Hasn’t been revealed yet why someone wanted to kill Lady Worthington at this dinner of inventors she’d summoned. Or why she summoned them. The obvious supposition is money, but the truth may be something sillier.
This should get you up to date on Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the end of March, 2021. If you’re reading this after about June 2021, there’s likely a more up-to-date plot recap here. The link also will have any news about the comic strip which I notice.
3 January – 27 March 2021.
Alley Oop, Ooola, and Doc Wonmug had contracted a case of shrinking last we saw. This after getting zapped by shrink rays several times over. They first settled in at paramecium-sized. Then spontaneously re-shrank to bacterium-sized. Then to DNA-sized. Then into the subatomic, coming to be the size of quantum strings. Also, in the Alley Oop universe, it turns out string theory is right. Once shrunken so, though, they meet someone.
Plank seems to be a pleasant, all-knowing, mysterious entity. They’re able to show Our Heroes the wonders of alternate dimensions and the Theory of Everything and all that. And then it’s time to shrink some more. And what happens when you shrink smaller than anything can be? That’s right: you end up bigger than galaxies. Like in that ancient science fiction short story. Plank guides them to shrinking all the way back to Earth, and their proper size again. Wonmug hopes to chat physics with Plank some. Alley Oop and Ooola dash back for home.
They get home the 2nd of February and get exciting news: Garg is getting married! He doesn’t know to who. He’ll find out at the ceremony. Also everybody else is getting married too. Why is everyone marrying at the same time? The Mighty Feather, their new spiritual leader, decreed it. So that’s looking creepy and evil, however much everyone denies their evilness, in unison. Also, the Mighty Feather talks about how everyone needs to jump in the volcano tomorrow, so this needs action.
Alley Oop puts on his thinking feathers and realizes, why not pretend to be The Mighty Feather, cult leader, and guide Moo back to normal? And it turns out that’s all anybody needed. The story wraps up the 17th of February.
From the 18th the new, and current, story starts. They get an invitation to a “gathering of geniuses” at the palatial estate of Lady Worthington. The butler greets them, with a warning against “the butler did it” jokes. She’s gathered the finest minds in the world as she’s lost the key to her safe full of riches and needs help. Alley Oop finds it underneath a fake rock in the bureau, so on to a nice after-mystery dinner.
At the dinner it turns out all the guests but Ooola and Alley Oop are inventors. As Our Heroes ponder this strangeness, Lady Worthington admits she gathered everyone for a second purpose. Then the light flicks out a moment. When it comes back, Lady Worthington is dead, stabbed in the back.
It’s easy to solve a murder when you have a time machine like Doc Wonmug. The time machine won’t work. Another inventor has a post-mortem communicator. It doesn’t work. Another inventor has a reincarnator. it doesn’t work. Nor does the robo-cloner. Alley Oop’s club even acts weird. Wonmug deduces the presence of a Faraweek cage, interfering with the workings of technology.
Our Heroes explore the manor and find the Faraweek cage in the basement. Ooola snips the correct wire and all the technologies become available. The reincarnator, for example, is able to bring Lady Worthington back to life, only to die again of her stab wound. The post-mortem communicator gets Lady Worthington’s spirit demanding that nobody get her money and hangs up. The robo-duplicator produces a dead robot Lady Worthington. Finally we get to the time machine.
So, yes, the butler did it. And since they went back in time and interrupted the murder, Lady Worthington now isn’t dead and we get another bit of timeline-changing.
In the Sunday strips, there was one Little Oop comic where Penelope took herself and Alley Oop back to Moo. This teased a resolution of the scenario where Little Alley Oop’s in the present day. But it wasn’t followed up on the next week. So there’s not a real story resuming there.
Interested in catching up on Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker? Enough to tolerate being put back a week for fast-breaking Alley Oop news? Not enough to wait for news about what’s happening to Henry? Then you’re in a correct enough spot.
Plots keep moving. If you’re reading this after about December 2018, I’ll probably have written another recap. And that’ll get the strip closer to whenever you’re reading this. That essay, when it exists, should be here. Where the essay is when it doesn’t exist is a problem I’m not competent to answer.
I have noticed a certain strange rhythm to Francesco Marciuliano’s Judge Parker plotting. There’ll be a crazification stage, where all sorts of big, Days Of The Week style explosion messes up everybody’s status quo. Characters run around, often yelling at each other, often through pop-culture terminologies. They act like they would in a movie about the events. Then there’s a retrenchment. It reads like Marciuliano has let the soap-opera craziness grow enough, and then stopped to think. Allow the crazypants thing to have happened. How would responsible authorities and reasonable grown-ups, the people whose task in life is to make things boring, handle it? (This is not to say boring is bad. The point of society is that people can be bored. They should be able to live without an endless fight for shelter and food and warmth and affection and stimulation. They should be able to take stuff for granted.) Some common sense comes in, and some of the plotting that makes sense for a soap opera but not for real life melts away. The story becomes a bit less preposterous, and the characters get a little breathing room. Sometimes there’s a flash-forward a couple months. And then it’s time for a fresh explosion.
Godiva Danube is dead, killed in time to mess up my previous plot recap. Shot in a hotel room. Neddy Spencer is shocked. She’d had a big and public fight with Danube days before. Prominent enough that the police ask about it. Besides the fight at the restaurant there is how they were partners in that clothing business swallowed up by a sinkhole. And local-tv-news footage of Spencer yelling she’d get even with Danube for throwing her under the bus. That Danube had asked Spencer to be her assistant before moving to Los Angeles, and Spencer refused, and then moved to Los Angeles anyway. That Spencer was alone the night Danube got shot.
