- Triangle-base pyramids
- Whole spheres
- Saddle curves
- Vertical walls
- Great Stellated Dodecahedrons (unless you are serving a food that can be usefully jabbed on spikes, such as pancakes or lumps of cheese ripped out of a whole)
- Square-base pyramids
- Sierpiński sieves (that triangle-with-interior-triangles cut out thing, as while it’s a great shape it actually has no surface area, so it can only hold food by way of surface tension)
- Doughnut-shaped toruses (unless it is an edible container, like those soup-in-a-loaf meals, itself containing many small doughnuts within, in which case I would like to invest in your restaurant)
- The Great Rhombicosidodecahedron not because no food could be placed atop it but because when word gets out you have Great Rhombicosidodecahedrons in your restaurant the health department will begin an inquiry which will ultimately clear you but which will generate needless amounts of bad press in the meanwhile.
The holiday season is coming soon. It may even be here already in certain parts of the time zone. Here are some good ways to react.
Affix A Thing To Another Thing. This is a good one to learn because it is one of the fundamental units of crafting projects. Most anything you can see can be affixed to some other thing. You can start very simply, just by taking something you have and placing it atop something else. In more advanced classes you set something, such as a light cloth, between the things. This makes for fun activities like peeling up the cloth to see how much dust has got all over the things. In expert classes you can adhere things together using tape or acetylene torch welding or glue or sewing or strings. Graduate students in crafts learn to snip something off of another thing.
Make A Food Of Some Kind. This is a very good project because at the end of it you will have food or a good story about how food failed to exist. To do this you wil need:
- A recipe
- Some more bowls
- Indeed more bowls than you have ever imagined owning in your life
- Exotic utensils kept in the kitchen drawer you never use, things that look like wispy high-dimensional mathematical constructs that have something to do with string theory
- Bowls that you dimly remember from buried childhood memories of boring afternoons and grandmom’s that somehow emerge from the kitchen’s Scary Cabinet that you never open
- A box of plastic wrap on which the metal tooth blade has fallen halfway off and has gone to attack thumbs, fruits, the occasional kitchen tile, etc
- Two, maybe three more bowls
Take any of the ingredients and read the recipe. Then glance down and see that somehow all the bowls have gotten covered in a strange putty-like goo which tastes faintly of vanilla, cilantro, lemon, and sugar crystals. They will never all be successfully clean again.
- Get some more bowls
If you’re doing well this will attract the attention of some adorable cartoon animal such as a raccoon, who’ll try grabbing at some of your food. And you toss him out and he’s right back at the counter before you even get back to it yourself. And this escalates until you blow up your whole house using a pile of dynamite sticks the size of a roller coaster and the raccoon’s still there. He holds out an adorable little cookie as peace offering and when you start to accept it he eats it instead. Directed by Dick Lundy in pretty good pastiche of Tex Avery.
Decrate an Animal in Some Fashion. Your experience in affixing things to other things will help some here. At least it will if you want to do something like set a bow on a dog, such as setting a bow on a cat. But “decorate” suggests some broader ideas. For example, why not fling balls of paint at squirrels until they’re much more colorful? Because that won’t work. You’ll just get squirrels with even better reflexes. If you want to go this way take some drops of food dye and dab them on the heads of local mice. The mice will groom from their heads on down — they’re very careful about this — and rub the dye into all their fur. Then you can set the mice around your neighbors. When they come to you and say, “There’s a bunch of green and purple mice that moved into the neighborhood!” you can exhale a world-weary sigh and say, “I know.” Trust me, this will play as really funny if you keep a straight face.
Just Wrap Some Thing. See how your affixing practice comes in handy here? Take something you can use for wrapping, such as wrapping paper, or wrapping plastic, or wrapping blankets, or wrapping vinyl shingles, or wrapping polymer foams, you get the idea. Then take something you already have and paper it up until you can’t get at it anymore. This will show them, this will show them all. Place the wrapped thing under a thing, or on top of a thing, or hang it from something such as a tree, wall, or aggrieved squirrel in blue.
Arrange for a White Christmas. White Christmases are regarded as the sine qua non of Christmases. They’re among the top days to have be White, too. A White New Year’s Eve is a distant second in popularity. A White Fourth of July is regarded with suspicion at best. White Whistuntide is regarded as somebody trying a little to hard to be funny or maybe to filk Billy Joel. The most natural way to get a White Christmas is to appeal to the ice phoenixes by setting out bowls of warm miso for them. If that fails, you can try washing the paint off your animation cells. WARNING: Stop before erasing your ink.
