was making and didn’t drink it, then this is a discovery I totally could have made, if I had noticed anything.

The story then is Dr Misra noticed a layer of oil floating on the coffee. That’s something I didn’t know coffee could do. I thought layers of oil formation were only done by fossils and peanut butter. I mean the peanut butter that’s so good you can’t use it for sandwiches because you’re always stirring the oil back into it. Misra found the oil, though, and didn’t think to stir it in. Using it for motor fuel is a breakthrough, though, and one I wouldn’t have made. I was pretty sure you only put mysterious fluids in cars if you’re in a low-effort Disney movie made between 1958 and 1982. So it’s not enough to observe a thing, you also have to have an idea what to do with it. So that’s something I wouldn’t have though to try.

What gets me is that if you can get oil out of coffee, then there must have been oil in the coffee to start with. Right? I feel like this has to be right. But then that means someone put the oil in. But who goes around injecting oil into coffee beans? I understand it happening once or twice, as a prank. But that wouldn’t stay funny forever. On the other hand, everything I know about this is a couple years old, so maybe someone was playing a nasty prank on the University of Nevada, Reno. Or maybe the oil really comes from the coffee cups, and the coffee is just a red herring. I bet they checked that possibility, though. I don’t know anybody who drinks herring.

I’m Slightly Tired


So I had a leaky car tire again. Nowhere near as bad as last time. This was just a little hardware screw that got stuck in the tread. Very easy to patch. I mean for someone else to patch. Still, you know how you go through that period in your 20s when all your car troubles are how the alternator’s broken? With this car, it’s always the tires going flat. I swear to you, the next car I buy I’m getting one without any tires.

Sensible


I write this in the supposition you’ve never been knocked senseless. I haven’t either, at least so far as I know. I suppose if I had lost my sense of whether I was senseless I wouldn’t know about it. Well, maybe I’d have some confusing memory some from before the senseless-ness-knocking-out. But I’d mostly know that my course of action was altered by something I now couldn’t understand. “It’s as though I had the ability to sense whether some spongy substance was in the area, but that’s impossible … isn’t it?” would be my analysis of the memory. All because I didn’t know whether I should have a sense of sponge. So here, let’s review some of the senses you might have, or expect to have.

The sense of taste. This is an important one, given the role it serves in letting you put the world in order. Without it there’s no consistent way to tell which of the three categories of tastes things are in. Is this vanilla? Is it chipotle? Is it chocolate? Or will they be forever unknown? Without this sense you’ll wander through a confused, shadowy representation of the lickable universe, or as it known professionally, the lickiverse. I mean an even more confused and shadowy representation. (I don’t want to get in even more trouble with the Tongue Neo-Platonists. I’m still trying to rebuild my reputation after that whole “what’s the taste of shadows” fiasco.)

The sense of smell. This sense is important for making any room suddenly uncomfortable. Without it you might go months without interrupting your day with an investigation of every room in the building to see if something is smoldering. “It’s like someone microwaved a fish on a slab of car tires,” people who can smell are saying to each other, not all the time. “And then sprayed Febreeze so we wouldn’t notice. Why would a linen closet smell like that?” This is only more fun when you notice that strange, faintly evil smell when you’re in a car, two and a half hours from home, in the snow, with the heater almost keeping up against the cold. And there’s two friends you promised rides to sitting in the backseat. And something’s clicking, which you know through your sense of hearing. But even if you didn’t hear it, you’d know that ticking was there. It’s not the fan.

The sense of balance. Without this sense it’s impossible, except by good luck, to arrange the layout of elements on a newspaper page. You can slog on through uninspired compositions, ones with rote placements of headlines, pictures, and rules to guide the eye. But the readers will know. Even if they can follow the article about the area’s axe-throwing businesses, their eyes will not be delighted. How are we to enjoy the visual feast of a morning newspaper when it’s just, ugh, head across four columns, no subhead, two-column picture set dead center in the middle two? No pull quotes? No cheeky use of a subhead? Yeah.

The sense of dubious taste. This is a protective sense; you can ignore or do without its warnings, but it will make your life noticeably worse. It gets really active when you start pondering, say, whether there was ever a way Disney could have made a Song of the South everybody wouldn’t be angry with them about. And then maybe put the discussion up on Twitter. It can save you from lesser dangers too. For example, it’s the sense which alerts you to how much of your body you’re putting in a garment that’s international-warning-signal orange. Yes, there are people who can pull this look off. They’re among the dubious super-tasters. They know how to follow their sense’s warnings, and stay out of danger. The primary danger is that you are mistaken for a bollard protecting the approach to a bridge, or perhaps (by giants) a Cheeto.

This is an incomplete list of senses, so far as I’m aware. If you find yourself not having a sense which is not on this list, please add it, and then to obtain a replacement sense from the nearest body shop. Most body shops don’t have whole bodies in stock, but they keep some nice accessories.

