So I learned that Garret Augustus Hobart, to date the only Rutgers alumnus to serve as Vice-President of the United States, grew up in the same part of Monmouth County, New Jersey, that I lived in as a teenager. Indeed, it’s quite plausible that he was tromping around on streets not one mile down the road from where I went to middle school, albeit a century earlier. And Hobart isn’t one of those mere footnote Vice-Presidents. He affected the course of history what with his bold decision to die in office in 1899, after all. I was all ready to call my dad and ask if he knew this exciting fact about one of the estimated forty 19th century United States vice-presidents to have died in office. And then I remembered, oh yeah, that’s why everyone treated me like that in middle school. Hm. Yeah. I hate to admit but they had a point.
I was figuring to take it easy for the start of the new year. So I’m reprinting a piece that originally ran when this feature was written by my great-uncle Chuck for the Perth Amboy News Tribune. I’m pretty sure he was my great-uncle. I hate to admit, but I do get mixed up some. The best I can follow all our male relatives on that side of the family were named “Chuck” or “Al”, as if the family were afraid we didn’t really know how to pick names and might get in trouble so we just went with whatever worked last time. I’m sure we could sort this out if we asked my father, Joseph. Or, if we had gotten to the question sooner, his father, Joseph. Anyway here’s an essay that first appeared in this column in 1955. Enjoy!
There have been a great many enquiries to this office about how to get three cars to the same place at the same time. Perhaps the number is not that great, but they make up for it with persistence. “But madam,” I protest, “This is the water-commissioner’s office!” They are unmoved. They are certain I have answers. “Have you considered that it is because of the drought?” I offer. This hasn’t anything to do with the issue, but it promises a useful distraction. Still, let us consider the question in its original spirit and try to answer it fairly, two falls out of three.
If you wish to get three cars to the same place at the same time the first question you must answer is: why? Is this really worth your doing? What I’ll bet you want is to get three cars’ worth of people to the same place at the same time. And the most efficient way to do that is to find some reason not to go there. Two-thirds of your party would be up for that anyway, and are secretly hoping someone will offer. But there’s that stubborn remainder that will have you all going out, come what may. “I don’t care that we could roller-skate in the basement, if we moved the garden furniture out of the way,” they’ll hold. “I want to go do it where there’s more space and we have to pay for popcorn.” Fine. Let them learn.
The best way to be sure everyone gets to the place is to give everyone the address and the meeting time. Then take out every map available, including that one of the Old Northwest you got intending a joke that never worked right, and review the course and three alternate courses. Then let everyone go off on their own and hope for the best. The best is two-thirds of the party gathering while the third that insisted on going out instead somehow ending up at the Perth Amboy YMCA.
But even with this clear plan and good will in mind, the cars will set off, attempting to convoy. The cars stick as close together as they can, the first two turning right at the end of North Feltus Street and the third turning left. This inspires a right jolly conversation among the passengers. It ends with sore throats and sorer feelings, but at least an agreement to catch the other vehicles and tell them they’re going the wrong way. Meanwhile the other two cars have come to a stop where they can just see the funeral home, waiting for their lost partner, which goes past without noticing them. They try to catch up, and are foiled by the traffic signal, which separates the now-second car from the third. The second car honks furiously, getting the attention of the first, and they agree to wait outside the accordion place in fond hope of regrouping.
And this is taking the simple way there. The other way would have taken the party through the triangle of streets inside the larger triangle of streets, planned out by the city fathers in order to demonstrate Book VI, proposition 8 in their Euclid. There is no chance of the three cars making it through. History teaches us at least one car will be nudged away from the convoy by a German submarine, and its passengers will be interned in Ireland for the duration of the conflict.
But we have set off on the less treacherous path. From here it should be a left turn at the KoC. But the sense of the party has decided it’s the left turn just after the KoC. Doing this brings everyone back around to the other side of the accordion place and agreement to try a right turn instead. From here it should be not more than a quarter-mile, everyone stopping before they get to the train tracks. Four other cars somehow get between the three voyagers.
The roller-skating rink is closed today.
A thing to understand about my area of mid-Michigan is that there are sandwich shop chains. Particularly there are two sandwich shop chains with a New Jersey theme. There are good reasons for this. If you know them please submit them in writing care of an office. These events happened while I was eating lunch in one of them.
There was a kid sitting at the table next to mine. Well, sitting in the way that a young kid does, which is, hovering around the table and hopping onto and off of the chairs and putting her chin on the back of a chair and then calling out to an adult who existed somewhere about the prospect of having a cookie. She didn’t talk about the “prospect” of a cookie. That’s me putting words into her mouth, as she only had the promise of a future cookie. I’m not sure how old she was. Once they’re old enough to stand up reliably all kids look to me like they’re either four, ten, or sixteen. This kid was at the four-year-old level.
I wasn’t worried about the kid. Whatever she was up to, it wasn’t my fault, and the worst that you can really do at that age in a sandwich shop is spill your soda. She didn’t have a soda, so she must have got around to spilling it before I even got in. And then suddenly she asked me, “What’s that?”
I would have been happy to know what what she wanted the that to. I’m sorry, I feel seasick and have to lie down a bit. Okay, I’m back. I guessed she was pointing to the picture on the wall and tried to explain it was a woman sunbathing. This seemed to satisfy the kid so I thought, great! I’ve had my unplanned interaction with a stranger for the week. Now I don’t have to talk to anybody anymore. On later examination it turns out to be a picture of a woman on a sailboat.
“What’s that?” asked the kid again, pointing at about the same spot. I tried to follow her finger and guessed maybe she meant what the woman who was not sunbathing was part of. It’s a replica of one of those “Welcome To ____” postcards. This seemed like a vast conceptual universe to get across to a kid. I did my best: “It’s a picture of Point Pleasant. That’s a town on the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a neat place. They used to have a Ferris wheel and a roller coaster and a beautiful merry-go-round there.” I was bluffing. But, like, it’s a Jersey Shore town. If they didn’t have a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, and a merry-go-round they weren’t even trying. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: Jenkinson’s Boardwalk! No, that’s in Point Pleasant Beach, a technically different borough in the same part of the Barnegat Peninsula. The kid was very interested in all this right up until I started answering. Still, she seemed satisfied so the world was all in order.
“What’s that?” the kid then asked again and I was running out of things to that about. My book? “It’s a book about Popeye,” I said and hoped that the kid would not be at all interested. I mean, I’d love for someone not-old to be interested in Popeye. But the book had a collection of strips from the 30s and 40s. And in those days comic strips had about eighteen panels each weekday, none of them with fewer than 600 words per panel. If the kid had any idea I was looking at comics she might want to read along and I won’t live long enough for that. But I could at least give an answer and hope that satisfied.
“What’s that?” she asked again. And I gave up. And now I must face knowing that, for all I think of myself as a self-confident and self-assured person, any four-year-old kid can break me with one question repeated four times. Maybe five if I wasn’t quite listening to start with. “What’s what?” I asked back and the kid wasn’t intersted in whatever I had to say.
