You Know What Else the 80s Made? Jingles

I haven’t had any luck remembering what the point of Hands Across America was, not without looking it up. But this wandering around in memory did run across some other specific odd memory of the decade. This may be hard to remember but back then people were very tense about how the country had gone from having 118 million manufacturing jobs down to nine manufacturing jobs, most of them making those little toothpick flags for oversized sandwiches.

Well, the country wasn’t going to let that pass without doing something, and what they did was: make a bunch of TV commercials where they showed pictures of things while singing a jingle that went something like, “Hey hey! Whaddaya say! This was made in the U.S.A.!” and then repeating that until the TV station went off the air. It certainly did wonders to increase public awareness of the existence of things. And today the United States boasts over ten manufacturing jobs, making things from flag toothpicks all the way to styrofoam coffee cups, a noticeable increase even if it’s a per capita decline. So, great job all around tackling a problem with some creative thought there.

From Sea to Shining, See

Just sitting back, enjoying the thought of quiet days of sleeping as much as I want, and trying to remember stuff. Like, in the mid-80s we had this thing called Hands Across America, where on one day a great many people gathered in groups holding hands with the people on either side to make a line that stretched … not actually across the United States, because there’s a lot of United State out there and some of it is both boring and hard to stand around holding hands in.

Anyway, what was that all about? I know that it produced a song, or at least an unending chorus of “Hands across America / Hands across this land I love / Divided we fall / United we stand / Hands across America”. But that can’t have been the entire goal of the project, right? It must have been trying to do something. Maybe raise awareness? We were always trying to raise awareness in the 80s and it never did stick. But for what? How many states it’s hard to hand across?

If they had got enough people to actually go all the way from east to west I wonder what the plan was. Maybe pass a bucket of water from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back again? That sounds about right.

Statistics Saturday: Things I Correctly Remember About _Charles in Charge_

  • There’s no explaining how the theme song didn’t end up on the Top 40 pop charts.
  • New boy in the neighborhood
  • Lives downstairs and it’s understood
  • He’s there just to take good care of me
  • It started on some network. I know it wasn’t NBC. I feel like it was CBS except they already had Who’s The Boss?, right? So I guess it must’ve been on ABC instead?
  • Like he’s one of the family
  • Charles in charge of our days and our nights
  • Charles in charge of our wrongs and our rights
  • The opening started with that van driving around the woods … no, wait, that was Who’s The Boss?.
  • And I (something)
  • On reflection most of what I remember about this show was actually about Who’s The Boss? instead.
  • I want Charles in charge of me

Reference: Just One More Thing: Stories From My Life, Peter Falk.

In Which I Am Detained by a Childhood Memory

Sorry to run late but you know how it is. You step into the shower and remember that time Underdog had to fight some aliens who were part magician, part flying saucer, and who were kidnapping Sweet Polly Purebred because they couldn’t find anyone else in the galaxy who knew how to make cake, and they cast a spell on him and he spent two installments struggling and shaking off the spell only to recite, “I’m back to myself, but I’m not right at all; I feel myself changing back to a ball!” before turning into a sphere with his face on it and accidentally getting put into a women’s volleyball game or something like that. Throws your whole day off and you can’t even explain it to anyone outside your age cohort because there’s not a single element of those sentences that doesn’t sound like I’m the daft one, but there they are.

Statistics October: What a Mystery Things Were in October 2022

There’s some kind of WordPress problem going on where I can’t look at my statistics page right now. I mean as I write this. I don’t know what’s going on when this posts. So I snagged a couple screenshots and things when the month actually started, Universal Time, and can share what I know from that. But there’s data I failed to download at the time, including the roster of how many views came from which country, that I don’t have. I also don’t have the roster of what the most popular October posts were. But I’ll make do with what I have.

There were 5,379 page views around here last month. That’s down a little from the last couple months. But it’s above the twelve-month running median of 4,858.5 views per month, and not too far below the running mean of 5,511.9. I’ve had a couple freak months around here recently. These views came from 2,811 unique visitors, down from the running mean of 2,942.6 but just about right on the running median of 2,815.