If that doesn’t work, I don’t know. Maybe tweet out at companies until a customer service bot answers you.
My love and I got to thinking about Dustin Hoffman, as people will. We couldn’t think of what he might have been doing, acting-wise, ever since Sphere which came out in like … 1997? 1998? 1997 sounds plausible-ish. Let’s say that. We both are pretty sure we saw most of the movie, although in my case that’s just because there was this stretch from 2003 through 2006 when it was always on, at least up to the point where was that Samuel L Jackson stops reading 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.
Anyway, we were figuring that probably Hoffman isn’t still there, left on the set of Sphere, waiting to hear if there’s any more retakes to do or something like that. Wikipedia says he also did some voice acting for Kung Fu Panda and Kung Fu Panda 2, which both of which I think we saw, and The Tale Of Desperaux, which I know I saw because at one point in it a mouse fights a monster made of gourds and I didn’t make that up. Anyway, voice-acting you can do from anywhere so that doesn’t prove he isn’t still on the set of Sphere. So, does anyone know anyone who can check? Thanks kindly.
Some astounding facts about how it is later in time now than it ever was before:
- The network television debut of Star Trek (1966) is closer in time to the network television debut of Lost In Space (1965) than it is to today (2015).
- The end of the Thirty Years War (1648) is closer to us (2015) than is the start of the Thirty Years War (1618).
- There are no known living survivors, or spouses of survivors, of the Battle of Manzikert (1071).
- More than twelve whole generations of mice have been born, lived, and died of old age since the last installment of Charles Dickens’ The Mystery Of Edwin Drood was published (1870).
- At no point in the 21st Century has President Thomas Jefferson been alive.
- Though you may be loved today more than yesterday, and may expect to be loved more tomorrow, there is no reason to believe that the amount by which your belovedness increases between today and tomorrow is itself an increase on the amount by which your belovedness increased between yesterday and today.
- Between the founding (1922) and the abolition (1991) of the Soviet Union, World War II began (1939 or maybe 1937 or arguably 1931), was fought, and ended (1945 or 1947 or maybe early 1991).
- 2016 is to see the 25th anniversary of the 225th anniversary (1991) of the founding of Rutgers University (1766).
- November 1st is closer to November 5th than November 22nd is to November 30th.
- The television series Casablanca (1983) has been off the air more than twenty times as long as it was on the air. The same astounding property holds for the other television series Casablanca (1955-56).
We got a flyer offering to solve our mouse problem, and I think it’s gone and misfired in a couple ways. First, it starts by saying, “It’s cold outside. It’s warm in your house. The mice want in.” When you lay out the mice’s case like that, it’s hard to say they’re wrong. It’s one thing to be annoyed at mice if they’re up to mischievous purposes, sneaking in to place long-distance telephone calls or to hypnotize the dog, but if all they want is not to be cold, well, haven’t the mice got a point? We don’t even have a dog.
The next thing is they include a picture of an absolutely adorable mouse standing up and wearing a little Santa Claus hat. How could you turn away a mouse that just wants to be warm, but is so interested in impressing on you that she’s not a savage and is eager to participate in decorations for the holiday? Just look at the picture of the flyer, if I’m not too lazy to put it up. If I am too lazy then just imagine an absolutely adorable mouse sitting up and wearing a little Santa Claus hat.
If you told your co-workers that your house was infested with mice that put on little Santa hats they’d tell you how lucky you are to have such a precious breed of mouse prowling around. They’d be envious and people would come from miles around to see, like if you were one of those crazy houses that puts up enough lights to redirect commercial traffic, only with much less setup and take-down time needed since all you have to do is launder the mice’s caps, and that’s probably only a small load in the washing machine. And I’m not promising that the Santa-hat-wearing mice would sing adorably squeaky renditions of Christmas carols, but I think it’s plausible. Just ask.
