- Uhm … Tron scarecrow?
- Tron witch?
- Mouse, but from Tron?
- What about, like, black cat, only with like Tron markings?
- Sullenly furious Tron teacup?
- Tron scarecrow? No, wait. Scratch that.
- Baseball player.
- Public-domain version of something from Game of Thrones only maybe like Tron would do it?
- Kangaroo but maybe like in Tron would make them?
- Baseball kangaroo witch?
- From Tron?
- You can buy a costume of a ‘mustard squeeze bottle’ that’s just a yellow tube with a cone on top like those contestants on Let’s Make A Deal who aren’t even trying? The heck?
Way, way back in the day Barney Google and Snuffy Smith was a story comic. It was always funny or trying to be, but it was also doing a storyline. Comics Kingdom is reprinting strips from that time. In like 1940 or so Snuffy Smith got drafted and the strips since then have put him in a bunch of goofing-around-the-Army-camp stories. In the current one Barney Google, stationed in Australia, sent a kangaroo over to his friend. Snuffy used it first to set up boxing matches that turned into some pretty solid comedy, with the poor human begging outwitted handily by the kangaroo. And now as of September 1942 Snuffy Smith is using the kangaroo to pass messages along for money. And now we get to this comic:
And I guess I’m just stuck thinking, when this was published the Battle of Stalingrad was barely through its first month. US Marines were trying (unsuccessfully) to pass the Matanikau River on Guadalcanal. Four Royal Air Force bombers sent to Oslo on a civilian-morale-building raid failed to destroy the Gestapo headquarters but did kill something like eighty civilians, and lose one of the bombers in the process. The British destroyer Somali finally sunk in the Greenland Sea four days after being damaged by German submarine U-255. Four ships of Allied convoy QP 14 had just been sunk by U-435. Japanese forces landed on the Gilbert Island of Maiana. And the British destroyer Veteran and the United States Liberty ship Stephen Hopkins were days away from being sunk. And … Snuffy Smith’s kangaroo was dancing. And I feel like this is utterly mad and then I think, well, what am I doing, and why that? I think what I’m saying is I don’t want to feel like I need a hug just because a kangaroo’s dancing to swing music.
I know it’s been a rough … year … so let’s take a moment to relax. Here’s “Beauty And The Beast”, by Henry Kuttner, cover story for the April 1940 Thrilling Wonder Stories and it’s about a Venusian giant kangaroo-dinosaur monster that accidentally crashes his way through Washington, DC along the way to destroying the world although it’s not his fault. Um. Well, all right, how about this totally different story from the July 1940 Thrilling Wonder Stories about a gigantic reptilian monster that melts the ice caps and crashes through the New York harborfront and everybody acts like he’s the jerk?
Science fiction: the literature of pleasant escapism.
Do you remember the 1997 action-fantasy movie Warriors of Virtue? No, no you do not. Let me help you out: it’s about a kid meeting up with a bunch of kangaroo warriors who use the martial arts of the Mystic East to defeat a bad guy. No, you’re thinking of Tank Girl. This one you didn’t see. Neither did I. Anyway for some fool reason I read its Wikipedia entry, and learned it had a sequel, somehow. In it, the kid meets up the martial arts warriors again, only they’re not kangaroos anymore. Wikipedia suggests this was done to save money, which only makes sense as an explanation if money works at all the way everyone thinks it does.
Still, I am delighted by the idea of making a sequel to a movie about martial artist kangaroos without the kangaroos. It’s like making a sequel to Star Wars where instead of a bunch of humans and aliens tromping over the galaxy to blow up large spheres it’s all about a couple stoners wandering through Grand Rapids, Michigan, late on Labor Day and trying to find a bar that serves food. Or a sequel to Jaws where instead of a shark it’s just one bee. Not a swarm of killer bees or anything, just one ordinary old regular bee that doesn’t even know there’s people around. And it isn’t looking for revenge or anything. It just saw this awesome dance about the location of some clover and it missed a couple of the moves and it’s trying to make its best guess. And it’s got this whole beach-and-field-side community getting all tense over it. Or it’s like making a side-quel to Judgement at Nuremberg set across town, in a court dealing entirely with traffic citations. Spoiler: Rudolph Hess gets a summary judgement against him for failure to appear and fleeing the jurisdiction. Well, whatever it is, I’m delighted, though not enough to watch it.
Kangaroos. For this review I regard ‘Kangaroo’ as including all the variant models. Kangaroos, Wallabies, Potoroos, Wallaroos, Pottabies, Wottabies, Kangabies, plus any of the new 4th-generation-compatible variations to come out the last month. Doesn’t matter. They’re great all around. Fine body plan. Fur that can feel surprisingly like my sideburns when they get the most bushy and out of control. They anthropomorphize well by just adding a vest and maybe a pair of glasses. They’ve got everything under control. Rated A. The only thing keeping them from an A+ is the sloppy design job regarding the male genitalia. Granted that most mammals have design problems on this point. The only species that’s really got that handled with dignity are guinea pigs, the males of which keep their out-of-use private parts in safety deposit banks with an institution in Lima, Peru.
