So I Guess They’re Trying to Make a Slylock Fox Movie Now


So the news is that King Features has is developing an animated feature based on Slylock Fox. I don’t know how this is going to work, but I’m looking forward to it starting off with a short cartoon and asking us which six jokes got changed for the replay.

Statistics Saturday: The Movies, Part II


  • The Great Mouse Detective 2: The Greater Mouse Detective
  • 2010 II: 2012
  • The Maltese Falcon II: The Maltese Falconer
  • Gildersleeve’s Ghost 2: Gildersleever’s Ghost
  • The Sting II: The Stinger
  • The Godfather II: The Godfatherer
  • To Sir, With Love 2: To Sirerer With Loverer
  • Apollo 11 II: For Serifed Fonts Only
  • The Hustler II: The Hustlerer
  • 2012 II: 2014
  • Broadway Melody of 1933 II: Broadway Melodier of 1933er
  • The Man Who Came To Dinner II: The Guy Who Stuck Around For Lunch

Reference: Tulipomania: The Story Of The World’s Most Coveted Flower And The Extraordinary Passions It Aroused, Mike Dash.

I’m Sure Once They Hear the Concept They’ll Agree It Has to Be Made


You may question my use of the time machine to go back and make an episode were SCTV’s Movie of the Week is the Ken Russell remake of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but what alternative would do so much to make the world a more wonderful place?

Statistics Saturday: Stanley Kubrick Movies, By Century


Bar chart of Stanley Kubrick movies, by century. For the 17th, 18th, and 19th century the total is zero. For the 20th century, it is 13. For the 21st century it is zero.
Accurate as of 22 July 2022.

Note: Barry Lyndon is not listed as a 17th century movie; it is set in the 18th century.

Reference: The Secret Life Of Bletchley Park, Sinclair McKay.

In Which I Assume There Is a _Columbo_ Prequel Somebody’s Working On


I don’t envy the people working on the Columbo prequel, other than that I assume they’re getting money for work. But they have to be glad of one thing. Any time someone complains about how we don’t need to know Columbo’s origin story, we know how he turns out, they can just glare intently back and point to the name of the intellectual property. It’s something the poor folks doing the reboot of Cool Million can’t fall back on.

Just So Nobody’s Caught by Surprise at the Solstice


So here in the Northern Hemisphere we’re looking at the summer solstice tomorrow, or today if you’re reading this at the right time, or sometime in the past if you’re reading it after that. Anyway. Please remember that while this is the longest day of the year, it is not the day when sunset comes the latest in the year. This phenomenon may seem confusing if you don’t know this piece of information: Astronomers have always hated drive-in movie operators, and vice-versa. I hope this clears matters up for you.

In Which I Have A Week Of Changing Re-evaluations


I don’t know how much is the appropriate amount to think about famous knock-off movie Ratatoing, but I don’t think I’m far outside the norm. Plus, Nathan Rabin blogged about it a couple days ago, and reading that made me realize: oh, that name is surely not meant to rhyme with “boing”, right? You’re supposed to think rat-at-oo-ing, so it’s even closer to Ratatouille. Rat-a-toing is just wrong. And then I tried watching the movie and it turns out? No, it’s “boing”, just like I thought when I didn’t know anything. So the week’s not even half over and I keep having to re-evaluate everything. Or I can stop thinking about stuff and, it turns out, be okay, just less tired of it all.

Statistics Saturday: The Movies (an incomplete list)


  • The Hustler
  • The Apartment
  • The Discrete Charm of The Bourgeoisie
  • The Casablanca
  • The Dog Day Afternoon
  • The E.T.
  • The Fall of The House of the Usher
  • Who Framed The Roger Rabbit
  • The A Hard Day’s The Night
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty The Valance
  • The Mon Oncle
  • The Night of The Hunter

Reference: The Big Rich: The Rise And Fall of The Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes, Bryan Burrough.

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? Why would anyone make a Gasoline Alley movie? January – March 2021


The current Gasoline Alley story is built on some Hollywood types coming in make a movie about the town. While the town’s residents are interesting to the comic strip readers, one might ask why anyone in-universe would care about this town? Longtime readers enjoy the more-or-less plausible lives of interesting characters. But why pick this place, other than that Walt Wallet is a generation older than Betty White?