How To Get Ready To Go Someplace By Car


Before setting off on your car trip there are some things you should check. The first is to check that you have a car. While it’s often permitted, it’s socially awkward to just be running along in the middle of a highway without any kind of vehicle. Not least because you have to signal all your turns using your hands instead of with electric lights. This is great if you want to feel vaguely like you’re in a cartoon about wimmin drivers from the 1950s. But do you really want to feel like that? Yes, if it’s a heartwarming cartoon about being part of a family of cars. But otherwise no.

Similarly you want to check that you don’t have more than one car. I mean that you’re driving at one time. It’s fine to keep a second car in reserve, ready to leap into action when it turns out the first one has mysterious buttons on the door with labels like ‘ASW’ that don’t seem to do anything. But you only want to operate one at a time, unless you have extremely long arms and legs. Similarly you want to include yourself in the car trip. There’ve been great developments lately in self-driving cars. But these fully autonomous vehicles won’t take over the purpose of a car trip until they’re able to get to a spot, deal with whatever it is you were going to deal with, and drive home, and get annoyed that their podcasts are ten minutes too short or five minutes too long for the journey. There’ve been some great developments in this field lately, with research going in to how to make podcasts a prime number of minutes long. But the work isn’t yet complete.

If the relative count of cars and you’s turns out matches up well you can go to other checks. The first is that you’ve locked the house door. The second is that you’ve gone back and made sure you’ve locked the door. You can be confident you’ve gotten the door locked by no method known to humanity. But it’ll clear the issue up when you start pulling out of the driveway and realize you left your phone in the house and don’t have your podcasts with you. This will be a chance to run back into the house and go through the door-locking all over again.

Anyway before you do set off you should do a safety inspection of the car. This includes walking the entire circuit around the vehicle, looking for any signs of damage or wear or other problems, such as a tire being flat, a body panel being cracked, a muffler dangling loose, an animal hiding in some part we’re just going to go ahead and call the “manifold”, or any part of the electrical system being on fire. Responsible drivers have done this walk-around inspection an estimated four times since the invention of the automobile. You should also check that the mirrors are attached and showing the areas behind the car. If they are not, try taking them off and putting them on upside-down. This will not help matters, but making the effort will reassure you that you’re doing all that one could hope for. Really it might be easier to be an irresponsible driver.

It’s also worth checking that there aren’t traffic problems along your projected route. The radio could be a good source for information. The news station, for example, will happily let you know that there are delays on the Tappan Zee Bridge. They’re always reporting there are delays on the Tappan Zee Bridge. This gives you the chance to ponder the question: how often does there have to be a delay before the delay stops being a delay and just becomes normal? And wait, didn’t they replace the Tappan Zee Bridge years ago? In fact, didn’t they tear it down? (They did not. They just stopped hoping it would not fall down while anyone was watching.) Also, the Tappan Zee Bridge isn’t anywhere near you. You live somewhere like San Jose, California, such as Louisville, Kentucky. And in what ways is San Jose like Louisville? In what ways is it different? Can you answer in 700 words or fewer?

The wind has blown the house door open.

I Have No Idea What The Dream World Is Warning Me About With This One


But apparently there’s going to be some incident deep in the midst of winter where it’s one of those nasty snowy days. Also, apparently I’m going to have one of those cars that looks like an SUV but is small enough to tell yourself you’re not just buying an SUV. The snow, of course, will need to be dusted off in order to safely drive and I’m one of those people who does dust off the top of the car even when it’s deep into winter when everybody’s given up. The inconvenient thing was that the car was parked in the living room. No problem that the snow off the car was getting dusted onto the floor, which by the way is wood and really shouldn’t have that much snow on it for that long. But I was thinking how annoying it would be getting the car back into this great parking spot in the living room right between the bookshelf and the little tower we have with the record player and satellite TV receiver and all that. It’s a pretty tight spot, even for a small car. Plus on the TV was one of those morning news-chat shows where you get a little bit about what to dread today, and then a human-interest feature about some guy in Alaska who’s having trouble getting a permit for some ridiculous thing for some ridiculous reason, and then they show you how to make an omelette. This means something, but I have got no idea what.

In Which I Am Not Caught Up With My Tires And Stuff


Yeah so the attempt to get new tires went awry because of reasons that are threatening to also turn “buy new tires” into a fiasco. Waiting on results of that. So I don’t have the energy to put out my review of the November readership statistics or anything. Maybe soon. Meanwhile, I’ve come to consider that there was someone or some several ones who first sang the song that never ends and just goes on and on, my friends. The thing is if they said “some people started singing it” then they were being modest or maybe just disingenuous because they knew exactly which people were doing the singing. But fine, all right, maybe they were modest. But they have to have known what the song was. They were right there writing the song. At a minimum they have to have suspected strongly enough that anyone would find them culpable. Please see my enclosed description of the precise theory of the song’s creation timeline, omitted for clarity. Thank you.

