Two minivans. At least two families’ worth of kids spilled out into the tiny lot. The adults keep walking back and forth between the cars. The kids are protesting in the way kids brought to a deathly dull adult place will do. One is sitting against a minivan’s rear wheel. Others have taken to doing handstands, even cartwheels. They’re not in danger of cartwheeling into the street. They’re just going back and forth on the sidewalk, or again, between the minivans, while the adults try to shepherd them into the building. I have never been inside it, but I just know it’s a slightly dark room that’s quieter than a noiseless room, decorated with a couple of tables that have those heavy tablecloths you feel bad for spilling stuff on, and while there’s some food the kids are going to be allowed to eat, it’s only one or two things, and it’s something like coconut macaroons that as a child can’t be fit into any known food category. I empathize with every person in this scenario, including the Fine Catering clerk who just wants nobody to cartwheel into anything that that breaks.
First the routine news: comic strips on my mathematics blog. Plus I make reasons to include images of two of the comics so there’s no extra clicking through links for that. You like that, don’t you?
Now the exciting news. The auto care place that seems like it might be going through a slow-motion breakup announced by its sign board? It’s switched to this.
Have to say, I don’t see how to read this except as a quiet announcement that there’s been some breakthrough in the cold-war-style relationship they’ve been working out. I’m glad. It’s been an awful year, compounding an absolutely brutal year. That an auto care place can have some chance at happiness can maybe be that first little flower proving that life will come again.
If the Lansing City Community News demanding that I explain why New York execs are investing in Lansing’s fledgling fashion industry was a start, then this is a continuation. The next week’s installment of the four page “edition” of the Lansing State Journal starts out:
Investors are bringing their millions to Lansing. Here’s why
LANSING – Three multi-million dollar venture capital firms have opened in Greater Lansing in the past six months.
Investors from Ann Arbor and New York have come to invest in businesses started at Michigan State University and even local fashion designers.
The number of early stage investment firms in Greater Lansing now stands at six, on par with the Grand Rapids region.
The question is: Why?
The article goes on to explain there’s a bunch of venture capital firms intersted in Lansing now. There used to not be so many interested, and that was all right, but now there are more, and that’s all right too. What I really spot, though, are the points that Alusheff clearly got a note from someone that they just ran a piece about the fashion industry being invested in and made sure to mention that; and that the headline didn’t bother punctuating the “Here’s why” even though it’s so close to the period at the end of the first sentence. I’m not going to be staying up all night worrying about that now that I’ve seen it! Ha ha!
If you don’t care, maybe you might look at my mathematics blog since I had a couple of activity puzzles included in the roster of comic strips there this week.
Now I know everyone’s interested in whatever drama is going on with the auto care place up the street. If you’re just joining us, I’m pretty sure the auto care place up the street is caught in an Ashleigh Brilliant-esque state of cheerful despair, and possibly communicating a nasty breakup through its signboard. Anyway, for about two months or so it was the neutral-enough “The Best Way To Predict Your Future Is To Make It”. And this past week we’ve gotten this:
Is the auto care place trying to send word to its ex-friend that, angry as they both are after the breakup, it is open and amenable to reconciliation and that any gesture of good will would be met kindly and without bitter, blame-casting comments? I don’t know, so here’s the rabbit statue in our garden getting ready to punch a tulip.
Thank you for reading.
I didn’t discover this part, but my mathematics blog did a couple more comic strips yesterday. I would have posted that tomorrow, but I had other stuff that I wanted to take up that space. I might even post it yet.
Anyway, while last week’s issue of the local alt-weekly didn’t have a New In Town article to let me know what bars are opening, it did have the list of what bands are performing nearby. So now I know that whoever’s been booking acts for The Loft got sloppy about covering up how they’re also working for Moriarty’s Pub. Or else we had three musical acts lived that sitcom premise of having to cover two gigs at the same time in places that aren’t even next to each other. I hope they figured out where they should be and when. Also I hope they foiled international spies or something along the way because part of me still thinks the world should work like 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoons.