This gets Neddy Spencer freaking out. I mean, it’s crazy to imagine the United States justice system convicting an innocent but available person. But crazy things happen in soap operas. Anyway, Neddy’s work-friend Ronnie Huerta has other suspicions. The police interrogated her about whether she knew of Spencer using or dealing drugs. Huerta’s also used the Google and realized Danube’s talk about movies she’s making was nonsense. Why would Danube want an assistant for a fake movie shoot? Why is the press asking the police department about rumors of CIA cooperation on the hotel murder of a minor actor? What if Danube was drug-trafficking? And needed some warm bodies?
Spencer and Huerta do the one thing you do, when you’re plausibly the suspect for a murder. They go trying to solve it themselves. At least investigate it. I don’t read cozy-mysteries often. Too much to do. But if someone out there knows of a cozy-mystery where the protagonist, having taken time away from her job as a part-time book reviewer for the Twee County News to solve the murder, gets yelled at by the sheriff for screwing up an investigation that otherwise was going fine and actually obeying rules of admissible evidence and all that, please let me know. I can dedicate a weekend to reading that.
Anyway, they follow their two leads. One is Sam Driver, who’s way off back in the strip’s original headquarters of Cavelton. They ask if he knows anything about Godiva Danube running drugs or anything suspicious like that? He gets back to them while they’re talking with their other lead, Danube’s boyfriend, Steve Clarke. They went to his apartment figuring, well, they don’t have any leverage and don’t know anything. But what the heck. They’re attractive women. He’s a guy. He might blurt something out. It goes well: in bare moments they’ve knocked out his roommate and have him in a hammerlock. He explains what he knows: nothing. But the cops wanted to know everything, so all he could offer was that he knew Neddy Spencer’s name. And that was all he knew, at least until they broke into his apartment “and made a plausible connection between the two of us”. Which is a moment of retrenchment. This is one of the reasons it’s stupid to go investigating the crime you’re suspected of.
Oh, also, Clarke knows that Danube was shipping drugs around. She’d fled a fading Hollywood career and the factory collapse by making low-budget Eastern European lousy movies. Her studio was a front for a drug cartel. Danube’s boyfriend-producer was also sleeping with other women. She ran off with a big chunk of his shipment. But the East European cartel wouldn’t have shot her, not in the United States: it would cross territorial lines and open a turf war they want. But other than that, he doesn’t know anything. (This is sounding like the informer scene in an episode of Police Squad, I admit. Maybe Angie Tribeca.)
As they’re getting this exposition Sam Driver calls back. He’s got news. The CIA figures Danube’s boyfriend is the head of an Eastern European drug cartel. One who gives the CIA information, and takes payment in favors. He wanted Danube dead as a new favor. The CIA’s happy to arrange this because they figured they could someone specific to kill Danube. And then capture the murderer. That would be April Parker.
Who’s the other party who was freaking out at Danube’s death. And the other major plot thread going crazy here. She was there to kill Danube. She found Danube already dead. She and her father learn Danube had changed hotels for no obvious reason. And checked in under the name “Renee Bell”, one of April’s old fake identities. April’s father Norton goes crazy trying to get in touch with Wurst, their reliable big strong guy with a beard and tie.
It takes a couple months, reader time, to find why Wurst isn’t returning Norton’s calls. He’s in some posh Austrian manor house, where Danube’s ex-boyfriend/producer has kidnapped Wurst’s sister. But Wurst arranged for the murder of Danube, so here’s his sister back, and all’s well, right? Well, except that the ex-boyfriend/producer is figuring to kill Wurst as soon as he can. Wurst takes a cue from the Ghost Who Walks and breaks right back into the ex-boyfriend/producer’s lair. He goes a bit farther than The Phantom and kills them all, including killing the ex-boyfriend/producer with his bare hands. And then reports to his partner (he has a partner?) that it’s successfully done.
Norton gets in touch with his own CIA contact. Of course Wurst, his go-between, double-crossed them; who else could? And for all the work he’s done for “rogue” and illegal CIA operations, what could they do but turn on and eat their own? And if it takes trapping April to get Norton, why not? The CIA contact says he totally wasn’t trying to take Norton down. He even gave the Los Angeles police that tip about Neddy Spencer, to confuse things and buy Norton time. Also that, well, now there’s like a dozen CIA agents outside Norton’s cabin. Retrenchment: you can’t run around being crazy-superpowered killers for hire, not forever. You get attention. You get caught.
He tells April to save herself, like by using the tunnel out the back. One might think the CIA would have someone posted to watch the tunnel out back. But, c’mon, we can allow in a work of fiction the idea that the CIA might make a blunder that a modest bit of intelligence-gathering would avoid. And, I suppose, they cared about Norton, who goes out in the open to keep their attention. April was only of passing interest, as merely being an escapee from Super Duper Top Secret CIA Agent Jail. She sneaks out.
Neddy Spencer and Huerta have second thoughts about leaving Clarke alone. He swears he’s had enough of police and isn’t going to tell anyone anything. But: he has a lot of information about Danube’s death and if he doesn’t tell anyone anything, and he gets killed, then what happens? So they go back to his apartment. The find him and his roommate, on the floor, in pools of their own blood. They start to back away when they’re confronted by a sinister-talking man in an brown suit. He knows who they are. And says he was leaving, but this is great for him. Killing them right now will clear up a lot of things. Less great for him: April Parker’s there, and ready to kill him. This is another by-hand killing. Huerta, who doesn’t know April Parker even exists, is horrified by this, and that Neddy knows this. April says, “I heard the CIA set you up. Sam helped me once. So consider us even”. … All right, then.
