In The Not-Too-Distant Future, Next Christmas, AD


A friend brought to my attention this Mystery Science Theater 3000-themed Christmas moon ornament. (Or “Moonyament” as they call it in the trade; yes, the sounds get elided in weird ways, but it’s what happens naturally when you try to say it.) It looks nice, I’ll agree. I’m not saying this in order to hint that I want one, mind you. I’ve reached the point of my MST3K fandom where I’m not sure I need anything from the show anymore or even necessarily to watch it, since there’s so many demands on my time otherwise. I just hope to answer a question raised by its description.

Advertising copy for the MST3K Moon Ornament, which reproduces the MST3k 'meatball' logo: a 'beauty [that] could be your regular Saturday Night in December thing'. Note: this glass ornament has a circumference of approximately 10 inches.
Now me, I’ve got a bunch of foam-rubber MST3K meatballs, which were sent as packing material when I bought a DVD set a couple years back. They’re great fun and bring me minutes of joy when I go back and find the box I’ve left them in.

So … why do they tell us it has a ten-inch circumference, instead of the much more obviously useful measure, that it has a surface area of approximately 16.9 square inches? I mean, c’mon, we’re all completely normal and unexceptional hew-mons here, let’s express our communicativity like such.

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Mysteries Of The Season


So if there is one thing we may agree on, it’s that this is October. Unless you’re reading this more than eleven days from now. We’ll see. But I remind you that we have a rabbit around here, sometimes two rabbits. So we sweep, pretty regularly, as otherwise every surface in the house would be covered thirty feet deep in fur. So if you understand the setting, then, please answer me this: how did I just now sweep up a Christmas-tree light?

A stray Christmas light, surrounded by a little dust, on the wood floor.
The dirt, now, that’s a more seasonally-appropriate Bastille Day dirt. So that part makes sense.

And a Christmas Thought I Forgot To Have Like Two Weeks Ago


I really should’ve had this thought the 15th but I lost the slip of paper its inspiration was written on. My love and I went to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. It’s a grand, wonderful place. It’s a huge building, the kind you could host a good-sized flea market in, and it’s filled with Christmas decorations (plus some bits for other holidays). If you ever need a variety of guinea pig ornaments this is the place to go. If you ever need to fill a tree with different peacock ornaments, this is the place to go. I’m not saying a large tree filled with unique peacocks. But still, a tree of any size with only peacock ornaments is amazing.

They pass out a little trivia card about how big the place is and how much Christmas it merchandises and how many people it employs and how far away they advertise and everything. (They advertise all over Michigan, including Florida.) Here’s the one that would have been great to think about like two weeks ago:

Movie star John Wayne ordered a Santa suit from Bronner’s by telephone on December 15, 1976.

I don’t fault them clinging to a celebrity encounter from four-plus decades ago; I’m still telling people about that pizza party I attended alongside Don “Father Guido Sarducci” Novello in 1995. And I absolutely love this piece of trivia because the claim is both exact and vague. What were the machinations of Fate which caused John Wayne to wake one day and say, “I’m movie star John Wayne! Today, the 15th of December, 1976, I want a Santa suit! I should phone Bronner’s in Frankenmuth, Michigan, to order one”? I assume this is a direct quote. How could the Hollywood-area costume and holiday shops be out of Santa suits already? Or was he just in Michigan for something, maybe poking around Bay City to see if he had to do anything about it, and realized he was Santa suit-less? Did he know someone at Bronner’s who could get him a discount? If so, how much? So those are the exciting thoughts racing around me and I’m just sorry I didn’t schedule them for the 15th when they would have been kind of timely-ish.

Bronner’s doesn’t give out enough trivia for me, but I don’t blame you for thinking Broner’s gives me too much trivia.

Intruding Upon My Good Wishes


I hope that you and yours are enjoying a pleasant, happy moment in what has been the second year in a row that’s going to be written about in books with the subtitle ‘Twelve Months That Changed The World’. And I hope to enjoy it too. But I keep getting caught up thinking: that one house where the Grinch stole the ice cubes out of the Who’s freezer. I mean, stealing the Christmas meal, sure. But ice cubes? That’s not Christmas stuff. That’s event-neutral content. Why pick on the ice cubes. Get your head in the game, Grinch. I can’t believe the quality of thought I’m having lately either. Another one: in The Chipmunks Christmas Song is Alvin in fact a little flat? I can’t tell. But it’d be great if the singer did make sure he was despite the challenge of recording at a ridiculously low pitch and tempo. See? This is what I’m thinking. I blame 2017. Also I’m trying to work out why I gave everybody flat presents this year. I wasn’t planning on it.

Statistics Saturday: Thurls Rated By Christmas Impact


  1. Thurl Ravenscroft, singer, “You’re A Mean One, Mister Grinch”.
  2. Thurl Bailey, basketball player, Utah Jazz/Minnesota Timberwolves.

Source: Voyager: Seeking Newer Worlds in the Third Great Age of Discovery, Stephen J Pyne.