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


This report on the recent plot developments of Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. is right and fitting for late June, 2017. If it’s a lot past that by the time you read it, things might have moved on. I’ll do my best to have more recent updates near the top of this link. Thanks for being interested, and do enjoy.

Rex Morgan, M.D.

2 April – 25 June 2017.

Last time, you’ll recall, Terry Beaty’s dismantling of the Cult of Sarah Morgan and the showering of untold fortunes on her had nearly completed. She was ready for her first day back at public school, as a mere normal, if amnesiac, student almost completely bereft of the ability to draw horsies. She’s saved from kids teasing her by Edward, the former bully she had publicly shamed on a school tour when she was on exhibit at The Local Art Museum. (Seriously, this is where the strip had been before Beatty took over the writing.) That’s totally how it works when you publicly shame the class bully. They usually become your protectors.

Edward: 'I'm sorry those kids were being such JERKS to you.' Sarah: 'Thanks for scaring them off. I know I'm the NEW kid and all, so some kids won't like me.' 'Don't pay any attention to those mean kids. They're just BULLIES like I used to be -- until you changed my mind.' 'I wish I could remember meeting you, Edward. The accident made me lose a lot of memories -- like a YEAR's worth.' 'Man -- that must be WEIRD!' 'It is. Feels like I was asleep for a LONG time. And woke up to a new house and new baby brother!' 'I'd like to go to sleep and forget my BIG SISTER!' 'What's wrong with your sister?' 'She's meaner than I EVER was! I just try to stay out of her way.' 'That's too bad. Maybe you could come play at my house if you ever need a break from her?' 'That'd be like EVERY DAY. Could I bring my dog?'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 16th of April, 2017. Quick show of hands here, people who’ve been bullied: has ‘don’t pay attention to those mean kids’ ever worked for anyone ever? Thought so. Anyway, I do enjoy the bit of kid wonder at the idea of losing a year’s worth of memories. It feels like actual kid responses to something that, as a grownup, would be pretty horrible, if nothing else for how tedious it would be to reset all the passwords you’d changed in the lost year.

With Sarah’s plot safely tucked off in public school, June Morgan decided she’d spent enough time as a stay-at-home mom not doing medicine. She wanted to get back to being the Doctor’s full-time assistant, hanging around the office and not doing medicine just like Doctor Rex. By late May she had leapt back in and everything was fine and dandy. So this all might sound like there’s not a lot soap-operatic happening in this soap-opera strip. Fair enough.

June: 'I thought you were managing the clinic just fine WITHOUT me?' Rex: 'We ARE, but ...' 'Well?' 'Summer and Michell are doing a perfectly fINE job here, it's just that ... well ...' 'OUT with it, Doc. I'm WAITING.' 'I simply MISS YOU being here. I mean, HOW many years have we spent running this clinic? It's just not the SAME without my FAvORITE nurse.' 'Do you have ANY idea how many POINTS you just earned?' 'Said the RIGHT thing, did I?' 'Sure did.' MEANWHILE, in Holly's Dad's collector garage. Niki: 'HOLY COW! When you said your dad collected cars, you weren't KIDDING!'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 7th of May, 2017. Never mind the question of whether Rex Morgan ever sees a patient. I like married-person banter, especially when it’s between married people who enjoy each other’s company. Love is one thing, but there’s something special in just liking being near someone.

The drama the past couple months has focused on Sarah’s driver/part-time babysitter, Kelly. While it’s a pretty good afterschool job as these go, her schedule conflicts with her boyfriend Niki’s, who’s a pizza deliverer. He gets a call to Holly, a girl from the arts school, and she kind of likes him, and her dad quite likes him. Holly’s Dad offers him the chance to drive some of his antique cars around town. Holly has to go with, of course, but you understand how wealthy fathers enjoy picking out trustworthy pizza-delivery guys and having them tool around town in their antique cars with their teenaged girls.

Really I’m comfortable with this. Put that way the story sounds like absurd wish-fulfillment. But, you know, the Rex Morgan, M.D. world has been one of basically pleasant people who like other people. And Niki had the in that he drove a vintage Beetle himself kept in respectable shape. I’ll buy the premise.

Where this gets soap-operatic is that this leaves Niki spending his free time driving around town with Holly in a sequence of antique cars. Which gets back to Kelly, who wants to know what her boyfriend is doing driving some other girl from the arts school around instead of her. Niki answers with all the self-awareness of a teenage guy who doesn’t understand why someone would be upset he was driving someone else’s car. So Kelly spent about eighteen months correctly identifying him as an idiot.