She perhaps felt she had triumphed. She did not ask me “What’s that?” again. Instead she sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. When she reached the end, I told her, “That’s a very nice song. Did you make it up?” She didn’t dignify me with an answer. Fair enough although I’m like 85% sure my niece would have let me get away with asking that when she was four years old. I was honestly intending to give her the chance to call me silly for thinking she had made that up, or let her get away with saying she had. She’s the one who out-thought me entirely.
So I have to credit the sandwich shop kid for handily winning whatever social game she was playing with me. I’m completely defeated and I might never be allowed to buy a sandwich from anyone ever again.
All right, all right, don’t worry. Since I know you’re all too shy to ask the question I left waiting for you: something like five-sixths of the New Jersey state government’s revenues came from the Joint Companies, through much of the 19th century. And yes, in the 19th century the state government didn’t have many expenses. A state was mostly expected to pay for a psychiatric hospital, a home for the blind, and continuing to renovate the statehouse without it ever getting better. It’s not a lot, compared to today where the state’s supposed to have, like, roads and police and a university and all that. Still, one railroad and one canal company could cover nearly all the contemporary responsibilities with just the annual tribute for their monopoly privileges. Isn’t that wild? I know!
Reference: A History of Physics in its Elementary Branches (Through 1925): Including the Evolution of Physical Laboratories, Florian Cajori.
Source: Two Sides of the Moon, David Scott, Alexei Leonov, Christine Toomey.
WordPress used to make this nice little fireworks video to represent what blog readership was like over the year. It’d do a presentation with a firework for every post, spaced out the way your posts of the year were. And it’d compare your readership numbers and averages and peaks to the population that would fit inside various easy-to-understand concepts like baseball stadiums or buses full of people. If they did that for 2016 I missed the e-mail, and since I despair of them bringing it back this year I’ll just go ahead and report on the year’s statistics as I know them.
2017 was the year that I embraced what Apartment 3-G coverage had taught me: people want story strips explained. So this year I did that, rotating among the twelve syndicated story comics that appear in actual newspapers as far as I know. I’m glad to do it. It gives me reason to pay more attention while reading my comics. I like writing summaries. I especially like doing that while keeping to a low-daisy diet. Avoiding reflexive, unconsidered snark while reviewing comics is good for my development as a writer. It’s probably better for the reader too. Not to dismiss snark; it’s a great rhetorical tool. It’s just reflexive snark that I want to avoid.
I managed to post something each day in 2017 and I admit sometimes I had no idea how I would. That’s my fourth year straight posting something every single day, even if those somethings aren’t always big ones. Besides the What’s Going On In series I also stumbled into a review of all the available Talkartoons. I thought at first that might be a nice, easy, low-effort way to get something respectable posted once a week and that’s turning into a research monster eating me so, good work? I also brought the Another Blog, Meanwhile index to its conclusion after something like a year of drawing exactly two comments on it ever. One of them was from my love, who wanted to know what the heck it was even about. It was about me seeing how long I would find this random gibberish amusing. This turns out to be something like a year.
In 2017 I got 24,695 page views, says WordPress. That’s way above my second-best year, 2015, when Apartment 3-G turned into such a fiasco. And both are better than 2016, when I resisted embracing my fate. You know, I’m probably going to want to find this in a convenient form later on so let me make a little table.
|Year||Views||Visitors||Views Per Visitor|
2013 was the year I started the blog, in early February or so, and so that has a mere 335 posts. I’m curious about the steady decline in views per visitor, although I suppose with the large number of people apparently stopping in just to see what’s happening in one of the story comics there’s less reason for them to go archive-binging. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway.
As I’d said, what people wanted to read around here was stuff about the story strips. What was most popular among that? I admit I was surprised. I guessed four of the comics that would be particularly asked about, but got one of the questions wrong. My top five essays, by page views, for 2017 were:
- What’s Going On With Judge Parker?
- What’s Going On With Rex Morgan, M.D.?
- Why Does Mary Worth Look Different?
- What Is Going On With Mark Trail?
- What’s Going On In Prince Valiant?
Two of those essays were even posted in 2017! And yes, Has the comic strip _Momma_ come to an end? made the top ten. My most popular original-content longform piece of the year was Popeye Space Ark 2000 Pinball … I Don’t Even Know. Which I’m not sad about, since it’s funny. But it was more an act of recapping the crazypants backstory that pinball and video game artist Python Anghelo crated for the Popeye pinball machine. I didn’t have to bring much to it.
If I haven’t missed something the long-form original piece from this year that got the most views was … nothing I would have guessed. It was Probably Not A Good Idea To Get Them Playing Diplomacy Though, based on a book I read about one of the earliest murders we have good, detailed investigative records for, the 1407 murder of Louis of Orleans. I guess that’s more naturally funny than it sounds like considering the whole affair ended in great national tragedy?
Speaking of nations. I can do a list of countries by page views for the year. I make out that there were 128 countries sending me any readers at all. 22 of them were countries that sent out a single reader, and that was it, for the whole entire year. I wonder what I said to scare people off.
|Hong Kong SAR China||60|
|Trinidad & Tobago||18|
|United Arab Emirates||14|
|St. Kitts & Nevis||4|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||3|
|Bosnia & Herzegovina||2|
|Northern Mariana Islands||1|
|Turks & Caicos Islands||1|
Won’t lie; I’m curious just what the single page some reader in Bhutan felt like reading. Also whether they were satisfied. I suppose not, or there’d have been more than the one page viewed.
Oh, yes, and comparisons between page views and some easy-to-understand alternative. 24,695 pages is a lot of views. It’s more than the number of people who’d go on 8,231 Apollo-style lunar landing missions. It’s more than 69 times the number of people who flew on every space shuttle mission combined. It’s more than one times the number of people who lived in Rockaway Township, New Jersey, in 2010, although not so many as lived in Ridgewood, New Jersey. The 15,187 unique visitors is almost exactly equal to the 2010 population of Hopatcong, New Jersey, but not quite equal to that of Mantua Township.
I hope that makes things easier to understand.
- November 17th
- November 31st
- Kevin’s Birthday (Kevin was born in February)
- November 9th
- Maundy Thursday
- The Feast of St Ailbe
- The New Jersey Big Sea Day (second Saturday in August, Manasquan, New Jersey)
- November 0x2AAth
- Black Friday
- Other Kevin’s Birthday (Other Kevin was born in December)
- It’s not tomorrow is it? We can’t go to the farmer’s market today, it’s going to be madness!
- September 4, 476 AD
Recently I got to visit Story Book Land, a small nursery-rhyme-forest and amusement park in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. Also there’s a place called Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. Yes, it has that name for the reason you’d expect: it’s a township. Story Book Land is a grand place, lots of displays of fairy tales. So this Santa Claus’s Workshop scene caught my eye:
Clearly I’m not in a position to tell Santa how he should run his business, and I shouldn’t disparage anybody’s qualifications before I know what they’re good at and what they like doing. It just seems a little cruel to give a lot of writing duties to a species that hasn’t got fingers. And I’m not too sure it’s considerate to put a reindeer on adding machine duty either, given, again, the whole hoof issue. Maybe Santa knows something I don’t. I just expect there’s all kinds of dropped … things, and probably shouting, involved.