(Note: results are different in Thurl Bailey’s social circle.)

Everything Interesting There Is To Say About Christmas Decorating


While we’re still waiting on the upstate returns it sure seems like we’re going to have a Christmas this year. So it’s a good chance to talk about putting up decorations for Christmas like three weeks ago. But who’s had the time? Those who would like to discuss putting up decorations against Christmas may apply for equal time care in care of this station. This will let us see just what sort of care they have been taking of their time. This should be good for a solid laugh all around.

The basic unit of Christmas decoration is the poinsettia. This lovely plant has been cherished for several centuries, a couple decades, a bunch of years, a pair of months, a peculiar number of hours, and a strangely specific number of shillings and pence. They’s cheerful and when viewed from any angle and from a wide range of lighting conditions they appear to be spelled wrong. This allows us to spend much of the Christmas season slightly rearranging any existing poinsettias. In case their spelling ever does look right, the pronunciation looks wrong. If both the spelling and pronunciation are sound, then it’s time for the flowers to fall over.

There is a longstanding tradition of putting lights on trees. This grew out of the tradition of putting candles on trees. This itself grew out of the tradition of putting trees on candles. This tradition came to an end when the fire department started sending out stern letters and disapproving looks. Even so there are some neighborhoods where the fire department has to drive around delivering stern looks and disapproving letters, just in the hope the change-up catches anyone’s attention. In any case the lights are much easier to work with, what with how they can be turned off. You leave the trees on because it’s so hard to get something to exist again once you’ve told it to stop. At the least you get accused of being fickle, and can’t make an honest dispute of it.

Stands of lights grow in the hardware and in the discount department store. They find a natural habitat on what certainly seems like the wrong shelf. You expect them to be set up next to the artificial trees or next to the laser projectors that shine sparkly lights on an unsuspecting house. Instead they’re off in like row 13, between paint supplies and dowels and grommets. In some bigger stores they’re kept next to the grummidges and copper-plated hurk mounts and other wholly imaginary pieces of hardware. It’s a little prank they play.

You can buy new lights every year while cursing the light manufacturers. Or you can keep lights from year to year, taking the old ones out and cursing the light manufacturers over those. This is because any light strand more than three months old has a half that doesn’t work. Fortunately every strand of lights has two fuses embedded in the plug. And it’s easy to change these just by sliding the plastic panel open and then screaming in frustration at the fuses, since they’re in pretty tight and there’s no getting it out without using a needle that you drop on the floor to step on later. Replacing the fuses will not make the lights work. It’s just a way to pass the slow, unhurried times ahead of Christmas.

A good thing to pick up is this tool that extracts Christmas light bulbs. It should also have a button to press to test whether a given light is working. Nothing will ever tell you how to use this button, though. Do you hold the suspect bulb up to the side near the button? The side near the indicator light that flashes? Does the bulb have to be out of the light strand? Can it be left inside? What’s it mean when the indicator light flashes? Or when it stays on? There’s no telling. This all gives you something to do while pondering the futility of existence.

Tinsel is, in truth, no such thing. What we call tinsel is actually an artificial tinsel created by chemists who had pondered the saying “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” and so did not. They had hopes that this artificial tinsel would help America in the war effort and it might have had they not done this all over the summer of 1926. Nevertheless, the work is well appreciated by anyone who would like things to look and feel the more stranded.

Once you have your Christmas decorations up, stop putting them up. This is most important as your ceiling isn’t tall enough to keep putting them ever-farther up. Enjoy them while wondering how it is the light strand over the doorway isn’t falling down. Nobody knows.

Statistics Saturday: Christmas Song Play Counts, 2017


Song Played How Much?
I’m Getting Nuttin’ For Christmas Too Much
Sleigh Ride (Instrumental) About The Right Amount
The Muppet Twelve Days Of Christmas Not Enough
Christmas Eve In Fairyland Not Enough [*]
I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas Too Much [**]
Sleigh Ride (With Words) Too Much
The Twelve Pains Of Christmas About The Right Amount
The Snow Miser/Heat Miser Song About The Right Amount/Too Much [***]
Every Other Novelty Version Of The Twelve Days Of Christmas Ever Too Much
Chrissy, The Christmas Mouse Not Enough [****]

[*] It doesn’t need to be played a lot, but it is under-performing so far.

[**] Without its use in that commercial for whatever it would still be too much, but much less too much.

[***] The Heat Miser side of the song is just so much weaker.

[****] At this point it’s so un-played I’m forced to wonder if I imagined the whole song.

Source: Box Boats: How Container Ships Changed The World, Brian J Cudahy.

Thoughts While Pondering The Year Without A Santa Claus, Plus Trains


What if Santa isn’t always cancelling Christmas because he’s kind of a jerk and instead he’s just wracked with the sort of Imposter Syndrome that my whole generation is dealing with all the time? Like, “This mouse wrote something mean in an upstate New York newspaper in September! A competent Santa doesn’t have to deal with issues like that! … And it’s snowing too? Oh I can’t even.”