Kelly: 'Let's recap. You've been driving HOLLY around in her DAD's vintage cars while I'm BABY-SITTING for the Morgans.' Niki: 'Uh, yeah.' 'And LYING to me about it.' 'Gee, Kelly, I didn't think I was doing anything WRONG by hanging around with Holly.' 'REALLY?' 'Yeah - we're just FRIENDS. Nothing more to it.' 'Then why KEEP it from me?' 'Like I said, I was afraid you'd take it the WRONG WAY and be ANGRY or JEALOUS or something. Like you ARE right now.' 'Niki - if there's NOTHING going on between you two, you shouldn't have been afraid to TELL me. It's you NOT telling me that makes me think there IS something going on here.' 'But there ISN'T, Kelly - there REALLY isn't. It's just that the CARS are so cool.' 'And HOLLY being a PRETTY BLONDE has NOTHING to do with it at all?' 'Well, I GUESS she IS pretty and all, but ... OH, GEEZ, I said the WRONG THING, huh?'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 4th of June, 2017. I also appreciate the natural, unforced dumbness of Niki’s situation here. We’ve seen the whole story so we know he never had an unfaithful thought, and possibly never had any thought besides “shiny car”. Also, hey, a millennial who’s interested in cars as objects of particular historic and design and cultural importance; who knew?

Anyway, all seems to be getting better as Niki and Kelly go to the arts school’s production of Large Levi, put on when I guess somehow they couldn’t get the rights to Li’l Abner? I don’t know why Beatty didn’t just use the actual comic-strip-turned-stage-play. Maybe when he first mentioned it he thought he’d need some scene that couldn’t plausibly be in a high school presentation of Li’l Abner. Maybe the Al Capp estate is weird about perfectly appropriate and fair mentions of his intellectual property. I don’t know.

Having met Holly, and her girlfriend Crystal, and getting invited to their game night, Niki gets all smug about how Kelly was silly to be jealous. She points out how he’s an idiot. Fair enough.

And those are all the major plots developed over the past few months. There haven’t been other sidelines. There was some overlap during the transition from Sarah At School to June At Work to the Kelly and Niki show, but nothing too narratively complicated. And most of the time was spent on people screwing up their relationships, the way a soap opera might well. Nothing happened with senile industrialist Milton Avery, nor with Jordan and his housekeeping job. Pioneer comic magazine artist “Horrible” Hank Harwood hasn’t been seen since April.

Next Week: Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker unless something big comes up.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index fell four points after traders noticed the Sirius XM Deep Tracks station playing some crazy obscure Kinks stuff and while they’re always playing the Kinks, I mean, what the heck? This is some stuff that even people who loved Soap Opera never get around to listening to.

262

In Which I Fix A Non-Broken Business Model


So the shop is called Muffler Man and, OK, that’s not a bad start. It lets you know clearly that at this shop you’ll be dealing with a man of some kind, and that he asserts to have some experience dealing with mufflers. That’s all very good stuff because you can trust a company whose name tells you what it does. The only thing that would improve it is if the name also included a location, like, “Lansing Muffler Man” or “Michigan Avenue Muffler Man”, because companies that tell you where they are usually know what they’re trying to do. When a company removes their geographic designator from the name that’s the first sign they’re going into providing services of some kind instead of doing anything useful. And if the name doesn’t mean anything it means they don’t want to do anything either, and if they are good at anything anymore it’s just inertia. They’ll screw it up as soon as they want to improve analysts’ ideas of their stock value. “Muffler Man”? Safe company to deal with. If if were, say, “Asperience”? Will never do anything that leaves you happy.

Thing is, you hear “Muffler Man”, you can’t help thinking that jingle about “Muffin Man”. So: why don’t they embrace that and start having muffins too? I haven’t had any real problems with my mufflers since I stopped buying $1,000 used cars from guys my dad knows. But if Muffler Man were a place to go and hang out and get something like muffins to eat — and I’m open to things in the greater muffin metropolitan area to eat too, such as cake-type brownies — I’d sure hang out there more than I do now. I bet I could find marginal excuses to have my muffler … looked at or whatever it is car repair people do with mufflers. The possibility is right there; what’s wrong with society that we’re not taking it?

Like I warn, though, this is just about making what’s already perfectly fine a little bit better. Muffler Man is not at all screwed up, as it is. I just think there’s more eating could be naturally associated with the experience is all.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose another sixteen points today in trading that’s just encouraging everybody’s Imposter Syndrome, so it isn’t like anybody is even happy about this.

263

In Which I Just Have Some Excuses Because It’s Kind Of Warm


I’d totally be on top of writing something that amuses at least me today, but I’m sorry. Given the heat I’ve been dealing with my car melting into a puddle of black-with-red-trim goo. It’s a huge hassle, as you might figure, especially given the prevailing tides. The only things that’ve been making it any easier to deal with are that the winds have been calm, making it easier to put up the foam barriers and squeegee much of the car back into some kind of shape, and that I never threw out that Super Extreme Large foam cup I got at the convenience store on a road trip a couple weeks ago, so that a lot of the backseat just fit naturally into the cup I had formerly thrown into the backseat. Anyway, it’s all very time-consuming and stressful and I’m hoping that it cools down before the rain comes because after the trouble when this happened three years ago I don’t want to have to go through reverse-osmosis on my car again. Thanks for understanding.

