In Which I Get Worried What Some Advertising Server Thinks Of Me


OK, first, more comic strips over on my mathematics blog, because darned it I am not going to let a 1959 installment of Hi and Lois toss in a bit of calculus without explaining just what is meant by it. I hope you enjoy because there’s not going to be another of those comic strip explanation posts until Saturday.

Otherwise, I was reading the Comics Curmudgeon blog. The advertising server suggested a couple books. They came out as:

  • A book of Slylock Fox mystery puzzles.
  • A book of Barney Google and Snuffy Smith comics.
  • A book of Slylock Fox “brain bogglers” which are different from mystery puzzles in six ways and can you find them all?
  • A book titled A Do-It-Yourself Submachine Gun.
Shop Related Products: Go Fun! Slylock Fox Mystery Puzzles; Barney Google and Snuffy Smith; Slylock Fox Brain Bogglers; The Do-It-Yourself Submachine Gun.
This reminds me of the time I stopped in Kinokuniya and picked up two Baby Blues compilations, one Big Nate novella, and a B-29 Superfortress. I’m going to go ahead and assume that the Mystery Puzzles book was marked down from $8.99, but as best I can see it may have just been marked down from $8.09 to $8.09.
Wait, I was just looking at a blog post. Shouldn’t a “related product” be another blog?

I have some snarky views about Tom Batiuk and, separately, the comic strip Luann. But I think a submachine gun is the wrong way to handle them. They should be handled in the traditional way of making YouTube videos in which the dialogue from the comics is read aloud by people who inflect the lines in the most uncharitable ways.

Still, I guess at least they made an advertising impression, which is a triumph in this day and age.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index was rising when someone came up from the basement and announced they’d found their copy of Ian Shoales’s Not Wet Yet and now everybody’s busy reading their favorite bits, like the essay about how Dracula is the perfect movie because it has stuff for guys (procedures, tools, men off to complete a task) and women (seedy romantic decadence, ancient mansions, food preparation). Also the essay on Elvitude.

120

Me Week: What Are Jobs Even About?


One of the essays I’m happiest with was Working Out The World. That’s from May 2015. It was inspired by some of the baffling things we were asked to do as students. And it got into some mulling over what jobs are, and what kids understand jobs are. I grant that in many ways I was a nerdy, oblivious child, but I never really quite understood what grown-ups did all day. A couple tasks I understood but they didn’t seem to quite fill a whole job, much less a career. Decades on, I’m still not really good about it. I don’t think I’m alone, but, maybe other people do.

I think the line about “what’s a job to a kid? It’s just a place adults go to become tired and unhappy somehow” is maybe the most Ian Shoalesian thing I’ve written. If it isn’t, it’s only because identifying corporations as the imaginary friends of an adult who had money edged it out. I don’t think I quite manage the transition to the closing paragraph right, but the closing paragraph is where everything falls apart.

Me Week: Facing The Fun Fact Of It All


I need to get myself a little more ahead of deadline than I can get just by writing something fresh every day. So I’m going to take most of this week and talk about one of my favorite writers: me. I’ve long been an influence on me, and have tried to let myself mould my writings into better forms. It’s not easy. There’s a lot of ways that I want to be funny and not all of them are exactly compatible.

One of my other big influences is Ian Shoales, stage persona of Merle Kessler. Now and then I write something that’s quite directly in his style of social commentary mixed with absurdity. I don’t run as absurd as he does, but then, I only intermittently get a good comment going.

So here I’d like to point to a January 2015 piece I wrote, very much in the Ian Shoales style. It’s titled The Fun Fact Of It All, and it’s inspired by a Peanuts page-a-day calendar, as will happen. I think it came across with some juicy ideas about facts and it maybe needs two drafts to really catch what I want. I was fibbing about Mrs Furey in this piece; she wasn’t, in truth, so careful about the nonsense of a potentially false fact. But it works well to have a character putting forth that point.

An Open Letter To, Really, Every Social Media Ever


Dear Twitter Master Command,

Hi there. I wasn’t away. That’s the first thing. Also, you keep promising you’re going to show me fewer tweets like that. You need to shore up that wording. Do you mean you’re going to show me fewer tweets that way, as in that form? Where it’s four days after the original post and even the guy who wrote it can’t remember what he was making a sly, snarky comment about? Or do you mean fewer tweets like “the stuff my friends wrote”? I get the feeling you’re promising me that.