Which I’ll grant is not all that deep an observation, but the alternative is to fret about the ways the rules of that snowfall magic seem to get tossed willy-nilly about in Frosty’s Winter Wonderland. I mean there’s something about just tossing in a snow-parson into things that seems dangerous. So let me conclude with this observation from Wikipedia’s page on Frost’s Winter Wonderland:

The engine on the train is a 2–4–2 or an American type steam locomotive. Locomotives of this wheel arrangement were used most common during the 1800s on American railroads, and from the 1830s until 1928, were given the name “American” in 1872, because of how they did all the work of every railroad in the United States. These types of engines have eight wheels (two leading wheels, four driving wheels, and two trailing wheels).

This means something. (It means I’m very tired.)

Poking Around The Body Shop When You’re Getting Old


You know you’re becoming an adult when you go browsing at the Body Shop, and you spend some time looking over the newest stuff, but. Yeah, the webbed hands are always kind-of desirable. Wireless ear hotspots. The extreme-heat-resistant tongue, just great for those most extreme coffees. Laser nostrils. In-wrist bag-of-holding pouches. A detachable belly button that you can leave at home when you’re afraid of losing it.

And then you go down and put “non-squeaking knees” down on your wish list. That’s when adulthood is getting to you.

You know you’re really old when you don’t even care that they’ve got finally got eyestalks this year that work right.

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


Do you know what time it is? Or what day it is, anyway? Because if it’s later than about December 2017, this isn’t an up-to-date report on the current plots of Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley. I’m writing this in mid-August 2017 and try to avoid making unfounded guesses about where stuff is going. So if it’s gone far enough that I’ve written a newer story summary, it should be at or near the top of this page. Thanks for reading.

Also thank you for reading my mathematics blog, where I reviewed some comic strips which had mathematical topics about six hours ago. There’ll be more.

Gasoline Alley.

29 May – 20 August 2017.

The Gasoline Alley for the 29th of May, 2017, shows Santa Claus getting tossed in the air by a water wheel. There’s reasons for this. One of Jim Scancarelli’s stock plots is the weepy melodrama, and that was in full swing. Comic-relief dopey characters Joel and Rufus had run across a desperately poor family living in the old mill and decided to bring them Christmas presents as Santa Claus Running Late.

In accord with the Law of Christmas Mysticism, the attempt to play Santa Claus crashes on the shoals of physical comedy. But a mysterious figure dressed as Santa Claus and explaining that of course he didn’t forget about the children delivers a pair of bicycles. But wait, you say, Joel is still dressed as Santa Claus and stuck on the water wheel! Who was that mysterious Santa-y figure giving presents to children? Hmmmmm?

Santa: 'I brought you two bikes! I hope you like them! Ride Safely!' Emma Sue And Scruffy: 'Wow!' (Crashing noise.) Emma Sue: 'What's that?' And Scruffy: 'It's Mr Rufus and some ol' geezer!' (Joel, dressed as Santa, caught on the water wheel) 'Ol' geezer?'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 3rd of June, 2017. This features one of the rare times I don’t think Scancarelli drew the comic very well. From the staging, it seems like Santa must have been visible to Joel and Rufus. The earlier strips suggest that too. But Joel and Rufus go on not knowing who that strange Santa-like figure giving away presents might have been. I’m not sure how to stage the action so that the reader could have been misdirected about which Santa was on-panel while the characters wouldn’t see what was up, I admit. Maybe there’s nothing to be done but this.

Hm. Well, Rufus goes back home to find his cat’s had a litter of kittens. Emma Sue And Scruffy, the poverty-stricken kids he tried to give bikes to, see them too. Rufus’s reasonable answer to whether they could adopt them (“you have to ask your mother”) inspires Joel to ask why he doesn’t try marrying The Widow Emma Sue And Scruffy’s Mom. Rufus tries to dodge this plot by going fishing. Emma Sue And Scruffy do too, biking to the fishing pond.

There they find a codger, drawn realistically enough that when he tells them to scram they scram. Or they do until And Scruffy drives his bike down the embankment and learns it was a mistake not to also ask Santa Claus for bike helmets. Rufus did warn them about biking without protection, and honestly, when Joel and Rufus are the voices of wisdom …

Codger Elam Jackson, talking to camera: 'Many problems will solve themselves if we just forget them and go fishing!' He sees the accident-stricken And Scrffy. 'Hey! What's that up there? A head? It looks like a problem I won't be able to forget!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 10th of July, 2017. Oh, I don’t know about this problem not being one to forget, Elam. Have you ruled out staying at home and eating sheetcake?

Emma Sue goes seeking help. The codger, bringing his fish back through the fourth wall, finds And Scruffy. This promptly melts his heart, so the codger picks up the crash-victim and moves his spine all around bringing him back to the old mill. The codger — Elam Jackson — introduces himself and offers the fish he’d caught for a meal. Plus he offers to cover the medical bill to call a doctor for And Scruffy.