Also if it seems like we have a lot of Reno’s in town yeah, it kind of does. We also have a lot of Tin Can Bars, it seems like, but they don’t have shows I guess. Nothing like we have Biggby Coffee shops, mind you. But nobody has as many of those as we have, not even us.
Really am sorry, folks, but I only noticed this in the classifieds of our local alt-weekly and it’s an exciting opportunity. The City of Lansing, Michigan, is looking for someone who can supply it with bituminous material. You have to have your offer of the stuff turned in by Tuesday afternoon, so there probably isn’t time to go checking everything in your storage locker for signs of bituminosity. But if you have some on hand, this is your chance! Don’t miss it. You never know when fair-sized mid-Michigan cities will need material that’s got even one tuminous to it again. Bituminous is a special treat.
Also there was something about blueberry pies on Friday but we both missed that.
Finally over on my mathematics blog I just went crazy solving a puzzle from a FoxTrot Sunday strip and believe me, you want to see that. Someone does.
If you’re like my wife and I you respond to a pretty snappy troll about the movie Blank Check by thinking of mid-90s monkey-based movie product Dunston Checks In. Naturally we looked it up on Wikipedia and found this under the “Reception” section:
The film had received overwhelming negative reviews from critics, and holds a 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Despite this, the film received positive reviews from several professional film reviewers, Desson Howe and Rita Kempley of The Washington Post referred to the film by saying “It ain’t half bad,” and “Plucky, prank-filled family farce” respectively. Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times stated that ‘Dunston Checks In’ “is a delightful and funny family film of exceptional high style.”, “as light as a souffle and just as delicious.”, and “plays like a tribute to the resourceful, unpretentious studio productions of the past.” giving the film five out of five stars. According to an article published in the Chicago Tribune, “The cast is talented, the hide-and-seek action is silly, and the bond between a sweet little boy and the adorable ape is touching.” Faye Dunaway’s performance in the film and in The Chamber earned her a Stinkers Bad Movie Award nomination and a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actress. The film was also nominated at the 18th Youth in Film Awards (Young Artist Awards) for Best Family Feature Film: Musical or Comedy, and Eric Lloyd for Best Performance in a Feature Film – Actor Age Ten or Under. The film was successful at the box office in India, where it was dubbed as Ek Bandar Hotel Ke Andar.
Are we correct to read this, especially that copy-editing mess that is the Kevin Thomas statement, as the syntactically-scarred battleground of an edit war between factions who insist Dunston Checks In was critically acclaimed and ones who insist Dunston Checks In was not? Also, either Wikipedia doesn’t mention it or else Dunston Checks In has somehow not spawned a complicated cinematic universe of like twelve direct-to-DVD sequels you never heard of but get tangled up with the universes of Air Bud or Alpha and Omega or something like that. Is that a relief or somehow a weird shame? Didn’t The Land Before Time get so many sequels the last one was about the dinosaurs at the Battle of Manzikert or something? Please show your work.
Oh, also, I want to point out my mathematics blog, with its weekly review of comic strips that mention mathematics in some way. Yesterday I put in the comics for the week prior and that included Pi Day so you can imagine just what sort of merriment was filling the comics pages. OK, that was filling three or so strips worth. But it was there. There isn’t a lot more to say on this point, but I want to say just a touch more because of the Responsive Design theme I’ve got on this. It rearranges stuff based on how wide the browser is. And with the browser I post stuff in, at the width I like it being open to, I have this slender column on the left with a posting’s dateline and tags and Leave A Comment link and all that. And if I include a picture that’s far enough down the page that it’s past the Leave A Comment link then it gets to use that horizontal space for itself. So it gets to appear bigger by virtue of an optical illusion created by having more horizontal and vertical space. (It’s a very convincing illusion.) And I like the picture bigger, so that’s why I’m going on until I have enough words that I can
My love discovered on Wikipedia the old English game of snap-dragon (“also known as snapdragon”), and it’s a bundle of wonderful things. The game, apparently, was one in which you poured brandy into a wide, shallow bowl, set it on fire, and then try to grab raisins out of the brandy. Only a cheater would fail to put raisins in. And yes, you might get burned, but that’s … I guess that’s the dragon part of things. It was popular from about the 16th through the 19th centuries, which reminds us that was also the height of competitive shin-kicking. Which is not even my joke but was part of the Cotswold Olimpick Games alongside beating each other with cudgels. Also competitive dancing while the opposite team throws a beer-soaked rag at you.