There are comic strips it’s safe to make guesses about storyline shapes. Judge Parker, these days, is not among them. But I think we are getting into retrenchment on the Murder of Godiva Danube. One where people who have authority in investigating murders take the lead on the investigation, and about arresting the people who can be arrested and declaring innocent the people who are. I’m expecting a narrative bubble to the effect of “Months Pass … ” soon. We’ll see how that works out.
Anyway, so, certainly dead: Godiva Danube. Danube’s drug-kingpin ex-boyfriend/bad-movie-producer. Drug-Kingpin’s bodyguards and “support network”. Mysterious CIA-affiliated man come to kill off Neddy Spencer. Danube’s temp Los Angeles boyfriend Steve Clarke and his roommate. Possibly dead: April Parker’s father Norton.
Oh, all kinds of things are going on in Joe Staton and Mike Curtis’s Dick Tracy. (Also, Shelley Pleger and Shane Fisher routinely work on the Sunday strips. I’m not sure how often they work on daily strips. I want to be fair about crediting the people who make the comic but I don’t always know.) This is my best attempt at bringing you up to speed for mid-April 2018. If it’s a lot later than that, try at or near the top of this page. If I have later-written summaries they should be up there.
Back in late January, Dick Tracy and the Major Crime Unit were arresting Mister Bribery. The crime boss himself was going mad after his meeting with the former Governor of the Moon. The Lunarians had abandoned their city in the no-longer-habitable valley on the moon and gone into hiding … elsewhere. The Moon Governor himself was just poking around to figure out the deal with Honey Moon Tracy and the surgically-created Second Moon Maid, Mysta Chimera. Can’t exactly blame him for not taking all this well.
Sawtooth, hired by Mister Bribery to kill Dick Tracy in a slow and painful manner, skips town. Tracy wasn’t killed slowly nor painfully. Lee Ebony breaks her months-long cover as bodyguard T-Bone to arrest Bribery. Meanwhile Honey Moon rescues Crystal Ugly, Bribery’s niece and a new friend, from where she’d fled in the snow. All seems settled. The 11th of February there’s a coda about the Moon Governor meeting Diet Smith and Honey Moon Tracy. And about Lee Ebony going on vacation.
And that starts the next big plot, the one that’s dominated the last several months. It’s at Pepper’s, a popular restaurant apparently unrelated to the setting of the ended Tina’s Grove comic strip. Billionaire Simon Stagg — whom commenters identified as someone from DC Comics that I don’t know about — has a briefcase full of cash to buy Pepper’s restaurant. But Pepper declares he’s got no intention of selling. He’s poisoned the billionaire, after establishing that Stagg had eaten fugu earlier in the day. The coroner thinks it’s blowfish toxin, accidental poisoning. But the mayor has doubts, and calls Dick Tracy in from his fishing vacation with Popeye and Alice the Goon.
Tracy goes to Pepper’s with just a few questions, and Pepper allays them by chasing him off the property, the way innocent people with nothing to hide do. Tracy returns, hoping to talk with the chefs while Pepper’s caters a political dinner at the Winrock Mansion. One of the cooks offers that he can talk, if Tracy will meet him outside, away from witnesses, over by Ambush Rock. Tracy’s good for it, and the cook’s good for clobbering him with a bowling pin, like he was in a George McManus cartoon.
Pepper takes Tracy’s own handcuff and hooks him up to his trailer hitch. This raises several questions, like: wait, would a handcuff actually keep someone on a trailer hitch for a twenty-mile ride by country road? I’m never confident those things are secure with actual proper hitches and it sure looks like the handcuff should pop right off the first good bump in the road. The second question: wait, so Pepper figures he’ll get away with murdering Stagg if the city’s most famous detective, whom the Mayor and the Major Crimes Unit know is investigating Pepper, goes missing and maybe turns up dead? (Although, in fairness, it was barely two months since the last time Dick Tracy was abducted and left for dead so maybe his murder would be lost under a buffet of suspects.) Third question: what does Pepper hope to gain from killing Tracy instead of, like, actually hearing any of his questions?
Despite the high speeds Tracy’s able to call Sam Catchem. And to get his handcuff key, maybe to get free. Before he can, Pepper has to stop short, avoiding a deer in the road. Tracy gets free and shoots out the truck’s tire before Pepper can run him over. Pepper’s truck crashes down the ravine, and the restauranteur makes his escape before Tracy can follow.
Pepper finds a hideout with Phishface, who — reluctantly — sets Pepper and his fugu chef up in an unused part of the city aquarium. That’s good for almost days before, fleeing staff, Pepper falls into the tank hosting the new Portuguese Man-of-War. And so, the poisoner himself dies with appropriate dramatic irony but not the particular involvement of Dick Tracy, who was busy arresting the fugu chef.
And this highlights a bunch of other questions. First: wait, what the heck? Second, like, what did Pepper hope to gain from killing Stagg in the first place? Simon Stagg’s money seems like a good enough motive, and (on the 28th of March) the fugu chef does think he’s making off with Stagg’s briefcase full of cash. But it seems weird to kill a guy for money he was going to give you in an actual legal and above-board transaction. I guess keeping the money and the restaurant is good, but, sheesh, having a restaurant grow successful enough to be worth selling out is winning the lottery. What more does he want? Third, so, the final toxicology report (delivered the 22nd of March) is that Stagg died of blowfish toxin. I take it this is meant to signify that Pepper got away with it, killing Stagg in a way that looked like it was an unrelated accident.
In which case, yeah, Pepper committed a perfect crime and undid it by kicking Dick Tracy until the super-detective got curious. This isn’t by itself a problem. People committing crimes they aren’t actually smart enough to succeed in can make for great storytelling. Elmore Leonard, the 2016 Electoral College, the Coen Brothers, and the Florida Man Twitter feed make compelling material out of this. And Tracy (on the 31st of March) says he hasn’t met any smart criminals yet. All right, but if the point is that Pepper piddled away his chance to get away with killing a rich man for money, I’d like that made clearer. Tracy didn’t even ask Pepper any specific questions; why was he panicked already?