The Widow Emma Sue And Scruffy's Mom, to Elam, who's working on their water wheel. 'Why are you doing all this work around here, Elam?' Elam: 'The Good Book says we are to look after widows and orphans ... and that's what I intend to do!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 10th of August, 2017. I don’t try often to project around here where stories are going to go. Usually, if a plot development seems directly to follow, I’m happy to let the writer try and fool me, or choose to do the obvious thing in an entertaining way. A story doesn’t have to surprise me; it has to be interesting. Still, at this point, I became convinced that Elam and The Widow Etc should be expected to set up home-making together. Rufus can try winning the affections of Miss The Widow Etc. But he’s one of the long-standing comic-relief characters. He’s not getting married off, not to someone who’s been in the strip less than three months.

Rufus calls Chipper Wallet in from the Physician’s Assistant public-service storyline. Chipper examines, judging And Scruffy to be basically all right, and leaves without charging. This short-circuits the attempts of both Rufus and Elam to win the heart of The Widow Emma Sue And Scruffy’s Mom by paying her family’s medical bills. Rufus shifts to bringing two of the kittens as gifts to Emma Sue and Scruffy. Elam shifts to fixing the water wheel, offering The Widow Etc the chance to grind cereals as the public needs. I admit I’m not sure whether The Widow Etc and family are actually legit tenants of the old mill or if they’re just squatting.

And that’s where the plot stands at the moment.

Walt at the gates of heaven: 'Excuse me! Am I at the Pearly Gates?' Angel Frank Nelson: 'Oooh, yesss, indeedy! What's your name?' Walt: 'Walter Weatherby Wallet! Are you Saint Peter?' Frank: 'No! He's stepped out for a millennia! I'm filling in for him! Let's see! Waldo ... Walnut ... Ah! Here you are ... Walter Wallet! Now! What's the password?' Walt: 'Password? I didn't know you need one to get in here! Uh! Will my phone, computer, or credit card passwords work?' Frank: 'I'm afraid not!' Walt: 'What can I do?' Devil Frank Nelson: 'Psst, bud! We don't need passwords to get in down here!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 6th of August, 2017. So, things I like here: That topper panel with the angel dog, cat, and mouse sequence. Angel Frank Nelson’s halo being this head ring. And the heaven-as-a-bureaucracy thing that was kind of popular-ish in movies and industrial shorts and stuff in the 30s through the 50s. What I don’t like: there’s no time for a good Frank Nelson-y put-down of Walt Wallet? ‘He’s stepped out for a millennia [sic]’ could be delivered nasty, but it’s not an insult by itself. What’s got me baffled: with an entry line like “psst, bud!” how is that devil not Sheldon Leonard? I am curious whether Scancarelli started out with the idea of Jack Benny’s Racetrack Tout trying to lure Walt Wallet to a warmer fate, which seems like a good premise. But maybe the setup took too long however he tried to write it, and Scancarelli figured to switch over to a Devil Frank Nelson to avoid muddling the surviving joke? I am not being snarky here; I’m genuinely curious how the idea developed.

The Sunday strips have been mostly the usual grab-bag of spot jokes. The one curious, possible exception: on the 6th of August we see Walt Wallet at the Pearly Gates, being checked out by Angel Frank Nelson. It’s hard to believe that Jim Scancarelli would allow for the death of Walt Wallet, one of the original cast of a comic strip that’s 99 years old, to be done in a single Sunday strip that’s mostly a spot joke. The strip hasn’t got most of the signifiers that something is a dream or a fanciful experience, though. On the other hand, neither did Slim Skinner’s encounter with a genie. And Walt turned up again just today, anyway, talking about the advantages of dying at an early age. So, I guess Sundays really are just a day for merry gags.

Next week: I check in on how nature or car-rental anecdotes will kill us all, in James Allen’s Mark Trail. Call your friends, if your friends know any prairie dogs! Word is that prairie dogs are making a comeback.

Vic and Sade: Meet Rishigan Fishigan


Sometimes a throwaway gag is too good to dispense with. In this installment, from the 12th of December, 1941, Vic’s boss has given him a list of people to buy Christmas presents for and twenty dollars to do it with. Sade expects she’ll have to do all the bother and that it will be an incredible bother. She’s right, as she makes Vic read the list and consider the complete lack of guidance into what sort of thing any of these people might want or how much they should spend on it.

The last name introduced is that of Rishigan Fishigan, of Sishigan, Michigan. It’s such a catchy name. It’s a catchy town name. It seems like it always attaches to the end of his name, so he’s spoken of as “Rishigan Fishigan of Sishigan, Michigan”. And I am sad that there is no such place as Sishigan, Michigan. We should rename something to be it.

The name must have caught Paul Rhymer’s imagination. Rishigan Fishigan would reappear, in mentions, and eventually as a friend of Vic’s. In later incarnations of the show he would even be a regular character, with dialogue on-microphone and everything. Given how many catchy names Rhymer created I wonder why Rishigan Fishigan (of Sishigan, Michigan) took such hold, although I suppose to say aloud it is to answer the question.