Anyway, there’s a lot that’s wonderful about the article so I recommend you read it yourself. If you can’t be bothered, fine, but do please enjoy this low-scale edit war playing out in tossing a heap of sentences onto each other and sprinkling  tags on the opponent’s pieces:
Nevertheless, children often burnt their little hands or mouths playing this game, which may have led to the practice mostly dying out in the early 20th century. In some families, this tradition continues to be practiced and enjoyed even into the 21st century.
I forget what exactly got me looking up the “Matawan-style” Texaco gas stations of the 60s, although it’s probably a sense of home patriotism. I grew up not far from Matawan, New Jersey, famous for … being the namesake of this one kind of Texaco gas station. Also for two of the shark attacks of 1916. Anyway I wasn’t sure what made something a Matawan-style Texaco gas station of the 60s as opposed to, say, a Manalapan Texaco or a Manahawkin Texaco. There’s a lot of places in New Jersey with names that sound kind of alike, because we paid the Leni Lenape three thousand dollars back in like 1804 to go away and leave their places behind and stop making us feel guilty about it, and this is what we’ve got.
Anyway, the Matawan-style Texaco design question led me on an Internet voyage that revealed, wonderfully, there are enthusiasts of different gas station design who gather in communities that talk about, say, spotting where a Matawan-style station got mutilated but was still identifiable in Benton Harbor, Michigan. And then sometimes interrupt to explain how the Teague was a more versatile design anyway. And all this stuff about gas station architecture fandom has me feeling like the world might just be a good idea despite it all.
The comic strips that don’t have stories to over-explain but do have someone say “algebra” in them I talk about over on my other blog.
No, I am not engaged in the lazy form of comedy in which someone notices a sign has a mistake in it. “Slidders” are a specialty of the restaurant, where they make extremely thin hamburger patties fried on an incredibly hot metal sheet. To keep the burgers from overcooking they’re literally slid down the heavily greased sheet. They’re then smothered under almost a soup of boiled onions and mushrooms, but that’s incidental. If this seems strange, is it really odder than planked shad? Anyway, I just want you to know they’re the tastestoostiest.
So the overhead business is that my mathematics blog had another comic-strip-review day. No pictures, but you can get to places with pictures over there. That’s something, right?
In other news, my love was directed to a pinball podcast from 2007. It features something like an interview with Python Anghelo, crazypants designer behind video games like Joust and pinball games like Popeye Saves The Earth, the game with the most intense backstory ever when you consider a Popeye pinball game really just needs to set up stuff that he can then punch.
The interview is enlightening because it tells me what it would be like to interview a Dr Bronner’s Soap Label that had gone into game design. I think the host asks two, maybe three question, one of which gets answered, and then just lets Anghelo talk. Here’s the specific episode, TOPcast show 42 from the 1st of July, 2007. In at least one point Anghelo seems to suggest he composed poems for guidance for his game concepts, and I don’t know of any of them which have come to light, but the poem for the cancelled Zingy Bingy must have been to die for. Or to kill your game division for.
For those who somehow don’t know the big names of 80s/90s pinball design: there were a bunch of big names in 80s/90s pinball design. Don’t worry about who’s who. Zingy Bingy was a concept for making an “adult” pinball game. According to legend it featured things like flippers that were shaped to resemble a part of the male anatomy which was not fingers and which could under the right circumstances grow. Also according to legend the project went on until an actual grownup at headquarters heard this was going on. That covers the essential background. Go, enjoy listening, and pause anytime you start feeling dizzy.
