To help you judge my intelligence


I am 47 years old. I have two post-graduate degrees in mathematics. I have ridden over 250 different roller coasters. And it was only this past Friday that I tumbled on to how Nightmare, the Ghost Horse and friend to Casper the Friendly Ghost, is female. And not by deductive methods such as, like, reading her name. I had to have it explained to me by the Casper the Friendly Ghost wiki. So, you know, I’m a deep thinker. And somehow, even though Harvey Comics were pretty good about having a important female characters, supporting and lead, I thought, “well, this horse doesn’t have a bow in her hair and long eyelashes and a skirt, must be a boy!” and stopped there for four decades.

60s Popeye: Popeye’s Trojan Horse and what it can teach us


Popeye’s Trojan Horse is another Jack Kinney cartoon. Story by Ed Nofziger. The director’s Ken Hultgren, whom so far we’ve only seen in Jingle Jangle Jungle, another Nofziger story. Let’s watch.

This is framed, again, as a tell-me-a-story cartoon. Ed Nofziger did something similar with Little Olive Riding Hood and Hamburger Fishing. Why is there a frame, though? A frame lets you put the characters in a weird position without explaining why, but, is that needed? At least for Popeye? Do we get anything that wouldn’t be served by Jackson Beck narrating that “this story takes place in the time of the Ancient Greeks”? Do we need any explanation for the weirdness? Nofziger’s Swee’Pea Through The Looking Glass just let the action “really” happen, for example.

There is something having Popeye and Swee’Pea as frame offers, though. A bit of it was done in Hamburger Fishing. They can comment on the story. Several times over the action pauses so that Swee’Pea can snark about the action. I’m interested in the choice. It offers some story benefits. Popeye declaring “then, they went and — ” is as good a transition as you need to let anything happen. Stock footage of Popeye and Swee’Pea talking saves the animation budget, too.

Trojan horse, that resembles Gumby's pal Pokey, kicking its hindleg at a castle's tower. Brutus is atop the tower waving his hand angrily.
So one of the fun things I did instead of useful stuff this week was look up historical interpretations of the Trojan Horse. It’s fascinating, really, that we stay interested in a story about people so foolish that they would invite death into their homes — strangling the person who correctly warns them of the danger — because it was so very pleasant to imagine that the destruction so imminent for so long had just … gone away. Also I love that the pose here so clearly reads as Brutus demanding the Horse quit that, and the Horse acting all innocent, like, “Quit what?”

Having the characters watch and snark on a story is part of a respectable enough tradition too. It runs loosely from the Greek Chorus through, like, that bit in A Midsummer Night’s Dream where Hippolyta and all can not believe Nick Bottom’s play, to Rocky and Bullwinkle and The Muppet Show and their many influences. (Mystery Science Theater 3000 is near but just outside this lineage, for my purposes. I’m looking at texts that contain their own riffing. MST3K depends on adding jokes to something by a different writer.) When it’s done well, it adds to a story you were already interested in, often with commentary about the artifice of story and the demands of narrative logic. When it’s done badly, it’s any of those Pearls Before Swine strips that are seven panels filled wall-to-wall with text for a pun, followed by the characters insulting the cartoonist for writing that.

So a thing about Popeye is he’s always been kind of self-riffing. The definitive thing about the Fleischer Studios character is his mumbled, improvisational jokes about the story. This self-aware tradition faded, but never left the character. When Brutus asks “what is this?” and Spartan Popeye punches him, then says, “This horse is a gift, o Prince! … Never look a gift horse in the mouth!”, it’s not a strange moment. It’s completely in-character.

Does it add anything for Swee’pea to comment that “history was never like this”? I’m not sure. The Trojan Horse story does well at being absurd. But I try to remember what I thought as a kid, among the intended audience for this. Did I register that it was absurd for Trojan Brutus to be huddling up in a Generic Medieval Castle complete with moat and drawbridge? I think I registered it was weird there was a sawfish in the moat. Shouldn’t that be alligators or at least sharks? But a castle right out of my Fisher-Price Play Family Castle #993 set? I don’t remember that registering. Swee’Pea’s line may be more than just the writer worrying there’s a space for a joke here.

