Statistics Saturday: It Turns Out A Major Generational Shift Is Yet To Quite Come.


Huh.

(Looks again.)

Huh.

(Goes outside, breathes the fresh air some. Comes back in and looks again to see what it looks like.)

Huh

(Rubs his head, walks over to see if there’s some engagingly crazypants movie on Turner Classic Movies. And then comes right back to see this all again.)

Really would have expected these lines to have crossed again years ago, you know? Anyway. Huh, I say, and I stand by that.

'Hipster' has roughly doubled its presence in published books from 1980, a steady logistical-curve-type growth. 'Yuppie' started from about zero in 1980, rose to a great peak around 1993, and has declined exponential-decay-style since then. But is still appreciably above 'hipster' as of the 2008 data.
From the Google Books N-Gram Viewer and not something I just made up. Also, really, didn’t the last person you ever heard say ‘yuppie’ say it in 1992 at the latest? Even granting it takes time to write books and longer to publish them and all that’s all pretty weird.

Reference: Safer C: Developing Software for High-Integrity and Safety-Critical Systems. Les Hatton.

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The Great Fork Mystery


My love and I went to a hipster bar yesterday. We’re in the state’s competitive pinball scene, you see, and there’s a monthly tournament held at that bar. It’s a nice place, decorated with abstract re-imaginings of movie posters and a huge picture of Rocksteady and Bebop proclaiming their secret love for turtles. That kind of place. I came in eighth place, although I was the only person to manage the objective in playing Jersey Jack Pinball’s The Wizard of Oz in one ball. Not bragging, just clinging to my meager accomplishment.

Anyway. The bar’s a nice place, but it does not serve food. The manager is cool with people bringing food in. There’s a decent hipster sandwich shop just down the block, for example, and we hear of burrito places nearby and there’s another hipster bar acros the street that we guess you could bring elaborate burgers from. You can peek in on people eating all the easily taken-out cuisine of the area there.

So why was there a real metal fork on the floor?

I mean, I just hate the thought someone brought their real silverware all the way from home and then lost it before even finding out if anyone would beat the objective on Ghostbusters, which nobody did because it was impossible.

On Things You Can Touch Or Punch


I was with a friend at the local hipster bar. I mean my local hipster bar. We weren’t anywhere near his. I know I talk about it a lot as the local hipster bar, but please understand. Their new logo is a rendition of their raccoon puppet, holding a couple of fireworks and a can of beer that’s labelled “Ham”. It’s a fine place and they’ve started having glazed-pottery nights.

My friend got to mentioning something or other coming up, and how he hoped it would go, knock wood. And he knocked on the bar. To this extent all seems well. I’m pretty sure the bar is wood and his knocking was in fine mid-season form. He carried off the knocking with no injuries and no dryads left stranded on base.

It got me thinking about the custom of knocking wood. It’s a good-luck gesture. It’s supposed to work by getting the attention of the wood-spirits who overheard you. You can see why that would work. Gumans drawing the attention of supernatural spirits has worked out well for the human according to every legend ever. “Well,” say many humans in these legends, “drawing the attention of that naiad or whatever it was sure has cured my problem of not being turned into a grasshopper!” Or else, “I used to think there was no way I would wake up chained every morning to be torn apart by hyenas. Then I stumbled into that pooka drinking party!” “I didn’t ever used to have a ferocious lightning-beast living in my belly button. But then thank goodness I fell through the wall of that Shinto shrine!”

Still, apparently the knocking of wood does help, if we can take any guidance from how rarely people at hipster bars get their eyes dipped in magic nectar so they can see the fairy creatures and then have their eyes gouged out so they can’t see the fairy creatures anymore. It did get me to thinking about one of those little cross-cultural differences. The English, I understand, merely touch wood, tapping the nearest piece lightly, rather than rapping sharply on it.

Full disclosure: I’ve never been a dryad. And I couldn’t find any to interview before deadline. I have to think if I were one, though, I’d be more inclined to do favors for someone who tapped me rather than knocked on me. It’s got me wondering about the cultural differences. Why should Americans figure the best way to get a magic spirit to do what you want, or at least leave you alone, involves punching it?

Well, because Americans are good at punching, I admit. Look at the great legendary figures of 20th Century American Culture: Popeye, Superman, Dwight Eisenhower, Muhammad Ali, Mary Richards. They’re all people who punch through problems. Even Captain Kirk only used his phasers when he couldn’t punch for some reason. And they’re all pretty successful so maybe they have something with their punch-based plans.

At least they look successful. But, like, if you watch the cartoons Popeye gets shipwrecked a lot. Probably that’s because he has more chances at shipwreck than the average person. Someone in, say, Havre, Montana, who never enters a body of water bigger than a coin fountain might expect to be shipwrecked only eight times in her life. Popeye must run a higher risk. Still, you have to wonder about if he shouldn’t pass up on sailing in favor of a punching-based lifestyle.

But punching is a cherished part of American culture. One of the leading myths of the early 19th Century Mississippi River valley was of Mike Fink, a bombastic, tough-talking, hyperactive bully who spent his time punching, shooting, or punch-shooting (punching with a gun) everything he could find, especially if it wasn’t a white male. His friends explained he was really a great guy, just you had to understand his point of view, before he punch-shot you. But that’s what friends of sociopaths always say so that they don’t get punch-shot-punched next.

I can’t draw any big conclusions about British touching and Americans knocking wood, though. Most of the differences between British and American cultures were invented by the Tourism Boards in 1958, so that people could share stories of how different things were on their vacations. I’ll bet any number of British people who don’t care about tourists knock wood whenever they feel like.

It still seems risky. I’d stick with touching, or if it wouldn’t be redundant buying the wood-spirits a round. Culture is a complicated thing.