Koalas. Generally adorable, with great ears. But they have been coasting on past fame since the mid-80s. They’ve done nothing to freshen up the line to respond to the rise of fennecs for the status of “oh such adorable animals they look like plush toys only they’re alive!”. Nostalgia acts are fine but we should make way for new innovation. B.
Alpine Tasmanian button grass. Much-needed bit of flora with the sort of name we have the word “mellifluous” for. As plant life goes these are plants that live while not dead. Button grass looks like the hair of a minor Peanuts character with a name like “Leland”. Shows good imaginative use of the “long thin stuff with beady tops” motif. B+.
Platypus. You figure the platypus came about from someone hearing a jumbled description of a griffon and going wild with what they had. And that’s great. Some awesome stuff comes about from trying to follow a jumbled description. It’s how we got centaurs and Cincinnati chili and Chinese lion costumes and some other things that don’t start with ‘c’. All that’s fine and this blend has a nice self-assured weirdness to it. And then it sweats milk. That’s getting into strange-for-the-sake-of-strange territory. C+, would accept resubmission. Not of milk.
Wombats. Are real things? Huh. I thought they were made up so cartoons could do stories about Australian wildlife without getting into hassles from the real species over inaccurate depictions. You know, the way they make a movie about “Charles Foster Kane” instead of William Randolph Hearst, or a political TV show will do a story about going to war with a fake country, or people will vacation in “Florida”. OK, if they’re real then. C, get your brand identity under control. Next.
Octopus Stinkhorn. I just learned about this on Sunday thanks to Mark Trail and WHAT THE HECK, Australia. WHAT THE FLIPPING HECK? You know when we other continents talk about the problem of Australian species THIS is the sort of thing we’re talking about, right? We’re talking about spiders that have enough toxin in each of their fourteen venom sacs to knock unconscious 6.25 billion people and every raccoon in North America. We’re talking about snakes that spontaneously detonate with the force of a malfunctioning Saturn V rocket smashing into a xylophone Daffy Duck rigged with dynamite to make getting rid of Bugs Bunny “look like an accident”. And now we’re talking about octopus-tentacled corpse-smelling alien-egg fungus. REALLY? What is even WRONG with you? I mean, you give us a tree kangaroo, a kangaroo that literally lives in trees, and you follow that up with this? Stop, go back, redo this entire disaster from the start, and by redo I mean “never do anything even remotely inspired by anyone who has thought this a possible idea again”. This doesn’t even get a grade because we need to invent whole new letters to deal with how flipping WRONG EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS IS. I mean, just, I mean. The flipping heck? I mean. Just. UGH.
Microbats. Microbats! Australia’s got lots of microbat species and they’re exactly what you think, bats that are small. Everything great about bats only little. This could get us back on Australia’s side. Even the name of the grouping is so adorable we don’t worry about whether they’re flying into the nostrils of everyone in Canberra. Microbats! B+ and not just because we’re getting them right after alien egg octopus corpse fungus. Seriously, Australia.
Marsupial tigers. OK, so, they’re kind of dog-shaped, and they have kangaroo heads. They have pouches, males and females. They’ve got tiger stripes down their back and tail. Oh yeah, and they’ve been extinct since Joseph Lyons was the prime minister. Great job piddling away an easy win, Australia. Check the backs of your closet and anywhere else they might be hiding and you can re-submit for an A-. I just … honestly.
Editorial note. While reviewing Wikipedia’s entry on the flora of Australia I encountered this sentence. “The dominant Acacia species varies with the location, and may include lancewood, bendee, mulga, gidgee and brigalow.” The page is clearly still subject to rampant vandalism. Fix and re-submit.
- Surprisingly few Star Wars spoilers.
- Somebody painted a tunnel on the side of the wall and somebody drove a car into it.
- There’s this cute video of a kangaroo scratching a cat until the cat gets annoyed and leaves and then the kangaroo looks into the camera all confused about what went wrong there.
- I pulled out a reference to King Philip’s War once again to totally win an argument on TrekBBS about how come the 23rd and 24th-century Star Trek shows never mentioned anything that ever happened on Enterprise and now I’m just waiting for everyone to acknowledge that I won. That’s surely going to happen sometime in the week ahead.