Also I wish I had the courage to go to work wearing outfits like these reindeer do. And I work from home.
If anything characterizes what I think is funny, it’s “slightly over-researched stuff”. So here’s some pieces that exemplify that. When Time Came To New Jersey was somehow not that week’s long-form piece, but rather just a little something dashed off because I got to thinking about the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. And the question it raises I still haven’t answered, although I also haven’t asked any of the many people I in principle could to get some kind of answer.
In Why I Never Finish Just Reading A Stupid Book Already I get thrown off a book about usury and debt by a casual line about what the Secretary of the Treasury was doing in 1853. So I’m not just a person who reads about a history of usury and debt but also thinks about the change of office between Secretaries of the Treasury that happened in 1853.
And then in What Causes People To Sometimes Read About Canada there I go again, reading about the prelude to the British North America Act of 1867 (oh hey, happy birthday and stuff there) gets me thinking about the nature of boredom.
If you needed something else to read, here Twenty Books About Things That Changed The World and I thought I had read a majority of them. Huh.
Also including the District of Columbia because, heck, what does that cost me?
|State Or District Of Columbia||Thickness|
|Alaska||20,310 ft / 6191 m|
|California||14,783 ft / 4506 m|
|Washington||14,417 ft / 4394 m|
|Hawaii||13,803 ft / 4207 m|
|Nevada||12,665 ft / 3860 m|
|Arizona||12,565 ft / 3830 m|
|Idaho||11,954 ft / 3644 m|
|Utah||11,354 ft / 3461 m|
|Oregon||11,249 ft / 3429 m|
|Colorado||11,123 ft / 3390 m|
|Montana||11,003 ft / 3354 m|
|Wyoming||10,709 ft / 3264 m|
|New Mexico||10,323 ft / 3147 m|
|Texas||8,751 ft / 2667 m|
|North Carolina||6,684 ft / 2037 m|
|Tennessee||6,466 ft / 1971 m|
|New Hampshire||6,288 ft / 1917 m|
|South Dakota||6,276 ft / 1913 m|
|Virginia||5,729 ft / 1746 m|
|New York||5,343 ft / 1629 m|
|Maine||5,270 ft / 1606 m|
|Georgia||4,784 ft / 1458 m|
|Oklahoma||4,686 ft / 1428 m|
|West Virginia||4,623 ft / 1409 m|
|Nebraska||4,587 ft / 1398 m|
|Vermont||4,300 ft / 1311 m|
|Kentucky||3,887 ft / 1185 m|
|South Carolina||3,560 ft / 1085 m|
|Massachusetts||3,489 ft / 1063 m|
|Kansas||3,361 ft / 1025 m|
|Maryland||3,360 ft / 1024 m|
|Pennsylvania||3,213 ft / 979 m|
|North Dakota||2,757 ft / 840 m|
|Arkansas||2,698 ft / 822 m|
|Alabama||2,413 ft / 736 m|
|Connecticut||2,379 ft / 725 m|
|New Jersey||1,803 ft / 550 m|
|Minnesota||1,700 ft / 518 m|
|Missouri||1,542 ft / 470 m|
|Michigan||1,408 ft / 429 m|
|Wisconsin||1,372 ft / 418 m|
|Iowa||1,191 ft / 363 m|
|Ohio||1,094 ft / 333 m|
|Illinois||955 ft / 291 m|
|Indiana||937 ft / 286 m|
|Rhode Island||811 ft / 247 m|
|Mississippi||807 ft / 246 m|
|Louisiana||543 ft / 165 m|
|Delaware||447 ft / 136 m|
|District of Columbia||408 ft / 124 m|
|Florida||345 ft / 105 m|
Source: Wikipedia from which I learn there’s only two states that have spots below sea level? That’s weird. Like, I understand Colorado not having any spots below sea level, but there isn’t one rocky crag somewhere in, like, North Carolina that runs below the ocean level? And like how has someone not dug a big cement-lined pit somewhere on Long Island to set it underneath the sea level just to show they can do something pointless like that? You know? Also, I guess mines and stuff don’t count for lowest elevations, which is fair enough, but wouldn’t they start counting if the mine’s ceiling collapsed? It seems like states could totally rig their thickness rankings if they wanted. Plus, like, I know for a fact that New York State claims sovereignty over the seabed of the entire Hudson River; doesn’t that count as the lowest elevation in the state? I’m saying while I give you this list I think there’s a lot of pointless argument to have about what the lowest points of elevation in states such as New York and Delaware are and yes that is because I’m from New Jersey and angry about the implications of colonial-era borders.
You know, you never really think of Kansas as having more of an elevation change than Pennsylvania does. I feel a bit weirdly defensive about it myself.
I forget what exactly got me looking up the “Matawan-style” Texaco gas stations of the 60s, although it’s probably a sense of home patriotism. I grew up not far from Matawan, New Jersey, famous for … being the namesake of this one kind of Texaco gas station. Also for two of the shark attacks of 1916. Anyway I wasn’t sure what made something a Matawan-style Texaco gas station of the 60s as opposed to, say, a Manalapan Texaco or a Manahawkin Texaco. There’s a lot of places in New Jersey with names that sound kind of alike, because we paid the Leni Lenape three thousand dollars back in like 1804 to go away and leave their places behind and stop making us feel guilty about it, and this is what we’ve got.
Anyway, the Matawan-style Texaco design question led me on an Internet voyage that revealed, wonderfully, there are enthusiasts of different gas station design who gather in communities that talk about, say, spotting where a Matawan-style station got mutilated but was still identifiable in Benton Harbor, Michigan. And then sometimes interrupt to explain how the Teague was a more versatile design anyway. And all this stuff about gas station architecture fandom has me feeling like the world might just be a good idea despite it all.
- Floriemel, Carmela, and Margarita Coati. Cohanzick Zoo, Bridgeton, NJ. February 1. The animals come out and eat fruit to predict how many human-interest features will explain what the heck coatis are. They’re what Belize has instead of raccoons.
- Punxsutawney Phil, Punxsutawney, Totally Oughta Be Philadelphia. February 2. Groundhog famous for predicting whether we’ll get the place spelled right.
- Woody the Woodchuck, Howell, Michigan. February 2. Predicts whether spring will come to the lower peninsula in six weeks or whether spring will be like normal and arrive sometime late May. No forecast for the upper peninsula as spring has never come to the upper peninsula.
- Shrieking Sam the Shreveport Clam, Louisiana. February 4. Will holler up a storm about whether a storm is coming in. Does not count own hollering storm as a storm.
- Jormungandr, Low Earth Orbit. February 5. Rises early in the morning to determine whether this will be the year he eats Scandinavia. Spoiler: hasn’t for the last 876 years, starting to think he never will. Dress warmly anyway.