One of the hallmarks of the Staton/Curtis era of Dick Tracy has been rapid, relentless pacing. And that’s great; story strips don’t need to be lethargic, much as they seem to be trying to be. But they do fall into a counterbalancing failure, where the plot logic and the motivations behind things are unclear or just baffling. I have no idea why Pepper figured “try and kill Dick Tracy” was the sensible thing to do after killing Stagg. I’d like it if I did.
The new, and current, storyline started the 9th of April. Britt Reid, publisher of the Central City Daily Sentinel, is in town, poking around organized crime. This has attracted the interest of old-time radio fans, because yes, it’s a crossover. Britt Reid was known for years on radio, and for about one season on TV in the 60s, and for about 45 minutes in the movies in like 2011, as the Green Hornet. Reid’s gimmick, then and now, was to pose as a respectable newspaper publisher — so you see how far back this schtick goes — pursuing the super-villain the Green Hornet. But the Green Hornet is himself Reid, using the reputation of being a super-villain to infiltrate and break up actual crime rings.
This is unrelated, but, there was a little bit on one of Bob Newhart’s albums where he thought about the TV show I Led Three Lives. This show was about one Herb Philbrick, who was a communist for the FBI. Not from the show I Was A Communist For The FBI. Newhart opined that he wished, just one, in one of the Communist cell meetings that someone should have stood up and said, “Say, has, ah … has anyone else ever noticed, uh, whenever we assign Philbrick to anything, we all get arrested?” I’m not one to spoil a good golden-age-of-radio gimmick, but, like, the original Plastic-Man was only able to use this same approach about four issues before the mobsters caught on that Plastic-Man’s secret gangster identity was bad luck.
Anyway, Britt Reid and Dick Tracy meet, to review what they know: Central City mobster Cyrus Topper is trying to hook up with the Apparatus, the organized crime syndicate in Tracy’s town. The Green Hornet seems to be following. Tracy’s sure that Topper and the Hornet will get justly deserted. No, neither one of them knows what’s happened to Jim Scancarelli. You’d think he’d be all over this meeting of former Golden Age of Radio crime-detection superstars. And that’s about where things stand.
There’s only a few threads left loose from the last couple months’ stories. One is Matty Squared, the artificial intelligence/uploaded semi-personality of Mister Bribery’s former accountant. He was last seen the 10th of February, planning to head to “the server farms down south”. His companion: a mouse named Ignatz that’s got to be the oddest Krazy Kat reference in a long while.
It’s never said what the Moon Governor talked about with Diet Smith, Honey Moon Tracy, and Mysta Chimera. The Moon Governor himself emerged from the Lunarians’ secret hideout (somewhere on Earth) to investigate telepathic signals. Mysta? Honey Moon? Someone else? It hasn’t been said explicitly so anything might be yet entered into evidence. And no, I haven’t forgot that someone’s trying to scare B O Plenty and family out of their estate by making ghost noises.
A thread that hasn’t been brought up, and might never be: Britt Reid was, canonically, the grand-nephew (or something like that) of the Lone Ranger. The characters have been owned by separate companies since the 50s, so allusions to this have to be more deniable or involve more negotiation ahead of time. But the comic strip did show Vitamin Flintheart and Joe Tracy watching a Vista Bill movie. I think that’s made up for the in-universe continuity. But a western hero with the wonder horse Comet crying out “Fly, Comet! And Awaaay!” is reminding people of something. Merely for world-building? Perhaps, and plausibly so. For something more? Goodness knows.
What’s going on in Gasoline Alley? There’s evidence that at least someone is there as reruns go into their sixth month. What’s going on with Jim Scancarelli? I haven’t heard anything today. But a whole week from now? Maybe that will have changed. Come on around and let’s see what we might find out.
This has been nagging at me since last Monday. It’s the Inspector Danger’s Crime Quiz. It’s sort of a Slylock Fox for people who like a touch more narrative. Also to have the crime be murder a lot. Also for the victims to often be dot-com millionaires or academics. (The latter makes me feel a bit personally targeted, but the academics always give a hint who murdered them by, like, typing out the number of letters in their killer’s name or something like that. So they probably were terrible to their grad students, if any, and deserved it.) In last Monday’s installment cartoonist Werner Wejp-Olsen put Inspector Danger through one of his routine methods of criminal-catching: going somewhere, leaving, returning, and noticing something. It’s an old gimmick but it works surprisingly well. And here’s what he saw.
I admit I am not a person who takes great care with domestic niceties. Yes, once, when I lived in an apartment I did have a doormat. And I did even take it once, when I had to move from that building to another owned by the same company just because the first building was collapsing and probably dangerously unstable and the floor tilted, probably, only about five degrees downhill, even if the size of the living room made it feel like it was eight or nine degrees. But I only took the doormat because the new apartment didn’t have one, and then I left it in the trunk of my car because lazy, until my sister ended up owning the car and I think she lost it when the car was in an accident that left it too damaged to bother repairing.
What I’m saying is, were I a fugitive, I’m not sure I would bother replacing my apartment-door doormats even if they were in terrible shape. And this one doesn’t even look that bad. But I’m not sure I’d have bouquets of flowers either, not without someone to nudge me into action. In which case I’d expect that someone to replace the flowers in a timely fashion because goodness knows I’d never notice.