Scion tC covered in snow and ice from a late winter storm.
My Scion tC, here, not too warm.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Investors panicked today after reports of — well, anything really. Why aren’t you panicking? Good grief, there was this clickbait ad saying “don’t invest in lithium until you see this” and that’s enough right now. Why would you be investing in lithium to start with? Why would you stop? Why aren’t people talking about this? Or why are they talking about this? Is that picture by it what lithium actually looks like in the wild? And the clickbait below it says the new shampoo is 100% guaranteed to and we don’t even see the rest and that’s enough too!

200

In Which I Apologize To The Michigan DMV


I went to the local Department of Motor Vehicles branch to renew my licence plate tags. Only they don’t call them that in Michigan. They’re called Secretary of State offices, for reasons that Michiganians explain to me by pointing in the opposite direction and running. I don’t mind. I like a little quirkiness in my state bureaucracy. Back in New Jersey the Department of Motor Vehicles went through a phase back in the 90s, like most of us. But its 90s phase was one of renaming themselves every couple years. I know they went through being the Motor Vehicle Services for a while, and the Motor Vehicle Commission. I liked the latter, because it sounded like you had hired them to compose a song about your 1982 Mercury Grand Marquis. “It’s built like a tank // The window nearly cranks // All the way up! // Ooh-ah-ooh! // Bad alternator! // Ooh-ah-ooh! // Needs replacement! // Ooh-ah-ooh // Yes, again!”

Anyway, the Secretary of State has an office in the annex of a local strip mall. Also we have a strip mall with an annex because, I don’t know, I guess 1982 was a happening year. The office had this system where you enter your phone number, they give you an estimated wait time, and text you when you’re done waiting. I even had my phone with me. So I got in the queue. Then I noticed they had an automated booth where you could renew license plate tags without having to wait or even talk to anyone. I did that instead. It’s not that I don’t like people. It’s just I feel like I’m bothering them when I do talk to them, and why should I bother the people whose jobs are about handling my minor legal obligations?

But after that I didn’t see any way to take my number out of the queue. At least no way without talking to someone, for which I’d have to be in the queue. Also I’d have to talk to someone. Again, I don’t dislike people. It’s just I know my conversations can’t live up to the ideal of human interactions, which is Mister Rogers chatting with the people in the restaurant who’re making his cheese-and-lettuce sandwich. (Look it up!) So I left, feeling a little dirty.

Today I looked at my phone and realized I had a bunch of texts. I get maybe one text a month on average, which is fine, since I remember to look at them about every two months. There was one welcoming me to the queue system and thanking me because the without people in it the queue system would just be a performance-art piece on the absurdity of modern life. Also there were messages telling me I was in the queue, and that I was still in the queue in case I worried about that. Also that I was five minutes from being up. And then some messages that I was up. And texts that they were still waiting for me. And texts that they were going to have to stop waiting for me if I didn’t get there soon. And then a text that they had to go on to the next person and they’re sorry to have missed me, but the art critics thought our project charming. They liked its Jacques-Tati-esque setup of a system so automated and convenient that the only role actual humans can have is to slow things up.

I don’t know when I last felt so guilty about ghosting a minor civic responsibility. This is a lie. I last felt so guilty about ghosting a minor civic responsibility earlier this month when I kind of forgot to check in for jury duty. But that was an innocent accident. I moved the slip of paper with the phone number I was supposed to call the night before and forgot it existed. The license plate thing was a choice. I chose to do my business in the most time-efficient way possible and then leave. Anyway, I’m very very sorry, Michigan Secretary of State, and maybe I’ll just renew online next year. Also, uh, sorry, Ingham County Court System.

I haven’t yet actually put the new license plate tag on. So I don’t know if this will need the help of the auto care place down the street again. More on this as it comes to pass.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose sharply today after analysts looked carefully at my Twitter feed and determined I’m not one of those people who somehow tweets like eighty times an hour every hour of the day, and instead just posts a reasonable couple times a day except when I’m delightedly watching some awful movie and I have to share how this awful movie is awful.

112

Ahead of the Service Call


My car is just short of 90,000 miles, which is kind of amazing when you consider I work from home anymore. Now I have to work out the important questions: can I get it serviced before the trip to Cedar Point amusement park we’re figuring to take this weekend? And: can I get the interior vacuumed out so the car repair people don’t see how often I’ve clawed bits of fingernails off and left them to fall onto the floor? They’re my fingernails, yes, but I know if I were servicing someone’s 2009 Scion tC I wouldn’t want to run across torn-off fingernails. Also given that we’ve got like fourteen perfectly good nail clippers in the house why don’t I use those? I bet it’s because when I’m at home I almost never get stuck at an excessively long stop light and have the time to maul my own fingers.

I already worry enough about being judged by people I see as much as three times per year, I don’t need to worry about this on top of it. I wonder if I should mention the fingernail anxiety when they ask me to review the servicing.

