Thoughts


Given the choice I wouldn’t have been up before noon on a Saturday that early June of 1989. But it was the day for Senior Class Photos, for the yearbook and all. My father, taking time from his birthday, drove me there, to one of a hundred identical New Jersey towns, the ones one or two layers of municipality in from the Shore. I don’t know why that was the high school’s designated photo studio, but it was, and there we went.

Somehow there was extra time, and a comic shop nearby, that I had never been to before nor would ever visit again. I picked up the Marvel Age promotional comic, and got a rare bit of news. I had been a reader of the New Universe comic books. This was a series that Marvel Comics started in 1986 as protection against some incomprehensible creators-rights problem happening. The books ran, unloved except by me, for two years before the problem evaporated and all the titles were cancelled. It was supposed to turn into a series of graphic novels, advancing the whole world, but I only ever saw one of them. The issue said that a new four-part graphic novel had been published, though, and in the current issue the New Universe Earth had a nuclear war.

I would never see the books, and I gather that the story more complicated than that. But the slug line promised that it was a stunning and realistic-for-superhero-comics depiction of global thermonuclear war. I’d liked the setting and had to conclude that it was unrecognizably gone, now. It would come back, of course, as some writers slipped it into the mainline Marvel continuity. And even do a reboot of the premise. But how would I know that at my young age? All I could know is that a fictional world I’d had a strange fondness for had burned itself up, for what (best I could gather) were stupid reasons.

And along the way — I forget whether driving there or driving home — came a breaking story on the news radio. We always listened to in the car. It was a dividend of my growing up in the last decade of Cold War, afraid there’d be a nuclear war I wouldn’t hear about ten minutes ahead of the event. The Chinese government had enough of the peaceful gatherings in Tiananmen Square, and was sending in troops to terrorize its people into compliance. It crushed the hopes for democratic reforms for a country that sorely needed them. It was a moment of needless misery and horror, out of all place in a year of liberations.

And it felt personal. I felt outraged that my father’s birthday was ruined, by this disaster. This sense of personal offense at a global outrage is part of our family’s heritage. My father’s father was born on the 1st of September, and for the last five decades of his life felt a personal grudge against Hitler for invading Poland that of all days. (No great epoch-making disaster has happened on my birthday yet, but it has at least once been too close.) History has given my father a break, recording the crackdown and terror as happening the day after; by local time, it was. But for me living it, it was all these terrible things, some petty and personal, some obviously of world important, and all arriving on a day that deserved to be reserved for small pleasantnesses and thoughts about someone I love.

Happy birthday, Dad. I’m sorry that the times suck.

My Utopian City Plan


OK, so my brilliant plan. I’m going to find one of those cities that has just enough people in it that it can support the essentials of life, like a hardware store stocked full enough that it feels a little scary to be in because I can just imagine my father saying “it’s right next to the quarter-inch annular grommets” as if that’s any kind of guidance. But it’s small enough that it can be converted easily into a utopian colony. It’s not going to be one of those utopias that tries rejiggering all society and setting out rules like everybody has to spend time being one of exactly 810 kinds of cook. It’s going to be basically like life is now. The main difference is anyone following up a mention of something being “left-handed” with any kind of sentence about “thought there was something sinister” has to leave, and never be spoken of fondly again. Done.

Things My Prepaid Cell Phone Tells me


Message I Receive How Often
Low Battery Like 80 percent of the time
Dad’s Texting to Ask if I Saw His E-mail Every six weeks
Somebody’s Sorry That They Got Me Instead Weekly
I Have To Put More Money On It Or For Some Reason Verizon Will Take Away The Money Currently On It Annual
Chefmongoose Thought I Dialed Him By Accident While I Was At A Rifftrax Live Movie Event Once
Boss Called, Is Too Busy To Talk, Will Call Back Every five weeks
It’s Just Making Some Tone I Never Heard Before Every six to nine weeks on average

What My Humor Blog Did In February 2014


I do make a serious effort to track what’s being read and what isn’t around these parts, and for February 2014, it turns out the number of readers of pages around here went from 337 in January to 337 in February. At least they were different readers. Actually, the number of readers increased from 153 to 170, implying a page-per-reader count drop from 2.20 to 1.98, so I’m amusing more people, but they’re all a little less happy with what they see.

The most popular articles the last thirty days were:

  1. Mathematics Comics, Over That Way, pointing over to my mildly popular mathematics blog.
  2. Statistics Saturday: Hi, Dad, which gets you to a better understanding of my father.
  3. Unintentional Laughs, where I just make fun of Mary Worth and Flash Gordon like they needed me to do that.
  4. Another View of the United States, offering the fascinating statistical matchup between states of the United States and nations of the world.
  5. Newton’s Prank, about this time he made a fake comet, and which I realize has a thematic link to Also, Heidegger Was A Shingle Weaver, and the unexpected sides of historically important people.

As usual the countries sending me the most readers were the United States (261) and Canada (28), with the United Kingdom (8) and Singapore (6) coming up next. The countries that could just barely tolerate me were Denmark, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, and Sweden. None of them were on last month’s roster, just as last month none of the countries were from December 2013’s roster of single-viewer nations, so my plan to amuse one person in every country in the world is continuing to exist.

Statistics Saturday: Hi, Dad


After a little chat with my father not related to his appearance in dreams of warning, I’d like to include a couple of numbers for Statistics Saturday or Sunday or Whatever which relate to him and to the humor blog posts from this month.

  • Number Of Entries That My Dad Thinks Were Funny He Guesses Though He Didn’t Understand Them: 4.
  • Number Of Entries That My Dad Didn’t Notice But Is Sure He’d Think Were Great: 6. (Thank you!)
  • Black Knight 2000 Lightning Wheel: 200,000 points.
  • Number Of Entries About The Scary Problem In The Basement I Needed My Dad’s Advice On Fixing: 0.
  • Number Of Things I’ve Done To Fix That Scary Problem In The Basement: 1, if going to the hardware store counts.
  • Number With No Particular Connection To My Dad: 2,038.
  • Number Of Times I Realize I Ought To Call My Dad In-Between Times I Actually Do: Like 8 or something embarrassing like that.
  • Year When My Father Revealed To Me That “I’m Looking Over A Four-Leaf Clover” Wasn’t A Little Ditty Bugs Bunny Just Made Up: 1979.
  • Number Of Times Out Of Ten That My Father Refers To It As “Ruptures” Instead Of “Rutgers”: 6.
  • Runs Batted In: 26.