And yet I appreciate that in Inspector Danger’s world, criminals on the run worry about whether their doormats are nice enough. And replace them in the hours after the detectives have been around. It suggests a world of depravity on the level of the Adam West Batman, where the greatest expressions of human depredation are, like, a squat fellow who quacks a lot and has many specialized umbrellas, and all their worst crimes are stuff like stealing an unusually large violin. Don’t you wish that was as bad as humans got?
Pumpkin Is Back. Unexplained sign in the midst of a patch of those trees they have lining every Interstate-grade highway. It’s an invitation to wonder: pumpkin was away? I suppose technically. We worry a lot about pumpkin-spice things in fall and I guess it’s fall enough for most practical purposes around here. But pumpkin isn’t pumpkin-spice, as your pedantic friend on Facebook is already trying to contact me to complain about. I’m not on Facebook, but if you like I’ll give you some inaccurate names that might well be people your friend could complain to instead. Still, pumpkin what? Pie? Bread? Spice? Some other pumpkin product, such as pumpkin-inspired gatherings of squirrels? All great thoughts before you smash into the back of the Two Guys And A Pumpkin moving van that stopped short.
An Unspeakably Great Mass Of Foam On The Median. This overstates things. It’s more of a speakable mass of foam, but that’s because there isn’t a whole lot to foam. Most of it is air and the parts that aren’t air are … water? Soap? Something, anyway. What makes it so speakable is that it seems to be going on for quite a way. A quarter-mile or more of dribbles of foam resting in the grass, almost all the way to the Pumpkin sign. Why foam? Is someone trying to scrub the highway? Sure it needs it, but why the median? Or is this what’s left over after an inadequate rinse job? If they’re rinsing, is it just washing the road or are they trying to dye the highway so it looks younger? But why would a highway want to look younger? Is it trying to attract a new partner after Old Business 17 got re-routed five years back? Ends at Thump Road, gateway to the industrial bubble district.
Lego Buck Rogers. Another inexplicable sign. Is this a movie? A toy line? One social commentator’s cryptic message about the recycling and mashing-up of ideas to produce a franchise that feels worn out at its newest? Is Buck Rogers different from Flash Gordon in any way we have to have an opinion about? Is it about leaving the spaceships all over the rumble strips on the edges of the road? Did they dispense foam on the median in the attempt to escape killer trucks? If so, why is it not Lego Foam?
Inexplicable speedup. The less-appreciated counterpart to those weird little vortices of tardiness that roll around highways. Those spots where everybody suddenly drops to like twenty miles per hour. Here for no especial reason all the traffic gets going twenty or even thirty miles per hour faster. This lasts until the spot is passed, which takes only a couple seconds. Many people don’t even know they were in it unless somebody remarks how they arrived as much as five seconds ahead of expectations. This happens maybe four percent more often than you would expect.
Highway Sign Displaying The Message “September 5”. This one seems straightforward enough, what with there being a September and it having a “5” in it. No warning about anything starting then, or ending then, or continuing then, or even not being done at all then. And it isn’t the 5th of September or any date particularly near it either, except on a cosmic or historical scale. Possibly someone hopes to raise the brand awareness of September. Or “5”. If it’s an attempt to raise awareness of 5 that might explain why it didn’t say “September 15”. That would bring “1” even more attention than it already gets.
Customers Welcome. Sign painted to the wall of the … cement shop? Had they not been taking customers before? Were they just sitting behind cement desks thinking how nice and peaceful everything was and then they got worried about meeting payroll? Or is the cement industry only now getting tired of old-fashioned ways? They’re now looking to sell cement to people who need cement for whatever it is they do? Maybe something like creating tiny Brutalist public libraries for their backyard patio? Easily the strangest customer appeal since the shop with the sign Nominated One Of Three Places To Buy Paint that was off the foamy exit like six months ago. Maybe they were celebrating the return of someone nicknamed Pumpkin up there? That kind of makes sense.
Last week around these parts I mentioned this huge lump of coal. It was dropped off a train in Lansing over a century ago. It was around in 1976 to take school bus tour groups to. Now it isn’t there. As far as I can tell. I want to give a full report about the spot where it’s supposed to be, so I can say what’s there now. Maybe the coal was gone but it had been replaced with a heaping pile of bauxite, for example, or perhaps potash. Maybe jute or some naval supplies. But I didn’t have the chance to get over there. Well, I got in the area, since it’s near the pet store. But I had to go over to the pet store under emergency circumstances. They didn’t allow for a side trip to go looking for deposits of cinnabar or whatever. But I looked at the place on Google Maps Streetview and I didn’t see anything. I think.
But lumps of missing coal aren’t all the interesting stuff described in Helen E Grainger’s 1976 book Pictorial Lansing: Great City On The Grand. I think there’s supposed to be a colon there. The cover isn’t quite clear. I’m sure it’s not Pictorial Lansing Great City On The Grand That Changed The World. The book’s got, for example, a picture of Ransom Olds’s mansion. He’s the person who invented the Oldsmobile. Just like you might guess if you were bluffing your way through the question “Who invented the Oldsmobile?” and you rejected “Biddle Jehoshaphat Mobile” for no good reason. The Olds mansion was torn down in 1966 to make way for an Interstate, which is a wee bit on-the-nose, people. The mansion had an Aeolian organ that was “sold and delivered to Oregon”. So if anyone in Oregon’s seen an Aeolian organ and doesn’t know where it’s come from, here’s a lead.
