Statistics Saturday: Some Needless Parts of my Brain


Pie chart with roughly equal slices for each of: "Part that builds elaborate fantasies of being awesome in committee hearings as state senator"; "Part that thinks ``Rain’’ is by the Kinks and not the Beatles"; "Part that remembers machine language code for the Commodore 64"; "Part that remembers the ``Lash Rambo’’ episode of The New WKRP In Cincinatti"; "Part that’s still relitigating that argument from 1991 about the undergraduate newspaper budget"; "Part that decides since I could do these tasks in this order I can’t do them in ANY OTHER ORDER even if that means wasting all day waiting for a tiny roadblock in doing the first thing"; "Part that wants to change lanes now for the turn that’s 15 miles away"; "Part that wants to make a roman-à-clef out of my unremarkable experiences on the undergraduate newspaper"
Not depicted: the part that wants to offer as a “fun fact” that for a short while the cities of Cincinatti and Detroit belonged to the same Hamilton County, Ohio Territory, even though while a fact this is not fun.

Reference: The Game Makers: The Story Of Parker Brothers From Tiddledy Winks To Trivial Pursuit, Philip E Orbanes.

60s Popeye: College of Hard Knocks (please ring doorbell to the left)


Larry Harmon produced today’s cartoon. So that might set some expectations. One is that Paul Fenell would direct, and that the story would be by Charles Shows. These expectations are correct. Here’s 1960’s College of Hard Knocks.

Another thing I expect from a Harmon-produced cartoon is that characters are going to stand around a lot. Thes are the animators who’d create Filmation, for which I have a nostalgic affection.

The premise is solid enough. It’s easy to imagine the classic-era theatrical-short version of this. The idea of Brutus as a fake instructor is even circled around by the 1938 short Learn Polikeness, not so closely that this feels like a remake.

It makes sense Olive Oyl would go to school for something. That immediately casts either Brutus or Popeye as the professor; you then have to decide who’s the authority and who’s undermining it to have a plot. Brutus gets to be the “professor”. So it’s a story of Brutus humiliating or injuring Popeye until he has all he can stands, etc. Solid enough story, even if it is the plotting equivalent of all the characters stand around a lot. But sprinkle in some good quips and at least one fanciful bit of violence and you have a cartoon that works. And there’s some decent quipping, mostly on Popeye’s part, of course. Declaring he’s as couth as the average rowdy, or asking if Olive wants an edjamacated ignoramus. Basic jokes, sure, but good for the audience.

Something I was never sure about: was Brutus a legitimate professor here? In Learn Polikeness he’s running a scam and everybody but Olive Oyl sees through him, fine enough. Here? I mean, he’s got a building with the name carved above the entrance. That’s an enormous investment if he’s just trying to get some time with Olive Oyl. But we only ever see him with two pupils and one of them just signed up today.

And, like, what class was this? I guess maybe Brutus was giving some basic physics, or basic science, class, from his demonstrations of “the law of pressure”, the “law of elasticity”, and the “law of gravity”. I realize I’m the only person in the world wondering this, but what would Brutus have done with that toothpaste and anvil if Popeye hadn’t stuck around?

A shocked Popeye, wearing an academic cap, looking at the diploma he's unrolled to discover it's a Marriage License, showing Olive Oyl and Popeye readying to marry.
Oh, yeah, and then the punch line. Olive Oyl gives Popeye a certificate of his being an edjamacated ignoramus; it’s a marriage license with their pictures on it. This because if there’s one thing the kids in the audience know is funny, it’s how THE WIFE THEY SO BAD RIGHT.

But I say that reflects on one of the differences between these and the theatrical shorts. I grant the writer for Learn Polikeness didn’t put any thought into Bluto’s career as a teacher of manners. But you can imagine if Popeye hadn’t intruded that Bluto would have had a day that made sense. Here, if Popeye hadn’t given Olive Oyl a ride to class? So I’ll stand by my controversial declaration that this is a worse cartoon than the 1938 one it echoes.