While searching for something else, I ran across this timeline of events in Gasoline Alley. It’s a list of some of the big story events including when Skeezix turned up on the doorstep. and seems to be pretty solid for events up to about 1950, that is, the era when the comic strip made its reputation. It may not convince you — I mean, breach of promise stories? Everyone did them back then and that’s such an alien idea today, like suing somebody for not wearing a hat — but it gives some idea what all happened.

Over on my mathematics blog, I just looked at the comic strips which observed Pi Day. How many of them were about mathematics? The answer may surprise you!

This essay should catch you up to mid-March 2022 in Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley. If you’re reading this after about June 2022, there’s likely a more up-to-date plot recap at this link. And now, action!

Gasoline Alley.

1 January – 19 March 2022.

The current story had just been called when I last checked in. Some Hollywood types are descending on Gasoline Alley to make a movie. Rufus and Joel try to clean City Hall up to the point that it shines. The movie makers slip and fall on the wet floor. The comic relief pair suppose that the movie makers want to sue them for damages. After their attempts at disguising themselves fail completely, they run off to hide in a cave.

Joel, mop in his hand: 'Oh, man! We done done it now!' Rufus, standing over the puddles of water: 'We sho' is sorry, Mr De Millsbrothers! Th'flo' was wet!' DeMillstone: 'My name is DeMillstone! SOMEBODY BETTER HELP ME UP!' Assistant: 'Do you need an ambulance, C.B.?' DeMillstone: 'Get those two men's names on the double!' Assistant with a clipboard: 'Doubling pu right now, sir!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 8th of January, 2022. Cecil B DeMillstone is an almost inevitable name for a Hollywood Movie Mogul in this genre. Rufus I assume is mashing the name up with the Mills Brothers, who were a quite popular singing quartet especially through the Golden Age of Radio.

The movie folks turn their attention to Walt Wallet. They turn over some kind of prospectus for a movie based on his life. It’s a big, bold work, not bound tightly to the facts. He calls Skeezix over to describe some of them. And to recount a story that … actually, he’s told before, back in January and February of 2014. But he claims that when exploring in Egypt ages ago he and his party, desperately short on water, fell into the tomb of the Pharaoh Do-Ra-Mi. They found an urn on the shelf, with ancient, stale water that they drank happily. And then found the hieroglyphics proclaimed it the “Energy Shot – For Youth”. Which, well, he is a pretty spry fellow for being six years older than the SOS distress signal. But back in 2014 when he told this story he was making up that it was the Fountain of Youth. He was spinning yarns back then, which, fine. But when why his shock in 2022 when someone believed him?

In the flashback, young Walt Wallet looks over an ancient urn, while a camel licks him and two porters look on: 'After drinking the water, I felt great and tried to decipher the hieroglyphics on the urn!' In the present day Skeezix asks, 'What did it say, Uncle Walt?' Walt: 'Extreme energy shot for Youth!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 25th of February, 2022. When this joke was done back in February 2014 — the first panel of the 2022 strip seems to be an elongated version of the 2014 version — it set off a short-lived mania for Walt’s Fountain-of-Youth water. I’m not surprised I had forgotten this, but I am surprised Skeezix doesn’t remember it, because he had the plan that abated the mob scene. On the other hand, Skeezix has had nearly a decade of other shenanigans around him, too.

After sharing this and some other, lesser tall tales with Skeezix, the movie folks call to say never mind. They’re not doing Walt Wallet’s life, which is a shame, since this was an excuse for Scancarelli to draw a young-looking Walt Wallet doing a lot of fun action. (One of the stories shows him hopping a train, which seems mundane enough to have happened.) But the movie folks have decided to do a science fiction piece, Teenage Thing Meets The Creature From Gasoline Alley. Scancarelli’s heart is in doing a 1950s radio sitcom and I like him for that.

The movie producers still want to get hold of Rufus and Joel. The pair emerge from hiding, when the bear they were hiding with kicks them out. And that’s where we stand. Will it turn out they’ve made a bad assumption about what the movie folks wanted them for, so that their winter hiding in a cave was foolish? There’s no way of knowing except reading, or remembering the rules of the 1950s radio sitcoms that the comic strip wants to be. We’ll check back by June, anyway.

Next Week!

The only question worth asking right now is when is Mark Trail going to punch an NFT? And the answer is, always, not soon or often enough. But if we’re lucky by next week I’ll be able to tell you just when Mark Trail does. That’s Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail next Tuesday, if things go to plan.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: Walls vs Spider-Man


Walls

The Case For: Are the best vertical surface available to 1990s college students to hang their posters of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Blues Brothers, or a Mandelbrot set.