Then there’s the Lions Den. It’s also known as “The Lawrence Mansion”, “Squire Haven’s 1861 House”, and “Brauer’s 1861 House”. It is “now, in 1976, the oldest building in Michigan that has a restaurant in it”. Somehow the phrasing of that sentence makes me doubt my conceptual model of restaurants. It shouldn’t. There’s nothing revolutionary about the idea of a restaurant that doesn’t take up a whole building. Or a building that doesn’t have a restaurant. The phrasing just fills me with doubts. I don’t know. Anyway, a neat feature of the 1861 Lawrence Brauer Squire Haven 1861 Mansion House is a glass on top. The book says “the day [construction workers] finished it, all the working crew had a drink from a wine glass and then one of the workers climbed up and put this little wine glass upside down on top of the spire that goes up in the sky from the cupola”. The next page has a picture of the glass on the cupola on the spire on the building on whatnot.
It’s also gone. My love did some research and found that the glass was replaced at least once. And it was painted over and paint-welded to the spire at least once. And sometime last decade the building got declared architecturally unsound. It was down before it could slide downriver and crash into an Interstate. They were planning to build condos there, if I have it right, and then noticed it was 2008 so they decided to instead not build condos.
Now for something that is still there. I know it is because I keep seeing it along Michigan Avenue. But never up close because it’s on the median and there’s not anywhere nearby enough to park without looking weird. I’m glad the book tells me what it is so I don’t have to go experience it myself. It’s a blurry copper-I-guess plaque on a stone that doesn’t look at all like coal and if the book is right it reads:
This block of concrete represents the efforts of Lansing’s pioneer residents in the laying of one of the first and longest stretches of concrete pavement in the world, between Lansing and East Lansing.
That’s like four miles, downtown-to-downtown. Grainger didn’t know when the plaque was put up. The Highway Commissioner named took office in 1933, so, probably it wasn’t 1931, but otherwise who knows? Can we rule out 1954 in its entirety? But that’s all right, because Grainger didn’t know when the concrete pavement was put down either. She guessed not later than 1914. So I want you to appreciate all this. It’s a plaque I technically speaking have not read, put up sometime we do not know, commemorating an event that happened at some time we do not know. I’m not saying this is the funniest thing in the world. I’m saying this is one of the more giggle-worthy things I’ve run across in easily twenty-two days.
So in all, I would like to say that here in mid-Michigan, there are things, or used to be, and that isn’t so bad an arrangement.
So there’s this city block near us that’s slated to be torn down. It had hosted a restaurant, a barber shop, a couple other small shops, some apartments overhead, that sort of stuff. It’s scheduled to be demolished and replaced with a new building. That’ll be able to host, oh, a restaurant, a barber shop, a couple other small shops, some apartments overhead, that sort of stuff. Only it’ll be a modern building, which means it’ll be lined with that new kind of brick they have that looks like a fake brick even though it’s real bricks. I don’t know how brick manufacturers have figured out ways to make real bricks look fake, but they have, and they’re going to show off that severely postmodern brick-making technique.
Anyway, behind the doomed buildings was a parking lot. There still is. It had been a metered parking lot. But at some point the city, I imagine but do not actually know, came around and took out all the parking meters. So, you know, free parking lot now that there’s nothing to go to there, which is something.
But it’s got me wondering what happened to the parking meters. Was there some other parking lot in town that had a desperate need for meters and that was finally satisfied? Or did the city decide to take the meters and put them in storage? If so, why, since it’s not like they couldn’t get at least a little spare change from people who figured to use the lot anyway? Or did they just not want to risk some kind of mischief happening, so they put them all in a storage locker? And if all these parking meters are sitting in a storage locker, are we positive someone’s paying the rent reliably? Because thinking of a 20-by-20 unit of parking meters getting impounded just makes me giggle almost to the point it could be heard.
My love and I went to a hipster bar yesterday. We’re in the state’s competitive pinball scene, you see, and there’s a monthly tournament held at that bar. It’s a nice place, decorated with abstract re-imaginings of movie posters and a huge picture of Rocksteady and Bebop proclaiming their secret love for turtles. That kind of place. I came in eighth place, although I was the only person to manage the objective in playing Jersey Jack Pinball’s The Wizard of Oz in one ball. Not bragging, just clinging to my meager accomplishment.
Anyway. The bar’s a nice place, but it does not serve food. The manager is cool with people bringing food in. There’s a decent hipster sandwich shop just down the block, for example, and we hear of burrito places nearby and there’s another hipster bar acros the street that we guess you could bring elaborate burgers from. You can peek in on people eating all the easily taken-out cuisine of the area there.
So why was there a real metal fork on the floor?
I mean, I just hate the thought someone brought their real silverware all the way from home and then lost it before even finding out if anyone would beat the objective on Ghostbusters, which nobody did because it was impossible.
I happened to look out a second-floor window. A couple houses down a woman was sitting on the patio, at the table. She was looking seriously and alertly at nobody there. Maybe she was waiting for someone who’d dashed in for something. I choose to believe she’s haunted by a ghost of the Adirondack Chair, but it’s not like a malicious ghost. It’s someone you can sit down and have an iced tea with. Well, the ghost has iced ghost tea. Maybe some ghost biscotti too, if the ghost has decided it’s a little chilly out and would rather have hot coffee. It’s basically a nice neighborhood.
I did it! I managed to go the month without obsessively watching WordPress’s daily statistics report. But also, I got to see, for the first time since the Apartment 3-Gocalypse, some growth in readership figures again. I’m going to credit this to finally acting cool enough people don’t suspect how needy I actually am.
But the numbers speak for themselves, once someone says them. In May there were 1,198 page views around here. April had a meager 1,043, and March a less-meager 1,107. The visitor count was up also, to a not-so-meager-exactly 677 from April’s 583 and March’s 632.
The number of likes isn’t changing much, one way or another. It was 201 in May, compared to 213 in April and 201 back in March. I may have hit a plateau.