That is, if you can find a mouse like this one, because I’m not actually sure that is a mouse. I can’t be too sure in saying that isn’t an actual domestic-type mouse of the kind that sneaks into your house and decorates and probably writes letters to Santa about you, because roughly forty percent of all the species in the world are labelled “mouse” or “rat” with some set of qualifiers, like the “grasshopper mouse” or the “lesser Wolfson’s braying mouse bat” or the “middling brown-spotted Scandinavian tactical assault mouse”, and it’s entirely possible this is one of those species. But it’s also entirely possible that some species of giraffe are identified as, oh, “long-necked tiled plains mouse” too, so all I’m getting at is that I’m not sure this is the kind of mouse you get trying to sneak into houses around here. I’m almost positive if giraffes were trying to sneak into houses I’d have noticed something, what with my bedroom being on the second floor, so I’d be able to look them in the eye.
I wanted to get that cleared up but it’s hard asking people about mice when you’re on the Internet since everybody you know will hear “mouse” and warn you that you’re going to get the hanta virus, which causes you to feel perfectly normal for up to three years after seeing or thinking about a mouse and then suddenly you explode and dissipate into a fine, peppermint-scented mist. I got warnings just for touching the picture of a mouse on the flyer, and one guy I know from Binghamton (he’s in Seattle now) came over to wrestle it out of my hand, until he realized that meant he had to touch it.
So I figured the best way to get the species of the adorable critter straightened out was to go to the mouse colony out in the garage, where we don’t mind them being at all, and ask them. Unfortunately they’re in a bit of a snit because most of them set up shop in the wood pile, and I took some in for a fire the other day. Don’t worry, we have a fireplace, and every winter we keep meaning to use it to build a lovely fire and then forget to do until it’s April, but we’re still early enough in the season we haven’t remembered to forget it yet. When I took some wood off their nesting spot they complained “This is totally bogus, man” and scurried off growling about how they’ve been paying rent. They’re still upset, so I can’t say much on that front except that apparently in the slang of garage mice it’s still maybe 1992 at the latest? Go figure.
Anyway, they didn’t seem to be dressing for the holiday.
Previously in Krazy Kat cartoon adaptations:
- Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse At The Circus, 1916 sometime.
- Krazy Kat in Love’s Labor Lost, January 30, 1920.
- Krazy Kat: The Stork Exchange, December 17, 1927.
- Krazy Kat in: Weenie Roast, September 14, 1931.
- Krazy Kat: Li’l Ainjil, March 19, 1936.
Don’t think I’m not extremely agitated at how the subject lines aren’t consistently formated.
I confess I don’t have a particularly strong historical reason for including this week’s example of Krazy Kat cartoons. This isn’t from a different studio or even a different run of cartoons from the earlier examples; it’s another Charles Mintz-produced cartoon, distributed by Columbia Pictures, and like nearly all the cartoons that preceded it any link to George Herriman’s comic strip is theoretical.
But I felt like it belonged anyway. The previous examples have been from the mid-1910s to the mid-1930s, an era showing animation being discovered as an art form. The cartoons were still experimental, sharing a certain vitality, but that also shows some crudity. The drawing wouldn’t be as refined or the animation as smooth as could be. Even sound was still learning the grammar of the animated cartoon.
So I’m putting “The Mouse Exterminator” out as a statement that, yeah, the Mintz studios got better. The cartoon looks and moves well: the animation is full, the backgrounds as lovely as anything you might expect in 1940, the camera moves with ease, and the story makes sense. The cartoons made for Columbia Studios have, it seems to me, been pretty well forgotten, surely the result of Columbia/Screen Gems not thinking much about them; but just because they’re forgotten doesn’t mean they couldn’t be competent.
But that competence … This cartoon’s theatrical release was the 26th of January, 1940. Fifteen days later MGM would release Puss Gets The Boot, later recognized as the start of the Tom and Jerry series. That wouldn’t be the best Tom and Jerry, but it was already an order of magnitude better. It’s a bit sad that the final theatrical Krazy Kat cartoon was merely a competent but unremarkable cat-and-mouse cartoon, but, it’s also not the end of the story.
Seriously. As best I can tell, in all 259 tales collected there’s one mouse that makes it to the end of the story, and he’s a spiritual manifestation of the King’s dream-state and not a mouse in his own right anyway.