There are a lot of amusingly scrambled place names in the Christmas gift list — I can feel Sade’s righteous anxiety that none of this can be right, even if she allowed that she could buy anything for people she doesn’t know anything about — but I like to think that the choice of “Seattle, Iowa” was retaliation for the existence of “Des Moines, Washington”. I have a friend who lives in Des Moines, Washington, and it nags at me every time I need to send him a card or something. We need some thought put into our Des Moines requirements.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Repeated heavy waves of selling struck the trading floor at Another Blog, Meanwhile over the course of the day, so of course the index went up eighteen points. At this point we have to suspect some of these traders don’t actually know what they’re doing and they’re just making numbers go up and down without thinking about the long-term implications.

324

Choose Wisely


Lending Locker for the long-stay hotel. 'Borrow a blender or a board game. The Lending Locker is stocked with kitchen items, games and small appliances. Borrow what you'd like by checking in with a team member at the Front Desk.'
“Can I borrow the juice squeezer?” “NO! ONLY the blender OR the board game!” “Can I borrow both?” And the clerk runs back to the manager. “Boss, they’ve broken the system!”

How you decide will affect the precise level of drama associated with your game of Yahtzee.

Also going on: my mathematics blog and its comic strips review. I also briefly debunk a lovely present my aunt and uncle gave me several years ago.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

In getting back to trading after the Christmas break the Another Blog, Meanwhile dropped four points. This beat analyst expectations as they’d figured there was no reason they wouldn’t drop eight or even twelve points considering how poorly everyone does right after a big holiday. Really they’re amazed anyone could get themselves out on the trading floor, considering.

93

The Only Day Of The Year I Can Share This, Apart From Literally All The Others


I’ll get back to talking about story comics next week. Or later if I feel like. For now let me share this 1936 Fleischer cartoon. It’s a spinoff of the Betty Boop universe. And it’s in color, which you just don’t think of Fleischer cartoons being. It stars Grampy, who might or might not be related to Betty Boop. In any case he was introduced in the Betty Boop series. Apart from this entry he always appeared with Betty Boop. But the character probably could have supported a series of his own, at least as 1930s cartoons go. For all that’s unusual about this short it’s a pretty good example of Grampy’s nature.

Because Grampy’s basic gimmick is that he finds some people who’re depressed about something, and he sits and thinks a while, and then he concocts a bunch of amusing gadgets using the stuff at hand. There’s a lot that’s appealing to it, since he is a genial person doing his best to solve other people’s problems. If there’s a flaw it’s that every cartoon is the same one, with just the details of the inventions differing. But they’re also good inventions. They look funny. They stick close to something that looks like it might just work, if it weren’t for the way the real world is a little messy and unpredictable.

And the cartoon starts and ends with one of the characteristic bits of Fleischer 1930s wizardry. They had worked out a pretty good system for combining live-action models with animated cartoons. They used this in all their series, and for good reason. Even eighty years on it’s startling to see the styles of a 1930s cartoon world burst suddenly into three-dimensional life.

It’s built around a catchy song. It would be, of course. The melody would turn up in other Fleischer cartoons for a while, and Popeye and Bluto would sing it (although for New Year’s) at the start of the cartoon Let’s Celebrake. I think the song was an original composition and that there’s not more lyrics to it than we get, which is a shame. It’s the sort of peppy, cheery composition that would be a good minor Christmas song.

It’s a genial cartoon. It’s never a hilarious one, which is a flaw common to Grampy cartoons. They’re pleasant and about a nice guy making good stuff out of nothing. I doubt you’d feel cheated at spending time watching this. But I also doubt you’ll put it on your greatest-cartoons, or greatest-cartoon-characters lists. That’s all right. We need simply pleasant stuff too.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile traders took the day off as well you might imagine they would after the shocks and discoveries of the past two days. In so doing they foiled an otherwise brilliantly-planned heist wherein the distractions of the trading floor were to provide cover. The heist was planned by Ira Wallach and Peter Ustinov and filled in 1968 as Hot Millions. But since the security guard had nothing interesting to watch he noticed when the light to indicate there wasn’t anything being embezzled switched off. The whole scheme fell apart after that, but the music was swell.

UNCH

Statistics Saturday: Twelve Days of Christmas In Alphabetical Order


  1. Calling bird
  2. Drummers drumming
  3. French hens
  4. Geese a-laying
  5. Gold rings
  6. Ladies dancing
  7. Lords a-leaping
  8. Maids a-milking
  9. Partridges in a pear tree, a
  10. Pipers piping
  11. Swans a-swimming
  12. Turtle doves

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Seven points went a-dropping off the Another Blog, Meanwhile index as the trading floor was consumed with the question of: you can’t just prefix “a-” to any old verb, can you? Like, you can’t have drummers a-drumming? Except that sounds all right, and we could make a go of “pipers a-piping”. There must be some limits. You couldn’t have “web developers a-content-managing”, or even “web developers content a-managing”. Except now we can kind of hear that working if the melody were right and that brings us back to spoof versions of The Twelve Days of Christmas, which everyone is afraid to get.