- Chris Squirrel, London. February 7. Adorable fluffy-tailed character in a computer-animated funny-animal movie about the Yes bassist. Forecasts whether the coming year will feature lasers.
- Kenny Kangaroo, Pittsburgh, February 8. Forecasts whether the Kennywood amusement park would close for the day at 8:00 or 9:00, if it were open in the middle of winter like this. Mostly a public-relations thing, unlike the other weather-forecasting animals.
- Carl, Des Moines, Washington, February 10. Oversleeping groundhog that makes us wonder why we need a Des Moines in Washington when the one in Iowa would seem to sate all our Des Moines needs, really. Forecasts whether eastern Washington state will have a quarter-inch of rain this year or whether it’ll stay dry.
- Cooler and overcast with flurries in the evening leading to arguments on I-195 about why everybody is there exactly.
- Clear skies but brisk and extremely windy. Wear extra layers and have an anchor ready in case of more extreme gusts than are good for you.
- Wintry mix giving way to showers of tiny hard pretzels and the unpopular ones of an assorted peanuts jar. This might be less the weather and more you tripping into the office party’s snack bowl.
- Though it’s enough above freezing you think it’s all right to run to the car without your gloves on, there’s just enough freezing rain to destroy the structural integrity of your skin if you try. Note: you can’t get your keys into the car door if you have your gloves on.
- Sharp drop in the temperature reminds you that somehow you only ever look at http://dogeweather.com when it’s really lousy out.
- It’s going to be 65 degrees at noon and drop to 22 by sunset? Did somebody forget to pay the sanity bill again?
Just like the title reads. My love got curious and looked up just what people could do at Michigan Secretary of State offices and it turns out it isn’t merely the ordinary Department of Motor Vehicle-type services you can do there. You can, for example, register to vote. Sure, you can do that at a New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission office, but — and here’s the thing — only as part of Motor-Votor plans. That is, you can do it only if it’s at the same time as doing some motor-vehicle-related business. If you just wander in to a New Jersey DMV office with the intention of registering to vote, you’ll be turned away by DMV-paperwork-inspectors. They’ll look over your itinerary and tell you that, no, the only thing you can do in their offices without any connection to motor vehicle paperwork is to sign up for an official state non-driver identification. Oh, and go to the bathroom, they’re okay with that.
But not so in Michigan. Here, you can go to what I had thought of as just the quirkily-named local version of the DMV and sign up to be a notary public. I mean, you could do that at a New Jersey DMV office, but only because you brought the form in to the bathroom with you. You couldn’t expect anyone to process it. Also at the Michigan Secretary of State office you can submit papers to have the Great Seal of the State of Michigan affixed. I’m pretty sure you just give them to the office and they send it in to be Great Seal affixed. I mean, they can’t have a Great Seal in every Secretary of State office since that makes a mockery of the whole Great Seal concept. But in case you need a Great Seal affixation, well, there you go. It’s to the Secretary of State office. Pretty sure what they do is send your document over to the Office of the Great Seal, which is a thing that exists, to be affixed there, and then you get it back somehow. Oh, you could just mail your thing in to the Office of the Great Seal directly, at a mailing address that is not the physical address of the Office of the Great Seal’s office. My point is just that if you go to a New Jersey DMV office you’re not going to get any documents affixed with that state’s Great Seal.
So while I had carelessly thought of this Michigan thing as a bit of quirkiness, that’s just because I had failed to investigate the matter. It’s entirely on me for not knowing this. At a New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission office the only non-motor-vehicle business you can transact is getting a non-driver state ID and go to the bathroom. At a Michigan Secretary of State office you can carry on all the business a person might expect to conduct with the Department of State. Except that you can only get the Great Seal affixation-submission business done from one of the six Secretary of State SUPER!Centers, which are like regular Secretary of State offices except you giggle when you see their name put out like that. Also I imagined that the Secretary of State office I went to wasn’t a SUPER!Center, since it’s on the east side of Lansing and the Office of the Great Seal’s office is like two miles west on the same road. But no, it is, and now I have that bit of trivia to deploy on some unsuspecting documents-authentication group sometime. So, you know, this has been a fruitful weekend overall.
Also the jury duty people called back and said as it happens they didn’t call my number anyway so no harm done when I forgot to check in for three days. I still feel awful about that.
There’s this amusement park in Clementon, New Jersey, called Clementon Park. Any questions so far? It’s a fine little place that survived a financial crisis that should’ve wiped it out and I’m glad it’s on the upswing. Quite good wooden roller coaster too.
I have a T-shirt from it. It’s the classiest amusement park T-shirt I own. It’s dark blue and has this nice diamond pattern down one side and it has a faux-heraldic shield with the park’s name and some of its rides and the letters N J on diagonal squares of the shield. If you didn’t know better you’d think it was for someplace where you couldn’t plausibly expect to buy a batter-dipped plastic fork.
A friend pointed out to me that the shirt was backwards, and I didn’t get it, but finally realized he meant instead of having it monogrammed J N. Well, I usually go by JFN when I need to go in initials. The F stands for what you would assume it does, assuming you assume it stands for my middle name. I smiled that this was a cute coincidence that hadn’t occurred to me and that was it until ten hours later when I thought of the response. “Oh yes,” I should have said, “I put my shirt on inside-out”, which doesn’t make sense but sounds enough like it should to qualify as a joke.
So now all I have to do is wait for some time when I’m wearing this particular T-shirt again, and someone happens to make a joke about the N J on the t-shirt matching two-thirds of my own initials in the wrong order, and then I’m set to sound all spontaneous! So I hope you’ll forgive me writing this here so I don’t forget it. I can’t sound effortless without this kind of work.
So here’s the upper-right-corner of Sunday’s edition of the Asbury Park Press, suggesting some of the fun things you might do on the Jersey Shore this weekend.
You might get your beach tag and wander around on sand that’s surprisingly hot considering. You might drop a computer’s “on” switch into water. You might enjoy a strawberry festival. Or you might take in the classic beach movie Jaws, about a shore community’s 4th of July celebration that ends in a bunch of people bloody and dead because of the need to draw tourists to the beach. Also this weekend, read the Asbury Park Press report on the centennial of the 1916 Jersey Shore Shark Attacks, the series of tragedies in that area that inspired Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws. This didn’t make the cover on Sunday.
I suppose I can’t really say this is “too soon”, what with the start of it all having been a hundred years ago. But it does remind me this is the community that ran sightseeing tours to the wreckage of the Morro Castle before the authorities had even finished finding someone who looked Communist to blame for the disaster.
Anyway, ah, mathematics comics: here’s some. There’ll be more tomorrow, it’s that kind of week. Thanks.