A mouse scares off some cats by beating up his elephant-shaped scooter. A fish demands a drink of water from the annoyed Farmer Al Falfa. An ostrich or maybe a penguin (I guess a duck is plausible enough?) pops out of trap doors and walks through rooms. The Farmer berates his maid, a mouse, to get back to work cleaning. The mice take to courting. It’s all, really, a peculiar bunch of events, even though the storyline always seems to be making sense at the moment. It’s only in the aggregate you wonder, “the heck did I just watch?”
The Farmer Al Falfa series of cartoons — sometimes called “Farmer Gray”, as the YouTube link’s title does — started in 1915 for Paul Terry. Terry and Terrytoons are known for creating Mighty Mouse, and Heckle and Jeckle, and, truth be told, that’s about it. You can find some people who remember Deputy Dawg (which I watched altogether too much of in my youth) and I’ve heard good things about The Mighty Heroes but dunno about them myself. The studio never had the strongest characters or plots or gags, but, they delivered on time, and sometimes hit pretty solidly.
And a grizzly, cantankerous person isn’t a bad start for a cartoon character, and he’d have a fairly long life. Wikipedia notes he was the person being annoyed by Heckle and Jeckle in their first couple cartoons. I didn’t suspect at the time that I was watching a thirty-year-old cartoon star.
“I have a stick.”
I nodded to our pet rabbit. “Stick-wise, that is indeed a thing you have.” The phrasing seemed to confuse him; he shook his front half out and set down the chew stick again.
“It’s my stick and I have it,” he said, “And I can do anything I want with it.”
“I know. For instance, you can chew it.” This stopped him in the middle of chewing on it, so, that’s how I knew this conversation was going to go. “Or not, if you don’t want to,” and that should have him completely flummoxed.
“You know why you don’t have a stick?” My thought was that I could in some sense be said to have every stick on the property, including as a subset the sticks that our rabbit has. But is that the same conceptual theory of having that he was working with at the moment, and if it’s not, is it compatible enough for us to have a meaningful conversation? This is the kind of thing that goes through my mind whenever, say, the waitress asks which kind of bread I’d like for my toast, which is why I’m always running about four minutes behind the conversation. Here, for example, our rabbit answered, “Because I have it!”
“I know you have the stick. I gave you the stick.”
“As well you might!”
“In fact, I gave you all those sticks,” pointing at a partially-tied-together bunch of chew sticks, most of which were scattered around his front paw, and a couple of which were rolling out of his pen, and one of which he was taking turns holding in his mouth and putting down to lecture me about.
He nodded and said, “I chewed the twine off them!”
“And we were glad to see you do that. It proved to us that you’re not a fascist.” And here I have to point out that while I exaggerate certain aspects of my conversations with our pet rabbit for dramatic effect, the “not a fascist” joke is one that my love and I actually did observe while watching him chew the bundle of sticks loose, which shows you what kinds of jokes we have flying around the house.
He scrunched forward, looking kind of like a sack full of rabbit flowing forward under the tides, pushing his front paws onto the sticks, which was adorable. It struck me he’s been doing a lot of adorable stuff lately, more so than usual.
“This is about the mouse, isn’t it?”
He jerked his head up and back. “You think?”
“Are you worried we kept that mouse in here?”
“Why were you keeping a mouse right on top of my cage?”
“He wouldn’t fit underneath you.” The mouse we had found wandering around the dining room, at the height of winter, and we caught him and put him in a cage because we weren’t so cold-hearted as to release him to the wild while it was still too cold for molecular motion out there.
“Male mice can’t help how they smell,” I said. “Biology dictates that they use an atrocious body wash so that female mice know they’re engaged in important male activities.”
He barked, somehow, which might just be his way of snorting. “He made that wheel squeak all the time.”
“You can’t blame the mouse for following his biological imperatives of running on a wheel, smelling bad, and hoisting things.”
He flopped over on his side, which is again, adorable, and said, “Mice follow too many gender-normative stereotypes.” I allowed that. But I reminded him, we let the mouse go several weeks ago, and he hasn’t been back. “And I’m better than a mouse.”
I had a hunch. “Are you worried we were going to get a mouse to replace you?”
“No mouse could replace me! Not ten mice mousing together could replace me!”
“I’d guess not. We’d never think of replacing you.”
He rolled up onto all fours and cried, “Ah-ha!” So I gulped. “If you never thought of it then how come you just asked if I thought you were thinking of it?”