Yes, Yes, Yellow Submarine, Now Move On


My love and I were listening to Sirius XM’s Cheesey 70s channel, because we had used up the 80s channel and were saving what’s left of the Current Indie channel. They got to playing C W McCall’s “Convoy” and I heard something I never noticed before. Buried there somewhere in the lyrics he sings something about a “chartreuse microbus”. I didn’t imagine it. My love heard the same thing.

And now I’m left wondering: what other oddly-colored vehicles are hiding in the midst of songs everybody kind of knows but doesn’t really listen to? If we poke around “Sweet Caroline” would we find a fuchsia MG-B? Is there a minor verse in “We Didn’t Start The Fire” built around a teal Mercury Lynx? I’m pretty sure there’s nothing in “Take On Me” that’s about a khaki Buick Roadmaster, but has anyone checked recently?

Well, at least I was able this week to spoil someone’s theory about what “25 or 6 to 4” even meant, so there’s that.

Why It’s A Bad Idea To Clean Out The Car


While cleaning the backseat of my car I came across a flyer for The 53rd Annual 2015 Ohio Gourd Show. It was scheduled to be held in the place widely known as “the Delaware of Ohio”, the town of Delaware, Ohio. The theme for it was “Gourds In Space” and it even shows a picture of some silver-painted sphere of some kind with aliens crafted out of what I trust were gourds on top. And of course, I missed it all. If the flyer was right the whole event was held in early October 2015, so it’s not like I could rush there and hope to find them cleaning-up and get a glimpse of a couple space gourds after all. And to think that I missed the 53rd Annual 2015 Ohio Gourd Show — all those years they were holding the Annual 2015 Ohio Gourd Show, like 1975 and 2002 and 1986 and for once it actually happened in 2015. And I missed it! The 54th Annual 2015 Ohio Gourd Show, due this year (2016), would be a poor compensation after this.

The thing is, as best I can make out my Ohio travels, I have to have picked up this flyer after the event was over anyway. And I’d forgotten the whole event and my disappointment at not spending a day in Delaware, Ohio, looking at painted gourds. But now it’s back, since I cleaned my car, and that is why cleaning the car is a mistake. There’s all sorts of stuff going on in Ohio we otherwise forgot.

Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle, Buster Keaton in: The Garage


And now, let me close out what’s become an Arbuckle-and-Keaton month of videos with The Garage, the last of their collaborations. This one, from 1920, is set in a small-town gas station-slash-fire station, which I guess will happen in your smaller towns, especially on-screen. From that starting point it’s able naturally to combine jokes about demolishing cars in the process of cleaning them with jokes about things being on fire.

The TCM article on this movie claims that Keaton cited it as his favorite collaboration with Arbuckle. I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true. The film may be a string of gags loosely bound by some connective plot tissue but they’re good gags, timed well and paced well together.

Statistics Saturday: Frequency of Various Stress Dreams


Stress Dream Average Time Between
Public Nudity 3 weeks
Can’t Even Begin To Understand How Hotel Shower Fixture Works 5 months
Public Speaking 5 weeks
Changing Work 4 weeks
Public Noticing You 7 weeks
Back In School 25 Days
Public Anything, Really 2 weeks
Moving 11 months
Traffic About As Bad As It Is At Rush Hour, Only It’s Not Rush Hour 65 days
Application You Never Heard Of Before Gets Permission To Update, Family Staggers From Ruins 200 days
Performance Under Review By Mysterious Figure From Childhood 50 days
Can’t Make People Move Out Of The Way Already 4 months
Have To Race Naked To Pants Department Of Elementary School In Order To Impress Colleague At Major Outreach Event In Order To Secure Promising New Position In Reading, England, And You Keep Finding The Shelves With Books And Stuff Instead Of Pants Maybe three times in your life but good luck being functional at all the next day
Car Won’t Start 6 weeks
Car Is Somehow Also A Naked Duck 14 months

Expedition Log, Day 1, Redux: Not Arguing That Again


9:45 am. Not making the same mistake as last time. Headed out east to find the Cumbrey Road onramp desperately backed up due to emergency construction. Turned around; went west, discovered the Pridmore’s Swamp Turnpike closed due to non-emergency non-construction. At the Five Points Turnabout walls of orange barrels reach high enough to blot out the sun. Trying south instead discovered potholes for sale by the square yard and extending as far as forty feet off the highway and into people’s homes. Northwest reveals a patch where it’s still winter, and northeast finds routine construction implying detours sending me right back home. Clearly there are deeper forces at work here than we suspect.

Total Mileage: 0.

Alternating Life


I’d figured it would be useful, as these things go, to figure out some way of breaking down the different stages in a person’s life, since those are popular articles in the web that I see in my mind. So far the only one I’ve been able to identify is, there’s this stage in your life when every car you have to deal with needs its alternator replaced, like, every nine weeks. And that’s a hassle but the mechanic is able to get you a refurbished alternator that’s only like $150 instead of the $400 a new one would be and it’ll be just as good, although it still wipes out your attempts to have savings anyway. Still, at some point, if you’re lucky, you start living in circles with cars that don’t need the alternator replaced, possibly because cars stop having them or something, and you only dimly remember there was a time when you could count on the month being spoiled by the alternator.