I spent a considerable part of that dream trying to work out exactly which crazypants episode of Star Trek: Voyager it was. It was yet another episode where Tuvok comes down with temporary insanity. This time I’m pretty certain it was meant to teach an endearingly sincere but klunky message about toleration. It just did it in the form of Tuvok being caught in a quasi-hallucinatory state where he shifts between the starship and being maybe in the past, maybe shifting back to Actual Planet Vulcan where he’s gradually realizing he’s too enthusiastic about hunting down the packs of cyborg Vulcan kangaroos rampaging through the endless desert. I think the cyborg Vulcan kangaroos might have had antennas, which suggests they might be an invasive species, possibly from the Andorian worlds. No, they didn’t display any ice powers.
Anyway, the cinematography on this was just fantastic. I mean, this was clearly the episode of the year where they were trying, with a deliberate color design and on-location shooting with deep focus so you can do stunts like have the attention on some tiny thing in the distance and have someone walk in the near foreground, crisp and sharp. I think they might’ve been using 70mm film for some of it. So I’m a little disappointed I didn’t see how it all turned out, but I’m going to go ahead and suppose that Tuvok came to decide he didn’t want to be prejudiced, but rather wanted to come to hate people individually and for his own reasons, not those he picked up from society.
I think it was an episode from before Seven of Nine joined the show. I’m pretty sure they rescued Neelix from the cyborg Vulcan(?) kangaroo mob, unless it turns out that he only died in a hallucination or something like that. That’s to be expected I guess.
The magazine at the checkout counter showed off a woman with the headline, “She Lost 172 Pounds On The HAPPINESS DIET”. The idea’s caught my mind, certainly.
I picture the happiness diet consisting of sitting down to a sensible breakfast of cottage cheese and melba toast, because I formed my impression of dieting in 1978 and haven’t really advanced any since, and then checking a little journal to see whether one can have that giggle after all. At lunch, besides a half-sandwich of tuna on crumbly little unappealing diet bread and that awful substance sold as diet mayonnaise in 1983 that had the consistency of motor oil and tasted like vinegar and tinfoil, one reviews whether it’s probably safe to read what Letterman’s Top Ten List was last night. Finally for dinner one splurges by watching a supercut of Carl Sagan saying million, billion, trillion, or even quadrillion on Cosmos and letting its rhythms kind of amuse. At night, sprinkle a bit of trying to remember whether one read Herb and Jamaal today, and think about that good chortle being saved for the weekend, and maybe — if things are going well — about taking in a Sunday brunch of looking at pictures of rescued baby kangaroos in footy pajamas hopping around licking things, and let the pounds just melt away.
If I’m wrong about this in any particular I don’t want to know.
And you know, what the heck, let’s keep going with the Terry Toons cartoons. Here’s one that brings together Farmer Al Falfa and the other silent or near-silent star, Kiko the Kangaroo, and what’s probably as close to an origin story as Kiko can get. It’s a fairly strongly plotted cartoon for the era, and I am curious whether the people at Paul Terry’s studio knew they were introducing a kangaroo that’d be good for a number of cartoons. The Terry Toons wiki, which of course exists, says Terry Toons introduced the cartoon after drawing inspiration from Mickey’s Kangaroo, a success over at Disney. Apparently only ten Kiko cartoons were made, over the course of two years, and she doesn’t seem to have been adapted into TV shows or comic books, but was merchandised for a while.
If all that isn’t fascinating enough, below should be an embedding of the same cartoon only converted at the wrong speed, allowing you to run an experiment regarding just how the timing of a joke affects the comic value of it.
To continue poking the depths of Terrytoons and their not-necessarily-forgotten characters, here’s a curious 1936 entry starring Kiko the Kangaroo, On The Scent. Unfortunately the only video I can find of it is this experiment in converting a projected film to YouTube, so it’s only got the sound of the projector rattling as its audio (I admit that sound gives me a warm nostalgic feel), and I’m pretty sure the film is being run at about half the correct speed, which is just crushing to the pacing. Be sympathetic; you too might someday be a kangaroo taunted by skunks on a blimp gliding to the North Pole.
Still, it’s the only cartoon I’m aware of that’s explicitly set (at the opening) in Lakehurst, New Jersey. This seems like a weirdly specifically unnecessary detail until you remember (or learn) that Lakehurst was where the United States Navy set up its main facilities for handling airships in that roughly fifteen years between deciding that airships were an interesting idea worth exploring and concluding that the problem with airships is they keep crashing in huge, hugely public catastrophes. Doing a blimp cartoon and starting it in Lakehurst would be much like doing a space cartoon and starting the action in Cape Canaveral.
I feel the need to point out that an airship expedition to the North Pole was seriously considered in the 1920s and 1930s. I would imagine that talk of that partly inspired the cartoon, but I don’t know that. The Navy’s airship expedition never got particularly close to being launched, which is probably for the best; I can’t imagine the project not ending in tragedy.