Popeye riding through the sea on the back of a large shiny grey dolphin; both have smug grins on their face.
Additionally, I am delighted that Popeye got a pool toy from the Tuesday Morning store to swim him to Troy!

Given that we have a frame, though, it saw good use. Each of the cuts back to Popeye and Swee’Pea comes at a reasonable moment, and gets a decent joke. The main storyline goes along at a good pace. I like Popeye’s Trojan Horse being built with several modes including “buck”. All I wonder is why Spartan Popeye wanted his horse to look like Gumpy’s pal Pokey?

While I Continue To Stagger Back To My Feet


Won’t fib; the computer problems threw my week for an even bigger mess than I expected. I’m just now getting to the point I think I have my photograph library in order. And that’s none too soon because there’ve been big developments with that auto care place down the street having some massive relationship drama through its sign board. Just wait and see! In the meanwhile here’s this past week’s bunch of mathematics-themed comic strips. I hope to have stuff kind of normal-ish soon, once I’ve got settings and options and updates and missing programs set up. In the meantime:

Scene from Star Trek: Enterprise in which Captain Archer and Idiot Timecop Daniels stand surrounded by all sorts of swirly special effects from Daniels's Prime Radiant time-viewer thingy.
“What the — I — why are you playing The Electric Prunes? What exactly in my selecting the next episode of the Movie Sign With The Mads podcast made you think I wanted to listen to my music in alphabetical order by song title? What are you doing and WHY WILL YOU NOT STOP? WHAT IS THIS MADNESS? WHO DESIGNED YOU???”

Man but the iTunes interface sucks.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Despite concerns about the unusually high values of the Another Blog, Meanwhile index traders rallied, bringing the number to a new all-time high after someone noticed in their how-to-draw-animals book a page labelled “Unusual Horse Positions” and now everybody’s got the giggles. People, it’s about like when they stand on their hindlegs or reach for something with a front leg, or when they’re bucking or rearing up and it’s not … oh, now you’re doing it too. So immature.

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In Which I Review The Only Thing I Get At Best Buy Anymore


All right, fine, Best Buy, I’ll review my stupid purchase already.

Ahem. I purchased recently a 30-pin-USB-to-lightning adapter. When I examined it in the store it appeared to be a thing which existed, possessing definite properties of mass and length and ability to adapt. When taken out of the store it continued to exhibit these properties to the best of my ability to determine. When opened up and put into service in my car the adapting properties came to the fore. The fore was not included in the purchase, but I was aware of that fact and did not expect it to be. It did not affect my decision to purchase this product.

This was not my first attempt at buying an adapter. The first one ended in a sad failure. That, too, was from Best Buy but I do not fault the store. I fault my sister. She recommended I buy one of those stiff, thick, Otter cases for my iPod when I finally got one ten years after everybody in the world got one. I like the case. It feels nice and secure. But it’s also big. I suppose my sister got it because in her line of work she’s liable to drop her iPhone from atop a horse, who will then kick the phone a couple times, and maybe bite her for good measure. She trains horses and horse-riders, so this is a normal hazard. It’s not as though she has a job at the indie video store still open in town that somehow keeps going awry. The shop has a canter-up window for horse riders, and she doesn’t have a job there anyway.

I know, tender Best Buy review reader, you might wonder at cantering up to a video shop window. Sure, cantering horses can achieve speeds of 16 or even 27 miles per hour, according to the lead paragraph on Wikipedia that I get by typing ‘canter’ in to DuckDuckGo because yes I’m that guy. But if you’re picking up a copy of, say, George Lucas’s computer-animated thing with the fairy opossums or something that kind of got released a couple years back? Strange Magic or something? Well, you need to do something to spruce that up. Lobbing it toward you at speed is just the trick.