The Case Against: Somehow increase the noise of the people in the hotel room next to you by 12 to 18 decibels.

Spider-Man

The Case For: Has the superhuman power to take good action pictures on a timer.

The Case Against: In one of his adventures on The Electric Company, Spider-Man was beaten by a Wall at Shea Stadium.

Statistics Saturday: Some Cartoon Characters I’d Believe Were Adapted Into Movies Recently


I mean, if you told me, I’d have no way of arguing you were wrong. Here I’m talking about movies where these characters are the stars, you know, the protagonists. I’m sure every one of them had a cameo in Ready Player One, Space Jam II: Space Jammier, Scoob!, and I’m guessing that one where space aliens jam a giant Pac-Man into a city or something? I don’t know, I just saw the commercials and figured that was enough. Anyway if you want to put one over on me, and start talking about a movie starring any of these, I would never suspect you were fibbing. Also I don’t know why you’d want to put that over on me, but that’s your business, isn’t it?

  • Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har-Har
  • Grape Ape
  • The Silverhawks
  • Tom Slick
  • Mighty Mouse
  • The Herculoids
  • Space Ace
  • Hoppy the Marvel Bunny
  • Superchicken
  • The Tazmanian Devil
  • Droopy
  • Huckleberry Hound

Reference: The Apollo Guidance Computer: Architecture and Operation, Frank O’Brien.

Statistics Saturday: Some Movies You’d Think Would Have At Least One Dragon In Them


  • How To Train Your Dragon
  • Eragon
  • Dragonslayer
  • Dungeons and Dragons
  • Pete’s Dragon (1977)
  • Dungeons and Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God
  • The NeverEnding Story
  • Quest for Camelot
  • Spirited Away
  • Pete’s Dragon (2016)
  • Dragon Fighter
  • The Flight of Dragons

Not listed: Disney’s Robin Hood although doesn’t that really feel like it should have at least one dragon in there, somewhere?

Reference: The Most Unsordid Act: Lend-Lease, 1939-1941, Warren F Kimball.

A message of importance to the young


So, now, I know that you want look to me as a respectable or “cool” figure. Before you bestow this trust in me, though? You should know that in the 80s I read more than one article about the making of Earth Girls Are Easy from in Starlog magazine. So, just, scale your expectations of me to that, please. Thank you.

Statistics Saturday: 15 Things You Can’t Believe Happened Earlier In 2021


  • Bean Dad
  • Sea shanties on TikTok
  • Like three probes orbited or landed on Mars and one of them had a helicopter
  • Balloon Boy
  • The Kellogg’s strike
  • That morning we all found a box of Peak Freans on our counter even though they haven’t made Peak Freans since like 1989 and nobody could explain where all these Peaks Freans came from
  • That guy did that really good impression of Robin Williams learning of John Belushi’s death
  • Culture Club released the hit song “Karma Chameleon”
  • The imperatives of state bureaucracy drove European governments to impose family names on all their inhabitants, without regard to local culture or the lack of community need for such things
  • The controversial “Rashomon” episode of Scooby and Scrappy Doo aired
  • Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins died
  • Ken Russell’s film adaptation of The Who’s Tommy uses rather a lot of beans, is unconnected to “Bean Dad”
  • End of the Recombination era of the universe, when electrons and atomic nucleuses finally became cool enough to bind together into atoms, allowing photons to travel great distances, causing space to no longer be opaque for the first time
  • Boss Baby 2 came out
  • Audiences were enchanted by that “so good … but no lumps!” commercial but can’t remember, was it for gravy? For Alka-Seltzer? But Alka-Seltzer was that “Mama Mia, that’s a spicy meatball” commercial, right? That was like four years ago?

Reference: American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA, Nick Taylor.