Because that’s the hip thing with social media. You all start out with a simple model: you have friends. Your friends post stuff. You read it. Sometimes you post back. Sometimes they post back. Their friends post back. The friends of your friends post. They’re whack jobs. Your friends’ friends keep posting. You come to like people less. You infer that your friend honestly sees no difference in morality or intellect or human decency between these people and you. The fight takes on a new intimacy. After enough of this you go outside, resolved instead to roll down a hill all day. You see a squirrel. That fact reminds you. You go back to answering your friend’s friend. Finally you stumble across an interesting discussion about whether Cringer remembers the experience of being Battle Cat, and vice-versa, and if so how. It has an exhausting pile of citations from the ramshackle He-Man canon. You come away feeling staggered but forgetting what you were angry about. Then you see it again. It’s a simple model and one that might work forever.

Except that’s never enough. If the social media works then it gets famous. And like Ian Shoales explained, once you’re famous for doing something you don’t want to do that anymore. So the media gets fussing around with algorithms and rearrangements of timelines. Instead of showing people what they said they wanted to see, you go and show them something they didn’t say they wanted to see. Maybe something they said they didn’t want to see. It’s a weird business model. Imagine if you were flying to Albany, New York, because you had urgent business there. You had to go to Huck Finn’s Playland and yell at the amusement park for it not still being Hoffmann’s Playland, even though Hoffmann didn’t want the Playland anymore and he was just going to toss it out.

But then the pilot announces that, you know, we’re going to instead fly to Columbus, the world-renowned “Albany, New York, of Ohio”. Would you feel well-served? I guess it depends whether you could find something to berate in the Columbus area. I’m sure there are. There’s at least two creepy houses in the suburb of Worthington, for example. I seem to be making a case for this. Maybe it’s other businesses that are missing out by just giving people what they wanted. (Do not berate the Worthington creepy house the guy lives in. He’s taken enough abuse.)

But what we expect to see, or expect to not see, or who we expect not to get in bitter quarrels with, is beside the point. None of this is what we really want from social media, not even the stuff we know we want to see, like the Animals Wearing Glasses Daily Picture.

What we want is to find something that’s profound and breezy. We want to experience something insightful and whimsical. It should be eye-opening without ever entering unfamiliar intellectual and emotional territory. We want something epic while still being intimate. More, we want to be the sole true confidant of an enormous crowd. We want to say something un-improvable yet tossed off in a heartbeat. We want to go viral while being that single candle that alleviates some one person’s darkness. We want universal truths that still fit snug where we are in life. We want to do something that’s going to get put on millions of t-shirts, and we want to get a cut of each sale. We want to be reblogged by people we watched on TV when we were kids. We want transcendence with a glace at our cell phones. And then we want to hit reload and get another transcendent moment at least as good. Give us that and we’ll hit ‘like’ or ‘fave’ or whatever silly thing you want. We’ll even pretend to look at your advertisements for stuff we’ve never even known anyone who would ever want interspersed with ads for the thing we bought last week on Amazon.

And that’s what social media is all about, Twitter Master Command.

Hoping you will see to and remedy this problem swiftly I remain,

Yours truly,

Sincerely,

I mean it,

@Nebusj

PS: Do it right and we’ll even forgive you suggesting Every. Single. Day. that we follow a person we wouldn’t run over with a forklift exclusively for fear of getting repugnant-person-guts in the forklift’s machinery.

PPS: Obviously Cringer remembers the experiences he has as Battle Cat. The interesting question is whether he remembers it as a thing he, Cringer, does while affecting a character, or whether he remembers Battle Cat as a distinct entity using what is sort-of his body. Please see enclosed citations, omitted for clarity.

Ian Shoales: What I Like


Ian Shoales has this attitude that could be sneering and cynical without being nihilistic, and if that weren’t a neat enough balance, a prose style that just invited me to keep following sharply-crafted sentences to punchy ends. I knew comic writing that was gut-wrenchingly funny; but this could be gut-wrenchingly funny and incisive, occasionally with gripping insights (as in one essay about movies and their intended audience, which just tossed off a hypothesis about why Dracula might be the perfect subject for movies). Coming off Dave Barry or old Bob Newhart albums — and those aren’t bad things, especially for the era I’m speaking of — this was a discovery.