So that’s a stage of life and I hope you’re out of it. If you haven’t got to it yet, well, start an alternator savings account. I think cars believe alternators are some kind of hard candy they lick to nothing over the course of a couple months. Good luck.

Some Parts Of The Horse Or The Carburetor


(Let’s try this again.)

  • The head.
  • The neck.
  • The mounting base.
  • The posterior whelk?
  • The idle speed adjusting crackscrew.
  • The mounting base. (If you forgot the first.)
  • The parts that’ll step on you.
  • The parts that’ll bite you.
  • The parts that flames come out of.
  • The idle mixture adjusting screw. (Now this seems like they’re just putting in screws for the fun of it. I must have something wrong.)

A Guide to Some Municipal Parking Garages


8th 4th Street Meeting Parking Deck

The county-famous Meeting Parking Deck is designed for anyone with a need to have a meeting today. Gate attendants are constantly keeping track of which spaces are free and which people have not yet met anyone, and a roving pack of feral docents guides visitors into teams where they can hold meetings or — using the cylindrical tower at the north-east corner of the structure — even start to facilitate networking or some such rot. This parking deck leads the way in the whole Lesser Pompous Lakes Area as being the fourth-largest small-business incubating parking deck and counts dozens of small-business success stories to its credit by stealing the mail from the Lastman’s Glurge Small Business Development Center and Discount Candle Emporium. Maximum parking fee of $18.50 per day which can be waived with proof that you know someone who died of boredom during a Total Quality Management seminar.

Continue reading “A Guide to Some Municipal Parking Garages”

Tiptoe through the mailbox


It’s been a while since I went through all my mail. I have this tendency to let the mail pile up, I think out of a primordial urge to see a stack of letters reaching from floor to ceiling, able to intimidate even the crazed amaryllis. In less primordial urges I wonder whether, if I gather enough information as presumably contained in the letters it’ll achieve self-awareness and I’ll have a tame if pretty slow-moving artificial intelligence. If I do, it’s going to be one that thinks I’m the Current Resident or, worse, Currant Resident. They shouldn’t be firing their copy editors. Let’s see what’s on the pile.

Ah, I’ve gotten pre-approved by the Eastside Community Self-Esteem Development Center, and don’t think I don’t see right through them. Oh, the pre-approval sounds like a good thing what with indicating that they figure I can build my self-esteem up just a wee bit more. Goodness knows if I’m to blog regularly I have to get my self-esteem up to the point where I believe tens of thousands of people are waiting for every fresh post and working up the courage to ask me where they can send me money since I don’t have a donation box on the web site. Ha. I see the trap: I’m being invited to apply for more self-esteem, which means, if they simply turn me down then I’ll be in such desperate need of their services that I won’t be able to resist going to their front door and begging for admission.

Continue reading “Tiptoe through the mailbox”

When Animals Were Cooler


If there’s anything we learn from the study of past animals, it’s that animals in the past were a lot cooler than the ones we have today. I don’t want to dismiss the general coolness of modern animals, since so many of them know where I live and have heard that I’m made of meat (not wholly: parts of me are made of vanadium, and parts of me are an after-market add-on stereo that never worked right, which is why I never hear people’s names when they’re given to me and must instead rely on checking their name tags), but the general rule is, the farther in the past you go, the cooler they were.

Take sloths, for example. Today the average sloth is a pleasant enough creature, sweet-looking and not bothersome in its ways. But back before the recent Ice Age, there were sloths with amazing features: giant ones, for example, ones the size of minivans. And this was a time when minivans were gigantic, with accommodations for up to forty people, or forty-four if they were feeling alliterative and had clean outfits on, with side-impact airbags and well over 150 cupholders. The modern sloth of today, meanwhile, is extremely vulnerable to rolling over at highway speeds, and has only the two cupholders, and if you try taking your cup without the sloth’s being ready for you they get all bitey. You would have to signal them appropriately, using the telegraph, because they like the old-time feel of that.

Continue reading “When Animals Were Cooler”

Don’t Go Back To High School


Don’t go back to high school.

Maybe you weren’t tempted anyway since high school contains so many high school memories. But based on a leading dream I just had, high school has gotten more worse than you imagined. For one, everyone insists on doing these interactive exercises instead of just letting you sit quietly in your seat and wait for college, where you can sit quietly in your seat and wait for grad school, where you can sit quietly in your seat and wait for student loans to come due, where you can sit quietly in your seat and weep. No, now you have to go up to the board instead of sinking underneath your desk.