New Sweden was established in the Delaware River valley, in what is now southern New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania and the Twelve Mile Circle of Delaware, by exactly the nation you’d imagine, in 1638. It carried itself along for just under two decades. In 1655 the colony was conquered by, and absorbed into, the Dutch colony of the New Netherlands. But this expanded New Netherlands, with outposts along what they termed the North River (the Hudson) and the South River (the Delaware), would stay in Dutch control for barely a dozen years. In 1667 the whole colony was conquered by the English, New Amsterdam famously surrendering without firing a shot. History moves on: in 1673 the colony would be reconquered by the Dutch, New York less-famously surrendering without firing a shot. But they would be returned to England a year later, in the peace treaty which concluded the Third Anglo-Dutch War. The settlement would be exchanged for various East Indies spice islands, including Run, the legendary fount of nutmeg.
The many states of Europe adopted Pope Gregory’s reformed calendar — our modern calendar — at different times, mostly based on the religious politics of the state. Sweden held fast to the Julian calendar until 1700, when it made an attempt to switch over which went so wrong they had to create a February 30th to clean up the mess. (They would finally adopt the Gregorian Calendar successfully in 1753.) The states of the Netherlands switched to the Gregorian calendar or stuck, ten days behind, with the Julian calendar, depending on the religious preferences of the state. The colony of the New Netherlands was settled by the West Indies Company. The company was organized in the Catholic state of Holland, and so would be on the Gregorian calendar. England stuck it out on the Julian calendar through 1752 while telling itself it was so Protestant that the other Protestant nations couldn’t even see its Protestant-ness from where they were.
Presumably at least some part of the conquest of territories by new powers is to adjust the calendar for the residents. The courts, the tax assessors, all the business of government will naturally cling to the time which the regent keeps. North America may be far from Europe, and farther in the 17th century, but it would be intolerable to have European outposts not even agree what day the 21st of April is.
Therefore a resident of New Sweden should have seen her calendar switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar sometime after the Dutch conquest in 1655, losing ten days but getting a spring that actually starts in mid-March. And then she would have to see ten days stuffed back into the calendar somehow in 1667, with the English conquest. Possibly the Dutch would take the ten days back out again in 1673, if they didn’t have bigger problems to tend to what with being at war with both the English and the Anglos. If they did, then the resident had to stuff ten days back into her calendar as it switched back again a year later.
This surely annoyed and baffled the locals. It was confusing and frustrating enough in Europe where the calendar standards were fairly well-established and known for the whole 17th century. On what they regarded as the frontier these standards must have been even more whimsical and arbitrary. And yet I’ve never heard of any incidents involving the alternating calendars. I don’t even know when New Sweden’s calendars were changed, or New Netherland’s, or whether it changed for the Dutch interregnum. I know about the annoyances of 1752, since that’s renowned in calendar studies. It’s like hearing about the Beatles; if you haven’t, you just don’t know the subject at all. Of course, 1752 I know from the British perspective and people talking about William Hogarth paintings and whatnot. It’s just assumed that the North American colonies went along, things unfolding about the way they did in London. Or at least Sheffield.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on the history of New Jersey or the surrounding states. I doubt I own more than ten histories of New Jersey, and fewer than half of them are academic texts. But I don’t remember it ever getting a single line of mention ever. The dates must have changed, but when, and how was it done? And what did the people living with the change think of it all? How much of a hassle was it, and what were people saying about the trouble, especially when it kept coming up over and over again? They must have told at least some jokes about the absurdity of this all; what were they?
So with this to ponder, I think you’ll agree I was right not to do a lick of work today, and I appreciate your understanding, boss. I can’t make promises for tomorrow either. But if you do have any contacts with the New Jersey Historical Society we just might be able to come to some arrangement. Isn’t that everything you could ask for?
I was at Taco Bell, which is a tiny bit interesting because until about two years ago I’d never eaten at one. It isn’t like I have anything particular against Taco Bell, even though their corporate overlords used to have the supervillain-corporate name of Tricon Global, and now have the faintly-Orwellian menace name of Yum! Brands, Inc. I just never got around to it before. I probably should have. I sincerely like their extruded burritos. But I’ve always liked extruded things.
What I want to get at is that besides the seven-extruded burrito and a cheese quesadilla I ordered a pop. I did this because I was thirsty and this was Michigan. One thing I’ve known since childhood about the midwest was that “soda” was called “pop” there. This I heard before the 90s, when everybody got on the Internet and started discussing how they call the same things by different names and how other places than home pronounce words wrong. (That was all anyone talked about online all 1997.) When I moved to Michigan, I found this “pop” thing was true. But the guy working the register didn’t understand me. I said a regular pop, and please, and still didn’t get my point across. So I gave up and said “soda” and that was fine.
Thing is, this keeps happening to me. Or at least around me. I ask for pop from people who should be used to people asking for pop, and they don’t know what to make of that. I’d understand confusion if I asked for pop from someone that would be unusual, such as in New Jersey, at a furniture store, from the guy the building code office sent to check on a crack in a load-bearing pillow. I couldn’t complain much if the guy chose to slug me. But why is this confusing?
I have to figure the problem is my accent. I come from New Jersey, and I’m not more defensive about that than average, and I must just say words like “pop” in ways they don’t understand. I don’t have a very strong New Jersey accent. I routinely surprise people when they hear where I’m from. “You don’t sound like you’re from New Jersey,” is the sort of thing I get. “I’d have guessed you were from … ” and then they’re not able to pin down just where they were thinking I was from, and they knock over a pyramid of soda cans and run away in the confusion.
I know what people expect from a New Jersey accent. It’s a bit loud and fast, with touches of 1940s Movie Brooklyn in it. College football is unpronounced. The average sentence will have something that has to get beeped out. Instead of clearly pronouncing the “-ing” at the end of words, speakers punch something. Maybe a person, maybe a tree, maybe the shoreline, maybe the abstract concept of justice, maybe a vending machine. Just something that’s available. The New Jersey accent is a crossing of the basic Atlantic Midlands dialect with swerving across four lanes of heavy traffic to cut someone off. I haven’t got a strong accent, because I’m too shy to punch an extruded burrito in a Taco Bell in Michigan. Most of my accent expresses itself in referring to Bruce Springsteen as if we were on a first-name basis, taking a surprising amount of guff for talking about people in queues being “on line”, and in getting into tiresome arguments about how people in other states are forced to pump their own gas. Also I expect to be able to order pork roll, although not at Taco Bell. I like to think my natural speech is a good bit rhotic, but I have no idea what that means. I might just want to be rhotic for the attention.
Except that doesn’t make sense because I hate drawing attention to myself. I feel like I’m taking too much of the cashier’s attention just by ordering my food. Going back around and explaining that by a pop I mean a soda, which is how he would have said pop is just horrible. I want to curl up in a ball underneath the plastic packs of chili sauce and go unnoticed, except they’d probably catch me when I snuck off to the bathroom. Except what would I have to go to the bathroom for if I can’t get a pop to drink?
It’s not the most exciting thing we have around the yard — that would be our pet rabbit being let out in his pen to frighten squirrels — but we do have a bird feeder out back, which we use to get angry at squirrels who are passing up the perfectly good squirrel feeder that’s on the tree they can actually get at. Anyway, it’s fun looking up at the window and seeing that every sparrow in the world is visiting at once.