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months hovering around 4500 views per month, without strong direction one way or another, until a new peak emerged in April 2022. A smaller peak reappeared in August 2022 and September 2022, with a decine after that.
Yes, they changed the typeface for that little pop-up window with the number of views and visitors and views per visitor. No, I don’t know what it means. No, it can’t be anything good.

There were 146 likes given around here in October, slightly below the running mean of 159.9 and median of 159.5. Doesn’t seem significant to me. Comments are hidden in the screenshot I took at the start of the month, and I can’t get them right now. So that’s formally a mystery. I think it was more than in September, though, something above 80, which way beats the running mean of 50.4 and median of 51.5.

I don’t have the roster of what were the most popular posts here in October but I’m going ahead and guessing it was plot recaps for Gil Thorp and for The Phantom weekdays. Here’s my schedule for what comics I’ll try to recap the next couple weeks.

That’s, of course, subject to change as I get way behind on everything.

WordPress figures I posted 21,772 words in October, which is my most talkative month of the year. It brings me to a total of 177,577 words for the year, and an average of 702.3 words per posting. It seems a bit much to me, too. I’ll try and do more of those one-liner posts, but they’re harder to think up.

Between the end of filming for the movie The Gun In Betty Lou’s Handbag and the start of November I’ve posted 3,560 things here. They’ve drawn a total 5,426 comments, and 326,624 views from a recorded 184,350 unique visitors.

If you’d like to be a regular reader around here thank you, that’s very kind. Checking in daily works. You can also use my RSS feed,, with whatever RSS reader you have. If you don’t have an RSS reader you can sign up for a free account with Dreamwidth, and add this (or any RSS feed) to your friends page there. To read around here, you can use the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button on the right of this page. Or you can get essays e-mailed to you, using the box just below that, and see the least copy-edited version of these posts.

And so if I may leave you with anything to remember, it’s the words to a square dance you had to do every day for like three weeks in second grade that you haven’t thought about in decades but that are all that’s in your brain starting now. All join hands and circle left around the ring; when you get home, get ready to swing. Swing with your partner, and go two times around. Now do-si-do with your corner gal, and come back to your home. Now promenade your partner round the (something).

Reposted: The 31st Talkartoon: Any Rags? Anybody?

When I started watching this cartoon again I wondered what I was on about, apologizing for the image quality. Then I saw; it’s all badly pixellated. Ah well. I may need to apologize a bit for the cartoon being one long earworm with interruptions for other, smaller earworms. But it is one of the Talkartoons that’s as pleasant just to listen to as to watch for the many visual jokes.

I have to apologize right from the start for this week’s Talkartoon. Not so much about the content. Although I should warn it does use several times the joke that it’s funny if a woman’s clothing should fall off. Men lose their clothes too, but it’s meant to be funny that you can see Betty Boop’s bra. What I have to apologize for is I can’t find a good version of the cartoon online. has one with nasty compression artifacts. I don’t see one on YouTube that’s much better. Which figures, since this is a densely packed cartoon with a lot of visual jokes. Sorry; best I can do.

This was originally released the 2nd of January, 1932. It’s the first Talkartoon of that year. And it’s got credited animators: Willard Bowsky and Thomas Bonfiglio, a team that also gave us Twenty Legs Under The Sea.

Can a cartoon be made up entirely of side gags? Sure, especially in the 1930s, and especially from the Fleischer Studios. There is something holding all the jokes together. It’s Thomas S Allen’s ragtime hit of 1902, Any Rags?. It’s a catchy song; here’s a 1904 recording. You maybe haven’t heard of Thomas S Allen but you know at least one of his other songs: 1905’s Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal. Yes, I’m also shocked to learn that song is newer than, like, the Sherman Antitrust Act.

The song, and cartoon, are built on one of those jobs that today seems to come from another dimension, the rag-and-bone man. The job, of gathering up trash that can be put to a new purpose, is still there, of course. It’s just that it, too, has been industrialized, with metals and paper and plastics being gathered by the city every other week (or whatever), and clothing gathered every couple months. Or you see them in the people rooting around trash bins for soda pop cans that can be turned in for the deposits. Still the job as it was sounds daft: gather stuff people were throwing out, and then sell it to other people? Without Craigslist to mediate?