So the Otter case is maybe too much case for my iPod. I don’t work with horses and I sidle casually away even from photographs of them. My electronics just have to survive my forgetting I left them in the dining room, to emotional distress that a thick rubber casing actually kind of helps with. I guess it feels like being hugged.

The case is pretty thick and the first adapter I got was a stubby little thing that couldn’t reach the plug unless I took the Otter case off. The case can be easily removed by chisel and dynamite, I assume. I haven’t got the trick myself. But I had to return the adapter, which your computers with their transaction records know full well. See my review of that, titled, “adapter didn’t fit my iPod’s case”, 450 crafted words about my two minutes of ownership of the thing.

Anyway, I needed an adapter that fit the adapter my car already head. For whatever reason my 2009-model car was “iPod ready” with a plug that wasn’t actually USB or any plug known to humanity. But it had an adapter to go from its plug to 30-pin USB that I lost almost right after I bought the car. It would become one of my Brigadoon possessions, appearing for scant moments and vanishing again. But one time I caught it and plugged it in to the car and it stayed there. I might have used my car-to-30-pin and got a 30-pin-USB to Normal USB adapter, and then got a Normal USB adapter-to-Lightning adapter. We throw the word “Frankensteinian” around a lot but this is the time to.

When I learned there was an adapter with a smaller plug that would be more likely to fit my Otter case I was happy. Not so happy as, say, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Closer to how happy I am when it turns out a McDonalds I stopped in has all their Chicken McNugget sauces in pump dispensers so I could put sweet chili sauce on my fries.

If I find anything unsatisfactory it is that when I plug in my iPod the system ignores my podcasts and opens up the music player. It’ll play the first song in alphabetical order that I have, and it’ll ignore all directions. So starting the car will include a moment when I hurl myself at the iPod trying without success to The Electric Prunes’ version of About A Quarter To Nine. This is me overreacting. I mean, I bought the Electric Prunes record of my own free will. But if it weren’t for that then the iPod would play Sparks’s Academy Award Performance. Anyway, I don’t know if the problem is this adapter, the other adapter, the car, or just the iPod being difficult because it has to deal with iTunes all day long.

In short, this adapter is a thing which exists, and which possesses definite properties of mass and length and ability to adapt. We should all be so fortunate.

The Big Picture


We’ve started looking at maybe buying a new TV. Our current TV is working fine, which has been part of the problem, since it’s your old-fashioned standard-definition tube-model TV screen hewn by Alan B DuMont himself from his shadowy hidden laboratory deep in the highlands of North Jersey. It was a fine TV in its time, and it’s clearly determined to outlast the entropic heat-death of the universe, but it’s starting to get annoying watching TV shows that assume screens are wider, like they are anymore. The Daily Show is pretty good about not putting stuff outside the bounds of the standard-definition screen, but it’s getting tiresome to guess what’s happening on the missing edges of Cona O’Brie.

The obvious change in TV technology since our old set was made has been the size, of course. There’s now no way to buy a TV set smaller than a tennis court in area, which will demand we rearrange the living room so it fits. We might have to have a carpenter come in and take out the stairwell, and just get to our bedroom by way of a rope ladder, trampoline, or perhaps a very patient giraffe (possibly mechanized). On the bright side modern TVs are only half as thick as other units of the same model, so if we buy a flatscreen we’ll be able to slip it in-between the wall and the paint on the wall.

The other thing is that shapes have changed. Picture-tube TVs all had that slight outward curve made. That curve was great as you could just place a large enough number of picture tubes near one another and automatically form a ball of television sets thirty feet across, allowing anyone to create an art installation about the disposability of modern pop culture whenever they wanted. But then they started making screens flat, so that every TV show you looked at seemed to be weirdly impacted in the middle, like someone had smooshed Bob Barker right in the belly. They’ve fixed that now, by finding a pre-smooshed host for The Pric Is Righ, and I suppose they’ve worked out what to do for other shows too.