But he had a generally useful lesson even for people facing huge content holes, said most explicitly in an essay that was way too long to include in this little Ian Shoales Week: you do not owe your thoughts gratitude for occurring to you. This may sound particularly cranky, but in context, it amounts to a lesson of expectations. Demand better ideas out of everyone, yourself included. This encouraged a little tradition of self-doubt in me, one I still feel, especially of any writing that seems to come too easily: was I demanding enough of my creation? I inevitably end up publishing stuff that I suspect I could do better if I worked harder at it, but he did push my default to working harder.

I mention Ian Shoales’s sneering because it does look like his most prominent characteristic, especially if you watch the videos he used to do for World News Now and, before that, Nightline. But the character was never all bitterness and rage, and here’s an essay that gathers together a lot of the things that he liked, and that, as far as I can tell, he still likes. It’s a good reminder for people who want to write in comic crankiness: even cranky people have stuff that they enjoy, and that can anchor a character very well. Although, Randy Newman? Really? Huh.


What I Like

I know you people out there are mighty grateful to me for setting you straight on issues of cultural importance, and I’d like to thank you in turn for all the letters I get —

All right, it’s just one letter, a thankful letter from Maryland, who likes my incisive comments but thinks I spend too much time on sarcasm and not enough on constructive criticism. This kind soul is worried about my emotional health and recommends, among other things, that I read the Findhorn Garden Book and take up horseback riding.

In response, let me say that I enjoy sarcasm, but I don’t enjoy horses or gardens. Horses and gardens are large and lumpy, and you have to go outside to appreciate them I don’t go outside until the sun’s set, that’s the way I am. It’s my responsibility to say No in a world that says Yes to every lame idea that comes down the pike. It’s my destiny and my joy to tear down without building up.

But to make you feel better (I feel fine), let me share with you a few of the things I actually like about the modern world.

I like strong beer. I like animated cartoons — not those Oscar-winning political allegories from Hungary, but real cartoons with fuzzy animals trying to kill each other in cute ways. I like electric typewriters and answering machines; I like any machine I can turn off. I like the novels by Elmore Leonard and Thomas Pynchon. I like good sex if it doesn’t last too long. I enjoy playing video games with other people’s quarters. Like most Americans, I enjoy being afraid of Cuba. It’s a harmless fear that makes America feel better and Cuba too. Cuba gets an inflated sense of national worth from the weight of our paranoia. I like getting large checks in the mail, especially if I’ve done nothing to earn them. I like the aroma of popcorn and women who like to hear me talk. I like to laugh at dogs. I like to call toll-free numbers and chat with the operators. I like phones that ring instead of chirp, clocks that have a face, Audie Murphy westerns, duck à l’orange and onion rings, old movies on television, and every tenth video on MTV.

Reggae music, Motown, and the songs of Randy Newman are an undiluted pleasure. I like the way rock singers pronounce the word baby — Bay-Buh. Bay-Buh. It never fails to amuse me. These are a few of my favorite things — about all of my favorite things. Make me feel real loose like a long necked goose and — o-oh bay buh — that’s what I like.

        — Reading my mail, 1/28/83

Ian Shoales: Doonesbury


I discovered Ian Shoales at a moment potentially dangerous for my own comic voice: I was writing a lot for an unread leftist student newspaper with delusions of grandeur (the newspaper, and myself) and I had a lot of space to fill. For my final semester as an undergraduate I even had the editorship of the humor section to myself and almost nobody submitting articles, which is what we called content back then, when the Internet was barely started. I could try imitating his style.

I couldn’t do it for more than a paragraph at a time, which shows that he was a professional humorist who’d been honing the character for years while I was a 21-year-old who thought he had to vent society’s frustration with the student government. That’s all right; I had space to fill a lot of paragraphs, and could experiment.

My voice recovered, although I’ve noticed how much it’s been mutating now that I’m trying to do a couple hundred words a day and seven to eight hundred words a week. Still, I was inevitably thrilled when an essay like this suggested Ian Shoales was interested in the same kinds of things I was interested in.


Doonesbury

My big gripe with the world today is there’s too much information about the world, and not enough information about me. News is fine — don’t get me wrong — I want to know how much makeup President Reagan wore on Death Valley Days as much as the next American. I like to lie back of an evening and try to figure out just what word that rhymes with rich Mrs Bush meant. Paying attention to the news makes me feel like a citizen, all right, but it’s not going to make me any money. The only way to make money from the news is to be part of it.