And then there’s the occasional surprise visitor. We just got a Cape May warbler visiting. There was one here last year, too, and it delighted me first because it’s not so much bigger than a sparrow but is far more interesting to look at, what with looking like it’s been dipped in lemon sauce before heading out for the day. It’s named, if we believe in Wikipedia these days, for Cape May, New Jersey, where it does not live and through which it does not migrate, but where it was spotted one time by George Ord, who swore he wasn’t making it up, even though another one wasn’t seen in Cape May for a hundred years after that, and where it still doesn’t get seen much. I am just delighted that the world works out like that sometimes. Imagine if you could apply that to people. I might be named something like “Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport Shuffler-To-Connecting-Flight”. Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport meanwhile is properly named after World War I pilots Ernest Groves Wold and Cyrus Foss Chamberlain, but the “Wold-Chamberlain Field” apparently is not much seen, and I like to think that’s because the name has moved to Cape May to retire.
|County||Number Of Municipalities With “Egg” In Their Name|
 Egg Harbor City, Egg Harbor Township.
 Little Egg Harbor Township.
No two “Egg Harbor” municipalities share a border.
Apparently for its sesquicentennial Rider University in New Jersey got people organized to set the Guinness World Record for the “longest line of fruits”, by stringing together 10,036 cranberries. I don’t question the wisdom of this, naturally. I don’t know a better way to celebrate a sesquicentennial than setting a fruit-string record. I’m reminded of how Piscataway, New Jersey, celebrated its sesquicentennial by placing in a line an estimated twelve tomatos. (It was founded in 1666, so its sesquicentennial was in 1816, so it was harder to get fresh fruits back then, so lay off. Also it was only Piscataway.)
And I don’t argue with the choice of cranberries. If you want to set a record that’s going to stand you’re going to need a lot of fruits, and cranberries are pretty good because you get a lot of them from wherever it is cranberries come from and they’re all small, so you’re not going to have to up all your storage space for cranberry depository needs. If you were trying to string together over ten thousand watermelons you might well have a line that runs out of New Jersey, through Pennsylvania, and into a little bit of Kentucky before someone checks the map and says that’s not possible.
Plus, and I don’t want to sound too enthusiastic about the state of my birth, but New Jersey is a great place to get cranberries. It’s not obvious from the toll roads, but nearly three-quarters of the land area that isn’t toll roads, outlet malls, or that little bitty mountain range in the upper left corner are cranberry bogs. There’s so many cranberries in New Jersey that you can’t toss an otter into a cranberry bog without getting a lot of cranberries tossed back at you by otter-defending cranberry beasts. Compare this to the in-state availability of, say, durian and you can see why cranberries are almost inevitable.
It’s the number that’s got me: why did they stop at 10,036, instead of the obvious round number of 10,030? Why not go on to a clearly more attractive 10,044? It’s not that the previous record was 10,035; the article I read about it said they broke the old fruit string record by over four thousand pieces of fruit. Possibly they ran out of cranberries, although I’d imagine for the cause of getting to a lofty number like 10,054 someone could have run to the store and got another can, or taunt a nearby otter. Maybe they ran out of string. I could see that stopping the whole project dead. They could resort to twine for the end, although that might get them in trouble, and besides any ball of twine anyone thinks they have is always, always, purely notional. Nobody has had the twine they thought they had since 1942, which wasn’t any particular anniversary for Rider University.
Rider’s director of media relations, Kristine Brown, pointed out that Guinness requires that food used for records be “used in some way”, so apparently when all the record-certifying is done, and someone goes home knowing that their career has caused them to take a trip for the purpose of verifying a string of cranberries, “we’re gonna string them on the trees around campus so all the birds and the squirrels and everybody can enjoy them”. And this offers another clue why cranberries were used, because you can see obvious problems in trying to decorate a university campus with strings of some other fruit, such as squash: I don’t think squash is a fruit.
I’m not sure the exact biology of it but I’m pretty sure fruits are defined as “the plants that people eat because they like eating them, as long as candy bars aren’t available”, while vegetables are “the plants people eat because they feel they should be eating vegetables or because it’s winter and they retain oven heat like crazy”, and then there’s big leafy stuff like lettuce and spinach that people eat because they hold salad dressing. You couldn’t put even world-record-setting strands of squash around campus, not without getting caught or the string breaking.
Also, I had never before thought to frock a university campus in strands of cranberries for the fall, but now, I have a new prank to play.
Whenever I get asked about what future trends I see I first suppress that sense of indignation whoever it was took so long to ask. I’ve had my answer ready for ages and was getting worried nobody was ever going to ask. I’m as good a trendspotter as any of the people getting on the trendspotting bandwagon. It’s a terrible burden having a clear picture of society’s future.
One trend I see going on is there’s going to be ever-more stuff to try to remember. Pop culture alone is expanding so fast we’re barely able to keep it updated on TV Tropes, and every thing in pop culture carries with it extra burdens of information-like constructs: not only the thing itself, but also stuff about how it was made, and what it’s referring to, and how it’s not as good as this other thing someone else made, and how it is too and if it isn’t how come you don’t make it yourself, and then how this sets off a highly entertaining flame war, and whose fault it is, and whose fault it isn’t, and who’s writing the fairest accounting of how the flame war happens, and how they do not, and why they couldn’t possibly even if they tried.
If it’s done properly just understanding a sketch of an apple someone left on the coffee table can require collating more information than writing a book about the Thirty Years War would. And even if you can keep all that new stuff straight, you’re stuck remembering the old stuff too. If pressed and facing a busy day way too early in the morning could you remember the full name of Snoop Doggy Dogg? Undoubtedly, but then how would you be on remembering what humorist I grabbed that joke from? See? I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t recognize it either.
The second trend is that we’re always going to impress people by doing stuff without the tools that make it easy and painless. Nobody cares about a person who can cut a board in half by using a sharp, well-maintained saw blade, but show around someone who can cut a board in half without even having a board and you can get a paying crowd. So if you can remember stuff without the Internet gadgets that do the remembering for you then you’re going to win acclaim for your impressive abilities in the trivia-stuffed world of tomorrow after about 6:45 pm.
So the problem is how to do this, given that there’s too much stuff to remember and there’s really no learning it, because we don’t have the attention spans long enough anymore to even get a decent earworm stuck in our heads. And this is where mnemonic devices come in handy. The best of them combine two points into one so after learning one you feel like you know at least twice as many things as you actually do. For example, George Washington was born in 1732, and he weighed 173.2 pounds. Just from reading that I know it’s going to pop into your head at some perfectly inappropriate time in the trivia-stuffed world of tomorrow, like maybe at about 5:25 pm. The links don’t even have to make any kind of thematic sense: once you’ve heard that there are both 82 constellations in the sky and 82 counties in Ohio you will never be able to fully forget either point, even though you have no responsibility for the constellations in the sky and even though you’ll never need to know how many counties there are in Ohio unless you have a job setting out chairs for the Ohio County Commissioners Annual Lunch, and you could just count RSVPs for that.
