In Which My Calendar Disappoints Me


Well, this time the activity puzzle on the back was this flop of an idea:

Rearrange the letters in the phrase to discover the related words or phrase.
payment received

This wouldn’t be nearly so disappointing if it didn’t come so soon after the “grimepints” incident. And a couple days later it gave a Spelling Bee challenge to pick out the right way to spell “necessary”. It’s like if the Kinks followed up Arthur with an album where they cover the songs Hanna-Barbera recorded for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids with. I need better from my papers that tell me what day of the month it is.

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Something Else I Discovered In The Local Alt-Weekly


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.

Listings for both The Loft and for Moriarty's Pub, for Friday, Bass Physics/Blunt Force, 9 pm; for Saturday, Rob Crozier, 7 pm.
Idle curiosity: how many bands do you figure named themselves ‘Karaoke’ in a fit of giddy joy and mutual hand-slapping before discovering why that isn’t actually a good idea?

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.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped another four points owing to investor confidence being shaken by this incredibly long line to get out of the parking lot. And yeah, the line got so long and so slow they just raised the barrier and waved people out without charging but, still, what was going on? That isn’t right.

121

Popeye: Close Encounters of the Third Spinach


Previously:


I’d wanted to continue my little thread of Popeye-In-Space cartoons, but couldn’t think of another Famous Studios or, better, Fleischer Studios cartoon where he went into space. But then I remembered Famous, Fleischer, and even King Features weren’t all the animators of Popeye.

From 1978 to 1983 Popeye was a Saturday morning cartoon, as the All-New Popeye Hour and then The Popeye and Olive Show (a half-hour). In my youth I trusted that this was just as the world should be: of course they were regularly making new Popeye cartoons. In hindsight I realize this was part of Popeye‘s recessional from pop culture; after this (and of course the Robert Altman movie), there just wasn’t much left. A series called Popeye and Son was made in the late 80s, but I never saw an episode, and only ever encountered it as a video CD in Singapore. The comic strip was very briefly controversial when Bobby London did a string of abortion-touching jokes that would have been a dull week in Doonesbury, and since then despite occasional noble or crazy attempts to bring it back, the franchise has been mostly something for comic strip collectors or T-shirts you get at the boardwalk.

I haven’t seen episodes of the show since, well, eating Popeye’s fried chicken while in Singapore — the Popeye’s in the airport was regularly showing episodes on the TV, so the kids had something to watch — or the early 80s and so none came to mind, but an episode guide identified one that had to be space-related, and thus, I went looking for “Close Encounters Of The Third Spinach”. The only version I could find of it is dubbed into Finnish because, of course. Why not? I’m including it anyway because I think there’s enough to watch in the animation itself that it’s not distracting to have to guess at what the characters are saying to one another.

As the title implies — and why not “Close Encounters Of The Spinach Kind”, anyway? — this cartoon is a parody of Star Wars. I still think that’s neat, though; in the past 35 years the parody or homage or imitation of Star Wars has practically become a genre in itself, and seeing how it was done before most of those parodies were is enlightening — for example, while the trash compactor scene makes the cut, there’s nothing even remotely near the trench run. I can’t imagine a cartoon making that decision about what to do and what not to today.

I also like the casting: Poopdeck Pappy makes a sensible Obi-Wan, and Wimpy in the Han Solo role is a good joke. Because of the dubbing I am not sure who’s cast as the robot. The obvious candidates would be Swee’pea and Eugene the Jeep, and while Eugene makes the more logical choice for the kind of magical otherworldly creature that the robot has to be, he’s not really one to deliver dialogue. On the other hand, that also makes Eugene an even more natural R2.

As for the animation, well, the character designs are good enough, and many of the settings, particularly the Bluto/Death Star, are amusing. But the animation is the routine circa-1980 Hanna-Barbera staging, competently done without ever really excelling. It’s not a disaster, but it is coasting on one’s built-up love for Popeye (and, I guess, Star Wars) for its appeal. Popeye In Space should be more inspired.

Compu-Toon, Math Comics are Compu-Toon, Math Comics


I grew up watching mostly cartoons, heavy on the Warner Brothers and Tex Avery catalogues, with probably too big a helping of Hanna-Barbera’s stuff from the 60s and 70s. That’s my way of saying that I’m kind of pre-adapted to laugh if a wrecking ball appears on screen, even if it isn’t doing anything wrecking just yet. I know its time is coming.

'Upgrading can sometimes be misleading', which is why a wrecking ball is following this guy.
Charles Boyce’s _Compu-Toon_ for the 17th of August, 2014.

So this is why Sunday’s Compu-Toon has me baffled, because the idea that someone puttering around his computer would get a wrecking ball for his trouble ought to be funny and then the caption goes and confuses me. I feel like I can almost work out the joke, that an upgrade always breaks stuff and sometimes it’s just worse than just leaving things like they were, I guess, but then … I don’t know. On the other hand, a guy looking warily at a wrecking ball pursuing him ought to be a pretty easy giggle.