I want to be quoted in the headlines. I want my picture on the front page. I want tobe photographed by contest winners as I walk briskly from my limo to my private jet. I want to be surrounded by stern-looking men with reflector shades and snub-nosed Israeli machine guns hidden under their three-piece suits. I want to pick out reporters with a firm jab of the finger and give hard answers to hard questions. I want to tie up traffic for a twenty-mile radius, for no good reason.

No, I don’t want to be President, or even a Presidential hopeful. I just want to be a media figure. I just want to talk to the press. And I’m ready.

Ian Shoales as news. It’s an exciting new concept, but it’s a bandwagon nobody seems willing to jump on. I’m used to being ignored, but the straw that broke the camel’s back, me being the camel, was the return of Doonesbury. Why the return of Doonesbury was news, I don’t now. I have to admit I didn’t feel even the vaguest sense of loss when Doonesbury left, and I can’t really say my life is fuller now that it’s back, but I can say I’m mighty disappointed that Garry Trudeau missed the boat. He could have included me in the Doonesbury pantheon of characters.

He did it with Hunter Thompson, why not doing it for me? I already look like everybody else in Doonesbury — painfully thin, dark circles under the eyes, slightly stoop-shouldered. I realize my acid tongue might make mincemeat of his other characters, but I think he could capture the essential me if he really tried — my great sorrows, my vast rages, my sage opinions, the laughter, the tears. Well, he wouldn’t have to worry about the tears. I haven’t cried since Old Yeller died.

Better act fast, Garry. I’ve got other fish on the line. I’ve already offered to be a hydrophobic dog for Garfield, a corrupt purchase officer for Beetle Bailey, a real Viking to show Hägär the Horrible how it’s done (you know, the kind of Viking who drinks mead from human skulls); I’ve offered to be Doonesbury for Bloom County, I’ve offered to marry Fritzi Ritz, or be Mr Goodbar for Cathy. Gimme a break, Garry, I wanna be newsworthy. If you don’t help me out, I might have to run for public office or even worse, go to work for a living. Call my agent soonest. My image is available, for sale or rent.

        — Reading the paper, 10/25/84

Ian Shoales: Temp Work


Ian Shoales, as I said in introducing this week, was the creation of Merle Kessler, and he’s a great character: sneering and cranky without, at least for me, losing his likability, even if I probably wouldn’t want to spend too much time with him. Kessler developed Shoales’s persona with a biography full of the frustrated ambitions that sound right for someone aiming to be a creative success and carrying on even though the lottery of fame doesn’t pay out much. Shoales’s life is marked with failed relationships and annoyed bosses and indignities petty and grand. I don’t know whether Kessler, or anyone he knew, ever was sued for libel by his high school principal, but it’s the kind of thing I find easy to imagine happening to someone like him, and to see it mentioned as an aside in an essay on, oh, say, Elvis Presley has an electrifying effect that I didn’t realize I wasn’t getting from Dave Barry or old Bob Newhart records (much as I cherished them).

Here, from 1984, is one of these partly biographically-informed essays by Ian Shoales. I can believe that what he describes in the first paragraph really happened, if not to Kessler then to someone. While it’s all quite funny, to me anyway, it’s also all fairly good advice if you’re hoping to make it as an artist. If I ever give it a try I’ll take this advice.


Temp Work

Along the way to my present success I’ve had to work for a living, usually at “temp work”, as it’s called in professional circles. I have moved furniture, filed, typed, answered phones, and I probably have the world’s record for getting fired. This is because I’d show up at work unshaven, wearing sunglasses, and not wearing socks. I figured, “I’m not an executive, who’s gonna care?” Well, after my third temp job in a week, I finally took Mom’s long-distance advice, and got a beige seersucker three-piece for five bucks at Goodwill. It fit me like a glove, and I wore it to my next temp job. But when the permanent employees saw me approach the water cooler, they all scattered. Nobody would come near me. Finally a little bald guy worked up the courage to ask me who I was. He had me pegged as some corporate honcho checking up on worker efficiency, I guess, because when I told him I was a temp worker, a look of relief passed over his face. Then he replaced that look with one of utter disregard. By noon, all employee fear of me had vanished. So the next day my suit vanished to be replaced by blue jeans, and the next day my job vanished to be replaced by poverty.

But if you’re an artist of any kind, it means you’re going to have to get the kind of job you get till you get to do what you want to do. So let me give you some advice about the temp-worker scene.

  • Never drink beer at your desk. Supervisors don’t like it.
  • Permanent employees probably won’t appreciate your Joe Cocker impression.
  • If you’re moving furniture, don’t move a desk if somebody’s sitting at it.
  • Never call corporate executives by their first name, or ask them if they want to play a couple of holes on Saturday.
  • Don’t try to find Pac Man on the personal computer unless you’re invited by your supervisor.
  • Never ask the supervisor for a date.
  • If you’re answering the company phone, say, “Hello,” not, “Yeah, what do ya want?”
  • I know temp work can get dull, but never rearrange the filing system without permission.
  • Don’t rewrite business letters in blank verse.
  • If you’re supposed to show up at work on Tuesday don’t come in on Wednesday.

I know this is basic stuff, but don’t draw faces with white-out on the desk; don’t make jewelry out of the paper clips; don’t compose melodies on the Touch-Tone phone; don’t ask to borrow the Selectric overnight — remember always, you’re just a ghost in the working world.

Somebody will eventually publish the 1,500-page rock-and-roll novel gathering dust in your sock drawer. Your ship will come in, and then you’ll have temps of your own. And they better not call you by your first name.

         — Not rich, 1/15/84.

Ian Shoales: The Perfect City


In the overnight hours of the 1990s there was a news broadcast called World News Now. There still is. Back then, they had regular appearances from a commenter, Ian Shoales. He was, as one of the anchors put it, an “amphetamined prince of darkness”, reading wordy comic essays at rapid-fire speed and signing off with, “I gotta go.” And so I encountered his writing at just the right moment for it to hit me, deeply. For a while I tried imitating his voice in my own comic writing, which resulted in my learning that whatever my natural comic voice was, it wasn’t very much like Ian Shoales’s.

Ian Shoales was, and I suppose still is, a character created by Merle Kessler, one of the Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater troupe, a comedy band you maybe remember from either Nickelodeon’s mock-talk-show Out Of Control or MTV’s Randee of the Redwoods, or possibly from the Ask Doctor Science radio/web feature. Obviously, I’m a fan; I also realize I’m learning still from his writing.

I’d like more people to be aware of his writing, though, and I’m somehow feeling a little too lazy just to look up what YouTube videos there must be of his World News Now appearances. So I’m making this a little Ian Shoales week, with essays from I Gotta Go, his 1985 collection. My copy is signed by Merle Kessler. I got it from the library’s used-book-store section.

For the first piece, let me offer “The Perfect City”, which I think gives a fine idea of his character’s cranky yet appealing personality.

Later in the decade Kessler would publish Ian Shoales’s Perfect World, a novel, which is only loosely connected to what’s described in this piece. It’s also kind of a weird book, although I haven’t had a copy to read in long enough that I can’t swear that reading it is necessarily a good idea.


The Perfect City

If this were a perfect world we’d have at least one perfect city. The perfect city would look a bit like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, without the worker problems and without the electronic music. In the perfect city, big-band jazz would be broadcast nightly on the streets, which would be paved with bricks and lined with elm and maple trees.

The only dogs allowed would be African basenjis, which cannot bark and would be trained to curb themselves. All cars would float on silent cushions of air. All the cops would ride horses. There are no pigeons and no statues.

In the perfect city, automatic tellers would spew cash at random every half hour or so, the concerts would all be free, all be reggae music, and never be crowded. Drinks are half price, and it is always early autumn in the perfect city.

In the perfect city, Woody Allen would be funny again, Steven Spielberg would take a vacation, and there would be a Kurosawa festival once a month. Westerns would make a comeback, and theater seats would be six bucks tops. Critics would be wise, enthusiastic, and fair, and so with the artists of the city. No art after 1900 would be displayed in the museums. Admission to museums would be free, and large groups of children would stay well away until I had left the building.

I would never be put on hold in the perfect city.

In the perfect city, all parties would be “by invitation only”, and guests would receive cash prizes when they went through the door. I would be invited to all these parties, and no matter how rude I became, I would never be asked to leave.

In the perfect city there would be a twenty-four-hour French restaurant but all the entreés would be under five bucks. The waiters would be named Mac and the waitresses would all call you Honey.

In the perfect city, clothing would be well cut, sharp, swell, and inexpensive. People would roam the streets in formal evening wear. In the perfect city, I would have a nickname like “Spats” or “Captain Danger”. Every newsboy, flower seller, and cabbie would know my name; even the muggers would know my name. The mayor would call me for advice, my quips would be legendary in the society columns, the library would be well stocked, and super heroes and heroines would drift lazily among the skyscraper peaks, seeking out wrongdoers everywhere.