97

Quick Little Test Balloon


OK, so, people who have reason to expect a present from me, like, what would you say to an experience gift instead? I’m not really up on experiences people could have but I bet I could, like, come over there and alphabetize a thing. Might be something simple like bookshelves, or something that made me involuntarily giggle at my father like the spice rack, or something conceptual like the living room. “Does this piece of furniture get ordered under `couch’ or `sofa’?” Maybe alphabetize a sock? Get back to me quick care of some address.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile Index was down slightly today as the trading floor was rocked by the discovery that Mr Slate from The Flintstones and Mr Cogswell from The Jetsons are the same character design only one (Mr Cogswell) is dressed in future garb instead. “We’re 44 years old,” some were heard to cry, “How have we never noticed this before now?” How, indeed? How?

104

I Got Nothing


I confess: I’m doing a terrible job Christmas-shopping this year. Oh, the big item was easy enough. Just go down to the Christmas store and pick out one December 25th and arrange to have it delivered. I got the Sunday model this year. As a kid I was always torn between whether Sunday or Monday Christmases were the best. A Monday Christmas had the great fun of Advent being as short as it could be, plus, going right from the 4th Sunday of Advent services Sunday morning straight to Christmas Eve mass in the evening. But with a Sunday Christmas you get to burn the Advent candles for the whole fourth week. In hindsight I understand why everyone treated me that way in middle school.

But past arranging to have a Christmas it’s been a rough time thinking what to get people. I blame myself. I went through a stretch last decade where I gave everybody calendars all the time because, hey, who doesn’t need large pieces of paper with a grid of numbers on them? Sure, we all do. Page-a-day calendars are great because my father could get all way to January 17th before forgetting to look at the Far Side of the day. Month-by-month calendars are great because they don’t make any sense.

I mean, you maybe don’t remember what day it is, but put up a sheet of paper with up to 31 plausible candidates for the month and suddenly you’re able to keep it straight. If that doesn’t keep you up nights wondering how that screwed-up bit of psychology works maybe it will now. I’m assuming you aren’t one of those people that crosses off a date once it’s been used and if you are don’t tell me. It’ll force me to lead a rescue expedition for your calendars and I might grab your paperback books just to make sure you don’t crack their spines and I already have enough paperback books in the basement that it’s sunk two feet from where it started.

Despite calendars’ unquestionable properties as useful things that can be given I sensed I’d reached my lifetime limit for giving them. I got to hearing sharp jokes about them, and by jokes I mean sticks, and by hearing I mean “being jabbed in the belly”, and by “about them” I mean “from family members who are not going to start reading Rob Harrell’s Big Top no matter how much I’m sure they would like the January 22nd one”. Put that sentence back together and see if it doesn’t make sense. I’ll wait.

I can tell you what I want to give people. I just don’t know that it exists. But we saw the TV broadcast of the Silver Bells parade from last month. It was mostly like what being at the event was, except we weren’t being rained on while watching the rebroadcast. As the program went on you could see and hear more and more rain pouring down. The rain got to drowning out the news anchors trying to tell us which high school marching bad was doing Jingle Bell Rock [*]. I mean the sound of the rain, but then the rain got even more drown-y and they had everyone flee the parade. Thing is the last minutes of the broadcast —

Someone running through the rain-soaked street that would otherwise be a parade.
Silver Bells 2016: I’m still getting water out of my boots. I maybe need new boots. They’re not draining through the holes fast enough anymore.

Well. They left the camera running, but didn’t have any audio. They switched to playing something that wasn’t quite any identifiable Christmas carol. It was what you probably get when Santa puts you on hold. And through all this they showed people running desperately across the streets trying not to drown in the rain. After a couple minutes of that they gave up entirely and put a text crawl on-screen explaining that unfortunately severe weather forced the abandonment of the parade, but it was still a fantastic experience. The text crawl, the not-quite-music, the images come together to look like the tag scene where the war movie tells you how many of the battalion ever saw home again. And they’re looking forward to next year!

Anyway if they sell this on DVD I’m giving that to everybody I know, possibly every year for the rest of my life. I can do that now. Most of my family now lives in other states, well outside of stick range.

[*] Fewer than we expected but the parade did get cut short.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index did not lose eight points over the course of the day. Instead it distributed eight points to some lucky readers. Could it be you? Check under your seat — not now, wait for it — and see if you have a point there. OK, now look!

108

Some Things One Can Do For The Holiday Season


The holiday season is coming soon. It may even be here already in certain parts of the time zone. Here are some good ways to react.

Affix A Thing To Another Thing. This is a good one to learn because it is one of the fundamental units of crafting projects. Most anything you can see can be affixed to some other thing. You can start very simply, just by taking something you have and placing it atop something else. In more advanced classes you set something, such as a light cloth, between the things. This makes for fun activities like peeling up the cloth to see how much dust has got all over the things. In expert classes you can adhere things together using tape or acetylene torch welding or glue or sewing or strings. Graduate students in crafts learn to snip something off of another thing.