As he’s punched out of the cartoon Brutus looks to the camera and asks, “What did I did wrong?”, in this silly French accent. It sounds like the closing line from one of the theatrical cartoons, where Bluto’s a French-Canadian lumberjack or something. I don’t know if it’s literally the same line or if Jackson Beck just recorded it in the same accent. There’s no reason to read the line like that, except for fun. The line’s also a bit mysterious unless Brutus has no self-awareness, but he is a cartoon.

I may be giving contrary directions here. I want the cartoon makers to have fun, and to throw stuff in just because it delights them. Why should I complain that “What did I did wrong?” doesn’t make sense? I should at least be consistent in my demands.

60s Popeye: Butler Up which … is a pun on ‘Batter Up’? Is that the joke?


We’re back in Paramount Cartoon Studios territory. Once more Seymour Kneitel is the director of record. The story’s credited to I Klein. From 1961 here’s Butler Up.

I’ve said what I expect when it’s a Paramount cartoon here. It’ll be competent, everything will make sense, everything will happen in first gear. That impression holds up again. The premise is that Olive Oyl needs a butler so she can impress an old classmate. That classmate? Brutus, who comes in the huge fur coat and straw hat that they assigned you for Old College Chum Days back then. Brutus, in this version of the Popeye-Brutus-Olive Oyl cycle, doesn’t know Popeye, but takes an instant and mutual dislike to him. And then the cartoon’s a bunch of Brutus fighting off Popeye, Popeye fighting back without breaking character, and oh yeah, Brutus moving toward the bit where he grabs Olive Oyl.

In considering his Jeeves role Popeye reads The Art of Butlering. It’s got a couple of basic rules. The setup makes me expect this is going to be a big part of the cartoon. Like, Popeye’s going to keep pulling back before he breaks a rule. It never does, though, at least not explicitly. When Popeye’s had all he can stands and can’t stands no more, there’s a callback Popeye recites the four directives and punches Brutus into the butler outfit. It still feels like Klein figured this would be the structure for the short and then didn’t take it out when other stuff happened.

Popeye as butler serving a plate with no fewer than fourteen sandwiches on it to Olive Oyl and Brutus. Olive Oyl's delighted to see him. Brutus is annoyed with the introduction
To me, fourteen seems like too many peanut butter sandwiches for one lunch with an old college chum. How many do you make when you have Brutus over?

There’s some fun business here, mostly in the asides. I’m curious where Olive Oyl got her enormously long dinner table, “not built for togetherness”, from and how she fit it into her house. Also why she set that when she’s not actually incredibly wealthy and, at least that far in, doesn’t have reason to stay away from Brutus. There’s also a bit where Popeye’s washing dishes in the middle of Brutus’s visit. That couldn’t wait? Or was that just the most plausible way to look like a legitimate butler?

It’s all a very Paramount-made cartoon, though. Viable premise, sensible story, really all made as okay as you could hope.

That long black dress with bracelets is a good look for Olive Oyl, though.

Statistics Saturday: What Textbooks You Need To Major In Mathematics


The courses you take and the textbooks you need for a standard major in mathematics (electives excluded):

Course Textbook
Calculus Introduction to Calculus
Advanced Calculus Vector Calculus
Introduction to Ordinary Differential Equations Introduction to Ordinary Differential Equations
Introduction to Linear Algebra Introduction to Linear Algebra
Partial Differential Equations Partial Differential Equations: An Introduction
Abstract Algebra Principles of Abstract Algebra
Real Analysis Introductory Real Analysis
Algebra* Algebra
Complex Analysis A Mathematical Introduction To Complex Analysis
Numerical Methods Exploring Numerical Methods For Mathematics
Logic Principles of Mathematical Logic: An Introduction
Seminar Course (Instructor’s Choice)

* We mean Abstract Algebra, not that stuff you do in high school with the x’s and the y’s. In Abstract Algebra we never touch an x or a y, but instead see an awful lot of g and h and a ridiculous number of e’s. And by “Algebra” we mean “Advanced Algebra”, not that stuff from “Abstract Algebra”, which is the introductory course.