The number of comments was way down, but part of that is an accounting change. I worked out that, apparently, WordPress counts it as a comment if I make a link to the full URL of something, nebushumor.wordpress.com/etc. But if I use the short URL, wp.me/etc, that doesn’t count. So I tried doing that to see how many people said stuff without counting my own cross-linking. This suggests there were 25 for May. And while that’s technically down from April’s 50 and May’s 36, I don’t know how that compares in actual comments. Shall have to wait and see.
And what was popular around here in May? Of course, the lead article was something written by a guy who died when I was seven:
I apologize for putting all that in a bullet list when one sentence would do, but I read that it somehow makes readers happier to see bullet lists of things. I don’t know why either. Among my special interest countries: Singapore gave me five page views, India 23, and Poland none at all. Poland, is everything OK? Also the European Union somehow is listed with three page views.
Single-reader countries this time around were:
The (*) countries were single-reader countries last month too. Nobody’s on a three-month streak.
Search terms bringing people here include:
challie chaplin quat about laying woman (I dunno, quat about laying woman?)
what kind of an essay a winter tree please help me i’m stuck? (Again I dunno. Maybe try scattering some sawdust and that’ll help traction?)
a cartoon comic strip of two scientists fighting that one believes in the progression theory (This suggests that there weren’t shorter search queries that could turn up any pages which were relevant, and he got mine instead, which wasn’t?)
cartoon of kid swipes a pirate peg leg (I dunno, but it seems like if you just watch any syndicated panel strip for a couple weeks they’ll do this.)
mary worth artist change? (Oh yes! Mary Worth has got a new artist for the Sunday strips. The Sundays are now done by June Brigman. The Monday-to-Saturday strips are still by Joe Giella. And yeah, the current story is what you think it is from reading any given day’s strip.)
My humor blog starts June with 35,889 page views, from something like 18,551 distinct readers. While it’s overtaken my mathematics blog in visitors it’s still behind in total page views. WordPress says there’s 660 WordPress.com followers, up from 652 at the start of May and 647 at the start of April.
If you aren’t a WordPress follower, or an e-mail subscriber, but have been convinced by seven hundred words about numbers about other readers to follow me, please sign up! There’s a little blue button to “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” at the upper left corner of the page, to the left of the headline. And beneath that should be a Follow By E-Mail button. Or you can follow me on Twitter, where I post announcements of these things and also sometimes livetweet the awful cartoon I’m watching for some reason. That sort of thing.
Oh, another mysterious little thing around the neighborhood. Somebody hand-stenciled a sign with a phone number and the words “Clock Repair”. And then nailed it to a telephone pole pretty near the big strip mall near here. No name or anything. It’s just an implicit promise that if you call this number you will acquire links with the world of clock-repairers who take enough pride in their work they want to advertise, but not so much pride that they want to say who they are or where to find them.
Plus they just hung the sign on one of the roads leading up to the mall, not actually at the mall or anything. I guess I don’t have a better idea where to hang signs on the street to find people with clock-repair-needs. But it’s hard shaking the idea they might do better with some more focused marketing approach, like picking houses at random and asking the residents if they have any clocks that aren’t clocking anymore.
The heck of it is, we have a clock that needs fixing. If they’d just come to us we could’ve worked something out. But now we have to remember to write down the number if it’s still there next time we see it. Don’t think too hard about that last sentence and just trust me that it’s there.
I’ll start this roster from close to home and work my way out. First is that the goldfish we finally moved back into the pond outside just aren’t eating algae. They look like they are, what with their being goldfish and the algae being algae. I would have imagined that an arrangement they could keep up with. But they’re not eating it, not nearly so fast as the algae’s growing. Some of the goldfish are going so far as to swim into the middle and hover worryingly still. I guess they’re doing what I would do if I walked into a room and was covered in a pile of powdered doughnuts. I mean, I wouldn’t leave either, and I guess I’d be annoyed if someone reached in with the pool grabber and poked me. So maybe that’s not mysterious on the part of those goldfish. But I’d be making clear progress in doughnut-eating in that case. I may not always know what to do, but I’m almost mastered doughnut-eating. Happy as the fish may be, they’re dragging down the house’s efficiency ratings and I’m considering calling in an expert. If you know of one please write in care of your television market’s local news-weather-and-traffic leader. I bet they’d like to know.
Down the block. That auto care shop that was having the weird passive-aggressive fight by way of its message sign? It finally put up a message to replace “The Cost Is Zero To Be A Decent Human Being” and it went over to “We Can’t Save Everyone But Everyone Can Save Someone”. So they were apparently getting back to their groove of messages that unintentionally inspire dread at the futility of existence. And then that message about saving someone lasted maybe a week and a half. Now it’s “Whether You Think You Can Or You Can’t You’re Right”. This inspirational messages has limitations. They’re not referring to your ability to just charm your way past a defensive perimeter and through the security cordon. They’re thinking more about whether you could get that Associate’s Degree in actuarial mathematics with night, weekend, and online classes. And even with small-scale things there’s limits. No matter how confident I am in how I spell “accommodation” today I can’t get the spell checker to agree I’ve managed to hit any word. I have to put it in quotes to fool it into not putting this ugly underline squiggle there.
I’m not asserting that the office-supply store down the street, the one with the showroom floor that seems to be nothing but task chairs pressed up against each other, is necessarily the front for some secret society maintaining a portal to a magical alternate dimension where possibly everybody is robot dinosaurs. But I did stop in recently because I needed some manilla envelopes. I figured, why not support a neighborhood business that’s got an extremely faded poster in the window for Space Pens? OK, because I terrify the woman working the showroom what with not making enough noise going in and her coming out of the back room not expecting a tall, beareded man seeking manilla envelopes there. I’m sorry.