And now the stores have innovative new shapes, too. The big one at the store last week was screens curled inward, giving us the experience of watching a couple seconds of a waterfall then a roller coaster then fireworks then the Grand Canyon while staring at the inside of a bowl. I guess that’s got advantages in how it makes the picture look curled inwards, and how the eyes of the Best Buy sales associates follow you wherever you go until in a fit of shyness you curl up behind the bin of $4.99 games for the Wii.

Besides these inverted-bowl shapes there’s exciting new concepts in solid geometry coming, such as the saddle-curve hyperboloid which wowed people at the Consumer Electronics Show. It expertly suggested the experience of horse-riding, what with how as you get closer to the screen it looms higher and higher over you, until you get right up close to it, at which point the it bites your hair, covers your head an inch deep in horse boogers, and stomps on your foot, which any horse-expert person like my sister will tell you is a show that the horse likes you and it’s all your fault anyway. I didn’t even know my sister watched that much TV, what with her horse-experting to do. Anyway, television boogers clean up easily, but cleaning them off leaves you open to charges you’re one of those people who announces “I never watch television” every four minutes, even to empty rooms.

Personally, I think the most exciting new TV shape is one that projects the image onto the contact surface formed in the tangent space M \times \textbf{R}^{2n+1} so that for any fiber bundle \alpha you can find a sympletic coordinate pair perfectly matching, say, the statistical entropy to the chemical potentials of the system. I think most of you agree with my assessment because you’re hoping if you nod vigorously enough I’ll stop talking what might be mathematics or physics or possibly some conspiracy theory linking Nikolai Tesla to the Knights Templar and go on to literally any other topic at all. (Hi, LFFL!)

Anyway, this is all very thrilling stuff and it makes me figure that I should go back to watching narrower programs on the old TV set.

Some Parts Of The Horse Or The Carburetor


(Let’s try this again.)

  • The head.
  • The neck.
  • The mounting base.
  • The posterior whelk?
  • The idle speed adjusting crackscrew.
  • The mounting base. (If you forgot the first.)
  • The parts that’ll step on you.
  • The parts that’ll bite you.
  • The parts that flames come out of.
  • The idle mixture adjusting screw. (Now this seems like they’re just putting in screws for the fun of it. I must have something wrong.)

Some Parts Of The Horse


(Note: Not a complete list.)

  • The head.
  • The neck.
  • The … uh … widdershins?
  • I think there’s stifles or something?
  • The anterior whelk?
  • The … Tralfamadorian … infandibulator I want to say? Infindibulator? Something like that.
  • The retroactive … er … carporeal … uh … thingy?
  • The parts that’ll step on you.
  • The parts that’ll bite you.

Because I Felt Like Writing A Dopey Gag


“So, I couldn’t help noticing your horse there … ”

“Yeah, he gets a lot of attention.”

“Don’t see many horses that cluck.”

“He’s very sure he’s a chicken.”

“And you’d get him treated but … ”

“Yup. Need the eggs.”

“Figures. Now, me, I’ve got a chicken that thinks he’s a horse.”

“Going to take him to an animal psychiatrist?”

“Never. I like him thinking he’s a horse.”

“You need your chicken to pull stuff?”

“No, I just hate eggs.”

[ Thanks for indulging me. I’ll try to do better in the future. ]

Genius Hamsters


What do you suppose the hamster community thinks of the person who invented the hamster wheel? It’s not an obvious invention, the way the cat motorcycle, the gerbil paddle steamer, or the wallaroo Quadricycle are. You need to have a vision of wheels alongside rodents, if hamsters are still rodents. They keep finding out different animals aren’t actually rodents. Just last month a report in Nature showed that the horse was definitely not a rodent, following an investigation by biologists who didn’t want to work too hard that day.

The first hamster to make the wheel work was some kind of genius among hamsters, too, though. I imagine hamsters to this day squeak her name when they want to talk sarcastically about the smart one in their group.