The effectiveness of these mnemonic devices are all the more impressive when you consider George Washington was actually born in 1731, at least at the time. I don’t even know that he ever weighed 173.2, or maybe 173.1, pounds, although I guess it’s possible. I mean, he was a big guy, and had the money to eat well enough when he wasn’t bunking down for the winter with hundreds of starved Continental soldiers in upstate New Jersey, but I dunno what he weighed. I’m comfortable with something in the 173 range, but I wouldn’t rule out 178.9 or even 179.9. And as for the counties in the sky, oh, no, there’s nothing like 82 counties in Ohio. You could remember that easily by recalling that 86 is number slang for “something negative or otherwise disparaging or something or other”, and there aren’t 86 constellations in Ohio either. Memorable, isn’t it?
I had some idea about what to do with defective mnemonic devices but I forgot to write it down. Sorry. Maybe someone out there has an idea? Please write in before about 6:30.
I honestly did not realize there were enough people trying to break news of their vampire-ness to other people that it should be one of the top autocomplete results to “how to tell someone you’re a”. I choose to imagine most people being told this say, “Oh, you sweet dear, we knew long ago. … How? Well, the fangs, the long cape, the Transylvanian castle you had transplanted brick-by-brick here to Mantoloking, New Jersey. They mean things.”
4:52 am. Passengers assemble at the East Lansing Train Station. Passengers will be screened for having gotten more than three hours of fitful, oft-interrupted sleep the night before. Those which have will be assigned a 25-page term paper on the subject of late 19th Century United States presidents and their understanding of how the emerging science of thermodynamics affects railroad painting, worth forty percent of the class, no makeups.
5:18 am. Passengers board the train to East East Lansing where the train service stops and they all get aboard a bus to take them to Toledo, arriving somehow at 3:12 am that same morning, only crankier. Through the bus trip the TV screens will be playing Something, Probably A Romantic Comedy Or Something, with the lower half of the screen glitched out and the audio just loud enough to hear the helicopters and explosions but not the dialogue. Three stars.
7:30 am. Bus arrives in Toledo to transfer to the train station, but immediately gets lost because the driver attempts foolishly to follow “Route 2”, a highway of legendary and purely notional existence.
2:18 pm. The Ohio Coast Guard retrieves the bus from Lake Erie shortly before the desperately paddling passengers manage to cross the border into Ontario and thus provoke an international incident as many of them failed to bring adequate supplies of Canadian currency and someone is trying to pass off a FunZone Game Token as money.
10:40 pm. The Ohio Coast Guard finally gets the bus paddled to shore and after hiring sherpas brings the bus to the train station, whence the train zooms towards Pittsburgh, stopping only after fourteen minutes in order that a freight train with higher priority can be constructed and loaded with freight, a cargo consisting of passenger train cars headed the other direction. On-train Internet WiFi service is reduced from “sluggish” to “laughable”.
Day 2. 2:15 am. The train arrives in Pittsburgh and is immediately taken out over the Monongahela River and dangled by its couplers or whatever they have until every passenger has been subject to a review of the stuff left in the backseat of his or her car to be cleaned out “later, when it’s convenient”. The winner is the one who has the most obviously later-inconvenient item, with bonus points awarded if it is some kind of mould for the fabrication of solid metal objects.
3:20 am. The train just sits outside the Kennywood Amusement Park for a couple of hours to make everyone feel bad that they’re at an amusement park and they can’t go in, plus everything’s closed up. A conductor goes around reminding people they have 23 and a half pages to go and have barely thought about paint.
6:75 am. The train discharges its passengers that they may catch their connecting service, at the far end of the railway terminal in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, or maybe Charleston, West Virginia. Check signs for details.
8:26 am. Connecting service on the line to New York City departs wherever, with the conductor reminding people they have 22 and three-quarters pages and the font may not be larger than fourteen point. New sound-dampening cushions allow most of the ride to be soft and quiet except for the guy ranting about you’re not sure what except it’s definitely political and somehow it gets into what you do for your career and he gets that so wrong it’s hard to resist answering.
9:14 am. Thorough investigation of the train establishes that nobody is actually producing the rant. Clearly the problem is a quarrelsome ghost of annoying conversations gone by. Internet service upgrades to “pages load, but only the banner ads and that swirling dot pattern web sites started doing like two years ago in place of showing stuff”.
11:57 am. Start of a four-hour delay so we can sit by the side of a large pile of rocks. Inspires several passengers to include a section about presidential rocks, which falls apart when nobody can remember the name of Gustav … uh … Mount Rushmore Guy without the Internet.
6:12 pm. End of the four-hour delay.
8:55 pm. Train approaches Hoboken, pauses so that passengers can be dangled sideways until the blood rushes to their wrists.
10:10 pm. Arrival, Penn Station, New York City. Technically, legally part of New Jersey because of the lease NJ Transit has on that platform. We are given extensions on the paper.
I was looking at a photo gallery the (Camden, New Jersey) Courier-Post put up about Soupy Island. That’s a small park outside Camden with the historic Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel Number 93R (the Philadelphia Toboggan Company didn’t make it), opened so that kids from the city could experience fresh air and a carousel and soup provided by the Campbell’s corporation, and the park’s still there and having kids over and giving out soup. At the end of this photo gallery about a century-old park hosting kids and having charming-looking elderly people who’ve been affiliated with the park for decades came this:
Like this topic? You may also like these photo galleries:
- Standoff at Cherry Hill Motel
- Camden teens camp in Pine Hill
- Police involved Shooting in Winslow Twp
- Kevin Ambrose Arraignnment
So from this, we learn that absolutely horrible people are designing the “you may also like” algorithm at newspaper sites. “Here’s a picture of a cute baby raccoon living in a mailbox! Maybe you’d like to see this adorable grandmom with discarded syringes jabbed through each of her fingernails! Did you like this video of a kid trying to order a pistachio ice cream and saying it wrong? I bet you’ll love seeing us try to spell `Arraignment’! Now, want to see this gallery of the kids who made a Santa Claus costume for the ferret at the rescue shelter? Are you sure you can live with yourself if you do?”
And I realize the joke I’m sounding like here, but can I point out the “Standoff at Cherry Hill Motel” was nearly four weeks old at that point? Wasn’t there some more recent horrible Cherry Hill news they could offer?
“Is it time yet?” our pet rabbit wanted to know. He was anxious, and I saw him getting ready to chew the wires of his pen to hurry me along.
“For … what?”
He grabbed his pen with his forepaws, which is fine, because that’s not so rattly. “To go outside! I’m all ready and set, let’s go!”
“You mean to play the raccoon?”
Here I have to explain. We put up a wildlife camera in the backyard, and it’s taken a month’s worth of photographs of us checking to see if the wildlife camera is taking photographs. We asked our rabbit if he’d go outside and hop around, so we could know whether the camera would photograph something like a raccoon.
He started to chew on the cage, “Yes! I’ve been doing a lot of research and I’m all set!”
“You really just have to exist. You’re already very good at that.”