Betty Boop gets top billing, pretty good considering she doesn’t even appear until the cartoon’s halfway over, and is in it about a quarter as long as Bimbo is. Props to whoever her agent was. Koko gets a mention too, and he’s only in for one quick joke. Bimbo is the center of a lot of stray and amusing and often wild little jokes. He doesn’t seem to me to provoke most of them, to be an active participant. But he’s there while they happen, which is worthwhile.

There’s almost nothing but blink-and-you-miss-it jokes this short. I like the string of nonsense items the housewife hangs on the clothesline, starting about 1:30. But there’s plenty of choice. Bimbo swiping the moustache off a lion demanding to know what’s the deal with stealing his pants? Bimbo’s spurned valenteine-heart dropping out of scene on a parachute, about 3:25? The statue of Atlas eagerly showing off his globe to the auction attendees? Take your pick. I don’t spot any real body horror along the jokes. I would have expected, at minimum, the cat that’s put through the clothesline wheel to end up shaved. Maybe everyone at the studio was feeling kindhearted that week.

There’s a fair, not excessive, number of suspiciously Mickey-like mice in the short. A couple turns up about 1:10 in, in the birdcage that Bimbo fishes out of the trash bin. (This short summarizes so weird.) The housewife and her clothespin-attaching assistant at about 1:30 in are also mice.

I like this cartoon throughout. There’s very little story structure. I suppose the auction has to happen near the end, and the garbage turning into a home at the end, but the rest is arbitrary. That’s all right; the progression of music gives enough structure for the short to stay enjoyable and keep feeling like it’s going somewhere. It’s a good example of building a short without any real plot or big jokes. Just lots of little bits of business.

In which I apologize for not opening up more

I’d like to share my thoughts with you, but a lot of those thoughts are a continuous-play loop of the theme song to forgotten Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Cattanooga Cats, so you probably don’t want that. I’m sorry.

Statistics Saturday: Apollo Astronauts who are also former members of The Association

  • (To date none, although I’ll bet Apollo 13’s Jim Lovell has hummed “Cherish” at least once in the shower within the last 45 days.)

Reference: Telephone: The First Hundred Years, John Brooks.

(Has this got it out of my system yet? Oh, wouldn’t we all like to think it has? )

Or To Be Exact, It’s Just Windy

So you remember The Association’s great kind of ear-wormy 1967 hit, “Everyone Knows It’s Windy”? It’s a nice bit of sunshine pop, one of those songs that’s doing really well until it runs out of lyrics about one minute in, and then goes on for another minute and forty seconds. Anyway, a bit of conversation this weekend confirmed that the younger folk are not familiar with this song. So I must appeal to whatever members of The Association are still out there to please record an update, “Not Everyone Knows Everyone Knows It’s Windy”. Thank you.

Also I am starting to suspect Mary is never coming along.

Today’s Update on How My Brain Is Trying To Destroy Me

Me, interacting with coworkers:

“So even if we were able to use Google Maps in the way we want this will not give us adequate aerial photography metadata. And while none of our clients have — to my knowledge — asked about this metadata that is nothing more than our good luck. When they recognize they need this, we are not going to have answers. We need to improve our geographic information services capacity now, before the storm.”

Me, in my head, in the style of the Ramones, on endless repeat:

o/` Gland gland glandgland
o/` Gland gland gland glandgland
o/` I wanna be sebaceous! o/`

Where I’m At Just This Moment

Me, thinking: “You know, there’s stuff in my life I’d change if it were possible, and there’s stuff in my life I probably could change but that I’ve found myself unwilling to make the sustained effort that would require. But on the whole, it’s pretty good, and within the reasonable bounds you might expect for someone of my age and income and happily accepted obligations I’m doing pretty well at being master of my own destiny.”

Also me: has had the incidental background music from the Hanna-Barbera Pac-Man cartoon series running in his head for 46 hours straight now. Send help. Not from the Q*Bert cartoon.