Statistics Saturday: Ten Most Amazing Facts Of The Week


  • Despite the name no so-called “universal remote” has ever in fact been remote from the universe.
  • No United States president has ever been born in the future.
  • The 100 pleats in a chef’s hat represent the 100 times that the guy who bought the hat-pleating mechanism insisted on showing this was too a good purchase and would pay for itself in time.
  • In the Star Trek episode “Court Martial” Spock discusses what would happen “if I let go of a hammer on a planet that has a positive gravity”, implying there are enough zero- and negative-gravity planets around he needs to shut talk about them down before it even starts.
  • There must always exist at least one breadbox that cannot be put inside another breadbox. However, if the universe were infinitely large, we could not count on this being true.
  • No episode of the 1980s animated series of The Smurfs establishes that Gargamel knows of the Snorks.
  • Those coworkers whose names you aren’t sure you have yet, and it’s too awkward now to ask about? Sara and Mike. If there’s a third, it’s Darryl or maybe Darren. Go confident on the “Darr” part and underplay the second syllable and you’ll get away with it.
  • D is known as “the sunshine vitamin” because it was first discovered by spectral analysis of the sun. It would not be seen on Earth for nearly a generation after its detection.
  • Not only could they make Blazing Saddles today, they did, which is where everybody was all day and why they’re all tuckered out. You should have come over and helped, you’d have had a great time. Maybe you can catch them next month when they hope to make Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One.
  • Despite every advance in the technology to write songs, they are likely to be outnumbered by unwritten songs through 2024 at the soonest.

Reference: A Diplomatic History Of Europe Since The Congress Of Vienna, René Albrecht-Carié.

Statistics Saturday: Comic Strips That _Starlog_ Thought Were Being Made Into Movies in 1987


Not listed: that time Ralph Bakshi thought he was making a primetime TV cartoon version of Blade Runner.

Starlog magazine MediaLog entry: 'Animation: it's not a dream. Really. Back in the animation races after a career hiatus to concentrate on painting, Ralph Bakshi has acquired the rights to a recent SF classic. Bakshi is developing an animated version of Blade Runner, aimed at a primetime TV slot. This projected Blade Runner would combine some animated characters with some live-action background elements.'
Wait, an only partly-animated Ralph Bakshi project? How could that ever happen?

Also not mentioned: that Tintin project because I don’t think Tintin was ever a comic strip and, like, Betty Boop had a short-lived comic even if it wasn’t good.

Also, coming back to the mentioned: Motley’s Crew? Really? Huh. I mean, I guess that’s a comic strip that existed all right, but … Really. Huh. I mean … huh. You’re passing on Bill Schorr’s The Grizzwells for this, then.

Reference: Nathaniel’s Nutmeg: How One Man’s Courage Changed The Course of History, Giles Milton.

Statistics Saturday: The Official Ordering of the Star Wars Movies


  1. Star Wars: A Star Wars Story
  2. Star Wars: A Wars Star Story
  3. Star Wars: A Star Stories War
  4. Wars Star: A Stars War Story
  5. Star Wars Stars: A Story
  6. A Wars War: Star A Star Story
  7. Star Star: A Wars Star Stories
  8. Star Wars Star: A Wars Star War Starry Story
  9. Star Wars: Star Wars Story A
  10. Star Star War Star Wars: A War Stars Story Wars Star Story
  11. A Star Wars Story: Star Wars

Honorable mention: Star Wars: Sraw Rats, the secret movie for people who know Star Wars forwards and backwards.

Reference: Who’s Who In Mythology: A Classic Guide To The Ancient World, Alexander S. Murray.

Statistics Saturday: The Duration of 15 Things as Measured by the Runtime Of Turbo (2013)


ThingDurations in Runtimes of Turbo (2013)
Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address0.05938
Apollo 14135
Bambi0.7292
Construction of the Empire State Building244.375
First non-exhibition/spring-training baseball game of the Houston Colt.45s, 10 April 19621.583
“The Gates of Delirium”, by Yes0.2274
The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island (including commercials)1.250
The Hundred Years’ War637,711.71
One second0.000 173 6
Robert Altman’s Popeye1.1875
The 1960 Summer Olympics262.5
Thunderhawk roller coaster (one ride cycle only), Dorney Park, Allentown, Pennsylvania0.01354
Turbo (2013)1
Turbo Teen (complete series, including commercials)4.0625
We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story0.7396

Reference: Roughing It, Mark Twain.