Thing is, they didn’t have manilla envelopes. At least she couldn’t find any. They had a small stock of actual office supplies, with most o the showroom being dust-covered task chairs. She was able to find a couple envelopes, but they were kind of peach or maybe salmon-colored. I was looking for manilla envelopes because I needed some paper folded up and glued together so that other paper could be put inside it, to then put the envelope inside a filing cabinet, there to be lost. The color didn’t matter. I had to promise that it was all right they had peach envelopes. I trust they got them from their warehouse supplier in that alternate timeline where history has proceeded just like it has here, only envelopes are colored weird.
So there’s this bowling alley not too far off. Rumor is it used to be a city park, for some reason, and I don’t know anyone who understands why or whether it is anymore. I’d go and ask them but I’m worried they would try explaining bowling to me. “You know how it’s fun to knock stuff over? What if you could knock stuff over in a manner tolerated by society? And have a machine pick things up to be knocked over again? And, from 10 pm, with a blacklight and a diffracted laser turned on?” The proposition sells itself. I don’t need to have that explained to me.
What I do need to be sold on, if I read their sign right the other day, was traffic hazard cones. It was in traffic and I was driving so I didn’t want to pay too much attention to it but they were going to have a sale on traffic hazard cones? Which is somehow something you can just do at bowling alleys? I mean, I understand needing traffic hazard cones. And you have to get them from somewhere. I just wouldn’t have thought the bowling alley.
Here’s a picture of a Christmas tree decorated, back in December, by the Gravity Works Design and Development group at the local zoo. Questions this raises:
So that is Darth Vader merged by transporter accident with a Christmas tree, right? Or did he just fall and he’s making the best of his dignity the situation will allow? Or is he sneaking up on dryads? If so, why would the Dark Side of the Force care about dryads one way or another? Also what kind of firm is “Gravity Works Design and Development”? Is it a technology firm? Is it a graphic design studio? Maker of weightlifting equipment? A special effects house? Flying saucer gone awry? Is it a roller coaster manufacturer? Why am I going through my Christmas photos in April? Am I that far behind? Is there any chance I could be a tiny bit more timely? No, there’s not.
So I’ve been reading Jerome Friedman’s The Battle Of The Frogs And Fairford’s Flies, about the chapbook and pamphlet reporting of paranormal or supernatural events during the era of the English Civil War and Commonwealth, because why would you not read a book like that? I want to share one of its reports, from 1647’s The Most Strange And Wonderfull Apparition of Blood in a Pool at Garreton.
Apparently, for four days the pond water in the town of Garreton in Leicestershire grew ever-darker, turning, some thought, to blood; cattle would no longer drink from it, though fish from the pond tasted fine. And then, the pamphlet-writer reported, “philosophers” were called in.
I know, I know, I know what the original author meant by philosophers. And yet I can’t help figuring the decision to bring philosophers in went something like this:
John Thwapper: “The water hath turned to blood! Quick, summon a philosopher!”
Jake A-Plummet (whose family got the name for an ancestor renowned for his ability to fall): “Kantian or Neoplatonist?”
Jack O’Wort: (looking up from his meal of blood-water fish) “We … we need the cattle to drink the water, so that’s a utility. Best summon a utilitarian, eh?”
Mary Chortle: “We need the water to change. Obviously there’ll be no help for us save from a Pre-Socratic.” And when everyone around her just looks confused, she scowls at what a lot of idiots are in her town and cries out, “Thales of Miletus, ye fools!”
And I realize you’re probably not laughing at that, but somewhere I’ve made a philosophy major giggle, so this is all worth it.
Anyway, the book doesn’t say what the philosopher was able to do about it, but the pamphlet-writer concluded — with some grumbling that philosophers distracted from the wonderfullness of the event, so apparently only after they got involved did the water turning to blood kind of suck? — that the real thing to be learned from this apparition was that the English Civil War caused a lot of people to die, and more of his countrymen needed to understand this, which suggests he figured a lot of the English people had somehow missed the War. Maybe they thought it was some unusually fertile year for frogs or something.
This book is just madness. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t think it’s fiction. It’s certainly not fact. The history books hissed when it was brought near. The religion books gave it this hostile sneer. New Age turned its back; Philosophy wouldn’t even give it that. The text spills out round pictures meeting some need; the exposition plunges on as a panicked steed. It can’t be filed as a kitchen appliance or set of magnetic poetry blocks. We just have to put it on a little table by itself under signs reading “?”. If someone comes in saying they just need a “book” we can point them to this and wish them good luck.
I found in the hotel room — this is true, by the way — that the rubber insulation of part of my laptop’s power cord had got torn up. I’m not sure how it happened. The cord was wrapped up, and inside a plastic bag, because I’ve liked putting power cords inside plastic bags ever since that airport security screener told me that was a smart thing to do. But when I pulled it out it looked like it had been chewed open by a tiny bear, or maybe that it had exploded as an even tinier hippogriff guppy hatched from within it. I know what you’re thinking and no, our pet rabbit has a solid alibi. So far it’s still giving power but I wonder how lon
I thought the link on the BBC News Science and Environment page read “Bird slime reserve baffles experts” and that’s why I clicked it. Who wouldn’t wonder what there was to be baffled by in the current bird slime reserves? Bird slime reserves are the soundest form of capital deposit known to the financial world, because anyone challenging the worth of one nation’s reserves is liable to get a telegraphic transfer of bird slime for their nosiness.
But no, the link was really, “Bird reserve slime baffles experts”, as there’s mysterious jellies appearing at a nature reserve in the Ham Wall nature reserve in Somerset, England. That’s not so mysterious, apart from how nobody knows just what it is or why it’s here or what it’s doing. I want my link-clicking returned, which I can get by applying in care of this office.