In Which I Am Haunted By Music Of Days Past

I think it’s only fair to ask why I’m spending time, in 2018, going about my business while thinking of the background music from the Hanna-Barbera Pac-Man cartoon that was a thing that existed. And don’t tell me that it’s my own stupid fault for watching the Hanna-Barbera Pac-Man cartoon that was a thing that existed. What choice did I have at that age, not watching a cartoon? Exactly. In any case there’s no reason for me to be puttering around the house humming it to myself in my melody-less, Morse Code-esque fashion. Not at this date.

And it’s not like I let just any song I was exposed to back then occupy my thoughts for hours on end. Why, it’s been weeks since I had that AT&T commercial for their hardware that repurposed the old “Second-Hand Rose” song as “Second-Class Phones/ they’re making/ second-class phones/ they’re breaking” occupy my every waking thought for three days straight.

The Worm In The Ear. Plus: Sock Simplicity Update

OK, so apparently my head is just going to be delivering a medley of the J Geils Band’s Angels In The Centerfold cutting to the Kinks’ Come Dancing and Devo’s Whip It. I can deal with that. I’m happy I can still have earworms, since they take about eight to fifteen seconds. So my attention span is at least eight seconds long still. That’s a source of pride-ish-ness these days. There’s a whole generation coming that won’t be able to get a song caught in their heads because they can’t hear enough of one before moving on to the next thing.

Meanwhile? The history of socks? Yeah, it still implies that socks are no longer simple. Still not up to that.

Some November 2013 Numbers (Excluding 14)

So, now, some numbers for November. I hadn’t been watching them so obsessively in the middle of the month and obviously that shows, since my total views dropped to 357 (down from 370), when if I’d known this back around the 20th I might have got out back and pushed. On the other hand the number of unique visitors went from 179 up to 188, my third-highest on record, so that’s something. Mostly it’s a decrease in views per visitor, 2.07 down to 1.90.

The countries sending me the most readers the past month were, again, the United States and United Kindgom, but Australia popped in out of nowhere. A single reader each came from Austria, Denmark, Malaysia, New Zealand, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey. This is a pretty impressive increase in single-visitor countries from last time, when France was the sole lone reader.

My most popular bits from the past month were:

Not quite making the top five was Also, Heidegger Was A Shingle Weaver, but I’m including a gratuitous link to that because I really liked it.

Lastly, since the comic strip Working Daze has been continuing its mock history on Sundays let me link to the November 24th strip, and the first time I think one of their past cartoonists didn’t end up dying and miserable, and the December 1st strip, which has one who did.

Sticking In The Head

At any given moment about two-fifths of all people have their brains under attack by some catchy tune, which gets called an “earworm” because somebody thought that was a catchy term and didn’t think we had enough trouble. Another two-fifths of all people are slapping their hands over their ears and yelling frantically to “shut up shut up shut UP” because some poor child of the 80s was remembering how the thing about a Bon-Bon is it’s almost always gone-gone.

But there’s a deeper question, which is, why should there be earworms at all? What advantage can there possibly be to having your brain occasionally taken over by a melody you like in about the same way you despise it? When did earworms get to be a thing? It seems like they have to have been invented sometime after music was invented, since it’d be kind of funny to have a song caught in your head if you haven’t got songs. It’d also seem like they’d have to come from after heads were invented, for similar reasons.

Maybe they didn’t, though. Maybe people were getting what they thought was music caught in their heads when it turned out it was just the wailing of people bemoaning their horrible, pre-music-based existence. But that seems like it would explain why earworms are popular in this music-enabled era, though, since we surely don’t want to have our existential dread hammering itself into our heads outside of its appropriate designated times, such as birthdays or the anniversaries of when we graduated college or Sunday nights. It’s surely better to be one of the roughly one out of four hundred people who are at any moment kind of remembering commercials from the late 70s are trying to work out whether it was “Nair for short shorts” or “Nair for short skirts” without giving up and just going to YouTube to see it because they can’t face the moment of admitting they were looking for Nair commercials from the 70s on YouTube.