Statistics Saturday: 15 Famous Movie Mis-Quotes


  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real thin man!” — Not said by Nick or Nora Charles, The Thin Man.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real treasure of the Sierra Madre!” — Not said by Fred C Dobbs, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real love story!” — Not said by Jennifer Cavalleri, Love Story.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real wizard of Oz!” — Not said by Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real Goldfinger!” — Not said by Goldfinger, Goldfinger.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real cool hand, Luke!” — Not said by Dragline, Cool Hand Luke.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real space odyssey!” — Not said by Dave Bowman, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real Scrooge!” — Not said by Mr Snedrig, Scrooge.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real shape of water!” — Not signed by Elisa Esposito, The Shape of Water.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real Casablanca!” — Not said by Rick Blaine, Casablanca.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real space jam!” — Not said by Lola Bunny, Space Jam.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real planet of the apes!” — Not said by Dr Galen, Planet of the Apes.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real Wall Street!” — Not said by Gordon Gecko, Wall Street.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real Turbo!” — Not said by Turbo, Turbo.
  • “Yowza yowza, that’s a real Chinatown!” — Not said by Lawrence Walsh, Chinatown.

Reference: Inside Nick Rocks: The Complete Story of the Music Video Show You Remember Being On Between Mr Wizard’s World and You Can’t Do That On Television, and How it Changed the World — and Whatever Happened To “Joe From Chicago”, Dr Will Miller.

Statistics Saturday: Star Wars Movies versus Star Trek Movies


Bar chart showing the count of Star Wars and of Star Trek movies, per year, 1977 to 2020. Star Wars has a lead from 1977 to 1985; after that Star Trek takes the lead and never loses it again, although by 2019 Star Wars comes close to tying it.
Not pictured: that special 75-minute extended cut of The Omega Glory that Gene Roddenberry adapted from the original Star Trek to play in theaters in Italy and France in 1969 alongside the View-Master reel, nor The Ewok Adventures and Ewoks: The Battle For Endor, made for TV and aired in 1984 and 1985.

Reference: Anxious Decades: America in Prosperity and Depression, 1920-1941, Michael E Parrish.

Statistics Saturday: Some imaginary _Star Trek_ movies


  • Star Trek: Revolution
  • Star Trek: Blackbird
  • Star Trek: Nobody’s Child
  • Star Trek: Nowhere Man
  • Star Trek: The Night Before
  • Star Trek: Yesterday
  • Star Trek: Across the Universe
  • Star Trek: Tomorrow Never Knows
  • Star Trek: Here, There, and Everywhere
  • Star Trek: Octopus’s Garden
  • Star Trek: She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
  • Star Trek: I’m Happy Just To Dance With You

Reference: The Gutenberg Galaxy, Marshall McLuhan.

Statistics Saturday: The Internet, by Volume


Large chunk: arguments that the Star Wars prequels are good, actually. Equally large chunk: arguments that no, no they are not. Small chunk: absolutely everything else
Not depicted: arguments that The Rise Of Skywalker, by returning to the menace of Emperor Palpatine and bunches upon bunches of Death Star cannons, is making a trenchant point that among the tragedies of authoritarianism is that it lacks creativity. That even in terror all it can truly do is make more of what has already been terrifying; all prospect for original life is strangled by the drive to control. Omitted because even people who like The Rise Of Skywalker don’t like it enough to argue for it.

Reference: Wotalife Comics #4, cover date Oct-Nov 1946, Fox Feature Syndicate, publisher.

Distracted thoughts after seeing The Dot And The Line: The Movie teaser trailer


Hey, does it feel to anyone else like we should have heard Robert Zemeckis announce he’s trying to do a computer-animated remake of Who Framed Roger Rabbit by now? Has anyone checked in to see what he is working on? Maybe we could just make sure?


(So my favorite part of the teaser trailer is how right after the “COMING / IN UP TO 3-D / SUMMER 2022” title card you get Dot, Line, and Squiggle all shouting as they realize they’re going over the waterfall. What’s yours?)

Statistics Saturday: 10 Trivia Answers That Are All Paul Blart, Mall Cop


  1. Paul Blart, Mall Cop
  2. Paul Blart, Mall Cop
  3. Paul Blart, Mall Cop
  4. Paul Blart, Mall Cop
  5. Paul Blart, Mall Cop
  6. Paul Blart, Mall Cop
  7. Paul Blart, Mall Cop
  8. Paul Blart, Mall Cop
  9. Paul Blart, Mall Cop
  10. Paul Blart, Mall Cop

Fun fact: one time Trivia Night at the local bar was about something I knew I knew nothing about, so I warned everybody at the table that I was just going to offer “Paul Blart, Mall Cop” for every question. The first couple times they chuckled at the bit, but this faded out after like the third question. Nevertheless, I carried on, and you know? By about the ninth time? It started to change. My commitment to the bit paid off: before the end of the night everyone agreed this had the structure of a joke and was slightly amusing, they guessed, in its way.