Meantime, there’ve been a bunch of comics, mostly Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, that talked about mathematics subjects, so I talked about them. They don’t talk about me.

Betty Boop: Crazy Town


For today’s cartoon I’d like to offer something that’s just absurd: the Fleischer studios’ 1932 Betty Boop short Crazy Town. After the handsome opening credits — which include James Culhane, who’s famous in animation circles for doing the “Heigh-Ho” sequence in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and writing (as Shamus Culhane) the classic textbook Animation From Script To Screen; and David Tendlar, who never achieved fame, but who animated for Fleischer Studios/Paramount Studios for decades and then went to Hanna-Barbera, so you’ve seen his work — Betty Boop and Bimbo take the trolley to Crazy Town, a place where pretty much any sight gag the animators could think of gets done. Many of them are simple reversals of expectation, birds that fly under water and fish that swim above, or barbers that make hair grow by cutting it, but that doesn’t infringe on the childish glee that comes from seeing the reversals. And then, of course, things keep getting stranger.

The Mysteries of Modern Recording


So I’m trying to quite rationalize the existence of this Hanna-Barbera record that I picked up at the record show the other day. Did someone at Hanna-Barbera Master Command suddenly sit, bolt-upright, in bed one day and say, “Good heavens, it’s 1977! We have got to have Snagglepuss retell the story of The Wizard Of Oz!” And then someone sits bolt-upright next to him and says, “You’re right! And we better have Wilma Flintstone tell the story of Bambi!” And then someone else — this is getting to be a pretty wide bed, perhaps used for conference retreats — says, “This project is doomed to failure unless Augie Doggie and Doggy Daddy recount Pinocchio!” And then another person says, “What about Magilla Gorilla recounting Alice in Wonderland?” and gets shouted down because that last is just a ridiculous idea?

Improbable? Sure. But what’s the alternative? Someone racing down the hallway and bursting into the dark conference table where William Hanna and Joe Barbera sit around, fretting about how they could recapture the magic of The Banana Splits (“What if they’re roller-skating birds?”) and working out just how to make a movie about Kiss (“What if they have superpowers and are fighting evil robot Kiss duplicates created by a mad scientist trying to take over the world from the comfort of his amusement park?”), and crying out, “Do you know what Daws Butler and Jean Vander Pyl just did?” And they listen, horrified, and say, “Well, slap some Jonny Quest music under the Bambi and Pinocchio tracks and ship it as a record!” and hope that this will turn out well? Is that really more plausible?

These are all questions I feel I cannot answer.

Overheard At The Record Show Over At The Meeting Rooms In The Quality Inn


  • “There’s a lot fewer hipsters here than I expected. Maybe they haven’t discovered these shows yet?”
  • “These kids these days and their iPods … bah.”
  • “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much Air Supply.”
  • “Reagan.”
  • “Oh, man. Do you figure anyone ever actually listened to Journey or did they just stare at these album covers?”
  • “9/11.”
  • “Jeez, on this cover Slim Whitman looks like Will Ferrell pretending to be Slim Whitman.”
  • “New World Order.”
  • “Augie Doggie and Doggy Daddy telling the story of Pinocchio? I never even imagined Hanna-Barbera putting out a record like this.”
  • “It worked. They all got richer, didn’t they?”
  • “Well, maybe we’ve looked through enough. Isn’t that sushi buffet nearby?”

What The Pac-Mummy Teaches Me


I won’t detail the series of several independent events that lead me to looking up plot summaries for the Pac-Man cartoon that Hanna-Barbera made back in the early 80s when apparently they were just going to see what they could possibly animate before someone called them on it. Wikipedia’s got a summary of the various episodes, and some of them I remember, usually because I had serious qualms about the soundness of evil villain Mezmaron’s time-travel logic or was disturbed by the environmental implications of stuffing every Power Pellet from the Power Pellet Forest in the cargo bay of the space shuttle only for Pac-Man to eat every single one of them, even though I now couldn’t give you the full name of the kid who lived across the street from us for six years.

Some of the episodes I’ve forgotten, though, such as the one summarized as episode number 26:

26 “The Pac-Mummy” December 18, 1982

The Mezmaron discovers a mummy, so he uses it to kidnap Pepper and Pac-Baby.

Anyway, thanks to that “so”, now I have a new favorite sentence.

And Somehow None Of These People Were Me


Warner Brothers is releasing a DVD set of the best Hanna-Barbera cartoons of their first 25 years, plus an episode of Jabberjaw. This implies that either someone had a career which finally reached the day when she or he was given the responsibility to “select the best episode of The Abbot And Costello Cartoon Show”, or that there was a committee formed to make that decision. Either way is a staggering thought.