He stood up on his hind feet and looked up and raised his left forepaw, and cried, “Arr!”
“It’s threatening rain. I thought we’d wait for … what?”
“Avast ye mateys! Ready with the jibs! We’re off to the Egg Harbor!”
“That’s a pirate.”
He nodded. “I’ve been doing a lot of research for this part!”
“We asked you to play a raccoon. That’s completely different from being a pirate.” He looked at me impatiently. “I’m sorry to be the one who tells you this.”
He rolled his head back and sighed. “I’m playing a raccoon who plays a pirate.”
I lapsed into a dignified silence because I was unprepared to answer something like that.
“My raccoon character is named Berkeley Nishimori, and he’s long been fascinated with the history of piracy on the Atlantic seaboard.”
“You don’t need to have a character, though. You just need a body, and you’ve got one.”
“If I don’t have a character this’ll be lifeless. It’s having someone who wants things that makes for compelling scenes!” I looked toward the back window. “Drama or comedy, put in an obsessed character and you’re in good shape! Mister Brock, we’re off for the Egg Harbor!”
“But all I want is you to be there.”
“Now, Berkeley has gotten particularly interested in the mid-Atlantic coast, and he’s set up his pirate character as operating from the South River, as the Dutch termed the Delaware River, but obviously operating as far afield as possible.”
“… Really doesn’t come into play for hopping around the pond.”
“He reasons that the Delaware Bay area is a good one for operations since even though it’s less active than Boston, the divided authorities between the main of Pennsylvania, the Lower Counties, Maryland, and the reunited New Jerseys will make hiding from official inquiries easier.”
“I figure if you just look at the camera, and then look away from the camera … ”
“Now, Berkeley sets Davis — ”
“Yes, Davis, and I admit Berkeley hasn’t established whether Davis is his first or last name, but it seems one historically plausible enough either way, and he’s leaning towards working `Trent’ in there for obvious reasons, is aware that at this time New-Jersey itself was administered by the Governor of New-York, so that helps the administrative confusion, obviously.” No, I did not doubt that he was using the hyphens for the colony names.
“Maybe stand on your hind feet. I imagine raccoons in the wild do that too.”
“Now, Berkeley has figured that Davis isn’t a pirate for reasons of petty greed, of course. He reasons that Davis was driven to it to support his family, disgraced after being named as accomplices to the theft of the colonial treasure chest from the western capital of Burlington in 1714.”
“So all I mean is, you don’t need to have a recursive mass of character.”
“Obviously, I’m drawing on the 1768 theft of East Jersey’s funds from treasurer Stephen Skinner’s house for this. But Berkeley figures that setting his pirate in that era necessarily involves him in pre-revolutionary politics that he doesn’t want to explore just now, and while it wouldn’t require relocating the action to the North River — ”
“The Hudson. I know.”
“Well, it would bias the setting anyway. I should say I don’t think I’ve completely ruled out the other interpretation of this relocating, besides just making up an incident.”
“I really think you’re over-working the part — ”
“And that is, maybe Berkeley is just sloppy about character development. He might have made it up without realizing there was a strikingly similar scandal a half-century later.”
“You really don’t need a character.”
He sneezed at me, so I knew I was in trouble. “You know you’re terrible at improv? You haven’t given me a single `Yes, and’ all this time.”
“Hold on. First, not all life is improv” — he sneezed again, that little buzzing noise — “and second, you haven’t actually responded to my perfectly reasonable skepticism about you over-planning a little hop in the backyard, so how good at this are you?”
He didn’t sneeze at that, but his ears did droop.
“I need to establish,” he finally concluded, “whether Berkeley is deliberately moving the Skinner treasury theft to Burlington circa 1712 or whether he’s making it up. We can wait.”
I agreed, but said, “You’re getting caught in a research spiral. Carry on like this and you’ll build everything about your character and never play him,” while it started to drizzle outside.
To continue poking the depths of Terrytoons and their not-necessarily-forgotten characters, here’s a curious 1936 entry starring Kiko the Kangaroo, On The Scent. Unfortunately the only video I can find of it is this experiment in converting a projected film to YouTube, so it’s only got the sound of the projector rattling as its audio (I admit that sound gives me a warm nostalgic feel), and I’m pretty sure the film is being run at about half the correct speed, which is just crushing to the pacing. Be sympathetic; you too might someday be a kangaroo taunted by skunks on a blimp gliding to the North Pole.
Still, it’s the only cartoon I’m aware of that’s explicitly set (at the opening) in Lakehurst, New Jersey. This seems like a weirdly specifically unnecessary detail until you remember (or learn) that Lakehurst was where the United States Navy set up its main facilities for handling airships in that roughly fifteen years between deciding that airships were an interesting idea worth exploring and concluding that the problem with airships is they keep crashing in huge, hugely public catastrophes. Doing a blimp cartoon and starting it in Lakehurst would be much like doing a space cartoon and starting the action in Cape Canaveral.
I feel the need to point out that an airship expedition to the North Pole was seriously considered in the 1920s and 1930s. I would imagine that talk of that partly inspired the cartoon, but I don’t know that. The Navy’s airship expedition never got particularly close to being launched, which is probably for the best; I can’t imagine the project not ending in tragedy.
The plot puts me in mind of Georges Méliès’s 1912 The Conquest of the Pole, his last important film before his film studio’s bankruptcy. That’s not so short a film — it’s about a half-hour long — but it’s got much of the charm of going on a fantastic voyage as A Voyage To The Moon combined with a mass of incidental extra parties and nationalist and political jokes current to a century ago. On The Scent is a lesser cartoon, sure, but it does feature the title card “Those cats made a lobster out of me!”, which is just where you expect a cartoon about a kangaroo taking an airship out of Lakehurst to go. Enjoy!
I’m delighted by the banner for the Tri-Town News, one of those free weekly papers that just kind of shows up without anybody seeming to have anything to do with it, for a patch of Ocean County, New Jersey. Their official web site has an outdated version of the banner, but over on their inevitable Facebook page is the list of towns it considers its domain: Farmingdale, Howell, Jackson, Lakewood, and Plumsted.
And doesn’t your day, too, feel a little brighter now?
According to Reuters, a District Court judge has ordered a cargo ship with 110,000 cartons of overripe bananas held in port while Del Monte Fresh Produce and the Seatrade Group argue about whose fault it is the bananas spoiled on the way from Guatemala to Gloucester City, New Jersey. This is an argument going on in court, so please don’t think Judge Robert Kugler was just overhearing big corporations squabbling and figuring he could get in on the action. They brought him into this.
Still, why keep all the bananas around? Everybody involved seems to agree they’re spoiled, and they’re not going to get any less spoiled waiting in harbor. I’d expect the spoiled-ness of the bananas to be taken as given and then sent to wherever bad bananas go, or at least to bad banana purgatory. I have to figure Judge Kugler wants the bananas for himself and has something in mind, and keeping the bananas in port is just a means to the end. My guess is he’s arranging to have Delaware slip and fall right on the Twelve-Mile Circle.