I’m gratified to learn there’s serious study of earworms since it’s got to be a difficult subject to study. I have it hard enough because I can barely finish telling people that I have an advanced degree in mathematics without their telling me that it was their worst subject in school, and they could never understand what it was about, and occasionally their algebra teacher would transform into a 150-foot-tall giant and rampage through the city, requiring the national guard to deploy an security corridor of directrix and latus rectums to subdue. (They’re things used for making parabolas in case you live in an area where parabolas don’t grow naturally.) My spouse, the philosopher, has a similar problem with people describing how their philosophy courses inevitably resulted in their being captured by headless Zombie Jeremy Benthams and locked in a dank warehouse forced to press Joy Buttons all day and night. It’s pretty annoying to get.

So I figure someone studying earworms is probably bombarded day and night by people who think they’re being sociable or even interested but who really just want to know who to hold responsible for “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago”. (It was Doctor West’s Medicine Show And Junk Band.) I’m wrong, of course, because investigation has revealed that I’m the only person born after 1970 who’s even heard of this exemplar of psychedelic jug-band music, and probably Doctor West doesn’t even hear the song haunting his dreams anymore, though he’s probably wondering why if that Purple People-Eater Song can get sucked up into the vortex of Monster Based Songs I Guess Are On Theme For Halloween why his didn’t. Maybe it’s too much eggplant. And anyway the song fails as an earworm because I’ve dug the song up and played it for people and all they have lingering after the experience is a diminished opinion of me.

Here’s something else I wonder: an earworm is based on the idea of something getting stuck in the head and not getting back out again. But thanks to the Internet we can’t pay attention to anything long enough to have it stuck in our heads anymore. Does this mean the earworm is going to vanish as people can’t remember the entire phrase “itsy-bitsy teeny-weenie something or other” before staring at their phones for a status update? Or are we going to have to preserve the earworm by turning it over to technology and leaving our MP3 players to pick some catchy but infuriating snippet of song and play it to itself? I don’t know, but I’m sure the answer will be obvious after I’ve forgotten the question.

Socrates and The Aftermath

I don’t mean to brag, but, I did research for that little thing about Socrates the other day. In particular I cast about for names that maybe plausibly could have been of people Socrates might have known, because it’s fun and research avoids actually having to write, and getting that sort of irrelevant detail right is the sure way to win the lifetime adoration of someone who specializes in whatever it is I’m writing about. So that’s why I picked, particularly, “Euryptolemus” as a name. My spouse wondered how I had, and I had to dig through my notes.

It’s all kind of long, complicated, and confusing, in that way ancient history just is, but he was one of the figures in the controversy over the Battle of Arginusae. This was a battle during the Peloponnesian War where the Athenian navy beat the Spartan one, and then most of the navy was sent to try relieving Sparta’s siege of the city of Conon rather than stick around picking up Athenian survivors. A storm came up, and both the attempt to relieve Conon and the attempt to pick up survivors failed, and the Athenian population naturally put the generals responsible for beating not Sparta enough on trial. This gets back to Socrates because some of the trial was done under his authority as an epistates, possibly the only time in his life that Socrates actually held a political office.

In fact, my spouse, the professional philosopher, didn’t know that Socrates ever held office. Socrates’s role in trying the Eight Generals from the Battle of Arginusae was one of moderation, because he apparently didn’t think there were constitutional grounds for the motion to just have the generals killed right then and there. This reason, if it’s true (and it’s hard to be perfectly sure as ancient historians felt more free than we do to alter facts so to make a better and more instructional story), neatly foreshadows his refusal to take the chance to escape his judicially-sponsored murder two years later, and shows his belief in the social compact binding people in a society to each other, for good or ill. It’s a fascinating peek at the historical Socrates that makes him a more real and more compelling character, and by the time we had read enough ineptly-written Wikipedia pages to we think straighten all this out in our heads, we were captivated. My arbitrary plucking of a name had given us the chance to see how a person who studied so diligently the problem of how we could come by knowledge and how we could be confident we had it dealt with the inherent uncertainties in judging human affairs, particularly in the boiling-over world of ancient Athenian politics.

Two hours later we both realized that while we hadn’t the faintest recollection what the name of the battle was, who any of the generals involved were, or what city the navy was sent to relieve, or what precisely was the name of Euryptolemus, we nevertheless were describing, in precise enough detail for scholars to completely reconstruct it, that Big Red chewing gum commercial with the marching band.

%d bloggers like this: