- Floriemel, Carmela, and Margarita Coati. Cohanzick Zoo, Bridgeton, NJ. February 1. The animals come out and eat fruit to predict how many human-interest features will explain what the heck coatis are. They’re what Belize has instead of raccoons.
- Punxsutawney Phil, Punxsutawney, Totally Oughta Be Philadelphia. February 2. Groundhog famous for predicting whether we’ll get the place spelled right.
- Woody the Woodchuck, Howell, Michigan. February 2. Predicts whether spring will come to the lower peninsula in six weeks or whether spring will be like normal and arrive sometime late May. No forecast for the upper peninsula as spring has never come to the upper peninsula.
- Shrieking Sam the Shreveport Clam, Louisiana. February 4. Will holler up a storm about whether a storm is coming in. Does not count own hollering storm as a storm.
- Jormungandr, Low Earth Orbit. February 5. Rises early in the morning to determine whether this will be the year he eats Scandinavia. Spoiler: hasn’t for the last 876 years, starting to think he never will. Dress warmly anyway.
- Chris Squirrel, London. February 7. Adorable fluffy-tailed character in a computer-animated funny-animal movie about the Yes bassist. Forecasts whether the coming year will feature lasers.
- Kenny Kangaroo, Pittsburgh, February 8. Forecasts whether the Kennywood amusement park would close for the day at 8:00 or 9:00, if it were open in the middle of winter like this. Mostly a public-relations thing, unlike the other weather-forecasting animals.
- Carl, Des Moines, Washington, February 10. Oversleeping groundhog that makes us wonder why we need a Des Moines in Washington when the one in Iowa would seem to sate all our Des Moines needs, really. Forecasts whether eastern Washington state will have a quarter-inch of rain this year or whether it’ll stay dry.
I mentioned last week Noah’s Lark, one of the Fleischer Talkartoon series. This one didn’t feature Betty Boop, or even Boop-related characters like Bimbo or Koko the Clown. It’s a stand-alone in a series created to be sound cartoons. Let me share it with you.
The cartoon’s primitive, stylistically. The cartoon is in black-and-white, without grey shades, the way the Fleischers’ silent cartoons would be done. The synchronization of sound is shaky. For much of their 1930s work the Fleischers recorded sound after animating the cartoon. In the Popeye series particularly this encouraged the voice actors to mumble improvisations around the plot. Apparently this early on the voice actors didn’t feel confident enough to do that.
The way the cartoon diverts from jokes about Noah’s Ark at sea over to an amusement park may seem baffling. I suspect it would have been less confusing to audiences when it was released, the 25th of October, 1929. Noah’s Arks would have been familiar to audiences as one of that decade’s popular amusement park attractions. These were built as rocking wooden ark structures. Patrons walk through a series of dark-ride stunts, like shaking floorboards or moving-prop animals and pirates attacking, flimsy-looking paths over lava pits, that sort of thing. You can see how spooky haunted-house attractions and the tale of Noah’s Ark go together to … well, I don’t know why it worked. But it did, and they were popular in the 1920s.
Sadly the only Noah’s Ark that I’m aware of still existing is the one at Kennywood, in Pittsburgh. It’s worth the visit. That was originally built in 1936 and might be the last one ever built. I don’t see why; the ride idea is weird but reliable enough. The cartoon possibly referencing it is similarly weird but reliable.
4:52 am. Passengers assemble at the East Lansing Train Station. Passengers will be screened for having gotten more than three hours of fitful, oft-interrupted sleep the night before. Those which have will be assigned a 25-page term paper on the subject of late 19th Century United States presidents and their understanding of how the emerging science of thermodynamics affects railroad painting, worth forty percent of the class, no makeups.
5:18 am. Passengers board the train to East East Lansing where the train service stops and they all get aboard a bus to take them to Toledo, arriving somehow at 3:12 am that same morning, only crankier. Through the bus trip the TV screens will be playing Something, Probably A Romantic Comedy Or Something, with the lower half of the screen glitched out and the audio just loud enough to hear the helicopters and explosions but not the dialogue. Three stars.
7:30 am. Bus arrives in Toledo to transfer to the train station, but immediately gets lost because the driver attempts foolishly to follow “Route 2”, a highway of legendary and purely notional existence.
2:18 pm. The Ohio Coast Guard retrieves the bus from Lake Erie shortly before the desperately paddling passengers manage to cross the border into Ontario and thus provoke an international incident as many of them failed to bring adequate supplies of Canadian currency and someone is trying to pass off a FunZone Game Token as money.
10:40 pm. The Ohio Coast Guard finally gets the bus paddled to shore and after hiring sherpas brings the bus to the train station, whence the train zooms towards Pittsburgh, stopping only after fourteen minutes in order that a freight train with higher priority can be constructed and loaded with freight, a cargo consisting of passenger train cars headed the other direction. On-train Internet WiFi service is reduced from “sluggish” to “laughable”.