Reference: The Footnote: A Curious History, Anthony Grafton.

Statistics Saturday: Ranking of _Nightmare Before Christmas_ Alternate Universes


  1. Jack Skellington opens the tree-door into Saint Patrick’s Day Town instead.
  2. In a Prisoner Of Zenda scenario Jack Skellington has to pretend to be Santa Claus long enough to foil the evil plot that would destroy all holidays. Everywhere.
  3. They kidnap the Santa Claus from the Rankin/Bass Specials Universe, the one who never saw a Christmas he wasn’t ready to ditch.
  4. Story is set in an alternate history where a Progressive-era reformer convinced the American culture that his, highly idiosyncratic, order for washing his body parts was the one and only one truly hygienic way to clean, and since most everybody is naturally drawn to a different order and has to train themselves out of it most folks have very slight bathing or showering-related neuroses, and while there’s modern research showing whatever order you wash your body parts in is fine, not following The Cleaning Protocol is still seen as this weird-o hippie moon-man attitude and is shunned by respectable white cis-hetero society.
  5. Sally has a specific interest that isn’t this Jack guy that I guess knows who she is but I’m not positive he does?
  6. It starts with what looks like a Freaky Friday scenario, Jack and Santa swapping bodies, only for Jack to slowly realize that in the future he grows up to be Santa Claus.

Reference: Empire Express: Building The First Transcontinental Railroad, David Haward Bain.

(Have to say I’m really interested in how #4 there plays out with the baseline story.)

In Which We Get Some Answers About Forest Royalty


Bambi, of movie and book fame, we remember is one of the princes of the forest. And then we know that he’s not a king because it’s the elk who are the kings of the forest. But this leaves us with the obvious question: who are the barons of the forest?

In the hopes of learning, I called Felix Salten (1869 – 1945), author of the original novel Bambi, A Life In The Woods. He said, “We were all having a pleasant time, and then you had to go and be like that. Why? Why do you do this?” before hanging up. I think this is an important contribution to the debate.

My love suggested that boars could maybe be the barons of the forest. This sounds good.

There are many small things to watch on TCM tonight


I apologize for the late notice; I only learned myself a couple hours ago. TCM (United States feed) is spending tonight showing “Leonard Maltin’s Short Film Showcase”. It’s a bunch of short films, as you’d think. Some of them I’ve seen; some are new to me. Many of them are comedies. There are a handful of travelogues, musical shorts, and dramas too.

Robert Benchley gets a couple entries, with “A Night At The Movies” right around … now, Eastern time. Three hours from now, less about ten minutes, Pacific time. Or, “How To Sleep”, sometime after 5 am Eastern and Pacific. Thelma Todd gets four entries, two of them with ZaSu Pitts. I’d recommend any Thelma Todd or ZaSu Pitts piece sight unseen. Some of the shorts, including at least one Thelma Todd one, star Charley Chase. Chase is an interesting person. In the silent era he was one of the second-tier comedians who kept edging his way up into the first tier, right up until he attempted a movie adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and made basically every choice wrong. That’s not on tonight and you’ll think better of Chase for that. There’s also, somewhere around 12:45 am, “Buzzing Around”, starring Roscoe Arbuckle, about inventing a magic rubber coating that makes things unbreakable. Other miscellaneous things include a bunch of Pete Smith specialties. Pete Smith made a lot of short films, mostly comedy documentaries, all with a reliable American Cornball tone. You’ll either kinda like it or not.

As I say, I don’t know how much of any of this I’ll watch. It is probably good for dipping into as you have ten minutes. One I am warily curious about, and that’s running sometime around 5:20 am, is titled “The Black Network”. The summary: “In this short film, the owner of a shoe polish company sponsors a radio show that showcases black performers”. So this does sound like a chance to see people whose talents were discarded. But, ooh, that mention of shoe polish does not sit well at all. Mm.

In which I think about Fly Me To The Moon for some reason


I got to thinking about Fly Me To The Moon, which is not a forgotten computer-animated movie from 2008 because even the people making it did not know they were making it. In the movie, a fly sneaks aboard Apollo 11 and saves it from Soviet flies.

The film has a page of goofs. It leads with the characters giving each other high-fives years before high-fives were a thing. Also, the movie apparently ends with Buzz Aldrin explaining to viewers that there weren’t any flies on Apollo 11.