There might be no way out of this. “Well. We once got to talking about what would be the worst thing that could possibly happen” — he frowned a little less, which is how rabbits smile — “and we agreed the sudden and irrevocable failure of the electromagnetic force would be the worst. But having to replace you with anything would be one of the four or five worst things.” He actually came in third, but, I didn’t want to swell his head too much after comparing favorably to the complete dissolution of the laws of physics.
He looked satisfied, and announced, “I have a stick,” and picked his chew stick up again.
So, some good news from our animal-watching friends. According to a paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences department, wild mice like to run on wheels, in pretty much the same ways that regular old domesticated mice do, so doctors Johanna H Meijer and Yuri Robbers have some payoff for all their mouse-watching. It hasn’t all been about making mice nervous about being stared at; those are just bonuses.
According to their research wild mice run pretty much the same way domestic mice do: the mouse comes out, pokes at the wheel a little, then hops on and starts running until it starts squeaking. Then the mouse keeps running until the squeaking drives somebody crazy, and that somebody comes out and dabs a little vegetable oil on the axle. Once that’s done, the mouse is overjoyed because, hey, vegetable oil. That stuff doesn’t grow on trees. I guess except palm oil. And banana oil. Maybe also oak oil. Or for that matter tuna oil, for fish that have been lifted into trees, perhaps by a waterspout or by a practical joker or by the efforts of a daring fish explorer. I guess the important thing is, vegetable oil on the axle. Once that’s there, the mouse is delighted because steel slathered in vegetable oil is delicious, and the mouse can lick it all off, giving much-needed calories and a refreshing taste sensation before going back to running and driving people crazy by their squeaking. There’s nothing about this that requires domestication, is there? Just fish.
Mouse wheel-running, the paper says, is done in bursts lasting from under one minute to as much as eighteen minutes, which I think is interesting because it means a mouse can plausibly run a wheel for longer than the half-life of a neutron outside an atomic nucleus. I can picture mice puttering along on the wheel and chuckling at a pair of free neutrons, telling them, “by the time I get off this wheel at least one of you is gonna be gone.” So now you know why back in middle school I was the kid people wouldn’t play Dungeons and Dragons with.
The average wheel-running speed for a mouse in the wild is about 1.3 kilometers per hour, while that in the lab is 2.3 kph. The maximum speed of a wild mouse, though, was about 5.7 kph, while laboratory mice topped out at 5.1. This means something, although you have to divide all those figures by 1.6 to know what they mean in the United States.
The researchers got videos of different animals running the wheel. There were a couple of rats who went running, and some shrews. There were some frogs, too, raising the question of wait a minute how can a frog run on a wheel? Surely they were hopping the wheel instead, and that should’ve been a data point for the paper about whether wild mice will get their hopping done on wheels. But more surprising and I swear this is exactly what they say, there were incidents of slugs and even a snail getting on the wheel. A snail! This, this is what Turbo is doing to screw up the ecosystem.
They have video of the slug running on the wheel, too. It’s the third video, twenty seconds of time at http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/281/1786/20140210/suppl/DC1 and as you can see at a glance, nothing happens in it. But if you zoom the video up to full-screen, and if you get a bigger screen, you can see the wheel is turning a wee tiny little bitty bit, at about the same rate that Pluto rolls around the solar system, only with a slug. Why do they not have the snail video? Did they feel embarrassed on the snail’s behalf?
A caption to some of the photos mentions that there were birds that visited the wheel, but none of them were spotted running. Superficially this is a very frog-like situation since I’d expect birds to be flying the wheel, but if they’re flying, they don’t even need the wheel. But birds can run when the spirit so moves them, such as when they need to complete a Fun Run which they entered because of the attractive rhyme such offer. That no birds were observed to run indicates a shortage of the fun in outdoor spaces near campus. Maybe the birds are worried about their quals.
I wonder if now that we know mice like wheels there’s any research under way to see what wheels feel about mice.
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.
Fireworks Cancellation Night at Municipal Utilities Payment Center Field. Sunday, 30 minutes after sunset or 8:45, whichever comes first. Celebrate the nearly mediocre first half-month performance of the Snake Valley Grasshopper Mice in the division B (lower half) state leagues with an all-new series of excuses why there won’t be a pyrotechnic festival this week either. Fireworks Cancellation Night is as always sponsored by the Patagium Village Credit Dairy and Non-Fat Convenience Store unless they’ve changed their credit card number.