Make A Food Of Some Kind. This is a very good project because at the end of it you will have food or a good story about how food failed to exist. To do this you wil need:

  • A recipe
  • Ingredients
  • Bowls
  • Some more bowls
  • Indeed more bowls than you have ever imagined owning in your life
  • Lids
  • Exotic utensils kept in the kitchen drawer you never use, things that look like wispy high-dimensional mathematical constructs that have something to do with string theory
  • Bowls that you dimly remember from buried childhood memories of boring afternoons and grandmom’s that somehow emerge from the kitchen’s Scary Cabinet that you never open
  • A box of plastic wrap on which the metal tooth blade has fallen halfway off and has gone to attack thumbs, fruits, the occasional kitchen tile, etc
  • Two, maybe three more bowls

Take any of the ingredients and read the recipe. Then glance down and see that somehow all the bowls have gotten covered in a strange putty-like goo which tastes faintly of vanilla, cilantro, lemon, and sugar crystals. They will never all be successfully clean again.

  • Get some more bowls

If you’re doing well this will attract the attention of some adorable cartoon animal such as a raccoon, who’ll try grabbing at some of your food. And you toss him out and he’s right back at the counter before you even get back to it yourself. And this escalates until you blow up your whole house using a pile of dynamite sticks the size of a roller coaster and the raccoon’s still there. He holds out an adorable little cookie as peace offering and when you start to accept it he eats it instead. Directed by Dick Lundy in pretty good pastiche of Tex Avery.

Decrate an Animal in Some Fashion. Your experience in affixing things to other things will help some here. At least it will if you want to do something like set a bow on a dog, such as setting a bow on a cat. But “decorate” suggests some broader ideas. For example, why not fling balls of paint at squirrels until they’re much more colorful? Because that won’t work. You’ll just get squirrels with even better reflexes. If you want to go this way take some drops of food dye and dab them on the heads of local mice. The mice will groom from their heads on down — they’re very careful about this — and rub the dye into all their fur. Then you can set the mice around your neighbors. When they come to you and say, “There’s a bunch of green and purple mice that moved into the neighborhood!” you can exhale a world-weary sigh and say, “I know.” Trust me, this will play as really funny if you keep a straight face.

Just Wrap Some Thing. See how your affixing practice comes in handy here? Take something you can use for wrapping, such as wrapping paper, or wrapping plastic, or wrapping blankets, or wrapping vinyl shingles, or wrapping polymer foams, you get the idea. Then take something you already have and paper it up until you can’t get at it anymore. This will show them, this will show them all. Place the wrapped thing under a thing, or on top of a thing, or hang it from something such as a tree, wall, or aggrieved squirrel in blue.

Arrange for a White Christmas. White Christmases are regarded as the sine qua non of Christmases. They’re among the top days to have be White, too. A White New Year’s Eve is a distant second in popularity. A White Fourth of July is regarded with suspicion at best. White Whistuntide is regarded as somebody trying a little to hard to be funny or maybe to filk Billy Joel. The most natural way to get a White Christmas is to appeal to the ice phoenixes by setting out bowls of warm miso for them. If that fails, you can try washing the paint off your animation cells. WARNING: Stop before erasing your ink.

If that doesn’t work, I don’t know. Maybe tweet out at companies until a customer service bot answers you.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose five points today and then slid two points over to the left. Those aren’t being counted because we just aren’t thinking two-dimensionally that way. It’s hard enough keeping thoughts in order; who can deal with thoughts for which the very notion of order is undefinable? Exactly.

95

Lighting Up My Life


So I’m just staring that the new boxes of Christmas lights I got to replace the ones that broke over the summer when they weren’t having 120 volts of alternating current blown through them for twelve hours a day. And then at the warning: FOR DECORATIVE USE ONLY. It’s got me feeling for those poor, mad fools who hoped to string load-bearing lights this season. Or the ones hoping to make some industrial use of them. “Why, I needed to extrude pasta noodles,” they cry out, “and this set of General Electric ConstantON bulbs is of no use for the task!” They should have realized. They’re not made by General Electric, but by a company licensing the name so that we think the lights are more generally electrical than they actually are. I bet the bulbs are actually bioluminescent, and they manage their ever-on technology by harvesting firefly enzymes. In short, I’ve had a very busy last several days and am not sleeping enough. How are you, and can you justify that state of being?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped seven points during trading. Investors, seeing this coming, held up their arms and cried “wheeeeeee!” Excitement level 5.15, intensity level 3.55 (moderate). Requires a block of five squares by four squares not counting entry and exit gates and queues. (Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 version. Roller Coaster Tycoon World version not yet rated because it hasn’t come out for the Mac yet.)