Also the Wikipedia plot summary and the IMDB Goofs Page disagree about whether the Apollo capsule lands in the Pacific Ocean or in Florida. I grant that people of good will could disagree about the contents of an ambiguous scene. And that a movie does not need to have a single reading to be good. But I think if it is unclear whether an Apollo capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean or in Florida then the movie is doing something to stoke confusion, is all.

The trivia page mentions that this is Christopher Lloyd’s fourth film in which he interacts with members of the McFly family. So that’s also kind of sitting on my head today.

Tales From The 80s


So if you’re in my age cohort you grew up seeing the opening credits of Tales From The Darkside. You know, where the camera pans across footage of a forest while the foreboding voice of Perilous McDoomenough intones, “Man lives in the sunlit world of what he BELIEVES to be … reality.” And then the screen fades to a posterized negative image about how there is “unseen by most an underworld”. And then you changed the channel because whatever was coming next would have to be way too frightening to watch.

I got thinking, you know, this has to be like slasher movies were. The hype makes it sound like this intense and barely-comprehensible experience. And it turns out to be about as scary as an SCTV episode. I was too much of a coward to watch horror movies as a kid. I mean, except the one time that they had us do a sleepover for Vacation Bible School and we camped out in some of the classrooms off in the CCD wing. And one of the things they showed was Friday the 13th. I thought it was pretty good. Also I don’t understand how this could have happened. We went to a pretty liberal diocese but still. I think we also watched Heathers. I know Vacation and European Vacation we watched at my friend Eddie Glazier’s bar mitzvah. I’m not sure I should be talking about this 35-plus years on. I might be getting somebody in trouble.

But that’s sort of how terror was for a white middle-class kid growing up in the suburbs in the 80s. And yes, I mean New Jersey-type suburbs, which in other states are what you would call “urbs”. Or “great undifferentiated mass of housing developments and corporate office parks stretching from the Amboy Drive-In to the Freehold Traffic Circle, dotted by some Two Guys department stores”. Still. I grew up a weenie and I would be glad for that if I didn’t think being glad about myself was kind of bragging.

And we knew how to be recreationally scared. We just had to think about the nuclear war. New Jersey enjoyed a weird place for that. I know in most of the country you came up with legends about why the Soviets had a missile aimed right at you. One that would be deployed right after they bombed Washington and New York City. “Of course the Kremlin knows Blorpton Falls, Iowa is the largest producer of sewing machine bobbins outside the New York City area. They’ll have to bomb us so the country can’t clothe itself well after World War III.” It was a way to be proud of your town and not be responsible for surviving the nuclear war.

Central Jersey? We didn’t have to coin legends. We knew, when the war came, we’d be doomed. It wouldn’t be for any reason. It’s just we’re close to New York City, we’re close to Philadelphia. Nothing personal. All we were doing was being near something someone else wanted to destroy. This turned out to be great practice for living in 2020 that I don’t recommend.

Oh, sure, there was the soccer field what they said used to be a Nike missile base that would have protected New York City from the missile attacks. Maybe the Soviets would have an old map, or refuse to believe that they built a soccer field in the United States in the 60s. That former-Nike-base could be a target, if the Nike missiles to intercept the missiles didn’t work, which they wouldn’t.

You might ask: wait, why didn’t they put the base that was supposed to protect New York City in-between New York and the Soviet missile bases instead? The answer is that in-between New York City and the Soviet missile bases is Connecticut. The construction vehicles for the Connecticut site set out on I-95 in 1961 and haven’t made it through traffic yet. Central Jersey was a backup so they could build a site that couldn’t work but could abandon. Anyway I don’t know the soccer field was ever actually a Nike base or if we just said it was. If it really was, I suppose it’s a Superfund clean-up site now. Makes me glad I realized I didn’t want to socc. I wanted to type in word processor programs from a magazine into my computer.

Anyway after thinking about that long enough, it turns out the movie threats we faced were kind of cozy. Yeah, they might turn you into an Alice-in-Wonderland cake and eat you, but at least you’d be singing all the way.

So back to Tales From The Darkside. You know what you find if you go back and watch it now? Tales From The Darkside never even had episodes! They knew everybody was going to be scared off by those credits. Each episode, for all four seasons, is one frozen negative-print posterized image of a tree while someone holds down a key on the synthesizer.

It is way more terrifying than I had ever imagined.

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