Source: Topics in Algebra, I N Herstein.

iTunes, At Sixteen


“No, iTunes,” my love said. “Who told you to play Pink Floyd?” It had interrupted its regular shuffle playlist, mostly Sparks songs, for this.

“You don’t ask iTunes to play Pink Floyd,” I said. “iTunes is sixteen years old. It just plays Pink Floyd naturally.” My love chuckled, and I realized, this was true. Suddenly the world made more sense than it had before, which is always a neat trick.

For example, nobody has known how to get iTunes to do anything on purpose for at least three years now. Even something that it can allegedly do, like put a new album on my iPod, is a process that requires upwards of three weeks, considerable screaming, and the need to repair the drywall after somebody punches two holes in it. I know this makes me sound a little temperamental but I think the drywall had considerably more dry and rather less wall than standard. Also it’s just putting an album onto the iPod like it kept saying it was doing, without actually doing it.

I recognize this behavior. I was sixteen once. In fact, I was sixteen some 365 times, although the times were all one after the other. That makes it a little hard to directly compare to being other ages. (I don’t want to brag, but I was fifteen 366 times, because I was born in a leap year after March.) My father could explain all sorts of things I should be doing, and I’d agree to the principle, without getting around to any of them except for watching Get Smart. Why should iTunes be any different?

But that means some exciting stuff for iTunes in the next couple years. I mean if it gets out of its sullen teenage years without everyone closing it into its bedroom and never telling when we move into a new house. For example, there’s two years from now when it goes off to college.

There iTunes will surely float into the student newspaper circle. Probably it’ll end up on one of the left-wing weeklies because those make for fun offices. There, with its relentlessly earnest attitude and generically positive view of authority figures it’ll be tagged by the staff as their leading suspect for the secret FBI plant. It’s flattering to a left-wing student weekly to think it rates a secret FBI plant.

iTunes won’t realize the rest of the staff suspects it’s the FBI plant, of course. It’s too naive for that sort of thing, what with how it goes all its undergraduate years without realizing some of the others on the staff were smoking the marihuana. iTunes never really deliberately sabotages the paper, which is disappointing to them. It indicates they aren’t being read enough.

Still, its presence takes the attention completely off the actual FBI plants. The first of these is the arts editor who dresses in heavy trenchcoats, throws around phrases like “sans the ennui, s’il vous plait” in earnest, and whose music preference is “people with British accents screaming obscenities in obscure time signatures”. The second is the quiet fellow who writes reasonable-sounding right-of-center-for-the-paper pieces and insists on how he lives by the code of the Klinzhai, not the Klingons, thank you. But he does wear the Klingon pin because they’re so much better-marketed. Neither of them suspects the other is an FBI plant. It’s easier that way. They’re trying to make the paper read enough to be worth sabotaging.

Probably iTunes will also major in something, which isn’t always a mistake, and perhaps go on to graduate school. If it asks me I support this, because grad school is the best time of life. It’s years of just hanging out with your friends. All you have to do is grade awful exam papers by freshmen and sometimes get glowered at by your advisor. iTunes is well set for that, what with how it gets nothing but glowered at anymore. It won’t actually do anything while in grad school, but that’s all right. The only thing you have to do in grad school is someday leave.

And then what might iTunes do after grad school? A temp job in a foreign country? Hiding out in a suburb of Ypsilanti, Michigan, before going back to more grad school? Reviewing British musicians who scream obscenities in obscure time signatures?

Well, it turns out I was completely wrong. iTunes came out in January of 2001. It’s only fourteen years old. That’s right, it’s actually younger than the Tony Shalhoub/Neil Patrick Harris sitcom Stark Raving Mad. There’s no guessing what its next couple of years will be like.