98

When My Parade Got Rained Upon: A Quick Photo Essay


So, Lansing has this little downtown event the Friday before Thanksgiving. Silver Bells in the City. An after-dark parade ending with Santa arriving before Thanksgiving because who’s crazy enough to do a nighttime event in mid-Michigan weather after Thanksgiving, a little street festival, Santa Claus holding court in the City Market, that sort of thing. And then this past weekend …

Truck towing a lit-up ... I'm not sure; it looks like a porch wrapped with lights and wreaths and stuff. Light rain, nothing too bad.
The Silver Bells electric light parade has been going for twenty years now, not continuously. Normally it’s on the coldest night of the winter, but this year it started on a night that was like 70 degrees.

At the Silver Bells In The City electric-lights parade and State Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. 7:13 pm.

Light-decorated float with Lansing Lugnuts ball players and their mascot, Big Lug, in heavier rain.
Apparently the Lugnuts were going to be named something like the River Dragons until someone pointed out there were already about fourteen teams named “Dragons” in our division of minor-league baseball. Also there used to be a companion Little Lug dragon that has just been missing and unremarked-upon for decades now.

At the Silver Bells In The City electric-lights parade and State Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. 7:17 pm. The walrus-y figure there is Big Lug, the kind-of dragon-y mascot for the Lansing Lugnuts minor league baseball team. The tusks are lug nuts or something poking out. The team name made more sense back when they were playing at Oldsmobile Park.

In the heavy rain people race towards City Hall, we figure, or something about that good. Blurry and unfocused.
And at this point I just started snapping pictures wildly because it was so funny and most of them don’t get that spirit of running crazily for what we hope is going to be shelter somewhere. I’d apologize that the picture is blurry but the night was blurry at that point.

At the Silver Bells In The City electric-lights parade and State Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. 7:19 pm. Like twenty second later on as we all race for any kind of shelter. Where? We had no idea. My love saw a single isolated shoe left on the flooded streets. I didn’t see it even though I was following close behind. It was a bit mad.

Meanwhile this reassuring tweet went out. You know you’re having a good time when you get the instruction, “Please get to safety”.

Crowds of people inside City Hall trying to dry off a bit. My camera's fogging up and there's raindrops on the lens and everything.
And here inside City Hall there was relative dryness and shelter and off to the right a fife band that I guess they’d had standing by for just this sort of contingency? I don’t know. Also they had a popcorn stand because again huh? By the elevator bank they had stockings hung, each with the name of some municipal department — Finance, Public Service, that sort of thing — on them.

At the Silver Bells In The City electric-lights parade and State Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. 7:23 pm. Also so apparently they had emergency fife bands ready just in case everything outside was cancelled and they had a slice of a hundred-thousand-person mob in City Hall who needed something to mill around in front of?

The still-unlit tree, in the dark. The five-foot-tall star topper is tilted way over, looking a little drunk.
So this was the first year they had a topper for the Christmas Tree, this nice five-foot-tall three-dimensional star. A half-hour after the storm front moved through it wasn’t quite so level as it had been.

At the Silver Bells In The City electric-lights parade and State Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. 7:43 pm, after the worst of the winds had blown through.

So we were laughing about being through all this through to about mid-day Sunday when we were finding dollar bills in our wallets were still damp and we’re still seized with a couple giggles. In the meanwhile have you seen my humor blog and its talk about comic strips? It hasn’t got any nearly so dramatic pictures, I admit.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Although the Another Blog, Meanwhile index remains below par the alternate index did rise five points on the day. Analysts credit this to traders finding and doing an archive-binge on Jonathan Larsen’s fantastic newsletter that we’ll just call The Fing News because we are careful about the sort of language we use here. More perceptive analysts point out they’ve known about the thing since it started way earlier this year and there’s no reason to pretend they only just discovered it now. Both are legitimate points to make. Anywhere here’s Larsen’s main Twitter account if you’d like to see that too.

88

Questions Raised By This Picture


Here’s a picture of a Christmas tree decorated, back in December, by the Gravity Works Design and Development group at the local zoo. Questions this raises:

It's a Christmas tree with Darth Vader helmet as topper and cape behind it, with a light saber poking out midsection. It's decorated by 'Gravity Works Design and Development'.
Decorated Christmas tree, one of many, at Lansing’s Potter Park Zoo back in December 2015, when we were all so young and the world seemed so new.

So that is Darth Vader merged by transporter accident with a Christmas tree, right? Or did he just fall and he’s making the best of his dignity the situation will allow? Or is he sneaking up on dryads? If so, why would the Dark Side of the Force care about dryads one way or another? Also what kind of firm is “Gravity Works Design and Development”? Is it a technology firm? Is it a graphic design studio? Maker of weightlifting equipment? A special effects house? Flying saucer gone awry? Is it a roller coaster manufacturer? Why am I going through my Christmas photos in April? Am I that far behind? Is there any chance I could be a tiny bit more timely? No, there’s not.

In questions that I can answer: mathematics. What’s the deal? I explained a bunch of mathematically-themed comic strips yesterday. And who knows what I did today? Or what I figure on for tomorrow?