Second, your physics teacher isn’t that kind but slightly odd Mister Gregor, with the huge backlog of Starlog magazines he’s trying to get someone, anyone, to take for the eighth year running. Instead he’s comedian and voice acting legend Stan Freberg, who remembers you very well, possibly from that time you had a report due on space. He’s just going to introduce you to the entire class, you know, and point out what an outstanding student you were and how glad he is to see you back, and you’re going to face the collective scorn of dozens of 16-year-olds who don’t want to hear about masses on springs and certainly don’t want to hear about how good you were with them.

Third, after you get back from the bathroom — now one of those annoying fancy hands-free ones where the toilets don’t work until you awkwardly shuffle back and forth, and then they don’t quite really flush, and the faucets don’t notice you at all until you punch them, which your middle school principal for crying out loud watches without comment — you’re going to get called right back into the classroom experience which is not about the masses on springs you thought Mister Gregor Stan Freberg liked you doing.

No, what this project is all about is going up to the board, one of those agonizing super-incredible touch-screen thingies that responds and draws stuff far beyond your ability level, the kind cable news channels keep buying instead of paying for reporting. And Mister Gregor Stan Freberg wants you to draw a cover for an impossibly complicated science fiction/fantasy novel and won’t take your excuses that you missed the entire description of the novel and you can’t even draw a tree without your drawing pointing at you and laughing as excuses. “You’ll be fine,” he says, “You’ll inspire the students,” one-seventh of whom agree in a shrugging groan.

Fifth (fourth was that you’re picked as inspirational) when you do try drawing, sure, the magic cable news screen takes your little scribbly Y thing and turns it into a great rendition of a tree, and turns your little scribbled Ewok-y figures into fur-perfect renditions of the ranwor-level hunters of the Culakly tribe from Ageli, the fourth planet orbiting Iota Librae, but your efforts to catch the moment before the klent-lead conspiracy sets ablaze the ceremonial dousti tower leading up to the top of the sacred grove is foiled when the picture springs to life and the entire dousti burns before your eyes, though not those of the class. At least, you think that’s what he wants you to show because Mister Gregor Stan Freberg insists on mumbling the plot to you no matter how many times you tell him you can’t hear what he’s saying.

Worse, while the fire and panic wouldn’t be a bad idea, the scene catches almost dead-center the 1988 silver Chevy Celebrity of one of the production assistants from the movie based on the book, which just ruins the scene because a Celebrity looks like what you put in the scene to later be replaced with an actual car, and you can’t get the monitor to take a reverse angle. In fact you look foolish ordering the screen to reverse view, and one of the xiple-beasts clearly snorts at you before running off to the trumia-bushes.

All Mister Gregor Stan Freberg offers as advice is to whisper to you that the name of the novel is something like “Cumumburumbubmlemun” and that you should figure where to set the title for best aesthetic value.

Overall, the lesson is: don’t go back to high school. You’ll look like a total drell.

This Is Not Your Daughter’s Oldsmobile


We saw a young person driving an Oldsmobile Ciera. I forget what kind it was, but it had a bunch of letters after it, because that’s how car makers in the 90s used up their excess typewriter capacity. She was awfully young, though, and we joked that maybe Oldsmobiles were becoming hip among kids looking for a retro thrill. Then we realized we were stuck in traffic and the giddiness wore off.

Still, the merry little joke might’ve been right anyway. Back when teenagers and college kids were wild for the Stutz Bearcat, in Movie 1920s, the car was already out of production. In the late 70s you could barely get down the Interstate without seeing a college kid nursing a beat-up Skylab back into road-ready condition. There was that period in the late 40s when kids were all into ironically driving their Edsel Citations, which wouldn’t be made for another ten years. This is often thought to be the result of a typographical error in a history of young adult fads written in the early 22nd century, but was actually a copyright trap. By the time it was done it had recovered sixteen separate copyrights, including one not previously known to science.

Organized!


I bought some plastic storage containers today. Is there any feeling better than buying plastic storage containers? Yes, there is. Better is seeing somebody you can’t stand getting trapped underneath an Internet Dogpile as Twitter or Facebook or somebody notices they said something really stupid, and they go on just making it worse every time they try explaining that what they meant was something that was just like what they said only without the Twitter universe noticing them.

But buying plastic storage containers is right up there. It gives all the thrill of having your life in order even if you can’t figure out how to get them to fit in the car. I’m so hooked on this that the basement is turning into enormous stacks of empty plastic storage containers, looming high and making menacing faces at me when I do laundry.

So here’s my money-making idea: I’ll open a shop where you go in and wander through aisle after aisle of boxes of all kinds of shapes and colors and opacities and wonderfully complicated lids and snappy things and all that. You go around and buy all the ones you want, and then we keep them in the store so you don’t have to deal with getting them home or putting stuff into them or being afraid of the tidal flow of empty containers.

(Until then, the solution to getting the boxes home is to warm up the engine, melt the containers underneath the hood until they flatten out, and then when you get home reverse the process by backing your car into the driveway.)