The shower in my apartment would be hot and powerful, and all my neighbors would work nights. Women would laugh at my jokes, and men wouldn’t tell them. Guitars would stay in tune. I would have many friends, and they would not ask me for money. They would all have jobs, and their jobs would be good. I would have my own news program, in which I would bring bad news to the perfect city, but nobody would mind, because everybody would know I had a bad attitude anyway.

Women would stay with me longer than two months, or if they left they’d at least leave their record collections, which would include all recordings by the Ramones. And they’d leave me a record player. And some money.

All transportation is free, including tickets out of town. And down those mean streets a man would go, who was not himself afraid, and that would be me, the oldest pro on the block. Ian “Captain Danger” Shoales. In the perfect city.

        — Watching the pigeons, 10/15/84.

Remember This! Also: How To


Whenever I get asked about what future trends I see I first suppress that sense of indignation whoever it was took so long to ask. I’ve had my answer ready for ages and was getting worried nobody was ever going to ask. I’m as good a trendspotter as any of the people getting on the trendspotting bandwagon. It’s a terrible burden having a clear picture of society’s future.

One trend I see going on is there’s going to be ever-more stuff to try to remember. Pop culture alone is expanding so fast we’re barely able to keep it updated on TV Tropes, and every thing in pop culture carries with it extra burdens of information-like constructs: not only the thing itself, but also stuff about how it was made, and what it’s referring to, and how it’s not as good as this other thing someone else made, and how it is too and if it isn’t how come you don’t make it yourself, and then how this sets off a highly entertaining flame war, and whose fault it is, and whose fault it isn’t, and who’s writing the fairest accounting of how the flame war happens, and how they do not, and why they couldn’t possibly even if they tried.

If it’s done properly just understanding a sketch of an apple someone left on the coffee table can require collating more information than writing a book about the Thirty Years War would. And even if you can keep all that new stuff straight, you’re stuck remembering the old stuff too. If pressed and facing a busy day way too early in the morning could you remember the full name of Snoop Doggy Dogg? Undoubtedly, but then how would you be on remembering what humorist I grabbed that joke from? See? I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t recognize it either.

The second trend is that we’re always going to impress people by doing stuff without the tools that make it easy and painless. Nobody cares about a person who can cut a board in half by using a sharp, well-maintained saw blade, but show around someone who can cut a board in half without even having a board and you can get a paying crowd. So if you can remember stuff without the Internet gadgets that do the remembering for you then you’re going to win acclaim for your impressive abilities in the trivia-stuffed world of tomorrow after about 6:45 pm.

So the problem is how to do this, given that there’s too much stuff to remember and there’s really no learning it, because we don’t have the attention spans long enough anymore to even get a decent earworm stuck in our heads. And this is where mnemonic devices come in handy. The best of them combine two points into one so after learning one you feel like you know at least twice as many things as you actually do. For example, George Washington was born in 1732, and he weighed 173.2 pounds. Just from reading that I know it’s going to pop into your head at some perfectly inappropriate time in the trivia-stuffed world of tomorrow, like maybe at about 5:25 pm. The links don’t even have to make any kind of thematic sense: once you’ve heard that there are both 82 constellations in the sky and 82 counties in Ohio you will never be able to fully forget either point, even though you have no responsibility for the constellations in the sky and even though you’ll never need to know how many counties there are in Ohio unless you have a job setting out chairs for the Ohio County Commissioners Annual Lunch, and you could just count RSVPs for that.

The effectiveness of these mnemonic devices are all the more impressive when you consider George Washington was actually born in 1731, at least at the time. I don’t even know that he ever weighed 173.2, or maybe 173.1, pounds, although I guess it’s possible. I mean, he was a big guy, and had the money to eat well enough when he wasn’t bunking down for the winter with hundreds of starved Continental soldiers in upstate New Jersey, but I dunno what he weighed. I’m comfortable with something in the 173 range, but I wouldn’t rule out 178.9 or even 179.9. And as for the counties in the sky, oh, no, there’s nothing like 82 counties in Ohio. You could remember that easily by recalling that 86 is number slang for “something negative or otherwise disparaging or something or other”, and there aren’t 86 constellations in Ohio either. Memorable, isn’t it?

I had some idea about what to do with defective mnemonic devices but I forgot to write it down. Sorry. Maybe someone out there has an idea? Please write in before about 6:30.