I’m sorry, bunch of fun pinball friends with whom we got together after league at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant to figure out what vegetarians could eat there. (We could have the Diet Coke, or we could lick the clean silverware.) But the TV was showing the World’s Strongest Man competition and I couldn’t help it. If I understood things right they flew six pyramid-shaped men to Nairobi so they could lift a wooden Viking boat. I don’t know why. Maybe Nairobi over-invested in Viking boat making and the Nairobi Viking Boat Industrial Board thought having some large men lifting them was just what they needed to get through the downturn. But you can see how watching that would be more fascinating than hearing even the latest gossip about the state’s competitive pinball community. And if you don’t, then consider that the next event was pairs of men going out and lifting giant stone balls to put atop cylinders. And that’s not even counting the harness set up to lift and set down Toyota Borings. In short, I may have a new favorite pastime, and it’s watching very big men picking things up. Send help.
So given that the International House of Pancakes we went to over the weekend saw these phenomena:
- They were “out” of crepes, a thing made on-demand from eggs, milk, and butter.
- They could not split a check between three people at the table because, the server told us, that old policy made it too easy for dine-and-dashers.
- According to the sign at the register they no longer sold gift cards by credit or debit card but by cash only.
- The server asked us for advice on where in the area to buy a new SD card for his phone because apparently he took it in for servicing and they swiped his old bigger card for a smaller one.
- The server also talked to us a bit about how his phone’s news app normally required him to log in to stream any programs but for the inauguration it didn’t.
- Another sign at the register asked for comments to be sent to an address at Yahoo that had number in the user name.
So check me on this: there’s, like, at most a four percent chance we were at a legitimate IHOP and we were really at some weirdly elaborate counterfeit, right?
In short: always go to pancake places late nights on the weekends. You’re missing something otherwise.
I picked up a biography of P T Barnum because, I don’t know, I had some strange desire to read about a renowned showman and humbug artist who chose to go into public service and did his best, despite hardships, to stand for the working class without compromising his Universalist faith. I don’t know. Anyway, in chapter seven of A H Saxon’s P T Barnum: The Legend And The Man came this, from his first tour of Europe, which just delights me so:
While they were in Brussels, Barnum decided to visit the site of the Battle of Waterloo, to which he and a friend set out one morning at the early hour of 4 am. He could not help being impressed by the brisk traffic he saw there in reputed “relics” of the battle and by the whopping lies told by the guides who swarmed about them. After one of these had pointed out with great authority the place where Wellington had his station, the spot where Sir William Ponsonby fell, etc, Barnum asked if he could show them where Captain Tippitimichet of the Connecticut Fusileers was killed. This the guide promptly did. The precise spots where some twenty other fictitious officers from such exotic locales as Coney Island, Hoboken, and Saratoga Springs had fallen were also obligingly pointed out, following which the showman could not resist asking where “Brigadier General James Gordon Bennett [ editor of the New York Herald and an unshakeable Barnum-hater ] had given up the ghost”. This time the guide, who claimed to have been present when Bennett died, excelled himself and recalled the famous general’s last words: “Portez-moi de l’eau!”
… Or so Barnum told the newspapers back home.
Also, hey, mathematics comics, there were some more of them. Maybe the last Jumble I’ll be able to run. Don’t know yet.
So back a couple weeks ago I talked about something from my undergraduate days when I was doing the humor page for my campus’s unread leftist weekly. I did a joke where I printed a crossword puzzle with entirely nonsense clues. And then the next week posted a note that because of an editing error the wrong clues were printed and here was the correct version, and then I reprinted the original clues and puzzle which no human could possibly have solved. And then the next week I printed a note saying the error had somehow been made again and here was the real and truly correct puzzle. And I reran the exact same set of nonsense clues with a puzzle. Because that is the sort of Dadaist nonsense that’s extremely funny when you’re a 21-year-old nerd.
And then just before Christmas the local alt-weekly put up this correction.
I’m not saying the Lansing, Michigan, free city paper necessarily swiped a gag that ran in the Rutgers College weekly that at least our parents were pretty sure they liked all the work we put into it back in the mid-90s and that’s been forgotten except by me and my then-Editor-in-Chief who desperately wanted to believe there was some kind of answer to the puzzle. I’m just observing this happened.