Nothing Is Happening In Apartment 3-G: Yes, They Actually *DID* Break Time


So the first thing: Margo’s complete bodily disappearance since Tommie used her imaginary stethoscope on her continues. She’s allegedly been checked into Manhattan General and diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. It’s not much of anything, but it will do.

The real shocker this past week was delivered on Friday, and repeated on Sunday. If we are to believe the silly things that come out of Tommie’s mouth then Margo’s entire journey of amnesiac wandering through a city haunted by people she kind-of recognizes was an experience lasting two days. This is staggering news. Besides the months of aimless wandering and two-shots Margo had a bit of business eating breakfast and yelling at people. If I’m tracing all this back correctly she set out on the streets in January, ten months ago. The character makes references to feeling “so tired” in December 2014. (“So tired” isn’t given in-strip as a symptom of hyperthyroidism. But it’s probably meant to be a signal of such, by the rules of soap-opera medicine.)

Tommie explains that Margo's whole calendar year of confusion and aimless wandering has been two days of hyperthyroidism. Meanwhile, the background setting is 'generic apartment' although it's supposed to be the hospital, probably.
Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G for the 4th of October, 2015. Before you snark that this doesn’t look much like a hospital please consider that Manhattan General is one of those hipster-friendly indie hospitals. It’s got lots of overstuffed old chairs and odd, mismatching mugs for coffee and tea, gluten-free BiPAP masks, and there’s board games that migrate around all the wings and they hold open-mic prescription poetry readings every Monday evening, and the lobby there’s this old taxidermy raccoon dressed like the Eleventh Doctor. So don’t go saying that doesn’t look like a hospital room when you just don’t know the style of the place.

So this entire calendar year has taken up between one and two days of time. This, amazingly, isn’t a record. When Brooke McEldowney first broke free of all editorial control and good taste and coherent storytelling ability his 9 Chickweed Lane spent eight months covering the events of one weekend in Belgium. Rex Morgan is nearing the fourth calendar year of the first trimester of June Morgan’s pregnancy. Still, it’s one of the most lopsided reader-time-to-character-time ratios to be seen outside web comics.

After the preceding week’s bout of actual information being delivered, thus counting as stuff happening, this week looked ready to slump back into absolute nothingness. Eric was declared to have spent the night in “that chair”, presumably in Margaret’s hospital room. Then Tommie has the idea to send Eric to tell Margo’s parents what’s going on. This might be because she doesn’t know how to contact her roommate’s parents. This might be because she knows they aren’t going to listen to the things she says either.

This may sound like I’m being pointlessly mean to Tommie. But remember, her idea is to have Eric convey important information to another person. Eric is the person who figured the best way to let Margo know he was not in fact dead was to haunt her as she wandered aimlessly around Manhattan without identifying who he was or why he was there, in actions which dragged on for months, our time. I would expect Tommie could more efficiently deliver information to Margo’s parents by tossing a bottle into the ocean and hoping it’s found by someone who would then write a message about Margo’s condition and toss it back into the ocean.

'Eric knocks and ... ' talks with Margo's Dad on the streets of the city.
Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G for the 8th of October, 2015. Margo’s Dad, Mr Margo’s Dad, walks around the streets of Manhattan carrying a small door that anyone wishing to speak with him must knock on. It’s carried below the waist so as not to interrupt people.

But, possibly to get the story ended already, Eric instead rushes directly to Margo’s Dad, who’s on the streets of Manhattan in front of that car that might be facing either direction again. At least on Thursday he wasn’t doing well at getting information across, but he is doing very well for having been dead for five years (in strip time, maybe a week?) and for being Margo’s Dad seen from the other angle.

Margo's Dad and I'm just going to go and guess Margo's Mom have a conversation interrupted by Eric who's Margo's Dad from another angle and a little bit smaller in his shirt.
Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G for the 9th of October, 2015. It cannot be easy to carry on a conversation with yourself from a different angle.

Oh, yeah, my mathematics blog: Here’s the Monday comics and that wasn’t nearly enough; here’s Friday’s. Please read them in case the flow of time resumes.

Statistics Saturday: Most Popular Unwritten Articles


Here are the most popular things which I did not write in the past month:

  1. French Words I Do Not Know, a quick guide to things you can’t talk about with me in French.
  2. Bacon Moustaches In Mason Jars, frankly, clickbait for the hipster audience that saw through me so clearly that they were over me before everyone else was.
  3. The Studio Audience, and other things not found around my apartment (I haven’t had a studio apartment since 1998).
  4. Episodes of Automan I Still Have In My Head, a cautionary tale. Warning: they’re all stupid.
  5. Robert Benchley: My First Radio Set, an essay about trying out life as a ham radio operator which the great humorist never wrote.

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?”

This Is Not Your Daughter’s Oldsmobile


We saw a young person driving an Oldsmobile Ciera. I forget what kind it was, but it had a bunch of letters after it, because that’s how car makers in the 90s used up their excess typewriter capacity. She was awfully young, though, and we joked that maybe Oldsmobiles were becoming hip among kids looking for a retro thrill. Then we realized we were stuck in traffic and the giddiness wore off.

Still, the merry little joke might’ve been right anyway. Back when teenagers and college kids were wild for the Stutz Bearcat, in Movie 1920s, the car was already out of production. In the late 70s you could barely get down the Interstate without seeing a college kid nursing a beat-up Skylab back into road-ready condition. There was that period in the late 40s when kids were all into ironically driving their Edsel Citations, which wouldn’t be made for another ten years. This is often thought to be the result of a typographical error in a history of young adult fads written in the early 22nd century, but was actually a copyright trap. By the time it was done it had recovered sixteen separate copyrights, including one not previously known to science.