Calm Urged As Art Exhibited Publicly


I wanted just to share the front page from the Lansing State Journal from the 4th of October. It’s mostly about a perfectly normal incident, the sprucing up of campus by covering some of it with public art. I get the 30-foot-tall pencils. They were one of the best ways to jot down notes back in the olden days when students were over 350 feet tall and used sheets of paper two-thirds the size of a baseball infield for their records. It’s a time worth remembering. I don’t get the bright red squiggly figure but I imagine it’s something useful in a note-taking app or whatever they do in classes anymore.

Lansing State Journal, 4 October 2014

Also I notice that the Lansing State Journal warned, “LCC UNVEILS PUBLIC ART” using a bigger typeface than it saw fit to use for the start of the Korean War. Public art can be confusing and uncertain, sure, but it hardly seems to be that alarming. They could have used a subheadline of maybe “Despair Unwarranted; There Is No Need To Panic”. Nevertheless, it’s a fine typeface they use for that headline, though. That R has character. It’s no Bodoni, I’ll admit that, but as sans serifs go it’s something.

I Guess I Need Some Colorful Help


I should’ve known I’d get myself into trouble. I was hoping to pick up a little extra money because there’ve been all these unexpected expenses like food and those roller coaster seeds I’ve been trying to grow in the front yard. Anyway, I took a contract bit where I just have to work up a name for a newly-invented color, which I figured I could toss off in a moment, the way someone decided that “Cornflower” could be a color.

Anyway, what they want is a word for the shade of orange you get when someone built a community college in like 1971 and put bright orange carpeting all over the walls, because that was something that seemed normal in 1971, and then it’s still somehow up there in 2013. Sure, you know the color I mean from that description, but what are we supposed to do if we need to describe that quickly? Worse, what are people doing with that color that they need it described in a word?

I should’ve taken a temp job making JSON do that thing where you get error messages from your web browser instead.

[ Unrelated: WordPress tells me I’ve now got 250 people following this blog. Thanks kindly to each of you, and I hope that you’re enjoying the occasional glance around these parts. Please feel free to introduce yourselves to one another as there’s a fine student lounge with an indescribable orange-carpeted wall available. ]

More Warnings from the Dreams


Just because your undergrad school has a two-person dorm room mysteriously available does not mean that you personally would be the person to best solve the mysterious emptiness by moving into it with a guy you knew later in the 90s, particularly if you were kind of savoring the idea of having it to yourself. Just tell the guy that the other mysteriously open dorm room is at least as good and this way you’ll both have dorm room to yourselves. Also, that guy interviewing you for the student newspaper despite being, like, two or three decades too old for it is only humoring you in asking for details of your plan to install a modest roller coaster on the engineering campus by where the A and H buses first stop (near the mathematics building), so don’t be fooled by his enthusiasm, even if he had no idea it was going to be so popular a proposal.

Further Warnings From The Dream World


So, my first warning of practical consequence based on my dreams is this: apparently the student union from grad school days is being used as the center point for some stunt where throwing wrapped-up flags on their poles to the second-storey balcony is being done, and some of these are going to be fired right off as firecrackers. However, the real story is that the Math Dorm, the three-connected bedrooms where all the math students are able to gather and hang out, doesn’t have anyone officially listed as being in it, and nobody seems to be going into or out of it, but it shows signs of recent occupation — warm coffee cups or doughnuts and the like — while all of the dated materials, including calendars and notepads, show no dates more recent than October of 2011. This is a mystery and I don’t know how to begin solving it.

The second warning comes from this tightly-packed little conference room, which I have to get ready for a high-level meeting of multinational multimedia conglomerate heads who are late and are apparently going to be late as long as this little problem doesn’t get worked out, and the difficulty in getting the tight-fitting overstuffed late-60s style tan vinyl cushions packed into the little oval space for them (it kind of looks like the center pit from Dangermouse‘s stately postal box, if that helps) seems unbeatable. This would be less challenging if the room didn’t keep going up to even-numbered floors only to drop back to odd-numbered ones. I believe the takeaway from this is a reinforcement of the old cliche, “too many elevators, not enough Walt Disneys”.

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