The plot puts me in mind of Georges Méliès’s 1912 The Conquest of the Pole, his last important film before his film studio’s bankruptcy. That’s not so short a film — it’s about a half-hour long — but it’s got much of the charm of going on a fantastic voyage as A Voyage To The Moon combined with a mass of incidental extra parties and nationalist and political jokes current to a century ago. On The Scent is a lesser cartoon, sure, but it does feature the title card “Those cats made a lobster out of me!”, which is just where you expect a cartoon about a kangaroo taking an airship out of Lakehurst to go. Enjoy!
The polling place was fairly quiet, because it turns out locally there were three races being held, and they were only able to find two candidates. To make it feel a little more like things were exciting they added a couple of ballot questions, reprinted here:
- How was trick-or-treating at your house?
- Like nobody came, what’s the problem here?
- Last year there were like two kids, this year about seven thousand, what’s going on?
- I’m still getting ready for Orthodox Halloween next week.
- I think I’m the last person alive who still likes eating Heath bars.
- That Toronto mayor with the crack video:
- Yeah, sheesh, what’s with him?
- It’s some kind of performance art.
- I didn’t even know they had crack in Canada.
- Bill De Blasio?
- Did you get robo-called yet today?
- You’re robo-calling me right now.
- I set my phone on fire so you’d stop calling me.
- I’m the one shrieking at you to stop robo-calling me already.
- I have a kangaroo to listen to stuff on my phone.
The election’s tomorrow. Most folks in the United States are having an off-year election in which even the poll workers don’t remember what offices are being voted on or why they need to be there (it’s just nice to get together with other folks and share powdered doughnuts while squinting at people’s recorded signatures, is the best guess), but here in Lansing we’ve got a violently fought city council election going. The mayor’s office is pretty secure. Virg Bernero has a lead of like 140 points going into the final weekend, since he’s kept pretty much all his important campaign promises: he swore last time that the city would not fall prey to semi-feral gangs of genetically-engineered kangaroo super-soliders terrorizing the populace, and indeed, it hasn’t. Most of them are working as school crossing guards or as patient-advocates at the hospital. And there’s signs of good urban development too, such as the hipster part of town being able to support Portlandia-esque comically unsustainable “general goods” shops. Plus the band Walk The Moon played here last winter without seeming out of place.
So Bernero’s turned to trying to beat the point spread and working on city council candidates, which involves sending us over eighteen flyers per day and relentlessly robo-calling to warn us against a guy named Jeffries. Jeffries actually quit the race back in August, citing a need to spend more time with his family and not get picked on till he cried, but Bernero’s supporters wrote him back in on the ballot so they could keep on campaigning against him. Bernero’s also calling in support of someone who won a silver medal in hurdling in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and won a something in the Pan-American Games too. I can’t tell you much more about her, but I’m almost sure she was able to get tickets to the Goodwill Games.
It’s been getting pretty intense. Not only have they been having a robot call us as often as every five minutes but last weekend they sent a robot over to pick up the phone and answer. I hope they come take it after the voting is over; I don’t want to have to deal with this too.
Often it’s hard to get started; I know I barely manage to start anything for the first time, myself. Often it’s going to require a jump start. The easiest way to get a jump start is to have a kangaroo do the jumping, as they’re experts in jumping and, in the cartoons, looking really dashing while wearing vests and maybe a pair of glasses. Of course, it’s hard to find kangaroos outside Australia this time of year, as they’re busy registering for fall classes. Thus we can return to the cartoons and rely on mice. Mice are smaller than kangaroos, according to most of my references, so they’re going to need to practice jumping over smaller things and work their way up. So you’ll need to explain to the mouse you have doing your jumping for you, that he or she will have to start by jumping over a squirrel. If challenged, point out that it would be reasonably easy for a kangaroo to jump over a lazy fox, and just as a mouse is smaller than a kangaroo, so a squirrel is smaller than a fox, and then show the mouse that the card in its hand was the eight of diamonds.
- The Western Middling Light Grey (not particularly dangerous in itself, but it smells so very much like a fried clam dish from that stall in the mall food court that nobody, nobody, has ever been seen eating from as to be distracting)
- The Razor-Beaked Wallaby
- Gorndrak, the Marsupial-Spirit of Unproductive Workdays
- The Antilopine Gossiping Kangaroo (its passive-aggressiveness can drive people mad)
- Red Kangaroos Driving Without Their Prescription Eyeglasses
I always knew Australian wildlife was colorful, by which I mean far more crazily deadly than it has any business being. It’s a continent whose fauna includes snakes poisonous enough to stun South America, koalas that can shoot four-foot machete blades up to the length of four rugby fields away (except during time-outs), laser-guided dense-impactor bilbies, tree kangaroos with the explosive force of four tons of TNT, and neutron wallabies. What I didn’t realize is just how lively this makes the area. It turns out that until 1958, Tasmania was connected to the Australian mainland, but then something jolted a currawong and by the time the time the retaliatory fire was done there was this channel nearly 150 miles wide. That’s amazing.