This all was plenty to delight me but then I looked at the solution to the mistaken crossword puzzle. I just wondered if they printed the solution for the correct puzzle or not. And they didn’t. They printed what would have been the solution for the wrong puzzle, except that all those answers were blank. Just like I noticed the week before that.
And whatever the mistake was they didn’t just reprint the solutions to their puzzles from the previous week. They had a different sudoku solution and so far as anyone has told me one that’s even right.
I want it clear, I’m not trying to shame or blame or insult anybody at the alt-weekly for this. I like the paper, especially when the local architecture critic goes nuts, and without it I’d never have any idea how many high-concept bars serving stuff smothered in duck fat were opening around town. I understand how everything’s done by too few people in not enough time and accidents slip through. I’m just delighted to see the aftermath is all.
Here’s the comic strips my mathematics blog looked at yesterday, in a theme format I haven’t gone changing recently but keep thinking I should.
- It had a “Glue of the Month” sequence going for three years before it started to lose the monthly aspect and finally in August 2003 admitting they just don’t have that many different glues.
- It had an April Fools Glue of the Month.
- I’m still not quite sure if it’s possible to glue PVC to wood. Like, does it count as vinyl? Isn’t vinyl more, like, shower curtains? But why would I glue a shower curtain to a piece of wood? What project am I working on anyway?
- This Glue News diptych:
- April 14, 2005 Thistothat.com updates its “look” !
- May 14, 2005 Fixed the feedback page that we accidentally broke a month ago. Sorry about that.
- The Statement of Impartiality promises their glue recommendations are unaffected by their advertisers, which do seem to be glue-affiliated products and companies like Poligrip and 3M, so at least somebody is advertising something somewhere to people who might plausibly need the thing.
- Three of its Frequently Asked Questions are by its own admission not frequently asked.
- It does tell you how to get that bit of glue you can peel off and roll into a ball that’s used for magazine inserts.
- Depending on whether you look at the results of a glue match or some inside pages the copyright date is 1999-2007 or 1999-2016.
I know the crossword puzzle editor for our local alt-weekly likes being playful and playing thematic games. You know, like making the clues off in some amusing way, or making the answers be the right answers only modified by some gimmick. And then there was last week’s puzzle which went for a full-on statement of the hopelessness of it all. This is why I top out at staring at Jumble a while and then declaring I could solve that easily if I wanted to.
Also apparently there’s a French Playtime group going on when I wasn’t looking. This is what I get for only looking at the community events after they’ve already passed: I have a ready-made excuse not to have to do anything.
In less hopeless tasks, here’s last week’s mathematics comics. Yes, Barney Google is among them, though Barney Google himself doesn’t appear. He hasn’t been in his own comic strip in literally weeks now. Really, he’s getting to be a bit of a bother popping in so often these days.
First, the non-despairing part: comic strips over on my mathematics blog! Includes twice as many Carpe Diem comics as you might have guessed, if you knew that was a comic strip.
And the signs on that auto care place on the corner? After what I thought was its message board going through a long, slow breakup? Well, it spent a month appealing for food donations and there’s nothing to joke about regarding that. But I guess they got the food donations and now have gone to this:
It would be a hopeful message of tranquility and future promise, yes, if it weren’t coming after the slow-bitter breakup message. And if it weren’t coming off a year that ranks favorably compared to 1945, when atomic bombs were used as weapons of war, or the peak years of the Taiping Rebellion or the Black Death, but not much else. I’m going in tomorrow and offer everyone there a hug.
So there I was at Meijer’s reading all the labels of stuff because don’t we all and I noticed this bottle of nothingness.
And I was all ready to joke about what you take with a water pill and then foolishly read the actual instructions.
They beat me to the joke. What am I supposed to do with that?
Anyway, I found an excuse to include a Betty Boop cartoon over on my mathematics blog. Maybe you’d like to read that, then?