Day 2. 2:15 am. The train arrives in Pittsburgh and is immediately taken out over the Monongahela River and dangled by its couplers or whatever they have until every passenger has been subject to a review of the stuff left in the backseat of his or her car to be cleaned out “later, when it’s convenient”. The winner is the one who has the most obviously later-inconvenient item, with bonus points awarded if it is some kind of mould for the fabrication of solid metal objects.
3:20 am. The train just sits outside the Kennywood Amusement Park for a couple of hours to make everyone feel bad that they’re at an amusement park and they can’t go in, plus everything’s closed up. A conductor goes around reminding people they have 23 and a half pages to go and have barely thought about paint.
6:75 am. The train discharges its passengers that they may catch their connecting service, at the far end of the railway terminal in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, or maybe Charleston, West Virginia. Check signs for details.
8:26 am. Connecting service on the line to New York City departs wherever, with the conductor reminding people they have 22 and three-quarters pages and the font may not be larger than fourteen point. New sound-dampening cushions allow most of the ride to be soft and quiet except for the guy ranting about you’re not sure what except it’s definitely political and somehow it gets into what you do for your career and he gets that so wrong it’s hard to resist answering.
9:14 am. Thorough investigation of the train establishes that nobody is actually producing the rant. Clearly the problem is a quarrelsome ghost of annoying conversations gone by. Internet service upgrades to “pages load, but only the banner ads and that swirling dot pattern web sites started doing like two years ago in place of showing stuff”.
11:57 am. Start of a four-hour delay so we can sit by the side of a large pile of rocks. Inspires several passengers to include a section about presidential rocks, which falls apart when nobody can remember the name of Gustav … uh … Mount Rushmore Guy without the Internet.
6:12 pm. End of the four-hour delay.
8:55 pm. Train approaches Hoboken, pauses so that passengers can be dangled sideways until the blood rushes to their wrists.
10:10 pm. Arrival, Penn Station, New York City. Technically, legally part of New Jersey because of the lease NJ Transit has on that platform. We are given extensions on the paper.
So, now, some numbers for November. I hadn’t been watching them so obsessively in the middle of the month and obviously that shows, since my total views dropped to 357 (down from 370), when if I’d known this back around the 20th I might have got out back and pushed. On the other hand the number of unique visitors went from 179 up to 188, my third-highest on record, so that’s something. Mostly it’s a decrease in views per visitor, 2.07 down to 1.90.
The countries sending me the most readers the past month were, again, the United States and United Kindgom, but Australia popped in out of nowhere. A single reader each came from Austria, Denmark, Malaysia, New Zealand, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey. This is a pretty impressive increase in single-visitor countries from last time, when France was the sole lone reader.
My most popular bits from the past month were:
- Comic Strips: Math and Michigan, including my discussion of why I thought a Pearls Before Swine didn’t work (and some folks have been following up with their own thoughts).
- Five Astounding Facts About Turbo, That Movie About A Snail In The Indianapolis 500, which is probably going to be the most popular thing I wrote in my life at this rate. (I don’t mind. At least I have a most popular thing)
- Sticking In The Head, about earworms and their endangered future.
- S J Perlman’s Captain Future, Block That Kick! which I can’t begrudge him for because he really wrote an outstanding piece and that’s a forerunner to every blog that makes fun of pop cultural detritus today.
- Dream Job At Kennywood, or at least the dream job my mind worked up. I think it means something, but what?
Not quite making the top five was Also, Heidegger Was A Shingle Weaver, but I’m including a gratuitous link to that because I really liked it.
Lastly, since the comic strip Working Daze has been continuing its mock history on Sundays let me link to the November 24th strip, and the first time I think one of their past cartoonists didn’t end up dying and miserable, and the December 1st strip, which has one who did.
It’s a touch belated but I wanted to thank the Kennywood amusement park of my dream world for hiring me as a special investigator, and I appreciate their putting me up in their hotel while I solved the mystery of whether their rivals next door were putting in a new roller coaster. It’s a mystery to me, though, why you even needed me to work for you, since anyone could see they were putting up a roller coaster by looking out the windows at the end of the hotel corridors, where you could see the towers of the new coaster going in place.
While I’m at it, though, and I don’t mean to seem ungrateful for this position that existed while I stayed in rem sleep, I don’t see why it was necessary for me to check into a hotel room, leave my suitcases there so as to look like I was still occupying the place, and then move on to sleep in such lounges or floor kitchenettes as the other wings of the hotel had. Really, a room at all wasn’t necessary because you could see the roller coaster towers even as you were driving in to Kennywood. Again, I don’t understand why I needed to be a part of this.
Anyway, it was a fun job while it lasted and they totally should have a hotel that exists in reality unless they had to remove rides or parking spaces to make room for it. The place was very comfortable except for my sleeping on the floor in a kitchenette for whatever reason. I don’t understand the job, I’m just glad to have had it. But it all seems a touch absurd to me.